A/N: THIS IS THE END! This story is coming to a close. Thank you so much to everyone who read, commented and just enjoyed this fic in general. I enjoyed writing it and I'm sad to see it come to an end, but it's nice to finish a fic with a happy ending. I don't own SVU or it's characters. Enjoy and thank you again!
One Year Later…
The leaves fell in Central Park, lining the concrete paths as the sun sat low in the sky.
It was the perfect day in mid-September and Rafael couldn't have been happier. It wasn't warm, just chilly enough for a light sweater over their normal short sleeves and the part of the park he chose for this event was nearly abandoned. A few joggers passed by them just a mile back and there was a family playing a friendly game of catch in a clearing.
He rocked their joined hands between them, listening to Liv talk about the latest office gossip and asking for his interpretations and theories. She normally hated to be involved, but she always brought it up when she was trying to wind down for the upcoming weekend. Friday nights were always relaxation nights for them both. Reality television and junk food were their usual methods, but he had managed to talk her into a nice walk through the park tonight instead.
He claimed he wanted some fresh air, but the velvet box in his jean pocket proved otherwise. The simple gold, diamond encrusted band he picked up on his lunch break was everything he hoped for and more when he ordered it. It was also Noah approved, because the little boy had had a huge hand in making the decision. He knew that detail would be important to Liv.
But, damn, he was nervous.
He had no doubt in his mind that she would say yes. His worries didn't lie with her feelings for him. In fact, he didn't really have many worries beyond the workplace. Their lives for the past year had been filled with love and treasured moments, discovery and other things he hadn't experienced before.
They moved in to a new apartment closer to their jobs only two months after they disclosed, taking perhaps the biggest step a relationship could take. Rafael had become Noah's father more or less and the little boy had been testing the waters with identifying him as such. They'd quickly fallen into a routine at home and Rafael had decided that it was time to put it into writing.
Liv had brought up the idea of marriage in passing a few weeks ago, meaning it as a joke, but it was enough for the idea to get stuck in his head and he hadn't been able to think about anything else since.
"…anyway, I'm almost positive Amanda is sleeping with Carisi at this point. There's no way those two haven't at least once."
Rafael grimaced, not wanting to imagine the two doing anything remotely close to that. But, whatever those two decided to do in the privacy of Rollins apartment was their business and theirs alone. He felt Liv cuddle deeper into his side as a gust of wind whipped through the path they walked along.
He felt the nausea rising in his stomach when he realized they nearing the part of their walk where a small, white gazebo sat waiting for them. It was empty, thank God, and he pointed towards it, moving faster. He ended up nearly dragging Liv behind him as she protested.
"What's the deal, Raf?"
"Uh…," he said lamely, gesturing wildly at the empty bench, "…I thought I could take your picture. You look so beautiful today."
Liv couldn't help the cheesy smile as she plopped down on the bench and waited for him to pull out of his phone. He was glad she bought it, because that bought him the slightest bit of time to cool his growing anxiety. Really, it was rather annoying he was getting all flustered over this. It wasn't like she was going to say no.
He snapped a few pictures, immediately saving one of them as his wallpaper. Liv went to stand, but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
"Wait," he choked out, sliding his phone back into one of his pockets. Liv looked at him questioningly, searching his green eyes and expecting something there, but he knew he was giving her a blank stare.
Damnit, just do it!
He swallowed the lump in his throat as he dropped down to one knee in front of her, folding her hands in his and resting them on her lap. Her eyes grew wide and tears sprung to them suddenly, her bottom lip trembling as she realized what he was about to do. Rafael took a few calming breaths, but he couldn't stop his own onslaught of tears gathering in his eyes. The love he felt for this woman sitting in front of him was almost overwhelming at times.
"Raf," she said quietly, squeezing his hands. He smiled and sniffed, letting go of one of her hands to grab the box in his pocket, nearly dropping it on the wooden floor of the gazebo.
"Liv. There are no words to describe how happy I am when I'm with you. I never thought I was ever going to find someone who could put up with me and deal with all of my demons…but when I met you and I fell in love with you, I knew you could and would and you have. And not a day goes by that I'm not thankful to have you and Noah in my life. I love the both of you will all of my heart and…I want to make it official."
His fingers trembled as he struggled to open the box, his entire body nearly shaking and it wasn't from the cold breeze that swept through the park. It was from the way Liv looked at him like he was the only thing that mattered at that moment.
"Will you marry me," he whispered, loud enough for her and only her to hear. She nodded through her tears and sniffled loudly, chuckling as she held her ring finger so he could slide the band on. She had to reach out and help him, because his own hand shook so violently, he nearly missed it.
"I love you," he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her waist. He stayed on his knee, uncaring that the wood was uncomfortable and the dirty floor was probably going to stain his jeans. He held Liv until she pulled back, eyes clearer and observing the band that would decorate her ring finger from that point on.
"It's beautiful," she said and he smiled as he stood. He helped her off the bench and circled his arms around her once more.
"Noah helped pick it out."
"Noah? The little boy that can't keep a secret to save his life?"
"Yeah," Rafael mused, "I may have promised him a trip to Disney for his silence."
"You're willing to sacrifice a week of walking around a giant park filled with cheerful cartoon characters and buying overpriced mouse ears and souvenirs?"
"That's how much I love you," he pressed his forehead to hears, his heart beating hard in his chest when she whispered them back, just like it always did.
Six Months Later…
The crashing waves of the ocean along their private, beach front rental was something she'd never grow tired of hearing. She'd contemplated moving to a costal place like this in a far off, distant part of her past, but the city was her home and it would remain that way.
The noise and even the most unsavory smells had a place in her heart, forever and always, but their honeymoon destination was quickly rising in the ranks. Liv breathed in the salty air and played with the ring on her finger, twisting it and smiling softly as it rubbed against her skin.
She'd been wearing it for almost a week now and she was surprised at how quickly she'd grown used to having it sit there. Although, she did catch herself playing it with way too often and the decision to string it through a necklace and wear it under her shirt during work was unanimous. Rafael had decided on that as well, because he was worse than she was with it.
They left back to the city tomorrow, and she honestly couldn't wait to see Noah again, but she would miss the time alone. This was the first time this vacation where she bothered to put on any semblance of clothing and she'd felt completely free for the first time in a long time.
"Livvy," Rafael said as he opened the sliding door to the patios she stood on. He padded softly over to her, the ice in his cup sloshing against the glass. A glass of red wine appeared in front of her and a strong arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her back against him.
"Bags are packed," he whispered in her ear. She hummed in response, eyes never leaving the waves lapping at the shore of the beach. She wanted to walk along the wet sand one more time and stretch her toes.
"I don't want to leave but I can't wait to see our baby," she sighed, tipping her head back against his shoulder. He kissed her neck and sighed.
"I know. I miss him crawling in between us at night and waking up with toes in my nose."
She chuckled, knowing he meant every word of what he said. She missed Noah, but Rafael missed him even more. Those two were practically best friends and she knew it was hard for him to leave the little boy with Lucia at the airport. Especially, since Noah was a master at emotional manipulation. The tears were real in Rafael's eyes and it made her fall that much more in love with him, if that was even possible.
"Tomorrow night. It'll be all back to normal."
"I like our normal."
She did, too. Even though they didn't work together anymore, they still had important work across the city. Rafael eventually moved into the private sector, leaving SVU in capable hands with some ADA out of Chicago. Liv was still working the streets, hard as ever, but she was slowly but surely finding herself behind the desk more, overseeing her detectives and making sure things were running smoothly with the unit.
Those changes were big and new in their lives, but it was for the best and it had been working in their favor so far. Plus, those changes provided them with way more family time, which wasn't something she could ever argue with. The more family time the better.
Rafael drained his glass and moved out from behind her. Liv furrowed her brow as she watched him over her wine glass, seeing him walk lazily down the stairs of the patio and down to where the waves lapped at the shore. He turned to her and she could see him wave her over to him, despite his face being hidden by the setting sun behind him.
"Dance with me?"
She hummed and set her glass on the ledge and quickly followed him down the stairs and to the shore. The warm breeze blew up the bottom of her dress as she met him, taking his outstretched hand
"With what music," she asked, her feet sinking into the wet sand. He pulled her close to his body, holding her like she was a precious gem.
"We don't need music."
He began to sway, resting his head against hers. She let him lead, body feeling lazy and warm in his embrace. The sun was rapidly setting, casting a cool glow across the beach. Just a few miles away, there was a bustling tourist city they hadn't even bothered to explore.
Not that she minded. The moment they stepped foot into their rental, they only left for food and to play in the ocean. It was unanimously decided upon to do nothing but lounge around naked and have their ways with each other. It was the best vacation she could remember having in a long time.
They didn't talk for a while, listening to the ocean and letting their bodies guide their motions. She laughed when he spun her around, nearly tripping over one another when her foot caught in the sand.
"I'm glad we got drunk and realized our feelings for each other."
Liv pressed her forehead against his as her fingers played with the hair at the nape of his neck. She couldn't have agreed more with that statement.
"I'm glad we did, too. What do you think would have happened if you hadn't come to the bar that night?"
Rafael hummed, "I suspect I'd be knee deep in paperwork and misery right about now. Drinking myself to sleep while you were away having the time of your life with some handsome, strapping officer who swept you off your feet before I could tell you how I felt about you."
"Hmm. Handsome, strapping officer…sounds like Ed…"
She yelped when he smacked her bottom, "Don't go there Mrs. Barba."
Liv slapped his ass back in retaliation, "I'll go there whenever I please, Mrs. Barba's husband."
They descended into a fit of giggles, wrapped up in each other's embrace while the continued to sway. They held each other until the sun went down over the ocean, the moon bathing them in a bright glow. Both remained quiet, until Liv pecked and stroked his cheek, grabbing his attention once more.
"I don't think I would have ended up with anyone else but you," she said softly, "I wouldn't have wanted to end up with anyone else but you."
"Good," he whispered, capturing her lips again, "Because I have you and I'm never letting you go."
He pulled back and linked their hands together, leading them back towards their beach rental, where they would drink and eat and enjoy each other's company until tomorrow, when they would return to their normal, everyday lives with their son in the city they would never leave.
She didn't need an answer, but Rafael humored her anyway and just as he opened the door to the house, he whispered the only word he could think of in her ear.