Disclaimer: Characters are not mine. They belong to Dick Wolf and NBC.
Author's note: Based on a prompt from bellatrix wannabe 89. Just a little bit of silly fluff that I threw together.
Lyrics from the old Mexican/Basque lullaby A La Puerta Del Cielo – At the Gates of Heaven. And cabbages and kings is a reference to Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and The Carpenter.
And I can't help myself, I love Singing Barba.
At the gates of heaven,
They sell shoes
For the little angels
That go barefoot.
And at the end:
The children who sleep,
God bless them.
The mothers who watch,
God helps them.
Everyone has had one of those days when nothing seems to go quite right from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong and usually does. To the rest of humanity, those days are known as Mondays. To Olivia Benson, those days are, well, almost every day. Because no matter how she plans and plans, something always goes awry.
Life is what happens when you make other plans.
It all started at 5:00 am one grey Tuesday morning when Benson's phone went off right as she had drifted off to sleep for just thirty more minutes. Noah had been up all night, fretful and feverish, and Liv had gotten maybe three hours of good sleep. It seemed as if every time she fell asleep, Noah would start sobbing.
Some mothers she knew let their children cry a little, to see if they would fall asleep on their own. She couldn't do that. It broke her heart to hear Noah sob and remembering the squalor she had found him in, lying in that awful house…well, she couldn't let him cry.
She would hold him until all the horror in the world faded away and all that was left was her love for him.
Noah deserved that, at the very least.
Sliding back into bed after the third (or was it fourth? She couldn't be sure anymore) wake-up from Noah, she had just let her head hit her pillow when…
Dammit, that phone.
Rolling over, she picked it up, trying to make her voice as alert-sounding as possible. "Benson here."
"Lucy?" She looked over at her clock. Yes, it was 5:10am - Lucy wasn't scheduled to be over here until around 6:30 or 7.
"I hate waking you up so early, Olivia." Lucy was really apologetic, in between bouts of coughing. Olivia winced. She knew what was coming.
"I can't come in," she managed to say, voice hoarse, trying not to cough into the receiver, "I have a bad case of the flu and I don't want Noah to get it."
"Of course not," Benson agreed, "thank you for calling, Lucy. I hope you feel better."
"Are you and Noah going to be all-right?" Liv could tell that the girl felt terrible, not just physically, but because she felt like she was letting Olivia and Noah down. "We'll be fine. You just get some rest."
"If you need me, just call…" Lucy said hesitantly.
"Of course." Olivia said, just to make her feel better.
"Thanks, Olivia!" Lucy hung up, her voice much cheerier than before.
Now completely wide awake and craving coffee, Benson ran her hands through her hair.
She didn't have a sitter for Noah; oh, she was so screwed.
Guess it was bring your totally adorable yet mischievous baby son to work day at the precinct.
Three hours in and Olivia already wanted to go home. No one raised an eyebrow or batted an eyelash when they saw her bring Noah in with her and, for the most part, he'd been a good little boy, with the occasional wanting to get out of his walker and crawl all over the floor.
She had tried that briefly only to put him back in it when he broke a few ugly knick-knacks. No use borrowing trouble. But he had been content to go back in there, after a few minor protests.
Working on her paperwork, she'd only heard a little giggle or a little wail when he dropped Elmo on the floor.
"It's okay, Noah," she'd reassure him when he fretted after throwing his toy against the wall for the umpteenth billionth time.
Pinching her forehead, she could feel a headache coming on. Still so much paperwork and messages to be returned and Noah was beginning to get a little crabby.
Ah, there was his Mama, pay attention to me cry...
A sharp rap on her door interrupted her thoughts.
"Liv, you busy?" Rafael Barba stepped through her door.
"Just trying to get some paperwork finished." She smiled at him wearily. Also needing like forty cups of coffee. "What brings you here, Counselor?"
"I wanted to review some details about this last case with you." He waved a folder in front of her. "Do you have a few minutes?"
"Not really," she said apologetically, "I'm trying to finish up some real time sensitive paperwork. Rain check?"
Plus I have a rather fussy child or did you not hear the crying?
"Not a problem." He eyed her and the squirming little baby. "Do you need some help, Liv?"
"This paperwork isn't really something you can do, Barba."
"I mean, with the baby."
Okay, I know I've not gotten enough sleep, but am I hallucinating? Did he just say what I thought he did?
"Rafael, not trying to insult your skills with children but…" Liv began.
"But here I go anyway?" Rafael fixed her with his piercing gaze. "Liv, he's a baby. How much trouble could he be?"
It was with great difficult that Olivia managed to keep a straight face. "You're really offering to help with Noah?"
"Of course." Rafael said, the hard lines around his eyes softening as he gave her a slight smile. "I needed a break from the office anyway. I'm always up for a new challenge."
He gave her a closer look, seeing the exhaustion there but also something else…something softer. Something he's not seen often from this tough NYPD sergeant.
Happiness. That was it, she was happy. The look in her eyes when she looked over at that little boy… It'd been a long time since he'd seen that type of look aimed at him. Far too long. And he'd seen it far too little as a boy.
Unconditional love and acceptance - he'd almost forgotten what that felt like.
And, for a moment, he envied Noah.
"Rafael?" Her soft voice broke into his thoughts.
Shame on you, he told himself, being jealous of a little child. You know better.
"Sorry, Liv, clearly I've not had enough caffeine this morning." He smiled. Maybe she'll fall for that.
"Oh, Rafael, I know better. You've always had at least four cups by now." Her voice was light and teasing but he knew he hadn't been as successful as he had wanted in keeping the emotion out of his face.
And, of course, she wants to say something.
"I can survive on three. I've done it before." Let's not go down dangerous paths. Not today. "Motherhood looks good on you, Liv."
"Thanks, I think.." she laughed softly, recognizing his skillful dodge of her subtle probing and backing off before she indulged in a bad habit of prying, "it's a lot of hard work. Having someone so dependent on you…it's so intimidating. And not a little scary."
"You've collared the worst of the worst." Barba said gently. "Motherhood should be a cakewalk for you."
"SVU has its fair share of horrors and terrors. But, motherhood, Rafael? It's a different type of scary." She smiled. "But one I wouldn't give up for all the world. Now that I have Noah, I cannot imagine my life without him."
"It's wonderful to see you happy, Liv." He said with a small smile. "Really wonderful. Now, can I meet your little man?"
She reached down into Noah's walker and lifted him up.
"Hey, Noah," she crooned as she held him close, "meet your Uncle Rafael. He's going to take care of you for a little while Mommy gets some work done."
Noah's big little eyes looked at Rafael suspiciously. He didn't know this strange man with the funny straps and the fancy shoes. He wasn't even sure if This Strange Man liked Elmo. And if he didn't like Elmo… Noah started to whimper, clinging to Olivia.
"I'm sorry, Rafael," Olivia apologized, "he's still a little antsy around strangers."
"Don't apologize, Liv." He gave her a half-smile. "I'm not done yet. Hand him to me."
Uncertainly, Olivia handed Noah to Barba. Noah, clearly outraged by this indignity, started to cry.
Mommy, how could you betray me like this? Why are you holding me, you weird stranger? Where's my Elmo?
"Shhhh," Barba started talking to him softly, "shhh, niño . Todo está bien."
Noah just gave him another stare and started to cry a bit louder. Don't you try to play nice to me, you strange man with the weird strap things. You're not Mommy and I don't think I like you very much.
Olivia started to reach for her son but Barba shook his head. "Give me a little bit more time, Liv. Let me take him to the break room. There's a couch in there."
She was clearly unsure but decided to give it a shot. "Okay, Rafael, if you say so. But…" and she gave him the stuffed Elmo and mini-shark toys that Noah loved so much, "take these. You'll need them."
He cradled Noah closer to him, seemingly unfazed by the wailing, and managed to grab the toys.
"We'll be fine, Liv. Get to work." He gave her his customary smirk. "I have this." When she didn't look convinced, wanting to hold her baby, he gave her one of his intense looks, "Liv… trust me."
Their gazes met for a long moment, hers troubled, his confident and sure.
I can do this, Olivia. I will take good care of him.
And she knew she could. He's always taken care of her, fought for her, been in her corner. She could trust him with her son.
Hesitantly, she went back to her desk and sat down, looking at Barba and Noah, a big part of her wanting to rush and grab her crying son. Okay, she thought, I can do this. Nothing too bad can happen, can it? And she took out the DD5s and started to work on them, the sobs of her son echoing in her ears.
THREE HOURS LATER
Olivia looked up at the clock. Holy shit, it's been three hours since she handed Noah over to Rafael. And she's heard nothing. A little concerned but not too badly (since she had received no emergency calls or alerts or heard shrieks shaking the break room), she headed over there to check on Rafael and Noah.
I can't believe it's been three hours. I should have checked on them sooner.
Sticking her head through the door, she couldn't believe what she saw.
Noah was plastered across Barba's chest, not quite asleep, but getting there, and gleefully playing with Rafael's suspenders. Elmo lay on the sofa, forgotten for the moment in the middle of this new intriguing "toy", Barba's suspenders. The usually put together ADA is a little disheveled, his gelled back hair ruffled.
And there are crumbs from something also on the couch. Clearly, one or both of them had been snacking.
"Niño, you can't keep doing that.." Rafael grinned at Noah, not seeing Liv in the doorway, "you might break them."
Noah simply giggled and snapped his suspenders again and giggled some more.
And the smile on Rafael's face….Olivia had never seen that smile before, one of pure contentment, a bit of exhaustion, and sheer delight.
He looks like a different man, younger…happier. Like the weight of the world isn't on his shoulders.
"Elmo!" Noah demanded suddenly.
God, Rafael, give him that toy quickly.
Rafael gave him the toy and Noah promptly smushed it against Rafael's face.
You're not that bad, stranger with the straps that I like to play with.
Olivia winced. God knows where that toy had been. Poor Rafael.
"Stop that, Noah." Barba told him, but clearly not firm enough.
Giggling, Noah continued to shove Elmo against Barba's face.
You are a nutty little boy, Noah.
And Olivia slipped back out, without the two of them noticing. She leaned against the wall, a smile on her face. Who would have guessed that the ferocious tiger of the courtroom had a soft spot for children. She shouldn't have been so surprised, she'd occasionally seen his more compassionate and thoughtful side with younger victims but she had had no idea how soft, how gentle that hidden side of him really was.
Rafael Barba, you are an interesting man. How many other things are you hiding?
But, suddenly, she heard nothing at all. And after all the giggles, she was a little worried. So she peaked her head in again.
A la puerta del cielo
Para los angelitos
Que andan descalzos
He was singing and it was beautiful.
-How little we know about the people who work by our sides. They keep themselves so guarded because they have faced with the dregs of humanity every day, the last thing people want to show is any kind of weakness. So they keep it hidden to themselves and let it out when they think no one can see. -
When they feel safe.
Benson knew that more than anyone.
Rafael's voice was soft and strong. She could listen to it for hours. But she'd better not because she still had work to do and she didn't want to fall asleep.
And, by this time, he had gotten up and started rocking a very sleepy Noah. Liv could still hear faint giggles and babbling but she recognized the tone as Noah's I am so tired but I am trying so hard to stay awake because I don't want to sleep voice. A smile crossed her face.
He'll be asleep in minutes.
Quietly, she came into the room, as if she had just gotten there.
"Rafael," she said softly, "I can take him now. He'll be out for a couple hours now…hopefully."
"It's not a bother, Liv. I can hold him." And Barba looks at Noah with real fondness. "He's a special boy.
"So you're not a grinch after all?" Benson smiled, teasing him a little.
"I don't know where you possibly could have gotten that idea." Barba quipped back.
Liv merely raised an eyebrow.
"You're not all that approachable, you know." She said simply. "You can be, um, how do I put this delicately..."
"An asshole? A jerk?"
"That's a little stronger than I would have put it but you're not the most friendly person at times."
"Not here to make 's not my job." He shrugged as best as he could with a sleeping Noah in his arms.
Benson simply looked at him.
I don't think that's true. No matter what you say. I think we all want a friend, someone to love us, someone to be a shelter in the storm.
I think you've been hurt and you're protecting yourself.
He looked back at her, a little ruefully.
Liv always could see through him, more than anyone.
And, hell, if that isn't a scary thing?
Taking Noah from Barba, Benson smiled at him. "Thank you, Rafael."
He simply nodded his head at her, a faint smile around his eyes, acknowledging the things left unsaid.
So many things unspoken but no time in which to say them.
"I'll talk to you about that case some other time. You've got your hands full."
And with another brief nod, he grabs his coat and folders and walks out.
There'll be time enough for talk of cabbages and kings. They've got all the time in the world.
A los niños que duermen
Dios los bendice
A las madres que velan
Dios las asiste