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The District Attorney’s Office Holidays Party

The holiday season and its festivities caught Rafael by surprise. First with how fast they came along, secondly with how many invites he had gotten to parties, even from City Hall and the DA’s Office. Secretly he was grateful, so he intended to attend as many as he could.

This year, the DA’s party seemed more colorful. There were gold balloons hanging from the ceiling and people were being handed party poppers throughout the night, so from time to time he’d hear the pop and see glitter and confetti cascading around him. He was having fun and, so far, nobody had made any inappropriate comments about his leave. He’d have to find McCoy at some point and thank him.

Then, while he was listening to a group of Brooklyn ADAs complain about paralegals, he heard a laugh coming from somewhere behind him. Everything around him suddenly froze. That laugh. He would recognize it anywhere. He turned towards the sound without even realizing it and when Rafael saw him, he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He looked better than ever.

He was wearing a perfectly fitted dark blue slim tux, bowtie and all, and seemed to be filling it a little more, his shirt tight around his chest and his biceps constricted inside his jacket. His hair had less product in it, but it was still beautifully styled, gentle waves keeping the strands away from his face. He also seemed to have a bit of a tan, his skin glowing healthy.

Rafael felt his heart thumping hard, his breath caught in his throat when they locked eyes with each other. His beautiful, bright blue eyes dancing across Rafael’s body. He saw the other man excuse himself from the group around him and make his way to Rafael. He walked with newfound confidence in his step, a small smile tugging at his pink lips. He stopped closer than Rafael expected.

“Sonny,” he smiled.

“I really didn’t expect to see you here,” he said, his accent so clear it was like music to Rafael’s ears.

Rafael gave him a wry smirk. “I could say the same.”

“How have you been, Rafael?,” Sonny asked, tilting his head slightly, worry flashing across his face a moment before his expression became neutral again. He had taught him well.

“Better than I thought, honestly,” Rafael shrugged and took a sip of his scotch. “You look good.”

“I’ve been working out,” he said sheepishly. Rafael let his eyes wander down his neck, shoulders and chest.

“I can see that,” he nodded approvingly. “Getting ready to fight Stone for his position?”

Sonny laughed. God, he missed him.

“Not yet,” he said, eyes sparkling. “But it would be good to be considered. That’s why I’m here tonight.”

Rafael couldn’t help the pride blooming in his chest. They had had so many conversations about this and Sonny was always so worried about the what ifs. It was good seeing him take a positive step in his career as a lawyer.

“Did you come alone?,” Rafael asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Yeah,” he replied and took a sip of his beer, looking around quickly. “I could swear I saw you with someone.”

“It was nobody, I’m alone as well,” he smiled. “So why don’t we keep each other company?”

“I’d like that,” Sonny smiled back.

Rafael asked how things were going at SVU and Sonny went on a rant about everything, including how he didn’t particularly like their new ADA. It was endearing and it reminded him of how passionate Sonny was about everything in his life; how he had once been about their relationship.

They were together for over a year and half and it was the happiest Rafael had ever been. He grew as a person, he found his heart and he taught Sonny everything he could about being an ADA. He even had a word or two (or three) with Jack McCoy about how it would be good for the DA’s Office to have an experienced detective under their belt. Being with Sonny was easy, and they had a great, supportive relationship. Until Rafael royally screwed it up.

He lost everything, he ruined his own life, and he couldn’t bare the thought of taking Sonny with him. So after agonizing for a week, he broke it off. He would never forget the look on Sonny’s face as he begged for Rafael not to leave. It broke his spirit, and two months after that, Rafael still hadn’t find his ground again.

But that was over eight months ago, they were both doing better, and suddenly Rafael couldn’t believe he let Sonny go.

“What about you, Rafael?,” he asked excitedly. “I heard you were working with Bayard Ellis.”

“Yeah, that’s right. He wanted my help regarding the case of a cuban family, but after that one I stayed with the project for a while,” Rafael was proud of the work he did for Project Innocence, even if it felt too much like working for the defense. It helped him regain his conscience though.

“But you’re not anymore?”

“No,” he shook his head. “McCoy heard about it and… we talked.”

Sonny looked surprised. “You talked?,” he narrowed his eyes. “About what?”

“It might be too soon to know,” he shrugged.

“Rafael,” Sonny said, almost in a gasp, and reached out to touch his arm. It felt warm. “Are you coming back?”

“Maybe,” he said wistfully. “Would you be happy if I was?”

Sonny opened his mouth to reply, but then closed it and frowned. Rafael saw hurt cross his expression, then anger. “Excuse me, I have to go,” he said, turned around, and disappeared in the crowd.

Rafael was stunned, frozen in place even through the pop of another party popper and the glitter that showered over him. For the rest of the night, he looked for Sonny, but the man was nowhere to be seen.

For the next five days, Rafael couldn’t think about anything but the way Sonny reacted to the idea of him coming back to the DA’s Office. Had Rafael fucked up their relationship in a way that made Sonny not even want to work with him anymore?

Well, maybe.

The way he had left SVU and how he broke things off certainly didn’t paint a pretty picture, but they seemed fine before Rafael asked, right? Sonny seemed genuinely happy to see him. Rafael even had a feeling that Sonny was trying to impress him, like he did back when he joined SVU, back when they were just idiots dancing around each other.

So what was it about the question that made things shift so fast?

Turns out Rafael would have the opportunity to ask him in person because a couple days after they encounter, Olivia called to invite him to her Christmas party and he was absolutely certain Sonny would be there.

Olivia Benson’s Christmas Party

Rafael knocked on Olivia’s door with a hopeful disposition. He hadn’t seen her in a long time, so even if everything else just went to shit, he still had Olivia.

Olivia herself opened the door, a big, bright smile on her face. “Rafael!,” she said excitedly, going in for a tight hug. “It’s been too long. I missed you.”

“I missed you too, Liv,” he smiled at her when they broke the hug. “How have you been?”

“Good, good. Come on in,” she waved him in and stepped aside. “I heard you’ve been talking to McCoy?! Anything you’d like to tell me?”

He raised both his eyebrows, curious. Had Sonny told her that?

“Ah, you know I have other friends at the DA’s office, Rafa,” she chuckled.

“That hurts my feelings, I thought I was special,” he joked and Olivia laughed.

“Barba!,” Fin called out from the living room. “Is that really you?! Man, it’s been a while.”

“Yes, the ghost of Christmas past,” he shrugged.

Rafael looked around just in time to see Sonny come into the room holding Noah and Amanda right behind him holding Jesse. Once again, Rafael was amazed by how good Sonny looked. He was wearing a light grey henley, the sleeves tight around his arms, and dark skinny jeans, his hair now completely free of product but clearly blow dried, the strands brushed back.

“Uncle Rafa!,” Noah yelled, squirming away from Sonny’s arms, who put him down.

Rafael crouched in time for the boy to run to him. “Hi, Noah,” he said softly into the boy’s mess of curly hair.

“Uncle Rafa, where were you?,” he asked innocently, stepping back to look at Rafael. “Mommy said you went away.”

“Yeah, for a while,” Rafael looked back at Olivia, who gave him an understanding look. “But I’m back now! Did you miss me?”

“Yes!,” he giggled. “And now everyone is here! This is the best day ever,” Noah all but screamed, clapping his hands.

“Noah, look!,” Jesse called out, pushing away from Amanda as she tried to reach for the building blocks on the ground.

“Barba,” Amanda approached him after setting her daughter down. She put a hand on his shoulder and shook him softly. “We haven’t heard from you! How’re things?”

Rafael looked around to see everyone waiting for his reply, including Sonny. But he didn’t come into the room, choosing to lean against the wall by the kitchen.

“I’m good, guys,” he smiled. “I worked with Bayard Ellis on Project Innocence for a while, now I’m-,” Rafael paused, unsure. He and Jack had been talking, but nothing was set in stone. “Now I’m looking for the next step.”

“Will you come back to SVU?,” Fin asked. And wasn’t that the million dollar question.

“Not right now, I don’t think so,” he sighed.

The room felt silent for a moment. Rafael tried to be discreet about looking for Sonny’s reaction, but the man had actually learned a lot from his pointers about how to give a master poker face. Granted, he only meant it for it to be used in court.

“Mommy, when’s dinner?,” Noah whined and everyone seemed to follow his lead.

Olivia went into the kitchen, followed closely by Sonny, to get the plates and dishes. Amanda got the high chairs for the kids and sat them, bibs in place. Fin called Rafael over to help serving everyone’s drinks. Rafael popped the bottle of wine, filling the glasses Fin held while he cheerfully told him about a perp that got his leg broken during a chase.

Rafael was happy, the atmosphere was homey, and the food smelled good, but he still wanted to talk to Sonny.

When they sat, Olivia made a toast. “To friends,” she said. And Rafael felt wholeheartedly welcomed, as if he had never left.

“Friends!,” Jesse repeated, and threw a handful of spaghetti in the air, half of it falling back onto her face.

“Jesse,” Amanda reprimanded as the girl giggled. Rafael heard Sonny laugh and watched him for a moment. He seemed a bit quiet, and Rafael wondered if it was because he was there.

The thought made something in Rafael’s chest clench. How did they go from keeping each company at the DA’s party to this?

“Are you going to City Hall’s Charity Ball?,” Olivia asked halfway through their meal, saving him from having to listen to Fin and Amanda argue about football.

“I was invited,” he nodded. “Are you going?”

“I think so, I think it would be good for… you know,” she shrugged.

“Oh, I do,” he smirked. “You gotta make Captain someday, Lieutenant.”

Olivia laughed and rolled her eyes playfully at him. “You should come. It would be good to have a familiar face around.”

“I’ll consider it, but no guarantee. City Hall’s balls have a tendency to be annoyingly uptight and boring.”

“Whoa, if you find them uptight…,” she joked.

“I resent that, Liv,” he took a sip of his wine to hide his smile.

When they were done, Olivia announced Sonny had been in charge of dessert - of course. So they all cleared their plates and sat back down to wait for Sonny to serve them. Rafael saw it as the perfect opportunity to talk to him, seeing him alone in the kitchen.

“Hey,” Rafael greeted from the doorway. “We haven’t had a chance to talk.”

Sonny looked at him with a neutral expression and Rafael cursed himself once again for teaching him that. “Talk about what?,” he asked, his tone calculating.

“At the DA’s party, I thought we were… having fun,” he took a step into the kitchen. “But then you just left.”

Sonny let out a dry chuckle and shook his head. “You sure do make it sound simple,” he turned to Rafael, crossing his arms over his chest. “Do you remember what you asked me before I left?”

Rafael thought about it for a second then tilted his head. “I asked if you’d be happy if I went back to the DA’s office.”

“Yeah, exactly,” he nodded and Rafael was sure he looked very confused. “You don’t get to ask me that, Rafael. You can’t show up out of nowhere and ask me if I’d be happy if you came back when you leaving almost destroyed me. You have no idea what it was like.”

“I have no idea?,” he narrowed his eyes. “Sonny, I lost everything.”

“But you didn’t have to lose me ,” he said angrily and ran both hands through his hair. “You made that decision. I was there for you, I didn’t want to turn my back on what we had built for almost two years. But you made that choice and you didn’t even think to include me in the equation.”

“All the choices I made were for you-”

“Don’t,” he raised a hand to stop Rafael. “Don’t play these games with me. You broke up with me because you got scared, and instead of talking to me about it like an adult you packed up your shit and left.”

“Of course I was scared!,” Rafael felt so frustrated he wanted to grab Sonny and shake him. “I was going to trial for murder, Sonny. I was scared of going to prison, of being disbarred, of the idea that you had been dating a murderer, of how that could affect your career as a lawyer… Do you want me to keep going? I have a whole list!”

“Wow, Rafael,” he scoffed. “Thank you so much for trying to save your damsel in distress. That is all very nice, but through all of that you didn’t give a damn about my feelings or asked me what I wanted.”

At this point, everyone was listening to them arguing, even the kids. Noah seemed very confused and Jesse was nervous, grabbing Amanda’s shirt.

“And I don’t give a damn about my career, all I ever wanted was for you to be honest with me,” Sonny said.

“You don’t give a damn about your career? Is that why you were at the DA’s party?,” Rafael asked with an accusing tone.

“Well, I don’t have a relationship to care about anymore, do I?!,” Sonny bit back. “You were my priority then, Rafael. But all you seemed to care about was how Jack McCoy saw you. So do whatever you want with your career, but don’t you dare come up to me and ask if I’m happy about any of this crap.”

Sonny threw the dish towel that was hanging on his shoulders on the kitchen counter and walked past Rafael in quick strides, going into the bathroom and slamming the door.

For a second, Rafael felt like he couldn’t breathe, his chest hurt too much. His ears were buzzing and the sound of the door slamming was echoing in his mind. Slowly, he tried to regain conscience of where he was. He turned to see Fin looking at him with a disappointed expression, while Olivia gave him an apologetic look and Amanda didn’t even trying to hide how angry she was.

He left the kitchen and went straight for the coat hanger, dressing quickly.

“I’m leaving,” he said breathlessly.

“You better,” Amanda huffed.

“Rollins,” Olivia reprimanded and got up to see him out. “Rafael, I’m sorry, I’m sure he-”

“He’s right, Olivia,” he shook his head. “And he deserves better.”

“Rafa,” she whispered, guiding him closer to the door so the other wouldn’t hear her. “When you left, he was devastated. He didn’t understand why you did what you did, he was angry all the time, he seemed really lost.”

“I thought friends were supposed to make you feel better,” he tried to reach for the door handle, but Olivia stopped him.

“Listen to me, Rafael,” she asked. “He’s doing better. He found his footing again, he’s back to his over enthusiastic self, he found some new confidence, he grew. And I know he learned a lot from you. I think he understands you better than you give him credit for, but it’s time for you to listen to what he’s trying to tell you.”

Rafael didn’t say anything else. He nodded, hugged Olivia goodbye and left. All through the rest of the night, and the next morning, and the next, he thought about nothing but Sonny.

City Hall’s Charity Ball

Much like Rafael expected, City Hall’s Charity Ball was boring. There were too many important figures, too much money and status involved, it was way too serious. There was press coverage on every corner, so nobody was even drinking. They couldn’t risk embarrassing themselves in front to The New York Times.

Luckily, he found Olivia early in the night and, after making their first round of mingling, they sat on a table in a more hidden corner.

“What did I tell you?,” Rafael scoffed, gesturing to the people around them.

“Yeah, boring and uptight,” Olivia laughed. “But at least we’ve got each other.”

“I’’ll drink to that,” he took a sip of his drink.

“And I hear Carisi is around here somewhere,” she told him and laughed again when he choked on his drink.

“What?,” he coughed. “Why?”

“I had a plus one invite, and I thought it would be good for him to meet some important people,” Olivia said casually. “Last time I saw him, he was charming the Mayor himself.”

Rafael gulped. “Sonny? And the Mayor?”

“Come on, Rafael,” she snorted. “Give him some credit, would you?”

“Oh no, I’m sure he can charm the Mayor into handing him all of City Hall,” he waved his hand around like a wand. “It’s just- the Mayor?!”

“I know,” Olivia nodded with a knowing smirk. “He’s all grown up, isn’t he?!”

“Don’t talk like that,” Rafael said cuttingly. “It makes me feel dirty.”

“Why? Because you’re older than him?”

Rafael gave her his trademark side-eye, but didn’t reply, looking around the room instead. He told himself he wasn’t searching for Sonny. In a sea of uniformed Captains, Sergeants and Lieutenants, he thought it would be impossible to find him. But almost as if God himself could hear him, the crowd parted and Rafael saw Sonny.

He almost choked again. Jesus Christ , Sonny looked so handsome in his well fitted uniform, hat and all.

“There he is,” Olivia pointed out unnecessarily. “Why don’t you go talk to him?”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?,” he frowned.

“Well, as long as you don’t pick a fight.”

“Me?”, he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Rafa, go!,” she rolled her eyes.

He stood up nervously, clearing his throat and keeping his eyes on Sonny as he walked towards him. He seemed to be making small talk with another officer, a short, sweet-looking woman. Rafael pretended like he didn’t feel the pang of jealousy in his chest when Sonny laughed openly at something she said.

“Excuse me,” he said when he reached the two. Sonny looked at him with a surprised expression.

“Rafael?,” he frowned.

“Hi, Sonny,” Rafael smiled. “We have to stop meeting like this.”

“Excuse me,” Sonny said to the other officer with an apologetic look and turned to Rafael, his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?”

“I was invited,” he stated with a sly smirk. “Why? You think I’m following you?”

“Cut it out, Rafael. I’m not up for it tonight,” he said curtly and turned to leave, but Rafael placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

“Sonny, wait. Please,” he said, squeezing. Rafael let out a relieved sigh when Sonny turned back to him. “I wanted to apologize.”

“For?,” Sonny crossed his arms over his chest, building his defenses.

“For everything,” he said and Sonny scoffed. “But especially for what I said at the DA’s party and Liv’s dinner. I didn’t mean to corner you, and I know I wasn’t being fair to you.”

“Great, apology accepted,” Sonny nodded and turned to leave again.

“I’m proud of you,” Rafael said, trying to keep his attention. “Really. I am. I see now that I didn’t have to worry about anything, you can handle you career just fine. McCoy seems quite fond of you.”

Sonny sighed and looked at him again. “Rafael, what is this really about?”

“It’s about me not knowing how to tell you I was a complete jackass and you were right,” he looked down at his drink. “You were right when you said I was scared, but mostly I was ashamed. I didn’t want to face you. I was more worried about how you would see me than anyone else. Because you’re the perfect, well-intended, pure hearted Catholic boy, and I had just-,” he stopped, his voice breaking. He looked up again and was surprised to see compassion in Sonny’s eyes. “So I ran because I knew you deserved better and I didn’t want you to be there during the trials. I didn’t want to see the look on your face when you finally realized that you shouldn’t be with me.”

He saw Sonny shaking his head slightly, probably coming up with several arguments to fight what Rafael was saying. Because that’s what he always did when Rafael was being self-deprecating. But this time, Rafael wouldn’t let Sonny defend him.

“So this is on me, Sonny. The heartache, the fights, the confusion, the pain,” he tried to smile, but it probably looked like a grimace. “I never thought you couldn’t handle a little backlash from what I did. I’m actually positive your reputation would have come out intact from the whole thing, that was just a simple excuse. But I’ve always been a master at self-sabotage, so when it all started coming down on me, I couldn’t bare to see how much you trusted me. So I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry for leaving. I’m sorry for turning my back on what we worked on for so long.”

So there he was; his heart open, exposed, everything laid out on the line. He let out a shaky breath, his shoulders suddenly lighter, his chin standing a little higher. He expected Sonny to turn and walk away for good, but moments passed and he didn’t move, watching Rafael’s face.

Rafael’s heart still ached for him, his hands shaking slightly from holding back from him. He still loved Sonny, but the past five days had been full of self-analysis. He knew what he did, he knew his behavior had been shameful, and he was ready to face the consequences. Whatever blow Sonny was about to deliver, he would take it and go home.

But what he didn’t expect was for Sonny’s lips to start stretching into a bright smile, his dimples showing. He let out a small, but genuine laugh then, like he couldn’t help himself.

“Rafael,” he said, taking one step closer. “I forgave you a long time ago.”

“Why?,” he gasped. Sonny laughed again.

“Because I understand,” Sonny said softly. “Well, not at first. I was pretty damn angry and frustrated at you for a couple months. But around three months after you left, McCoy called me into his office to talk about my interest in the DA’s office, but we ended up talking about you a lot.”

“Did you?,” he raised one eyebrow, unable to hide his amusement.

“Yeah, he tried to explain the logic behind your decision to leave SVU, even after the verdict. And I got it,” Sonny smiled. “And I think it’s the same reason why normally SVU detectives don’t last long. Or why ADAs come and go the way Santa goes from door to door. Or why I’ve been talking to Jack in the first place.”

“Yeah, I don’t know how Olivia does it,” he joked.

“Well, I think we can safely say she’s a saint,” Sonny said with a wink. “So I understood why you left SVU, and when Jack told me you wouldn’t dare to look at him when you asked to leave the office, I understood why you left me, too.”

“Then why were you so mad when I asked if you wanted me to come back?”

“I told you that already,” he sighed. “It was unfair of you to ask me that after what happened. I thought you were trying to play mind games with me. I understand why you left, but I still think you didn’t have to. We should have talked about it. We could have worked something out.”

Rafael took a big gulp of his scotch, letting it burn on the way down. “I know. I’m sorry.”

Sonny nodded and looked at him softly. “Thank you for telling me why you decided to break up. But I didn’t see you differently then, and I don’t see you differently now, Rafael. We were together for almost two years, we were friends for two years before that. I know your heart. And I knew you’d come back.”

Rafael was stunned, looking at Sonny with wide eyes and his mouth agape. How could he possibly know? Rafael had been lost for months, sitting on the floor of his living room with sweatpants and Sonny’s old police academy shirt. He wasn’t old enough to retire, and all he ever knew was how to be a lawyer. When Ellis called, he held on to his offer like a lifeline.

Sonny laughed at his shocked expression, his eyes twinkling. Through his surprise, he felt love bursting in his chest.

“I guess I underestimated you, Sonny,” Rafael smiled.

“You really, really did,” he snorted.

“So now what?”

“Are you alone?,” Sonny asked.

“Well yeah, since Olivia abandoned me,” he replied, looking around for his friend, but no luck.

“So why don’t we keep eachother company?,” Sonny suggested with a knowing grin.

“I’d love that,” Rafael said, and raised his glass at him for a toast. “To the future.”

“To the future, Raf,” he winked.

They each took a sip of their drinks, Rafael watching Sonny the whole time. “I must say, Detective, you look really good.”

Sonny threw his head back laughing. “Well, I do remember how you feel about my uniform,” he said with a flirtatious tone.

The irony wasn’t lost on Rafael. The first time he saw Sonny in his uniform was when they got pushed over the edge. With emotions running high after Dodds’ funeral and Rafael unable to keep his eyes off of Sonny dressed like that, the Detective made the first move and told Rafael how he felt. From there, they started dating.

“Not about your uniform, but about you,” Rafael said with a wry smirk. “You do look better in it now, though.”

The rest of the night went on without a hitch. Sonny never left his side and their flirty banter was back. Olivia joined them a while later and they reminisced about the time when they all worked together, from Sonny’s horrible mustache to his interest in law, from Rafael’s snobby attitude on his first cases to his newfound heart and soul, and from Olivia’s saint status to her hopes of a better year for all of them.

That night, Rafael left with light shoulders, a full heart, and a promise to see Sonny again soon.

Special Victims Unit’s New Years Party

The Special Victims Unit’s New Years party had a reputation of being nothing short of downright legendary. The five boroughs worked on rotation and each one was responsible for a different part of the event every year. One got drinks, another food, another worked on decorating the venue, the other selected the entertainment for the night and the last one was the overall manager and organizer.

Rising to their unspoken competition, each borough tried to outdo the one from the year before, and the result was a party that kept getting bigger and more extra with time.

This year, Manhattan’s SVU was in charge of the drinks. There was a long bar at the corner of the room with three bartenders serving a long list of cocktails, along with five waiters going around with buckets upon buckets of other beverages.

“Whose idea was it to have tequila shots being served from water guns?,” Rafael asked, amused.

Fin laughed. “Rollins’. Isn’t it genius?! It’s falls in both drinks and entertainment. I think we should get double points for that one.”

“I don’t think any of you are capable of keeping score at this point,” Rafael said looking around the room at many pinky-faced officers. “But sure.”

The venue was made into an arcade, with several machines lining up the walls, shining bright neon colors as the officers took turns playing. Unsurprisingly, the most popular ones involved guns and car chases. There was popcorn and cotton candy going around, and for a moment Rafael could have bet he was at a kid’s birthday party. But the thing with sex crimes detectives was that they sure knew how to blow off steam.

When Rafael arrived, he spotted Sonny in a machine with two other officers, the three of them racing their fake cars in Formula 1 type of game. His smile was big and bright, his cheeks flushed with excitement. Rafael watched him for a while, happiness flooding his chest.

Now he was sitting at a table close to the bar with Olivia and Fin while they joked about the officers going at the machines and shooting tequila at each other’s open mouths.

“Well, this is certainly an upgrade from the Charity Ball,” Rafael chuckled.

“Are you not gonna give the games a try, Counselor?,” Fin asked, his tone sounding like a challenge.

“What?,” he scoffed. “You want me to stand in front of a hundred NYPD Detectives and shoot a fake gun at fake zombies?! Not likely.”

“They have pinball,” Olivia teased.

“Why don’t you give that a try, Liv?,” he mocked. “I’m sure at this point 1PP expects you to do more pinballing and less armed pursuits.”

“Rafael, are you calling me old?,” she raised an offended eyebrow at him.

“I wouldn’t dare,” he winked at her.

A waiter circled their table and gave them each a tequila filled water gun with a smile. Rafael looked at the thing with a grin.

“Have you seen Carisi?,” Olivia asked.

“Yeah, he was racing cars over there when I arrived,” he pointed at the general area he had seen Sonny before.

“He’s very excited about the games,” Fin nodded. “Has been jumping from one machine to another all night.”

“That does sound like him,” Rafael teased.

“Are you two cool?,” Fin asked with a curious look.

“We talked,” he nodded. “I think we’re going somewhere.”

“Good for you,” Fin raised his glass at him with a pleased look.

“Well, here he comes,” Olivia said in an almost-warning when she spotted Sonny coming their way.

He had the ghost of a laugh on his face, his hair loosely falling on his forehead. Rafael marveled at how carefree he looked.

“Rafael!,” he all but shouted. “Welcome to the best party of the year! Are you having fun?”

“Oh, definitely,” Rafael said, pointing at the glass of scotch in front of him.

“Good,” Sonny plopped down on a chair beside him. “I made sure we were well stocked on your favorite brand.”

“Did you?,” he smiled softly. “Thank you. I see you’re having fun. Who won the race?”

“Ah,” he waved his hands. “The Brooklyn guys are much better than me. By the way,” he turned to Olivia and Fin. “I heard the 99th is trying to crash.”

“Really?,” she laughed. “They’re not SVU.”

“That hasn’t stopped them,” Sonny shrugged. “And it’s not like we don’t have enough for everybody.”

“Are they outside?”, Fin asked and Sonny nodded. “I know their Sergeant. Give me a minute,” he said with an amused look and stood up.

Sonny turned back to Rafael again, smiling. “I’m glad you’re here, Raf.”

“Me too,” he smiled back and looked around quickly. “Whatever here is.”

“I can show you how to kill some zombies if you’d like,” he offered, wiggling his eyebrows.

“You sure know how to woo a guy, Sonny,” Rafael snorted. “Maybe later. Now I want to talk to you,” he said just as the Bronx's SVU Captain approached their table to talk to Olivia.

“I know a secret place,” Sonny winked and stood up, waiting for Rafael to follow him.

Sonny lead them through a small door behind the bar. Climbing two flights of stairs, he opened a bigger door and Rafael found himself speechless. It was a big, empty conservatory, made of floor to ceiling windows. He stepped inside the room quietly, absorbing the view of New York’s landscape that beautifully unfolded in front of him.

“Why not have the party here?,” he wondered out loud, feeling breathless. “This is beautiful.”

“Not enough plugs for the machines,” Sonny explained holding back his laughter. “And the space is not big enough.”

“Lucky us,” he said, turning from the stunning view to the gorgeous man by his side. The place was only lit by the city lights and Rafael could see the reflection in Sonny’s eyes.

“Yeah,” he smiled and took a step closer, taking Rafael’s hand. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“I have something to tell you,” he said and sighed and Sonny frowned, worried. “You know I’ve been talking to McCoy, right?!,” Rafael looked at Sonny nervously, but he only nodded. “We’ve decided that come February, I’m going to be back at the office.”

Sonny took a step back, but didn’t drop Rafael’s hand. He looked very surprised, even though he knew this would eventually come. He opened and closed his mouth a couple times and Rafael chuckled.

“Wow,” he breathed. “Well, are you coming back to SVU then?”

“No,” Rafael shook his head. “I don’t think I can. It took everything out of me, Sonny.”

“I understand,” Sonny squeezed his hand sympathetically.

“I’m not sure you’ve met her, but I talked to Alexandra Cabot, SVU’s ADA before me.”

“I’ve heard of her, I know she came and went frequently,” he tilted his head.

“Exactly,” he snorted. “She told me she could only take SVU a little at a time, but now she’s not even working for the DA anymore. And the ADA before her, Novak, she broke down and was disbarred. I don’t want that to happen to me, Sonny.”

“I don’t want that either,” Sonny said urgently. “So where are you going?”

“I’m considering the Crime Strategies Unit,” he said, and Sonny’s eyebrows shot up. “I know it’s far from what I’ve done so far, but I think that’s kind of the point.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, we miss you there,” he stepped closer to Rafael again. “You did a fantastic job, Raf. You set the bar way too high for me,” he chuckled.

Rafael considered him for a second. “You’re really trying for Stone’s job, aren’t you?”

“Maybe,” he said sheepishly. “But Jack also said I should consider Hate Crimes.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he nodded. “ADA Carisi, uh?! It has a nice ring to it. You’re going to have to start going by Dominick, though.”

He laughed at Sonny’s offended expression, but then he shook his head and smiled. “Jack said the same thing.”

“Great minds, right?!,” Rafael pulled him closer. “Sonny?”

“Hm?”

“Whatever you choose to do from now on, I think you’re going to be great. Whatever Unit, they’ll be so lucky to have you,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.

“Thank you,” Sonny said with a soft smile. “And listen, I know that coming back took a lot out of you, but even though I was mad at you for asking before, I am happy that you’re back.”

Rafael couldn’t help but smile, his chest full of love. “I also wanted to tell you I miss you,” he whispered, squeezing Sonny’s hand. “Every day. I always thought I was a smart man, but letting you go was the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made.”

“I miss you too, Raf,” he stepped closer. “I missed you every single day.”

“I’m sorry for what I did,” Rafael let go of Sonny’s hand to run his palms over his arms, up to his biceps, shoulders, resting on the curve of his neck and going back down. “But I’m so happy you’re here. And I wanted to ask you if you think you could give me a chance to do right by you.”

He knew his tone was pleading, but he was past that. He’d get on his knees and beg if that was what it took. But Sonny gave him a big, dimpled smile, his eyes twinkling with joy. His hands came to rest on Rafael’s hips and he pulled him against him. Sonny didn’t say anything as he sneaked a hand behind Rafael’s neck and kissed him.

Rafael thought he was dying, at first. He thought he could hear angels singing. He couldn’t believe Sonny was in his arms again, and the longer the kiss lasted, the more he melted against him, pulling him closer by the lapels of his jacket, keeping Sonny in place as he sucked his lower lip tenderly.

There seemed to be a fire around them, consuming him, bursting through him. And that’s how Sonny had always made him feel; desirable, worthy, alive. He felt his heart thundering inside his chest, threatening to escape to give itself to the other man. When Sonny licked deeper into his mouth and pulled him even closer, their bodies flush against each other, he felt himself bursting with love.

He groaned, their tongues familiarly circling around each other. Sonny moved them slowly until Rafael felt a window pressing on his back. The Detective then placed a thigh between his legs and grinded into him. Rafael felt like he was swimming in a pool of lava, Sonny hot against him, moving languidly. He ran one of his hands through Sonny’s soft hair as his other hand grabbed his ass, pulling.

Sonny moaned into his mouth, pressing himself harder against Rafael. He wanted to devour him whole, melt into him, never let him go.

“Raf,” Sonny breathed when he let go of his mouth to kiss along his jaw, down to his neck. “I missed you so much.”

Rafael’s reply was a shaky sigh as he pressed his groin against Sonny’s thigh.

“You drive me crazy, did you know that?,” Sonny asked and looked at Rafael. Sonny did have a slight manic look to him, his lips raw, his hair disheveled and his eyes wide, pupils dilated.

He was about to comment on that when he heard loud, excited voices coming from downstairs. “I think they’re starting the countdown,” he breathed.

“Oh, shit,” Sonny looked at his watch.

“Ten,” Rafael smiled and pecked Sonny on the lips.

“Nine,” Sonny pressed his body against Rafael’s again, earning a gasp.

“Eight,” he said under his breath, running his finger through Sonny’s hair.

“Seven,” he gave Rafael a wry grin.

“Six,” he sighed, content.

“Five,” Sonny hugged him by the waist.

“Four,” Rafael threw his arms around Sonny’s neck.

“Three,” he rested their foreheads together.

“Two,” he felt like his heart was about to take flight through the Manhattan sky.

“One,” Sonny breathed between them.

“Happy New Year, Sonny.”

“Happy New Year, Raf,” he said before kissing Rafael again, and his voice sounded like a promise.