"I've got to move on".
Words she never thought she'd hear from him. Never him. She'd heard other people say it of course, maybe not in so many words, but everyone moved on from her in the end. Despite this she never thought he would. She thought he'd always be there, in court, in Forlini's, at home helping her with Noah. He was her constant. Her touchstone. Her sanity in a world gone mad.
She loved him. Olivia Benson was in love with Rafael Barba. And she would spend every waking moment of her life regretting the fact she never told him.
Squabbling at 85, that's what they promised each other wasn't it. That day in her office after his abuela had passed away. She really believed that is what they’d be doing. Although she really hoped by then one of them would have finally told the other they were in love, and they might even be married by then. Noah might have had his own children and they could dote on their grandkids together.
But it wasn't to be. She had chickened out at every chance she had to be with him. And now he was leaving, off on a new adventure without her. And that thought was killing her. Slowly destroying her from the inside out.
He had come into the squadroom the day before to inform the rest of the squad about his absence. She remembered when he had started at SVU, when it had taken a while for each person on the squad to break through Barba’s sass and unemotional front. The front he put up as protection from all that could hurt him. Then slowly, like the frost in winter when spring finally begins to arrive, he began to melt and the team began to warm to him and his methods and they all blended together to become one finely tuned instrument. Unfortunately this meant the squad didn't know how to function without him. Didn't want to function without him really.
Barba had become a mentor to Carisi. He put a lot of value on the experience he had gained shadowing him in court and the advice he had offered whenever he could. Poor Sonny was rendered speechless for the first time ever when he was told that Barba was leaving. He just thanked him for everything he had done for the squad and for himself. Rollins and him had become firm friends. Running together at weekends when work allowed, and they even managed to include Jessie by pushing her in a pushchair while they jogged their regular route through Central Park. Amanda cried when Rafael made his leaving announcement, immediately getting up to hug him tightly.
Fin however was silent, in his usual way. While the pair never really bonded together outside of work, she knew how appreciative Fin was of Rafael’s influence on her. The light he brought into her life and Noah’s. He had told her that day after Barba left the squadroom that she needs to go after what she wants, that she deserves to be happy and to tell him how she feels or she'd regret it forever. Olivia had fooled herself into thinking that she could just let him walk away. That old phrase repeating through her head, ‘if you love something, you have to let it go’ over and over it ran. Until it stopped.
She was sat at the desk in her office which seemed to have the life sucked away from it since Barba walked away. Well he hadn't quite walked away just yet, she knew he still had a day or two left in his apartment while he finished packing up and found a buyer. Not that it was hard due to his apartment being in one of the most sought after area's of New York. She was forcing her eyes to remain on the paperwork in front of her, focusing on getting as much work done before she went home to her little boy who would no doubt be in bed at this late hour.
Olivia's neck was beginning to go stiff because of her lent over position, and she sat up to try and work the knots out. As she did however her eyes were drawn to one of the few photos she kept on her desk. Her favourite photo. It was one of her, Noah, and Rafael at Thanksgiving. If she remembered correctly Carisi took it when the team came over for Thanksgiving lunch. The three of them looked so happy, a proper little family. All she had ever wanted.
It was at that moment it hit her. What the hell was she doing sat here? The love of her life was sat alone at home and she was at alone at work, when all they both wanted was each other. What did she have to lose by going over there? He was leaving anyway so what if he turned her down? She wouldn't have to see him everyday would she? Why was she missing her one chance to be truly happy?
With a newfound determination she jumped off her seat and began to gather her things together in her bag. She all but ran to the door to grab her coat, and with one last look at the photo and all the possibilities it held. She ran.
All the way to his apartment. Thank god it wasn't far because the streets were currently being pelted with the rain that came with winter in New York. She thanked every deity there was that she didn't fall flat on her face as she ran across the pavements towards Rafael’s apartment.
When she finally got to his building she was drenched, her hair and clothes sticking to her skin. She decided she'd made it this far on foot so she took the stairs up to Raf’s place. When Olivia reached his floor she began to slow down and walked along the hallway to his door. As she got closer to her destination she began to find second thoughts creeping in. What if she'd read everything wrong and he didn't really like her that way? No, she shouted at herself. She had to do this, she had to make the jump into the ocean to see if she would sink or swim.
After what felt like forever she made it. Rafael Barba’s front door. Her face was flushed from the cold and rain, combined with the pace she had been running. On the other side was the man she had been through thick and thin with. The man who meant everything to her, who could make all of the pain in her life worth living because it brought her to him. So, with a deep breath, she jumped.
‘Who the hell is that at this hour?’ Rafael thought to himself. He had taken a break from packing his belongings to be put into storage so he could sit and nurse a glass of Scotch. He had sat pondering whether he had made the right decision by walking away. Specifically walking away from her. Olivia Benson, the woman he loved with every cell in his body. The woman he'd never be good enough for, not with the things he had done. She deserved so much better than him.
He dragged his tired bones over to his door to answer it and shout at whoever dared disrupt his self-loathing. Turns out exactly the one person he needed, was the one person who was there. “Liv, what. . .” Barba couldn't even finish his question before a pair of soft, perfect lips locked onto his and his eyes slipped closed.
‘Finally’ thought Liv when her lips collided with Raf’s for the first of what she hoped was many times. It was perfect, and ended far sooner than either one of them would've liked. “I have waited so long to do that.” Olivia breathed out, her rain covered face barely centimetres from his.
“Me too. Why now?” was the first question that popped into his head once it broke through the haze of finally kissing Olivia Benson.
“Because I love you. And I couldn't bare to let you leave without telling you. I love you Rafael Barba” As she finally said the words her lips had been dying to form, Liv was sure the blood ran from every appendage in her body straight to her cheeks as her face was dyed a vibrant shade of red.
“I love you too, so much. You are the most strong, intelligent, beautiful woman I have ever met. And no woman could ever compare to you.” The words left his lips in a flurry as they escaped his beaming smile.
Liv just buried her face into his neck. All of the anticipation and worry leaving her in a breath. ‘He love me, he loves me, he loves me’ the words repeated over in her head and became her mantra. “Don't leave me. Stay here please, stay with me and Noah. I still haven't told him you're going, It’d break his heart. He loves you as much as I do.”
“I’m not going anywhere Liv. I've almost lost you and Noah too many times, with Lewis and Sheila. I didn't think you felt the same as I do, I thought if I distanced myself from you it wouldn't hurt so much that I couldn't be with you.” Raf explained his reasons for practically running away from her. From them.
Liv raised her head from his shoulder and looked him right in the eyes, “Well there's nothing stopping us now Rafa. You, me, and our boy, against the world.” She raised her hand to caress his cheek.
“Forever” he swore as he once again brought his lips to hers to seal his promise.
“Now then, I think we have a lot of time to make up for, and I think I could do with some help taking off these soaking wet clothes ” Liv smirked, as she grabbed Rafael's hand and began to pull him towards where she knew his bedroom was situated. She just hoped he hadn't taken his bed down yet.
Nothing at that moment mattered but the two of them. Together they stumbled towards an uncertain future, but with the pair of them side by side, they could take on the world.