A/N Fair warning: I wanted to write angst, the muse wanted to write fluffety fluff-fluff. I lost.
"That's it," Liv stated, removing her hands from the couch and throwing them up in the air, emphasising just how exasperated she had become. Leaving little space for Rafael to respond, she flopped down onto the couch, making her intentions clear with both her actions and words, "If you're still not happy then you can move it yourself."
Rafael worked hard to smother the smirk that was struggling to break free. Her exasperation wasn't without cause (the couch wasn't particularly heavy but it was difficult to manoeuvre and they'd already moved it twice before, the second time to restore the couch to its original starting position) but the fact that she'd humoured him for this long, as he'd strove to find the perfect place for the large leather couch in their new apartment, only made him love her more. The sight of her, in jeans and a tight fitting t-shirt, hair tied back and a faint glow about her from their exertions, made him want to christen the couch there and then (just as they'd christened the king size bed, that she'd insisted they buy, last night). Moving in together definitely had some perks that he'd not considered when he'd first brought up the subject.
"I am very happy," he replied, deserting the arm of the couch he'd been holding on to and heading toward Liv, dialling down the smirk to a smile. Sitting down beside her, one arm across the back of the couch, he kissed her sweetly before pulling back to meet her eyes as he whispered lowly and referring to more than just the couch, "And this is perfect."
"Good," Liv murmured, her exasperation fading before his eyes as a smirk crossed her own lips. "You're such a perfectionist."
He thought about denying it but it was mostly true; the closet full of three-piece suits and colour co-ordinated accessories was further proof. However, he had let some standards slip. The chasm between their definitions of 'neat and tidy' was noticeable; he'd spent months fighting a losing battle against untidiness at Liv's old apartment before finally surrendering and admitting, to himself at least, that he felt more at home there than in his own place. "You knew that when you agreed to move in with me," he smiled back, running his free hand down her thigh as he spoke.
"I did," she agreed before sighing dramatically. "You're lucky that I love you anyway."
Noah chose that moment to pop his head out of one of the cardboard boxes that were piled in the corner of the room, the flaps of the lid bouncing off the side from the force, and proclaim loudly, "I love you, Raf!" The box tipped over onto its side as the little boy clambered out though Noah remained on his feet, an outcome that allowed him to break into a full pelt across the floor of the room and toward his target.
Rafael had just enough time to relinquish his hold on Liv and catch the little boy as he leapt up onto both him and the couch. A long, tight hug ensued, the feel of a little pair of arms around his shoulders, full of unconditional love and trust and given so freely, was one of the joys in life that he'd thought he'd never want or need. Now he wasn't sure he could ever live without them (and Liv's assertion that they'd probably dwindle as Noah aged only made him treasure every one all the more). "I love you too, Noah. You and your Mommy," he whispered against the boy's head as he shared a smile with Liv. As Noah loosened his grip, sitting back a little, Rafael added on, his eyes still locked on Liv's, "Even if you two are the messiest people I know."
"We're not messy," Liv countered, humour lacing her words. "We're just more relaxed, aren't we, Noah?"
The little boy, one arm still slung around Rafael's neck and kneeling on the man's lap, met his mother's gaze and, despite not being entirely sure what he was agreeing to, offered her a wide smile, a nod and a small, "Uh-huh."
"That's my boy," Liv grinned, brushing her hand lovingly down her son's cheek before turning a triumphant gaze toward Rafael. She continued to smile as she threw his earlier words back at him, "And you knew exactly how the Bensons rolled when you suggested that we all move in together."
"I knew that it was too late for you but there's still time to teach Noah how to use a toy box," he smirked at her before turning his gaze to the little boy he'd, in between trying to unpack boxes and rearrange furniture, spent a good hour this morning pushing around in a cardboard box that had been passing itself off as a race car (before then becoming a house). It might have been easier to let his mother take Noah for the weekend but Liv had been right: this was his home, too. "What do you say, Noah? You can grow up to be just like me."
Noah nodded his head eagerly, "Okay, Raf."
"That's my boy," Rafael gloated, his eyes searching out Liv's to revel fully in his own victory. The look he received in return clearly had 'good luck with that' written all over it but it was warm nonetheless. The moment was short lived however when Noah asked a question that he hadn't anticipated.
"Are you my Daddy now?"
The question shouldn't have come as such a huge surprise (he and Liv had talked about the very same subject back in June when Father's Day had raised questions for all three of them) but Rafael struggled for words nonetheless. Fatherhood had never figured in his plans, mostly because his relationship with his own Papi had involved only hard fists and harsh words, leaving him with a pain that had settled deep in his soul, where it occasionally threatened to break out in the form of a clenched fist. Not wanting children was the reason why Yelina had chosen Alex over him and why he'd never let another woman get too close after that. It wasn't that he thought he'd turn out like his father (he could never beat a child or make them feel so worthless) but he had worried that he wouldn't be much better than his Papi. Good male role-models had been severely lacking during his childhood.
Falling in love with Liv had meant finally facing up to his past. She'd known from the outset that he had little experience with children but when they'd fallen into bed that first time and, after making love, she'd traced her finger along the scar that marred its way from his hip and onto his back, an unspoken question in her eyes, he'd told her all about the fear that had always held him back. Of course, she'd understood entirely and with her encouragement, her love and her absolute faith in him, along with her son's sweet nature, he'd fallen in love with Noah, too.
"Noah, sweetie," Liv soothed, smoothing out the silence that had followed the little boy's question. Her hand reached for her son's cheek once more, stroking the skin as she gently guided his eyes toward her own, "Just because Rafael lives with us doesn't mean that he's your Daddy."
"But he makes me pancakes for breakfast," Noah protested even as Liv's hand continued to caress his cheek. "And takes me to school. And reads me stories at bedtime. And he helps me make cool cars with Lego."
The lump in his throat grew with every reason Noah listed though it was still small in comparison to the swell that was currently consuming his heart and threatening to burst out of his chest. The desire to hold the boy close once more and tell Noah that he wanted nothing more than to be his Daddy was strong but instead of doing either of those things he turned his gaze to Liv. Back in June, they'd both been a little hesitant about taking this step and he was wary of pushing her too far or too fast just because he was ready; on the other hand, she had agreed to move in with him. "That is all true, Liv. Noah's made a strong case," he said, resisting the urge to joke that Noah would be a lawyer just like him. She smiled, almost warily, in response, her hand dropping away from her son, and feeling a little more sure of himself, he added on, "I don't have any objections."
Liv's eyes, now shining with tears, suggested that all three of them were definitely in agreement but she managed to confirm it with a rather shaky sounding, "I don't either."
Rafael grinned at her with both relief and gratitude before turning his attention to the little boy on his lap. "I would love to be your Daddy, Noah," he whispered, his voice almost as shaky as Liv's. "Now and always," he confirmed before giving in to that urge to hold the boy, to hold his son, close.
Noah returned the gesture, happy in his Daddy's arms until Rafael pressed a kiss to the boy's cheek. "That tickles, Daddy," Noah laughed, referring to the couple of day's worth of stubble that was currently residing on the lower half of Rafael's face and then, when his father repeated the gesture, he squirmed free to seek protection in his Mommy's arms. "Save me, Mommy," he giggled, clearly wanting the 'game' to continue.
"I've got you, baby," Liv murmured, holding her son tight. She flashed Rafael a grin, "I'll protect you from all of those scratchy kisses."
If the sound of Noah calling him Daddy hadn't struck him dumb he'd have said something about how much she loved his stubble laden kisses but maybe that was for the best: Noah didn't need to hear those sort of things about his parents. As he readied himself to pounce on the other occupants of the couch, it struck him that they were a family; maybe not by blood and maybe not legally (though he made a mental note to do something about that as soon as possible), but that's most definitely what they were.