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Golden Hours

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The light was on in Barba's office, which meant one of two things. Either he had gotten distracted and, for the first time in his five years working there, had left it on, or he was about to be in deep trouble. Reluctantly, he beckoned his security detail and rode the elevator up to the third floor, willing time to stop before he screwed himself over even more. He had two officers tailing him constantly, ones that Olivia had vetted thoroughly. He still didn't trust them as much as he trusted the rest of the squad, but he wasn't about to take any of them away from their jobs as much as he already had. The office was empty, for the most part, except for maybe one other person working late. Carmen's desk was long empty, although she had left a file with a Post-It note reminding him that he had to call SVU in the morning and get an update on the threats that had been arriving by text, call, email, and good-old-fashioned American Post Office delivery for months.

Speaking of SVU, his office door was open, and he didn't even have to peek between the blinds to know who it was. In his mind, he could already see long legs stretched out from a plush leather chair, in front of the gas fireplace that he'd had put in after discovering that it was a 'fire hazard' to light a fire in the original wood fireplace. A thick, green leather-backed book would be spread across his lap, his slender fingers absentmindedly flipping the pages, despite knowing all the material like the back of his hand, a loose strand of graying brown hair hanging in his jade-green eyes. Sure enough, that's how Rafael found Sonny sitting in his office. Without a word, he dropped his briefcase and came up behind Sonny, leaning down to plant a kiss at his hairline.

"Why are you still studying? You already passed the bar, and besides, it's late." Rafael reached for the decanter of whiskey on a side table and poured two glasses as Sonny shrugged and took one of the glasses.

"It's interesting. Plus, you were at court so late. What were you even doing?"

"I had to meet with the DA," Rafael groaned, slipping out of his jacket and flopping down in the chair opposite Sonny. "He's 'reducing my caseload until the situation resolves itself.' Direct quote."

"Wait, so you still have your job, right?" Concern furrowed Sonny's brows as he finished his whiskey.

"Yes, but he's bringing in a new ADA from the Bronx to take over some of my cases. Just temporarily. Hopefully."

"I'm so sorry, Raf. But from what Liv told me, they've got Heredio put away. For a long time. And they're getting real close to getting him to tell them who paid him to threaten you. We're going to protect you, promise. Eventually, the threats'll stop, and-"

"I know, I know. For now, I just want to go home and work on the cases I do have. And I'd like it to be just you and me, but I have to take Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum over there with me. Their conversation skills are limited to offensive jokes and what they call 'the illegals,' as in illegal immigrants. I want to fling myself into the freakin' sun."

"Oh God, that bad? I can ask Benson to change them. They're good cops, though. They'll keep you safe."

"I know that, but isn't that the point of having a cop for a boyfriend?" Rafael reached over to hold Sonny's hand, rubbing his thumb across Sonny's knuckles.

"I don't think Liv would be on board with that. Plus, if that's the only reason I'm your boyfriend, then I can go..." Sonny stood up jokingly and Rafael tugged on his hand, pulling him down to meet his lips in a soft but enthusiastic kiss.

"That's not the only reason. I also love your cooking."

"Oh, shut up." Sonny kissed Rafael again and they finished their whiskey. Rafael picked up his jacket and briefcase while Sonny slid his book back on the shelf. "Come on, Kenny hasn't been walked yet today and I need sleep because I live with a goddamned nocturnal creature."

"Well, I live with someone who doesn't need coffee to wake up, which is clearly witchcraft, so we're even. And Kenny did get walked, I talked my mother into doing it."

"I love your mom."

"I do too, now let's go home."


Technically, Sonny and Rafael had only lived together for a month, but in the near seven months they'd been dating, the first two had been spent together in Sonny's apartment while his broken bones healed. After that, one of them spent most nights at the other's apartment. At one point, they gave up on shifting back and forth, and started renting an apartment in Little Italy. They'd hardly unpacked, just the immediate necessities: bedsheets, towels, the coffee maker. They didn't even have a sofa yet. And yet, Sonny's heart soared every time he pushed open the door to see the stacks of cardboard boxes everywhere, labelled with either his own neat print or Barba's messy scrawl. They draped their jackets over the nearest stack of boxes, labelled 'POTS & PANS'. Barba set down the stack of mail he had picked up from downstairs. He shuffled through it, but Sonny pulled them out of his hands.

"This is the last thing you need to read before bed. You can go through them in the morning." Sonny rubbed his eyes. He looked tired, older. Almost Barba's age. "I still don't get who's doing this. I get that the CO union's pissed, but these aren't all from COs. These are just people, and they're threatening to..." Sonny paused as he ripped open the nearest unmarked envelope and read aloud. "'I'm going to gouge your eyes out and dump you in an alley with the rats and cockroaches, you'll be right at home.' And that's one of the less awful ones. Aren't you worried?"

"Of course I'm worried, but I'm not going to become a recluse."

"I know, and I don't want that, but I just...I don't want..." Sonny sat down at the counter and put his face in his hands. Rafael rubbed his back soothingly.

"You don't want the same thing to happen to me that happened to you. And it won't. I have security-"

"I had security too, and Jon took them out no problem! Heredio proved to us, this isn't hypothetical! You are in real danger, Raf. And as much as I'd like to think I could, I can't necessarily protect you. My leg still isn't all the way back, and I can't be with you all the time."

"I know you can't, and you don't need to. Really, Sonny, I can handle myself. I've been handling it for almost eight months."

"You don't have to anymore! That's the whole point of this. I'm here for you."

"I know you are. And I appreciate it. And it's all going to be fine. If Benson trusts these guys," he jerked his head towards the door, where the pair of officers were waiting outside, "that's good enough for me. Is it enough for you?" Carisi clenched his jaw for a minute, then relaxed, nodding.

"For now, yeah. I'm sorry, Raf, I just can't stand the idea of this crap happening again."

"I know, I know." Kenny trotted in out of the bedroom and dashed around their legs, his tongue lolling wildly. "I think he wants to go to bed."

"Me too." Sonny yawned, as if to prove his point.


They lay in bed as they usually did, Sonny on the left and Rafael on the right, with Kenny tucked under the covers between them.

"Hey," Sonny whispered to Rafael, whose eyes were closed, but cracked open at the sound of his voice.


"I love you." The corners of Rafael's mouth quirked up into a tiny grin.

"I love you too, Sonny. Get some sleep. Tomorrow's going to be a long day for the both of us."