“It’s just for a couple of days.” Rafael Barba stuck his head out of the bedroom door and called down the hallway towards the kitchen, where his partner was cleaning up dinner dishes. “I’ll be home before the weekend.”
“It’s not so much the trip I mind,” Dominick “Sonny” Carisi shot back. “It’s the idea that if you get this job you’ll be gone for months.” There was a pause. “Where is it? Idaho? Indiana?”
“Iowa.” Barba tucked a couple pairs of socks into the open carry-on sitting on their bed. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is just an interview of sorts. A conversation to see what they need, and I can offer. And we’ll go from there.”
“I know it’s a great opportunity Raf,” Sonny replied. “But Iowa?”
Barba sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. In truth, he wasn’t sure how he felt about it being in Iowa. He was a city boy, born and bred. He didn’t know how he would handle cornfields and small-town life. But investigating voter fraud sounded like a welcome change from sex crimes. And though he would never tell Sonny, the idea of getting away from the city for a while was welcome. He needed space between himself and the Manhattan courthouse.
He just hated that it meant putting distance between him and Sonny.
“Do you honestly think I can stay away from New York for long?” Rafael called over his shoulder. “For starters, the bagels in Iowa can’t be that great.”
“The bed will probably be big and empty, too.” Sonny’s voice was suddenly much closer, right behind him.
“That too,” Rafael said with a wistful smile. He turned to face Sonny. “But there’s FaceTime and video chat and—and why are you holding a bag of peas on your side?”
“Oh, this?” Sonny made a masterful attempt at feigning innocence. “It’s nothin.’”
He shot his partner a look of disbelief. “Nothing? Then let me see.” He took a step closer.
Sonny stepped backwards. “I told you, it’s nothin’.”
Barba’s eyes narrowed. “If it’s nothing, then let me see.”
Sonny backed up to the wall in the hallway. “Rafael—”
With nowhere else to go, Rafael was able to step close enough to grab the hem of Sonny’s Fordham Law sweatshirt and lift it. At the sight of the black and purple marks on the pale ribs, he let out a dark curse. “Sonny, what happened?”
Glaring with annoyance, Sonny yanked the sweatshirt back down and pressed the bag of peas against his ribcage. “I told you, it’s nothing.”
“’Nothing’ will not leave black marks on you, Dominick.”
Carisi hedged. “Okay, I got in a little scuffle today with a perp. It’s no big deal.”
“How big was this perp?” he asked, incredulous. “You are black and purple. Not blue, but purple.”
“He was…nine feet tall,” Sonny replied sheepishly. “Made of oak. Maybe pine.”
Confused, Rafael gaped at him. “What?”
He heaved a heavy sigh. “A bookcase fell on me.”
Real fear crept into Barba’s eyes. “A bookcase? Dominick, you could have been killed.” He took a deep breath. “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you did not report it to your Lieutenant or have it checked out.”
“Rafi, it’s nothin’, I promise,” Sonny said reassuringly. “It hurts like a bitch, but I’ll be fine.”
“As black as that is, you could have internal bleeding—”
He was cut off when Sonny fastened his lips against his. “I. Am. Fine,” he said. “Other than some bruising, I feel okay.”
“Are you sure?” Barba asked, sliding his arms around Sonny’s waist. “I do not want to go out of town knowing that you’re hurt.”
“Look,” Carisi said, resting his forehead against Barba’s. “I don’t want you to leave. I’m not going to stand here and pretend I’m okay with it. I’m gonna miss you like crazy. But I will be fine, Rafael. I did manage to get to work and stuff and stay alive on my own without you before you came along, ya know.”
Rafael feigned offense. “You didn’t dress as well,” he muttered. “And there was that whole thing with the mustache.”
Sonny laughed. “You’re never going to let me hear the end of that, are you?”
“Absolutely not,” Rafael replied, chuckling. “It looked like a small rodent died on your upper lip.”
“I could grow it back, you know.” Carisi began slowly inching Rafael backwards towards the bed.
“Yeah, sure,” Barba agreed, gently tugging Sonny with him. “And I could shave it off in your sleep.”
He leaned up and kissed Sonny deeply, pulling him carefully onto the bed. He didn’t even protest when the detective used one foot to send his carefully packed carry-on sliding off onto the floor in a heap. At length, Sonny lay on his back with Rafael on top of him, his fingertips trailing up and down Barba’s spine.
“I’ve said before I’ll come home with bruises from time to time,” he said. “It’s kinda nice when you fuss over me, but I also don’t like worrying you.” He paused to gaze into Rafael’s eyes. “Maybe it’s time I considered looking into an open slot in the DA’s office.”
“You don’t want to leave SVU,” Rafael said quietly. “And Stone,” the name came out with a bite of sarcasm, “has that job now.”
“If you didn’t want him taking the job then you could have—” Sonny immediately cut himself off and looked away.
Instinctively, Barba pulled away ever so slightly and shifted his eyes down. Carisi hadn’t finished the thought, but it hung between them. If you didn’t want him taking the job, then you could have stayed.
Except he couldn’t.
Rafael pushed himself to a sitting position. “If Stone ever leaves, you could apply,” he said, briskly. “With your record in SVU you’d almost be a shoo-in.”
“I’m kinda hoping Stone isn’t in this for the long haul,” Sonny said. “If he does leave…I think I’ve decided to go for it.” Gently, he tugged Rafael back down. “And I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”
Rafael didn’t see the grimace of pain when he stretched out next to Carisi and rested his head on the detective’s shoulder. “Are you sure you’ll be okay with me gone for a couple of days?” He slanted his eyes up towards Sonny. “Can I trust you not to get into a fight with the dining room table?”
“You’re hilarious, Counselor,” Sonny retorted, hooking a finger under Barba’s chin and lifting it to kiss him tenderly. “I’ll be fine. I can’t promise anything about me and the entertainment center, but I think the table and I can get along.”
Barba laughed against his partner’s lips as Sonny kissed him more deeply. “It’ll just be a couple of days,” he murmured. “I’ll bring you something from Iowa.” He grinned to himself when the detective snaked a hand up between them and began unbuttoning Barba’s shirt.
“Corn?” Sonny asked innocently.
Chuckling, Barba slid on top of him and immediately froze when Carisi grimaced and cried out. “You okay?” he asked quickly.
Eyes closed, Carisi took a deep, steadying breath. “You know,” he began, “maybe I should go to urgent care after all.”
Rafael rolled his eyes skyward and gave a long-suffering sigh. “I’ll get my coat.”