Author's Note: Sorry for the long wait. This chapter was a bear to write and if there's a lot of rough patches, blame my damn Muse. She was refusing to cooperate for most of this story.

Chapter 5

It doesn't feel longer than ten minutes but they're actually on the dance floor for more than thirty. Barba's quite good and Benson finds it easy to follow his lead. The fact that he dances so well still throws her off a little. He has surprised her so many times this evening; every time she thinks she knows him, he does something else to make her realize she really knows very little about him.

"So tell me more about these dance lessons." She asks.

"Not much to tell. Law school doesn't leave you much time for extracurricular activities but every third Friday at one of the local community centers, they had free dance lessons. I couldn't afford to pay for them." His eyes mist over in the remembering. "I took them all through second and third year. It's where I met..." And he stops, a brief look of sadness flashing across his face and then he plasters a smile on his face. "But enough about that. Where did you learn to dance?"

"Don't laugh." Benson notices the dodge but decides not to push him on it. "I always wanted to be a dancer when I was little but there was never any money for classes. So I would copy the girls I would watch dancing – sometimes the teacher would let me sit in the studio. They all knew we couldn't afford dance lessons."

Serena couldn't spare the money from fueling her alcohol addiction to give me dance lessons. The bottle meant more to her than her daughter.

Barba looks at her sympathetically, he knows her well enough to read between the lines. That there are things she's not saying because it's too embarrassing. And he understands. Being poor...not being able to afford things that many of their peers could...well, it's embarrassing.

Just one more thing that they share.

He looks over to the table. "It looks like our meals are there."

"If they're cold, I'm blaming you for distracting me with dancing." Liv grins impishly.

"If they're cold, I'm blaming you for distracting me period." He responds, a slight smile on his face. And there's something in his eyes that makes Liv go hot. And suddenly, she wants to hurry up with the meal, delicious cocktails and ropa vieja notwithstanding.

…...

It seems that Barba has the same thought in mind, or at least similar ones, because he devours his meal like he hasn't eaten in days. And, as far as Liv knows, maybe he hasn't – he has mentioned his caseload has been unusually heavy over the past week.

"This is delicious." She says, folding her napkin on her lap. "But I am completely full."

Barba eyes her plate. "Would you mind if I finished that?"

She laughs. "Not at all. You really like this dish, don't you?"

Barba spoons the remaining bites on his plate. "Any sane person would. Miguel's ropa vieja is delicious. I grew up on this stuff."

"It is very good." Olivia agrees and then gives Barba a soft smile. "Thank you for the evening, Rafael."

"Oh," he pushes back his plate, completely clean now, a mischievous smirk on his face, "it's not over yet."

"Is that so?" Liv raises her eyebrow, trying to ignore the sudden rush of heat in her body.. "You forget, I have a child and a sitter at home – and a rather early day tomorrow."

"I find that I'm in the mood for a nightcap." He smiles. "Are you?"

Part of Benson wants to decline. The part of her that remembers the men who have come into her life, only to walk away. Elliot. David. Brian. Everybody has just ended up leaving and there's a good chance that whatever this is could end the same way.

People want to move on, climb up the ladder. There's a good chance that in a year or two, Rafael might spot an opportunity somewhere else. Somewhere he could rise through the ranks at a quicker pace.

So many what if's.

But that's the future, this is the present, and is she going to stay safe at the precipice's edge or leap and test her wings?

Rafael gives her a gentle smile, "It's okay, Liv. Whatever you decide, I'll always be in your corner." Then, to break the tension, he grins. "Except on the occasions when you're clearly wrong."

Oh, the sass.

"Rafael." She rolls her eyes. "You're not supposed to say that to a woman. Especially not on a date."

"What can I say?" He sips his scotch. "I don't play by the rules."

"Clearly." She laughs.

And then looks at him consideringly. Looks at the lines on his forehead, around his eyes and his mouth. Lines that were put there from all the cases that he's given his everything to – the circles under his eyes from the sleepless nights haunted by the shadows of the victims he couldn't save. The trials where the verdicts didn't go their way.

She knows those circles because she's had them for sixteen years. They never go away.

There'll always be another rapist, always another child molester. And it's like you have to sell a little piece of yourself to get the job done.

All I can think of is that I am so tired...

He understands her because he's right there with her.

Maybe it's time to step off the cliff.

"I think I will take that night cap."

He smiles.

…...

Her heart's racing like she's been running a marathon and he hasn't even touched her yet, not really. She and Rafael bid Miguel a good evening and thank him profusely for the meal. And there's a twinkle in the old man's eyes as if he knows exactly what they're going to do.

"It's been a long time since I've seen him smile like that." He tells her right after Rafael leaves to get the car. "I am glad he's found himself a good woman. Because I know you're good for him. He tells me about you." He adds with a wink.

"Oh?" Liv's not sure how to respond to that. He talks to an old friend and his mother about me? I'll have to give him shit for that. She smiles.

"Just be good to him." He says seriously. "He's had a rough time, our Rafael."

I don't have to listen to a stranger telling me how to treat my date...colleague...whatever. And yet she finds, "Don't worry, I will" coming out of her mouth.

She calls Lucy on their way home and Rafael has one hand on hers. It's solid, it's warm, and it's comforting.

I'm here for you. In your corner.

Unlocking the door to her apartment, her hands are shaking a little. She's warm, so warm and she doesn't want to think about the reason. Doesn't really want to think at all, has decided that she is what she wants.

"Hi, Olivia! Did you have a good evening?" Lucy smiles.

"It was wonderful. Thank you, Lucy. See you Monday?"

"Of course. Have a good night, Liv."

…...

While Rafael is finding a parking place, Liv reaches for her favorite bottle of wine and pours them two glasses. She doesn't have scotch but she doesn't think he'll mind. She wipes her palms on a dish towel, she's sweating a little bit and finds that she's nervous. There's a knot in her stomach because she knows what's coming next and it's a little frightening.

I'm not going anywhere.

I love you, Liv.

Maybe she shouldn't do this...maybe this was just a huge mistake.

"Liv?" A quiet rap on the door interrupts her thoughts.

"Are you ok?" When she opens the door, Barba can clearly see the hesitation on her face. "We don't have to do this, Olivia." He smiles. "I won't be hurt, I promise."

"No, it's okay." Liv ushers him in. "Noah's asleep. It's just you and I."

And she firmly closes the door on the past.

…...

"I poured you some wine. Would you..." She starts but before she can finish, Barba's mouth is on hers. At first she's startled but then she puts her arms around him and returns his kiss.

It's hot and warm and everything she could have wanted. And he smells of hope, of old journeys ending, and new beginnings. And she can taste the caipirinha and the scent of summer nights on his mouth and she drinks of him like he's a rare cabernet.

His hands run up and down her back and caress her bare skin. "God, Liv," he whispers, "you wore that dress just to torture me, didn't you?"

She pulls back and smiles slightly. "Why, counselor, how did you know?"

"Just a guess." He pulls her against him and she can feel the very hard evidence of how much he appreciates her. And his mouth finds a soft part on her throat and sucks at it. My god, that's going to leave a mark, she thinks but she doesn't care.

Her hand reaches down and touches him through his pants and she can feel him grow beneath her touch. And she knows he likes it because she hears him growl and mutter some Spanish words under his breath. Barba pulls her tighter against him and runs his tongue along the inside of her mouth.

"You're wearing too many clothes, counselor." She whispers against his ear as she runs her fingers down his spine, feeling him shudder underneath her touch.

"That can be remedied." He murmers lowly, reaching for his shirt and tossing it over his head. He's well built, Rafael is, and sculpted like a beautiful statue. He's not perfectly fit, has a little softness around his belly – he does enjoy his rich foods and scotch – but he's perfect for her. Liv runs her hands over his chest, sliding over his stomach and to the belt of his pants.

In no time flat, he's just in his boxers and she's still in her dress. But the dress is an easy thing to lose and she slowly, a little nervously, drops it. Instinctively, she crosses her hands across her chest. The scars from her ordeal with William Lewis haven't fully healed and, while she's used to them now, knowing someone else can see them makes her self-conscious.

"Don't hide yourself, Olivia." Barba gently takes her hands off her chest. "You're beautiful. All of you."

And this time Olivia pulls him to her and kisses him, her tongue exploring his mouth, bare skin against bare skin.

"Time to stop talking so much, Barba?" She winks at him, as she runs her mouth over his throat and collar bone.

"I can...live with...that." He groans. "Is there a more comfortable place for this?"

She interlocks her fingers with his. "Come with me."

It might have just been her imagination but she could have sworn he said, "Always."

…...

"Protection?" He murmurs against her mouth, before he's too distracted to form any coherent thought.

"I'm on the pill." She responds, fingers running up and down his chest, sliding down his boxers and cupping him. In a flash the boxers are gone. So are her bra and panties. For a long moment, they just stand in her bedroom, kissing, soaking the newness, the hotness of this. Whatever this is.

Her body is on his first. Barba wants to let her take the lead, to set things at her own pace. And she's touched that he's thinking of her comfort first. So many of the men she's been with in the past have just thought about themselves. Few of them have taken the time to think about what she might want.

She slides her body on his and moves down his body. He's hard and clearly ready for her. But she's got other things in mind, at least to start.

As her mouth closes over him, Barba grunts and fists his hands in the sheets. Dios mio, if she keeps this up for too long, it'll be over before it even starts. Her tongue swirls around his tip and then he feels her mouth close over him, caressing him in a long, open mouthed kiss. And behind his eyes, he sees the stars of the summer night.

Ughhhh, is the only sound he's able to make while she's licking and tasting him.

God, Rafael, can you get any more incoherent?

But that thing she does with her mouth. Holy hell.

"Liv." He groans, his voice hoarse and rough. "Please..."

"Begging, Rafael?" She looks up at him with an impish look on her face and takes him into her mouth again.

His body arches up against the sheet and his cock hits the back of her mouth. And she groans because his arousal is turning on and she is wet, so wet.

Why haven't I done this before, she thinks.

"God, Liv...please..." his hips are rolling up, trying to meet her. Finally she has pity on him and slides her body over his and sits down on his cock. He slides in slowly and she almost explodes right there because he fits. And she starts moving...up...down...up...down...

Leaning over him while she's rolling her hips, she thrusts her tongue in his mouth. His body is moving up against hers and she's finding it very, very hard to keep it slow and easy. And he's groaning into her mouth and she's just getting wetter and wetter... and, oh god, oh god, oh god... he's flipping her on her back.

"Enough playing, Olivia." He says in an unrecognizable growl. And he slams into her. Once. Twice. Three times. And her body arches up towards his, she wraps her legs around his waist.

"Oh, oh, oh, oh..." that's all she can say as he swivels his hips and pushes into her with slow, easy strokes. And he's kissing her, touching her breasts, sucking on them and it's just all...so...much. His hands are soft against her skin, against her thighs, and against her clit. Liv's desperately trying to retain some sanity too but she's finding it so hard to think when her ADA's mouth is against her throat, her collar bone, and her breasts. And, ah, how he likes to suck at her breasts.

She'd never figured him for a breast man given the amount of times she's spotted him looking at her ass this evening.

Soon Benson feels that familiar coil in her stomach and she tightens her legs around Barba. "Come on, Rafael." She commands lowly and lifts her hips to meet his thrusts. Not too much longer. Just a little bit further.

And he starts moving faster. And...oh god, she's...almost... there... just one more...one more...

When the explosion comes, it's hard and it's furious and it's almost loud except she's somehow remembered that Noah is sleeping and she can't scream but she wants to...oh god how she wants to scream. But Rafael sees that and bends over and places his mouth over hers to capture her scream, flexing his hips, and right...as she is coming down...body still shaking, he explodes in her.

And they collapse together.

…...

What feels like hours later but, in reality, is only minutes, Liv tries to lift her head up from the pillow, only to find herself too weak to actually do it.

"Well...that...was..." she starts to say but she's even a bit too tired to form words. Post-sex brain turns us all into morons.

"Yep." He says quietly and turns to her. "Any regrets, Liv?" He asks quietly, seriously.

"That was a hell of a first dance, counselor." Benson laughs tiredly. "But I've got no regrets."

And it's the truth. The sex was explosive and hot...but more than that, it was comforting. Liv had felt completely safe.

What has felt like a long exhausting journey was over and she'd come safely into harbor.

Barba sees the truth in her eyes. So he leans over and gives her a deep, warm, and passionate kiss.

"Welcome home, Olivia."

Wherever you are, that is my home.