It’s too damn cold.
That’s what Rafael thinks as he stands on the road winding through the cemetery, bouncing from one foot to the other to try and stay warm. It’s only the third day of September, it’s been hot and sunny for weeks. This, of all days, of course is the first one where the mercury dips to fifty. Rafael keeps squeezing his hands in his coat pockets, trying to keep his fingers from going numb. He had no idea he would need gloves today.
“You okay?” Tommy asks. He’s sat on the bench next to where Rafael can’t stop moving, holding his sleeping daughter.
“Just cold.” He replies. His breath causes a fog in the freeze. His eyes flick over to the people a ways off from the two of them.
He finds Sonny easily, holding onto his youngest sister. Both their pale faces are red and tear stained, and the cold isn’t doing them any favors. His gaze shifts to find the other two sisters, who are sharing their own embrace next to the casket, with ruined tissues in their grasps.
Rafael feels around in his pocket before his hand closes around the laminated funeral card for Gino Cognotelli, the brother of Sonny’s long deceased Nana. Though, from what he’s heard, Rafael gets the impression that he was around just as much as she was.
His keeps looking, picking out the man’s family- two sons, one daughter, all with children of their own. He also picks out Dominick’s two sisters, though he can’t remember either of their names. The day has been a haze of names and faces and weeping.
He finds his in laws again, picking out Valerie who’s made her way over to her two middle daughters. Rafael thinks he’ll find Dominick in the same position with his other two children, but no, they’re still holding each other.
Instead, he finds Dominick stood off to the side with a son of the deceased. The one that gave the eulogy. Raymond, maybe.
Whatever his name, Dominick is right up in his face. Maybe Raymond puts a hand on his chest to try and push him away, but Dominick smacks it away. He’s talking. His face is turning even redder than it already was. Raymond says something else and holds up his hands. Dominick turns away, and uses his whole arm to wave the other man off.
Rafael watches as Dominick gathers up his family, then makes his way to the three of them.
“We’re leaving.” He says decisively.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Bella asks, and rests a hand on her father’s shoulder.
“We’re not invited to the repast, that’s what’s going on. They don’t want us here? That’s just fucking fine, we don’t need to be here.
Tommy puts a hand over his daughter’s ear, the one that’s not resting against his shoulder. The rest of the family exclaims in shock. Rafael stays quiet.
“Y’know what?” Valerie speaks up after wiping her nose. “Screw them. But we need to eat something.”
“Yeah dad, please?” Gina puts in. “I’m starved. None of us have eaten.”
There’s a quick hubbub among them about where to get food before settling on a place called DeLuna, and everyone moves to get into the cars they came in. The girls and Tommy pile into Bella and Tommy’s SUV. Rafael and Sonny get in the back of the Carisi parents’ car. The silence in the car hangs there, heavy in the air, filling the space.
Sonny reaches over and finds his husband’s hand, before his other hand sandwiches around it. When Sonny looks up from the back of the driver’s seat, he catches his father’s eye in the rearview mirror. Just for a second. Just long enough for Dominick to see the pain in his son’s gaze.
Sonny doesn’t linger. Instead he leans his head on Rafael’s shoulder and closes his eyes for the fifteen minute drive to the restaurant. It’s just long enough that he can feel himself falling asleep when the car parks. The engine shutting off makes Sonny sigh before he gets himself out.
From what Rafael can tell, the restaurant they’re in is the kind of place open for lunch but really makes its money from dinner sales. Nobody else is in the restaurant, and it makes getting a table for nine easy. It’s one of those big, round tables. Even sick from grief, the family empties the bread baskets on either half of the table before looking at the menu.
Nobody’s paying attention. Even when the stories about Gino start, nobody hears an entire tale from beginning to end. Veronica is the only one showing any spirit and that’s only because of how awake she is post-nap. Tommy’s in charge of wrangling her, but when she comes over to Sonny and asks to sit in his lap, he doesn’t turn her away. He lets an arm rest around her while the unheard stories continue to be told. By the time their first course arrives, the stories have grown to include the ones that prominently feature Nana.
The same Nana that gave Sonny his first cigarette when he was 14, because both her and her newly deceased brother were chain smokers from teenhood on. The same Nana that always made the effort to go to the bank and take out cash for their birthdays and Christmas. Nana, who they all figure out gave each of the kids two grand when they started college.
While the family rambles about Nana, Dominick’s eye is drawn to Rafael, who’s wearing a blank stare.
Tommy, sat next to them, sees when Sonny takes Rafael’s hand and puts it on his own thigh, pressing it into the skin. Rafael’s thumb moves, gently stroking over his pant leg, but his gaze is still gone.
They don’t know Rafael the way Sonny does. They don’t know that, underneath that blank stare, Rafael is reliving his abuelita’s death in vivid detail. He’s reliving her funeral. He’s there in that night, before her burial when he came to pieces. And he’s in the night after the burial, when he had a fit of hysterical sobbing in the shower, hoping the water would cover his cries.
Sonny remembers that plan not working. He remembers going into the shower with Rafael and holding the older man until he’d cried himself out. It had freaked Sonny out, because there was no way to make the sobs stop. Once the floodgates were opened, nothing could close them except the water running dry.
When their soup bowls get taken away, Veronica is so amped up that she needs some air. Tommy gets up to take her, and Sonny goes with.
“That’s okay?” He asks Rafael gently. The older man nods, still looking at the wall across from him.
“Go. Breathe. I’m okay.”
Sonny presses his lips to Rafael’s temple before he takes his coat and walks outside with his brother in law, while watching Veronica walk up and down the piece of sidewalk in front of the establishment.
“So, what was that about with Rafael? Is he okay?” Tommy asks with his usual lack of tact.
Sonny shrugs. “Fine. Just sad.”
Tommy waits. Sonny notices.
“He just started thinkin’ about his abuelita, and he felt sad. He was real close to her. It’s a long story.”
“Yeah, but it’s not mine to tell so don’t ask.”
Tommy backs off for a minute. “Can I ask him?”
“Sure you can, but you shouldn’t. It’s personal and he has a hard time talking about things. Don’t push him.”
Tommy shuts his mouth, knowing not to screw with this rare, defensive Sonny. Instead, they watch Veronica until she comes back over to them, and holds her arms out to be picked up once again. This time Sonny takes her, and carries her back inside.
She’s still mellowed, somewhat, when their main course comes. The family keeps talking while their food is slowly eaten.
It’s quiet. When they’re not speaking, they can hear the sounds coming from the kitchen, though it’s clear on the other side of the room they’re in.
A clatter of dishes hitting the ground make both Rafael and Sonny flinch, the former so hard that he drops his fork on his plate and the latter with such intensity that he snaps his neck looking for the source of the noise. There’s a few deep, centering breaths before either of them can look at anyone again.
Sonny looks at Rafael first. The blue in his eyes are nearly gone, but his breathing is normalized.
“You okay?” He asks under his breath.
“Yeah, Yeah I’m okay.” Rafael says with a few quick nods, though he can still feel his heart smashing against his ribs. Sonny reaches down and places his hand over the one Rafael has resting on his leg. He gives it a good squeeze before letting go.
The rest of the family is trying very hard not to look at them. Even Veronica, who’s barely sat still this whole meal, is quietly looking around at the grownups of the table. Slowly, forks start scraping against plates and drinks are sipped at. It takes the two of them a little longer to return to eating, now with even less gusto than before. When it’s clear Sonny is more interested in pushing around his chicken than actually eating it, Dominick speaks up.
Sonny looks up, meeting his father’s eye.
“Are you…uh…you know…” he points downward “you know, right now?”
Sonny’s eyebrows push together, the eyes underneath them showing confusion.
“You know…” his voice lowers even further. “Are you carrying?”
“All the time dad.” He nods along with his response. Dominick mirrors his nods, but he keeps his mouth shut. “I mean…you know…it’s not the same, as before. I got the old one back and I couldn’t look at it anymore. But yeah, I still do. You never know.”
Rafael looks down at his plate. A chill passes over his skin. I’m sorry he doesn’t know. I’m sorry he has to worry.
“No…I guess you don’t…” Dominick’s eye just grazes Rafael before he goes back to eating, letting the silence fill the space around them, since the anecdotes have run dry. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone needs some sleep.
Still, they eat dessert, because it’s days like this where satisfying a sweet tooth is important. Conversation bubbles here and there, but never comes to fruition. When the check is dropped on their table, Rafael snaps it up.
“Hey, c’mon Rafael, what’re you doing?” Dominick asks. “Give me that.”
“Don’t worry about it, really.” Rafael sets the leather holder down next to his plate so he can grab his wallet, but Dominick reaches for it again. Rafael has to pick the thing up, holding it away from the table.
“Don’t be silly, you don’t need to do that.”
“I know I don’t have to, I want to. Please.”
“No, really, I insist, I don’t want you guys spending that kind of money.”
“Well it’s my fault you’re not with the rest of your family. Please, let me.”
The rest of the family stares. Dominick is undeterred.
“Ah, come on-“
“Dad, stop, okay?” Sonny cuts in. “Just let him. Let someone do something nice.”
Dominick relents, and holds his hands up in defeat. “Fine. Thank you for that, very much.”
“It’s not a big deal at all, we can handle it.” Rafael answers and opens his wallet. When he pulls out a pair of hundred dollar bills, something else is pulled out with them. Something that clatters to the floor.
“I’ll get it.” Tommy offers and slides his chair back, leaning down to get them.
He picks up two cards like the ones they all just got at the funeral. On one there’s a man in a full police uniform. On the other, a black and white photo of a woman sat on a bench somewhere.
“Here you go.” Tommy says, handing them back to Rafael.
“Thanks, Tommy.” He takes them and slips them back into his wallet, which gets folded back up and put away.
Dominick opens the check holder, and represses a sigh at the hundred and eighty dollar tab. He takes thirty dollars out of his own wallet and leaves it as a tip, though he catches his son glaring at him for it.
“The waitress was good. Why not give her a nice tip?”
“We’re not tight on money, dad. Don’t worry. Rafe just got a bonus at work and I’ve been putting in a lot of OT.”
“Yeah, well you’ve-“
“Ah, I didn’t mean to bring this up again. Just, don’t worry about it.” Sonny waves his father off while the rest of the family pulls on their coats. The two men follow suit, and head outside. Valerie takes her granddaughter to the car while the Irish twins and Dominick sit on the benches outside the restaurant to smoke. Sonny rejects the one that is offered to him, though he would have taken it if Rafael wasn’t there with him.
Tommy stands next to where Bella’s sat, since she relents and takes a cigarette from her dad. The air outside isn’t warm, but it’s still enough that the sun’s rays can get to warming them.
Again, Rafael is taken away mentally, this time by memories of his father. The smoke coming from the cigarettes carry with them so many years of time spent in his childhood home. He can practically hear the one record his father played when he came home, always accompanied by the smell of a handful of consecutively smoked Kools The smell permeated through the entire house, even reaching past Rafael’s closed bedroom door.
Sonny’s hand on his back is a mild anchor. Reality comes back into full focus when his phone buzzes against his hip. He doesn’t jump, but the leg underneath the pocket, where the device is sat, twitches at the sudden feeling. It’s been buzzing all day, but mostly with texts and emails. This buzzing keeps going, again and again.
He fishes the thing out of his pocket, then sighs when he sees who it is.
“Barba.” He answers in his professional voice. The rest of the family listens in, though they don’t look over at him. Sonny looks over at Rafael, meeting his eye.
“Rita?” He murmurs. Rafael nods and puts his hand over the microphone.
“She’s being slammed with a third motion to suppress. I told her this would be a bitch of- No, yes, I’m still here Rita.” He says into his phone.
Sonny looks down at his hands, listening to what he can hear of both ends of the conversation.
“Have you tried- I’m sorry, did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?...Right. Anyway, did you put in for a continuance…What did the detective you’re dealing with say?...Oh…oh that’s not…”
“What about a Sandoval hearing?” Sonny puts in, and Barba’s face relaxes, like he’s thinking it over, before he tries to talk again.
“Rita…Rita-Rita, did you call me to talk to me or hear yourself talk?” He waits a beat. “What about a Sandoval hearing?”
Tommy and Bella openly stare, since they’re the closest. It’s surprising to Bella to hear her brother the cop give legal advice to someone who’s undeniably a lawyer.
“Okay Rita…well don’t thank me, thank Carisi…” He nods and holds the phone out to him. Sonny takes it.
“Hey Rita…yeah, no problem, just trying to help…have you missed prosecuting?” he waits another moment, staring up at the underside of the awning they’re sat beneath.
“Yeah, well, not as easy as victim blaming the problem away, is it?” A moment later and he laughs. “Yeah, okay…alright Rita…yeah, you too. Did you wanna talk to Barba again?”
Another pause. “Okay. Seeya then.” He pulls the phone away and hangs up, then hands it back to Rafael.
“Does it ever get weird, calling each other by your last names?” Tommy asks. “Y’know, since you guys are married now.”
The couple exchange a look, then Sonny shrugs. “Not really. We thought about hyphenating, but professionally it’s just easier to leave it be.”
“What about when you have kids?” Bella asks.
“We’ll probably just split the difference on our names, and give ‘em something all their own. Like Carba or Barisi.” Sonny answers.
“Carba sounds like a very Italian last name.” Rafael says.
“Well if our kid is white then we know what name to give ‘em.” Sonny jokes. Bella blinks and looks at her brother.
“If? What do you mean ‘if’? You guys are both white.”
“Bells, did you miss that day in biology or somethin’?”
“You know what I mean. If you do the thing with another woman being mom.”
“Well if we do do the invitro thing our best option for eggs might not be a white woman. And if we adopt, man, who knows?”
“Is that not something you’re thinking about?”
“Not really.” Rafael answers, leaning into Sonny a bit more. “In a year or two. When things are more stable.”
Sonny rubs his back. Bella trades a quick look with Tommy, and Gina and Teresa do the same, but nobody dares ask. Like the rest of the day’s conversations, the flow of words dries up.
When the cigarettes are stubbed out, a lot of hugs are exchanged between the groups that are parting. Sonny hugs all of his sisters tight, one after the other. Rafael lets himself be hugged, for their sake.
“You’ll keep an eye on him, right?” Teresa asks when she lets go of him. Rafael nods.
“Remind him to text me later. He said he would but, you know.” She shrugs. Rafael nods, knowing that he’s liable to forget in his current state.
It’s quiet in the car again. The two cars part ways so the girls can go back to their parents’ house, while their parents drive Sonny and Rafael to the ferry.
Valerie doesn’t bother asking if they want to come back to the house. She can see it, in her son’s face especially, how they need to be home. She watches the way the older man curls into her son, and the way her son’s lanky arm wraps around him.
A week ago, Sonny’s hair would’ve tickled Rafael’s face where it is now. Today he just breathes in the scent of hairspray, which easily holds his hair in place, though not as harshly as the gel used to.
They’re statues, each one pressed against the other until they get to the ferry. There’s a few low goodbyes, some cheek pecking, and then they’re walking off together. Before the couple disappears from sight, Dominick notices the way they each put an arm around the other.
Don’t tell me they’re not welcome. Don’t fucking tell me there’s something wrong with them. Dominick yells internally at his cousin, and at himself.
Before Sonny can be free of his day, he goes around their apartment and double checks the locks on the windows. He touches the lock on their front door too, just to be sure. Only then can he get out of his suit and into his shower. And from there, into a pair of sweatpants and his favorite sweatshirt.
Rafael is sat in the living room under a blanket, the TV playing even though he’s facing the back of the couch. Sonny comes over, picking up his husband’s feet so he can sit with them in his lap. After a moment, Sonny reaches over and taps his husband’s hip, making him look up.
“Hi.” He murmurs.
“Hi.” Sonny says back, his hands folding over Rafael’s ankles.
“How’re you holding up?” Rafael asks. Sonny shrugs.
“Just a little blue. You know, I didn’t really see Gino a whole lot the last few years. Maybe…like…twice.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t see your family more.” Rafael says after a moment. Sonny sighs.
“Don’t do that. Please? I saw them plenty, just not that side so much. Had nothing to do with you.”
Rafael sits up and looks at Sonny, who’s not really looking at him now. After a few moments of silence he does, but it’s only for a moment.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“You didn’t yell… and I know you didn’t mean that.” Rafael reaches over and squeezes Carisi’s shoulder. “But you can talk to me.”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
Rafael’s quiet. After a moment, Sonny speaks again.
It’s the last real words Rafael gets out of him for the day. Their home is quiet, save for the sounds of the TV in the background. The only words that get thrown out are in short sentences, like Rafael’s “text your sister” and Sonny’s “I’m ordering pizza.”
There’s nothing to say and everything to think. Rafael knows that. Rafael’s familiar with falling prey to one’s own thoughts. He misses Sonny, though. He misses the usual amount of touching that he gets from his husband, who’s off in his own world for the afternoon. He’s there in their apartment, but he’s really not.
Before getting into bed, Rafael worries. He’s not sure what he’ll do if this distance keeps up into the night.
That worry disappears when the bare skin of Sonny’s arms wrap around his shoulders, and pull him close. He moves in, allowing his face to rest on the skin over his beating chest.
“Where’ve you been?” Rafael asks, his hand resting over Carisi’s side, drinking in the feel of their bodies pressed together again. He feels the slight shrug that is Sonny’s reply.
“Just thinking. About death. You know.”
“Kinda got to me though. You know, thinking about the two deaths I’m responsible. Fucked me up pretty good.” Sonny’s voice raises, too loud for the darkness surrounding them. “And I know, I know you don’t think I’m responsible for the guy Bobby killed but I do. I feel it and I don’t want to hear about it.”
The hand on his side moves, spreading its warmth over the patch of skin it covers. His voice comes out it’s normal nighttime volume when he speaks again.
“Thinking that I caused someone’s death fucks me up. To think that I initiated all this pain for someone else’s family, god, I just…the guilt.”
The hand on his side moves to rest on the bare half of his chest, evening out the warmth that Rafael’s cheek leaves against him. His chest raises extra high before he lets the breath out in a sigh.
“But…you know…then I think more about you. About how that guy was going to kill you, if I hadn’t killed him first. He was there to end your life, and there was nothing else I could do.”
Sonny rests a hand on the back of Rafael’s head, letting his damp tufts stick to his palm.
“Do you understand, Rafe? Do I sound like a nut job or do you understand?”
“I do. I don’t, but I do.”
Sonny’s quiet is full of question. He feels Rafael’s neck fluctuate against his chest when he swallows, and the hand against his chest being removed. It reaches back around to guide the thumb of the hand resting on Rafael’s scalp. He thinks it odd, and then a shock hits his brain, waking him up completely. His thumb presses against a short but still noticeable scar hidden underneath his hair.
“My 19th birthday. My dad…he started pushing us around. Pushed me so hard I fell back into my mother’s china cabinet. That’s when I lost it. I…I didn’t stop until my mother pulled me off of him.”
Sonny’s nauseous at the thought.
“Because he wasn’t moving. He passed out. I shattered his nose, cracked his collarbone, gave him a concussion, but I thought he was…you know…”
Sonny squeezes him tight, as if he could protect him from that memory.
“But I guess it’s not the same. I wouldn’t have been so torn up about it.”
Sonny stays quiet, scared of what to say next. The last thing he wants to do is shatter Rafael with the delicate headspace he’s in now. So he just holds the older man, letting them feel close again for the first time all day.
“I’m sorry.” Rafael murmurs against his skin. “I made your moment about me again.”
“It’s okay.” Sonny whispers, and practically strains his neck to kiss Rafael’s forehead. The older man closes his eyes, and presses even further against his husband’s bare body.
“I love you. So much.” Rafael presses a kiss to his neck. “Te amo, mi héroe. Te amo mucho.”
“I love you too Rafe. I love you so so much.” He buries his face in the top of his husband’s wet hair. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
They lay there, the darkness swaddling them as they hold each other together.