Actions

Work Header

Fearful Reality

Chapter Text

Carter was sitting in his cell when he heard a news reporter on the TV outside; “Nine months after the incarceration of Chief James Carter, it’s finally beginning to look like his underground operation is crumbling. After their encounter with Mr Carter all those months ago, retired ADA Rafael Barba and the Special Victims Unit, have personally seen to undoing the corruption inside law enforcement.”

Carter slowly stood up and walked towards the edge of his cell; wrapping his hands around the bars, tightly, he yelled, “Turn it up!”

A guard slowly turned the volume up as the news reporter continued; “I had the chance to ask Mr Barba about his thoughts on the matter and this is what he had to say-“

“Carter is exactly where he belongs,” Rafael’s voice travelled through the cells. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do… No one is above the law.”

“How has it been for you personally since his incarceration? What’s it been like to deal with your mothers death?” the reporter pushed.

“I’m not here to talk about that,” Rafael growled.

Carter tapped his finger quickly on the bar as he listened; “What about those scars? Do they ever remind you of what happened?” the reporter rushed.

“I’m done talking,” Rafael huffed, “I’m late to pick up my son.”

“Fucking coward,” Carter snarled as he shook the bars.

“OI! Cut that out!” the guard yelled.

Carter was shaking with anger as he turned back into his cell; “He thinks he can get away with destroying me life!” He gripped the side of his mattress and through it across the cell, “We’re not done yet!”

 

*

 

A month later, Noah opened the car door; tossing his bag across the back seat as he got in, “Hey Daddy.”

Rafael twisted his body as he smiled, “Hey Kiddo, how was school?”

Closing the door Noah muttered, “It was okay, we got to play outside.”

“Well that’s good,” Rafael replied. Turning back to the front he mumbled, “Seat belt on?”

“Yep,” Noah said. Rafael checked his surroundings before pulling away from the curb; as they began to their journey home Noah sighed, “Hey Daddy?”

“Mmm,” Rafael mindlessly answered as he drove.

“Um,” Noah hesitated, “Some people at school are asking me questions.”

Rafael flicked his eyes to the rear view mirror to see Noah as he said, “What questions?” Noah looked uncomfortable as he shifted in his seat; the boys gaze turning to the window. “What questions Noah?” Rafael repeated.

“They ask me how you got your scars,” Noah sighed.

Rafael shifted his gaze from Noah to his own face; seeing the deep scar running down his cheek, “Oh,” he mumbled. Returning his gaze to the road he asked, “What do you tell them?”

“Nothing,” Noah said quickly, “Just that you got it from work.”

“Okay,” Rafael nodded.

They sat in silence for a moment until Noah worked up enough nerve to ask, “What did happen?”

“Noah,” he sighed.

“Is it why you don’t get out of the car?” he asked. Rafael remained silent; as the buildings zoomed passed the window Noah said, “Daddy?”

Do you want me to get out of the car when I pick you up?” Rafael asked.

“I don’t know,” he mumbled, “All the other parents do… Mommy does.”

Rafael took a deep breath, “She does?”

“I don’t mind,” Noah reassured, “It’s okay.”

“We can discuss this later,” Rafael frowned.

“What did the bad guy do?” Noah questioned.

“I said we will discuss it later,” Rafael said firmly.

Noah took a deep breath as he leaned back into his chair; he watched as the people moved quickly out of view, “Are you mad at me?”

Rafael sighed, “No, I’m sorry.”

“Are you having a bad day again?”

Rafael shook his head as he turned the corner, “You shouldn’t have to worry about that.” The car fell into a tense silence as they drove home; when they stopped Noah grabbed his bag and was about to get out of the car when Rafael twisted in his seat, “Do you have homework?”

“Yeah,” Noah sighed.

“How about when we get inside, you set it up on the dining room table and I can help you,” Rafael suggested.

“Okay,” Noah nodded as he jumped out of the car, closing the door. Rafael shortly after did the same; he locked the car and started towards the elevator along side Noah. “When’s Mommy coming home?”

“Soon,” Rafael sighed, “She’ll be home soon.”

  

Rafael was sitting with Noah at the dining table working on some math homework when they heard the front door open; “Looks like Mommy’s home,” Rafael smiled as he stood up. “Why don’t you finish this equation then go watch some TV?”

“Okay,” Noah nodded.

Rafael made his way down the hallway and saw Olivia hanging up her jacket at the front door; he quietly walked up behind her, wrapping his arms around her. “Welcome home,” he smiled as he kissed her cheek.

She turned in his arms, “Someone’s in a good mood,” she laughed.

“I’ve just missed you,” Rafael shrugged as he leaned in. He paused just before he reached her lips, “Miss me?”

His breath hot on her skin, “Shut up and kiss me,” she smiled closing the gap.
Rafael tightened his grasp, pulling her closer, as he passionately kissed her; after a moment it broke, leaving them both slightly out of breath, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she smiled. When Rafael let go of her she looked around, “Where’s Noah?”

“Um, he’s finishing his homework,” Rafael answered. Olivia nodded and started to leave when Rafael grabbed her hand, “We need to talk about him.”

“What’s wrong?” she questioned. “Is he in trouble?”

“No,” he reassured, “Go say hello to him, he’s been waiting for you… When you’re done, I’ll be in our room.”

“Rafael, what’s going on?” Olivia asked.

“It’s nothing,” Rafael sighed. “Just meet me in our room.”

Olivia looked confused as she turned away from him and disappeared into the dining room; “How’s my boy!” she laughed.

Rafael took a deep breath as he turned into his room and made his way towards the bed; he sat on the edge of the bed, twiddling his thumbs, as he waited. Ten minutes later, he was starting to get restless when Olivia entered the room.

“What’s going on?” Olivia asked.

“You walk to Noah’s classroom when you pick him up, don’t you?” Rafael questioned.

“Yeah,” Olivia nodded. “What’s that got to do with anything?” she frowned, confused.

“I don’t,” he sighed.

“I know,” she shrugged, “We had this discussion a while back, you don’t need to.”

“Noah’s asking why I don’t,” he mumbled.

“Oh.”

“He’s been getting questions from some kids in his class,” Rafael sighed, “About me… About my scars.”

“They’re just kids,” Olivia reassured, “They’ll forget about it by tomorrow.”

Rafael slowly stood up from the bed, “Liv, Noah asked me if I was having a bad day… He shouldn’t have to deal with that.”

“He’s a good kid,” Olivia smiled, “He understands that some days are a little harder for you than you’d care to admit.”

“I should be looking after him,” Rafael sighed, “Not the other way around.”

“Was today a bad day?” Olivia asked.

“That’s not the point,” Rafael frowned.

“Rafael, he cares for you that’s all it is,” she comforted; taking hold of his hand. “That’s what families do, we look out for each other.”

Rafael traced his thumb in soft circles on the back of her hand as he said; “I think we should talk to him about what happened.”

“Rafi,” she sighed, “We told him when it happened.”

Rafael mumbled, “I mean if kids are going to ask him about it… Maybe we should give him something to respond with.”

“Do you want to?” Olivia questioned.

“I think it’s time he knew what actually happened, don’t you?” Rafael replied, letting go of her.

“Okay,” she nodded. “I’ll follow your lead.”

Rafael sighed, “It’s time.”

As he started for the door Olivia took hold of his hand again, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“I have to be,” he mumbled.

“No Rafael,” she sighed, “If you don’t want to, then don’t. Don’t feel pressured into talking about it to Noah if you’re not ready.”

“He’s being cautious around me,” he muttered, “He knows I live in fear… He might as well understand why.” Before Olivia could say another word to convince him otherwise, Rafael brushed her off him and left their room. He heard footsteps behind him; checking over his shoulder he saw Olivia following him down the hallway. “Noah?” he called out.

“I’m watching TV,” he replied.

Taking a deep breath Rafael made his way towards the living room; as he entered he saw Noah, still in his school uniform, watching TV, “I think we need to have a chat.”

“About?” Noah questioned, “Am I in trouble?”

“What, no,” Rafael reassured as he sat next to Noah, “I just think that it’s time I started answering some of your questions.”

“Rafael was telling me that some kids have been asking questions,” Olivia added as she sat on the other side of Noah.

“I don’t tell them anything,” Noah rushed.

“It’s fine,” Rafael nodded, “But would you like to know what happened?”

Noah remained quiet as his head darted between his parents, “I… I don’t know.”

“What we’re about to tell you, I don’t want you repeating to your friends,” Olivia sighed. “Do you promise me that?”

“Okay,” Noah nodded.

Taking a deep breath Rafael asked, “What do you remember?”

“All you and Mommy said was that a bad guy did it,” Noah mumbled, “I remember visiting you in the hospital but we never talked about it.”

“Well, that’s exactly what happened,” Rafael said, “I was attacked.”

“By who?”

“His name…” Rafael paused, “He was a police Chief.”

“I thought police were the good guys,” Noah said confused.

“We are,” Olivia nodded, “But sometimes there are some who don’t follow the law themselves… That’s why when I tell you to not talk to strangers, including police, I want you to listen.”

Rafael waited until Noah looked back at him before continuing, “His name is James Carter.”

“What did he do?” Noah asked.

Rafael closed his eyes; when he felt Olivia’s hand on his shoulder he sighed, “He kidnapped me and…” Rafael felt a lump in his throat, “He, uh… He hurt me a lot. He tried to kill me.”

“But you don’t have to worry about him,” Olivia added, “We caught him and put him away for what he did.”

“I’m sorry I don’t get out of the car to pick you up,” Rafael said quietly, “Sometimes he still get to me.”

“But he’s in prison now?” Noah questioned.

“Just because someone is in prison doesn’t mean that everything else goes away,” Olivia interrupted; looking at Rafael. “Sometimes people are scarred after experiencing what Rafi went through. Not just physically and that’s why we look out for each other.”

“I don’t want you to have to look after me,” Rafael sighed, “It’s not your job to worry about me.”

“But Mommy says when you forget where you are to help you,” Noah mumbled, “I want to help.”

“You’re a good kid,” Rafael smiled. “How about we take a break from all this serious talking and watch some TV?”

“Can we watch a movie?” Noah asked.

“Sure,” Rafael nodded, “Go pick one.”

When Noah jumped off the lounge and ran towards the TV cabinet, Olivia slid closer to Rafael, “He asked me a few months back about your episodes when you just blank out then you’re all scared.”

“And you told him to help me,” Rafael frowned, “Liv, you know when I get like that I’m unpredictable.”

“He hates seeing you like that,” Olivia sighed, “He wanted to help so I told him how to.”

“I’ve hurt you a few times when I’m back with Carter,” Rafael mumbled; lifting his gaze to her. “I feel sick when I hurt you… What if next time it’s Noah?”

“I’ve warned him to keep his distance and to not touch you,” Olivia reassured, “You’ve been pretty good lately, it’s been a few months since you’ve had a really bad episode.”

“Not including my panic attacks,” Rafael muttered under his breath.

“Well you’re working on them,” Olivia comforted, “But look on the bright side, you’re getting better. You take Noah to the park every Saturday afternoon and I know that sometimes walking out that door is hard for you but you do it anyway for Noah.”

“He’s my son,” Rafael nodded, “I’d do anything for him.”

“I know,” she smiled, “We’re a family, we’ll get through this together-“

“I found one!” Noah grinned as he ran back to the lounge.

Rafael took the DVD from Noah, “Oo good choice,” he smiled. “I like this one.”

“Why don’t you put it on while I go make some popcorn?” Olivia suggested.

“Yay,” Noah laughed. As Rafael slowly stood up from the lounge Noah said, “Wait! I’ve gotta get Charlie.”

“Charlie?” Rafael questioned, “You think Charlie wants to watch this one?”

“Charlie watches eevvverything,” Noah giggled as he ran out of the room.

Looking over his shoulder to Olivia Rafael smiled, “I can’t believe he still likes that stuffed dog after all this time.”

“Like it?” Olivia said raising an eyebrow, “He loves it.” Rafael laughed as he turned back towards the TV; as Olivia made her way towards the doorway she asked, “Are you having some popcorn?”

“Absolutely,” he chuckled.

 

The next morning Rafael felt Olivia starting to get out of bed; he quickly rolled over and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back into bed, “Do you have to go?” he muttered into her shoulder.

“I have to go to work,” she sighed.

Peppering her soft skin with kisses he mumbled, “Do you have to?”

Olivia closed her eyes as she smiled, “Rafi.”

He slowly sat up as he worked his way up her neck, “Take the… day off,” he whispered between kisses.

She felt him nuzzle his way towards her jaw line; letting out a small breathless moan she turned to him and kissed him. As their tongues intertwined Rafael pulled her down with him as he laid back on the bed; with Olivia now on top of him, he slowly moved his hand under her shirt. Feeling his hand softly run along her back Olivia smiled against his lips; “Rafi,” she said breathlessly, “You’re… gonna make me… late again.”

Rafael teasingly kept his lips from hers, “Don’t go in this time,” he smirked; his breath hot against her. Rafael pulled her close as he started to kiss her again, “I’ll make it worth your while.”

Lost in the temptation Olivia kissed him back; as their tongues danced together Rafael rolled her over so he was on top. He gently started to lift her shirt when they heard a soft knock on the door.

Rafael sighed as he pulled away from her, “Don’t suppose we could leave it?”

“Rafael,” Olivia mumbled.

Rafael gave Olivia a quick kiss before calling out, “Yes Noah?”

“We’re gonna be late Mommy,” Noah replied.

Hearing the door start to open Rafael quickly sat up off Olivia; “Sweetie, I’ll be ready soon,” Olivia sighed.

Noah stood in the doorway as he mumbled, “You said we’d stop at the shops.”

“I said maybe,” Olivia replied as she slowly got out of bed, “Why don’t you go watch TV and I’ll be out soon.”

“Fine,” Noah sighed as he turned away.

Olivia walked towards the door and closed it before turning to Rafael; he sat slumped against the headboard, “Raincheck?” she smiled.

Rafael sighed, “Yeah.”

“Don’t give me that look,” she sighed as she walked towards her wardrobe. Rafael watched quietly as she got dressed for work; “Hon, you knew I had work.”

Rafael crossed his arms against his chest; “I didn’t realise I had to schedule a time to be with my wife.”

Olivia stopped as she turned to him; “Rafael, you know that’s not fair.”

Rafael rolled his eyes as he looked away from her; “At least I was trying to be with you.”

“I would love nothing more than to spend the day with you but not all of us can stay at home all day,” Olivia sighed as buttoned her shirt; walking towards him.

“You think I want this?” Rafael frowned, “You think I want to be like this?”

“No, I’m sorry,” Olivia said as she sat on the edge of the bed. “That was unfair of me.”

“You’re going to be late,” Rafael mumbled as he looked at her.

Olivia nodded; “Okay.” She leaned close to him and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek, “What are you going to do today?” she asked.

Watching her stand up Rafael shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe look over everything we have on Carter or read a book.”

“Don’t work too hard,” Olivia sighed as she started for the door, “Try to make it outside at some stage, it’s supposed to be a beautiful day.”

“I’ll see,” he nodded.

“I’ll see you when I get home.”

“Have a good day, be safe,” he smiled, “I love you.”

“Love you too,” Olivia replied.

 

Around lunchtime, Rafael was sitting at the dining room table; working away at his computer, when his phone rang. Startled by the unexpected noise Rafael cautiously reached for his phone, “Barba.”

A recorded message played, “You have a collect call from Rikers Island, would you like to accept?”

Rafael paused as he glanced around the room; he was alone; after some thought he found himself saying, “Yes.” There was a long pause as the call was transferred through; This isn’t a good idea… What would Olivia think? He thought as he tapped his fingers on the table.

Carter’s voice pulled Rafael from his own thoughts, “I wasn’t sure you were going to accept.”

“What do you want?” Rafael asked.

“What? No hello? How you been?” Carter laughed, “Come on, after everything we’ve been through together I think you should be a little nicer.”

“What do you want?” Rafael repeated firmly.

“I just wanted to talk to my favourite person,” Carter replied, “I’ve missed you.”

Growing impatient, Rafael huffed, “Is that all?”

“Uh, no,” Carter sighed, “No, I want you to come visit me.”

“Now why would I do that?” Rafael frowned.

“To prove you’re not scared of me,” Carter sneered, “You’ve been waiting for the opportunity to prove everyone wrong… that is, if you’re not still scared of me.”

Rafael remained quiet for a moment as he watched his fingers tap on the wooden table, “When?”

“This Friday,” Carter answered.

“I’ll think about it,” Rafael mumbled; Liv’s not going to like this.

Carter sighed, “She still have you wrapped around her little fingers?”

“This has nothing to do with her,” Rafael growled.

“Sure it does,” Carter quipped, “You’re not a big shot lawyer anymore… No instead you’re her little lap dog, you do what she wants.”

“Screw you,” Rafael snarled. “I make my own choices.”

“Do you?” Carter questioned.

“I’ll be there Friday,” Rafael huffed as he ended the call. Rafael dropped his phone on the table with a loud thud as he brought his hands up to his head, “What did I just do?” he sighed. He played you like a fiddle and you fell for it.

After a moment to compose himself Rafael stood up, grabbing his phone, and started down the hallway; as he reached the front door he froze. “Carter is in prison,” he reminded himself, “There’s nothing out there.”

His hand shook as he reached for the handle; the metal cold in his hand, I’ve missed you, Carter’s voice laughed.

Rafael’s heart began to beat fast against his chest as he tried to catch his breath; everything around him faded into darkness. Feeling like he was suffocating Rafael let go of the doorknob and ran for the nearest window; Carter’s laughter still echoing in his head. After a few minutes at the window everything came back into focus; checking his watch he mumbled, “I’ll just tell Liv when she gets home.”

 

Late that afternoon Rafael was sitting on the lounge; staring out the window, when he heard the door unlock, “Rafi could be sleeping so just be quiet,” Olivia’s muffled voice said.

“Okay,” Noah whispered loudly.

Rafael laughed a little to himself; At least he tried, he thought.

As Olivia walked further into their apartment she saw Rafael sitting in the living room, “Oh, you’re up,” she said surprised.

“Yeah,” Rafael nodded as he slowly turned his head towards her.

“Are we…” she hesitated.

“We’re fine,” Rafael sighed, “Let’s just forget about it.”

“Okay,” she smiled, “How was your day?”

Rafael felt his hand start to shake; trying to hide it he crossed his arms against his chest, “Never mind that, how was yours?”

Before Olivia could reply Noah ran down into the room, “Daddy!” he beamed.

Rafael had just managed to unfold his arms in time as Noah jumped on him, “Hey Kiddo,” he laughed.

“Today I got to paint!” Noah said excitedly. “I brought it home for you.”

“Oh yeah?” Rafael smirked, “Where is it?”

Noah paused as he looked around, “Um… Mommy, where’s my bag?”

“It’s at the door,” Olivia smiled.

“Stay here,” Noah said firmly to Rafael as he got up.

“Roger that,” Rafael laughed.

As Noah ran out of the room Olivia sighed, “Did you get up to much?”

“Uh, no,” he mumbled, “I spent most of the day looking out of the window.”

“Oh,” Olivia nodded, “Are you okay?”

Rafael forced a smile, “I’m fine. Now tell me about your day.”

“My day was uneventful,” Olivia shrugged, “Casey is good but she’s not you.”

“Didn’t think you’d still miss me at work,” Rafael admitted, “It’s been a year.”

“We all miss you,” she mumbled, “I just got lucky with being able to come home to you.”

She drew the short straw in other words, he thought, “Y-yeah, I’m glad I didn’t have to give up you when I quit.”

“Hon, I really do love-“

“LOOK!” Noah squealed as he ran back into the room.

As Noah jumped on the lounge Rafael laughed, “Okay, let’s see what we have here.” He took hold of the painting and had no idea what he was supposed to see; it was a mixture of random colours, “It looks great,” he smiled.

“Yeah, we had to use our fingers,” Noah smiled, “It’s the park we go to.”

“Oh yeah,” Rafael nodded. He ran his fingers across the painting as he said, “Yeah, I can see it, these are the swings right? So this must be the slide-“ As Rafael spoke he saw Olivia disappear from the room.

“Do you like it?” Noah asked shyly.

Rafael put the picture down as he turned to the boy, “Like it? I love it!”

“Yeah?” Noah smiled.

Rafael wrapped his arms around Noah; pulling him into a hug, “But not as much as I love you.”

Noah felt a soft kiss on his head as he said, “I love you too.”

As the hug broke Rafael muttered, “Why don’t you get changed out of your uniform and set up your homework.”

“Do I have to?” Noah sighed, “I don’t wanna do homework.”

“The sooner it’s done the sooner you can watch TV,” Rafael shrugged. “If you do it now, I’ll sneak you some ice-cream after dinner.”

“What type of ice-cream?” Noah questioned.

“Chocolate?” Rafael retorted.

“Make it choc chip and you have a deal,” Noah said.

Rafael laughed, “I’ve taught you well, you’ve got a deal.”

Noah held out his hand towards Rafael, “Shake on it.”

Rafael extended his hand and took Noah’s; after shaking his hand Rafael smiled, “Now get going. Call me if you need help.”

“Okay,” Noah nodded as he got off the lounge.

Rafael watched Noah leave the room; as he disappeared down the hallway he called out, “Noah!”

“Yeah?” Noah replied.

“Your bag… It’s still at the door,” Rafael laughed.

“OH yeah,” Noah said. Shortly after Rafael saw Noah run past the doorway and back again.

 

Rafael sat in the living room alone for a few minutes before getting up and making his way down the hallway; he did a quick sideways glance into the dining room and saw Noah setting up his homework. “You good?” he asked as he paused in the doorway.

“Yep,” Noah nodded.

“Okay, just don’t hesitate to ask for help,” Rafael replied.

“I know,” Noah smiled.

Rafael nodded before continuing down the hallway; when he reached his room he pushed the door open gently to find Olivia sitting on the bed reading a book. “Mind if I…”

“Yeah,” Olivia nodded; not looking up from her book.

“Noah’s doing his homework,” Rafael sighed as he walked towards the bed.

“That’s good,” she replied.

“Liv,” he mumbled, “I got a call today.”

“Mmm?” Olivia muttered.

“From the prison,” he sighed as he sat on the edge of the bed, “From Carter.”

Olivia paused as she glanced up from her book, “Carter?” she questioned.

Rafael nodded; “He wants to see me this Friday,” he paused as Olivia frowned, “I’m thinking-“

“You’re not going,” she said bluntly.

“I’m a big boy, I can make my own decisions,” Rafael grumbled.

“Rafael, I can’t let you do this, I won’t let you see him,” she growled, “It took you months just to be able to sleep through the night-“

“I know, I was there,” he mumbled bitterly.

“I just don’t want wake up in the middle of the night to find you in the corner scared,” she sighed, “I want the best for you.”

“You’ve got to stop treating me like I’m broken whenever we talk about him,” Rafael muttered.

“I know,” she nodded, “I’ve just seen you come so far since then… I don’t want him to drag you down with him.”

“I’m not going to let him get to me,” he sighed.

“You can’t seriously be considering this,” she mumbled.

Rafael drew a deep breath, “I’ve already confirmed my visitation.”

“You what?” she frowned, “You didn’t even give us the chance to talk about this?”

“You said exactly what I expected you to,” he shrugged, “Carter hasn’t seen anyone since his incarceration and now he’s asking for me, I want to know why.”

“I can’t watch you do this to yourself,” she sighed as she stood up.

“Where are you going?” Rafael frowned.

“I’m going to sit in the living room,” she muttered not looking at him.

Rafael watched her exit their room; “Olivia wait,” he growled as he stood up and chased after her. He quickly walked down the hallway and saw her ahead of him, disappearing into the living room, “Olivia you can’t just walk away-“

“Daddy?” Noah called out as Rafael passed the dining room doorway.

Rafael paused; he stood in between the dining room and the living room for a moment. He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes; he ran a hand through his hair while he took a deep breath.

“Daddy?” Noah’s soft voice called out again.

Forget her, he thought as he turned back; peering his head through the doorway he smiled, “Yes?”

“Can you help me?” Noah asked.

“Sure,” Rafael nodded as he entered the room. He pulled up a chair next to Noah, “What are we working on today?”

“English,” Noah sighed, “It’s hard.”

Rafael spent the next hour helping Noah with his homework; as the night dragged on, Rafael and Olivia hardly said a word to each other outside of Noah’s presence.

  

A few days later Olivia came home from work early to find the house empty; “Rafael?” she called out. With no response she checked her phone as she walked around the apartment, no messages. She entered their room and glanced around until her eyes fell on one of the pictures on Rafael’s side table. She sighed as she walked closer; it was a childhood photo of Rafael and his mother, Lucia. Checking her watch she thought, I’ve got a few hours before Noah comes home. She quickly placed the photo back down and rushed out of the apartment.

Half an hour later Olivia arrived at the cemetery; as she walked along the path she saw Rafael sitting a few yards ahead of her. When she got closer she saw him in a black suit; she quietly walks up behind him, “I thought I’d find you here.”

“I didn’t want to make a big deal,” he sniffled.

“Rafael, I know its tough but you shouldn’t be alone today,” she said quietly as she sat next to him.

“Liv, I didn’t want to bring you down,” he sighed.

“We’re a family,” she comforted, “You’re not the only one who misses her, we all do.”

“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” he mumbled. “I miss her so much.”

Olivia placed a hand on his back; “I know you do,” she comforted.

Rafael remained silent as he wrapped one arm around Olivia’s waist and pulled her closer to him, he resting his head on her shoulder.

Olivia gently placed her own head on top of his as they sat there staring at Lucia’s headstone; Olivia found herself reading the epitaph:

 

In loving memory of:

Lucia Barba

Mother - Grandmother

Your love continues to light my way,

Your memory will never leave me.

 

They sat in silence for a while until Olivia noticed the carnations sitting on top of the headstone, “Those flowers are beautiful.”

“She loved them,” Rafael sniffled. He took a shuddering breath as sat up straight; he kissed his fingers before placing them on Lucia’s photo, “I love you Mamá. You were taken from me too soon.”

Olivia sat quietly as she watched Rafael say a small prayer in Spanish; she couldn’t understand what he was saying but she felt his pain and sorrow through every word. As he finished he did the sign of the cross before slowly standing up; “Are we going?” Olivia questioned.

Rafael nodded slowly, “Yeah, I’ve been here for a few hours. I think I just want to go home now.”

“Okay,” Olivia whispered as she got up.

Rafael took her hand as they started to walk down the pathway; “Thank you for being here,” he sniffled.

“I always will be here for you,” she comforted.

“How long until Noah’s home?” Rafael asked.

Olivia checked her watch; “Lucy should have him home around 5 so about an hour.”

Rafael sighed, “As much as I want to spend time with him, I don’t have the energy today. When we get home I’m just going to go to bed.”

“It’s okay,” Olivia reassured. “Don’t suppose I can convince you to rethink tomorrow?”

“Liv,” he shook his head, “Tomorrow is happening. I’m sorry but I need it to.”

Olivia drew a deep breath, “Okay, I support your decision then.”

Reaching Olivia’s car Rafael muttered, “Let’s go home.”

 

As Rafael waited in the prison, he saw two guards standing on the other side of the door; watching him, muttering amongst themselves. Already feeling on edge Rafael crossed his arms as he looked around the small waiting room; his chest started to feel tight as the walls closed in around him. “This was a mistake,” he muttered under his breath, “I’ve gotta get out of here.” NO! We need to see him!

Rafael was about to walk to the nearest exit when a guard came through the door; “You’re here to see Carter?” he asked.

“Yes,” Rafael sighed, “Can I see him yet?”

“Soon,” he nodded, “Arms out and legs shoulder length apart.”

“This is stupid, I’m not going to help him,” Rafael frowned.

“Maybe not but it’s my job,” he sighed, “Please just follow my instructions.”

Rafael rolled his eyes as did what the guard said; “This better not take long.” The guard stared at Rafael’s face as he frisked Rafael’s upper body; He’s staring at your scars, Rafael thought. Feeling uncomfortable he broke their gaze and stared at the nearest wall; as the guard moved down to Rafael’s legs he mumbled, “You done yet? I’m not smuggling anything.”

As the guard finished frisking Rafael’s legs, he quietly asked, “Did it hurt?”

Rafael lowered his hands as he frowned, “What?”

The guard stood up in front of him; “What Carter did,” he clarified, “Did it hurt?”

Rafael rolled his eyes, “I’m not talking about it.”

“Carter does,” he mumbled as he started for the door.

“Am I cleared or not?” Rafael grumbled.

“Yeah,” he sighed. He watched as Rafael walked closer; “Sit at that table down the end,” he mumbled, “Carter will be a few minutes.”

There was a loud buzz as the door unlocked; shortly after the guard pushed the door open and Rafael walked in. The door slammed shut behind him as he started towards the table; his heart beating faster with each step.

 

Ten minutes later there was another loud buzz as the door opened again; “Happy anniversary Honey,” Carter grinned as he walked towards Rafael.

“What are you talking about?” Rafael frowned.

“Oh don’t play dumb,” Carter sighed, “I know you’ve been counting down the days just like I have. You and I are intertwined.”

“A year ago today you tried to kill me,” Rafael growled.

“Yeah, my bad,” Carter nodded. It fell into a short silence before Carter smiled, “So… Do I get a present?”

“Me being here is a present,” Rafael mumbled. “Don’t get use to it, I want you out of my life.”

“Aw, now that’s no way to talk to your better half,” Carter sighed, “I got you something.”

“I don’t want it,” Rafael muttered.

“My hands are a little tide in here so you’re just gonna have to make due with what I could get,” Carter continued as he rummaged through his jumpsuit pockets. He pulled out what looked like a small piece of paper and slid it across to Rafael, “Here.”

Rafael reluctantly flipped it over; his heart started to beat quickly as he stared at the photo. It was of his wedding day; he was kissing Olivia at the altar of the church. “How’d you get this?” Rafael whispered; his eyes glued to the photo.

“I’m not going to reveal my source,” Carter smiled.

Looking up from the photo Rafael frowned, “You haven’t had any visitors since you got here.”

“Isn’t that sweet,” Carter grinned, “Someone’s been looking out for me.”

“Tell me how you got this,” Rafael growled.

“Tell me what it’s like when you look in the mirror,” Carter retorted. “Do you think of me?”

“You haven’t crossed my mind since you were found guilty,” he shrugged.

“Bullshit,” Carter sneered.

“Are you going to answer my question?” Rafael muttered.

“No,” Carter shrugged, “I have my secrets just like you… How many do you keep from your wife?”

“That’s none of your business,” Rafael hissed.

“But there are some,” Carter smiled, “Tell me, how long did it take for your little wife to stop seeing you like one of her precious victims?”

“Don’t talk about my wife,” Rafael huffed.

“How about the wedding instead?” Carter suggested, “I heard it was beautiful.”

Tapping his finger on the table Rafael asked, “Why am I here?”

“No one forced you to come,” Carter shrugged, “So why don’t you ask yourself that one.”

Rafael sat quietly; the tapping of his finger on the table echoing in the room, Why am I here? He thought, We’ve missed him… No, don’t be ridiculous… His tapping increased. He’s the only one that really gets us…

“What’s on your mind sweetie?” Carter asked.

Being drawn from his haze Rafael blinked a few times, “If the photo was all you wanted to give me then I’m done here.”

“So soon?” Carter sighed, “But we’ve barely had the chance to catch up.”

“What do you want from me?” Rafael sighed.

“I just want to talk,” Carter shrugged.

“I’m listening,” Rafael replied.

“You don’t talk about your scars, from all the interviews I’ve seen you avoid it,” Carter sighed, “Is it because you’re ashamed of the time we spent together or do you feel self-conscious?”

“I’m not ashamed of surviving you,” Rafael frowned.

“Then what’s with the make-up?” Carter smiled, “You might fool everyone else but I can see it.” Rafael remained quiet as he turned his gaze away from Carter; “You thought I wouldn’t notice.”

“I don’t like people staring,” Rafael muttered, “Because of you I’m riddled with scars.”

Carter smiled, “Why don’t you unbutton that shirt of yours and show me the rest of them? The ones the world doesn’t get to see.”

“If you wanted me shirtless that really should have been on the invitation,” Rafael quipped. “I would have tanned for you.”

“Smart-ass,” Carter frowned.

“Why don’t you tell me what it’s been like for you this past year?” Rafael frowned, “Tell me how your stupid protective custody is. If I was in charge of the case you would never have gotten that deal.”

“Luckily for me you weren’t the prosecutor,” Carter laughed, “I knew you had me beat but I also knew how Jack worked, I played your department so easily.”

Rafael rolled his eyes, “At least your spending the next 20 years here.”

“You forgot about the reduced sentence, didn’t you?” Carter smirked.

Clenching his jaw Rafael snarled, “I will see to it personally that you stay here for as long as possible.”

“Naw there’s no need to be spiteful,” Carter pouted, “After all, you should be sharing a cell with me after what you did to my son-”

“I didn’t kill him,” Rafael huffed.

“Well then you definitely should be here for your mother,” Carter taunted, “You are the reason she’s dead. Speaking of which, did you see her yesterday?”

Rafael stood suddenly from the table, “Enough, I’m done talking.”

“Don’t walk away from me,” Carter growled.

“At least I can leave,” Rafael retorted.

“For now,” Carter mumbled, “You’ll find yourself back here soon enough.”

Rafael rushed towards the door, his breathing laboured, as he waited; growing impatient he started to bang on the metal poles, “Get me out of here.” Shortly after the door buzzed opened and Rafael rushed through the prison as fast as he could; he paused as he reached the car, the warmth of the sun hitting his skin. He relished in the feeling for a moment before stepping into the car and heading home.

  

When Olivia walked through the door, Noah ran up to her, “Mommy!” he beamed.

Olivia leaned down as she took the boy in her arms, “I missed you,” she smiled as she kissed him on the forehead. With Noah in her arms she walked down the hallway, “Where’s Rafi?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Noah shrugged.

“Okay,” she sighed, “Why don’t you go watch some TV while I find him?”

Noah nodded as Olivia placed him on the floor; he started for the living room when he turned back to her, “Mommy, what’s for dinner?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” she replied. “Are you hungry?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “I think Daddy had a bad day. He forgot again.”

Olivia sighed, “I’ll see what we can do for dinner.” She watched as Noah disappeared into the living room before continuing her way down the hallway towards her bedroom. She reached the closed door; “Rafael?” she whispered as she cautiously opened it. She paused in the doorway as she looked into their room; it was dark; using the light from the hallway she managed to just see him lying on the bed. “Rafael?” she repeated as she started for him; he stirred a little. Reaching the side of the bed she flicked on their bedside lamp before turning her attention to him; he was asleep. She took a deep breath as she knelt down next to him and gently rocked his shoulder; “Rafael, wake up.”

“Mm,” he groaned as he slowly woke up.

“Hon?”

As he opened his eyes he stretched; “What time is it?”

“5:30,” she sighed, “I just got home.”

He frowned as he looked at her, “I don’t remember going to sleep.”

“You must have been tired,” she shrugged as she watched him sit up. “You’ve had a pretty busy day.”

“Where’s Noah?” he rushed, “Crap.”

“He’s fine,” Olivia reassured, “He’s watching TV.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, um,” he mumbled, “I’m sorry.”

Olivia moved to the bed and sat next to him, “It’s okay.” He gave her a small smile as she placed a hand on his knee, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m pretty good,” he shrugged.

“You saw Carter today, how’d that go?”

“Fine,” he sighed, “It went okay.”

Olivia paused as she watched him avoid eye contact; “Okay,” she nodded, “Well you can talk about it if you want to.”

“I know,” he mumbled. “There’s nothing to talk about, I’m fine.”

“In that case,” she sighed, “Why don’t you go to the kitchen and start organising dinner while I get changed?”

“Oh shit,” he frowned, “Noah must be hungry. I forgot again, didn’t I?”

“He understands,” Olivia mumbled as she stood up. “Just go start dinner and I’ll be out shortly.”

Rafael nodded as he slowly made his way off the bed; shortly after he disappeared from the bedroom.

 

Half an hour later Olivia and Rafael were in the kitchen working on dinner together. Rafael took hold of a knife and began to chop some tomatoes; as he stood there he saw the light glimmer off the blade as it sliced through the flesh of the tomato. His heart began to quicken as a dark memory loomed around him; he paused as the memory took hold, all of a sudden he felt the knife begin to glide its way down his face. As the blade sliced through his skin, blood dripping, he heard laughter coming from the dark; feeling short of breath Rafael began to hyperventilate. Dropping the knife he stumbled backwards; “Stop… Stop, please,” tears forming in his eyes.

Olivia quickly turned her attention to Rafael to find him standing in the middle of the kitchen, “Rafael?” she said calmly. She made her way cautiously towards him, “You’re safe,” she reassured, “No one can hurt you here.” Olivia felt him trembling under her touch as she placed a hand on his bicep.

A short moment later Rafael blinked rapidly as he was drawn out of his haze; he looked around the room confused as he panted, “He was- The knife-“

“Look at me,” Olivia said, “Watch me.” She waited until he connected his gaze with hers, “Breath in… One… Two… Three… and out.”

Rafael followed her instructions as he stared at her; feeling his heart rate return to normal he sighed, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.”

“It’s been a while since you’ve had an episode like that. It’s because you saw him today, isn’t it?” Olivia questioned.

“It’s been a year,” he grumbled, “This shouldn’t be happening.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself,” Olivia comforted.

“He shouldn’t have this affect on me anymore,” he frowned.

“Why don’t you talk to me about today, so you’re not dealing with it alone,” Olivia suggested.

“It wasn’t anything that I didn’t expect,” Rafael sighed. “He spoke about my scars, Warren and my mother.”

“That must have been hard to listen to,” Olivia sighed.

Rafael hesitated, “He…”

“Rafi?”

He placed a hand in his pocket and pulled out the photo, “He gave me this.”

Olivia took the photo and frowned, “How’d he get this?”

“It’s not ours,” Rafael shrugged, “Someone else at our wedding took that photo. He had someone there, Liv.”

“I’ll see if I can figure out who it was,” Olivia mumbled as she placed the photo on the bench. “Why don’t you get Noah,” she sighed.

“I want to help,” Rafael frowned, “Let me help.”

“We’re done,” Olivia replied. “Just get Noah and sit at the table and I’ll bring this over.”

Rafael shook his head as he started out the door, “Noah! Dinner!”

 

Later that night, Olivia was sitting in her bed, reading a book, when suddenly their stereo started to play music; as she lowered the book she found Rafael standing in the doorway with a large grin across his face. She couldn’t help but smile as the song played in the background; “Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Chaka.”

As it hit the first verse Rafael started to sing the words; “I can’t stop this feeling, Deep inside of me-“ he slowly took a few steps forward. His hands dramatically pointing to Olivia as he sung, “Girl, you don’t just realise;” bringing his hands back to himself he continued, “What you do to me-“

Olivia laughed as he spun around and wrapped his arms around himself and swayed in front of the bed.

He took hold of the side of his jacket; “I-I-I’m hooked on a feeling,” he sung as he skilfully removed it to the beat. He dropped his jacket as he continued with the song; “I’m high on believing;” he exaggerated his hip movements with the beat as he took hold of his suspenders. He pulled on them as he sung, “That you’re in love with me-“ As his right hand slipped; his suspender snapped back onto his chest, “SHIT!” he yelped.

“Rafael,” Olivia laughed, “Keep it down, Noah’s sleeping.”

Rafael took the remote out of his pocket and turned down the music, “I was just trying to have some fun.”

As Rafael stood in front of the bed; he slowly removed his suspenders and began unbuttoning his shirt. While he was distracted he didn’t see Olivia climb out of bed, making her way towards him; when she closed the gap she brushed his hands away and took over undoing his shirt. He stared at her as she concentrated on the buttons; he smiled as her hair fell effortlessly around her face. When his shirt fell loosely on his sides he felt her cold hands run along his chest; “Looks like that snap got you pretty good,” she said; tracing a red mark down his right side.

Rafael glanced down quickly and saw the red mark before looking back at her; “Remind me not to do that again,” he smiled.

Olivia remained quiet as her eyes followed her fingers; as her fingers ran along his skin she slowly turned her attention to the long scar running across his upper chest. Rafael felt her gentle touch start for his scar; before she reached it he took hold of her wrist, “Rafael?” she whispered.

Rafael clenched his jaw tight as he stared at the wall passed Olivia, “Don’t.”

“Hon?” Olivia questioned as she brought her gaze to his face, “I’ve seen it all before.”

Still not looking Olivia in the eyes; Rafael pulled her hand away from him as he muttered, “I don’t want your pity.”

“That’s not-“ she began.

He let go of her as he brushed passed her; before long he disappeared into their ensuite without another word. Rafael made his way towards the mirror and stared at himself, noticing all the scars covering his chest. As he stared at them he got flashes of that day; being cut and stabbed with a knife then being beaten with his own belt. He took a shuddering breath as he pushed the thoughts from his mind; he leaned closer to the mirror, staring at his face; while he looked at himself he took hold of a wipe and ran it along his cheek. As the make-up disappeared, making his scars more evident, he brought his hand to his cheek. He was tracing the scar running down his cheek with his fingers when he caught a glimpse of Olivia standing in the doorway behind him. He didn’t turn to face her; instead he drew a deep breath as he continued looking at the scar.

“I don’t pity you Rafael,” she sighed, “That’s not how I look at you.”

“No, I’m just a dead man walking,” he muttered.

“No you’re not,” she frowned, “The man out there, dancing around, that’s who you are… What happened to him?”

Rafael shrugged as he turned to face her, “I just wanted some fun… We never have any fun anymore.”

Olivia sat on the edge of the bath as she said, “If it’s fun you’re after then lets go out past 9, let’s go to a bar, a game… something. It’s Manhattan, we can do anything.”

“You know I can’t,” he mumbled; looking down at the floor as he leaned against the sink. “I’ve tried. I just… I can’t.”

“I know it’s hard,” Olivia nodded, “But if you’re worried about people staring at you, you shouldn’t be. When I look at you I don’t see any of the scars, I don’t see Carter-“

“How could you not?” he sighed, “It’s all I see.”

“I see the cocky, jackass lawyer I fell in love with… he’s in there somewhere, I know he is,” Olivia continued.

“I’m no lawyer,” he muttered, “I’m just a shell of the man I used to be.”

“Now that’s not my Rafael,” she frowned as she took hold of his hand. He slowly moved his glance to her as she said, “Don’t lose yourself again.” He remained silent as he moved his hand away from her, “What’s brought this back?” she asked. “Did Carter say something?”

He sighed, “I don’t care about what he said.”

“Then talk to me, tell me what’s going on,” Olivia urged.

“I just… I want to go to bed,” he mumbled, “We can talk about it later.”

“Rafael, you shouldn’t shut me out,” she sighed.

“I’m not, I’m just tired,” he muttered as he left the bathroom.

Olivia followed him out and they both made their way into bed; as Rafael laid in bed he felt Olivia’s hand wrap around him so he turned and pulled her closer. She snuggled into him before giving him a tender kiss; soon after they were asleep in each other’s embrace.

 

A few nights later Rafael heard metal gliding along the floor; that sound all too familiar to him he stuttered, “H-hello?” With no reply Rafael walked forward in the dark room; as he pushed against a heavy dual door he heard laughter start around him. The voices sent shivers down Rafael’s spine as he walked further; all of a sudden a light shone down revealing a chair sitting in the middle of the room. SIT! A voice commanded. “NO!” he shouted back. He felt a jolt of pain strike him causing him to fall into the chair. Feeling panicked Rafael snapped his head around the room trying to find someone, “Help!” he called out.

Rafael heard a few belt cracks before Carters booming voice echoed, “No one want’s to help you.”

“You can’t hurt me!” As he spoke he felt a few lashes from a belt hit him across the chest.

“You’re not getting out that easy,” Carter laughed.

“H-help,” Rafael whimpered; tears forming in his eyes.

“You didn’t help me,” Lucia’s voice spoke.

His heart raced; “Mamá?” Rafael sniffled.

“You let me die,” she said sounding closer.

“No,” Rafael cried as he looked around, “I didn’t mean to! I’m sorry!”

Carter laughed; sounding close Rafael snapped his head and saw him standing in front of him, “You’re mine.”

Rafael huffed, “Get me out!” before feeling a sharp pain in his stomach. As he looked down he saw the knife plunged into his stomach; he pulled it out and watched as the blood poured from his skin. Unable to catch his breath Rafael sat up in his bed quickly; he frantically looked around the dark room and saw Olivia sleeping next to him. Trying to catch his breath he slowly got out of bed; the darkness closing around him as Carter’s laughter continued. “G-get o-out,” Rafael stuttered; tears rolling down his face. Feeling small Rafael leaned against the wall; “I-I’m n-not sc-cared of you!” he called out as he slid down.

“You keep thinking that,” Carter sneered, “I got your mother… I can get you.”

“NO!” Rafael screamed.

Olivia woke up at the sound of Rafael’s scream; “Hon?” she said cautiously. All she got in return were soft whimpers; she turned in the bed to find his side was empty. Olivia crawled across the bed until she saw him sitting in the corner shaking, “Rafael, it’s okay,” she reassured.

Rafael ignored her until she was knelt down in front of him; “H-he’s gonna…” he said breathlessly.

“He can’t hurt you,” Olivia said calmly. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug; she felt his arms wrap around her as she said, “Just breathe.”

He sniffled as he held her tightly; they sat on the floor together for a while until Rafael sighed, “I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Don’t be,” she said, “Do you want to go back to bed?”

“I… I don’t think I can sleep after that,” he mumbled, “You should though.”

Olivia broke their embrace as she stood up, “Come on,” she smiled.

“What?” Rafael questioned as he looked at the hand she held out for him.

“We’re going to have a cup of tea,” she said.

He took her hand, “You really don’t-“

“Shh,” Olivia interrupted, “We’re going to have some tea, bring it back in here and snuggle on the bed.”

“Liv,” he sighed.

“No more words,” she interrupted him with a kiss.

Rafael smiled, “Thank you.”

  

A week later, Rafael rushed through the front door; as he slammed it shut behind him he saw Olivia in the corner of his eye stand up quickly. “What’s going on?” Olivia asked as she started towards him.

He kept walking down the hallway; away from her, as he said, “I’m being followed.”
“What?” she frowned, looking at the front door. “Who?”

Rafael disappeared into their bedroom without another word; while he was gone there was a knock on the door. Olivia cautiously made her way towards the door when she heard Rafael’s shaky voice, “D-don’t, I’ve got it.”

As she turned to face him she gasped; he was aiming a gun at the front door, “What the fuck Rafael?” she huffed.

With every step towards the door, his tremors grew worse; unable to hold the gun straight Rafael persevered forward, “L-Liv, get out of the way.”

“This is ridiculous,” she frowned, “Give me the gun.”

“No,” he frowned.

Olivia took a step towards him; blocking him from the door, “Give it to me,” she ordered as she placed a hand on top of the gun. “If you won’t give it to me at least lower it. We don’t need it.”

“Fine,” Rafael growled, lowering the gun to his side.

Keeping a cautious eye on Rafael; Olivia turned towards the door and opened it, “Oh it’s you,” she sighed in relief.

“Hey, sorry to bother you but we were in the neighbourhood and thought we’d pop in to say hi,” Carisi smiled.

“No bother,” Olivia smiled, “Come in.”

As Carisi and Rollins entered; Rafael moved the gun to behind his back, “W-when did you get here?” he asked.

“A few minutes ago,” Rollins replied.

“Yeah we saw you running into the building,” Carisi added. “Is everything okay?”

Olivia remained quiet as she looked over to Rafael; Do we tell them you almost blew their brains out?- he thought, No, if you explain it, they’ll think we’re crazy. “I, uh,” he mumbled, “Everything is fine. I just thought… uh, I thought I was running late to pick up Noah.”

“He forgot that it was my turn,” Olivia added.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Rafael mumbled as he started walking backwards down the hallway; when he was clear he quickly disappeared into the bedroom. He closed the door behind himself before making his way towards the edge of the bed; as he sat there he stared at the gun shaking in his hands. “What was I thinking?” he mumbled. You were being followed, he thought, Was I?” They’re out to get us. “Who?” he questioned, “Carer’s in prison and Seth is dead… I’ve got nothing to be frightened of-“ then why are we?

As he sat on the bed lost in an internal argument with himself he didn’t hear Olivia enter the room; “Rafael?” she cautiously said.

His head snapped up to her, his heart racing, “Liv?”

“They’ve come to see you,” she sighed, “I need you to put down that gun and come with me.” Rafael lowered his gaze back to his hands to find he had his finger on the trigger; “Please put it down,” Olivia’s voice repeated, sounding more distant to him.

As he drowned out Olivia’s voice his own thoughts took over, jumping from voice to voice; She wants you to give up our protection- Do you need it?- We could just sho- “Okay,” Rafael mumbled as he flicked the safety on. He quickly dropped the gun on the bed next to him, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

“We can talk about it later,” Olivia frowned, “Because we will be talking about that gun but right now we have guests.”

Rafael clenched his jaw as he nodded, “Okay.”

Olivia waited until Rafael stood up and started for the door before turning back into the hallway herself, “It’s just for a few hours,” Olivia whispered to him.

He nodded as he entered the living room; forcing a smile Rafael said, “So what brings you guys here?”

“We just wanted to come and see you,” Amanda smiled, “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, you don’t come by the precinct anymore,” Carisi sighed, “Not since…”

Rafael drew a deep breath, “Not since my last panic attack there.” The room fell into an awkward silence as Rafael spoke, “You don’t have to walk on eggshells around me. I know what happened.”

“I just didn’t think you’d want to talk about it,” Carisi mumbled.

“Talk about what?” Rafael frowned, “The way I completely fell apart on the sidewalk? How I felt like I was dying? What about how I hurt you and Olivia?”

“Raf,” Olivia sighed.

“No,” he snapped, “Of course I don’t want to talk about it. It’s ridiculous, I shouldn’t be afraid of walking out that door. I should be able to visit my wife at work but I can’t!”

“We don’t blame you for-“ Amanda began.

“It’s pathetic,” he growled as he rolled his eyes, “Living in fear… Of what? Nothing.” Olivia placed a gentle hand on his back, “I’m getting a drink,” he mumbled, “My friends aren’t supposed to tiptoe around me.”

As Rafael left the room Olivia looked at their friends; “I’m sorry. He’s…” she sighed, “He’s having a bad day.”

“Can we do anything to help?” Carisi asked.

Olivia shook her head, “No, when he gets in a mood like this it’s best to just leave him. It doesn’t tend to last long after an outburst… He usually feels bad for what he says.”

“It’s not his fault,” Amanda sighed, “It must be hard on him… On the both of you.”

“It put a strain on us,” Olivia admitted, “But it’s nothing we can’t deal with.”

When Rafael entered, glass of water in hand, the room fell silent; everyone’s eyes awkwardly darting around the room. As he walked across the room and sat next to Olivia he sighed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you guys.”

“It’s okay,” Carisi reassured.

“No… it’s not,” Rafael mumbled, “I don’t want to be like this, I try not to be.”

“We understand,” Amanda smiled gently, “We’re here for you.”

“I’ve missed you guys,” Rafael paused, “I’ve missed working with you all. I wish I could visit…”

“You put too much pressure on yourself,” Olivia said, placing a hand on his knee.

He stared at her hand for a moment, “I shouldn’t be as broken as I am,” he muttered under his breath. “I didn’t feel broken a few days ago.”

“We heard about what happened,” Carisi nodded, “That’s actually one of the reasons why we came… To make sure you’re okay.”

“I needed to see him,” Rafael sighed; We need him, “But I think it was a bad idea.” No we don’t, he thought, We enjoy his company more than theirs… Tell them the truth. “No,” he whispered; looking down at his drink. At least he doesn’t pity us.

“Why did Carter ask to see you?” Amanda asked.

“I’d rather not talk about it,” Rafael sighed, “What have you guys been up to?”

“Other than work, nothin’,” Carisi shrugged. “We should go out and get dinner sometime, I’m sure everyone would love to catch up with you.”

“Yeah,” Rafael muttered, “Sure, we can organise something.”

“Why don’t you tell us about Jesse?” Olivia smiled, “We haven’t seen her in so long.”

“Oh she’s gotten so big,” Amanda beamed.

As they spoke Rafael tuned out, his mind wandering from thought to thought: when spoken to Rafael replied absentmindedly. As the hours passed Rafael felt more isolated from everyone as their voices echoed through his head; unable to engage in a proper conversation he didn’t notice when they left.

“Rafael?” Olivia’s muffled voice called out. “Rafael?”

“Huh?” he questioned, “I’m sorry what?”

“Carisi and Rollins left,” she sighed.

“Oh,” he muttered, “I’m sorry.”

“You barely spoke to them,” she frowned, “They’re our friends.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” he nodded.

She sighed, “We need to talk.”

“Yeah, I figured that was coming,” he mumbled as he stood up, “Bedroom?”

She nodded and soon after they made their way out of the living room and into their bedroom; she quickly closed the door as she asked, “How long have you had the gun?”

“I don’t know,” Rafael mumbled.

“Rafael, I need you to be honest with me,” she sighed.

“I am,” he frowned, “I don’t remember buying it. I mean I must have… I knew exactly where it was.”

Olivia paused, “Is it legal?”

“I… I think so,” he nodded as he walked across the room and sat on the bed, “It has to be… I have documents for it.”

“I think you should give me the gun,” she sighed.

“What? No,” he frowned.

“Don’t you think one gun in the house is enough?” she asked.

“What am I supposed to do when you go to work?” he growled, “Ask them not to shoot me?” He paused as he lifted his shirt slightly revealing his bullet scar, “Cause that worked out so well for me last time.”

Olivia took a deep breath as she kept her eyes on his face, “Rafael, I can’t have you with a gun in your current state of mind-“

He rolled his eyes, “I’m not going to hurt someone-“

“You almost did today,” she frowned, “You were ready to pull that trigger out of fear.”

“That’s not… I was being followed,” he mumbled.

“Were you?” she asked, “Carisi and Rollins didn’t see anyone.”

“I…” he paused.

“I’m worried you’ll hurt someone or even yourself if I let you keep that gun,” she sighed.

She’s not wrong, “Fine,” he grumbled, “Take the gun.”

“I’m going to put it in our safe,” she sighed as she picked it up off the bed. “I’m changing the combination too.”

“Can I know what you change it to?” he asked.

“When I trust you wont go pointing it at anyone,” Olivia nodded.

Rafael watched Olivia leave the room before standing up and making his way to their ensuite; he stood at the sink for a moment before asking, “Did you know I bought the gun?” he asked.

Staring back at himself in the mirror he thought; We knew.

“Why can’t I remember?” he frowned.

We needed protection… They’re out to get us.

“They’re out to get me,” Rafael muttered under his breath as he lowered his gaze.

As Rafael nodded to the voice in his head he thought; Is there anyone we can trust? Is she-

“Rafael?” Olivia asked; interrupting his thoughts. “Are you okay?”

Rafael snapped his gaze to his own eyes before turning his stare to Olivia in the mirror, “I’m fine.”

Olivia raised an eyebrow as she watched the way his eyes were glued to the mirror, “I think… I think you should go back to your therapist.”

He frowned as he turned to face her, “I don’t need her. I’m doing fine.”

“Rafael you do realise what you just did, don’t you?” she asked.

He paused, “Yes.”

“You gave up on your therapy after a few months,” she sighed, “I was supportive of that decision but now I can’t just let things get worse again. It’s time you went back.”

“I did what she told me to do,” he mumbled.

“You don’t take your pills,” she frowned.

“I don’t need them,” he huffed, turning away from her.

Olivia took a few cautious steps towards him; when she was close enough she placed a soft hand on top of his, she felt him shaking, “The voices are back again, aren’t they?”

Rafael stared at himself in the mirror; clenching his jaw as he took a few slow deep breaths, “I’m not crazy,” he muttered.

“I didn’t say you were,” she said quietly. She traced small circles into the back of his hand; easing him, as she spoke, “We all have our own ways of coping.”

He lowered his gaze and watched her hand on his; he felt safe yet lonely under her touch, More pity, he thought. As his silence grew longer he turned on his heels, removing himself from her, as he started for the door, “You don’t...” he muttered under his breath.

“What?” she questioned as she followed him into their room. “Rafael talk to me.”

He paused at the foot of the bed; “You don’t believe in me.”

She was taken back; “I always believed in you… What’s brought that on?”

“You think seeing Carter was a mistake,” he mumbled, “You think I can’t make the right decisions for myself. That all of this…” he paused as he turned to face her; “That all of this instability could have been avoided.”

“You’re right, I don’t think seeing Carter was a smart idea,” she nodded as she took a step closer. “But I trust your judgement to know that you honestly believe it will help and I’ll support you no matter what.”

“You think he’s broken me again,” Rafael muttered.

Olivia moved towards him, closing the gap; “Seeing Carter or not, I always knew this time of the year would be difficult for you,” she said pulling him into a hug.

Taking a shuddering breath as he relaxed against her, “I’m sorry you have to deal with this.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she reassured.

“I think I just want to lay down for a while,” he muttered as he broke the hug.

“Are you sure?” Olivia questioned, “Do you want dinner?”

“No,” he sighed, “I think I’m just going to stay in here for the rest of the night.”

“Okay,” she sighed, “I’ll be in later to check on you.”

“I love you,” he said as he leaned in and gave her a quick kiss.

  

The following afternoon Olivia saw Rafael heading for the front door, “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Uh,” he paused; turning to her he mumbled, “I just…” Just tell her about the therapy… Better yet, tell her you’re whipped, “I’m going for a walk.”

“A walk?” she questioned; raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” he nodded, “I need to clear my head.”

“You haven’t gone on a walk alone this late before,” Olivia sighed, “Are you sure it’s a good idea?”

Rafael checked his watch; You’re going to be late if you don’t leave soon, “Liv, I’m going to be fine. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“Okay,” she nodded. Before she could say anything else Rafael rushed out the door.

  

Rafael walked through a dark, wooden waiting room without acknowledging anyone else in the room as he made his way towards the office door down the hallway. He knocked softly on the door before opening it; “Welcome back Mr Barba,” the woman smiled, “Come in.”

Rafael slowly walked towards the chair in front of her desk; “It’s been a while Ms Thatcher,” he mumbled sitting down.

“Please call me Rachael but I’m glad you’re back,” she nodded. “What’s on your mind?”

“I saw him,” Rafael muttered, “Carter… I thought it would give me some closure.”

“Did it?”

Rafael laughed a little, “If it had I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

“What did happen then?” Rachael asked.

“It made everything worse,” he sighed. “The nightmares are back; worse than ever. My paranoia, the flash backs, everything… It’s all back.”

“Will you allow me to help you this time?” she questioned.

“What are you talking about? I’ve always allowed you to help me… That’s why I’m here,” he frowned.

“No,” she shook her head, “You came here to appease your wife while pushing everything down and hoping for the best. It was always going to come back but the question is will you let me help you before it breaks you?”

“Okay,” he nodded, “Help me… I need to get rid of these voices inside my head.”

“I want you to think about that day in the warehouse,” Rachael sighed, “Think about how it made you feel.”

Rafael closed his eyes as he thought; his hands gripping the chair tightly, “I was scared and angry.”

“Given the choice to do it all again, would you change something?” she asked.

Opening his eyes he sighed, “I’d pull the trigger.”

Not surprised at his answer she simply nodded and replied, “What makes you say that now?”

“Knowing what I know now, how hard its been for me, how much I’ve suffered at the hands of him while he gets to sit back in prison without a care in the world,” he mumbled. “I’d pull that trigger… I would have pulled it that day.”

“What stopped you?”

“Olivia,” he said breathlessly.

“Do you resent anything?” Rachael asked.

“I don’t resent my wife,” he frowned.

“That’s not what I was asking,” she said intrigued, “But I do find it interesting that’s how you took it.”

She’s twisting our words, he thought, Is she though? Or are we lying? He closed his eyes as he tried to push the voices away.

“Do you resent your wife?” she asked bluntly.

“What, no,” he mumbled opening his eyes again. “I just wish she loved me.”

“I’m sure she does,” she reassured.

“Not like she used to,” he mumbled, “Half the time I think she only stays out of guilt.”

“Do you want her to leave?”

“No, I love her… I owe her,” he frowned.

“Owe?” Rachael questioned.

“I owe her my life,” he sighed, “Without her I wouldn’t be here today.”

“Marriage isn’t about owing each other,” she sighed, “It’s about love and respect. Can you honestly tell me, in your opinion, that your marriage still has both of those things?”

“We do,” he nodded, “But I wish she’d stop pitying me… Like I’m one of her victims.”

“From everything you’ve told me in our time together, she doesn’t pity you but something’s blocking your ability to see otherwise,” Rachael said. “Which in turn is putting a strain on your relationship.” Rafael nodded along as she spoke; “What do you see when you look at her? Do you feel anything?”

“I feel love and protection,” he paused, “But there are times when I don’t see her. I don’t recognise her.”

“How often would you say that happens?”

“Not often,” he shrugged, “Usually only after a bad flash back.”

“Mhmm,” she nodded as she wrote on her note pad.

“But…” he hesitated.

“But what?”

“There have been times when I’m a bit foggy and don’t recall what I’ve just done or said,” he sighed, “I feel helpless when that happens and I think she knows that.”

Rachael paused for a moment as she read her note pad; “Have the voices started again?”

“What’s with everyone and asking me that?” he frowned, “I’m sure I’m not the only one who has voices.”

“You’re not, but when you’re losing awareness like that, I’m thinking that other personality you’ve developed has taken over,” she said.

“What?” he questioned, “How can that be?”

“It can happen when you’re under extreme stress,” Rachael explained, “We’ve already discussed why you have the other personality last time you were here.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “As a way to cope but how can it take over without me knowing?”

“It’s an unusual coping mechanism but it does happen,” she sighed, “I would say that it would have come forward when you were feeling stressed or threatened.”

“Can I do anything about it?” he asked.

“Have you taken any of the pills I prescribed you?” she asked.

Rafael shifted in his seat; “No,” he mumbled.

“Did you fill it out?” she questioned.

Rafael drew a deep breath, “No.”

“I’m going to write you another prescription,” she sighed as she took out a note pad, “I want you to take these.”

“I don’t-“

“Rafael,” she frowned, “Do you want the voices to stop?”

“Yes but,” he sighed, “I don’t want to be dependent on them.”

“You just said you were having trouble remembering again, yes?”

“I, uh,” he mumbled, “Yeah… Yeah I am.”

“I suggest you take them,” she said as she held out the piece of paper.

Reluctantly Rafael leaned forward and took hold of the prescription, “How often do I have to take these?”

“Once a day,” Rachael sighed, “If it’s a particularly bad day, take another.”

“Yeah okay,” he mumbled as he checked his watch, “I think our hour is up.”

“I think we should schedule another appointment before you go-“

“No, I’ll book one soon,” Rafael interrupted.

“Rafael,” she frowned.

“I promise I’ll book another one,” he sighed, “I’ll feel these out now and I’ll get back to you on that appointment.”

“Okay,” she nodded, “I hope to see you soon.”

Rafael smiled as he stood up and made his way out of her office; he spent the next hour fighting with himself as he debated on buying the medication; eventually he gave in and bought it. By the time he got home Olivia was putting Noah to bed; avoiding her he quickly rushed into their room and took a pill. Soon after he sat on the lounge waiting for Olivia; they ended up spending the rest of the night together watching a movie.

 

Saturday afternoon Rafael and Noah walked through their usual route towards the car; Rafael got an unnerving feeling in his stomach. He looked around but unable to see thing out of the ordinary he thought, It’s just your paranoia. As they walked they turned down a dark pathway; trees lining each side, rays of the afternoon sun bursting through every few feet.

“Daddy do you think the giants are friendly?” Noah asked.

Feeling uneasy Rafael jumped at the sound of Noah’s voice, “W-what?” he stuttered, “Giants?”

“From the story,” Noah explained, “The one you were telling me at the playground.”

“Oh,” Rafael nodded, “Yeah they’re friendly, they protect those who are lost from the ogres.”

“Do you think this could be the way to their kingdom?” Noah questioned, “Or to the ogres… It looks pretty scary.”

Rafael smiled as he tightened his grip on Noah’s hand, “It does look pretty mystical down here doesn’t it.”

As they continued walking Noah asked, “They’re not real are they?”

“The giants or the ogres?” Rafael questioned.

“Both,” Noah sighed, “They’re scary.”

“Don’t worry, there’s always someone looking out for you,” Rafael reassured, “There’s nothing to be scared-“ All of a sudden Rafael was interrupted by two sets of hands taking hold of him; as he struggled to get free he felt Noah’s hand slip from his own. “Noah run!” he shouted.

“Get the boy,” a strange voice growled next to Rafael’s ear.

It was shortly followed by a sharp pain at the back of his head; Rafael’s vision started to blur as he fell to his knees, “Noah!” he shouted. Another blow to his head knocked him flat on his stomach; hearing Noah screaming Rafael tried to get to his hands and knees but he was feeling dizzy. As he laid on the ground he saw Noah being carried away, “No,” he whispered as he crawled forward; his vision fading to black. When he regained some consciousness he saw Noah farther down the pathway, still screaming Rafael’s name; before long Rafael lost consciousness.