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Sooner Or Later (It Comes Down To Fate)

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It’s not that Carisi’s naive about sex. He works at SVU, after all. And even before that, his choice of occupation, both of his choices really, rid a person pretty quickly of any of the more romantic notions.

He’s seen what it means to people, the ways they’re capable of using it. He’s arrested enough red-faced adulterers spicing up the affair in public, or giggly teenagers, or tired hookers. And had his fair share of them offer to keep him company for a bit if only he’d agree to put away the handcuffs. Or use the handcuffs, if he wanted, so long as he let them go after.

It’s not like he’s saving himself for marriage or because he’s cleaving to Catholic dogma, secretly smug about it. Or not anymore, anyway, he can admit to being a bit of a prick when he was younger, still shiny and new and convinced the church was staffed by saints instead of men.

He just wants it to be special. He wants his first time to be with someone who loves him for real and for true. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it does have to feel right. He doesn’t think that’s unreasonable. None of that explains why he’s letting Barba cup him through his pants, rolling the flesh in a way that makes him moan into Barba’s open mouth.

It’s all at once almost impossible and almost too easy to reconcile the sequence of events that led them here. He doesn’t know how it happened, Barba’s lips firm and insistent on his, the feel of his hands and the warmth of his weight, pinning him down onto the leather couch in his office, Sonny’s hands and moans just as eager.

But then there’s the fact that it’s always been leading to this, from the moment they met. Every bit of legal advice, both solicited and not, every long day pouring over files, every sleepless night because someone had threatened Barba and Sonny had taken the last shift of protective duty. There’s no way it wasn’t coming down to this.

He’s kissed people before, sure, maybe even done some heavy petting but he’s never felt anything like this, like someone, no, like Barba’s turned a light on under his skin. He can hear himself panting, and begging, though he doesn’t know what for.

And then Barba’s hand moves inside his pants and Sonny’s legs clamp shut so fast they both wince.

They’re falling over each other with apologies when Barba stills, eyes suddenly wide. The white overpowers the green for the first time since Sonny’s known him. “You...you haven’t done this before, have you?”.

He can feel the blood rushing right back up, turning his face red. Sonny can’t trust his voice so he shakes his head, looking away. He wishes Barba’s couch wasn’t elegant leather but the boring dowdy kind, covered in the kind of pillows he could hold protectively over his groin.

Barba’s blood must be flowing back into his head too because his next question is “But you have...with women, I mean or…”

Sonny's head snaps up and their eyes lock for a small eternity. He could lie. He could play it off as nerves involving being with a man but. For all his years of undercover experience, he’s never been able to lie worth a damn to Barba, and he probably couldn’t live with himself if he did.

“No, I haven’t” he says.

Barba lets out a long breath.

“You…” he tries and stops. It’s the most exquisitely humiliating moment of Sonny’s life. He never thought anything would ever top getting caught in the middle of a kiss with Tommy Delfino in his high school’s rectory but he’d give anything to travel back to that moment. At least maybe then he wouldn’t find himself desperately wishing he’d just given it up before.

“If I forced you-” Barba starts and Sonny shakes his head so hard it feels like it’ll pop off. “I wanted it. I-” “You waited this long, you can’t expect me to believe you were just going to let me- God on my fucking couch” Barba says, sounding as angry as he does in the courtroom when the defendant’s a monster. Except this time it’s aimed at himself.

“I was waiting until it felt right-” Sonny starts but Barba won’t hear him, “And that felt right to you, getting felt up like some peer-pressured coed?”

Sonny just stares him down. He’s not going to listen to reason, not right now, because he’s showing every sign of his rant mode. He’s also showing every sign that he’ll never touch Sonny again, which cuts deeper than he’d expected.

They sit there for a long moment, Barba running his fingers along his temples in a way that says he’d have his head in his hands if Sonny weren’t in the room. Sonny just aches.

Finally he says the one thing he can say, an impossible thing but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped running through his head since he confessed. “You’re not gonna tell anyone, are you? That I’m-”

Barba’s face snaps up, mouth slack in shock.

“Right, yeah, that was dumb. I’m just gonna, uh, see you on Monday?” he says and flees.

He doesn’t remember to zip up his fly until he’s halfway down the hall but it’s gone midnight and the building’s deserted. Thank God for small favors.

*

Monday, is of course, completely awkward.

Sonny studiously avoids Barba, not that it matters, because he doesn’t even glance in Sonny’s direction. Fin frowns at them both and Rollins cracks before lunchtime. “Something happen ‘tween the two of you?” she asks and Sonny shakes his head, claims he hasn’t noticed anything different. Lying to Amanda is easy, at least, despite the guilty twist in his gut.

That doesn’t stop the whispers, though, and he knows they know he was in Barba’s office on Friday. And that he wears his crush on his sleeve. He’s sure the gossip mill’s working overtime, convinced he’d finally confessed his love and been soundly rejected. Which is, give or take, what happened.

Even the Lieutenant gives him a worried look, the kind he’s seen her give Noah when he gets the sniffles and he feels incredibly pathetic.

His only escape is their case, and the fact that, eventually, for six whole hours, he gets to pretend to be someone else. That someone is a sleazy former frat bro visiting his alma mater and his consent-understanding-impaired old fraternity house, but the asshole’s not nursing a broken heart so Sonny can’t really complain. Especially since it gets them the evidence they need to put three dirtbags behind bars.

He doesn’t take the report up to Barba and studiously looks down at his paperwork to avoid the looks it gets him. He doesn’t sit in court, either, even though he hears Barba is as much of a magnificent bastard as ever. The conviction is so easy Sonny doesn’t even need to testify.

It's a relief until the Lieu announces they’re all getting drinks to celebrate and he almost refuses, but that really would leave him without a leg to stand on.

The bar’s too dark and too loud.

Or maybe it’s just the way his senses bent, like light around gravity, when Barba looked at him and then away as fast as he could when he’d walked in the door. It hurt just as badly as he’d been expecting, which is a cold sort of comfort.

He hunches down on the bar with Amanda, which lasts for about 0.003 seconds before someone with a moustache like the one Sonny used to have, except that the guy really makes it work, asks her to dance. He’s resigned himself to the socially obligatory one drink minimum before he can leave when he feels someone settle in next to him.

Like he didn’t know who it was immediately, just from the scent of his cologne.

Barba doesn’t say anything at first and Sonny just sits there, ramrod straight, like Sister Mary Patrice is standing behind him and lecturing about posture. “I realize that you have every right to tell me exactly where I can go, but that’s never stopped me before” he says and Sonny snorts. In the corner of his eye Barba’s lips twitch with the ghost of a smile.

“I’d like to ask you why” he says eventually, voice carefully neutral.

“Why did I wait or why you?”

The lips turn down.

“Both, I suppose”

Sonny hums, thinking about how to phrase it. He takes a sip from his scotch and Barba’s lips twitch. He can probably tell it’s far below his exacting standards just from the smell.

“It’s not...It wasn’t ‘cause of religion or anything. It just never felt right before. And I wasn’t just gonna do it for the sake of doing it. I wanted it to be-”

“Special?” Barba says and this time Sonny’s the one frowning. “Don’t make fun of me” he says, ready to get indignant. Pissed feels better than wounded any day.

“I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention” he says and sounds like he means it. “It’s just that I can’t believe any of that applies to me” he follows, trying for self deprecating and missing by a mile.

“Yeah, well, I wanted it. You.” Sonny says because he’s already totally humiliated himself in front of Barba. Might as well put it all on the line. “Still do”.

There’s a long pause.

“I see” Barba says, finally, and that’s it for him.

He drains his glass and turns to go. No one’s going to miss him anyway. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that Barba’s eyes follow him as he heads out.

*

They don’t see each other again until nearly a two weeks and a half later, because their latest case causes the kind of jurisdiction friction that makes Sonny want to throw his hands up and turn to a life of crime. That way he could just shoot rival gang members and be done with it instead of smiling at a Fed he wants to punch in the face.

“Bad time?” Barba says when he strides through the bullpen and Sonny’s still so irritated he doesn’t have time to remember it should be awkward between them. When he’s done ranting about the way the government has structured its law enforcement divisions he realizes Barba’s smiling at him the way he used to, half in amusement half in horror.

“I’m sorry I didn’t ask if you needed-” “Just dropping off some files, Detective. Walk me out?” he turns without waiting for a response and Sonny scrambles after him, feeling Amanda’s jaw drop behind him. The gossip mill’s going to have a field day.

They’re standing on the cold sidewalk waiting for Barba’s Uber when he finally speaks again. “Would you like to come over for dinner, Detective? My place, say, 8 o'clock?”

Sonny can feel himself staring. There’s no way that’s what it sounds like.

“Lieutenant Benson has assured me you’re all getting the day off tomorrow, to recover from the federal agent induced hives” he continues, like that was going to be Sonny’s only objection. Which, okay, yes it was, but he should protest. Say something, tell him to go to hell for treating him like a booty call or something but. He’s wanted this for so long and Barba’s offering.

“Sure, Counselor. 8 o’clock” he hears himself and Barba actually, genuinely, smiles. “I’ll text you the address” he says and leaves before Sonny can get his head back on straight.

Amanda looks like she’s bursting with questions when he comes back but that’s just when the Lieu tells them all they can go home and not come back until the day after. Sonny leaves so fast he thinks he leaves a dust cloud behind.

He’s full of nervous energy by the time he knocks on Barba’s door. Sonny had flicked through his closet and put everything on at least once before settling on one of his nicer suits and a tie. He’s got fancy black underwear on, at least, a gift from his sisters, who thought he should have something nice to wear for someone special. And to think he’d been annoyed at the time.

He nearly swallows his tongue when the door opens.

Barba’s in a soft red sweater and chinos, looking beautiful. He’s got a small smile on his face, which looks even better.

There’s music playing, something jazzy, and an open bottle of wine on the counter. “Have you eaten?” Barba says, conversational, and Sonny trips over his words until Barba steers him to the table.

It’s takeout, but the fancy kind, from an Italian place Sonny can actually vouch for. “I- should we?” “We should relax, is what we should do” Barba says, firm, and Sonny tries.

He should have known better than to expect Barba to just pin him against the door and have his wicked way with him. Not that he would have complained. Dinner is fine. It should be more than fine, the food is delicious and they’re finally talking the way they used to, good natured insults and fascinating discussion, but Sonny can’t really enjoy it.

Barba can sense it and he sets the dishes aside to look him right in the eye. That’s the moment that he realizes the coiled tension in him isn’t nerves. It’s anticipation.

Then they’re kissing and the light’s back, flooding Sonny and making his veins sing. His hands move all over Barba, happy to find that the sweater is as soft as it looks and that the warm strength that he’d only gotten a small taste of is still there. He can feel his muscles unspooling, ready to be touched.

Barba leads him expertly to the bedroom and drops him onto the bed. Sonny actually whines and reaches for him, missing the contact.

“Are you sure? You can always-” “Would you please just fuck me already?” Sonny hears himself say and the unabashed lust that takes over Barba’s face steals the rest of his breath away.

His tongue is back in Sonny’s mouth and he tastes so good, wine and spices, and Sonny moans “Rafael”.

It’s only fair that he gets to say it, just this once. He’ll never get to touch him again, it’s clear it’s a one night only kind of deal, but he’s going to take all he can get. Rafael licks a long stripe down his neck, opening his shirt to mouth at his chest.

He lets his hands steal under the sweater, surprised to feel his fingers catch on a couple of scars on Rafael’s back. He whines, not just because Rafael is teasing his nipples now, but because he’ll never get to know the story behind every inch of Rafael’s skin.

His hands feel hungry, mapping as much of the other man as he can, while he drinks in the trails being traced along his skin. He could cry from it, the ecstasy of being touched at last.

Almost like he can sense the thought, Rafael backs off of him.

“C’mon, I want-” “What I want is for you to take your clothes off” he says and Sonny can’t comply fast enough, so eager he forgets to be self-conscious. He can’t imagine why he’d tensed up the first time, not when it feels like every inch of him wants to open up to this.

It’s too late when he realizes Rafael got naked just as quickly, cheating him of the view. “How do you want this?” Rafael says, still standing too far away but just as red and achingly hard.

Sonny’s mind reels with the possibilities and he can’t choose, there’s just so much he wants to do and can’t have if he picks just one thing. “Dealer’s choice?” Rafael says and Sonny nods. He trusts him, always will.

Rafael reaches for the lube Sonny’s just noticed on the nightstand, strategically placed along with a condom.

His legs have fallen open and he’s ready for anything but it still blindsides him when Rafael reaches behind himself and starts to stretch. Sonny’s mouth goes desert dry, struck by the soft noises and the way a flush starts crawling down Rafael’s chest.

His tongue is on it before he’s thought about it, the skin hot and firm. His hand moves down to join Rafael’s and he jerks, surprised. “Let me?” he whispers, because he wants to feel this too, touch him on the inside with only his bare skin.

Rafael nods, and they moan in time when Sonny’s finger slips in, searching. It’s easy to get in a rhythm, to add one finger and then another while Rafael runs his teeth along Sonny’s shoulder and puts a condom on him. He wants to tell him he doesn’t have to, but Rafael gives him a quelling look so he swallows it back.

Sonny’s hoping that he’ll bruise, that he’ll keep the marks that prove Rafael really did touch him like this. Most of his life, being so pale has just got him jokes and sunburns. He’s hoping it’ll be more useful now.

“Lie back” Rafael says and he goes down easy, like a lamb to slaughter. There’s no name for the feeling when Rafael sinks down onto him.

It’s just light and heat and sensation, so right that he almost feels outside of himself. And then Rafael starts to move.

“I’m not gonna last” he says in the same instant he has the horrifying revelation that he won’t. “I know” Rafael says, voice strained and perfect, and Sonny’s memory crystallizes the sound in perfect clarity.

I did that he thinks, and wraps a hand around Rafael, trying to pump in time and revelling in the feeling, the way he can feel Rafael's muscles work. He didn’t know it would be like this, skin on skin on skin. Everything alive and illuminated, every part of him aware.

They’re in perfect sync for a while but Sonny can’t keep up. His vision goes dark for a second as he comes, his whole body relaxing enough that he can feel Rafael’s full weight. He’s never loved anything more.

Then an idea hits him so hard it knocks his breath away.

“C’mere” he growls, pulling at Rafael to get him to scramble up his body with a knee on either side of his head. “Oh” he says when Sonny puts his mouth on him, a sweet surprise that makes Sonny ache.

The angle is terrible but that doesn’t matter, because Rafael is a silky, leaking weight on his tongue.

When he comes Sonny feels like the taste of it, and the smell of Rafael all around him, is the closest he’ll get to Heaven.

He doesn’t mean to but between that thought and the next, the one that registers that Rafael’s dropped down onto the bed beside him, he falls asleep.

*  

The light’s starting to turn grey, the kind that goes with the weirdest hours, the ones that are both late and early.

It’s the first thought Sonny has before he registers that he’s not in his bedroom and he’s not alone. Rafael’s arms aren’t around him, but he can still feel how close he is, breath on his neck and heat radiating along his back.

He turns slowly and there he is, face slack in sleep. He’s still heart stoppingly beautiful and it’s tremendously unfair. How can he only have one night?

Of course, says another voice in his head, the night’s not really over yet.

He reaches out cautiously, tracing a thumb down Rafael’s cheekbone. “Hi” he whispers and in the half light Rafael smiles.

His arm moves by itself, back to the nightstand like he’s lived here all his life and can find things in the dark.

“Please” he says, pressing the lube into Rafael’s hand like a supplicant. Something shifts through Rafael’s eyes, too fast for him to track.

He braces himself for a no, for an excruciating clarification that it was strictly one pity fuck or a grimace and forced acceptance that he’ll have to put a stop to if he wants to live with himself.

Instead Rafael’s face settles into something almost tender. Sonny doesn’t have to explain what he wants, or maybe it’s just written on his face.

Rafael’s big, bed-warm hands steal between his legs and open him up, careful. He tosses his head back and moans. He’s never done that to himself, not in the decades since he first discovered masturbation as a hormonal teen.

It’s an amazing feeling, even though it’s just a tiny bit of Rafael inside him, made better by the fact that it’s clearing the way for more.

When Rafael’s arm reaches out he grabs it, presses it to his chest instead. There’s no point bothering with a condom now, not with the way Sonny can still taste Rafael’s come in his mouth. It’s stupid, probably, his perfect trust. But then again Sonny knows him, how exacting, how cautious, how guarded he is.

It’s a safe bet, he thinks just as his mind catches up with him and he realizes just how much Rafael’s giving him. His legs fall, somehow, impossibly, further open and that’s when Rafael looks him right in the eye and presses inside.

He’d been wrong, earlier.

This is the closest he’ll ever get to Heaven, having Rafael Barba hot and thick inside him, not a single thing between them.

He screams and he can feel it reverberate in Barba’s rolling thrusts, racing each other to the peak. He shifts, trying to get his arms around Rafael and the covers move, leaving his shoulder bare. He shivers, reveling in the temperature contrast.

Rafael stills above him. Carefully he moves the edge of the covers back, rounding Sonny’s shoulder with such tender care that it splits him open.

He feels raw and somehow naked all over again. He hides his face against Rafael’s neck and trembles against him as he comes, safe under the blankets.

When he feels Rafael finish inside him, another fiercely new and loved sensation, he knows he can’t just get up and leave. There’s a part of him that’ll stay in this bed, in this moment, forever.

He takes the coward’s way out and retreats back into sleep, feeling Rafael’s warm arms settle onto his chest.

*

When he wakes up again it’s fully morning and the other half of the bed is empty.

His heart manages a quick panicked beat before stopping for a moment. It hurts. There’s no way around it, the enormity of what he’s lost when he barely had it, but he knew it would happen. That has to count for something.

He’s scrambling into his pants when the door on the other side of the room opens. It must lead to the bathroom and walk in closet he can only just glimpse, because of course Ra-Barba has one of those, and he’s walking out  of it fully dressed and combed and armored.

His blood doesn’t drain from his face at the sight of Sonny, at least.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?” he says instead and it’s so normal for a second Sonny thinks he’s dreaming. “Uh, no, I just, uh. You look sharp” he says and hates himself for it.

“Not all of us have the day off. I have to be in court”, he says, all soft amusement. “Right” Sonny says and looks away, pretending it’s just because he’s not sure where the rest of his clothes have gone.

“You can sleep in. Should sleep in, you deserve it” he keeps going, still calm and even.

“Here?” he says and he can’t hide the needy edge in his voice.

“Yes” Bar-Rafael? says, nodding the way he does when he’s decided exactly how he’s going to proceed so he can totally ruin some poor jabroni in court. The thing is, normally Sonny can follow along with the plan. Right now, he’s lost.

For a second Rafael hesitates in front of him. Then he steps forward and puts his hand on Sonny’s face.

“Get some sleep. We’ll talk later” and he sounds so serious that Sonny kisses him, long and deep, careful not to rumple his suit. “Mm” Rafael says against his lips.

“Good luck in court today” Sonny says. Rafael snorts. “I don’t need luck” he says but he smiles, just for a moment.

“The door locks automatically, so just shut it when you leave” he follows up.

Just as he’s shadowed in the doorway Sonny calls out “Hey, can we have Thai next time?” Rafael actually laughs. “So long as you’re buying”.

Then he’s gone and Sonny’s grinning so hard it hurts.

He falls back onto the sheets and after one disbelieving beat he dissolves into giggles, hands pressing unconsciously at the bruises near his neck. When he reaches for his phone it’s full of texts from Amanda, some from his sisters and one from Fin.

He ignores all of them and taps on Rafael’s contact.

Wednesday work for you? he taps into the box.

You know where to find me says the reply.