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At the end of the day

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It's getting dark outside when she passes Carmen's empty desk and finds him stretched out on the couch in his office. She drops down onto the other end, and he moves to swing his legs off to make room.

“No, don’t move, I don’t want to disturb you.”

He raises his eyebrows, but rests his legs back on the couch. “You look like you’ve had a rough day.”

She smiles and rubs her forehead. “You have no idea.”

“Come on then, take your shoes off and get comfortable.”

She laughs and throws him a look, but he just meets her stare with a challenge and a smirk, and she takes the bait.

“Okay, fine,” she says, and slips off her shoes. “You asked for it.” She swings her legs up to stretch along the couch beside his.

He can’t help but look, and bursts out laughing. Her toenails are painted fairly inexpertly but in every colour of the rainbow.

She smiles. “Noah,” she says by way of explanation, and Rafael grins as he inspects the workmanship. “It was a rainy weekend and he was feeling …”

“Artistic?”

She laughs and shoots him a look. He’s enjoying this far too much. “Antsy.”

Rafael takes the opportunity to inspect her feet, even tilting them this way and that. “Well he did a pretty good job. That kid’s going places.”

She smiles, leaning back against the end of the couch. For a moment there is silence in the office; everyone is gone but them, and the quiet envelops them like a warm blanket. A buzzing noise breaks the peace, and Rafael picks up his phone, looks at it, and turns it off. He leans back against the couch and shuts his eyes. Olivia watches him, seeing the stress return to his features.

“Everything okay?” she asks softly. “I tried to find you after the trial, but …”

He shakes his head. “Had to get out of there.” Olivia can see his eyes flitting back and forth, waits for him to say what he’s thinking. Sure enough … “You know,” he says, sitting up. “Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – I feel like I’m treading water up there until your squad finds the silver bullet that’ll tip the case in our favour.”

“Rafa …” she begins, face full of concern, but he gives a tired smile and rubs his hand over the stubble on his cheeks.

“I’m ok, Liv, just feeling a little maudlin.”

She won’t accept this, though. “Hey,” she says, and waits for him to meet her eyes. “You’re being too hard on yourself. You know how many impossible cases you’ve won when everything seemed hopeless? How many victims you’ve helped? No one else could have done that.” He looks at her, brow still furrowed. “Besides," she adds, "we’re a team.”

That makes him smile. It’s not the praise so much, but her seal of approval that pleases him. He looks down, and with uncharacteristic humility, mutters. “I’m honoured.”

It’s a sobering, almost awkward little pause.

“So how was Dodds?” he asks at length, and the ease is back between them.

“Oh, you know,” she says, propping her elbow against the cushion and leaning her head against her hand, “calm, rational, understanding.”

Rafael smirks, but not without sympathy. “Well you’re welcome to hide out here until you have to get home,” he offers.

“I might take you up on that,” she says. “I’m looking for a distraction. Noah’s sleeping over at Rollins’s. I’m trying not to worry about it.”

“How’s that working out?”

She wrinkles her nose, “I’ve called twice already.”

He chuckles. “Very restrained.” That makes her laugh, and he’s pleased. He reaches out and takes the wine bottle off the coffee table. “Want a drink?”

She hesitates only a second before leaning forward to take it from him, bringing it to her lips and taking a slow sip.

He watches her, entranced. His face is mostly back under control when she passes the bottle back to him, and, eyes on her, he takes a swig in kind before putting it back on the table. It’s an oddly intimate moment, but they start talking again and it’s like it never happened.

About an hour later they are both asleep, exhaustion having taken its toll. Lying as they are, at opposite ends of the couch, their legs are drawn up and stretched out beside each other, hers leaning against his. And his fingers are on the smooth skin atop her foot, around her ankle, caressing slowly, unconsciously, not quite chastely. In her sleep, she gives a murmur of unmistakable pleasure, her foot instinctively stretching towards the pressure of his hand.

It wakes him. He blinks a little, starts to smile as he sees her sleeping across from him. Then he notices his hand holding her ankle and freezes. A quick, nervous glance tells him she’s really asleep, and his brain whirrs into gear, throwing up warning bells, admonishments, and, yes, other thoughts. As he calms down, he carefully pulls his fingers back from her skin, and slowly, carefully, curls them into a fist. He wavers for a moment – his logical mind tells him to pull away completely before she notices anything, but there’s something rebellious fighting back. At length, his hand relaxes and rests, still closed in a loose fist, against her skin. He looks back up at her, drinks in her peaceful face, and slowly he relaxes again. It’s not long before they’re both asleep once more.