After the hostage situation ends outside the townhouse, Olivia is ushered away before Rafael can get to her.
She needs to go to the hospital to get checked out and treated for her head injuries and will likely give her statement at the same time.
Rafael doesn't bother going to the station, he's already been told he won't be handling the situation. It's not an SVU case, after all.
So he goes back to Olivia's place, finding Carisi there with Lucy and Noah, as well as a patrol car with two unis parked in front of the building.
It's annoying but reassuring when he has to flash his ID and sign in with the doorman and another patrol cop in order to get upstairs. His DA credentials and the doorman knowing him well are the only reasons he actually gets up to the apartment without his name on the lease.
Barba sends Carisi and Lucy home, knowing Liv will be happier without anyone else there.
He's been texting with Fin who is with Liv at the hospital and promised he'd bring her home.
Noah is blissfully unaware of what is going on, playing with the new toys he'd gotten for his birthday.
Rafael himself has no appetite, and knows Olivia likely won't either, but it's almost dinner time, and Noah needs to eat.
So he changes into some sweats and a tshirt, getting Noah into something more casual as well so they don't ruin their nice clothes. There's only so much an apron can do around a two year old.
When Olivia gets home she finds the boys in the kitchen, something that smells delicious simmering on the stove, and surrounded by a sizable mess.
With Noah distracted, she quietly heads back to her room, silently communicating with Barba that she just needs a minute.
Entering the bathroom, she sheds her bloody and disheveled clothes, throwing the ruined blouse directly in the garbage. She quickly pulls her hair back, and wipes away the blood crusted around her cuts.
She doesn't want to scare Noah, but foregoes applying makeup- the bruising will be worse tomorrow, anyway.
Sighing, she goes into her room to throw on something comfy, and emerges in a pair of leggings and a well-worn Harvard Law sweatshirt that she lets Rafael wear just enough to keep smelling of him.
Before entering the kitchen, she takes a moment to observe Noah and Rafael. He is so patient and loving with her son, even when Noah is clearly more of a hindrance than a help.
She can tell by the ingredients on the counter they are making oatmeal cookies- her favourite. Just as Noah starts "mixing" the dough he looks up and sees her in the doorway.
"Mama! Yook! Rafa'n Noh make you cookies!" He's no more happy to see her than on a normal day; he has no idea what went on today. But it warms her heart to see him so excited to do something for her.
Rafael quickly wipes Noah's hands clean, saying to the boy, "We'll finish the cookies in a minute, Buddy. Mama needs a Noah hug right now."
Tears spring to her eyes at his words- he's always so in tune with her needs. While she wants to feel Rafael, be safe wrapped up in his arms- she needs to hold her son and feel that he's alive.
As she gathers Noah into her arms, she makes eye contact with Rafael and mouths, 'Thank you'.
Holding her little boy close and stroking his hair, she can feel the tension leaving her mind and body.
"I missed you today, Noah. Mama loves you so much."
"Noh luv Mama." He reinforces his statement with a sloppy kiss on her lips. "Mama owie?" He's finally noticed the bruising on her face.
"Yes, Mama got an owie today. But I'm okay. I feel much better after that hug and kiss."
Noah gets a big smile on his face, proud that he can help his mom.
"Rafa kiss Mama! Make all betta."
Rafael, who had been leaning against the counter watching them, crosses the kitchen with a soft smile when Liv shifts Noah to one hip and holds out her hand to him.
He ghosts his lips over each cut and bruise, and then places a soft kiss on her lips. They share a long, loaded look that tells each other how happy they are to be together after the horrible events of the day. Neither needs to say they'll talk later, once little ears are asleep.
"Dere. Mama all betta." Noah announces in a proud voice. "Now cookies!"
The adults share a laugh at his enthusiasm, and Liv places him on the floor with a kiss on top of his head when he starts to wiggle to get down.
Rafael, unable to hold back any longer, gently pulls Olivia into him, burying his face in her neck. "I love you," he murmurs, throat suddenly tight.
She feels her tears spill over. "I love you, too," she whispers.
They hold each other for a long moment until Noah starts pulling at their legs, reminding Rafael they still have cookies to finish.
He pulls away but grabs Liv's hand, not wanting to let go just yet. "Okay, Chef. Let's finish these cookies so we can have some dinner!"
Olivia uses her free hand to wipe the tears from her face, and follows him to the counter.
She stays nearby while they mix and bake the cookies, soaking up these precious moments and finding it easier than she expected to put the events of the day to the back of her mind by focusing on her boys.
After a dinner of homemade chicken soup and cookies for dessert, the trio head into the bathroom for the next part of the evening routine at the Benson household.
Noah is relishing having the full attention of both adults at bath time- usually one will clean up the dishes or have calls to make after dinner.
More than once Olivia notices Rafael looking at her pensively, but doesn't comment.
They all snuggle together in Liv's bed to read Noah's bedtime story. He chooses 'If You Give A Mouse A Cookie', which never fails to make them all dissolve into giggles, the adults enjoying how much Noah loves the story.
After kisses and hugs for Rafa, Olivia takes Noah into his room and tucks him into bed, indulging herself and stroking his hair until well after he's fallen asleep.
When she emerges from Noah's bedroom almost an hour later, she finds Rafael has tidied the apartment, including the kitchen and washed all the dishes. He's sitting on the couch, elbows on his knees, bent over with his hands clasped behind his head.
Her heart hurts for many reasons tonight- he is a big one. She can only imagine what it felt like to be in his shoes today. If this was five years ago- she'd have already pushed him away, to protect him from these situations that always seem to find her.
Now, though, she knows that not only does she need him, but he needs her.
A bottle of red is breathing on the counter, and there is a glass waiting for her on the coffee table, next to two glasses of water.
The iPad app that functions as a video baby monitor is open on the screen, showing Noah continue to sleep peacefully.
"You planning on making me drink alone?" she jokes, sitting down next to him and rubbing a hand over his tense shoulders.
He sits up and looks at her- eyes glassy and red-rimmed. "I can't-" he stops and pulls her into a fierce hug.
Her tears start again, but she just lets them fall, rubbing circles on his back like she had done earlier to soothe Noah.
He keeps holding on to her, trying to rein in his emotions enough to speak.
"Please talk to me, Raf," she whispers.
"I was annoyed with you this morning. I went twenty minutes out of my way to get you that coffee you like from Maria's and then you didn't show up to the conference, and I was annoyed. You were pistol whipped and held hostage at fucking gunpoint and trying to save that family and I was pissed because I thought you got held up at the precinct and didn't bother to send me a text." He pulls away from her and reaches for his water, taking a long drink.
"You didn't know," she says quietly.
"That's my point! In the back of my mind I always hated Cassidy a little more after Lewis because I blamed him for not noticing that you were missing for so long. But I just did the same fucking thing! We had been texting an hour before, you told me you were just waiting for Lucy and you'd meet me at the conference and then you never showed. It was hours before I realized, and it wasn't until someone said you were at the conference that I realized something was wrong. I should have known. I could have called you, the precinct- something."
She can't believe he's beating himself up about this. "Rafi- listen to me. We can't live our lives like something horrible is always about to happen. You put it together as soon as you could- and if you had called or texted me earlier, they might have been spooked and things could have turned out very differently."
He shakes his head, and reaches over to place his hand on her knee. "You're not supposed to be comforting me right now."
"Well, you need comforting. That's what we do. Thank you for everything here, tonight. You don't know how nice it is to come home to you and Noah."
He smiles. "Yes, I do. I get to come home to you two some nights- they're always the best nights."
"Someday soon that we're not reeling from a life-threatening situation we need to have a discussion about living arrangements. I wanna live with you, Rafael Barba."
"Someday soon, huh? I can deal with someday soon."
He rubs her thigh, trying to be reassuring without smothering.
"You gonna be able to sleep tonight?" She asks.
He sighs. "I don't know. Are you?"
"I'm thinking about busting out the sleeping pills Lindstrom prescribed me last time that I never used."
He pulls her into his side, where she buries her nose in his chest. "Yeah? You call him yet?"
"Yeah. I've got an appointment tomorrow- I calłed from the car when Fin brought me home. I can't imagine dealing with this without him. I finally got my nightmares and flashbacks under control and now this. I don't want a repeat of what happened with Brian. I don't want it to happen with you, or God forbid, Noah."
He gently strokes her hair, questioning, "What happened?"
"I didn't realize he was in the apartment when I got home one night. I heard a noise- pulled my gun. Like I should have...that night." She falls silent, unwillingly reimagining history if she had in fact just shot William Lewis that first night in her apartment.
So many lives would have been saved or radically different. The Meyers, the Coles- two families torn apart in the worst ways. The State Trooper. Even Brian. She has no illusions that their relationship would be perfect, but her attack and recovery undeniably altered the natural progression.
Would she be here with Rafael like this? Would Noah be her son? These are the thoughts that plague her in the wee hours.
Refocusing on the present, she hums her appreciation for the continued attention Rafael is giving her scalp.
"While I don't relish the thought of being on the business end of your gun, I'm not scared of you, Liv."
She snorts. "Clearly. You're giving me wine and petting me like an overgrown cat."
"I've never been scared of you, Liv. Scared for you? Yes. Today I was terrified. I've never felt anything like it. Last time- it was horrible, and suspecting what was happening to you was nauseating. But now, considering Noah, and that you're mine- I'm pretty sure my blood pressure is going to be up for the next week."
They fall silent, the calm and quiet soothing after such a trying day.
"It's true, you know," Liv says, breaking the silence.
"What's true?" he questions.
"Soy tuyo. Te amo." (I'm yours. I love you.)
"También te amo," (Love you too) Rafael whispers, tightening his hold on her.
Neither had any illusions that the next few weeks would be easy. But they would get through the nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety the way they approach most things these days: together.