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Recovery, A Sequel to Darkest Before the Dawn

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Barba’s doctor and nurse rushed back into the ICU. The doctor bent down towards Barba and took his hand from the wheel chair-bound Carisi. “Mr. Barba, can you hear me?"

"You’re right. He is starting to wake up. Maybe he will pull through this after all.” The heart monitor was beeping at a faster and steadier pace.

When the doctor released Barba’s hand, Carisi grasped it firmly again. He was certain that he felt another faint squeeze. He stroked Barba’s luscious but now scruffy, oily, brown hair. He yearned to see the ADA open his emerald green eyes again.  Carisi found it alarming seeing the proud, confident, sometimes arrogant prosecutor, perhaps the strongest and most passionate man he had ever known reduced to just a limp, unconscious body in a hospital bed with only his brutalized face visible from the blankets attached to life sustaining machines. "This is a nightmare. It has to be," Carisi tried to convince himself.

The doctor continued, “I am going to try to remove the intubation tube to see if he can breathe on his own.” A male orderly escorted Benson out and wheeled Carisi from the room leaving the doctor and nurse to do their thing.

Peering through the window, they watched as the doctor removed the mask and long tube from Barba’s throat. Carisi tried to stand to see better, but the orderly kept him down by pressing down on his shoulders. Benson felt a lump grow in her throat as the minutes went by.

Carisi zoned out. Everything was in slow motion, black and white, with no sound. After what seem like an eternity, the doctor looked up and smiled at Benson and Carisi through the window. The nurse invited them back into the ICU room and the orderly rolled Carisi back into the room behind Benson.

“I am cautiously optimistic. He is breathing on his own, but he is not technically conscious yet. He is waking up from his coma. He is progressing into what we call a 'minimally conscious state'. He has generalized responses to stimuli, so he is starting to come out of it” the doctor explained.

“So when Sonny talks and Rafael squeezes his hand…” Benson mused out loud.

“Exactly. This is a sign that he is progressing to a minimally conscious state. He isn’t out of the woods yet. In addition to his visible injuries, he did suffer a few severe concussions. We just don’t know what deficits he may have until he regains full consciousness. I’ve never seen a patient this close to….come back like this.”

The doctor noticed the tears streaming down Carisi’s face and knelt down next to him so that he was eye level. He gently held both of Carisi’s shoulders and said, “Your friend here is one hell of a fighter. Don’t give up on him just yet.” He turned to Benson, “we are going to move him to a private room outside of the ICU and you both are welcomed to stay with him.”

“Thank you, doctor.” Benson said through a rather raspy whisper.

After Barba was settled into his new room, Benson persuaded the staff to move Carisi to the adjoining room so he could be closer to Barba. Who knows what favors she called in for that, but Carisi was ever so grateful.

Carisi’s emotions were like a roller coaster and his anxiety levels off the charts. He kept having panic attacks where he would struggle to breathe and shake uncontrollably.  The nurse switched out Carisi’s IV bag with another medication that caused sedation. Sonny was battling to keep his eyes open, but clearly he was losing. Just before he lost consciousness, he could hear commotion from Barba’s room. Someone said “hematoma” and “OR.” It went black.

- - -

When Carisi opened his eyes he was staring dazed at the ceiling. He felt cold and shivered and then he realized a grip on his hands. Turning his head he saw Rollins holding his hands. “Where’s Rafa?” he immediately inquired in a weak tone with a delirious look while trying to get up.

“Easy, Carisi,” she said as she pushed him back down to his pillow. “He is fine. He had to have surgery because his brain was bleeding. He came out of it just fine. Liv is with him now.” Carisi closed his eyes again. Noticing that he was shivering, Rollins tucked him in with extra blanket.

---

The next morning, after everything checked out, Carisi was officially discharged. He was prescribed an anxiety medication that Rollins retrieved from the pharmacy. He was desperately struggling with the events of the past week. He was worried about about Barba’s condition and his contributing role to it. “It’s not your fault” he kept hearing Liv’s voice in his head. “You both did what you needed to do to survive.” Really? His guilt was overwhelming. He used those phrases so many times with the victims they worked with. Did they really buy that? He sure wasn’t.

Fin arrived and offered to take everyone home for showers, fresh clothes, and to get “real food.” Benson and Rollins accepted, but Carisi refused to leave Barba’s side. Sitting on a chair next to Barba’s bed, Sonny laid his head on the bed and held Rafael’s hands. He considered getting into bed to hold him, but quickly dismissed the thought when he recalled all of Barba’s injuries. He popped a few anxiety pills and drifted asleep next to Barba.

---

Dream Sequence

Memories and images of his relationship with Barba from their first meeting, to him irritating Barba on cases, to shadowing him for his law courses. Then numerous reflections on their personal relationship from being together, laughing, hanging out, to their first kiss, and their first time in the bedroom.

Then his dream drastically shifted to him sitting in a dark room among an audience watching intently as Barba gave a breath-taking performance of “Defying Gravity.” He started out just standing at the stage mic and by the end he was dramatically belting the lyrics with incredible stage presence. This was "their song." Such a fitting song for the couple. Carisi was one of the very few people to know Barba’s secret talent.

at

https://youtu.be/QaSV7xk9fSs

Something has changed within me

Something is not the same

I'm through with playing by the rules

Of someone else's game

Too late for second-guessing

Too late to go back to sleep

It's time to trust my instincts

Close my eyes: and leap!

 

I'm through accepting limits

'Cuz someone says they're so

Some things I cannot changed

But till I try, I'll never know!

Too long I've been afraid of

Losing love I guess I've lost

Well, if that's the love

It comes at much to high a cost!

I'd sooner buy

Defying gravity

Kiss me goodbye

I'm defying gravity

And you can't pull me down

 

Unlimited

Together we're unlimited

Together, we'll be the greatest team

There's ever been

Dreams, the way we planned 'em

If we work in tandem

 

There's no fight we cannot win

Just you and I

Defying gravity

With you and I

Defying gravity

 

They'll never bring us down!

Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!

And if I'm flying solo

At least I'm flying free

To those who'd ground me

Take a message back from me

Tell them how I am

Defying gravity

I'm flying high

Defying gravity

And soon I'll match them in renown

And nobody in all of Oz

No Wizard that there is or was

Is ever gonna bring me down!

Bring me down!

- ---

A hand squeeze woke him from his dream.  He looked up to see Barba’s green eyes slowly opening and closing his eyes. Then his eyes began scanning the room for clues as to where he was. Carisi could see confusion in his dazed glaze. “Raf! I’m here. You are okay. You’re in the hospital.” Barba shut his eyes again. “You are okay, you are okay,” Carisi kept repeating in a quiet soothing tone. He stroked his hair ever so gently, being sure not to put any pressure on his head. Just like that, Barba was out again, but at least he was sleeping…as confirmed by one of the nurses.

Asleep the man seemed so delicate and vulnerable. His hair still was a scuffled mess. Carisi asked the nurses for some personal grooming supplies. He used a comb to straighten his hair, applied a dry shampoo to help with the greasiness and then continued combing. He ever so gently dabbed a warm moist cloth on his face. It had been almost a week since Barba probably has last shaven and Carisi could see the rough stubble around his face. Gently he shaved him the best he could without hurting him.

The squad returned dismayed that they missed Barba’s brief moment of consciousness, but relieved that he at least did wake up, even if it was only for two minutes. Visiting hours ended and the squad went home for the evening. Fin managed to bribe one of the nurses into setting up a cot in Barba’s room and to let Carisi discretely stay the night with him. Carisi was never especially close with Fin, but this gesture meant the world to him.

---

It was nearly dawn again. Nearly 48 hours being freed from their captors. Carisi’s blue eyes opened to meet Barba’s glassy green eyes. He was staring at Carisi, but not speaking. He appeared very confused.

The doctor came to examine the ADA.

"Can you squeeze my hands? Good."

“Can you tell me your first name, sir?”

The first one was easy. “Rafael.” Check.

“Do you know where you are?”

After gazing around for a minute,, he ventured “A…hospital?” responding more as a question than a statement.

“Do you know why you are here?” Carisi’s heart sank.

“Am I sick?” Barba speculated.

“No, Mr. Barba, I am afraid you were assaulted.”

Carisi felt somewhat relieved that Barba did not seem to remember this.

“Do you know who your friend is here?”

“Sonny,” Rafael answered again, very slowly.

The doctor gestured Carisi to the door. Hesitantly leaving Barba’s side, he assured Barba he would only a few minutes. “I’ll be right back Rafa, I promise.”

Outside the room the the squad was gathered. “We are his family,” he heard Benson persuade the doctor for an update. Pausing, hesitant to the cross the professional lines, the doctor gave his update. It is going to take time to recover physically. His long term memory is intact but he doesn’t seem to remember the past week. His memory of the events could come back, maybe not. If he continues to improve we can discharge him in a few days.”

The doctor paused. “I’m not a psychiatrist nor do I know all the details, but I really think he will need one hell of a support system and a therapist. This may just be conjecture, but from what I have heard about your ADA friend, accepting help is not his strong suit, is it?”

The entire squad looked at each other and then all burst out laughing, which Carisi desperately needed. He always diffused tense situations with humor and laughs and this moment gave him the chance for this release.

“You have no idea, doc,” Fin said confirming the doctor’s apprehensions.

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Nearly a week after his hospital admission, Barba was finally being discharged. He still was experiencing headaches, hazy vision, and odd periods of confusion, but he wanted out of there and he may have just misled his doctor a little bit into believing that these symptoms had subsided. Carisi again neatly combed his hair and helped him get into a pair of sweats Benson found in his apartment.  The entire SVU squad all showed up to wish him off, much to Barba’s dismay. He was hoping for a quiet exit. After accepting their well wishes,  the squad with the exception of Carisi, headed back to the precinct as they just caught a case. Carisi slipped Barba’s discharge papers and follow-up appointment cards into a bag as he pushed Barba out the door in a wheelchair.

“I can walk, damn it, Carisi!”

“I know you can, but this is just hospital policy,” he said trying to calm the ADA.

Then, as they neared the awaiting Uber, Carisi exclaimed “Okay, now let’s shed those wheels!”

Barba bit his lip to keep from smiling.

“Smell that fresh air. Doesn’t that sunshine feel great?” Barba scuffed as the detective helped him into the Uber. “There’s my Rafa,” Carisi said acknowledging his familiar scuff.

"Well…I guess he is back," Carisi thought. But, does he remember what happened? If so he wasn’t giving any indication that he did.

---

Being over protective, Carisi held his hand around Barba’s waist helping his weak lover to the elevator and then slowly guided him down the hall to his apartment door. Barba had given him a key months ago and he always cherished every opportunity he had to use it. He actually spent more time at Barba’s apartment than his own.

Once inside he directed Barba to sit on the gray sofa. He propped pillows on the arm of the sofa and made him lay back, against his will. Carisi disappeared into Barba’s bathroom and began drawing him a bath. Upon returning he helped Barba off the sofa and led him to the bathroom as he asked “How about a proper bath?” Barba had so many sponge baths during his stay which he found completely humiliating. Barba insisted that he could bath himself and closed the bathroom door before Carisi could follow him in. “Well, if I don’t hear from you in ten minutes, I’m coming in there,” Carisi warned through the door.

---

While Barba showered Carisi headed to the kitchen to prepare some food. He had Rollins restock the basics in Barba’s fridge yesterday. Barba’s appetite wasn’t back to normal yet. In fact, he was barely eating and probably had already lost 15 or 20 pounds. “He should be able to handle finger sandwiches,” Carisi hoped.

---

Rafael looked in the mirror and saw bruises covering his face and neck, all in various stages of healing. The hospital didn’t exactly provide him a mirror to examine himself, so he was seeing the extent of his injuries for the first time. He struggled to raise his arms overhead, but he finally managed to pull his shirt off. He examined his torso. Bruises also covered his chest, stomach and arms. The brand on his shoulder looked raw. “I’ve got to get rid of that,” he thought to himself. Turning he could see the even more bruises and cauterized cuts all over his back. “Dios mios…no me extrana que me sienta fatal (My god, I am not surprised that I feel terrible),” he muttered. He sighed and then he dropped his sweatpants and boxers.

If it was even possible, the injuries actually looked worse on his lower body. Then he noticed bruising on his inner thighs which triggered memories of the evidentiary pictures he saw in the SVU rape cases that he prosecuted. He shuttered and felt bile creep up his throat, but then it subsided.

He rubbed at some of the bruises trying to soothe aches. Disconcerted with his appearance, he walked to the over to the bubble bath that Carisi prepared him. The room smelled of lavender. He looked down at the bubble bath. After a brief pause, he drained the tub. He didn’t think he could muster the strength to get himself out of the tub without help. There was a limit on how much more vulnerability he would show Carisi. He already showed much more than he was comfortable with.

He jumped into the shower, which was now filling the bathroom with steam. "Shit!” The water running over his wounds brought tremendous pain, so much so that he almost fainted having to lean against the shower wall just to stay upright. After a quick rinse without even lathering up or shampooing, he jumped out of the shower and covered himself in a towel. He headed through his bedroom to his walk-in wardrobe. Usually when he lounged around the house with Carisi, he would wear a t-shirt and boxers. Looking into the mirror he decided that sweatpants and a Harvard hoodie was the way to go. He was already scheming how to cover up his injuries. Ashamed he angrily whispered, “I am no damn victim.” He ran his hands through his hair sporting a semi-spikey, but still messy look.

---

It was now evening and Barba was eyeing his scotch collection on the mantle. He began to reach for a glass when Carisi interrupted scolding him. “I don’t think so, Counselor.”

Barba turned and scowled at Sonny. “I am fine. One glass of scotch is not going to kill me.” He desperately wanted a drink, even just one. He was feeling really down, which was normal considering everything.

“Doctor’s orders. You’ve been through way too much for alcohol consumption this soon.”

“Damn it, Sonny!” he angrily shouted as he shot the detective a glare.

Carisi cut him off. “You were in a fuckin’ coma, Rafael! You nearly died on me. We were saying our goodbyes.” He could feel tears began to gush down his cheeks.

“Hey, hey. I’m sorry,” Barba patted Carisi’s shoulder as firmly as he could without causing himself too much pain. Then proceeded to hold him in a hug. Again, this even felt painful. “I am not going to leave you, never.”

Instantly Carisi was filled with guilt and remorse. He should be the one apologizing to Barba. He couldn’t protect him. Ironically, he actually raped him, in addition to the brutalization that he had already endured from their captors.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” Carisi fibbed with a forced smile as he tried to shrug off his guilt. “Let’s just go to bed.”

While Barba was changing for bed in the bathroom, Carisi slipped back into the living room. He snatched the glass that Barba initially was reaching for. Carisi filled the glass with the forbidden scotch, swallowed an anxiety pill and took a big gulp finishing off the glass. “Hypocrite,” he whispered to himself. He knew he shouldn’t be drinking right now either. He suffered injuries and a concussion as well, but nothing compared to his lover. He was trying to numb his guilt. He rinsed the glass and delicately put it back with the scotch bottles.

Returning to the bedroom, he found Barba already sound asleep. Carisi tucked him in gently and then turned off the lights and slid into bed next to him carefully trying not to touch him, as if he was so fragile that he would shatter like glass. Softly snoring, Rafael turned to his side and tried to hold Carisi. Again, he was overcome with guilt. “I don’t know what I’ll do if he remembers what I did to him.” He just couldn’t fathom the feelings.

---

At 2 AM Carisi heard Barba weakly yell, “No…no…please no…stop”

Carisi turned on the nightstand light. “Raf! You’re okay. Wake up. It’s just a bad dream,” he said as he tried to gently stir him awake. Barba was trembling, his face damp with sweat, his hair ruffled, and generally disheveled looking. Carisi could see deep terror in Barba’s green eyes and tears streaking his cheeks. Carisi brought Barba a mug of decaffinated tea. He drank a few sips and then Carisi tucked him back in to bed stroking his dark hair to coax him back to sleep. This happened several more times that night.

---

At breakfast, Carisi revealed that Jack McCoy had given Barba the month off. Both Casey Novak and Alex Cabot were back and agreed to split his caseload.

“Oh.” Rafael mumbled while poking at his half-eaten pancake with a fork, as if he was a little kid playing with his food.

“Don’t worry, Rafa. I will be here every second outside of work. Just relax and recover. Things will get back to normal soon enough.”

Barba tried to give Carisi a convincing smile but he fell ever so short. He expected about this level of enthusiasm from Barba about having time off. Carisi kissed Barba’s forehead and said he would stop by at lunch time. Carisi discretely pocketed his pills. He didn’t think Barba knew about his anxiety medication. Barba had enough to deal with as it was. He didn’t need to worry about his anxiety as well.

---

Carisi walked into 1 Hogan Place. He greeted Carmen with a smile.

“How’s the boss?”

“Given everything he’s been through, exceedingly well.”

“How about you, detective?”

“Rough, but hanging in there.” Carisi tried to be dismissive to the question. Like his partner, he did not want to talk about it.

“I feel awful that I didn’t put things together fast enough before they took you guys….” Carmen’s voice trailed off and tears began to fill her eyes.

“Carmen, it was a hard situation to see. None of us saw it coming…” trying to assuage her of her guilt while his own immediately resurfaced. “He’s my boyfriend. The man I want to marry. I know him best and I should have figured out something was up,” Carisi thought as he reflected on the day the mobsters kidnapped them.

He said he had to take care of something in Barba’s office. He had to get Barba’s case files for the other ADAs. After shutting the office door, Carisi sat in Barba's chair and slouched over the desk. He propped his head in his hands on Barba’s desk and he quietly sobbed for a few minutes. He saw Barba’s office collection of scotch. He grabbed a tumbler from Barba’s desk and finished off one of the bottles. He took a few more pills before leaving the office with some, but not all of the files. This would give him the chance to revisit later for another glass of scotch.

---

As promised, Carisi stopped by Barba’s at lunch time. He found Barba sitting on the sofa in sweatpants and a plain sweatshirt. It was obvious he did not even attempt to comb his hair today. He was staring expressionless at the white walls. Aware that he was probably trying to hide his injuries, Carisi tried to make light of his attire. He said “Looks might comfy there, Counselor. Might just wear me some sweats to work.” Barba didn’t respond or shift his gaze from the wall.

Carisi sat down next to him on the sofa.  “So you had a rough time last night. Do you need to talk?”

He shook his head no, however reluctantly Barba shared, “I don’t know why I was screaming. I don’t even know what I was dreaming about.”

“Probably for the best,” Carisi left slip. Barba turned and noted how that statement seemed to be an accidental utterance. 

“Did you give your statement to Liv yet?” Barba asked.

“Yeah at the hospital,” he replied.

“She is coming by this afternoon to take mine. Trouble is, I still can’t remember much after being head-butted by a gun.”

“You were pretty out of it, Rafa.”

“Sonny, will you tell me what happened?”

“Rafa, you really don’t want to relive that.”

“I need to know. I can't take not knowing.”

There was an extremely long and awkward pause. “After you give your statement.”

“Fine,” Barba sighed.

---

After lunch Carisi strolled into the squad room. Everything seemed like a typical day at SVU. Fin and Rollins were reviewing evidence boards, phones were ringing, and the room was chaotic. Two new desks were being set up close to his. “Hmm,” he wondered. Oh well, he had more important things on his mind. He walked into Liv’s office, shut the door, and closed the blinds for privacy.

“Liv, do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Carisi,” she answered as she gestured for him to sit down. “How’s Barba?”

Carisi sighed. "Stubborn. Secluded. Not sharing anything. He still doesn’t remember what happened. He wants to know. He wants me to tell him. I can’t…”

“Okay, take a step back. First, I have to take his statement before he hears an account of the events. Then, to be honest, I think you should tell him.”

“How? He’ll hate me. I raped him. It’s unforgivable.”

“Sonny, you did what you needed to stay alive. You both survived…”

“Cut the crap, Liv” he snapped. “We say that all the time to victims…”

“And it is true and you need to believe it. Just because you are a law enforcement officer and he is a prosecutor does make you guys immune to trauma. You may not like it, and even him more so, but you both are victims. Also, Barba did tell you to do whatever they said, even if it meant raping him.”

“You and I both know he was concussed and not thinking straight.”

“Even if he was clear minded, he would have said the same thing. That’s just who Rafael is.”

“Yeah, but I am not the guy who rapes his boyfriend just to stay alive. I am not sure if I can live with that,” he said staring at the floor as if he really was giving that last statement a lot of thought.

With a concerned look, she asked, “Have you been to see Dr. Lindstrom yet?”

“No. Rafael is my concern right now.”

“I get it Sonny, but if you want to be there for Rafael, you have to take care of yourself too. Otherwise you won’t be any good to him.”

There was another short pause.  Carisi rolled his eyes. Like an emotional teenager, he stood up and retorted “Thanks for nothing,” and stormed out of her office slamming the door. Fin and Rollins looked up stunned as Carisi headed to the break room.

---

That evening they were laying in bed watching TV in an awkward silence. Neither was really watching. They just needed some noise to distract them. Finally, Rafael reached for the remote and muted the TV and said “My statement with Liv was really brief. I still couldn’t give her any more details. Now can you tell me…?”

“Rafa, you really don’t want to know.”

“Ah dios mios (Oh my god)!This happened to me too. It’s my body. My injuries. I was violated. I want to know exactly what happened.”

“Okay,” Carisi sighed. Barba snuggled next to Carisi and Carisi gently gripped his hands and looked into his questioning eyes. He told Barba most of everything that happened, leaving out the details of how he also raped him as well. There just was no way he could tell him. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t bare what he did to Rafael and that this felt like the first time he really couldn’t be honest with his lover.

After the details were shared, both men sat in silence. Barba went and made some tea to try to unnerve himself and to process what he just heard. He did regret having Carisi share the details, but he sure was not going to let him know that. After Barba returned to the bedroom, Carisi slipped into the living room and discretely swallowed another pill and washed it down with another glass of Barba’s scotch. “How many was that now today? Four glasses? Five, maybe?” Carisi was not sure he really knew. He popped a breath mint in hoping it would cover any alcohol on his breath.

Both men laid on the bed and fell asleep before the TV’s timer shut itself off.

---

At about midnight, Barba was screaming at the top of his lungs. Carisi jumped out of bed and turned the light on. Shaking him gently, he said “It’s okay, Rafa. You are safe. I am here.”

Again, Barba was sweating, trembling and then began to cry. He looked at Carisi with tears trickling down his cheeks. Then a long pause. “I had a dream about what you told me. I am so sorry I didn’t listen to you.” He began weeping harder. “ I shouldn’t have asked you to tell me. I was better off not knowing. Plus now I am dreaming about you raping me. Ay Dios mios.”

Carisi became nauseous and ran as fast as he could to the bathroom, but didn’t make it in time. After a few minutes of listening to him gag, Barba went to check on him.

“Are you okay?”

Another long silence. “Sure,” he answered in an unpersuasive tone.

“Sonny…”

“Rafa. Please don’t hate me,” he begged as he was about to confess. Barba looked at him in confusion.

“It was my dream, Sonny. It was nothing you did.”

“It wasn’t just a dream,” Sonny bluntly admitted. He explained how Rafael had given him blanketed absolution to do whatever they said to stay alive, even if it meant raping him.

Barba just stood there stunned. “What?” he whispered. "What?" Tears began streaming down his face again even harder than from the nightmare. He nervously ran his fingers through his hair in disbelief. “I…” In a rare moment, Barba found himself speechless.

“I am so sorry…” Carisi weakly said as his voice trailed off. Barba turned around and went back to the bedroom and loudly sobbed into his pillow. Carisi cleaned up his mess in the bathroom.

Coming back into the bedroom, he couldn’t even bare to look at the weeping man. His heart shattered. Up until these unfortunate events, he had never seen Barba shed even one tear. Tears began gushing down Carisi’s face as well.  He said that he would spend the night on the sofa.

Before laying down he drank three more glasses of scotch. He was such a light weight drinker, and given the amount of drinking he already did that day, it was safe to say he was already wasted.

He laid on the sofa and listened to Barba sob in the next room. How could he have done this to Rafa? Rape him, deceive him about what really happened, and then only to bluntly tell him the truth. Well, how do you sugar coat something like that?

“I don’t deserve to live,” Carisi muttered. He stood back up and took another pill emptying the medication bottle. “Oops, that didn’t last thirty days. Oh well.” He grabbed several bottles of scotch and sat back down on the sofa. He had another drink and then another. He relaxed into the sofa and closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

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Barba did not sleep the rest of the night. His eyes were puffy and red accompanied by dark circles. It was about 7 AM. Since he could not sleep he decided he would just get up and start his day of just sitting around moping. He headed into his in-suite bathroom. He removed his clothing, still quite a painful ordeal. He once again shamefully examined his brutalized body. Not that he expected drastic healing, but he was still disappointed when he didn't see any. Finally he jumped into the shower which was just as painful as the day before. After he emerged from the bathroom he settled for a long sleeve t-shirt today and another pair of sweat pants. He sat on the bed still dripping looking at the sweats. The once snappy dresser was now reduced to a line of sweat clothing.

“How could Carisi, the love of my life, have done this to me? I was out of it. Did I really say ‘even if they make you rape me?’ What the fuck! Will I ever know? Maybe he had no choice? That would make sense. He couldn't see Carisi ever doing such a thing?" He was talking to himself aloud. His feelings were fluctuating between depression, anger, and confusion. He needed answers. Some way. Some how.

Stepping out into the living room he was certain that the detective would have either left out of shame or gone to work early. Then he caught Sonny still laying on the sofa with his feet propped up on the coffee table. “Some nerve,” Barba thought callously.

And then he saw it, the scene surrounding Sonny. Just about every bottle of scotch in the apartment was laying empty on the coffee table accompanied by an empty pill bottle. He slowly put things together and realized Carisi was not sleeping. He darted over to the sofa.

“Sonny, wake up! Wake up, damn it!!” Barba shook him hard and then slapped his face. Carisi’s head dropped to the side, just as limp as the rest of his body. The detective did not stir or even moan. Barba laid his head on his chest and could not hear his usually strong heat beat. He was cold and not breathing.

He grabbed Carisi’s cell from the coffee table. “I need an ambulance. My boyfriend...he overdosed. Alcohol and pills. Hurry!” Barba gave his address quickly, twice, and then put the speaker phone on. He moved the coffee table and pulled the detective's limp body onto the floor. Carisi’s face was pale and his lips were blue. Barba began CPR. He managed to keep the compressions going despite the pain he was experiencing. Sweat was trickling down the sides of his face and he was getting winded trying to inflate Carisi's lungs. He didn't know how much longer he could keep going. "But I have to..." Barba thought to himself.

“Por favor, Dios, no te lleves mi Sonny. Quedate conmigo, quedate conimigo, mi amor!" (Please God, don't take my Sonny. Stay with me, stay with me, my love!)

Just as the paramedics burst through the door Sonny gasped, but his eyes remained closed. They quickly transferred him from the floor to the stretcher. Rafael grabbed his shoes while forgetting his coat. He picked up his cell, keys, and the empty pill bottle and slid them into the pockets of his sweatpants.

---

He jumped in the back of the ambulance with Carisi. Eyes still closed, Sonny whispered “Sorry, Rafa. You should have let me….”

The heart monitor began a prolonged flat line.

“He’s crashing!” the first paramedic screamed.

The other paramedic grabbed the paddles.  “Charging. Clear.”

“Do something!” Barba shouted at the paramedics. One of the paramedics turned to him and shouted “Shut up!” Barba was taken back by this snappy order.

After 3 rounds with the paddles and epinephrine, Carisi was finally drawing breath and his heart beating at a steady, but weak rhythm. However he remained unconscious.

“Hurry up!” Barba shouted backseat driving.

---

Once at the hospital, Carisi was taken into the ER and immediately stormed by a medical team that promptly started an IV and began pumping Carisi’s stomach as the paramedics reported his condition and vitals to the attendees.

A nurse quizzed Barba what Carisi had taken. “I don’t know….” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the topless pill bottle and handed it to her.

Barba was still weak and not recovered himself. He could feel the fatigue from administering CPR overtake him. The stress and anxiety was crippling him. 'Is the room swaying?' he thought to himself. His knees felt weak. His vision went blurry and then blackness. An orderly caught him just before Barba hit the floor. The staff propped him up in a chair next to Sonny’s bed and got him a glass of water when his eyes reopened.

---

Benson charged into the ER. “What the hell happened?” she called out when she caught sight of Barba.

He looked pale and terrified. He was sobbing. In between gasps of air, he said, “We…we had… a fight. He wasn’t… breathing... Scotch…pills.” That’s the only words Benson could decipher. Then he began rambling rapidly in Spanish. 

Barba began weeping even harder. Benson hugged Barba, too hard at first given his injuries, but she quickly eased up when he flinched. “It’s going to be okay, Rafi. It’s going to be okay,” she kept repeating as she rubbed his back gently.

“Me encanta, me encanta. Ay Dios mios! Le hice esto?” (My love, my love. Oh my god! Did I do this to him?)

“How the hell did you even know we were here?” Barba demanded in a whisper.

“Sydney (gesturing to one of the security guards) thought this was a domestic violence situation when she saw you bruised and Sonny unconscious...so she called me.”

Shit. Barba saw how this scenario could have been misconstrued as such.

“Well it wasn’t…” Barba said as if he had to convince Benson. He began sobbing hysterically again leaning into Liv’s arms hiding his head against her chest.

“I know Rafi, I know that.” Benson pulled him from her chest and saw the ADA's lips were turning blue. "Rafi, breathe for me. Deep breath." 

He tried to obey the best he could. The orderly from earlier walked by. "You don't want to faint again, sweetie," he said. 

"Did he hit his head?" Benson quickly asked with Barba's recent head trauma at the forefront of her thoughts.

"No mam, caught him in time," he smiled continuing on his way.

A doctor walked over to Barba and Benson. “He is in a room now. He is sedated because he was having spasms and gag reflexes while we pumped his stomach. He is severely dehydrated so he has an IV to restore hydration. His blood alcohol was about 0.35. He is beyond plastered. He had an exceedingly high level of benzodiazepines in his system. Was he on some sort of binge?" the doctor asked looking at Barba.

"I don't know, I wasn't with him most of the night," Barba replied meekly.

"Sir, this was not just last night. He had to have been drinking and popping pills for at least 24 hours," the doctor informed him.

Benson's eyes widened.

"If he was suicidal he needs to committed. If it was an accident, you should probably get your friend into rehab. Anyway, he should be awake in a few hours. You can seem him now.”

---

Barba quickly ran to his bedside and knelt down on his knees and held his hands in a prayer-like position on Carisi's bed. He went to church occasionally. He believed in a higher power. Maybe God. Anyhow he was praying desperately.

Benson was distraught over seeing her best friend sobbing and one of her detectives unconscious. Ironically, last week it was the other way around—Sonny the hysterical one and Rafi unconscious.  “These two are going to be the death of me,” she thought to herself. She gently stroked his hair trying to comfort him. She pulled a chair up behind Barba and managed to get him to shift from the floor to the chair.

"We need a plan," she thought to herself.

After two hours, Benson convinced Barba to walk to the corner café to get some real coffee, because he clearly was not drinking the cup she brought him from the hospital cafeteria. “ You need something. If not food, at least good coffee. We will only be 20 minutes tops.” She gave the nurse both her and Barba’s numbers. “If anything changes, call us immediately.” Barba sighed and walked out with her. He still looked like hell. In sweats, red and puffy eyes, dark circles…and his hair…Benson decided not to mention it. Barba didn't need to feel self-conscious about his appearance, he heart was already wretched over Carisi.

---

Carisi opened his eyes. He stared at the ceiling and smelled the antiseptic in the air. “Shit,” he murmured as he turned to his side. He was relieved to see no one at his side. He couldn't face Barba, or anyone else. He had damaged his lover and now he somehow fucked up getting himself here. He was still toiling with the events of last night. His memory was fixated on the look of disbelief and hurt on Rafael’s face. Then he wondered just how much he drank. His thoughts were interrupted by the nurse who was checking in on him.

“Good afternoon sunshine! Welcome back!” she said.

---

About 15 minutes later Barba and Benson quickly strolled back into the hospital lobby both with a coffee in hand. She was trying to have a one-sided conversation with her friend. “Do you think it was on purpose...?”

“I was just about to call you. He is awake!” the nurse called to them. Barba’s face seemed to relax. As they peered into his room, it was empty.

“Where is he?” Barba asked.

“He went up to the roof for a smoke.”

Benson and Barba froze with petrified eyes meeting each other's. Sonny didn't smoke and they both knew this. They simultaneously dropped their coffees and ran to the nearest elevator as Barba was still not up to running up the stairs. Barba was impatiently tapping his hand against the elevator wall as if it would make the elevator speed up. On the top level they darted through a door which led to the roof.

They could see Sonny standing on the ledge of the roof in his hospital gown oblivious to or not caring that his back side was exposed. He looked unsteady on his feet.

“Rafael, stay here,” Benson ordered.

“No, I need to be with him.”

“Rafael, you are probably a trigger right now. Just give me a minute." Barba froze and Benson walked slowly towards Carisi.

“Sonny, can you hear me?”

“I’m not deaf!” he shouted keeping his back to Benson and stared at down at the busy street.

“Fair enough. Stupid question.” After a brief pause she continued “Sonny, we need to talk about why you are up here …” but before she could finish he began to yell.

“I’ve caused the only person I have ever really loved so much pain. I just can’t deal with it any longer. I disgust myself. I don’t even know who I am anymore. Wait, yes I do. I am one of those scumbag rapists we hunt down!”

Benson tried to sway the conversation away from rape. “Sonny, can you be honest with me?”

“What?”

“Did you try to commit suicide last night?”

Carisi sighed. He turned around and faced his superior. “I just don’t want to feel anymore…be numb…I hurt Rafael really bad. I can’t take it.” After short pause, he admitted it. “I guess I did,” he said as if he was gaining insight into himself and while becoming pink with shame. “Didn’t do a very good job though, did I?”

“Sonny, a lot of people love and care for you. This is just going to hurt us all in an irreparable way if you do this,” Benson told him as a tear escaped her eyes. They were far enough apart that he probably couldn't see it run down her cheek.

Both Carisi and Benson fell silent. Barba walked over slowly and positioned himself in front of Benson. “She’s right,” he said.

Carisi looked up stunned to see Barba, someone afraid of heights, actually standing near him on the ledge of a roof.

Barba continued, “If you do this, you will break my heart.”

“I’ve already done that,” Sonny retorted.

“Maybe so, but we can try to mend that. If you leave me right now,” he gulped and then continued, “that can’t be undone and I won’t have the chance to forgive you. You are the love of my life, Sonny Carisi. Not to be corny, but you are the reason I am still trying to continue after all of this."

“Rafa, I can’t see this getting better. Or being forgiven…or… This is not just a lovers’ quarrel!” Carisi shouted back.

Rafael cut him off. “It will take time. We just have to work this out. We were both in a bad situation. We both suffered. We both survived. I believe we both can get through the aftermath but we have to do this together. I love you Sonny. I won't be able to get through this or able live without you.”

Benson chimed in, “Rafi is right. He is standing up here, petrified, but he is sharing his truth. He still loves you.”

“I love you Sonny, and so help me…” Rafael hastily spit out.

Carisi turned back towards the street and gazed down. Barba felt a pit growing in his stomach was about to fall to his knees just as Carisi turned back around and stepped down from the ledge. Barba ran over and grabbed Carisi's arm and Liv pulled them in for a group hug.

“What the fuck, Sonny?” Barba uttered in harsh whisper.

“It will be okay my friends,” Benson tried to comfort them patting both of their backs. “No more Romeo and Juliet threats and scenarios, please. Let’s get back inside.” Barba would not let go of Carisi's hand as if he was scared he would run back to the roof and jump.

---

Back inside the nurses asked if everything was okay. “Yeah just fine. Sorry about the coffee, she said as they saw a custodian was busily cleaning the mess up. We were just so excited that he was awake…” and she trailed off making constructing a partial fib. Not a very good one, but the staff seemed to go along with it.

“Can he be discharged?” Rafael asked in his customary fast-paced lawyer tone.

“We’ll check him out and he can be on his way, unless you think there is something…”

“No, we just want to get him home.” Barba rationalized.

---

Benson drove them back to Barba’s apartment in her SUV in complete silence. Once inside the apartment, Carisi asked “Why did you not have me committed?”

“This is a personal matter and we are going to keep this in house,” Benson replied. Barba looked curious and Carisi confused.

“Okay.” He muttered. Benson had a go bag in her vehicle and announced she was spending the night.

She said she had to make some calls and went into Rafael’s home office.

Barba insisted that Carisi go lay down in the bedroom. Without much resistance, he did as he was told. He was out fast. Barba tucked him in with an extra blanket.

Barba went to work tidying up the place clearing out all the empty bottles of scotch and rinsing the shot glass Carisi took his death drinks from. About an hour later Benson emerged from the office. “We have a plan!” she enthusiastically announced.

Barba, stared at her and queried, “Should I be worried about this crazed plan of yours?”

Chapter Text

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Barba and Benson were sitting at his kitchen table drinking tea, although Rafael really just wanted the scotch…that Sonny drank.

“So Liv, what’s this plan of yours? Is it thought out well?”

Barba looked even more tire and rough than at the hospital. He clearly was in need of some sleep.

She took a sip and put down her cup. “I’ve been in bad situations on the job and I was given incredible support and space by my colleagues, friends, and therapists. I might not be doing what I am today if…”

“Yeah, this sort of thing…it could damage or end his career.”

“Exactly, we are on the same page then.” She took another sip. Once we recovered you and Carisi that night, I started to look at our social support network—for both your sakes. Our friends are our colleagues. That’s just how it is with this job. Our SVU family is thick as blood.”

“Go on…” Barba said unsure if he liked where this was going. He was never one to lean on others. He would always muddle through on his own. He always had. Especially when it came to his personal matters and emotions.

“Well, that is when I found out Alex Cabot and Casey Novak were back. After a conversation with them, they asked Jack McCoy to split your caseload while you took time off. Munch is going to assist them with the investigations.”

Barba smirked. “So it was you and my lovely lady lawyer friends who convinced Jack to give me ‘mandated’ time off.”

Benson smiled like a guilty child who was just caught. “Well, for the record, he did say as much time as you need. I made him stipulate to at least a month. You will be taking more than that off,” she informed her friend.

“What, are you my mother?” Rafael retorted with a naughty half smile.

“No, but we could get her involved too, if you'd like.”

“No, thank you.” Barba did not even allow his mother to see him in the hospital and asked her to keep her distance until he felt up for visitors. He felt bad for sending her away, but he just couldn’t have her worry about how bad he was hurt…and how for that matter.

“That’s what I thought. May I continue?” Benson quipped.

“Please,” he nodded as he sipped his tea.

“I was starting to sense Sonny was spiraling downward, especially after something he said yesterday. He came to ask me how he could tell you about… Anyway, he said something about not being able to live with himself. I wasn’t sure if…well we know now. Fin, Amanda, and I reached out to some former colleagues.”

“Of course they are all in on this conspiracy too.”

“This is not a conspiracy. Its friends and family helping each other. Anyhow, Jon Munch said Elliot Stabler was leaving the organized crime unit since they solved his wife’s murder and was looking for a transfer. So we have a desk with his name on it. Also, Amaro just moved back to NYC with Cynthia and Gill, and now he has full custody of Zara since Maria passed. NYPD reinstated him.”

“That must have took some doing since NYPD isn’t Amaro’s biggest fan.”

“I had leverage and I know how and when to use it.”

“A woman with power. I love it!” Barba chuckled in the most upbeat tone she heard since he was rescued.

“Fin and I are going to co-lead and Stabler and Amaro are going to cover for Carisi and fill that open spot Munch left when he retired.”

“Okay. So you pretty much you put Carisi and me out of work,” he said in a serious tone but managed to force a chuckle.

“Now here’s the part you are really going to hate.”

Barba looked her in the eye and said “I thought that part was being on mandated leave…or having Amaro back in the city.”

“You two...” Benson laughed. “You would get along so well if you gave each other a chance.”  

Barba breathed in while sipping his tea which caused him to cough and snort. The mere thought of being friendly with his former Hispanic colleague seemed laughable at best.

“Officially, you and Sonny are on sabbatical leave. Yes, you have time off and this is to save your jobs, but we care about both of you and want you both better. So I’ve called George…”

“Huang?” he questioned.

Benson nodded. “Yes. He recently left the FBI and is pursuing independent work with clients. He has agreed to home visits with you and Carisi. Both independent and partner sessions. As you know, he is gay, and he will probably be able to help in ways Dr. Lindstrom might not be able to. Plus, he will do this off the books to afford you both your deserved privacy.”

“Hmm…this sounds sneaky. And you know how much I just want to see a therapist,” he sarcastically quipped while yawning. “You got one hell of a sophisticated plan.” Seeming impressed, he kissed her on the forehead. “I know it is early, but I still don’t have all my strength back and I go to bed early.

“Of course,” She replied.

In the bedroom Carisi was snoring peacefully.

“I really do love him, Liv. I can’t believe I…we almost lost him for good today. Twice.”

“I know you do, Rafi. Do you think you can lay next to him? Or do you want the guest room.”

“We’ll be fine, if you don’t mind the guest room.”

“Sounds good,” she replied.

She bent over and kissed Sonny’s forehead. “Good night, Sonny.” He didn’t even stir in the slightest.

Barba laid down on the other side of the bed keeping space from Carisi. Benson tucked him in under a separate blanket. “Good night, Rafi,” and gently kissed his forehead as well.

“Night, Liv.”

Benson shut the lights out and headed to the guest room.

Barba turned over to his side to look at Carisi. He brushed his hair back from his face and gently pecked his cheek. "No te atrevas a dejarme solo, (Don't you dare leave me by myself,)" Barba pleaded in a whisper.

 

Chapter Text

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Benson got up before the guys and made breakfast. She called to talk to Noah as he was staying with the sitter, Lucy, while she tried to mend things with her friends. “Bye, Noah. Mommy loves you.” As Benson hung up, Rafael emerged from the bedroom. “Smells good.”

“Is Carisi coming?”

“He’ll be out in a minute.”

Carisi emerged sleepy eyed and making minimal eye contact with Benson and Barba. They all sat at the table and started their breakfast. Finally, Benson broke the silence. “So this is what is happening. No arguments from either of you,” using the motherly tone that she uses with Noah.

She shared the plan she told Barba about last night. Then she added “and here are the ground rules.”

“This ought to be good,” Barba said under his breath.

“First, Sonny, I took your gun, not your badge. This means you are coming back when you can. I want you back, but I need you safe right now. I also took your keys to your apartment and the squad room. You will stay here and only leave with me, Rafi, or another colleague. You will not leave alone. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” he said hesitantly.

“And you…” Liv turned to Barba.

“Oh shit, here it comes,” Barba thought to himself.

“No keys to 1 Hogan Place or the squad room. Carmen has been instructed not to take any work calls from you. If I so much as see you near a courthouse, so help me…”

“Relax, Liv. I think we got the ground rules down,” Barba interjected.

“Good. Now you two finish breakfast. I’ve got to get down to the squad room to meet with Fin. Both Stabler and Amaro are starting back this morning and we already caught a case.” She stood up with her purse which could not be zipped because of the additional bulkiness due to the confiscation of Sonny's side arm and both men's keys. I will be back tonight. With that she shut the door.

Sonny and Rafael quietly finished their breakfast. Sonny offered to clear the table and loaded the dish washer. Feeling awkward, he proceeded into the living room. Rafael went and laid on his bed to try to catch some more sleep.

  • ---

Just before 10, there was a knock at the door. Sonny answered the door as he knew Barba was sleeping.

“Hello, I am Dr. Huang. You can all me George,” the petite Asian man said. “You must be Sonny Carisi,” he deduced as he was ushered inside.

By this time Rafael was awake and making his way to the door. He shook Huang’s hand.

“Doctor.”

“Counselor.”

Both men previously met on a few cases.

They gathered in the living room. Carisi and Barba sat on the sofa as far as they possibly could from each other and Dr. Huang sat in a chair opposite to them. Once everyone was settled, Dr. Huang said that in order to begin he had to know the details of what they experienced and what they have done since then.

Carisi and Barba stared at each other.

“I can tell you about the beginning and after I woke up in the hospital.”

“I’ll try to fill in the rest,” Carisi uncomfortably added.

For nearly an hour, the two recounted the abduction, their captivity, and both hospital visits. Both men avoided eye contact with each other but did manage to make occasional eye contact with the good doctor.

George observed the faces of both men as they spoke of their experiences. Looked at both of eyes, trying to tease out their emotions. Sonny seemed to oscillate between fear, self-hatred and depression. Rafael’s emotions seemed to be the same, but also quite a bit of shame, rage, and confusion.

“You both are exceptionally bright men. I do not need to tell you that you both are suffering from PTSD. That’s just obvious.” He bit his lip and continued. “You both went through a lot together but not the same things. You both were worried about each other. About survival. I am sure Liv already gave the 'you did what you needed to survive' speech.” Both men groaned. “That’s not what I am going to try to say,” he continued. “I want to help you manage your feelings so that you can move on.”

The three looked each other in the eye. “Maybe, just maybe this will help,” Barba thought to himself.

“I am going to talk to you both individually and then together as we try to process the trauma.”

Barba groaned. Feelings. H never was comfortable sharing those with anyone (or even acknowledging them to himself). His preference was to ignore their existence and throw himself into his work.

Chapter Text

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That afternoon Barba got a phone call. Carisi was in the living room watching TV and he could hear Barba on his phone. The dialogue was in Spanish and sounded intense.

“This is Rafael Barba.”

After a long pause, he heard Barba “Thank you for letting me know ,”and he hung up. Carisi could hear him sobbing.

“Raf, are you okay?”

Barba slammed the bedroom door.

“Well that wasn’t good,” Carisi thought. He walked over to their bedroom door and he could hear Barba muttering in Spanish as he cried. Carisi knocked. “I know I am not your favorite person right now. You can’t just shut me out! Talk to me Raf.” Carisi heard glass crash against the door and the lock latched.

---

He picked up his phone and walked into Barba’s home office so he could discretely call Liv.

“Hey Liv,” he began.

“Is everything okay?” she answered.

“No, it’s Raf. Something’s wrong. He’s gone off the deep end. He got a call, he is bawling, won’t talk to me in. He is in the bedroom. He won't let me in.”

“Armaro and I were just heading back to the precinct, but we will be there in 10 minutes.”

“Thanks, Liv.”

---

Carisi returned to the living room and sat on the sofa. Barba emerged from the bedroom without making eye contact. He was focused, he was on a mission. He found two bottles of Scotch that Carisi had missed and walked back to the bedroom door. He could hear furniture moving. Barba had barricaded his door.

Carisi stood with the apartment door open as he waited for Benson and Amaro to arrive. As Carisi ushered the pair inside, Amaro looked around and said, “This is almost exactly how I pictured his place to be.” He was never friendly with Barba thus never had the opportunity to visit the ADA’s apartment.

“Don’t start,” Benson warned Amaro aware of how confrontational his history with Barba was.

“Where is he?” Amaro asked.

“In the bedroom. With two bottles of Scotch. Oh, and he has now barricaded the door now too,” Carisi added.

“Of course he did. He couldn't make this easy," Amaro grumbled.

Benson then walked up to the bedroom door and called through the door "Rafael, what’s going on in there?” There was no response. Amaro turned the door knob and pushed the door hard enough to budge the dresser just enough so he could squeeze through the door. There was a shattered vase on the floor. He then moved the dresser so the others could enter. The room was only dimly lit by the night stand lamp. The window shades were drawn shut and the ceiling light was out. Amaro flipped on the ceiling light switch.

“He’s not here Carisi,” Amaro stated. Well, obviously they all could see that.

Then they heard muffled crying and Spanish coming from his bathroom. “Hey Rafael, its Nick. Everything okay in there?” There was a crash of glass against the bathroom door and Barba continued muttering in Spanish. Then Nick saw it. There was an open gun case on the floor beside the bed. The gun was missing. “Does Barba have a gun?” he asked Carisi knowing obviously the answer was a yes.

“I didn’t know,” Carisi replied.

“Don’t do anything rash, Rafi,” Benson pleaded through the door.

The Spanish streaming from behind the door grew louder, faster, and more furious. None of them ever heard him speak this fast and so angry. Not even in court. Benson who was well-versed in Spanish couldn’t follow his rambling. Amaro, the native speaker, managed to make out “Vete de aqui!" (Get out of here!). Then he made out another phrase.

Amaro handed her his side arm to Benson. “So I don’t accidentally shoot him myself.” His words were in poor taste given the current situation. “Liv, I’ve got to go in. It has to be me. It is personal. Give us some privacy. You and Carisi go wait in the living room. I got this.”

Hesitantly the two went back into the living room.

“Barba, I am coming in!” Amaro announced as he pushed the door in squeezing through yet another barricaded entry way.  One bottle of scotch was apparently the 'crash' they heard against the door as there was a puddle and shattered glass in the entryway.

He located Barba in the back of the bathroom in a corner where he was slouched with his back against the cabinets. One of his hands rested on his lap wrapped firmly around a nearly finished bottle of scotch There was blood dripping from that hand. In his other hand he was holding a gun against his temple. "Dejame solo (Leave me alone)."

"Ni en suenos! (Not a chance in hell)!" Without saying anything more, Amaro slowly stepped over to him and gently pried the gun from his trembling, cold hand.

“Damn it. It is loaded and the safety is off. Barba really is considering ending it,” Amaro thought to himself. He emptied the chamber and slid the gun on the floor back into the bedroom.

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---

In the living room Carisi and Benson sat down. “You have no idea what happened?"

“None. He got a very short phone call and just...I don't know what to call it." Then he continued, "I didn’t even know he had a gun in the apartment.”

She frowned. “I did, I just forgot. You know Barba, isn’t a gun man but he got one last year when he was threatened by Felipe Heredio and BX9. I took him to the range a few times.”

“And I suppose he went to the range in a 3-piece suit?’ Carisi was trying to lighten the intense situation. It was the only thing he could think to do.

“He is a damn good shot. With both hands. He is as precise a shooter as his tongue is in the courtroom.”

“Then I really better not piss him off,” Carisi mused. Liv glared at him not finding it funny.

Carisi shook his head. “Sorry. I just can’t…cope with the situation. I just had no idea he even owned a gun let alone that he could shoot one.”

"If I would have remembered, I would have taken his gun when I took yours," Benson said.

Carisi stared at the floor as he was ashamed. Then he stood up and began pacing impatiently. Benson sat on the sofa cradling her head in her hands. She was worried.

---

In the bathroom a conversation that started loudly in Spanish was now quiet English. It turns out Barba’s Mami had passed away last week and was cremated. Barba had no idea. The directions in her advanced medical directive said to notify Rafael after she was cremated because she did not want him obsessing and grieving over a dead body. She wanted him to remember her, not some dead corpse. Although he was angry with her for denying him the opportunity to say his goodbyes, he was even more furious with himself. He sent her away when she tried to visit him at the hospital. Then he ignored a few of her calls because he just wasn’t up to telling his Mami what happened.

He was never especially close with Nick, in fact the two resented each other. There was always friction when they were in the same room together, but there they were. Nick sitting on the floor allowing Rafael to lean on his shoulder. They talked about Rafael’s mother. Amaro’s own mother had passed a few months back. Amaro had tears in his eyes sharing this, but he was trying to calm Barba down. Perhaps one of the few things they had in common was how much they loved their mothers. He and Barba took turns drinking the last of the scotch. After talking for an hour Barba just collapsed against Amaro and fell asleep.

He gently propped Barba against the cabinets. He found a first aid kit in the medicine chest. As he started to clean the cuts on Barba's hand, Barba woke up and saw Amaro attending to his hand. "No tienes que hacer eso, Nick (You don't have to do that)."

He was choked up seeing the man he knew to be strong-willed and proud just sitting on the floor in heartache. He was trying to not let emotion into his voice. "No necesitas una infeccion," Nick rationalized. "?Puedes caminar,Rafael?" (Can you walk, Rafael?). Barba nodded. Nick helped him off the floor and put his hand around the trembling man's waist and walked him into the bedroom and sat him down on the bed. The ADA laid back on a pillow and Nick stroked his face and hushed him as tried to comfort the grief-stricken man. Once he dozed off, Amaro covered him with a blanket. He put a cup of tea and a box of tissues on the night stand and positioned a trash can next to it. He shut out the lights and left the cried-out Barba sleep.

---

Upon Amaro entering the living room Carisi jumped up and Benson asked, “What was that all about?”

“Turned out his mother passed last week and her advanced medical directive was to inform Rafael after she was cremated,” Amaro explained.

“Shit.” Carisi looked at the floor.

“Just what he needed,” Benson stated in disbelief. Barba already had enough to deal with it.

Amaro continued, “Here is the gun. He actually had it loaded with the safety off and was holding it against his head.”

“God,” was all Carisi could muster.

“Liv, if it is okay with you, I’d like to spend the night here, that is, if it is okay with you too, Sonny.” Carisi nodded.

Benson gave Amaro his own side arm back and she holstered Barba’s gun at her ankle. Then she turned to Carisi. “Sonny, is there any more alcohol in the apartment?”

“I didn't think there was, but apparently I don't know all his hidden stashes. I really don’t know him," he sighed.

Benson scanned the living room mantle, the kitchen cabinets, and Barba’s home office. She didn’t see any.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Benson said as she grabbed the SUV keys from Amaro. "Call me if anything changes.”

---

Carisi prepared a dish that Rafael’s Mami used to make him and Amaro made a tea-like beverage his own mother used to make him. When Barba woke up, they took the dish and tea drink to Barba’s bed. He wasn’t hungry so they just laid it on the nightstand. He asked them to leave and they could hear him sobbing through the door.

"Has he lost weight?" Amaro asked.

"Probably at least 20 pounds since this whole thing happened." After a pause he continued. “Hey Nick,” Carisi said, “Would you mind sleeping in Barba’s room tonight? Stuff is weird between us and I want to give him space, but I don’t think he should be alone.”

“Agreed. It’s no problem. I’ll keep guard. Liv took his gun with her, correct?”

“Yeah, she’s been getting quite a collection of those recently,” Carisi responded referring to her taking his as well. “I think that was the last of the booze as well.”

“Guess we’ll just need to find something else to do tonight," Amaro said disappointed they couldn't have a drink.

Chapter Text

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At the precinct everyone was crowded into the newly remodeled conference room. Those in attendance included both ADAs Alex Cabot and Casey Novak, DA investigator John Munch, Dr. George Huang, as well as the squad now consisting of Benson, Fin, Stabler, Rollins, and Amaro.

Cabot and Novak reported that they were going to be co-counseling for their upcoming trial—the first case they inherited from Barba. Novak noted the intricate details and tactical notes Barba had made in the files were brilliant. “He’s the best,” Cabot said. She continued, “trial prep is going well thanks to John’s assistance in tracking down a few missing key witnesses.” Munch proudly stood and bowed at compliment.

Fin and Stabler reported on the current case. He and Fin would interrogate the perp and Huang would do a psychological exam.  Rollins and Amaro were going to go over the victim’s statement.

Before everyone parted ways, Benson said she need to give an update on their missing colleagues. Everyone understood this was unofficial and confidential business and put their note pads, iPads, cell phones away. Rollins closed the blinds.

“I wanted to thank everyone for helping out.” She sighed. “Barba and Carisi still have a long road ahead, but I am certain they can get through this. In addition to the trauma, Barba just found out his mother passed away last week. Given that and his recent trauma, it prompted a bit of an incident yesterday afternoon, suicidality. Nick managed to talk him down. We’ve confiscated their fire arms and alcohol from the apartment.”

“Barba has a gun?” Rollins asked surprised.

“Yeah, after the death threats from Felipe Heredio last year, he purchased one. He definitely know how to use it. I’ve seen him in action at the range.”

“What’s so unusual about death threats?" Stabler asked. Prosecutors get threats all the time.”

“Heredio was working for BX9,”Benson explained.

“Got it!” Stabler replied. Everyone knew BX9 was bad news.

“Barba really tried…”Cabot couldn’t finish the sentence.

“Yeah, he did. He barricaded himself in the bathroom, was drinking scotch, and he had the gun loaded, safety off, and it was pressed against his temple,” Amaro stated slowly. “I’ve never seen him out of control, emotional…he wasn’t Barba.”

"And with why Carisi was just in the hospital…”Benson slightly tilted her head up to keep the tears from escaping her eyes. Then continued, “They both are so fragile right now.” A tear trickled down her cheek and she brushed it away.

“We got you Liv,” Fin chimed in. “We need someone there with them at all times.”

Benson nodded.

“Ooo, this could be fun. It could be like a chore wheel,” Rollins said. Alex got a pen out. Okay let's do this. Who wants which days?” There was no hesitation. Everyone pulled out their schedules and all pitched.

Stabler didn’t even know Barba and he had only met Carisi briefly a few times after his wife was murdered, but he eagerly volunteered a few shifts. That’s just how it worked with the SVU family. They are always in it together. Always there for each other. That's why he was glad to be back. SVU could help fill the hole that Cathy's death left.

After about 10 minutes, they quickly had a schedule for the next two weeks. People volunteered their days off, some between trials, and some nights and others on weekends. There would always be at least one of them with Barba and Carisi at all times.

After the crowd dispersed their separate ways, Benson pulled Dr. Huang aside. “I am not asking for details, I just want to know if it is possible to recover from this.”

“Liv, you know the horror they have been through. Recovery is not a straight path. Professionally, I think they can get through this. They were together, but have experienced very different stressors. I just can’t give you a clear cut answer, you know that Liv,” Huang replied. “It is clear to me that they still love each other, even after all they went through.”

“Yeah, they were the perfect couple until all of this,” Benson reflected.

“On a tangential note, one of my former colleagues at the FBI shared some of the details from the investigation. As you know, two of the perps were killed on the premises. Another was found a few blocks away dead. They are pretty certain that the UC killed them all (well, except for the one Carisi finished off). The UC is in the wind. Given this, they really don’t have anyone to prosecute and they aren’t interested in prosecuting the UC if they find him.”

“I’m aware of all this. I am pissed at the UC for letting them do anything to Barba and Carisi.”

“I know Liv, I feel like he should be prosecuted as an accomplice, but that fact is, he reported their captivity to his handlers and that is why you were able to rescue them.”

“So what are you holding back?” Benson sensed he wasn’t saying everything.

He pulled out a small chip out of his pocket. "It’s a copy of the footage of their captivity. The whole five days’ worth.”

“There was a camera? How did we miss a camera?” Benson asked completely blown away that they missed such critical evidence at the scene.

“You guys were probably too overwhelmed with rescuing your friends and seeing their state. I know what they looked like, Liv. I saw the evidential photos the FBI had.”

Huang continued. “I am very hesitant to view it myself. It would be invading their privacy.”

He signaled Benson to wait as he saw her eyes widen.  

He continued, “With how much Rafael is missing from his memory…he is questioning if he told Sonny to assault him, whether or not there really was a choice. It is causing him a lot of anger towards someone who clearly means the world to him. As awful and traumatic as it could be, it might just help him heal if he sees what actually happened. Also, if Sonny sees that there was really no other option for survival, then he might be able to start to forgive himself.”

“Oh my god, you can’t be serious.”

This reminded Benson of a case she worked early on her career with Stabler [See episode 10.10 “Smut”]. A perp was drugging his victims so that they would not be able to remember that they were raped. The only way they were able to get the victims to come forward was when Stabler showed the victims videos the perp kept of their assaults. She had been very clear that she was against doing this but Stabler showed them anyway. In the end, they took a dangerous perp off the streets, he was prosecuted, and sentenced to life. She saw how traumatized the victims were when they found out what happened to them. Did they really want to put her friends through this?

“There is some research to support this. I’ve never personally used this technique. What do you think, Liv?"

Chapter Text

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It was Monday morning again. Barba was growing restless from being cooped up in his apartment. Carisi was asleep on the sofa. Stabler had spent the night in Barba’s guest room and was snoring loudly.

"I’ve got to get out of here," said with a little anxiety, as if he was starting to panic from claustrophobia. He went to his walk in wardrobe and emerged a few minutes later in one of his dark snazzy court suits. He hadn't  worn a suit since the day that he and Carisi were kidnapped. That was almost a month ago. Since then he sentenced himself to a line of sweat clothes. He put on a tasteful light purple neck tie and folded a matching pocket square that he slid into the breast pocket of his blazer. He put gel in hair and combed it. With a glance of approval, he thought "now this is the Barba everyone knows, not the victim he has become." He was ready to go out into the world.

Remembering Benson’s ground rules about not being allowed to leave the apartment alone he discretely made his exit. He crept past the guest room and heard Stabler still sound asleep. He slid on a pair of shoes and quietly closed the door to the apartment as to not awake Carisi on the sofa. He felt a little mischievous, like a child running away, but he needed to be out in the world again.

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He stopped at a café a few blocks away and picked up a coffee. Coffee in hand, he caught an Uber to 1 Hogan Place. Once there, he managed to slip into his office while Carmen was running an errand. He gently pulled the spare key from Carmen's desk, unlocked his office door and and gently closed it behind him. After locking the door from the inside, he put the spare key in his pants pocket, and thought to himself, “Carmen won’t miss this, at least not right away.”

He kept the office lights out as to not give away his presence. He found his collection of office scotch and grabbed two bottles and sat them on his desk. He filled his coffee mug and toasted the open air and gulped the whole drink. After pouring another mug, Barba propped his feet on his desk. “Now this is more like it.” He was really missing his couple of shots of scotch he had everyday. He valued its soothing effects. He found a case file and was reading it when he began to feel the effects of the alcohol and felt drowsy.

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---

At the precinct, Benson was in her office when she goat a frantic phone call from Carisi.

“Rafael is gone. He is just gone.”

“Whoa, Carisi, slow down. What do you mean? Where is he?”

Stabler grabbed the phone from Carisi.

“Liv, the sneaky bastard left while Carisi and I were still sleeping.”

“Stay with Carisi. I’ll stick TARU on him and let you know when I find him. It's probably nothing to worry about (she lied trying to assuage Carisi." After hanging up, she thought about his recent suicidality and felt a bit of panic.

Benson dialed Barba’s cell but it went straight to voicemail. “Rafi. Pickup. I need to know you are okay.”

Benson walked quickly over to Fin’s desk. “Have TARU ping this cell.”

“What’s up captain?”

“Barba’s MIA.”

“On it," Fin replied acknowledging the sense of urgency in Benson's voice.

---

Barba was screaming. He was still asleep at his desk and was having a nightmare. By this time Carmen realized he was in his office and was knocking at the door. “Mr. Barba, please open up.”

Barba opened his eyes. He once again was reduced to tears and his face damp with sweat. He could see his hands were visibly shaking. He felt embarrassed that someone had heard him. He did not answer and tried to wish Carmen away, but she persisted. Finally, he reluctantly opened the door and pulled her inside and relocking the door.

“Was I loud? Did anyone else hear me?” he interrogated her as if he was cross-examining witness. Based on his disheveled appearance and screaming, Carmen was pretty sure he had a nightmare.

“I don’t believe so, but you definitely scared me. When did you get here?”

He glanced at the clock. “I am not sure,” he replied. His responses were slow and his speech a little slurred. He wasn’t all that coherent and then she spotted the open alcohol on his desk. She knew her boss would have an occasional drink during the day, but empty bottles? He was stumbling. She never saw him drunk. Carmen left the room, and came back with two coffees and closed the office door. She needed to try to sober him up. She handed the still-startled looking man a coffee and the two sat down on the sofa.

“Please don’t tell,” he pleaded. He remembered she was under orders from Benson not to take work-related calls from him.

Carmen smiled. “Don’t worry Mr. Barba," she tried to put him at ease seeing panic in his face. "Detective Benson asked me to notify her if you made a ‘work call,’” she said using air quotes. "This is not a phone call nor is it work." She picked up her coffee and sipped it. "We'll just file this under a social visit."

He appreciated her diligence to detail in this situation. “Since I am not here on work, please, call me Rafael.”

“So, Rafael,” she said testing out his name. “What brings you to the neighborhood?”

He grinned back at her and he had explained that he was going out of his mind in his apartment and need a change of scenery. He felt like hiding in his office would give him a sense of normalcy.

She jokingly said, “Just let me know when you plan to stop by next time…so I am not startled and have the good coffee waiting for you.”

For the next fifteen minutes or so, they caught up on Carmen’s personal life. He felt so relieved for any conversation that did not involve him, kidnapping, trauma, or feelings. 

They were laughing and talking when they heard a knock on the door.

Rafael looked up with a guilty face. “Well, that must mean I am busted,” Rafael ventured. He was giggling loudly while Carmen was clearly enjoying his rare openness and youthful guilty expressions. "He is still definitely wasted because he would never be this giddy, happy, or chatty with anyone anywhere, especially not at the office," Carmen thought to herself.

Benson angrily opened the door. “Barba, thank god.” Benson glared at Carmen.

Sheepishly she explained, “It wasn’t a ‘work call,” again gesturing with finger quotes.

“Relax, Liv. She doesn’t work for you and we weren’t talking shop,” he said in a serious tone and then he burst out laughing. He pulled his feet up to the sofa like a child and laughed hysterically into his knees.

The anger quickly dissipated from the detectives face and she grinned at Carmen and Barba. This was the happiest she had probably ever seen Barba. She was relieved that he was not feeling depressed, at least at the moment.

After a brief pause, “Now Liv, did you track my phone?” He began giggling hysterically again.

Barba's giddy question made her feel like the sheepish one now. Gathering her composure, she asked, “Carmen, is he drunk?”

“Yep.” Carmen pointed to two empty bottles of scotch. “I was trying to sober him up with coffee…but he actually hasn’t drank very much of it.”

"Hell, yeah I am drunk and you can't do a damn thing about it," Barba exclaimed like a rebellious teenager. Trying to stand up he sway and knocked something off his desk trying to steady himself. "Oops, I hope that wasn't important!" Benson sat him back down on the sofa.

PoiPoi — minidodds: An SVU Spin-Off: The Barba and Carmen...

Benson said she had to make a few calls and stepped out of the office. Barba and Carmen look at each other and again burst out laughing. He was enjoying spending some personal time with her.

Benson came in and said she had to get Barba home. Still rather tipsy, he stood up and almost collapsed. He pushed Benson’s helping arm away but permitted Carmen to hold him around his hips to steady and guide to the detective's SUV. After giving Carmen a drunken wave goodbye, Benson drove him home.

- ---

Barba had passed out on the ride home. Once at the apartment building, Stabler came down and carried Barba upstairs. When Benson opened the door, Stabler carried him through the threshold.

“What happened?” Carisi demanded with concern and worry on his face.

“Your pal here, Barba, took a little trip to 1 Hogan Place," Stabler explained.

“He’s just drunk. He’ll be fine,” Benson tried to assure Carisi just as Rollins and Fin strolled through the door.

"What the hell?” Fin probed when he saw Stabler holding Barba. “As I was just telling Carisi, Barba took a visit to his office,” repeated as he carried the unconscious man to the bedroom.

“And that led to him passing out?” Fin was confused.

Rollins winked. She got it. “His scotch stash, huh?”

Benson nodded.

“He’s got some good stuff in there,” Rollins added. By this time Stabler had emerged from laying Barba on his bed.

“As angry as I was at Barba for evading his 'security detail' (she now joked), it was nice to see him looking like a normal person, having non-work conversations with Carmen. He was so relaxed, but so intoxicated. I never saw him that happy. Apparently when he is drunk he is a giddy and rebellious child,” she shared as she recalled Barba's childish looks and behavior.

“Really. That is sort of crazy. Who goes to the office to drink?” Fin asked.

“Well, he is out of scotch here,” Carisi said laughing at himself.

“Yeah, well who’s fault is that?” Benson kidded knowing damn well Carisi drank almost all of it himself.

Everyone started laughing. Benson and Stabler said their goodbyes and headed to the precinct. Rollins and Fin took over what Benson just newly coined as their 'security detail.'

---

Rollins, Fin, and Carisi were in Barba's living room watching sports when they heard gagging sounds. “Guess who’s up?” Fin announced.

“I’ll be back,” Carisi said jumping up eagerly to check on Barba. He saw the blanket trailing from Barba’s bed to the bathroom. He knocked on the door as he peeked into the bathroom. “Hey Rafa, you okay?” He kept gagging. His dark hair was long enough that it was hard to keep off his forehead as he leaned into the toilet. Carisi knelt down next to Barba and tried to hold Barba’s hair off his face.” Barba muttered something in drunken Spanish and shoved Carisi away. Barba may have been a fun-spirited drunk, but a grouchy hangover person. Offended by being shoved away, Carisi returned to the living room.

“He is going to gag in his hair and he won’t let me near him,” Carisi informed them in a rather irritated tone.

“Let me,” Rollins said. She walked into the bathroom. “Hey, Rafael, it’s me, Amanda.” She knelt down next to him and pulled his hair back. She got no resistance. After the worst of the nausea passed, he laid his head against her shoulder and fell soundly asleep. Carisi and Fin lifted the man off of Rollin's shoulder and laid him back on his bed gently. He only stirred slightly.

Carisi and Fin went back to watching the TV. Rollins reintroduced herself to Barba’s kitchen as she had been there previously to restock his groceries. She prepared a little mix of almonds, cashews, and honey. She got a large tumbler from his cupboard and filled it with water.

Rollins found him awake and forced the hungover Barba to eat a little of the nut mixture and to drink some water before promptly fell back asleep.

---

The next morning Benson stopped by before work. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Hungover.” He replied. The ADA was back in gray sweatpants and a form fitting black t-shirt wearing a sporty pair of sunglasses. "I went to the office and got drunk," he tried to confess.

“I know you did. Don’t you remember me coming to get you?"

Barba looked puzzled. “No,” he replied.

"You were having quite a time with Carmen. Then you passed out in my car. Stabler had to carry you back upstairs."

“Oh, dios. Que tan tonto fui? (Oh, god. How much of a fool was I?)" Rafael asked slipping back into his native tongue.

“Estabas muy borracha (you were very drunk),” she replied.

Barba put his hands over his face in humiliation. He felt mortified.

"Are you mad at me?" Barba asked.

"No, Rafi, I was just concerned," she replied as she pulled a few strands of hair from his forehead.

"Mornin' sunshine!" Carisi announced see Barba up and about. 

Barba looked at the floor and muttered a slight acknowledgement.

Chapter Text

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Rollins stopped by and took Carisi to run some errands and to spend time with her girls, Jesse & Billie, after all, it was her day off. This gave Huang time with Barba.

Sitting in the living room the two stared at each other across the coffee table. Finally Huang broke the silence. “So Rafael, Liv tells me you took a little field trip to the office yesterday. Can you tell me why you left without taking someone with you?”

“Everyone is crowding me. I can’t breathe. I am going stir crazy in this apartment. I need to talk to normal people. Feel normal. I need to go back to work, so I can take my mind off all this shit.” He paused. “Sorry, I know it is not professional to use profanity. I am just so frustrated.”

“This is your therapy session. This is your home. You don’t need to be professional. Your feelings aren’t professional. What happened to you was not professional.”

Tears started to form in Barba’s eyes as he looked at the ceiling.  Barba's hand were tensely planted on his lap. Huang moved to the sofa sitting down near him and firmly held his hands. Barba flinched a bit not expecting to be touched.

"Are you okay with me holding your hands?" Huang inquired

After a thoughtful moment, Barba nodded and relaxed his hand.

He heard a faint sob escape from Barba “Hey, hey. Look at me, Rafael," Huang instructed.

As Barba looked down from the ceiling and turn to Huang, a tear escaped and ran down his cheek.

Gripping Barba's hands firmer he said “You are going to get through this. You will be that smart-mouthed kick-ass prosecutor again. That will come as soon as you deal with your emotions and come to terms with what happened.”

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“All I seem to do these days is cry. I think that is all the emotion I can handle,” Barba complained.

“That’s not quite what I meant. Psychologically dealing with emotions.”

Barba sighed.

“In order to get you back into fighting shape, we are going to set some goals and work on them.”

“What bothers you the most about what happened?” Huang probed.

After thoughtful consideration Barba replied, “Well, it all really bothers me. I guess the most is that I don’t remember much of what happened. I don’t have any memorable context for…” He choked back a sob and finished, “what Sonny did.” I am so angry at him, but I love him.” Again he paused. “How does someone love their rapist?”

He began spewing his thoughts. “I am angry with myself if I really did put Sonny in this position and caused him so much guilt that he attempted suicide. I am angry that I am pent up here and can’t talk to people. It was just so nice talking with Carmen…even if it was not about work. Then, Mami leaves me. She didn’t even let me say goodbye and grieve her.”

After finishing his emotional spew there was silence. Barba couldn’t take it.

“So doc, am I too traumatized to be fixed? Incompetent…”

Huang cut him off. “No, Rafael. You are capable of healing. Those events will never disappear from your psyche. Once you learn how to control and deal with your emotions, you will grow as a person. You just shared intimate emotions with me which already demonstrates that you are capable of personal and emotional growth." He continued "Being human, you have lots of feelings. You have ignored and suppressed them most of your life. This situation...it just brought them to the surface and you are aware that you don't know how to cope with your emotions. This situation would have wreaked havoc on most people, even those who were well equipped for and have experience with coping with their emotions. You need to learn to cope with emotions."

“Yeah, and how do I do that?” the witty ADA retorted. He wasn’t really expecting an answer.

“Allowing yourself to accept support, emotional or otherwise from the people in your life. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally.”

“So, where do we go from here?”

“We are going to set some goals together. Let me get you started.” He took out his notepad and began to create a list. Your feelings. Your social life. Your career.

After brief give and take, the following goals were established.

  1. Deal with misplaced anger.
  2. Build a social life.
  3. Get back to work. Show everyone that you are still a kick-ass prosecutor.

“This evening you are going to get to work towards#2. There is going to be a gathering at the bar across from the courthouse. The backroom has been reserved by our colleagues.”

Barba gulped. “Jumping right in there, are we?”

“You did say you were going stir-crazy cooped up here in the apartment," Huang replied with a grin.

Chapter Text

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Cabot pulled in front of Barba’s apartment at 6 PM to pick Carisi and Barba up to head to the bar. Barba deviated from his sweats routine (which Carisi was glad to see). He dressed in dark slacks and a deep purple, form fitting top and a casual black blazer. His top few buttons were undone and he wasn’t wearing a tie and gave his hair a moderate spikey look. Carisi was wearing dark jeans, a white t-shirt, and a dark leather jacket. The couple looked like they were ready to go clubbing.

Carisi sat in the front seat chatting up a storm and eager to see everyone. Cabot looked in the rearview mirror to see the silent ADA who looked very nervous. He was sweating profusely. He caught her staring at him and she gave him a smile. “You look pale as a ghost. It’s just a social gathering. You’ll be fine. Pretend you are there on work until you can relax.” She hoped that might ease him a bit.

Once there they made their way through the noisy bar to the backroom, which was much quieter. Cabot, Novak, Carmen, and Munch were all there. Carmen tipped her head to Barba as a greeting and gave him a reassuring smile as to say “It’s alright.” The whole SVU squad was there too—Benson, Stabler, Fin, Amaro, and Rollins. Dr. Huang too.

Everyone sat down at the table, ordered their food and began talking. Carisi asked “So how’s everything at SVU? Missing anything good?” Everyone fell silent. They obviously were ordered not to talk shop.

“Come on! I don’t know about Carisi here, but I am not going to freak out hearing about a SVU case!” Barba snapped.

Amaro looked at Benson and she nodded granting permission. “Well, it seems that our comrade Stabler here brought with him a perp from his past,” Amaro joked.

“It turns out Merritt Rook is alive and well,” Stabler began. (Refer to episode 9.17, “Authority)”.

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Munch’s eyes lit up. “You mean the anti-authority guy?”

“Cocky, bastard,” Novak commented.

That remark caught Barba's interest. “Continue…” he urged.

Benson and Stabler told them the background of Merritt Rook. He had lost his wife and son during child birth. The doctor used his position of authority to turn down their request for a c-section and a hemorrhage caused the mother to bleed out and their son to die. He blamed the doctor. It turned out he actually killed the doctor in revenge a few years earlier before they even met Rook. He made it look like a car accident.

“Anyhow he was anti-authoritarian,” Munch chimed in. “His crimes were committed to test authority.”

Fin added, “For example, he called a fast food restaurant, convinced the manager he was a Detective Milgram and that he needed to hold one of employees in custody and strip search her until the police arrived."

“Seriously? He did it?” Carisi asked in amazement.

“Yep.” Benson confirmed.

“Remember the cast of characters?” Stabler asked grinning at Munch. The members of the original case started laughing.

“What am I missing?” Cabot asked as this case was tried under Novak's era.

“Well, Munch was following up on his alibi for the time the call was placed to the fast food restaurant. He called a motor lodge, a diner, and a fishing establishment. It turns out every single one of them backed his alibi to a 'T'.”

“What’s so odd about that?” Barba was now intrigued.

“Turns out Rook had a several burner phones, each with the number of one of the alibi establishments. He answered each call with a different voice," Stabler explained.

“Completely fooled Munch!” Casey added.

“Well, for the record, his voice imitations were as good as Robin Williams himself (kudos if you get the reference). What sane person would think all those voices were the same person?” Munch defended himself.

Benson smirked. “You were hearing voices again, weren’t you John?”

Again, the backroom was filled with laughter. Carisi and Barba were clearly enjoying the case recap. Barba looked much more comfortable.

“Then he had the nerve to defend himself in court against Casey,” Stabler teased looking at Novak.

“Oh, I got to hear this,” Barba pleaded.

Novak blushed.

Munch continued “He swayed that jury as easily as he fooled me with his voices.”

“He had that jury eating out of his hands,” Novak admitted. “You know what his final statement in his closing argument was?” she said as she turned to Barba. Answering herself, “ something along the lines ‘Don’t be sheep. Find me not guilty.’”

RWF ::: LAW & ORDER: SVU - 'Authority' (2008) ::: Merritt Rook

“I see, because sheep blindly follow authority figures? They save the real whack jobs for you to prosecute.” Barba teased Casey. He was really starting to light up.

By this time, everyone’s food had arrived and they were eating as they continued the story.

“After his non-guilty verdict, his supporters held a rally where they were pillow-fighting to defy authority,” Benson continued.

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“And good old Finn here got his ass kicked in a pillow fight by yours truly,” Munch bragged.

“Yeah,” Huang said finally chiming in. “Remember the morning after talk show when he brought a sheep on the air and said he named it ‘Elliot?” Huang always enjoyed trying to irritate the detective. "I thought he was going to lose it right there in Cragen's office."

“Yeah, he did that to just piss me off,” Stabler rationalized.

“You think?” Huang said in a mocking tone.

Then the tone of the conversation got serious. "He held Liv captive. After he escaped and “I saved the day,” Stabler said referring to rescuing Benson, “Rook jumped off a cliff near water. They never found the body.”

Amaro finally re-entered the story. “And now as soon as Stabler moves back to SVU, he keeps getting love letters from his secret admirer,” he teased. “In each envelope, there is a picture of a sheep and the note that always says, “Don’t be a sheep, Elliot.”

“Lunatic,” Stabler said in a dismissive tone. “I can’t wait to find him and have another run at him."

---

 “Okay, now that Carisi and Barba, have their case-fix, let’s talk non-shop,” Benson suggested.

By this time, the crowds in the front room of the bar were diminishing and it was a quieter atmosphere. The SVU cliché headed to the front room for drinks.

Benson and Rollins shared updates on Noah, Jesse, and Billie. Stabler bragged on his kids. Amaro and Munch walked over to the bar to catch up. Amaro was devastated when Munch retired and went to work for the DA’s office.

Cabot, Novak, Carisi, Carmen, and Barba went and sat in a corner booth to catch up. Carmen and Barba volunteered to retrieve their drinks.

At the bar, Barba turned to Carmen "I apologize about yesterday. I shouldn't have been there. I am so mortified about how I was told I behaved."

"Don't be, Rafael. You were great company. Come by anytime you want. It was nice getting to know you better and see you not so serious," Carmen said as she laughed. 

Barba kissed her forehead. "Thank you. That was the best time I've had since this whole thing started."

Back at the table, Novak was groaning. “God,” some of these karaoke singers are dreadful," she said rolling her eyes toward the current buffoon singing.

“There is a little known secret about somebody,” Carisi teased but was cut off by a famous Barba glared.

"He better not..." Barba was thinking.

Everyone at the table was curious. Then boldly Carisi continued ignoring Barba's warning glare. “Our counselor here was in the Harvard musical theater program. He’s got a dreamy voice,” Carisi said, clearly a little tipsy at this point.

“Come on Barba,” Cabot urged.

“Sing something. It can’t be worse that person!” Novak said again referring to the current karaoke singer.

“You are a dead man!” Barba threatened Carisi. He gulped two more full glasses (not shots) of scotch. He felt buzzed. Realizing that they would not give up, he stood up and headed to the stage. He whispered to the stage attendant and he shut the music off.

“Is this a good idea?” Cabot asked Carisi. “He’s gonna get booed if he doesn’t turn that music back on!"

The lights dimmed. Barba sat down at the piano. The stage attendant gave him a head mic that he slipped around his ear.

Everyone in the SVU squad stared up and took out their phones to record. “He’s got to be plastered," Amaro speculated.

“He’s gonna blow you away,” Carisi said defending his man.

“We are so filming this to blackmail him into getting us a warrant the next time he doesn’t approve of one,” Benson joked.

Before beginning, he told the crowd that this is the only song he knows how to play on the piano. The crowd sat in tense silence and then Barba began playing the tune of “Being Alive” from the Broadway musical Company and began to belt out the lyrics.

Raul Esparza - Company | Raúl esparza, Celebrities male, Special victims  unit

https://youtu.be/eBBPKedba5o

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
And ruin your sleep

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not
Will want you to share
A little a lot

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you come through
Who'll always be there
As frightened as you
Of being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive
Being alive

Somebody need me too much
Somebody know me too well
Somebody pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive
Make me alive
Make me alive

Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days

But alone
Is alone
Not alive

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody let come through
I'll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive

The entire SVU squad sat stunned, but they filmed the whole thing on their phones.

“That was incredible!” Rollins couldn’t believe what she just heard from their ADA. “Beautiful voice!"

“He was so emotional. Did you hear how he was peaceful, angry and then peaceful again?” Amaro said impressed with the ADA who rarely even displayed his own emotions.

“Did you know he could sing?” Benson murmured to Carisi.

“God, yes. He’s incredible,” Carisi shared bragging on his lover.

“That was so…passionate,” Novak said, still in awe.

“You know, if he leaves law, he’d have one hell of a career on Broadway!” Stabler mused. Benson playfully smacked him for even suggesting that Barba leave them.

After taking a tipsy bow, the crowd cheered for an encore. This time when Barba approached the stage attendant, he turned on a very upbeat song. “This is from the musical “Chess” he announced jumping right in and adding a little choreography to the song.

https://youtu.be/xTzaLdjEhRE

I've a duty as the referee
At the start of the match
On behalf of all our sponsors
I must welcome you
Which I do -- there's a catch

I don't care if you're a champion
No one messes with me
I am ruthless in upholding
What I know is right
Black or white -- as you'll see

I'm on the case
Can't be fooled
Any objection
Is overruled
Yes I'm the Arbiter and I know best

He's impartial, don't push him, he's unimpressed

You got your tricks
Good for you
But there's no gambit I don't see through
Oh I'm the Arbiter I know the score

From square one he'll be watching all 64

If you're thinking of the kind of thing
That we've seen in the past
Chanting gurus, walkie-talkies,
Walkouts, hypnotists,
Tempers, fists -- not so fast

This is not the start of World War Three
No political ploys
I think both your constitutions are terrific so
Now you know -- be good boys

I'm on the case
Can't be fooled
Any objection
Is overruled
Yes I'm the Arbiter and I know best

He's impartial, don't push him, he's unimpressed

You got your tricks
Good for you
But there's no gambit I don't see through
Oh I'm the Arbiter I know the score

From square one he'll be watching all 64

Yes I'm the Arbiter I know the score

From square one he's watching all 64

 

As Barba finished, the crowd was roaring. He took another bow and managed to walk off stage back to the SVU crowd. Taking another shot of scotch “How about that? Bet you weren't expecting..." he slurred right before collapsing into Amaro arms.

“I think he had fun tonight,” Amaro laughed holding the unconscious man in his arms.

Carisi laughed. “Yeah, but I think we better being heading home now.”

Turning to Benson, Huang said, “Begin to develop a social life, check.” The two shared a look of accomplishment.

- ---

The Uber dropped them off at Barba’s apartment just after 2 AM. Amaro had night watch. He and Carisi got Barba up to the apartment and put him in bed. Amaro took the man’s shoes, socks and shirt off and left the rest to Sonny. Amaro said he was turning in for the night and would be in the guest room.

Carisi shut the lights out and laid on the bed, keeping space between him and Barba. He gazed dreamily at the sexy ADA. Barba had so many friends and people who cared about him. If he would only let them in more often.

Then he thought, even if Barba hates me the rest of his life, at least I know that this good and passionate man is alive.

He happily ogled at Barba as he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

May be an image of text that says 'LAW& ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT BARISI FANFIC'

It was just before 8 AM when Rollins knocked on the Barba’s door. Huang was on ‘security detail’ and answered the door. “Since it is Carisi’s therapy day, I am going to take Barba for a jog," she enthusiastically announced her intentions.

About 30 minutes later Barba was awake and dressed in jogging attire. “I can’t believe you are making me do this,” he whined.

"I see you didn't have your coffee yet," observing his sleepy appearance. Well, I'll race you to the elevator,” she said as she darted down the hall. He sprinted after her and Huang closed the door.

About an hour later, Carisi made his way into the living room with a cup of coffee and propped his feet up on the coffee table. “Mind if I get comfy? So how does this work, doc?”

“Well, we can start about your feelings toward Rafael and the status of your relationship,” Huang prompted. “I am here some of the time, but I want to know from you, how do you and Rafael stand?”

“Well, it is very confusing. Some days, like the other night at the bar, he talks to me like nothing ever happened. Then other times he doesn’t speak to me and even physically shoves me away. We don’t always sleep together, and when we do, I leave space between us. I just don’t ever know if he is going to burst into tears and want to cuddle or have some little fit of rage and sucker punch me.”

“I get why he is angry at me. He has every right to never want to see me again, but he left me no choice.”

“What do you mean by that?” Huang asked.

“Well, with what all happened. Barba was antagonizing the mobsters and intentionally taking all the brutalization to protect me. Then when they finally beat him into a concussion, I just couldn’t determine how alert he was. He freakin’ emotionally blackmailed me into raping him.” At this point Carisi’s tone had become angry and tears filled his eyes.

“You are angry. Why?” Huang inquired.

“He wanted me to live without him, but he wasn’t willing to live without me. He said if I didn’t do what they said, even it meant raping him, that he would kill himself if they killed me.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Then, when I had no choice, guns pointed at us and all, he consented and begged me to do it. He said that if I didn’t do it, they would rape him themselves and kill him in the process.” The tears started to stream down his face. “At this point I knew he wasn’t clear headed. For God’s sake, he thought he was talking to his mother at one point.” Carisi bent over and began sobbing into his knees and Huang made his way to the sofa and tried to soothe him by rubbing the detective's back.

“If Rafael wasn’t concussed, do you think he would have asked you to do something differently?” Huang asked.

After a long pause, “Probably not, but that’s not the point.”

“What is the point?” Huang continued to probe.

“We tell our victims all of the time that they can’t consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Rafael was no different, his consent was not valid at the time. He was not in a coherent state of mind. I knew this. I raped him anyhow.”

Now he was sobbing uncontrollably into his knees and it was about ten minutes until he could calm himself enough to continue.

“Even if Rafael ever could forgive me, I won’t be able to forgive myself. I tried to be gentle, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hurt him. He was in bad shape and I raped him. I am a rapist. They need to lock me up and throw away the key. I don’t deserve such a decent and good person as Rafael.”

“If the roles were reversed, do you think Rafael would have done that to you?”

“I don’t know how to answer that. I honestly don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?” Carisi responded with hostility towards Huang.

---

Rollins and Barba were jogging through Central Park. Rollins was intentionally running at a slower pace as she knew the ADA had not been an avid jogger before all this and was probably still recovering physically.

May be an image of 1 person, standing and outdoors

He could barely talk and was very out of breath. Rollins stopped and bent down putting her hands on her thighs to take an unneeded rest so she could discreetly let the proud man catch his own breath.

Barba saw right through the tactic. “If I am slowing you down, you could always drop me off at a bar and pick me up on your way back through,” he joked. Rollins secretly always loved when he tried to be funny, even if he wasn’t successful. She thought it was one of his most endearing qualities.

“I don’t think so. Besides, Liv would probably kill me,” she replied. The two made their way to the bench near the jogging path. They sat there for a half hour just talking. She bragged about Jesse and Billie. Then she added, “They would love to have their Uncles Rafa and Sonny over for dinner sometime.” She saw an uneasy look in his eyes so she tried to lower the pressure by saying, “when you feel up to it, of course.”

Barba nodded at the low pressure dinner invitation. They continued talking and then something wasn’t quite right. Barba was staring, he looked dazed. Rollins waved her hand in front of his face. “Earth to Rafael! Barba?” There was no flinch. No reaction. He just appeared frozen.

“What the hell?” Rollins asked aloud. She was pulling her phone from her jogging jacket when Barba finally started to move again. He seemed alert but looked really confused. “Hey are you okay there?”

“Yeah, umm. I got distracted. Sorry,” he apologized.

“Don’t worry about it,” she responded. But she was worried. This was odd behavior, even for him. “Why don’t we get you a coffee and we can head back?”

“Sure, an Uber? I don’t think my legs can take much more today.”

“Anything for you,” she chuckled with a nod.

---

Back at the apartment Carisi and Huang were finishing up their session.

“From everything you told me, it sounds like you are dealing with a lot of anger. With yourself, with Rafael…”

Carisi stopped him. “I can’t be angry at Rafael. I love him.”

“But you are. You have to acknowledge that. Our goals going forward is to find ways for you to deal with your anger and coping strategies for your depression. Are you taking any mediation?”

“Nope. I had anxiety medication, but I’ve proven that I can’t even be trusted with that,” he explained shamefully.

Huang paused. “Well I could write you a prescription for an antidepressant but I would want to control your doses, just until your spirits lift. It’s not that we want to treat you like a child, but we really care about you and don’t want to lose you.” As he scribbled on his prescription pad, he added as an extra incentive and sort of using emotional blackmail himself, “you know what it would do to Rafael if he lost you.”

They heard the door open and Barba and Rollins strolled in as Carisi took the prescription from Huang.

“I see our fit friends have arrived,” Carisi said to greet them.

Rollins laughed. “I’ve got to get home to relieve the sitter. Walk me out George? Liv needs me to ask you about a case.”

“Of course,” he responded. Turning to Carisi and Barba, “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Where would we go? Off the balcony?” Carisi snarled. Huang gave him a glare as he walked outside with Rollins and shut the door.

---

“Session not go well?” she asked. “He just has a lot of pent up anger and we need to help him cope. What’s this about a case?”

“I sort of lied about that. I just needed to talk to you about Rafael.”

Huang shook his his in acknowledgement. “What about?”

“Well, we were talking and I am not sure what happened. It looked like he was dazed and couldn’t hear me. He didn’t even flinch in the slightest when I waved my hand in front of his eyes. And then, just like that, he was back. He just seemed really off. Just thought you’d like to know.”

“Yeah, that is a bit alarming. I am spending the rest of the day with him and I’ll watch him to see if I can figure out what is going on. Thanks, Amanda.”

“Anytime. Now, I really got to get home to relieve the sitter. I didn’t lie about that,” she chuckled as she sprinted towards the elevator.

---

Back inside, Rafael was gulping down a glass of water and still seemed a little out of breath. “I’m going to take a shower,” he announced leaving the room.

Huang looked at Carisi. “Really, jumping off balconies?”

---

Barba removed his shirt and looked in the mirror. The bruises on his face, neck, and torso had faded. The burns and cuts on his back were scarred, but otherwise he seemed to be healing. The brand was still visible on his shoulder. He seemed pleased that his body was healing. Stripping his pants and boxers he observed similar results. He took a very long, and much needed relaxing shower. He threw on a pair of kakis and a grey t-shirt. He had to do laundry. He had exhausted his line of sweat clothing.

When he reappeared in the living room, Huang motioned him to sit down next to an awaiting cup of coffee. Carisi was present as well.

“I need to ask you two something. I need you to give it careful consideration,” Huang started. “The FBI found video footage of your captivity.” He paused to gauge the men’s reactions.

Carisi looked up startled. “There is video evidence?” He was again feeling angry but managed to control his tone.

"They taped it?" Barba asked stunned and then turned his gaze to the floor.

Huang continued. “Nothing is being done with the evidence because, well, the assailants are dead.”

“Except for me,” Carisi stated. Barba looked up surprised. “Sonny…”

Carisi waved him off.

After a brief pause, Huang thought it was safe to continue. “Rafael, you don’t remember a lot of what happened. You seem to be struggling with not knowing.” He turned to Carisi. “You are feeling guilt and self-loathing. You think you had other options but you didn’t.”

“What are you getting at?” Barba asked although he already had his suspicions.

“Viewing the footage, would provide you with the events of what happened, fill in those gaps you desperately want to know.” Again turning to Carisi, “and it will help you see that there just were no good or better options.”

The two men were not making eye contact with each other.

“Do we both have to watch?” Carisi asked.

“No. You both could watch it together, separately, or only one of you could. It is your choice.”

A few more minutes went by, “I think I need to see it,” Barba concluded. I just can't deal with the gaps in my memory." Even if it was awful, he had to know. He didn’t think it could make anything worse.

Carisi agreed.

“Okay,” Huang replied. “I am going to express my opinion, but you do not have to share it. I would feel better if you watched it together. This would allow you to process it as a couple and you can share your thoughts with each other. From our sessions, you both are trying to figure out what the other is thinking and feeling. The only way to know for sure is to actually speak to each other.”

“What do you think Rafael?” Carisi asked as his blue eyes finally met Barba’s green ones.

“I am open to watching together, if you are,” Barba said.

“I think that’s a yes, doc. We’ll watch it together," Sonny confirmed.

Carisi got up and left the room to refill his coffee.

Huang turned to Barba. “Rafael, I don’t mean to pry into your physical health, but is something going on with you? Rollins said you sort of freaked her out today in the park. She said it was like you weren’t there.”

Barba swallowed as he knew exactly what he was talking about. “I just have periods where…I feel confused. I missed something. I am not sure,” he finally admitted.

“How long has this been going on?” Huang asked.

“Since I woke up in the hospital. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to go home. Plus, it might be bad. I just don’t think I can deal with anything else,” Barba confessed.

“Well, it is obviously your choice to seek medical attention. From my medical knowledge, but keep in mind I am not practicing medical physician,” he cautioned. “I think I know what it could be and it is very manageable.”

Carisi came back into the room and the topic was dropped. Sensing they were talking about something private, Carisi assisted with changing the subject. “So who will be our next visitor on our ‘security detail’ be?” Carisi asked.

“Liv is coming at 3 and the Elliot will be spending the night. Casey and Alex will both grace you with their presence tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

May be an image of text that says 'LAW& ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT BARISI FANFIC'

Two mornings later, Barba found himself pacing in his bedroom. He made an appointment at the hospital for this morning. He thought he would back out and cancel, but he managed not to. Now the morning was here. He wasn’t sure what tests they would run and whether or not that meant he should have someone accompany him. Carisi would have been the best choice, up until recently. Barba found that he just didn’t know how to interact with his lover anymore.

He was running through a list of acquaintances from SVU through his head. He sighed and finally decided on Amaro. Amaro would probably be the one who would keep a secret best. SVU was such a chatty bunch, but they meant well.

Barba sat down on the edge of his bed. He sighed, picked up his phone, and hesitantly dialed Amaro.

“Barba? Is everything okay?” Amaro answered.

“I…I need a favor. I know it is last minute, but could you see if Liv could give you the morning off? I need someone who can be discreet.”

“Uh, sure,” Amaro replied.  He put his cell his chest as he walked into Liv’s office. “I have an urgent errand to run for Cynthia. Can I take the morning?” Barba listened intently on the phone as he heard Amaro making up an excuse to get out of there.

“Sure, Nick. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, nothing too serious.”

Barba could hear him shut the Liv’s door as he left.

“Soy todo tuyon, (I’m all yours)” Amaro said. “Estaqre ahi en quince minutos. (I’ll be there in 15 minutes.)”

Barba was in front of his building when Amaro pulled up. He walked over and slowly got in Amaro's car.

“Where to?” Amaro asked.

“The hospital,” he said quietly.

“Barba! You should have called an ambulance!” Amaro said shocked.

“No, it’s an appointment, not an emergency. I really thought I would have cancelled but I didn't. I just need someone to be there in case…I don’t know what kind of tests they are going to do. I might need someone to help get me home. I just didn’t want this being the water cooler talk at SVU. You seemed like the ideal person for that.”

“Entiendo. Ni una palabra a nadie (I understand. Not a word to anyone),” he promised Barba.

The ride was silent. Amaro parked the car and they got out.

“Where to?”

Barba pointed. “The neurology wing.”

Amaro was concerned. “Is it serious?”

“I don’t,” he began as a snap, and then he caught himself and finished his response in a calmer tone switching over to Spanish “por eso estamos aqui (that’s why we’re here.)”

Barba went to the admissions desk and then he and Amaro sat in the waiting area. Amaro could see how nervous he was because he was shaking a little and breathing faster.

“Afraid of hospitals are we, Counselor?” he said jokingly. “Or are you concerned?” he said at a more neutral tone. He was expecting Barba just to scuff and was shocked when he got a verbal response instead.

“A little of both, I suppose,” Barba replied.

Within 15 minutes Barba was being called back. Amaro looked at him. “Que quieres que vaya contigo (Do you want me to come with you)?”

Barba nodded his head. Again not, the response he was expecting from the ADA. “He must be nervous,” Amaro thought to himself. When they got to the exam room, the nurse had Barba change into a hospital gown. The doctor came in and began asking questions.

“Can you tell me what brought you here today?” the doctor asked.

“I’ve been having some…episodes where I get confused. A couple people told me I am not responsive for like a minute to verbal or visual stimuli,” Barba explained as he looked at Amaro. He could see his eyes widen with concern.

“Did you experience any recent head trauma?" the doctor asked.

Barba swallowed and tears welled up in eyes. He couldn’t find any words. "Barba, speechless, yikes," Amaro thought as jumped to his feet and walked over to stand next to the ADA. He began rubbing his back to comfort him.

“He was assaulted about two months ago and suffered a few consecutive concussions as a result,” Amaro explained to the doctor. The doctor was able to piece together why Barba was tearing up.

“When did your symptoms start?” the doctor inquired.

Barba responded sheepishly, “When I woke up in the hospital.”

“Rafael Eduardo Barba!” Nick scolded the ADA using his full name.

The doctor sighed. “Well let’s start with a CT scan. You can wait here Mr.…”

“Amaro,” Nick said finishing the doctor’s sentence.

About thirty minutes later, Barba was returned to the exam room where Amaro was waiting.

“How’d it go?” Amaro inquired.

Barba shrugged. “The doctor has to look at the scan.” Being in the hospital gown, Barba just looked so vulnerable and sort of sexy. He couldn't deny how everyone just seemed attracted to him no matter what. He just had "it." What ever "it" was. What everyone wants. Women, gay men, straight men, hell, probably even gay women. 

Ten minutes later the doctor entered the room interrupting Amaro's contemplation.

“Good news, Mr. Barba, it’s not as bad as you thought.” Then the doctor continued with the details. “I can see from your records from your last stay here, that your concussions were…well you should have been dead. While you miraculously have exhibited no other symptoms of traumatic brain injury…” the doctor trailed off realizing that Barba initially didn’t report these symptoms. "Have you had any other issues?" the doctor inquired.

“Just headaches, but those were pretty common before. Just this,” Barba confirmed.

The doctor continued. “What you are experiencing is a non-convulsive seizure or absent seizure. They may last up to a minute. The person usually just suffers from confusion afterwards. The only real danger would be if you would be operating heavy equipment, driving, or in a dangerous situation.”

“Is there anything that can be done?” Amaro asked entering the conversation as guardian would. He was resting his hand on Barba’s shoulder still trying to relax him.

“Well, he would have to take a simple antiepileptic medication. Once a therapeutic dose is achieved in his body, the absent seizures would be minimal…perhaps cease altogether.”

“That sounds like great news,” Amaro said still having no luck in comforting Barba.

The doctor wrote him a prescription and told Barba he wanted to see him back in six months. Barba thanked the doctor, got changed, and  they were on their way back to Amaro’s car.

As they neared the car, Amaro heard a sniffle. Trying to give the ADA his space, he pretended not to hear it as they got in his car. Then Barba burst into tears. Amaro pulled him over to his shoulder and allowed Barba to cry himself out.

Once he regained his composure, Barba sat up. “I…I’m so sorry. I just don’t deal with anything well anymore.”

“Hey, it’s okay. You are just like the rest of us now,” Amaro said and then he spotted the confused look on Barba’s face. "You're not having as seizure, are you?" Amaro asked.

“No, Amaro. What do you mean?”

“It should be obvious. For as long as I have known you, you always put on a brave face no matter the situation. Like constantly wearing a mask. You never let your emotions show. Honestly, I don’t know how you did it. Scotch? It seems like you are finally experiencing emotions like a normal person…not that you weren’t normal before,” Amaro was now tripping over his own words.

“I’ll take that as a compliment. Thanks, Nick.”

The two drove back to the precinct. Barba wanted to visit with people before going back to his apartment.

---

At the precinct Barba looked oddly at the evidence board. There were images of sheep all over the evidence board by Stabler’s desk, which was also covered by sheep. “Remember the story of Merritt Rook from the bar the other night? Yeah, pretty sure this guy is pissing Stabler off!” Amaro explained. Barba cracked a smile. He had heard through the grapevine that Stabler was more hot-headed than Amaro.

Benson came out of her office seeing that Barba had come in with Amaro. “Hey Barba, I wasn’t expecting to see you here today.” She was wondering if "Barba" was the errand that he had to run for Cynthia.

She turned to Amaro. “Stabler has him in interrogation.”

Amaro and Barba followed Benson to the interrogation room. Novak was outside watching. “Can you go in there and reign in Stabler before he kills him AND my case?” Novak asked Amaro. “Sure, I’ll do what I can.” Amaro opened the door and walked right on in.

Barba turned to Novak. “So, this is the famous Merritt Rook who kicked your ass in court!” Barba exclaimed.

Novak sighed. "Yeah, laugh it up now Barba, we’re saving some good ones for you to prosecute when you come back.”

Barba smiled. “I like the sound of that.”

He turned to Benson, “So besides the sheep guy, what else are you guys working on here?” She motioned him to follow. In a different room, Rollins was sitting with a twenty something brunette trying to get a statement. Cabot was outside the room. She heard footsteps and without turning around she said, “Liv, she is refusing to give a statement or testify.” Then she turned around and was stunned to see Barba with her.

“Hi, Rafael.” She looked to Benson to see if it was okay to talk about the case in front of Barba. She nodded.

“So what do we have here?” Barba asked.

“Renee, 24 her and her fiancé were kidnapped and…” Cabot trailed off realizing it was too similar to Barba’s own kidnapping incident.

Seeing how reluctant she was to finish, he had guessed about the similarities. “It is okay, go on,” Barba pressured her. "I'm not going to break," but he was preparing for the worst.

Cabot continued, “Well her fiancé was told to rape her. He refused. He’s dead now. She is having trouble dealing with the loss. She said testifying would be too painful.”

There was a long pause. Barba began thinking. “I could be in the same place as this poor girl if Carisi had refused to rape me. I could be grieving his loss. Or we both could be gone.”

After a few more minutes of watching Rollins try to persuade her to testify, Barba turned to Benson and Cabot. “Let me talk to her.” Benson and Cabot exchanged looks.

“Are you sure Rafael?” Cabot asked.

Benson knocked on the door, “Amanda, our friend Rafael here, he wants to talk to Renee.” Rollins got up and walked out perplexed to see Barba entering the room alone to speak to a victim. He shut the door.

He sat down across the table from Renee. “Hi, Renee. My name is Rafael Barba. Like Ms. Cabot, I am a prosecutor. I am not here to talk to you as one though. I want to…Renee, I heard about what happened to you and your fiancé and I am so sorry.” She looked into his eyes. Barba’s green eyes were filling with tears, but he forced himself to continue.

“I am not going to tell you that I know how you feel, because every situation is different. I did go through something very similar two months ago. My…lover and I were kidnapped. The circumstances were different, but he was told to rape me, just as your fiancé was told to do to you.” He could see mutual tears welling up in Renee’s eyes too.

“My boyfriend did as he was told. He is alive and probably saved my life too. We are struggling, but what you are going through is so much worse. I can’t even fathom if I lost him.”

“You are sitting here today. Alive. Strong. You have a chance to put the person that did this to you and your fiancé behind bars. To see him punished. Unlike you, I do not have that opportunity. My captors were killed. They did not get to feel any retribution or punishment.” He paused. “That is definitely something I wish I could have, but I am not here to tell you that you should testify. I am here to tell you, it is just something to consider. To see the man who caused you all this pain to be punished. To see justice.”

He sighed. “Again, Renee, I am really sorry about your loss.” He got up, looked at the floor and then walked out of interview room.

“Liv, can I have a few minutes alone in your office before I leave.”

“Sure, Rafael. However long you need.” He walked down the hall back to the squad room into Benson’s office and shut the door. He lowered the blinds, turned the lights off, sat down on her sofa and began to weep.

Still standing outside of the interview room astounded by what they just witnessed, Rollins, Cabot and Benson’s jaws practically hung open. Novak walked up to them puzzled. “What did I miss?”

"In a minute," Benson said motioning them towards the break room. "How's it going with Rook? she asked back.

"They can't get him to talk. We are going to have to release him in a few hours," Novak sighed with annoyance. 

---

Since her office was occupied, Benson, Rollins, Cabot, and Novak walked into the breakroom and poured themselves some coffee before sitting down.

"What the hell did we just see? Rafael Barba was sitting face to face with a victim empathizing and trying to comfort her?" Cabot said essentially recapping what they just witnessed for Novak. Barba could empathize with victims, but not face to face. He did fight like hell for them in court when prosecuting those responsible.

Novak commented, "I just can't believe it. Are you sure it was Barba? This is new terrain for him."

"Well, that was very selfless to do, but by judging from the look in his eyes, he has to be breaking down right about now," she said voicing her concern for their friend. "He was so happy to hear what was going on at the station, but why, why, did it have to be this particular case?” she whined.

Just as they were ready to leave the break room to go check on Barba, Carmen walked in. “Hi, Olivia. Detective Amaro called me. He said Rafael could use a friend right now and since he was here, I figured we’d go get lunch.” Benson felt so grateful that Barba had befriended his assistant. Also sort of proud of him.

Amaro was still in interrogation with Stabler. He didn’t know about what just transpired. Looking at Cabot and Novak, she said “He’s in my office. Let me see if he is ready to go.” Now she had confirmation that Barba was indeed Amaro's "errand for Cynthia."

---

Entering her dark office, she whispered, “Rafael, are you still here?” She heard a low moan and a sniffle. She turned on the light and waited for his red eyes to adjust.

“Are you okay?” she asked as she sat down on the sofa and put her arms around him.

“I guess,” he replied trying to get his composure back.

“You were great with her. Even if Renee doesn’t testify, what you said to her will definitely help her grieve.”

He nodded his head and got to his feet.

“So Amaro called Carmen?" Benson discretely prompted. She wanted to see his reaction.

Barba paused. He hadn’t the faintest clue what she was talking about.

"Something about you needed a friend right now?”

Then it him. Amaro was concerned because of the hospital visit and diagnosis.

He sighed. “Oh, yeah.” He just decided to go along with it. His face was looking more normal as he left her office. Upon seeing Carmen, he interlocked elbows and announced they were heading to lunch. On the way out, she asked looking at the evidence board, “Did they get sheep guy?” She remembered the case from the other night.

“Yeah, Stabler and Amaro are having a go at him in interrogation right now.” They both smiled as they left the squad room.

  • ---

They decided to eat at Carmen’s place because Rafael wasn’t feeling up to being in public anymore today. He helped her cook a delicious lunch. After they had finished, he told her that since he was her boss, that she could have the rest of the day. She giggled.

“So…Amaro told me that you needed to be around a friend today. Anything in particular going on? He said you didn’t want to talk to anyone at SVU about it?”

He sighed. He wished she wasn’t so easy to talk to. “Yeah, I had a pretty stressful morning.” He explained how he was having these episodes of confusion and today the doctor diagnosed him with non-convulsive seizures brought on by traumatic brain injuries.

Her face filled with concern, which Barba quickly detected. “Anyhow, the doctor said if I take the medication, the seizures will subside and I will be fine.”

She smiled. “I am so glad to hear that. I know we just recently became friends, but I want you to know that you can always talk to me, about anything. Day or night." After talking for another half hour, Barba called an Uber to go back to his apartment.

“Medical diagnosis, empathizing with a victim, having lunch with a new friend. I’m exhausted,” he thought as he made his way to his apartment door. When he entered, he found Carisi laying on the sofa watching TV. Recalling Renee's situation, he was grateful to see him alive. He turned the corner and caught Benson, Cabot, and Novak sitting at his dining room table with coffee. There was an extra cup of coffee at an empty chair. “Come over here and sit down, Rafael,” Alex urged.

“What did I do to deserve all three of you?” he asked disguising his fear with humor.

 

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“Sonny, can you come in here?” Benson requested.

Carisi came and sat down at the kitchen table. "What’s up?" Dr. Huang who emerged from Barba's home office joined them. 

Carisi and Barba both looked uneasy. “Now what?” Barba thought to himself.

“Well we’ve been talking to George, and he thinks it is time for both of you to start integrating yourselves back into working. Limited duty, part-time."

Barba was relieved and Carisi appeared excited.

“Carisi, you can have desk duty and you can do interrogations take victim statements with a partner. No field work yet. Or side arms.”

“Whatever you say, Liv! I’ll take what I can get!" She just made his day.

Then Barba felt all eyes shift towards him.

It was Cabot’s turn to speak. “Rafael,” I know you are used to 80 hour work weeks, juggling multiple cases, and prosecuting on your own.” She paused hoping that her news would draw a positive reaction from Barba as well. "McCoy has agreed to allow you to prosecute one case at a time as lead prosecutor and to assist me and or Casey on ours. Just until you get back into the swing of things.”

“This was the good news, I needed to hear today!” Barba exclaimed with joy. “Yes!” He chanted as he started jumping up and down like a child.

“Are you drunk?” Benson began to interrogate her friend.

“No, just extremely happy. And George here, thinks I should express my emotions,” he snickered. They all had a good, long, well-needed laugh at the adorably cute ADA.

---

It was Tuesday morning, and both Barba and Carisi were dressing for work. Barba but on one of his dark gray suits with a light blue tie with matching pocket squares, socks, and suspenders. Carisi dressed in tan slacks, a long sleeved black button down shirt and matching blazer which he would more than likely take off later.

Barba, Carisi, and Novak (who was on their ‘security detail’ last night) caught an Uber to the courthouse area.

“Can we have a minute?” he asked Casey. “I’ll be right in.” She nodded her head and went into 1 Hogan Place.

Barba and Carisi stood in silence. “Are you ready for this, detective?”

“Yeah, I think so," he replied. "Are you, counselor?”

“Yeah, but I think it will be hard for a while,” he responded. They wished each other luck and began to head their separate ways.

“Rafael,” Carisi called after him. The ADA turned around.

“I need to ask you something, but please don’t get mad.” There was a pause and Barba walked over to Carisi. He recognized his serious tone.

Carisi continued. “I know this is not the time or place, but I can’t take it anymore.” He sighed. “Are we ever going to be okay? Do you still love me? It’s okay if you don’t, I just need to know..." Barba put his hand up cutting him off and then walked right up to Carisi's face.

“The response to your first question is, I hope so. I am putting my faith in Huang so I have someone to blame if we don’t end up being okay,” he rationalized with a small grin. “As for your second question, I will always love you.” He leaned in and gave Carisi a peck on the cheek. “It’s just going to be awkward for a while.” Carisi watched as the ADA walk away and made his way into 1 Hogan Place. He felt a glimmer of hope and as he walked the rest of the way to the precinct.

---

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Barba greeted Carmen on as he heading into his office and turned on the lights. Carmen followed him in. “Here. Liv said you could have your keys back,” she said handing them to Barba. “Now can I have my spare keys back?” she said grinning at him. "I know you took them that day.”

Barba smiled sheepishly.  He wasn’t even going to try to deny having them. “Maybe tomorrow, I don’t have them on me today.” They both shared a light chuckle.

She made them both coffee and she began her work. Barba left his door ajarred hoping it would encourage Carmen to pop in more frequently. He really was enjoying their friendship and had a feeling it would help lighten the mood, especially as he would probably struggle with being back during his first few cases.

Barba went to work tidying up his office, organizing files, and throwing away the empty scotch bottles and returning the  bottles that still had some alcohol remaining to their rightful place. He sat down and propped his feet up allowing his light blue socks to show. Now all he needed was a case. That’s when Cabot knocked on his door.

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---

At the precinct Carisi found some changes. He saw a stuffed sheep sitting on what must be Elliot's desk. "Gift from Rook?" he asked Stabler.

"No, Finn." He picked up the sheep and threw it at Finn.

"Hey man, don't take it out on the sheep!" Finn joked.

There were more desks and they were situated differently.

Benson announced his return and the squad clapped and cheered. She said we that with the extra members now she was going to reorganize the partners.

Stabler and Carisi will be together.

She looked at Stabler and Amaro. “Stabler and Amaro seem like they can’t be trusted together,” she joked. “On a serious note," she continued, “two hot-headed people going at Merritt Rook almost ended in disaster and Casey’s wrath would have been bad.” Stabler and Amaro both cracked guilty smiles. Their anger issues proceeded them.

“Fin will be with Rollins.”

Turning to Amaro, “Nick, you will be the wild card just because you are that good. You will go with whichever team needs an extra hand and when I am in the field you will be my partner.”

Everyone seemed agreeable to the new pairings.

“As for pecking order, it will still be me, followed by Fin." Then she continued, "If anyone needs help, Stabler was with us for twelve years. He can be a great source to look to. Just don’t piss him off,” she added.

“Seriously, don’t worry about that. I’ve tried to stop holding grudges. I don’t really know some of you guys that well yet, but I look forward to working with you and undoubtedly we’ll see each other outside of work,” Stabler said finishing his little speech.

“Now to work. If you can maintain your composure, Elliot,” she said winking at Stabler, "You, Sonny, and I will work the Rook case with Casey. She turned to the others. Fin, Amanda, and Nick, you will work with Rafael and Alex on Renee’s case.

---

Back at 1 Hogan Place, Barba and Cabot were sitting in his office sipping coffee.

“Good news, Renee decided to testify,” Cabot shared

“That’s great,” Barba agreed. "I sense a but coming."

“Well, I know how triggering her assault was to you. Unfortunately she only agreed to testify if you prosecute the case. She seems to really trust you.”

Barba swallowed and was silent.

“Barba, this is probably going to be the most challenging type of case for you to prosecute going forward. If you get this one out of the way, you know that you'll be able to deal with any case that reaches your desk.” Cabot wasn’t sure if he was going to agree to take the case.

“Ripping of the band aid rather fast aren't we?" Barba remarked proceeded by a moment of silence. "Would she agree to have you co-counsel? I might need some really strong back up on this one.”

Alex nodded, “She already has and she completely understands your situation given what you shared with her.”

“Then I guess I have my first case. Thanks for being with me, Alex. Although I usually prefer to prosecute on my own, I will really need you and Casey for awhile,” he admitted humbly.

“It is no problem. We have to look out for our fellow ADAs.” She winked and then kissed him on the forehead. “Here are the files.”

Carmen walked into hand Barba a phone message. “Will I see you and Carmen at lunch today? Join Casey and me?” Cabot asked extending an invitation. 

Carmen answered for him. “We absolutely will,” she said smiling at him. He could see Carmen was really going to push his social limits, but he reasoned that was what it meant to develop a social life, just as the doctor ordered.

After Cabot left, Carmen also kissed his forehead before heading back to her desk. He smirked and thought to himself, "This actually feels nice. I could get use to all this."

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Marching into Barba's office at exactly 5 PM, Cabot called out, “Times up! Get your jacket!” She was driving him home tonight. Her and Amaro had the night shift with Barba and Carisi. The sleeves of Barba’ blued button down shirt were pushed up to his elbows, as he often did while deep in a case. He peered up at Cabot lowering the case file from his face.

“How are you handling this so far?” she asked as Barba reluctantly rose to get his blazer.

“Pretty good so far.”

“Good. Let me know if that changes. Let’s get you out of here,” she called leading the way. “You too, Carmen,” Cabot added as Barba locked his office door. He couldn't think of a day in his recent memory where he left the office before 7 or 8.

---

Amaro had driven Carisi home and they were already sitting at the kitchen bar when Cabot and Barba entered. Amaro had something behind his back. “Don’t tell, Liv,” Amaro grinned revealing a bottle of Barba’s favorite brand of Scotch. “We are celebrating both of your first days back!”


“She won’t hear a word from me!” Barba exclaimed as he threw his jacket on a chair and retrieved four glasses before heading into the living room. Everyone was seated around the coffee table. Barba poured the scotch and distributed the glasses. They were all sitting around the coffee table sharing their day’s stories.

"Can you believe Fin bought Stabler a stuffed animal sheep? I really thought he was trying to take Fin out when he threw it at him. Barba was being unusually silent and appeared to be zoned out.  “No witty comeback, Counselor?” Carisi asked. Barba did not even move a muscle.

A few more seconds passed and Rafael did not respond. “Rafael, are you okay?” Cabot followed up. He didn’t reply or move. She firmly grasped his shoulder trying to get his attention figuring he was deep in thought over Renee's case, or maybe the nature of the case was impacting him more than he left on. Still nothing. He appeared dazed. “What the hell?” she said as she realized something was wrong. She frantically reached for her cell.

Amaro put his hand out and stopped her. “Give us a minute. Amaro got up and walked over to Barba’s chair and knelt down so that he was eye level with the ADA. “Hey there, are you with us?” he said gently grasping Barba’s arm. “Come on, Rafael, come on.”

As Barba started to come back to reality, he could see worried faces staring at him and concerned voices now were becoming audible. He blinked his eyes several times. His company seemed alarmed. “Why?” he thought. “Oh, shit,” he left slip when he finally realized that he had another seizure.

“Are you okay?” Amaro asked staring at the confused ADA.

“What’s going on?” Carisi asked Amaro impatiently. Amaro seemed to know something that he and Cabot did not.

“Are you okay, Rafael?” Amaro repeated his question.

Barba continued to reorient himself with the situation before slowly responded, "Yeah. I just was distracted and felt a little confused for a second.”

“Try like for a minute or two,” Carisi snapped with a tone serious but his speech was beginning to slur. It never took much to get Carisi drunk.

Amaro, was still on the floor eye level with Barba when he moved his grasp from the ADA’s arm to his shoulder to comfort him for what he was about to advise. “Rafael, you need to tell them. I know you don’t want to and that you feel this is personal, but they really need to know.”

“Tell us what?” Carisi demanded irritation now apparent in his tone.

Barba sighed and looked at the floor. “Since...everything...I’ve been having episodes of where I am unaware of what is going on and then feel confused afterwards.” He looked up.  Cabot looked concerned but Carisi’s face was a blank. He gulped and looked down before continuing. “Yesterday, the doctor said that I was having, non-convulsive, or what he called 'absent seizures'.” He looked up again making eye contact momentarily with each person before returning his gaze shamefully to the floor. “I started a medication. The doctor said once the level is high enough in my body, that my seizures will start to subside and hopefully completely cease.”

Barba looked up again, ready to defend himself for whatever lecture he was about to get about not taking care of himself, or whatever.

Instead, Cabot sympathized. “My cousin was in a car accident and he suffered a concussion. He had absent seizures too. Medication helped his seizures,” she said trying to reassure Barba.

Barba gently nodded in appreciation of her understanding comforting share. He felt some relief.

The he looked at Carisi who jumped up and looked furious. “What the fuck, Rafael? You didn’t bother to tell anyone? Especially me? And then you tell him?” he vented as he pointed at Amaro. Then Carisi managed to get a hold of himself and the anger faded to concern. “Why didn’t you tell me Rafa?” he asked gentler.

Barba motioned with his hand to stop him from speaking. “Look, I don’t know how to deal with this. Or with us. I am doing my best, but I feel like I am sinking. All the time.”

Carisi retorted, “Once again, just like then (referring to the kidnapping), it is all about you. You can’t just shut me out like this every time something bad happens.”

Barba’s eyes filled with tears. He stood up and walked quietly to his bedroom and they heard his door lock. Feeling annoyed, offended, and remorseful for how he just spoke to Barba, Carisi excused himself from the living room and went into the guest room. 

Cabot and Amaro looked at each other. “So much for celebrating,” Cabot said sighing. “Think we should call Huang?”

“Nah. Let’s try to handle this. I am pretty sure right now that I am not Carisi’s favorite person. I’ll take Barba.” Cabot nodded as she walked to the guest room and Amaro to Barba’s bedroom.

Amaro could hear the man crying from behind the door. “Open up Barba, don’t make me break this door down.” After a minute, the door was unlocked and Barba scooted far enough away from the door for Amaro to squeeze through before again closing the door. Amaro extended his hand and helped Barba from the floor to his bed. Once seated, Barba slid his legs up on the bed and sat up against the headboard. Barba was sobbing. Amaro had no idea what to say or do so he just went to the other side of the bed and he sat against the headboard next to Barba.

---

Carisi was ranting. “What if something happened to him? He could get hurt. No one would know what was happening to him. Just like we didn’t!” His tone kept shifting between anger and concern.

Cabot, who was sitting on the bed, stared down at Carisi who was sitting against the wall. He appeared as conflicted as his voice tones were.

“I’m not sure I can even imagine how either of you feel. You guys had something truly awful happen to you. And, you knew what kind of man Rafael was when you guys started dating. He is a very private person and he really needs to trust before he can open up. He was opening up to you, but this entire situation seems to have made him revert back. He is having trouble trusting people, it is not just you, Sonny. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at anyone. He is terrified. He can't deal with his feelings and is unable to trust, right now.”

He stood up. “It seems like I just keep setting him off. I need to apologize.” She could see he was fighting back tears.”

“ When someone goes through trauma, it is difficult to gauge what is going to set that person off. Anyone or anything can set him off. You know this from working at SVU. You and he are both victims.”

Then Cabot suggested, “Maybe in the morning after both are more together you can talk to him.

---

In Rafael’s bedroom, Cabot gave Amaro the update. “Carisi turned in early for the night hoping that some sleep would help his mood.” She gazed down at Rafael who had fallen asleep on Amaro’s lap.  “He looks so peaceful.”

“Yeah, he does,” he agreed. “He clung to me like a koala and he bawled for almost an hour before falling asleep. Would you mind putting a pillow behind my back? I don’t want to wake him so I am just going to sleep here.”

“Sure,” Cabot replied as she fluffed a pillow and the placed it behind his back. She covered Barba with an extra blanket she found. “Good night, boys” she whispered as she shut the lights out and quietly closed the door.

---

Just after midnight Amaro woke up to Barba frantically scrambling from his lap. "Sonny, Sonny!" he kept calling out. He then proceeded to knock on the bedroom walls and door. He was shouting, “Please, Sonny, don’t go. Please forgive me…” over and over. Amaro flipped on the nightstand light. Barba’s eyes were wide open with tears. "Barba?" Amaro asked with a yawn. He waved his hand in front of his eyes but he just continued pleading for Sonny.

Cabot darted into the room turning on the ceiling light followed by a sleepy-eyed Carisi who was yawning.

“What is going on?” Cabot asked.

“He’s having a nightmare, I think,” Amaro answered with uncertainty seeing that Barba’s eyes were open and tears were streaming down his cheeks. He was still pleading for Sonny.

Carisi walked over and firmly pulled Barba into his chest and hugged him tightly, tilting his on the top of Barba's dark hair and stroked his back. “Shh. Shh. It’s okay Rafa, it’s okay. I'm here. I won't ever leave you.” Carisi guided him back to his bed and laid him down and tucked him in. Barba stopped struggling and became still.

“Does this happen a lot?” Amaro inquired.

“Some nights a lot. Other nights nothing,” Carisi answered.

“It’s a wonder that you get any sleep around here,” Amaro remarked.

Carisi looked down. “I owe you an apology, Nick. I sort of lost it when I found out Rafael confided in you instead of me.” He sighed and continued, “I just don’t know if we are going to make it through this.”

“Look at me,” Amaro instructed. Carisi looked up and his blue eyes met Amaro's. “You heard what he was saying in his sleep, right?”

Carisi nodded.

“He loves you. Even at an unconscious level. Don’t forget that.”

Cabot escorted Carisi back to the guest room and again Barba’s room was dark. Amaro was now able to lay down. His back was killing him from how he was sitting when Barba previously fell asleep on him.

“I just don’t know about this guy,” he thought to himself. Barba started to stir and Amaro ran his hand through his hair trying to soothe him until he settled.

“How does he get his hair so soft?” he mused with a grin. He thought about maybe asking Barba that in the morning. He could just imagine his face. “I bet that would earn me a Barba glare,” he thought to himself. Even though it was less than ideal circumstances, he was starting to warm up to the man. They were never friendly before, but that seemed to be changing.

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Carisi was up bright and early the next morning, before anyone else and began cooking breakfast…enough for a dozen people. By the time he finished, the table was covered with eggs, toast, pancakes, berries, shredded potatoes, and orange juice.

Amaro yawned and stretched his arms as he came out of Barba's bedroom. “Mmm...something smells good!”

“Help yourself. There is plenty for everyone.”

“I see that,” Amaro said staring wide-eyed at the table. "Does Barba get to eat like this all the time?"

"Only when I make him. Otherwise his bloodstream would be pure coffee," Carisi smiled. Amaro observed he was in a much better mood.

"So Sonny, about last night," Amaro began. When he saw no sign of annoyance or unsettled looks in his eyes, Amaro sat down at the table next to him. "You know, I was pretty shocked about Barba's condition too. I was pretty irritated that he had me try to keep his secret. I was just trying to help him. I didn't mean to get in the middle of you two guys."

"I didn't think it was anything like that," Carisi reassured him. "It's just a bad situation."

Then Amaro grinned. "Besides I am straight."

"No kidding!" Carisi replied taking a bite of a pancake.

Feeling braver, Amaro asked, "How is hair so soft?"

"I know, right?" Carisi replied.

By this time Cabot was waking up and standing up from the sofa. “Join us, Counselor.”

“Alex. Call me Alex. And, I don't mind if I do," she smiled at the invitation.

“Join us Alex,” Carisi corrected himself.

As they ate, Carisi asked, “Do you think Rafael should go into work today?” They all stared at each other in silence. It was an assumed no, but no one wanted to say it. Or even suggest it to the high-strung ADA.

“I was thinking maybe he could work from home today," Carisi said brainstorming aloud.

“That’s a great idea, Sonny." After a paused she said "I’ll call Carmen and have her bring over files.”

She put down her silverware and made a quick call to Carmen. “Thank you for breakfast. I am going to go home, shower, and grab a fresh set of clothes. I’ll be back around 10. Carmen should be here before then.”

Carisi turned to Amaro. “Could you see if Liv will give me the morning off? I want to make sure Rafael is okay.”

“Sure. I’ll text you," Amaro replied.

After Amaro and Cabot left, Carisi walked into Barba’s bedroom. He kissed his cheek. “Wake up sunshine.” He could still scotch on his breath. Barba was feeling a little tipsy as he tried to stand up tripping over himself landing back on his bed. Barba's little hiatus from alcohol must have diminished his tolerance. “Out of practice,” Sonny thought to himself. He pulled Barba up and guided him to the bathroom and drew him a bath. After the unpleasantness of last evening, he had fallen asleep in his office clothes. He asked if it was okay if he help undress him. Barba nodded while he struggled to keep his balance. Carisi removed the ADA’s tie, button down, undershirt, suspenders, belt, pants and boxers, and finally his socks. He helped him get into the tub and then left him to his own devices.

Back in Barba's bedroom Carisi laid out a pair of jeans and a Harvard t-shirt. He went to the kitchen and prepared a meal tray and sat it on the nightstand beside Barba’s bed. He laid two pills of Aleve on the tray with a coffee. He was predicting that Barba would have a hangover headache. Carisi went and sat on the sofa and began watching TV.

About half an hour later, Barba emerged from the bedroom with wet hair dressed in the outfit Carisi had laid out for him. He sat down next to Sonny and kissed his cheek. “What was all of that for?” Barba whispered in his ear.

“Because I love you.” He leaned on Barba’s shoulder and looked up at his face to see if it was okay. He didn't seem to mind. “And because I overreacted last night. I was just hurt when you told Amaro about your seizures and not me. I am so sorry that I keep setting you off...”

“Sonny, it’s okay. I should have told you. I’ve been pushing you away and dwelling in my own misery. It's kind of like my defense mechanism. ” Barba said apologetically. Continuing, "Besides, everything seems to make me cry these days." He grinned and embraced Carisi. Then he leaned in and gave Sonny a long, passionate kiss on the lips.

“Are you ready for work?” he asked Carisi as he finally drew away from his lips.

“Well,” he started as he picked up his phone from the coffee table and read a text from Amaro. “It appears Liv gave me the morning off,” he continued. “Also, don’t be angry…” Barba looked at Sonny. “I didn’t think you’d want to go to the office today, so Carmen is bringing over the files on Renee’s case and Cabot will be back. We thought you’d like to work from home." He used “we” hoping that if Barba was upset that he would disperse the blame between him and Cabot.

“Thanks, I appreciate it.” This was not the response Sonny was prepared for. Barba leaned in and kissed him again until the doorbell rang. Barba got up and walked over and looked through the peep hole. It was Carmen. 

"Good morning, Rafael! Hi, Sonny!" She greeted them as she entered with a box of files and a carrier holding four cups of coffee.

“Have something to eat," Carisi said as she made her way into the living room. Carmen had never been to her boss’s apartment and she was taking in the decor and trying to get a sneak peak into his private life. Barba showed her to the table. Carisi cleared the plates from his previous diners and set a plate for Carmen. Barba and Carisi sat down and drank some coffee making light conversation.

 As she finished her breakfast, Barba said “Alex should be back any minute now and then we’ll get to work.” Carmen nodded, Barba picked up the box of files and she and Carisi followed him into his home office.

 

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After a long day in the home office, Barba finally showed Cabot and Carmen out. The prosecution case for Renee was going well. They felt confident that the jury would put this perp away for life. Given the similarities between Renee’s case and his and Carisi’s recent ordeal, it was pretty challenging emotionally. He held it together for his colleagues, but once they were gone, Barba laid down on the sofa and gently cried.

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He had just drifted into a light sleep when he heard the door open. Carisi and Stabler strolled through the door. “Good evening detectives,” Barba greeted them.

“Hey there,” Carisi said as he leaned in and gave Barba a gentle kiss on the lips. Stabler had finished taking his shoes off and came over to the living room sofa and opened a duffle bag.

“I heard you were a scotch guy, but I did manage to get some beer.” He pulled a six pack from the duffle. “Since I am your nighttime detail, I thought I’d bring some spirits.”

The ADA smiled. “That would be great.”

“Don’t tell Liv,” Stabler replied. They all started laughing.

“Since when has Liv become everybody’s mother?” Carisi asked with a goofy grin.

They all gathered around the coffee table and popped their bottles.

“Cheers,” Barba toasted as they clicked their glass bottles together.

After everyone had their first sip, Barba started, “So how is the sheep guy? I think Carisi mentioned Fin got you a stuffed sheep.” Stabler laughed and shook his head.

Carisi prepared dinner. After sharing the meal and chatting for a few hours over bottles of beer, it was 10 PM. Carisi said he was going to grab a shower and head to bed. He said he was feeling tired.

After Carisi disappeared into the guest quarters, Stabler continued chatting with Barba. “I hope you don’t mind Counselor,” shifting the conversation to a work-related matter, “but, I’ve been checking up on you…I like to know who I am working with.”

Barba choked on the sip he had just swallowed. “Pardon me?” he asked.

“Well, Liv said you have a ‘suicidal streak’ prosecuting cases. Rumors at the DA's office is that you have ‘big brass balls’. Is it true that the first case you prosecuted for Manhattan SVU, that you really got Adam Cain to strangle you with your own belt in open court?”

Barba smirked, “I’m afraid so. I wanted the jury to see him for the monster that he really is, not just their beloved talk show host." Then he added with a laugh, "I felt pretty confident the court officers could stop him before he strangled me to death."

Stabler clearly impressed, continued "Oh, and I loved how you presented new photographic evidence to Greg Yates mid trial to trick him to obsessing over the nature of his crimes. That was crafty. And using a video recording to capture Carl Rudniks’ guilt, that was just brilliant,” Stabler complimented the ADA.

“That last one was not intentional, but it felt pretty incredible and that we could nail him to the wall with it,” Barba bragged.

"But really, giving your home address the guy working for BX9?" Stabler asked.

"Not my finest moment, but in my defense, I didn't know he worked for BX9 at the time," the ADA admitted.

“You’re a bit unconventional, Barba. I usually butt heads with prosecutors, but I like your style. I think I am going to enjoy working with you.”

Around 11, Barba heard what he thought was a whimper. “Did you hear that?” he asked Stabler.

“It’s probably Carisi again. I’ll get it," Stabler said as he prepared to stand up before receiving a hand gesture from Barba to remain seated.

“What do you mean?” Barba asked curiously.

“He’s been having nightmares, almost every night I’ve been here,” Stabler revealed. "Just like you."

“I didn’t know that. He never told me,” Barba replied shocked.

“He just feels so guilty about…what happened to you. He is convinced that he is going to hell and thinks that it is inevitable that you are going to leave him. You are a pretty sound sleeper, so I doubt you would have heard him in the guest room all the way from your bedroom,” Stabler stated.

"I can relate to nightmares from trauma," he continued. "When Cathy died, I blamed myself. I had awful nightmares. I still have nightmares about her dying, but not about it being my fault. Huang really helped me with that." Then he cautioned, "Don't tell Huang I said that. It might heighten his ego. I would have never shared anything like this, even just months ago. If you don't share with those closest to you, you lose yourself." Stabler felt a tiny bit proud that he was giving emotional advice that he himself had just finally began to listen too. He didn't know the man well yet, but he could tell that Barba kept a lot bottled up.

They heard another low whimper.

Stabler began to stand up but Barba motioned him to stay. “I’ve got this one tonight, Stabler. Goodnight,” Barba said as he rose to go to the guest room.

“Night, Counselor,” Stabler replied.

---

In the guest room, Barba turned on the nightstand lamp. He found Carisi still asleep but tossing and turning with tears on his face. "I am so sorry..." he kept repeating over and over. This broke Barba's heart as he could not bare to see him so distressed. He sat down gently on the bed and slowly rolled onto his side and wrapped his arms firmly around Carisi.

Carisi awoke to his touch and he turned over and unexpectedly and saw Barba laying next to him.

“You were having a nightmare,” he explained to Carisi as he lightly stroked his face drying his tears and then twirled some of his blonde hair. “We’re so alike,” Barba acknowledged with a grin referring to his own nightmares.

“Why are you here? Why are you trying to comfort me after…”

Barba cut him off. “Sonny, I do not blame you for anything that happened to us. I might misplace the anger sometimes, but I do not blame you for any of it.” After a brief pause he added, “plus I love you,” he said with a grin.

Carisi returned the grin.

Barba reached over and turned the light off. Carisi rolled away from Barba to allow himself to be cuddled. Then Barba sang quietly to Carisi as he closed his eyes. He was snoring lightly before Barba finished the song.

https://youtu.be/Ixg-A8LeTdA

If I ask you to be with me by and by

Will you meet me tonight, love?

It’s too dark to see with the naked eye

Will you bring me to light?

 

If I happen to stagger and fall behind

Will you help me to fight, love?

Will you help me to walk, will you ease my mind?

 

Will you bring me to light?

Will you bring me to light?

 

I know you will try

To help me find my way, love

I won’t wonder why

When nights are long

If you’ll hold me ‘til it’s light

 

Like a comet that catches you by surprise

Like a star in the night, love

Like a baby the first time she opens her eyes

 

Will you bring me to light?

Will you bring me to light?

Will you bring me to light?

To light, to light, to light, to light

 

Left my troubles Back there when I climbed on Board

Jordan River’s where you’ll find me

It’s wide, but not too wide to ford

And as I go, and as I go along

I want you with me

 

If I tell you my heart has been opened wide

If I tell you I’m frightened

If I show you the darkness

I hold inside

 

Will you bring me to light?

Will you bring me to light?

Will you bring me to light, light?

 

Stabler had his ear pressed up to the door of the guest bedroom to make sure they weren’t fighting or killing each other. He was pleased everything was okay and enjoyed Barba’s soft rendition of Bring Me to Light.

“He’s a damn good prosecutor, but man, the guy belongs on Broadway,” Stabler thought to himself as he returned to the living room to sleep on the sofa.

Chapter Text

May be an image of text that says 'LAW& ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT BARISI FANFIC'

It was Saturday afternoon. The day that both Barba and Carisi were dreading all week had finally arrived, their couple’s session with Huang. They were finally going to view the video of their ordeal, which was now almost two months ago. Huang had asked them if they wanted someone else there with them as support for viewing the footage.

Initially, both men said no. It seemed too embarrassing, but then Barba began having second thoughts. He was never one for dealing with or even acknowledging emotions, but he clearly had been struggling with them since the assault. He could no longer ignore that facts. He was not going to make it through the aftermath without accepting the facts. The fact was that he was not coping the emotions. Not at all. He might actually have to rely on others. He could sense that he was nearing his threshold of emotional pain. He knew that even the slightest bit more pain WOULD send him over the edge. Maybe he did need support…whatever that may look like. He was new to this “leaning on others” concept that had been shoved down his throat so much the last two months.

Once Barba made the decision to have someone else there for him, it became easier for Carisi as he wanted to have someone there for support but was afraid that Barba would be too uncomfortable and he did not want to make anything worse for him. As if that was even possible. Together, the couple decided on Rollins and Amaro. Carisi was always close with Rollins and they were tight as could be.

Barba honestly didn't feel comfortable with anyone. He was thinking about Benson but decided it would probably change their friendship and he didn't want that to change. After doing some risk assessment, he finally decided to ask Amaro. They were never really close, but that was starting to change. Their friendship was just starting to evolve and he figured that if something like this changed things, at least it wasn't a friendship that he had clung to for that long. Amaro seemed like the lower risk choice.

Barba had been pacing around the apartment nervously all day sipping at a tumbler. Carisi sat on the sofa watching as the clock approached 3. Rollins and Amaro arrived at just before and Huang just at 3.

Reluctantly, Barba showed everyone into the living room and Huang began preparing the video footage. They were only going to watch segments which he had recorded time frames for on his note pad. There was no way he was going to make them watch all five days’ worth of footage. Huang had to watch the entire thing to pull out what he thought the most critical clips that could help the broken-hearted couple. He was barely able to handle watching it, and afterwards, he was seriously considering making a therapy appointment for himself.

Barba and Carisi sat on the sofa opposite the TV. They both looked nervous as hell. There was space between them. Barba put his hand down between them and was relieved when Carisi firmly gripped it. Amaro was seated in a chair next to Barba and Rollins beside Carisi. Huang was going to observe from the side so that he could keep an eye on the time codes, but more importantly, so that he could see and help the couple with their reactions. Particularly Barba who up to now always was able to masquerade behind a brave face. Huang serious doubted that he could do this now, but just in case he did manage to revert to hiding his emotions, he want to be ready to tease them out.

“Remember, this is going to be very difficult. If you need to stop, either of you, just tell me. We’ll take a break and regroup.” Carisi nodded in acknowledgement.

Barba did not respond. He was zoned out, again. “Rafael?” Huang asked. He had only been on anti-epileptic medication for a few days and it had not yet reached a therapeutic dose. Everyone in the room was aware of what was happening. He was having another seizure. They knew he would be okay in a minute or two, but still, everyone worried about him.

A few minutes later, Barba was regaining awareness. His eyes started searching the room for context. Trying to minimize his embarrassment about the seizure, Huang simply repeated his statement that they would take a break if they needed to regroup. Barba sighed and slightly nodded his head. His hand that was holding Carisi’s felt ice cold yet he sweat was dripping from his hairline. He noticed Carisi’s hand trembling. Barba gripped his hand tighter and made eye contact. “You ready?” he asked Carisi. He nodded. Barba took another drink from his tumbler. Huang dimmed the lights and started the footage.

---

Clip #1

This clip was just after Barba and Carisi regained consciousness after they dosed with chloroform to be transported to their holding location.

Barba: “I’m sorry that your son was in prison and I’m sorry he was killed but-“

Vincent slapped Rafael hard and Carisi was shouting for him to stop.

Vincent: “Don’t think pretending to care now will save you. You didn’t care eleven years ago.”

Barba: “I didn’t not care, but he was guilty. He tortured and killed two women-“

Vincent: “They were trash! They were NOTHING!”

Barba: “They were people-“

Vincent delivered another blow to Barba's face and his now his nose was dripping with red blood.

Carisi: “Leave him alone! Let go of him!" he kept pleading.

Vincent: “They were nothing. Less than that. They decided to be outlets for men’s needs when they became whores and that’s exactly what they were used for. Robert was a real man, something a fairy like you could never be.”

Vincent yanked Barba by the hair and he groaned in pain.

Vincent: “It’s no wonder you sympathized with those whores. You’re a nothing, just like them.”

Carisi: “He’s more of a man you or your son ever was.”

Barba: “There were more weren’t there? There were more than the two women we found. This is where he held them right? Did you help him?”

Carisi was glaring at Barba as if telling him to "shut up."

Barba: “Did you teach him how to torture them? Teach him how to treat them like a ‘real’ man would? Did you teach Michael as well?”

Vincent: “Oh you’ll find out exactly how much I taught them.”

Vincent grabbed Rafael underneath his jaw, forcing his head back.

Vincent: “You know you’re worthless scum. You must hate yourself. Weak.” 

Vincent grasped Barba’s neck causing him to gasp for air. Another man held a gun to Carisi’s temple. Barba’s face was pale and panicked.

Vincent: “You won’t do anything to save yourself because you know you’re not worth it, but you’ll do anything to protect someone else won’t you.” 

Barba's face was transparent. Anyone could see that he agreed completely with what was just said.

Vincent: “The three of us, have been planning this since you sent my son to prison. You were going to be a present for him when we got him out. We watched you for a long time. We realized you certainly like protecting those whores and prostitutes don’t you?”

Barba was focused on the gun pressed to Carisi’s head.

Vincent: “Where are whores best Michael?”

Michael: “On their knees!”

Vincent: “Get on your knees Mr. Barba or the good detective’s brains are going all over that far wall.”

Barba was visibly shaking with fear.

Carisi: “Stop! Stop, don’t do this. Please. Counselor, don’t. Stop.”

Barba shouted, “Shut up!”

Barba knelt down on his knees.

Barba: “Sonny. Please shut up.”

Carisi: “Counselor, Rafael, don’t. You don’t have to do this. Not for- not for-… look whatever you want I can do it, just don’t hurt him-“

Rafael: “Shut up!”

Vincent: “Sweet.”

Vincent came back around in front of Rafael and held his gun out.

Vincent: “Suck it.”

 Barba: “Excuse me?”

Vincent: “You make your living being good with your mouth. Show me.”

Vincent thrust the barrel towards Barba’s face.

Rafael gagging and shaking as the gun was put in his mouth. He was crying.

Vincent: “Keep sucking.”

Vincent was moving the gun violently in Barba’s mouth

*BANG*

Rafael was panting on his knees, coughing and gagging. Vincent had pulled the gun out at the last second and shot beside his ear.

Michael: “Oh my god he thought he was dead. He really thought you shot him.” The captors were laughing it up enjoying every second of their sadistic torture.

Vincent kicked Barba and he collapsed curling up in pain.

Everyone watching the video could hear how hard he was struggling to breathe.

Vincent: “Uncuff him. Let’s go.”

Carisi: “Shit!” He looked horrified.

Michael traced a gun up and down Carisi's arm and torso. Barba looked petrified as if Carisi's number would be up at any second now.

Vincent kicked Barba again, setting off another round of retching, and spat at him before following his son up the stairs.  The men went upstairs.

Carisi went to Barba’s side. Barba’s face was covered in blood and swelling.

Carisi: “Rafael-“

Barba: “Are you ok?” he rasped. 

Carisi: “What? Whoa hey,” Carisi held Barba around the back sitting him up as Barba vomited. “Easy, let it out. That’s it.”

There was some inaudible conversation between the two.

Barba: Are you ok? Did Michael do anything?”

Carisi: “I’m fine, he didn’t do anything to me Rafael, listen, you can’t-“

---

Huang hit pause and turned to look the couple in the eye to see how they were doing. Carisi was sobbing into his hands. Barba looked pale, like all the breath was knocked out of him. Barba was visibly shaking and Amaro put his hand on Barba's shoulder trying to steady him. Rollins was stroking Carisi’s back trying to comfort him.

“So, you both are very emotional. What’s going on?” Huang asked.

“I can’t take them beating the shit out of him,” Carisi said before his sobbing made it impossible to talk.

Huang turned to Barba. “Rafael?” he prompted.

Barba had no clue what to say. He took a minute to gather his thoughts. “I thought they were going to shoot him.” He began trembling even more.

"I noticed something on your face when the one, Vincent, said that you would fight to save Sonny, but not for yourself. Can you tell me what you were feeling?"

Tears began trickling down Barba's face. "I...I just couldn't see anyone, especially Sonny, being killed for something that was because of me. It was me who pissed off the mob by prosecuting one of their own. Sonny had nothing..." he trailed off as he began to crying harder.

"Do you feel like you are worth it, worth being alive?" Huang continued to probe sensing he wasn't telling the whole truth. 

After a long pause, Barba finally responded realizing that the good doctor was not just going to gloss over it. "I suppose not."

"Why?" Huang followed up with.

"I don't know....just drop it!" Barba commanded in his prosecutorial tone.

After the two began to settle, Barba took another drink from his tumbler.

“Do either of you need more time before seeing more?” Huang asked. Rollins looked at Carisi and Amaro at Barba. Finally, Barba said, “I’m good,” even though everyone in the room clearly knew it was a lie. Carisi nodded too. Tears were only trickling down Carisi's face at this point. Huang hit play.

Clip Two

Carisi: “No, he said as he grabbed Rafael’s shoulder, “No. Don’t do anything stupid for something like that. We’re going to get out of here, the two of us. They’re looking for us, you just said you knew that.”

Barba: “They’re in the mob Carisi.”

Carisi: He released a loud breath. “Of course you managed to piss off the mob. Can I check where he kicked you?”

 Barba: “I’m fine, and I’m serious, I have every faith in Liv and the team, but Carisi, they can make us disappear. If you have a chance-“

 Carisi: “I am not going to leave you behind. So let’s figure out how to both stay alive until they find us ok?”

 Barba: “Don’t be stupid. This is about me. You shouldn’t be here. You weren’t even a cop when this case happened.”

Carisi: “Look. Neither of us are getting out of here right now. Let’s get you some water, and you can tell me about the case, ok?”

---

Huang paused the video.

This time both men on the sofa appeared agitated. They were no longer holding hands.

Rollins asked “How are we doing?” while looking at both Barba and Carisi. Both men had tears streaming down their checks. Amaro was leaning on the arm of the sofa. He wasn’t sure if Barba would permit him to touch his shoulder. Barba’s state of mind seemed different.

“Fine,” Barba managed to finally muster.

“Same,” Carisi responded.

“Then why are you in tears?” Huang posed. “You both look angry.”

“Because Rafael was being a freakin’ martyr and trying to get himself killed.”

“Why did that upset you?” Huang asked.

“Why do you thing?" Carisi glared at Huang and then finally answered the question. "Because I love him so much and I couldn’t stand seeing him brutalized. Or to live without him.” Carisi briefly looked in Barba’s eyes and then down. He started sobbing loudly again burying his face in his hands.

Huang turned to Barba. “And Rafael, why are you crying?”

“I needed to protect him. This was not his problem. He was innocent in all this,” Barba answered, looking at the ceiling trying to keep the tears from trickling from his eyes.

“You were innocent too. You did nothing to warrant this. You did not kill Robert. Did you think you deserved to die?”

A long silence fell.

“I am a moral person, but I am not a good person. Sonny has more to offer the world in that department…”

Carisi interrupted: “Fuck you. You are just trying to rationalize why it was okay for you to die. Did you ever think what that would do to me?” Sonny stormed into the kitchen.

Barba stared stunned that Carisi reacted so dramatically.

“I’ll talk to him doc,” Amanda said following him into the kitchen.

“I just wanted him to be safe,” Barba tried to explain to Huang and Amaro. Amaro gently pat Barba’s shoulder.

“Can you see his point though? You wanted to die so you didn’t have to live without him. You wanted him to live without you.” Huang said answering his own question.

Barba just sat there. Amaro kneeled in front of Barba. “Rafael, do you remember any of that?”

“Yeah, most of it. This is going to sound ridiculous. I know I am not being physically harmed right now, but I think I can feel each blow exactly where I am getting hit in the video. I still can taste the gun in mouth.” Then he started weeping.

"You are experiencing visceral reactions. Your emotions about what you are seeing are manifesting into physical sensations," Huang tried to explain. That explanation did not console Barba in anyway.

---

In the kitchen, Rollins was trying to calm Carisi whose tears were now tears of rage. "How can he not get it? He can't live without me but he doesn't see that I can't live without him? How does that work?" Rollins gave him a few minutes and then urged him to come back into the living room.

---

Once back in the living room Carisi was much more calm and returned to his seat next to Barba.

Huang said, "Okay, let us try to go a little deeper." 

Barba and Carisi both gulped. "Is that really a good idea?" Rafael thought to himself.

"So, Rafael here, is trying to understand your reaction. Can you try to explain it differently?"

Carisi sat thoughtfully for a minute. "I guess, it is like I just told Rollins in the kitchen." He turned to Barba. "Rafael, you were not willing to live without me, but you expected me to live without you."

Huang interjected, "How does that make you feel, Sonny."

"Angry."

"Why?" Huang continued.

"Because it felt like he was being selfish."

There was a pause.

"Rafael, can you explain to Sonny why you felt it was okay for him to live without you?"

"Well, clearly it was not going to be ideal," Barba said swallowing hard before continuing. "Sonny," he said turning his torso towards him. "I am not trying to dismiss what you are feeling. I get you're mad. I understand why you think I am being selfish. Really, I do. The truth is," again he took another gulp and another sip from his tumbler. "You are so good. You deserve so much better. If...if I wasn't around, you would be able to see that and find someone better for you. I've been terrified every second of our relationship that you will come to your senses, realize that you did not really want to be with me, and leave me. I can't go through that heartache. "So," He turned now addressing Huang. "No, it is not worth for me to live and him to die." Then he turned back to Carisi. "I was trying to avoid that pain and give you the nudge that you would need to go on to someone better.". Finally the ADA's words failed him and he broke down weeping with his gaze at the floor.

Everyone else in the room looked at each other. This was the most any of them had ever heard Barba talk about his feelings.

Sonny was a slight shade of pink when he turned and grasped both of Barba's hands. He had tears in his eyes. "Rafael, you are exactly what I want. Did you ever think my type was snappy and sassy ADAs? You are more than enough for me. I love you." He left go of his hands and pulled the sobbing ADA into his chest giving him a tight hug allowing Barba to cry himself out on his shoulder. "Rafael, you are worth living for. You don't get how much you mean to everyone who knows you...and before you even think about protesting, you have all of us, whether or not you are willing to admit it. You are more than a friend. Every single one of us think of you as family. Don't you ever think for even a second that you are not worth it."

Barba finally looked up and his eyes were still red and very puffy. He thought "Well, there you have it, all of my dignity gone it just minutes."

They were well into their third hour. They took a break and everyone got cups of coffee, but oddly Barba declined a cup and excused himself to refill his tumbler. After he left the room, Amaro asked to no one in particular, "Barba declining coffee, should we worry?" he said in a light-hearted tone but in reality he was a bit alarmed.

---

Once everyone was gathered in the living room again, both men’s tears were dried. “Are you good to continue?” Huang asked. After both men nodded, he hit play on the next clip.

---

Clip 3

Michael: “Well now boys, we’re going to have some fun.”

Michael: “Aw look at them Joe, sweet isn’t it?” 

Carisi was standing between Barba and their captors as if he was going to take a bullet for the injured man.

Michael: “What would you do to keep your little boyfriend safe?”

Carisi: “What do you want me to do?” Carisi seemed to struggle with trying to keep Barba behind him.

Barba: “Carisi” he whispered harshly.

Michael: “Kneel.” He shoved his gun under Sonny’s jaw, his free hand trailing down Sonny’s chest, “we’ll see where we go from there.”

Carisi: “Okay. I’m doing it.” Once he was on his knees Michael threaded his fingers through Carisi’s hair pulling his head back, tracing his gun up and down the detective’s jaw while looking at him almost contemplatively.

Barba:  “Does your father know?”

Michael: “What?” 

Barba: “Can’t have been the easiest home to grow up in.” Rafael stepped away from and around Carisi, coming to Michael’s side, “that sort of old school attitude. The things your father must’ve said. The things Robert must’ve said. I remember you, how much you looked up to him. It must’ve hurt hearing what he thought about people like ‘us’.”

Michael struck Rafael with the butt of his gun and knocking him to the ground.

[Everyone watching the video could hear the impact of the gun on Barba's skull]

Michael: “Shut up.”

Carisi: “Barba- Rafael. Stop.”

Michael released Carisi and he ran to Barba.

Barba was spitting up blood. Blood was also running from his ear at this point.

Barba: “Like recognizes like Michael.”

Michael: “SHUT UP!” Michael kicked Rafael hard. He grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. He began to strike him over and over again. “You bastard! Shut up!”

Blood was spattering with each blow in every direction.

Carisi: “Stop, Michael, stop! Michael, I’ll do what you want. Stop please.”

Michael stopped hitting and stood holding Rafael, breathing heavily.

Carisi: “Michael, he’s down ok? He’s down. I’m here. I’ll do what you want ok? You wanted me to kneel right? I can do that.” 

Michael: “That’s how you got to Robert right?” He began pawing at Barba’s pants, undoing his belt and the buttons. “How you got into his head. Knew he wouldn’t stand how disgusting and perverted you are.” 

Michael: “Are you jealous?” as he pushed Rafael’s pants down. “Thought your little boy toy was going to get the dick you wanted so badly?”

Barba: “He- he’s not-“

Michael: “You’re going to deny that he’s your little undisclosed fling? We watched you for months, years. We saw everything. How he follows you around like a little puppy. Desperate for every scrap of attention you gave him. The way you would look at him. You think we don’t know?” 

Michael struck him again, Rafael stopped moving. Blood was gushing and puddling on to the floor.

Carisi: “Stop. Michael you don’t have to do this.”

Michael: “You want me to stop?” He pulled Carisi back up straight by his collar “You still want to do anything to protect him?”

Carisi: “Yes. Please, whatever you want.” He was trembling as he was pleading.

Michael: “Fuck him.”

Carisi: “What?”

---

 Rafael jumped up from the sofa and ran to the bathroom and Huang hit pause. Everyone could hear the ADA gagging. Finally he re-emerged to the living room and took his place.

“Should we stop for the day?” Huang asked.

“I’m fine.” Once again, no one in the room believed him and Barba knew this.

"After we finish this clip, we are going to call it a day," Huang said dismissing Barba's obvious lie. He pressed play once again.

---

Michael: “You want me to stop, I want you to fuck him. You can pull him up on the bed, take him on the floor, bend him over the sink. Whatever you like. But you’re going to fuck him like both your lives depend on it.” He tapped the tip of his gun against Carisi’s forehead. “Because they do.”

[Watching the clip, Barba started shaking uncontrollably. Amaro wasn’t able to steady him. He shoved him away. Everyone continued watching the clip.]

Barba was a mess, blood dripping from cuts on his forehead, under his eye, corner of his mouth. Bruising was visible. And swelling.

Carisi: “I- I-“

Michael: “I could shoot you right now. Fuck him myself.” he suggested. “You’re extraneous to this whole situation.”

Barba was trying to speak but the footage was in audible.

Michael: “What did you say?” Michael released Sonny and got back into Barba’s face again. Carisi tried to stop him but Joe once again pinned him to the wall. “What did you fucking say?”

Rafael spat another mouthful of blood on the floor.

Barba: “Is that why your brother cut those women up? Because he couldn’t fuck them himself?”

Michael repeatedly punched Barba with blood again splattering.

Joe pulled Michael off of Barba and took him upstairs.

Carisi scrambled to get to Barba. It looked like he was trying to take a pulse. Barba was not moving.

Rafael was a mess, covered in blood and the right side of his face rapidly swelling. Carisi pulled the other man’s pants up and refastened them, redid his belt. He cradled him, clutching his wrist in one hand to keep track of his pulse.

[Huang fast forwarded through a few hours before hitting play again.]

Still in Carisi's arms, Barba's lips began moving gently.

Barba: “No te preocupes mami. Se ve peor de lo que es.  Mami, don’t cry, he didn’t get me that bad.”

[Huang noticed Barba buried his face in his hands.]

Carisi: “Rafael.”

Barba's not swollen eye blinked. By this time, he looked so brutalized that it was hard to recognize him.

Barba: “Carisi.” Rafael was trying to sit up but Carisi held him down. “Carisi I’m ok.”

Carisi: “Don’t- Just don’t.”

 Barba: “Sonny. Really, I’ve had much worse.”

Carisi: “Shut up. Rafael, please just-”

Carisi looked like he was barely holding it together himself.

Barba: “Sonny, they didn’t- are you ok? Did they do anything to you?”

Carisi: “I’m fine, stop Rafael, calm down. They didn’t touch me.” Carisi grabbed his shoulders, to steady him, to calm him. Realizing that Rafael could move he decided to get them both off the floor. “Let’s get to the bed ok? Do you remember everything that’s happened? Where you are?”

Barba: “Yeah, yeah. Robert Baratta’s family. I know. I know.”

Carisi: “You thought were talking to your mom earlier.”

[Barba was crying harder into his hands. Amaro shot Huang a look as if to say, "Maybe we should stop." Huang put two fingers indicating there was only a few minutes left in the clip.]

Barba: “Like I said, I’ve gotten worse. Usually getting between my dad and my mom.” He sat down on the bed heavily, feeling incredibly dizzy. “Much younger back then, easier to bounce back from this sort of thing.”

Carisi: “You’re slurring.”

Barba: “My mouth’s all fucked from before, and my face is- is-” he couldn’t remember the word so just gestured to the mess of his face. “Of course I’m talking funny.”

Carisi: “Barba. You’ve got a concussion.”

Barba: “Probably. “Are you ok?” He reached out to check on the detective, “did they-“

Carisi grabbed his hands.

Carisi: “You already asked me that. Do you remember?” He squeezed Rafael’s hands tightly to get his attention which was focused on getting his hands free so he could continue his examination. “Rafael, stop. Stop. I’m ok, alright?”

Barba: “You look so- so-“ Rafael struggled to remember the word. His frustration morphed into concern at how distressed Carisi looked. He wanted to reach out and check on him but his hands were held tight. “Are you ok? Did they do anything to you?”

Carisi: “Rafael.” Carisi was crying.

[Sonny also began crying watching this scene, but no where as hard as Rafael was.]

Barba: “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

Rafael shut his eyes, and twisted over and vomited over the foot of the bed.

Carisi: “Woah” He grabbed Barba and held him steady, stroking his back. “Easy. It’s ok. It’s ok, you’re ok.”

Barba was leaning against Carisi’s chest in pain and having difficulty breathing.

Barba: “I’m ok Carisi.”

Carisi: “Rafael.” He hugged him, “Raf, stop. Listen, Rafael, when they come back you’ve got to keep quiet. It’s my job to protect you. Just keep quiet.”

Barba: “You sound exactly like my mom now. If you get out of here you can ask her how well that worked.”

[Rafael was sobbing loudly now. It was getting difficult to hear the audio.]

Carisi: “What you did was stupid. Do you understand that? It was stupid. And when WE get out of here I’m going to let you know exactly how stupid it was.”

Barba: “What was I supposed to do?” Rafael demanded, he tried to sit back up but Carisi wouldn’t release him. “Let him force you to rape me? Let them rape you? You want me to just watch them destroy you?”

Carisi: “You think it isn’t destroying me watching them hurt you because you keep antagonizing them? You’re supposed to not try to get yourself killed. If you don’t stop you’re gonna get yourself killed.”

Carisi: “If nothing else, Rafael, if there’s nothing else… if they kill you what do you think is going to happen to me? You think they’re going to keep me around?”

Barba: “We’ve got to get you out of here.”

Carisi: “We both are going to get out of here. Ok Rafael, we’re both going to get out of here.”

---

Huang hit pause. Both men on the sofa looked distraught. Sonny was on the verge of falling apart, but he was really concerned about Barba who looked like he already surpassed his breaking point.

“I don’t remember any of that,” Barba stammered.

Carisi added, “You weren’t making much sense either. Scared the shit out of me when you kept asking the same thing over and over.”

“Oh, and just an FYI…we are going to discuss your parents at a later date.” Huang forewarned.

Barba just frowned and looked down. He finished off his beverage in the tumbler. He excused himself from the room. Huang, Amaro, Rollins, and Carisi engaged in some light conversation finishing their coffees while they waited for Barba to come back to the room.

Crash!

Everyone in the living room sat up straight and looked at each other with wide-eyes. “Do I even want to know?” Amaro mused out load.

---

Everyone proceeded into Barba’s bedroom to see what had happened. The ADA wasn’t there. He was in the bathroom again. “Rafa, everything okay?” Carisi called through the door.

“Just leave! “Barba weakly moaned.

“Not happening Barba!” Amaro shouted back.

Huang said the session was over for the evening and ushered the group out of the room.

Huang called out gently, “It’s just me, now. I sent everyone away. I am coming in so don’t freak out.” Huang turned the door knob and entered.

The mirror above the sink was smashed and blood on it. “Rafael?” He turned and saw the ADA on the floor barely conscious. He had used a piece of the mirror glass and slit his wrist. “Nick, grab my bag!” 

Amaro walked in and gasped. “What happened?” he demanded even though it was quite obvious. Huang pried his medical bag from Amaro who was still frozen in shock. He ignored Amaro's question as he opened his bag and removed a suture kit. He was focused solely on quickly stitching up Barba's wrist.

“Nick, hold his head in your lap. Give him some elevation," Huang ordered. 

"Is it bad?" Amaro asked staring at the puddle of blood on the floor. 

Huang looked up for a second and then back down at the suturing. "It looks worse than it is. He lost way more blood in that clip we just saw."

The cabinet door by Barba was ajar. Amaro reached to close it, but just before he did he spotted a stash of scotch. "Doc!" Amaro signaled pointed to the cabinet. Huang observed the hidden contraband. Amaro waft Barba's breath. It wreaked of Barba's brand of scotch.

“Dang it, Rafa. You must have been drinking the entire day and we had no idea. Bunch of great detectives we are,” he said to the unconscious body. He picked up the tumbler that was laying near them. He took a drink. "It's scotch," he told Huang. Huang frowned.

Amaro turned to Huang. “Something must have just now set him off and we didn’t even get to the bad part yet.”

Huang was silent as he finished up the suturing, applied a gauze dressing, and then wrapped an ace bandage around the ADA's wrist. Drawing his breath, Huang realized what happened.  “God. It was his mother. I mentioned his parents. He just saw himself babbling to his mother in that clip. I didn’t even think…I was so focused on the events.”

“It’s not your fault, doc. There is just a lot going on with him right now.”

Carisi stepped into the bathroom curious about what all of the commotion was. “Shit!” Carisi delved down, pushed Amaro aside and put Rafael’s head in his lap. “Come on Rafa! Rafa!”

A minute later Barba blinked his eyes and gazed at the ceiling. Carisi started stroking his hair. Caught off guard and still feeling apprehensive about Carisi, Barba shoved the detective backwards and Sonny hit his head off the cabinet. “Come on Rafa, you are just making this worse.”

Barba began spewing a mix of Spanish and English clearly enraged using colorful words. The jist of it was “Mami is dead and I am stranded here with my rapist!”

Carisi’s face went blank and pale as he fell silent and looked at the floor. “Rollins, can I stay at your place tonight?” He had seen that she was now standing the doorway.

“Of course, Sonny,” she replied gently. Carisi left the room. Huang and Amaro helped Barba from his knees and walked him to his bed.

As Rollins walked out the bedroom door, she said to Huang “I am going to take Carisi home.” After a brief pause, “That could have gone better.”

“Agreed.” Huang acknowledged. “I am going to stay with Rafael for the night.”

"Me, too," Amaro added.

“Is this the right way to help them?” Rollins asked.

“I hope it is,” Huang replied with uncertainty in his voice.

---

Barba still was ranting in both Spanish and English and wasn’t make a whole lot of sense to Huang who was not fluent in Spanish. “If only he was speaking Mandarin”, he thought to himself.

“Rafael, English please.”

Annoyed, Barba said. “Mami is dead and I can’t believe I am being held captive with my rapist.”

"I am really sorry about your Mami, but you need to actually grieve your mother and address those feelings. It's bleeding into your feelings about this ordeal which is not going to help you with either situation. Can we do this at your next individual session?"

Barba complicity nodded. He hurt too much now to continue to argue or to even try to deal with it on his own. He realized that he indeed hit his breaking point, he was at rock bottom. "I've lost my mother, hurt Sonny, and am drinking just to handle therapy. I am in hell. I guess it is up from here," he said.

“Rafael, Sonny did have sex with you because he was forced to. Otherwise you both would have died. He is filled with remorse. He did not get any satisfaction from asserting dominance. That is an essential part of a rapist’s psyche. You know that. You learned that from prosecuting SVU cases. Step back, apply what you learned as a prosecutor to your own life.”

After a few minutes of silence Barba admitted that Huang had a point and then followed up with “so if he is not a rapist, but was forced to do an awful thing…I just…I don’t know how to be intimate with him again. I don’t know if it is a trust issue…a comfort issue…”

“Rafael, there is more on that tape that will actually help you with those particular issues...we just didn’t get there yet.” Huang paused. “Rafael, do you love Sonny?”

“Of course," he answered.

"Even after all this?” Huang asked.

He nodded.

“And I have absolutely no doubt that Sonny loves you too. You guys are meant to be together. You both will get through this. I would be more worried if you two just went on like nothing happened.”

Rafael was yawning. His scotch binge was clearly making him sleepy.

“So, where did that stash of Scotch come from?” Huang inquired.

“This little thing, Instacart delivery," he guiltily sighed.

Huang shook his head. "I know you want to drink to numb yourself, but alcohol will make trauma and depression worse. You do realize now that this is your second ‘attempt’ in three weeks?”

Barba looked ashamed. He knew those facts, but he drank regardless.

“Look, if you really want to drink, do it with friends who will cut you off and watch out for you. Like when we were at the bar the other night. Like when you had drinks with Stabler and Carisi.”

“Now, I want you to call Sonny.” Huang handed Barba his cell phone from the night stand and asked to use Barba’s bathroom to get changed for the night. Huang’s bag was always prepared for anything…from stitching sutures to apparently sleepover apparel.

“You’re the doc.”

There was no answer so Barba gulped and left a voicemail.

“Hey, Sonny, it's me. I really need to apologize to you. I know we’re both having a hard time, and I really haven’t been giving you…your feelings consideration and it’s not fair. And I was drunk. Again.” He sighed. “Anyhow, that’s not an excuse. I've not been able to deal with Mami's...and that is spilling over into...this...and into us. I really don't blame you. I am angry that I lost Mami. I am angry at them for doing this to us." He paused, "I really do love you. See you later.”

Barba went and changed in his bathroom and when he came back Amaro and Huang were in his bedroom. "Let me see your wrist." Barba held out his hand and Amaro unwrapped the ace bandage and Huang removed the gauze to peek at his handiwork.

"Good, the bleeding stopped. The sutures are holding." He recovered the stitches with gauze and rewrapped Barba's hand with the ace bandage. 

Amaro walked back into the bedroom with a glass of water and two tablets of Aleeve. "Here take this." Barba was now being completely compliant as he was succumbing to the drowsiness. He swallowed the tablets and drank the whole glass of water as instructed. "That should help you some with the hangover you are bound to have tomorrow morning. Amaro took the empty glass while Barba laid down. Huang covered him with a blanket.

“I’ll be on the sofa. Good night,” Huang said. Amaro said he would be in the guest room.

---

Two hours later Huang and Amaro were awakened by Rafael’s screams. He was having a nightmare. They ran to his room getting there at approximately the same time. He was walking around, eyes open, trembling, sweating, and sobbing.

“Hey Rafael, it is okay. You are safe.” Amaro said as he gently shook Barba awake. Huang held his elbow and guided him to the bed. Barba looked confused. “You were sleep walking during your nightmare, again,” Amaro explained

Huang sat Barba down on the side of the bed and then sat down next to him. “You’ll get through this.” There was a knock at the door. “I’ll get it, you just sit tight,” Huang said. Amaro took Huang’s spot on the bed and proceeded to rub Barba’s back.

Huang opened the door. Carisi was sleepy-eyed but smiling.

“Where’s Rollins”?

“I snuck out to see my boyfriend, so sue me,” Carisi giggled. “Yeah, she is going to be pissed that I left alone. She’ll get over it.”

Huang bit his lower lip and then chuckled.

“Is Rafael still up?”

“Yes.”

“Nightmare?” Carisi asked.

“Yes, again,” Huang answered. “You know him so well. Has he ever sleep walked before?”

“It is actually becoming a regular thing for him,” Carisi confirmed.

“Go on in. I am just going to leave Amanda a text to let her know you are here. Good night, Sonny. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Night, doc.”

Carisi made a cup of chamomile tea and headed into the bedroom. Amaro stood up and said goodnight and on the way out of the room he said “He’s all yours,” giving Carisi a slight smile.

Carisi sat down next to Barba who was still on the edge of the bed and holding his head in his hands crying.

“I got your message. I don’t know how to make things right between us again. I hate this awkward feeling. I hate that I hurt you and that you are hurting. We need to try.”

Barba was still in tears and trembling. “I know you just had a nightmare. Sleep walking too? You never get dull.” He paused. “Is it okay if I hold you?” Barba was still too freaked out by the nightmare to speak so he just nodded his head. Carisi wrapped his arms around him and began rubbing his back. “Shh…” Barba’s body began to relax and the two laid back against the headboard and fell asleep.

---

In the living room, Huang decided to call Rollins instead of just leaving a text, even though it was late. She might not see the text message before noticing Carisi was gone.

“Hey, Amanda. It’s George. Guess who showed up on the stoop?” He heard a loud sigh on the other end of the line.

Chapter Text

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Cabot called Benson into the office on a Sunday. Stabler was in the squad room catching up on some paperwork, but oddly enough, it was quiet for a weekend. As she passed through the bull pen, she heard shouting from her office…becoming louder and louder as she approached.

“Alex? Huang? What’s going on?” she interjected hoping that she would be able to diffuse the argument. She had never heard Huang actually shout at anyone and she was kind of impressed.

“You did what? You son of bitch." Alex was in full on rage mode. She turned to Benson. “Did you know about this?”

“Catch me up?” she asked because she still had no context for what was going on.

 “What were you thinking?” Alex continued attacking Huang completely ignoring Benson’s question.

“I gave them the options. They chose to see it,” Huang defended himself.

“They viewed the footage?” Benson inquired concerned. Once again her question was ignored.

“Well, from what Rollins and Amaro have said, it sounds like you pushed him off the deep-end.” Then she continued, “You know Renee’s trial, his first prosecution case back, is only two weeks away?” Not even waiting for a response she continued, “Do you know what this will do to him if he is too…to even prosecute this case or win this slam dunk of a case? I am not sure he will be able to come back from that.”

Now Huang was angry and raised his voice even louder in retaliation. “Well who’s bright idea was it to make his first case back nearly identical to the trauma he just went through? I am the one with the medical degree. Last time I checked, you degree was law.”

“Maybe you need to get a refresher,” Cabot griped as she stormed out of the office.

Benson opened her mouth to speak before Huang cut her off. “Don’t even, Liv,” Huang said as he slammed her door and walked in the opposite direction Cabot went.

Benson sighed and sat down at her desk. Well, at least she could get back to Noah. Seeing that Cabot and Huang left, Stabler peeked his head in the door. “Everything okay, Liv? It sounded kind of tense in there.” It was evident he probably heard a lot more before she even made it into the office.

She sighed again. “Couples counseling was a little rough yesterday. Huang is convinced that the technique, you know, actually watching what happened, is the only way for them to begin healing since Barba doesn’t remember most of what happened.” She paused. “Then you have Alex who thinks that George sent her favorite colleague over the deep end.”

“Well, Huang can do that to anyone,” Stabler teased with a grin. That made her feel a little better.

“Want a drink?” She asked pulling a bottle of alcohol from her drawer.

Stabler looked at her odd but then said, “Well I am officially off duty.” She poured them each a glass. “From what I hear, I would have expected something like this from Barba.”

She smiled. “Well, this kinda became a thing when he would stop by late to talk about a case.” She sighed. “That’s been about two months now.” Clearly, she was missing his companionship, but hey, Stabler was a good enough friend to drink with.

---

Monday morning came. Carisi was preparing to go to the precinct. He was looking in the bathroom mirror as he attempted his neck tie. Barba was just getting out of the shower and had a towel wrapped around his waist.

"Let me," seeing Carisi was struggling with his tie, like he did everyday. Carisi turned and Barba quickly fixed his tie like a pro. "Perfect."

"Thank you," Carisi kissed Barba's cheek. "Are you sure I can't get you to reconsider going in today? I could fix your tie too!"

"Not a chance! I'd have redo it myself," Barba laughed.

Barba decided that he would work from home today in solitude. His home office was a good place for him to concentrate without people poking, prodding, and inquiring about his mental state. The problem was, everyone one was actually on duty this morning. Novak said she would cover their ‘security detail’ after she got out of court, but that meant Barba would be alone for the morning. Cabot had trial all day long, so she couldn’t stop by to work with him.

“Are you sure that you are going to be okay? I am sure Liv would let me stay this morning…” Carisi offered.

Almost tempted to take him up on his offer, Barba finally said, “I appreciate your offer, but I will be fine. I will just be in the office working on the trial prep.” He leaned in and gave Carisi a passionate kiss. “I really do appreciate the offer, though.” When he pulled back, he realized he made Carisi's shirt wet.

"Don't worry about it Rafa, it'll dry soon enough."

Carisi smiled. He seemed convinced Barba would be fine. “I love you. Take care of yourself,” he said as he headed out the door.

---

It was about 1:30. Novak was running down the steps of the courthouse. Court ran longer than expected. “Of course, it always runs late when I have somewhere to be,” she thought to herself annoyed. She was trying to call Barba to let him know she was running late. It went straight to voicemail. She gulped. She knew her friend was either shoulder deep in a case…or having…another tough day.

When she arrived at his apartment she knocked a few times but there was no answer. After two more minutes she went to find the building super. Much to her pleasure, he keyed her in when she flashed her ADA badge.

After closing the door, she called out “Rafael? I’m here!” A lump was growing in the back of her throat as she became more concerned. Each room she passed through was empty. She finally opened his home office door hoping for the best, but starting to prepare for the worst.

The office was a wreck.  Files and notes everywhere. Law books laying open on the floor and on the desk. He had been very been feverishly working. The she spotted him. He was lying on the sofa curled up in a ball shaking. He had tears on his face.

Novak sat down on the sofa and it startled him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you, sweetie,” she gently said as she stroked the tears from his face. “I see you’ve been busy.” He nodded his head.

After a minute, she continued, “Rafi, what’s wrong?” He shook his head and tears trickled down his cheeks. “I don’t know. Something is wrong. I don’t know.”

“It’ll be okay,” she said. “Is it okay if I call George?” He nodded. She picked up her cell and made the call. “He’ll be here in about half an hour.”

She knelt on the floor next to Barba’s streaked face. “Rafi, please be honest with me. Did you drink anything or take anything you shouldn’t have?”

He shook his head. “Just the seizure medicine, coffee, and water. Huang confiscated every last ounce of alcohol, if you don’t believe me.”

“I believe you. What is going on?” she pressed again.

“I don’t know,” he replied the same as before.

---

Huang got there in 20 minutes. He must have been driving fast. Novak led him into the office where Barba was still curled up in a ball shaking. “Casey, can you give us the room?”

“Sure, let me know if you need anything.”

Once she closed the door, Huang sat down in front of Barba’s face in an Indian-style position. He held Barba’s head with one hand.

“Rafael. Alex says you can’t tell her what is wrong. Do you know and not want to tell her? Or do you really not know?”

“I don’t know,” Barba said still repeating his earlier response.

“Tell me about what you have done today.”

It took a while, but Barba did manage to recount his day. He explained that he got so much done on the case and that he made so much progress. And then he just started trembling. He didn’t know why. He felt terrified. He couldn’t breathe.

“How did you feel while you were working?” Huang inquired.

“Like, normal. I was making great progress. I felt like I was my old self, just prepping another case. Then I couldn’t breathe and I started shaking. I literally fainted. I crawled over here to the sofa and that’s where I’ve been since.”

"Did you hit your head?"

"Yeah," Barba replied.

Huang stood up and examined Barba's head moving his dark hair around so that he could see his scalp better. "There's no bleeding, but a little bit of a bump.

“Rafael, I need you to think real hard. What specifically were you doing just before all this started to happen? Before you couldn't breathe."

Barba took a minute to think and then replied, “I was reviewing evidence.”

“What evidence?”

Barba pointed to an open manila folder on his desk. Huang walked over and looked through the file. It was pictures of Renee’s injuries. Huang put the file down and sat back down in front of Rafael.

“Rafael, I think you are having a panic attack. I’ll be right back.”

---

“Casey?” Huang found her on the sofa with a cup of coffee.

“Is he okay?”

He nodded his head. "He is having a panic attack. Would you mind running down the block and picking up a medication from the pharmacy."

“No problem.”

He pulled out his prescription pad and scribbled on it and tore off the top sheet. “Thanks, Casey. I am going to let the door unlocked but I want to stay with Rafael until you get back. Try to calm him down some.”

Casey grabbed her purse and headed for the pharmacy.

---

Back in the office, Huang sat Barba up and propped him against the arm of the sofa and laid a pillow behind his back. He pushed files to one side of the table in front of the sofa and pushed the table closer to Barba. “Put your feet up,” he said as he helped Barba’s legs move from the floor.

Then he sat down next to Barba and rubbed his back. “It’s okay. Do you want some tea?” After careful consideration Barba nodded. He was still shaking and Huang could see his skin was moist with sweat. “I’ll be right back.”

Less than five minutes later he reappeared with a cup of chamomile tea in a plastic mug. “Plastic, just in case you drop it,” Huang said as handed the cup to Barba. He sat back down and with one hand helped the ADA raise the mug to his lips to take a few sips while his other hand was wrapped around Barba’s back trying to keep him steady.

“I know this is scary, especially if you haven’t experienced a panic attack before. It will be over soon.”

Novak slipped in carrying a pharmacy bag that she was opening and gave the bottle to Huang, who like a good doctor, double checked the label. He opened the bottle and dispensed three pills. "This is more than you would take on your own, but we need to get you calmed down. 

Barba was still shaking too much to hold the mug or tiny pills. “Open up,” Huang directed. Barba did as he was told and Huang popped the pills in his mouth and held the mug up and told him to take a sip.

Novak could not believe her eyes. “Rafael Barba, taking commands without protest. If the situation was not because of something so horrific, I would be filming this and sharing it,” she thought to herself.

About ten minutes later Barba’s shaking faded and he started to relax. “I feel drowsy…” Barba announced in a concerned voice. He could hear Huang talking as the room started become dim. “It’s okay, it’s a sedative. Just sleep now…” Everything went black.

Huang and Novak stayed in the room while he slept off the medication. Novak was sitting at Barba’s desk with her feet propped up. Huang was sitting next to Barba with his feet propped up on the table next to Barba’s feet. “Now this is the life,” Novak said with a grin. “If we could only get this workaholic to take ten minutes a day for himself.”

“You are so right, Casey. That might be just as hard for him as it is for him trying to process his emotions.”

A minute went by before Casey finally asked, “What did you do to piss Alex off so much yesterday?”

He frowned. “We had a slight disagreement about their couple’s session on Saturday. We viewed some of the footage from the FBI. Normally I wouldn’t have even done this, but Rafael is just missing so much from those days and he is fighting to understand what their situation was like.”

Novak looked stunned. “I understand, but, wow, that must have been hard on them.”

“Extremely so. I also think I should be checking in with Rollins and Amaro. They allowed them to be there for moral support, but it was bad, Casey. Really bad.” He paused and then continued, “I might actually need to see a therapist myself after seeing that. Think Liv has Lindstrom’s number handy?” he said with a grin on his face.

Novak grinned and nodded her head towards Barba.

Huang turned and saw that Barba’s eyes were open. “So, should I be concerned that my shrink needs to a shrink himself?” He started laughing still groggy from the medication. Seeing that he was laughing himself, Huang and Novak allowed themselves to join in.

---

Huang decided that he was going to spend the night with the couple. Novak was just leaving as Carisi and Amaro were coming down the hall. They greeted her and then went their separate ways.

“Hey, doc. I wasn’t expecting to see you…Is Rafael okay?” Carisi said as he interrupted himself mid-thought.

“Yeah, hold on a second, I need to ask him…” Huang began.

“I am right here, doctor,” Barba said as he came around the corner from his home office. He saw Amaro was with Carisi. “It’s okay. Let me get us some coffee and we can sit in the living room.”

Within minutes Barba was distributing mugs to everyone. And he sat down on the sofa next to Carisi.

“Do you want to discuss this with them?” Huang asked.

“Might as well. They’ll find out one way or another,” Barba replied with a sigh.

Carisi and Amaro’s eyes were both filled with concern.

“Okay,” Huang said. He filled them in on how Novak found him having a severe panic attack, essentially a crippling one.

“Is he okay?” Carisi asked Huang while staring at Barba as if Barba couldn’t hear him.

“I’m right here and I am fine,” Barba assured him with a detectable irritation entering his tone.

Huang nodded in agreement. “We need to help you develop some strategies for coping with this in case it happens again.”

“Yeah, clearly, I can’t pop a pill and knock myself out in the middle of a trial,” Barba said agreeing.

Together, Huang had everyone help develop a list of strategies to help if he was mid-trial and this happened. Taking deep breaths, asking his co-counsel to take over, ask for a brief recess, having a coffee mug on the table with the traditional water glasses, having a stress ball in his blazer pocket, and the list went on.

“If it happens here at home, sure, you can take a pill, but I urge you to consider using some of the strategies we just discussed. There are a few more I would like you to try. Listening to music. Allowing someone to hug and hold you,” he said staring at Carisi who seemed proud that he could help with that one. “And if he isn’t around, you can use a weighted blanket. When you cover up, the weight of the blanket tricks your body into the sensation that someone is holding you and it calms you down.”

“Now, not to run your household, but Carisi, could you and Amaro prepare dinner? Rafael and I have a one-on-one session scheduled.” Both men got up and left the room.

Turning back to Barba, “Now I know you had a long day already, but we really need to talk about your Mami.” Barba looked at the floor before meeting Huang’s eyes. His eyes were full of tears, but he nodded.

“Can we go to your office?” Barba nodded and they made their way back to the room they had just spent the entire afternoon in.

---

An hour later, Barba and Huang emerged from his office and Barba was clearly in good spirits. The four of them—Barba, Carisi, Amaro, and Huang had a pleasant dinner and then spent the remainder of the watching TV.

Amaro announced that he and Cynthia were hosting a picnic this weekend. Everyone from SVU and their families were invited. With a lot of debate and a gentle reminder from Huang about developing a social life, Barba finally gave in and agreed to join them on Saturday. Carisi leaned his head on Barba’s shoulder. “That’s my Rafa,” and gave him a quick peck on the cheek knowing that Barba was not a big fan of PDA.

Chapter Text

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It was just about 11 AM as Barba and Carisi were climbing out of an Uber at Amaro’s new place. “Please remind me why we are here again?” Barba moaned.

“One: Because they are family and you do stuff together with family. Two: Huang says you need to keep building a social life.” Carisi said.

“Why do I feel like there is a three coming?” Barba interjected.

“Because there is. Three: Because you love me!” He said with a smile grabbing Barba around the shoulders as they strolled around to the backyard.

They were the last ones there. “Uncle Rafa! Uncle Sonny!” all the little ones chanted as came running to greet the new arrivals. Noah, Jesse, and little Billie were a force to be reckoned with when all three were together. Barba was never comfortable around children, but when Benson adopted Noah, that changed. Sometimes when he was out with Benson and Noah, he caught him thinking of Noah as 'his kid.' Barba bent down to greet all three of them.

“Rafael, over here!” Amaro shouted waving his hand.

“And so it begins…” he said quietly to Carisi as he stepped away.

“Hey! Thanks for coming. You might remember meeting Cynthia, and this is Gil, and Zara,” Amaro said re-introducing the family who were sitting at a table.

“Hi Uncle Rafa!” Gil and Zara simultaneously greeted him. Barba was briefly stunned. Even Amaro had his kids calling him ‘Uncle Rafa’. “We’re going to go play with Noah, Jesse, and Billie!” Zara announced as they ran off. Gil and Zara were older than those three, but they enjoyed being their big siblings.

“Sit, Rafael. Let me grab you a beer,” Amaro said as he disappeared into the house.

Cynthia turned to Rafael. “You know, he talks very highly of you. He admires you. He says you really put your heart and soul on the line for the victims.” Barba turned pink, semi-embarrassed by the random comment.

“After a brief pause, she added, “and he won’t admit this but, he is extremely happy to be spending so much time with you lately. He thinks of you as a friend.”

Amaro emerged from the house with a cooler of beers and while he hand Barba one he noticed the ADA’s face was a shade of pink. “Cynthia, I told you not to give him a hard time, we want him to come back!”

“It is okay, Nick,” Barba responded in a serious tone.

“I’m just messing with you,” Amaro explained as Barba did not grasp the light mood.

Barba just smiled.

Carisi rescued his man from the Amaro family and walked arms interlocked towards Munch who was taking family photos. Stabler’s family was up. While Munch was changing the film Stabler approached Carisi and Barba. “These are my kids, Maureen, my oldest. Kathleen. Richard and Elizabeth. And the youngest, Eli.

“Elliott.” Eli proudly clarified.

Barba was impressed that Stablers’s kids were all adults, well, except for Eli. Adults and they still made time for his dad. That thought made him miss his Mami, but he was holding it together.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Munch announced and signaled everyone back to position.

“Wait,” Kathleen said as she made her way toward Benson who was marveling at all the family portraits. Kathleen grabbed Benson’s hand and said pulling her towards the shoot, “Come on, Noah too.” Benson was holding Noah’s hand.

As she approached the Stabler clan, Kathleen turned around. “It’s okay, Liv. Mom knew you were his work wife and friend. She was okay with that. She’d want you to be here for dad.”

Benson looked up and saw all of his kids nodding in agreement. Her eyes met with Stablers’ who appeared just as surprised as she was.

“Well, okay then. She squatted down in front of his kids holding Noah as Munch snapped the picture.”

“Us next!” Carisi shouted.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Rafael whined.

“No, but remember, you love me!”

He dragged Barba reluctantly over and John snapped a few pictures. Of course Carisi did some funny poses, but finally John got one really good picture of the couple.

“I missed my calling. I should have been a photographer!” John mused.

Amaro whistled and everyone turned. “Cynthia and I are glad that you all joined us today,” he said as he wrapped his arms around his wife. “This is pretty informal, so just eat when you feel like it!”

By this time, Barba realized Carisi was pulling him towards Fin. “Hey counselor,” Fin greeted him. “This is my son, Ken Randall and husband, Alejandro Pavel.”

Barba knelt down to greet the infant “and who is this little guy?”

That’s their son, my grandson, Jaden. Jaden was sheepishly shy.

“Say hello, Jaden,” Ken waved his son's hand to Barba and continued and said for the infant "Hi Uncle Rafa, Hi Uncle Sonny.

Second time of the day he was surprised by someone calling him ‘Uncle Rafa.’ “Even Fin’s son was training his grandson to call me that and I didn’t even know that kid even existed!” he thought to himself.

“Let’s go get some food to eat, Counselor,” Fin invited. By this time Amaro had speakers set up outside and music was playing.

Barba and Carisi were sitting at the table with Fin’s family. They were all talking about Jaden. Ken and Alejandro were just so in love with their son.” Then Ken turned to Barba and Carisi, “Have you ever thought about kids?"

Barba was absolutely shocked and still as a statue. Carisi wrapped his arm around Barba and answered Ken, “We’re just not at that point in our relationship yet for that conversation,” he said smiling at Barba. “God, that probably just freaked him out,” Carisi thought as he tried to gauge he boyfriend’s reaction…which he couldn’t.

Barba was looking at his empty beer bottle when Huang walked by. He bent over Barba’s shoulder and whispered, “This is the perfect time to drink, lots of people around to watch you.” Without even acknowledging the little Birdie on his shoulder Barba promptly went and retrieved a second beer from the cooler.

Carisi turned to Huang. “God, doc, you are so damn awful.”

“Just doing my job,” Huang replied with a grin.

---

Huang sat down at a table near Novak to talk when he was surprised by Cabot who sat down beside him.

“George, I’m sorry for how I reacted Sunday. It wasn’t about the case. Rafael’s my friend…”

“I know that Alex, I never thought it was about the case. I know Rafael means the world to you.” He paused before continuing. “It is really painful for me to do this to them. Trust me when I say that I really don’t want to be doing this to them. I wish I could think of another way."

Cabot and Huang smiled at each other happy that they were now on civil speaking terms again.

---

It was nearly dusk and a superbly drunken Barba was enjoying himself. He was playing with Noah and his friends kicking a ball back and forth.” At this point, he didn't even mind making small talking with adults anymore.

“He seems like he has to be drunk to enjoy himself,” Carisi said to Huang.

“It seems that way. Once he gets comfortable around people, we can try to reel in his consumption…”

“It’s so good to see him so happy.” Carisi said eyeing up his man. “He is good with kids, isn’t he? After a pause, "Can you believe Fin’s kid asked him about having kids?”

Huang spat out his sip of beer and turned to Carisi. “You’re joking? How’d he react?” Huang probed as if it was high school gossip hour.

“He didn’t. I am not sure if he even blinked!” Carisi remarked.

Behind Carisi and Huang, Carisi could hear the SVU ladies formulating a plan. They knew Barba was drunk and they so desperately wanted to hear him sing again.  Amaro provided the music. Now they just needed to figure out how to trick him into actually singing for them. Carisi who had been ease dropping turned around and said “I may have an idea for you.”

“We’re all ears!” Novak, who was the ring leader, exclaimed.

---

A few minutes later the music stopped and Amaro put on some very upbeat music. Everyone stopped and looked up. The ladies of SVU were up near the speakers giving an insidious version of “One Night in Bangkok.”

Carisi knew this was one of Barba’s favorite songs. There was no way he would let someone defile that song.

As Carisi expected, Barba stomped up to the stage. He ushered the ladies aside. He saw a mic hooked at the speaker and he picked it up. He caught a glimpse of Carisi who was snickering. “You!” Barba shouted into the mic pointing his finger at Carisi. “You knew I couldn’t let this go!” Carisi was sitting at a table laughing into his knees. He knew he wouldn’t be able to get away without Barba knowing it was him who put the ladies up to it.

Barba sighed. “Let’s just get this over with. You guys aren’t going to let me leave without embarrassing myself.” he said as he restarted the music and added a bit of choreography to his performance.

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https://youtu.be/NiAAyl3yAX8

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don't know that the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world in a
Show with everything but Yul Brynner

Time flies doesn't seem a minute
Since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it
All change don't you know that when you
Play at this level there's no ordinary venue

It's Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings or
or this place!

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky then the god's a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One town's very like another
When your head's down over your pieces, brother

It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city

Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town

Tea, girls, warm, sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite

Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Siam's gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or reclining Buddha

And thank God I'm only watching the game controlling it

I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
I'd let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you

So you better go back to your bars, your temples, your massage
parlours

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

 

“Boo yah!” Barba shouted as he finished the song.

Cynthia turned to her husband. “You are right, he is insanely good,” and then quickly added, “and hot. Did you see how he can move that beautiful body of his?”

Amaro shot her a look.  “Okay, I know he is bi—but you know, he has a boyfriend, right? This isn’t your way of telling me that you are leaving me is it?” he said smiling in as he kissed her.

Barba made his way to Carisi who was still giddy. Barba laid his on his shoulder. "I am REALLY tired."

Then a slow song came on and all the official couples and just random pairings made their way to the center of the yard for a slow dance. Nick and Cynthia, Liv and Elliot, Alex and Huang, Ken and Alejandro, Amanda and Fin, Munch and Casey. Before Barba he even could figure out what was going on, Carisi was pulling him up and wrapped his arms around Barba’s neck. Barba sighed as he wrapped his own hands around Carisi’s list. “I’m leading,” Carisi informed his grumpy boyfriend.

“We’ll head home in a few minutes,” Carisi said kissing his forehead. Barba was out of energy and getting sleepy from all the alcohol he consumed, and he just couldn’t put his finger on it, but he felt that just being in the presence of other people was exhausting.

Carisi scheduled and Uber and the couple returned home for the night.

Once inside and the door closed, Barba threw Carisi up against the wall and kissed him passionately. Carisi interrupted the kiss, “Rafa, I thought you said you were out of energy.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

He ran his hands over Carisi’s torso and before removing his polo and rubbing against his chest. Carisi began returning the gesture. He leaned into the kiss undoing the buttons on Barba’s shirt and dropping it to the ground. Carisi began running his hand through Barba's hair and up and down his bare torso. Barba ran his tongue along Carisi's neck as he ran his hands over his abs.

Then he started to play at Barba’s waist line tugging at the belt loops of Barba’s jeans and then began to pry his hands into the jeans. They could feel each other becoming aroused and then Barba stepped back with tears in his eyes. Without saying a word, he walked through the bedroom, into the bathroom and closed the door.

astronautmike-dexter:
“ sashkash:
“(◡ ‿ ◡ ✿)
”
I’m just reblogging this again because it is potentially the most perfect image I have ever seen. The faces, the hands, the hair, EVERYTHING
”

Carisi just stood in the entryway against the wall bare-chested and stunned. He needed a minute. Barba had been the one who initiated the make-out session. Carisi realized that Rafael was probably still was nowhere close to being ready for physical intimacy, that they were probably going too fast, and that the alcohol was probably clouding both their judgements. He walked into the bedroom and leaned his head against the bathroom door and heard Barba softly crying.

He slowly opened the door and lowered himself down next to Barba who was on the floor.

“I am so sorry, Sonny. I thought…I thought I was ready…” tears overcame him.

“Hey, hey, Rafa, you don’t need to apologize for anything. It’s okay. Sex is not why I am in this relationship. We will only do it only if and when you are ready.” Barba leaned his head against Carisi’s shoulder for a few minutes. When Barba’s head lifted from his shoulder, Carisi stood up and extended his hand to help Barba off the floor.

“Come here,” Carisi said as he pulled him into his chest for a hug. He guided Barba back into his bedroom and sat him on the edge of the bed. He pulled out a silky pair of green pajamas (which he personally loved because they matched Barba’s green eyes). "Go ahead and get changed, I’ll be right back." He took his own pajamas from the drawer and put them on in the guest room and returned to the bedroom with cups of tea with honey, a few crackers, and some pills.

Barba was in his pajamas but just sitting there. “Here you go. He handed him three pills. For your seizures…and two for good measures, Aleeve,” referring to the more than likely hangover he would have in the morning. They both shared the crackers and sipped at the tea.

Just as they finished there was a knock at the door. Carisi carried the empty tea cups and laid them on the counter as he went to answer the door. He could see Stabler through the peep hole. He opened the door and Stabler walked in.

“You two love birds didn’t think you were going to elude your nighttime ‘security detail,’ did you?”

Barba came around the corner to see who was at the door. “Detective,” he said greeting Stabler while he clung to the walls for support. The alcohol was really subduing his balance and coordination.

“Elliot,” Stabler said. “You are allowed to use my first name.”

“Okay,” Barba replied. “Sonny, I don’t…want to be alone tonight.” The alcohol was revealing his vulnerability.

“Well, make yourself at home, Elliot. Rafa and I are going to turn in for the night.”

Carisi guided the tipsy man back to his room and covered him up. “Are you sure you want me to sleep with you tonight? I can sleep on the sofa.” Barba stared up barely still awake. “I’m open to cuddling.”

“If you are sure,” Carisi said double checking.

“I am,” Barba replied.

Carisi turned off the light, laid down and covered up. Barba was facing away from him so Carisi cuddled him and they both quickly fell asleep.  

Chapter Text

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Sunday morning came. Carisi was up at the crack of dawn and made breakfast for him and Stabler. Barba had spent the night vomiting from the alcohol he consumed at Amaro's picnic yesterday and had a few nightmares. He decided to let Barba sleep in. Next week was Renee’s trial, so he figured this might be his last chance at decent sleep before the trial started.

Stabler and Carisi were chatting about the happenings at the picnic yesterday. They were laughing about Fin’s son, Ken, when he asked Barba about kids.

“Just curious myself, but you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” Stabler began.

“Try me,” Carisi challenged.

“Are you, not Barba, but you, are you interested in having kids?” he asked.

Carisi smiled. “I would love to eventually have kids. I enjoy being around my nieces and nephews, and I really enjoy the time I get with Benson’s and Rollins’s kids. It really never came up yet with me and Rafa. Well, that is, until Fin’s son decided to do that for us!” he grinned.

“You have five yourself. Any pointers?”

“Well, Kathy and I, we didn’t plan Maureen and it just happened. I was scared out of my wits but once she was finally here, it was great. You always have this thought that you are screwing them up, but you just love them so much. Looking back, I can’t imagine not having them.”

“So, Rafael. What a voice!” Stabler said changing the subject.

Carisi smiled deviously. "He’s probably going to kill me later today…if he remembers yesterday." He looked up at Stabler with an even more devious smile. “You want to see something?”

“Sure.”

Stabler followed Carisi into the living room and got in one of the cabinets below the TV and pulled out a DVD. This is from his Harvard musical theater club days. He reached in…and this one…is just a few years ago. He is part of some musical theater group somewhere in Brooklyn. He thinks I don’t know about these DVD’s or his occasional disappearances into Brooklyn. Want to watch?”

“Oh man, he is going to kill you! Wait, we should get everyone over here for a viewing,” Stabler suggested.

“Now you are trying to make sure he kills me,” Carisi laughed.

Carisi texted Novak, Cabot, Munch and Huang while Stabler took care of contacting the squad and Benson.

- --

At about 9 AM everyone began piling into Barba’s home office and tried to keep the noise down as they were informed Barba was still sleeping his hangover off. Carisi actually made popcorn for their guests. He figured out how to hook the old DVD player up to the TV in Barba’s office.

“So this one is unlabeled…so I guess we’re in for a surprise,” Carisi announced. They hit play and dimmed the lights.

“This is gonna be great!” Novak exclaimed.

“Shh!”

It began. It was a performance of Company. There was their ADA, boyishly young, and he was cast in the leading role as Robert.

“Oh my God, look how young and handsome!” Benson noted.

“I want his autograph!” Novak said like a star-struck teenager.

Shh!

---

Barba was stirring and his head was pounding. He got up and immediately ran to vomit. Coming back out he sat on his bed. He could hear the opening song to “Company” in his head. “Shit, that’s not in my head!” Barba went to dart out of the bedroom and tripped on his sheets that were hanging off bed. He collected himself and ran into the living room. The cabinets below the TV were ajar. "No, no, no," he muttered to himself. He walked over to his home office and he could hear everyone inside enjoying the performance. “Shit,” Barba said as he returned to his bedroom. “I need a shower. Maybe I can manage to wash off the embarrassment.”

About half an hour later Barba was dressed in jeans and a white form-fitting t-shirt. His hair was still wet. He decided he’d have to make an appearance sooner or later. He gently turned the door knob and slipped into the dark room quietly. He located Carisi easily. He walked up behind Carisi, lowered his lips to Carisi’s ears and whispered, “Good morning, sunshine!”

Carisi jumped and fell out of his chair. Benson hit pause and Amaro turned the lights on. The room was engulfed in laughter as everyone saw Carisi on the floor red-faced and petrified.

“Hey…Barba,” Rollins said greeting him.

“Busted!” Munch called out. The room filled with laughter again.

Carisi’s shock had dissipated and he managed to make his way back into his chair.

Barba pulled a chair up to Carisi’s and propped his legs on his boyfriends laps. “So what are we watching? Get on with it!” he said smiling. It’s too late. They knew he could sing. Now they know he could act. No use denying it.

Benson handed the remote back to Carisi who hit play and Amaro again dimmed the lights. Barba leaned towards Carisi traced his hand down the back of his neck.

“You are in serious trouble, Sonny!” Carisi burst out laughing and Novak turned around and shushed him.

https://youtu.be/8fhW00fU1uQ

---

After all the guests were shown out, with the exception of Cabot and Huang, Carisi prepared lunch with Barba’s assistance in the kitchen.

“What possessed you to call them all here and show them that?” Barba tried to demand in a firm voice.

“For the record, Stabler was the one who invited everyone.” Carisi wanted to make sure Barba knew the facts.

“And I suppose Stabler was the one who went through my DVD cabinet?” Barba joked.

“You know, those nosy detectives!” Carisi said smirking.

“Uh, huh, right.” Barba couldn’t pretend anymore. He just exploded laughing. “You didn’t hurt yourself when you fell out of the chair, did you?”

“Nah, but I was pretty close to needing a change of clothes,” Carisi shamelessly admitted.

"And, the other DVD?" Barba asked.

“What other DVD?” Carisi joked back.

“You damn well know what DVD,” Barba retorted.

“Hmm….I don’t remember any other DVD. Oh, wait yeah. I did give it to someone. Now who was it?"

"Oh come on." Then he paused. “How long have you known about the theater group in Brooklyn?" he quizzed Carisi.

“Last year, sometime," he replied.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Barba asked.

“We were just getting together and I didn’t want to scare you away by prying into or broadcasting your private life.”

“So you are okay with doing that now, though?”

“Rafael, you have so many people who care about you and you need to start sharing yourself. You know…that thing Huang has you doing…developing a social life. Besides, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone loves your voice! It’s so dreamy." Then he added, "Oh, and just a heads up, I think Casey is starting her own fan club and I wouldn’t be surprised if she asks you to sign a case file!”

Barba kissed Carisi on the lips and then pulled him in for a hug. He whispered into his ear, “Sonny, payback is a bitch.”

Now Carisi had to be on alert. His sneaky boyfriend was out for some fun-hearted blood revenge.

“Oh, and the answer is yes,” Barba replied.

“Yes…yes to what?” Carisi begged.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Barba teased as he carried some dishes out to their awaiting guests. "Payback is a bitch," he repeated himself as he left the kitchen.

“Damn you, Rafael!” Carisi hollered after him in a joking tone.

Chapter Text

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After lunch, Carisi, Barba, Cabot, and Huang gathered in the living room. “We need to decide how we are going to handle therapy over the next week or two,” Huang started.

“Because of Renee’s trial?” Rafael asked.

Huang nodded. “We were going to watch more of the footage, but I am not so sure that is such a good idea with you prosecuting a case with so much…similarity,” Huang admitted.

“I know it is not my place, Rafael, but I do think you need to stay in a good head space for now, until this trial is over,” Cabot said expressing her opinion.

Barba turned to Carisi. “What do you think, Sonny?”

“I think they’re right, Rafa,” Carisi said agreeing with his cohorts.

After a thoughtful moment, “I guess that would probably be the best way to go.”

“We also do need to talk some possible…complications and outcomes,” Huang explained.

“Like what?” Barba asked slightly irritated.

“Well for starters. Seizures. How many have you had this past week?” Huang inquired.

“Just one. Last Monday,” Barba replied.

“That’s good. The medication must have finally reached a therapeutic level in your body. What about anxiety? Have you had anymore panic attacks?” Huang followed up with.

Carisi looked at Barba. “Yeah, again just one. When I was looking at evidentiary pictures, again,” Barba said with a sigh.

“How did you deal with it?” Huang said pressing the issue.

“I talked to Sonny, and he held me for a while.” Carisi smiled at how Barba was being truthful about his condition.

“That’s great. Here is a list of strategies that we previously discussed for trial,” he said handing Barba a sheet of paper. “I strongly urge you to prepare to use some of these during trial. This case is going to be very triggering,” Huang warned Barba.

“And afterwards,” Cabot said prompting the doctor.

“We want you to consider the possible outcomes.”

“Guilty or not guilty. There is no question,” Barba replied.

Huang shook his head. “Are you going to be able to keep how you identify with the victim out of the cross-examination? Is your anger going to seep through and cause you to get slapped for contempt of court by the judge? If the verdict is not guilty, are you going to be able to handle that without falling off the deep-end? Meaning, will you try to take your life?” Huang said wrapping up his line of questions. He looked at Cabot to see if he covered everything. She returned his gaze with a slight nod.

Barba sat for a few minutes taking in on these possible scenarios. “I’m…I’m not sure.”

“Thank you for being honest, Rafael,” Huang said acknowledging how difficult this must have been for Barba, the invincible prosecutor to admit.

“Does this mean you’re going to have me removed from the case, Alex?” he asked with concerned eyes.

“I don’t want to Rafael, if you agree to adhere to Dr. Huang’s suggestions, I won’t have to,” she gently explained sitting down by him stroking his back.

“First, if you sense your feelings are starting influence the line of questioning with the victim or the cross with the perp, I want you to concede and let Alex take the lead until you can pull yourself together,” Huang said.

“I can do that,” Barba said agreeing to this term.

“You will talk to someone…any of us before and after trial sessions. And during recesses so that we can check in on you. “I’ve cleared my schedule to be there. And, of course, Alex will be there.”

“Okay,” Barba again agreed.

“Finally, when the verdict comes back, especially if it not in your favor, you will be with someone at all times until we are sure that you are safe. Minimal, although preferably no alcohol consumption.”

Carisi interrupted, “We love you Rafael and we don’t want to lose you. I can’t lose you,” he said with glassy eyes.

Barba looked down for a few minutes in silence. He finally looked up teary-eyed. “I think I am going to struggle with the last one,” he finally said.

“Thank you for being honest, again,” Huang said. “Well, can you promise us one thing?”

Barba looked up and saw everyone looking at him.

Huang continued, “Can you try to lean on other people for support? Check in with someone before you attempt something that can’t be undone?”

Barba nodded his head.

“Okay, now that that is settled, therapy this week will be on an “as needed” basis. It has been the consensus, that we will not view anymore footage until after the trial,” Huang said recapping their initial conversation.

“The footage,” Barba muttered.

“Huh?” Cabot wasn’t sure what he was saying.

“The footage,” he said again.

“What the hell?” Carisi asked.

“The footage, the footage, the footage!” He turned to Cabot. “Anthony D’Angelo. Are there any ties to the Italian mob?”

“I’m not sure, why?” Cabot asked.

“If he is tied to the mob, Renee’s assault matches our assault’s M.O.,” he said looking at Carisi.

“Then they might have recorded it too,” Carisi said putting it all together

“Call Amaro, Fin, and Rollins. See if they can find out.”

---

The next day, Cabot called Barba and confirmed his suspicions. Anthony D’Angelo did indeed have connections to the Italian mob, through a step sibling who had a different surname.

“Have the detectives meet us at the crime scene. Huang is at my apartment, so we are going to head over there now,” Rafael said hanging up the phone.

“How do you feel about a road trip?” he asked Huang as he came into the office with two cups of tea.

“Where to?”

“The crime scene of Renee’s assault.”

“I guess so. Are you up to that?” Huang asked.

“I will get through it, besides, am I not supposed to lean on others?” he chuckled.

---

They arrived at the crime scene. Barba and Huang entered the basement where Renee and her fiancé were held. Barba recognized the scene from the photos. He saw a mattress covered with blood and fluids. Shackles near the bed. Blood stains on the ground from blows. Then a large blood stain. This apparently was where Renee’s fiancé bled out.

Barba started to have flashbacks. The room was so similar. He was breathing hard and felt dizzy. He felt chills run down his spine. He turned to Huang, “I feel light…”and he collapsed on Huang.

“Nick!” Huang called to Amaro standing on the other side of the room.

“Is he okay?” Amaro asked as he sprinted to their side.

“Yeah, PTSD. Can you help me get him on the ground and sitting up?”

Amaro nodded. He knew quite a bit about PTSD since Maria, Zara’s mother suffered from it. Just as they sat him against the wall Barba blinked his eyes. Amaro knelt down. “Are you okay, Rafael?” he asked the dazed man.

“Yeah.” Then he explained “it almost looks exactly like where Carisi and I were held.”

“Yeah it does,” Fin said joining the conversation “Almost to the T.” Rollins was by his side.

Barba, who was still on the ground turned to Huang. “Where did the feds find the camera in…at our scene?”

“It was in vent along the wall,” Huang replied.

Everyone started looking around.

“Over there,” Huang said pointing at a small vent, no bigger than a hand.

Amaro took out a knife and unscrewed the vent. “Got it!”

Barba smiled up at Huang, “It was well worth it.”

Amaro came back and helped the ADA to his feet. “Let’s get you out of here.” Amaro took one side and Huang the other.

As they walked out Barba, turned to Huang, “How’s this for leaning on people?” he asked playfully.

“Always so literal, Rafael,” he replied.

Chapter Text

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Barba and Cabot spent the week bunkered down preparing for the case. The actually spent Monday-Wednesday at his office at 1 Hogan Place, but since then they’ve been working out of Barba’s home office. They were over preparing for the trial. It was unusual for either of them to co-prosecute a case, so the urge to ‘over prepare’ was mutual.

It was now Sunday evening, the day before the trial, and Cabot had just left for the evening. The evening ‘security detail,’ Stabler, wasn’t able to make it there for another few hours. Carisi told him to take his time and that he and Rafa would be fine until he made it there.

Carisi had been working with Stabler & Benson all week on the Rook case. SVU had to release him, much to Casey’s dismay, for lack of evidence. The detectives were tailing him, waiting for him to slip up.

With both of their workloads this week, Carisi and Barba had not seen much of each other. Barba was laying on the sofa face up and barefoot when Carisi walked by and tickled his foot. Barba reached up and pulled Carisi down on the sofa and they cuddled with each other.

“Where’ve you been all week?” Barba playfully interrogated Carisi.

“Me, where have you been? Should I be worried that you are spending so much time with Alex?” Carisi replied and both men shared a smile as they sat up.

Once Barba was comfortably upright, Carisi laid back nestling his head in Barba’s lap. He stared up at Barba’s beautiful green eyes and allowed Barba to gently caress his face.

“So, all that talk about payback, it’s torturing me,” he informed his lover. “Please, just get it over with,” he pleaded gazing up at Barba.

“I told you, the answer is yes,” Barba said repeating his earlier very subtle, but not helpful hint.

“Come on, Rafa,” Carisi complained. “What does that mean?”

“I’ll let you know after the trial,” Barba replied.

“That is at least going to be another week. I’m dying here!” Carisi whined.

“Well, what you shared with everyone, my singing and acting, that will last forever in everyone’s minds,” he said with a grin. “You can last another week.”

Carisi sighed seeing that Barba was not going to budge from his position. Changing the subject, he asked “Are you ready for tomorrow?”

“Well, this is probably the most prepared I’ve ever felt with a case. Solid witness, indisputable evidence…” he trailed off.

“But, are you ready?” Carisi pressed.

“I hope so,” he replied.

“Do you want me to come watch?” Carisi asked trying to offer support.

“Not necessary, but I could use a lunch phone date.”

That was more than Carisi thought he would agree to. “Okay, but please, call or text me if you need anything…case-related or…just a hug.”

“I promise, Sonny.”

---

Barba woke up early Monday morning, much earlier than he normally would for prosecuting a case. He put some coffee on and began assembling a “to-go bag.” He gathered his seizure and anxiety medication, Huang's list of coping strategies and then he retrieved a plain, plastic mug from the kitchen cabinet. He opened a brand new stress ball he intended to put in his pocket. He made sure he had his cell charger and a pair of ear pods.

After a quick shower, Barba had a towel wrapped around his waist as he entered his walk-in closet tof look for the just right court suit. Much to his surprise, Carisi was already in there holding up a suit. Startled, Barba dropped his towel.

“Well Counselor, I’d go with something with a little more coverage!” Carisi laughed grinning. Barba sheepishly retrieved his towel from the floor before leaning in to kiss Carisi.

“What are you doing up so early for?”

“I don't know if you heard, but my boyfriend is prosecuting a case today and I had to him a good day in court. And to make sure he looked the part,” Carisi added holding out a dark gray suit, crème button down, matching red tie, socks, pocket square and suspenders. “I figured I could trust you picking out your own briefs,” he smirked as they walked out of the closet. Barba grabbed a pillow from the bed and smacked Carisi with it and then proceeded to get dressed.

“Are you really going in this early?” Carisi asked as he and Barba finished up the coffee. “Why don’t I make you something to eat?”

“I just want to get to my office and try to get centered. I’ll grab something before trial starts,” Barba insisted. He knew that would become a lie. He never ate before the start of a trial, but he wanted Carisi to back off some.

Barba kissed Carisi as he picked up his to-go bag and briefcase. “I’ll see you tonight, Sonny.”

---

The sun was just starting to rise and the city was starting to wake up, but 1 Hogan Place was still empty. Barba walked into his office and closed the door. He felt nervous, more than usual, but with good reason. He had to deal with the possibilities of seizures, panic attacks, and PTSD.

He sat in his chair and turned around and stared blankly at the wall trying to ground himself. He was running through his opening statement in his head. They were up against John Buchanan. He was tough and arrogant. He never liked the guy. Every time he found himself facing off against this defense attorney, he always had to repeat the mantra “he’s just doing his job,” but by the end of the trial he would calling him a prick, along with much worse terms, in his mind. Barba knew his track record was much better than Buchanan’s and today he chose to take some solace in that.

His thoughts were interrupted when Cabot knocked on the door. “I thought you’d be here. I am heading down to the courthouse. Come with me?” Barba nodded his head as he reached for his briefcase and to-go bag.

As they approached the courthouse, the media was already starting to assemble. The ADAs spotted Renee and escorted her through the media. Cabot held Barba’s hand as if he was a child that could get lost in the chaos until they entered the courthouse.

Once inside, Cabot claimed one of the side rooms and Barba and Renee followed her in. While Barba pulled files from his briefcase and organized notes, Cabot tried to prep Renee and keep her calm. She was clearly emotional, but really, who wouldn’t be after what she went through?

Barba was sitting in the corner lost in thought when he heard Renee address him. “Mr. Barba, I am worried. I am afraid I am going to lose it on the stand. Lose it if the jury doesn’t come back with the right verdict.”

220 Raúl Esparza ideas | raúl esparza, rafael barba, law and order svu

Barba laid down the file he was looking at. His gaze was glassy as he gripped Renee’s hand. “You will make it through this. Our case is strong, but if it doesn’t end how we hope, Alex and I both will be here for you.”

Renee wiped a tear from her eye and replied “Thank you.”

---

There was a knock at the door. A court officer appeared. “Mr. Barba, Judge Petrovsky wants to see you in chambers.”

Barba excused himself and made his way to her chambers. When he knocked she called for him to come in. “Rafael, come in. Have a seat.”

He was baffled not seeing Buchanan in there. He was almost certain he would have been making some sort of outlandish claim to suppress something on some sort of bizarre legal technicality. The judge was not yet robed, just sitting at her desk with a coffee.

“This isn’t about the case,” she explained when she saw how perplexed he looked.

“You wanted to see me?” Barba asked.

“I wanted to check in with you. Are you doing okay? Are you going to be okay prosecuting this?” she asked.

“Recovery is a very long path,” he responded. “I’m not sure if…” his voice trailed off. “Alex will step in if it becomes too much.”

Petrovsky nodded. “You know, I am very proud of you. It’s only been three months and you are trying to get back at it.” She paused, “Before your time in Manhattan, I went through something traumatic too.” Again, she paused before continuing. “One of SVU’s lab techs, Dale Stuckey, royally messed up a case causing evidence to be thrown out and I was forced to release a murderer. Well, I was very clear about how inexcusable and grievous his error was. He retaliated a day later trying to kill me. I ended up taking almost nine months off. When I came back, I was hesitant and uneasy about making rulings and judgements for almost a year. It took me the better part of two years to get back to myself.”

“Again, I am very proud of you for trying this early. If you can’t handle it, just let us know. There is no shame if it is difficult, especially this early on. Alex is an excellent person to have to backing your play.”

Barba was feeling emotional and could sense the tears in his eyes but he kept it together in front of the judge. “Thank you, your honor.”

“Rafael?” He turned to face her. “No robe. It’s Lena.”

Thank you, Lena,” he restated.

“Rafael, you are one of the most impressive prosecutors to watch. That will not change.” Then she smiled and added “Try not to have any defendants strangle you with your own belt today, please?”

He chuckled as he left her chambers and called back “Not planning on it!”

14 Times Rafael Barba From "Law & Order: SVU" Was The Man | Law and order,  Law and order svu, Law and order: special victims unit

---

It was almost time for court. Barba entered the courtroom to find Cabot already sitting at the prosecution table. The court room was about half-full. He spotted Huang hanging out near the back doors focused on an iPad. Buchanan and D’Angelo were sitting at the defense table.

“What did Petrovsky want?” Cabot asked as he joined her.

“Just wanted to check in with me,” Barba replied.

Cabot gave him a slight nod.

Everyone rose as the court officer announced, “All rise for the Honorable Judge Lena Petrovsky. Court is now in session.”

Everyone sat down.

Barba was ready. He had his stress ball and medication tucked away in his blazer pocket and a mug of coffee situated near the water pitcher.

“The court will hear opening statements,” Petrovsky said signaling that trial was now underway.

“Rafael Barba and Alexandra Cabot for the prosecution, your Honor,” Barba as he stood up and straightened his blazer and fasten its bottom button in his traditional trial stance. “Now this feels like old times,” Barba thought to himself. "I can do this."

He made his way over to the jury and looked each of them in the eye as he paced before them making his opening statement.

May be an image of 4 people, people sitting, people standing, suit and indoor

Renee Lewis and her fiancée, Chris Roberts were abducted near their home. They were held captive for three days, brutalized, beaten and raped.” At this point images of his and Carisi’s ordeal started flooding his mind, but he continued. “On day three, the defendant, D’Angelo, the mastermind and sole surviving perpetrator, tried to force Chris Roberts to rape his fiancée, Renee Lewis.” Barba stared at Renee who was in the gallery. He could see she was emotional. “When Chris Roberts refused,” his voice began cracking with emotion seeping in. “The defendant shot Mr. Roberts and he bled out, on the ground in front of Renee.”

He started to feel anxiety. “Carisi could be dead right now,” he thought to himself. Barba took a deep breath, trying to center himself. “An anonymous call prompted police response. Two of the assailants were killed by suicide by police. The prosecution will present witness testimony from Miss Renee Lewis, photographic and DNA evidence from the crime scene, Miss Lewis’s rape kit, and Mr. Roberts’s body. If that is not enough to convince you of Mr. D’Angelo’s guilt, the prosecution has entered video footage into evidence as of last Monday depicting these events.”

Barba was teary and was struggling to keep them at bay. Keeping his composure he looked at the jury. “We have one woman who was abducted, brutalized, raped by her attackers, and her fiancé murdered. They never had the chance to wed and start a family.  Today, the man responsible is sitting right here, in front of you. He paused. “Please, review the evidence and testimony carefully. Find Mr. D’Angelo guilty, of abduction, assault, rape, and murder. Give Renee the justice she deserves, the justice that her fiancé will never get. Thank you.”

Barba walked back to the prosecution table and sat down. Not the best opening statement he ever made, but it was decent considering the images that were invading his mind. Cabot patted him on the shoulder and whispered “Great job, Rafael.”

Buchanan stood up and gave his opening spew. He twisted the words of his opening statement, as per his usual, smearing the victims. Nothing abnormal about that. Oh, and his client had nothing to do with any of it. He was just there in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then Buchanan returned to the defense table.

“Like we haven’t heard that one before,” Barba muttered under his breath. Cabot kicked his foot hearing that comment. Still facing forward, he whispered, "Did I say that out loud?" Cabot kicked him again in response.

“Prosecution may proceed,” Judge Petrovsky ordered.

“The prosecution calls Miss Renee Lewis to the stand,” Barba announced again standing, straightening his blazer, and fastening the lower button. Renee rose with tears and red cheeks and proceeded to the stand. She was sworn in by the court officer. Barba tried to make eye contact with Renee, but it was difficult. Finally their eyes met.

“Could you please tell us about the events on the evening of June 22?” Barba asked.

Renee looked up and bravely faced the jury. “My fiancé, Chris, and I were walking home. We were near his apartment when I was hit from behind and he was punched. Rags of chloroform were held over our noses until we blacked out.”

That statement sent chills down Barba’s spine as he remember him and Carisi being subdued by chloroform. He started playing with the stress ball in his pocket.

“So you both were transported unconscious?” Barba asked.

“Objection! Leading the witness!” Buchanan interrupted.

“Sustained,” Petrovsky ruled.

“I’ll rephrase. What do you remember when you woke up?” Barba asked.

“We were in a dark basement. There was a mattress with restraints. There were four men around us…”

Barba was feeling very unsteady and he could feel his breath quicken. He tried taking discreet deep breaths, but he was becoming very lightheaded. "Please don't let me faint," he said to himself.

He turned to Renee, “One minute,” he said cutting her off.

He turned to Petrovsky. “Approach?”

The judge nodded. Barba stepped toward the judge's bench and was joined by Cabot and Buchanan.

“Mr. Barba?”

“I need Ms. Cabot to resume questioning.”

“Are you alright, counselor?” Buchanan asked with concern. That was way out of character for him, but he could clearly see how pale and unsteady Barba was.

“Fine,” he replied.

The judge nodded her head.
“Co-prosecutor Cabot will continue with the witness.”

Barba shamefully walked back to the prosecution table and sat down. He looked down at the table trying to hide a few tears that were escaping from his eyes.

He listened as Alex continued questioning Renee. Her story was so similar. It was getting hard for him to listen. Renee started to break down.

“Recess, your Honor?” Alex asked.

“We’re adjourned until after lunch,” Petrovsky announced then pounded her gavel.

Cabot was helping Renee from the stand and trying to calm her as Barba continued to stare at the table.

“Mr. Barba?” Buchanan walked over curiously. “Mr. Barba?” He did not see the prosecutor even flinch. “Miss Cabot?” he called to Alex.

She turned and saw Rafael had zoned out looking at the table. She guided Renee to the prosecution table and instructed her to sit down beside Barba and she asked Buchanan to give them a minute.

“Is he okay?” Buchanan pressed.

“I’ll let you know,” she replied briskly. Buchanan got the hint and walked away.

Cabot knelt down in front of Barba and looked in his eyes. “Rafael?”

“What’s wrong with him?” Renee asked between tears with panic in her voice. Huang saw what was going on and proceeded to the prosecution table. The courtroom was nearly cleared.

“Rafael?” A couple minutes later Rafael started to look around and become aware again. He was confused. “Is the trial over?” He seemed very out of it.

Cabot took Renee to lunch and Huang stayed behind with Barba.

---

After Huang guided Barba to the side room that Cabot claimed for them earlier, he had Barba sit down in a chair and got him a glass of water.

Barba was feeling better and more coherent. He pulled his stress ball from the pocket.

Huang smiled. “Rafael, I am so proud of you. You enlisted Alex’s help when you needed it. You’re using a stress ball.”

Barba sighed. “I can’t believe I couldn’t even finish her testimony,” he said in disbelief.

“Look at me.” Barba stared up and met Huang’s eyes.

“Just three months. That is all you took. Most people would taken off a whole year. Only three months and you are prosecuting the hardest type of case for someone who has gone through what you did. You just stood up there, delivered an excellent opening statement and made the jurors sympathize with Renee. It is clear that you already won them over. You are connecting with Renee. You are helping her cope with the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to her. All that while you are still trying to cope with the most traumatic thing that has happened to you. You are making great strides, Rafael. That kick-ass prosecutor is still in you and he is sneaking his way back into the courtroom. It will take some time.”

“Buchanan’s opening statement sucked, right?” Barba asked lightly.

“Per his usual,” Huang replied and the two laughed.

"Let’s get you some lunch. Call Sonny. You’ve still got 45 minutes before court is back in session."

---

Barba, Cabot, and Renee sat in the side room preparing themselves for the afternoon session. After they went through what to expect, Renee had a question.

“Mr. Barba, what happened to you in there?” Renee asked.

“I…was not dealing with my thoughts well,” he tried to explain.

“No, I mean when court took a break,” she said clarifying her inquiry.

He paused. He was not fond of sharing with others, let alone clients. Remembering that she already knew some of the events, he opened up. “I suffered head trauma during the assault. It causes me to have non-convulsive seizures. It’s not really a big deal,” he said trying to shrug it off.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I will be. Now, let’s get back in there.”

---

“All rise for the Honorable Judge Lena Petrovsky.”

After the jury sat down, Cabot began to stand, but Barba stopped her and he stood instead. Prosecution wishes to continue with the witness.

“Proceed,” the judge said.

Barba stood up, straightened his blazer and fasten his lower button. He approached Renee. “Ms. Lewis, on the third day of your ordeal, can you please tell us what happened?”

“They put Chris in this freezer. They told me that I had to ‘earn his way out of the freezer’.”

Barba gulped and proceeded. “What does that mean?”

“I had to let them rape me without putting up a struggle,” Renee replied.

“Or what?” Barba probed.

“They said they would let Chris suffocate.” 

Barba began seeing images of himself naked, bleeding, and being raped up against a freezer. He shivered.

"Mr. Barba?" Judge Petrovsky asked which brought his focus back to the case.

“What happened after you were raped?” Barba asked his voice starting to shake.

“They said that Chris had to ‘earn his right’ to stay out of the freezer.”

“And what did you take that to mean?” Barba asked.

“Objection. Calls for speculation,” Buchanan interrupted.

“Sustained,” Petrovsky stated.

“Did they tell Robert what they meant by that?” Barba asked rephrasing his prior question.

“He said (Renee pointing to Anthony D’Angelo) that if Chris refused to rape me he would be put back in the freezer and suffocate,” Renee recounted.

“He didn’t suffocate though. He was shot. Why?” Barba could feel his hands trembling. He stuck a hand in his pocket and held the stress ball as tightly as he could.

“He refused to rape me and told Mr. D’Angelo to go to hell. He made him angry so he shot him. It took a long time for him bleed out. I could hear his groans and breath grow weaker until...” Renee left it at that.

“Thank you Miss Lewis.”

Barba turned to Buchanan. “Defense’s witness,” he said as he took his seat. He was relieved that he made it through Renee’s testimony without fainting.

Buchanan stood. “You have my deepest sympathies for your loss.”

Then he began to attack Renee. Barba always felt Buchanan's cross-examinations were almost as painful as the assault the victims already experienced.

“Did you ever say no when you were so-called “raped?” Buchanan asked.

“No,” Renee responded hesitantly.

“Did you struggle?”

Again, Renee hesitantly responded, “No.”

“You claim my client shot your fiancé. Is it possible that it was an accidental misfire?”

“Absolutely not!” Renee retorted with anger.

“Objection! Calls for speculation,” Barba said with anger creeping into his tone.

“Sustained. Move on Mr. Buchanan,” Petrovsky warned.

“Nothing more,” Buchanan declared.

“Redirect your Honor?” Barba requested.

“Proceed.”

“Renee, did you want to have sex with the defendant?” Barba asked.

“No.”

“Why did you not fight back?” he followed up.

“He said he would suffocate Chris if I did.”

“Did you consent, meaning, literally tell the defendant at any time, that you wanted to have sex with him?

“No. Never!” Renee said furiously.

“Thank you, Renee.”

“Witness may step down,” Petrovsky instructed.

“Court will resume tomorrow at 9AM. We are adjourned.” Petrovsky said calling it a day.

---

Cabot took Renee home.

Barba was walking down the courthouse steps with Huang when he caught of glimpse of Amaro and Carisi heading their way. Upon approach, Amaro announced with a grin “I have night duty!”

“How’d it go doc?” Carisi as hed as he and Huang walked on ahead.

Barba was smiling.

“You made it through then?” Amaro asked acknowledging the ADA’s grin.

“Couple rough patches, but yeah.” He paused. “Could you do me a favor?”

“If it is to sneak you some Scotch,” Amaro said as he pointed to a duffle he was carrying.

“Thanks, I appreciate it, but, it’s about something else.” Barba replied.

“Name it,” Amaro demanded.

“I need a phone number.”

“For who?” he asked with curiosity.

---

Back at the apartment, Carisi was preparing dinner while Amaro and Barba sat watching at the kitchen bar. Carisi was perfecting a steak dinner and salad.

“So, we lost our tail on Rook,” Carisi shared disappointed. “Stabler almost hit the roof. Man, his temper is worse than yours, Nick!”

“That sucks,” Amaro said staring hungrily at the food. “How’d Novak take it?”

“I don’t know yet. Liv was going to tell her. I can’t imagine it will be good.”

---

After dinner, they sat in the living room drinking tea. Barba decided he wanted some sleep tonight, so he said he was going to lay off on the coffee.

Amaro pulled out the Scotch from his duffle. “How about just one shot?”

“Absolutely!” Barba agreed. Carisi stared at Barba. Feeling his boyfriends glare, he reminded him, "Huang’s exact words were “minimal or no consumption'.” After pausing, “I am going with minimal.”

“Okay, Rafa. Just one," Carisi reluctantly permitted.

Barba smiled victoriously.

“By the way,” Amaro said as he pulled out a DVD from his duffle. He continued “Casey made a copy. Can we watch it?” he pleaded with Barba.

Barba put his hand to his forehead. “Sonny!” Barba then threw a sofa pillow at Carisi.

Barba turned back to Amaro. “Whatever.”

Nick smiled and popped in a DVD. It was an older Barba than in the Company musical. Barba was playing the role of Freddie Trumper in the musical Chess. Amaro and Carisi watched in awe! They could not get over the one night in Bangkok choreography. And the skimpily dressed backup dancers.

https://youtu.be/XSxSscp9B8w

After they enjoyed Barba’s performance, they all headed to bed.

---

In Barba’s bedroom, Carisi and Barba changed for bed. They laid snuggling under the blankets, but both fell asleep quickly.

---

In the guest room, Nick was dressed for bed, but he was sitting on the edge of the bed chatting on his cell phone. “Oh my God, Casey, you were so right! Please, can you burn me a copy too?”

Chapter Text

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It was just after 1 AM in Barba's apartment. Amaro was on night 'security detail' and was sound asleep in the guestroom while Barba and Carisi were sleeping in the master bedroom.

Suddenly Carisi awoke to the sound of Barba screaming. Carisi looked over and saw Barba was not in bed. Or in the room. Carisi jumped out of bed and started to race around the apartment trying to locate Barba.

In the hallway, Carisi collided into Amaro who was also frantically searching for the source of the screaming.

"Where is he?" Amaro asked.

"I don't know!" Carisi shouted with panic in his voice.

Finally. They found Barba in the kitchen bent over the kitchen island screaming and crying.

“Please, don’t! Let him go! Please just kill me. Kill me!” Barba was screaming. Again, his eyes were open while sleep walking. He was crying and whimpering. “Please…”

“Oh god,” Carisi exclaimed as he caught a glimpse of a shiny object in his hands. Barba had a knife in hands. He was waving it as if he was trying to fight someone off. 

"Let him out!" Barba threatened an invisible figure.

Carisi put his hand as if he was going to try to calm Barba. 'Well, this isn't going to worked' he thought out loud as it him that Barba was asleep. "Duh," he thought to himself. Then Amaro slipped up  behind Barba and took the knife from his hands.

“Don’t hurt him!” Barba continued pleading. “Just kill me.”

Now that Barba was unarmed, Carisi ran up to Barba and tried to take him in his arms, but Barba shoved him away and Carisi fell and hit his head on the floor. Carisi was out cold. There was blood oozing from his head.

Amaro took Barba from behind trapping him firmly in his arms. Barba continued to struggle but then quickly surrendered and began to cry even harder. Amaro began shaking Barba sternly. “Wake up, damn it! Rafael!”

“What’s going on?” Barba asked gasping for air between sobs.

"Rafael, are you awake?" Amaro asked. Barba didn’t answer. "Barba!" Amaro shouted again. "Nope, still not awake," Amaro thought to himself. 

Then Barba seemed like he spotted Carisi on the floor and ran to his lover, but Amaro felt pretty certain that he was still sleeping as he listened to Barba's continued rambling.

“Ay Dios mio!” Barba said kneeling next to Carisi's unconscious body. "What did they do to you?"

Amaro put his arms around Barba trying to hold him still. Carisi was still unconscious and Amaro had no idea how severe his injuries were so he didn't want to risk the still-asleep Barba moving him.

Amaro pulled his cell phone from his pocket and balanced it between his head and shoulder.  This was not easy to do given he was trying to restrain Barba back who was still struggling to get to Carisi.

“Hey Doc, we need you here ASAP. We are at Barba’s apartment.  There has been an accident," Amaro informed Huang.

"I can be there in twenty minutes.  Can you stay on the phone?” Huang asked.

"Yeah," Carisi responded.

"Who is hurt?" Huang inquired. 

"Sonny fell and hit his head off the floor. He's unconscious. And Barba is having one of his nightmare sleep walking episodes and I can't wake him up." Then he added, "He seems like he might be somewhat aware that Carisi is hurt, but I can't be positive." Amaro had no clue if anyone knew how Barba’s mind was working right now. "I am trying to hold it together here, Doc, but I really could use some back up. The faster, the better."

As Huang rushed to Barba’s apartment, he had Amaro doing triage on Carisi over the phone.

“Are his eyes open?” Huang asked

“Yeah, they are now. He's waking up.”

“Tell him not to move," Huang instructed.

"Don't move buddy," Amaro told Carisi seeing that his blue eyes were staring up at him. Barba was still struggling.

"Are his pupils the same size? Huang asked continuing the triage.

“Yeah," Amaro assessed.

“That's good. Can you shine your cell phone light in his eyes and see if his eyes react?”

Amaro took his phone and shined the light into Carisi’s eyes.

“Yeah, they seem to be reacting.”

“Great, I am just entering the building now. See you in a minute,” Huang said hanging up as he picked up his medical bag and headed inside.

A minute later Huang came running through the door with his medical bag and kneeled next to Carisi examining him. “Don’t move,” he order Carisi. After re-examining Carisi’s eyes for himself, he used a needle to prick at his limbs. Every limb reacted. Barba was weeping and wouldn’t let go of Carisi. The sleeping man managed to break free of Amaro and was trying to get to Carisi.

“What happened?” Barba kept repeating over and over.

Turning to Amaro, Huang instructed, “Hold Rafael back until I can stitch Carisi up.”

Amaro pried Barba away from Carisi and wrapped his arms around the ADA once again. “It’s okay, it’s okay. You are okay, Sonny is okay,” he kept repeating trying to calm the man. Barba seemed like he was starting to calm when Amaro pulled him in towards his chest.

“Sonny, this might hurt, but I’ve got to stitch your head. Do you understand me?”

“Yeah, doc,” he moaned.

Amaro felt some relief. This was the first he heard Carisi's voice since he hit his head.

The first stitch caused Carisi to grimace and flinch, but then he remained calm after that. As Huang finished, he told Amaro to “Sit Barba on the sofa and come back and help me get Carisi up.” Amaro nodded and took Barba to the living room and a minute later reappeared. He and Amaro helped Carisi to his feet and guided him to the living room and sat him on the other end of the sofa from Barba. Barba moved over and clung desperately to Carisi.

“Okay, now what the hell happened? What is going on?” Huang asked.

Amaro filled him in on how Barba was sleep walking and acting like he was trying to fight someone off with a knife and that he knocked Carisi out. Amaro added, "I am not sure if he is even awake right now."

Huang leaned into Barba’s face and shined a light into his face. “Rafael?” He repeated his name several times and then Barba finally was gradually becoming more aware, but not yet coherent.

“Did you save him? Is he going to be okay?” I don’t know where they went!” Barba was still trembling and crying.

“Doc, what is happening with him? It’s never been this hard to wake him from a nightmare. Is it a weird seizure thing?”

Huang sighed. "Nick, treating neurological conditions is not an exact science. Think about it this way. The chemicals in everyone's brains are slightly different. This means that every person does not respond to a particular medication the same way. That applies to stuff like epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, depression, or bipolar disorder. It's a trial and error process trying to find a suitable medication."

"So he just needs different medicine?" Amaro asked trying to wrap his head around the concept.

"Yes, but this episode might also be in augmented by stuff he is dealing with in court. Stuff that he still hasn't seen in the video footage yet."

Amaro nodded.

“Rafael? Are you with us?” Amaro asked again. Barba’s gaze became more focused and then it was clear he was alert.

As he continued crying he asked “Doctor, why are you here?”

Huang and Amaro looked at each other and Carisi turned his head with a shocked look.

“You had a nightmare, Rafi,” Carisi explained.

“Why are you…did I do that?” Barba asked pointing at his Carisi's stitched head.

Carisi nodded and Barba looked horrified.

“Ay mios, dios, lo siento….I mean, I’m so sorry, Sonny. I didn’t know I hurt you.”

“It’s okay Rafi. Really. The doc stitched me up. I will be fine.” Seeing how torn up Barba was about hurting Carisi, no one seemed to think it was pertinent to tell him that he actually tried to knife Carisi and Amaro.

“Rafael, can you tell me what you were dreaming about?” Huang asked.

There was a long silence before Barba even tried to verbalize his dream. “Today, well yesterday,” he corrected himself seeing it was nearly 2 AM now. “When Renee was testifying, she talked about Chris being put in a freezer and told that in order for him to not suffocate, she had to be willingly raped against the freezer.”

“So that is why you were probably bent over the counter,” Amaro guessed.

“Carisi was in the freezer, and…yeah,” he said confirming Amaro’s suspicions.

He turned to Amaro. “All these images, they came to me as she was talking about her assault. Did I just project onto her story or did it really happen? I don’t know. I can’t remember.” He started crying again.

Carisi looked at everyone and then looked down. “Rafi, that did happen. I was in the freezer, I could hear them raping you. The freezer moved with each assault. They raped you over and over. I thought, that if I did not suffocate, I would find you dead. ”Carisi was now crying.

Amaro and Huang looked at both of the men distressed at the horror they must have suffered. Barba leaned against Carisi and they both drifted off. Huang found the weighted blanket Barba had just recently purchased and covered them up.

Huang and Amaro stayed in the living room with them the rest of the evening. Amaro reset Barba’s phone alarm for 7:30 instead of 6. He figured Barba could use a little extra sleep given what transpired.

---

Barba woke up in a panic when he woke to a 7:30 alarm. It’s okay Rafael,” Amaro said. He had a coffee and a fresh suit ready for the ADA. “Get changed and Huang is going to drive you to the courthouse. You needed a little extra sleep,” Amaro explained.

Carisi was still snoring on the sofa. “Is he okay?” Barba asked.

Huang came into the living room as he heard the question. “He is fine, Rafael. He and Nick are going to stay home today and watch some more of your home DVD collection,” he joked.

The ADA gave a frantic glance. “He found the other ones?”

Amaro and Huang grinned deviously.

“He didn’t. I just told you that there are more,” Barba realized as he groaned. “Whatever,” he finally said before getting changed.

---

Huang got Barba to the court house at 8:30 just in time to prep with Alex for their next witness. "How does that man still have a license?" Barba complained to himself. Huang seemed to drive a bit fast for his taste.

“Today should be easier,” he thought to himself. “Just don’t look at the pictures,” he warned himself. He had the pictures organized in his file in the order he was going to show them during Dr. Warner's testimony. That way he could just grab them without looking.

He sat down next to Cabot.

“I was beginning to worry when you didn’t get here early. Rough night?” Cabot inquired.

“You can say that,” he answered. “I’ll tell you later, let’s just focus on the case right now.”

Cabot nodded and fixed a strand of his hair that was out of place. “Okay, here we go.”

The court officer once again announced “Rise for the Honorable Judge Lena Petrovsky.” Then everyone took their seats.

“The prosecution may continue,” Petrovsky stated.

Barba stood and announced “The prosecution calls ME Dr. Melinda Warner as the next witness.”

After being sworn in, Barba began questioning. “Dr. Warner, you examined the DNA evidence found in Ms. Lewis’s rape kit. What did you conclude?”

“There were four samples of DNA in addition to Ms. Lewis’s. Semen was found belonging to the defendant, and the other three belonging to the three deceased. All matches were within a 99.9% certainty,” Warner responded.

“Was any DNA from Mr. Roberts?”

“No.”

“So he did not have sex or rape Ms. Lewis?” Barba asked probing for further clarification.

“There was no evidence of semen or saliva found belonging to Mr. Roberts.” Warner responded. Barba realized he couldn’t get her to say anything about sex or rape. It was possible that he could have used a condom, and Warner knew this. “Stupid question,” he thought to himself.

“You’ve examined the rape kit photos. What did you find?” Barba asked as he displayed pictures of Renee's injuries to the jury.

“Evidence of vaginal and hymen tearing. Bruising on the thighs.” she replied.

“In your experience, does this evidence indicate rape?” Barba asked.

“It is consistent with rape,” she confirmed.

“In regards to Mr. Roberts. What injuries did he received?" Barba asked changing the direction of the questioning.

“He received, a concussion, fractured ribs, bruising, cuts, and burns,” she shared.

Barba began experiencing physical sensations where he had sustained his own injuries. “What did Huang call it? Oh yeah, visceral reaction,” he thought to himself. He began squeezing the stress ball in his pocket.

Dr. Warner continued. “He also had evidence of forcible penetration and semen and DNA matching those of the ones found in Ms. Lewis’s rape kit.”

“What was the official cause of death?”

“Exsanguination resulting from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. It would have taken quite a bit of time for him to bleed to death,” she explained.

“Thank you doctor.”

“Defense’s witness,” Barba said turning the questioning over to Buchanan.

Buchanan stood up.

“Dr. Warner, is it possible that Mr. Roberts had sex or raped Ms. Lewis without leaving DNA evidence?”

“Damn it,” Barba thought. He knew Buchanan came up with that question from his own ill-thought out question he posed earlier. He had opened the door on that one. He wished Cabot would kick him for that. It might make him feel better.

“Yes. If he wore a condom.” Warner reluctantly answered. She heard this question all the time and despised it. One of the tactics defense attorneys used to twist facts.

“Were the injuries on both Ms. Lewis and Mr. Roberts consistent with rough, but consensual sex?
“Yes.” Again another question she disliked.

“Predictable,” Barba muttered under his breath.”

“Nothing further,” Buchanan said taking his seat.

Barba heard rustling in the gallery as someone new had stepped in the room. He turned and saw, Joe, one of his and Carisi’s captors. The one who helped them finally escape, after permitting them to be nearly killed.

Barba’s face went pale and he began to sweat. Then he couldn’t breathe. He started trembling and felt light headed.

“What’s wrong?” Cabot asked trying to see who he was gazing at.

“Mr. Barba?” Petrovsky called.

Barba didn’t hear her. Then he caught Renee with a similar look on her face. She was terrified. The judge, Cabot and Buchanan all three picked up on this.

“Your Honor, the prosecution requests a brief recess,” Cabot said trying to get Barba time to explain to her what was going on.

“The defense has no objection,” Buchanan said. He was curious as to what was happening and wanted to see how this would play out.

“Granted. We will resume in one hour,” Petrovsky said pounding her gavel. After the judge left the room, Buchanan maneuvered himself so that he was in earshot of the prosecution’s table.

By this time, Renee was at Barba’s side bawling. “That was one of them,” she said. “He was there when I woke up in the basement. I forgot about him. There must have been five of them,” she said with absolutely no composure left.

Barba turned to Cabot. “He was the one that helped the FBI and SVU find us. He was the FBI’s UC. He left them do all that to us,” Barba’s. “Where the hell did he go?” Barba's voice was now consumed with rage.

---

Buchanan left the courtroom and entered one of the side rooms in the hallway and locked the door and sat down. “Oops.” He was so shocked at what he had managed to overhear that he completely abandoned his client. “Hopefully the court officers were keeping tabs on him,” he thought to himself.

He had heard that Barba was on sabbatical for awhile, but he had no idea that it was due…to something like the case they were prosecuting. There also seemed to be some sort of connection between what happened to Barba and what happened to Renee.

Then he began trying to piece clues together. He thought, "How the hell could Barba try to prosecute this after what he probably went through? That must be why he has co-counsel. Barba never has a co-prosecutor. That also could explain his odd behavior, why he seemed unusually nervous and pale at times. Oh my god. And then he probably found out he was facing me and he still chose to prosecute this case." Buchanan's heart went out to Barba and he felt a sense of admiration for the fellow attorney.

He decided he needed to get a broader picture of what was going on. He left the side room and returned to the courtroom.

---

Buchanan found Barba still trying to console Renee.

“Excuse me, Mr. Barba.”

Barba looked up annoyed. “Not the best time, counsel,” he replied.

“I’m sorry, but we need to see Judge Petrovsky in chambers, right now, please.”

Barba was stunned. “Sorry? Please? Is Buchanan high on something? What trick does he have up his sleeve now?” Barba thought to himself. He was almost scared to know.

Barba stood up. “Alex, can you stay with Renee?" Then he whispered, "If you see him again, text me and get the court officers to hold him.”

Buchanan heard that last part.

---

Buchanan knocked and heard permission to enter. “What can I do for your gentlemen?” Judge Petrovsky asked looking up from sipping her coffee.

“Funny, I was just going to ask the same thing,” Barba retorted with a snarky tone while delivering a glare at Buchanan.

Buchanan would usually have had some sort of smart-ass comeback, but he didn’t say anything. He was trying to be mindful of Barba's difficult situation.

“Your Honor, new evidence has just been brought to light and I request time to investigate the authenticity,” he sort of lied. It wasn’t evidence, it more like educated suspicions drawn from ease dropping on the prosecution.

“Care to share?” Petrovsky asked.

“I can’t at this time. There is a confidentiality agreement agreement in place that I need to adhere to, until I can find a way through it.”

“Very well. The new evidence will need to be presented to the prosecution before continuing. We will pick up at 9 AM tomorrow. Have all your ducks in a row or I will slap you with a contempt charge for delaying.”

“Yes, your Honor,” Buchanan replied.

Barba just stared. He had no idea in hell of knowing what Buchanan was up to.

---

With court in recess, Barba had time to grab a quick lunch with Carisi and Carmen, who he really hadn’t seen much of lately.

“What’s with your head?” Carmen asked Carisi.

Barba stared down ashamed.

“Oh just an accident,” Carisi began to fib.

“No it wasn’t,” Barba said. He was angry at himself.

Carmen looked puzzled. “Did something happen?”

Barba wasn’t able to contain his rage any longer. Seeing Joe set him off and knowing that he injured his boyfriend was the tipping point.

“I had a nightmare and hurt him, okay,” he explained testily.

Carisi looked him in the eye. “A nightmare is a nightmare. Do you have control over whether or not you have a nightmare? What the nightmare is about? Whether you sleep walk?”

Barba shook his head.

“Then it is not your fault, Rafa. It was an accident and I am fine.”

Carisi kissed Barba on the cheek. Something he never did in front of Carmen before and he saw Barba’s face get pink. “Sorry,” he whispered realizing that he embarrassed him.

“I’ve got to get back to the precinct,” Carisi pouted.

“I’ve also got to get back to the office,” Carmen said.

“Can I drop you somewhere?” Carisi asked.

“No, I’ve got an errand to run and then I am going to head home. Who’s got night watch?” Barba inquired.

“I think Amaro and Rollins,” Carisi replied.

“Good, two guards should help since you apparently need protection from me,” he tried to joke, be he really did mean it seriously.

Outside the café they parted ways. Barba picked up his phone and dialed a number written on a piece of paper.

“Hi, this is Rafael…Barba. I hope you don’t mind but I had someone find your number. Do you have time to talk this afternoon?”

After a pause, he said, “Thank you. Meet you there at two.” He seemed much happier when he hung up.

Chapter Text

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That afternoon Buchanan was sitting in his office lost in thought. He was reviewing the new information he had learned about the prosecutor, ADA Barba. He was skimming through a file he requested from 1PP. It was the case file on Barba and Carisi’s abduction. He really wasn’t allowed to see it, but he knew someone.

He was sickened looking at pictures of their injuries and reading their statements. “Good, god. How the hell is either of them alive?” He looked at the pictures again in disgust. “Especially Barba.”

He knew this sort of stuff happened all the time to victims, complete strangers. But this was one of his own, a fellow attorney. Although on opposing sides of the court room, Barba was still a colleague of his, an acquaintance no stranger. Knowing the victim seemed to disturb him.

Buchanan knew Barba was involved with someone, but Carisi sort of surprised him. “Opposites attract,” Buchanan found himself thinking.

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He started to look through photographs obtained from the footage the FBI filmed. “God, they taped it,” Buchanan sighed. The photos showed three deceased bodies. Two gunned down on site. Another one, just blocks away. “That sounds similar to the current case,” he thought to himself.

Then he saw it. The photo of the last man supposedly still alive from Barba and Carisi’s assault with a name scribbled on it. “Joe.” This was the man that entered the courtroom this morning and scared Barba and Renee shitless.

“Why the hell would he even show up at Renee’s trial? Is he trying to gloat? Taunt Barba? Maybe intimidate or threaten them?” He just couldn’t figure it out.

“We need to find this guy. I wonder what it would take to get my eyes on the courthouse surveillance,” he was pondering when he heard a knock at the door. He called for the visitor to enter and as he looked up he muttered under his breath, “speak of the devil.”

“Joe” was standing in his doorway.

“Maybe he is here to threaten me on behalf of D’Angelo. Don’t lose this case or else,” he thought panicking.

“Counselor, may I speak with you?”

“Okay, this isn’t confrontational, yet,” he thought.

Buchanan nodded before he could find his words. “Please, have a seat."

“I have information in regards to a case you are defending,” Joe said.

“I saw you in the court this morning,” Buchanan returned.

Joe nodded. “I need your help,” he began.

“To defend you?” Buchanan questioned.

“No, to probably put myself away,” Joe said.

Okay, now Buchanan was curious. “What do you mean?”

“I need to tell you a story.”

“I’m listening,” Buchanan assured him.

“I am an undercover (UC) FBI Agent. I’ve been in deep cover with the Italian mob for almost seven years now. Part of undercover work is fitting in and going along with those you are investigating, even if it means breaking the law.”

Joe paused and then continued. Last year, stuff started getting really brutal. The Italian mob began abducting couples, usually in groups of three or four people. They would brutalize them and force them to rape each other, and then eventually kill them both.”

"The FBI has been covering up these attacks so the police do not detect a pattern and stop the Italian mob. The mob is moving weapons. Heavy-duty assault grade. In order to do this, they have to keep my cover and can't have the mob stopped because of these murders. I am seeing so many, too many, innocent people brutalized and killed."

“Keeping me under to infiltrate the arms dealing is costing people their lives. I’ve got to get out by any means necessary.”

“You know I am a defense attorney, right?” Buchanan commented.

“I am aware of that. But I also know you are aware of my situation with this particular prosecutor,” Joe said as he pointed to the file Buchanan still had in his hands.

“Mr. Barba and Carisi were the only couple to survive this. I couldn’t save Mr. Roberts, but Ms. Lewis did survive. These people need justice. I know you are not a prosecutor, but I would like suggest a tactic that would guarantee justice for the survivors and end the chain of brutalized assault and murder...”

“And put my client away for life,” Buchanan finished Joe's thought. He sighed. “You know, that my job is to try to keep him from going to prison.”

“I know that, but I was hoping to appeal to your sense of helping a fellow civil servant. To help get justice for a fellow attorney. Obviously,  I clearly can’t approach Barba about this.”

Buchanan sighed, “Not that I am saying yes, but I’ll listen to your idiotic plan.”

Joe spent the better part of twenty minutes sharing his plan with Buchanan.

“What do you think, Counselor?” Joe asked when he finished.

Buchanan just sat there and stared for a few minutes. Finally he looked Joe in the eyes. “You know what you are asking me to do will get me disbarred if it is revealed that I throw the case.”

He nodded, and replied. “But you didn’t. Your hostile witness did.” He gave Buchanan a smirk. Buchanan stared up at the ceiling. He had a decision to make and he had to make it soon.

---

Barba was just finishing his “errand” meeting and was walking home when his phone rang.

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“Hey, Alex.”

“You’ve got to get back here now!”

“The courthouse?”

“Judge Petrovsky’s chambers," she clarified.

“Why? Is everything okay?”

“Not really. It’s about the case. Just get here.”

"This obviously is not good," he muttered as he hailed cab to go to the courthouse. Once there, he headed towards the Judge’s chambers. He knocked and entered. He found Petrovsky, Buchanan, and Cabot sitting at a small round table in the center of the room.

Barba took a seat next to Cabot.

Petrovsky began. “There has been a new witness submitted by the defense.”

Barba felt his stomach drop.

“I am allowing this witness because he is acquainted with the defendant and the deceased perpetrators.”

“Who?” Barba asked fearing he knew the answer.

“Just says his name is Joe,” Buchanan answered.

Barba turned pale and rushed over to the trash can next to the Judge’s desk and vomited for several minutes.

After the gagging stopped, Barba turned around red from both all the gagging and embarrassment.

“Are you okay there, Mr. Barba?” Petrovsky asked.

Barba didn’t answer the Judge’s question. “I apologize your Honor, I’m a bit under the weather. I will have a custodian stop into clean this up.”

He turned to Buchanan. “Thank you for notifying me of this witness,” he said with tears escaping his eyes as he walked out the door.

Petrovsky looked stunned.

Buchanan’s face revealed guilt and shame. He knew he just caused Barba a lot of emotional distress. Which probably would only get worse at trial. He was still wondering if he was doing the right thing. For someone who always was harsh on others, and well, just an ass in general, this was new terrain for him.

“He’ll be alright. We’ll see you in court at 9 AM,” Cabot said as she went after Barba.

Cabot found Barba outside, sitting on the far end of the courthouse steps so not too many people were passing him. He was having a meltdown. He was muttering in Spanish, had panic in his eyes, and was sobbing.

"Barba?"

Cabot knelt in front of him so that she was face to face with him. "Rafael?" She continued to press. “Can I call someone? Sonny? Let me take you home?” Cabot asked. 

He wasn’t even acknowledging her presence. She tried to grab his arm but he pulled away. She had no chance in hell of moving him somewhere without his cooperation. "God."

She took her phone out of her purse and called Huang.

“Look, he lost it," she said without even greeting him.

"Hold on, Alex. What happened?"

"Stuff got a little messy this morning. I thought he was fine. Then he just lost it a few minutes ago."

"By lost it?" Huang inquired.

"He is sitting on the courthouse steps. He is trembling, sobbing and muttering in Spanish. Damn it, I don’t understand Spanish!” she shouted with frustration into the phone.

"He is not responding to except to push me away when I tried to get him to his feet." She continued, " I don't think he knows I am here or where he is. He isn't Barba right now.. I don't know what to do. What should I do?" A sob escaped her as she asked the question.

"Hold tight, Alex. We are going to get him off the street and home. I'm gonna get Liv to send someone to help."

About ten minutes later, she spotted Amaro, Carisi, and Stabler park an SUV in front of the courthouse and approached.

"What happened Alex?" Carisi demanded.
"Let just get him home and I'll explain," Cabot replied.

Without a word, Stabler scooped Barba off the steps, put him on his shoulder, and carried him to their SUV. Carisi and Cabot sat in the back on either side of Barba. Stabler and Amaro were up front. Barba did not to appear to be aware of anything, or anyone around him.

They got to Barba’s building and Stabler carried the ADA again on his shoulders up to the apartment. 

“Lay him on the bed,” Huang, who was already in the apartment, instructed. Stabler put the mess of a man on the bed. Huang took his pulse and blood pressure and then pulled a syringe out of his jacket. “Are you sure, Sonny?” Huang asked.

Carisi nodded and Huang administered an injection to Barba’s arm. Barba quickly calmed and his eyes closed. Carisi removed Barba’s blazer, tie, suspenders, belt and shoes before tucking him in.

---

In Barba’s living room, there was arguing.

“He should be in a hospital Alex!” Huang shouted.

“Do you know what it will do to him if he gets taken off this case? If he would end up getting committed to a psych ward?” Cabot shouted back.

“Do you honestly think he can even try this case in this state?” Huang retorted.

Amaro, Carisi, and Stabler just sat on the sofa and left the two hash out their arguments.

Finally, Carisi cleared his throat. “Okay, that’s enough! This is not helping anyone. Let’s see how he is when he wakes up. I will make the decision if he is not coherent.”

Carisi sat in a corner seat and observed his friends. The group sat in awkward silence for almost two hours. Stabler was on the sofa flipping through channels. Amaro was on the floor going through the ADA’s DVD cabinet. Just a few weeks ago he would have been terrified of doing such a thing, but now they were friends and it was all in good fun. He found another of Barba’s DVD performances, but he felt it was in poor taste to watch it with Barba going off the deep end.

Cabot was in Barba’s home office going over the case that she was more than likely going to have to assume tomorrow on her own. She was trying to come up with possible questions, for Joe, the new witness.

Huang kept pacing between the kitchen and Barba’s bedroom every few minutes to check on Barba.

---

Huang was the first one to discover that Barba was waking up. Carisi came to check to see how he was doing and was offended when Huang asked him to give them a few minutes.

Huang closed the door behind Carisi.
Barba sat up on the edge of the bed. Huang sat down beside him and took several minutes before he began to speak.

“Rafael, you are in a really bad place right now. Professionally, if I didn’t know you, I would have you committed for a 72 hour psych hold and observation.” He gulped and continued. “But you are like family, to all of us. As a physician, I should have you committed. As a friend, I want to do what you think is best for you, but I also want you to be safe and well. I am torn on what to do here, Rafael,” Huang admitted. “We need to talk about a reasonable solution, because as of right this minute, we are at a real impasse here.”

Barba finally moved his lips. “I understand. What should I do?”

“Let’s just start by talking, if you can, about what caused...well...your meltdown.”

“This morning, Joe, you know the FBI UC, the one who helped SVU find us?” Out of nowhere he just shows up in the courtroom galley. I felt terrified when I saw him. He didn’t actually do anything to me or Carisi, but he left it happen. Then all my fear turned to rage. Then I was okay, until Petrovsky called us to chambers this afternoon.”

“What happened then? Huang inquired.

“Buchanan said Joe is a witness for the defense,” Barba sighed. “I just don’t get why a UC, who probably shouldn’t be allowed to testify in the first place, why he would even be testifying on behalf of the defense. I vomited in chambers and on my way out to get fresh air, I just lost it. The anger, the fear, the confusion, the not knowing. It just all consumed and overwhelmed me. I felt like I was shutting down. My body was reacting to my emotions, not my brain."

Huang paused for a minute taking in all the Barba was sharing. “How do you feel right this minute?”

“Calm. Tired. Starting to get a little anxious now that I think I might be committed.”

“Okay.” Huang paused again. “If you were me, the doctor and Rafael Barba was your patient and you knew Rafael did not want to go to the hospital,” he paused mid-thought make sure Barba was following along. He continued, “What would you want him to adhere to, that is to agree or do, to mentally and physically take care of himself so that you do not have to commit him?”

“Well, from your point of view, I clearly would not want him to be the one to cross-examine Joe.”

“Okay.

“I’d have Cabot do that,” he added realizing that Huang was giving him a life line, another chance to stay sane and not be committed.

“Good. What else?” Huang prompted.

“I would need people to take care of me before and after this next trial session. Maybe during if needed. Someone to be there and see and understand what is going on.”

“Out of all your friends, you have to choose two people to be there for you in court. Who and why?”

“Sonny. He knows Joe. He knows what happened. He could probably understand how I feel.”

“Okay, who else?”

“Nick,” Barba responded quickly.

“Why?”

“Like Sonny, he’s been here for me throughout this entire ordeal. He helped me when I needed to see someone about seizures. He’s been seeing the footage. He’s been trying to get me to socialize, almost as much as you and Carisi. I sort of feel comfortable around him.”

“Okay, now I am the doctor again and you are Rafael. Can you agree to everything you just said? Letting Cabot do the cross as well as allowing Sonny and Nick to be there to support you?”

“I think so.”

“Are you awake enough to walk?” Huang asked.

“Yeah. What did you do to me?”

“I gave you a tranquilizer, with Sonny’s permission, of course. He sort of took over as your power of attorney during your meltdown,” he explained.

Barba nodded.

“Now let’s go tell Cabot she is doing the cross and let Liv know Sonny and Nick need the next couple of days off.”

Again Barba nodded as he allowed Huang to hold him at the waist to steady him as they were about to go share their new strategy with their friends.

Chapter Text

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Today was supposed to be the end of the prosecution’s case and the defense was to start their case. Huang, Carisi,  and Amaro were sitting together in the court galley just a few rows behind the prosecution table. Renee was seated in front of them. Cabot and Barba were at the prosecution table.

Barba was still uneasy about his meltdown yesterday and was praying desperately that he could hold it together during the remainder of the trial. He looked over and saw Buchanan looking directly at him. “He seems a little off. Nervous? Not Buchanan. What is he up to?” Barba tried to read him.

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At the defense table, Buchanan realized he was caught staring at Barba and quickly looked away. “He looks about the same as yesterday, hopefully he doesn’t vomit in the middle of court.” He was still feeling guilty about causing Barba emotional distress in the Judge’s chambers. “Well, since I am about to commit career suicide, maybe that will make things a little brighter for him.” He sighed.

“All rise for the Honorable Judge Lena Petrovsky,” the court officer instructed.

After everyone, was seated, the judge ordered the prosecution to proceed. Barba stood up and fixed his blazer. He had his hand in his pocket. He decided he was just going to grip the stress ball all day.

“The prosecution wishes to allow the jury to view Evidence Exhibit E, the footage.”

Petrovsky, nodded and said, “Proceed.”

“Before we do, Ms. Lewis has requested to not be present.”

The judge nodded. Barba glanced at Renee who got up and exited the courtroom.

Barba was about to show a five minute segment of the assault of when Chris was locked in the freezer and Renee was repeatedly being gang raped. As the clip played, flashes of Carisi being locked in the freezer and himself being raped began to flood his mind again. Barba felt emotional distress take over and didn’t seem to realize that the clip ended. He was lost in his terror. Seeing that Barba had frozen Cabot rose to join him.

“And now the prosecution would like to show footage of Mr. Roberts’s murder,” Cabot announced standing as she joined Barba.

Barba managed to snap out of it and returned to his seat while Cabot went over the next clip. He was grateful for her casual take over and sparing him from too much embarrassment.

After the jury viewed the footage of the shooting, Cabot returned to the prosecution table. She whispered softly to Barba, “You did great, you made it through it, you are okay.”

He gave her a slight nod.

Barba stood and announced, “The prosecution rests.” He sat back down and prepared for the worst. Renee came back into the room and took her seat.

“The defense may proceed,” Petrovsky ordered.

Buchanan stood. “The defense calls their first witness, the defendant, Anthony D’Angelo.”

Renee burst into tears. Amaro reached in front of him trying to comfort Renee by putting a hand on her shoulder, but she was inconsolable. Huang whispered to her and he escorted Renee out of the room.

After D’Angelo was sworn in, Buchanan began.

“Mr. D’Angelo, could you please tell us how you came to know Ms. Lewis?”

“She and her husband were acquaintances of my friends,” D’Angelo lied.

“Really? That’s all the better he could do?” Barba thought to himself as he became furious on Renee’s behalf.

“Did you assault Ms. Lewis?” Buchanan posed.

“No, we had consensual sex. It may have been a bit rough, but it was consensual,” D’Angelo replied.

“Did Buchanan even prep his client?” Barba muttered to Alex. He seemed pleased that it didn’t look like the jury was buying his web of lies. Why should they? The prosecution’s case was solid.

After extensive questioning and pathetic responses, it was the prosecution’s turn to go at the defendant.

“Prosecution’s witness,” Buchanan said turning the questioning over.

Barba rose, straightened his blazer, and fastened the lower button. Barba paced back and forth between the jury and the defendant.

“Mr. D’Angelo, you claim that you had consensual sex with Ms. Lewis,” Barba began.

“That’s right,” D’Angelo confirmed.

“So her injuries were the result of rough, but consensual sex?” Barba inquired.

“Yes, what don’t you get?” D'Angelo shouted.

Barba thought a moment and fell back on a phrase he used once before, during the Adam Cain case. “I get it. It’s the classic mindset of the rapist to admit what you can’t deny, deny what you can’t admit.”

“Objection,” Buchanan interrupted.

“Withdrawn,” Barba conceded.

“So she consensually allowed you to brutalize her?” Barba continued.

“She consented,” he again replied.

“She said it was okay, to bruise, and injure her insides?” There was a glimpse of anger emerging in Barba’s voice.

“Yes,” D’Angelo said clearly getting annoyed with the question.

“Then how do explain the video footage of what the jury just saw. You and your friends gang raping Ren…Ms. Lewis?”

“She wanted all of us all,” D’Angelo replied.

“Really? That’s not what the footage audio indicated. That’s not what the jury heard.”

“Objection, making assumptions for the jury,” Buchanan argued.

“Withdrawn,” Barba again conceded.

“Move on Mr. Barba,” Petrovsky instructed.

“Okay then, how did Mr. Roberts end up in the freezer?” Barba asked shifting the line of questioning.

“It was a game,” D’Angelo answered.

“Really, a game that eventually led to his death?” Barba angrily shouted. “How does a consensual sex game end in a murder by gunshot?” His rage was evident.

“Objection!” Buchanan inserted.

“Nothing further,” Barba declared.

“Better stop now…before I get myself a contempt of court charge for punching him out,” he thought to himself. He took his seat next to Cabot.

“Calm down,” Cabot whispered in his ear.

“The defense wishes to call its next witness. Joe,” Buchanan announced.

Cabot noticed Barba’s hand flinch in his blazer pocket. “It is okay,” she whispered.

After being sworn in, Buchanan began eliciting Joe’s testimony.

“Joe, you are here today as a character reference for the defendant and the aspects that you witnessed leading up to Mr. Roberts’s unfortunate death,” Buchanan began.

“How the hell can he be a character reference for that scum bag?” Barba thought as he felt rage take over his thoughts yet again.

“How long have you known the defendant?” Buchanan asked.

“Almost seven years,” Joe answered.

“How would you describe the defendant?” Buchanan asked with some anxiety.

“He’s a prick!” Joe shouted.

D’Angelo’s jaw dropped.

“Excuse me?” Buchanan said pretending to be alarmed.

“He’s a bastard. A pig. A rapist. A murderer. What don’t you get?” Joe screamed back.

Barba was stunned at this rant. Not what he…or anyone else was expecting to hear from this so-called character reference.

D’Angelo stood up and jumped the defense table and punched Joe before being subdued by the court officers.

“Remove the defendant from the courtroom!” Petrovsky ordered. “Approach!” she demanded as the defendant was pulled from the courtroom.

Barba, Cabot, and Buchanan approached the judge’s bench. “What is going on here Mr. Buchanan?”

“He seems to have flipped. Permission to treat witness as hostile?”

“Granted. Be careful Mr. Buchanan,” Petrovsky warned.

The prosecution returned to their table and Buchanan walked over to the witness. “Here goes nothing,” he whispered to Joe.

“Joe, I remind you that you are under oath. You came forward as a character witness for the defendant but instead you have chosen to degrade his character. I want to know why,” Buchanan asked in a harsh tone.

He quickly followed his question with a request to the judge. “Permission to allow the witness to testify in partial narrative form?”

“Proceed,” Petrovsky replied granting permission.

“What the hell is he doing? Is this amateur hour?” Barba was pondering. “I am going to need one hell of a drink after this.”

“Joe, please tell us why you have not provided a full name today.”

“I am an undercover FBI agent and I have been embedded in the Italian mob for the last seven years.” He paused. “As an undercover agent, I do not use my real name, which is Special Agent Thomas Miller.”

Buchanan asked, “If you are and undercover agent, as you say you are, what was the purpose of your infiltration?” again disusing his tone with suspicion. 

“The FBI is investigating the Italian mob in New York City for illegal arms dealing of assault-grade weapons.”

“So why have you chosen to come forward today as a character witness for the defendant and chose to turn on him?”

“Over the last year, in addition to arms dealing, the Italian mob has begun a series of vicious activity involving the kidnapping, assault, rape, and eventual murder of couples. The FBI did not want to risk law enforcement intervening and putting an end to their arms dealing investigation, so they began covering up these crimes.”

Barba was furious. “Yes, the Vincent Baratta family singled him and Carisi out for prosecuting his son, but the FBI was aware of these criminal activities and did nothing to stop it. In fact, one could argue that it facilitated the crimes. Maybe Renee’s fiancé would be alive, be her husband, and they could be starting a family. Maybe he and Carisi could have been spared their pain and have the same going for them.”

The pen in Barba’s hand snapped in half splattering ink on both him and Cabot. Barba reached into his jacket pocket for his pocket square and handed it to his co-counsel so she could try to clean herself up a bit.

“It has become too much," Joe continued. Too many innocent people are being brutalized and murdered. Enough is enough. I was able to help save one couple, the only surviving couple,” Joe revealed as he stared Barba in the face. “I didn’t make it in time to save Mr. Roberts. That anonymous police call was made in time to save Ms. Lewis. They managed to rescue her in time. Since then I have been trying to stop what I can, but I am one person. I am not enough. One person is not enough. I have become a serial killer of Italian mob rapists,” he admitted. 

“What is the real reason you came here, under false pretenses I must add, today?”

“I want a survivor to have justice. Mr. Barba’s case is strong, but if I can assist in helping to make sure that even just one perpetrator faces justice, for her, it is worth it. Even if I have to go to jail for not doing anything about it sooner and killing the bastards.” He looked up again at the ADA who was having trouble processing everything. He was feeling overwhelmed.

“Prosecution’s witness,” Buchannan said trying to imitate disgust because his case was falling apart.

Barba turned pale and started trembling. “I need a recess. Now!” he urgently told Cabot.

“Recess your Honor?” Cabot requested.

Petrovsky saw Barba was on the verge of losing it.

“Granted. We’ll resume in a half hour,” she said with a pound of her gavel.

The courtroom cleared with the exception of Barba, Cabot, Carisi, Amaro, and Huang. Barba was just sitting their stunned, staring off into space, shaking, and he began to cry. Carisi was also crying.

Carisi lowered Barba to the ground where he sat beside him holding and rocking his lover. Amaro, Cabot and Huang all joined them on the floor in a group hug trying to comfort the distraught couple.

With ten minutes left before the court galley would open, all five of them were sitting around the prosecution table trying to figure out how to proceed. Barba and Carisi had partially composed themselves.

“After that, I have no idea what in the hell to ask him during a cross. I think he has said more than enough for the jury to convict D’Angelo,” Cabot voiced her opinion.

Barba was staring blankly at the table. “I want to do the cross,” he finally said.

“Rafael, we talked about this. You are already on the verge of losing it. You just can’t. This is a medical order,” Huang warned.

Cabot echoed his warning. “I am with Huang. I will move to have you removed from the case if you even try to cross-examine him. I don’t want to see you lose yourself.”

People began reentering the court galley. Huang, Amaro, and Carisi returned to their original galley seats.

The court officer reintroduced the judge and Petrovsky called the court to order.

“Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine the witness?" Petrovsky asked.

Barba looked at Cabot as he rose.  He then turned back and scanned the faces of Huang, Carisi, and Amaro. “The prosecution has no further questions,” he said hesitantly as he returned to his seat.

“How does the defense wish to proceed?” Petrovsky asked.

“The defense rests,” Buchanan said sitting beside an empty chair. His client was clearly not being allowed to return before the verdict.

“The witness may step down. We will now hear closing statements."

Buchanan gave his, the best he could come up with after the damning testimonies given by his witnesses.

Barba stood and gave one of the most emotional and passionate closing statements of his career. He ended with "You've heard a survivor's testimony, a medically certified professional testify as to the injuries, cause of death, and irrefutable DNA evidence. You've seen the video footage in which there is no room for interpretation of the events that transpired. You heard a weak, at best, testimony from the defendant. You've heard from an undercover agent verifying that this crime indeed happened. The evidence is clear. Articulate that clarity in your verdict. Find Anthony D'Angelo guilty. Give Renee Lewis, and the memory of her fiancée, justice."

The judge turned and instructed the jury on their duty and the jurors proceeded to the jury room to begin their deliberations.

Joe was taken into protective custody now that his cover was blown.

---

Barba walked over to Buchanan. “You knew he was going to say that, that he was going to turn?”

“Yes,” Buchanan replied.

“Why? You could be disbarred.” Barba was astounded Buchanan would take this kind of risk.

“Sometimes one has to act without concern for the consequences. Some monsters need to be put away.”

“What do you mean?” Barba asked. “You spend your days trying to keep the so-called monsters out of jail.”

“This one is different." He paused finally said, "I am so sorry, Rafael.” Buchanan turned and walked away.

Barba was puzzled. “Buchanan never calls me by my first name. What the hell is he sorry about?” Then it him. "He knows what happened to us."

Chapter Text

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How long it takes for jurors to issue a verdict is unpredictable. Sometimes verdicts could be reach in less than an hour. Sometimes deliberations could go on for days. The jury began the deliberations late afternoon, so it was no surprise that the Petrovsky released the jurors for the day after only an hour.

---

All five of them—Barba, Carisi, Amaro, Huang and Cabot headed back to Barba’s apartment. While Carisi prepared dinner, they rest sat in the living room talking about the trial, sharing their predictions, that is, except for Barba.

He was lost in thought. With his meltdown yesterday, stupidly viewing the video footage in court that reminded he of his own trauma, the baffling last minute defense witness’s testimony, and Buchanan’s attempt and performance to throw the case were all on his mind.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Amaro asked Barba.

Reluctant to share, he momentarily replied, “It’s just…a lot transpired today. I guess I am just trying to take it all in.”

“Maybe we can talk about it over dinner?” Carisi asked as he came into let everyone know that dinner was served.

---

Everyone gathered around the table for dinner. Carisi prepared an exquisite Italian dish that everyone was enjoying, again except for Barba. He was poking at the pasta, but he was just moving it around his plate. He just wasn’t up for food. Or talking. He just felt emotionally drained, exhausted.

“Rafa, you have to eat something,” Alex pleaded.

“No offense, to Carisi’s cooking, or any of your company, but I am beyond tired. I really just want to get some sleep.”

He excused himself from the room and went into the bedroom. He was just about to close the door when Huang inserted his arm in the doorway and entered behind him closing the door.

---

“I’m really tired, Doctor,” Barba said. “I really need some sleep.”

“I understand that, Rafael, and you can, after we talk. Just for a few minutes.”

Barba sighed. “Okay,” he said as he continued taking off his blazer, tie, and suspenders and sat on the edge of the bed next to where Huang had already seated himself.

“Rafael, I know today was another difficult day, but it did go better than yesterday. You leaned on your friends. You recognized your limits and had a recess called. With the encouragement and glaring from some of your friends, you did not emotionally cripple yourself with an unnecessary cross.”

“This guy is going to put me asleep,” Barba thought.

“What was the hardest part of the day for you?” Huang asked.

“Trying to regain my composure during the recess. I am scared that if I feel too much, I might not be able to…well, yesterday is a great example.”

“Do you feel like your feelings make you weak?” Huang posed.

“I don’t know. I am just afraid of them. They cause inefficiency. They get in the way of my thinking. Like yesterday, they might just swallow me whole. I might not be the same person I was.”

“I hate to break it to you, but you are not the same person, and that is okay. You are learning to deal with feeling and allowing people to support you. You are becoming a new you.”

Barba just frowned at his unsolicited response.

“However, you are becoming a more complete individual. A better prosecutor. Your empathy and compassion for the victims, they will make you a more effective prosecutor. Your emotions, when you learn to deal with them, will help fuel your passion.”

Barba yawned. Huang left the room and Barba changed. A few minutes later he came back in with a glass of water and a few crackers. He pulled a few medication bottles from Barba’s night stand and dispensed a few pills. Take your meds and eat a few crackers. Then you can sleep as long as you like.”

Barba quickly swallowed the pills with a swallow of water. He nibbled a few crackers and laid down on the bed.

“Night, Rafael,” Huang said as he tucked the ADA in with a weighted blanket and left him to sleep.

---

“Is he okay?” Carisi asked as Huang came out of the bedroom.

“Yeah, his emotions and stress are just exhausting him. You know he just isn’t used to having or expressing them. I got him to take his medication and eat a few crackers,” Huang explained.

After a pause, “And how about you? Are you doing okay?”

“I really just am concerned about Rafael,” Carisi replied.

“I know you are, but you have to recognize that you have to take care of yourself too so you can be there for him,” Huang rationalized

“Fine,” Carisi thought to himself. “I’ll just answer the damn question.

“Doc, I am not sure. I feel conflicted. I am grateful that Joe helped the squad find us, but I am furious at how far he left them go…how he left them do to us, including allowing them to force me to rape Rafa. I still can’t come to terms with how much it hurts me that I had to hurt him just so we could both survive.”

“That’s understandable,” Huang assured him. “I would probably feel the same way.”

“Oh, and the FBI covering up all these assaults and crimes. It’s despicable!” Carisi added angrily.

“I agree,” Huang replied. “They facilitated suffering and murder. Yet another reason as to why I am grateful that I ‘retired’ from the bureau.”

“I really think a guilty verdict will help, Renee, and us. I think not only Rafa will feel like he got his mojo back, but also, I think it might generate some sense of comfort. Kind of like justice by proxy, if you will.”

---

Cabot left for the evening and Amaro and Huang stayed there as the nighttime ‘security detail.’ Amaro retired to the guest room and Huang to the sofa.

---

Carisi went into Barba’s bedroom and found Rafael staring at the ceiling.

“I thought you were tired,” Carisi joked.

“I am. I am just scared to go to sleep. I’m worried about nightmares.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I am actually ready to turn in myself. Do you mind if we cuddle?” Carisi asked as he shut the light out.

“Not at all,” Barba smiled as he lifted the weighted blanket and Carisi crawled under the blanket and wrapped himself around Barba.

“How are you so okay with all of this?” Barba asked. “You don’t seem to be as screwed up as I am.”

“First, you are not screwed up. The people who did this to us are. Second, I have way more experience dealing with my emotions than you. I actually can’t imagine going through what we did without that experience that is with expressing or sharing my emotions. I would be crippled. ”

“Yeah, well I felt like I was crippled yesterday,” Barba reminded him.

He looked into Barba’s green eyes. “But you aren’t. You are coming through.” He paused before adding, “ADA Rafael Barba, you are the strongest person I know and you will get through this. We both will.” He leaned in and kissed Barba on the forehead.

A few tears trickled down both their faces. Barba closed his eyes.

“Not to change the subject,” Carisi began.

“No, please do!” Barba granted permission with a chuckle as he opened his eyes.

“So this payback…”

“Not until the trial ends…” Barba teased. “Payback is a bitch.”

Carisi sighed, “Yes, it is.”

“Oh, okay. Just to give you a little bit of comfort, so you can sleep. The payback part is mainly about making you wait for an answer to a question," Barba shared.

“And that is supposed to comfort me?” Carisi replied.

“Well, it is a good question, if that helps.”

“Rafa, you are just so damn cryptic sometimes,” Carisi replied with a smile.

Barba smiled back. “You love that about me, right?”

Chapter Text

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The next day Carisi prepared breakfast for their overnight guests. He was just setting breakfast on the table when Huang and Amaro strolled into the room.

“Good morning,” Carisi greeted his guests with his usual peppiness.

“Give me a minute to get some coffee in my system,” Amaro muttered. He was nowhere near the morning person Carisi was.

After they all were seated and sipping at coffee, Huang asked, “How did he sleep last night?”

“Only two nightmares. That’s pretty good for him,” Carisi replied.

Huang nodded his head. “That’s better than I expected. I thought it would have been much worse.”

Amaro put down his mug. “Speaking of Barba, where is he?”

Carisi held up Barba’s cell phone. “Given how tired he was last night, I thought we’d let him sleep in. I figured I wouldn’t let anyone disturb him unless Carmen would call to let us know if the jury came back with a verdict.”

Carisi cleaned up the breakfast dishes and the group went to the living room to watch TV.

Barba didn’t make an appearance until about 10. His hair was all scruffy and he was only in boxers and a t-shirt. He had one of those looks, who like Amaro, meant “don’t talk to me until I’ve had some coffee.”

Everyone was watching TV when Barba strolled in with a mug of coffee in his hand. “I know I’ve not been very attentive to what has been going on around here lately, but did you rearrange the kitchen?”

Carisi was confused. “What do you mean?”

“I can’t find any knives to butter my toast,” he explained.

The three other men looked at each other.

“What?” Barba asked sensing this might be some sort of inside joke and he was not on the inside.

“George, here sort of…well hid them," Amaro tattled.

Now Barba was the perplexed one. “Why?”

The three men looked at each other again before they burst out laughing.

“Honey, you are so cute when you have no idea what you do when you sleepwalk,” Carisi flirted.

“Well, the night you took Carisi out while sleepwalking, well, you tried to take us both out with a knife,” Amaro recounted. 

Barba was the only one in the room not laughing. “Oh my god, I am so sorry…I didn’t mean…”

Huang cut him off. “They know that. It was just a safety measure,” he explained.

“Like babyproofing a house,” Amaro chimed in.

Barba gave them a grin and muttered, “Baby proofing…ha.” Then he asked “so which one of you took my cell? What if they come back with a verdict?”

Carisi took Barba’s phone from his pocket and tossed it to Barba making him almost spill his coffee. “You just needed some extra sleep. We would have woke you if a verdict came back.”

“Well if someone gives me a knife, I’ll eat my toast and then we can go to the courthouse and check on the jury’s progress.”

“Nah, we want to see you lick the butter!” Amaro snickered.

---

At the courthouse, Barba, Cabot, Carisi, Amaro, and Huang were sitting in their usual side room chatting. Barba usually was patient with jury deliberations, but this one was different. He kept pacing the room until Amaro pleaded for him to sit down. Soon Rollins and Fin joined them escorting Renee. Renee seemed to be less on edge than Barba was.

Barba’s phone rang.

“Thank you.”

“That was Carmen. The DA’s office was just notified that the jury has reached a verdict.”

“Well since we are here, we might as well go on in and get situated,” Cabot suggested. Just then there was a knock on the door.

Amaro opened the door and saw it was Buchanan. “Do you have a minute, Counselor?” he asked.

“Go on out, I’ll be there shortly," Barba told them.

Everyone left as he requested, except for Carisi. Seeing that Carisi was not going to leave Barba’s side, Buchanan closed the door and sat across from the couple.

“I really want to apologize for putting you…”Buchanan stopped mid-sentence.

“He knows,” Barba informed Buchanan. Then Barba continued, “What I don’t understand is how you knew about us, about our case? SVU did a great job at trying to keep that concealed.”

“They did. I knew you were on a sabbatical, which was unlike you. Then you show up with co-counsel and I noticed your behavior was off. Then when I saw how nervous you looked when Joe showed up that day, I started putting stuff together. I got the file from 1PP,” Buchanan revealed.

“So, you know all of it?” Carisi asked, almost ashamed.

“Yes. I am sorry, I didn’t realize, and then I knew. I didn’t mean to invade your privacy, but something just seemed really off.”

“Well, I hope we can count on your discretion,” Carisi requested. 

“Of course,” Buchanan replied. The he said, “Well, didn’t you hear? The jury’s back. You better get your Spanish dandy out there!” Buchanan said smiling as he left the room.

Barba turned to Carisi. “Do you think he is dying or something?” The couple burst into laughter.

“Now we know he has a soft side," Carisi acknowledged.

---

In the courtroom, Cabot and Barba took their seats at the prosecution table. Carisi, Amaro, and Huang sat a couple rows behind them and this time they were joined by Rollins, Fin, and Renee. Joe was seated closer to the prosecution’s table than the squad from SVU. He was eager to see D’Angelo put away. Rumor had it that he was going to be put on trial himself and in protective custody.

Buchanan was at the defense table with his client, who apparently was behaving himself given that he was not shackled.

The court officer announced, “All rise for the Honorable Judge Lena Petrovsky.” After everyone was seated, Petrovsky called the court into session.

“Has the jury reached a verdict?” Petrovsky asked.

“Yes, your Honor, a female juror answered while standing.”

“Here we go," Barba thought to himself. He was taking slow, deep breaths per Huang’s suggestion.

“Madame Foreperson, on the charge of kidnapping in the first degree, how do you find?”

“Guilty.”

“On the charge of assault in the first degree, how do you find?"

“Guilty.”

“On the charge of rape in the first degree, how do you find?”

“Guilty.”

“On the charge of murder in the first degree, how do you find?”

“Guilty.”

“A straight out win,” Barba thought to himself. He breathed a sigh of relief and turned around to look at Renee. She had tears of joy trickling down her face.

Then the unexpected happened.

D’Angelo once again hopped over the defense table and this time punched the court officer out cold and took his gun. He started shouting at Barba. “The Barattas should have raped you dead when they had the chance!”

The jurors and galley members scrambled for the doors. The judge took cover under her bench. Barba shoved Cabot under the prosecution table just before being head-butted with a gun. He fell to the floor unconscious. Cabot held Barba’s head. “Now I’m gonna shoot you dead just because you’d probably enjoy being raped dead.”

Carisi began to stand up when he heard a gunshot. He thought Barba was dead. Then he realized it was Joe. Joe had taken a gun from another court officer and shot D’Angelo through the heart.

“Joe, put the gun down,” Carisi pleaded. By this time the entire SVU squad had their guns trained on Joe.

“There is a file that is being delivered to Mr. Barba’s office today. Use it wisely. Get these bastards,” Joe urged.

“As I said, I am a serial killer of mob rapists and I am prepared to die for my actions and for not doing anything about it sooner,” Joe announced while he pointed the gun at his temple.

“Look Joe, we can work this out,” Amaro began to negotiate.

BANG

Blood and brain matter covered the courtroom.

The remainder of SVU were on route to the courthouse to celebrate Barba’s first victory back and were just pulling up when they got the call of 'shots fired.' They jumped out of their SUVs and raced inside pushing their way through the fleeing mob.

The only people left in the courtroom were two court officers, one being unconscious, Buchanan, the judge, and other SVU members. Benson caught Carisi and Cabot kneeling over Barba’s body and froze. Then she heard moaning and saw him beginning to jostle.

“You idiot,” Cabot exclaimed.

“Rafael, do you know where you are?” Huang asked examining the ADA for signs of concussion.

"Court. D’Angelo trial." Carisi leaned down and hugged Barba and starting rocking him.”

“Sonny, please, I have a headache and you're making me sick."

Barba looked around and spotted D’Angelo’s limp body just feet in front of the prosecution table. Barba got up and raced to him and began pounding on his chest, attempting CPR. He was getting blood spattered all over his suit and his hands were covered in blood.

“You don’t get to die bastard! You have to pay….you have to pay!”

“Rafael, he is dead,” Amaro said as he pulled Barba off D’Angelo’s body.

Stabler turned to Benson. “You know, the first time I encountered a courtroom shooting, it was our white supremacist case with Dana Lewis. I always get hurt when she is around. Is she here?”

“Yeah, that was when Munch got shot in the ass!” Fin added. Munch gave Fin a snarky look.

“She’s in jail Elliott.”

Stabler looked at her in surprise and raised a brow."

“Long story. Later,” Benson replied.

“Did he seriously think he was just going to kill Barba in a courtroom and then just walk out of here?" Carisi asked.

“Probably was hoping for suicide by cop," Munch hypothesized.

“Well, Joe did that for us, thankfully. I hate IAB,” Amaro remarked.

Stabler turned to him, “I am going to get along with you after all.”

After taking Barba’s and Carisi’s statement, Benson suggested they go outside and get some fresh air while they took the remaining witness statements and collected evidence. Unfortunately, Barba had to surrender his blazer, shirt, and tie to CSU. He was now in just a white tank top. “Of all days, today, I chose not to wear a proper white t-shirt,” he sneered to himself.

---

Barba found himself sitting on the steps on the far side of the courthouse, where he sat just two days prior having a melt down.

Carisi came up behind him and asked to sit down.

Barba nodded as Carisi put his own blazer over Barba’s shoulders.

“Well, that was something else,” Carisi said as he took a seat.

Barba looked up. “It’s not the first time I’ve been in a courtroom shoot out. My first case back though, that is indeed something.”

Then Barba caught a glimpse of Renee walking back up the steps. Barba and Carisi stood to greet her.

“I am so sorry that he won’t be punished, that you won’t get justice,” Barba apologized.

“You don’t need to apologize. I got my justice. He was found guilty on all counts. As far as I am concerned, the death penalty was appropriate. He should not get to live when Chris doesn’t.”

Barba and Carisi both seemed genuinely shocked by how well she was taking this.

“I came back because I forgot my purse in the courtroom,” she said disappearing back inside.

Barba and Carisi sat back down for a few minutes before Barba broke the silence.

“The trial is over,” Barba said with a grin on his face.

“It is, isn’t it?” Carisi mused back in anticipation. “So yes to what? You’ve tortured me long enough!”

At this point, Renee was standing outside the courthouse ease dropping on the couple. The SVU squad was coming out and Renee hushed them and signaled them to stay put. They listened in intently.

“Yes to Fin’s son’s question.”

“To having kids?" Carisi asked. He couldn’t believe his ears.

“Yes! “Barba exclaimed with a giggle. “I didn’t have much experience with them, but then Noah, Billie, and Jesse have changed that. I really want to have kids with you!”

Carisi hugged him and immediately began with the questions. “Adoption? Wait who would give an unmarried bi couple children? Surrogacy maybe?”

Barba looked up. “Someone will. And we can fix that unmarried part.” Then he continued “I was going to propose on our one year anniversary. And then ‘that’ happened. Then the exact date fell on the day we were fighting and you overdosed.” He paused. “I thought I was going to lose you.”

Carisi smiled. “You will never lose me. I love you with all my heart, Rafa. We’ve been through hell and back and we are still surviving.”

Carisi removed his tie and knelt down in front of Barba. He wrapped his tie very loosely around the ADA’s neck. “Rafael Barba, will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

Barba nodded and said “I love you so much, Sonny.”

Carisi pulled Barba in by the loose tie for a passionate kiss. "Sorry, I don’t have rings,” he said as their lips pulled away.”

“I do, at the apartment, but you know what? The tie is perfect,” Barba remarked looking down at it.

Then a gaggle of “Ooh’s and awe’s flooded the air bringing the couple back to reality. They realized the entire squad just witnessed their engagement. Plus Renee who now had her purse. And Petrovsky. And Carmen who had come down to the courthouse when she heard about the shooting. Barba turned bright red but both he and Carisi had smiles on their faces and were beaming with joy.

“How much of that did you hear?“ Barba asked.

“Everything from having kids…” Stabler began and Amaro continued “to the proposal,” “and don’t forget the kiss,” Rollins added with another “awe.”

Everyone crowed around the happy couple. They decided to head across the street to a restaurant to celebrate. Rollins extended an invitation to Renee to join them, which she graciously accepted.

“So, what are you going to sing for your wedding song, Rafa?” Benson asked.

“He can sing?” Renee asked with a risen eyebrow.

“Like a songbird,” Novak told her dreamily.

Barba shot her a glare.

"That Barba glare doesn't work on me," Novak said.

Carisi turned to Benson, “I am really hoping for Defying Gravity.”

“Hey, aren’t we supposed to make that decision together?” Barba joked.

“Hold on a minute there, Rafael. I’ve got a change of clothes in the car if you would like a t-shirt,” Amaro.

Barba looked down at his tank top which was partially hidden under Carisi’s blazer. He smiled back at Amaro, “that would be great! But I still can wear the tie, right?”

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The entire squad was gathered at the restaurant across the street to celebrate Barba and Carisi’s impromptu engagement. Amaro, Barba, and Carisi left the restaurant just after 7. Amaro dropped the couple off outside Barba’s building and said that he would let them spend the night alone if they could stay out of trouble. “Please, just don’t till Liv. Or George. Okay, anybody for that matter.” He thought the two love birds would like the night alone.

“I think we can manage, Nick,” Carisi assured him.

When Barba and Carisi stepped off the elevator on Barba's floor, Carisi scooped Barba up in his arms and carried him over the threshold of his apartment. He put the ADA down just inside the door and Barba threw Carisi up against the wall and pinned his arms overhead while Barba closed the door with his foot.

“I love you, Sonny,” Barba whispered and then they shared a long, passionate kiss. Carisi freed his hands. He tilted Barba’s head with one hand to deepen the kiss and the other hand was quickly working to get Barba's t-shirt overhead. Then he began pulling Barba's tank top off and dropped them both to the floor.

Barba reciprocated by stripping Carisi’s torso as they slowly inched against the wall toward the direction of the bedroom. He undid Sonny’s button down and dropped it to the floor and then pulled Sonny’s undershirt over his head. Barba shifted his kissing from Sonny’s lips to the side of his neck and then down his sternum, just above his belly.”

Barba still had Carisi pinned against the wall and propped his knee up between Carisi’s thighs. He could feel the detective becoming aroused as Carisi gasped.

“Rafa, are you sure you are ready for this? We don’t have to…or just not go all the way. Just let me know if you need…”

Barba shut him up with a kiss to the lips and the resumed making out. He traced his hands up and down the silhouette of Carisi’s torso causing the detective to squirm with pleasure and then Barba began to lick at his belly button.

Carisi gently tugged at Barba’s belt loops and when he got no resistance, he undid ADA's belt and his hands infiltrated Barba’s pants as he began to gently cup and squeeze him.

“Is this okay?” Carisi asked. Barba nodded and moaned in response.

“To the bedroom, my love!” Carisi said lifting Barba once more. He laid Barba gently on the bed. Both men were sweating and squirming in pleasure. Carisi undid his own belt and Barba sat up and tugged Carisi's pants down and Carisi kicked them to the side of the room. Barba laid back down and Carisi pulled the ADA's pants off and threw them off to the side of the bed.

Carisi positioned himself over Barba in missionary position.

Checking in before proceeding, “Is this okay?” Carisi asked.

Barba nodded as he spread his legs for Carisi who ran his tongue up and down the insides of his thighs. Barba’s knees were shaking as his muscles trembled with ecstasy. Carisi could feel Barba was getting hard and was not far from coming. He began caressing Barba’s cock.

Barba told Carisi to shift himself above his head and he gently sucked on Carisi’s cock which he felt quickly harden in his mouth as he stroked sweat gently from Carisi’s forehead. Just as Carisi withdrew from Barba’s mouth, both men came and collapsed side by side.

Breathing hard, covered in sweat, and recovering from their orgasms, they laid there speechless for a few minutes.

Carisi and Barba both finally turned to look each other in the eye. “Was that okay for you, Rafi? Did I hurt you?”

Barba smiled. “More than, okay,” he said gazing dreamily in to Carisi’s bright blue eyes and choosing to ignore his second question. Then he thought to himself, “it is sweet that he keeps checking in, but it is starting to get a little irritating. I am not going to freak out, although he was completely recalled that he done just that only a few weeks earlier.”

Barba turned away from Carisi and allowed Carisi to cuddle him until they fell asleep.

---

Amaro arrived at Barba’s apartment early the next morning and keyed his way in when no one answered his knock. Barba had given Nick a spare key a couple weeks ago and this was his first chance to use it.

Amaro looked around and saw a trail of a tank top, a t-shirt, a button down, and an undershirt leading to Barba’s bedroom. Amaro smiled with amusement. “The love birds obviously enjoyed themselves last night.”

Barba emerged from the bedroom and Amaro was about to say something when he caught a look of concern in his eyes so he closed his mouth.

“Rafael, are you okay?” Barba shook his head. “Can you call George?”

“Uh…sure. Do you need some coffee?” Barba walked back to his bedroom and shut the door without an answer.

He heard a noise coming from the guest room. He peered in and saw Carisi gently crying.

“Hey there, what’s wrong?” Amaro asked as he patted Carisi on the back.

“I just need to talk to someone,” Carisi managed to reply.

“Do you want to talk to me?” Amaro offered.

He paused. “I think George would be more appropriate.”

“Okay, I’ll give him a call for you.”

Amaro stepped into the living room and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“Hey, doc,” I’ve got a situation here.”

“What’s going on?” Huang answered with a yawn.

“I think they just need to talk.”

“Both of them?” Huang asked assuming it was one or the other.

“Yeah, both of them asked for you.”

“Okay. Give me a half hour. I need to get some coffee.”

“I hear ya. Thanks, doc.”

---

Huang arrived at the apartment and told Amaro to stick with Carisi and he was going to go start with Barba.

He knocked on Barba’s bedroom door and got no answer. “Rafael, its George. I am going to come in, okay?” He opened the door and saw Barba sitting on his bed. He walked in and closed the door behind him.

“Can I sit down?” Huang asked.

Barba responded with only a slight nod.

Huang glanced around and saw belts and pants laying by the side of the bed.

“Rafael, can you tell me what is upsetting you?”

Barba burst into tears and rested his head on Huang’s shoulder.

“Hey, hey, there,” Huang tried to comfort him wrapping his arms around the ADA. “What’s going on?” he tried again.

“Sonny, kept asking if I was okay last night…with, well you get the picture. Well, I was. Until I wasn’t.”

“Can you elaborate?”

“I had another nightmare. Apparently Sonny heard me saying something about ‘don’t rape me.’ It wasn’t about him, it was about them, the Barattas. Well, given what we had just did, he thought it was about him and I couldn’t convince him otherwise. I didn’t lie to him, I really was okay with us having sex, my mind just isn’t okay with them raping me and I have absolutely no control over what I say when I am having a nightmare. I hurt him. Bad.”

“Come on, get some clothes on and get some coffee. I’ll me you in the living room in a few minutes,” Huang said as he left the bedroom.

---

Huang entered the guest room. “Sonny, I heard from Rafael what happened.” He paused. “May I sit?”

“Sure, doc.”

“It sounds like you two had a good time last night, but Rafael’s nightmare upset you?” Huang asked summarizing the situation. 

Carisi took a deep breath and tried to focus. “He said it wasn’t about me. I am not sure if that is true considering what we just did hours before.”

“Sonny, you know just an act can trigger the subconscious. He truly cares for you, even if it was about you. It really is about the Barattas. They made you do that to him.”

“Now, I want you out in that living room in a few minutes and we are all going to get through this,” Huang instructed. “Even if I have to literally hold your hands,” he thought to himself.

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About half an hour after meeting individually with both Barba and Carisi, everyone was gathered in the living room all having already consumed their first caffeine of the day.

"So, I don't want to ruin your last 24 hours, but it is clear that you both need to continue viewing the video footage. It's the only way I think you can understand the circumstances of what happened to you Rafael." He turned to Sonny, "and this is how you will begin to forgive yourself. You had no choice. It was do or be killed," Huang explained.

Both men went pale and Barba immediately began trembling. Carisi shamefully looked at the floor.

"Now, this is going to be much harder to watch than the previous clips. I had a lot of trouble viewing it myself," Huang revealed. "This is the worst of it, but in terms of your recovery, probably the most vital part to see," Huang continued. "That said, do you want anyone else here with you?"

Barba and Carisi thought for a moment. "Well, Nick has already seen everything else," Carisi began and Barba finished "and we both trust him and he already is here."

Amaro gave a slight grin at his new friend. "He actually trusts me," he thought gratefully to himself.

"Do you want Amanda here?" Huang asked recalling that she was there for the initial viewing of the footage. 

"Nah, doc. She is off today and probably wants to spend the days with her girls. I think we can muster through with just Nick," Carisi replied.

"Okay. I do want to try something a little bit different than last time. First, no drinking, Rafael."

Barba frowned at the stipulation but nodded his head.

"Also, I want to try some tactile support while watching the clips. Amaro and I will sit on either side of you, and you two will sit together. We are going to cover you with the weighted blanket. There is some research that suggests that the touch of other people or the pressure generated from a weight blanket can offer trauma survivors a sense of desensitization. Tactile sensory can offer a minimal distraction while working through emotional triggers. I've seen it help some people a little, and I think it is worth giving it a try. What do you think?" Huang asked.

"Okay," was Carisi's response and Barba simply nodded his head.

Huang dimmed the lights and picked up the remote.

"Sonny, Rafael, scoot closer together," he instructed them. Both complied and were tight up against each other. 

"Nick, sit tight up against Sonny."

Nick did as instructed and said with a slight grin and a lightness in his voice "well if this isn't comfy?"

"Now, Rafael I am going to sit up against you," Huang said taking a seat next to Barba. "Okay Nick, lets stretch the weighted blanket over us."

After the blanket was stretched out, Huang explained what they were going to watch first. "The first clip is what you started to remember when you elicited Renee's testimony. Sonny being held in the freezer and you being assaulted." Huang paused. "If you need to stop at anytime, just say so. We will stop and help you sort through your emotions before proceeding. Nick and I are here to help you with that, but we need you both to talk to each other and express what you are feeling. None of this guessing what the other one is experiencing."

"Comprendes mi amigo?" Amaro directed at Barba. He could see by the look in Barba's eyes that he understood and was not about to fight.

Sonny replied with a weak "okay."

"I am petrified," Barba divulged with a tremble in his voice. Tears were already swelling up in his green eyes.

"I know you are Rafael. It is terrifying, but you are safe. They can't hurt you anymore. You have Sonny. You have Nick and me. It's okay to be scared and vulnerable. We will get through this together. You don't have to and should not try to do this alone," Huang said trying to ease Barba.

Huang pressed play.

---

The Freezer Scene (Otherwise know by the Baratta clan as the Jack in the Box game)

The Baratta's were explaining the rules of the game.

Michael: "Now he is going in the freezer," said pointing to Carisi and Vincent put the struggling detective in the freezer.

Michael: "And now you have to earn his right out of the freezer. We are going to take you from any which way we want and you will not struggle. Struggle and he will suffocate."

Barba: "He has nothing to do with this, your case, your son. You don't have to hurt him. I will do whatever you want. Just let him go," Barba pleaded.

Michael: "No he doesn't, but it does add suspense. And it will hurt you."

Barba: "Please..."

Michael: "Now be a good boy, or your pretty boy toy will suffocate."

Michael gracefully undid Barba's belt and but then forcefully removed his boxer briefs and pants kicking them aside.

[In the living room, Barba looked down in shame and started shaking. There were a few tears trickling down his face. George whispered, "Do we need to stop?" Barba shook his head. "I don't remember most of this," he whimpered.]

Michael bent  Barba over the freezer and took him from behind. Michael immediately and violently began thrusting himself in and out of Barba's opening.

Michael: "Is this how you like it?" he repeated over and over taunting Barba. 

Barba was screaming and moaning in pain, but he was not resisting. The freezer was shaking with each thrust. Then Vincent flipped Barba onto his back and pinned Barba on top of the freezer facing the ceiling.

Michael: "Let's see if we can make him come! Make sure he is enjoying himself!"

It was clear that Barba did not want the man anywhere near him, but he had no choice. 

Michael nibbled at the ADA's nipple and then traced his tongue down his sternum. Barba flinched as Michael started manipulating, caressing, and cupping his cock. He kept varying the pressure and speed until he found just the right spot. Barba tried as hard as he could but was unable to withhold his orgasm and was forced to come. Cum ran down his legs and splattered on Michael. 

[Barba lowered his head in embarrassment. Carisi squeezed Barba's hand.

Carisi never saw this part, he was in the freezer. It looked worse than he had imagined from inside the freezer. He felt sick to his stomach seeing his lover assaulted. "I have to be strong for him," Carisi thought to himself as he struggled to contain the tears watering up in his eyes.]

Michael: "Now that's a good boy!"

Michael flipped Barba back over onto his stomach, again bent over the freezer and thrust himself violently in and out of Barba again. After angling Barba better to hit his prostate and grabbing his cock, Barba's muscles spasmed as he came yet again. Cum was dripping down his legs with blood.

Michael: "Now we're having some fun. Isn't this fun Rafael?"

Barba was whimpering in pain and crying.

Michael flipped Barba back on top of the freezer and began again manipulating his penis, rubbing his hands up and down Barba's shaft. It was evident Barba no longer had any control of his body. He couldn't resist the orgasm and he came again. 

[Barba felt disgusted. He just kept coming whenever Michael wanted him to. It was like he had no self-control. "How the hell was I enjoying this? As he continued to watch, he started to tingle and felt moisture in his pants. "Shit, what is wrong with me?]

Michael: "Awe. Such a good boy. He came again. He just can't get enough of me."

[In the living room, Barba had his head buried in his lap bawling hysterically and trembling. Sonny put his hand around his torso trying to hug him. "It's okay Rafa, you're safe. I am here."

Huang tried to steady him and pat his shoulder. "Rafael, we should stop," Huang advised.

"No...just get...through this," he said between gasps for air.]

Then Michael flipped Barba back to his stomach and began thrusting again until Barba came. This pattern repeated for almost twenty minutes. He was flipped after every time he  orgasmed and came. There were puddles of cum on the floor and freezer stained with blood. Barba's legs were a mess. There was nothing gentle or loving about this. It was brutal.

Finally the assault stopped.

Michael opened the lid and Barba pulled Carisi out of the freezer. Carisi couldn't stand on his own and collapsed to his knees. Carisi was blue in the face and gasping for air. After the couple checked to see if each other was okay, Michael detailed the next part of the game.

Michael: "Now you have to earn your right to stay out of the freezer," he told Carisi.

Carisi: "What do you mean?" he asked desperately still trying to catch his breath.

Michael: "Fuck him."

Carisi: "What?"

Michael: "You heard me. Fuck him."

Barba: "He still hasn't got enough air," Barba tried to delay the inevitable.

Michael: "Fine. Take a few minutes and catch your breath, but you will fuck him or I will kill him. Or you. Hey, maybe both of you, but not until I've had my fun with Rafael, here."

Michael left the room.

---

Huang pressed pause.

On the sofa the couple was extremely distressed. Amaro was leaning on Carisi. Huang was leaning on Barba. The couple in the center were holding hands, both sobbing. Barba's face revealed embarrassment and he was violently trembling. Carisi looked frightened, but that wasn't stopping him from trying to comfort Barba.

After about ten minutes, the sobbing subsided enough that they could speak. 

"Sonny," Huang began.

Barba was relieved he wasn't first up.

"What was going on in your head when you were in the freezer?"

"I couldn't take hearing them hurt Rafa. Every time they took him, the freezer would shake. I was scared they were going to kill him. I couldn't bare listening to his screams and whimpering. I so desperately wanted him to fight back. I'd rather die than listen to him in pain."

"Rafael?" Huang prompted that it was his turn to share.

"Well, I don't remember, but right now, I am terrified that Sonny was going to die, even though I know he didn't and that he is right here beside me. It's like an intense horror movie," Barba shared. Barba was still shaking uncontrollably.

"I know you don't remember the actual event, but watching it right now, can you tell us how you are feeling?"

"Angry at the Barrattas. Embarrassed that I didn't fight back, but I realize they would have killed," he broke taking a large gulp before finishing his thought, "Sonny. Ashamed that you guys just saw  all of that. Ashamed that I just kept orgasming and coming for him. I couldn't control myself. Terrified," Barba said wrapping up some of his feelings. Clearly he had a lot of emotions about what he had just seen.

"Okay, I think everyone understands why you are angry," Huang said as everyone nodded their heads in agreement. "And you don't have to be ashamed that we saw this. This was horrific, and none of us think any less of you. No one should have to endure this on their own," Huang added.

Amaro leaned out beyond Carisi's torso so he could face Barba eye to eye. "Rafael, he's right. There is no judgement, at least negative. You went through hell and you are still breathing. And you are trying to deal with the trauma. And you are fighting like hell to get your life back."

Then Amaro continued, "As for orgasming and coming for him every time, we know you didn't want that. It is a physiological response. Just like when you get tickled you laugh. You know this. You prosecute cases where victims experience this all the time. Just because you are a bad-ass prosecutor doesn't mean that this can't happen to you. They took your control from you, from your body. Your body did not betray you. You did not enjoy that. They used your physiological responses against you causing you psychological trauma." Amaro looked at Huang who nodded in agreement. "We see this all the time with our vic..survivors," Amaro said trying to put a more positive spin on things.

"It is ok, you can say it. Victims," Barba pouted.

"But Rafael, you are no longer a victim. You, both of you, have progressed from mere victims to survivors," Amaro clarified. 

Carisi wrapped his hand around Barba. "And you have me. Rafa, everything you endured there, you did to save me. I am grateful that you did this, because I am now engaged to the sexiest ADA who has the biggest ego in all of NYC," Carisi bragged. Then he hugged Barba tightly.

Barba's eyes glimmered with tears at his friends' supportive statements.

"Back to you, Sonny. You just said that you are grateful for Rafael's sacrifice. Can you expand on that?"

"Damn it Doc, quit with the hard questions," Carisi thought to himself. After a moment, he formulated a reply. "I can't imagine not being around to be with Rafa. I could have died and never got to realize our future. Our lasting love, possible kids, and marriage. It could have all ended right there. I think Rafa did this because he loved me," Carisi said as he looked into Barba's eyes trying to verify if that last statement was still true.

"Not loved. Loves," Barba corrected him.

"Sonny," Huang started at him again.

"Damn it, this absolutely sucks," Carisi again thought to himself.

"How did you feel about Michael telling you that you had to, rape Rafael?" Huang inquired.

"Sick. Terrified. I couldn't imagine that I would be instructed to rape someone, especially Rafael. I couldn't imagine ever intentionally causing him physical or emotional pain," Carisi started to cry. "Then he said he would kill him if I didn't. After what Rafael just endured, and for me, I was scared I would be the one to kill him, whether it would be from raping him or not raping him and getting him shot in the head. All the blood..." Carisi cut off with a visible shiver.

"Anything else?" Huang asked. "Okay then, this is going to be a shorter clip, no violence. After we discuss it, we will take a lunch break."

"I don't know about Rafa, but I don't feel like eating," Carisi said to which Barba nodded in agreement.

"I am sorry my friends, but George's suggestion, was not a suggestion. You will eat something," Amaro put his foot down.

Huang pressed play once again.

---

The Debate (What should we do?)

After Michael left the room, Barba and Carisi had a conversation of what to do.

Barba: "There is no way out. You have to do this."

Carisi: "No, I can't do that, and absolutely not to you."

Barba: "I am giving you blanketed absolution for anything they make you do to me. Even if it means raping me. And it won't be rape because I am consenting right now."

Carisi: "No, I won't do that!"

Barba: "Look, if you don't they are going to shoot me. Then they will shoot you. If they don't shoot me, they will rape me dead. I can't take much more, Sonny. I won't make it through much more. If you do it, I don't think you will kill me."

Carisi: "You are concussed and not thinking straight. I can't rape you!"

Barba: "I consent. It is not rape," he repeated. "We've had sex before, just think of it as rough sex."

Carisi: "Are you fuckin' kidding me? That's the excuse we hear nearly every rapist rattle off in court.

Barba: "If you don't, we both will die. If you do, we still have a chance to survive this. If they happen to shoot you instead of me, I will kill myself because I can't live without you. I will never be able to forgive you if you get yourself killed and leave me alone." Barba was now crying hard. "Please, I don't want to die. I don't want you to die. Please, just do what they say. Please, Sonny. Help me."

---

Huang hit pause. 

Barba was stunned. There was absolutely no emotion on his face. His face was a blank slate.

"Rafa," Amaro asked seeing no expression or reaction from the ADA, "are you having a seizure?"

"No," Barba answered immediately. "I just..."

Carisi was crying into his lap. Barba turned and raised Carisi's head from his lap and drew the detective into his chest to held him tightly.

After a few minutes Carisi was able to look up and Barba gently wiped the tears from detective's face with a finger.

Without any prompting, "I can't believe I did that to you. I emotionally blackmailed you into doing that. Yes, it was the only way for us to survive, but hell, I used emotional blackmail," Barba apologized profusely.

"You have nothing to be sorry for. You were not coherent. I was. Your consent was not valid, so your emotional blackmail wasn't valid either. I raped you. There is no two ways about it!" Carisi angrily blamed himself. 

Barba grasped both of Carisi's hands and looked into his glassy blue eyes. Barba's eyes were swollen with the buildup of tears. "You know, you saved us both. We are both alive. Looking at it now, this was the only way for us both to survive. Plus I begged you because I didn't want to die either," Barba said trying to get through to Carisi.

"That doesn't change..." Carisi started before Barba cut him off.

"Yes it does. It changes everything," Barba said gripping Carisi's hands tighter. "You got us out of their alive, because of what you did. I know this has to be weighing down on you, but I am telling you, here and now, with a clear head and not concussed, that I would have asked you to do the same exact thing and would have consented. It was about staying alive," Barba continued. "I probably wouldn't have emotionally blackmailed you though. I would have used my lawyer trickery to convince you," Barba added with a smile, which seemed to somewhat comfort Carisi a little. "We know each other so well. We love each other, so much. I know you didn't want to hurt me, but because of your strength to do this, we are alive. We are together. We are engaged and going to have children," Barba said emphasizing all they had to look forward to.

"So, doc, why don't we give them a few minutes and we can make some finger sandwiches. I think I remember where the kitchen is." Much to Amaro's liking, he now knew his friend's apartment quite well and felt at home when he was there. "Come join us when you are ready," Amaro invited them as he and Huang walked into the kitchen.

---

"Well that seems to be going better," Amaro whispered to Huang.

"Yeah, well, I was pretty nervous after they saw the first clip. Now, one more clip to go," Huang remarked. "The bad one," Huang sighed.

He turned to Amaro. "They will get through this, Nick."

Nick was pulling sandwich ingredients from the fridge when he thought to himself, "Damn. This guy is a mind reader. Glad he isn't psychoanalyzing me." Liv had suggested that he see him once in regards to his anger issues. "Maybe he knows what he is doing, maybe I should give him a go," Amaro pondered to himself.

---

Back in the living room, Barba was rocking Carisi in his arms while the detective buried his head in the ADA's chest. They both were muttering apologies to each other.

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Saturday lunch was very light. Both Barba and Carisi managed to eat a single finger sandwich each, and that was with the prodding and pleading of both Huang and Amaro. They were just so shaken by what they viewed in the last clip and knew the worst was yet to come.

After taking their time clearing the dishes, Barba and Carisi reluctantly rejoined Amaro and Huang in the living room. There was one more clip that Huang wanted them to see. He said it would be by far the worst. "We will stop periodically to check in," Huang prepped the couple.

They retook earlier their positions on the sofa. Barba and Carisi sat tightly against each other in the center, Huang to Barba's right, and Amaro to Carisi's left. They once again covered with themselves with the weighted blanket.

"I'm not sure I can do this," Barba panicked.

"Me neither," Carisi echoed his fiancé.

After a pause, Huang said, "I really think you both need to see this. I think it is critical to help you psychologically recover, however, it is up to both of you."

A couple minutes went by as Barba and Carisi debated whether it was in their best interest to continue. Finally they agreed to continue, as a couple.

"Your first agreement as an engaged couple," Amaro said showing his pride in them. "You guys will be okay." Amaro said this ignorantly having no knowledge of what they were about to view.

Barba was trying to say something but his voice was trembling too much for Huang to understand. He couldn't even make it out as whether it was English or Spanish. Becoming better acquainted with Barba, he knew the ADA would randomly revert to his native language, especially under stress.

"Rafael, we are you here for you," Amaro said.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Huang asked.

Barba gave a slight nod.

Huang gave no further indication of how bad it was. It was bad. He felt guilty that he had make the couple endure this, this torture. He was a trained therapist, a psychological medical professional, and he could barely stand to see his friends assaulted, let alone be forced to take one another. He recalled that he previously mentioned to Cabot that he might need a therapist himself just to get through this. And of course, this is when that thought chose to resurface. He tried to push it from his mind. He clients, his friends needed him. He would worry about himself later. Wait, he always advised his clients to take care of themselves first so that they would eventually be able to support support someone else. "Hypocrite," Huang thought to himself.

Huang took a breath. "Here we go."

---

Carisi Being Forced to Assault Barba

Michael stormed back in. 

Michael: "You should have your breath back by now. It's time to play!" he cackled with the creepiest of intentions.

Carisi: "Please, don't."

Barba: "Shut up. Let's just get this over with." He turned to Sonny and whispered, "I consent. It will be okay," Barba tried to assuage his boyfriend's apprehensions.

Michael was getting impatient and pulled Carisi's pants and boxers to his ankles, and tossed them aside, right next where Barba's clothing laid crumpled.

Michael: "You better do something about this, detective," Michael said gazing at his crotch. He was limp and not aroused in the slightest.

Carisi looked at Barba with desperate eyes and he began stroking himself.

Barba could see fear in Carisi's eyes. "It will be okay, Sonny."

Michael: "This is taking to long!" He bowed down and gave the detective a blow job himself. Carisi was stunned but it was working. He felt himself becoming hard.

---

Huang hit pause.

Barba dropped his jaw before asking bewildered, "He did that to you?"

Carisi looked down and immediately began apologizing. "I'm sorry, I didn't know he was going to do that..."

"Stop!" Barba shouted. Then in a much gentler tone he continued, "This is not being unfaithful. You did nothing wrong! That bastard!" Barba said as he was clearly pissed at Michael. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Carisi was still looking at the floor.

"Hey, look at me. Sonny? Sonny?" Barba said with sensitivity.

Carisi slowly looked up, but he couldn't bring himself to meet his fiancé's eyes.

Seeing this Barba contorted his body in such a way that he was leaning back into Sonny's lap and looking up to meet the detectives face. He saw Carisi's face was flushed and tears were flowing from his blue eyes.

"Oh my god, Sonny," Barba began sympathetically gazing into his eyes. 

"It wasn't that bad," Sonny responded. "Nothing like what they did to you." Barba felt his heart break.

Huang interjected, "Sonny, they assaulted you. The degree of injury does not change that fact." If the others didn't know any better, they would have thought that the doc might have been holding back a sob.

Carisi began sobbing uncontrollably. Barba pulled himself upright and drew Carisi's head to his own lap and allowed him to cry himself out as he tried to comfort him by stroking his blonde and firmly holding his shoulder. He eventually found that his own anger about what Michael had done to Carisi had reduced him to tears and he leaned over onto Sonny's hair and wept.

When the crying subsided enough to speak, Huang asked, "Why didn't you tell anyone, Sonny? Not say give that detail in your statement to Liv? Not tell Rafa? He surely would understand your feelings."

Sniffling, Carisi responded "Rafa was hurt already. I didn't know how he would react and I certainly was not willing to make things any worse for him. I was embarrassed and didn't want to really share that. I was aroused by a stranger that was intent on hurting the love of my life." Tears began to stream heavily from his eyes again.

Barba leaned around Carisi to Amaro. "This one is all yours, if you don't mind."

Amaro sighed. "Before lunch, we just got done telling Rafael that it is just a physiological response. It just happens. It is nothing that you did. Nothing that you wanted."

Carisi sat a few minutes before Amaro's words began to sink in. "But he was hurting Rafa..."

"That doesn't matter," Amaro assured him.

Barba rocked Carisi in his arms for a few minutes.

"Are we good to continue?"

Carisi gave an uncertain nod. 

Huang pressed play.

---

Michael: "Ahh...nice and hard. I turn you on just like him," he boasted. "Now get to work. Let's get this show on the road."

Carisi kneeled down to Barba who was already bent over on all fours.

Carisi: "Rafa, please forgive me."

[Barba and Carisi squeezed each other tightly and laid their heads against one another.]

Barba: "I consent, but if it helps, I forgive you, even though you are doing nothing wrong. It's okay. We will be okay," Barba replied to his plea.

Carisi: "Tell me if I am hurting you. Give me some sort of signal."

Carisi began rimming Barba's opening. He needed to get him as ready as he could. He was surely already in excruciating pain. He knew he was inevitably going to make it worse, but he wanted to minimize it.

Carisi: "Rafa, I don't have lube. This is going to hurt."

Barba: "Get what you can get off my legs. I am still wet."

Carisi could not believe his instructions, but he hesitantly complied. He pulled cum from Barba's legs and covered himself.

Michael: "Okay this is sweet and all, but now get to it! Put your hand in him. Your whole hand."

Barba's eye opened wide. He was terrified, and he was glad Carisi could not see his face. He braced himself for the sheering pain.

Carisi: "Rafa, I can't."

Barba: "Yes you can," he urged. "You are strong, you need to do this. For me?" he begged.

Carisi: "I am coming," he warned Barba just before inserting a finger.

Barba flinched and left a low groan escape.

Michael pointed a gun at Barba's temple.

Michael: "I said your whole hand!"

Carisi pushed the rest of his fist into Barba who left out a loud moan. "Oh, my god, or as Rafa is probably thinking, aye dios mios," Carisi thought sick to his stomach.

Michael: "Come on! Thrust him!"

Carisi complied trying to move as gently as he could.

Carisi: "I am so sorry," he kept repeating quietly to Barba.

Barba was in pain and Carisi could tell he was trying to hold it in.

Michael: "Faster!"

--- 

Huang stopped the clip. He clearly wasn't able to handle it and he saw the couple wasn't either. He couldn't see Amaro's face from where he was seated, but he could hear him sniffle.

The couple were wrapped firmly around each other, as if they were one. They were sobbing hysterically on each other's shoulder. Huang and Amaro automatically wrapped their arms around the couple and they began crying as well.

"Oh my God," Amaro thought to himself. This was far more than he was prepared for. "I just can't..." Amaro found that he couldn't even finish his own thoughts. He was horrified at what his friends went through.

Huang was breaking down too. He thought he was going to be able to hold it together, but he was wrong. Finally he was able to compose himself enough to try to guide the couple through processing the scene.

"Sonny, what is going through your head? What emotions are you experiencing?"

Without pulling away from Barba or lifting his head from the ADA's shoulder, he mumbled "Grief, terror, anger."

"Grief?" Huang asked choking back a sob.

"I think I damaged Rafa forever. I thought if he did survive, that we couldn't recover from this. It would be just as painful as if he died. I destroyed him," Carisi elaborated.

"Terror?" Huang said.

"I'm scared that he will hate me forever. I was scared that he was going to shoot him and it would be all because I couldn't do..." Carisi broke down.

"Who are you angry with?" Huang probed. 

"Myself!" Carisi shouted gasping for air.

"No!" Amaro jumped in. "You should be angry at those bastards. This was not your fault!"

Huang nodded, his voice failing him.

Finally, he was able to ask, "Raf, (he never used his nickname, but he was trying to keep his questions as short as he could), can you...? Huang couldn't finish.

Barba, like Carisi, could not tear himself from his fiancé but he knew the question that Huang couldn't voice. "It's not your fault. It's not your fault, Sonny." He began trying to rock Sonny before he slipped his head under the blanket for some awkward privacy. "I still love you," he said muffled by the blanket. "Nothing can change that."

Finally, Barba came up for fresh air. Everyone had managed to compose themselves the best they could. 

Huang held up the remote and the couple both nodded, indicating to continue. That's probably as close as to consent as he was going to get. He felt like he was making them experience the rape again. No. He was sure of it.

---

Michael instructed Carisi to insert his cock and to stroke Barba's. Carisi was crying and Barba was moaning in pain.

Michael: "Make him come! Harder! Harder! Faster!"

[Barba was taking deep, slow breaths, just like Huang recommended he do for panic attacks.]

Carisi: "Rafa?" he asked trying to figure out if he could withstand what he was being asked to do.

Barba: "Tilt up," he said not giving a yes or no response. He just was telling Carisi how to make it happen.

Carisi obeyed and Barba came spilling more cum on his legs and getting some on Carisi. Michael kept shouting for him to go faster. Carisi could feel himself coming and his orgasm was so intense that he fell over.

[Carisi's face was bright red with embarrassment for coming while assaulting Barba.]

Michael: "Keep going!"

Carisi was able to get to his knees. He managed to make Barba come one more time. After that, it was not working anymore. Who knows how many times the ADA orgasmed and came today?

Michael was pissed that Barba couldn't come anymore. He bashed the ADA on the head with the butt of the hand gun and Barba passed out.

Carisi: "I did everything you asked. Let him alone!" he screamed at Michael.

Michael kicked Carisi in the side dropping him to the ground.

[Carisi flinched as he was kicked in the video.]

---

Carisi jumped up and ran out of the room gagging. Huang pressed pause. Carisi did not make it to the kitchen sink in time. After the gagging stopped they heard running water. Amaro got up and helped Carisi clean the vomit from the floor. He almost gagged himself.

While they were cleaning up the vomit, Barba turned to Huang and leaned against him seeking comfort. This was not the ADA he knew. He felt awful causing everyone such distress. Huang stroked Barba's back, then whispered in his ear. "Sonny is really going to need you for the next...you will need to lean on him too."

Barba looked up. "That bad?" he managed to ask.

Huang nodded.

"Doc, I am a bit curious about something," Barba said.

"What's that?" Huang asked.

"You saw the whole thing, right?"

"Yes," Huang replied regretfully. 

"Can you tell me how many times I lost consciousness? I just can't wrap my head around not being able to remember so much of this," he explained.

Huang sighed. "I think four times. However, your medical records, show more than 4 concussions and pretty severe skull fractures. I am not sure you realize just how incredible it is that you came back to us."

To this Barba nodded.

"How many times did I come that day?" he asked probing for more information

"Rafael, you don't want..." Huang started.

"Damn it. I want to know. Its my body, and I want to know," he demanded in his prosecutorial tone. 

"I didn't make foot notes on that," Huang waving his iPad.

"Best guess?" Barba said gentler after he realized Huang was struggling some of his own emotions too.

"More than two dozen times," he replied.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, "If it wasn't for the circumstances, I would be bragging about my sex drive," he said trying to get Huang to grin. He did respond with a slight smile.

---

Everyone got something to drink. They were probably all dehydrated from the sobbing. Carisi emerged from the guest room with a tissue box and two trash cans.

"Yep, he knows what is coming," Huang thought miserably.

Finally they were resituated, and without asking if they were ready Huang pressed play. There was just no reason to ask. None of them could be ready.

---

While Barba was unconscious, Carisi was curled up into a ball on the floor. He was forced to watch as Michael fingered Barba, fisted him, and then thrust in him. He was disappointed that he couldn't get the unconscious man to come anymore.

[Barba was nervously moving his fingers, trying to distract himself. He looked at Huang who gently pat his shoulder and then turned to Carisi who was shuddering. "Are you okay?" Carisi just nodded.]

Michael then turned to Carisi.

Michael: "Well, looks like its your turn now!"

[Carisi leans forward and vomits.]

---

Huang pressed paused.

Amaro, again trying to be the man, took the trash can away and brought in a fresh one for Carisi. Just in case.

Barba was putting together what was about to happen. He said he needed sometime and went to his bedroom and closed the door.

"Sonny?" Huang asked.

"I need a break too," he informed him. He got up and also went to Barba's bedroom and closed the door.

"Nick, how are you doing?" Huang asked checking in.

"This is incredibly hard. I know the victims we deal with all the time go through this, but this is different. They are our friends. And we don't usually see the play by play. We only hear about it," Amaro replied. "I'm glad Amanda isn't seeing this.  Seeing that Huang had broken down a few times, he asked "You?" Amaro asked.

Huang sighed. "Not great," he admitted.

They sat in silence for a few minutes and then watched some TV to distract themselves. The couple had to eventually come back out.

---

In the bedroom, Barba was upset. "You told me that they didn't do anything to you," Barba said with tears running down his cheeks."

"I just didn't want to make anything worse for you, plus it wasn't that bad," Carisi tried to explain. 

Barba pushed Carisi down so he would sit on the side of the bed. Barba then took a seat next to him and held both of Carisi's hand tightly. He looked in his sad blue eyes. "Sonny, listen to me. I can see what is coming. I am so sorry," Barba empathized. Then he continued, I don't care how bad or not bad something is, I need you to tell me stuff like this." Then he added, "just like I need to tell you. I think its one of those weird relationship rules," he scoffed with a light chuckle and Carisi hugged him. "Thanks, Rafi."

They both laid back and faced each other gazing into each other's teary eyes. Just like that, they both fell asleep for about an hour before Carisi awoke to the sound of the TV. Barba felt Carisi stir and he woke up. They were still laying face-to-face.

"I am beat," Carisi said. "Do you think we should go back out there? Maybe they'll leave or go home."

Barba bit his lip. "Only if," he said sighing. "Should we just get this over with?"

Carisi nodded and the couple sat up. It was time to finish this.

---

Both men finally emerged from the bedroom and Amaro muted the TV.

"Are you guys okay?" Huang asked in more of a friend than a doctorly tone.

"We took a nap," Carisi explained.

"We just need to get this over with," Barba groaned.

Everyone assumed their positions on the sofa.

Huang pressed play.

---

Michael was now walking over to Carisi as he undid his belt. He picked Carisi up and slammed him against the freezer arching him up. 

Michael: "Barba seemed to like this, maybe you will too."

["Oh, god, no..." Barba whispered quietly. He couldn't tell if Carisi heard him or not. He gripped Carisi's hand firmly and he felt the firm grip returned.]

He caressed Carisi's penis and then ran his tongue up and down his shaft and the detective came ever so easily.

[Barba felt Carisi's grip loosen and turned to him. "It is okay, Sonny," Barba tried to gently soothe him. He was shaking, just as he had been earlier.]

Michael: I see Rafael warmed you up for me.

Then he turned Carisi around and inserted himself into Carisi with no prep time and began thrusting. Carisi was moaning loudly when he heard Joe's voice from upstairs beckoning to come up.

Michael angrily redid his belt and stormed up the stairs leaving Carisi alone with the unconscious ADA.

---

Huang pressed pause.

Everyone had tears in their eyes, but Barba was the only one weeping, weeping for his lover. Carisi was straight-faced. No tears. No signs of emotion.

"Dios mios," Barba hoarsely said. "Sonny."

Carisi looked at the floor and refused to look at any of them, even after Barba pleaded with him. Seeing that he was getting nowhere, Barba threw the blanket off of them and kneeled down in front of Sonny and lift his head with his hands so that there was no choice, Sonny had to look at him.

"Hey there, I'm so sorry you went through this," Barba said trying soothe his pain.

"How can you even say that? After what I did to you? After what they did to you? You got it so much worse..." Carisi asked initially in a volatile tone that quickly faded to a solemn one.

Huang interrupted. "The severity has no bearing on what they did to you. How you hurt about what happened to Rafael is how he is now hurting about what happened to you. It is called empathy. You love each other and feel each other's pain but you also feel each other's happiness and ecstasy. That's how I know you guys are perfect for each other and that you will get through this."

Although you both experienced the same situations from different angles, you both share some common...trauma. You both know how it felt to...and how you felt seeing it happen to the other. I hope this can bring you both some understanding of the other's feelings, but again, you really need to talk to and listen to each other," Huang said indicating the session was over.

"Now, take a break from this tomorrow. Do something fun. Go to work this week. Call me or each other if you need to. We'll pick up next weekend with individual sessions."

---

Finally, the footage was over. They would not have to see it again. Barba now knows what happened, those events that are/were missing from his memory. Carisi began to see that there was no other options, but hopefully he won't be so hard on himself. Huang was ready to work with them individually now and was hopeful that this all would be worth it. He had an inkling that it would be.

Huang was back at his own apartment laying face up on his bed staring at the ceiling through a sea of tears. He rolled over and pulled an old-fashion rolodex from his night stand. He flipped through it and then just tossed it to the floor and laid back down. 

Chapter Text

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Amaro, Barba, and Carisi were eating breakfast Sunday morning. "So, Nick, what are your plans today?" Carisi asked.

"Well, I've told Cynthia I would watch Gil and Zara so that she can go out with 'the girls.' I guess a spa day or shopping? I don't know. What about you guys?"

"We really haven't talked about that yet," Carisi replied.

"Yeah, it is was pretty rough yesterday and we sort of were all talked out," Barba explained as he got up. "Don't worry though, we'll think of something," Barba said slyly as he stood behind Carisi and massaged his shoulders.

"Umm...the way you just said that was mischievous so, yes Rafa, I am going to worry," Amaro replied.

"We won't get into too much trouble," Barba said with a grin.

After Amaro left, the couple sat sipping there coffee. Barba was the first to speak. "So, I have an idea for today, but just hear me out. You know how Nick is going to spend the day with his kids?"

"So I heard," Carisi replied.

"So let's spend sometime with kids too. It will be fun," Barba beamed.

"Really, Rafa? We can't just pick kids up off the streets! That wouldn't look so good. My colleagues might arrest us!" Carisi laughed. 

"I'm talking about Liv and Amanda's kids. Take them to the park or zoo. Give the moms a day off. We can think of it as a trial run," he grinned revealing his true intentions. "Plus we don't have to think about yesterday. Let's think about our future."

Carisi was excited to hear Barba looking forward. "Sounds good, let's call Liv and Amanda." 

Barba picked up his phone and made a conference call and put it on speaker. Sonny began clearing the dishes loading the dishwasher.

 
"Benson," Liv answered.

"Rollins," Amanda answered.

"Rafi, is everything okay?"

"Liv, is that you? Barba?" Rollins asked.

"Yes, Liv. We are fine. Amanda's on as well. Sonny's here too."

"Hey Liv, Amanda!" Carisi shouted from the other side of the kitchen. 

"What's up?" Rollins was curious why Barba was conference calling on a Sunday. It didn't sound like business. Or trauma related. They seemed like they were in good spirits.

"So Rafa here," Carisi began before he received a punch from Barba to which he groaned. Continuing, "So apparently my fiancé, God, I love that word," Carisi said making smooching sounds into the phone. Barba chucked a loaf of bread at him. "My fiancé apparently did not want you to know it was his idea," Carisi informed them them giggling at Barba. 

"What idea?" Liv asked puzzled but smiling at the thought of her engaged friends joking around with each other. 

"Well, we were thinking that if you ladies don't have any plans, that we could give you the day off and take your kids to the zoo or park," Barba explained.

There was a brief silence before an answer came.

"That sounds great, Noah would love to spend the day with Uncles Rafi and Sonny. And mommy would love a day off," Liv replied excitedly. She barely had time for herself outside of work and caring for Noah.

"Yeah, Jesse and Billie too," Rollins replied.

"Amanda, you want to make a day of it...lunch and shopping?" Benson asked.

"Hell yeah!" Rollins answered.

"Do you want us to drop them off?" Amanda asked.

"Sure, say in an hour?" Carisi asked looking at Barba for approval. Barba nodded.

"Sounds good," Rollins agreed.

"Not to be a downer, but these are three young children. Are you sure?" Benson asked praying that they would not change their minds.

"It'll be fine Liv," Carisi said.

After hanging up, Carisi looked at Barba. "Are we sure?" he asked jokingly.

"It'll be fine," he said echoing Benson. "Plus we know them and you have all that experience with your nieces and nephews."

"So we ruin someone else's kids, and then decide to get our own," Carisi laughed.

Barba, who had retrieved the loaf of bread from the floor, again chucked it at Carisi.

---

Benson and Rollins practically arrived at the same time and were walking their kids into Barba's building.

"So, they were serious when they were talking about having kids," Rollins mused.

"Apparently so, must be a trial run," Benson guessed.

"Not that I am worried about them being responsible, but do you think they are up to it? You know..." Rollins queried. 

"I think so. I don't think they would ask to do this, especially Rafael, if they weren't sure," Benson said trying to aleviate Rollins's concern. "Plus,  there are two of them," Benson smiled.

---

Noah and Jesse decided on the zoo. (Billie wasn't old enough to understand). Carisi was pushing Billie in her stroller towards a picnic area. Barba was walking with both Noah and Jesse in each of his hands. They decided to eat lunch right away since it was lunchtime after all. Carisi pulled the picnic basket from the back of the stroller.

As they ate, Barba and Carisi enjoyed engaging the youngsters in conversation about their daily activities...from school to what they play with their babysitters. 

"Is Eddie, the elephant, still in jail for stealing the ice cream," Barba asked knowing that Noah adored that stuffed animal.

"Sometimes. But he breaks out," Noah explained.

Carisi couldn't help to notice how much Barba was smiling and how he lit up around the kids. He was happy. Carisi was relieved to see that Barba was feeling better, even if it was short-lived. He also was thrilled that the ADA had actually been the one to initiate the conversation about kids. He never thought in a million years Barba would actually even consider it. He knew he wanted them, but he wanted Rafael more, so he would have been happy to just abduct his colleagues' kids from time to time.

After visiting with the Safari animals and checking out the reptile house, Barba and Carisi dropped the kids off at their mothers' houses. All had stuffed animals and a stick of cotton candy. Before leaving Rollins's house, she turned to them and said, "It looks like they had a great time, but you know that you just fed them all this sugar and are now dumping them off on me."

Barba looked concerned. "Its just a joke, Rafael," she explained. He looked sheepish that he didn't pick up on that.

"So, do guys think kids are in your future?" Rollins asked bluntly. 

"I think so," Barba answered.

"Definitely," Carisi replied admiring how happy his fiancé was at the thought.

As they caught an Uber home, Barba whispered, "I think we can do this." Carisi turned and kissed him. When the couple got home they snuggled on the sofa until it was getting to be nighttime. 

There was a knock at the door.

Carisi answered and saw it was Munch.

"So, what conspiracy theories are you here to share with us this evening?" Carisi greeted him. It was only Munch's third time actually being at Barba's apartment. Now, twice for the nighttime 'security detail', and who could forget the incredible screening of Barba's Company performance.

"None really. Just here to watch after you love birds. Oh, and to taunt you, Barba."

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Barba looked up. "About what?"

"What indeed, my friend. You, Cabot, and Novak have a meeting with McCoy in the morning," John revealed.

Barba looked concerned. "Shit, did I fall apart too much during the trial? Am I somehow getting blamed for my first case back ending in a courtroom shootout? Am I getting transferred?" he thought. Barba’s mind wad running a million miles a minute.

Seeing his blatant concern, Munch gave more away. "Don't worry Barba, it is something good."

Barba relaxed and the trio enjoyed their evening.

"Do you want to hear about Elliott's latest run in with Rooks?" Munch asked. "Pretty sure Cabot or Stabler, hell, maybe even both are going to murder him!"

 

Chapter Text

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Monday morning came and Barba found himself standing outside of 1 Hogan Place. He was trying to guess what the meeting with Jack McCoy would be about. He hated surprises. He'd rather know up front what it was about. Munch did this to him on purpose just to drive him a little crazy. "Oh well, at least Munch said it was something good. Although, I wonder if we see 'good' the same way," Barba thought to himself. He picked up his briefcase that had been sitting on the sidewalk and entered the building.

---

As he entered the office, he found Carmen already feverishly at work. After greeting him, she handed him a coffee. "You have a meeting with Jack in a few minutes," she informed him.

Even though he already knew, he replied "Thanks, Carmen."

He was barely able to put the briefcase on his desk when Cabot and Novak stepped into the office to collect him for the meeting. As they walked he queried them as to if they knew what this meeting was about. Clearly they knew. "Just relax, Rafael. It is good."

That provided no more detail than Munch had. "Oh well, I'll know in a few more minutes," Barba thought to himself.

They met Jack McCoy in a conference room near his office.

Law & Order: SVU' Recap: Jack McCoy Returns in Season 19, Episode 13 |  TVLine

After greeting them all, he asked them to sit and began.

"I wanted to get you all together to discuss some changes that have been made around here, since your sabbatical, Rafael," McCoy said.

Barba was not a fan of change and that sentence alone made him weary, which McCoy obviously saw. "It's nothing bad," McCoy said trying to put Barba at ease. 

"'Not bad' is just as descriptive as 'good'," Barba thought to himself. "This must be everyone's new way of torturing me. Keep the details hidden from good old Barba," he continued thinking.

"As you know, Alex and Casey came to fill in during your absence. I couldn't be more pleased at how well you have been working together and we certainly are going to need that now," McCoy began to explain. 

"Why's that?" Barba asked.

"When Carisi went on leave, Benson was able to rally former members and created a larger team. Now she has found the means to make it permanent, now they will be able to work at least two cases at a time." 

"How'd she manage that?" Cabot asked.

"She can be very persuasive at times," McCoy said and just left it at that.

"So you'll need more prosecutors?" Barba asked beginning to see where he was going with this.

"Essentially, yes," McCoy replied. 

"We here at the DAs office want to form a team of experienced prosecutors who will work exclusively with SVU so we can get even more perps off the streets." Then he continued, "You really don't know how bad it is out there until it hits home, as recent events have shown us." He said this looking at all three of them, he didn't want to make Barba feel anymore uncomfortable than he probably already made him since he note Barba shifted his gaze to the back wall.

"You three have had the longest and most impressive track records with SVU cases. Now, I am not ordering you to be part of this team, but I am asking you all first before I have to look elsewhere. I want you to at least consider it." Turning to the ladies "I know you both were just back with us temporarily but I wanted to know if you'd consider to staying." Then he turned to Barba. "And I wasn't exactly sure where you would stand on this. Whether or not you'd want transferred..."

"God no!" Barba exclaimed out loud. He meant to say that to himself. "Now, more than ever, I want to take more of them off the streets!" Barba explained. "I am in, there is no hesitation here."

"Are you sure? Do you need more time?" McCoy asked.

"There is no doubt, nothing to consider here," Barba assured him. "I actually thought I was going to be transferred out because of what happened to me."

"Never," McCoy said. "You are only leaving us if you choose to." He turned to Cabot and Novak.

"I am glad to be back. This really reminds me of what good we can do as prosecutors. Like Rafael, I am also going to give you a firm commitment to stay on," Cabot said accepting the invitation.

He turned to Novak. "No pressure here," McCoy said with a grin. "Really, the choice is yours."

"Well, I can't pass up the chance to work with a celebrity," Novak answered. 

McCoy looked confused and Barba face-palmed himself.

"Casey!!!" Barba exclaimed annoyed.

"What?" McCoy demanded.

"Rafael here has been hiding a pretty impressive singing voice from us all this time!" Novak answered.

"Casey!" Barba shouted again.

"Now, now, play nice," McCoy answered. "So tell me more about this voice."

"Well, I have a few DVDs that we could watch over lunch sometime," Casey teased. She enjoyed the roused responses she was getting from Barba.

"Casey!" 

By this time Barba was pink. "Maybe I do need to transfer out," he thought jokingly to himself.

After the meeting ended, Carmen was at the door. "May I have a minute, Mr. McCoy?"

Barba looked curious but he left with his fellow ADAs.

NOVAK BARBA CABOT Cred to Who Created This Edit but Question Who Do U Like  More and Why I Like Cabot Then Novak Then Barba Cabot and Novak R Both  Badass Females

"Have a seat. Please tell me you are not here to tell me that Rafael is too hard to work for. We'll take up an office collection to support his coffee and scotch habit," he teased.

"Actually sir, I wanted to talk to you about a new friend of mine. She is just getting out of a situation, similar to what Rafael went through. She is making some changes with her life and wants to change the direction of her career. She's been a legal assistant at a prestigious law firm in Manhattan for about five years now," Carmen explained.

"You have impeccable timing, as always Carmen." He shared how they were going to now have a team of prosecutors working exclusively for SVU now. "This means that you definitely need a colleague to help you. Have her stop by the office and I'll talk with her."

"There's just one thing sir. She...well, she was a recent client of Rafael's" she shared concerned that this might change things.

"As long as she is no longer a client, it is fine. As we have seen, these unfortunate experiences seem to drive some people to be more passionate and stronger," he said referring to Barba wanting to stay on to prosecute SVU cases.

---

Barba had a rather smooth day at the office. He met with Rita to who wanted to make a deal (which he rejected) and then did some prep work for a case Novak would be taking to trial soon. He ended his day promptly at 5 PM and stopped by the precinct to collect his fiancé. 

When he arrived, Carisi was the last one in the squad room. He was finishing up some paperwork. 

"How was your day sweetie?" Carisi greeted him.

"Not bad," and then he shared the outcome of the meeting with McCoy.

"That's great," Carisi said putting his pen down. He stood up and kissed Barba. "Ready to go?" he asked.

Not everything done in the dark is shameful.

"Do you want to do something naughty?" Barba teased.

"What do you have in mind, Rafa?"

"Liv has a bottle of scotch in her lower left drawer, if I remember correctly. And a sofa," Barba stated.

"Hmm..." Carisi said as he wrapped his arm around Barba's shoulders. Barba took that as a yes and pulled Carisi into Benson's office. Barba closed the blinds and shut the door and did a quick sweep of the room to make sure there was no video surveillance just before he pushed Carisi on to the sofa and jumped on top of him to make out.

Amaro remembered that he was supposed to pick up Barba and Carisi from the precinct and was rushing into the squad room since he was late, but there was no one there. Then he heard pleasurable moaning coming from Liv's office.

"You have got to be kidding me!" Amaro thought out loud. He would have never believed the ADA would take Sonny in Liv's office, a place of work. Now, Sonny, before he started seeing Barba, yeah, maybe. "I think I am going to just wait outside," he mused.

73 Danny Pino ideas | danny pino, law and order svu, special victims unit

"These two love birds," he said shaking his head. "Well, this could be fun to blackmail them with." He immediately thought of Novak. "Casey could have a lot of fun with this." Amaro got out his phone and recorded the sounds coming from Liv's office.

 

Chapter Text

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Tuesday mornings were when the SVU clan would meet to discuss case happenings, but today it was about celebrating.

"As you may have heard, Barba is officially full-time again," Cabot announced.

"You mean 60 hours instead of 40?" Carisi teased as he wrapped his arms around him. Barba seemed like he was becoming a little more comfortable with PDA, well, at least in the presence of the SVU family.

Carmen handed Barba a large bottle of scotch with a gift bow on it.

"Now, remember Rafa, you have to share that," Benson grinned.

"And Sonny is back with us full-time as well," Amaro announced.

"I don't get anything?" Carisi pouted.

"Actually, you do," Rollins said. From behind her back she pulled out Carisi's side arm which was also wrapped with a gift bow. Like a child unwrapping a present, Carsisi quickly took the gun and removed the bow immediately holstered it. Then he tried to wrap the gift bow around Barba getting a roomful of laughs for his efforts. "Sorry, it doesn't match your tie," Sonny picked at him.

After the laughing died down, Carisi addressed everyone with Barba by his side, holding hands. "We really appreciate everything you guys did to help Raf..." Barba interrupted with a gentle clearing of his throat. "To help us," Carisi corrected himself. Barba gratuitously nodded. "You guys are family, and your gestures mean the world to us. Even when you confiscated my gun," Carisi said looking at Benson.

"Or taking my scotch," Barba grumbled trying to search the room for Huang, who was nowhere to be seen.

"You helped keep us safe, sane, and healthy. You covered our assess at work and then provided 'security detail' around the clock. We aren't 100% yet, but we are getting there, thanks to your support," Carisi said wrapping up his speech.

"To family," Novak said raising her coffee mug and then was joined by everyone else. They only could toast with coffee because all of them were on duty.

"Welcome back!" everyone cheered after the toast.

Everyone proceeded into the squad room and visited with each other. Barba was sitting at Carisi's desk with his feet propped up when Amaro approached him.

"Hey, Counselor," Amaro greeted the ADA. "Nice bow," he said admiring the bow Carisi wrapped around the ADA's neck.

Barba could see that Amaro's mind was nulling at something.

"Something on your mind, Nick?" Barba asked.

"Actually, yeah," Amaro said as he pulled up a chair next to the ADA.

"What's wrong?" Barba asked sensing the concern in Amaro's tone.

"Have you heard from Huang?" Amaro asked.

"Not since Saturday. Have you?" Barba countered.

Amaro shook his head. "He's been either texting or calling every day and it seems like he just fell of the grid. Liv hasn't heard from him either."

Barba looked around again and noted Huang was not in attendance. "Do you think something happened?" Barba asked.

"I don't know. He did seem to fall apart a few times on Saturday. He seemed off," Amaro noted.

"Have you tried to call or text?" Barba quizzed.

"Yes, several times and there was no response. I don't know if I am being overly concerned...or what. That stuff...it was pretty intense. Do you think it got to him?"

Barba shrugged. "I don't know what to think. He is usually an anchor for everyone, but you are right...he was a little more emotional than normal." 

"Do you think someone should check on him?" Amaro asked.

"Probably. I don't have any meetings today, so I can go. I can work from home later tonight if I have to. Do you know where he lives?"

Barba was becoming an actual human being. He was concerned about and volunteering to check on a friend.

"Yeah, its only about 15 minutes away. I can drive if you want?"

Carisi who had been listening appeared quite concerned.

"Sure," Barba replied and then he turned to Carisi and invited him to join.

The three left the squad room and were headed to Huang's apartment.

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---

Outside of Huang's apartment door, Amaro called Huang's phone and they could hear it ring. There was no answer and then it went to voicemail. Barba knocked on the door and there was no answer.

"He can't be far from his phone, right? Carisi speculated.

"Nick, why don't you go find the building supervisor and flash your badge?" Barba asked.

"Come on, breaking doors down is such a good stress release," he whimpered playfully as he went in search of the building supervisor.

A few minutes later the building supervisor keyed them into Huang's apartment.

Barba was never at Huang's apartment before but Amaro was once.

"This is not how I remember this place at all," Amaro whispered. "He is a neat freak," he explained.

The apartment was a wreck. Several mugs and glasses were stacked up on the coffee table, kitchen island, and living room table. Crumbs also covered those surfaces. Shoes were laying, kicked off near the door. Keys were laying on the floor next to his medical bag that was just tossed against the wall. There was shattered glass on the kitchen floor as if someone dropped a glass and didn't bother to clean it up.

"George?" Amaro shouted. There was no response. Amaro and Carisi pulled their guns from the holsters and began clearing the rooms and corners. There was no sign of Huang.

There was only one room left, the bedroom behind a closed door. Barba knocked on the closed. "Are you in there?" he called. After waiting for a sufficient amount of time, they all entered. The blinds were drawn and the room was dark. Barba found the light switch and turned on the ceiling light.

They found George sitting against a wall, still in the clothes they last saw him in on Saturday. He also had stubble on his face.

"Doc, are you okay?" Amaro asked.

"Fine," he replied.

"Really? You don't look like you are," Carisi said taking a seat next to him on the floor.

"I just need some space, a few days to myself."

"It kind of looks like you already have," Barba said noting how he seemed pretty shut down.

"Doc, we are not stupid. You are not okay," Amaro said.

"Talk to us," Carisi urged him.

Huang buried his head on his knees and they sat in silence for awhile.

Finally Huang sighed. "I guess you aren't just going to go away, are you?"

"Not a chance," Amaro replied as he pulled Huang off the floor and guided him to the side of his bed.

"Are you having issues with the footage we viewed on Saturday?" Barba asked.

"That would be an understatement," Huang replied.

"When was the last time you ate?" Carisi asked. 

"I don't know."

"Well I am going to fix that," Carisi said leaving to go fix him something.

"Doc, come on lets get you out of that suit and you can take a shower," Amaro said as Barba undid his tie and took his blazer. Nick pulled him towards the bathroom and he went in without resistance.

They heard the shower running and about ten minutes Huang emerged in sweats and a t-shirt. By this time Carisi had whipped together a sandwich and soup for him. "Here eat this." Huang just stared at it and didn't say anything. Then he got up and went back to his room closing his door and locked it.

They all looked stunned. "Seriously? He isn't going to let us help him?" Amaro asked.

"Who do you call when the doc needs a doc?" Carisi asked.

"Another doctor," Barba answered him pulling out his cell. 

"Doctor Lindstrom, please?"

"It's ADA Rafael Barba."

After only about two minutes, Barba managed to speak with Dr. Lindstrom.

"Hi, this ADA Barba. No, not me. It is George Huang."

After a short pause, "I don't think we...can get him there. Would you be willing to do a house call?

"Yes, his apartment."

"We'll see you soon. Thanks."

Barba hung up. "Dr. Lindstrom, Liv's doc, is on the way," he told his friends.

The three sat at down at the kitchen table to wait for him to arrive. "Did we break our doctor?" Carisi asked.

"We might have, Sonny," Barba sighed.

---

After about twenty minutes, Dr. Lindstrom arrived and looked around. He knew Huang. "This is not like him," he said. "Where is he?"

Barba pointed to the bedroom. 

"Just so I have a little context here, what is going on?"

Barba gulped. "He has been counseling us through some trauma. We were reviewing footage of an assault," Barba said staring at the ceiling to keep his tears from escaping his eyes.

"I am sorry, I heard," Lindstrom apologized.

Barba couldn't speak anymore without breaking down.

"The footage we viewed on Saturday really got to him," Carisi added.

"He did confirm just a while ago that that was what's going on. He's been here for three days, presumably by himself," Amaro contributed.

"We got him changed and showered. We tried to make get him to eat but he won't. And he won't talk to us."

"I see," Dr. Lindstrom said. He walked over to the bedroom door and knocked gently. "George, it's Peter. We need to talk." 

They heard the door unlock, Lindstrom went in, and the door closed.

"This just feels so weird," Carisi said distraught. "He was the one taking care of us and now he needs to taken care of."

"And we will do just that," Amaro said.

"Agreed," Barba said.

---

While Lindstrom was meeting with Huang, the guys pulled together and tidied up the apartment. They cleaned up the broken glass, collected the dispersed drinkware, loaded the dishwater, and did a little routine cleaning.

About two hours later Lindstrom emerged with Huang.

"So, how do you guys feel about George spending a few days at your apartment?" Huang looked at the floor embarrassed.

"There's a room with his name on it," Carisi said.

"You have some great friends, George," Lindstrom told him.

He turned back to Barba, Carisi, and Amaro. "Here is an appointment card for his next two appointments. I am sorry, but he will not be able to see you as clients for few days. In the meantime, if he, or any of you need something," give me a call.

After Amaro showed him out, they packed an overnight bag for Huang and got him back to Barba's apartment and set him up in the guest room. Huang managed to mumble "thank you," and turned in for the evening.

The hosts looked concerned.

"We did break our doctor," Barba stated acknowledging Carisi's earlier thought.

---

It was about 9 PM. Barba walked into the precinct and saw Benson and Stabler sitting in her office. He knocked on the door. Benson noticed he was holding the gifted Scotch in his hands.

"Do you have time for drink, Liv? Detective?" 

"Sure," she said pulling out three shot glasses from her desk drawer.

Barba poured and distributed the desk and finally sat down on the sofa next to Benson.

"What's going on Rafa? Did you manage to allude your 'security detail'?" Benson asked.

"No, Amaro is at home with Sonny and Huang. He knows I'm here," Barba explained.

"Hey, she had to ask," Stabler said recalling how Barba escaped under his first shift at their apartment.

Barba smugly grinned.

Barba propped his legs up on Liv's desk. "Turns out, we broke our doc."

All the 'Law & Order: SVU' Exits That Broke Our Hearts

That statement got their attention.

"What do you mean?" Stabler squinted at him before taking a sip.

"Well, on Saturday we watched the last of the surveillance footage...of the assault," he decided to clarify in case Stabler wasn't in the loop on this. "Well, none of us kept it together, even Huang."

"Really? He's always so calm, collected, in charge of his emotions," Liv said baffled.

"Well, he broke down several times that day. Everything seemed fine and dandy when he left us, but then we noticed he wasn't here this morning. So we went to his apartment to check on him," Barba continued.

"We?" Stabler asked.

"Amaro, Carisi, and me," he replied.

"Amaro had to actually badge the super to get us in. His apartment was a wreck. We found him on the floor in the bedroom in the same clothes as Saturday. He looked awful and wouldn't talk to us"

"Really? Its usually pretty hard to shut him up," Stabler smirked and Barba laughed.

"What did you do?" Benson wondered.

"Called Lindstrom. He made a house call. Anyway, we now have a permanent house guest for the next week or two." Barba finished off his shot. "And no therapist. Lindstrom restricted him from having clients for awhile. So as I said, we broke our doctor."

"Holy shit," Stabler said. "I am not trying to make light of what you guys went through, but for that to happen to him, it must have been bad."

Barba looked him in the eye. "It was and you don't have any idea how bad."

Stablers's big mouth hit a nerve, but Barba knew it was not intentional.

With that they changed the subject and finished their drinks before parting for the evening.

 

Chapter Text

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The next day Barba was in his office sipping at coffee while he was looking through his daily itinerary. He didn't have much going on, just more prep work. He had a list of people that he wanted John to track down as witnesses. He pulled up the calendars of the other SVU ADAs to see what they were doing. "Novak has court this afternoon with the sheep man. Maybe I could run some errands and catch some of the trial," he thought to himself.

There was a knock at the open door and he looked up and saw Carmen. "Come, sit," he invited her. They chatted about a few casual things, but he sensed she wanted to say something.

"Pasa algo? (Is something wrong?)" he inquired.

"No lo se todavia (I don't know yet)" Carmen replied.

"Does this have something to do with what you spoke to Jack McCoy about on Monday?

"Si," she again replied.

"I didn't do something wrong did I?" Barba asked.

"No, Rafael."

"I was going to say, if it had anything to do with me drinking in my office during my so-called sabbatical" he said teasing with a grin.

"I've got to get back to work. Mr. McCoy would like to see you in a couple minutes."

"Hmm...wonder what's up with her and what does McCoy want now?" he thought.

Barba headed upstairs to McCoy's office. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, come on in. I'd offer you coffee, but I see Carmen already fixed you up with some," McCoy welcomed him.

"Let's just get down to it," McCoy began.

"Getting right to the chase, I like it," Barba thought.

"With the new SVU prosecuting team, Carmen is going to need some help," McCoy explained.

"Ahh...this must be how Carmen fits into this whole thing," thinking he solved the puzzle.

"One of Carmen's friends who also is a legal assistant, interviewed with me. She comes from a prestigious law firm with impeccable references," McCoy continued. She is looking for a change of venue because of recent events and she wants to help those who impact something that matters to her. I wanted to let you know that I hired her to help assist you, Alex, and Casey."

"She was assaulted?" he guessed.

"Yes," McCoy replied. "She also is a former client of yours. Renee Lewis."

Barba thought he felt his jaw hit the floor. After a minute, "I didn't realize she was a legal assistant," he managed to stammer. He wasn't sure how he felt about her coming to work with him. It wasn't just that she was a client, it was that she knew personal stuff about him, like his assault and impromptu engagement. "Does she know that this may be difficult?"

"Yes. During the interview, she said that she admired the work SVU, and you did, to help her. She wants her fiancé's death to mean something and she wants to support the people who put those perps away. Like you, she is fueled with passion to assist people like you."

Barba nodded taking it all in.

"I really was impressed with her credentials, her new-found passion, and, well, she gets along great with your current assistant. I hired her on the spot, which I only regret because I neglected to check in with you." After a pause, "What are you thinking Rafael?"

"I am sort of stunned. I didn't see this coming," Barba replied.

"Is there any sort of glaring issue that might suggest that you can't work with her?" McCoy probed.

"No, I just don't know how I feel yet, but I don't want her to be reassigned on my account," he explained.

"Don't you worry about that. I have a backup plan if need be. Let's just consider the next few weeks as a trial run. I'll check in with you then and see how you feel."

Barba grinned and nodded. As he stood up, Barba shook McCoy's hand. "I appreciate all the leniency you have and are continuing to show me.:

"You are a great prosecutor. The DA's office would be devastated to lose you, and personally, I would as well. You will get your life back. As you are aware, it will just take sometime." Barba nodded and headed back to his own office.

Entering his office suite, he saw Carmen busily filing and typing away. "Todo es bueno (All is good)" he said with a smile.

"I'm relieved. I was afraid I might have crossed a line that could have made you uncomfortable," she confessed.

"Well, it might be interesting, but it sounds like it might work out."

He reached for cell and grabbed his briefcase from his office. 

"I am heading to the courthouse to catch some of the Rook trial," he told Carmen.

"The sheep guy, right?"

Barba nodded and then said, "text me if something important comes through the door."

He called Carisi.

"Hey there, Rafa," Carisi answered. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah. I wanted to let you know that I am going to crash the Rook trial this afternoon."

"I'll save you a seat," Carisi offered.

Then he added, "And you will never believe who McCoy just hired as a second legal assistant to the SVU prosecutor team."

"Who?"

"Renee Lewis," he shared.

"Really? I didn't even know she was a legal assistant!" Carisi said.

"Same here. I have to drop something off for Munch and then I'll see you at court," Barba reminded him. "Love you."

"Love you too, Rafa."

---

Barba got to the courthouse after the trial session already started. He slid through the door quietly and spotted Carisi and Stabler. He sat down next to Carisi.

Novak was standing interrogating Rook who had the stand.

"Mr. Rook, this is not your first time in court, not the first-time in this courthouse."

"Objection!" Rook called from the witness stand. He looked at the judge. "Prior crimes are immiscible and could attached double jeopardy."

"Withdrawn," Novak conceded before waiting for the judge's ruling.

"She sort of walked into that one," Barba thought.

"Is this the first time that you have met me?"

"Objection!" Rook called. Prosecutor has a vendetta against the defendant.

"Move on, Ms. Novak," Judge Moredock ordered.

She sighed. "Are you a fugitive from the police?"

"Since they thought I was dead, no, I don't believe I was considered to be one," Rook replied.

Novak was getting annoyed and the jury was picking up on this.

"Mr. Rook, if the police thought you were dead, why not keep a low profile? Instead, you openly harassed and stocked a detective from SVU."

"Well, honestly, being dead isn't as fun as it sounds. Don't you think?"

"Objection Novak shouted. "Witness directing question to prosecution."

"Sustained," Moredock ruled.

"Who does this clown think he is?" Barba thought, slightly amused. "Novak is going to get slapped with a contempt of court charge if he keeps egging her on."

Novak then called a TARU tech to the stand. "These were taken the day Rook took then Detective, now Captain Benson hostage. The defendant has her at gun point."

Rook then crossed the TARU tech. "How old is this footage?"

"About ten years," the tech replied.

"Was this chain of evidence followed for this footage every step of the way from the date of orgin to now?

"No. It was evidence of closed case. After a case is closed, the chain of evidence breaks down."

"So is it possible that someone tampered with the footage?"

"Possible, but not likely."

"But possible," Rook reiterated the answer he was looking for.

Two more hours went by. Novak exhausted every last question and was getting nowhere.

"Approach your honor?" Novak requested.

Moredock nodded. As she stepped forward, Moredock also instructed, "You too Mr. Rook."

Before the judge, Novak "the prosecution motions to withdraw all charges against the defendant and refile one new charge, the harassment of an SVU detective."

Without waiting for the judge to rule, Rook declared, "Defense has no objection."

"Ms. Novak, it seems like you are trying to fight a case that you can't win. I'll allow the charges to be dropped and refile the harassment charge, if you agree to a deal right now, right here today. Stop wasting my time!"

After a quick debate in front of the judge, Rook agreed to a restraining order against Detective Stabler.

"Step back," Moredock ordered.

The charges against the defendant has been dropped and a plea agreement has been reached on a new charge, harassing an NYP SVU Detective, Elliott Stabler. The defendant has agreed to a restraining disorder.

Moredock pounded his gavel. Court adjourned.

Barba, Carisi, and Stabler looked at each other stunned. Novak left the courtroom without so much as a look at her colleagues.

Barba, Carisi, and Stabler found Novak outside on the courthouse steps.

"I'm sure you enjoyed that, right Barba?" she asked half-heartedly.

"It was amusing, but the guy is definitely a smart ass. I thought you'd be hauled out of there on an assault charge." Then he paused. "Sorry Casey, but you did the right thing. There just wasn't enough firm evidence, and it wasn't for lack of trying he said looking at Carisi and Stabler who also just took the blow with Novak."

"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I had to dismiss charges because lack of sufficiently damning evidence once before," Barba said trying to cheer her up, which it did.

"You mean, the invincible Barba, had to forfeit a case?" she sarcastically asked.

He nodded and Novak smiled.

Just then Rook came down the case and shook Novak's hand. "Always a pleasure, Casey and started to walk away.

"Stop!" Novak shouted.

He turned around.

"Just tell us one thing. Why the hell did you walk back into our lives and harass Elliott with sheep?" she demanded.

"Because you and Elliott were in danger of becoming sheep," Rook replied.

"What do you mean?" Stabler who had managed to keep his composure to this point asked.

"When your wife died, you were intent on staying with the organized crime unit to avenge her death, just like a sheep would do. Take the path everyone both expected you to take," Rook tried to explain to Stabler.

He then turned to Novak. "A personal situation caused you to step away from prosecuting SVU cases and just avoid them all together by prosecuting straight out suicide."

Rook stepped back and looked at both of them. "You both are effective at SVU. Don't be sheep. Don't go the easy route that everyone expects you to. Be you. Strive for greatness?"

"Please tell me this has not just been about career advice?" Novak asked.

"Without answering her question, don't worry, Casey, I will not be tarnishing your record any further," he said with a smile."

"Detective," he said wishing Stabler farewell.

"That restraining order starts right now!" Stabler shouted after him.

As soon as they was out of sight, it took all four of them a minute, but they all burst out laughing at the insanity that Rook just spewed.

"I need a therapist," Novak uttered. 

"Me too," Stabler echoed.

"Well, we know a great therapist, but unfortunately, we broke him."

Novak looked up. "What do you mean you broke him? Is George okay?"

Chapter Text

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After disheartening verdict of the Rook Trial and treating Novak to dinner, Novak finally dropped Barba and Carisi off at Barba's apartment. Amaro spent his day off at Barba's apartment monitoring Huang.

"How'd the trial go?" Amaro asked as Barba and Carisi came through the door and removed their shoes.

"Not well," Carisi succinctly summarized.

"Novak had to withdraw all the charges but was able to get him on harassing Stabler. A mere one year restraining order," Barba explained.

"That isn't good," Amaro agreed. "How are they taking it?"

"I think they are both pretty pissed, but at least they got him on something, even it was just harassment," Carisi said trying to put his usual positive spin on it.

"How's Huang?" Barba asked.

"He hasn't come out all day. I heard him use the bathroom once. He wouldn't eat anything I brought him. The only verbal communication I could get from him is 'I'm fine,'" Amaro explained. "I am really starting to worry about him. He hasn't eaten probably since Saturday lunch, here."

Barba nodded.

"If he continues to refuse my cooking, I am going to take it as an insult," Carisi complained. "Hey, don't you have date night with Cynthia tonight?" 

"Yeah, we have 9:00 reservations so I've got to get going," Amaro said putting on his shoes as he grabbed his keys and side arm from the coffee table.

"I'll see at the precinct tomorrow?" Carisi asked.

"Bright and early," Amaro said leaving the apartment.

Carisi turned to Barba. "I've been up since 4 AM and I am really starting to not function well. Do you mind if I get a shower and turn in early?"

Barba leaned in and kissed him. "Of course, not. But remember we do have a date night in our near future too." Then changing the subject, "I think I am going to check on George. See if I can get through to him. I might have to spend the night in there. Is that okay with you?"

This time Carisi was the one to lean in and initiate a passionate kiss after which he replied, "Of course not," with a grin. Now I am going to get going or I might not be able to resist you much longer he laughed as he went into Barba's bedroom.

Barba went into the kitchen and prepared a cup of tea, made a slice of toast, and diced a banana and took it to the guest room. Being his guest room and knowing Huang probably wasn't going to answer his knock any way, he just went on it.

The room was dark so he flipped the ceiling light on. Huang was sitting in a t-shirt and boxers, facing the bed headboard leaning his head against it. 

"Hi...George," he rarely called Huang by his first name so it felt awkward. He sat the food dish and tea cup on the nightstand. Huang didn't move.

Barba took off his blazer jacket and loosened his tie and placed them neatly on the dresser. He rolled his sleeves up and sat on the edge of the bed near Huang. 

"Look George, it is more than obvious something is wrong and we are not going to let you sit here and waste away. Please talk to me." Barba plead.

He finally turned around and made eye contact. "I'm not dealing with something very well."

"Clearly," Barba replied in a snarky tone but then tried to replace it with concern. "I know something about Saturday isn't sitting right with you, but can you please try to articulate it?" Barba again plead.

"You are not a therapist," Huang replied.

"You are right, but I have a really good one who is rubbing off on me," Barba said.

Huang's straight face turned to a frown.

"Plus, you are a friend," Barba added.

"Are we?" Huang asked.

"We were just colleagues, but after everything, and I don't mean our sessions, I've gotten to know you. So, yes, you fall into the friends category."

Huang finally lifted his head from the bed headboard and tried to turn to the side of the bed when he fell over, which caught Barba off guard. He hurriedly helped Huang upright to a seated position. This tip over was likely the result of not eating in several days.

"George, you have got to eat something. It's been what, five days since you ate?"

"I really don't feel up to it," he replied.

"I get that, but you forced me to eat when I was having problems, so now it is my turn," he said trying to offer a smile.

After not getting a response, he continued, "Look I am no doctor, but I if you don't eat, you will end up in the hospital and I know that you know that. And if you don't snap out of this and start talking, I will have Lindstrom commit you," Barba threatened him. The irony of the situation was uncanny. They had switched roles.

Huang sighed and picked up a piece of toast and took a bite before laying it back down.

"Have you heard why I retired from the FBI?" he finally asked. 

Barba shook his head. "No."

"I witnessed a brutal sexual assault when I was undercover. I was restrained and couldn't stop it and, like you, I experienced the butt of a handgun and was rendered unconscious. The woman survived and all, but it really stuck with me. PTSD. I thought going back to private practice would...be better. And it was," Huang explained.

"Then you had to deal with us," Barba said as he sighed. His heart began to ache.

"It wasn't so much about helping you guys and hearing what was done to you, it was seeing the footage. I watched it on my own so I could select only segments that I thought would be helpful. Watching the whole thing was awful. I started to have nightmares about being there and watching it happen to you guys, jut like I was there during that woman's assault."

"Watching the footage on Saturday...it brought all these feelings and memories to the surface. Then you asked me about how many times they made you come and how many times you lost consciousness. I didn't make notes, but it was hard to forget, I do know the numbers. 28 and 5. Then re-watching my friends being assaulted again, it just sort of pushed me over an emotional edge. It broke my heart to know that I was hurting you guys all over again, forcing you to relive the worst moments of your lives."

They sat in silence for a few minutes while Barba formulated his response. 

"First, you did not force us. You checked in multiple times with us. We ultimately made the decision to view the footage."

"Second, do you even realize how much you have helped both Sonny and me? You knew us before...it happened. You saw the state we were in immediately after. You helped me understand and process what happened to me and how and why Sonny felt the way he did. Reading emotions and trying to understand other peoples' emotions, let alone my own, was always baffling. You know that. You've helped Sonny feel less guilty. Now we are engaged and planning to start a family, even after something so horrific happened to us. You are helping us move on. Yes, it was traumatizing to re-watch, but we needed to see it."

"I'm going to touch you," Barba informed Huang. Huang nodded.

Barba clasped his hands around Huang's head and turned it so he could look him in the eyes. Barba noticed his eyes were glassy and filled with tears with dark circles below them. "Do you understand what I just said? I am grateful for your help and it is hurting me seeing how much distress it is causing you."

Huang began sobbing and Barba pulled him over to his shoulder. "It will be okay. Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me. I was really worried about you." Barba could feel tears coming down his cheeks, but he didn't care and certainly was not embarrassed to cry in front of Huang at this point.

After Huang finished crying himself out, Barba made sure he ate the rest of the toast, a few more slices of bananas, and took a few sips of tea. He took the dish and cup out to the kitchen and returned with his weighted blanket.

"Lay back," he instructed Huang as he covered him with the blanket. Takin off his pants and dress shirt, he said "I already told Sonny that I was sleeping in here tonight." He turned off the light and climbed into bed. "Is that okay?" He saw Huang's head nod in the darkness. 

"Oh, and no funny business. I am an engaged man, remember," Barba tried to joke. "Have you been sleeping?"

"Some," Huang replied. 

"Well, try to get some sleep," Barba said.

---

At about 3 AM he heard Huang stirring and muttering "I'm sorry." Barba figured he was having a bad dream. He patted his back and whispered "it's okay," into his ear which seemed to settle him down without waking up.

Barba thought, "How does he get away with not waking up or sleepwalking? I might have to ask him in the morning."

---

The next morning Barba woke up to find Huang was not in bed. He walked into the kitchen and saw him seated at the kitchen bar nibbling at some breakfast Carisi made him.

"Well, that's better than yesterday," Barba thought. Carisi saw Barba disappear into the bedroom to probably take a shower. He followed him in, closed the door, and wrapped his arms around Barba's shoulders. "I don't know what you said, but you must have got through to him a little bit. Thank you, Dr. ADA Barba, sir," he said and then gave him a long kiss. "Are you switching professions on me?"

"I wouldn't count on it," Barba grinned. "I've got to get to work to welcome our new legal assistant."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Maybe I'll stop in and we all can go out for lunch," Carisi said already trying to firm up his lunch plans. 

Barba chuckled. "Sure, whatever you want, honey. By the way, did we work out who is making sure George is getting to Lindstrom's for his appointment?"

"Yeah, Liv is taking him and then Amanda is going to watch him until we get home," Carisi explained.

"Sounds like we are getting more practice...just like finding childcare," Barba thought happily to himself.

Chapter Text

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After leaving Carisi and Huang at his apartment, Barba caught an Uber to one 1Hogan Place. He was hoping for a cup of good coffee that Carmen usually had waiting for him. He felt a little jittery about Renee, but he decided it would probably okay.

He turned the corner to walk in to his office suite and stopped dead in his tracks.

There were movers moving the furniture from his office and Carmen's area. "What the fuck?" Barba muttered. There has to be some sort of misunderstanding. Carmen caught a glimpse of her frozen boss with his jaw hanging open. She quickly ran over.

"Rafael," she began but when he realized she was present he interrupted her.

"What's going on?" Barba demanded to know.

"He's so adorable when he gets flustered," Carmen thought to herself. She was well-aware of the office gossip and good at reading people. Everyone seemed to want some part of her boss, and, if she was being honest, she sort of did as well. She enjoyed their new friendship and how it impacted their work relationship as well.

"Rafael, they are just moving us all into a new suite, upstairs," she explained. "Come with me."

Barba followed her upstairs, briefcase still in hand. The closer they got to the destination, the more furniture and office equipment they observed traveling down the hall, all headed to the same destination.

Finally, Carmen pulled him into a large, newly-renovated suite. The reception area was more than twice the size of Carmen's previous area. There were two clear workstations. Then he saw three large office spaces in the back of the suite. 

"Click," Barba thought. "We are all going to be in the same area, okay. I guess this will be better than running to all ends of the building to meet with each other." Then he saw a small kitchen and dining area around the corner from the reception area and he could smell coffee. Barba finally cracked a smile and gave a slight nod of approval.

Carmen was happy to see that her boss approved of their new suite. She knew he hated change.

He rounded the corner and saw Renee already was dispensing five cups of coffee. The type Carmen always brought him. "Trying to make a good impression on your first day, Ms. Lewis?" he asked as she handed him a cup.

"Well, it couldn't hurt. And please, call me Renee."

He looked around and noticed that Novak, Cabot, Renee, and now Carmen, were standing barefoot. 

Novak laughed at his confused look. "Heels just aren't good footwear for moving," she explained.

Barba nodded. Then he took of his own shoes exposing his pretty purple socks. "What? I might as well feel comfy too. Got a problem with that?"

All the girls began laughing. This was still the new, lighter side of Barba that they were trying to acclimate to.

About half an hour later all the furniture, office equipment, and accessories were positioned and the movers left. There were file boxes and desk supplies everywhere.

"Well, I don't think we are getting any legal work done today," Cabot said.

Barba went into his office and sorted through his boxes until he found one of his good bottles of scotch. "Well, we might as well celebrate, like a housewarming party, if we aren't doing any legal work."

"Rafael, it's just now 11 AM," Novak said shocked.

"I'm not suggesting that we get sloshed. He opened their coffee cups and put a just a sprint in them as each of their corresponding owners gave a nod of approval.

They all grabbed their coffee cups and toasted their new space. "To new beginnings," Novak started and Barba added "and to new colleagues."

---

It was getting to be almost one o'clock and Barba had not heard from Carisi. He remembered that Carisi said about stopping in for lunch.

He kept looking at his phone for a text. Just as Novak carried to-go containers from the restaurant across the street into the kitchen, Barba's phone rang, but it wasn't Carisi. It was Amaro.

"Nick," Barba greeted him.

"Don't panic. It's not bad."

"What happened?" Barba asked doing exactly what Amaro said not to do. "Is it Sonny?"

"Calm down," Amaro urged him. "Give Casey the phone."

He handed his phone to Novak. She listened and then said, "We'll be there soon."

"What's wrong?" Barba asked.

Novak pushed him down gently into a chair. "Rafael, SVU was involved in a shoot out this morning. Sonny got grazed by a bullet. It is a simple flesh wound. They are just stitching him up, but he wanted to let you know."

Barba's eyes filled with tears. 

"Look, he's okay. I am going to take you there right now and show you," Novak said trying to lower his anxiety. Novak guided him out of the room by the shoulder.

Just before leaving the room herself, she turned to Cabot. "Alex, call Lindstrom and see if he can meet us there. Rafa might need some support." Cabot nodded and Novak left the room.

Cabot turned to Carmen and Renee and said, "Then there were three."

"Those two can't seem to catch a break," Renee noted shaking her head.

"Yeah, its been a rough couple of months for them. See what you are getting yourself into?" Cabot asked.

"Yeah, that's part of the reason I wanted to work specifically with you guys," Renee replied.

"Do share," Carmen instructed as both her and Cabot were curious.

---

Novak and Barba (who ran in ahead of her) got to the ER just as Carisi was being discharged. Carisi just finished signing the discharge papers when Barba ran up to him, hugged him, then surprisingly slapped him in the face. Carisi then pulled Rafa into his chest and held him. This shocked the ER staff and Novak, as well as Lindstrom, Huang, and Benson who walked in just in time to witness Barba slap Carisi.

Lindstrom turned to Huang. "George, it's okay to need help sometimes, especially when you have clients as confusing as these two," he chuckled. Huang smiled, probably for the first time in almost a week.

---

Outside in the parking lot, they all prepared to go their separate ways. Lindstrom discretely handed Novak a prescription for an anxiety medication, should Barba need it later. She quickly put it in her purse. Benson and Amaro were heading back to the precinct to meet Stabler and Fin. Rollins was going to take Huang back to the Barba apartment. 

"You are coming with us, no argument," Barba informed Carisi. Novak drove them back to 1Hogan Place.

---

"Where are we going?" Carisi asked following the ADAs.

"We got a new office!" Novak updated Carisi. They were just getting close to the new suite when they heard music and singing.

Barba darted ahead and ran into the new suite. "No...no...no..." he whimper-shouted in embarrassment. Seated in front of a laptop, Cabot, Carmen, Renee, and McCoy, yes, "Thee MCCOY," were watching a clip of Barba's musical theater group in Brooklyn. Rocky Horror. A younger Rafael Barba was cast as Riff Raff.

https://youtu.be/yNt19OkSSfI 

"CASEY! SONNY!" He covered his face in embarrassment and retreated into his office, locking the door.

Alex went over and knocked on the door. "I'll come out later," Barba replied.

"You guys really know how to embarrass him," McCoy said quite impressed. Then he added, "he does have quite a hell of a voice and stage presence. Probably the best Riff Raff I've ever seen," he shared.

Raúl E. Esparza on Twitter: "Flashback from 2000: Raúl as "Riff Raff" in  the Rocky Horror Show on Broadway. http://t.co/udUbXU5kx6"

McCoy bid them all a farewell, after all, he only stopped into check out the new space when he caught the ladies drooling over Barba's performance.

After McCoy left, Carisi looked at the ladies. "Do you guys realize you just cost me terrific sympathy sex tonight?" he asked in a stern tone before he burst out laughing.

Carisi helped the ladies get unpacked and situated. It was getting close to five and the ladies called it a day.

---

Carisi went over to Barba's door. "It's just me now." He heard Barba's door unlock and he went in.

He was expecting Barba to still be pouting, but instead he found Barba immaculately put together his office. It was splendid.

"Nice, I like it," Carisi said giving his stamp of approval. Barba was sitting on the sofa with two glasses of scotch on the table in front of him.

"Lock the door and turn the lights out," Barba commanded.

Carisi obeyed and approached. "Well, so you don't miss out on your sympathy sex for getting yourself shot...which we will talk about later," he warned as he patted the sofa for Carisi to sit down.

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He sat down, and immediately both men removed each other's ties and stripped each other's shirts until they were bare chested. Barba kissed a finger and put it against the gauze on Carisi's arm.

"Better?" Barba whispered.

"Completely," Carisi assured him.

They began kissing which quickly turned into intimate exploration of each other's torsos.

"So, are we breaking in the new space?" Carisi asked.

"Shut up and make love to me!" Barba demanded as he began undoing Carisi's belt and pants. Carisi reciprocated. They both got up to remove their pants when Barba bumped the table knocking one of the glasses of scotch on to the floor.

"Oh well, we can hide that with a rug until we get the stain out," Barba said laughing.

They went at it for almost an hour. Heavy petting but no penetration. They both came multiple times.

Finally, they decided to clean up, get dressed, and head home.

"Man, I am coming to your new office more often," Carisi mused out loud. "Barefoot ladies, musicals, incredible sex..."

Barba slapped him. "Now, on the way home, we are going to have that conversation about getting yourself shot."

Carisi was stunned.  "No offense, Rafa, but you are all over the place today. Happy, nervous, anxious, angry, flirty, angry again. And these are just the one's I've seen. What is going on with you?"

Barba paused. "You are right, I didn't notice." After some consideration, "I am not sure. Did the flood gates open and now I can't contain my emotions?"

"I don't know, but it couldn't hurt to talk to Huang...or Lindstrom about it," he said recalling Lindstrom banned Huang from practicing for a while.

---

When they got back to the apartment, they relieved Rollins for the night. "Are you two okay?" she asked on her way out the door pointing at Barba's partially tucked in shirt. 

"You're supposed to tell me if I miss something!" Barba shouted and playfully smacked Carisi.

Amaro strolled in and closed the door. "How's the new office?" Amaro asked. Barba and Carisi broke down in laughter and neither could catch there breath long enough to reply.

"What?" Amaro asked confused.

Chapter Text

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"Honey, are you going to talk to Dr. Lindstrom today?" Carisi whispered pouring Barba a fresh mug of coffee. "You know, about your moodiness." He was trying to be discrete being mindful that Huang was in their apartment and they didn't want to tempt him into any work-related conversations.

"Please tell me that you are not implying that I have a time of month," he chuckled. "But in all seriousness, probably not until Monday. I am just not feeling right today," Barba answered.

"What's wrong?" Carisi asked with a furrowed brow.

"It's not that I feel specifically sick. I just feel exhausted and have a piercing headache. It's probably just all the changes over the last few days. I'll be fine," Barba explained truly not knowing what was exactly ailing him."

Carisi walked over and put his hand on Barba's forehead. "Rafi, you do have a little bit of a fever. Why don't you call out today?" Carisi knew what Barba's answer would be before he finished his question.

"The SVU ADA team is having our first meeting today to get organized and I really don't want to miss it. Plus, if I am really coming down with something, I have all weekend to recuperate," he explained.

"Fine," Carisi pouted sounding like a sore loser. "Why don't you eat something then?" Carisi had been on Barba sporadically about eating because he had lost so much weight since...since the assault.

"I'm not feeling very hungry," Barba replied. Seeing Carisi was getting annoyed with him, he asked "but, could I have a bowl of lobster bisque for my lunch bag?" Carisi smiled as he prepared a bowl. Barba was relieved that this small concession seemed to hush him up--his head was pounding and he just didn't think he could deal with any serious confrontations today. If he didn't eat it, he could probably find someone to clear it out for him.

Huang entered the kitchen wearing just pajama bottoms and went and sat at the kitchen bar across from Barba. "Are you hungry, doc?" Carisi asked. To his delight, Huang nodded and Carisi began filling a plate for him. "Score, got them both to agree to some sort of food,'" he thought feeling successful.

---

Barba got to the office and greeted Carmen and Renee who were already busy scheduling and filing. Barba went in to his office. Since returning from sabbatical, his new custom was to leave his door slightly ajar so that Carmen would feel free to pop in and out, but today he closed the door behind him. He just wasn't feeling up for any more socialization than was necessary. Even though he found it less daunting than before and actually was beginning to enjoy the company of his associates, he still found it draining. He just didn't have the energy in him today for that.

After putting his briefcase down he sat down at his desk and propped his feet up revealing wine-colored socks. He leaned back in his chair resting his head. He opened a file on his desk to read when something slid out. He bent down and picked up a pamphlet that had landed on the ground. was going through files on his desk. It was a pamphlet on surrogacy. "Sonny..." he thought happily. This was his way of trying to get them ready for the next step. Information on surrogacy. "Wonder when he put it here? I don't think I took my eyes off him when he was here yesterday, in fact, I know I didn't!" his eyes gleamed as he recalled their romantic rendezvous from the evening before. He folded the pamphlet and put it in his suit pocket. "This will be a good weekend conversation, after I feel better, of course."

Just after 9 the three ADAs, their assistants, Benson, Fin, and Stabler sat down to discuss how this new team of SVU ADAs and the squad were going to function.

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Benson proposed having two sub teams, one led by Fin and the other by Stabler who would report to her. They were still working out who would be compatible with who. Benson was pretty adamant about keeping Stabler and Amaro on different teams. "One hot head per team," was her justification. She thought that her, Stabler and Rollins could be one team and Fin's team would include Amaro and Carisi. 

Carmen and Renee were busy jotting notes while the meeting proceeded. It would be decided on a case by case basis as to which ADA or set of ADAs would handle each case. Benson wanted to ask if there were going to be any particular cases that Barba would rather not prosecute, but then she realized that was a stupid question and decided not to bring it up.

Munch was going to investigate with all the ADAs, but he might need some help from time to time. 

Barba head continued to pound as the meeting progressed, so much so that he was feeling nauseated. He excused himself to the restroom to splash some water on his face and came back with a mug of water.

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"Too much caffeine, Counselor?" Fin asked noting the unusual contents occupying Barba's mug.

"Figured I might try to sleep some tonight," Barba replied. That made sense for the normal person. But Barba was not normal. He mainstreamed caffeine. 

---

It was nearly lunchtime when the meeting ended. Barba had given Carmen the bowl of the lobster bisque soup for her and Renee to split. He insisted that they had to try Carisi's cooking. This solved his problem--the soup would be gone and he wouldn't have to disappoint Carisi. 

Barba was making a list of something to do for the afternoon. Somethings that would require very little brain power and concentration. He picked up a bottle of Aleeve from his desk and swallowed two pills with his mug of water.

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Just then, Benson knocked on Barba's door. She was getting ready to head back to the precinct with her colleagues. "Hey there," she said as she sat down in the chair in front of his desk without an invitation.

"What's up Liv?" Barba sighed but tried to cover up as a yawn.

L&O: SVU One Shots - Are You Fin-ished? (Barba) - Wattpad

"I just wanted to check in with you about yesterday. I was concerned about you when you found out about Sonny," she explained. "And I wasn't sure what to make of what happened...when you slapped him."

"Well you shouldn't be," Barba snapped and then realized his tone was inappropriate. She was just checking on him.

Barba gathered his strength and stood and closed the door. He was going to share something personal so maybe this would get her out of there faster.

He sat down in the chair next to her. "I'm still trying to deal with all these annoying emotions. I've never dealt with them before, and it is like the flood gates have been opened and I am not exactly sure if I am able to contain them. What has Huang done to me?" Barba asked rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. He hadn't expected to tear up over this confession but there he was. Tearing up. 

Benson pulled him into her chest seeing he was feeling emotional. "I'm sorry Rafa, I didn't mean to upset you."

"You didn't" he snapped then lightly sobbed, "see, I am an emotional roller coaster with all kinds of unexpected turns. I feel like I am broken," he admitted. 

Benson began stroking his back. "It's okay Rafa, it has to be overwhelming, but you are in no way broken. From where I am standing you are doing great. I'm really proud of you." 

As Barba pulled out of Benson's clutches her hand grazed his face. "Rafa, you feel warm!"

Finally he was just going to admit it. "I'm not feeling that great and I am thinking about leaving early," he informed her. She raised an eyebrow but only wished him well as she left his office.

---

"Hey, Rafael" Renee said leaning in his doorway. Barba's office was dark. He was praying that the absence of light would relieve his headache. Barba looked at his phone. It was nearly 5.

"We are heading out for drinks. Do you want to join us?" Renee's voice continued

Barba sighed. "I'm really not feeling well, Renee. Can I take a raincheck?" Barba replied in a hoarse tone.

Renee turned the light on. Barba closed his eyes and tried to hide the light from his eyes with his hands. She looked concerned. He looked pasty and had flushed cheeks. "Of course, hold on a minute." She turned off the light and headed back to the reception area.

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He could hear some of the ladies murmur and then leave the office. Then heard the click of Renee's heels coming back to his office and just as she opened his office door to rejoin him, that is when all the nausea Barba fought back all day escaped. He hurled all over himself trying to get to the trash can.

"Oh my god," she whispered as she saw hurling. "Hey, hey," she tried to comfort him patting his back. She removed his tie and rinsed it off in the sink and then helped him remove his suit jacket, which he whined about. "You can't sit in this, just take it off." She put the tie and suit jacket in a plastic bag.

Barba was moaning like a grumpy, ill toddler. He felt awful. 

"You, don't want to be late for drinks," Barba tried to usher her away.

"Don't worry about that, I told them next time."

"Why?" he mumbled.

"Because you need someone to help you get home," Renee replied.

He didn't have any fight left in him. He went to stand and he swayed. Everything was blurry. The room was spinning. Seeing how disoriented he looked, she sat him back on the sofa.

He could hear Renee calling someone as his eyes dimmed, just before he lost consciousness. 

---

Barba thought he could see Sonny's face. "That sounds like Sonny,: he thought to himself. He couldn't register what was going on around him. "Who was with him?" he thought. His vision was blurred and he couldn't make sense of the voices he faintly heard. He wasn't sure what was happening.

He was in his office. Then a vehicle. Then an elevator. As a bell dinged he slumped over and was caught by strong arms. Blackness overcame him again.

Barba opened his eyes.

"It's okay Rafa, we're home." It was Sonny's voice. He also could hear a female voice. He still wasn't very lucid and the world was spinning. "Renee?" he asked out loud trying to figure out the own of the voice. 

"It's okay," the female voice said as he felt a gentle peck on his forehead.

"He's burning up, doc."

"Already knew that," Barba thought to himself. He surrendered to blackness again.

"Get him in the shower," another voice ordered, but it just sounded like a mumble in Barba's head. Everything went black again.

---

Carisi and Huang had Barba's limp body in the bathroom. Renee had turned on the shower and they all three pulled him under, fully clothed. They had to get him cooled off fast. Barba briefly gained some sense of consciousness as he struggled and then fell back against Huang. Renee tried to help steady him.

"103 degrees. He has to be experiencing heat stroke, so if he is conscious, he doesn't know what is happening," Huang explained.

Huang and Renee held Barba upright as Sonny undid Barba's belt and pulled his drenched shirt off. "Nice pecks," Renee thought to herself. 

When Carisi caught sight of Renee's pink cheeks, he smirked. "Remember, he's my fiancé," he joked. He was well aware of this odd attractive force Barba had over everyone.

"I don't know if he would want me here for this," Renee began just as Huang was almost knocked down again trying to support Barba.

Carisi looked up. "Probably not, but we could use your help. Maybe just don't look?" he tried to compromise.

"Okay."

Carisi removed his soaked pants, boxer briefs, socks, and shoes. Then he stood up to help Huang support Barba. 

"Renee, can you grab some bath towels out of the cabinet?" Carisi asked pointing towards cabinet near the sink. 

She did as asked. As she turned around, she caught a quick glimpse of what she was she was trying to avoid and shifted her gaze uncomfortably towards the ceiling. Both men caught this but decided to spare her further embarrassment. 

After a half hour, Renee shut the shower off and Carisi and Huang pulled the unconscious Barba from the shower. Renee handed Carisi and Huang several towels to wrap him. Barba's body was shivering despite his fever.

"Renee, can you get a bag of ice? In the kitchen, bags are on the right," Huang requested.

She left and came back to see that the men had dragged Barba to the master bedroom and put briefs on him, but kept him wrapped in a towel. Carisi removed the heavy comforter and got a flat sheet. They laid Barba back on the bed and covered him.

"What is wrong with him?" Renee asked.

"100 degrees!" Huang sighed with relief as he took the thermometer out of Barba's mouth. Let's keep chilling him. Carisi grabbed a wet washcloth and wiped Barba's face as Renee placed the ice pack on his forehead.

"He said he was feeling sick this morning," Sonny shared. "That's why he wasn't going to see..." he trailed off.

"He probably has the flu," Huang said. "A few people I know had it last week."

"The man is awful with self-care and when he gets sick, he gets sick," Carisi explained to Renee.

The three of them went and got towels to dry their hair off, and of course Carisi and Huang could change because they essentially lived there. Carisi managed to find a smaller pair of sweats from Barba's Harvard days and a t-shirt, which was much too large for her, but it worked. She twist tied it at her waist.

"He's down to 99," Huang declared. 

Barba blinked his eyes a few times, but he was still in a state of confusion. Carisi sat him up as he and Huang forced water and Gatorade into his mouth. Finally they laid him back down and he fell asleep.

---

Huang, Carisi, and Renee were sitting in the living room sipping at some tea.

"Thanks for calling me Renee," Carisi said. "He wouldn't have been able to get out of his office let alone home. I hope this isn't going to scare you off from working with him."

"Not a chance. A little more intimate than I would prefer with my boss this early on..." she replied as the room filled with chuckles.

"How about you don't tell him I was here? I don't want to make him feel awkward," Renee explained. 

After a few minutes, Carisi looked at her. "How are you so okay after everything that happened to you?" 

"I had a good shrink," she turned and looked at Huang.

"You two know each other?" Carisi asked dumb-founded.

"Yes. When I took you guys on as clients, I had no idea at the time she was Rafael's client," Huang explained. "It was sort of bizarre coincidence," he confessed. 

"Well, I should be going," Renee said getting up. "If you guys need anything, give me a call," she said as she picked up Carisi's phone and entered her number. "I hope he feels better."

"Oh, and his suit jacket and tie, they are going to need cleaned. They are in that plastic bag over there," Renee said pointed at the entryway.

"Thanks again, Renee."

---

Carisi retrieved the plastic bag from the doorway. Clearly they were going to have to send his jacket to the cleaners. Carisi removed Barba's keys and wallet from the pockets. Then he felt something else. He pulled out a bent up pamphlet on surrogacy. "Aww...Rafa," he thought to himself. "We are going to be taking the next step soon!" Carisi excitedly thought to himself.

Carisi came back into the living room and sat back down with Huang and threw the scrunched up surrogacy pamphlet on the table. Huang picked it up.

"Did you guys talk about it?" Huang asked.

"Well when he wakes up and is feeling better we will." Carisi paused when he noticed that wasn't what Huang was asking about and was trying to just roll with the response Carisi had just given him. "Doc? What aren't you saying?"

"I am sorry, its not my place. Confidentiality," he replied.

Carisi looked at him puzzled but left it at "okay."

---

Barba came to and threw up a few times. He fell on his way to and from the bathroom. He still wasn't very coherent. He couldn't make sense of visuals or voices, but he did manage to firmly grip someone's wrist. Carisi forced more fluids in him and Huang checked his temperature. It went up slightly. Huang dispensed some aspirin and Carisi brought a new ice pack and Barba was out again.

---

Back in the living room, Huang finally spoke. "Who was Rafael going to see today?"

Carisi didn't answer.

"I know it was Lindstrom. I just want to know, is he having problems?"

Still no answer.

"Damn it, Sonny. I am not going to break, I just want to know what is going on! Is he okay?" he asked frustrated.

"He is having some issues with his mood. His emotions keep changing quickly. He is worried about not being able to control his emotional responses. I think he is scared," Carisi explained.

"I see," Huang replied.

"Well, now that you know, what do you think? I promise I won't tell Lindstrom I asked," Carisi tried to coerce Huang.

"Think of it this way. You have a psychopath who never felt anything, like Henry Mesner, for example. He went his whole life without feeling emotions or considering others. If he would suddenly just start feeling he would be so overwhelmed and crippled. He wouldn't be able to function at all because of the shock," Huang tried to explain.

"Are you saying Rafael is a psychopath?" Carisi asked startled.

"Absolutely not! Rafael always had feelings, he just never acknowledge, expressed, or dealt with them. He ignored them. His mind is stunned trying to make sense of his feelings. So, yes, it is going to be overwhelmed for awhile until he manages to cope and feelings become 'more normal' to him," Huang explained.

"Got it. So you think he is okay?" Carisi asked.

"He will be fine once he gets used to acknowledging and feelings, so yes, definitely."

"Thanks, that takes a load off my mind," Carisi sighed with relief. Carisi smiled.

"Now that confidentiality thing you can't talk about, Carisi began hopeful that he could get Huang to budge on discussing it.

Huang shook his head and smiled.

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Barba rolled over. It was still dark. His phone was not on the nightstand. "Where is it?" he thought confused. He remembered being at the office. He had flashes of images that he didn't understand. And now Carisi is sleeping next to him.

Where his cell phone should have been, there was a bottle of aspirin, a cup of tea, bottles of water and Gatorade, along with a melted ice pack. "I am sick," he said putting the evidence together and recalling his headache and fatigue from the day before. 

He quietly got up and left the bedroom. He looked around the apartment trying to find his cell phone with no luck. He made himself a slice of toast and ate part of it. Then he realized his briefcase wasn't in the apartment either. He found his keys and wallet that Carisi had recovered from his jacket the night before. 

"My cell and briefcase must still be at the office." He quietly slipped into the bedroom and took Carisi's phone off the nightstand next to the sound-asleep detective. He was going to book himself an Uber. He laid the phone back down on the stand and headed outside to wait for his ride. "I'll be back before he is even awake." He felt uneasy on his feet, but it wouldn't take long. Barba couldn't take being with his phone. He had to know what was happening.

---

Walking into his office, he smelled vomit. The source of the odor was the trash can next to his desk. He took it out to the dumpster and spritzed the office with Febreze.

"There it is!" His cell was on the corner of his desk, where he put it after yesterday's meeting. His briefcase was on the sofa. He sat down next to the briefcase. "Oh, this feels so good," he thought and allowed his fatigued body to sink into the comfort of the sofa. 

Next thing he knew was confused and looked around. "I'm in my office," he put together after examining his surroundings. "Yeah, I came to get my phone and my briefcase."

--- 

He booked an Uber and just after he got in, he was then being told by the driver that they had arrived at his destination. "How?" Barba thanked the driver and stepped out of the car.

Inside he found himself confused again getting off the elevator. He found himself starting to panic. "Why am I missing time?" He felt his forehead. "I don't think it is the fever."

He couldn't find his keys. "Damn it, must have left them in the office." He was kicking himself. "Stupid."

He pounded on the door but apparently nobody was up yet. He picked up his phone.

"Sonny, can you let me?" he whimpered into the phone.

Carisi came to the door sleepy-eyed and yawning. "What are you doing out here?" he was beginning to ask as he opened the door to a crying Barba.

"Rafa? What's wrong?" he asked pulling Barba inside and got him to sit on the sofa. "Why are you crying?"

"I don't know what is going on," Barba stammered.

It was too early and Carisi wasn't awake enough o make sense of Barba's blabbering. And it didn't help that he kept lacing the sentences with Spanish.

"What are you talking about?" Carisi asked.

Barba just started to cry harder.

"Can I get you some coffee?" Carisi asked knowing that he most certainly needed some himself so he could try to understand what his fiancé was blabbering about.

Just then the kitchen light came on. "Rafael? Sonny?" Huang's voice called out.

"Here doc," Carisi said.

"Why is he crying?" Huang asked.

"Trying to figure that out, doc," Carisi said irritated. "I need coffee," he mumbled walking into the kitchen and started brewing some. He was only gone a minute but when he came back to the sofa, Barba was still and Huang was kneeling in front of him.

"He's having seizures," Huang told Carisi. Huang took the cell phone from Barba's hand and turned on the flashlight app and then shined it at Barba's eyes and got no response.

"Why is he having seizures? He is taking his medication. I know he is."

"Sonny, he just spent the better part of the last 12 hours vomiting. The medication is not in his system," Huang deduced.

"Oh. What can we do?" Carisi asked.

"We have to get the medication back in him and get him to keep it down. I'll get his pills and you get something for him to drink and eat," Huang instructed.

Huang retrieved Barba's medication bottle from his nightstand. He studied the label carefully. He was sleepy and wanted to double check to make sure he was giving him the right dose. Huang dispensed two pills and returned to the living room.

Barba was incoherently blabbering into to Carisi's shoulder. Carisi was trying to not spill a cup of tea in his hand as he cradled Barba. "It's okay," Carisi said rubbing Barba's back.

"I don't know..."

Huang sat down on the other side of Barba. "Take these," he ordered.

Carisi gave Huang the tea cup and Huang poured some into Barba's mouth and made sure he got the pills down okay.

"Rafael, look at me," Huang instructed. Barba looked away from Carisi and turned to face Barba. His face was a wreck. His pasty complexion was streaked with tears, his cheeks were flushed, and he apparently still had a fever because he was sweating.

"Rafael, you are sick. You threw up your seizure medication. You just took some and you need to try to keep it down. Do you understand me?" Huang was not sure if he did understand despite the nod Barba gave. He just looked out of it.

"Come on Rafa, let's get you back to bed." Carisi and Huang tucked him back in bed.

---

They returned to the kitchen to inhale the freshly brewed coffee.

"He literally called me on his cell phone from outside the door," Carisi explained. "I didn't even know he was gone."

"Please tell me he was not sleep walking?" Huang hoped.

"He had his briefcase and cell phone, so obviously he went back to the office," Carisi said putting the clues together. "That man can't survive without his phone."

"And his keys?" Huang asked.

"Who knows," Carisi sighed.

Huang went back to bed but advised Carisi to lock their bedroom door, just in case. Carisi did as suggested. He laid back down next to Barba and kissed his forehead. "Not near as warm as yesterday," he noted.

---

Carisi woke up to Barba puking in the bathroom. "Shit," he muttered getting out of bed.

"Rafa?" He saw the ADA had his head in the toilet.

Carisi pulled his hair back from his face and wiped his face with a cool cloth.

"Come on, lets take a bath," he told Barba. He essentially had to strip Barba on his own because Barba was not complying with his request. Then he stripped himself and sat them down in a cold bath tub. Feeling the cold touch his skin, Barba struggled but Carisi managed to calm him down and Barba fell asleep in his arms. Carisi felt cold, but Barba's body didn't seem to register the temperature anymore.

He struggled to get Barba out of the tub on his own. He laid Barba on the floor and wrapped him a towel. Whether or not Barba liked, he was going to need another pair of hands to help get Barba redressed. Barba was just not cooperating and incoherently struggling.

"George," Carisi said knocking on the guestroom door. "Can you give me a hand with Rafa. He threw up and I had to give him a bath. He is fighting me and I need help to get him dressed." 

"I'll be right there," he replied. 

It took them the better part of twenty minutes just to get Barba in a t-shirt and boxer briefs. They agreed that that was as far as they were going to get him dressed and put him in bed and covered him. Huang dispensed more aspirin and gave him another dose of seizure medication. Together, they managed to get the pills in his mouth and got him to swallow them with almost a half of a glass of water. He also ate two crackers.

"I know how he feels about hospitals, but if his fever doesn't stay down and he can't keep his seizure medication down, we won't have a choice," Huang told Carisi.

"No...no...no..." Barba whined with his eyes closed.

"Well, seems like he understood that doc," Carisi said. "Maybe that is all the motivation he'll need to get through this."

They saw Barba's head nod and they left the room gently laughing. 

---

By evening, Barba was up and moving around. He still had a temperature, but not a high one. He managed to keep his medicine down, only threw up one more time. He was picking at a slice of toast, but he was determined to eat it or die. The hospital was not an option.

He joined Huang and Carisi in the living room. He sat down on the sofa next to Carisi. He sipped at a cup of tea.

"How are you feeling?" Huang asked.

"Like a hangover from hell, but better, I guess," Barba replied.

"Well at least you are making sense again," Carisi teased and gave him a peck on the cheek and then the forehead. Carisi nodded with approval. "I think your fever is almost gone Rafa."

"This is going to sound ridiculous, but I have pretty much no clue what happened since Friday lunch time," Barba shared.

"Doesn't surprise me? You doc?" Carisi turned to Huang and they both laughed at Barba. Now his cheeks were red again, but not from a fever.

He caught a glimpse of the surrogacy pamphlet still laying on the table. Huang noticed this and promptly excused himself from the room.

"So, something you on your mind, Sonny?" Barba asked picking up and gazing through the pamphlet.

"Me? I thought that you meant it was time to take the next step," Carisi explained.

"Where did you find it?" Barba asked confused.

"In your jacket pocket," Carisi replied.

"You didn't put in the file on my desk? I thought it was you," Barba said.

They looked at each other confused.

"Well, who would have put that on your desk?" Carisi asked. "Who has access to the office?" Carisi's detective instincts were kicking in.

"Just the five of us--Cabot, Novak, Carmen, Renee, and me, of course."

"Hmm...looks like we have a mystery here. It's like we are the Hardy Boys," Carisi mused.

"Would seem so," he replied. "Casey. Recently she has had too much fun tormenting me," Barba surmised.

"My money is on Renee," Carisi wagered.

"Why's that?" Barba questioned.

"She heard our little talk about kids and the engagement outside the courthouse," he said.

"So did literally everyone else we know," Baba said dismissing Renee as the culprit.

"Yeah, but there is something swirly going on between her and Huang," Carisi added.

"What do you mean? George is gay. They can't be involved," he rationalized.

"Not like that, Rafa! I am just going to contribute that to you not feeling well." Carisi continued, "Renee is also a client of George's. Yesterday, something George said after Renee left felt off," Carisi began before Barba interrupted.

"Renee was here?" Barba asked in surprise.

"My love, you were out of it," Carisi smiled. "May I continue?"

Barba nodded.

"When I asked George about it, he said, and I quote, 'it's not my place," and cited confidentiality.

"Well, it appears that the detective figured out who, but now why?" Barba pondered.

"Hey, I did my job. You are the prosecutor. Go cross-examine her!" Carisi laughed. "Maybe we should invite her back for lunch tomorrow?"

"I am not sure what to make of this. Is it wrong to cross-examine an employee?"

"HR might come after you," Carisi joked.

---

Huang was discreetly listening to their conversation from the hall and he sent a text.

"We have to meet. Tonight."

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Barba was finally starting to feel better. Huang upgraded his status to only having a low-grade fever and being on the road to recovery. His headache was just now only a mere nuisance. His nausea subsided and he was able to keep his medication and bland food down. Maybe more than bland, but he didn't want to risk it yet. He was hopeful that he would have enough medication in his system by Monday so that he wouldn't have too many seizures at work, but at least his colleagues were aware of his issue. 

Barba’s chief complaint was exhaustion. He turned in very early, 8 o'clock. Carisi was watching TV in the living room while Huang hid in the guestroom trying to devise a plan to discreetly slip out of the apartment to meet Renee. He waited for another hour hoping that Carisi would go to bed early, but he didn't. Finally, he decided he would engage him and try to persuade him to turn in for the night.

"Hey, Sonny. Can't sleep?" Huang asked

"Nah, doc. I am not tired yet and I figured Rafa should have some rest without me snoring or tossing," Carisi justified. "Where are you heading?" he asked spotting Huang had his shoes and jacket in his hand.

"Damn, off my game," he muttered. He turned and walked back to the guestroom and closed the doors. 

Carisi felt snubbed but a few minutes later Huang reemerged.

"Want to go for a walk?" he asked Carisi.

"Sure," Carisi skeptically replied as he stood to put his shoes on.

Once outside Huang booked an Uber. 

"So doc, where to?" the curious detective asked.

"Renee's," Huang replied. "She knows you are coming with me.

Carisi couldn't help but feel like he was going to be cut in on a juicy piece of gossip before Barba. This made him smile. "Finally, revenge for the torture he experience from Barba's payback, the "Yes," which ultimately was revealed to be a "Yes" to having children. Wait, I started that with divulging his secret talent," Carisi thought to himself. "Oh well, the game is fun," he concluded fully intending to torture Barba with the knowledge he was going to learn tonight at Renee's.

---

It took no more than fifteen minutes for them to get to Renee's apartment building. On the seventh floor, Huang knocked on a door. Renee welcomed them and showed them in. "Can I get you some tea?" Renee asked.

"Sure," Carisi replied looking around the apartment. There were photographs of Renee and her deceased fiancé, covering the walls and mantle. "They must have lived together." There was a diploma prominently on display. "He was a MD," Carisi gathered. It was a warm, cozy apartment.

Huang and Carisi sat on the sofa and Renee sat in a chair across the coffee table from them. They were sipping tea, and Renee started.

"So, George here, tells me that you and Rafael are starting to figure out that I am conspiring against you two," she playfully teased.

"Yeah, there's been a few questions come up," Carisi responded with a grin. "Just tell me you aren't going to upset Rafa," he said in a sincere tone.

"Oh no, never!" she quickly assured him.

"Well, George here," he said shooting Huang a mischievous glance, "feels like he is bound by a little thing called patient confidentiality. Honestly, I think he is just enjoying torturing me," Carisi said, still grinning.

"It's a bit of a long story, but I'll do my best to not bore you for too long," Renee said putting her tea cup down.

"I started seeing George after, well, you know. Chris's death was devastating. We had our futures all planned out. We started dating 3 years ago. We were supposed to get married last month. We were madly in love from day one, but we made our engagement long as we both were just starting our careers. As you know I am a legal assistant. He was a pediatrician."

"He loved kids and we planned on having our own someday. The men in his family tend to become sterile by the time they reach their mid-thirties. Since we knew our engagement was going to be lengthy, we froze his sperm."

"Now, I have to share a little bit about me to give you a little bit more context so you can understand where I am going with all this. I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but it is about my female anatomy."

Carisi felt a little uncertain and looked at Huang who gave him a nod indicating that this was okay to hear.

"I have a rare congenital condition. Essentially, I was born with two sets of reproductive organs," she continued.

"Oh god, please just stop at that," Carisi pleaded in his mind. He wasn't hip on learning about the anatomy of the opposite sex. This was a bit ironic, considering he was and SVU detective and it sort of came with the territory, but at work the conversations on this matter were only treated clinically.

"Well, then all this happened and I lost Chris. Then I met you and Rafael. Even though I was just another mere victim that you guys had to work with," Renee said before Carisi cut her off raising his hand.

He recalled the words that Amaro had used to comfort Barba about being a victim and felt like this was as good a time as any to repeat them. "Renee, you are not a mere victim. You survived. You are healing, putting your life back together, and looking towards your future. You are a survivor. And as for 'having to work with you' both Rafa and I chose this line of work to help people, so in no way is this something that we have to do. We choose to do this."

Huang smiled proudly at Carisi for remembering this bit of wisdom.

Renee's eyes filled with tears at his kind thoughts. She waited a minute before continuing.

"I plan to honor Chris's memory in two ways. First, my career transition. I want to use my skills to assist people putting rapists in prison. Working with Rafael's office and your squad gives me that opportunity," Renee explained.

"What is the second way?" Carisi asked.

"Since Chris lost his life, I want to bring new life into this world." Renee's tone indicated that this was going to become a very serious conversation.

She looked at Huang and then at Carisi. "Then I met you and Rafael. You both helped me get through this, and not just by investigating and taking that scumbag to trial. It meant the world to me for him to be convicted," and after a brief pause she added, "and executed."

"I am just so grateful, but I also feel like I have a bond with you guys. From the minute Rafael met me when I was refusing to give my statement, I felt like I had a connection to you guys. He told me that you and he just endured a similar situation. I was so grateful, that some stranger reached out to me to share their experience when I was going through the roughest time of my life. I also could see that sharing was hard for him and that he truly was trying to help me. It takes a special kind of loving person to try to comfort a stranger by sharing intimate details."

Renee paused to see if Carisi was following all this. "This is going, to sound silly, but I want to stay in your lives..." Renee tried to explain but lost her words.

Huang glanced at her and she nodded granting him permission to try to clarify.

"Sonny, what Renee is trying to say is that she wants to remain connected to someone else who has been through a similar experience. It's not exclusively about seeking support, but just being with those you know get you. What you've been through. Someone who might understand some complicated emotions," Huang said clarifying.

Carisi nodded his head in understanding.

Renee then continued. "As I said, I want to bring life into this world. I am going to have Chris's child, but I also see how much you and Rafael love each other and how much you want to have children. I can't think of any more loving or deserving couples, than you two."

"Where is she going with this? How? Why?" Carisi thought to himself. His thoughts always raced a million miles an hour when he was excited.

"I would be honored for my duplicate reproductive organs to serve as your surrogate," she finished.

Carisi looked pasty and sweaty and then promptly passed out falling over into Huang's lap. 

Huang gently repositioned his head and he looked across to Renee. "I don't want to speak for him, but I think that may have been a yes, but given his response here, I don't think he can handle the delivery room," Huang said smirking.

Carisi blinked his eyes. "Is this for real?" he asked realizing he really just did have this conversation at Renee. "Pinch me."

Huang couldn't resist and pinched him firmly on the cheek.

"Ow, not that hard, doc," Carisi moaned sitting himself upright.

He took a minute to collect his thoughts. "So you would be having Chris's child in one..."

"Come on Sonny, you can say it," he thought to himself.

"So you would be having Chris's child in one uterus and ours in the other." 

"There, I said it,'' he thought proudly to himself.

"That's the plan," Renee said with a smile.

"Would that be dangerous for the babies? Complications?" Carisi asked.

"No more than carrying twins and if I have a good obstetrics team, there should not be any issues."

Carisi nodded. 

"I know I would be giving birth to your hypothetical child, but I have one request. I am excited that your child will have two dads, but I would also like that child to also have a mother. I guess what I am trying to say is, that if you allow me, I would like to be in that child's life," Renee finally spit out.

"I couldn't imagine a more perfect situation," Carisi said. "I mean, if I can persuade Rafael to go for this, I know he would agree whole-heartedly to that." Carisi was glowing. Just the mere mention of a hypothetical child made him glow like a parent-to-be.

"Now, I know how cool I reacted," he snickered looking at Huang and Renee, "but I really think we need to work on the presentation of this proposal for Rafa!" Carisi laughed.

"Yeah, the shock might just put him in the hospital. Oops. Did I say that out loud?" They all burst out laughing at Huang's remark. 

"Maybe have some of his anxiety medication on hand, doc?" Carisi suggested.

Then Carisi got a devious look. "What do you say we have a little fun with this?"

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After their late night meeting with Renee, Huang and Carisi got back to Barba's apartment around 1 AM.

As they came through the door, Carisi flipped on the light and they were surprised to see a teary-eyed Barba sitting at the kitchen table. Carisi quickly rushed over and kneeled in front of him and cradled Barba's face in his hands. "Are you okay, my love? Are you feeling worse?"

Barba took in a deep breath. "I just had another nightmare," he explained with tears trickling down his cheeks. 

"Doc, I'll see you in the morning. I am going to head to bed," Carisi announced as he rose to his feet and put his arms around Barba's waist and guided him back to the bedroom.

"Where were you guys?" Barba sniffled as he laid back down in bed. 

"We just were taking a walk."

"In the middle of the night?" Barba asked suspiciously.

"We were feeling pretty cooped up and needed some fresh air," Carisi lied.

Barba seemed to buy that and nodded his head. Or maybe he was just to tired to refute the excuse.

Carisi turned off the lights and stripped down before getting in bed. He turned to face Barba. "You know I love you so much," he said planting a kiss on his fiancée's forehead.

"I love you, too," Barba replied before falling asleep.

---

Carisi and Huang got up early, an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning,  to meet with Novak, Cabot, Carmen, Renee, and Amaro at some 24 hour café downtown.

"This has better be good," Cabot moaned as the waitress delivered their coffees.

"Or Barba may be visiting his fiancée in the hospital," Novak said glaring at Carisi.

Renee shared the whole story of how she wanted to honor her dead fiancée by changing the purpose of her career and by bringing life into the world

Novak instantly regretted her statement about putting Carisi in the hospital over their early meeting since she was bluntly reminded that Renee had lost her fiancée. 

Then Renee dropped the bombshell of how she wanted to be the surrogate for Barba and Carisi.

Novak and Amaro looked really stunned. They knew why Huang and Carisi were not shocked, but why weren't Cabot and Carmen not shocked?  

"Alex, did you know?" Amaro asked. 

"Yeah, the day Carisi got shot, she told Carmen and me." Then she turned to Carmen. "I am a little surprised that you brought it up so quickly though," Cabot said.

"Well, it seems that Rafael and Sonny were a little snoopier than I had anticipated," Renee beamed.

Then Carisi took over. "Now, just because I know how much fun it is messing with Rafa," he said while staring down Novak.

"What?" Novak asked trying to play innocent. She probably more than any of them, enjoyed humiliating and screwing with Barba the most, in a fun and loving way, of course. They schemed for about two hours before parting their separate ways. 

Carisi turned to Huang as they out of the cab at Barba's apartment. "This is going to be so much fun! Best Monday ever on record." They got back upstairs and found that Barba was still sound asleep. 

---

Barba woke up at noon and had brunch with Carisi and Huang. His appearance was a drastic change from Friday. He had color in his face, was no longer pasty, nor dripping with sweat. His mood was cheerful too.

After brunch, Barba helped Carisi clear the table and Huang headed to Dr. Lindstrom's house. Lindstrom's schedule was packed over the last few days, and being personal friends, he agreed to have George just drop by the house on a Sunday.

Once Huang was out the door, Barba instantly started getting flirty. Carisi was sitting on the sofa and Barba walked up behind him and started massaging his shoulders and upper back.

"Oh, Rafa, what did I do to earn this?"

"You took such good care of me this weekend," Barba replied.

"Well, so did George and Renee," Carisi reminded him.

"Well, seems how I am not sleeping with either of them, I will just have to find another way to thank them," Barba said while pulling Carisi off the sofa towards the bedroom and then into the in-suite bathroom.

Since both men were just in casual sweat attire it did not take them long to get each other's clothes off and they took a long, intimate shower.

---

Monday morning came. When Barba's cell alarm went off, he turned over to Carisi and whined, "Do I have to go to work?"

Carisi shot straight up. "Are you okay? ADA Barba never whines about going to work."

Barba replied talking about himself in the third person, "Well, ADA Barba doesn't always nearly die from the flu and then have passionate sex for surviving the ordeal." He smiled at Carisi who had turned off his cell alarm.

"Well, I guess I can give you a little bit of a kickstart. Shower?" Carisi smiled. 

Barba nodded

About an hour later Barba and Carisi were dressed in suits and enjoying breakfast with Huang. To Carisi's delight, Barba was eating larger portions than he had been. The portions were almost the size that he used to eat before their assault.

"Hungry there, Rafa?" Carisi asked.

"Just a bit. All that vomiting apparently famished me."

Barba turned to Huang. "How'd your meeting with Lindstrom go yesterday?"

"Well, I got the all-clear to see patients again, as long as I don't watch anymore disturbing assault videos, which I more than gladly agreed to."

"That's great, doc. Just please let us or someone know if something is about to push you over the edge. You really freaked us out. We were really worried about you," Carisi pleaded. 

"I will," he replied, "if you can both promise me the same."

Carisi answered that he would and Barba nodded in agreement. 

---

After they finished breakfast all three picked up their briefcases. They were all sharing an Uber to work.

"Where you heading, George?" Carisi asked.

"Liv has some sort of job offer at SVU. I don't know if I am going to take it, but I promised her and McCoy that I would stop by and at least hear the details," Huang explained.

"You worked with SVU before though?" Barba asked a bit confused as to what might be holding him back from accepting the job offer.

"I was there as an attaché with the bureau, but this would be strictly as a part of the SVU."

Barba nodded his head. "I see, so, you don't want to work for Liv?" he joked.

"Oh god, no, it's not that. I just don't want to be reminded that I was part of the FBI. I resent and regret that part of my life."

"Well, just consider it, we would all be glad to have you," Carisi urged him.

Carisi and Huang got out of the Uber in front of the precinct and gave Barba devious looks as the Uber drove him off.

"What the hell is that about?" Barba thought to himself.

 ---

Barba walked into a busy 1Hogan Place. It felt like old times. He almost walked to his old office but caught himself and headed to their new suite upstairs.

As Barba came through the door, his colleagues all went silent. It was like they dropped their conversations on purpose, intentionally trying to catch his attention. "Whatever," Barba thought to himself.

"Good morning," he greeted everyone as he walked into his office to put down his briefcase before reappearing in the reception area. Carmen and Renee distributed coffee and updated all three ADAs on their morning itineraries before handing them each a stack of casefiles.

"Fantastic," Novak remarked. 

Barba went to his office, but before he could shut the door, Carmen had slipped her hand in.

"Can I talk to you, Rafael?"

"Sure," he said gesturing to the sofa and then shut the door. He picked up his coffee and sat down next to her.

"I just wanted to check to see how you are feeling. I completely missed that you were sick on Friday..."

"Carmen, I am fine. I was pretty sick, but I went to great lengths to hide it as long as I could. Renee just happened to pop her nose through the door when I couldn't fake it anymore."

Carmen nodded. "I wouldn't have asked this of you a year ago, but now that we are friends and I am praying you won't fire me over this. Please don't hide that from us. Or anything. Okay? You've been through the wringer a lot, and it really hurts all of us when we know you are going through stuff and refuse to let us help. You hurt and worry us too."

Barba laid his hand on Renee's hands. "I promise, I'll try harder. It's just, difficult, for me."

"I get that, but trying is all I am asking for."

Barba gave her a hug and a quick peck on the cheek and then looked at the stack of casefiles on his desk. "Did that stack get larger while we were sitting there?" he joked as she was leaving his office. He left his door ajar. Company seemed to be welcomed today, at least that it was right now.

Barba spotted his apartment keys laying on the sofa. He put them in his briefcase and then texted Carisi.

Rafael: Found the keys

Sonny: 👍

Rafael: See you tonight. Love you

Sonny: Love you too♥️

Barba smiled and laid his phone next to his briefcase and then sat down at his desk.

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He picked up the top file and started to skim the details. It was the most recent case SVU picked up over the weekend. Just as he was getting into it, he heard his office colleagues talking really loudly.

"You mean you have two?" Novak asked loudly.

"Yeah, it tends to freak people out. Especially guys," Renee said.

His ears perked up. "What does she have two of?" Barba thought to himself.

"So, do you get it worse than us? Like double pain, double inconvenience?" Cabot asked.

"No, everything tends to work normal."

Barba was not getting any closer to figuring it out until he heard Carmen's next comment, in an unusually loud voice, for her that is.

"I would so use that excuse to get leave at that time of the month! There has to be some way to use that to your advantage."

Barba fell out of his chair when he figured it out. "Seriously?" he thought to himself. "Who talks about this stuff loudly in an office full of...wait I am outnumbered." 

The women just kept talking about it and he could feel his face flushing from just hearing about all this. He slid himself under the desk and picked up his phone.

"Rafael?"

"Nick, I don't care what lie you have to tell Liv, just get over here fast and rescue me. New office."

Barba hung up.

"Oh my god, get me out of here. I don't care how old I may be, but this stuff just creeps me out." He wanted to scream but he was counting on Nick to be there shortly to rescue him.

Fifteen minutes later Barba heard Amaro's heavy steps enter their suite. "What did you do to your boss?" he joked with the ladies. 

Barba frantically got to his feet and grabbed his cell and keys and rushed out the door. "Hey, Nick, we're going to be late," he said faking an excuse running from the room.

Amaro turned the women. "Well done ladies," he laughed as he left the office.

"Phase one. Check," Renee laughed. 

"Okay, maybe we should do some actual work until he is brave enough to come back in....but did you see how red he was?" Novak just couldn't contain herself.

---

Across the street, Barba and Amaro sat at the bar. Barba was having a scotch, and Amaro just water, well he was on duty after all.

"What's up?" he asked Barba who was chugging scotch like it was no one's business. "Hey, slow down there, talk to me."

"What the hell is McCoy trying to do to me? Putting me in an office with all females..."

"Most guys, well I guess straight guys, would enjoy that," Amaro replied.

"One, you know damn well I am bi. Two...it was not that...it was what they were talking about!" Baba clamored. 

"Oh..." Amaro sarcastically said. "What were they talking about?"

Barba turned and lowered his voice. "Renee has two..."

"Two what?" Amaro asked at a normal volume.

"Shush. Two...female..." Barba lost his words.

"Uteri?" Amaro said.

"Shush!" Barba said turning beet red.

"Oh come on Rafael, it's just anatomy," Amaro said dismissive.

"Clearly Amaro is just mocking me and not taking this seriously." He got up and walked out.

Amaro picked up his phone and sent a message.

"Mission accomplished."

---

Barba waited a few minutes wishing his complexion back, but that just wasn't happening. He finally returned to the office still feeling flushed.

When he came through the door, the ladies all looked up from their work. 

"Rafael, were you drinking?" Cabot asked. His breath wreaked of scotch. 

"A little," he said slipping back into his office and closing the door.

He tried to pick up the same case file from earlier and tried to refocus.

But then he heard Renee speaking very loudly to Carmen. She was explaining how she intended to honor Chris by changing career paths. How she wanted to support people who put rapists away and how she was so grateful to be working for Rafael's office and with SVU.

"That's so sweet," he thought hearing how she wanted to honor Chris.

Then she went on about wanting to have Chris's child, because they had frozen his sperm.

Rafael at first felt so happy that Renee could still have Chris's child, but then it went downhill from there. 

"Renee, granted she lost her spouse-to-be, but she was still going to have a child with him." Then he scolded himself for even thinking about how unfair it was to judge. She lost Chris. He still has Sonny. He shamed himself for even just allowing himself to feel resentful. He wanted to raise children with Sonny so badly.

---

It was near the end of the work day. Everyone from their office was going out for drinks.

"Look, I know you clearly had a drink or two this morning, but you promised me a raincheck from last Friday," Renee said pulling Rafael from his desk.

"I did?" Barba honestly didn't have any recollection of that, but he was sick that day and everything was pretty hazy.

"Yes, you did and now I am collecting. Come on, it will be all of us, plus Carisi, Amaro, and Huang," she said trying to convince him. "We have the backroom reserved across the street."

He reluctantly allowed Renee to drag him across the street.

Renee sent a text. "On the way."

Given Amaro's lack of compassion this morning, it was clear he wouldn't be able to rely on him to buffer him from the ladies. Carisi and Huang though, maybe that would be what he needed.

---

In the backroom there was a large round table where all his office colleagues were sitting, joined as promised, by Amaro, Carisi, and Huang.

Barba sat down beside Carisi. "You are not going to believe the day I had," he whispered into Carisi's ear.

Carisi turned to him and whispered into his ear, "Somehow, I think I will."

Barba looked into his blue, flirty eyes. "What the hell does that mean?" Barba thought to himself.

As they dined, the conversation stayed work-related. Then the drinks came and that all changed.

"So Rafa, you said you were originally were going to propose to me. How were you going to do it?" Carisi asked.

"Seriously, right now? We can talk about that later," Barba tried to dodge the question.

Carisi gave him the absolute best puppy eyes he could generate. Barba never could resist his puppy eyes.

"I was going to have a nice dinner planned and we were going to be in the park. I was going to sing to you and then propose."

"What song?" Carisi demanded to know. Barba would have had a song planned out.

Barba sighed. "A Thousand Years."

"Really?" Carisi asked.

"Yeah, but I am nowhere drunk enough to sing it to everyone tonight. Plus, remember, I am still getting over being sick," Barba tried talking his way out of singing.

Carisi sighed. "Rafael, you will sing it to me eventually, but I am letting you off the hook tonight."

Barba knew he was granted a reprieve from public humiliation, at least for tonight. He sighed in relief but that quickly turned to panic. "But, why? Why was Carisi leaving him off so easy? Why was Casey not egging Sonny on?" Barba began to get a bad feeling about what was to come. "Maybe I should just drink, sing, and flee home in embarrassment," he thought panicking to himself.

Carisi picked up on how uneasy Barba was looking and could see panic spreading across his body. Carisi leaned in, "Relax, Rafa. It will be okay." He kissed Barba's forehead and ran his fingers through his hair. He knew Barba loved fingers running through his hair. Carisi got up and went to the bar to order more drinks and Huang joined him.

"Do you see how nervous he is? He has no idea what is coming!" Carisi grinned.

"Well, just don't push him to far," Huang warned with a chuckle.

"That's why you are here," Carisi joked. "No, honestly, Rafael really think of both you and Amaro as friends."

Huang smiled. "Glad to hear that."

By the time they got the drinks back to the table, Barba was pacing and Carisi had to literally push him down into his seat.

"It's time," Carisi said to Renee as they got up and stood up in front of their friends. Carisi picked up a karaoke mic and stood near Renee. 

"So tonight, we are going to share a proposal," Renee announced.

"What is she going to marry Sonny? Over my dead body," Barba thought playfully.

"But we are going to share it in Rafael's favorite language, music and song. Now, I don't want to hear any booing out there because we can't live up to our ADA's voice standards," Carisi added.

"Ay dios mios," Barba thought to himself. "Sonny can't sing. He loved the man with all his heart, but the man was tone deaf." Then he thought, "What the hell could be so important that he would sing a message to him. They were already engaged, and as far as knew (given how much he didn't remember from his flu-frenzied weekend, maybe something did happen), they weren't married yet so this wasn't their wedding song." Barba was not a man for surprises.

Renee took the mic from Carisi and looked Barba in the eyes. "Rafael, everything you have done since I met you, I just can't thank you enough. You tried to comfort me and give me advice when I couldn't/wouldn't give my statement. You shared intimate details with me, a complete stranger, just because you wanted to help me. Then, even knowing that my case was going to be insanely hard for you to prosecute, especially as your first case back, you did it anyhow when I asked for you. You have such a good heart. And so does your fiancée" she said shifting her glance to Carisi. "If this goes utterly wrong tonight, know it was me and not him."

Barba became glassy-eyed as Renee spoke, but the last sentence worried him. Huang put his arm around Barba's shoulders and Carisi grabbed the mic back from Renee. "It's good Rafa, I promise."

Carisi smiled and held the mic between him and Renee. Rene pressed play.

The tune playing was Having Your Baby [with some lyrical modifications in italics].

Instrumental: https: https://youtu.be/OpfNYkqHIFg

["Interesting song choice," Barba mused out loud to Huang.]

Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) Season 19 | Rafael barba, Raúl esparza, Law and  order svu

 

 

CARISI & RENEE: Having your baby [Carisi pointed to Renee who pointed to Barba]

RENEE: What a lovely way of saying

TOGETHER: How much we love you. [Carisi and Renee pointed to Barba]

RENEE: Having your baby [pointing to Barba]

TOGETHER: What a lovely way of saying
What I'm thinking of you.

[Barba turned pale and his cheeks were rosy. "Is she...he..?" Huang nodded and hushed him.]

CARISI: I can see it your face is glowing

I can see it in your eyes.

I'm happy knowin' that she might have our baby.

You're the man I love and I love what it's doin' to you.

TOGETHER: Having your baby

CARISI: You're a man in love and I love

What's goin' through you.

The need inside you

I see it showin'

RENEE: OOOOO

CARISI: The seed inside her

TOGETHER: Baby

RENEE: Do you feel it growin

Are you happy in knowin' that I' might your baby?

CARISI: I'm a man in love and I love

What it's doin' to me.

TOGETHER: Having your baby.

CARISI: I'm a man in love and I love

What's goin' through me.

RENEE: Don't have to do this

CARISI: It'll make you happy though [adlib by Carisi]

TOGETHER: You could have swept us from your life
But you wouldn't do it
No
You wouldn't do it.

RENEE: And I wanna have your baby.

CARISI: I'm a man in love and I love

TOGETHER: OOOOO, OOOOO, OOOOO

The music ended and Renee took the mic. 

"Rafael, Sonny," she said shifting her gaze between the two. "You are two of the most caring people I've ever met. Chris loved kids and I will be having his child. I also want to be your surrogate, and after this morning, you know I can do both. Will you do me the honor of allowing me to be surrogate?"

Rafael fainted into Amaro's lap and Huang stroked his hair before saying "Also, probably not one for the delivery room." The backroom cracked up. They were still laughing when Barba came too.

Amaro sat him upright and Carisi was now behind his man, bent over Barba's head and gave him an upside down kiss on the lips. 

"So, what do you think?" Carisi asked. 

Barba's face was expressionless. Then he drew his legs onto his chair and wrapped his arms around his legs and lowered his head on to his knees and gently rocked himself as he oscillated between laughing and crying.

Everyone stared at each other. Barba was crying and laughing. This was too much emotion from him.

"Shit, you made him crack," Amaro muttered to Carisi.

After about five minutes, Barba pulled himself together. "Tentative yes, but I need some air. I am not good with surprises," he muttered as he left the room crying. Carisi was going to go after him, but Huang signaled him to stay with Renee, who looked like she might need some comforting herself. "Nick and I are his friends, remember? We got this."

---

Huang and Amaro found Barba out back, sitting on the ground in his extremely expensive suit, again with his knees drawn to his chest, face buried, and rocking himself. As they approached they could still see him, they could hear him sobbing and laughing.

"Hey Rafael, are you doing okay?" Amaro asked hesitantly. He didn't know if that was a good question or how Barba would react.

Barba didn't give any indication that he heard them. Amaro and Huang seated themselves on opposite sides of the ADA, who, as Nick had put it, had cracked.

Barba was leaving them no choice, Huang was going to have to put his doctor hat on. "So...what is going on in their?" he asked.

Still nothing. Amaro scoot in front of Rafael forcefully pulled his head from his knees so that they could see his face and Huang held him back against the wall trying to make Barba quit rocking.

"You with us?" Amaro asked. Barba started laughing and then it switched over to solid crying.

"Way to go, Nick. Now he is only crying," Huang muttered.

"Rafael!" Huang shouted.

Barba briefly stopped crying, but then immediately resumed.

"Rafa, are you happy?" Amaro asked.

Barba nodded.

"Sad?" Huang asked.

He shook his head.

"Surprised?" Huang followed up.

Again he nodded.

"Anxious?"

Another nod.

"Nick, go and get my bag. I have some anxiety medication in there."

---

Amaro returned to the backroom and went directly for Huang's bag when he was quickly inundated with questions about Barba. He picked up the bag. "Happy, surprised, anxious. He needs a few minutes. He'll be back in soon," he tried to assure his friends.

---

Back outside, Huang found what he was searching for in his bag. "Open up," he said as he dispensed a pill and then popped it into Barba's mouth. "Swallow," Huang said feeling annoyed he actually had to order that.

"Nick, we don't have a weighted blanket, so lets just lean on him." Amaro looked at Huang oddly, but both men sat on opposite sides of Barba and leaned against him.

After ten minutes, the combination of anxiety medicine and body pressure seemed to be calming him down and Rafael's communication transitioned from head gestures to words.

"I never saw that coming," he told his friends. "After the weird things I heard today...I just didn't see it."

"Well, for the record, Sonny didn't tell either of us about the song," Amaro said grinning.

"At least Renee's, voice shield some of his singing," Barba laughed.

"You know how some couple's feel pressured to say "yes," to engagment just because other people are watching?" Barba asked.

"Like your engagement?" Amaro asked feeling a bit concerned.

"No, not like ours. We didn't realize you guys were watching until after I said yes," Barba explained.

"You feel pressured to say yes to Renee being your surrogate? Like you are being put on the spot?" Huang tried for clarity.

Barba nodded.

"Do you love Sonny?" Huang asked.

"No question," Barba replied.

"Do you want to spend the rest of your life with him?"

"Definitely."

"Do you want to raise kids with him?" Amaro asked taking over the questioning.

"Yes."

"Then your answer should be simple. You just have anxiety about the future. Just take it one step at a time. Give them an answer. Yes, No, or maybe. You don't have to be sure. If you aren't just say so. That's an okay answer too," Huang said trying to explain Barba's options.

---

Thirty minutes later the backroom guests were feeling like they were going to have to send a search party for the guys, but that was just when they all walked back in, Barba leading the way. He went and stood beside, Carisi and pulled him in by the tie and kissed him. Then he turned to Renee and kissed her forehead.

He whispered, "Yes and thank you."

Even though no one else could hear his words, they got the idea from the kisses and then the excited hugging.

Chapter Text

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All four of them--Barba, Carisi, Amaro and Huang returned to Barba's apartment more than a bit tipsy from the celebration drinks for accepting Renee's surrogacy offer.

Amaro called Cynthia.

Amaro: "Hey, Cynth. I'm at Barba's apartment."

Cynthia: "Are you spending the night again?" she asked with a laugh. "You boys and your sleepovers."

Amaro: "Well, only with your permission of course."

Cynthia: "It's completely fine with me. I know they've been through a lot and I am glad you are supporting them. And being friends. You are setting such a good example for your children."

Amaro: "How did I get so lucky to get you back in my life?"

Cynthia: "Just magic."

Amaro: "Well, tell Gil and Zara I love them."

Cynthia: "Before you go, maybe we can have another picnic this weekend, before the weather gets cold. Invite the boys."

Amaro: "Sounds good. I'll see what I can do. I love you Cynth."

Cynthia: "I love you too, Nick. Night."

Amaro had no clue how Cynthia was so understanding about him spending so much time with his co-workers, now friends. As long as he left her know and child care was sought to, she didn't mind. She was really special.

Amaro put his phone and sidearm on the coffee table and then crashed on the sofa and began channel surfing. He dropped the remote a few times due to coordination issues from being inebriated. 
---

"I'm gonna give Renee a call," Huang informed Barba. "Just to make sure she is okay. I think your initial response frightened her. I don't think that was what she was expecting."

Barba grinned. "Ah, the full fledge Barba anxiety attack. Just out of curiosity, what do you think she was expecting?"

"Probably the notorious Barba glare she heard so much about and probably having to convince you to say yes," Huang laughed.

"And who filled her head with those ideas?" Barba teased to which Huang responded with a smirk.

"Anyhow, I am tired. I'm gonna grab a shower and turn in after the call. Good night," Huang said as he headed toward the guestroom running into a wall or two. He disappeared into the guest groom.

---

Barba followed Carisi into the master bedroom. After Barba shut the door, Carisi turned around and immediately started apologizing "I am so sorry, I didn't know..."

Barba put a finger on Carisi's lips to shush him. He grabbed his tie gently and pulled Carisi towards him. He started by rewarding Carisi with light kisses around his face. Then, when their lips finally met each other, they shared an intense kiss in which they began to remove each other's clothing. Barba was quick at undoing buttons and already had Carisi's shirt off before Carisi could even remove the ADA's already unbuttoned vest.

Barba slowed down removing Carisi's clothing so that Carisi could catch up with removing his. He used this time to explored Carisi's torso while still engaged in their kiss. Once his shirt was removed, Carisi broke the kiss to run his tongue up and down Barba's neck and chest, gently caressing his nipples. Barba shivered in pleasure.

Then the couple removed each other's belts, pants, and boxer briefs and kicked them to the bedside. Barba almost fell over but Carisi caught him.. They then proceeded by tracing their hands down each others hips and up each other's inner thighs. Carisi cupped both of their cocks and allowed Barba to control the stroking and pleasuring.

Then they found each other frolicking on the bed. They were trying to hold out as long as they could. The suspense as to seeing how far they could get before coming was always treasured. Sometimes they turned it into a contest of who could hold out the longest. They teased each other by getting the other close to their climax and then backing off.

Barba leaned over to the nightstand and pulled out a tube of lubricant. As he prepared to go down on Carisi, he covered himself and Carisi's entrance in lube, massaging his area. Just as he was about to begin, he thought he saw Carisi flinch. He paused. "Yeah, that was definitely a flinch," Barba thought to himself. He looked up and he thought he could see fear in Carisi's blue eyes as a random tear escaped."

"Are you okay, Sonny?" Barba knew how much he enjoyed bottoming, so he didn't expect this reaction. 

"Yeah, just a sad, weepy, mushy drunk, I guess," Carisi tried to rationalize away his tear.

"Well, you know what. I am getting pretty tired. So how about this. We can either stop here and cuddle, or I could let you bottom me."

Carisi eagerly chose then second option.

After preparing himself and Barba's entrance, it only took a few thrusts for both of them to come simultaneously.

After falling over and catching their breaths, they turned to look each other in the eyes. 

"Was that good for you?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded. "I love you," he yawned.

Barba shut the lights out and kissed him on the forehead. "I love you too, Sonny."

It only took Carisi a moment or two to fall asleep. Barba though, he couldn't sleep. He kept thinking about Carisi's reaction when he was ready to go down on him. "Was he afraid of me? He loves bottoming...did I do something wrong? Did I hurt him?"

Finally Barba slid out of bed and found a pair of clean boxers and a t-shirt and quietly slipped out of the bedroom.

---

Amaro fell asleep watching TV, barely even on the sofa. "That's gonna hurt in the morning," Barba thought as he made his way to the kitchen and drank a glass of water. He just couldn't stop thinking about Sonny.

He needed to talk to someone. Nick was asleep and probably would not be much help, but George, George might be.

Just then Nick woke up quickly and fled to the kitchen sink to vomit. "Yep  definitely going with George, I am not getting spewed on," Barba thought as he ran into the table knocking himself down on the floor.

"Little drunk there Raf?" Amaro laughed.

"Yeah, laugh it up. I'm not the one spewing in the sink," Barba retorted.

Barba walked over to the guest room and could see the light on under the door. "Good, he must still be up."

Barba knocked on the door and received no response. He knocked twice more and called out George's name, but there was still no answer. A fog of panic swept over him. Last time George did not answer his knock, he discovered Huang almost catatonic. 

"George, I'm coming in," he said gently.

---

Barba saw Huang sitting on the bed facing away from him. He was only wearing pajama bottoms and Barba could see water dripping from his black hair onto his torso.

"George?" Barba again tried to address him. No response.

"George, did you hear me?" Barba asked as he rounded the bed to face Huang. "George?"

Huang's face was expressionless and his eyes were glazed over. Barba called his name once more and waved his hand in front of his face. He was almost in full fledge panic mode when Huang's eyes suddenly started moving around and his limp figure filled with life again.

"George, are you okay?"

It took him a minute but he replied that he was fine. He got up and walked over to the dresser and reached into his medical bag and pulled out a bottle which he dropped on the floor because he too was feeling the effects of their celebration.

"I'll get that for you," Barba said kneeling down. As he picked it up, he could see the medication name on the pill bottle. "Why do you have my med..." Barba paused. The patient name on the bottle was George Huang. Barba stood up and handed the bottle to Huang who popped the lid and dispensed himself two pills and swallowed them.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to invade your privacy," Barba mumbled looking at the floor.

Huang sat back down on the bed and signaled Barba to join him. The silence was awkward.

"Just ask me," Huang finally said.

"You have seizures too? Is that what just happened?" Barba inquired.

Huang nodded his head. 

"That's how you knew so much about what was probably wrong with me?" Barba continued with his line of questioning.

Another nod.

"What caused yours?"

"Head trauma, just like you," Huang replied. "Stabler and I were trying to get a serial killer on death row, who was just hours away from execution to confess to one last murder, so the family could get closure. After he confessed, he attacked us. He hit my head against the wall and I lost consciousness. The guards and Stabler, they saved my life. He was within an inch of killing me. When I got out of the hospital, I noticed I was having lapses in time and that is when I sought out a neurologist," Huang said sharing his traumatic brain injury story.

"You knew we had the same condition, why didn't you tell me about your seizures?" Barba asked.

"I was trying to be your doctor."

"Ahora eres mi amigo," Barba said smiling knowing that the Huang at least knew enough Spanish to understand that.

"Gracias, Rafael," Huang replied. "That really means a lot to me."

"I have another question for you, if that is okay?" Barba asked.

"Go ahead," Huang said granting permission.

"I thought that if you took medication, you wouldn't have many or any seizures...so..." Barba couldn't seem to get his question out.

"Why am I having seizures with medication?" Huang finished.

Barba nodded.

"Well, if you may recall, I had a little bit of a hiccup, two weeks ago. I didn't eat. I didn't take my medicine. The therapeutic level of medicine just isn't in my body right now. These medicines are very particular. You have to take them consistently, eat consistently, sleep consistently, don't drink in excess, or else they just aren't very effective," Huang explained. "Does that make sense?"

Barba nodded.

---

A couple minutes later Huang asked, "So why did you stop in? I thought you and Sonny would be busy," he teased emphasizing the word 'busy'.

"We were. Then something odd happened," Barba said.

"Physically or emotionally?" Huang asked.

"Both actually. And not to me. It was him."

"Can you be a little more detailed? I know this is private stuff, but it will help me to help you as both a doctor and friend," Huang explained.

Barba bit his lip. He knew he came here for this exact purpose, to talk about just that, but it just felt really uncomfortable.

"Well, we were making out...stuff got intense...then we moved to the bed," Barba told him.

"I figured that much," Huang retorted.

"Well, I was getting ready to go down on him, I saw him flinch. His eyes look frightened and were filled with tears. He tried to say he was just a weepy drunk, but I know him betterthan that. He is no weepy drunk and I know what I saw. He flinched. He looked scared. I think he thought I was going to hurt him."

Now tears were trickling down Barba's face. Huang pulled the ADA into his still bare chest and held him stroking his hair as he cried.

"How did you leave it?" Huang followed up.

"I told him I was tired and that we could either stop and cuddle or he could bottom me," Barba shared.

"Which did he choose?"

"The second," Barba replied. "Did I hurt him? Is he afraid of me?" Barba began rambling possible explanations for Carisi's unexpected reaction.

"Rafael, stop." Huang drew in a deep breath. "Have you gone down on him since the assault?"

"Yes, a few times," Barba recalled.

"Any since you guys saw the last of the footage?"

"No. I don't think so. What are you getting at?" Barba asked.

"Well up until that point, he was only willing to admit that you were hurt, that you were the victim," Huang began.

"But he was too," Barba interrupted.

Huang nodded. "Yes he was. He now has seen that he was a victim, and I don't think he has come to terms with that. Right after you got home, after it just happened, how do you think you would have responded to Sonny going down on you?"

"Probably the same way."

"Exactly. We still have some work to do. Both of you still need some one-on-one and couples therapy...and I promise, no more footage!" Huang moaned causing both men to laugh.

"Really? I'm shocked!" Barba laughed. "Just out of curiosity, what are the biggest areas I need to work on?"

"Anxiety. Relying on others. Drinking." Huang said generating his list.

"Hey, that last one is a buzz kill. I need that," Barba argued.

"Maybe, but not as much. Compared to before and after the assault, how much scotch are you drinking a day?"

"You've made your point," Barba sadly conceded. "What about Sonny?"

"Well, Sonny did say I can discuss his progress with you. His big three are guilt, suicidality, and not accepting what happened to him was also assault and rape," Huang revealed.

"As a couple?" Barba further probed.

"Blame for the assault. You both seem to misplace the blame at times. Carisi blames himself for what he did to you. You blame yourself for supposedly getting Carisi sucked into it," Huang said.

"How long do you think we need therapy?" Barba asked. "It's not really something I've ever heard a victim say."

"Well, there really is no standard. Some people go to therapy and decide it's not for them. Others get a lot out of it and go for years, even if they get passed the traumatizing event, they continue to work on other stuff."

"If Sonny, would decide not to...could I still...see you?"

"Of course. As a doctor or a friend," Huang replied a bit shocked. He would have expected this sort of question from Carisi, but not from the proud ADA. "Maybe I am making a difference," he speculated to himself. "Or is he really just that drunk?"

"Oh, in the craziness of my day, I forgot to ask. Are you taking the job at SVU?"

"In fact, I just decided that I will. I'm calling Liv in the morning," Huang revealed.

"So, what does it entail? The same as before?" Barba asked.

"Some yes. I am still going to examine, assess, and testify against perps and for victims, but I also am now going to be providing mandatory mental health support for both the SVU squad and ADAs. Nothing that gets reported to 1PP. Liv just thinks it is something that she wants everyone to take advantage of. We all seem to have our own demons, and seeing and prosecuting these types of crimes, it's just a good idea to make sure everyone is in a semi-healthy head space.

---

After saying goodnight to Huang, Barba walked through the kitchen to return to his bedroom. He passed Amaro who was again puking in the sink. The smell of vomit over took the ADA and he shoved Amaro out of the way as he gagged. "Damn you!" he muttered to Nick who looked quite pleased with himself.

After he was done puking, Barba slipped back into his bedroom and was able to get into bed without stirring Carisi. "I love you, Sonny," he whispered into his ear and kissed the back of his neck. "Night, my love."

Chapter Text

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Tuesday morning, Barba, Carisi, Amaro and Huang were gathered at the kitchen table, all clearly suffering from hangovers.

Sonny put together snack baggies of almonds, cashews, dried bananas, and cranberries. Amaro was preparing a hangover tea and honey remedy dispensing it into water bottles for each of them. Huang was dispensing the Aleve and aspirins. Barba was pounding his head off the kitchen table.

"Don't Rafa, you are going to make the headache worse," Carisi snapped, clearly not his usual chipper morning self. 

"Coffee..." Barba moaned.☕

"I am sure Carmen and Renee will have some waiting for you at the office," Carisi assured him.

Amaro and Barba were the first to leave for work and they shared an Uber.

---

After the other two men left, Carisi stared at Huang for a long time, and Huang finally started to get uneasy.

"Something on your mind there, Sonny?" Huang asked.

"Yeah." 

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really, but I did call out for the morning already."

"Well, grab a snack baggie and a bottle of Amaro's miracle hangover remedy and we can find a more comfortable place to talk."

---

Barba and Amaro both got out at the precinct. Barba hadn't seen much of the squad lately and wanted to check in. Amaro obviously was there on the job.

When Barba entered the squad room, Benson came over and greeted him.

"Hey Rafa, I heard about Renee. I am so happy for you three."

"Hey Liv, good to see you too. How's Noah?"

"Begging to go back to the zoo with Uncles Rafa and Sonny."

"Maybe we can arrange that."

"So, my rookie detective called out this morning. Is this just a hangover, embarrassment from last night, or is something else wrong?" Liv asked revealing concern with the last option.

"Last one. He is talking to Huang this morning. He'll be in later."

"Is it something I need to worry about, like holding on to his gun for him?"

"No, but if something changes I'll let you know."

Barba heard laughter and walked to the other side of the squad room. Novak had sent Fin a recording from her phone of Carisi's and Renee's surrogate proposal. The whole squad was wailing watching the event from the laptop.

Stabler looked up and pointed to Barba saying "Broadway bound," and then pointed to the video of Carisi "opposite of Broadway bound."

Benson slapped Stabler on the head.

"Ow," he complained.

"I told you, if I lose my favorite ADA to Broadway, you will regret it."

"Aw, Liv, I feel the same way about you," Barba snickered. "At least, for once, you guys are not watching me."

"Hold on there, Counselor," Fin interrupted him.

The song on the recording ended and the video shifted from the singers to Barba passed out on Amaro's lap who upon coming to was sobbing and laughing.

"Can't make up your mind there, Barba?" Rollins laughed. He could hear Novak's voice in the recording.

He threw his hands up in the air. "Casey Novak!" he screamed. "I wonder if I can get McCoy to fire her on grounds for inflecting emotional distress or assault?"

"Don't know about that one. You might have to take that up with HR," Benson laughed.

---

Carisi and Huang were sitting on the sofa treating their hangovers while having a one-on-one session. 

"I am going to apologize ahead of time if I come off as a bad therapist today," Huang warned Carisi. 

"I hear ya, doc." Carisi took a swallow of Amaro's hangover remedy. "This stuff is awful," he said with a grimace.

"So, can you tell me what is upsetting you today?" Huang prompted. 

Carisi didn't waste any time. "Rafa and I were so happy last night and we had some fun, until I freaked out."

"By freak out?" Huang asked probing for clarification. 

"I felt terrified when he was going to bottom me. I literally almost cried," Carisi told him.

"Carisi appears more comfortable talking about his sex life than Barba was. No surprise there," Huang thought to himself. 

"Why was that?" he asked Carisi.

There was a long pause while Sonny took a gulp. Then he replied. "I thought, just for a minute about Michael doing 'that' to me," Carisi said with anger entering his voice.

"First, you need to say it. Michael assaulted you. He raped you."

There was a pause.

"I am serious. You need to say it and accept that, or you won't begin to heal."

After another pause, Carisi looked at the floor. "Michael assaulted and raped me," he said in an angry whisper.

"He did," Huang tried to get him to believe it.

"I know that!" Carisi yelled.

"Good. Now we can get somewhere. What specifically made you think of Michael when Rafael was going to bottom you?"

"The video footage. When it was actually happening, I was pretending it really wasn't. I zoned out. I blocked it out. I didn't do that when seeing the video, seeing what he actually was doing to me. Forcing himself in me. It made me remember how much it hurt. It hurt so bad," Carisi finished as he started sobbing and leaned into George's arms.

"Sonny, thank you for being so honest and real. I know this is painful now, but it will help you heal."

With his head still buried in Huang’s chest, he nodded.

"Now besides bottoming, is there anything else that might make you nervous or panic?"

"Getting a blow job, because of how Michael made me hard so I could rape..." Carisi fell apart.

"Carisi, no one, including Rafael thinks you raped him. He knows the situation, but you did what you needed to do to keep you both alive. That is not rape. As for Michael felating you, I am sorry that happened too. I see how a blow job might freak you out, even if it is Rafael doing it."

"I'd like to sit down with both of you this evening, just for a few minutes and I want you to share what you just told me with Rafael. Then I want to help you make a plan, whether it is to avoid those activities that freak you out, or if you would like to work up to them. Would you be open to that?"

Carisi nodded.

---

That evening, Barba, Carisi, and Huang were gathered in the living room for their couple's sex session. Barba was sitting next to Carisi on the sofa. It was apparent how uncomfortable Barba was. He was fidgeting with his fingers, kept changing his posture, and repositioning his legs. He just was all around jittery. Carisi saw how nervous Barba was, wrapped his arms around him and whispered in his ear, "It's just sex, Rafa." Barba was too embarrassed to respond.

"I am aware that you are uncomfortable and don't want to talk about your sex life, Rafael, but we really need to given the type of trauma you both endured. And right now, Sonny really needs to talk to you. Can you do that for him?" Huang asked.

Barba gave an uncertain nod.

"Now, about last night," Huang started.

Carisi looked deeply into Barba’s nervous eyes and then shifted his gaze to the floor.

"Rafa, I am not a weepy drunk," he said confessing to the fib he told last night.

"Sonny, look at me." Barba clasped Carisi's hands as Carisi looked him in the eyes. "I know that. I know you better than that. You are a giggly drunk," Barba said grinning. His own uneasiness dissipated as he knew Sonny needed his support for.

Carisi closed his eyes as a tear escaped and kept them sealed as he continued. "I was trying to pretend that Michael didn't do anything to me. It was easy because I blocked it all out. No one knew. Then there was video evidence. Visual evidence of it happening. I just can't pretend it didn't happen. Not anymore. And, now you both know." He began sobbing into Barba's chest and Barba gently rocked him.

"Sonny, you don't have to pretend with me. I get it. I really do," Barba tried to comfort Sonny.

"I know you aren't Michael, but I still freaked out! I am losing my mind!" Carisi shouted.

"I know you know that," Barba tried to reassure him.

"And you are not losing your mind, you just have PTSD and triggers. Right now anyone coming down on you is a trigger," Huang explained.

Barba nodded in agreement.

"Rafa, how are you so okay with having sex with me when you got it so much worse?" Carisi asked.

"I wasn't at first. You remember we didn't do anything for awhile. Then we cuddled some. Then I had a massive freak out after Amaro's picnic, remember?" Barba reminded him.

"I just don't want you to think that I am screwed up because I was okay having sex and now I am not completely okay with it," Carisi whimpered.

"Trust me, I don't think you are screwed up, at least no more than me," Barba said pulling a stray blond curl away from Carisi's streaked face. "I love you," Barba said as he planted a kiss on Sonny's cheek.

After allowing the two to have a minute, Huang interrupted. "Now that you both know what is triggering, how do you want to proceed? Do you want to agree to avoid bottoming, or do you want to work slowly back up to doing it again?"

Barba's face flushed at the mention of bottoming. "What ever you want, Sonny. I want you to feel okay, safe, and enjoy us."

Carisi replied. "I really do enjoy bottoming, but I just can't right now."

"So you want to work back up to it then?" Huang asked to which he received a nod from Carisi.

"Sonny, what scares you the most about bottoming?"

"The pain Michael caused, it just hurt so bad," Sonny revealed. He turned to Barba, "I have no idea you endured what you did."

"Trust me it hurt like hell. However, the concussion I think took care of numbing some of that and not remembering all of it," Barba answered.

"So what can you guys do to work up to bottoming?" Huang asked.

Both men sat in silence.

"Okay," Huang said with a light chuckle when he realized neither of them were going to answer that. "Well, here are some steps that you could try. Massaging each other's entrances and rimming. Once your comfortable with that, you could try one and then two fingers. Then maybe a fist and then..."

"We get it!" Barba snapped.

Huang grinned at his reaction. "And this doesn't have to be in the same encounter, you could spread it out over time." Huang turned to Carisi. "What else might make you feel uncomfortable?"

"Blow jobs. Giving one is just fine, but the receiving..." Carisi trailed off.

"Because of Michael felating you?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded. "It reminds me of what he forced me to do. To rape you!" Carisi lost it.

"It's wasn't rape!" Barba retorted. "You saved us. I gave you permission. I emotionally blackmailed you. This was not your fault!"

Huang could sense that Sonny was falling over the precipice. Huang kneeled down in front of Carisi's red and puffy face. "Rafael is right, it was not your fault."

"None of this was your fault, Sonny. I know you blame yourself, and honestly, I don't get the logic behind why. I am telling you though, this was not your fault," Barba said firmly.

Huang nodded. "It isn't your fault."

Carisi fell apart and couldn't pull himself back together. He finally asked if you could go lay down in privacy and went into the bedroom and closed the door.

---

Carisi was so emotional that his thoughts started to get tainted by suicidal ideations. "I just can't take it," he thought to himself. His side arm was on the coffee table in the living room. He rifled through Barba's room trying to find the ADA's gun safe. The gun safe was empty--Benson had not returned Barba's firearm. He finally threw his head back against the wall hard generating a loud thud and then sank down to a seated position on the floor and sobbed.

---

Hearing the loud thud, Barba and Huang ran into the room not caring if they invaded Carisi's privacy. Barba and Huang saw Carisi seated on the floor sobbing inconsolably and they immediate sat on opposite sides of Carisi trying to comfort him. Barba looked over and saw his empty gun safe was on the floor and it was open. Barba panicked and used his eyes to direct Huang's attention to the gun safe. Both Barba and Huang became pale and extremely concerned about Sonny's mental state.

May be an image of 1 person Sonnshine & Rainbows — sonny x reader "Sonny, that tickles!" "I know,...

"It's not your fault, Sonny, it's not your fault," Barba repeated as a mantra over and over trying to get Carisi to quit blaming himself. 

Tired from crying himself out, Carisi dozed off and Barba moved him over to Huang. Barba took out his phone and typed a message. He showed it to Huang who nodded and then Barba pressed send.

Rafael: His sidearm is on the coffee table. Please come get it. NOW

Liv: Be there ASAP *hugs*

Barba pocketed his phone. When Carisi stirred they moved him to the bed and Barba snuggled up next to him. "I'm right here, Sonny. You're okay."

Barba looked over at Huang and mouthed "go wait for Liv." Huang left them alone and went to the living room to wait for Benson to arrive.

Chapter Text

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Benson made it to Barba's apartment about thirty minutes after receiving Barba's SOS text. She knocked on the door and George showed her in.

Benson made her way to the coffee table and collected Carisi's sidearm. Barba emerged from the bedroom just in time to see Benson strapping the gun to her ankle. "How is he?" she asked when looking up.

"Not good," Barba replied.

Barba made some coffee and they returned to the living room, the site of Carisi's melt down.

"Sonny gave me permission to discuss stuff with Rafael. Rafael, can I speak in front of her? I know this is sort of a sticky situation and bending doctor-patient protocol, but we are all friends here and we need to put our heads together, for Sonny's sake."

Barba nodded granting approval. "We need to do something." He paused before adding, "I didn't think he was...this bad. I think I was still trying to convince myself that his overdose after we got home was an accident. I didn't know he still felt..." Barba stopped as he felt himself tearing up and heard his voice crack. Sonny needed him at the top of his game and he couldn't allow himself to fall apart right now.

"Of course you didn't," Benson said patting Barba's back.

"I don't think any of us did," Huang admitted. He could see Barba struggling to hold it together. "Rafael, we need to be there for Sonny. As I unfortunately recently demonstrated, you have to take care of yourself before others, or else you just aren't any good for them."

"What?" Barba cracked.

"Just leave it all out," Barba instructed.

Barba instantly broke into tears and Benson and Huang sat on opposite sides trying to comfort him.

"I don't wanna...lose him. I don't know what....to do. Ah, dios mios," Barba whimpered. "El es el amor de mi vida. Mi amor verdadero," he continued sobbing.

Huang was struggling seeing the other half of the couple crumble, too. "How did we go from the happy couple last night saying yes to surrogacy to here, again? Oh yeah, sex," he reminded himself.

Benson and Huang joined Barba in crying. Carisi seemed like everything was fine. He seemed like his usual free go lucky, charming, and happy self. But he was burying deep and serious pain and just was not able to hide it any longer. They were all aware that he was now spiraling. He was just getting worse. 

"I need to be with Sonny," Barba said getting up and going to the bedroom and closing the door.

---

Barba slid his shoes and socks off, removed his belt, and untucked his shirt and laid next to an emotionally fragile, but awake Carisi. Carisi was laying in a fetal position shaking.

"Rafa, I think I screwed up, big time," Carisi said weeping.

"No, you didn't, my love. You left us know that you need help, that is exactly what you are supposed to do," Barba said. Then he added, "For better or worse, but please don't leave me." The couple snuggled and held each other crying. Barba held Carisi tightly as if he might just lose Sonny if he let go.

---

"Liv, its killing me seeing them like this. I know Rafa was bad, but he at least still had the presence of mind to fight for himself. There was a point where I wanted to commit him, but he fought back. Sonny, he blames himself, and he is giving up. I'm not sure if I can keep him safe, unless I am here around the clock with him, but that would mean I couldn't start the position at SVU right away."

"George, that doesn't matter right now. Don't even think about that. The job will be there. We need to get these guys through this. I think we need to start up the round the clock 'security details' again so you have assistance. Is there anyone in particular that you think would be helpful?"

"They both seem to really trust Nick."

"Even Rafa?"

He nodded.

"Okay. Stabler is going to replace me here for awhile and I am going to go visit Nick and Cynthia. See what we can work out."

"Are you able to give him time off?" Huang asked.

She smiled. "Yep, our family has more backup on the way. Two in fact."

There was a knock on the door and Stabler left himself in.

"Elliott, I am heading over to see Nick and Cynthia's. Can you help keep an eye on them? Help George with whatever he needs?"

"Sure, Liv."

Benson barely heard his reply as she was already leaving the apartment and making a call. "Hey Nick..."

"So doc, what's your game plan?" Stabler asked.

"We need to secure the house. Alcohol, knives, sharp objects. Anything that you think could cause injury. All of it," he directed.

Stabler and Huang went to work locating all objects that could cause possible harm. "What about their medications?" Stabler asked. 

"Right, I should have thought of that!" Huang exclaimed as he went about collecting all the pill bottles he could find. Huang was becoming frantic himself.

"Sit down!" Stabler ordered him.

Huang paused and sat at the kitchen table.

"Doc, you are getting worked up too. Take a breath," Stabler advised.

As he breathed deeply, he thought to himself "This is Elliott Stabler, right? It's becoming a mad world when he is the voice of reason."

"Liv got his sidearm, right?"

Huang nodded.

"What about Barba's?" Stabler asked.

"She still has it," Huang replied.

Stabler sat down next to Huang. "Outside of glassware and dishes, and possibly shoe laces, I think we got it all." After a brief pause he said, "Doc, you seem a little out of sorts."

"It's just hard seeing friends struggle and not being sure if you can help them as a friend or doctor," he said with a sigh.

Stabler pat him on the back. "It's going to take a village, but you'll get them through this," he assured Huang.

"Who the hell is this man? His wife dies and he takes on a whole new personality? I know we haven't been in touch for over ten years or so, but wow. He is showing wisdom and compassion towards everyone, including me. I used to be one of his least favorite people," Huang thought to himself.

Stabler could see the baffled look on Huang's face as he was processing the conversation. Answering his nonverbal questions, Stabler smiled and said, "Therapy, it really does work."

"Seriously? You went to therapy?" Huang said, not meaning to actually say it aloud.

Stabler nodded with a grin.

---

Barba was still cuddled up to Carisi as he continued to cry. "I don't know how to explain it. I hate them. I hate myself. I want to not feel. I want to be dead, but I love you. I think that is the only thing I'm holding on to..." Carisi said as he began sobbing harder again.

"Then hold on forever, because that is how long I will love you, Sonny."

---

Stabler and Huang heard a soft voice coming from the bedroom and went over to listen, to make sure everything was okay.

---

Barba was rocking Carisi while wiping his tears and singing to him.

See Her Smile from Jonathan Larson's Tick Tick Boom (again, italics indicate slight change of lyrics)

See Her/HIM Smile

 

It's not you, he says
It's just that life's so hard
We all get blue, I say
Hang on tight
I'll be your bodyguard

Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Oh, oh, I just wanna see him smile

It's such a drag, he says
When the world's so mean
It's just a red flag, I say
Gotta look for the green

Oh, oh, oh
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Oh, oh, I just wanna see him smile

Cynical town can be tough on an angel

Clip his wings baby, one, two, three

I'm his clown cause a

Laughin' angels richer than kings

Oh, baby, don't you see?
Baby, don't you agree?

Wish I knew why, he says
But on a sunny day, I find the rain
Let's give it a try, I say
We can dance all through the pain

Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart
Something's breakin' my baby's heart

Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Ooooh, oh, oh
I just wanna see him smile
I just wanna see him smile
I just wanna see him smile
I just wanna see him
Just wanna see him ... smile

"Thanks, Rafi. You always help," Carisi said kissing Barba through his sobs.

---

Huang and Stabler were tearing up.

"Barba has a knack for picking the right song," Stabler commented.

"Yes, he certainly does," Huang agreed with a nod. "They have to make it."

Chapter Text

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Benson came back to Barba's apartment about two hours later with Nick who was dressed in just jeans and a worn t-shirt. It was his day off, but he rushed over with Benson when he was informed there was a situation.

Upon entering, she found Huang and Stabler had taken care of sweeping the apartment for potential dangers. "Liv, you are going to have to take that box with you, when you leave tonight," Huang informed her. The box held all sorts of knives and alcohol. He turned to Stabler. "We are going to monitor both their medications."

Benson nodded and then asked "How is he?"

"Well, we haven't talked to them, just ease dropping," Huang admitted. "Rafael has been trying to comfort him and hasn't left his side."

"Barba, I mean, Rafael, even sang Sonny a lovely song trying to comfort him," Stabler said with tears in his eyes.

"Of course, he did. Barba apparently speaks his emotions best through song," Benson replied. She signaled for all three guys to follow her to the bedroom door and she knocked, "Can we come in?"

After waiting a minute, she heard someone move and Barba opened the door. "Sure, come on in."

After they all filtered in they saw Carisi was now laying on his side on the edge of the bed. He didn't look like himself, but he had quit crying.

Barba and Stabler sat on the bed and the rest of them sat on the floor.

"We need to talk about what we are going to do from here," Benson began but she was interrupted by Carisi.

"Please Rafa, don't have me committed...please..." Carisi begged.

Barba was hurt by his plea and looked at Benson. 

"We don't want to do that my love, we just need you to work with us. Okay? Can you do that for me?" Barba asked. He was praying that Benson's plan did not involve the hospital, realizing he probably should have checked first.

Carisi gave a slight nod and a brief partial smile when Barba called him, 'my love'.

Benson began again, "We are going to work to support you the best we can." This time Huang interrupted her.

"You know the other day, you made me promise that I would let you know if I got too close to the edge, well I need you to promise all of us, that same thing, right now" Huang urged him.

Carisi replied, "Promise."

"So we are going to mix somethings up. I know we kind of slacked off on the security detail since George moved in," Benson began and then Amaro took over.

"And I am moving in for a while too, roomie," he announced playfully nudging Carisi.

"What about Cynthia and your kids? They need you too," Barba inquired.

"Cynthia gets this. She had a friend who had gone through something similar. She really gets it," Nick explained.

"And while Nick is away, Lucy is going to help Cynthia out around the house and getting Zara and Gil to their activities," Benson explained.

"Who's gonna watch Noah?" Barba asked concerned for the kid he had grown to love.

"Well, Kathleen is in town and she enjoyed Noah's company at Amaro's place. I am sure she'd love to help," Stabler said volunteering his second eldest.

Then Rollins strolled into the bedroom. "And my sitter is backup for Noah."

"This is too many people for one room, let alone my bedroom," Barba thought to himself.

Carisi started crying. "Guys, you don't have to do this. Turn your lives inside out because of me."

Amanda knelt down in front of Carisi. "We are family and it is not turning our lives inside out. We need you, both of you," she said glancing at Barba, "in our lives."

"I really hate to do this to you again, but I took your weapon," Benson stated. "You are on leave officially, but you'll come back when are ready."

"But that is going to let a hole in the team," Carisi moaned.

"No, it won't. We'll miss you, but as you know, our team is growing, and I've managed to score a few more of our former colleagues."

"Who?" Rollins asked.

"Brian Cassidy for the team and Monique Jeffries for the new DA investigator position assisting Munch."

"Really?" Stabler asked.

"Really," Munch announced strolling through the door. 

Benson knew she was going to have to talk to Stabler about her prior relationship with Cassidy and talk about Jeffries who had originally left under less than ideal circumstances.

"Brian is not taking your spot, Sonny, he is just helping out. He was going to come back anyway. That grant we got, I am using it wisely to build our unit. When you come back, each of our teams will just have more members."

Carisi nodded with sad eyes.

Fin came through the door next. "Nick, Cynthia dropped off some bags for you."

Huang saw the overwhelming look that had been slowly subduing Barba's face reaching a critical level.

"Okay, so that's the general details. Why don't you guys head home for the night and we'll call if we need anything," Huang said trying to usher people out of the bedroom.

"Well, I'm gonna go grab my bags from your car. Walk me down?" Amaro asked Benson who was then followed by the remainder of their uninvited guests.

"Thanks, George," Barba said when he figured out Huang was sending them away on their behalf.

---

Amaro returned upstairs. "George, mind if I set my stuff in your room?" 

"Well, not my room, but what the hell!" he joked.

"Do you want the guest room?" Huang asked.

"Actually, I brought an air mattress. Mind if I sleep in there too?"

"Sure," Huang replied kneeling down to help Nick with his bags just as another knock on the doorway caused him to glance up. He saw Stabler peek through the door.

"Doc, got a minute?" Stabler asked.

"Yeah," Huang responded stepping out into the hall with Stabler.

"Look, I know we weren't exactly friends years ago, but I'm different now. I've worked through stuff." He paused and then continued, "if you guys need anything, call me. Or even if you just need to talk or some company, okay?"

Huang nodded and Stabler walked away. Huang walked back in and closed the door. "Yep, this is a mad, mad world. When is my next appointment with Lindstrom? This family is just so dysfunctional," he laughed to himself.

"What's so funny?" Amaro asked catching Huang laughing.

"Just Stabler."

"Yeah, he is something else. Liv said he's different now," Amaro shared.

"He sure is," Huang confirmed.

---

"Sonny's not feeling up to eating," Barba sighed and sat down at the table with Huang. He rested his head in one hand. "Nick is with him right now. I am just so worried about leaving him out of my sight. For god's sake, he was planning to eat a gun while we were in the next room." Barba then lowered his head to the table and sighed again.

"Rafael, you need to eat too," Huang gently reminded him. 

Barba sat up and picked up his silverware. "Yeah. I hear you." After taking a few bites, he continued. "I don't know how I am going to function at work. Maybe I should take some time off..." he speculated.

"Why don't you work half-days and see how that goes? Try to keep with a normal routine. I know you are going to worry, but remember, Nick and I are both here to help both of you out. One or both of us will be here at all times, including while you are at work."

"Thanks, George."

"Anytime," Huang replied.

---

Amaro and Huang did a final sweep of the apartment before getting ready to turn in. Amaro said he was going to watch some TV before bed. TV always helped him sleep. Huang went and jumped in the shower.

---
Barba was laying next to Carisi in a t-shirt and boxer briefs. He was staring at Carisi when he woke up. "How are you feeling, Sonny?"

"Tired. Sad. Tired."

"Will a kiss cheer you up?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded. Barba moved into give Carisi a gentle kiss, but was flabbergasted when Carisi pulled him in instead and went for an intense kiss. Breaking the kiss, only for a moment, he whispered, "I love you Rafa," and went back to sucking his lips.

Barba was shocked but went along with what Carisi wanted. "Suicidal and he still wants to make out. What the hell am I supposed to make of this?" Barba pondered to himself. "Note to self, ask Huang," he tried to ingrain in his brain but was interrupted when he felt a hand slipping under his shirt.

"Hey, Sonny. Just checking in, but your sure you want to do this right now?" Barba asked.

"Yep," he succinctly replied quickly pulling Barba's t-shirt off.

Barba was baffled and he knew his face was not hiding that fact.

"I might be depressed, but I still want to have fun," he rationalized.

"Well, if you are sure," Barba replied.

"I am," he said as he sat up and removed his own shirt and briefs.

Barba wasn't sure if he should take his boxer briefs off too, but Sonny gave him those puppy eyes. Those puppy eyes that just never took a no for an answer.

He stood up and removed his briefs and sat back down on the bed and Carisi immediately got to work feeling him up. 

"Okay," Barba thought. "I'll just be super annoying and keep checking in."

He started feeling Carisi up to. He traced his way down the sides of Carisi's torso and ran his tongue from neck to sternum causing Carisi to shudder in pleasure. Carisi then licked his tongue across Barba's chest and then teased his nipple.

"Damn it, Sonny," Barba laughed tensing his muscles. Carisi had stealthily grabbed his cock while distracting Barba with his tongue. "Oh my god," you are not going to make me come this soon!" he whispered.

"Just watch me," Carisi replied as he started rubbing Barba's cock from base to tip and then back with a single finger varying the pressure and path. Then he repeated the motions with his tongue. Barba was tingling and completely hard. 

Carisi leaned Barba back and propped his hips with a pillow and delve in between his legs licking his inner thighs. He reached to the nightstand and grabbed some lube. He lubed himself and Barba's opening and ran his finger around his entrance. He slipped one finger inside Barba followed soon by a second one. There was precum dripping from Barba's cock. He was so close to coming. Then he pushed his entire fist in and gently stroked his prostate.

"Oh..." Barba moaned.

Carisi kissed him on the lips as he continued to stroke his prostate.

"I'm not going to make it much longer," Barba warned while continuing to moan.

Carisi removed his fist and thrust himself into Barba. He seemed like he was being a little more aggressive than usual. He thrust a few more times and then finally hit his prostate hard as Barba hit his climax and his muscles trembled and then gave out. He came all over Carisi's chest.

Carisi laid down next to Barba who was trying to catch his breath. "I told you I can still have fun when I am depressed."

"Yes you did," he tried to reply as he gasped for air.

"My turn?" Carisi asked pushing Barba up and taking his spot.

Barba had a bad feeling. It was like a pit in his stomach.

"So what's your pleasure tonight?" Barba asked hoping Carisi would let him know what boundaries were okay and what was off limits.

"Exactly What I just did to you."

Barba froze. "Are you sure? Shouldn't we work up to it?"

"Rafa, I will stop you if I need to when we get there. Just go!"

Barba took a deep breath and began running his tongue over Carisi's nipples and began to suck on them. He ran one hand across Carisi's face and then he began to play with his hair. Then Barba's other hand hastily grabbed Carisi's cock catching him just as off guard as he had been. Carisi squirmed in pleasure sucking up the ecstasy. 

"Oh, come on," you had to know that was coming Barba teased.

"I forgot!" Carisi laughed. "Your tongue is just that good. You should make your living with your mouth."

Barba paused momentarily, taken back by the comment. He remembered that Michael had said something very similar to him. He pushed the comment from his mind and forced himself to continue pleasuring Carisi.

Barba than propped a pillow under Carisi's hips and covered himself in lube.

"Okay, Sonny, are you ready?"

Carisi nodded.

"Okay, I am going to start by rimming you and opening you up. I need to hear affirmative consent," Barba said.

"I'm ready," Carisi said.

Barba got to work running his finger around Carisi's entrance gently massaging and rimming him. "Does that hurt? Barba asked.

"No, all good," Carisi replied.

"Do you want to stay here? I probably can make you come..." Barba started to say before being interrupted by his suddenly sex-crazed fiancé. Barba didn't recognize him. It just seemed he wanted to go through the motions.

"I want your finger in me," Carisi begged.

Barba obeyed and slid a finger in gently. Seeing no fear in Carisi's eyes, he gently began to move his finger and brushed Carisi's prostate.

Carisi's hips lifted trying to get a better angle. "OOO," Carisi moaned.

"Are you still okay?" Barba asked.

"Definitely," Carisi grinned. 

"Do you want to go further?" Barba asked.

Carisi paused. "One more finger."

Barba slid a second finger in. "Does it hurt?"

"Still good," Carisi smiled.

Barba brushed both his fingers, one at a time, back and forth across Carisi's prostate and then he came all over Barba.

Once Carisi caught his breath, he turned to Barba and kissed him. "Shower?"

"Why not?" Barba replied following his lover into the bathroom. They took a very long shower cleaning each other thoroughly, but they did manage to not get to caught up in the moment.

After they toweled off and got their boxers on, and changed the sheets, Carisi shut the light off as they both got into bed. Carisi turned to Barba. "Thank you," he whispered and kissed him.

"For what?"

"Trusting me to know what I wanted. And being gentle," Carisi replied giving him another kiss. Barba felt somewhat guilty at that comment. He actually did not trust Sonny just then. He was worried he was asking for something he wasn't ready for.

"Well, thank you for trusting me not to hurt you," Barba said returning the kiss.

Barba turned away from Carisi. He soon heard Carisi drift off. He got out of bed and went to the bathroom. He checked himself out in the mirror. He was concerned that Carisi was a bit rough bottoming him, but it didn't look like there was any bleeding. He put his boxers back on and walked out into the living room topless. He couldn't find a shirt without waking Carisi up.

Barba walked by the sofa in a trance-like state and Amaro and Huang were just oddly staring at him. Barba tried to pour himself a drink, but instead lowered himself to the floor and sat his back against the edge of kitchen island and pulled his knees in to his chest and lowered his head. When he looked up, Huang and Amaro were standing above him offering their hands and pulled him to his feet.

They made him sit on the sofa and a tear escaped his eyes.

"Rafael?" Huang asked. 

"I am so beyond confused right now," was all he could share. "Can we just watch TV until I am ready to talk?" he asked knowing that neither of his friends were going to let him off the hook that easy.

Chapter Text

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It had been a half hour since Barba joined the guys on the sofa to watch TV. Huang finally turned the TV off. "You need to talk to us now. You need to eventually get some sleep. You have work in the morning," he reminded Barba.

Barba drew a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. "I have no idea what the hell just happened."

"Tell us what you...or he....or what you guys did," Amaro prompted unsure if he wanted to hear the details. "Well, my best pals are bi. Guys talk about sex all the time. I guess I am just going to have to get comfortable with man on man details," Amaro tried to convince himself.

"I was just laying there when Sonny woke up. I asked if he was okay and he essentially responded like a sex-crazed teenager."

"How so?" Huang asked.

"I went to give him an innocent peck and he just started kissing and making out. He is damn near suicidal and all he wanted to do was make out and..." He paused looking at Amaro to see if he was going to be okay with the topic before finishing his statement. He seemed fine so Barba just came out and said it. "He just wanted to have sex."

"Okay, that wasn't to bad," Amaro thought to himself. "Keeping it PG-13, I can handle this."

"We overheard something, and we sort of assumed," Huang said. 

"I turned the volume up though, just to give you guys some privacy," Amaro said when he observed Barba's cheeks pinken.

"We usually satisfy each other together but he was intent on taking over and doing me first," Barba revealed.

"I'm not surprised. From what he shared earlier, he seemed more comfortable on the giving end than the receiving," Huang said glancing at Amaro. He still seemed okay with the conversation.

"I get that, it was afterwards. He seemed really intent on me...taking him. It was like he was trying to prove something," Barba reflected.

"What do you think he might have been trying to prove?" Huang probed.

Barba didn't need to think. "That he can still do everything. That he is not broken."

Huang nodded. "That's sort of what I was thinking too." 

Amaro was listening but found he had more and more questions and was growing more curious. He just wasn't exactly sure what guys did together, but he had his theories. "Maybe I'll work up the courage to ask later," he thought. "We need to stay focused, for Sonny's sake."

"I kept checking in. I just didn't feel comfortable when I knew he didn't seem...stable and recalling what he said he was not comfortable with earlier."

"Okay, just say it. What was he not comfortable with?" Amaro demanded more detail.

Barba looked at Huang and then back at Amaro. "Bottoming," Barba finally said.

That didn't clear anything up. Barba saw he was still lost. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Nick. Being bi, I am familiar with terminology for lovemaking...with both genders. I didn't mean to purposely keep you out of the loop," he apologized.

"Don't worry about it, I'm finding this quite educational. I'll just file this under professional development for my job," Amaro said grinning. "So bottoming?" he continued.

"The one on the bottom," Barba started and Huang finished "who is penetrated."

"Got it," Amaro replied. After absorbing the definition of bottoming, he came to a realization. "Because of what Michael did?"

Barba nodded. "Very good, detective." 

"So, bottoming doesn't sound like it is an issue for you? I mean, I know everyone reacts differently, but you got the brunt of it," Amaro pondered aloud searching for more details about what he saw as contradictory.

"Rafael has accepted what happened and has been processing it. Sonny still has seen himself as a victim and now he is torn between whether or not he is a victim and his sexual feelings seem to be just as confused."

Barba nodded and looked at Amaro. "I mean, I still think about it and remember the physical pain and...emotional stuff. But when Sonny and I...I push the thoughts from my mind, I know it is Sonny and I am intent on enjoying our time together. I am not leaving those bastards take that from me," Barba shared.

Not like he was going to go blab the intimate details he was hearing about Barba's sex life, but he was certain no one, including himself, would believe Barba giving him insight into male lovemaking and his feelings.

"So...Sonny. How can we help him?" Amaro said returning to the more pressing matter.

"He has seen the video. He saw himself victimized. I tried to make him say so, but he still isn't believing it," Huang shared.

"It seems like we might need some sort of intervention meeting?" Amaro suggested.

"I agree," Huang said turning to Barba who was nodding. "Rafael, I am very concerned. When you were at your lowest point, you accepted that you were a victim and willing to fight for yourself. Sonny, he won't accept it and seems unwilling to fight for himself. That coupled with his intent this afternoon, I am very worried. If we don't get through to him soon, I will have to have him committed."

Barba's eyes got glassy.

"I know that is not what you want to hear, but I promise I will try everything I can, but his safety has to take priority."

"Okay," Barba choked.

"Rafa, you don't want to lose Sonny. Plus, like George said, we'll exhaust every idea we before doing that," Amaro echoed Huang.

Barba still looked like something was on the tip of his tongue, something he wanted to share. 

"What is it Rafa? Is there something else?" Amaro asked.

"Yeah, but it doesn't seem important," he replied trying to shrug it off.

"What? If it is causing you to linger, then it is important," Huang said.

"When I was giving him some oral attention, he said something in terms of me being good with my tongue and and that I should make my living with mouth. I know he didn't mean anything by it, but it was really similar to something Michael said to me," Barba explained.

"Yeah, I seem to recall that. I'm glad you recognize that Sonny didn't mean it the way Michael did. I understand how that may bother you, but believe me, it was a completely different context," Huang said.

After some more discussion, the guys began planning the intervention. Barba decided he was going to take tomorrow morning off and work the afternoon. He texted a message to his office colleague to let them know and that everything was fine.

Amaro had an idea. "This is probably going to be way off base, so feel free to stop me. Do you guys remember that movie from the late 90's? It had Robin Williams and Matt Damon?"

Barba really didn't watch movies at that time of his life. He was in law school. Enough said. Barba shook his head and thought "Where is he going with this?"

Huang smiled. "Good Will Hunting."

Amaro returned his smile. "Yeah, that's it."

"I heard of that," Barba said. "Never saw it. Law school."

"Got ya," Amaro said. He turned to Huang. "Do you remember that therapy scene near the end where Robin Williams kept telling Damon that it was not his fault until he finally seemed to believe it? It's Not Your Fault It might seem corny, but maybe, between the three of us bombarding him, maybe it will sink in."

"You know, it is worth a try," Huang mused. 

"Seriously? Therapy advice from a movie?" Barba asked astonished. 

Amaro went into Barba's home office and grabbed the ADA's laptop and pulled up that clip from Good Will Hunting. 

"If you think, it's worth a try, okay," Barba agreed with apprehension. He thought if he was the target of the intervention, it would just piss him off. "Well, Sonny and I do have different temperaments," he thought to himself.

---

Wednesday morning, Barba awoke to the sound of Carisi getting in the shower. He slid a shirt on and walked to the kitchen and sat down at the table where he found Amaro and Huang had made similar wardrobe choices. They made a pot of coffee and sat four mugs at the table and dispensed the precious, but necessary commodity. 

Barba felt his life had become some horrible soap opera. Friday and Saturday he had the flu. Sunday he spent recovering. Monday he had strange encounters that ended with a surrogacy proposal and intimacy issues. Yesterday was Sonny's break down, and now, today, they were having an intervention. "All this and it hasn't even been one week." He wished for a drama free day. "Maybe Huang could give me a sedative just so I could have one day where there is just nothing."

It was about half an hour before Carisi emerged dressed in a suit with hair done as if he was heading to work. "Where you going?" Barba asked as he strolled right past the three men.

"Work," he answered with a smile.

"Are you kidding me?" Barba asked.

"No."

"You are on leave, detective," Amaro said.

"Try and stop me," Carisi shouted back.

Barba stood up. "Get your ass back here and sit down!" 

Sonnshine & Rainbows — sonny x reader "Sonny, that tickles!" "I know,...

No one ever heard Barba scream like that before.

Carisi walked over to the table and sat down in the empty chair and sipped at the mug intended for him.

"What?" he demanded.

"Sonny, you are not well," Huang began.

"Screw you!" Carisi retorted angrily and started to stand.

"Sit your ass down!" Barba screamed again.

Carisi obeyed.

"Why are you all intent on making this worse for me? Let me get on with my life. Fuck off!" 

"Sonny, you can't move on until you deal with this. You are just going to be treading circles of emotional trauma and never get better," Huang informed him.

"Let me the hell alone." 

What was this now? Four curse words in less than two minutes. That was not typical for the Barba apartment.

Barba got up and knelt in front of Sonny who tried to turn away from him. Amaro got up and turned his chair and forced his head to look at Barba. 

"Sonny, look at me," Barba said firmly. Carisi shut his eyes.

"Okay, that is just childish," Amaro said.

Carisi opened his eyes and a tear were ran down his cheek.

Barba used his hands to hold Carisi's face still. "We are doing this because we love you. I love you. I want you to feel better, my love. "Tu no estas bien, mi amor!" Barba was aware Carisi knew what this meant. For some odd reason, sometimes when expressing emotions he would find himself speaking Spanish.

"You were assaulted and raped," Amaro began.

"You were assaulted and raped," Huang said.

Barba gulped. "You were assaulted and raped."

The three went through this iteration several times and when tears were steadily flowing down Carisi's face, they changed their words.

"They hurt you. It was not your fault," Amaro started.

"They hurt you. It was not your fault, "Huang said following suit.

"They hurt you. It was not your fault." Barba repeated.

They repeated this iteration a few times until Carisi broke down sobbing hard. He fell from his chair and pulled his knees to his chest and buried his head. He was shaking hard and sobbing. Barba knelt down next to him and kissed his head. It was killing him seeing Carisi this distressed.

"You did not rape Rafael. You both survived," Amaro said.

"You did not rape Rafael. You both survived," Huang said.

"You did not rape me. We both survived. I love you," Barba said. 

It only took two more iterations of this for Carisi to cry even harder.

Barba went from kneeling to sitting and pulled Carisi to his chest and rocked him. "You will get through this," Barba said this time beginning the iterations, followed by Amaro and Huang.

Carisi lost all control of his emotions, he could not fight or hold anything back anymore. He left it all go. He laid belly-down on the floor with his head turned to the side bawling. Barba laid down on his side and looked at Carisi's face. He started trying to push stray hairs from Carisi's face. "It's okay," Barba whispered. Carisi turned his head towards the floor and cradled it in his hands sobbing.

A few minutes later, still sobbing, Carisi got up and went to the bedroom and locked the door.

Barba started crying. "Did we push him too far?"

Barba reached for his phone and texted his colleagues.

Rafael: Taking the day off.

Casey: Take care of yourselves. ❤️

Alex: Ditto. Let us know if you need anything. ❤️

Carmen: Thinking of you guys. ❤️

Renee: Take care! ❤️

The heart emojis warmed his heart. "Such women," he muttered.

Chapter Text

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"Sonny, please unlock the door. I'm sorry we upset you. I am so sorry, please. Please, my love," Barba plead through the locked bedroom door.

Huang and Amaro sat at the kitchen table watching Barba frantically plead and whimper for Sonny to leave him in. It was heartbreaking. 

"Maybe, that wasn't such a good idea," Amaro mumbled.

"It really wasn't the best, but we were running out of options. It was better than nothing," Huang commented.

"It's not looking good, is it?" Amaro asked.

"No, not particularly," Huang replied with a sigh. "I hope Rafael will forgive us."

They heard the door unlock and saw a hand pull the ADA into the bedroom and the door was promptly relocked.

"Great, now we lost them both," Amaro said slamming his head on the kitchen table in disgust.

"I'm out of ideas, Nick. I don't think I can help Sonny anymore without committing him, but my personal feelings are preventing me from actually making that call. I think I am going to ask Dr. Lindstrom to take over--he'll be able to make the call to commit Sonny. I am just too close to them and I don't think I am going to be able to make the call. I don't want to go against my friends' wishes," Huang confessed trying to explain his struggle with the situation. 

"How about we listen in for awhile and then you can make that call to Dr. Lindstrom? It's not like he can hurt himself in there. Plus he has Barba," Amaro added in a last attempt to save his friend from being committed. 

---

On the other side of the door, Barba embraced Carisi tightly. They turned their backs to the door and slid down to sit on the floor. Once settled, Carisi, who was still crying and shaking leaned against Barba who held him tightly in his arms. "Thank you for letting me in. I am so sorry about earlier, I am freaking out not knowing how to help you. We all are. We're all trying." 

---

Huang and Amaro were sitting down on the other side of the door trying to ease drop on the couple, both desperately hoping for the situation to somehow improve. After all, it couldn't get much worse.

---

Carisi shook his head and whimpered. "I don't know how to deal with this. I have no problems with being normal and happy, you know, all the positive emotions. I can deal with other people's negative emotions and trauma. I just can't deal with my own," he acknowledged crying slightly harder. "I don't know what to do. Rafi. I don't want to face them. I can't,  I'll never be the same." Carisi adjusted his torso so he could cry on Barba's shoulder.

"I know it's hard, my love. It is overwhelming and you feel like you are going to drown, like you can barely keep your head above water. It's so scary to feel. Terrifying to open yourself up." Barba pressed a kiss to Carisi's forehead. "You know, I had to deal with the emotions too, and I still am. I am not the same person I was and it terrifies me every day, but you know, just being with you helps me get through it. Barba paused and then added, "Leaning on others...it is such a frightening concept, but it does help."

---

On the other side of the door, Huang gave Amaro a reassuring grin. Huang thought "Barba is being real and sharing." He felt so proud of the ADA for finding the courage to dig deep inside himself to share his experience with these difficult emotions with Carisi. "He's saying all the right things. Please let it sink in, please let it," Huang pleaded to himself.

---

"Please Sonny, I can't bare seeing you go through this, to hurt and not let people help you. It also hurts watching you try to pretend that it didn't happen to you, but, and I am sorry, but it really did happen to you. Can you let me in? George and Nick? I don't want you to have to go to the hospital, but you are really scaring me," Barba confessed. "They are running out of ways to try to help if you don't work with us." Barba pressed another kiss to his forehead.

Carisi turned and pulled Barba in and hugged him tightly. "Will you stay with me if I am not the same person?"

"Of course! You stayed with me! I love you so much and after going through 'that'," nothing will pull us apart. As soon as he finished talking, Carisi kissed him.

"Hey, I'm sorry about last night. I know I put you in an awkward position. I just want everything to be normal again. Have my life back. Have our relationship back to normal. Sorry, I acted like..."Carisi began apologizing but couldn't seem to find the right words..

"Like a sex-crazed teenager," Barba finished with a grin. "It's fine, don't worry about it. I was just afraid of making you freak out over something that you weren't ready for yet. I know how confused I was about having sex after it happened. I was terrified at first of letting anyone even touch me, even in a non-sexual manner. I was anxious about being with you again. I felt damaged and unable to control whether or not I would freak out. Remember after Amaro's picnic? I wanted to make love with you so much, but my emotions were so mixed up," Barba said trying to share some of his struggles. "Even though I was clearly looking into your eyes, I still thought of Michael. The visceral reactions to the pain, it just kept popping into my head even though I know he is dead and I know you would never hurt me."

"But I did hurt you," Carisi said with his voice cracking.

"No you didn't, that was Michael. You were much gentler than he was, and you being brave enough to do that, probably saved me from succumbing to my internal injuries." Barba wiped a tear from Carisi's cheek. "You saved me. You saved us. Michael and his thugs are the only people to blame. It wasn't your fault because they forced you. It wasn't your fault for not knowing something was up when they came to abduct me. It wasn't my fault either from prosecuting Michael's brother. I didn't kill Michael's brother while he was in prison. This is all on them!" Barba finished with tears streaming gently down his cheeks.

Carisi and Barba leaned against each other in silence holdings hands.

"Thanks, Rafa. I know you guys keep saying all this, but I just wasn't..."

"Accepting it?" Barba asked. Carisi nodded.

"It'll take some time, but we'll both be okay."

After a few more minutes of leaning against Barba's shoulder, Carisi made two requests.

"Can we take a few more minutes, before going back out there?" Carisi asked. 

"Sure, my love. Take your time. I'll be right here with you. I'll be with you through all of this and after."

"Can you sing to me?" Carisi asked making his second request.

Barba did not hesitate. He knew how much Carisi took comfort with his voice and he wanted to comfort Carisi more than anything right now. "What do you want to hear?" he asked.

"A Spanish love song?"

"How about Como Arrullo de Palmas?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded.

Como Arrullos de Palamas

RESIDENCY SET LIST: LA PASIÓN DE ESPARZA 8/9/19 - Jason Robert Brown

 

Like the lullaby of palm
Como el arrullo de palma

On the plain
En la llanura

Like the chirping of the mockingbird
Como el trinar del sinsonte

In the thicket
En la espesura

Like the gentle river
Como del río apacible

The lyrical rumor
El lírico rumor

Like the blue of my sky
Como el azul de mi cielo

So is my love
Así es mi amor

You are the man
Eres tú la hombre

That reigns in my heart
Que reina en mi corazón

Sweet good that dreamed
Dulce bien que soñó

My passionate illusion
Mi apasionada ilusión

Carnal flower is you
Flor carnal eres tú

From my ideal garden
De mi jardín ideal

Brunette and beautiful like a gentle rose
Trigueña y hermosa cual rosa gentil

From warm tropical land
De cálida tierra tropical

Your dreamy look
Tu mirar soñador

It's sweet and sad, my good
Es dulce y triste, mi bien

And your tempting walk
Y tu andar tentador

A burning sway
Un ardoroso vaivén

And your golden skin in the sun
Y tu piel dorada al sol

It is smooth and subtle
Es tersa y sutil

Sensual love man
hombre de amor sensual

My passion
Mi pasión

It is the rumor of a palm grove
Es rumor de un palmar

Like the lullaby of palm
Como el arrullo de palma

On the plain
En la llanura

Like the chirping of the mockingbird
Como el trinar del sinsonte

In the thicket
En la espesura

Like the gentle river
Como del río apacible

The lyrical rumor
El lírico rumor

Like the blue of my sky
Como el azul de mi cielo

So is my love
Así es mi amor

You are the man
Eres tú la hombre

That reigns in my heart
Que reina en mi corazón

Sweet good that dreamed
Dulce bien que soñó

My passionate illusion
Mi apasionada ilusión

Carnal flower is you
Flor carnal eres tú

From my ideal garden
De mi jardín ideal

Brunette and beautiful like a gentle rose
Trigueña y hermosa cual rosa gentil

From warm tropical land
De cálida tierra tropical

Your dreamy look
Tu mirar soñador

It's sweet and sad, my good
Es dulce y triste, mi bien

And your tempting walk
Y tu andar tentador

A burning sway
Un ardoroso vaivén

And your golden skin in the sun
Y tu piel dorada al sol

It is smooth and subtle
Es tersa y sutil

Sensual love man
Hombre de amor sensual

My passion
Mi pasión

It is the rumor of a palm grove
Es rumor de un palmar

From a palm grove, from a palm grove
De un palmar, de un palmar

Of a palm grove
De un palmar

Carisi and Barba kissed on the lips at the conclusion of the song.

---

Huang and Amaro enjoyed the love song from the other side of the door.

"You need to translate that for me later," Huang whispered to Amaro.

"Did you know that Casey made me VP of his fan club?" Amaro whispered back smiling.

Both Huang and Amaro were relieved hearing a change in Carisi. He was finally accepting that he himself was assaulted and with the nudging of his fiancé, he was finally ready to try letting others help.

Huang still found himself rather bothered...well, lingering on a thought. Barba suffered so much more physical trauma and was notorious for shutting people out, but for some bizarre reason, Barba had been the first to let help in. It just seemed ironic.

---

"Come on, we need to get you out there before they make an unpleasant phone call," Barba said rising from the floor and helping Carisi to his feet.

When Amaro heard Barba's comment, he shouted through the door, "Didn't make it yet!" Then he added, "That was a beautiful, romantic song, Rafael."

Barba just face-palmed himself. "Of course, you heard that. You snoopy detective!" He shouted back through the door. Carisi slipped Barba a smile for his troubles.

Barba wiped the tears from Carisi's cheeks while smiling back at him. "If you need to cry later, it's okay. I'm there for you." Barba gave his fiancé one last kiss before unlocking the door. "Let's go," Barba said. "You can do this. It will be okay in the end."

"Thanks, Rafa."

---

As soon as the door opened, Amaro and Huang pulled the couple out and shut the door as if they were afraid they would just magically get sucked back into the room. They hugged Barba and Carisi. Barba looked uncomfortable, but he would get over it.

All the guys went into the living room and sat down. Amaro brought in a fresh pot of coffee as the one from earlier was cold. Barba and Carisi were seated on the sofa and the other two in chairs across the coffee table from them. 

"How are you doing Sonny?" Amaro asked.

"I am not sure. I am just all twisted up inside."

"How do you feel about what Rafael shared with you?" Huang asked.

"He's right. You were all right. I am a victim and I need to move into the survivor category," Carisi said.

"So, you are ready to try to work through this?" Huang asked.

Carisi nodded holding Barba's hand tightly and leaned against his shoulder.

---

"So Sonny," I know you were on an anxiety medication early on and we talked about putting you on something for depression. Do you want to try a medication now? If you don't trust yourself (referring to the time Carisi overdosed on the anxiety medication), we could control your doses. What are your thoughts on medication?" Huang inquired.

"Would I have to be on it forever?" Carisi tried getting clarification on the matter.

"It's unlikely. Once we get you to a stable place, we can begin to taper it off," Huang explained.

"So what kind of medicine are we talking about?"

"An anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer. There can be side effects, but they can be avoided if you take proper care of yourself."

"I'm not sure how I feel about taking medicine everyday," Carisi said while turning to Barba looking for his input.

"Sonny, I can't tell you what to do here, but I can share with you what I know. As you are aware, I am on an anti-epileptic medication and anxiety medication as needed. I don't like the idea of taking pills everyday either, but it does help. I have a neurological issue now that isn't going to just vanish. The anxiety drug might be temporary. Going with and without medication, I choose the medication. It makes life more manageable."

Carisi was wishing that his fiancée would just tell him what to do, but Barba seemed like he preferred medication over having seizures and and anxiety dictating his life. After a few more minutes, he asked another question.

"Doc, is it okay to try and then if I don't like it, stop?" 

"Yes, but I want to give you all the information. These medications, they don't have an instant effect, they need to build up in your system and reach a therapeutic level. You can't just stop these medications could turkey. If you decide to come off them, I will work with you titrating your doses down until you can safely come off them without any adverse effects."

After a few more minutes, Carisi said "I'll give it a try then, but I don't exactly trust myself right now with how jumbled everything in my brain is."

"That's fine. Since I am now a live-in shrink, I can dispense and monitor you medication regimen." Carisi nodded approving of the suggestion.

"Okay, I'll call in the prescriptions to the pharmacy. Now we can talk about how we are going to deal with in therapy. You can have Rafael here to support you if you'd like."

Carisi turned to Barba who nodded.

"I think that is for the best," Carisi decided leaning against Barba.

"Well, it's been a long morning. Why don't we take a break. Grab some lunch and get some fresh air? We can fill your prescriptions and then we can continue this afternoon or evening?"

"I would prefer evening, I need some time to shake everything off from this morning." Then Carisi turned to Amaro. "Was the Good Will Hunting strategy your idea?" he asked accusing Amaro.

Amaro nodded. "Guilty as charged."

"Yeah, well it sucked, but I needed to hear it," Carisi said evaluating Amaro's idea.

Chapter Text

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The clan at Barba's apartment went downtown to grab lunch at the restaurant across form the courthouse, their usual go-to eatery. Lunch hour was always a much quieter atmosphere which Barba often enjoyed by himself during his lunch hour when he was working, unless Liv was hunting him down for a warrant or to let him know that a case was falling apart.

Today though, he was sharing lunch with his...roommates. He had mixed feelings about the constant company at his home. He always thought of himself as a loner, until he met the love of his life, Sonny. He was happy with being a pair. But now, Huang and Amaro were long-term house guests. He enjoyed their company and new friendship, but sometimes if felt like he was suffocating. Huang always integrated questions about feelings into their conversations while Amaro was always on the lookout for new ideas to to supply Novak with to humiliate him. Then there was the shared drinking, but not much as of late since all their alcohol was confiscated, yet again. He wondered if this is what college living and frat houses were like. He was in law school and there was not time for anything beyond the books.

But today, at this moment, Barba valued his friends. It had been an intense morning holding an intervention for Carisi. He was grateful for conversation that did not involve anything about their assault or feelings about it. 

"So guys, Cynthia wants to have another picnic before it gets cold. We don't want to do anything big, but we thought that we would invite you three over for this Saturday. Plus, I don't think any of you really got to know any of my family except by name," Amaro said extending the invitation that Cynthia offered Monday night.

"That sounds good," Carisi replied without consulting Barba. Barba was fine leaving Carisi to make their social plans at this point. He knew even if he would decline, Carisi would drag him along anyhow. But now it felt different, they were friends instead of mere work colleagues.

"It's a date," Amaro confirmed. "Now I don't mean to freak you out, so stop me if you don't want to talk about it, but have you given Renee's proposal any more thought beyond just acceptance?" Amaro asked.

"Well, Nick, it has been pretty hectic the last few days, but it is definitely a conversation I want to have," Barba replied looking happily into Carisi's blue eyes.

Carisi was still semi-shocked that Barba was even the one who initiated the topic of raising a child. He really wanted children, but if it would have been a deal-breaker for Barba, he would have given up that dream. His love for Barba had no bounds. Besides, He was already Uncle Sonny to Noah, Jesse, Billie, Jayden, Gil, and Zara so he had decided a long time ago it would be fine if Barba was not up to raising a child. However, Carisi was smitten with how happy having children really did make Barba.

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"Which of you is going to provide the sperm?" Huang asked.

"Gee, that is a little personal," Carisi replied.

Barba looked at Sonny. "This is just my idea, but I was thinking maybe both of us. Then after the DNA results on the first one comes back, we could have a second one with the other's."

"First one...second one," were the only words Carisi heard before choking on his water. "Are you serious Rafi? More than one?" he asked excitedly.

Barba grinned. "Only if you want." He was pleased to see Carisi's eyes light up at the possibility of more than one child.

"You are really serious about starting a family, aren't you?" Carisi asked leaning in and giving him a peck on the cheek. He knew Barba didn't like PDA, but he seemed comfortable with quick pecks.

"What about the wedding?" Huang asked.

"We haven't talked about that much either, but we have decided on Defying Gravity as our first dance as newly weds," Carisi said with a smirk.

"We did, did we?" Barba asked laughing. He didn't really care if he wasn't going to have a say in this, all that was important to him was that he and Sonny were going to be together and have a family.

After they finished lunch, the guys had a shot of alcohol, except for Barba. He looked at Huang and said, "I've decided I am going to try to back off on the alcohol consumption. Maybe once a day," he said.

"I'm glad to hear that, Rafael. Enjoying a glass every now and then is fine. Just not a lot on your own. Have people you trust with you if you decide you want more. If you are real good, maybe we can all have drinks Friday night?" he suggested. 

"You aren't asking him out in front of his fiancé, are you, doc? Carisi asked.

"Absolutely not," Huang replied as they all enjoyed a good laugh at Carisi's joke.

---

After dinner, the guys were gathered in the living room as they prepared for Sonny's next session.

"Hey, so I don't want to intrude or make anything awkward. I could go out for a walk or something if you'd prefer I not be here," Amaro offered.

"No, Nick. You're all good. You know essentially know everything that happened and quite honestly, I don't feel like hiding stuff anymore. If you want to go, that's up to you," Carisi replied.

"Then I'll stay for the moral support," Amaro smiled hoping to make Carisi a little less anxious.

"All right, so where should we start?" Huang said leaving the choice up to Carisi.

"I'm not sure. What do you think is the best place for me to start?" Carisi asked throwing the question back at Huang.

"My opinion, I would start by processing what would have happened given any other line of actions had you not complied to Michael's demands." Huang paused as he was hoping Carisi would be receptive to this as a starting point.

Carisi nodded.

"Okay. So what would have happened to Rafael, if you had refused Michael's wishes?"

Carisi's eyes were overtaken with panic. He turned to Barba who gave his hand a firm squeeze and his eyes projected a sense of encouragement.

"He would have been hurt even more," Carisi said with uneasiness.

"Anything else?" Huang questioned.

He took a deep breath and looked into Barba's eyes. "Rafael...he...he could have died," he said as his eyes teared up.

"How?"

"They could have shot us both in a fit of rage."

"How else?"

"Michael could have been so rough that Rafa could have bled to death," Carisi said very slowly. Tears were once again streaking Carisi's cheeks and Barba wiped some away.

"So, by complying unwillingly to Michael's demands, what was the result?"

"I hurt Rafael," Carisi said shifting his gaze from Barba's eyes to the floor. Barba's hands tilted Carisi's head back up to reestablish eye contact their eye contact.

"What else?" Huang asked.

"Rafael is alive," Carisi said hesitantly.

"Who else?" Huang kept pushing him. "Who else is alive?" he asked again when he got no answer.

"Me," Carisi answered feeling awkward about the simplicity of the answer.

"Exactly. Rafael is still alive and not dead because you complied. You are alive and not dead because you complied. You and Rafael are in love more than ever, which could not have happened if you hadn't complied because one, but probably more likely, both of you would be dead. You are engaged because you complied. You will be getting married and starting a family because you complied," Huang said trying to get this to finally resonate with Carisi.

By this point Carisi was sobbing. Barba pulled him into his chest and held him tightly with one hand stroking Carisi's head. "It's okay, my love. You're okay, I'm okay. We're okay," he said trying to comfort Carisi.

After several minutes, Carisi finally looked up and Barba released his embrace.

Huang asked, "How are you doing, Sonny?"

"Better, I think. You guys have been saying this the whole time. Why do I feel somehow a little relieved now?" he asked in confusion.

"Because you are finally accepting and processing it, not just merely listening and avoiding," Huang explained.

"Because you want to go forward and be a survivor," Amaro added.

Barba kissed Carisi on the lips. "You've made a great start and I am so proud of you."

"Why don't you two go get ready for bed?" I want to stop in a few minutes for a few last, private words.

Carisi and Barba stood up from the sofa. Barba wrapped his arm around Carisi and they went to the bedroom and closed the door.

Amaro turned to Huang. "Personal huh?" he asked referring to what he was going not going to hear. Huang said, I am going to dispense Carisi he first dose of medication, but yes, personal. The couple are going to get some homework."

"I got it. Barba will probably be embarrassed enough with just you. Adding me will make it more awkward," acknowledged.

Huang nodded.

"Can I ask you something?" Amaro inquired.

"Sure," Huang answered curious about Amaro's tone.

"So, being friends with Carisi and Barba is new to me...and I need to figure out how...well, I mean guys talk about sex all the time...and I need to know..." Amaro was really struggling to voice his inquiry and Huang noticed this and laughed.

"The mechanics? The terminology?" he tried to decipher Carisi's question.

"Yes. I would Google it, but not at work, and I don't want to give Cynthia the wrong idea," said explaining his embarrassing question. "I know it is a weird request, but can you...explain things to me?" Amaro bravely asked.

Huang shook his head. "Sure, and it is not that weird. Emotions are the same, the mechanics is just a bit different." Then Huang added a stipulation, "but only if you translate that song...and translate some of Rafael's sporadic Spanish mumblings. I hate not knowing what he is saying."

The two grinned sealing the pact.

---

Barba and Carisi prepared themselves for bed. Both were in boxer briefs and t-shirts. They were sitting on the side of the bed awaiting Huang's visit. They heard a knock.

"Come in doc," Carisi said.

Huang came through the door and sat down next to Carisi and dispensed pills from a medication bottle and handed him a glass of water. "Take these."

Carisi did as instructed while his cheeks pinkened.

"Open up," Huang he ordered as he checked to make sure Carisi swallowed the pills. "Good," he said satisfied they were down.

"I feel silly," Carisi replied.

Huang put a head on his shoulder. "There mental state is concerning and this is not silly at all. I am sorry if this makes you feel silly, but we need you to be safe."

Then he stood up and faced the couple. "Now, I am going to give you guys some homework, and I thought it would be more comfortable without Nick being present."

"Has to be about sex," Barba sheepishly thought.

"I want you two to try to enjoy yourselves tonight. No penetration. No blow jobs. Find other ways."

"Okay, you're the doc," Carisi responded with a smile.

Huang saw how horrified Barba was getting at sex homework.

"It's just fun, Rafael. Enjoy yourself. Doctor's orders," he said leaving the room and closing the door."

---

Barba was speechless. Carisi pulled off Barba's shirt and boxer briefs, the second seemed to snap him back to reality.

Barba took Carisi's shirt off and played at Carisi's waist band. He ran his hands up and down Carisi's bare chest. "I need you to tell me what to do. What you are comfortable with," Barba prompted.

"I am open to grinding and frotting, if that is fine with you," Carisi decided.

"I think I can accommodate that," Barba said as he pushed Carisi back on the bed and gently removed his boxer briefs. He really wanted to do oral on Carisi's dreamy body, but he kept within Huang's instructions and his lover's request.

Barba leaned his body over Carisi's and the two began brushing each other's cocks. Once they felt their erections begin, they moved their bodies back and forth rubbing as their erections grew, hands free. Their pace quickened and then Barba changed the rhythm as they got close to coming, teasing his lover.

He put sat back with his legs outside of Carisi's. He leaned over a gently drew swirls on the end of Carisi's cock with his finger and he bent over and started to tease Carisi's nipples. Carisi was breathing fast. "Oh...god...ooo."

"You okay, my love?" Barba asked as he shifted his lips from Carisi's nipples to his head covering his face in kisses.

"Definitely," he replied. Barba could see confirmation in his eyes.

Then Carisi flipped Barba over on to his back. He traced his finger around Barba's naval and tickled the underside of Barba's erection. Barba, caught off guard left out a loud gasp as he felt his breathing matching Carisi's. Then Carisi reestablished contact between their erections beginning gently to brush by each other but then quickly sped up.

"Who do you think is going to come first?" Carisi asked referring to their game. 

"Apparently you!" Barba laughed he found himself be covered in Carisi's cum.

"I win!" Barba exclaimed as he came over Carisi just seconds later.

Carisi pulled himself off of Barba and dropped next to him.

"I'll get you next time," Carisi said. "You just wait."

"Is that supposed to scare me? Barba said smirking.

Carisi pulled the pillow from behind his head and playfully smacked Barba with it.

"Should we go get cleaned up?" Carisi asked. Barba nodded and led the way to the bathroom and the two took a hot, very steamy shower. The water was not all that was steamy.

Chapter Text

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It was finally Thursday morning when Barba had opened his eyes. "Did they add a few days this week?" Barba pondered to himself. With all the emotional turmoil that they he and Carisi went through this week, he was just praying for the week to be over. Barba reluctantly pulled himself from Carisi's tight embrace and got out of bed. He was going to work today, but he was nervous about leaving Carisi's side. Carisi's suicidality episode from Tuesday still lingered in Barba's mind. Huang would be with him, but he was still nervous. After eyeing his love for a few minutes, he finally got dressed and headed to the kitchen.

In the kitchen he joined Amaro and Huang for breakfast. He was content with his cup of coffee and was hoping that his friends would let him enjoy it without pushing food on him. He just didn't feel up to eating yet. He had butterflies in his stomach about leaving Carisi's side.

"He seems to be sleeping soundly," Barba announced. 

Huang nodded. "He will probably be tired for awhile until his depression lifts. That's usual."

Barba noticed dark circles under Huang's eyes. "Did you sleep last night?"

"Not much, but I've got some great coffee to help with that," Huang said with a forced smile as he picked up his mug.

"So I'm heading to the precinct. I should be off by four or five if all goes smoothly and then I'm gonna stop in and have dinner with Cynth and the kids." Amaro was well aware of how crazy a day on the job could turn in a split second.

"Are you going to be okay here, doc?" Amaro asked before leaving.

"Yeah, we'll be fine."

Barba hesitantly left the apartment after agreeing to ride with Amaro to work.

---

"I know Huang will take good care of him, but he does look tired. I am scared to leave Sonny," Barba randomly confessed.

Stopped at the traffic light, Amaro turned to Barba. "He was up all night watching over you guys," Amaro revealed. I slept because I had work. Stabler has the afternoon off and he is going to come over so George can get some sleep," he explained. "Besides, Stabler will tackle Carisi easily if he tries to pull something." 

Barba grinned feeling a little more comfortable. The traffic light turned green and as Amaro began to accelerate Barba's phone rang. It was Benson. He put it on speaker. "Hey, Liv. You've got Nick and me on," he said.

"Hey Nick! Rafa, could you stop by the precinct? I want you to take the case we put on your desk Monday."

"I didn't exactly get to read the details yet." He didn't feel it necessary to explain because of the shenanigans his female colleagues put him through on Monday.

"We'll fill you in," Benson replied.

"We're about ten minutes out," Nick interjected.

---

"Okay, see you guys soon," Benson said as she hung up and sat down at her desk.

Stabler knocked on her door and left himself in. He plopped down on the sofa. "Did George tell you I am heading over to Barba's after I get off?"

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

Stabler shook his head. "George was up all night keeping an eye on them. I'm going over so he can catch some shut eye."

Benson sighed in relief. "Good. So how's things between you and George since you guys have reconnected?"

"I think he is a little rattled that I've been in therapy and...well...am not the same person he remembers," he shared with a laugh.

"Well, I am sure he'll adjust, I know I am," she said with a smile.

After a pause, Stabler took a breath, "I know leaving SVU, you, it was a bad call."

"It wasn't you leaving," Benson said gently, "it was how you did it. You cut us all out without even the slightest explanation."

"I know. I've regretted it everyday since. I can't do anything to take it back or undo it now. All I can do is to apologize, and Liv, I really do apologize. I know I hurt you. I just ran away because I couldn't deal with the fact I had to shoot the daughter of a rape victim who was traumatized from the death of her mother. It just pushed me over the edge. It doesn't justify how I left, but I hope you can understand the why."

Benson nodded. "I've forgiven you," Benson said with a smile but glassy eyes. "Just don't do it to us, or me, ever again, please?" 

"I won't," Stabler promised.

"So what is the real reason you are here?" Benson asked trying to change the conversation before she started weeping like an ex-girlfriend.

"Cassidy and Jeffries," Stabler answered.

Benson nodded. "Yeah, I guess we should talk about that," she said nervously.

"I heard about you and Cassidy, but I want to talk about Jeffries first," Stabler said. Benson felt some relief with delaying the Cassidy segment, even if it would only be for a few minutes.

"You know Cragen let her go because of her spiraling behavior, right? They thought she was suicidal," Stabler said reminding her.

"I know that, but she was not given a second chance. That kind of thing, it could damage or end someone's career. It is a part of life. She was never given the opportunity for treatment. She was just cut." She paused. "I was given a second chance after Lewis. Barba, granted he doesn't carry a gun to work, at least that I'm aware of anyhow. He is getting a second chance. You have a second chance here. We all have our damage and had our second chances. Monique deserves that chance."

Stabler took a minute to digest her reasoning and nodded. "You're right, Liv. I think SVU owes her that much." Then he added, "Carisi certainly deserves that too. We can get through all of this together, even if it means having to sit in George's office for extended periods of time," he said with a laugh. 

Benson felt relief that she had Stabler's blessing, although she knew she didn't need it. She was the boss and she knew he respected that, but it was nice to have it none the less.

"She is going to start out by helping Jon as an investigator, but I promised that she would get a second chance with us once everything is settled."

"And Cassidy," Stabler said initiating the hard conversation. The conversation he could see Benson was uncomfortable with.

"We were in a bit of an extended relationship. We grew closer after Lewis and something he went through. We had a lot of fun, but in the end, we just didn't have a future. For example, I wanted to be a mother. He wasn't interested in kids. It was a mutual but clean break. No hard feelings."

"So he didn't hurt you?" Stabler asked.

"No. We were just there for each other until we were ready to move on."

Stabler smiled and left out a breath. "I know we weren't...we were partners. Nonetheless, changed or not, I would have kicked his ass if he hurt you."

"He didn't and please don't," she replied with a grin.

---

As Barba and Amaro entered the squad room, they saw some more changes. There were three rooms office furniture was being transported to. Each room had a name plaque posted on the door. One for Fin, Stabler, and Huang. 

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A new workstation was being set up in the squad room for Cassidy. "Welcome back detective," Barba said when Cassidy nearly ran into him.

"Thanks, Counselor," Cassidy replied. He turned to Amaro. "Is it going to be a problem for us to be coworkers?" 

"Let's talk," Amaro said not giving away any clues. He wrapped his arm around Cassidy's shoulder and escorted the alum to the new break room.

---

"Hey pal, relax, sit down."

Cassidy sat down feeling weary about how Amaro was going to respond to his presence at SVU. Carisi poured two cups of coffee and sat down giving Cassidy one of them.

"You know, if it is an issue, I can stay out of your way or Liv could try to transfer me somewhere else. I know we had a rocky experience," Cassidy was trying to quickly establish what Amaro needed from him or if he needed to vanish completely from SVU.

Amaro put his hand up to shush him. "I initially just had an issue with you being with my partner romantically. Then how your lawyer ambushed me about my past with Cynthia and blind-sighted me with a kid I didn't know I had, it just made things even more tense between us."

Amaro took a sip followed by a deep breath before continuing. "Maria, Zara's mother pasted in Afghanistan two years ago." Amaro paused again to maintain his composure.

"I'm so sorry," Cassidy shared his condolences.

"Yeah. Well, the point is, I am now married to Cynthia, I have a relationship with my son. Zara has a brother and step mother. It really sucked at the time, but you and your very presence brought my true love back into my life. If you are willing, I'd like to start fresh. What do you say?"

"That wasn't the reaction I was expecting," Cassidy uttered.

"Clearly," Amaro said laughing at Cassidy's stunned expression. "So, what do you say?"

"You got it," Cassidy replied as he shook Amaro's hand.

---

"So, what is this big case you want me to take a look at?" Barba asked Benson.

"Well, we have another situation at Hudson."

"Again," Barba moaned rolling his eyes. "Their administration is always such a headache to deal with."

"I know. I wish things would change there, but it doesn't ever seem to."

"Well..."

"There has been a series of bodies discovered Monday mornings. Females raped, brutalized, and asphyxiated. Looks like it might be linked to weekend fraternity parties."

"Any suspects?" Barba asked.

"Yes, three."

"Any DNA?"

"No." 

"Surveillance?"

"No."

"Witnesses?" Barba was growing frustrated.

"Not yet.:

"So, in other words, you want me to somehow raise a snowball out of hell for you?"

"Sort of," Benson sighed. "You need another cup of coffee?"

"Yep," he said tossing his third cup of the day in to the trash.

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---

It was just before noon when Stabler knocked on Barba's apartment door and Huang showed him in.

"Hey, doc. You look like hell."

"Thanks for noticing," Huang said with a yawn. "I really appreciate you doing this."

"It's nothing. Why don't you go get some sleep. Where's Sonny?"

"Sonny just got out of bed just a little bit of go and is taking a shower. He's depressed and the antidepressant I put him on is just going to contribute to his drowsiness."

"Is he going to need any medication while you are out?"

"No just at night. He can have something for headaches, but otherwise, I would prefer you wake me to ask," Huang directed.

"Can do. Anything else?" Stabler asked. 

"I'll let you know after I get some sleep. Just wake me if you need to." Huang smiled and thanked Stabler again and went to the guest room. 

Stabler decided until Carisi showed his face, he was going to just stick to his routine. He hadn't worked out yet for the day so he changed into a tank and shorts and began doing pushups and crunches in the living room.

---

Benson was still chatting with Barba when her phone buzzed. She looked at the phone and saw a text. Barba saw confusion in her face. "What is it, Liv?"

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"Maureen and Kathleen want to meet for drinks tonight," she shared still looking confused.

"Elliott's girls?" Barba asked.

She nodded as she typed back a text. "God, I remember before they were teenagers and now I am going to have drinks with them. I'm getting old," she sighed.

Barba stood up and kissed her on the forehead. "Yep, I seem to recall you are older than me."

She shot him a glare and then a playful smile.

"Well, I'm not sure if I can get you a warrant for undercovers on campus for the weekend, but I'm going to try Petrovsky and then maybe Donnelly. If it was any other college, you wouldn't even need a warrant for UC's or surveillance. Any other administration would be sold solely on the string of bodies showing up." He sighed. "But this is Hudson."

Fin, Amaro, Rollins, and Cassidy came up behind them. "I wish they would just knock that establishment to the ground," Fin said sharing his opinion of Hudson University.

"Need something, Sergeant?" Barba asked.

"I found a security guard who is going to try to get his weekend shift switched to patrolling near frat house the suspects are from."

"Well, at least someone wants to cooperate," Benson remarked.

"I'll let you know soon if the warrant comes through," Barba said. "Mind if I take this case file? I want to spend the afternoon working from home," Barba asked. He wanted to get back to Carisi as soon as possible.

"Sure," Benson said handing him the file.

All Things Law And Order: Law & Order SVU “Girl Dishonored” Recap & Review

"How's Sonny?" Rollins asked.

"He seems to be coming around. He finally started accepting that he is a victim too and that it is not his fault," Barba shared.

"Yeah, it seems like his fiancé and Huang are finally getting through to him," Amaro said.

Barba turned pink. Fiancé was a new term he was still getting used to hearing, but he enjoyed hearing it every time. It made him think of his future with Sonny and a family.

"Thank you all for your help. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning trying to help him. At least now, if something goes horribly wrong, I have you all to drag under with me," Barba said with a genuine smile.

"That's what we're here for," Benson replied.

"Can I give you a hug?" Rollins timidly asked.

This request caught Barba off guard. He would have never even considered it before their ordeal. He would have scuffed and walked out the door. Not a blood family member or lover and certainly not in the work place.

However, Barba had changed. He was still changing. He gave a hesitant nod and Rollins quickly drew him in for a tight hug. She whispered in his ear. "Thank you, I've been so worried about you two, and this is the only way I seem to feel like you are safe and still alive."

Barba moved one hand and gently held the back of her head. His heart hurt knowing she seemed to be pained with worry. He whispered back, "You don't need to worry anymore, Amanda. We are here and alive. Thank you for your concern."

After leaving go, he asked her and the others if they had any messages for Sonny.

"We'll text him some jokes and commentary later, but for now, tell him to take care of himself. You too, Barba," Rollins said. 

---

Back home, Barba found Stabler and Carisi sitting on the sofa watching TV, thankfully not one of his performances. Stabler was still in a tank and shorts.

"Been working out, Detective?" Barba asked removing his shoes and suit jacket.

"Every day," he said grinning. "Plus I needed something to do until Sonny got his butt out of bed."

"How are you feeling?" Barba asked sitting down next to Carisi.

"Okay, just tired right now." 

---

Barba spent a hour in his home office frustrated over the case file. There was just absolutely no evidence or any line of logic that he could use against a private university (other than common sense, just nothing legal) to convince a judge to sign a warrant.

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"Damn it," he said out loud. He called Judge Donnelly's chambers. She was the one who was most recently a DA, and that was still years ago. She probably could sympathize with the situation and offer some advice, even if she couldn't (and legally shouldn't) sign the warrant. He was stunned when she actually answered. He was expecting to leave a voicemail.

"Hello, your Honor." He filled Donnelly on the case and how he knew he couldn't get a warrant. He needed some advice on what at this point was a pitiful case Benson was trying to get him to take. After several minutes, Donnelly concluded that more bodies would probably continue to drop until the perps made a mistake and left evidence.

Barba sighed, "That's what I was afraid of. Thank you, your honor."

"Liz," Donnelly corrected him. "We are not in court, Rafael," she said.

After hanging up Barba kept thinking about Hudson. Donnelly also expressed her low opinion of Hudson's administration. "No one seems to like them," Barba thought. "Given their reputation, how would any parent allow their child to go to Hudson. I sure as hell won't be allowing our kids to go there," and he knew Carisi would back him on that. "Not unless serious changes are made."

He texted Benson.

Rafael: Warrant is a no go. Sorry.

Liv: I know it wasn't likely. We'll get some evidence soon.

Rafael: Hopefully not at the cost of too many more. Even one more is too high a cost.

Liv: Agreed.

---

When he came out of his office, he found Carisi and Stabler preparing dinner. He didn't care what it tasted like. He was hungry. He only had like six coffees today. Probably wouldn't sleep much, if at all tonight. Well, maybe if he and Sonny had sex, maybe he could doze off for a while.

Huang appeared at the table looking refreshed. 

"George, you look much better," Stabler said.

"Doc, you don't have to stay up all night watching us," Carisi said feeling guilty he was the reason Huang was sleep-deprived.

"Sonny, listen to me. I feel better knowing you are safe. Remember, your feelings are temporary and you'll get through this. If I temporarily have to change my sleep schedule, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make for friends."

Sonny's eyes became glassy, but he was proud of himself for not crying.

---

After dinner, Stabler headed home and said Amaro would be returning later tonight. Huang escorted the couple to the living room and the couple took their customary position on the sofa holding hands and leaning on each other. Barba felt weird doing this, but hell, Huang has witnessed so much of their PDA over the last few months. "Who cares anymore. My tough face has faded long ago," Barba thought finally surrendering his awkwardness. Besides, it comforted Carisi.

"So how did your homework go last night?" Huang inquired.

"Pretty good, no issues," Carisi reported.

Barba nodded.

"Use your words please, Rafael," Huang instructed.

Barba bit his lip to keep from laughing. The way Huang said that, made him feel like a child.

"It was fun," he finally said. "It made me happy seeing that Sonny was enjoying us and he didn't look petrified."

"That's great," Huang said. 

"I'd like you to do that tonight as well, if you both want to."

Carisi was all smiles and looked at Barba who had quickly reverted to head nods.

"Rafael?" Huang said in a scolding tone.

Barba again bit his lip. "I'd like that, Sonny."

"I'd like to stick with this sort of thing until you've been on your medication a few days, Sonny. Once I think you are more stable, we'll start back tackling the hard stuff. How do you feel about that?" Huang asked extending him the opportunity to change the course of his therapy.

"I think being more stable will definitely help, so yeah, that sounds good," Carisi said agreeing with Huang.

"Plus it will give Rafael more time to use his words..." Huang said being interrupted by Carisi.

"To talk about sex and emotions," he teased Barba.

"Fuck you," Barba playfully responded. "Just terrific," he said sarcastically and giving them the best eyeroll he could.

All of them, including Barba, laughed at his response.

Huang dispensed Carisi's medication and sent the couple to bed for the night. After the couple disappeared into the bedroom, Amaro showed up.

"So I am going to watch TV and keep busy to stay awake," Huang said making a fresh pot of coffee.

"They in bed already? It is only nine o'clock," Amaro asked.

"Homework, Nick," Huang said with a goofy grin.

"Well doc, about my homework, are you ready to school me on male on male relations?"

"Good time as any," he replied. 

"Okay, now the terminology is probably the best place to start..." he said initiating the conversation and following Huang into the living room.

Part way into the discussion they heard passionate moaning coming from Barba's bedroom.

"That's probably enough for tonight," Huang said turning on the TV and raising the volume.

"I'm glad they can still make each other happy," Amaro said.

---

Benson got to the bar and spotted Maureen and Kathleen at a booth. She went over and joined them and ordered her drink.

"This is so strange. I remember you both before you were teenagers and now we are drinking together," Benson said. 

Both daughters laughed. "Yeah, time flies," Maureen said.

After they all took a sip of their drinks, Kathleen initiated the purpose of their gathering. "So...you are probably wondering why we wanted to meet up?"

"I was curious," Benson replied.

"Mom left each of us messages in her will," Maureen said beginning to explain. 

Benson's heart felt heavy. "I'm so sorry," she said expressing her sympathy. 

They both gave gentle nods. "Dad's doing okay. He's changed a lot. At first he was all PTSD and shutdown, but that intervention, it really helped. He started therapy. It's been great and he's shared so much. He has also told us how lonely he feels without her. And I get that, I really do," Maureen said. "I can't imagine losing my husband."

Kathleen took over. "In mom's will, she told us to take care of dad. She also left you a message, in case she went first."

Maureen handed her an envelope. "I'm sorry, but we did read it. All of us kids. We want to see dad happy. Once you read it, please know we all talked about this, and, not that you need it, but we give our blessings. Mom does too."

After finishing their drinks Maureen and Kathleen were heading to their dad's apartment. They were going to give Stabler the letter their mother left for him.

Benson ordered another drink and opened the letter.

Olivia,

I know he abandoned you. I want you to forgive him, for my sake. We are at the age in our life where we reflect and plan for our loved one's futures.

I know this is going to seem crazy. He loved us both, in different ways, and I know you know that. I was the mother of his children and his childhood sweetheart. We are happy and in love with each other. I want to leave you a message in the event that I pass before him.

I know you were his work-wife, partner, and best friend. I do not make this request lightly, but I do it because I love Elliott so much and I want him to be happy and to move on with his life. My death will leave a hole and I am asking you to fill it. I have no right to ask this of you, but if you love him and are still single, I really would be honored if you would fill my spot (see, I warned you that I had no right to ask!). I know he loves you and I don't want him to be alone. But, if you are married, and you find it in yourself to forgive him, I hope you will be his work-wife, partner, and best friend again.

You are the best person I know, and I know you care for Elliott. You are passionate and care for others. In a sound state of mind and out of love, I want you to be with Elliott in one form or the other, but I hope as the first.

I am leaving Elliott a similar message. I told him this is not betrayal and to not hold back on my behalf as I want him to continue to be happy.

[Signature of Catherine Stabler]

[Notary Public Stamp]

Benson folded the letter and put it back in its envelope and tucked it in her purse.

She finished her drink and headed home in a state of shock. "God, I hope George can fit me in between the guys," she hoped. "Lindstrom too." She was going to need multiple perspectives on this issues. She already knew she had Stabler's children's and Cathy's perspective. She didn't know how she felt about Elliott anymore or whether he still had feelings for her. She knew she and he did have feelings for each other, but it was just not an option in those days. Then she found herself wondering if Noah would be a deal breaker. His kids were grown and hers was just was young. "Whoa, jumping the gun," she thought to herself.

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Chapter Text

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When Barba opened his eyes Friday morning, he found himself staring into Carisi's blue eyes.  "Good morning my Sonny shine," Barba said smiling and gently pressing a kiss to his forehead. Both men were laying naked under the covers. They were too tired from their lovemaking last night to even get dressed for bed. "Was last night good for you?"

Carisi nodded as he yawned. "Absolutely, I definitely needed you," Carisi replied with a smirk.

"How are you feeling today?" Barba asked trying to decipher whether or not today was going to be an emotional day from the get go.

Carisi sarcastically replied "Well, Dr. Rafa, I'm just tired." Carisi yawned again.

"I can see that. But seriously,  are you...?

"Rafa, if you are asking if I am thinking about eating a gun or overdosing, the answer is no. Even if I was, I wouldn't have enough energy to actually do it."

Carisi saw Barba's eyes widen with concern over that last comment. "Really, Rafa, I'm fine," he said leaning in for a deep, passionate kiss.

When Carisi broke away from the kiss, Barba remarked "Yes, you are fine," and pulled Carisi towards himself for another long, sloppy kiss while he ran his hand up and down Carisi's torso, finally settling on his abs.

"I don't have the energy for this...and I have to go to work," Barba whined with a puppy face.

"You can stay with me for a few more minutes, Rafa," Carisi pleaded.

They held onto each other tightly and and intended to just restfully cuddle, but their hearts and bodies had different plans.

Mere cuddling started to arouse both men. Barba could feel his erection starting and he could feel Carisi start to harden against against his. Their lips connected before either of them knew what they were doing. After a minute the couple began to gently rock against each other which led to rubbing together.

"I thought we were to tired for this," Barba whispered as his breath quickened to sync up with his lover's.

"It's Friday, we're allowed to be horny," Carisi rationalized while groaning in pleasure.

Barba ran his hands over Carisi's torso teasing at his nipples. His mouth found its way to Carisi's ear nibbling at it. Then Barba shifted a hand down to start stroking Carisi's length and found it to be quite hard. "Dios mios, eres tan sexy, mi amor." Barba flipped Sonny from his side to his back and positioned himself on top making it easier for them to grind against each other.

"Rafa...ooo," Carisi moaned. Carisi could feel his lower body and knees tremble. His hips began to buck up and Barba firmly held his hips down.

Carisi used his back time to pay special attention to Barba's firm ass and then gently made his way to grabbing Barba's cock causing the ADA to shudder. They were lost in their pleasure and gazing into each other's eyes with excitement.

"I am so lucky to be with you," Barba murmured in Carisi's ear. Then he changed varied his pace and pressure grinding against Carisi's cock. Carisi gasped.

Carisi reached one of his lengthy arms to the nightstand and expertly located and pulled a tube of lube from the drawer.

"Lube me?" Carisi asked handing Barba the lube. Barba put some lube on his hands and went to work lathering it onto his fiancé's cock. Carisi was getting so much pleasure and his hips were bucking up again. He firmly grabbed Barba's ass. Barba was pretty sure he was going to end up with fingerprints on his ass, but he didn't care. They were having way too good a time.

Carisi flipped Barba over and took the top position. He propped a pillow under Barba's hips and began lubing his entrance tracing circles around it. He kept teasing his entrance slowly sliding fingertips in ever so slightly and then pulling them out. He could feel the warmth radiating from Barba's entrance as he opened him up.

Barba was now the once shuddering and hips bucking. Carisi enjoyed seeing the euphoria wash over the ADA's face. "Son...Son...Sonny, dios mios!" he gasped.

"You want more?" Carisi teased.

"Yes...yes," Barba pleaded.

Carisi slid one finger completely in and explored his insides and followed by another. He could feel Barba was almost ready. After inserting a third finger, he slid his entire fist into him. He found his prostate and started stroking the area, slow at first and then faster.

"Ahhh..." was all Barba could get out of his mouth.

Carisi removed his fist and lined himself up and inserted his cock and started thrusting varying the pace and firmness as he and Barba gazed in each other's eyes. Both men were breathing rapidly and sweat dripping from their faces as they worked hard to pleasure one another.

Both were getting close to their climaxes. Carisi grabbed the the underside of Barba's cock and stroked his balls. "Soooo close," Barba moaned just as he came all over Carisi's chest. His eyes rolled back as rode out the waves of his orgasm,

"Not much of a warning," Carisi laughed.

"My turn..." Barba said working the base of Carisi's cock over almost instantly making him come. He enjoyed the warm feeling of Carisi coming inside him.

The two kissed before Carisi moved off of Barba and dropped to his side. Barba, being a little more recovered, turned and wrapped his arms around Carisi and held him tightly. He planted a kiss on his forehead while Carisi still had his eyes closed trying to recover from his own orgasm.

"I won this time," Carisi declared in between gasps.

"Barely, just wait until next time," Barba retorted. "I love you Sonny," Barba whispered.

"Love you too, Rafa," Carisi gasped with a huge smile finally opening his eyes.

---

"Rafael, you are going to be late!" Huang called through the door.

"Shit!" Barba jumped out of bed and tripped over the sheet that he was wrapped in and fell forward flat on his face, still stark naked.

"Rafa?" Carisi asked startled hearing the ADA hit the floor. "Are you okay?"

Barba hit his head on the way down and was out cold. Carisi jumped out of bed and slid on a pair of boxers, not even sure if they were his.

"Doc! Doc! Get in here!" he shouted as he draped a sheet of Barba's naked ass.

Huang burst through the door. "What the hell?" he exclaimed seeing Barba face down on the floor.

Amaro hearing the commotion ran in. "Umm..." Amaro was shocked.

"Don't move him!" Huang shouted to Carisi who was trying to pick Barba off the floor.

Huang felt along Barba's neck and spine. "Nothing obvious feels wrong."

"Nick, do you have anything sharp?" Huang asked.

Nick pulled his keys from his pocket. "How about the edge of a key?"

"It'll work, we'll MacGyver it." Huang ran the sharp edge of the keys against Barba's feet, legs, and arms. Everything seemed to react.

Barba started stirring, still laying face down.

"Stay still, Rafael," Nick said.

"Do you know where you are?" Huang asked.

Barba was slow to respond. "Home."

"What hurts?"

"My head," Barba answered.

"Do you think you can sit up?" Huang asked.

"Yeah."

All three knelt around Barba. Amaro and Huang helped him up to his knees while Carisi made sure his manhood was covered.

Huang turned the flashlight on his cell phone on and shined it into Barba's eyes. "Follow the light with your eyes." Huang commanded. "No Rafael, just your eyes." Barba followed the light. "Okay, doesn't look like you have a concussion. "Can you tell me what happened?" Huang asked.

Carisi opened his mouth but Huang stopped him with a hand. "Rafael, can you tell me what happened?"

Still responding slowly, Barba said, "I fell."

Huang sat there not sure if that was descriptive enough. "Was that just a guess?" he asked himself.

"Why?" Huang asked trying to figure out if he was with it.

All of a sudden it was clear Barba was with it again. "I overslept, okay?" he snapped.

Despite his snappiness, everyone smiled because they knew Barba was okay.

Barba looked down and saw that he was wrapped only in a sheet. He looked mortified. 

"It's okay Rafa, they didn't see anything," Carisi tried to reassure him seeing panic form Barba's green eyes. "I covered you before they came in."

Barba's cheeks pinkened.

"Do you want to call out?" Huang asked.

"Just tell them I'll be late," he replied.

"Sonny, take him for a shower. Nick, call Carmen and tell her he's running late. I'll lay out a suit."

Everyone began following Huang's orders when Barba interrupted them. "I don't need an escort," whined blushing.

"Yes you do!" Huang shouted back at him as Carisi pulled Barba into the bathroom.

---

When Barba and Carisi emerged from the bathroom they began dressing. After putting a pair of boxers on, Carisi assisted the Barba with his ADA costume helping to button him up.

Huang knocked on the door and called, "Do you at least have bottoms on?"

"Yeah, doc. Come on in," Carisi replied.

Huang had his medical bag.

"I'm fine," Barba mumbled.

"I'm sure you are, but I am still going to stitch that cut on your head," Huang told him.

"Fine," Barba pouted in defeat.

Huang stitched him up and Barba finished dressing by buckling his belt and snapping his suspenders.

As Barba was combing his hair, Carisi came over behind him and shifted his hair over the bandage of his forehead. "There, hardly noticeable," Carisi said with a smile and kissed the side of Barba's neck.

"Hey there, I've already got enough injuries today," Barba laughed. 

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After another kiss, Amaro ripped Barba from Carisi's clutches. "We have to got to get you to work and you don't need another sex injury." Amaro dragged Barba from the room and picked up the ADA's briefcase.

Huang turned to Carisi. "Before, during, or after?"

"After. We fell asleep and sort of freaked out when you said he was going to be late," Carisi explained.

"Ah..." Huang acknowledged.

---

On the way to work, Amaro decided to tease Barba about this morning.

"So you and Sonny decided to have a quickie before work, did you?" he asked flashing his boyish smile.

Barba scoffed and and pretended to be gazing out the window.

"Oh, come on, Rafael. I'm just messing with you."

Barba sighed.

"There isn't anything wrong with having fun and it certainly isn't something to be ashamed of."

"You weren't the one who knocked himself out while completely naked," Barba said finally engaging in Amaro's conversation.

"It's not that bad. Plus Sonny covered you up, so it really wasn't that bad. I've seen worse. Much worse," Amaro revealed.

"Sure."

"Well, if we are going to dwell on this, I could tell Casey..." Amaro began knowing he'd get a rouse from Barba.

"Don't you dare! I will put you out on the streets!" Barba rebutted.

"Chill, I'm just kidding," Amaro said realizing Barba was not enjoying his jokes. "He knows I'm joking, right?" he asked questioning himself. 

After a few more minutes, Barba changed the subject. "Nick, I am so exhausted. Between everything with Sonny, all the drama with the ladies, and just getting over the flu, there just isn't enough coffee in the world to keep me awake. I will deny this if you tell anyone, but I don't even want to go to work today."

Amaro pulled the car over.

"What are you doing?" Barba asked surprised.

"Is Sonny tired too?"

"Yeah. He made it very clear this morning that he was tired," Barba replied.

"I know George is tired too. Tell you what. We all could just stay in for a quiet night and drink some and sleep in tomorrow morning. Forego the picnic. What do you think?"

Barba nodded. "Would it upset Cynthia to just cancel at the last minute?" Barba asked trying to be polite but all the while relieved at the thought of cancelling tomorrow's plans.

"Nah. I'll call her and just let her know. Trust me, she won't mind, but she is intent on getting to know you and Sonny. She seems to what to know my friends," he said as he maneuvered back into traffic.

"How did you get so lucky? To find Cynthia I mean. She seems great and understanding," Barba asked.

"Just random luck, you know. She is terrific. She was the love of my life when I was a UC. When she disappeared, I never thought I would see her again. She's everything to me," Amaro said.

Barba nodded.

"By the way, you are really lucky yourself. You know, Sonny is pretty great himself and you guys are good together. You bring out the best in each other."

"Thanks, Nick," Barba said blushing.

---

There was a knock at the apartment door.

"Hey George," Benson greeted him.

Mariska Hargitay, B.D. Wong - Mariska Hargitay B.d. Wong Photos - Zimbio

"Is Barba here? Carmen said he called in."

"He was just running late," Huang explained.

Benson's eyes widened with concern. "That's not like him, are he and Sonny okay?"

"A little too okay, today, if you ask me" he shared trying to be discrete.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"They just needed some alone time," Huang replied tilting his head towards the bedroom.

Benson's eyes lit up finally getting the hint. "Oh," she replied with a smile. "Good for them."

"Want some coffee?" Huang asked pouring himself a mug and then her one after she nodded.

They sat at the kitchen table and began sipping.

"Feeling at home here? Better than living alone?" Benson asked.

"Actually, yes to both. Well most of the time, after we get through this situation," Huang answered with a grin. "I'll miss it though."

Benson nodded. "You've become pretty good friends with all three of them, haven't you?"

"Yeah, it's kind of nice. Sure, Nick and Sonny, but who would have never thought Rafael..."

"He is changing, isn't he?" Benson asked fishing for details.

"Yes, and I think for the better. He has love in his life and is learning to be more of a human being." After a second he added "and I think it will help him with his job, too."

"Yes, I agree. I just can't believe how something this...horrific is changing him like this. Most people would have shut down. Like Sonny," Benson sighed remembering how her detective, another friend was struggling.

"It is kind of crazy, but he is so resilient. By the way, I think Sonny is improving. He still has a ways to go, but I am much more hopeful than I was just two days ago. Which I am grateful for."

Carisi peaked around the corner after ease dropping on the two. "Love you too, doc," he chuckled with a great big grin.

He poured himself a coffee and joined them at the table. "Sorry, Liv, I should have changed," he said realizing he was still in just boxers and a t-shirt.

"Not like I haven't seen men in boxers before, you're fine," Benson smiled gently. "How are you feeling?"

Selfie with the boss lady." - Vi | Law and order, Peter scanavino, Mariska  hargitay

"I am actually getting pretty tire of that question, but fine, thank you. I don't feel suicidal but I feel drained. Like all the time," he shared.

"Didn't sound like that this morning," she said playfully.

"You told her? Rafa is going to kill you!" he said laughing at Huang. He knew his fiancé's wrath would be interesting.

"Tell me what? Not like having sex is a big secret," Benson said.

Carisi grinned. "Oh, you didn't tell her ALL of it," Carisi said. "Well doc, I guess we'll just die together," he said looking at Huang who clearly amused. He turned to Benson, "We fell asleep afterwards and when Rafael was told he was running late, he tripped on the sheets and fell butt naked on the floor. Knocked himself out," Carisi shared laughing at his lover.

Benson was cracking up. "Wish I could have seen that! He had to be so embarrassed."

"Hey, I was a gentleman. I covered him up before George and Nick walked in," Carisi sarcastically defended themselves.

Benson was struggling to breathe and Huang was now laughing too from Carisi's defense statement.

After a few more minutes of laughing at Barba's expense, Huang changed the subject.

"So, you could have called Rafael to see where he was. Not that we aren't enjoying your company, but is there another reason you are here?"

"Actually yes. And since I just heard about your sex life, Sonny, I guess you both can help me with this," Benson replied. She told them about how she had feelings for her former partner ten or so years ago and how it crushed her when he disappeared from her life. 

"I think everyone knew that, Liv. I am glad though that everything worked out peacefully with you and Cathy," Huang said.

"Well, Cathy is actually the reason I am here now and why I am trying to figure out if I still have feelings for Elliott."

"Because she died you feel guilty making a move?" Carisi asked.

"No, not that." She shared with them how Cathy had left everyone a message in her will including her. "His two eldest daughters delivered the message last night and were pretty adamant about honoring their mother's final wish and that all the kids agreed that they were fine if...we got into a relationship."

"Damn, Liv," Huang said.

"That's something I thought I'd hear from Sonny."

"That's just...weird. Good, but weird," Carisi said adding his two sense.

"Well, Liv. Have you given any thought as to how you feel about him now?" Huang asked.

"I am trying. I was so angry with him for leaving SVU, for leaving me. I pushed him out of my mind and tried to go. I dated David Haden, Brian Cassidy, and Ed Tucker. Hell, I was even thinking about dating Barba until some blonde claimed him for himself," Benson joked. She really did like Rafael that way, but she knew he and Sonny were meant to be together and that she was met to ultimately be with her former partner.

"You better not be screwin' around with my fiancé," Carisi jokingly threatened her.

"I loved them each, but I knew in the back in my mind who I was meant to be with. I've been so grateful for him coming back, but I feel awful about how he came back into my life."

"Liv, I've been on the job with him and he's been here. He was planning on coming back before his wife's death. They were moving back to New York. Cathy wanted him to make amends with you and return to the work he was so passionate about. Where she and he both felt he did the most good."

"Really?" Benson was stunned.

"I have to back Sonny here, Liv. He told me as much," Huang confirmed.

"Seriously?" Benson still wasn't wrapping her head around Stabler being that open with them.

"He's changed, Liv. Therapy really has changed him. And, like Rafael, for the better," Huang explained.

"Well, I've forgiven him for how he left, and even though we aren't partners anymore, it still feels like old times," Benson confided in them.

"Well Liv, I think you need to figure out how you feel and then sit down with Elliott and see what he feels," Huang said.

Benson nodded. "Thanks. By the way, Stabler is getting random texts of sheep pictures. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that there, would you, Sonny?"

Carisi laughed. "What can I say? The guy is fun to mess with!"

---

Barba spent the day working really hard on the case Benson had given him. This was just going to be another case adding to his famous "suicidal streak," that everyone knew him by. He was determined to find some loop hole. He was still trying to find a way to make Hudson University comply with having either a UC over the weekend or SVU surveillance. He just couldn't find anything on what they had. He had law books spread all over his desk and a few on the floor. He consulted with Novak and Cabot. Neither of them were any help and just ended up backing Donnelly. More bodies had to drop until the perp mad a mistake.

This sort of waiting game always made Barba feel sick. He hated that he legally could do nothing to help SVU or the victims, yet anyhow. He knew he could count on SVU to eventually find him something. Then he could work his magic and get the bastard put away for life.

Barba was wrapping stuff up for the day. He packed casefiles into his briefcase and was putting on his jacket suit just as Renee and Carmen peaked through the door. "Rafael, can we talk to you?" Carmen asked.

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Barba took his jacket back off and told them to have a seat on the sofa. He leaned against the table. "What can I do for our lovely assistants?" he said extending them the opportunity to come out with what was on their minds.

"I was wondering if you and Sonny would be up to having dinner with us? We wanted to talk more about the next steps for surrogacy," Renee explained. "I want to Chris's child soon, and I'd like to be able to deliver both at the same time," she shared.

Barba nodded with a smile. "I would like that, but we decided to stay in tonight. It's going to be Sonny, Nick, and George. Would you two like to join us for dinner though?"

"Yes, we'd love to," Carmen said getting a nod from Renee. 

"I know Sonny has had a rough week. Do you think he is up to it?" Renee asked concerned for his other half.

"I think he should be, he's so excited about having a child...we both are. I'll call to make sure." Barba stepped out of the office and called Carisi. He came back in and told the ladies they would be glad to have them over.

"You know where we live, I'll see you both soon," he said as he headed home. Renee and Carmen would be joining the guys at 6 for dinner. "

Chapter Text

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Barba made it home just after about 5 PM. He slid his shoes off, dropped his briefcase off in the home office, and hung his suit jacket on the back of the chair at the desk.

"Sonny?" Barba called out.

"In the kitchen!" he heard Sonny answer.

---

He entered the kitchen to see Sonny running his hands frantically through his hair. "I don't know what I was thinking. I can't put everything together before six. Plus we need groceries."

Barba recognized that rambling. It was Carisi's 'I'm nervous or stressed so I am going to talk fast'. "Oh dear," Barba thought to himself.

Barba stepped behind the tall blonde and wrapped his arms lovingly around his torso and kissed his neck. "Why don't we do take out tonight since it is so last minute. We can treat the ladies to a real dinner another time."

Carisi breathed a sigh of relief. "Right, of course," he smiled trying to regain his composure as he walked over the drawer where Barba kept the takeout menus. Carisi enjoyed to cooking and seeing how much people loved his dishes. Before he and Carisi got involved, Barba relied almost exclusively on take-out and delivery. He had no patience for cooking. He couldn't deny Carisi's exceptional culinary skills or that fact that he enjoyed having home cooked food again.

Amaro and Huang were sitting at the kitchen bar. "How about Chinese?" Amaro suggested.

"That sounds good," Carisi said retrieving a Chinese menu and started to put together an order jotting notes on a piece of paper.

Barba realized Amaro and Huang were already dressed for their night in. Both ere in just jeans and t-shirts. Amaro had on a blue top and Huang a black one. "I feel really out of place," Barba said looking down at himself as he was still dressed in his work pants and a button down. "I need to go change...and so do you!" he exclaimed realizing Carisi was still in just boxers briefs. "Didn't you get dressed today?"

"Nope. Nowhere to go. Didn't feel like it," Carisi said rambling off justifications.

Huang took the piece of paper Carisi was jotting an order on. "Go get changed, Sonny. I'll call it in." Huang pulled out his phone and dialed the restaurant number. He began placing the order in Mandarin. 

"Well, I guess he knows what he is doing," Carisi said as Barba dragged him into the bedroom. A few minutes later they both emerged in jeans and t-shirts matching their friends. Barba had a snazzy pair of purple socks on with a black t-shirt while Carisi was barefoot and wearing a white t-shirt.

---

Their food arrived arrived just before the ladies did. In fact, they probably passed the delivery person on the elevator.

Carisi showed the ladies in and escorted them to the living room. "You guys like Chinese?" 

"Yeah, that's great," Carmen said eyeing food containers.

They pulled the sofa, living room chairs, and a few chairs from the kitchen around the coffee table as they dispersed the food containers and drinks.

All sat around the table and engaged in conversations about the office cases and their colleagues. 

"You really need to watch your back with Casey," Renee teased. 

"Is there any particular reason I should be concerned?" Barba asked with a smile trying to hide his apprehension.

He and Casey were friends in law school and great colleagues, but ever since she made her return after Barisi's ordeal, she seemed hell bent on torturing and embarrassing him. Barba secretly thought she might actually have a crush on him. Truth be told, he actually did when they were in law school but he never acted on it. Their careers caused them to grow apart. Now he was passionately in love with Carisi. 

"Let's just say, you've been warned," Carmen laughed.

Barba did what has now become his classic face palm. "I take it, I will find her next stunt to be just as humiliating."

"Probably," Renee replied.

"Maybe I should work from home next week," Barba joked.

"I doubt that would stop her," Carmen replied.

"I could always give her a spare key to the our apartment," Carisi teased. 

"Don't you dare!" Barba exclaimed chucking an empty takeout container at Carisi.

Barba paused as he lingered on Carisi's last statement. Something sounded off. Carisi smiled at Amaro and Huang.

"Did you say 'our' apartment? Are you moving in?" Barba asked.

"Hate to break it to you Rafa, but I already have!" Carisi laughed.

"When?" Barba asked stunned.

"The day after I proposed. Haven't you noticed more of my things in 'our' apartment?" Carisi continued laughing emphasizing 'our'.

"Pay up, Nick!" Carisi shouted.

Amaro reached in his pocket and pulled out cash handing some to both Huang and Carisi.

"And you placed bets on if I would notice? You are lucky I love you so much," Barba tried to mutter firmly.

Carisi leaned in and went for a deep kiss in front of their friends. He pulled away to see Barba flushed. "I love you too, honey."

---

After dinner, Barba and Amaro cleared away the takeout containers and returned to the living room. 

Carisi was wasting no time getting the heart of Renee's visit. "So, are you going to share the next steps..." he said trying to prompt her to initiate the conversation.

She bit her lip. "So, I want to have Chris's child soon which means I want carry yours' so I can deliver them around the same time. I know you both are still dealing with stuff, but I was wondering if you guys were ready to do this. It's okay if you aren't." 

Carisi's eyes lit up. Barba was in love with how excited this discussion made his lover. He was excited too, but he found himself thinking more about Carisi.

"He's so happy. Sonny, the love of my life. I still can't believe he was ready to end everything just a few days ago. We're getting married and going to start a family and I almost lost him," Barba  thought with a quiet sigh. "He is still here and accepting help, we will get through this," he reminded himself. He found himself cherishing Carisi and his happiness in this moment. He was trying to capture the image of Carisi's smile in his memory for later because he had the feeling they would still have some bumps in the road.

"What do you think Rafa?" Carisi's voice interrupted him.

"Sorry, I zoned out there," he apologized.

"Renee wants to get pregnant soon. Is two weeks from Monday good for you? To go to the clinic, you know?" Carisi said recapping what Barba apparently missed.

There was absolutely no hesitation. "Absolutely!" he said with his face now glowing.

"I'll add that to your calendar," Carmen said with a smile.

"That's Great," Renee responded. "So did you figure out which one of you..."

Amaro and Huang started cracking up.

"Tell her your idea, Rafa," Carisi urged.

Barba looked slightly embarrassed and Renee was not understanding why the other guys were laughing. She looked to Carmen who simply shook her head indicating she was out of the loop on this too.

"Don't mind them," Barba finally said. "This might be weird, but this was just an idea I was thinking about," and then he quickly added, "and there is absolutely no commitment to you."

"Okay, Rafael, now I'm curious. Out with it," Renee ordered her boss.

"Well, if we can't decide, I was going to suggest we both use our sperm. Once born, we could do DNA and then the other one could have a second one...not necessarily with you, unless you want to," Barba said tripping over his words.

Renee laughed. "I actually think that is so sweet. I can't promise you anything until after I deliver the first time and see how that goes, but I definitely will consider it."

---

Benson was in her office working late. Lucy was watching Noah until she could make it home. It was wonderful how flexible she was, even on a Friday night and just how eager she was to help out Cynthia Amaro while Nick spent time at Barba's. She couldn't have found a better babysitter and Noah absolutely adored her.

She was just getting ready to call it a night when she heard a knock on her door. Kathleen and Maureen were shoving their father into her office. "Shit, I thought we could put this off for another day," Benson thought.

"You can go home after you talk to her," Maureen said as they closed the office door.

Looking out the blinds, Benson could see that Stabler's daughters took over the squad room. Maureen sat in a chair and propped her legs up while Kathleen sat on the desk looking at her phone.

Stabler was beet red. The only time she ever saw him that shade was when he was angry enough to beat a perp to pulp. But this, this wasn't anger. It was embarrassment.

Benson decided to break the ice. "So they ambushed you too, I see" she said with a laugh.

Stabler walked over and closed the blinds and sat down in a chair in front of her desk. He threw his head back. "I thought teenage girls were difficult, but them being adults and scheming together...I just don't know," he admit running his hands over his face.

"I'm sorry they ambushed you," he began but stopped when he saw she was shaking her head in understanding and smiling. "I just don't know what to make of all this and I certainly didn't expect the message Cathy left," he said trying to put everything together.

Benson gave him another reassuring smile as she pulled two shot glasses from her drawer and filled them with scotch and handed him one. "Your girls...they are certainly something else."

"Just like their mother," Stabler added. "So I guess they are forcing us to have this conversation, aren't they?"

"It looks that way," Benson confirmed. "How about I start?"

Stabler nodded.

"I think each of us knew we had feelings for each other back then, right?"

Stabler nodded.

"You were committed to Cathy. You loved her. You had children with her. I wasn't sure how I fit in, or if I even did. Cathy and I did talk once. I told her I wasn't interested, but she knew otherwise. She believed me though when I told her I did not want to come between you two and your family."

"She told me about that after I left SVU," he replied.

"Can I ask why you came back to New York?" She knew what Carisi and Huang said, but she wanted to hear it from him.

"I wasn't happy. I didn't think I was make as big of a difference as I did with SVU. My work didn't seem as important. Cathy actually was pushing me to come back. With our children grown, she felt differently about me spending so much time away. It's like our babies became adults all going their separate ways and not needing 24/7 attention anymore. I told her I wasn't interested in coming back to SVU after how I left things with the unit and you. She actually dragged me to therapy to convince me to come back. She knew I needed to make things right with you. That night...the night..." he choked back a sob. "We were coming to see you get your award so I could apologize and try to start mend stuff between us. Cathy wanted to be there. She admired you so much, for everything you accomplished in your career and for you being a strong and moral enough person for not breaking up our family."

Stabler paused, drank the entire shot and finally looked up to meet Benson's eyes. She refilled his glass. He could see she was glassy-eyed. "Just the way she was the last couple years, how she held you in such high regard, I can actually see her writing these messages now in retrospect. She loved me so much trying to make sure I would move on if she went first." A tear finally escaped his eye and trickled down his cheek.

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Benson stood up and rounded her desk to sit in the chair next to him and tried to comfort him by rubbing his back.

After a few minutes, "I still have feelings for you, Elliott. You need to figure out how you feel about me. I know it is going to be hard sorting through all this, but I'll be here when you do figure it all out. If you want to try dating, that works for me. For now, let's just agree to be friends again. We're not official partners anymore, but we can lean on each other nonetheless."

"You were always so emotionally intelligent, Liv. Thanks for not putting too much pressure on me. And for forgiving me."

"Not at all," she replied finishing off her drink.

"Do you think they are going to let me go home?" he asked peeking through the blinds spying on his two eldest daughters.

"I've been thinking about getting an emergency exit put in here for when I see the chief of D's or IAB coming so I can discretely flee. Remind me to keep on that," Benson laughed.

---

With the ladies now gone, the men in Barba's apartment began their quiet evening in. Barba put on some music and Amaro broke out the beers. He actually brought several kegs. "Hey, we're adults and it's not like we aren't going to watch out for each other," Amaro said when Huang caught sight of the amount of alcohol he had brought with him. Huang didn't say anything to him, but he wanted to talk with Carisi.

---

He joined Carisi in the kitchen. "Hey, Sonny, can we talk?" 

"Sure, doc what's up?" 

"I know that you want to have some fun and relax tonight, but I wanted to give you some information so that you can make some informed choices," Huang said as he pulled out two chairs for them to sit on.

"It's about the medicine, isn't it?" Carisi asked.

"Yes. You know alcohol is a depressant, right?" Huang asked.

Carisi nodded. "Does that mean I can't drink?" Carisi's tone suggested he was going to be upset.

"I'm not saying that. I am saying that you need to be careful. Don't drink in excess. Stay tuned in with your feelings. If you need help, ask someone." Huang said feeling choked up.

"Doc, you look more upset about me limiting my alcohol intake than I am," Carisi noted seeing Huang's eyes look glassy.

"I just want my friend to have a good time tonight, but I am concerned for his well-being."

"I get that, George. I'll be careful," Carisi promised as they went back into the living room to join the other two.

---

Barba was sitting on the sofa with his bare feet propped up on the coffee table drinking from a beer bottle. He somehow lost his socks. Carisi thought it was intriguing seeing him so relaxed chatting to Amaro who was laying on the floor on his stomach cradling his head in one hand with a beer in the other.

Carisi joined Barba on the sofa and picked up a bottle of beer. Huang sat down in a chair across from the sofa and picked up a bottle as well. He made eye contact with Huang and nodded reminding Huang that he promised to be careful.

"So, I see Rafael, picked the music," Huang said as they were being inundated with show tunes.

"Better believe it," Barba slurred.

"Are you already drunk?" Amaro asked.

"So sue me," Barba replied with a giggle.

Carisi looked at Amaro. "You know what this means..." Amaro smiled. Barba being drunk meant that they had a good chance of making him sing tonight.

The ADA in his happy drunken state didn't seem to hear Carisi. Or he chose to ignore it.

"Who you texting Sonny?" Huang asked.

"Just sending some pictures to someone."

"Please tell me you are not the one sending sheep pictures to Stabler?" Amaro said rolling his eyes.

Carisi laughed. "He doesn't know it's me. He doesn't have my number, or so he thinks," he said with a devious grin.

"You know, he's going to have TARU ping your cell one of these and then he'll kick your ass! He's what, twice your size?" Barba said leaning over on him acting unusually clingy.

"Didn't consider that," Carisi. Then he continued "and Rafa, you are beyond drunk."

"And the night is just getting started," he said acting like a college frat boy. He stood up and started to belt out, "The Best is Yet to Come."

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He plopped back down on the sofa after receiving applause. "So who is next?" 

Huang stood up. "What the hell?"

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"Okay, I think that ends karaoke night, no one can top that!" Huang said staggering back to the chair.

"Ay dios mios," Barba couldn't catch his breath from laughing so hard.

"How about truth or dare?" Barba asked.

Carisi took what had to be Barba's sixth bottle of beer in less than an hour away from him. "You are too hammered," Carisi scolded him.

Barba gave him puppy eyes.

"I'm not falling for that," Carisi sternly said.

Then just like that Barba started weeping into Carisi's shoulders.

Carisi turned to his roomies. "Yeah, I've never seen him weepy drunk before. I think we need to call it a night for him."

Amaro and Huang agreed. Barba couldn't stand on his own so they all had to get him to the bedroom. Huang brought in his seizure medication and Aleve. Amaro made him drink a whole bottle of water. When he finished, Barba laid back and promptly fell asleep and Carisi tucked him in.

The other three returned to the living room and finished their drinks before discarding the remaining alcohol.

Amaro could see that Carisi was upset. "Umm...sorry Sonny, I shouldn't have brought that much. I just figured we'd save some for other occasions."

"It's not your fault," Carisi said irritated. "I have to limit my drinking but he can get so plastered that he doesn't know what he is doing?"

"Sonny, I can tell you are angry. Who are you angry with?"

"Rafael," he replied quickly. "He cut short what was supposed to be fun evening by getting to hammered to know...What the hell is wrong with him?"

"I think Rafa has an impulse problem," Amaro said.

"It seems like he's been drinking a lot more since...it happened. I think he is still trying to cover up bad feelings and stress. Not that this is an excuse, but Rafael did have a rough week too, Sonny," Huang said.

Carisi sat there stunned. Everyone was so focused on him this week, that even he neglected how Barba was feeling. What his emotional spirals must have done to him. He felt guilty.

"Shit," Carisi muttered. "And the alcohol essentially was a cry for help."

"I think so," Huang said.

"It's like one or both of us take a step forward and then two steps back."

"It's okay," Amaro said patting him on the shoulder. "We see this all the time at work."

"But for some reason I am not seeing what is happening right in front of me," Carisi realized.

"Because your own emotions cloud things, that's why you have friends to lean on. Recovery is not a straight path," Huang said.

The three guys called it a night.

---

Carisi shut the lights off, removed his jeans, and crawled into bed next to Barba. He leaned to his ear and whispered, "I'm sorry I forgot about your feelings this week." He wrapped his arms around Barba and drifted to sleep.

Chapter Text

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It wasn't even 11 PM when Carisi was jostled from his sleep. Barba was frantically trying to get to the bathroom but his staggering legs gave out beneath him as he fell to the floor vomiting all over himself.

"Rafa, it's okay," Carisi said as he got up from the bed. He felt ever so slightly tipsy himself, but he only had one bottle of beer in the same amount of time that Barba had consumed at least six. He tried, but he couldn't Barba up on his own. He saw the flat sheet on the floor and rolled Barba onto it and dragged him in to the bathroom.

"Don't worry Rafi, I am not getting rid of your body," he said pretty much joking to himself as he was well aware that Barba was out of it.

He got Barba into the bathroom just as he started gagging again, still not near the toilet. Carisi looked back and saw a trail of vomit from the bedroom to where they currently were.

"God, Rafael. We are going to have a serious talk about this, you know, when you can actually understand me," Carisi groaned as he knelt down and propped his inebriated partner up against the toilet.

Carisi left the bathroom momentarily and came back with a foot stool and put it behind Barba's back to support him. Then he went and got a cool, moist wash cloth and cleared vomit from Barba's face. Then he got another one and ran it over his head gently trying to comfort him as he continued to vomit.

By this time, Huang and Amaro peered into the bathroom. "Yeah, that didn't take long," Amaro said with a yawn. "He didn't even make it until midnight.

"I know," Carisi acknowledged. "He's going to have one hell of hangover."

"I'll start cleaning the floor," Amaro volunteered. "Well, someone has to do it," he thought to himself. He just wanted the smell of vomit gone.

Huang who had disappeared came back with a large water bottle and crackers, but sat them on the nightstand. "I don't think he is quite ready for those yet," Huang said as he entered the bathroom and still saw the ADA gagging over the toilet.

"He has pretty much been vomiting non-stop since I woke up," Carisi said concerned.

Huang sighed and shook his head. "Yeah, this has got to stop. Sonny, since the assault, has even drank once where he didn't drink in excess, vomit, or have a major hangover?"

Carisi shook his head while replying "Nope." Carisi kept wiping Barba's forehead as the vomiting continued.

Then there was a pause. "I don't know if we should get him to drink something or change his clothes," Carisi wondered aloud as he was trying to figure out how to best use the pause. 

"Both," Huang said. Carisi removed Barba's shirt and jeans, which was quite a struggle as Huang tried to force water into the man's mouth.

Amaro rejoined them in the bathroom looking a little woozy himself.

"Are you okay, Nick?" Huang asked noticing how sick he looked.

"The smell of vomit really gets to me." Amaro paused and looked at Barba. "I'm not washing his clothes!" Amaro remarked seeing the vomit covered clothes tossed in a pile.

"Well, that's about a quarter of the bottle," Huang said as he removed the water bottle from Barba's mouth. "Better than nothing."

Huang looked at Barba again. His skin was turning pale with a blue tint and his skin felt cold. A pit formed in Huang's stomach. He's seen this scenario play out several times before during his medical rotations.

"Rafi, can you look at me?" Carisi asked just before Barba lost consciousness. His body was limp. "Damn it Rafi!"

Huang signaled Amaro to follow him out of the bathroom.

"We need to keep Carisi calm, but I think Rafael has alcohol poisoning. We need to get him to a hospital. Call Stabler. When he gets here, we'll tell Sonny then."

Amaro nodded and went to get his phone. Huang returned to the bathroom and sat down next to Sonny and pat his shoulder. "How's he doing?" Huang asked.

"He hasn't thrown up since you guys left and he did seem conscious for a little. He's probably just tired."

Huang felt sick knowing what Carisi thought in comparison to what he thought he knew.

Barba started gagging again, barely conscious as Carisi held his head over the toilet. 

About ten minutes later Stabler got to the apartment. When Stabler came into the bathroom, Carisi looked up confused. "Elliott?" he began asking as Huang pulled him back from Barba and Stabler scooped the limp body onto his shoulder.

Carisi immediately began panicking. "What's going on? Where are you taking him?" 

Without answering him Huang threw a pair of jeans, shoes, and a coat at Sonny. "Get dressed."

Carisi was terrified.

There was just no way they were going to get Barba dressed in a timely manner. Amaro found one of Barba's long winter coats and wrapped around the unconscious man who was at this point only wearing boxer briefs. Stabler scooped Barba up while Huang and Amaro pulled Carisi out the door.

---

They all got in Stabler's SUV. Barba was propped in the center of the backseat between Huang and Amaro and Carisi was sitting in the passenger seat.

"Look, tell me what is wrong!" Carisi finally growled.

"I think Rafael has alcohol poisoning..." Huang began but Carisi started to freak out.

Amaro leaned the unconscious man over on Huang and reached over the head rest and firmly held Carisi's shoulders. "Calm down," Amaro said. Carisi stilled but tears were flowing. Huang was monitoring Barba's pulse and breaths.

---

When they got to the hospital, Stabler parked in the emergency entrance. They all got out of the car and Stabler carried Barba over his shoulders and laid him on a gurney right inside the entrance. Physicians started swarming Barba as Huang reported his pulse and breathing rates and that he suspected alcohol poisoning. Barba was quickly whisked away into a curtained room.

Amaro had his arms around Carisi because he thought Carisi would have tried to get to Barba and get in the way, but he just stood there motionless.

"I'm going to get him to a chair," Amaro said as he guided Carisi to the waiting area.

Stabler turned to Huang. "Were you guys drinking?"

Huang nodded. "Nick, Sonny, and I aren't drunk, but I didn't want to risk it. Thanks for coming."

"Is he going to be okay?" Stabler asked. "He looks bad."

"He is and I hope so," Huang said staring at the floor.

---

About twenty minutes later, Huang's suspicions were confirmed.

The attendee was updating Huang and said that Barba was was indeed suffering from alcohol poisoning. "He's been taken to a private room. We are having trouble waking him up. Even though he is breathing, he is on a ventilator until his oxygen stats improve. He's also got an IV for hydration." The attendee had been looking over Huang's shoulder while giving the update. "Who is that?" the attendee asked.

Huang turned around and saw he was talking about Carisi who was now in full blown panic attack mode. "His fiancé."

The doctor paused. "We expect a good outcome, but I'm not sure if his fiancé is going to be able to handle seeing him hooked up to a ventilator. Do you guys need a private room to try to calm him down? Anything for anxiety?"

"A private room would be great, thanks. I've got his anxiety medication on me, so we should be good."

---

Huang signaled for the rest of the group to follow him into the private room that the doctor arranged for them.

After they entered and shut the door, Carisi started rambling.

"Is Rafael okay? Can I see him? Why aren't we with him?"

Amaro pulled Carisi down into the chair and Stabler pinned him there holding his shoulders down.

"Give it to me straight? Is Rafa dead?"

"Shh!" Huang said kneeling down. "We got Rafael here in time, he is going to be okay. What we need right now is for you to calm down. Take deep breaths," Huang ordered. 

Huang stood up and went a got a glass of water from the sink and handed it to Sonny. "Drink it."

Carisi did as he was told.

"I can't give you any anxiety medication because you drank this evening, so I need you to try to calm yourself down. Then we can go see Rafael, okay?"

---

It was about 2 AM when Carisi was calmed down enough to go see Barba.

"Now, Sonny. The doctor said he is hooked up to a few things. I want to explain before you see him, because it is not as bad as it looks and I don't want you to panic," Huang explained.

Amaro and Stabler's ears perked up as they had not yet been briefed on Barba's condition either.

"Okay," Carisi said.

"First, he has an IV for hydration. He is having trouble waking up, but he will wake up once the alcohol levels are lower."

"Okay," Carisi said again.

"Now this is the part I want you to listen closely too. Rafael is able to breathe on his own, but it's slow breaths. They do have him on a ventilator just to help keep his oxygen levels up, again until his alcohol levels drop."

"Okay."

"So it is not as bad as it looks, okay? Do you understand?" Huang asked.

Carisi nodded in confirmation.

They all quietly entered Barba's room.

The ADA was laying still with an IV in one arm. He was now in a hospital gown and covered with several blankets. There was an oxygen mask on his face which was connected to a machine by a clear tube. His chest visibly rose and sank with the swoosh sound of the machine. His eyes were shut.

"Sonny, it's just like he is sleeping, just don't worry about the IV or ventilator. They're just there to help," Amaro gently said.

"His face and lips have color again," Stabler said trying to also comfort Carisi who he thought might just freak out again at any minute.

Carisi nodded. He walked and sat down on Barba's bed. "Is it okay if I lay with him?"

"Yes, just don't get stuck in the IV tube," Huang replied.

Carisi kicked off his shoes and snuggled firmly up to Barba. "Love you Rafa," Carisi murmured. He thought he felt a squeeze and looked up. Barba's green eyes were open and then closed again.

"See, he's going to be okay, Sonny."

Everyone pulled up chairs and stayed by his bedside all night. Each of them drifted off one at a time, but someone was always awake watching.

---

When Carisi woke up the next day, he found himself staring into Barba's emerald eyes and saw confusion and fear. Carisi stroked his face and whispered "You're okay, Rafi. You're okay." Carisi saw  a tear trickled down the ADA's cheeks and then he tightly closed his eyes.

"Hey, Rafi. It's me, Sonny. Please open your eyes."

Barba slowly complied allowing more tears to escape down his face. Carisi laid down and held Barba tightly and kissed his cheek. "The doctor will be in to check on you soon." Carisi found Barba's hand and held it tightly kissing it.

The rest of the visitors remained quiet as they watched how tender Carisi was with his fiancé. 

The doctor finally entered the room.

"Mr. Barba, please squeeze my hand if you can hear me."

Barba squeezed firmly.

"Good, good. I know you are confused. I am going to remove you from the ventilator to check your breathing. It's probably going to be uncomfortable, but you will be okay. Do you understand me?"

Barba nodded.

"I need everyone out," the doctor said.

Everyone was leaving but the doctor saw Barba was beginning to panic. "Do you want him to stay?" the doctor asked pointing to Carisi.

Barba gave an anxious nod.

"You can stay and hold his hand, just try to stay out of our way."

"Thank you," Carisi whispered. He was relieved. He didn't want to leave his side.

He grabbed Barba's hand. "You're okay, I'm here," he kept repeating gently.

The doctor removed the ventilator which did look like it was uncomfortable and Barba was gagging which then turned coughing once it was removed.

The doctor measured his oxygen levels. "Good news, your oxygen levels are three times as high as when you were admitted. The nurse is going to come in and change out your IV and bring you something to eat and drink. Then I'll be back to do a full exam before we discharge you," the doctor said as he left the room.

Barba still looked terrified and confused. He looked at Carisi. "What happened?" he asked in a raspy voice.

"You almost fucking died on me, again," he shouted at Barba as he sat back down on the bed. He laid down and started crying hard into Barba's shoulder. Barba wrapped his free hand around Carisi and stroked his hair.

After a few minutes, Carisi lifted his head and dried his tears. "You honestly have no idea why you are here?" he asked.

Barba shook his head.

Amaro and Huang came back into the room.

"Stabler had to go to the precinct. He said he hopes you feel better," Amaro shared.

Carisi turned to Huang. "He has no clue why he is here!" 

"Stay clam, Sonny," Huang advised. 

"What do you remember from last night?" Huang asked.

"Being at the apartment, with you guys," he replied.

"Do you know how much you drank?" Huang questioned him.

Barba shook his head.

"Six bottles in less than an hour," Carisi informed him.

"That's why I'm here?"

"Yes, for alcohol poisoning," Huang confirmed.

Barba was stunned. "I don't know...I didn't realize" He couldn't find his words and started crying. "I don't know what is going on with me," he finally managed to get out between sobs. 

"I know, Rafael. We'll help you figure that out later, okay?" Huang asked gently.

Barba nodded.

Carisi was returning to a normal state of mind and leaned down and wiped tears from Barba's face. "What matters right now is that you are okay," he said as he leaned down and gave his struggling partner a kiss.

---

The nurse came in and changed out his IV bag. "This will continue to rehydrate you, but I would recommend drinking and eating as much as you can if you want to get out of here sooner." She laid a bottle of water, Gatorade, orange juice, and crackers on the stand next to his bed.

After the nurse left, Barba frowned.

"Please tell me we are not going to have to force feed you," Carisi whined.

"It's not that...I've got to go."

"Oh, right, you've had two IV bags."

"Come on, lets get you to your feet."

Barba wrapped his arms around Carisi's shoulders and Amaro helped get him and the IV cart to the bathroom door and Carisi closed the door.

Amaro plopped on to Barba's bed and kicked back and turned to Huang. "My new friends...I think I need a shrink. Are you available?"

Huang laughed. "Yeah, but I have to go see mine first."

---

"George! Nick! Can you help me?" they heard Carisi call from behind the bathroom door. They opened the door. Barba was standing but zoned out. "I think he's having a seizure," Carisi guessed.

"Probably," Huang said as Amaro helped Carisi get Barba back to the bed and sat him on the edge.

Barba's eyes started scanning the room a minute later. He looked at Huang and asked "Alcohol and vomiting? I just had a seizure, didn't I?" Barba's tone sounded defeated and Carisi felt it tug at his heart.

The doctor came in and gave him a full work up. "You're a physician, right?" the doctor asked turning to Huang. 

"Psychiatry," he said with a nod.

"Can I speak with you privately?" he asked leaving the room. Huang followed.

---

"Is it safe to say you know what is in his medical charts?" the doctor asked.

"If you're referring to the assault from a few months ago and head trauma, yes."

"Umm...it was...bad. I honestly don't know how he is still alive after that. I have concerns about how he ended up here last night."

"I understand and that is now my immediate concern."

"You got it then?"

"Yeah, and I am going to consult with another psychiatrist as well," Huang said which seemed to put the doctor at ease.

---

"Okay, Mr. Barba. Everything checks out so you can leave, but please be careful," the doctor urged.

---

Since their ride had left, they had to book an Uber to get back to Barba's apartment.

"I don't understand why they couldn't just give me my own clothes back," Barba mumbled fidgeting with the scrubs they had given him.

"They couldn't," Amaro said.

"Why?"

"Because they are sitting in the corner of your bathroom at home covered in vomit," Carisi informed him.

Barba's eyes widened with concern.

"Don't worry, you were wrapped in a coat," Amaro said.

Barba just stared bewildered. That statement did absolutely nothing to lessen his worry or concern.

"For an outgoing drunk, you are quite modest," Carisi joke before kissing him as their Uber pulled up.

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When the guys got back to the apartment, everyone mutually agreed that they all needed sleep. Huang and Amaro went to the guest room and Carisi followed Barba into their bedroom.

Barba didn't even change out of the scrubs the hospital gave him for the ride home. He just crawled in bed and curled up in a fetal position and covered himself with the blanket. Carisi had other plans.

"Rafael, we've got to talk," Carisi began.

Barba turned over. "I know we do, I need some sleep first. Can you let me have that?"

Carisi didn't recognize this tone from Barba. 

"If you promise you will talk to me after you get some shut eye," Carisi said.

"Okay," Barba said as he turned back away.

"Really? Okay? That's it? Who the hell am I laying next to?" Carisi thought to himself as he laid down. He turned to his side so that he was facing his lover's back. He knew Barba was right next to him, but he felt like he needed to keep an eye on him.

Then he saw Barba's head slightly bob as if he was crying and trying to contain it. Carisi reached over and turned Barba towards him without receiving any resistance. He was right. The ADA was sobbing.

Carisi pulled Barba in and allowed him to bury his head in his chest. "Rafi, I know you're tired and you don't want to talk right now, but it is okay if you want to cry. Do you want to just lay here and cry on me?"

He could feel Barba's head nod against his chest. He wrapped his arms around the ADA and was content to just let him cry himself out until they both drifted off to sleep.

---

Barba came to early evening. He could hear people watching tv in the living room. Carisi was still asleep beside him.

He got up and went to the bathroom. He saw his vomit covered clothes in a pile. He filled the bathtub and decided to soak them.

Then he decided he could use a shower and turned the water on to allow the water to warm and steam to fill the air. After undressing, he looked at himself in the mirror. His hair was in a messy disarray and his emerald irises were surrounded by redness. He had dark circles and bags under his eyes.

He caught Carisi looking at him through the mirror. He was stripping off his clothes.

"Yeah, Rafa, you look like hell. Mind if I join you?"

Barba shook his head and they got into the shower together. Carisi started to lather himself up and looked over to just see Barba leaning against the shower wall and lowering himself to the the ground.

Carisi grabbed a shower Loofah and body wash before lowering himself next to Barba. Barba leaned against him and cried as Carisi lathered and washed him. Even after they were both cleaned, he just sat there leaving Barba cry himself out.

Finally Carisi stood up and turned the shower off. "Come on, honey. You are pruned," he said pulling Barba from the ground. Barba walked over and grabbed towels from the cabinet, one for each of them, handed one to Carisi and walked into the bedroom. 

After drying himself, he put on a t-shirt and boxer briefs and laid back down in bed face down.

"I'm going to go get something to eat. Do you want anything?" Carisi asked.

Barba shook his head no and Carisi left the bedroom.

---

Huang and Amaro were sitting on the sofa watching TV. Who restocked the kitchen? Carisi asked as he sat down next to them on the sofa with a sandwich.

"Casey," Huang said.

"I'll have to thank her," Carisi said mid-bite. He swallowed. "Rafa is not doing so well."

"Has he got any sleep?" Huang asked.

"Yeah. He cried. He slept. Then he cried while we showered. Now he's in bed and I am pretty sure he is crying again."

Amaro turned the volume of the tv down. 

"He has a drinking problem, Sonny," Amaro said.

Carisi looked angry hearing that but bit his tongue. In eyes, Barba was perfect, no matter what anyone else thought. 

"Sonny, Nick is right. He's been expressing emotions, the good ones, but he is still trying to hide the negative ones. With alcohol," Huang said.

"Well, what do we do?" Carisi asked frustrated.

"I saw in the hospital, how he looked when he realized he was there because of alcohol poisoning. I think he is crying because he knows he has a problem and he is trying to deal with the negative emotions," Huang said.

"So what, we check him in to rehab? Obliterate his reputation and career?" Carisi asked.

"No, we need him to come out and talk to us. Or to you," Huang replied. 

"He won't talk."

"Give him a little bit more time," Huang advised.

Barba was standing at the bedroom door listening to the conversation in the living room.

Barba finally opened the door and went to the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and a few peanut butter crackers.

He went and sat in the living room. "Mind if I join you?" The ADA sat there and watched TV with them for the better part of an hour. Well, maybe he was watching. He seemed lost in thought. As he headed back to his room, he looked Carisi in the eye and gestured with his head toward the bedroom.

---

Carisi was hoping this meant he was ready to talk. He followed and shut the bedroom door and sat down on the bed next to Barba. Barba laid down placing his head on Carisi's lap. Looking down at his face, he could see tears beginning to streak Barba's face again.

"I'm so sorry," was all Barba could say. Carisi caressed the sides of Barba's face and wiped away tears as they escaped his green eyes in between massaging his temples. They looked deeply and longingly into each other's eyes for several minutes as if they were engaged in some form of intimate conversation sharing their feelings. 

Barba transitioned from laying on Carisi's lap to laying on the bed. Carisi laid down next to Barba so they were eye-to-eye. Carisi grabbed Barba's hands and held them tightly. "Forever," he said as if he was concluding the secret conversation they had with their eyes. Both wrapped their arms around each other and fell asleep for the rest of the night.

---

Sunday morning, just about 8 AM, Barba heard his bedroom door open and he sat up alarmed. Amaro and Huang had brought them breakfast in bed. Barba, shook Carisi who sat up with a great big smile.

"Awe, thanks guys," Carisi said. Barba nodded and they were left to their breakfasts.

After both had started on their breakfasts, Carisi turned to Barba. "How are you feeling today?"

Barba shook his head. "Honestly, I don't know. It's like every negative emotion from the last few months just unleashed itself. I feel overwhelmed, I guess."

Carisi nodded. "I can relate. Had that same problem early last week," he shared gulping the rest of his orange juice.

"Yeah, I guess you did," Barba replied finishing a slice of toast and laying the breakfast tray on the nightstand.

"Is that what is causing you...my breakdown last week?" Carisi asked knowing Barba could understand his incomplete thoughts.

Barba took a breath. "Don't hate me, but, yes, some, not all of it though."

"I didn't mean to do that to you and Rafael." He paused and added "I would never hate you, no matter what," Carisi said with a tear running down his cheek.

"I know you didn't, but I guess I just did the same exact thing to you," Barba admitted.

Carisi nodded and put his tray on the nightstand. They laid down and Carisi cuddled Barba. 

"We need to make a promise to each other," Barba said. 

"You will not drink before talking about your feelings and then only a little," Carisi said generating his demands.

"You will not do anything drastic without talking about your feelings," Barba said making his demands.

"Promise," Carisi said.

"Promise," Barba replied.

---

Feeling somewhat better, the couple took a steamy shower together. They lathered each other with body wash and gently massaged each other one at a time. Then after they rinsed, they held each other tightly while the absorbed the heat from the shower.

---

After toweling off, they headed back to the bedroom and heard a door knock. Barba went back into the bathroom as Carisi wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the door. There was a gift bag on the floor. Carisi picked it up and shut the door. Barba came out of the bathroom and stared at the gift bag Carisi was holding in his hands.

Carisi sat down and pulled the contents out and spread them on the bed. A can of of whipped cream and candy cherries. And a note.

 

Rafael & Sonny,

We're heading out for the day. Have fun and we'll see you this evening!

-George and Nick

 

Carisi started grinning but Barba was stunned.

"What the hell are we supposed to do with..." Barba started. Then it him. "Oh."

Carisi laughed. "Sometimes Rafa, subtle can be to subtle for you!"

"Seriously, we're both emotional wrecks and they're encouraging us to screw?"

Carisi flipped the note over.

 

Yes, Rafael. Have fun! -Nick

 

"I am not sure if I am mortified that others are planning our sex life or grateful for this," Barba said opening the whipped cream can.

"Let's go with the second for now and then we can give them hell this evening over the first," Carisi suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Barba said spraying a bit of whipped cream on his hand and rubbing it on Carisi's torso. 

"You really don't know what to do with this stuff in the bedroom, do you?" Carisi snickered.

"I've always kept food and sex separate," Barba sheepishly blushed.

"Well, I'm just going to have to teach you a thing or two," Carisi said dropping his towel and pulling Barba's away. He pushed the ADA down on to the bed.

"Sonny, the blinds!" 

---

Carisi shut the blinds and took the whipped cream can from Barba's hand.

"So, first thing is first," Carisi said spraying whipped cream all over Barba's cock.

"Ay dios mios," Barba exclaimed as he felt the cool cream touch him. 

"You getting the idea yet?" Carisi teased.

"Oh, yeah," Barba squealed as he felt Carisi's tongue begin licking at the whipped cream. Barba was moving too much and Carisi pinned his hips down.

"You like that?" Carisi asked as he saw Barba's back arch up as his lover squirmed in pleasure.

Carisi took another lick between his legs as Barba moaned. He unintentionally bucked up and his crotch covered Carisi's face in whipped cream.

"Oh, my god, I'm so sorry, Sonny!" Barba laughed. "Come up here and I'll take care of that for you."

melitta4ever

Carisi shifted his body so that he was eye-to-eye with Barba who immediately began cleaning up his face with his tongue. "This has possibilities," he murmured smacking and licking his lips. Barba could feel his tongue running over Carisi's stubble. Carisi grabbed the can and sprayed some whipped cream on Barba's nose and began gently suckling. Again, their eyes were connecting as they were sharing these sensations with each other.

"So, what are the cherries for?" Barba asked laughing as Carisi's tongue tickled his nose. 

"Well, there are a few things," Carisi said reaching for the cherries. "Stay still," he ordered. He placed a trail of cherries from Barba's belly up his sternum and then cover both nipples with whipped cream and place a cherry on each.

"You've got to be kidding," Barba said trying to keep from flinching.

"Oh, but I'm not," Carisi deviously replied as he started licking and nibbling his way up Barba's stomach and sternum. He nibbled the cherries from his nipples. He discovered Barba was pretty ticklish there so he took his time licking the whipped cream from his nipples, his tongue teasing them the whole time. Barba was laughing so hard. He had to excuse himself to the bathroom.

He came out a few minutes later. "So, I take you think that was amusing," he said. "Now it's my turn."

Barba threw Carisi down on his back. He was about to begin and stopped.

Carisi sat up. "What's wrong?" 

Barba, "I was just going to..."

"Oh, right. Umm...well. We are using whipped cream, it might help," Carisi said.

Barba sat down next to him. "I don't feel right doing that to you."

"Rafa, look in my eyes." Their eyes connected. "I am telling you I want to try this. Let's go slow. I'll let you know if we need to stop, but right now, I am telling you, I want your tongue and whipped cream on me."

After taking another minute to look into his eyes, Barba pushed Carisi backdown and sprayed the whipped cream over his cock. Carisi was squirming.

"You okay?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded. "Doesn't the aerosol feel amazing?" he asked.

Barba grinned. Then he sprayed whipped cream up and down his inner thighs.

"You ready?" Barba asked gazing into his lover's pearly blues.

"I'm ready, bring it on," Carisi replied.

Barba started licking around his outer thighs, both sides. Then he landed at the base of Carisi's cock. He gently took a lick and looked up. "Still good?"

Carisi was squirming and getting hard. "Yes," he stammered as if he was trying hold off an orgasm.

Barba returned and licked his way slowly up and down his cock. He spent time swirling his tongue around the tip. Barba saw Carisi was trying to thrust into his mouth.

He paused and returned to eye level with Carisi's face. "Are you sure? I need to hear affirmative consent, Sonny."

"Yes, I want this," again his voice sounded like he was trying to hold off coming.

Barba returned and gently took the tip in his mouth and slowly took more in and Carisi began thrusting.

Carisi began moaning. "Oh...Rafa...don't stop."

It only took two more thrusts and he came in Barba's mouth.

Barba got up and went to the bathroom sink and spit out the Carisi's cum and rinsed his mouth.

He came back into the bedroom laid down next to Carisi who still had his eyes closed as he was still riding out the waves of his orgasm. He opened his eyes and saw Barba staring at him.

"That was amazing, you're amazing," Carisi said grinning. Barba smiled glad that he enjoyed it. He lowered his lips to Carisi's and their tongues brushed over each other. Carisi started doing something unfamiliar with his tongue and flipped Barba on to his back.

"You did that to distract me," Barba snipped.

"Yep," Carisi answered as his lips reconnected with Barba's and was trying to reach for the lube in the nightstand. "Bottom?" he asked. Barba nodded.

Barba propped a pillow under himself as Sonny opened the lube.

"Let me help you with that," Barba said grabbing the tube and began lathering the lube onto Carisi's cock gently caressing and stroking his length. The touch of  Barba's mere hands almost fully hardened him. He bent over and sprayed some whipped cream on Carisi's tip and licked it.

"Yep, think you're ready," Barba laughed.

Carisi gently laid Barba back and began lubing his opening. He sprayed some whipped cream at his entrance and licked around it. Barba was shaking and Carisi could feel warmth emanating from his opening. He slipped one finger in followed by a second and started feeling around. Barba tipped his hips and Carisi managed to find his prostate. His knees were trembling and hips were bucking. Carisi inserted his fist and pressed it again firmly before pulling out and inserting his cock. He thrust slowly and then increased the speed and varied the force. Barba's eyes rolled back as his trembling became harder to contain. Suddenly he came all over Carisi's abs as Carisi came inside of him. Carisi disengaged and fell next to Barba. Both men were breathing heavily with their eyes closed.

"I think we can call that a tie," Barba gasped.

Once recovered, Carisi and Barba turned to face each other both having star-struck looks in their eyes with boyish grins. 

"That was fun," Carisi said. 

"Yeah, that was. Do you think they actually knew that we needed this?" Barba asked.

"Wouldn't surprise me. As much time as they've been spending around us. I know Nick has a wife, but can we keep George after all this? He is growing on me!" Carisi said laughing.

"George is not some lost dog!" Barba laughed as he smacked Carisi with a pillow.

"Come on though, seriously. Aren't' you going to miss them?"

"I suppose so," Barba said surrendering.

Chapter Text

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Sunday evening Barba and Carisi were still enjoying themselves. They had showered again and got dressed and made their way to the sofa to watch TV. TV watching slowly vanished as they started to get handsy with each other and then delved into full on making out.

"Come on, we don't know when they will be back," Barba moaned as Carisi was unzipping the ADA's pants and feeling his way around Barba's ever so familiar anatomy. Barba gasped as Carisi stroked him. "Sonny, I'm serious, we should at least go to the bedroom" Barba tried to persist while he felt his body's arousal overtaking him.

"The adventure, the feeling of maybe getting caught, that just makes it even more fun," Carisi said flipping the ADA on to his back and taking the top. Barba gave in and pulled Carisi's t-shirt off. Carisi undid his jeans and lowered them with his boxer briefs to expose his length. Then he pulled Barba's pants down with a little of playful resistance from the ADA to expose him as well.

He positioned himself so that they both touched and began gently swirling his hips generating friction between their cocks. Barba returned the motions until they found a rhythm that they both were enjoying. Carisi could feel Barba's shallow pants wash over his bare chest.

Both men had already come a few times earlier, and here they were once again nearing their climax points. Barba was getting impatient and slipped his hand between them and tickled the underside of Carisi's cock making him spill over.

"That's cheating!" Carisi protested as he reached over and retaliated similarly making Barba come as well.

Carisi collapsed on Barba as both men struggled to catch their breath. The pressure from Carisi's body was making it hard to recover his breath, but Barba didn't care. He enjoyed the warmth on top of him Carisi's recovering pants whispering along his neck.

Once Carisi caught his breath, he started licking the side of Barba's face and settle on using his tongue to tease one of his ears.

Just as they both were starting to get frisky again they heard a key in the door lock. Barba shoved Carisi off and darted to the bedroom still unzipped and exposed and closed the bathroom door. Carisi followed with his pants half down closing bedroom door. 

Huang and Amaro stood in the doorway stunned at what they just witnessed. 

Huang bent over and started laughing silently into his knees, trying to not embarrass the couple any further. Amaro though, he had other intentions.

"I thought six hours would have been more than enough time, I don't think I even have the stamina for that!" Nick shouted and began laughing. Huang closed the door and was struggling to not laugh out loud.

---

A few minutes later Carisi appeared in the living room in different clothing. 

"So how are the love birds doing?" Amaro asked.

Carisi grinned.

"Seriously though, are you guys doing okay?" Huang asked.

"I think we're okay for now. Please don't torment Rafa about this. He was scared of getting caught and now I think he is embarrassed from the depths of hell and back. Honestly, I don't know if he plans on showing his face again anytime soon," Carisi pleaded on his lover's behalf.

"I'll lay off for today, anyhow," Amaro said. He turned to Huang. "I want to spend the night with Cynth and kids. You want me to call in some back up for you?"

Carisi frowned. "We'll try not to give you too much trouble, George."

"You heard the man, we'll be fine." Huang said. "I'll call someone if we're not."

"Doc, did you eat yet? I am going to make dinner," Carisi said.

"No I haven't." After biting his lip for a moment, he looked back at Carisi. "Do you think Rafael will speak to me right now?"

"Probably," Carisi responded as he searched for a pasta pan.

---

Huang went to the bedroom door. He decided he wasn't going to give Barba the chance to decline his presence. He just wasn't going to knock and go right in. "He is probably bundled up like an eskimo by now anyhow. Probably won't be exposing too much skin anytime soon," Huang thought to himself. He slowly opened the door.

He saw Barba, who obviously started out sitting on the edge of the bed but now laying back, still in the same clothes with his zipper still down and an obvious wet stain on his jeans. He was holding a pillow over his head. 

Huang shut the door.

Barba was muttering in Spanish.

"Rafael?" Huang tried to get his attention.

Barba sat straight up and covered the wet spot on his jeans with the pillow that was shielding his head. His face was bright red and streaked with tears.

"Rafael, it's okay," Huang said sitting down and putting his arm around the mortified ADA. He wasn't anticipating this level of embarrassment. He kind of wanted to laugh at how adorably embarrassed the man appeared but also was a bit upset that he tangentially contributed to it. "Wait, that doesn't look like just embarrassment," Huang thought to himself when he looked into Barba's eyes. "Something else is going on in there."

Barba sighed. "I need to get changed." He retrieved a new pair of jeans and briefs and went into the bathroom muttering something in Spanish. 

He came back out and sat on the bed not making eye contact with Huang.

"Are you okay, Rafael?"

"Yeah."

"Why are you crying then?"

"Why do you think? I just got caught making out!" he shouted in irritation.

"People get caught doing a lot more than that everyday," Huang gently said.

"But it is me," Barba complained. "I'm an ADA. I shouldn't be..."

"So because your an ADA, you shouldn't have a private life?" Huang asked.

"Well, not so private," Barba rebutted.

"Is this really about protecting your professional reputation, or is it something else?" Huang asked.

"No," Barba responded.

"Then what?" Huang asked.

Huang gave Barba a few minutes to gather his thoughts.

"I'm not the same person anymore. I am supposed to be professional, together, and serious."

"Who says that's who you are supposed to be that?" Huang asked.

"Me. That is who I am supposed to be and who I was. I am supposed to be a workaholic who is good at his job. Not some sex-crazed lovey dovey alcoholic being caught with his zipper down. It's not me."

"Besides the alcoholic part, what is so bad about the rest of that?" Huang asked.

"I can't...I don't know what you want me to say," Barba replied.

"So, stop me if I am wrong, but I am hearing you say that you are struggling because of how you used to be. How you lived before...your ordeal. Now you notice you aren't the same person anymore. Is that what is bothering you?" Huang asked. 

Carisi entered with the bedroom carrying dinner. He put it on the nightstand and sat down on the other side of Barba. Barba leaned his head against Carisi's shoulder.

"Essentially, yes. I am not who I was. It scares the hell out of me with every decision I make every single day. I knew who I was. Now I don't. It's like I can't figure out who I am supposed to be anymore. Maybe I wasn't supposed to make it through that and because I did I am just this sporadic mess that is just going along."

"Rafael, it wasn't that you weren't supposed to survive. You went through something traumatic. That in itself would change anyone. But you are entering a new phase of your life," Huang tried to say before being cut off.

"Now it's a midlife crisis?" Barba asked rolling his eyes back shifting his gaze to the ceiling trying to hold in some tears.

"No. When this ordeal caused you to open yourself up and share your feelings, you experienced new feelings. Yes, you were in love, but you are now certain he is the love of your life. You are ready to start your own family. You are finding time now to incorporate friends into your life."

Carisi smiled and kissed Barba's forehead.

"You aren't who you were, but you are someone else and in a different phase of your life. You can have love, family, friends, and happiness. Your world just isn't all work anymore, and that is okay. Most people aren't all about their work and they do just fine. Just like you will be."

Carisi kissed Barba again who was now crying.

"So are you drinking so much because you are scared? Scared of the new you?" Huang asked hoping they finally were at the root of problem.

"I just don't want to remember the before and after. Alcohol helps blur that line," Barba wailed through a sob.

Barba nodded and completely surrendered himself to uncontrollable sobbing and was having trouble staying sitting up on his own. He was leaning against Carisi already, but Huang moved over to provide some more support and hug the couple.

"It's okay, now I know how to help you," Huang said.

"Thanks for telling us, Rafi," Carisi said pressing another kiss to his forehead. "I know it was really hard to admit that."

"Can I have a few minutes?" Barba said through his sobs.

"Yeah, we'll have dinner on the table," Carisi said as he stood up and took the trays with him.

"If you don't come out, we'll be back to check on you," Huang said.

After the door closed, Barba laid face down and buried his head in the pillows.

---

It was about 15 minutes later and Carisi was impatient. He went and peeked into the door and found Barba snoring. He returned to the kitchen.

"He's asleep. I guess it is just you and me for dinner."

They began eating the pasta when Huang looked up. "Sonny, you know we can help him now that we know what is causing him to drink so much, right?"

Carisi nodded. "I just hate seeing him so broken up over who he is. I mean, yes, I fell in love with the ADA he used to be, but I am madly in love with who he is now. I wish him changing didn't scare him, but I love him for who he was, is, and will become."

"You need to tell him that, Sonny. How about you? How are you doing with all this? And from earlier this week?" Huang asked now trying to check in on the other half of the couple.

"I just doesn't seem real that I almost lost Rafa again Friday night. Ever since being rescued, I've been terrified of losing him. It's my biggest fear and it almost came true again."

"You do realize that if you were successful earlier this week and did manage to end it, that would have meant that you would have lost Rafa, right?"

Carisi nodded. "I know. It's not like I want to die or to leave him, but it just felt like the right thing in the moment."

"But it wasn't. Depression, blame, anxiety, trauma, all that stuff, it can blur the rest of the world and you just pay attention to what you are feeling in that exact moment and you tend to act on it. By the way, I wanted to say how proud I was of you limiting yourself to one bottle and calling it quits for Rafael."

Carisi blushed. "So, my turn. How are you doing with all this?"

"It's been hard but good at the same time. I still am seeing Dr. Lindstrom from time to time for my own trauma. It also is helpful to get an outside perspective. And I've made some good friends," Huang said smiling back at Carisi.

"Same here," Carisi said finishing off his dinner.

Chapter Text

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Barba's phone rang Monday morning, just before 7 AM. He escaped Carisi's arms and rolled over to get his phone from the nightstand and rolled right off of the bed. Carisi heard the thud and looked over to see Barba's hand pull the ringing phone off the nightstand down to the floor. Carisi peaked over the side of the bed as Barba answered the still ringing phone.

"Barba," he answered with a yawn.

Liv: "Hey, so we got another body at Hudson."

Barba: "Surprise. Any evidence?" he asked while yawning.

Liv: "Don't know yet."

Barba: "So why are you calling me? I need my beauty sleep," he whined.

Liv: "Umm...yeah. The security guard that Fin tried to get to help us out, he was actually another body recovered this morning."

Barba: "Terrific," he moaned.

Liv: "Can you meet me at the precinct later? We do have a leads on that body and will require your assistance on that."

Barba: "Yeah, probably around 10. I have to check in with the office first."

Liv: "See you then."

Barba: "Bye, Liv."

Barba's hand managed to get the phone back up onto the nightstand.

He looked up and saw Carisi's grin staring down at him.

"Do we need to have the discussion about who's side of the bed is who's again?" Barba chuckled.

Carisi leaned down over the side of the bed and gave Barba a passionate kiss. When their lips parted, Carisi giggled "Love you!"

Barba moaned again getting off the floor. "Love you too, and you are so lucky that this is not another sex injury," he said playfully smacking Carisi's blonde head.

"So, was that something important?"

"Liv called about the Hudson case. Apparently in addition to another body, the security guard who was going to discretely act as surveillance for SVU turned up dead and there seems to be some sort of legal snafu happening that Liv needs help with."

As Barba got dressed, he turned to Carisi. "Since you're on leave, is there such a thing as take-your-fiancé-to-work day?"

Carisi got up quickly. "If there isn't there is one now!" Carisi was so excited that he was finished getting ready before Barba was.

---

Since they were leaving before breakfast, Barba popped into the guestroom. "George?"

Huang rolled over. "Is everything okay?" he asked squinting trying to adjust to the light coming in the window. 

"Yeah. I have to head in early and I'm taking Sonny with me. Just wanted to let you know. Get some sleep."

"Okay," Huang said rolling back over.

---

Carisi was all smiles walking next to Barba as they entered the SVU ADA office suite at 1 Hogan Place.

"Hi Carmen, Renee!" Carisi greeted the assistants.

"Rafael, you're early," Carmen noted.

"Yeah, have to check in on a few things. Sounds like I am going to be spending most of the day at SVU," Barba announced.

Cabot and Novak walked by discussing some case. Carmen handed Barba and Carisi each a coffee. 

"You're going to need a second one," Renee said handing Barba a second cup. Barba looked confused. "You'll see in a minute."

He didn't like the sound of that. Barba headed into his office while Carisi mingled with his assistants.

He closed the door and sat both coffees on his desk. He was looking through his agenda when he looked up and caught a glimpse of the back of his door.

"CASEY!"

---

Everyone in the suite looked up.

"Ahh...guess he saw his door," Novak said making her way towards his office. "Took him long enough." 

Carisi needed to see this so he followed her into his fiancé's office.

Carisi went in and shut the door. He saw Barba just sitting at his desk with his head buried in his hands. Novak pointed at the door and Carisi turned around.

"Shit. I'm gonna have to arrest my fiancé because he killed you!" Carisi exclaimed with a smirk clearly amused. His eyes were fixed on the ipad that Novak had fastened to the back of Barba's office door. A collage of gif's were playing of one of Barba's past Chess performances. It was clear Carisi was ogling his boyfriends body.

"Is that the One Night in Bangkok number?"

"Yeah," Novak replied dreamily. "He can really move his body, can't he?"

"Hey! Quit drooling over my fiancé!" Carisi playfully teased her. "So in this version he played Freddie Trumper. In another version...maybe ten years earlier, he actually played the arbiter," Carisi shared.

"OUT!" Barba yelled. "Not you, Casey." Barba still had not lifted his head from his hands.

"You've done it now, Casey," Carisi teased as he left the office.

Novak sat down in the chair in front of Barba's desk. "Are you honestly upset?" 

Barba finally lifted his head and saw his face was streaked with tears.

"Yes. That is usually what tears mean, Casey."

Novak's eyes filled with concern. "I didn't mean to upset you, I thought it was just fun and games. Fun between friends. Why would you hide something like that? You're incredible!"

"It's just embarrassing," Barba said. 

"You should be flattered, not embarrassed and certainly not ashamed," she said trying to undo whatever damage she may have caused.

"I just don't share this stuff...its personal."

"Rafael, if it was so personal, why on earth would you even join a theater group in the first place?"

"To do something fun." He thought a bit more. "She definitely has a point, there, but she will not win this," Barba told himself determined.

"So you are telling me you are embarrassed for someone to see you having fun?"

Without getting a response, she asked "Do you want me to quit? I will if you really don't like me teasing you."

Barba looked up. "No, go ahead and have your fun. George said I have to get used to stuff being different."

"I'm not triggering you about the assault, somehow, am I?" Casey asked not quite sure what his reply about George meant.

"Casey, I am not the same person anymore and it is scaring the hell out of me. That's why I'm crying over stupid things like simple teasing."

Novak stood up and walked over to the other side of the desk, knelt down in front of Barba, and put her hands on his shoulders. "No one stays the same and we certainly don't expect you to. And you shouldn't expect yourself to." She pressed a kiss to his forehead and stood up.

"So, should I try to curtail my teasing?"

"Just keep it within the SVU circle please. And not in front of McCoy. And no nudi..." he said making his demands before pausing on the last one.

"Were you going to say nudity?" Novak asked with a brow raised. "I promise, I won't, but nothing to be ashamed of there either," she said. 

"I've got to go, is my face presentable?" Barba asked standing and picking up his briefcase.

"Yeah, you're all good."

Just before she opened the door she paused and turned around to look at Barba who was following her.

"I know there was a spark between us in law school. I just want to be friends. You and Carisi are perfect together. If I come on too strong or my teasing gets out of hand, just let me know. Promise?"

"Promise," Barba said with a grin as they exited his office.

---

"Yeah, go laugh it up," Barba said giving Cabot, Carmen, and Renee permission to enter his office. He could tell Carisi had already told them all about it.

"And now, for you, my love. We're off to your office now," Barba said interlocking elbows with Carisi leaving the suite.

---

At SVU, everyone was gathered around the evidence boards staring at the face of a dead security officer.

"Good, you're here," Benson said walking over and hugging Barba. "Hi Sonny," Benson greeted him.

"How about we all head to the conference room so we can brief Barba and his sidekick?" Stabler said. 

As everyone headed to the conference room, Stabler grabbed Barba's shoulder. 

"I'm starting to feel used. Sometimes I feel like I only get called into scoop you off the floor," Elliott said remembering the time he had to carry Barba's body upstairs when he went rogue and spent the day drinking at his office, the day he had the panic attack in front of the courthouse, and this past weekend when he had alcohol poisoning.

"I'm sorry, detective..." he started.

"No apology needed. I was just teasing you. And, please, call me Elliott. Really though, are you doing better?"

"Yes, I'm doing better, Elliott," he replied. He saw Liv was trying to ease drop.

He whispered, "Did you tell Liv?"

"No, but I'm sure she'll eventually find out," Elliott answered. "She's like the mother hen around here."

"You have no idea," Barba grumbled.

"What are you guys chatting about?" Benson asked as Stabler and Barba walked by her into the conference room.

"Nothing important," Barba lied.

"I know that look, Rafael. I will find out," she said.

"Liv, maybe you should consider a career as a human lie detector," Barba laughed.

---

Once everyone was situated Benson got down to business.

"So we currently have two cases right now. One of them appears to be a one-time occurrence. Jon and Monique are doing pretty well getting Alex and Casey what they need on that case so I want to refocus all of us on the Hudson case, which is on-going and does not seem to have an end insight. Fin, can you brief everyone on everything up to this morning?"

"Sure, Captain," Finn Replied. 

"Two months ago the first body was recovered on a Monday morning. The victim was raped and asphyxiated. Every Monday since, at least one victim has been recovered on campus. On two occasions two bodies were recovered."

"So what is the body count right now?" Barba asked.

"Eleven females, and then also the security guard that turned up with today's body," Amaro said.

"Twelve bodies and Hudson is still not cooperating?" Barba's tone was angry and he rolled his eyes.

"I know, it ridiculous," Rollins agreed.

"I'm still trying to get up to speed on this, but were all the victims killed the same way?" Cassidy asked. 

"It appears so. Warner confirmed all were raped and then asphyxiated," Benson replied.

"What about the security guard from this morning?" Carisi asked. Benson stared at him knowing he was on leave, but allowed his pertinent question.

"Unfortunately, it looks like the same, but Melinda hasn't issued an official ruling yet. She just finished the female victim," Stabler informed them.

"No DNA, no prints, nothing," Fin said clearly frustrated.

"So no new grounds to try for a warrant," Barba was holding his head in his hand. "So what do we have on the security guard that you called me about?"

"Another Hudson security guard recovered dead guard's cell phone. He said it was recording. When the detectives went to retrieve it, the administration already managed to get their hands on it," Rollins explained.

"So, with-holding evidence. I can go after them for that and turn their offices inside out. What is their justification for not handing the phone over?" Barba asked suspecting there was some sort of catch.

"They're claiming the phone is Hudson property, a business cell," Benson said.

"Well, that's pretty weak, I am sure I can get a warrant for the administration offices on that," Barba said getting up and leaving the room. Carisi got up and followed.

"Okay, let's break for lunch and once we get a go on the warrant from Barba, we are taking those offices by storm--all of us."

---

Barba was in the hall dictating grounds for the warrant to Carmen.

ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ BaRiSi ✧ *:・ (@MEABarisi) | Twitter

After he hung up, he turned to Carisi. Carmen will have it ready when we get to the office. Petrovsky doesn't have court until 2, so I should be able to catch her in time. "Let's go," Barba said dragging Carisi from the precinct.

---

Forty-five minutes later Barba texted Benson.

Rafael: Warrant on the way. Sonny and I will meet you there.

Liv: I'll gather the troops.

Liv: See you guys soon.

---

When they got to Hudson the entire SVU team was already there all standing by ready to enter.

As Barba and Carisi got out of the car, Barba could see Benson furiously walking his direction. He saw Stabler trying to lip a message to him.

"Oh shit," he thought. "She knows. The mother hen knows. This is not going to be good."

"Barba, what the hell!" she shouted at him.

"Later," he said as he continued walking towards the rest of the squad.

"Just because it is Hudson, I want to personally hand deliver the warrant and look those smug bastards in the eyes."

The entire squad, even Carisi, Investigators Munch and Jeffries, and a raging Benson followed Barba to the main office.

"Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba from the Manhattan District Attorney's office. This is a warrant to search and confiscate any potential evidence, physical, digital or technology-based from any administrative or non-faculty offices on this entire campus." Barba slammed the warrant down in front of the University President.

"Get to it, detectives," Barba said giving the go ahead. He turned around to Carisi and whispered "boo-yah." Carisi just laughed.

Carisi looked at Liv. "Can I help with the search?" She nodded.

Benson walked by Barba. "My office when we get back to the precinct," she said harshly as she followed Carisi to help with the search.

Barba gulped. He never heard Benson that angry. He started plotting an escape plan. "Where the hell can I go? I can't talk about this with her. Not without falling apart. She'd probably ping my cell."

He texted Carisi that he would see him at home. He booked an Uber and laid his cell in Carisi's SUV so that he could retrieve it later. He got into the Uber and rode away breathing a sigh of relief. He knew he'd have to deal with Benson's wrath sooner or later, but not today.

---

"Are you sure it is okay that I work in here until 5?" Barba asked Judge Donnelly. 

"Yes, that should be fine. We'll probably cross paths when I get out of court." She looked at Barba. "Is everything okay? I mean, I don't usually see you trying to hideout while working." 

"I just need some time to work uninterrupted. Some days it is literally just impossible."

Barba was aware that Donnelly wasn't buying that whole story. "Liz, really, that's all I can share right now."

She nodded. "Okay, then, I'll let you to it."

She picked up her black robe and left the chambers. Barba pulled out his laptop and some casefiles and got to work.

---

The squad was back at the precinct, most of them were going through the evidence boxes, but Benson had Stabler, Amaro, Carisi, and Huang all in her office going off on them. The blinds were drawn closed and the door was closed so the noise was muffled, but the squad room could tell that they were getting their asses chewed out.

"Wonder what they did?" Rollins asked.

"I don't know Amanda, but I think we better just focus on this evidence. We don't want in the middle of that," Fin said.

"Agreed. I haven't even been back a full week yet and I am not getting tangled up in whatever the hell that is," Cassidy said.

---

"What the hell do you mean you don't know where he is? TARU pinged his cell. He should be right outside!" Benson was fuming. This was not being a mother hen. She was scared for her friend.

Carisi held up Barba's phone. "It was in my SUV," Carisi said looking terrified of his captain.

"Liv, he's fine," Elliott started.

"You don't even know him, don't tell me he is fine!" she shouted at Stabler.

"We serve a warrant and lose the ADA? How the hell does that even happen?" 

"Liv, calm down!" Huang yelled at her.

"And you, you should have told me." She turned to Amaro "You should have known not to bring any..."

Benson's anger finally gave way to tears and Stabler grabbed her as she began to collapse and sat her on the sofa.

The guys were trying to talk to her but she couldn't hear them. She was worried about Rafael. She considered him to be a very close friend. The last few months of not seeing him as often as she wanted, giving him space, and trying to be somewhat respectful of doctor-patient confidentiality really had taken its toll on her.

---

At five o'clock Barba packed his briefcase, and as Judge Donnelly suspected, they crossed paths as he was leaving and she was coming from court.

"Everything go okay, Rafael?"

"Yep, heading home now," he lied.

---

He knew he couldn't go to the restaurant across the street for a drink, that probably was not a good idea. Plus, that would probably be the first place they'd look for him. He was scared Liv would be waiting for him either there at his apartment. He couldn't talk about this. Not to her. 

"Damn it," Barba cursed when he realized he couldn't book an Uber becausehis cell phone was with Carisi. He sarcastically laughed at himself. "Way to go, Rafael. Toss your phone and think you can go the rest of the day without it. You know how to evade SVU, but sometimes you just don't have any common sense.

He jumped on the subway and got off at the next stop. There was a café there that he enjoyed. He ordered a coffee and picked up a newspaper. He was just going to have a quiet evening to himself. He'd have to apologize to everyone profusely later.

---

Carisi was now starting to panic from home. "Maybe we should put a BOLO out for him?" he suggested even though he knew Benson couldn't hear him.

"What do you mean you don't know? He never came back to the office? Find someone who does!" Benson hung up and sat down on the sofa.

"Liv, will you please listen to us?" Huang asked as Stabler sat down next to Benson and wrapped his arms around her.

"He's fine," Amaro said.

"You don't know where he is, so you can't say that," Benson cried.

Benson's phone rang but Huang picked it up.

"Thank you, your honor. I'll pass that along."

"That was Judge Donnelly. Carmen tracked Barba's last whereabouts to the courthouse. He apparently worked in Liz's chambers until about 5. That's the last he was seen," Huang shared.

"I am sorry, but I am going to have to be firm and get this in while you are sobbing, becsuse this is probably the only chance I will get." Huang paused. "Rafael is going through some changes in his life and he doesn't know who he is or how to handle it. We know that now and we are working on it. It's really personal and he can't just talk to anyone about it. You going off at him at Hudson probably scared him and I am guessing he is hiding out so he doesn't have to face you. He is not suicidal and he does know he has an issue with drinking and I am sure that he is not."

Benson finally got enough air to respond. "We almost lost him twice in what, four or five months? He was my best friend, since you left (she said staring at Stabler) and now I don't have a clue if he is even safe." She started sobbing into Stabler's shoulders.

"Liv, I don't want to throw you out, but Rafa is my fiance, and I don't want you upsetting him when he does come home. I know I am your detective, but my relationship with Rafa takes priority," Carisi said as firmly as he could.

"I understand," Benson said getting up.

"You can still be friends and talk to him, but don't freak out on him until he is up to defending himself, okay?" Carisi said as he gathered more nerve to face his captain in the eye.

Benson nodded and Stabler took her home.

Amaro looked at Huang, "He'll be home soon, right?"

---

Barba got home around ten o'clock. He was relieved to see that only Amaro, Carisi, and Huang were there to greet him. He ran directly to Carisi without taking his shoes off and dropped his briefcase. 

"I am so sorry I had to do that, I just can't face her," Barba said wrapping his arms around Carisi and crying. "I am so sorry if I scared you," he kept apologizing. "I couldn't book an Uber and I am lost without my phone. I don't know anyone's numbers," he explained. 

"We're going to head to bed guys," Carisi said as he walked Barba back to the bedroom.

Barba was still apologizing, muttering in Spanish.

"Rafa, stop. I know you are sorry and that you didn't mean to scare us. I know why you did what you did, but give me a little more of a hint next time as to what you are doing. 'See you at home' isn't quite detailed enough," Carisi explained.

"I can barely handle talking to you and George about what is wrong with my head, I can't talk to someone else yet. Especially not Liv," Barba stammered.

Carisi kissed his forehead. Then he smelled Barba's breath. "I approve. Just coffee then?"

Barba looked up. "Of course, I have an alcohol problem." He smiled and Carisi hugged him.

"I know you're probably upset with me, but can we go to bed not angry?" Barba asked.

"Absolutely. We can continue this in the morning."

Both men went and took a quick shower and climbed into bed.

"Love you, Rafi."

"You too, my love."

Chapter Text

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It was just after 7 AM Tuesday morning when Barba opened his eyes and found Carisi had him wrapped in his arms with a death grip. Barba began, "Sonny," and paused. He had a better idea to get the detective's attention. He took out his tongue and started running it over Carisi's face.

Carisi slapped him and turned away.

"Ow," Barba joked.

"That's for yesterday."

Then he rolled back over and grinned looking into Barba's eyes. 

"And this is because I still and always will love you no matter what," Carisi said as he dove into Barba's face and gave him a deep kiss. When he pulled away, he asked "A quickie?"

Barba nodded and he slipped his head under the covers but he quickly remerged. "Is it okay if I...?" Barba was trying to inquire if a blow job was okay.

"Go for it Rafa," Carisi grinned and the ADA's head submerged once more beneath the covers again.

Carisi's face immediately began reacting as his eyes rolled back and was trembling and it only took a minute or two to hit his climax and he fell over the precipice. All his muscles became rigid and he gasped for air.

Barba's head came back up and kissed Carisi. "And that is me saying I'm sorry about yesterday," he announced kissing his lover who still had his eyes closed riding out his orgasm.

It took Carisi another minute to open his eyes and he said between gasps, "You're...forgiven."

---

Barba pulled Carisi to his feet but noticed his leg muscles still hadn't recovered. "Lean on me," Barba said. Carisi did so allowing Barba to help him to the bathroom. "Gee, couldn't hold out for long this morning, could you?"

Barba pulled Carisi's shirt off when he said, "Your tongue is just that good, you should make your living with it." Barba dropped Carisi's shirt to the floor. He turned away and started the shower and stripped himself still with his back turned to Carisi and then jumped into the shower.

Carisi saw from the drastic change in Barba's body language.

"Now what did I do? Me and my big mouth," Carisi murmured as he quickly stripped his pants and jumped in the shower after Barba.

Barba was facing away from Carisi standing against the shower wall. Carisi wrapped his arms around Barba and turned the ADA around so he could face him. Tears were slowly escaping from his green eyes.

"Look, Rafa, what did I say? Talk to me," Carisi pleaded.

Barba wrapped his arms tightly around Carisi's waist and the detective pulled him into his chest.

"Did you always say that about me and my tongue...you know...making a living using it?"

"Yes, do you not like that?" Carisi asked confused as to why this would just now be bothering Barba.

"It's not that, it just makes me think of Michael. Of all the things I can't remember from that time, I can remember him making some wise-crack about how I make my living using my tongue."

"God, I didn't realize," Carisi sighed.

"I know you don't mean it in the same context," Barba explained.

"I'll stop saying that," Carisi said trying to figure out how to make Barba feel better.

"No," Barba said firmly letting go of Carisi and staring up in to his eyes. "Michael will not take that from us too."

Carisi smiled down and kissed him. "Rafa, you are so strong, but can you do me a favor?"

Barba nodded as he tried to wipe the tears from his face. "What?"

"You know how you just checked in with me this morning before that amazing blow job?"

Barba nodded.

"I need you to tell me when something is bothering you, like that tongue thing. It's this little thing called a two-way relationship," Carisi informed him.

Barba nodded and leaned against Carisi's chest. "Mi amor."

"I love you too," Carisi said devilishly as Barba left out a groan and found himself struggling to keep his balance and panting.

"How the hell did you do that?" Barba demanded as he had come at just the few mere strokes of Carisi's hand feeling him up.

"Let's just say I am almost as good with my hands as you are with your tongue."

Barba smiled and then sheepishly bit his lip as he found his leg muscles in the state he had left Carisi's in a bit earlier.

"I think we're clean enough. Let's get you out of here before you fall," Carisi laughed. 

---

The couple emerged in the kitchen and saw Huang was dressed,  had prepared, and already started breakfast without them.

"Going somewhere, doc?" Carisi asked.

"Well, since you seem to be hanging out at work, unofficially, I might add, I figured I'd go along to the precinct and start settling into my office. I could be there to keep an eye on you guys and try to diffuse anything with Liv."

"Shit, Liv," Carisi mumbled.

"What you so worried about? I'm the one that went off the radar yesterday!" Barba asked rather confused.

Huang turned to Barba. "Sonny here, felt the need to defend your honor and kicked her out of the apartment last night and firmly told her not to upset you."

Barba's jaw dropped. "You did that? To Liv?" He was stunned. "Umm...not that I am eternally grateful for that, but your captain? Did you really raise your voice and kick her out?"

"Afraid so," Carisi said burying his head in his hands.

"Shit, Sonny," Barba said still in disbelief. He leaned over and kissed him. "Thank you," he whispered.

Barba sat up. "Well, if it helps, I am not going to the precinct today. I can get an update on what they found via phone."

"No, we are not going to start avoiding each other over being uncomfortable," Huang said putting his foot down. "Liv can have her plans, we can have ours."

Barba and Carisi burst out laughing at Huang's unexpected but determined remark.

---

Half an hour later all three were sitting outside the precinct in Carisi's SUV.

"Here we go," Huang said as they got out and went into the precinct. 

"Okay, you'll get a text from Liv in a few minutes," Huang said walking away. He turned around and added, "If he bolts, I blame you, Sonny!"

Carisi grinned and Rafael took a gulp and a nervous step backwards.

"You're not going anywhere there, Rafi," Carisi said as he firmly held Barba's shoulders.

"I might be able to outrun you since I am not as lanky as you," Barba ventured.

"Don't even try it."

---

Huang was standing in Benson's office.

"You can't pressure him into sharing too much. He isn't ready for that yet. Don't upset him or yell...or scold...or whatever the hell it was you were planning to confront him with yesterday. Look, you follow the plan and text him and promise not too pressure him or else Alex or Casey are going to end up with this case," Huang said issuing Benson an ultimatum. "I have to look out for his mental well-being, and right now, your emotions are detrimental to him."

Benson looked irritated, but picked up her phone.

---

Liv: We have an update

Liv: Come in.

Liv: I won't talk about "it"

Rafael: Can I get that under oath?

Liv: Screw you. lol

Liv: Fine. Yes.

---

A few minutes later Huang saw Carisi pushing his fiancé into the squad room causing quite a scene.

Benson turned to Huang in astonishment. "Is he seriously that scared to face me? At the possibility that I might ask him to share something?"

Huang nodded. "He is fragile right now. Don't fuck this up," he said leaving her office.

"That's not his usual tone and language. Barba must be really struggling," she thought to herself.

Carisi nearly pushed Barba into Huang as he was leaving the office. Barba shot Huang a death glare just before Carisi forced him through Benson's office door and closed it behind them. Carisi drew the blinds so they could have some privacy and sat down in one of the chairs in front of Benson's desk.

"You know, running the risk that I might be offended by that little scene out there, I am going to let it slide because you are just so adorable," Benson jokingly said squeezing Barba's cheek.

Barba pulled her hand away in protest. "Liv, don't."

Carisi could see Barba's brown hair had suddenly become wet and beads of sweat were running down the side of the ADA's face and he became probably the palest shade he had ever seen the Barba. 

"Shit," Carisi said realizing Barba was going into full on panic attack mode. He darted from his chair and grabbed Barba just as he fainted.

---

Huang was in the squad room sitting on Stabler's desk filling him in on the status of their plans this morning. Benson's office door opened and he heard Carisi call out, "Doc!"

"Well that didn't take her long to fuck up," Huang grumbled. "She is just intent on making my job harder," he mumbled leaving Stabler behind.

"Wow, didn't know he knew those kind of words, he must be pretty frustrated," Stabler thought to himself. 

When Huang was within eye-shot of the inside of Benson's office his walk transformed into a sprint as he ran inside and closed the door.

"He had a panic attack," Carisi said as he laid Barba out on the sofa. Carisi loosened his neck tie and removed his jacket and shoes.

"Liv, get him a drink and a wet cloth," Huang ordered.

Benson was stunned but complied. She returned and put a glass on the desk and sat down next to Barba and ran the cool cloth over his face.

"He has panic attacks now?" Benson asked. "See, I don't know anything about him anymore," she said with a tear escaping her eyes.

Barba opened his eyes and started to look around when his pupils suddenly became fixed.

"Rafael?" Benson asked and tried to jostle him.

Carisi grabbed her arm. "Don't shake him, he'll be okay in a few minutes."

"Now what?" Benson gasped.

Huang sat down and looked at Benson. "He is having a seizure, he'll come out of it in a minute."

Carisi raised his fiancé to a seated position and leaned his body against himself.

Barba's eyes started to move around and scan the room as his body filled with life again. Then he realized where he was and started to redden and looked like he was going to panic again, but Carisi whispered into his ear and started to massage his shoulders and temples.

Barba finally turned and met Benson's eyes. She was just bewildered but allowed them to sit in silence.

"Sorry, Rafael, we shouldn't have pushed you like that," Huang said.

"It's okay," he muttered as he reached down and slipped his shoes back on.

"Rafa, I know I said I wouldn't talk about "it," but could you at least fill me in on what just happened?"

Barba was in the middle of redoing his neck tie and paused. He looked up into Carisi's eyes and then over to Huang.

"It's up to you," Carisi said kneeling down and planting a kiss on his cheek.

Barba sat there for a few more minutes and the silence was awkward.

"Look, It's fine if you don't want to tell me. I just want to know if you, not the ADA, but you, my friend is okay."

Barba finally surrendered and left down his guard.

"Can you give us a few minutes?"

Carisi nodded and he and Huang left the room.

---

"She really didn't say anything to him, he just was out like that," Carisi explained to Huang as they returned to the squad room and closed the door behind them.

---
Barba was trying to find his footing and stand but Benson gently pushed him back to the sofa and went over to her desk and pulled out her shot glasses. 

"Liv, that's not a good idea," he started but she hushed him. She pulled out a container of iced tea and split it between the two glasses. She walked over and sat down next to him and handed him one.

"I'm glad you're here," she said leaning her head against his shoulder.

Law & Order: SVU followed Americans' evolution on crime and mass  incarceration - Vox

---

After a few sips Barba finally began. "So, I won my first case back, granted it ended in a courtroom shoot out. Oh, and I'm engaged and we are going to have kids."

"I know that much. Wait did you say kids? Kids as in plural?" 

Barba nodded with a smile. 

Benson hugged him. "That's great. When?"

"Next Monday is when...you know."

"Got ya. More than one though?" she asked.

"If everything goes well with the first one, yeah."

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"Thanks for telling me, Rafael. Just hearing this makes me feel better." Benson paused and took another sip. "I know I've been a little crazy the last 24 hours," she began.

"Just a little?" Barba said raising an eyebrow and giving her the best Barba glare he could.

"I've missed that look. I've just felt so cut-out of your life since all this. I was having a drink with you at least three evenings a week and we saw each other at least once a day. You would seeing Noah at least weekly. Then you up and disappeared and almost died on us after we found you. I've tried to give you distance to heal, I've tried to not pry too much out of Huang, but I am worried sick about you. And then, I find out about your Friday night stunt from Sydney, the hospital security guard."

"Ah. I was wondering who gave me up," Barba tried to joked.

"It's not funny. You freaking almost died and didn't tell me. You're my best friend, Rafael, but I know absolutely nothing about you anymore."

"Liv, I'm not the same," Rafael said.

"Clearly, but I don't care. I need to get to know you again. So can we start with something simple, just for today?" she asked.

Barba nodded and took another sip of iced tea. "Go ahead."

"Panic attacks and seizures? I get the panic attacks...but because of me?"

"Liv, do you know how scary you've been? Sonny thinks he is going to have to turn in his badge for kicking you out of our apartment. And Huang? How many times has he actually raised his voice to calm someone down. Maybe a handful of times? Hell, I think Stabler even looked a little rattled," Barba shared with a smile.

"That bad, huh?

"Yes, you've gone beyond being a mother hen...essentially to a raging lunatic," Barba laughed.

"It's good to see your smile and hear your laugh. I missed them."

"Okay. One more," Barba said as if he was her fairy godmother granting her wishes.

"Seizures? Have you always?"

"No. It's a result of traumatic brain injury from getting myself clobbered silly with the butt of a gun."

"Is it bad?" 

"Not really. If I take my medication, eat, sleep, don't drink in excess, don't stress too much, don't puke my guts out, they barely even happen. You know, all the things I'm not good at."

"One more, please."

"Fine," Barba reluctantly granted with a sigh.

"Are you working on the drinking?"

Barba sighed. "Trying. Now that Huang finally teased out why I seem to not have any self-control and am overindulging, he thinks he can help me with that. And don't hold it against him, I've not been his easiest client."

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"That had to be hard... I mean trying to get into the head of Rafael Barba..." Benson teased but immediately stopped as soon as she Barba burst into tears.

"Oh no, what did I do?" she asked sitting back down and hugging him. He just shook his head and cried into her chest.

"Yeah, I just cry for no good reason at times too," he murmured.

---

Carisi was relieved  to see Barba finally emerge from the office. "Are you okay?" Carisi asked running up to him.

"Yeah," he sniffled. "I just need a few minutes to put myself together. Where's the men's room? I don't know my way around here since the remodeling." Carisi pointed. "Okay, I'll be right back, my love."

Barba walked into the men's room.

Carisi looked at Huang. "He looks like he is going to bolt, doesn't he?" 

"I was thinking the same thing. Is there any other way out of there?" Huang asked.

Carisi shook his head. "He can't fit through the windows."

After a couple of minutes they walked over and quietly opened the door. Barba was playing at the windows but wasn't having any luck. Then he heard Barba start to cry. Carisi wanted to go comfort him, but decided on closing the door and standing guard at the door to ensure his privacy. Barba finally emerged and looked normal.

He locked elbows with Carisi. "Let's go see what the update is, Detective."

"You were looking for a way out, weren't you?" Huang asked.

"Yes," Barba admitted.

"Thanks for not leaving," Carisi said.

"You're welcome, but I didn't exactly have a choice."

"You know, I might just have to get a microchip put in your suits, just like we would a dog. By the way, how do you feel about pets?"

Barba turned to Carisi. "Seriously, not now."

---

They headed back into the squad room.

"So did we find anything useful from that search?" Barba asked.

"We did recover the security officer's phone, but Hudson already wiped the recording. TARU has the phone now they are trying to work on it," Rollins replied

Barba rolled his eyes and put his hand up to his temple as if he had a headache. "Any prints or DNA on the phone?" Barba asked.

Prints belonging to both the dead guard and the guard who recovered it. One more belonging to an IT person the administration had wipe the phone. A partial print belonging to an unidentified person at this time.

"I'm assuming we also have touch DNA. Are we running them through VICAP and CODIS?" Barba asked. 

"As we speak," Amaro replied. "What bothers me so much is the lengths Hudson is going to cover this up. Sure, we all know their reluctance in assisting with sexual assault and criminal investigations, but this is a whole new level for them. Someone is trying to withhold and destroy evidence. Someone important is protecting someone." 

"Agreed," Barba said. "Fin, see if you guys can work out the details of how..." Barba paused in pain and he was holding his head. Everyone looked concerned but Barba kept his gaze to the ground. "Figure out who knew that the guard found the phone and figure out every step of the way that it changed hands from the the time it left him until we confiscated it. I don't care if you need a warrant for geotagging. Just let me know."

Barba sat down in Rollin's desk chair as the detectives dispersed on their new missions. The room became a spinning blur. "Sonny, I'm getting a migraine. Could you see if you can find anyone with any headache medication. I'm going to go get a coffee."

"Sure, you know where the break room is, right?"

Barba nodded.

He returned a few minutes later with a cup of coffee and Rollins gave him some Aleve tablets. "Thanks, Amanda. I don't think I could get through the day without anything." 

"Just checking, but in addition to mainstreaming caffeine, are you actually eating food? We all know how you get when working a case. You either snack all day in your office or you go without eating."

paper heart. — What if Barba has a crush on Rollins? Someone...

"Yes, I am eating. Sonny and George are my eyewitnesses if my story needs to be collaborated."

Rollins smiled. "Just making sure." She kissed his forehead and walked away.

"Okay, I know we are both bi, but the amount of forehead kisses you get from the ladies, should I be worried?" Carisi asked.

Barba smacked his head. "You should know better than that," he said and then gave Carisi a peck on the cheek. 

Carisi reached to grab him, but Barba grabbed his hand and gave him a stern look.

---

Benson and Huang were in her office. She was peaking through the blinds watching the couple. "He is different, but he is also the same too."

"He's okay, Liv. He just needs some gentle support," Huang said.

She sat down next to Huang on the sofa. "I know I said a lot of unfair things yesterday. I need to apologize to a lot of people, but I want to start with you. I know you are dealing with some really challenging clients with a really bad situation. I didn't mean to belittle you and your profession."

"Don't worry about it Liv. Honestly, sometimes I feel like freaking out like that too, but thanks for apologizing. He caught a glimpse of shot glasses on her desk? "Liv did you?"

Benson saw what he was looking at and quickly replied, "No, no. It was just iced tea. I was trying to treat him the same and thought the shot glasses would help."

"That was a good idea," Liv. So I am going to start setting up shop today while they are here. Just to keep a friendly eye on them."

"Just let me know if you need anything," Benson said leaving her office to check on the case progress.

---

"Captain, Rollins and I want to interview the guard who found the cell phone," Fin said. "Jeffries and Munch are bringing him in."

"Good," she said. 

Carisi looked like a sad puppy.

"Carisi, how up-to-date on the case are you?"

"I've read Rafa's copy as if it was a bedtime story," he said hoping this was going where he wanted it to.

"Why don't you take the interview with Rollins?"

"Fin, I want to strategize because I have a feeling we are going to be in for a fight with Hudson. Is Barba still here?"

"Behind you," Barba answered sipping at his coffee.

"Mind watching the interview and helping with a game plan?" Benson asked.

"Not at all. It would be my pleasure. After we get the perp, I want to nail Hudson to the wall in anyway possible, just so you know what my intentions are," Barba shared.

---

"Well, we found him. Mr. Snyder is in interrogation room one," Munch announced as he and Jeffries entered the squad room.

"I said an interview room, John," Benson interrupted.

"Monique, welcome back," Cassidy said rising and giving her a hug. 

"Thanks." Jeffries turned to Benson. "Hudson really was trying to make this guy disappear. He knows something. He had a one-way ticket to Bangladesh. They don't have an extradition treaty with the U.S."

Law and Order SVU: Why did Michelle Hurd leave as Monique Jeffries? | TV &  Radio | Showbiz & TV | Express.co.uk

"And yours truly dragged him off the plane before take off. The guy seems sort of rattled. I think if he is guaranteed some sort of protection or deal, he'll probably cave," Munch informed Barba.

Barba nodded his head. "Let's hope you're right." 

"I sort of saw fleeing the country as warranting an upgrade from an interview room to an interrogation room," Munch explained justifying the change of venue. 

Benson nodded with approval

"We've got to get back. Cabot needs us for something. Talk to you later Liv?"

"Yeah. We'll grab lunch or dinner soon."

"Well, I'm going to go watch my fiancé at work," Barba said smiling, but he was still holding his head.

"You know you light up when you say 'fiancé,' right? Hey, is your head okay?"

"It's just a migraine. That's one thing that hasn't changed about me," he said rolling his eyes. "Rollins gave me  Aleve and I am drinking caffeine. Hopefully it will go away or it might just add fuel to my wrath against Hudson."

Benson laughed.

---

"So, Bangladesh. Do you have family there, uh, Mr. Snyder?" Rollins asked.

"No, mam."

"Then can you explain why you decided to just up and visit this lovely country with no extradition?" Rollins asked.

"Not without representation."

"You know once you ask for a lawyer, essentially any chance you have making for a deal goes away," Carisi replied. 

"Well if that is the case, I will decline one for now, but I want to speak to the one who makes the deals for your side."

Rafael Barba Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

Barba smiled. "That's my cue," he thought to himself as he entered the room.

"Mr. Snyder. I'm Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba. Before we discuss any sort of deals or plea bargains, do you have any evidence or testimony that will aid me in convicting the person responsible for the rape-murder spree at Hudson or the death of your fellow security guard."

"I can provide testimony."

"Now usually when one accepts a deal or plea bargain, they are guilty of something. What are you guilty of sir?"

"Accepting a personal bribe and from the president of Hudson University. If I promised to not to talk, I would be receive 100 K and a ticket out of the country."

"I suggest that you consult some sort of representation and I will talk to the DA and see what sort of deal we can work out. The gratuity of the deal will reflect what you have to offer."

Barba turned to the detectives. "You may continue questioning unless he chooses to pursue legal counsel," Barba said as he left the room.

"I would like a lawyer now," Mr. Snyder said signaling the halt of the interrogation proceedings.

Chapter Text

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After leaving the detectives and Mr. Snyder in the interrogation room, Barba headed into the breakroom and grabbed a glass of water and sat down. His eyes had become really sensitive to light and sound was excruciating. He could feel pressure and pulsing behind his eyes. 

"Me siento fatal. Necesito ir a casa," he said to himself as he slid out his phone. He couldn't wait for Snyder's defense attorney to show up, he needed to find a replacement and now.

Barba: "Hi Carmen."

Carmen: "Hey, you sound rough."

Barba: "That's actually why I am calling. I need a replacement here at SVU. I need to head home but I'm waiting on a defense attorney to show up. Can you check to see if Cabot or Novak have anything they can push off to cover me?"

[Long pause while Carmen looks through the ADA schedules]

Carmen: "Oh yeah, Casey has the entire afternoon booked for just prep work."

Barba: "Gracias a Dios. Can you put me through to her?"

Carmen: "Sure thing."

Novak: "Casey Novak."

Barba: "Casey, I don't have time for fun and games right now. I have a migraine and I need to go home now, but I'm waiting on a defense attorney to show. Can you cover for me? I'll brief you on the case when you get here." 

Novak: "Yeah, no problem. I'll see you in a few minutes."

---

Barba had shut the lights out and had his head laying on his arms on the break room table.

"I think he's in the break room," Barba could hear Carisi's voice say. 

"Hey Rafa," Carisi said quietly realizing that the lights off must have meant his migraine was pretty bad.

"Hey. Do you think you and Rollins can brief Casey on the case? I've got to go home."

"Sure, Rafa, no problem," he said kissing his forehead and helping Barba to his feet. 

"Casey, no deals unless he can give us something, alright?" Barba instructed her.

"Don't worry, I know how to do my job," she said. "Feel better, Rafael."

---

As they made their way into the squad room, Fin said, "Barba, you look awful."

"I'm heading home," he said as he nearly collapsed from the pain. Holding onto the nearest desk and being steadied by Carisi, he managed to stay upright.

"I can't leave right now, but we need to figure out how to get Rafa home. I don't think he can take an Uber by himself right now," Carisi said.

"I'm almost off," Amaro volunteered. He looked at Benson. "Is it okay if I knock off a half hour early?"

Benson nodded. "Feel better, Rafi!"

Barba didn't put up any resistance over everyone making a fuss over him, trying to coordinate his transportation home, or giving him their well wishes. His head felt to bad for that.

"Thanks, Nick," Barba whispered as Nick took him by the waist to get him outside.

---

"Did Rafael Barba just accept help from someone without a fight?" Benson asked.

"Don't worry about that, Liv. He still fights people's help. His migraine is just that bad," Carisi explained. "He probably would have tried to stick it out, but given what happened in your office earlier, he's already had his fill of embarrassment for the day.

"Good, because I think I would miss that endearing stubborn quality of his," she said with a smile. 

"What happened?" Rollins asked.

Carisi bit his tongue and looked around at his audience. "He'll probably kill me, but what the hell. Half of you know one or the other, maybe a few of you both." He paused to reconsider his choice to share, but he proceeded. "So as you know, Rafa is not open about stuff."

"No kidding," Rollins replied.

"Well, all the head trauma he suffered from the assault, he has seizures now. Not like the fall down and thrash type. He just like zones out for a few minutes and then is really confused when he starts to become aware again," Carisi shared.

Huang stood up seeing how concerned the ones who were just finding out about this looked. "He is fine if he takes his medication, eats, sleeps, and doesn't drink in excess. Again, try to be discreet with this, but he could use some extra prodding from his friends to take care of himself," Huang informed them and then sat back down.

"He also has pretty crippling panic attacks so if he randomly faints, yeah. We've all seen that on the job so we know how to deal with that. If it happens, just try to help calm him down the best you can and, please don't embarrass him too bad over it. Either of these things"

With that all said, Carisi changed subjects.

"Okay, so Rafa wants Novak up to speed so she can take on whatever defense attorney comes through that door," Carisi announced trying to take point for Barba.

---

Carisi got Barba into the apartment without too many problems, but his headache definitely was interfering with his balance.

"I'm just joking with you, but did you drink today?" Amaro teased.

"Please, Nick, not now," Barba whined.

Barba got changed into sweats and was searching for his migraine medication. "Damn it," he shouted in frustration and slumped to the floor.

"Oh," Amaro said realizing that Huang still had their medications in an undisclosed location. He pulled out his phone and called Huang.

"Hey, doc. Where did you put Rafael's migraine medication? Got you. Thanks."

Amaro hung up and returned a few minutes later. He pulled Barba from the floor, handed him a glass of water and two pills of his migraine medication.

Barba immediately took them and permitted Nick to escort him to his bed. Amaro shut off the light and drew the blinds and covered Barba with a blanket.

Barba's eyes closed immediately.

Since the ADA wasn't in his usual fighting shape to resist, Amaro decided he was just going to lay down on the other side of the bed and get some shut eye. Amaro laid his sidearm and cell on the nightstand and laid down next to Barba who was already snoring.

---

Dream Sequence

Barba found himself in a sort of alternate reality. He was not in a relationship with Sonny. In fact, similar to his very early start with Manhattan SVU he kept everyone at a distance. He was friends somewhat with Benson.

SVU had brought him a case. A father kidnapped their son from the mother. They baby was for all intensive purposes, dead. He was only being kept alive by a machine. Without the ventilator, he would be legally dead. The father wanted their son kept alive at all costs and the mother was fighting to legally have her son's life ceased. Benson had called him into prosecute the father for the abduction. The entire squad seemed divided and found themselves siding with one parent or the other on the issue, but if they all could agree on something, it was that the situation sucked. Barba found himself, wishing the child would simply just pass as his mere existence was causing the two people that loved him most in this entire world so much pain.

McCoy had told him to offer the father a plea bargain to just get through the situation, but he found himself instead in the hospital room with the mother feeling himself crumble inside looking at the child. He disconnected the child from the ventilator and he drew his last breath.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" The Undiscovered Country (TV Episode  2018) - IMDb

After being arraigned for murder, he found himself on the street with Benson freaking out on him.

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Then he was in a courtroom giving testimony for his actions, for justifiable homicide. Only Benson was in the courtroom galley. In this reality, he wasn't friends with SVU so nobody else came to support him.

Barba's Testimony

He finally admitted to feeling guilty over his actions, but the jury still found him not guilty.

All Things Raúl Esparza — Rafael Barba in 'The Undiscovered Country'...

Then he found himself packing up his office and resigning from his position, saying goodbye to Benson, and running away from his entire life.

Saying Goodbye and Running Away

REVIEW: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – Season 19 Episode 13 "The Undiscovered  Country" – FANVERSATION S19E13 The Undiscovered Country: The saddest episode on the show?: SVU

---

Amaro woke to Barba crying and was having trouble waking him up. Barba did open his eyes and sat up, but he put a pillow on his knees and cried into it not even acknowledging Amaro's presence. Amaro did try put his arm around Barba but he was shoved away and he went back to sobbing into his pillow.

It was essentially 5. "Come on guys, where are you?" Amaro thought to himself. He called Carisi.

Carisi: "Hey, Nick! You have me, George and Liv on speaker."

Amaro: "Please tell me that you are on your way here."

Huang: "What's wrong?"

Amaro: "He had a bad dream. He is trembling, bawling, and essentially freaking out. He isn't listening to a word I said and he damn near punched me when I tried to put my arm around him. I don't know if this is PTSD or a panic attack, or what. Come home now!"

Benson: "We're nearby. Hold tight there, Nick."

Chapter Text

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It only took about ten minutes from the time Amaro called Carisi for Benson to drop him and Huang off at the apartment.

"Where is he?" Carisi asked coming in the door.

"Bedroom," Amaro replied.

Amaro and Huang followed Carisi back to the bedroom. Barba looked bad. He was trembling, sobbing, had beads of sweat running down his face and his complexion was pale. He was muttering and some Spanish-English mix. 

Huang turned to Amaro. "What is he saying?"

"It doesn't make a lot of sense because he is switching back and forth between languages mid-sentence fragments, but something about losing friends and not wanting to leave everyone."

"Hey there, Rafi," Carisi said as he tried to put his hand on Barba's shoulder. Barba forcefully shoved him away and he stumbled backwards. Carisi walked back and looked into Barba's eyes. 

"Doc, his eyes are open, but I don't think he is with us," Carisi said as he continued to stare intently into Barba's emerald eyes.

Huang walked over and looked. "Yeah, I think he is still asleep."

"This isn't like that time in the kitchen though," Amaro noted.

"Granted he did just shove me, but yeah, you're right Nick. It's more like he is trying to protect himself from others, I don't know if that makes sense," Carisi sighed.

"We'll figure that out later. We need to wake him up. His eyes seem to be following our movements. I suggest you guys try to keep him focused on you." I am going to try to get behind him and get a hold of him and try to shake him awake gently," Huang said.

"How do we do that?" Carisi asked.

"Use your charm. Talk to him. Move around some," Huang replied.

"Okay," Carisi replied. He turned to Barba and started speaking. "So are you ready for Monday? We're going to have a kid," Carisi said trying to get him to hopefully focus on something he knew the ADA was excited about.

Instead of the positive response he was trying to illicit, Barba said "How the hell am I supposed to have a kid? I don't even have a partner in my life!"

Carisi turned to Amaro who looked just about as dumbfounded as he was. 

"What about Sonny, here?" Amaro asked.

"The detective with the mustache?" Barba asked.

Carisi sighed. "Yeah, that wasn't a good look for me."

Huang was just getting positioned behind Barba.

Amaro saw Carisi was looking a little hurt so he took his turn. "Hey, Rafael. Do you know who I am?"

"Of course, Amaro," Barba replied. "Don't use my first name. It's Counselor or Barba."

"Yep, I'd say you are asleep Rafael. What case you are working on?" Amaro asked. Huang was almost ready to try to stir Barba awake, but he paused. He was curious what the ADA's response would be.

"None. I resigned. I can't work here after what I did. It doesn't matter either. I have no one here. No more," Barba said as he started to cry harder.

Huang grabbed Barba from behind but he was putting up a struggle. Carisi and Amaro rushed into give Huang and hand containing him.

Carisi ran his hands over Barba's face. "Come back to me Rafi."

After another gentle stir from Huang, Barba blinked his eyes a few time and started to look confused. "What?" 

He got up and went into the bathroom. They heard running water for a few minutes and when he came back out his face and hair was damp.

"Should I even ask?" Barba said sitting back down against the headboard and cradling a pillow in his knees.

"How's your head?" Carisi asked.

"Better than earlier, but still not great."

"How'd the case & deal go this afternoon. Did Snyder give us anything we can use?" 

Carisi looked at Huang and Amaro and then back to Barba. "Tell you what, lets get some tea and we can talk about that later."

---

The guys were all sitting around the coffee table sipping tea and Barba started to look uneasy. Carisi turned to him and took Barba's teacup from his hand and put it on the table. 

"Are you remembering what you were dreaming about?" Huang inquired.

Barba nodded. "Yeah, I had a nightmare. It doesn't make a lot of sense."

"Was is it about the assault?" Carisi asked.

He shook his head and said "no."

He picked up the teacup but was clearly disturbed by what was going through his head and sat it back on the table.

"I don't think I remember it all," he said.

"Well, can you tell us what you do remember?" Huang asked.

---

Barba tells them the events of his dream. <-- see last chapter.

---

"I know dreams are bizarre and not predictable, but this was just weird," Barba finished.

"Can I tell you something we heard you say?" Huang asked.

Barba nodded but added "I apologize in advance for whatever I did say."

"You said you didn't have anyone," Huang said with sadness on his face.

"Well, I didn't. I wasn't friends with any of you. I wasn't seeing Sonny. Liv was the only who was even semi-close to me. In the end I even turned my back on her and left," Barba shared.

"Your tone and eyes suggest that you were not happy with that scenario. What specifically bothers you about this?" Huang asked.

"Well, that's quite a loaded question." Barba paused. "Being alone." 

Huang bit his lip. "Consider even before you transferred to Manhattan, didn't you used to prefer to be alone?"

"Yes," Barba replied.

"Why was that?" Huang continued to fish.

"For some odd reason, this seems to be  resembling a therapy session," Barba said trying to avoid the answer.

"Probably, because it is. Answer the question," Huang persisted.

Barba sighed and started fidgeting with his shirt. "I could focus exclusively on work."

Huang turned to Carisi. "Should we let him off that easy?"

"Absolutely not," he said grinning at Barba.

"You're supposed to be on my side," Barba whined.

"Rafael, why did you prefer to be alone?" Huang said repeating the question.

Barba looked at the floor. "If I was alone, I couldn't get hurt. I didn't have to feel anything."

"So why is your dream upsetting you? Why is being alone upsetting you now?" Huang inquired.

"You obviously know where you are going with this, so just say it!" Barba said raising his voice to Huang.

"You need to recognize it. You need to say it. No hesitation. Just say it," Huang redirected back to Barba.

Barba rolled his eyes. "Because I can't imagine not loving Sonny or having friends, not anymore."

"Ding! We have a winner!" Amaro announced.

"You know, you all three are seriously jeopardizing my friendship right now," Barba tried to say sternly but ended up laughing with everyone else.

"So, I'm hearing you say that life isn't about avoiding all the bad, it is about having the good too," Huang summarized trying to contain his laughter.

"So sue me!" Barba exclaimed in an annoyed tone. 

Carisi moved over and put his arm around him. "Oh Rafi, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. That's just how the rest of the world operates, you know, outside of Barba land. Welcome to the to the real world."

"Couldn't have said it any better myself," Huang said backing Carisi. "So in you dream, you were bothered not having anyone and then leaving potential friends. Why? Think exclusively about why you felt when you left everyone."

"I couldn't deal with what I did."

"The action or feelings?" Huang probed.

"The feelings. I get it. I was running away from my feelings," Barba said faking irritation.

"Ding! We have another winner," Amaro announced.

"You know between, you and Carisi here, I'm gonna be out of a job!" Huang laughed.

"So, one more question and I will leave you alone for awhile," Huang said.

Barba rolled his eyes. "You know, that's what Liv said and she just kept going." Barba crossed his legs and sighed. "Go ahead."

"Assuming dreams sometimes happen because of stuff on our minds, can you venture a guess as to why you had this particular dream today?"

"Because of what's going on with Liv."

He saw Huang was about to ask a follow up 'why' question and he shushed him with his hand. 

"See, I knew you weren't done asking questions. Because I am scared with all the changes, my friendship with Liv is going to be different, and I am running away from that too, right?" Barba finished.

"Well done, Rafa," Carisi said beginning to clap who was joined by Amaro and Huang.

"Just to point out, you did literally run away yesterday," Carisi added.

---

"So Rafa, how's your head doing now?" Carisi asked as he put the evening dinnerware in the dishwasher.

"Better, much more manageable now," Barba said as he stood at the kitchen island and finished off a glass of water. Huang and Amaro were still sitting at the table.

Carisi turned around and wrapped his arms around Barba's torso. "You know what they say is good for migraines?" Carisi said running his hands down Barba's face and breathing down his neck which caused Barba to quiver.

Everyone in the room knew Carisi was angling for some nighttime love-making.

"There's medical evidence to support that," Huang said not looking up.

Carisi started to pull Barba from the kitchen, but Barba still needed to get one more quip in.

He turned to Huang. "You can's say that to my face because you are avoiding my glare, isn't that right?"

Huang stood eye-to-eye with the ADA. "Take him away, Carisi!" he shouted looking Barba directly in the eyes and laughing.

"Wait Sonny," Amaro said standing up and pulling handcuffs from his jacket. "You might need these," he said tossing them to Carisi.

He smiled deviously as he pulled Barba back to the bedroom.

"Damn you all!" Barba playfully shouted as he was being dragged into the bedroom.

Chapter Text

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Carisi closed the bedroom door holding the handcuffs. "Never thought I'd have to arrest a prosecutor," he grinned as he threw the cuffs on the bed. He wrapped his arms around Barba's torso and gave him a kiss.

"Come on, they're going to hear us," Barba complained as he pushed Carisi away.

They heard the living room TV turn on and the volume elevate.

"I think they're going to give us our privacy," Carisi said pulling Barba's shirt over his head and pulling his sweatpants and boxer briefs down. "Oh come, on quit with the bruiting," Carisi urged.

Barba gave in and kicked his sweats and boxers form his ankles to the side of the bed as Carisi eagerly stripped himself. He swept Barba off his feet and lowered him gently onto the bed. "Carisi picked up Amaro's hand cuffs. 

"I'm not sure about those," Barba said as he sat up and moved back to the edge of the bed. He looked at Carisi with nervous questioning eyes. "You have the keys, right?"

"Yes, Rafi. I would never let you cuffed," Carisi assured him.

"Okay," Barba agreed as he held out his hands. 

"Nope, around your back," Carisi said.

Barba placed his hands behind his back and Carisi cuffed him gently, not roughly like when they hook up the perps.

He saw Barba still looked a little skeptical. "Is this so you can have your way with me?" Barba tried to ask playfully trying to mask his nervousness.

"Not really, what I had in mind." Carisi sat down joining his the hand-cuffed lover on the edge of the bed. "So, you know how I've not been not been comfortable with...being penetrated?"

Barba nodded.

"Well, I want to try that tonight."

"And the handcuffs?" Barba asked. 

"It's silly, but I think it would help me feel more in control and less nervous, not that I don't trust you to go slow, but...I..I don't know. Maybe it is just the visibility...It's stupid forget it."

"No, Sonny. If you want to try something new, we can. I am just trying to wrap my head around the mechanics of how we are going to do this. How do you want to do this? On your back, all fours, or do you want to ride me?"

"I definitely want to be able to see your eyes," Carisi said. 

"Okay, so back or ride me?" 

"The second," Carisi replied.

"Okay, so you're going to have to help me lay back down...I'm sort of at a disadvantage here," he laughed.

"You are, aren't you?" Carisi smirked.

"Hey, I don't like that smirk," Rafa said catching a devious look in the detective's eye.

"Oh, it just makes it easier for me to tickle you!" he exclaimed as leaned in tickling Barba's sides and then his nipples. Barba started laughing and squirming, but was unable to get away from Carisi's fingers.

"Okay, stop," Barba said laughing. "Or else you are going to have to help me in the bathroom. You've had your fun with that, let's move on," he smiled at Carisi.

Carisi pulled Barba back further on the bed and gently laid him back on a pillow. "Are your arms okay?" Carisi asked. "We can take them off if you want."

"I think I'm good," Barba gazing into his lover's eyes. 

Carisi pulled the lube out from the nightstand and started coating his own entrance and opening himself up by inserting fingers. Barba thought he saw his hands slightly tremble.

"Hey, are you okay?" Barba asked sensing Carisi looked a little nervous. 

"Yeah, it's just the first time since we've done this since we saw the footage. Since I actually saw what actually happened to me. I sort of blocked it out when it was happening, but seeing it, I just can't get it out of my mind. It's also the first time doing this that you know what he did to me. I'm just a little nervous, that's all. Being on top will help me feel like I am controlling it," Carisi said with only a half convincing smile.

"Sonny, there is absolutely no pressure to do this if you're not ready. You know that, right? And I don't have to tell you that I am the last person who would judge you based on what they did to you. We went through the same thing. I get it. We don't have to do this if you are not ready."

Carisi nodded. "You know how you said you weren't going to let Michael take away our tongue talk? Well, I'm not going to let him take this from us either."

"Alright, but it's okay if you do change your mind. We can stop at any point. Don't feel like that once we start that you are committed to doing this. Hey, can you look at me?"

Carisi nodded and looked at Barba. "I love you," Carisi said as he laid down and gave Barba a kiss.

"Now since you are restrained, I guess I'm going to have to get you ready too," Carisi said putting more lube on his hands and massaging it onto Barba's cock. Barba felt himself quickly harden as he squirmed with the motions of Carisi's hands. He started moaning and panting rapidly.

"Sonny, you know if you make me come, I won't be able to..."

"Fair point," Carisi said easing up on his seductive massaging. "Okay, you look and feel ready," Carisi said playfully patting Barba's cock.

He positioned himself above the ADA and lifted Barba's cock and started to lower himself towards it when Barba whispered, "Sonny, wait. Wait, please stop. Please stop." Carisi quickly got off of him and saw a touch of fear in Barba's emerald eyes and a tear escaping. He laid his head down next to the ADA's face.

"What's wrong, Rafi?" 

"I don't think I can handle the cuffs. Please, take them off. Please take them off. Take them off. Please," Barba begged starting to panic.

"Of course," Carisi assured him as he quickly got the key from the bedside  He sat Barba up so he could get to the cuffs. "Here we go," he said as he unlocked them. As soon as they were off he wrapped his arms around the Barba.

"I'm so sorry," Barba said. "I thought I was going to be okay...until I wasn't."

"Don't be sorry, Rafi. You weren't sure you were going to like it and you left me know that you didn't. That's what we are supposed to do. This is about having fun and connecting with each other. We don't need the cuffs for that," he said tossing them to the floor.

"Thank you, Sonny," he whispered kissing him on the cheek.

Carisi laid down beside him. 

"Hey, are you still up for trying this?" Barba asked. "Or else I need your magic hands to help me release..." Barba said gesturing towards his erection.

"I think so, I just don't want you to be uncomfortable," Carisi replied.

"The cuffs are gone, I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Barba smiled. "Are you?"

"Yeah," Carisi said as repositioned himself above Barba. He gently stroked Barba's cock a few times and then held it up.

"Okay, here goes nothing," Carisi said as he lowered himself down on it slowly. He stayed above Barba's tip for a minute feeling its hardness at his entrance and he quivered at the touch. Their eyes were locked to help communicate.

"Are you still okay, Sonny?"

Carisi gave no verbal response, but his eyes told Barba he was just fine.

"You are safe. Keep looking in my eyes. You are completely safe. It's you and me. Only you and me. This is your choice," Barba said trying to comfort him.

Carisi took a breath and lowered himself slowly impaling himself slightly on Barba's cock. He paused and they continued to stare into each other's eyes.

"It's okay, just get used to it," Barba said gently. "Take all the time you need."

Carisi slid down a little more, but Barba could feel he was tight.

"Relax mi amor. Just you and me. We can stop here if you need to."

Carisi lowered himself further. After about thirty more seconds Carisi fully lowered himself on to Barba and closed his eyes.

"Sonny, are you okay?"

Carisi opened his eyes. "I forgot how great it feels have you inside me," he said smiling.

"All good then?" Barba asked.

"Definitely," Carisi said.

With their eyes locked on one another, Carisi began gently swirling himself and Barba placed his hands on Carisi's hips to steady him.

"Can you tilt up just a bit and help me out here?" Carisi asked.

"Oh, I'm sure I can," Barba said tilting his pelvis. "Do you need me to...?"

"Yeah," Carisi replied. They were in sync and knew what the other was thinking so the utterance of incomplete thoughts didn't matter.

"Fast or slow?"

"Slow," Carisi answered.

Barba started thrusting himself in and out very slowly and easily found Carisi's prostate. Carisi squirmed when he hit it.

"Good?"

"Yeah, you can go faster now," Carisi said.

Barba began thrusting slightly faster and tried to vary when he would press against Carisi's prostate. Both were panting and their gazes were still fixed on each other.

"Oh, Rafi! Faster!" Carisi begged.

They could see the pleasure and excitement building in each other eyes as both of them breathed faster and faster and moved in harmony. Sweat was dripping down their faces. They were nearing their climatic points. 

"Ready?" Barba asked.

Carisi nodded.

Barba gave one more forceful thrust hitting Carisi's prostate and coming inside his lover while Carisi simultaneous spilled onto Barba's torso.

Barba gently helped Carisi dismount and he dropped next to Barba's side. They both had their eyes closed and were breathing rapidly with smiles on their faces. After a few minutes, he felt Carisi turn his head. Barba opened his eyes to once again gaze into Carisi's pearly blues. Both were smiling at each other.

---

After their breathing slowed some, Carisi kissed Barba on the cheek. "Thanks for being patient with me."

"Thank you for trusting me. Did everything go okay for you?" he asked fishing for some sort of feedback.

"Yeah, after we got going, it was just as fun as before."

"Glad to hear it," Barba said kissing him on the lips. "I'm going to need a few more minutes for my muscles to recover from that before we shower."

"Oh my god, your knees are still trembling!" Carisi observed. "I take it that it was okay for you too?" 

Barba nodded still trying to slow his breath.

They laid for a few more minutes and then they migrated to the bathroom.

---

Carisi turned the on the shower and was waiting for the water to warm up.

"I don't want to ruin this, us, with work talk, but I just need to say this, while I'm thinking about it," Carisi said.

"I get it, with what we do. What's on your mind?" Barba asked.

"You know we just had so much fun with each other, and all we did was check in with each other the whole time, with everything we did, and we listened to each other."

"The no-means-yes thing with Hudson?" Barba inquired thinking he knew what was gnawing at the detective's mind.

"Yeah, I mean if people just take the literal definitions and act on them, there would be no problems. Both people can have so much fun. I just don't get why people and Hudson feel like...ugh, I don't know how to say it," Carisi said checking the water temperature and then stepping into the shower.

Barba stepped in joining him. "I know what you mean." Barba applied body wash to his hands and began lathering every aspect of Carisi's toned figure. "Actually just listening and abiding to consent allows both to still have fun and connect. I honestly don't understand it either," Barba said now applying shampoo to Carisi's hair.

The detective slightly bent his knees so Barba could massage the top of his head.

"Then for Hudson to actually condone the no-means-yes mindset," Barba said shaking his head. "I'm just baffled by it.

Now Carisi started shampooing and massaging Barba's head.

"It's like some people don't know that you can have love with consent. Maybe they don't think they can find love? Maybe they don't think it exists?" Carisi pondered out loud while he now began lathering Barba's body.

"Listening to and abiding to consent is about love. I think these people with the no-means-yes mindset, they aren't focused on love. Personally, I think it is about power, control, and their own pleasure," Barba said. "We'll drive our selves crazy if we try to understand them," Barba sighed.

Both now cleaned, they stood under the hot spray of the shower holding each other laying their heads on each others shoulders.

"You're right and I agree with you. I just try to see good in people, even if it there is none," Carisi said. "I'm just finding it so hard to vocalize and grasp this concept."

"I know you see the good. You try to see light in the world. That's one of the many reasons I love you, Sonny Carisi," Barba said giving him a kiss on the lips.

They stepped out of the shower and began drying off.

"I wish there was a way to dismantle the administration at Hudson, or maybe even burn the place to the ground. I just can't stand that an institution like that, especially one that influences young minds, is able to or permitted to exist. I know the legality of it and all, but it is just not right," Carisi said venting his frustrations.

"I know, Sonny. The law can be a fickle thing at times. After we get the person directly responsible for these rape-murders, I plan on making Hudson pay. Big time," Barba said as they both put on their boxer briefs.

"What do you have in mind?" Carisi felt curious as to what his fiancé's wrath may entail. Barba knew his way around the law and courtroom, and when he was out for blood, he could make the other party pay dearly.

"I'm not sure yet, but it will be over my dead body if Hudson is allowed to continue like this. We have a great team of minds between our two offices. We will figure something out," Barba said as he slid a t-shirt on.

"I hope we will, but please, not over your dead body," Carisi said giving him a kiss.

"Can you make me a promise?" Barba asked.

"What's that?" 

"If we don't succeed in changing Hudson, please don't let our children go there."

"They absolutely will not even look at a brochure let alone set a foot on that campus. Besides, they are Harvard or Fordham bound," Carisi said already planning their prospective children's higher education.

"Umm...maybe we should talk about this after one of them is at least conceived," Barba laughed as he got into bed.

Carisi shut the lights out. "Hey you're the one who brought up college," he retorted as they laid down next to Barba and covered up.

Barba turned to his side and looked at Carisi. Carisi turned over to look him in the eyes.

"Rafael, are you just admiring my facial physique or do you have something on the tip of your tongue?"

"Both," Barba said pressing a kiss to Carisi's lips. "Can you believe we are planning to be parents?"

"I know, I am so excited, but nervous. It's madness," Carisi answered as he wrapped his arms around Barba.

"Dulces suenos, mi amor."

"Will our kids be bilingual?" Carisi asked.

Barba hit him with a pillow. "Got a problem with that?"

"Nah. Night, Rafa," Carisi said as they both closed their eyes.

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Chapter Text

May be an image of text that says 'LAW& ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT BARISI FANFIC'

It was Wednesday morning. Barba had gone to the office early to meet up with Novak before she went to court. He wanted the details regarding her meeting with Snyder's defense attorney yesterday.

---

Carisi was sitting at the table disappointed he didn't wake up in time to see Barba off. He wasn't sure what to do with himself. He was still officially on leave and technically wasn't supposed to be at the precinct, however that had not been the case the last few days. He grinned recalling his tag along with Barba on Monday and being allowed to assist with the Hudson search. Then he reflected on how he kicked Benson out of their apartment Monday and raised his voice to her defending Barba. However, Benson took mercy on his puppy eyes the following day and allowed him to assist with an interrogation. 

Carisi honestly did not know where he stood with his captain at this point. She had taken his gun  and placed him on leave twice in just 4-5 months Any other commanding officer probably would have taken his gun away permanently by now. He knew she was trying to help him, but he was anxious how much longer she would cut him slack. The more he thought about that the sicker he felt. Maybe he wasn't coming back . "Wait Rafi, would fight her for me," but then he sighed remembering that Barba's relationship with Benson seemed a bit strained at the moment.

He took a deep breath and decided he was just going to focus on today. He wanted to go in and work, but he was trying to figure out a way to casually slip into the precinct, as he did the prior two days.

His thoughts were interrupted when Huang handed him a coffee. "I'm heading into the precinct. You're still officially on leave and I am supposed to be keeping an eye on you, so you will be joining me. Besides, you have your SUV here, right?"

Carisi nodded and grinned. He had found his excuse into the precinct. Now he just needed to use his charm and charisma to somehow get involved in the investigation.

---

When Barba entered his office suite at 1 Hogan Place, he found Novak frantically trying to get her briefcase together. She looked up and saw Barba. "You need to walk with me if you want an update. I'm on my way to chambers before court. Buchanan is trying to ruin my case again on some technicality. Why is it that he makes everyone's lives hellish?"

Barba didn't even put his briefcase down. He just opened the door for Novak and walked along with her.

"So the run down of yesterday afternoon. You'll be happy to know that..."she paused looking for a paper in the file folder she was holding. She pulled it out and continued walking and talking.

"Rita has taken him on as a client, but that shouldn't be much of an issue since you will probably be the one offering him full immunity for accepting the bribe and tried to flee the country."

"Really, so why would I be doing that?" Barba asked.

"Because he can tell you who gave the order for that video to be erased. 

"And you think that warrants full immunity?" Barba asked less than impressed.

"It does when coupled with the fact that he can identify who the president is protecting and is willing to work with us setting up a sting to get the president to admit the bribe and to bring the perp down," Novak added.

"Juicy," Barba said in approval.

"Didn't Carisi you all this already, didn't?"

"We had some other stuff come up last night."

"Rafael, you look much better today. How's your migraine?

"Much more manageable, thank you." As Barba turned to walk away, he said "Good luck with Buchanan!"

See rolled her eyes. "I'll need it."

Law &amp; Order SVU: 5 Reasons Barba Was The Best ADA (&amp; 5 Reasons Why Novak  Was A Close Second)

---

Huang and Carisi arrived at the precinct. Carisi immediately walked over to Amaro. "I think you forgot these last night," he said holding pulling Amaro's cuffs from his jacket and dangling them in front of his colleague. Amaro reached out and took the handcuffs and put them in his jacket.

21 epic &#39;Law &amp; Order: SVU&#39; behind-the-scenes pictures of the cast – SheKnows

Rollins who was sitting right behind Amaro turned around overhearing their conversation and cleverly deduced why Carisi would have needed a pair of handcuffs at his apartment. "Naughty, naughty boys," she said giggling and teasing Carisi.

"You told her? Rafael is going to kill you!" Carisi exclaimed.

"Relax, he didn't tell me. I figured it out. Why else would you need a pair of handcuffs at the apartment?" Rollins explained.

Carisi sat down. "So he is just going to kill me instead," he whined with a sigh. "But if it matters, we didn't use them," he informed them.

"Not his cup of tea?" Rollins asked. 

"We tried. He just sort of freaked out when we put them on him. I didn't think about it at the time, but he was restrained with cuffs during some..." Carisi couldn't finish his statement but by the look in their eyes, he knew they knew what he was trying to say. During their assault. "Please don't tell him you know we had...but didn't...fuck. Sorry, I've been having trouble getting words out of my mouth lately. Just don't embarrass him with that or get me killed. Okay?" he pleaded with his confidants.

"Relax, Sonny. We won't," Amaro assured him. "Did you guys at least have a good time though?" 

Carisi nodded. "Always do," he replied with a cheeky grin.

"So, I've always been curious. Is Rafael good in bed?" Rollins asked. Carisi turned pink. "You really want him to kill me, don't you? I guess I'll answer that though. He is amazing." Carisi paused. "Please tell me you aren't thinking about sleeping with my fiancé?"

Rollins laughed. "Hate to break it to you Sonny, but you guys...everyone loves your body and light personality and his adorable stubbornness and passion. Everyone wants to sleep with both of you!"

Carisi's cheeks flushed a bit brighter. "Hands off!" he playfully warned her.

Carisi looked up and saw Benson was talking with Huang. Then Huang signaled for him to join them.

---

Carisi walked over and followed them into Benson's office. "Look Captain, I'm just here because George had to come in, he said trying to explain his presence in case that was why he was being called into the office.

His anxiety about confronting her must have evident on his face because the first thing she said was, "Please don't pass out on me too."

Huang started the conversation. "I'm just going be here to mediate things, if you get too anxious, just let me know and we'll take a break." Huang patted his shoulder. Carisi prepared himself for the worst. "Crap. Here it comes. This is the why don't you transfer out or you're fired speech," he thought to himself.

"So, yesterday, Rafael told me how scary I was on Monday. And how you were nervous because you kicked me out of his apartment and told me not to upset you."

"Our apartment," Carisi said correcting her.

"Oh my gosh, congratulations. When did this happen?"

"The day after we got engaged."

Huang felt the need to interject. "Except Rafael didn't know it until Sonny misspoke last Friday!"

"That sounds like, Rafa. Missing the obvious," she laughed. "Sonny, I really want to apologize for the entire situation on Monday. I know my reaction caused Rafael to flee and then I took out my concern for him on other people, one of them being you. I'm so sorry. Your fiancé being my best friend and me being your boss puts us both in a bit of an awkward position. I'm hoping we can just get by this."

"Sure, Liv. I just want to let you know that I didn't intend to come off as rude or disrespectful. I've just been really worried about him too. And the only heads up he gave me was a text that he'd see me at home. So I was a little on edge too. Sometimes it's like you have to pry details from that man."

"You weren't rude or disrespectful. You were protecting your fiancé and you were right. Your relationship with Rafael comes first."

Carisi nodded and they sat in silence for a few minutes.

"So, Sonny, I'm trying to figure out how you are doing. Are you comfortable sharing with me how you're doing?"

Carisi nodded but then bit his lip. He thought about lying, but with Huang in the room, he decided honesty would probably be the best approach.

"I am better than I was. There are still some issues I need to work on, but I think stuff is looking up. I've been talking to George and Rafael and I'm on an antidepressant. I want to be back at work, but I know carrying a weapon is what everyone is concerned about."

"Thank you for being honest with her, Sonny," Huang said putting his hand on his shoulder. He could see Carisi was already kicking himself over the weapon remark of his response and he did have a few tears in his eyes.

"Are you concerned about carrying a weapon?" Benson asked.

Carisi paused and decided he probably couldn't do much more damage continuing with honesty. "Okay sometimes, but I don't think I should have one yet."

Benson came over a pulled a chair up to him and patted his shoulder. "That's okay. I kind of felt the same way when I went through that ordeal with Lewis. I wanted to be back at work and that really helped me. I wasn't in such a good place. I'm not sure if I was suicidal or anything, but I would have felt better if Cragan held onto my gun for a bit, but you know he was. I didn't think that was the sort of thing I could share with him and keep my job. He was always trying to go by the book and I just didn't want to risk not being permitted to stay at SVU."

ALL THINGS SVU — Peter Scanavino and Mariska Hargitay, Transgender...

Carisi looked up. "Yeah, but this is now the second time you've taken my gun and put me on leave. It doesn't look too promising."

"Sonny, George said you are finally accepting the situation and letting help in."

"That's right," Huang replied. "You are heading in the right direction now."

"So as you may have surmised, this was the second reason I wanted to talk with you today. I still don't feel comfortable with you holding a weapon yet, but I wanted to offer you some interrogations, interviews, warrant searches, and some desk duty stuff. Do you feel like you would be up to that?"

He nodded. "I was really hoping you weren't going to can me or something," Carisi said breathing a sigh of relief.

"You're a great detective and none of us want to lose you. That whole thing had to be a nightmare. I would have been left go a long time ago if my colleagues and superiors were not patient with me and had given me multiple chances. Cragan was somewhat understanding, but I always felt like one day he would just go by the book and I would find my ass getting transferred out of here. You will get through this. And so will Rafa." She looked up and seemed satisfied that Carisi was really hearing her words of encouragement.

"Okay, we'll stick with those plans for right now. If something changes, in either direction, tell George and we'll discuss what we need to do for you and how to keep you safe. Okay? George's position at SVU is actually to help with these types of situations. I know you have him at home full-time, but take advantage of his presence here too. Okay?"

Carisi nodded. "Thanks, Captain," Carisi said as he stood up and left her office. 

---

As he rejoined Amaro and Rollins they saw he was smiling.

"You back?" Rollins asked.

"No gun or fieldwork, but yeah," Carisi said still smiling. 

Rollins stood up and hugged him. "Welcome back, Sonny."

PoiPoi — iheartcarisi: Peter Scanavino and...

---

When Barba got to SVU he walked over to Carisi.

Carisi had to share his good news. "So Rafa, I'm back, desk duty, but I'm back," he informed Barba giving him a small peck on the cheek.

"That's great news. I wanted apologize about this morning. I was trying to get to Novak before she headed off to trial. She didn't have enough time to give me much detail."

"Oh, I see. You are just visiting me for an update," Carisi sassed him.

"I'm here for whatever you guys can give met to take the killer and Hudson University down." Barba sighed. "I need some coffee first," he said as he turned to head to the break room.

"Wow, it sounds like he is out for blood," Amaro said.

"Does he really think he can take on Hudson?" Rollins asked.

"He's pretty determined and you know how he can be when he can smell blood. He seems to think if we all put our heads together, we might be able to influence some sort of change," Carisi shared.

"That's going to be tough Sonny, but if anyone can do it, it's Barba," Rollins said.

---

Barba came back into the squad room but went to Benson's office. Before he could even knock, Benson looked up and invited him in. He close the door and drew the blinds and took a seat on the sofa. Benson joined him on the sofa and he handed her a coffee.

"Thanks, Rafa. How's your migraine?"

"Better, but significantly more manageable today."

"That's good."

They sat in silence for a few more minute drinking their coffees.

Myers-Briggs® Personality Types Of Law &amp; Order: SVU Characters

"So Liv, anymore questions today?" Barba said breaking the ice.

"Yeah. What the hell happened yesterday evening when Nick called desperately looking for Sonny?"

"They told you?"

"I was riding with them. Nick said you had a nightmare and was freaking out."

Barba got a sheepish look. He touched his tongue to his lip and took a deep breath. "Until all of this, I seldom remembered any of my dreams. I always had a problem with sleepwalking, which tends to get worse with stress and given recent events, that obviously got worse."

"So you were sleep walking?" Liv ventured.

"Not exactly. It's been harder for me to wake up. Like yesterday, there has been a few times where someone has jostled me thinking that they woke me up and really, I was still sleeping with my eyes closed. I was sitting on my bed with my eyes closed. I apparently get pretty combative in this state," Barba said sharing his sleep issues."

"I was wondering what was going on. Nick said you almost punched him."

Barba chuckled. "He probably had it coming."

"You said you used to not be able to remember your dreams. Do you mind if I ask what yesterday's was about?"

Barba shook his kept it pretty general not sharing near the detail that he had told his companions the evening before. "It was just really bizarre and confusing, but Huang thinks it has to do with stuff going on with me right now."

"Huang usually is right about these things. What did he think it was about?"

"Losing relationships and friendships. Running away instead of dealing with emotions." Barba sighed. He is right though. Frustratingly right," he grumbled.

"Thanks for trusting me enough to share this. I know how you like to keep your life private."

Barba nodded and they finished their coffees in silence.

"So Rita is supposed to be here...right about now," Benson said looking at the time on her cell phone.

"Okay, I'm going to head over to interrogation and see what sort of deal we can make. Novak said it sounds like he has something worth hearing."

Barba stood to leave but turned around before he got to the door. "This was nice, Liv. Maybe next time we can chat about Noah?" 

"Sure, maybe you could even stop by. He misses his Uncles Rafa and Sonny." Barba nodded and left the office.

---

Barba joined Carisi outside of interrogation room one. "So Calhoun is already in there talking to him," Carisi said stating the obvious as they both were looking through the one way mirror.

BARISI on Tumblr

"I see that." After a brief pause, Barba asked, "Do you think he is credible?"

"Not that my opinion matters, but yes, I do," Carisi replied.

"Okay. Let's head in and see what we can get out of him," Barba said.

Carisi opened the door and Barba followed him in.

---

As soon as they entered the room, he could feel Calhoun's eyes on him. He hadn't seen or spoke to Calhoun since his return. Even though SVU tried to cover the details, the DA's office just seeped with gossip. It seemed like most people knew about his and Carisi's assault, but details seemed to vary. He was praying that her intent staring was just an intimidation tactic of some sort. He wondered if she knew. He couldn't tell.

"Rafael," she said standing to shake his hand.

"Rita," Barba replied.

Calhoun sat next to Snyder and Carisi sat facing them. Barba found himself uncomfortable and wanted to just stand. Plus, he always felt more intimidating standing when others were sitting.

"So Mr. Snyder, my colleague said you had some potential information to share. Without divulging the details, could you tell me what sort of information?"

"We went over this yesterday," Calhoun clipped.

"Since I am the one offering the deal, I want to hear it myself," Calhoun retorted.

Snyder turned and looked at Calhoun who nodded her head.

"I know who gave the order to destroy the video evidence on the phone recovered from the dead guard and I know who the president is protecting."

"And he is protecting that person from?" Barba prompted.

"The rape-murder spree on the Hudson University campus and the security guard," Snyder answered.

"Are you willing to testify to that under oath?"

"Yes, sir," Snyder answered.

"SVU, wants to set the president up to admit to bribing and covering for that person. Are you willing to assist with that?" Barba asked finally taking a seat next to Carisi.

"Yes."

Barba appeared satisfied. "I will have a plea deal drawn up to offer full immunity for accepting the bribe and attempting to flee the country with the stipulation that your information is factual, you testify to, and assist with SVU's sting on the president. Is that acceptable?"

Calhoun replied, "My client will accept."

Carisi stood. "Your client is free to go as long as he stays within the city for the duration of this investigation and trial. We'll contact you when we are ready to proceed with the sting. We will fully prep you and provide backup and protection."

"Thank you," Snyder said as he left the room with Calhoun. Carisi and Barba followed them out. Once outside, Calhoun turned to Barba. "May I have a minute, Counselor?"

Carisi continued on escorting Mr. Snyder from the precinct.

Barba nodded and replied, "What can I do for you, Rita?" He was fearing her questions.

"I'm sorry, I heard. Are you recovering okay?" 

"Damn it," Barba thought as he could feel his eyes filling with tears. He looked up to the ceiling and mumbled, "I'm fine," he said as a tear trickled down his cheek. He was so embarrassed tearing up in front of another attorney.

"Rafael, I didn't mean to upset you, I'm just concerned. You've lost a lot of weight," Calhoun said.

"Thank you for your concern," Barba said turning and walking away.

🦇 — ∟rafael barba ✘ everyone. | rita calhoun edition.

---

Barba found himself making his way over to Huang's new office and shut the door. Huang was still getting settled in and he looked up when he heard the door close.

"Rafael?" he asked seeing the ADA in tears.

"I need a few minutes," he said as he started to cry harder.

"It's almost the end of the day. Why don't we hang out in here until everyone starts heading out?"

Barba nodded. "I don't mean to kick you out of your own office, but can I have a few minutes to myself?"

"No problem. Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?"

"Tea would be great, thank you," Barba answered as Huang left the office.

Barba took off his jacket and hung it on the back of a chair and kicked his shoes off.

He laid face-down into the sofa and cried.

Welcome to my Raúl Esparza themed hell. — Taking a bath/shower with Barba

Huang returned about 15 minutes later and found the ADA asleep. He put the teacup on his desk, covered Barba with the jacket he had taken off, shut the lights out, and left the office.

---

Huang walked over to Carisi who was sitting at his desk sorting through all the mail he had missed over the last five months. He had been back in the office for short intermittent periods, but he had put off going through his mail. Being on desk duty now, he had decided that it was as good a time as any to get it over with.

"Hey doc," Carisi greeted him.

He pulled a chair from Rollins's desk and sat down. "You were with Rafael this afternoon, right?"

"Yeah. He was fine. Is something wrong?"

"He came to my office in tears and he is now asleep on the sofa."

"Calhoun. She stuck behind to have a word with him," he said.

"That could be it," Huang replied.

"Maybe I should take him home," Carisi said, but more in an asking tone. 

"I think we can hold off since he is sleeping. I just wanted to let him know so we can try to get him out of here without embarrassing him. Well, maybe that nap will do him some good."

Huang got up and went to the breakroom and got himself a cup of tea and checked messages on his phone since he didn't want to disturb Barba.

---

Carisi was just getting to the bottom of his mail stack. He had thankfully been able to toss most of it out. Then he got to an envelope that caught his eye. He put it on his desk for a few minutes and stared intently at it. Finally he just slipped it into his jacket without opening it.

---

Just before 5, Barba emerged from Huang's office looking like his usual self and completely composed. Huang approached him.

"Good?" he asked.

"Yeah, I guess it's time to go home now," Barba yawned.

"I need to get my briefcase and I think Sonny is ready to go as well," he said staring at the detective who was sitting on his desk flinging paper football's onto Amaro's.

"You are such a child," Amaro laughed flinging one of them back at Carisi.

Huang and Barba walked over. "Ready to go?" Carisi asked looking at Barba who simply nodded. Amaro announced that he would be staying over tonight at Barba's.

Chapter Text

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Once back at Barba's apartment, Carisi and Amaro headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Barba headed to his home office to put his briefcase down. Usually he would have headed back out to join Carisi and whoever their current houseguests were, but instead he sat down at his desk. He pulled out the Hudson case file and opened it.

He found himself not really reading it, but rather lost in thought. He once again was feeling embarrassed about how he teared up and actually shed a whole tear in front of opposing counsel. Maybe it wasn't embarrassment. Maybe it was anger. Maybe both.

He heard a knock on the door and looked up to see Huang had already left himself in. He sat down in a chair in front of Barba's desk.

Barba rolled his eyes and inquired, "You want to talk about earlier, don't you?"

"Yes, and I think you should. What happened that upset you?"

"Calhoun happened," he replied.

"Was it something about the case or..."

Barba cut him off. "She asked how I was recovering." He drew a deep breath because he knew by now Huang was not going to let him off that easy. "I just hate not knowing how much people know about what happened to us. I know SVU did their best at being discreet, but it is still out there. People know that something happened, a little bit about it, or all of it."

"So you're embarrassed people know. Why?"

"I just value my privacy."

"Rafael..." Huang said trying to prod him to be more open.

"Okay, I'm ashamed and I am angry. Are you happy now?" Barba retorted.

Huang chose to ignore that last statement. "What are you ashamed about?"

"Being seen as a victim. For God's sake, I am supposed to be prosecuting on behalf of victims. Not be one."

"Okay, so a little ego there. But what else?"

"I might not be as good at my job anymore," Barba said frowning.

"And you're afraid the defense attorneys will see your experience as a weakness that they can take capitalize on?"

"Yes."

"Well, consider this. Being a victim, now survivor, how can relating to the victims help you?"

"I guess I can empathize with them. I might fight harder for them."

"Exactly. You may think the defense attorneys perceive you one way, but you actually have a hidden card up your sleeve. Granted it, it was an absolutely traumatic event, but you can use that to fuel your prosecutorial work."

Barba nodded. "Thanks, that actually helps."

"Now what about your anger?" Huang asked.

"I am angry because I teared up and then actually shed a whole tear in front of Rita, just because she asked a simple question." Barba cradled his head on his hand. "It's just pathetic. Plus, I've been able to talk to people lately without breaking down over it, but today, today was different."

"What was about it today, what was so different?" Huang asked. Seeing that Barba was truly stumped, he offered a hint. "Have you seen seen Rita since that took place?"

Barba shook his head.

"Right. So you connected with someone new about your experience. It's not going to happen all the time, but talking to someone new about it, could force some of your initial feelings to resurface. You just have to get through it and keep going. There is absolutely no reason to feel angry over if and how your feelings resurface. It's natural," Huang said.

"Dinner!" they heard Carisi call from the kitchen.

---

The guys had a quiet dinner and went their different directions. Amaro was going to swing by his place to visit Cynthia and his kids before they headed off to bed. Huang spread files out over the coffee table in the living room. Carisi loaded the dishwasher and then dragged Barba to the bedroom. 

Once inside, and without saying a word Barba was the one to initiate things. While his lips were glued to Carisi's, he took off the detectives suit jacket and quickly undid his button down shirt and dropped it to the floor.

Carisi pulled away for a minute. "I've never been able to figure out how you are so quick with buttons," and then he dove back into the kiss beginning to strip Barba's clothes. He slid the ADA's suspenders off his shoulders and untucked his shirt and undid his buttons and dropped it to the floor. They removed one another's undershirts and held each other tightly feeling the sensation of the other on their bare chests as they continued to kiss.

In sync, they both started undoing each other's belts and lowering the pants and boxer briefs kicking them to the side. They had to halt their kissing long enough to sit on the bed to get their socks off, but their lips immediately reconnected and they laid backwards enjoying each other. Carisi kneeled at the center of the bed and pulled Barba who joined him.

"Oh, hold right there!" Carisi said as he went and pulled an envelope from his jacket and retook his kneeling position across from his lover. He leaned against him hugging him as he took the letter from the envelope and handed it to Barba.

"Just give it to me straight," Carisi requested.

With Carisi still wrapped around him Barba unfolded the letter and playfully pushed Carisi over. "Congratulations, counselor," Barba said.

"I passed?" Carisi jumped off the bed and started jumping up and down.

"We've got to celebrate!" but then Barba paused. "Well, you can have a drink if you want," Barba said remembering that he should be limiting his alcohol consumption.

"We don't have to drink to celebrate, we can celebrate right here, just you and me. Us," Carisi said looking into his lover's eyes. 

"Any special requests?" Barba asked.

"Actually, yes. I want to have my way with you tonight!" he said with a grin.

"Okay," Barba said as Carisi pushed him onto his back. He started tickling the ADA's nipples and pressing kisses to his stomach. He knew he was really ticklish. "Stop, Sonny," he said as he shoved Sonny off him and ran to the bathroom.

He returned to the bedroom and said "You will regret the day I find that spot on your body where you are ticklish," he said with a grin.

"I am sure I will," Carisi said. "Now get back down here!" Barba laid down next to Carisi. 

"So how do you feel about being bottomed tonight on all fours? We've had amazing eye sex lately, but I was thinking that we listen to each others breathing and pay attention to touch tonight. What do you think?"

"Sounds intimate," Barba said as he took lube from the night stand and began lubing himself.

"Oh Rafi, let me help you with that," Carisi said with a cheeky grin.

He took the lube as Barba leaned forward on all fours. Carisi gently circled his opening with lube, massaging the entire area, teasing fingers nears his entrance, pushing them in just enough for Barba to sense and then pulling them away."

"You are such a tease," Barba quietly squealed. Carisi could see his muscles starting to awaken.

"So, can you give me a blow job to get me going?"

Barba nodded and turned over as Carisi danged himself over Barba's mouth. "How about we both hold our eyes closed and just feel each other?"

They both closed their eyes and Barba used his hands to insert Carisi's cock in his mouth. He could feel Carisi's cock instantly react as it filled and hardened with each lick he took and the more he took in his mouth the more he was convinced that he could actually feel Carisi's groans in his mouth.

Barba opened his mouth and Carisi gently removed himself and gave Barba a kiss. "That was amazing," he whispered.

Barba, eyes still closed, turned on to all fours. Carisi quickly applied a layer of lube to his aroused cock and started to tease Barba's entrance again drawing circles with his finger and then quickly inserted one full gasp. He felt Barba's gasp. He heard Barba's breath begin to quicken.

"Just want to be sure, but it sounds like you are doing okay. Is that right?" Carisi asked.

"Dios misos, don't stop," Barba moaned.

Carisi stuck in a second finger and explored Barba's insides. Locating his prostate, he brushed his fingers over it causing Barba's lower muscles to tremor.

"You're doing so good," Carisi said pressing a kiss to his ass.

Carisi pulled his fingers out and thought he could hear a sense of disappointment in Barba's breath. He then moved the tip of his cock to Barba's entrance to tease it. The way his muscles felt, the way they squirmed, he knew his lover was ready. He inserted himself slowly.

Barba could feel the fullness of his lover and left out a loud groan.

"Hush Rafi, George is still out there," he teased his modest lover.

"Aww, don't clench up on me there, Rafi" Carisi said reaching his hand under Barba and stroking him. He got the desired effect, his lover loosened his muscles. 

He began thrusting himself in and out, slow and gently at first. Barba's body spasmed with every touch to his prostate. He could hear the pace of Barba's breathing increase and then level off as well as some other pleasurable sounds. "You ready, Rafi?"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes," he panted.

Carisi sped up his thrusting and Barba spilled all over the bed and collapsed on his stomach. Carisi laid on top of the man and felt his chest rise and fall as he listened to Barba's heartbeat. He soaked up the warmth of their touching skin.

Barba was gasping and spasming all over. The pressure of his lover's body and his breath on his neck felt incredible.

After a few minutes of still hearing hearing Barba gasp and feeling his muscles spasm, Carisi rolled off and laid next to Barba.

"Are you still orgasming?" Carisi asked.

"God, yes!" Barba moaned. He was hoping the waves of pleasure he felt would last forever.

A few minutes later Barba started to get his breath back. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to Carisi. "I was going to kiss you sooner, but, hell, I couldn't move!"

"I see that, Rafi," Carisi said laughing noticing how his lower muscles still seemed to be slightly spasming. 

"I've never felt anything like that before," Barba said cuddling close to Carisi."

---

After feeling recovered, he asked, "What's your pleasure, Sonny?"

"Having the effect I just had on you," he said grinning.

Barba pressed lips to Carisi's forehead. "I appreciate that," he said. 

Carisi thought for a second. "Dealer's choice," he finally said.

"Well, you already got one blow job. Do you want to bottom?"

"Yeah, but I need to see your eyes," he requested.

"That can be arranged. Plus I can't ever get enough of your blues," Barba said.

---

After Carisi came and recovered, Barba removed the sheets and Carisi placed a fresh set on the bed and they headed to the shower.

Barba could see Carisi was deep in thought as he ran his hands over his body. "What are you thinking about?"

"Passing the bar," he said with a sigh.

"You don't seem that excited anymore," Barba said dropping his hands to his side. "What is it?"

"I'm not sure if I really want to be an attorney anymore. It's like I got my wish but I might not want it anymore." 

Barba held him tightly. "You do what you want to, everyone is allowed to change their mind. If you don't want to be an attorney, that is fine. The work you put in for that law degree, it has made you a better detective. I will deny ever saying this, but you have been bringing me evidence with stronger arguments that helps me do my job better. Don't you ever think for even a minute that you wasted your time getting that degree if you decide not to be an attorney," Barba said pressing a kiss to Sonny's forehead and traveling downwards for a deep kiss on the lips.

"Thanks, Rafi. I definitely need to think about this. I haven't thought about it all since this whole thing."

"Take all the time you need. There is absolutely no pressure from me and don't let anyone else influence you. Do what you want to do. Do what your passion is."

Chapter Text

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Thursday morning, everyone was ready to head to work. They all rode in Amaro's SUV and dropped Barba off at 1 Hogan Place before the remainder of them headed to the precinct.

---

Barba was the first one in the office suite. He even beat his assistants in, so he had to brew his own coffee, which he absolutely did not mind. He enjoyed the fresh scent of coffee in the air. When he'd get the chance, he'd watch brew strem into the pot. Not today though. He had several matters to attend to.

He opened the Hudson file and marked it up and jotted some notes. He poured himself a cup of coffee. He heard Renee come through the door, so he poured one and took it too.

"Thanks, Rafael," she said with a smile. She sat down at her desk getting ready to start her day.

"She just looks so normal even though her traumatic experience took place after ours. She just seemed so well-adjusted and moving forward." He really admired how strong she was. "What's her secret? We have the same shrink. Her experience much worse, she lost her fiancé whereas I was lucky enough to have Sonny make it out with me." Barba felt curious and was thinking about asking her some personal stuff, stuff that he didn't think would be easy, but she was going to be the mother of their child and they had been through the same thing.

He looked up and saw his other colleagues coming down the hall so he quickly decided to take a leap of faith. "Renee, could I talk to you in my office?" She nodded and followed him and he closed the door and blinds.

"Please have a seat," Barba said as he gestured to the sofa. He sat next to her holding his coffee cup so he could focus on it if he felt too uncomfortable.

"Rafael, you look nervous," Renee remarked.

"I wanted to talk to you about something personal...about our similar experiences."

She nodded. "What about?" she asked gently.

"I'm not good with sharing stuff, but I am just going to be blunt. You look like you are so-together and moving on with your life even though your experience happened after ours and you suffered an unimaginable loss. And we have the same shrink. You, you just seem so strong. I guess what I am trying to ask is why or how. Any advice?"

She smiled. "I still fall apart sometimes, but yes, I am moving on. I made that decision to move and honor Chris. I've noticed two things about you which is different, and please, understand I am not trying judge you, but I have been a lot more open about my experience. After you talked to me that day at SVU, I felt how helpful it was to have someone who understood the experience. Realizing that talking to others helps, I've taken full advantage of that. I talk to George, Carmen, Casey, and Alex. Even if you feel like you are repeating yourself, it really does help."

Barba sat for a minute lost in thought. He was gripping his cup tightly. "I've never been good at socializing, let alone about something like this."

"I understand, but that day you talked to me at SVU, even though I could see so much pain in your eyes, you demonstrated that you are capable of that. It just might suck at first, but you can do it. I'm willing to listen if you ever want to talk. That was one reason I really wanted to work with SVU. I knew you guys would understand, especially you and Sonny."

Barba nodded. "I'd like to try talking about it sometime. What's the other thing?"

Renee frowned. "You got me justice. D'Angelo was found guilty. Granted it, he was promptly executed, but hearing the words, the guilty verdict, it helped me so much. It kind of gave me a sense of closure and I was able to start thinking beyond what had happened."

Barba returned the frown. "I'd love to nail Michael to the wall and get him locked up for life."

"I know, and that's something that you can't have." Renee paused.

"What?" Barba saw her mind was churning.

"I have an idea, but you might not like it."

"Can I at least hear it?" Barba asked. He smiled and added, "At least, give me the chance to object to it."

"Well, given how much a trial helped me, we could hold a mock trial with just a few close friends. It might not be real, but it might be able to help you guys give get a little closure."

Barba pondered the idea over. "Well, I don't totally hate it. It would be like prosecuting a case. I think that might actually help me. Let me talk to Sonny about it. If he doesn't want to do it, I think I could use it."

"Really?" Renee asked in astonishment.

"Yeah, I want to consider it."

"Well, I think you should start by obtaining the case file, just like you would for any other case. Are you able to get your hands on it?"

"I think so, I know someone who has a copy," Barba said standing up. "Could you push my 9 o'clock meeting with McCoy to a different day? I want to go take a walk," he asked.

"Sure, I'll let McCoy know."

"Do you still have the case file that "Joe" left me?"

"Yeah, let me get it."

Barba followed Renee to her desk and she unlocked her filing cabinet and quickly located the file. "I had a digital copy entered into the system."

"Thank you, Renee."

"I'm going to go get that file before I lose the nerve. Oh, and I have a personal matter that I have to attend to this afternoon, so I won't be back after lunch. I'm just going to catch up this evening at home. I think I already rescheduled everything."

"Yes you did," Renee confirmed after looking up his afternoon schedule. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Bye, Renee and thanks for the advice," he said as he picked up his briefcase and the file 'Joe' had left him and headed out the door.

---

Barba found himself outside a defense attorney suite. He took a deep breath and walked in. 

"Is John Buchanan available?" he asked the assistant.

"Yes, he is in his office right now. Go on in," she replied. 

Barba was only ever at Buchanan's office once. Usually the arrogant attorney would meet him at Hogan Place bearing bad news.

Barba knocked on the door and heard permission to enter.

Buchanan looked up and was shocked to see the ADA had graced him with his presence.

"Please, have seat," Buchanan gestured towards the seat in front of his desk.

Buchanan could feel Barba's uneasiness, so he tried to lighten the mood.

"Rafael, please tell me you did not kill someone and you need representation."

Barba smiled. "Is that an offer should I need such a thing in the future?"

"Sure, as long as I am not the dead body. So what can I do for you?"

"Do you still have access to my case file?"

"Yeah, I've got a copy here. I sent the original back to 1PP."

"Could I have it?" Barba asked.

Buchanan got up and retrieved it from a locked filing cabinet.

"Rafael, I don't think you want to see this."

"I do though," Barba replied.

"Okay," Buchanan said surrendering the file.

Barba handed him the file 'Joe' had left him in exchange. 

"What's this?" he asked.

"It's the file 'Joe' left me. "There's enough evidence to get a slam dunk on at least 10 mobsters for similar crimes."

"I'm a defense attorney," he replied.

"Well, just in case you decide to cross over from the dark side for a case or two. Or give it to someone else. I don't want anything to do with it nor does anyone in my office."

Buchanan’s jaw dropped open and he looked stunned.

"If you know how to defend a case you can prosecute one," Barba said as he left Buchanan's office.

Pornstar&#39;s Requiem (2014)

---

Barba walked into the precinct after lunch and spotted Nick.

"Nick, have you seen Sonny? He isn't answering his cell."

He's helping Stabler with an interrogation.

Barba sat in Carisi's chair and slumped over his desk.

"Rafael, what's wrong?"

Barba decided to take advantage of his fellow Spanish speaking colleague to keep the matter private. After some back and forth, Barba gave a head nod to Amaro.

Amaro💜Barba❤️ — I love these guys so much!!!! | Law and order: special  victims unit, Law and order svu, Law and order

---

Amaro got up and told Benson that he had to take Barba somewhere.

She nodded. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," Nick replied.

"Okay, just let me know if either of you need anything."

"Will do. Thanks, Liv."

"Take care of him," she said as he left her office.

Law &amp; Order: SVU&#39; Season 16 Finale Controversy Breaks Over Benson&#39;s Remarks  On Stabler

---

"Vamanos," Nick said.

Barba picked up his briefcase and left the precinct with Amaro.

---

"Por que esperaste tanto? (Why did you wait so long)? Amaro asked when they got off the elevator on the floor Barba's mother lived on.

"Simplemente no queria aceptar que se habia ido. Todavia espero que ella me llame todos las dias, (I just didn't want to accept that she was gone. I still wait for her to call me everyday," Barba replied shrugging his shoulders.

Law &amp; Order: SVU cast preference - You Leave After A Fight (They&#39;re  Reaction) | Law and order, Rafael barba, Svu

Barba unlocked the door and entered his mother's apartment for what would be the last time. Her apartment did not have a lot of physical things, but rather it was filled with pictures of Barba and his mother and keepsakes. Barba scanned the apartment and found a few small boxes.

"Puedes empacar las fotos (Can you pack the pictures?), Barba asked handing him two boxes. Barba went into his mother's room and closed the door.

He found her perfume, a cross pendant, a couple keepsakes, her purse, and some legal documents and put them into his box.

Barba then laid down on her bed and stared at the ceiling.

Amaro walked over to the door and listened to make sure his friend was okay and not falling apart, but instead he found himself ease dropping on his friend and dead mother.

"Mami, lamento mucho haberte rechazado y no haber atendido tus llamadas justo antes de que murieras. Simplemente no quería que me vieras así. No quería hacerte daño. Por favor perdoname. He perdido la fe por lo que me pasó y luego contigo dejándome. Con todo lo que ha sucedido, estoy bastante arruinado en este momento, pero estoy tratando de encontrar el valor para mejorar."

(Mami, I'm so sorry for turning you away and not taking your calls right before you died. I just didn't want you to see me like that. I didn't want to hurt you. Please forgive me. I've lost my faith over what happened to me and then with you leaving me. With everything that has happened, I am pretty messed up right now, but I am trying to find the courage to get better.)

"Quiero agradecerles por aceptarme por quien sea que elegí amar. Sé que no fue fácil para ti entender, pero me amabas de todos modos. ¿Conoce a esa detective rubia con la que estaba saliendo? ¿El que pensabas que era tan adorable y amaba su acento? Estamos comprometidos y nos vamos a casar. Vas a tener un yerno. Ah, y vamos a tener hijos. Vas a ser abuela."

(I want to thank you for accepting me for whoever I chose to love. I know it wasn't easy for you to understand, but you loved me anyhow. Do you know that blonde detective I was seeing? The one you thought was so adorable and loved his accent? We're engaged and getting married. You're going to have a son-in-law. Oh and we are going to have kids. You're going to be a grandmother.)

"No sé si puedes oírme, pero espero que puedas. Te extraño todos los días, mamá. Si hay un dios, espero volver a verte."

(I don't know if you can hear me, but I hope you can. I miss you everyday, Mami. If there is a god, I hope to see you again.)

Amaro heard Barba start to sob and it broke his heart. He decided to go do another scan of the apartment for anything he thought his friend would want to remember his mother by. Then he sat on the sofa and waited patiently for Barba to come out.

About ten minutes later Barba emerged with puffy red eyes holding a box. Amaro picked up his boxes and Barba locked his mother's apartment for the last time.

"I told the building super to donate the rest," Barba explained as tears flowed from his eyes.

Amaro shifted his boxes to one hand and wrapped his other arm around Barba's shoulders. "Let's get you home now," he said escorting his friend from the building.

"Thanks for coming with me, Nick," Barba said between sobs.

---

When they got back to apartment, Barba took a nap the rest of the afternoon.

While he slept, Amaro finally got Carisi on his cell and quietly btiefed him on what they had done this afternoon, what he heard Barba say to his dead mother, and that he was sleeping his grief off.

"Can you visually check on him? Because of last time," Carisi asked recalling Barba's suicide plan the day he found out about his mother.

"Don't worry, Sonny. I thought about that too. I checked he is snoring and there are no guns, knives, or alcohol. I'll keep a close eye on him. Are you coming home soon?"

"I'm actually almost home now."

A few minutes later Carisi slipped into the apartment. He took his shoes, suit jacket, and tie off. He untucked his shirt and went into the bedroom. He slipped into bed and wrapped his arms around Barba.

Barba stirred ever so slightly and whispered, "I'm glad you're home." 

Both men drifted off to sleep snuggling.

sassy-ada-barba | Law and order svu, Law and order, Rafael barba

Chapter Text

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Friday morning, Carisi was driving to the precinct with Barba. SVU was going to finalize the plans for the sting at Hudson.

While driving, Carisi held Barba's hand as he confronted him about yesterday. "I don't get why you didn't tell me ahead of time that you were going to go to your Mami's yesterday. I would have asked Liv if I could have gone with you. I would have gladly gone with you to help and support you," Carisi said.

"I know and I really wanted you there. I just was trying to put off going there and talking about it until it was no longer avoidable," Barba sighed. His voice was cracking and his emerald eyes were glassy.

The car stopped at an intersection and Carisi turned to Barba and wiped a tear the trickled down the ADA's cheek. "Well, let me know when you are ready to talk about it." Carisi paused. "And, not that I am one to talk, but please don't do anything stupid." 

Barba raised the hand he was holding and pressed his lips to it. "Lo prometo, mi amor, (I promise, my love,)" he replied.

Traffic started flowing again.

Barba was lost in thought as he recalled the conversation that he had with Renee yesterday. He wasn't exactly sure how to bring it up with Carisi and he was nervous that Carisi might not like the idea. A few minutes later, Barba found the courage to discuss it with his lover.

"Hey, I want to ask you a question, and please feel free to say no if you don't want to do it."

"What is it Rafa?" Carisi asked picking up on the anxiety in his fiancé's voice.

"Did you ever notice how together Renee is? How she seems to be moving on with her life? I don't know about you, but I still feel like such a wreck a lot of the time."

"Yeah, most of the time it seems like nothing ever happened to her," Carisi agreed sounding a bit envious. 

"Well, yesterday morning I asked her about that."

Carisi's eyes widened in astonishment. "Really? I can't picture Rafael Barba talking about that."

"Yeah, I can't believe it myself." Barba took a breath and continued. "Anyway, I asked her what she was doing differently, how she seemed to be getting on with her life. She commented on two things."

"Which are?"

"Talking. She says even though it hurts, she talks about it all the time with George and the other ladies in the office. She said we don't seem to do that." Then he added, "at least not until one of us does something stupid and goes spinning out of control."

They sat in silence for a few minutes. "She does have a point, Rafael."

"I know."

"What's the other thing?"

"Well, she said actually going through the trial and then getting the guilty verdict actually gave her a little bit of closure and that is when she was able to consciously make the decision to move on."

"Yeah, well we can't get that," Carisi abruptly snapped. Barba was not comfortable with how Carisi snapped at him, but he continued on. He already initiated the conversation and was committed to finishing it.

"I know. Then she suggested something else. I don't like it, but I think I need it. It's okay if you don't want to do it with me, but I think I really need to do this," Barba said with glassy eyes.

"Out with it Rafa!" Carisi demanded impatiently. His lack of patience and higher pitched voice indicated he was getting emotional and a stray tear escaped his eye.

"She suggested we do a mock trial. Prosecute the case. For obvious reasons, we can't cross the defendant, but we can present evidence and testimony in front of a few close friends. Granted, testifying will be...challenging, but doing my job, and prosecuting it, I think it will let me focus on...from a more analytical vantage. Again, it's fine if you don't want to do this with me, but I think it will help me. We could co-prosecute, it you want to."

They sat in awkward silence the rest of the way to the precinct. The few tense replies he had gotten from Carisi earlier, he was afraid that he might have pushed him too far and might have suggested something that was really a horrible idea. He was regretting not talking to Huang about it first. He would have done a much better job presenting the idea to Carisi.

Finally, when they parked at the precinct, Carisi broke the silence.

"I don't know if I am strong enough, strong enough to do that, Rafael. I really need to think about it."

"Fair enough," Barba replied. "I did sort of spring it on you. I got the case file and I am going to start preparing a prosecution case, probably tonight. It's okay if you don't want to do this with me, just let me know after you have some time to consider it. Even if you don't want to participate, I would feel better if you are at least in the courtroom."

"Rafael, I'll think about it. I'd like to be there to support you, but like I said, I don't think I am strong enough."

"I get it. You are the strongest person, I know and you showed me that during... But it is your choice. Don't let me pressure you into it if you don't want to participate. Okay? Huang keeps saying everyone heals differently. I don't know if it is right for you, but I think it might be right for me."

Carisi nodded. "I'll let you know," he said. 

"Are you mad at me?" Barba finally asked.

"Absolutely not, Rafa. It's just still a very touchy subject," Carisi replied.

Barba looked less than convinced and looked like he was going to bust out sobbing any minute over thinking that he had upset Carisi upset or that he may have been angry with him.

"Oh, come here, Rafi," Carisi said now concerned for his partner.

He leaned in and started kissing Barba's neck and Barba went straight for his lips. They became lost in the moment and things started to get steamy. They removed each other jackets, ties and shirt and were running their hands up and down each other's chests.

---

Benson had found the last parking space in the lot and was walking into the precinct when she caught the couple making out like love-stricken teenagers in Carisi's SUV. She thought about knocking on the window, but she decided not to. She wasn't sure how either one of them would respond to embarrassment right now. If being with each other made them happy and took their minds away from their trauma, even if it was just for a few minutes, she wanted that for them. Plus she already put the couple through hell on Monday and she still felt guilty over that.

"Well at least the lot is filled and no one else should be walking by for a few minutes. The windows are slightly tinted and they still have their pants on," she thought as she entered the precinct. "Still, it is weird to see them making out in public. Especially for Rafael. He really must be in love."

---

A few minutes later when she came out of her office and was making her rounds around the squad room, she spotted both Barba and Carisi coming out of the men's room neatly dressed and completely composed wearing grins on their face. They approached her and saw a cheeky grin on her face.

"What's that look about?" Barba inquired.

"Oh nothing, I'm just happy to see my friends," she said giving them both a hug.

---

In the conference room, the squad and Barba met to firm up plans for the sting.

"I want this done today, before the weekend and we end up recovering another body on Monday," Benson said.

"We should probably take them both down simultaneously so they don't have a chance to tip each other off or the gossip of the sting starts to circulate," Cassidy suggested.

"I agree. We are going to split in two teams.

"I want Fin, Amaro, and Rollins on the president's office. After Snyder gets him to confess to bribing him, take him down. Barba, would you mind joining them with it being Hudson and all. They might need some of your legalese should something happen within the administration office. Hudson, always such a headache," Liv moaned.

"Yeah, I can tag along," Barba replied.

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"That leaves Stabler, Cassidy, Carisi, and myself on the perp. I am going to contact Jeffries and Munch to help round up evidence and and some people who know the perp. I want them kept separate here at the precinct, I don't even want them to know that we have the other in custody."

"I'd like to suggest that both teams do not let them make their calls until they arrive at the precinct. I want to see if you get anything out of them before they lawyer up," Barba added.

Liv looked around and saw that everyone was in agreement. "Okay, so let's take them down at 2 PM sharp. The president should be back on campus from any lunch break. The perp is going to be at the student affairs building at 2. Let's try to get this done as quickly and cleanly as possible."

"I've asked Munch to bring the arrest warrants with him when he comes to Hudson," Barba added.

---

Everyone was attending to office matters while eating a quick delivery lunch. After getting a cup of coffee, Barba saw Huang was alone in his office. 

"Damn it," he said to himself as he reluctantly strolled into Huang's office and closed the door.

Huang looked up from his laptop. "Rafael?"

Barba plopped down on the office sofa. Without waiting for Huang to even ask him what was on his mind, Barba initiated the conversation. 

"I think I messed up. Really bad. I should have talked to you first."

"About what?" Huang asked furrowing an eyebrow.

"Renee had this crazy idea and I ran with it. I told Sonny about it and let's just say I don't think my presentation of the idea was very graceful," Barba said. He explained the idea of prosecuting a mock trial but how Sonny wasn't really receptive to the idea.

"I think I pushed him too hard or made him relive the trauma. He snapped at me several times on the way here and that's not like him. A good portion of the ride he didn't talk, also not like him. I think he is angry with me even though he says he's not. I literally think he had sex with me just a little bit ago to try to convince me that he is not. He feels bad for me thinking thinking that he angry with me and I am torn up over the fact I upset him."

"Umm. Well, first, I am surprised that you are open to prosecuting this as a mock trial. I do think Renee's right, that it will give you a sense of closure. This is going to be emotionally demanding. I'll try to offer you as much support as I can. You also need to think about who you want their. Not only will you be prosecuting, but you will be providing witness testimony as well."

Barba nodded. "Yeah, I'm thinking about who to invite. I know it is going to be painful. I'm just not sure if I can do it if Sonny isn't there to support me. Not only did he say he didn't think he was strong enough to participate, but wasn't sure if he even could be in the courtroom to support me. I need him there, I just don't want to make him be there if he can't handle it."

"Let me see if I can indirectly approach Sonny in a day or two after he's had time to consider the idea. I'll see if I can help him sort through his feelings and make a decision about whether or not he will participate. I know it's not ideal if he can't be there, but I am sure that Nick and myself will be there to offer support. I'm sure anyone from the squad or your office would come too. Remember, they all al