It’s already half past noon. He’s supposed to be at the church already, the ceremony is supposed to start soon, but Rafael has been staring at the mirror in the bathroom of this hotel suite for the last twenty minutes wondering how he’d gotten himself into this situation in the first place.
He’s supposed to be getting married today. He can’t do it. He should probably let Sonny know.
But he hasn’t been able to move since the realization had hit him like a ton of bricks. Sonny’s probably called him at least fifteen times already, Rafael had heard his phone buzzing but hadn’t made an effort to look at it, and it comes as no surprise when finally, he hears the door to the suite open
Sonny’s voice sounds panicked. Shit. He’s been worried sick, Rafael just knows it.
“In here,” he calls, taking a deep breath before slowly turning to meet Sonny in the bedroom.
Sonny stops short as soon as he sees Rafael, an affectionate smile immediately replacing his look of concern. “God, look at you. You look incredible.”
So does Sonny. Rafael can’t bring himself to say it. He can’t bring himself to say much of anything yet and that’s what makes Sonny’s smile fade back into a frown.
“Are you okay? We need to go, I’ve got a car downstairs waiting for us. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be late.”
“I can’t.” Rafael feels like his throat is closing in on itself.
“Can’t what?” Sonny doesn’t get it yet, he has no reason to, Rafael had given him no warning.
“I can’t do this.”
“Whoa. Okay.” Sonny holds his hands up in front of him, like he’s handling a scared animal, and takes a cautious step forward. “What happened? An hour ago, you told me on the phone you couldn’t wait to see me, you said you were nervous but excited. How did we go from that to this?”
“Don’t you see, Sonny, don’t you see it? We’re opening the door, both of us.”
“What door, Rafael, you’re freaking me out, what the hell are you talking about? We have a hundred people waiting for us at that church, you understand that, right?”
Rafael laughs but it’s empty, frantic, a sound that escapes him despite his best efforts to stifle it because the alternative is to cry, sob. He can’t do this. He’s not ready for this, he doesn’t know why he’d agreed to this in the first place, god, what had he been thinking?
“A hundred people.” He shakes his head, scrubbing a hand over his freshly shaven cheek as he paces the expanse of the room. “How do we even know a hundred people, that seems like a ridiculous number, why would we have a wedding so big? Think of all the money we’re wasting on this and for what, so we— so we can share it with a bunch of people who probably only showed up for the dinner and cake?”
Sonny catches his arm the next time he passes, the creases at the corners of his eyes deepening with his frown, and Rafael hates himself because he can see the hurt. He can see the hurt and he knows he’s the cause of it and he’s never wanted to hurt Sonny, never, but he can’t let this happen. They can’t do this to themselves.
“Please,” Sonny says. Begs. “Please, just tell me what’s wrong, we can fix it. I can fix it, baby, but you have to talk to me.”
Rafael opens his mouth but no words leave it, even as he stares slack-jawed at an expectant Sonny whose grip is growing tighter and tighter on his arm with each passing second. There might be a bruise there later, Sonny will feel so guilty, what a terrible to start a honeymoon. What honeymoon? There isn’t going to be one, Rafael can’t let there be one because it always starts out this way for everyone, doesn’t it? Happy, joyful. It can so easily change.
“If we go through with this, it’ll be a mistake.”
It threatens to kill him right there on the spot, utterly destroy him, the way Sonny’s eyes well up with tears and his bottom lip starts to tremble. Sonny’s hand loosens on him then, it drops lifelessly back down to Sonny’s side, and Rafael can’t take it anymore. He breaks their gaze, averts his eyes cowardly down to their too shiny shoes against tacky red carpeting that’s probably supposed to look royal, and he chastises himself for letting it get this far.
Love is blind, so the saying goes. Love had blinded him. Love had brought him here, to a place he’d never thought he’d be. He’s going to lose this. Any minute now, he’s going to lose this, lose Sonny, and it’ll be well-deserved and life will go back to being as it should be. The scales will be balanced again.
“Is that really how you feel?” Rafael only hears scuffling as Sonny crosses his arms defensively over his chest. “You think marrying me would be a mistake?”
“You marrying me would be a mistake,” Rafael corrects. He hadn’t meant to say it. He hadn’t even realized that’s what he’d meant at all.
“Help me out here, Rafael. I’m trying really, really hard to understand where you’re coming from right now, okay, I’m trying really hard to keep my temper in check because you chose our wedding day to tell me you don’t want this so help me out. Do that for me, will you?”
“I don’t know how to do this!” Rafael bursts, his arms thrusting outwards, his hands waving aimlessly between them. “I don’t know how to let this be, I don’t know how I’m supposed to marry you and believe everything will be good for the rest of our lives! We’re supposed to promise each other the rest of our lives, Sonny, do you realize that?”
“Kind of realized that when I decided to propose, yeah,” Sonny counters, “and I thought you did when you, y’know, said yes.”
“But it’s just really hitting me what that means now,” Rafael says. “We’re making promises to each other we have no way of knowing we’ll be able to keep. I’ve been alone for so long, Sonny. Before you, I—” He ducks his head, squeezing his eyes shut.
Alex. Yelina. They’d both broken his heart and they hadn’t even been able to keep their own marriage intact.
“Look. I know it sounds backwards but marrying me will make it that much harder for you to leave me.”
“Leave you?” Sonny takes a few steps back, scoffing. “Are you serious right now? Are you hearing yourself? Why would you even say that?”
“Because that’s how my life goes, Sonny!” There are hot tears streaming down his face now but Rafael angrily wipes them away with the back of his hand. “I am the one nobody needs. I was trash to my father, I was nothing. My grandmother, she was the only one in my life who always accepted me, who always loved me no matter who I became, and the last time I saw her, she didn’t even want to speak to me because she was so angry. She died angry at me. I’m the one who gets left behind and I’ve spent my whole life trying to play catch up and if I marry you— if I marry you, I won’t be able to handle it when you leave. I let you get too close, and I’m so mad at myself for that, for loving you so much. When you leave, it’ll hurt worse than anything. I won’t recover. And I can’t put that weight on your shoulders, it’s not fair to you or me or anyone who’d have to deal with that fallout so let’s face it, we need to call this whole thing off.”
He practically collapses onto the edge of the bed, his breaths coming more shallowly, and he struggles to loosen his bowtie until Sonny’s hand closes over his to still it. He watches tears puddle over his thigh, over the tux he’s supposed to be getting married in today, and he refuses to look up until Sonny gets down on one knee and lifts his chin.
Rafael doesn’t know what he’d expected. Anger, yes. Hurt, absolutely. He certainly hadn’t expected compassion. Understanding. Love. Maybe he should have. Sonny has always provided all those things to him. He’s quite sure he doesn’t deserve it.
“You can’t marry me, Sonny,” Rafael whispers, his voice cracking on Sonny’s name. “You can’t, you deserve—”
“I deserve to be with someone who makes me happy,” Sonny interrupts, tugging gently at Rafael’s tie. “I deserve to be with someone who loves me as much as I love them.”
Rafael feels a wave a guilt rush through him. He nods. Sonny does deserve all those things.
“I deserve someone who can make me smile after a long day. Someone who can make me laugh even when I’m feeling low. Someone who will listen to me, really listen to me, who won’t judge me or turn me away or treat me like an inconvenience.”
“Yes,” Rafael agrees, “yes, you do. Of course you do.”
Sonny lifts a brow, reaching up to cup Rafael’s cheek. “You know you’re already that person for me, don’t you? My person.”
Rafael blinks. “What?”
“I know sometimes you think you’re not cut out for this. For being part of an us. I know you think this kind of love wasn’t meant for you. But you are and it is, Rafael, you make my life better just by being it. Everybody who knows us sees it, they see how much we take care of each other. It’s okay to be scared of what the future will bring, but we can be scared together. We can work through it all together. If you don’t want to get married…” Sonny trails off for a moment, briefly dropping his head with a sigh before looking back up with renewed determination. “If you don’t want to get married because you really don’t want to get married, I’ll understand. It won’t make me walk away. You won’t get rid of me that easily. But if there’s any part of you that does, if there’s any part of you that believes we’ll make this work, then I’d really love for you to join me down at that church so I can put a ring on your finger.”
Rafael can’t do this.
No, he can’t do this alone. He’s not alone. He hasn’t been for a long time now and that’s something that has been exceptionally difficult to accept as the truth. It’s not what he knows, it’s not what he’s used to, but Sonny has changed so much. The first time they’d kissed had started a new chapter of Rafael’s life. He looks into Sonny’s eyes now and sees nothing but love and trust reflected back at him, even after being bombarded with the kind of fear that might have made anyone else abandon ship.
Sonny keeps him safe, keeps his heart safe. Rafael has given himself over to this man over and over again and has never come away broken for it. Losing that would ruin him, it’s true, but when Sonny pulls him into a warm embrace, Rafael only knows peace.
Sonny’s breath hitches. “Okay? We’re going to do this?” He pulls away just slightly, hope brightening his eyes. “You want to marry me?”
With a soft smile, Rafael leans forward to brush his lips against Sonny’s. He bumps their noses together, nodding. “I do.”