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just the beginning

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“I want to do this with you, Amanda. I just—.” Carisi sighed, leaning back on the railing. The buzzing of his phone in his pocket told him his time was up. He shifted, the move causing his suspenders to rub against his shoulder, reminding him of the moment. Across the pier, he saw Benson enjoying a glass with her old partner and felt guilty to pull her away from such an affair. Stabler had only been back in her life and working with Organized Crime for a few months and it wasn’t often they got to celebrate an occasion like this. 

“There're some things I need to sort out.” He finished. Part of him wished she knew, but another piece was glad she didn’t. Then the kiss might have never happened. And it was something he longed for, something he wished would happen for the past few years, especially since he transitioned over to the District Attorney’s office. He’d been so worried that his move, his taking a shot, would tear them apart, but it only brought them closer. And maybe that’s why he never told her about Nicole.

At first, it was a fling. He’d met her at a conference in Brooklyn, got to know her beneath the surface over drinks, and before he knew it, he couldn’t get her brown eyes out of his head. But it never went past that—he thought the danger of her sister would make her think about the future. It made him question it, but they never moved past the ground level. And he didn’t exactly mind—the sex was good, work was extensive, and she was fun to talk to. He’d been alone for the greater part of the past two years, focusing on work, and she was a way out. And that’s how people work, they grow together. He thought about him and Amanda since he strolled into the 16th precinct a day early and a dollar short. And he wondered if that could happen with another, with Nicole.

Even the smallest seeds grew in a rainstorm.

He knew that from experience. 

They’d had their problems, but never delved deep enough to put much effort behind them until he told her about officiating Fin’s wedding. Suddenly, any future he could picture with her, the blurry faces of future children, a life together, washed away with the morning tide. Her true colors began to show and things he valued deeply became the butt of a joke to her. Why bring kids into a world like this? Marriage isn’t something practical, it was the transfer of ownership from that father to the husband.

And those words convinced him any chance of them moving forward was dead in the water.

She’d all but pulled the trigger on the phone the other day, sending him into a spiral, questioning what the hell he actually knew about love. And that’s how he went back to the start, to a tiny seed that had grown—the sunshine of seven years of friendship turned into something more, the nurturing sensation of loyalty in a partner, and the refreshing drink of family. It was the closest thing he could muster that could even compare to the definition of love that didn’t involve his family. 

“Like what?” She asked, leaning back, taking a step back from him.

“Work, for one.” He said, pulling his vibrating phone out of his pocket. It lit up with notifications. “Hadid’s really gonna let us have it. The FBI’s getting involved.” He sighed, putting the phone back.

“And?”

“And…” Carisi started, unsure where to go. He didn’t want to take away from the moment.

“Can we just…talk for a minute, before you disappear for the rest of the weekend?”

“I’m not going to—” She shot him a look telling him she’d seen half the messages on his phone, “Of course we can talk.”

“I heard Fin and Benson talking the other day…about your friend.”

He didn’t try to deny it, just kept his eye straight, urging her to continue.

“Is she really just a friend?”

“I’m not really sure what she was…is…” He shrugged his shoulders, fresh pain cramping pricking his heart. How stupid was he? He was standing here in front of the girl of his dreams, the taste of her lips still fresh on his, and he still hurt over what could have been with another.

“Is she the big secret? What you haven’t been able to tell me…They all know about her.”

“Yeah…her name’s Nicole. They only know about her because of the case. The Sara Harper case when you were in Atlanta. That was strictly by chance. That’s her sister.” 

“Is…there a reason I don’t know about her?” Rollins asked gently, a force of emotion hiding behind the gentle voice. 

“It just…never came up, Rollins. I was going to tell you, but then things with your dad and then…things got busy at work. And I…didn’t know what to say. Sometimes it seemed like we could be heading…in one direction and then.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Doesn’t matter anyway, it’s over.” He finished, looking back out over the water 

“It’s over?” She asked.  

“Mostly. She all but dumped me over the phone the other day. Benson overheard a big chunk of it, so you can imagine how that meeting went." He frowned. 

“Oh,” Rollins couldn’t control the relief that spilled into her breath, but she quickly bit her lip to stop it and a heat of red flushed across her cheeks. His light blue eyes grew questioning. “I’m an idiot. I already kind of assumed… I shouldn’t have—” She tried to back away from him, questions spinning through her head like a tornado. She didn’t know him as a lover, did she? 

Some men completely changed with bed-friends and romance.

 “Hey, Amanda, no you’re not.” He said, chuckling softly as he took a step toward her and raised a hand to brush a finger over her cheek for the second time that evening. “You just took me by surprise. I’ve…been wanting to do that for a long time.”

“Really?” She asked, staring back up at him.

“Come on. I know I’m not completely obvious, but I don’t think I’m subtle about it. You mean a lot to me, Rollins. ‘Lot more than you know.”

“That’s the thing, I think I do know.” She answered, reaching her head up to press another chaste kiss against his lips. He leaned into it this time, bending his knee and cupping her face with his hand until the moral dilemma that stopped him the first time came back around like a boomerang.

“But…” He said, pulling away. “Like I said, I want to do this with you. To…figure this out. But I need...” Carisi trailed off but didn’t move away from her.

“Space?”

“No. Don’t give me space. That’s the last thing I need from you.” He laughed and smiled down at her. “Just…give me a day or two. It’s not fair and Father Rossi is gonna be barking in the back of my mind till I make it right. Nicole all but broke it off, but I need to…actually do that. Not just from assumption.”

“A day or two…I can do that.” She said, smiling back.

The shrill of his ringer cut their talk off. Duty called. 

“Times up.” He said, ignoring the device. 

“Or maybe it's just beginning.”