To love someone is hard.
Love is not easy, is a simple truth that flushed through Rafael’s veins when he cleaned out a drawer for Sonny. He did not really clean out one, there were two empty ones on the bottom of his chest of drawers. He just moved one of the empty ones to the top.
It was Tuesday. Sonny was going to come over after work. He had been here only the day before. Sonny had cooked a wonderful dinner in Rafael’s kitchen. He had brought two bags of groceries and had stored the ingredients in Rafael’s underequipped kitchen cupboards. The image had been sweet, too sweet. The literal bittersweet pain had stung in his chest when Rafael had watched Sonny in his kitchen yesterday.
Sonny had caught him staring: “What?” Rafael had pressed his lips together and slightly shaken his head. “Nothing”, he had replied with a small smile on his lips. But Sonny had realized something was off.
“Am I doing something wrong?”, Sonny had asked softly and stopped rummaging around the groceries.
Rafael had shaken his head but a look into Sonny’s face had been enough to know that he would not let go until Rafael talked. “It’s just…”, Rafael had struggled for words. “You know. I have my commitment issues…”
“You don’t say”, Sonny had smirked, amused. Rafael had only answered him with a deadly look. He had felt somewhat embarrassed, he still did. That he was so unease with the closeness, despite wanting it so much.
“Not everyone acts like the male lead in a romcom blockbuster”, Rafael had shot back.
Sonny had raised two hands with a warm smile on his face. “Look, Rafael”, he had said softly and held up a pack of pasta. “This is pasta.”
“Thanks for the clarification”, Rafael had answered emotionless.
“You can boil pasta in hot water and then eat it. You can do this, even though I am not here”, Sonny had explained. “This is parmesan cheese.” He had held up the next item. “I will put it in your fridge. If I am not here and you don’t eat it, it will go bad in a couple of weeks. Then you will throw it away.” Rafael had leaned against the frame of the kitchen door with one eyebrow raised. “The same holds true for this”, Sonny had continued showing him fresh basil in a pot. “This is basil. If for some unimaginable reason, you won’t like me anymore, you will stop giving water to the plant. Then it dies and you put it in the garbage”, Sonny concluded. “Do you want me to go on?” He had gestured towards the bags.
“I am aware of the wide range of things, you can do with groceries”, Rafael had growled.
Sonny had wet his still smiling lips, approached him and cupped his face with his hands. “Rafael, if I go too fast, tell me”, Sonny had whispered against his lips. “But don’t be bugging out over little things. I mean, it’s just groceries. It does not lead into me moving in or something.” Rafael had felt stupid for his own immaturity and overwhelmed by Sonny’s sweetness, all at the same time. He had brushed his lips on Sonny’s.
“Is this leading to a blow job in the kitchen?”, Rafael had teased in an attempt to distract from his cocktail of emotions. It had only taken a second until Sonny was not on eyelevel anymore.
The drawer was ready for Sonny. It felt weird. As hard as it was for Rafael to allow Sonny a permanent presence in his home, it seemed too less to only assign him a drawer. A drawer and a few clothes hangers.
Rafael sighed. Four full months, they had lingered into their affaire-like arrangement. A whole summer. They just had sex and alcohol and conversations. It had all been fine as long as they had happened within the walls of his or Sonny’s apartment. But as soon as they had stepped out of this safety – namely to a godforsaken roof top bar in Brunswick – it had stopped working. A misfortunate coincidence had brought his friend Rita to the same bar. As it turned out, Rafael had failed to address their arrangement as well as his own feelings properly. That was the night, they truly had come together.
Was that Carisi? was the straight-forward content of the text message, Rafael had received Saturday morning. Sonny had asked Rafael, if Rita Calhoun would be discrete about him, as nobody knows about his sexuality yet. Rafael had told him not to worry. Anyway, he had picked up the phone to call his friend.
When Rita had answered, he had simply said: “Yes.”
“Are you screwing him?”, Rita had asked enthusiastically. There had been a white noise that had told him that she must be in a car.
“I did not know, he was cheering for the other team.”
“Yeah, well, Rita, will you be discrete about this, please?”, Rafael had said with an insisting voice.
“Don’t worry”, Rita had answered nonchalant.
“I mean it”, Rafael had insisted again.
“Rafael, nobody will hear anything from me, until he sorts his shit out”, Rita had said more sincerely.
“So, how did it happen?”, Rita’s voice had switched into a chattering pitch.
“Let’s talk about this over those Mimosas, you were promising me”, Rafael had suggested.
“Well, actually I got called in by a client. So I am on my way to Montauk, believe it or not”, Rita had clicked with her tongue. “It is as if there is no place on that stupid Long Island that could be farther away from Manhattan.” There was literally none, but Rafael had seen no fun in pointing that out. “Anyways, I won’t be back until tomorrow night probably. Gone is my weekend. But this means, I will take half a day off on Monday, so what about Mimosas over a late lunch then?”
“Okay”, Rafael started to feel embarrassed for being unemployed and having always time.
This is how he had met up with Rita on Monday at three o’clock in a bar with a decoration that only a man confident with his sexuality could stand. They had went fast with finishing their first round. And Rafael had wisely picked the stories to share about Sonny.
“So a friends with benefits situation that we have right here. That is not your thing, Rafael”, Rita had concluded holding her glass next to her face. She knew damn well that Rafael usually went for occasional one time things.
“Well, thanks to you we are not like that anymore”, Rafael had replied. “He freaked all out about what I said with him just being a summer fling.”
“Aw, did I ruin the happy humping?”, Rita had asked pretending to be sorry.
“No, but certainly our arrangement”, Rafael had taken a sip of his Mimosa. It had taken a while for Rita to understand, what he had just said. When she did, her eyes had widened.
“Wait, what?”, she had put her glass on the table.
“What what?”, Rafael had played dumb.
“What did you just say?”
“That we are still humping, but not as friends with benefits”, Rafael had talked as if talking to a child.
“Rafael, what are you just telling me?”, Rita had stared at him with big eyes.
“What part do you not understand?”
“Rafael”, Rita had said his name with intensity. “Spell it out for me!”
“He is now my boyfriend”, Rafael had given up. Rita, the drama queen she is, had opened her mouth as if screaming but no sound came out.
“Rafael Barba has a boyfriend!”, she said finally, too loud of course. She had shaken her two hands in the air.
“I think not everyone in this bar has heard you”, Rafael had warned her. He had soothed out his tie. He had come straight from signing a job contract in the morning. While he had handled the DUI of his mother’s church friend’s niece earlier the summer, a lawyer from a small office that handles mostly traffic cases had approached him. He would cover for someone on maternity leave. So the contract was fixed-term, which gave him time to continue doing nothing while officially doing something. It was even a part-time job. Rafael only hoped, he would not die of boredom.
“That is scandalous”, Rita had said, talking about his relationship, not his boring new job.
“Calm down”, Rafael had responded.
“Rafael, I don’t even remember you ever being with someone other than Yelina”, Rafael could see that his friend had been saying these words with honest empathy. She was happy for him. “Do you even know how to have a boyfriend?”
Rafael had pouted. There had been no more point in fumbling with his tie. “No”, he had admitted.
Rita’s expression had softened. Rafael had known that he could talk to her openly: “It is almost a hundred percent sure, that I am going to screw it up.”
“Give yourself some credit.”
“What credit?”, Rafael had asked. “Am I marriage material? Or co-parent material? I am barely boyfriend material.”
“Does he want all that?”, Rita had asked.
“I guess”, Rafael had answered.
“So you do not even know that? Didn’t bother to ask?”, Rita had raised her brows.
“No, but I mean… he is like he is”, Rafael had mumbled.
“Look, don’t freak out before something is even going wrong. Like this, it won’t work out for sure”, Rita had gently squeezed his hand.
“I am afraid, it will end up in heart break”, Rafael had admitted. Sonny’s heartbreak would be harder for him to bear than his own.
“You really like him, do you?”, Rita had asked and Rafael had only nodded. “Look, Rafael, the only way to prevent that heartbreak is by actually trying. And not handicapping this relationship to proof you are right”, Rafael had looked up to her when she said that. “It looks like you are given a great chance here. Take it, don’t ruin it.” They had both taken a mouthful of Mimosas to that.
“Thanks”, Rafael had said. Of course, she was right. And he was still scared to the bones.
Rafael closed his eyes. He still thought about that moment. Back in Sonny’s flat, after they had run into Rita in that roof top bar. Sonny had told him to walk out of the door, if he would keep denying his feelings. His feed had felt like stone, when he had stood in front of the open door. It was still unexplainable, that he had not been able to walk away. Because the truth stills holds true, Rafael was not sure if he could give Sonny everything he wants, or needs. It is one thing to give someone your body. Or to fall in love. But to actually be with someone, to have a responsibility for someone, to care about someone else… To be a part of someone’s life, to shape that life. Rafael did not know if he could master this challenge. Because nothing else was meant, when they had hushed their “I love you” to each other that night. If Sonny loves, he loves hard. So does Rafael. And all he knew was that he loved Sonny.
All this mess was only four days ago. They had spent the weekend together at Sonny’s, fucking each other’s brains out mostly. Or making love, as it might be called now.
They could not keep their hands off each other. Rafael was overwhelmed by the fact, that the simple word of “love” had put so much heat in the sex. Not even on Sunday night, Rafael had been able to leave. So they had parted Monday morning, before the clock even showed seven, when Sonny had to go to work.
Rafael remembered, how they had been making out in front of Sonny’s door like teenagers. They had kissed each other open mouthed, too wet, with tongues everywhere. Their hands had been in each other’s hair and on each other’s necks. They had been turning around, bumping into walls. It would have been easier to simply give in the urge and have a quickie. Rafael had somehow found it in himself to stop the horny making out session and slipped out of Sonny’s apartment, before he could change his mind. Leaving Sonny dumbstruck behind. Sonny had ended up being nearly half an hour late for work that morning. With messed up hair and a fading, but visible hickey on his neck. Liv had not been happy.
Rafael would need to tell her. He massaged his forehead. He felt the familiar panic crawling around in his chest and hated himself for it.
He looked up and saw himself in the little mirror above the chest of drawers. He was not ready. Or willing to give up that beautiful bubble, they had lived in so far. He was not ready to step into a world, where Sonny had a saying in the decision for his dinner or where they had to arrange themselves in the bathroom before getting to work in the morning. He wanted to be love in the way, that you kiss like a fool, bang like rabbits and stare into each other’s eyes as if they are the world. He couldn’t get enough of Sonny. But he was not ready to deal with the sharp edges that everyday life would provide for them, if Sonny started to be around all the time. That Rafael would do Sonny’s dirty laundry and put the clean one back into this very drawer, he had just cleaned out. That Rafael would need to pick up jogging again in order to keep up in bed. That Rafael would meet people, only because they were somehow related to Sonny.
Together with the fact that he would enter half a work life again on October first, an idea formed in his head. An idea to prolong their pure magic just a bit longer. Rafael heard a knock on the door.
When he opened the door, he basically fell around Sonny’s neck and kissed him hard. New colleagues, Rita, so many things had happened this day that Rafael had actually missed Sonny.
“Wow”, Sonny smiled against Rafael’s lips. “What is that for?”
“You and your body are in my possession now, so you can’t complain if I take what I want”, Rafael said shoving him into the flat by his forearm. Sonny was still wearing his suit, so he had come straight from work. The drawer would not be filled today.
“No complaining, just asking”, Sonny replied.
“Sit, I want to tell you something”, Rafael said and they both sat down on the couch. He needed to declare his plan to Sonny, before he would start to overthink.
“My day was fine, thanks for asking”, Sonny said, leaning back on the couch.
Rafael raised his eyebrows: “You do the same thing every day.”
“I am a detective at SVU”, Sonny complained.
“Yes, so everyday work”, Rafael agreed.
“Being a detective is like the most exciting job ever”, Sonny opened his mouth to say something more, but Rafael did not let him. “Listen”, Rafael started. “I think, we should go on a vacation.”
“That is a great idea”, Sonny must have forgotten the former insult within a second, because his face lit up.
“I only have great ideas.”
“But you start working again in four weeks”, Sonny interjected.
“So we should go before, take time to relax before I start working again.”
“Because you have not done this in like the last eight months”, Sonny smiled, but threw him a punitive look.
Rafael ignored him. “As I have no money, I cannot afford something with much activity. So I suggest, we will just travel south until we hit a nice beach with enough sunshine during this time a year.”
“Are you suggesting something spontaneous? Rafael Barba, what has unemployment done to you?”, Sonny snubbed.
“What have you done to me?”, Rafael snorted.
“Shut up, I have pleased you”, Sonny answered raising his brow knowingly. He was too delicious. “Anyways, beach sounds mad good. You mean like Florida or something? We could wave to Cuba.”
Rafael sighed, Florida would be great, but they would need plane tickets. “It is very far away. Maybe we can just go somewhere, we can reach by car”, he suggested.
“Okay, but I don’t want to drive too far. The long car ride ruins the holiday.”
“So, what about Ocean City. Rehoboth Beach?”, Rafael proposed.
“Delaware? Wow”, Sonny feigned to be impressed.
“If you want to place any demands to this trip, go ahead”, Rafael said, himself unimpressed.
“No, it’s fine”, Sonny smiled. “As long as you are in it, I am fine.”
“You are adorable”, Rafael said arrogantly.