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Now and Then

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“Barba.”  Carisi greeted him warmly, going so far as to give him a light hug before motioning to the table he’d been seated at.  “I took the liberty of ordering you a scotch--still Macallan, I presume?”


Rafael couldn’t help but notice his eyes were as blue as he’d remembered.  “Thanks, Sonny.”  He took a sip from the tumbler in front of him, then met his ex’s eyes.  “How are you doing?  How’s the ADA’s office treating you?”


Now Sonny laughed.  “I think you already know the answer to that,” he replied, sipping from his beer.  “Let’s just say it hasn’t gotten any easier since you left.  I’ll be honest, Rafael, there have been times I’ve wished you were here.  I learned a lot from you when I was a detective, and again a few months ago, when we went up against each other…”


“Eh, but you won that one, remember?”  Rafael reminded him, with a smirk.


“Actually, I do remember,” Sonny chuckled.  “That doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn more, though.  But how about you?  Things going well with your work?”


Rafael tilted his head back and forth.  “Mmm...okay, I suppose.  Let’s just say that Mickey’s case has made me consider doing more defense work.  For the right case,” he clarified.  “Not just anyone, before you freak out on me.  My mother about had a heart attack when I told her.”


“How’s Lucia doing, by the way?” Sonny asked.  Of everything he missed when he and Rafael broke up, his relationship with Lucia was toward the top of Sonny’s list.


“She’s good,” Rafael assured him, smiling.  “She’s retired but volunteering for ten hours a week at her old school, so is that really retired?  I don’t know.  But she’s happy.”  He took another sip of his scotch.  “And you know I’m going to’s the new woman?  Things working out between you and Nicole?”


Sonny cleared his throat awkwardly.  “I don’t know, Rafael.  Maybe you spoiled me,” he said, trying to make a joke but falling flat.  Raising his eyes to Barba’s, he continued.  “Nicole and I broke up, the day of Fin and Phoebe’s wedding.”


“You poor thing,” Rafael hummed, frowning in sympathy.  “You must be lonely.”


“I’m surviving,” Sonny replied, trying to figure out how to mention his next big piece of news, but…


“Good thing Rollins is there to keep you warm at night, huh?”  The grin taking over his ex-lover’s face caused Sonny to grin back, and a second later they were both laughing.


“Who told you?” Sonny asked, shaking his head.  “Y’know, it’s a good always has been…”


Rafael nodded.  “I know.  Trust me, I know you’ve had feelings for one another for a long time.”


For a moment, Sonny was reminded of the numerous fights they used to have over his relationship with Amanda and her daughter.  He’d thought at the time that Rafael was being jealous and unreasonable, but now?  Maybe his boyfriend saw something that he hadn’t, yet.


“Rafael,” Sonny lowered his voice.  “I’m sorry for any pain that friendship caused you.  I didn’t see it at the time like you did, but now I can understand where you were coming from.  I just hope you know that while we were together, I was truly where I wanted to be.”


Rafael’s lips formed a half smile.  “Thank you, Sonny.  It’s nice to hear that.”


The server brought a second round, and they continued to discuss life changes as they drank, until Sonny noticed Rafael pulling his credit card out.  “Before you go,” he said, “there’s another reason I asked you here.”


“Oh?” Rafael handed his card to the server, then turned his attention back to Sonny.


“As long as we’re being honest here…” Sonny ran his hand through his hair and bit his lip, as though he were trying to figure out how to say something.  “Look, I know you’re probably aware how much Liv misses you, right?  You two were--are--good friends…”


Rafael chuckled.  “If you’re here to talk me into asking Liv out on a date because Amanda’s been breathing in your ear--”


“No,” Sonny cut him off, and his tone was serious.  “It’s not that.  Have you met Elliot Stabler?”


“Liv’s old partner?” Rafael asked.  “No, I only know of him through reputation...that, and what she’s told me over the years.  Why?”


Sonny sighed.  “He’s back.  He and his family were back on vacation from Italy, and his wife was murdered.  I don’t know how or why, and it’s not really my business, but this guy...Rafael, this guy is already sucking her in.  Convincing her to give him extra chances.  She’s telling everyone he’s a good, ethical, moral man.”  Sonny’s eyes bore into Rafael’s.  “I’ve only known the man for a handful of weeks, but I’m not sure I’d use any of those words to describe him.”


Rafael felt a twist in his gut.  Leaving the DA’s office was incredibly painful for many reasons, but the biggest one was because it meant leaving her.  Leaving Olivia.


“Carisi, you know she’s an incredibly strong woman, and she’d be offended if she knew we were having this conversation--”


“That’s what I’ve always thought,” Sonny replied.  “After you, Liv has been my greatest mentor, my biggest supporter.  I’ve learned so much from her.  And this guy shows up outta nowhere and suddenly, he’s trying to play their dynamic like it was ten years ago?”  He shook his head.  “All I’m saying, Rafael...all I’m saying is that you love her, you’re her to her?  Could you please just talk to her...remind her that she’s Captain Benson, not Stabler’s junior partner?”


Rafael was quiet.  “You really think it’s that bad?”


“At the very least, I think it’s that dysfunctional.”  Sonny’s eyes met his again, and Rafael sighed.


“Okay.  I’ll check in with her soon, Sonny.”  He stood, as did Sonny, and they exited the bar together.  Rafael remembered the times they used to do this regularly, eventually even holding hands and occasionally kissing on the way home.  A time he used to love this man...even a time he thought he’d love him forever.


“Don’t be a stranger, Barba,” Carisi told him now, extending a hand, and Rafael shook it, smiling.  “Aw, fuck,” Sonny muttered then, pulling him in for another awkward hug.  “I mean, we used to fuck.  We can at least hug, right?”


Rafael chuckled against Sonny’s lithe frame.  “If you say so, Carisi...tell Rollins I said hey.”  Carisi pulled back then and nodded, before letting him go and turning away to head down the street.  Rafael watched him in the streetlights as he ambled toward the subway, then hailed a taxi to head home.