one-shot; all our tomorrows
pairing: rafael barba/olivia benson
word count: 2679 words
note: fix-it for my Barson break-up drabble (found at the last chapter of my drabble collection, Notes on Paper)
Liv likes to think that because she's older now, she's able to handle the death of a relationship better.
She doesn't replace the loneliness by drinking herself to death (she doesn't, but only because there's Noah to think of).
She doesn't have random crying jags and breakdowns (it had only been once or twice. Fine, so it was more than that but she hasn't been counting).
She doesn't suffer from insomnia, unable to sleep, and she doesn't eventually drift off only to wake up feeling empty and alone, with traces of tears of her pillow (this a lie, because she does).
She's not supposed to do all of that anymore.
It seems to her that Barba has moved on, with the same efficiency he applies to any court case. He shifts his things out of her apartment when Noah is at day care, and removes all traces of himself from her place. He packs up all her things at his apartment, labels the boxes neatly, and leaves them in her bedroom.
He still calls to talk to Noah in the evenings. He still takes Noah out for walks in the park during the weekends, and buys him ice-creams. And he talks to Noah in the simplest terms he can muster for a 5-year-old – Noah will see him a lot less, Barba won't be over to have dinner, and to have playtime anymore - but he still loves him, he still wants to be in his life, just that it's all different now.
Noah frowns, and whinges and asks questions, but for most part, he just seems to accept it, with a maturity that is beyond his age.
Liv supposes she should be grateful that Noah is adjusting so well, grateful that the Barba's increasing absence seems barely discernible to the little boy.
She isn't doing half as well, though. She seems to see the shadow of him in every turn, every corner, the void that Barba has left behind seems bigger, and hollower, each day.
But then she questions her own inability to adjust, to move on, to be able to breathe normally again – after all, wasn't she the one who wanted this?
She was the one who wanted to let go. She was the one that had decided that they were not worth fighting for. She was the one that chose to run.
(But then, he did not stay. He did not fight. He did not try.)
They try to function as normally as they can at work, and for most part, it's working. They're both consummate professionals at what they do – nothing was compromised when they were together, and nothing will be compromised now that they are apart.
The squad tries its best to balance everything – it isn't very hard to guess what had happened between them. But he's now much snider than he used to be, and she's a lot snappier than she needs to be. And sometimes Fin gets frustrated, and sometimes Amanda does, and sometimes Carisi just looks like he wants to disappear, and that is when they pull back, breathe, and remind each other that they have a job to do.
Things go on the best they can, but there are no knowing smirks between them, no secret smiles, no light touches on his arm, no hand resting on her hip.
There's no coffee on her desk (nor on his).
This is how things are going to be from now on, all that's left between them is a professional, working relationship.
There isn't even a friendship there anymore.
Barba had always been her anchor, the one who always had her back, before everything else. In the process of letting him go, she's lost her best friend.
The worst thing, Liv thinks, that all of this is starting to feel normal. She's starting to get used to it.
But getting used to it doesn't mean it's hurting any less.
The days go by. And the days then turn into weeks.
She continues living.
He continues breathing.
Without each other.
It's been five weeks, four days, ten hours and twenty-five minutes since the day she asked him to walk out of her life.
Today is the summation of the case against one of worst serial rapists they've ever encountered. The squad had left for the courthouse, but she had purposely scheduled a long morning meeting with Chief Dodds.
Liv doesn't go to the courthouse much anymore, she only does so when it's absolutely necessary.
She takes out her phone as she walks out of Chief Dodds' office, and immediately she sees five missed calls from Fin, and four from Amanda. There's also a couple of voice mails, but she chooses to call Fin first.
He answers on the first ring, his voice sounding rushed and flustered. "Liv, there's been a shooting at the courthouse. Jenkins just went fucking insane, grabbed the gun of the guard and went off. There's a casualty, a few serious injuries, and Barba…"
Her heart goes cold.
Shooting. Casualties. Injuries. Barba. Rafael.
Fin is still talking but she can't hear him anymore. Her hand trembles, her fingers feel numb, and she fumbles with her phone, dropping it into her pocket as she runs out of the precinct.
Her thoughts are all mostly incoherent as she races to the courthouse, her mixed emotions pushing on top of one another – worry, panic, regret.
Liv is only sure of one thing: Barba has to be okay. She needs for him to be okay.
True, maybe she's already lost him, but actually losing him, physically losing him, she's not sure that that is something she can ever, ever accept.
The courthouse is in chaos. Policemen and policewomen are all over, directing people, barking orders. Snatches of conversations tell her that the stand-off is over; the shooter had been taken down by two bullets to each of his knees. A few ambulances are parked in front, the lights flashing red and blue, paramedics and medical personnel swarming in and out. She sees stretchers, she sees people with blood stains on their clothes, she hears voices all around, people shouting, yelling, crying – it's all so chaotic, so frenzied, she's finding it hard to focus. She's finding it hard to breathe.
But she has to find him. She has to see him.
"Liv!" She feels a hand on her arm, and turns to see Amanda, looking stressed and exhausted, but otherwise unharmed.
She grabs the younger woman's arm, her words coming out in a jumble. "Where's Barba? Is he all right? Where is he?"
"He's still inside, Fin says…" Amanda falters, and then continues. "Fin says he's hurt."
One sentence, that's all it took to validate the one thing she fears the most. Without another word, Liv pushes her way into the courthouse.
Police personnel are still swarming the halls. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees two stretchers being loaded, and paramedics tending to those with less serious injuries. Her heart in her throat, she thuds down the hall, looking for him, searching, yet scared of what she'll find.
And then, in the midst of everything, she hears his voice.
"I told you, I'm fine. It's merely a scratch, for fuck's sake."
"Sir. Your arm was grazed by a bullet. I highly suggest…"
"And I highly suggest that you allow me to exercise my right to refuse unnecessary medical treatment."
She follows his voice, her heart in her throat, and then she sees him.
Barba is sitting just outside the courtroom, his suit jacket lying in a heap on the floor, the right arm of his shirt sleeve in shreds, with spots of blood, as a paramedic bandages his forearm. He looks peeved and annoyed, but otherwise unruffled.
"Rafael," she gasps, stumbling towards him, dropping onto her knees in front him, hands gripping his thighs. The paramedic moves away tactfully, turning to tend to a woman with a bruise on her forehead.
"Olivia," he says, his tone surprised. "What are you…"
"Fin said you were hurt. He said…and I was so scared, I couldn't…" she's rambling now, her relief overwhelming her, seeing him sitting in front of her, seeing him there, alive.
"Liv, calm down," he says evenly, gently, patting her hand briefly with his left hand. "I'm okay, it's just a bullet graze."
"You could've been shot," she says, and she realises that she's trembling all over.
"I wasn't," he points out firmly. "I wasn't, and I'm fine."
She shakes her head, and her tears are spilling over now, as she reaches up and tugs his head towards her.
And she kisses him, almost bruisingly hard.
He hesitates for about two seconds, and then he kisses her back, just as fiercely, just as desperately, his good hand on her neck, and then on her back.
Kissing him, feeling his heartbeat beneath her fingertips, feeling him breathe – all that eases her own breathing.
Barba has given his statement, and he refuses to go to the hospital. He just wants to go home.
They didn't exchange a single word in the ten minutes it took for the cab to reach his apartment. But he maintains his hold on her hand, his fingers curled tightly around hers.
They enter his apartment, and then he shuts the door behind them. The silence is almost palpable now, and they realise that they're alone.
It's the first time they've really been alone with each other since that fateful night in her office.
He closes the distance between them in one swift moment, and his mouth is on hers, hot and demanding, his tongue sweeping on her bottom lip as he untucks her blouse from her slacks, his fingers searching for bare skin.
She moans against his mouth, raking her fingernails up his back, under his shirt, and she tears her mouth away from his to fumble with the buttons on his vest, but there's too many of them, and so she abandons the task, going for his belt buckle instead. He doesn't bother taking off her blouse, pushing up her bra and closing his left hand around her right breast, his thumb flicking her nipple into hardness.
He growls when her fingers brush against his straining erection, and he fuses his lips to hers again, their tongues entangling and battling for dominance.
He then moves his lips down her neck, tasting the salt of her skin and listening to her inarticulate moans as he palms her breasts. His mouth reaches her nipple and he sucks it hard, as her hands skilfully pulls down his pants. He groans as her hand closes around his erection, his need for her almost spilling out of control, and he returns the favour by ridding her of her slacks and her panties.
They're moving fast, and it's all desperation and passion, as weeks (or maybe even months) of pent-up emotions, coupled with the events of this morning, just spills over. It's overwhelmingly raw, and there's only one way they can deal with this.
He braces her against the wall, trying to support her weight with his arms, which is not as easy as it used to be with one injured arm.
"Your arm…" she says, her fingers gentle on the graze wound under the bandage.
He breathes once, and shakes his head. "I don't care about my arm, I don't care that it hurts…I need you, Liv. I need you."
She needs him, too, she needs him like she needs air to breathe, as she spreads her legs and hooks them around his waist. He's hard and she's ready, and with one powerful thrust, he's inside her. She deftly adjusts herself to take him, tightening her legs around his hips, fingernails digging into his shoulder blades as she raises her hips to meet his thrusts.
I remember this, Liv thinks. I remember this, and I miss this. I miss him.
Barba lowers his head to kiss her, hard and frantic, as he drives into her, as she pushes back against him, both nearing their release.
"Raf…yes…oh God, yes, Rafael…" she moans, feeling her climax building, knowing she's about to go over the edge.
He angles his hips and thrusts deep into her, and holds himself there. He squeezes her breast, and rubs her right nipple. "Come with me, Olivia," he orders.
And that's her undoing, and her undoing becomes his.
They collapse together on the floor, breathing heavily and clinging onto each other. She breathes sweat and sex and him, and it's all so familiar, so achingly familiar.
They lie together in silence for a few minutes, catching their breaths, waiting for their heartbeats to slow. She lifts her head, and kisses him, for about half a minute, before he gently pushes her away.
"What are we doing, Liv?" He asks, his eyes searching hers.
She looks at him, and for a moment, she can't find the words. She came so close to losing him this morning – she can still remember the fear, the utter terror and devastation she felt when she thought she had maybe lost him, lost him forever.
It was then she realised that she could not have coped with losing him.
"I…" she begins, and then she pauses. "Let's try again."
He looks at her, and then he turns away, getting to his feet and pulling on his pants. "We ended it because you wanted that," he says quietly. "And now we're supposed to pretend that the past few weeks never happened because this is what you want now? It doesn't work that way."
She stands up as well, reaching for her slacks. "I'm not going pretend that nothing ever happened. But I'm not going to pretend that I don't want another chance."
He's still not looking at her. "It took a lot for me to…to start living, to start functioning, or least pretend to function. And Noah. Do you have any idea how fucking hard that was?"
The pain in his voice is breaking her heart. Taking a step closer to him, she slips her arms around his waist and rests her cheek against his back.
She waits for him to push her away, but he doesn't.
"I'm not going to apologise for the things that went wrong between us, Raf," she says. "We were both at fault, me and you, and you know it. We just stopped trying. We both let it fall apart. And I genuinely thought that was the best decision I could make for you, for myself and for Noah."
"But I was wrong, I was so wrong, because the best decision I could make is to hold on to you, to hold on to us."
He turns around to look her now, his expression carefully neutral, his eyes guarded. "Would you have come to this conclusion if whatever happened this morning did not happen?"
"Yes," she answers without hesitation. "Maybe I won't realise it today, but I'll realise it eventually. Because I love you, Raf. I love you, and I found out today that I don't get to decide that I'll stop loving you. Because I don't think I ever can, or that I ever will. And I'm sorry it's taken me so much time to realise this, and I'm sorry that we had to suffer those weeks apart."
"I can't go through that again, Liv," he says softly. "I physically can't. It nearly broke me. And I…I don't know if I dare to take that risk again."
She picks up his hand, and squeezes it. "The only way you'll ever go through that again is that if you yourself choose to leave. Because I will never leave you."
That's because I can't leave you. I know this much now.
Barba returns the pressure on her hand, and slowly, he gives a small smile. He nods, and then she launches herself into his arms, holding onto him, and she tells herself that she will never let go.
Some things may very well just last forever.