For the I love you meme (if you're still taking prompts)--how about 31? :) love your writing!
Sorry this is, like, three weeks late, Nonny!! And thank you!!!
31. In awe, the first time you realized it.
Carisi was on a roll, his face red as he practically yelled at Barba, who was sitting in his chair in his office, almost amused as he listened to Carisi’s rant. Not that the detective hadn’t had a point when the rant had first started, but he had lost the plot somewhere around his third point and now was mostly yelling to yell.
Barba didn’t blame him. It had been a long case, and the judge particularly unforgiving, and Carisi was frustrated.
Hell, Barba was frustrated.
And sure, maybe his frustration was doubled because he and Carisi had been doing this dance around each other for months now, had been flirting and teasing and taunting and taking every step except that final one that sealed the deal, but that didn’t distract from the fact that the case was disappointing.
Nor did it distract from the fact that Carisi was utterly beautiful when he was riled.
Because he was, his cheeks flushed, his hair sticking up because he had run a frustrated hand through it, his lips red because he had been practically gnawing on his lower lip biting back all his unspoken objections during court.
But Barba said none of that, just letting Carisi get it all off his chest.
At least, until Carisi blurted with a particular fervor, riled from his uninterrupted two solid minutes of ranting, “And your tie doesn’t even match your pocket square today, Counselor, and—”
“I love you.”
There was something almost reverent in Barba’s tone as he said it, even if he hadn’t meant to — and he absolutely had not meant to.
But between Carisi’s utter beauty and the fact that, despite the shithole of the day it had been, Carisi had noticed that Barba’s tie was salmon and his pocket square more coral, Barba couldn’t keep in what he had been slowly realizing over the past year, even if he hadn’t quite found the words to articulate it before.
Even if he was fairly certain the three words he used would be the death of him as soon as he said them.
Carisi broke off mid-sentence and stared open-mouthed at Barba. “You…what?” he asked, his voice a half-octave higher than normal.
Barba shrugged, feeling the back of his neck burn red. “You heard me,” he said defiantly, meeting Carisi’s gaze coolly.
Carisi licked his lips. “Me telling you that your tie and pocket square didn’t match…that’s what did it for you?” he asked, incredulous.
Barba shrugged again. “Well, it helped at least.”
Carisi slowly shook his head. “I just…why? Why that, of everything?”
“Because you’re you,” Barba said, without meaning to, realizing that it didn’t nearly begin to illustrate the thoughts racing through his head. “Because the puppy dog hero worship was cute, sure, but unrealistic, and I was never sure you would move past it. Because this means you actually see me, for my imperfections — of which there are many, Detective — as well as the parts you admire. And because…” He trailed off, and shrugged. “Because you’re you. And you’re there when I need you most. And you’re smart and funny and incredible, and—”
He broke off, coloring at the look on Carisi’s face. “So just so we’re clear,” Carisi said slowly, “the moment that pushed you over the edge was me insulting your fashion choices.”
“I—” Barba broke off. “That’s not at all what I said.”
“Maybe not,” Carisi said, grinning, “but that’s what I’m taking it as.”
Barba opened his mouth to protest and promptly closing it again, glaring at Carisi. “You’re the worst.”
Carisi just shrugged. “Maybe,” he said, “but you love me.”
And it was too late for Barba to deny it.