Aftermath of the attack, part 9

ADA Rafael Barba had been recuperating from the physical and psychological injuries he had sustained during his violent assault at the hands of William Lewis. After being discharged from the hospital he had spent several weeks at his mother's South Bronx apartment. When she left on a long-planned trip to visit relatives in Florida, Barba had stayed with Benson while his condo was being cleaned and repaired. Olivia had moved to a new building with the added security of a doorman instead of returning to her old apartment where Lewis had begun her torture. Even though the old apartment was now like new, she felt that living there would have triggered terrible memories.

Barba guardedly entered the SVU squad room, carrying his second coffee of the day . It was his first visit there since returning from his sick leave and he did not want to see pity from these detectives with whom he had worked for the past year and a half. Nor did he want to be branded as the DA who couldn't even protect himself while taking care of Benson. Carmen, his own secretary, had given him a warm reception, but she seemed hesitant to give him a welcome hug and quickly left him alone in his office avoiding an awkward situation.

Rollins and Amaro looked up from their computers as he walked in.

"Welcome back, Barba," Amaro offered with a smile, standing and extending his hand.

"Thank god you're back," Amanda said. "The substitute DA they sent us was incompetent. She was so hard to work with."

"Thanks," Barba said appreciatively. "It is nice to be needed." He gazed around the room. "Is Olivia here?"

Benson opened Captain Cragen's office door and saw Barba across the room. She hurried over and greeted the unprepared Barba in a welcoming embrace. She could feel him flinch. "Barba," she said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. I'm so glad you're back to work."

Olivia stepped back and looked him up and down. He wore a pink and white striped shirt topped with a pink and purple tie. His three-piece gray pinstripe suit and leather briefcase completed his usual professional attire. He was clean shaven and his hair was stylishly cut, very different from the last time she had seen him when he had left her apartment to go back to his refurbished condo. The only visible signs of his torture were the scattered burn scars that covered the tops of his hands. Olivia knew that his clothes hid the cigarette burn and knife wound scars left on his arms, legs, and chest. Her own body had similar scars, although some were fading. The doctors had told her that she might opt for plastic surgery to remove the most prominent ones.

"Well, detectives… and Sergeant," he turned to Olivia and smiled. "I have a lot of work to catch up on. Carmen said you have a teacher accused of having sex with her fourteen year old student. Will the boy be a cooperating witness?"

Before Barba could elicit any details on this new case from the team, Cragen approached them and handed Olivia a paper. "Unis are at this address. A woman and her thirteen year old daughter have been stabbed and probably raped. The woman's husband is missing."

Benson and Amaro grabbed their coats. Olivia touched Barba's arm. "Maybe we can grab lunch when I get back?" she suggested.

"Sure, Liv," he replied.

"Good to have you back, Barba," Cragen said as he turned towards his office.

Barba walked over to Rollins. He removed his suit jacket, neatly folded it, and placed it and his briefcase on Finn's chair. Then he sat down in the chair next to Rollins's desk.

"Amanda, what can you tell me about this teacher?"