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Rafael hates himself for it.

Sonny Carisi was supposed to be a sexual treat. It was supposed to be nice, sweet and most of all mind blowing. And absolutely, Sonny Carisi had not disappointed him in any of those matters.

And yes, Rafael had picked up on the fact that this casual thing had become a little less casual when Carisi had started spending nights. And then these nights had started to become most nights of the week. Still, Rafael had insisted on the casual nature of their thing – he was not going to call it a relationship – no expectations, no exclusivity, no complications.

And yes, Rafael had carefully ignored Carisi’s few declarations of affection. Lucky for Rafael, they had been shy in nature. They had ranged from “You look good” to “I like spending time with you”. Nothing Rafael couldn’t handle, nothing he couldn’t easily put mentally aside.

As for the physical displays of affection, those Rafael had simply accepted. Frequently, he had entangled his fingers with Carisi’s during sex. Sometimes, he had allowed Carisi to smooch him for no apparent reason. And more than a few times, he had cuddled with Carisi on the couch watching Friends on Netflix.

Indeed, Rafael should feel more ashamed for the things that man had made him do.

But the situation itself had seemed nearly innocent to Rafael. Two people and a blanket on a couch, relaxing after a hard day of work with some light on-demand television. The fault that Rafael had expected to see, he hadn’t been able to find it.

So he had excused his behavior with simple explanations: It had been cold outside, so of course the coziness was welcomed. And besides, people do enjoy a warm body. Pleasant companionship, that was all, that was what Rafael had told himself.

But no, Rafael had not corrected the nature of their relationship when Carisi had revealed to him: “I’m going undercover.” And: “It will take a couple of months.” While the first declaration hadn’t bothered him much more than a tiny raise of his heartbeat, the second one had stung a little in his chest. But the third one had given Rafael trouble to keep up his cool appearance: “I know I cannot really expect something, but you should know that I will miss you.”

“What do you expect?”, Rafael had wanted to know.

“I mean, if you don’t want to wait. For me. If you find someone else.”

Rafael still tries to recall the gentle lines in Carisi’s face when he had said those words. In his memory, Carisi wasn’t stuttering or struggling. He had composed confidence with his posture, his expression and the way he had held his hands. Rafael had imagined that Carisi must have practised in front of the mirror what he was going to say. In this moment, Rafael had thought Carisi couldn’t fool him, but now, well, now Rafael is not so sure whether he hadn’t fooled himself.

“We are not exclusive”, Rafael had answered, meant only as the start of an utterance of the endless repetition of all those phrases – fun, sex, a good time etc. - that Rafael had so carefully laid out between them from the beginning, but Carisi had thrown his two hands defensively up in the air so that Rafael hadn’t had a chance to go on.


“I know, I know”, Carisi had said submissively and Rafael doesn’t remember any disappointment in his face.

Rafael only remembers the face of a man who was confronted with exactly what he had anticipated.

“There is nothing to expect”, Rafael had added quickly, hoping that one simple sentence would say it all.

“But I like to think that you like me more than you admit”, Carisi had replied without missing a beat.

He had spoken calmly, openly and keeping eye contact with Rafael. Confident even, apparently fearless of being vulnerable. As soft as those words were, they had hit Rafael like a punch to the chest. From there, a hot burning feeling had developed and spread through his whole body. At the time, Rafael had mistaken the heat for anger.

Up until this very moment, Rafael had never put any thought to his feelings for Carisi. Or to put it better, he had been able to dispute them.

Besides all his annoying habits, anyone would have to admit that Carisi is a remarkable detective, most of all a good friend and even an acceptable lawyer. Moreover, Carisi is extremely sharp-minded, intelligent and smart. Character traits that suit him well, especially as the dirty accent and his lanky posture could have hinted otherwise. What Rafael had always, even from the very first day he had met him, appreciated most about him was Carisi’s enthusiasm. Carisi jumps into everything he does with passion and utter determination. His nature is engaging, challenging, stimulating. Rafael has always found that to be very refreshing. Quarreling with Carisi makes Rafael’s heart swell, these are the joys of being alive.

At some point during their four years of working together, Rafael had somehow started to admire that Carisi had headed from that narrow-spaced island into the world, admittedly only to Manhattan, with an open mind. And foolishly maybe, with an open heart. It’s that heart that Rafael had enviously started to find admirable. Somewhere along these realizations, Rafael had come to respect him.

So all in all, Sonny Carisi is in all senses of the word a good person. And Rafael knows that those are hard to find.

And Carisi cares, about everyone. In some very weak moments, Rafael would even confess to himself that Carisi in his over-caring manner can be quite sweet. Admittedly, it feels good to be awarded his compassion. It’s annoying, but still flattering.

So by pure logic, of course he likes Sonny Carisi.

But the physical attraction, the desire for him had been the driving force behind their relationship. Carisi is an attractive man after all. And he had carried the willingness to get Rafael’s approval in the courtroom into the bedroom. And Rafael had found that very flattering.

So again by pure logic, yes, Rafael does like him.

And when Carisi had said it out loud so brazenly, it had left Rafael feeling paralyzed.

Nevertheless, Rafael had somehow managed a lame answer: “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Carisi.” If there had been any bite in Rafael’s words, he doesn’t remember it.


“Because I like you”, Carisi had only continued in a low voice. “And when I come back, I hope that we can continue this. For real.”


Rafael had shaken his head and said what he had felt compelled to say: “It’s too much to ask from me.”

Rafael had not pretended to be ice cold, as if Carisi means nothing to him. Both men would have unraveled that lie in a heartbeat. Nonetheless, Rafael had said something in the line of not wanting a relationship, that he cannot be a good partner and that it all wouldn’t make sense.

Vividly, Rafael remembers the hurt in the soft lines of this perfect face.

And even though Rafael can’t recall how, somehow he had let Carisi believe that there was an option. That he would maybe wait.

Without goodbye sex, Carisi had been gone. The kiss on Rafael’s cheek had been chaste and Rafael couldn’t be sure if he hadn’t heard himself silently murmuring: “Be safe.”

Exactly seven days later, all Rafael had wanted to do was to call Carisi and take it all back. “Forget everything I said”, he had wanted to say. “Come home.”

What had happened within those seven days, Rafael doesn’t know. He doesn’t know whether he had come to understand the ache in his chest slowly or suddenly. His only guess is that this week was the time that it had needed for him to stop being stubborn.

But of course, Rafael has no way of contacting Carisi undercover. And chances are that he wouldn’t have the guts to do so anyway.

Rafael had basically started to miss Carisi terribly from that point on.

He doesn’t even know where Carisi is. He knows nothing about the nature of his undercover mission. If he is safe. When he is going to come back. Rafael knows nothing.

The panic of the initial two or three months of Carisi’s absence had slowly shifted into exhaustion.

Tiredly, Rafael pinches his nose. He sits down in his living room, on the couch where they had cuddled together a few times. The blanket had stopped smelling like Carisi a long time ago. The season had also changed. Summer is slowly announcing itself. So the blanket has become nothing more than a visual reminder of Carisi’s past presence in his life.

About two months after Carisi had gone undercover, Rafael had caved. He had arranged to meet up with Liv with the plan to find out something about Carisi’s undercover mission, anything.

Liv doesn’t know about their relationship and Rafael had had no intentions of telling her. Even though Rafael had left SVU, Carisi is not out, she is his boss, so ergo it wouldn’t be fair of him to say something.

“How is Carisi doing?” Rafael had asked at some point when the conversation – finally - had gone flat.

“He’s undercover”, she had only answered. After that, Liv had spent no other words than “we miss him” on the matter.

Rafael had wanted to scream at her.

But he hadn’t said anything.

He had gone home that day with the sole resolution not to jerk off in the shower like a desperate idiot.

That following weekend, Rafael had gone to a bar. Rafael hadn’t done that in a while, in years to be honest, but he had figured the establishment would serve its purpose. With horny idiots stuffed in a sexually charged environment, it wouldn’t be hard to pick someone up.

Rafael remembers buying drinks for three men that evening, two of them had flirted with him and in the end Rafael had rejected them like he had rejected the three other men who had made advances towards him. On that evening, he had jerked off in the shower like an idiot.

And Rafael had loathed himself for it. It had hurt. It still hurts to miss him. He just doesn’t feel right

And he is not stupid. Rafael tells himself over and over again that Carisi will eventually come back. Rafael knows that. He won’t be undercover forever. But that doesn’t change anything about Rafael feeling like Carisi is gone for good.

And Rafael had focused on the previous thought for a while. That Carisi will be back. All he needs to do is to be patient.

And can’t he do that? Isn’t he a workaholic anyway? It should be easy to distract himself.

So far, Rafael has tried his best to keep himself busy. He goes out with Rita for drinks. At one point, he had taken his mother on a weekend trip for which she had been extraordinarily happy. He had also spent a lot of time texting with Eddie.

But time went on and Carisi still hadn’t called.

It eats Rafael up alive.

He so desperately wants to call him just to hear his voice. If Rafael would only know where Carisi is, he would show up there just to get a glimpse of him. He just wants to know if he is safe.

Rafael had visited the bar a couple of times more, the last time he had left after not even half an hour. Alone. Like before.

Also, he had allowed his next door neighbor as well as Carmen to set him up on dates. Carmen had made the better choice, but it had turned out that his next door neighbor, the fifty year old black woman with her loud voice and sinfully longs legs, knows him surprisingly well. Both dates had been pleasant. He doesn’t remember a thing about them, but he had at least enjoyed two nice dinners with two nice conversations. He had not asked for any of the two women’s numbers. And both women had been clever enough to take the clue.

Maybe picking up a woman would make it easier, he had thought to himself, when he had tried another bar a couple of weeks ago. It had turned out to be the same twisted issue. Searching for a blond, blue eyed, tall, preferably younger man in a gay bar or the female counterpart in a straight bar, Rafael couldn’t find any difference at all. He hadn’t felt a single thing.

Rafael turns on his TV and clicks on the Netflix icon. His despair had managed to make the impossible possible: He had caught up with all his paperwork, so he has literally brought no work back home with him.

Netflix still recommends him to keep watching Friends.

Carisi had talked him into that. Not into the Netflix account, he had borrowed the account from Rita who also has no time to watch. But into watching Friends. “You’re a New Yorker”, Carisi had exclaimed as if this explained everything.

Watching the show had made Rafael understand this statement even less. Rafael doesn’t watch sitcoms. Especially not sitcoms where people who seem to barely work can afford huge apartments in Manhattan. So it’s beyond Rafael how he had started to enjoy the show. Sure, Rafael had treasured leaning against Carisi’s warm body next to him, but he had also come around to really wanting to know what would happen in the next episode.

Exactly what these stupid sitcom makers want, Rafael had thought with contempt.

Gosh, this man had made him enjoy television!

He and Carisi, they had only been seeing each other for three months before Carisi went undercover, but they had made it through four seasons anyway. Pitiable that Rafael had kept track.

He had not had the heart to watch another episode since.

Maybe it would be a good idea to watch comedy, maybe it would cheer him up. But maybe Rafael only likes the show because he had liked to hear Carisi’s laughter. And that’s a truth Rafael doesn’t really want to find out.

After Carisi had been gone for four months, Rafael had met up with Liv again. This time with the intention to say something.

He just wanted Liv to give him something, anything.

More than wanting to know where he is, he had wanted to know when he would finally be back.

But if Rafael would have only one question, he would have asked if he was safe.

To his luck, Liv had made him the favor of bringing Carisi up without asking: “It’s hard with Carisi undercover for so long.” To Rafael’s misery the sentence that followed had been: “And he won’t come back soon.” Rafael’s heart had dropped and he hadn’t been able to find his voice again. So Rafael hadn’t asked. Mostly because he knew that Liv couldn’t have given away anything about Carisi’s undercover mission anyway.

On that evening, Rafael had gone through his contact list with the intention to find anyone he could hook up with. It was so pathetic. But he didn’t want to feel that way anymore. He couldn’t miss him that much, he couldn’t continue to feel this bad. This desperation… it wasn’t healthy.

It was just logic, he had needed to do something.

He had scrolled through his contacts and all he had realized was that no candidate had anything in common with Carisi.

So Carisi is not my type, Rafael had thought when he had tossed the phone away.

Rafael hadn’t really done what could be called “dating” since his late twenties. But back in the days when he had, he had usually dated beautiful, strong Latina women just like his mother wants him to. In college, when he had also started seeing men, he had usually gone for successful, handsome Latinos. Because back in those days crossing the line to queer had already been a hell of a thing to do, crossing the race line, too, that would have made things really complicated.

Stupid thoughts of a susceptible young man.

But now, who cares if Carisi is white?

Tall, dirty blond hair, the bluest eyes. Dimples, beautiful smile, plush lips. Long limbs, firm muscles and a gorgeous dick. Carisi really is a handsome man. And sometimes Rafael really wonders whether there is anything about Carisi that he doesn’t like.

Some years after Yelina, Rafael had given up dating completely. Not even intentionally. There had been hook-ups and also dates and weekends in skiing resorts, but always with the notion that it wouldn’t last. It hadn’t been like he had picked the wrong people on purpose or that he hadn’t wanted it to be something real, but whoever he had met Rafael had known from the beginning that it would end sooner rather than later.

So at some point, it had started to always be only that. A short fling, a hook up. No responsibilities involved, no sharing, no complications. He had even stopped being sorry.

He had shared nothing he couldn’t have had with anyone else.

But then long limbs and dimples had crossed his way.

Many times, Rafael had pressed his forehead into his palms thinking plainly and simply: And now he’s gone.

By now, five months had passed. Five months is a long time.

What if Carisi had found someone while undercover? Maybe that’s a stupid thought, but it’s not so ridiculous to think that Carisi had moved on somehow. Either physically or emotionally.

The thought hurts Rafael. The mere possibility makes his veins burn up with jealousy. And Rafael curses himself for being so stupid.

It’s not even like Rafael doesn’t want a relationship. Rafael doesn’t necessarily prefer casual. He finds no thrill in being with different people. It just had always been easier and most of all, it had saved him from failure. Failure that seems inevitable with his devotion to his work. And even more so, Rafael is convinced that he would eventually disappoint as a partner, a husband, a father.

Therefore casual had been the logical choice always.

Despite all fears, Rafael can see the beauty in finding someone. Someone that he can call the one. The beauty of entwining his life with this someone. For example, Rafael had never slept in with Carisi on a Saturday morning. He would love that, Rafael is sure. He would love to start a day with no other plan than being together. Carisi would bring him coffee, prepare breakfast and kiss him senseless.

Sometimes Rafael thinks there is not much more to want from life.

Rafael also likes the idea of claiming someone as his. He is mine. This tiny possessive pronoun carries so many implications. It means that he’d have someone who takes care of him. Someone who accepts his many, many complicated quirks and whose sole responsibility is to make him smile.

The cruel truth is that Rafael knows that he had found all of this in Carisi.

And Rafael hates himself for only realizing this because Carisi’s gone. Only something as drastic as a life-threatening, ridiculously long undercover mission makes Rafael see what he has, or had.

He doesn’t really know about life-threatening, but Rafael dreads that Carisi’s mission is that.

Carisi, a man who is too kind to not see the good in Rafael. He truly is too good for me, Rafael thinks bitterly.

Many times during the last months, Rafael had felt hot tears in his eyes.

What if he really isn’t going to come back?

Undercover is no easy business, wherever Carisi is now, he surely is in a dangerous situation. So god forbid but if something would happen to him, Carisi wouldn’t even know.

Cause Rafael had never said anything.

Now five months in, Rafael is far past the point of checking his phone all the time in hope for a message from Carisi. Sonny. His Sonny. He should start to call him Sonny, even in his mind.

Rafael had given up trying to hit on other people and accepted that he wants no one else than this man.

And most of all, Rafael had given up hoping that Carisi would come back soon.

Rafael stares at the Netflix logo until it becomes only a blurry mess of red. He sighs and turns off the television.

It’s only nine o’clock, he had just come back home from work.

Sitting on his couch, he lets his eyes trail through his flat.

He feels alone.

Something is clearly missing. Not even his own home feels right. Rafael loathes himself for feeling that way, but he can’t change it. It’s his flat, but he doesn’t like it anymore. Only two things had ever brought life into his home: One is his French press and the other one had been Sonny.

Carisi had cooked in Rafael’s kitchen only two or three times, but nevertheless Rafael misses the smell of tomato sauce, basil and olive oil.

In the last episode that they had watched together, Monica and Chandler had tried to have sex in a plane. Rafael doesn’t remember if they had achieved their goal because he had been too busy with fondling Carisi. But as television storylines dictate, they’d eventually end up happily married with children.

Rafael shakes his head and heads for the kitchen. He grabs the cheapest bottle of Scotch that he owns and a water glass. He fills the glass with an amount that can easily be called a triple Scotch. Rafael empties the glass in long gulps without even lowering it. The Scotch would kick in right after he had a decent shower, would make him sleep easier.

Rafael peels himself out of his clothes before stepping into the shower. The warm water surely helps his tired muscles. He lets it pour over his face, imagining the water would wash some of his worried wrinkles away.

He needs to stop this. He needs to get out of this hole. Rita keeps telling him to get back on track. She is right of course, but Rafael just can’t. These people in the bar had given him nothing, there was just nothing there. The flirting had meant nothing. Or better, it had meant so much. Because these people had made Rafael understand, they had made him accept his feelings.

So if he can’t get laid the other option is, and that’s Eddie’s advice, to talk to Carisi. To Eddie’s defense, Rafael hadn’t told him the whole story. That’s why Eddie doesn’t know that he actually cannot talk to Carisi. Which brings Rafael to the base of his problem.

That Carisi is fucking undercover.

A particular thought had crossed Rafael’s mind again during the day. He could call Liv again and just make her tell him. "It's about Carisi", he would say. "He's mine. Where is he? Do you even make sure that he's safe?" Liv would shake her head, tell him nothing for the sake of the investigation and probably pity him.

Rafael turns off the shower. He doesn’t know whether he had used soap. But he knows he doesn’t even want to try to masturbate.

He rubs his hair thoroughly with a towel because he doesn’t like to go to bed with wet hair. He puts on new underwear, some pajama bottoms and a long sleeve shirt. All gray and burgundy, no patterns, save the boxer briefs which are yellow and have dinosaurs on skateboards on them. Another attempt of his neighbor Leslie to cheer him up.

Rafael hadn’t even known the first name of that crazy lady who lives next door to him before Carisi had started to borrow all the ingredients that were missing in Rafael’s kitchen from her. Carisi had chatted with Leslie for at least half an hour each time, he had seen her.

Rafael goes back into his living room to sit on his couch and decides to wait there until his hair dries. He decides against another Scotch though. He has to keep his melancholy at bay somehow.

For lack of options, Rafael turns on his television and settles on the news. If anything in this world has the chance to be even worse than his own pathetic little misery, then it’s the news.

Carisi had always been patient with him. Even tolerant maybe. Rafael knows that Carisi had never been okay with their casual arrangement. Especially not with the part where Rafael had insisted that they could see other people. That they have no responsibilities to each other. “I don’t have to explain myself to you”, he had said to Carisi. Rafael had seen the hurt in his eyes. Not that he had really needed proof. Before even saying them out loud, Rafael had known that the words would hurt Carisi.

Nevertheless, those ocean blue eyes had responded to him with nothing short of understanding. Carisi had only nodded and thereby dropped the topic. Probably, so Rafael assumes, Carisi had simply hoped that Rafael wouldn’t sleep with someone else.

Rafael really is a coward.

He had let this man go like this. Carisi is now somewhere in some godforsaken place undercover with the memories of Rafael hurting him. And instead of sweet words, all Rafael had let Carisi go away with had been the promise of more of that.

Rafael sighs. He’s been gone for five months now, longer than their thing had even been going on. And with every day, Carisi doesn’t come back Rafael sees the chances of him actually showing up getting slimmer.

And Carisi had been easy. He had taken care, as always. He had made sure that Rafael’s stomach was always full, he had pleasured him and made him drunk. Ever present on Carisi’s face had been his boyish grin. And Rafael had let himself rest somewhere along the lines of this smile. He had given himself to the moments that Carisi had created. And for a little while, everything had been easy. Life had been nothing more than a blanket and a sitcom.

For some rare moments, Rafael had simply not stood in the way of his own happiness.

Rafael hears a knock on his door.

Immediately, he rolls his eyes in anticipation. If that’s Leslie and her corn fritters again, he’s going to freak out. The voice of that woman is too loud, but as Rafael doesn’t hear that particular voice call out his name, he figures it’s not her.

If the late night guest is knocking on his entrance door, it must be someone he is close with, otherwise the doorman wouldn’t have let him or her pass. Unfortunately, there are not many candidates. His mother doesn’t visit him late or unannounced. He had been out for beers with Eddie only last week, so this must be Rita trying to get him out again. Rafael is not in the mood for this at all.

Heavy limbed, he pushes himself off the couch. Thinking about what he could say to dismiss her, he walks to the door. He will probably have to invite her back in and get as much alcohol into her as possible, as fast as he can or otherwise she wouldn’t let it go. Mentally, he prepares himself for the task.

Rafael opens the door and looks into the bluest eyes of the world.

He doesn’t take his time to take a closer look at him, but steps out of his flat and throws himself around Carisi’s neck.

As strongly as he can, he pulls Carisi close. His fingertips turn white where they desperately hold onto Carisi’s shoulders. But Rafael only wraps his arms around Carisi even firmer.

Rafael fears he might squash him, but Carisi is breathing steadily. With closed eyes, Rafael listens to this soothing sound.

He feels a cheek resting on top of his own head. Carisi’s large palms are placed gently on his back, one across his shoulder blade and one on the small of his back. The quiet gesture stands in stark contrast to the desperation with which Rafael is clinging onto him.

Carisi is so warm. Heat is oozing from his body. Rafael feels warmth spreading from Carisi’s hands on his back and he feels warmth on his torso where he is leaning into Carisi’s body. And he starts to feel a long forgotten, but familiar feeling of safety again.

Rafael buries his nose in the only piece of bare skin he can find, into Carisi’s neck. He breathes in as deeply as he can to take in the smell of Carisi’s scent.

Yeah, that’s him.

Underneath the odor of sharp cologne, which Rafael directly notices is a new fragrance, he can smell Carisi. Rich, salty, edgy. He really is back, Rafael thinks and realizes that he had seriously stopped believing that this would happen.

Before Rafael has the chance to become too excited, he grasps that he is forgetting something. He widens his eyes and abruptly pushes Carisi away from him.

Rafael’s hands still rest on Carisi’s biceps when his eyes trail over the man, taking in every little piece that he can visually catch. In his rush, Rafael cannot absorb many details. He notices that Carisi is freshly shaved, the hair is a little shorter than he remembers, but Rafael cannot detect any visible wounds.

There are no scars, no scratches nor bruises. And as far as Rafael can tell from his poor angle, Carisi has no serious injuries on his body.

“Are you okay?”, Rafael asks. And Carisi must have picked up the concerned note in Rafael’s voice because the first word he speaks to him is a huskily whispered: “Yeah.”

When Rafael’s gaze still lingers on him, Carisi nods encouragingly and starts to smile rather sheepishly. This is when Rafael comes to himself and steps back.

They had missed the moment to properly kiss.

“Come in”, Rafael says hoarsely.

Suddenly feeling weirdly nervous, he turns around knowing that everything would be better than to just sit down on the couch. He could offer Carisi a drink or actually stick his tongue down his throat. Instead, Rafael sits down on his couch waiting for Carisi to join him.

And Carisi does. He sits close to Rafael, but they don’t touch. In fact, there is space between them.

This time, Rafael returns the sheepish smile.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Carisi’s smile is simply beautiful. It’s only now that Rafael starts to study Carisi’s face. He seems calm, his face is smooth. His eyes shine ridiculously blue like they always do when Carisi gets too caught up on his emotions. His pink lips stick out against the pale skin. The smile that plays around them is small, but warm.

Rafael wants to tell him how beautiful he is, but for reasons he might never understand he doesn’t dare. Rafael knows that Carisi smiles to make him feel comfortable, he in turn cannot help but only feel anxious.

“That was long”, Carisi offers cautiously.

“Yeah”, Rafael whispers in response.

Rafael takes in a breath to say something, but ultimately shuts his mouth because he doesn’t know what to say.

Well, that’s a first.

Apparently, Carisi doesn’t look like he doesn’t know what to say and maybe, unlike Rafael, he is even having so many words in his mind that he doesn’t know where to start.

When Carisi does start to talk, his accent is absurdly strong. “I wish I could have called you or somethin’, but I couldn’t, wouldn’t wanna risk the case.” Rafael nods, pretending that it was fine.

“I missed you”, Carisi adds so quickly that Rafael had nearly missed it.

He nods again, feeling a knot tightening in his chest. Perhaps, it should be the easiest thing in the world for him to return these words, but to Rafael they do not come easy at all. In a way, Rafael feels it would even be stupid to return them, because they could never express the heartache that Rafael had suffered over the last five months.

“I just didn’t expect it to be that long”, Rafael says somewhat dumbly.

Carisi huffs. “Me neither.”

“Where have you been?”, Rafael asks. His voice doesn’t seem to be strong enough to manage anything more than a whisper.

“Downtown mostly”, Carisi answers. “There was a prostitution ring close to Whitehall terminal.” Carisi runs a hand over his face and suddenly his face is not so smooth anymore. The brightness in his eyes had turned somewhat weary. He looks very tired. “It was a helluva job.”

He was that close all the time, Rafael thinks. At the ferry station from Manhattan to Staten Island.

“Did you get hurt?”

Carisi’s smile turns tense which is why Rafael knows that he is about to not tell the whole truth. “I got into a couple of fights”, Carisi replies and Rafael swallows hard. “But it messes with your head”, Carisi points a long index finger to his temple. “But you know that.” Rafael nods, of course he knows.

He also knows that there is actually nothing to do about that part, other than letting time do its wonders.

“Are you… injured?”, Rafael asks prudently, eyeing him to find any evidence. Carisi seems somewhat confused by the question, maybe because Rafael asks for physical wounds where there are obviously emotional ones, but nevertheless Carisi is very quick to affirm: “Nothing serious.” He waves his hand. “But to be honest, I don’t really wanna talk about it. It already took five months of my life.”

Rafael nods while he inspects the wrinkles of exhaustion around Carisi’s eyes. The tiredness doesn’t suit him. Rafael knows Carisi as a person who is usually full of energy, seeing his vigor sucked out of him doesn’t look good on him.

Rafael couldn’t be sure but maybe also the silver streaks on his temples had become a little grayer.

He wants to touch him, let his fingers trail through his dirty blond hair. Carisi looks like he had got a haircut and is freshly shaved. His red lips, as always, invite themselves to be kissed.

“Did it at least work out?”, Rafael wants to know.

“Yeah”, Carisi answers quickly and some of the sparkle reappears in his blue eyes. “Yeah, we got them.”

“Good”, Rafael smiles at him and he also feels proud.

With that silence fills the room, Rafael doesn’t really want to know more about the undercover mission. It’s over anyway. So he just stares. He allows himself to get lost in blue eyes and fine lines of warm dimples.

Unfortunately, Carisi doesn’t allow the silence to linger. He clears his throat and moves closer to Rafael. Carefully, Carisi watches Rafael, probably waiting for a reaction. Rafael doesn’t move. Secretly, he wishes to feel Carisi’s hands on his back again.

“So how have you been doing?”

Rafael needs to blink. The question seems as out of place as the nonchalance in Carisi’s voice. When the hero comes home, who cares for the bitter, old man?

And Rafael smiles mildly. One way or the other, he couldn’t tell him about what he felt during the last months. Mostly because it had all been his own fault.

“Nothing special”, Rafael whispers. “Just work.” He shrugs his shoulders. “But you know about that. I guess, you have a lot of work now, too, with helping to prosecute?”

“Actually, I have a few days off”, Carisi grins boyishly, showing his teeth. “After five months undercover, that’s what you deserve.”

And Rafael needs to laugh, too. “You certainly do.”

“I came back Monday morning, so I actually had time to report to everyone who needed to listen”, Carisi continues and Rafael suddenly feels a flash of heat on his thigh. Without looking at it, he knows that Carisi had put a hand there.

Today is Wednesday. “That was two days ago”, Rafael says helplessly. He feels Carisi’s hand shift on his thigh, now slightly touching his own.

“I visited my parents and my sisters”, Carisi explains. “They were so happy to see me.”

With only the tip of his finger Rafael strokes over the side of Carisi’s hand.

“So…” Carisi had lowered his voice and made sure to lock Rafael’s green eyes with his.

“Did you wait for me?”

Rafael feels the tips of his ears burning up. There is his defeat and Rafael deserves it. Sonny is drawing the confession out of him. But Rafael doesn’t fight the inevitable.

Swallowing back a tear, he knows he will only be able to whisper his answer. This is why he nods his head, slowly but affirmative.

“Yeah.”

And Carisi beams. His smile is quiet but happy. And Rafael thinks that he had never looked more beautiful.

Slowly, Rafael feels his whole face burning up. He’s ashamed. Ashamed that it needs the admission. That he is not able to simply say it out loud right away. Rafael knows that this is what Carisi would do. Carisi would just say what he feels. He would if it wasn’t for Rafael. Carisi knows that he would scare Rafael. And Rafael feels sad to make Carisi feel that way.

“I did.”

Rafael also feels embarrassed, because he had been so weak. He wonders if he should tell Carisi that he had tried to not wait.

Admittedly, nothing that had happened in those bars or on those dates is worth for Carisi to even feel remotely angry about. But yet, Rafael had attempted to get over him. The guilt lies in his intention. But Rafael decides not to tell. He doesn’t want to depress their moment. Shall the guilt lie with Rafael, Carisi doesn’t need to be bothered.

“Can I kiss you?”

It’s the first time since Carisi is back that Rafael wants to snap at him. He is about to go out of his mind crazy if Carisi doesn’t kiss him soon.

“Please do.”

Carisi smirks. Rafael feels their hands on his thigh entangle. A large hand gently covers his cheek. Carisi is still patient. His thumb circles over Rafael’s cheek bone while his eyes trail over his face. Carisi’s smile softens, before he finally moves his face closer. When Rafael senses Carisi’s breath on his lips, he closes his eyes.

His lips feel warm on his. They are soft just as Rafael remembers them. Flush and ready to kiss every sense out of him. Rafael had realized very soon in their thing that he’s doing good in letting Carisi kiss him. Because Carisi is a good kisser, eager with his tongue and never tired of drinking everything he can get out of Rafael’s kisses. So naturally, Rafael now melts into the heat of Carisi’s hand on his cheek and enjoys how Carisi’s soft lips press firmly onto his.

Too soon, the touch ends. Heavy lidded, Rafael opens his eyes only to see Carisi’s inches in front of his. The loveliest smile reaches into his deep blue eyes when Carisi cautiously bumps the tip of their noses together.

Almost shyly, they part. Carisi’s hand falls from Rafael’s cheek down onto his shoulder.

Sonny is back, Rafael thinks, finally.

“Have you been with someone while you were gone?”

Rafael loathes himself for needing to ask this. For the urge of wanting know whether Sonny had been his all this time. Whether Sonny had been tempted. Surely, no matter the answer Rafael wouldn’t let this man go. But even now with Sonny sitting in front of him the fear is still there.

No.”

Rafael hadn’t really thought so and nevertheless feels an incredible weight lift from his heart. The relief must show on his face because Sonny chuckles.

“So I guess, we do this for real now?”, Sonny asks, not without a satisfied smile.

“Yeah”, Rafael replies without missing a beat.

Sonny closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. “You’re an idiot.”

“Yeah”, Rafael answers honestly. “I am.”

So Rafael decides not to be one anymore and lifts his hand to finally touch Sonny. He trails his fingertips across the hairline by Sonny’s temples and strokes his knuckles over his smooth cheek.

“Did you get a haircut?”, he asks.

“Yeah, also shaved. I wanted to look good for you.”

The corner of Rafael’s mouth lifts up. Maybe his first genuine smile. Sonny had spent a fair amount of the time they’d known each other ogling Rafael. Something that Rafael appreciates with every pore of his body. But he will never be able to express in words how much he loves that Sonny likes to look good for him.

“I would have liked to see you with a beard”, Rafael says genuinely.

“One day you will, but I really needed to get it off”, Sonny explains and Rafael understands. Sonny probably needs to distance himself from his undercover alter ego.

Rafael decides that this is not the moment to tell Sonny that he loves him.

It’s true that Rafael had needed five painful months apart to even come to this point and maybe now he should just burst the three words out like a prayer. But this moment, their moment, shouldn’t be born out of weakness. Rafael would tell Sonny when he feels strong again, when he is not that needy anymore.

Rafael puts his hand to the back of Sonny’s neck and pulls him close. This time, both men start to breath heavily. Rafael moves closer and throws one of his legs over Sonny’s thigh. Sonny’s palms spread across Rafael’s back again. Their tongues touch. Sony tastes like mint and like more.

Rafael breaks the kiss. “Let’s go to bed”, he breathes against Sonny’s mouth.

“Let’s go”, Sonny agrees and they get up.

Even though Sonny’s voice is hoarse from arousal, his eyes give away his exhaustion. “But don’t wake me up tomorrow morning when you go to work, I’m so fucking tired.”

“I will call in sick”, Rafael replies.

“What?” Sonny stops abruptly, just one step shy of the bedroom. “No! You are you. You can’t do that.”

“Watch me”, Rafael says confidently. “After five months, I finally have you back. There’s no way I’m going to work tomorrow.”

“Rafi”, Sonny smiles and makes the word long. “You missed me.”

Rafael who had been walking in front of Sonny steps close to him. He hides his face in Sonny’s neck when he says: “Of course I missed you.”

And Rafael decides this evening that he will allow himself to be happy. His feelings scare him. In Rafael’s eyes, there are many rational reasons why this would eventually end in heartbreak. This should be reason enough for him to not risk his heart. Because he is terrified of being hurt, but more than that he’s terrified by the prospect of being hurt because he’d lose Sonny. But he guesses that he doesn’t have much to fear from the man who after five months undercover is going to spend the night in Rafael’s bed instead of his own. So he will not stand in the way of his own happiness anymore. All he needs to do is to love this man. And somehow it will all be fine.