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“So,” Amanda said, propping a hip on the edge of Sonny’s desk. “We’re all set for Liv’s party at my place next Saturday. Lucy is going to have a sleepover with the kids at Liv’s. I’ll provide the food and some booze, but if you want anything in particular feel free to bring it. And you’re going to pick up the cake, right?”

Sonny nodded. “I already put the order in with my favorite bakery. We use them for everything so I got a good deal on it.”

“Of course you did.” Amanda shook her head. She didn’t know how Sonny managed to glide through New York City like it was Mayberry. “I should mention that, in addition to the cake, if you want to be allowed entry, you have to bring that new girlfriend of yours.”

“Girlfriend?” Sonny asked, genuinely confused.

“Or boyfriend,” Rollins said with a wink and Sonny found himself regretting ever coming out to her. Not because she judged him, but the opposite. She got too much enjoyment out of pointing out cute guys when they were on stakeouts and trying to get a feel for what type of men Sonny was into.

“What makes you think I’m dating someone?”

“Oh please.” She rolled her eyes. “Mr. My Dry Cleaners Caught on Fire.”

“It did!” Sonny exclaimed indignantly.

Rollins raised an eyebrow. “Three times?” Okay, so she had him there, but he stayed quiet. “Bring him,” she said again, rapping her knuckles on his desk and standing, signaling that the conversation was over.

Sonny sighed. Rafael wasn’t going to like this.

“You’ve been awfully quiet.” Sonny glanced over at Rafael as they rode the elevator up to Rollins’ apartment, shifting the large bakery box that held the lieutenant’s cake.

“Just thinking of all of the ways you’re going to repay me for doing this.” Rafael didn’t even look over at him, just kept his eyes on the numbers as they climbed. It had taken Sonny a few days to convince Rafael to come to the party, but he’d finally managed to do it, if for no other reason than it was his good friend’s birthday party. That didn’t mean Rafael had stopped complaining about it though.

“And in how many of these scenarios am I naked?”

Now he looked over at him, a glint in his eye. “Oh, pretty much all of them.”

Sonny fought a grin. “I don’t know why you’re so against this. It’s just the squad. They’re your friends.” He’d done a little recon to ensure that Stone wouldn’t be in attendance. He never would have brought Rafael if he would be. It would be only friendly faces.

“That’s why they’ve all reached out to me these last few months.”

“You changed your number,” Sonny reminded him.

“That didn’t stop you ,” Rafael fixed him with a look as the elevator doors slid open.

“Yeah, well…I had ulterior motives.” Honestly, Sonny felt a bit nervous himself. Squad parties and get togethers were a frequent occurrence and Rafael had even attended his fair share, but this was different. “Ready?” When they reached Amanda’s door he balanced the cake box on one hand so he could reach down and give Rafael’s hand a squeeze.

“Does it matter if I’m not?” But even before he’d finished the question, Rafael raised his free hand to knock on the door.

When Amanda opened it her eyes widened at the sight of Rafael. “Barba? What are you doing here? I mean, I would have invited you, but I didn’t have your numb—” She stopped talking when her eyes traveled to their hands, fingers intertwined. “Wait.”

Rafael pulled his hand from Sonny’s and in one fluid motion took the cake and held it out to Amanda. “We brought the cake, you should put it somewhere.”

Silently, as if she was too dumbstruck to do anything else, Amanda took the cake and walked toward the kitchen, leaving Sonny and Rafael no choice but to follow.

“I think we broke her,” Rafael commented, voice low.

Sonny shook his head, watching as Amanda sat the cake down on the counter then reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels that sat among the many colorful liquor bottles on the counter, all ready for the party. He knew better. She was just preparing for battle. It was only a matter of time.

And once she’d downed the shot of whiskey, dropping the glass to the counter with a clatter, she looked back and forth between the two of them, her eyes narrowed. “So you’re telling me that you two have been—”

They were saved by a knock at the door and Sonny heaved a sigh of relief.

Amanda pointed a finger at them before walking toward the door. “This isn’t over.”

“Never thought it was,” Sonny mumbled, bracing himself for whoever would be walking through the door next.

While most of the other guests seemed surprised, none of them gave much of a reaction at the sight of Sonny and Barba together — except for Fin, who’d slapped Sonny on the back, said “About time,” and then headed for the liquor. Even Melinda had just given them a knowing smile before turning back to her conversation with Munch.

Much to Sonny’s relief, Amanda had been playing hostess, answering the door, taking coats, and pouring drinks, and hadn’t been able to interrogate him yet. He could only hope that things stayed that way.

And they did for awhile, but his luck ran out eventually. He’d just left Rafael chatting with Liv—the only person in attendance who’d already known about them, a byproduct of being one of Rafael’s few close friends—and was in the kitchen getting another beer when Amanda cornered him.

“How could you not tell me that you were dating Barba?”

“Shhh. Could you—” Sonny glanced out into the apartment, relieved to see that no one seemed to be paying them any attention, despite Rollins’ lack of volume control. “Can we not do this here?”

“Fine,” Amanda turned on her heel, heading for her bedroom and Sonny followed, knowing it was pointless to do otherwise. “There.” Rollins said once she’d closed her bedroom door and turned to face Sonny, arms crossed over her chest. “Now spill.”

“It was a couple weeks after the—well, after everything that happened. I reached out to him to make sure he was okay. We met for drinks, and then it just kind of went from there.” He kept it as succinct as possible, not only because Rafael wouldn’t want him going into the details, but because he didn’t want to either.

That night, when he’d walked into the bar and saw Rafael sitting there, in dark slacks and a polo, his breath had caught in his throat. And later that evening when he’d pressed Rafael up against his apartment door, long fingers buried in his hair, he’d been light headed. And it was theirs. No one else’s.

Rollins shook her head in disbelief. “I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me. Barba! The guy you’ve had a crush on for years. I’m surprised you didn’t announce it on the courthouse steps when you finally made it happen.”

“So, uh, you knew about that?” Sonny ran a hand over the back of his neck; he could feel his skin heating up at the embarrassment. He’d thought he’d done a good job of hiding it—Rafael himself hadn’t known, at least not until that night at the bar—but apparently he hadn’t.  

Amanda shot him a look. “Now you’re just insulting me, both as a friend and a detective.”

“Sorry. Look, Rafael is kinda private and after everything that went down he was a little uneasy with us making a big deal out of things. Plus, you know, we wanted to see if it was anything before bringing other people in.”

“And is it? Something?”

Sonny smiled. “We’re here, aren’t we?”

A short while later, after Amanda had gotten all of the information that Sonny was willing to divulge, she flung open the bedroom door, her eyes searching the room for Rafael. She spotted him talking with Olivia and Fin and strode purposefully across the room.

Without even stopping on her way by, she laid a hand on Rafael’s shoulder and leaned in close to his ear. “You hurt him, I hurt you.”

“Tonight was fun. Wasn’t tonight fun?”

“I did enjoy myself, yes.” Rafael held Sonny’s arm, trying to keep him steady enough to prevent him from tumbling down the steps of Rollins’ building. “But clearly not as much as you did.”

“I’m glad everyone knows about us now,” Sonny said as they hit the sidewalk, leaning heavily onto Rafael’s shoulder. “I like that I won’t have to hide how I feel about you.” They’d almost made it to the curb, but then Sonny stopped abruptly, leaning back so he could look at Rafael, who still had an arm around his waist. “I love you. And I don’t want to hide it. I. Love. You.” It was the first time he'd said it out loud, but he'd felt it for a long time and he'd suddenly felt like he'd explode if he didn't say it.

Rafael smirked. “You’re drunk.”

“So?” Sonny pulled away, only stumbling a little. “That doesn’t change anything. I still love you.”

“Okay. Okay,” Rafael chuckled. “You love me.”

“Why don’t you believe me? It’s the truth. I’ll tell anyone who asks.” Sonny flung his arms out and spun in a wobbly circle. “I, Dominick Carisi, Jr. love Rafael Barba!”

“Okay,” Rafael repeated, taking him by the arm to stop the spinning, not willing to deal with vomit on top of everything else. “And it’s only because I love you too, that I’m going to help you get home instead of leaving you here on the sidewalk to fend for yourself.” He raised the arm that wasn’t currently keeping Sonny in place to flag down a cab. “Here we go.”

“You love me,” Sonny said, a big goofy smile on his face as Rafael tried to usher him into the taxi. “You looooove me.” He fell backwards into the cab with a giggle, pulling Rafael into the backseat with him.

“God help me, I do.”