"Rafi, Rafi! Where mama?" Noah watched Rafael with his big brown eyes, taking in every move the man made in the kitchen as he prepared dinner for the family.
"Oh you want to know where mommy is do you? Do you?" The man leaned down to Noah's level before he reached out his hands, grabbing the little boy in his arms, and tickled his tummy. Laughter quickly filled the apartment. The noise died down as Rafael stopped his tickle attack. "Mama's at work still buddy, but she'll be home soon."
When the little boy went back to his blocks in the living room, Rafael wasn't sure if he was satisfied with the answer or if Noah just didn't quite understand what he had been told. It was a different question for the two year old; as much as he loved his mom, ever since Rafael had returned to their lives over a month ago, the little boy had been attached to him and most of the time he rarely noticed when the district attorney got home before his own mother.
"Mama!" Rafael looked up from where he stood at the stove when he heard Noah's shout. Sure enough, Olivia had just barely made it through the door before her son was at her feet, wrapping his arms around her legs, and squeezing her so tight that it seemed it had been years since he saw her, instead of just a little over twelve hours.
Liv reached down and lifted Noah into her arms. "Hi, my sweet boy." She planted a kiss on her son's forehead.
Rafael moved from his post in the kitchen to greet his girlfriend. "Hey, babe."
Olivia had never liked the term babe; she always felt that it was immature or a little degrading, but in Rafael's Spanish accent mixed with his charm, Liv had grown to love hearing it from him.
"Hi to you, too." They shared a quick kiss. "How long have you been here?"
"Not too long." He looked down at his watch, "Only about forty five minutes."
The sergeant set her son back down on the floor with his piles of blocks and other toys that he had taken out throughout the day. "Ahh so Lucy got to go home early today, how nice of you. Now, where is my daughter?"
As if on cue, there was a cry from the bedroom. "I swear that child has some kind of sixth sense." Rafael joked.
Liv chuckled as she walked into her bedroom. The baby was lying on her back, kicking her chubby little legs. She calmed down almost immediately after Olivia picked her up. She was so much different than Noah in that way. Now six months old, Raegan always wanted attention and she was happiest in someone's arms; her brother had been the exact opposite content playing with his toys and only being held when he was upset. But the mom had to admit that she didn't mind being needed by her little girl.
"Raegan girl, is it time for your dinner?" The baby cooed in her arms.
Rafael watched Olivia return with Raegan. She entered the kitchen, too, retrieving a bottle for the baby. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, looking at Raegan who was watching him. "Dinner will be ready in five."
Olivia nodded. "Good, I'm starving." She grabbed the bottle she had just finished making. "Noah, come here, buddy. We're going to eat dinner."
The toddler ran to the table. Liv removed the tray from his high chair and allowed the little boy to climb into the seat. The mom put the tray back on with her free hand and sat down at her own seat so that she could feed Raegan.
"Here we go." Rafael set a full bowl in front of Olivia and a smaller bowl on Noah's tray.
They all sat at the table enjoying the meal the man had made. Liv steadied the bottle in her hand while trying to help Noah use his fork to eat his dinner. She took bites from her own plate as she got the chance. It was a seemingly normal meal now that she was getting used to feeding two kids and herself at the same time.
"This is delicious Rafael. Thank you." Liv looked up from the two little ones.
"I'm glad you like it." Rafael looked on as his girlfriend returned to her duties. It was his favorite thing to watch: strong, no nonsense Olivia Benson as a lovingly engaged mom. After four years of working together, he had taken a liking to seeing another side of the tough as nails sergeant. She was meant to be a mother; it was the other role that she was born to fill and to know that he had been even the smallest part of her growing into that role gave him an endearing pride. And now that he was carrying an even bigger place in Liv's family, he felt not only pride, but a connection that couldn't be replaced. That connection meant a lot and also had a great impact on the decisions he was now planning on making for his future.
Olivia could feel Barba watching her. "Hey, you still with us?" She asked, half-jokingly.
Rafael left his thoughts at the sound of her voice. "Oh yeah, sorry."
"Is everything okay? You seem a little distant tonight." Liv had noticed his unease earlier. It was unusual for the man.
"Umm… yeah I'm fine. Just a lot on my mind." Rafael answered, but knew that she wouldn't buy it.
"Okay… You know we can talk about it you want. You are allowed to do that." Liv got that sometimes all you wanted to do was come home from work and scream about all the injustices and horrible human beings that came with their careers.
Rafael shook his head. "Maybe later. It's not much, just the usual work things we're too familiar with."
The rest of dinner was quiet, so was the clean-up. Rafael played with the kids while Liv loaded the dish washer and wiped up the counters. Soon enough though, everyone was in the living, the adults joining the children on the floor for some before bed time play.
While Olivia was making Raegan laugh by flinging around a stuffed animal and Noah stacked his blocks, Rafael went to where his coat and brief case sat against the entryway wall. However, the district attorney wasn't retrieving anything that was work related; instead he picked up the gift bag that he had hidden behind his other belongings.
"Well what do you have there?" Olivia smirked.
Rafael sat back down on the floor next to Noah, who immediately noticed the present the attorney was holding. "Just some things for all of you."
"You know you spoil these kids a little too much." Liv told him.
Rafael gave her a big smile. "Oh don't worry there's a little something in here for you also."
The man pulled out two stuffed animals. One was a blue elephant, the other was pink piggy, and embroidered on the tummies of each animal were the kids' names: Noah on the elephant and Raegan on the piggy. Both the toddler and baby were instantly reaching for their new toys. Noah hugged his tight, while Raegan stuffed the nose of hers in her mouth, getting her drool all over it in typical baby fashion.
"Well they both certainly like them." Olivia watched both of her kids with their new toys, trying to pull the pig out of Raegan's mouth. "Noah, can you say thank you?"
"Tank you." Noah loosened his grip around the blue elephant and instead threw himself at Rafael, doing his best to give him a hug.
"Alright, now we have to give mama her gift Noah." Rafael reached back into the bag and pulled something out, but Noah's little body was hiding whatever it was. "Here you go, buddy, take that to mama for me."
Olivia felt her stomach drop; her breath hitching in her throat as soon as her son turned around. She covered her mouth with her hand, stopping a gasp from leaving her. Noah toddled over to where his mother sat crisscross on the floor and handed her the small blue velvet box that had been given to him by Rafael.
"Raf." His nickname came out of her mouth as a whisper.
He gave her a small smile, looking just as nervous as she felt. "I know this seems like a lot and I don't want to push you into doing anything too fast. I know we've been through a lot on our own and already as a couple; I get that. And this… this doesn't mean we have to start planning something tomorrow or even in the next month if we don't want to. I just want this to mean that it's us and it's going to continue to be us."
The sergeant let out a shaky breath. She tried to hold back the tears that were so rapidly forming, but she found it so hard to do so as she sat staring at the man she had fallen so in love with. He knew her and she knew him; they'd known each other for four years. They had spent countless nights in the precinct and in the courthouse and in his office working case after case. They had seen the worst the world had to offer and taken it down together. And now in her apartment, she was seeing some of the best that the world had to offer: a man who cared more than she realized anyone could and two beautiful children who made her world brighter every time they smiled or laughed.
"Rafael are you sure about this?" Her voice was still quiet and this time much more emotion filled.
"Of course I am." Rafael assured her. "You've been in the hospital; I've been in the hospital; we've been split up at work and I haven't left yet Liv. I wouldn't do this if I didn't mean it and if I didn't want it so badly it hurt. This is where I'm meant to be: with you and Noah and Raegan. I want this to be permanent. I want this to be our lives."
Olivia broke out in a smile as the tears came flooding down her cheeks. She cracked open the jewelry box and carefully slipped out the rather large cushion cut diamond ring. It fit perfectly on her ring finger, almost as perfectly as Rafael Barba had fit into her life.
The woman scooted over to her now fiancé. They shared a loving look, before leaning in and sharing a long, passion filled kiss. Everything felt more filled with love than it ever had.
"Are we seriously doing this?" Olivia asked in disbelief as she held out her hand to admire her new accessory.
"Well since you put on the ring, I'm pretty sure that means you are agreeing to marry me Ms. Benson."
"I love you." Liv had never meant those three words more than she did now.
As the night came to a close, the kids asleep in their beds, and the only sound filling the bedroom was the even breathing of Rafael asleep next to her, Olivia found herself staring at her ring. If someone had asked her if she ever thought that she would be marrying Rafael Barba she would have laughed out loud. But she also never thought that she would have two children or that she would be one of the most important sergeants in the NYPD. And even if she wouldn't have believed it before, she was now engaged to a man that meant the world to her. Sometimes, things ended up so much different than expected.
* Here we go; I am calling this the final chapter! (At least of this story.) Thank you all so much for following this story and writing wonderful reviews chapter after chapter. I'm planning on a sequel and I hope that we can keep the Barson love going. *