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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.