Since coming out to Rafael, Sonny realizes how much easier it is to relax. He feels more at ease, and a lot less like Rafael is liable to leave him at any moment once he finds out the truth. Surprisingly enough, it started to occur to him to tell the rest of the squad. They should be accepting, and if worst comes to worse, the ADA is on his side.
The same ADA who’s being much more respectful than Sonny deserves. Now that he’s out, shouldn’t that mean he has nothing to hide? By now he should be comfortable with getting more intimate but the thought of it makes him feel a little sick. Sonny doesn’t want to have sex, because the whole things feels like he’ll have a constant feeling of how he doesn’t look the way he wants to. This runs deeper than long held insecurities about beauty standards, but he feels like he’s overreacting.
He snaps out of his thoughts when he walks off the elevator with coffees for the squad in his hand. Plain black for Fin, mocha for Amanda, and hot chocolate with a double ad shot for Olivia. He knows their preferences as well as he knows his own: blonde roast, thick with cream and sweetened to standards that make Rafael crinkle his nose. Coffee is easy and simple, he thinks, because there’s nothing to it except for what it says on the paper exterior of the disposable cup.
The lieu is the only one in right now. She takes his offering with a thanks and takes a long sip before saying, “Rafael was worried about you the other day.”
“I know. He and I talked, we got it all sorted out,” Sonny says. “Nothing to be concerned about.”
He drags his own coffee back, only to hiss and nearly drop it because it’s too hot to drink. That earns laughter before he’s left alone in the squad room once again. Before long it’ll fill and the daily grind will start all over. Some victim will have their life ruined or even stolen, and Sonny has to be part of the team that gets them the justice they deserve. He loves helping people, but sometimes it’s painful and too easy to take to heart. Like that girl who was thrown over the side of a bridge and later died just because she wasn’t their narrow idea of what a girl should be. That could be Sonny. That’s why he doesn’t tell people anymore, because he’s been through enough of the hazing when he was in high school.
Once the day picks up, banishing his thoughts is easy. Single minded focus until he gets his desired result is the thing that’s made him a great detective, and it helps him put his anxiety out of mind. Years of theatre help too, in playing off everything as just his frustration with a difficult case. But of course he can’t fool a squad of detectives who are also some of the closest friends he thinks he’s ever had. Rollins pesters him all day about what has him worked up, and he can only blow her off so many times before she corners him in the break room.
“Seriously, you gotta tell me what’s going on, Carisi.”
She crosses her arms over her chest and leans back to give him a critical look. “Don’t bullshit me.”
“Drop it,” he says in much sterner of a tone than he means to.
That makes her step back and raise her hands in surrender. He doesn’t get the chance to apologize before she’s gone back to the squad room. Sonny sighs and puts the lid on his coffee so he can take it to his desk.
Sonny gets home before Rafael, which is rare, so he sends him a text to let him know that he’s starting dinner and he better be home before it’s cold. Staying this late probably means that Rafael’s in the zone of a case, and he won’t want to quit, but few things are as tempting as one of Sonny’s home made meals. He starts with some peppers, deciding to make something easy. A sauté, simple and familiar. The knife cuts through the peppers easily. Sonny thinks about how Rafael probably would mix green in with the red, orange and yellow despite the fact that there’s a huge difference. His useless in the kitchen, sweet and understanding Rafael. Even in thought, the name is slow and savored like a fine dessert.
It’s pretty on his tongue.
He says it a few more times, testing it out and considering it while he cuts up more vegetables, and eventually chicken. The name feels like something delicate, hard to connect to the brash, arrogant man whose soft side is only for Sonny to see.
When Rafael gets home, Sonny’s just starting to simmer the vegetables, lemon juice and spices together in his saucepan. “Kitchen,” he calls, giving the pan a little shake to make sure that the ingredients are spread evenly. “Dinner will be a few, but if you wanted to set the table…”
“Already on it,” Rafael says.
His tie and coat are off, the top three buttons of his shirt undone. Already he’s relaxed and soft, the version of Rafael that only Sonny gets to see. They don’t need to talk, they know the easy rhythm of dancing around each other to get everything ready for dinner. Rafael pours two glasses of thin white wine, one that Sonny’s said goes pretty well with his default sauté. Yet another example of how Rafael learns and tries his best just for Sonny. Another reason why Sonny fees like an awful boyfriend for not putting out.
Dinner is, as always, mostly quiet. They’re both tired and hungry, and they’ll still be able to talk when they’re finished. Silence makes it easier for Sonny to think about how he should just man up and take things further. Doesn’t Rafael deserve that much at least for putting up with all of Sonny’s flaws? He pictures how happy Rafael would be, how it’s the right thing to do. A nagging voice in the back of his head that sounds suspiciously like Amanda tells him that he shouldn’t force himself into anything. He ignores it.
They do the dishes side by side- Rafael washes and Sonny puts away. Leaving dishes around makes them worse to deal with, even if it’s just for a couple hours. Sonny likes to keep a clean house, and Rafael can hardly disagree. No words are exchanged then, either. There’s a peace in the quiet.
After dinner, they make their way to the couch. In an instant, Sonny has himself in Rafael’s lap. Rafael inhales sharply, but doesn’t protest. In fact, he grabs Sonny’s waist in a secure grip and kisses him. There’s no words for what kissing Rafael is like. It makes him feel warm and cold at the same time. He’s not even real. The only thing he can feel is the heat where his lips are against Rafael’s and where his stomach erupts in goosebumps at the feeling of hands beneath his shirt at first they’re just holding. Rafael’s holding him. He feels wanted, loved, needed.
That’s all fine. He likes it. Likes being held. But then things move a little faster. He still likes it when Rafael starts kissing his neck, but there’s a hair of hesitation in his thoughts. Sonny threads his fingers through Rafael’s short hair and holds. It feels good, even this little feels good, but he’s afraid of where it’s going to lead. He tentatively grinds forward. Rafael is hard, he realizes, really hard. A low groan buzzes against his neck and Rafael guides him to do it again. This is what it’s supposed to feel like, right? Having sex? Like he can’t get enough and his stomach is doing backflips? What’ll be different about actually going farther?
“Sonny,” Rafael pants, breaking away. His lips are dark and swollen. No matter how hard he tries, Sonny can’t seem to look away. “Sonny, do you want to do this?”
He isn’t sure. But he says “yes” anyways and lets Rafael pull at his shirt buttons until he shrugs it off his shoulders. The first thing Sonny wants to do is cross his arms in front of his chest. Surgery can’t make the instinct go away. They don’t move for a minute. Rafael is looking at his body, but not judging. His gaze is reverence and love. Then he looks up at Sonny’s face, and it softens into something kind.
“You’re not ready for this, are you?”
“I want to make you happy-“
Rafael cocks his head to the side and gives Sonny the most gentle, easy, heart-melting smile. “Thank you, but I don’t want to do anything you’re not ready for.”
An urge to argue is almost overwhelming, but he fights it down. His head falls forward onto his chest in defeat.
“Nothing to be sorry for. How about we both take a quick shower, and then we can watch a movie?”
Sonny doesn’t think he’s ever heard a better idea.
When he walks into Forlini’s a few days later, it’s with Rafael at his side. They’ve already disclosed, so Sonny gets the pleasure of holding his hand. Feeling less alone walking into this makes him more confident. Rafael has his back. All eyes seem to be on the two of them when they walk in, but it’s probably just his imagination. Everyone else is already seated around a table with beers and loud laughter.
“Hey guys,” Sonny says as he slides into the booth, pulling Rafael with him. It’s a tight fit, and Amanda’s leg brushes against Sonny’s, but he doesn’t mind. Why would he when these are his friends, his chosen family? He realizes suddenly that that would make their rejection hurt that much worse. Rafael squeezes his hand reassuringly.
“So what’s this about?” Fin asks.
Sonny’s words get stuck in his throat like peanut butter to the roof of his mouth. He fights to say them. They come out in a rushed jumble, and Amanda asks him to say it again slower. That’s harder. As he struggles to speak, everyone is patient. They listen to his story, nod along to his explanations, and not once do they get upset or angry. He had been a little afraid they would feel lied to.
But no, they understand. Or at least, they try to. And that’s what matters most: that they’re trying. Fin gives a rare praise of courage, Olivia thanks him for trusting her, and Amanda doesn’t say anything at all. Her silence is better than intolerance, but it speaks louder than he thinks she knows. She’s the first to leave.
“Give her time,” Olivia says.
For what, Sonny isn’t sure, but he doesn’t ask. Tonight he allows himself to revel in being accepted, to drink and tell jokes and realize that he had nothing to be afraid of. At the end of the night, before he and Rafael go home, Olivia pulls him into a hug.