The air was cold when Rafael stepped out out of the courthouse, but he felt a little warmer when he met eyes with Sonny, who was waiting for him at the bottom of the steps. He smiled when he reached him, Sonny handing him the coffee he had picked up for him as they started walking.
“Paperwork day?” Rafael asked and Sonny nodded.
“2nd one in a row. I would have lost my mind if I stayed in there much longer. Thought I would surprise you.” Sonny said, his voice going higher on his last sentence, Rafael’s cheeks flushing redder than they already were from the cold. They had been seeing each other for two months now, but seeing Sonny still get nervous when he wanted to impress him gave him butterflies. They walked and chatted for a few more blocks, Sonny reaching for his hand as he listened to Rafael talk about his neighbor. Rafael pulled his hand back, looking at the ground as he tried to continue what he saying. When he finally looked up again a minute later Sonny looked like he had been punched in the gut.
“You okay?” He asked gently and Sonny forced a smile.
”I’m fine Rafi.” He said bluntly, Rafael raising an eyebrow.
“Don’t lie to me.” He responded, the statement clearly taking Sonny back.
“You want the truth?” Sonny whispered harshly and put a hand on his back, ushering him to a more isolated corner.
“I’m tired of you acting like you flinching every time I reach for your hand in public. Or someone comes into your office when I’m there. Or I look at you for too long.” Sonny said, trying to not let himself get choked up. Rafael looked hurt and it killed him, but he needed to be honest.
“I told you I’m not ready to go public yet and you said you respected that.” He choked out, looking at the wall behind Sonny’s head instead of at him.
“I said that almost a month ago Rafi. And I respect your wishes, I do but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I see couples on the street and it breaks my fucking heart. I want them to be us. I want to hold your hand in public and annoy the crap out of Amanda by going on about how great you are and take you to precinct functions as my date-”
“My mami doesn’t know I’m gay.” He cut the taller man off with, biting his lip.
“So tell her. You deserve the peace of mind.” Sonny responded and Rafael scoffed, almost as an impulse reaction. If only it was that easy, he thought, and said out loud without meaning to. It was silent between them for what seemed like days, Sonny breaking it first.
“I didn’t paint Rafael Barba as a coward.” He said sharply, and if he regretted it it didn’t show in his demeanor.
“Fuck you.” Rafael spat out in response. Guilt flashed through Sonny’s eyes when he saw how upset he looked, but none the less he turned on his heel and walked away, Rafael too overwhelmed to go after him or say anything else.
“You okay?” Amanda said as Sonny sat back down at his desk, more or less slamming his hand onto his laptop keyboard to unlock the screen.
“It’s nothing ‘manda. I’m fine.” He said and focused on his screen.
“You don’t look fine.” She quipped, which earned her a glare. She didn’t prod him further, both of them going back to their paperwork without another word.
“Barba.” Olivia said as she walked into Rafael’s office, the lawyer rolling his eyes at the sight of her.
“Normally when someone cancels a meeting you don’t show up at their office anyways.”
“What’s going on between you and Carisi?” She said in response, raising an eyebrow when he seemed to be thrown off by her question. “When he came back from taking his break to go see you he looked like a kicked puppy. If he’s bugging you about your last case I can get him to knock it off. Just tell me.” She said gently, Rafael starting to wish that Sonny bugging him about a case was at the top of his list of worries at the moment. Of course there were a million worse thoughts in his head right now. So many that he felt like he was losing his filter with every word that left his mouth.
“Oh like how you just told me that you and Tucker were sleeping together?” Rafael snapped, regretting the words as soon as they flew out of his mouth. Olivia blinked.
“I’ve apologized for that a million times I don’t see what that has to do with-” She cut herself off when she looked up and noticed how panic stricken Rafael looked, the pieces clicking in her head.
“You’re sleeping together, aren’t you?” She said bluntly, Rafael biting his lip.
“Don’t ask me that.” He muttered as he sat on the edge of his desk, looking at the wall unable to make eye contact with Olivia.
“When were you, or when was Carisi for that matter, going to tell me? You know I’ve never and will never have a problem with your sexuality Barba but this impacts our cases, our investigations.” She said, running a hand through her hair.
“I’m out to you Olivia, but not to the DA’s office. Not even to Rita, or my mother. I’m not ready for all of the mess coming out would cause, let alone disclosing that I’m with an SVU detective. Speaking of your detective, he called me a coward today.”
Olivia sighed. Rafael was one of her best friends. She cared about him deeply and wanted to be empathetic, but she could understand why Sonny seemed to have snapped at him.
“The LGBT Bar Association exists to protect you if the DA’s office tries anything or treats you differently.” She tried, Rafael only shaking his head.
“They can protect me from getting fired, not from being judged and second guessed.” He said, his voice starring to get shaky.
“And your mother?” She prodded, the mention of her only seeking to make him more visibly upset than he already was.
“One of my cousins is dating a woman and brought her to a family function. She was fine with it, but I’m her son. I know it would be different.” Rafael said, his eyes starting to glass over with tears. He blinked them away the best he could, Olivia sitting on the edge of his desk next to him and putting an arm around him.
“You can start small Rafa.” She said quietly, Rafael nodding and biting his lip. It was silent between them for a moment before she spoke again.
“Do you think you and Carisi are going to make up?”
Rafael sighed at that, picking at the skin around his nails.
“What he said today hurt. I want to be out everywhere like he is and be comfortable holding his hand in public and going to functions as a pair. I wish he understood that I’m trying my best here but...”
“But?” She repeated, pulling her eyebrows together.
“I really care about him Olivia.” He mumbled, biting the inside of his cheek and sniffling away the last of his tears.
“Well, I’ll give you this. I’m going to walk out of your office and pretend we never had this conversation. I’m not going to tell anyone or force you to disclose. But if it somehow gets leaked and someone from IAB or the DA’s office comes to me I can’t cover for you.” She said, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing.
“Thank you.” He said and rolled his shoulders before sitting back down at his desk, Olivia walking out and closing the door behind her.