Olivia glanced up as Amanda let herself into her office and immediately looked back down at the paperwork she was filling out. “I already told Fin no,” Olivia said flatly.
Amanda settled into the seat across from her, arching a brow as she smirked. “C’mon, Liv, at least hear me out,” she started, and Olivia gave her a look.
“Fin already filled me in on your plan,” she said. “And for the record, I don’t condone it and therefore want no part in it.”
“It’s a harmless prank!” Amanda said, leaning forward in earnest. “Besides, you won’t really be involved, you’re just the only one who’s kept in touch with Barba since he left the DA’s office and so you’re the only one who can get him to Forlini’s without him getting suspicious.”
Olivia sighed, but it was clear her resolve was slipping. “Doesn’t this seem like a lot of effort for just a harmless prank?” she asked.
“Liv, no offense, but you don’t have to sit in the bullpen and listen to Carisi whine about missing Barba sixteen hours a day,” Amanda said grimly.
Olivia winced. “Is it really that bad?” she asked.
Amanda gave her a look. “It’s that bad,” she confirmed. “And when he’s not whining, he’s moping. It’s been six months, Liv, and I swear to God if he doesn’t get better soon…” She trailed off and shrugged. “Then sooner or later Fin’s gonna follow through on one of his threats to kill him. Do you really want that on your conscience?”
Though Olivia rolled her eyes, she also sighed heavily in acquiescence. “Fine,” she said, and Amanda grinned. “So what do you need me to do?”
“Who wants to do some shots?” Fin asked, seemingly rhetorically, since he already had three shots of clear liquor in hand. He deposited one in front of Carisi and passed another to Amanda.
Carisi frowned down at the shot. “Shots?” he asked doubtfully. “You trying to get me drunk, Sarge?”
“I’m trying to get us all drunk,” Fin corrected, clinking his shot glass against Carisi’s. “How do you say ‘cheers’ in the language of your people?”
“Well, on Staten Island, we normally just say cheers,” Carisi said dryly, and when Fin elbowed him, he laughed and added, “But us Italians also say cin cin.”
“Who’s talking about whose kin?” Amanda asked, clearly not having paid attention to what Fin and Carisi were saying.
Carisi drained his shot and Fin surreptitiously slid his own shot in front of Carisi, who didn’t seem to notice. “What do y’all say in the South?” he asked in his best attempt at a Southern accent, which sounded particularly discordant with his usual Staten Island drawl.
Amanda raised an eyebrow. “That dog won’t hunt,” she said sourly, and Carisi, picking up on her mood, quickly downed the shot Fin had put in front of him.
“Personally,” he said, clearly trying to change the subject back to safer ground, “my favorite toast is a Spanish one that I think we could all use: ‘Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlos’.”
Amanda propped her elbow on the table. “And what, pray tell, does that mean?”
Carisi cleared his throat. “It means—”
“Health and love and time to enjoy them,” a familiar voice said from behind them, and all three turned, Carisi’s eyes widening when he saw who it was.
Amanda used the opportunity to press her shot glass into Carisi’s hand before saying smoothly, “Always good to see you, Counselor.”
“I wish the same could be said of you three, but…” Barba trailed off, a small smirk hovering on his lips, even as he seemed to be avoiding Carisi’s gaze, which was still firmly locked on him. He cleared his throat. “That being said, it has been too long, which means the next round of drinks should be on me.”
“Nah, I got it,” Fin said quickly. “You should, uh, get reacquainted.”
Barba frowned slightly but Fin had disappeared down the bar before he could protest, so he shrugged and settled for finally looking at Carisi, his expression softening ever so slightly as he did. “Detective.”
“Counselor,” Carisi said, his voice hoarse, and he quickly did the shot Amanda had handed him without seemingly caring where it had come from. He gestured at the seat next to him. “You should, uh, sit. If you’re, y’know, gonna stay awhile.”
Amanda winced at the awkwardness of the exchange and then winced again when Olivia grabbed her elbow. “I’m not sticking around to witness this,” Olivia told her low in her ear. “Plausible deniability. But this had better work, Amanda.”
“It will,” Amanda assured her, even as she eyed Barba and Carisi warily. “It has to.”
Olivia left and Amanda tuned back in to Barba and Carisi’s conversation which she had been previously ignoring. “...heard you’re working for the Department of Investigation now, is that right?”
Barba shook his head. “No, Corporation Counsel,” he corrected. “My new role is Deputy Corporation Counsel for Public Safety Reform, to be specific.”
Carisi managed a wan smile. “So does that mean you handle lawsuits against the city all day? Here I thought you’d be trying for something more exciting in your new gig.”
Barba managed a laugh but it sounded stilted and awkward, and Amanda sighed. Of course those two idiots wouldn’t find anything else to talk about besides work, and not even in a fun and exciting kind of way.
Well, that certainly wouldn’t do.
Amanda took matters into her own hands, leaning against the table next to Barba. “So, Counselor,” she started with an easy grin, “Now that you got all this time on your hands, you seein’ anyone?”
Barba eyed her warily and Carisi just stared, his eyes wide, his beer half-raised toward his lips. “Regardless of whether I am,” Barba started, “I should probably tell you, Detective, you’re not my type.”
Carisi snorted into his beer and Amanda gaped at Barba, who was smirking. “I got drinks,” Fin announced, rescuing Amanda, whose face was flaming. “Shots all around!” He paused by Amanda to whisper in her ear, “You need some ice for that burn?”
Amanda just glared at him. “Just get on with it,” she hissed.
Fin distributed the drinks all around and raised his own beer in a toast. “To a night to remember,” he announced, and Carisi laughed.
“You know something I don’t about this evening?” he asked.
“Carisi, the list of things I know and you don’t would be enough to fill this room twice,” Fin told him. “Now shut up and drink.”
Whether it was because of the shots he’d already downed, or because of Barba sitting next to him or for some other reason, for once, Carisi complied with the order and drained his shot, Barba following suit while Amanda and Fin took mere sips of their own drinks.
From there, the evening only got messier. Every chance they could, Amanda and Fin plied Barba and Carisi with more alcohol, watching with amusement as both Barba and Carisi’s suit jackets came off, following by their ties, followed by both rolling their sleeves to their elbows as they sat and talked and laughed.
“If Barba sat any closer, he’d be in Carisi’s lap,” Fin muttered.
“That’s the point, isn’t it?” Amanda returned archly.
Around 10:30 or so, Carisi pulled his phone out and announced in a slurred voice, “Selfie time!”
Amanda and Fin exchanged glances and grinned. ‘Selfie Sonny’ was the final stop on the way to ‘well and completely wasted Sonny’, as Carisi only took selfies when he was soused, apparently out of some mistaken drive to document the destruction for later viewing.
They relaxed even more when Barba made no protest to Sonny tugging him in for what he clearly deemed the perfect selfie, letting himself be manhandled with a small, soft smile on his face as he obediently looked at the camera at Carisi’s slurred insistence. “What do you think?” Amanda asked quietly. “One more round oughtta do it?”
“Yeah,” Fin said with a nod, and they slipped back to the bar as Carisi and Barba took their series of selfies. When they returned, not even two minutes later, Carisi was slumped over the table, Barba’s head leaning on his shoulder, both men clearly passed out, and Fin stopped in his tracks. “Huh.”
“Lightweights,” Amanda scoffed, setting down the last two shots they had purchased on the table.
Fin eyed the shots before looking back at her. “You just gonna leave those there?”
Amanda considered it for a moment. “Well, waste not, want not,” she said, handing one to Fin and picking the other up herself. “Cheers,” she said, clinking her glass against his.
Fin drained the shot in a single gulp before setting it down on the table and smiling, a little grimly. “Let’s get to work.”
“I think we’re done,” Amanda announced slowly, glancing around Carisi’s apartment. They had picked Carisi’s apartment because it was closer to the bar and, more importantly, had no doorman to ask questions about why they were dragging two mostly-unconscious men inside.
“Carisi really needs to consider moving to a building with better security,” Amanda had grunted as she propped Carisi against the wall of the elevator.
Fin had just chuckled as he held Barba upright. “It’s to our advantage that he hasn’t yet.”
Once inside Carisi’s apartment, they had dumped Barba and Carisi on Carisi’s bed and gone to work for the next several hours.
Fin nodded slowly as he looked around. “Yeah,” he said, stifling a yawn. “Yeah, I think we’re good.”
The place was a mess.
A well-staged mess, but a mess nonetheless — an empty champagne bottle and four clearly used champagne glasses were scattered across the kitchen counter, and Barba and Carisi’s jackets and ties, thoughtfully removed by their owners at the bar, were crumpled and dropped in a trail leading to the bedroom. Wrinkled sheets and pillows littered the couch and the floor, as if Fin and Amanda had passed out there, and Fin and Amanda had made sure to muss their own clothes accordingly.
All in all, it looked exactly as if four very drunk people had staggered home, drank more in celebration, and subsequently passed out.
But far more than just the apartment, which had been staged mostly as a vestige of verisimilitude, they’d also carefully slipped platinum rings (borrowed from NYPD’s stockpile of seized contraband) onto Barba and Carisi’s ring fingers, and Amanda had taken Barba’s cellphone, changed Judge Elana Barth’s number to a burner she’d nicked from the precinct, and staged a phone call between the two.
Just in case Barba needed some extra convincing.
The true masterstroke, however, came in the folded piece of paper Fin retrieved with a grin: the photocopy of the doctored marriage license, ostensibly signed by both men and Judge Barth, the original of which would presumably be filed that morning.
If it were real, anyway.
Amanda grinned at Fin. “You know, if we ever decided to quit the force, we’d have a great second gig staging crime scenes.”
Fin just snorted. “Who says we need to quit the force to stage crime scenes?” he asked, mostly rhetorically, before adding, “Now let’s go wake the lovebirds.”
Together they headed into Carisi’s bedroom, both pausing when they saw Barba and Carisi lying there, fast asleep still. Though they’d left them both lying on their backs — despite the great lengths they were willing to go to stage Carisi’s apartment, neither was willing to stage their unconscious bodies, knowing it was a line they couldn’t cross — sometime during the night they’d shifted positions.
Fin snickered. “Didn’t expect Barba to be the big spoon,” he said, and Amanda elbowed him.
“Shut up, it’s cute,” she whispered, because it really was, Barba’s arm wrapped around Sonny’s waist, his face buried between Sonny’s shoulder blades. “I almost don’t want to wake ‘em.”
“Key word there is almost,” Fin said in an undertone before saying, much louder, “Rise and shine, lovebirds.”
Carisi opened his eyes first, blinking blearily up at them. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked, croakily.
Amanda grinned. “I’m assuming you don’t remember much of last night?”
Carisi blinked again, his mouth hanging open slightly as he clearly tried to sift through the fog of the night before. “Not anything after we got to Forlini’s,” he said after a long moment, wincing at his presumed headache. “What’re you two doing here?”
“You insisted that we spend the night at your place,” Amanda said, an innocent enough cover, because it was something Carisi would probably insist on, and Carisi nodded slowly, wincing again as he did.
“Well, safety first,” he muttered.
Fin cleared his throat. “Of course, we couldn’t figure out why you’d wanna spend your wedding night with us in your apartment, but…”
He trailed off and Carisi just stared blankly at him. “My—” Carisi started, brow furrowing in confusion, though he froze when he finally felt Barba’s arm around his waist, and all the color drained from his face. “I didn’t.”
Amanda and Fin just grinned. “You really, really did,” Amanda said cheerfully.
Carisi whimpered before slowly, carefully, turning to see who was lying in bed next to him, and he let out a pitiful squeak when he saw who it was. “Oh no, oh no, oh no—”
Barba sat up abruptly, staring wildly around the room. “Whuzzat?” he managed groggily, blurring the question into one word before shaking his head firmly and blinking. “I’m awake.” He looked from Carisi, who was staring up at him in horror, to Amanda and Fin, both still grinning. “What the fuck is going on here?”
“As of last night, you two are officially married in the state of New York,” Amanda said, setting the wedding license down on the bed, and both men looked down at it. “Barth said she’d file the official copy first thing this morning, so...congratulations, I guess.”
“Oh, God,” Sonny groaned, running a hand across his face, while Barba just stared at the piece of paper, his expression entirely unreadable.
After a long moment, Barba blinked and looked over at Carisi. “I’m sorry, Sonny,” he said, his voice low, and Fin and Amanda’s smiles both slipped, just slightly. Carisi looked over at Barba, who winced. “Your mother is going to kill us.”
Carisi stared at him before finally cracking a small smile. “Not if your ma doesn’t kill us first.”
Barba snorted and leaned in to rest his forehead against Carisi’s shoulder. “I think we still have time to cancel the invites before they print?” he offered, and Carisi laughed weakly and put an arm around him, pulling him in closer.
“Well, you were the one who said you didn’t even want a ceremony,” he said, his voice quiet and amused. “At least we still get to go on the honeymoon.”
Amanda and Fin stared at them, their grins long since disappeared. Fin was the first to crack. “What the hell is going on?” he asked.
Barba and Carisi exchanged glances and Barba shrugged. “They’re your colleagues,” he reminded Carisi before flopping back down on the bed.
Carisi cleared his throat. “Well, uh, after there was no longer the conflict of interest, we, uh, we didn’t really see any reason not to just, y’know, do this for real,” he muttered, a pink tinge rising in his cheeks, and he couldn’t quite meet either Amanda or Fin’s eyes.
“So Sonny asked me out and I took pity on him—” Barba started, but Carisi interrupted him.
“Oh, is that what you call showing up at Forlini’s for a whole week straight just hoping I’d be there?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at Barba, who just grinned, a little too soft for it to be the smirk he was likely aiming for.
“Well, it paid off in the end,” he said, reaching out to lace his fingers with Carisi’s. “For both of us.”
Fin and Amanda were both staring at them with identical looks of shock. “So you mean—” Fin started slowly, at the exact moment Amanda asked, “You and he are—”
“We were gonna tell you before we sent out the invites,” Carisi told them, eyes wide and earnest. “We, uh, we didn’t mean to keep it from you guys or anything, but we just…” He trailed off and squeezed Barba’s hand. “We just wanted it to be ours for a little bit, you know?”
“Yeah,” Amanda said faintly. “Sure. Makes perfect sense.”
Carisi grinned at them, a wide grin that seemed to brighten the entire room. “But now that it’s official, I’m glad that you two are the first to be introduced to, uh…” He glanced over at Barba. “What’d we decide? Barba-Carisi or Carisi-Barba?”
“Barba-Carisi,” Barba said. “Rolls off the tongue better.”
“Right,” Carisi said, nodding, looking back at Amanda and Fin. “Mr. and Mr. Barba-Carisi.”
“And thank God for it,” Rafael added, “because we are going to save a fortune canceling the wedding.”
Fin and Amanda exchanged glances, Amanda’s expression panicked, Fin’s mostly impassive. For a long moment, they had a somewhat silent conversation, as Amanda clearly wanted to confess and Fin didn’t. He shook his head minutely, as much of a warning as he could possibly give, but Amanda still blurted, “Ok, we have something we have to tell you.” Fin sighed heavily at her giving up so easily but she ignored him. “You’re not actually married. We did this whole thing — well, it was supposed to be a prank but I guess it’s probably not that funny now—”
Barba snorted and Carisi grinned. “Yeah, we know,” Barba told them dryly, though he didn’t sound as amused as Carisi looked.
“What do you mean, you know?” Amanda asked blankly.
Barba grabbed the wedding license and held it up as if he was back in court submitting evidence to the judge. “There’s a 24-hour waiting period for wedding licenses in New York,” he informed them. “Even assuming I had called up Elana and convinced her to waive the waiting period — and I’m certain that if I look at my phone, I’ll probably see a record of that call, since for all your faults, you two have never been anything but thorough — you also need your birth certificate to apply for a wedding license, and mine is safely locked in a safety deposit box in the South Bronx.”
“And mine’s on Staten Island,” Carisi added helpfully. “And everything else aside, the thought of Barba voluntarily setting foot on Staten Island was enough to tell me it wasn’t true.”
“Well, he’s not wrong about that,” Barba muttered, and Carisi laughed.
Amanda gaped at them, but Fin just sighed heavily, already putting the rest of the pieces together. “And you two aren’t really getting married, are you?” he asked, resignation in his tone, and Amanda looked over at him, her shock turning to wide-eyed realization as she came to the same conclusion.
Barba cleared his throat, looking unbearably smug. “Truth be told, we’re not even dating,” he said.
“You guys shoulda seen your faces,” Carisi added with a grin.
Amanda’s face was beet red, but Fin managed to hold on to his last shreds of dignity. “Ok then,” he said. “Carisi, we’ll see you on Monday. Counselor, good luck with the new job.”
With that, he grabbed Amanda by the arm and all but dragged her out of the apartment, both trying to walk out with their heads held high and not at all like they were leaving with their tails between their legs.
Once outside, Amanda collapsed against the wall with a groan. “I can’t believe they got us that badly,” she said, and Fin nodded in agreement. “That definitely didn’t go as planned.”
“Not so much, no,” Fin agreed.
Amanda straightened and sighed, casting a mournful look back at Carisi’s door before glancing at Fin. “Agree to tell Liv that it totally worked?”
Back in Carisi’s apartment, Barba rolled over to bury his face in the pillow. “I’m never forgiving your colleagues for this hangover,” he informed Carisi, his voice muffled by the pillow. “Nor for almost giving me a heart attack this early in the morning.”
Carisi laughed lightly. “Well, that was a good catch on the whole marriage license thing,” he said, a little awkwardly. “Otherwise I was headed for cardiac arrest as well.”
Barba waved a dismissive hand. “It was nothing,” he said, rolling onto his side. “I’m just glad you caught on right away.”
“Well, we make a good team,” Carisi said, leaning back against the bed and staring up at the ceiling. For a long moment, both men were silent, and Barba might even have fallen back asleep if it wasn’t for Carisi asking, “You, uh, you ever think about getting married for real, though?”
Barba cracked an eye open. “To you or in general?” he asked, amused.
Carisi gave him a look. “In general, of course,” he huffed.
Barba smirked and rolled onto his back, mirroring Carisi’s pose. “Truthfully, no,” he said, and when Carisi looked sharply at him, he added, “but mostly because marriage generally requires dating someone and I’m afraid my current prospects on that front are somewhat grim.”
Carisi laughed lightly and nodded in understanding. “Same,” he offered, before clearing his throat and deliberately avoiding Barba’s gaze. “And, uh, you ever think about dating?”
Barba’s expression didn’t so much as flicker. “You, or in general?”
Carisi blushed. “Well, I was just thinking about what I told Fin and Amanda, how the conflict of interest was no longer there, and—”
“Buy me breakfast and I’ll be thinking about it a lot more,” Barba interrupted Carisi’s rambling mutters smoothly.
Carisi gave him a slightly nervous version of his usual grin. “Deal,” he said, sliding off the bed and standing to head towards the bathroom.
“I have thought about it,” Barba added, and Carisi paused, halfway through unbuttoning his shirt.
Carisi’s grin widened. “Yeah,” he said, ducking his head slightly, his dimples deepening. “Me too.”
“Well, then, who knows,” Barba added, watching him with an unusually soft expression on his face, “one day this may end up being a great story to tell at our actual wedding.”
“Please,” Carisi scoffed. “As if we’d ever give Fin and Amanda the satisfaction.”
Barba considered that for a moment before nodding. “Fair enough.” Carisi paused at the doorway to the bathroom and Barba frowned at him. "What?"
"It's just — 'our' wedding," Carisi said. "I like the sound of that."
Barba rolled his eyes but his expression was still soft. "Don't count on it, Detective. If you don't get some coffee and food in me shortly, there's not even going to be a second date, let alone a wedding."
Carisi laughed but obediently ducked into the bathroom and Barba sighed before standing and doing his best to rearrange his clothes from the night before. Not even a minute later, Carisi poked his head out again. "So just so we're clear, this counts as a date?"
"Sonny," Barba sighed exasperatedly, and Carisi held his hands up defensively.
"Just wanted to make sure!"
He started to turn back to the bathroom but Barba crossed to him and caught his arm, pinning him against the bathroom door with one hand planted firmly on his chest. For one long moment, they both just looked at each other but then Barba closed the space between them, kissing Carisi softly. Carisi opened his mouth against his with a sigh, and Barba licked into Carisi's mouth in a way that suggested he had been thinking about doing this for a long time.
All too soon, they broke apart, though Barba's hand didn't fall from its place on Carisi's chest. "Is that sure enough for you?" Barba asked, his voice just this side of breathy.
"Yeah," Carisi said. "Yeah, pretty sure now."
"Good." Barba finally took a step back but Carisi didn't move, and Barba frowned at him. "What now?"
Carisi licked his lips. "Just wondering how you'd feel about skipping breakfast."
Barba's eyes darkened. "Why?" he asked. "Do you have something better in mind?" In response, Carisi pushed Barba backwards toward the bed, and Barba gave him an almost predatory smile as the backs of his legs hit the bed and he sat, automatically, reaching out to draw Carisi to him. "You know what? I'm suddenly not feeling like breakfast."
"Good," said Carisi, leaning down to kiss him once more. "Neither am I."