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To Train The Heart To Sit

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“I promised myself”

Barba walks into Benson’s office, a smirk dusted on his face as he sits in the black chair. He places his briefcase down and looks up at the Lieutenant, “Met your new detective,” he says and Benson gives him a weak chuckle.

“I hope you didn’t chew him out too viciously,” Benson says, however, she has a suggestive smile, already knowing Barba had given the new Staten Island rookie his attitude and sass.

“Please,” Barba says, crossing his leg over the other, “have you seen the mustache? He was begging for it.”

Benson rolled her eyes but her smile grew, “Just give him a chance, Barba, we need the extra hands anyways.”

Barba looked over his shoulder and out the window, watching as the lanky detective wrote on the whiteboard while double-checking his notes. His hair was caught beautifully in the sunlight that even the graying strands brightened under the touch if it wasn’t for the three sizes too big clothes, the god forbidden accent, and the heinous mustache, Barba would admit the man was hot.

Benson cleared her throat and Barba looked back at her, his eyebrows raised as he forced a smirk on his face, “No promises,” he says.

“I would never fall in love with you.”

Barba rubs at his eyes, he’s been staring at a blank page for the last half hour, he needs to come up with an opening statement for court tomorrow but his mind is drawing up blanks. Barba is bitter with how this investigation went down, the evidence is circumstantial, the perp is charming which can always be a potential threat for jury-sympathy, and the victim lied to them twice before getting her story straight.

It’s always messy in Special Victims. Barba assumes, but it doesn’t make his job of drafting his opening statement any easier.

He hears a knock on his door followed by the creaking of wood, “Carmen, I said no vis-”

“Sorry Counselor,” the voice calls out, but it isn’t Carmen’s, Barba looked up to see Carisi, it’s been a few months since he’s been in SVU if Barba remembers correctly almost nine. The Detective really cleaned up his act since joining, for starters, he got rid of that god-awful mustache and his suits actually fit him; well, even if the suits are horrendous and the ties never match, one step at a time. “But fear not, I came bearing presents.”

Carisi offers Barba a coffee and Barba smiles, “Bribery Detective?” he questions, but nods his thanks and takes the coffee. He takes a gulp of the liquid and his head immediately feels better.

Carisi smiles and laughs, his blue eyes roll but there’s no bite, no annoyance, “I’d have to arrest myself if so,” Carisi hands him a few files, “I’m actually here to bring you these, though it might help with this case, I know it’s a bit messy.”

“A bit?” Barba questions, but he places the coffee down and starts reading through the file, it actually is helpful and Barba jots down a few ideas on his notepad for later. “Try a trainwreck.”

Carisi tsk’d, “Ye of little faith, Counselor,” Barba spares him an incredulous look, the man has that smile still plastered on his face, teeth white and shining.

“Oh yeah? And why is that, Detective? Assuming you’re going to tell me and stop yanking my chain,” the jab comes easy, Barba is surprised, over these last few months, despite some of the rude shit he’s said to Carisi, the Detective always regarded him with high respect and his own wit. Barba will be lying if he said he didn’t find the Detective interesting.

“Yeah, yeah, hold your horses, Barba,” Carisi places down his own cup of coffee and digs into his suit jacket, he brings out a photo. “Just take a look at this, our perp, Jordan Ruman, threw a little of a fit after he made bail yesterday, he went to a bar and got nasty with the bartender,” Barba gave him a questioning eye, Carisi chuckled, “not in a fun way. Look, a surveillance camera caught this,” Barba takes the photo, it’s an image of Ruman attacking the male bartender with the broken glass cup.

Barba breaks into a frown, “What? You want me to add an assault charge? Did the bartender even file a complaint?”

Carisi walks over towards the other side of the desk where Barba is, he smirks when he sits on the edge of the wooden structure, “Nope, guy said there was no point, but we use this and shred his charming act on stand, make the jury see how much of a temper problem he has and I know just how to provoke him during court.”

Barba tilts his head to the side, looking over at the Detective with a grin slowly appearing, “Oh really? And what do you propose I do?”

“Talk about a good, healthy relationship you had.”

“You lost me. Like immediately.”

Carisi laughs and Barba feels his head rush, he deems to self-medicate by taking another drink of his coffee, willing his mind out of whatever gutter it crawled into for a second.

“Listen,” Carisi starts, his hand already speaking for him as it extends and swipes horizontally at the air, “the reason Ruman got pissed at the bartender was because he started to talk about his relationship with his partner, he said the man got all pissy at how and I quote ‘fairy-like’ their love sounded,” Barba gives him a side-eye and Carisi re-situates himself on Barba’s desk. “Why else would the victim lie to us an abundance of times? It’s classic DV, there is the hope of a fairy-tale love story, but he freaks out at each and every time it breaks whether its due by a disagreement, argument, or just a different state of mind. I took the liberty of asking our bartender about his partner, he told me how different they are but that’s what he loves. And he’s willing to testify.”

Barba sees where Carisi is going with this and honestly, he’s quite impressed, it’s a nicely explained reason for why the evidence is circumstantial, why the victim changed her testimony and his apparent charming act. “I see that law school is panning out for you, Carisi.”

Carisi shakes his head, a few strands of hair fall in front of his face, it was late at night so the gel he placed in that morning had already lost its holding. “Whatever, all I’m saying, you just leave subtle hints of past healthy relationships where polar opposites attract and watch him burn in the dust. He’s bound to freak out and when he does the jury will see him for who he is, a manipulating bastard with an anger problem,” Carisi nods his head upwards, impressed with his own conclusion and reaches over to grab his coffee. Carisi notices how Barba’s word document is empty and gives the Counselor a look. “Need a hand?”

Barba chews on his bottom lip, “Don’t you have a ‘fairy-tale’ relationship to get to, Detective?”

“Nah,” is the honest reply from Carisi, he looks away for a moment before dragging his attention back, “Lieu let me off too, I guess I’m all yours if you want me?”

And Barba doesn’t breathe, he doesn’t even blink, he stares and sees the sincere interest, a want. Barba knows he shouldn’t, he shouldn’t even look in the bag of what this potential offer entails, but it’s enticing and so very tempting. He’s been careful with the Detective ever since he joined SVU, he didn’t want to grow attached because at first glance he knew Carisi was his type. Barba has always been professional, by the books, but it’s so hard to train the heart to sit, even after all these years of burned-out love stories his heart files towards the people who can take his defensive mechanism and stay. So Barba looks into the blue ocean eyes, takes a glance at the puppy-dog smile, and thinks of how helpful it would be to let Carisi stay. To let his heart jump.

“Yes, I’d like that, Detective.”

“But it was four a.m.”

Barba sighs into his glass cup that contained the pungent smell of scotch, the brown liquid squishing around in its confinements. He looked up into the dimmed room, he’s still in his office, he didn’t have it in him to go home for the night. It was late and the day was over and despite being Monday after the third week of June’s Sunday, Barba still felt the ghostly pain that haunts him. In a sudden wave of emotion, his eyes became glassy and he downs the rest of the burning liquid in one intake.

His mother called earlier in the day, only reminding him of the day, despite it not in her intentions because neither of them likes to remember what used to be of that man. But it happened, and it’s over, and it’s done with, and it’s gone. He’s gone.

Barba’s head can’t understand it and he pours himself another drink, Barba takes a sip, letting the contents burn and settle in his mouth because at least he has control over that, and then he swallows. His eyes closed shut in perfect tangent with his Adam’s apple when it takes in the poisoning liquid. Images chase him from his childhood so he chases the bottom of the bottle, but he’s not quick enough, he’s never been. So he downs his drink again.

The images subside for now but he hears his Father’s voice in the back of his mind, he always does. He goes to destroy that voice too when he grabs the half-empty scotch, deciding that proper etiquette can fuck off and leave him be as he brings the bottle of scotch towards his lips. The glass rim is cool, an uneasy contrast from the hot liquid it holds.

There’s a knock.

Completely confused, Barba sets down the bottle and watches as the door opens, he briefly considers he’s either hallucinating or on his way towards getting killed. It’s neither.

“I thought I’d find you here,” the first words he hears, produced through a heavy accent but with genuine tiredness.

“What are you doing here, Detective?” Barba asks, or more like slurs, he doesn’t look up to face the man that has come into his office, no, all he does is poured himself another drink.

He goes to down the hard-liquid but the cup is taken from his hand and rage fills him, he stands and meets Carisi’s eyes, “Barba, please,” he pleads, he places the glass down and shows his hands in surrender.

“The fuck do you want?” Barba is not in the mood, not in the mood to feel anything and that’s what Carisi does, he makes Barba feel and right now he doesn't want to feel.

“Because I know what day it is, or was,” Carisi says calmly, he managed to get Barba back into his seat and claim his own. “And I know drinking yourself into next Sunday isn’t going to change the pain you felt for years.”

Barba chuckles, it's dry, wry, and sour, “Yeah? What would you know about it Staten Island boy?” Barba’s defenses are screaming at him to get away from Carisi, to shield himself from embarrassment by driving the man away with harsh taunts. “You’re not needed, Carisi.”

Carisi is indifferent and if anything, his expression only softens at the statement, not out of self-pity but of concern for Barba. “Maybe you should tell me then, help me understand, Barba.”

Barba glares at him, he takes the cup full of scotch and bites, “I’m not one of your fucking victims, Carisi, don’t fucking talk to me like that,” Barba downs his drink in one go, not even sparing a look at the young Detective.

He feels the burn, he feels it taking over and making his body go numb, making his heart go numb, making his heart sit.

It just needs to sit.

“Barba, I can’t save you from yourself, not until you let me in,” Barba just looks at him before trying to reach for the scotch bottle which Carisi takes. “You and I both know this is a defense mechanism, stop it.”

“And why the hell do you care, Carisi? I have no obligation to you. In fact, I have half a mind to throw your ass out of my office now,” he doesn’t attempt to take back the alcohol, he doesn’t trust his feet.

“You won’t.”

Barba scoffs, “You want a bet?”

“No, I want the truth.”

“And what makes you think I have to tell you jack-shit?”

“You don’t.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes, it gives Barba the much needed time to calm down. His head is spinning and the alcohol is waning him down and he feels dizzy, he feels emotional.

“It’s not like others haven’t had it worse,” he admits, Barba’s not special, he’s not the only kid whose father beats on him and his mother when he was a child, hell, he had it good if anything, he made it. He’s a lawyer. Not many others can say the same.

“That doesn’t make your pain any less valid,” Carisi tells him, “sure, some other kids had it worse, but that doesn’t mean you should punish yourself just because you made it out alive.”

Barba lifts his head but doesn’t exactly look at Carisi. “Bastard’s been dead for fifteen years and I still can’t walk without his shadow.”

“You may never will, but that doesn’t mean you should have to drown in his darkness,” Barba meets Carisi’s eyes, they’re understanding, worrying, and so much more that he doesn’t deserve.

“What do you want me to tell you?” He hates the way his voice cracks, how his body trembles.

“Whatever you want that will help you feel better.”

Barba feels and he wishes he doesn’t, his lips are struggling to stay in a straight line, “Why are you here?”

“Because I want to be.”

Barba smiles and so does Carisi.

“And we were laughing way too hard,”

It was a great night, they had a massive win which demanded a celebration. After a particular strenuous two weeks, the squad was able to get a guilty verdict on all accounts for their newest case. So after dinner, they all decided to head to a bar. Barba was sat near Carisi and Benson, but all his attention was with the younger Detective as his hands moved with vigor and his mouth with the same speed. He was recalling his 21st birthday where he promptly drank so much that his friends told him he had blacked out and went skinny dipping in a birdbath.

“And then my friends told me I was cryin’ because and I quote ‘I’m too big for their kind’, I was lucky I wasn’t charged that night, some midnight officer saw us and my friends were covering me with my clothes but I was just a mess tellin’ the cop that the birds don’t want me,” the whole squad was laughing, each of them nursing their own preferred drink. It’s been going on like this for a half an hour, just telling silly stories.

“What did the cop do?” Rollins asks, she’s sitting next to Benson and Fin.

Carisi chuckles, “He was so appalled by my emotional outburst he just told my buddies to take me home.”

Barba was snickering himself, of course, that tall giraffe would pull some stunt like that. Carisi noticed his giggling and looked over, “Alright, what about you Counselor? How did you celebrate your 21st?”

Barba instantly shuts up which is a bad move when you’re surrounded by cops who pick up on body language, this just egged everyone on, even Benson, to share.

Barba rubbed the back of his neck, “I-uhh-,” he sucks air through his teeth but the squad is not buying it, “Fine, fine, I drank a lot,” he eyes Carisi before finishing, “off of a person…”

“No fuckin way,” Rollins says and she’s already in full giggles, Carisi is highly amused.

“You can’t leave us there, Barba,” Benson prompts and Barba sees she’s having her own fun with this.

“I karaoke singed and crowd surfed, drank some more off of people’s certain body parts and somehow started a conga line, and the night ended with me getting a piggyback ride back home.’”

“What body parts?” Barba is surprised the question came from Fin, he and Rollins have been laughing at him ever since he started getting flustered.

“Oh my god, I will not say,” he says, he already knows he’s not going to hear the end of this.

“Oh come on, Barba, please?” Barba looks over and a whole new hue of red blooms on his face. Carisi is smiling at him and he’s leaning close. Barba suddenly becomes acutely aware of how close they are. Carisi’s knee against his, the arm that isn’t nursing a drink is around the wooden topside of the booth and Barba knows if he leans back, he'll be able to feel it. Those eyes are huge, beautiful, it tells a promise he’s supposed to keep.

Barba’s heart jumps again, his breathing got heavier and he shakes his head, remembering where he is. To placate the detectives to cover his slip up he tells, “One shot was from some guy’s mouth, his stomach, and then..-”

“His cock?!” Rollins all but squeals, when Barba says nothing she laughs even more.

“Rafa!” Benson says and Barba downs his drink fully, he cannot look at these people in the face tomorrow.

“How did you do that…?” Carisi asked, he’s laughing too, highly amused but very confused.

“Oh, you don’t want to know,” Barba wants to plead the fifth.

“No, no, no, I’m too invested!”

“I plead the fifth, Carisi,” he tries to dismiss but Carisi isn’t having any of that.

He pulls out the puppy-dog eyes.

Barba groans and the rest of the table laughs.

“Uh-oh, not the kicked puppy-dog eyes,” Fin says, he’s the one who first called out and named that sick technique Carisi does when he wants to know something. It’s almost mandatory to tell when he does.

Barba runs a hand through his hair and shakes his head, “The guy had an erection, my buddies and I wanted to see if we could balance a shot glass on it and after a few attempts, we were successful, I was then dared to take the shot off the guy’s dick.”

Barba looks up at Carisi and sees the way the Detective shifts in his seat, the red flush covering his cheeks and up to his ears. They meet eyes and Carisi bites his lower lip and stares.

Barba doesn’t know if it was the alcohol fabricating false movements but he could swear Carisi leans down towards him and Barba wants to place his lips onto those pink lips.

“Didn’t know you were such a party animal, Barba,” Rollins says and it breaks the trance, Barba looks away, he’s snickering to keep up the appearance, but really his heart is racing and his mind is going a mile a second.

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Rollins,” he says and that elicits a laugh from everyone and they drink.

“And I felt happy”

Barba smiles at Carisi, they were in the courtroom, it was just them and they were prepping for Carisi’s testimony. Barba leans onto the stand, staring into the Detective’s eyes and Carisi was staring back, a teasing smirk on his lips.

“I’m glad you find this amusing,” Barba says, shaking his head.

“Highly,” Carisi’s teasing smile is infectious, Barba just shakes his head. He knows Carisi has this, plus, Carisi is the last person he needs to trial prep, so he has no real objection to the man’s teasing right now.

“We’ll scream in terror the day you pass your bar exam,” Barba says, he’s still leaning against the stand and Carisi is leaning towards him.

“Oh? So you think my chances are good?”

Barba scoffs, “They better be, I taught you and I am an amazing teacher,” the man concludes throwing a wink at the detective.

“What a way to double the pressure, Counselor,” Carisi says, his face going scarlet, Barba watches as the pale skin heats up and leads down underneath his shirt.

“Someone has to keep you on your toes, Detective.”

“Then I rather it is nobody else than you, Counselor.”

“Even if I’m insufferable and throw constant remarks at you?”

“Especially because of that, besides,” Carisi tilts his head to the side, “I know you only do that to people you care about.”

Barba gives a soft smile and Carisi sees it, Barba is pretty sure his eyes are crinkling but the statement just sparked too much joy inside of him.

Barba taps at the stand, “I plead the fifth,” he turns and walks away, giving himself something to do by organizing his files and papers.

He hears Carisi step off the stand and follows his heavy footsteps up behind him, Barba can feel his body heat as that’s how close he is to him.

Barba can feel his heart, he can feel it jump.

Carisi places his hand on Barba’s shoulder, he gives it a squeeze and Barba has no choice but to look up at the man. His head is tilted, his hair is escaping its hold of gel and product, his eyes are half-lidded as he stares, his lips are strewn in half of a smile.

“For what it’s worth, Counselor, I care about you too.”

Barba is seemingly stuck in silence, he stares at Carisi, he knows this shouldn’t come as a surprise but it’s another thing suspecting it and another to know it. His breathing is labored and his mouth is agape, and for once, he’s staring at Carisi with such reverence.

And then it’s gone, Carisi’s phone rings and he gives Barba one more smile before answering it.

“I gotta run, something came up with our vic,” he tells and Barba just nods, he watches as Carisi collects his coat and give him one last wave of goodbye.

And Barba smiles.

“For the first time”

Barba groans, making his way to his door, who in the hell is here this early in the morning? Barba has the weekend off after the disaster that was the Hodda case, he’s not in the mood for any socializing.

“You better have a good reason to waking me up this early,” he grumbles, it’s mostly to himself but he figures he said it too loud because he hears the person on the other side laugh. That wakes him up and he unlocks the door to see Carisi, his face breaks out in a smile. “Detective? Miss me already?”

After Barba agreed to let Carisi shadow him, the two was attached to the hip in order to win the case and Barba would be lying if he didn’t say Carisi didn’t bring anything useful to the table. That tidbit about little boys was great.

“What can I say? Life is a bit duller without Rafael Barba snarking at you,” it’s a light jab and Barba is grateful for it, he looks down and spots coffee but before he could say anything Carisi nodded. “Yes, this is for you.”

“I guess that is a ticket to enter my apartment,” Barba concludes, he takes the coffee and steps aside letting Carisi in. The Detective laughs and shakes his head, it’s kinda weird.

This is the first time Carisi came to his house and he has no idea why the man is here, he has the day off too, Barba assumes, they did work their asses off in that trial. So Barba wonders what brings him here.

“How’s Rollins?” He had heard that something went wrong at the hospital from Benson, he doesn’t know much and him and Rollins aren’t exactly besties, but he’s still concerned.

“Ah, she’s fine, the doctor said it’s nothing too big to worry about and they’re medicating her now. She’s out of it.”

“And the baby?”

“The baby is fine.”

“So that brings us back to my original question, why are you here?”

Carisi turns around, he’s dressed in comfortable clothes, a pair of sweatpants and a gray Henley, the material was too tight so it clung to his body.

“I heard about the memorial for Hector,” Carisi says, “I also hear that Wyatt’s mother is going to help this time.”

Barba hums, “Yes, hopefully with Wyatt’s parents, the jury wouldn’t get deadlocked again.”

“So you are refiling to charge him?”

“Of course.”

“Let me shadow you again.”

Barba looks at Carisi, the man is desperate, he has his puppy-dog eyes in full effect and his face is scrunched up.

“Woah, what’s going on, Carisi?”

“It’s just- that case, I know I wasn’t around for the original story, but I’m here now and Hector deserves justice, not some Daddy’s Girl tryin’ to score some brownie points,” he huffed, the two have moved to Barba’s couch where Carisi takes off his coat. “I learned a lot too during that trial, I know I wasn’t the best shadow but I really did try my best.”

Barba softens, he places his hand on Carisi’s knee and thumbs at the covered flesh, “I know you did, Carisi, you actually helped me a lot more than I’m willing to admit, even with the bribery of coffee,” Carisi smiles at that and so does Barba. “Plus, I think it’s only fair you sit in for the next time we try Hodda.”

Carisi nods, “Thanks Barba, I just couldn’t stop thinkin’ about it last night, how despite everything, the jury was deadlocked.”

“Well, I rather deadlocked than acquitted.”

Carisi hums, “It’s true, it’s just-I-” Carisi begins to stumble on his words and Barba can sense that the man is withholding more.

“You can tell me, Carisi, what else is bothering you about this case?”

“Do you ever imagine bringin’ a kid into this world after all the shit we’ve heard? We’ve seen?” Carisi asks, Barba notices how the man’s eyes became misty, glossed over. “That the possibility of a monster being on every corner? It’s terrifying enough to be out there by yourself but your kid?” Carisi looks down and away from Barba, “And for what? For other people to look at you, grieving the loss of your kid and to tell you that the man who did it isn’t guilty?”

Carisi sighs, he runs his hands through his hair and Barba notices how it lacks its usual products.

“Do we ever make a difference?” Carisi wonders.

Barba’s hand moves to Carisi’s back, he feels the man relax under the touch. “It does, it’s small, but it’s one more pedophile, one more murderer, one more rapist off the street, that has to mean something to you.”

“It does,” Carisi admits, “I guess seeing Hector’s life get taken and Amanda trying to bring a life into this world just scares me, how imminent the future is, how unpredictable.”

“Carisi, all we can ever do is try,” Barba says, Carisi looks up at him and he notices a tear streak down his cheek. “I know if given the chance you’ll be a great father and through hell and high waters you’d protect your child until you can’t. I know this job is scary and it takes certain hopes and faith in its wake, but you can’t let it win.”

Carisi smiles, he wipes his face and sits up straight, “You’re right, thank you Barba, I-,” Carisi huffs, “Honestly, I don’t even know why I came to you first, but I’m glad I did,” Carisi gives Barba a squeeze on his hand and stands up. “How about as a thank you, I make you breakfast?”

Barba smiles back, he gave up a long time ago to try to teach his heart to sit.

“Yes, I would like that.”

Carisi smiles and so does Barba.

“In a long time.”

They were in Barba’s office, it was two hours after midnight and there wasn’t any pressing reason for Carisi to be here other than he wanted to. They started the night young, Carisi came over a little bit after six to drop off some witness statements and case files when he offered to stay and help Barba with some motion hearings and argument statements. It wasn’t the first time Carisi offered his services and Barba hopes it definitely won’t be the last, they were able to get through Barba’s caseload before twelve and Barba calls that a win. That should be celebrated with scotch.

After two hours of steadily drinking, the two had lost their suit jackets and vests, Carisi’s tie was undone, and a few buttons were loose. Barba couldn’t exactly take his prying eyes away from the pale expense of Carisi’s neck, he watched as the same skin slowly heated to a beautiful pink with the more drinks the Detective consumed.

“That’s blasphemous, Detective,” Barba snarked, sipping at what will be his fifth cup, he’s regarding their conversation of where teenager Carisi used to sneak away three hours before six a.m to hook up with a high school girlfriend of his.

“Nah,” Carisi said, his speech obviously exaggerated either by the liquor or the heaving accent. “God’s not watching.”

Barba raised his eyebrows, amused he took another sip before answering, “Oh yeah? And why’s that?”

As if he had either momentarily forgotten what his point was or the conversation was about, Carisi stopped, his eyes scrunched to think back to the last ten seconds, and as if the answer was so obvious he shook his head and waved off at Barba, “Oh, because He’s sleeping,” seeming satisfied with his answer he nodded his head in agreement. “Duh.”

Barba chuckled, maybe he shouldn’t have gotten the Detective so hammered so quickly. “Oh, right, how could I forget.”

“It’s okay, Bellissimo,” there was a warm smile that appeared on the man’s face, sincere and loving, Carisi’s cheeks heat up at his words but he hiccups and forgets all about it the next second.

Barba is stunned, while his Italian isn’t great, he knows a foreign compliment when he hears one, his tongue swipes over his lips, wetting them and to distract himself he downs the rest of his liquor.

He hears Carisi hiccup again, but the man still reaches over to pour himself another, Barba is surprised to see Carisi down the shot in one go, only for him to reach for the scotch bottle again.

Barba is about to tell him to slow down or he’s going to have to take him to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, but Carisi’s mouth is faster, “Did I tell you about this new guy though?” his accent has definitely gotten rougher and more prominent, “Real sexy!”

Barba is a good man, he wants to believe that he is a good man but he can’t dispute the quell of jealousy that rages through him, Carisi goes on to describe some hot-shot guy, smart, talented, sexy.

“And like,” Carisi slumps and he lets out another cute-sounding hiccup, Carisi giggles at the hiccup, causing him to hiccup again and Barba looks at the idiot with fond eyes. Carisi hasn’t gotten the smile off his face since they started drinking, his dimples in full view for the last three hours and they only deepen at Carisi’s self-indulgence. “I don’t think he wants me.” And the smile falls.

Barba’s eyes stopped focusing on Carisi’s lips and instead looks the Detective in the eyes, “What? You’re ridiculous,” is the instant reply that comes from his mouth and before Barba can stop himself the last few ounces of alcohol confesses, “anyone should be lucky to have someone as amazing as you.”

Barba curses at himself, mentally, or at least he hopes it was in his head, it doesn’t matter now because Barba pours himself another drink and downs it in one go, he relishes in the rush he feels over his body and while more alcohol-consumption is not the way to go, it’s the only option he thinks of.

Carisi smiles at Barba, not like he hasn’t been smiling at him all night, but it looks different from the other times. His eyes are locked with his, blue and green.

Barba remembers love, or at least he thinks he does, with Yelina, but these two loves feel estranged, one different than the other, one stronger than the other. While Barba’s heart jumped with Yelina, it had also landed.

With Carisi, it just keeps falling.

“I think you’re right, Counselor,” Carisi says, he pulls out his phone and Barba feels a pang of sorrow, “Maybe I’m wrong about him.” Barba’s eyebrow’s screw together but before he can make a comment Carisi stands. “Let's split an Uber, we do have work in the morning.”

Something inside Barba doesn’t rest, it doesn’t settle, he watches as Carisi cleans up the little mess they made, albeit a little wobbly. But Barba doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t say anything when they leave, or when he gets into the Uber, or even when he gets out.

“Oh.”

He finally says when he’s home, secluded in by four walls, alone in an empty apartment with its lights turned off and nothing but shadows walking.

The fall never kills you, it’s the stop.

So maybe his heart did land.

“And I knew”

“... we find the defendant guilty,” Barba found a smirk climbing its way onto his face. This case was a high risk one, they all knew it, but now knowing that they put the son of a bitch away for life, Barba couldn’t help but feel giddy.

The man, Michael Hardy, however, did not take kindly to the verdict, he slammed his hands onto the table and stood up, “You’re dead!” he screams at the jury, “You and your family are dead!”

“Order! Order!” the judge bellowed, their gavel hitting the wood. “Court officers, remove the defendant!”

Barba was amused by the performance, but his lips drew sharp when Mr. Hardy elbowed the officer and took his gun.

“Gun!” somebody screamed and before he knew it shots rang off.

“Rafael!”

The next thing he feels is a heavy body on him, weighing him down and onto the floor below. Barba was still in shock and his breathing was out of control, he can still hear the uproar, but all he did was look at the man on top of him.

A beautiful set of hair, blonde and matted.

Carisi.

“Carisi?!” his mouth instantly says, he scrambles up, holding the Detective in his arms when he doesn’t move, already fearing the worst. His suspicions come where he sees the pooling blood and Carisi’s unconscious figure, “Oh God, oh no.”

He’s holding down the wound, his hands are bloody, they’re so bloody, and more blood keeps seeping into his skin. “Sonny! Sonny,” Barba is trying, he’s applying pressure but that’s all he knows to do. He looks around, “I need an ambulance! Officer down! Officer down!” his breathing is erratic and he’s certain he’s hearing shuffling around him. “O-Olivia!” he cries, because who else to call? The name that would have been first out of his mouth is losing blood and quickly. “Olivia!” he screams again, he hears the loud footsteps.

“Rafa?” Benson is finally at his aid, “Carisi,” she whispers, she takes out her radio, “10-13! 10-13! I need a bus, officer down!”

Barba has resorted to taking off his suit jacket and pressing it against Carisi’s wound, letting the blood quickly soak through the material. He sees Carisi’s eyes fluttering, “Sonny,” he says quickly, his own voice sounded foreign to him, “you have to wake up, mi amor,” Barba says, having no regard for his words.

“Just keep pressure on it,” Benson instructed, “Carisi, can you stay with us?” she asks, feeling his neck for a pulse. Barba doesn't even know what happened with Mr. Hardy if they shot him down or not.

“Where’s the fucking EMTs?!” Barba questioned and thankfully they finally arrive, Barba is almost hesitant to leave Carisi’s side but Benson is there to pull him away.

“Let them do their jobs,” Benson tells Barba, who’s in a weird limbo state of shock and adrenaline.

“It was for me.”

“What?”

“That bullet, it was for me,” Barba says, he spares one last look at Benson before taking off, he sees multiple ambulances, Barba briefly wonders how many people got caught in that crossfire. But he pushes his thoughts aside and finds the nearest EMT who isn’t swamped up with a victim. “Where are they taking them?”

“Mercy General.”

Barba just nods his thanks and finds the nearest cab.

It takes longer than necessary to get there, almost thirty minutes, but by that time Barba has managed to regulate his breathing and try to relax. Luckily, his wallet was in his pants’ pocket and he was able to pay the cabbie man. The hospital is crowded, obviously, with the courthouse victims being rolled in, Barba doesn’t even manage to see if Carisi is one of them being rolled in.

Barba heads to the receptionist desk, she takes a look at him, which he hadn’t accounted for now, and gasps, “Are you okay, sir?”

“It’s not mine,” he quickly says but realizes how incriminating that sounds, “Dominick Carisi Jr. he was one of the people shot in the courtroom shooting, is he here?”

The woman gives him a side-eye but types in her computer anyways, “Yes, but he’s in surgery.”

Barba nods, “Can you tell me when he’s out?”

“Only family-”

“Please, I’m a friend, I was there when he got shot,” he says, cutting her off and gesturing to his bloodied clothing. The woman only nods but Barba takes what he can get and goes to the waiting room.

He doesn’t have his phone on him, that was in his suit jacket he had given Carisi, and frankly, he doesn’t even know if he wants the damn thing now it’s probably covered in Carisi’s blood.

Barba sits in the waiting room, staring, he figures he still isn’t over the previous incidents as the memory keeps going through his head. Mr. Hardy yelling, the gun, and then, Carisi. Bleeding.

If Barba hadn’t already put the nail in his coffin for the guilty verdict, he will after he applies the multiple, and hopefully only, attempted homicides, one of being a cop.

Barba was so into his own thoughts that he didn’t even hear, hell, see Benson come up to him, “Rafa?” she asked, but Barba just kept staring at her. “You’re in shock,” she said calmly, she places a hand on his shoulder and Barba barely registers it. “What Carisi did was on his own volition, okay?”

Barba hears the words, he just can’t process them, he slowly growing aware of his rapid heartbeat, the thumping in his chest and he wants to scream at himself, at his heart, not now, but he can’t help it.

“Okay, okay,” Benson says and bless her, she keeps her voice steady and forces eye contact between the two, it takes Barba a moment but he finally focuses on her.

“He jumped,” Barba stated, his lips slightly parted, he looks down on his attire, his white button-up, tie, vest, pants, are all covered in Carisi’s blood. Carisi’s. But that’s not what got to him, Barba stared down at his hands, “M-My hands..,” he trailed, staring at the marred skin that’s covered in someone’s blood, someone he knows, that he loves.

Barba blinks.

Benson took his hand and Barba looked back up at her, “It’s okay,” she whispered again and Barba tried to understand.

Barba’s face twisted, “He-He’s not going to die. Right? He can’t die.” As if Barba was having a conversation with himself he shakes his head, “He invited me out for a drink tonight,” he laughed but it felt coerced, faked, “he said, it’ll either be a celebration drink or a celebration drink because it didn’t matter if I lose, he said I still tried, and that’s what should be celebrated.”

Benson only stared, she didn’t offer any insight, just watched as Barba softly rambled, however, it came to stop and for a while, they sat in silence.

Rollins and Fin came an hour later, Benson filled them in on the details since they weren’t at the courtroom. Rollins took one glance at Barba and gasped, she looked away as quickly as she could. Fin just stared at the quiet Rafael Barba, finally without any words to say.

It was heading close to midnight, IAB, of course, came, but Benson convinced them to try tomorrow for statements. Benson had also given Barba a cup of hospital coffee and for the first time, he didn’t even want it. But he nodded his thanks anyways. He still hasn’t said anything since his conversation with Benson, even though he snapped out of shock a few hours ago. Or at least he thinks he did.

He just didn’t have anything to say.

A nurse finally came in and the whole squad perked up, “Mr. Carisi’s family?” she presumed. Benson flashed her badge and the nurse gave a nod, “He’s out of surgery right now and resting, you can see him.”

Barba almost didn’t register the words, but he and the rest of the squad were on their feet as soon as she said it.

Barba doesn’t know what he was expecting, but Carisi was asleep, albeit he was hooked up to IVs and other types of machinery, but he was alive.

He walked up to Carisi, his eyelids closed, his face relaxed, almost peaceful, his hair was matted and there’s a bit of his hairline caked with blood. Barba let his fingertips softly strike against Carisi’s face, “I’ll stay with him.”

It was the first words he said in hours, Benson, Rollins, and Fin were all taken aback by the sudden proclamation but nobody questioned it.

Fin was the first to leave, saying he’d be back when Carisi wakes up. Then it was Benson and Rollins, “I’d be back in the morning,” Benson says and squeezes Barba’s hand.

The two leave.

Barba sits down, looking at his hands and then promptly looked away. He focused on the small up and down of Carisi’s stomach. He watches the slow movement for God knows how long.

“You just couldn’t stay still, could you? You just always had to prove something, always had to sacrifice yourself,” Barba says out loud, it’s selfish of him but he grabs Carisi’s hand. “You couldn’t just leave me alone?”

“Of course not.” Barba pulls his hand away, he gives out a bitter laugh, “you jumped in front of me and got shot!” Barba tells, his voice rising slightly as he spoke, “You were dying! An-And there was a lot of blood, and it was just everywhere, and I tried to stop the bleeding but I don’t think I did? And no one was around and I was calling for Liv and you weren’t answering me,” Barba ran his hand through his hair, musing the already unkempt hair.

Carisi laid motionless, the only signs of the living was the slow up and down of his chest, but it wasn’t enough. It only sent Barba further down the rabbit hole, “And they finally come and I get here and the receptionist lady may think I killed someone because of the amount of blood that’s on my shirt and pants, and me. And-” Barba is blinking, a bit rapidly, each time a new flash image of Carisi on the floor. He looks at the man, “You weren’t supposed to do that.”

Barba feels furious and so helpless at the same time, there’s nothing he can do to wake Carisi up, there’s nothing he can do to make the man open his eyes, so he can see those blues, so he can see and hear that laugh.

“Why do you do this to me?” Barba whispers, after that drunken night at his office, he’s been cautious of the Detective, he doesn’t remember much of that night but he remembers the pain that followed him into bed. But Barba was wrong, his heart never stopped falling. Once he saw the man early Monday morning, he felt the blood constrict and his chest tightened, he felt the air leave and his mouth dry. “You make me feel.”

“Hold the casket,” a hoarse voice called out and Barba’s head immediately snapped up towards the waking man, “I’m not dead yet.”

Barba blinked.

Barba froze, he looked over towards Carisi’s bed to see the man staring at him, he had such a doting look in his eyes, Barba couldn’t help but smile.

“You will be once I’m through with you,” he said, quickly on his feet, Barba looked down at Carisi who only smiled back at him, “don’t you ever do that again, you idiot,” was the next comment out of his mouth.

But even in Carisi’s state of pain, the man took amusement in Barba’s comment and laughed, “Sorry, Barba, can’t get rid of me that easily.”

But Barba felt something wet on his cheek and it couldn’t be Carisi’s blood because all of it had dried up and the man certainly wasn’t bleeding now.

“Holy shit, Rafael,” Carisi said softly, “you’re crying,” Carisi’s smile faded and his hand found Barba’s.

“Don’t do that again.” Barba only repeated, he can feel his heart just pounding right now.

Carisi must have noticed the dry blood on Barba’s hands because he looks down at them and then up and down Barba, “You didn’t go home?”

“I couldn’t, I was in the middle of a good man dying on me,” Barba felt a load of his anxiety brush away, just knowing that Carisi was awake, that he was going to make it.

“Sorry, I saw a gun and protected the one person I cared about.”

“Wha…?”

“We’re idiots,” Carisi corrects him and laughs, the noise fills the room with a beautiful sound, but Barba is confused and he’s still staring at Carisi as if he hung the moon. “I’m sorry it took me bleeding in your arms to realize that I can’t and won’t even entertain the thought of you remotely hurt or…: Carisi trails but Barba doesn’t bite, “I was in and out of consciousness when the bullet hit me and I was up for your little rant,” Barba wants to bark a comment at Carisi but Carisi shushes him. “I know, I’m sorry, the first one was totally accidental cuz I was bleeding and all but… but I would do it again, without a hesitating thought. I didn’t even grab my gun first, I grabbed you.”

Barba stares, his mouth twitches and he tries to wrap his head around the confession, “Carisi, just tell me what you’re saying I can’t- I won’t speculate. I’ve been in this limbo ever since you landed yourself here and all I can think about is your blood all over the courtroom floor and my hands covered in it and all I can miss is your laugh and your smile.” Barba turns his head away, almost ashamed, he let out a dry laugh, “And all I kept saying is how you promised me a drink tonight. But you had to go and do that and for the last eight hours I couldn’t manage a relaxing thought if I tried.”

Barba’s head picks up, he looks at Carisi who stares in return but his glance is soft and hopeful, it gives Barba the courage, “Because I care, and I care a lot, more than I should and it’s been like this for a while and all I could feel is my own heart jumping every time I see you and the worst part is when it finally stopped.” Barba blinks and he can feel the tear now run down his cheek. He sniffs through his nose and runs a clean part of his sleeve over his face, “And oh, how hard it is to train the heart to sit, but it feels so empty when it does.”

Neither of them says anything for some time, Barba even briefly wonders if Carisi had fallen asleep.

“Then let it jump,” Carisi finally said, “Rafael, these feelings, what we have didn’t form overnight, it’s been there. Yeah, maybe it shouldn’t have taken a shooting to finally talk about it but I’m tired of repressing it. I’m tired of looking at you and not saying how much I want you, I’m tired of ignoring the feeling I get when I make you smile or even laugh, I’m tired of the fact we keep beating around the bush, even when drunk! Rafael, I don’t jump in front of a bullet for anyone,” Carisi gives Barba a smile, Carisi’s hand tightens around his. “And we’ve been through so much, and we’ve suffered too much, and if we both want whatever this could be, we deserve that much.”

Barba finally notices the tears that escape Carisi’s eyes and it just makes the whole scenario that more suffocating, heavy, and emotional. The vibrant beat of their hearts, the swell of emotion in their chests, the pounding of their heads.

And Barba’s heart doesn’t sit, it doesn’t land, it doesn’t stop.

“Let it jump.”

Barba nods, he stands up and presses his forehead against Carisi’s, their noses touch and they both let out a breath only to suck another one back up.

“We deserve that much,” Barba reiterates.

Carisi’s other hand comes to tangle into Barba’s hair while Barba’s left-hand plants itself on Carisi’s beating, jumping heart.

Both of their eyes are open and neither of them looks down as they lean close and seal their lips, only relieved sounds when they closed their eyes and let out the breath they were holding.

And neither of them can stop smiling.

“I was screwed.”