If asked, Carisi was only resting his eyes. It had been a long, frustrating day working on an even more frustrating case, and it ended with the suspect walking. Carisi had predicted they didn’t have enough to keep him but as his position of resident new guy, his opinion hadn't held much weight. At least, not until the guy walked out. Then it somehow became his fault that the suspect got away; apparently since Carisi didn’t believe they had a good case against the suspect, he didn’t try hard enough to keep him in custody. Carisi didn’t think was really fair but it was hard arguing with Rollins when she was on a tear so he just let it go.
Carisi decided to stay late and work on the case. He sifted through interviews and evidence but he wasn’t getting anywhere. The victim had changed her story multiple times and the key witness refused to talk. The case wasn’t going anywhere, at least that night. The bullpen was dark and quiet, the hum of the air conditioning creating a nice white noise as it fought against the brutal summer heat outside, and Carisi rested his head on his desk for just a moment.
He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep at his desk, head pillowed on his crossed arms, but he woke to strong hands rubbing his shoulders, fingers digging into his muscles. It felt damn good and Carisi groaned softly. He wasn’t sure who was massaging him and a little voice told him he should be a little worried but those fingers dug into a particularly hard knot and Carisi just couldn’t be bothered. He floated in a comfortable half-conscious state before a quiet chuckle startled him fully awake. He sat up and Barba was sitting across from him, a bag of greasy food on the desk between them.
“Counselor?” Carisi said, rubbing his eyes. “What are you-”
“Your work ethic is admirable, Detective,” Barba said, eyebrows raised. “I can’t imagine how much information you gleaned from this case in the past few minutes.”
“I was just resting my eyes,” Carisi said reflexively, wiping a hand down his face. Did he just imagine a massage? He rolled his shoulders and they felt better, looser. He stared at Barba for a moment and Barba stared right back, his gaze intense enough to warn Carisi to let it go. Carisi decided to let it go. “Did you bring me dinner?”
Barba quirked his lips, too small to be called a smile. “A bit late to be calling it that but yes. I took pity on you,” he said, gesturing. “Sitting here alone in the dark.”
“Aw, thanks, you didn’t have to,” Carisi said, opening the bag and pulling out a styrofoam box.
“I’m aware,” Barba dryly, getting up.
“Hey wait, you’re not going to eat with me?”
“Of course not. Some of us have plans.” Barba said. “Have a good evening.”
“Oh, yeah. Sure thing. You too,” Carisi said, digging his plastic fork into the noodles, squinting at a stack of papers as he tried to figure out what he was looking at.
Barba hesitated. “Carisi,” he said. “Don’t stay for too long. You made the right call in this case. It’s not your fault the suspect walked.”
Jaw dropping, Carisi stared at him for a moment before swallowing. “Thanks, Counselor,” he said softly.
Barba didn’t reply except to nod, watching Carisi for a moment before heading out.
Carisi set the paperwork aside and dug into his food. Somehow, even cooled, it managed to be one of the best meals he’d ever tasted.
Barba exited the building, the oppressive summer heat immediately making him long for the air conditioning he’d just left.
He wasn’t sure what had come over him. Seeing Carisi slumped over his desk should have been cause for mockery but Barba felt sympathy instead. Carisi was stubborn to a fault and Barba knew trying to talk him into going home wouldn’t work. Instead, Barba decided to feed him.
But when he delivered his handout, Barba couldn’t help but linger. Awake, Carisi was a mass of irritants: loud, abrasive, hopelessly eager to please. Asleep, he was none of those things and Barba could ponder his merits unharassed. Carisi was intelligent, sympathetic, and yes, eager to please. And Barba could admit, if only to himself, that Carisi’s tall, slim build, pouty lips, and clear eyes certainly didn’t hurt anything.
The breadth of his shoulders had drawn Barba forward and, as if he were watching himself do it, he laid his hands down on Carisi. It wasn’t appropriate but it wasn’t inherently sexual, at least not until Carisi had moaned. Barba had suddenly been gripped with the need to hear that sound again under very different circumstances and he knew he was treading dangerous ground. But still he persisted, running his hands across the length of Carisi’s shoulders, taking liberties he had absolutely no right to.
Fortunately Carisi didn’t seem bothered by it, nor did he press the issue - obedient, Barba’s torturous mind supplied - and instead focused on eating. Barba had watched him, knowing Carisi was planning to stay, before offering absolution; Carisi made the right call early in the case. Carisi’s reaction to that - the wide eyes, the parted lips - was gratifying in a way Barba hadn’t anticipated and he found himself wanting to say more, to tell Carisi that for all his faults he was a good detective. Instead, Barba fled.
Taking a deep breath, Barba winced again at the heat, before hurrying out to catch a taxi. Pulling out his cellphone, Barba resolved to put Carisi out of his mind. Despite his intentions his hands couldn’t forget the curve of Carisi’s shoulders, nor the heat of his body, and during the taxi ride, Barba absently kept one hand pressed against his lips.