Amanda turns on the tv for background noise as Noah tries to teach Jessie how to build train tracks for Thomas the Tank, not paying attention to what channel was playing and going back to talking with Barba. He’s shooting looks to where Liv is in the middle of talking with Sonny about a book they both recently finished, and she would be offended if she wasn’t doing something similar. She would mention how he can’t tear his eyes away, teasingly, in a way that the two of them have been growing more comfortable with over the last few months, but decides against it for the fact it could be overheard by parties not privy to the same knowledge she is. Not that that would be a bad thing, just that it wouldn’t endear her to Barba’s good graces.
She’s Sonny’s best friend, and has suffered through consoling enough of Sonny’s pining and witnessed his and Barba’s weird lawyer flirting to justify wanting to end their dancing around each other “by accident”, but she’s respects them both too much to do it. Leaning back into the couch, she goes back to dissing cop shows with Barba, who is actually pretty funny when he isn’t telling her she needs a warrant for everything (he’s right, but it’s still annoying).
Later, Fin is in Amanda’s kitchen sorting out drinks Amanda is slightly weary of and hollers “Can we please not listen to this garbage when we already have to wade through it at work?”
Everyone in the living room looks up to what Fin is talking about, LMZ playing quietly and garishly, just in time for the host to transition to a new piece.
“Now, we’ve had our fair share of run-ins with Manhattan SVU in the past, even some recently, very recently, but oh boy, you guys will not believe what we’ve found out about their squad today.”
Beside her, Barba scoffs. “Great, more ways to weaken our case. Does the man ever stop?”
“That’d be a no, Rafael.” Sonny says through a grin. “I’m pretty sure he feeds off of lies and spreading chaos.”
“Now,” says the host, who’s beard is terrible and makes Amanda wonder why the hell he has a job, let alone a job that requires people to see his face. “we have an inside source,” which is met by groans and laughter in equal measure, “that tells us that within this elite squad,” there are too many dramatic pauses in this guy’s speech. Amanda didn’t think he could get more annoying. Fin comes around with drinks, seemingly giving up on fighting over watching the damn show before he started. Fighting over what they watch is half the fun for Amanda, but she is curious as to what he thinks he has on them. As far as she knows, they’ve been smooth sailing for a while, after they pulled their shit together and stopped going AWOL and following the law a bit more than they had done. “there’s a conflict of interest.”
“God, I hope it’s me hooking up with some model, that’d be great for my rep,” she mutters it into her drink, but Barba hears and scoffs while rolling his eyes, something bordering on fond playing on his lips. They’re growing on each other, that’s for sure.
On screen, there’s a picture of the court house, it’s standard, Benson walking in front of Carisi and Barba down the steps after some case, and Amanda isn’t sure what the conflict of interest is. She’s sure she’s about to find out. “Seen here are ADA Rafael Barba and Det. Dominick Carisi,” Amanda feels Barba freeze. “as you can see, being a bit more friendly than one would expect of a Detective and a prosecutor, especially one as notoriously unafraid of going after cops as Barba.”
She stares at the screen, the picture clearly showing Barba and Sonny smiling at each other, metaphoric hearts in their eyes as per usual, walking down the courthouse steps after a win probably a few weeks ago. Sonny’s hand rests lightly on Barba’s arm as the other gestures in front of him, Barba has what Amanda has named his Sonny Smile in her head that he reserves only for days when Carisi is especially, well. Especially Sonny. Almost every time she sees them together it turns up. (It’s getting pretty sickening, actually, how obliviously in love they both are.)
Her first thought is, “oh, I can see them being mistaken for a couple if someone didn’t realize they were idiots” then “but hey, they’re like that all the time.” to “oh shit they’re like that all the time. And they’re idiots. Shit, no wonder this is gossip.”
The host, endlessly annoying and far too enthusiastic about outing public servants than one should ever be, continues, “Our source says that they’ve been involved for months, flirting on the job long before that. And that ADA Barba has lessened his cut-throat antics as of late. Going soft for his detective, maybe?” The notion that Barba would go soft on crime is ridiculous, but not the point at the moment.
Amanda looks around the room, gauging the squad’s reactions. Fin is, understandably, trying to pretend that he is pretending not to smile, eyebrows high and lips pursed. He’s found the pining ridiculous, hilarious, and annoying equal measure, and has mentioned on several occasions that he’s relieved no one tries to whine to him about it too much because he’s quote ‘too old to try to relationship counsel my friends like that.’
Barba is staring at the tv las though he can will the story out of existence, like it’s a nasty piece of contradictory evidence the defence has pulled that he has to puzzle his way around. Sonny is beet red and resting his forehead on his fingertips, staring at the ground. Olivia has her hand over her mouth, looking torn between surprise, horror, and laughter before she locks eyes with Amanda and looks about ready to speak before the host once again calls attention to himself.
“I mean, this is an issue, because if the police and the prosecution are,” he pauses for effect and she knows, knows, what’s coming and it’s almost too painful to bear, “in bed together,” and the asshole as the audacity to smirk at his own unoriginal cleverness, “how are we supposed to know if the NYPD will really be held accountable for their actions?”
Amanda doesn’t want to hear anymore and goes to switch channels, to make a joke (what joke could fix this without making it worse because both of them are pining, she doesn’t know) but Noah has been watching apparently, and Jessie has too because she suddenly jumps up from the floor, happy as a clam, wobbles over to try to climb into her lap and declares, “Unca Sonny and Rafa, Mama! Why tv?”
“Uh,” and god, Amanda is quick on her feet, but what do you say to that, “that guy thinks Uncle Sonny and Rafa are, um, married,” she hears at least Sonny choke, “because of a picture.”
Jesse, bless her two year old heart, tilts her head to the side and asks, “They not? They are! They are married! Married!” and Amanda is scrabbling to figure out what to say because Sonny is probably in full embarrassment melt down mode, a rare enough occurrence now to be distressing, Barba is still staring at the tv like it betrayed him and obviously trying to figure out how to deny that he looks at Sonny like he never wants to look away without sounding defensive, and Fin and Olivia are both just watching Amanda struggle when Noah cuts in.
“No, silly! They aren’t married,” there is a second of relief that somehow a five year old has a better grasp on the situation than five adults trying to either hide their own feelings or protect their friend’s, before he continues, “They didn’t celebrate, and don’t wear rings! They’re just in love. There’s a difference! Like, they’re gonna get married, they just aren’t yet!”
Sonny gets off the couch abruptly, shaken out of his embarrassment enough to distract from the situation, which Amanda has to admit, is more than anyone else is doing. “Hey Noah! Let’s play with Thomas, yeah?” yes distract him, good. Amanda thinks. “Uncle Rafael and I aren’t, um. We aren’t in love or nothin’ little man, we’re just good friends. Right Rafi?” His accent is atrociously strong, and he turns to Barba, eyes locking and a little frantic, smile pained, hands already attempting to put tracks together without looking.,“Like he’d date me,” and Sonny gives a sad little chuckle and Amanda thinks oh, Sonny, you’ve never been more wrong.
“Okay! But, you are in love. It’s really obvious!” and lord, this is worse than Amanda thought. She’s staring at Noah with the rest of them, holding onto a squirming Jessie, trying to think of something to stop this. “You’re always happy when you’re ‘round each other, sitting close, and you talk about each other a lot when one of you isn’t here, and you always smile at each other, like the tv man said! And that’s love! So why aren’t you gonna marry Uncle Rafa? Don’t you love him, Uncle Sonny?”
There’s a horrifying silence in which her stomach drops because not only has a five year old picked up on Sonny and Rafael’s pining, Amanda also knows Sonny is many things, but he’s not a liar. Oh, sure, he can lie to a perp to get them to open up, and he’s good at undercover, but in the face of a child asking him a question? Sonny Carisi is a weak man and can’t lie to save his life.
He said they weren’t in love, not that he didn’t love Barba, and now he’s being asked directly, and Sonny has principles he won’t betray. She watches Sonny’s strained smile slip, his eyes get a little glossy, and his mouth open and she thinks he’s going to confess right there and then, on her living room carpet with wooden train tracks in his hands and staring at their boss’ kid who just told him how obvious he’d been, with the man he’s talking about only having moved in the last five minutes to stare at him instead of the offending tv. Amanda can only think to release a squirming Jessie reaching for Sonny, eager to encourage him, to toddle into him.
“Marry him! Marry him!” Jessie chants, jumping a little, hands flapping and grasping at Sonny’s arm, suitably distracting him from what he was about to say and averting a possible crisis. “Marry Unca Rafa!”
Olivia stands and swoops Noah up before he can join in the chant,“Alright! I think it’s about time for bed! You’ve had a busy day, Noah, and I’m sure Jesse is ready to go to sleep too.”
Amanda thinks she’ll forever be grateful to (and possibly a bit more in love with) Liv for saving them all from whatever was happening. She’s worried about what the hell her friend is going to do seeing as he currently is talking quickly about Thomas the Tank to Jessie to thoroughly ignore Barba, who is still staring at him, though far less harsh than before. She’d say it's wistful, or hopeful, or even longingly if it were anyone but Barba. Hell, it is Barba and it’s all those things, which shows just how obvious he’s being.
Fin has stood up and is already almost out the door, leather jacket over his shoulder, calling out a “Sorry, I gotta go, uh, Ken texted and asked for some babysitting help tomorrow so I better get some shut-eye while I can, y’know?” which everyone can see is a flimsy excuse but hell, Amanda would probably have made a similar escape if they weren’t in her own damn house. They all wave, say quick goodbyes, and just before the door closes loudly behind him Fin meets Amanda’s eyes and mouths Fix this. Like she needed him to tell her.
Olivia quickly gets Noah’s shoes and coat on and Barba is still staring at Carisi, shifting into the expression he wears in court when a defendant has said something he could twist to their advantage, probably calculating how to go about the talk Sonny is going to try avoiding, given how slowly he’s helping Jessie put the tracks away. He’s rambling, as he does often, about how he remembers playing with Thomas the Tank as a kid and making a point not to look anywhere near Rafael.
It’s. A bit frustrating, honestly. Amanda has patiently listened to too much of Sonny’s pining in the past months, potentially years, to let him avoid facing their feelings head on. Fin has endured less pining than her, because he is not Sonny’s best friend, but he has a point. She needs to fix this, so she will.
Liv works around the living room saying goodbye as Amanda tries to figure out a plan. She gives Carisi a pat on the back in farewell and tells him to not get up, cutting off the rambling for a moment, leans down to whisper something in Barba’s ear and gives him a stern look when it seems he’ll protest, pecks a kiss to Jessie’s forehead, and embraces Amanda, gives her a kiss on the cheek, and whispers “Maybe now they’ll do something,”
Amanda smiles, “God, we can only hope.”
Noah follows after his mother, giving Rafael a hug that is stiffly returned, then one to Sonny and Jessie, before giving Amanda’s leg a squeeze and waving at the door. “Bye Jessie and Auntie Amanda! Thanks for dinner! See you Uncle Rafa and Sonny, tell us when you get married!” he calls, Olivia quickly rushing him out the door with a wave before he can say another word.
And just like that Sonny flushes again, Barba’s back straightens, and they’re back to square one (though, really, they had barely gotten to square two).
Amanda sighs, she’s going to have to push them into this, isn’t she? Just give her best friend that final kick in the ass into talking to Barba about their feelings which are clearly reciprocated.
“Well! Not that this hasn’t been fun, but Liv is right and Jessie should be getting to bed. Thanks for helping clean up a bit, Sonny.”
It’s a dismissal, and Amanda plans on telling Sonny to talk, so both men start getting up. Jessie is attempting to hold Sonny down on the floor, though, apparently not wanting to say goodbye yet. “No! Unca Sonny, No go!”
Sonny, bless him, picks her up and smiles at her. “Sorry, squirt, me and uncle Rafa have ta go home.” Amanda chooses not to point out how that implies they’re going home together, but from Barba’s blush where he is standing awkwardly and oddly silent, he at least noticed.
Jessie clings to Sonny’s neck, looking up at Amanda with the big eyes and little pout she knows makes it very hard to tell her daughter no. “Sonny brush teeth? Sonny brush!”
Sonny looks at Amanda too, eyes pleading and damn it, her no nonsense rep is being tarnished by blondes giving her puppy eyes, which is wholly unfair. She makes Sonny wait a minute before nodding with a sigh, gesturing towards the bathroom.
Sonny smiles almost as wide as Jessie, and for a moment as she watches him carry her down the hall Amanda can see a world in which everything is different, but almost the same. She doesn’t think they’d change their dynamic or relationship if things were different though. Maybe in a ‘if we’re both single when we’re fifty, let’s get married’ pact, if anything. She can see themselves in a bar and one leaning over and saying it, and the other agreeing with a laugh, because they know it won’t happen, but a backup plan can never hurt. It’s enough to make her wistful, of something she doesn’t even really want. They’re in love with other people, and that’s good.
Speaking of, Barba clears his throat, probably to begin an awkward goodbye, before Amanda stops him by grabbing his sleeve and narrowing her eyes. They have to talk and he’s not getting away from her easily, even if she zoned out for a few seconds. She’s going to help in fixing the situation. “Oh, no you don’t, Barba. I’ve gotta talk to you, before those two come back.”
Barba seems to be back to himself for the most part, face neutral except for one raised eyebrow, questioning why she’d hold him back, even though she knows he knows exactly what she wants to talk about. She speaks quickly, pulling him close, not as threatening as she can be, but close. She needs to get it through his stubborn lawyer brain that something has got to change, now or it’s going to break, and no one wants to pick up the pieces from that.
“I dunno what plans you had for Sonny— if you were ever gonna ask him out or wait for him to make a move—but now you’ve gotta talk to him. Tomorrow we’re going to be dealing with the fallout of that LMZ nonsense, and Chief Dodds is probably gonna go on the warpath for disclosures.” Barba makes to respond to that, but she cuts him off. Again. “I don’t need to tell you that it’ll be bureaucratic hell, yeah, and embarrassing like no other, but what do you want to say? ‘No, Jack, Sonny and I are not involved we just look at each other like that because we’ve been in love for years but haven’t gotten around to telling each other yet.’ Or do you wanna say, ‘well, it was developing but we’ve talked it out and are ready to disclose’ hm?
“So you better talk to Sonny tonight and clear things up. Make sure there’s actually something to disclose. Don’t let him think you wouldn’t date him when we both know thats exactly what you want. Communicate Barba. If I have to wake up to a sad sobby voicemail and deal with a heartbroken mess of a blonde noodle man tomorrow because you don’t know how to articulate your feelings properly, best be sure I’ll be coming for your ass, Rafael.”
She hasn’t broken eye contact with him since she started speaking, and he’s taken a step or two back by the end. She used his first name for effect, to drill in that she’s not talking to him as Detective Rollins and ADA Barba but as Amanda, Sonny’s best friend and Rafael, love of Sonny’s life or something close to it. He blinks at her, swallowing thickly before looks over her shoulder. Amanda is pretty sure she can count the amount of times she’s seen Barba this surprised on one hand. This isn’t even her shovel talk and she’s instilling some form of respect for her authority in him. Good. She just hopes he listens to her and does something.
She ends with making clear whose side she’s on. “Tell him, show him, love him, Barba. Just, don’t hurt him okay?”
His gaze snaps to hers and he breaths in deeply through his nose and opens his mouth, possibly to deny something, to protest Amanda’s piercing gaze, to tell her he doesn’t need to be threatened into talking about his feelings and treating Sonny right. Before he can make a sound, Sonny carries Jessie back in.
“I got her in her PJs too, so now all that’s left is a bedtime story and tuck-in, and I figured you’d want to do that, ‘Manda.” he smiles as he says it, more relaxed just from helping with a toddler’s bedtime routine, handing a considerably more drowsy looking Jessie over to her.
She kisses the top of her head and nods. “Yeah. Thanks, Sonny.” and, before he can bolt out like she knows he wants to, she shifts Jessie in her arms and leans in close to whisper conspiratorially in his ear. “Talk to him, Sonny. Don’t stew on this anymore, it’ll be fine, promise.” she smiles and winks to let him know she’s confident it will end.
Sonny nods, nerves starting to show on his face, so Amanda takes pity on him. She sighs and steps back, shooing both men towards the door with a smile while bouncing Jessie gently to keep her asleep. “Alright you two, not that this hasn’t been fun, but it’s time to go. Take care, and remember what I said! Say bye-bye to Uncles Sonny and Rafa, Jessie.” Her daughter mumbles farewell and weakly waves, half asleep on her chest.
Once in the hallway both men turn to her, eyes wide, and she mouths Talk to him, at both of them before unceremoniously closing and locking the door.
Because she is horribly curious, she can’t help but use the peephole to see if Sonny and Barba are going to have a heart to heart in her front hallway. They’re still out there, Barba’s hand on Sonny’s arm and neither looking directly at each other, but it looks like they’re moving towards the elevator together and really, Amanda’s fine with that. If the two of them can’t look each other in the eye while talking about how a tabloid show host, all their coworkers, two small children, and possibly half of New York figured out how they feel before the other, then at least they’re talking about how they feel.
She looks at her daughter, who sleepily blinks and smiles at her before yawning into her shoulder, her tiny fist curling in the collar of her shirt. “Yeah, honey, it’s time for sleep. It’s been a big day. Let’s go to sleep.” Putting Jessie to bed, Amanda doesn’t dwell on damage control the squad will inevitably have to do tomorrow because of the soap opera that is the love lives of her friends, only that finally they have love lives. At least, they’d better.
In the morning, Amanda wakes up to a text from Sonny that is a string of exclamation points and different colour heart emojis, followed by GUESS WHO HAS A BOYFRIEND. She takes that to mean his talk with Barba went well. Very well. More well than she wants to know about this early but will probably be told at some point. She takes her time responding with a smiley and I expect you to spill over a lunch gossip session, which she hopes he takes to mean she’s happy for him. At least she didn’t outright say, even if everyone who knows them even a little are going to think it when they find out, Fucking FINALLY. She’s a good friend like that.