Barba’s walking Sonny to the subway when the rain starts. Their conversation is heated, each of them arguing the merits of conflicting legal approaches to the latest case they’re both working, and Sonny’s so involved he hardly notices the weather until he’s half-soaked by it, and Barba is glaring bloody murder and shooting pointed glances to the umbrella Sonny has yet to open.
“Sorry,” he mumbles as he hurriedly pops it open, holding most of it over Barba so Sonny’s left side continues to moisten.
Sonny looks ahead and realizes they’re still a ways away from the station. He looks back at Barba and pushes his umbrella handle towards Barba’s hand.
“Listen, take this and go back to the office. I’ll be fine the rest of the way.”
Barba scoffs. “Don’t be an idiot.” He looks around until his eyes land on a nearby diner. “We’ll wait it out there. I’m not done ripping your idea to shreds, and I want to be comfortable.”
Sonny wants to argue that it isn’t necessary to either wait out the rain together or continue with the verbal beat-down Barba started the moment Sonny’s mouth had opened, but he can’t deny that few things sound as wonderful as a hot cup of coffee.
“Fine. But if you’re going to be a dick, then you’re buying.”
“You say that like it’s a hardship.”
The diner, when they enter, is buzzing with activity. Sonny and Barba aren’t the only ones off the street who’ve decided the little restaurant is more ideal than the torrents of water outside, and when a waitress spies their wet coats and dripping umbrella, the disappointment on her face is clear.
“Give us a minute,” she says without preamble. “Try not to drip everywhere.”
Barba and Sonny trade a look--Sonny’s vaguely affronted at the service; Barba’s considering of the waitress’ predicament.
“We don’t have to wait here,” Sonny says. “I really don’t mind the storm.”
Barba shrugs. “Do as you please. I prefer not to look like a drowned rat if I can avoid it.”
The waitress reappears just then, two menus in hand. “Do I even need to bother with these?” she asks, waving the menus.
“Excuse me?” Sonny replies, confused.
“Let me guess: two coffees?”
Barba nods, still seemingly unruffled by the attitude. “You’ve got us pegged.”
“Follow me,” she says as she puts the menus back down on the counter.
Sonny follows silently, afraid to say a word and set the waitress off. It’s not unlike how he used to feel around Barba. Of course, now Sonny doesn’t much a give a shit if he irritates Barba. In fact, as far as he’s concerned, it only does Barba some good to have someone push his buttons every now and again.
The booth they end up in is worn and lumpy, and Sonny half expects Barba to complain. He doesn’t though. He simply smiles at the waitress and kicks Sonny under the table when he doesn’t immediately thank her for begrudgingly doing her job and leading them somewhere to sit.
“What’s your problem?” Barba asks as he’s taking off his coat and scarf.
Sonny frowns as he slips out of his own wet coat. “Nothing. It’s just, would it kill her to be a little nicer?”
“Have you failed to notice she’s the only waitress here, and her table count just tripled?”
“Still, customer service is part of the job. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Right. And being human is part of life. That’s all I’m saying. I never thought you’d be one to forget that no one is perfect.” Barba pauses. “No one besides me, of course.”
Sonny nods. “Of course.” He looks back at the waitress, who’s hurrying between her tables, a constant flurry of movement. “Maybe you’re right,” he admits.
“Okay, you’re definitely right. I was being an ass.”
Barba picks at the Formica tabletop. “I’m guessing you’ve never been in customer service?”
“Not as such. Though in a lot of ways, I think the job I have now qualifies.”
Barba’s nod is his concession. “Still, you’ve missed out on a whole new world of education and experience.”
“Bella used to wait tables,” Sonny says, thinking back on those few short months. “She’d complain about customers all the time, but I guess I always figured she was the problem. I knew what she was like at home; I had a hard time imagining she was much different at work.”
Barba snorts softly. “You should have given her the benefit of the doubt. I worked in a restaurant my first year at Harvard. It was formative.”
“What kind of restaurant?”
“A Middle Eastern joint a few blocks from campus.”
It’s then their coffee arrives, and Sonny makes a point to smile as kindly at the waitress as he can. She rewards him with a small smile in return.
“Cream and sugar?” she asks him, her tone finally breaking into friendly territory.
“I’m good,” Sonny says. He looks at Barba. “You?”
“Yes, please,” Barba answers, and the waitress hurries away once again to fetch it.
“So, a Middle Eastern restaurant,” Sonny says, still curious. “What was that like?”
“It was a little Lebanese hole-in-the-wall. Lebanese flags in every corner, Lebanese music blasting from the shitty, tinny speakers. Lebanese customers coming in and trying to place orders in Arabic. But the food was good, and there was belly dancing every Friday and Saturday night.”
“Free entertainment for you,” Sonny says with a grin. He waggles his eyebrows. “Bet you liked that.”
Barba rolls his eyes. “You’re disgusting. Drink your coffee.”
Sonny does, wincing at the temperature. There’s no denying it’s hot.
“That said,” Barba adds, “it wasn’t so bad seeing the women dance.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a belly dancer,” Sonny says as he blows on his coffee cup.
“You’d probably love it.”
“Do I detect a note of judgement, Counselor?”
Barba looks as innocent as he can muster. “Me ? Judge you? Surely you must be joking."
The waitress comes back with the cream and sugar, and it’s Barba’s turn to smile sweetly at her. She throws back a wink and walks away.
“She likes you better than me.”
“That’s because I’m nicer than you.”
“That is categorically untrue, Barba. I’m a fucking delight. Ask anyone.”
Barba’s expression is ponderous. “What about anyone you worked with back at all the precincts you shuffled through before you landed in Manhattan?”
Sonny puts a hand to his chest in mock offense. “Rafael, you wound me.”
For a few minutes, the sit in quiet and sip their coffee. The booth they’re in abuts the wide diner window, so Sonny has a clear view of the rain as it falls, and of the people rushing to escape it. The chill from outside leeches through the glass, and he can feel it through his blazer and shirt sleeve, raising the hair on his forearm. That he’s still damp from the rain himself doesn’t help matters, though the coffee is trying its level best to fight back. Sonny watches Barba watch the rain, too, and he can’t keep himself from smiling.
Dining together had become somewhat of a habit while Sonny had been shadowing Barba before he’d taken the Bar, but those meals had been quick and punctuated by their context. Though they had known each other for over a year, and worked closely together for much of that time, Sonny realizes this is the first instance of the pair of them simply going out for a drink--albeit a caffeinated one--and not feeling compelled to discuss work. It’s nice.
He hides his grin behind his coffee cup and once again focuses on the rain. It’s coming down in sheets, the pound and purr of it audible through the window. It clatters on the roof of the diner like rocks, and Sonny has to admit he’s grateful he’s not outside.
“Inconvenient as it is,” Barba says quietly, “I love this weather.”
“I thought you didn’t like looking like a drowned rat?”
Barba tosses Sonny an exasperated look. “I did mention it was inconvenient.”
“But still you love it,” Sonny says. When a smile creeps into his lips, he doesn’t bother hiding it this time.
“I do,” Barba agrees, looking once more out the window. “There’s something invigorating about this kind of rain.”
Sonny shrugs. “I always thought it was kind of scary, to be honest. You know, with all the flooding and whatnot. It can do a lot of damage.”
“True,” Barba says with a nod. He doesn’t counter with a but .
“I’ll take this rain over the summer heat, though, I will say that.”
Barba smiles. “The heat just bakes all the garbage. The rain at least has the decency to wash this city’s dirt away.”
Sonny nods sagely. “Deep.”
The comment earns him another kick from under the table. Barba’s foot doesn’t pull away afterwards, though. It rests against Sonny’s ankle, steady and sure. The coffee has Sonny half-way to warm, but Barba’s foot pressed against his takes him the rest of the way there. He feels his face flush, and hopes he isn’t too obvious to read. Still, he doesn’t pull his foot back.
“You know what I could go for?” Sonny says around the sudden dryness in his throat. “A slice of pie and a scoop of ice cream.”
Barba snorts, but still he signals for the waitress.
She arrives a moment later. “Yes, gentlemen?”
“What’s the best pie you got in this joint?” Sonny asks.
“Apple,” she says. “Easy.”
“Then that’s what I’ll have. A slice of apple pie, warmed up, with a scoop of vanilla.”
She doesn’t bother writing the order down. “That’s the only way we serve it, Beanstalk.” Then she’s off again to see to another table.
Sonny turns in his seat to watch her go. “Did she just call be ‘Beanstalk’?”
“I believe she did,” Barba replies, clearly amused.
Barba drains his cup and sets it heavily back down on the tabletop. "I only hope that when she comes back, she brings more coffee.”
She does, and Barba’s face visibly brightens. “A godsend,” he tells her, and Sonny shakes his head.
“Just ask for her number why don’t you,” he says after she’s walked away.
Barba looks scandalized. “I don’t want her number.”
“Why not?” Sonny asks. “She’s cute.”
“She’s not my type,” Barba says, and his face when Sonny looks is unreadable.
Sonny turns around to consider her once more. “Nah,” he agrees. “Not my type either, at the end of the day.”
Barba nods in understanding. “Yes, you prefer your partners docile and cheery.”
“That ain’t fair,” Sonny replies. “I like my partners with some bite. Just not so fond of my servers having the same kind of attitude.”
“Boy, I hope you leave her an enormous tip.”
“I thought you were buying!”
“Buying isn’t the same thing as tipping. That I leave to you.” Barba frowns at the pie and ice cream Sonny’s demolishing. “Besides, I assumed we’d just be buying coffee.”
“You jealous?” Sonny asks. “If you’re nice, I’ll let you have a bite.”
“Then it’s a good thing I don’t want any.”
“Too sweet for you, Counselor?”
Barba raises a brow. “Are you trying to suggest something, Detective?”
It’s Sonny’s turn to look innocent. “Like what?”
“There are worse things to be than bitter.”
Sonny licks his spoon. “I was thinking more that you were salty, actually.”
That startles a laugh out of Barba. “That’s certainly more forgiving.”
“Come on, Barba. Everyone knows at your core you’re a big softie. Your heart is good.”
“A ringing endorsement. ‘Underneath all the awful, you’re really not so bad’.”
Sonny scoffs. “That’s not what I said at all, and you know it.”
Barba goes back to looking outside. “You better finish your dessert soon so I can settle our bill. The rain’s stopped, for now at least.”
Sonny scoops up the last of the melted ice cream and broken pie crust and savors it on his tongue, flaky and sweet. He pulls his wallet out of his still-soaking coat pocket and tosses down a damp twenty.
“That generous enough?”
Barba’s smile is small, but true. “I guess that’ll do.” He adds another ten to the pile to cover the coffee and pie, and then stands to shrug into his coat and wrap his scarf around his neck.
The loss of his foot against Sonny’s ankle is acute.
“You know what I just realized?” Sonny says as he stands himself.
“I’m dying to know,” Barba replies dryly.
“We never finished talking about the case.”
“I suppose that means I’ll have to pick up telling you how wrong you are where I left off tomorrow.”
Sonny laughs. “I look forward to it.”
They make their way outside, nodding to the waitress on their way out the door. The cold air hits Sonny like a sheet, sending him into shivers. He looks at Barba, preparing to say goodbye, and is surprised to find the man removing his scarf and holding it out to Sonny like some kind of gift.
“What’s this for?”
Barba sighs. “You’ve got farther to go outside than me. You can return it on our next date.”
“That’s awfully nice of you, Bar--wait, our next what?”
But Barba is already turning around to head back to the office. “Bye, Sonny,” he calls out over his shoulder.
“Bye,” Sonny answers, a little shell shocked. But then he wraps the scarf around his neck and makes his way to the subway station. All the way home he smells Rafael’s cologne, and even when the rain starts its torrential falling once more when Sonny steps off the train, Sonny can’t keep from smiling.