“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”
Barba stood as proudly as any other day, but with a cold block of ice settling in his stomach. He already knew what the verdict was going to be. And he hated it. He hated knowing he lost.
“We have, your honor.” The head juror, a plump woman with a pleasant face spoke solemnly. Barba knew he had won her over with his closing argument, as well as juror five, but the others? Brick walls.
“On the charge of rape in the first degree, how do you find the defendant?” Barba didn’t want to hear. Didn’t want to feel the disappointed looks of Liv and Rollins, hear the devastated sobs of the victim. Knowing he failed.
“We find the defendant, not guilty.” The head juror’s voice burrowed its way into his ears, planting a punch to his gut. The block of ice grew. Barba gathered his notes and papers, not bothering to listen to the judge thank the jurors for their service (letting a rapist go free, what kind of service is that?) allowing himself to avoid the looks of pity, disappointment and anger for just a few more seconds.
When he did turn around, Liv was already comforting the victim, “you confronted him, no one can take that away from you”, and Rollins was walking out the door to deal with the enraged father of the victim. He walked out of the courtroom, the block of ice churning in his stomach. God, how he wanted a drink. No. Not wanted. Needed.
“Hey, counselor!” A voice dripping of Staten Island halted his dreams of warm scotch burning as it ran smooth down his throat. Barba turned around just as Carisi reached him, having broken into a soft jog to catch up.
“That was rough”. The taller man rested his hands on his hips, looking at the assistant district attorney.
“Rough? Every piece of solid evidence we had was turned moot by the defence, and the slut shaming of the victim was out of the park. Try on brutal for size instead, Detective.” Barba didn’t truly mean it to come out as snarky as it did, and he could see Carisi flinch for half a second before shaking it off. He was trodding towards the elevator now, getting closer and closer to the sweet embrace of alcohol he had waiting for him in the office. Carisi followed, if it could be called that, with his long legs he was almost half a step in front of him.
“You fought a good fight though.” Dominic “call me Sonny” Carisi, ever the optimist. Barba didn’t feel like answering that one. Had he? Maybe there was a witness he could have prepped harder, a piece of evidence he could have pushed further, an objection he didn’t call? Barba meerly grunted. This grunt usually had all interns and most junior ada’s on the run, but not Carisi. He stayed, waiting for the elevator alongside the much shorter, much grumpier man.
“Hey, do you wanna maybe...” Carisi spoke up, only to be interrupted by Barba groaning slightly, pulling out his phone.
“The D.A wants to talk. Oh boy, I wonder what that’s gonna be about”. Barba could almost feel the sarcasm drip down his chin. The elevator doors opened, and he pushed on inside. Carisi was right behind him, but thankfully didn’t speak in the crowded elevator. Barba really didn’t feel like having Carisi pointing out the good parts of life right now. Sometimes a couple of hours spent slumming in the darkness was needed. And scotch.
The elevator slid open on the ground floor, and Barba walked fast, headed for the stairs and the office of the D.A.. Carisi gave up on his attempt to follow halfway down the courthouse stair, instead watching Barba ducking the press whilst walking at a brisk tempo towards 1. Hogan place.
Barba had sendt Carmen home, wishing to wallow in his misery alone and in peace. One drink had quickly turned into three, and he was now nursing the start of his fourth. He should stop, but the scotch was doing wonders for the block of ice planted in his gut. No more than four, he decided. He had to be able to go home after all.
Liv had called after his meeting with the D.A, asking how it went, but clearly wanting to talk about the trial. Barba brushed her off with a paperwork excuse. “It won’t do itself.”
Barba’s head was spinning slightly, and he eyed the glass sadly. Four was probably too much. He groaned, putting the glass down on the desk and eying it again. Exactly how much trouble would he get in if he got caught drunk, headed out of the D.A’s office? He imagined the newspaper headlights, and decided against it. He instead poured himself some water and the last remnants of coffee in the office. As he walked back to his desk, he saw the tall shape of a man headed to the door of his office though the windows of his door. Barba glanced at his watch. Seven thirty p.m. If this was SVU needing something, he was definitely going to need that fourth drink. He barely managed to hold back a groan when he saw Carisi walking through the door.
“Hey counselor, you still going at it?” Carisi looked worn out, tired. Just like how Barba felt. His hair was tousled, clearly from a long day. Barba knew without Carisi telling him that he’d just come back from a crime scene that was worse than usual. Could hear it in his voice. The snips that usually accompanied a question like that were forced back, and instead Barba pointed to the couch, silently inviting Carisi to sit on it. He eyed his drink for half a second.
“Want a drink?” Barba was already in the process of pouring another glass of scotch when Carisi answered, “Yeah, that’d be great.” Barba walked over to the couch, handed Carisi his drink and sat down next to him.
“You’re not joining me?” Carisi asked, gesturing to the full glass still sitting on Barba’s desk. Barba shook his head. “I already had three. Figured it was time to call it quits. Rough case?”
Carisi laughed breathlessly, almost as if in despair, pulling his free hand through the dirty blond locks on his head. “Seven year old girl. They’re not sure if she’ll survive yet. We found her in an alley not to far away from here. That’s why I showed up. I was walking past and saw the lights were on in your window.”
Barba laughed. “You know which windows are mine?”
“Yeah,” Carisi rubbed the back of his neck. “I was walking past here with my niece a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned you, and she wanted to know which office was yours, so we counted our way to them.” He took a long sip of his drink, smiling at the thought of his niece before falling back into his previous gloom.
“Liv send you home?”
“Yeah, told me to catch some z’s and come back in the morning…” He let the sentence fade out, staring into the brown liquid. “You still working, or?”
Barba shook his head. “Stopped working about an hour ago, easier to drink when there isn’t any paperwork distracting you.”
Carisi hummed in agreement, and the two fell into a comfortable silence, both caught in a world of their own. The minutes ticked away, and it was Carisi who broke the silence, well into the last half of his drink.
“Sometimes... Sometimes I don’t want to do this anymore. Sometimes the cases are so fucked up, and all I can think is that I need to get away.” His voice was grave, and it sent a small shiver down Barba’s spine.
“Then why don’t you?” Carisi seemed to consider his question for a little while, taking a large sip before answering.
“Because sometimes I feel like we do good. Sometimes we’re able to make a difference. Also there’s...” Carisi stopped himself. Barba considered pushing for the rest of the answer, but opted against it.
“I feel like that too, sometimes. Like today. What’s the point of putting the victims through the pains and terrors of a trial, only to lose and see their attacker set free?” Usually Barba wouldn’t open himself up to colleagues, with the exception for Liv. But maybe the scotch was forcing some of the walls he’s put up to come back down, if only for a little while. Carisi turned his head to look at Barba, as if he were trying to hear what he was saying easier.
“Like today. I know I don’t show it, but it breaks my fucking heart!” Why was he opening up like this? “I hate knowing I let everyone down.” Barba bit his lip, stopping himself much like Carisi, who put a warm hand on his shoulder. It was heavy but comforting, and Barba found himself leaning into the touch, craving more of the warmth that was spreading from the hand squeezing his shoulder.
“You didn’t let us down.” Carisi leaned close, pulling him into almost a half-hug. “You did everything you could have, and we all know it. You did good Rafael.” Barba jumped gently at the use of his given name.
“Rafael? Taking liberties detective?” He said it in a teasing tone, but Carisi pulled back, apologising.
“Sorry Barba, I just...”
“It’s fine, you can call me Rafael.” Carisi relaxed, allowing his shoulder to rest against Barba’s. “In settings like this at least. Don’t start calling me that in the courthouse.”
“You got it... Rafael.” Carisi seemingly glowed, and Rafael’s stomach somersaulted when his name left Carisi’s lips.
“You want another drink Dominick?” Carisi groaned, and downed the last drops of his drink. “Yes, and for God’s sake, call me Sonny, please.”
“Never.” Barba winked, and the two laughed, leaning closer and closer together, their foreheads all but touching. The two stopped, both acutely aware how close they were. Barba saw that while Carisi still looked exhausted, a twinkle had reappeared in his eyes, and his cheeks had regained some color. Carisi observed the same. Their breaths synced up, and Barba let his eyes wander the shape of Carisi’s lips while licking his own.
“Still want that drink... Sonny?” Barba’s voice was just above a whisper. Sonny’s name had barely even been spoken before Sonny’s lips met his. Barba didn’t quite react at first, too shocked that Carisi’s lips were pressing against his. He soon regained control, wrapping his arms around Carisi’s shoulder, pressing the detective closer to himself, kissing him back.
The kiss was something he’d never known he wanted, but now that he was getting it, he realised it was something he’d needed for a long time. Carisi, spurred on by Barba’s reaction, let his hands travel up his face, one cupping his cheek while the other ran up to his hair, letting his fingers run through the tresses of darker hair. Barba was the one to pull away, staring into Carisi’s blue eyes, which shone. They both exhaled, feeling the other’s breaths caress their faces.
Barba jumped back in, kissing Carisi again, mouth open this time. Their teeth clashed. The kiss was rough, wanting, needing, and the two moaned and groaned into it. Barba pressed Carisi’s body close to his, demanding as much contact as possible. Carisi tugged on Barba’s hair pulling his head to allow better access, and deepened the kiss. As they shifted, Barba straddled Sonny, leaning on one forearm while the other snaked its way under Sonny’s back. When they eventually pulled away, both were breathing heavily, panting and laughing gently as they caressed each other’s face and hair.
“One more drink Sonny?” Barba brushed a lock of hair away from Sonny’s eyes, a smile dancing on his face.
Carisi nodded, propped himself up on his elbows and pressed a soft peck against Barba’s lips. It didn’t last for more than a second, and he let himself fall back down on his back. When he answered, his staten island accent was thicker than usual.
“One more drink Rafael.”