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He could do this. He was a detective with the NYPD. He’d come up against some of the worst scumbags society had to offer. He’d faced death head-on multiple times and always came out on top. This would be nothing.

Sonny continued to mentally psych himself up as he rode the elevator with Rollins up to the fifth floor, but as the car rose he believed his own reassurances less and less. And when the doors opened, revealing the long expanse of marble floor, the forced optimism gave way to something closer to dread.

It had been three days since he and Rafael had sat on the floor of his apartment, holding one another, tears in their eyes, as they both came to terms with the fact that no matter how hard they tried, it just wasn’t working anymore. Neither of them had been able to pinpoint the moment it happened, when their relationship had gone from something as easy as breathing to a chore requiring an immense amount of effort, but they both acknowledged that it had.

Their once fun and well-meaning banter had devolved into sniping and personal digs, something Sonny had immediately felt guilty for the moment they’d left his mouth, but somehow couldn’t stop from slipping out in the first place. He’d never been a callous person, and realizing that he could be cruel, especially to the one person he loved the most, had been the final straw.

Rafael had almost looked relieved when Sonny confessed that he couldn’t do it anymore.

“I love you. I do, Sonny. It’s just—”

“I know,” Sonny gripped his hand. “I know.”

And even though he knew it was the right thing to do, the last three days had sucked. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d reached for his phone to text Rafael, just out of habit. Funny things he read or saw that made him think of Rafael, a dumb thing a perp had said. Little things that he’d normally relay right away, just so they could share a laugh. But he couldn’t do that anymore. At least he didn’t think he could.

“You know, I can do this alone,” Rollins said, her tone more gentle than usual, when she’d made it a few feet down the hall and realized that Sonny was still standing in front of the elevator.

Sonny mentally shook himself. “Gotta rip off the band-aid sometime, right?” Rollins just nodded and he caught up with her, making their way toward Rafael’s office.

Rafael looked surprised to see him. He also looked really really good. It wasn’t fair, Sonny thought, for him to be so handsome in his rolled up shirtsleeves and charcoal gray vest. No matter what had happened between them there was one thing that would always remain categorically true, and that was that Rafael Barba was completely gorgeous.

“Detective Rollins, Carisi.” Rafael looked him over carefully, as if he were trying to see if he was about to fall apart. Sonny did his best to look whole, whatever that meant, pulling the corner of his mouth up in a half grin.

“Counselor.”

“What brings you by?” The question was ostensibly offered to both of them, but Rafael’s eyes hadn’t left Sonny.

“The Phillips case,” Rollins supplied when Sonny failed to speak up, glancing between them. “The vic’s still shaky, doesn’t fully remember what happened, but she thinks she remembers him filming the assault. If we can get a warrant for the boyfriend’s electronics…”

Rafael finally turned to look at Amanda. “I can’t get a warrant on something she thinks she remembers.”

“Sure, you can,” Sonny piped up. “Especially if you get the right judge. Look, this poor girl was raped by her boyfriend, someone she trusted, and the bastard filmed it. We gotta find it.”

Rafael gave a small smile and Sonny didn’t know if it was at his compliment or his relentlessness that caused it. “I agree, and I’ll try, but no promises.”

Sonny felt the tightness in his chest unfurl just the slightest bit. This was still easy at least. Work, while often full of playful antagonism, had always been easy between them. He was relieved at least something hadn’t changed.

“Well,” Rollins said after a few silent moments where Sonny and Barba only looked at each other, matching half smiles on their faces. “We’ll get going. Let us know when you hear on the warrant either way.”

“Son—Carisi,” Rafael said when they started to leave. “Stay a minute, won’t you?”

“I’ll meet you back at the precinct,” he told Rollins and then gave a little nod when her expression asked if he was sure about this. “You know,” he said once Rollins was gone. “You can still call me Sonny.”

“Can I?” Rafael asked, once again taking a seat behind his desk. “I don’t really know what the rules are for…” he waved a hand, “this.”

With Rollins gone and talk of the case dispensed with, it hurt, of course it did, to be here in Barba’s office discussing the logistics of their break up. It ripped his heart out to know that when this was over, they’d be going their separate ways, to their own apartments. There’d be no more stolen kisses in courthouse corners, no more lingering touches as they handed off case files to one another. He’d never again cook Rafael dinner or have him in his bed. From now on they would be only this: colleagues discussing a case.

But the pain was worth it. If his options were Rafael Barba, the coworker, or no Rafael at all, he’d choose the former every time.

“I think,” Sonny said, moving to perch on the corner of the desk out of habit, but deciding last second that the visitor’s chair was a better choice. “That we decide what the rules are.”

Rafael nodded thoughtfully. “So what do we want them to be?”

Sonny should have known that Rafael would take him literally. He always did better when he had a formalized path to follow. “What, you want them typed up and framed?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Rafael waved a hand. “Laminated will suffice.”

Sonny huffed a laugh and Rafael smiled, and when their eyes met across the desk, it was like nothing had changed. Only everything had changed, Sonny reminded himself. And he had wanted it to, they both had. He was having a hard time remembering why at the moment, but that didn’t mean the reasons weren’t there.

“I better go,” he stood, and then, before he could stop himself, “You’ll be okay?”

“I will be if you find me some useful evidence with this warrant I’m going to have to call in a favor to get.”

“You got people who still owe you favors?” Sonny cracked with a smirk. “I thought you’d burned all your bridges by now.”

“Said like a man who wants to wait until tomorrow for his search warrant,” Barba said with a raised eyebrow. “Send Carmen in on your way out, will you?”

“Sure thing, Counselor.”

“You, uh, you can still call me Rafael, too,” he offered awkwardly and Sonny just gave him a small, understanding nod.

“I’ll send Carmen in.”

Yeah, Sonny thought as he made his way to the door, they’d be okay.