So after much consideration and many words of encouragement from my pal Bucken-Berry, I have decided to merge my one shots into one larger chapter story with a new chapter 1 and at least one more chapter to follow. Thank you to all those who have read the one shots and have come back for this new chapter and those to follow. It has been a fun journey to explore Season 15 in this little AU I have created. Again thanks to Bucken- Berry for her beta skills and support! :D
Fade into Darkness
New York City, Olivia Benson's Apartment,- May 2013
Olivia awoke to the aroma of brewing coffee. She knew instantly who was behind the wonderful smell permeating her apartment. Before making her way into the kitchen, she put on her sweatpants and his old Harvard Law shirt that she "borrowed" from his place a few weeks earlier.
As she made her way into her kitchen, she found a shirtless Rafael hovering around the coffee maker, impatiently waiting. This sight caused her to smile. Coffee was clearly more important to Rafael in the mornings than wearing a shirt, though Olivia didn't mind. "Hey," she said softly.
Rafael turned around and saw Olivia standing there watching him. "Good morning. Would you like some coffee? Oh and hey! Nice shirt." Rafael grinned.
"Thanks! I think it clearly looks better on me than you. And yes I would love a cup," Olivia said as she moved towards the couch.
Soon Rafael joined her with two cups of coffee prepared to perfection. "Here you go. Coffee just how you like it."
Olivia took the cup from his hand and took a slip before putting it down. "Mmm…you make the best coffee out of anyone I know. Thank you."
"I would hope it would be better than Munch's. His coffee could burn a hole in the wall." Rafael laughed as he sat down next to her. He set his cup down on the table and wrapped his arm around Olivia, gently pulling her towards him. Olivia snuggled closer and took a deep breath. She loved how intoxicating his natural scent was. It was very masculine yet there was a hint of something sweet and she swore there was a faint hint of coffee as well.
She rested her head on his bare chest and ran one of her hands up and down his back slowly. She loved how soft his skin felt against hers. He was much more muscular than his suits let on. Olivia loved it; it made her feel special that she was the only one who got to see the "real" Rafael Barba in more ways than one.
It was more than that though. Being with each other made them feel safe. They each suffered their own private hells but together they could keep their demons at bay.
Cuddled together on Olivia's couch to them was the start of a perfect Sunday. It was rare that the two of them got to spend a weekend together alone like this lately and it was clear neither one of them wanted it to end.
"Can we stay like this for the rest of the day?" Olivia whispered.
"Mmm…why not?" Rafael said as he kissed the top of her head.
And just then as if it was a cruel joke, Olivia's cell phone began to ring. She recognized the ringtone. It was Amanda calling. Olivia groaned. "Damnit. I don't want to answer that."
"Then don't. It is your day off." On cue, Rafael's phone began to ring.
"So much for a peaceful Sunday by ourselves." Olivia sighed.
New York City- 16th Precinct, A Few Weeks Later
Rafael walked into the squad room, hoping he would find her sitting there at her desk or in Cragen's office. Something. Anything. He just needed answers. No one would tell him what was going on. All he managed to get out of Cragen early yesterday morning was that Olivia had gone missing and they were frantically looking for her. Cragen offered no other details. Rafael didn't understand why Cragen couldn't tell him more until he saw the squad huddled around the board in the middle of the bullpen.
"We think we have it narrowed down to a beach house on this part of Long Island," Amanda said as she addressed her fellow officers.
"We have solid leads suggesting that Lewis was heading east in a stolen car with New York license plates." Nick responded.
"Right now we have the state troopers and the Suffolk and Nassau County sheriff departments setting up roadblocks and checkpoints across Long Island," Munch added, "Nick, Amanda, Fin, you guys take these guys out there with you."
The squad continued to hammer out the details of their plan of action before they were interrupted by a voice near the door.
"Is she still alive?" Rafael's voice was low and controlled.
"Barba!" Amanda was the first to spot him. He didn't look like his usual well kept self. He was disheveled and visibly upset and scared.
"Tell me what's going on! I need to know," Rafael pleaded.
"Counselor, I told you, we would call you when we knew anything." Cragen stepped in hoping to ward off any confrontation.
"No! Stop dicking me around, Captain. You guys know what's going on. I need to know if she is still alive!" Rafael demanded as he surveyed everyone's faces. He was trying desperately to keep it together but his anger was boiling to the surface. An uncomfortable silence fell over the room. Amanda and Nick looked away. Munch let out a sad sigh.
It was Fin who spoke up first. "Look man, we don't know. But this is Liv we are talking about here. She's tough."
"And Lewis is a sadist," Rafael snapped.
"We are going to find her, Barba, you got to hold tight. Fin, Nick, Amanda, go! Keep us updated as you find everything. I will contact the others to let them know you are on your way," Cragen commanded before he rushed off to his office.
Rafael watched everyone rush out the door, leaving him and Munch standing alone. "We'll find her. Trust us," Munch said as he placed a hand on Rafael's shoulder.
"John, I do. I just need to know if...She just…" Rafael closed his eyes, he knew he was close to breaking down.
Munch cut him off, "It's going to be okay. Look, I know you and Liv are really close and you are worrying about her. I don't know if this makes things better or worse but just so you know she does care for you a lot."
If you only knew John, Rafael thought to himself.
Long Island, New York
"It's over now Liv. Let's get you out of here," Nick said gently as he wrapped a blanket around her. It was finally over; she survived. She could hardly believe it. She looked up and took a deep breath. She tried to regain focus but the pain in this side of her head was excruciating. Her vision was slightly blurry.
She looked around outside of the house. She was searching for someone. She spotted Fin and Amanda standing together watching her as Nick led her towards the ambulance. She stopped to inspect the crowd, hoping he would call out to her, come running, and tell her that he loved her and it was going to be okay. But it never happened. He wasn't there. Rafael wasn't there. She felt her heart sink.
"Liv, come on. Let's get you over to the EMTs so they can get you checked out and take you to the hospital," Nick said while guiding her towards the awaiting ambulance
"Where is he?"
"Who Liv? Cragen? Lewis?" Nick was slightly confused.
"No," Olivia said while shaking her head slightly. "Where is Rafael?"
"Barba? He's back in the city. Why?"
"I need him," Her voice was barely audible.
"Okay. We'll get him to meet us at the hospital. I will ride with you, Liv and we will get Amanda to call him. Is that okay?"
"Please," She pleaded.
Nick handed her off to the paramedics and ran over towards Amanda and Fin.
"Nick! What's wrong? How is Liv?" Amanda asked.
"She asked for Barba. Can you call him for her while I ride with her to the hospital?" Nick asked.
"Barba? Why she ask for him?" Fin was slightly confused by Olivia's request.
"Look, I don't know but she asked me a few times to get a hold of him and I told her we would," Nick sighed.
"I'm on it. Tell Liv, he will be there and not to worry. If she needs anything else, let us know," Amanda said as she reached for her phone to call Rafael.
New York City- New York Presbyterian Hospital
Rafael rushed into her room to be by her side but he was taken aback by what he saw. She was sedated and almost looked at peace laying there. But as Rafael got closer, the markings on her face and arms told a very different story. The left side of her face was black and purple where Lewis beat her with the butt of her own gun and she had a large gash on her forehead. Her left arm had serve burn just below her wrist. She was hooked up to two IVs to help reduce the pain and fill her with fluids. Rafael's heart sank. He knew there was more but he just couldn't stomach the thought. He couldn't help but blame himself for this.
He pulled up a chair next to her bed and sat down. He reached for her hand. "Oh Liv…I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I want you to know that I love you so much. Please believe me," he said softly. He brought her hand up to his cheek. She let out a soft whimper. Rafael took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The guilt was eating at him. He felt the tears building up. He didn't want to cry. He needed to be strong for her.
"Barba," a voice from the doorway called to him. It startled him. He looked up to find Captain Cragen standing there.
"Captain," Rafael replied.
"How is she doing?"
"She's sedated and dehydrated. The doctors say when she comes to, she is going to be in a lot of pain with the cracked ribs and the broken shoulder plus all her other injuries," Rafael said sadly as his gaze returned to focus on Olivia.
Cragen stood in silence watching Rafael and Olivia. He knew. "How long?"
"Since right after Christmas."
"She loves you dearly you know."
Rafael smiled slightly. "Have we been that obvious?"
"No but I could tell. She looks at you the same way my wife Marge used to look at me."
Rafael looked at Cragen, "I love her too."
Just then, Olivia stirred and started to come to. "Rafael? Rafael where are you? I need you." Her voice was panicked and she started to cry. She was scared and disoriented.
Rafael moved closer, "I'm right here, Liv. I'm right here. You're okay. You're safe now."
"Please don't leave me," she pleaded.
"I won't. I promise." Rafael said as he caressed her non-injured cheek. His touch calmed her down as she managed to fall back asleep again.
Silence overtook the room for several minutes before Cragen spoke again. "She is going to need you more than she has ever needed anyone in her whole life right now. Take good care of her, Rafael," Cragen said before walking out of the room.
Rafael nodded as he watched Cragen leave. Soon he returned his full attention to Olivia. "I want you to know that I'm not going to leave you, Liv. You'll get through this. I know you can. We'll get through this together. Mi amor por siempre."
A few hours later, Olivia started to wake. Her head was still hurting and she was a bit confused as to what was going on. Olivia wasn't even sure what time it was or even how long she had been in this hospital room. Though, she was sure of one thing. She could sense his presence; he was here with her holding her hand.
Olivia opened her eyes and saw him asleep in the chair next to her. She wondered how long he had been there. As she studied his face, Olivia could tell he hadn't slept much these past few days judging by the amount of beard stubble on his face. Olivia thought about how frightened he must have been. She wondered how he found out and if the squad helped him or checked on him. The possibility of him alone and terrified caused her heart to hurt. She hated herself for putting him through this.
Olivia called to him again. Her voice was weak but he heard her and started to wake up.
"Liv? You're awake." Rafael was relieved. He wanted to tell her so many things. He wanted to hold her and never let her go. But something held him back, he was suddenly hesitant and unsure of himself. Olivia could sense he was nervous.
"You stayed with me," Olivia said softly.
"Of course. I wasn't going to leave you," he tried to reassure her.
Olivia gave him a weak smile and took a deep breath. "Rafael…"
He squeezed her hand and looked directly into her eyes.
Her bottom lip began to quiver. "I thought I was never going to see you again." She started to cry. "I thought he was going to kill me. I was so scared. I didn't want to die."
"I never gave up hope," Rafael whispered as he turned away. He didn't want Olivia to see the tears in his own eyes.
"Who told you I was missing?"
Silence overtook the room for a few moments before Olivia called to him again. "Rafael…"
Rafael turned to look at her.
"I love you."
Rafael smiled, "I love you too."
New York City- Rafael Barba's Apartment
Rafael stood outside the bathroom door as he heard Olivia throwing up. He let out a heavy sigh. The anti-retroviral and pain medications were making her very sick. The doctors decided that she needed to be on the anti-retrovirals to be safe given Lewis's history. She barely was able to keep food down today when she had any sort of appetite at all. Due to Rafael's persistence, she managed to force down two pieces of toast but now she was bringing it back up. Nothing he did seemed right; he kept failing her.
Rafael tapped on the door gently and called to her. "Liv? Are you okay? Can I come in?" Olivia managed to let out a weak groan from inside. Rafael entered and found her sitting on floor in front of the toilet. Her skin was flush and she had broken out in a cold sweat from the vomiting.
He kneeled down next to her. "Can I help you up?" His voice was gentle as he instinctively reached for her and touched her back. His touch caused her to flinch. It made her uncomfortable at first. She looked over at him as tears began to build in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said as he pulled his hand away. He was angry with himself. He knew he shouldn't have touched her like that without asking. And if he did his job right then, they would not be sitting here like this. You're such a screw-up Rafael, he thought to himself bitterly.
"No…it's okay…I'm just…I'm just still a little jumpy. You didn't have to move your hand," she whispered sadly.
He was hurt; she saw it in his face. She wanted to tell him that it wasn't him and that she really wanted the comfort of his touch. But at the same time, she just couldn't stand to actually be touched. She still felt Lewis on her. It made her shudder.
"Well how about you let me get you off the floor. It can't be comfortable sitting there." He tried to smile.
Olivia nodded as Rafael helped pull her to her feet. He noticed the burn on her wrist was raw and in need of medicine. "I think we should put some ointment on your wrist and maybe your other burns."
Olivia stiffened. "I don't think that's a good idea." She started to panic and she began to tremble. She desperately wanted to get out of the bathroom.
"You need to though. The burn on your wrist looks like it's going to get infected and what about the one on your chest and leg? Please let me put some medicine on them. It will only take a second," Rafael pleaded.
"I can do it," she said hoping to deflect him.
"I know you can but when putting the gauze band aids on them might be a bit difficult with your injured shoulder and all."
Olivia sighed in frustration. She knew he was trying his best to help. She just wished he wasn't so damn caring so she could get mad at him. "Fine…just…can we get out of the bathroom? I'm really uncomfortable in here."
"Okay." He grabbed the medicine and gauze and he reached for Olivia's hand. Olivia grabbed it and Rafael led them to their bedroom.
Olivia sat on the edge of the bed and she stared at him. She was nervous. She didn't want Rafael to see what Lewis did to her. She worried he would never look at her the same way ever again. She was scared that he would see her as damaged and broken. She didn't want to be so exposed even to Rafael.
"Let's get your wrist first," Rafael said softly as he took her left arm. He inspected the burn. Given how severe it was, Rafael was sure it was going to leave a nasty scar. As he tended to it, Olivia looked on, staring at the wall, trying to forget.
Before this, Olivia sitting on the edge of his bed wearing one of his old dress shirts would have been such a turn on, but this was killing him. Now he saw Olivia sitting there struggling not crawl out of her own skin. She seemed like a shell of her former self; she was barely keeping herself together.
"Let's get the burn on your chest now. I'm going to unbutton the first few buttons, Liv. Then I'm going to put the ointment and the band aid on. Is that okay?" Rafael's voice was tender
She nodded as she closed her eyes tight.
"If you want me to stop, please tell me."
"I will." Her voice was barely audible.
As he undid the shirt buttons, he saw up close for the first time how bad the burn on her chest was. It looked deep and painful and there were signs it was infected. He carefully placed the medicine on her wound. Olivia grimaced in pain at his touch.
"I'm sorry that I hurt you."
"It's not your fault."
Rafael hesitated for a moment. He knew the next one was going to be difficult. "I got to get the one on your inner thigh now."
Olivia was trying to desperately fight off the tears. "I can't let you do that."
"But it needs medicine…"
"No! You can't…I mean I don't want you to see it and what he did to me. Not there."
Rafael moved to sit next to her and reached for her hand. "We can try later. We don't have to do it now," he said trying to comfort her.
"Rafael…I need to tell you something."
"Tell me what?"
"Lewis knew about us. When he….when he got me…he taunted me and said he wanted to leave his mark down there so every time you looked at me, touched me, you would remember him." Olivia hung her head. She felt ashamed and dirty.
"No! Lewis can't take away anything from us, Liv. I know you and I won't let that happen," Rafael said as he squeezed her hand.
"I don't think I can do this."
"Yes you can. I know you can," he tried to reassure her.
Olivia let out a heavy sob. She reached out for Rafael's embrace. As much as she didn't want to be touched, she needed his comfort desperately. Olivia wanted to feel Rafael holding her and not him. She needed Rafael to make her feel safe. "Please," she whispered.
Rafael wrapped his arms around her as Olivia rested her head on his chest as she cried.. "Please what, Liv?" Rafael gently asked.
"Please make it okay again. Make it safe again," Olivia begged as clutched him tight.