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L'amore davvero

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His heart was racing, his head was spinning and his palms were sweaty. Rafael Barba had returned home to find his partner, the man he loved, the man who had he just signed a lease with, James. His sweet, attractive, incredibly smart, naive James. The man he wanted to marry, he’d even started thinking about looking for a ring, was in bed with another man. Some nameless faceless paralegal from the ADA’s office who Rafael was planning on organizing his termination within the day.

Rafael and his plans didn't matter though, not when both James and his lover had frozen mid act, matching looks of horror across their faces. An awkward silence filled the room as the three man stayed frozen, eventually when James made a move to cover himself Rafael couldn’t help but sigh.

“Right then,” the prosecutor nodded at the two men before exiting the bedroom.

As he made his way towards the front door Rafael heard a pleading voice call out. “Rafael.” The prosecutor stopped and turned to face his now ex boyfriend. “I’m sorry.”

A dejected sigh escaped from Rafael. “I’ll organize someone to collect my things.”

--

Rafael was not an impulsive man, but after one too many scotches and some encouragement from Liv and Rita, he found himself being driven through the Tuscan countryside. He had no idea why he had chosen to vacation in Italy of all countries, a lot of scotch obscured his memories of his friends conversation and laughter.

When we awoke the next morning with a pounding headache and an extra four thousand dollars charged against his card he called Rita to find out exactly what he had done. Apparently Liv had mentioned her plans to visit Italy one day and Rafael, who really had no control over his finances when drunk, had thought that sounded like a wonderful idea and promptly booked the flights.

“Maybe you can finally finish that novel you’ve been trying to write,” Rafael could hear the smirk in her tone.

Two weeks and a ten hour flight later he was there, in Italy watching the beautiful countryside scrawl past.  They drove past picturesque towns, and some of the most intense greenery he had ever seen. When the town car finally pulled up to the villa he had rented, Rafael felt a sense of unease. The villa was decently sized and he could see the ocean in the distance. As he stepped out of the car a tall, slender man with blond hair and a large smile appeared.

“Buongiorno! Come va?” The man greeted, his tone was warm as though he was welcoming an old friend. “Mi chiamo Domenico Carisi. Lo sono il proprietario di casa. Posso sapere gentilmente il suo nome?” A serious look crossed the man’s face, he cocked his head to the side. “Ah, non parla l’Italiano?”

"Uh, No? Hablo español e ingles," he returned in spanish.

The man blushed before he continued. “I speak a little English? My name is Domenico.”

“Hello, I’m Rafael,” the prosecutor hoped he didn’t sound as awkward as he felt.
“Need help?” The man asked gesturing to the space behind Rafael.

Rafael turned to see that his driver had removed his belongings from the trunk of the car. The prosecutor forced a polite smile, expressed his thanks and nodded. Rafael hadn’t packed a huge amount, so the two men only had to carry a suitcase each.

Rafael followed Domenico through the beautiful house to what he assumed was to be his bedroom. In a mixture of broken english and Italian the man pointed out where everything was along the way. Once Rafael and his bags were finally in the master bedroom he turned to the man. “Grazie mille.”

“Prego,” the man nodded before he left the room.

Rafael appreciated the curve of the man’s backside for a moment before closing the door and taking in his surroundings properly. The room was simpler than what he was used to but lovely, and the view from the window of the green hills was absolutely divine. Rafael took a deep breath and marveled at the gentle smile that crossed his lips, for the first time in weeks he felt as though everything was going to be okay.

--

The biggest problem Rafael had with a housekeeper that couldn’t speak much English is that he was unable to have a proper conversation with the man. Each request Rafael attempted to make was responded to in Italian and broken English. They were able to piece together an understanding of one another, but still, Rafael longed to hold a proper conversation.

He called Liv so he could hear a familiar voice, but Rafael couldn’t help himself and soon he was complaining to his friend about the situation. Dominico, the subject of much of Rafael’s ire, seemed to flit between rooms constantly. He was always cooking, cleaning.

“At least he’s easy on the eyes,” Rafael smirked.

“Really Rafael?” Liv teased through the phone.

 “I’ve always appreciated a handsome jaw,” Rafael smirked, he noticed a faint blush creep up the back of the blond’s neck. “Though he does understand some English.” 

Olivia just laughed. “Go easy on the young man Rafael. You’re quite the handful to those who understands you, let alone someone who can’t.”

Rafael rolled his eyes but voiced his agreement, “Of course Liv.”

As the week progressed the two men revolved comfortably around one another, Rafael would lounge on the couch and read a book while Domenico would work around him, occasionally trying to strike up awkward conversation. Rafael attempted to stay true to his word, but his patience was starting to wear thin.

-- 

At the end of his first week Rafael had finished several novels and decided it was probably time to keep working on his own manuscript. He pulled out his typewriter, dusted it off and hoisted it down the stairs. Though it seemed foolish to others, especially Rita Calhoun, Rafael enjoyed typing on the old machine. It belonged to his abuelita and everytime he used it he felt a little bit closer to her.

As he started to write the familiar tapping of the keys on paper kept him focused on the task at hand. Several moments later, as though he knew that Rafael was trying to concentrate, Domenico walked through the door, a plate of breakfast for Rafael in hand.

“Ciao, Rafael,” Domenico practically sung as he entered the room. “Che cosa stai combinando di bello oggi?”

Rafael glanced up at the man. “I’m writing a novel, uh… Un libro?”

Domenico walked over and placed the warm meal next to Rafael. He watched Rafael work for a few moments before returning to the kitchen, presumably to eat his own meal. Eventually he returned, obviously curious about what Rafael was doing.

“Che cosa significa?” The Italian asked, pointing to the line Rafael had just typed. 

This whole trial is a farce ,” Rafael read off the page. “I’m writing a legal thriller and the lead character, a prosecutor, has grown-” He took in the amused expression on Domenico’s face. “Uh, ley? Justica?”

“Legge? Ah, Law?” The man asked with a smile.

Rafael nodded. “Yes, law.”

“Anche io sto studiando legge,” Domenico said eagerly, clearly happy to find some common ground.

“You study law?” Rafael felt a little silly parroting back the man’s statement, but Dominco just brightened and nodded at the question. “I am a lawyer, a prosecutor.”

Rafael pulled his phone out of his pocket and googled himself. He pulled up a video of himself and handed it to Domenico. He watched as the younger man played the video, his blue eyes widened almost comically at whatever theatrics Rafael was performing for the media. At the end of the video the man pulled out his own phone typed something into Google and showed it to Rafael.

I would love to discuss law studies with you.

Rafael felt a rush of excitement as he read the words, they finally had something to talk about. He opened google translate and typed his response.

Mi piacerebbe.

--

In the weeks that followed the two men seemed to fall into an easy routine. In the mornings Rafael would work on his manuscript, they would eat lunch together, but their afternoons were resolved for discussing law. They still tried to speak with one another but their real conversations happened via Google translate. Though more often than not the translations were unusual, they were able to understand one another easily.

One morning Rafael was having a particularly difficulty focusing, Domenico suggested he attempted to write down by the ocean. The weather was calm and the sun was out so Rafael eagerly headed outside. As soon as he was sitting by the ocean, looking across the crystal blue waters he started to type.

Before he knew it Domenico was bringing him lunch. “Dai su, mangia per favore,” The blond said as he placed the meal in front of Rafael with.

The Italian’s infectious smile drew a rare one from Rafael. “This looks good.”

They sat and ate in amiable silence, Rafael occasionally looked up and noticed his companion staring at him. When caught the man would flush red and turn away, a shy smile on his mouth.

"Er... Would you like the last of, uh...?" Rafael gestured to the food in front of him.

"Grazie mille... ma no," Domenico’s tone was gentle.

"No?” Rafael cocked a brow, the man shook his head. “That's all right, more for me."

"Hey, non finirlo tutto, che mi diventi ogni giorno più in carne," the Italian said, a warm smile on his face.

Rafael finished off his meal with a laugh. "I'm very lucky, I've got one of those constitutions where I never put on weight." Rafael looked out at the ocean and then back to his companion, he couldn’t help but ask, “Don’t you get tired of watching me?”

“Potrei stare qui a guardarti tutto il giorno,” the man shrugged, the smile never left his mouth. “Come va con il tuo libro?”

Before the prosecutor could attempt to answer Domenico’s question the wind picked up. Page after page of the manuscript that Rafael had spent the past few years of his life working on was lifted up into the wind and carried into the sea.

“My manuscript,” Rafael choked back his frustration. He managed to grab some pages before they flew away but it was useless, weeks of work was lost. He secured the remaining pages in the satchel he had bought and scrambled to pack away the typewriter.

Rafael heard the rustling of fabric and turned to see that Domenico’s shirt had been removed. His mouth went dry as he raked his eyes over a surprisingly muscular figure and down long arms to eventually fall on the man’s hands. Hands that deftly loosened his belt before they moved to his hips and in one swift motion Domenico slid his jeans down to reveal strong muscular legs.

“Resta qui,” He nodded firmly at Rafael.

Rafael watched slack jawed as Domenico ran towards the ocean and dived in after the pages that had flown into the water.

“Cazzo,” the man exclaimed. “L'acqua è freddissima.”

Rafael watched helplessly as the man swam around grabbing each and every page that had hit the water. When he eventually finished, Domenico climbed out of the water, his entire body shook and he was clutching Rafael’s papers tightly in his hand. Rafael pulled off his jacket and handed it to the shaking man.

“Grazie,” Domenico muttered, he handed the soggy pages to Rafael before wrapping the jacket around himself. He began to make his way back to the villa.

Rafael grabbed the rest of his things before jogging to catch up to the taller man. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“No thanks,” Domenico shook his head and smiled at him before disappearing inside the house. “Mi sono innamorato di te.”

--

As the weeks progressed, Rafael retyped the damaged pages and grew closer to the housekeeper. Soon Domenico spent every meal with Rafael, arguing case law, the differences in the two countries legal systems and how the American justice system was portrayed in the media. With each conversation more in depth, more invigorating than the last Rafael had found himself challenged in a way he hadn’t been for a long time. He found himself growing fond of the younger man.

This of course was a problem.

What Rafael could pass of initially as a fleeting attraction was developing into something far more inappropriate, far more lustful. Rafael had found himself thinking of Domenico far too often, taking extra care to memorize the intricacies of the younger man. The slope of his nose, the flecks of grey in his eyes. The man had found a way to work himself into each and every moment of Rafael’s life.

Domenico had taken to joining Rafael of an evening, dressed only in boxers and a light tee shirt. He would sit on the opposite the one Rafael had chosen and curl into it reading a novel. As the hour grew late the Italian man would always end up bathed in moonlight, the sight always captivated Rafael, the sheen of the younger man's skin in the pale light never failed to enchant.

“It's my favorite time of day, seeing you before bed,” Rafael murmured, trying not to blush. “You look so amazing bathed in moonlight. I’ll miss it.”

Domenico’s response sounded wistful. “Per me questo é il momento piú triste della giornata, perché devo separarmi da te … anche se per poche ore.”

“Goodnight,” Rafael nodded before heading to bed. As he walked up the stairs a simple ‘Buona notte’ followed, causing the prosecutors heart to flutter.

--

The morning of Rafael’s departure had finally come. Domenico had cooked him a large breakfast and had helped him to pack his remaining things away. When the car pulled up Domenico helped Rafael carry his bags to the front of the house. Rafael winced as they watched the driver of the hire car roughly shove his luggage into the trunk of the car. All too soon the man was done and it was time for Rafael to leave.

He had grown fond of the housekeeper, so stuck out his hand for the man to shake. “It was wonderful to meet you Domenico Carisi.”

Domenico shook his hand but drew him into a firm hug. Rafael swore his heart stopped and his legs weakened as he felt every inch of the younger man’s firm body pressed warmly against him. “Mi mancherai davvero tanto, Rafael Barba,” The man said as they parted, his tone was warm and his smile fond.

Rafael returned the smile with a warm nod. He walked over to the car and opened the door to get in.

“Rafael,” Domenico shouted out, causing Rafael to pause. “Per favore, ricordati di me.”

Rafael nodded again before calling out. “Goodbye Domenico.”

As the car sped away Rafael tried to not dwell on the look the blond had given him. His darkest thoughts whispered to him, that it was a look of longing, a look of love, Rafael stamped them down. There was no point dwelling on the Italian, he would be back in Manhattan soon. He kept repeating those thoughts and ignored the feeling that he had left something important behind.

--

The city of Manhattan had never felt more dull. Since he had returned Rafael had begun to realise his life had become monotonous, work wasn’t even giving him much of a challenge, he had negotiated plea deals for his past several cases.

He missed the simple life of Italy, the easy banter between Domenico and himself, the home cooked meals, but he especially missed being in the younger man’s presence. He found himself more often than not thinking about the blond Italian, which often lead to him talking about the said Italian, especially in the presence of his friends.

A month after his return home Rita had invited him over to her apartment to discuss what cases were currently in front of the Supreme Court. During dinner they drank wine and argued politics, he couldn’t help but bring up what Domenico may have thought or insight the man had previously provided.

“Enough Rafael,” Rita stood up and moved to her drinks cabinet. “I’ve had it.”

“Excuse me?” He asked, watching as she grabbed to glasses.

Rita poured two fingers of scotch into each glass before returning to the table and sitting down. She passed one to Rafael then had a sip of her own before proceeding, “I don’t know how you haven’t realized it yet.”

“Realized what?” He tried to keep the confusion from his tone, by Rita’s expression he knew he had failed.

“You can be so obtuse Rafael,” Rita cocked a brow and took another sip of the amber liquid. “You’re clearly in love with this man.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about Rita,” Rafael brushed her off.

Rita continued brusquely. “I’ve witnessed the start and finish of every relationship you’ve had since we have known each other, and not once have you ever talked about anyone the way you talk about this man.”

“I-”

“Stop wasting everyone’s time with your pining and just go back to Italy and be done with it,” Rita finished off her drink and slammed the glass on the table. She watched as her friends face changed from confusion, to annoyance, to frustration and then finally to realisation.

His tone was softer and less certain than normal. “You’re right.”

“I usually am,” she shrugged.

A few hours, and scotches, later, Rafael had left a voicemail with the company he had rented the villa from, and he and Rita found themselves scanning available flights from New York to Italy.

“Am I really doing this?” Rafael asked his friend quietly. “I’ve never been this impulsive.”

“You did book the original flight-”

“You were there for that also,” He rolled his eyes. “I’m beginning to see a pattern that involves you, high quality scotch and poor decisions being made.”

“Do you think you’ll regret this decision?” Rita looked genuinely concerned.

Rafael thought about greying blond hair, blue eyes and a dimpled smile. A fond smile blossomed across his own features to match. “No, I won't.”

--

This time when Rafael stepped off the plane in Italy it wasn’t with a sense of loss or longing. He was buzzing with excitement, his stomach was in knots.

He had called the company who he had rented the villa from only to find the housekeeper had returned home to his family. After a hefty bribe, and he still wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that, he had managed to pry an address from the owner of the rental. He then bought a ticket and boarded the next flight out of New York.

He gave the taxi driver the address of the bakery where Sonny’s family worked, hoping that someone would be able to lead him to where he could find the young man. As they sped into the city of Florence, Rafael pulled out his phone and quickly googled what he wanted to say to Sonny.

As the taxi twisted through narrow streets and down cobbled alleys Rafael grew impatient. When they finally made it to the bakery the shopfront looked empty and the room was dark. He asked the cab driver to wait for him, promising to pay him double for his time.

“Sto cercando il Signor Domenico Carisi,” Rafael read from his phone. “Sa dove posso trovarlo?”

“Sonny Carisi?” A woman with an english accent stuck her head out the window. “What do you want with him?”

Though shocked at the woman’s use of english, Rafael collected himself quickly. “He spent several weeks looking after the villa I recently-”

“You wouldn’t happen to be Rafael Barba by any chance?” The woman asked sweetly.

Rafael cocked a brow as he tried to ignore the discomfort settling in his stomach. “Yes?”

The woman disappeared leaving Rafael standing in the middle of the street looking up at where she used to be. Several moments later there was the sound of a lock turning, the door opened and the woman appeared.

She had caramel coloured hair and sharp blue eyes, she flashed a predatory smile. “Sonny’s told us all about you.”

“Oh?” Rafael’s tone was skeptical.

“You’ve inspired something in him,” She continued. “He wants to move to New York now, be some big shot lawyer.”

“Good for him,” Rafael grunted.

She cocked her head to the side. “He’s never shown much of an interest outside of Italy before, I had to practically drag him to London for a visit. Why he’s even looking into learning English.”

“And how is this your concern?” the prosecutor huffed.

“Gina Carisi,” Her smile twisted into a smirk. “I’m one of Sonny’s big sisters.” The color drained from Rafael’s face. “So you’ve heard of me?”

“Obviously,” he collected himself. “Can you please tell me where Domenico is?”

“Of course, but I have one question first,” her tone turned serious.

“Yes?”

She took a deep breath. “My brother has grown quite fond of you, and if you’re here for any reason other than to declare your undying love-”

“That’s exactly why I am here,” Rafael cut her off, not willing to listen to the rest of her speech.

“Good,” she nodded. “Follow me.”

He quickly paid the cab driver who looked relatively pleased with the amount he had managed to earn while doing nothing. Gina rolled her eyes and then led him down more narrow streets until finally they came to an open square.

“Go get him lover boy,” she pointed towards a group of people.

Rafael followed her gaze and noticed a familiar head of blond hair and a rare smile broke out across the man’s face. He called out to the man, “Domenico.” Two men stopped and turned around. Soon he could see the streetlight reflecting in the irises of the man he had grown to love.

There was a moment of silence before the younger man’s eyes grew wide with recognition. “Rafael?”

Rafael quickly strode over, closing the distance between himself and the man he loved. He took a deep breath, spoke the words he had been practicing and hoped that google translate hadn’t failed him too badly. “Domenico, ti ho incontrato in un momento della mia vita davvero buio. Ma tu hai avuto pazienza con me, e mi hai aiutato a rinascere.”

Rafael tried to ignore the man’s family who all looked on in amusement. “Domenico, sono venuto fin qui per chiederti se vuoi passare il resto della tua vita con me. Lo so che sembro pazzo, perché ci conosciamo a malapena, ma sento come di conoscerti da una vita invece. Senti, io posso venire a vivere qui, o tu puoi trasferirti com me in America, a New York, decidi tu.”

“Dai Sonny scegli l’America!” Someone shouted loudly causing the crowd to laugh. “Vedrai che magari conoscerai pure qualche star!”

Rafael took a deep breath before he finally finished. “Tu sei l'uomo più gentile e generoso che io abbia mai incontrato, sei praticamente tutto il mio mondo. Domenico, volevo solo farti sapere che ti amo, e accetteró qualsiasi tua scelta.”

The smile the Italian gave Rafael made his heart soar and gave him the confidence to continue. “Domenico, io ti amo!"

A small crowd had gathered around them, wanting to see what the strange man would do next. Rafael inhaled and waited for any sort of response from the man he loved. After what felt like an age Domenico took a step forward, closing the gap between them.

“Rafael,” He began, his voice just as smooth as Rafael remembered. “It was so painful to be separated from you. I'm so happy you came back to me.”

Rafael was astonished. “You learned English?”

“Just in case,” the man replied with his golden smile.

“Domenico,” Rafael murmured, as he reached out to cup the blond’s face. “Ti amo.”

As Sonny leaned down Rafael could feel the taller man’s hot breath across his lips. “I love you Rafael.”

When the two men’s mouths finally met, a cheer erupted from the family and crowd surrounding them. Domenico was clearly amused, Rafael could feel the blond’s smile against his own mouth. When the two broke apart, Domenico chased Rafael’s mouth again, drawing the man into another kiss.

Eventually the crowd peeled off and the two of them were left alone, bathed in the lamplight, under the stars. Rafael couldn’t help but smile at his fortune, for the first time in a long time he was truly happy.