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To Have and Hold

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Barba tried to move, but he was pinned to the bed. Someone was draped over his body with their face pressed into the crook of his shoulder; their breath was hot and moist against his neck. Barba was sweating in spite of the cool air being pushed out of the air conditioner in the window.

He was afraid to open his eyes. He knew the morning light would hurt, but it wasn’t just that. You idiot, he thought, cursing himself a hundred times over. How could you let this happen?

He forced his eyes open, knowing he deserved the pain. He looked at Carisi, sprawled over his chest, sound asleep, and cursed himself again. There was no way he could extricate himself without waking the other man, and he couldn’t imagine that Carisi was going to be thrilled to wake up in such an intimate position. They were both in boxers and undershirts, and Barba said a silent prayer of thanks for that, at least.

He has a right to be pissed, Barba thought. Just fucking do it, like ripping off a Band-Aid.

He coughed, but Carisi’s even breathing didn’t change. Barba lifted a hand and hesitated. “Hey,” he said. His voice was hoarse, his throat scratchy. He put his hand on Carisi’s shoulder and gave him a gentle shake. “Sonny.” He cleared his throat. “Carisi, wake up.”

Carisi shifted, groaning, and Barba was alarmed to feel himself responding to both the sound and the friction between their bodies. Oh, God, he thought, swallowing with effort.

“Carisi,” he said, with more force.

The detective lifted his head, and for a moment, their faces were inches apart. Barba could see the confusion and pain in Carisi’s eyes; the detective’s forehead was creased as he looked down at himself, draped over Barba’s chest. He pulled his arm back and slowly drew away, still frowning. He rubbed a hand over his face as he flopped onto his back, and then he scowled at the ceiling, blinking several times as he tried to clear the sleep and confusion from his mind.

Barba waited, and the churning in his stomach wasn’t all from the previous night’s liquor. He watched Carisi’s face as the detective struggled to piece things together. And then, slowly, Carisi lifted his left hand and looked at the glint of metal on his ring finger. He turned his head and looked at Barba’s left hand and the matching band.

His gaze slid up to Barba’s.

“Don’t freak out,” Barba said.

“I’m gonna be sick,” Carisi mumbled. Barba tried to hide his wince, but Carisi saw it and gave his head a little shake. “No, I mean—” He broke off, suddenly rolling toward the edge of the bed. He landed on his feet and sprinted toward the bathroom, and a moment later Barba heard the telltale sound of vomit hitting water.

Barba swung himself out of bed and made his way to the bathroom doorway, his head pounding and his stomach churning. Carisi was on his knees in front of the toilet, lightly hugging the bowl.

“You really can’t handle your liquor,” Barba said quietly. Looking at Carisi on the floor made his heart hurt, but it also filled him with guilt. It was his fault that the other man was so miserable. Carisi had been so peaceful just a few minutes ago, unaware of the struggles within his body; the least Barba could’ve done was let him sleep a while longer.

“Raf,” Carisi croaked, and Barba moved into the room automatically, his stomach tightening at the misery in the other man’s voice. “I think I’m sick.”

Barba lowered himself onto the edge of the bathtub with a wince. “I can see that,” he murmured.

“No,” Carisi said, shaking his head. He stopped, swallowing several times. “Sick.” Then, as though to illustrate his point, he bent forward and threw up.

Barba grimaced, his own stomach turning at the combination of the sight, sound, and smell. He swallowed his own rising bile and reached out a tentative hand. He wasn’t sure Carisi would want him to touch him, but he laid a hand on the detective’s shoulder and was alarmed by how hot the younger man’s skin felt.

No wonder I was sweating, Barba thought. He’s like an oven. “Carisi,” he said. “Look at me.” Carisi tipped his face toward him. His hair was plastered to his forehead, his blue eyes shiny, his face creased with pain. Barba pressed his wrist against Carisi’s damp forehead and let out a breath. “Jesus,” he muttered. “You’re burning up.”

They looked at each other for a few moments. Finally, Carisi asked, “How long before the flight?”

“Don’t worry about that right now,” Barba said, pushing to his feet with another wince. He touched his hand to the top of Carisi’s head for a second, unable to resist. “Stay here, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“You’re leaving?” Carisi asked.

“I’ll be right back,” Barba promised, striding out of the bathroom to find some clothes.

 

*       *       *

 

The room had two beds, but one of them was still neatly made. When Barba returned to the room, he found Carisi sprawled on the covers of the unslept-in bed, diagonally with his head near a corner at the foot, his arm curved around the ice bucket on the bedspread beside him.

Barba let out a breath—both relieved to find Carisi conscious, and upset by how miserable the detective appeared. “For God’s sake, Carisi, I told you to stay in the bathroom,” he said, striding into the room with a frown.

“You were gone a long time,” Carisi mumbled, rolling his eye up to look at Barba.

“I was gone twenty minutes,” Barba countered, once more putting his wrist against the other man’s hot forehead. “Here, sit up and take this.”

Barba picked up the thankfully-empty ice bucket and Carisi rolled onto his back in its vacancy. Then, pressing his lips together, he pushed himself up. He took the medicine bottle from Barba and drank obediently, also swallowing several pills before handing the bottle back and lowering himself once more to the bed. “Felt like a long time,” he muttered.

“Do you need to go to a hospital?” Barba asked.

Carisi grunted something unintelligible.

“I’m sorry?”

“No,” Carisi said. “We have to go…”

“We don’t,” Barba answered. “I had them cancel our tickets and got this room for another night. Everyone’s headed to the airport now, I told them we’d catch a flight tomorrow. Or…whenever you’re up to it.”

“You know how much they charge…?” Carisi asked, frowning up at him.

“Doesn’t matter, it’s taken care of,” Barba said. “You can lecture me later. Just get your head up on the pillows like a normal person and try to sleep.”

“Are you gonna leave?” Carisi asked.

“Leave?” Barba answered, confused by the question. “Of course not. Come on, turn around.”

“I don’t wanna,” Carisi said, and Barba sighed.

“Okay.” He set the ice bucket on the bed and looked down at Carisi for a few moments, debating. “Okay, then. Just go back to sleep, alright?”

Barba turned and slipped into the bathroom, pushing the door halfway closed. He’d had to pee since waking, and he exhaled in relief as he finished. He washed his hands quickly and walked out of the bathroom. He moved around the foot of the nearest bed, looking down at the other man.

“You feel okay, Raf?” Carisi asked. His eyes were closed, his cheek resting on his hand.

Barba walked over to the other bed and sat down, kicking off his shoes. “I’m hungover, not sick,” he said, quietly.

“I don’t wanna make you sick,” Carisi murmured.

“Don’t worry about me,” Barba said, drawing his legs onto the bed. He propped the pillows behind his back and leaned against them, watching Carisi. There were so many things that he wanted to say, and even more that he should say. “Besides, after last night—What are you doing?” Carisi pushed himself toward the edge of the bed, and Barba tensed, about to swing his feet back to the floor. “Use the bucket—” he started, but Carisi stood and moved not toward the bathroom, but the other bed. There were only two steps between the beds, and Carisi was at Barba’s side in an instant. “What are you doing?” Barba repeated, reaching out a hand toward Carisi’s arm, instinctively.

Carisi put his knee on the edge of the mattress and crawled over Barba, weakly, dragging himself across Barba’s legs and collapsing on the other side of him. Then, before Barba could say anything, Carisi shifted, turning and draping himself onto Barba’s torso, his hot cheek pressed against the beating of Barba’s heart and his arm thrown over him.

Barba sat, stunned, both of his hands hovering in the air as he looked down at the top of Carisi’s head. Several snarky comments rose to his tongue before flitting away, unvoiced: Are you always so needy when you’re sick? You’re not going to puke on me, are you? Is this you testing out the ‘in sickness and in health’ thing?

In the end, Barba settled his hands onto Carisi’s head and shoulder and let out a breath. “You’ll feel better soon,” he said in a soft voice.

“Sorry, Raf,” Carisi murmured against Barba’s chest.

“What for?” Barba asked. If anyone needed to apologize, it was him. And he would, if he could muster the courage, once Carisi was better.

“You gotta take care a me, least til you divorce me. S’the law.”

Barba was surprised into a quiet laugh. “Is that the kind of nonsense they teach at Fordham?” he asked, absently brushing Carisi’s sweaty hair from his forehead. He didn’t like the way that word—divorce—had settled into his gut, and after a moment he realized that his hand had tightened on Carisi’s shoulder. He forced his fingers to relax.

Carisi didn’t answer, but Barba could feel the detective’s body settling against his. Barba was glad; sleep would help.

“You’ll be fine, Sonny,” Barba murmured, looking down at the other man—his husband, for however long Carisi allowed that to last—with a surge of unexpected emotion. “I’ve got you,” he said, barely aware of the words leaving his mouth.

“Promise?” Carisi mumbled against Barba’s chest.

I do, Barba thought. Much of the previous night was a blur, but he could clearly remember how he’d felt as he and Carisi had stood before the altar in the tiny Las Vegas chapel, promising to love and protect each other for the rest of their lives.

Barba closed his eyes, giving his head a little shake. He had no idea if Carisi would remember—he’d been considerably drunker than Barba, and Barba had been well past the limit of rational thought—but Barba would never forget the look on Carisi’s face in that moment. A look of love, of sincerity, of joy; a look that said in no uncertain terms that Dominick ‘Sonny’ Carisi was happy to be pledging his life to Rafael Barba. Barba would like to think that he, even as intoxicated as he was, would never have allowed Carisi to go through with the wedding if he’d seen any signs of doubt or confusion in the detective’s expression.

The last thing Barba wanted was to trick Carisi into marrying him, for God’s sake, or coerce him.

But you did coerce him, Barba thought, opening his eyes to stare at the wall above the television. You bought him drink after drink, you separated him from the whole damned bachelor party so no one had a chance to talk some sense into him, you confessed your feelings like some drunken college kid and practically begged him to do the same…And then, after you got him to marry you, you brought him to the hotel

Barba sighed, his stomach roiling with a mixture of sour alcohol and self-loathing.

There was a reason his body was so ready and quick to respond to Carisi’s this morning. Oh, Barba was always attracted to the other man, and always ran the risk of embarrassing himself when Carisi casually brushed against him or put a hand on his arm, but this morning was worse than usual. Even knowing that Carisi was sick, Barba was still struggling against his body’s reaction to the contact between them.

He hadn’t gotten any release the night before, and he’d lain awake long after Carisi had passed out; lying there, staring at the ghosts of neon lights dancing on the ceiling, wondering if his erection would ever go away or if he would simply die from the agony of unrequited arousal more powerful than he’d ever experienced.

Eventually, he’d gotten himself under control—no doubt helped by the liquor trying to drag him into unconsciousness, and he’d passed out beneath Carisi’s limp and lanky body. The desire had still been there in the morning, of course—and if Carisi weren’t sick, Barba would be in far lesser control of himself.

Carisi had been more than willing—eager, even—to help Barba with his arousal the night before, but Barba, with either guilt or self-hatred or both, had refused his advances until Carisi had finally fallen asleep. Barba could remember thinking that Carisi was too drunk to know for sure what he wanted, but Barba’s resistance didn’t necessarily stem from an altruistic desire to protect Carisi so much as a need to protect himself from the pain of seeing regret, or disgust, or outright horror, in Carisi’s eyes after the sun broke free from the horizon.

Carisi had not gone to sleep unsatisfied, though, and Barba wasn’t sure why his stupid, inebriated brain had thought it would be okay for him to fellate Carisi

Barba clenched his jaw, willing his body to behave itself as his mind was flooded with memories of Carisi filling his mouth—the taste, the sounds the detective had made, the feeling of his hands clutching at Barba’s hair, the way he’d writhed beneath Barba and arched against his face—

Barba groaned, and Carisi stirred against him. The movement didn’t help curb the blood pooling in Barba’s groin, but his arousal was tempered by the sheer heat of Carisi’s body as a reminder that the man was ill.

Barba couldn’t change what was done, and while he was afraid that Carisi would be upset—or, God forbid, hurt—by the memories of their night together, Barba couldn’t bring himself to regret the intimacy they’d shared. Yes, his cheeks were flaming at the thought of how needy he’d been, how desperately he’d wanted to get his hands and mouth on every inch of Carisi’s body, but he’d meant every stupid, sappy, ridiculous thing he’d said to the detective while drunk—every embarrassing word he’d never had the courage to say while sober—and he was terrified that Carisi was never going to want anything to do with him once he fought his way out of whatever fever-induced clinginess he was currently lost within.

Carisi was settled against him, his weight pressing down on Barba’s chest and stomach, his heat baking through Barba’s clothes and into his skin. Barba’s forehead and lip were already beaded with sweat, but Carisi was once more breathing evenly, sleeping, and there wasn’t a chance in hell that Barba was going to disturb him.

Barba leaned his head back against the headboard, closing his eyes, and did his best to relax his tensed muscles. He concentrated on Carisi’s soft breathing, letting the rhythm soothe his nerves.

He realized that he’d never answered Carisi’s question—Promise?—aloud, but it didn’t matter. Carisi was sleeping peacefully. In his vulnerable state, he’d put his faith in Barba, and that meant something. In fact, to Barba, it meant everything.

 

*       *       *

 

Carisi cracked an eye, cautiously. He felt queasy, and his head was still thudding dully, but he felt much better than he expected. He was drenched in sweat, his hair plastered to his forehead and his clothes stuck to his body. His fever had broken, and he supposed it was Barba’s body heat that had done the trick.

Carisi was still draped over the other man’s torso. Barba wasn’t moving, but Carisi knew that he was both awake and aware of the fact that Carisi was awake.

Carisi stayed where he was for a minute, thinking.

He hadn’t been feeling well the day before, and he’d barely eaten anything. Alcohol on a nearly-empty—and already queasy—stomach had not been the wisest of choices, but he had no one but himself to blame for that. He hadn’t told anyone that he was feeling ill, because he hadn’t wanted to risk spoiling anyone’s fun at the bachelor party. When Barba had asked him early in the evening if he was feeling alright, having noticed that Carisi was quieter than usual and forgoing the buffet, Carisi had said he was just tired and had a bit of a headache.

It had been pre-determined that he and Barba would share a room. Everyone in the wedding party had been paired off into rooms, and while neither Carisi nor Barba had been the one to suggest they bunk together, neither of them had voiced any objections when they’d been assigned to each other.

Carisi had been able to think of little else all afternoon, though.

He’d wondered if they would finally address the feelings they’d been ignoring for years. He’d imagined Barba walking out of the bathroom in nothing but shorts, his hair wet from the shower. He’d gone over and over in his head the things he wanted to say, the words that had never made it any further than his throat while sober.

He’d started drinking for a boost of courage, knowing he might never be offered a better opportunity to lay his cards on the table than a shared room in the other city that never slept. And then Barba had asked him if he wanted to leave the party and hit a bar or two, and Carisi had agreed without hesitation.

Barba was buying him drinks left and right, making sure he never had an empty glass, and the constant stream of alcohol certainly loosened both men up. A few flirty touches to the back of Carisi’s hand quickly progressed to Barba laying a hand on his arm—and then, a few drinks later, his thigh. Carisi had tried not to show how elated he was by this progression, afraid that his eagerness for contact would frighten Barba away.

If Carisi didn’t know any better, he might suspect that Barba had intentionally gotten him drunk so he could make a move. Carisi knew that Barba would never do that, though; Carisi trusted him implicitly, and knew that Barba had been deriving as much liquid courage as Carisi had been.

By the time they’d left the second bar, they’d been touching a lot—shoulders together as they sat on the barstools, hands brushing each other’s thighs, hips bumping against each other as they stepped out into the hot night air—but they’d done very little talking.

Carisi’s memories got fuzzy after that second bar. There were a few things he could recall with absolute clarity, though: he’d wanted Barba long before they’d gotten any alcohol in their systems; Barba had gotten unexpectedly sentimental as the evening wore on, even making a playlist of sappy love songs about marriage, on his phone; the first time they’d kissed was when Carisi pulled Barba to his feet after the ADA had gotten unsteadily to his knee and proposed, and that first kiss would forever be burned into Carisi’s memory no matter what else might happen in his life; standing at the altar, each of them too drunk to exercise good judgement but also eager to pledge themselves to a relationship that, for all intents and purposes, hadn’t even existed a few hours earlier.

And kissing. A lot of kissing, in the cab, in the elevator, in the hallway as they staggered toward their room. Carisi was surprised he could still feel his lips.

Barba had been calling him Sonny and baby and honey and they’d both been ready to pop the seams of their trousers by the time they’d tumbled onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. They’d somehow managed to undress—laughing and kissing as they rolled around, struggling to get each other out of their suits—but they’d been too impatient to finish the job, stopping when they got down to their underwear.

Actually, Barba had been too impatient, simply shoving Carisi’s undershirt up so he could trail kisses over the younger man’s stomach as he tugged his shorts down his thighs—

Now, his sweaty body stuck to Barba’s in the morning light, Carisi felt himself stirring in response to the memories in spite of the fact that he still didn’t feel particularly well. He rolled his eyes without moving his head to look down the length of Barba’s body, and saw that Barba was partially aroused, himself—not fully, and Carisi figured that was because no reasonable person would be really turned on by someone vomiting and then crawling on top of them in a weird mixture of hangover- and flu-induced misery.

But he also wasn’t immune to the fact that Carisi was sprawled across him, and the detective smiled in spite of himself.

He felt a wave of guilt, too, though, because he remembered something else. Barba’s mouth had been all over Carisi’s body, and Carisi had been able to do little more than writhe beneath him, hands fisted into Barba’s hair as Barba took him to the edge of ecstasy and over.

Carisi barely suppressed a groan as his growing erection twitched against the restricting pressure of the bed beneath his hips, and he closed his eyes for a moment, lost in the memory of Barba’s mouth tightening around him—

But that wasn’t the source of his guilt. It was what had happened afterward; or, rather, what hadn’t happened. Barba had allowed Carisi to flip him over, and he’d let the detective nuzzle his stubbled chin and throat, had let his mouth dampen the shirt over his nipples, but when Carisi had tried to slide down the length of Barba’s body, the other man had stopped him, pulling him up to kiss his lips instead.

And he’d continued kissing him and gently fending off his advances—there could be no other way to describe the way he’d constantly managed to keep Carisi’s hands from slipping into his waistband—until Carisi, exhausted from the combination of liquor and orgasm (and a touch of the flu, perhaps?) gave up and collapsed onto the bed with a sigh.

Barba had gathered Carisi’s lanky frame against himself, murmuring words of endearment until Carisi slipped into sleep.

It didn’t occur to Carisi for a moment that Barba hadn’t desperately wanted him—that he didn’t still want him, in the uncomfortable sobriety of the morning after. But Carisi had been drunk, even drunker than Barba, and he knew why Barba was worried.

Gathering the strength in his achy muscles, Carisi shifted, carefully levering himself off of Barba’s chest and wincing at how damp their shirts were. Barba had gotten dressed to go find medicine to make Carisi feel better, and now his clothes were soaked in sweat—a mixture of his own and Carisi’s, because the detective’s heat had baked itself into Barba and the air conditioning had been no match.

Carisi looked at Barba, whose uncharacteristically-messy hair was stuck to his sweaty forehead, and Barba met his eyes in silence, waiting for Carisi’s reaction.

“Sorry,” Carisi said, his voice gravelly. Unable to support himself on his weak arms, Sonny sank onto his side beside the other man and put a tentative hand on Barba’s stomach, feeling the wet shirt and the quiver of muscles beneath. “Didn’t mean to, you know. Get you all gross.”

Barba made a sound of amusement, but his gaze was wary as he watched Carisi. “Feeling better?” he asked.

Carisi swallowed, drawing his hand back and turning to stare up at the ceiling. “Yeah,” he said. His throat was scratchy, and his stomach burned, and his body felt a bit trembly, but he did feel a lot better than he had. “Did you really cancel our tickets?”

“Postponed,” Barba answered. He was still watching Carisi; the detective could feel his eyes. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell them…anything.”

“I’m not worried,” Carisi murmured. He knew what was coming. Barba was going to offer Carisi a way out of the drunken commitment they’d made. Carisi supposed he should be grateful, but he wasn’t. Yesterday, he’d been thinking about ways to push their relationship forward, but the idea of marriage certainly hadn’t crossed his mind. And yet, here they were.

Carisi didn’t want out. And no matter what Barba was about to say, Carisi didn’t think he did, either.

“Good,” Barba said. “Don’t. Because…I’ll take care of…everything. When we get back. No one will ever have to know.”

Carisi looked down at his own left hand. No one will ever have to know, he thought. That hurt, even though he knew Barba didn’t mean it to. “Can we talk about this later?” he asked, quietly, because he really didn’t think he was up to the conversation at the moment. He was feeling somewhat emotional, due in part to his illness and in part to the memories of spending the night with Barba, standing at the altar—

“Yes,” Barba said, and Carisi thought he sounded eager to table the conversation, too. “Do you think you can eat?”

Carisi turned his head to look at Barba and, with a small smile, asked, “Is that your way of saying you’re hungry?”

Barba grimaced. “Few things sound less appealing than eating,” he said. “But you should eat, if you’re up to it.”

If he were feeling better, Carisi might make a joke about the potential double-meaning in Barba’s words, but instead he sighed. “I guess maybe,” he answered. “I need a shower and then I’ll prolly feel up to going somewhere.”

“I’ll order in,” Barba suggested.

Carisi rolled away from him, slowly swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. “Don’t worry, I won’t embarrass you in public,” he said.

“That’s not what…” Barba trailed off, though, not bothering to defend himself.

“I know it’s not,” Carisi answered without looking back. He straightened to his feet with a wince and hesitated, feeling a little lightheaded. “I’m just, you know…” He waved a hand in the air and started around the foot of the bed. He glanced at Barba, who was now sitting forward, watching him. “I think I need to get out of this room for a while.”

“Sure,” Barba answered, and Carisi could see the other man’s expression tighten. “Fresh air might be good for you.” He wanted to say more, but didn’t.

“For both of us.” Carisi picked up his small suitcase and headed toward the bathroom. “You’re coming with me,” he said.

“Am I?” Barba asked, and there was a trace of amusement in his voice in spite of the heavy emotions clinging to both men.

“Yeah. Was there something about obeying in the vows?” Carisi asked as he stepped into the bathroom.

Barba chuckled. “We forewent that part,” he answered quietly.

Carisi snorted as he set his bag on the counter beside the sink. “Forewent?” he asked. “Is that actually a word?”

“How else would you use ‘forego’ in past tense?”

“I wouldn’t,” Carisi said, and he heard Barba laugh again. “But I’ll take your word for it.” This was greeted by silence from the other room, and Carisi hesitated, looking at himself in the mirror. He had dark smudges beneath his eyes, and his hair was jutting in every direction except where it was plastered to his forehead. He looked pale, and it wasn’t all a trick of lighting. He felt okay, though. Reasonably okay. “About the word, I mean. I remember the vows,” he added after a few moments. He turned and pushed the door closed with a soft click before stripping out of his sweaty, sticky, crusty undergarments.

 

*       *       *

 

Barba looked up from his phone when Carisi stepped out of the bathroom in a swirl of steam. The detective was dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. His hair was wet and messy, the shirt clinging to his body thanks to the damp heat of the bathroom, and for several moments Barba couldn’t breathe.

He cleared his throat, casually—he hoped, anyway—pulling a pillow onto his lap. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, bare feet on the floor and phone in hand. “Leave me any hot water?” he asked, even though he knew he was going to have to opt for cold, anyway, if he had any hope of leaving the room in a decently presentable state.

Carisi looked at him, and Barba knew that the detective was more or less reading his thoughts. Choosing to ignore the opportunity to further embarrass Barba, however, Carisi simply said, “Sure.”

“You look better,” Barba said. He fidgeted, feeling uncharacteristically tongue-tied. “I mean…do you feel okay?”

Smiling, Carisi said, “I’m feeling much better now.” He hesitated, and Barba could tell something was expected of him—though he had no idea what. “The Sixth Sense?” Carisi asked. “Mischa Barton? She pukes and then looks up and says—” He broke off, shaking his head.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Barba said.

“Obviously,” Carisi laughed. “Never mind, doesn’t matter. Yeah, I feel better. I don’t know about eating, but I’ll try.”

“You can drink more of this crap, if you need,” Barba told him, gesturing toward the bottle of stomach medicine on the end table.

“Thanks.” Carisi ran his hand through his wet hair, further mussing it. “Should I shave, d’ya think?”

“No,” Barba answered. Then, realizing he’d responded too quickly, he said, “I mean, it’s up to you. But you’re on vacation…”

“I won’t if you don’t,” Carisi said.

“Deal,” Barba answered. Then, smiling, he added, “Counsellor.”

Carisi grinned. “I should’ve thrown something else into the negotiation.”

“I would’ve let you win,” Barba shot back, and Carisi was glad to see amusement sparkling in the other man’s eyes.

“I’ll keep that in mind next time,” Carisi said. “Are you going to shower…?”

“I am,” Barba answered, but he hesitated.

“Oh,” Carisi said, giving himself a mental shake and moving forward to set down his bag. “Right, sorry, I’ll pretend I don’t know,” he said, keeping his back to the other man.

Barba laughed quietly. “Thanks,” he said, setting the pillow aside and getting to his feet. He grabbed his bag on the way to the bathroom.

As Barba was closing the bathroom door, Carisi said, “Call if you need any help.” He heard Barba make a sound somewhere between a laugh and a groan, and Carisi grinned to himself.

 

*       *       *

 

“I usually hold my liquor better, just so you know,” Carisi said. They were sitting across from each other in a diner, waiting for their late breakfast to arrive. There were only a few other patrons in the place, but Barba and Carisi had chosen the booth in the furthest corner of the diner, away from everyone else.

“You didn’t eat much yesterday.”

“I wasn’t feeling well.” Carisi saw the look on Barba’s face, and leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. “You didn’t force-feed me alcohol. Or force me to do anything else,” he added.

“You were too drunk to consent,” Barba muttered, his lips barely moving as he dropped his gaze to the table.

“Then so were you,” Carisi answered. “Hell, Raf, we were there together, you know?” He saw Barba’s throat bob as he swallowed. Carisi sat back in his seat. “If anything, I guess I owe you an apology,” he said.

Barba’s gaze slid up to Carisi’s face, and his brow crinkled. “For?”

“I didn’t put up any resistance,” Carisi said. “I wanted you, drunk or not. But you clearly didn’t want me in your pants, and it took a while for that to sink in. So, sorry.”

Barba blinked and drew back. “You—I—” He stopped, pulling in a breath through his nose. Carisi could see him gathering his thoughts, trying to regroup. Finally, he asked, quietly and hesitantly, “Drunk or not?”

He wanted to know if that was just an expression, if Carisi had thrown the words out without thinking about them. Before Carisi could answer, however, Barba leaned forward again, putting his arms on the table and holding Carisi’s eyes.

“I never for a moment didn’t want you, Sonny,” he said, his voice and expression full of earnestness. “I just didn’t want you to regret…” He sighed. “I was trying to protect you but I did a shitty job.”

“I don’t need you to protect me, Raf,” Carisi said. “I left the party with you for a reason. I kept drinking for a reason. I was glad we got assigned to share a room because I wanted something to happen. I was hoping you’d make the first move because I was too scared to do it myself. Did I think I’d wake up married? No. Did I think I’d wake up in bed with you? Well, I hoped. But then you were so…”

“Pushy?” Barba suggested.

Carisi shook his head. “Not pushy.” He considered. “Unguarded,” he finally said.

“Sappy and sentimental,” Barba muttered.

“Romantic,” Carisi countered. “You got down on your knee for God’s sake. It wasn’t the first move I was expecting.”

“It wasn’t exactly the first move,” Barba said. “I was very…touchy.”

“You were sweet.”

“I was drunk.”

“Oh, so you’re saying you won’t call me baby while you’re sober?”

Barba stared at him, and Carisi could sense both his surprise and hesitation. Carisi held his gaze, and after a few moments, Barba turned his chin to the side a little as he regarded the detective, and the tiniest hint of a smile touched the ADA’s lips. “Are you saying you want me to?”

Carisi leaned forward and put his elbows on the table, mimicking Barba’s posture. Their hands were close to each other’s on the polished wood. “Drunk or not,” he answered quietly, and he saw Barba’s lips part. “And for the record, I do have a regret.” Before he could finish, the waitress appeared beside them with their breakfast platters.

As she slid the dishes onto the table, Carisi grimaced at the sight and scent of the eggs, his stomach twisting uneasily. He glanced at Barba, who looked a bit queasy, himself.

“Thank you,” Barba said with a quick glance at the waitress, but he looked anything but thankful for the food.

Carisi looked up at her and smiled. “Thanks,” he said, earning a smile in return.

She put a hand on his shoulder. “You’re welcome, hon,” she answered. “Just holler if you need anything else.”

Carisi watched her walk away as he gathered the courage necessary to face the food in front of him. When he turned his head, Barba was regarding him, his expression unreadable.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Barba said, dropping his gaze to his plate. “Just wondering if you’re going to puke on the table.”

“If you do, I will,” Carisi warned.

“I would never,” Barba said, still staring unhappily at his plate. “I suppose we should eat before it’s cold…” His nose wrinkled.

“I don’t wanna,” Carisi answered.

Barba’s lips quirked as he glanced up. “Eggs might’ve been a poor choice,” he agreed.

“There wouldn’t have been a good choice,” Carisi said, poking at his food with a fork. Without looking up, he asked, “You jealous of the waitress, Raf?”

“Jealous? I’ve touched a lot more than your shoulder.”

Carisi laughed, raising his eyes to the other man’s. “Oh, I know,” he said, and he could see a flush of color creeping into Barba’s hangover-paled cheeks. Carisi leaned forward again, over his plate. “That’s definitely not the regret.” He watched as Barba struggled for words. “You gonna ask?”

Barba gave his head a little shake, although one corner of his lips tipped up in the hint of a smile. “Are you going to make me ask?”

“No, I’ll tell you,” Carisi said. He straightened. “Later.” He lifted a forkful of eggs toward his mouth, eying it distrustfully. “If this doesn’t kill me. I doubt you’re ready to be a widower.”

“Not after marrying someone ten years younger,” Barba said.

Carisi laughed again. “You’re rounding up,” he answered. “Are you going to eat or make me suffer alone?”

Barba picked up his fork. “No, not alone,” he muttered. “I’d say we’re in this together, but you’re worse off than I am.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Carisi answered. “You might not have the flu, but I didn’t have to take a cold shower this morning.” He saw Barba’s eyes widen in surprise, and felt himself smiling in response.

Barba was nonplussed, and it amused Carisi. He’d rarely had the upper-hand in an exchange of banter with Rafael Barba, and he wanted to savor the moment.

Barba, with his fork hovering near his mouth, cleared his throat. “No?” he asked. “I’m glad.”

Carisi tipped his head, still smiling. “Are you?” he asked.

“Mostly,” Barba answered, and Carisi’s smile stretched into a grin. “How do you know I didn’t just…” Barba cocked an eyebrow, giving his fork a little twirl in the air, in spite of his embarrassment.

“Oh, just a hunch,” Carisi answered softly. He opened his mouth and watched Barba’s gaze drop toward the movement. Carisi closed his lips around his fork, withdrawing it slowly as he pulled the eggs into his mouth, and he saw Barba’s pupils dilate, saw his nostrils flare, heard his soft intake of breath even over the sounds of the restaurant.

Carisi swallowed the eggs, barely tasting them. “Your turn,” he said, quietly, and Barba’s eyes snapped up to his. The two men stared at each other, and after a moment, Barba put his fork in his mouth, mimicking Carisi’s slow movements. Carisi felt his body responding, and he shifted in his seat, wondering what kind of condition Barba was in beneath the table. He wanted to find out, but they were in public. “Can I see your phone?” he asked.

Barba frowned at the change of subject, and set his fork on his plate. “My phone?” he asked, already pulling it from the pocket of his short-sleeved, button-up shirt. He handed it over, which made Carisi smile. “Why?” Barba asked, after the phone was in Carisi’s hand.

Carisi looked up when the phone rejected the passcode he tried. “You changed your code,” he said.

“You know my code?” Barba countered, raising his eyebrows.

“Well, I did. Your birth year and the year you graduated Harvard.”

“I changed it this morning while you were sleeping on me,” Barba said.

With his stomach squirming—not unpleasantly—Carisi asked, “To…?”

“My wedding date,” Barba answered, holding his gaze.

Carisi’s groin tightened, and he found himself grinning. “Was it before or after midnight?” he asked.

Also smiling, Barba said, “Before. Barely.”

Looking down at the phone, Carisi typed in the previous day’s date and quickly found Barba’s playlists. He selected the one named simply Sonny, feeling a warm rush of pleasure at the sight of his own name. He touched the first song, setting the volume so that they could hear the song without it being obnoxious for the other patrons.

Carisi set the phone on the table as Train’s “Marry Me” started playing, and he looked up at Barba. Barba’s expression was soft as he regarded Carisi, and the detective could see the emotion in the other man’s eyes.

They sat, neither speaking, neither eating. After a minute, Carisi tapped the phone to skip to the next song, and Jason Derulo started singing his “Marry Me.” Once it got to the chorus, Carisi switched songs, again, glad to see that Barba was smiling when “Marry Me a Little” began.

“Jason Derulo to some Broadway thing,” Carisi said, rolling his eyes, and Barba’s smile widened. “I like this, though,” Carisi added after a moment.

“You should go to the theater more often,” Barba answered.

“You should take me,” Carisi countered, skipping to the next song: Bruno Mars’ “Marry You.” After a few moments, Carisi looked at Barba and said, “Hmm. Was it just the ‘dancing juice,’ Raf?”

“Were you just looking for something dumb to do?” Barba asked in return.

Carisi shook his head, slowly. He went to the next song. “All of Me,” by John Legend. Carisi paused the music thirty seconds into the song.

“It wasn’t the alcohol.” Barba spoke quietly into the absence of music. “That was just for courage.”

“I’ve never seen you let fear deter you from anything,” Carisi said. He put his elbows on the table. “I would’ve said yes, Raf. To anything you asked. But I was too afraid to ask you in case I was…imagining…”

Barba reached out a hand and covered Carisi’s on the table. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t want to make your life…complicated.”

Carisi frowned. “Complicated?” he repeated. “What the hell does that mean? How would being with you make anything complicated? You’re the most organized—”

“People will talk a lot of shit,” Barba interrupted. “In my job, it doesn’t matter so much, but for you—”

“What do I care what people say?” Carisi asked.

Barba shot him a look. “Please. You’re the most eager-to-please—”

His frown deepening, Carisi cut in: “People I respect. And you.”

Barba tipped his head, cocking an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean,” Carisi said.

“Do I?” Barba asked quietly. “I’m really not sure.”

“I try too hard to…impress you, or whatever, I get it. I know I annoy you when I’m—”

Barba took hold of Carisi’s shirt and pulled him forward, leaning over the table to kiss him. Carisi held the edge of the table to brace himself. Barba could feel his surprise, but Carisi’s mouth opened to him without hesitation, and Barba felt a surge of love for the other man. And desire bordering on real pain.

When Barba pulled back, he met Carisi’s eyes and said, “You do not annoy me, Sonny.”

Carisi laughed, a bit breathlessly, still holding the table, and rolled his eyes again. “Right,” he said. “You’re constantly annoyed by me.”

Frowning, Barba shook his head. He smoothed the front of Carisi’s shirt and settled back into his seat. “I’m annoyed by myself when I’m around you. By my reaction to you and the fact that I can’t think of anything except how much I fucking want you. All of you. All the time.”

Carisi’s breath caught in his chest. “Last night, you told me you loved me.”

“Yes,” Barba said, searching Carisi’s face.

“You said you wanted to marry me.”

“Yes.”

“Spend your life with me.”

Barba nodded.

“And you think I care what anyone else thinks? I don’t walk around trying to make people like me, Barba,” Carisi said. “I’ve only ever cared what you thought.”

Barba smiled. “You’re cute when you’re riled up,” he said.

Carisi narrowed his eyes.

Still smiling, Barba said, “You’re always cute.”

Carisi sat back in his seat and kicked off a shoe, lifting his foot beneath the table and settling it onto Barba’s thigh. Barba made a sound of surprise. “Did you mean it?”

“Mean what?” Barba answered, clearly distracted by Carisi’s socked foot resting inches from his crotch.

“You in love with me?” Carisi asked, shifting his foot until his toes brushed against Barba’s stomach.

Barba hissed in a breath. “Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

Carisi slid his heel a little closer to the inside of Barba’s thigh, wiggling his toes against his belly. “That’s good, ‘cause I’ve been in love with you for a long time, Raf.” He moved his foot, and his arch skated over the curve of Barba’s erection. “And I’m pretty sure you want me.”

“Jesus, Sonny,” Barba breathed, snaking a hand beneath the table to grab Carisi’s ankle. He didn’t push the foot away; he simply held on. “Yes.”

“So if I asked you to marry me right now, what would you say?” Carisi asked.

“We’re already married,” Barba answered. His voice was strained, but his gaze was bright as he held Carisi’s.

“Oh, right,” Carisi said, winking at him. “How ‘bout a date, then?”

Barba blinked. He was having trouble thinking clearly, and it didn’t help that Carisi kept casually and gently moving his foot. “A date?”

“Yeah, you know. We dress up, we go out to dinner, we talk about how cute I am. Maybe I put my feet in your lap.”

“I’ll need another cold shower first.”

Carisi pressed his foot down, gently but firmly, and Barba’s eyes closed for a moment. “No, I don’t think you will,” he answered, and Barba’s eyes opened to find his.

The waitress appeared beside them, and Barba winced, his cheeks flushing as he glanced up at her. Carisi carefully withdrew his foot, sliding it into his shoe on the floor. “Anything wrong with the eggs, guys?” the waitress asked, either not noticing or choosing to ignore Barba’s obvious embarrassment.

“No, they’re great, Sylvia, thanks,” Carisi answered. “We just got distracted, is all. We got married last night, you know.”

She cast a look from Carisi to Barba, a smile curving her lips. “Yeah? Congratulations,” she said. Then, to Carisi: “Does he always look so grumpy, or is it just the hangover?”

Carisi laughed. “It’s pretty much his standard look,” he said, laughing again when Barba glared at him. “It’s cute, right? Look at him, with his little wrinkled forehead. Is it any wonder I fell in love with him as soon as I saw him?”

Barba’s expression softened, his lips turning upward even though he tried to maintain his frown.

Dividing another look between the two men, Sylvia laughed. “Yeah, I can see it,” she told Carisi, offering him a wink. “You’re a lucky guy, alright.”

“I’m the lucky one,” Barba said. He sounded gruff, but there was no mistaking the love shining in his eyes as he looked at Carisi.

This time, it was Barba’s shoulder that she touched. “You fellas let me know if you need to-go boxes,” she said, before leaving them alone.

“See?” Carisi asked with a smirk. “It was you she liked all along.”

“I said I wasn’t jealous.”

“You lied.”

Grinning, Barba said, “A little bit.”

“You’d better eat. I think you’ll need the strength.”

Barba snorted. “You’re the one who’s ill,” he answered.

“I feel good at the moment, actually. Though you’re prolly gonna be sick tomorrow.”

“I never get sick,” Barba said, lifting his chin.

“Oh, boy, you just jinxed yourself, now,” Carisi laughed. “But I’ll take care of you, even if we have to stay in Vegas another day or two.”

“Of course you will. It’s the law, remember?”

Carisi rolled his eyes. “Is that what they teach you at Harvard?”

“What was your regret?”

“Ah, still thinking about that, huh? I don’t think I should tell you yet. You still have to walk outta here, you know, and untucking your shirt’s only gonna hide so much.”

“Oh, God,” Barba muttered under his breath, and Carisi grinned at him.

 

*       *       *

 

“You should probably rest if we’re going out tonight,” Barba said.

“I’m not tired,” Carisi answered, walking slowly toward him.

Barba’s throat bobbed as he swallowed. “Feverish?” he asked. Carisi shook his head. “Nauseous?”

“You seem nervous,” Carisi remarked, stopping in front of his husband. “If you don’t want me to touch you…” He trailed off, watching as a small shudder passed through Barba’s body.

“It’s not that, believe me. I’ve never wanted anyone like I want you.”

Carisi stepped closer and reached out, undoing the first button on Barba’s shirt. And the second, and the third. Barba lifted a hand, sliding his fingers into Carisi’s hair, and pulled his head down to kiss him. His other hand settled onto Carisi’s hip, tugging him forward until their bodies were flush against each other. They were both aroused, but Carisi didn’t care about his own erection.

He pulled his mouth from Barba’s, drawing back far enough to finish unbuttoning the shirt. He pushed it back off Barba’s shoulders, down his arms, letting it fall to the floor. He ran a hand over Barba’s bare stomach, loving the way his skin quivered at the touch.

“You normally wear so many layers,” Carisi said, his voice soft and low. “I always wonder what’d be like to peel ‘em off, one by one…” He trailed his fingers to the button of the other man’s trousers, looking up at his face.

Barba shivered. “You want me to put more clothes on so you can take them off?” he asked. His voice was huskier than usual, and the sound went straight to Carisi’s groin.

“This is enough for now,” Carisi murmured, slowly lowering Barba’s zipper past his straining erection. He pushed the flaps open, sliding his hand between the layers of clothing to cup Barba’s erection through his underwear. Barba’s eyes closed, and his hands went to Carisi’s shoulders to steady himself. “Can I help you with this, Raf?”

Barba made a sound in his throat, and struggled for words. “Jesus,” he finally managed. “Sonny, I—” He leaned forward and kissed Carisi again, and Carisi could feel his desperation.

Carisi withdrew his hand, carefully, and pushed Barba’s pants down his hips before gently steering the man backward toward the nearest bed. Barba broke away from their kiss as he sank onto the edge of the mattress, and he looked up at Carisi with dark, shiny eyes, his lips parted and glistening.

Carisi slid Barba’s trousers down his thighs, over his calves, tugging off his shoes and tossing them and the pants aside. He peeled off one sock, then the other, and pressed his palm against Barba’s chest, gently pushing him backward. He could feel Barba’s heart pounding as he sank back onto the bed, and Carisi followed him down, kissing his lips briefly before trailing kisses over the other man’s prickly jaw and down to his throat.

Barba moaned, tipping his head back and clutching at Carisi’s shoulders.

“Tell me what you want,” Carisi murmured against the sensitive skin of Barba’s throat.

Shivering, Barba said, “Take off your clothes. I want to feel you—Ah, God. Please,” he added, shifting his hips beneath Carisi’s.

Carisi straightened and quickly stripped out of his clothes, feeling Barba’s heavy gaze on his body as he shucked off everything, including his boxers. Barba was lying on the bed in nothing but his underwear, shifting because he couldn’t keep still as his body thrummed with built-up desire.

Barba’s gaze skated up the length of Carisi’s body to meet his eyes. “You’re just…fucking perfect,” he breathed. He held up a hand. “Come here,” he said, but Carisi hesitated, smiling at him. After a moment, Barba’s lips curved and, with a twinkle of amusement joining the shine of desire in his eyes, he motioned with his hand. “Come on, baby,” he said, chuckling when Carisi obeyed.

“Slide up,” Carisi murmured, and Barba shifted further up the bed. Carisi crawled up the length of his body, kissing his stomach, the curls of hair on his chest, his collarbone, his throat, his jaw, finally meeting Barba’s frantic kiss. Carisi’s body was pressed against the other man’s, his erection heavy against Barba’s thigh, but he drew back when Barba’s hands settled onto his hips.

Barba made a sound of protest when Carisi broke away from his kiss.

“Oh, I know, honey,” Carisi said with a soft chuckle as he slid downward. “First things first.”

“Jesus,” Barba gasped as Carisi tugged his waistband down, freeing his erection into the subtle breeze of the air-conditioner. One hand slipped into Carisi’s hair, the other clutched at his bare shoulder, and Carisi looked up, meeting Barba’s eyes.

“I love you, Raf,” Carisi said, flattening a palm against Barba’s trembling stomach. “What do you want?”

Barba was beyond words. His fingertips pressed against Carisi’s scalp, the pressure gentle as he urged Carisi’s head down. As Carisi closed his mouth around Barba’s erection, the hand in his hair tightened and Barba’s back arched, involuntarily. Carisi swallowed as much of the other man’s length as he could, fighting his gag reflex, holding onto Barba’s waist to steady himself.

Fuck,” Barba groaned. “Sorry, I—” He broke off, making a low sound as Carisi’s mouth tightened around him, and thrust upward again, filling Carisi’s mouth and throat.

Carisi didn’t care about the momentary sensation of choking, or the fact that his eyes were watering. He had enough presence of mind to be thankful that his stomach was reasonably settled, but that was just a fleeting thought. All he cared about was the way Barba’s body was writhing beneath him, the way his fist was tight in Carisi’s hair, the silky weight of Barba’s throbbing erection on his tongue.

Carisi moved his head, his fingers digging into Barba’s waist. There would be time to take their time, later. But Carisi wanted—needed—to give Barba relief from the pressure that had been building since the day before. And he knew it wouldn’t take long; he could already taste the saltiness, and he pressed Barba’s cock against the roof of his mouth, sucking as he moved his head up and down in a quick rhythm.

Suddenly both of Barba’s hands were in his hair, and he drove himself upward into Carisi’s throat, swearing. His semen flooded Carisi’s mouth and throat, stinging his sinuses, and Carisi swallowed quickly before he could choke. Barba pulsed in his mouth as he said “Sonny” on a breathless moan.

Even as Barba sank back into the mattress, he was tugging Carisi upward. Carisi pulled his mouth from Barba’s manhood, swiping at his lips and chin with an arm as he crawled awkwardly up Barba’s body.

Barba cupped his hands to Carisi’s cheeks, swiping at the detective’s tears with the pads of his thumbs, and pulled his head down to kiss his forehead, his eyelids, his damp cheeks, and finally his lips. He slid his hands into Carisi’s hair, holding his head in place as he kissed him.

Then, as Carisi’s head began to spin, Barba finally released him and they both drew deep, ragged breaths.

“I love you, too,” Barba said, as their gazes locked and held. “I love you, Detective, Counsellor, Sonny, honey, baby, whatever you want me to call you,” he added, grinning at Carisi’s breathless laugh. He lowered a hand and tapped his fingers against Carisi’s hip. “Come up,” he said. As Carisi was pushing himself forward, he felt Barba’s fingers close loosely around his erection. As Carisi straddled his chest, Barba looked up at him and asked, “What was your regret from last night?”

Carisi shivered, gripping the other man’s shoulders. “Never mind, I just took care of it,” he said, grinning when Barba smirked at him. Carisi’s smile disappeared, and his eyes closed, when Barba dipped his head forward. “Raf,” he breathed. “You know you’re my husband?” he asked, and groaned when Barba’s mouth tightened in response.