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The Landline

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When Sonny brought Rafael back to his apartment for the first time, he had expected any variety of snide comments, from the size to the relative messiness or stacks of law books on every available surface. But he should have known that Rafael would've noticed it.

He just hadn't expected him to notice it so quickly.

“Is that…” Rafael started, halfway out of his coat, a look of confusion bordering on amusement crossing his face. “Is that a landline I see, Detective?”

“Yeah, so?” Sonny said, aiming for nonchalance, though his heart fell somewhere close to his knees.

Rafael cut him a look. “You were practically first in line for the Apple Watch, and yet you still have a landline ?”

“It came free with my cable package,” Sonny muttered, though he knew that explanation alone was hardly going to suffice. He took Rafael’s coat from him and hung it on a hook, debating over how much he wanted to say this soon into...well, whatever this thing was with Barba. “And it's the only number I give to my extended family.”

Now Rafael’s brow furrowed. “Couldn't you just buy a burner phone and give them that number? Or get a Google Voice number or something?”

Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. “I could,” he said, “except that it has to be a landline to ensure they'll only call me if it's an actual emergency.”

“Why?”

“Is this an interrogation, Counselor?” Sonny asked, with an attempt at a smirk, heading into kitchen to pour them both a glass of wine. “Should I call my lawyer?”

He could feel Rafael’s eyes tracking him and felt a flush rise in his cheeks. “By all means,” Rafael said dryly, “if you think a conversation with your boyfriend is veering into self-incrimination.”

Sonny brought both glasses over to him and leaned in to press a kiss to Rafael’s cheek. “Is that what we are?” he asked lightly. “Boyfriends?”

Rafael pushed him away lightly, patented half-smirk curving his lips. “Oh no,” he said, “you don't get to change the subject in hopes I'll drop the line of questioning.”

Though Sonny hadn't expected anything less, he nonetheless sighed heavily before flopping down on the couch, Rafael following suit. “If it's a landline, then it means it could be tapped.”

It was.

Sonny had made sure of that when he had it installed.

Rafael’s eyes narrowed and he took a sip of wine. “Is there a Carisi mob connection that I should know about?”

“Not Carisi,” Sonny said honestly, taking a gulp of wine.

“Your mother’s side of the family then.” Rafael didn't pitch it as a question and Sonny didn't acknowledge it with anything more than a shrug. Rafael took another sip of wine, his expression carefully neutral. “I don't suppose I need to tell you what a conflict of interest that could be.”

“You don't,” Sonny said shortly, a dangerous edge to his voice. “Not a lotta mob crimes in SVU. Besides, I've never been asked to do anything on behalf of my family, and even if I had—”

“I know.”

Sonny was surprised to find that Rafael sounded completely confident in that, and they both fell silent for a long moment, each sipping their wine. “I have a lot of questions,” Rafael said finally, adding with a small smile, “as I'm sure doesn't surprise you.”

Sonny laughed lightly. “Not in the slightest.” He glanced sideways at Rafael. “But you should know — I know as little about it as possible. My ma wanted nothing to do with that life. It's why she moved to Staten Island in the first place. And besides — that's my family, Raf, it's not me.”

“Did you just quote The Godfather at me?” Rafael asked, incredulous.

“Maybe,” Sonny said with a grin, and Rafael rolled his eyes before leaning in to kiss him.

It was the end to the conversation at the time, and for the most part, the subject hadn't come up again. Rafael trusted him, and Sonny valued that almost as much as anything else.

In fact, it may never have come up again, save for being tiptoed around when the subject of marriage was eventually broached and with it, the question of who exactly of Sonny’s family to invite to the wedding.

Except for late one night, a few years later, when Sonny was awoken by a sound he couldn't quite place. “Your phone is ringing,” Rafael murmured, his voice muffled from where his head was pressed against Sonny’s chest.

Sonny grabbed his cellphone off the nightstand and squinted at it. “No it's not.”

“Not that phone.”

Sonny felt something cold grip the edges of his heart as he slowly sat up, finally placing the ringing sound he had yet to hear in his apartment.

His landline was ringing.

And that could only mean one thing.


 

Rafael rolled over as Sonny slipped out of bed, watching through only half-open eyes as Sonny, his beautiful, lanky Sonny who practically required a full marching band to rouse him from bed in the morning, seemed wide-awake as he made his way to the phone.

“Yeah?” Sonny asked gruffly, so different from his usual greeting, every line in his body tense. “Yeah, this is Son—Dominick.”

Rafael watched as Sonny’s shoulders sagged, as he shook his head, as he crossed himself.

And he knew it could only mean that the worst had happened.

Fifteen minutes later, the bed creaked as Sonny lay down again, automatically pulling Rafael to him. “What happened?” Rafael asked quietly.

“My grandfather,” Sonny said, lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. “He died.”

“I’m sorry,” Rafael told him, hesitating before asking, “Was it—”

Sonny snorted. “Cancer,” he said. “Not a hit or anything like that.”

“That wasn’t what I was going to ask,” Rafael said, and when Sonny made a small, disbelieving noise, amended, “Ok, so it was what I was going to ask.”

“He’d been sick for a long time,” Sonny said quietly, rubbing his thumb absently on Rafael’s arm. “My Uncle Frank has mostly taken over the family business already—”

“Have you been in touch with them?” Rafael asked, sharper than he intended, and he felt Sonny stiffen underneath him. “I just mean — given what you do…”

“I know what you mean,” Sonny sighed. “And no, like I told you before, I haven’t talked to anyone from that side of the family for years. Not until, you know, tonight. But Bella’s Facebook friends with a couple of our cousins and she seems to think it’s her duty to keep me up to date.” He turned his head to press a kiss to Rafael’s temple. “But to answer the question you’re tiptoeing around asking, there should be a peaceful transfer of power. No mob wars breaking out, at least in the foreseeable future.”

Rafael winced. “When you put it like that, I sound like the most insensitive asshole of all time,” he said.

Sonny laughed lightly. “Maybe not of all time,” he hedged, kissing Rafael again. “But I know it’s — it’s weird. We don’t talk about it so I can’t blame you for not knowing what to say. And it’s not like my grandfather and I were close.”

Rafael nodded slowly. “Are you going to go to the funeral?”

“I dunno,” Sonny said quietly. “Probably depends on what my ma wants us to do. I think my black suit is clean…”

He trailed off and Rafael tilted his head to look up at him, trying to figure out what to say. He remembered all too well when his grandmother died, but considering the circumstances couldn’t have been more different, he wasn’t sure how best to offer Sonny what comfort he could.

Sonny saved him from having to say anything by kissing him once more and telling him bracingly, “Anyway, we should go back to sleep. You got court early tomorrow.”

“For what it’s worth,” Rafael said softly, “I think my black suit is clean as well.”

Sonny shook his head. “I’m not gonna ask you to do that,” he said, a little roughly.

“Why not?” Rafael asked. “And you don’t get to play the ‘because of your job’ card with me, not when you won’t listen to my advice on the topic.”

“Believe it or not, I wasn’t,” Sonny told him, a note of warning in his voice. “It’s a family thing, Raf, and fiancés aren’t typically included in that definition. Not to my family, at least.”

“If I were a woman and your fiancée, would I be invited then?”

Rafael’s tone was mild but he could feel Sonny roll his eyes as he shifted underneath him. “For once, it’s not because we’re gay. Or at least, it’s not just because we’re gay. There’s also the small fact that you’re not Italian and also a Manhattan ADA. So considering the fact that I like you alive and not locked in someone’s basement getting your knees smashed in with a baseball bat…”

Again he trailed off and this time Rafael rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright, I get the picture,” he grumbled, pillowing his head against Sonny’s chest. “Just know that if you want me there, I’ll be there. Invitation or no invitation.”

“I know,” Sonny said softly, leaning down to kiss the top of Rafael’s head. “And I appreciate it, really. It’s just…” He trailed off, raising one hand to almost absent-mindedly stroke Rafael’s hair. “It’s family. And it’s complicated.”

“Family always is,” Rafael murmured.

Sonny’s hand stilled. “Not you, though,” he said, bending and kissing Rafael once more. “You’re the least complicated part of my life.”

Rafael tilted his head to give Sonny a look. “You don’t think I’m complicated?”

“Nah,” Sonny said off-handedly. “It may have taken me years to see past the icy exterior but once I did, I saw you were a simple, perfect man.”

Rafael scowled and batted Sonny’s hand away when he went to resume stroking his hair. “Just as long as I still count as part of your family.”

Sonny rolled his eyes and tugged Rafael up to kiss him properly. “Of course,” he scoffed, but his touch was gentle as he ran a thumb across Rafael’s cheek. “The best part of my family. And you always will be.”

Still, as Rafael slowly drifted back to sleep, he couldn’t quite shake a feeling of dread that settled in the pit of his stomach. It was a feeling he hadn’t had since his dad died, a feeling that family was about to make things very complicated for both of them.


 

“Sonny?” Rafael called as he let himself into the apartment. “Son—” He broke off when he saw Sonny standing in the hallway, the landline phone pressed between his shoulder and his ear, his arms crossed so tightly across his chest that he looked liable to snap in half.

Sonny looked up, his expression softening just slightly when he saw Rafael, though his forehead quickly creased again. “I get that, Nonna, really I do, but it’s not as simple as that.”

For as silent as the landline had been for most of Rafael and Sonny’s relationship, it had seen its fair share of action in the weeks since Sonny’s grandfather’s death. This wasn’t the first time Rafael had come home to find Sonny on the phone, to say nothing of times he had woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of Sonny’s hushed voice from the hallway, his side of the bed cold and empty.

Sonny himself had been — not cold, really, since Rafael couldn’t imagine a world in which Sonny Carisi was anything but warm, but he had been distant. Distracted. And while Rafael had tried to give him space and time, his own patience was running thin.

Rafael had a feeling that he wasn’t supposed to be eavesdropping on this conversation and so made his way into the kitchen, frowning at the half-prepared dinner on the counter. Clearly Sonny had been on the phone for a long time, and Rafael turned the burner on the stove off before the water could boil over. He reached up to grab a wine glass from the cabinet, pausing when he saw a scrap of newspaper sticking out from a file folder Sonny had set on the counter with his gun and badge after work.

Under normal circumstances, Rafael would never even consider snooping, since he valued Sonny’s trust as much as anything, but these were not normal circumstances. And Rafael couldn’t shake the feeling that something more was going on here, something Sonny was trying to keep from him.

Which was a violation of trust in and of itself.

So he slid the newspaper clipping out.

It was an obituary, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was for Sonny’s grandfather. Sonny had ended up going to the funeral, and hadn’t talked to Rafael at all about it, which was fine, really it was, even if it made Rafael feel completely useless for not being able to go and be with him, and even more useless considering how tense things had been with Sonny’s family since then.

Maybe this would be a little clue as to what was going on with Sonny’s family, with the late night phone calls, with everything Sonny was keeping from him.

Rafael chanced a glance at Sonny, whose back was still to him, before looking down at the obituary and skimming it quickly.

Francis Michael Giambetti, age 89, passed away peacefully at his home in Port Charles, New York, surrounded by family and loved ones, on August 2, 2018.

Born on February 28, 1929, to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, Francis would eventually become a successful small business owner and beloved public figure in the Port Charles community, earning him the nickname ‘Don Frankie’. An active member of the Knights of Columbus, Order Sons of Italy in America, and St. Timothy’s Church, Francis was well-known for his philanthropic generosity.

Francis is survived by his wife of 67 years, Connie; four children, Contessa (Dominick) Carisi, Francis (Camilla) Giambetti Jr., Anthony (Sofia) Giambetti, and Carmine (Maria) Giambetti; fourteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in memory of Francis on Saturday, August 4, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Timothy’s Church, with Fr. Coates Celebrant. The family will receive friends from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the Mass. Interment will be private.

Rafael’s heart stopped.

When Sonny had said he had family in the mob, Rafael had assumed it was some two-bit crime family out of Atlantic City, not the Giambetti crime family, not the crime family featured in no less than three panels on prosecuting RICO cases that Rafael had attended, not the crime family heralded as the real-life Corleones.

He set the obituary down, not bothering to pretend like he hadn’t read it, knowing he was going to need to talk to Sonny about this revelation. He started to reach for a wine glass again before reconsidering it and grabbing a scotch glass instead.

He had a feeling this conversation was going to merit liquor.

Rafael had just poured himself a generous three fingers when Sonny shouted, “Yeah, well, vaffanculo!” into the phone before slamming it back into its cradle on the wall.

Rafael blinked at him, almost amused despite himself. “Did you just tell your grandmother to fuck off?”

Sonny shook his head, not looking remotely amused. “No, uh, my Uncle Tony grabbed the phone at the end. I told him to fuck off.”

Rafael searched Sonny’s expression, his own amusement rapidly fading. “What happened?” he asked, concerned.

“Nothing happened,” Sonny said, seemingly automatically, as his eyes landed on the obituary clearly lying on the counter. “What the hell are you doing with that?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Rafael said, a challenge clear in his voice, even as he knew he was deflecting. “When exactly were you planning on telling me that your grandfather was the same Francis Giambetti indicted on four counts of homicide in 1972?”

“I wasn’t,” Sonny said, his voice low, dangerous.

Rafael stared at him. “Why the hell not?”

“For the same reason we don’t talk about your father,” Sonny snapped, a stubborn set to his jaw. “You and I are not our families, Raf.”

It was a low blow, and they both knew it, but Rafael had still recoiled as soon Sonny mentioned his father, his expression pinched. “If you think this is anything like my father—“

“How is it any different?” Sonny half-shouted. “Because my grandpa beat the shit outta some bookie from Long Island instead of his wife and son?”

Rafael flinched and Sonny froze, his hands instantly falling to his sides. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “That wasn’t—“

“It’s fine,” Rafael said stiffly.

“No, it’s not,” Sonny said, his expression pained. “It’s not fine, and it’s not fair to you, and it’s not the way I wanted to do this.”

Rafael looked up at him. “Do what?” he asked warily.

“I...” Sonny didn’t quite seem able to meet his eyes. “I have to leave.”

“Leave?” Rafael repeated blankly. “Leave to go where?”

Sonny still didn’t look up at him. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Then leave to do what?” Rafael asked, an edge to his voice.

Finally Sonny met his eyes, his jaw clenched. “I can’t tell you that either.”

Rafael stared at him. “Oh,” he said flatly. “Well. I’m so glad that I can serve as such a confidant, seeing as how we’re supposed to be getting married—“

“Don’t,” Sonny said softly, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s not — God, Raf, I wanna tell you, I wanna tell you everything, but if I tell you, if I implicate you—“

He broke off and Rafael stared at him with something like growing horror. “Implicate me?” he repeated. “Sonny, what the fuck are you planning?”

Sonny held up both his hands in a placating gesture. “I’m not planning anything,” he said, with a somewhat forced calm. “But…” He hesitated. “My Uncle Frank is dead. And before you ask, yeah, it was a hit.”

“I’m sorry,” Rafael said, somewhat automatically, before pausing. “And that’s why you have to leave? Because your uncle’s dead?”

“Because my uncle was murdered,” Sonny said in a low voice, his hand curling into a fist against the countertop. “And because by murdering my uncle, whoever did so is trying to start a war. And it’s my...my duty, I guess, to try to stop it.”

Rafael shook his head. “Your duty?” he said faintly. “What duty can you possibly—”

“Because I’m the oldest,” Sonny interrupted. “The oldest male grandson. And I don’t expect you to understand—”

“I don’t,” Rafael said bluntly. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you’re leaving, I don’t understand what you’re hoping to accomplish, I don’t understand why you think you owe these people anything.”

Sonny sighed and drew a tired hand across his face. “Because they’re family,” he said simply. “And because if I don’t, if this escalates, people could get hurt. Good people, innocent people. You want that on my conscience?”

“Don’t put that on me,” Rafael shot back, his voice low. “Don’t you dare. Not when I wait every day hoping and praying that you make it home safe because I know it’s your job. But this is not your job, Sonny.”

“I know,” Sonny whispered, and he crossed to Rafael, gathering him into his arms. Rafael let Sonny pull him close, automatically ducking his head to let Sonny rest his chin lightly on top of his head. “I don’t wanna put this on you, Raf. I don’t want you anywhere near this. All I want—” His voice broke, and Rafael closed his eyes, his chest tight with emotion. “All I want is to keep you safe and as far away from this as possible.”

“Don’t go,” Rafael mumbled, his voice slightly muffled against Sonny’s shirt. “I want you as far away from this as possible, too. This isn’t your fight.”

“I wish it were that easy,” Sonny said softly, and he kissed Rafael’s forehead. “I’m sorry that it isn’t.”

Rafael pulled away. “Yeah,” he said, a little dully. “I’m sorry, too.”

He took a long moment to try to compose himself, to avoid his initial instinct of picking a fight to temporarily make himself feel better or, even worse, to avoid begging Sonny to stay.

“How long will you be gone?” he asked finally, not quite meeting Sonny’s eyes.

Sonny shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Rafael swallowed, hard. “Will you be back in time for our wedding?”

Sonny’s hesitation spoke volumes. “I don’t know that either,” he admitted, reaching out to grab both of Rafael’s hands. “But I promise you, I’m not gonna do anything illegal, or—“

Rafael snorted, biting back the almost hysterical laughter bubbling in his throat, despite the fact that there was nothing funny about this situation. “Honest to God that is the least of my concerns,” he told Sonny. “My only concern is that you come back to me.”

Alive, and whole, but he left those words unspoken.

They didn’t need to be said. Not after all this time.

Sonny’s expression tightened and he squeezed Rafael’s hands. “I will,” he promised, his voice low, raw, and brimming with a fervent sincerity that Rafael longed to believe. “There is nothing and no one that will stop me from coming home to you.”

Rafael closed his eyes, knowing damn well that there was very little Sonny could do to uphold that promise. “I know,” he told Sonny, even though he didn’t know, even though the not knowing and the uncertainty threatened to tear him apart at the seams. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Sonny told him. “You’re my family too, Raf, and I will do anything, anything—“

His voice broke and Rafael reached up to kiss him, wrapping his hand around the back of his neck and tugging him down to meet him. “I know,” he whispered again.

They stayed that way for a long moment, Sonny’s forehead resting against Rafael’s, Rafael’s fingers curled in the soft hair at the base of Sonny’s skull. “When will I hear from you?” he asked finally.

“I dunno,” Sonny told him, rubbing a thumb across Rafael’s cheek, brushing away the tears that Rafael hadn’t even realized had started to fall. “I’ll try to call as often as I can, every day if I can manage it, but—”

“But you don’t know,” Rafael said, trying not to sound as bitter as he felt.

Sonny just shook his head and kissed Rafael once more before checking his watch and sighing. “I should go pack,” he said reluctantly.

Rafael blinked, taken aback. “You’re leaving tonight?” he asked, his voice cracking.

“I have to,” Sonny told him. “There’s — one of my cousins is picking me up in a half hour. So I gotta pack, and call the Lieu, beg for some time off…”

He trailed off and Rafael shook his head slowly. “I thought we’d have more time.”

Sonny gave him a slightly shaky smile. “It’s for the best that we don’t,” he said softly. “You’d probably talk me out of it if you had more time.”

“I wish I could,” Rafael told him honestly, and Sonny’s smile turned sad. He kissed Rafael’s forehead and squeezed his hand before disappearing into the bedroom, assumedly to pack.

Rafael stared after him for a long moment before slipping back into the kitchen, picking up his untouched glass of scotch, and draining it in one gulp.

He had always known that if he lost Sonny, it would be to something stupid and noble. Had known it from the day he had managed to stop pretending that he felt only scorn for the overeager detective, had known it from the very first kiss they had shared, had known it from the first night he spent in this apartment and seen that goddamned landline that was tearing them apart.

Rafael had never before wished so strongly that he had been wrong.

He poured himself another glass and started to put the scotch back in the cabinet but then thought better of it, carrying it to the kitchen table along with his now full glass.

He had a feeling he was going to need it.

By the time Sonny reemerged from the bedroom, a duffel bag tossed over one shoulder, Rafael had drained his glass several more times, but rather than calm his fraying nerves, it had just left Rafael feeling numb. Numb enough that he didn’t cry as Sonny set his bag down and awkwardly shifted his weight as he watched Rafael. “I’m sorry,” Sonny offered finally.

“But not sorry enough to stay.”

Rafael said the words evenly but hurt still flashed across Sonny’s face, though he didn’t try to deny it. Rafael threw back his glass of scotch and stood, a little unsteadily. “You’ll call when you get there?” he asked.

“So that you can pinpoint where exactly I’ve gone based on distance?” Sonny asked mildly, with a smile that looked a lot more like a grimace. “I’ll call when I can. That’s the best I can give you.”

Rafael nodded and crossed over to where Sonny stood, unsure even when he stopped in front of him how exactly he was supposed to say goodbye, how he was supposed to let the man he loved walk out the door with neither of them knowing when they would see each other again. “Raf—” Sonny started, his voice cracking, and Rafael’s decision was made for him.

He wrapped his arms around Sonny and pulled him close, closing his eyes when he felt Sonny duck his head, burying his face against the crook of Rafael’s neck. For his part, he just breathed in Sonny’s scent, and held him as if he would never let go.

But he did, finally, and took a step back, dry-eyed and as resolved as he was ever going to be. “Be safe,” Rafael told him, and Sonny just nodded, too choked up to say anything in return.

Then Rafael watched as Sonny picked up his duffel bag, squared his shoulders, and left.

Only when he heard the faint ding of the elevator door down the hall did Rafael finally return to the kitchen table and the remaining scotch. He had barely sat down and poured himself another glass when his phone buzzed on the table with a text from Olivia.

Do you want to talk about whatever the hell’s going on with Carisi? Liv’s text read.

Rafael did want to talk.

But the only person he wanted to talk to had just walked out of their apartment. And Rafael had no idea when or if he’d see him again.


 

“So then,” Rafael said, the landline phone tucked between his shoulder and ear as he poured himself a glass of scotch, “Barth told Buchanan that if he kept trying to get me held in contempt of court, she was going to hold him in contempt of court.”

“Oh my God,” Sonny said over the phone, practically hiccuping with laughter. “He had to have been furious.”

Rafael laughed as well and wiped tears of mirth from the corners of his eyes. “He was,” he confirmed. “He kept opening and closing his mouth but he couldn’t seem to say anything, for once in his life. He looked—” He snorted. “He looked a goldfish.”

Sonny seemed to wheeze with laughter. “I wish I could’ve seen his face,” he managed finally.

“God, me too,” Rafael said, still laughing. “I wish I had had my phone with me, I would’ve texted you a picture—”

He broke off, his laughter dying in his throat, because even if he had been able to take a picture, he had nowhere to send it. Sonny’s cellphone was sitting right where he had left it a month ago, on top of their dresser next to his gun and badge and even his prized Apple Watch, all the pieces of Sonny Carisi that he had left behind.

It was almost like an undercover assignment, Rafael mused bitterly as he slumped into a chair, glass of scotch clenched unsteadily in the hand not still holding the phone. But it was an undercover assignment without a plan in place to pull Sonny if or when it got too dangerous.

Besides, there was nothing Rafael hated more than when Sonny was undercover.

Sonny cleared his throat a little awkwardly. “Well, I’m glad to know not too much has changed in my absence,” he said, clearly aiming for a joke, but it seemed to hit directly at the hollow pain in Rafael’s chest.

“Everything’s changed,” he said in a low, strained voice. “And nothing for the better.”

“Raf—” Sonny started, but Rafael didn’t let him finish.

“It’s been over a month, Sonny,” Rafael said. “And you won’t tell me what’s going on, or when you’re going to come home. And there’s stories, on the news, in the paper — escalating tensions among suspected organized crime groups, three members of the De Luca crime syndicate gunned down in broad daylight—”

“Rafael—” Sonny tried again, but still Rafael didn’t let him interrupt.

“I thought the whole point of you going was to stop a mob war from starting, Sonny. Well, it sure doesn’t look like you’ve been successful.”

Rafael couldn’t stop the bitterness from creeping into his voice, his frustration and pain and, frankly, anger that had been building up over the past month threatening to be unleashed, and he heard Sonny sigh heavily on the other end of the phone. “It’s...it’s complicated,” he said. “I’m doing my best, ok? And, honestly, it’s probably gonna get worse before it gets better, but—”

“So then you left for nothing.”

Rafael delivered the words flatly and he could hear Sonny’s sharp intake of breath on the other end of the phone. “I left because my family needed me,” he said after a long moment.

“Then come home,” Rafael said sharply. “Because I need you.”

Sonny sighed again. “They need me more.”

“How—” Rafael’s voice broke. “How can you say that?”

“Because I know you,” Sonny said, an edge to his voice. “And I know that you can make it on your own for a little while longer until I’m able to come home to you. That’s part of the reason why i love you, Raf — because you’ve never needed me to be as strong and as incredible as you are all on your own.”

Rafael closed his eyes. “It’s not fair,” he whispered, not caring that he sounded like a petulant child.

“I know,” Sonny said heavily. “But it’s only for a little while longer.”

Rafael shook his head and drained his glass of scotch. “Yeah,” he said dully. “Only a little while longer. That’s what you said two weeks ago.”

Sonny just sighed again. “I know.” He paused as if looking for something to say, some other explanation to give, but Rafael knew that he wouldn’t come up with anything. Or at least, he wouldn’t come up with anything that he could tell Rafael. He had become somewhat of an expert in interpreting Sonny’s various sighs and silences on the phone, almost as much of an expert as he once was at reading every crease of the man’s forehead.

But this was one expertise that Rafael would gladly trade for the real thing in front of him once more.

“I love you,” Sonny said finally. “And I miss you.”

“I know,” Rafael said stiffly.

After a long moment of awkward silence, Sonny cleared his throat. “Aren’t you gonna say it back?” he asked, in a joking sort of way that told Rafael he wasn’t joking in the slightest.

For a moment, Rafael was tempted to not say it back, to just hang up the phone and let Sonny stew in an approximation of the misery Rafael had been living with all month, but the feeling was fleeting, and Rafael sighed. “I love you,” he said, sincerity in every syllable. “And I miss you. And I wish that were enough to bring you home.”

“Rafael—” Sonny sighed, and edge to his voice again, but Rafael just his head, even if Sonny couldn’t see.

“I have an early morning meeting tomorrow,” he said, even though he didn’t. “Goodnight, Sonny.”

He hung up before Sonny could say goodnight back.

This time, the tears that pricked at the corners of his eyes couldn’t be further from tears of laughter.


 

The landline rang, loud and insistent.

Rafael lay in bed, counting the rings.

Ring...ring...ring...ring…

After four rings, the phone went silent.

Rafael had stopped answering when Sonny called.

He had nothing left to say.

Still Sonny called, every single night, at 11 o’clock on the nose. And though they didn’t speak, those four rings told Rafael all that he needed to know.

I’m still alive.

I’m still ok.

I still love you .

When the phone went silent, Rafael rolled over onto his side, staring at the wall, pretending that he was going to fall asleep.

He hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep since Sonny had left two months ago.

At this rate, he didn’t know if he’d ever get a full night’s sleep again.


 

The clock on Rafael’s bedside table blinked a steady 11:05.

The phone had not rung.

And Rafael didn’t know which of his worst fears had finally come to pass, whether Sonny was unable to call due to any of the worst case scenarios running like a bad film noir through Rafael’s head, or, better for Sonny but infinitely worse for Rafael, he had chosen not to call. Or had forgotten.

Rafael hugged Sonny’s pillow to his chest as he lay on their bed. After three months, Sonny’s scent had long faded, but that didn’t stop Rafael from imagining that he could still smell Sonny’s aftershave and that god-awful cologne his sister gave him for Christmas one year that he insisted on wearing to family events.

He stared at the wall, pain, fear and worry clawing at the inside of his chest, and he closed his eyes.

In the end, he supposed it didn’t really matter why Sonny hadn’t called.

All that mattered was that it was past time Rafael started making peace with the fact that Sonny was probably not coming back.


 

Rafael could hear the phone ringing from where he leaned against the wall outside his apartment, squinting down at the keys in his hand and trying to focus long enough to remember which key was the one for his apartment.

Olivia and Amanda had insisted on taking him to Forlini’s to ‘cheer him up’, which was apparently their code for ‘get him ridiculously drunk’.

He would sue them for pain and suffering if it hadn’t been his own intention as well.

But now the phone was ringing, and Rafael keys didn’t seem to work, and his heart was beating erratically in his chest and his palms were sweating so badly he could barely hold his keys anyway.

Finally, he picked a key at random and shoved it in the lock, making a small noise of surprise when it worked, and he stumbled through the apartment to where the landline was still ringing. “Sonny,” he slurred, as soon as he picked the phone up, relief evident in his voice, but it wasn’t Sonny’s voice on the other end.

“Is this Rafael Barba?”

Rafael straightened. “This is,” he said shortly. “Where’s Sonny?”

“Look, he...it’s a long story,” the voice on the other end said. “But he told us to call you if ever there was an emergency. Said that you’d know what to do.”

Rafael’s grip on the phone was so tight that his knuckles were white. “What to do about what?”

The voice on the other end was quiet for a moment, for long enough that Rafael almost repeated the question, but when he spoke again, it was clear he had checked to make sure he had it right. “He said to tell you it was a 10-13.”

10-13.

Officer in need of assistance.

Rafael’s heart stuttered in his chest.

“Text me the address,” he ordered, already pulling out his cellphone and dialing Liv’s number. He didn’t feel remotely drunk anymore.

The person on the other end hesitated. “Mr. Barba, Sonny told us not to contact you directly—”

“I know why he told you that, and I don’t give a fuck,” Rafael snapped. “I assume he gave you my phone number in case of an emergency, so text me the address. I’m on my way.”

“I don’t think Sonny wanted you to come—”

“Listen,” Rafael said through clenched teeth, “I haven’t seen Sonny in almost four months, and at the moment, I don’t particularly give a damn what he wants. Capisce?”

The man grumbled but Rafael felt his phone buzz with the assumed text, and he hung up the landline. “Liv, it’s me,” he said when Olivia picked up. “I heard from Sonny, and I need you to call dispatch, have them patch you through to the Westchester County sheriff’s department and Port Charles PD. I’m texting you the address. It’s a 10-13 and probable—” His voice broke. “Probable officer down.”

“Rafa…” Liv’s voice was quiet and Rafael shook his head.

“Just— do what you can, alright? I’m heading over there.”

Liv sighed. “Of course I’ll call it in, but Rafael—”

“Don’t,” Rafael snarled. “Don’t even start. I have sat in this apartment and waited for four months not knowing, and I will be damned if I sit here any longer.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you not to go,” Olivia said calmly. “I was going to tell you that you should have Fin drive you. I’d offer, but neither Amanda nor I will be blowing a .08 for a few hours yet.”

Rafael was so taken aback that he barked a laugh. “You think Fin would be willing to drive me into the middle of a mob war?”

“For fun, no. For Carisi?” Olivia’s voice softened. “He’s our family, too.”

Rafael closed his eyes, for a brief moment. “Thank you,” he managed, his voice soft, raw. “Tell Fin I’ll meet him outside my place.”

He hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket, drawing a hand across his face as he stared wildly around the apartment. He felt like he should be doing something, bringing something, but—

His eyes fell on the gleam of gold from the top of the dresser, and he hurried over, picking Sonny’s badge up from where he had left it all those months ago. He ran his thumb over the numbers at the bottom before tucking it into his pocket as well and hurrying out the door with only one last look at the now-silent landline.


 

“Police in the small Westchester County community Port Charles announced today that four arrests have been made in connection with the murder of Francis ‘Frank’ Giambetti Jr. Giambetti’s murder four months ago after his father, long-time suspected crime boss Francis Giambetti, succumbed to cancer, sparked increased tensions and violent episodes across the state as a mob war threatened to break out.

“Police credited an anonymous tipster who managed to compile physical evidence, digital recordings and other materials that led to the arrest of four high-ranking members of the rival Sagese crime family in connection with the murder and subsequent acts of violence. Additionally, Carmine Giambetti, brother of the slain Giambetti Jr., turned himself in to Port Charles authorities for a variety of low-level, organized crime-related offenses as part of an apparent deal to deescalate the violence.

“While police had no further official details about the anonymous tipster, sources close to the investigation say—”

“Turn that off, would you?” Sonny murmured, his voice rough with sleep, and Rafael glanced down at where Sonny lay curled up next to him, his head pillowed on Rafael’s chest.

“What, don’t you want to hear more of your exploits as anonymous tipster?” Rafael teased lightly. He turned the TV before returning to running his fingers through Sonny’s hair, still unable to stop touching him, still unable to stop trying to convince himself that this was real, that Sonny was home.

Sonny managed a small, sleepy smile. “I think I’ve had enough exploits for a lifetime,” he said, closing his eyes again.

"So I should reconsider my application to be on the next season of 'Mob Wives'?" Rafael asked mildly.

Sonny let out a snort of laughter. "Cute," he said, "but that show was canceled in 2016. Besides, like I said, I've had enough exploits. Right now, the only thing I wanna do tomorrow is shave, go to work, come home and…”

He trailed off and Rafael smiled down at him, combing his fingers through Sonny’s scratchy beard and avoiding the bruise that darkened Sonny’s cheekbone, just one of many bruises that he had returned home with, and Rafael swallowed, hard. He was just happy that Sonny had returned at all, knowing how much worse it could have been. “Well I’m certainly not going to argue with the shave,” he said, “but what else do you want to do tomorrow?” Sonny mumbled something so quiet that Rafael couldn’t make it out. “What?”

“Start the rest of my life with you,” Sonny told him.

“Sap,” Rafael whispered, even though his own heart swelled with emotion at the thought. “You’re really not living up to the hardened mobster persona you’ve been working on over the last few months.” Sonny rolled his eyes but was saved from responding by a wide yawn, and Rafael just chuckled as he bent down and kissed his forehead. “Get some sleep, mafioso.”

But instead of closing his eyes again, Sonny propped himself up to kiss Rafael properly, cupping Rafael’s cheek with one hand. “I’m really glad to be home.”

“And I’m really glad to have you home,” Rafael whispered, drawing Sonny closer to him and kissing him deeply, leaving one hand tangled in Sonny’s hair as the other traced its way down Sonny’s side. He grinned as Sonny rolled on top of him to get a better angle. “I thought you were tired.”

“Not feeling all that tired anymore,” Sonny told him with a smirk, and Rafael just laughed, letting Sonny push him back against the bed as he rucked Rafael’s shirt up to scrape his fingernails lightly over Rafael’s stomach.

Both Sonny and Rafael were panting and breathless, lost in the intoxicating realization that they were both here , both together , and something softened in Sonny’s expression. “Raf—”

“I know,” Rafael said, cutting him off. He didn’t want to hear apologies, or explanations, or anything else. He just wanted to enjoy the feeling of having Sonny back in their bed, in their apartment, in their life together.

Maybe Rafael was a little bit of a sap, too.

Sonny leaned down to press kisses along Rafael’s jaw, grinning when Rafael squirmed against the unfamiliar feeling of Sonny’s beard. “You sure you don’t want me to shave tonight?”

“If you so much as think about getting out of this bed, I swear to God, Sonny—”

Rafael’s mostly-joking threat was cut off by the sudden ring of the landline, and both Rafael and Sonny froze. Rafael glanced up at Sonny, his heart sinking, even though he already knew what he was going to say. “You should answer that,” he said softly. “I know, it’s family, and—”

“And nothing,” Sonny said firmly, not moving from his position on top of Rafael. “You’re my family, too, Raf, the only family I care about right now.”

Rafael stared up at him for a long moment, and Sonny stared evenly back. Something like understanding passed between the two men, and Rafael nodded. “Ok,” he said.

Sonny smiled slightly and bent to kiss Rafael once more. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promised in a low voice.

“Promise?” Rafael asked, searching Sonny’s face for any sign of doubt.

“Promise,” Sonny said. “Besides, if it’s important, they can always call back.”

Rafael huffed a laugh. “Fair point,” he allowed. “Now, where were we?”

Sonny kissed Rafael, nipping lightly at his lower lip. “I believe we were about to start the rest of our lives together,” he teased.

“Sap,” Rafael repeated, but he was grinning, and as Sonny kissed him once more, he couldn’t help but think that if this was the start of the rest of their lives together, their lives that were complicated and messy both in terms of family and jobs and landlines and everything else, but also infinitely full of love, then they had one hell of a life waiting for them.

Rafael had been waiting for long enough.

Now, he was ready to get started.