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No Regrets

Chapter Text

Annabelle Stevens sighed in relief as she released her dark auburn hair from the harsh bun it had been forced into during the seven hours she spent on the Hudson campus earlier in the day. Making her way up the stairs of her loft apartment, she dropped her bags on the hardwood floor, before falling onto face first onto her King size bed.

The few months of silence were quickly shattered as her phone began blaring from the back pocket of her navy blue dress pants. Groaning, she pressed the circular green button, “what.”

A deep chuckle met her ears as she put it on speaker and resumed her position, “tough day, carina?” When unrecognizable mumblings were his only reply, he continued, “Do you want to meet me at Gotham? Or do you want me to bring take out?”

She shrugged, before remembering that he could not see her, “Doesn’t matter. How late are you staying?”

“Nothing more I can do tonight.”

Annabelle propped herself up onto her knees and brought the phone to her ear, “I’ll meet you at Gotham. But I’m not changing.” His laughter was the only reply she heard before hanging up.

Kicking her heels to the side, as she passed them, she stripped her blue short sleeved jacket off, as well as her Beatles t-shirt, before grabbing a mint colored long sleeved lace top and slipping it on before grabbing a pair of flats from the bottom of her closet.

Swiping a fresh coat of her deep red lipstick onto her usually pale pink lips, Annabelle locked her door and began her memorized path to the subway station.

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Annabelle closed her eyes in temporary relief as she walked pass the air conditioned doors of Gotham tavern, thankful to be out of the humid air surrounding Manhattan. She nodded at the bartender before walking to their usual table, where her boyfriend was already seated. He stood up, as she approached, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek, before pulling her chair away from the table.

She smiled in appreciation as he walked back to his side of the table, “Hola.”

His lips curved upwards as they formed his usual smirk, “Hola. I ordered your usual and the food.”

“You, my love, are perfect. I’m starving.” She took a long drink of her violet tinted cocktail before speaking again, “So, how was your day? Make any lawyers cry?” She grinned at the unimpressed look she received, “But on the real, there is something I need to tell you about.”

She paused as their first courses were placed in front of the duo. He took the opportunity to question her nervous features, “Did something happen?”

Annabelle’s face clouded in confusion before realization filled her eyes, “No!” She winced at the loudness of her voice, before repeating at a much softer volume, “Nothing like that. At least not to me. Uhm, I heard some rumors today about a party this weekend…and from what I gathered from the random pieces I caught, it seemed like a freshman was…” she paused as she watched him eat one of the oysters, reminding her that she had not eaten all day.

He covered his mouth as he spoke, “and?”

“And the guys they were talking about. It isn’t the first time I’ve heard their names. I mean, in this context. And, I know it’s probably nothing, but I wasn’t sure if you had a case about it or something and if it would—“

“Thank you,” green met blue as he interrupted her rambling explanation, “I haven’t heard anything, but I’m glad you let me know.” He gently squeezed her hand as their shared dessert was brought out, “you need to be careful, regardless of whether or not what you’ve heard it true.”

Once the night was over and the couple sat parked in front of Annabelle’s building’s entrance, silent except for the sounds of their breathing, intermingling with each other as their lips continually met. “Raf, I really have to go.” Kiss. “I’ve got papers to grade.” Kiss. “And papers to write.” Kiss. “If I fail, I will kill you.”

His short chuckle separated them long enough for her to begin catching her breath, “Text me when you get up, okay?”

“Yup. Love you.”

“Love you, carina.” Another kiss and she was slipping out of the car and into the building she had occupied for three years.
Rafael sat in his car, watching as the light on the third floor switched on, signifying that Annabelle had made it into the loft. His phone pinged thirty seconds later.

Annabelle Stevens: I’m in. I’m safe. The door is locked. Quit staring at my house like a creeper. Love you.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two – Two Truths and a Lie

Annabelle rolled her eyes, turning the volume up to the music as she tried to drown out the boisterous laughter coming from the table behind her in the Hudson campus center, occasionally taking a small bite of her Subway sandwich when taking a break from writing about the latest section she read for her Chaucer class.

Raf: How is the paper going?

Annabelle: It would go better if the hockey players sitting at the next table would shut up about their latest “conquests”.

She could almost picture the look of disgust that she knew would filter across his face, at least until he schooled his features, as she watched the three little bubbles appear signifying that he was writing a reply.

Raf: I don’t want to know.

Raf: Liv’s here. See you tonight.

Annabelle sent him a simple heart in reply before saving the already three page document and closing her laptop with a quiet snap. Gathering the stuff into her ever present messenger bag she left the center, unaware that a pair of eyes followed each movement the jean clad girl made.

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“Anna?” The meek voice was accompanied by the freshman girl, Annabelle had been telling her boyfriend about, only a week prior. “Can I talk to you? I know when Dr. Roberts introduced you she said that we could come to you and I just…I…nevermind. I’m sorry.”

Annabelle shot up from her regular seat, grabbing the blonde’s wrist, cringing when the action resulted in a flinch. “It’s okay. Megan, right?” The answering nod pushed her to move forward and grab her bag, “Let’s get some coffee.”

The duo walked in silence until they arrived at the coffee shop a block off of the Hudson campus; after ordering their drinks they quickly settled into a small booth and discussed how Megan’s freshman classes were going as they waited for their orders to be filled.

Once they had their drinks in hand, Annabelle broke the silence, “So, what’s up?”

“I didn’t know who to ask. I don’t really have any friends here. And my roommate is…ugh…I don’t really know where to start.”

The older girl smiled in sympathy, “I know what you mean. I didn’t really get many friends here until my second semester. It’s a new world compared to high school. How about you start from the beginning? At the risk of sounding stereotypical, it’s usually the best place.”

“Hannah, my roommate, she invited me to the party at Sigma Tau. The one a couple of weeks ago and. Well, I don’t remember drinking, but I must have and I don’t know if I fell asleep or passed out or what. But when I woke up, he was on me. I told him to stop and tried to make him, but he just –“

Annabelle put her hand on top the obviously distraught girls, “I get it. If you said stop, it’s illegal. Did you tell security? Or anyone?”

“I went to the doctor a couple of days later. He’s closed on weekends and I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I didn’t know if it was something they would report or not. I mean, I don’t know if I can handle that. I mean, with everyone knowing. How does someone live with that?”

Annabelle took a moment to digest the new information by taking a sip of her now almost cold coffee, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, and I can’t say what I would do if it was me, but I would like to think I would want to report it. Just knowing that he is capable of that makes me wonder what else he is capable of, ya know?”

“Will you go with me?”

“Of course. Let me make a call and we’ll go, okay?” Megan gave her a nod, before focusing on her half empty cup of tea.

Annabelle walked out of the shop, dialing before she even reached the door. “Barba.”

“Hey, are you busy right now?”

“Not too busy for you, carino. Que pasa?” (What’s up?)

“Can you meet me at the station? I’m bringing a girl who is in the freshman English class I TA in.”

“I’ll head that way now.”

“Thanks. Love you.”

“You, too.”

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Less than twenty minutes later, the female duo walked into the SVU precinct, Annabelle silently passing a Grande cup to the Cuban ADA, who thanked her with a small smirk before motioning to Benson.

The brunette lieutenant introduced herself before asking Megan to follow her and Rollins into her office, Annabelle perching herself on the edge an empty desk. Catching the raised eyebrow of her boyfriend, she sent him a playful glare, “What? As if you don’t do it.”

He rolled his eyes before coming to lean against Rollins’ abandoned desk, next to her, “learn anything new and exciting today?”

“You mean, besides what a Twisty Three-way is?” He opened his mouth before she cut him off, “apparently it’s very fulfilling. I think I’ll pass on ever trying that.” Her scoff brought a smile to his face as he finished the rest of his coffee, his hand brushing against her thigh as he passed.

After he settled in next to her once more, she spoke, “Shouldn’t you be in there with Megan?”

He nodded, “I trust Liv. I’m supposed to be asking the initial outcry witness about Megan’s statement, and whether or not she’ll testify if it goes to court.”

Annabelle glanced around before running her hand up his arm and softly squeezing her bicep, “I’m not sure. Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight and convince me?” She winked as she started to walk away, “I’m going to get a soda if Megan gets finished before I’m back.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Three – An Arrest & A Trial

RebeccaZ: some jock just got arrested in my algebra class.

KitTakesPhotos: wth did I just see?!

IndigoJane: She is obviously lying. #FreeBryce

JacksonPargitay: you cant rape the willing. #slut

Annabelle rolled her eyes, the last tweet making her close the app, jumping when a text message alert came through.

Megan: Did you hear? They arrested Bryce.

Anna: I saw. How you feeling?

Megan: Better already. Want lunch?

Sending the affirmative, she straightened the stack of essays she had been marking up in red ink, before tossing the filled folder into her bag and walking out of the office.

Fifteen minutes later, she was sitting next to the freshman victim with a slice of pizza and a Mountain Dew in front of her.

“Am I being paranoid or –“

“No. They are looking at you. He was arrested for your attack. It was only a matter of time before you name got out. I just didn’t think it would be this fast.”

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“Can we go?” The duo had finished their lunches and had just been talking about life, when Megan suddenly posed the question, causing Annabelle to follow what caught her eye. Seeing a few guys from the hockey team headed their direction, she nodded and followed Megan who was walking fast.

The red head closed her eyes in frustration when they turned the corner, only to come face to face with Bryce’s two best friends. She wasn’t sure of their names, just referring to them as the Twisty Three-way Twins.

“You’re making a big mistake, Woods.” Seeing Megan shrink back, closer to her side, filled Annabelle with a protective rage she did not even know she was capable of.

Stepping up slightly, in order to partially block their view of the brunette, her voice was barely controlled, “Why don’t you just back off?”

Twin one’s eyes flashed, grabbing her upper arm tightly, “And you. You think we don’t know what you did? That you’re a witness. If you knew what was good for you, you’d walk away…like you should have two weeks ago”

She wrenched her arm from his grip, voice calmly quiet, “Is that a threat?”

“Consider it a friendly warning. After all, accidents happen. Ev…ery…day.”

Blue eyes narrowed, “Go to hell,” she brushed past the frat boy, Megan quickly following, both aware of the boys’ gazes following their steps.

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Annabelle grimaced as she twisted her left arm around in the mirror’s reflection, attempting to get a complete view of the purple hand shaped bruise that was only getting darker as time passed. She sighed, pulling a long sleeved blue top over her white tank top, just as a knock sounded at her front door.

Her bare feet made no sound as she padded across the studio apartment to slowly open the door, a smile on her face as she met the eyes of her boyfriend. Her lips touched his for a soft kiss, before she allowed herself to look at him in his three piece tan suit, as he crossed the threshold. “Perfect timing. I just set dinner on the table about five minutes ago.”

Rafael slipped his jacket from his frame, draping it across the back of the couch, his tie being dislodged from its tight knot, moments later, as his eyes found the multiple bowls sitting atop the dark wooden table and his finger laced through hers as he kissed her neck, “You’re perfect.”

Giggles met his ears, as she half-heartily pushed him away, “Sit. Eat.” She felt his eyes on her backside as she poured his usual glass of scotch, before grabbing herself a glass of sweet tea and sitting next to him.

As the couple filled their shells with their chosen ingredients, the Cuban spoke, “I had to tell Cutter about us.”

The twenty-five year old paused, allowing the spoon full of cheese to momentarily hover over the half assembled taco, “Okay.”

“I tried to recuse myself, but he said it was fine.” Annabelle nodded in understanding. “I didn’t want Buchanan to use it against us.”

“I’m glad he didn’t make you give the case to someone else. You’re the best. I know we agreed to keep personal, personal and professional, professional, but things happen. At least this way, I can show up to your office for a quickie.” She grinned, holding in her laugh, as he coughed around the drink he had just taken, looking at her with wide eyes. “Kidding. The first time I decide to have sex, especially with you, will not be a quickie.”

“You’re trying to kill me.” She just gave him a secretive smile as she took the straw of her sweet tea into her mouth to get a drink.

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Annabelle rolled her neck, looking up from the message she just received, in order to mark the paper she was grading with a B minus, before focusing back onto what Dr. Roberts was saying to the class. The TA made a mental note to tell the professor that she would not be able on the 13th of November, as that was now the official date to the start of Megan’s trial. Exactly one month to go.

Reading the first paragraph of the next paper in the stack made her want to smack whoever wrote it, especially when she skimmed the rest of the five pages to confirm whether or not her suspicions were correct. When the class was dismissed, she left her stuff at the desk she was occupying at the back of the classroom to speak to graying lady, never noticing the figure at the top of the stairs, hidden by the shadows.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four – Two Police Statements & A Furious Cuban

Annabelle groaned, massaging her temples, questioning why she ever agreed to be Dr. Roberts’ teaching assistant as part of her internship. Between the internship ad her own classes, she rarely had time for much else. The only good thing was the fact that Rafael was just as busy and it did not put a strain on their relationship. The weekends were the only time they ever really got to spend time with each other, and even then one or both of them would be surrounded by papers. The door clicking open caused her to look up, towards the entrance of Rafael’s brownstone. The ADA gave her a smile as he carried the bags of Chinese takeout towards the kitchen, pushing the door shut with the bottom of his dark shoes. Tossing the never ending stack of essays onto the glass topped coffee table, unfolding her sweatpants covered legs and adding into the now brightly lit kitchen.
“Okay, finish your story?” She watched as he ate part of a wanton, fresh from the box, as he slipped his suit jacket off. They had been speaking on the phone, before he made it to the Chinese restaurant, on his way home from work.

“Turns out, the idiot didn’t even check how many times the paper had been used, or who the original author was. He’s now facing an interdisciplinary meeting.” She chewed a piece of sweet and sour chicken before continuing, “Especially don’t be stupid enough turn in a paper written by the person actually grading your papers.” Dipping another small piece into her sauce, she let it drip slightly, “Luckily, I only have about seven more papers to grade. Then, I’m done with grading until, I think, the end of November, thank God.” His chuckle met her ears, before they were enveloped in a comfortable silence; until the last of the meal was devoured and they were cracking open their fortune cookies. “Do you have work to do tonight?”

Rafael shook his head, dropping his tiny slip of paper onto the table’s surface, “I was thinking a movie, unless you have to finish that grading tonight?”

She gave him a small smile, excitement filling her eyes, “I’ll do it tomorrow or Sunday.” Popping a broken piece of the vanilla cookie into her mouth, “I’ll clean up, if you wanna go set it up?” She saw him open his mouth from the corner of her eye, so she answered the question she assumed he was about to ask. “I’m up for anything.” He nodded, kissing the top of her head as he passed.

After she finished putting the leftovers into his silver refrigerator, making a mental note to go shopping next week, as the shelves had gotten pretty bare, and she could get the stuff for him when she went to restock her own house, she quickly washed the two glasses they had used, just as the music signifying the film’s menu was awaiting on the screen. Joining him on the leather couch, she laughed seeing the title, “Somehow I knew you’d pick Friday Night Lights. You’re set on me not falling asleep on it.”

He gave her a grin, “Maybe fifth time’s the charm.” She gave him a soft, slow kiss before leaning on his shoulder, his arm wrapping around her, as the opening credits began.

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Throwing her shoulder length red hair into an extremely messy ponytail, Annabelle finished the comment she was writing before marking a grade on the top of the cover page and tossing the essay on top of the stack of finished grading. Picking up the last five page paper, she made a note on the yellow legal pad she had swiped from Rafael’s home desk earlier that morning to reduce five points for the lack of name, already frustrated as she had forgotten to finish the grading on Sunday. It was now Monday and she was rushing to get them all completed before they were due to the professor by 3pm that day. The first page of the paper was well written, a lot better than she had come to expect from the freshmen, the second page made her stop. While the first and third paragraphs were in black ink, the second was printed in a dark red, which had her questioning whether or not if it was on purpose.

Annabelle, do you know the story of Icarus? Icarus was warned by Daedalus not to use his wings too high. But Icarus flew too close to the sun anyway and the wax melted. He fell to his death. I’m Daedalus, and I’m warning you not to fly too high. You won’t like the results. Annabelle, since I like you…I feel like we have a connection…I’ll give you something for free. Megan Woods is nothing but a liar. Bryce didn’t rape her. In fact, he only met her in passing on the night of her so called attack. He’s innocent. Oh, but Annabelle, I know who she did sleep with. The question remains though, was she raped? Or is she just another Hudson slut who got in over her head and decided to cry wolf? So, who did she sleep with? I know, and she damn well knows. Maybe you should ask her again, or better yet: drop her, because baby it’s going to blow up and your pretty little wings are going to turn to ash and you’re going to fall, hard.

She dropped the paper, heart pounding loudly in her ears, as she thought over what she had just read, as she picked her iphone up from its’ spot on the desk, pulling up Rafael’s name and typing a message before deleting it and running a hand over her face in frustration. Annabelle’s eye catches the random penny that Dr. Roberts continuously keeps on her desk for good luck each day, her hand slowly reaching out for it. “Heads, I tell him. Tails, I keep my mouth shut.” Lightly flipping it into the air, she automatically knows that she can’t actually keep this to herself as it could be important to the case, closing her eyes as it lands on the desk with a clink and a slight roll before falling and showing tails. “Of course.” Biting her lip, she pulled up Google on her laptop, typing in what she wanted. After typing the number into her cell, she waited for an answer. “Can I speak with Lieutenant Benson, please?” The red head listened to the silence as she was placed on hold for five minutes, before Benson’s voice met her ears. “Hi, This is Annabelle Stevens. I was wondering if I could talk to you about something, and you not tell Raf-,” she cleared her throat, “Mr. Barba about it, until absolutely necessary?” She could hear the apprehension in her voice when the older woman gave the reply, “Thank you. I can be at the station in about thirty minutes, if that’s okay?”

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“Is this the first time?”

Annabelle nodded before pausing and taking a deep breath, “No, I mean a couple of Bryce’s friends said some things about Megan needing to drop it and knowing that I was a witness, but I ended it and we haven’t heard anything since.” She fiddled with the bottom of her jean vest as she spoken, not knowing how this conversation would turn out, telling herself she was an idiot for mentioning the confrontation between the two and the Twisty Three-way twins, thinking it didn’t matter.

“Why didn’t you come to us after that?”

The college student let out a puff of breath as she thought of the answer she wanted to give, “Honestly, I didn’t think it was important. I mean, they’re jocks. They give people crap on a daily basis. I haven’t seen them since. I almost didn’t come in for this, but if there is something Megan is leaving out, ya’ll need to find it before Buchanan does.”

“That’s true,” she held the paper up slightly, “Can I keep this or do I need to make a copy?” Annabelle shrugged, motioning with her hand for the officer to do anything she wanted with the offending pages, before standing up and grabbing her bag as Olivia walked to sit the newly claimed evidence on top of her desk, ready to get out of the station before Rafael decided to make a sudden appearance.

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Annabelle cocked her head to the side as she did one last swipe of her blood red lipstick, before taking the curlers out of her hair, hoping that the large curls came out the way she wanted. After adjusting the black tube top to the exact place she wanted it to be, she affixed the freshly released hair into the position that looked best, before pulling up the camera on her phone and snapping a couple of mirror photos. Attaching her favourite, she sent a text to Rafael, simply stating “wish you were here.” The tube top showed off a sliver of her pale stomach before the rest of her lower body was covered by skin tight, faux leather pants. Walking back into the only other room in the studio apartment, she fell onto the edge of her bed, in order to slip her six inch platform heels on, running her index finger over the fake diamonds that adorned the outer side of the heels. Grabbing her Pink Ladies jacket, she shoved her phone, money, and house keys into the too shallow pockets of her pants, making a mental note to routinely check to make sure that they didn’t get lost throughout the night.

Feeling her phone vibrate in her pocket, Annabelle paused outside of the bar, before pulling it out to read the new message.

Raf: I wish I was there, cariño. You look beautiful.

Annabelle: Gracias, amor. See you tomorrow.

Raf: Not if I see you first.

Smirking to herself, the red head showed her ID to the bouncer, before getting her hand stamped with the black light ink and walking into the gay club known as Hotmale. Her eyes instantly began scanning the building in search of her friends, before locking eyes on the four people doing shots at their own table. “The trouble is here!” She grinned, hugging and receiving cheek kisses from the three guys and the other female in attendance. “If I’d known you were gonna look so hot, mami…” he trailed off looking her up and down.

She laughed, playfully slapping his chest, “Where’s your boyfriend, Eric?” He shrugged, before pulling a five from his pocket and handing it to a nearby waitress who was making her rounds carrying a tray covered in test tube jello shots.

Handing three to the girl, he spoke, “You’re late, and we’ve already done a couple. So, three you get.” They clicked the tubes together and brought them to their mouths, before he stopped her and asked the waitress to take a photo as all five people in the group now had test tubes in their hands. “To friends getting together for traditions, and for Annabelle finally removing her head from the damn books to get her drink on!” The group took their shots, the red head making a face as the strong taste of tequila hit her taste buds.

“You know, it was five years ago tonight that we met?” Annabelle nodded along as Zach began to tell the story to the two additions to the group: Emily and Brendon. “This little shit right here, sat at the bar for an hour, watching. I didn’t know what the fuck she was doing. She had turned her back on the bar and was just looking around. Not even touching her drink.” He paused to pay for everyone to have another shot, restarting once they had all sucked them down, “So I go over there and ask what’s up.”

Eric shook his head, “Nah, this bitch walked up and asked what the hell she was doing and whether or not she was a fruit fly.”

Zach shrugged his shoulders, unapologetically, “I was curious! And she laughed at me. With her cute little southern drawl and said she “ain’t ever been called that before” and that she was waiting on a friend. Then he comes in, and –“

“Threatens to kick his ass, because I thought he was giving my girl issues.”

“The protective asshole thought I was hitting on her.”

Annabelle shook her head, “Nah, he was just afraid something was about to go down and didn’t want anyone to know he had gotten me a fake ID. I didn’t turn 21 until December, and apparently it’s a crime for someone not to go party on Halloween.” Taking a sip of her margarita, she smiled when she caught the eye of a blonde haired man sitting at the bar, “Speaking of, will you take our picture?” She looked between the two men before explaining, “I need to update my wall.” She had a portion of her wall littered with photos of the trio from each Halloween, and she already knew this one would be joined by the one taken of the five of them doing shots. They rarely saw each other, due to their jobs and her class schedule, since the duo had graduated the May before.

Hours later the group was dancing, Annabelle having already discarded her jacket after the first two songs, stopped long enough to shout that she needed a drink before making her way to the bar. As she waited for the water she ordered, she was approached from the same blonde as earlier. “Hey.” She merely replied with a smile and a nod back, before he continued unperturbed, “I’m Jeremy.”

“Anna.”

He nodded towards the dance floor, where Zach and Eric were laughing with each other as they danced to the fast paced song, “One of those guys your boyfriend?”

She looked back towards the dance floor, before giving a small laugh at the moves being moved, “Nah. Just my friends.”

“They together?”

She narrowed her eyes as she sipped from her straw, “No.” She watched his eyes roam other the pair, as if he was plotting something, making her instantly decide to leave the strange man, “See ya.” Without waiting for a reply, he made her way back to the table that Emily and Brendon were sitting at, catching the end of their conversation. “Don’t take that bet. They always hook up on Halloween. Then go back to being just friends on the first. They should just shut up and get married already.” Laughter was her only reply.

Annabelle yawned as the numbers on her phone switched to 1:30am, before grinning as she looked out onto the dance floor to see Robin Hood and a Mobster making out. Emily and Brendon had long ago left for their house, promises of a lunch date between girls in the books for the following week. She had thirty more minutes before the bar closed, and before the trio became solo as was tradition. Draining the last of her fourth margarita, she stood up, momentarily swaying, before making her way to the restroom. Once she had successfully emptied her bladder and had cleaned up the smeared make up, she pulled her phone out, happily taking a few minutes to enjoy the quietness of the room and checking the missed messages. Smiling as she saw the tagged photos and statuses on facebook, she liked them before heading back to skim through her text messages.

Raf: I’ve seen your facebook. I regret not joining you.

Annabelle: You can always come pick me up, if you want? ;)

Raf: On my way, cariño.

Using her fingers to poof her hair up a bit more from its flattened and sweaty state, she now stuck her phone into the back pocket of her skin tight jeans and made her way into the dimly lit hallway, only to run into Batman. “Oops. Sorry.” He lowered his head slightly in acknowledgment before shifting over slightly to let her pass.

“Annabelle.”

She paused, turning back to face the guy, “I’m sorry?” He just looked at her, instead of replying. “Do I know you?” More staring. “Okay, then…” she turned and began to walk away, only to squeak when a hand grabbed her left arm and shoved her roughly against the wall, his large body pressing against hers. “What are you doing?! Get off!” Her breath was coming in short pants, her heart pounding in her ears, beating hard against her chest.

His forearm came to rest roughly against her throat, making her claw against his wrist as his other hand went to the button of her jeans. “You should’ve taken the warning, baby.” She knew that voice. Where did she know that voice from? His fingers brushed against the top of her underwear, making her aware of the fact that he had taken the zipper down, when a sound from the other side of the hallway made his turn his head. Annabelle took the chance and slammed the bottom of her palm into his nose, seeing blood a few moments later. Her relief was short lived when his eyes landed on her again, blazing. He slapped her hard, causing her head to turn to the side from the force and a whimper to escape her throat without her permission. As his hands gripped her shoulders again, she jammed a knee into his groin, causing him to stagger and fall backwards with a groan. She took advantage of the situation and took off through the bar, by passing Zach and Eric, who were still on the dance floor, lost in each other, grabbing her jacket and zipping her jeans as she rushed through the glass door. Out in the open, away from the people, she finally allowed herself to catch her breath, but refusing to break down even though her hand throbbed in pain. She had time for that later.

Rafael’s black range rover pulled up a few minutes later, and she jumped after wiping the sweat from her face. “Thanks,” she whispered as she tossed the pink jacket into the backseat, relishing in the warmth of the car. He didn’t respond as he took in her state, which made her look down at her still unbuttoned jeans, which in turn caused her to close her eyes out of embarrassment. He was out of the car a second later, as she scrambled out after him. “Don’t, Rafael, stop.” She grabbed his uncovered arm and he turned towards her.

“Who did it?” He looked at the hand she had against her chest and shook his head, “Tell me, Annabelle.” Her eyes involuntarily went to the door, knowing that he couldn’t tell her boyfriend. “Get in the car.”

“I stopped him, just please stop.”

His voice was quiet but held an unreleased fury, “get in the car. Lock the doors.”

“Raf,” she begged, “Please, I just want to get out of here. I already knocked him on his butt, please.”

His green eyes looked her over again, before they cut towards the door. “Get in the car. Lock the doors.” She knew there was no changing his mind, only giving a small nod to acknowledge the order before doing as she was told.

Once inside the SUV, she grabbed his phone, finding Olivia’s name and pressing the button. It rang twice before a confused “Barba,” met her ears. She was in panic mode, “Get to Hotmale, Hurry. He’s gonna kill him.”

“What’s going on? Who is this? How did you get Barba’s phone?”

“Just get here, now! Please.” The sound of her tears must have let the lieutenant know that it was serious as she replied that she was on her way and Annabelle was then met with silence. She had been hung up on. Once the tears began, they didn’t stop. She couldn’t stop them, especially when she knew she should go back into the bar and find her hot headed boyfriend, before he found the person who had made him so furious. She didn’t know how long she sat in the car before a knock sounded, making her jump. She unlocked the door when she saw it was just her boyfriend. She looked him over in silence, before determining that he either knew how to hit or the completely normal hand meant that he didn’t find Batman. How screwed up was that? Batman. Freaking Batman. “I called Benson.”

“Why?”

“You’re asking me why?!” She was nearing hysterics, “you went in there mad as hell! I told you I handled it and you went in there like you were about to murder someone. She was the only person I knew could get through your stubborn head.”

“Cariño, baby—“

“Don’t call me baby.” She lowered her voice, when she noticed the sharpness in her tone, “Please. Just don’t call me that.”

“Alright. I’m sorry. Come here.” He wrapped his arms around her as she furiously tried to wipe the black make-up that was running down her cheeks due to her tears. “It’s okay, cariño. I’m so sorry. I should’ve been here. I’m sorry.” He tensed for a second before pulling away and wiping a stray tear from her face, “Liv’s here.” She turned to follow his line of sight, to see the brunette standing with whom she assumed to be another detective. “She needs to take your statement. You okay to talk to her outside or do you want her to get in the backseat?” She didn’t offer him a reply, instead just opening the passenger side door and slipping out into the cool October night. Rafael came around the front of the car, straightening the bottom of his forest green polo over the top of his jeans. “Liv. Carisi.” Annabelle shrunk back when the duo turned to face them, feeling relief when Rafael laced their fingers together. He cocked his head towards his girl slightly, “she needs to make a statement.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5- Inner Thoughts & a Jury’s Verdict

Annabelle didn’t mean to – okay, she meant to – she was freezing Rafael out. After Halloween, she felt smothered and scared, and so many more emotions that she couldn’t even accurately describe. She went her entire life promising her father, promising herself that she would remain a virgin until her wedding night; she was a preacher’s daughter after all. Now she had almost lost her virginity in the back of a night club, because she was too drunk to pay attention to her surroundings. Then there is the fact that, for the first time, she had actually been frightened of her boyfriend. She couldn’t even allow herself to see him, all thanks to that irrational fear. She had found excuses to avoid him for the past week, and she knew her self-inflicted solitude would be ending soon, as Megan’s trial would start in a mere four days, one of which she would have to meet the man who had been texting her daily, all in the name of trial preparations. She didn’t want to do prep, or to even leave her studio loft apartment. She felt disgusting.

The student jumped as her phone rang, breaking the silence she had surrounded herself in, an unfamiliar number flashing across the screen. Hesitating briefly, she hovered over the buttons, before choosing the green one and bringing the phone up to her ear, “Hel-,” she cleared her throat, “Hello?”

There was a beat of silence before a soft voice came through the speaker, “Annabelle? It’s Olivia…Benson.”

Her anxiety went away, no longer thinking the worse of strange call, “Oh. Um, hi?”

“How are you?”

The red head rolled her eyes as she heard mutterings over the line, one voice standing out over the other. Of course, he was there. She ignored the question, choosing to pretend it had never been asked, “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to touch base with you. See how you were doing. Are you nervous about Wednesday? Has your prep gone well?”
Annabelle’s eyes rolled up towards the ceiling in aggravation, “I’m fine. I don’t need any trial prep.” Taking a slow drink of her coffee she continued, “I know to be there at 10am. I know to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” she trailed off thinking blah blah blah, as she overheard another tense conversation. They really need to get better at secrets if they were going to do this often. Draining the last of her cup, she spoke at the same time Olivia did, “I’ve got work to do.”

“Alright. Call me if you need anything, okay, Annabelle?”

“Sure,” she knew almost instantly that the single word sounded fake and completely forced. She heard his voice, clearly, as she hit the end call button. Groaning in frustration, she threw her phone against the wall, before storming up the stairs. Turning the shower on, she roughly yanked the elastic band from her hair, wincing as the tangled strands got caught. Once under the steam, she took a deep breath, the irrational anger leaving her body. Afterwards, while sitting on the bed, towel drying her hair, Annabelle grabbed her bag, digging around until she found the little white cards. Dialing the number, it only took three rings before she could speak, “Hi. Uhm, Olivia Benson gave me your card.”

---------------------xXx------------------------

November thirteenth dawned full of thunder and dark clouds, just waiting to burst. Annabelle felt that it was fitting, due to the hurricane that was brewing, mentally. Getting dressed in her favorite long sleeved forest green dress, pairing her small gold cross with the scooped neckline, before pulling the deep red strands into a loose braid, allowing it to lie over her left shoulder. After slipping her brown flats on, she left the house, knowing she had to stop for coffee, and that if she wasn’t there early, Rafael may actually strangle her, or chug down an entire bottle of aspirin in order to fight the inevitable migraine.

Upon arriving at the courthouse, she quickly found the direction of his office, knowing it would be better to face him alone, and that they had at least fifteen minutes before he would even begin to make his way to the assigned courtroom. Unable to keep the small smile from her face, she watched as he read over a file on his desk, from the open doorway. She was quiet, “hey.”

His head snapped up, surprise flashing in his eyes, followed by anger, although the second emotion went as quickly as it came, before he settled into a neutral facade. “Cariño.” He took the offered coffee cup, looking her up and down, “glad to see you were able to make it on time.”

He was formal, stiff, and she didn’t like it. It wasn’t the way he was supposed to be with her; as if she was one of the criminals he prosecuted. “Rafael.” Her hand briefly made contact with his darker one, before he crossed his arms against his chest. “Raf…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have run.”

“Why did you?”

“Honestly?”

She started to continue, until he scoffed, “No, lie to me.”

Sapphire eyes narrowed, before she caught herself, and shrugged, “I was scared. Of what happened. Of you. Of –“

“Me?” His left eyebrow was slightly raised, eyes slightly squinted.

Tucking a lose strand behind her ear, she stared at the floor, unwilling to meet his cold eyes again. “You were just so mad. And –“

“And you thought,” he stopped at what she exactly thought hit him like a ton of bricks. “Cariño,” he moved around the desk to embrace her, although her arms continued to hang limply by her sides, “you never need to be afraid of me. Lo siento, amor.” She finally, slowly brought her hands up to embrace his sides, feeling the rich material of his vest. “Te amo. I love you so much, angel.”

“I love you, too,” her reply was muffled slightly as her face was against his chest. Feeling his lips press against the top of her head, she pulled away, reaching into her large purse to pull a dark bag out, “I need to do my makeup, really quick.” He nodded, releasing her from his grip, “I wasn’t sure how this conversation would go, so I wanted to wait to do it afterwards.” He lightly kissed her lips, giving an understanding nod; he moved to sit back at his desk, while she made herself comfortable at the table on the other side of the room. She was quick to cover her face in a light powder with a coat of mascara, before painting her lips a soft mauve color. Zipping the bag up once again, she stood, leaving it on the table top, along with her purse, “Okay, that is as good as it’s gonna get today.”

Rafael looked up, “you look beautiful.”

She blushed, looking away, “You always say that.”

His hands softly held onto her hips, fingertips grazing the top swell of her backside, “That’s because you always look stunning to me.”

Bringing her lips to his cheek, she left a lingering kiss, “Let’s go, guapo.”

------------------------xXx---------------------

Annabelle sat on the bench outside of the courtroom, barely able to hear a rumble from inside as the various people spoke, and although it felt like hours, it wasn’t too long before a bailiff was holding a door open, calling out her name. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, thanking the man as she walked past, and made her way to the witness stand. After being sworn in, she kept her face straight as she watched her ADA stand from his seat, button his jacket, and make his way towards her. His questions were short and to the point, her answers mirroring his style. When John Buchanan stood up, smarmy smirk on his face, she instantly felt as if she should have manned up and joined her boyfriend for actual prep. She kept her eyes on him, as he made her way towards her position. “Good morning, Annabelle. It is okay with I call you that?”

She nodded her head, “That’s fine.”

“Annabelle, when did you first meet Miss Woods?”

“She’s a student in one of the classes that I am a T.A. in this semester.”

“T.A. Teacher’s assistant, correct?” With her affirming nod, he continued, “When was the first time, she spoke with you? Have you been friends all semester?”

“No? She introduced herself a couple of months ago.”

“And she immediately accused my client of rape, isn’t that correct?”

“No. As I said earlier, she spoke to me after a class, and we went to get coffee, where she told me that she was attacked. I went with her to the police station. She never told me a name.”

The robust man’s eyes lit up after that last sentence, “Can you tell the jury the exact nature of your relationship with Mr. Barba?”

Rafael was quick to stand up, “Objection! Irrelevant.”

Buchanan looked at the judge, “it is highly relevant, as it leads to how she came across the knowledge of the identity of Miss Woods’s alleged rapist.”

The judge looked thoughtful for a few brief moments, before nodding, “I’ll allow. To an extent; you may answer the question Miss Stevens.” The girl bit the left side of her lip, before giving the confirmation of their relationship.

“And you would do anything for you boyfriend, correct?”

“No. This is a little more serious than me skipping a class or two for us to have a lunch date. I have more respect for him, and more respect for the justice system than to lie on the stand, in order to make a rapist look worse than he already does.”

Her reply made him stop for a moment, before his annoying grin was back, “You respect him so much that that you would not lie for him, but you will lie to him?”

“Objection!”

“Sustained. Watch yourself, counselor.”

“Annabelle did you or did you not receive messages from an anonymous source that Miss Woods was, in fact, lying about my client and her alleged attack?

“Yes, but-“

“And did you, in fact, hide those messages from Mr. Barba, as a way of preventing any doubt onto this case?”

“What? Of course no—“

“And were you not, in fact, attacked yourself by the same anonymous person who told you that my client as innocent?”

She sat there for a moment, allowing a silence to envelope the courtroom, “Are you actually going to allow me to answer these questions or keep interrupting me every time I try?” She had to stop herself from smirking when a snort was heard from the gallery. When Buchanan didn’t say anything, she continued, “First off, yes, I did receive ONE message from a so-called anonymous source. Second off, the instant I realized it could pertain to this case, I took it to the police station, where they kept it as evidence. Not once, did I hide the fact that a message was received, although I did request that the threat against me was kept from the ADA, as I know for a fact that he would have worried about my safety. As for my attack, I don’t know who it was, nor does it pertain to this case, at all, as I have not once had any contact with your client, Mr. Buchanan.”

The man’s eyes narrowed in anger, before he almost spat, “nothing further” and slunk his way back over to his desk. Annabelle glanced at Rafael, whose fist was clenched around the pen he had been taking notes with, before she made her way out of the room once she was dismissed and a short recess was called for lunch, as it was now nearing noon in New York.

Annabelle furiously stalked into an empty conference room, the moment she knew she was clear of the judge and the jury, knowing that Rafael would be right behind her. She sat in one of the first chairs she came across and put her face in her hands. “That could’ve went better.”

“Better? That was a disaster, Annabelle! Why would you hide that from me?” He turned towards the two detectives that had followed him into the room, “Why would the two of you keep this from the evidence?” He waved them off when Olivia started to speak, “I don’t even want to hear it right now. Find me something to salvage this case.” He turned and walked out of the room without another word.

“You’d think that I would be used to his blow ups by now.”

Annabelle just scoffed as she looked at Carisi, “I should’ve told him from the beginning. He’s right. It’ll all by my fault if this tanks now. I’m an idiot.” Olivia placed her hand on the distraught girl’s shoulder, only to have it come off when she stood, “I think I’m gonna just go home.” She left the room and was almost out of the courthouse, when she remembered that she left her purse in Rafael’s office, so it wouldn’t get in her way. Seeing Carmen at her desk, she stopped, “I left my bag in there.” The other woman gave her a smile and motioned for her to go ahead towards the barely cracked door. She stopped short when she noticed that the office wasn’t actually empty. “Oh.”

“What are you doing here?”

Diverting her eyes she walked towards her bag, “Just getting this. I’m going home. Sorry.”

As she passed, he caught her hand, linking their fingers together, “Cariño, I’m sorry, it’s just –“

“Stressful, I know.” Squeezing his hand, she gave him a slight smile, “I understand, and I should’ve told you. I just didn’t want you to worry, and then when Batman happened, I figured Olivia would tell you, so I just left it alone. I was in solitude, and I just didn’t want you to think differently, and –“his lips met her tinted ones in an attempt to cut the ramblings off. Quickly going back together each time she tried to speak again.

“Quit talking.” She smiled before wrapping her arms around his neck, legs hitting the table when he moved the pair backwards. Her body only stopped momentarily before she was lifted and sat atop the wooden surface, his hands tightening on her hips at different intervals, as her fingers shifted through his gelled hair. The pair continued their actions, until a knock at the door caused him to fly away. Straightening his tie, he spoke, “Come in,” the huskiness in his voice causing her to squeeze her thighs together, in hopes of creating some sort of friction, as she saw the door open to reveal Rollins and Carisi. As the trio began talking to each other, Annabelle slid off the table, in order to sit at the desk and check her emails on Rafael’s computer, both being ignored and ignoring the conversation around her, only looking up when Rafael touched her arm. “You staying in here, or you coming in for the rest?”

She made a face, “I’ll just stay here. I’ve got to run down to the Apple store, anyway.” On his questioning look, she continued, “I kinda maybe broke my phone a couple of days ago.” He nodded and kissed her forehead, ignoring the looks the two detectives gave each other. “I’ll be here when you get back. Good luck.”

Annabelle was playing around on her new iphone, shoes off and lying down on the couch, when the door to Rafael’s office opened, she tilted her head back to see the Cuban walk in, his mouth in a tight line. Upon the look she gave him, he shook his head, “Not guilty.”

“Oh, honey,” she quickly got up, wrapping her arms about his tensed shoulders.

“It was a long shot. No DNA. No actual witnesses. And then –“

“And then my screw up.”

“No,” his voice was sharp, “nothing was your fault, okay?” She gave him a sad smile and a nod, causing him to kiss her head quickly, before staying in the same position, smelling the scent of her shampoo. “How about we go to an early dinner? Then we can catch a show?”

She gave a slow, teasing kiss to his lips, before pulling away with a smile, “sounds perfect.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 – The Black Box

Annabelle dug the house keys out of the pocket of her jeans, as she pulled the rolling suitcase to a stop outside of her red painted door. Breathing a sigh of relief, she plopped down onto her soft couch, glad to be away from planes and away from people. Taking the backwards hat off, she shook her hair out slightly, before slipping the leather jacket off her shoulders and lying back. She had spent the day flying, as she spent her Thanksgiving break at home, in Arkansas with her family. She loved those people dearly, but she could only handle so much of their presence, especially if they started drinking. Southerners go hard, and most of the time, they don’t even mean to do so. Her nearly air silent phone rang, breaking the silence that she was finding oddly comfortable. Tugging the flat electronic out of her loose jeans, she answered without looking at the caller id. “What?”

“Just calling to see if you made it back safely?”

A small, content smile graced her lips as she heard the voice, “I literally just got home. I was gonna text you soon.”

“I saw your plane photo.”

“You don’t even have an instagram.”

“Carisi does. He follows you.” That caused her to raise an eyebrow to herself. “You looked cute.”

“You try spending almost six hours on a plane. Man, I love my family, but sometimes I’m more than happy to get away from them and back home.”

“So, you don’t feel like going to dinner?”

“I didn’t say that.” Looking at the clock – 5:45- she nodded to herself, after calculating the time it would take for her to get the airport smell off of her body, “Give me an hour to shower and change. Meet you at Forlini’s around 7?”

“I’ll see you then, cariño.” She quickly hung up, before pushing herself up from the almost too comfortable position she was in and made her way up the stairs to her shower, taking her clothes off as she went, before rolling everything together into a ball and tossing it into her hamper. Turning the water on, she clipped her hair up, to keep it from getting wet, knowing that it would take more than a mere hour to dry the now almost waist length tresses. Once deeming herself clean, she wrapped herself in a towel and did a quick coat of her usual makeup – powder, mascara, and lipstick. Tonights would be a lilac color, to match the purple skinny jeans she had decided on. Their style was one of the things that always made her giggle to herself, while Rafael chose almost $2,000 suits for just about every occasion, his style often resulting in his sexuality being questioned; Annabelle would choose to base her outfits on things she liked – most often Disney characters, something she has done since she was a child, although she had never been given the opportunity to visit the happiest place on earth. Tonight, she chose to do a twist on Maleficent, pairing the purple jeans with a long sleeved, round necked shirt, and black wedge heels that laced up on the sides. Her family wasn’t well off, when she was growing up, but they weren’t exactly poor either. She grew up in the same two story house that her parents lived in now, with her four siblings – all of which grew up to do great things. Married by 30, 2.5 children, and a white picket fence storybook life – the whole shebang. That wasn’t anything we really ever wanted in life, she wanted happiness in her career, which is why she chose English as compared to the three doctors and one lawyer that consisted of her siblings’ jobs. She wanted happiness in love, not rushing into marriage or hinting at the fact she wanted children, something she still wasn’t sure of herself. Heck, she was pretty sure if Rafael ever did propose, she’d just ask to go down to city hall. She didn’t need the $500,000 wedding that her oldest sister wanted and demanded a couple
of years ago, especially since Annabelle was forced into a hideous tiger orange colored dress, that clashed massively with her hair, as one of the bridesmaids.

Annabelle walked down the street, tapping away on her phone, as a few friends and family members had commented on the photo she had posted to instagram, before her flight had taken off, making a mental note to edit and add the photos she had taken with her nieces and nephews to her facebook page, once she got home. Looking up, she locked the phone before opening the door to Forlini’s, seeing Rafael before she even got fully into the door. The fact that he was wearing a pair of dark wash jeans and polo, make her smile, as it was something she rarely saw him dressed in. He stood up, placing a light kiss on her lips, gripping her in a hug, while she wrapped her arms around him, not wanting to let go as she breathed in the expensive cologne he often wore. “I missed you,” her words were muffled as she spoke against his shoulder, before she finally pulled away to give him another kiss and sitting down in the booth across from the Cuban.

“I missed you, too, cariño.” He squeezed her hand, on top of the table, before ordering another scotch from the waiter when he stopped at their table, Annabelle ordering a glass of water. “How was your trip?”

Annabelle’s nose wrinkled as she thought of the week she spent at home, “It was normal. Sisters asking about when I’m getting married, telling me I’m getting old; brothers telling me I’m too young to be settling down; parents worried about if I’m living in sin.” He opened his mouth, before she continued, looking up from the menu she had been studying, “and you wondered why I’ve never taken you with me.” The both folded the menus up, as Chad, the waiter returned with their drinks, and pulling his notepad out to take their dinner orders. Rafael ordered his usual Invollini di gamberi, which Annabelle knew without looking was shrimp stuffed with prosciutto, cheese, and mushrooms, before being sautéed in a white wine sauce; giving her a confused look when she ordered a mere chef’s salad with grilled chicken. Already knowing the question in his mind, she explained, “All we ate all week was fried and completely unhealthy foods. I needed something semi-healthy. I’m getting fat.”

“You are not.”

“Apparently I’ve gained weight since my mother last saw me,” she rolled her eyes, taking a sip of her water, refusing to admit out loud how the comments from her family actually made her feel.

“It’s probably a good thing I’ve never went with you. I wouldn’t be able to hold my tongue if they said those things in front of me.”

“Are you ever able to hold your tongue?”

He sent her a playful glare, “besides the useless crap they spewed, anything else happen while you were there? Break any laws? Get arrested?”

“Who do you think I am? Belle Starr? Although I did go four wheeling with Jake. I have pictures, after we got back, thanks to Louise, who decided us being covered in mud was the greatest thing she had ever seen in her life.”

“Jake’s the oldest, right?”

She nodded, pulling her phone loose from the pocket, “Yeah, he’s 37.” Opening her phone up, she pulled the massive amount of photos up from the week, and handing the phone over, knowing he’d ask if he wanted the story behind any of them. She thought about her family, when she saw the group photo of all the children reflected in the glass of scotch. Jake was 37, the first doctor in the family. Jessica, or Jessie as she preferred, was 35, another doctor. Austin was 33, the one and only lawyer to develop from the group. Natalie and Nichole were both 31 and both doctors, although Natalie chose dentistry and Nichole chose optometry. Then there was Annabelle, as her birthday was coming up, the only child with a five year age gap. She was the accident, which most of her family liked to remind her of everything she visited, except for Jake and her dad. Seeing the photo of the two girls with the puppy filter was snapchat, she grinned, “That’s Louise. She just turned five yesterday. That was at her party.” As he finished scrolling through the pictures, pausing at a couple that featured just her; she took the opportunity to study him. He had a bit of a 5 o-clock shadow going out, which she loved, as the little hints of stubble made him look just a bit sexier than usual. Biting her lip, she allowed her mind to wonder into whatever fantasy it could dream up, while looking at the man she had come to love during their 10 month relationship. She had gotten so deeply engrossed in her thoughts that she actually jumped when Chad placed their plates in front of them, causing Rafael to put the phone into the woman’s gold painted nails.

The couple ate in relative silence, allowing the comfortable sounds from the restaurant to play as background noise, welcoming them into a bubble of normalcy that they had become accustom to throughout their relationship. Once finished, Rafael paid their bill, and offered his elbow as the duo walked down the street, towards central park. Leaning her head on his shoulder, she smiled softly to herself, all other emotions that were created at home being completely replaced with pure love and contentment with her life.

-------------------xXx-----------------

Weeks had passed and Annabelle was close to finishing the fall semester of her junior year, only to find out good news during a meeting with her advisor earlier that day, news so good that instead of going to the library, as she had planned on doing all day, she took a detour to get lunch and decided to surprise Rafael. Seeing Carmen not at her desk, she bypassed it without slowing down and shook her head in pity when she noticed the ADA popping a couple aspirin into his mouth. “You know, you’re supposed to eat with those.” She couldn’t help the smirk that popped onto her clear gloss colored lips when he looked up sharply in surprise. “Howdy,” she raised the bags up slightly, “I got you a steak and mushroom hero.”

“You stopped at Tony Dragon’s?” She nodded, as if she would dare stop anywhere else when she could get something from her favorite food truck in the area. He walked over to the mini fridge that he kept his coffee pot sat atop, grabbing two bottles of waters. “What did you get?” He watched as the baseball cap beauty pulled out the two containers, “Your usual?” She nodded, making him grin when the chicken and mushroom sandwich came into view, at her predictability. “Not that I’m complaining, but what are you doing here?” He took the red and white paper from his sandwich, as she did the same, “I thought you were going to the library to work on a final?”

She took a bite and chewed before answering, giving a slight moan of delight, “I had good news, and I couldn’t wait to tell you.” She took a drink of her water, allowing him to finish chewing, “I was talking to my advisor today to decide on my schedule for next semester, and she was looking at my stuff. Turns out…I’m eligible to graduate at the end of May, instead of graduating next December.”

Her grin grew as his lips turned up into a smile, a squeak of surprise came from her mouth when he quickly stood up and pulled her into his arms, giving her a sound kiss. “I am so proud of you, cariño.” They kissed for a few more minutes, before they reluctantly pulled away and began eating once more. “What classes are you taking?”

“I have Capstone, which is basically nothing but working on a twenty page paper, American Literature, and then I’m doing a double internship with Roberts, again. It’ll give me twelve hours total.” He nodded along as she spoke, showing that he was paying attention to the conversation, before they ate a few more bites in silence. “How has your day been?”

His eyes seem to roll automatically, “I’m just glad I can go home in a couple of hours. It’s just some people…” he trailed off, opting to take another bite of his sandwich instead.

Annabelle chose to not question it anymore, remembering the aspirin he had been taking when she had first walked in, almost forty-five minutes ago. Once they finished their lunches, they relocated to the couch, where she played on her phone, answering emails and catching up on the social media profiles she followed, curled up against his side, while he rested a legal pad against the knee crossed upon his other leg, arm around her shoulders. They stayed in the same positions, until a knock interrupted them, almost two hours later, before the door opened, announcing the presence of the two detectives. Annabelle stuffed her phone into the pocket of her stone washed blue jeans, before kissing Rafael’s cheek and standing up, “Guess that’s my cue. See you later.” She smiled at both Olivia and Rollins, once she shouldered her bag and made her way past the two women, briefly brushing her hand against her boyfriends.

--------------------xXx-------------------

December 15th flashed when she lit up the screen to her phone, searching for the time and whether or not it was even close to her scheduled alarm clock. 5:43am – she had almost 45 minutes before she was supposed to get up, but knowing she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, she pulled her phone from the charger and checked the games and social media accounts for updates, in order to kill time until she could force herself to get out of the bed. Typing out a quick tweet to her small list of 200 followers, simply reading “26” she relocked the phone after canceling the alarm and tossed the blankets off of her legs, making her way to the shower.

Annabelle slipped on an off the shoulder, knee length grey dress, pairing it with an oversized green cardigan and high heeled shoes in the same color. Leaving her hair curly, she added emerald eye shadow to her usual makeup routine, before putting on a coat of burgundy lipstick, matte –as always. Grabbing her black messenger bag, she walked out of the door, her breakfast destination in mind. Twenty minutes later, she was walking into Rustic Table, earlier than Rafael for once, and getting set up at a table for two. Making the most of the time alone, she began replying to the numerous birthday texts and messages from her family. Fifteen minutes later, Rafael rushed into the vintage inspired diner, only he wasn’t alone. Mouthing a quick “sorry” as he was walking up, he kissed a pale cheek, producing a purple tulip. “Forever love.” She smiled at the meaning behind the flower, loving how whenever he gave her a flower, he would tell her the secret meaning behind their existence. “I brought a guest.” The look that occupied the statement made it obvious that he had no choice but to bring said guest, but none the less, Annabelle gave a friendly smile towards Olivia Benson.

“Happy birthday,” the greeting was warm and a small bag was in her left hand, which after releasing Annabelle from a hug, she gave it to the red head. “It’s not much, but I wanted to give you something.”

“Thank you.” She was stopped from opening the parcel, as the waitress came up to take their food and drink orders. Once the trio was alone, she opened the bag and removed the matching pink paper to reveal a circular necklace that said “Scripturient: (adj.) having a consuming passion to write,” as well as two candles, one entitled “writer’s block” and the other entitled “old books.” Smiling, she looked back up at the detective, “these are great. Thank you, so much.” The group made small talk, while they waited for the food to arrive, nothing too serious – something which Annabelle as grateful for, although she did occasionally catch Olivia looking at her or Rafael with a knowing look, which after the first couple of times brought confusion to the forefront of her mind.

After breakfast, the trio split up, Olivia standing away from the couple as they said their goodbyes. “The squad wants to have a party for you.” The face she made in response, caused him to give her a small, almost unnoticeable, smile, “I know. I told them you were cooking dinner for the two of us, but –“

“No, it’s okay. I was just planning on tacos. Tell them to be there about 7. You, on the other hand, can come over whenever you want.”

Rafael’s eyes lightened up, before he gave her a deep kiss, something that momentarily shocked her, as neither one of the two were ever really happy with expressions of PDA, unless the PDA consisted of simple touches or light kisses. “You’re perfect. I’ll bring dessert.” She nodded in response. “Have a good day in class.” Returning the hug she gave him, he murmured in her ear, “You look beautiful, cariño.”

Giving him a short kiss, “Gracias, Raf. I’ll see you tonight.” Leaning around him, she spoke to Olivia, “Is there anything Noah isn’t able to eat, taco wise?” Getting a negative response, she bid them both goodbye before turning to make her way towards the subway station, in order to attend Dr. Roberts class – the only thing she had to do today.

Once she arrived home at the end of the day, she slipped her shoes off at the door before tossing her cardigan onto the back of the couch, before pulling her hair up to begin cooking for the now party of seven. Around 5:30, knocks sounded at the door, making her shut the music off from her iphone dock and do a couple short jogs to the door, opening it to reveal the tie loosened man, holding a box, which she assumed contained the dessert for the evening, “I’m just going to take a quick shower, alright?”

Annabelle nodded, “your jeans and shirts are in the closet.” As he passed by her again, once he gently put the white box on to the counter top, she grabbed his wrist, “It’s my birthday,” he gave an amused look when her grin became apparent as she moved closer, to grab the lapels of his jacket, “That means…I can kiss you all I want.” Less than a second later his lips were latched onto hers as if he was drinking water for the first time, his hands clutching at her hips. They continued, him pressing her against the counter, until the oven’s timer went off, forcing them to separate and to go their different ways. “Stay with me tonight.” At her words, he froze in his steps, half way across the living room, before looking back, only to be met with a shy yet enthusiastic smile. Giving her another smile, he nodded his head before heading towards the bedroom once more. Once free from his tantalizing gaze, she leaned against the counter to catch her breath, before remembering that she needed to check the food.

After making sure nothing was burning, she walked up the stairs, picking up the pieces to the suit, knowing that she’d drop them off at the dry cleaners first thing Monday morning. Feeling a lump in one of the pockets, she pulled it out, discovering a small black box. Heart rate quickening, she debated on whether or not to peek inside. Just as she started to open it, a loud knocking sounded from downstairs, causing her to fumble as she tried not to drop it, at risk of him knowing what she had found. Roughly shoving it back to where she found it, she dropped the clothing back onto floor, near the door and rushed down the stairs in order to welcome the detectives, all along thinking about the mysterious black box.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 – Jewelry & Babies

Annabelle raised an eyebrow at taco Carisi had concocted, the height alone made her question whether or not he’d be able to fit it inside his mouth. When she realized that it wouldn’t just be her and Rafael, earlier that day, she stopped at the store to get the ingredients to make not only the regular tacos, but also fish, chicken, and Portobello mushroom tacos. She had unintentionally made enough for twenty people, instead of the eight that were scheduled to be there; it turned out to be a good thing as Carisi had created a taco with a mixture of each meat, along with all the vegetables. Looking away with a disbelieving grin, as the taco was forced into his mouth, the insides threatening to squeeze out as the pressure was applied by his teeth; she picked up a spoonful of refried beans and brought it to Noah’s mouth. The little boy had instantly attached himself to her hip when Olivia arrived, much to Annabelle’s enjoyment, even going as far as to refuse to eat anything his adoptive mother tried to feed him, until Annabelle took over the feeding duties of the toddler, giving him tiny bites of chicken and beans in between sips of apple juice, easily able to juggle her own meal.

Giving a smile of gratitude to her boyfriend as he rejoined the table, placing a refilled glass of tea next to the plate, where her two tacos sat, one half eaten, she gave a discreet look towards his jean pockets, wondering if he still had the box on his body. An engagement ring had to be inside, what else would fit in that size of a box? She was growing nervous, as she waited to see when he would do it, if he would do it tonight, or wait until they were alone? She jumped when his hand gently squeezed her bare knee, as she finished the last bite of her chicken and rice taco. Rafael began clearing the table off, with Olivia’s help, as the group finished their food and started the small talk up again, allowing Annabelle to convince Noah to eat the last four bites of his cooled off dinner, making a funny face at the boy when she received a grin full of mostly chewed chicken.

Accepting the damp cloth was Rollins, she cleaned Noah’s hands and face off quickly, turning in surprise when the flickering of flames came into her peripheral vision. A two layer cake covered in a mint green ombre butter cream frosting, the darkest color at the bottom, the top of the circular cake held fondant flowers and two candles, reading off Annabelle’s age. As the group sang the birthday song, Noah babbling at his own rhythm, she raised her eyes to lock onto Rafael’s as she made a wish and blew out the candles, as the tell-tale click of a photo being snapped was barely audible to the woman’s ears.

It was after nine by the time everyone had left and almost eleven once Annabelle finished cleaning up the kitchen, with Rafael’s help. The leftovers were stashed in plastic containers in her fridge, and the dishes were drying in the dishwasher. Currently, the couple was on the couch, Annabelle on her back, Rafael hovering over her body, his hand ghosting up her thigh, as they kissed. She took a gasping breath when their lips came apart and his latched onto her neck, causing her to squirm, in hopes of creating the friction that she was in dire need of, pressing her hips upwards and against his jean covered erection. They continued the same way for a few more minutes, before he pushed himself away with a regretful groan, “Okay, we need to stop.” At the look on her face, he kissed the inside of her wrist, “You’re gonna be the death of me, cariño.” Her giggle was musical, as he led her towards the bedroom, “Let’s get you some sleep.” She pouted, upon realizing that her fun was over and that they were in fact heading to sleep, something she had decided that she didn’t want to do. She wanted him, terribly; but he seemed to be content with keeping her virtue intact. She didn’t argue, knowing that they did have to get up early tomorrow morning, as she was joining Rafael and Lucia for their traditional Saturday breakfast, and that thought alone scaring the sexual need out of her body. Meeting the parents for the first time was scary enough, without adding the fact that there was a ten year age gap between the couple. Annabelle changed into a pair or short green and purple shorts and a white tank top stating ‘I’m really a mermaid’, a gift from her niece and nephew, while inside the bathroom, before taking her daily makeup off and brushing her teeth. Taking a deep breath, she flipped the light off to join the Cuban, who had slipped into a pair of sweatpants and an obviously worn Harvard t-shirt, inside her large bed. “I forgot to give you this earlier.”

She opened her eyes, seeing a large bag sitting on top of the ADA’s lap, before propping up, her back against the cool wood of headboard, “You didn’t have to get me anything.” Her statement was answered with a mere shrug of the shoulders and a small smile.

She pulled a pair of skinny jeans out of the bag, followed by a hunter green long sleeved top, a red plaid scarf falling out of the folded top. Finally a pair of knee high, red tinted leather boots were revealed, along with a brown leather satchel, both of which caused her to look at the older man with eyes widened in surprise. “Liv helped a bit.” After allowing her to look at the gifts a bit more, he took the package back once she had refolded everything, “I wanted to give you something new to wear tomorrow, so you wouldn’t be worrying about trying to impress mami.” Pulling him into a kiss, she mumbled that he was perfect, against those shapely lips, attempting to show her gratitude for the thoughtful outfit, only to freeze momentarily when her eyes caught sight of the black box as she pulled away. “Now, this…this I did on my own.” She bit her lip in hopes of containing her excitement, feeling the anticipation of seeing the ring lifting her up higher than she thought was possible, only to deflate instantly when the insides were revealed, to show a set of dangling teardrop shaped diamond earrings. “What do you think?”

Annabelle did a good job of hiding the inner disappointment she felt, “They’re beautiful, Raf.” They truly were, and she felt extremely special to be given them, while she was disappointed in what they were not, she was beyond impressed at his ability to pick a pair of earrings that she would never want to take off. “Thank you so much.” She looked at them a bit longer, before gently closing the top back down and kissing him, starting another rather heated make out session between the two.

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At 8:30 the next morning, Annabelle was taming her usually too curly hair into soft, large curls that she paired with a coat of mascara and a light brown lipstick named Nude Coffee, standing in a Mulan styled short, silk robe, as Rafael walked into the brightly lit room, lightly scratching his stomach. Throwing him a bright smile, she flipped the water on to the shower as she bypassed him, gaining a kiss to the cheek in appreciation. Taking her time, she dressed in the outfit Rafael had surprised her with the night before, pairing it with a large gold watch just as the door reopened, allowing steam to billow out, and highlighting the fact that he was wearing only a pair of light wash jeans. Watching him from the corner of her eye, she pretended to be completely focused on attaching the watch to her wrist as she spoke, “Ya know, we could call your mom and tell her we can’t come.” Knowing he was about to question her random statement, she turned around to give him her full focus, “and I could ravish you all morning, instead.”

He coughed back a surprised chuckle at her bluntness, before running the previously discarded towel over the short strands of his hair, “How about we got to brunch, and then I’ll ravish you when we have to the time for me to keep you in the bed for hours, deal?” Her mouth fell open in shock at his words, allowing him the opportunity to walk out of the room, smirk firmly planted on his face as he made his way down the stairs to get them both a cup of coffee, buttoning his shirt as he went on his merry way.

“Damn,” shuddering at the mental image he conjured in her brain, she slipped the posts of the new earrings into her ears, halfway wondering they would be too much, especially for meeting his mother for the first time; after all the woman raised him and she was pretty sure that Lucia was still the most important woman in his life, or at least on the same level of importance and influence as his abuelita.

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“Oh no.”

The sentence was said so quietly that she almost missed it; quickly turning her head in the direction Rafael was looking, only to see two women instead of one. “Is that—“

“Yes. She brought abuelita.”

Feeling he was about to apologize, she brushed her lips against the corner of his mouth, before rubbing the small colored mark that her lipstick left, “It’s fine. I want to meet the women in your life.” Grasping his hand, tightly, she allowed him to lead her into the restaurant known as The Garden, the place where the Barba family had their breakfast dates on a weekly basis. Once at the table, they both slipped their coats off, neither catching the raised eyebrow Lucia threw the man when the light reflected from Annabelle turning her head. Afterwards, Rafael stepped away from their chairs in order to kiss both of the older women on the cheeks in greeting.

Catching Rafael telling his abuelita that he was still not a judge brought a fond smile to Annabelle’s lips, knowing with just that one sentence that she was extremely proud of her grandson. Although she was given a warm reception from the eldest woman, instantly being told to call her ‘abuelita’ as well, the introduction accompanying Lucia was a bit frostier than she expected, causing the nerves she had gotten rid of earlier to come running back full force. Ordering a strawberry-banana smoothie and nutella stuffed French toast, she bit her lip to stop the smile from forming as Rafael ordered a frittata, knowing that even though he was ordering light due to the fattening dinner from the night before, he would still eat part of her meal. The other two guests completed their orders before silence enveloped the white table once more, only to be broken by abuelita questioning what Annabelle did for a living, although by the look on Lucia’s face at the question, the youngest woman could infer that they both already knew, but answered the question anyway.

“And just how did an English major manage to get in contact with an ADA?” The accusatory tone made Annabelle’s eyes widen for less than a second before she schooled her features, while Rafael sent a chastised ‘mami’ across the table, earning an innocent look in return.

“Starbucks. He was on campus for a case, and we ran into each other. Literally.” Smiling as his hand softly squeezed hers, she continued, “Somehow I ended up the only one covered in coffee.”

“Cute,” silence came back once more before Lucia asked the question that caused both Rafael and Annabelle to choke slightly on their drinks, “My hijo worked a case where a woman made adult videos to pay for school. How do you pay for it, again?”

“Definitely not like that,” giving herself a moment to wrap her mind about what was just said, she continued, “I have scholarships and I took a couple of years off to work and to save money. My parents taught me the value of a dollar.” The simple hmm was the only reply given, before Lucia excused herself to go into the restroom; abuelita followed less than ten seconds later.

“Cariño. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. Lo siento.”

Giving a small, sad smile she silently offered him a drink of the smoothie, which he took, giving her the chance to decide how to reply best, after all she knew that the hostility wasn’t simply established from dislike of her character. “She’s just being protective. She loves you.”

“And I love you. I will not allow her to imply that –“

“What? Imply that I’m a hoe?” At the look she received, her comical expression was instantly replaced by a more serious one, “Babe, you know that isn’t true and I know that it isn’t true. She’s just trying to figure out if I’m good enough for her only son, or not.” Turning away as her phone chirped with a text message, she slipped it from the small pocket on the front of her bag, “I know I’m not good enough for you. She doesn’t have to tell me that.”

Drawing her towards him with a finger to her chin, he placed a light kiss to the fading color on her lips, “You are good enough.” Any reply she would have given was halted as the waitress returned carrying four plates, “Your brother sent a picture of Louise eating the pancakes she made herself.”

Quickly saving the photo to her camera roll, she took a quick snap of her breakfast before sending it away to Arkansas, slipping the phone back where it belonged, just as they were rejoined. “You’re one of those food bloggers, aren’t you?”

Slipping the bag back onto the back of her chair, Annabelle shook her head, “My five year old niece made pancakes this morning. I was just sending her a picture of what I’m eating.”

“You have a niece?”

Thankful for the welcoming subject, she picked up her fork as the table began their meals, “Actually, I have three nieces, four nephews, and one on the way. My brother may actually have a stroke if they have a third girl though.” Allowing herself a moment to chew the small piece she had put in her mouth, she brought up Louise once more, “he already says that Louise will have him in a nursing home before he even hits forty.”

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It wasn’t until they had separated for the night that Rafael brought up the changing attitudes of his mother, through text messages.

Raf: She liked you.

Annabelle: Yeah, she liked me just as much as I like having to visit the dentist.

That reply warranted an actual phone call, in which he began speaking before she even said her hellos, “Seriously, cariño. She told me to keep you around.” He paused, as if debating on including the next sentence or not, “She also said with that many ninos around, you’ll give me lots of babies.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 – Jingle Bell Rock

Annabelle turned her head, making the long braid swing off her shoulder, when a chuckle sounded from behind her, to see Rafael leaning against the door frame in jeans and polo, his tan over coat most likely hung up at the door. “I thought you were kidding about a Disney tree.”

After securing the Tinkerbell star to the very top of the tree, she hopped down from the ladder with a teasing smile, “You should know by now, that I never joke about Disney.”

Planting a silent kiss on his lips, she gave a small giggle, “Hi.”

Replying with a grin that she had come to know was only given to her, he copied her actions before staring at the decorations surrounding the apartment, and “Maybe I should’ve had to decorate my place.” Annabelle had been working all morning and it showed, as it appeared that every inch of her apartment had been transformed into some type of Disney inspired winter wonderland. She had lights draped around the walls, tinsel hanging throughout the rooms, mistletoe above every doorway, and tons of figurines just sitting around in places that she had deemed perfect. “You do realize that Christmas is in seven days, right?”

She narrowed her eyes at his face, although she couldn’t keep the smile from flickering across her unpainted lips, “I know,” turning away to adjust where an ornament was hanging she continued, “I usually have everything up on the first, but I’ve been a little busy. And besides,” she pointed a finger at him in accusation, “You don’t even have a tree at your place.”

He shrugged, popping a piece of a chocolate chip cookie into his mouth, “I’ve never decorated.”

“Of course not,” she leaned across him, her breasts slightly grazing his arm, “Because you don’t know how to have fun,” before taking a big bite of her freshly baked cookie to punctuate the sentence.

“Really? Then, I guess you don’t want to go out tonight.” He pulled two thin strips of paper from his pocket, allowing her to see that they were tickets to something, but not be able to get a close enough look to see what they were for. Knowing her interest was peaked, he turned away to get himself something to drink.

He made it just a few steps before the weight was applied to his arm, as she tried to grab the tickets. Laughing at her struggle, he easily kept them out of reach, “Okay, okay. You’re fun. You’re fun.” With his special grin, he lowered his arm where she was quick to grasp the papers in case he decided to change his mind. “The Nutcracker? We’re going to see the Nutcracker?” She squealed, throwing her around about his neck, planting a deep kiss to his lips, tasting the chocolate still lingering on his tongue.

Hours later the couple was awaiting a taxi, Annabelle’s eyes completely lighting up as she spoke rapidly about the show they had just come from. The woman wore a maroon chiffon skirt with a sparkly gold, long sleeved top tucked in, pairing the two pieces with gold sparkly heels and a matte lipstick in the same shape as her skirt. Keeping her hair in a simple half up do, with the rest of the strands falling in their natural curls; she fit the part as she stood next to Rafael in his sleek black suit and deep maroon shirt. He had forgone the tie tonight, choosing to leave the top couple of buttons undone, allowing her to get a slight glimpse of his bare chest. The lawyer watched her with a fondness in his eyes as she gushed over the magic of the night and how happy she was that she was able to experience it. “I’m glad you liked it, cariño.” She opened her mouth to thank him once again, before waiting as he kept speaking, “Want are you plans for the rest of the week? I have a few other nights planned for us. I just want to make sure they won’t interfere with anything you have set up.”

“I have a meeting with Dr. Roberts on Wednesday afternoon, but otherwise I’m completely free,” she leaned in closer, bringing her lips to his before softly stating, “Besides, I’d cancel everything for you.”

He didn’t say anything for a few moments, only speaking as he held the door open for his significant other once they were finally able to get to an open, “As would I, cariño. As would I.” Annabelle’s heart swelled as she tried to fight the emotions bubbling up from that small declaration, finally allowing the sadness she felt from not receiving an engagement ring days prior, to be released.

Wednesday found her the couple sharing a small lunch at the little restaurant across the street from the courthouse, joined by the four detectives due to the fact that Rafael was not alone when she issued the invitation and she felt that they should be included, as well, although she didn’t actually think they would take her up on said offer, as they group waited for the jury to come back in and deliver their chosen verdict. “Barba said you had a meeting with your professor after this?”

Annabelle nodded, and started to reply before being cut off by Carisi’s comment, “A meeting when you’re done for the semester? That’s not good.”

Giving an almost unnoticeable shake of her head when Rafael’s eyes narrowed at the Staten Island native, stopping the Cuban from making one of his usual scathing remarks,

“Actually, I’m going in to discuss a possible internship that may turn into a job offer once I graduate.”

“That sounds like a good thing,” she nodded at Benson, refusing to admit that she was secretly hoping that it wasn’t all a hoax and that it would help her in her career. She missed the last of the lieutenant’s statement as she began to get lost in her own thoughts, only coming back to their world when chairs started moving away from the table.

Annabelle wore blue skinny jeans with a Superman tee that she had tied in the front to make it fit her form better, as well as pairing it with a yellow jacket, blue converse, and a blue knit cap, making her instantly feel self conscious in her outfit choice when she walked into Dr. Roberts’ office to see that the two women were, in fact, not alone. The well dressed man, sitting in her usual chair, was quickly introduced as David Willard, the man offering her an unpaid internship at his startup company, Attention Inc. The trio sat in talked for nearly an hour about the company, the people involved, Annabelle’s work with Dr. Roberts, and a little about their personal histories, before realizing that Mr. Willard, or David as he insisted being called, had a lot in common with Annabelle and that they both felt that they would work well together at the company. By the end of the meeting, an official start to work date had been set for about a week after the New Year, and she was itching to tell Rafael the good news.

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Annabelle let her eyes roam the precinct as people bypassed the couple, giving small welcomes or short nods, during the annual Christmas party on Friday night. Cheery music played while the duo mingled with people she had yet to even be introduced to, resulting in her giving them nicknames based on how they acted or what they looked like, purely for her own entertainment. “Wanna get out of here?” His lips brushed against her ear as she spoke, sending delicious chills through her body, as she gave an affirmative nod. “I’ll go get our coats.”

Blue eyes looked out the window in confusion, before swinging to meet the sparkling hazel ones of the driver. “Why are we doing to Brooklyn?” Rafael chose not to respond, giving her only a secretive smile. Letting her suspicion go, she leaned forward to turn the volume up slightly as Christmas music played from the station it was set on before they had exited the vehicle earlier in the night.

They rode in silence, except for Annabelle’s quite singing along to the radio, until they reached a part of road that he automatically slowed down for, as people crossed at random intervals. “Last month, you said that you had never done any of the stereotypical Christmas attractions.” Flipping the blinker on, he turned left onto a brightly lit road, “Annabelle Stevens, I give you Dyker Heights lights.” She gasped in surprise as all of the decorations came into her view. Each house was decorated so well that it put the houses she used to visit in Arkansas, as a child, to shame. Eyes wide, she turned her entire body to look at each house in awe, as the couple made their way through the slow procession of cars, much to Rafael’s entertainment. It was at that moment that he realized just how much he wanted to marry her one day, even through the negative emotions and issues that he had been dealing with his entire life thanks to his father’s treatment of both him and his mother. He knew, as she rolled the window down in order to get a better view of the brightly colored landscapes that no one would ever make him feel the way he felt about Annabelle. She was the one.

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Annabelle rolled her eyes as her mother lectured her about changing degree plans, because she needed to make something of herself –like her siblings, as she walked around her bedroom getting dressed in her dark maroon skinny jeans, tucking the bottoms into her black ankle boots before grabbing her puffy white vest to slip over her long sleeved black shirt. Putting her hair into a loose braid she slipped a thick beanie over the top of it, before making an excuse to hang up the phone and doing so while her mother was still trying to berate her life choices, which were not limited to her education, but have now began to include the fact that she was dating a man eleven years her senior. It’s wrong and immoral of her dating with such an age gap, but let’s ignore the fact her grandparents had an age gap of seventeen years and they were still happily together. The hypocritical and judgment tone had been getting progressively worse since she had visited her home state in November, especially when they realized she not only had no ring on her finger, but she also did not bring the man that she claimed to love to meet her family.

Locking her phone to ignore the new text message from her mother, most likely telling her off for hanging up while she was still speaking, she made her way to the front of her apartment building, where she ran into Rafael, who was dressed in the jeans that fit him just the way that made her heart thump wildly in her chest. “I was just coming up.”

She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, pulling him into a passionate but short kiss. “I needed out of there. She’s not even in the same time zone and my mother is still able to suffocate me with her issues.”

“Want to talk about it?” She shook her head no, before allowing him to lead her by the hand to the car. “Okay. How about I make you forget all about it?”

Putting her seatbelt on, she grinned, “That sounds perfect.” They drove a few miles, before he parked the car at their destination before jumping out to open the door for her to exit, gaining a smile for his chivalrous behavior. They walked arm in arm through the pathways, until they reached the center of central park. “It’s,” she paused as she tried to think of the correct word to use to describe what she was seeing, “It’s like a winter wonderland.” The now senior undergraduate watched with a smile as teenagers, children, and adults all had fun on their various ice skating talents.

“It was somewhere you had to go.”

“It’s beautiful.”

He wrapped his arms around her from behind, giving her waist a squeeze, “Not nearly as beautiful as you.” He skillfully slipped his hand into her vest pocket, easily bringing the iphone out and opening the camera feature, knowing she wanted a photograph of not only the rink but of the pair of them, even if she wouldn’t ask him to take yet another photo with him, due to her knowledge of him disliking selfies. Leaning her head back, she smiled as he snapped a couple of photos of them, one in which she kissed his cheek, eyes closed. That one, he took for himself. “Do you wanna skate?”

She giggled, “Do you even know how?”

He shrugged, “It can’t be that difficult.”

She knew he wouldn’t admit that he couldn’t skate, so she had no problem admitting it for the both of them. “I can’t skate.”

His soft chuckle met her ears, before he pulled away, taking her hand instead and leading her closer to the building at the edge of the rink. Stepping up to the open window he finally spoke, “two hot chocolates, please.” Once they received the steaming cups, they found their way to the benches that lined one side, sitting down to simply people watch. Speaking softly to each other, they created little stories to amuse themselves as they watched teenagers appear as if they were on their first dates, as they watched children slip and slide as they learned to skate, and after draining their cups they ordered two more before continuing their conversation, until the second cups were emptied. “Alright, we’ve got one more stop to make.” Tossing the cups in the trash, the couple got back in the car before Rafael started yet another secret journey to the tune of the latest Christmas carols. This time, the trip didn’t take nearly as long, before the couple was staring up at the Rockefeller Christmas tree. His next words made her freeze. “Move in with me.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 - Football & Prostitution

Annabelle walked into her small office, black leather jacket slipped from her shoulders and revealing her royal blue, sleeveless dress, which was paired with a pair of black wedge heels. Dropping her bag next to her desk, she lightly fell into her chair and typed her password in, allowing the computer screen to load before pulling up the project she had been working on the day before. “How long til you send that to me?”

The intern jumped, eyes shooting towards the man leaning casually against her open doorway. “Jesus, David,” her hand rested against her heart to slow down the furious pounding.

“Sorry.” He didn’t look very apologetic.

She gave him a smile as he made his way over, hands pressed on the desk as he leaned over her, looking at the screen. “I was just about to send it to you.” She brought the new advertisement flyer up to full screen and leaned back slightly to give him a better view, “What do you think?”

He was silent for a moment, and she kept her eyes forward, holding her breath as she waited for an answer. David moved away, giving her shoulders a soft squeeze, “Send it to publishing. Start posting it to social media tonight. I want it everywhere before Sunday.” He rubbed the tops of her shoulders, “good work,” before leaving the room almost as quickly as he entered.

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“Are you sure you don’t wanna come? I’ll make it worth your while.” She zipped her high waisted black skirt and adjusted the black off the shoulder crop top as she stared in the mirror, before wiping the slightly smudged eyeliner underneath her left eye and flipping the light switch off and rejoining Rafael in the bedroom.

“I’m su…re.” His eyes filled with lust as quickly as a storm brews, roaming slowly up and down her revealed body, starting at her straightened hair, to her cleavage, to the little slip of skin showing between her top and her skirt, to the legs that were revealed where the flowy short skirt ended mid thigh, before resting at her bare feet. “You really are trying to kill me, aren’t you?” Giving him a small smirk, she bent down to grab the pair of chunky high heels in the same shade of blue as the flowers on her skirt. “Who is going to be there again?”

Plopping down next to him on the bed, she shot him a grin, “Tracy said it was just gonna be us girls, but everyone wanted to dress up.” Annabelle gave a little shrug, as if to say what could she do. “You can always crash the party,” she teased in a sing-song voice.

“You know I don’t watch football.”

“Do you want me to stay in?” She cleaned her close, unintentionally revealing just enough of her skin to allow him to realize that she wasn’t wearing a bra with the tight top, and kissed his neck softly before her lips brushed his earlobe, “we could have our own game.” His shoulders tensed and she went for the kill, “I’ll even go without panties if you want.” His breath hitched before his hands grabbed her so suddenly, pulling her to straddle his body, the slight erection rubbing against her core, before he brought her down for a searing kiss. Breaking away, her voice was hoarse, breathing labored, “Is that a yes, Mr. Barba?”

He groaned as she pressed her body down just slightly, “Go to your party.” It sounded as if it pained him to tell her to go, and she was slow to move off of him, halfway hoping he would pull her back to his body to have his wicked way with her. “Te amo, cariño.” Standing up to give her a gentle kiss, he reminded her to call him if she needed anything and then walked her to the door, even though all he wanted to do was throw her on the bed and not let her leave for hours.

Walking up to Tracy’s front door, Annabelle questioned whether or not her outfit was too much for just hanging out with the girls. She rarely dressed up so much, but she knew if it was the usual group, there would be lots of photos taken and she didn’t want to be the one standing around in jeans…like at last year’s Superbowl party. She heard the noise, even before she opened the door. Tonight would be great, although it sounded like Tracy had ended up inviting more than just the girls. Once inside her eyes roamed the place before an eyebrow was raised at the tight leather pants and teal leopard shirt at one of the women there, only to have the blue eyes instantly wide in show as the woman turned around, revealing her face. Olivia Benson stared at Annabelle with a look that was between confusion, surprise, and suspicion, before Tracy hustled over to the red head, telling her how hot she looked. When Olivia joined them, Tracy quickly introduced her as Bethany, forcing Annabelle to school her features, assuming that that the woman was undercover for some reason, and that assumption tripled when she noticed Carisi and Fin mingling with the guests.

“What are you doing here?” Olivia’s accusation was furiously whispered to the younger woman, “Does Barba know you’re here?”

“Uh yeah. Tracy, you know my friend, invited me to a girls night,” she made a face when she saw a balding man stick his hand up a brunette’s skirt, “Although I’m really thinking I should have declined. What the hell did I walk into, Olivia?”

“A brothel,” she sighed, “and now you can’t leave or it would be strange, if anyone is watching.”

“So what? You want me to pretend to be a hooker? I swear, if anyone touches me, they will pull back nubs.”

“Just act normal. If stick around one of us. Carisi is a John.” At the look she received, she backtracked, “He’s looking for a girl. If you have to, get close to him. Do not leave my sight, got it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Her answer was quick and as soon as it left her mouth, she felt like a child, as it made her seem like a frightened little girl. She instantly grabbed the nearest beer and downed it, her non alcoholic night quickly turning into something where alcohol would be her only friend.

At one point, Carisi sat down next to her, his hand brushing hers that was lying on the couch, with a girl in tight gold pants rubbing up against him in some sort of lap dance. That ended quickly when an Irish man walked in with an angry voice, putting Annabelle’s body on an even higher alert, and her to shriek when the guy pistol whipped Carisi, making her wish she had stayed sitting down when the detective fell into her, his hand catching the top of her shirt, ripping it, which in turn caused her to shriek and grab at the material to ensure that her breasts stayed covered as she stared at the angered man in fear while he pointed a gun at Fin. Her relief when the door busted open when a shout of NYPD was short lived when two uniformed officers grabbed Timber, who was next to Annabelle, and Annabelle, ignoring the fact that her top was exposing her body in a way that she was obviously uncomfortable in, and pulled them outside and quickly cuffing them, her protests falling on deaf ears, although a female officer did give her a jacket to slip on before the cuffs were added.

Once at the precinct, Olivia gave her an oversized hoodie, which she instantly switched the jacket out for, and allowed her to sit in her office as people began getting processed. “Do I wanna know why you’re dressed like that?” Annabelle bit her lip in frustration at the sound of the voice, looking up; only to see that her boyfriend had been talking to Olivia and didn’t even see her until the lieutenant had shut the door. “Cariño?” She was saved from answering when Olivia took the reins of telling Rafael what had happened. The redhead winced as he voice changed pitch when he learned of Martha’s involvement and the fact that Olivia went behind his back. When Olivia left to question the apparently undercover Declan Murphy, the Cuban turned his attention back to his love, eyes running across her body in quick secession, as if he was checking for possible injuries, “Are you okay?” She nodded, afraid to speak in case she started crying again. “What happened?” Rafael got on one knee in front of his girlfriend, lightly grasping her hands, “Did you get hurt?”

She shook her head negatively, “Tracy runs a freaking brothel. A brothel! I showed up and saw Liv and Fin and Carisi and she said I had to stay because it would be strange and then the Irish dude showed up and hit Carisi and he ripped my shirt and then there were guns and I got arrested and I…I…” He grabbed her into a tight hug, murmuring that everything would be okay and that she was fine. After she was calmed down, he led her to a room full of cots, telling her to get some rest while he dealt with the things happening around them. Unraveling the ear buds in his pocket, he plugged them into her phone, making sure it was charged enough before kissing the top of her head and telling her to give him a text if she needed him for any reason, before going back to watch an interview between Fin, Rollins, and the pimp named Timmer.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10- Motherhood & Measles

Annabelle sat in Rafael’s office, lost in her thoughts and absently staring at the man sitting across the room in his salmon colored shirt, jumping when he spoke, “Quit staring at me, Cariño.”

She dropped the pen she had been doodling with and walked from the couch to stand in front of him, her knees touching the inside of his thighs as he sat in his office chair. “But you’re just so pretty.” Ignoring the unimpressed look he shot her, she moved so that she was straddling his lap, “Want me to prove just how pretty I think you are?” As she spoke, she moved so that her hands were loosening his maroon tie and unbuttoning the top of his shirt, before allowing the pink painted nails to come to a rest at the back of his neck.

“This is highly inappropriate.” His hands gripped her hips loosely as her lips found his neck.

“Want me to stop?” There was a teasing glint in her eyes as she pulled away, smiling against his lips when he pulled their mouths together for the beginning of a heavy make out session that would end up leaving them both wanting more.

Two hours later, the couple was sitting on opposite sides of the table in his office, as Carisi and Rollins discussed the latest case with the ADA, although she offered to leave all three told her she could stay, so she ignored them for the most part, furiously working on an essay that was due at the beginning of the next week, once spring break was over.

“Nine teenagers alone in a ten million dollar loft in Tribeca. What could possibly go wrong?”

“They got drunk and high. Stripped down and had an oral sex competition,” Carisi pointed out a random photo on the board, “They used different shades of lipstick—“

“I- I get it.”

Annabelle couldn’t stop the snort of laughter that escaped, causing the three people to look at her, “I’m sorry. I just didn’t think people still had rainbow parties.”

“What do you know about rain—you know what? I don’t wanna know right now.” She shot the man a wink and resumed her typing about the pros and cons of an utilitarian government. She barely noticed as the group sat down as their conversation continued. “How viral has this gone?”

“In the school, pretty far.” Annabelle did her best not to roll her eyes at the obvious answer given by Rollins. That wasn’t what he was asking.

“Email? Text? Social Media?”

“We’re not sure.”

Annabelle over at the group, before closing out her paper and pulling up an icon that would allow her to log into the Attention Inc databases, only momentarily thinking about whether or not if it was a breach in her job title to use the app for personal searches. “Gimme their names and ten minutes, I’ll find out.” She was wrong; it only took seven minutes for to find that four of the people from the party had been stupid enough to post some of the photos to their twitters or instagrams. They were still discussing the case when her alarm went off from inside her bag. “That’s my cue.” She stood and packed her stuff up before moving to give Rafael a kiss to the cheek, “I’ll see you at dinner.” Giving a nod to the two detectives, she grabbed her bag on the way out and made her way to the airport.

At 1pm, Rafael received a text message that made him grin, unable to hide it from his mother who had shown up for a late lunch. Upon her questions, he turned the phone around for her to see the photo of Louise and Noah both feeding a baby goat. “Her niece came in for a couple of days, since they’re both on spring break, and she offered to watch Noah for Liv.”

Lucia was silent for a few minutes, before she finally admitted, “she’s good for you.”

At Central Park, Annabelle was standing between the two children, hand on Noah’s back as they went up and down while the carousel moved in a circle. Olivia warned her that the toddler may be a little cranky as he had received his MMR vaccine, but after a quick lunch, which included ice cream, at the café in the zoo, he was a happy kid. The woman watched as the two children ran along the glass wall in sync with a playful sea lions, their giggles filling her phone screen with obvious happiness as she filmed. It was nearing 4pm, and knowing the park would be closing within an hour, she allowed the kids to play for a little bit longer before the trio headed towards the exit, Noah kicking his feet as he rode in the stroller and Louise babbling on about how cool the animals were and how she wished the sea lion pool was that cool at home. They ended their zoo adventure by spending twenty minutes in the gift shop, where Louise obviously got a stuffed sea lion and Noah took mere seconds before snatching a snow leopard from the stack, making Annabelle smirk at his adorable expression as he squeezed the animal, knowing that she would have never been able to refuse him the toy. “Are you gonna get one, Aunt Anna?”
Smiling at the five year, she looked at the long wall of stuffed animals, “How about you pick out one for your little sister, and for the new baby.” Annabelle had to call her back as she took off before the sentence was even completed, “And then pick out two others. Noah can give one to his mom and I’ll keep one, deal?”

“Four?” After receiving a nod she started to dart off, before stopping herself and turning around, “Can I get Rafi one, too?”

Unable to fight the grin off, she gave her a nod, “You can get Rafael one, too.” Keeping an eye on the excited child, she squatted to speak to Noah, “You gonna get momma a present?” Listening to his babbling reply she gave a mock gasp, “Really? You think she’ll like that?” More babbling was what she received, causing her to softly rub his dark hair,
“Let’s see was Louise came up with,” as she noticed the girl coming back with her arms full. “You find enough?”

“Uh-huh.” She let a lioness flop onto Noah’s lap, “That is for Miss Livia. Cause Noah got a cat. She needed a cat.” She dropped a panda next, “For sissy.” A grizzly bear fell next, “For baby.” She then held out a penguin and an elephant, “I got the elephant for you…and the penguin for Rafi because he dresses like one. Do you think he’ll like it?”
Annabelle gave her niece a large grin, doing all she could to stop the laughter from bubbling out of her mouth, “I think he’ll love it.”

Louise gave a single, sharp nod of her head, ponytail bouncing as she did, “Okay. Good.” Her eyes caught sight of something behind Annabelle, “Can we take a picture in the box? Oh, please Aunt Anna, please!”

Giving a small laugh, she nodded her consent before pushing Noah’s stroller towards the register, “Let’s pay for the animals and then we’ll do it on our way out, okay?”

“Okay, but hurry. I’m dyyyyying here.” Annabelle gave a slight roll of her eyes, wondering if she was that dramatic as a child before realizing she probably was. As they stood in line at the register, a tower caught her eye where she asked Louise to go grab one of the items hung up, for her.

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“Are you sure you don’t wanna come with us today?”

Rafael watched as Annabelle slid a stud into her ear, before looking at her body in a pair of jean shorts and a navy blue tank top, “Cariño, I would like nothing more than to call off work and go with you…”

“But you can’t. I know. I just figured I’d try to tempt you a little bit.”

His lips pressed lightly against the cleavage showcased by the tank top, exactly where her heart furiously pumped in her chest, “You always tempt me. One day,” he paused to clear his throat as her finger grazed his upper thigh, “One day, I may just break.”

She giggled quietly, pulling his head up to give him a deep kiss, “I look forward to that day. I’m ready, Rafael. I love you,” she let him think about her words while she gave him another brief kiss, “I trust you. Please, break.”

He groaned the sound going straight through her body, “Cariño. We both have too much to do today, to even start this.” Rafael moved their positions so that she was lying on her back, with his body just hovering over hers, his slight hardness pressed against her heat, “When my willpower goes, you will not leave this bed all day, entiendes?” The last word was spoken in her ear, before he slowly moved down to gently bite and then kiss her neck, as she took a deep, shuddering breath. The pitter-patter sound of Louise’s quick steps resulted in him quickly getting up and walking to the closet, mentally cursing himself for forgetting that they were not alone. In the bedroom, he heard his girlfriend speaking to the five year old about getting dressed and the voices faded away, allowing him to think of other things in order to calm his body down.

After showering and getting dressed, he followed other voices into kitchen where Annabelle and Louise had been joined by Olivia and Noah and the four were sharing a breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy. He winced as food splattered onto Noah’s clothing as the toddler slammed his hands into the plate and shoved a fistful of eggs into his mouth. Laughing, Annabelle handed the Cuban a steaming cup of coffee and motioned for him to sit down. “We have to change his shirt either way. Louise decided that the three of us would be wearing Disney outfits.”

“Yeah! I’m a—“ she stopped at the look that Annabelle gave her, taking the time to finish chewing and swallowing the bite she had just taken before starting up again, “I’m a mermaid,” and Rafael finally noticed that she was wearing a sea foam green shirt that said ‘Cutest Mermaid Ever’ is purple cursive writing and fringe all around the bottom. “Aunt Anna is Dory! I love Dory.” With that statement he vaguely remembered watching the movie and there being some song about swimming involved, which made the writing on her shirt make sense. “And Noah is gonna be Squirt!” He nodded at Louise with a smile, pretending he knew what a Squirt was, and desperately trying to ignore the look Olivia was sending him.

Less than an hour later, the two SVU workers had left together for their offices and the children were safely buckled into the backseat of Rafael’s SUV as they made their way to the New York aquarium, a CD filling the car with songs from ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Finding Nemo’. As the day progressed Louise became more and more cranky, even catching an attitude when she found out the underwater viewing location of the sea lions was closed thanks to the damage created by Hurricane Sandy. By lunch time, Annabelle was more than ready to meet up with Rafael for Louise’s going away treat, although Olivia taking Noah back to the doctor did put a slight damper on Annabelle’s mood. When they arrived at Alice’s tea cup, Louise’s eyes widened in awe, as the fact that she was having a Disney tea party before leaving made her squeal with happiness and hug Annabelle in joy. The crankiness was gone, due to the short nap she had during the drive back from Brooklyn to the tea shop, where they had met with Rafael and Olivia briefly before the couple had woken up the five year old to spend their last moments with her before her plane ride back to Arkansas.

Once seated they seated, it wasn’t long before their waitress came by and Rafael ordered for the group since Louise had to go to the restroom almost as soon as they had sat down, only because both Annabelle and Rafael knew they probably wouldn’t be coming here often as they didn’t usually have tea parties and Rafael wanted to go all out for Louise, not only because she deserved it but to help make up for the fact that he’d had to work almost the entire time that she was visiting. Louise, the ever questioning, was quick to ask about what they had ordered. “You get a pot of tea, a scone, a sandwich, and then dessert.”

“What did you get? Did we get the same things?”

Annabelle grinned at Louise’s never ending excitement before telling her what they had ordered, “We got a different kind of tea, some scones, cookies, and dessert. And Rafi and I get a sandwich, too.”

“Can I have some of your cookies?”

Rafael gave her a wink, “you can have anything you want. This is your lunch, princesa.” It wasn’t long before the tea pots were brought out and the sandwich orders were taken, since Rafael wasn’t sure about what Louise would actually want on a sandwich. Louise was able to order her grilled cheese sandwich on her own, afterwards giving both Rafael and Annabelle proud smiles as they ordered.

A few days later, Annabelle was sitting in Olivia’s living room as the two women discussed random tidbits of their lives as Noah was asleep in his bedroom. They had found out when Noah was taken back to the doctor that he had been exposed to measles, everyone assuming it came from the brother of one of the teenagers at the high school they had originally began investigating due to the rainbow party. When the detectives showed up to discuss business, Annabelle took her leave to check on Noah, who was awake and wanting attention. They had only been playing for about five minutes when he started having problems breathing, thinking the worst, she instantly called out to Olivia and everyone went into action, in order to get him to the hospital. Annabelle going to tell Rafael, knowing that this new development would be massively important and influential to the current case, before stopping at a Starbucks to grab Olivia coffee and joining her at the hospital to await, hopefully, good news.

-------------------xXx-------------------

Annabelle wanted nothing more than to punch Trudy Malko in the face, as hard as she possibly could. The more the woman spoke, the tighter her fist curled, just aching to shut her up. Even through her anger, she couldn’t help but smile when she noticed the penguin themed tie Rafael was wearing while he interviewed Olivia on the stand, knowing that she needed to call and check on Louise. Less than two days after she returned home, she was sick…with the measles. After threatening bodily harm on her brother for not giving the child the vaccine, even though he swore up and down that he thought she had received in when she was supposed to (the records showed she was not vaccinated). She had just gotten off the phone with her brother when she overheard part of the conversation between Olivia and Trudy Malko.

“Overexposure to antibiotics may be why his immune system is so weak. That’s another thing you should think about.”

Olivia turned around, eyes blaring, “my son wouldn’t have pneumonia if it weren’t for you.”

Annabelle was finally even with Olivia when Malko opened her mouth to start again, before pausing when the redhead stepped closer to her, “You may wanna think about shutting your mouth, before I do it for you.”

She looked a bit taken back and Annabelle stared her down, until Rafael touched her arm, “Liv – Liv, is everything alright?”

The elevator doors opened and Olivia started speaking before she even got in, “No. His fever is spiking and if it doesn’t come down, they might have to give him a spinal tap.” The doors slid shut, as if giving the statement an exclamation mark, before anyone could say anything to comfort her. They both forgot about Trudy standing behind them, as they were consumed with worry for the adopted toddler, worry that only intensified when Rafael remembered Louise was sick as well.

“How’s Louise doing?”

“She’s in misery. Jake’s had to basically move to a hotel with her, until she gets better. Doesn’t want to risk Mandy getting sick while pregnant.” She leaned her head against the wall, “I hate the fact that she would’ve never gotten sick if she hadn’t visited us. Poor Noah.”

The next day brought the first set of witnesses for the defense, after a woman sat on the stand, proclaiming how unfair it was that she wasn’t allowed to decide what chemicals went into her child’s body and how vaccines were so harmful, Annabelle was ready to leave, and if it wasn’t for the fact that she was excited to see Rafael tear Malko apart, she would have. Once that woman was gone, Malko’s lawyer was quiet for a few moments before speaking a name that had Rafael shooting to his feet in objection, “The defense calls Annabelle Stevens to the stand.”

After brother attorneys approached the bench, Annabelle was told to take the stand. Shooting a look of confusion towards Rafael, she stood pulling her off the shoulder purple dress down to go a little longer than mid-thigh, hyper aware of the fact that almost every eye was placed on her. After a few invasive questions about Louise being sick and the fact that she had been with Noah for two day prior to him becoming sick, her frustration grew over how they even knew that Louise had the measles, and she regretted not smacking Malko yesterday in front of the elevator. It dawned on her that the vile woman must have stuck around and listened to her and Rafael’s conversation yesterday, and now they were trying to pin the entire measles epidemic on her niece. That son of a –

“Annabelle.” She was jerked out of her thoughts by Rafael’s voice, and she noticed that he was standing in front of her, a determined look on his face, “when did your niece become sick?”

“She first started showing signs on Wednesday, the day after she returned home.”

“Objection! The witness cannot testify to what she has not seen.”

Upon the judge’s agreement, she could tell the tension was increasing as Rafael’s form became more tense. “How did she act during her visit with you?”

“She was fine. I mean, a bit cranky Tuesday morning, but I just assumed she was tired from the day before.” She turned slightly, to face the jury, “We had spent the day at the zoo with Noah and then the morning at the aquarium,” looking back towards Rafael she continued as if she hasn’t turned her head at all, “After an early dinner, we took her to the airport where she went back home. My brother called me the next day, and asked about what she had eaten. He thought she might have gotten food poisoning.”

“We’ve heard that the vaccine isn’t 100% effective and Mrs. Malko believes that it can cause adverse effects. Have you ever witnessed any unusual actions by your niece?”

She shrugged, “No. She’s bright and active; sassy. But, we did find out that she never received the MMR vaccine. There was a mistake at the doctor’s office and my brother was told that it had been given, although all the paperwork shows that it had not.”

“Objection! Hearsay.”

Rafael looked at the judge, “It goes to show a continued pattern of those who have not been vaccinated contracting the disease.”

“I’ll allow.”

Rafael was smug, “Nothing further.” Annabelle had to keep her grin contained as she was dismissed, but as she met Trudy Malko’s gaze she couldn’t resist the wink that she paired with a mocking smile. The next day, Malko was found guilty of one of the charges and given three months in jail.
Noah was doing better, and Annabelle couldn’t wait for Louise to get older, so she could tell the story of how a woman was sentenced to jail after giving the princess measles. All was well…at least until Annabelle got dragged into another case.