Rafael wheeled himself into Liv's room and paused momentarily to look at her. All the wires and machines made him wince, but he was beyond happy she was alive. He wheeled over to her bed and got as close as he could. She laid there, unaware of his presence as he continued to stare at her. Even with her bed head, no makeup, and various tubes and wires, she still managed to take his breath away. With one hand he reached up to brush a stray strand of hair away from her face, and with his other her took her hand into his. Her eyes fluttered open. She leaned her head into his hand, "hey…"
His prayers had been answered, and yet he couldn't find the words to respond. The tears that had threatened for so long finally flowed down his cheeks. He released her hand, embarrassed by his emotions, and rubbed his cheeks with the back of his hand, but his eyes were red, there was no denying his concern.
"I'm ok Rafa; it'll take more than a bullet to get rid of me." But then realization struck her, she tried to sit up, but was knocked back by the searing pain in her shoulder, "where's Noah? Does he know? Is he ok?"
Even though there was a lot he needed to tell her, Rafael was temporarily thankful for the change in topic, for now it could wait. "He's with Amanda and Lucy. They haven't told him anything yet; they're waiting to find out how you want to handle it. For now he thinks you're busy with work."
She relaxed at hearing everyone had her son's best interest in hand. They truly were her family; she didn't know what she'd do without any of them.
"How are you doing?"
Rafael grimaced as he adjusted himself to better hold her hands, their fingers intertwined, "I'm doing ok. The doctor said I'll probably be heading home tomorrow or the next. They want to make sure there's no infection before they release me. It's tough to walk and I've already been to physical therapy a couple of times so I'm sure I'll be ditching this contraption real soon," he said as he motioned to the wheelchair.
Liv chuckled at the thought of Rafael at physical therapy, he did not like to be bossed around and she pitied them, "I'm sure they're happy to see you every day!"
"Are you saying I'm difficult?" Rafael said with a smirk.
They both shared a laugh, each knowing how little patience Rafael had when it came to being told what to do and how to do it.
Rafael became reflective and tears welled up in his eyes. Liv could see he was struggling to say something, but she didn't know what it was or if he was in pain, or maybe something had happened that he was too afraid to tell her.
"Rafa, what is it? You know you can tell me anything."
Rafael looked into her eyes, he dug down deep to summon the courage to tell her how he felt, but he was also unsure if this was the right time. He looked down at their hands which were still joined together; Liv was lazily tracing the veins on the top of his hand with her thumb.
"I almost lost you..." The rest of what he wanted to say was stuck in the lump in his throat. A few tears escaped and were trickling down his face. He laughed nervously as he wiped a few away with his other hand.
It was the first word in that sentence that caught her attention, not we or Noah, but I…I almost lost you.
"Oh Rafa, I'm here. We're going to be ok. I promise you I'm not going anywhere."
"Liv, you can't make those kinds of promises, especially after what happened yesterday. If anything, yesterday reminded me how fragile life is and how we need to savor every moment and go after what we want." Rafael squeezed her hands in his and kissed her knuckles gently.
When he looked up all he saw was pure love and it gave him the courage to continue, "Olivia Benson, I want to take you out on a proper date, one where I pick you up at your front door and take you to one of the nicest restaurants in New York City. Will you do me the honor? If you want, Noah is more than welcome to join us."
Liv couldn't believe this was all happening, but Rafael was right, life was too short. It's true her life was complicated, but that was the norm for her and what was one more complication to add to her plate?
She smiled at him and knew she had been taking too long to respond and could only imagine what Rafael was thinking. "If I could move I'd lean forward and kiss that look of concern off of your face, but for now you'll have to settle for an IOU. Yes Rafael Barba I'd love nothing more than to go out to dinner with you, but if you don't mind I think I'd like to keep you all to myself for our date. I love my son, but I'm hoping for an evening spent somewhere other than Chuck e Cheese."
Barba laughed out loud, god he loved this woman. Loved…wow, that wasn't something he was expecting to pop into his head so quickly. But the truth was, no matter how much he tried to downplay those thoughts, he kept coming back to how she made him feel. He wasn't ready to profess his new found emotions for her, but he suspected it wouldn't take long until he was telling her exactly how he felt.
"Well Ms. Benson, you're in luck because all of that physical therapy has taught me how to stand on my own and I can come to you."
Rafael made sure the chair was locked and then he gripped the sides of the chair with both his hands to balance himself, and then he pushed himself up with his good leg. Once he was balanced he placed both hands on Liv's bed and leaned forward. He hesitated a moment once their lips were only inches apart, he could feel her breath mix with his and he knew at that moment their first kiss would be one to remember.
When their kiss finally ended, he sat back in the wheelchair and he could only utter one word, "wow…"
From that moment on they decided not to waste another minute. They agreed there would be complications, that it would even be difficult, but as long as they had each other, it would be worth it.
Maria led the way as her and the rest of the squad walked down the hallway to the lieutenant's room, she glanced back and couldn't understand why they were walking so slowly. It was true she always walked fast, something her former college roommate and husband teased her about, but she couldn't understand walking so slow. If you know where you're headed, don't you want to get there?
Her husband always asked why she had to run everywhere? She wasn't running, she was W-A-L-K-I-N-G. Maria couldn't help it if he and everyone else were lollygaggers. She looked back again and rolled her eyes. What was so important on Rollins' phone that it couldn't wait? It was probably that puppy video Rollins had showed her earlier. Ok, Maria admitted to herself it was funny, but it couldn't wait? She had to show Carisi now?
Truth is, things were looking up at SVU, everyone treated her differently now, like she was part of the squad. She no longer felt like she had something to prove. True she was still low man on the totem pole and she still got the crappy assignments, but she suspected in time that too would change. Maybe this SVU thing was going to work out after all.
She reached the lieutenant's hospital room and was about ready to walk in when she came to an abrupt stop. She stood and watched as Barba kissed the lieutenant. Thankfully she had been quiet and they didn't see or hear her. They were too deep in conversation to hear anything, in fact a semi-truck could have crashed through the walls and it wouldn't have caught their attention.
Maria smiled knowing that Barba had found the courage to take that leap and it was now time for her to pay it forward. She quickly turned around and managed to stop Fin, Rollins and Carisi before they had arrived at the lieutenants room.
Maria frowned and waived them back, she needed to make a split second decision, "the doctor is examining the lieutenant. He told me to come back in an hour or two. Anyone up for sushi? I know of a great place not too far from here," she said as she began to herd them away from the lieutenant's room.
Carisi made a face, "seriously, raw fish? Can't we do something normal, a little less intimidating?"
Fin slapped Carisi on the shoulder as the detectives made their way back down the hallway, "don't worry Carisi, I'm sure they have a kids menu."
Maria laughed along with everyone else and confirmed what she had thought all along, it's good to be a fast walker.
A/N: Sorry there's no smut...I really wish could write it, but I'm god awful at it. Just use your imagination ;-)