The one thing Carisi liked about this... thing with Barba was the routine. Before, when he was still alone all the time, he would lay around and do whatever until it was time to get dressed and go to work. And then he'd come home from work and change into his sweatpants as soon as he could just to lay in front of the couch and watch TV. Maybe cook dinner, if he had company, but mostly he would just eat leftovers from Sunday night dinner with his Mom until they were gone.
But, with Rafael, he wanted to wake up in the morning. In fact, instead of sleeping in for as long as he could, he caught himself setting his alarm to match Rafael's. Not only to spend more time with him in the mornings but also just to get his lover to stop teasing him for once. Telling Sonny that he wasn't in college anymore, that he needed a regular sleep schedule like a normal adult.
At first, it had pricked Carisi's skin. He was an adult, he could do what he wanted. But, the more often it happened, the more he realized that Barba was trying to help him be better in the only way that he knew how to. And not only was Sonny waking up at a normal time, but he was eating full breakfasts every morning, going to bed at the same time every night.
He felt better when he woke up as if he were somehow more prepared to take on the day; happier to be alive.
They hadn't said anything official yet, although they'd been staying in Rafael's apartment every night for months, sleeping together for longer than that. They met at Rafael's office every night and caught a cab home together. They hadn't even been having sex every night at this point, just spending time together. Enjoying having someone for company. But Sonny was way too comfortable to have a conversation about what that meant’ way to happy to try and ruin it by bringing up their feelings. Barba just didn’t strike him as someone who opened up the more you pushed.
It wasn't until things started getting too comfortable that he realized how important it was to try and say something. The realization that living in limbo like this wasn't a good idea came on a Friday morning with an Amanda Rollins sitting on his desk waiting for him to come into the bullpen.
"Mornin' Carisi." She said, sounding confrontational even though he seemingly hadn't done anything but walk through the door. "Sleep well last night?"
"Really well, actually, thanks for asking." He said, taking his coat off and throwing it over the back of his chair. He wished he'd thought to bring her a coffee or something in this morning, just to settle her mood a little bit.
"I've been a little worried about ya past couple weeks, you haven't been hanging out here as often. Rushing out of the squad room at the same time every day. The Lieutenant wants to know who put a fire under your butt." She commented and didn’t even smile although the sentiment made Sonny chuckle, leaning over him as he sat down. She was terrifying, and he was trying way too hard to remain calm. She could tell that something was up.
"I have a life outside of work, is that so hard to imagine?" He asked defensively, not really giving her any sort of answer. It honestly wasn't any of her business, but he wasn't the type of guy to be rude to a lady.
She leaned in just a little bit more, obviously not wanting the rest of the squad to overhear. "I went by your apartment last night, Carisi. Care to tell me why you've got mail stacked up outside of your door? There's a notice on it asking you to check in with your landlord to set up an inspection with a due date that's two weeks past. Are you in trouble or something?" She asked, and when he tried to duck around her eyesight she moved her head to follow him. "You have friends, Carisi, you don't have to deal with everything on your own."
His face fell a little bit at her big reveal - he had been making plans for that very night to go over there and take care of everything. Of course, it had been too late. Of course, she had found out that he hadn't been sleeping there. Who knows what kind of stuff she thought he was getting in to.
"Amanda," He sighed, taking in a deep breath. "Who have you talked about this with?" He asked, trying to understand where she was at.
Sensing that he was about to spill his secrets to her, the next couple words out of her mouth lacked the sharpness from before. "No one, really. I mentioned it to Liv, she told me not to worry about it. Said that you'd say something to her if you needed anything. But it's been weeks of you acting weird and you haven't talked to anyone. Just tell me what's wrong."
He sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to figure out what to tell her. Trying to figure out how to tell her.
"I-" He panicked for a minute, his words getting caught in his throat. "My- he- I'm living with someone else. Not officially, I'm just staying over there." He said, hoping that being vague might get her off his back, but it only seemed to make things worse.
"Carisi, if someone's got something over you we can work things out. There's nothing so bad that I won't help you with." She assured him, making an attempt to pressure him. Unfortunately, it was working.
"He's not- We're dating, Amanda!" He said, the words bursting from him a little bit, and he had to work to keep his voice down. "I'm staying with him because he's my- we’re together. It's not- it's not official yet, though. We haven't- we're not telling anyone." He said, face reddening. He had wanted to call Barba his boyfriend, stopping himself just in time. It might not have been so bad to tell her that he had a boyfriend but... what would Barba do if he found out? He’d rather not make things any murkier than they already were.
Amanda hardly had time to react to the confession, the look of awe and confusion on her face stuck for a moment. It was tense between them, and Carisi was almost thankful when he heard footsteps quickening their way. It was morning, most everyone was still trying to wake up from their sleep, and the sound was enough to at least make her look away from him. He straightened and moved away from her, heart falling into his stomach when he saw that their visitor was Rafael Barba himself.
The ADA cast them a glance, eyes hovering over the way Amanda hunched over her partner for a minute before pointing towards Olivia's office. "She in?" He asked, barely taking a second to stop walking before Amanda interrupted him, sounding more like her normal self.
"Should be in a couple minutes. Probably took a little longer getting Noah ready for school or something. She'll be here." She assured him, casting a quick glance to Sonny without thinking. She had to do a double-take, though, the look on her partners face more telling than any of his words had been. By the time she turned back to say anything else to Barba, he had disappeared into Olivia's office anyways.
She turned on Carisi, hissing at him as quietly as she could, not wanting to attract Barba's attention.
"You're kidding me? The ADA? Do you know how much trouble you could get in? Both of you? Please tell me you disclosed this to someone who matters because if not, all of the cases you've worked on could be called into question. Did you know about that before this, or did you just not care?" She asked, angry over this in a way she probably shouldn't have been.
"Rollins, it's none of your business what we've disclosed or not. If you would back off instead of tryin to be some kind of crazy mother-hen then you'd hear me offer to take you out to lunch and tell you about it. But only because you’re my partner and I don't want to talk about this right now." He said, venom in his voice, indicating the man waiting in the lieu's office as well as the rest of the uniforms in the squad room.
Her features softened a little bit, maybe at the realization that she might have been overreacting, and she nodded curtly. "But you're buying. And I'd better get a real explanation." She said, finally getting off of his desk and moving over to her own, giving him the much-needed space that he'd been waiting for. He waved her off, turning on his computer to get some work done. This was probably going to be a long lunch.
Sonny was hoping that lunch with Rollins would solve everything. He was so in his own head, disappearing into the break room after a couple hours of paperwork to aimlessly browse his options, going over what he would have to say to Rollins. And what he would even be allowed to explain to her. How much of this was he allowed to tell anyone? He spent a good couple minutes fretting over it until finally he was pulled from his thoughts by the cause of his problems himself.
His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out and quickly read over the message from his lover.
ADA Barba: Lunch?
ADA Barba: Found myself with an extra half an hour.
Sonny sighed, and the urge to cancel his plans with Rollins for the sake of a relaxing lunch with Barba was in the forefront of his mind... but a glance out into the squad room squelched it. He couldn't abandon Rollins like this, not when she was just worried about him.
Sonny: I already have plans with Rollins for lunch.
Sonny: Wait, are you texting me from the Leiu's office?
Sonny: Can't come out and talk to me, huh? :P
He meant for it to seem like a joke, testing the waters to see how open they could be about this. Openly talking about lunch plans in the break room, like it was normal. If he wouldn't even do this, then he wouldn't be able to tell Rollins anything she didn't already know. And Sonny wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
ADA Barba: I would if Rollins wasn't hovering like a hawk.
ADA Barba: And if I had a second to spare from the meeting I'm in with Olivia.
Sonny sighed, sending back a noncommittal emoji and shoving his phone back into his pocket, making his way back to his desk. He was feeling huffy all of a sudden, and he wasn't entirely sure why.
Lunch with Rollins went... about as smoothly as Carisi could have hoped. She was upset, especially when Sonny told her that he didn't know if he was allowed to tell anyone. Especially when he told her that they never really spent time with each other during the day, always waiting to meet up after work. And especially when she realized that she'd never even seen Barba being nice to Carisi, much less wanting a full-fledged relationship with him.
And Sonny could only say that she'd never seen any other side of him a couple times before she got tired of hearing it. And he got tired of saying it. She knew that he wanted something real with the other man before Sonny even told her. It wasn't in his nature to keep things secretive and hidden, and he didn't realize how much it bothered him until now that he felt forced to keep it that way.
All he'd ever wanted was someone he could bring home to his mom and pops, and now he'd found the right person and he couldn't even do it. The whole idea put him into a sour mood, and he rode it right through the next half of his shift and all the way until he walked through the door to Barba's office.
And seeing him sitting behind the desk only seemed to make it worse; he hated how restricted he suddenly felt, closing the door behind him and taking a couple cautionary steps into the office.
Barba looked up at Sonny when he entered, a small smile coming to his face at the sight of the Detective. The affection was plain to see, and Sonny's mood faltered for a minute. There was no way that Rafael didn't care about him, not when he was looking at him like that. Maybe this was all in his head, maybe Rafael would agree with him that they needed to come out to everyone about what was happening between them.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by Barba's voice, talking to him as he folded up his things and grabbed his coat. It took him a minute to catch on to what he was saying, realizing that it was just a commentary on how his day had gone. No, specifically how his lunch had gone.
"Carmen and I had a really nice time, though. Did you know she's seeing someone? It sounds serious." He said with a shrug, buttoning up his jacket and grabbing his briefcase, looking at Sonny expectantly. "I imagine lunch with Rollins was fun, you two seem really close." He said, and Sonny's eyebrows furrowed. Was he jealous?
"Well, you know, when every day you might get shot in the face or something, you try to trust the person you're working with." He said, not meaning for it to sound as defensive as it did. But, then again, Rafael wouldn't even tell people they were actually living with each other and Sonny was in trouble because he was friends with his partner.
Rafael scoffed, giving his head a small shake before leading their way out of the office and to the cab that Sonny had set to wait for them. They closed the doors, and Sonny lay a gentle hand on Raf's arm, in search of some comfort despite himself.
Things were quiet as they made their way up the elevator to Rafael's apartment, and it wasn't until they closed the door behind them that Rafael relaxed, hanging his jacket up and loosening his tie. By the time he made it into the kitchen, his vest was gone, his sleeves rolled up, and his shoes were off. Sonny was too distracted by the simple stripping, as well as the grudge he still seemed to be holding, to actually do anything except unbutton his coat.
He trailed after Barba, watching him silently go towards the cabinet where he kept the alcohol, before spinning on his heel suddenly. It took Carisi by surprise, making him take a step back almost on instinct.
"You've been very quiet, Detective." He said, making the title sound like a pet name, watching him as he poured two glasses of scotch. "You're usually keeping yourself entertained with a monologue about your day, and yet I don't think you've said two words together all evening. Was lunch with Rollins that bad?" He asked, taking yet another small jab at his partner, sucking on his teeth to emphasize his point.
It took Carisi a moment to respond, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly. "What? Are you jealous?" He asked, raising an eyebrow back at Barba, who only let out a dry chuckle.
"No, you want me to be jealous." He said, taking a sip of his drink and putting a hand in his pocket. Taking on the aura of a lawyer in court. Questioning a witness. "She just seemed pretty upset with you this morning. Figured she ripped into you at lunch. That's why I didn't do more to convince you to come with me." He said, giving Sonny an explanation that he didn't need. For once he was misreading the situation all wrong.
"Oh, yeah, that's the reason you didn't do more. You know, to set the record straight, Amanda was worried about me. That's why it looked like she was hovering because I didn't want to talk about my problems with her." He said, crossing his arms over his chest defensively, glaring at the other man.
Rafael considered that for a minute, taking it all in before finally responding. "So it's Amanda, then?" He asked, musing, and Sonny thought his head was going to explode. He didn't know if the man in front of him was serious, or just trying to get him riled up, but either way, it was pissing him off.
"You know what, Rafael, you don't get to do this, okay?" Sonny snapped, arms snapping to his sides, hands clenched into fists. "You don't get to hide me away and keep me like your little secret and then get mad when I have friends or spend time with people that aren't you. You don't get to just pull me closer and push me away whenever you want." Sonny was angry, and his voice was raised, and the surprise on Rafael's face was satisfying. But his response to Sonny's outburst was not.
"You're being childish. I never told you that you couldn't disclose this to anyone, or that you couldn't tell the people you trusted that we were sleeping together." He said, rolling his eyes and taking a sip of the drink in his hand. "I just didn't peg you as a voyeur, is all." He said, a little smirk on his face, attempting to make a joke and lighten the mood.
"Is that all this is to you?" Sonny asked, voice cracking a little bit and accidentally revealing the amount of emotion he had been withholding. "I haven't gone back to my apartment for weeks and you still think of this as just sex?" He asked, and the tension shift in the room was palpable.
It was quiet as Sonny waited for an answer or any type of response. Barba was staring into his drink, swirling it around a little bit. Sonny thought he might never say anything until he opened his mouth to talk. He knew he wouldn’t be left hanging, though. Rafael Barba didn’t exactly let other people get the last word.
"I just think it's fun right now, to sneak around." He said softly, almost softer than he meant to, and Sonny had to withhold a groan of frustration. It was nice to see Rafael attempting to reach out to him, but he was so tired of playing this game. He wanted something real, and he couldn't dance around it anymore.
"Do you want to get serious about this, or not? Because I don't have to be here." He said, a little sharper than he intended for it to be, crossing his arms and planting himself firmly where he stood. He didn't have to be here, but he certainly wasn't moving from this spot until he got what he wanted.
"I... Sonny, listen." He sighed, having obvious trouble articulating his words. "I like you, really, I do, but I don't want to ruin it. I don't want to... to complicate things. It's so nice to come home to something simple yet... meaningful-" He sighed again, finishing the glass in his hand and moving to pour himself some more before deciding against it and setting the glass heavily down on the table. "I- this has been- I don't mind-"
Sonny let out a little sigh, crossing the distance between them and taking Raf's hands into his own. "This is painful to watch." He said with a little laugh, cradling the other man's hands against his chest. "I just... I needed to hear that this wasn't just sex. I need to be able to talk about you, because, well, it's really hard not to. You’re too much of a nerd to keep to myself.” He said, a teasing lilt to his voice, smiling cheesily.
"Of course you can, Sonny. I just... don't want to... label this. Right now. Between us. I want it to stay this way. At least until I'm ready to call it something." He paused, ignoring Sonny’s comment despite making a mental note to get him back for it later. "Is... is that okay?"
Sonny nodded, giving him a gentle smile, feeling relieved as he pulled him into a tight hug. It was really nice to know that he wasn't alone with his feelings.