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"I literally hate this house," Theresa, the moody teen, whines as she stomps up the stairs. She barely misses kicking little Sonny, who is busy driving Hot Wheels off the third step. "Watch it, you baby."

Sonny glares at her. "Stop calling me a baby!"

"Babies can't go up stairs, and since you won't pass this step without Mom's help, I guess you're a baby."

Sonny's face scrunches to resemble a bulldog's ready to fight. "I'm not a baby!" he screams.

Deb, their poor tired mother, rounds the corner from the new living room to find her 14-year-old and her 4-year-old yelling at each other on the stairs.

"Hey, hey!" she says loudly to get their attention. "What is going on?"

"This baby won't get off the stairs."

"I'm not a baby!" Sonny screams again, his little face turning red.

Theresa laughs. Deb shoots her a look and picks Sonny up because his eyes are now leaking big tears.

"You have got to stop teasing him, Theresa. How about you help him face his fear? These stairs are a lot more narrow and wobbly than the ones at the old house."

"Maybe you should stop babying him and he'd stop acting like a freakin' baby."

Deb's face twists to match the glare her son is sporting. "Theresa, I can't believe you're talking to me like this. You are being so rude. Go to your room right this second."

"And do what? Sit on my invisible bed? Write at my invisible desk? I swear to god, how do they lose a moving truck traveling from Staten Island to the Bronx? It's, like, thirty miles."

Deb sighs. "Theresa, I can't have this conversation right now. Go upstairs and unpack what you can. I do not need you being a grouchy teenager all over the place."

Theresa rolls her eyes and stomps up the stairs, the rickety wood creaking with each of her steps.

Sonny sniffles and wipes his eyes, stopping his crying.

Deb sighs and looks at him. "She's just upset about the move, okay? She'll come around."

Sonny nods.

Deb tries to smile at him. "Now, I know I spotted some peanut butter in this new house. What'd'ya say?"

Sonny smiles widely and nods vigorously. Spoonfuls of peanut butter are his favorite treat, even more than chocolate or ice cream. Deb carries him into the kitchen and sits him on the counter while she gets his peanut butter.

Sonny watches his mother happily, excited for his snack. But, as she's scooping, the doorbell rings.

"Oh dear," Deb mutters. "Who could that be?"

She lifts Sonny up off the counter, then moves to exit the kitchen.

"Mama, my butter?"

"Oh," Deb mumbles, hurrying back to grab his spoon, then she rushes to the door.

Deb answers the door with Sonny still on her hip, happily licking away at a spoonful of peanut butter. On the other side is a smiling woman holding a chocolate cake and, more importantly, a burly little boy with bright green eyes hiding behind her.

"Hi!" the woman cries. "Hello! My name is Lucia! Welcome to the neighborhood!"

Deb smiles. Sonny just stares at the boy.

"Hi, I'm Deb! Deb Carisi!" Sonny is in her right arm, so Deb tries to put him down, but Sonny grabs onto her tightly. Deb shakes her head. "Sorry," she says, shaking Lucia's hand with her left.

"Oh, that's fine, mine's the same." Lucia looks down at her boy. "This is Rafael, he's seven. Can you say hello, Rafael?"

"Hola," Rafael grumbles.

"Don't mind him, he's a bit shy. And what's this little guy's name?" Lucia lightly touches Sonny's arm.

"This is Sonny. Can you say hello? You know what 'hola' means."

Sonny, mouth full of peanut butter, just waves.

Deb offers Lucia and Rafael inside. They go to the kitchen, where Deb gets Sonny off her hip to gather plates and forks for the cake.

"Sonny, why don't you show Rafael a few of your toys? They're all still in the hall."

Sonny just stares at Rafael, who is still attached to his mother, until Lucia pushes Rafael to go with Sonny. Sonny does as he's told, because going to play with his toys is more appealing than standing around staring at cake, even if he does have company now.

He plops crosslegged on the floor next to a box full of Hot Wheels, so Rafael does the same.

They sit in silence for almost ten minutes. They slide cars between each other, every few laps making them wreck. Sonny laughs, but Rafael barely smiles.

"How old are you?" Rafael finally asks.

Sonny holds up four fingers.

"Uh...do you know how much that is?"

Sonny looks down at his fingers. "Four," he says, but it sounds like 'fo-w' because he's still having trouble with the 'R' sound. Usually, he just avoids talking because Theresa and Gina, his older sisters, will mock what he says.

"Oh," Rafael says. "That's good. I'm seven. I'm going to second grade already."

"I'm going to pre-k," Sonny says.

"Really? When?"

Sonny shrugs. "I gotta new backpack."

Rafael nods understandingly. "Where are you from?"

"Mmm," Sonny thinks. "Y'know that place by the store that has the cannoli?"

Rafael looks at him confused. "Uh...no."

"Oh. Well there. 'Resa says it's thirty miles away."

Rafael thinks about it. "Uh...probably Staten Island?"

Sonny nods. "Yeah! There's cannoli there. Is there cannoli here?"

Rafael nods.

"Good. I like cannoli. Not like butter, though. Butter is the best for snack time, or breakfast, or lunch, or dinner."

"Why do you talk like that?"

Sonny looks down at the car in his hand. He shrugs instead of saying anything.

"It's okay," Rafael tells him. "Mida, look. Try to say my name. You can call me Rafi."

"Wa-fi."

"No, R-r-r-r-afi."

"W-w-w-w-afi."

Rafael smiles at him. "You'll get it."

"Rafi is a funny name."

"I think it was my abuelo's name, but he died a long time ago. Before I was born."

"Oh," is all Sonny says. "Wanna drive cars off the stairs?"

"Sure!"

They move to the stairs, only the third step. Then, they fling the cars off the step as Sonny was before Theresa interrupted him. They erupt with laughter, cracking up when the cars crash on the floor below.

Ten minutes later, Theresa stomps back down the stairs.

"Sonny, why do you have to be so freakin' loud?" Theresa stops when she sees Rafael. "Who are you?"

"That's 'Resa," Sonny says to Rafael. "She's a teenager and that means she's a b-word."

"What's a b-word?" Rafael asks.

Sonny shrugs. "I dunno, that's what Gina says though."

Theresa practically growls. "Mom! Sonny said I'm a b-word!"

"Oh, Theresa, he did not!" Deb calls from the kitchen.

Theresa throws her hands in the air and steps over the boys to go to the kitchen. "Why don't you ever believe me!" she shouts.

Sonny and Rafael laugh, then resume throwing cars off the stairs.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Rafael,” Lucia sighs, stepping into the front room.

Rafael jumps from his spot on the couch. “What?”

“If you want to play, just go ask.”

Rafael looks out the window again, where he’s staring at the house across the street where the new little boy with the cars and adorable speech impediment lives.

Rafael is way too scared to go over. He usually doesn’t play with the neighborhood kids, instead he spends his time reading or running errands with his Mami. He doesn’t even have a babysitter because he just wants to be with his Mami. And the neighborhood kids are mean. Some of them are much older, some younger, but they all call Rafael names and make fun of him for not knowing anything about sports or video games or popular television shows.

Sonny was different. Sonny did not make fun of Rafael. Sonny did not laugh at Rafael. Sonny laughed with Rafael. Sonny was a sweet little kid, and Rafael liked him a lot.

Rafael wants to play with him again.

“Do you want me to take you over there?” Lucia asks.

Rafael shakes his head.

“Then go over.”

Rafael takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he sighs.

He climbs off the couch and makes his way to the front door.

“You don’t have to, Rafi,” Lucia says behind him.

But Rafael really wants to. Without another word, he exits the house and walks across the street.

Rafael is almost shaking with nerves as he rings the doorbell. He almost runs away when he hears footsteps approaching, but he stands frozen instead.

An older girl answers the door, but not the one that Sonny said is a ‘b-word’.

“Uh…hi?” she mumbles.

Rafael just stares at her.

“Can I…help you?”

“I…uh…I…vivo por alla…y…” Rafael talks fast in Spanish, the way he does when he’s nervous.

The girl chuckles. “Mom!” she yells into the house.

Rafael almost takes off when she turns around, but he’s still frozen.

Sonny’s mom arrives in the entryway a second later, holding a jar of peanut butter.

“Oh, hi, Rafael!” she cries, sounding excited. “Sonny’s been wanting to try to play with you all week!”

“Oh…really?” Rafael asks.

“Yeah, sure! He’s down for a nap right now, but do you want to come in anyway? He’ll be up soon, I’m making his lunch. Do you want a sandwich?”

“Uh…”

Deb holds her hand out. “Come on, you can give me a hand.”

Rafael takes her hand and lets her lead him into the kitchen. It’s much more unpacked since the last time he was there, it’s much more welcoming.

“Rafael, this is Gina, my second daughter. She was with my husband when you were here a few days ago. G, this is Rafael. He lives across the street.”

“I know, he practically yelled it at me.” Gina laughs again.

Rafael frowns.

“That’s okay, he’s just excited. Right Rafael? You and Sonny got along so well the other day, he’s going to be so glad you’re here.”

Rafael nods.

He helps Deb make a few sandwiches and pour Goldfish Crackers onto the paper plates. When they’re done, Deb excuses herself to go wake Sonny.

“So, how old are you?” Gina asks him when they’re alone.

“Seven.”

“Oh, I’m ten. You speak Spanish?”

“Yes,” Rafael says. “My Mami is from Cuba.”

“Cool. My old best friend at my old school was from Puerto Rico, so she taught me a lot of stuff in Spanish.”

Rafael nods. “Cool,” he repeats.

Deb finally comes downstairs again while Rafael and Gina are awkwardly staring at each other. She’s got Sonny on her hip and his head on her shoulder.

“Sonny, look. Look who’s here.”

Sonny opens his eyes and looks right at Rafael.

“Oh, hi, Wa-fi,” he says quietly. “Where’ve you been? You haven’t come over since yesterday.”

“No, since Sunday,” Deb says. “That wasn’t yesterday, Sonny. Yesterday was Friday, remember? Remember your days of the week.”

“Oh ya,” Sonny says, yawning.

“Rafael helped with lunch,” Deb tells Sonny.

Sonny excitedly climbs out of Deb’s arms, suddenly more awake. Rafael knows he must really want the peanut butter, because it’s Sonny’s favorite food.

The three kids sit at the kitchen table eating their sandwiches while Deb unpacks more of the kitchen. Sonny and Gina talk the most, and the loudest, and Rafael just watches the conversation go back and forth like a tennis match.

“Hey Wa-fi,” Sonny suddenly says. “After lunch, wanna watch Little Mermaid?”

“Ugh!” Gina cries, rolling her eyes. “Not again! We watch that every afternoon!”

“I like it!” Sonny replies. “Do you like it, Wa-fi?”

Rafael nods.

“Raise your hand if you wanna watch Little Mermaid!”

Rafael slowly raises his hand after Sonny’s hand shoots up.

Gina groans again.

When their sandwiches are gone, Sonny races into the living room to get the DVD from the stack sitting on the floor awaiting their place in the entertainment unit. He races to the stairs and waves Rafael to follow.

But the little boy pauses at the foot of the stairs. Rafael looks at him.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“I…” Sonny bites his lip. “Where’d Mommy go?”

Rafael shrugs.

“Okay, uh…”

Rafael remembers Sonny’s thing with the stairs, how he only gets to the third step. Rafael doesn’t blame him, these stairs are rickety.

Rafael wants to show Sonny that he can be brave, that he can be a good friend. So he takes the little boy’s hand and helps him up the stairs.

Sonny breathes evenly as they climb the stairs, and Rafael just squeezes his hand tight. Soon, they’re at the top, and Sonny pauses to look down.

“I did it, Wa-fi! With your help! Thank you!”

Rafael smiles. “You’re welcome.”

Sonny smiles back, then drags Rafael to his mom and dad’s bedroom to watch their movie.

The boys build a little nest on the big bed and lay together to watch the movie. Sonny sings every song, recites every line, and Rafael just laughs at his fake Caribbean accent.

They’re at ‘Kiss the Girl’, Rafael’s favorite song from the film, when a big man jumps in the doorway.

“What are you doing?!” the big man yells, and Sonny screams. Rafael just jumps.

“Daddy, you scared us!” Sonny yells, standing from his spot on the bed.

Rafael watches Sonny jump into his dad’s arms. His dad squeezes him tight and kisses his head over and over.

“Ah, this movie again?” Sonny’s dad sighs. “Aren’t you tired of this yet, Son?”

Sonny shakes his head.

Sonny’s dad suddenly looks at Rafael, who is trying to sink into the bed.

“Son, don’t look now, but there’s a creature in my bed.”

Sonny looks at Rafael quickly.

“I said don’t look! What if it’s wild?!”

Sonny giggles. “He’s not wild, Daddy!”

Sonny’s dad leans in close to Rafael, who just stares at him with giant eyes wide open.

“Well, what is it?”

“It’s a Wa-fi!”

“A Rafi, huh? What kind of species is that?”

“A boy species!”

“A boy species?!”

Rafael still stares.

“Do we get to keep him?” Sonny’s dad asks, “We aren’t going to release him back into the wild?”

“I wanna keep him, Daddy! I like him!”

Rafael finally cracks a smile.

“Oh, he smiles!” Sonny’s dad says.

Rafael’s smile grows.

Deb enters the room and jumps just like Rafael did when she sees her husband.

“Oh, god, Dom! You scared me! I didn’t expect you home for a few hours!”

Sonny’s dad drops Sonny back onto the bed to greet his wife.

“I could not stand the thought of leaving my poor, beautiful wife home alone all afternoon with two wild animals.” Sonny’s dad hugs Deb tight and tries to kiss her.

Rafael watches them admiringly, because his dad has never been around so he’s never seen love like this. Sonny beams when they kiss.

“Dom!” Deb cries.

“Kiss the girl, Daddy!” Sonny excitedly says, mimicking the song playing in the background.

“I’m tryin’!”

Deb rolls her eyes and gets out of her husband’s grip. “Dom, did you meet Rafael? He lives across the street.”

“Hi, Rafael who lives across the street. I’m Dom. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He bows in front of Rafael.

Sonny laughs. “Daddy, you’re silly.”

Rafael just smiles, almost laughing.

Dom leaves the room to help Deb downstairs, so the boys finish the movie. When it ends, they go outside to run around, and they spend the entire afternoon laughing in the backyard. Sonny talks and talks about anything and everything, and Rafael just nods along and answers every question with short answers, because Sonny barely lets him speak.


 

Dom and Deb watch the kids playing in the backyard.

“I’m glad to see that kid laughs,” Dom says, scrubbing a dish from the stack.

“He’s just shy. It doesn’t help when a giant stranger scares the crap out of him.”

Dom laughs. “Well, I didn’t know he was there!”

Deb smiles. “Sonny really likes him.”

“I know, he told me.”

“It’ll be good for him to make a friend, especially one that helps him get up the stairs.”

“He did?! Oh, we’re keeping this kid.” Dom says. “And Son needs a good buddy. Like you, my best buddy.”

Deb rolls her eyes. “Shut up.”

Dom grins and leans over to plant a wet kiss to his wife’s cheek.

Then they discuss dinner plans while watching the boys chase each other around the backyard.

Chapter Text

Jason Diaz has been teaching kindergarten for a long time. He’s seen many different kids come through his class, a lot of different characters and personalities, different friendships and families. But none have stood out like the friendship between little Sonny Carisi and his third grader best friend Rafael. It reminds him of his first crush on his best friend when they were in second grade. He loved that boy without really knowing it, and he sees the same in Sonny and Rafael.

Jason had invited Mrs. Jones, Rafael’s teacher, to send a few of her best readers over to read Dr. Seuss books to the little ones for Dr. Seuss week. Rafael is to join their class on Tuesday, and when Jason wrote the schedule on the board, Sonny squealed.

“That’s Wa-fi’s name!” he yelled, his ‘R’ still sounding a bit like a ‘W’.

Jason smiled. “Yes, Sonny. Rafael is coming to read to our class later.”

Sonny’s blue eyes lit up with the most excitement Jason had ever seen from a child.

Rafael arrives in Jason’s kindergarten classroom at 10 o’clock on the dot. He’s telling the kids about going to the library later when Rafael timidly walks in and shuts the door as quietly as he can.

Sonny, probably watching the clock all morning, perks up and turns to the door. He smiles widely, then looks at Jason as if questioning whether or not he can get up to greet Rafael. Little Sonny, obedient as ever. Most kids would just get out of their seat without asking, but not Sonny.

“Sonny,” Jason says, “Would you like to tell our guest where to sit, then introduce him to the class?”

Sonny nods excitedly, then jumps out of his seat and runs to Rafael.

He stops right in Rafael’s face, as close as possible. They chat back and forth for a second before Sonny delicately takes Rafael’s hand and pulls him to Jason’s reading chair.

Sonny’s smile doesn’t fade. “This is my best friend Rafi, he’s in third grade and he’s the best reader in the entire world.”

Rafael cracks a smile.

Sonny points a finger at the class. “Listen to him nicely.”

Jason stifles a laugh. “Okay, Sonny, thank you. Let Rafael read now.”

Sonny hops back to his seat and doesn’t make another noise.

Jason’s class is amazingly obedient while Rafael reads. He’s quiet, but the class is shockingly quieter than he is. It’s a miracle. It must have been Sonny’s instruction to listen.

Rafael is almost done with the book when his teacher walks in.

“How’s it going?” Wendy asks.

Jason looks at her confused. “Where is your class?”

“Recess.”

“Ah. Well, it’s great. Honestly, they haven’t been this quiet in weeks. I’m keeping Rafael forever.”

Wendy laughs. “You can’t have him, I need him to keep my sanity.”

“I think it was the threatening instruction my Sonny gave them when he introduced Rafael.”

Wendy smirks. “Oh, Rafael’s future husband?”

Jason chuckles. “You see it too?”

Wendy points at little Sonny. “Look at him. I don’t think my husband looks at me with that much adoration.”

Jason looks at the little guy sitting with his chin in his hands staring at Rafael like he’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen.

“What I wouldn’t give for a guy to look at me like that,” Jason admits.

Wendy laughs too loud. Some kids turn around to look at the adults, but Jason twirls his finger to indicate for them to turn around.

“Ssshh,” Jason says. “Listen to the future Mr. Carisi read. According to Sonny, he’s the best reader in the entire world.”

Wendy laughs again. Jason covers his mouth so he doesn’t laugh too loudly.

Rafael finishes the book and Sonny leads the class in a round of applause.

“Thank you Rafael,” Jason says, approaching the front of the room. “Can everybody thank Rafael?”

A series of little voices yelling, “Thank you Rafael!” rings through the class.

“Sonny,” Jason says, “Do you want to walk Rafael to the door?”

Sonny jumps out of his seat again. He takes Rafael’s hand again and walks him and Wendy to the door.

Jason hears Sonny tell Rafael to have a good day. Rafael tells Sonny to eat all of his lunch before he goes to play at recess. Wendy glances at Jason with a look of awe. All of it is the most adorable thing Jason’s ever seen.

Chapter Text

Rafael, upon his ninth birthday only a month before, deemed himself worthy of new responsibilities he did not have when he was only eight. He can walk to school on his own now, he can pour the milk in his own cereal bowl, and he can plan Sonny's sixth birthday party.

Everything was perfect. They wrote the invitations themselves, Rafael in his slightly-too-fancy-for-a-nine-year-old handwriting, and Sonny in his getting-better-for-a-six-year-old handwriting.

They'd picked out a cake, one they looked up in a magazine and Deb promised she could make instead of having to buy it.

They bought decorations--baseball, because that's what Sonny wanted.

And finally, they created a menu of foods and snacks for guests, including hot dogs, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks, because those were the foods they ate when Sonny's dad took them to a Yankee game last month.

It was perfect. On the day of Sonny's party, Rafael woke up far more excited than even Sonny did. The party wasn't until noon, but Rafael woke up at 6 AM and was banging on the Carisi's door by 6:30. As when every time he bangs on their door that early, Dominick Sr. just opens the door, mumbles a good morning, and slowly follows Rafael up the stairs where they part into different rooms.

Rafael kicks off his shoes and climbs onto Sonny's bed. He lays next to the little boy and pokes his cheek.

"Sonny, wake up! It's party day!"

"Mmm."

"Didn't you hear me, Sonny? I said it's party day!"

Sonny lets out a huff and turns onto his back, away from Rafael. His little blonde hairs stick to the side of his face, where he has a red crease from his pillow.

Rafael tries again. "It's your birthday, Sonny!"

Sonny squeezes his eyes shut further. "I'm still sleepy, Rafi," he whispers.

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Fine. I'll wait."

Rafael has to wait about ten minutes before Sonny's eyes suddenly open and he's falling out of bed, yelling, "It's party day! It's party day!"

Rafael laughs and peers over the side of the bed, where Sonny is laying on the floor cheering about the party.

Then, there's a knock heard on the wall behind Sonny's bed. "Shut up!" Theresa yells. "Some of us are still trying to sleep!"

The boys get up. Rafael helps Sonny brush his teeth and combs his hair with the perfect part like his mom does it. Sonny gets dressed, with Rafael's help choosing between a Mets shirt with Mickey Mouse on it, and a Yankees shirt that's too short. The Mets shirt wins, because Mickey Mouse always wins above everything else.

They run downstairs, and by now it's 7 o'clock and Mr. Carisi is out of bed once again. He's making coffee in the kitchen, so he lifts the boys onto the island and he gives them their options for breakfast.

"Okay, we've got bacon and eggs for the special day, pancakes, waffles?"

The boys exchange skeptical looks. Dominick Sr. rolls his eyes and reaches into the pantry.

"Fruit Loops?"

"Yay!" the boys cheer in unison.

Dominick Sr. carries them, one in each arm, to the kitchen table to eat their breakfast. The boys laugh, loving every time Dominick Sr. picks them both up like this. Rafael had tried to claim he was too old for it when he turned nine, but it makes him laugh too much for Dominick Sr. to stop.

By the time their breakfast is eaten, Mrs. Carisi is up and helps Mr. Carisi with their breakfast. Dominick Sr. had decided to surprise Deb with pancakes, her favorite, and when she came downstairs, she gushed over how sweet that was.

"Isn't that nice of Daddy to want to surprise me with breakfast?" Deb asks rhetorically, kissing Dominick Sr. on the cheek as Sonny and Rafael watch happily.

"Rafi helped me brush my teeth, Mommy. Is that sweet?"

"Yes, honey, that is very sweet of Rafi. Did you thank him?"

"I didn't kiss him like you kissed Daddy!"

"You don't have to, Sonny. All you have to say is 'thank you for your help'. I kiss Daddy, because...I just like to! People deserve kisses for lots of different reasons."

Sonny beams at her, then turns to Rafael. "Thanks for helping me brush my teeth, Rafi."

"You're welcome," Rafael says, returning the smile.

Deb continues helping her husband by getting out a cutting board and fresh strawberries to chop. The boys talk at the table about the party, Dominick Sr. watches the pancakes, and suddenly Deb is dropping the knife on the island and jumping back.

Dominick Sr. is by her side immediately. "What happened?"

"Oh, I cut my finger! Is it bad?"

The boys look on, worried, as Dominick Sr. examines the cut.

"Nothing a Band-Aid won't fix," he says. "I'll be right back. Clean it under water."

He's gone only a second before he's back with two boxes of Band-Aids. "We have regular tan or Hello Kitty. Take your pick."

"Pick the Kitty, Mommy!" Sonny tells her.

Deb laughs and chooses Hello Kitty, and the boys watch with worried looks as Mr. Carisi carefully applies the bandage.

"There. Good as new," he says, kissing the tip of his wife's finger.

"How does it look?" Deb asks the boys, holding up her hand.

"Does it feel better, Mommy?" Sonny asks.

"It does," she tells him.



Finally, it's noon and the party is ready to begin. Guest begin showing up, mostly relatives but a few other neighborhood kids. They set up a baseball game in the street, where Sonny is the first captain because he's the birthday boy. He chooses Rafael first, of course.

The game goes steadily for a long time. There are far less arguments and fights than usual because the adults are watching, but the kids have fun running around and playing. They let Sonny get more strikes because it's his birthday, and the thought of not getting cake later because they were mean to Sonny on his birthday is terrible.

A while into the game, Sonny's up to bat again and hits it far enough to possibly get a double. He runs to first and rounds to run to second, but the kid playing first base accidentally trips him. Sonny falls hard to the ground and he practically skids because he was running quite fast.

Rafael runs to his side quickly. "Sonny! Are you ok?"

Usually, Sonny won't cry when the big boys accidentally hurt him when they're playing, but this time he lets out a loud cry as he struggles to get up. There are scrapes on his knees and hands, and huge tears falling down his cheeks.

"Sorry Sonny!" the older boy who tripped him says. "I didn't mean to, honest!"

Rafael tells the other kids they'll be right back, then escorts Sonny into the house and into the downstairs bathroom. He delicately sits Sonny on the toilet seat and gets some toilet paper to wipe up the blood.

"They'll think I'm a baby 'cause I cried," Sonny says, hiccuping.

Rafael shakes his head. "They won't."

"Yeah, they always think I'm a baby!" Sonny begins to cry harder.

Rafael wets a wash clothe to clean the scrapes. "I don't think you're a baby," he quietly says.

Sonny looks at him with huge blue eyes. "Really?"

Rafael nods.

They're quiet while Rafael finishes cleaning Sonny up. Sonny tries to settle his breathing and stop the tears. Rafael gets the Band-Aids out of the drawer.

"We have regular tan or Hello Kitty," Rafael says, copying Mr. Carisi's words from earlier, even though he knows Sonny is going to pick Hello Kitty. "Take your pick."

"Hello Kitty!" Sonny excitedly exclaims.

Rafael smiles at him, then tears the papers open and places them on Sonny's cuts.

"There," Rafael says. "Good as new."

"Almost," Sonny says.

Rafael looks at him confused. "Almost?"

"You're forgetting the kisses."

"Oh," Rafael says. He hesitates, at first, because there was blood on Sonny's knees just a second ago and that's gross. But Mr. Carisi had kissed Mrs. Carisi's cut that morning, and that had blood. So, with a shrug, Rafael leans forward and carefully kisses both of Sonny's knees.

"There," he repeats. "How's that?"

"This one," Sonny says, holding up his hand.

Rafael kisses Sonny's palm.

"That's better Rafi, thank you."

Rafael smiles. "How about we ask if we can have cake now?"

Sonny lights up at that. He nods excitedly and follows Rafael out of the bathroom, knees and hands now feeling much better.

Chapter Text

Although the boys are inseparable, Rafael is sent home sometimes. It's usually when Theresa gets in trouble, or when Lucia begs Rafael to spend some time with her, but tonight it is because Dominick Sr. and Deb have something important to talk to their kids about.

They sat the kids down at the kitchen table.

"Can you make this quick?" Theresa asks. "I'm expecting a call."

Dominick Sr. discreetly rolls his eyes at his daughter, so Sonny, who is copying everything his dad does, does the same.

"You'll sit here and listen to what we have to say or you're not taking any calls tonight. Got it?"

"Got it?" Sonny repeats.

Theresa huffs. "Can you at least shut him up?"

"Don't tell him to shut up," Deb tells her oldest. "Sonny, you don't have to copy everything Daddy does."

"How 'bout everything you do, Mommy?"

Deb sighs. The copying is driving her crazy, too.

"What did you want to tell us?" Gina asks, doing what she does best: distracting everyone.

Finally back on topic, Deb smiles.

"Well, something has happened that we hope you guys will be happy about."

Dominick Sr. beams at his wife. Theresa glares at them.

"You didn't. You're not."

Gina starts, "Wha--"

"Didn't what, Mommy?" Sonny finishes.

"You're not having another baby," Theresa says.

"A baby?!" Gina cries, sounding excited.

"Yes, guys, we're having a baby."

Sonny doesn't say anything, he just wonders why there are so many mixed emotions about a new baby.

"Last time you decided to have a new baby, we got stuck with him."

"Why do you hate him so badly?" Gina asks Theresa.

"She does not hate him!" Deb cries.

Sonny reaches over and pulls his sister's hair.

"Ugh!" is all Theresa yells, flicking his hand.

"Sonny, stop it," Dominick Sr. scolds.

Everyone starts arguing about Theresa's feelings towards her little brother as Sonny ponders the idea of a new baby. A lot of his friends have younger siblings, and they like them fine. They don't all act mean to their siblings the way Theresa does to him, but she's just sixteen and moody, that's what his Mommy says. Gina is nice enough to him. She helps him and plays ball with him in the backyard when Dominick Sr. isn't around.

He can be like that with the new baby. He can be loving.

"Well," Sonny asks in the silence. "When will the new baby be here?"

"In three months."

"In three months?!" Theresa cries. "How--when--why--ugh!"

"That's...really soon, Mom," Gina says.

"We wanted to be...sure. When women get older, it's more difficult for them to carry a baby. We just wanted to be sure."

"Where the hell is a freakin' baby going to live in this ridiculous house?" Theresa asks.

Dominick Sr. sighs. "She is going to sleep with us until we can rearrange and give her a nursery."

"The baby is a girl?" Sonny asks.

"Aww!" Gina says. "A little baby girl. That's exciting, Mom!"

Deb smiles at her and reaches across the table to take Gina's hand. Dominick Sr. rubs Deb's back.

"What do you think, Son?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Sonny thinks about it for a second, decides it's a great thing because his parents are so excited about it, and gives his dad a thumbs up.

His parents look at Theresa.

"'Rese?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Theresa rolls her eyes. "Fine, I guess it...won't be that bad."

"That's my girl," Dominick Sr. says, reaching across the table to hold Theresa's hand. She takes her dad's hand with another eye roll, but a smile on her face. Copying Dominick Sr., Sonny reaches over and places his little hand in Theresa's free hand. In a rare moment of calm between the two, they smile lovingly at each other. 

After Sonny sees the excitement in getting to buy things for the baby, pick out nursery decorations for when she gets her own room, he gets very happy to welcome her into his home. Everything becomes about the baby.

Sonny is the most excited when his dad asks him to help fix up Gina's old wooden doll house for his baby sister. They get it out of the attic and take it to the garage, where Dominick Sr. presents him with his own safety goggles, hammer, and screwdriver.

"This is like when Mommy wanted me to help her make cupcakes so she gave me my own spatula!"

"Or when Mommy wanted you to help fix the spout in the bathtub, so she got you a wrench. You have a bunch of little tools. We did the same when your sisters were your age."

"And you'll do the same for the new baby?"

Dominick Sr. smiles at him. "Yeah, we will. For now, we're going to put new screws in, sand it down, and repaint. What do you say?"

"Yay!" Sonny cheers, excited about spending the afternoon with his dad.

They're done by dinnertime, and the doll house looks great. They painted it yellow, just like their house, and they even have time to repaint the little furniture. Sonny has a blast with his dad. He really likes the doll house, he really wants to play with it.

"I can't wait 'til the baby gets here so we can play with this together!"

Dominick Sr. laughs. "She won't be able to play with it for a while, Son. Not for a few years. She'll be too little."

Sonny frowns. "Oh. Who's...gonna play with it 'til then?"

"Well, you can. If you want. You did help build it."

Sonny lights up. "Really? I can play with it?"

"Yeah, sure. As long as it stays nice for her."

"Thanks, Daddy!"

Rafael comes over for dinner when he gets home from his abuela's house, so Sonny gets to show him the doll house.

"That's really cool, Sonny!" Rafael says, kneeling next to Sonny in front of the coffee table where the doll house is.

"Daddy says we can play with it. As long as we're careful."

Rafael examines the toy closely. "How did you get the screws in?"

"I got a screwdriver!"

"Neat! I want to build something!"

"Maybe we can ask my daddy if we can make more stuff for the baby!"

"Ok!"

The boys decide to save building for another day, because for now they want to play with the doll house.

"This can be the daddy and this can be the mommy and she can have a baby in her belly like mine!"

Rafael happily takes the dad doll and walks him around the house.

"Honey," he says, making his voice deep, "I'm gonna make dinner. Would you like a peanut butter sandwich?"

"Yes, please! You're the best husband ever!"

Rafael laughs. "Coming right up."

He walks the husband to the kitchen and places him at the table.

Sonny places the wife in the kitchen. "How was work, honey?"

"It was great. I sent the bad guy to jail."

"Yay! Good job, honey."

Rafael smiles. "Here's your peanut butter sandwich. I hope you like it!"

"Mmmm," Sonny replies, pretending his mouth is full. "It's delicious, thank you. Muah!" He smacks the wife against the husband for a kiss.

Rafael just beams. "When we're big," he tells Sonny in his real voice. "I'll make you peanut butter sandwiches."

Sonny smiles wide. "Really? Every day?"

Rafael nods. "Sure, if you want."

"You're the best, Rafi."

Rafael smiles proudly.

The boys play until they fall asleep on the couch in front of the doll house. Deb calls Lucia to let her know Rafael can spend the night, then Dominick Sr. carries one boy in each arm to Sonny's bed.

He watches the boys snuggle together for a second, just admiring how adorable they are. Sonny is growing so fast, so Dominick Sr. is excited to have another baby. And his son's joyfullness makes him more happy. With another kiss to the boys' foreheads, Dominick Sr. leaves them to sleep.

Chapter Text

Sonny doesn’t think any two people could ever love each other as much as his mom and dad love each other, not that he’s realized it yet. When he sees them together, hugging or holding hands, he wants to do the same. Usually, he’ll hold onto his mom’s other hand or squeeze between them for a double hug.

His mom and dad also go on dates. Almost every Friday night, they leave the kids at home and go out alone. They go to dinner, or a movie, or they go into the city to see a play or visit a museum.

Sonny doesn’t know why they have to leave to have dates, or why they have to exclude him. He would love to go on dates with them. He understands that dates are just for his parents, so maybe he needs to have his own dates, whatever that may mean.

Finally, he asks his dad what it means to go on a date.

“Daddy?” he asks one afternoon while they play catch in the backyard.

“Yeah, pal?”

“Why do you and Mommy go on dates?”

Dominick Sr. shrugs. “Because we like each other and we like to spend time together.”

“But you spend time together here at home.”

“I know, but dates are special between the people involved. They want to be alone.”

Sonny takes that in. “And why are dates special?”

“Hmm…” Dominick Sr. sighs. “Well, when Mommy and I go on dates, they’re to places we don’t normally go to. Sometimes we dress up. But we always do things both of us will enjoy. Sometimes we plan a date and don’t tell each other where it will be so it will be a surprise.”

“Alright,” Sonny nods in understanding. “What if I want to go on a date?”

Dominick Sr. chuckles. “Who do you want to go on a date with?”

Sonny thinks, coming to his obvious answer. “Can I go on a date with Rafi?”

“Sure,” Dominick Sr. says. “As long as you ask Rafi if he wants to go on a date. The other person has to know it’s a date, or else things get confusing.”

“How do I ask Rafi if he wants to go on a date? How do you ask Mommy?”

“Well, when Mommy and I first met and I wanted to take her on a date, I bought her flowers and told her I really liked her. Now we just know it’s a date because we’ve been together for so long. Where would you want to go on a date?”

Sonny thinks about that one long and hard. It’d have to be to somewhere they don’t usually go to, doing something they don’t usually do, but that they’d both like.

Finally, he thinks of the perfect date.

“Could we go on a date to a Yankee game?” Sonny asks excitedly.

Dominick Sr. laughs. “Alright pal, sure. You ask Rafi if he wants to go on a date to the Yankee game, and I’ll take you.”

“Well, Daddy,” Sonny says, “You can’t go on my date if I can’t go on yours.”

Dominick Sr. laughs harder. “How are you going to get there? How are you going to pay for things? I have to go with you, Son.”

Sonny rolls his eyes. “Fine.”

“How about this,” Dominick Sr. says, “I’ll take Mommy, but I’ll buy your tickets in front of us so you can have privacy. It’ll be like we’re not even there.”

Sonny smiles. “Sure, Daddy. It can be a date for you and Mommy, too!”

Sonny can’t wait another second; he tosses the ball back to his dad and takes off towards the gate.

“Where are you going?” Dominick Sr. calls after him.

“I’m gonna go ask Rafi if he wants to go on a date!”

He leaves Dominick Sr. laughing in the yard.


 

Sonny dashes across the street as fast as he can, waiting until the cars are gone, of course. He runs right up to the Barba’s front door and jumps to ring the doorbell. He wipes sweat from his eyes and wonders if he should’ve brought some flowers like his dad did for his mom. Instead, he’s sweaty and holding his baseball glove.

It’s too late, because a second later Lucia opens the door.

“Oh, hi, Sonny! Rafi’s still doing his homework, he can’t go play yet.”

Sonny is disappointed. “Oh…I just…wanted to ask him if he wants to go on a date to a Yankee game.”

Lucia grows an amused smile on her face. “On a date, huh?”

“Yeah. My daddy says dates are when you take someone you like somewhere you don’t normally go.”

“Really? And you like Rafi and want to take him to a Yankee game?”

Sonny nods.

Lucia laughs. “I think Rafi can come talk to you for a second. Hold on.”

Lucia disappears into the house and Sonny can hear her yell up the stairs for Rafael to come down. Sonny takes a deep breath and wipes sweat from his forehead again. Rafael takes a minute to hop down the stairs, but soon he’s in front of Sonny.

“Hi, Sonny!”

“Hey, Rafi,” Sonny says. “I was wondering if you wanna go on a date.”

“On a date?”

“Yeah, my daddy says it’s when—“

Rafael stops him. “I know what a date is.”

Of course he knows, Sonny thinks. Rafael is much older and smarter than he is.

“Oh,” is all Sonny says.

“Of course I’ll go on a date with you!”

Sonny brightens up. He smiles widely. “You will?!”

“Yes! Where are we going to go?”

“Uhm…it’s a surprise! But don’t worry, you’ll like it!”

Rafael smiles. “Ok, Sonny! Great!”

“Ok! I’ll see you in a little while!”

“Bye, Sonny!”

Sonny jumps down the porch stairs and runs back across the street to his house. He runs through the gate to the backyard, where Dominick Sr. is still waiting for him.

“Well?” his dad asks expectantly.

“He said yes! But I didn’t tell him where we’re going so it can be a surprise.”

“Cool,” Dominick Sr. says, then they go inside to look on the internet for tickets.


 

They go to the game a few days later. When Sonny finally told Rafael, he was so excited.

When they arrive, Dominick Sr. gives Sonny money to buy his date a hot dog and a water bottle. On the way to their seats, Sonny asks his dad if dates have cotton candy. Dominick Sr. just laughs at his question and tells him they can get some later.

The boys talk all through the game, as they normally do. Sonny feels like a big boy because his parents are behind them so he feels like they’re alone. He doesn’t hold Rafael’s hand like Dominick Sr. says some people on dates do, though. His hand feels too sweaty for that.

On the way home, both boys fall asleep in the back seat of the car. They’re leaning against each other sweetly, Sonny in his booster seat and Rafael in the middle seat next to him.

“Well,” Deb says to her husband. “It looks like their first date was a success.”

Dominick Sr. glances in the rearview mirror at them. “I always expected to want to wait on his first date, you know? Not let him go on a date until he’s a teenager. But I never expected…this.”

Deb looks back at the boys and smiles. “Yeah, I know what you mean. But he’s happy. They’re happy. Two little boys who love each other.”

“Yeah,” Dominick Sr. agrees. “Their happiness is all that matters. Shame on me for expected something for him, huh?”

“As long as we’re okay with it.”

Dominick Sr. takes hold of his wife’s hand. “We’re good.”

Chapter Text

Every night before bed, Rafael has to change into his pajamas and brush his teeth before Lucia joins him to be tucked in. Once he's ready, he calls for his Mami and she comes into his bedroom.

Lucia kneels next to Rafael's bed.

"What did you do at school today?"

Rafael shrugs. "We did this thing about our futures. We had to fill out this paper about careers and, like, families."

"And you wrote lawyer."

Rafael smiles proudly and nods.

"What did you write about a family?"

"I said I want to get married. A lot of kids said they don't want to get married, or they don't know, but I know."

"Yeah?" Lucia asks, smoothing down his blankets. "How do you know?"

"Because I already know who I'm going to marry."

"Oh, yeah? Who?"

"Sonny," Rafael confidently answers.

Lucia grows a worried look on her face that makes Rafael frown deeply.

"That's bad isn't it? Some boys at school said that's bad."

Lucia shakes her head. "No, baby, it's just...well, he's a little young, isn't he?"

"Yeah, but when he's thirty, I'll only be thirty-three and that's not weird, right?"

Lucia laughs. "No, mi amor, it won't be. Did you write on your paper that you're going to marry Sonny?"

"No, I didn't, because when I said it the boys at my table said I can't. They seemed mad about it, so I didn't want my teacher to get mad. Hey, Mami?"

Lucia is silently fuming at Rafael's worry, but she pushes it down so Rafael doesn't worry even further. "Yes, mi amor?"

"When I marry Sonny, will one of us have to wear a dress?"

Lucia chuckles. "No. You can both wear suits."

"What if I wear the tie I had to wear to church on Christmas?"

"The one with the snowmen? I guess that'd be okay."

"Sonny would probably wear his Mets jersey, huh Mami? The one with the Kool-Aid stain on the arm."

Lucia laughs. "You know, he probably would."

"When we get married, we'd get to have sleepovers all the time, huh? We could eat popcorn and pizza every night, huh?" Extremely excited, Rafael adds, "We could get bunk beds, huh?!"

Lucia laughs even harder at Rafael's excitement over bunk beds. "Sure, Rafi. If that's what you want."

"Yeah, I want that," Rafael contently says. "I want to be with Sonny forever."

Lucia stands from her spot and kisses Rafael's forehead. "You will. For now, go to sleep, okay?"

"Okay, Mami."

"I love you," Lucia tells him, kissing his head again.

"Love you too, Mami."

 

Chapter Text

Rafael stuffs the stupid blue flier into the nearest trashcan he could find after leaving his classroom. His teacher handed the paper out as the kids were exiting, and he knew it was not a paper he needed to give to his mother. It’s the same dumb reminder he gets every year: ‘Donuts-for-Dad Day’. It’s a replacement Father’s Day celebration his school does in the middle of April since they’re not in school for Father’s Day.

What it boils down to is this: Rafael is old enough to be sick of people acting like dads are the most important people in a kid’s life. He hasn’t seen his dad in so long that he can’t even remember what the man is like. The only memories he has are pictures from when he was a baby.

Sure, some dads are great. Mr. Carisi is a great dad to Sonny and his sisters. His Abuelo was a great dad to his Mami. But his own dad does not deserve a donut, and ten-year-old Rafael knows that.

He can avoid giving the flier to Lucia, but he can’t avoid the day. When he gets to school on the scheduled Friday morning, he has no choice but to go to the cafeteria where everybody is celebrating their dad.

Rafael tries to stay out of sight, leaning against a wall and munching on a donut stolen from the table. He scowls at the dads and kids enjoying their breakfasts. All the loving families having fun.

He has a loving family, and it doesn’t need to involve a dad.

Rafael is shooting daggers at a kid in his class when he hears his name being called.

“Rafi! Hey, Rafi!”

Rafael looks around for the familiar voice. He spots Sonny and tries to smile, but can’t. He’s just not in the mood.

“Hey Rafi!” Sonny shouts again when he approaches with Dominick Sr. right behind him. “Did you get a donut?”

Rafael nods. “I think I’m gonna go to class. I’ll ask my teacher if I can help her clean up before everyone gets here.”

Dominick Sr. grasps Rafael’s shoulder. “Hey, Rafi, why don’t you have a donut with us? I’m sure it won’t be a problem if you get another one.”

Rafael is weary. This is a breakfast for kids and their dads. Dominick Sr. is not his dad, he’s already there with a kid.

Rafael looks up at him. Dominick Sr. smiles warmly. Lovingly. Like a dad.

“Okay,” Rafael agrees, then leads Sonny and Mr. Carisi to the table of donuts.

They all choose one to eat, then find three empty seats to sit. Sonny sits between them, extremely excited. Of course he is, all the kids with their dads are excited. But Sonny spends an equal amount of time talking with Rafael, not just his dad, and that makes Rafael happy.

“So Rafi,” Mr. Carisi says, “We’re going into the city this weekend. Do you want me to ask your mother if you can come with us?”

“Oh, sure!” Rafael excitedly exclaims. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to the Natural History Museum. Then Sonny wants to take a carriage ride through the park, so we’ll see.”

Rafael smiles for the first time that morning. He loves the museum and he’s very happy to go.

“And this afternoon, Sonny and I are going to the baseball field to hit a few balls. Do you want to come?”

Rafael doesn’t love baseball, but he likes going to the field with them. He and Sonny like to race around the bases, even though Sonny is faster than him. He happily nods.

“Great,” Dominick Sr. says. “I’m going to get you boys some milk to build these strong muscles!” He tickles the boys’ arms while he gets up from his seat.

Sonny chomps away at his chocolate donut.

“You’re getting chocolate all over your face,” Rafael comments.

“So?”

“So, you’re all dirty!”

Sonny shrugs. “What kind of donut did you have already?”

“Powdered.”

“Those are yummy. I like chocolate.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Mr. Carisi returns with two little cups of milk and places one in front of each boy.

“Thanks, Daddy,” Sonny says.

Rafael doesn’t think about it before he says, “Thanks, Dad.”

Sonny begins to laugh. “You called my Daddy Dad!”

Rafael heats up with embarrassment. His heart races. It was an accident, but now Sonny is laughing at him. Rafael wants to cry. He hopes Mr. Carisi isn’t mad.

“Sonny,” Dominick Sr. says, “Go wash your hands, please.”

“But I’m not even done with my donut!”

“Go, please.”

Sonny huffs and gets up from the table.

Rafael wants to follow him, then hide forever.

Once he’s gone, Dominick Sr. grasps his shoulder again.

“It’s alright, Rafi. Sonny just doesn’t understand, okay?”

Rafael doesn’t meet his eye. “You’re not mad?”

Dominick Sr. snorts. “Mad? No, Rafi, of course I’m not mad. Not at that.”

Rafael finally looks at him. “Are you sure?”

Dominick Sr. smiles. “Do I look mad? I’m not, I promise. That would be a silly thing to be mad at. Do you want to know something? Gina used to call one of her teachers ‘mom’ all the time. At least once a week.”

Rafael chuckles. “Why did she do that?”

“I don’t know. It’s just a reflex sometimes. Don’t worry about it, okay?”

Rafael nods.

By then, Sonny returns to their table.

“There, I’m clean.”

Dominick Sr. kisses his head.

“Ugh, Daddy!” Sonny squeals, embarrassed.

Dominick Sr. laughs and kisses him again. “Okay, I have to go to work. I’ll pick you guys up after school, okay? I love you.” He kisses Sonny’s head one more time, then leans over and kisses Rafael’s head.

Rafael’s little heart flutters. For a second, he feels just as loved as he feels when his Mami kisses him goodbye.

“Bye Daddy, I love you!” Sonny says back.

“Bye, Mr. Carisi.”

Mr. Carisi smiles at the boys one more time, then heads for the door.

Rafael survives Donuts-for-Dads Day happier than he usually does.

Chapter Text

Sonny Carisi has no fear. Not of heights, not of spiders, not of his dad putting the pitching machine on the fastest setting when he hits in the batting cages; he fears nothing.

Rafael, however, has a…thing…with certain…things. He does not like heights, he doesn’t not like spiders, he does not like baseballs being hurled at him when he’s ‘supposed’ to hit them. And he does not, under any circumstances, like attics.

So when Sonny said, “Hey, let’s go explore all the junk in my attic!”

Rafael immediately said, “Heck no!”

Because of his thing against attics.

Sonny encouraged the eleven-year-old not to be scared.

“I’m not scared,” Rafael had argued. “There’s just…dust…and spiders…and…things…”

Sonny got in his perfect superhero stance: hands on his hips, chest puffed out. “I’ll protect you, Rafi.”

Sonny won, of course, and that’s how they began their Saturday pulling down the ladder to the attic and climbing up.

The room really isn’t as cluttered as one would expect, the Carisi’s are pretty neat people. There is dust, but no spiders immediately in sight, and nothing else too scary. It’s well lit and Sonny is there to protect him, anyway.

Sonny goes up to the boxes marked ‘Kids’, but is disappointed to find a bunch of Gina and Theresa’s old school junk. Rafael moves to another section of boxes and timidly lifts the flaps.

“What’re we looking for, anyway?” he calls to Sonny.

“Somethin’ fun!” Sonny replies.

Rafael continues on, finding a box of the girls’ old costumes from dance.

“I found some costumes,” Rafael announces.

“Hey, that might be fun,” Sonny says as he joins Rafael in his corner.

Sonny dives right into the box, whereas Rafael was cautiously shaking the garments out so he doesn’t get surprised with spiders. Sonny just grabs stuff without checking it first.

“Hey, look at this!” Sonny exclaims. He pulls out a plastic tiara and places it on his head. “Look at me, I’m Queen Sonny!”

Rafael laughs. “You can’t be a queen!”

“Yes, I can! When we play superheroes, you’re always Wonder Woman. She’s a princess!”

Rafael realizes he’s right. “Fine, then I want to be queen. You can be a something else.” He tries to take it off Sonny’s head, but Sonny holds on to it.

“No way, I found it, I get to be queen. You have to do everything I say!”

“You’re a mean queen,” Rafael mumbles, returning to the box. They toss things around to try to find another costume accessory like the tiara, but they can’t find anything. Rafael settles for being a knight, because Sonny has a plastic sword in his bedroom, then they go downstairs to play.

“Look at me, Mommy!” Sonny yells when they go into the kitchen where Deb is. “I’m a queen!”

“Stunning!” Deb replies. She looks at a frowning Rafael. “What’s the matter, Rafi?”

“I want to be a queen,” he says, crossing his arms.

“Why can’t you both be a queen?” Deb asks.

“’Cause there’s only one crown,” Sonny explains. “We couldn’t find another one.”

“Hmm,” Deb sighs. “Well, I have an idea! How about we put the queen crown away for now, but we make brand new crowns!”

The boys both light up, looking at each other excitedly.

“Then we can both be kings!” Rafael says.

“Well, wait,” Sonny argues, “One of us has to still be a queen.”

“Why?” Deb asks.

“’Cause if we’re both kings, we can’t be married and rule the kingdom together!”

“Not uh!” Rafael cries. “My Mami said boys can marry each other! A king can marry another king!”

Sonny’s eyes grow wide. “Is that right, Mommy? Can a king marry a king?”

Deb laughs. “Yes, Sonny, of course. Who told you that a king has to marry a queen?”

Sonny shrugs. “I dunno. I guess I’ve just never seen a king marry a king.”

“Well, that’s true. A king has never married a king. But men marry men all the time, every day. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t matter who you want to marry, as long as you love them.”

Sonny smiles. “Then we can both be kings, Rafi. And we’ll rule the kingdom together!”

Rafael cheers in excitement. Deb just laughs at the boys, then gets craft supplies out so they can make their own king crowns.

Chapter Text

Rafael ran across the street like a tornado. He was on a mission, if something got in his way, he’d blow it over with the wind of his fury.

He marches right up to his front door, throwing it open and slamming it shut before stomping up the stairs.

“Rafi?” Lucia calls after him. “Is that you?”

Rafael hurries into his bedroom and shuts the door, then throws himself onto his bed and buries his face in his pillow. Then he throws it off the bed because it smells like Sonny (from when he spent the night two nights ago), and he wants nothing, absolutely nothing to do with that annoying, immature, little brat right now.

There’s a knock on his door. “Rafi? Rafael? What’s wrong?”

Rafael doesn’t look up from where his face is in his hands. “Go away, Mami. Please?”

Lucia sits on the edge of his bed. “Are you hurt? Did something happen?”

Rafael shakes his head.

“Rafael, you just ran into this house and slammed the door so hard, the walls shook. Now tell me right now what happened.”

Rafael huffs. “Stupid Sonny.”

“Sonny?” Lucia asks. “What happened? Did you have a fight?”

Rafael nods.

“Oh,” Lucia sighs, rubbing Rafael’s back. “That’s still no excuse to slam the front door like that, Papi.”

Rafael slowly turns around. “Sorry, Mom. I’m just…so mad!”

“Well, talk about it. Tell me what happened.”

“Sonny’s just acting so annoying lately! We were playing baseball in the backyard and he just…bugged me. And all the other kids were laughing when he was messing with me, even though I told him to stop it. And then I…”

Lucia urges him to go on.

Rafael continues, “I pushed him down. He was just bothering me so bad, Mami! I didn’t mean to hurt him—“

“I know you didn’t, Papi, but that doesn’t mean you get to be violent with other people. Especially people you love. Haven’t I told you a million times to use your words instead?”

“I did, Mami! He wouldn’t listen!”

“Rafi, you’re the older kid. You’re not a baby anymore. You need to solve these problems on your own without getting violent. What else could you have done?”

Rafael shrugs. “I don’t know. I kept asking him to stop, but he kept doing it because the other kids were laughing.”

“Do you think you should have just walked away calmly? Maybe talked to Sonny about it later?”

Rafael shrugs again. “Maybe I could’ve.”

“You can’t let your anger get to you like that. Sure, Sonny should listen to you. He should learn to stop when something is bothering other people, and we can talk to him and his parents later. But you shouldn’t have pushed him, either.”

Rafael nods.

“What would you like to do now?”

“Should I apologize for hurting him?”

“Probably.”

Rafael suddenly feels very upset and scared. “What if he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore because I hurt him on purpose?” he asks worriedly.

“I don’t think—“

Rafael’s heart starts racing quickly. “What if—Mami, you told me to never talk to people who hurt me on purpose, what if—“

“Ssshhh, Rafi, it’s okay. It’ll be okay. We will talk to Mr. and Mrs. Carisi, okay?”

Rafael nods, tears falling now. “Can I go over there right now?”

“Absolutely. Would you like me to go?”

“No, I can go on my own. I’ll talk to Sonny.”

Lucia kisses his head, then they walk out of the room and Rafael leaves the house.

Rafael smooths his hair down and wipes his eyes as he makes his way across the street. He sniffles, willing himself to stop crying.

He gets across the street and is about to go up the steps to Sonny’s front door when he gets the idea to give Sonny a gift as an apology. However, he has no gift handy. Rafael looks around for something, anything, then spots the roses growing in Mr. Holley’s garden next door. Mr. Holley is a grouchy old man who would be very upset if he found out Rafael took some flowers, but Rafael thinks it’s worth it. He sneaks into the yard, crawling to the bushes and picking three flowers. He pokes himself on two thorns, but he doesn’t get caught.

Rafael goes back to the Carisi’s door and rings the bell. He waits patiently for someone to answer.


 

Sonny watches Rafael from the ground as he stomps out of the back yard. He’s almost dazed, completely confused by what just happened. All he was doing was messing around with Rafael, trying to make him laugh, when Rafael pushed him to the ground.

The other boys standing around are laughing. Laughing at him. Laughing at him because he’s laying back on the ground looking like the little boy who used to cry playing baseball in the street a few years ago.

Sonny slowly stands, feeling sore and upset.

“I don’t wanna play anymore,” he tells the older boys.

“Aww, come on!” one of the boys says.

“Come on, Sonny, forget it. Let’s go to the park!”

Sonny does not feel good about anything that is happening. He doesn’t want to just go on and forget that Rafael just pushed him to the ground. He wants to go inside.

“I’ll meet up with you guys later,” he says, brushing grass off his bottom.

The boys make their way to the gate. They ask him to join them again, but Sonny just shuts the gate and goes inside the house.

Sonny notices his elbow is bleeding a little bit from when he landed on it, so he goes to the bathroom to get a bandage. He’s cleaning the scratch and struggling to apply the bandage when Theresa comes into the doorway.

She snorts. “What'd you do?”

“I fell,” Sonny grumbles.

“Really? ‘Cause I saw Rafi hand your ass to you outside.”

Sonny glares at his big sister. “Shut up.”

“What’d you do to him?”

Sonny shrugs. “Nothin’. I was just joking around and he pushed me.”

Theresa sighs. She takes the bandage from Sonny, throws it away, and lifts the little boy onto the sink so she has a better view of his arm.

“You’re so annoying,” she says, getting the ointment their mom usually applies to their cuts.

Sonny scowls.

Theresa laughs at the face he’s making.

“Was he laughing when you were joking with him?”

Sonny thinks about it and realize Rafael was not laughing.

“Did he tell you to stop?” Theresa asks.

Sonny slowly nods.

“Then you stop when people tell you to stop, you dork. Nobody likes to be pushed to the point of being that angry. Rafael was obviously very angry with you. I mean, that doesn’t mean he should get to push you, and when you’re older, if someone ever hurts you, you leave them immediately. But…you and Rafi fight all the time. I don’t know if you’re more like brothers or husbands.”

Theresa puts the bandage on his scratch.

“Would you have liked it if you were in Rafi’s position?”

“Like when you and Gina pick on me?”

Theresa laughs. “Yeah. Sure.”

“I don’t like that.”

“Exactly. No wonder Rafi wanted to kick your butt.”

Sonny frowns. “I should tell Rafi I’m sorry, huh?”

Theresa nods. “Probably.”

Sonny sighs. “Okay. I’ll go over there.”

Theresa moves away to let him hop off the countertop.

“Just be nice to Rafi, okay?” Theresa tells him as he exits the bathroom. “He’s too good a friend to you for you to be a little shit to him.”

Sonny nods. “Fine, fine, okay.”

Then, Theresa shoves him out of the doorway and shuts the door in his face.

Sonny runs down the stairs to go to Rafael’s when the doorbell rings. Confused, he opens the door and is shocked to see Rafael on the other side. He looks at Rafael’s red face, tear streaked face, and the matching triplet of red roses in his hands.

“Uh…”

“I’m sorry I pushed you,” Rafael blurts. “I shouldn’t have…I shouldn’t have pushed you. That was mean. I didn’t want to hurt you, and I know that hurting someone isn’t a solu—“

“Rafi,” Sonny stops him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been acting like such a dumbass.”

Rafael cracks a smile. “You weren’t acting like a dumbass.”

“Yeah, I was. The biggest dumbass.”

Rafael chuckles. “We should stop saying that before someone hears.”

Sonny smiles. He looks at the flowers again. “Are those for me?”

“Oh, yeah.” Rafael holds them up for Sonny. “Remember when your mom and dad got in that fight and your dad bought your mom roses? Well…I could only grab three.”

Sonny’s smile grows. “Did you steal these from Mr. Holley’s yard?”

Rafael nods.

Sonny takes them from him. “Thanks, Rafi.”

They stand in the doorway awkwardly for a moment as someone tries to think of something else to say. Sonny sniffs the soft flowers and hisses when he accidently touches a thorn.

“So…” Rafael mutters. “Do you—“

“Do you want to keep playing with me?”

“What? Of course I want to, Sonny. Nothing would make me stop wanting to play with you.”

“Oh, good. Wanna come play video games?”

Rafael eagerly nods. Sonny smiles and steps aside for Rafael to go into the house.

Sonny doesn’t get water for the roses, because he doesn’t realize he needs to. He sets the flowers on his dresser, where they live shriveled up and dead until the next time Rafael gets flowers for him, years and years later.

Chapter Text

“Mom!” Rafael yells, throwing his nicely folded shirts out of his dresser drawer.

Lucia does not answer.

“Mami!” he tries again.

He waits .2 seconds before sticking his head out the door and yelling again. “MAMI!”

“What?!” Lucia yells from her bedroom two doors down.

“I can’t find my shirt!”

Lucia comes stomping into his bedroom. “What shirt?” When she sees the mess on the floor, she tisks. “Papito, what in the world?”

“I can’t find my shirt! And we’re leaving in—“ Rafael checks his watch. “Ten minutes! Mami, help!”

“Rafael, relax. Why can’t you wear a different shirt?”

“Because this is important! Mami!”

“Alright, alright. Did you check in the closet?”

Rafael darts at his closet and throws the door open. He ruffles through his hanging shirts and finally finds the one he needs.

Rafael takes out the navy blue t-shirt and checks it to make sure it’s the right one.

On the front: ‘Riverdale’ printed in pristine white and a swipe on the bottom.

On the back: ‘CARISI 3’.

With a relieved sigh, Rafael strips off his sleep shirt and slips the clean one on.

Once he is completely dressed in khaki shorts, the special shirt, and one of Sonny’s old, used Yankee caps, Rafael makes his way downstairs.

“Please eat something before you go, Papi. At least a banana.”

Rafael is too excited to eat. He wants to run across the street to leave now, but Lucia made him promise not to go over until the Carisi’s are ready. They have a lot to pack and Rafael would just get in the way.

What they’re packing for is the weekend long baseball tournament Sonny’s travelling team is playing in this weekend. They’re going to Philadelphia, which is two hours away, but they’re spending the night because of the game times being late or early. Rafael was invited to go to an out of state tournament for the first time, and he is way too excited to wait patiently. He is most excited that Gina and Theresa aren’t going, so it’ll just be him and Sonny and Bella.

“Do you have everything?” Lucia asks.

“Yep.”

“Toothbrush? Underwear?”

Rafael rolls his eyes. “Yes, Mami.”

“Phone?” Rafael takes his phone out of his pocket. He’s barely put the thing down in weeks, it was a gift for his 13th birthday.

“Got it.”

“Aye, mi Papito,” Lucia says, squeezing Rafael’s chubby cheeks. “Leaving me for the whole weekend. What am I going to do?”

“Not base your entire life’s plans on your thirteen-year-old?” Rafael sarcastically says, his face still squished together.

Lucia rolls her eyes. She takes out a box of cereal and bowl and Rafael knows she’s about to feed him, but a horn honks outside. In seconds, there’s a knock at the door.

“Gotta go!” Rafael excitedly says, hopping off a stool in the kitchen.

“Te amo, Rafi,” Lucia says as Rafael opens the door.

Sonny giggles as soon as Rafael opens the door.

Rafael rolls his eyes. “Love you, Mami.”

“Call me!”

Rafael waves to her as he and Sonny walk to the car.

Sonny laughs and playfully shoves Rafael. “Love you, Mami,” he mimicks, making fun of Rafael.

Rafael pushes him back. “Shut up.”

They climb into the car and everyone greets him with a good morning.

Bella smiles at him sweetly. “Hi, Wa-fi,” she says, the same way Sonny used to when he was the same age.

Rafael just smiles back at her, then he notices Mr. and Mrs. Carisi exchange a funny look.

“Bella, leave him alone,” Sonny says, annoyed, the way he always acts when Bella is sweet to him.

Bella reaches across her brother to give Rafael a Cheerio. Sonny swats it out of her hand.

“Sonny, leave Bella alone,” Dominick Sr. tells him. “She just has a little crush on Rafi.”

Sonny rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. Rafael tries not to laugh.

He’s old enough to know what crushes are and to see that the same way Bella treats him is the way Sonny treats him sometimes. Sonny is just his best friend and Bella is four, so Rafael has no crushes at the moment. How the siblings fight over him is just funny.

Dominick Sr. and Deb tell the kids to take a nap before they get there, but Rafael can’t sleep, so he plays a game on his phone for the journey. Sonny falls asleep against his shoulder, and after a while he notices his head rest against Sonny’s. It’s comfortable. He’s always comfortable with Sonny.

They get to the game on time for Sonny to join his team for warm ups, but first he has to go to the bathroom. He and Rafael run through the parking lot to find the nearest bathroom, where Rafael holds his baseball backpack while he goes.

Sonny walks out a few minutes later. “Thanks, Rafi.” He takes the heavy bag from Rafael.

Rafael walks him to his team’s dugout. “Good luck,” he tells Sonny.

“Thanks, Rafi! Cheer for me loud!”

Rafael laughs. “Okay, I will.”

Rafael finds the Carisi’s and they find a spot in the stands, near Sonny’s dugout. They watch the team workout, first with throwing and then with a short batting practice. Rafael is familiar with the pre-game warm ups, and he watches Sonny intently the whole time, that way he can keep track of him, since they’re all wearing the same thing. He can spot him as the tall, lanky boy with the big ‘3’ on his back. When Sonny takes his hat off, Rafael recognizes the sandy blonde mop on his head. Rafael thinks he needs a haircut.

Before the game, they introduce the teams because it’s the first game of the tournament. They start with the benched players, then the starters, where Sonny is announced as batting fourth, which is called ‘cleanup’, and is the best spot in the batting lineup. He is also playing left field, which is an important position in these tournaments since most players on opposing teams hit it all the way to the outfield. Sonny plays that position because his arm is strong enough to throw it all the way from the outfield, that’s what Dominick Sr. says. Sonny is a great player.

Rafael doesn’t pay much attention to the teams until Sonny is about to be called.

“Batting fourth, playing left field, number three, Dominick Carisi Junior!”

Rafael watches Sonny hustle out of the dugout and slap hands with the players lined up on the base path who have already been announced. Then, Rafael looks at Dominick Sr. and Deb and feels just as much pride in Sonny as they look like they do.

The game in unentertaining at first. Sonny’s team gets a lot of hits and their pitcher gets a lot of strike outs, but the other team isn’t that great, so it gets boring. Sonny gets a great hit and knocks in a run, but other than that Rafael is bored.

Bella snaps him out of his daydreams.

“Mommy,” she says between Rafael and Deb. “I gotta pee.”

“I’ll take her!” Rafael offers, relieved to get up and walk.

“Are you sure, Rafi?”

Rafael nods, taking Bella’s hand.

“Here,” Dominick Sr. stops him, getting Rafael’s attention. “Do you mind going to the concession stand, Raf?”

“No, not at all.”

“Thanks, pal.” Dominick Sr. hands him ten dollars, then Rafael pulls Bella off the stands.

Rafael lets Bella go into the girls’ room by herself, so he waits outside and checks his phone.

“Hey,” Rafael hears in front of him. He looks up into the face of a much taller teenage girl with long, blonde hair.

“Why are you lurking outside the girls’ room?” she asks.

“I’m…not,” he shyly replies. “I’m waiting for someone.”

“Your mommy?”

Rafael glares at her. “No.”

She chuckles. “Who’re you here watching? Your brother?”

“No, just my friend.”

“Cool. Looks like he’s playing against my brother’s team.”

“That sucks,” Rafael says. He doesn’t mean to make a joke, it is just really unfortunate for the other team.

She laughs anyway. “I’m Maddie.”

“Rafael.”

Bella hops happily out of the bathroom right then. “Ready, Wa-fi? I want some Red Vines.”

“Yeah,” Rafael says to her. “Let’s go.” He takes hold of her wet hand and leads her away from the restroom.

“See you around, Wa-fi,” Maddie calls after them.

Rafael doesn’t reply back to her.

“Who’s that?” Bella asks.

Rafael shrugs. “I don’t know. She just started talking to me.”

“She was pretty. Do you think she was pretty?”

Rafael shrugs again. “I guess.” Sure, the girl was cute, but lots of people are cute. She doesn’t really stand out in Rafael’s mind, but he’s not going to explain that to a four-year-old.

“What about me, Wa-fi?”

Rafael smiles at little Bella. “Sure, Bells. You’re the prettiest.” They get to the concession stand window and Rafael lifts her. “So, what do you want?”

They get their snacks and return to the game by the final pitch. Unfortunately, since they won, they play again right after. Rafael gets to talk to Sonny for about five minutes between games.

“Did you see me, Rafi? Did you see my hit?”

“Yeah,” Rafael truthfully says, “It was awesome. Good job, Sonny.”

Dominick Sr. takes Sonny by the shoulders. “Okay, Son, come here, I want to show you something.”

Mr. Carisi leads him away from their group and they begin to talk between each other. Rafael feels left out, but it’s alright, because this is important to Sonny.

The second team Riverdale plays is way better than the first. Riverdale is winning in the top of the 6th, which means if they get three outs without the other team catching up, Riverdale wins.

When the bases are loaded and there are two outs, the biggest hitter on the opposing team comes up to bat. Rafael watches Sonny getting ready in left field, because chances are the ball is going to him.

“Come on, Son,” Dominick Sr. whispers to himself, but Rafael hears.

As expected, the ball does go to the outfield, and Sonny catches it easily. The game ends with Riverdale on top, so they move on to the next round of play. The other boys on Sonny’s team cheer and celebrate, but Sonny just accepts a few high-fives while gathering his stuff. Dominick Sr. always taught him to stay humble until the end, and the ten-year-old does that well.

Sonny walks up to them looking tired and ragged. He’s not even wearing shoes, he just took off his cleats and stuffed them into his backpack.

“Good job, baby,” Dominick Sr. greets him, taking his backpack and handing it to Deb. Mr. Carisi then takes Sonny in his arms and carries the tired boy to their car.

Sonny’s eyes are barely open when he looks at Rafael.

“Did you see me, Rafi?” he asks.

“Yeah, I saw you,” Rafael says, touching Sonny’s hanging hand softly.

Sonny falls asleep in the car, which means he’s refreshed by the time they get to the hotel. They beg Deb to swim for a little while before they go to dinner, and of course Deb lets them.

That night for bed, Sonny and Rafael get to share a bed while Dominick Sr. and Deb share with Bella. Sonny and Rafael snuggle up deep in their blankets and talk between each other while Deb bathes Bella and Dominick Sr. leaves to put gas in the car.

“Did you have fun today, Rafi?”

“Yeah, I did. You guys did really well.”

Sonny yawns. “I like when you come to my games and you wear my shirt. I don’t know why, it makes me feel happy.”

Rafael realizes that he likes that, too. He likes wearing Sonny’s name and number on his back. He feels proud when he does. “Yeah, I like that too.”

“How fast do you think I ran today? Like fifty miles per hour?”

Rafael laughs. “I doubt you ran as fast as a car drives.”

“’Kay, what about like thirty? Twenty?”

Rafael still laughs. “I don’t know, Sonny.”

Sonny yawns again. He stretches under the blankets and touches Rafael’s leg with his foot.

“Ow! Your feet are cold!”

Sonny chuckles. “These feet?” he touches Rafael with his feet again.

“Yes!” Rafael tries to roll away, but he’s trapped in the tight covers.

Sonny scoots further to Rafael’s side and chases him with his feet.

“Stop! Stop!” Rafael yells, kicking at him under the blankets.

Sonny laughs and laughs, and Rafael loves making him laugh, even though it’s his warmth in jeopardy.

Deb throws the door to the bathroom open. “Boys! We have neighbors!”

The boys apologize, but still laugh. Rafael climbs out of bed to get a clean pair of socks from his bag.

“Here,” he tosses them to Sonny.

Sonny pulls his feet over the covers and holds them up to Rafael.

“I’m not putting socks on you.”

“Come on, Rafi.” Sonny wiggles his toes.

Rafael pretends to reach for the socks, but instead dives at Sonny’s feet and tickles him until Sonny is screaming and squirming on the bed.

Deb throws the door open again. This time she’s holding Bella wrapped in a towel.

“Boys!” she cries.

Rafael stops immediately.

“Sorry,” they say in unison.

Rafael calms down and gets back on the bed. Sonny slips on his socks. Rafael settles onto his back and Sonny lays close to him.

“Can you play a game on your phone so I can watch?”

“Sure,” Rafael says, reaching for his phone. He plays Sonic Dash for five minutes before Sonny is fast asleep next to him.


 

Sonny’s team wins the tournament in two games the next day. The boys are presented with championship t-shirts and gold rings, which they get for every tournament they win. Sonny has three so far.

When the boys are released to their parents, Sonny runs to them and drops his bag before jumping into Dominick Sr.’s arms. Rafael watches happily as Dominick Sr. tells Sonny he’s proud of him.

When they stop for gas on their way out of Pennsylvania, Dominick Sr. asks Rafael if he’ll go into the store to help him gather snacks.

Once they’re inside and deep into an isle of junk food, Dominick Sr. turns to him.

“Hey, Rafi, I want to thank you.”

Rafael looks at him, confused. “For what?”

“For being so supportive of Sonny and helping him so much. For…y’know, letting him throw balls at you and racing around the bases with him. He wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care so much about his playing, I know that. He doesn’t care what I have to say most of the time. If you told him he sucked today, that would devastate him.”

“And that’s a…good thing?”

“Yes, absolutely! He looks up to you so much, he wants to make you proud.”

Something warm blooms in Rafael’s chest. It’s the same feeling he gets putting on his ‘CARISI 3’ shirt. It’s pride, joy. It’s caring for his best friend.

“Well, thanks,” Rafael says. “I’m glad to be here for him.”

Dominick Sr. smiles warmly at him. “So, what’d’ya think? Cheetos or Doritos?”

Rafael takes a bag of Cheetos off the rack for Sonny, then follows Mr. Carisi to the register.

Rafael is thankful he got this weekend with the family, and glad he got to experience a great memory with Sonny.

Chapter Text

Rafael has an anxiety attack every time he thinks about the upcoming school year. It is going to be the first time since before they met that he will be attending a different school than Sonny, and that is terrible to him. Rafael knows that he is too quiet, too unremarkable, and he doesn't think he can make a mark in high school.

He is almost fourteen, and even though he knew this day would come eventually, he did not prepare.

Rafael has never been without Sonny, at least not for the past seven years of their friendship. And sure, they were never in the same class and never even had the same recesses, but they were still together. They were still under the same roof. They still got to walk to and from school together.

But now Rafael will be all alone, and he doesn't know if he can handle it.

Every day leading up to the first day of school is agonizing. Rafael tries to spend as much time with Sonny as possible, playing baseball or video games or going to the park or a movie. All he wants is time with Sonny.

Another part of Rafael's anxiousness is inventing himself apart from Sonny. Everyone knows Rafael and Sonny, Sonny and Rafael, but he doesn't know how to just be Rafael. Who is Rafael? Around Sonny, Rafael is funny and charismatic and adventurous, but by himself? He doesn't even know.

He tries to freshen up his look. He tries graduating from t-shirts to polos, from ill fitting jeans to a more stylish cut like straight legged. He even tries combing his hair differently, with the usually flat front pushed up and combed over to look more mature.

All in all, he feels like he is trying too hard.

On the morning of his fourteenth birthday, Rafael wakes up feeling alone, even though he is on the Carisi's couch with Sonny's long, bony legs tangled with his. Sonny isn't even a teenager yet. He won't join Rafael in high school for years.

Rafael figures he better get used to the loneliness.



Sonny does not understand Rafael's doomsday feelings towards high school. He, as opposed to Rafael, is looking forward to nothing more than high school. He has high hopes of joining the varsity baseball team, he is excited to run track, and his freshman year will be spent with Rafael. They already have plans to take at least one elective class together.

Sonny also doesn't understand Rafael's negative feelings towards himself. He tries talking to his dad about Rafael's self-esteem issues.

"I don't get it Dad," Sonny says. "Rafael's the smartest, funniest, coolest person I know. He's so strong and brave and--"

"You don't understand, Sonny. He's like that because of you. And without you--"

"What? He'll make friends in no time, he--"

"Son, how many friends does Rafael have right now?"

"Well, he has..." Sonny trails off. He has one friend. And his one friend will be starting 6th grade.

"Exactly," Dominick Sr. says. "It's a lot harder for him to make friends. He's really stressed out."

Sonny looks at his dad seriously. "Could you talk to him, Dad? Could you tell him he's got nothing to worry about?"

"Why can't you?"

"Because I've been telling him forever that he's the best person ever, and he still doesn't believe me."

Dominick Sr. pats Sonny's shoulder. "I'll see what I can do."


 

Sonny invites Rafael to his baseball practice with the sole intention of leaving Dominick Sr. alone with him. As Sonny leaves them in the stands, he discreetly winks at Dominick Sr.

He and Rafael are quiet for more than half of the practice. Even though he knows what's bothering Rafael, it's the perfect entry to the conversation Sonny wants them to have.

"What's on your mind, Rafi?"

Rafael shrugs. "I don't know. School, that kind of stuff."

"Are you nervous about your classes?"

Rafael shakes his head. "Not really."

"What is it, then?"

Rafael shrugs again.

"Sonny?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Rafael shrugs a third time.

"You're going to miss him?"

"I mean...I know I'll see him after school and stuff, but--"

"But it'll be different."

"I don't know what I'm going to do without him. I'm not...like him. I don't ooze confidence."

Dominick Sr. watches his son parade around the outfield with the cockiest grin on his face, one that says he knows he's the best on the field.

"Here's what you're going to do," he tells Rafael. "You're going to ask yourself what Sonny would do. You're going to walk into the building like you own the damn place. You're going to lift your head high, you're going to stare down any naysayers, and you're going to have all the damn confidence in the world because you are Rafael Barba, and you are strong. You are going to tackle every problem head on, no fear, just like Sonny would. You're going to own the place in no time."

Dominick Sr. shocks even himself with the little speech. When he looks at Rafael, the boy is staring at him with wide green eyes. Dominick Sr. thinks he sees tears, but he doesn't say anything about them.

"Got it?" he asks.

"Yes, sir."


 

Rafael takes Dominick Sr.'s words to heart. He practices walking with a posture that says he doesn't want to be fucked with. He holds his head up high like he's got half the confidence Sonny has.

He perfects his look, finally deciding his hair does not look ridiculous and that he is not too chunky to pull off well fitted jeans. It helps that everyone, including Sonny, tells him he looks very handsome.

He reminds himself every day that he is Rafael Barba, damnit.

The first day of school rolls around and Rafael is ready. He decides to wear jeans and a plain pink polo shirt, because pink is a bold color and he looks great in it.

He waltzes downstairs and Lucia whistles when she sees him.

"Look at my beautiful baby boy," she says.

Rafael rolls his eyes but grins.

"What's gotten into you?" she asks, smiling ear to ear because of his new demeanor.

Rafael shrugs. "I'm just ready."


 

Before opening the doors to his new high school, Rafael pauses to take a deep breath. There's no turning back now, he must move forward. But he feels good, way better than he had for weeks leading up to this day, so he opens the doors and steps inside.

Rafael can't possibly hold his head any higher if he tries. He walks like he does own the place, despite sulking through the halls just a few weeks ago when his mom took him to register.

A few people turn their heads to watch him, and boy is that an ego boost. Quickly, he feels his self-esteem rise.

And then it all comes crashing down when someone trips him from behind and he falls to the hard ground.

With a groan, Rafael turns onto his back, looking up at T.J., their neighborhood's most notorious bully.

T.J. is laughing. "Watch where you're going, Wa-fi," he says, mocking four-year-old Sonny. "Hey, did your mommy pick out that shirt for you?"

What would Sonny do? Rafael asks himself.

The first thing Sonny would do is pick himself up, so Rafael gets off the floor.

The next thing Sonny would do is have a comeback.

"Fuck off, T.J."

Some kids around them gasp. T.J. glares at him.

"Excuse me?"

"Don't you have something better to do, like will your brain to shrink?"

"What the f--"

"How do you do that, by the way? Do you take stupid pills or do you just wake up deciding to be a moron?"

T.J.'s face scrunches to look like an angry pit bull and he looks like he's going to charge Rafael.

"Try it," Rafael dares, finding a courage he never knew existed. "I'd love to not have to see your ugly face in anywhere but detention for the rest of the semester."

T.J. looks as though he's picking apart Rafael's sentence, trying to figure out what he said, so Rafael steps passed him to go to class.

"Don't think too hard," he mutters to the bully. "You'll hurt yourself."

T.J. huffs, and Rafael just walks away laughing.

Right before first period begins, as Rafael is still shaking from nerves and coming down from the 'I can't believe I just did that' feeling, he takes his phone out to text Mr. Carisi.

"I just stood up to T.J., with words not my fist."

Dominick Sr.'s reply makes him the most happy. "I'm proud of you."

Rafael realizes maybe he can get through the year without Sonny.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sonny has been a moping mess for weeks. He tries to deny what’s brought on his terrible moods, but everyone else knows it’s because Rafael has made new friends who convinced him to join the winter play. Rafael auditioned, did amazing of course, and now he’s one of the stars of the play, which means he’s always busy. Every afternoon, he has cast meetings and rehearsals, but if he’s not there, he’s with friends going over lines and practicing. Sonny hates it.

He always thought it would be kind of cool for Rafael to have more friends, that way Sonny, as a twelve-year-old, would get to hang out with high school kids. But Rafael never invites him to hang out, Sonny doesn’t even know Rafael’s new friends, and Rafael never has time for him.

And it’s barely October. School has only been going for a few months, the play isn’t until late November, and Sonny knows Rafael will join the spring play next semester. Sonny hasn’t seen him in days. He doesn’t know how much more of this he can stand.

Sonny arrives at baseball practice on time to run a few laps before everyone arrives. He likes to get a small workout in because even though he’s so young, he’s aware of how staying in shape will help him in the long run. He’s slipping on his running shoes when he hears teenagers laughing from behind the dugout.

Annoyed, because Sonny is reminded of the teenagers taking Rafael away from him, he turns around to glare at them, only to be shocked to see Rafael right in the middle of the group.

Sonny brightens up, like the world suddenly clears and his mood disappears. Birds sing. Rainbows appear. Taking a breath is easier. Rafael is here. He looks taller, stronger, and happier; Rafael is smiling and laughing and Sonny is incredibly jealous. Rafael hasn’t smiled with him in weeks.

Sonny gets up and runs to the entry of the dugout, where Rafael can see him. “Rafi!” he yells. “Hey, Rafi!”

Rafael spots him immediately, his smile dropping. If Sonny didn’t know any better, he’d say Rafael looks guilty. He should feel guilty. He hasn’t made time for Sonny in weeks, too busy with the play, and here he is at the park with his buddies.

But at least he’s here.

Sonny runs over to talk to him. Rafael leaves his group to meet Sonny halfway.

“Hey, Rafi!” Sonny yells again, excited. “Did you come to watch my practice? You can wait for me and we can go home together and—“

“Actually, Sonny,” Rafael says, “We just came for a walk before heading to school for rehearsal.”

Sonny deflates. The birds stop singing. The rainbows disappear. It’s hard to breathe again.

“Oh,” he just sighs.

“I’m sorry,” Rafael almost whispers. He glances back at his friends.

“Come on, Rafi!” someone yells. A girl. Sonny glares at her.

“I’ll catch up!” Rafael calls back.

The group starts to walk away, so Rafael turns back to Sonny. He reaches slowly for Sonny’s hand, hooking his fingertip in Sonny’s.

It’s almost worth it, to Sonny. That little touch.

“I’ll call you, okay? This weekend.”

“Do you promise?” Sonny asks, realizing he sounds childish and that’s probably why Rafael doesn’t want to hang out with him anymore. Rafael probably wants to distance himself from a little kid. The thought makes Sonny stand up straighter, so he’s taller than Rafael.

“Yeah, I promise. I’m completely free. Let’s have a sleepover, we can watch movies all night.”

“Really?” Sonny asks.

“Yeah. I’ll call you, okay?”

Sonny nods.

Rafael looks around for his friends, finding them a distance away. “I have to go. See you later.”

Sonny doesn’t immediately let go of Rafael’s finger, so when he walks away, they’re still connected. Sonny almost doesn’t let go. Sonny almost begs Rafael to stay. But he does let Rafael go.

He watches Rafael jog to catch up with his friends, then he goes back to the dugout to run a few laps.


 

Rafael feels terrible about not spending more time with Sonny, he is just so much busier now. Between schoolwork, the play, his other school clubs, and spending time with his mom, Rafael’s schedule is always packed. He doesn’t mean to not spend time with Sonny, but there’s just no time.

He makes a vow to himself to see Sonny at least on the weekends. Rafael turns down plenty of plans with friends just to hang out with Sonny, and he realizes how much he’d missed Sonny. He missed watching his baseball games, doing homework together, they even start cooking together because they want to try every ridiculous recipe they see on the internet. They start to have fun together again.

By mid-November, with two weeks left until the play, all of Rafael’s time needs to be spent with the play. He apologized to Sonny over and over when he broke it to Sonny that he can’t hang out on the weekends until after the play.

“It’s alright,” Sonny had said, “It’s like if I was playin’ in the World Series. You wouldn’t expect me to hang out with you if I had to practice, right?”

“Exactly,” Rafael agreed.

Sonny calls Rafael a few days before the play to tell him they bought tickets for opening night, and a feeling of dread overcomes Rafael. What if he’s terrible? What if he sucks in the play? What if he forgets his lines? What if he is a huge disappointment?

But opening night arrives, and it’s too late for Rafael to back down. It’s too late for Rafael to change his mind.

The curtain opens and there’s nothing Rafael can do about his nerves, so he goes at it with all he can.


 

After the play, which turned out great, Rafael is invited to an opening night party hosted by a co-star’s parents. He tells everyone he’ll catch up, because he wants to see Sonny first.

Rafael can’t find them in the auditorium, so he goes outside and spots them immediately. Sonny runs up to him holding a bouquet of flowers.

“Rafi! You were amazing! These are for you!”

Sonny jumps into his arms, enveloping Rafael in a tight hug. Rafael happily hugs back. Mr. Carisi pats his back and Mrs. Carisi leans over Sonny to kiss him on the head.

“Thank you guys for coming,” Rafael says when Sonny finally lets him go. “Really, it means a lot.”

“Well, we dragged you to enough to Sonny’s games over the years,” Dominick Sr. says, “It was about time you did something we could watch.”

“Honey,” Deb warns.

“What? In a good way!”

Rafael laughs.

“We’re proud of you, Rafi,” Deb says. “Where is your mother?”

“Oh, she’s coming closing night.”

“Great! Well, do you need a ride home?” Deb asks.

“Uhm…actually—“

“We were going to stop for a late dinner,” Dominick Sr. adds. “Are you hungry?”

Rafael realizes he is hungry, and there probably won’t be real food at the party.

“You know what? I am. Sure.”

Sonny’s smile widens to take up his entire face, then the family begins to walk down the street towards their car.

The party can wait, if he even shows, because he’s with Sonny, and they’re happy.

Chapter Text

Rafael wasted no time going for his license on his 16th birthday. He was ready for the test, waited at the DMV, and passed on the first try. Of course he did.

He was an official driver, even though everyone pointed out that he wouldn't need to drive when he goes to Boston for college, where he hopes to go. But Rafael didn't care. He was 16.

Sonny, turning 13 in less than a month after Rafael turned 16, decided he needed to be a little bit more grown up, too. Rafael was may more mature than him practically over night. He is 16 and he can drive, not to mention he's about to start his junior year, his voice is getting more and more deep every day, and he's getting way more pretty. Sonny pretends not to notice, but it doesn't help that Deb is always telling Rafael how handsome he is getting every other day.

So one morning, Sonny wakes up and decides he does not want to be 'Sonny' anymore. It's childish, it's a kid's nickname, and he just needs to be more mature.

He goes down for breakfast and does not answer when anyone says his name.

"Uh...Son?" Dominick Sr. finally asks. "Could you answer us?"

"Daddy," Sonny replies, grimacing because of the baby nickname towards his dad. "Father. I don't want to be called Sonny anymore."

"Father?" Dominick Sr. asks, chuckling.

"What do you want to be called, baby?" Deb asks.

Sonny thinks about it, not really getting this far in his plan. He could be Dominick, but that would get confusing because his dad is Dominick. He doesn't really love his middle name, either. He thinks of his friends' names, what would compliment theirs, and he thinks of his friend A.J., who goes by his initials. Suddenly he finds the perfect new name.

"D.C."

Deb and Dominick Sr. glance at each other. "D.C.?" they ask in unison.

"Yeah, Dominick Carisi. D.C."

"Uh, okay, Son--D.C.," Dominick Sr. says. "What would you like for breakfast? Do you still like Fruit Loops?"

Sonny happily accepts a bowl before heading over to Rafael's house.

Rafael, of course, thinks Sonny's sudden name change is ridiculous.

"Why do you want to change it? Sonny is fine. Sonny is you."

Sonny shrugs, "I don't know. I just wanna be more mature, I guess."

"Okay, D.C. Or...Dumb Carrot."

Sonny looks at him offended, but he knows Rafael is joking.

"Dorky Child--"

Sonny's jaw drops in mock hurt.

"Doofus Crayon. Damn Crap."

Sonny kicks at him as Rafael laughs.

"Dorito Captain?"

"Hey, I kind of like that."

Rafael laughs again. "Okay. I still think you should be Sonny, though."



D.C. lasts a week before Sonny begins to hate it. It's just too weird, too different, and nobody can get used to it.

The next week, he finds an even better name.

"I'd like to be called Junior," he announces at breakfast that morning.

"Junior, huh?" Dominick Sr. says.

"We tried calling you Junior when you were first born," Deb explains, "But with everyone calling you 'Son', it just turned into 'Sonny'."

"So you already have practice with calling me Junior."

They agree to start calling him Junior, then Sonny goes to Rafael's house to tell him the news.

"Junior sounds better than D.C., at least."

"It's closer to Sonny."

"How?"

"Same amount of syllables."

Rafael laughs. "Okay, sure. Practically the same," he sarcastically says.



Junior lasts for two whole weeks. It even begins to get a shorter nickname where Rafael starts calling him 'June'. Sonny really likes that, and he doesn't really know why.

A few days before Sonny's birthday, he and Rafael take a walk to the nearest comic book store so Sonny can get the new Superman, then they go to the park to read under their favorite shady tree.

They're quiet for a long time, long enough for Sonny to finish the comic and go back to reread it.

Rafael is the first to break the silence.

"I miss Sonny," he says.

"I'm right here," Sonny replies, confused.

"No, you're Junior now."

"Well...what's the difference? I'm still the same person."

"No, Sonny was like...still a fun kid, you know?"

Sonny snorts. "That's it. Sonny was a kid."

Rafael shifts from his back to his side to look at Sonny.

"I don't understand why you're having a hard time with me growing up. It had to happen eventually. I'm three years older than you, Sonny. I always have been. Sure, now there's a more significant difference, but at least in a few days we'll both be teenagers."

"Yeah, but..." Sonny trails off.

"But?"

"I don't know. I just feel like you'll want me around longer or more if I was more like your older friends."

"Oh god, Sonny. Do you know how exhausting it is trying to be older all the time? Do you know how exhausting it is wanting to just sit around playing video games but instead everyone wants to talk or go for coffee or do something that we're expected to do because we're older? I don't like parties. I don't like constant activity. It's so easy with you because you expect nothing of me. I don't want you to be older, I want you to be that kid who I grew up with who wants to just sit around and read comic books. The kid who still secretly loves watching The Little Mermaid."

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with The Little Mermaid."

Rafael laughs. "I know. It's great. I'm not going to ditch you, Sonny. I know last school year was hard, but this year I'll know how to better manage my time. It'll be great."

Sonny takes it all in. Rafael likes him the way he is. Rafael likes spending time with him no matter what.

"You don't think I need to be more mature?" he asks, just to be sure.

"No, I don't. I think you should grow up at your own pace."

Sonny smiles. "Thanks, Rafi."

"You're welcome, Sonny."

So Sonny goes back to being Sonny, to everyone's delight. Deb and Dominick Sr. privately thank Rafael, because the whole theory was ridiculous.

Sonny is very happy with being Sonny again, especially if Rafael is happy with it, too.

Chapter Text

What Rafael is going to miss the most after high school is doing plays. Sure, he'll miss his friends, he'll miss Sonny, but they'll keep in touch. He can't exactly follow his plays on Instagram.

He joined the first semester play excitedly, and as expected, he made the lead. Usually Seniors get the leads, so this is his first time being the star.

Sonny is supportive of his club, especially since they're in the same school now. They take an art class together, which Sonny is great at and Rafael stinks at. They're also taking a P.E. class, because, even though only freshman need to take P.E., Rafael skipped it his freshman year. Sonny likes to laugh at him while they work out, but they have a lot of fun.

Rafael still hangs out with his new friends a lot, getting closer in particular with a boy named Kerry. If Sonny isn't around, Kerry is a nice substitute. He's not a replacement, because Rafael would rather have Sonny around above anyone else, but Kerry is nice. He's really cute, funny, and Rafael enjoys his company.

He spends a lot of time alone with Kerry, too. Since they're in more serious classes together like math and science, they do homework together more than a few times a week. They're science lab partners, which is great, and so far they've worked on two projects together.

Rafael realizes quickly that he's starting to develop feelings for Kerry. It's weird, because he's never really liked anybody before, but it feels nice. The joy he feels when Kerry is near, the excitement he gets when Kerry calls, it all makes Rafael feel good.

By Halloween, they spend more time together outside of school than Rafael does with Sonny. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want to hang out with Sonny, it's just that Kerry is more convincing of making plans.

"Do you want to go to the park tomorrow?" Kerry asks one afternoon. "To get out of the house and stop thinking about our science project?"

"Uhm," Rafael replies, "Actually, Sonny has a baseball game, so--"

"What's the point of going?" Kerry asks. "It's not like you'll be spending time with him."

Rafael frowns.

"Okay," Kerry concedes. "Can I go with you, then? To hang out? I like baseball."

Rafael smiles. "Sure, okay then."

Kerry smiles back at him warmly. His brown eyes shine.

Kerry is nothing like Sonny, not in appearance or personality. Kerry is short, like Rafael, shorter than Sonny, with black hair and dark brown eyes. Rafael really likes his eyes, because even though they're dark, they glow. His personality differs from Sonny mostly because Kerry is quieter, but more commanding, almost bossy. Sonny isn't bossy. Kerry is a senior captain of the track team, but Rafael doesn't know if Sonny will ever grow to be captain material.

Plus, Kerry is interested in the more 'sophisticated' things, as Kerry calls them, that Rafael is interested in. They both like theater, and musicals, and documentaries, and art, and poetry, and coffee, and they're both hoping to be accepted into an Ivy League school soon. Sonny, as a freshman, is only worried about making varsity baseball.

Rafael likes him. Kerry is fun to spend time with.

Kerry doesn't like hanging out with Sonny, which bothered Rafael at first but soon he gets over. It's not a bother to keep his friends separate, but he does begin to spend more time with Kerry. That doesn't mean he doesn't talk about Sonny.

Talking about musicals, Rafael is able to bring up Sonny's love for The Little Mermaid.

Talking about museum exhibits, Rafael is able to talk about his and Sonny's frequent visits to the Natural History Museum as kids.

Talking about coffee, Rafael is able to talk about how Sonny hates coffee, but he makes the funniest face when Rafael convinces him to taste it.

Kerry cracks eventually.

"Can you stop talking about Sonny for, like, thirty seconds, please?"

Rafael frowns deeply. "Oh, I--"

"It's just constant. I mean, I have other friends too, but I'm not obsessed with them like you are to Sonny."

Rafael furrows his eyebrows. "I'm not--"

"I mean, it's fine. It's fine, I'm sorry, it's just...frustrating."

Rafael looks at him. "Why?"

Kerry sighs. "Listen, Rafael, I don't want to freak you out or anything," Kerry says, "But I...really like you."

Rafael freezes out of shock. Nobody's ever liked him before. And Rafael likes Kerry, too. He's cute, he's sweet, he's funny.

"Is that...okay?" Kerry asks.

"Yeah," Rafael replies, "I like you too."

Kerry smiles and reaches for Rafael's hand. Rafael's breath catches when Kerry grabs it and laces his fingers with Rafael's.

"Do you want to go out with me?" Kerry asks.

Rafael's heart flutters. "Sure," he says casually.

Kerry smiles, then leans over and kisses his cheek. Rafael heats up, still smiling, and he really likes it.

 

Chapter Text

 

At first, Sonny liked that he got to hang out with Rafael and a few of his new friends. Rafael had taken the time to introduce all of them before the play started, then they hung out a little bit, then they stopped because of the play. The play didn't bother Sonny, because he had his own stuff now, and Rafael still made time for him after rehearsals and on weekends.

Why really, truly bothered Sonny to no end was Rafael's friend Kerry. As a person, Sonny hated the boy. He was obnoxious, cocky, rude, bossy, not to mention Sonny wanted to smack the loving gaze towards Rafael off his stupid face. Sonny hated him.

Sonny wasn't stupid, he knew there was something going on between them. Whether it was serious or just flirtatious, it bugged Sonny that someone was out there looking at Rafael like he is the greatest thing on earth.

That's Sonny's job.

At first, he hung out with Rafael and Kerry, and it was alright. He didn't like Kerry, but at the beginning he wanted to get on Kerry's good side because he is a senior captain on the track team.

But suddenly, Rafael stopped inviting him to hang out with Kerry. It was fine, of course, because he didn't like Kerry in the first place, but it was weird. If Rafael was in the hall with Kerry, he'd hardly greet Sonny. Rafael would talk to him in class like nothing was wrong, but it was still annoying.

By December, it is clear and obvious that that Rafael and Kerry are dating. What Sonny hates the most about it is that Rafael doesn't even tell him, he has to find out through the grape vine at fall baseball workouts. And of course, it turned into teasing Sonny in the locker room.

"Hey," one guy Stuart on the team says, "I didn't know your friend Rafael was a fag. Does that mean you're one, too?"

Sonny glares at him. "Shut the fuck up, Stuart. Why do you always have to be such a dirtbag?"

Another guy, Jesse, joins in. "Oh, oh! He didn't deny it. Cover yourself, gents, we got a perv."

Sonny fumes. "Shut up, guys. Leave me alone."

It doesn't bother Sonny that they're accusing him of being same-sex oriented, because that's not offensive and who cares if he is or not? What's bothering Sonny is the language they're using and that they obviously think gay men are perverts. They're not. He's not. Rafael's not. Kerry, even though he hates Kerry, is not.

Sonny leaves the locker room with all the guys laughing at him, but Sonny doesn't care. Their opinions don't matter.

Sonny does have one friend he can turn to, one friend who is not on the baseball team, not a dirtbag teenage boy, and not going to assume he's trying to date her. Her name is Lex; she's a sophomore who was placed as his science lab partner on the first day of school and they've grown closer ever since. She has blue hair and a lip ring, she's on the track team and likes The X-Files, and Sonny thinks she's pretty much the coolest person in the world, besides Rafael. And his own mother, of course.

Lex is very straightforward and blunt, which is just what Sonny needs sometimes. So when he walks into science, tossing his bag on their shared desk and sighing deeply, she asks what his problem is.

Sonny turns to her. "Will you go to the winter dance with me?"

Lex side eyes him. "Sonny, my sweet, you...you know I'm gay, right?"

"No, I know, it's just--"

"Is this about Rafael and that dude?"

Sonny rolls his eyes. "Don't mention them to me, please."

Lex laughs. "Okay, so you want a date to the dance? Why? To make Rafael jealous?"

Sonny shakes his head. "No, I just wanna...know."

"Know?"

Their teacher walks in and immediately quiets the class, so Sonny can't explain what he means. What he wants to know is how he feels towards boys, towards girls, towards anyone who he could possibly have feelings for. And maybe he doesn't have any feelings towards anybody. Maybe it really is just bothering him that Rafael is ignoring him. Rafael is his best friend. Sonny hasn't seen him much lately.

As soon as class lets out, Sonny takes off out of the room and Lex trots to catch up with him.

"Hey, wait!" Lex calls when he zooms quicker down a different hall because he sees Rafael and Kerry approaching.

"You owe me an explanation!" Lex yells again.

Sonny ducks into the empty music room. When Lex passes, he grabs her arm and yanks her in.

"Okay, what?!" she demands.

"I want to know what I like! Who I like! What I want! How did...how did you know?"

"Know, what?" she asks, even though she clearly knows what he's insinuating.

"Y'know, that...you're...y'know--"

"Babe, if you can't even say it--"

"Gay, okay? A lesbian. How did you know? When did you know?"

"Okay, first of all, just because you might not have known at age eight like I did, that doesn't mean you aren't, okay? Everyone is different. I know people who didn't figure it out until late into adulthood. Like, it's okay. Okay?"

Sonny nods.

"I knew when I was little. I had crushes on girls. That's just...that's it. I've always had crushes on girls. Have you ever even had a crush?"

Sonny shrugs. Maybe. On Rafael. When he was little. But who knows? What does that even mean?

"Okay, well, asking a girl or guy out isn't going to tell you over night, and I definitely do not want you jumping into something for the sake of figuring out your sexuality. It's not a big deal, dude. Fuck what the dudes on the baseball team say to you. Whatever you may be is not shameful, okay?"

Sonny nods, calming a bit. He takes a deep breath.

"Really, sweetie, it's nothing to freak out over. Just...go with the flow. Is there anyone you might want to ask to the dance?"

Sonny shakes his head.

"Okay, then I will go with you. Only because Anne hasn't asked me yet."

"If she does," Sonny says, "You can ditch me, I won't mind. I know how much you like her."

"It's cool. I'd love to go with you. I have a dress already. It's blue."

Sonny smiles, excited.

Since the dance is the following weekend, Sonny goes home that afternoon and asks his parents to help him with clothes.

"Hey, I have a date to the winter dance!" Sonny announces as he enters the kitchen where his parents are chopping vegetables for dinner.

"Yay!" Deb cries. "Who's the lucky one?"

"Lex," Sonny happily says.

"Lex?" Dominick Sr. questions. "Isn't she..."

"A sophomore? Yeah."

Dominick Sr. slowly nods. "You're...right, that's exactly what I was going to ask." Deb smacks his arm.

"Anyway," Sonny says, "I was wondering if you could help me with what to wear. Her dress is blue. I'd like to wear all black. What do you think?"

Deb tells him he should wear the nice suit he wore for Theresa's wedding. They'll get him a black shirt and a blue tie, and Deb says she'll order Lex a corsage.

Sonny is very excited. He'll look great in his tuxedo, Lex will look beautiful in her dress, and they'll have a great time.



The dance arrives and Dominick Sr. drives Sonny to pick Lex up before dropping them off. Lex doesn't mind being dropped off by Sonny's dad; neither of them can drive anyway.

They dance and party and have fun for a good two hours before Sonny's night comes crashing down because Rafael and Kerry walk in. Sonny's heart sinks, and Lex notices.

"Hey, let's get some punch," she offers, dragging him far away from where Rafael and Kerry begin to dance.

The couple doesn't even look like they wanted to come to the dance, they're not dressed nicely like everyone else is. They look like they wanted to crash it to make some sort of proud, gay statement, and Sonny knows that's all Kerry and none of Rafael's idea. Rafael would be content attending the dance quietly and joining the crowd, not dancing obviously out of the crowd where everyone will see them. Rafael looks shy, embarrassed of everyone looking at them, and Kerry looks cocky as hell.

Sonny wants to smack him for making Rafael feel that way.

"Wanna get out of here?" Lex asks.

"No, I'm cool."

"You're squeezing the life out of your punch cup."

Sonny looks down where the plastic cup is close to cracking in his fingers. "I just need to...cool down, or something. Let's go outside."

Lex takes Sonny's hand to let him squeeze, and he does, feeling better already. They get outside and Sonny leans against the wall. Lex rubs her arms to warm herself, because it's the middle of December and she didn't grab her coat. Sonny takes off his suit jacket and drapes it over her shoulders.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Lex asks after a silent while.

Sonny shrugs. "I just...hate that guy."

"I know. But why?"

"He's such an ass, making Rafael come when he clearly doesn't want to be here. That's fucked up."

Lex nods. "Yeah. Anything else?"

Sonny shrugs again. "I just haven't seen Rafael in so long. It's hard, and I know this is how it'll be, like, forever now, with him going to college. But I didn't think I'd have to lose him while he still lives right across the street."

"I understand," Lex says. "I'm sorry, Sonny."

"Eh, it's not your fault. I appreciate that, though."

Lex smiles sympathetically.

Sonny stands up straight and steps over to Lex. "Hey, thanks for comin' with me. I've had a lot of fun."

Lex smiles and takes Sonny in a tight hug. "Me too, babe."
 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sonny watches from his front living room window as Rafael and Kerry approach Rafael's front steps.

Fuming, angry and even more frustrated that he can't pinpoint exactly why, Sonny doesn't hear Gina come up behind him.

He jumps when she speaks. "Would you quit spying on Rafael, you creep?"

Sonny turns to her to avoid seeing Rafael and Kerry kiss, because that makes him mad to no end.

"I'm not spying."

"You're watching them from your window, you're spying. Why don't you just tell Rafael you love him and get it out there?"

Sonny stares at her. "What?"

"Come on, bro, you're in love with Rafael. It's okay, you always have been."

"Wh--" Sonny shakes his head. "What are you talking about?"

Gina looks at him like he's stupid. "Really? You have always been in love with Rafael, ever since you were a little kid. You used to tell me you were going to marry him, that Rafael was your Prince Eric. You would kiss his hands if he fell asleep on the couch, for god's sake. You've always been a creep."

Sonny is stunned by everything she's telling him. Okay, maybe recently, he's had a little thing for Rafael, but he never realized what he felt in his heart had been there the whole time. All the happy feelings he's gotten when Rafael is near, all the electric, innocent touches, all the joy he's had with Rafael over the years, all the confused feelings towards Rafael's very pretty face. It all makes sudden sense.

He loves Rafael.

"Holy fuck," Sonny sighs.

Gina cracks up. "You are such a dork, Son. So what are you going to do now?"

"I have to go tell him!"

Sonny stands from the couch.

"As he's making out with his boyfriend on the front steps? Yeah, might be a bad idea."

"Well...I don't know! What should I do?"

"Play it cool. Wait for them to slow down and then when Rafael least expects it, BAM!"

Sonny jumps. "I...attack?"

"Grand gesture, man! Flowers! Candy! Music! Romance! He'll love it."

Sonny is extremely skeptical. Grand gesture? Waiting it out? All of it seems pretty terrible. What if Rafael and Kerry just fall in love while Sonny stands in the corner watching? That sounds awful.

Sonny decides he needs a second opinion, and he wants one immediately, so he goes to the only other person in the house: eight-year-old Bella.

She's playing school with her dolls in her bedroom, so Sonny enters and sits quietly behind the "class", waiting for Bella to dismiss them to recess. Finally, about five minutes later, she lets the dolls go, then focuses on Sonny.

"Bells," he says, "Listen, I have a problem and I was hoping you could help me."

"Hold that thought," Bella says, holding up one finger to quiet him while she goes to her desk to take a sip of juice. When she returns to Sonny, she sits on the floor across from him. "Okay, shoot."

Sonny takes a deep breath. "Okay, so, I really like someone. How should I tell...them?"

"Is it a girl or a boy?"

"Does it matter?"

Bella shrugs. "No, it doesn't. I was just wonderin' who it is. Do I know them?"

"Y-yes..."

"It's Rafi!"

Sonny's jaw drops. "Wha--how--"

"Duh, you have total heart eyes for Rafi."

Sonny rolls his eyes. "You spend too much time with Gina and her friends."

Bella ignores that. "Okay, so you wanna know how to get Rafi?"

"Sure," Sonny agrees, feeling a little bit self-conscious. This is the first time he's talked about his very obvious feelings towards Rafael. But it's like something that's been weighing on his brain forever and is finally out in the open.

"Well," Bella starts, getting up from the floor and wandering over to her bookshelf. "Remember last year when Jack liked me?" Jack is a little boy from down the street who was in Bella's class last year.

"Yeah," Sonny says, fearing he's about to get dating advice from a second grade boy's playbook.

"So, for Valentine's Day, he got me this book and wrote a little message in it about why he liked me."

Bella hands Sonny the book, Henry In Love. It's a book Sonny has read with Bella a million times, because for about a month after Jack gave it to her, she couldn't go more than an hour without reading it. The pages are worn, bent obscurely from going everywhere with her for a while.

"That is sweet," Sonny says. "You think Rafi would like a book?"

"Of course. Rafi loves books."

Sonny smiles at his little sister. "Thanks, Bells."

"Now, you have to leave. It's time to bring the kids in from recess."

Laughing, Sonny leaves Bella's room.



Sonny unhappily watches Rafael and Kerry from his window every afternoon when they get home from school. He's annoyed for many reasons:

First, their disgusting kisses. He doesn't need to feel the jealousy that arrives when he sees Rafael so close to Kerry.

Second, the fact that Sonny and Rafael have had plans for years to be able to walk home together once Sonny got to high school. They've barely walked home together a handful of times since school started.

And third, like floodgates, as soon as Sonny opened up and accepted his strong feelings towards Rafael, they came pouring in unstoppable. They were hard to ignore. He thinks about Rafael almost constantly, he gets nervous when Rafael is around, the little bit he's been around Sonny lately, and his heart just about breaks every day.

Still unable to think of a plan to tell Rafael how he feels, Sonny barricades himself in his bedroom and doesn't leave except for meals and the bathroom. He even stops going to the track to get ready for running. He hasn't been to the batting cages in weeks.

One afternoon, he lays on his bed tossing a football above his head when there's a knock at the door.

"Yeah?" he calls.

Theresa pokes her head in. "Can I come in?"

Sonny nods and sits up to scoot back against the headboard, making room for Theresa to sit.

"So," she starts, "I heard you finally realized you're in love with Rafael."

Sonny sighs, covering his face in frustration. "Gina?" he questions.

"No, actually, Bella told me you went to her for advice and, gotta be honest, as the most experienced with relationships--"

"Failed relationships--"

Theresa swats his leg. "Hey, I'm the one married, aren't I? And I'm trying here. Anyway, you want my advice?"

Sonny shrugs. "Sure."

"You've gotta plant yourself right in the middle of Rafael's brain."

Sonny squints at her, confused. "Huh?"

"Start hanging out with him again! Talk to him! Call him! Make plans with him! Don't be annoying, but remind him of what he's missing. Like...go work out in the front yard shirtless or something."

Sonny grimaces. "Ew."

Theresa laughs. "Come on. What I mean is, make him pay attention to you. Remind him that this Kyle...Kevin...Keith?"

"Kerry," Sonny says, rolling his eyes.

"Right. Remind him that this kid isn't the only man in his life. Make him see."

Sonny just nods.

Theresa pats his knee and gets up from his bed. "Geez, thank god you realized it, though. I was about this close to telling you myself, but Mom made me promise to let you live your own life."

"Jesus, Mom knows?"

Theresa gets to the door and pauses to look back at him. "Sonny, everyone knows."

With a groan, Sonny falls sideways onto his bed and buries his face in the pillow.



Sonny does try to go on with Theresa's advice, but when he calls Rafael later that evening, Rafael is too busy with homework to talk to him. He doesn't ask if Kerry is there, or if Rafael is lying, he just hangs up and mopes. Rafael is always too busy for Sonny, worse than the first time Rafael joined the school play. This is their last school year together, it was supposed to be great. Sonny is hurt deeply by everything happening.

A few days later, Dominick Sr. drags him out of the house to go to the batting cages. They set up the pitching machine and Sonny gets in the box, taking a few cuts and completely missing each ball before Dominick Sr. tells him to switch to the left side of the plate.

Unable to focus, unable to really think about anything other than how much agony his heart is in, Sonny can't hit a ball to save his life.

"Watch the ball, Son," Dominick Sr. calmly says.

Sonny tries, but he still misses.

"Throw your hands," Dominick Sr. commands.

Sonny tightens his grip on the bat and swings at the next pitch, and the ball hits the side net too close to him, which means in a game it would have been a foul ball.

"Late swing," Dominick Sr. comments.

Frustrated now, Sonny swings harder and misses again, because the harder the swings, the more he's just chopping at it and not swinging evenly.

Dominick Sr. sighs from outside the net and turns off the machine.

"What the hell, Sonny?"

Sonny slumps and takes off his helmet, swiping his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

"I just don't feel good," Sonny claims.

Dominick Sr. waves him out of the cage, then nods for Sonny to follow him to a nearby bench. Sonny takes off his batting gloves and tosses them into his backpack before following Dominick Sr.

"What's on your mind?" his dad asks once he's sitting.

Sonny shrugs. "Nothin'."

"Are you sick? Do you need to go to a doctor?"

Sonny shakes his head.

"Well, what is it? School? Baseball? Track?"

Sonny shakes his head again and distractedly picks at a fingernail.

"Come on, Son, what is it?"

Dominick Sr. sounds so compassionate, so caring, that Sonny is suddenly overwhelmed with so much emotion that he begins to cry. It was long overdue after weeks and weeks of complete agony and only pushing the mixed feelings of losing his best friend and unrequited love down deep inside himself. He cries, tears mixed with sweat on his face, with Dominick Sr.'s big arms around his shoulders.

"It's alright, Son," Dominick Sr. soothingly mumbles into Sonny's sweaty hair. "Let it out, it's okay."

Minutes later, Sonny calms, feeling relieved of his pent up emotions. He takes deep breaths and sits up, wiping his eyes and noting wet patches on Dominick Sr.'s shirt.

"Sonny, whatever it is you're feeling, whatever it is that's bothering you so badly, you can't keep it in like that. It's not healthy. There are plenty of people to talk to. Me, your Mom, 'Rese, Rafi--"

Sonny frowns deeply and tears well up in his eyes again.

"Oh," Dominick Sr. sighs. "Rafi is what's bothering you, isn't he?"

Sonny slowly nods.

Dominick Sr. rubs the back of Sonny's neck. "Ah, Son. We knew this would happen eventually, didn't we? Rafi dating someone? It was bound to happen."

"But why--" Sonny sniffles.

"Why, what?"

Gentle tears fall down Sonny's cheeks. "Why couldn't he pick me?"

Dominick Sr. pulls Sonny to his chest again. "I'm sorry," he whispers into Sonny's hair. "I'm sorry you're hurting like this, Son. I know this sucks, but it won't hurt forever."

"When will it stop?" Sonny asks.

"I don't know. Things like this takes time. You can't let it control you, though. Let out your emotions, keep them balanced so they don't eat at you. Start focusing on everything else. You have a track meet over break, and you have to keep practicing baseball if you want to make varsity. You still want all that, right?"

Sonny nods.

"Then we'll work. We'll keep your mind off it."

Sonny sits up again, wiping his eyes on the inside of his shirt.

"Do you feel any better?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Sonny nods.

"Good. Do you want to get back in the cage or go home?"

"I wanna hit some more."

"Atta boy," Dominick Sr. pats Sonny's back.

Sonny takes a second to compose himself, then grabs his gloves and gets back in the cage. This time, feeling much more settled after letting his emotions out, he is able to focus on the ball to hit a few good ones. He feels proud of himself once again.

Chapter Text

Rafael really does like going out with Kerry. Kerry is polite to Lucia, which is of course the most important thing to Rafael; Kerry was supportive during the play, and he is supportive of Rafael's Harvard hopes.

But sometimes Kerry is just weird, and Rafael doesn't always know how to handle it.

Before they started going out, Rafael thought Kerry was weird when it came to Sonny, but at the time he just thought Kerry was jealous because he liked Rafael. Now, as they've been going out for a few months, Kerry is still weird towards Sonny, and it's caused Rafael to push Sonny away.

Kerry was weird about the winter dance situation, where Rafael didn't really want to go but Kerry said it would be a fun statement to make. Rafael didn't understand, he didn't need to make a statement, but they went anyway.

And now Kerry is weird towards their winter break plans. It's the day before the last day before break, and they're at Rafael's house making plans.

"We'll have this whole week before Christmas," Kerry explains, "Then Christmas, then--"

"Wait, no," Rafael says. "On Christmas Eve I have to go to my Abuela's, and I'm spending the night there until Christmas night."

Kerry huffs. "That's not really fair to me, is it? I won't see you at all on Christmas, then I'm leaving the next day until the night before school starts again."

Rafael frowns. "It's not really about you, it's not like I'm trying to avoid you. That's what I do every year. It's nonnegotiable." It's the same thing he's done every year. He goes to his Abuela's house, they go to mass at midnight, he spends the night with her, then they open presents in the morning. Sonny never had a problem with it, even though he wanted to see Rafael on Christmas, too.

Sonny was never his boyfriend, though.

Kerry crosses his arms. "I just want to see you on Christmas."

Rafael frowns. "Well...I'm sorry--"

Kerry reaches for his hand. "No, I'm sorry," he says, suddenly sweet. "I do just want to see you on Christmas. I'll miss you."

Kerry leans over and kisses Rafael soundly on the lips, but Rafael is annoyed. Kerry's moods turn angry to sweet and apologetic almost instantly. It's strange. Rafael's never known anyone like that. He doesn't want Kerry getting upset with him, then kissing him the next.

Kerry kisses him for a while, and Rafael just lets him. As expected, soon Kerry pulls away to leave.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Kerry says when Rafael walks him to the door.

"Yeah, see you."

Kerry kisses him one last time, then exits the house and walks down the street.

Rafael watches from the door, then he glances habitually across the street at Sonny's house. He's shocked to immediately lock eyes with Sonny, who is getting out of Dominick Sr.'s car.

Excited, because he hasn't seen Sonny in what seems like forever, Rafael calls to him before running across the street. Sonny pauses from following Dominick Sr. inside. He drops his baseball backpack and crosses his arms.

"What's up, Rafi?" Sonny asks.

"Nothing, I just haven't talked to you in a while. I just wanted to say hi."

"Hi," Sonny replies.

Rafael sighs. "Look, I know you're upset--"

"Do you?"

"I mean...yeah."

"What am I upset about then?"

Rafael runs a hand through his hair. "I know I haven't been spending much time with you--"

Sonny snorts, looking down at his shoes.

"Okay, any time."

"Rafi, we have two classes together and I still feel like I haven't seen you."

"I know, and I'm sorry. I miss you, Sonny."

Sonny looks up at him. "Really?"

"Yes, of course. Listen, over break, I want to get together. Just you and I. We can do whatever you want."

Sonny grins with a gleam in his eye. "Anything?"

"Oh god, no."

Sonny's smile widens. "You said anything! We're going ice skating!"

Rafael groans. "Do you remember what happened the last time we went? And the time before that? And the time before that?!"

Rafael falls on his butt every time they go ice skating. He isn't sure his tail bone has ever healed.

Sonny laughs. "Okay, I won't make you go ice skating. Maybe. As long as you stop being such a butthead to me."

Rafael smiles back at him, happy to see Sonny laughing again. His spat with Kerry is forgotten. "Of course I'll stop. Really, I am sorry, Sonny."

Sonny remains smiling. "Hey, what are you doing right now?" he asks. "I gotta grab a shower, but you want to join us for dinner? Bella wanted homemade pizza, so I'm gonna help my dad with that if you want to, too."

Rafael nods. "Sure, I'd love to."

Sonny beams. "Great."

Rafael runs across the street to tell his mom, but he leaves his phone and doesn't realize it.

He spends all night at Sonny's house. After dinner, they watch a movie as a family, and Rafael feels at home once again. He can't wait to get reacquainted with Sonny over break.

When Rafael finally gets home around ten and is able to check his phone, he has a dozen texts from Kerry and a few missed calls. Rafael rolls his eyes and calls him back.

"Rafael!" Kerry answers. "Oh my god, where have you been? Are you okay?"

Kerry sounds so concerned, and for a second Rafael feels bad for worrying him.

"I'm okay, I just forgot my phone."

"Forgot it? Forgot it where?"

"At home. I had dinner at Sonny's--"

"Sonny's?!" In an instant, Rafael no longer feels guilty. "Why the hell did you have dinner at Sonny's?!"

"Because he invited me to--"

"Oh, so you're talking to him again? I thought you were over that."

"Over what? My friendship with my best friend?"

"I thought I was your best friend. I thought you didn't need him anymore. I guess I was wrong about it all."

"Wh--" is all Rafael gets out before the line goes dead.

Kerry hung up on him, and now his amazing night with the Carisi's has been ruined. Oh well, is what Rafael thinks. Kerry will get over it. Or he won't.



The next morning, as expected, Kerry apologizes as soon as they see each other in first period. Rafael thanks him for the apology, but doesn't quite forgive him, because he's getting very tired of this. He had missed Sonny, and last night he was reminded of what he's been missing. He would rather have Sonny's friendship than a jealous boyfriend.

But break is coming up, and maybe that'll give Rafael and Kerry a chance to cool down. He does want it to get better. He just wishes Kerry would warm up to Sonny.


 

The first week of break, Rafael spends half the time with Kerry and half with Sonny. On the days he's with Kerry, they're at either of their houses, watching TV and occasionally making out. Essentially, doing nothing.

But on his days with Sonny, the go outside to play in the snow, they take walks, they go to movies, they take Bella to her swim lessons (indoor) and get to swim themselves, and he has way more fun.

Spending time with Sonny, Rafael lies to Kerry and tells him he has to go to his Abuela's house. It's the only way Kerry won't freak out.

But by the end of the first week of break, Rafael feels so tired of keeping the information from Kerry. He realizes how truly ridiculous it is that Kerry isn't letting him have his best friend. What does Kerry expect? That Rafael will dump him for Sonny? That's not an option. Sure, maybe Rafael wouldn't mind dating Sonny. Sonny knows him the most, he trusts Sonny the most, Sonny cares for him. He actually likes Sonny, and it's deeper than just having some interests in common. It goes beyond the thrill of someone confessing their feelings towards him first.

And sure, Rafael's noticed how much more handsome Sonny has gotten, and of course he notices all the push-ups he can do during gym class. And yes, Sonny has the best set of plush lips in the entire high school, and he's got the most gorgeous eyes, and his skin glows beautifully, and--

Rafael bolts upright in bed thinking about it on the morning on Christmas Eve.

"Shit," he mumbles to himself. "I love Sonny."

The realization comes as more of a shock than Rafael would have thought. Sonny has always been there, an option in the back of his mind, a silent thought he's kept from even himself. But now it's there, in his mind, and it suddenly kills him that Sonny will probably never feel the same way. Maybe Sonny used to have a little crush on him, friendly admiration more than anything, just like Bella did when she was little, but Sonny has grown up. He probably won't ever want Rafael. Rafael is just his best friend. They're practically brothers.

Rafael mopes into the kitchen and sits heavily on at the island. He rests his chin in his hands.

"What's the matter, Rafi?" Lucia asks, slowly mixing a batter that Rafael assumes is for one of the many dishes she is taking to Abuela's house for Christmas meal. "Are you sick?"

"No, Mami, I'm not sick."

"Well, what is it?"

"Mami, I..." Rafael takes a deep breath. "I love Sonny."

"Well, sure," Lucia casually says.

"What do you mean, 'well sure.'?"

"You've always loved Sonny."

"Mami, no. I love Sonny. As in, I'm in love with him."

"Yes, Rafi, and I already said you always have."

Rafael looks at her, confused. "What do you mean I always have?"

Lucia sets down the whisk. "What are you questioning? Papi, when you were nine, you told me you were going to marry Sonny so you could have bunk beds and eat pizza every night."

Rafael's head falls onto the island. He groans loudly. How did he miss this? Why couldn't this realization have come earlier? So much wasted time. He's still trying to earn Sonny's trust back after ditching him for so long.

And he still has a boyfriend. A very annoying boyfriend; a boyfriend who he has feelings for that don't even compare to what he feels for Sonny, what's he's always felt for Sonny. He really loves Sonny.

Rafael is ready to walk to Kerry's to break up with him. He at least owes the other boy a face to face breakup. And he's prepared to breakup because even though he may never be with Sonny, he's realized how unhappy he is with Kerry. He does not want to go out with him anymore.

Rafael swings the front door open and is surprised to see Kerry about to ring the doorbell.

"Kerry?"

"Hey Rafael, I'm glad I caught you."

Kerry looks upset, sad. His eyes are a little bit red.

"Yeah, I'm going to my Abuela's in just a little while."

Kerry wipes his nose with a gloved hand. "Listen, Rafael, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have blown up like that. I just have to remember that...even though I can't stop your friendship with him, you're still mine."

Rafael narrows his eyes. "You don't own me, Kerry."

"No, I mean--"

"No, like, that's it. You don't own me. I don't like the way you act. Going out with you isn't enjoyable anymore."

"What do you mean by that?" Kerry asks.

"I mean, I want to breakup. I don't want to go out with you anymore."

Kerry's jaw drops. "You're dumping me on fucking Christmas?"

Rafael shrugs. "I'm sorry."

Kerry is angry almost instantly. "You're leaving me for that little asshole, aren't you?"

"No, actually, I'm dumping you because you're an asshole."

Kerry turns red with anger. "Fine, Rafael. Nice knowing you."

Kerry turns around and leaves, and Rafael feels relieved. He feels a little bit better being free of Kerry, but still sad about Sonny. He just hopes one day he can get over it. At least there isn't going to be someone controlling how and when he sees his best friend anymore.

Chapter Text

Things couldn't be better. Even though there's snow on the ground and storm clouds in the sky, Sonny hears nothing but birds sing and sunshine streaming down onto his face. He's young, he's in love, and he just spent an entire week without Rafael's stupid boyfriend getting in the way.

He may never tell Rafael how he feels in fear of rejection, but at least his feelings aren't torturing him anymore. At least Sonny didn't have to spend a week being avoided by Rafael. At least they got to hang out nonstop.

"You need to tell him," Lex says as they walk to science together.

Sonny shrugs. "I can't. I'm just his friend."

"So? 'Just friend' guy always gets the girl at the end!"

Sonny looks at her confused.

Lex clarifies, "I'm not saying Rafael is a girl, that was more of a comment towards how little LGBT young adult entertainment there is. We're people too!"

Sonny laughs. "I know, I know. But...I don't know."

"At least you know you have a chance, somewhat. He's already dating a guy. What if he's over there right now completely in love with you but he won't say anything because you're not open about...whatever it is that you are."

"You're the one who said I don't need to label--"

"I know! All I'm saying is, what if your feelings are mutual and you will never find out because you're a baby and won't tell him?"

Sonny thinks that one over. He hasn't thought of that as a possibility, all of his thoughts that immediately gone to Rafael not liking him back.

Their class begins, but Sonny cannot stop wondering if maybe Rafael likes him back. Could he? He racks his brain for some signs from when they were kids. Rafael's always just been there, as his friend, as his brother, as--

The king to his king.

His first date.

His biggest supporter.

Could Rafael have feelings for him, too?

Sitting in their shared art class, Sonny can't help but stare at Rafael the entire time. They're next to each other, but the way they angle to see the teacher at the head of the room, Sonny can perfectly stare at Rafael.

When the teacher lets them create their own work, they work with charcoal sticks, using their fingers to blend and shade. They're silent while they work, because the teacher plays music and the kids like to get into their own heads to work.

They're working for a few minutes before Sonny notices Rafael's hand sneaking towards him. Rafael swipes his finger across Sonny's hand, leaving a trail of black on Sonny's skin. He takes his hand back immediately, as if he was supposed to go unnoticed.

Sonny glances at him; Rafael is grinning. Sonny smiles. Rafael tries to school his grin to look contemplative again, so Sonny reaches over and quickly leaves a swipe of black on Rafael's chin.

Rafael practically jumps, his stool skidding on the floor. Sonny laughs loudly, disrupting the class.

"Guys, could you not?" their teacher says.

They both apologize and get back to work.



In P.E. that afternoon, the boys have to go through a physical test. They have to run, jump, climb, do push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups.

Sonny excels at the test, because he is physically active pretty much all the time anyway. Rafael, however, looks like he's going to die.

Sonny notices, during their workouts in the gym, that Rafael has been watching him. Pretty much the same way Sonny was watching him during art, but with more heat, if Sonny had to put a word to it. Sonny had been looking at Rafael happily, lovingly.

Rafael is staring at Sonny with an intensity and Sonny doesn't know what it is.

They're with the girls that day, and Lex is in the same period Sonny is in. After class, they're walking out and Sonny is gloating about how much better he was than Rafael.

"Seriously, Rafi, we gotta build these muscles." Sonny reaches over and squeezes Rafael's arm. He is embarrassed by the gesture, he just wants to touch Rafael.

Rafael grins. "Alright, you'll have to teach me how. You were doing everything...so well."

Lex's eyes grow wide and she grabs Sonny's arm.

"Hey, Rafi, uhm, can I steal Sonny away for a second?"

Rafael frowns, almost unnoticed, but Sonny sees.

"Okay, sure. Sonny, do you want to walk home?"

Sonny opens his mouth to answer, but Lex does first.

"Of course he does, he'll text you."

"Wh--" Sonny tries, but Lex pushes him far away from Rafael.

"I've got some news for you, babe."

"What?"

"Rafael is super into you."

"What? That's crazy, no he's--"

"Okay, first of all, grabbing his arm? Rookie flirting move. Second, you remember last year when I made you go to that women's soccer match?"

"Yeah, and it was fun."

"Remember how you said I was looking at one of the players?"

Sonny remembers laughing at Lex because she looked like she was undressing a player with her eyes. "Yeah..."

"That's how Rafael was looking at you during gym."

"What?! No he--"

"Babe. Honey. Sweetie. Rafael wants your bones."

Sonny blushes. "No, no way."

"Why can't you just let yourself accept it? He wants you, man."

"Because..."

"Because?!"

"Well, what about Kerry?"

"How often have you seen them together today? Rafi had lunch with you for the first time since, like, October."

"So? Maybe his other friends were busy."

"Sonny, why are you being so stupid about this? He freakin' likes you back!"

"What if he actually doesn't?" Sonny snaps. "Okay, at first, initially, I was asking myself if he liked me, what if he did? Now it's just...what if he doesn't? What if he doesn't and it ruins our friendship? What if he's either weirded out by me liking him or can't handle that I like him and doesn't want to be my friend anymore?"

Lex rubs his arm. "Look, I get it. I do, really. I know how scary it is to like someone who you're not, like, predetermined to like. I get it. But are you just not going to try with anyone for the rest of your life? And, knowing Rafi, he is not the guy to walk away from you because you confess your feelings towards him. I can guarantee you that."

"Really? You really think I should try?"

"I think you at least owe that to yourself, you should do something good for you."

Sonny takes a deep breath. "Okay. Okay, I will."



Sonny doesn't, and he still doesn't, and eventually it's a week into second semester and Sonny still hasn't told Rafael.

They've been almost inseparable though, except for Sonny's baseball game and his out of town track meet. Rafael and Lex both go to his baseball game though, and Sonny makes Lex promise not to grill him about his feelings towards Sonny.

They've gotten closer than ever, because now it really feels like they're both mature high schoolers. It's not Senior Rafael and his freshman friend Sonny. It's not Freshman Sonny following his senior friend around like a puppy. They're equals.

Finally, on the day of his final track meet, the final day he has to spend being on the same team as Kerry--who, actually, Rafael hasn't mentioned in a while--Sonny can't take it any more. As he and Dominick Sr. are getting in the car to go to the meet, Sonny decides he needs to say something to Rafael. He asks Dominick Sr. to wait.

He runs over to Rafael's house and bangs on the door. In seconds, Rafael answers.

"Hey, I thought you had a ma--"

"I have something to say."

"Okay," Rafael says, closing the front door behind him.

Sonny takes a deep breath. Here goes nothing.

"I'm in love with you, Rafi. I always have been, maybe I always will be. And I'm sorry. It's just...I'm in complete agony watching you with your boyfriend every day, but it's fine. Just please don't hate me. And, y'know, if you do, at least we had a good ten years together. A few good memories. I just...I love you, Rafael, and--"

Suddenly, two big hands are holding his face, two big eyes are staring into his, and a set of lips are pressed hard against his. Sonny squeaks in shock, but clutches Rafael's shirt tightly.

Rafael pulls away first. Sonny's lips feel heavy. That was his first kiss, he was not prepared, it was hard and quick and awkward, they were just staring at each other. Sonny didn't even have a chance to close his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Rafael mutters, letting go of Sonny's face.

"Don't be, I just..." Sonny pauses, remembering Rafael has a boyfriend and this is not how he expected anything to go. "What about Kerry?"

"Kerry? I dumped Kerry a few weeks ago."

Hope blooms in Sonny's chest. Trying not to sound too eager, he asks why.

"And why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't tell you because...I don't know, I didn't think it mattered. And he was horrible. Plus, it was hard to be with him once I realized I have feelings for someone else."

Sonny's eyes widen. "Oh."

"In fact, that I...I love someone else."

"Oh," Sonny repeats.

Rafael slowly smiles. "It's you, dude."

"No, yeah, I had put that together."

Rafael's smile widens. It's beautiful.

There's a honk from across the street that Sonny almost doesn't hear because he's too busy staring at this wonderful person in front of him. The car honks again and he turns around to find Dominick Sr. waving him over.

"Oh, crap, I gotta go. I have track."

"Okay," Rafael sighs, but he's smiling happily. "Call me later."

Sonny just gives Rafael one last smile before turning to run down the steps and across the street.



Sonny joins the team as they're getting their shoes on. He drops his bag next to Lex and sits down at her feet. He can't wipe the grin from his face.

"Don't you look chipper."

Sonny snorts. "Chipper? Who says chipper?"

"I say chipper. Now spill, what's going on?"

Sonny cracks a smile. "Nothin'."

"Not nothing. What happened? You're, like, all happy again. Sunny Sonny. What is it?"

Sonny blushes slightly.

"You finally told him, didn't you?!"

Sonny shushes her. "Not so loud," he says, glancing at Kerry, but he doesn't look at Sonny.

"Oh, fuck him, you finally told the love of your young life how you feel! What did he say? Obviously it went well."

Sonny grins smugly. "He...kissed me."

"He kissed you?!" she cries.

"Ssshhh!" Sonny hisses, looking at Kerry's group again, and this time Kerry does look over.

"Great," Sonny says, standing to turn his back to Kerry.

"What? Sorry! I'm just excited. So what else happened? Date? Proposal? Marriage? Babies?"

"Wow, wow, Jesus, I'm only fourteen. I don't know, I'll call him later, we'll talk. I'll ask him out on a date."

The coach calls the team over, captains first so they can lead the pack in a warm up trot around the track. As Kerry passes, he purposefully walks into Sonny, shoving him.

"Watch it, freshman," Kerry mutters.

Sonny just rolls his eyes.

"Don't worry about him," Lex says as they jog the track.

"I'm not."

"Also, details. Spill. Now."

Sonny chuckles. "Okay, well, there's not much to say. I went over there and just...told him. Blurted it out. And he grabbed my face and kisses me."

"What about..." Lex nods up the pack towards Kerry.

"Oh, yeah, Rafi had dumped him a few weeks ago."

"And here you thought that I didn't know what I was talking about. Was I right, or was I right?"

"You were right."

"So, really. Date?"

"Yeah, you know, I have an idea for that."

"What?"

"It's...kind of dumb."

"No, dumb was you not telling him for this long. There's no way your idea is going to be dumb. What is it?"

"So, when I was little, Rafi and I actually went on a date to a Yankee game. I had an idea to do that again, only right now is the offseason. I was thinking about maybe going on a tour of the stadium. It's not the same, but--"

"But it's adorable. And my god, you guys went on dates when you were little? How did you not know you've always loved this boy?"

Sonny just shrugs. He does love Rafael, he loves him so much, and it feels so amazing for that to be out in the open.

Sonny ends up placing first in the meet, beating Kerry in his final meet ever by less than a second. Sonny is proud of himself for what he's accomplished on the team that year. He's improved a lot, and his goal from the start was to win at least one, so he accomplished that.

Packing up their stuff to go, Sonny and Lex are talking and laughing with each other about nothing. Sonny is just excited to get home to call Rafael, maybe go to his house so they can talk some more, so he's in a great mood.

He's facing Lex and unbalanced because he's pulling off his shoe, when once again, Kerry shoves him from behind. This time, Sonny falls into Lex, and they both topple over onto the ground.

"Shit, Lex, you okay? I'm sorry," Sonny says, rolling onto his back.

"Yeah, not your fault," Lex sits up.

Kerry is looming over Sonny. "Didn't I already tell you to watch it?"

"God, what the fuck, man?"

Kerry moves to step around Sonny, but kicks him in the side instead.

"Okay, I'm done," Sonny mumbles, bolting up in an instant. He steps right up to Kerry to look down at him instead.

"I'm not going to punch you in the stupid fucking face right now because I'd get in trouble," Sonny says through clenched teeth, "And I'd probably be at it a while, and I have something better to do right now. So you're gonna leave me the hell alone now, got it?"

Kerry snorts. "Sure, whatever, freshman." He pushes past Sonny again, but Sonny lets it go. "Oh, hey, have fun with my seconds. He wasn't that great anyway. Only useful for one thing. That mouth on him, though..." Kerry walks away laughing.


Sonny's fist clenches.

Lex grabs his arm. "He didn't mean that."

Sonny nods, but he's counting to ten to calm down. Kick him while he's down, fine. Say something rude about Rafael? Kerry is lucky he's walking away.

"He was just trying to rile you up," Lex says.

Sonny takes a deep breath. "I know."

"Come on, you have to get to Rafael."

Lex takes his hand and they exit the track together.


 

Sonny jumps in the shower as soon as he gets home, to calm down from his slight altercation with stupid Kerry. Sonny really hates that guy, but the shower helps him calm down and soon he is just excited to talk to Rafael.

Sonny gets dressed quickly in a pair of sweat pants and an old baseball t-shirt, then makes his way to his bedroom for his phone to call Rafael.

When he opens the door, he jumps in shock to find Rafael sitting there on his bed.

"Jesus, Rafi, give me a heart attack, why don't ya?"

Rafael laughs. "Your mom said to wait for you. I think she probably knows something is up with..." Rafael gestures between them.

Sonny laughs. "Rafi, I'm pretty sure everyone in the world has known for a really long time."

He closes the door and goes to sit next to Rafael. Rafael shifts to face him, and Sonny is glad because he can stare directly into Rafael's wonderful face.

"Listen, Sonny, I want to start by saying that I'm sorry."

Sonny's stomach drops. Is Rafael breaking it off before it even starts? Is this the rejection he'd so been fearing?

"I'm sorry I've been such a jerk lately. I'm sorry for wasting that time with Kerry. I'm sorry for ignoring you. That...I don't know what got into me. But I promise, whether we're, you know, together or not, I'll be a better friend."

Sonny sighs, relieved. "God, I thought you were dumpin' me already."

Rafael looks up at him. "What? No, geez, I'm sorry. I just wanted to apologize again for the past couple of months."

"Hey, Rafi, its in the past. What's done is done. Okay?"

Rafael smiles at him. "Okay."

Sonny, nervousness prickling through him, reaches over to take hold of Rafael's hand. Rafael happily holds back, and for a few minutes they silently play with each other's hands. It feels wonderful, skin touching skin that has been so familiar yet is so new at the same time. This thing with Rafael feels new, even though everyone has been telling him it's long overdue.

"So, what now?" Rafael asks.

"Short term or slightly longer term?"

"Uhm...slightly longer term."

"Slightly longer term, do you want to go on a date with me?"

"You mean you're not going to run across the street to bang on my front door and yell it at me?"

Sonny laughs, covering his face and blushing. "Oh god, you remember that?"

"Of course, it was adorable. So will this be our first date or second date?"

"I think this will be our, like, 700th date, but who's counting?"

Rafael laughs. "Where are we going to go on a date?"

Sonny grins. "I'm not telling you."

"We're going to go to Yankee Stadium, aren't we?"

Sonny's grin disappears. "How'd you know?!"

"Because you're still six-years-old at heart! But I'd love to. First date, first official date."

"That's exactly what I was thinking."

They just smile happily at each other for a minute. Sonny licks his lips, and Rafael follows the distraction from his eyes and instead stares at his lips.

"What was your short term plan?" Rafael asks, eyes still glued to Sonny's lips.

"This," Sonny says before leaning over and pressing his lips gently against Rafael's.

This time, his eyes are closed, and its softer, warmer, slower. Rafael's hand finds his face again, but this time his touch is gentle and inviting. He strokes Sonny's skin, and Sonny feels like he's burning all over. He feels terrific.

Rafael's lips feel amazing. Rafael's hand on his face feels amazing. Rafael's free hand finding his and placing his hand on Rafael's hip feels amazing. His hand shifting to Rafael's back to pull him closer feels amazing.

Before it can go any further, not that Sonny really expects it to yet, he's content with little kisses, Bella's yelling for him outside the door. Before Sonny can answer, or even pull his face away from Rafael's, she's throwing the door open. The boys jump, but their hands don't leave each other.

"Sonn--" she takes one look at them and stops. Instead, she runs away yelling, "Mom! Sonny and Rafi are finally kissing!"

Sonny groans. He drops his head to rest against Rafael's shoulder. Rafael wraps his arms around Sonny and rubs his back.

"They were going to find out eventually," Rafael says.

Sonny sits up. "Like I said, I'm pretty sure everyone already knows."

They get up to go downstairs for dinner, like Bella was probably trying to tell them, and they're still holding hands.

When they get into the kitchen, Dominick Sr. looks down at their locked hands, but instead of being embarrassed, Sonny raises their hands up for everyone to see. Everyone (Deb, Gina, and Bella) cheers in excitement.

"It's about time," Gina comments.

"I know, right?" Bella agrees.

"Girls, leave them alone. They needed to get here on their own," Deb says.

They sit at the table but their hands stay together.

"You gonna stay like that forever?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Sonny shrugs. "Maybe."

Deb sits next to Dominick Sr. and he looks at her. "Honey, why don't you hold my hand anymore?"

"Because your hands look like this." She holds his hand up to reveal a perpetually discolored hand with dirty fingernails from work.

"Aww, come on baby, hold my hand."

Deb rolls her eyes and instead serves Bella some mashed potatoes.

The night is great. Rafael stays for a while after dinner, and they play with restaurant with Bella. She serves them fake food and makes them pretend they're on their first date.

When Rafael has to go home, he and Sonny share one last kiss on the doorstep. When Sonny returns inside, Bella is hopping around chanting, "Sonny and Rafi, sittin' in a tree--"

Sonny just rolls his eyes and lets her poke fun at him, because he's happy. 

Things couldn't be better.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

As soon as Sonny finished track, he began a few weeks of intense baseball practices before tryouts. This meant he was too busy or too tired for dates.

Rafael didn't mind, because he was starting the second semester play. Even though they weren't spending as much time together as they'd want to, they still had their classes together and lunches.

They finally go on their first date to Yankee Stadium right before their first Valentine's Day together. They officially become a couple, finally, and they're both very happy about it.

A few days after officially getting together, Rafael and Sonny are finally both available for dinner. Rafael invites Sonny over, and when Sonny arrives, Rafael is making an easy peanut butter pie for him.

When the doorbell rings, Rafael almost jumps. He's so nervous for some reason. Maybe it's excitement. Either way, he's jumpy.

"Oh, Mami, he's here! Can you stir this for me?"

Lucia takes over stirring. "Papito, calm down. Sonny's been here a million times before."

"I know, but..." Rafael goes towards the sitting room. "Ugh!"

He hears Lucia laughing from the kitchen.

Rafael throws the door open and smiles contently at the sight before him. Sonny, cute as ever, holding a bouquet of colorful flowers.

Rafael pulls him inside. "These are beautiful," he says, reaching to take the flowers.

"Hey, hey. These aren't for you. They're for your mom. I hear you always get flowers for your new boyfriend's mom."

Rafael's smile grows at 'boyfriend'. Sonny hands him the flowers for a second so he can remove his coat, but Rafael is too distracted by 'boyfriend' to really notice anything Sonny is doing.

"Oh, speaking of which--" Sonny says, before leaning over and kissing Rafael briskly.

Rafael can definitely get used to this.

Rafael takes Sonny's hand and leads him to the kitchen, where he introduces Lucia to Sonny.

"Mami, this is my boyfriend, Sonny."

Lucia stares at him. "I...you know I've known Sonny his entire life, right?"

"Yeah, but not as my boyfriend."

Lucia laughs. "Okay. Hello, boyfriend, nice to meet you."

"Ma'am," Sonny politely greets her, "These are for you."

Lucia beams at him and takes the flowers. "Isn't that sweet? Thank you, Sonny." Lucia then takes him in a familiar hug and kisses his head, as she's done since he was a little kid.

Rafael finishes his pie by pouring the batter into the crust.

"Peanut butter pie?" Sonny asks, standing next to Rafael.

"Of course," Rafael says.

When he's done, Rafael takes the dirty dishes to the sink, where Lucia is cleaning up from the dinner they made together.

"Sonny," she starts, "Am I supposed to not know you well enough to ask if you want to lick the spoon?" She hold up the rubber spachula Rafael had been using to mix the batter.

Sonny eagerly grabs for it, then pauses and looks at Rafael. "Am I supposed to be new enough here to not accept it?"

Rafael laughs. "No, it's fine! I kind of just wanted to say 'my boyfriend, Sonny'."

Sonny takes the spachula from Lucia, then leans comfortably against Rafael. Rafael loves it, loves having Sonny this close.

When dinner is ready, they sit around the dining room table to eat. They've had a ton of meals like this, their little family time, as Lucia calls it, with her two boys.

Her two boys who are now openly and knowingly flirting, holding hands, and occasionally kissing.

"So Sonny, where have you been?" Lucia asks. "Rafi says you're going out now but I haven't seen you in weeks."

"I know," Sonny says, "I've been busy with baseball. Tryouts are next week so we've been having crazy intense workouts. I am dead on my feet half the time."

"Well, we miss you," Lucia tells him. "I do, and I know Rafi secretly does, but he won't say anything."

"Oh I can tell," Sonny teases.

Rafael just tries not to get too embarrassed by his feelings being caught. He does miss Sonny, all the time, every day, when they're not next to each other.

And even sometimes when he's right next to Sonny, he misses him. Cost of being in love.

Dinner is great, Sonny drools over the peanut butter pie, then the boys plop in front of the television to relax. Usually, after dinner, they'd go for a walk or toss a football around outside, but Sonny is just too tired from baseball workouts to do much of anything. But that's fine to Rafael, because they can cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie instead.

What's weird about their new closeness is how not weird it actually is. The thought of this relationship being 'new' has not crossed Rafael's mind. He's seen the worst of Sonny, been with him after he's smelly from baseball games, heard him let out bodily functions like burps, they've slept in the same bed a million times. Before they got together, they'd lay on each end of the couch with their legs tangled together anyway. So getting into the same or a similar close position is natural for them.

There's nothing new about their relationship, only that now they kiss sometimes.

Rafael absentmindedly rubs Sonny's foot, playing with his socked toes and tickling it. Sonny jumps every time Rafael's fingertip brushes the arch, but he doesn't move away.

"Hey," Sonny starts, "What do you want to do on Tuesday?"

The upcoming Tuesday is Valentine's Day, but that doesn't immediately register to Rafael.

"Uhm, I don't know, why?"

"It's Valentine's Day, duh."

"Oh..."

Sonny sits up. "And now that I'm your boyfriend, I expect to be fully pampered. Candy, flowers, jewelry. I expect to be swept off my feet."

Rafael sits up so they're face to face. "Jewelry?"

"You don't think I'd look good with a little bit of bling?"

Rafael laughs. "Well, I do only have, like, $8 in my pocket."

"So we can have a romantic meal at McDonald's?"

Rafael laughs again. "We could, but you just told me last week you cut out McDonald's."

Sonny pats his well muscled stomach. "That's true. I gotta keep this fit. Gotta impress my boyfriend."

Rafael grins. That Sonny is so well put together is definitely a perk. Rafael could stare at him all day, and he has before. He loves watching Sonny be active, whether it's in a baseball game or just in gym class. Sonny is just so pleasing to look at.

Of course, Rafael had noticed before. Sonny's always been a cute kid, and he's grown into an attractive teen. Rafael would have to be blind not to see it, even Lex has expressed to Rafael how beautiful Sonny is. But now that they're together, out in the open, and Rafael is allowed to look? He will fully say how hot Sonny is, how wonderful his muscles are, and how nice it is to just look at Sonny.

Rafael must look dazed just thinking about Sonny doing push-ups in gym class because Sonny leans over and kisses his cheek.

"Earth to Rafi? You daydreaming about me doing push-ups again?"

Rafael's face heats up. "Uh...no."

Sonny's grin turns cocky, like he knows he's got what Rafael likes.

"Sure," he says. "I think you're cute too, Rafi."

Rafael rolls his eyes and falls onto his back again. He doesn't find himself unattractive, but compared to Sonny? Compared to other boys? He's never been the cutest kid in class. He's always been short, and chunky, with weird hair and dark skin, whereas the other kids in class were pretty with their blonde hair and glowing skin. He's seen the difference. From a young age, he noticed in magazines that everyone who was attractive was different than him. The only thing he's had going for him are his green eyes.

"Rafi, come on," Sonny says. He climbs off the couch to kneel next to Rafael's head. "Dude..." he says.

Rafael chuckles at the nickname.

"Not that looks are the most important thing in life, but seriously. You're, like, so cute. I'm not even just saying that because I really like kissing you. You don't have to feel down on yourself every time someone says you're pretty."

Rafael looks into his face; he looks like he means it. And yeah, looks aren't the most important thing, but Sonny's speech was nice to hear. Maybe once did Kerry tell him he was attractive, and it was mostly directed at his 'beautiful eyes'. Sonny sounds like he means all of Rafael.

Sonny leans over and kisses Rafael while he's still thinking about it.

"Maybe I'll have to wow you on Valentine's Day," Sonny says.

"It's not important," Rafael tells him. "I just want to see you, even just at school because I know we will both be busy after."

Sonny nods in agreement. Then, he grows a sly smile. "I have a great idea."


 

Sonny has an early workout every morning before school, so after he usually runs home to get ready before walking back to school with Rafael. But on the morning of Valentine's Day, Sonny says he's too busy to walk to school, which Rafael finds weird and disappointing. Sonny says he has some other stuff to do, that he'll be too late, and even though Rafael is worried, he hopes everything is alright.

Rafael's first period class is senior English, and his teacher is a really cool guy. This morning, for Valentine's Day, they're eating Valentine snacks and acting out their rewritten Shakespeare skits for the class.

Rafael's group is putting on Romeo and Juliet, which Rafael hates, but everyone else obliviously calls it 'romantic'. Their group is about to start when a few kids barge in.

Rafael notices Sonny with the small group of boys, who are three more boys on the baseball team, two juniors and a sophomore. They're all holding roses and to-go cups from Rafael's favorite little cafe.

Every girl in the class swoons. A chant of "Awww!"'s are heard throughout as the four boys go to their dates, the other three to their girlfriends and Sonny to Rafael, who is still standing at he head of the class.

"Coffee?" Sonny says, instead of greeting Rafael.

"This is the important thing you had to do this morning?"

Sonny shrugs. "We ditched morning workout, I thought you'd like it."

Rafael takes a sip of his coffee. "It's delicious, of course."

Sonny leans over and kisses Rafael quickly, and another group of "Awww!"'s are heard through the class. Sonny blushes, and Rafael just stares at him proudly.

"Don't you guys have somewhere else to be instead of, you know, interrupting my class?" their teacher, Mr. Cooper, asks. "Carisi, you're a freshman, I know you don't have first period free."

"Don't you believe in romance, Mr. Cooper?" Sonny retorts, wrapping an arm around Rafael's shoulders.

"Yes, coffee is so romantic."

Sonny snorts and takes Rafael's copy of Romeo and Juliet out of his hands. "Hey, more romantic than two teenagers killin' themselves and causing the deaths of a bunch more people."

"Thank you!" Rafael cries.

Sonny smirks, like he's the wisest person in the classroom.

Mr. Cooper gets out of his chair to shoo the excess boys out. "Alright, get out. You can swap spit later, out!"

The other three boys kiss their girlfriends quickly and head for the door. Sonny, who likes to mess with Mr. Cooper, plops down onto the nearest desk.

"I'll write you up for ditching," Mr. Cooper threatens.

Sonny shrugs. "I'm already late anyway. Could you write me a tardy pass instead?" All the kids in the class laugh.

Sonny stares at the teacher as if challenging him. Rafael joins the rest of the class in laughing while sipping his coffee. Classic Sonny, always the class clown and center of attention.

Mr. Cooper leans on the desk into Sonny's face. "I'll wait to write you up for the morning of your first baseball game so you can't play."

Sonny's eyes grow wide. He jumps up from the desk, moving quickly. He doesn't even pause to kiss Rafael.

"Bye Rafi," he calls as he's running out the door after his friends. "Love you!"

Rafael, if his skin would blush, would be bright red by now. He tries to hide behind his cup of coffee, but as he's standing at the front of the classroom ready to present his skit, he feels like he's on display. He just smiles, so embarrassed, while everyone "Awww!"'s once again.

Mr. Cooper calms the class. "Yeah, sure, bursting into a classroom unannounced sure is adorable. You've got a real keeper on your hands, Rafael."

"I sure do," Rafael replies before they start their skit.

Rafael is happy for the rest of the day, proudly carrying around his roses. It is a very successful first Valentine's Day together, indeed.

 

Chapter Text

Sonny did make the varsity baseball team, which was a dream come true. Between dating Rafael and making the varsity team, by March Sonny is sure he's already had the best year of his life.

Even though he doesn't start, Sonny is still a part of the team. He will still receive a varsity letter at the end of the season. Rafael is extremely proud of him. He goes to every game he can attend when he's not busy with the play.

Sonny remembers Rafael going to his games when they were younger. Rafael, wearing his 'CARISI 3' shirt until it had holes in it or Sonny joined a new team. Rafael has as many old team shirts as Sonny does. He used to love seeing Rafael in his shirts, he was so proud.

Some of the girlfriends of boys on the team wear the boys' warmup shirts or a spare shirt for games. However, these girls are smaller than their boyfriends, and Sonny is skinnier than Rafael. His shirt would not fit Rafael.

So Sonny saves a few dollars to buy a new shirt from their school bookstore, then he buys iron on numbers and letters and puts 'CARISI 33'--his new number because a senior has 3--on the back. He puts it in a gift box and runs over to Rafael's as soon as it's ready.

Unfortunately, Rafael is not home. Sad, Sonny has to leave the gift for Rafael instead of delivering it in person. He could wait, but he really wants Rafael to wear the shirt to his big game tomorrow, if he can make it.

So Sonny leaves in hopes that Rafael will like it. He doesn't talk to Rafael that night, because he gets home from rehearsal too late, so he doesn't even know if Rafael noticed he box sitting on his bed. All Sonny can do is wait.

The next morning, Sonny goes to Rafael's so they can walk to school together. Rafael is wearing a jacket, and he still doesn't say anything about the shirt, so Sonny leaves it alone. It was a dumb gift, maybe Rafael hates it and Sonny would embarrass himself by bringing it up. They walk to school hand in hand, Sonny silently freaking out about the shirt the entire way.

When the get to school, they go to Rafael's locker first so he can drop off his jacket. When he takes it off, Sonny can finally see he's wearing the shirt!

"Hey, you're wearing it!" Sonny cries. "You didn't say anything, I thought you hated it."

"What? Oh, no, I just assumed you'd know I was wearing it. Of course I love it! I was planning on stealing one of yours anyway, but who am I kidding? I couldn't get it over my head."

Sonny rolls his eyes. Rafael could wear his shirt, it'd just be slightly tighter than what Rafael likes to wear.

"Well, it looks great," Sonny says.

Rafael kisses him. Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael's neck and pulls him close. He hugs Rafael tight and kisses his head. He loves giving Rafael kisses. He doesn't care who's watching, what anybody has to say. He loves the feel of Rafael in his arms and against his lips.

"I might not ever get used to this," Sonny admits. "You and me, togeth--"

Sonny's sweet little speech about how much he loves Rafael, which he does almost every morning, is cut off by Lex screaming, "GUYS!" behind him while slapping his back to get his attention.

"Ow!" Sonny cries, detangling himself from Rafael to pay attention to his friend. "What?!"

Lex looks so excited, her smile as wide as can be, as she announces she's just been asked to prom.

"What?" Sonny asks, "Who asked you?"

"Heather, the girl in our art class with the nose ring!"

"Heather?" Rafael asks. "What happened to Anne?"

Lex has had a crush on Anne all school year, and she's a junior who could ask Lex as well.

"Anne? Oh, she's old news. And she didn't ask, Heather did."

"Well, that's great!" Sonny says. "Congratulations."

"Thanks! Hey, are you guys going? Maybe we can sit at the same table!"

Sonny looks at Rafael, who grows a nervous 'deer-in-the-headlights' look. Has he thought about? Is he going to ask Sonny and Lex ruined the surprise? Or does he not want to take Sonny?

Lex's eyes grow wide and she looks ready to swallow her tongue. "Gee, you know what? I better go, don't want to be late!"

She runs away as Sonny's yelling at her that she has a free period.

"I better go, too," Rafael says, letting Sonny's hand go. He kisses Sonny's cheek, more at his jaw area, and runs after Lex.

Sonny stands confused. He had two friends next to him to nobody in three seconds. What the hell happened? Why did they both look so nervous to have prom brought up? What is Sonny missing?

He could take prom or leave it, honestly. It would be fun to go out with Rafael, to dress up, to show him off, but Rafael isn't the kind of boy to want attention drawn to himself. Sonny loves attention, he loves when people are looking at him, but it still makes Rafael nervous. Sonny always reminds him that he does plays in front of people all the time, and that he'll have to hold a room in court one day, but Rafael would rather speak in front of a room of strangers than peers. Prom might be just too much.

And Sonny doesn't care about people staring at them because they're two boys. He'll hold Rafael's hand anywhere, everywhere. But he knows Rafael still cares sometimes.

Sonny would ask Rafael to go to prom, but it's not up to him. First, because he's not the upperclassmen. Freshman can't buy the tickets, it's not their dance. Sonny can't take Rafael. Second, he is unsure of whether or not Rafael even wants to go.

Sonny will wait. If Rafael wants to go, great. If he doesn't, also great.


 


Prom is the last weekend of April, and by the end of March, Rafael still hasn't said anything to Sonny about. Sonny doesn't make a plan to go, because it'll be simple for him to be ready. All he needs is a tux, which he has from Theresa's wedding. Rafael has a suit. Sonny could buy a boutonnière, that flower to pin to Rafael's jacket lapel.

Sonny is prepared to say yes.

All the talk of prom around school does make him envious of everyone making their plans to go.

He hears, "Look at my dress!"

He hears, "I booked a limo!"

He hears, "Wait, what's a corsage?"

He hears, "Sonny, are you and Rafael going?"

Sonny eventually gets tired of prom talk. He doesn't want to bother Rafael, he doesn't want to make Rafael ask, but he really wants to know why Rafael obviously doesn't want to take him.

On a regular Friday afternoon the first week of April, Sonny is done with prom talk. He is done with everyone asking if he's going, he is done with all of his girl friends showing of their dresses, he's just done.

Sonny walks into his first period class to find a baseball on his desk's chair.

Zach, a guy on his baseball team who sits next to him during this class, pats his back in greeting while Sonny is confusedly staring at the ball.

"Hey ready for the game today?" Zach asks. "What's that?"

Sonny picks the ball up. It's a regular ball, brand new. It smells amazing, like baseballs usually do coming out of the plastic.

Sonny shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe someone lost it yesterday."

"Maybe someone's trying to tell you you need to practice harder."

"Ha-ha," Sonny mumbles before sitting in his seat and dropping the ball into his backpack.



Sonny sees Rafael before art class.

"I'm actually skipping electives today to work on the sets. I have permission."

Sonny frowns; that means he won't have classes with Rafael today.

"You're coming to the game though, right?" Sonny asks. He has big hopes to play today, and he really wants Rafael there.

Rafael nervously bites his lip. "I'll try, okay? I promise."

Sonny's frown deepens.

"Hey," Rafael says, grabbing Sonny's hand. "I love you."

Sonny's frown slowly disappears. "I know."

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Thanks, Han Solo."

Sonny grins fully. "I love you too. Okay? I just want to see you."

The warning bell rings, so they walk towards the art room.

"Tomorrow," Rafael promises. "All day, whatever you want."

Sonny mentally plans a day long date with Rafael. Maybe they can go into the city to go to a museum. They can take a long walk around Central Park. They can visit a bakery Rafael loves.

The bell rings again, so they kiss once before Sonny enters the classroom and Rafael walks down the hall.

Later, Sonny walks out of a very boring art class and immediately spots a brand new baseball right there on the floor. The hallway is still pretty empty because not every class has been released quite yet--his teacher lets them out as soon as the bell rings--so Sonny is able to grab it before anyone else can.

He loves getting new baseballs, and just finding two in one morning? Jackpot.

But he can't help a weird feeling he's getting, he feels like he's supposed to be the one finding the baseballs. Which is strange. What are they for?



Hours later, Sonny goes to lunch with Lex and Rafael cannot join them because he has a student council meeting. Lex says they must be discussing prom plans, as it is less than a month away.

"Have you seen my dress?" Lex excitedly asks.

"Yes," Sonny shortly replies.

"Geez, I'm sorry."

Sonny sighs. "No, I'm sorry. I'm just...tired of prom talk, I guess."

"Don't let it bother you, babe. You know Rafael. He's not a dance guy."

"I wish he would just say that instead of making me feel like it's me."

"It's not you. And why don't you talk to him about it?"

"I don't want to bother him."

When they're finished eating, they take a walk around campus in the cool spring air. Sonny tells Lex about his plans to take Rafael into the city tomorrow, and she expresses that it sounds like exactly what the couple needs.

"Hey," Lex says suddenly, pointing towards a water fountain on a wall. "What is that?"

Sonny looks over to see something white on the fountain.

He runs over to grab it. Another new baseball.

"Okay, seriously, what the fuck?" he asks out loud.

"What?"

Sonny unzips his backpack and pulls out the two other baseballs. "I've found all of these today."

"Wow, really?" Lex takes one of the balls. "That's pretty weird."

"I know, right? I wonder why."

Before they can discuss it any further, the bell rings for them to go to their next class. Sonny drops the baseballs back into his bag and heads to class.


 

Sonny doesn't see Rafael again for the rest of the day, which is disappointing. He starts his last period class feeling neglected, and possibly like Rafael is avoiding him. He doesn't know why Rafael would be avoiding him. Sonny thinks he should text Rafael to find out.

On this Friday, they're doing a quiz. The classroom is silent and Sonny is trying to concentrate because he really needs a good grade on this quiz, but there are too many things distracting him.

Is Rafael mad?

Will the game go well so their winning streak stays alive?

Will Rafael actually be available or willing to go on a date tomorrow?

What's up with the baseballs?

Sonny doesn't notice any weird activity going on until a second later when something rolls against his foot. Sonny looks below his desk to find another damn baseball.

Sonny stands up in the middle of class. "Okay, who just--where did this--" Everyone is staring at him like he's crazy.

"Mister Carisi," his teacher asks, "Is there a problem?"

Sonny sighs and flops back into his seat. "No..."

Their quiz time ends five minutes later, then the teacher gives the kids ten free minutes before the bell rings. Sonny doesn't talk to anyone, he just takes out the baseballs and stares at them sitting on his desk.

"What are you doing, bro?" Zach, from the baseball team, asks.

"I keep finding these baseballs."

"Hey, I told you someone's trying to tell you to practice harder."

Sonny rolls his eyes.

Bailey, the girl on his other side, grabs one of the baseballs. She rubs her fingers over it for a second.

"This one feels weird," she comments.

"What?" Sonny asks.

"Here, feel it." Bailed hands it to him and picks up another one. She locates an odd feeling piece of leather on the second one, too. Then the third, then the fourth. Sonny examines them.

Zach picks one up. He rubs his thumb over it a few times and finally a sticky edge pops up.

"Dude," he mutters, handing the ball to Sonny.

Confused, Sonny takes it back and peels the corner until a long, white sticker comes off the baseball. A thick, black "O" is revealed.

"What the--" Sonny mumbles. He hands another ball to Bailey and Zach. "Hurry, find the edge," he instructs.

In short minutes, the baseballs all reveal 'P-R-O-M'. Sonny is ecstatic. Is Rafael asking him to prom? Is that why Rafael has been avoiding him all day?

"Mrop?" Zach asks.

Sonny and Bailey stare at him.

"It says prom, you dumbass," Bailey says.

Zach's lips form a shocked, "Oh." His eyes grow wide. "Who do you think is askin'?"

Sonny stares at him longer.

"Oh my god. Rafael, you idiot!" Bailey cries.

Zach sighs, "Oooohhh..." again.

The bell rings, so Sonny quickly packs the baseballs again and runs out into the hallway. He runs to Rafael's locker, but he is not there. He runs to his own locker, but Rafael is not there, either. Sonny is about to run over to the auditorium, but Zach reminds him that they need to be out on the baseball field in only fifteen minutes, and they need to get dressed. Disappointed, Sonny walks with Zach to their locker room.


 

"Carisi!"

Sonny, warming up with the guys in the outfield, looks towards the coach who just yelled at him. Coach waves him in.

"Yeah, boss?" Sonny asks when he approaches.

Coach takes a deep breath. "You ready, Son?"

"Ready? For..."

"I'm letting you start at left field today," he says.

Sonny freezes. Of course he's excited, but he instantly grows a type of nervous he's never felt before, never in his entire baseball career. This is varsity baseball, in one of their most important games of the season. He's played plenty of innings, but he's never started.

"Thank you, sir," is all Sonny can say.

"You earned it, Son. Make us proud."

"Yes, sir," he says, holding back a proud grin as he jogs back to the team to resume warming up.

Sonny's team takes the field first, and he plays catch with a guy from the bench while the pitcher takes his practice pitches on the mound. His teammate throws the ball over to him, but before Sonny tosses it back, he notices it's covered in black.

He looks at it down in his glove. There's a big, black question mark on it, and beneath is Rafael's familiar signature.

Sonny's smile widens as he looks into the bleachers to see Rafael, looking cute as ever in his 'CARISI 33' shirt, standing proudly next to Dominick Sr. with three simple roses in his hand. He waves over at Rafael, who waves back, then he continues playing catch.

When the second baseman yells to throw the balls in, Sonny asks his throwing partner to put that ball in his bag. Then the game starts, and Sonny is sure he's never been so happy.


 

The game goes very well. They win, keeping their winning streak alive, but the best part is that Sonny has an amazing catch in left field, he throws a guy out all the way at home, and he hits a run in that helps contribute to the win.

Sonny gathers his things, changes his shoes, and slips on his warmup hoodie before exiting the dugout to go to Rafael and his dad.

Dominick Sr. usually grabs Sonny first, usually hugs him tight and tells Sonny he's proud. Sometimes he gives Sonny some helpful criticism before Sonny greets anyone else, but today his dad stands to the side so Sonny can greet Rafael.

Sonny jumps at him, wrapping his arms tight around Rafael's neck and squeezing him.

"Thank you," Sonny whispers.

Rafael chuckles. "You haven't even accepted."

Sonny pulls back enough to look into Rafael's face. "Yes, of course, I accept!"

Rafael kisses him quickly, since he's never one for public displays of affection.

Then Sonny greets Dominick Sr., who insists on taking a picture of them instead of talking the game first. Sonny finds that amazing, because usually nothing comes before game talk. But he gives Sonny an offhand, "I'm proud of you, Son," before the three of them exit the complex together.



Sonny sets the five baseballs and the roses in his dresser with the roses Rafael gave him five years ago. It occurs to him that Rafael may have stolen the new ones from their neighbor's garden just like he had when they were kids. The thought makes Sonny smile. It would be a little inside thing Rafael would remember.

Sonny is so excited to go to prom with Rafael. He was trying to convince himself he didn't mind, but he actually did really want to go.

And now he gets to walk in with Rafael on his arm, dressed in their beautiful suits, and they get to take pictures together, and they get to dance closely all night. They get to kiss and hug and have fun together.

Sonny goes to bed so excited.

Chapter Text

"Alright, gents--"

Sonny should not be doing this.

"Today we go with the time honored tradition of doing something crazy as a team when we get selected for state--"

His mother is going to kill him.

"There have been tattoos, piercings, but we are going old school--"

Rafael is going to kill him.

"Taking a page from many, many sports teams before us, from the Saudi Arabian team in the Little League World Series to team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic this year--"

Prom is in four days. None of them should be doing this.

Walker, the senior captain of the varsity baseball team, grabs a convenient store bag and dumps the contents onto the table in front of him.

"We're going blue."

Sonny nervously looks at the bottles of hair bleach and blue dye in front of him. He really, really shouldn't be doing this, but they're dyeing their hair as a team before state. Lots of teams do this. For luck.

At least his hair will already take the blue dye so he won't have to bleach it. And for prom, he and Rafael are wearing blue ties and blue boutonnières, so he'll at least match.

They're going to kill him. His sisters are going to laugh at him. He'll look like a fool during prom.

But...anything for the baseball team.

At least there's a guy on the team taking cosmetology classes, so he actually knows how to dye hair. Some guys don't really care what it looks like, so they just pour the dye in themselves. Sonny wants it done right, so he waits his turn.

He sits in the chair and Javier gets the dye ready.

"You want it to look nice, right?" Javier asks.

"What? I mean, yeah, why wouldn't I--"

"Some of the guys don't care what it looks like. For you, I'll actually style it. I like your blonde with the blue, so I'm going to only put it on the top. Here." Javier circles his fingers over the crown of Sonny's head, where his hair is longer. "Want me to trim the sides so it looks more styled?"

Sonny shrugs.

"Honestly," Javier says, slipping on rubber gloves, "You have great hair. I kind of just want to play with it."

Sonny cracks a smile. "Alright, do your worst."

Javier gets to work, first trimming the sides and showing Sonny how to slick it later. Then he applies the dye and tells Sonny to set his phone timer so they can remember to rinse it.

The other guys are fighting over the X-Box, but Sonny is content sitting in the bathroom with Javier. He gets a text while he's waiting.

Rafael had texted to let Sonny know how missed he is. They were supposed to have a date, but this baseball meeting was called and Sonny had to cancel.

The last player leaves the bathroom and Javier starts cleaning his supplies.

"Texting your boyfriend?" Javier asks. Sonny just looks at him. "I can tell by your smile. And relax, everyone knows you have a boyfriend."

Sonny nods.

"It's kind of nice to have another gay kid on the team," Javier says. "Not that it's, like, celebrated and stuff, but still. Pretty nice."

Sonny wants to tell Javier that he isn't even sure if he's gay, but that's an entire conversation that doesn't need to be held at this exact moment. He just agrees.

"I've never had a boyfriend," Javier says. "What's it like?"

Sonny chuckles. "What do you mean?"

"You know, like..." Javier wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

Sonny blushes deeply. He thinks he knows what Javier means.

"Oh, I...wouldn't know, we...we're not...we haven't--"

Javier smirks. "Really? That's surprising."

"Why?"

Javier shrugs. "Rafael is hot, man."

Sonny frowns. Someone else calling his boyfriend hot is not something he loves hearing, no matter how true it is.

"I know he's hot."

Javier tells him to lean his head over the side of the tub so he can rinse the dye out.

Javier shows Sonny how to style it while it's still drying. When it's done, Sonny looks surprisingly older. His blue hair actually looks pretty awesome.

He turns around to thank Javier and finds the other boy directly in front of him, way in his personal space.

"Uh..."

"You're pretty hot too, Carisi," Javier says, leaning closer, looking at Sonny's lips.

"Th-thanks," Sonny mumbles.

Javier grins, and Sonny doesn't even want to know what he's thinking, but Javier thankfully stops. Sonny would have told him to stop if he had gotten any closer, and Sonny is glad he didn't. Javier just steps away and Sonny quickly exits the bathroom.


 

Sonny walks home from the party and starts to get worried that he just did something monstrously stupid. It's just hair, it'll grow back normal in time, but he's fourteen, he didn't have permission, and prom is very, very soon.

The lights are off when he gets home, everyone is asleep. Sonny tiptoes up to the upstairs bathroom, where he flicks on the light to check out his hair.

He hears nothing, until Bella laughs and asks, "What did you do to your head?"

Sonny jumps. "Jesus, make some noise, will you?"

Bella laughs again and fully enters the bathroom.

"They're gonna to kill you, you know? Mom's gonna flip."

Sonny rolls his eyes and shoos his little sister out of the bathroom.


 

The next morning, Sonny wakes up early for school so he can hopefully invite Rafael over for breakfast. He walks downstairs and completely forgets about his hair before entering the kitchen.

Deb screams. Bella cracks up immediately. Dominick Sr. looks proud; he knows what's going on.

"Dominick Carisi Junior, what have you done?" Deb slowly asks, her voice stern.

Bella laughs harder. "Oh, you're in deep, Son. Mama brought out the first name."

Deb glares at her youngest daughter. Dominick Sr. laughs, too.

"You're only laughing because he's just like you," Deb says to her husband.

Dominick Sr. snorts. "Hey, when I was in high school, we shaved our heads. This is nothing."

Deb slowly approaches Sonny delicately and pulls the long strands of blue hair.

Dominick Sr. runs his fingers through Sonny's hair. "Did everyone do it?" he asks.

Sonny nods.

Deb's jaw drops. "Had they jumped off a cliff, would you have done it?"

Sonny grins, which his mother hates. "If it was luck helping us win state, yeah."

Deb looks ready to cry. "Has Rafael seen...this?"

"No--"

Deb picks up her phone. In seconds, she's talking. "Hi, honey. Can you come over here? Yes, as soon as possible."

She hangs up. She serves Sonny breakfast in a very hostile fashion, but he and Dominick Sr. exchange humorous glances while they eat.

The doorbell rings a few minutes later. Sonny is still eating his waffles, so Bella excited jumps to answer the door.

"Bells," Sonny hears. "Hey, is everything okay?"

Bella just laughs. She yanks Rafael into the kitchen.

"Hey," Rafael greets everyone again, "What's--" His gaze stops at Sonny. He just stares.

Sonny gives a bashful smile. "Hey, Rafi."

"I can't believe you."

Sonny combs his hand through the deep blue. "You don't like it?"

Rafael pinches the bridge of his nose. "In ten, twenty years, I'm going to look back at my senior prom photos and remember my boyfriend had blue hair?"

"Exactly!" Deb cries.

Sonny tries to defend himself. "Lex has blue hair. Actually, she's going pink this afternoon."

"Lex--" Rafael sighs. "You know what? Whatever. It's. Whatever."

Rafael plops down at the table and Dominick Sr. hands him a plate of food, then he, Deb, and Bella leave the kitchen to finish getting ready.

Sonny doesn't really care that Rafael is mad. It's not like he did anything bad. His hair is just...kind of blue.

"Love you, Rafi," Sonny says as Rafael angrily stabs his waffles.

"Mhm."

"You don't think it's a little bit cute?"

Rafael glances at him sideways.

"You're lucky you're always cute," he mutters.

Sonny grins smugly.

Sonny goes upstairs to get ready. He puts on one of his baseball t-shirts and styles his hair the way Javier showed him. He thinks he looks very nice.

Rafael watches him walk down the stairs. He smiles at Sonny. "I guess I'll get used to it," he says.

Sonny kisses him. "You will. And when you show off our prom photos in twenty years, you'll laugh about it. Besides, everyone will just say, 'Wow, Rafi, you're lucky to be with someone so cute.'"

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Yeah, that's what people will say."

They walk to school hand in hand, as they always do.


Rafael actually really hates that Sonny can make anything look amazing.

Sweaty after a baseball game? Ridiculously hot.

Covered in whatever materials they're using in art that day? Adorable.

Terrible fake makeup that Bella smears on his face while they're playing? Extremely kissable.

Flour from exploding baked goods all over his face and clothes? Cute as ever.

Freakin' blue hair? Weirdly sexy in a cool punk boy band way.

Rafael hates it, and what he hates even more is that he doesn't actually hate it. And with the new cut and style Javier gave him, he just looks amazing.

Sonny isn't always reminded of their age difference, for they are both still kids. But when Sonny's hair was longer and shaggier, he looked far more boyish and innocent than Rafael. Now, with his newly styled hair, he looks older, more mature, and Rafael doesn't feel a pang of guilt while he's checking Sonny out during gym class.

But they are still very young, both of them, too young for activities many of their friends get up to. Rafael is not ready, and Sonny definitely isn't ready.

That doesn't mean Rafael can't look.

And look he does, especially tonight, prom night, when Sonny will be in a beautifully fitting suit with a shining blue tie and matching vest. Sonny's worn this suit a few times, like Theresa's wedding and the winter dance, but this is his prom outfit, which makes him way more handsome. Maybe it's the slimming vest.

Rafael, looking in his bedroom mirror, doesn't think he's much to look at. Not compared to Sonny. Sometimes he wonders what Sonny sees in him. His personality only goes so far. He's kind of a jerk to everyone, except Sonny. He's just standoffish, it takes a lot for Rafael to warm up to people. But of course he's so nice to Sonny; he loves Sonny.

Rafael smooths his hair down one more time before going downstairs.

Lucia watches him come downstairs excitedly. She claps her hands together delightedly.

"¡Papito, muy guapo! I can't believe it, you are so handsome, my son. So grown up, so beautiful!"

Rafael grins. "Really, Mami? You mean it?"

"Yes, of course, mi amor."

Lucia takes a picture of him on their front porch before they go over to the Carisi's house.

They're eating dinner at Sonny's house with Lex and her date, then they're driving to prom together in one of the nice cars Theresa's husband owns. He had offered, because he claimed the boys couldn't be dropped off to prom--that's just embarrassing. The one condition was that the car is parked at the Carisi house by 12:15 A.M., which was fine because the boys have no plans after the dance. And it was fine to the parents because they didn't want the boys out anyway.

Rafael rings the doorbell with his boutonnière for Sonny in hand, and he is nervous, for some reason. It's not like he won't have a great time with Sonny, it's not like Sonny won't have a great time with him. He is just nervous.

Bella, dressed in one of Sonny's old suits that fits her a little bit loosely, answers the door.

"Good evening," she says, stepping aside to let Rafael and Lucia in. "I am Bella, I will be your server this evening."

Lucia gushes over her, kissing Bella's head over and over. Lucia loves Bella the most, and she doesn't deny it. Bella was born while Lucia and Rafael were 'in the family', so Bella is everyone's baby.

Bella leads them into the sitting room where the other guests are having, "Pre-dinner cocktails," as she calls them. They're drinking coffees from Rafael's favorite cafe.

Sonny's smile brightens up the room as soon as Rafael enters. He looks so happy, and Rafael is the reason for it. Rafael's nervousness instantly disappears. And of course, Sonny's blue hair looks amazing.

Sonny steps up to Rafael and just grins.

"You look freakin' amazing," Sonny tells him.

Rafael takes his hands. "Same to you."

Sonny's hands shift to Rafael's face. He leans in closely and gives him a quick kiss, then another, then another.

"Okay, love birds," Lex says, "Let's get this show on the road!"

Sonny lets Rafael go, not that Rafael wants him to, then the couples pose so they can take pictures for their parents.

Once their pictures are taken and the kids are thoroughly embarrassed, the parents leave so they can eat dinner. Dominick Sr. had made a delicious lasagna, his grandma's old recipe, and it's amazing. The kids stuff themselves full, then they sit around to digest for a while before leaving for the dance.

Rafael drives, and it's the first time he's really driven with other people in the car. And it's such a nice car.

Before they leave the driveway, Sonny quickly squeezes his hand. Then Rafael feels better.



The dance is a blast. It's beautifully decorated, the music is great, and Rafael and Sonny are seated with Lex, her date, and a few of their other mutual friends. It's fun.

Sonny drags Rafael onto the dance floor first during a fast song. Sonny shows Rafael how to dance, because while he can dance to Latin music fairly well, Rafael can't really dance any other way. Sonny can't either, but he seems to enjoy holding on to Rafael's hips and making him move.

The song turns slow, and Sonny doesn't let Rafael leave the dance floor like he thought he would. Sonny pulls Rafael close and they sway together sweetly.

"Are you having fun?" Sonny asks.

Rafael looks up into his face. He looks nervous, like Rafael will actually say spending time with him is not enjoyable. They could be doing anything and Rafael would still be having the time of his life. Just as long as he's with Sonny.

"Of course," Rafael says. "Are you?"

"Yeah," Sonny replies before leaning down to kiss Rafael right there in front of everyone.

Rafael can't believe he's so lucky. A boy wanting to kiss him, in the middle of his senior prom, even if that boy has blue hair.

Sometimes Rafael can't believe it's Sonny who's kissing him so much every day.

Sonny, who he met when the boy called him 'Wa-fi'.

Sonny, who asked him on a date when they were little.

Sonny, who he has claimed to want to marry since he was nine-years-old.

Sonny, who has stood up for him, who has taught him how to be bold, who has dealt with his attitude and negativity their entire lives.

Sonny, who is the best man he knows. Already, as a fourteen-year-old kid, Sonny is the greatest, kindest, sweetest person he's ever met. He knows Sonny is honest when he tells Rafael how much he cares about him, how much he loves him. Rafael only hopes Sonny understands the honesty in his words, as well.

"Hey," Sonny says, knocking Rafael out of his thoughts. "Remember when Theresa went to prom all those years ago and we dressed up?"

"I had forgotten about that," Rafael admits, but the memory comes flooding back.

They wore their nice suits, probably the same exact one Bella was wearing tonight, Dominick Sr. made them a nice dinner that night, then they spent all night dancing around to Lucia's old Spanish records. They fell asleep on the couch in their suits, and it was so fun.

"Man," Sonny says, "We really have been dating, like, our entire lives."

Rafael laughs. "Yeah, I guess so."

Rafael drives Lex and her date home at the end of the night, then the car is back in the Carisi's driveway by 12:15, on the dot. They go into the house and change out of their suits, then they snuggle on the couch. Neither are tired yet, and Rafael has permission to spend the night, so they put on a movie to watch while they snack and snuggle.


 

They fall asleep around three, and when Dominick Sr. wakes up at five, he finds them asleep on each end of the couch, their legs tangled in the middle, just like they used to when they were little.

He just smiles fondly at them, glad that they didn't get up to no good on prom night. They just enjoyed each other's company, like they usually do. 

 

Chapter Text

May is busy.

Sonny's state baseball tournament starts the first week, Senior events like the awards assembly and class dinner are the second week, Rafael's final play is the third week, and graduation is the last full week. On top of that, there are finals, maintaining his grades to keep his scholarship, and getting to unwind by spending time with Sonny.

At least Rafael no longer has to worry about actually getting into college, because the Harvard letter came weeks ago. He was able to celebrate before all the stressful events came up, but now he is busy every moment of his downtime filling out scholarship applications for everything he can possibly get money from. And he's filling out applications for a summer job he can hopefully land.

All in all, Rafael is stressed.

He knows Sonny is trying very hard not to stress him out, and perhaps that's because Sonny is also stressed, but it helps a little bit.

Sonny's state games are upstate, so he leaves school early for the long drives. But while he's just on the bus or waiting between games, he is available for Rafael's mindless, "Please tell me everything is okay." texts.

To which Sonny always replies pictures of cake. Because "everything is a piece of cake, Rafi!" He also likes sending Rafael kissing face emojis, which Rafael rolls his eyes at but secretly loves.

Rafael really loves getting those simple texts saying, "Love you, Rafi." Because then all the problems, the stress, the nervousness, it all goes away.

Rafael finds it a little bit comical that he's preparing to register for Harvard classes while Sonny is preparing to register for sophomore geometry, Spanish I, and Chemistry I.

"You're a cradle robber," Sonny teases, making Rafael feel a tiny bit terrible that he's dating such a young boy. Then he looks at Sonny and feels unable to give him up.

Rafael feels bad that he can't make it to Sonny's games, but sometimes in the middle of rehearsal, he gets a FaceTime call (from Bella on Dominick Sr.'s phone) so he can see Sonny batting. Sometimes he strikes out, sometimes he gets an awesome hit, but Rafael loves being able to watch whatever he does. Sonny's team wins the first week of games, so they move on to the finals stage during the next week.

The second week of May is reserved for Rafael's senior events. On Tuesday night, they have an awards assembly where scholarships are congratulated and seniors in clubs are given awards. Rafael gets his scholarships announced, and he gets a pin for student council and theater.

Sonny can't join him for the awards ceremony because he has baseball practice, but they still celebrate. Sonny makes him cookies and showers him with kisses when they finally see each other, and Sonny's make up technique is fine to Rafael.

On Thursday night, the seniors have a dinner where only the parents can attend, so Sonny can't. Rafael takes his Mami and Abuela, but Sonny is at his house while the family is getting ready.

"Estoy tan orgulloso de ti, Papito," Rafael's Abuela says. "So proud of mi abogado."

Rafael bashfully smiles. "Abuela, I am not a lawyer yet. I won't be for a while."

Rafael looks at Sonny, who is staring at him with the same amount of pride his Abuela is.

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Guys, everyone graduates."

Abuela grabs his face, squeezing his skin lovingly as she always does. "But it's not every day mi papito goes to Harvard."

"I know," Rafael slurs, his cheeks still pushed together.

"You will do wonderful things," Abuela says.

Rafael's heart swells. All he wants is to make her proud, to make everybody proud. But sometimes that's a lot of pressure to hold. What if he can't make it at Harvard? What if he doesn't become a lawyer? He doesn't have a Plan B. This is all he's wanted his entire life. What if he fails miserably? What if he disappoints everyone?

His head begins to pound. Luckily, Rafael's Mami and Abuela leave him and Sonny in the living room. As soon as they're gone, Rafael collapses onto the couch and sighs in relief.

"What's wrong?" Sonny asks, sitting at his side.

Rafael leans forward onto his knees to take a few deep breaths. "I just..."

Sonny doesn't touch him, doesn't even reach for him. From the few times Rafael has had panic or anxiety attacks before, Sonny has learned not to touch him.

What he does do is read Rafael's mind perfectly, which Rafael has always found creepy but useful. He never has to say things like, "I'm upset that I got a B in math." or, "I'm nervous to audition for the play." or now, when Sonny instantly says:

"You are making us proud, Rafi."

Rafael scrubs a hand over his face. "And what if that stops? What if I'm a huge disappointment instead?"

"You'll never disappoint us, no matter what you do in life. Unless, like..."

Rafael's stomach drops. He looks at Sonny. "Unless?"

"Unless you become a defense attorney."

It takes Rafael a second to realize Sonny is trying to make a joke, and he huffs out a laugh.

"Gee, thanks, Sonny."

"Well! That's, like, literally the only way anyone would ever be upset about a decision you make. Do everything for you, okay, Rafi? Do you feel proud of yourself?"

He does, actually, and he's never realized that before. He's already accomplished something major: getting accepted into Harvard at all.

"You know what? I do," Rafael says.

"Then that's what matters. Okay?"

Rafael takes a few calming breaths, then reaches over for Sonny's hand. "When did you get so wise?" he asks.

"I gotta sound smart to impress you, Rafi. You got in to freakin' Harvard."

"You can do it too, Sonny. You are smart."

Sonny smiles. "Yeah, sure, maybe I'll be a lawyer, too."

"Hey, there's an idea," Rafael says, leaning into Sonny. Sonny lifts his arm so Rafael can tuck into his side comfortably. He continues, "We can go against each other in court."

"No! 'Cause then one of us would have to be the defense attorney. It's not like when we were kids and we realized we could both be kings, y'know."

Rafael smiles. Sonny kisses his head.



Sonny's team goes to the final round of the state tournament in the middle of May. Since they don't know how far they'll go in the tournament, Rafael skips rehearsal for a day to go with the Carisi's to the game, that way he is guaranteed to see at least one. When the team wins and they move on, Rafael is sad that he won't see Sonny play in the next round, but he's glad he saw him play at all.

Sonny is an amazing ball player and always has been. Dominick Sr. has worked with him every day since Sonny was about five-years-old. Rafael remembers Dominick Sr. teaching him how to throw a ball, swing a bat, and use a glove, too.

Rafael thinks a lot about their childhood together these days.

He remembers learning how to change a tire from the time Deb's tire blew on the way home from a baseball game. She sat the boys on the street curb and showed them how it's done.

He remembers Dominick Sr. teaching him how to perfect a meatball, then trying to show Dominick Sr. how to make his favorite Cuban dish.

He remembers Theresa showing them how to paint their fingernails, and Gina showing them how to do long division when they were very little.

He remembers giving Sonny the courage to climb their rickety stairs by himself, and Sonny giving him the courage to speak up for himself, and to be louder, and to be bold. He remembers kissing Sonny's cuts and scrapes, and Sonny drawing Rafael pictures or writing him little letters. He remembers almost constantly having peanut butter on his clothes or in his hair, even if he didn't even eat peanut butter that day. He remembers wanting nothing more than to be with Sonny, be a part of their family, forever.

He thinks about their time together, how in love they've always been, with the example of their relationship growing up set by his two extra parents, Deb and Dominick Sr.

For graduation, Rafael has five tickets reserved to give to his guests. Thinking about everything the Carisi's have done for him over the years, he decides they deserve to be at his graduation, too. He wants to thank them for letting him grow up in their family.

When they get home from Sonny's game, Rafael goes home to tell Lucia they're back and to get the two extra tickets. He had already given one to Sonny, one to Mami, and one to Abuela. He runs back across the street.

They're in the kitchen when he walks in.

"Hey, uhm," he mumbles, getting their attention. "I have something to ask you guys."

Sonny is not in the room, so Dominick Sr. jokes, "You are way too young to ask us for Sonny's hand."

Deb chuckles. "Dom, be quiet."

Rafael cracks a smile. "Well, no, that's not exactly it. Uhm, well, you guys mean a lot to me, and...it would be great if...I was wondering if..." Rafael produces the tickets from behind his back. "I was hoping you could come to graduation."

Deb almost immediately bursts into tears. "Oh, Rafi, of course!" she cries, going to him and hugging him tight. "We are honored!" Deb kisses his head and squeezes him the same way she does to Sonny.

Dominick Sr. grasps his shoulder, then leans over and kisses his head, too. "Thank you, son," he simply says.

Rafael fills will joy, and love, and gratitude.

Rafael hears Sonny hop down the stairs, and in seconds he's behind Rafael.

Sonny laughs. "Hey, can I get in on this?" Then, he tries to insert himself between the two people he hugs the most: his mother and Rafael. The hug ends, but Sonny still holds on to his mom.

Deb rolls her eyes. "You know, you used to do this when Bella was born. Even if I was feeding her, you'd try to climb onto my lap."

Rafael laughs. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure he used to do that when I'd hold Bella as a baby."

Dominick Sr. joins the conversation, "I'm pretty sure he did it to me when he was a tiny baby and he'd see me kiss you, babe."

Sonny still holds onto Deb. "I just like my mommy, okay?"

Everyone laughs, but Sonny doesn't even blush. He's still the four-year-old attached to Deb at heart.

"What's this hug-fest for, anyway?" he finally asks.

Dominick Sr. holds up the graduation tickets. "You're not the only Carisi going to graduation."

Sonny grabs them. "Way to make a guy feel special, Rafi."

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Come on, Sonny."

Sonny grins. "I'm kidding. Hey, speaking of special," he grabs Rafael's hand and pulls him towards the kitchen exit. "Wanna go make out before I gotta go to workout?"

They're not even out the doorway before Dominick Sr. yells, "Door stays open!"

Sonny and Rafael laugh, even though Rafael feels extremely embarrassed. He doesn't want Sonny's parents to think they're doing something they aren't ready for.

"I'm kidding," Sonny says. "I need help editing my English paper."

Rafael snorts. "Why am I helping you? English isn't even my first language. You should be doing my English papers."

"Your sarcasm is improving, Rafi. And you know I find it adorable when you get so tired that you forget the word 'socks'."

Rafael rolls his eyes.



Sonny's team loses in the state semifinal, but they win the third-place game. They get a trophy anyway, and Sonny is happy with the experience.

"So now you're just going to have blue hair for no reason?" Rafael asks the morning after the third place game.

"Whatever, you secretly love it."

Secretly, it grows on Rafael.

Rafael feels guilty that he's happy Sonny won't miss his play, because the state championship and the play are the same night. Sonny expresses that he's glad he won't miss the play, but Rafael still feels bad agreeing with him.

The play is a hit. Everything runs smoothly, nobody forgets their lines, and the audience loves it. Rafael has so much fun, and when the curtain closes, he realizes how much he'll miss it. No more opening nights. No more panicking before a performance.

In time, in years, there will be opening statements, and panicking as the judge enters the courtroom. When he thinks about that, his future, how much he wants it, he's okay with leaving high school behind.


 

He is not excited about leaving Sonny behind.

Sonny, who tries not to tell Rafael he will miss him. Sonny, who tries not to let Rafael dwell on missing him back.

The last week of school is spent relaxing, because finals are over, grades are being posted, and nobody really takes it seriously. Rafael and Sonny clean out their lockers, turn in their books, and finalize Sonny's schedule for the following year.

Sonny won't let Rafael say he will miss him, but Sonny still says things like, "Ha, next year one of your books will cost $200 and I'll be using this one again." and, "How should I decorate my locker next year? I'm gonna put a big ass picture of you in it, that's for sure."

Yearbooks come out and Rafael lets mostly theater mates sign his, because he doesn't really know anybody else besides Sonny and Lex. Some people leave heartfelt messages in other people's, but he just has Sonny, and he knows how Sonny feels.

Sonny flips through the pages of Rafael's yearbook to find the varsity baseball picture, then he draws a giant heart around his own smiling face.

Rafael looks at the photo. "You're the only one smiling."

"Yeah, one of the guys said to look serious, but this is my serious face." Sonny smiles widely.

Rafael laughs at him. Sonny kisses him.

Lex comes up to them as they're parting. "You know how weird it's going to be not seeing that ten times a day next year?"

Sonny, who won't let Rafael dwell on that, speaks first. "Uh, just like it was any time before January of this year?"

"True," Lex says. She hands Rafael her yearbook. "Sign it, Rafi?"

Rafael quickly scribbles his signature.

"Really? After everything I've gone through with you two this year, that's all I get? No, 'Keep in touch!', not even a, 'Have a great summer!'"

Rafael opens her book again and jots, 'Bye'.

Lex slaps the book shut. "Unbelievable."

Rafael smirks. Sonny laughs.


 

Graduation finally arrives. Rafael is nervous. As a student council member, Rafael has to sit in the front of the group, which he hates because people will actually see him. But everyone else attending likes it.

The whole day is spent relaxing, because Rafael is mostly trying to keep his nerves in check and the terrible fear of leaving Sonny and everyone else from crashing in. He's going to leave his mom, his Abuela, his Sonny, the Carisi's, and as the seconds tick closer to graduation, it's scaring him more and more.

He stays close to Sonny all day. He snuggles next to Sonny on the couch as they watch television. If Sonny gets up to go to the bathroom, Rafael hovers behind the shut door. He doesn't want to leave Sonny's side.

Lucia drives to graduation, Abuela in the passenger seat with he and Sonny in the back. Rafael squeezes Sonny's hand as he stares out the window. He feels calm touching Sonny's skin, like he's tethered to the earth and not going to float away. Like he isn't about to take the first step in leaving Sonny.

The worst part is that he knows it's not just because they're dating now. It's not because they're a couple now. Rafael had trouble leaving Sonny to go to junior high, then high school. He remembers freaking out he first time their recesses were split.

Sonny will be here, in high school, in the Bronx, for at least three more years. But after that? It's not like he'll follow Rafael, and it's not like Rafael will ask him to. Sonny has his own hopes, his own dreams, his own plans. Rafael isn't going interfere. How far away will Sonny go?

They arrive at the auditorium where Rafael's graduation is. He grabs his cap and gown and deflates when Sonny lets go of his hand. Rafael just stands watching Sonny walk away.

Rafael gets backstage where his classmates are. A few greet him, but all in all he feels alone. He has nothing to show for growing with these people for the past few years. It's only ever been Sonny, in his mind, in his heart.

His phone vibrates with a text. From Sonny.

"I'm right out here," Sonny's texts says. "Enjoy yourself! This is your last time hanging out with your friends."

Rafael wants to reply that Sonny is his friend, Sonny is all who matters, but Sonny is right. This is his last time being in a room with this group as a whole.

So Rafael begins to enjoy himself. He joins a group of friends he knows and they get dressed. They joke and laugh and mess around until it is time to start, so they line up to march.



When Rafael's name is called, he is sure he can hear his mother's tears. She did this, she got herself through high school and eventually got herself through a university. But she keeps telling him, 'I didn't go to Harvard! You are going to Harvard!' He keeps telling her that any college is an accomplishment, that she's accomplished so much doing it on her own, but she's making this about him.

After the ceremony and the curtains to the stage close, the graduates are given a few minutes together before their parents find them. Rafael spends his time searching for his thrown cap and being hugged by random classmates, a bunch of crying people, and eventually they're released to greet their guests.

Of course, Lucia is bawling her eyes out. His Abuela is subtly crying, because she rarely shows that much emotion, but seeing them cry makes Rafael emotional. To top it all off, Sonny's eyes are red.

"God, don't do this to me," he says, hugging Sonny tight.

"I'm just proud of you, Rafi."

Deb and Dominick Sr. give him hugs and kisses, too. They thank him for the tickets, for thinking of them.

"Thank you guys, seriously," Rafael says. "Everything you've done for me--"

Lucia jumps in. "Rafael was so lonely before your family moved in across the street. I can't imagine what it would have been like had you never arrived."

Rafael doesn't want to think about what his life would be like without Sonny. Sonny appears to have the same thought, because he reaches for Rafael's hand. They smile at each other.

They begin to walk out of the auditorium and Sonny grabs Rafael's cap. He places it on his head.

"Hey Ma," Sonny says. "I'm next."

Deb clutches her heart. "Oh god, don't say that. Not my baby."

Sonny grins. Rafael feels the same way Deb does. He doesn't want Sonny to grow up too quickly, either.

They have a small get together at the Barba house that night. Lucia had made all of Rafael's favorite foods and they had invited numerous relatives and people Abuela has adopted as relatives over the years. Cousins who aren't really related, aunts and uncles who are not. Like a typical Latino family.

And of course the Carisi's, including Theresa, who even hugs Rafael for the first time in almost ten years. Bella gives him a present, which is a picture of herself so he won't forget her.

Sonny frowns when Rafael opens the gift from Bella. "Hey," he says, "That's what I got you, too!"

Rafael laughs. "Why do you think I'd forget you?"

Sonny shrugs. "'Cause there are cute boys at Harvard too, Rafi."

Rafael wraps an arm around Sonny's waist and pulls him close. "None cuter than you."

Sonny smiles. "Even with blue hair?"

"Yeah Sonny, even with blue hair."

Sonny kisses him quickly.

Rafael rubs his nose against Sonny's when he pulls away. "I love you."

Sonny squeezes him tighter. "I love you, too. And I am proud of you. I know everyone keeps tellin' you, and you don't think it's a big deal, but it is. What you've done, what you will do, it's a big deal. And I'll love you always, no matter how far away you are."

Rafael's anxiety is momentarily soothed. Sonny will be here, Sonny will love him. And everything will be okay.

 

Chapter Text

"You look cute in that apron Rafi," Sonny says with a wink.

Rafael rolls his eyes and sets down another glass of water in front of Sonny.

"You really don't need to hang out, Sonny. When does practice start?"

Sonny checks his watch. "I have plenty of time."

Rafael's boss, an upcoming senior girl named Beth who is actually younger than Rafael, comes out of nowhere. The shop--Rafael's favorite coffee shop where he now works--is not busy. Sonny isn't really taking up any space.

"Rafael, I warned you about your boyfriend hanging around without even ordering anything."

"I ordered water," Sonny defends.

Beth glares at him. "Loitering is for paying customers," she retorts.

Sonny stands to dig in his pockets. "I got uh..." He pulls out a crumpled dollar that's probably been in his pocket for weeks. "Rafi, can I borrow a dollar?"

Rafael, always finding Sonny amusing, reaches into his pocket.

Beth stops him. "No, no! That's not what I meant. Go make yourself useful somewhere else."

"Beth, my friend," Sonny says. "I can be useful here."

Beth quirks an eyebrow and grows a sly smile. "Go clean the bathroom."

Rafael wants to laugh. Beth looks like she might rip his throat out if he does.

Sonny grins and heads for the bathroom.

In ten minutes he's done, and Rafael doesn't even want to see what he did. For a boy who's mommy still cleans his bathroom, he probably didn't get much done.

He still waltzes out of the bathroom like he owns the place.

Beth follows him, checking in the bathroom as she passes.

"Carisi! You didn't--"

"Gotta go!" Sonny yells back to her.

Rafael, behind the counter taking a customer's order, just chuckles.

Sonny is almost out the door before he turns back to jump on the counter to kiss Rafael quickly. Rafael just laughs, embarrassed in front of a customer who is thankfully around his age and just laughs with him. At least it wasn't one of their usual customers, the ones who glare at Sonny and Rafael making heart eyes at each other.

"Love you, Rafi!" Sonny calls as he's hitting the door, where Beth is standing arms crossed and stern. "Okay, okay, love you too, Beth, geez, not in front of Rafael."

Beth maintains her hateful glare, because she truly does dislike Rafael's other half. Sonny darts out the door and Rafael watches him disappear past the window. He finally focuses on the customer again.

"I'm sorry, can you repeat your order?" he asks.


 

Rafael's job is going great, despite his boss hating Sonny. Sonny knows not to bother Rafael, he usually just hangs out in the middle of the afternoon when things are slow. Most of their customers during the summer are high school kids anyway, so Sonny usually finds a friend to chat with while Rafael is busy.

Sonny thinks he's useful in convincing people to tip Rafael, but he's not.

"Come on guys," he says, "My boy's goin' to Harvard soon, he needs the cash!"

And then someone else reminds Sonny that he didn't tip Rafael at all.

And then Sonny, who thinks he's the funniest person ever, winks at Rafael and promises to "tip him later". Rafael's skin actually burns red, and he covers his face in embarrassment.

Basically, Sonny really likes to be overly loving towards Rafael to the point that Rafael gets embarrassed.

But Rafael turns the tables.

Sonny is playing baseball in a summer traveling team, summer football for school because he wants to try out this year, and running track on his time off the other two sports. Rafael, when he's off, is at each of Sonny's practices or games. He takes Lex, who of course wants to watch her friend play, but also wants to embarrass him back for Rafael.

They like to sit close to Sonny's team's dugout and whistle at him when he comes in deck. They like to make signs that say, "#3 is hot!" or, "Kiss me, #3!"

Sonny doesn't get nearly as embarrassed by Rafael, because the attention is great for his gigantic ego, but he does get embarrassed when the guys on the team tease him about Rafael's presence. It's harmless teasing, they tease all the boys on the team with significant others.

Rafael is very supportive of Sonny's busy sports schedule, just as Sonny is with Rafael's job. Not only does he love visiting Rafael at work, but every time Rafael gets a paycheck and puts it away into savings, Sonny tells Rafael he is proud.

"Look at you, growing up right before my eyes," Sonny says. Rafael always rolls his eyes.

June ends quicker than they would have liked, because when July starts they come to the terrible realization that it is their last full month together. A month has gone by and they haven't done anything they had planned to do in the summer. They haven't gone into the city to see a show, they haven't gone to a Yankee game, and they've only been on half a date (they had to take Bella with them). There's a list a mile long of things they need to do before July is over.

Rafael prints out a copy of his July work schedule and presents it to Sonny. He tells Sonny to write down his practice and game schedule on the calendar.

Luckily, the coffee shop is closed Sunday's and Sonny's only activity on Sunday's is a morning run, so Sunday's are free. But other than Sunday's, they're only left with three other days where they're both free.

"Seven days," Sonny says disappointedly.

Rafael rubs Sonny's back. "We'll make it work."

They buy tickets to a baseball game, plan a day where they can go into Manhattan to visit the MET, and they set aside their final day off in July to start Rafael's packing.

They try not to dwell on Rafael leaving. They try not to think about it. Rafael just cheers him on at baseball games, and Sonny cheers him on while he pours an elderly man's cup of coffee.


 

Their schedule did not account for Sonny getting sick the first week of July.

"You're overdoing it," Rafael says, rubbing Sonny's back on the floor of the bathroom while Sonny tries to hold down the crackers he just ate.

Sonny is getting too much sun and overworking his body, with switching between baseball and football every day in the hot humidity, plus running the track when he gets a chance.

"But this school year, if I wanna varsity each season, I have to--"

"You're not going to be playing football and baseball the same day. I'm proud of you, I think you are amazing, but your workouts are getting to be too much, babe."

The name just slips out. He doesn't even catch it at first, not until he registers Sonny freezing solid under his fingers.

Rafael slowly pulls his hand away. "I'm sorry, it just came out--"

Sonny turns around to face Rafael. "No, I...I liked it."

Rafael looks at him. "Really?"

"Yeah," Sonny says with a growing smile. He leans over and kisses Rafael's shoulder.

Rafael, even though he helped Sonny clean up vomit half an hour ago, feels amazing.

Sonny cuts back on workouts and practices because they're not all mandatory. He's in great shape, and the baseball practices are enough for him, but pausing football for a while frees up a lot of time. He spends so much time bothering Rafael at work that Beth gives him a job. He mostly cleans and buses tables, and Beth works with his availability (mostly because she doesn't want Sonny there as much as Rafael is).


 

Rafael and Lex go to Sonny's football practice when Sonny is better. Lex wears a halter top and claims she just wants to tan, but Rafael knows she really does want to support her friend.

Even though it's practice, Rafael still has a sign that says, "Carisi is a babe!" Lex just laughs at him, and laughs at Sonny being a show off on the field because of Rafael.

"You guys are disgusting," she says. "What are you going to do apart next year?"

"FaceTime," Rafael jokes.

A few silent minutes go by, Rafael and Lex both laying out across the bleachers.

"No really," Lex finally says. "What is going to happen when you leave?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know, like...long distance is hard. Are you going to stay together?"

Rafael frowns. Lex is the first person to bring up his upcoming departure. "Of course. It's not that far."

"It's a plane ride, a train ride. That's pretty far."

"It's the same time zone."

"It's different schedules, different, like, ages, you know? You're in college."

Their age difference has never really bothered Rafael before. They always stayed at pretty much the same level of interests and maturity. When Sonny was five and wanted to watch Mickey Mouse, eight-year-old Rafael would still be right there next to him. But Lex is right, Rafael is in college. Making their class schedules, it was funny that Sonny signed up for geometry, but thinking about it--

Rafael doesn't want to think about it. He doesn't want to admit that it's weird that he's dating a sophomore kid. Or, he doesn't want to think it's weird and have somebody tell him it is.

"Do...do you think it's weird that--"

"No, no, geez, no Rafi, that's not what I was trying to say. It's not weird. It's not like you're preying on a child. I'm just saying, you'll be really away from each other. I just hope you don't grow apart."

Rafael's frown deepens. He really didn't want to think about any of this. Suddenly ill, his head spinning and his worry growing, Rafael closes his eyes and tries his best not to think about it.

Unfortunately, something else pops into his head: what if Sonny finds someone else more age appropriate for himself? What if he finds a nice sophomore boy or girl and they fit better? Sonny's never really had the chance to pursue a different relationship. What if he wants to?

Rafael feels sick. He sits up with a groan, and rubs his eyes.

"You okay?" Lex asks.

"Just hot," Rafael lies, not wanting Lex to feel bad about opening this can of worms.

"Speaking of hot," Lex says, smacking his arm.

Rafael looks at her confused, but sees she's staring at the boys on the field. Rafael turns to check out what she's looking at.

Check out is right, because the boys have taken off their practice uniforms and pads and are now shirtless. Sonny wipes himself down with a towel before joining the rest of the group in the end-zone of the field. His pants rest low on his hips, and Rafael's heart starts beating funny.

Lex reaches over and pushes his jaw up. Rafael didn't notice it had literally dropped.

Lex says, "You act like you didn't know he had a body underneath."

Rafael watches the boys do sprints on the field. He licks his lips. "I, uh--"

Lex laughs loudly. "What a babe, huh?"

Rafael absentmindedly nods.

He watches Sonny intently for the rest of his practice, which is only about ten more minutes. The boys on the field break and head for their bags to leave, but Sonny runs up the stadium to where Rafael and Lex are sitting.

Rafael stares, stunned. He leans back against the bench behind him and Sonny leans over him, hands holding him up on either side of Rafael's shoulders.

"How'd I do?" Sonny asks.

Rafael is too distracted by Sonny pretty much on top of him, Sonny shirtless, Sonny sweating, Sonny's muscles straining under his tanning skin to say anything. Rafael wants to reach out and touch him--touch his arms, touch his chest--but he doesn't.

Sonny smirks. "Love you, Rafi," he says, his voice low and quiet.

Rafael looks up into his eyes. He's about to say it back, but Sonny kisses him instead.

Rafael strains not to touch Sonny, because he doesn't want to be 'inappropriate' in public. There's nothing wrong about their kissing, their relationship, but Rafael is aware of how other people feel about them together. He knows that even though the baseball team was very accepting of him, some guys on the football team are not.

So Rafael keeps the kiss brief, pulling away from Sonny first. Sonny is grinning from ear to ear.

"Let me go get my stuff and we'll go, okay?"

Rafael nods.

Sonny takes off down the bleachers and Rafael's eyes are glued to him.

Lex cracks up next to him. "You know what? You two will never fizzle out. Not with that flame."

Rafael looks at her. "What?"

"You two fit. It's gross, but you fit."

Rafael agrees; they do fit.

"Let's go," Lex says, patting his arm.

Rafael grabs today's sign and follows her down the steps.

Sonny meets them at the bottom, now with a sleeveless shirt on, which Rafael is secretly sad about. Sonny grabs his hand, brings it to his lips, and kisses Rafael's palm.

"Thanks for coming," Sonny tells him.

"It was fun," Lex says. "You guys are fun to watch. Especially the end."

"What, with us running around with our shirts off?" Sonny asks. "Keep your eyes to yourself, Lex."

Lex elbows Rafael. "Tell that to your boyfriend."

Rafael kisses Sonny's bare shoulder.

"He can look," Sonny says, fondly looking at Rafael.

Rafael notices in the following weeks how often Sonny starts walking around shirtless.


 

The rest of July passes like this, with a few dates added here and there.

Sonny starts school in the middle of August, and the last weekend together they spend cleaning Rafael's room and beginning to pack. Rafael doesn't have to leave until the last week of August, but they wanted to start packing together.

Sonny begins by going through Rafael's papers and files (stuff his mother had saved from school years past), while Rafael works on his clothes.

"Do you need a participation certificate from the third grade spelling bee?" Sonny asks.

"I can't say that I do."

"What about second grade March Student of the Month?"

"Yeah, I'll put that on my future resumes."

Sonny grins.

They continue going through their piles. Sonny laughs at Rafael's elementary school pictures and cuts a few to keep for himself.

"Look at how freakin' cute you were, Rafi. I can't wait for someone to ask what my boyfriend looks like and to show them this picture." He holds up Rafael's fifth grade picture, when he was going through his truly chunky little boy stage.

Rafael just rolls his eyes.

"Oh, this is cute," Sonny says, and Rafael knows he's in for some teasing. Sonny reads from the page, "'When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer. I will go to college to learn. I want to marry..."

Rafael freezes. He remembers that page. He said he wanted to marry to Sonny. He didn't write it on the page during class, but later, when he talked to his Mami about it, he wrote that he would marry Sonny.

Rafael had forgotten about that stupid paper. It brought a lot of grief from other classmates, but his teacher told them they could marry whoever they wanted. One girl wanted to marry Prince William.

Rafael doesn't want Sonny to think that's weird, that he wrote that all those years ago.

"Me?" Sonny asks.

"Look, it was a long time ago--"

"Damn Rafi, you've always had it bad."

Rafael looks at Sonny to see a joking gleam in his eye. Rafael smirks.

"Yeah, it was a long time ago," he casually says. "Things change."

Sonny loses his small smile. "Ha-ha," he says. "Here I was gonna say how freakin' cute that is, but you--"

"Oh, shut up, Sonny."

"Don't tell me to shut up, you shut up."

"You," is all Rafael childishly retorts, flirting with Sonny.

"Make me," Sonny flirts back.

Rafael's eyes narrow at him. "Don't make me make you."

Sonny quirks an eyebrow. He saunters over to Rafael and drops to his knees where Rafael is sitting cross legged.

Sonny leans into Rafael's space. "What are you gonna do about it, tough guy?"

Rafael doesn't notice he's breathing heavily until he's leaning back on his elbows and Sonny is over him, arms on either side of Rafael's hips holding himself up.

Rafael's heart is beating so fast, he doesn't even know what he's thinking, what he wants, no 'right or wrong' going through his head, all he wants is Sonny's mouth.

"Shut up and kiss me," he demands.

Sonny does. He practically attacks Rafael, pushing him down flat on the floor and climbing on top of him.

Rafael's head swims. Sonny feels so good, so solid and strong on top of him, his body feels so warm. Rafael holds Sonny's face while they kiss, pulling him close, kissing him deeper.

Sonny kisses back, hard, like he's never kissed Rafael before. He isn't as nervous and sloppy as he sometimes is, when he's trying too hard to do it like they do in movies; right now he's just going with it, following Rafael but taking the lead easily, like he does this all the time.

Rafael wants to ask where the hell he's learning this from, but he doesn't want to stop. In fact, he begins to pull Sonny even closer to himself. Sonny digs his fingers into Rafael's hair and lightly tugs; Rafael sees stars.

It all feels so good, Rafael is almost overwhelmed by the feeling and heat and closeness they're sharing, but it's all of a sudden worse when Sonny kisses down his jaw, to his neck, and licks his pulse point.

Rafael gasps out a moan, the heat and wet and all of a sudden shockingly fantastic feeling traveling down his spine to where he notices he's grinding against Sonny.


His eyes fly open. He can't be doing this. Reality crashes down and he takes count of the situation: Sonny's thighs on either side of his hips, Sonny licking and sucking on his neck, Sonny breathlessly gasping in his ear, Sonny grinding against his hip too.

They can't be doing this. Sonny isn't even fifteen yet, he is way too young for this.

"Stop, stop!" Rafael cries.

Sonny immediately stops. "What?"

"We can't--" Rafael pushes Sonny off and scrambles into a sitting position. "We can't do this!"

Sonny frowns deeply. Rafael tries to cover the problem in his lap.

"Why not?" Sonny asks, sounding completely disappointed. "Was I doing something wrong? Did it not feel good?"

"No, I...it felt amazing. But...it's just--"

Sonny groans and rubs his face. "Ugh, it's me, I know--"

"No, it's not, I promise. Except...you're just too young, Sonny. I'm sorry, I love you so much, but when it comes to...you know, sex...I just...you're too young. We're too young. I don't want to rush you into being ready for it just because I'm older. Okay?"

Sonny takes a deep breath and looks Rafael in the eye. "I shouldn't have--"

"I shouldn't have, either. I'm sorry."

Rafael tries to lean over to kiss Sonny, but Sonny stops him.

"I need to, uhm," Sonny's face turns red and he breaks eye contact. "Clear my head."

"Oh..." Rafael sighs. "I'm sorry."

They're awkwardly silent for minutes following, the most awkward a silence has ever been between them in their long friendship.

Finally, when they're ready to talk again, Rafael looks around the mess in his bedroom. They've made no progress. He wants to quit anyway, just to really clear their heads.

"Do you want to go downstairs to play video games?" Rafael asks.

Sonny nods.

They get off the floor and don't touch as they go downstairs. It takes a while for them to get back to normal, to even kiss again, but eventually they're fine once again.


 

Sonny's first day of school is a little heartbreaking. It's sad that Rafael isn't going with him, it's sad that they'll be apart all day. Rafael goes to Sonny's house for breakfast, but he goes in his pajamas because he doesn't have anything to do until 10 o'clock when he has to go to the coffee shop.

"You want me to carry both of you to the kitchen table like I used to?" Dominick Sr. jokes.

"You could probably still lift Rafi," Sonny comments. "Look at him. He's tiny."

Dominick Sr. wraps his arms around Sonny and easily lifts him. Sonny laughs and accepts defeat.

Rafael glares at Sonny, mocking being hurt by his joke. "I'm going home."

"Rafi!" Sonny cries, darting at him and wrapping his arms around Rafael.

"Not everyone can have ridiculous spaghetti arms like you."

Sonny flexes his arms. "Yeah? What kind of spaghetti are you eating?"

Rafael squeezes his bicep, just because he really wants to. Then he says, "Sit down, tough guy, eat your breakfast that your mommy made you."

Sonny glares back at him, then drops into his chair and starts eating the waffles Deb had made.

Rafael doesn't walk Sonny to school. He promises that he might walk with Sonny a few times before he leaves, but for the first day, Rafael chooses to hang back. Sonny walks him home, though.

"I'll miss you all day," Sonny says when they get to the Barba's front door.

Rafael takes his hand. "I know. But you'll have a good day. And I'll see you, what, after football?"

"Yeah, I have a mandatory workout this afternoon. But after that I'm all yours."

"Just the way I like it."

Sonny smiles. "Okay, I gotta go. Have a good day at the shop."

"You have a good day," Rafael kisses Sonny quickly. "I love you."

Sonny's smile widens. "I love you, too"

Rafael can't let him go before hugging him tight. Their first full day apart has arrived and it's killing him. And they're just a few blocks away from each other. Cities apart may actually kill him.

Still holding him close, Rafael says, "Okay, go."

Sonny laughs. "Baby, you'll have to let me go."

They're still getting used to the names, but they sound natural and Rafael melts when Sonny calls him babe or baby. He loves it.

It makes it that much harder to let Sonny go.

"Why can't I just take you inside and keep you forever? Feed you peanut butter sandwiches and play Madden forever?" Rafael hates play football on the X-Box, but for Sonny he would. "I can teach you geometry and Spanish," he adds.

Sonny hums. "And anatomy?"

Rafael sighs. "Why do you have to ruin our moment?" He looks up at Sonny, his chin on Sonny's chest.

Sonny kisses his nose. "I--"

Sonny kisses his chin. "Love--"

Sonny smacks a kiss to his lips. "You."

Rafael wants to cry. He doesn't want Sonny to go. He wants to beg Sonny to stay. He wants to hide Sonny forever, but that would definitely be kidnapping.

"I'll text you when I can," Sonny says.

Rafael nods. He gives Sonny one more quick kiss, then lets him go. He watches Sonny disappear down the street.

He can get used to this.

He has to get used to this.

Chapter Text

Rafael actually loves college.

He didn't think he would, he thought missing home and his mom and Sonny would be too much, but he keeps himself busy enough that he doesn't even really miss anything about the Bronx.

Rafael excels in his classes, as expected, he stays on track with schoolwork and easily aces every exam.

He is also really good at making friends, which was not expected. Rafael looks soft and friendly at first, probably because he's short and nonthreatening. Some people he has let in, gotten to know, but some people can't take his bite after they get to know him. He is too sarcastic, too much of a know-it-all, which Sonny loved but some people hate.

Someone almost punches him, early on, because after a midterm they were comparing scores and he made a quip about a guy's score. And he almost gets punched.

Rafael doesn't miss high school, of course, but he hates that he has to miss Sonny's events. Lex steps in and plays overbearing mom, going to all of Sonny's extracurriculars and taking pictures for Rafael.

He gets a picture of Sonny, cute in his football jersey during the pep assembly for their first game. Sonny, dressed up in a tie to travel to one of their away games. Sonny, asleep on his desk during Spanish. Sonny with the school mascot. Her and Sonny going to the homecoming dance together.

To that, Rafael had told Lex to give Sonny a kiss, so she sent back a picture of Sonny smiling with a big, red kiss mark on his cheek. Rafael loved it.

Rafael goes for the full college experience; he goes to football games, he wears the silly Harvard sweaters, and for Halloween, he attends his first party.

That's when he truly misses Sonny for the first time. Drunk, at some frat house, dressed as a Power Ranger because he and some friends decided to do a group costume, he misses Sonny like crazy.

He calls Sonny without checking the time. He was texting Sonny until about two hours ago, when the heavy drinking began, and now he is missing Sonny so badly.

Sonny answers with a bleary greeting.

"Sonny? Babe? I'm sorry. I miss you."

Rafael physically aches with the longing for his boyfriend.

"I miss you too, Rafi. What time is it? Where are you? Are you okay?"

"I'm--" Rafael has no idea where he is, and even if he knew directly, that's no context for Sonny. "I don't know, Sonny. I'm at a party."

Sonny chuckles. "Are you drunk?"

Rafael pouts. "Maybe."

Sonny laughs fully. "You're drunk calling me right now? I'm honored."

Rafael pouts again. It's not funny. Sonny is laughing at him.

"Sonny, I'm trying to tell you I miss you. I miss your lips, I miss your face, I miss your..."

"My, what?"

They didn't have sex before Rafael left. Rafael felt, still feels, that it is very wrong. Sonny is just too young, and they weren't ready for it. That doesn't mean the desire isn't there. The desire to rip Sonny's clothes off, to touch every inch of his skin, to kiss him everywhere. Rafael had never been one for self pleasure, for porn, because he just wasn't interested in sex for a long time. But in the months since he's left, he's grown a healthy obsession for imagining everything he could do to Sonny, with Sonny. After his desire cools and the guilt seeps in, he usually calls or texts Sonny to talk sweetly to him. As if that will make up for the impure thoughts towards his really hot boyfriend.

But now? Drunk? Safely behind the locked door of a stranger's bathroom? The desire is strong.

"Rafi?" Sonny asks, still sounding sleepy and adorable. Rafael remembers sleeping next to Sonny when they were kids. He remembers watching Sonny's chest rise and fall, kissing his shoulders and arms while Sonny was asleep, poking him awake when he decided he wanted to play.

He's thinking about being in a bed with Sonny now, but not the way they were when they were kids.

"I miss your body, baby. You're so hot."

Sonny laughs. "Okay, what about my body, then?"

Rafael doesn't know if Sonny is making fun of him or trying to flirt, but his addled mind doesn't care.

"Your lips and your neck and your chest and your abs and your ass," he quickly says, jumbling most of that together. "I want to do something to you."

When Sonny replies, his voice is low and deep, deeper than he's ever sounded. "What do you mean by all of that, Rafi? Tell me. Tell me what you want to do to me."

Rafael stops thinking. He just says, "I want to kiss down your neck, lick your abs and kiss everywhere..." Rafael closes his eyes, imagining taking Sonny's clothes off, imagining laying him on a bed and peeling everything off, layer by layer, licking down Sonny's toned chest and eventually getting to his lower belly, nosing down the trail of teasing hair disappearing into his underwear.

"Lower, Rafi," Sonny says, sounding breathless. "Keep going..."

Rafael would touch him the way he touches himself. He'd take hold of Sonny, stroke him firmly just the way he himself likes it.

"I want to touch you, Sonny."

"Yeah? Like I'm doing right now?"

Rafael wants to see, oh god he does. He wants to take over for Sonny, touch him, make him moan and lose control. It's probably so hot, everything Sonny does is hot.

"I want to do it for you, I want to touch you."

Sonny moans through the phone, and Rafael feels the same surge of pleasure at the sound that he felt when they were having their moment in his bedroom months previously.

"Let me hear you," he demands.

Sonny moans again. "Tell me what else you want, Rafi."

"I want to put my mouth on you," Rafael says. "I do, Sonny, I want to su--"

Rafael doesn't get the rest of the term out before Sonny is groaning loudly. Rafael notices then that he began squeezing himself through his pants.

Rafael begins to ask, "Did you just--"

"Yeah," Sonny pants, catching his breath. "Shit, Rafi."

Rafael opens his eyes. He's in a stranger's bathroom, almost touching himself, listening to his boyfriend masturbate over the phone. Dressed as a Power Ranger.

"I'm sorry, Sonny," Rafael says. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean--"

"Rafi, Rafi, honey," Sonny sweetly says. "It's okay. Trust me, I want you just as bad."

"But you're--"

"I'm fine. I'm not suddenly corrupted. I am, like, super happy. Really fucking satisfied."

Rafael takes a deep breath. "Okay. As long as you're okay."

"I am. Why don't you go back to the party, okay? Are you having fun?"

"Yeah," Rafael admits. "I just miss you."

"I know. I miss you, too. Don't drink too much, okay? You'll get sick."

Rafael agrees. "I'll let you go back to sleep."

"I love you so much," Sonny says around a yawn.

Rafael smiles. "I love you, too."

Rafael wakes the next morning with a terrible headache and a terrible sense of guilt. He shouldn't have said those things to Sonny, what he can remember saying. He feels so bad about what happened, so bad that he doesn't even bring it up because he doesn't want to talk about it. But from then on, he doesn't let it get that far.

By the middle of November, he begins to get homesick. Thanksgiving has never really been a big deal to his own family, but it was huge to the Carisi's, and he always went over for dinner. Plus, everyone around him is talking about going home for the holiday, and as of yet he has no plans to.

That is, until Lucia practically begs him to return home.

"I can make turkey!" she tries. "I can, Papito! And mashed potatoes!"

Rafael laughs. "Mami, I--"

"And don't you miss Sonny? He misses you. You need to see him! And me!"

Rafael finally agrees, but he decides he wants to surprise Sonny. He asks Lucia not to tell Sonny.

When he talks to Lucia a few days later to tell her he bought a train ticket, he asks how Sonny is.

"I don't know how Sonny is, I've been avoiding him for days! I'm afraid I'll tell him!"

Rafael laughs. "Mami, you don't have to avoid him!"

"I'm afraid!" Lucia cries.

Rafael starts to avoid Sonny's phone calls, too. He grows afraid that he'll be the one to spill the beans.

The week finally comes when Rafael is returning home. He only packs a bag of homework he needs because he still has clothes at home, then he boards his train and heads home.

Lucia picks him up at the train station and he is too excited to get home. He can't wait to see the surprise on Sonny's face, to just see Sonny's face, and he's bursting at the seams.

Rafael climbs out of their car, extremely eager, but before he can even turn around to check the Carisi house, he hears his name being screamed from that direction.

"RAFAEL!" he hears.

Rafael turns around quickly, on time for Sonny to jump into his arms. Sonny wraps his legs around Rafael's waist and Rafael struggles to hold him up, because Sonny is so much bigger than him. He's gotten taller, Rafael notices.

Sonny's arms are tight around Rafael's head, so tight that Rafael can't even breathe. Sonny is laughing like a maniac, and Rafael tries to laugh but Sonny is squeezing him too hard.

Sonny finally hops down. He takes Rafael's face in his hands and Rafael thinks he sees tears.

"What are you doing here?!" Sonny practically yells.

"Oh, I wanted some of your mom's cranberry sauce."

Sonny laughs again, then kisses Rafael hard. Rafael feels so relieved by the touch.

He feels like he can stand in the driveway kissing Sonny forever. They giggle against each other's mouth and smile uncontrollably.

"I missed you so much," Sonny says.

"I know. I missed you, too. Let's go inside."

Sonny grabs his hand to lead him inside. Rafael tugs on his arm and points back at the Carisi's driveway where Sonny had dropped his bag to run across the street.

"Wait, Sonny, your gym bag?"

"Eh, nobody will steal it," Sonny says.

Rafael rolls his eyes and follows Sonny inside.

They spend the rest of the afternoon laying on the couch, one on either end and legs tangled, like they usually are. They laugh and joke, and just talk about everything that's been going on. They talk every day, but there's still so much to talk about. They could spend all day talking about nothing, just like they always have.

Rafael gets to see one of Sonny's track meets while he's home, and he's very happy about that. He sees Lex for the first time there because she's on the team again, and she attacks Rafael, too.

"Are the Harvard girls hot?" she asks him.

Sonny jokingly raises an eyebrow.

Rafael chuckles. "Uh, no, everyone there is terrible."

Sonny nods acceptingly and looks away. When he turns around, Rafael gives Lex a thumbs up and Lex laughs.

They spend break inseparable, and it's just what they need to get through the few weeks until Christmas. After Christmas, they don't see each other until Spring Break when Sonny and Dominick Sr. visit Rafael for a few days. They celebrate their one-year anniversary (late), where Sonny gives Rafael a new baseball t-shirt because, since the senior who had #3 had graduated, Sonny got his number back.

In between seeing each other, Lex continues to send him pictures of Sonny. During the spring semester, it's Sonny in his new #3 baseball uniform, her and Sonny at the spring dance, Sonny messing around during one of their classes, and Sonny on Valentine's Day making a heart with his fingers for Rafael.

They last strongly though Rafael's first year, of course. They miss each other like crazy, Rafael gets homesick for Sonny, but everything is fine between them.

Chapter Text

Sonny's 16th birthday was something they discussed a lot growing up. 16, to them, when they were little kids, was a huge deal. When Theresa turned 16, she got a huge party and got to invite a few of her old friends from before they moved. When Gina turned 16, she had already saved enough money to half a car payment with their parents. Sonny had big plans for turning 16.

When they were younger, they planned a party, and Sonny thought it would be really cool to be surprised with a motorcycle. Deb and Dominick Sr. would shoot down the motorcycle idea quickly, but Sonny would always say, "They'll come around by the time I'm 16."

When he was 7, Sonny had a bounce house for his birthday. And he told Rafael, "Rafi, I wanna get a bounce house for my sixteenth birthday."

The next year, Lucia took the boys to Build-a-Bear for Sonny to make a bear, because Rafael had seen a Yankees outfit for a bear and wanted it for Sonny. And Sonny told Rafael, "Rafi, I wanna come to Build-a-Bear for my sixteenth birthday."

The year after that, when Sonny turned 9, Dominick Sr. took them golfing for the first time. They had a blast, especially driving the carts. Sonny had said, "Rafi, I wanna golf for my sixteenth birthday."

Later, when Sonny turned 10, they had a giant ice cream cake, which was extremely special because Sonny had never gotten a store-bought cake before. And Sonny said, "Rafi, I wanna get an ice cream cake for my sixteenth birthday."

And then when Sonny turned 12, Dominick Sr. took them to drive go-carts, and Sonny had said, "Rafi, I wanna drive go-carts again for my sixteenth birthday."

There had been a long list of to-do items accumulated over the years.

In a perfect world, now that he's dating Rafael, the morning would start waking up next to him, whether it be on the couch or actually in a bed, wherever his parents allow them to sleep together. They'd have a breakfast of peanut butter pancakes, which Rafael hates but he'd eat anyway because it's Sonny's special day. He'd get gifts, which wouldn't be a car because he likes to walk and ride the subway. Then they would spend the entire perfect day doing everything Sonny wants: going into Manhattan to go to Central Park, the Natural History Museum, the MET. Then they'd make it back to the Bronx by nightfall to catch a night game at Yankee Stadium. It would be Sonny's perfect day.

That is not what happens.

His birthday starts with falling asleep around 10:30 to the sound of Rafael typing away on his laptop.

"Come on, Rafi, just leave it," he begs from his spot on his bed.

Rafael, on the floor against Sonny's bed, waves him off. "I gotta get this in by...uh, midnight," Rafael says, his speech less than normally perfect because of the hour and his brain being fried by this paper.

Sonny groans. He just wants a little bit of cuddles. Dominick Sr. gave them permission to sleep together that night. Sonny had big plans to hold Rafael in his arms all night.

He is disappointed that this isn't happening. He runs a hand through Rafael's hair, tugging lightly and comfortingly.

Rafael's head falls back into Sonny's touch. "Baby, I have to do this."

"I know," Sonny pouts. He lets Rafael get back to work.

When he wakes up the next morning, Sonny is sadly not enveloped in strong arms, the sun is not streaming through his open curtains, and the sound of rain is heard over the gentle snores coming from the floor.

Sonny peeks over the side of the bed and glares at Rafael, who is bundled up with Sonny's discarded baseball practice shirt from yesterday. It's smelly and sweaty, and Sonny is fine with that being what Rafael is snuggled up with. It's the morning of his 16th birthday, and he expected to wake up next to Rafael, and since he is not, he is upset.

Sonny gets out of bed to check how bad the rain truly is. When the weather is bad, Deb doesn't let him wander around the city. When the weather is bad, Yankee games get cancelled. When the weather is bad, his mood is foul and dark and gray, because the kid has truly adopted his namesake.

Sonny glares at the clouds, the sopping wet grass, the raindrops roughly streaming down his window. So much for the perfect birthday.

Sonny lets Rafael sleep because he was overly stressed over his paper; he quietly sneaks downstairs in hopes that at least his pancakes will be ready.

"Morning, Son!" Dominick Sr. yells as soon as Sonny enters the kitchen.

Sonny gives a little wave.

Deb approaches him with a hug ready. "Happy birthday, my beautiful son. How are you feeling?"

Dominick Sr. smirks. "How was your slumber party?"

Sonny rolls his eyes. "It wasn't a slumber party, Dad. And if you must know--"

"I don't actually want to know--"

Sonny waves a dismissive hand before opening the fridge. "He slept on my floor."

"Romantic," Dominick Sr. sarcastically says.

Sonny closes the refrigerator with disappointment after not finding any chocolate milk.

"Here honey," Deb says, "Your pancakes!"

Sonny would not consider himself spoiled. Sure, his parents are pretty accommodating, he gets what he asks for if he earns it, and he didn't think peanut butter pancakes was a lot to ask. When he was a kid, if there was a food he didn't want to eat, he'd probably eat it anyway just because he was almost constantly growing and always hungry.

So for the first time in his life, he stares at the pancakes on his plate as if they've done him wrong. They have strawberries and whipped cream on them.

"Uhm..." Sonny sighs. "Where's the--"

"I'm sorry, Son," Deb says. "Daddy forgot to go to the store. We're out of peanut butter."

Sonny's frown grows. "So far," he says, "This is the worst day ever."

Dominick Sr. snorts. "You're being a bit dramatic there, Son. You can't base the entire outcome of your sixteenth birthday because you don't have any peanut butter."

"Really? Rafi slept on my floor last night, there's no peanut butter, and it's raining which means Mom's not gonna let us go into Manhattan and the Yankee game will be rained out. It's Saturday, so I can't even get my license today, not that I'll ever need it because you didn't come around to a motorcycle like I thought you would. Pretty stellar day."

Sonny pouts with his chin in his hands. Deb frowns with him, clearly feeling terrible about Sonny's poor fate, but Dominick Sr. keeps the look on his face as if Sonny is being dramatic.

Minutes later, as the whipped cream on his pancakes melts and the hot food grows cool, Sonny hears heavy feet hopping quickly down the stairs.

"Sonny?!" Rafael calls, sliding into the kitchen. "Sonny!" He wraps his arms around Sonny's waist from behind, leaning on him and resting his cheek on Sonny's back. "I'm sorry I was so busy last night! And you were so peaceful asleep, I didn't want to disturb you."

"Yeah, yeah," Sonny says, standing to take his plate to the dining table.

Rafael joins him a second later with a plate of his own.

Rafael begins to ask, "No peanu--"

But Dominick Sr. stops him. "Don't get him started, please."

Sonny just frowns, stabbing his evil pancakes.

Rafael is quiet through breakfast, but so is Sonny. He's mentally trying to find a plan that they can accomplish all day inside. They'll probably watch Netflix all day and cuddle on the couch. At least he'll get some birthday cuddles in.

Sonny can feel Rafael watching him between bites, but Sonny maintains his scowl on the pancakes.

Rafael finishes first, downs his coffee, and excuses himself; Sonny knows he probably needs to brush his teeth because the feeling of sugar would drive him crazy. Sonny tries to finish eating, but he is too upset about the day. And he feels like he's allowed to pout, it is his birthday, after all.

Rafael appears in the doorway a second later. He discreetly--not so discreetly--waves Dominick Sr. over. It possibly makes Sonny even more upset. He doesn't like to be kept out of something.

By the time he finishes his disappointing pancakes and sets the plate in the sink, Rafael and Dominick Sr. are entering the kitchen once again.

"What are you doing just standing around?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Sonny looks at him confusedly. Rafael grins.

"Yeah, Sonny, I thought you'd be dressed and ready to go by now?" Rafael adds.

Sonny's eyebrows furrow. "What?"

"Come on, we've got a lot to do!" Rafael says.

Sonny gestures to the window, where rain is still streaming down the glass.

"Uhm, do you not see the rain--"

"Actually," Rafael tells him, "You become waterproof when you turn sixteen."

Sonny rolls his eyes.

Rafael strolls over to take his hand. "Just trust me."



Half an hour later, Sonny and Rafael are climbing into the backseat of Dominick Sr.'s car.

"Where to first, Rafi?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Rafael passes him a scrap of paper.

"Where are we going?" Sonny asks, eyeing Rafael suspiciously.

"That's on a need to know basis," Rafael replies.

Sonny is about to argue that it's his birthday, he has a right to know, but Rafael just grabs his hand.

"Trust me," he says.

Sonny takes a deep breath and nods.

They arrive to a building where Sonny has never been but he has passed many times. It's called Jumpstreet, and if the name is anything to go by, it's one of those places that has dozens of trampolines to play on.

"What are we doin' here, Rafi?"

Rafael climbs out of the car, pulling Sonny along, while thanking Dominick Sr. and saying they'll see him later. Dominick Sr. speeds off while the rain pounds around them, and Sonny crosses his arms over his chest.

"Seriously, Rafi--"

"Okay, look, this is stupid, okay? I know that. I know we had other plans today, but bare with me here. I'm trying. I'm trying to make your sixteenth birthday everything we thought it would be." Rafael takes hold of Sonny's hands. "Now, I know I can't take you into Manhattan and the Yankee game will be rained out tonight, but remember our old list? From when we were kids? I'm trying my best."

Sonny thinks it's sweet that Rafael is obviously trying so desperately to make it up to him. He decides to trust Rafael on this one.

"So what are we doing here?" he asks.

Rafael grins and drags Sonny inside.

Sonny was right, it is one of those trampoline places.

"Remember when you had a bounce castle and you said you wanted one for your sixteenth birthday? Well, ordering one was a little late and in this weather they'd laugh in my face. I hope this is a good enough substitute."

Sonny watches a kid do front flips across one of the long trampolines. It looks incredibly fun. Sonny actually grows excited while Rafael pays.

"We have two hours," Rafael says, passing Sonny a wristband they have to wear to okay. "And fair warning, your mom already told me she's killing both of us if you get hurt."

Sonny cracks a smile.

He begins to enjoy himself very quickly. He starts by simply bouncing across the floor, but he soon grows the confidence to try bouncing higher and higher, then eventually trying a flip. When he lands a backflip, Rafael cheers loudly, which of course boosts Sonny's confidence enough to do it again.

After a few attempts, Sonny manages to flip across the floor, which is extremely fun. Rafael claps loudly for him, and Sonny bows when he sticks the landing just like an Olympic gymnast would do.

Sonny tries to get Rafael to flip, but Rafael has no athletic ability whatsoever and can't do it. He tries to front flip, but lands flat on his back with a laughing groan. Sonny bounces over to him and flops next to him.

"I hope you're enjoying yourself," Rafael mutters, "We'll be stuck here forever because I can't get up."

Sonny laughs. "You're old, Rafi. You're practically an old man."

"Ha-ha," Rafael replies. "Not all of us can be a sprightly teen anymore. Some of us have to grow up."

Sonny turns to him and kisses his nose. "Don't grow up, Rafi. Never."

Rafael smiles.

Before they leave, Rafael does land a front flip, and Sonny runs at him and jumps into his arms. Rafael falls backwards and they both bounce on the ground, just laughing with each other like they always have.


 

When Dominick Sr. picks them up, Sonny asks if the schedule calls for lunch.

"Well, not exactly," Rafael admits, "And I was going to wait for this until later, but if you're hungry now--"

"Of course he's hungry now," Dominick Sr. comments.

Rafael chuckles, even though Sonny is still confused.

"Okay, Dom, put Number 5 ahead of Number 2."

"Number 5?!" Sonny cries. "Geez, what else are we doing today?"

Rafael just grins. "You'll see."


 

Number 5 on the list, which is now Number 2, is getting ice cream cake. The store they get it from has individually sold slices, which is great because it's just the two of them (and Dominick Sr., in the car). Plus, the shop had peanut butter ice cream with chocolate cake.

Sonny lights up when Rafael orders. A large smile grows across his face, and he is so excited to eat a peanut butter ice cream cake.

They're served and Rafael leads them to an empty table off by themselves.

"Well?" Rafael asks as Sonny takes his first bite.

Sonny hums. "This is fantastic! You should learn how to make this for me."

"Sure," Rafael says. "I'll whip one up for you every afternoon before you get home from school."

"That's what I'm talking about."

Rafael rolls his eyes.



When their cake is finished, they climb into the car and Rafael asks Dominick Sr. to take them to the third place on the list. Sonny is familiar with the route to the mall. When they pull into a parking garage, Sonny grows confused. The mall isn't really anything special.

"What're we doing here?" he asks.

"You'll see," Rafael says, pulling Sonny along.

They stop in front of the Build-a-Bear Workshop and Sonny stares inside confused.

"Uh--"

Rafael sighs. "Remember when you turned 8?"

A lightbulb goes off in Sonny's memory. He made a bear named Babe Ruth--his favorite Yankee of all time and the reason he is #3 in baseball--and Babe Ruth still sleeps on his bed every night, even though sometimes Babe Ruth wear a Mets jersey. Lucia had bought that bear for him.

"Babe Ruth needs a friend," Rafael tells him.

Sonny smiles. "Okay, lets go!"

Sonny picks out a simple brown bear. It is super soft and adorable.

"I'm gonna call him Rafi," Sonny says.

"Really?" Rafael questions.

"Yes, that way I can cuddle with my little Rafi every night."

Rafael rolls his eyes.

Sonny moves on to pick out a scent, and at first he picks up a honey scent.

"Do I smell like honey?"

"No," Sonny says, "But you are my honey."

Rafael rolls his eyes again. "This was a terrible idea," he sarcastically says.

Sonny puts the scent back. "Eh, I won't get the scent. You know what scent I'd get? Coffee."

Rafael laughs. "Is that what I smell like?"

Sonny kisses his head. "Usually."

Sonny stuffs his bear, puts the little heart in it after making a wish that he Rafael will be together forever. Then, they move on to pick out some clothes for Rafi the Bear.

Sonny immediately picks up a pink polo shirt. Rafael almost glares at him.

"What?!" Sonny cries. "I know for a fact you have a shirt just like this in your closet."

Rafael sighs, even though he's clearly trying not to smile. "Fine, whatever."

Sonny picks jeans for the bear and keeps the pink shirt. After dressing the bear, and joking about wanting to get the bear underwear, they go to the computer to make the "birth certificate" for the bear.

Sonny types his information, then the bear's.

Rafael reads over his shoulder, "Rafael Bear-ba?!" he cries, leaning over to bury his face in Sonny's hair. "God, you're so embarrassing!"

Sonny just smiles and continues typing.

After Rafael pays, Sonny proudly carries the little house box out of the store.

"Thank you, Rafi!" he says, kissing Rafael.

They find Dominick Sr. and they head to the car to go to their next destination.

"What could possibly be next?" Sonny asks.

They arrive at another familiar building, one Sonny had only been to once before in his life. It was for another birthday party when they were younger. The building is a huge arcade where they have mini golf, go-carts, laser tag, a high-wire obstacle course, and of course a real arcade.

Rafael pays, and Sonny doesn't even know how much it costs to get a wristband to do all the events in the building. Rafael asks what he wants to do first, and Sonny chooses the go-carts, but they sign up for the waiting list for the high-wire obstacle course.

The boys (Sonny) who are always competitive (Sonny) start a friendly wager through the events. Whoever wins at racing, gets the high score in laser tag and mini golf, does the obstacle course quickest, and wins the most tickets playing arcade games is the ultimate champion of the day. Of course Rafael, who barely has the ability to hit a golf ball, even if the course is miniature, expects to lose. But Sonny is always fine with winning.

Rafael almost wins at go-cart racing, but at the very end, Sonny sideswipes Rafael's cart and Rafael spins out of the course.

"Unfair!" Rafael yells.

Sonny climbs out of the car, looking really cool with the face-covering motorcycle helmet. He takes the helmet off, then whips his hair that's getting longer back out of his face. Rafael watches intently; Sonny knows he loves the hair flip.

"You were saying?" Sonny asks, smirking.

Rafael swallows roughly. "Whatever, I'll win the next one."

Next is laser tag, and Sonny cracks up because Rafael is a terrible shot.

"How are you so bad at this?" Sonny asks when the first game is being reset so they can try again. "You're a terrible shot. You're like a Stormtrooper."

"Ha-ha, whatever, Han Solo."

The bell rings for the players to enter the arena again, and Sonny trots ahead of Rafael.

"Can't beat me, Rafi!"

Sonny wins again, of course, even beating a little kid who beat Rafael.

After laser tag is mini-golf, which they laugh at almost the entire time. It's hilarious watching tall Sonny bend to use to short club, but it's also hilarious watching Rafael be so terrible at the fake version of a sport. It reminds Sonny of all the times his dad would take them to the batting cages and Rafael would miss every ball.

Rafael does get a hole in one, and Sonny rewards him by sticking his tongue down Rafael's throat.

"Mmf--" Rafael sighs in shock, but he kisses Sonny back with all he's got.

They kiss for an uncountable amount of time, because they more or less forget they're in public. Nobody is immediately around them, that's why Sonny did it, that and a laughing Rafael is so damn kissable. He could kiss Rafael's laugh all day.

Sometimes Sonny wonders how he got through over 10 years of friendship without wanting to knowingly kiss Rafael. Because of course, the crush had always been there, it was obvious, and he did give Rafael tiny kisses every once in a while, but to want to kiss him, kiss him good morning or good night or good job or good luck; Sonny doesn't know how he lived so long without doing so.

Rafael's kisses, Rafael's love, is the sun and the moon and the beginning and ending of everything. Sonny, even though he is so young, doesn't know how he'd ever live without it again.

Not that he didn't always have it. Not that Rafael kissing his scrapes and cuts, Rafael perfecting a peanut butter sandwich before any other dish, Rafael going to every one of his baseball games growing up, Rafael helping him with his homework, Rafael being his voice of reason when he got worked up on the playground, Rafael being there to crack a joke, and encouraging him, and just generally being there for Sonny, wasn't love all along.

Sonny strokes the soft skin of Rafael's face with his fingertips. He recognizes every blemish, every strand of hair, every curve and slope of Rafael's face by touch. He loves feeling Rafael's skin stretch from puckered lips, feeling Rafael's jaw shift to accommodate their kiss, or his smile, even his frown, when Sonny pulls away first. It's as if Rafael's face is there for Sonny's fingerprints alone.

When Rafael pulls away first, he licks his lips enticingly and rubs his nose against Sonny's.

"Is that a pity kiss?" he asks, eyes still blissfully closed.

"If it is?"

Rafael grins. "Just wait to see how bad I am at air hockey."

Sonny gives him another kiss, a laugh, then he steps away fully so they can finish their game.

Sonny, of course, excels at the high-wire obstacle course. There are ropes to climb up, balance on, ropes that are like monkey bars, and swinging ropes to climb across. Sonny has a blast, he laughs the entire time and it is hands down the best event of the day. He doesn't try to speed through it, because he only gets one chance so he wants to make the most of his time.

Rafael, however, is worse at it. Sonny cheers for him from the ground, yelling worlds of encouragement, but Rafael is just no good at it. He isn't as strong as Sonny, so the climbing and everything he needs upper body for is hard. He gets through the first few, taking his time and almost double the amount of time as Sonny, but on the last swinging section, he drops onto the safety net below.

Sonny still yells words of encouragement. He still tells Rafael he did amazing and claps loudly for him as Rafael climbs down from the course.

Sonny envelopes him in a big hug when he gets to the ground again. He kisses Rafael's head and nuzzles his nose into Rafael's sweaty hair.

"Proud of you, Rafi," he whispers. He can feel Rafael's smile against his shoulder.



Finally, they're night ends when the rain slows down, so they walk a few blocks to meet the family for dinner to celebrate Sonny's birthday together.

"Did you have a good birthday?" Rafael asks, somewhat worried.

Sonny squeezes his hand tighter. "Yes, of course! Anything would've been good with you, Rafi."

"Yeah, but the museums, and the game, and--"

Sonny shrugs. "I woulda gotten over it eventually. My dad said we can go to a different game before you leave. Maybe he can take us to Queens for a Mets game."

"Sorry you didn't get a motorcycle," Rafael says next.

Sonny laughs. "Eh, I knew the wish was too good to be true."

Rafael laughs, too.

They're comfortably silent for the rest of the walk, but they pause outside when they get to the restaurant.

"I really had a great time today, Rafi. Seriously, thank you so much. Thanks for putting so much thought into makin' me happy."

Rafael turns to him to kiss him, then digs his fingers into the hair on the back of Sonny's head, which Sonny melts into because it feels amazing. Rafael uses his other hand to move hair out of Sonny's eyes.

"Don't you know, Sonny?" Rafael asks, "I've already been spending most of my life trying to make you happy."

Over ten years of friendship comes back to Sonny, the love, the trust, their happiness. He's suddenly overwhelmed with love for Rafael, and squeezing him in a tight hug isn't enough. So Sonny gently placed his hands on Rafael's back to pull him in, closes his eyes, and places the softest, most loving kiss on his lips.

When he pulls away, he rests his forehead against Rafael's.

"I love you," he whispers.

"I love you too," Rafael replies, sounding breathless even though their kiss was so innocent.

Sonny goes back in for another kiss, but the chime from the restaurant door sounds and suddenly Bella is yelling, "Could ya stop makin' out already, we're hungry in here!"

The boys laugh, kiss one more time, then head into the restaurant.

Sonny's birthday ends up absolutely perfect after all. 

 

Chapter Text

Sonny rules the school. Now a senior, amongst the oldest kids on campus, he is a king among men. Or, he thinks he is. He was a cocky freshman, then dating a senior, and now he's even worse as an actual senior.

Not only is he a senior, and a pretty smart one at that, he's a varsity athlete in three sports (football, track, and baseball), he's in a few clubs like student council and the school's LGBT club, plus he is an LGBT student, which gives him a little bit more attention that he likes.

Young freshman have asked him if it's difficult being "out" and an athlete, and he can tell them honestly that it hasn't been difficult for him. And then he sees the same freshman trying out for their selected sport. It makes him so happy to be able to help the younger kids.

Lex had graduated last May and moved into Manhattan to attend New York University. Sonny had expected to go into the first day of school completely lost without her or Rafael, but he adjusted quickly. Sonny is a friendly guy who can talk to anyone in the room and instantly be their friend, which now means he has many friends.

Rafael retuns home for as many of Sonny's important events that he can. Instead of returning for Thanksgiving, Rafael opts to go home for Sonny's last home football game in mid-October. It's "Senior Night", which means the Seniors get recognized. Sonny spots Rafael in the crowd, next to his parents, and he waves proudly. They win that game, Sonny makes a few great plays, and he's glad Rafael got to watch him play.

Sonny, of course, misses Rafael like crazy. It got easier, being apart, because of texting and FaceTime. They're not in constant contact, but they at least talk every night. Sonny likes to fall asleep FaceTiming with Rafael while Rafael works on homework because Rafael talks to himself and it's adorable.

There is one thing that Sonny does not like about their distance, and his name is Trey. Trey is Rafael's new buddy, the one person he's usually with when Sonny calls, and Sonny hates him. For the most part, his annoyance with Trey is fueled by the jealousy of not seeing Rafael like Trey gets to. He's jealous that Trey gets to hang out with him, get coffee with him, or watch movies with him.

But he also doesn't trust Trey. Sonny fears Trey has ulterior motives for being friends with Rafael.

Plus, there are a lot of reasons Sonny believes Rafael fits with Trey better. They're the same age, they're at the same school, they're in the same city, Trey is smart like Rafael, they share similar interests. Sonny fears Rafael will realize all of this one day.

Rafael doesn't understand it, and Sonny knows he's irrational about it, but it's hard to push the feelings aside when all Rafael talks about is Trey.

Sonny is excited for Rafael to visit for Winter Break, because then he can remind Rafael of all the reasons why they love each other. He can remind Rafael of all the reasons Rafael loves him.

But that is still two weeks away, and for now Sonny just grows annoyed with Rafael's friendship.

"I'm going to a party tomorrow," Rafael tells Sonny over the phone during their nightly call. "A little pre-finals party, just to calm everyone before the stress."

"I know what you mean," Sonny agrees, "Except, of course, I'm not supposed to party. I mean, you're not either, but you don't have to run up to five miles a day. Partying would literally kill me."

Rafael laughs. "Running would kill me."

Sonny just chuckles, because the question boiling in his mind bubbles up and pops. "Is Trey going to the party?"

Rafael sighs. "What is your problem with him?"

"I just--"

"No 'just', Sonny. Your bitchy attitude towards my friend is getting really old."

"Did you just call me 'bitchy'?"

"Sonny!"

"Okay, okay! I'm sorry! Just...be careful, okay?"

"I am, babe. I wouldn't be friends with anyone I didn't trust, so you should trust me about trusting him."

"Okay. I'm sorry."

"It's okay."

Sonny tries to find something to say, but nothing comes to mind. Finally, he's going to ask Rafael dumb questions like what he had for lunch, but Rafael speaks first.

"Listen, I have to go."

Sonny frowns. "I'm sorry, Rafi, please don't be mad at me. I didn't mean to make you mad."

"I'm not mad, Sonny, I just have a lot to do."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

Sonny still frowns. Rafael sounds irritated.

"I love you," Sonny tries.

"I love you too, baby. Get some sleep, please. You sound tired."

"You too, Rafi. Sweet dreams."

"Goodnight."

Sonny says goodnight and hangs up, then falls into an unsatisfying sleep.
---
Finally, the semester ends and Rafael returns to the Bronx. Sonny and Dominick Sr. pick him up from the train station because Lucia had to go out of town, and Sonny jumps into his arms as soon as Rafael is off the train. He squeezes Rafael as tight as he can and feels warmth and contentment all over his body. He feels like he was the one away and is returning home. With Rafael, he is home.

"I missed you," Rafael whispers against his neck.

Sonny kisses his head. "I missed you, too."

They climb into the car and go home, where Sonny and Rafael go to the Barba house to unpack Rafael's things. He has a giant suitcase and duffel bag of dirty laundry to do, so Sonny sits on the dryer while Rafael puts a load in the washing machine.

"How's track?" Rafael asks while he sorts his laundry.

"It's great, I'm racing the relay for the first time tomorrow. You should come."

"I'd love to, of course. Should I wear this?" He holds up his baseball shirt with 'CARISI 3' on the back of it.

Sonny smiles widely. "Yeah! Wait, it's dirty. Do you wear that at Harvard?"

"Yeah, of course. And everyone asks who Carisi is and I get to tell them it's my boyfriend."

Sonny nervously licks his lips, because the next question is something that's been weighing on his mind but it hasn't ever come up naturally in a conversation.

"You're not, like, embarrassed that...y'know, I'm in high school?"

Rafael pauses for a split second, as if the question shocked him. "Uhm...no."

"What was the 'uhm' for?"

"I'm not exactly...embarrassed. Because you're not embarrassing or anything."

"So, you tell people I'm still in high school?"

"Sometimes I don't tell people that detail. Not because of you, but because of me."

Sonny grows confused. "What do you mean?"

"I don't want people to think I'm, like, a perverted child predator, or something."

Sonny snorts. "That's ridiculous."

"It's not, though. You're only 17. And I know we've been together longer than I've been over 18, and we've never, you know--"

"Had sex."

"Yeah. I know, and you know, and our parents know, that this isn't anything bad. But...some people don't understand."

Sonny feels relieved that Rafael at least isn't embarrassed of him. And his fear is pretty legitimate.

"I get it, Rafi. Thanks for being honest."

"Of course," Rafael says, closing the washing machine and starting it.

"Let's go upstairs," Rafael offers.

Sonny closes his eyes and groans. "I'm too tired, can you carry me?"

Rafael looks at him with a straight face. "I'm not carrying you."

Sonny pouts. "Rafi!"

Rafael laughs at him. "Come on, you baby, let's go."

Sonny takes his hand and follows Rafael through the house, up the stairs, and to his bedroom. Rafael kicks off his shoes, so Sonny does the same, then Rafael flops onto the bed and holds a hand out to Sonny. Sonny eagerly climbs onto the bed and cuddles up to Rafael's side.

Rafael kisses his forehead. "I missed you, I missed my bed, I missed my...washing machine."

Sonny laughs. "Thanks for saying me first."

Sonny watches Rafael's eyes close contently, and Sonny is free to stare at him. He is so handsome, so grown up. Sonny can tell he shaved that morning, and he smells great, and Sonny just wants to kiss him all over. But Rafael looks so peaceful, so he settles for delicately stroking Rafael's soft cheek.

Rafael jumps. "That tickles."

Sonny moves to his hair instead, scratching lightly above his ear. Rafael's eyelids flutter. Sonny moves his hand up Rafael's head to stroke his hair then stop on his other cheek. He pulls so Rafael's head turns to face Sonny.

Sonny scoots closer to rub his nose against Rafael's. "I missed you so much."

"I know," Rafael sleepily whispers, "I missed you too."

Sonny kisses him, or tries to, but Rafael is slow and lazy about it.

Finally, Rafael yawns. "Can I take a nap before we do anything? Before my mom gets home?"

"Of course," Sonny says, so Rafael rolls onto his side, away from Sonny. Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael and holds him close.

They both fall asleep, but Sonny wakes first and really has to pee. And he's really hot; Rafael is like a furnace.

So Sonny sneaks out of Rafael's bed, uses the restroom, and returns to Rafael's room without jeans on.

Rafael turns to snuggle up to Sonny facing him. He hasn't opened his eyes, but he pulls Sonny's thigh up to wrap around his waist, to get closer together.

"Uh, Sonny?" Rafael whispers.

"Yeah?"

"Where did your pants go?"

Sonny loves the feeling of Rafael's thumb stroking his bare thigh. Rafael's hand is warm, pleasantly warm now, and Sonny's skin sings from Rafael's touch.

Sonny still feels the need to crack a joke. "I'm just hot, Rafi. Don't get any ideas."

Rafael laughs. "You are hot, and I am getting ideas, but I'm too tired to do anything, or attempt to do anything, or even hit on you."

"You just said I'm hot."

"That wasn't me hitting on you, that was me stating a fact."

"Sure, Rafi. Okay, go back to sleep." He kisses Rafael's lips as his eyes drift closed.

Sonny stays in bed with Rafael until he hears Lucia arrive home, then he slips out of bed and goes downstairs to help Lucia with dinner. They make one of Rafael's favorite dishes to eat at home, and when they're done an hour later, Lucia asks Sonny to wake him up so he can hopefully sleep normally later that night.

Sonny races upstairs and climbs onto Rafael's bed, then lightly kisses Rafael.

"Wake up, baby." He kisses Rafael again, and he loves it because Rafael isn't moving. But his breathing shifts, so Sonny knows he's awake. "I know you're awake," he says.

Rafael's face breaks into a grin. "I'm enjoying this way too much."

"Yeah? Well your mom and I made dinner."

Now, Rafael's eyes open.

"Oh," Sonny says, "For that you open your eyes?"

They stare at each other for a few seconds, both incredibly content and happy. Happy to be together again, happy to be in love.

"I'm happy you're home," Sonny says.

"Me too."

They go downstairs to eat with Lucia, then they go to Sonny's house to greet the Carisi's. They watch Pitch Perfect with Bella, because that is her favorite movie of the moment, but Sonny's perfect day with Rafael is about to crash down, because Rafael won't stop texting. And he is too nosy.

Sonny knows before he asks. "Who're you texting?"

Rafael doesn't even pretend to lie. "Trey."

Sonny rolls his eyes.

"Why do you ask if you don't want to know?" Rafael asks.

Sonny shrugs. "I don't know."

"And again, why does it bother you? He just asked how the train ride was. Like a good friend."

"I asked, too." Sonny pouts at the television.

"I didn't say you--" Rafael rolls his eyes and stands from the couch. "I'll be back."

Sonny silently fumes on the couch while Pitch Perfect plays in the background.

Finally, Bella speaks. "What the hell is your problem, dude?"

Sonny glances at her. "Uh, should you be saying 'hell'?"

She ignores him. "What's your deal with Rafi's friend?"

"I just...I don't like him."

"But why? You don't even know him. But you know what? You know Rafi. And you know he loves you."

"You're 11."

"And? I know you dorks belong together. And you're ruining it by being weird about Rafi's friend."

Sonny just nods.

Rafael returns to the living room and stands behind Sonny. He grasps Sonny's shoulder.

"I'm going to go home," he says. "I'm still really tired."

"Okay, I'll go with you." He moves to stand, but Rafael pushes him down.

"No, stay. I'm just going to go to bed."

Sonny frowns. "Okay. I love you."

"Love you," Rafael mutters as he kisses Sonny's cheek.

Sonny is upset for the rest of the night, fearing he messed things up with Rafael for good.

He can't sleep that night, but he holds back from texting or calling Rafael because he doesn't want to really bother Rafael. Instead, he goes downstairs to find a snack to stress eat, and is shocked to find Dominick Sr. in the kitchen.

"What are you doing up?" Dominick Sr. asks.

Sonny gets the peanut butter out of the cabinet as his dad hands him a spoon.

"I can't sleep," Sonny says.

"So instead you're stress eating the last of our peanut butter? Son, come on, we can't grocery shop for a few more days."

Sonny puts the jar down.

"Is it Rafael?"

"How do you know?"

Dominick Sr. shrugs. "Just a hunch. And he stormed out of here pretty upset."

Sonny nods.

"Do you want to tell me about it?" his dad asks.

Might as well, Sonny thinks.

"Well, Rafael has this friend named Trey. And he just...really bugs me. I feel like Rafael is just going to realize one day that Trey is right for him and I am not. And I know Rafael loves me now, but what if one day he wakes up and realizes I'm just the kid he grew up with?"

Dominick Sr. takes it all in. "Have I ever told you about when your mom and I broke up?"

Sonny grows confused. "What? No. When?"

"About a year before we got married, for about a year."

"So...you--"

"Begged her to take me back and marry me a month later, yup."

Sonny laughs, imaging how his dad probably made a huge fool of himself to get his mother back.

"So, what happened?" he asks.

"Same as your problem, really. She had this friend who I didn't trust, and I just thought they fit better, too. And we fought about it too much, so we broke up. And you know what happened between her and the friend?"

Sonny nervously asks if his mom dated that guy, because then his fears could be confirmed.

"That guy is your godfather Jamie, our best friend."

Sonny makes a sick face. Jamie, who they call Uncle Jamie, has always been in his life as an actual uncle. Sonny thought he and Dominick Sr. were actual brothers for the longest time.

"Mom dated Uncle Jamie?! That's gross!"

"No, she didn't! That's my point! My fears were completely ridiculous. He never liked her, no more than a good friend. I was just being really dumb."

"You're saying I'm being dumb?"

"Yes, Son. You are being dumb. Rafael loves you. You're going to let this eat at you until you can't stand being with him anymore. Or he can't stand to be with you."

Sonny nods. "I understand. I guess we should talk about it, right?"

"Yep. That's what I recommend. Talk it over with him."

Sonny is able to fall asleep after that, but he is up bright and early to get to Rafael's to talk.

But he's up so early and doesn't want to wake Lucia, so Sonny decides to climb the tree that will put him on the roof that he can walk across to Rafael's window.

He struggles for ten minutes where he thinks he's alone in the neighborhood before Dominick Sr.'s voice is heard right behind him.

"You know your mother will kill you if you fall out of that tree, right?"

Sonny almost falls out of pure shock. He manages to hang on and balance himself, then he turns to look down at his dad wrapped in his robe and drinking coffee.

"Do you mind?" Sonny asks.

"Not at all, I just saw some weirdo climbing into the Barba house and thought, as a good neighbor, I should come check it out."

Sonny rolls his eyes.

"Why don't you just go through the front door?"

"Because I don't want to wake Lucia."

Sonny hoists himself onto the roof of the porch and manages to balance despite the moisture from the melting snow.

"Didn't think that through, did you?"

Sonny decides crawling would work better. "I really don't need your help."

"Who's going to call an ambulance if you fall? Who's going to retell this story to your sisters?"

"You're a mean dad," Sonny says as he gets to Rafael's window and opens it.

"Love you, Son," Dominick Sr. says before heading back across the street. "My son, breaking into houses. I've never been so proud."

Sonny rolls his eyes and climbs through the window.

Even though he falls and makes a huge noise, Rafael doesn't wake up. He stands and closes the window, sheds his coat, and steps over to Rafael's bed.

He tries to wake Rafael up the same way he did yesterday: with a kiss.

"Rafi? Honey?" He kisses Rafael as softly as he can.

Yesterday, it was sweet and Rafael smiled. This morning, Rafael's eyes fly open and he jumps so hard that he falls off the bed.

"Sonny?!" he cries, jumping off the floor. "What the fuck?!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I just want to talk to you."

Rafael grabs his phone to check the time. "At 6 in the morning?!" He rubs his eyes and sits on his bed.

"It's important."

Rafael pats the bed next to him and yawns.

Sonny doesn't sit, he just paces back and forth.

"Look, I...you know I don't like Trey."

Rafael sighs. "Sonny--"

"No, hear me out. You need to know why I don't like your friendship. Why I'm insecure."

"I know, because you don't trust he and I--"

"No, no, that's not why. Not exactly. I just...you and him, you guys have so much in common. You're the same age, at the same school, and I'm just some high school kid who lives across the street."

"Didn't we have this conversation, like, three years ago?"

Sonny does recall having this conversation early in their relationship when Sonny was afraid Rafael wouldn't want to date a freshman. Sonny's always had this fear.

"You'll have this insecurity until we're true equals, Sonny, until you see that we are equal. But for now, all I can tell you is that we are. We always have been. We've always freakin' been meant for each other, Sonny."

Sonny runs a hand through his hair. "Okay. Alright, I know, I just felt like I needed to say it."

"I get it, I do. Thank you for being honest. But I'm not going to stop being friends with him."

"I don't want you to. I don't want you to not have friends because of me. I don't want to be that boyfriend. I just want to be right for you."

"You are right for me, baby. I promise."

Sonny takes a breath, feeling relieved. "I like hearing that."

Rafael cracks a smile. "I like saying it, because I love you. And I want you to see what I see."

Sonny finally sits on the bed. "What do you see then, Rafi?"

"I see my really cute boyfriend sitting on my bed, and he looks really tired, like we should go back to bed."

Sonny lays down and Rafael snuggles up to cradle him.

"Well, I didn't sleep well last night."

"Mhm, too worked up about this?"

Sonny nods.

"And then you had to break into my bedroom at--" Rafael pauses. "Wait, how did you get in here?"

"I, uh, may have climbed the tree and crawled on the roof."

"What the--Sonny, you're ridiculous."

Sonny smiles. Rafael kisses the back of his neck.

"Want to go to breakfast in a few hours?" Sonny asks.

"Mhm. Lets get bagels and go to the river."

Sonny pulls Rafael's arm tight around him. "It'll be cold."

"I'll keep you warm."

Sonny is warm, all over, with love, trust, and happiness.

Rafael's friend Trey visits New York City with his family around Christmas, so Rafael takes Sonny into Manhattan to meet him. Sonny is skeptical at first because he doesn't want it thrown in his face how well Rafael and Trey get along, but he is pleasantly surprised to like Trey, too. They get along great, and by the end of the day, Sonny ends up being great friends with him, too. Sonny's entire fear disappears, and Rafael just says, "I told you!"

Their winter break ends up being great, and they're very sad to have to leave each other again, but it's Sonny's last semester of high school, baseball will start soon, and that's all he worries about when Rafael leaves.

 

Chapter Text

"Hi, honey."

"Hey, baby."

Rafael smiles and traps the phone between his ear and shoulder.

"What are you doing?" Sonny asks.

Rafael laughs. "I'm filing papers, the same that I was doing an hour ago."

Rafael has been working for a law firm over the summer, just filing papers and fetching coffees, mostly. But it's a step up from the coffee shop.

Sonny is done with school now, so he's not training for three varsity sports. This means he expects Rafael to be available every time he calls, which he does, even if he is busy.

"Hey, quick question," Sonny says.

"Yes?"

"What do you want for your birthday?"

Rafael sighs. There's one thing he wants, not necessarily for his birthday, but oh does he want it. In fact, it's on the phone with him right now. And it'll be 18, very...very soon.

Nonetheless, Rafael says he does not know. They're going to have a little party in a few days, Rafael is expected to drink alcohol for "the first time"--or so Lucia thinks--and Sonny will spend the night. There's no gift he can think of to ask Sonny for.

"I wanna get ya something good, Rafi."

"I don't need anything, Sonny."

"Mhm," Sonny sighs. "Alright, hey, I don't know about you, but I'm very busy. I don't have time to talk about--"

"You called me, you dork."

"Hey, I don't have time--"

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Sonny, I'll call you later."

"Okay, Rafi, I'll answer if I'm not busy."

Rafael chuckles. "Love you."

"I love you too, now get back to work."

Rafael laughs again and hangs up.

"Barba!" Rafael hears from one of the lawyer's offices. He runs down the hall, dipping his head in to each room until he gets to the room of a pacing blonde lady chewing on a straw.

"Ms. Clayton? Are you o--"

"I'm not okay, Barba, do I look okay?"

Jessica Clayton, the lawyer who uses his services the most, is the most hard working and stone cold person he knows. She is straightforward, some would say bitchy, but she makes it work. She is the best at the firm, and the lawyer Rafael hopes he can be when he gets older. The only difference is that he'd rather be a D.A., and she works for a firm.

"Can I help--"

"Yes, yes, you can help me. I really need you to make this phone call."

Rafael takes the scrap of paper she hands him. "Lynn Baker? Who is that?"

"Do you remember the brunette who was here a few days ago?"

"Sure. What, is she a cl--"

"No, Barba, she's my girlfriend. Well, ex, after you make that call."

Rafael stares at her. "Wait, you...you want me to break up with your girlfriend?"

"Yes, she's getting to be too much. I can't do it anymore."

"Do what? Do you fight? Also, I hope you realize I am not doing that."

"No, we don't fight. That's the problem. We don't fight, ever. Everything is...it's great, to normal people."

"But you're not--"

"No, I'm not normal, I can't handle it anymore. She's too happy."

"Are you happy?"

Jessica finally stops pacing and looks at him. "Of course I'm happy."

"Then why are you breaking up with her?"

"Because it's not..."

Rafael lifts an eyebrow. "Do you love her?"

"Yes."

"Then don't dump her, what the--"

"How old are you?"

"Almost twenty-one."

"How old is your boyfriend?"

"Seventeen."

"Then you are not a love expert. Go away and dump my girlfriend."

"I'm not going to dump her for you. I'll get however many coffees you need a day, I'll take your notes, I'll even pee for you, I don't care. I'm not dumping your girlfriend."

Jessica crosses her arms and lifts her chin. "What if I--"

"Nope, not happening. I don't care what you try to bribe me with, I'm not falling for it."

Jessica glares at him. "Fine," she concedes. She tells him to make a reservation at her favorite restaurant for two days from now. She hastily adds a please when he raises an eyebrow.

"Dinner for two?"

"Four."

"For fo--"

"She and I...and my parents."

"Oh! That's why you want to dump her, you don't want her to meet your parents."

Jessica rolls her eyes. "It's not even that big of a deal. Why is meeting the parents such a big deal?"

Rafael shrugs. "My boyfriend's known my mom since he was four-year-old, so--"

"Wait, what?"

"I live across the street from him."

"So you've known him for that long and you're not tired of him?"

"Of course not. I love him."

Jessica sighs. "Fine, that's all. Make my reservation. Remind me to pick up some flowers before dinner."

Rafael raises an eyebrow expectantly again.

Jessica rolls her eyes. "Please."

Rafael grins and walks out of the office.

He's heard many stories about Jessica in his time here. She's made interns and secretaries cry. She's made the young people who have held the job before Rafael quit. She's made kids completely rethink a career in law. But she doesn't scare Rafael. Rafael's seen her at her worst, in his month of working here, and he's also seen her coo over babies and nearly cry when one defendant yelled at her in her office. Rafael just really admires her.

Rafael makes the reservation, then begins packing his things to go home. His phone rings again while he's packing, but he ignores it because it's Sonny and he can call back while he's walking to the subway.

Rafael crosses another day off his calendar and counts two more days until his birthday. He grows more and more excited each day, even though he's never been one to be excited for his birthday. He's mostly excited to have Sonny sleep over, because now that Sonny isn't in school anymore, Lucia's been letting him sleep over more often. And Deb and Dom are okay with it too, they just don't sleep in Sonny's bed because Sonny's bed is too small.

Sleeping with Sonny is difficult sometimes, because they still haven't had sex of any kind. But if Rafael is being honest, he hopes something can happen soon. Maybe.

Rafael calls Sonny as he walks, just to tell Sonny he's on his way. After he hangs up, he puts on some music like he usually does, that way nobody will bother him while he's on the subway. He stands during the ride to politely give a pregnant woman his seat, and pretty soon he's home.

"Mami, estoy en casa!" he calls through the house, letting Lucia know he is home.

Rafael wanders into the kitchen in search of his mother, but she is not there. Slightly worried, he checks the laundry room and finds it empty as well, so Rafael makes his way upstairs to check if his mother is in her bedroom.

"Mami?" he asks, approaching her bedroom door, which is cracked open slightly.

Lucia quickly shuts a little book she's holding and wipes her nose with a handkerchief. It's clear to Rafael that she was crying.

"Mami? ¿Por qué estás llorando?" he delicately wipes a tear from her face as he asks why she is crying.

"I'm not, Papito, see? I am fine. Estoy bien."

Lucia gives him a pained smile and tucks the book--a bible--under her pillow. Rafael eyes her skeptically, but when Lucia exits the room, he follows.

All evening, Rafael wonders what Lucia was looking at in the Bible. Perhaps she became emotional during prayer, but Rafael feels like something is wrong. He feels as though Lucia is keeping something from him.

Even so, he drops it because Lucia calms by the time they enter the kitchen.

"How was work?" she asks. "What outrageous thing did Ms. Clayton do today?

Rafael chuckles. "Actually, it was a good one. She asked me to dump her girlfriend."

Lucia's jaw drops. "Did you?"

"Of course not!"

Lucia shakes her head and ticks. "That girl..."

Rafael has told his mother of how insane Jessica can be, and most of the time they're just amused at her together.

They talk more about their day, Lucia telling him she picked up the ingredients for the dinner he wants for his birthday.

As they talk, Rafael can't help but wonder what his mother is hiding.

Rafael goes to bed that night silently vowing to find out what Lucia is hiding tomorrow. He wants to ask, because eventually she would tell him, as Lucia is horrible at keeping things from him. But, for some reason, he decides to go behind her back.

So, the next morning, he waits to leave for the office until after Lucia is gone. He feels bad, but he sneaks into his mother's bedroom to find the little bible. He checks under her pillow, but of course it is not there. Nervously, and guiltily, he opens her bedside table and instantly finds the book.

Rafael fans through the pages to find something strange, and sure enough he comes to a page with a little Polaroid instant photo tucked between the pages. It's a photo of a man and a woman, the woman being a younger version of Lucia and the man being somebody he does not recognize. She's sitting on his lap, looking happy, laughing, and he's holding a beer bottle. They're probably at a party. Rafael can't tell how old the photo is, but the couple in it are very young.

Could it be his father? The father he can't remember? Who he feels he's never even met? Why would Lucia be crying over the photo? Why has she never talked about his father when clearly she thinks about him enough to keep his photo nearby? They look happy in the photo, were they always happy?

Rafael doesn't hear footsteps approaching Lucia's bedroom, and he certainly doesn't hear her calling for him until she's in the doorway.

"Rafael?! ¿Qué estás haciendo?"

Rafael doesn't jump when he hears Lucia's voice almost yelling, asking what he is doing. He just holds up the photo.

"Who is this?"

Lucia stomps over to him and yanks the photo from his hand, then the Bible.

"How dare you go through my things, Rafael."

Rafael ignores that. "Who is that?"

"I leave for two seconds and you do this? How can I trust you, Rafael, when you've done something so, so..."

"Mom, who is that?!"

Lucia stops. Rafael has never called her 'mom'.

"Out!" she cries suddenly. "Get out."

Rafael steps out of Lucia's bedroom, but remains in the hallway waiting for her to exit. As she does, she slams the door and stalks down the hall.

Rafael follows close behind. "Why don't you want to tell me who that is?" he demands.

"Because you don't need to know."

"Obviously I do, because you were crying over the picture yesterday."

Lucia wanders into the kitchen and begins to look for something. "I don't have to tell you everything, Rafael."

Rafael scowls. "But...but--"

"No 'pero', Rafael!" Lucia sighs with such frustration that it's practically a growl. "I can't even remember what I forgot!"

Rafael stomps over to the refrigerator and yanks her work I.D. card off the magnet, then hands it to her with the least amount of aggression that he can.

"Gracias," Lucia says, then turns to leave the kitchen.

"I deserve to know!" he calls after Lucia, following her to the front door.

Lucia gets outside and down the stairs of the porch before he asks, "Is it my father?"

Lucia pauses before she opens the car door, then hangs her head in defeat. Rafael slowly approaches.

"It is, isn't it?" he asks.

Lucia slowly turns around. "Yes, Rafael, it's your father."

"Then why..." Rafael shakes his head. "What are you hiding from me, Mami? Don't you trust me?"

Lucia sighs. She strokes Rafael's cheek softly. "Of course, Papito, that's not...it's not about trusting you. I was trying to protect you."

"Protect me? From what?"

Rafael's phone begins to ring, and he almost ignores it because he assumes it is Sonny, and Sonny will understand him not answering right away. But when he checks, he finds that it is Jessica, who he can't really ignore.

"Go, Papi. We'll talk later."

"Do you promise?"

"Yes, I promise. Now go, go to work."

Rafael nods. "I'm sorry I went through your things, Mami."

Lucia smiles kindly at him. "We'll talk later. Te amo."

"I love you, too."

Rafael lets Lucia get into the car and leave, then Rafael goes into the house to get his bag while calling Jessica back. She asks him to stop at one of the local police stations to pick up an affidavit, and Rafael is excited to possibly be doing some actual law work, but Jessica also asks him to bring her a coffee. But Rafael is glad, because he can use an espresso about now, too.

Once he gets to the office, he is a little bit more calm. Rationally, he knows there is nothing he can do about the mystery now except to not worry about it. Lucia wants to protect him, but if he was in any real danger, she would tell him.

Still, he can't stop thinking about it, can't stop wondering. Why would Lucia be crying over a photo of his father?

Eventually, Rafael comes to the harsh realization that perhaps his father died. Surely Lucia would want to protect him from that heartbreak. But if he's been alive this entire time, why didn't she tell Rafael about him? Did he not want anything to do with Rafael? Did he even know Rafael exists?

Finally, it's time for him to go home, so he packs his things and gets his headphones ready to ignore people on the train. It's Friday, so he pops his head in to tell Jessica he'll see her on Monday.

"Hey," Jessica tells him, "Don't party too hard!"

Rafael gives her a fake smile, because he's having a hard time being excited for his birthday now.

Rafael calls Sonny as he walks to the subway.

"Hey, baby!" Sonny excitedly answers the phone.

"Hey, Sonny."

"What's wrong?" Sonny immediately asks, due to Rafael's rough, low, sulking voice.

Rafael sighs. "I...I don't know."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay. Don't worry. I just have some news from my mom that I'm anticipating."

"What? Bad news? Is she okay? Your Abuela--"

"Yeah, everyone's okay. I think. I don't know. She's going to tell me about my father."

"Your...oh man, Rafi. You okay? You want me to go over?"

"No, I'm going to talk to her first. I'll call you."

"Okay, babe. It'll be okay."

"Thanks, Sonny."

"I love you," Sonny adds.

"I love you, too."

Rafael gets home, makes himself a hot cup of coffee, and waits patiently for Lucia to arrive.

He doesn't wait long, for his mother is almost right behind him. Lucia enters the house and goes straight to the kitchen where Rafael is waiting. She drops her purse and stands on the opposite side of the island.

"So?" Rafael asks expectantly.

"So? That is not a question, mi amor."

"Oh, oh you want my questions? Okay. What's his name?"

"His name is Miguel Hernandez."

"Is he dead?"

"No."

That surprises Rafael. "Then...what?! Why are you keeping me from him? Does he even know I exist?"

"Because he is not a nice man, Rafael."

Rafael is confused. "Then why were you crying while looking at his picture?"

"Because I'm worried. He just got released from prison."

Rafael grows possibly more confused. He rubs his eyes. "What? Can you...Mami, start from the beginning, por favor?"

"The beginning, well..." Lucia walks over to the coffee pot and pours herself a cup, and Rafael can tell she's stressed too, because she never drinks coffee.

Once her coffee is made, Lucia continues:

"We weren't together long when you...happened...but we thought we'd be together for a very long time."

"What happened?"

"When you were almost a year old, he went to jail. And I vowed to keep you away from him and his lifestyle."

"What do you mean?"

"He was in a gang, Rafi, on the south side. When he went away, you and I moved in with Abuela, and I worked very hard for us to move to this house."

"What did he go to jail for?"

"Armed robbery. He robbed a bodega."

"So, he's been in jail this entire time for that?"

Lucia nods. "For twenty years."

Rafael nervously runs a hand through his hair. "So he's out now."

Lucia nods again.

"Do you think...is he going to--"

"He doesn't know where we live, he's never contacted me, but..."

"Does this have to do with how you know he's out?"

"I'm in touch with his sister. I've asked her not to tell him, but..."

"But you don't trust her."

Lucia sighs. "I don't know."

"Why have you never told me any of this?" Rafael asks. "Why didn't you tell me that he, you know, exists?"

"What? Of course he exists, you weren't conceived immaculately."

"I always just assumed--"

Lucia's eyes grow wide. "Did you think I didn't know who your father is?! I wasn't a little whore, Rafael!"

"Okay, but he was in a gang, Mami!"

Lucia covers her face, and Rafael fears he's upset her, but soon he can hear her chuckles and see her shoulders shake. Rafael joins in her laughter, because this is crazy. This seems like something out of a soap opera. Next he'll find out he has an evil twin.

"I'm sorry, Rafael. I'm sorry. I thought I was protecting you."

"You were, Mami, I know. I'm not upset, I'm still just...in shock, I guess. Do I have other family?"

Lucia nods. "Yes, Miguel's mother died years ago, but his sister lives in Queens with a daughter and two sons of her own. She got out of the gang corruption years ago. That's why I've kept in touch with her."

"Why have you kept me from her, then? Didn't she ever want to meet me?"

"Sure she did, Papi. But it was my decision, and I'm sorry if you are upset by that, but I really just wanted you as far away from all of that as possible."

"I understand," he says, but he is still curious. He has family! He's never had first cousins before. Lucia is an only child, and his Abuela came from Cuba, where most of his extended family still is.

Rafael carefully chooses his words, as to not upset Lucia. "What if..." he asks, "I wanted to...meet them?"

Lucia frowns. "I guess I can't stop you, Rafi. You're an adult."

Rafael frowns back. He doesn't want to do it just because he's an adult, and he doesn't want to feel like he's betraying Lucia.

"Would you be against it?"

"If it's what you really wanted, I wouldn't be. Just think about it, okay?"

Rafael nods in agreement.

Rafael finishes his cup of coffee and says he's going to see Sonny, then walks across the street. He rings the doorbell, but he doesn't feel like going inside. He doesn't feel like answering why he's so glum. He doesn't feel like talking about his birthday. He wants to curl up in Sonny's bed and wrap his boyfriend's strong arms around him, protecting him from the world, from this bombshell that's just been dropped on him.

Bella eagerly answers the door. "Rafi, guess what! I got you a present, Mom took me to the mall and we got you something you'll really like. Rafi? Are you okay?"

Rafael had just been staring at Bella, not really listening. This is exactly what he'd hoped to avoid: talking to people.

"Bells, can you get Sonny for me? Please?"

Bella skeptically agrees and walks away, screaming up the stairs for Sonny.

Sonny runs down the stairs, and when Rafael sees his shoes on, he yanks Sonny outside and asks him if they can go for a walk. Sonny just agrees, telling Bella to tell their parents he'll be back soon.

"What's going on?" Sonny asks once they're down the street far enough away from their houses.

"My mom told me about my father."

"Yeah, you had said she would. What did she say?"

"She said he's getting out of prison."

Sonny's jaw drops. "What? Prison? Really?"

"Yeah. I didn't really know what I expected this whole time, I just thought--"

"Your mom didn't know who he was?"

Rafael finally lets out a chuckle, because he had thought the same thing. "Exactly! That's what I said. She was offended, to say the least."

Sonny laughs. "Okay, well, what happened? Does he want to see you or what?"

"No, he doesn't know where I am, right now. But that's what she's afraid of. She's afraid he'll find me."

"How would he?"

"Well, that's the other thing. He has a sister and she's got kids."

Sonny's eyebrows lift in shock. "What? Like...you've got family?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Are you gonna meet 'em? Do they want to meet you? Are they gonna tell your dad where you are? Wait, he didn't like murder anyone, right? You're not, like, being hidden from him, like witness protection, right?"

"No, no. He didn't murder anyone, geez. He is associated with a gang, though. He was busted for armed robbery."

"Geez, that's tough."

"As for meeting them, I don't know. This is all so sudden. This is a lot of information to take in in one day."

"I get you. What can I do to help?"

Rafael squeezes his hand. "Just this. Take my mind off it."

Sonny lifts his hand and kisses it. "Wanna talk about your birthday? Because, I don't know about you, but I am really excited."

Rafael sighs. He is not excited anymore. This information has really taken a toll on his mood.

"Come on, Rafi. It's your 21st. We were supposed to get our drink on."

Rafi cracks a smile. "We?"

"Okay, you, Lex, and Trey are going to, and I was gonna sneak some. And then we're going to sleep together, in your big, cosy bed. And you know what?"

"What?"

Sonny leans over and whispers in his ear, "I might forget my pajamas."

Rafael smirks. "I might have some extra to lend you."

Sonny takes hold of Rafael's face. "You're not going to offer any to me once you have me in your bed."

Rafael leans forward and kisses him. "I just want to be with you, and to stop worrying about everything else."

"Then don't worry. It'll be fine."

Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael's neck and pulls him in for a very tight hug. Rafael happily hugs back, closing his eyes and just breathing Sonny in. All the noise in the world disappears, all the light, all the outdoor heat. Everything disappears but the feeling of Sonny's heart beating against his chest.

"Love you, Rafi," Sonny whispers.

"Love you too," Rafael replies, feeling entirely content for the first time all day.

Eventually, Sonny pulls away first, claiming that as much as he'd love to keep hugging Rafael, it's just too hot.

"Hey, wanna ruin our dinners by getting an ice cream cone?" Sonny asks.

Rafael laughs. "Sure."

Sonny leads him to the neighborhood ice cream truck that's stopped next to the park. Sonny orders a Sonic the Hedgehog character popsicle and gets a chocolate fudgebar for Rafael. He pays, then kisses Rafael's head before biting into Sonic's head.

"I'm glad you don't bite my head," Rafael jokes.

Sonny leans over, mouth wide and teeth shown. Rafael laughs and darts away before Sonny can bite him.

They walk home once their ice cream is eaten. They go to Sonny's house for dinner.

"Mom, Dad!" Sonny calls through the house as soon as they enter. "Rafi's here for dinner!"

"Shocker!" Dominick Sr. yells back.

Rafael and Sonny just laugh.

Rafael goes home to see Lucia before she goes to bed. He tells her again that he's sorry for going through her things, and she apologizes for keeping information from him for his entire life.

"I understand, Mami," Rafael says. "I do."

"I hope so, Papito," Lucia says, kissing his head. "Why don't you go to bed, okay? Get some rest."

Rafael yawns and nods. "Goodnight, Mami."

"Goodnight, Rafi."

Rafael goes upstairs and falls asleep almost instantly, the stress of the day getting to him. He does fall asleep starting to feel excited for his birthday, though. Lex is coming from Manhattan and Trey is coming from Cambridge, and he is very excited.

 

 

Chapter Text

Rafael wakes up alone on the morning of his 21st birthday, and he doesn't immediately know if that's good or bad.

It's good because he doesn't have to answer to anybody until he's out of bed.

It's bad because he doesn't have to get out of bed if he doesn't want to.

He's only felt this way a handful of times in his life: the morning of Donuts for Dad in fourth grade, the first day of junior high (when he had to go to school without Sonny for the first time), waking up in his Harvard dorm for the first time, and now.

The world is just too loud right now. Too much new information has come into light. He never really gave his father the thought, he never wondered where or who he was. The only thing he felt was anger because he wasn't there for Donuts for Dad.

Well, now Rafael knows why. He was in prison.

Rafael doesn't want to meet him, because who knows what kind of man he is? He was in prison! His mother spent his entire life keeping Rafael away from him, away from his lifestyle, and he doesn't want to betray that. He doesn't want to upset his mother, even if she says it would be okay to meet his father. He also doesn't want to drag his mother back into that, because she undoubtedly would be dragged back in.

Still, Rafael is curious about his father's family. He is curious about the woman who is technically his aunt, and the children who are his cousins. He's never had any family this close blooded.

But Lucia has also spent a lot of time to keep him from them, too. Are they bad? Lucia had said they left the gang scene, how bad could they be?

Rafael just wants to know. He is curious. A family! That isn't just him, his Mami, and Abuela!

It gets to be 9 o'clock and Rafael has been laying silently in bed for an hour now. He just doesn't want to face the day, doesn't want to face his mother, his friends, or even Sonny.

Turning over in bed and snuggling deeper into his pillow, he thinks maybe having Sonny here wouldn't be so bad. But letting Sonny into the house would mean Lucia would see him, and she'd want to make him breakfast, then he'd have to pretend to eat the breakfast because he's not hungry, then he'd need to get dressed, then he'd have to let Lex know he can come up to his house because she wanted to spend all day with them, then he'd have to--

There's a light knock on his window. Rafael doesn't even jump because he's so 'blah' right now, but he does sit up to get a better view of what the hell could be knocking on his window.

There, smile bright on the other side of the glass, is his sweet faced Sonny. He's grinning ear to ear and holding up a birthday card against the glass.

Rafael gives Sonny a tiny smile and slides the window up.

"Hey baby," Sonny says sweetly. He leans into the window and gives Rafael a quick kiss on the cheek before he climbs in.

Rafael feels a little bit self conscious because he isn't wearing a shirt, so he discreetly tries to find one on his floor, but he doesn't find anything. Rafael crosses his arms over his chest and sits on his bed.

"Did I wake you?" Sonny asks, taking off his shoes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. I was gonna call first, but I thought if you didn't answer the window I'd just sneak in. Remember when we were kids, on my birthday you'd wake me up? It was sweet."

Rafael nods. He sets his feet on the box of his bed so he can pull his knees to his chest to block his shirtless front. Rafael doesn't think he's particularly overweight, and even if he was it'd be fine, but he still feels less than top shape, especially compared to Sonny. He's not shirtless around Sonny often, and he doesn't want Sonny to think anything negatively about him.

He knows this feeling is stemming from feeling down about everything else in his life. Worrying about one thing makes him worry about everything, including his body image issues.

"Why're you sitting like that?" Sonny asks, chuckling.

Rafael shrugs.

"What, are you embarrassed or something? Rafi, I've seen you shirtless tons of times."

"Yeah, but--"

"But?"

But not when I'm having such terrible self esteem issues, Rafael wants to say.

Sonny sits next to Rafael. "You don't have to tell me what's bothering you," Sonny says, "Because I can pretty much guess what it is. And we don't have to talk about it, because I know you want to stop thinking about it. Instead, let's talk about you."

"What? Me?"

"Well, you don't have to talk, you should just listen. I'll talk."

Rafael sighs. He wants to go back to sleep. He longs for quiet.

Sonny's lightly stroking his knee. He focuses on that.

"I like your legs," Sonny says.

Rafael snorts. "Why?"

"Because you have nice thighs. Me? I'm, like, straight from hip to ankle, but you've got these nice, thick thighs and calves that give you a curve. And I like it."

Rafael almost rolls his eyes.

"Speaking of hips," Sonny continues, "You actually have hips, which I like, because you have a great shape. Unlike me, jeans actually fit you and don't fall off of you because you have no ass."

Rafael almost, almost tells Sonny he's got a great ass, but Sonny continues before he can.

"But you, my love, your ass is..." Sonny noisily licks his lips, as if he'd been drooling. "It's great, Rafi, really great."

Rafael does roll his eyes this time.

Sonny shifts so he's sitting on the bed behind Rafael, his thighs on either side of Rafael. He strokes strong hands alone Rafael's back.

"I like your back, because you're strong, and your skin is so smooth, and I like to..." Sonny rubs his cheek against Rafael's back, then kisses the warm skin there.

Then, Sonny's hands move to his shoulders and arms. "You've got such broad shoulders, and your arms are surprisingly muscular, probably from carrying your big, important Harvard books around. I like when you wrap your arms around me, because I feel safe and protected. Like you could save me from anything. My knight in shining armor."

Rafael chuckles. "I thought we had agreed we were both kings."

Sonny kisses his shoulder blade. "My king, then."

Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael, touching his belly now. Rafael tries to suck it in, but the way he's sitting doesn't allow for much movement.

"No, no, don't let your belly disappear. I like it. I love your stomach and chest."

Rafael lets his mind go blank at Sonny rubbing his soft belly and chest.

"Your broad shoulders hold your chest back strongly. And I know you don't like it, but I love how soft you are. You're so soft to cuddle, to bury into, and I love that. I love feeling your skin give to my fingers." Sonny kneads softly at the skin of Rafael's stomach. Then, he rubs his hands up Rafael's chest, and grazes his fingernails down Rafael's sides, making him shiver.

Sonny scoots closer to him and kisses the back of his neck, keeps kissing until he's right below Rafael's ear.

"I love your neck, I want to bite it and suck on it, mark it and kiss it."

He licks where his lips are, and Rafael can't help the gasp that escapes or his head from falling back to give Sonny access to more.

"I love your ears," Sonny whispers, tugging on Rafael's earlobe with his teeth. "I love your cheeks because I can hold onto them while I kiss your lips, and your lips, Rafi..." Sonny moans right in Rafael's ear.

Rafael bites his lip and lets his head fall all the way back to rest on Sonny's shoulder. His eyes are closed, his body is singing with the feel of Sonny's hands on him, all over him, on his chest and belly and thighs. He feels naked, with nothing but Sonny's hands covering him.

Sonny licks at his neck again. "Rafi, please, please let me touch you, I'll make it good, I promise, please?"

Rafael feels Sonny's hand snake lower and lower, while his other hand lightly tugs at his hair and his tongue marks Rafael's neck.

Sonny's fingers reach the elastic of his underwear, and that's when the spell breaks. His eyes shoot open and he jumps up, standing from his bed and turning around to face Sonny, who is staring at him, shocked with a bright blush across his cheeks.

Sonny, who has a bulge in his sweatpants. Sonny, whose legs are spread obscenely wide. Sonny, who is obviously incredibly into him right now.

Rafael kneels on the bed. Sonny scoots back to make room.

"Are you sure?" Rafael asks.

Sonny nods. "Yes," he says, "Yes, I'm sure."

"What are you sure of?" Rafael asks, leaning over Sonny so he falls into his back.

"You. I'm sure I want you, I want to touch you, I want you to touch me, I want to make you come."

Rafael's heart is beating dangerously fast. With one hand propping himself up over Sonny, he uses the other hand to touch Sonny's chest. As expected, his heart is racing just as fast as Rafael's.

Sonny wraps long fingers around Rafael's wrist, then lightly tugs so Rafael takes his hand off Sonny's chest. Instead, Sonny laces his fingers into Rafael's, then pulls Rafael completely on top of him.

Rafael finally kisses Sonny, and Sonny moans again. It's music to Rafael's ears, and it makes his hips move on their own, which makes Sonny moan again, which makes Rafael grind against him again, and soon they're in a wonderful loop. Sonny is so hard against Rafael, and he feels so good. Every bit of Sonny feels good, from his tongue against Rafael's, to his hand squeezing Rafael's, to his free hand trailing up and down Rafael's back. Rafael is surrounded by the feeling of Sonny.

Soon, very soon, Sonny pushes Rafael onto his back and climbs on top of him. He sits up on Rafael's lap to yank his shirt off, and Rafael takes the moment to touch the abs he admires so much, then reach for the drawstring of Sonny's sweatpants. Sonny reaches for Rafael's underwear again, and they can be about two seconds away from being naked, but Rafael hears his name being called from the other side of the wall.

Without thinking, because it all happens so fast--his mother is about to walk into his bedroom!--Rafael sits up and pushes Sonny off of him. Sonny lands on the floor with a thud, but he seems to pick up what is happening, because he grabs his t-shirt and yanks it back over his head. Rafael resumes his position of his knees drawn to his chest, and Sonny quickly sits on the floor. He picks up his phone, which had fallen on the floor, and quickly unlocks it to look busy.

"Rafi?" Lucia asks as she opens the door. "Oh good, you're up, and--Sonny, what are you doing here? How did you get in here? Rafi, why aren't you dressed?" Lucia sighs, entering Rafael's room and going to his dresser. She pulls out a t-shirt and tosses it to Rafael. "Never mind, Abuela will be here in just a few minutes, get dressed. She has a surprise for you!"

Lucia leaves the boys in Rafael's bedroom, and they both let out the nervous breath they'd been holding.

"Better than the surprise I was just getting?" Rafael mumbles.

Sonny laughs. He stands from the floor and not-so-discreetly adjusts himself in his sweatpants.

"We can resume later," Sonny says, kissing Rafael on the lips. "You get ready. I'll go downstairs to make you some coffee."

Rafael just smiles as Sonny leaves the room.

Rafael takes a quick shower and takes his time getting ready to hold onto those last few minutes of quiet before he's bombarded with attention.

Finally, he makes it downstairs and Abuela has already arrived. Sonny is still here, smiling wonderfully while listening to Rafael's grandmother go on and on about something. They're talking about Rafael, no doubt, because while Sonny was around for most of Rafael's childhood, he was already seven by the time they met, which means there were the baby and toddler years he didn't see. Abuela likes to tell Sonny about little Rafael crying on his first day of kindergarten, Rafael refusing to speak English for about a week in first grade, and Rafael deciding that nudity was acceptable at the park one morning.

Sonny beams at Rafael, who just quietly sips his delicious coffee.

"So Rafael had a biting problem?" Sonny asks.

"Oh yes," Abuela tells him while Rafael grows embarrassed. "In preschool, he would bite in class. And my poor Papito would get sent home."

Abuela ruffles Rafael's hair as she goes to the living room.

"Didn't think you were a biter, Rafi," Sonny teases.

Rafael chuckles. He leans over and playfully bites Sonny's shoulder.

"Hmm," Sonny sighs, "I kind of like it..."

Rafael kisses where he bit, but he can't do anything else before Abuela and Lucia are back in the kitchen.

"Here you go, mi amor, this is for you!" Abuela kisses his cheek and hands him a card.

Rafael is kind of confused, because it's just a card, but it was nice of his grandmother to get him anything at all, so he happily opens it.

It's a cute card, and it makes Rafael smile, and when he opens it he is truly shocked. It is a plane ticket to Florida, where Lucia goes on vacation every other year to visit her extended family that's immigrated from Cuba. Rafael hasn't gone in a long time, since he was a little kid. The ticket is for a week from now.

"Wow, Abuela, really? This is...really?!"

"Yes, I thought I would take you with me this year! I thought you could go for some time away. And don't worry, I won't be with you the whole time, you can do your own thing, I won't be upset. But you'll meet relatives and the people I love down there."

Rafael is very excited. He glances at Sonny and sees an excited look on his face, too.

"I love it, Abuela, thank you so much for thinking of me." Rafael kisses her cheek, and she pats his cheek lovingly.

"You'll have to spend a week away from your Sonny-boy, but I don't think he'd mind."

Sonny shakes his head. "I don't mind, Rafi can use a vacation."

Abuela pats Sonny's cheek, too. Lucia kisses both of their heads, then she and Abuela announce they need to run to the supermarket. They leave Sonny and Rafael still in the kitchen.

"Hey, Bella wanted to give you her gift. It won't compare to this, but--"

"No, no, I appreciate Bella thinking of me, of course. Do you want to go to your house?"

"Yeah, I gotta get dressed and I'm sure my dad will make you waffles, or whatever. And then we can call Lex and maybe take a walk and--"

Rafael must look slightly overwhelmed because Sonny pauses, gently places a hand on Rafael's shoulder, and says, "You tell me what you wanna do, Rafi."

Rafael pats Sonny's back. "Lets just go eat breakfast, then we'll see. Okay?"

Sonny gives him a friendly smile, then kisses Rafael's head and leads him out of the house.

After breakfast, which is a delicious spread of pretty much everything Mr. Carisi had in the refrigerator, Rafael opens Bella's present, which is a really nice watch.

"Wow, Bells, this is...this is really nice!"

Bella beams. "Thanks, I picked it out. I thought you'd like it."

Rafael takes it off the little pillow it was wrapped around in the box, then slips in on his wrist. "I love it," he tells Bella, squeezing her in a tight hug.

When Bella lets him go, she steps over Sonny and sticks her tongue out at him. Sonny glares at her, then picks up a little blue gift bag.

"This is what I got you," he says.

"Oh baby, you didn't have to get me anything."

"No, I wanted to."

Rafael leans over and kisses his cheek, then excitedly grabs the little bag.

He is surprised to find another watch. Rafael can't help it, he begins to laugh uncontrollably.

"It's not funny!" Sonny cries, chuckling too. "I didn't know what Bella got you. I'll take it back. I can think of something else."

"No, no, it's okay," Rafael says, "I love it, thank you. Very practical."

Sonny gives him a sad smile. "But hey, I picked up something else for you."

Confused, Rafael watches Sonny get off the couch and run into the front entryway of the house where his backpack is hanging. Sonny takes something out of his bag and holds it behind his back as he approaches the couch again.

"Well...here."

Sonny hands Rafael a flimsy blue cap with a weird looking boat on it.

"Uh--"

"I wanted to tell you yesterday, but all of your stuff happened, so I didn't get a chance. Remember a few weeks ago I went to a baseball practice at Concordia?"

Concordia is a college a little ways north in Bronxville.

"Yeah..."

"Well, it was actually a tryout. And I...I made the team."

Rafael's jaw drops. "What?!"

"Yeah, I had to go yesterday morning to sign, so I got you this hat. It's stupid--"

"Wait, so you're going to play actual college baseball?!"

"I mean...it's just division two, but--"

"No 'just' or 'but', Sonny! You're going to play college baseball!"

Sonny slowly smiles. "So, really? You're not like...I don't know, disappointed?"

"What the hell would I be disappointed in, Sonny?"

"That I'm not going to some big university or anything."

Rafael sighs and pulls Sonny into his arms. "I will never be disappointed in you, Sonny. I am so beyond proud of you. I can't believe...oh my gosh, Sonny, this is amazing."

Sonny exhales against Rafael's neck. "Thanks, Rafi. That means a lot."

Rafael squeezes Sonny tight, feeling so extremely proud of him. Baseball is something Sonny has worked so hard for his entire life. Rain or shine, one-hundred degrees with humidity or thirty degree freezing, Sonny was out in the yard playing ball. Usually, he'd drag Rafael out to throw at him or make Rafael toss the balls so he could hit, and Rafael never liked it as much as Sonny did, but he did it. And it paid off, because now Sonny gets to go to college to play.

"Hey, can I ask you a question, though?"

Sonny pulls back. "Sure, anything."

Rafael points to the hat. "What the hell is this?"

Sonny laughs. "It's a boat, I think. I don't know. They're called the Clippers. But they're blue, which is cool, because my baseball teams are usually blue."

"That's true. Oh god," Rafael mutters, "Please don't dye your hair again."

Sonny laughs. "That was one time!"

Rafael smiles. "I'm so proud of you. But, you know..."

"What?"

"I'm going to need a shirt."

Sonny's smile grows impossibly wider. "Of course, I just don't know what number I'll be yet."

Rafael can't help leaning over to give him a kiss. Sonny just looks so happy, and Rafael is so proud.

"I love you," Rafael says.

"I love you, too."

The news completely brightens Rafael's mood, so he allows Sonny to call Lex to tell her to come to the Bronx. Trey calls Rafael and says he'll be around soon as well, as he happened to be in Manhattan for the weekend. Rafael grows excited to have his friends, and to share Sonny's great news with them.

By the time their friends arrive, it is lunchtime, so they go to a little restaurant that Rafael loves. After they eat, Sonny makes a fool of Rafael by telling their waiter that it's Rafael's birthday. Rafael buries his face in his hands as the wait staff sings happy birthday, but he gets a delicious slice of cheesecake, so it turns out alright.

The party isn't for later in the evening, when Lucia leaves to spend the night with Rafael's Abuela. Lucia trusts that the house won't end up a mess, and she wants to stay out of the way.

They don't know many people, so Gina brings a few friends who range between her age and Rafael's, Sonny had invited a few guys from high school, which was fine to Rafael because they're friendly with him too, and the party ends up still pretty small but fun.

It takes Rafael a while to get drunk, because he drinks slowly and smartly. Trey is trashed fast and Rafael fears he's about to hook up with one of Gina's friends in the downstairs bathroom, and one of Lex's local girlfriends shows up so they're huddled close together. Sonny makes the rounds and sneaks his alcohol so Gina won't tattle to their parents, but Rafael knows he's tipsy because his eyes are glossy and he is so much more cuddly to Rafael.

Rafael grows overwhelmed with the people, which makes him drink more to relax. But he still grows emotional, thinking about anything and everything.

It's almost two in the morning and most people are gone, so when Rafael grows a hurt pout on his face, Gina knows to get everyone out.

"Sonny," Rafael whispers, grabbing onto him. "Sonny, come on..."

Sonny is still having fun, but he takes one look at Rafael and seems to get it, because he immediately grabs Rafael's hand, kisses Gina's cheek goodnight, and drags Rafael upstairs.

As soon as they're alone in Rafael's bedroom, and his head is too cloudy and his stomach is turning and he begins to breathe fast, Sonny grabs him and kisses him.

"Sonny, Son--"

Sonny kisses him harder, but Rafael just pushes at Sonny.

"Stop, Sonny. What are you doing?"

"Just let me take your mind off it," Sonny says, reaching for Rafael's jeans.

Rafael rubs his face. "Don't add to my stress, Sonny, I can't deal with this right now."

Rafael pushes passed him and begins taking his clothes off to go to bed.

"Lets go to sleep," Rafael says.

Sonny sits on 'his side' of the bed to take off his shoes.

"You wanna know what I think?" Sonny asks, sounding a little bit annoyed.

Rafael pulls his shirt off to put on a sleep shirt. He doesn't say anything to Sonny, but Sonny continues anyway.

"I think you don't need this new family. You have a family. You have your mom, grandma, m--"

Rafael knows Sonny is about to say "me".

Sonny goes on, "You've never known these people. It's not going to make a difference to know them or not."

Rafael lays down with his back to Sonny. He doesn't say anything, because truthfully, he's a little bit upset with Sonny for giving his opinion like this. It's not up to Sonny.

Sonny snuggles up to his back. "I love you, okay? I didn't mean to upset you."

Rafael sighs and grabs Sonny's hand.

"Happy birthday, baby." Sonny kisses Sonny behind his ear, and Rafael falls asleep.


 

Rafael wakes up on his back with Sonny wrapped around him. His eyes are dry, as is his mouth. He smacks his lips and licks them repeatedly to help the moisture return.

Sonny shifts in his arms. He rubs his nose into Rafael's neck, and Rafael loves the feeling.

Rafael turns his face to Sonny and nuzzles into his soft hair, then kisses his head. Sonny moves his face to kiss Rafael's cheek, and Rafael moves his face to catch Sonny's chapped lips.

They don't speak, Rafael doesn't even open his eyes, he just strokes his tongue along Sonny's lips until Sonny opens his mouth and invites Rafael in. They kiss languidly, sweetly, as Sonny's hand snakes up Rafael's shirt. His hand grazes Rafael's chest, and Rafael rubs Sonny's arm where he can reach.

Sonny pulls Rafael's arm until Rafael shifts to lay on top of Sonny. Sonny pulls at his shirt, so Rafael yanks it off before climbing between Sonny's spread legs.

They still don't speak, but Rafael stops thinking because Sonny's hips thrust beneath him, and Rafael couldn't think if he tried. He just rubs himself against Sonny and sucks on Sonny's tongue.

Sonny doesn't last very long, and Rafael is right behind him. Rafael squeezes Sonny's hand that he didn't notice he was holding, and Sonny lets out a loud, satisfied groan. Rafael can't even believe how good it feels; how wonderful Sonny feels under him, with his legs locked tight around Rafael's hips, with his hands tracing lines on Rafael's hot back, with his lean chest pressed against Rafael's so much that Rafael is sure he can feel his heartbeat, with his hips slowing to a stop against Rafael's.

Rafael feels a high, and not guilty, which is what he'd feared. Sonny is satisfied, and Rafael himself is beyond pleased.

"Mmm," Sonny sighs, pushing on Rafael's face so they part with a slick pop. "I love you," he whispers. "I wanted to tell you, before, but--"

"I know," Rafael replies, "I love you, too."

"I want to touch you next time."

Rafael smiles. He has a feeling 'next time' will be fairly soon.

"Listen, Rafi," Sonny says next. "I'm sorry about last night, what I said. I had no place sayin'--"

"Ssshhh, Sonny, it's okay. Just don't worry about it, okay?"

Sonny nods and kisses Rafael again.

They clean up, but settle back in the bed again to rest for a while longer. They snuggle close together and talk quietly, pausing every few minutes to kiss or close their eyes. Rafael is so happy, so absentminded at the moment, that he wishes today was the morning of his birthday instead of yesterday when he woke up not wanting to climb out of bed. But yesterday, ultimately, turned out fine, with Sonny's news being the perk he needed.

They talk about Sonny going to school, how he needs to hurry up and sign up for classes, and buy books, and get a dorm room, and how this will be his first time away from home.

"It's not that bad," Rafael tells him. "You get used to it. And it makes coming home that much more exciting."

Sonny agrees. "Hopefully I'll play a few games in the Boston area and you can come."

Rafael kisses his nose. "I'd love to."

They finally roll out of bed and head downstairs, where Gina and one of her friends are in the kitchen.

"Oh good, you're up!" she cries.

Sonny, whose headache hit him as soon as he sat up, winces.

Gina cracks up. "Oh my god, you're hungover. Mom's gonna be thrilled."

"Not if you don't tell her."

"Oh, she'll know. Anyway, Alice and I bought stuff for breakfast. Hungry?"

Rafael eagerly nods, then goes to the coffee maker to put on a pot.

Lex wanders in to the kitchen a few minutes later with her eyes half open and her hair a mess. She still manages to wink at Gina's friend Alice, then mutter, "Hey, girl."

Rafael passes out mugs of coffee, then everyone fully wakes. Lex finally opens her eyes completely and takes a long look at Sonny and Rafael.

"You just had sex!" she accuses them.

Gina almost spits out her coffee, Sonny instantly blushes, Rafael closes his eyes to will himself to disappear, and Alice cracks up.

"God, I do not need to hear this," Gina says, turning her back to tend to the pancakes.

"So, spill it!" Lex demands.

"I can still hear!" Gina says.

Rafael decides to try to change the subject. "Hey, where's Trey?"

"That is an excellent question!" Gina says. "Last night I took him to our house and he slept in Sonny's bed."

"I hope the sheets were clean," Lex mumbles.

Sonny blushes harder. Gina sticks her fingers in her ears.

Rafael's phone begins to ring, and thankfully the conversation stops. It's Trey calling him.

"Speaking of," Rafael says, then answers.

"Hey, Rafael, uh...which house is yours?"

Rafael laughs. He goes to the living room window facing the street, so everyone follows, and they see Trey standing in the middle of the street examining each house next to Rafael's. They all laugh at him, then Rafael tells him it's the house on his left, so Trey hangs up.

The friends talk and laugh all through their breakfast of pancakes that Gina made, bacon that Trey made, eggs that Alice made, strawberries that Lex sliced, coffee that Rafael made, and orange juice that Sonny poured. Sonny shares his news, which Lex just about freaks out over in excitement for him. They all clean up together, then part to get showered and dressed.

"See, Rafi?" Sonny says while he gets his clothes ready to use the shower. "What'd I say about family?"

Rafael thinks about it and realizes Sonny is right. He has a family. He has a huge family. Between his Mami and Abuela, the Carisi's, Lex and Trey, he has all the family he needs right here. He has people who love him, people he loves, people whose news he wants to hear and people who care about his life, too. He has people he can rely on, and they don't need to be blood to be in his corner. He has a family already.

Rafael decides not to pursue his father's family. He decides he is content with what he's known his entire life, and the people he's picked up along the way. Rafael realizes he is happy the way things are, and he doesn't need anything or anybody to change that.

Chapter Text

Much like high school, Sonny loves college. Though a freshman, the age gaps aren't as prominent as high school, so he still acts like a big man and nobody is the wiser. 18 now, a true adult, Sonny's ego is just as big as his swing.

About his swing, baseball is great. Games don't start until the spring, but since college is usually about one sport, he gets to play year round, just as he always has. He loves it, he loves playing, and he's so glad he gets to play for a real college.

Everything about playing for college is amazing. He gets new Nike equipment, like batting gloves and wrist sweatbands. The standard issue uniform is beautiful; every game it's set up in his locker with a selection of under shirts, his socks folded nicely, and his pants hung up with a sweatshirt. Plus, he gets his picture taken for the athlete biographies online, and team pictures done for the advertisements around campus. All of it makes Sonny feel
very official.

Sonny purposefully orders one of his workout shirts a size larger to give to Rafael, even though he could get a generic one from the bookstore, but this one says 'CARISI 3' on the back. Luckily, he was able to get #3. Rafael is ecstatic, because Sonny never gave him a team issued shirt in high school.

Rafael has the opportunity to wear the shirt when he gets to go to Sonny's game over his own spring break. Sonny plays amazingly that game, he even hits his first college home-run. When Sonny gets the ball back at the end of the game, first he thinks to give it to Rafael, but instead he decides to give it to his dad, who actually begins to cry.

The highlight of the year, however, is Rafael's graduation. It's his senior year, his final year before law, and Sonny knows Rafael is extremely stressed the entire time. Sonny helps by reminding him to eat, FaceTiming whenever Rafael needs to calm down, and even taking a trip to Boston to spend a night with Rafael.

With three weeks left until graduation, during the peak of Rafael's finals, Sonny creates a care package for Rafael and overnights it.

Rafael calls when he gets the package. "Where did you even get this box? It's like a mini-fridge."

Sonny laughs. "I wanted to send you lots of love, Rafi. FaceTime me, I want to see you open it!"

Rafael does as he's asked, and Sonny is treated to the sight of his beautiful boyfriend looking sweet but exhausted after a long day of exams.

"You look amazing," Sonny comments.

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Lets just do this, okay?"

Rafael sets his phone on the bed, propped up so Sonny can see him and the box. Rafael rips the tape off and laughs at what Sonny put on the top.

"Rafael Bear-ba?" he laughs. "Thanks, babe."

"Hey, he gives me comfort when we're apart."

Rafael sniffs the bear, which makes Sonny's heart burst because he likes the scent of Rafael too. Then, Rafael moves to the next item, which is one of Sonny's favorite sweatshirts.

"I know it's a little hot for a sweatshirt--"

"No, I love it, thank you!"

Next is a stack of magazines like Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue, and all the magazines Rafael pretends to hate but secretly loves. At the bottom, Sonny hid a Playboy.

Rafael holds that one up. "Really? Playboy?"

Sonny shrugs. "Hey, I'm 18 now."

Rafael just laughs and sets the magazines aside. Looking inside the box again, Sonny notices Rafael's eyes go wide and swears he can see a slight blush on Rafael's cheeks. Sonny knows he's gotten to the condoms and lubricant.

"Yeah, those are an incentive to get through the next few weeks," Sonny says, winking.

Rafael swallows roughly. "Thanks."

Sonny chuckles. "Keep going!"

Next to the condoms are a bag of homemade peanut butter cookies.

"Peanut butter is your favorite," Rafael reminds him.

"I know, but it's like havin' me there!"

Rafael laughs. "You're funny."

There are also bags of Hershey's Kisses, M&M's, and a Starbucks gift card, because if there's anything Rafael can't resist, it's chocolate and coffee.

Once the box is clear, Rafael picks up his phone.

"Thank you, Sonny," he says, meaningfully. "This was so thoughtful of you."

"Of course. I wish I could help more, but--"

"Trust me, the thought of spending this summer with you is enough to get me through the next few weeks."

Sonny grins. "Hey, wanna use that lube right now?"

Rafael rolls his eyes. "No, I need go. I have to study."

"But if you didn't need to study, would you be willing to forget the No-FaceTime-Sex Rule?"

"I love you, but I've already told you I'm not having sex with you via FaceTime."

Sonny hums. "Mmm, I just like when you say that."

"Say what? FaceTime?"

"No, the part about having sex with me."

Rafael embarrassedly covers his face. "Will you stop that, please?"

"I just like watching you get all flustered, Rafi."

Rafael looks at the screen again. "I have to go."

"Okay, but call me tomorrow to tell me how your exam went."

"Don't you have a test tomorrow?"

"Yeah, but it's easy. You call me, okay?"

"Okay. I love you, Sonny."

"I love you, too!" Sonny makes a kissing face at the screen and laughs when Rafael just rolls his eyes and hangs up.

Sonny's finals are going great, mostly because he doesn't really worry about them. Rafael tortures himself with studying and planning, but Sonny skims through his books before leaving his dorm for each test. He enters the classrooms calm and collected, with his usual grin and baseball cap on backwards.

His math teacher, Mrs. Moreno, who he likes to mess with and torment, glares at the lanky teen when he walks into class for the final.

"Don't you want to act like you care, Carisi?"

"Would turning my hat the right way seem like I care?" Sonny sarcastically retorts.

Mrs. Moreno just passes him the test booklet and Sonny takes a seat. He's finished in no time, and she has it graded before he's gathered his backpack.

"Carisi, can you come to my office this afternoon?"

"Sure. Is something wrong?"

"No. I'd just like to chat with you."

"Oh...'Kay," Sonny skeptically says.

When he exits the classroom and checks his phone, Sonny finds a missed call from Rafael. He happily calls back.

"Hey sorry," Rafael answers. "I thought your test was later."

"It's okay. I finished early, too."

"Early? Do you think you did well?"

"Well, now I don't know. I thought I did alright, but Mrs. Moreno wants to see me later. She wants to talk."

"Huh. I wonder what she wants to talk to you about."

"Me too. Anyway, how was your final?"

They talk as Sonny walks back to his dorm, where he needs to change for baseball practice. He has two games left, so a few practices, and he hopes he can get ready quickly so he can stop by Mrs. Moreno' office. Rafael says he has a study session with a few other people in his class, then he hopes to get to bed early.

"Okay, so you don't want me to call you after practice?" Sonny asks, feeling slightly disappointed. He and Rafael usually talk every night unless Sonny has a late game.

"I'll try to call you, okay? If not, I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Okay. Don't forget to eat dinner, okay?"

"I won't. Thanks."

"I gotta go. I can't take off my pants with one hand."

"Yes you can, I've seen it."

Sonny laughs. "You just want to stay on the phone, thinking about me undressing. You wanna FaceTime now?"

Rafael laughs at him. "No, alright, I'll let you go. I love you."

"I love you, too. Bye, Rafi."

"Bye, Sonny."

Sonny dresses quickly, grabs his backpack, and takes off across campus once again.

Sonny nervously knocks on the door to Mrs. Moreno's office. He hears her call for him to enter, so he opens the door slowly.

"Hey, Mrs. Moreno, you wanted to see me?"

"Oh, Carisi, come on in. Hope you're not going to be late to baseball practice."

"I have time," Sonny says. "What's going on? Did I fail my final?"

Mrs. Moreno motions to a seat on the opposite side of her desk, so Sonny swings his backpack off and sits.

"You didn't fail, Carisi. On the contrary, you aced it with flying colors."

"Oh, okay, good. Then...what's going on?"

"Carisi, you're only a general studies major right now, right?"

Sonny nods.

"You've never taken advanced classes, gifted classes, or anything?"

Sonny shakes his head. "No, actually, being placed into this math class was unexpected."

"Carisi, Dominick--"

Sonny feels nervous about someone using his real name.

Mrs. Moreno continues, "I...I can't think of another way to say this. I think you're a lot smarter than you think."

Sonny laughs. "What?"

"You excelled in this class, and not many freshman do without the prior requirements from high school. You don't seem challenged. Were you this class clown in high school? It seems like you're bored. It seems like you need more challenging classes. Honestly, Dominick, I think you could use your brain to major in something more...challenging. Do you understand?"

Sonny is confused. Nobody's ever told him he's smart before, not really. He's always been a good student, he's never failed a class, but he's always taken average classes. While Rafael was in advanced chemistry, college English, and calculus as a junior, Sonny was in regular chemistry, English 3, and statistics his junior year.

"Take these," Mrs. Moreno hands him a small stack of brochures from the local universities--Columbia, New York University, Fordham. "Look through them, see if there's anything that pops out at you. And I want you to take an aptitude test that will help us to see what profession you may want to pursue."

Everything is happening so fast and it makes Sonny nervous. What about baseball? How would he pay for a major university? He has no idea what he wants to do.

"The good thing about these universities is that they don't go anywhere, Dominick. You can continue here, finish baseball, get a degree here, and then you move on to somewhere else. With a degree, you can get a job and get paid more. You can get a loan, apply for financial aid or scholarships. Do you understand?"

Sonny must look as freaked out as he feels, because Mrs. Moreno takes a breath and smiles nicely.

"I don't mean to freak you out, Dominick. I just want you to know that you have options. You don't have to settle for some degree or profession because nobody's ever told you you're smart. And you are, Dominick, you are smart."

Sonny just stares at the pamphlets in his hand. It's not that he's never been told he's smart, but nobody's ever made him feel like he has promise in anything other than baseball. Everyone in his life has only known him as Sonny The Baseball Player, whose only skill is baseball. Mrs. Moreno knows him as Sonny The College Student, or Sonny The Adult Who Needs To Figure Out What The Hell He Wants To Do With His Life.

"Do you have any questions, concerns? Talk to me, Dominick, what are you thinking?"

Sonny finally looks at her. "Do you really think I'm smart?"

Mrs. Moreno smiles softly again. "Yes, Dominick. And you can do anything you want to do. Is there anything you can think of off the top of your head that you are interested in?"

Sonny shrugs. "You know, my boyfriend is going to be a lawyer. That's always sounded kinda cool to me."

"Really? Well, Columbia and Fordham both have great law schools. Where does your boyfriend attend?"

"Harvard."

"Wow, that's very impressive. Any thoughts to join him?"

Sonny shrugs again. "I never really thought about it."

Mrs. Moreno nods in understanding. "Well, look through these, and why don't you come back tomorrow to take an aptitude test?"

"Alright," Sonny agrees, stuffing the pamphlets into his backpack. "See you tomorrow, then."

"Thanks for coming in, Dominick."

Sonny nods, then exits the room quickly.

Sonny wants to call Rafael as he walks to the baseball field, but he remembers Rafael is busy with a study party, so he decides to call somebody else to talk through this.

Theresa answers on the third ring.

"Hey bro, what's up?"

"Hey, uh...I just had a weird meeting with one of my professors."

Theresa chuckles. "Are you flunking out already?"

"No, actually, the exact opposite. She said I'm, like, smart."

"I don't want to sound too shocked," Theresa says, "But...really?"

"I know, that's what I said. She said I could make it in a real university."

"Wow, Son. I mean, it's not like anyone thought you couldn't."

"I know, but..."

"But?"

"Up until now, I've kind of always felt like baseball's the only thing I'm good at. Baseball's all I'm worth."

"Sonny, come on. That's not all you're worth. You're a good son, a good brother, a good boyfriend. You're funny, super caring, loving. You're worth more than baseball."

Sonny had stopped on the sidewalk to sit down in a patch of grass. Theresa has never been so nice to him. She's lightened up on the hatred towards him, but she still doesn't say such nice things to him. It's not like she's ever had a reason to say these things to him.

"You mean that?" Sonny asks.

"Yeah, of course. You're good to Bella, you're good to Mom, you're good to Rafi. You care about people, Sonny. It's like you wanna make the world a better place by being so nice."

"Thanks, 'Resa."

"You're more than baseball, okay? Remember that."

"I will. Thank you."

"Why did you call me, anyway? Rafi busy?"

"Yeah," Sonny answers truthfully.

Theresa scoffs. "Gee, thanks, Son. Anyway, glad to help. Don't you have baseball practice?"

Sonny checks the time on his phone, finds that he has ten minutes to get to the field, then jumps off the grass. "Yeah," he tells Theresa, "I'd better run. Thanks again, 'Resa."

"No problem. I'll talk to you later."

"Bye," Sonny says, then hangs up.


 

The next morning, he goes back to Mrs. Moreno's office to take the aptitude test. Sonny is nervous, and he isn't sure why, because it's not like he can fail this test.

"Good morning, Dominick," Mrs. Moreno kindly greets as he enters the office. "Did you think a little bit about what we're discussing?"

"A little, I don't know. Nothing in my head really stands out."

"Well, that's why I'd like to see what this test says. It's not like you have to take its advice, but you can start from here. Okay?"

Sonny nods.

Mrs. Moreno passes him an iPad already opened to the web page of the test.

It takes Sonny about ten minutes to finish the test, and when he's done he isn't entirely shocked to see results like police officer, police detective, and lawyer. He passes the iPad back to Mrs. Moreno.

"Wow, have you ever thought about being a police officer?"

"Not really," Sonny says truthfully. But the option seems to make sense. "I don't hate it, though."

"And, you know, law enforcement doesn't always mean stopping people to give out speeding tickets. You could be a detective, or a sergeant, maybe have your own precinct. Sorry, I watch a lot of crime shows."

Sonny chuckles. "Doesn't sound so bad actually."

"This result pretty much means that you want to help people, Dominick. So, just think about it over the summer. And I'll help you to do whatever it takes to accomplish whatever it is that you want."

"Thanks, Mrs. Moreno. Can I just ask...why are you doing this for me?"

"Because you're a good kid, Dominick. I want to see you do well."

Sonny stands and holds his hand out to shake hers. "Thanks," he genuinely says.

She stands, smiling and shaking his hand. "Have a good summer, Dominick."

"Hey, can you do me a favor, though?"

"Sure?"

"Could you stop calling me Dominick? Literally nobody calls me Dominick except my mom, if I'm in trouble."

Mrs. Moreno laughs. "Sure, Sonny. Have a good summer."

Sonny smiles. "You, too."


 

Sonny is able to talk to Rafael via FaceTime that night. He lies in his bed with the phone on the pillow next to him while Rafael sits at his desk flipping through one of his books.

But now, Rafael is staring at the screen intently. "Sonny, I'm...I'm sorry for never making you think...for not telling you that you're--"

"I know, I know, Rafi. And it's not that I've never felt smart, just...compared to everyone else--"

"Who, me? Ugh, I hate that, babe, I'm sorry."

"Not just you. Gina's smart and, geez, look at Bella. I've always just been the athlete."

"I'm sorry--"

"Stop apologizing, Rafi, it's not like it's your fault. It's not like this is bad, it's not like I've been told I'm dumb my entire life. I know I'm not dumb, and it's not like I'm some genius, it's just been kind of nice to hear that I have options."

"Of course you have options."

"No, I know, I just..." Sonny shrugs. "I don't know."

"Well, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you for starting this journey."

"Thanks, Rafi. Can I ask you something, though? How did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?"

Rafael shrugs. "I don't know. It's just something I've always known. Just like wanting to be with you. I've always known."

Sonny smiles.

Rafael asks, "Is there anything you wanted to be as a kid? Besides a baseball player?"

Sonny thinks about it, then remembers his first career aspiration as a little kid. "I used to wanna be a priest."

Rafael smiles. "Really? I didn't know that."

"Yeah, I don't think I ever said it out loud 'cause it never sounded as cool as the other kids wanting to be a firefighter or a soldier. I'd always just say I wanted to play for the Mets."

"Mets, not Yankees?"

"Nah, the American League is too political. The National League is about the game."

Rafael laughs. "Well, whatever you want to do, I'm behind you completely."

Sonny grins. "Wanna know what I want to do?" He winks.

"Not that," Rafael says.

Sonny still smiles. "I can't wait to see you. When we go to your graduation, can I stay with you?"

"Yeah, of course. I have a nice armchair you can sleep in."

Sonny laughs. "You have a small bed. We'll have to sleep close together all night. And I might forget my pajamas."

"Why is that your go-to joke?" Rafael asks. "You can sleep naked, I don't care."

"Oh, you will care."

Rafael chuckles. "Okay, babe. Listen, I need to finish studying, so I'm going to go."

"Just stay on with me, I'll watch you study."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I just want to see you."

"You're weird. Okay, if you fall asleep I'll hang up."

"Okay, I love you."

"I love you, too."

Sonny doesn't even stay on the line for five more minutes before he's out. He doesn't hear Rafael hang up, but when he wakes up he's still holding his phone.

One thing Sonny knows for sure about his future: he can't wait to sleep next to Rafael every night. He can't wait to wake up next to Rafael, and he can't wait to do every day mundane activities with Rafael. They'll read together, watch television together, eat every meal together. One day it'll be like that, just him and Rafael together forever, and Sonny can't wait for that day.

 

 

Chapter Text

One of Rafael's absolute biggest fears was something happening to Sonny and being too far away from him to help in any way. Boston and New York were far enough away, and with Sonny traveling for baseball, the distance was often far worse. Rafael so feared that random call telling him something happened to Sonny.

And then it happened. Rafael was in the middle of a pizza-slash-study party when Theresa called.

"Hello?" Rafael answered, confused, covering his ear to better hear Theresa.

"Rafi! Where are you, are you busy?"

Rafael laughed at the scene of friends before him, then hustled into the nearest bathroom for some quiet.

"I'm sorry, I'm at a party. What's up, 'Resa?"

"Sonny got hurt," Theresa said.

Rafael's stomach dropped. "What?"

Theresa explained some things, a freak accident on the field, his knee busted, baseball is over, his career--

But Rafael was just thinking of Sonny.

Rafael hung up with Theresa and returned to the living room, where his friends were partying away.

"Hey guys, I gotta go. I gotta go to New York."

"What?!" everyone questioned.

Rafael just left, hopped on a train, and soon he was at the hospital, where Sonny was in surgery.

Rafael sits patiently in the waiting room as they wait for Sonny's surgeon to return. They said it would take a while to reset it or put the pins in or something, Rafael wasn't really listening, and now he's not listening, either. He's just twiddling his thumbs in a hard hospital chair.

Finally, the doctor arrives and Dominick Sr. jumps up to talk to him.

Rafael vaguely hears some stuff about it going well, physical therapy, no more baseball, but he doesn't hear any more when he wanders down the hall to find Sonny's recovery room.

He's in a room with a window, so Rafael stands outside and peers in through the open blinds. Sonny is fast asleep, tubes and cords hooked to him everywhere, his leg propped up at an incline.

Suddenly, a big hand is grasping Rafael's shoulder.

"He'll be alright, son," Dominick Sr. says. "I know this...this was never part of the plan, but--" And then Dominick Sr. begins to cry. He squeezes Rafael's shoulder and covers his face.

Rafael doesn't really know what to do, he just lets Dominick Sr. cry against him. He understands what Dominick Sr. is feeling. Everything they've all worked for, all the sacrifices they've made, all of Sonny's hopes and dreams...shattered. Rafael's immediate thought upon hearing "career ending" was the sadness that Sonny will never be drafted by the Yankees like he always dreamt.

And then, there's that Sonny is hurt. He is broken. He is laying in a hospital bed after a surgery to reconstruct a part of his body. To reconstruct a part of his beautiful, perfect body. There are needles sticking into his perfect skin.

Rafael's baby is laying in a hospital bed right now. The love of his life is hurt and there's nothing he can do about it.

Dominick Sr. finally composes himself when a nurse says Sonny should be waking up any minute. Dominick Sr. and Deb go into the room first, and Rafael waits outside with the girls. They're frowning, clearly very upset, and Rafael is concerned for them and everyone else, but mostly Sonny.

Rafael sees Sonny cry. He hasn't seen Sonny cry in years, and usually they're happy tears, like Rafael's first Harvard graduation and the first time he held Theresa's baby.

It's always broken Rafael's heart when Sonny would cry out of pain. The other kids, the older neighborhood kids, would laugh and call little Sonny a baby for crying over skinned knees and bruises, but Rafael always sympathized. Rafael was always there with bandaids and kisses, but kisses won't fix this. He can't heal Sonny's knee with kisses alone.

Deb gets Sonny to relax, soothes him back to sleep, and Rafael is again reminded of Sonny as a little kid. When Sonny was sick, Deb would sing to him to help him fall asleep. Sonny would get a cold every summer with an ear infection and crazy fevers, and since Rafael was at the Carisi house when Lucia was at work, Rafael would be treated to the sound of Deb's beautiful voice calming little crying Sonny. Rafael would help by covering Sonny with blankets, then they'd leave the little boy to sleep away his pain.

Sonny is that poor little boy again, miserable and helpless. Rafael wishes he had Sonny's favorite green blanket--the one that's "secretly" stashed in Sonny's bottom dresser drawer at home--to tuck around him now.

Dominick Sr. and Deb exit the room quietly. They apologize to Rafael, to the girls, that Sonny fell asleep again, but they all agree that he needs the rest.

Rafael is too worried to go back to Boston, he decides he needs to see Sonny before he leaves, and all of his classes can be missed for a few days, he'll let his professors know he's had a family emergency. It's not far off.

The problem is that Rafael expects to see Sonny the next day, maybe the next, because he has a lot of resting to do, but Sonny refuses visitors (except for his mom) for three straight days. In that time, Rafael hears that Sonny took his first steps, then his first unassisted steps.

Rafael catches up on homework, gets an extension on a few assignments, and helps Dominick Sr. set up the small downstairs guest room for Sonny because he won't be able to go up or down the stairs.

Deb calls to let them know they're on their way home, and Rafael sees Dominick Sr. visibly ready himself.

Rafael almost asks if he's okay, but he doesn't need to.

"He thinks we're disappointed in him," he says suddenly. Dominick Sr. frowns deeply. "I know he's not in trouble. I know he didn't do anything wrong. And I am still so proud of him. But I know he's scared of what all of us think now. He's okay."

Rafael nods. "I know."

Dominick Sr. rubs the back of Rafael's head and kisses his forehead.

They hear a honk and Dominick Sr. rushes out of the house. Rafael stays back in the entryway and peers around the house. He's spent more years than he can count in this house. He chased Sonny up and down the stairs, he played rollerblade hockey on he hardwood, he helped teach Bella how to walk, he accidentally cracked Sonny's head open just a little bit on the banister (two stitches above his eyebrow, he survived!). There's a notch cut out of the floor where he and Sonny dropped a giant boulder they found in the park. One of the banisters was replaced because Sonny broke it practicing his swing. Rafael's been here for all of it.

He's never felt so alone in this house, this house has never felt so big and empty.

The big front door swings open and Rafael sees Sonny for the first time in days. He expects to fall into Sonny's arms, or Sonny to fall into his; he expects to hold Sonny tight, to hold Sonny close before his train leaves later that night.

He does not expect Sonny to walk in with his crutches, having refused Dominick Sr.'s help, and for Sonny to brush passed him like he isn't even there. The door to the downstairs guest room slams shut and Rafael just stands stunned.

"He's okay," Dominick Sr. repeats from earlier.

Rafael just sits on the stairs and tries not to pout.

Deb tries to get Sonny to open the door a few times, but Sonny just asks everyone to keep out. Rafael helps Deb make dinner, but soon it's time for him to go to the train station. Dominick Sr. offers to drive him so they can both get out of the house.

Rafael goes to Sonny's door before he leaves the house. He knocks carefully.

"Sonny?" he tries when there is no answer. "Baby? I'm leaving. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. Call me, okay? I love you so much."

There is still no answer, so Rafael leaves without anything more.

He manages to hold back tears in the car, then as he's boarding the train, but as the train begins to leave the station, the tears fall. He feels so terrible for Sonny, and what's worse is there's nothing he can do to help.


 

A month goes by and Rafael doesn't hear from Sonny. Every few days, he talks to a different member of the family, and they let him know that Sonny has begun physical therapy. They say they're pushing Sonny to call him, but Rafael still doesn't hear from him.

Two months pass, and by now summer has begun. Rafael thought maybe Sonny would feel better once baseball officially ended, so he wouldn't feel like he was missing anything, but Sonny still doesn't call. And Rafael decides not to return to the Bronx for break.

Three months pass. Rafael is sad, he misses Sonny, but above that he is angry. He is angry that Sonny has pushed him aside like this. He is angry that Sonny isn't letting him in, isn't letting him help. He should at least know how Sonny feels, what he's going through, but he has no idea. The last time he saw Sonny, really got a good look at him, Sonny was laying in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube. That image haunts Rafael, it breaks his heart every day.

It just drives Rafael crazy that he has no idea what's going on with Sonny.

Eventually, Rafael stops taking Deb or Dominick Sr.'s calls. He stops wanting to hear, "He's doing great!" Because Rafael is not great. He feels terrible. His mood is sour, and he secretly wants the rest of the world to be miserable with him.

He feels like they've broken up. He fears they might have, but he didn't get the memo. Sonny had no real reason to dump him, but trauma can make people do crazy things.

Rafael keeps himself busy with a summer session of mock court. Mostly he watches, for now, but it's still the most thrilling thing he's felt in months.

Rafael's phone rings as he's struggling to get into his building with an arm full of books. He ignores the call, because he can just call back, but once he's stepped onto the first floor landing, it rings again.

With an annoyed sigh, Rafael almost drops his books trying to get his phone out of his pocket.

It's Theresa. His stomach drops. This is what happened...months ago...when--

"Hello?" Rafael answers.

"Hey, Rafi! Don't freak out--"

"Already freaking out, thank you--"

Theresa laughs. "We can't find Sonny!"

"Why do you say that so cheery?" Rafael asks, growing worried. "What do you mean you can't find him?"

"He wanted to go to physical therapy alone, and--"

"Well, he's not going to call me, that's for sure."

Rafael gets to his door and can't push it open with full hands, so he drops his books with a giant thud and opens the door.

Rafael almost screams at the sight of Sonny sitting at the kitchen table, which is right in the entryway of Rafael's tiny apartment.

"You know what, 'Rese? I'll let you know if I hear anything."

"Thanks, Rafi. I'm sure he's fine--"

"I can guarantee he is. Talk to you later."

Rafael hangs up and returns to the door to pick up his books.

Rafael is so angry he can't stand it. For Sonny to just show up like this! To worry his entire family! To not talk to him for months!

Rafael drops his books on the table and brushes passed Sonny.

"Rafi--" Sonny tries.

"No," Rafael says. "No, you do not get to just show up here after dropping me for three whole months."

Sonny frowns.

"You don't get to. You just don't."

Rafael ignores Sonny's kicked puppy dog face. Instead, he goes to the kitchen and grabs a bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet next to the fridge. He downs a big gulp, then another, as Sonny just slowly approaches.

Sonny begins talking first. "I don't know how to tell you...what's been going on with me. How I feel--"

"You know what? If you hadn't shut me out for three months, you wouldn't have to explain it. You could've had me on the phone every night, I'd be in the Bronx every weekend, I wouldn't have taken summer classes. I would've been with you every second that I could be. But you...you--"

Sonny hobbles over to his bag on the table, digs inside it for a second, then returns to the small island where Rafael is standing. He places an orange medication bottle down.

"What's this?"

"Anti-depression pills. Guess I'm crazy."

"Don't say that," Rafael says. He just hates the term 'crazy'. It's not like there's anything wrong with Sonny.

Sonny shrugs. "I had a breakdown after, like, month one, I think."

Rafael grows angry that he didn't hear that.

"I went back to the hospital. I begged my mom and dad not to tell you because I wanted to get over it."

Rafael rubs a hand through his hair. "You...Jesus, Sonny! You don't have to go through this stuff alone! How long have we been together? No, no, not even together. How long have we been friends? We've gone through everything together. You did not need to cut me off like this."

"I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry--"

Rafael stands up straight. "I'm going to go take a shower, okay? You are going to sit on the couch and think about what you've done."

Rafael watches Sonny hobble over to the couch. He walks well, but right now he has the knee brace that makes his knee stiff and straight.

"And you're going to prop your foot up because missing physical therapy probably didn't help."

"Yes, sir," Sonny says, grabbing the throw pillow from the opposite side of the couch.

Rafael spends what seems like an entire day in the shower. He lets the hot water run over his tense shoulders, a tenseness that shouldn't be there in such a young person. Between school, and Sonny, and avoiding even his own mother for the past few months, Rafael is just pained.

He washed his hair roughly, scrubs his body until he's red, and finally his fingers start to prune.

Rafael shuts off the water and wonders if Sonny will still be sitting on the couch when he gets out. He wonders if he imagined Sonny. He wonders if he imagined that stupid, roughened, beautiful face that he missed so much. He wonders if he imagined the dark circles under his eyes, the slightly darkened hair, the even more pale skin.

Sonny looks like a ghost. His pain is visible. It makes Rafael feel like maybe he shouldn't be so hard on him.

But Rafael is pretty pissed.

Rafael dries himself and realizes he didn't grab clean clothes, so he has to re-enter the living room on his way to his bedroom. He steps out wrapped only in a towel, pulled all the way up to his armpits so Sonny can't see his body. He tries not to look at Sonny, but he can't help it. Out of the corner he watches Sonny watching him, looking completely saddened and lost. Like a puppy whose been kicked and is hiding in the corner with his tail between his legs.

Sonny had better be sorry, that's all Rafael is saying.

Rafael had luckily grabbed his phone, so he sends out a quick text to Theresa, Gina, and Deb saying Sonny showed up in Boston and Rafael's got to kick his ass before sending him back to the Bronx. He receives a short string of "Knock some sense into him!" texts before dressing, putting on a nice polo shirt and jeans.

Rafael combs his hair in his mirror to gain a few minutes, and to look impeccable to show Sonny what he's been missing. Not to mention he's visited his apartment building's indoor gym a few times to keep his mind off things. His arms look fantastic, and this shirt is definitely helping.

Rafael goes back into the living room. Sonny sits up straighter and puts down the magazine he'd been reading. His eyes are glued to Rafael snaking through small furniture to the front of the couch.

"You look amazing," he says, literally licking his lips.

Rafael stands in front of the couch and crosses his arms. "Not for you," he replies.

"I..." Sonny sighs. "Look, I can try to tell you so you can understand--"

"You could have been telling me this entire time, Sonny. You should not have just dropped me. I have no idea what's happening with you, how you feel, how your freakin' leg is. I spent three days waiting around your house only for you to blow me off. I wanted to tell you goodbye and you blew me off. I could've come back for the summer, I could've been there for you, but no--"

"I didn't want to..."

"What? Be with me anymore? Deal with me? You didn't want to let me help you?"

"I didn't want to live anymore, Rafi," Sonny says softly, like it's the biggest secret he's ever shared.

Rafael thinks he stops breathing.

"I have no worth outside of baseball. And I know that seems dramatic, but my doctor says negative thoughts happen with trauma. I was so close, Rafi, so close to going into the farm system of a team. There were scouts at all of our games, I was starting right field and batting cleanup, I hit six home runs in six straight games in March. Don't you get it?" Sonny rubs his eyes. "I don't exist without baseball. And I know I've disappointed everybody."

"That's a load of shit," Rafael says.

Sonny looks stunned. "What?"

"I should have known all of this, Sonny. And you know what? I'm not going to coddle you like I'm sure everyone else has. I'm going to tell you that you're so fucking much more than baseball. You are the smartest person I know, and I'm not just saying that because I love you. I'm saying that because you freakin' are. You are smart, and kind, and wonderful. So you can't run the bases or swing a bat right now. You know what? You're going to move past this. You're going to come back stronger, you're going to come back smarter. But you're going to come back, do you understand me?

"You. Are. Fine. Baseball is not all you're worth, especially to me. I've never given a rat's ass about your baseball career, I've only cared about your happiness. I've only cared about you. You're my best friend, and I've felt like I've lost you. I thought you were breaking up with me. This entire time, I was afraid we were over. And then you tell me...Jesus, Sonny, I can't even repeat it. My heart is broken. It's broken at the thought of not knowing how you've felt this entire time. I should have been there. I should have been at your side every second.

"And I'm sorry that I failed you so much that you thought I was disappointed in your baseball career ending. But I'm not! Because any accident you could have suffered could have been so much worse. But you're here, you're breathing. You're okay."

Sonny looks like he's on the verge of tears. He struggles to stand, it's in slow motion, and Rafael just watches because Sonny looks like he's ready to flee. He doesn't want the last time he's ever touched Sonny to be as Sonny is running away from him.

But Sonny doesn't run away. Sonny steps up to Rafael, grasps the bottom of his shirt to pull him in, and presses his lips against Rafael's.

Rafael's eyes shut on instinct, and he loses himself to Sonny's breath against his lips, Sonny's hands clutching him tight, and the thought of his Sonny here, right now. Rafael had lost this for too long.

Sonny's lips come away first, but his forehead rests against Rafael's.

"I'll never leave you, Rafael. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for making you think--"

"No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not being there for you, for being so pissed off, for not--"

Rafael feels tears, his own or Sonny's. Maybe both mixed together.

"Sshh," Sonny whispers, wiping moisture from Rafael's cheeks. "We're okay, alright? We're okay and I love you so fucking much."

"I love you too, baby. I love you so much."

"I love you," Sonny whispers again, right against Rafael's lips, before diving in for another long, deep kiss.

Sonny slowly peels Rafael's shirt off of him, then runs his fingers softly over Rafael's clean skin.

"Geez babe," Sonny says with a chuckle, feeling Rafael's new muscles. He's not extremely fit, not compared to Sonny in his prime, but he shed a few pounds at least. "What've you been up to?"

"I discovered this building has a gym."

Sonny grins. "You know, I didn't come up here to apologize. I came up here to get laid."

Rafael pinches Sonny's hip, then laughs at Sonny's yelp.

They carefully move to Rafael's bedroom, because sex on the couch would be disastrous.

Rafael lays a delicate Sonny down on his bed, then removes his own clothes before working on Sonny's.

"You know," Rafael says, grabbing the lube from his nightstand long, slow minutes later. "I'm still mad at you. We still need to talk. Really talk, not yell."

"So is this angry-sex or makeup-sex?"

"A little bit of both?" Rafael says, beginning his preparation.

The easiest position is on their sides so Sonny's knee can be kept out of the way, but it's still awkward because Rafael is trying to get Sonny not to move too much.

As soon as Rafael slides in and Sonny reaches behind himself to grip Rafael's hip, Rafael stops noticing if Sonny's knee is okay. He relishes the feeling of being inside Sonny, of Sonny's silk heat around him. He thrusts slowly and carefully, but the slow is perfect because it feels more tender, more like making love than just sex.

Rafael's hands roam all over Sonny: his strong chest, his tight stomach, his wonderful naked thighs. Rafael digs his nose into Sonny's skin to breathe in his familiar scent. Rafael's tongue darts out to taste Sonny's glorious sweat-slicked skin. Rafael listens to Sonny closely, moaning words of encouragement and praise and pleading for more. When he opens his eyes, he sees Sonny's beautiful body writhing before him, for him. All for him. Always for him.

Rafael's senses are flooded with Sonny, all around him, just as it should be. Just as it should always be.

Rafael had missed Sonny so bad. He was so worried, for months and months. And to hear what Sonny was going through, what's happened...

Rafael pushes the thought from his mind. Rafael focuses on making Sonny feel as amazing as he can here and now.

"More, Rafi," Sonny begs, breathlessly. "Harder, please?"

Rafael slams into Sonny as hard and safely as he can, for he's still cautious and afraid of hurting Sonny in any way.

"Mmm!" Sonny moans, long and loud. "Rafael!"

Rafael bites his shoulder. "Yeah, baby, let me hear you. Let me hear how much you want it--"

"I want it so bad," Sonny says, playing Rafael like a violin. "I want it, I want you to come in me. Please? Oh god, please!"

Sonny reaches back and grabs Rafael's hand, squeezing tight as he comes with his back arched away from Rafael's chest.

Rafael's brain short circuits as he spills his seed into Sonny, deep and hard. He knows he's shouting, howling, but he doesn't care because Sonny feels amazing and Rafael hasn't felt this good in months.

Rafael had rolled onto his back after he came, but when he opens his eyes again, Sonny is still on his side. Worried, Rafael props himself up to peer over Sonny's shoulder.

He's grinning like an idiot.

"Sonny? You okay? I didn't hurt you, did I? I'm sorry, I didn't mean--"

Sonny turns half onto his back to pat Rafael's chest. "You didn't hurt me, I promise. My body hasn't felt this good in months."

Rafael sighs, relieved, and kisses Sonny's shoulder. He mutters an excuse for a second, then climbs out of the bed and walks out of the room (naked, for Sonny's enjoyment).

Rafael goes to the kitchen for bottles of water, then to his bathroom to wet a wash clothe with warm water.

"How are you so good at that?" Sonny yells from the bed. "Are you practicing when we're apart?"

Rafael returns to his bedroom and laughs. "Practicing what? Having sex?"

"You're amazing," Sonny explains. "I can't imagine sex feeling any better."

Rafael still laughs as he cleans Sonny up and checks to make sure he's not hurt.

"Maybe it's not good and you're blinded by just being able to get off no matter how it feels."

"No, no way. You've got a real talent, Rafi."

Rafael cracks up now. "Are you still doped up from the surgery?"

Sonny pulls Rafael down to lay over him. "I'm just so happy. You have no idea how happy I am."

Rafael brushes hair off Sonny's forehead. "I thought I lost you."

"You'll never lose me," Sonny whispers, pecking at Rafael's lips. "I'm sorry, you're stuck with me."

"Just what I want to be," Rafael jokes.

Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael's neck and squeezes tight.

They get up a while later, and Rafael makes him a meal of a stack peanut butter sandwiches and watermelon, which is luckily the only thing he has in his entire kitchen.

Then they talk.

"So, okay, what brought on the medication?"

"Well, they had me on these painkillers which were making me feel extremely weird. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I had all the symptoms, you know? Irritability, dizziness, headaches. So then they put me on different things to help all that, and I felt...crazy. I felt terrible. It was awful.

"And then the suicidal thoughts started. Theresa was the one who took me to the doctor, actually. She said she's been through all of this before. We talked more than I've ever talked to her in my life.

"I moved in with her and the baby. I wasn't much help, because I've mostly been immobile, but I can hold the baby to feed him and stuff. She says I've been a big help.

"What are you thinking?"

Rafael doesn't know what he's thinking. He put his sandwich down and felt like throwing up as soon as Sonny started talking about the drugs. For Sonny to be on so much, going through so much, Rafael can't imagine.

"I should've been there for you--"

"I know, and that's on me completely. I'm so, so sorry."

"Why did you come here today?" Rafael asks.

Sonny opens his mouth, but Rafael cuts him off.

"And don't say to get laid."

Sonny laughs. "Yeah, I was gonna say that. Uhm...to be honest, today was the first day in months that I've felt in control of myself completely. And I just...I needed to see you. I needed to tell you that I love you. And I didn't think you'd answer my call. So I got on a train, and--"

Rafael side-eyes him. "Wait, wait, hold on. How did you get in here?"

Sonny grins, looking so proud of himself. "Shimmied the lock until it opened."

"Dios mio."

"I needed to see you, Rafi."

Rafael chuckles, then stands to begin cleaning up.

"Hey, there's one more thing," Sonny says.

"Yeah?"

"Can I live here with you for the rest of the summer?"

Rafael drops a plate and the watermelon cutting knife in the sink in shock. Sonny used to say they'd live together one day, when Rafael was in college, but then Sonny signed with Concordia and the plans flew out the window.

It wouldn't entirely be outside he realm of possibility for Sonny to live with Rafael...forever. Sonny can take college classes here, he can get a job. They could cohabitate in this tiny apartment. Sonny doesn't really take up that much space. Rafael would need to clear out some closet space, but most of Sonny's clothes can be folded in a drawer anyway. His bed is big enough; the kitchen is big enough to make their own meals every night, with the help of their mothers over the phone.

Waking up next to Sonny every day...

Going to sleep next to Sonny every night...

Eating breakfast with Sonny.

Saying "meet you at home!" over the phone with Sonny.

Grocery shopping with Sonny and keeping the cabinets well stocked with peanut butter.

Kissing when they wake up, when they leave the house, when they greet each other, before bed.

"Earth to Rafi?"

Rafael jumps. He was so lost in the daydream that he didn't notice Sonny get out of his chair or make his way to Rafael.

Sonny leans over and kisses his cheek.

"Just think about it, okay?"

Rafael turns to watch Sonny walk away. "No," he says. "No, I don't need to think about it. I want you here with me."

Sonny spins around as well as his knee will allow. "Wait, really?"

"Yes, of course. Are you crazy? I've wanted to live with you since we were kids."

Sonny laughs. "Right. Are we getting bunk beds, then?"

Rafael laughs back. Sonny kisses his rounded cheek again.

"I gotta call my mom!"

It takes a lot of convincing to get Deb and Dominick Sr. to say yes. Over a week of Sonny staying with Rafael, they talk over every problem.

First, there's the issue with getting in to a new physical therapist, so Sonny calls the doctor's office and says he needs to move to Boston during the last of his therapy, so they refer him to a new doctor.

Second, there's the fact that he doesn't have a job, so Sonny goes out right away and applies at every job where he can sit down.

Third, there's the problem that his driver's license doesn't match the addresses he's putting on the applications, so come Monday morning, Sonny rushes to the DMV to get a new I.D.

Finally, there's the problem that everyone keeps saying: living with someone is hard.

But by now, they've been staying together for a week and everything has been fine. They accept that they'll have fights and spats. They accept that it won't be perfect like playing house when they were kids, when they'd pretend Bella was their baby. But it will be worth it. Growing together in this way will be worth it.

The families finally agree and ultimately think it's great. The boys are ecstatic.

They go back to New York for a weekend to pack Sonny's things and for Rafael to see Lucia. When he enters the kitchen after not telling Lucia he was even going to visit, she slaps his arm in shock and anger.

"He cut us out too, you know?" Lucia asks Sonny, but she hugs both of them tight and kiss their heads over and over.

The packing goes well, because Sonny knows he needs to pack light since their apartment is so tiny.

"Our apartment," Rafael says in the afternoon when he's trying to convince Sonny that another Mets hat won't fit in their apartment.

Sonny smiles. "I like the sound of it, too."

Sonny gets a call back for a job answering phones for a law firm. Sonny is thrilled, and he asks his parents for a loan so he can buy some new clothes. He goes for slacks, nice shirts, and ties, which Rafael loves, because pulling on Sonny's tie until he falls forward for a kiss is delightful.

Rafael helps Sonny remember to take his medication, but Sonny is responsible when it comes to healthcare. He makes it on time to every physical therapy appointment, and soon he doesn't need to attend them anymore. His walking is better, almost perfect, and Rafael showers him with proud kisses when he finishes.

Living together is great. It's everything they expected and wanted for their entire lives.

Without the bunk beds.

Chapter Text

At first, everything was amazing. After Sonny officially moved in, the boys spent an entire weekend not leaving their bed. It was the best and most relaxed Rafael had felt in a long, long time. He only had to miss Sonny when he stepped out to pick up dinner, or if he went downstairs to check the mail, and that was a lovely thought: that Sonny would return any second.

Rafael got used to their good morning kisses, their goodnight kisses, their 'have a good day' kisses, their 'guess what happened today!' kisses.

They took turns packing the other's lunch, and Sonny bought them matching lunch boxes that were adorable. Rafael wasn't ever embarrassed to pull it out in the middle of the library because his boyfriend bought it and made him that lunch with love.

Then Rafael started school and Sonny didn't, no matter how much Rafael tried to get him to apply. At least Sonny was helping with bills and doing his share of chores.

But eventually, it grows to be not what Rafael expected. He isn't unhappy, he is just...confused. Sonny didn't continue with his life as Rafael had expected, and Rafael isn't sure what to do about it.

Rafael enters the apartment and immediately has to sidestep Sonny, who is dashing around half dressed and tying his tie.

It's 7 P.M., Rafael is home at a reasonable hour for once, and it looks like Sonny is leaving.

Rafael frowns. Sonny trips into Rafael's arms.

"Hey, baby!" Sonny cries, kissing him quickly.

"Are you leaving?" Rafael asks, stepping further into the apartment, avoiding Sonny's bike that's haphazardly propped against the wall and three pairs of shoes that always find their way to the entry.

He can't entirely blame Sonny for the clutter, that much is true. Sonny's presence has made him carefree of where he tosses his coats and ties, too. But the clutter did show up when Sonny did.

At least they're not messy. They don't have dirty dishes in the sink or expired milk in the fridge.

But that's mostly because they're not home enough to cook or buy milk.

Rafael was really looking forward to being home on time, to getting a quiet evening with Sonny. School has been kicking his ass lately, he feels his spring cold coming on, and all he wanted was to kiss Sonny longer than a split second.

Sonny comes out of their bedroom looking impeccable as usual. It drives Rafael crazy.

"Where are you going?" he questions, watching Sonny button his cuffs.

"Oh, there's this dinner tonight that Jameson wanted me at."

Jameson is one of the lawyers in the office where Sonny works. Usually when Jameson sends Sonny somewhere, it's because he wants Sonny to act as the double-agent spy.

Sonny's office is just too much drama, and Rafael is tired of it. He didn't get this much drama when he worked for Jessica Clayton a few summers ago, but Sonny's office is just constant drama. So-and-so slept with so-and-so's wife, so-and-so gave so-and-so a poor review on quarterly reports so he could get a high profile case, so-and-so did this and that and Rafael is tired of hearing about the drama.

He doesn't ask what Jameson wants Sonny to find out tonight, he just goes to the kitchen and grabs the whiskey bottle from the cabinet, along with a clean glass.

"Wow, you okay?" Sonny asks, jacket in hand and ready to go.

"I just wanted to hang out with you tonight. I'm home before dinner, if you haven't noticed."

Sonny frowns and strokes his tie nervously. "I can...I can cancel, it's--"

Rafael sighs. "No, it's fine. I'll just relax, okay?"

"You can use a quiet evening," Sonny adds.

Rafael thinks privately that he wanted a quiet evening with his boyfriend, but he says nothing. Instead, he gives Sonny one last kiss before letting him go.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be a temporary job, Sonny was supposed to go back to school and get serious once again. He was supposed to be looking at professions he may want to pursue, Rafael gathered information about the local colleges and what Sonny could do. Instead, this job has been sucking him dry for months. It's March now, and it's as though Sonny has lost his ambition, he's just content with the current.

Last summer, Sonny claimed he'd get into school "next semester".

In December, he said the same thing.

This job can't go anywhere for Sonny. There's no moving up in this job, going up would mean becoming a lawyer. And Rafael's brought it up before, asked Sonny if he would consider a career in law, but Sonny just blows him off.

Sonny won't listen to anybody, it's not just Rafael. There's no talking to him. He won't listen to Dominick Sr., or Deb, or Lex, or even Theresa, who he has grown incredibly close to. Rafael feels helpless.

There is one person Rafael has thought about a lot in the past few months: Sonny's old math teacher Mrs. Moreno, who Rafael has never met. Deb says she visited Sonny a few times before he moved to Boston, and Rafael knows Sonny has let her know that he moved, but he doesn't think Sonny has heard from her in months.

Rafael calls Lucia after Sonny leaves.

"Hola, Papito!" Lucia answers the phone. "Cómo estás? Are you home already?"

Rafael opens the refrigerator to see if they even have any food. "Yeah, I'm home."

"So soon. I bet Sonny is excited."

Rafael sighs. "I wouldn't know, he left."

"He did? Aww, another late night at the office? Poor Papito. Make yourself something to eat and go to bed."

"I don't really have any food," Rafael admits, sounding so down that even he feels sorry for himself.

"Married life not what you expected, Papito?"

"Ha-ha," Rafael says, knowing Lucia is teasing him. "I don't know. I just thought..."

"He'd be off his feet by now?" Lucia supplies.

"Yeah. I've given him information and resources to get his school career going, but--"

"But there's no pushing him, Rafi. I know. Trust me, I know."

"So, do I just let him be? Let him waste his time at this office?"

"Let him be happy."

Rafael frowns.

Lucia continues. "Why don't you call that teacher of his? Maybe she can talk to him."

"I was just thinking that, actually."

"Sounds like a good idea to me, Rafi. I'll let you go, you sound tired. Te amo."

"Te amo, Mami, buenas noches."

"Good night."

Rafael eats cereal dry, because that's all he has in the cabinets, then climbs unhappily into bed.

He's only asleep for what feels like ten minutes when he's being jostled awake by his not-so-subtle bedmate climbing in next to him.

Rafael opens his eyes enough to see its 1 in the morning. With a groan, he turns onto his back to look at Sonny.

"Sorry," Sonny 'whispers'. "Go back to sleep."

"It's late," Rafael comments.

"I know, I'm sorry."

Sonny smells like beer; it makes Rafael make a sour face.

"Go back to sleep," Sonny repeats, "Unless you'd rather...stay up?"

Rafael is in no mood. Sonny blew him off, he didn't eat a proper dinner, and he woke him in the middle of the night. Rafael turns onto his side away from Sonny.

"Goodnight," he says, and Sonny just holds onto him from behind. Rafael falls back to sleep to the feeling of Sonny's breath on his neck.


 

Rafael lets Sonny's behavior go on for another week before it drives him crazy enough to call someone, and the first person he can think of is Mrs. Moreno. While Sonny is in the shower one morning, Rafael sneaks into his phone to find Mrs. Moreno's office number. He copies it quickly into his own phone and plans to call her while he and Sonny are apart all day.

He finally gets the chance to call around lunch time, and he expects to be able to leave a message at her office, so he's completely shocked when she actually answers.

"Katarina Moreno," she answers.

Rafael almost hangs up. "H-hi, hello? Mrs. Moreno? My name is Rafael Barba, and uh, you don't know me, but you know my boyfriend, Sonny Carisi--"

"Is this the famous Rafael?!" Mrs. Moreno cries.

Rafael chuckles. "Uh, famous? No, I--"

"Oh, Sonny talked about you all the time. What can I do for you, Mr. Barba?"

"I'm calling about Sonny, actually."

"How is Sonny? I haven't heard from him in months. Did he start school? I told him he'd love law."

"Actually, that's why I called. He's been stuck in a weird rut. He got a job at a law firm, just answering phones and stuff, which at first was great, but now I fear he feels this is, like, the end of the line. He hasn't returned to school no matter how much I've tried to help. I was wondering, hoping, if maybe you could try to talk to him."

"Me? Really?"

"He won't listen to anybody else. And he respects you, he cares about you opinion, you know he does. Just, if you can, if you get a chance, could you call him?"

"I'll give it a try, Rafael, but you know as well as I do that you can't push anybody to do something they don't want to do."

"Yeah, I know. I would just appreciate the effort."

"Okay, Rafael. I'll see what I can do."

Rafael thanks her profusely before he hangs up to enter the library. The rest of his afternoon is great wondering if she'll get ahold of Sonny.


 

A few days pass, and Rafael goes crazy wondering if Mrs. Moreno has called Sonny. It's not like he can ask Sonny, because he wasn't supposed to meddle, so he waits patiently for Sonny to mention it.

Finally, he does. Loudly. Angrily.

Sonny storms into the apartment, door slamming behind him as Rafael sits at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. Sonny is home on time, early even, and Rafael would be happy if Sonny didn't throw his keys and his bag on the table.

"Sonny? Is everything okay?"

Sonny blows up. "I can't believe you would do that!"

"Uh, ask if you're okay?"

"Don't play dumb, Rafael. I know you called Mrs. Moreno."

Rafael does decide to play dumb. "Why do you think I--"

"So she just happens to call me out of nowhere? She just happens to mention that 'everyone is worried about me'?"

Rafael figures there's no playing dumb now. "That's because we are--"

"That didn't give you the right to call a stranger out of the blue to talk to me. If you want to talk to me, then do it, don't get someone else to do your dirty work by telling me to get off my ass."

"I just want you to do something, Sonny. You said you'd go back to school--"

Sonny's nostrils flare, and he looks so angry before he digs in his backpack for an unmarked folder.

"How's this for getting off my ass?" he asks, tossing the folder on the table.

Rafael carefully opens it, unsure of what he'll find.

He didn't think he'd find half a dozen rejection letters for the universities in this area.

"Sonny..." Rafael sighs. "I had no idea--"

"No, you didn't, because I figured I'd tell you the good news when I got in somewhere. And I haven't yet. But to know you just think I'm being lazy--"

"I don't think that, honey. I don't think that at all. You have a job, you're paying your bills, I just--"

"Just, what?"

"I just didn't want you to think this job was it."

"I know it's not, Rafi, and now you see that I don't think that at all. But I suck and I didn't get in anywhere because for all you guys tell me, I'm not smart, and--"

"Sonny--"

"And I can't even get a job anywhere else, do you know that? I have like, the least amount of experience and that means someone else is better for most jobs, and--"

"Sonny--"

"And I thought, what's something else I like? That would at least be fulfilling? So I applied to coach a little league team, but I'm not 'established enough in the community', so they said no," Sonny manically laughs. "I'm not even good enough to fucking coach t-ball, Rafi! Do you see that? What do you think of me now? I'm a loser!"

"I think you're amazing, Sonny."

Sonny snorts. "Not that amazing, apparently."

Rafael wants to say something encouraging, but everything he can think of is still degrading. Like, Rafael got in to Harvard because he spent his entire school career working his ass off, but that makes Sonny sound like he can't handle school. Rafael has gained experience doing a few odd jobs and this is just Sonny's first job, but that makes Sonny sound lazy. Rafael is more established in the community because he's lived here for years, and although that's true and not putting Sonny down, it doesn't help much.

Sonny sits at the table reluctantly. He buries his face in his hands and scrubs roughly at his hair.

"Do you want to know what Mrs. Moreno told me? What she suggested?"

"What?"

Sonny doesn't pick his head up, so he mumbles out, "She said I should move back to the Bronx and start the police academy."

Rafael's stomach drops. Sonny leaving was the last thing he wanted.

"And...and what do you think about that?"

Sonny lowers his hands. "I don't know, Rafi. As much as I don't want to leave you--"

"That would be a good opportunity," Rafael supplies, even though Sonny leaving sounds terrible. The long-distance thing really does suck.

Sonny frowns. "I didn't want to leave you, Rafi."

"It's not like we would be breaking up, Sonny."

Sonny looks to his left, breaking eye contact with Rafael.

"Wait, do you want to break up?!"

Rafael knows he fucked up by calling Mrs. Moreno, he just didn't expect to get dumped.

"I just don't know who I am, Rafi. I've never been on my own, I've never done anything for myself--"

"You got signed by a college baseball team, you moved here on your own--"

"No, I moved here with you. Where you are already established. I don't have my own friends, I don't have my own life. Maybe..."

Rafael reaches over and grabs Sonny's hand. "Wait, Sonny, wait, I know I messed up--"

"It's not even about that, Rafi. And I should've told you I was at least trying, if not for anything other than you not thinkin' I'm a bum. But I just...I just think I need some time to figure myself out."

Rafael feels like bursting into tears. He might any second.

"I'm going to go back to New York. I gave my two weeks at the office a week ago, so by next Monday I want to go back."

"So you've been planning this."

"Not entirely. I wanted to move on from the office, but going back to New York was a recent decision."

"Sonny, I'm sorry for calling Mrs. Moreno, I'm so sorry--"

"It's okay, Rafi. I know you were just looking out for me. Just like you always have."

Now, Rafael begins to cry. Thinking about "always". Always means their childhood, always means their adolescence, always means their early adulthood. Always means the past, present, and future.

He hopes it still means the future.

Rafael drops his head to hide his tears by kissing Sonny's knuckles.

"Do you still love me?" he asks.

Sonny digs his nose into the hair on the back of Rafael's head. "Of course," he whispers. "Of course I love you, Rafael. I will always love you, no matter what happens, for the rest of my life."

'No matter what happens' doesn't sound so promising. It implies Sonny will still love him, even if he goes to marry someone else. Rafael could never. He's wanted to marry Sonny since he was nine, that will never change.

Rafael sits up suddenly, knowing his next question is the opposite of helping.

"Marry me?"

Sonny, tears streaming down his cheeks, lets out a laugh. "Honey, that's not gonna save us."

"I mean it, though. If you stay, I'll marry you tomorrow."

Sonny presses his forehead against Rafael's. "I know. I know you mean it. But you have your life to focus on. I want to find mine."

"My life is you."

"Your life is Harvard. You're so close, baby, and I'm so proud of you. I want you to be proud of me."

"I am proud of you. I've always been proud of whatever you do."

Sonny shakes his head. "No. It's not good enough, I'm not good enough."

"Don't say that, please."

"I want to be good enough. Let me go and become good enough."

Rafael begins to cry harder. "You are good enough."

Sonny shakes his head again. "Just let me go, Rafi."

Rafael clutches the back of Sonny's head and neck. "Never," he whispers.

Sonny kisses him, long and hard, then Rafael pulls him up and to the bedroom. They fall into bed, and they come together, with words of love on their lips and tears in their eyes.

---

The next week is spent grieving. At least, that's how Rafael feels.

First, there is denial. Their lives continue as normal, they make each other's lunches, they kiss each other goodbye, they go to school and work and return home to each other like nothing is wrong.

But everything is wrong, and they know that.

Second, there is anger. Rafael grows mad that Sonny is doing this, that Sonny is dumping him. Rafael grows angry that Sonny doesn't want his help, doesn't want him, and it makes Sonny mad that Rafael doesn't understand. They fight, and it turns into a real breakup.

Third, there is bargaining. Rafael begs Sonny not to go. He promises to be better, to try harder, to let Sonny grow, to give him space, to do whatever it takes to get Sonny to stay. He offers to move out of this apartment to move to another so Sonny has a say to where they live this time. He offers to help Sonny find a new college, a better college. He offers to never bug Sonny about college again. He begs and pleads, but Sonny still refuses.

Fourth, there is depression. This stage hits on a Saturday, so Rafael doesn't get out of bed. He can't, not while Sonny is packing his things all around him. Their apartment is a mess with Sonny's laundry that needs to be shipped back to the Bronx. Sonny offers Rafael coffee, breakfast, lunch, whatever he wants, but Rafael can't get out of bed. Sonny doesn't even cuddle up to him like he used to. It makes Rafael feel worse.

And finally, there is acceptance. On Monday, when it's time for Sonny to go, Rafael takes him to the train station. He convinces himself that this is fine, that they'll be okay, that eventually they'll get back together, that one day they'll get married, that Sonny will move back to the Bronx and all of his dreams will be fulfilled, that Sonny will become his own person, that Rafael will grow himself to be better for Sonny.

He is still devastated when they arrive at the train station.

"Got everything?" Rafael asks, just trying to make encouraging conversation.

Sonny adjusts the backpack on his shoulder. "I think so."

"If not, you can call me."

"I'll call you anyway."

"Will you?" Rafael asks, looking into Sonny's eyes.

"Of course," Sonny says, reaching between them and grabbing Rafael's hand.

Rafael reaches up and grasps Sonny's neck.

Sonny speaks first. "Believe me when I say that I'll never stop loving you, Rafael."

"I do believe you," Rafael says, not admitting that he wonders what that means. Will Sonny love him if he loves someone else?

Sonny kisses his forehead. "I'll see you soon."

Rafael kisses his jaw, then his cheek. "See you."

Sonny lets his hand go. Rafael almost doesn't let him go. Sonny goes through the gates to the train platform.

Rafael slowly begins to cry. He knows there is no convincing Sonny, but he daydreams of running onto the platform, begging Sonny to stay, and then running away and living happily ever after.

That doesn't happen. Rafael catches the only cab that stops for a poor crying man, goes back to his empty apartment, and doesn't get out of bed for four days.

After that, Rafael forces himself to continue. He must continue. He must prove to Sonny that he is strong. He must be better.

For Sonny.

 

Chapter Text

Sunlight streams through the newly opened window in his bedroom. The curtains hadn't been pulled back in weeks. Rafael squeezes his eyes shut.

"Get up."

"No," Rafael refuses.

"It's been two weeks. You're done. Get your ass out of bed."

"There is no timeline for depression," Rafael retorts.

Justine Justice, whose name is ironic considering she's also in Harvard Law, only snorts in reply.

"Have you lost your will to live?" she asks.

"Well, no--"

"Then get up."

Rafael pulls his blankets far over his head to shut the world out again.

Sonny left two weeks ago. He hasn't left his apartment in a week. He tried, at first, to move on, to continue just as he should have, but he couldn't take it. He is depressed.

Another set of feet is heard in his apartment, and Rafael knows it's Justine's boyfriend, Reynaldo. Rafael likes him more, because while Justine is saying, "Get up." Reynaldo will come in and say, "Aww, Just, leave him alone. He is sad."

Reynaldo enters the room. "Hey Just, I couldn't find--Holy shit, open the window."

So he hasn't moved, has only bathed a few times, so what? It's his house.

"It is ripe in here," Reynaldo adds, moving to open the window.

Rafael buries himself deeper into his bed.

Justine pulls on his blankets. "Come on!"

Reynaldo moves to help Justine.

Rafael throws the blankets off himself, just to glare at Reynaldo. "I thought you were on my side."

"She holds a compelling argument as to why letting you wallow like this is, in fact, a bad idea."

Rafael glares at him harder. "You're never going to make it in this business if you can't even stand up to your girlfriend."

"You stand up to her then," Reynaldo argues.

Rafael looks at Justine, who has crossed her arms and has fixed him with a stare that is burning a hole right through him.

He's got to stop surrounding himself with women who are far stronger than he is.

"Fine," is all Rafael can say. She does make a compelling argument.

They convince him to take a shower, the first step in feeling better, so Justine says.

"I want to hear the water for twenty minutes," Justine instructs. "I'm checking the soap and shampoo!"

Rafael would probably make a joke to Reynaldo about being bossed around, "being in to that kind of thing", but he has no energy. Instead, he takes the offered clean towel and goes into the bathroom.

Rafael does as instructed, he lets the water run for twenty minutes. Yes, he does use soap and shampoo, but he mostly just stands under the hot spray and lets it clean off the past two week's challenges.

Waking up is hard. Eating breakfast is hard. Going to school is hard. Doing homework is hard. Going to work is hard. Eating dinner is hard. Going to bed is hard.

It's all so hard. Rafael doesn't expect it ever gets any easier.

But in the shower, he feels marginally better. Alone, completely alone, it's like he can breathe again. It's like he can think again. It's like the world has stopped and all there is is himself and his shower. It's not an entirely unpleasant thought, if everything just disappeared.

Rafael could disappear. He could run away and be heartbroken somewhere else.

No, he thinks, that is not what Sonny wanted. Sonny would not want him to be this way. Sonny would want him to move on and finish school and become a better man. He can be a better man for Sonny.

He stays in the shower for ten extra minutes, which will drive his water bill through the roof, but he's finally feeling better.

He didn't grab any clothes before entering the bathroom, so he has to wrap the towel around himself before exiting the room to go to his bedroom.

Justine and Reynaldo are sitting on his couch, watching his television, but they turn around when he enters.

They both catcall him, which makes him laugh for the first time in weeks.

"You're looking trim," Justine comments.

Reynaldo doesn't take his eyes off Rafael. Justine slaps his chest.

"What?" Reynaldo cries. "Rafael is hot!"

Justine laughs. "See Rafi? The next step is feeling hot."

"What steps are you taking this from?"

Justine shrugs. "I'm just making it up as I go."

"Apparently," Rafael sarcastically retorts before heading to his bedroom.

"Step three is sarcasm!"

Rafael just laughs.

Justine and Reynaldo take Rafael to lunch, where he picks at a salad.

"When was the last time you ate?" Justine asks.

Rafael shrugs. "I can't remember."

"Honey!"

Rafael frowns. "I'm just not hungry."

"Please try to eat, okay?" Justine reaches across the table and takes his hand.

Her small hand looks delicate in his. Rafael focuses on her beautiful, dark skin.

"In all seriousness, Rafi," Justine says. Rafael stares at her hand. "I am worried about you. You're going to come with me to school tomorrow, okay?"

Rafael nods.

"You're going to eat some of this delicious salad that I am paying for, okay?"

Rafael nods again.

"You're going to hang out with Rey and I, and whenever you get hungry or whenever you want to do anything specific, like if you want to go to a movie or a--"

Rafael gets an idea, something Reynaldo has been bugging him to do since the moment they met.

"I have something I want to do," Rafael says.

Justine perks up. "You name it."

"I want to go to a Red Sox game."

Reynaldo's face cracks into a very excited grin. "Oh, hell yeah!" he cheers.

Justine groans. "Rafi!"

Justine hates baseball. She doesn't like going to games with Reynaldo, so Reynaldo never goes to games because Justine won't go with him. But for some reason, that's exactly what Rafael wants to do. He wants to eat a hot dog and drink a beer at he ballgame.

He wants to do that right now.

Rafael moves to stand. "Can we go now?"

Reynaldo laughs. "Nah, the Sox are out of town. We can go on Saturday, what do you think?"

It's Tuesday. That gives Rafael something to look forward to.

He nods. "Sure. Let's go on Saturday."

Rafael sleeps on Justine and Reynaldo's couch that night because he goes over to watch movies and falls asleep, so they just leave him. He sleeps through the night instead of waking up every hour or so. When he wakes up, Justine and Reynaldo are making breakfast in their little kitchen. They're singing and dancing and being generally in love.

Rafael doesn't feel as jealous as he thought he would.

"Morning sleepyhead!" Justine greets as he enters the kitchen. She places a hot cup of coffee in front of him. "We'll eat and go to school, okay?"

Rafael pulls on his shirt, which is the same one he was wearing yesterday. Re-wearing jeans is one thing, underwear can be okay, but he draws the line at re-wearing shirts.

"Borrow one of mine," Reynaldo offers.

Since Reynaldo's style is completely different than Rafael's, he is presented with a thin black Boston Bruins shirt. Rafael thinks that's hockey.

"Gee, thanks," Rafael sarcastically says.

"You are killing step three," Justine says.

Rafael rolls his eyes.


 

Having something exciting to look forward to pays off because it keeps Rafael distracted for a few days. He goes to school, returns to work, all the while thinking that Saturday he will have fun with Reynaldo. And Reynaldo is excited, of course, because he's been dying to go to a game since Rafael met him.

So, Saturday arrives and the couple go to Rafael's house to pick him up. Justine is wearing one of Reynaldo's Red Sox t-shirts, Reynaldo is wearing his jersey, and he has an extra shirt in his hand for Rafael.

"I'm not putting that on," Rafael says. "I draw the line there."

"Ah, come on, Rafi. Play the whole part!"

Rafael lifts an eyebrow. "I'm from the Bronx."

Reynaldo rolls his eyes. "God, I forgot. You're one of them."

Rafael has never known much on his own about baseball before Sonny, but being from the Bronx, he knew that the Red Sox were the enemy. Of course, after Sonny, he knew everything about the Yankees and the Mets, everything about the game itself, even though it didn't really interest him.

He doesn't really find it interesting now, but he wants to do something fun with his friends.

As soon as they get into the stadium, Rafael seeks out a beer.

"You need to eat that hot dog, too!" Justine tells him.

"Si, Mami," Rafael jokes.

So he gets a hot dog and a cheap beer. They find their seats and he happily eats and drinks. Justine snaps a photo of him that she says is so cute.

"I'm putting this on my Insta and adding the message that you're single."

Rafael tries to grab her phone. "No, no way!"

Justine holds her phone away from Rafael, but Rafael can see her posting it. Luckily, there is no message that he is single. Thank goodness too, because Rafael thinks Sonny follows her.

The game is fun. It makes Rafael happy that he's making Reynaldo happy. It makes Rafael happy to see Justine and Reynaldo happy together. It's a never ending loop of happiness that Rafael wants to continue forever.

However, Rafael doesn't want to take up all of their time; it's not like they need to babysit him. He doesn't ask to make plans anymore, because he doesn't want to bother them, but if they or any other friends invite him somewhere, he accepts.

Justine tries to tell him that he's not bothering them, that she understands he's going through something tough, but Rafael still waits for invitations instead.

Somehow, he finishes the school year. He feels like a zombie half the time, and he doubts he's retained any information, but he finishes. Six years down, one to go.

He hopes Sonny would be proud of him.

Rafael sits at home the day after school ends trying to think of something to do. He doesn't have work for two weeks, so there's nowhere to go, and he doesn't want to go to the Bronx. He just can't face that block right now.

Rafael feels himself dropping into a slump again, has felt it for days, that place where there is no light or joy. He thinks it is being brought on by having nothing to look forward to, by school and work ending. And then there's the next year to worry about, because it's his final year, this one really counts, and then he'll take the bar exam, and then he'll be a lawyer, and then he needs to find a job, and then he has to worry about where to settle down, New York or Boston, and then--

Rafael needs something. He needs to do something. He needs a distraction from not only the end of his relationship, but his upcoming very stressful year.

He grabs his phone and calls Justine.

"Hola!" she answers excitedly.

"You're off for the next week, right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Let's do something."

"Okay. Want to see a movie?"

"No, let's really do something. Something crazy."

Justine laughs. "Rafael, what are you talking--"

"Let's drive to Los Angeles."

Justine laughs harder. "You're insane."

"I'm serious. Let's drive across the country. I have enough in my savings to pay for gas, I can ask my mom for a loan or something. I don't know, I just want to do something."

Justine slowly stops laughing. "You know what? I'm in. Let me call Rey."

Rafael begins to pack, because if he stops to think about it, he'll change his mind. He'll realize that this is insane. He'll realize that he wants to do something crazy because he's not thinking right. He'll realize that he's not right.

Rafael just stuffs his duffel bag with clean shirts, pants, underwear, and socks.

Justine shows up an hour later, which was enough time gap for Rafael to sit down and really think about this. Does he want to run away across the country? Does he want to be in a car for a week? Does he want to do this, really?

Justine doesn't give him a chance to change his mind. "What did you pack?" she asks.

"My normal clothes."

"Not uh, sir. Your normal clothes are not road trip clothes. Let me see your bag."

Rafael reluctantly hands it over.

Justine takes out his polo shirts and button-ups and replaces them with the few t-shirts he has. He does not own shorts, so she says his jeans will do.

"You want to dress me all week, too?" Rafael jokes.

"I'll let Rey do it. He thinks you're hot."

Rafael just chuckles.

They pick up Reynaldo and set off. Rafael begins to grow nervous, but he doesn't let himself turn back. He needs to do this one insane thing. He's played it safe his entire life, he's done what he's supposed to do, he's obeyed the rules.

He realizes there are no rules in life. Decisions can be made on a whim. He can drive across the country with his friends.

Their first stop is Niagra Falls, and that's when Rafael remembers he had better tell his mother what he's doing.

"Hola, Mami," Rafael says. "So...I've done something crazy."

"Please tell me it's not on your face."

"Wait, what?"

"If it's a tattoo or a piercing, please tell me it's not on your face."

"No, Mami, I didn't get a tattoo or a piercing. I...well, Justine, Rey, and I...we are driving to Los Angeles."

Lucia begins to laugh. "What? Papi, really?"

"Yeah, I just thought--"

"This was your idea?!" Lucia laughs harder. "Okay, I'm putting money in your account so you can fly home when you realize you're miserable."

"I won't be miserable," Rafael says. "And now I'm going to stick this out just to prove you wrong."

"Okay, Papi, sure. Have fun. I love you."

"Te amo," Rafael says, hanging up as he overlooks the Falls. It truly is beautiful. He feels at ease, content, and excited.

He rejoins Justine and Reynaldo as they finish taking selfies in front of the scenic view.

"Okay, where to next?" he asks.

On the way to Los Angeles, they see fantastic big cities, mountains, the Great Plains, rivers, sweet small towns, and the Grand Canyon. They stop to sleep in gross little motels, they eat in roadside diners, and Rafael actually loves every moment of it. He has the time of his life.

By the time they get to the Pacific Ocean, Rafael feels so pleased with life that he stands in the water and simply falls in. He just lays down right in the salty water fully clothed. He lets the waves wash over him until he can't breathe, until there's too much salt in his nose, then he swims out until he can't see the shore anymore.

Rafael thinks about how Sonny would love this. Theresa and her friends took them to the beach once when they were really little, and Sonny spent the entire day in the water getting burnt to a crisp. Rafael assisted in rubbing lotion on his red skin for weeks after. Sonny still thought it was amazing, he talked about the beach for months after. Rafael promised Sonny they'd go back one day, when they were older, just them, but once they were older, their summers were busy with baseball and school. They never made it back to the beach.

Rafael eventually returns to the shore to take his clothes off because swimming in jeans is not working. When he strips off his shirt, Justine and Reynaldo catcall him again.

Rafael just grins and rolls his eyes.

They stay at the beach all day because Rafael doesn't want to leave. This is the furthest he's ever been away from home, and he currently feels no pressure. As soon as he leaves the beach, he'll have to return to his reality, where the pressure of law school is on.

He used to love the pressure. He used to thrive on the pressure.

But lately, it's cracking him.

Eventually, they convince Rafael to leave. They book a cheap hotel room near the beach and make plans to leave in the morning.

Rafael sneaks out early in the morning to go back to the beach. He just needs the world to be quiet for a little bit longer.

The sun is beginning to rise, so the sky is gray and beautiful. The clouds covering leave a layer of mist on the land, the ocean waves are high, and the seagulls are first to wake. Rafael loves it. He could get used to the beach, to California. He wonders what Washington is like. Maybe Oregon. He likes rain.

Some surfers approach the area where Rafael is sitting. There are three boys and a girl, all seeming to be around Rafael's age. He nods in greeting at them as they pass, and they do the same, but one of the boys stops right in front of Rafael.

"Hey," the boy greets, flipping his bleach blonde hair ridiculously like a boy band member.

"Hello," Rafael says back.

"I've never seen you down here before. You vacationing?"

Rafael nods.

"Oh, cool," he says. "I'm Brock, by the way."

"That's surprising," Rafael sarcastically says.

Brock sits in the sand next to Rafael. "I know, right. I was destined to be a surfer boy. Anyway, where are you from?"

Rafael isn't sure. Boston doesn't feel like his real home, but the Bronx doesn't feel like home anymore, either.

"I go to Harvard," is what Rafael decides to say.

Brock's eyebrows raise in shock. "No kidding? That's awesome. I go to Stanford."

Ivy League? Rafael starts paying attention more.

"So, are you here with family? A...boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe?"

Rafael smiles. "Uh, no. I drove here with friends."

"Drove from Harvard? Hope they're still your friends when you get back."

Rafael laughs.

"So, uh, when are you leaving?"

"We're supposed to leave this morning."

"Oh. That's a bummer."

"Why?" Rafael asks.

"I'd ask you out."

Rafael feels a thrill. Nobody's asked him out in a really long time. His friends say that even when he was long distance from Sonny, he had that, 'I'm in a relationship' look.

"You drove though, right? So, if by any chance you can convince your friends to stay, come down to that little bar over there at 8. Okay?"

Rafael looks back to where Brock is pointing. It's a little shady looking bar, but Rafael realizes it's probably made to look rundown.

Brock is standing when Rafael turns to him again. "Hope to see you later," he says.

"Yeah," Rafael says, standing too. "Maybe."

Brock smiles sweetly, then runs towards the water to join his friends.

Rafael doesn't stay on the beach for long, because Justine calls and says they went out for breakfast. He walks to the little diner where they chose to eat by the hotel, and the entire way, he realizes he can't stop smiling.

Justine eyes him as soon as he slides in to the booth next to her.

"Why are you grinning like that?" she asks.

Rafael reaches for the pot of coffee that was left on their table and says nothing.

Justine and Reynaldo spend the next ten minutes trying to guess what's got him in this suddenly fine mood, and finally Rafael caves and tells them.

"I met someone on the beach. He asked me out."

Justine's eyes bulge out of her head. "Shut up! And you said yes?"

"I didn't say no."

Justine slaps his arm. "Dude! This is, like, step ten!"

"Well, I won't even see him again. He wants me to go to a bar with him tonight, but since we're leaving--"

Justine turns to Reynaldo. "We can stay another night, right? We just don't have to eat the entire way home."

Reynaldo rolls his eyes. The food has been his favorite part.

Rafael tries, "I couldn't make you guys stay--"

"No, no, we are staying," Justine says.

Reynaldo just politely agrees.

So, they book another night. Luckily, somewhere in Arizona they had their laundry washed, so he has clean clothes. He picks out a pair of jeans and a plain black t-shirt that Justine says is sexy, but Rafael doesn't really see it.

Or, he isn't trying to be sexy.

Either way, Justine says he looks great, and they set out for the bar a few minutes before 8.

They show their ID's and get into the bar, and it seems more secure than any normal bar is. Rafael doesn't see Brock immediately, but they get a drink anyway.

Rafael notices there's a stage where most of the people are surrounding, so out of curiosity, they migrate towards the stage.

And then Rafael is completely shocked when Brock accompanies three other guys onto the stage. Brock is holding a bass guitar, and he sets up to the left of the center microphone.

Rafael just stares at him, stunned. Brock could have mentioned that he was playing in a band at the bar.

Brock looks out into the crowd and somehow spots Rafael. His grin grows wider and he waves cutely at Rafael.

"Glad you made it!" he yells through the crowd, but Rafael hears him.

Rafael feels the thrill again. It's not entirely unpleasant.

Brock's band plays for half an hour, and they're not terrible. Apparently they're opening for a bigger band, but Rafael is still impressed.

Brock is cute, he attends Stanford, and he is obviously musical. Rafael is very impressed.

Brock's band finishes their set and makes their way off the stage. Brock holds up one finger to Rafael, seemingly saying, "Give me a minute." So Rafael waits patiently in the exact same spot so Brock can find him.

"Are you excited for your date?" Justine playfully asks as they wait for Brock.

"Ha-ha," Rafael says, sipping his beer.

"I think it's great!" Reynaldo cries, swaying against Justine.

"You're drunk," Justine says, laughing.

Rafael laughs at him too, but before he can say anything, Brock arrives.

"I'm glad you made it!" he says loudly. "Sorry, ears are shot. I won't be yelling in about twenty minutes. These the friends you'll probably lose before you hit Harvard?"

Rafael laughs. He shouts too so Brock can hear him. "Yeah, this is Justine and Reynaldo. Guys, this is Brock."

His friends happily shake Brock's hand and tell him his band was amazing.

"Thanks!" Brock yells. "I'm new to the group, but I think it's going well. Rafael, want to grab a drink?"

Rafael downs the last of his beer and accompanies Brock to the bar.

They talk for the entire set of the main band. Brock happily refills Rafael's drinks, and Rafael drinks slowly so he doesn't get embarrassingly drunk. He hasn't drank much since the breakup, because getting drunk would probably mean missing Sonny, but Sonny is far from his mind in this bar with a pretty surfer.

Brock is leaning close to him, otherwise he would still be yelling, but Rafael doesn't mind. Brock smells great and he looks even better, and Rafael really likes the attention he is getting.

"Hey," Brock says after over an hour. "Want to go for a walk?"

Rafael just nods, and Brock takes his hand as they exit the bar.

Brock leads him down to the beach where they met earlier that morning, and he doesn't let go of Rafael's hand. Rafael really likes the feeling of someone's hand in his. Brock is taller than him, his hands are bigger, and Rafael likes that feeling, too.

Brock stops in the sand and sits suddenly. Confused, Rafael follows him down.

"I like sand, y'know?" Brock says.

Rafael chuckles. "Sure."

"I learned how to surf when I was, like, three. I used to like playing in the sand better."

"I don't have much experience with it," Rafael admits, digging his fingers into the sand.

Brock looks at him sweetly. "I like you, Rafael."

Rafael smiles. "I like you, too."

And then Brock leans over and kisses Rafael slowly, sweetly, warmly. He's the third person to ever kiss Rafael, first besides Sonny in years, but Rafael likes it. It feels good. Brock's lips feel strong, yet soft, and Rafael lets himself enjoy it for a few minutes.

But then Brock shifts closer to him, and Rafael realizes Brock is trying to get him to lay down. Brock's hand begins to slowly travel up his thigh. A red flag is waved in his mind.

He doesn't want to have sex on a beach with a stranger.

He doesn't want to have sex at all.

Sure, it's only been a few weeks apart from Sonny, but Rafael comes to the halting realization that having sex with anyone else for the rest of his life may be really hard. He was so in love with Sonny the first time they did it, he'd been in love with Sonny for entire lifetime. And as of now, he is still in love with Sonny.

Sex means love.

Love means Sonny.

Rafael pushes Brock away. "Wait, wait, stop."

Brock immediately pulls back. "Oh, I'm sorry, I just thought--"

"No, I know what you thought, and I get it, one night, strangers, I get it. But I...I can't, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Brock says, "I shouldn't have assumed, I'm really sorry."

Rafael is stunned and relieved that Brock is understanding.

"I'd better go find my friends," he awkwardly says.

Brock nods, then follows Rafael off the sand.

Before they get into the bar, Brock grabs Rafael's hand again.

"Hey, again, I'm really sorry. I did have fun with you. Thanks for coming."

Rafael smiles at him. Brock is so nice. Maybe with more time, maybe knowing Brock more, maybe at another time--

Maybe at another time, he'll have Sonny back.

"I had fun too," Rafael says, squeezing his hand.

Rafael wanders through the bar and finds Justine and Reynaldo near the stage again. He must look completely freaked out because Justine instantly asks if he is alright.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Didn't work out with Brock. Can we go?"

"Yeah, of course," Justine says, then she drags her drunk boyfriend out of the bar.


 

The drive back from California is great. Rafael continues to have a great time, even though the impending thought of returning to reality is stressful. But everything is stressful right now.

For the next year, Rafael just coasts by as well as he can. He has dark days where Justine and Reynaldo do their best to get him out of bed, but it's hard. He is stressed out beyond reason over school. Sometimes he forgets to eat and lives off coffee.

He doesn't visit Lucia. It's just too hard for him to return home not knowing where Sonny will be. He doesn't really want to run into Sonny, he wants to be able to survive without him.

Rafael does his best, which is all he can promise to do. He tries, he really does. He never gives up. He does everything he can to make Sonny proud.

Rafael does his best to grow more confident, more 'bad-ass', as Justine describes. It reminds him of when he was going to high school, and Dominick Sr. told him to hold his head up high. He takes that advice to heart every day when he enters mock court. The defense attorneys in his class actually begin to fear him. It makes Rafael feel a million kinds of powerful, it makes him look forward to his future against these people.

Almost a year after their split, he comes to terms with the possibility that he and Sonny may never get back together. He comes to terms with accepting it if he finds out Sonny has found someone else, or just that Sonny doesn't love him anymore. He comes to terms with having a life away from Sonny, which is what he's tried so hard to do in the past year.

Rafael grows strong enough to be able to do it, to be able to move on.

But in April, he decides he needs to at least try to get Sonny back.

He needs to at least try.

Chapter Text

Sonny was devastated for about a month. In that time, he went to the train station almost every day to get on a train to Boston, to beg Rafael to take him back, but he didn't. Because this is what he wanted.

He feels terrible because it wasn't what Rafael wanted. He didn't give Rafael a chance to compromise, he said no to the long-distance thing, even though it worked fine in the past. He just left Rafael.

Sonny faces the question every other day: what if Rafael doesn't take him back? What if Rafael finds somebody else? He wanted to say, "Look, let's not date each other, but let's not date anyone else." But that's a ridiculous request.

Sonny works to better himself. He goes to church with his parents every Sunday, he babysits for Theresa whenever she needs, he becomes friends with Gina's long-term-soon-to-be-fiancé boyfriend, he helps Bella with school and applying for college scholarships, and he even goes to Lucia's twice a week to help her around the house, since Rafael doesn't visit anymore.

Sonny secretly hopes he'll walk into Lucia's house one day and Rafael will be there. He checks for signs as soon as he walks through the door, maybe Rafael's coat hanging, Rafael's bag by the stairs where he always left it, but it's not there. Rafael's never there.

Sonny busies himself with work, which is actually doubly busy. For the summer, he works at Rafael's favorite coffee shop because he had minimal previous experience doing that, and he gets a job at the local library, but he lines up a job on campus at Concordia, where he has already been accepted to return in the fall. He knew it would be hard returning when he signed up again, but he gets over it soon, because it's a place where he already feels comfortable and safe.

Sonny has the semester he didn't complete to earn an associates degree, which is what he needs to begin the police academy. He starts classes in the fall, and on his first day back, he's welcomed by the baseball coach and Mrs. Moreno.

They are both very kind and offers words of encouragement. The baseball coach offers Sonny access to the dugout whenever he wants to go to a fall practice game, but deep down, Sonny knows he'll just miss it too much. He doesn't think he can attend a baseball game. Not yet.

Mrs. Moreno tells him she's proud of him. She says she knew he could do it, that he'll do great, and Sonny just says he hopes he can.

Sonny excels at his full course load and homework, and work and returning home to visit his family. He is a great brother, son, uncle, and whatever he is to Lucia. In the past, perhaps he might have thought "son-in-law", but now he's just another neighborhood kid to her. It breaks his heart thinking that every time.

Sonny makes new friends, with one specific friend becoming his closest. He first sees the girl at church one Sunday, then in one of his classes the following Tuesday. She seems to recognize him too, so he goes up to her.

"Hey, did I see you at church a few days ago?" he asks.

"I think so," she says. "My name is Annie."

"Sonny," he says.

He grows close to Annie. She becomes his closest friend; his closest friend in the same city. He still has Lex.

Annie is sweet, and smart, and studying to be a journalist. She supports Sonny's new aspiration to be a police officer, and she is encouraging in almost everything else.

Sonny doesn't 'like' her, not like that. Sometimes, he thinks Annie might like him, but when he thinks about feelings and romance, he can only think about Rafael.

He thinks about Rafael a lot. Rafael's face, Rafael's body, Rafael's heart, Rafael's love. He misses Rafael.

Sonny visits Lucia after church most Sundays, after he's gone with his family and Annie. Since he knows Lucia reports back to Rafael, he makes it clear that he is not seeing anybody. And she hasn't told Sonny that Rafael is seeing anybody, either. She doesn't talk about Rafael with Sonny almost at all.

Sonny spends a lot of time with Annie. She is so kind to him, so loving, as a friend. She helps him with homework and talks to him when he's down.

He doesn't mention Rafael. He does mention that he's just gotten out of a long relationship, but not that it was with a man. He doesn't know why he doesn't say anything, and Annie never asks. It's just something that goes unsaid.


 

At the end of the semester, Sonny earns his degree and tells Annie he's moving closer to his parents.

"My parents live near yours anyway," she says. "We'll still see each other."

Sonny agrees. Annie tries to kiss him.

"Look," Sonny says, "You're a great friend, but--"

"Is this about your ex?" Annie asks.

"Yeah, I still have feelings for--"

Annie gives Sonny a little smile. "She's a lucky girl."

She?! Sonny almost screams. But he doesn't, because his phone begins to ring, thankfully. He excuses himself to answer his mother's call.


 

Rafael doesn't come home for Christmas. Instead, Lucia joins him in Boston and it breaks Sonny's heart even more. Sonny sends Rafael a Christmas card that just says, "With love, Sonny." But he receives nothing in return, not that he had expected to.

He still wants to call Rafael every day to tell him what's going on, that Sonny is accomplishing what he wanted. He feels like he is finding himself, just like he wanted. He has friends who don't know Rafael, who don't know about his past, who don't know he entire life story. He has gained his own interests, like a new love for hockey; at school, he had even joined an intramural hockey team that allowed him to play as easily or as roughly as was safe for his knee. He decides what kind of coffee he likes best, instead of just drinking whatever Rafael made for himself.

Sonny eventually wonders if he should date Annie, just to see. Just to see if he's missing anything by being hooked to Rafael, even though they're not together.

He talks that over with Lex.

"Oh, god," Lex says. "Not this again."

"What?"

"Remember when you tried to date me?"

"I did not try to--"

"You did. You thought it could turn you straight or whatever."

"I've never considered myself straight, exactly."

"I know that, and you figured it out because you started making out with Rafael."

Sonny thinks about that: making out with Rafael. Being the only person the other had ever really kissed, it's like their lips and kissing technique were made for each other. Would he even be a good kisser to anyone else?

And sex. Is sex actually good, or was it just good because of how familiar he was with Rafael?

"You're a grownup," Lex says, "Date someone if you want to. Just don't force yourself to have feelings for someone just because they're there. Don't drag Annie along just because she likes you."

"I understand," Sonny says.

So he downloads a dating app, for whatever reason. He doesn't really want to date, he just wants to...see.

It takes twenty-four hours for someone to tell him he's crazy.

"Hello?" Sonny answers Gina's call normally because he assumes he's not about to get yelled at.

"Did you really join a dating site?!"

"Uh, I'm sorry, who is this?"

"Shut up. Are you insane? What are you thinking?! Isn't it time you go back to Rafael?!"

"Come on, Gina. It's been almost a year. He probably doesn't care anymore."

"So, what? You're moving on? Without even finding out?"

"I'm taking control of my own life, okay? And how did you even find out I'm on this? You have a fiancé, you shouldn't have the app."

"I don't. A friend called me and said she saw your profile."

"Did she swipe--"

"Shut up, don't ask. I told her not to pursue you because you're obsessed with your boyfriend--"

"I don't have a boyfriend."

"Sonny, you've had a lifelong boyfriend since you were four. Get over it. Call him."

Sonny can't. He won't.

Sonny distracts himself with work and preparing to enter the police academy. It begins in February, so Sonny works out and studies everything justice-related that he can get his hands on. He is in the library almost every day, just reading, and for the first time, since he isn't forced to study, he feels like a real, responsible adult.

Sonny is proud of himself for the first time.

He wants to badly to share it with Rafael, but he doesn't.

Instead, Sonny goes on a date.

A few dates, actually.

First, there is Catherine, who is beautiful and funny, but Sonny has a hard time feeling comfortable. It is his first date, and that is obvious. He talks about Rafael too much, and at the end Catherine tells him.

"I know you just got out of a really long relationship with this guy, but just a future tip: your dates don't want to hear how in love you are with your ex."

They agree to part ways, and Sonny takes her constructive criticism to heart.

Next, he dates Seth, who is just about the hottest guy Sonny has ever seen in person--besides Rafael, of course. Seth is tall and blonde and looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch model, but he's dumb as a box of rocks and so uninteresting. Sonny breaks it off before the end of the date.

After Seth, there's Sophia, who is so sweet that Sonny can't stop smiling every time she smiles. She reminds him of Snow White, innocent and soft spoken, and he lets her kiss him at the end of the date. It's his first kiss that isn't Rafael, and even though it's wonderful, Sonny doesn't really see it going anywhere. He never hears from Sophia again.

Finally, there's Joseph, who is tall, dark, and handsome. He's a lawyer who just graduated from Columbia, but when Sonny says he's just now entering the police academy after a short time in community college, Joseph immediately begins to look down on Sonny. Sonny knows he couldn't deal with that in the long term, because even though Rafael goes to an esteemed Ivy League school, he'd never look down on Sonny for his choices. When Joseph invites Sonny back to his apartment, Sonny refuses and goes home alone.

"So, you tried it," Lex tells Sonny after his date with Joseph. "You dated other people. Can you please go back to Rafael now?"

In the short time that he dated other people, Sonny convinced himself that if Rafael still wanted him, he'd go back to him by now. He gives up the hope that Rafael will ever return.


 

At the end of April, Sonny goes to church so happy. He is nearing the end of the police academy, he finally bought a washing machine for his apartment, even though it cost him way more than he could afford, and he has Yankees tickets for the next day.

Everything is amazing. Everything is perfect.

Annie meets him outside of the church so they can sit together. She's waiting with Theresa and her son, and Sonny is so happy because he hasn't had time to see his nephew lately. The little boy jumps into his arms and Sonny squeezes him tight. It brightens his mood even more.

Church is great. Father asks for prayer for Sonny, telling the entire congregation that he will soon be one of New York's Finest. Sonny waves a hand at Father, practically begging him to stop, but he still blushes and grins like a maniac.

He is just so happy.

He leaves the church with Annie on his arm, because she is clumsy and should not wear high heels. He laughs at her when she does, but he still offers her a helping hand to get down the stairs.

She is close to him, like usual, and he wouldn't think anything of it, except that he looks down the street into the shocked face that he's missed so much. The face he hasn't seen for an entire year already.

"Rafael?" Sonny says out loud, wondering if he's imagining Rafael.

"What?" Annie asks.

Rafael looks at Sonny for a second longer, then turns around and walks away.

"H-hold on, Rafi, wait!" Sonny yells, but Rafael doesn't stop. Sonny turns to Annie. "I'll be right back."

"Sonny? Who is that?"

Sonny doesn't stop to answer, he just takes off down the street.

It takes a block for Sonny to catch up to Rafael. He doesn't dare grab Rafael, he doesn't even touch Rafael, he just runs up right behind him and begs him to stop.

"Rafi, hang on, wait, please?"

Rafael finally turns around.

"What are you doing here?" Sonny pants out.

"I have no idea."

"Did you...are you..." Sonny doesn't know how to discreetly ask if Rafael came to see him, so he just asks straight out. "Did you come to see me?"

"Yes," Rafael says, which shocks Sonny. He awkwardly looks down at his shoes. "I didn't realize you were...on a date...at church...which is...kind of weird."

Sonny laughs. He is in such a good mood that he laughs. "I'm not on a date. Annie's my friend, from school."

Rafael looks up. "School?"

"Yeah, I met her at Concordia last semester. You didn't...you didn't know I went back to school?"

Rafael shakes his head.

"I figured your mom told you. I see her every week."

Rafael looks even more shocked. "You do?"

Sonny chuckles. "She really didn't tell you?"

Rafael shakes his head. "How much has she told you about me?"

"Actually," Sonny realizes. "She doesn't tell me anything about you."

"She takes the separation seriously, apparently."

Mentioning their separation makes it a little bit awkward. Sonny scratches the back of his head while trying to think of something to say.

Finally, he comes up with, "Wanna grab a cup of coffee?"

Rafael nods.

They walk an awkward few blocks on their way to Rafael's favorite coffee shop. They don't speak, and Sonny wonders if it's because they're saving the conversation for when they sit with their coffee, or if they've run out of conversation.

"Did you leave someone at the church?" Rafael finally asks.

"Oh, shit," Sonny mutters, taking out his phone to let Annie know he's sorry and he'll explain later.

They get to the shop and find a table. It's pretty packed for being an early Sunday afternoon, and Sonny wants to go somewhere else to have more privacy, but he figures this is fine. If Rafael wanted privacy, he would've offered to take Sonny back to his house, or something.

Sonny tells Rafael to sit while he orders two coffees, one the way Rafael likes it, the other the newfound way Sonny likes it. The barista quickly pours two cups and hands them over to Sonny.

Taking a deep, nervous breath, Sonny returns to the table and sets Rafael's cup in front of him.

"Oh, thank you," Rafael says, almost startled, like Sonny kicked him out of some intense thoughts.

"So..." Sonny says, wincing because his coffee is too hot so he can't hide behind taking long sips.

He never expected his reunion with Rafael would be this silent, this awkward. He expected them to just fall into place where they left off.

Of course, they left off breaking up at the train station in Boston.

"H-how have you been?" Rafael asks.

"Good, actually, thank you for asking. How about you?"

"Good too, I guess."

"Is...everything okay?" Sonny asks after the 'I guess'.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just..."

"Yeah?"

Rafael slowly reaches over to touch Sonny's hand. He doesn't look at Sonny's face, he just watches his own hand travel across the table. "It's been a year."

Sonny gulps. "I know."

"I was just wondering...hoping--"

"I didn't realize there was a time limit on this," Sonny says without really meaning to. He always expected to say yes as soon as Rafael came back, not question him. But this reunion is too weird.

Rafael takes his hand back. "I'm sorry--"

"We don't even know each other right now, Rafi. Walking over here alone was so awkward, was it not awkward?"

"It was--"

"So let's just...let's just talk, okay? Tell me how you've been, at least. How is school?"

"I'm almost done," Rafael says. "I graduate at the end of May."

"Holy shit, really? I thought you had another year to go."

"Nope, I'm done. And you? You mentioned school."

"Yeah, I earned an associates degree from Concordia in December. It's not a big shot law degree, but--"

"No, Sonny, don't do that, please? I'm proud of you and your accomplishments. What are you doing with the degree? Did you get a job or anything? If you didn't, that's okay--"

"Actually, I'm almost done with the police academy."

Rafael's eyes grow wide. "Wait, really?"

Sonny cracks a smile. "Yeah."

Rafael's smile grows as wide as his surprised eyes. "That's amazing, Sonny! Really, that's fantastic! Congratulations!"

"Thank you. Hey, my parents are throwing me a party in a few weeks once I finish. You should come."

"Absolutely. Wow, Sonny. Just wow. I'm so proud of you."

Rafael's smile is happy, genuine. It's the smile he's looked at for his entire life, but somehow it has changed. It has grown up, but it is still familiar.

And just like that, Sonny feels like they're the old Sonny and Rafael again. Or maybe a new Sonny and Rafael. A new Sonny and Rafael who have their own lives and still so much to learn about each other, like one of Sonny's blind dates from the app. Sure, Rafael knows his entire life story, and he knows Rafael's, but that all seems like it was a lifetime ago. A lot has happened since their split, and Sonny has grown so much. He feels like a new man, and Rafael feels like an old friend.

Who he's been in love with since he was a kid. Who he's kissed and held and slept next to. Who he's made love to.

He pushes that thought from his mind, though.

They spend two hours at the coffee shop talking about anything and everything. Gina is now engaged, Bella has a boyfriend who Sonny hates, Theresa is unfortunately getting divorced.

"That's too bad," Rafael says. "I liked Rob."

"He was a good guy, 'til he slept with his secretary."

Rafael agrees that that would make one a bad guy.

Sonny tells Rafael about all the odd jobs he's had in the past year, from this coffee shop to the church gift shop to a campus tour guide to a campus student services representative.

"You've had quite the year," Rafael says.

"Yeah, I guess. What about you, though? Anything besides school?"

"Would it be cliche to say I've been miserable without you?" Rafael asks.

Sonny laughs. "A little straightforward, maybe."

"I just want to be honest. And, okay, maybe miserable is dramatic. But it hasn't been the same. Especially since my mother refuses to talk about you."

"Yeah, she didn't talk about you to me, either. But I'm glad we get to catch up like this."

Rafael smiles. "Me too."

They walk home a long while later. They're silent again, but this time it's more comfortable.

Rafael suddenly pauses and turns to Sonny. "Okay, I need to know. Who was that girl? Is she your...your..."

"My girlfriend?" Sonny supplies, because Rafael obviously isn't going to say the g-word.

"I'm sorry, if she is, I'm happy for you, I promise. Just tell me now before I get my hopes up."

"Rafi, relax. She's not my girlfriend."

Rafael looks visibly relieved.

"She's my wife."

Rafael doesn't do or say anything. Sonny thinks he's having an aneurism. It makes Sonny laugh loudly.

"I'm kidding! I'm just kidding, Rafi, geez."

Rafael sighs again. "God, don't do that."

Sonny still laughs. "I told you, I met her at school. She's just my friend."

"Alright," Rafael accepts.

They continue walking.

"In the interest of being honest," Sonny says. "I have dated. Nothing serious, I've just been on a few dates. With different people. Men and women."

Rafael nods. "Thank you for being honest."

"What about you?"

"Do I sound completely lame if I say I haven't dated anybody?"

Sonny shakes his head. "No, of course not."

"There was one guy, in California. I went on one date with him, but flaked out after he kissed me."

"Wait," Sonny says, pinpointing 'California'. "When did you go to California?"

Rafael laughs. "Oh, that's an entirely different story.

"What made you want to date?" Rafael asks, changing the subject. "Did you just find people at the grocery store, or--"

"I downloaded a dating app," Sonny admits.

Rafael slowly grins, then breaks into a laugh. "You're serious?"

"It's not funny!" Sonny pouts, but starts to laugh too. "I just wanted to see, you know?"

"Find anyone good?" Rafael asks.

Sonny checks his watch. "Actually, I have a date in twenty minutes--"

Rafael reaches over and pinches him.

"Ow! Okay, want me to tell you nobody compares to you? And I've been waiting and waiting for you to return to me?"

"Me return?" Rafael asks, a glint of humor in his voice. "As I recall, you left me."

"And still, you returned."

Rafael cracks a smile. "I missed you, okay?"

"I missed you too, Rafi."

Rafael's smile fully grows.

"Hey," Sonny says, "What are you doing tomorrow? When do you go back to Boston?"

"Not until Wednesday, why?"

"Wanna go to the Yankee game tomorrow? I have tickets."

Rafael still smiles. "I'd like that."

"Great," Sonny says.

They continue down the street.

Right before they get to Rafael's house, Sonny asks, "You ever been on a date to Yankee Stadium?"

Rafael just rolls his eyes and leads Sonny into the house.

Chapter Text

Sonny had missed laughing with Rafael.

Thinking back, they didn't laugh together for a long time towards the end of their relationship, not like they used to. They weren't the same. Their kisses weren't the same, their conversations weren't the same, their love wasn't the same. They grew apart while living under the same roof.

Now they have a year to make up for, and of course Sonny still has intense feelings for Rafael, he always will. So his favorite thing, at the moment, is making Rafael laugh.

At the baseball game, Sonny made Rafael laugh by biting his hot dog while he was about to take a bite.

"Sonny!" Rafael had cried, laughing insanely, because Sonny was trying to be silly.

Going home, Sonny danced on the empty subway car, reenacting Under the Sea in Sebastian's Jamaican accent. It was terrible, but Rafael still laughed.

Taking Rafael home, Sonny made Rafael laugh by leaning in for a kiss and then...not kissing him.

"Sonny!" Rafael yelled as Sonny exited Rafael's property and ran across the street. But he laughed.

Sonny loved every minute of it.

The next day, Sonny has plans to meet Rafael for breakfast at one of their favorite little diners, and he is so excited. They planned to have breakfast because Sonny has to go to school at noon, but the morning is theirs.

Sonny is dressing (in a black henley t-shirt that is sure to impress Rafael) when his phone rings. Sonny picks it up and answers without checking the I.D., because he assumes it's Rafael.

"Hello?" he answers in a cheery voice.

"Oh good, you're alive."

Sonny frowns. "Oh, Annie, hi!"

"Yeah, hi. You disappear on Sunday, I didn't hear from you yesterday. What he heck, Sonny?"

"Something came up, okay--"

"And then...Theresa told me something I wish I hadn't heard. Is it true, Sonny? Is he your ex?"

Sonny hears her tone, can tell her shock is about his ex being a man.

"Yes?" Sonny says. "Is that--"

Annie snorts. "I should have known when you wouldn't kiss me back that you're freakin' gay. How could you do this to me?"

"Do what--"

"You lied, Sonny, and you're lying to all the people at church who love you. Homosexuality is not God's will, Sonny, it's a disgusting disease--"

"H-hang on," Sonny stops her, growing hurt. "First of all, I'm not gay. I'm bisexual--"

"Oh, and that's better? So now you're just horny for anybody?"

"Annie, what the fuck--"

"Don't use that language, Sonny. You should have told me this from the start, so I wouldn't have wasted so much time with you. You need help. You should go to church right now and ask forgiveness--"

"Wow, stop. I do not need help--"

"Do your parents know? Would you willingly hurt them like this? Your whole family? What would your nephew think?"

Sonny is just angry now. "Don't bring my family into this."

"What, do they support your choices? Or do they just tell you they do?"

Sonny knows his parents would never lie to him about their love for him and Rafael.

"Annie, just stop. You don't know what you're talking about."

"I'll be praying for you, for all of you. Just stay away from me."

After this conversation, Sonny knows he won't have any problem with that.

In anger, Sonny ends the call and throws his phone onto the floor. He's never encountered that kind of blatant homophobia before. Even in high school, kids teased him for a while and were rude, but they never brought his family into it or said they'd "pray for him". Nobody stopped being his friend after finding out about him and Rafael.

Sonny is so disgusted and hurt. There is nothing he could do, he isn't going to change Annie's mind, but to have such hate centered towards him was jarring.

Sonny can't stop thinking about his family, though. They wouldn't be lying to him about their support, would they? You can't fake love like that.

Pushing the thoughts aside, or trying to, Sonny grabs his phone again and heads out the door.

Sonny walks the full mile to the diner, where usually he'd hop on the bus. He is just so angry. He doesn't want to talk to anyone, doesn't want to see anyone, he just wants to walk in peace and fume on his own.

He doesn't feel much better when he enters the restaurant, and now he is sweaty from his walk. He spots Rafael quickly and goes to the table.

Rafael looks worried.

"Hey," he greets. "Are you okay? I tried to call you."

Sonny didn't notice his phone ringing, maybe the ringer is on too low. He checks his phone and finds two calls and text from Rafael.

"I was worried," Rafael explains. "I was going to go get you, but I...don't know where your apartment is."

"Yeah, no, I'm sorry, I should've called. I..." Sonny shakes his head, still in disbelief of what has happened. "My friend Annie, the girl from the church, called and, like, chewed me out because I never told her you're a guy."

Rafael looks confused. "Uh--"

"No, I told her I'd just gotten out of a long relationship," Sonny frowns deeper. "I'm sorry, that wording is harsh. But anyway, I never told her my relationship was with a guy. And she just...yelled at me."

"Like, because she has feelings for you, or--"

"No, because she's a homophobic asshole."

Rafael sighs. "Oh, geez, I'm sorry, Sonny."

"It's not your fault, I just...I've never been hated on like that. You know, in high school, kids would tease me, but--"

"People teased you?"

"Well, yeah. When I was a freshman. Before you and I even got together."

Rafael looks angry. "Sonny, I'm sorry, I didn't know--"

Sonny waves a hand. "It was, like, ten years ago, Rafi, relax. It was no big deal. This actually angers me."

Rafael reaches over to take Sonny's hand. He lets Rafael, he loves it, and he just strokes his thumb over Rafael's knuckles.

Sonny manages to push the fight with Annie from his mind enough to enjoy his breakfast, but there is an overhanging of guilt. Is he hurting his family? If he ends up with Rafael for good, is he hurting his mother by not giving her a grandkid with his DNA? Surely not. Theresa's got a kid, Gina and Bella can have kids.

After breakfast, Sonny heads to school. He has shooting practice today, which is good, because he has anger to get out. Of course, doing his police work while angry could be disastrous, so on the subway to school he listens to music to calm down. Being angry toward Annie isn't worth it. He realizes he doesn't need a friend with that kind of negativity in his life.

Sonny does amazing at the shooting range, because he is becoming one of the best shooters in the class. Having never shot a gun before, he has learned quickly and cares the most about the safety of it. He knows when to take the safety off, when to shoot, and he's never mistakenly shot anyone during practice missions with their air-soft guns, unlike many of his other "macho" classmates.

Sonny loves the academy more than he expected to. At first, he had joined because it seemed like the right thing to do, but he quickly fell in love with it. Doing something serious where instructors weren't going to take his class-clown bullshit, Sonny realized he loves learning and becoming a better student. He's learned how to really study and take tests like a true student.

Plus, a big part of the academy is physical fitness. After his initial physical and being cleared to exercise the way he once did, Sonny grew obsessed with it again. He loves running, and lifting, and especially playing basketball. Usually, a group of people he'd met at the academy get together on weekends to play rounds and rounds of basketball. Sonny loves it.

Sonny is very excited to become a police officer. Sure, he's got the big tests to take, but he is sure he'll pass and be in. He is so excited to get his shield.

When training ends for the day, Sonny doesn't really want to go to his parent's house for dinner, because he'd probably accidentally ask them if he's a huge disappointment to them. And tonight is his last night with Rafael before he has to return to Harvard. So, on his way home, he calls Rafael.

"Hello?" Rafael answers happily.

"Hey, Rafi," Sonny says, "Lets do somethin'."

"Okay, what?"

"Well, my mom can't stop us from going into the city anymore. What'd'ya say?"

Rafael laughs. "Okay, sure."

Sonny tells Rafael to meet him at the nearest subway station, then he hangs up and anxiously walks to said station. He has no idea what they're going to do, but it will be fun.

Sonny's first order of business when entering the city is getting a hot dog, because nothing beats a Manhattan street hot dog. Rafael just laughs at his need to eat one before they find somewhere to have a proper dinner.

They choose pizza from a place where Dominick Sr. used to take them as kids. It's close to Central Park, so they get their pizza to go and find a spot in the park to sit.

Sonny loves it. Seeing the families run around, seeing the sun still shining brightly through the trees, he feels at ease. He feels at home, despite having never lived in the city before. Maybe it's Rafael who is making him feel at home.

Rafael, who is still laughing at every silly thing he does after all these years of getting used to Sonny's humor.

Rafael, who is smiling at him as if Sonny didn't leave him a year ago.

Rafael, who is obviously afraid to hold Sonny's hand or touch him in any way.

Rafael, who is his home. In his mind, in his heart, in his life, Rafael is home.

They walk around for hours. Sonny gets Rafael an ice cream cone and takes a bite out of it before Rafael can, but Rafael just laughs.

Eventually, the sun gets low and they both yawn. Sonny knows it's time to head home, for Rafael has an early train ride tomorrow. But he's having way too much fun to leave Rafael.

He mentions his desire to keep the evening going. "We're just having so much fun. I wish you didn't have to go back tomorrow."

"You, uhm..." Rafael diverts his gaze. "Never mind."

"No, what?" Sonny asks.

"Nothing, it was a bad idea."

Sonny squeezes his hand. "Just tell me, please?"

"You could spend the night with me."

Sonny slowly smiles, because Rafael is so cute when he's embarrassed. If he could blush, Sonny knows he would be blushing right now.

"You want me to spend the night with you?" Sonny jokes, "You gotta crush on me or something, Rafi?"

Rafael rolls his eyes. "No, I don't have a crush on you. I'm not twelve."

"Oh, that's funny because you so had a crush on me when you were twelve."

"Don't be gross, you were nine!"

Sonny laughs. Rafael joins him.

But Rafael adds, "And I don't think it's considered a crush when you're in love with the other person."

Sonny slowly pauses. He plays with Rafael's fingers in his, trying to think of what to say next. Of course he is still in love with Rafael; he was during their separation, and the last few days enjoying each other has solidified his feelings. He loves Rafael, just as he always has.

Sonny doesn't really know what to say. To just say, "I love you too," seems anticlimactic and boring. But, they haven't even kissed yet, so Sonny says nothing and leans over to kiss Rafael instead.

It's slow, it's sweet, it's warm, it's everything Sonny had missed. He still has no idea if kissing is actually good or if it's just his familiarity with Rafael, but boy does it feel good. Sonny's arms move to loop around Rafael's neck and Rafael wraps his arms around Sonny's skinny waist, and they melt together as if ice cream cones in the summer heat. Their love is conveyed.

As much as Sonny would love continuing to make out on the street, he knows they should get home. So, he backs away first, giving Rafael a few encouraging pecks before completely letting go and taking Rafael's hand again.

They go to Rafael's house, where Lucia is already asleep. They go straight to Rafael's bedroom, where they strip down into their boxers and fall into bed. Sonny would probably try something, but he is so content just holding Rafael close to him that he doesn't want to part for any reason. And it's just too soon. They just reunited.

So, they fall into a very satisfying sleep.


 

Rafael wakes up first and finds he has two hours before he needs to get to the train. He doesn't know what time Sonny needs to go to school, or if he has any other plans, but Sonny didn't mention setting an alarm the night before, so he lets the younger man sleep. And Sonny just looks so sweet and peaceful that he doesn't want to disturb him.

Rafael goes downstairs and can already smell coffee, which means Lucia is awake. Rafael is nervous to let her know that Sonny spent the night, but there is no reason to be nervous. They're both adults, they know what they're doing.

"Hola, Papi," Lucia greets. "I love when you're under this roof."

Rafael smiles as Lucia kisses his cheek. "I missed being home."

"I missed it, too. And Sonny missed you."

Rafael bashfully grins. He reaches into the cabinet and grabs two mugs.

"Two?" Lucia questions, "Why do you need--"

Her eyes grow wide as Rafael pours two cups of coffee.

"Is Sonny upstairs?" Lucia whispers, as if speaking normally will wake Sonny, or something.

"Yes," Rafael admits.

Lucia pats his back. "Hallelujah!" she cries. "My boys are back together!"

"Ssshhh," Rafael says now. "We're not quite...I don't know, it's complicated."

"But you're happy! I can see it, you're finally happy."

Rafael smiles. "I am happy."

Lucia kisses his cheek again.

Rafael takes the mugs upstairs and sets them on his bedside table. Sonny is laying on his stomach with the blankets bunched under his waist, so Rafael leans over him and sucks kisses up his spine, loving the heat Sonny's skin is giving off. He could melt chocolate on Sonny's skin.

Sonny stirs awake and hums when Rafael gets to his neck.

"Hey baby," Sonny mumbles, voice dripping with drowsiness.

Rafael's stomach flutters. He hasn't heard Sonny call him 'baby' in too long, even before Sonny left last year, they weren't close enough to use cute pet names.

"What time do you have to go?" Rafael asks, now laying over Sonny.

"I have to be in by 10," Sonny says. "Gotta run home for my stuff, though. What time is it?"

"Just after 7," Rafael answers.

"Mmm, I have time," Sonny says, snuggling into Rafael's pillow again.

Rafael chuckles and moves to get off Sonny to let him sleep.

"Where're you going?" Sonny asks, sounding disappointed when Rafael sits up.

"I have to get ready."

"You don't have to go for two hours. Get back here and cuddle me."

Sonny grabs Rafael's arm and pulls Rafael to lay almost over him again. Rafael just happily holds Sonny close.



When they get up, Rafael quickly gets ready so they can go visit the Carisi's before he has to catch his train. Rafael hasn't seen them yet, because he hasn't been ready to see them, but now he is ready.

They walk in holding hands, and it makes Deb enthusiastically scream just like she had when they first started dating all those years ago. She hugs them both, kissing them on their cheeks and just beaming.

Dominick Sr. hugs Rafael too, adding, "We've missed you, son." Which makes Rafael almost cry. He missed his family.

But he doesn't cry, because now he and Sonny are...something, again, and everything is okay.


 

Sonny doesn't take Rafael to the train station because he needs to go to his apartment for his school stuff. When he walks in, he hear the television blaring loudly, and he grows confused. Did he leave the television on before leaving again?

Nobody is watching the television, so Sonny grows very confused. Then, he turns into the kitchen and nearly screams.

"Theresa! What the hell are you doing here?!"

"I'm meeting Rob here to pick up Charlie," she casually answers.

"What? Here?!"

"Sometimes he sees your clothes laying out and I tell him they belong to my boyfriend."

"That's...disgusting, thank you."

Theresa just laughs. "Enough about me, where have you been?"

"Nowhere," Sonny mumbles, going to the refrigerator for orange juice.

Theresa pokes his side. "Where?"

Theresa catches a ticklish spot, so Sonny jumps.

"Just shut up, okay?"

Theresa pokes his side again. "You slept with Rafael, didn't you?"

"I did not sleep with Rafael!"

"You slept in his bed, though!"

"So?!"

Theresa keeps poking him. "Sonny and Rafi sittin' in a tree--"

Sonny rolls his eyes. "I'm going to take a shower. Please don't let your ex in my home."

"I'll wait to leave until you see Charlie."

Sonny suddenly remembers his conversation with Annie, and figures if anyone would tell him the truth about his family, it would be Theresa. So, he pauses before entering his bathroom and turns back.

"Hey, 'Rese, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Have Mom and Dad ever...did they ever..." Sonny frowns, unable to find the wording. Finally, he blurts out, "They've always been cool with me and Rafi being together, right?"

"Yeah. What do you mean?"

"Like, they've never wanted me to have a girlfriend or marry a girl, right? Like, there's no issue 'cause Rafi's a guy, right?"

"Of course not, Sonny...why are you asking this?"

Sonny shrugs. "No reason."

"Oh shit, this is because of Annie, huh? Yeah, she got pissed when I told her you're with Rafi. If you ask me, you don't need that kind of person in your life. Mom and Dad are way happy with you and Rafi. And they always have been. They're so happy Rafi's back."

"You're sure?"

"Hello, they took you on your first date with him when you were six. You think that would've raised some sexuality red flags?"

Sonny chuckles. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Don't sweat it, okay? Rafi is the best son-in-law they'll ever have."

Sonny rolls his eyes. "Alright, I'm leaving now."

"Oh, are you going to propose soon, actually? Get married while my son is still small and cute, please! So he can be the ring bearer!"

"Goodbye, 'Rese."

"Oh! Can I plan your wedding?! Please!"

"Goodbye!" Sonny yells from his bathroom.

But marrying Rafael...doesn't sound so bad. It's never sounded bad, not when they would play house as kids or when he learned that two kings can marry each other.

Maybe they should officially get back together first. Maybe live in the same city.

They have a lot to talk about, but Sonny is happy. 

 

Chapter Text

Rafael Barba is a natural worrier.

As a baby, he worried. As a baby, he needed that affection and reassurance that only Lucia could provide. He was soothed with encouraging words like, "Está bien,"; his mother telling him everything was alright. Before he even knew the meaning of the words, he accepted them as truth from his mother's lips.

As a toddler, he worried. As a toddler, his worries were about the neatness of his toys and the order of which he ate food. He always played with his toys in order; for example, he would sort stuffed animals by animal or color and play with them that way. When it came to food, he ate neatly and always ate fruit before vegetables or meats. It was peculiar for such a tot.

As a child, he worried. As a child, he worried about Lucia and Abuela. He worried about where their next meal was coming from and who was picking him up from school that day. He learned how to really worry, as his life was chaotic from the start. With Lucia working so many jobs and relying on so many different baby sitters, it was understandably difficult for the young child not to worry.

As a teen, he worried. As a teen, he worried about school and Sonny and Abuela's health and Lucia's bills being paid and his appearance and fitting in and college and eating right to not get acne and exercising to be able to keep up with Sonny and acting mature enough since his best friend was still a little kid and...

So much more.

As an adult, he worries still. As an adult, he worries about his own bills as well as Lucia's, he still worries about Abuela's health, he still worries about Sonny, he still worries about school and his future.

But one thing that has happened his entire life and that Rafael still hasn't grasped is that there is no need to worry. Everything works out as it should.

He worried about Sonny's baseball career ending, only for the new door of the police academy to be opened for Sonny, and that was great.

He worried about their breakup, but now they are...something. And he is happy.

He worried about taking the bar exam, but now he's taken the test and there's nothing he can do about the results but wait for them.

He worried for seven years about living in Boston on his own, but now Harvard is over and he can worry about the possibility of moving back to the Bronx.

Should the opportunity arise.


Rafael should know by now that worrying gets him nothing but stomach aches, which is why he is currently dry-heaving into the toilet while on the phone with his mother.

"Papito, relax--"

"I can't relax," Rafael says between hiccups. "My lease is up in less than two weeks, which means I need to resign it or pack, and what if I resign but I don't find a job here? And then I have to pay the fee to get out of it. And where can I get a job? I don't have enough connections, and what if I didn't even pass the bar?" Rafael whines.

"The simple solution is to move home, Rafi. I've been telling you. Come back. Get a job here."

Moving back home...

Sounds dreadful.

He just graduated from Harvard Law, for god's sake! He should not be moving back home!

Lucia continues, "Do you want to live in Boston forever? No, you want to be in New York. The first step is coming back to New York!"

She's got a point, Rafael thinks.

"And," Lucia goes on, "Sonny is here. Sonny is on at the police station, he's not going to go to Boston for you, again. Sonny is a New York boy through and through."

Rafael runs a hand through his hair. "You're right."

"Please come home," Lucia practically begs. "I'll go to Boston this weekend to pack your things."

Rafael begins to breathe heavily again.

"Papito! Relax! Don't worry!"

"Okay," Rafael pants out as he tries not to worry.


Lucia arrives on Saturday morning, just as she said she would have. Since her car isn't that big, she had borrowed the Carisi's SUV, because it is significantly larger. Rafael is almost excited when he sees it pull up, but remembers Sonny was too busy to join Lucia.

They get to work right away. Lucia begins to pack his tiny kitchen while Rafael tackles his bedroom. He doesn't have many belongings, and after Sonny left, he became good at packing quickly.

Rafael tries not to dwell on Sonny leaving anymore, since Sonny is back. They talk on the phone almost every night, when Sonny isn't too tired after training.

They don't talk about their relationship, not yet. They are still getting to know each other. They are still trying to grow together, get used to each other.

Rafael just likes Sonny, which is important. To love is great, but to like Sonny, to admire him, and care about him, and to feel butterflies when he sees Sonny calling, is wonderful. Rafael doesn't think he's liked Sonny is a very long time, and he realizes that because of Justine and Reynaldo. They love, they love grandly, but once Justine told Rafael, "I like Rey so much." And Rafael got it. He didn't like Sonny, not as he used to.

Now he likes Sonny, but he has realized he doesn't need to love everything about him. Sonny has his quirks that he's just always accepted, ever since he was little. Like Sonny immediately taking off his shoes and socks when he gets home. As kids, his mom would pick up his socks and throw them in the laundry. Rafael is sure his dorm room at college was perpetually covered with socks because Deb was not there to pick them up. And Rafael just accepted it because it was what Sonny did. And now, he realizes that he doesn't need to love that about Sonny. He's allowed to tell Sonny to pick up his socks because that's disgusting.

He's allowed to not need to talk to Sonny constantly, or even every day. But he likes to hear from Sonny now. He likes to tell Sonny about his day, and he likes he hear about Sonny's, no matter how boring his stories may be.

It's wonderful.

Rafael had felt this way before, with Kerry in high school. There was the stage of learning about each other, learning about himself, figuring out his sexuality, being okay with it. There were butterflies and first kisses and first dates.

With Sonny, in high school, there was nothing to learn about each other. They knew everything, the ins and outs, the quirks, the interests.

Now, it is both like that and not. He knows Sonny, of course, but now Sonny is an adult who has his own interests, which is fun. Sonny now likes crime shows and cooking and plenty of sports besides baseball, which used to be the be all end all of sports. Sonny likes driving and coffee with cream and dressing nicely instead of just wearing basketball shorts and backwards caps.

Rafael has enjoyed getting to know Sonny again. And he likes him a lot.

There was always the possibility of both of them not liking each other again. There was the possibility of reuniting and realizing they'd grown too differently and parting for good. And then, what? Never speaking again? Or just be kids who used to know each other? Running into each other once a year at the bodega down the street and awkwardly saying hello? Growing up, getting married, running into each other with their kids and husbands or wife and saying, "I grew up across the street from this guy. What's it been, twenty years? Well, take care!"

Rafael went into their reunion wondering what he'd find. He wondered how different Sonny would be, if he would be different. He wondered if Sonny would even give him the chance, if Sonny would like him again, if Sonny cared for him still.

He still worries Sonny may not want him after all. They haven't gotten back together officially, they haven't had sex yet, which is fine, but it still makes Rafael feel a little bit insecure about it.

Rafael spends the weekend calling Harvard contacts while taking breaks from packing. Most of his friends had jobs lined up already, and he has no idea why he didn't get a jump on that, but he didn't, and now he has nothing to do. He interned already, but they didn't offer him a full time job.

Finally, they're ready to leave Boston, so Rafael removes his apartment key from his ring and they leave. He goes back to the Bronx with nowhere to go.



Rafael checks the bar exam results almost every day. After the second week, there's still no word, and Rafael begins to worry about his scores again. What if he failed? What if he sucks? What if he wasted all that time in law school and it won't pay off?

Almost a month passes and Rafael is ready to give up on everything. He lives with his mother, he still doesn't have a boyfriend, and he still doesn't have a job.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Lucia tells him one morning. "Go outside! Go to the park, go somewhere! Call Sonny--"

Rafael slumps into a chair. "He's at work, you know, because he's a normal adult who has his own apartment and a career."

It's been a month of this. Lucia clearly can't take it anymore.

"Well, I like living with you, Papito, even if you're grumpy half the time. Why don't you call Abuela and ask if she needs anything?"

Rafael nods. "Yeah, I'll try to at least make myself useful."

"Maybe you can make up an emergency so you can see Sonny while he works."

"Well, first of all, making up emergencies is illegal. And how would I know the officer I get would be Sonny? 'Hi, yes, I have a fake emergency but I really want to see Officer Carisi, you know the one with dark blonde hair and cute dimples?'"

Lucia chuckles. "I'm only trying to help. Here," she grabs her purse and digs in her wallet. She pulls out an old photo. "A photo that you can look at when you miss him."

Rafael takes the offered piece of paper and laughs when he sees it's Sonny's second grade picture. Blonde hair perfectly combed, blue eyes sparkling, dimples deep, teeth missing, and the collar of his dress shirt popped adorably.

"Why do you have this?" Rafael asks.

"He gave it to me when he was little. I don't know why, I just always kept it."

"Do you even have a picture of me in there?"

Lucia looks in her wallet again. "Uhm--"

"I always knew you liked Sonny more than me."

Lucia smiles at him, but doesn't deny it.

"I have to go," she says instead. Lucia kisses his cheek as he walks passed him to leave the room.

"Thanks for not denying it!" he yells from his spot still in the kitchen.

Rafael stares at the picture a while longer before he figures he had better do something. Going to his Abuela's house isn't a bad idea. At least she will feed him, and he can dig through her change jar to gather enough money for a cup of coffee later.

Rafael takes a long shower to relax and to try not to think for a while. It helps, because he gets out of the shower feeling clearheaded and refreshed.

Except that his phone is ringing loudly through the bathroom.

Annoyed out of his thoughts, Rafael grabs his phone and is ready to chew out whoever is calling. However, reading the I.D., he thinks that would be a terrible idea. It is Jessica Clayton from the law firm he worked at a few summers ago. He hadn't completely lost touch with her, but he usually only called her when he needed his research papers checked or something.

Confused, he answers.

"H-hello?"

"Where the hell have you been? I've called you six times. I never call anyone six times."

"Uh--"

"I don't care. Did you pass?"

Rafael grows even more confused. "What?" he asks.

"The bar! Did you--have you even checked your results? God damn it, Barba. Check and call me right back."

Rafael doesn't even bother dressing. He runs through the house, still half wet, to his laptop in his bedroom. He quickly punches in his I.D. number and closes his eyes while the page loads.

He prays. Rafael hasn't personally prayed in a very long time, and not seriously. But now, he felt suddenly very needy of God's gifts.

Rafael takes a slow, deep breath.

He opens his eyes.

He passed.

He passed the bar exam.

He is a lawyer.

"Holy shit," he mumbles out loud. He grabs his phone again and immediately wants to call his mom and Sonny and Abuela, but Jessica gave strict instructions to call her right back.

She answers on the second ring. Instead of greeting him, and says, "I need an answer now. I'm moving to the Bronx D.A.'s office and I want you to go with me."

"Wh-me?! You want...me--"

"Yes or no!"

"I--geez, yes!"

"Okay, I'll call you back."

Jessica hangs up.

Rafael sits back in his chair and takes a deep breath. He just passed the bar and got a job in a minute.

Did he get a job? What kind of job? She didn't give him any answers, but the Bronx D.A.'s office! It could be any job; being a young lawyer in a D.A.'s office is a dream come true.

Now, Rafael calls Lucia. He quickly tells her everything, because he is excited, and she tells him she knew everything would work out, just short of an "I told you so!"

Rafael feels a newfound confidence suddenly. He has a job! He has a path to take! And now he wants his damn boyfriend back.

So, he calls Sonny.

"Hey, Rafi, what's up? You caught me at a good time, I'm on my lunch."

"Oh, good. I just wanted to ask...do you want to go out with me tonight?"

"Yeah," Sonny nonchalantly answers. "What do you want to--"

"No," Rafael stops him because he needs to make sure they're on the same page. "Just to be clear, I want to take you out on a date. Like, a real date. I want to go somewhere nice because I passed the bar and I want to celebrate. And I want you to look cute, and I'll wear a tie, and--"

"Wait, you passed the bar?!"

"Oh, yeah--"

"Jesus Christ, Rafi, that's amazing! I can't believe you didn't lead with that, that's huge news."

"Well, you know what? I am happy and I want to go on a date with you, which is one of my favorite things to do."

Sonny laughs. "Okay, baby," he says, which is still rare but so lovely. Until Sonny teases, "You wanna go on a date with me, Rafi."

Rafael knows he's teasing, but he still says, "I do," as confidently as he can.

"Okay," Sonny says sweetly. "Pick me up at 7."

Rafael agrees and hangs up.

Rafael sits in his chair for a few minutes longer, just thinking. Everything is working out. Suddenly, in just minutes, everything has turned around. Everything is okay again. Everything is right.


 

That night on their date, Rafael has no problem holding Sonny's hand. He has no problem placing his hand on the small of Sonny's back as he opens the door for Sonny. He has no problem drinking wine, because he did get some congratulatory money from his Abuela when he visited. He has no problem making pleasant conversation, talking to Sonny about anything and everything just like they used to. He has no problem kissing Sonny soundly when he drops him off. And finally, he has no problem letting Sonny go, because the promise of tomorrow in their growing relationship is guaranteed between them for the first time since reuniting.

And Rafael isn't worried for the first time in his life.

 

Chapter Text

Sonny loves his job. He loves everything about it; he loves the new friends he's made, he loves patrolling the streets of his hometown, he loves his partner, even though he's a crotchety older man who has no patience for Sonny. Sonny thinks he's the greatest.

Sonny's been working for about a month and it's going great. He hasn't encountered anything particularly exciting yet, but there's time. He's in no rush. Going on simple calls is good for now.

He's just having fun. He has fun having a responsibility, getting coffee first thing in the morning, paying his bills, just generally being grown up.

Sonny likes hanging out with his new friends, too. They're his first real grown up friends, so they go to bars and don't have curfews. That's really fun, because he doesn't have to answer to anyone. He doesn't have to keep quiet while stumbling home in the middle of the night; it's just that on Saturday nights he has to try not to be too hungover the next day so he can go to church with his parents. That's not a mistake he plans to make more than once. Wearing sunglasses all through mass is not easily forgiven.

Sonny likes to go out though, with his many friends. There's James, who hits on everyone when he's drunk; Sara, who wants nothing more than to meet Sonny's almost-boyfriend; Kieth, who is very quiet but dances like a madman; Megan, who is the smartest person he's ever met; and Vanessa, who makes Sonny nervous because she is so beautiful, but also because she looks like Rafael a little bit.

Tonight, they decide to hit a bar closer to Sonny's parent's house, which makes him nervous because he still feels like he needs to be ashamed of drinking alcohol.

"My parents' house is a few blocks away," Sonny lets the group know as they sit at a table.

"Doesn't your boyfriend live across the street from your parents?!" Sara excitedly asks. "Call him!"

Sonny laughs. "No, no, he wouldn't--and also, he's not my boyfriend, remember? It's complicated."

James leans over Vanessa to get into Sonny's space. "You mean you're still single?"

Vanessa pushes him back to his stool. "You're not even drunk yet, what the hell?"

Sonny just laughs. He probably wouldn't say no to James, if he didn't have Rafael. Whatever he has with Rafael.

What he has with Rafael is dates, and a few kisses here and there, but no sex and no sleeping together. And that's fine, sure, but Sonny is getting restless. He just wants Rafael, especially since Rafael passed the bar and got his job and gained this new, sexy confidence that Sonny loves. Rafael easily grabs his hand, and pulls him in for a kiss in public, and easily says everything he's thinking now. The next step is obviously having sex. And Sonny wants it. He wants it bad.

The friends eat and drink and have a generally great time, just like they usually do. Sonny's never had a group of friends like this; in high school it was pretty much just him and Lex and Rafael, when he was available. In his first round of college, he had baseball buddies, but they weren't allowed to drink alcohol, and he was afraid of breaking the rules, so he never hung out with them. These friends are fun, and he gets along with each of them greatly.

Sonny gets super drunk by the end of the night. He forgets that he has to go to church the next day, so he isn't worried about it. What he wants is to see Rafael.

Instead of calling, Sonny gets a cab to drive him the few blocks to Rafael's house, as he cannot be trusted to walk.

Checking his phone, he finds it is just past 2 in the morning, and banging on the door would be disastrous. So, even though he couldn't walk straight the few blocks he needed to travel, he thinks it's a good idea to climb the big tree to Rafael's window.

Climbing the tree has gotten easier since he's grown to his highest height, but it is still difficult when it is dark and when he is drunk. Sonny isn't the most coordinated with his feet on a good day, but drunk? Forget it.

So, after falling out of the tree three times, and giggling like a maniac the entire time, he finally gets onto the roof next to Rafael's window. He crawls as carefully as he can, pausing at Rafael's window and trying to lift it.

It doesn't budge.

Confused, Sonny tries again and again, but it still doesn't open.

Instead of calling, or climbing down and going home, Sonny knocks on the window, first delicately, then roughly when Rafael doesn't answer. He laughs when he almost slips, but soon Rafael is there to open the window.

Sonny leans into the room as soon as the window is up. "Hey, baby!" he cries, right in Rafael's face.

Rafael rubs his eyes. "Sonny? What the hell are you doing?"

Sonny struggles to climb in and gather his balance.

"Are you drunk?" Rafael asks as Sonny almost flops over while toeing off his shoes.

Sonny says nothing, but instead jumps at Rafael and wraps his arms around Rafael's neck.

"I wanna have sex Rafi, and I wanna have it with you!"

Rafael laughs and pushes at Sonny's hips. Sonny stands his ground against Rafael.

"You're drunk, I'm not--"

Sonny cuts him off by kissing his smiling lips. Rafael laughs against Sonny's mouth.

"Sonny, stop--"

Sonny pulls on the elastic of Rafael's boxers and peers inside. He literally licks his lips.

"Oh god, don't do that," Rafael sighs, shifting his hips away from Sonny. "Don't--"

Sonny wraps his arms around Rafael's waist to grab his ass. "I want you so bad--"

"You're drunk. Okay? This isn't a no, just not right now."

"Do you want me too, baby?" Sonny asks against Rafael's lips.

"Yeah," Rafael replies, breathless. "Yes. I really, really do, but not right now. I can't."

"How about you just get naked and I--"

"Don't finish that sentence, please."

Sonny needs Rafael, he wants to be close to him, he wants to hold Rafael close, skin to skin, hands all over, sweat and spit and heat together...

"Lets go to sleep, okay? I'll hold you when you have a hangover tomorrow morning."

Rafael pulls Sonny to the bed and sits heavily on the side. Sonny stands over him, close to him, and strips off his t-shirt, then slowly unbuttons his jeans, all while Rafael leans back and watches, entertained. Sonny decides to drive Rafael crazy by sleeping in the nude, so when he's completely bare, he climbs into bed next to Rafael.

Rafael keeps his distance, but Sonny tries to scoot closer to him, because he knows it'll drive Rafael crazy.

"I love you," Sonny whispers to Rafael. The confession has been scarce, they still don't say it much, but Sonny needs to tell Rafael now. He needs to let Rafael know that he loves him, still, after all their time apart, after all they've gone through.

"I love you too," Rafael replies. "So much."

"So much," Sonny agrees, snuggling into Rafael's arms.


 

Sonny wakes up and Rafael is naked.

"Oh thank god, you're up," Rafael says, sliding on top of Sonny.

"So are you," Sonny jokes.

Sonny licks his lips over and over to relieve the dryness. "Oh, so having sex when I'm drunk is wrong, but staring at me while I sleep is--"

Rafael grinds his hips against Sonny, so Sonny cuts himself off by moaning in Rafael's ear.

"I missed this," Rafael mumbles against Sonny's neck.

"Me too," Sonny says, kissing Rafael's head where he can reach.

Rafael's hips don't stop, even when Sonny wraps his legs tight around his waist and his thrusts become more cramped. Sonny just holds on, squeezing every bit of Rafael that he can reach and scratching his back because it feels so good. It's been too long, much too long, and this is satisfying enough, just losing himself against Rafael's skin.

Soon, much too soon, they come together, panting and moaning and clutching and caressing; it's amazing, Sonny feels amazing and weightless and so necessarily close to Rafael.

Rafael lays on Sonny's chest and Sonny playfully bites his ear.

Rafael laughs. Sonny runs a hand through Rafael's hair, then decides he likes the way Rafael's hair feels since it's getting a bit longer, so he massages Rafael's scalp.

"You know," Rafael says, "Instead of you sneaking into my bedroom in the middle of the night, I could..."

"What?"

Rafael looks up at Sonny's face. "I could stay at your apartment sometimes."

Sonny smiles. "I would like that."

Rafael kisses his chin.

Sonny is ready to kiss Rafael again, over and over, but Rafael's name is suddenly being yelled from down the hall. Lucia's footsteps grow closer and closer, so Rafael quickly gets off of Sonny and pulls the blankets up to his chest. Sonny dives under the covers, for some reason. Perhaps because he snuck into the house, or because he's naked and just had sex with her son. He yanks the covers over his head and wills himself into the bed.

"Rafi! Get up! Abuela wanted us to go to church this morning!" Lucia barges into the bedroom. "What are you doing in bed still? Get up!"

"Oh, I was just--"

Lucia ticks. "We're leaving in half an hour." She exits the bedroom, but before she shuts the door, she mutters, "And Sonny, for god's sake, we have a front door."

Sonny throws the blankets off his head. "How did she know?"

Rafael laughs and falls onto Sonny.


 

After Sonny is dressed, he runs across the street to get ready for church because it would be easier than going all the way back to his apartment. He still has clothes at home, almost for this reason.

Bella passes him on the stairs and makes a face as they cross paths.

"You stink," she tells him. "Mom! Sonny is drunk!"

"I am not drunk!" Sonny yells to nobody because he doesn't know where his mother even is.

"He smells like alcohol!"

Sonny flicks Bella's arm. "Why do you think you know what alcohol smells like? Get outta here."

Bella dramatically pinches her nose and walks away from him.

He passes Gina on the way to his old bedroom. She makes the same face Bella did.

"You are lovely," she mutters.

Sonny just rolls his eyes and marches right to the bathroom, figuring showering would be better for everyone.

The bathroom door is locked, and Sonny is confused because he already saw Bella and Gina. He bangs on the door, wondering if Bella accidentally locked everyone out of it again, but he is surprised when Theresa throws the door open while finishing tucking her blouse into her skirt.

"I said just a--oh, it's you."

"What the hell?" Sonny asks out loud, wondering why Theresa is getting ready here.

Gina appears at his side again. "I need to get in the bathroom."

"I need to get in the bathroom!" Sonny cries.

Bella shouts from downstairs, "I'd like to point out that all of you have your own homes and I'm the only one who actually lives here!"

"Why are you here?" Gina asks Sonny.

"Who, me? You're asking me that?"

Gina crosses her arms over her chest. "You didn't happen to sleep somewhere closer last night, did you?"

"Again?" Theresa adds.

Gina's eyebrows raise in shock. "Again?!"

Bella had joined the party upstairs unnoticed. She teases, "Sonny and Rafi, sittin' in a tree--"

"That's what I said!" Theresa says.

Sonny rubs his face. "You know what? All I wanted was a nice shower, is that too much to ask?"

"What, Rafi's house doesn't have showers?" Gina asks.

"Oh, too bad your house doesn't have one, either," Bella sarcastically says.

Sonny shakes his head. "I don't need this."

"Because you're drunk?" Theresa asks.

"I'm not drunk, you guys are just--" Sonny groans. "Never mind. Will you please get out so I can shower?"

"I need to get in there!" Gina argues.

Sonny looks at her hair, which is naturally very curly and untamable, on a good day. "Trust me, nothin' is savin' that."

Theresa and Bella crack up. Bella snaps her fingers, mimicking Sonny's sass at Gina.

Theresa wraps an arm around Sonny's shoulders. "I always knew you were my brother," she says, proudly, because that dig at Gina's hair is something she would say. But she quickly scoots away from him, making the same face Bella and Gina had. "You stink," she adds.

"That's why I need to shower. Now, if you don't mind..." Sonny ducks into the bathroom and slams the door before anyone can argue.


 

Sonny and Rafael agreed to meet for brunch after church, so when mass ends, Sonny is bursting at the seams to meet Rafael. He just feels more connected with Rafael now, after he told Rafael that he loves him, and after this morning. He just cannot wait to be with Rafael again.

The entire family wants to go to breakfast, so Sonny calls Rafael to invite him. He is excited for Rafael to hang out with his family again, like normal, because he can tell Rafael missed them. They sure missed Rafael.

Sonny waits outside for Rafael while the rest of the family sits, because he wants a minute to greet Rafael alone. He grows anxious, and he doesn't know why. He just really feels different about Rafael today, like today will be the day he asks Rafael to officially be his boyfriend again.

Finally, Rafael arrives, and Sonny walks right up to him. Rafael smiles sweetly, squinting in the sun as he looks up into Sonny's face.

"Hi," Sonny says.

"Hi."

Sonny can't stop smiling. "How are you feeling?"

"About what? Church, or what we did this morning?"

Sonny shrugs. "Either. Both. Neither. I don't know."

"I feel pretty good about both, actually. Not in the same way, but, you know, good."

Sonny chuckles. He leans in to give Rafael a quick kiss, then stands back and resumes smiling at him.

"Are we going to go inside, or are we just going to smile at each other like idiots?" Rafael asks.

"I like smiling at you."

Rafael's smile grows. "I'm content, then."

Sonny is about to lean in for another quick kiss, but the door to the restaurant chimes, distracting him. But Sonny is somewhat glad he stopped, because when he glances to see who exited the restaurant, he sees his Captain.

"Oh, uh, good morning, Captain Walters, how are you?"

Walters shakes Sonny's hand. "Carisi, good morning to you."

Sonny awkwardly clears his throat. "Uh, sir, this is my...uh, friend, Rafael Barba, he works in the D.A.'s office. Rafael, this is my captain, Will Walters."

Walters shakes Rafael's hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Barba. This is my wife, Jen. Anyway, I'll let you get to your lunch. Carisi, see you tomorrow."

"Yes, sir. Goodbye."

Sonny watches Walters and his wife walk down the street, feeling so strange about that meeting. He's never been embarrassed of someone seeing him and Rafael kiss before, not even when they'd casually kiss in the hallway in high school, when teachers could have spotted them. But now he secretly kind of hopes Walters didn't see, and he has no idea why.

When he turns back to Rafael, Rafael is looking at him funny, which an unreadable look on his face. He can't tell if Rafael is upset or surprised at something or mad.

"What?" Sonny asks.

"Nothing," Rafael says in a somewhat hostile manner before going into the restaurant.

Confused by a lot about what's going on, Sonny follows Rafael inside.


 

Rafael seems upset for the rest of the day. They return to their own homes to change out of church clothes, which are pretty much just regular clothes for Rafael since getting his job at the D.A.'s office, then they get together again to watch movies with Bella and her boyfriend who Sonny hates.

And Rafael just acts...strange. He doesn't touch Sonny as much as expected, or wanted, and he definitely doesn't kiss Sonny. Sonny feels like he screwed up somehow, but he doesn't quite know what he did wrong.

Is it because he stopped kissing Rafael when he heard someone exit the restaurant? Rafael has to understand that ever since the fight with Annie, he's felt weary of trusting people when it comes to being open about his sexuality, especially with his superior. Who knows what the captain is going to think, how he's going to take to an LGBT member of his squad. Who knows what happens to gay guys in the precinct, even though Sonny isn't gay. It's hard to differentiate sexuality when he's out there kissing another guy on the sidewalk for someone close-minded. Nobody's going to say, "Oh, you're bi? You're good then." And Sonny knows that.

Early in the evening, Rafael announces that he'd better get home before it gets late. Sonny offers to walk him, to go over to his house where it is more quiet for them to relax, but Rafael denies.

"You have an early morning too," Rafael says, but Sonny can tell there's something else.

"Can you tell me what I did wrong?" Sonny pleads.

"Nothing," Rafael says, then leans over and kisses Sonny's cheek. "See you later."

"I love you," Sonny tries.

"Love you," Rafael says, leaving.

Disappointed, because the day started so good, Sonny returns to the living room to put his shoes on to go to his own apartment.

"Did you and Rafi have a fight?" Bella asks as he flops onto the couch.

"What? No. Why do you ask that?"

"He's been acting upset all day. I just thought you did something stupid."

"I didn't do anything stupid," Sonny argues. "At least, I don't think."

"Recap. What happened?"

Sonny shrugs. "I don't know. Everything was great, and then before breakfast we met my captain, and I don't know, maybe it was because I stopped kissing him when I heard the restaurant door open, or maybe it was--"

Realization dawns on Sonny.

"Was..." Bella prompts.

"I introduced Rafi as my 'friend'."

"But he is your friend, isn't he?"

"Well, yeah, but..." Sonny sighs. "I don't know, I just...we're not official yet, but I still didn't wanna tell my captain that Rafael is my boyfriend."

"Why not?" Bella asks.

"It's complicated. Sometimes police officers don't take well to LGBT cops."

"So you're just gonna hide who you are forever? That doesn't sound like you."

It doesn't. Sonny has never hidden himself, not intentionally. Sonny has always proudly presented himself, even when he was six and he told everyone he went on a date with Rafael, or when he was eight and educated his classmates on how he and Rafael could both be kings and get married, because that's what his mommy said. There wasn't even a label to his sexuality then, but he knew that he wanted to be with Rafael forever, and he didn't hide it.

"No, it doesn't," Sonny agrees.

He goes home that night feeling like he did something wrong to not only Rafael, but himself as well. He doesn't want to hide forever. He doesn't want it to seem like he was hiding. He doesn't want to introduce Rafael as his 'friend' for the rest of his life. What if they have kids one day? Sonny imagines himself introducing Rafael and their kids to people: "This is my friend and these are our children." Sonny realizes that sounds ridiculous.

The next morning, he decides he wants to at least come clean to his captain; hopefully then his conscious would be cleared. He goes in very fearful, hoping it goes well, and if it doesn't, well, then he had a good start at this precinct.

He nervously knocks on the captain's open door.

"Sir? Got a minute?"

Walters looks up from his laptop. "Sure, Carisi. What's up?"

Sonny delicately shuts the door.

"There's just something I wanted to talk to you about, sir, that's been bothering me since yesterday. I just feel like I need to come clean about something."

"Okay. Would you like to take a seat?"

"No, sir, I'll be quick. Uhm...yesterday, when I saw you, and I introduced you to my friend...actually, he's my boyfriend."

Walters' expression doesn't change.

So, Sonny continues, "I just felt like I was lying, a little bit, and I've never done that before, and I just...look, we'll never speak of this again if you're, like, disgusted by me, or...just...I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell the guys, and--"

"Carisi, stop," Walters commands.

"Yes, sir."

"I figured there was something more between you two."

"You did, sir?"

"Windows are not solid walls, son. I saw you kiss him before I went outside."

"Oh."

"My opinion of you doesn't change, Carisi. You're a great officer. Personally, I don't give a rats ass if you're gay--"

"Oh, I'm not gay, sir."

"But you have a boyfriend."

Sonny glances at the clock. "Look, sir, my tour starts in about three minutes, I don't have time to educate you on sexualities."

Walters chuckles. "Alright, Carisi. Well, I appreciate you coming clean, I can tell it meant a lot to you and it was courageous. My daughter's gay. It kills me to think about what people think of her. I'm sorry that you have to feel that way, too."

"I appreciate that, sir."

"My daughter's part of a gay NYPD group, if you're interested. I can get the information."

Excitement blooms in Sonny's chest. Meeting more officers like him is ideal.

"That would be nice, sir, thank you."

"Now, get outta here. You'll be late for duty."

Sonny thanks Walters again, then hustles out of his office so he can join his partner for their duty.


 

Sonny begs Rafael to spend the night with him, and Rafael agrees, even though Sonny can tell Rafael isn't very enthusiastic about it.

Still, Sonny orders a pizza and cleans up while he waits for both to arrive.

When Rafael gets to his apartment, they share a quick kiss before Sonny shows him where he can hang his suit for the next day. Sonny is very eager to tell Rafael what happened with the captain today, and to explain what happened yesterday, but he doesn't want to immediately start such a serious discussion. Instead, he serves Rafael a slice of pizza and asks how his day was.

Sonny was skeptical of Rafael getting his job at first, just because it didn't seem like something Rafael would happily do. The way Sonny sees it, he's like Jessica Clayton's assistant, but Rafael says it's strictly for legal aid, not for fetching coffee or something. Still, Sonny sees that Rafael is happy and learning a lot. He says next year he'll take over his own A.D.A office.

Finally, once dinner is finished, they move to the couch to relax, but Sonny doesn't turn on the television. Instead, he faces Rafael and gets ready for a real talk.

"So," Rafael starts first, "I want to talk about what bothered me yesterday."

"Me too," Sonny agrees, "Because I figured it out. Or, at least I hope I did, because if I didn't then I made a fool of myself this morning."

Rafael grows a confused look. "What do you mean?"

"Okay, so, I realized you probably got upset because I introduced you as my friend. So this morning I went to my captain and came clean."

"You did?" Rafael asks, looking nervous.

"Yeah, I mean, I felt like I lied, you know? I've never hidden myself before."

"That's why I was upset," Rafael tells him. "I don't want you to pretend to be someone else. I want you to be happy, and I didn't think keeping that part of yourself would make you happy in the long run."

"I completely agree. I talked it over with Bells, and she asked if I was gonna hide forever. I don't wanna hide, especially from my captain, who I respect."

"What did he do?" Rafael asks.

"He told me it didn't change his opinion of me. He said his daughter's gay, and she's in this NYPD LGBT group. He's gonna get the information for me to check it out."

"That's really great, Sonny. That makes me happy to hear."

"Yeah? I thought so. I just wanted to apologize, though. I'm not ashamed of you and I, of us. I love you, and if it were up to me everyone would know. That would be, like, my definition. It used to be, 'Sonny Carisi, baseball player'. Now it's like, 'Sonny Carisi, cop and Rafael Barba's...somethin'.'"

Rafael chuckles. "Well, according to you, we're just friends."

Sonny rolls his eyes. "But, listen, I just want it to be clear. I don't intend to hide, but cops, they're...it's different when it comes to us, and--"

"I know, Sonny. And I know I need to accept that before I get introduced as your friend anymore."

"It's not because I'm ashamed."

"I know."

"Even after what Annie said to me, I'd never be--"

"Sonny," Rafael places his hand over Sonny's. "I know, honey. I get it."

Sonny takes a relieved sigh.

"I'm sorry it upset me."

"I'm sorry I can't just make everyone's mind change."

Rafael gives him a sad smile. "You can try, though."

Sonny nods.

Rafael leans over and kisses him soundly on the lips. Sonny kisses back, happily, easily, because kissing Rafael is one of the things he's most sure of.

When they pull apart, Rafael has a blissful look on his face.

"Do you kiss all of your friends like that?" he asks.

Sonny laughs. "Just the hot ones. I mean, you should see my friend James."

Rafael smirks. "Any of your friends do this..."

He leans over and grips Sonny with a hand on his hip and the other hand slid through his hair on the back of his head. Rafael wastes no time with small, sweet kisses, and instead dives right in with his tongue in Sonny's mouth.

Sonny moans because Rafael feels so good, and it's the last coherent thought he has until they're sated in his bed a while later.

On their backs, panting, sweating, Sonny with an ache pretty much all over his body that is so good.

Rafael lifts his fist for a fist-bump. "Dude," he mutters.

Sonny smacks his fist against Rafael's. "Bro," he agrees.

"Bet you don't do that with any of your friends."

"Just you, man."

Rafael begins to giggle, but it turns into a full laugh. Sonny joins, laughing like they've just shared the funniest joke.

Sonny turns to Rafael, still laughing, enjoying the giant smile on Rafael's face and the way his skin shines with sweat. He groans with effort.

"I didn't hurt you, did I?" Rafael asks, concerned.

"No, no. I'm just getting old."

Rafael laughs again.

Sonny just smiles. "Hey, why don't we drop the friend thing?"

"You don't want to be my friend anymore?"

"Nah," Sonny says, "I like the way 'boyfriend' sounds better."

"Yeah?" Rafael asks, turning onto his side to face Sonny.

"Yeah. It's got a nice ring to it. You wanna know what my sheets are made out of?"

"Uh..."

"Boyfriend material."

Rafael laughs harder. "That's not how that joke goes."

"You still laughed."

Rafael rolls his eyes.

"We're pretty much endgame, though. You know that right?" Sonny asks.

"Endgame?"

"Like, we're gonna end up together no matter what. Defining it just makes it more formal."

"You don't just want to settle for bros who see each other naked occasionally?"

"Nah," Sonny says, "I wanna be your boyfriend."

Rafael smiles. "I want to be yours, too."

Rafael kisses Sonny's forehead. Sonny just happily closes his eyes.

He knows it won't be easy forever, but for now they're what he's most sure of.

Chapter Text

Three hundred and sixty five long days pass until Rafael is finally able to move from Jessica Clayton's office to an office of his own. He's moving upstairs where he'll be in charge of his own division, where he'll try his own court cases and hopefully get to boss someone around the same way Jessica bossed him around for a year. Not that he didn't learn a lot, not that he isn't thankful to Jessica for giving him a start, and luckily he didn't spend a year fetching coffees, but he is glad to be moving.

Rafael grabs one of his boxes and goes upstairs. He swings open the door to the office smaller than Jessica's but still amazing because it's his, all his. It's the first thing that's really ever been his, since he still lives with Lucia.

He tried to move, right after Christmas he tried to move into his own apartment, but Lucia practically begged him to stay.

"You're doing me a favor!" she cried. "You are keeping me company and keeping me safe!"

It helped that Rafael began paying a few bills, so now he and Lucia were more like roommates, but Rafael still wanted his own space; now he was getting it at work.

Sonny had invited him to move in, months and months ago, but Rafael thought it was better for their growing relationship if he could come and go in Sonny's apartment whenever he pleased. Sonny gave him his own key instead, and he liked surprising Sonny every once in a while with dinner or dessert whenever his schedule permitted.

Rafael stares into the little office and just breathes contently. He hears heeled footsteps clanking towards him and soon Jessica's arm wraps around his shoulder.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asks rhetorically. "I remember my first office."

Rafael just smiles. "It'll come together."

He moves into the room and drops the box on his new desk. There's another box down in Jessica's office, but most of the junk is just research and files. He'll gather pictures for his desk, and he'll finally be able to put up his framed diploma. He is so excited.

"I'm proud of you, Barba," Jessica tells him. "You've learned a lot. You're a great lawyer."

"Thank you," Rafael says, finally turning to her. "I appreciate you giving me the opportunity in the first place."

"Just remember me when you become the head honcho," Jessica jokes.

Rafael laughs. "Oh, I won't likely forget you."

Or any of the crazy things she has made him do for the sake of saving some cases, but he doesn't say that. Some of the things she did in court to prove a point were downright bizarre, but she eats defense attorneys alive, and he hopes to be that good one day.

"Are you free this weekend?" Jessica asks. "Jane and I would like to take you and that Sonny-boy out for a celebratory dinner. Saturday?"

"Actually, we're going to Connecticut for Sonny's sister's wedding. Rain check?"

"Absolutely," Jessica says.

With a parting smile, one that is genuine as opposed to her usual smile like a feral cat, Jessica leaves Rafael alone in the office.

Rafael goes around the desk and sits at his big chair. It's hard, uncomfortable, and absolutely perfect.


 

Rafael is way too excited for the wedding. He was at Theresa's wedding about a million years ago, when he and Sonny were babies not quite in love yet, but now he is going as Sonny's date and not just as Sonny's buddy who is willing to help with everything. Sure, he is still more than willing to help with whatever anyone may need, but he'll get to admire Sonny in his beautiful suit and dance with him and the sisters keep joking about Sonny catching the bouquet, so he'll inevitably hear a thousand variations of "So, when are you two tying the knot?", and he's so excited for it.

It's one thing to be loved and accepted by Sonny's immediate family, but to be loved and accepted by Sonny's extended family is a dream come true. Religious people aren't always the friendliest to LGBT people, but as Sonny's Nonna says, they're "new Catholics", and "If the Pope says it's okay, then damn it it's okay!"

The Pope could say biting the thumbs off your baby is okay and Sonny's Nonna would probably agree. But still, the sentiment is nice.

The wedding is on Saturday, but most of the family is going up on Thursday to begin with preparations. However, since Rafael and Sonny can't get off work until Friday, they're borrowing Lucia's car to drive up themselves.

That in itself is cause for excitement. Sonny will drive, because he actually likes to drive, but they'll be completely alone for two hours. Plus, when they get there, they get their own room in the inn where the wedding will be held. For two nights, they'll be alone in a beautiful room, in a fluffy bed, and Sonny has already promised to sneak champagne from the reception.

They're counting it as a mini-vacation. They've never gone away together, and this can be a trial for when they finally decide to take a real vacation together.

Rafael goes through the rest of the week on cloud nine. He got his promotion, a new office, he picks up his wedding suit from the dry-cleaner's, and finally Friday rolls around and it's time to go.

He expects Sonny to be by soon so they can leave. He's all packed and ready, all that's left is finishing his cup of coffee.

"I wish I could go," Lucia says as they eat breakfast together.

"I know. What's a Carisi family function without you, Mami?"

Lucia was invited, of course, but Abuela is having a small worry-less operation done this afternoon, so Lucia has to stay with her.

Lucia laughs at Rafael. "I'll be at the next Carisi wedding," she says, grinning behind her coffee cup.

It takes a second for Rafael to realize she means his Carisi wedding.

"Ha-ha," he mutters.

"I'm just trying to prepare you, Papito. You're going to get those jokes all weekend."

"Yeah, well, I'll just tell everyone what I'm tell you: not happening."

"Your mouth is saying 'not happening', but your eyes are saying--"

"My eyes are saying nothing. It's not happening."

It could happen. It could happen anytime, today, tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now; he wants to marry Sonny just as much now as he did when he was nine-years-old.

"When you get married," Lucia starts, "Are you still going to wear your snowman tie and Sonny his Mets jersey with the Kool-Aid stain on the arm?"

Rafael rolls his eyes. "Dios mio, why do I share anything with you, Mami? For you to make fun of fifteen years later?"

"It was adorable then and it's adorable now."

Rafael finishes his cup and takes it to the sink on time for the doorbell to ring.

"Speaking of my future son-in-law--"

"Mami!" Rafael warns before heading for the front door.

Sonny is smiling happily when Rafael opens the door. He's got a suitcase and his suit bag ready to go, and he's wearing his usual beat up old Yankees hat. Rafael knows the Yankees are playing the Red Sox and Sonny has to wear the hat for luck. It doesn't hurt that he looks extremely cute in hats.

"Hey baby," he says warmly, sweeping into the house and kissing Rafael on the way.

Rafael can't stop smiling.

"Are you ready?" Sonny asks, draping his suit across the arm of the couch.

"Yeah, let me just say goodbye to my mom."

"Go kiss your mommy goodbye," Sonny teases. Rafael gets a weird flashback of the first time Sonny went out of state with the Carisi's, Sonny teased him then, too.

"Shut up," Rafael replies.

Sonny leans in close to him. "Make me."

Rafael brushes his lips lightly against Sonny's. "Maybe later," he mutters before turning away, leaving Sonny with pretty blushed cheeks.

Rafael wanders back into the kitchen to say goodbye to Lucia.

"Alright, we're leaving," he announces.

Lucia grabs his chin to pull his face closer. She kisses his cheek. "Mantenerse a salvo."

"We will be safe, I promise. I'll call you when we get there."

"You had better. Sonny!"

Sonny pops into the kitchen. "Si?"

"Make sure he calls me when you arrive."

"Of course I will," Sonny says, "I'll call you myself. I would hate for you to worry about us driving all the way to Connecticut by ourselves." He takes Lucia in a hug.

Rafael rolls his eyes.

Lucia squeezes Sonny tight as Sonny smirks at Rafael.

"Alright, let's go," Rafael says.

Lucia lets Sonny go.

"I love you both!"

"Love you, Mami!" Rafael says.

"Love you, Lucia!" Sonny says.

Sonny carries Rafael's bag as well as his own to the car. The bags aren't that heavy, he could easily lift both too, but when Sonny lifts pretty much anything, Rafael finds it pretty sexy. But thinking about this weekend being alone in the romantic setting of a wedding, Rafael would probably think Sonny blowing his nose is sexy.

Sonny driving is sexy. Sonny reading a map is sexy. Sonny rolling the sleeves of his shirt up his sexy. Sonny shifting his hat to wear backwards is sexy. Sonny smiling and laughing and joking is sexy. Sonny being able to talk about anything and everything with Rafael is sexy.

Their closeness is sexy. Their comfort with each other is sexy. The way they're still best friends even after everything they've been through together is sexy. That they're still the four and seven-year-old at heart and the fully grown, successful, mature adults in mind is sexy. That they love each other so much is sexy.

Rafael doesn't realize he's staring at Sonny until Sonny glances at him with an amused look on his face.

"What are you thinking about?" Sonny asks.

"How sexy you are."

Sonny chuckles. "Wanna pull over and have a quickie?"

"Not that sexy," Rafael says. "No, I'm just thinking about how good we are together and how great that is."

"We do kick ass, baby."

Rafael just smiles.

For most of the drive, they play a game where they guess who the next artist on the radio will be. Sonny does better, because Rafael knows next to no current artists and Sonny is a huge music fan. Sonny just teases him because it's the one subject Rafael is below average in.

Finally, they make it to the inn in Hartford and Sonny parks right next to his parent's car. He gets their bags out and carries both of them again while Rafael carries the suits.

They get their room key from the front office and head over, and as they're getting the door open, the door next to theirs opens.

"Uncle Sonny!" they hear, so they turn around.

"Hey, big guy!" Sonny cries, smiling widely at his little nephew running at him.

Charlie lifts his arms for Sonny to pick him up, but Sonny's arms are too full and Rafael's aren't.

"I can't lift you right now, buddy. Uncle Rafi can get you."

Charlie accepts this and moves to Rafael, and Rafael gladly picks him up because he's just as happy to see Charlie. Hearing 'Uncle Rafi' makes his heart burst every time Charlie or someone else calls him that. He loves it.

Charlie wraps his arms around Rafael's neck as they enter the room. Sonny drops their bags and Rafael drops Charlie on the bed. He bounces around before jumping into Sonny's arms.

"Charlie!" they hear outside the room.

Rafael quickly reopens the door. "He's in here, 'Rese."

"Oh, and good you're here!" Theresa says, entering their room. "How was your drive? Oh god, Sonny, are you wearing that for rehearsal? Mom's gonna kill you."

"Relax, I'm not wearing this."

Rafael thinks he looks fine, but Deb would actually probably kill him for wearing a Yankees hat to anything wedding related.

Theresa takes Charlie from Sonny's arms. "Well, rehearsal is in an hour, okay? We were going to get a snack, want to join?"

"Nah," Sonny replies. "We want to rest. We'll see you down there."

"Okay, we're right next door, so come over if you want to."

Charlie waves at them. "Bye Uncle Rafi and Uncle Sonny!"

Rafael waves to the little boy as he and Theresa leave the room.

He turns to Sonny, who is suddenly taking off his shirt.

"Hey, I'm going to take a shower. I feel all gross from being in the car."

Rafael can't help stepping right up to him and pushing him onto the bed. It's just as fluffy as Rafael had imagined.

Sonny laughs. "What are you up to, Rafi?"

Rafael steps between Sonny's spread thighs. "I'm on vacation."

"And that includes...tossing me onto beds?"

Rafael leans down and sucks a kiss right below Sonny's belly button. Sonny gasps.

A while later, laying together comfortably after a very nice way to start their vacation, Sonny mutters, "You didn't call your mom."

"I was a little busy," is all Rafael says.

They do manage to rest before getting ready for the rehearsal. Clean and dressed nicer than before, they meet everyone in the courtyard where the wedding will be tomorrow.

"Hey, there you are!" Deb greets. "We thought you got here earlier, where have you been?"

"What have you been doing?" Theresa adds.

Sonny glares at her.

Theresa leans over and whispers to him, "Thin walls, baby brother."

Rafael laughs as Sonny blushes deeply. Rafael takes his hand and kisses his shoulder.

The rehearsal is quick and easy. Rafael sits with Deb and Dominick Sr. while Bella and Theresa stand as Gina's bridesmaids and Sonny stands as one of Gina's fiancé's groomsmen. Sonny makes faces at Rafael the whole time, sticking out his tongue and making kissing faces to make Rafael laugh. Rafael is thoroughly entertained.

After the rehearsal is the family dinner, where Sonny reintroduces Rafael to people. Of course, Rafael's known this family for his entire life, but not often as Sonny's boyfriend. They all say they're happy to see him again and talk to him about his career.

Rafael is proud that he and Sonny sound so impressive as a couple. Both of them are college graduates, both of them with legitimate careers, and there is no rush for them to get married and start a family. Of course, inevitably, Sonny is asked over and over when they're going to get hitched, but Sonny just diverts the questions by saying he doesn't want to worry about his nuptials on Gina's big day.

Rafael is glad he's close enough with the family that he feels comfortable with Sonny leaving him alone to mingle on his own. Rafael talks easily with the real adults, Sonny's aunts and uncles, but also with Sonny's cousins who are closer to his own age. He talks to one of Sonny's younger cousins for a long time because she is considering attending Harvard Law, so he gives her advice like where to live, where to intern, and the things she should prepare for.

Talking with one of Sonny's uncles, Rafael catches Sonny's eye across the restaurant. Sonny winks at him, which makes joy bloom in Rafael's chest. He is so happy to be here with Sonny, to enjoy the weekend with his love and his family.

Rafael's never had a true big family of his own, but he's glad to be a part of this one.

After dinner, Theresa decides they need to hit a bar to celebrate. Of course, poor Bella can't go, but the grown up siblings and Rafael go out on the town.

Theresa practically pours drinks down her younger siblings' throats.

"If I'm hungover for my wedding, Mom's going to kill you," Gina says, taking another shot of tequila.

Rafael goes to the bar to get some water for the group, because a hungover Sonny would be disastrous, as well.

"We should get a stripper!" Theresa is yelling as Rafael returns with waters.

"Oh god," he mutters.

Gina begins to giggle, then full on laugh. "Everyone at this table likes watching men take their clothes off!"

The others laugh at her discovery.

They pump Gina full of water before giving her another shot, but Theresa still has to accompany her to the bathroom after she falls off her stool.

They return to the inn not long after midnight. They say goodnight and part into the neighboring rooms.

Rafael and Sonny get ready for bed just like they do if Rafael's spends the night in Sonny's apartment. They take turns peeing, then take turns brushing their teeth. They're careful not to get in the other's way, and soon they're both ready to climb under the fluffy covers.

"Are you enjoying your vacation?" Sonny asks as they snuggle into the pillows. They lay on their sides facing each other in the darkness.

"I am," Rafael says. "I've always loved hanging out with your family. It doesn't hurt that you're here."

Sonny laughs. "Yeah, I'm glad I could join you."

Rafael smiles. "Hey, I love you."

"I love you too, Rafi," Sonny softly says.

Rafael leans over to kiss him goodnight, first missing his lips and hitting his nose. They giggle as their eyes drift shut and they fall into sleep.


 

Rafael wakes first the next morning, like he usually does. He takes a second to admire Sonny's sleeping form before he climbs out of bed to use the toilet and brush his teeth. Then, because there's nowhere else to go, he climbs back into the bed as carefully as he can.

Sonny stirs awake anyway.

"Mmm, Rafi," he sighs.

Rafael loves when his name is the first thing to come out of Sonny's mouth.

"Hi, honey," Rafael says. "I didn't mean to wake you, go back to sleep."

Sonny shifts to face Rafael and rubs his eyes. "What time is it?"

"Just past nine."

The wedding is at 2. They don't need to be ready until noon. They have all morning.

Sonny sits up and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Rafael admires the expanse of his back stretching.

"Be right back," Sonny mutters before getting up and disappearing into the bathroom.

Rafael sits up against the headboard and checks his phone for new emails. There are a few, but nothing pressing.

Sonny returns looking much more awake. Still just in his boxers, and looking just delectable, Rafael welcomes Sonny into his arms. Sonny climbs onto Rafael's lap.

"We have a few hours," Sonny says.

"We could have breakfast."

"Uh-huh. Go for a walk?"

"Go for a swim?"

"We could do this," Sonny leans in and kisses Rafael soundly on the lips.

He pulls away to kiss down Rafael's jaw to his neck. Rafael's head falls back as Sonny latches on to his skin.

"I could repay you for yesterday," Sonny whispers.

"I thought yesterday was pretty even."

"Not uh. I want to focus on you, I'll do whatever you want me to do. Tell me what to do to make you feel good, baby."

Rafael has so many ideas, mostly starting with pushing Sonny's head down between his thighs. Rafael digs his fingers into Sonny's long hair and wants to pull it while Sonny sucks him off. Half of the enjoyment is in pulling Sonny's hair, hearing him moan with each tug and feeling the vibration throughout his entire body.

Sonny kisses lower and lower, getting the message.

Rafael's eyes shut, his legs spread.

Sonny pulls on the waistband of his pajama pants and--

There's a loud knock on the door. Rafael groans as Sonny practically growls.

"We could ignore it--"

"We know you're up!" Theresa yells. "We heard the toilet flush from next door!"

Sonny climbs off of Rafael. He sits against the headboard and pulls the comforter over his lap.

"You're not going to put some clothes on?" Rafael asks, standing from the bed.

"No, maybe they'll get the picture and leave us alone."

Rafael accepts that and answers the door. Theresa and Gina barge in, Theresa looking panicked and Gina looking entirely freaked out.

"I'm getting married today!" Gina cries, panting in short breaths. "I can't--what am I thinking, I--"

Sonny shifts so the girls can sit on their bed. "Wow, calm down. Here, sit down."

Gina falls onto the bed.

"What happened?" Rafael asks Theresa.

"We woke up and I was telling her our plans for the day and she just--"

"I can't do it!" Gina cries, literally crying this time.

Bella runs into the room. "This is all they had!" she announces, handing Theresa a bottle of champagne.

"What the fuck, where did you get this? Who gave a bottle of champagne to a twelve-year-old?" Sonny asks, grabbing the bottle from Theresa.

"I'm seventeen!" Bella argues.

"Not important," Theresa says, taking the bottle and unwrapping the gold off the top.

"So, what, you're just gonna get her hammered so she'll put on her wedding dress?" Sonny asks.

Rafael doesn't really understand, either.

"No," Theresa says, popping the cork. "We are celebrating! Gina, this is a good day! We are here to enjoy it! There is nothing to worry about!"

"But your marriage didn't work out," Gina says.

Rafael and Sonny exchange a look and hold back their laughter.

Theresa patiently pats her back. "We could've gone all day without bringing that up, so thank you."

Gina turns to her. "No, I'm serious. What if...what if it doesn't work out, and--"

"Hey," Sonny says. "Rob was a prick, no offense 'Resa. David is a great guy. And he knows how lucky he is to have you. He wouldn't do anything to hurt you, ever, I trust that in him as your brother. Hey, and if he hurts you? I'll kick his ass."

Gina chuckles. "Thanks, Son."

"He's a great guy," Sonny continues, "I hope to find my own great guy someday."

This time, Bella and Theresa hold back laughter as Rafael glares at Sonny. Sonny just grins.

"Alright, so, who's drinking this?" Theresa asks, taking a drink right from the bottle.

Sonny reaches for it.

Theresa holds it away from him. "Were you just swapping spit with Rafi?"

"Oh, bite me," Sonny says, grabbing the bottle and taking a hefty swig.

Gina drinks it next, then Rafael, then Theresa hands the bottle to Bella, who excitedly takes a sip and makes a face.

While the siblings and Rafael finish the bottle, Gina manages to calm down but not get completely drunk. By 10 o'clock, the girls announce they have a spa appointment and leave the room.

Rafael flops onto the bed next to Sonny, exhausted again from the Carisi sisters.

"That was nice," he says, "What you said. Not about finding your own great man one day, but--"

Sonny lays next to him. "I'm lucky to already have my man."

Rafael smiles proudly. "I am your man, aren't I?"

Sonny smiles against Rafael's lips. He laces his fingers in Rafael's.

"My good man, strong man, my sexy man--"

Rafael rolls on top of Sonny. Sonny giggles.

"I'm a little tipsy," Sonny admits.

"Me too," Rafael agrees, giggling back.

Sonny playfully bites his lip.

Rafael yelps before diving in for a real kiss.


 

The wedding is beautiful. Gina walks confidently down the isle after one of David's nieces and little Charlie drop the flower petals. Charlie tries to climb into his mom's arms, but Theresa points to Deb for Charlie to sit. Instead, Charlie moves to the second row and climbs onto Rafael's lap, and Sonny beams at Rafael.

The romance of the wedding does get Rafael thinking about his own wedding, more than he usually thinks about it. Usually, he just thinks about the end product, already being married to Sonny, but listening to Gina and David's vows, he wonders what he'd say to Sonny in their own wedding.

"I promise to not bitch too much about your socks on the floor.

"I promise to make you peanut butter sandwiches whenever you want.

"I promise to watch sports with you.

"I promise to ice skate with you even though I hate it."

All of the promises he thinks of off the top of his head are childish, but that's the perk of knowing your beloved since childhood.

Rafael would get the real ones in there, too.

"I promise to support your career.

"I promise to take care of you when you are sick.

"I promise to listen to you and care about your opinions.

"I promise to grow old with you, as I have been doing since I was seven-years-old."

Will he cry at their wedding? Will Sonny cry? Lucia will cry. Deb will cry. Dominick Sr. might shed a tear.

Rafael is lost in thought while the officiant announces that David may kiss the bride, but soon the wedding is over. Charlie hops out of Rafael's arms and runs after the wedding party for his mom while everyone laughs and coos over how cute he is.

Will they ever be cooing over his and Sonny's kids? They've never discussed having kids.

They've never discussed getting married either, and here Rafael is planning their late fall wedding where they'll eat American food because one can't control his native food while the other didn't, with their cake that will be white ombré'd to blue, because blue is Sonny's favorite color, and the top that they cut into will be a surprise peanut butter cake, and the decorations will be nature-y to match the fall, which he never thought he'd want but thinking about it it would look amazing, and they'd wear dark suits with dark ties, but not matching, and--

"Rafael?" Deb shakes him. "Honey, are you okay?"

"Yeah," Rafael says. "I was just thinking."

Dominick Sr. clutches his shoulder and leads him towards the bride and groom.


 

Immediately after the wedding, the happy couple has to go sign the marriage license in private before taking more pictures. Now, Deb and Dominick Sr. leave him, but Rafael finds people to sit with while he drinks cocktails and eats offered appetizers.

His cocktail of choice was spiked lemonade, and by the time Sonny gets back to him, he is pleasantly buzzed. He sways into Sonny as he approaches, craving closeness to his love while all the other couples in attendance are. Rafael laces his fingers in Sonny's, and such a simple act feels so good throughout his entire body.

Sonny laughs when he gets a good look at Rafael. He sniffs the drink in Rafael's hand and makes a shocked face.

"Wow! How many of these have you had?"

"A few," Rafael says, admiring Sonny. "You are so beautiful, you know that?"

Sonny chuckles. "So are you, Rafi."

"No," Rafael argues. "You are, like, so pretty. The prettiest boy I've ever seen, such a pretty boy."

Sonny still laughs. "Thanks, Rafi." He kisses Rafael's forehead.

"Such a pretty boy," Rafael repeats. "My pretty boy."

Sonny just smiles. He wraps his arms around Rafael's neck to hug him. Rafael happily hugs back, since the closeness to Sonny is all he wants right now anyway.

They sit for their early dinner, and Rafael is glad he doesn't get banished to another table since he's not a part of the wedding party. He wouldn't really mind, except that right now he'd probably just tell Sonny's cousins how pretty his boyfriend is, and they wouldn't want to hear that. Instead, he is able to talk with Sonny and Sonny can rest his arm on the back of Rafael's chair. Every few minutes, he rubs Rafael's back, and Rafael leans back into his touch.

Finally, they dance. Since Sonny piled himself with cocktails too, they're about at the same low level of buzzed when they hit the dance floor.

Rafael has never liked dancing. When he was younger, and still sometimes now, Abuela would dance with him all the time while cooking. It was their thing, even though Rafael never got that good at dancing. Plus, the Latin moves don't even help with Sonny, because he has the coordination of a wet spaghetti noodle.

Still, Rafael tries. He pulls Sonny close when the songs are slow, he twists him around and makes his hips move when the song are fast.

The important thing is that they are laughing. They are having a good time with each other, just like they always do. They are so happy together and Sonny's dimples are as deep as the Grand Canyon, and Rafael can't stop staring at his smile because it's gorgeous.

The DJ plays the game where couples enter the dance floor and keep dancing for how long they've been together. The last couple standing, the couple who have been together longest, are declared "winners".

"Come on, Rafi!" Sonny grabs Rafael's hand and pulls him up.

"Hey, married couples!" Theresa reminds Sonny. "Unless you've got something to share with us!"

Everyone within earshot laughs. Sonny wilts and sits back on his chair. They would have lasted a long time; not including their year long break, they've been together for almost eight years. Deb's parents win the game, and as they dance together to represent their over fifty years married, they laugh. They are full of joy and excitement and Rafael decides, then and there, that they are who he wants to model his future marriage on.

The night continues. Luckily, the music theme during the reception is "oldies", which means Rafael is slightly more familiar with them than he would be with current music. Growing up, he learned about music from one of Lucia's friends who would babysit him sporadically, and she only taught him about the oldies. She would play records and tell three-year-old Rafael, "Okay, listen to this one. Listen to the melody, the words, the love that is being conveyed." Rafael memorized those melodies and words, the songs helped him learn English, so now at the wedding twenty years later, he sings them to Sonny.

He sings the words that taught him how to love, even when he was so young and he realized things were not perfect.

He sings them to the man who taught him what it means to love, the man who taught him that love is good and pure.

The final song of the evening is slow. Most of the guests have already trickled out, so the dance floor is nearly empty. Rafael practically squeezes Sonny.

"Thanks for coming up here with me," Sonny says to Rafael as they dance.

"Of course I came. I was invited, and I wasn't going to miss seeing you in this suit."

Sonny laughs. "No, seriously baby, I'm so glad you're here. It's...I don't know, it's getting me thinking. It's dumb, I don't know--"

Rafael freaks out on the inside. Is Sonny going to propose right now?

"Just got me thinkin'. About our future. About how this could be us one day."

Rafael feels a little bit relieved. He wants to propose when the time is right, and he knows now is not the time.

Sonny adds, "Maybe we should, like, live together first, huh?"

Rafael chuckles. "That's a good point."

"The time will come for us. Right?"

Rafael lightly and discreetly kisses Sonny's neck. "Of course."

Sonny smiles. He kisses Rafael. "I love you."

"I love you too, Sonny."


 

The next morning, their last day of vacation, Rafael purposefully wakes up earlier than necessary so they can have alone-time before anyone barges in, before they have to meet the family for breakfast, and before they have to leave the inn.

Rafael doesn't leave the bed, he just wakes Sonny by kissing down his back, then sliding on top of him. Sonny stretches like a cat underneath him, and he doesn't open his eyes the entire time, just smiles blissfully.

Rafael's hands run all over Sonny's hot skin, leaving fingerprint stains all over the expanse under him. Rafael stains Sonny's skin with pearly white drops soon after starting, and he can't stop staring at the dip of Sonny's spine covered in his release. He smears the mess with his thumb, rubbing it into Sonny's skin, dirtying him up so beautifully.

His fingers slip lower, kneading Sonny's ass in worship, spreading his cheeks and letting his fingers graze where he so badly wants to be. He loves being inside Sonny, and Sonny loves it just as much, and it's beautiful every time. Making love in that way, being closer than any two people can ever be, is beautiful.

Rafael can't help leaning down and kissing Sonny's skin.

"Rafi?" Sonny asks breathlessly, and it's the first sound he's made.

Rafael looks at his face. "Can I?" he desperately asks, because he needs to get his mouth on Sonny now before he possibly combusts.

Sonny's eyes have glazed over and he looks so turned on that Rafael can't wait another second.

"Please, baby?" Rafael begs, "I'll make it so good for you, I promise."

Sonny nods eagerly. "Yes," he says out loud.

Rafael leans down again and kisses the small of Sonny's back, then continues down until his tongue is back to Sonny's hole. He licks, sucks, dives right in until Sonny is practically sobbing beneath him. Sonny's body shifts between pushing back to Rafael's mouth and grinding against the bed. Soon, Sonny lifts his hips enough to get a hand underneath him, and Rafael doesn't stop pushing his tongue in and out while Sonny strokes himself.

Sonny babbles while he moans into the pillow. "Oh, oh, Rafi, Raf, baby, don't stop, please don't stop, oh god--"

Rafael couldn't stop if he tried. The world could burn around him and all he'd be focused on is making Sonny writhe like this.

"Yes!" Sonny cries. "Fuck, Rafi, baby, I'm going to come, you're going to make me come--"

The confirmation is music to Rafael's ears. He doubles down and moves his tongue faster, sucks harder, and squeezes Sonny's skin.

Sonny clenches pretty much his entire body, arching beautifully while trying to decide whether or not to move away from Rafael's tongue. Rafael holds his hips to hang on until Sonny relaxes and pushes his head away.

"Oh god," Sonny sighs, tugging on Rafael's hair until Rafael climbs up his back again.

He realizes he's half hard as he presses against Sonny, but he doesn't feel a need to do anything about it. He wants to focus on Sonny feeling good. He kisses Sonny's shoulders, neck, and kisses softly at his lips.

"I love you," Sonny whispers. "I love you so much, Rafi, you have no idea."

"I know, I love you more than anything."

After a long, necessary, hot shower, the men dress in regular clothes and head down for breakfast. Rafael doesn't notice he won't stop smiling until he notices Sonny's goofy "I-Just-Had-Amazing-Sex" smile.

Theresa glares at them. "Can you at least attempt to make it less obvious that you're getting laid?"

Rafael and Sonny exchange a dreamy look. Theresa rolls her eyes.

Gina leaves for her honeymoon right after breakfast, and the rest of the family leaves the inn shortly after. Theresa and Bella had driven with Deb and Dominick Sr., but Theresa's son woke up so cranky and Bella is clearly annoyed with her nephew, so Sonny invites Bella to ride back with them. Rafael doesn't mind, Bella enjoys listening to her music via headphones anyway, so Rafael will still get his private time with Sonny.

They still want Bella to enjoy herself, so they stop in random towns on the way back to the Bronx. They explore, and their two hour journey turns into an all day trip. Bella seems to enjoy herself just as much as Rafael does, so Rafael is glad to see the siblings having fun together.

When they finally get to the Bronx, Sonny drives right to Lucia's house to return the car and his little sister.

"Hey," Bella says as she climbs out of the car, "Thanks for letting me come with you guys. I had fun."

Sonny hugs Bella genuinely, and Bella happily hugs him back. Rafael loves seeing the siblings like this, so nice and loving to each other. They've had their own journey of family growth over the years, since when Rafael met them Sonny would call Theresa a "B-Word" and Theresa would tell everyone she hated her little brother. Now the siblings are close and loving, and Rafael is glad to be a part of it.

Sonny grabs their bags and carries them to the house again. Before he gets to the front door, Rafael pulls on the hem of his t-shirt so he will stop.

"Hang on," Rafael says.

Sonny turns to face him. "What's up?"

Rafael steps up close to Sonny. "I just wanted to thank you for our mini-vacation. I loved it, and I love you."

Sonny smiles. Rafael kisses Sonny slowly, his free hand holding Sonny's face still as he pecks Sonny's soft lips over and over. Sonny smiles as Rafael kisses him.

Rafael's so in love with him.

The front door swings open and Lucia whistles at them. "Are you going to come in, or are you planning on giving the neighbors a show?"

Sonny cracks up, but Rafael rolls his eyes. He leads Rafael into the house, kissing Lucia as he passes.

"Don't be crude, Mami," Rafael mutters as he enters.

"You're the one making out in the front yard!"

Sonny drops their bags by the stairs.

Lucia eagerly follows Rafael to the kitchen. "Tell me everything! Show me pictures! Are you hungry? Sonny, serve yourself, you look like you haven't eaten in years, you're skin and bones, amorcito."

"Amorcito," Rafael mimics.

Lucia flicks him playfully.

Sonny just laughs. "I know, Lucia, Rafi doesn't feed me."

"Because you're not a grown man," Rafael sarcastically retorts.

Sonny takes his plate to the island where Rafael and Lucia are sitting.

"Guess the vacation is over," Sonny jokes. "He was being so sweet to me, Lucia."

Lucia goes with it. "I'm sorry about my son, Sonny. I thought I raised him better than this, but--"

Rafael just glares at them. "Do you want to see pictures or not?"

Lucia laughs and clutches Rafael's arm. "You know I'm joking, Papi! Now, show me."

Rafael shows Lucia the picture he snapped of Gina getting ready, the picture of the Carisi siblings in their wedding attire, the picture of Charlie in his suit, the picture of the girls jokingly handing Sonny the bouquet, and he finally gets to one he didn't take. It's of him and Sonny dancing, giant smiles on their faces.

"What? Who took this? When--"

Sonny peeks over his shoulder to see it. "That's weird."

"That's a beautiful photo!" Lucia gushes. "It's so beautiful! You look so happy!"

Rafael just smiles. "I am happy."

"I'm happy too, if anyone is paying attention to me," Sonny says.

"You shush and eat your dinner," Rafael tells him.

Sonny decides to return to his own apartment so he can do laundry before work in the morning. Rafael is sad to let him go after their amazing weekend together.

"I'll see you later," Sonny says, grabbing his bag to leave. "Dinner this week? Maybe we can catch a movie?"

"Dinner on Tuesday?" Rafael asks. "Oh, Jessica and Jane wanted to take us to dinner to celebrate my promotion."

"That sounds great," Sonny agrees. "I love dinner when someone else is paying."

Rafael laughs. Sonny's cab pulls up outside.

"Okay," Sonny says. "I'll see you."

"I'll miss you," Rafael admits.

Sonny smiles. "I'll miss you, too. Have a good day at work tomorrow."

"You too. Stay safe."

"I will," Sonny leans in to kiss Rafael. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

And with that, Sonny hops down the stairs to go home, and Rafael feels as if his heart is leaving him. They'll talk very soon, they'll see each other soon, but Rafael realizes it's getting more and more difficult to let Sonny leave. He wonders if it wouldn't be too terrible of an idea to try living together again, that way he wouldn't miss Sonny so much. Sleeping next to Sonny is so wonderful and so perfect.

Maybe when things with his new job settle down. Maybe when he saves a little bit more money. Maybe when he actually asks Sonny if he wants to live together again.

But for now, he's happy, and Sonny is happy, and everything is fine.

Chapter Text

When Gina returned from her week-long Disneyland honeymoon in California, she raved about how they needed to experience it at least once in their lives. Being from somewhere nowhere near a Disney theme park, it was never a very big dream of theirs to see. Rafael went to Disney World once when he was little, for only a day, but Sonny never had the chance. Gina only went because her new husband is from Arizona and he went to Disneyland pretty often because he was pretty close.

So, Sonny decided they needed to experience Disneyland. The problem was that with flying across the country, hotel, tickets to the park, and basic necessities like food was expensive. He wanted to do something like this for Rafael on his own, so he decided to start saving money and not telling Rafael. It was easy to cut back on basic things like eating out, but it grew to be suspicious why he ate at his parent's house so often.

Then, Sonny was finally close to having enough money and decided he didn't want to go to Disneyland anymore. In the time it took to save, he had kind of burnt himself out of the excitement for the amusement park. So he had the money but no vacation.

Sonny finally decides to talk to Rafael about it about a year after he began to save. They sit at dinner in Sonny's apartment and Sonny announces he has something to talk about.

"Oh god," Rafael mutters as Sonny begins to get serious.

Sonny stares at him. "What do you mean, 'oh god'?"

Rafael makes a face. "You're not proposing are you?"

"What? No. And why would that bring the response 'oh god'?"

Rafael coolly sits back in his chair. "No reason, I'd absolutely say yes."

Sonny knows he's lying. He knows they're not ready to get married, they've been talking about it a lot since Gina's wedding. They don't even completely live together yet!

But he decides to mess with Rafael anyway. He scoots forward in his chair as if he is ready to drop to one knee.

"Really? 'Cause I actually have been thinking--"

Rafael makes a sour face. "Okay, okay, don't ask, I lied, don't do it!"

Sonny sits back and laughs. "You're the worst."

Rafael grabs his hand. "If it's not about marriage, what did you want to tell me?"

"Well, I wanted to surprise you after I entirely paid for it, but..." Sonny takes a deep breath, suddenly nervous. What if Rafael doesn't want to go on a vacation? What if he doesn't want to take time off work? What if he can't?

"But..."

"I've been saving money for, like, a year. I wanted us to go to Disneyland because Gina went on about it and I wanted to do it, but now I don't really want to do that, so now we can go somewhere else, you can pick, I don't mind, and--"

"Wait," Rafael stops him, "You've been saving money for us to go on vacation?"

"Yeah. I thought it would be fun, we've never gone anywhere completely alone, besides when we lived in Boston, but that wasn't really vacation, and--"

"Sonny, Sonny," Rafael stops him again. "Why are you so nervous? Are you afraid I'm not going to want to go on vacation with you?"

Sonny shrugs. "Kind of, I don't know. It was just something I hadn't told you. Maybe we should have talked about it."

"Babe, of course I'd love to go on vacation with you. That sounds amazing. I can't believe you did that."

Sonny smiles bashfully. "I wanted to do somethin' nice for you, Rafi."

Rafael leans over and kisses him. "Thank you, Sonny. That's amazing! Now, we have to figure out where to go."

Rafael begins saving money to contribute to the vacation fund, too. Then, they begin brainstorming on where to go.

Obviously, Disneyland or World were on the list. Then, the idea to just go to California, where Rafael had gone for a very short time before. Someone recommends they go to Las Vegas because they're old enough. Another idea was to get passports to go to Europe.

Finally, in the summer, they pick a location.

"We're going to Florida!" Rafael announces. "Sonny needs some real sun."

"Oh," Lucia says, "You'll love it, Sonny, it is beautiful."

Sonny agrees. "Rafi used to tell me he'd take me to the beach, just the two of us. It's about time he comes through."

Rafael rolls his eyes. "I've been a little busy."

"Excuses."

They tell Lucia all about their travel plans, when they'll leave, where they're staying, and the excitement grows more and more between them.


 

Finally, the week arrives when they are to leave. They decided to go a week before Halloween. It's getting cool in New York, so the warm of the beach is sure to be a much needed change of pace. Rafael is thrilled; he purchases cute little swim trunks with red crabs on them for Sonny and some with pink flamingos on them for himself. He promised Sonny that he'd only pack one suit, for the fancy dinner they plan to have, but the rest of the time will be spent in his most relaxing clothes, or a bathing suit, or nothing, as Sonny keeps saying.

It's Rafael's last day of work before vacation. He can't wait for the clock to strike 5 so he can leave. All of his work is done by 4 so he can book it out of the building as soon as possible. It's all going so well.

Until...

Rafael is too busy jotting down the last of his notes to answer the phone when it rings with three separate calls. Finally, his distraction can't be an excuse when Jessica Clayton is barging into his office.

"There you are, I thought you'd died down here, I called you three times."

Rafael gestures at the notes in front of him. "I'm busy."

Jessica wanders over to his desk. "I have a favor to ask."

He almost glares at her. "What?"

"I'm taking off to D.C. in two days. High profile case. I can't even tell you about it it's so top secret."

"Okay, so, what? You want me to water your plants?"

"I want you to go with me. Co-counsel. Not a coffee-fetcher or note-taker. Legitimate co-counsel."

Rafael slowly lowers his pen, his stomach doing flips. This could be huge.

"There's a team of us set already, but I want you there, too."

"W-why me? I'm just--"

"Because you kick ass, Barba. What do you say? We'll be put up in a fancy hotel for about a month."

Rafael's heart sinks. "I'm going on vacation tomorrow."

Jessica stands up straight and frowns, as if she can tell that's a no. Rafael wishes so badly it didn't have to be a no. He wishes so badly that he could go wth her, as this could be an amazing opportunity to get his name out there in a big case, to work closely with his mentor who already values his work so much.

"I'm extremely thankful that you thought of me, but--"

"Don't worry about it," Jessica says. "Have fun on vacation."

"Thanks," Rafael says, noncommittally, because now he's just wishing he didn't have to go, no matter how excited he was or how important it is to Sonny. He wants to go to D.C.

Jessica leaves the office as Rafael is having second thoughts about going on vacation. He manages to finish up his work, and when the clock turns 5, he leaves quickly, still thinking about asking Sonny to postpone vacation.


 

Sonny is too excited to leave in the morning. He can't wait to be alone on a pretty beach with the love of his life. He can't wait to not have to think about the station or his job for a week. He can't wait to drink cocktails and eat seafood.

Rafael's bags are packed and at his apartment, for they are leaving early in the morning from Sonny's place. Sonny checks his watch; Rafael should be there any minute for them to get an early dinner and early to bed. Sonny has no idea how he'll sleep tonight, since he is too excited.

Sure enough, Rafael wanders into the apartment a bit after 5, and Sonny has the take-out menus spread out for Rafael to pick as soon as he walks in the door.

"Hi honey!" Sonny cries, trying to sound as calm as possible because he's too excited.

"Hey," Rafael replies, sounding glum.

Sonny doesn't let his tone end his mood.

"How was your day? You hungry? I'm starving. You wouldn't believe what happened today. Some detective up top shot someone. You probably saw it on the news. You probably heard about it. It was a pretty crazy.

"Are you okay?"

Sonny finally notices Rafael's unhappy look that matches his glum sound. He steps up to Rafael to hopefully lighten his mood by loosening his tie.

"I'm fine," Rafael says, unconvincingly. "Just tired."

"Well, we'll go to bed early so we can head out early, 'kay? You go relax, I'll order something. Do you have a craving for anything? I'm thinking just a pizza. What do you think?"

Rafael wanders towards the bedroom. "Pizza's fine."

Sonny watches him disappear, taking the black cloud of a mood with him. Confused, and concerned, Sonny quickly orders the pizza and pours Rafael a drink. He grabs a beer for himself and takes them to the couch.

Rafael rejoins him not long after, now wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt, one of his most appealing looks. Now that Rafael is done-up so often, wearing fancy ties that look expensive and well fitting suits, Sonny loves the look of him relaxed and unimpressive. Sonny thinks Rafael looks best in sweatpants, maybe because his entire proper demeanor is then relaxed. Maybe because, out of his work clothes, Sonny is reminded of the little boy who used to hide his Christmas mass suits because he hated wearing them.

Rafael drops heavily onto the couch next to Sonny. Sonny pats his knee soothingly as Rafael reaches for his drink.

"Long day?" Sonny asks.

Rafael just nods, taking a sip.

Sonny knows to take a hint when Rafael doesn't want to talk. Although it drives him nuts because Sonny's default setting is talking his head off, he sits patiently and quietly until Rafael finds his voice. If he doesn't, he doesn't, but if he's ready to talk, Sonny is prepared to listen.

Twenty minutes pass. The pizza arrives. Sonny asks if it's alright if he turns on the television, Rafael noncommittally accepts.

They go to bed after only making small talk and sharing a few lame kisses. Sonny is disappointed; this isn't how he wanted to start their vacation. Sonny falls asleep hoping Rafael will feel better in the morning.


 

The cab arrives bright and early to take them to the airport. Sonny is through the roof with excitement; he loads the car up while Rafael finishes getting ready, then he runs upstairs to grab his carry-on and his boyfriend.

"Ready, babe?" Sonny asks, running back into the apartment.

"Coming," Rafael replies from the bedroom.

Sonny frowns. Rafael still sounds upset.

Rafael wanders out of the bedroom with his backpack. He looks as blue as he sounds.

"Rafi, what is the matter? You can tell me. Do you not want to go?"

"No, we paid for it, we planned it, we're going."

"Okay, but do you want to?"

Rafael looks at Sonny with a sigh. "I want to, okay? The quicker we get out of the city, the happier I'll be."

Sonny nods. "Okay," he accepts, kissing his forehead.


 

Sonny falls asleep on the plane, as he can fall asleep absolutely anywhere at anytime. Rafael stays awake and sends the last emails he'd promised to send before their vacation really starts.

They land in Miami and hop off the plane to fetch their bags. Sonny notices Rafael still looks gloomy, but Sonny thinks maybe he's just tired from the plane ride. Sonny grabs his hand and kisses it as they walk to baggage claim.

Sonny's bag is available quickly. The carousel circles over and over and over but Rafael's bag never shows up.

The last of the bags come out of the machine, the people disperse, and Rafael pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Rafael mutters.

Sonny doesn't know what to do or say. Lost luggage sure isn't the perfect way to start a vacation, or going to help Rafael's mood.

"It's alright--" he tries.

"It's not alright Sonny, it's..." Rafael takes a deep breath. "Let's go get it straightened out."

Sonny follows Rafael, dragging his suitcase as quietly as possible as to not rub it in that he got his and Rafael's is missing.

At the luggage service desk, Rafael gives the address of the hotel where they're staying and his phone number. The attendant offers hope that it'll turn up soon, and Rafael just grumbles a thanks before dragging Sonny out of the airport.

Sonny stays quiet during the Lyft ride to the hotel. He knows this is best while Rafael is glaring out the window as if Miami has personally wronged him. He sends a quick text letting his mom and Lucia know that they landed, that Rafael's luggage is lost, and that the weather is nice. They tell Sonny they hope the week gets better; Sonny can only agree.

They arrive at the hotel and Rafael marches right up to the front desk like a man on a mission. Sonny is sure he probably just wants to relax before finding a shop to buy replacement items to last him a night, and Sonny is fine with that. He'd love to help Rafael to relax.

The room they had set up was supposed to be a bigger (a step down from a suite) room with a view of the ocean. The room had cost extra, but Sonny figured if they were going for it, they ought to go for it. This was their first vacation. This room had a jacuzzi tub that looked so good to use.

Sonny quietly stands behind Rafael as he gives the man at the desk his name.

"Barba?" the man asks. "B-A-R-B-A?"

"Yes," Rafael replies, sounding annoyed.

"Uhm, I'm sorry, sir. There's no reservation under that name."

Rafael sighs. "How about Carisi? C-A-R-I-S-I. I thought I put it under my name, but--"

"None under that name, either."

Rafael's nostrils flare and he looks as though he might murder someone.

"What?" is all he asks.

"I-I'm sorry, sir--"

"I paid for our room. I paid for a suite with a view and jacuzzi tub. I paid with this card."

"There are no reservations for you," the man behind the desk says.

"Dios mio," Rafael mutters. "Okay. Give me a different room then."

The man clicks around on the computer. "The only rooms we have are our basic rooms."

Rafael takes a deep breath. Sonny can tell he's so close to exploding.

"Fine," he says. "Whatever."

Rafael pays for the new room, grabs the offered keys, and stomps towards the elevator. Sonny carefully rolls his luggage as to not remind Rafael that he has none.

They get to their new room and it's not that bad. It's smaller than expected, sure, and there's no view of the ocean, but there are some beautiful palm trees and hey, it's not New York. Sonny isn't entirely disappointed with the change.

Rafael drops his carry on onto the bed and removes the hoodie he's wearing. Sonny picks it up and folds it over the desk chair.

"I'm going to take a shower," Rafael says.

Usually, Sonny would joke about joining him, or ask if he needs any assistance, but Sonny just sits on the bed and picks up the television remote.

Rafael emerges a long while later, steaming and pink around the edges. He's only wrapped in a towel, and Sonny's vacation is suddenly looking up.

"We have dinner reservations in a few hours," Rafael reminds him. "What do you say we take a nap, then run out to get my overnight stuff, then we'll go to dinner."

Sonny would rather go see the beach, because that's what he travelled to Florida for anyway, but Rafael looks worn out and exhausted, so Sonny shuts the television off and kicks his shoes aside.

"Let's take a nap," he agrees.

Rafael nods, removing his towel and moving to toss it back into the bathroom. Sonny licks his lips watching Rafael, but Rafael looks in no mood for anything more than a nap, so Sonny just scoots back and snuggles into Rafael's arms.

They wake a while later, Sonny feeling groggy but Rafael looking moderately refreshed. Sonny wakes more at the sight of Rafael actually looking a bit happy.

Rafael stretches under Sonny's gaze.

"Let me get dressed and we'll go."

Sonny nods.

Rafael turns back to the bed and leans over until he's face to face with Sonny.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I'll try to lighten up."

He presses a quick kiss to Sonny's lips, then stands again and disappears into the bathroom.

Sonny is content with the little touch.

They walk to the nearest shop where Rafael can gather basic necessities, plus a change of clothes. Sonny reminds him that pajamas are optional, which makes him chuckle for the first time all day. Sonny just grins proudly, because he can make Rafael laugh under the most stressful circumstances.

Walking back to the hotel, Sonny grabs Rafael's hand and holds it contently. Rafael squeezes, using Sonny as his personal stress-ball, but Sonny loves it, just because he's touching Rafael.

The sun begins to set over the palm trees, and Sonny stares into it admiring the beauty.

"Our sunsets don't compare," he comments. "With all the buildings and stuff."

"One day," Rafael says, "I'll take you to California. Now those are some sunsets."

Sonny nods. "I'd love to."

"Next vacation. I'll pack light so I don't have to check my bag."

Sonny laughs. "So, it's not too soon to joke about?"

"Don't push your luck," Rafael says. He pats his stomach hungrily. "I can't wait to eat the lobster right now. This place is supposed have the best lobster."

"Yeah, that sounds great."

Sonny notices Rafael is still not as happy as can be, as if there's something else weighing on his mind. He seems distant, distracted, like something great is bothering him.

Sonny tries to suss out what could be bothering Rafael. He came home grumpy, did something happen at work? Was his work load too great to take a vacation? Sonny would feel terrible if he came between Rafael and work. Of course, if it is work related from yesterday, it doesn't help that Rafael's luggage and their reservation was lost.

Sonny glances at Rafael to check his body language. He seems a bit nervous, as well. What could he be nervous about? His luggage will turn up. Was there something important in his luggage that he couldn't afford to lose? Sonny watched him pack, everything was replaceable. Unless he packed something that Sonny didn't see. But what could be--

Sonny almost stops dead on the sidewalk.

Did Rafael pack an engagement ring?

Sonny had thought about it, proposing to Rafael on this vacation. He ultimately decided that this is not the best time, because of their jobs and the fact that they still don't live together. But if Rafael asked this week, Sonny would not say no.

For the rest of the walk, Sonny gets himself worked up over the thought of Rafael proposing. He grows excited, and nervous, and thrilled, and scared all at once. He can't help his emotions being all over the place, with the only thing he can focus on being Rafael.

They arrive at the restaurant and Sonny is just about buzzing. This isn't their fancy dinner, and Sonny thinks if Rafael does propose it'll be at that dinner, in a few days, when hopefully his luggage turns up so his mood improves.

They get their table, which is luckily available despite the hotel losing their reservation.

"Look, Rafi," Sonny says as they sit. "The ocean."

Rafael smiles.

The waiter arrives quickly, and Rafael announces he doesn't need to look at the menu because he has his eye on lobster.

The waiter frowns. "Oh, actually sir, we are out of the lobster."

Rafael sighs, and Sonny can see he's reverting back to the mood in which he arrived.

"Rafi--"

Rafael ignores him. "Okay, what other seafood do you have?"

"We are actually out of all seafood--"

Rafael's nostrils flare again. Sonny doesn't love that look. "There's a freakin' ocean right there."

"Rafi--"

"No, Sonny, wait. I came all this way, lost my luggage, lost my room, and all I wanted was some seafood because we're at a freakin' oceanside resort, is it too much to freakin' ask to have a freakin' seafood dinner? No, you know what? I'm done trying. Just bring me a glass of scotch. I'm done."

"No, I'm done," Sonny says, angry at Rafael's display of anger towards the young waiter. It's not his fault and Rafael is being an ass. Sonny stands from his seat and storms out of the restaurant, leaving Rafael looking shocked.

Sonny marches down to the beach, because it's the closest location that he knows of, and throws himself down onto the sand. This is not how he imagined his first steps on the beach; he had imagined Rafael pestering him to put on more and more sunscreen. He had imagined laying two towels out so they could rest under the sun. He imagined kissing lightly as to not gain negative attention, but also being comfortable enough with each other.

Instead, he's alone, he's pissed off, and he's not wearing swim trunks.

Sonny doesn't check his watch or phone, but judging by the state of the sun still falling behind him, about half an hour passes before Rafael delicately sits next to him, and another twenty minutes pass before either of them speak.

"I'm sorry," Rafael nearly whispers.

"Yeah? What for?"

"For being such an ass. I apologized to the waiter too, offered a big tip despite not ordering anything. I just felt bad."

"You should have."

"Look, I should tell you what bothered me yesterday and why the events of today just aren't helping. Before I left the office yesterday, Jessica offered me a position on the team she's put together to try a big case in D.C."

"What? Wow, that's--"

"I couldn't take it. I would've had to cancel this trip."

Sonny feels terrible. He's never wanted to come between Rafael and work, he won't even propose to Rafael because he's still establishing himself at work.

Sonny looks at Rafael, and he looks so defeated as he absentmindedly plays with the sand below them.

"You should've told me, Rafi. We could've made other plans. It's not like we had a hotel reservation anyway."

Rafael breathes out a laugh. "I just didn't want to disappoint you," he says.

"Honey, I..."

Yes, Sonny would have been disappointed in missing the trip, but never at Rafael wanting to further his career.

"And anyway," Rafael says. "Moment passed. I just need to get over it."

"I'm sorry," Sonny offers.

"It's really not your fault, Sonny. I made the decision. I wanted to come with you, and I ruined it."

Sonny sighs. He is pretty pissed, but the vacation has not been completely ruined. There's still time to make up for it.

"I'll be back," Rafael says suddenly, then gets up and leaves.

Sonny frowns, because that's not what he wanted. He didn't want to run Rafael off. He could have welcomed some cuddling, a little bit of kissing, because he beach is pretty quiet right now and they could have privacy. But Rafael had to go run off.

Sonny waits for ten minutes before deciding to return to their hotel room. Rafael will find him eventually.

He's about to get up, when he hears Rafael calling his name. Sonny turns to the call to see Rafael holding a take-out box and a tin bucket.

Confused, he stays sitting in the sand.

"What's that?" he asks as Rafael approaches.

Rafael motions towards a little cantina not too far away from them. "I got some fish tacos and a bucket of beers."

Rafael sets the bucket down and flops down next to it. Sonny peers into the bucket and finds half a dozen beers stabbed into ice. He cracks a smile as he grabs one.

Rafael opens the box and says, "The beers and tacos are Mexican, sold by a Puerto Rican cantina owner in Florida, but maybe if I stop being such a dick, you can have a little bit of Cuban in you later."

Sonny almost chokes on his swig of beer as he tries to laugh at Rafael's joke.

"Was that a pickup line?" Sonny asks, gulping for air.

Rafael grins. "Did it work?"

Sonny can't help but lean over and kiss Rafael. Rafael accepts the offered kiss, and Sonny finds it a great do-over to the start of their vacation.

Rafael's luggage turns up the next evening, after they've already spent all day at the beach. Luckily, Sonny had packed his own sunblock, but it doesn't help much, as his fair skin ends up red anyway. Rafael runs out to buy lotion for him, then spends the night rubbing it all over him.

Rafael does not propose, but that is fine to Sonny. All he had expected out of the week was some much needed relaxation, and that's what they get.

On the plane home, Sonny gains some courage he didn't think he'd gain.

"Hey, Rafi?" he asks, hoping Rafael hasn't fallen asleep yet.

"Yeah, baby?"

"Hey, when we get back to the Bronx, what'd'ya say you unpack your stuff at my place?"

Rafael shrugs. "That doesn't sound bad, these were just relaxation clothes anyway."

"But what if you...also unpack more stuff at my apartment? At...our apartment?"

Rafael's eyes slit open and he looks at Sonny. "What are you saying?"

"I, uh," Sonny nervously clears his throat. "I want you to move in with me."

"Really? Even after you've seen that I can be a huge asshole?"

"I've known since we were kids that you can be a huge asshole, Rafi. Only difference now is you can make my peanut butter sandwiches on your own."

Rafael laughs as his eyes slide shut again. "You sure?"

Sonny kisses his shoulder. "Absolutely."

"Okay," Rafael agrees, a grin tugging at his lips. "Only because I can see how desperate you are to live with me again."

Sonny laughs. "Oh, I'm desperate? Sure," he mocks, "'Hey, Sonny, did I leave my pink tie at your place again? Oh man. Guess I'll just have to spend the night tomorrow to get it.'"

Rafael fully grins. "I like that tie, okay?"

Sonny laughs. "Sure, Rafi." He kisses Rafael's cheek. "I love you," he whispers. "Thanks for this week."

"Thank you," Rafael replies. "It was your idea."

Sonny smiles proudly. "'Cause I know how to take care of you. I know just what you need."

"Mmm," Rafael says, and Sonny can tell he's falling asleep, so he stops talking.

Sonny stares out the airplane window, watching the clouds float by underneath them, trying not to scratch his sunburns, and thinking about his wonderful life back in the Bronx, where he's a proud police officer and the proud boyfriend of a growing lawyer, who will be moved in with him by the end of the week. Sonny holds Rafael's hand and wonders if he could be any happier.

The answer is no, because now, flying above the clouds, everything is perfect.

 

Chapter Text

Rafael checks his tie in the mirror for the thirtieth time. It's royal blue with tiny white polka dots, and Sonny picked it out. Not that he doesn't trust Sonny's judgement, but...the man does wear a uniform for a living.

"You look great," Sonny says at his shoulder.

Rafael catches the other man's reflection in the mirror. "Easy for you to say," he says with no real comeback ready.

"Yeah? And? I always think you look amazing."

Rafael sighs. "Thanks, Sonny."

"I don't know what you're so nervous about," Sonny continues, fixing his hair in the mirror. "You're one of the most accomplished people from your graduating class."

Rafael sighs again. Sonny just doesn't understand; he doesn't allow himself to be judged by the people of his everyday life.

"The only one who can judge me besides God is my Nonna," Sonny always says. "And she thinks I'm a catch."

Sonny doesn't understand. He was a superstar in high school, one outstanding baseball season away from classmates asking for his autograph. He was the class clown who loved attention, so everybody knew his name. In the middle of the day, Rafael could have heard from someone random about some crazy thing Sonny did that morning, and he just laughed proudly because that was his boyfriend everyone was talking about. Some people didn't even know Rafael was Sonny's boyfriend, that's how low on the totem pole Rafael was.

He had friends, sure, but not many people in the student body paid attention to theater unless they were in the club. Student council was just the kids behind the scenes, who ran the school and all of its events without any recognition. The athletes held the fame.

What had Rafael so nervous about the evening--his ten year class reunion--was the fear of not being accomplished enough. Sure, he got himself through Harvard, he holds an ADA position in the Bronx DA's office, he's still with his high school sweetheart, he's happy, but some people's idea of success is different than his own. And his position isn't for a significant post in the ADA's office. It's been ten years since high school ended and he's still learning, still trying to fight his way to the top.

And fight he does. Lifting his chin while still staring at his own reflection, Rafael gains the little bit of gusto he possesses in court. He stands taller, stronger, smarter, quick on his feet to ruin any opponent.

Sonny kisses his shoulder. "God, you're sexy."

Rafael smirks. He doesn't disagree.

"Now," Sonny says, rubbing his sides. "You're gonna walk into the party, you're gonna look fuckin' hot, you're gonna have some sweet arm candy, and you're gonna tell everyone what a bad ass you are. Got it?"

Rafael gives a curt nod, then he follows Sonny out of their apartment.


 

Rafael's anxiety peaks as they get out of the cab in front of their old high school. The party is inside the gymnasium, like the prom was, and pulling up next to the building makes his stomach turn. Maybe they can slip in unnoticed, talk to one or two people Rafael wouldn't be bothered to catch up with, then they can sneak out. Thirty minutes, tops.

Rafael holds his breath as they enter the gym. Anxiety fills him, just as it had walking into this building in high school. Nobody is greeting at the door, so maybe they can quickly find their seats, and--

"Carisi!" he hears from practically across the gym.

They turn to find the voice, and a guy who Rafael thinks is named Max runs out of a crowd towards them. He practically jumps on Sonny.

"Dude, Carisi, what is up, man? Where have you been?" Max slaps Sonny's hand and pulls him into what Rafael calls a 'bro-hug'.

"Hey Max!" Sonny cries, just as happy as Max is.

"You...weren't in my class, were you?" Max asks, as if his own classmate isn't standing right there.

Rafael rolls his eyes.

"No, no, but Rafael was. You remember my boyfriend, Rafael?" Sonny says, placing an arm around Rafael's shoulders.

Max looks at Rafael as if just noticing he is standing right next to them.

"Right!" Max replies, holding his hand out to shake Rafael's. "Rafael, right, how's it going, man?"

"Good, thanks," Rafael politely says.

Max directs his attention to Sonny again. "You gotta come over here!"

Max drags Sonny back to the group he ran away from. Rafael follows, trying to look out for someone he knows, but nobody noticeable pops out at him. Maybe the gym is split into non purposeful cliques, and he doesn't really know where he fits.

Max reintroduces Sonny to the group, but everyone is happy to see him. Everyone asks how he's been, what he's doing, how his short lived college baseball career was. Sonny talks with his friends as Rafael stands awkwardly to his side.

Rafael finally grows bored. He came, he saw, he was ignored, but he knows Sonny won't agree to suddenly leave right now. Instead, Rafael spots the refreshments table and makes his way over.

Unfortunately, because they are on campus, there is no alcohol. He pours himself a glass of generic red punch and grimaces at the sweet taste.

Next to the refreshments is a table of photographs. Upon examination, Rafael sees that they are a compilation of their four high school years. It takes Rafael long minutes to find a photo he is in, and all it is is a plain group shot of a play they did.

Sometimes Rafael feels as though he wasted his high school years. He was in a few clubs, sure, because they looked better on a college application, but watching Sonny mingle with old buddies, he wonders how his life would be different if he had made more friends. Sonny has countless friends on Facebook who he interacts with commonly, but Rafael doesn't even have a Facebook page. Sonny had plenty of friends, plenty of people to spend time with and share with. Rafael had Sonny, and Lex on occasion, but even she was Sonny's friend who only became his friend because of Sonny.

Who would he be if he had more friends? Would he have wanted to date other people because he would be more outgoing? Would he have still wanted to see Sonny after high school?

Looking over at the easygoing man he's chosen to spend his life with, he realizes that no other could compare. Outgoing or not, Sonny has always been everything to him.

And still, Sonny was his first friend, has been his best friend, for over twenty years.

Rafael is so zoned out staring at his boyfriend across the room that he doesn't notice someone wandering towards him. He almost doesn't register that someone is even speaking to him.

"Well, well," the voice says to his left. "Rafael."

Rafael finally turns his head to see who could possibly be speaking to him, and he is surprised to see Kerry smiling widely at him.

"Kerry."

Kerry leans over and kisses his cheek in greeting. "How've you been, Rafi?" he asks.

Rafael takes him in. He's older, sure, as they all are, wearing an expensive suit and watch, with a perfect haircut, and a look like he's some company tycoon now.

"I'm...good," Rafael says, still surprised. He hasn't spoken to Kerry since the day they broke up on Christmas Eve ten years ago. "How are you?"

"Pretty good," Kerry says. "I heard you're a lawyer now."

"Oh, yeah," Rafael says, trying but failing to bolster himself into looking good. "Bronx DA's office."

"Wow, that's great for you. I actually just quit my job. Started a business, got tired of it, sold it. You know how it goes."

"Sure," Rafael says. He glances at Sonny enjoying his group and suddenly wishes he was uncomfortable with them instead of Kerry.

"So, I'm divorced," Kerry announces, making the meeting worse.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Rafael says.

"Yeah, it was just...bad. He and I..." Kerry shakes his head. "Anyway, you don't want to hear that. Are you, uh, here alone?" Kerry smiles and has a gleam in his eye.

Sometimes Rafael wonders if Kerry only went out with him because he was the only other somewhat openly gay boy in their class during that time in high school. Apparently, he is right, because there is no reason for Kerry to be looking at him in that way ten years later.

"No," Rafael says, then clears his throat to speak for confidently. "I'm here with my boyfriend."

"Oh, really?" Kerry asks, looking around. "Who is it?" And then he pauses abruptly. He drops the grin. "You're not still with Carisi."

"Actually, I am," Rafael says, not dropping his confidence. If there's one thing he's proud of in his life, it's Sonny.

"Did you marry him?"

"Not yet," Rafael replies.

Kerry snorts. "Wow. I still have no idea what you see in that little--"

Rafael cuts him off. "Well, good thing he's not your concern to see anything in."

Sonny makes his appearance finally, approaching them swiftly and wrapping an arm around Rafael's waist.

"Hey," Sonny greets, kissing Rafael's head. He pretends to notice their company and sticks his hand out to shake Kerry's. "Kerry, right?"

Kerry shakes Sonny's hand. "Carisi. We were just talking about you."

"Yeah? Talking about how I beat you your last track meet of high school and started going out with your ex on the same day? Good to see you, Kerry. Sorry about your divorce. Rafi, come over here, the guys wanna ask you some law expertise questions."

The couple marches away with Kerry picking his jaw up off the floor behind them.

Rafael laughs as soon as they're out of Kerry's earshot.

"What the hell, babe?" he asks Sonny. "Why did you say those things?"

"You looked uncomfortable and that guy's a dick, he deserved it. He was awful to you in high school."

"Still didn't have to say that! And how did you know he's divorced?"

"Tan line around his ring finger," Sonny easily says, astounding Rafael with the simple observation.

Sonny sweeps in for a kiss.

"Seriously, the guys wanna re-meet you."

Rafael accepts now, following Sonny to the table where the baseball players and their wives are enjoying conversations.


 

The evening ends up great. Rafael has a good time and talks to a lot of people he remembers and who remember him. He gets to show off his strong cop boyfriend and brag about his important career, and people many people think they are cool.

Talking to one of his classmates, a girl named Alana who he had science with all four years, Rafael realizes he's missing something.

"All I've done is get married," Alana tells Rafael. "I was in college when I got pregnant, and I just decided...I'd rather raise my family." Alana pulls out her phone and clicks around until he finds what she was looking for. She turns the phone around to show Rafael. "This is my son! His name is P.J., Paul Junior, and he's...the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. Besides my husband, of course. Everyone here has their fancy careers, but...I wouldn't trade my mom-job for anything."

Rafael watches her admire the picture on her screen. She looks so proud, as proud as he is of his degrees, which is all he's accomplished. He wishes he was showing Sonny off as someone he's made a life with, not just someone he's "stayed with" since high school.

Sure, they have their life, but they aren't married, they don't have kids, and Sonny still insists on eating at his mom's house more often than not. Which is fine to Rafael, most of the time.

Sonny appears next to them as Rafael is still watching Alana admire her own beautiful family. He grabs Rafael's hand.

"Hey, 'Lana, don't mind if I steal Rafi, do you? Come here, Rafi."

Rafael follows Sonny, gladly, out the doors of the gym and into the halls of their old high school. It's dim and cold, almost haunting, but familiar. Rafael grows a knot in his stomach as they pass his old classes, and he realizes the anxiety is ridiculous.

"Where are we going?" Rafael asks as Sonny rounds hallways to the big building.

Finally, they stop in front of the trophy display case, where Sonny easily picks out their baseball trophies. After winning third in state his freshman year, the team went on to win the state championship the very next year. Rafael remembers Sonny was so proud, as if nothing else in the world would ever please him more.

It wasn't until Sonny graduated from the police academy that Rafael knew that wasn't true.

"I just wanted to see it," he explains. "This was one of the greatest moments in my life. After graduating the academy, of course. And..."

Rafael looks at him. "And?"

"And the expected day of when you marry me."

Rafael's throat tightens with nerves.

"Are you gonna marry me, Rafi?" Sonny asks, not taking his eyes off the shiny trophies in front of them.

"Of course."

"No, seriously."

Rafael gulps. "Are you proposing?"

Sonny looks at him as serious as can be. He's not joking. This isn't just one of their usual talks of their futures. Sonny looks as though he realized what Rafael realized is missing between them.

"If I am?" Sonny asks. "Marry me, Rafi."

Rafael feels his extremities shaking.

"You're not...you don't--"

Sonny removes his hand from his pocket, producing a beautiful plain silver ring.

Rafael is absolutely sure his heart has stopped.

"Where did you--why did you--tonight? Did you mean to--"

"No," Sonny answers, reading his mind as usual. "I've literally been carrying this around for months, just waiting for the right moment."

"And now is the right moment?"

Sonny drops to one knee, right there on the disgusting school floor in the dimly lit hallway.

"Isn't it?" Sonny asks, so very seriously.

Any moment would be the right moment. Sonny could be down on one knee in the middle of the worst blizzard New York has ever seen and it would be the right moment.

Rafael can only breathe heavily.

"Rafael," Sonny says, looking up at him with his beautiful blue eyes. "Love of my life. Will you marry me?"

Rafael blinks a tear out of his eye. This is real. This is the most real moment of his entire life. This is the moment all the tiny moments have led up to.

Being inseparable since their first meeting.

The sleepovers.

The endless childhood baseball games.

Playing house.

The paper he wrote in elementary school stating he was going to marry Sonny.

Their first kiss.

Their breakup.

Their reunion.

Growing up together.

This is it.

"Yes," is all Rafael can say. All he can ever say.

Sonny's face finally splits into an ear to ear grin. He takes Rafael's hand and slips the pretty ring on, then stands and attacks Rafael in a hug.

Rafael lets Sonny squeeze him, lets Sonny contort their bodies until they're as pushed together as can be.

"I love you, Rafi," Sonny whispers over and over. "I love you so much."

"I love you too, Sonny, more than anything."

Sonny pulls back until he can take Rafael's face in his hands. Rafael doesn't realize he's actually crying until Sonny's thumb rubs the moisture into his cheeks. Sonny's eyes are watery too, and that's all Rafael can see as Sonny dives in for a deep kiss.

They exit the school without saying goodbye to any classmates. Rafael doesn't care to see anyone else, he only wants to enjoy this glow with Sonny.

"We need champagne!" Sonny announces as they attempt to catch a cab.

Rafael laughs. "We can't afford champagne. You blew the last of our grocery budget on that video game, remember?"

Sonny looks at Rafael with guilt. "You said I could!"

Rafael laughs. "I think we have wine at home leftover from Theresa having dinner with us last week."

Sonny makes a face. "That stuff was gross. Do we have anything else? What happened to that whiskey my dad gave you?"

"We drank it after Theresa left!"

"Oh, yeah..."

Rafael can only laugh. He doesn't care about anything, what alcohol they have at their apartment to celebrate with, that no cabs will stop for them. He is so happy.

He grabs Sonny's hand to get his attention.

"Hey," he says softly as Sonny looks down at him. "I love you."

Sonny kisses him soundly on the lips. "I love you, too."

No cabs stop for them, so they decide to walk. They stroll hand in hand, just like they had in high school, and Rafael can't believe where he is. Ten years later with the little boy he fell in love with, a shiny silver ring around his finger that the little boy bought, mentally planning to spend the rest of his life with him.

Chapter Text

If Rafael had a dollar for every time someone asked if he and Sonny have set a date yet, he'd have enough money to pay for a really extravagant wedding.

So they haven't set a date, and Rafael put his ring away to save for the wedding, as they don't really know the etiquette on men's engagement rings. They're still engaged, of course; they don't call each other 'my boyfriend' anymore and instead call each other 'my fiancé'. Rafael loves Sonny's beautifully proud smile every time he says, "This is my fiancé, Rafael."

They still have a busy year. Rafael moves up and up in his office and Sonny in his. Rafael becomes well known in his office among the higher ADA's, and he likes making the other lawyers at his level jealous when one of the higher-up ADA's talks to him specifically. Everyone asks how the bosses remember his name. Rafael just gives his cocky smile and goes on with his day.

Sonny is kept busy by joining an adult softball league in the police department. His precinct has a team that he even had to try out for, which makes him feel more official. Rafael loves watching him play again, loves seeing him in his cute uniform, loves how serious Sonny takes it. While other guys show up to play casually, Sonny buys new batting gloves, a new bat, and new cleats. His team decides to wear full uniforms, so he wears tight white baseball pants that Rafael not-so-secretly loves.

Rafael is happy. He's happy with his fiancé, with his job, with their life. He is mostly content.

Until he overhears the information for a job open in Brooklyn, a bigger ADA position more important than the one he is currently in.

Rafael wonders if he would ever leave the Bronx. He wonders if he'd even get the job. He wonders if he'd leave Sonny.

The guy he overhears the information from is confident he will get the job, but the little jerk inside Rafael wants to get the job before he does.

Rafael asks Jessica for a favor.

"You owe me about three hundred favors," he tells her. "Remember that time you tried to make me break up with Jane and I refused and look at what happened. You married her. That was a favor in itself."

Jessica rolls her eyes. "And what does your fiancé think about you going to Brooklyn?"

Rafael diverts his eyes. "I...haven't told him. Look, I just want to try, okay?"

Jessica sighs. "You know Johnson is convinced he's going to get this job, right? Kinda dickish of you to suddenly want it. And, what? I'm going to call to get you an interview, of course you're going to get it, and then you're going to decline. What does that say about me?"

"You really think I'd get it?" is all Rafael asks.

Jessica laughs. "That's all that matters, isn't it? Proving yourself as the best person for the job. Fine, I'll call. But only because I like your ridiculous confidence in this."

Rafael smirks wisely and wanders out of her office.


 

Rafael does not know why he lies to Sonny when letting Sonny know he'll be in Brooklyn for the day. He says it's for work--which isn't entirely a lie--but he doesn't say it's for a job interview. He doesn't know what Sonny will say, but he knows Sonny will not be completely happy.

Sonny will be proud of him, as he always is, but not completely happy.

Rafael walks into the interview coolly. He wears a bold blue tie because he read once that blue is a color of intelligence and trust. He hopes he can make a good first impression by looking good and smart.

The interview is a huge success. Rafael prides himself in knowing what he's talking about, speaking clearly to get his points across, and knowing the right time to crack a joke or two. He isn't overly sarcastic, as sarcasm in interviews isn't desired, but he is clever enough. He actually enjoys himself in the interview, talking to his potential new bosses and coworkers.

After the interview, he calls Jessica.

"How'd it go?" she asks as Rafael pays for a hot dog from a street cart.

"I think it went well," he says. "They'll let me know in a few days."

"What did you wear?"

Rafael chuckles. "What?"

"What you wear makes the first impression! How was your handshake? You know you only get a few seconds to make a first impression, but it takes twenty positive encounters to reverse a bad first impression."

"I know, I know! I'm wearing a blue tie--"

"Ah, should've worn green to match your eyes."

"It was a job interview, not a blind date."

"Whatever. I'm going to call to see how you did."

"You don't have to."

"I do! It's like checking on my child on his first day of kindergarten. I'll ask how the hell you did."

"Please never have children."

Jessica laughs. "I'll call you later."

"Bye," Rafael mutters before hanging up.

He finally bites into his delicious looking hot dog and smiles to himself, feeling proud and happy, with anxiousness awaiting the call.


 

A week passes and Rafael fears he didn't get the job after all. His confidence does take a hit, knowing he isn't good enough for this new, big job, knowing he isn't ready to move up, experienced enough, whatever it was that messed up the interview. Maybe he was joking too much or too cocky. Maybe it was the blue tie.

He walks all the way home from work that evening. It's not too dark, so he feels safe, but it is a long walk. Rafael just feels like he needs to get his feelings out before moping at home. At least once he officially doesn't get the job, he can tell Sonny what happened and Sonny can help to boost his ego again.

Rafael's phone begins to ring on his journey. Assuming it's Sonny, because it is well after the time he should be home, he pulls his phone out.

He is surprised to find the call coming from Brooklyn.

"Hello?" he eagerly answers, then clarifies, "Rafael Barba."

"Mister Barba! It's E.A.D.A. Castro from the Brooklyn D.A.'s office."

"Good evening, sir. How are you?"

"I am fine, Rafael, thank you for asking."

Rafael's stomach flips. He wants to ask E.A.D.A. Castro just to get to the point of his call, but that is rude.

"What can I do for you, sir?" he asks instead.

"Well, I was just wondering if you're ready to move on over to Brooklyn."

Rafael stops breathing. "Sir?"

"We want to offer you the job, if you're still interested."

"I...I--"

"Now, I know this is a big step, and it'll take you a few days to get affairs in order to move. So think about it, call me back by Friday. Okay?"

"Yes, I will, I'll give you a call. Thank you so much, sir."

"I look forward to hearing from you soon!" Castro cheerily says and hangs up before saying goodbye.

Rafael walks home slower than before. He is having a hard time thinking. Now that the job is being offered, he really wants it. He really wants to move on to something bigger and better. He really wants to further his career in this way, and who knows how his career will be jeopardized if he turns it down?

But Sonny. He wants to be with Sonny. He wants to marry Sonny sometime soon. He wants to see Sonny every day and live happily ever after with him.

Sonny would understand, though...probably.

And this could be beneficial for himself and Sonny. He'd be making more money for his future with Sonny. Sonny could move to Brooklyn and they could get a bigger apartment. They could visit the Bronx enough to not miss their parents too much. Brooklyn could be a far enough distance to allow themselves to grow independently from their parents but still close enough to see them. It would be closer than Boston was, and far less scary because they're both full adults now.

The only way to find out if Sonny will understand this is to let Sonny know.

Rafael finally arrives home, but unfortunately Sonny is not. He decides to take a shower to calm down, and when he gets out he changes into sweats and lets his hair stick up in a bunch of directions because Sonny likes the way he looks disheveled like that.

Rafael turns the television on, but hardly pays attention to it. He just thinks. All the pros of taking the new job are great: more money, opportunity, moving up in his career, branching out of his comfort zone that is the Bronx.

But there's one big con keeping him from fully accepting the offer: Sonny.

Finally, Sonny arrives home with a whistle and a spring in his step.

"Hey baby!" he excitedly cries, dropping his backpack by the front door. "How was your day? I'm starving, any ideas for dinner?" Sonny steps behind the couch, behind Rafael, and rubs his shoulders. He leans down and kisses Rafael's cheek. "Mmm, damn you smell good." He nibbles on Rafael's ear lobe and Rafael squirms, letting out a chuckle.

Sonny stands up straight and heads for their bedroom. "Let me change and we'll talk about dinner."

Rafael follows, his nerves growing in the pit of his stomach. "Hey, uhm, can we talk about something else, really fast?"

By the time Rafael gets into the bedroom, Sonny is already stepping out of his pants.

"What's up?" he asks, looking concerned. "Did someone die?"

"What? No, nobody died, Sonny."

"You look all serious. What's going on? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm--"

Sonny's clothes are off now and he saunters towards Rafael. "Hey, that's my shirt," he say, pulling at the hem of Rafael's t-shirt. "Wanna take it off?"

Rafael laughs. Sonny dives in to kiss at his neck while pulling at the shirt.

"Come on, baby, I'm just in a good mood," Sonny says, pulling back to hold Rafael's hands between them instead. "You're making me nervous, what's wrong?"

Rafael takes a deep breath. "Come here, sit down."

Sonny slowly sits on the edge of their bed.

Rafael paces.

"So," he says, "I have a confession to make. Last week, when I went to Brooklyn, I lied about...why I went. I mean, it was for work, but--"

Sonny looks confused. "Okay?"

"I, uh...had a job interview."

"What?" Sonny asks.

"At the D.A.'s office for a higher position than the one I currently hold. I just...I'd heard about it and, I don't know, wanted to try, I guess."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know, honestly, I...I didn't think I'd get it--"

Sonny's eyebrows lift in shock. "You got it?"

"Oh, yeah. They called today and offered it to me."

"What?!" Sonny cries, jumping up and gripping Rafael by the shoulders. "That's great, Rafi! I'm so proud of you!"

Rafael sighs in relief. "Really?"

Sonny hugs him. "Yes, of course! You are one-hundred percent deserving of more opportunities, babe. Wait...did you think I'd be upset?" Sonny pulls away.

"Well...yeah. I mean, it's Brooklyn."

"Hey, I was happy when you left me to go to Boston, wasn't I?"

"Yeah, but we weren't going to get married then."

Sonny looks at him softly. "Weren't we?" he simply asks.

Rafael cracks a smile. "And, anyway, I...I don't know--"

"You have to take it," Sonny insists.

"I--"

"They offered. I know you were probably doubting they'd even offer and now your ego is boosted so you have to prove they made the right decision. Don't act like you're not thinking that."

"Well..."

"And it'll be great. We'll be great. Maybe we can meet in the middle in some seedy motel in Manhattan that charges by the hour to have an afternoon delight."

Rafael laughs. "Yeah, that's not happening."

Sonny joins him in laughing. "Hey," he says, reaching for Rafael again. "I'm so proud of you."

Rafael takes Sonny in a tight hug. "Even though we'll have to push our wedding back?"

"Hey, we can't push back anything that didn't have a date anyway."

Rafael laughs. "That is true. I'm afraid your mother might actually kill us one day."

"More like Theresa because she wants us to get married while Charlie is still little and cute. We'll have our time, though. Okay?"

Rafael nods. "Okay."

"Now," Sonny announces a few minutes later. "We gotta celebrate! What do you want? Chinese? Thai?" He steps towards their bedroom door to go to the kitchen. "I'll get the menus out, you think about it."

Rafael takes another relived breath. He doesn't know why he got worked up about telling Sonny the news. Of course Sonny is happy for him, Sonny is always happy for and proud of him. Sonny is nothing but supportive.

Rafael looks around their bedroom, with the light gray wall that Sonny made him paint one weekend, the Mets hoodie laying on the bed, the glass of water Sonny insists on keeping on the nightstand.

He will miss this apartment, miss living in it with Sonny, but this job is for the best.

He'll miss having dinner with Sonny and sleeping with Sonny and just seeing Sonny every day, but they survived it before, so they can survive it again.

"Baby?" Sonny yells from the kitchen. "You want burgers or something?"

Yes, Rafael will miss this, but one day he won't have to miss it anymore.


 

They both have the next day off, so Rafael calls E.A.D.A. Castro while making Sonny eggs and toast. Sonny takes out his iPad and begins to search for apartments, because he wants to prove to Rafael that he is nothing but supportive, even though talking about him leaving is tough.

They spend the day lounging and searching for Rafael's new home.

"I need a bigger master closet than that, Sonny," Rafael frequently says, and, "Come on, no bathtub? That's not going to work."

They bookmark a few apartments near Rafael's new office, then Sonny makes Rafael call the realtors to set up appointments to see them.

Since they're both off the following Saturday as well, they take a trip to Brooklyn to see the apartments.

When they climb out of the car outside the first apartment, Sonny takes his phone out and stops the stop-watch he had running.

"Forty-five minutes," he announces. "Not bad."

"Better than a few hours via train?" Rafael asks.

"Much," Sonny agrees.

The first apartment is nice, but Sonny insists it's terrible.

"Honestly," he says as they leave, "The pictures online must have been taken ten years ago."

The second apartment is great, but Sonny complains that it smells weird.

"It doesn't smell like mold to you?" he asks as they leave.

The third apartment is the cheapest, but Sonny says it's not worth any penny Rafael would be willing to give.

"The people upstairs were too loud the entire time, couldn't you hear them?" he comments.

After the fourth place isn't good enough for Sonny's liking, Rafael catches on to what's happening. As supportive as Sonny is trying to be, he is clearly not okay with Rafael leaving. Rafael could stay with him in the Bronx, but with an almost hour commute through a busy city, with early and late hours, and with the stress of what the job entails? Rafael can't be going back and forth between Burroughs every day.

As they walk down the block to the car after the fourth place, Rafael gently tugs on Sonny's hand to stop him so they can talk.

"Look," Rafael says, "I know what you're doing. And no place is going to be good enough for you, you know that. It won't be our home. So...do you not want me to take the job after all?"

Sonny looks guilty. "No, honey, of course I want you to take the job. I want you to do what will make you happy and be better in the long run."

"But leaving you--"

"Hey, you're not leaving me. Not really. Sure, we won't be living together, but we won't be apart. I just gotta get used to that, I guess."

"I'll have to get used to it too," Rafael agrees.

Sonny squeezes Rafael's hand. "I am proud of you, Rafi. You have no idea."

"I do, because I'm proud of you every day. I wouldn't be here without the strength you give me. You know that, right?"

"Yeah, I do. You woulda been lost your whole life without me."

Rafael laughs. "You're not wrong. Who would have taught me how to throw a baseball?"

Sonny grins. He kisses Rafael's forehead.

"I actually really liked the second place," Sonny informs him.

"I really liked that place, too. Could you see us there?"

"I could. That kitchen was the biggest, and that'll be good for when I visit and make you dinners that'll last you a week 'till I return."

"Mmm," Rafael agrees, imagining a freezer full of frozen lasagnas and spaghetti that he can just warm up every mealtime. "We can get a cute little couch and coffee table."

"You know that wall facing south? I'm thinking floor to ceiling bookshelves."

Rafael really, really likes that idea. An entire wall of bookshelves opposite the giant windows? The windows don't face much of a view but they will let in a ton of natural light, which means Rafael won't be using too much electricity during the day. The windows will be wonderful to watch the snow fall in the next coming winter months.

"You wanna call your realtor and put in an offer?" Sonny asks.

Rafael nods, his stomach flipping nervously. "I think I do."

Sonny smiles proudly. He pats Rafael's back as they turn back to the car to return to the second apartment, the one Rafael will soon hopefully live in.
---

It takes a few days for paperwork on the apartment to become finalized, and in that time Rafael puts in his two weeks notice and begins to pack. He stops getting anxious and nervous every day and instead begins to get excited. Sonny helps by helping Rafael downsize, since it'll be "tough getting all of his crap to Brooklyn," as Sonny says.

Luckily, Rafael's Mami, Abuela, and the Carisi's all wish to help as well, and they each give Rafael a going away/housewarming gift. Mami gets Rafael a microwave, Abuela gets Rafael a fancy coffee maker, and the Carisi's give Rafael the little couch from Theresa's house that's been in their garage since she got divorced years ago. It's in great shape, and Dominick Sr. is more than happy to free up space in the garage.

It takes them one day to move, mostly because nobody wants to take multiple trips between Burroughs. Rafael doesn't have a lot of stuff to move, as their Bronx apartment was too small to keep a lot of belongings anyway; most of it is clothes, and luckily the new apartment has a lot of closet space.

Sonny packs a box of his own clothes to keep at the Brooklyn apartment, too.

"That way I won't feel like I guest when I come visit," he reasoned with Rafael. "And I can just leave right after work to come see you. Right? That'll be good."

Rafael agrees, and he is glad Sonny thought of sending his own clothes. He would be too lonely without old Mets t-shirts and skinny blue jeans.

Mami had also gifted Rafael dishes, utensils, and basic kitchen items (like whisks and spatulas), so when they arrive at the new apartment, she gets to work unpacking the kitchen while Sonny unpacks the living room and Rafael organizes the closet.

Standing back to admire his work, he is truly pleased. Every suit is hanging by color, as are vests and shirts. Inside the closet is a skinny dresser drawer, where he has a drawer for ties, underwear and socks, pajamas, and Sonny's clothes.

Rafael likes those drawers the best, the bottom two drawers that belong to Sonny. He strokes the old, soft fabrics between his fingers. The t-shirts feel and smell like Sonny, like home, and for a second Rafael regrets his decision. He wonders if leaving Sonny is what he should do.

He'd gone to church, he'd prayed, he'd asked for advice, and all signs pointed to furthering his career. Everyone he had asked, everyone he trusts, they say that this is the best for him. Even Sonny says this is what's best.

"I'm not even gone yet and you're cuddling my clothes."

Rafael turns around to see Sonny leaning against the doorway of his new closet.

Rafael drops the t-shirt back into the drawer and stands. He reaches out to welcome Sonny into his arms, and Sonny wraps his long, noodly arms around Rafael's neck.

"Were you makin' love to your tie drawer again?" Sonny jokes.

Rafael chuckles. "I was waiting until after you leave."

Sonny kisses his head. "I like what you did in here. You'll love the bookshelf in the living room, though. And the kitchen is immaculate, thanks to your mom, and--"

Rafael looks up at him. "We'll be okay, right?"

"Of course we'll be okay," Sonny says, without missing a beat. "We'll be great."

Sonny kisses his forehead.

Rafael never noticed before how much he loves the simple gesture of forehead kisses. They're so comforting, so soothing. He remembers his mother kissing his forehead until he grew to be her height. Mrs. Carisi used to give him forehead kisses. Now Sonny's forehead kisses are just as sweet and caring.

"I love you," Rafael whispers, burying his face in Sonny's hoodie.

"I love you, too. And I'm so proud of you."

"Thank you," Rafael says. "You make me proud, too."

"I know, you did good choosin' me."

Rafael laughs. He kisses Sonny's jaw, the. Sonny drags him into the living room to see the progress he had made with the bookshelf.
---

Finally, Rafael's first day at the Brooklyn D.A.'s office arrives. He wakes up early out of excitement and has a cup of coffee that was made instantly with his fancy new single brew coffee maker.

After a shower, he gets down his favorite suit and lays it out on his bed. Staring at his suit with the bright pink tie next to it, his phone begins to ring.

He smiles widely when Sonny's face pops up on the screen. It's a FaceTime call, so Rafael happily answers to see Sonny's sleepy face on the other line. He's laying on his stomach, his arms under his pillow the way he likes to sleep, with the phone towards the head of the bed.

"Hey, Rafi," Sonny says with a yawn. "What are you doin'?"

"I'm getting dressed," Rafael says, "Shouldn't you be doing the same?"

"Hey, I have time. How'd you sleep? How are you feeling?"

"I slept alright, if not a bit lonely. How about you?"

"Fine," Sonny agrees.

"Did you cuddle my pillow last night?"

Sonny smirks. "Want to see where it is right now?"

Rafael studies him for a second. "Do I even want to know?"

Sonny still grins. "Probably not."

Rafael rolls his eyes.

"Show me which outfit you picked out for today," Sonny demands.

Rafael turns the camera to show Sonny his suit.

"Pink tie, nice. Not too sexy, not too soft."

Rafael turns the camera back to himself. "You don't think my pink tie is sexy?"

"Well, I do, but I think anything you wear is sexy."

"Uh-huh," Rafael mutters.

"Speaking of sexy..."

Rafael is about to remind Sonny of the 'no-sex-via-FaceTime' rule, but there's a sudden sharp knock on his front door. Very confused, Rafael tells Sonny to stay quiet as he makes his way over.

Peeking through the hole, Rafael is shocked to see Jessica Clayton standing in the hallway outside his door. With a chuckle, he answers the door.

"What are you doing here?" he asks instead of greeting.

"Geez, that's the hello I get? After traveling at this way?" Jessica sweeps into the apartment, looking around and examining everything. "I never leave the Bronx, you know that. The world is a disgusting--oh, good morning, Sonny--first day of kindergarten, remember?"

Rafael laughs and rolls his eyes.

"What?" Sonny asks. "Kindergarten?"

"It's a long story," Rafael tells him.

Jessica continues, "As the sole person who has taken you under their wing, it is my duty, nay, my honor, to make sure you don't fuck up your first morning of work, where my reputation will take a hit if you look like an idiot."

"Gee, thank you for thinking of me on this day that is clearly about y--"

Jessica disappears into Rafael's bedroom. Rafael quickly follows and finds her holding his tie and examining it.

"Is this what you're wearing?" she asks, sounding disgusted.

"Sonny likes it," Rafael defends.

"Sonny likes everything. No offense, Sonny."

"None taken," Sonny says, "I think..."

"Well," Jessica sets it down. "If this is what you've got your heart set on, I guess it's okay. Red is too bold, of course, orange too bright, yellow would disappear in your white shirt, purple is too sexy, that leaves green or blue or pink, I guess, and--"

"Why have you put so much thought into my ties?" Rafael asks. "How do you even know so much about them? What if I don't even own a yellow tie?"

Jessica diverts her eyes. "Sonny sent me a photo of your tie drawer last year."

Rafael looks at Sonny through the phone.

"What?! She just wanted to make sure you didn't have any more like that weird expired, moldy mustard color one."

"Hey," Rafael says, remembering that tie had gone missing after the last time he wore it. "What ever happened to that tie anyway?"

"Let's just say it was neatly disposed of," Jessica supplies.

"I don't like that you two conspire against me," Rafael tells both of them.

"For you," Jessica corrects, moving towards his bedroom door. "Now, I'll be waiting out here. You get dressed."

Sonny gets out of his bed, then sets the phone on his bathroom counter while he brushes his teeth and washes his face, and they keep talking while Rafael dresses.

It's like he never even left. They're still getting ready together, still conversing through toothpaste foam and struggling to tuck shirts into pants. He can't smell Sonny's sweet coffee or feel his soft uniform shirt, but it's still nice.

Rafael knows their mornings won't go this smoothly forever. There will be earlier mornings or mornings where one is off or stressful mornings or running late mornings, but at least for the first morning, the separation bearable.

Finally, Rafael is dressed and ready to join Jessica to go to work.

"You're going to be great," Sonny tells him. "You're going to kick ass, you're going to own the place, they're going to be so glad they hired you."

Rafael takes a slow, deep breath. "Thank you," he says.

"I love you, Rafi. I'm so proud of you."

"I love you too, Sonny. I'll call you tonight, okay?"

"Okay, honey. Have a good day!"

"You too!" Rafael says, then ends the call and returns to the living room.

By the end of his first day, exchanging a few mundane and normal texts with Sonny, making a few friends, and feeling like the decision he made was the right one, Rafael knows he will find his way and make his mark in Brooklyn.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sonny can count on half a hand the good things about Rafael living somewhere else, as there are, of course, very few reasons.

One reason that's alright with Sonny is that his sisters feel sorry for him more often and invite him to more places than before. Sonny is begged to attend most of Charlie's school functions, when before the information would be dropped nonchalantly.

The siblings have also adopted the weekly tradition of having dinner with just each other, with no parents, no boyfriends or fiancés or husbands, and on a night when Charlie would be visiting his father.

Tonight, Sonny is hosting, so he makes a salad, lasagna, a raspberry cheesecake, and he purchases two bottles of wine because between the four of them, they can really put it away.

His sisters arrive on time for dinner. They march into his apartment, giving him a kiss in greeting as they usually do in their family. Sonny absentmindedly notices that Gina looks...different. She looks so happy and beautiful, not that his sister is ever not beautiful, but she looks even more so than usual.

The girls sit at his little dining table and he pours four glasses of wine.

"None for me," Gina says, "I drove."

Sonny gets her some water instead, agreeing with her responsible choice and thinking nothing else of it.

"Bell's turn to lead a prayer," Theresa says. "Plus, she's gotta ask extra forgiveness for the underage alcohol consumption."

"Hey, you're enabling me," Bella argues, but she agrees anyway and leads the siblings in a prayer. "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this food that has been provided for us, thank you Sonny for preparing it; bless Mom and Dad and let them never find out they're not invited to our weekly dinners. Amen."

Gina snorts. "Nice, Bells."

"Hey, at least I didn't thank God for wine."

Theresa almost spits out her gulp. "Hey, if it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!"

Sonny just laughs at his sisters as he serves them like a polite host.

They eat, drink, and laugh. They talk about their lives and the week they've each had. They laugh about the selfie Dominick Sr. sent each of them earlier this week, the funny conversations they have with their parents, and their loved ones.

"How's Rafi?" Theresa asks. "I feel like I haven't seen him in forever."

"He's great," Sonny informs them, grinning sloppily from the wine and the mentioning of his beloved. "He's busy with court and stuff, but he's good."

"When are you moving to Brooklyn?" Bella asks.

Sonny shrugs. "I dunno. I haven't heard of anything opening up, and Rafael wants to go somewhere else, Manhattan probably, so what's the point of me goin' there if he's gonna leave?"

Gina speaks up next. "Are you actually ever going to get married or are you guys going to be engaged forever?"

Sonny shrugs again, still grinning.

Theresa ticks. "Livin' in sin..."

Sonny playfully shoves her.

Gina sits up straight as if ready to make an announcement. She swirls the water around her glass distractedly.

"Hey, before you two start fighting like when we were kids, I have an announcement to make. Well, two announcements."

It suddenly clicks to Sonny why his sister looks different, and a little more than tipsy and very happy with the idea, he can't help but blurt it out:

"You're pregnant!"

Theresa and Bella's jaws drop.

"How did you know?!" Gina cries, almost laughing.

"Hey, I'm not this close--" Sonny puts up two fingers close together-- "To being detective for nothin'!"

"You're not 'this close' to being detective!" Bella says.

Theresa waves her hands in front of herself to get the attention back. "Wait, back it up! You're pregnant?!"

Gina smiles widely and nods.

"Oh my god!" Theresa cries, standing to hug Gina.

Bella chuckles. "You're gonna get fat."

Theresa flicks her.

Sonny remembers Gina had another piece of news. "What was the other half of your announcement?"

"Oh," Gina mutters, suddenly sounding glum. "So, David has to go to Germany in a month until after the baby is born."

David, Gina's husband, is, in Sonny's own words, "something in the military". He spends half the year traveling, mostly to Washington D.C. but a lot of his work can be done from where he works at West Point. After Gina got married, they moved to London for a short time and Gina considered it an extended honeymoon.

"Are you going with him?" Sonny asks, almost fearful. He missed Gina too much while she was in London to be okay with her taking off to Germany while pregnant.

"No, I'm not going this time, which means I'm going to need some help. Sonny, as the Godfather--"

Sonny almost starts to cry.

"--I was wondering if you could, y'know, go to appointments with me, go to classes with me, all of that stuff."

"Yes, absolutely," Sonny immediately answers. "Anything you need, I'm your guy."

Gina reaches over and grabs his hand. Sonny brings her hand to his lips and kisses it. He is so happy.

Gina informs them that she is eight weeks along, she is due on Bella's birthday, and they aren't going to find out the baby's gender.

"Oh, come on!" Theresa argues. "Fine. But Theresa would make a great name either way."

"Sure," Gina says. "Oh, and another thing? Mom and Dad don't know yet. I'm waiting until next week so I can tell them with the newest sonogram."

They each agree not to tell their parents, but Sonny doesn't agree not to tell Rafael, which means that evening he shares the news. Rafael congratulates him and says he'll make a great Godfather.


 

Gina's pregnancy goes great, and Sonny learns way too much about pregnant women. During one of the first pregnancy classes, they talk about the changes a body will go through, what happens during childbirth, and he left the class in quite a shock.

During sonograms, he sees decidedly too much of his sister (her bare growing belly) and learns much more about her than he wants to.

However, he also counts it as a win to be such a big help to Gina. Whatever she needs, she asks him for, since he's not away at college (like Bella) or busy with a kid of her own (like Theresa). Sonny is the most free at all times.

Gina calls for everything. When she finally starts having cravings, at first she calls him immediately after one begins.

It's 2 PM, he doesn't get off tour for hours, but she calls to ask him to deliver a very specific chocolate-banana shake to her after work. This chocolate-banana shake is from a little diner where Dominick Sr. used to take them when they were kids, and it's pretty far out of the way for Gina. It's no problem to Sonny.

The only problem is that by the time he gets the very specific chocolate-banana shake to Gina, she is no longer craving it. In fact, the thought of drinking it makes her nauseas.

"I'm sorry, Son. Next time, I'll wait until after your shift ends."

Sonny says it's fine, but the next time she gets a craving, she waits until after he's off work to call him, so by the time he delivers her snack, she's ready to eat it.

Sonny helps her with nausea by always having crackers and caffeine-free ginger ale handy. He's there with Theresa in tow the first time her clothes don't fit right and she has a complete emotional breakdown. He's there for every sad phone call, for every euphoric shopping trip, every emotional doctor's appointment. Sonny gives David reports about how Gina is "really doing", because they both know if Gina was truly struggling, she wouldn't tell David. Sonny reassures David that Gina and the baby are wonderful, and he has nothing to worry about from Germany.

Everything is great. Gina hits the third trimester, the baby is growing wonderfully, Gina is healthy as can be, and Sonny grows more and more excited for a new baby each day.

He knows, of course, that this is not his baby. This will be his niece or nephew, and just as important to him as his own child, but at the end of the day, the baby is not his.

Having these thoughts, Sonny begins to think about having his own baby. He wonders if the baby would be made with his sperm or Rafael's, what they would look like if they were his or Rafael's, if they'd adopt instead, where they'd adopt from. He thinks it might be nice to give Rafael a relative of his own, for the only blood Rafael has is his mother and grandmother. Sonny himself has sisters, two parents, dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles, many people around him who share his last name and DNA.

He imagines having a little bouncing baby that looks like Rafael. Rafael was a chunky kid, is a chunky adult, and a little baby with that chub would be adorable. A little baby with Rafael's tan skin and green eyes, with brown hair and Rafael's thin lips and nose.

Sonny spends some nights almost longing for it, for a baby of his own, with Rafael. He longs for the joint stability that Gina and David share, he longs for their growing family.

It's not that he wants kids, it's not that it would be a deal breaker if Rafael doesn't want them, but Sonny does think he should voice his daydreams to Rafael.

"So," Sonny starts one night on the phone with Rafael after a long day of work. "I have a...thing, I kinda wanna talk about."

"Yeah?" Rafael asks, sounding nervous.

"It's not bad. I've just been thinking lately. You don't...you've never thought about...you know...havin' kids, right?"

"I've never thought about it?" Rafael repeats. "I mean, sure, I've thought about it. Have you?"

"Kind of, lately, hanging out with Gina so much. I don't know, just daydreaming, I guess."

"Do you...want them?"

"I don't know. Maybe? Maybe not?"

"Can I be honest?" Rafael asks.

"Of course."

"I've never wanted kids. From the time I knew I wanted to marry you, I knew I didn't want kids."

"Why then?" Sonny asks, "If there's a specific reason."

Rafael chuckles. "You want to know how I knew I didn't want kids? I was about twelve, and your mom ran down to the bodega on the corner for something, I don't know. She left me in charge, and after Bella threw a fit because I wouldn't get her more Kool-Aid, she kicked me in the shin. From that moment on I vowed to never have kids."

Sonny laughs. "She was a vicious kid anyway."

Rafael laughs, too. "Yeah. She was sweet, unless I pissed her off, then she let me have it."

"Sorry, baby. You can kick her back now, if you want."

"I'm over it," Rafael says. "And anyway, I just...I've never wanted kids. I'm sorry, Sonny, I really am."

Sonny doesn't want Rafael to apologize, it's not like they'd decided to have a kid and Rafael suddenly backed out on him. Rafael didn't make this decision to hurt Sonny.

"It's alright," Sonny says. "Don't apologize. I just wanted to talk about it."

"I really am sorry, though. I don't want to take this from you."

"You're not taking anything from me, Rafi, I promise. I was just thinking about it, that's all."

"Okay," Rafael quietly agrees. "I love you."

"I love you too, baby. So much."

They discuss their plans for the upcoming weekend, all while Sonny pushes the daydreams from his mind.


 

A few nights later, Sonny is sleeping soundly in his comfortable bed after a long day protecting the streets of the Bronx. He is in such a dead sleep that his phone ringing startles him so much that he jumps. He jolts upright in bed and scrambles to grab his phone.

Seeing Gina's face on the screen scares him even more.

"Yeah?" he answers. "Gina? What's wrong?"

"I don't know, Sonny, it hurts, I...I think I'm having contractions."

"But you're only 1 o'clock!" he cries, then shakes his head. "I mean thirty-two weeks!"

"I know, can you come get me so we can go to the hospital?"

Sonny immediately hops out of bed, throws some jeans on, and runs out of his apartment.

In the car, he times Gina's contractions and helps her remember breathing exercises. She begs him not to call anyone else until they're sure something is happening, and Sonny complies even though he's freaking out on the inside.

Sonny gets Gina to the emergency room, then helps her into an exam gown while holding her hand through the pain.

"We're not ready yet," Gina keeps saying, to either herself or the baby, but Sonny takes it as his advice, too. They're not ready.

After being examined by the doctor available and sufficiently freaking out for what seemed like eternity, he announces Gina is having Braxton Hicks contractions, or practice contractions.

The pain disperses not long after they arrive at the hospital, so the doctor clears Gina to leave, but advices her to take it easy for a few days.

It's after 4 AM by the time they stumble into Gina's apartment, but Sonny stays because he luckily had the day scheduled off anyway. Gina's office is so accommodating that all she does it send an email saying she isn't feeling well and won't be in, then she goes back to bed and Sonny falls asleep on the couch.

Sonny hangs out with her all day, doing anything she asks of him; his only condition is that she tell their parents that she went to the hospital. After insisting that she and the baby are fine, Deb and Dominick Sr. make Sonny take Gina to their house, where they are both fussed over (because Sonny had a long night in his own way, thank you very much).


 

Finally, a week before her due date--to Bella's liking, because she didn't want to share her birthday--the big event arrives.

Gina calls when Sonny is about to leave for Brooklyn.

"Hey, Gin, what's up?"

"Oh, I--hang on--"

There's silence for about minute, then Gina returns sounding breathless.

"I'm having contractions."

"What?!"

"I...think my water broke..."

"When?!" Sonny demands, putting his phone on speaker to send Rafael a text letting him know he is not on his way to Brooklyn.

"A while ago," Gina answers. "I don't know! I just got so nervous that I tried not to think about it, and then I went shopping--"

"What the hell?"

"I needed groceries, okay?! Anyway, they're...pretty painful--"

"I'm on my way," Sonny finally says. "How far apart are the contractions?"

"Like...five or six minutes?"

"Jesus, Gina! You shoulda called me earlier!"

"Oh, what, then I could be having contractions trapped in a hospital bed with my ass hanging out of a gown? No thanks, I'd rather be wearing my own yoga pants. Anyway, I took a shower, you can come get me now."

Sonny is already climbing into the car. "I'll be there in a second."

Sonny safely rushes to Gina's, then to the hospital.

"You better not give birth in my car!" she tells her as she hobbles into the car.

They get to the hospital and are informed they still have a little bit of a wait. The doctor says Gina isn't ready to push yet, so Sonny has a chance to calmly call his parents and Rafael.

"So is she ready?" Rafael asks, concerned. "And hey, I don't have much work this weekend, want me to come home?"

"I'd love that," Sonny admits. "That way you can meet your new niece or nephew while they're fresh."

Rafael laughs. "Okay, I'll head up soon. Good luck, babe."

"Thanks!" Sonny says, hanging up and returning to Gina's room.

Labor is not hard for Sonny, of course, no matter how hard Gina squeezes his hand. The most painful part for him is watching his sister endure so much pain. Seeing her cry, seeing her yell, it hurts Sonny because he can't help it. There's nothing he can do for Gina besides tell her she's okay and she's doing great. But he knows she's strong, like every woman, and she can handle it.

Finally, after one great push and squeeze of Sonny's hand, Gina cries as a high, shrill scream is let out through the hospital room.

The doctor, Doctor Chad who Sonny has become quite acquainted with over the pregnancy, begins to laugh suddenly.

"Well, Uncle Sonny," he says, "You owe me twenty dollars."

Sonny immediately knows what that means; behind Gina's back, he had bet Doctor Chad the baby was a boy, Doctor Chad said the baby was a girl. She's a girl.

"Oh my god," Sonny mutters, his heart bursting.

"What?!" Gina cries.

"Gina," Doctor Chad says, holding the baby up. "Meet your daughter."

"Oh my god," Gina repeats, tears flowing freely.

Doctor Chad hands the baby over, and Gina cradles her close to her chest. She cries over the baby as she cries back, as Sonny sheds a tear in pride and joy for his sister and niece.

They get the baby cleaned up and Gina announces her name is Amelia Sun, the Sun in honor of Amelia's Godfather, Sonny. It makes Sonny cry impossibly harder, and he holds the baby for just a second before Gina begs to have her back.

Sonny steps out while a nurse shows Gina how to feed Amelia. He takes many deep breaths to gather himself, as he can't believe he just went through that with his sister. It was truly a miracle helping his niece enter the world, and now he has even more of a connection with the baby for the rest of his life. He already loves that little girl more than absolutely anything in the world.

Finally, Gina is up to welcoming guests, so Sonny leads their parents in first. Deb cries, of course, holding her granddaughter tight as the baby coos, and Dominick Sr. gently pats her tiny cap-covered head.

Sonny goes back to the waiting room to talk to Theresa and Bella, and he's surprised to see Rafael there already.

He throws his arms around Rafael's neck and pulls him as close as possible. Rafael squeezes him back, and Sonny is so relieved. After a stressful time with Gina, and he hasn't seen Rafael in a few weeks, he is glad to have Rafael in his arms again.

"I missed you," Rafael whispers, pecking Sonny's neck.

"I missed you too," Sonny agrees. "You have no idea."

After a while, Sonny leads his sisters and Rafael to meet their niece. Theresa offers trading babies, because she wants Charlie to be a baby again, but of course she is joking. Bella kisses Amelia's head happily.

Theresa volunteers to spend the night in the hospital with Gina so Sonny can go home with Rafael.

As soon as they get into the house, Sonny marches straight to his bedroom and flops onto the bed. Rafael lifts his legs and removes his shoes, then removes his jeans with no help from Sonny himself.

"You're lucky I'm also too tired to complain that you're not even reacting to me taking your pants off," Rafael remarks.

Sonny waves a hand. "Let's just go to sleep. We'll get up and have a late dinner. A midnight snack."

"Mmm," Rafael agrees, crawling onto the bed with Sonny. He lays on Sonny's chest.

"My god, you feel so good," Sonny says, holding Rafael close.

"I know, you're comfortable too, babe."

Sonny leans up and kisses Rafael's head. "I love you," he says.

"I love you, too. And hey, I'm proud of you, for all you did for Gina."

Sonny shrugs. "Of course I did it. She's my sister. Plus, she never called me a 'Little Asshole' when I was a kid."

Rafael chuckles. "You would've done the same for Theresa."

"Of course," Sonny says. "I love them."

"I know," Rafael says, "And I love getting to be a part of it."

"I love it too," Sonny agrees, falling asleep.

"I love being your family," Rafael adds.

"Of course you're my family," Sonny mumbles. "You're my fiancé."

He feels Rafael smile against his chest. "Yeah. I am. Go to sleep, honey."

"Goodnight, Rafi."

Sonny feels a kiss against his chin. "Good night, babe."

Sonny falls asleep thinking about he day he had. He thinks about Rafael showing up, and his baby niece, and his sisters, and his parents crying, and everything that makes him happy in the world: his family.

Chapter Text

Rafael scowls at his reflection in the mirror. Eyes swollen from sleep, bags underneath from the weekly lack of, hair a dark moppy mess, five o'clock shadow breaking dusk as the hairs are long and dark.

He examines his long brown hair that had grown far too long because he is too busy to ever get a decent haircut, and in his examination finds something he's dreaded since he was young.

He's seen photographs of his grandfather before he died, silver-white hair and green eyes just like Rafael's; if he got the green eyes, why wouldn't he get the silver-white hair? His Abuela had white hair since as long as he could remember. His mother's is artificially brown, and Rafael so fears to suffer the similar fate.

For he has found a single white hair.

In his temple, barely noticeable to the naked eye, but to the trained eye (his own) it's there and shimmering as if a dime in a sea of pennies.

Rafael wants to pull it out, yank it and bury it soundly in the trash can where it belongs, but he remembers the old tale where six more will sprout where one has been ripped, so he tries his best to cover it with a comb through his locks.

Two weeks shy of thirty entire years old, and feeling every bit of remorse in the anniversary, Rafael adds this to the list of thirty-year-old ailments that have been piling up since birth. Joint pain, heartburn, poorer vision as the years pass, and now a single silver hair, all signs of aging that Rafael did not sign up for.

Rafael has tried to maintain his youthfulness. He jogs now, he acts as though his sex life is as flourishing as it was in his early twenties--which is to say, he's not having any but for rare occasions when he and Sonny are in the same city.

Rafael avoids doctor's appointments like any true millennial, and eats overpriced trendy foods that are prettier than tasty, fit for Instagram but not budgets or stomachs.

All of this is a long way of saying Rafael is almost thirty and hates it.

Rafael stands up straight so his reflection looks better. He sucks his belly in, broadens his shoulders, and tilts his chin up like a soldier awaiting orders.

And then he lets out a long breath, his tummy falling only slightly over the band of his underwear, his shoulders dropping, and his chin lowering again. Although his posture is great and he looks strong and proud normally, the relaxation makes Rafael feel like he's shrunk like a little old man.

Taking a deep breath, Rafael turns the cold water tap on and cleans his face, sloshes water through his mouth, and scrubs a wet hand through his hair.

He's been in the bathroom long enough. He had strict instructions murmured into the pillow as he quietly slithered from the bed: "Don't be gone long."

His crisis has lasted longer than long, for soon there's a rap on the door that makes Rafael jump.

"Rafi? You still in there or did you sneak out while I was dozin'?"

Rafael's sweeter, prettier, and younger fiancé sounds jolly in the morning even when spilling out half a yawn. Rafael loathes it, loathes it all: mornings, aging, his one gray hair and slight running bulging over the band of his boxers.

Sonny jiggles the doorknob enough that it unlocks, a trick he'd learned a while back when trying to sneak up on Rafael in the shower. That was a good morning.

Soon, Sonny is behind him in the mirror, a small, sleepy grin on his lips, eyes twinkling, hair a mess, and skin still warm from their sheets.

He slides behind Rafael, as tight as possible, and wraps his long arms around Rafael's middle, thoroughly covering his belly to Rafael's pleasure.

"What're you doin' in here?" Sonny asks, kissing behind Rafael's ear. "Admirin' yourself? I wanted to do that but you took off before I could."

"Nothing to admire," Rafael mutters, Sonny still kissing his neck and ear. "Just mourning youth lost."

Sonny snorts. "Yeah," he says, sounding sarcastic from the one syllable uttered. "I'm dreading turning twenty-seven--"

Rafael sighs, annoyed, stepping out of Sonny's grasp and out of the bathroom.

"I'm serious, Sonny," he says over his shoulder. "I found..."

Sonny follows, laughing. The little brat. "What'd you find?"

Rafael throws himself onto the bed and buries himself in his blankets. Sonny flops on top of him, over the blankets.

Rafael barely uncovers his face. "A gray."

Sonny snorts out a laugh. "Silver fox..."

Rafael yanks the blankets back over his head.

"Come on, Rafi!" Sonny cries, laughing, pulling at the blanket. "That guy on that T.V. show I like has all gray hair."

"First of all," Rafael says, muffled under the thickness of blankets covering his face, "Anderson Cooper is on CNN, not just any 'T.V. show'; second, it's not sexy, it's embarrassing."

Sonny finally pries the blanket from Rafael's tight grip.

"Hey," Sonny says, right in Rafael's face. "You're not old, you've never been more healthy, and one silver hair is not gonna kill you. When you turn thirty in a few weeks, you are not going to die. We're going to enjoy your birthday by fucking like we're still in our early twenties."

Rafael tries not to smile.

Sonny continues. "We'll eat crap all day from seedy little mom and pop shops to remind you of home."

Rafael's small smile slightly grows.

"We'll sleep all day and not get outta bed 'til someone delivers our food. No exercise. Just like when we were in high school and you couldn't keep up with me in gym class."

Rafael rolls his eyes, the smile tugging at his lips.

"And you won't feel a day over twenty-nine. Okay?"

Rafael can't help but nod. That plan sounds amazing: waking Sonny with some slow morning sex, peanut butter pancakes for breakfast, a nap, lazy midday sex, greasy Chinese food for lunch, another nap, another round of hot sex, for dinner pizza with pools of grease on the cheese, and going to bed late like teenagers.

"How does that sound?" Sonny asks.

"Amazing," Rafael mumbles.

"I'll make it so good for you," Sonny says, kissing Rafael's neck. "I'll do anything you want, anything at all."

Rafael tilts his head up to give Sonny more room. Sonny licks at his collarbone and chest.

"Would you like me to provide you with a demonstration?" Sonny asks, he purrs, his voice so low it sends a shiver down Rafael's spine. Sonny sounds as though he's ready to eat Rafael alive. Rafael isn't sure he wouldn't.

Sonny swirls his tongue skillfully down Rafael's chest as he pushes the blankets down the bed.

"Yes," Rafael sighs, hand digging into Sonny's hair to keep his head there. "Please," he whispers, breathlessly.

Sonny crawls up Rafael again. "What was that?" he playfully asks against Rafael's lips.

"Please?" Rafael begs again, scratching Sonny's back.

Sonny bites Rafael's bottom lip while simultaneously grinding his hips down. "Again," he demands.

Rafael moans and arches, tugging his lip free from between Sonny's teeth. "Please?" he groans out.

Sonny gives him one last feral grin before diving in for a deep kiss.

Afterwards, Sonny lays next to Rafael. At first, Rafael thinks nothing of Sonny running his fingers slowly through the hairs at Rafael's temple, but Rafael soon realizes he's searching for the gray.

Rafael yanks his head away. "Stop it."

"I can't even see it, come on."

"I hid it."

"I bet it's cute," Sonny says.

"Shut up, no it's not."

"I'm going to name it."

"Dios mio."

Sonny scratches his head. It's so relaxing that Rafael's eyes shut instinctively.

"Sonny Jr.," Sonny says a minute later. "Maybe Rafael Jr."

Rafael's eyes fly open. "I'm getting up."

Sonny grabs for his arm, laughing. "Baby!"

"I'm late," Rafael says, climbing out of bed.

"You don't have plans!"

Rafael stomps into the bathroom and slams the door, leaving Sonny laughing on the other side.


 

Rafael made Sonny promise not to throw a party or make his thirtieth birthday a big deal. He claims it isn't like any milestone birthdays in the past; his sixteenth birthday was exciting, then his eighteenth, then his twenty-first, then his twenty-fifth, but thirty makes Rafael breathe heavily and turn dangerously pale.

So no party, and Sonny promised.

He happened to lie, as well.

Sonny had planned, for months at the point when Rafael made him "promise", a small dinner party at a great restaurant with the people closest to them. His family, of course Rafael's family, Lex, Trey, Justine and Reynaldo from Harvard, Jessica Clayton and her wife Jane; just the people who mean the most to him, the people he's kept over the years of furthering his career and life.

All of their friends are now accomplished in their chosen paths. Lex teaches an art course at New York University, Trey is constantly between jobs but has many different degrees in different fields, and Justine and Reynaldo work both for the Boston D.A.'s office and have been married for three years.

Rafael and Sonny don't get to see a lot of their friends, and never at the same time, but Sonny knows Rafael will be glad to see them.

Well, he hopes he will be happy.

Sonny doesn't want to make Rafael turning thirty a big deal, he just wants to celebrate another year of Rafael's life. As blessed as he feels every day to have his man in his life, Sonny wants that one official day to truly thank God for him. Wanting to give thanks by drinking alcohol and eating cake and not, for example, attending church or something is besides the point.

Sonny's plan is to spend the day doing everything they've planned: not getting out of bed, eating junky food, just general relaxation. But Sonny's plan for the evening is to ask Rafael to a special dinner, then surprise him with the small party at the restaurant. Sonny hopes that by disguising the party as just a dinner, Rafael won't completely freak out at the celebration.

The secret is easier to keep because Sonny doesn't spend every day with Rafael. It is tough, still, even after being apart for so long already, but the distance comes in handy when keeping a secret.

When it comes to hiding gifts, or surprises, or plans, Sonny has it easy because he simply needs to hang up the phone when he feels himself about to tell Rafael a secret. He doesn't need to find clever hiding spots for presents because Rafael rarely travels to the Bronx anymore; usually everyone travels to Brooklyn for him because he's busy even on his weekends off.

The surprise party is no different; Sonny easily keeps it a secret because he hardly sees Rafael in the time leading up to the party.

Finally, Rafael's thirtieth birthday arrives and Sonny wakes next to the world's grumpiest birthday boy. Sonny only recalls Rafael being this grumpy on his birthday the day Rafael turned eleven and didn't get a book series set he really wanted, only to find out the books were just arriving late in the mail. Rafael, ever the polite and wonderful child, thanked his mother profusely and apologized for his terrible mood. He spent the rest of the day on his best behavior and earning head kisses from his Mami all day.

Sonny knows there is no fix that easy for Rafael's current birthday.

That didn't mean he couldn't try, by making an extremely sweet cup of coffee and surprising Rafael with his first present of the day: a mini chocolate cake from a bakery he really likes. Sonny sticks a single candle in the thick frosting and carries it with two mugs on a tray into their bedroom.

Upon seeing him, Rafael sits up against the headboard with a grin pulling at his lips, like he wants to smile but is too embarrassed to do so.

"Happy birthday to you," Sonny sings, finishing he song as he approaches the bed and sets the tray on Rafael's lap.

"Make a wish," Sonny adds.

Rafael shuts his eyes, Sonny waits patiently, then Rafael blows the candle out. Sonny leans over to kiss his happy smile.

"Already got my wish," Rafael says when Sonny pulls away.

"What, that I'd kiss you?" Sonny asks. "You don't gotta wish for that, Rafi--"

"No, I wished for coffee," Rafael says, sipping from his cup.

"Ha-ha," Sonny mutters, rolling his eyes.

Rafael smirks.

Sonny had also brought two forks, so they dig in to the cake, sneaking chocolate covered kisses here and there. Sonny swipes a long finger through the frosting and smears it on the tip of Rafael's nose, then leans over and kisses his nose clean. Rafael just laughs.

After their sweet breakfast, Sonny decides to give Rafael one of his gifts because they're still in private.

First, Sonny bought Rafael a gift he will give to him tonight, and that gift is tickets to a show he's wanted to see for months.

The second gift is far more personal, which is why Sonny will give it to him now rather than later. Sonny had spent the past few months going through the numerous photo albums at his parents' house, searching for photos of himself and Rafael throughout their life together. He compiled and copied his favorite photos and stuck them into an album for Rafael.

Sonny hopes Rafael will like it. His goal is not to remind Rafael that they are getting older, but what they've done together. There's a photo of them from their first date at the Yankee game, one photo from each birthday they've had together since meeting, photos of them at Sonny's baseball games, at swim lessons, at the summer club classes they used to take as kids. There are New Year's Eves celebrating with noisemakers, Valentine's Days with each boy making heart-eyes at the other, Easters at church, 4th of July's with sparklers, Halloweens often in matching costumes, Thanksgivings wearing sweet little sweaters, Christmases making Deb's famous sugar cookies. There are first days of school, the one prom dance they went to together, and candid photos of them playing outside as kids or cuddling on the couch.

There were so many photos to go through that the book is quite heavy and thick, but Sonny is proud of it and really, really hopes Rafael likes it.

It's wrapped in tissue paper in a heavy box, so when Sonny drops it in Rafael's lap, Rafael sighs in surprise.

"Geez, this is so heavy. What is it?"

Sonny shrugs. "Open it."

Rafael smiles excitedly and pulls the lid off the box, then digs through the tissue paper until he gets to the book.

Rafael's smile fades. "What's this?" he asks.

Sonny frowns. "It's...I--"

Rafael quickly pulls the book out of the box and tosses the trash aside so he can lay the book on his lap instead, then flips it open to the first page where there is a picture of Sonny and Rafael sitting on the street curb while sharing popsicles on a hot summer day. It was Sonny's favorite, because they were so little and still staring at each other with adoration.

"Dios mio," Rafael mumbles, quickly flipping the next three pages. "Honey...you did this? For me?" He sounds in awe.

"Well, yeah. I wanted to do something special for you so I got this idea and spent months at my mom's house going through all of our pictures. That woman documented every moment of our lives growing up."

Rafael is smiling now, turning the pages to see each picture. He is quiet, but halfway through the book he wipes a finger under his eye. Sonny wonders if he's crying, but he doesn't want to ask.

"This is amazing," Rafael says, sounding happy. "I can't believe you took the time to do this."

"Of course," Sonny says, finally smiling. "I wanted to show you the life we've shared and tell you...y'know, I'm happy you were born today."

Rafael turns his head to look at Sonny. Sonny definitely sees tears in Rafael's eyes, which makes his eyes begin to water.

Sonny continues, "Tell you I'm happy my parents decided to move to the Bronx over twenty years ago. Tell you I'm happy I'm the one you've chosen to spend your life with."

Rafael's tears fall. "Thank you, babe." He leans over and kisses Sonny lightly. Sonny happily kisses back.

When they part, Rafael shuts the pages back to the beginning, then turns each page slower than before so he can examine each photo more carefully. Sonny scoots closer to him so he can see too, and Rafael pulls Sonny's arm so it wraps around himself. Sonny happily holds Rafael close while he turns the pages.


They reminisce about the past. They laugh at their silly pictures, at the memories held within each one, at the ridiculous things they did together.

"I remember that Halloween," Rafael says, pointing to a picture where Sonny is about six and Rafael nine, and they're dressed as Buzz and Woody--Sonny as Woody and Rafael as Buzz, of course.

Sonny agrees, "Yeah, remember that punk from down the street stole my candy so you shared yours with me?"

Rafael nods. "And this Christmas?" He points to a picture where the small boys are wearing matching Rudolph t-shirts. "The only time we'd spent the night together on Christmas Eve because my Abuela was in Florida."

"Mhm," Sonny replies. "And how 'bout that one?" He points to a picture of them smiling at a swimming pool. "When I had to convince you to jump off the diving board."

"You were my big strong boy."

Sonny smiles proudly. "Your knight in shining armor."

"All these years and you finally agree to be the knight..."

Sonny laughs. He flips the page of the book. One of the next pictures is of them wearing matching Halloween costumes when Sonny was ten and Rafael thirteen. They wore black suits and sunglasses and were the agents from Men in Black.

"I can't believe you still matched with me then," Sonny says.

"Of course," Rafael replies. "You're my best friend."

Sonny kisses his head. "Yeah. And you had a crush on me."

Rafael rolls his eyes. "You were ten!"

They laugh all the way to the end of the book, where Rafael finally notices there's a blank page.

"Did you forget some pictures?" he asks curiously.

Sonny shakes his head. "No, I...I left some space for, like, our wedding pictures."

Rafael looks at him. Sonny notices his eyes a little misty again.

"I love you so much," Rafael says softly.

Sonny kisses him gently. "I love you too, baby."


 

They spend all day relaxing, just as they'd planned. For that, Rafael is glad, because he was so not up to do anything today of all days. What he feared over the course of the day was Sonny announcing his birthday to everyone they passed, and then having to tell people he's thirty. It's bad enough he is thirty, he doesn't want to have to say it out loud a dozen times in a day.

He is happy to stay at home with Sonny. After a few times looking through the photo album Sonny put together, they nap on and off, eat lunch, and generally just lay around. They move to the couch to lay around while watching bad Saturday television, where they also nap while holding each other close.

Rafael loves it because they rarely have a day to just relax anymore. He had purposefully done all the weekend's work already, so there is nothing more to think about than Sonny's arms wrapped tightly around him.

Rafael is so content with staying in for the duration of his thirtieth birthday that he initially says no when Sonny asks him to dinner.

"What do you mean, no?" Sonny asks, clearly confused by Rafael's answer. "Why not? Why don't you want to go out?"

Rafael shrugs. "I just don't feel like going anywhere. Can't we order?"

Sonny looks awfully disappointed. "I just...really wanted to take you to dinner. I got reservations. It was supposed to be a surprise."

Sonny tells Rafael where he's reserved a table, and it surprises Rafael, alright. The restaurant is somewhere that Sonny must've needed to book the table months ago. No wonder he's so insistent that they go out.

Rafael can't really say no to that, can he? All the trouble Sonny's gone through. With a sigh, he heaves himself off the couch for the first time all afternoon and heads for the shower.

Sonny joins him moment later, which Rafael would find thoroughly enjoyable if not for Sonny's overly strange behavior. He seems suddenly nervous, suddenly anxious, and Rafael wonders why. Is Sonny springing something on him this evening? They're already engaged. What more could there be?

Rafael wonders if maybe Sonny is going to announce he's being transferred to Brooklyn. Wouldn't that be great. Having Sonny here, in this second home, all the time. Rafael would love that. Maybe then they could get married and officially start their life together, not that they haven't had a bunch of kickstarts to their life together. Not like their life together didn't start the moment they laid eyes on each other.

Rafael begins to feel giddy, counteracting Sonny's nervousness. As they dress, he tries to mess with Sonny, tease him, flirt with him, but Sonny is acting too weird to be effected by Rafael's playful gestures.

As Sonny is about to button his shirt, Rafael grabs each side of the open button-up and pulls Sonny in.

"We can't just stay like this?" Rafael asks, smiling as he kisses Sonny's exposed collarbone.

Sonny takes hold of his shirt again and buttons it. "Come on, Rafi, we're gonna be late."

Rafael rolls his eyes and continues dressing himself.

Once they're down on the street, Sonny silently hails a cab and climbs in after Rafael. He quickly gives the address and stares out the window as if making sure the driver goes to the correct location. Rafael tries to hold Sonny's hand, touch him in any way, but Sonny's nervous twitching makes it impossible for Rafael to take hold of him.

Rafael is so close to demanding what the hell has gotten into Sonny, but he doesn't wish to completely ruin whatever surprise Sonny has stored. He wants Sonny to have his moment.

Finally, many long, excruciatingly silent minutes later, they arrive at the restaurant. Rafael watches Sonny look down the street as if checking that the coast is clear before letting Rafael out of the car.

"Sonny!" Rafael demands, pushing at Sonny's ass as he's stopped right outside the car door, blocking Rafael from climbing out.

Sonny finally moves.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" Rafael asks, curiosity and slight annoyance getting the better of him.

"Nothin'. Let's go." Sonny places a hand on the small of Rafael's back and leads him inside.

"Carisi," Sonny mutters to the host as they enter the restaurant.

The nice young man nods and smiles. "You're table's all ready. Right this way."

Now Sonny takes Rafael's hand tightly as if he doesn't want to lose Rafael. Rafael just follows as they walk briskly through the crowd towards the very back of the restaurant.

Now Rafael is confused. They pass every table with two seats empty until they get to an entry to a private room. What has Sonny done? What is Sonny up to? Why is Sonny's hand sweating so badly?

The host pushes the big door open. Sonny steps through, pulling Rafael along.

And then--

"Surprise!" he hears being yelled at him loudly in the little room.

Overwhelmed and completely shocked, Rafael almost can't make out who exactly is yelling. Then he focuses on faces and realizes it's all of his friends and family, even Justine, Reynaldo, Trey, and Lex, who he doesn't see nearly often enough.

"What?" is all Rafael can say.

Everyone laughs.

"Surprise?" Sonny offers, smiling for the first time in over an hour. He looks relieved, but also still nervous, like he isn't sure what Rafael will think.

After the stink Rafael gave about not seeing anyone on his thirtieth birthday, Rafael doesn't blame Sonny for being so anxious. Rafael feels sorry he made Sonny feel that way.

"You did this?" Rafael asks. "You got everyone here?"

Sonny nods.

Rafael pulls him into a tight hug. Sure, he didn't plan on seeing anyone, but for Sonny to pull this off, go through the trouble of inviting everyone and making sure they came, Rafael feels pretty special.

"Hey," Rafael hears Theresa saying from the table. "We're the ones who came all this way."

"Yeah," Gina adds, "Brooklyn is far."

"I agree!" Justine says next.

Rafael laughs and lets Sonny go, then makes his way around the table to greet everyone and thank them for coming.

When Rafael finally makes it to an empty seat where he can sit, he realizes this plan must've taken a while to come together.

"So wait," he says, "How long have you all been keeping this from me?"

"Over a month," everyone at the table informs him.

"Except me," Jessica says. "I've just been avoiding you."

"That's why you've been ignoring me calls," Rafael tells her.

Jessica's wife Jane says, "If there's one thing she's bad at, it's keeping secrets."

Before they can order their food, Charlie begs his mother to give Rafael his present now.

"You said I could give Uncle Rafi his present as soon as he got here!" Charlie begs.

Trey is sitting next to Theresa, so he reminds her that she did, in fact, say exactly that.

Theresa glares at Rafael and Sonny. "Why are all of your friends lawyers?!"

Everyone laughs. Charlie proudly takes the present to Rafael.

Rafael pulls the many pieces of tissue paper out of the gift bag and finally gets to the prize. He reaches into the bag and pulls out a coffee mug. It's white with big, black block letters that say, "World's Best Uncle".

"Hey!" Sonny cries, "What about me?"

Charlie looks at him. "On your birthday, you can be World's Best Uncle."

Sonny pretends to pout while everyone laughs, then Charlie let's Rafael kiss his head before the boy returns to his seat next to Abuela--who he always sits next to at every family function because she ends up giving him money.

The group orders, they eat, they talk, they laugh, and Rafael is glad Sonny put this little dinner together. Rafael can tell everyone is tiptoeing around saying "party", as Rafael specifically asked Sonny not to throw him one, and saying the word "thirty", as Rafael is still refusing to accept his age.

But then the cake is brought out, and it has thirty blue candles spread out across it, and Rafael can't help but accept.

Everyone sings, Sonny beams at him, and Rafael takes two breaths to blow the candles out. Charlie tells him he gets two wishes then, so Rafael uses that advice to wish for a happy and healthy year ahead.

Before they cut the cake, Sonny stands and taps his glass to start a speech. Rafael wants to beg him not to, completely embarrassed, but Lucia stands before Rafael can grab Sonny's arm to yank him back down.

"Actually, Sonny, I was hoping I could say something," she says.

Sonny immediately backs down. "Yes ma'am, absolutely."

Rafael knows better than to stop his mother from talking. He can only listen.

Lucia begins her speech, "First, I would like to say thank you to everyone for coming. Thank you for loving my son so much that you are willing to come celebrate with us. Thank you for being his friend after all of these years, each of you."

Lucia takes a deep breath and reaches down for her napkin. Rafael knows she's going to cry.

"Rafi and I haven't had the easiest life. Thirty years ago, when he came into this world, we barely had a home. I had no money, odd jobs here and there...I was lucky to put food in his mouth. And I just..." Lucia sniffles and dabs her eyes with the corner of her napkin.

She continues, "Thinking about that to this," she gestures around the table and the restaurant room. "I'm so proud of how far you've come, Rafael. I couldn't have created a better life for you from my imagination thirty years ago. I couldn't have said where we'd be, what you'd be doing. You've made a beautiful life for yourself.

"Thank you to the Carisi's for welcoming us into your family. Who knows where we'd be had you not moved in across the street when you did? I probably wouldn't have pushed myself so hard to keep us in that house, on that block. But knowing those two boys belong together, wanting to keep Rafael happy with his Sonny, it made me work so much harder. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

"And Rafi. I am so proud of you; I am so proud to be your mother. Te quiero mucho, hijo. Feliz cumpleaños."

Rafael himself began crying halfway through, and when he glances around the table everyone is dabbing their eyes. Rafael quickly stands and steps around the table to hug his Mami tight.

"Gracias, Mami," he tells her. "Te quiero mucho. I love you, too."

Lucia kisses his head before letting him go.

Deb is right behind Rafael to hug Lucia, too. They spend a minute hugging and crying together, and all Rafael can hear is a muffled mix of thanks and appreciation. Seeing the friendship between their mothers also bloom since theirs began has always made Rafael and Sonny happy. The way the families have mixed has made it easier for them to make their relationship strong over the years.

"Can we have cake yet?" Charlie finally asks.

Everyone laughs, lightening the mood.

Cake is passed out, and it's delicious. Rafael is so pleased with the cake that had this cake been promised to begin with he might have agreed to a party right off the bat.

After cake is gifts, which Rafael is completely embarrassed about. Everyone still talks while he opens the gifts, but he still feels like he's on display. He's never liked opening gifts at birthday parties, even as a kid.

The gifts are very nice, though. Sonny, even though he already have Rafael an amazing gift earlier, gives him tickets to a play he really wants to see. Justine and Reynaldo give him a new Harvard sweatshirt that is very soft. Theresa gives him a box of K-Cup coffees, which is very practical with the mug Charlie gave him. Abuela and Lucia give him a beautiful, obviously expensive watch. And Gina, baby Amelia, and Bella give him a gift certificate for a day spa, which he is very excited for.

"My presence is your present," Lex claims.

"I'm going with that too," Trey insists.

Rafael just laughs and thanks them for their presence.

As they're ready to leave, since they've all been at the restaurant long enough, Rafael stands to thank everyone.

"Like my mother said," he tells them, "Thank you for caring enough about me to want to celebrate with me on my birthday. And thank you everyone for not saying 'thirty'."

Everyone laughs.

They all exit the restaurant and Rafael says goodbye to everyone individually as they depart. He thanks everyone personally for coming and insists they get together soon, and he means it. When Justine and Reynaldo say they need to visit Boston, he knows it's not an empty offer and promise to go. He mentally books a trip right then and there.

Eventually, Rafael and Sonny are left on the sidewalk with Jessica and Jane.

"Guys want to get a night cap?" Jessica offers.

Rafael glances at Sonny. Sonny has a look like he has more to celebrate with at home.

"Raincheck?" Rafael asks.

Jessica laughs. "Sure. But hey, before we go, I wanted to give you your gift privately."

Rafael is confused. "Oh, you didn't have to get me anything."

"Oh, I didn't," Jessica says. "I mean, I didn't get you anything, technically, truthfully--"

Jane nudges her. "Just tell him!"

Rafael grows nervous. "Tell me what?"

Jessica grins. "I heard there's an opening at the Manhattan D.A.'s office. For the special victims bureau."

Rafael's heart just about stops. This is huge, a gigantic opportunity in a huge bureau.

"Holy shit," Sonny mutters.

Jessica still smiles. Jane looks excited.

"I...do you think I should try?" Rafael asks.

Jessica rolls her eyes. "No, I told you so you could spread the word. Yes, I think you should try! You'd be nuts not to!"

Rafael nods. "Tomorrow. I'll work on it tomorrow."

Jessica pats his arm. "Hey, I'm here to help with whatever you need, okay? Good luck."

"Thank you," Rafael says, still a bit dazed. "Thank you for letting me know."

"As soon as I heard I knew immediately that I needed to tell you. Anyway, we'll let you guys get home. Call me, alright? I don't need to avoid you anymore."

Rafael manages to let out a chuckle. "Thanks for coming."

Jane kisses his cheek, then Sonny's. Jessica hugs them both before the couple walks down the street, leaving Sonny and Rafael gaping at each other.

"Holy shit," Sonny repeats.

"I know."

"Rafi."

"I know!"

Sonny's face breaks into a slow grin. "You're gonna be a fuckin' big city Manhattan lawyer."

Rafael laughs. "You really think I have a chance?"

"Yes!"

Rafael smiles.

Sonny leans over and kisses him. "I'm so proud of you."

"Hey, I haven't gotten the job yet."

"But you will. And you'll be great."

Rafael just smiles.

Sonny takes his hand and they start towards home.

"Hey," Rafael says when they get a few blocks away from the restaurant. "Thank you for this. I can't believe you did it."

"You're thanking me for going behind your back and having a party anyway? You're welcome."

Rafael laughs. "Wait a second," he says suddenly, realizing he didn't see anyone pay for dinner. "Who paid for dinner? I didn't--"

Sonny cracks a smile. "Uh, well, I had fully planned to, 'cause, y'know, it was my idea and all. But my dad actually beat me to it."

Rafael's jaw drops. "No way. Oh man, that was so nice of him. I'll be sure to thank him."

Sonny nods.

They get a further down the street, but home is still a ways away. Sonny stops suddenly and asks if they should get a cab.

"We could walk," he says, "But I'm just thinking about getting you home, you putting on your glasses and pretending to be my older lover."

"I am your older lover. The glasses are just...dorky."

Sonny leans in close to him, wrapping his arms around Rafael's neck. There's practically nobody else on the street or else Rafael would be embarrassed. "You can be my sexy, much more experienced older lover who is going to teach me a thing or two."

Rafael grins. "Oh, yeah?"

Sonny nods, breath brushing against Rafael's lips. "I might've been naughty, too."

Rafael can't help but laugh. "How much did you have to drink with dinner?"

Sonny shrugs. "Quite a bit. Now, we gonna get a cab so I can touch you inappropriately in the backseat, or are you gonna make me walk home when all I wanna do is touch you so badly?"

Rafael kisses him lightly, teasingly. "Maybe if you're a good boy I'll let you."

Sonny practically shivers.

Rafael grins. He steps away from Sonny and yells for a cab.

They've never talked like this before, but new age, new interests. And with the alcohol served at dinner coursing through Rafael's system, he feels playful and excited by the prospect of doing something new with Sonny.

Kissing Sonny in the backseat of a cab, Rafael is thankful his thirtieth birthday turned out to be such a good day.

 

Chapter Text

Sonny breathes hard into the phone, waiting for Rafael to pick up. He paces on the street outside his precinct, silently fuming so people passing by aren't startled by the cop mumbling what a huge freakin' idiot his boyfriend is.

"He-llo?" Rafael answers, cheery.

"Hello? That's what you have to say?"

"Uhm, answering the phone? Yes."

"After what happened today, the way you answer me is, 'Hello'?!"

"Back up...what?"

Sonny huffs. "I heard from a guy who heard from a guy who heard from a lady who works in Manhattan D.A.'s office that, 'Some Manhattan A.D.A. let the defendant choke him with a belt in court today'."

Rafael snorts, almost a laugh. Sonny wants to jump through the phone and choke Rafael himself.

"Won the case," Rafael says, voice humorous.

"You--you--" Sonny can't even finish the thought. "Are you fucking kidding me, Rafi?! Can you even think about how stupid that was?! And for me to hear it from some guy who doesn't even know you or know we're together."

"Sonny," Rafael says, his voice soft, "Relax, okay? I'm fine, everything's fine. Seriously. And look, now everyone has heard about this and I'm...kind of a bad ass."

"Rafi!" Sonny cries. "Can you please take this seriously? I was worried."

"Aww, baby--"

Sonny's nostrils flare. "Don't 'aww, baby' me, baby."

"Sonny, seriously. Relax. It's fine."

Sonny kicks a rock around at his feet. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I promise. He didn't even leave a mark."

'He', Sonny hears, and fumes possibly even more. Knowing a man did that to his man, knowing a man hurt Rafael in the sole purpose of explaining a sexual act that hurt somebody else, it makes Sonny possibly even more angry.

But even if Rafael isn't hurt, and everything turned out fine, Sonny still wants to make sure for himself that Rafael is alright.

"I'm going down there tonight," he says, mentally planning what time he'll need to catch the subway to be back to his precinct in the Bronx by the time he needs to clock in. He doesn't need to do laundry tonight; he has a clean uniform that he can take to Rafael's. And anything is worth sleeping next to Rafael tonight.

"You don't have to do that," Rafael says. "Sonny, seriously, honey, I'm fine. Okay?"

"I don't care if you're fine. I'm going down there tonight. I'll be home by six."

"Okay," Rafael says, sounding even more cheery than before.

Sonny slowly unsimmers. The enjoyable thought of spending the night with Rafael is greater than Sonny's anger towards him. He can yell at Rafael later, when Sonny can hold him afterwards and fuss over him.

It was like this for at least a month since Rafael has moved to Manhattan: Sonny taking the subway every few days to at least spend the night with Rafael. Then Rafael got busy with his first real court case--this case--and Sonny hasn't been to the Manhattan apartment in a few weeks. Now he's excited to go, even if a significant amount of his visit will be spent yelling at Rafael for how dumb he was in court.

Sonny doesn't mind the situation; Manhattan is a lot closer than Brooklyn. Rafael is busier now, but rather than being worried about not seeing him, Sonny is worrying about his wellbeing.

Because Rafael believes coffee is a meal.

Sonny knows he's growing too stressed to eat, because Manhattan SVU is huge and he doesn't want to mess anything up, but Sonny also thinks Rafael needs to find the balance to be able to take care of himself.

Maybe they can relax tonight, for at least one night.

Maybe Sonny will try to get there before Rafael does and set up a nice, romantic evening with wine and candles and bubble bath in Rafael's tiny tub.


The changes are fine--Rafael's new job, Manhattan. The only problem is that Sonny is not changing and has not changed in years. He's been a cop for years now, but hasn't had much of a promotion in that time. He's happy, of course, but sometimes he itches for something more. Of course, the next step is detective, but no matter how much Sonny tries to stand out to be promoted, nobody has talked to him yet.

He begins to think about doing more. In Rafael's first months in Manhattan, after the belt incident, he quickly becomes well known throughout the city as That Lawyer From Manhattan. That Lawyer From Manhattan with the sass and the gigantic ego. Sonny continues to hear about Rafael's cases through the grapevine, which makes him happy but also...jealous.

Through Rafael's law jargon, Sonny begins to learn a lot. He begins to read up on cases that Rafael mentions offhandedly and learns a lot about both the law and the special victims bureau.

Sonny surprises himself by becoming interested in both.

He's thought about becoming a detective, but not specifically a detective for the Special Victims Unit. And a few years ago, Ms. Moreno at his college had asked if he considered becoming a lawyer, and he hadn't thought seriously about it until now.

Sonny begins to do research as he keeps his ears open for detective openings, even if they're in the other Burroughs.

By his twenty-ninth birthday, after Rafael has been in Manhattan for about nine months, Sonny has chosen to slowly begin night classes during the fall semester at Fordham Law, because if his goal is Manhattan anyway, he might as well go to school there. He takes out a student loan, files for financial aid, and dips into his savings to start.

He starts with three classes, and has a panic attack every time he looks at the prices he's paying for them.

Rafael reassures Sonny that he's making a good decision, or he at least tries to but Sonny still doesn't believe it.

Rafael tries by saying nice things to Sonny, saying inspirational things that will get Sonny through the stressful week. Most of the time it helps.

On the morning of Sonny's first midterm, he wakes up in Rafael's arms in their Manhattan apartment already on the verge of nervous tears. He takes about a dozen deep breathes to calm himself, waking Rafael accidentally.

"Hey honey," Rafael whispers, still asleep and possibly dreaming. "Have you been awake long?"

Sonny shakes. "Not really."

Rafael's eyes slowly open. "Are you okay?"

Sonny nods.

Rafael scoots as close to him in bed that he can without touching. Sonny appreciates that.

"You're going to do great today," Rafael says, still sounding half asleep but fully optimistic. "You've been studying your ass off, your work and essays have been perfect, you have nothing to worry about."

"What if I don't do great, Rafi? Huh? What if this is just a failed attempt at something I've wanted for only, what, almost a year? Not like you; you knew you wanted to be a lawyer in, like, third grade."

"Yeah, so? In third grade I also wanted to be the king of Cuba so my Abuela could go back to see her family, but that's not how any of that works. I could have just as easily not been a lawyer. But you know what you and I have in common? Trying."

Sonny rubs his eyes. "But what if--"

"So what if you fail?" Rafael says, sounding much more awake. He leans up on one elbow, almost hovering over Sonny. "Then you fail. You move on. Nobody's going to be upset with you if you decide it's not for you."

Sonny looks at him. "Really? You're not gonna think I'm a huge disappointment?"

"Of course not. I'm proud of you for trying no matter what happens."

Sonny takes a deep breath, his eyes closing.

"But," Rafael continues, "I know you're going to do great on this test. Because you're amazing," Rafael kisses Sonny's bicep. "You're smart," he kisses Sonny's shoulder. "You're driven and motivated and inspired to do well," three kisses towards Sonny's neck. "You're brilliant," Rafael leaves a kiss on Sonny's jaw.

Sonny's eyes slit open to look side eyed at Rafael. "Really?"

Rafael nods, his nose rubbing against Sonny's jaw.

"Like I said, your homework has been perfect. Seriously, Son, I wish you'd been around more when I was in school. I could've used some tutoring."

Sonny chuckles. "Is this some student-teacher idea you have?"

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that."

Rafael kisses his neck again.

Sonny takes a deep breath.

"Mi pequeño abogado. Mi cariño, a lawyer."

Sonny imagines it, Rafael and himself, power couple of the Manhattan D.A.'s office. Walking into their offices, separate but just down the hall from each other, wearing color coordinated ties and fancy suits. They'd be making money, real money, and with savings together they could eventually buy a real nice apartment with floor to ceiling windows and a view. There would be well working appliances instead of his stove that needs a match to light, and a huge tub to unwind instead of Rafael's basic tiny tub that should not fit two grown men. There would be a huge bookshelf with the both classics and books about the law, and a giant comfy couch that they can cuddle up on to read or watch television.

Sonny wants it. He wants all of that with Rafael, a real future with him. Of course they've had a future since they were children, they've always been the other's future, but now he's thinking realistically about their future, with their impending marriage and careers.

One day they'll be married, they'll be Counselors Barba-Carisi, and the thought calms Sonny enough to not be nervous about his midterm. It gives him inspiration to do well.

And well he does. In the weeks that pass until the end of the semester, Sonny does amazing even with being busy with work. He finds an easy balance between work and school, with most nights now staying with Rafael in Manhattan. That calms his nerves, staying with Rafael, and Sonny is happy.

Sonny registers for the spring semester while Rafael continues to excel at his job. Sonny keeps his ears open for any kind of promotion in any precinct. He would prefer to be in Manhattan, but whatever he can get would be great.

Sonny hopes and prays for a promotion, but for now all he can focus on is school.

Chapter Text

As with most things in his life, college life, work, and maintaining a happy and healthy 'long-distance' relationship with Rafael all comes surprisingly easy.

He excels at work, and one of the things he is known for is catching suspects that nobody else can. For about a month, one of his coworkers tries to catch someone selling drugs on a street corner via foot pursuit almost every night. The other guy never catches him, always gives up, so one night Sonny makes it his mission to catch the perpetrator.

Sonny rides passenger with his partner so he can hop out as soon as he sees the guy. They patrol the streets, slow as possible in search, and finally they spot him.

Sonny hops out of the car, and immediately the man starts running. Sonny, one of the fastest guys in the squad, catches the dealer in six blocks. He tackles the guy to the ground and is in a struggle for about two minutes before Sonny has a knee in his back on the ground.

Sonny walks away with the arrest, a nice shiner under his left eye, and the bragging rights of catching a guy that nobody else could catch for over a month.

Because of school, Sonny's schedule changes so he has school on Monday's, Tuesday's, Wednesday's, Thursday's, and works Thursday's, Friday's, Saturday's, and Sunday's. There's only one day of difficult overlap between work and school, and on Sundays he can't go to church with his family anymore, but if Rafael is off on the weekends, he makes the trip to stay with Sonny in the Bronx. He helps Sonny study or write essays, but Sonny needs minimal help because he's really good at school work.

Sonny listens around for months for an opening in another one of the other Burroughs. Manhattan would be ideal, but what he really wants is to be promoted to detective somewhere. The Bronx isn't offering much, the precinct he's in isn't looking for a detective, and Sonny really wants to move up.

When there's nothing for months, Rafael tries to make Sonny feel better by words of encouragement.

"It'd be a lot for you to take on right now," Rafael says, after another disappointing turndown from a detective position in Manhattan. "With school, you know? Maybe this is for the better."

"Yeah," Sonny replies, "I guess you're right."

Sonny is still bummed about it. He wants to further his career.

Finally, finally! the opportunity comes. Sonny gets the news that he's being transferred to homicide in Staten Island. Back to his roots, that's what everyone says when he shares the news.

Sonny is so excited when he hears that he immediately runs outside to call Rafael.

Unfortunately, Sonny isn't sure about Rafael's schedule for the day, so he doesn't call Rafael's cell-phone and instead calls his office.

A voice not belonging to Rafael answers with a cheery, "ADA Barba's office."

Sonny rolls his eyes. He really hates Rafael's assistant. The guy is pretty worthless as far as assistants go. He is really bad at giving Rafael Sonny's messages. Sonny might call on a Tuesday and Rafael will call him back on Thursday.

"Hey Ben, its Sonny."

"Oh," is all Ben says in reply.

"Rafael in?"

"He's in court," he says matter-of-factly, like Sonny should know that. As if Sonny doesn't have his own busy schedule to maintain day after day.

"Can I take a message?" Ben asks.

"Tell him I made detective in Staten Island," Sonny says, knowing full well Ben will not tell Rafael and Sonny will just tell him later when they talk on the phone.

"Great," Ben says, "Bye."

Ben hangs up before Sonny can say anything else, which is so weird and makes Sonny just hate Ben even more. He is the worst assistant.

Sonny goes through the rest of his day completely unable to focus on anything. Riding around town, he realizes this will be one of his last rides through the Bronx. Pretty soon, he'll be working in a different precinct in a different city. In a city people keep calling his 'home', but a city he only lived in for four years and only visits every other Christmas when the entire family gets together at Deb's sister's instead of Sonny's parent's house.

It's not the farthest from home he's ever lived, Boston was farther, but it seems like it'll be a long ways away.

As soon as Sonny gets off work, he rushes home to begin packing. His parents wanted to take him out for a celebratory dinner, but Sonny wanted to get a head start on packing.

When he gets home and unlocks the front door, Sonny realizes the front door has already been opened recently. Confused, he steps in cautiously. There's a glass on the table, a chair moved out from under the table; it doesn't take Sonny long to realize who is in the apartment.

He thinks this detective stuff won't be so hard.

What's weird is that Rafael isn't watching television, he's not in the kitchen, he's not in the bathroom, he's in the bedroom.

Weird, or exciting, Sonny wanders into his bedroom to find a Rafael sized lump under his sheets.

Disappointed that Rafael travelled all the way up here for a nap, Sonny leaves him asleep and instead goes to the bathroom to change and wash up.

He isn't gone long, for when he returns Rafael is still asleep. Instead of purposefully waking him, Sonny carefully lays on the bed and just lays next to Rafael, watching him sleep. He probably needs it, Sonny realizes. He's probably exhausted from his week.

Sonny just stares at Rafael, overjoyed with where his life currently is. Engaged to this beautiful man, his best friend, becoming a detective, following his newfound dream of being a lawyer, all before thirty. He counts his blessings every night, thanks God when he can, and staring at Rafael is just proof of how lucky he's been his entire life. Who would have ever known he'd be in this position?

God? The universe? Was it all part of the plan for Sonny's mom and dad to buy the house across from the Barba's? Or does it go further back: was Dominick supposed to be laid off from his Staten Island job only to find the new job that took them to the Bronx? Or more recently: was he supposed to break his knee in a baseball career ending freak accident? Is he supposed to be here, now, and not playing for the Mets or Yankees, which was the original grand plan?

Sonny doesn't notice Rafael's breathing change until it's too late.

"Stop staring at me," Rafael mumbles, voice thick with sleep.

Sonny realizes yes, the universe put him exactly where he needed to be.

"I'm not staring at you. I'm not even looking at you."

Knowing Rafael would then fly his eyes open, Sonny quickly shuts his own with a smirk on his lips.

"Sure," Rafael replies.

Sonny snuggles up to Rafael, his head sharing Rafael's pillow and his legs tangling with Rafael's.

"What're you doin' here, Rafi?" Sonny whispers.

"My mom said she's making the dinner I've been craving."

Sonny scoffs. "Mhm."

Rafael smiles, eyes closed once again. "I knew you'd be crazy with wanting to start packing immediately, so I want to help. I don't have court for a few days, so I'll help as much as I can."

"Really? You'll stay a few days?"

Rafael nods.

Sonny kisses his nose.

Rafael sighs long and deep as he turns into his back to stretch. "Well? We'd better start, Detective."

Sonny leans up on an elbow to hover over Rafael. "Say it again."

"What do you want me to say, Detective Carisi?" Rafael playfully ventures.

"Mmm, I like the sound of that," Sonny replies, leaning down and kissing Rafael soundly on the lips.

Rafael doesn't let Sonny's kisses go far. He coaxes Sonny out of bed with the promise of pizza. Sonny gladly follows after that, because he realizes how starving he is.

Within three days, he's packed and ready to go to Staten Island. The next problem, however, is realizing he isn't moving into his own apartment. Part of the appeal of going to Staten Island is that he can stay with his Nonna, but that means he can't take all of his boxes to the house. Instead, he and Rafael take the boxes to his parents' house, a few to Lucia's house, and even a few to Gina's house.

"You have a lot of shit," Gina comments as they unload three boxes from the car to store in her spare room.

"Half of it's Rafi's," he says, and Rafael kicks him.

After a sudden passing two weeks, it's Sonny's first day in Staten Island. He wakes in an unfamiliar bed in his Nonna's house that's been shared by most of his relatives over the years. It's not even the shared room he's used to using on visits, for that one is occupied by his younger cousin Sam, who happens to be at the same precinct he's new in.

Still, he's excited. He takes a quick shower because he doesn't want to be late, and rushes to dress in a pristine black suit.

Rafael had rolled up his ties and tucked them in a shoe box in his suitcase, so he opens the shoe box for the first time. He is surprised to find color-coded Post-It's stuck between each rolled tie.

Confused, Sonny pulls out a pink note that's stuck to a black tie.

The note reads: 'Day four.'

"You bastard," Sonny says, laughing, because no way did Rafael label all of his ties to wear every day.

Sonny finally locates the tie marked 'day one', a deep blue fabric that he's never seen before, and slips it on. He ties it easily, combs his hair, and runs downstairs to the smell of coffee.

Sonny has to lean over for his Nonna to kiss his cheek and pinch it like she does in greeting to every grandchild.

"Il mio piccolo coraggioso Dominicko!" she cries, kissing him again and again.

He wants to tell her that little and brave are oxymorons, but then she'd pull out the Bible and read him the story of David and the Goliath, and he does not have time for that. Instead, Sonny just thanks her and takes an offered pot of coffee and plate of eggs, bacon, and toast.

"Protein!" Nonna tells him, Italian accent thick.

"Thanks, Nonna," he says, eating even though he feels too nervous to do so.

Once Sonny is ready to go, he grabs his jacket, bag of things he thinks he needs during the day (mostly stuff to put in his locker, like a spare shirt), and keys. As he's accepting goodbye and good luck hugs from Nonna, the front door opens and Sam arrives. He's working graveyard tours right now, and Sonny just feels sorry for how tired he looks.

"Sorry I can't show you around on your first day," Sam says after good morning greetings are shared. "I am just wiped out. Had to chase a drunk prostitute for, like, ten blocks--"

Suddenly, Nonna smacks Sam. "Non dire, 'prostitute'."

"Nonna, he was a prostitute!"

Nonna just walks away mumbling forgiveness from God for Sam's foul language. Sonny and Sam just laugh.

"Alright," Sam says, hugging Sonny, "Good luck. If anyone gives you any trouble, let me know."

Sonny snorts. "Okay, sure."

"Hey, I have a reputation in the squad--"

"Yeah? And who used to have to save you from the monsters in the basement, huh?"

"Not my fault you guys let me watch It that one time."

Sonny laughs and clasps Sam's shoulder. "Alright, see you later."

"See ya," Sam says as Sonny leaves the house.

Sonny's first day is great, in fact his first week is great. He's the new guy, so he always draws the short straw when it's time to fetch coffee or lunch, but most people welcoming and helpful. In the first week, he learns a lot, even though it's slow to start.

Finally, on his first Friday there, a call comes in. Thirty-two year old woman found dead in her apartment, body discovered by her sister. Her throat was cut.

Sonny's heart races as he follows the rest of the team up the stairs to the victim's apartment. After all the research he's done for homicide, all he's learned, nothing could prepare him for his first in-the-flesh dead body. Once he catches sight of her, his stomach drops and he shivers.

"You okay, Rook?" one of the guys, Lopez, asks.

Sonny clears his throat. "Mhm."

One of the women, Smith, laughs. "Look how pale he is."

"You gonna be sick?" another guy named Rossi asks.

Lopez adds, "Deep breaths, Rook."

Sonny tries, but all he can smell is blood and it makes his stomach turn.

"Window," Smith points, so Sonny rushes to the open window to get some air.

He tells himself it'll be okay, that he'll be used to the bodies now, but does one ever get used to dead bodies? He'll ask the team later how they deal with it. Maybe this isn't right for him, maybe he should just go back to the Bronx and be a beat cop, and--

Sonny notices something red on the window sill. Examining it closer, he finds what looks like a part of a bloody thumb print. Sonny sticks his head out the window sees another one on the outside of the window sill, like there was blood on someone's thumb and forefinger as they climbed out the window.

"Hey guys," Sonny announces, "Got something over here. Bloody finger prints."

Smith goes to him first. "Hey, good job, Rook."

The finger prints are connected to the boyfriend--ex boyfriend--who committed the crime in a fit of rage. By Sunday, it's solved, he's booked, and the team takes Sonny out for congratulatory and welcoming drinks.

It's going great, at least Sonny thinks so, and after his second week there, Rafael makes the trip out to see Sonny. He arrives on Saturday and is going to spend the night, but Sonny's Nonna has two conditions for Rafael to stay under her roof:

First, Rafael must go to church with them on Sunday, which isn't that bad because he's used to a childhood of attending mass every Sunday.

And second, they cannot sleep in the same bed, since they're not yet married. Sonny's Nonna has no problem with them being together, living together when they plan to, but if it's under her roof she won't have it.

That's fine to Sonny. He'll either blow up a mattress or sleep on the couch, whichever seems more comfortable at the moment.

On Saturday night, Sonny takes Rafael to a restaurant that Smith recommends, then they spend the evening exploring the city. Sonny had borrowed Sam's car--"What," Sonny had joked, "You can own a car but you can't live in your own house?" To which Sam replied, "What, you don't own a car or a home?" To which Sonny said, "Shut up, at least I'm getting married." To which Sam retorted, "You've been engaged for, what, ten years? Sure, we'll see whose married first." To which Sonny argued that they have not been engaged for ten years.

They drive around and finally arrive in a deserted parking lot.

"'Resa says this used to be where couples went to make out," Sonny informs Rafael.

Rafael snorts. "Back in her day?"

Sonny laughs. "Yeah, I guess. It's not like she's been back in twenty-five years."

"Twenty-five years," Rafael repeats. "We're old."

"We've known each other for a quarter century."

Rafael looks at him. "You think it's time we see other people?"

Sonny laughs again. "You're not getting rid of me that easily, Counselor."

"Is that right, Detective?"

Sonny grins, ego boosted just like that, before leaning over the center console to kiss Rafael.

Sonny doesn't mean for their kissing to turn heated, he doesn't mean to take hold of Rafael's face to hold still while he sticks his tongue down Rafael's throat, but he gets carried away, and soon he's pawing at Rafael's shirt to pull it out of his jeans so he can slide his hand under to feel skin. It's been way too long, and it's not like they can be intimate tonight in separate beds at Sonny's Nonna's house.

"Sonny, Sonny, wait--" Rafael tries, but Sonny attaches his lips to Rafael's neck, making him moan. Sonny's cock twitches in his jeans. He needs to be closer to Rafael.

Sonny gets a quick and wicked idea. Without a second thought to talk himself out of it, he detaches from Rafael and pushes his door open.

"Sonny?"

Sonny casually closes the door, opens the backseat door, and slides in.

Rafael turns around to look at him. "What are you doing?"

Sonny pats the seat next to him.

Rafael rolls his eyes and follows Sonny.

Climbing in, Rafael complains, "I'm not having sex in the backseat of your cousin's car."

Sonny leans over and resumes kissing Rafael's neck. "K, you don't have to."

"You're not helping."

Sonny gets Rafael's shirt untucked and slides his hand up Rafael's side.

"Sonny..."

"Yes?"

With an exasperated sigh, Rafael begins kissing Sonny like he means it.

Soon they get closer, and after a few minutes of difficult arranging, Rafael ends up on his back, spread across the backseat, and Sonny lays on top of him. It's a tight fit, Sonny's legs are too long, and this isn't working nearly as well as it did in Grease, but once they're touching almost everywhere, it doesn't matter. Sonny quickly begins grounding his hips down to grind against Rafael, who groans and clutches Sonny tight.

"This is insane," Rafael whispers.

Sonny reaches between them and unbuckles his own belt. "I know, but I want you so badly..."

Rafael clutches Sonny's hair, Sonny sucks at his neck again, and Sonny knows with just a few more minutes of this passionate rutting, he'll be coming in his jeans like the horny teens who usually occupy this parking lot.

Sonny is so into it, so engrossed in feeling Rafael squirm under him that he doesn't notice someone approaching until there's a metallic tap on the window.

"Fuck!" Rafael cries, pushing Sonny off.

Sonny sits up quickly and squints at the flashlight shining through the window. He's sure it's a police officer, and he grows so fearful of what might happen that he almost doesn't roll the window down.

Embarrassment rushes through Sonny; if this gets out, if he gets a ticket, if everyone finds out, he'll have to answer to his superiors, what if he does on some registry for sex in public, what if--

Sonny finally rolls the window down, knowing this is his fault and he needs to own it.

"Sir, step out of the car, please," an officer with a deep voice says.

Sonny opens the door and steps out, belt buckle still undone and hair a mess. The flashlight shines right in Sonny's face.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" the officer asks.

"Look, Officer--"

"'Cause I know you don't think you're about to have sex in the back of my car."

It takes a second for Sonny to realize the officer's voice changed, and to process just what he said, but finally he does.

"God damn it, Sam!"

Sam lowers the flashlight, laughing his head off.

"It's not funny!" Sonny cries.

"No, it's fuckin' hilarious!"

Sonny ducks his head into the car again. "Rafi, it's just Sam, you can come out."

"I'd rather stay in here, thank you," Rafael says, and Sonny knows he's embarrassed.

Sam doesn't stop laughing. "Oh, I'm so telling Nonna."

"Shut up," Sonny says.

"She's gonna make you pray for forgiveness tomorrow at mass. Oh, this is hilarious. I'm not gonna get over this. I gotta call Theresa."

Sonny rolls his eyes. Of course his sisters will hear about this, and of course they'll laugh at him about it for years to come.

"Really can't handle sleeping in separate beds tonight, huh?" Sam jokes. He checks his watch. "Dude, Nonna's probably asleep. She wouldn't even know. You could go do whatever you want."

"I'm not having sex at Nonna's house."

"Oh, but the backseat of my car is okay?!"

Rafael speaks up from inside the car. "I tried to tell him."

"It's not like you weren't involved," Sonny argues.

Sam still laughs. "Okay, look, I have actual work to do now. Please, just get out of here, and never bring my car here again."

"Deal."

"I hope you at least bought Rafi a nice meal before bringing him to a parking lot to hook up."

"Shut up."

"Where'd you take him? Wendy's?"

Sonny reaches for the door handle. "Goodbye."

"Yeah, see you tomorrow, at church where you'll be feeling guilty."

Sam shines the light into the backseat, where Rafael is still sitting because he refuses to move. "Bye, Rafi. Nice to see you again."

"Bye, Sam," Rafael says, staring straight ahead.

As Sonny shuts the driver door and starts the engine, he can still hear Sam laughing.

As he pulls out of the parking lot, he says, "At least we didn't get in trouble."

"Shut up," Rafael says.

Sam does tell Sonny's sisters about the incident, so the next day Theresa calls to laugh at him.

"It's not like you never went there to do anything," Sonny tells her.

Theresa laughs. "Yeah, when I was almost fifteen, not twenty-nine!"

All in all, Sonny survives his stint at the Staten Island homicide bureau. He lives for free and is well fed during that time, and he never becomes overwhelmed with having to travel a longer distance to school. With the help of Rafael telling him it's alright, he manages to keep his cool.

Sonny continues on, wondering where the next stop will be before he makes it to Manhattan.

 

Chapter Text

Sonny dreams of dandelions and Rafael. More specifically, Rafael, in a field, bare but for the grass against his skin. Sonny has never even seen this field before, but that doesn't stop him from laying back in the grass and pulling Rafael close to him.

"Sonny..." Rafael whispers enticingly, his lips touching Sonny's.

Rafael picks a dandelion, twiddling the soft flower between his fingers, then lowering it to gently rub over Sonny's skin.

"Sonny..." Rafael whispers again, and--

Hits him with the dandelion. Hard.

"Sonny!" Rafael is suddenly yelling, hitting him again.

Sonny jumps up, eyes flying open before Sam slams the pillow against him once again.

"What the fuck, Sam?!"

Sam drops the pillow on the bed, then walks to the door of Sonny's bedroom. As he exits, he yells, "Yeah, Nonna, è sveglio!"

"Now I'm awake!" Sonny corrects, tossing his blankets off and following Sam, if not just to help his Nonna, but to slap Sam before she catches them fighting. Something he's learned in his time living here is that he's not too old for his Nonna to kick his ass for hitting his younger cousin.

Sonny did not think he would like being in Staten Island. It was not home, it was another obstacle before Manhattan, he had to ride the Ferry to get to school or Rafael, and he had to stay with his grandmother.

In the first months that he's there, he realizes that is not true. He loves being somewhere new, he loves hanging out with his family, and he gets used to the Ferry.

He spends most of his free time at home with Sam and Nonna, where he and Sam either do housework or play video games. When they're both off, Nonna asks them to do everything she can't do (vacuum, go to the grocery store, clean the gutters, mow the lawn) while she makes dinner for the large family gathering they usually have on the weekends. When they're finished with helping her out, they hunker down in front of the television and play NFL Madden for hours. Usually, Sonny would prefer playing something with a little bit of action, but Sam is still in the stage of police work where he wants to escape the blood and guts and settles for a stress free game of football. Sonny doesn't mind.

Sometimes he and Sam work out; they run, they go to the gym, they play basketball, they play catch with a football. As a whole, Sam becomes Sonny's closest friend.

When Sonny gets the news that he would be leaving Staten Island a year after joining, he first thinks of Sam. He thinks of how close he's grown to his cousin, how much fun they have together, and how glad he is that he has a close friend who isn't Rafael.

Sometimes he does need that space from Rafael, like when they fight over weekend plans and Sam says, "Trouble in gay paradise?" Which, although pretty offensive, never fails to make Sonny laugh.

Nonetheless, Sonny gets the move, and takes off to Queens.

The move is so quick that he doesn't get an apartment right away, but after a day in the office, another detective literally tells him, "I wouldn't get too comfortable, Carisi."

Apparently, and for the first time, Sonny finds that he is very annoying. If not in the security of the Bronx or Staten Island, where everyone acts and sounds just like him, he is too much.

A few things he hears the first week is, "Calm down, kid.", "Not now, son.", "If you're gonna keep talking, go over there."

It makes Sonny's spirit falter only a smidgen. He realizes, has known for a long time, that people won't always be nice. And the Queens team isn't nice.

He's glad to leave only two weeks in.

Next stop is Brooklyn.

Thanks to Rafael's connections in Brooklyn--old friends they both made while Rafael was there--Sonny is able to couch surf instead of rent an apartment. Also, the commute into Manhattan isn't as bad as Staten Island or Queens, so more often than not, he's able to stay with Rafael.

Around the same time he arrives in Brooklyn, Sonny's 30th birthday approaches.

Since the first time Sonny realized it was his birthday and how special it was--when he was two or three--he's loved his birthday. His parents always made him feel like he was the only kid on earth, buying him a special new toy and having a party. His first birthday with Rafael--his fifth--was spent having a big party--mostly to invite neighbors over to meet--with peanut butter cookies instead of cake and lots of new toys. Everyone was so thoughtful in bringing a gift or food that Sonny and Dominick Sr. had to go through Sonny's older toys the following day to donate.

In short, Sonny loves his birthday.

But this year, his shift from Queens to Brooklyn happens so fast that he doesn't get a chance to focus on his birthday. In fact, he practically forgets about it until just a few days before, Rafael asks what he wants to do.

"Oh god, is that Sunday?" Sonny asks the Thursday before as he walks to work holding the largest cup of black coffee he could purchase.

"You're asking me when your birthday is?"

"I'm just distracted and tired, alright? I don't really want to do anything special--"

"What? Who are you and what have you done with Sonny?"

Sonny huffs out a short laugh. "Come on, Rafi--"

"Let me share my ideas. A simple dinner and movie? A show? Yankees game?"

None of that sounds particularly interesting to Sonny, even the Yankees game, especially when he's had minimal sleep since arriving in Brooklyn and all he wants to do this weekend is sleep in Rafael's giant, fluffy bed.

"I just want you," Sonny says honestly. "Maybe next week, when things have settled, we can celebrate. Let's go to the Bronx and hang out with our families. But this weekend, I just really want you and our bed."

"That's it?" Rafael asks, and Sonny recognizes a tinge of flirtation in his tone. "No clothes? Pajamas optional?"

Sonny somehow manages to laugh and groan at the same time. "Rafi, I'm too tired to even think about sex."

"Now I'm really wondering if I'm talking to Sonny."

Now, Sonny does laugh. "I'm just tired. And I know you can use this weekend to catch up on sleep, too."

"I know," Rafael replies. "Come over tomorrow night, okay?"

"Okay. But if I don't get there by nine, just know I probably fell asleep on the 4 and you'll need to pick me up at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx."

Rafael laughs. "Get a cab instead, please."

"You forget I'm also a poor college student," Sonny comments as he arrives at the steps of his police station. "Hey baby, I gotta go."

"Okay. Have a good day."

"I will. Please don't forget to eat lunch."

"I won't. Don't forget about the third step--"

Sonny always slips on the third step of the stoop. It's more slick than the others, as though the stone is polished. As if on cue, he does it again. Coffee sloshes out of his cup and burns his thumb.

"Ow! Damn it!"

"Are you okay?" Rafael asks, and Sonny can tell he's holding back a laugh.

"Yeah, yeah. Just fine."

"Do you need me there to kiss your poor thumb?"

Sonny pretends to pout. "No."

Rafael does laugh now. "Okay, my poor baby. Tomorrow night, I'll kiss it...and then some."

"Yeah, if I'm not dead tired or stuck in the Bronx."

"We have all weekend, querido."

Sonny melts for Spanish pet names. They used to be rare, when Rafael was too shy to use them still, but after Rafael moved to Manhattan and gained his confidence, the names came more often. When they are in bed, when they are watching television, when Rafael is helping Sonny fall asleep, when they are on the phone, when they are grocery shopping. The names are often and loving, and Sonny enjoys every single one.

"Okay," he says, "I have to go. I've been standing outside the precinct for long enough. I'm getting funny looks."

"The perks of having an office. Okay, I love you."

"I love you too, baby."

The excitement to spend an entire weekend uninterrupted with Rafael is enough to get Sonny through the next day of work. Although he is asleep on his feet almost all day, he makes it to the train and doesn't accidentally fall asleep. He's at the Manhattan apartment by nine as promised, and Rafael is waiting with a dinner that smells greater than anything Sonny's been blessed with lately.

Saturday is spent as a blur, just catching up on sleep and barely leaving the bed to pee or eat a snack. It's what Sonny needs, what they both need, because work has been rough for both of them lately, and in the next coming weeks Sonny won't have a chance for a catch-up day. The semester starts soon, and he's already too tired from the late night study sessions and cramming for tests.

He loves it, though. He can't wait for the semester to start.

On Sunday, he wakes up buried in Rafael's arms. His heart is full, his body is warm, and his head is swimming with all the thoughts he's had about Rafael during their time apart.

Now that he has the energy to be closer to Rafael, he has no problem imagining what he wants to do with him first.

Rafael is so strong and domineering that sometimes Sonny likes to be the one to take Rafael apart, the one to reduce the usual sharp witted speech to groans and grunts and pleads. Sonny likes to feel Rafael's body under him, around him, pulling Sonny closer than possible as they always are.

He has time. There's no rush. They have all day, all night; he doesn't have to leave until tomorrow morning, when he needs to be at the precinct bright and early.

Sonny lets Rafael sleep.

He leaves Rafael in bed and seeks out food comfortable enough to satisfy his birthday breakfast. As a kid, he always had the simple cereal that he was obsessed with at the moment. As he got older, his mom would make peanut butter pancakes, and that's what he craves today.

Luckily, Sonny finds Rafael's kitchen fully stocked (a brand new jar of peanut butter in the cabinet), and gets to work.

Rafael's grown tired of peanut butter--it only took twenty-five years--so Sonny makes him eggs and toast. He puts the coffee on and decides he'd better get Rafael up to eat while his food is still hot, but before he can return to their bedroom, big arms are enveloping him from behind.

"Shouldn't I be the one making you breakfast?" Rafael asks, voice gruff with sleep and breath hot against Sonny's shoulder.

Sonny shrugs. "Can't I do something nice for you?"

"It's your birthday," Rafael replies. Then, he tugs Sonny's pajama pants down a touch. "I thought we agreed, no clothes."

"It's unsafe to cook naked. And you know me, I'm all about safety."

"Right, Detective Carisi," Rafael kisses his shoulder, up to his neck. "Detective Sexy."

Sonny snorts, leaning into Rafael's touch. "If I had a quarter every time I heard that--"

Rafael bites his shoulder. Sonny yelps and hops out of the way.

He grabs two plates and sets up their food, then carries the plates to the table while Rafael pours the coffee and grabs the Sunday paper from outside.

They eat happily and talk about nothing. Finally, they finish, and Rafael sits back looking suddenly anxious.

"Okay, its driving me crazy. I need to give you your gift."

Rafael quickly stands and trots back to their bedroom.

"You know, you didn't have to get me anything!" Sonny calls after him as he begins to clear the table.

Rafael returns quickly holding a pretty large box. "What do you mean? Of course I did, it's your birthday. Not only that, but it's your 30th birthday. That's a big deal, and I know you're a lot more excited about yours than I was about mine."

"That's true," Sonny says, because even though he forgot about his birthday as of late, he hasn't been dreading it for entire year already.

Rafael asks him into the living room, so Sonny wanders over and sits on the couch. Rafael awkwardly holds the big box and looks so nervous.

"Why do you look nervous?" Sonny asks with a grin. "Is it, like, something dead or something?"

"I don't know why kind of gifts they give in Staten Island, but no, Sonny, it's not something dead."

Sonny laughs. "Well, hand it over."

Rafael anxiously licks his lips. "Look, I...I was thinking about your gift to me on my 30th, how heartfelt and thoughtful it was, and I just wanted to give you something even a fraction that meaningful."

Rafael finally hands it over, and Sonny slowly peels the lid off.

Rafael keeps babbling. "If you hate it, hate what I've done, I'm really sorry. I...well, I can't undo it, but--"

Sonny pulls back the tissue paper and is so surprised to see one of his old baseball t-shirts. No, not just an old baseball t-shirt, but an old baseball t-shirt sewed to another, sewed to another, and Sonny is in so much shock that he doesn't take out the large object.

Rafael clears his throat. "I, uh, gathered all your old baseball t-shirts, not the jerseys because those were a bit harder to sew, and put them together to make..."

Rafael reaches to take them out, but Sonny beats him and pulls out the heavy quilt made out of his old baseball t-shirts.

He shakes the blanket out to see all of them. There are dozens. Junior Yankees, Lil' Mets, Tigers, Black Sox, Bears, Killer Bees, Hot Shots, Mustangs; the list goes on, ranging from his first years playing tee-ball, then coach pitch, then Little League and traveling club teams, then junior high, high school, and finally his college team.

"Rafi, I..."

Memories overwhelm Sonny. He remembers how excited he was before tee-ball, and for months he begged his mom to sign him up, even though it wasn't time to sign up yet; he remembers his first major league team for Little League, the Tigers, and how happy he was to make the all-star team; he remembers how proud he was the day he made the Junior Yankees team as an early teen, and how much fun it was winning many tournaments with that team. All the memories, all the time spent, baseball has been the love of his life. Along with Rafael, of course.

"Do you...like it?" Rafael tentatively asks.

"Like it? Rafi, I can't believe you...how? How did you do this? And when?"

"Well, your mom and I gathered all of the shirts. This one was mine, actually," Rafael points to a black and yellow Killer Bees shirt, which was one of the traveling teams Sonny played for. "We couldn't find yours. I think I remember you chopping it in half after you were cut from the team."

Sonny laughs. "Oh man, I forgot about that. What a brat."

Rafael chuckles. "So, after we gathered all of them, my mom helped me sew it. Then I pissed her off, so your mom helped...then I pissed her off too, so your dad helped me finish."

Sonny laughs harder. "I can't believe this, Rafi. This is so beautiful, and so special. Thank you so much."

Sonny leans over the soft quilt to kiss Rafael. He cups Rafael's stubble-covered cheek to pull him in further, to kiss and lick into every corner of Rafael's mouth, and to see stars with how much joy Rafael brings him.

Sonny pulls Rafael in further, until Rafael leaves his post on the coffee table and straddles Sonny's waist on the couch.

Sonny still has the blanket between them, and their kissing gets heated very quickly, but he doesn't want anything to happen to the quilt. He breaks the kissing to push Rafael away.

"Hang on, let me move the blanket," he mutters.

Rafael lays back against the arm of the couch. "Dios mio..."

"Dios mio, yourself. Not only did you spend a ton of time on this and I don't want to get it dirty, but I wore those shirts as a kid. I can't fuck on something from my childhood."

"But your bed at your parents house--"

Sonny gets the blanket folded over the opposite arm of the couch, then climbs between Rafael's spread thighs.

"Just shush," he says, then dives back in for another deep kiss.

Later, once clean and full of more delicious coffee, they take the blanket to bed and reminisce about every shirt. Like the book Sonny had made for Rafael, the quilt provides amazing memories that they're glad they shared together. Sonny never fails to feel lucky that Rafael has always been his best friend, the love of his life, and someday his husband. He feels lucky that he's shared everything in his life with Rafael.

"I really love this, Rafi. Thank you. What made you think to do this?"

"I found my old Mustangs shirt with 'Carisi-3' on the back, and I thought for a few weeks what I could do with all of your old shirts. Then, I thought of this."

"It was a great idea. I'll be sure to thank our parents for helping and not killing you. How'd it go sewing with my dad? He's the perfectionist."

Rafael laughs. "Surprisingly, your father and I are still on good speaking terms."

Sonny smiles. "Well, I love it." He leans over and kisses Rafael again. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. And hey, now we're both thirty."

"And over."

Rafael glares at him. "Ha-ha."

Sonny grins. "Both over thirty. You think we ought to get married now?"

"I was just thinking the same thing."

"Soon."

"Promise?"

"Of course."

They smile at each other for a second, under the comfort of the big fluffy blanket, and Sonny thinks about their wedding.

Soon.

It'll be soon.