Liv had been sitting on the floor outside her apartment for a while now; she couldn’t bring herself to go in, not after everything that had happened earlier in the day. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the wall, but the images of day wouldn’t fade. She felt unclean. Her mind replayed the events over and over and for once she felt that she had done all that she could, but that didn’t make her hurt any less.
When they found the sixteen year old girl, named Bella, tied up in the cold, dark basement she was on the brink of death. Liv made a promise to Bella that in the end she couldn’t keep. As they waited for the paramedics, Liv held her and told her she’d be ok, that she’d live a long life and that her father would never harm her again. So when Bella confessed her father not only beat her, he had also raped and sodomized her, Liv couldn’t imagine the day was about to get much worse, but she was so very wrong. Through a steady stream of tears, Bella then told Liv her father had taken off with their son. Their son…those words still rang in her ears. What kind of parent does that? But then again, after working twenty plus years at SVU, Liv could sadly say she had seen it all before.
And then the day got even worse... When police finally caught up with him at an abandoned office building he came out with his gun pointed at police and using his son as a human shield. He taunted the police. Made fun of their humanity and their unwillingness to pull the trigger. How does a father do this? Liv pleaded with him to let his son go, but the father knew as soon as he lost his protection, the game would be over. The father shot randomly at the officers, laughing as his son cried. He reached a bridge and at that moment decided his son was no longer needed and threw him to the ground as he jumped over the side of the bridge. The one silver lining, if you could call it that, was that the father misjudged his jump and landed on the pier below and died instantly. Physically the boy was unharmed, but Liv was sure the emotional damage ran deep.
Afterwards Liv and the rest of the squad rushed back to the hospital to see how Bella was doing and to give her an update on her son. Unfortunately they were too late; Bella had died an hour earlier. Her wounds and the lack of nutrition had taken its toll on her body and she was unable to survive. Liv broke down in front of the nurse’s station; she had finally reached her breaking point and openly sobbed and even began to crumble to the floor before Fin caught her. He held her tightly as he too began to cry, then Rollins and Carisi wrapped their arms around Liv and Fin and they all wept. This case had gotten to all of them.
After a few moments they separated, and they all made a promise to one another to reach out if they needed to talk. There were lots more hugs and I love you’s before they went their separate ways.
So here she sat, trying to work up the courage to go inside when suddenly the door opened and there stood Rafael with two glasses and a bottle of scotch, “hey…thought maybe you could use this tonight.”
Liv tried to smile, but Rafael could see it was taking a great deal of effort, “thanks.”
He poured them both a drink and slid down the wall to sit next to her. They sat in silence as Liv downed her drink in one gulp. Rafael poured her another and watched as she now sipped the amber elixir.
“Is Noah still awake?” she asked as she stared blankly at the door.
“No, he went down about fifteen minutes ago. We had a busy day on the field trip and he barely made it through dinner.”
Hearing about Noah’s day always managed to lift her spirits and as usual it was working…sort of, “thank you for chaperoning today. It means a lot to me and I know it meant the world to Noah.”
Rafael’s heart swelled. He knew she was hurting, but he had known her long enough to recognize she’d tell him what was bothering her when she was ready. He watched as she gripped her glass with both hands and stared at the wall. Her hair was a mess and he could tell she had been crying. He wanted nothing more than to take her pain away, but it had to be on her terms.
They sat in a comfortable silence, both taking sips of scotch and each hoping Noah wouldn’t wake and come looking for them. Occasionally a neighbor would stop by and ask if they were locked out and they would do their best to put on a happy face and joke that they were getting in their alone time.
Rafael sat their thinking about how far they had come since that winter day in front of the court house. He had walked away from the woman he had worked with for over six years. Who had become his closest, if not his best friend and who he had admittedly fallen for. He had every intent of moving on and starting over, he couldn’t bear watching her fall for another man that wasn’t him. He had thought for a time he could be satisfied with being her friend, but as time passed, he realized it wasn’t enough. The events that led up to his trial merely gave him a way out, a chance to escape without a need for explanation.
All was going as planned until she showed up at his door two weeks later. She had been out on a call for much of the evening, and was soaking wet from the winter storm that had blanketed the city. Without a word spoken he had ushered her into his apartment and set about warming her up, first with a blanket and then with a cup of coffee. They sat on the couch a comfortable distance from each other, each expecting the other to say something when Liv slowly began to sob. He consoled her and at that instant he wanted nothing more than to be her protector, to take away all of her pain. When she finally stopped crying, she looked into his eyes and that’s when he realized, she had felt the same way him. That she too had fallen for him. It was as if someone had opened the floodgates and everything they had always wanted to say, was said. They held onto each other tightly, each one needing to feel the other, not in a sexual way, but as in a need to hold on and never let go.
It was a sense of intimacy he had never felt before, and he sensed it was the same for her. They talked through the night and as the sun began to rise and their eye lids fought to stay open, Rafael rose from the couch, wincing at the rush of cool air that hit his body as he separated from Liv. He offered her his hand and led her down to his bedroom. He hadn’t considered having sex with her, at least not at that moment, his focus was more on them sleeping, but after turning down the bed, he turned around and Liv was completely naked. It was a sight to behold and he had never thought she could be more beautiful than she had been at that moment. It broke his heart the instant she looked unsure, as if she had moved too fast, but Rafael made it his mission to let her know how in love he was with her. They spent the day in bed, exploring each other with all the senses god had given them. There were sensual moments, silly moments, and even a few awkward moments, but in the end they had committed to memory a roadmap to each other’s soul. From that day on all of their excuses of why they couldn’t be together no longer applied.
Jump forward four months and Rafael couldn’t remember being any happier. They had fallen into some sort of domestic bliss that Rafael had swore in his younger days he’d never fall prey to, and yet now he was surprisingly ok with it. As a matter of fact, he actually craved it. They hadn’t yet moved in with each other, but he suspected that wasn’t far off. As it was he spent most of his free time in her apartment. Hers felt warmer, more like a home should feel like. His place felt cold and empty. Even Noah’s drawings that he hung on the refrigerator did little to add warmth to his sterile environment.
He smiled at the memories and how they had begun to form a family, something he never expected to have or even have wanted. At one time it had surprised him, but not anymore. He finally understood what love was all about.
He looked over at Liv; he could see the tension was slowly slipping away. She had released the death grip on glass and had placed her one hand on the floor between them. Rafael reached over and covered her hand with his.
“Want to talk about it?”
Liv looked down at their hands and turned her palm upwards to interlace their fingers. She drew their hands up to her lips and gently kissed his knuckles. “Not now, but I will later.”
She took a final swig from her glass and when Rafael reached to pour her another she waived him off, “thanks, but I’ve had enough. Can we go to bed?”
Rafael smiled at her request; it was after all her apartment. “Of course.”
Liv stood up and stretched her back and felt her muscles and ligaments snap and pop with each twist and turn of her torso. She reached down with one hand and helped Rafael to his feet. For a moment they stood face to face, staring at each other, each one’s breathing in sync with the other. Rafael searched Liv’s eyes and what he saw in return was something he had never quite seen before…he saw defeat. He gathered her up into his arms and held her tightly, ensuring that she knew he was there for her.
“What can I do for you? Tell me what you need?”
Liv closed her eyes, the smell of this cologne was intoxicating and the sound of his voice was comforting. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. She had never felt safer or more loved than she did at that moment.
“You’re doing it…”
Rafael pulled away slightly, he was puzzled.
Liv smiled, she knew he was too smart for his own good. He over analyzed everything and was in fact too literal at times.
“This,” she motioned with her hands between them, “and you being you. Being here for me…that’s what I need.”
Rafael still wasn’t sure he understood her, but what he did know is that he loved her, and if sitting with her in the hallway made her happy, then that’s what he’d do.
He leaned in and gently kissed her forehead as she momentarily squeezed him tighter before breaking away from him and turning towards the apartment door. “Promise you’ll always be you? That you’ll hold me tight and protect me from all the evil in the world?” She said without turning to look back at him.
Rafael now understood what she needed. It wasn’t about filling in for her on Noah’s field trips, or sometimes making dinner, or sitting with her in the hallway. No, it was about loving her unconditionally. It was about loving all of her, including her dark side.
Before she opened the door, he wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and lightly kissed her neck before whispering in her ear, “I’m all in.”
She led him into the apartment, leaving the day’s tragic events behind her on the hallway floor…