It took me some going back and forth before I decided to post this. The idea for this AU multi-chapter has been going around in my head for quite some time, and here it is.

This first chapter is set nine years in the past, whereas the rest of the story will be in the present. So from the second chapter I will move ahead nine years to the present.

I sincerely hope everyone is going to enjoy this. If there are ever any questions, or thoughts/comments about this story, let me know.

''When someone is in your heart, they're never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times."
~ Mitch Albom

Nine years ago…

With anticipation and insurmountable joy she gazed across the parking lot of the FBI Academy to catch sight of the one person she so desperately wanted to embrace. It had been five months of occasional visits if their schedules allowed for it. But now the future seemed much for promising for them, and she couldn't wait for it to begin.

Without warning, she suddenly heard a familiar voice. His voice. She whirled around into his direction, her eyes falling upon him. She froze, standing still for what seemed ages as she glanced at him. The smile curving her lips was unbeatable as she adjusted to the picture of his presence before her.

His face reflected her emotions. The happiness, the beaming smile, and finally that look of endless love. The effect of his presence on her would never change. Just a glimpse of that smirk spreading across his features would forever be seared into her memory.

After several more seconds, she began to approach him without restraint, her feet carrying her quickly into his direction. When she reached him, she dropped her bag to the ground and jumped into his open arms. Her face nestled against his neck, breathing in his scent and enjoying the feeling of being home in his arms once again. It had been too long.

''Mi amor,'' he whispered breathlessly. Her embrace had knocked the wind out of him, but he was overjoyed to hold her again. Seeing her again had consumed his life for the past month. Life without her was unbearable. ''…I missed you.''

Olivia tightened her hold around him, pulling him impossibly closer as the tears formed in her eyes. ''I missed you more.'' she spoke softly through the mess of tears falling down her cheeks.

The soft trembling of her body in his arms forced him to pull back and gaze into her brown eyes. He was faced with her eyes shining with tears and he felt his heart drop. Their parting five months ago had tested the bounds of their relationship. And he knew her tears represented relief. They could finally move forward without distance in their relationship. It was a fresh start.

''It's over, Liv.'' he reminded her, gently wiping the tears from her face. ''You're finally coming home.''

She leaned in, lowering her eyes to his lips and a few moves later, her lips brushed against his in a passionate kiss. As he pulled her closer, the heat in her body intensified. The kiss quickly turned into one of heat and intense want.

He kissed her once more and broke away from her with a deep sigh of contentment. ''You did it, cariño. Your dream has become a reality, and I am so proud of you.''

''I couldn't have done it without you, Rafael.'' she told him. ''You've supported me through this entire process. It means more to me than words could ever say.''

He lifted his hand, cupping her cheek gently. ''I love you, Liv. I'd do anything for you.'' he said kindly, the words initiating a happy grin on her face.

''And I love you, too.'' she beamed, never breaking eye contact with him. ''So let's go home. Our future is awaiting us.'' she said with hope.

He was the only person she'd ever seen such a bright future with. The start of their relationship had been unexpected, but once everything fell into place she didn't dare to question it. He'd become everything to her. The love she never believed in. The man she trusted with her heart. He was her reality.

''Actually, I booked a hotel suite and a table at a nice restaurant for tonight. I thought it would be nice to spend some time alone before we have to go back.'' he explained quickly. ''Only if you want to.''

She shook her head immediately when she noticed him doubting his plans. She put her hand on his arm, squeezing it gently. ''No, I love it. A date night sounds absolutely amazing.''

Words failed him completely as he stared back at her, still wondering how he had ended up with her. There were moments when he believed their relationship was too good to be true. Possibly because he was afraid to have his heart broken again after Yelina. But Olivia was different. It had been since the beginning.

Her soft laughter brought him back to reality and he leaned down to pick up her bag. He held it in one hand as he used the other to hold hers as they moved into the direction of the car. The happiness was present on each of their. They were together at last after all.

Several hours later, Olivia appeared in the hotel lobby dressed to impress. Her hair flowed in smooth waves around her shoulders, her modest dress showed off her gentle curves, and for the first time in a long time she felt beautiful again. Five months at the FBI academy hadn't allowed for many nights out, let alone date nights.

Her eyes landed on Barba who stood close to the entrance, waiting for her after he had hailed a cab. She threw him a beaming smile as she walked into his direction. His suit, as fashionable as ever, looked unbelievably good on him. And as he returned her smile, she felt her heart flutter in anticipation of the night to come. Spending time with him was all she thought about.

Barba closed the distance between, leaning in to give her a quick kiss on the lips. She truly was a sight for sore eyes. ''You look stunning.'' he complimented.

''Thank you, Rafi. You're as handsome as ever.''

Together they walked into the cold evening air of DC, and disappeared into their cab and to the restaurant. They enjoyed each other's company in silence as Olivia settled against his, her head leaning on his shoulder.

The mood in the restaurant was peaceful and romantic. Conversation had run smoothly, both of them intent on making up for lost time.

''I'm really happy, Rafael.'' Olivia revealed openly, her voice filled with warmth. ''These past few months have been so incredibly difficult for us both. Seeing each other three times wasn't nearly enough, was it?''

He sighed and thought back to all the days spent without her. ''No, it wasn't.'' he answered honestly. ''Waking up to an empty bed every morning and not seeing you during the day was painful. I missed you every single day.'' he went on. ''I missed our conversations, our late-night drinks in my office. My life feels meaningless without you in it, Liv.''

Sometimes she blamed herself for putting them through it, but in the end she believed the sacrifice was worth it. ''I never meant to put us through this.'' she began. ''But as soon as Porter asked me to apply to the FBI Academy on his recommendation, I knew it was an offer I couldn't refuse. Becoming an Agent was all I ever aspired to be.''

''You were too good of a Detective for you to go unnoticed by him.'' Barba remarked. ''You were one of the best at SVU, and believe me, the squad misses you.''

''I miss them too.'' she said, as she felt him take her hand into his. ''Life really has changed for us.''

''Life has a funny way of making things happen.'' he reckoned. ''I've never been a believer in fate or destiny, but us meeting by accident feels a lot like fate to me.''

She chuckled at the memory of them first meeting about a year ago. It had been a quick introduction between them as they had bumped into each other by accident. But weeks later when they saw each other again things became more real. And one conversation turned into drinks in his office once a week, and then once a week became every single night. ''I think we came into each other's lives at a time when we needed each other.'' she told him. ''You've been my lifeline throughout some of hardest times of my life. My mom's death, getting shot on the job. You've been by my side through it all.''

''You did the same for me, Liv.'' he reminded her, noticing the emotion in her eyes. ''Fortunately, better moments are ahead.''

''Speaking of better moments. Do you want to have dessert?'' she asked seductively, her voice hinting at something he'd surely understand.

He smirked at her, putting his elbows on the table as he leaned forward. ''I'd love to have you as dessert.'' he teased as her eyes darkened at his words. ''Let me pay the bill and then we can get out of here.''

''Yes, please.'' she encouraged.

She sat hunched up against the headboard, her eyes boring into her phone as if it would change the outcome of the call she had just gotten. Her happy demeanor had vanished and replaced itself with one of shock and questions.

At the same time, the bathroom door swung open and Barba walked out with a towel wrapped around his waist. He pushed a hand through his wet hair, still completely unaware of the call Olivia had just gotten.

But with one glance her way, he knew something was terribly wrong. The look on her face spoke of anguish and sadness. An expression he wasn't often confronted with by her. ''Liv, what is it?'' he questioned, his voice giving away his fears of what she was about to tell him.

Big brown eyes stared back at him, and in them he saw the inability to form words. He moved to the bed and sat down on the edge, reaching out for her hand and holding it reassuringly. ''You're scaring me.'' he noted. ''Liv, please just tell me.''

She opened her mouth to relay the conversation to him, but words faltered. It was if the ground beneath her had shifted. All of her future plans suddenly came into question, and she suspected his would too.

Finally she dared to meet his green eyes, her phone falling onto the bed. ''That was Dean Porter.'' she stated fearfully. ''My assignment in New York has fallen through and I've been reassigned to the San-Francisco field office. I'm leaving tomorrow morning.''

Words failed to register with him as she spoke. She had to be lying, or someone had to be playing a joke on him. This couldn't be happening. Not after all the pain they endured by being apart for so long, only to be ripped apart again. He couldn't handle more of it.

''San-Francisco?'' he repeated, and very unexpectedly he burst out in laughter. He refused to believe it. Believe that her new career would take her so far. ''That's across the country. We barely made it work between New York and DC. If you go to San-Francisco, I may never see you again.'' he continued on. His laughter had subsided and was exchanged with realism.

He suddenly released her hand and pushed himself up of the bed. His head was spinning as he made it to the other side of the room, needing a moment to let the news sink in.

Olivia moved to the edge of the bed as Barba stared out the window, his back turned to her. She had no reassurances, no clever comebacks. She simply had nothing to refute his fears. In that moment they only had each other, but he seemed to distance himself almost immediately.

''Rafael, please talk to me!'' she pleaded with him as she stood behind him. ''Please, don't give up on us.''

He folded his arms across his chest as the air between them turned heavy. The tension could be cut with a knife as he tried to search for the right set of words. He didn't want to hurt her, never intended to do so. ''What do you want me to say?'' he questioned, his voice filled with hurt as he turned to face her.

''Tell me you love me. Tell me we'll find a way to make this work. Tell me you're in this relationship for the long haul. Promise me, you won't give up.'' she said. ''Anything to make me belief we can make it!''

His shoulders slumped when he realized the fight had left him. He had nothing more to give her, to promise her. ''I don't know if I can.'' he whispered painfully. ''You were supposed to come back to New York, Liv. We were going to move in together.'' he reminded her, and at the same time all their promises came rushing back to him. So many promises made, yet it seemed they'd never become real. ''What's going to happen now?''

She knew there was only one choice to make, one thing that wouldn't keep them apart. ''I'll turn down the assignment. It means I won't get another post, but at least we'll be together.'' she offered quickly. ''I can go back to SVU.''

''No, absolutely not.'' he shot back, his anger pushing its way to the surface. ''This is everything you ever worked for. I'd never allow you to give it up for me.''

A silence fell in the room, neither of them moving or attempting to speak. The silence spoke volumes of the circumstances they found themselves in. There seemed to be no solid solution, nothing that could fix what was about to be broken.

Olivia was the first one to move. She rushed towards him in a desperate attempt to make them forget. To get lost in each other, to feel something good, to erase that moment.

She pinned her body against his, catching him off guard as her lips descended upon his in a fiery kiss. She moaned into his mouth when he responded back with equal hunger. She took a few steps back as he began to push her toward the bed. Their lips were glued together, their hands desperately clinging on each other's bodies.

When her hands began to trail down his torso, he took a hold of them to make her stop. ''Liv, this isn't a good idea.''

''What else do you want do?'' she whispered breathlessly into his ear.

His eyes had darkened, his body responding to their kiss and the proximity of her body. His mind seem to be blank when he was overwhelmed by a desire and hunger only for her. It had always been intense and he could never deny her.

''I want to spend all day in bed with you doing wicked things and never leaving this room.'' he told her, his voice dripping with desire.

She moved her lips to his neck and gently kissed a trail down to his collarbone, feeling him release her hands. ''No one is stopping you.''

His iron will snapped at her teasing and he continued pushing her back to the bed. Their lips resumed their fight for dominance as he urged her onto the bed. He moved on top of her, feeling her loosen the towel around his waist.

It was then that he realized there was no going back. He had nothing to offer her but that small moment between them, even though it was a failing attempt at fixing the impossible.

The barriers between them were lost in mere seconds, and as their naked bodies pressed together, their fears had been shed. In that instant, there was nothing but them in the world. There was only love and hope, something that had always been there.

As he joined their bodies as one, his name fell from her lips while their eyes connected. It were the unsung moments between them that were trivial in their relationship. Moments like that, in which a simple gaze was enough for them to bare their souls to each other.

When they both came down from their highs, Olivia rolled over into his arms, and he immediately encircled them around her. Her head came to rest on his chest, the beating of his heart the only sound in the room.

The fear for their relationship began resurfacing, but she quickly pushed the thoughts away and focused on the feeling of his arms surrounding her. Soon enough, she realized he'd fallen asleep, and she slipped from his embrace. She reached for her phone on the nightstand, opening it up to her messages. For just a moment she gazed to her side, knowing the choice she was about to make would be worth it in the end.

Rays of bright sunlight lit up the modest hotel room, and forced its only occupant to wake up. The room was eerily silent as if representing the heartbreak and pain which was soon to follow.

A moan escaped Olivia's mouth as she turned on her side, expecting to open her eyes to the only man she wanted to see. But as her eyes opened she was met with an empty side of the bed. In that moment she held herself together with the thought of him having gone into the bathroom, but as she got up and rested on the edge of the bed, her surroundings told her a very different story.

His clothes were gone, his side of the bed empty, and there was only silence. Her fear was confirmed when she found the bathroom unoccupied, and in her moment of confusion she slumped down on the bed. She reached for her phone and dialed the only number she knew by heart, only to be met with the sound of heartbreak. His phone was off. He had left nothing behind, except her.

She dialed the number again, desperately clinging onto hope but once again she had the same result. And as she waited to leave a message, the realization began to hit her. Her body froze, her phone trembling in her hand and falling to the floor.

Her eyes fixed on the desk where a piece of paper caught her attention with a familiar handwriting on it. She rose to her feet and moved to the desk with shaking legs, reaching out for the paper.

She read the words at least a dozen times, unable to believe what he'd written.

Olivia, I'm so sorry.

I wish things were different and we could move forward together, but our timing hasn't been right in a long time. And we both know timing is everything. If the past five months have proven anything, it's that our relationship won't survive more time apart.

I have to let you go. I'm truly sorry.

I'll always love you,


As the note began to register, she found herself tightly holding onto the desk for support. Her legs began to weaken beneath her, and before she could move, she dropped to the floor.

He was gone.

Minutes passed, and she tried to understand what had happened. How he'd been able to leave without a word. So her eyes took in his writing once more, and she was unable to grasp how he'd made the choice to let her go.

Her eyes crossed the floor and she noticed her phone when she realized she had another call to make. She got up from the ground, picking up the phone and sitting on the edge of the bed. She pushed her emotions to the surface as she dialed the number, ready to rectify the message she had sent just hours before.

After the call ended, she breathed in deeply to remain calm. The emotional struggle, and the confusion passed through her in waves. She wondered whether this truly was the end for them. And trying to come to terms with it, seemed unbearable.