Chapter 1: Sunday Morning
Olivia woke leisurely and without even opening her eyes she felt the bright Sunday morning sun on her face. The solid weight and warmth of her lover were at her back, an arm was over her waist and his hand was resting on her belly.
How many nights had she dreamed of this? Of waking in his arms and feeling like everything was right with the world?
She felt his lips on her neck and pushed back against him with a soft smile.
"Rafael…" she whispered.
The body behind her tensed and Olivia felt propelled toward alertness.
"Olivia?" The familiar voice asked her tightly.
She felt as though she had lost the power of speech as the reality of the moment landed heavily on her chest.
"Olivia?" He asked again sharply.
She winced and breathed deeply, delaying opening her eyes and facing the situation.
As her lover shifted away she felt the weight on the bed redistribute - the air in the room was thick with anger, pain and something Olivia felt resembled inevitability.
"Rafael fucking Barba?" Ed Tucker demanded sharply as he pulled on his shirt and began to gather his things. "Really?"
Olivia sighed and finally opened her eyes, turning toward Tucker as he tugged on his pants and then walked around the bed to hunt for his shoes.
"I was asleep, Ed. Just dreaming…" She attempted to explain and then winced when she realised how that sounded.
"Fuck, Olivia, how is that meant to make this better?" He asked with a humorless laugh. "I wake up with you in my arms and you're murmuring another guy's name!"
"I…" Olivia started.
"And Barba?" Tucker toed on his shoes and reached for his jacket. "If you're going to dream about another guy while you're in bed with me it'd be nice if you weren't tradin' down."
Olivia's face tightened with a little anger now. "This is about you and me, Ed, Rafael has nothing to do with-"
"He's an arrogant, obstinate, self-important little prick," Tucker snapped furiously.
"Rafael is my closest friend! Or at least he was until…" Anger had blended with Olivia's guilt now as she sat up in bed with the sheet wrapped under her arms.
"He's a self-serving asshole who only hangs on your every word in the hope that one day he might weasel his way into your bed! Why do you think he dropped you so quick when he found out about me?" Tucker's voice was raised now.
"You know absolutely nothing about him! And will you keep your voice down? You'll wake Noah!" Olivia hissed.
Tucker let out a long breath and then turned away as he flung some things into a bag. "This isn't working, Liv."
"No shit!" Olivia retorted sharply.
"That's it?" Tucker turned around to look at her now, he was angry but also more than a little hurt. "All these months together and you're happy to just give up without a fight?"
Olivia sighed, "You're right, Ed, this isn't working and we both know it…" she sat back against the headboard. "We want different things, you want to retire, I'm not ready. Then there's Noah…"
"And the fact you're dreaming about fucking Barba while you're in bed with me!" Tucker added dryly.
Olivia didn't respond to that, she could hardly deny it, she'd woken up with his name on her lips. She combed her fingers through her hair.
"You know he won't want any of this, right?" He nodded around her room and then back in the direction of Noah. "Barba's a terminal bachelor, you're deluded if you think he wants anything to do with a single mom and her kid."
"This isn't about choosing Rafael over you, but I'm willing to admit that this morning is probably a symptom of the fact that we're not working," Olivia said regretfully.
"You're claiming that you don't want Barba?" Tucker asked with a mocking tone.
Olivia let out a long breath and licked her lips. "I'm saying that we aren't working, that would need to be addressed whether or not Rafael was in my life," she explained calmly.
Ed smirked and picked up his bag. "Nicely sidestepped," he retorted dryly.
Olivia quickly pulled on some clothes as Tucker left her bedroom and walked toward the exit. "Ed!" she whispered forcefully and he paused with his hand on the door. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for this to…" She paused and then concluded, "I mean, I care for you...a lot..."
He turned and shook his head, "Let's not do this, okay? I really wanted this to work…but I do have some damn self-respect."
She nodded sadly, "I hope one day we can be…"
"Friends?" He asked with astonishment laced through his tone. Then he sighed and closed his eyes for a few seconds before looking at her with a brief nod, "Maybe…one day…" he conceded as he opened the door and then left.
Olivia rolled her eyes and physically deflated against a nearby wall. Fuck.
Chapter 2: Just Another Monday
Later the following day, Olivia sat around the table at work with Fin, Rollins, Carisi and Barba. All five working on an ongoing abuse case involving a cop from another precinct and his wife.
"So we need to talk to 1PP? Liv can deal with that shit..." Fin continued his review of the case, he didn't relish the idea of talking to IAB unless absolutely necessary.
Olivia briefly closed her eyes and drew in a breath, then braced herself and spoke quietly. "Could one of you take that? I'm sorry, I know it's unprofessional and I promise this will not be a long-term issue, but…" She looked around the table and everyone except Barba was staring at her intently, although she could see that Barba had stopped writing - she knew she had his complete attention. "Okay - Tucker and I called it a day yesterday. We'll be fine…professional…I just need a couple of days to let the dust settle."
Fin nodded immediately, "Sure, Liv, consider it done." He tried to move on quickly, "So, we also need to talk to…"
Rollins was having none of that, so cut in, "You've just split? Is this for real or might you…?"
"We're done," Olivia replied succinctly.
"Just like that?" Rollins sat forward a little in her seat. "You've been together a while, I thought…"
"'Manda…" Fin warned.
"No, it's fine…" Olivia said with a sigh and lean back in her seat. "I'm not heartbroken. We wanted different things, the ending was unfortunate...but the end was inevitable." Her gaze subtly moved to Barba, whose pen was still hovering over his file. He seemed to be pointedly not looking at her. "Can we just leave it? This won't be an issue. As I said, I just need a few days to readjust, it feels too soon for me to be rolling up to talk about work."
"So this was you?" Rollins asked. "You dumped him?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia saw Barba look up at her now and she smiled tightly at Amanda. "It was…mutual," she shared, "...now can we move on?"
They worked for a little more than an hour before they finally broke for lunch. Olivia quickly walked through to get her bag from her office and felt someone standing behind her. "Amanda, I'm not sharing details of…" she turned and saw Barba standing in her doorway. "Oh…"
"I don't want details," he smiled weakly, "…just, are you okay?"
"You don't have to…" she paused and then proceeded, "…I know you don't like Ed, that you didn't approve of our relationship."
Barba tilted his head at her thoughtfully, "I hope that you know my issues with your relationship ran a little deeper than my lack of approval. You've never needed my approval, Liv...but you'll always have it."
Olivia smiled as he walked a little closer.
He continued, "Putting my feelings about your relationship aside, I genuinely want to know if you're okay. I may not care for your relationship with Tucker…but I will always care about my friend."
Alarmed to feel tears threaten at her eyes Olivia looked toward the floor. "I'm fine," she replied quickly.
Barba didn't miss a thing, especially not when it came to Olivia Benson. He stepped closer, "Hey, you're not fine are you?" His hand seemed to reach out toward her but then awkwardly came down to his side. "Did he hurt you? Are you…?"
Olivia laughed uncomfortably and swiped under one eye, "I'm fine, Rafael, I swear."
He looked at her for a long moment and then finally spoke. "What can I do?"
She smiled, "Honestly?"
Barba nodded quickly, "Anything. I know things haven't been…" he paused and then finally concluded, "…I will never not be your friend, Olivia."
Olivia smiled now, even though her eyes glowed with tears. "Double negatives from ADA Rafael Barba? And I thought I was meant to be the one in emotional turmoil?"
He smiled in amusement and then asked more seriously, "Are you? In emotional turmoil I mean..."
"No…" she paused and then concluded more honestly, "…well not about Ed. It's…complicated."
Barba nodded slowly, he was not really sure what she was talking about but presumed that she must be referring to Noah. "What can I do?" He asked again.
Olivia smiled then looked at the time, "I guess…are you busy this afternoon?"
He frowned, reflected and then shook his head, "I guess not."
"How about lunch? We could talk? About anything but Ed Tucker…" she smiled hopefully. Things had improved since their lowest point, but her relationship with Barba had taken a real hit during her time with Tucker. God, she had missed him so much.
Barba looked a little surprised, "Well, I mean…I guess…"
Olivia smiled broadly now and Barba looked even more shocked by the lift his agreement had given to her mood.
"That's great," She picked up her bag and Barba automatically joined her as she walked out of the office. As they passed by his desk, she spoke to Fin, "We're going to grab something to eat, to…talk over the case. If you need me…"
"I'll call," Fin nodded with a slight gleam in his eyes.
As they approached the elevator Olivia smiled at Barba and added, "Let's not talk about work either."
Barba smiled in amusement and shook his head as the doors closed, "So unprofessional, Lieutenant Benson."
Chapter 3: Back to Work
Lunch had been lovely. They were both usually so focused on work that breaks were often skipped. As a result, most of their social time had taken place at the bar, late at night in one of their offices, or over an extended chat after they had finished working at Olivia's apartment.
Olivia ended up returning to work almost two hours later. She had made a vague excuse about having needed to pick something up on the way back to the office, but in actual fact, she had only just rushed back from a nearby restaurant…and reluctantly so, because if she'd allowed herself to push her newfound carefree spirit to the maximum she could have stayed at that table all afternoon.
As promised they hadn't talked about work, or Ed Tucker...it seemed like they'd talked about everything but.
Barba had appeared genuinely interested and engaged when she'd brought up Noah. He'd surprised her by admitting that he'd missed her son since they were spending less time together socially, then he'd gone on to ask several questions about how he was doing, his development and what he was interested in.
After talking about Noah, they went on to share new information that Olivia was surprised they hadn't spoken about before. Stories about college that made then both laugh, their surprisingly similar mixed feelings about their childhoods, reflections on what brought them to their chosen careers and even at one point a very animated analysis of their Netflix watchlists.
Olivia smiled as she sat down behind her desk and noticed that she hadn't felt this relaxed in…she couldn't remember how long.
That had been the best date (non-date) that she could remember. That's because it wasn't a date! She told herself with an amused smile and then tried not to allow herself to think about how much she wished it could have been.
Her cell beeped and she glanced down to see a text notification from Barba.
- That was nice, we should do it more often.
Olivia smiled and glanced up at the office through her window, briefly wondering why she felt like her behaviour was rather illicit. She was texting with a friend - that was allowed.
- Maybe in the evening next time? This afternoon could easily become a bad habit. She sent the text and then quickly added, - And we wouldn't need to rush off.
It seemed silly, she could have started some work while she waited, but Olivia sat looking at her cell - waiting to see what he would reply.
It looked as though he typed something, and then there was a pause, followed by a little more writing, another pause and then the message arrived.
- Tucker's loss is my gain
Her heart sped up a little and she licked her lips, then after a minute of trying to process his meaning, her cell beeped again.
- Sorry, that was tactless
Olivia smiled and scrolled down to type. She'd pushed for them not to talk about her break-up for two reasons; the first reason was obvious, the second was because she'd missed him…she'd realised that she didn't want to spend her time with him rehashing her failed relationship.
However, she didn't want him to feel like the subject was out of bounds.
- You could also argue that you've inherited his headache. You're a good friend, Rafa. She'd never called him that before and almost went back to lengthen his name, but then she shook her head and quickly touched send.
There was a long break this time. Olivia tried to open her files and start work but her mind wasn't cooperating. Finally, her cell vibrated.
- As are you
Simple, straightforward. Very Barba.
She kept glancing at her cell for about five minutes before she finally picked it up, wrote a reply and then sent it before she could change her mind.
- I know we both have to work tonight. Dinner tomorrow at mine? Noah would love to see you.
His reply was almost immediate this time.
- I'll be there
Chapter 4: Uncle Rafa
"We have a friend coming to dinner this evening," Olivia told Noah with a smile.
He sat on the floor and looked up at her, then tilted his little head, "Ed?"
Olivia's smile dropped now, she was still a little concerned about how her son might react to Tucker's sudden departure from his life. "Another friend, baby, do you remember your Uncle Rafael?" It had been a few months since they'd seen each other and she was suddenly worried that he might not.
Noah smiled with apparent recognition, "Uncle Ra-fa-lel!"
She smiled, "That's right. You know your Uncle Rafa gave you Eddie?"
Noah reached over and grabbed his best friend from the floor nearby, he hugged him tightly and Olivia smiled.
"Uncle Rafa is a special friend to Mommy, just like Eddie is to you, so when he arrives do you think you could give him a big hug?" Olivia smiled, part of her wondering how alarmed Barba might be if Noah did just that.
"We love Uncle Ra-fa?" Noah asked brightly, he was still gripping onto Eddie.
Olivia crouched down in front of her son, she ran her hand over his hair and nodded, "We do."
Noah's eyes widened now and he actually looked quite excited. He glanced around at his toys while his mommy walked back into the kitchen to prepare their dinner. He pulled over a box and placed Eddie on top so that he could see their Uncle Rafa when he arrived. Then he reached for his building bricks and continued playing.
About half-an-hour later, there was a knock at the door and Noah's head whipped around quickly. He looked up at his mommy as Olivia walked through the living area.
"Uncle Rafa?" He asked with wide eyes.
Olivia smiled at him and nodded, "Yes, Uncle Rafa."
After Olivia let him in, Barba walked through and smiled warmly (yet a little self-consciously) at Noah. "Hey, Noah, how are you?"
Noah smiled up at him and lifted his arms.
Barba looked at Olivia with confusion.
"He wants you to pick him up," Olivia explained, "…do you want me to do it?"
He shook his head quickly but Olivia noticed Barba swallowed nervously as he put his bag to one side and bent to pick up her son.
Noah smiled as he was lifted up into the air and then came to rest in the man's arms.
Then the boy surprised Barba by wrapping his little arms around his neck and squeezing tightly. "Love oou, Uncle Rafa," Noah announced with a grin.
Barba looked at Olivia over Noah's shoulder, he was clearly surprised.
"I was just explaining to Noah that you gave him his very best friend in the whole world," Olivia explained and nodded down at the stuffed elephant.
"Eddie!" Noah added and grinned as he pulled back to look at the lawyer. Noah studied Barba now and tilted his head a little. He definitely remembered Uncle Rafa, he had a nice face. He brought his hand up and touched his cheek. "Uncle Rafa…" He repeated and then turned to gaze down at all of his toys. "Uncle Rafa, play wiv me?"
Olivia smiled, "What do you think, Uncle Rafa?" She asked, her eyes shining. "Think you'd like to play for half-an-hour while I finish dinner? I'll just be in the kitchen so we can all talk."
The corner of Barba's mouth turned up in a small smile that made her heart speed up a little. Then he looked at Noah, "That sounds fun, little man."
Olivia watched Barba slip off his jacket and then roll up his sleeves, before disregarding his expensive suit and sitting on the floor with her son.
"What are we playing?" Barba asked.
Olivia could hear the nerves in his voice and she smiled - he was really trying. She walked through to the kitchen and thought back to what Ed Tucker had said. Terminal Bachelor? She looked back at them playing and sighed, she shouldn't get her hopes up, but she also couldn't seem to extinguish her belief that Ed was wrong.
Chapter 5: Interruption
After fifteen minutes, Olivia was almost ready to serve when there was another knock at the door.
She frowned at the interruption and then walked through to see who it was. She smiled down at her two favorite people when both Barba and Noah looked up at her. "Dinner in five minutes boys, you might want to start tidying up your toys," she grinned at Barba and then added, "…I think you know where the toy-box is."
Olivia rushed quickly through to the door and answered, then was taken aback by who she found waiting on the other side.
"I worked late last night and I still have a few things to collect," Tucker explained simply.
"Maybe another time…" Olivia started to try and put him off.
"I'll be five minutes, Olivia, I don't want to come back here unnecessarily…and I really should say goodbye to Noah," he added.
Tucker walked passed her and then halted in the entrance to the living area. He was surprised by the sight before him - Rafael Barba sat on the floor playing with Noah. They both looked up at him, Barba looked uncomfortable and Noah smiled.
"Come eat too?" The little boy asked innocently.
"I've come to…" he glanced at Barba and then smiled weakly at Noah, "…I've come to collect some things, Noah. I'm…" he paused and then decided on a slight lie for ease of explaining the situation to a young child. "I'm going away, so I'm afraid I won't see you for a while."
Noah looked sad, his bottom lip stuck out a little and he looked at the floor. Then after a few moments, he looked up at Barba and then back to Tucker, "Uncle Rafa stay?"
Tucker looked blankly at Olivia and then Barba, then forced a smile for Noah's sake. "Yes, I'm sure Bar... I mean your Uncle Rafa will stay." He looked at Olivia, "Maybe we could have a moment?"
Olivia processed the question slowly but then nodded quickly, "Sure…I mean...Rafa, maybe you could take Noah through to the bathroom to wash up ready for dinner? Give us a minute?"
Barba nodded, reading between the lines that he was expected to take his time.
As the lawyer stood Noah held up his arms again, he liked getting lifts from Uncle Rafa. Uncle Rafa was comfy.
Barba bent to pick up Noah, then nodded at Tucker wordlessly before quickly moving toward the bathroom.
As soon as the door was closed Tucker turned to Olivia with a raised eyebrow. "Really?" He asked incredulously.
"It's not what you think…" Olivia started.
"Not what I think?" Tucker asked dryly.
"I haven't seen much of Rafael lately, neither has Noah, I thought we could catch up…" Olivia started to explain, yet she simultaneously wondered why she felt the need to. Ultimately, Olivia knew that Tucker had been hurt by how things had ended and she didn't want to rub salt in the wound.
"They seem…close?" Tucker observed.
"We're not going there," Olivia said sharply.
"Where?" He asked.
"On Sunday you seemed to know Rafael well enough that you were able to declare his lifelong priorities and intentions, now you're surprised by how well he gets on with my son?" Olivia retorted dryly. "Either he's not interested or he's manipulating me into bed. Which is it?"
"The two things are not mutually exclusive, Olivia," Tucker snarked.
Olivia's eyes widened, "You obviously don't know Rafael at all."
"You know what? This really is none of my business any more…" Tucker looked at a small pile of familiar items near the door. "I assume?"
"All of your things," Olivia nodded. "You really should have called first."
Tucker shrugged, "Apparently I should have…"
"I hope we can move on from this?" Olivia responded cautiously.
"I filed my papers today. You know I've been wanting to do it for a while, I guess I thought…" he shrugged, "…well, there's nothing holding me back now is there?"
"Then I hope you're happy, Ed," Olivia replied genuinely.
"Me too, Olivia," he conceded, he heard a noise in the hallway and looked over to see Barba carrying Noah.
"Sorry…" Barba shrugged, "…we can only do so much hand washing."
Noah grinned, "Uncle Rafa said...we goin' to wash hands away!"
Tucker smiled flatly and nodded, "I'm going to leave. Take care, Olivia, I genuinely hope that you get everything that you want in life."
Barba held on to Noah as Tucker turned and gave him a strange look, then he watched Olivia walk him to the door.
"Well, that was awkward," Olivia said with a sigh as she returned.
"Could have been worse, you could've had a man here…" Barba joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Noah looked at him with wide eyes, "Uncle Rafa not a man?"
Barba laughed, "Yes, yes. I just meant a man who isn't me."
Noah frowned now, "Not you?"
Olivia laughed and walked through to the kitchen. "Dinner in five!" She repeated and tried to brush off their interruption.
Barba stood Noah on the floor, he quickly threw a few toys into the toy box and then instinctively picked him up again and walked with him to the table. He paused near the seats and looked over at Olivia. "I…?"
"Can you put him in his booster seat? The chairs are quite high so there's still a strap that just needs clipping around his middle," Olivia explained, genuinely surprised by how hard Barba was trying.
"He's getting so big," Barba observed as he strapped him in.
"Big?" Noah asked with confusion.
"A big boy," Barba explained, still crouched down in front of him. "I haven't seen you for a few months, you've grown."
Noah smiled. "Big boy," he repeated happily. Then he seemed to think for a moment. "Ed, bye-bye?"
Olivia smiled at him sadly, "Sometimes people visit for a while but then have to leave. Are you okay with that, baby?"
Noah nodded thoughtfully then asked, "Uncle Rafa? Stay, then bye-bye too?"
Olivia shook her head quickly and walked around to kiss his head, "No, my sweet boy, Uncle Rafa is family…" She looked up to see Barba's surprised smile and then looked back at her son. "Family is forever, we will always be family."
Chapter 6: After Dinner
After dinner, Olivia picked up Noah and then looked over at Barba as he stood up from the table. "I need to give Noah a bath before bed," she explained, "I'll probably be at least half-an-hour…but can you stay?"
Barba nodded, "I can wait."
"G'night, Uncle Rafa," Noah said with a sleepy smile, "...love oou."
Barba smiled at Olivia with surprise in his eyes when the little boy repeated his earlier expression of love, then looked back at Noah. He walked up to them both and held the little boy's hand. "I love you too, Noah, sleep well."
"Eddie?" Noah asked.
Barba walked over and bent to pick the toy up from the floor, then he came back to give it to his young friend.
"Night Eddie too?" He asked Barba.
Barba laughed softly, then looked at the toy and bowed his head gracefully, "Goodnight, Master Eduardo, sleep well."
Noah giggled happily and squeezed Eddie in his arms.
Barba looked up to smile at Olivia in amusement and was taken aback by the indescribable look of affection in her eyes.
"We should…" Olivia nodded down the hall and then turned to walk away, "...I won't be too long."
She bathed Noah and then walked him through to his bedroom.
After being lifted into bed Noah snuggled down and then smiled up at her. "I like Uncle Rafa, he stay?" He asked innocently.
"He's just outside, we're going to have a little playdate," Olivia smiled and stroked her hand over his hair as she sat down next to him.
"Sleepover?" Noah asked.
Olivia smiled with a little amusement in her eyes. "No, baby, Uncle Rafa needs to go home to sleep in his own bed."
"Back tomorrow?" He asked, his eyes were already struggling to stay open.
"No, baby, Uncle Rafa needs to work tomorrow. You really do like Uncle Rafa, don't you?" Olivia inquired. She reflected on the fact that she had asked her son to be nice, but this evening had felt more genuine than Noah simply doing as he'd been asked.
"Yes, Mommy," Noah smiled sleepily, "…he's nice, funny, likes to play…comfy."
Olivia laughed softly, "Comfy?"
Noah closed his eyes and nodded, "Warm…soft…"
His voice trailed off and Olivia knew that her son had fallen asleep.
She wiped a tear from her eye, it had been a long time since she'd stopped trying to force herself to deny her feelings for Rafael Barba. She'd pushed them aside for a long time, trying to focus on other things, but it was always there…the feeling that her heart might only ever be able to find peace with her friend.
Likewise, Noah's quickly intensifying attachment to him somehow felt both intellectually unexpected and emotionally inevitable.
Olivia stood and walked out to find that Barba had loaded the dishwasher and was just cleaning down the surfaces.
"You didn't need to do all this," she assured as she reached for the half-full glass of wine he had left for her on the counter.
"You cooked," he smiled back at her over his shoulder, "…my mother didn't raise a lazy houseguest."
Olivia smiled, she relished this softer side of her friend - the one that she knew he allowed very few people to see.
"Thank you for coming tonight, Rafa. Noah was so happy to see you, he had a lovely evening," she leaned back on the kitchen counter as he turned to face her.
"It's been nice," Barba smiled, "…I know that I'm not a natural with children, but he's an amazing boy. He's a credit to you, Liv."
"I think you underestimate yourself," Olivia assured, "…you're not used to children, but I'd say that you're definitely a natural. Noah thinks you're…" she paused and finished with a smile, "…very comfy."
Barba raised his eyebrows, "I'm sorry?"
She laughed, "I'm quoting, and he actually used the words warm and soft...you're a hit."
He smiled now, although he still looked a little self-conscious.
"Really, Rafa, you were wonderful with him. It made me wonder… All these months with Ed, he never really bonded with Noah. He tried, of course, he really is a good man, but it just never seemed to fit," she smiled sadly and thought about all the time and effort wasted.
"You still don't want to talk about it?" Barba asked and nodded toward the living area so that they could sit.
Olivia followed him through and they sat facing each other at opposite ends of the couch.
"It's not that I didn't want to talk to you about it yesterday, I just…" she paused, glancing down at her wine and then looking back up at him, "…I guess I just wanted to spend some time with you."
Barba nodded, then after a few moments he continued tentatively, "I hope I didn't get in the way tonight? Maybe if I hadn't been here you could have talked...possibly even resolved things?"
"Ed was the uninvited guest this evening, Rafa. We wanted you here. There's not much to talk about anyway. We tried. We failed. We want different things and it's time to walk away before we waste any more time on something that was never meant to be," she shrugged sadly.
"And Noah?" Barba asked.
"He liked Ed, but I think that was partly born out of familiarity…when I put him to bed he didn't even mention him. He only asked if you would be back tomorrow." Olivia smiled when she watched her friend's cheeks flush a little.
"I am a little worried about how he'll adjust to the sudden change though. Would you like to help me with some fun distraction activities this weekend? We could take him out? Maybe Saturday? Of course, if you're busy, I understand…" She smiled at him hopefully.
"I'd…" Barba paused, "…I'd really like that. I have missed us."
"You've always been here…" she paused and then added, "…but I've missed us too. I want my best friend back."
"You've got him," Barba smiled a little proudly.
"I won't take us for granted again, Rafa. The people we take for granted...the most comfortable and important people in our lives...those relationships need nurturing too," Olivia assured him.
Barba returned her smile and nodded silently. Then after a moment, he continued, "I like Rafa by the way, no one has ever called me that."
"Never?" Olivia asked, surprised and a little concerned that she had overstepped.
"Rafi…usually by the women in my family who still won't accept that I'm a grown man…" they exchanged a smile, "…but never Rafa. I'm more often called Barba than Rafael these days."
"You're sure you don't mind?" She smiled.
"I like it," he assured.
They chatted for another hour before Barba finally looked at the time.
"I should go," he said regretfully, "…I still have work to do and I'm in court in the morning."
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Olivia said genuinely. "I didn't realise."
He shook his head and stood. "I've had a great evening, but I should…" he nodded toward the door.
"When will I see you…?" She trailed off.
"Coffee tomorrow? Or maybe food?" He asked speculatively as he rolled down his shirt sleeves. He knew that they'd agreed they would try to avoid meeting for food in the middle of the day, but the temptation was too great right now, this felt too good. Besides, it was a quiet week, he could afford to take his eye off the ball a little. "We should be wrapped up at the courthouse by midday."
Olivia was pleased that they were making plans to meet the following day. "Text me when you're finishing up? We're meant to have good weather so I could take a walk down to meet you?"
"Perfect," he nodded as he pulled on his jacket and then picked up his bag.
They walked toward the door and both suddenly felt a little awkward, they hadn't had a casually tactile relationship before, but…
Olivia stepped forward and pulled him into her arms, she rested her chin on his shoulder and closed her eyes when she felt his one free arm wrap around her waist. She breathed in. He smelled really good - familiar, yet enticing. Then she smiled - Noah was right, he felt really good too.
After a few moments, they both pulled back regretfully.
"Goodnight, Liv…" Barba said warmly as he stepped toward the door.
"Goodnight, Rafa," she replied, "…and try not to work too late. Make sure you get some sleep, I know you're probably more prepared for tomorrow than you realise and you need your rest."
He smiled, it actually felt nice to have someone other than his mother fussing over him a little.
Chapter 7: Checking In
Rollins observed Olivia walk back through the unit the following afternoon and then smiled at Fin as her door closed.
"Where has she been?" She asked with intrigue.
Fin looked up and shrugged, "I dunno, I look like her PA to you?"
"Does she look like she's grievin' the end of a relationship?" She pushed.
Fin frowned, "How do you know she is? Maybe she dumped 'im? I never got what she saw in the guy anyway…"
"Still, endin' a long relationship…" Rollins reflected and sat back in her chair, "…she looks more like she's startin' one to me."
Fin arched an eyebrow.
"I know, I know…" Rollins waved him off, "…none'a my business." She paused then added, "She met anyone new lately?"
Fin remained silent, pointedly ignoring her question.
Carisi walked through and sat down, "What we talkin' about?"
"The boss," Rollin explained succinctly, "…you know where she went at lunch?"
Carisi looked between the two and shrugged, "Don't know where...but I was in court with Barba this morning and she met him outside the courthouse."
Even Fin sat forward a little now, "Barba?"
Carisi looked between the two, "Why?"
"She looked happy" Rollin explained, "…when she got back."
He shrugged again, "And? You know Barba and the Lieu are tight…"
Rollins looked over at Fin, who shrugged and then looked back down at his work. He didn't want to get dragged into speculation about Olivia, if she was happy then that was all he needed to know.
Early that evening Olivia sat on her couch with some files while Noah sat on the floor near her feet playing with his favorite bricks.
Her cell rang and she smiled when she saw the caller ID.
"Good evening, counsellor," Her voice was light and her smile obvious as she answered. "Have you called to create more work for me? Because I was just finishing up and Noah is looking forward to storytime."
"Well, I wouldn't want to delay storytime…" Barba responded smoothly.
Olivia relaxed back now, she loved his voice, she could listen to him talk all evening... "Noah would not be please with his Uncle Rafa," She teased.
Noah looked up from his seat on the floor with wide eyes. "Uncle Rafa?" He scrambled to his feet and then started to crawl onto the couch. His knee slipped once but then finally he arrived next to her silently pleading for her cell.
Olivia smiled, he'd never done this before. "I think someone wants to talk to you, is this urgent or can I put him on?" She asked.
"Nothing that can't wait…" Barba assured.
Olivia held her cell up to Noah's ear. "Say hello to Uncle Rafa, baby."
"'Ello, Uncle Rafa!" Noah said excitedly.
"Hey, Noah, how are you?" Barba asked.
Noah smiled at his mommy, it really was Uncle Rafa! "You come here?" He asked.
"Sorry, little man, I need to work tonight. I'm going to see you on Saturday though," Barba assured.
"Saturday?" Noah frowned a little and then checked. "How long?"
"Three sleeps," Barba promised him.
Olivia laughed softly, she could hear both sides of the conversation and was still fascinated by how good Barba was with her son.
"Three sleeps," Noah repeated thoughtfully. "Okay. Read me story?"
"On Saturday, yes, I promise," Barba assured.
"Can I have Uncle Rafa back now?" Olivia asked Noah with a smile.
Noah looked at his mommy and then nodded a little sadly. "Three sleeps, Uncle Rafa," he repeated into his mommy's cell, "…g'night, love oou."
"I love you too, Noah. Goodnight…and say goodnight to Eddie from me as well," Barba added.
Noah grinned now and moved to climb back down to the floor.
"I've never seen him take to anyone like this…" Olivia smiled down at her son as he returned to his toys.
"I'm irresistible," he joked, she could almost see him roll his eyes. "Trust me, Liv, I have no idea what I'm doing."
Irresistible? Olivia thought, she was starting to believe that he just might be. "I assume you called for a reason?" She teased.
"I guess…" Barba paused and then continued, "…I was just calling to let you know that I'll be out of the office all day tomorrow. I'm helping my mom move. I'm officially unavailable, but if you need me for anything you can contact me on my cell."
Olivia couldn't help but think that he rarely called in the evening just to let her know his plans, this was definitely new.
"Okay, well thanks…is your mom looking forward to the move?" She asked.
Barba laughed, "She's…reluctantly embracing the idea, but she's moving to a more desirable neighbourhood and her building will have far better amenities."
"You're a good son, Rafa," Olivia said with a hint of pride in her voice.
"I could be better," Barba refuted.
"I know you, Rafa…so I can only imagine how proud your mom is of you," she asserted. "Have a good day tomorrow," she paused and then added, "Will you be home in the evening? Maybe I could call? You could tell me how the move went?"
Barba was silent for several moments, "Yes, I mean…I should be home by six."
"I'll call you after I put Noah to bed," Olivia said.
"I'll look forward to it," Barba replied, she could hear the smile in his voice.
"Now make sure you get plenty of sleep tonight, your mom is going to need you in peak condition…and eat breakfast in the morning, coffee won't do if you'll be hauling furniture around all day," she advised him.
He laughed softly, "Do you give Noah this much of a hard time?"
She smiled, "Invariably."
"Goodnight, Liv…" Barba said, his voice warm and soft.
"Goodnight, Rafa…" she replied, then she waited until she heard him hang up.
Chapter 8: Call Interrupted
The following evening, Olivia looked at the time as she walked through from putting Noah to bed. It was a little early, but he'd told her that he intended to be home by six.
If she was honest her mind had been drifting to her call with Barba all day, even during her bedtime routine with Noah. In the past, it had been quite common for them to go a couple of days without contact, but she had always noticed his absence and this week a habit had already begun to form...alongside what Olivia felt was increasing freedom to reach out without the need for an excuse.
She smiled to herself as she walked into the kitchen to make some hot tea, then she settled down on the couch and picked up her cell.
As soon as the call connected Olivia spoke lightly, "I know I'm a little earlier than I said, I can call back in a while if that's easier…but I guess I'm just eager to hear about your day as a manual laborer."
"I'm sorry, can I ask who is calling?" A woman's voice replied.
Olivia glanced at the screen and frowned, then spoke again, "This is Rafael Barba's cell?"
Now the voice sounded warm and a little amused. "Liv?" The woman asked, she had obviously also checked the caller display. "Is that Lieutenant Olivia Benson? I believe we've met, I'm Rafi's mother."
Olivia closed her eyes, immediately regretting calling so early. She also shook her head and pushed aside her irrational moment of jealousy when a woman had answered Barba's cell...of course it was his mother.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Barba. I meant to call when Rafa was home. I'll try again in a while..." Olivia assured.
"He's gone to the store to pick up some groceries, but he's planning on leaving as soon as he gets back…" she paused and then continued, "…I had a feeling he was rushing home for something."
Olivia laughed awkwardly, "No, no…this is nothing important. I'm just calling to…"
"Check-in and hear about my son's day?" Lucia asked with undisguised pleasure.
Olivia was silent.
"I'll tell Rafi you called," Lucia assured.
"Thank you, Mrs. Barba," Olivia replied a little awkwardly. She was embarrassed by the amusement in his mother's voice and worried that the savvy woman had completely seen through her simple desire to talk to her son.
"Please, call me Lucia," she added, "…and I promise not to occupy my son for any longer than necessary."
"No, really…" Olivia started to object, still a little uncharacteristically flustered.
"It was nice talking to you, Olivia," Lucia cut in, "…I hope we get to meet again very soon."
Olivia winced, then she politely said goodbye and ended the call.
Barba arrived back at the new apartment less than twenty-minutes later and was greeted by his mother sitting at her breakfast bar with an amused expression on her face.
"What?" He asked looking down at himself, as though checking to see if he'd spilt something, then he walked toward her and placed the bags onto a nearby counter. He decided to ignore his mother's goading and begin to unpack the groceries...if she had something to say he had no doubt she would share it.
"You know she's a lovely woman, mijo," Lucia started with a slightly teasing lilt in her voice. "Beautiful, smart…and I could tell by her smile that she's kind. She is kind isn't she, Rafi? I don't think anyone could do a job like that and not be kind, the things she must see…"
Barba paused and raised an eyebrow at his mother, "You're talking about Liv?"
"You've only brought her up in conversation at least ten times today," Lucia smiled brightly, "…and then when you left your cell here…"
He shook his head in confusion.
"She called, Rafi…she called just because she wanted to talk to you. Women don't do that unless they're interested, mijo," Lucia pointed out knowingly.
"Olivia is a good friend, mami," Barba replied with a hint of frustration as he continued unpacking.
"She wants more," Lucia maintained firmly.
"You don't even know her," Barba insisted, "…Olivia recently went through a breakup, I guess she's just leaning on me a little while she reevaluates her life. I'm being a friend, to her...and to Noah."
Lucia laughed softly, clearly amused but not intentionally meaning to be unkind, "You and children?"
"Me and Noah," Barba retorted more sharply than he had intended. "Not children, one child - Noah Benson. Liv says that I'm a natural," he was starting to sound increasingly frustrated now, "…and Noah…well, he says that he loves me and I want to be there for him as well."
Lucia was quiet for a moment, she was not offended by his tone, just intrigued. Her son usually only became defensive with her over things he deeply cared about…and that was rare.
"Noah means a lot to you?" She asked.
Barba sighed, already regretting his tone. He turned and leaned on the counter next to the half-empty shopping bags, "They both do, Mami, I'm just asking you to give me some space? They mean so much to me…so no matchmaking or trying to get involved, not on this. Por favor?"
Lucia could see how earnest he was, so held up her hands in submission, "Okay, mijo, I'll leave it alone. Can I just say one thing? As a woman as well as your mother?"
Barba crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
"I heard the affectionate tone in her voice when she thought she was talking to you. Please don't write yourself off by making assumptions about how your Olivia feels. I understand your reticence, but keep an open mind, okay?" She coached softly.
He tilted his head but then smiled weakly and nodded, "Sure, mami, but don't hold your breath."
Chapter 9: Two Become Three
Almost four hours later Olivia heard her cell ringing; she looked at the screen and smiled before putting down her book and accepting the call, she then glanced up to check that her bedroom door was closed before selecting the speaker and placing her cell next to her on the bed as she relaxed back against the headboard.
"Hey, Rafa…" Olivia said contently as she slipped off her glasses and put them on the nightstand next to a glass of water, "…it's late."
She heard a smile in his voice when he replied, "Mmmm…I'm sorry, things took longer than I expected at my mother's and then I had a quick shower when I got in. Is it too late?"
"Not at all, how was your day?" Olivia asked as she shifted down the bed. She turned onto her side and lay her head on her pillow.
"Long…but ultimately successful," he replied succinctly.
"How is your mother?" She asked.
"Good, happy that it's over. She really likes you by the way..." he added with amusement, carefully avoiding the main thread of their conversation.
"She doesn't know me," Olivia laughed softly.
"My mother is big on spontaneous judgements," he quipped.
"Accurate?" Olivia inquired with amusement.
"In this case? Principally..." Barba answered cryptically.
"Where are you?"
He was silent for a moment and then replied honestly, "I came straight through after my shower, so I'm sat on the side of my bed."
She smiled warmly, "I'm in bed. I have my cell on speaker lying next to me…it's been a long day."
"In that case, I'm lying down as well," he said with amusement and Olivia heard some sheets move, "…I don't think I've done physical labour like today in over 15yrs!"
Olivia laughed, "Poor Rafa…" she paused for a moment and then added, "Did you ever pull the phone across the floor and hide under the sheets late at night talking to your friends?"
Barba laughed, "My father would never have allowed me to have a telephone in my room!"
She smiled, "I fitted my own extension…my mom was rarely around at that point so I figured that meant she didn't get a vote."
"You deserved so much better…" He replied sadly after a few moments reflective silence.
"We both did," she added.
"So what are we going to do with Noah on Saturday?" Barba asked, a comfortable and drowsy state was already descending over him and he didn't want to even think about his father.
"Well, I've been talking to Noah about getting a pet. A dog would be unfair with the hours that I work, but I thought…if you're up for it…we could take him down to an animal shelter and try to find him a cat?" Olivia suggested.
She could hear the genuine enthusiasm in Barba's voice when he responded, "That sounds great. I love animals but I was never allowed one when I was a child...then living alone and working such long hours, it's never seemed appropriate."
They were silent for a moment and then she spoke quietly, "Tell me a nice story, Rafa? Something happy you remember about your childhood…"
"I thought only Noah got bedtime stories?" Barba laughed softly.
Olivia could tell by the tone of his voice that he was lying down, so she closed her eyes and tried to imagine what it would feel like for him to be lying opposite her in bed.
"If you need to go…" She responded after a few moments of silence.
"No, I…" There was a pause for a moment and then he began his story, "The Christmas after I turned 8, my Abuelita had come to stay and…"
The following afternoon, Barba walked into the unit and straight toward Olivia's office. He nodded at a few of the officers and then smiled cordially at Rollin's and Fin as he walked by.
"Liv busy?" He asked.
"Makin' some calls," Fin replied, "…but sure you can go straight through."
Barba tilted his head in a slight nod and then walked by. He was carrying his bag and two coffees, so he pushed the slightly ajar door open with his hip.
Olivia looked up at him and Barba was taken aback by the smile that spread across her face. She nodded him through and held up one finger to assure him that she wouldn't be long on her call.
He shrugged, then walked around to place one of the coffees in front of her before settling into his usual seat.
Olivia took a sip as the call continued and then smiled at him again - her favorite coffee from her favorite place, she knew that he'd almost certainly gone out of his way for this.
After about two minutes she ended the call and took a long drink. "This is perfect, Rafa, thank you," she said affectionately.
He nodded, "Here to serve."
She laughed, "You really don't mind that I suggested meeting here? I have a lot on, so I'll actually be able to spend more time with you this way."
Barba shook his head, "As I said, three cases pleaded out so I have a quiet week. I'd actually considered taking a little vacation time, to get out of the city, but…" he trailed off.
"You decided against the idea?" Olivia asked. She knew that he rarely had the opportunity to take leave.
"Well, after everything with Tucker…"
"You stayed here for me?" Olivia was surprised and very touched.
Barba shrugged, "Not that I'm suggesting that you need me around. It's just been nice spending a little more time with you and Noah. Then, of course, my mother's move came up."
"I will always need you around, Rafa…" Olivia paused and then (worried that she was being a little too open) she added, "…Remember, I need your help selecting a world-class cat tomorrow. Consider it like feline jury selection."
He laughed softly, "No pressure then? Have you decided on a name?"
"It seems a little rude to name someone before you've at least met them," Olivia joked lightly. "Maybe you can help us with that too? Then we'll need to stop at a pet store on the way home to buy…well, everything."
"You've really planned for this then?" Barba teased lightly.
Olivia smirked and sipped her coffee, "We don't know if we're getting a boy cat or a girl cat yet…we might need to shop accordingly."
"I don't think the cat will object to the style or color scheme of their accessories," Barba smiled at her with amusement.
"I will care," Olivia quipped pointedly. "Thanks for doing this with us, Rafa, I know that Noah will be thrilled."
Barba shook his head, "I'm looking forward to it. This seems like a momentous day in the Benson household - when two become three."
Chapter 10: Goodnight, Rafa
A little bonus chapter today!
Olivia spent Friday evening searching for a suitable place to go on a cat hunt with Barba and Noah.
She had mentioned to Carisi about her plans earlier that day and he had highlighted, with unexpected passion, why it was so important that she look for a no-kill shelter. It was something that Olivia hadn't even considered so she was grateful for the suggestion and was now doing her research.
Having narrowed the search down to a shelter called Kitty Haven she spent about an hour looking through pictures of cats and reading their information. The cat had originally been for Noah, but she had to admit that the more she looked into it the more eager she was becoming to bring home the new member of their family.
After thoroughly looking through every single cat picture on their site Olivia walked through to her bedroom and climbed into bed.
Her phone beeped.
- Have you thought about no-kill shelters?
She smiled and replied.
- Carisi has already educated me, we're going to a place called Kitty Haven. Noah is going to love it. The only problem will be having to choose one!
He replied quickly.
- Spent the evening looking at cat pictures?
Olivia smiled softly and then realised that she really wanted to hear his voice, even if only for a minute. She tapped call…
"You're not calling to deny it?" Barba said with laughter in his voice after he answered.
Olivia laughed, "No…I'm just too sleepy to bother with texting right now," she fibbed.
"What time tomorrow?"
"Midday okay?" She suggested. "Then we could come back here for pizza in the evening…if you're not busy?"
"I'm not busy…" he assured, his voice sounded warm and sleepy and right at that moment all Olivia wanted was to be able to lean across her bed and kiss his lips.
"Well…" she suddenly wasn't sure what to say now.
"Goodnight, 'Livia," Barba said after a moment, "…I'll see you and Noah at about 12."
Olivia smiled and snuggled down against her pillow, "Goodnight, Rafa," she replied softly, "…see you tomorrow."
There was a knock on their door at precisely midday. Olivia didn't understand how he did that, but she knew he wasn't the type of person to hang around until the correct time - it seemed that Rafael Barba just had an in-built timer.
Noah looked up at his mommy from the floor.
Olivia still hadn't told him about going to look for a cat, she wanted to share his excitement with their friend.
"Guess who is here early?" Olivia asked Noah with a smile. She knew that Noah was expecting his Uncle Rafa to be arriving later in the day.
Noah's mouth dropped open. "Uncle Rafa?"
"Yes!" Olivia laughed and picked him up. She walked through to open the door and, as expected, found Barba waiting on the other side.
Of course, she had seen him in casual clothing before but she had to admit to being slightly taken aback by the sight of him in jeans, sneakers and a hoodie. He looked temptingly soft and huggable. Olivia felt like she had to hold back…although she envied her son a little when he felt no need for such self-control.
"Uncle Rafa!" He said happily and leaned forward in Olivia's arms, he reached out toward him and his mother laughed.
Olivia silently asked if it was okay to pass him over and Barba held out his arms.
As Noah settled with his Uncle Rafa they walked through into the living area.
"Uncle Rafa," Noah repeated and reached out his hands to rest on both of his cheeks. "Saturday…story?"
"Maybe we should leave that until bedtime, Nene? We have a busy day…" Barba suggested.
"Busy day?" Noah looked bewildered and then gazed at his mommy.
"I have a special surprise for you, but I wanted to wait to tell you until your Uncle Rafa got here." Olivia smiled at Barba. "Uncle Rafa is going to come with us today and help us to find a kitty, we're going to choose one to become part of our family and then bring it home with us."
Noah's mouth fell open and his eyes widened, "A kitty?"
"Yes," Olivia smiled, "…would you like that?"
Noah giggled and bounced up and down in Barba's arms, "A kitty!"
"I think he likes the idea," Barba joked dryly.
"The kitty cat will need its own bed, and food bowl, and toilet...and toys. So we will also need to go shopping on the way home," Olivia explained. "Then Uncle Rafa is going to come home with us for pizza."
"Kitty party?" Noah asked with a wide grin.
Olivia grinned, "Yes - you, me and Uncle Rafa will have a little welcome home party for our new kitty."
Noah laughed joyfully and leaned his head against Barba's shoulder, this was going to be the best day ever.
Chapter 11: Georgie Benson
A/Ns: A couple of comments mentioned being cat people or dog people so I thought I'd join in and say that I'm actually (controversially) both!
I love cats and dogs - but I'm familiar enough with having both to think that a cat would be a more practical pet for Olivia at this point in her career...and also Barba 😉
Georgie, quickly known as 'Gor-gi' by Noah, was a 1-year-old short-haired white and ginger boy, with a long striped tail and handsome green eyes that reminded Olivia a little of Barba.
The shelter had let them spend some time together in a side room and Georgie had interacted beautifully with Noah. He'd walked confidently over to the child and put his front paws up onto his legs. Then he had been endlessly patient with Noah's handling, even after the excited little boy had shrieked rather eagerly.
"He's perfect," Olivia whispered softly to Barba after she had filled out the paperwork and paid the shelter for the carry case.
She had been a little concerned when the staff had mentioned an initial home inspection. However Barba had charmed one of the ladies in charge, and after finding out that Olivia was a police lieutenant and Barba an ADA…and then watching the cat interact so beautifully with them all…she had agreed to let the newly christened 'Georgie' home with them today on the understanding that someone from the shelter would visit the following afternoon to confirm that they were all happy and settling in.
They left the shelter about three hours after they had arrived and then spent at least an hour in a pet store accessorizing the cat before finally piling into a cab and heading home.
After laying everything out in a suitable place, Olivia finally opened the little gate and let Georgie out to investigate his new domain. Barba and Olivia flopped down onto the couch with an exhausted laugh and then spent half-an-hour watching happily while Noah followed closely behind Georgie as he took inventory of his new home.
Finally, Georgie discovered his litter-tray, then strolled regally over to his new bed and fell asleep in a tight ball.
Noah was now sat on the floor by the cat peering at him as he slept. "Gor-gi likes it here?" He asked them both.
"Definitely," Barba assured.
Noah smiled and then stood and walked toward them. He climbed up onto the couch then dropped dramatically over the two adults laps. "Hungry…pizza party?" He asked with pleading eyes.
"Okay, baby," Olivia announced, tickling him a little as she moved to stand. "Let's get you washed and ready for bed before food."
"I'll order," Barba said as he also stood.
"My card-" Olivia started to say.
Barba waved her off. "This is on me, you get the next one…" he insisted.
Olivia smiled and nodded, pleased by the assumption that today would not be a one-off. "We won't be long," she assured.
A little over two hours later, Barba was clearing up the pizza box when he noticed Noah out of the corner of his eye, he was trying to pull Georgie (in his bed) along the floor.
"What are you doing, Noah?" He asked with amusement.
"Bedtime…" Noah explained simply.
Olivia walked through from the bathroom and Barba turned and spoke to her softly so that Noah couldn't hear. "Are you okay for Noah to have Georgie sleep in with him? He seems rather fixed on the idea…" He nodded down at her son, who was still dragging the bed along the floor an inch at a time. Georgie had now stirred and was watching the boy curiously.
She laughed silently and without thinking rested her forehead against his shoulder. After a few moments, she pulled back and smiled affectionately at Barba before walking over to her son.
"You want Georgie to sleep in with you, my sweet boy?" Olivia asked.
Noah looked up at her with wide eyes and nodded.
"Well, how about we move his bed in next to yours, he might get up for something to eat…but I'm sure he'll soon settle back in there with you," Olivia suggested.
Noah thought carefully and then nodded, "We leave door open?"
"Yes, baby," Olivia smiled.
She carefully lifted Georgie out of his bed but was unsurprised when he wanted to jump down.
They watched as he then wandered toward his food bowl.
"Hungry?" Noah asked.
Olivia smiled and nodded, then carried the bed with her as she slowly walked her son toward his bedroom.
"Uncle Rafa, story?" Noah reminded her.
Barba was following just behind them. "I haven't forgotten," he assured.
Noah picked out a cat story and lay happily in bed as his Uncle Rafa read him the book - thrilling him by replacing the eponymous cat's name for 'Georgie'. He loved all of the funny voices he used and as sleep finally claimed him he decided that this had definitely been the best day ever.
An hour later and Barba had sat chatting with Olivia for a while before he reluctantly told her that he needed to go home.
"I have brunch with my mother in the morning," He admitted with a smile.
"See? The perfect son..." Olivia said warmly as she stood up from the couch.
Barba held back and nodded toward Noah's room. "Can I just?"
Olivia smiled, she loved that he wanted to check-in on her son before he left.
He pushed open the door a little and then grinned back at Olivia, beckoning her over to come and look.
She joined Barba, peering around her friend and then smiling when she saw Georgie sleeping stretched out alongside Noah and Eddie, her little boy's arm was wrapped over both of them.
"You don't mind?" Barba asked almost silently.
Olivia shrugged, "It won't do him any harm - I think he has a new best friend."
Barba pulled the door almost closed (just leaving enough space for Georgie to get out if he needed to) and then they briefly shared an indefinable look before he nodded toward the door. "I should go…"
Olivia smiled warmly, happy yet a little sad that he was leaving. "I'll see you Monday?" She checked.
"Coffee?" He suggested.
"I'll come to you this time." Olivia paused and then added, "We'll talk tomorrow though?"
Barba nodded, "Sure we will."
"Goodnight, Rafa," she said as they arrived at the door.
"Goodnight, 'Livia," he replied. This time he leaned in for a brief embrace, then his lips traced her cheek lightly as he pulled back.
Olivia felt like she had stopped breathing.
"It's been a wonderful day, thank you," he told her quietly, barely meeting her eyes as he pulled on his backpack.
"No, thank you," Olivia breathed out.
They exchanged a smile and then the moment passed as he slipped out of the door and Olivia was left standing in the hallway with her hand on her cheek and a giddy smile on her face. This was ridiculous, she thought as her smile spread into a broad grin, she felt like a teenager in love!
Chapter 12: Duerme Bien, Cariño…
Despite good intentions, their coffee 'date' on Monday kept being delayed all day because Barba was called into court. However, they'd spoke on the phone that evening, then again the following night…and they exchanged text messages throughout the day.
On Wednesday, Barba spent the whole day in court, then went straight to his mother's to help her with some new furniture. He finally arrived home at a little after midnight and glanced regretfully at the time. He really wanted to call Olivia - but didn't feel that he should disturb her so late.
By Thursday lunchtime they had barely communicated since Tuesday evening and Barba was suffering from acute withdrawal. So after Olivia had failed to answer three text messages he had finally given up trying to conceive an excuse and headed toward the unit to see her.
As soon as Fin saw the ADA he smiled wryly, "You're a braver man than me…"
Barba stopped and raised his eyebrows.
"Assume you know Liv's sick? Been tryin' to get her to go home all day but she ain't listenin' to me," Fin shook his head. "Maybe you'll 'ave more success?"
Barba frowned, he'd worried when Olivia hadn't responded to his messages but hadn't even considered the possibility that she might be unwell.
He walked through to her office and tapped lightly before entering - the blinds were low on all sides and the room was unusually dark.
"I'm not going home, Fin," she groused quietly without even looking up, "…so don't even come near me with that again. I haven't got the energy to argue with you anymore."
She sounded exhausted...and in pain.
Barba stepped in and closed the door.
Olivia looked up at him now and he flinched - her eyes looked heavy and dark and her face was so pale in the dim lighting that it almost looked like he was seeing her in black and white.
"Rafa..." She was clearly startled to see him and he was surprised to notice that she almost looked relieved.
"Liv, you look terrible," Barba responded softly. He quickly walked around the desk and crouched down in front of her.
She closed her eyes and shuddered when his warm palm came to rest on her clammy forehead.
"Kick a woman when she's down?" Olivia retorted weakly. Then she coughed, and as she did so winced and almost folded in on herself with evident pain.
"What's wrong?" Barba asked with concern.
"Maybe flu? Cough…blinding headache…" she admitted and closed her eyes as Barba's hands stroked down her forearms. "I'm so cold…" she added, sounding alarmingly close to tears.
"I'm taking you home," he stated firmly.
"No, Rafa, I have work. If I can finish this I swear I'll take tomorrow," she argued weakly.
"You'll take at least the rest of today and tomorrow," he asserted. "You know Fin is more than capable of stepping up and you have Noah to think of. If you keep this up you'll make yourself too ill to even be able to take care of him." Although, if he were being honest, he doubted she was well enough now.
"I can look after my son!" Olivia retorted sharply. She was attempting to hastily reconstruct the emotional walls that had crumbled in his presence. However, as she began to stand her head spun and Barba had to rise suddenly to support her.
She swayed for a moment, his hands firmly on her upper arms, then finally got her balance and stood straight.
"Let me take you home?" Barba repeated. "Please, 'Livia?" He added with a more beseeching tone.
Olivia looked into his concerned eyes and then after a few moments nodded slowly. "Okay, okay…" she finally agreed.
Barba reached for her jacket and she wordlessly let him help her put it on. "Put your arm around me? I've got you…" He spoke kindly as they moved toward the door.
"You always do," Olivia replied gratefully, then surrendered all pretences when she leaned her weight against him.
He briefly thought about how it might look if they walked through the unit like this, but then realised that he didn't care.
Olivia winced at the brighter lights in the large room and turned her face into his shoulder.
"She alright?" Fin asked as he stood, clearly concerned that his friend looked even worse.
"I'm taking her home, she won't be in tomorrow either," Barba informed him directly.
Fin nodded, clearly impressed. "What about Noah?" He asked.
"He's with Lucy, I need to pick him up…" Liv murmured quietly against Barba's shoulder.
Barba shook his head at Fin, "Don't worry, I have time to get Liv settled at home and then go to collect Noah. I have it covered."
"Don't think she can look afta a kid…" Fin studied the way Olivia was leaning on Barba.
"I won't leave her alone," he assured, "not until she's feeling stronger."
Fin smiled, "You're a good man, counsellor."
Barba shook his head, dismissing the detective's recognition, and then he walked Olivia out - trying not to notice the not-so-subtle glances they were receiving.
They took a cab back to Olivia's and Barba hovered just outside her bedroom door while she lethargically changed and then crawled into bed.
"Okay…" Olivia called out weakly.
Barba came in and walked straight over to draw the curtains closed.
Olivia sighed in relief at the dimmed lighting, "Thank you, Rafa."
He walked around and sat next to her on the bed, "Do you need anything? You have water."
She shook her head slightly.
He held out two tablets, "Just take these Tylenol for me? You're a little warm."
She sat up a bit and took the tablets, then lay heavily onto her pillow and closed her eyes.
Barba stroked his hand over her forehead, "Do I have permission to use your finger if you fall asleep? I'll need to call Lucy…"
Olivia smiled sleepily, "You're the best friend I've ever had, Rafa." She hadn't even opened her eyes.
He laughed gently, "Is that a yes?"
"Yes..." she chuckled and then winced.
"I hate to see you in pain," he said quietly.
Suddenly Georgie jumped up onto the bed next to them.
"See, even Georgie is worried…" he added.
Olivia smiled, just listening to his voice was soothing.
"I'm going to go out to pick up Noah and then we'll be right back, okay? I'll leave Nurse Georgie here to look after you, just relax and sleep. You don't need to worry about anything," he assured. Then he stroked Georgie as the cat settled down to nap next to his patient.
Olivia smiled and nodded, already feeling sleep begin to claim her.
"Duerme bien, cariño…" Barba told her softly, then carefully slipped away and left her to rest.
Chapter 13: Family
Barba knocked and then smiled warmly when Lucy answered her door.
"Mr Barba, how's Olivia?" She asked with concern. "I'm sorry that I couldn't bring Noah to you, but Sophie's mom is picking her up in less than half-an-hour."
"It's no trouble," Barba replied, "Olivia is okay, she needs plenty of rest but I'm not overly concerned...I'd like to get back to her as soon as possible though."
Lucy smiled, "She's lucky to have such supportive friends."
Barba shook his head, "That goes both ways." He stepped inside when Lucy held out her hand to welcome him, then as he walked around the corner Noah looked up and broke into a wide grin.
"Uncle Rafa!" He gasped and climbed to his feet before rushing over with his hands up.
Lucy laughed as Barba lifted the little boy into his arms, "And I was worried about how Noah would react to someone other than Olivia picking him up!"
Noah lay his head on Barba's shoulder. "We love Uncle Rafa," he declared happily.
"So I can see," Lucy smiled at the duo affectionately and then reached to the floor to pick up his bag. "I have him all ready to go," Lucy said as she passed the bag over and Barba slipped it onto his shoulder. "I hope Olivia is feeling better again soon."
"Mommy's sick?" Noah asked his Uncle Rafa.
Barba smiled at Noah reassuringly, "Just a little poorly, but I'm sure she will be feeling better very soon."
Noah looked sad, "Uncle Rafa stay?"
"I won't be going anywhere until Mommy is feeling better, I promise," Barba assured and Noah smiled.
"Do you still want me to pick him up in the morning?" Lucy asked as they walked to the door.
"If that's still okay?" Barba checked. "I have a little work to do but I can do that at Liv's if I'm needed…and I'm sure she would appreciate a break."
Lucy nodded, "Perfect. Give Olivia my love."
Barba nodded gratefully, "I will, thank you."
When they arrived back at Olivia's, Barba settled Noah down on the floor with his toys.
Georgie had heard them arrive home, so he came out to greet them and then took it upon himself to take charge of watching Noah play while Barba walked through to check on his mommy.
Olivia was still fast asleep so Barba walked over and stroked his hand gently over her forehead. She was still warmer than he would have liked, but at least she didn't seem any worse.
He walked out into the living area and smiled at Noah and Georgie, who were both cautiously watching a tall brick tower that the little boy was working on.
"Mommy still poorly?" Noah asked and then giggled when the tower fell.
Georgie jumped back a little and then stepped forward and hit one of the bricks, as though almost reprimanding it for misbehaving.
"Mommy's sleeping," Barba said with a smile as he sat on the couch in front of them. "Are you okay playing with Georgie while I make a quick call?"
Noah nodded happily and stroked his cat.
Barba pulled out his phone and scrolled down to Carmen.
"Yes, sir…" She answered almost immediately.
"Hello, Carmen," Barba smiled at Noah when he inexplicably showed him one of his bricks. "I've had a minor family emergency, so I'll be away from my desk tomorrow. In fact, I think you can consider me out of the office until Monday. I'll be working from home in the morning, so I'd be grateful if you could come in for a few hours - but you can clear the rest of my schedule and take the weekend off."
"Okay, sir, thank you. Nothing serious I hope?" Carmen inquired.
"Just a sick friend," Barba answered without oversharing.
"Well, I hope they feel better soon," she replied.
"Thank you, Carmen."
"Goodbye, Sir," she said and then ended the call.
"So, I'll be looking after you both this evening," Barba addressed Noah and Georgie. "Where do we start?"
"Food?" Noah suggested.
Barba nodded sagely, "Very good, Noah. Who should we feed first? You or Georgie?"
Noah grinned now. "Gor-gi hungry!" He laughed happily.
Barba nodded at Noah and then stood, "Right...so let's tackle this evening one job at a time."
Barba was trying not to panic, but while he concentrated on feeding Georgie his mind started to shift toward all the things he wasn't sure of.
His confidence was certainly growing with Noah, but what should he feed him? What was his bedtime routine? Would he upset or confuse him if he deviated from the norm? He really didn't want to disturb Olivia when she felt so ill, but he was beginning to worry that it might be necessary.
Then his cell rang…
Barba accepted the call quickly, walking back over toward Noah and passing Georgie on his way to get his dinner.
"Mami…" he answered with a relieved smile. Why didn't he think of this?
"Are you okay, Mijo?" Lucia asked, concerned by his tone.
"I'm fine," he assured, "…but Liv has a bad virus and a temperature. She's really wiped out so I'm over here watching Noah. We're fine with the basics but can I just check a few points with you? It will save me having to disturb her."
Lucia sounded genuinely surprised, "You're okay looking after the boy alone?"
Barba smiled, "We will muddle through together. Won't we, Noah?"
Noah grinned up at him happily.
"What did you need to know?" She asked.
"I have two principal concerns. Am I okay to give him a baked potato? And will it upset him if I deviate from his bedtime routine?" He asked.
"A baked potato will be fine, Mijo. Just don't over season it and scrape out the inside to mash up with the fillings before you give it to him. Maybe add a little butter and cheese so it's nice and soft," Lucia assured. "Don't worry too much about his bedtime routine either. Try to follow his lead so you can pick up if you're going too fast or confusing him…but he'll respond to you. If you're happy he should be fine. He's comfortable with you, right?"
"Yes, mami…we're good," Barba replied confidently.
"Give me Olivia's address," Lucia asked suddenly.
"No, mom, we really are fine…" Barba assured.
"I know, sweetheart. I won't stay long...if he's comfortable with you that might only upset him. I'm going to bring you over the Ropa Vieja that I cooked last night, for when your Olivia is feeling better. I'll also stop off and get some groceries, you know how to make my chicken soup, right?" Barba could already hear his mom moving around her apartment.
"You don't need to do all this, Mami," Barba protested.
"Mijo, Olivia and Noah clearly mean a lot to you, they are part of your family, which means they are my family too. This is what we do, take care of those we love…" Lucia told him in a tone that did not invite debate. "Now you feed your little friend and I will be there soon."
Barba smiled, "Thank you, Mami." He was about to end the call when he quickly added, "Mom! Could you also bring some cat food? He's a one-year-old, he likes fish..."
"Cat food?" Lucia asked with surprise, he hadn't mentioned a cat before.
"We went to get him on Saturday, I'll make sure you meet him when you arrive..."
Barba answered the door to his mom almost two hours later, "That took you a long time, I'm sorry."
Lucia shook her head and walked through with three large bags, "Don't be ridiculous, how is she?"
"Still sleeping," Barba smiled affectionately, "..she was exhausted. I'll wake her in a while to check on her and give her some more Tylenol."
"You're a good man, Mijo, I'm proud of you," Lucia said warmly as they walked into the living area.
"Uncle Rafa's mommy?" Noah asked with an inquisitive expression as they approached.
Barba smiled and walked around his mom to pick the little boy up. "Yes, Nene. This is my mommy, Lucia. Do you want to say hello?"
Noah smiled a little shyly and rested his head on his Uncle Rafa's shoulder, "Hello, Uncle Rafa's mommy."
Lucia's eyes glowed when she watched how Noah responded to her son. He wasn't wrong, the boy clearly adored him. "Well, hello Noah…it's very nice to meet you. You know your Uncle Rafa has told me all sorts of things about you?"
Noah smiled and reached across to grip onto Barba's shirt.
Barba smirked at his mom, whose eyes looked suspiciously damp.
Lucia tried to brush off her emotions and focus on the task at hand. "So, we have two bags of shopping, all the ingredients for the soup…that will be perfect when Olivia is feeling up to eating a little something, you always loved it. Then a few more items, the cat food, my stew… I've also packed a couple of polo shirts and some pants from when you stayed with me during your last move. They were in with my clothing so I thought they could be useful," she looked him up and down, taking in her son's ridiculously expensive suit and rolling her eyes, "…I can see that I was right...I also brought the sneakers you left at my place last week."
Georgie arrived to see what all the fuss was about and Lucia immediately picked him up. "Well, aren't you a handsome man? Such beautiful eyes!" The cat mewed happily as Lucia scratched his chest.
Lucia smiled proudly at her son, he didn't seem to know it yet - but he had the makings of a truly beautiful family.
All their attention was suddenly drawn to Olivia as she shuffled sleepily down the hallway from her bedroom.
"Rafa," she murmured roughly, "…did I hear voices?"
They all rushed to her side.
"It's just my mom, 'Livia," Barba assured softly, "…she brought us some groceries."
Olivia's eyes were still almost completely closed. "M-mrs Barba?" She sounded a little anxious, "I'm so sorry, I…"
"You just rest, sweetheart, let my Rafi take care of you…" Lucia instructed warmly.
"Mommy still poorly?" Noah asked sadly.
"Just a little," Barba assured, "…are you happy to stay out here and play with my mommy for a few minutes while I make sure that your mommy is okay?"
Noah looked at Lucia, then nodded a little cautiously and smiled.
Barba passed him over and Lucia smiled at the little boy reassuringly as Barba walked his mommy back toward her bedroom.
"I should thank your mom," Olivia said woozily, her head clearly still hurt a lot.
"You should rest," Barba countered. "My mom is leaving soon, then I'll bring Noah in to say goodnight." He guided her back into bed. "Do you think you could manage some food in a while?"
Olivia nodded, "Maybe…"
As she lay down Barba sat next to her, "I'll bring in some more Tylenol as well. Just relax, okay?"
She smiled, "Okay, Rafa…thank you."
"Shhhhh…" Barba soothed softly and then instinctively leaned down to press his lips to her forehead.
As she rested Barba stood and turned to find Lucia standing in the doorway with a smile on her face.
"Noah is playing happily with his cat, I'm going to leave you all in peace," she whispered softly as he came close.
"You're sure? I could at least get you a drink?" He offered.
"Olivia is ill, she needs her space right now…" Lucia assured. He started to protest and Lucia shook her head, "Just look after them, Mijo, you're a very lucky man."
Barba smiled, at least he couldn't argue with that.
Chapter 14: Lazy Day
After Lucia had gone, Barba quickly prepared the chicken soup and then left it to cook on the stove while he got Noah washed and ready for bed.
Bedtime felt very much like a team effort and he was please that Noah naturally led the way.
When he was ready he took the little boy through to say goodnight to his mommy. He sat them both on the side of the bed and gently touched Olivia's shoulder. "'Livia," he said softly, "…wake up and say goodnight to Noah."
She blinked open her eyes and smiled at her son in the low light of her bedside table. "Hey, baby, are you okay?"
Noah smiled, "Uncle Rafa's here."
Olivia laughed softly - taking in the fact that her son was clearly fed, happy and ready for bed. "I see that I'm now surplus to requirements."
Barba rolled his eyes, "I promise that I'm a poor substitute - but we've struggled through, haven't we, Noah?"
Noah smiled at Barba and then looked at his mommy. "Mommy, are you sad?" He asked with concern.
"No, baby, I'm just a little poorly and I have a bad head, but I promise I'll be feeling better in no time."
Noah nodded, "I'm going to bed now too."
"So I hear," Olivia smiled and sat up a little.
Barba was pleased to see that she already had a little more color - the sleep had done her good. "I brought his book in," he informed her, "…I thought I could read his bedtime story for both of you."
Olivia's smile broadened, she was grateful to him for including her in her son's bedtime routine.
Barba read them both a story about a penguin trying to find out how big a million was, and when he finished Noah was fast asleep in his arms...while Olivia actually looked a little more alert.
"I'm going to put him to bed," Barba told her, "…then I'll bring you some soup?"
Olivia nodded gratefully, without giving his words much thought, then watched as Barba stood with Noah and then walked him through to his bedroom.
Noah didn't even stir as he was tucked into bed, then Barba returned to the kitchen and was pleased to find that the soup was ready. He ladled out a small bowl and then carried it through on a tray with a cup of camomile tea.
"I hope this is okay?" Barba said as he perched on the side of her bed and slid the tray onto her lap.
She was sat up now with her back against the headboard and smiled at her bowl of soup, "Where did you get this? It smells amazing."
"My mom brought over some shopping," Barba smiled, "...so I made it."
"Your mother was here!" Olivia said with moderate horror. "I thought I'd been dreaming!"
Barba laughed, "Do you often dream of my mother invading your home?"
She chuckled a little and then tried some of the soup, "Rafa, this is amazing!"
"Don't sound so surprised," he smirked.
"Are you leaving now?" She asked in-between slowly eating her soup.
Barba shook his head, "I'm not going anywhere, I'll be out on the couch if either of you needs me."
"Rafa, no…" she started to argue.
"You're still not well, Liv," Barba said firmly, "…unless you're telling me that you would rather I didn't stay then I'm not going anywhere."
Olivia smiled a little sleepily now, "You know that I would never say that, Rafa."
He could see that her attention was waining. "Here, take these tablets," he passed her the Tylenol and her glass of water. "Have you finished with this?" There was still a little soup left, but he could see that she was struggling.
"Don't want to waste it…" she said regretfully as he took the tray away.
"There's plenty more where that came from," he assured warmly and then balanced the tray on her nightstand as she moved to lay down. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" He asked.
"Talk to me for a few minutes?" Olivia requested as she moved to lie down. "Until I fall asleep? I love listening to your voice…"
Barba smiled, then without thinking he reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I love the sound of your voice as well," he admitted softly and stroked his fingers through her hair, "…the last couple of weeks, talking to you almost every night before we went to sleep...I've never slept so well in my life."
Olivia smiled softly.
"You're beautiful, Olivia Benson," he continued to speak gently and then noticed that Olivia's breathing had changed and she had already fallen asleep. He smiled and leaned down to press a kiss to her temple, then picked up the tray and carried it through.
After clearing up he switched on the television, changed to CNN and then turned the volume down as low as possible. Barba stripped to his boxers and undershirt, then he looked around and found a blanket. After telling himself that it was the best option available, he then walked carefully back into Olivia's room and borrowed a pillow from the other side of her bed.
He walked back out and lay on the couch - resting his head on the pillow and breathing in deeply. It smelled wonderful, like clean linen, Olivia Benson...and home.
When Olivia woke the following morning she felt confused and disorientated. She squinted a little in the bright morning sunlight, then she suddenly felt a wave of panic and sat straight up in bed.
"Woah!" Barba said as he rushed in with a tray. He placed it on her nightstand, pushing a glass of water toward the back, and then brought his hand to Olivia's upper arms as her head spun. "Don't sit up too quickly, take it easy."
"How did I get here?" She asked woozily and rubbed her eyes.
"Remember? I came to you at work and brought you home?" Barba smiled.
Olivia blinked and then allowed herself a slight smile. "Your mom really was here then? Please tell me that was a nightmare..."
Barba smirked, "She might not appreciate being described as a nightmare…"
Olivia closed her eyes in despair. "I guess I was just hoping to make a better second impression," she admitted, "I'm the one who must have looked like a nightmare…or a horror movie. Are we talking The Walking Dead right now?"
He chuckled, "Not possible. Anyway, my mom wasn't here to visit, she was here to bring you some things to help you feel better. She was worried about you."
"Worried about me?" Olivia looked confused. She leaned back against the headboard and let out a long sigh, she must have been sleeping for at least 15hrs, yet still felt completely exhausted.
Barba smiled at her, "You told Noah that we are family, right?"
Olivia tilted her head a little.
"Well, my family includes Lucia Barba and she tends to be extremely invested in whatever or whoever I care about..." he explained, "Like you...and Noah."
"Even if I drive you a little crazy?" Olivia asked teasingly.
"Even then," he acknowledged.
"I do feel a little better," Olivia continued gratefully, "...even my headache seems to have settled down to a dull roar."
He arched an eyebrow.
She smiled weakly, "It's a step up from sledgehammer to the side of my head."
Barba laughed and then smiled sympathetically.
"You've really gone above and beyond the duties of friendship," Olivia added gratefully. "Thank you."
"Don't be ridiculous," Barba brushed off her thanks with a shake of his head. "I've brought you some toast, do you think you can eat?"
With Barba here, she knew that Noah was fine, but still checked as he moved the tray over to her lap. "Where have you hidden my boy, Rafa?"
He laughed, "Lucy picked him up half-an-hour ago. I need to work and you need a break. I hope that's okay?"
Olivia smiled and nodded a little sadly as she took a bite of her toast, "You're leaving then?"
He shook his head quickly. "You really worried me yesterday, Liv. I'm not going anywhere until I'm sure that you and Noah are back on track."
She smiled gratefully, "What would I do without you?"
"If I have anything to do with it, you won't ever need to find out," Barba assured softly and Olivia felt tears spring to her eyes. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Just feeling unbelievably grateful," she assured and brought her hand to rest over his.
Barba nodded and turned his hand to briefly link their little fingers. "I have a couple of hours of work that I need to get done before the weekend. You still need to rest, so I'll leave you in peace and come back to check on you in a while…"
"No, wait..." Olivia cut in as he slipped his hand out of hers and reached to take her tray.
He raised his eyebrows.
"I mean, I can at least move out and lie on my couch, right? I don't want to sleep in here alone anymore and I think listening to you work would help me to relax…" She looked at Barba hopefully. "I promise not to disturb you," she added.
"You? You can disturb me all you want…" he assured warmly. "Are you sure that you'll be comfortable though?"
She pulled back her sheets and got out of bed as Barba picked up the tray, then they both walked slowly through to the living area.
"I should have cleared up more…" Barba said regretfully when he saw the neatly folded blanket and Olivia's pillow laying on the couch.
Olivia laughed softly at the neat pile. "Yes, so slovenly…" she teased. "Actually this is perfect," she smiled and shook out the blanket, "…I feel like being thoroughly lazy and creating a couch bed."
"You're not lazy, you're ill," Barba pointed out dryly.
She sat down and then paused, "But, if you're sleeping over tonight you'll need these, won't you? I don't want to give you my disease."
He laughed, "I think if I'm going to catch your 'disease' it's a little too late for concern."
Olivia shrugged and lay down, immediately relaxing into her Barba scented pillow, she could get used to this.
After less than a minute, Barba walked around and placed a glass of water on the coffee table. "Do you need anything?" He asked, crouching down next to her.
She smiled and shook her head.
"Do you want me to put the television on?" He asked.
"Maybe some quiet music?" She suggested. "If that won't disturb you while you work?"
Barba shook his head, "I frequently have music on when I work at home."
Olivia smiled, "Really? I like that."
He smiled and stood, linked his phone to her speakers (which had long been on his Bluetooth list) and then selected some music and tapped play.
Olivia closed her eyes and smiled, "What is this? I know it, but I can't seem to place it… It's beautiful."
"Ennio Morricone, Gabriel's Oboe," he replied. "If you need anything…" he spoke quietly, "…please don't worry about disturbing me."
Olivia opened her eyes and smiled. "Thank you, Rafa."
A few hours later, she woke on the couch to the sound of papers being shuffled around. "What are you doing?" She asked with amusement in her voice.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you?" Barba asked regretfully. "I'm just moving some of my work so that we can sit at the table to eat, I have soup on the stove."
Olivia sat up and looked at him over the back of the couch, she folded her forearms on top and then rested her chin. "Don't apologise, Rafa. Can you do something for me though?"
"Anything," he replied immediately.
God, I love him, Olivia thought with a smile.
"What?" Barba asked.
"Nothing…" She said quickly, assuming that he was asking what she was thinking.
"You want me to do nothing?" Barba smiled with amusement
"Oh, no!" She laughed softly. "Keep packing up? I'm sure you've finished your work by now - so don't look for more? After lunch come and sit with me? We could watch a movie…"
Barba smiled, "I'm not the one who is ill."
"No…" She agreed.
"Isn't lying around watching movies when I should be working a little lazy?" He asked.
"For me?" She asked with a smile and teasingly wide eyes.
Barba laughed and began to pack away his things. "You've found my Achilles Heel," he only half-joked.
After eating all of their soup (Olivia had a second helping) they moved to sit on the couch.
"You're looking brighter," Barba observed as he sat down, "…you even have more color in your cheeks."
Olivia smiled. "I feel a little better…" She nodded and stroked Georgie as he jumped up to snuggled down between them. "You and Georgie are excellent nurses."
Barba laughed softly, "Our services are only available to two people though, so don't go hiring us out."
"Not a chance," Olivia laughed, then brought her hand up to the side of his face. "You have some stubble, when did you last shave."
He looked a little self-conscious, "Maybe a couple of days?"
"I like it," Olivia said as her eyes scanned his face.
"Because it covers half of my face?" He joked self-deprecatingly.
Olivia frowned, "It's one of my two favorite faces…" her hand had remained gently on his cheek, "but still...I like the stubble," she repeated.
Barba smiled and nuzzled into her hand a little, "I've thought about growing a beard, but I'm not sure…"
Olivia's eyes skimmed over his face again. "I like beards…" she said quietly and then broke the tension by turning back to look at the blank television. "What shall we watch?"
He pondered, then smiled and took her remote, "I have it…"
Olivia laughed and watched as he selected a movie. "You're kidding?"
"Don't tell me you didn't love this movie?" Barba grinned and nudged her shoulder.
"I did…" she conceded and rolled her eyes.
"So, it's perfect to watch while recuperating on your couch, with your friend, on a drizzly Friday afternoon," Barba looked at her and waggled his eyebrows.
Olivia laughed and rested her head on his shoulder as the iconic St Elmo's Fire music began.
Chapter 15: That's What Friends Are For
As the movie ended Olivia laughed sleepily when she looked up and saw Barba cupping his hands over Georgie's ears.
"He's too young to hear about that sort of thing…" He smiled at her, clearly trying to keep her spirits up.
"I enjoyed it, but that movie was far more messed up than I remember it being," Olivia observed with a smile, her eyes already feeling heavy. Staying awake until the end of the movie had actually turned out to be a real challenge.
"I feel like that lawyer kid was waving some serious red flags," Barba joked lightly. "In fact, all of those guys were basically different degrees of idiot. If these are formative movies it's no wonder so many people grow up with such low expectations of men."
Olivia laughed softly and shifted down the couch a little so that she could lay her head on the pillow at her side. Georgie took that as his cue to jump down and go in search of mischief. "Rafael Barba, my feminist icon," she observed proudly with her eyes now closed.
Barba stood, lifting her legs up onto the couch and then covering her with the blanket. "You sleep a while," he encouraged. "I'll feed Noah when he gets home and get him ready for bed. Then you can spend some time with him while I prepare our dinner, you're in for a real treat."
"Modesty becomes you, ADA Barba," she teased, already half-asleep.
He laughed and then without giving it much thought leaned down and kissed her temple. "My mother cooked," he explained softly and walked away to let her rest.
Barba did end up sleeping over that evening, even though Olivia was feeling a little more like herself he wanted to ensure that she got another night of complete rest.
She also slept in the next morning, which moved Barba because it meant that she was not only comfortable letting him take some of the slack, she also clearly trusted him with Noah…a revelation that he did not take lightly.
At a little after 10 am, Olivia walked out into the living area and found Barba, Noah and Georgie all sat in the middle of the floor building towers with Noah's bricks.
(Georgie was mainly supervising.)
She smiled and stood watching them for about a minute.
My boys, she thought proudly and then was shocked to feel tears well in her eyes. Was this a vision of the future that she could ever hope to capture? She was feeling more hopeful than ever - yet still extremely unsure. The closer she felt to her friend the more she also had to lose.
Barba suddenly looked up in her direction and a wide smile spread over his face, his eyes crinkled at the sides and caused Olivia's heart to speed up a little.
"Look who's awake!" He said standing and knocking over his tower, which caused Noah to laugh so much that he actually lay back on the ground and lifted his legs in the air.
"Noah wins!" He giggled joyfully.
Barba smirked down at him and then back at Olivia. "Your boy is developing a competitive streak, we need to channel that..." He joked lightly as he walked toward her.
Olivia tried not to focus on his use of the personal pronoun, she just laughed softly and nodded.
"He has his mommy's determination," Barba added. Then Olivia held her breath as he brought his hand up to rest on her forehead. She'd been aware that he'd been a little more tactile while she'd been feeling ill, but this was the first time she'd felt healthy enough to register their connection. His touches felt amazing.
"Sorry," he smiled awkwardly and bought his hand down when he noticed her reaction, "…I just wanted to see how warm you are. You look so much better and your temperature has dropped."
"Thank you, Rafa," Olivia said genuinely, "…the last couple of days - you've been amazing."
"Is that my cue to leave?" He joked lightly, but he also wondered if he should be making plans to go soon. Olivia was clearly well enough to take over with Noah now.
"No!" Olivia replied quickly. "I mean, we still have some more of your mom's delicious stew and it's a beautiful Fall day. We could…" she paused and wondered for a moment if he wanted to leave, "…I mean if you don't have plans we could go out and get a little fresh air? Then come home and watch a movie with Noah?"
"Does Noah really watch movies?" Barba smiled, doubting that his attention span could last the length of a movie without regular engagement.
"Well..we could put on a Noah-suitable movie to watch while he plays?" Olivia proposed hopefully, he clearly wasn't against the idea.
"That sounds really good," Barba agreed, relieved that he wasn't being dismissed too soon.
"You could even stay tonight…" she continued cautiously, "…save you getting…a cab home(?)" Olivia's words sounded ridiculous even as she said them. At this point, she was basically searching for excuses for him to stay.
"I…" Barba tilted his head and peered at her with intrigue, "…that sounds very tempting, but if you're feeling well enough I'll probably go home later tonight. I need some clothes and, as you're feeling better, I have brunch with my mother in the morning."
Olivia nodded, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed. "Of course, well…"
"-But I'd love to stay and spend some time with you and Noah today. The fresh air will do you good," he added quickly.
"Great," Olivia smiled, trying to brush off her discomfort.
They spent the afternoon with Noah in the park until Olivia started to get a little tired and they came home to watch Coco on the TV. Noah watched a little, played for a while and then occasionally got up and danced to the music.
Barba and Olivia both laughed warmly at his dancing. Then it was Noah's turn to giggle at them when Barba stood at the end of the movie and convinced Olivia to learn a few dance steps herself.
Olivia took over the bedtime routine that evening while Barba warmed up their dinner.
Then after spending at least two hours sat at the table eating and talking, both extending the meal for as long as possible, he finally collected his things and regretfully got ready to leave.
"Thank you, again…" Olivia said as they reached the door.
Barba smiled, "Stop saying thank you, Liv. You were ill, it's what friends do."
Olivia nodded sadly, "I guess I know that. I have some wonderful friends, but sometimes it feels like I'm on my own. Just me and Noah."
"Well, you aren't," Barba assured.
"See you Monday?" Olivia asked.
"Monday," Barba nodded assuredly.
She stepped in and gave him a brief hug. "Okay..." Olivia said softly, feeling that ever-familiar emotion of being grateful for his presence but even more sorry to watch him leave.
Chapter 16: Drink?
"Lucy, it's fine," Olivia reassured, "I'll collect Noah from yours and bring him here. One of my detectives can keep an eye on him while I have my meeting."
It was early on Monday morning and Lucy had called to let her know that she had a dentist appointment at two-thirty so they were trying to manage their schedules.
"I know you're still not 100%, Olivia. Why don't I pick Noah up from the station at about five? I'll take him overnight, no charge. Give you a night to yourself?"Lucy suggested.
"No, I couldn't…" Olivia started.
"Really, I know this afternoon is an inconvenience and you deserve a break. I'll bring him home after your shift tomorrow," she insisted.
Olivia was tempted, she loved spending time with her son but her energy was still low and she would actually appreciate an evening to herself. "You're sure?" She asked.
"Please, Olivia," Lucy entreated, "…it takes a village."
Olivia smiled, "Thank you, Lucy, I'll see you at five. Noah will be so excited when I tell him."
Olivia arrived back at the office at a little after 2 pm carrying Noah.
Rollins and Carisi quickly jumped up and walked to her side, Fin following not far behind. None of them saw as much of Noah as they would have liked and he was growing up so quickly.
All three greeted him and the little boy smiled happily, but he was also a little overwhelmed by the attention of his honorary uncles and aunt. He curled into his mommy's side shyly as the small group chatted.
Then he heard an unmistakable voice and his smile widened to a broad grin.
"Afternoon," Barba said as he strolled into the unit in full 'ADA Barba' mode. He hadn't communicated with Olivia all day so had no idea about their little visitor. When he'd walked around them and placed his briefcase on the table his view of the two had been obscured by Carisi, until…
"Ahaaa, Uncle RAFA!" Noah's excited voice cried out and then the tiny cluster of his colleagues parted to reveal the little boy sitting in his mommy's arms and reaching out to him desperately.
"Noah, what are you doing here?" Barba asked with surprise as his professional mask immediately dropped. He smiled at Olivia as they took a few steps toward each other. She moved to pass her excited boy over and he automatically took him.
Noah laughed joyfully and gripped onto his tie.
"Lucy had an appointment, so I had to take him for a couple of hours…" Olivia explained.
Their friends had been temporarily forgotten, but all three were watching the exchange with mounting fascination.
"Going to be a detective?" Barba asked Noah.
Noah wasn't sure what he meant but giggled happily and rested his head on Barba's shoulder. Then he sat up again, pulled back a little and stroked his uncle's face, "Uncle Rafa, furry face like Gor-gi!"
Barba laughed, "I'm growing a beard, Nene. I felt like a change."
Noah's lips pursed thoughtfully, "Noah grow fur like Gor-gi?"
The counsellor chuckled, "Not for a few years, little man."
"A beard, really?" Amanda asked Barba thoughtfully.
"I can't imagine it..." Carisi studied the lawyer and tilted his head.
"Dunno, might work," Fin added.
"You can really see the salt and pepper coming through. I quite like that..." Rollins continued.
"Beards are growing in popularity," Carisi appended.
Olivia remained silent and exchanged a smile with Barba as the others continued their assessment.
"Ironside. He had a beard in the later seasons...so there is a legal precedent," Rollins grinned.
"You're thinkin' of Perry Mason," Fin answered.
"Am I?" Rollins asked, clearly unsure.
"Same actor..." Carisi explained distractedly, still peering at Barba, "...Raymond Burr."
"I love how you all assume that you have input into the ADA's appearance," Olivia cut in with amusement.
"We don't expect him to actually listen to our opinions - if that's any consolation?" Rollins retorted dryly.
"Well, if anyone cares about my opinion..." Olivia joined in teasingly, "...I think it's sexy."
Barba looked a little shocked and the trio smiled broadly.
Rollins smirked. "I think he might listen to that opinion," she murmured under her breath to Carisi.
Olivia immediately regretted being so open, even under the guise of lighthearted teasing, and tried to refocus the team onto something else. "Noah, how about you go and play with Auntie Amanda for a little while so that Uncle Rafa and I can have a little chat with our 'friend'?" She looked up and as though summoned by her words Dodds walked around the corner into the unit.
"No!" Noah cried out and gripped tightly onto Barba.
"Please, baby?" Olivia asked. "Maybe Uncle Rafa can stay and visit with you for a little while after the meeting?" She looked at Barba hopefully and he nodded.
"NO!" Noah cried out with increasing frustration.
"This is why children shouldn't be brought into the workplace," Dodds complained as he took in the situation.
"My sitter had a medical emergency…" Olivia explained and tried to control her temptation to make a snarky comment.
"Uncle Rafa!" Noah declared to the assembled grownups.
"Okay, let's do this…" Dodds started to walk toward Olivia's office, "…I haven't got all day. The ADA can keep hold of your kid if it keeps him calm, the meeting is mostly logistics so he'll be fine."
Olivia looked over at Barba, who shrugged and then they both followed him through to her office.
The meeting lasted a little over an hour, during which Noah sat happily on Barba's lap - playing with his tie, then his fingers, then scribbling happily on a notepad with one of his Uncle Rafa's pens. He occasionally stopped and listened with apparent fascination to the incomprehensible information being exchanged between his mommy, his Uncle Rafa and their very grumpy companion.
As they finished up Barba took Noah out to the restrooms while Dodds cleared up his things. "I know you and Barba are close, but is there anything that I need to worry about?"
Olivia arched an eyebrow, "Excuse me?"
"You understand about the disclosure agreements?" Dodds asked.
"We're friends," Olivia clarified.
"Okay…" He responded dryly.
Dodds didn't sound convinced but Olivia chose not to respond, she simply followed him out of the office...coaching herself to remain cool...and then watched him leave. If she ever did need to fill out those disclosure papers it would help to keep the man as sweet as possible.
After a couple of minutes, Barba arrived back with Noah and this time passed a very happy little boy over to his mommy. They could sense eyes on them but were too far away for anyone to overhear.
"Lucy has Noah tonight..." Olivia said softly.
"Sleepover!" Noah joined in with excitement.
"Maybe if you're free, we could…?" She started to suggest.
Barba frowned regretfully, "I'm sorry, I wish I could…but I'm in court first thing tomorrow and I still have so much work to do. I think I'm going to be in my office until at least 10."
Olivia shrugged, trying not to look as disappointed as she felt. "I understand," she smiled.
He really wanted to be able to say yes, but the work was unavoidable.
"So, I'd better…" Barba nodded toward the exit and then smiled at Noah. "I'll see you soon, Noah," he said warmly.
Noah nodded, "Today?"
"No…" Barba grinned.
"Tomorrow?" Noah tried again.
"Maybe. I'll see you both soon," he assured, then he smiled at Olivia.
She controlled her temptation to reach out, to take his hand or wrap her arms around him - so she just smiled and nodded, then watched him walk away.
Fin walked over, "You guys seem...different. What happened?"
"Nothing…" Olivia smiled at her friend ruefully, "…absolutely nothing."
"And you wanna do something about that?" Fin summed up with a smirk.
"Do what?" Noah asked. Grownups were so confusing.
Olivia laughed at her son and then looked back at Fin, "What I do know is that I have a Noah-free evening and no plans…my son has a better social life than I do."
Fin smiled in amusement, "Drink? I know I ain't Barba, but maybe I'll do?"
"You'll more than do," she assured happily.
Chapter 17: Simple Truths
Olivia propped up her umbrella and shook the rain off her jacket before settling into a booth near the back of the bar. She smiled at Fin as he walked over to join her carrying two drinks.
"That was quick," she sounded impressed and glanced over at the bustling bar.
"Helps when they know ya face," he smirked and sat opposite.
Neither Fin nor Olivia had even suggested inviting Rollins and Carisi along this evening, they didn't even know if they were free. Both seemed to silently acknowledge that the two old friends were long overdue some alone time.
Olivia sipped her wine and relaxed. "The weather is horrendous, but this is nice..." she observed happily, "I can't stay late though, I'm still feeling a little delicate."
"Home by nine," Fin assured. "Did ya see the look on Dodd's face when he saw Noah at the office?" He chuckled.
Olivia laughed, "Don't get me started..."
Over an hour later, they'd been mostly talking about work until Fin returned with their third round and smirked at her pointedly. "Enough work. How you doin'?"
"We don't have to talk about me," Olivia insisted. "How are you?"
"Life is reassurin'ly simple right now," Fin confirmed. "I'm interested in you. How 'ave things been since the breakup?"
Olivia laughed softly, "That seems like a really long time ago."
"So you're good?" He asked.
"With that?" Olivia clarified and he nodded. "Completely." She thought for a second and then added, "It wasn't meant to be. It did teach me a few lessons though. In the end, you can try all you want, but if it doesn't work you're just wasting your time, you know? I have Noah to think of now…and I'm not getting any younger. No more investing my time and energy into the same old mistakes."
"You seem ta have a type," Fin observed with a smile.
"Maybe in the past…" Olivia mused.
"True..." He conceded with one particular lawyer in mind. "So what is the story with you and Barba?"
"I don't know…" She smiled and then decided that Fin was someone that she could be honest with, "…but I do know one thing, for every time I've been unsure in the past, with Rafa I feel completely safe. I really feel like it could work with him."
Fin looked impressed and nodded, but then frowned a little and asked, "Safe? Not a word often associated with passion?"
Olivia laughed, "Don't worry, I want him. To be honest, he's driving me a little crazy."
Fin laughed and leaned forward a little, "Good to know. So what's holdin' you both back? Be nice ta see you with someone who wants you...rather than the woman they'd like you to be. And don't even try an' tell me you think he don't want you."
"I…" Olivia looked down at her drink and shrugged. "…He means more to me than I can even begin to put into words, Fin. Relationships have always felt easy to fall into and quick to fall apart. I can't take that risk with Rafa. I need to protect my heart...his heart…and Noah's. You've seen how much my sweet boy adores him."
"So what? Stalemate?" Fin asked an arched an eyebrow.
"We have time…" Olivia maintained.
"You considered maybe Barba thought that before you started datin' Tucker?" Fin pointed out. "Maybe seeing you with 'im put enough doubts in his mind that he's reluctant to push this?"
Olivia's breath caught and then she nodded slowly.
"We always feel like we 'ave more time, Liv. 'Til one day we don't..." Fin sat back, looking at his friend resolutely as he took a long drink.
Olivia sighed, "I need to protect our friendship."
"At what cost?" Fin asked.
Olivia shrugged uneasily but didn't answer.
Her reticence to argue with him meant that Fin knew he was getting through to her. "Would ya friendship survive another Tucker? What if he meets someone?"
Olivia winced and suddenly felt a little nauseous. She glared at Fin, then at her wine...before she pushed the half-empty glass to one side.
"Can't even stand ta talk about it?" Fin proposed.
She glared at him a little now.
Fin laughed dryly and then leaned right back in his seat, shaking his head and looking at her wryly. "So what's the plan? Ya both stay single? Grow old alone? Take sex off the table...forever? Cus I know you ain't gonna be picking up guys in bars and I can see now that your feelin's for him are anything but platonic."
"Fin, please…" She implored and averted her eyes.
His playful mood abated a little and he sighed., "You really love 'im, don't ya?"
She looked up now and her eyes were shining with tears, "Like I didn't even realise was possible, Fin."
He studied his friend affectionately now. "Want my honest advice?" He asked.
Olivia shrugged again but appeared to be very open to what he had to say.
"Don't make love wait," Fin stated firmly. "Take it for granted and you might lose it, then all ya'll be left with are regrets about what you shoulda done different."
Olivia didn't speak for as much as a minute, then finally nodded. "When did you get so wise, Fin?" She asked a little tearfully.
He smirked, "I've always 'ad the wisdom, Liv, can't help it if you're only just wising up to that."
She laughed now, "You've always been one of the smartest men I know."
"So what you gonna do?" Fin asked.
Olivia looked at him thoughtfully and then slowly nodded, "I think we both know what I need to do."
Chapter 18: Home
At a little after nine, Olivia and Fin left the bar and waited near the door for a minute watching the torrential rain. The weather had been bad when they'd arrived, but now it appeared to be coming down in sheets. Huge bullets of water ricocheted off the road and bounced back as though dancing furiously down the street.
Olivia glanced at Fin and rose her eyebrows just as a loud boom of thunder seemed to shake the sky, followed a few seconds later by glowing illumination from its answering lightning.
"Let's get outta this," Fin said quickly. He rushed onto the sidewalk and hailed a cab, then hunched under the weight of the downpour as he rushed to open the door.
Olivia abandoned trying to open her umbrella in the pouring rain and followed not far behind him. She arrived just as Fin opened the door.
"Take this! I'll get the next!" Fin had to almost shout in order to be heard.
"We could-" Olivia started to contest.
"Argue and we'll both drown!" Fin yelled with a smile. "Can see more comin' behind, just get home!"
Olivia smiled and rolled her eyes. "Thanks, Fin," she responded as she moved to get into the cab ", for everything!"
Fin nodded and slammed the door closed before rushing away.
Olivia gave her home address and the cab started to pull out, then after a moment, she faltered. "Actually, I…" she paused and closed her eyes for a second to gather her thoughts before sighing and concluding, "Hogan Place, please - I need to go to Hogan Place."
The cabby looked back and nodded silently before making a u-turn and driving off.
As the car pulled to a stop several minutes later, Olivia looked out of the window and winced.
"You sure, ma'am?" The driver called back over his shoulder, having to raise his voice a little under the noise of the rain hammering on the vehicle.
Olivia smiled at him and passed over the money for her fare. "Certain," she insisted. Then she opened the door and had to push hard against the driving rain, she eventually propped it open with her foot and then stood a little clumsily as she braced the door open with her shoulder.
She let the door slam closed and tried to force open her umbrella before it suddenly flipped inside out then snapped with a loud crack.
"Fuck!" Olivia hissed frustratedly and noticed the cab brake lights flicker for a second, as though waiting to see if she'd changed her mind. Steeling her resolve, she pushed forward to toss the destroyed umbrella in the trash before turning to cross the street.
Thunder cracked again, quickly followed by a dazzling flash of lightning.
As she pushed forward toward the entrance Olivia was already soaked through to her skin.
Barba had arrived back to the office sooner than expected, so he'd finished his work earlier than anticipated. He'd almost been tempted to ring Olivia but knew he should go home and get some sleep.
Pausing inside the doorway he tightened the scarf around his neck, silently cursing himself for leaving his umbrella at home before what looked to be a severe storm. When he saw the torrential rain he made a last-minute reassessment and began to unbutton his coat, planning to hold it over his head while trying to hail a cab.
He watched a cab pull up on the other side of the street and rued the fact that he would never be able to attract the driver's attention before it pulled away. He watched as a woman climbed out of the vehicle and lost her umbrella, then disposed of it in a nearby trash can before turning in his direction.
She was soaked!
Barba felt genuine compassion for a second, then smiled wryly when he realised that he would probably be in exactly the same condition in less than a minute.
As the woman crossed the street and a flash of lightning illuminated her his mind finally registered what he was seeing.
"Jesus!" Barba hissed and immediately pushed open the heavy door, lifting his coat over his head with both hands as he rushed out toward her.
Olivia flinched as she stepped onto the sidewalk and a person suddenly arrived in her space and almost cocooned them with a large coat above their heads. Then she saw his face and, in spite of the rain, he watched her completely relax. Her hair was plastered to her head and Barba swore she looked like she'd been dunked in the Hudson.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Barba asked loudly.
Olivia smiled and rolled her eyes, then answered, "Looking for you! But I guess you found me!"
The rain had already begun to soak through his coat and drip onto their faces again.
"GOD! Maybe we need an ark?" Olivia laughed and looked down at the water flowing quickly by their feet.
Barba rolled his eyes but joined in her laughter. Then he leaned in a little and spoke closer to her ear so that he didn't have to raise his voice. "We need to get inside!"
She laughed again at his obvious statement and dropped her forehead briefly to his shoulder.
He smiled, then glanced to the left and saw a cab turning into the street. "Quick!" He said and nodded at the vehicle as she looked up. Turning hastily they hailed the cab and then rushed over as it pulled up nearby.
Olivia smiled in amusement when she saw it was the same driver.
"Take it," Barba insisted.
"Come with me?" Olivia asked, looking up at him...and into the rain...as she sat.
He stepped closer in an attempt to block the worst of the downpour and looked uncertain. "I really should go home..." he started to maintain.
"Please?" She asked.
"You two need to make a decision," the driver called back, " you're floodin' my back seat!"
Barba glanced up and down the street as though assessing his options, but then looked down into her eyes again and knew that he had none. He quickly started to get into the cab as Olivia moved to make space for him, shifting across the seat but staying toward the centre and remaining close.
"Change ya mind?" The driver asked Olivia as he pulled out.
"Got what I came for..." Olivia replied simply and smiled at Barba.
"First address?" He asked.
Olivia saw the cabby looking back at her in the mirror and nodded.
Barba looked at her, silently asking about their familiar exchange.
"He dropped me here," she explained.
"So why are you here?" Barba asked.
"Looking for you," Olivia repeated.
"You needed to see me about something?" He asked, really aware of how close they were sitting. They were both soaked through to the skin, but the cab was surprisingly warm and condensation was completely blocking the windows.
"I wanted to see you," Olivia clarified and his breath caught a little at the heated look in her eyes.
Olivia was silent for a moment and traced her hungry gaze over his face, then down over his body. "I'm sorry, you're so unbelievably wet!" She smiled with a mixture of amusement and regret.
"You didn't make it rain..." Barba smiled warmly. "Why did you want to see me?" He asked again when she didn't continue.
Olivia opened her mouth to speak and then glanced toward the driver - she wanted to have this conversation in private. "Can it wait?" She asked and then smiled. "Until we get back to mine?"
He looked into her eyes and almost felt like he had stopped breathing.
After all the time he'd allowed himself to feel unsure about how she felt, right now he was certain. She wanted him. He could see it in her eyes and his heart began to beat heavily in his chest at the thought.
He knew where this evening was going now. What's more, he suddenly knew without a doubt that her feelings for him must run so much deeper than he had even allowed himself to hope...otherwise she never would have risked everything by coming to him like this.
As those realisations became clear in his mind Barba nodded slowly, then he watched her breath catch as he reached over and slipped his cold, damp hand into hers.
As they walked into Olivia's apartment a flash of lightning briefly lit the darkened room and their eyes met. The electricity seemed to be vibrating between them with a quiet intensity that was somehow competing with the turbulent weather outside.
"You wanted to talk?" Barba asked, suddenly feeling a little anxious. Getting this wrong was not even an option.
"We're soaked," Olivia smiled and combed her dripping hair back from her face with her fingers.
Barba glanced down at the puddle quickly forming around them, then looked back at her and smirked.
"I laundered some of your clothes from the weekend…" Olivia informed him.
Barba shook his head, "Yes, sorry...I don't know where my head was when I left."
He knew exactly where his head had been.
"No, it's fine. I just meant we could shower and change into warm clothes." Olivia laughed a little nervously and shook her head. "I meant that you could shower...then I could shower...after you've showered…" She tried to clarify. It seemed that lucid sentences were a real challenge right now.
Barba grinned and held her gaze, "You shower. Then I'll shower. Then we'll talk."
Her eyes sparkled with humor and for maybe the millionth time since they'd met he really wanted to kiss her.
But like every other occasion, so far, he didn't.
Olivia decided not to argue about going first in the shower, she knew that he would insist and that would be wasting time - it was already late.
Barba walked into the kitchen, then out to the hall to clean up the water on the floor. Then he walked back through and began to make some coffee, the charged atmosphere and shared looks making it impossible for his mind not to drift to Olivia...
...Olivia standing naked in her shower, water cascading down her body. He pictured her head tilting back as she rinsed her hair, the way her nipples would be hardened under the warm flow. He sucked in a breath and closed his eyes, as though closing his eyes would block out his imagination. He needed to get control of himself.
Ten minutes later, Olivia walked through wearing sweatpants. She hadn't reapplied her makeup, but she had made a point of pairing her pants with a flattering bra and fitted t-shirt. She felt she'd spent enough time feeling like a disaster in front of this man over the last week.
Barba looked up and smiled at her as she walked through towel drying her wavy hair.
"All yours…" She said warmly.
His breath caught at her words and he smiled in amusement, telling himself that of course, she was referring to the shower.
"What's that smile?" Olivia asked as she walked toward him.
The apartment was still only illuminated by the brightness of the city and the low glow from her kitchen lighting. She walked over, accepted the coffee he held out and took a sip. Her smile grew when he cast his eyes away. He looked almost bashful. ADA Rafael Barba, he of the big brass ago! They'd both come so far...
"Rafa…" she started and then decided not to push him right now, "…go get your shower, you're soaked and you'll make yourself ill."
He looked at her and smirked, "You're a bad influence, you know? I need to be up for court in less than 7hrs."
Olivia smiled softly, "I've left your clothes on my bed…and warm towels in the bathroom."
He nodded, then walked by her, their bodies passing mere inches apart and eyes locking for a brief moment.
As soon as he'd disappeared around the corner Olivia leaned back against the counter, let out a long breath and closed her eyes.
They both knew what this was now, this was life-changing.
Moments later she heard the sound of her shower and walked through to turn on the television. She needed to focus on something other than the unavoidable fact that right now Rafael was naked…and only meters away from where she was standing.
Barba walked back out into the living area after only 5mins and found Olivia sat on the sofa ostensibly watching television.
She reached to turn it off. "I…" she smiled at him as he sat, "…my mind needed a distraction."
He looked so soft and inviting…so warm.
"A distraction?" He asked.
"Mmmmm…" Olivia hummed, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Barba asked softly, the atmosphere still felt electrically charged.
"I went for a drink with Fin," Olivia started.
"So easily replaced…" he lamented teasingly.
She rolled her eyes, "Never."
Barba licked his lips and tried not to focus on his heart hammering in his chest.
"We talked. Fin presented me with some stark home truths, Rafa. About you, about us...about what I really want and need from you..." Olivia began.
He nodded and then tilted his head, encouraging her to go on.
Rather than saying anymore, Olivia reached along the back of her couch and gave in to the temptation she had resisted earlier that day - she stroked the side of his face.
His breath caught and Olivia was sitting close enough to watch his pupils dilate.
"I'm consuming a ridiculous amount of mental energy trying not to touch you, Rafa…" Olivia admitted softly. "Every. Single. Day."
Barba swallowed heavily, "Please don't… God, I want you to touch me." His breathing had shallowed now and Olivia's gaze moved down from his expressive eyes to his slightly open mouth.
"I really do like the beard…" she smiled, moving forward a little.
"It's somewhere between stubble and beard right now..." He licked his lips and then asked what he really needed to know. "Y-you really think beards are sexy?"
"I think you're sexy," Olivia clarified, her hand stroking down his cheek and onto his neck, "...with or without a-"
Her words were cut off and her statement ended on a moan when his lips covered hers. She lay back as he moved forward, feeling fire flow through her body and her skin prickle with desire. Her hips arched toward him as his hand stroked down and gripped her waist almost desperately.
"God, Rafa…" Olivia gasped tearfully against his lips.
"'Livia…" He replied and brought his hand up to comb into her damp hair.
Both shuddered and then laughed breathlessly against each other's lips before their kisses deepened and hands began to explore.
After a few minutes, Olivia pulled back a little and he gazed at her before finally bringing his hand up to gently stroke a tear from her cheek with his thumb.
She smiled, leaning in to kiss a tear from his own cheek before slowly trailing her lips along his jaw.
"Mmmm, Liv…" he hummed softly.
"I'm sorry…" she whispered tearfully against his skin, "…for wasting so much time...with Ed...with everything."
He looked down at her with surprise in his eyes, shook his head and then leaned down to kiss her lips. "None of that matters," he assured, "…we've both made mistakes."
"I hurt you," she replied regretfully.
He shook his head. "Never consciously," he assured.
"I chose you, Rafa, even before I knew that being with you was a possibility…" She leaned into him and closed her eyes as his lips nibbled under her ear, "…actually no, it wasn't even a choice."
Barba pulled back and peered at her with intrigue.
Olivia grinned with a little embarrassment and dropped her forehead to his shoulder.
"Oh? Now you simply have to tell me…" he laughed and brought his hand to the back of her head.
She sat up a little, rolling her eyes at the memory. "The morning we broke up, we were in bed…"
Barba pulled a disgusted face, "Are we sure I need to hear this story?"
She laughed. "Nothing graphic, I swear," she assured and leaned in to kiss him...just because she could. "I woke up with Ed spooned behind me," she smiled when he winced and moved her hand down to link with his, "…I woke up, still half-asleep and…and I said your name."
His emotions quickly shuffled through shock, disbelief, humor and then joy. "Seriously?" He asked eventually with a broad smile.
"You don't have to look so self-satisfied," she laughed and then curled her leg around his hip, almost holding him in place.
"He must hate me," he smiled with amusement and she lightly slapped him on the shoulder. "What?" He asked still grinning.
"You might want to give him a wide birth for a while," Olivia conceded.
Barba rolled his eyes, he wasn't scared of Ed Tucker...not any more, and never again.
"Ed said you would never want me," Olivia recalled sadly, "...me or Noah. That I was fooling myself."
He sat up a little, shook his head adamantly and kissed her. "You and Noah are all I want, Liv. I would give up everything else for you tomorrow."
She lay back and he rested his head on her shoulder, just below her collarbone. "I've spent my entire life learning how to compromise..." she told him softly, "...but I've only ever been certain of three things."
"You should never have to compromise," he said and lifted his head to look into her eyes, "...you deserve everything."
Her hand came up to stroke into his hair, "I don't want to compromise anymore, Rafa. I have my work, my boy...and now I want you."
"I love you," he assured and stretched up to kiss her lips softly, "...if you really want me then I'm completely yours."
"God, me too…" she smiled and then said the words out loud, "…I'm so in love with you."
They kissed again, then he lay his head back down and they rested in reflective silence for several long minutes. The rain was still heavy outside, but her apartment had taken on a strangely calm and tranquil atmosphere.
Finally, Barba spoke again, "I have a confession…"
Olivia smiled at him and raised an eyebrow, "A confession?"
"I might also be a little in love with Odafin Tutuola," he grinned and turned his head to tug on her t-shirt playfully with his teeth.
She laughed, "Hell no, you're mine!"
Even as he chuckled Barba thought that sounded miraculous. "He sent you to me," he explained softly, "I will always be grateful to him for that."
"I was there on my own," Olivia assured him, "I just needed a push."
"If he gave me one extra night laying with you like this I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life," he assured happily. Then he smiled and added, "I've always suspected that Fin is frequently the smartest man in the room."
"Even when you're there?" Olivia inquired teasingly.
Barba shrugged, "I know the law, but I've been wanting to kiss you for almost as long as I've known you...so I could be described as a little slow on the uptake."
Olivia laughed and shook her head slowly, "Our time is now, Rafa, no more regrets about what could have been."
"I was going to make us toasted sandwiches..." He remembered after a few more minutes of peaceful silence.
"I don't care about food, I just want to hold you," Olivia replied contentedly.
"I love you," he answered happily.
"Stay?" She asked. "Stay here with me tonight?"
Barba smiled and closed his eyes, then reluctantly sat up. Olivia worried for a second that he was going to go, but then he pulled out his cell and looked at the time. "It's gone 11, I'd need to leave not long after 5 to allow enough time to go home and get ready for work?"
"Stay," she repeated quickly, basically willing to agree to anything right now if he remained in her arms.
Barba's mouth turned up into a crooked smile and he nodded. Then he swiped his fingers slickly across his phone to set his alarm before tossing it on the coffee table and laying back down in her arms.
They both intended on moving eventually, but they ended up falling asleep on Olivia's couch - cocooned happily in each other's arms.
I need to take a few days, life is super busy, so this seemed like a nice place to leave them! The next chapter will be up on Wednesday 😀
Chapter 20: Renewed
When Olivia woke early the following morning it was still dark outside. Above the familiar sounds of the city, her apartment felt strangely quiet. The rain had obviously stopped and the air had been left fresh and renewed. She felt solid weight and warmth at her back, and an arm lying over her waist.
How many nights had she dreamed of this?
Of waking in his arms and feeling like everything was right with the world?
She felt his lips on her neck and pushed back against him with a soft smile.
"Rafa…" she greeted him.
The body behind her snuggled closer and brought his upper leg up to wrap over her thighs.
"'Livia…" The familiar voice hummed against her neck as he nuzzled into her hair.
"We fell asleep on the couch," she observed needlessly and turned to face him. Olivia felt her core clench and she licked her lips at the sight of Barba lying drowsily in front of her.
What a difference a couple of weeks could make.
"Morning, beautiful…" he replied roughly as he opened his eyes and leaned in to press a soft kiss to her lips.
Olivia brought her hand up to run down the side of his face.
"Okay?" He asked with concern when he noticed tears in her eyes.
"Perfect…" she assured. "I've thought about this so many times, you know? Waking up next to you."
He nodded, simultaneously recognising her emotions and feeling completely in awe of them.
"I wish I didn't have to leave…" he apologised after they had laid together a few more minutes.
She smiled, "I'll forgive you, as long as you come back."
Barba chuckled. "I guarantee it," he leaned in and kissed her again, "…you're not getting rid of me now."
Olivia reluctantly stretched up and looked at her kitchen clock. "It's almost 5, your alarm will be going off soon." She moved to stand, but then Barba suddenly sat up and pulled her thigh over his lap so that she was straddling his waist.
She smiled down at him, then leaned and kissed him. "Come back tonight?" She asked. "Have dinner with me and Noah?"
Barba stroked her hair back off her face and nodded. "Love to..." He paused and then added, "I'd like to…" he smirked and rolled his eyes a little, "Would you judge me if I say I'd like to take this slowly?"
"Slowly?" Olivia asked with concern and tilted her head. "You're not sure?"
Barba shook his head quickly, "God, no! I'm certain. I just…if I have my way this will be our last first time."
Her breath caught.
"I want to do this properly…" He grazed his lower lips with his teeth and looked from her eyes to her mouth. "I'd like us to date a little, spend more time together. I…" he stretched up and brushed her lips with his. "I've never wanted anyone the way I want you, Liv."
Olivia smiled and leaned into their kiss, "So you want to…wait a while?" Her eyes danced as she realised what he was saying.
"Tease each other?" He suggested as his hand came up to grip her waist.
"Take our time…" she rolled her hips against his and he groaned.
"You're not going to make this easy are you?" He grinned.
She smirked and stroked her fingers into the hair at his temple. "Dates, kisses, time together…touching you, then eventually making love to you? Sounds like heaven."
He kissed down her neck slowly, "You smell like heaven."
Olivia laughed and nuzzled closer, "You smell extremely edible yourself, counsellor."
Barba's phone suddenly sprung to life in the darkened room and his alarm went off. He groaned and rested his forehead against her collarbone. "I actually have to stop touching you and go to work, don't I?"
She grinned and kissed his temple. "Coffee after court? I'd like to see you."
He nodded, "I'll come to you?"
Olivia agreed, "I'll look forward to it…"
Olivia had spent the whole morning trying not to focus on her excitement and joy at her changing relationship with Rafael Barba. However, her mind kept drifting back to his face...his eyes when he'd told her that he loved her, the feeling of his lips on hers…his tongue thrusting possessively into her mouth...
"...Hey, LIV!" Fin raised his voice in an attempt to attract her attention.
Olivia looked up with an uncharacteristically vacant expression and glanced between her detectives, "Sorry?"
"I said, are you takin lunch?" Fin asked with a smirk.
"I…" Olivia looked up and smiled when she saw Barba walk around the corner into the unit. "I might, I…" her answer faded away as she stood and caught his eye. "How was court?" She inquired professionally as he walked over.
"Fine," he replied sharply and nodded toward her office. "A word?"
Olivia shrugged at her team before following him through wondering what was wrong. Had court been a disaster? Surely he wasn't angry because of her timing last night? She was about to ask what was wrong as the door closed, but she was suddenly turned roughly and pushed against the wall.
"God, Liv…" Barba muttered a little breathlessly as he wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her against his body. "I know this is unprofessional and you might kill me, but…" His lips covered hers and Olivia groaned quietly into his mouth as he kissed her deeply.
After a couple of minutes, they regretfully pulled back and rested their foreheads together.
"I thought something was wrong…" she smiled and touched her lips to his lightly.
He smirked, "I've barely been able to stop thinking about you all morning…you're driving me to distraction!"
Olivia laughed softly, "Glad I'm not the only one."
"Time for lunch?" He asked pulling back a little and then bringing his hand up to stroke into her hair.
"You know if we eat out around here we'll have to be careful?" She warned. "At least until we disclose…" Olivia couldn't help but feel irrationally nervous about bringing up discloser, that issue had rarely gone well for her in the past.
Barba tilted his head and smiled. "I can control myself, mi amor," he teased her gently, "…you're still my closest friend and I'd like to take you to lunch." He paused and sensed her concerns. "However, when we disclose I will take great pleasure in letting everyone watch me kiss you in the middle of Forlini's."
Olivia laughed and rested her forehead on his shoulder for a moment before turning and pressing her lips to his neck. She breathed in and nuzzled against him before lifting her head and nodding toward the door. "Lunch is on you then?" She asked and linked their fingers.
"Sure," he smirked and tilted his head. Then he lifted their joined hands and kissed the back of hers. "One more kiss first?"
She smiled as their lips came back together. "I'm not sure…I can…look at you…now…and not reveal...to the world…how much…I love you," she said against his mouth between gentle kisses.
Barba was sure that he felt his heart expand, he kissed along her cheek and jaw. "We both know better than most," he assured, "…they can suspect all they want, we just can't give them any proof until we're ready."
"So sexy time is restricted to home?" Olivia asked a little sadly and stroked her hand over his chest as they moved apart.
"We can be a little naughty," he smirked, "…and I'm not keeping my hands off you on our date this weekend. Maybe we should just make sure we're out of Manhattan?"
"You're taking me out?" Olivia asked.
"Can Lucy sit?" He checked.
Olivia nodded, "Probably…" she thought, "…if not maybe we could ask your mom? I wouldn't want to miss out on our date."
"You'd be okay with that?" Barba asked, surprised because Olivia barely knew his mother.
"Rafa, your mom is a huge part of your life, so she's going to be an equally significant part of mine and Noah's too," Olivia assured. Then she kissed him and added, "Lucia Barba also brought up the best man I've ever known, so I can't imagine a better reference for her childcare skills."
Barba's eyes widened a little and he nodded - he believed she loved him now, but her open confidence in him and in their future together was more than he had ever dreamed.
"Rafa," she added when he seemed deep in thought, "…I'm kind of horngry."
He looked at her and smiled, arching one eyebrow.
"Horny and hungry, a dangerous state to leave your woman in..." Olivia clarified teasingly.
Barba nodded quickly and swallowed, "W-well, I'd never want you to accuse me of leaving 'my woman' hungry."
Olivia walked over to grab her jacket. Then as she passed him on the way to the door she quickly grasped one of his suspender belts and leaned in to kiss him. "Oh, you're making me extremely hungry," she taunted, "...you know 'slow' is a relative term, entender?"
Then she walked to the door, leaving Barba to collect himself for a moment before he followed her through to the outer office.
Chapter 21: Detour
Barba finished work a little early and began to pack up his things, he glanced at the time and then paused for a moment. It's not as though he'd never visited Olivia and Noah after work before…although in the past his visits had frequently been connected to work, or at least that was their excuse. This would be the first time that he would be visiting them in light of their changing relationship.
Relationship. That word had many different connotations, but in this particular context, it sounded wonderful.
The corner of his mouth turned up in a slight smile as he slipped on his coat. Then he walked out, passing Carmen with a polite nod then slowing down a little to ask her a question. "Do you know the nearest toy store?" He asked.
Carmen looked surprised by the request but nodded. "The Toy Chest, right on Worth then…maybe three blocks down on the left? It might be easier to take a cab."
He said thank you and began to make his way out again.
"Someone's birthday?" She asked, trying not to sound too curious.
Barba was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to tell someone, so he gave in to a little temptation and replied as casually as possible. "A gift for my girlfriend's son…" He controlled his smile as he watched Carmen try to restrain her own surprise.
After a few seconds, Carmen gathered her thoughts. "Well then… I hope you have a nice evening, Sir." She paused and then added, "...if it's of any interest the florist opposite is excellent."
He smiled and nodded gratefully. Perfect. "Thank you, Carmen, see you tomorrow."
He left his assistant sitting at her desk with a grin on her face, it was about time she saw her boss looking more than a little love-struck.
Barba wandered around the toy store a while later and felt a little overwhelmed by his options. He wanted to get Noah something perfect…but he didn't want his impromptu shopping trip to make him late for dinner.
He walked around the corner and came across a series of impressive Lego sculptures. They made him smile so he walked over. He paused to look a little longingly at a Millennium Falcon model before shaking his head and moving on, he would have loved that when he was a child…but it was far too advanced for Noah's age.
Then he came to the end of the Lego shelves and found a collection of Duplo Lego bricks for younger children. He hadn't seen Noah playing with any of these before.
The large colourful bricks were laid out in sets and he reached to pick one up, looking at the box and then turning it over to scan the back.
"Can I help you, sir?" A young girl asked with a genuinely friendly smile.
"This is the right age range...but do children like these?" He asked, worried that he would get Noah something he didn't like.
"They love them. You're shopping for your…son or daughter?" The girl asked.
"My…" Barba shrugged, "…well, my girlfriend's son. My first gift was a big hit so I feel like I have a lot to live up to."
The girl, who Barba noticed from her badge was called Holly, nodded and her eyes warmed. "Oh, isn't that nice? Well...as you're giving the gift so much thought I'm sure that they will both love whatever you choose."
They looked at all the boxes together and then Holly asked, "Does he already have any building bricks?"
Barba shrugged, "He has a set of colourful wooden bricks, they're his favourite toy, but nothing like this."
"You know the child pretty well then?" Holly asked. "I mean, you know what he likes?"
Barba nodded, "I'd like to think so, his mom and I have been friends for a long time."
"How about a brick box? Nice and simple. Let him get used to them? We have sets of bricks in multi-colours…" she leaned down and picked up two, "…or these? This one includes a few cars...and this one has a selection of animals."
He looked at the car-themed box and then smiled at the animals. It was a large box of bricks; yellow, orange, red, green, blue, grey, black and white…with several animal bricks. He could see a panda, a monkey, a tiger, a penguin and an elephant. Barba nodded and selected that box. "He loves animals, I think this will be perfect. Thank you, Holly, you've been very helpful."
Holly smiled proudly, "I'm sure the little boy will love his gift, sir."
Barba paid and then walked outside with his bags. He saw the florist opposite and paused for a second wondering if it would be too much. Then he smiled and shook his head, he wanted to buy Olivia flowers so now that he felt he could, he may even make a habit of it.
Chapter 22: My Favorite
Noah heard the knock at their door and beamed up at his mommy. "Uncle Rafa!" He announced.
Olivia smiled and nodded. "Let's see!" She replied teasingly.
When she opened the door Olivia found Barba waiting with a slightly sheepish smile, holding a huge bouquet of red, orange and golden-yellow amaranthus, dahlias and scabious, all tied together with warm fall leaves and berries. They were stunning.
Her jaw dropped.
"I wanted to get you some flowers and they were all so beautiful…" He smiled and shrugged.
"So you bought them all?" Olivia smiled broadly.
"Beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady," Barba answered with a playful lilt in his tone, even though Olivia knew that he meant every word. Then because he realised he was now allowed to give in to temptation he leaned in to press his lips lightly to hers.
Olivia felt her heart rate speed up and brought her hand to the back of his neck, bringing him a little closer and lengthening the kiss. She pulled back after a few moments and rested her forehead against his. "They're stunning, Rafa, but you really didn't have to…"
"I wanted to, I've wanted to for a long time and now that I can I-"
Olivia cut off his words with her lips. "Noah is so excited to see you," she finally said as she broke their kiss, "...we shouldn't keep him waiting."
"I haven't forgotten my favorite little man," Barba said as they walked through into the apartment, never really moving far enough apart to not be able to feel the warmth of each other's bodies.
"Rafa…" Olivia started to protest.
"Don't say that I shouldn't, feeling I was able to stop off and buy you both something made me happy…" He smiled at her reassuringly.
"Just having you here makes us happy," Olivia answered with a smile and then accepted the flowers when he passed them to her. She looked at them with affection and felt her cheeks flush a little.
"Uncle Rafa!" Noah had toddled over and was now gripping onto his trouser leg.
"Hey, Noah!" Barba smiled down at the little boy.
Olivia watched with happiness as the man she loved bent and lifted her son into his arms.
Noah laughed joyfully and leaned in to press a wet sloppy kiss to his cheek. "Uncle Rafa!"
"My son adores you, Rafa," Olivia observed, "…something else my boy and I have in common."
Barba looked at her and smiled. "Liv…" He longed to lean in and kiss her but didn't know how Olivia would feel about him doing that in front of Noah.
She sensed her friend's reticence and smiled at her son. "Do you mind if I give your Uncle Rafa a little kiss, baby?"
Noah scrunched up his nose and smiled. Then he watched with interest as his mommy leaned in and pressed her lips lightly against his Uncle Rafa's. This was new...
"Uncle Rafa has brought you a present!" Olivia told Noah as she moved back.
Barba shook himself out of his blissful stupor and nodded. Then he put Noah down, before moving to sit on the floor in front of him and pull the box out of his bag.
Noah looked at the colourful pictures on the box and smiled. He looked up at his mommy, then at his Uncle Rafa, then shook it a little and laughed at the noise.
"Do you want me to open it for you?" Barba asked.
Noah's eyes widened, "Inside?"
Barba smiled, "Yes, there's more inside." He held out his hand and Noah passed him the box, crawling over to sit alongside his Uncle Rafa and watch with excitement as the box was opened. Out fell a couple of plastic bags and Barba quickly emptied them onto the floor and pushed them inside the box before tossing it to one side.
Noah looked at all the colourful bricks with wide eyes. "Pretty!" He said and grinned at Barba.
"See…" Barba picked up two bricks and Noah tilted his head and watched with fascination as his Uncle Rafa slotted the two colours together.
Noah looked in wonder at the two bricks in Barba's hands, then laughed excitedly and reached to grab two of his own. He concentrated really hard, missing a couple of times and then finally linking the bricks and showing his Uncle Rafa proudly. Then he looked up at his mommy, held up the bricks and grinned.
"We have a future Lego fan," Olivia said happily, genuinely touched by the way the two had been sitting on the floor playing together.
Barba smiled and nodded, then watched as Noah reached out and picked up the monkey.
Noah turned it over in his little hands and then seemed to register the holes in the bottom. He reached over and gently held Barba's hands in place before pushing the monkey on top of his two bricks and grinning broadly. He sat back on the floor and looked at the two bricks and monkey connected together in his Uncle Rafa's hand then laughed and clapped.
Barba looked up at Olivia and smiled - if he thought winning a case was a rush, this was amazing!
"I'll be here?" He offered cautiously. "If you'll both let me? I'll be here to help him build a Millennium Falcon. We could do it together…"
Olivia nodded and felt tears well in her eyes. She knew what he was saying, about his commitment to her, and to her son. "We'd really love that…" She assured and swiped at the tears in her eyes before adding, "You know, I've never actually seen Star Wars?"
Barba's mouth dropped open and to Olivia's amusement, he looked almost speechless with shock. "Y-you…" he paused and then finally concluded, "…you can't be serious?"
Olivia laughed, "It wasn't a choice. I just never got around to it. My home life was complicated and as I got older I always meant to…" she trailed off and laughed.
Barba was still staring at her with complete shock.
Noah was now focused on his Duplo, even Georgie had woken up and sauntered over to inspect his new toy.
"I…" Barba shook his head, "…I'm not sure I've ever met someone who has never seen Star Wars." He stood and walked with her to the kitchen and watched as Olivia filled a large vase and arranged her flowers. He glanced over his shoulder to check that Noah was busy, then brought his hands to her hips and leaned in to kiss up her neck.
"I'm sure you have, Rafa," Olivia smirked and leaned back against him, "…the subject probably never came up."
Barba smiled. "I never imagined myself falling in love with a woman who didn't like Star Wars, teenage Rafael would be horrified."
"So, let's watch the first one later?" Olivia suggested and turned to face him.
"You don't have to, Liv. I guess it is a little silly…" Barba assured.
"I'd really like to share this with you, Rafa, it was obviously an important part of your childhood." She laughed softly and added, "As long as I'm allowed to lay in your arms and kiss you whenever I want, even during your favorite bits?"
He laughed and pushed his hips toward her a little as their lips ghosted against each other teasingly. "You're my favorite bit, mi alma...you can always kiss me whenever you want," he assured softly.
Chapter 23: Mine
After spending at least an hour together playing with Noah's new bricks, Olivia put her son to bed while Barba finished off their dinner. Then they ate and chatted cheerfully - Olivia couldn't remember the last time she had felt this comfortable in a fledgeling relationship. In the past, she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this felt like a beginning. A beginning that for once didn't seem to be a prelude to an inevitable ending.
At a little after 8 pm, Olivia walked through from checking-in on her son to find Barba already in the process of renting their movie.
He looked up at her with a grin that made Olivia think about what he must have looked like as a child. She wondered if he was carefree. Did the burden of his relationship with his father weigh him down? Or was that an occasional grey cloud over an otherwise happy childhood? She knew he'd had close friends, family…and his mother.
"What?" He asked with intrigue.
"Did you have a happy childhood?" Olivia asked as she came to sit beside him on the couch.
He smiled a little and shrugged, "I guess…mostly. There were bad times and good, but with the luxury of hindsight the good seems to outweigh the bad."
Olivia smiled and nodded. She ran her hand over his burgeoning beard and gazed into his eyes, "That's really good. You deserve to be happy."
He tilted his head at the slightly melancholy tone in her voice and nodded. "As do you," he replied.
"I'm extremely happy…" she smiled genuinely, although she was purposely avoiding the subject of her own childhood, "…my gorgeous man is about to introduce me to the wonderful world of Star Wars."
Barba felt like this might be his idea of heaven - an evening curled up on the couch with Olivia Benson, being called 'her man' and watching Star Wars. He'd questioned his karma in the past but right now he had no doubt that if past lives existed he must have done something amazing.
Olivia rested against him, kissed his neck and then lay her head on his shoulder, smoothing her hand over his broad chest. "So, do I need to know anything?" She asked as he started the movie.
"Just that I'm about to change your life!" He replied with intentional hyperbole.
She laughed, curled closer and smiled as the movie began. "You already have," she replied and heard his breath catch.
When the movie drew to a close Barba looked down at Olivia and smiled. "So? What's the verdict?" He asked, even though he knew she'd enjoyed it.
"Can we watch the next one now?" She grinned.
He laughed, "We both have work in the morning, Liv."
"So, you'll come tomorrow?" She suggested.
"Seriously?" He chuckled.
"Mmmmm, definitely..." Olivia replied and leaned over Barba a little so that he naturally lay back. She really had enjoyed the movie, but now it was time to enjoy her favorite ADA. She continued the journey of her lips down his throat and inquired casually, "So were you a Han or Leia boy?"
Barba smirked, "Luke is not even an option?"
She smiled, "I know you."
He took a moment to enjoy that fact and then nodded. "Definitely Han, although Carrie Fisher is amazing…" He pulled back and raised an eyebrow, "You really don't mind that I'm bi, do you?"
Olivia laughed softly and moved up to lay between his legs. She slipped open a few buttons on his shirt and kissed slowly down his chest. "Do you care about my history with other men? We're not exactly kids, Rafa…" She lightly grazed his skin with her teeth.
"Well, obviously I despise every man who has ever laid a finger on you," he (mostly) joked and then gasped when her tongue flicked over one of his nipples.
Olivia smiled up at him.
"As long as you're mine now," he added more seriously and stroked over her hair.
"As long as you're mine," she countered with a gentle laugh.
"Completely," he assured with certainty in his tone.
"Then it doesn't matter who we were with before, it only matters that now we are choosing each other. I don't want anyone else, I assume you feel the same? I don't share…" She smirked at him pointedly and arched an eyebrow.
"You," he assured again, "…only you."
"I wouldn't change one single thing about you, Rafa," Olivia affirmed and then moved back up his body to join their lips once more.
They fell into a long and languorous kiss, exploring each other's mouths while luxuriating in their freedom to touch.
After about half-an-hour, Olivia pulled back as little as she could and rested her forehead against his. "If you really want to take this slowly I need a moment," she teased and breathed in his intoxicating scent, "…I'm seconds from ripping all of your clothes off."
Barba hummed and nuzzled closer, "I guess I should go."
"Nooooo…" Olivia whined a little against his skin.
He smiled and started to sit them both up, "We have work in the morning."
"Stay? We can-" Olivia started.
"Liv, I should go home…" he smiled at the slightly imploring look in her eyes, "…how about we tell Noah that I'm coming for a sleepover after our date on Saturday?"
She smiled and leaned in to kiss him. "Mmmmm, that sounds really nice."
"It does," he agreed, "...the things I want to do with you, Liv. This is exquisite torture."
Olivia stroked her hand slowly up the inside of his thigh.
"Mmmmm…" Barba groaned and rolled back his head. "Livia, God!"
Olivia laughed at him, "You need to go, right?"
He raised his eyebrows at her and then smirked, "You're not making this easy, Olivia Benson. Saturday?"
She laughed, "So when you said slow?"
"I just want to lead up to this a little, spend time together...wanting you..." he leaned in and kissed down her throat, "...but I'm not a saint. Especially when the woman of my dreams is laying in my arms."
"Come back tomorrow?" Olivia asked as he peeled himself away from her and began to stand.
"I'm in court until late and then back in on Thursday morning. I honestly can't..." Barba replied regretfully.
Olivia sighed with resignation as they walked toward the door. "Rafa, I already miss you when you aren't here."
Barba turned Olivia against the wall next to the door and then pressed his lips gently against hers. "Dios, me too. I could manage coffee tomorrow?" He was unable to contemplate going one day without seeing her right now. "About 11? I'm not in court until 1."
"I'll come to you?"
"Perfect," he agreed.
"Maybe you could text me when you get home?" She suggested tentatively, suddenly knowing that she would sleep better with confirmation that he was also safely warm in bed. What was happening here? This already felt unlike any other relationship she had ever had.
He smiled happily, "I can do that."
They kissed again.
"I love you," they both said in unison and then laughed a little.
"Tomorrow?" Barba replied with a smile.
"Tomorrow," Olivia agreed and then stroked her hand down his chest before he slipped away.
Chapter 24: Imminent Changes
Olivia walked quickly down the hall toward Barba's office the following morning and tried very hard not to overthink how eager she was to see him. It had been less than 12hrs, but it already felt like days. She had spent so long trying hard to convince herself that a relationship with her friend was not even an option, but now that all their cards were on the table she had never jumped in so fast, or so completely.
This was going to work. Partly because losing him was not even an option, but mostly because being with this man felt so damn good.
She smiled at Carmen as she walked through and nodded at the closed door to Barba's office.
"He's on a call," Carmen said and Olivia slowed down with the intention of waiting, "…but he told me he was expecting you and said you could go straight through. No need to knock."
Olivia smiled and then proceeded, pushing open the door quickly and then taking in the sight of her ADA sitting back on his chair with his feet up on his desk. He looked up at her and nodded hello - it might have seemed like a benign greeting to some, but most people might not have noticed the sparkle in his eyes when he saw her.
She shut the door and walked to put their coffees on his desk, then quickly made her way around and rested her hands on his shoulders. His jacket had been long discarded and shirt unbuttoned at the neck, so Olivia could easily stroke her thumbs inside his collar and enjoy the way he shuddered slightly under her touch.
Barba continued his professional conversation but turned his head around to quickly press his lips to her wrist, then he tilted his head back to look up at her. Mi amor, he mouthed to her silently as the man at the other end of his discussion droned on.
Olivia smiled and leaned down, she glanced at the door and then pressed her lips to his forehead gently. Finally, she nuzzled her cheek against his, then reluctantly moved away and walked back to the other side of his desk.
She stretched across to pass him his drink, then sat back in her seat and watched him as he rounded up his call. Damn, he was a good looking man, but more than that, he was sexy. His body, his voice, the way he held himself…the smile he was shooting her way right at that moment as he noticed her checking him out, a smile that somehow blended vanity with humility - he could see how much she desired him and still couldn't believe his luck.
"Guapo," Olivia whispered almost silently across the desk and then laughed when Barba swallowed and managed to choke on air.
"Sorry," Barba coughed and patted his chest as he dropped his feet to the ground and sat up, "…I'm afraid my 11 o'clock has just arrived so we'll have to wrap this up. Okay. Yes. Yes. Within reason. 9 am on Friday. Goodbye."
He looked at Olivia and smiled as he ended his call, "You are going to get me into trouble."
Olivia smirked, "I certainly hope so, it's about time you had a little fun, Counsellor."
Barba laughed softly and sipped his coffee. "Is that so? How was your morning?"
"Fine," she said with a shrug, "…my night was a little lonely though, a woman could catch a chill sleeping in that big bed all on my own."
Barba glared at her over his cup, his eyes heated, "We'll have to see what we can do about that, won't we?"
Olivia smiled with amusement. "You could come over tonight?" She teased, knowing that he genuinely couldn't but really enjoying messing with him a little. "I could make it worth your while…"
He groaned and rolled his eyes, then stood and walked around to her side of the desk. "Evil woman, are you trying to kill me?" He asked as she stood and walked him back against the front of his desk.
Olivia thoughtlessly kicked off her shoes and then wrapped her arms around him, tugging a little at the back of his shirt before slipping her hand inside and stroking up his lower back. "This beautiful body? Hell, no. I have so many plans for it…"
As her lips trailed down his throat Barba laughed at her exaggerated teasing and dropped his head back happily. God, he loved her so much.
Carmen had two reports for ADA Barba to sign before she had to drop some things in at the courthouse and then meet a colleague for lunch. She could hear the quiet rumble of her boss chatting to Lieutenant Benson so she knew he must be off the phone.
Grabbing the two files she knocked quickly and pushed open the door. She would only be a second and…
Of all the things Carmen expected to see when she opened the door the very last thing that might have crossed her mind would have been her boss, perched on the front of his desk with Lieutenant Benson stood between his legs, her lips at his neck and the ADA's head dropped back in an expression of joyful humor.
"God!" Carmen gasped and froze.
The couple sprang apart as though they'd been electrocuted, as they blurted out flustered and awkward apologies while Carmen's quick mind rush to catch up. An affair? No. She was sure Lieutenant Benson was single. Wait…the gift for his girlfriend's son…Benson had a son…Noah?…and their body language, the joy on his face…this was serious.
"Sir," she said quickly, "…I'm so sorry, I didn't realise. I didn't even think. I should have waited for you to call me in. I just-"
"Not at all," Barba cut in, his voice sounded deep and overly formal in an attempt to cover his embarrassment, "…this was extremely unprofessional. I mean, I was extremely unprofessional. This was entirely my fault."
"Rafa, no. This was me…" Olivia insisted, "…I was teasing you. I mean…" Her face flushed and she pinched between the bridge of her nose.
Carmen laughed lightly and brought her hand to her forehead. "Please? Can we just pretend this never happened?"
"I would appreciate that, Carmen," Barba said still looking a little stiff and uncomfortable.
"Sir…" Carman said softly, he looked up at her and she smiled, "…it was nothing, Mr Barba. Honestly. Let's not catastrophize this. I didn't see anything. However, when whatever I didn't see becomes public knowledge I can assure you that I'll be the first person in line to congratulate you both." She smiled at Olivia. "Did your son like his present, Lieutenant Benson?" She asked in a desperate attempt to move forward.
Olivia looked a little surprised, but then she tilted her head and nodded. "He did…" She looked at Barba, "She didn't buy the gift?"
Carmen laughed, "Oh no, Mr Barba would never ask me to shop for anything so personal, he just asked me where the nearest toy shop was…said that he wanted to buy a gift for his girlfriend's son."
Olivia couldn't help but smile now, 'girlfriend' sounded a little young for her years…but she was certainly nothing less. 'ADA Barba' had been her partner for a long time, they would always be partners, but now they were so much more.
"I really am very happy for you both," Carmen assured, "…and I won't tell a soul until you're ready." She walked to the desk and put down the two files. "If you could just sign here…and here…thank you." She nodded at them professionally and turned to walk out of the office. "There is a lock on the inside door," she added with a smirk and then was gone.
"God…" Barba half-groaned and half-laughed, then dropped his head into his hands.
"I'm so sorry!" Olivia laughed, but he could see she was mortified and he wasn't having that.
Sensing her discomfort, he brushed off his own embarrassment and walked toward the door. "It's Carmen. I trust her, Liv, she won't say anything," he assured.
"I know, but you said we should be careful...then I come in here all over you!" Olivia turned away, clearly uncomfortable. Then she froze when she heard the lock on the door turn.
He stalked back toward her, turning them both and walking her backwards so that they were at the farthest point from the door and completely out of view.
"I don't care," he asserted.
"We need to be professional," Olivia contended, but there was humor in her eyes now.
"And we will...just give me five minutes," he retorted, speaking softly as his lips traced over hers, "…you're breathtakingly beautiful, mi amor."
She smiled against his lips. "Rafa…"
"I'll be as professional as you like - next week…" he joked and Olivia pushed him away half-heartedly.
She stepped around him and back toward his desk, then she picked up their coffee's and returned. "Sit and talk to me a while?" She asked.
He nodded and accepted his drink, "We can do that."
"I never imagined ADA Rafael Barba being so cavalier about his career," she observed as she relaxed onto his office couch.
He sat alongside her, ensuring that their thighs touched. "I'm not being cavalier," he insisted, "…is it too much to admit that you and Noah just matter more?"
She smiled, "Actually, that sounds wonderful…." they linked their free hands, "…and Ed said you wouldn't want anything to do with a single mother and her child."
Barba rolled his eyes, "Tucker is confusing an abstract idea with the facts. You and Noah. You're not a choice, you're all I never realised I always wanted. Life changes, what you want from life changes. When you're offered something that you didn't even consider possible you suddenly find yourself wondering about other paths that you never even dreamed of."
"Something you'd never even considered?" She asked with confusion, assuming that he was still talking about their relationship.
Barba looked up, broken out of his reverie, and smiled, "Sorry, not you, I was thinking about work…how you can be working so hard toward something and then suddenly find yourself wondering if you sleepwalked into a life that you never really wanted."
Olivia frowned with concern now.
He leaned and kissed her, "Once more, not you. If there's one thing I know for sure it's the place you and Noah have in my heart. I spoke to an old friend recently and he gave me a lot to think about. The last few years working with you has changed a lot about the way I see the world, and the law…"
She ran her hand over his cheek and then onto his neck, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Barba nodded, "Yes. But maybe give me a few days to unpack my thoughts first?"
Olivia trusted him implicitly, so she smiled and nodded.
"My work was always the one thing I was completely sure of. Now, the only version of my future that makes sense anymore has you and Noah at its heart, but that only serves to highlight how unsure I am about everything else," Barba explained. He smiled reassuringly and leaned in to kiss her. "But before I even think about making decisions about the future I will talk it through with you…my future is your future, Liv."
Chapter 25: Waiting
They'd exchanged a few texts during the day on Thursday and Olivia knew that Barba was working late - but she also knew that he was definitely coming over that evening.
After putting Noah (and Georgie) to bed, she jumped into the shower, shaved her legs, carefully blow-dried her hair into 'natural' waves and applied a little minimal makeup. Yes, Rafael would always be her closest friend - but she was still going to make a little effort.
Olivia slipped on some of her nicer lingerie. Not Saturday night nice…but nice enough that she believed he might be getting a look. Then selected some loose satin pants and a fitted camisole.
As she glanced at the time she heard a light knock at her door - eight-thirty, that could only be him.
Olivia was a little surprised by the nervous flutter in her belly and grazed the corner of her bottom lip lightly with her teeth as she hurried toward the door in her bare feet. She looked through the peephole, then smiled and felt her anxiety dissipate - she didn't need to be nervous, this was Rafael.
"Liv…" Barba muttered roughly when she opened, then glanced up and down her body with desire.
"You're early…" Olivia observed as she leaned against the doorframe with a smile before teasingly wrapping her fingers around his tie and tugging him toward her. She grinned when he dropped his bag just inside the door, kicked it shut and crowded her against the wall.
"Are you actually trying to drive me crazy now?" He asked and ran his fingers slowly under the thin straps of her bra and camisole before leaning down and pressing his lips to hers.
"Not yet, we still have a movie to watch," she teased against his mouth.
"I don't care about the damn movie," Barba assured, then both of his hands stroked down over her ass and drew her against him.
"Teenage Rafael would be appalled by you right now, may the Star Wars Gods strike you down!" She teased.
Barba looked at her with an expression that could only be described as adoration. "Teenage Rafael had no idea that you were even a possibility…" he smirked and then added, "…he'd unquestionably be on my side."
Olivia laughed with amusement. "I'd like to watch the movie with you, Rafa", she assured.
He sighed with feigned reluctance and rolled his eyes, then followed her through to the living area.
They paused in front of the couch and Olivia began to slowly loosen his tie, she threw it to one side, then disposed of his waistcoat and slowly slipped open the top three buttons of his shirt.
"Keep undressing me like this and we definitely won't be seeing this movie," he cautioned her softly.
She rolled her eyes with amusement.
Then Barba kicked off his shoes and rolled up his sleeves. He rented the movie, selected play, then sat back and was surprised when Olivia encouraged him to lay down.
"Comfortable?" She asked as she relaxed into his arms.
"I've literally never been more comfortable in my life," he assured, then kissed her temple. "I love you, Olivia."
Olivia smiled and turned to press a kiss to his chest. "Rafa, shhh….I'm trying to watch the movie," she reprimanded him with a smirk.
Barba chuckled, then attempted to focus on the opening crawl as he reflected on the fact that his teenage self had no idea how good life was going to get. Olivia Benson had definitely been worth the wait.
As the movie finished Olivia lifted her head and rested her chin on her forearm so that she could look at him. "I can see why you liked Han so much," she licked her lips and let her eyes scan over his face with desire, "…but he's definitely no Rafael Barba."
His eyes sparkled with amusement, "Oh no? I think you're a little biased."
"Mmmmm…" she agreed happily. "Please tell me you're not about to leave?" Olivia asked and arched an eyebrow.
Barba suddenly rolled Olivia toward the back of the couch and climbed above her, prompting a little surprised laugh before his lips collided with hers.
"Rafa," Olivia gasped into his mouth after a couple of minutes as his hand came up to cover her breast and his fingers teased one taut nipple. She wrapped a leg around him, hauling him closer and pushing up against his solid length.
He groaned, "I never want to be anywhere but here with you, Livia."
Olivia's hand snaked down in between their bodies and her fingers trailed over his zipper. "We can still wait, just let me touch you?" She urged.
Barba hummed and closed his eyes. "Noah?" He checked.
"Noah is fine. He's sleeping," she assured. "Let me?" Her hand fiddle with his zipper and she felt him smile against her lips.
"Will you let me touch you?" He asked a little breathlessly, his own hand slowly moving down to the crotch of her sheer satin pants.
Olivia gasped when his fingers danced lightly over her and then felt wetness flood her core. "God, yes!" She cried out.
"Shhhhh…" Barba soothed as he brought two fingers up to her lips. He held them there for a second, then watched as she slowly took them into her mouth. Their eyes clashed as she sucked, then he gradually drew them out before reaching down and slipping his hand inside her pants.
"Ahhhh!" Olivia groaned, then muffled the noise against his neck as she felt his fingers slide smoothly into her panties and stroke through her folds.
"God, you're so wet…" Barba moaned against her lips. He stroked gently over her clit and she grazed his jaw with her teeth. "God…" he repeated when she arched up against him urgently.
Olivia quickly reached between them and tugged down his zipper before shoving her hand inside.
Barba breathed heavily against her lips, his fingertips began to circle her clit more firmly and then he moved back to tease her entrance.
"Please..." Olivia gasped and started to slowly yet firmly stroke his cock. He felt wonderful in her hand - broad, long and deliciously hard. Her grip only paused around him when she was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling of two fingers slowly push inside and then curve against her g-spot. "Rafa, perfect," she breathed out and closed her eyes, "...more."
He lifted his head now and their eyes linked, his fingers inside her, her hand still wrapped around his length - their gaze seemed to only heighten their connection and physical response.
"Goooooooood..." Olivia breathed and stretched up to breathlessly brush her lips over his.
He stroked inside her, watching and taking his cue from her reactions until she had no choice but to drop her face against his shoulder. After a loud gasp, Olivia bit down on his shirt and came so hard that her whole body shook as she began to recover from the high. Olivia still held his solid length in her hand...then she finally turned her head to taste his lips.
"Rafa..." She breathed out after a few moments.
He hummed, then moved up a little to kiss across her forehead and then down her hairline.
"I'm so fucking glad you love me," she finally sighed happily, "...because I'm definitely keeping you."
Barba kissed her lips again, this time driving inside and exploring her mouth possessively, then he gasped when he felt her hand move and her fingers begin to lightly play with his balls.
"Livia," he groaned.
Olivia pushed at his pants and then slithered almost bonelessly down his body to kneel on the floor in front of the couch.
"No, Liv…" he gasped when he realised what she was doing.
Olivia smiled up at him, her eyes heavy and dark with arousal. "I want you in my mouth…" she assured simply. This was rarely an activity she'd really enjoyed, but right now something primal in her wanted to taste him, to take him inside her. She slipped his solid and leaking cock out of his pants and quickly took him into her mouth.
"Liv!" He gasped, then watched wide-eyed as she licked up his length before circling him with her lips. Her fingers danced over his balls before her hand came up to wrap around the base. The visual and physical sensations overwhelmed him and he quickly felt his climax build. "Liv..." he tried to warn her but she simply gave him a firm stroke and then sucked harder until he came with a shuddering groan.
Olivia swallowed eagerly and licked him clean. Before tucking him away gently and moving slowly back up his body.
"Rafa…" She whispered against his lips and then kissed him.
"Wow…" Barba finally experimented with speech.
"I love you," She said softly in-between gentle kisses.
A tear escaped Barba's eyes and he ran his fingers into her hair. "God, I love you, I love you…" he repeated as they held onto each other tightly, both quietly wishing that they had taken the time to remove each other's clothes.
They lay together for several moments until Olivia climbed to her feet and reluctantly stood. "I won't be a minute," she assured, then leaned to kiss him before walking to the bathroom. She felt a little light-headed, giddy…and almost overwhelmingly happy.
After about five minutes, Olivia returned to find Barba sitting up on the couch and bending over as though about to slip on his shoes.
"Stay?" She asked quietly. "Please don't leave now…" She walked around and sat next to him, taking his hand and linking their fingers. "At least lay with me for a while?"
He looked into her eyes and smiled. "I'm not going anywhere, Livia" he assured. Then he held out the small box he had just retrieved from his jacket.
"You can't keep buying me gifts," Olivia smiled and leaned against him with relief that he clearly intended on staying with her.
"I didn't," he assured as she opened the box and found a stunningly simple antique gold bracelet with small emerald stones, "…it was my grandmother's and…well...I'd like you to have it."
"Rafa, no…" Olivia looked at him with astonishment. "I can't, I know how much your grandmother meant to you."
"Which is why I want you to have it. It would mean so much to me, Livia, to know that you have it, to see you wearing it…" he paused and then added, "…more than I can even begin to tell you." He suddenly looked a little hesitant, "But if you don't like it, or if it's too soon-"
She leaned in quickly and kissed him, bringing her hand to the back of his neck and holding him close. "It's so beautiful, Rafa. I can't even, I…" Olvia trailed off to silence, she was uncharacteristically speechless.
"My abuelita told me to give it to you," he smiled when Olivia looked confused, "...to the person I would choose to spend my life with...then she would always be with us."
"Rafa..." Olivia whispered emotionally.
"I've had this for twenty years and I've never even considered giving this to anyone else," he assured, "...but I have no doubts at all about giving it to you. However, if you need time..."
"Can you help me?" Olivia asked decisively and saw his eyes well with tears again.
Barba quickly helped her fasten the bracelet around her wrist, then she lay back into his arms. "I love you," she whispered after a couple of minutes when he tightened his arms around her.
They fell asleep on the couch again that night. The following morning Barba woke up, bribed Georgie with food in return for not waking Olivia and then slipped out of her apartment at a little after 5 am without disturbing her.
When Olivia woke at 6 she found Barba had gone, she stroked the little ball of fur laying with her in his place, then sat up and saw a text on her phone.
- I adore you x
Olivia smiled, then relaxed back on the couch and traced her fingers over her bracelet. So this is what this feels like, she thought with a smile.
"Lucy's tooth is still really painful and it's the only appointment available with a dentist before the weekend. I have to be at Rikers with Fin by 2 pm, so is there any chance that you could…?" Olivia began to ask tentatively.
"Absolutely," Barba assured. "I have a couple of hours of work to do before the weekend. If Lucy was planning to drop him with you do you think it would be possible for her to bring him here instead? That would save a lot of time."
Olivia sighed with relief, "Yes. Yes, I'm sure that would be no problem. I'll feel so much better leaving him with you and I know he'll be very happy…are you sure?"
He laughed softly, "Liv, my day just vastly improved. I was looking into an afternoon of paperwork, now I get to do that while hanging out with one of my two favourite people."
She smiled, "Rafa, thank you. He'll take at least a two-hour nap and you know he'll sleep anywhere."
"That will be plenty of time," he assured. "What do you want to do about change over?"
"I don't," Olivia replied simply. "Can you bring him to mine? We could get takeout and watch the third movie? You could…I mean I'm happy to wait until tomorrow, but you could still sleepover. I'd really like that."
"I'd really like that too," he replied after a moment. "I'd like to fall asleep with my arms wrapped around you…" his voice dropped to a low rumble, "my nose buried into your beautiful hair, my lips against your neck…"
"Rafa…" Olivia breathed out and glanced up at the window into the outer office, "…I'm at work."
"Have you ever thought about that?" He suggested quietly. "Late at night in your office? Working hard on a case together…then..."
Olivia swallowed, "Jesus, Rafa…"
"…I bend you over the desk, grip your hips…" He continued, his own breathing now a little shallow, " - take you...hard, urgent..."
"You thread your fingers through my hair and pull a little…" Olivia continued, her eyes closed. "You felt amazing in my hand, Rafa, and in my mouth...I want to feel you inside me..." She opened her eyes again and glanced toward the office nervously.
Barba moaned, "God, Livia…"
"How am I meant to sleep in the same bed as you tonight?" She smiled with something close to a post-orgasmic glow, even though it had been almost 12hrs since he had made her cum in his arms.
"I need to taste you," he replied, "…I will taste you."
"Tonight," she breathed.
"Tonight," he repeated.
"Last night was perfect, Rafa..." she glanced up into the office again. "I need to go…I have some work to do before we leave." There was a pause and then she added, "I'm looking forward to seeing you later though."
"Mmm..." Barba hummed. "I'll need a long glass of water and a few minutes to collect myself before I get back to any work."
Olivia laughed lightly, "I'm glad that you suggested we wait, but I'm even happier the wait is almost over."
Olivia heard him shift in his chair. "Me too," he paused and then added, "I love you, Lieutenant Benson."
She smiled, "I love you too, ADA Barba."
Lucy arrived while Carmen was on her lunch break. She dropped the elated little boy off quickly, ensuring that Barba knew where everything was before thanking him profusely and leaving for her appointment.
Barba put the bag down near his desk, then walked around to sit in his chair. He perched at the front and sat Noah on top of his paperwork, holding him safely in place with two hands.
"So how is my favorite little man?" Barba asked with a broad smile.
"Uncle Rafa!" Noah replied happily and laughed.
"You're going to stay with me for a few hours and then we're both going to go home and see mommy. Is that okay?" Barba asked.
Noah smiled, "Uncle Rafa work here wiv mommy?"
"I work here. Sometimes I visit mommy and sometimes mommy visits me," he replied.
Noah looked around, abstractly thinking that his mommy could probably fit into this room as well...that would save lots of visits, grownups were very complicated.
"Would you like a tour?" Barba asked when he saw Noah staring around the room.
"Toor?" Noah asked.
"I'll show you around..." Barba explained as he picked him up.
The lawyer had rolled up his shirt sleeves and long discarded his tie, so Noah happily held onto one of his suspender belts as he was walked around the edge of the office.
He sat happily listening to his beloved Uncle Rafa talk...looking at the slightly confusing, yet interestingly shiny, things that he was being shown.
"….And lots more books," he showed Noah with a smile as they arrived back at the bookcase behind his desk, "…all about work and not even half as fun as your books at home."
The little boy giggled.
"A clock…" Barba continued along the shelf.
"Very shiny…" Noah observed solemnly.
"Yes," Barba smiled, "…an especially shiny clock...and equally shiny vase."
Noah reached out to grab the vase.
"No!" Barba told him a little sharply.
Noah's bottom lip popped out and for one horrifying moment, Barba thought he was going to cry.
"Nene, that vase is made of crystal, like glass, if it breaks it is very sharp…" he explained quickly, "…you could hurt yourself." He turned and walked Noah toward the window, hugging him and swaying gently. "I'd never want you to hurt yourself, mijo. I didn't mean to sound angry."
Noah smiled and reached out to touch his Uncle Rafa's face, stroking his short beard. "We love Uncle Rafa," the little boy replied and leaned his head onto the man's shoulder, "…I sorwy."
Barba smiled, "Hey, it's okay. Shall we eat? I know that you have food in your bag from mommy and I have a sandwich."
"Mommy make you sandwich?" Noah asked.
He laughed softly, "The man in the sandwich shop made my sandwich, I'm not as lucky as you."
Barba put Noah on the floor in front of his office couch and the little boy watched as his Uncle Rafa sorted through his lunch, then he collected his own sandwich and finally came to join him on the floor to eat.
"Picnic!" Noah said happily and the two friends smiled at each other. He chewed into his cheese sandwich and apple pieces, watching his uncle eat and listening to him talk about fascinating things.
"You know my mommy is going to come and play with you tomorrow? I'm taking your mommy out," Barba said as he accepted a cheesy snack that Noah was offering and nodded gratefully.
"I come?" Noah asked.
"Not this time. You'll stay with my mommy. I'm going to take your mommy for food and dancing…" Barba explained.
"I dance," Noah pointed out.
"Well…" Barba pretended to ponder, "…you remember that mommy told you that I'll be staying for a sleepover tomorrow?"
Noah nodded and grinned when he remembered.
"So on Sunday, we could all dance?" Barba suggested hopefully.
"Uncle Rafa's mommy dance wiv me?" Noah asked.
"Sure," Barba smiled, "…I think my mommy would be very happy to dance with you."
"Dance now?" Noah suggested with a grin.
Barba looked at the time and smiled, "Okay, little man." He quickly tidied up, selected some upbeat music on his phone and then picked Noah up. He rested him on his hip and swayed as Noah started bouncing in his arms.
After a few moments, Barba stopped and turned toward the door when he heard slow clapping.
He found Rita Calhoun standing in the doorway and watched her jaw drop when she saw Noah in his arms. "Here was I quietly celebrating that the best prosecutor in the city seemed to have finally lost his mind, but it seems that I might be the one going a little crazy. Is in my imagination, counsellor, or do you have a child in your arms?"
"I've yet to see you quietly celebrate anything," Barba retorted dryly as he walked over to turn off the music, "...you're invariably unbearable."
"Objection. Evasion." Rita rejoined.
Barba rolled his eyes and looked down at Noah, "Noah, this is Uncle Rafa's friend Rita. Would you like to say hello?"
Noah smiled a little shyly, "Hello, Reeeeta."
Rita smiled at the boy and nodded, "Hello, Noah, it's very nice to meet you." Then she looked up at Barba, "I know we've been seeing a little less of each other lately, but…?"
Barba smirked and walked around to sit at his desk, placing Noah comfortably on his lap. "Noah is the son of a…" he looked down at Noah and completed with, …friend. I'm looking after him for a few hours."
"You have a friend who believes it's safe to leave their child in your care?" Rita joked as she sat. "I would suggest filing papers to have them mentally assessed."
Noah frowned and looked up at Barba, "What men-ally ass-ess?"
Barba arched an eyebrow at Rita, then looked at his little friend, "Rita thinks she's funny, Noah." He looked at the attorney firmly, "Counsellor, if you came to discuss your case we can have a child-friendly chat now, or this can wait until Monday - but one strike and you're out."
"Monday?" Rita asked, clearly surprised.
"I'm taking the weekend…" Barba explained cryptically.
"To do what exactly? You have no life," Rita replied dryly.
"Eat food, dance wiv mommy," Noah recalled helpfully, "…sleepover…Sunday we dance…pancakes?" He looked at Barba hopefully.
Barba smiled at Noah, then at the astonished look on Rita's face.
"So you're not just the babysitter?" Rita concluded with a broad smile. "Someone's playing daddy?"
"Playing Daddy?" Noah asked and looked at his Uncle Rafa with wide eyes.
"Rita!" Barba replied firmly, the humor was now gone from his voice but his tone was controlled so as not to worry Noah. However, his eyes said all he needed to say, What are you thinking, Rita? In front of the child?
Rita, who was not used to having to consider a child's feelings during one of her exchanges with her friend, blanched a little and shook her head apologetically. "Just a joke, Noah, I like to tease your Uncle Rafa a little…" She assured quickly.
"Uncle Rafa someone's daddy?" Noah asked.
Barba glared at Rita with a silent 'nice going asshole' grimace and then looked at Noah. "I'm no one's daddy, Noah, my friend is sometimes very silly and gets easily confused."
Noah nodded thoughtfully, then finally looked at the lady. "Mommy's friend too?" He assumed that everyone Uncle Rafa knew must know his mommy.
"I don't…" Rita looked at Barba and then back at Noah, "…I'm not sure."
"Don't know?" Noah asked - this lady was clearly very confused.
"I don't…" Rita smiled at Barba then looked at Noah, "…what is your mommy's name?"
Barba tensed. "Rita…" he warned.
Noah thought for a second and finally replied, "Mommy's name? Like Noah?"
Rita nodded and watched her friend squirm a little, she knew he had no good reason to cut her off without confusing Noah by telling him that he didn't want her to know who his mommy was.
"Mommy called Olivia," Noah informed her helpfully.
A smile spread across Rita's face, a smile so wide that it almost split her face in half. "Olivia? Reeeeally?"
I had a sweet idea for a new story so almost rounded this one up so that I could start it. However, after taking a few days I've decided that I'm quite attached to this incarnation of Olivia and Rafael (with younger Noah and Georgie) so rather than start a new story this one is going to be extended to include a new story arc. They're about to start an unexpected adventure!
Chapter 27: Movie Night
Barba was surprised to find that the door was slightly ajar when he arrived at Olivia's apartment. He pushed it open with his hip, closed it securely, then walked through carrying Noah in one arm and both of their bags over his other shoulder.
His back was killing him, it felt like there were separate child care muscles in his body that had never been used before and were now being pushed to the limit.
He loved it.
"You do know that you live in New York, right?" He asked as he dropped both of their bags carefully to the floor.
Olivia looked around her as though only just registering her surroundings. "Really?" She asked with a sarcastic smirk.
"I mean, you left your door open," he explained pointedly.
"I am a cop, Rafa," she dismissed his concern. "Besides I find it hard to imagine perps have taken to walking around lightly pushing on every door in the city searching for ones that happen to be left unlatched."
Barba rolled his eyes, "I don't care about 'every door in the city', only yours."
Olivia smiled and leaned in to press a kiss to his lips, "That's a pretty crappy attitude for an assistant district attorney," she teased, "…but it's also very sweet." She ran her hand over Noah's hair and then kissed his forehead. "Did you have a nice afternoon with Uncle Rafa, baby?"
"Yes!" Noah replied happily. "We ate food, danced, I met Uncle Rafa's friend...she's funny...then had a nap."
"You met Uncle Rafa's friend?"
"Rita," Barba explained, "…we'll need to talk about that."
Olivia nodded at him with a little concern and then looked at Noah, "You danced?"
"Me and Uncle Rafa," Noah grinned.
"That sounds like fun," Olivia observed.
"You dance tomorrow - I play wiv Uncle Rafa's mommy," Noah explained. He was distracted by Georgie walking into the room, so wiggled and reached to be put down. "Gor-gi!"
Barba smiled and put Noah on the floor, then they watched him toddle after his cat.
"I'm no longer wanted," he joked and leaned in to kiss just below Olivia's ear.
"Mmmm, you'll always be wanted by me…" She assured and wrapped her arms around his waist. After a minute, Olivia pulled back and reached behind her to retrieve something from the kitchen counter. "It's hardly a stunning family heirloom, but…" she placed a key in his hand.
Barba looked at the key with wide eyes, "You're sure about this?"
"I want you to have it, Rafa, I want you to know that my door is always open to you," she assured, "..any time, day or night."
Suddenly the door being left open made more sense and he smiled. "You're amazing, Livia. I'll get one cut for you."
Olivia looked a little concerned, "You don't have to feel obliged to."
He shook his head and slipped the key onto his chain. "I want you to have it, this makes us feel…"
"Official?" She completed and glanced at his mouth. "We haven't even made love yet."
"Tomorrow," he assured, "…I hope I haven't built this up too much by suggesting that we wait."
She laughed and leaned in to kiss him, "Not even possible…just looking at you turns me on, I know we'll be amazing together"
"Livia…" Barba spoke softly against her lips.
"Mommy?" Noah asked from the floor nearby. Georgie was climbing over his legs and making him giggle.
"Yes, baby?" Olivia asked as she reluctantly pulled back and smiled at her son.
"We can play daddy?" He asked.
Olivia looked at Barba with equal parts horror and confusion.
Barba shook his head apologetically, "Rita's idea of a joke, as Noah was there I put her in her place…very gently."
"Uncle Rafa's friend was joking, my sweet boy, that's not a game," Olivia replied softly.
"I don't have daddy. Uncle Rafa play daddy?" Noah asked.
Barba smiled at Olivia, then surprised her by taking her little boy's question in his stride and completely defusing what could have been a very awkward reaction to an innocent question.
He walked over and picked Noah up, swinging him like an aeroplane around the room for a few seconds and making him laugh. Then he picked Eddie up off the couch and headed toward Noah's bedroom. "Sure, I can play daddy," Barba tickled Noah and made him giggle as they walked down the hall, "…but that means I'm in charge, so time to get changed for bed and wash up before our food arrives."
As Olivia watched them enter her son's room she shook her head with amusement - for all Barba's claims to be inexperienced with children when it came to Noah he seemed to be a natural. She'd never really believed in fate, but something had always told her that she'd been predestined to be Noah's mother…and now she was starting to wonder if his daddy had also been written in the stars.
Their food arrived and Olivia, Barba and Noah all settled in front of the television to eat.
They put on the third Star Wars movie and Barba promised to take point with Noah so that Olivia could focus on the movie and not be distracted.
So while they had watched the first two movies together, laying in each other's arms, this one ended with Olivia alone on the couch while Barba sat on the floor playing with the Duplo bricks and trying to keep Noah's noise down to a dull roar.
Olivia sat with her feet up on the couch and Georgie, who had lost interest in playing with Barba and Noah, came to lay with her.
In so many ways the setting might have seemed far less intimate than the first two movies, but in every way that counted the atmosphere in the room felt warm, domestic and filled with love. Something beautiful was developing and although Olivia enjoyed the final movie she regularly found herself checking-out and just luxuriating in the feeling.
After the credits had rolled, and Noah had built a tower that he was convinced could very nearly take them all the way to the moon and back, Olivia took the lead on bedtime while Barba cleared up and fed Georgie.
By the time she walked back into the kitchen, they both felt drained and lethargic from their life-altering week.
"I don't know how you do it," Barba said as he turned to face her and leaned back against the sink, "…he's absolutely wonderful…but I'm exhausted."
Olivia laughed, "I think you know how parents do it…" she pointed out as she slipped her arms around his neck and rested sleepily against him, "…we're fuelled by love."
He smiled and leaned in to kiss her neck, "I'll give you that, I can't remember the last time I felt this exhausted…but I have this energy running through my veins."
"Love…" She smiled and lay her head on his shoulder.
Barba hummed, "Definitely love."
"You wanted to talk? Something about Rita?" Olivia reminded him.
"Nothing of great concern I suppose." Barba shrugged and held her close, lazily stroking up and down her back. "She figured out that Noah is your son and put two and two together. I trust that she won't tell anyone...but we're surrounded by intelligent and naturally inquisitive people, so it's only a matter of time before more of them figure this out. I think maybe we should disclose, sooner rather than later."
Olivia let out a breath, "I didn't want to feel pushed into this earlier than we felt ready, but I guess it is inevitable..." she paused for a second and then looked into his eyes and smiled, "...I agree, let's do it Monday."
"Diffuse the gossip train before it leaves its metaphorical station," Barba concurred sleepily.
Olivia chuckled, "Mixed metaphors? You are tired."
He smiled and kissed her temple, "We do need to rest before our date. You really don't mind if I sleepover?"
Olivia chuckled and nuzzled against his neck, "Do I mind you sleeping in my bed?" Her hand stroked over his forearms lazily. "No, Rafa, I don't mind that at all…"
"Well, it's polite to ask…" he teased.
She took his hand and tugged him toward her bedroom, "Well, consider yourself to have an open invitation to share my bed, you will always be more than welcome."
They reached her room and Barba glanced around the familiar space, he'd been in here often when she was feeling unwell - but in this new context, it felt very different.
Olivia turned at the side of her bed and slowly began to slip open the buttons on his shirt, as she pushed it off his broad shoulders she leaned to press a kiss just under his collarbone and noticed him wince a little.
"Hey, are you in pain?" She asked with concern.
Barba shook his head, "It's nothing, I think my body is just adjusting to carrying your boy around."
Olivia smiled and more cautiously pulled off his undershirt, then walked around him and slowly kissed from his chest around his shoulder and then across his back. "Sit down for me?" She asked softly.
He did as directed and perched on the end of her bed, then watched as Olivia took off her pants and shirt. Then she kneeled behind him, reached for a bottle of oil on her nightstand and began to massage his back. Her hands travelled confidently over his shoulders, down his spine and then up his sides...kneading, stroking and soothing his aching muscles.
"You're so good at this..." Barba moaned and leaned into her touch.
After about 15 minutes her lips kissed up the side of his neck and Barba turned toward her. He slowly traced his fingers over the upper line of her bra, watching with fascination as her nipples rose and pushed against the silk. "Beautiful…" he said reverently.
The sleepy atmosphere had created an almost dreamlike feeling in the room as Barba leaned down and kissed her lips…his whole body reacted to the scent and flavour of her skin as he moved closer. He reached behind her and flicked open her bra, gazing at her breasts as they were bared to him and then slowly stroking and almost reverently cupping them in his hands.
"A breast man?" She couldn't help but tease.
He looked at her, his eyes dancing with affectionate humor. "With you, I'm an everything man. I'm still struggling to believe that I'm allowed to touch you."
Olivia laughed softly as he moved above and encouraged her to lay back on the bed.
"Rafa, you're not just allowed to touch me," she assured as her lips found his again, "…I actively encourage you to touch me. Anywhere and everywhere…as often as you want."
Barba smiled, "Fair warning - I pretty much want to touch you every minute of every day."
"Perfect…" She assured and watched as he made quick work of standing and removing his pants.
"I seem to remember you made me a promise earlier," he reminded her with a smile.
Olivia's eyes danced. "A promise?" She asked with mock coyness and he chuckled roughly.
He covered her body again and this time Olivia focused on the feeling of his skin against hers, he felt amazing.
"Rafa," Olivia pulled up on her elbows to look down at him and watch breathlessly as he slowly slipped off her panties and dropped them to one side. "I want you inside me…" she breathed out.
"Tomorrow," he assured and smiled up at her with dark eyes.
"I believe that I could change your mind," she pointed out temptingly.
He smirked, "You could. Undoubtedly. But don't you want to go on our date knowing what's coming at the end of the evening?" He slowly slipped his hands between her thighs and pushed her legs apart, then leaned down and blew on her clit.
"Rafa!" Olivia gasped loudly and then bit her lip.
They both paused waiting for a noise down the hall, then after several seconds smiled at each other. "I think we're going to become experts at low-volume sex," he smiled and stroked his hand up her thighs then over her ass.
"The curse of parenthood," she teased and then, realising her assumption, smiled awkwardly. "Not that you're…"
Barba cut off her words with his lips, his tongue immediately pushing into her mouth and causing Olivia to buck up against him. "Mine," he uttered possessively as his hand came up and stroked over her breast, teasing her taut nipples before sliding down to grasp her hip.
Olivia smiled against his mouth and hummed, closing her eyes when she felt his solid cock push against her core. "Oh, God!"
He moved down the bed quickly, covering her with his mouth before she even had time to register what he was doing. Then he licked and sucked along her folds, taking a second to thrust his tongue into her core before moving up to focus his attention on her clit - licking, sucking and devouring her until all Olivia could do was grip onto the sheets and brace her feet on the bed as she pushed up toward him.
She grasped out blindly and grabbed a pillow, pulling it over her face and biting down as her climax hit. Olivia shuddered as she came down and then dropped bonelessly onto the bed, laying with her arms heavy on the pillows either side of her head, the world only coming back into focus when Barba took the pillow away and came to lay alongside her. He kissed her lips lazily, teasing and breathing heavily against her mouth.
"No words," Olivia finally breathed out against his lips as their mouths danced easily against each other.
Finally, as Barba's energy became completely depleted, his head came to lay on her shoulder.
Olivia felt his hard length against her thigh. "Give me a minute, I'll…"
"Sleep," Barba said softly, pulling up a blanket to cover them both and then curling into her embrace.
"No, I…" She started, trying to protest even as his comfortable weight lulled her toward sleep.
"Sleep with me," Barba implored and closed his eyes heavily.
Barba woke a couple of hours later and found himself alone, he heard the toilet flush and curled up under the sheets for a few moments, then felt Olivia slip into bed next to him. He wordlessly stroked his hand down her side and smiled when he found her completely naked. His hand stroked over her ass and he sleepily nuzzled against her neck and kissed her skin.
He felt Olivia tug at his boxers and lifted his hips to allow her to pull them down, then closed his eyes and felt his body drift back toward sleep as she lay in his arms and rested her head on his shoulder.
After what could have been either seconds or minutes her fingers danced lightly over his balls and Barba groaned and curled toward her. "Livia…" he hummed and kissed her neck again.
Her fingers continued their slow dance, eventually moving to stroke over his cock, which lay heavily against his thigh and was already responding to her touch. Her hand wrapped around him and Barba inhaled sharply and held his breath. "Baby…" he murmured drowsily then felt her hand disappear. He almost believed this could have been a dream, then her hand returned and wrapped around him again - slick, he realised in a moment of lucidity, with her own desire.
"Livia…" Barba groaned and then hooked his leg over hers as she began to stroke slowly and smoothly. "Fuck…" He gasped against her lips when he moved to kiss her and felt his length become firm under her touch.
"You're beautiful," she whispered against his mouth. Olivia maintained a steady and almost dreamlike pace while making her strokes more confident and quickly building him toward his impending climax.
Barba opened his eyes, the adoration in her dark gaze pushing him over the edge and taking over his limited control as he came powerfully over her belly.
"God, Liv," Barba groaned and then watched as Olivia quickly used wipes she'd brought with her from the bathroom to cleaned them both. She tossed the wipes in a wastepaper basket near the bed and then curled against him once more.
"Goodnight, mi amor," she whispered and kissed his shoulder before lying wrapped around him.
Barba was silent for several seconds, still slightly in shock, then cocooned her into his embrace and held her as close as you would expect a person to hold the most precious thing in their life. "Goodnight, my love," he finally replied.
Chapter 28: Dinner
The following morning they woke early and after Barba had dressed Olivia tip-toed with him through to her front door wrapped only in her bedsheet.
"See you later tonight," she said, then grabbed hold of his shirt, pulling him toward her for a brief kiss.
"You will..." he smiled against her mouth.
"Last night was amazing, but I can't wait for tonight," Olivia said as they parted and she stroked her hand down his chest.
"I'll pick you up at 7, I'm going over to my mother's this afternoon so I'll bring her with me," Barba explained, "...then I'll pay for her cab when we get home."
"You're such a good son," Olivia said with a twinkle in her eyes, "...that's incredibly sexy."
He laughed, "Sexy?"
Olivia hummed and leaned against her doorframe as she admired him. "My sexy man - champion for justice, good to his mom, world-class lover."
Barba leaned in and kissed her again, then ran his hand down her bare arm before reluctantly turning to walk away.
"You also have an amazing ass, ADA Barba!" She called after him softly as he walked down her hall.
He looked back at her, rolled his eyes and then laughed silently.
Olivia answered the door to Barba and his mother at just before 7 pm that evening, she was wearing a perfectly fitted knee-length green dress that was complimented beautifully by her emerald bracelet.
"Liv, you look..." Barba trailed off speechlessly.
"You looked beautiful, my dear," Lucia completed for her son. Then her eyes lit up when she saw the jewellery on her wrist. She reached out and took Olivia's hand, holding it gently and touching the oh-so-familiar bracelet.
The fact that this lady was wearing her mother's jewellery meant more to Lucia than if she had seen an engagement ring. She knew what this gift meant to her son, he had given her his heart.
Olivia felt a little nervous when his mother noticed the bracelet, worried she would assume her son had been reckless with his grandmother's legacy. However, Lucia brought her hand up to her cheek and held it there for a second with an expression of genuine affection that made Olivia's breath catch.
As Lucia released her hand Olivia stepped back and encouraged them through. "Thank you so much for doing this, Lucia, we're so grateful," Olivia said as they walked into the living area.
Noah smiled up at their guest, "Uncle Rafa's mommy!"
"Noah, Uncle Rafa's mommy's name is Lucia, can you remember that?" Olivia reminded him gently.
"Lu-see-cah," Noah smiled.
"I think you can call me Lita, if that is easier for you, Noah?. If your mommy and Uncle Rafa do not mind?" She looked at them both hopefully.
They both recognised the significance of the name - but before Barba could voice concern that his mother might be overstepping Olivia slipped her hand into his, smiled at Lucia and then looked at Noah. "Are you looking forward to spending the evening with your Lita?" She asked him with a smile.
"Leeeee-tah!" Noah said happily, then reached his arms up for Lucia to pick him up.
Once in Lucia's arms Noah smiled at his mommy and Uncle Rafa, "You go dancing now?"
"We're going for food first," Olivia reminded him.
Noah nodded, "B-bye!"
"I think we're dismissed," Olivia grinned at Barba, still holding his hand as she turned to tug him toward the door.
Barba was still processing that Olivia had been so casual about her son calling Lucia his grandmother...even if he wasn't entirely aware of that. They would need to talk about that tomorrow, but for now, they had their date to enjoy.
Barba smiled at Olivia across the restaurant table.
"What is that smile about?" Olivia asked with a matching grin.
"We're on a date," he replied and then felt a little foolish, "…I mean, obviously we are, I just…"
Olivia reached across and slipped her hand into his. "I know exactly what you mean, Rafa, I keep having to resist the urge to pinch myself. I also can't believe that you remembered me mentioning this restaurant, that must have been months ago, thank you."
His smile spread and he squeezed her hand for a second before briefly tracing his finger over her bracelet, then releasing it so they could continue eating.
"You wanted to talk?" Olivia asked after a few moments.
Barba glanced away for a second, then looked back at her and shrugged. "That can wait…" he replied a little stiffly.
Olivia frowned, "It obviously can't, not if something is bothering you?"
"I just don't want to spoil our date with discussions about work and-"
"Discussions about you, Rafa." Olivia pointed out firmly, "...about you and your future. Our future. Also, you know you happen to be one of my two favourite subjects?"
Barba looked at her with a self-conscious and lopsided smile that made her belly flip.
"I met with an old friend recently…" Barba started slowly, "...well, I suppose mentor would be a more suitable word. He was a visiting lecturer at Harvard and took a genuine interest in my career. I was a scholarship student, so I guess I always felt that I had to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove that I deserved my place. You know?"
Olivia smiled sadly. "While you actually deserved your place even more," she countered.
Barba smiled as her with a look of complete respect.
"Professor McAllister never made me feel like that. He's Scottish, smart, witty, didn't take any bullshit," He smiled at her.
Olivia nodded, she liked the sound of this man already.
"He took me under his wing, Liv. Gave me extra tutoring, even organised for me to get a vacation placement at his son's law firm. I was only an office drudge, but the money was better than bussing tables or working behind a bar, and it gave me invaluable experience and contacts…" Barba trailed off.
"So you met him recently?" Olivia prompted.
"A couple of weeks ago, not long before you broke up with…" His words trailed off and he smiled at her, he didn't want to even mention Tucker's name on their date.
Olivia nodded, "And?"
"He moved back to the UK a little over fifteen years ago, but he's over here visiting family. He's currently vice-chancellor of Oxford University."
Olivia's eyebrows raised, "Impressive."
"Our meeting made me think. He had all these elaborate ideas, he wanted me to take a teaching fellowship...to eventually become a professor. He's followed my career and has been impressed by my work. I was flattered, more than flattered…" he looked up at Olivia, who looked about as shocked as he'd been expecting her to be. "As you know, I'm not without ego where my work is concerned," he smirked at her and she laughed softly, "...but McAllister had a huge role in my education, so that meant a lot." Barba paused for a moment and then continued, "He used to teach me to look between the letter of the law and understand how it's implementation can impact individuals, groups...even society as a whole. I've realised that I changed the way I looked at the law in the years after college, everything had started to become so black and white. Then after I met you, after we began to work together, you reminded me about those shades of grey McAllister showed me...and brought to life a whole rainbow of colors besides. Our legal system reflects who we want to be as much as who we are, and the fact that we often fall so short of our own expectations is, at least in part, because we fail to understand our own potential."
"Rafa…" Olivia said softly. She had so rarely heard him talk so passionately about the law, especially outside of the courtroom.
"I've started to think about the work we do - I know that we make a difference to people, Liv, every single day. You more than anyone else. But think what I could do in a classroom, helping to educate the next generation of lawyers...who could actually be shaping the legal system long after we've retired."
Olivia could see the fire in his eyes and felt herself become ignited by his passion.
"You were actually offered a position?" Olivia asked.
Barba shook his head, but then clarified, "I mean - yes, I was. Of course, I turned that down. Just the idea though, Liv...it made me think about what I could do next. Teaching is a path that I honestly never even considered."
"Wait, this position is a huge deal, right? Oxford? It's one of the most respected institutions in the world?" Oliva pushed.
"I didn't even consider it, Liv…" he assured, "…I couldn't. Not then…and obviously not now."
She'd rarely heard him sound so incoherent, it was clear that underneath his rationalisations this opportunity meant a lot to him. "Rafa, did you turn down this job for me?"
He finally met her eyes and shrugged. "Livia, it's fine, this is not about the specific job offer. I didn't know how to leave New York before, how to leave you…and now that is not even an option."
"This is an opportunity to become part of the teaching faculty at one of the best colleges in the world. To become a professor..." Olivia pushed further, this was like pulling teeth.
Barba sighed, "An honorary fellow of Merton College and Visiting Lecturer in Law and Ethics, it's…"
"A huge deal!" Olivia repeated with frustration, shocked that he hadn't even mentioned it until now.
"You and I…" he started.
"What exactly did Professor McAllister say to you?" Olivia asked.
Barba rolled his eyes a little, "Patrick wanted me to go back to Oxford with him for a few days, this week actually...to get a feel for the place. I'm sure with the intention of talking me into agreeing. He claimsthat I'm a natural educator and…"
Olivia suddenly had a powerful feeling that this man understood Rafael Barba's heart and could really see his potential. Anyone who met him could recognise his skills as a lawyer, but his innate humanity gave him the potential to be so much more than that.
"You should go to Oxford, Rafa. Can you take the personal time on such short notice?" Olivia asked.
Barba looked shocked and more than a little horrified. "Olivia, no!" He responded quickly.
"You'd be back by the weekend," she insisted.
"To what end? I'm sure as hell not taking the position!" Barba assured her firmly.
"Without even finding out more?" Olivia asked.
"I'm not leaving you and Noah," Barba was looking at her like she was crazy now. Did she actually not understand how much he loved them? "Even the suggestion is ridiculous."
"You wouldn't be going anywhere without us..." she replied calmly.
Barba's jaw dropped, he looked at her as though she had just grown two heads.
"Go to England. Find out what this job entails..." she repeated, "...then if it turns out that this opportunity is as good as it sounds come home and we'll talk."
"Talk?" Barba looked bewildered.
"This is a partnership, Rafa. We need to make choices together for the benefit of all of us...you, me and Noah," Olivia pointed out. "The only reason I'm not mad at you right now is because this offer came before we admitted our feelings for each other."
Barba's mind rushed to catch up. "You're not saying that you would consider moving to England?"
Olivia shrugged and put down her knife and fork. "I don't know - but I am saying that before we make that choice we need more information."
"What about New York, the unit, your friends, your job?" Barba asked, still struggling to process the direction this conversation had taken.
"They are all important to me, especially our friends, " Olivia agreed, "…but nothing is forever. Except this, us."
Tears welled in Barba's eyes now. "Tucker wanted you to retire and you..." he started.
Olivia shook her head, "I'm not ready to retire, Rafa...but maybe with you, I'm feeling ready to be a little brave. I'm not saying let's jump on a plane, I'm just saying let's find out more and weigh up our options."
"I don't know what to think…" He hadn't even considered that this job would be a possibility.
"Let's table this for now?" Olivia suggested. "Just promise me one thing?"
He nodded easily.
"Go to England? Find out more? If it turns out not to be what you want at the very least it could give you some ideas about what you do want." She sipped her wine and then added, "I need you to understand that your happiness is as vital to me as mine is to you, Rafa."
He paid the bill and then they stood and walked toward the exit.
"So...dancing?" Olivia asked and linked their arms.
Barba smiled, "Fundamental Cuban foreplay..."
Olivia grinned, "Oh really? Can you dance?"
Barba looked offended, "Mi amor, I'm Cuban! Of course, I can dance!"
Olivia laughed, she leaned into his side as they walked, then kissed his neck and breathed in his enticing scent. "I like being your love…" She teased softly and ran her hand over his back.
Barba turned his head to catch his lips in a brief yet passionate kiss as they walked. "My love…" he repeated happily and as his hand was cover by her jacket he stroked over her ass.
She laughed and pushed up against him, then glanced ahead and noticed Ed Tucker walking toward them hand in hand with who she assumed must be his date. She froze, he had obviously seen them and there was no way to escape gracefully.
The coincidence seemed ridiculous for a moment...although they had just been eating in one of Olivia's favorite restaurants, a place she had regularly mentioned to Ed, but that they had never had the chance to visit.
"Olivia," Tucker said dryly as they became close enough to speak.
"Ed," Olivia replied and almost automatically moved to step away from Barba, until she felt him hold her close.
"You two look…cosy," Tucker observed.
Olivia smiled a little sadly, "I'm sorry, Ed. Well, I'm not sorry…but this was…"
"Inevitable?" Ed asked. He had barely even looked at Barba.
"At least…" Olivia paused and glanced at Barba, "…well, at least we didn't end over something superficial. Rafael is the love of my life, Ed. I'm just sorry about how things between us ended. That was never my intention."
Tucker bristled a little but then forced a thin smile, "I'm happy that things have worked out for you…" he glanced at Barba, "…don't fuck this up."
"I would rather die," Barba replied emphatically, "Olivia and Noah are my life."
Tucker was taken aback by what he thought seemed like an uncharacteristically emotional and forthright response from the lawyer. He looked between the two…Olivia was still slightly curled into his side and he suspected that Barba's hand was resting over her ass - he'd never allowed himself to think about it before, but they actually looked really good together.
Olivia couldn't resist turning and kissing Barba's cheek when she heard his heartfelt reply to Tucker's taunt.
"I truly am sorry, Ed. I genuinely cared about our relationship, but I'm not sure I even realised that what I have with Rafael was possible," Olivia said genuinely.
"In spite of everything, I hope you're both happy," Tucker conceded.
Olivia nodded gratefully, she'd never doubted that he was a good man, she smiled at his date then looked back at Tucker. "Me too, Ed. Take care of yourself."
As they started to walk away Barba slipped his hand into hers. "That could have been a lot worse, I guess he's not a bad guy..." he acknowledged.
"Just not bad?" She smiled.
"The thought of that man touching you still makes my skin crawl," Barba pointed out, "...'not a bad guy' is as good as you're getting."
She laughed softly and stepped closer to him as they walked.
Chapter 29: Sunday Dancing with Uncle Rafa
Olivia straddled his waist, then groaned when the head of his cock lined up with her core. He thrust against her, teasing for a moment, then she held her breath as he slowly pushed inside. He felt amazing. A resonating groan rumbled from deep within her chest.
Barba sat up quickly and covered her mouth, swallowing her moan and then laughing a little breathlessly. "Livia, you'll wake your son," he warned, then gasped when she ripped her mouth away from his and latched onto the side of his throat, grazing his skin with her teeth and then sucking eagerly.
"God, Rafa," Olivia gasped and clawed her nails across his shoulders as she pulled him closer. The damp heat of his skin made her shudder and she held still, just revelling in the overwhelming sensation of him inside her. His hips flexed up and she opened her mouth in a silent scream against his shoulder.
Barba suddenly rolled them so that he was on top, gazing down at her with a look of wonder and pure happiness on his face. He leaned down and brushed their lips together teasingly and then slowly pulled back a no more than an inch before thrusting home again.
Olivia brought her hand up to stroke down the side of his face then slowly over his beard. "Rafael…" She whispered softly and wrapped a leg around his hip, sucking in a sharp breath when she felt him shift even deeper inside.
This was everything that Olivia had hoped for and so much more - love, friendship, laughter, trust, passion and an amazing physical connection that made her toes curl. It had taken a long time for them to find each other, but nothing had ever felt this good.
Olivia woke the next morning and knew that she wanted to wake up with him every morning for the rest of her life. After a few minutes of just luxuriating in the warmth of his body spooned behind her, she smiled when his lips began to slowly kiss along her shoulder.
"I could get used to this," she observed sleepily.
"Mmmmm…" Barba hummed, "…me too, and we will."
"You're staying all day?" She checked as he lifted his leg over her thigh and drew her body against his.
"All day," he assured and brought his hand up to her breast, teasing the nipple firmly between his fingers.
Olivia's breath caught and she arched back toward him when she felt his length harden against her ass. "Mmmmmmmm, Rafa…" she smiled and turned her head around to kiss him, her tongue sliding into his mouth lazily.
Barba's hips pulled back a little and then Olivia gasped when he thrust forward and she felt his cock push between her legs. "Rafa…" she groaned and then arched against him as he shifted down a little and then drove up and pushed inside her. "God!" She breathed and opened her eyes for the first time.
"Okay?" He asked.
"Mmm-amazing…" she replied with a smile and angled her neck to encourage his lips against her throat.
He set a fast pace, thrusting hard yet precisely into her body as she rolled slightly towards the bed and let him take control.
Olivia's back arched, pushing her ass toward him as her cries were muffled by her pillow - then a few more urgent thrusts and Barba followed.
"Livia…" he moaned breathlessly as he recovered, then lifted up when she rolled over to face him. "Have I mentioned lately that I really love you?"
She grinned and kissed his lips gently, "Not in the last few hours, but as we've been sleeping I guess I'll forgive you."
He laughed softly and combed some hair back from her face with his fingers. "That's extremely generous of you," he quipped and then regarded her solemnly, "…you know, you really are breathtakingly beautiful."
She laughed, "And you are a devastatingly handsome man, Rafael Barba."
Barba grinned with humor in his eyes, "You're sure about Oxford?"
"About wanting you to go?" Olivia clarified and he nodded. "I'm sure. About spending even one night without your body wrapped around me?" She added and kissed his lips, "I'm distraught."
He smiled, "We can talk every night."
Olivia pouted, clearly enjoying this lazy Sunday morning banter. "Not the same," she retorted and stroked over his broad shoulders.
"Phone sex?" Barba bargained as he rested his head on her shoulder.
"Mmmm…." Olivia smiled at the thought, "…I believe just listening to you speak in court could make me cum, so I concede the huge potential for phone sex."
Barba laughed in wonder, he still couldn't believe some of the things Olivia was saying. "I'd like…mmmm…I'd love to listen to your voice talk me through...while I touch myself."
Olivia smirked, "Oh, have we just discovered a kink, Rafa?"
He was silent for a moment.
Worried that her teasing had made him self-conscious, she stroked up his back and kissed his temple. "Because I'm going to make it one of my life's goals to fulfil all of your fantasies, mi amor."
He moved to look down at her, his eyes brimming with tears, "You already have, Livia. Just letting me love you, that's everything." Barba lay back down and then after a few minutes lying peacefully in her arms added. "You know, the job comes with a house…"
"A house?" She asked, her voice a little higher pitched.
"Patrick owns a house on the edge of a nearby village, he offered it to me as a sweetener. The first-year would be free, then an offer to buy it from him cheaply or rent…" He explained, his fingers gently trailing patterns over her belly.
"You didn't mention this last night," Olivia replied.
"I didn't want to pile on with information, as though trying to sway your opinion. It honestly never even crossed my mind that you would consider moving," he explained.
Olivia held him closer, "With you, nothing is completely off the table, Rafa. We need to take a little time, to understand the role they're offering, what would be required…and also consider what that would mean for my career. I can't be a stay at home country-wifey."
Barba laughed softly, "I wouldn't want that for you, Livia. If you can't see a place for yourself in this situation then the offer is off the table. No question. I understand if marriage is not something that interests you. I want a relationship with you…I want to be squabbling with you at 85. The paperwork, all the official stuff…" his voice trailed off for a moment, "…I'm not articulating myself properly, I'm just saying that I need you, you and Noah, everything else is negotiable."
Olivia shook her head slowly, "Rafa, you misunderstand." She moved to sit up against the headboard and he sat facing her, he wrapped the sheets around them and her leg lifted over his so that they were still close. "I meant that I didn't see myself fulfilling the stereotypical role of the little wife, but I was joking," she brought her hand up to the side of his face, "…I know that you would never want that for me. You know me, Rafa, I know that you love me…not some idealised version of me."
Barba smiled, "I couldn't even begin to imagine a way to improve on perfection."
Olivia's eyes danced with humor. "I've never seen myself as someone's wife. Honestly, I've barely been with anyone long enough to even consider the possibility...and it was never something I felt I needed to seek."
"I know, Livia. I just…" He started again but she brought her fingers to his lips.
"Rafa, I'm trying to say that I've never wanted to be anyone's wife, but I think if you asked I would marry you tomorrow," Olivia smiled when his jaw dropped open a little. "I understand that some people see marriage as archaic, but I want to share my life with you…hell, I want you to be mine, my family, my husband. I never imagined myself wanting this so much, but I want to come home to a family, who share my name, who…"
"Livia, are you…" his hand stroked down her waist and he moved a little closer, "…I feel like I'm losing the thread of this conversation, my heart is hammering in my chest and my head is swimming. Are you actually saying that you want to marry me?"
Olivia laughed softly, then tilted her head. "I want…" she paused, "…I'm committed to you, Rafa, committed to the life we can build with Noah. I'm not pressurising you. I'm just saying that if or when you're ready, you are the only man I could imagine being my husband."
"I'm ready. I'm sure." Barba replied quickly. "Now, yesterday...actually for a while. Yes, absolutely, yes."
A grin spread over Olivia's face, "Rafa, did we just get engaged?"
He laughed a little and kissed her, "I want to be married to you, Liv."
"I think that could be arranged," Olivia teased and pushed him back on to the bed before straddling his waist again. "I've tasted the merchandise now, querido, so I think I need to stake my claim."
"Mommy?" A small voice echoed down the hall and they both laughed and buried their faces against each other's shoulders.
"I think it's morning," Barba turned his head and kissed her neck.
"Mmmmm…" she smiled, "…changing your mind?"
Barba shook his head needlessly as they sat up. "Not a chance. I want to be that little boy's daddy…if you'll let me?"
"Rafa…" Olivia replied softly and brought her hand up to the side of his face.
"Uncle Rafa?! Pancakes?" Noah called out plaintively.
She laughed, "I think you're wanted."
"I might have promised him..." He rolled his eyes. Then he quickly pulled on his boxers and a pair of sweats. He picked up an undershirt from a nearby table and then turned to Olivia. "I'll get him. You take your time, have a shower if you want," he assured.
"Playing Daddy?" She teased as she stood and wrapped a sheet around her waist.
"No more playing," he retorted and then kissed her before walking away.
As Olivia insisted on clearing up after their lunch later that afternoon she couldn't help but feel that Noah already had his future daddy wrapped around his little finger. She watched her son tug Barba over to his toys and then line up Duplo bricks with careful precision, pointing out what they were playing and clearly directing their fun.
By the time she had finished in the kitchen, Olivia walked through and found a long wall of bricks with the animals lined up along the top.
"Why do I feel like those animals all enjoy cola?" She smiled at Barba.
He sang softly and swayed a little from his spot on the floor next to Noah. #I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…#
They both laughed - Olivia loved seeing him so relaxed and happy.
Of course, Noah didn't understand, but he really appreciated the musical interlude. "Singing!" He smiled happily. "We dance!"
"Ahhh…I thought maybe you'd forgotten about the dancing!" Barba teased and then stood, lifting Noah into his arms as Olivia searched her phone and put on some upbeat music.
Barba kept hold of Noah as he spun Olivia around and made the little boy laugh. Then after several minutes, the music changed to something more low-key so he surrendered to the exhausting weight and passed him over to Olivia so they could all slow-dance together.
After a while, Noah became sleepy and Olivia decided to let him lie down on the couch for his afternoon nap.
"I like when you're here, Uncle Rafa. We dance every day this week?" Noah asked sleepily.
Barba smiled, "I need to go away on Wednesday, Noah, but then-"
"Away?" Noah asked with sudden alarm as he sat up. "Bye-bye?" Tears welled in his eyes and quickly flooded over his cheeks. "Mommy said forever! She promise! Forever!"
"No, no, no..." Barba assured and wrapped his arms gently around the little boy, he was horrified to see him getting so upset.
Olivia started walking over to see what was wrong.
"Four sleeps," Barba explained softly. He took Noah's hand and held it up, then gently pushed down his thumb and traced over his remaining fingers, "…just four sleeps, then I'll be home. I will always come home, nene, always."
Noah studied his fingers. "Four sleeps?" He repeated tentatively.
"Only four," Olivia dropped down next to Barba and smiled at her son. "Rafa will never leave us, baby. Forever family, remember?"
"Forever family," Noah repeated more confidently and wiggled his fingers. "Fours sleeps. Then sleepover and bedtime story?"
Barba smiled now, relieved to see the little boy's tears drying. He looked at Olivia, "Mommy? Am I invited?"
Olivia laughed and nudged his side with her hip. "Always…" she assured then looked at her son, "…you know Rafa has a key to the door now? So he can open up and let himself in without even having to knock?"
Noah beamed, "For playtime?"
Olivia nodded, "And storytime, and sleepovers…"
"And dancing…" Noah added sleepily as he lay down and closed his eyes.
"For any reason at all," Olivia finished off. She smiled at Barba and then leaned in for a quick kiss as her son fell asleep.
Chapter 30: Early Morning
Olivia sat in her office early on Wednesday morning and aimlessly looked for employment on a British website. The truth was she had no idea what she was looking for and her complete lack of contacts made searching for career opportunities that weren't being advertised nearly impossible.
It was about an hour before she usually came into work, but Noah had stayed with Lucia the night before and as soon as Barba had left for the airport, at a little after 4 am, both her bed and apartment had felt empty.
On hearing a knock on her open-door Olivia looked up and smiled when she saw Fin.
"Ya in early," Fin observed as he sauntered into her office and sat opposite.
"Noah had a sleepover and I felt a little unsettled," she admitted a half-truth, "…so I thought I'd come in and get some work done."
Fin shrugged, "Okay, so we need to move hard on Reynolds today. You want to call Barba and get a warrant, or…?"
"Barba is out of the office for a few days, but I'm on it, Hudson is stepping in while he's away..." Olivia scribbled down a note to make the call and then looked up to see that Fin had his eyebrow arched.
"Barba's never out of the office without notice, least not by choice. Something up?" He asked.
Olivia looked away and considered lying, but suddenly realised that she couldn't. Not to Fin. "He's had a job offer in England, so he went over for a few days to check it out."
"The UK? He's thinking about leavin'?" Fin was obviously shocked.
"He's…considering his options. It's a teaching post at Oxford - not something you just turn down without at least looking into it," Olivia explained, but she felt awkward about edging so close to the larger truth.
Fin took her clear discomfort to mean that his friend was upset. "Just like that? I thought maybe you and him. I mean, I thought you…" He paused and then bluntly asked his friend. "He's leaving you? For a job?"
Olivia sighed, "No. He's…" She looked up at him and smiled sadly, but now Fin could discern no trace of heartbreak in her eyes.
The detective tilted his head, "Ya leaving, ain't ya?"
Olivia winced at the shock in her friend's voice and slowly shook her head. "Nothing has been decided yet, it just hasn't been ruled out…"
"When did you two…?" He asked.
"The night we went for a drink?" Fin nodded so she continued. "I changed my mind and went to meet him at his office, and…Well, you know we've been heading here for a while," Olivia confided.
"So he wants you to just up and leave everything?" Fin sounded annoyed now.
"No, Fin," Olivia insisted firmly. "Rafa was completely ready to reject the offer. He would never even consider leaving us - but I asked him to look into it. He's taking a few personal days to go over as an advance scouting party."
"You asked him to go?" Fin was genuinely surprised.
Olivia sighed, "I love him, Fin, this is the real thing, once in a lifetime...and Noah adores him, you saw them together when Dodds came in last week."
Fin smiled, when she talked about him Olivia practically glowed. "Doesn't mean you should feel pressured into this," he pointed out. "If he loves you…"
"God, he really does," she insisted. "Rafa would drop the whole idea and stay here in a second if I asked him to, but doesn't that mean that I should be open enough to it least consider doing this for him?"
"Liv…" Fin started.
"It's not just about Rafa," Olivia emphasised. "I've lived in this city my whole life. I've never really had a family of my own, except the one that I've built for myself..." she smiled at him now. "Everything that has ever felt familiar to me, like home, has been attached to New York. I've never considered leaving that. Where would I even go? But now I feel like…" She trailed off.
"What, Liv?" Fin pushed her to continue.
"Maybe now is my time to consider moving on for a while? I know that my SVU family will always be here for me, but now I would be taking my family with me as well. It almost feels like I'd be leaving home for the first time." She smirked at Fin and he chuckled. "I mean, isn't it almost parochial? Living in one place my whole life?"
Fin laughed now, "You wanna leave home and go backpackin'?"
She rolled her eyes. "Maybe just try somewhere else for a while. It's only geography, Fin."
"What about us?" Fin smirked pointedly.
"Hey, when the kids leave home they still visit," she assured. "Oxford is not far from London...and practically speaking London is not far from New York. We could visit. You could visit. We'd have weekends and holidays."
"And this place?" Fin asked.
Olivia shrugged and glanced around her office. "This place would go on without me. The unit won't fall apart, Fin. A very wise friend of ours once told me that there's more to life than SVU...so maybe it's time that I go out there and see some of that for a while?"
"Liv…" Fin started.
"I'm going to need you to put in for your lieutenant's exam, you know you're years beyond ready and if this happens I want to be able to recommend you to take over the ship," Olivia explained.
"Liv, you know I don't want to…" He began to argue.
"I wasn't sure that I was ready at first, but with hindsight, I know that I was," Olivia argued. "You and Rafa helped push me to the place that I needed to be. Now it's your turn."
Her phone vibrated.
RAFA - On the flight. Patrick just sent these x
Olivia opened some picture files and gasped.
"What?" Fin asked.
"Look at these?" Olivia said and nodded for him to come around and look at her cell.
Olivia scrolled through the pictures.
— A beautiful detached house with a grey stone frontage and a green front door.
— A big kitchen with an island and family dining table
— A living area with a huge fireplace
— A garden filled with flowers and trees - with grass for Noah to play on
— A swing hanging from an oak tree, in front of a view of the rolling countryside and…sheep!
"What is this?" Fin asked.
"Rafa's been offered a house if he takes the job. It would be free for a year and then available to buy…" Olivia explained, still scrolling through the pictures.
"This is the place?" Fin looked closer.
"It's beautiful, like a storybook…" Olivia said with a little awe in her tone. "Noah hasn't even seen sheep in real life…hell, I'm not sure that I have!"
Fin laughed, "Looks like you have some thinkin' to do."
"Rafa and I have some thinking to do," Olivia corrected, "…once we know more we'll talk about this together. No pressure on either side. Neither one of us will be happy unless we know that it's what the other really wants, so I need to find a real role for myself as well…"
"Think you're halfway there, Liv," Fin smiled at her. He was genuinely happy that his friend could be getting a chance for a new start away from everything she had been through over the last few years, yet also sad that she might be moving on, "...you obviously know that your place is with him."
"Family is always family, Fin, nothing will ever change that," Olivia assured and then glanced down at her phone again. The pictures looked like a different world.