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Rafael chewed on his pen as he stared at the casefile open before him on his dining table.  This must be the third time that he had read the same sentence. It was ten at night and he should have another hour of work left in him, but all he could think about was Carisi.

It had been over a week since he and the detective had professed their feelings for each other in the dim alleyway outside a dive bar.  Nothing more than some chaste handholding had passed between them that night, and yet the contact had set Rafael's heart pounding.

Each time they crossed paths since, there had been murmured reminders that they needed to talk about the situation.  Yet life kept intervening: a new case, Rafael's trial prep, Carisi's night school classes. No chance to steal some time alone.

Now that Rafael knew his feelings were returned, his long-simmering crush was shaking at its cage.  He wanted to - palpably needed to - spend time with the detective, be near him, hear him, feel him.

If only the integrity of his cases didn't require the opposite.  What a potent weapon evidence of an affair between himself and the detective would be in the hands of someone like Rita Calhoun.   

What about us? the casefiles spread across the table seemed to call up to him.  You would really sacrifice us for your hot detective? Rafael shut the file folders closed, as if that would make the issue go away.

Well one thing was clear.  There could definitely be no sex between himself and the detective until and unless they disclosed.  And disclosure seemed like a big step.  Rafael had managed to keep his private life relatively, well, private up to this point.

Just then, Rafael's phone buzzed from amongst the files.  Speak of the Devil.

"Hello?"

"It's me - Carisi."

"Yes I could see that from the caller ID.  What's up, do you have a new case?"

"No I just got out of class, and now I'm standing outside your building."

"Oh."  

"I figured between our two schedules we're never gonna find time to talk, so I thought, why not now?  Though I probably should have asked you before I came over," Carisi started to backtrack. "I know it's late, and you're probably tired.  Don't feel pressure to have me come up. You know what, why don't I just go and- "

"No, wait, please."  Rafael cut off the detective's rambling.  "Please come up. Here, I'll buzz you in."

After pressing the buzzer Rafael hurriedly assessed the state of his apartment.  Thank goodness he lived on the top floor, at least that would buy him a minute or two.  He stacked the dirty dishes in the sink, where they would be less noticeable, then scooped up his dirty socks and underwear from the day before and threw them in the hamper.   

Rafael paused to consider himself in the full-length mirror.  His black sweatpants and gray t-shirt were a far cry from his usual put-together look.  He threw open his closet door, searching for something sophisticated yet still casual enough to plausibly be his loungewear.

Carisi's knock at the door ruled out any change of clothes. Oh well.  At least these sweatpants made his ass look good. As he walked to the door Rafael repeated a mantra in his head: No sex until disclosure.  No sex until disclosure.

The detective looked surprisingly chipper for having just finished a full shift followed by a law school lecture.  "Hi Counselor, are you sure you don't mind the company this late?"

"Of course not, please come in," Rafael said as he ushered Carisi inside.  "But I don't think we should have sex," he blurted out once they were standing in his living room.

"Oh. Sure.  I wasn't-. I mean, I didn't . . . ."  Carisi trailed off, flustered.

Shit. That wasn't how that was supposed to come out.  "I meant tonight. We shouldn't have sex tonight. But in the future we should."

Carisi was just gaping at him now.

"If you want to, of course," Rafael finished lamely.  "I wouldn't want to presume."

"Ok let's back up here a bit," Carisi said.  "Just so you know, I didn't come here tonight expecting sex.  I just wanted to talk."

"Right."  Rafael took a deep, steadying breath in a bid to recapture his oratorical skills.  "What I meant to say was, I think we should proceed with caution. If we decide to pursue a relationship, defense attorneys are going to use that to try to tear our cases apart.  So we need some ground rules, for now. Meaning no sleeping together until we disclose.  I want us to be able to truthfully deny any claims that we carried on a secret affair."

Carisi nodded.  "That makes sense.  Should I not be here then?  I can leave if you want me to."

"No, stay. Please.  At this point we're just two colleagues hanging out.  Perfectly innocuous."

"Innocuous."  Carisi rolled the word around his mouth.  "Yeah. That's good."

But the detective continued to look uncertain, standing with his backpack still slung over his shoulder. "Look Barba I get that this situation between us is messy because we work together, and it'll take us awhile to figure it out.  I understand if you don't want to stick around for all that."

"Stick around?" Rafael asked, confused.

"I mean, I'm sure there's lots of guys who would love to be with you right away.  I don't want to be, like, holding you back from getting laid and stuff."

Rafael couldn't help the laugh that erupted from him.  "I guess I should be flattered you think there's a line of guys waiting to sleep with me, Carisi.  That however is not the case. So why don't you put your things down and we can talk," he coaxed.

Carisi was persuaded to put down his backpack and shrug out of his jacket.  Underneath, he was wearing a flannel shirt and skinny jeans. There was something endearing about the detective dressing to fit in with his law school classmates.

"I assume you've eaten, Carisi?"

"Yeah, I grabbed something before class."

Well that was good.  Rafael didn't have any dinner to provide besides some questionable leftovers.  But he should still offer Carisi something.

"Would you like some tea then?"

"Sure. I gotta say I'm surprised you have tea, Barba. I thought your body only accepted coffee."

"Yes, well, my mother keeps bringing me tea, says it'll be soothing for me.  She seems to have this idea that I'm too tightly wound."

"Well. . ." Carisi said with a tilt of his head.

"Well what, Detective?"

Carisi considered his response.  "Well let's have some tea then."

Right answer.

"Let me show you what I have."

In the kitchen, Rafael opened the cabinet and peered up at the top shelf, where he had chucked all the unopened boxes of tea from his mother.  "I've got sleepytime chamomile, peppermint medley, and orange blossom. Oh, and honey lemon ginger."

"I'll take the peppermint one."

Rafael reached for the box, but it just eluded his fingertips.  He pushed up onto his toes but still couldn't quite reach. Damn being short.

"Here, let me."  Carisi was right behind him now, reaching over his head to grab the box of tea while a hand came to rest on Rafael's side for balance.  

And then the tea was on the counter but the hand remained in place, warm through Rafael's t-shirt.  Carisi's other hand came to mirror it, bracketing Rafael's waist. 

Both counselor and detective stood frozen in place at this unexpected development.  Rafael's hands came to rest against the counter, supporting himself. The only movement from Carisi was his deep intakes of breath.  His fingers trembled slightly where they pressed against Rafael.

Finally Rafael turned, slowly, in the detective's arms and stared up at him.  He pulled at Carisi's collar and tugged him down into a long kiss, slow and thrilling.

After parting, he felt a smile breaking out.  "That was nice."

"Yes, it was.  I've been thinking a lot about doing that since that night at the bar," Carisi admitted, his hands ghosting over Rafael's hips.

"About kissing me?"

"Yes, and about doing other things with you as well.  I keep - I keep thinking about what you said outside the bar, about me breaking in your wrist cuffs on you.  Is that something you like, being restrained?" Carisi asked tentatively.

"Yes.  Not all the time, but I do enjoy it.  How do you feel about it?"

"I don't think I'd like it myself.  I mean, being the one restrained."

"How would you feel about restraining me?"

"I think I'd like that very much."

"Would you like to see the cuffs on me?" Rafael sensed that Carisi, though intrigued, held less experience than him in this department, and perhaps felt a bit out of his depth.  Sometimes making it more concrete helped.

"Sure, but didn't we agree that we're not going to sleep together for now?"

"Yes but just think of this as a demonstration.  All parties will remain fully clothed at all times."

"A demonstration.  Yeah." Carisi nodded vigorously, like this was an idea he could support.

"Then come with me."  Rafael motioned for Carisi to follow him into the bedroom, the peppermint tea left forgotten on the counter.  Sorry Mami. Rafael had a much better means to unwind now.

Rafael rummaged in his closet until he found the box with the cuffs.  When he emerged Carisi was standing awkwardly by the bed, as if he didn't know what to do with himself.  

The cuffs each came with an attachable chain and loop, which Rafael used to secure them to either side of the bedframe.  Then he lay down on his back and stretched his arms out wide above his head. Almost immediately, doubt began to creep in.  Carisi was going to think he looked ridiculous.

He could almost hear the conversation with Rollins in the break room the following day:  And then he lay down on the bed with his clothes on so that we could imagine having sex. Can you believe it?

Instead, Carisi's beaming face was suddenly above him, and a hand was caressing one of his wrists.  "Can I put them on?"

"You may."  

Rafael settled into the cool feel of the leather on his skin and the delicious tug of the restraints on his limbs; meanwhile Carisi settled back on his haunches, caging Rafael's thighs with his own.  Rafael shifted a bit on the bed, testing the boundaries of his movement.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"This isn't a classroom, Carisi, you don't have to raise your hand or get my permission to ask something."

"If, hypothetically speaking, we were to sleep together in the future, how do you see it playing out?"

"I'm flexible, but hypothetically, I may have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about you fucking me." As if asking to be tied to the bed hadn't made that abundantly clear.

Sonny was smiling at him again, hovering close now.  "Well that's good, because I think I could spend an inordinate amount of time fucking you."

Rafael squirmed at the thought.

"Want me to give you a, um, demonstration of how I'd do it?" Carisi asked.  "Fully clothed, of course. I've been told my mouth does a pretty good job."

"Yes.  For hypothetical purposes, of course."

"Yeah.  Seeing as we're just colleagues hanging out.  Innocuous and all."

And then Carisi's mouth was on Rafael's and his tongue was pushing inside, fast and firm.  The detective lowered himself to bring their bodies flush, letting Rafael feel all of him.

The hardness against Rafael's thigh suggested the other ways Carisi might fuck him in future.  Presumably harnessing the same industrious energy with which the detective was currently driving into his mouth.

They were both breathless by the time Carisi pulled away.  "What do you think?" he asked, seeking approval as always.

"I think your technique and equipment would be highly satisfactory."

Carisi looked pleased with himself.

"Can I touch you?"

"I would like that."

Carisi's hands came to cup Rafael's face, then traveled down across his shoulders and chest.  Rafael jumped as they passed over his nipples.

"Sensitive there, are we?"

"Yes, very."

Carisi brought his hands back from their descent in order to focus on the area in question.  

Rafael had guessed that Carisi would be studious in this as in all things, and the detective was proving him right, zeroing in on one of Rafael's hotspots almost immediately.  As Carisi's thumbs circled the buds slowly, the thin fabric of Rafael's t-shirt provided a delicious friction.

Rafael couldn't help moaning at the sensation.  "Give me more."

Carisi obliged.  He began pinching and pulling through the t-shirt, gently at first and then, in response to Rafael's vocalizations, with increasing pressure.  At the same time he began grinding himself against Rafael's thigh, gasping when Rafael pressed it up against him.

It all felt so good: The warm weight of Carisi on top of him.  The pull of the cuffs holding him in place. The bolt that ran down his body every time Carisi's fingers tweaked and pulled.

It felt too good.  "Carisi, I'm going to come."

"Me too."

Suddenly, Rafael felt an absence envelope him.

"Carisi, what are you doing?!?  Come back here!"

Carisi had a pained look on his face.  "You said we can't sleep together until we disclose.  I'm pretty sure orgasming would be breaking the rules."

"The rules are stupid!  Ignore them!" Rafael was starting to feel desperate now, with his pleasure just out of reach.  He pushed his chest towards Carisi, seeking more.

"But you're so smart, Barba," Carisi said earnestly, "so how could something you came up with ever be stupid?"

"Fine, the rules aren't stupid.  But then I'm changing them, by the power vested in me by my smartness.  Now come here!" Rafael jerked and pulled in an attempt to reestablish contact with Carisi.

The detective remained unmoved.  "You know, that seems like an arbitrary change to the rules."

"It's not arbitrary.  There's been a change in circumstances that warrants it."

"And what change in circumstances would that be?  Our work situation is still the same."

"The change in circumstances is that I am so fucking close and I need you to touch me.  Please, touch me again."

"Well, maybe since you asked so politely this time."  Carisi's mouth twitched the slightest bit.

Wait a minute.

Rafael raised his head as much as he was able, in order to look him in the eye.  "Are you messing with me, Carisi?"

The detective didn't hide his grin this time.  "Not at first I wasn't, I was being serious. After that, though, I was playing with you a bit.  But it's your own fault. You're so hot when you get all worked up."

"I'll show you worked up-"

Before Rafael could finish, Carisi was shoving his t-shirt up.  Teeth bit down decisively on one nipple while fingers sharply twisted the other.  Rafael shouted and came.

A minute later, so did Carisi.

In the aftermath, the feel of Carisi draped over him seemed grounding and familiar.  This was a place Rafael wanted to be again. It was certainly worth disclosing, and having his bosses know about his personal life, for the chance to be back in this moment.

"Carisi, just so you know, I'm not going anywhere," Rafael said softly.

Unexpectedly, Carisi burst into laughter.  He buried his face in Rafael's chest as his shoulders shook.

"What?" Rafael asked with a touch of annoyance.  He was trying to create a moment here, something that didn't come naturally to him.

"No shit you're not going anywhere.  I mean, I've got you bound to this bed pretty damn well.  Besides, this is your apartment - where would you be going?"

Rafael couldn't help rolling his eyes at  his literal-minded detective. "I'm not talking about physically going anywhere, Carisi.  I'm talking about us."

"Oh."  Carisi reached up to undo the leather cuffs for this more serious conversation.  Rafael rolled his shoulders. He wasn't as young as he used to be, but at least this was a welcome type of ache.

"Earlier, you seemed to think that I might primarily be interested in getting laid."

Carisi rolled onto his back next to Rafael and shrugged up at the ceiling.  He suddenly seemed rather young. Rafael was reminded that beneath the cockiness there was - always had been - some measure of insecurity.  

"Well I want you to know that it's not just about sex for me," Rafael continued.  "I seem to have developed feelings for you."

"For reasons you can't even comprehend, I get it," Carisi added, the self-deprecation lingering.

"No, actually, I do comprehend the reasons.  In fact, I made a list." Rafael rolled over and opened his nightstand drawer, finding the piece of lined legal paper.  He unfolded it and handed it wordlessly to Carisi.

"What is this?"

"I told you, a list.  I made it months ago, when I couldn't figure out why I kept thinking about you all the time."

"Why is Detective Carisi Distracting?"   Carisi read out from the heading. "Gee Barba, thanks, you think I'm a distraction.  That really reassures me."

"Just keep reading, Carisi."

While Carisi continued reading - to himself this time - Rafael began to fidget.  Maybe he shouldn't have shown Carisi the list. He should have kept it shut away in its drawer where no one else could see his inner musings.

"So these are all things that made you fall for me.  You like that I ask you legal questions? And that I make puns, even though you always mock them?"

"The puns really are awful, Carisi.  You're just lucky that you look cute when you make them."

"Ahh so you think I'm cute as well."   The cockiness was back in full force now.

"I'm not going to respond to that.  I wouldn't want to over-inflate your ego."

"That's ok.  My ego is doing plenty well, given how desperate you were for me earlier."

Rafael grabbed a pillow from behind him and whacked Carisi with it in response.  The detective laughed, then turned sober.

"Joking aside, we should talk things through more before we use those again," he said, nodding up at the cuffs.  "We kind of started getting ahead of ourselves."

Rafael nodded in agreement.  "But you like the idea of using them sometimes?"

"Yeah, yeah I do.  And I love how receptive your tits were.  Are they always that sensitive?"

Rafael decided to ignore the fact that Carisi had just used the word tits.  "I think they're extra sensitive right now. They haven't gotten that kind of attention for awhile."

"Not since your break up with what's-his-name?"

"Not since before.  Brett didn't usually take the time to play with them."  

"Why not?"

"It didn't really do anything for him, and he tended to just focus on taking what he needed.

"Taking what he needed?"  Carisi sounded offended. "What, like he felt you were just there for him to use?"

Rafael hugged the pillow to himself as he squeezed his eyes shut, wishing that he hadn't taken them down this path of past mediocre sexual experiences.  

"I wasn't just a receptacle for his dick, if that's what you're getting at," he said with more edge to his voice than intended.  "Look Carisi it wasn't like that, he always got me off too. It worked well enough for me, for awhile at least."

"God I knew there was a reason I didn't like that guy.  Did you tell him when you wanted to do things differently?"

It was hard to explain, nor did Rafael wish to, that two degrees from Harvard did not preclude a sometimes questionable taste in men.  Or that the subtle inferiority complex that came with being an out-of-shape, misanthropic workaholic in his mid-forties had made him grateful to receive the attentions of someone like Brett, and therefore willing to accept less than ideal sex.

Carisi seemed to read into the silence.  "Look I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be telling you what you should or shouldn't have done in your relationship.  Just - please tell me if you ever want me to do something differently. I want to please you."

Rafael opened his eyes and looked over at Carisi.  He reached out to twirl some of the detective's loosened curls through his fingers.  

"Yes I can tell you're eager to please me.  You always have been, even when it was just bringing me caselaw."  He brought his thumb to stroke Carisi's cheek, surprisingly soft.

Carisi chuckled.  "You know, for so long I didn't understand the real reason I so desperately wanted your approval.  I was so dense about how I felt for you."

"Just remember, Carisi, you don't need to win my approval in bed - this isn't a law exam or a case."

"As long as you remember that you shouldn't ever have to settle for 'well enough.'  You deserve better than that."

"How did you get to be so wise when you're still so young?"

"I'm not that young," Carisi countered, overlooking the embedded complement.  "I've even got the gray hairs to prove it," he added, pointing to his temple. "Most people don't notice, though, on account of my hair's already so light."

"I noticed."  Rafael ran a hand through the detective's hair again.  It was silky smooth to the touch.

"You like it turning gray?"

"Of course I do," Rafael replied.

"Well it's not on your list, so how was I supposed to know?" Carisi asked playfully.  "I think you should add it. Reason number three hundred and fifty-four why Detective Carisi is distracting: he's a silver fox.  Reason three hundred and fifty-five: he works my nipples over just how I like."

This time when the pillow hit Carisi's face he wrestled it away and they tousled for it, somehow ending up in another kiss.

"I should probably go," Carisi said afterwards, with a sigh.  "I should get to bed soon, plus I'll need to shower now after our unexpected activities."

"We should talk about disclosure soon, since I feel like neither of us will want to wait very long before continuing these activities."

"How about this weekend, barring work getting in our way?"

"That sounds good."

All too soon they were standing by the door.  "Will you text me when you get home, to let me know you made it safely?"  Rafael asked.

"You do know I'm a trained cop, Barba.  I think I'm capable of getting myself home without incident."

"But it's late," Rafael said simply.

Carisi laughed gently.  "Ok worry-wart, I'll let you know."  He reached down to give Rafael one more kiss before swinging his book bag over his shoulder and heading out.

When Rafael got out of the shower half an hour later, he found a text waiting for him from Carisi.

Here's my entirely unnecessary report: I made it home safely

Rafael started typing his reply:  Thanks for letting me know (even with the attitude).  Goodnight Carisi

He considered, then changed Carisi to Sonny before sending.

There was a long pause before the little bubble appeared that showed Carisi was typing.

Sweet dreams sweet Rafael

Rafael smiled to himself while staring at his phone before heading to the kitchen to make himself some peppermint tea.  He would definitely be having sweet dreams tonight.