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Just for a few hours.

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Olivia has been gone for two days, but they’re not talking about it.

Eighteen hours straight of searching and she’s gone in the wind. Should have been forty-eight, she’s been gone for forty-eight, but they didn’t realize until too late. Amanda hasn’t slept since finding out, none of them have. She’s barely eaten. She certainly shouldn’t be drinking now, but they’re at a bar because they’ve been told by higher-ups to take a rest, let fresher detectives cover a shift, and come back ready to hit the ground running.

Well, that doesn’t really explain why they’re at a bar, Amanda has to admit to herself. If they were smart they’d be sleeping. Maybe they even would choose to sleep, if they could. But that’s not gonna happen. So: bar, vodka, and steadfast not talking about it.

Why is it that Amanda’s the only one who’s good at those first two?

Nick begs off after two hours and goes home to his kid. Makes sense, but. But. Amanda could have used some comfort from him. Would have liked to comfort him, too, just to be able to do something good and right.

Fin leaves not soon after, with a nod as silent as he’s been all night. She’s never seen him so serious, so sad. Munch goes with him, making some departing comment about keeping their heads up. Amanda restrains herself from snapping at him, but just barely. We’re not talking about it, she wants to snarl; for just a few fucking hours we’re not talking about it. But he’s gone.

Cragen, he’s smart, he never came by in the first place. He knows all about how to not turn to liquor in times like this. Amanda could take a page from his book, maybe — except, she figures, she’s doing pretty damn good already because her fingers are itching for a deck of cards, her throat for a cigarette, and she hasn’t slipped off to a gambling den yet.

Instead she swallows down the rest of her vodka, signals the bartender for another — straight up — and eyes a man across the room. He’s hot, and he eyes her right back, but an unexpected fear bolts through her at the idea of going home with a strange man. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself, she thinks with no conviction at all. She will not think of Olivia. She will not.

She turns her attention back to Barba, who’s the only one left besides her. They’d all been surprised when he accepted the invitation to drink with the squad, and the feeling increases when Amanda reads open grief on his face. She’s seen him disappointed before, on the rare occasion that he loses a case. She’s seen him angry, sometimes angry at her; she’s seen him smug, sharp, pleased. Sometimes, when he’s especially snitty or self-satisfied, she wants to slap the look off his face.

This look is worse. She wants it gone. It’s impossible not to talk about what’s happening when he looks like that.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Barba mutters without looking at her. Amanda realizes she’d been staring. “Spit it out, Detective.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Amanda replies evenly. It’s true.

He huffs into his whisky. “You can point out that it’s my fault. I already know.”

Amanda meets his pissed-off laugh with a real one, and that makes him look at her, if only slantwise. “You can be a real idiot, counselor. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Lewis had that case won before he even set foot in your courtroom.” He’s unconvinced. “It’s my fault,” Amanda adds without meaning to.

Barba raises an eyebrow. “So the world revolves around you, then. My mistake.”

“I was the one who brought him in,” she insists. “I was the one who brought everyone else in, too. Liv wouldn’t have been in interrogation with him if I hadn’t — he wouldn’t have fixated on her like that, he wouldn’t have —”

The bartender slides her vodka over, and Amanda takes a too-big gulp, and coughs hard. Barba sits back. She expects him to say it’s not her fault, to lay out how she’d been doing her job, and a good job at that, realizing how dangerous Lewis was before anyone else did. The things that Nick and Fin had been trying to tell her, though not in so many words, earlier today.

“Well, don’t we make a pretty pair,” is all he says, and raises his glass in a bitter toast.

We’re not supposed to be talking about it, Amanda remembers. She can’t think of anything else to talk about. She can feel the man across the room looking at her, and she glances over her shoulder at him. He cocks his head and smiles. She faces forward again, and almost misses Barba’s snort, but doesn’t.


“Don’t let me get in the way if you’re looking for some comfort, Rollins,” he drawls. He’s doing that thing again where he won’t look at her. It’s the guilt, Amanda figures, but it unnerves her to see him do anything with a problem except face it head-on. She’d rather see him annoyed.

“You look like you could use a little comfort yourself,” she teases. She knows she’s being mean. “Look at those big ol’ sad eyes.”

When he levels a glare at her — a real glare, the kind that makes her forget to breathe for just a second — she should worry that she’s pushed too far. But this is no time to not be reckless.

“What’s wrong?” she prods. “Can’t find any — anyone in here to take you home?” She’d been about to say any girls, but she suspects he might be gay. The possibility prompts an alarming twinge of disappointment.

“Not in the mood to spend time with a stranger tonight, Rollins,” he replies. She notices the carefully phrased gender neutrality of the statement before the implication of a stranger.

The feeling of recklessness rushes back ten times as strong. Olivia’s been gone two days, she can’t talk about it, she can’t do anything about it right now, but she needs to do something, so hardly missing a bit she rejoinds: “Yeah? How about someone who’s not a stranger?”

Barba’s poker face really has gone to shit, and his eyes reveal a rapid progression of emotions: surprise, hesitation, then cautious curiosity. Then desire, with a tinge of desperation. She can see the exact moment he decides to play along. To pretend with her. To escape, just for a few hours.

He swivels on his barstool to face her, and Amanda mirrors the movement. Their knees brush until she spreads her legs just a little. His eyes dart down, then up.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” he says slowly, and Amanda grins because although he’s right — it’s not a good idea — she knows he’s also saying it to play hard to get.

She hooks a finger over the lip of his whisky glass and pulls it over, watching his eyebrow raise as she steals a sip. “Why, had too much to drink?” she asks sweetly with a pointed look at his crotch.

To her delight, Barba flushes enough that she can see it even in the dimly lit bar. “You’re not the only one who can hold their liquor, Rollins.”

“Well, then I don’t see what the problem is.” She smiles with her teeth and waits as he decides whether he wants to continue this game or cut to the chase.

He snags his glass back and downs what’s left in it. “Finish your drink,” he tells her. “I’m getting a cab.” He drops enough cash on the table to cover both their tabs and strides outside with some of his usual swagger. Amanda grins into her vodka: she put that bounce in his step. She knows she’s good, but it’s nice to be reminded. Just for fun, she gives the hot stranger a wink on her way out the door.

Barba’s flagged down a cab by the time she joins him on the curb, and when it pulls up he opens the door. She gets the distinct feeling he’s mocking her when he gestures for her to climb in first, but she doesn’t mind. In fact, she likes it. He knows she’ll give as good as she gets.

She gives the driver her address before Barba can speak. “Gotta feed Frannie,” she tells Barba. “I have responsibilities, you know.” She ignores her seatbelt in favor of edging closer to him.

“Yes, you’re very responsible,” he deadpans, and lays a hand on her thigh. High up.

Amanda leans into his space. “That makes two of us, then,” she says, and without further preamble she palms his cock through his slacks. Barbra’s eyes widen and his breath stutters. He twitches against her hand, and she increases the pressure.

“I thought Southern girls were supposed to demure,” he says. His hand creeps higher. “And nice.”

“I’m nice.” Amanda smiles when he snorts at this, and gives him a squeeze. He’s starting to harden. “And I thought boys from the Bronx weren’t supposed to be shy.”

This makes him laugh outright. “Shy?” he echoes. “I’m just taking my time, Rollins.” His voice drops deliciously low. “Can’t have you getting too excited in the cab. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”

The way he pops the first p in the word should be obnoxious, but in this context Amanda only finds it obnoxiously sexy. Maybe it’s his hand on her thigh, and the way he refuses to move it higher, instead just running his pinky too lightly up and down her inseam, always stopping just short of where her legs meet. Maybe it’s the way he’s already half-hard against her hand.

Well, he’s not the only one who can be a tease.

Amanda gives his cock one more promising grope before dragging her fingers up his stomach and chest, then curling them around the back of his neck. His lips part, and twitch into a smile (his first one all night) when she gives his hair a tug. “Not appropriate,” she repeats, voice husky. “I guess I shouldn’t kiss you, then.” Their faces are inches apart.

Barba looks like he’s got some clever retort on the tip of his tongue, but he surprises her by leaning forward and kissing her neck instead of speaking. Her hand tightens in his hair and he drops his head lower to nip at her clavicle. Amanda darts a nervous glance at the cab driver, but he’s either ignoring them or hasn’t noticed in the first place. She figures he’s probably seen worse, but still, she wouldn’t have expected Barba of all people to be so forward in a setting like this, so uncaring about what people might think.

But these aren’t exactly normal circumstances, she remembers. No. Not gonna think about —

Barba pulls her leg over his thigh so she’s half in his lap, and she can’t even finish the thought. She takes his face in her hands, tilts his head to the side, and ducks her head to scrape her teeth against his jawline (relishing the hint of stubble) and gently bite his earlobe. He hisses.

“You like that?” Amanda murmurs. She runs her tongue ever so lightly up the shell of his ear, and he grips her waist hard. “I’m gonna make you feel so good, baby.”

“Yeah?” he says. He nestles his face into her hair and breathes in deeply, and somehow it’s not intimate like when Nick does it. Barba burrows deeper to kiss her neck again. “Hmm. I wonder what you like.”

She reaches down to grab his cock again. “I like this so far,” she tells him. “I think I can feel where all that ego comes from.” He’s grown to be quite a handful and he’s not even all the way hard yet. “Is all of that for me?”

He cants his hips up just a little bit, and Amanda pulls her hand away. “Ah-ah,” she scolds. “Don’t want to be inappropriate.”

“I’ll show you inappropriate when we get to your apartment,” Barba promises. Or warns. He pulls her hand back and presses it against himself. “You haven’t felt all of it yet, Amanda.” Her breath catches, and he notices and smirks. “You think you’re ready for it?”

Her other hand is still at the nape of his neck, and she fists his hair with no effort to be gentle. He bares his teeth in a filthy smile.

“Are you ?” she goads.

The cab stops. “Alright, folks,” says the driver. He sounds completely bored, and when Amanda looks up front she can see him scrolling through Twitter on his phone.

Barba sees the same thing. “You weren’t on your phone while you were driving, were you?” he demands.

The driver turns to give him a sardonic look. “Would you have noticed if I was?”

“I would have noticed if you got us into a car accident,” Barba snips.

“Oh my god,” Amanda mutters, rolling her eyes and removing herself from his lap.

“Seriously, man?” the driver laughs. “Come on. You wouldn’t have noticed if I drove through the Empire State Building.”

Barba says something snide under his breath about road safety and responsibility, even as he pulls out his wallet.

“What was that?” the driver asks, cupping a hand to his ear. “Didn’t catch it.”

“Nothing,” snaps Barba, shoving a twenty-dollar bill at the man. “Keep the change.”

“Woah, a three-dollar tip,” the man exclaims sarcastically. “Big spender!”

“Jesus Christ.” Barba forks over a five and opens the door. “Come on,” he tells Amanda impatiently.

“Your boyfriend's a real keeper,” the driver comments.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Amanda says automatically.

“Lucky you.”

He's the one getting lucky, ” she corrects the driver, and he laughs.

Barba glowers at her as she gets out. “Making friends?”

“Wherever I go,” she simpers. “It’s the Southern charm, what can I say.” He ignores this and starts a slightly bow-legged walk to her building door. “You look a little uncomfortable, counselor,” she comments, sliding a hand into his back pocket. Damn, he’s got a nice ass.

“Ha ha,” Barba grits out. “Tell me you don’t have a doorman who likes to chat.

She snorts. “I don’t have a doorman at all, Barba, this isn’t your condo building.”

His eyebrows shoot up when she keys in the code to get in.

“One two three four?” he reads incredulously. “Are you serious?”

Amanda shrugs. “Hey, I didn’t set it. Take it up with my landlord if you’re so upset.”

“Why aren’t you upset?” he demands, closing the door behind them. “That’s not exactly safe, Rollins, anyone could get in.”

She jabs the button for the elevator. “Yeah, well, sometimes people break into more secure buildings too,” she reminds him. The words almost close up her throat but she’s got to get them out before they choke her. Not supposed to think about it, not supposed to talk about it. “Sometimes you have a code and a doorman and a gun and they get you anyway.”

He’s silent, and when she glances over he looks stricken. Shit. Amanda doesn’t know what to say. The elevator chimes open and he doesn’t follow her in.

“Barba.” She holds the door open. “Come on.”

His mouth twists. “I…” He jerks his head towards the way they came: an I should go gesture.

She steps out of the elevator. “I really killed the mood, huh,” she says, but her light tone falls flat. He closes his eyes. “Don’t think about it,” she tells him softly. “There’s nothing we can do right now, don’t think about it.” Please. Don’t make me think about it. “Just for a few hours. Barba.”

He opens his eyes and they’re too wet. She’s never seen him close to tears, not ever, and oh — oh no — Amanda realizes it now. He’s in love with her. Pity for him fills her heart, and she keeps it off her face but god it feels good to feel sorry for someone besides herself or Olivia.

She reaches up to cup his cheek. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s forget about it for just a few hours. Please.” He hesitates. “ Please, ” she repeats, and to her horror she’s close to begging: “I don’t want to be alone right now.”

Normally Amanda would be embarrassed by an outburst like this, but Barba so clearly feels the same way and the shame doesn’t come. He blinks several times, very quickly, then nods. Before there’s a chance for the mood to fall further, Amanda grabs him by the tie and pulls him into the elevator. She presses the button to her floor, then presses against him. He still looks miserable, but she’s goaded him out of that once already and she can do it again. She has to. His hands go to her hips but the gesture feels automatic, and before she can say anything they’re at her floor. As she unlocks the door, Amanda can hear Frannie’s claws clicking eagerly across the tile towards her.

“Shit,” she mutters, and turns to Barba. “I have to take her out real quick. You can stay here and help yourself to a drink, if you want.”

“I’ll come with you,” he says. She’s a little nonplussed, but nods.

Frannie is thrilled to see her, which only makes Amanda feel guilty for leaving her for so long, even though she did pay a sitter to come by and walk her earlier. The dog’s attitude seems to cheer Barba, at least, and his mood improves further when Amanda lets him take the leash and Frannie happily heels to his pace. They walk her around the block in silence, stopping to let her do her business along the way.

By the time they get back to the apartment, they’re… not relaxed, not even close, but a little better than they were. When Amanda steals a look at Barba’s jeans she can see he’s not hard anymore, but it shouldn’t take long before that’s fixed.

She dumps a cup of kibble into Frannie’s bowl while he pours them both a drink. He’s putting away the vodka when she comes up behind him and wraps her arms around him. “Ready to show me what you got?” she asks, inching one hand down past his waist.

He shuts the freezer, turns in her arms, and kisses her on the mouth. It’s not a sweet kiss, or even a slow one: he goes right to hot and dirty, his tongue deep in her mouth as soon as she parts her lips. She backs him against the fridge and kisses back, hard. She’s not used to kissing a man so close to her own height but she finds that she likes it. At least she does when the man is Barba, because he’s sinfully good with his mouth. There’s a rush of heat in her stomach when she imagines that tongue on other parts of her body. She shoves a knee between his legs so she can grind against his thigh, and he lets out a long, high whine that doesn’t even sound human.

He pulls away. “Can we, uh, take this somewhere else?” he asks dryly, and when she feels a cold nose at the back of her legs Amanda realizes the noise had come from Frannie, not from Barba. She presses her face against his chest and laughs, then looks up at his bemused face and laughs more.

“Yeah,” she says, and takes his hand to tug him down the short hallway to her bedroom, vodka forgotten. “ You stay out,” she instructs Frannie, closing the door in her dog’s plaintive face. Frannie scratches at the wood for a second, and then Amanda can hear the receding clicking sound of her walking away.

She turns back to Barba, who’s on her immediately, and she can tell he’s thinking about that thing they’re not supposed to think about because his kisses are urgent and desperate. Amanda knows how to take his mind off of that, though: she shoves him up against the wall and sinks to her knees. She can hear Barba gasp in anticipation, and their hands fumble as they work together to undo his suspenders, remove his belt, and open and shove down his pants. His erection is straining against his black boxer-briefs, and she takes a moment to tease him by nuzzling it through the fabric.

“Rollins,” he groans from above her. “Come on, just —” She reaches up behind him and pinches his ass; he squeaks. “What was that for?!”

“I’m calling the shots right now,” she informs him. She rubs the offended cheek to soothe it, then takes pity on him and yanks down his underwear. “Fuck,” she says under her breath: he’s big. Not the biggest she’s ever had, but close.

Barba doesn’t miss her hesitation. “Aw, you don’t have to blow me if it’s too much for you,” he assures her with mock concern.

Amanda knows he means what he’s saying, but she glares up at him for his tone. She almost tells him don’t flatter yourself, but they both know his cock is gorgeous, dammit, so instead she says: “When have you ever seen me turn down a challenge, counselor?” and swallows him whole.

Or tries to. She doesn’t get all the way there right away, but before long — certainly faster than he’d been prepared for, if his gasps are anything to go by — she’s taking his full length into her throat. She can hear him start to pant as she gags around him, so she pushes herself further, takes him deeper: she’s good at this, and while she’s doing it her mind is empty of anything else.

“Stop stop stop,” Barba hisses after a few minutes. “I’m going to come.”

Amanda pulls off and heaves in a breath. “Isn’t that the point?” she smirks.

“Not if I want to fuck you.”

She gives him a pitying look. “Aw, I guess it takes you a while to recover, huh old man?” Amanda licks at his cock and he swears, dropping his head back against the wall despite himself. She grins and goes to take him all the way into her mouth again — determined to win what’s suddenly an unspoken competition between them — when Barba tugs her up.

“You,” he tells her, “are going to come at least three times before I do.”

Amanda wipes the drool and precum from her chin with the back of her hand. “We’ll see about that,” she grins.

“Five times,” he escalates, spinning them so it’s her back to the wall now.

She laughs. “Don’t get ambitious. I don’t think I’ve ever even come that many times in one night.” She does know: she hasn’t. She regrets saying anything about it at all when she sees the look in his eyes, though. Should have known he takes to a challenge just as much as she does.

But he’s a pragmatist, too. “Alright, Rollins,” he says, his voice deep with desire. “Three times before me, two after. At least.”

Amanda laughs again. “Sure, Barba.” In the back of her mind: He’s not bragging. He just needs something to focus on — something to work for besides — besides —

Barba moves to enter her, then hesitates. “Condom?”

Amanda waves her hand dismissively. “I’m clean if you are, and I’m on the pill.” Sure, she misses a day now and then, but it’s not a big deal and she hasn’t forgotten it at all over the past month. Besides, she prefers sex without any barrier, however thin, and with his cock… well, she wants to be able to feel every ridge and vein.

Barba doesn’t make her wait. He just pushes his pants further down his thighs and shoves hers down too, hikes her leg around his waist, and presses into her slowly. “Fuck,” he whispers, burying his face in her neck, alternating between kissing and biting the skin there. “God, Amanda, you feel so good.”

Amanda herself is lost for words, at least for the moment. She can only cling to his shoulders, throw her head back, and try to breathe deeply. He’d been big enough in her mouth, but this

“Are you okay?” he pants, pulling back his head to look at her.

She shuts her eyes. “ God, yes. Keep going.”

He doesn’t need telling twice, and pulls her further down onto himself. One hand strays from her waist to explore under her shirt, cup a breast through her bra, pet at her side. Having adjusted to his size, Amanda shifts the foot she has on the floor so her stance is wider; this lets her take him deeper and they both groan at the feeling. She paws at his shirt and manages to undo the top few buttons before his movements distract her. He’s hitting her deep and it feels good, it feels so good, but it’s not enough.

“Come on, pick up the pace,” she grits out. He does as he’s told, but just barely. The strokes are shorter than she’d like, too. “Harder,” she demands. When there’s no discernable difference, she groans in frustration. “Drop the gentleman act, Barba, I know you want more.” She twists a nipple through his shirt and delights in the indignant noise it pulls out of him. “Or maybe this is all you can manage?” she taunts. “You don’t have it in you to give me what I want, you just talk a big game and count on your big dick to do all the work for you, but —”

He shoves her further up the wall, pulls out almost all the way, and slams back in. Amanda cries out and immediately demands more so he doesn’t stop or think he hurt her, and yes, yes, this is exactly what she needed. “Oh, fuck,” she gasps, “yes, yes, yes, baby…” She closes her eyes, holds on, and lets him do the work. He grunts with each stroke, little effortful half-moan sounds, and when she runs her hand through his hair she can feel him sweating. She’s sweating too, she realizes; her shirt is starting to stick to her and normally she’d find it uncomfortable but not now, not when she’s so close — so close —

“I’m coming,” she gasps out, and he doesn’t relent even a little. Instead he takes one hand from her waist and rubs at her clit until she’s whimpering with pleasure, and one orgasm ebbs and rises and fuck, fuck, her mind goes blessedly, deliciously blank as a second orgasm shudders through her.

Now Barba slows the pace, catching his breath. When he stops moving entirely, eyes shut tight, Amanda realizes he’s working valiantly not to come. She briefly considers bouncing on his cock, or squeezing around him, just to win their little bet, except she kind of wants to lose. She’s just come twice in a row harder than she usually comes at all, and a third time sounds like heaven.

He rests his forehead on her shoulder as their breathing slows, and Amanda strokes her fingers through his damp hair. As she considers it, she wonders why they didn’t do this sooner: Barba’s hot, nearly ten years older, could be considered her superior, and makes her mad as hell. In other words, he’s just about her type. Would be exactly her type if he were taller. She has no intention of sleeping with him again after this, but damn if it doesn’t feel good right now.

“You know,” Amanda says breathlessly, “I wondered if this was going to happen. Back when we first met.” He raises his head to look at her, and she giggles — actually giggles, Jesus, am I high on sex or on denial? — at the unparalleled mess that is his hair right now.

“What?” he asks.

It takes her a second to remember what she was saying. “Oh. When you first came to SVU, I thought we might sleep together.”

“I know.”

“I mean, shit, the way you checked me out when we got introduced was blatant, I — what?” She catches up. “You knew I was thinking about sleeping with you?”

It’s Barba’s turn to laugh. “Don’t think I’ve never noticed you checking me out, Rollins,” he smirks. Before she can demand examples of the times she was supposedly so obvious, he lowers her leg from his waist and pulls out of her. Amanda lets out an involuntary whine and he laughs again. At her. She swats at him and he dodges it, then pushes her to sit on the edge of the bed. Once she’s situated there, he gets to his knees.

“What are you —”

He braces his hands on her thighs, leans forward, and licks from her vagina up to her clit. “Fuck,” she whispers. “Barba.” It takes her a moment to find a comfortable position, but she ends up with one hand flat on the bed behind her, one in her hair, and one leg over his shoulder with his arm wrapped around it to keep her steady. His free hand creeps up between her thighs, and at first he teases and soothes by petting the bare skin there as he laps at her pussy. But before long he gets down to business, crooking one finger inside her and then two, and his tongue is relentless and his fingers are so long and they go so deep and just like he promised she’s coming a third time, not as hard as the first two but still. “Oh my god,” she hears herself whispering as she curls over him. “Baby, baby, yes, oh my god.”

Barba’s panting too by the time he draws away. He kisses her thigh with an open mouth as she cards her fingers through her hair and tries to ground herself back in reality.

She’s too successful, and reality rushes in. Olivia is in her head. Olivia and Lewis, Olivia gone for two days and the smell of burnt flesh in her empty, ransacked apartment, and Amanda’s shaking now, cold and sore and scared —

“Shh, hey, hey,” Barba whispers, getting to his feet. He bends to cradle her face in his hands. “Amanda, hey, are you okay?”

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

She forces a smile. “Yeah,” she whispers, and the lie comforts her. She leans forward and gives him a kiss that’s a little too sweet. “Come on, get in bed,” she adds hastily, before he can ask any more questions. Barba doesn’t seem entirely convinced that she’s alright, so as soon as he’s beside her she straddles him and kisses him again, nothing sweet about it this time. It works.

“I won,” he crows when she pulls away. “Three times. I told you.”

She can’t even pretend to be annoyed. “I think we’re both winners here,” she says. She makes quick work of his button-up and undershirt, then strips her own blouse off. He kicks off his shoes, pants, and underwear; she does the same. In less than a minute they’re both finally naked, and Amanda can feel his cock — rock-hard by now — insistent against her thigh.

“Oh, you must be aching, ” she says with faux sympathy, ghosting her fingers up and down its length.

“Rollins.” Barba glares at her. Then out of nowhere there’s real concern on his face. “Wait,” he says, and pushes her off him, not ungently. He reaches to the floor, fumbles for a moment, and returns with both their phones in his hand. “Just in case…” He swallows.

Just in case they find her, and they call.

Amanda touches his hand gratefully, and he puts the phones on her bedside table without muting them.

Don’t think about it.

She rolls onto her back and tugs at his arm. “I want you on top,” she tells him.

“You mean you want me to do all the work,” he says, rolling his eyes. But he’s relieved that she’s redirected their attention, she can tell. “Again.”

Amanda props herself up on an elbow. “Did I just hear you complaining?” she asks. “Because if I did, maybe you should go and take care of that little problem —” she gestures to his hard-on, which is now an angry red verging on purple — “by yourself.”

Barba climbs over her and she runs her hands up and down his arms, relishing the girth of them. “I don’t think you really want me to do that,” he murmurs, tugging her earlobe between his teeth. She takes his chin and kisses him, then tilts her head back to admire how his lips are swollen and pink from serving her.

“Maybe not,” Amanda concedes. She walks her fingers down his back to his ass, which she grips to urge him into action. He takes her point and reaches down to guide himself into her. “Your turn to come,” she says in a throaty whisper she knows he’ll like. Sure enough, he lets out a little moan at the sound of her words. “Just pull out when you’re about to finish, baby, ok?” she adds. She hasn’t missed the pill in a while, but it’s better to be safe.

“Okay,” he grunts, beginning to thrust in earnest. “Fuck, Amanda…”

As she wraps her legs around her waist, emotions and questions bombard her without warning: Was he sleeping with Olivia? Did he talk to her like this in bed, or was he sweeter? Do they love each other? Does Nick love me — do I even love Nick? Am I alone? And through it all: Where is Olivia? Is she alive? Is she coming back? Where is Olivia?

With a monumental effort, Amanda forces the thoughts away, but they keep slipping back in ones and twos. Does Olivia love him? Am I alone? She grimaces, pants, pulls Barba’s head to her breast and tries to focus on how his tongue swirls around her nipple. What is Lewis doing to her? Is she alive? Amanda lifts her legs higher until one ankle is hooked over Barba’s shoulder and he’s grinding slowly against her, hitting her deeper than before, and for a moment this takes her breath away but then: Where is Olivia? Where is Olivia? Is she alive?

“Fuck,” she says out loud. Barba makes to lift his head to look at her but she pushes him down between her breasts again, not wanting him to read the emotions she can’t keep off her face right now. “Bite me,” she tells him — begs him. Get me out of my head, please, please. She wants to ask him to hold her down and fuck her hard, maybe take her from behind, even slap her, but she knows it’s a bad idea. He’d say no, and he’d be right, because anything too close to violence — even mild and consensual — would only make her fears harder to banish. Is Lewis raping her?

Amanda squeezes her eyes shut and pulls Barba still deeper. “Come on,” she whispers. “Please.” It occurs to her that he’s being awfully quiet. Is he thinking the same thing, or is he just focusing hard so he can come? She decides that either way it’ll be good for both of them if she gets him talking. “Come on, baby,” she repeats. “Talk to me.”

He raises his head from her breasts, panting as he keeps up long, slow strokes in and out of her. How he can stand to go this slow when he’s been hard for so long is a mystery to her, but now that she’s focused on his face the thoughts are receding a bit, and she can appreciate the feeling of him moving inside her, so she’s not complaining.

“Does that feel good?” Barba asks breathlessly, pushing in. “Am I making you feel good, Amanda?”

She lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Yeah,” she whispers. “Yes, keep going, keep talking to me, please.”

Barba pushes the sweaty hair from her forehead in a too-tender gesture. Like he knows exactly why she’s asking. “You feel so good,” he tells her. “So tight, and hot, and wet, you feel perfect. God, you make me hard, and you’re taking me so deep, being so good for me, Amanda, so good —”

He’s moving faster now, close to coming, and his talk unravels but it’s still enough to keep her in the moment. Or almost enough.

“I need to come again,” Amanda gasps as he rocks into her. “Please, baby, one more time.”

“Yes,” he answers, although it’s not clear to her at first that he knows what he’s answering. Then he slides a hand between their sweaty bodies and rubs her clit, hard and relentless, exactly the way she needs, and she’s coming, she thinks she might be crying but she’s coming, thank you, she thinks, thank you, thank you, yes.

When she opens her eyes she’s dazed but entirely present. She licks her lips and watches, transfixed, as Barba pulls out, rears back, and fists his cock — jerks it roughly once, twice — his face contorts — Amanda leans up on her elbows just in time for him to come spectacularly across her tits, moaning low as he does. He drops his hand, panting, and yelps when she reaches out and tugs his still-twitching cock, just to feel it pulse in her hand.

“God,” Barba groans, “fuck.” He bats her hand away when he gets to the point of oversensitivity, but leans forward to mouth at one breast and caress the other. Amanda assumes that he just likes the feeling of his own cum against her chest, that he’s about to roll over and fall asleep, but then he starts to make his way down her body again.  

“Shit,” Amanda whispers, not sure she can stand more stimulation even as she spreads her legs for him.

“I told you,” he reminds her, and his breath is hot against her already overheated skin. “Five times.”

“You did.” She gasps when he blows against her throbbing clit, and whimpers when he flattens his tongue against it. “Oh god, baby,” she whines, clutching his hair in her hands. “I don’t know if I can…” The feeling is almost too intense and she’s not sure if she wants to pull him closer or push him away until she remembers that pushing him away will mean it’s over. And when it’s over she’ll have to think about the thing she doesn’t want to think about, and she can’t do that, she can’t, so she pulls Barba closer, hooks a leg over his shoulder, and watches him work.

His eyes are shut tight and his nose is crooked where its tip is pressed against her. His hands rest on her trembling thighs, spreading them gently, and she knows without asking that he’s trying to make her come without using his fingers. She’s close already, it’s just that she’s so tired now it feels like it’ll take an impossible effort to be able to come; she’s not sure she’ll be able to get there —

And then he moves his tongue lower, presses his sharp nose hard against her clit, she’s not sure he can even breathe this way but it’s so good, she’s almost there — he tilts his head just so, presses just a little harder, big hands gripping her thighs tight, and Amanda comes. Silent and hard and breathless, and the aftershocks are still twitching through her by the time he returns from the bathroom with a warm washcloth to wipe the sweat from her face and the cum from her chest.

“Thank you,” Amanda mumbles. The words are barely out before she’s asleep. Blessedly, mercifully, she does not dream.


In the early hours of the morning she wakes to the feeling of the mattress dipping. She rolls over to see Barba through bleary eyes. He’s sitting on the end of the bed, bent in half, and Amanda thinks he must be putting his socks on until she notices that he’s not moving.

“Hey,” she says, crawling up behind him. “Barba.”

His hands cover his face. He’s not even breathing.

“Barba,” she whispers, stroking his back. “Take a breath. Come on.”

After a moment he does as he’s told. It’s a wet, shuddering sound. There are no tears on his face when he lowers his hands, but Barba’s eyes are wet and although Amanda doesn’t know it — and never will — this is the closest in 15 years he’s gotten to crying in front of another person.

“Thank you,” he says hoarsely.

Amanda rubs his back in circles, and considers kissing him but decides against it. Something about it doesn’t feel right, or even natural.

Behind them, her phone alarm goes off. The one she’d set yesterday when the squad had been told to take the night off for rest. Amanda’s not sure what time she and Barba finally fell asleep last night, but she couldn’t have gotten more than four hours of shut-eye. Still, she feels more relaxed than she did yesterday evening. A low bar to clear, but she’ll take what she can get.

“Okay, I gotta head out,” she tells him gently. “You wanna walk Frannie with me again, real quick before we go?”

He sniffs quickly, then clears his throat and and shakes his head. “No, I’d better get back to my place. I need to shower. And change into a shirt that doesn’t have lipstick on the collar,” he adds wryly, tilting his head to show her where she’d accidentally smudged the white fabric with peachy pink.

Amanda pulls a face. “Sorry.”

Barba shrugs. “It was an old shirt anyway.” It doesn’t look old, but she doesn’t press the issue. Instead, she throws on a robe and walks him to her door. He gives Frannie a goodbye scritch behind the ears, and gives Amanda’s shoulder a hesitant, awkward squeeze. “Thank you,” he says again, quiet and sincere.

She doesn’t trust herself to speak, so she just nods, and locks the door behind him when he goes. She trudges to the shower, where the hot water eases her sore muscles and washes away the remaining sweat and mess of last night.

Thinking of Barba, Amanda’s grateful that neither of them is the type to make false assurances. No talk of we’ll catch him, or she’ll be okay. He may be an asshole sometimes, but Barba isn’t a liar. He’s a good man, and she knows he’ll never speak to anyone about the night they spent together, not even to her. Neither will she. Not even to him.

It’ll be their silent gift to each other: we were in pain, and we helped each other, and for that time at least we were not alone.