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She asks him if it’s real. Because there’s something in the softness of the air around them when he pulls back that makes her heart slow for the first time since she pressed her lips to his, and her brain finally starts working just enough to process that they really are pressed together in the courthouse and his hands are really stroking her hair and the love she’s swallowed down for years is suddenly reflected in his eyes.

Her stomach lurches a little then, because of all the endings she imagined to this night, it wasn’t the manifestation of everything she’s just started to allow herself to hope for. Even despite the grip she has on his jacket, knuckles burning from how tightly she’s got the fabric clutched in her hand, even though her nerves are on fire in a way that would be impossible to sleep through, she needs to hear it from him.

So she asks him if it’s real, wonderment threading through her shaky voice like she wasn’t the one who insisted on riding with him to the courthouse, like she wasn’t the one who pulled him toward the pillar because she couldn’t wait any longer to feel his lips on hers again, like she didn’t just insist on continuing to press their lips together in full view of anyone who could come across them.

His hand at her face stills a little, and her breath catches before the words that fall out, honeyed and awestruck, make her breathe easier. “Yeah, it seems like it is.”

“And tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow we keep figuring it out,” he whispers, and the kiss he presses to her lips would feel like a promise even if he didn’t whisper one in her ear. “As soon as I’m done, I’ll be there.”

She gently brushes her hand against his cheek, sparing a thought for the words she hadn’t been able to get out on the Hudson but that still feel too weighty for the courthouse hallway and the shaky way he’s still running his hand over her hair, the shocked awe she’s still feeling reflected in his eyes. So she presses a few more giddy kisses to his skin, laughing at the murmured “Amanda” he breathes when her lips make contact with his neck, before saying them the best way she can right now.

“I know you will.”

***

She knows it’s real when she wakes up to him the next morning, and the next morning, and the next morning—three mornings in a row where she’s greeted with a love-drunk smile and a soft “hey, you,” that makes her knees go weak, three mornings in a row where she and her girls eat better breakfasts than they ever have and her stomach hurts slightly from not just fullness but constant laughter.

But still, the girls take up most of their days and fulfilling the last seven years of physical longing takes up their nights, and between that and the work calls they both keep ducking out for, they don’t spend much time talking about what they are beyond real.

She doesn’t want to be the one to broach it, chest tightening every time she thinks of the words “what are we” coming out of her mouth, words she’s sure will somehow fracture the blissful bubble they’ve wrapped themselves in that she never wants to leave. But it’s suddenly two minutes before he has to leave—and twenty minutes before she does—and her heart’s skipping a beat as she watches him tighten his tie, the knowledge that they’re leaving the bubble for the first time anyway making her breath catch.

“So, uh, how are we playin’ this?” she manages, chewing slightly on her bottom lip as she leans against the doorframe, arms folded across her chest. “At work and everything?”

“Oh,” he breathes, and she can tell from the way his next step falters that he’d forgotten too. “We uh—the rules are that we have to disclose if it’s a serious relationship. But uh—I think we can just not bring it up today. Just act like everything’s normal.”

The bottom of her stomach falls slightly at the words, but the warmth in his eyes as he looks at her and the soft way he smiles, hands resting on her waist as he presses the softest kiss they’ve shared in several days to her lips, lifts it. “See you later?”

She rests her arm on his chest, sliding it into the spot it’s occupied nearly all weekend, breathing the next word against his lips. “Please.”

***

Even beyond the way she can’t look at him in the squad room, her heart rate elevating to a dangerous pace when she does, Amanda knows it’s still real from the little things—the way his hand reaches across the console to gently rest on her thigh as they drive to see Banducci, the warmth of his smile every time she walks him to the elevator, the way his fingers thread through hers for just a beat when they’re alone in his office.

She knows it’s real, too, from the big things—the unmistakable lilt in his voice as he talks about the “waste of a hotel room” that tells her they’re both thinking of exactly how they’d make use of the bed, the way that regardless of the workload, his key slips into her door by eleven every night, the way the tension falls out of his shoulders as he offers to take her to dinner, when all she’d wanted was just a few minutes to reenact their last couple nights.

She can tell he knows it’s real, too, by the way tight way he wraps her in his arms when they finally make it home from the hospital after visiting Kat, the way he presses soft kisses to every inch of her as his hands caress her face, the broken way he breathes “I’m so glad you’re safe” against her making her heart swell even more than it has been.

When they’re lying together in the afterglow, his fingers wrapped in her hair and hers lazily tracing patterns across his chest, the words she’s been wanting to tell him float before her again—and she’d say them if her chest didn’t twinge at the memory of if it’s a serious relationship for a beat too long, if she didn’t know that he came over just because of what happened, that he still has to prep for his meeting with the feds.

So she swallows it again, pressing a kiss to his shoulder with a murmured, “you have to go, don’t you?” that he groans in response to.

“Yeah. But I really don’t want to.”

“I don’t think you’re gonna get much work done here, Counselor,” she smirks, lightly shoving him toward the edge of the bed.

He lets out a noise somewhere between a laugh and a groan, light dancing in his eyes as he takes her in. “You keep calling me that, I’m never gonna leave.”

“Later,” she whispers, hand lingering on his for just a second, “after you’re done saving the world.”

His eyes, hovering just over hers as he leans in for a goodbye kiss, soften at the words, smile breaking. “Couldn’t do it without you.”

***

So by the time he’s standing in front of her explaining why the case against Gold is dropped, Amanda Rollins knows what she has with Sonny Carisi is real, and she knows that she’s all in on everything that happens next.

Still, the way he says “you wouldn’t’ve been able to testify or I wouldn’t’ve been able to prosecute” makes her heart stop, because even if she knows it’s real, every step they’re taking—the drawer she empties for his clothes, the groceries she’d never even know to buy that start filling her shelves, the extra toothbrush in the cup holder on her bathroom sink—makes her feel like she’s jumping into open air, because they’re steps on a staircase she didn’t even know existed, and even though her feet land squarely every time, she wants the space to explore it before they have to share it with anyone else.

But her panic is short-lived, because there’s no imminent threat, and she uses his “we do need to talk about the implications of whatever it is we’re doing here” to put into words the question that’s been swirling in her mind since he first said it.

“I thought you said we didn’t need to disclose unless it was a serious relationship?” She asks, somehow managing to keep her voice even over the way her heartbeat is pounding in her ears as she says it.

But his eyes hold nothing but warmth, and she can see his answer before the words even leave his mouth—has known what it was all week, if she’s being honest with herself. “I’m taking this seriously.”

“So am I. But nobody else needs to know that. Not right now,” she breathes, shrugging her shoulders inward like the very act of doing so will protect their relationship from what she’s fearing—the “I told you so”s and raised eyebrows, loaded questions about their motives from defense attorneys, conversations with family members she’d rather avoid.

She doesn’t want to give those fears a voice, so she swallows them, instead locking eyes with Sonny, tension in her shoulders releasing when she sees the recognition that tells her he hears them anyway.

“Nah, nah they don’t,” he says, and her stomach stops somersaulting just as he leans into her with a chuckled “I’ll try not to channel my inner guilty Catholic” that she can’t help but smile at, because it puts her back on familiar ground—sitting so closely their arms and legs are brushing, comfortable jokes passing between them.

The warmth of what she’s feeling for him surges through her again as she leans back toward him, but she knows it’s not the time or place for the words she’s been holding in since the Hudson, so she settles for, “Don’t go too far. I like that guy,” as she smirks.

“Good,” he says, sparing a quick glance at the door before he reaches an arm around her back, setting her the nerves in her shoulder on fire when his hand rests there. “Cause I believe he owes you dinner.”

“He does,” she grins, reaching her hand up to thread her fingers through his.

He gives her hand a light squeeze before pressing a kiss to her forehead. “He probably should’ve taken you out before he started spending the night.”

“C’mon, you know we weren’t waiting for that,” she says, eyebrow raised as she tilts her head toward him.

“Nah, we weren’t,” he smiles back.

She waits a beat, eyes locking on his, before the warmth she sees reflected there moves her forward to press a soft kiss to his lips that somehow manages to be as electric as the first time.

He pulls back first, thumb running along her cheek. “How late is Sienna stayin’ today?”

“She can stay late. Thought we were gonna have a day arresting the people Gold was giving up,” she murmurs, realizing a half-second too late that maybe she shouldn’t bring up the case right now.

But there’s no tension in his face, only the warmth that she still can’t believe is for her. “Sounds like we got a date, then.”

“Yeah, we do.”

Amanda knows it before they’re even out of the courtroom, before they make it to the restaurant where they sit next to each other in a corner booth, fingers laced together on the tabletop, before the conversation full of laughter and eye rolls and kisses in between bites—it’s definitely not their last one.