Chapter 1: Envy
It was almost 7 pm on a Friday evening, and Fr. Michael was looking forward to returning to the church rectory and calling it an early night. Friday evenings weren’t the best-attended days for confession, which was why Msgr. Joseph had decided it was a better use of Fr. Michael’s time than his own.
He glanced at his watch and was just about to call it a few minutes early when the confessional booth door opened and someone slid inside, and Fr. Michael sighed. Almost he had made it out a few minutes early. Through the screen, he could see the parishioner cross himself and heard him mutter, “In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
“May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in His Mercy,” Fr. Michael intoned, but instead of the customary response of ‘Amen’, the parishioner paused.
“Michael Rossi?” the parishioner asked, something like incredulity in his voice. “Is that you?”
Fr. Michael paused as well, trying to place the voice, and it took him a long moment to locate the voice among some of his fondest high school memories. “Dominick Carisi? Or are you still trying to get people to call you Sonny?”
Dominick laughed loudly, and Fr. Michael grinned, the laugh even more familiar than the voice. “Still trying, but for some reason, no one seems to want to call me it. Although nowadays, everyone calls me Carisi.” He paused before asking, curiosity clear in his voice, “Where’s Msgr. Joseph? Doesn’t he normally do confession here? Or did he finally retire?”
“Retire?” Fr. Michael asked with a laugh. “C’mon, you know better than that. Nah, he just decided to pawn Friday nights off on me, not that I mind so much. I consider it continued penance for the way I used to spend my Friday nights when we were in high school.” Carisi laughed again and Fr. Michael cleared his throat. “If, uh, if you’re not comfortable confessing to me—”
“It’s fine,” Carisi assured him. “At least I know I don’t have to give you a rundown of my deepest, darkest secrets. And you can take down the privacy screen, if you want, since it’s not like I need anonymity right now.”
Fr. Michael complied, removing the privacy screen and smiling at one of his oldest friends for the first time in what felt like years. “It’s good to see you, Carisi,” he told him, honestly, before asking, “Haven’t you found a church in Manhattan yet? Or do you just miss Staten Island so much that you feel the need to truck all the way out here for confession?”
Carisi shook his head. “Nah, on Sundays when I’m not with my family I go to Mass just down the street from my apartment, but there’s something about coming out to Staten Island for confession.” He shrugged. “Like it’s penance in and of itself.”
Fr. Michael nodded slowly. “Well, traffic can be pretty punishing,” he joked. “And you’re lucky you made it on time, I was just about to say last call.” He settled back in his seat and looked expectantly at Carisi. “Speaking of, you better get on with it, or I have a feeling we’ll be here all night.”
“Oh, right,” Carisi said, giving Fr. Michael an apologetic smile, and he rubbed the back of his neck before starting, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been…” He trailed off, clearly trying to remember. “Um, like, six weeks since my last confession?”
He broke off, clearly looking for where to start, and Fr. Michael cleared his throat. “Have you committed any mortal sins since your last confession?” he asked. “Because if all you’ve got to confess is venial sins, I should tell you that there’s a Knicks game on in about a half hour, so you might want to limit yourself to the important ones.”
“Ha, ha,” Carisi said dryly. “I didn’t know priests were allowed to skip out on confession for basketball games, but I’ll keep that in mind.” He hesitated before asking, “Is envy a mortal sin?”
Fr. Michael took a moment before answering. “Envy is a deadly sin, which means it leads to greater, mortal sins. What kind of envy have you been experiencing?”
Carisi sighed heavily, and Fr. Michael echoed the sentiment, settling in for what was surely to be a story. Instead, Carisi offered only one word as an explanation: “Barba.”
“Beg pardon?” Fr. Michael said.
“Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba,” Carisi sighed, and Fr. Michael noted but didn’t comment on the wistful tone of his voice. “He’s the ADA we work with a lot for SVU — uh, Special Victims Unit, I’m sure my ma filled you in on all the gory details…”
Fr. Michael winced. “Yeah, she did. It sounds…” He trailed off, looking for the right word. “Heavy.”
Carisi nodded. “Yeah, it is. But it’s also really rewarding.” He shook his head again. “Anyway, Barba prosecutes most of the cases we have, and he’s just — he’s perfect.” Something close to awe crept into Carisi’s voice, and Fr. Michael nodded, ducking his head so that Carisi couldn’t see him smile at the fact that Sonny sounded exactly like he had sophomore year of high school when he had a crush on Jenny Driver. “I mean, the clothes he wears, his confidence, his career — I’m sure my ma’s told you that I’ve been going to night school at Fordham Law and...I just want it all. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.”
Now a note of jealousy was evident in Carisi’s voice, and Fr. Michael nodded again. “Tell me, do you want to reach the same level as ADA Barba, to also have the things that he does, or do you want him to lose the things he’s attained in his career?”
Carisi looked startled by the question. “I don’t want him to lose anything.”
“Then what you’re experiencing is not a mortal sin,” Fr. Michael told him, and quickly added, “And not just because the basketball game’s gonna be on soon. Envy can certainly be sinful, especially when we desire not just to possess what our neighbors have but also for our neighbors to lose what they possess. Solomon said that he who is glad at calamity shall not go unpunished. But envy is also natural, especially when it pushes us to achieve what we know we’re capable of. Just remember that God will judge us each of our own deeds.”
Though Carisi nodded, he still looked troubled. “But, like, isn’t envy what drove Cain to kill Abel?” he asked.
Fr. Michael blinked at him. “Are you planning on killing ADA Barba?”
Carisi grinned. “Can’t pretend I haven’t thought about it — confession for a different time, I guess — but it still seems pretty sinful, even though I’d personally rather see Barba alive.”
“Envy can turn prideful, which leads to greater sin. Envy can turn to hatred, which leads to greater sin.” Fr. Michael paused for a brief moment before adding baldly, “Envy can turn to lust, which leads to greater sin.” If the words affected Carisi at all, he didn’t show it, and Fr. Michael waited a beat before continuing, “Which is why it’s important that you confess it now, before it has the opportunity to manifest into something more.”
Carisi smiled, a slow, wide smile that stole across his face. “Manifest?” he said. “Look at you, still using your SAT words.” Fr. Michael didn’t dignify that with a response, so Carisi changed subjects, still grinning. “Alright, so I confess — I’m jealous of Barba and I want to be like him. What penance do you suggest, Father?”
Fr. Michael gave him an unimpressed look. “That’s really all you have to confess? And you drove all the way out to Staten Island for it?”
“You’re the one who told me to stay away from venial sins,” Carisi protested. “I mean, fine, I swear, like, fifty times a day, and I’ve had lustful thoughts and mouthed off to my ma last weekend, and I’m sure I’ve lied at some point in the last six weeks, and—”
“I get the picture,” Fr. Michael interrupted hastily. “Anything else major to confess?” Carisi shook his head, and Fr. Michael decided to press his luck. “Anything else you want to confess about ADA Barba?”
Now Carisi just looked confused. “I don’t think so?” he said, his voice pitched like a question.
Fr. Michael considered pressing him on the issue, but only God truly knew whatever was in Carisi’s heart that he wasn’t ready to confess, and besides, the Knicks game was on in just a few minutes. “And are you sorry for all your sins?”
Carisi straightened, his expression serious. “I am sorry for these and all my sins,” he said solemnly.
“Then as an act of penance, say three Hail Mary’s and, as soon as convenient, donate an item of clothing to a charity drive to remind yourself that there are those who would envy what you have achieved in your life.” Carisi nodded, his expression still somber, and Fr. Michael told him, “Now — the Act of Contrition.”
Carisi bowed his head and murmured the words he had memorized growing up as a child, just as Fr. Michael had: “My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.”
Fr. Michael nodded his approval, straightening his back as he gave Carisi his absolution. “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He made the sign of the cross and Carisi followed suit, both murmuring, “Amen” in unison.
When Carisi looked back up at him, his usual grin was back in place. “Well, Father, I’ll keep in mind that Fridays are your nights in the confessional booth. And I’ll try to bring a more interesting sin next time.”
“For the sake of your mortal soul, I should tell you not to do that,” Fr. Michael told him.
Carisi cocked his head slightly. “Should?” he asked.
Fr. Michael shook his head. “You’re gonna do what you’re gonna do, and besides, at this rate, at least I get a story out of it.”
Carisi laughed loudly. “Goodnight, Father,” he said, grinning. “Enjoy the game.”
“Enjoy your Friday night, Carisi,” Fr. Michael told him. “Tell your ma that I say hi.”
“Tell her yourself when you see her on Sunday,” Carisi said easily.
With that, he gave Fr. Michael an awkward wave before disappearing outside of the confessional. Fr. Michael sighed and glanced down at his watch. He had minutes to spare before the game started, but more importantly, he had a feeling that he was going to end up seeing a lot more of Sonny Carisi.
Chapter 2: Greed
This chapter is a bit on the short side, but since I'm aiming to get a chapter up a day, at least y'all won't have long to wait for more.
Surprisingly, it was several weeks before Fr. Michael saw Carisi again, and after the formalities, Fr. Michael got right to the point. “It’s been awhile,” he said, a little bit of curiosity in his voice. “I hear congratulations are in order for graduating from law school.”
Carisi laughed. “My ma tell you that?” he asked, a little unnecessarily. “Yeah, I graduated, took the Bar — waiting on my results.” He sighed, and Fr. Michael could see the exhaustion on his face. “You’d think that I’d have more time now that I’m not split between work and school, but I’ve been working a ton of overtime recently. I finally had to take a day off because the Lieu was threatening to suspend me just to make me get some sleep.”
Fr. Michael nodded slowly. “You know, under Church doctrine, being a workaholic is a form of greed,” he noted, keeping his voice neutral.
Carisi snorted. “Trust me, Father, if you could see my paystub, you’d know that this isn’t about greed.”
“Maybe not,” Fr. Michael agreed, “but greed isn’t just about money. I know that you do the job that you do because you want to help people, but you have to weigh helping people against the cost to yourself, especially if the amount of work you’ve been doing is less about helping people and more about career advancement. Being a workaholic for career advancement can be just as greedy as working long hours for more money, especially if it comes as a detriment to your relationship with God, your family, friends…”
He trailed off because Carisi was nodding slowly. “You know, Barba said the same thing to me once,” he said, his expression distant. “I’d been shadowing him for my law degree, right? Learning about being an ADA and all. And, I mean, he works as long of hours as we do and I honestly don’t think he has a life outside of the office. And anyway, he asked me why I wanted to become a lawyer.”
Fr. Michael waited, but Carisi didn’t seem to want to come forward with the reason, so he prodded, “And what did you tell him?”
“The truth,” Carisi said. “I want to help people. But…” He hesitated. “I mean, there’s more to it than that. I don’t know how far I can move up in the NYPD because this job...it just takes so much out of you. And so, yeah, maybe being an ADA would have some advantages, but the biggest one is that I’d still be able to help people without, you know, losing a little bit of my soul every day.”
He sounded as exhausted as he looked, and Fr. Michael nodded. “Given my line of work, I’m certainly sympathetic to that,” he said. “What did Barba say when you told him that?”
Carisi made a face. “He told me that being an ADA wasn’t any less soul-sucking, but he’d just had a really bad loss in court, so I took it with a grain of salt.” He hesitated before adding, “He also told me that even if switching to ADA was better for my soul, it still has its sacrifices. Barba said that while he didn’t regret a minute of putting his career above everything else, he doesn’t think that I’m the same way.”
Frankly, Fr. Michael was inclined to agree with Barba, but he chose not to say as such. “And what do you think?”
Carisi shrugged. “I do have more going on in my life than just work,” he said, a little reluctantly. “I mean, I’m closer to my family than Barba is to his — and I haven’t seen Bella and the baby in so long that I probably wouldn’t even recognize my own niece.”
“So then you think Barba’s right — you’re not willing to make the same sacrifices as him.”
To his surprise, Carisi shook his head, something in his expression darkening. “No, I think Barba’s absolutely wrong,” he said, with such conviction that Fr. Michael was taken aback for a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, sure, I may not be willing to sacrifice every aspect of my personal life for my career like Barba has, but I also know that there are sacrifices that I’m absolutely willing to make. And it’s got jack shit — pardon my language, Father — to do with career advancement.” Carisi shook his head, his jaw tightening with determination. “Helping people, getting them the justice they deserve — that’s the most important thing. It has to be. It’s bigger than me and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.” He paused, a small smile quirking at the edges of his mouth. “And if that’s greed, I’m kinda ok with it.”
Fr. Michael smiled as well. “Honestly? I’m kinda ok with it, too.” He hesitated before adding, “And I think that God might just be as well. Besides, in the meantime, I can absolve you just in case.”
Carisi laughed. “Then I guess I can tell Barba that he doesn’t have to worry about me,” he said, and Fr. Michael noted that there was genuine relief in his tone. “And what’s my penance, Father?”
“No penance,” Fr. Michael told him. “Just go spend some time with your family while you can. And tell your ma that I sent you.”
“Suck up,” Carisi laughed.
“Absolutely,” Fr. Michael said, grinning. “Everyone knows your ma makes the best lasagna — I’m just hoping she decides to pay me back with a pan of it on Sunday.”
Carisi rolled his eyes. “Knowing her, she probably will,” he said, hesitating before adding, “And thanks, Father.”
It was Fr. Michael’s turn to roll his eyes. “It’s literally what I’m here for, Carisi,” he said patiently. “Anytime you need me.”
Chapter 3: Gluttony
Fr. Michael was worried.
Mrs. Carisi had told him about what had happened with Sonny’s sergeant, the one who had been killed in the line. She had been a wreck when she told him, crying with the fear that the same thing could happen to Sonny.
But her son had not come to him in the weeks following the death of Sgt. Dodds, and other than seeing him a few times in church on Sundays — his expression unusually somber, even grim, though his baby niece could always tease a smile out of his unnaturally stern expression — Fr. Michael hadn’t seen Carisi at all.
And since he knew that what had happened had to be weighing on Carisi, Fr. Michael was worried.
So when Carisi showed up in confessional on a Friday night, Fr. Michael was ready to hear the worst from Carisi. Instead, Carisi rested his head against his arms on the rail in the confessional booth and told him, his voice muffled, “Father, I think I’ve committed gluttony.”
Fr. Michael stared at him. “Gluttony?” he repeated, tempted to laugh but too curious about where Carisi was headed with this to ruin the moment. “Normally I get that from a lot of parishioners during the holidays, but this is generally the time of year when people are trying to get ‘beach body’ ready.”
Carisi lifted his head slightly to ask, genuine curiosity in his voice, “I’ve been meaning to ask, by the way, when you go swimming, do you have to wear your collar?”
“I’m only required to wear the collar for official Church duties, but let’s not get off track,” Fr. Michael said. “You believe you’ve committed gluttony? What makes you think that?”
Sighing, Carisi propped himself up on the rail. “I just feel like I eat all the time,” he said. “I eat out and I bring food to work and I’ve been known to gorge myself on an Italian pastry or ten, and if I keep going the way I’m going, I know I’m gonna get fat.”
“Listen,” Fr. Michael said, patiently, “I’ve seen you many times over the past few years, and every time, you’ve been a beanpole. I doubt you’re seriously in danger of becoming fat, and in fact, you could probably afford to put on a few pounds.”
He didn’t mention that he was fairly certain that Carisi had in fact lost weight recently, following Sgt. Dodds’ death.
“You sound like my ma,” Carisi complained. “She’s always trying to force feed me, which isn’t helping.”
“She’s worried about you,” Fr. Michael said honestly, seizing the opportunity to turn the conversation from the ridiculous to actually focus on what might be bothering Sonny. “After what happened to your sergeant—”
Carisi waved a dismissive hand. “Nah, she’s been trying to get me to bulk up since high school,” he scoffed, not taking the bait. “Besides, what’s made it worse recently is that it seems like everyone else is on a diet.”
“Everyone?” Fr. Michael asked, still waiting for an opportunity to turn the conversation back to more important things.
“Well, ok, so Fin isn’t on a diet, I don’t think, and honestly, I don’t know when the Lieu finds time to eat, and Rollins lost all her baby weight so she’s off her diet—” Carisi broke off and let out a frustrated sigh. “But Barba’s definitely on a diet. He used to eat the cannoli and zeppole that I brought to his office but now he refuses, so I’m stuck eating ‘em. And when we get drinks after court or whatever, I always order food and he never does.”
Fr. Michael stared at him. “And that’s a...problem?” he asked, not following Carisi’s line of thought.
Carisi scowled. “It is when Barba looks fine the way he is,” he said, something almost petulant in his tone. “I mean, everyone looks fine. Everyone is fine. Barba’s fine and safe and—” He broke off, frustrated. “I just don’t see why everything needs to change,” he muttered.
And there — there it seemed was the crux of the matter, and Fr. Michael nodded slowly. “I imagine it’s been difficult to adjust to things after Sgt. Dodds died?”
Carisi shrugged. “I mean, it’s been hard, sure, but Dodds was leaving anyway.” He looked stricken. “Ok, I realize that sounds horrible, but — it’s true. Things were always going to change with the squad with him gone to joint-terrorism. But now—” He broke off again, clearly trying to figure out how to say whatever it was he wanted to. Abruptly, he told Fr. Michael, “I was thinking of leaving SVU.”
“For an ADA position?” Fr. Michael asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” Carisi said, nodding slowly. “Yeah, there was an opening in Brooklyn, and Barba was really great to get me an interview, but — I can’t leave the squad now. They still need me, especially with Dodds gone. And that’s fine, I’m fine with staying. I just hoped, if I was gonna stay, that things would stay the same, and instead…”
He trailed off, his expression darkening. “Instead, it’s like Barba won’t even talk to me,” he muttered. “Like because I turned down his precious job offer that I’m no longer worth associating with. And now he’s on a diet and he’s too good for my cannoli and he refuses to talk about how he almost could have died—”
“Wait, what?” Fr. Michael interrupted, holding up his hands to try to stop Carisi before he spiraled even further into a train of thought that Fr. Michael couldn’t follow. “Barba almost died?”
Carisi looked a little embarrassed, as if he hadn’t meant to bring that up. “I mean, technically no,” he hedged. “There were, uh, there were threats. Against him. Still are, technically — we never caught whoever was behind it. It all came out right around when Dodds…” He trailed off as if he didn’t want to say the word ‘died’. “And I was right there with him, trying to find the perps and make sure he was safe and instead — instead he wants to pretend like it never happened.”
“Maybe he’s a little ashamed,” Fr. Michael suggested.
“Ashamed?” Carisi repeated, looking almost baffled, as if he could never imagine Barba being ashamed of anything. “Ashamed of what?”
Fr. Michael shrugged. “Ashamed that you saw him in a vulnerable state, maybe,” he said, guessing from everything that Carisi had told him about Barba that the other man would hate to have anyone, especially Sonny, think he was ‘weak’. “Especially in light of what happened to Sgt. Dodds — you think Barba would want you to worry that he could be next?”
Carisi had gone very still as he listened to Fr. Michael, his brow puckered. “He could be, though,” Carisi whispered, so quietly that Fr. Michael almost couldn’t hear him. “I mean, any of us could, I guess, but—”
“But do you think that Barba would want to be reminded of that every time he looks at you, or talks to you?” Fr. Michael pressed, and when Carisi’s expression didn’t change, he added, “Maybe you’re not the only one who wishes that everything could stay the same.”
Carisi’s frown deepened. “So, what, you want me to pretend like Barba never got threatened in the first place?”
“I don’t want you to act like anything,” Fr. Michael told him. “But my guess is that Barba does. And since you want everything to stay the same, would it really hurt to pretend, for his sake?”
“You tell me, Father,” Carisi said, something almost wry in his expression. “Cuz here I thought lying was a sin.”
Fr. Michael nodded. “It is,” he said. “But the Church teaches that the gravity of a lie depends on the harms suffered by the lie’s victim. So you tell me — would it hurt Barba if you pretend like everything’s back to normal? Or would it hurt him more to have to worry about you worrying about him?”
"The latter, I guess," Carisi said, brightening slightly with the realization, a small smile appearing on his face. “And you think if I pretend like everything’s the same, he’ll go back to acting normally around me?”
“He might,” Fr. Michael said, unwilling to promise anything, especially since, if everything Carisi had told him was true, Barba's moods seemed a little unpredictable, to say the least.
“Then I’m willing to give it a try,” Carisi said with his usual confidence.
“Good,” Fr. Michael said before adding, “And eat a frickin’ cannoli, Carisi. You’re not fat, and besides, you get crabby when you’re sugar-deprived.”
Carisi laughed loudly. “If that’s your idea of penance, Father, I think I can make that happen.”
Chapter 4: Wrath
This chapter marks the departure point from what could technically be considered canon-compliant.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Carisi could not sit still — in fact, for the last five minutes, he hadn’t been able to sit at all, and if the confessional were any larger, Fr. Michael was fairly certain that Carisi would’ve been pacing. As it was, he looked like a cornered animal, his eyes roaming wildly as he muttered to himself, “Stupid and reckless and I swear to God, I swear—”
“Carisi,” Fr. Michael said loudly, but Carisi ignored him, gripping the railing in the confessional with both hands and holding on so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
The movement revealed the badge and gun still on Carisi’s hip, and if possible, that worried Fr. Michael even more than he already was. Carisi never brought his gun into the church sanctuary, and the sight of it reminded Fr. Michael for the first time that Carisi had undoubtedly pulled that gun before, had most likely shot it, had possibly even killed someone with it.
Fr. Michael previously would have found the idea of the sweet Sonny Carisi he knew from high school killing someone almost laughable, but watching him now, Fr. Michael suddenly felt he knew exactly what Carisi was capable of.
“Dominick,” he said sharply, using Carisi’s disliked first name in hopes of getting his attention, standing as well and holding his hands up placatingly, “Tell me what happened so that I can help you. Please.”
Carisi just looked at him and Fr. Michael flinched at the look in his eyes. “Help me, Father?” Carisi asked, turning the word over in his mouth as if it was foreign to him. “I don’t know if you can help me with this.”
Still, the rage seemed to seep out of him and Carisi sat, still gripping the rail so tightly with one hand that Fr. Michael feared he might break it, digging in his pocket with his other hand and pulling out his Rosary beads, clenching those in his fist as well. “Forgive me, Father,” Carisi said, and something in his voice broke. “It’s been — it’s been a bit of a day.”
“What happened?” Fr. Michael asked, a little warily, returning to his own seat.
“Someone tried to kill Barba.”
Fr. Michael gaped at him. “Someone tried to kill Barba?” he repeated.
Carisi nodded, and for a moment, Fr. Michael could see that Carisi was just barely holding it together as the hand still holding his Rosary beads started to shake. “After...after court today,” Carisi said, his voice quiet but simmering with barely-contained fury. “Barba was doing his usual press conference that he does for every big case, and someone opened fire on him.”
“Is he ok?” Fr. Michael asked, genuinely concerned, because while he had never met ADA Rafael Barba, he felt after all these months of taking Carisi’s confession that he had also gotten to know the man.
Though Carisi nodded again, a muscle worked in his cheek, and his expression looked murderous. “Yeah, he’s fine — a little shaken up, which I can’t blame him for, but he wasn’t injured. No one was. And we got the bastard.”
He spat the word like venom, and Fr. Michael nodded slowly. “Did you kill him?” he asked.
Carisi looked startled by the question. “What? No, of course not. We arrested him. He’s being booked as we speak.”
“Because he could’ve killed Barba.” Carisi whispered the words, and for just a moment, his anger fell away, leaving a terrified man who almost lost someone he deeply cared about. “Because this is why I swear to God I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since Barba told us about the threats he was getting. Because—” His voice broke. “Because I don’t want to lose him. I can’t lose him.”
In what Fr. Michael considered the most tactful way he could manage at the moment, he chose not to address the latter part of Carisi’s admission, instead asking, “So since you have the shooter in custody, why are you here?” When Carisi just looked at him blankly, Fr. Michael rephrased, “Why did you come here to church instead of going to interrogate the shooter or whatever it is you do?”
Carisi sucked in a breath, his expression darkening. “Because I wanted to kill him.”
He said it simply, matter-of-factly, as if Fr. Michael wasn’t going to recoil at the words, which he did, or wasn’t going to look at Carisi any differently, which he was trying not to. “You wanted to kill him?” he repeated instead, keeping his voice as calm as possible.
“I know it’s wrong.” Carisi said it flatly, like he was acknowledging wrongdoing without admitting to perpetrating it, and Fr. Michael was half-tempted to tell him that he was on his way to becoming a great lawyer. “I shouldn’t want to kill anyone. I mean, I became a cop to save people, not to kill ‘em, but when this asshole shot at Barba, I wanted to pull out my gun and put a bullet between his eyes.” Carisi’s voice dropped to a growl, and Fr. Michael had to physically stop himself from flinching at the sound. “I mean, just the fact that he had the nerve to try to kill Barba right in front of us, in broad daylight—”
He broke off, inhaling deeply, clearly trying to keep his emotions under some semblance of control, and Fr. Michael just nodded, unable or unwilling to say anything to try to comfort Carisi. “I know it’s wrong,” Carisi repeated, the anger disappearing from his voice and leaving him sounding tired, and defeated. “I know it’s a sin, and it’s a sin just thinking of it, even if I didn’t actually act on it, and I guess that’s why I’m here.” He broke off, his jaw clenching, his fingers moving over his Rosary beads like they might somehow stop him from reaching for his gun. “I had hoped that by confessing, I might not be tempted to get back in my car and drive back to the precinct and murder the perpetrator in cold blood.”
His confession was cold, almost flippant, as if Carisi wasn’t referring to a real person that he wanted to murder, and it took Fr. Michael a moment to find his voice. “You shouldn’t have come here,” he managed finally. “Because I can’t give you what you seek.”
“What do you mean?” Carisi asked, sounding tired again. “I’m asking for absolution, Father. I’m asking for you to take away my sin, and—”
“And absolution is a sacrament that only works when the party in question is truly sorry for his sins,” Fr. Michael told Carisi, his voice carefully neutral. “I can’t grant you absolution unless you’re sorry for wanting to kill the guy who shot at Barba, and frankly, I don’t think you’re sorry.”
There was a little bit of a challenge in his voice, but no judgment, mostly because Fr. Michael frankly wasn’t sure how he would handle it if someone he cared about was shot at — probably in much the same way. But it didn’t change the fact that Carisi sought absolution for a sin he wasn’t actually sorry for committing, and Carisi’s expression turned dark as he said, “I’m not sorry.”
Fr. Michael didn’t look surprised by that. “And I’m pretty sure that you know that you can’t be absolved without being truly sorry,” he continued, looking carefully at Carisi. “So what are you still doing here?”
Carisi sighed heavily and raked a hand through his hair, not seeming to care that he disrupted the carefully gel-laden coif as he did. “Where do you want me to go, Father?” he asked. “Back to the precinct, to watch the perp get interrogated, just to make sure that I resist the temptation to kill him? Or back to my apartment where I can sit by myself for the next twelve hours and think about how I never used to be able to justify murder?”
His tone suggested he was aiming for a joke, but his words rang with too much truth to be incidental, and Fr. Michael shook his head. “I was actually thinking that you might want to go see Barba,” he said, as lightly as he could manage. “I’m sure that whatever he’s going through right now, having almost been shot, almost been killed, it would help to have a friend there for him.” When Carisi hesitated, Fr. Michael added, “And it might help for you to channel your anger into something positive and productive.”
Nodding slowly, Carisi muttered, “That’s not a bad idea, I guess. And besides, I know firsthand what it’s like to almost be shot, so maybe I can talk him through it.”
“Wait, what?” Fr. Michael said, startled, but Carisi had already stood, shrugging his jacket on, and left with only a distracted wave. “I’ll pray for you!” Fr. Michael called after him, but judging by the set of Carisi’s shoulders, he either hadn’t heard or at this point just didn’t care.
Fr. Michael sighed and sat back in his seat, reaching up automatically to touch the cross he wore around his neck. As he crossed himself, the words of St. Augustine came to mind, and he said them outloud as a fervent prayer for both Carisi and for Barba: “Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch or weep tonight. Rest Your weary ones; soothe Your suffering ones; and all for Your love’s sake. Amen.”
The prayer Fr. Michael paraphrases is St. Augustine's "Watch, O Lord".
Chapter 5: Lust
Fr. Michael had expected not to see Carisi for awhile, for him to take some time and reflect before returning to church, or at least to confession.
Which is why he was surprised when he walked into the church sanctuary the following morning to find Carisi sitting in a pew, Rosary beads in hand, head bowed. “Carisi?” Fr. Michael asked, pausing. “What are you doing here?” Carisi looked up at Fr. Michael, his eyes red as if he had been crying and ringed with dark circles as if he hadn’t slept. “Is it Barba? Is he ok?”
Carisi cracked a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Funny you should ask,” he muttered, running a hand over his face. “Barba’s fine. He’s taking the day off today, and I…”
He trailed off, and Fr. Michael cleared his throat. “And you came here,” he finished for Carisi, who nodded.
“Yeah. I came here.”
Fr. Michael waited, but when Carisi didn’t say anything further, he asked, “So...why did you come here, Carisi? If you’re here for confession, I’d be glad to take it, but I doubt you’ve had a huge change of heart since last night…”
He meant it as a joke, but Carisi didn’t smile, his expression falling even further. “I guess I am here for confession,” he said quietly. “Not about — not about, uh, what we talked about last night. About something else.” He fell into brooding silence again, but this time, Fr. Michael knew not to push him, instead sitting down in the pew in front of Carisi and waiting for him to tell him when he was ready.
Eventually, Carisi looked up at Fr. Michael again. “I think I may be in love.”
Fr. Michael’s heart sank, because he knew where this was headed, and he had been dreading this moment ever since Carisi had first appeared in the confessional. “It’s not a sin to be in love,” he said softly.
“In this case, it is,” Carisi said, his voice hoarse. “Because I’m in love with a man.”
“With Barba?” Fr. Michael asked, though he already knew the answer.
Carisi, however, looked stunned, as if he never would’ve thought the priest would put it together. “How’d you know?” he asked.
Fr. Michael leveled a look at him. “Carisi, you talk about Barba in confession almost as much as you talk about yourself. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together. And after last night…” He trailed off when Carisi’s face darkened. “Besides,” he added, a little wryly, “I remember Maria Bianchi’s party junior year of high school. I walked in on you making out with John Trevino in the bathroom.”
“That doesn’t count,” Carisi spluttered, his face turning red. “That was on a dare.”
“Sure it was,” Fr. Michael said, clearly not believing Carisi in the slightest. He hesitated before adding, “But you can’t blame loving Barba on a dare.”
Carisi wilted slightly. “No, I guess I can’t,” he said softly.
“So tell me what happened,” Fr. Michael said, keeping his voice neutral. “You’ve obviously been close with Barba for quite some time — what changed?”
If possible, Carisi’s blush deepened. “He, uh, he kissed me,” he mumbled. “We got to talking and I told him how afraid I had been that I was gonna lose him and he — he kissed me. And it was…” He trailed off, a smile spreading across his face seemingly of its own volition. “It was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And then we, uh...I ended up spending the night at his place.” His smile disappeared. “And then when I woke up this morning, Barba looked so peaceful, snoring like a freakin’ freight train, and all I wanted was to lie there next to him and hold him in my arms and—” He broke off, his face tightening. “And so I came here.”
“But why?” Fr. Michael asked, confused. “Why would you leave Barba and drive all the way over here?”
“Because I know it’s wrong!” Carisi burst, his hands curling into fists. “Because it’s all I’ve ever wanted, but my entire life, I’ve been told it was a sin. And because—” He again couldn’t stop the small smile that temporarily lit his face. “And because even if it is a sin, it still feels right.”
Fr. Michael nodded, a little stiffly, and he asked, “Have you previously confessed homosexual desires?”
Carisi looked a little taken aback by the question. “I wouldn’t call it ‘homosexual desires’, Father,” he said, something of a warning edge to his voice. “It’s...it’s a lot more than that.” Fr. Michael didn’t bother reminding Carisi that Catholic doctrine drew little distinction between same-sex love and lust — Carisi undoubtedly knew that better than he did. “And I did confess, after Maria Bianchi’s party, actually, to Msgr. Joseph.”
“And what did the monsignor tell you when you confessed?”
Carisi shrugged, his grip on his Rosary beads tightening once more. “He advised me to pray on it, and to not act on those feelings again. He said that only the action was sinful, not the feelings, and that with God on my side, I could find the strength to resist temptation.”
He said the words hollowly, and Fr. Michael wondered how frequently Carisi had repeated those words to himself, as a near-constant litany of self-reassurance, or else as castigation for his secret shame. “And did you find the strength you needed?”
Carisi hesitated. “Up until last night, at least.” He sighed and raked a hand through his hair, the thumb on his opposite hand rubbing one of the smooth beads of his Rosary as if seeking whatever comfort the small gesture could offer. “Loving a man is a sin, isn’t it, Father?”
Fr. Michael picked his words very carefully. “I could never imagine condemning love in any form as sinful,” he said. “The Church does maintain that homosexual acts are sinful, and that anyone with homosexual urges should remain chaste in an effort to resist temptation.”
“And what if I very much want to give into temptation?”
“Carisi, I’m not gonna give you carte blanche to sin,” Fr. Michael said, his tone and expression neutral. “In this as in all temptation, you’re the one who has to answer to God for your sins.”
Carisi’s expression turned stubborn, almost mutinous. “What if I don’t think it’s a sin?”
Fr. Michael shrugged. “Neither you nor I get to make that decision—” he started, but Carisi cut him off.
“Forgive me, Father, but that’s bullshit.” His voice was heated and he leaned forward, as if trying to justify this to not just Fr. Michael, but to himself as well. “I have been over this, over and over all morning. I’ve never felt this way about someone else. This, whatever this is with Barba, this feels like when my dad would talk about how he felt when he first met my ma. This is real. And God knows that I want to follow His church and do right by Him, but—” Carisi broke off, frustration clear in his expression. “But I just can’t believe that God thinks this is wrong.”
“Did you come here today to convince me, or to convince yourself?” Fr. Michael asked.
He didn’t mean for the words to come out as harshly as they did, but Carisi nonetheless flinched before his expression turned steely. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what I was hoping to find when I came here — validation, absolution, I dunno.” He raised his eyes to meet Fr. Michael’s squarely. “But I guess I got the answer I needed.”
Carisi stood and Fr. Michael scrambled to follow suit, trying to find the right words to say, the right thing to tell Carisi. “You asked me what the Church’s view was—” he started, but Carisi just shook his head and cut him off.
“I got it, Father. The Church thinks this is a sin.” He shrugged, almost helplessly. “And I’m not sure how I’m supposed to choose between the first thing in my life that has felt absolutely right and the Church that wants to convince me that it’s a sin.”
“You don’t have to choose,” Fr. Michael told him, though the words rang hollow even to him. “You can keep coming to confession, keep getting the absolution you need—”
Carisi snorted, but there was no mirth in the brief laugh. “You’re the one who told me last night that to get absolution, I have to actually be sorry.” He shrugged again. “Having a bit of a hard time finding it in myself to be sorry about this.” He shook his head and scuffed his shoe against the floor of the church before adding, “Besides, I don’t wanna live my life thinking that everything I do is a sin that needs confessing.”
“Then let God guide your decision, and if you truly want to do right by Him, you’ll make the right choice.”
Carisi’s expression twisted, and his eyes flickered up to the crucifix hanging above the altar. “Maybe I’ve had enough of God’s guidance for the moment,” he said. “I have a feeling this is a decision I have to make all on my own.”
With that, he turned and trudged up the aisle, his hands jammed into his pockets, his head bowed, and Fr. Michael wished desperately that he could’ve said so much more to Carisi, to give him some comfort. But before he could think of anything to say, Carisi had disappeared into the narthex, and Fr. Michael’s shoulders slumped.
He bowed his own head and offered a silent prayer of apology for not being a better shepherd and was about to head over to his office when he noticed something lying on the pew where Carisi had been sitting, and the breath caught in Fr. Michael’s throat when he realized what it was: Carisi’s Rosary.
It appeared Carisi had made his choice.
Chapter 6: Pride
Now seems like a pertinent time to restate my disclaimer from the beginning: Fr. Michael as a character does not necessarily reflect the views of the Catholic church, though he does reflect the views of a very dear friend of mine whose counsel on reconciling faith and sexuality has been invaluable to me and who will one day make a great priest and hopefully be able to offer that same counsel to any parishioner who needs it. So Cristian, this one's for you, though I know you're never going to read it, mainly because I'm pretty sure they frown on reading slash fanfic when you're in seminary. Or so I assume.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” Fr. Michael felt a smile break out across his face as he recognized the voice. “It’s been, uh, almost a year since my last confession…”
Carisi trailed off, and Fr. Michael took a moment before telling him, truthfully, “I’m glad that you came back, Carisi.”
Though Carisi laughed, there was an edge to it. “I haven’t decided if I am or not yet,” he said, honestly.
“Back, or glad to be back?” Fr. Michael asked.
Fr. Michael nodded in understanding and hesitated before saying, “I have something for you, though I’m not sure if you want it back.”
He removed the privacy screen and held out the Rosary that, almost a year ago now, Carisi had left on the pew. Carisi’s face lit up for a brief moment. “What, you’ve just been holding onto it, in case I decided to come back?” he asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Fr. Michael shrugged. “I figured you might want it back someday.”
Carisi’s smile faded slightly, and while he reached out and ran his fingers over the beads, he hesitated instead of taking it from the priest. “I’m not sure that I can take it,” he said quietly. “Not after this past year—”
“Carisi, there’s nowhere that you can go and nothing that you can do that you’ll be too far from God or the Church to come back. If you want to.”
Fr. Michael said the words calmly, simply, and he continued to hold the Rosary out to Carisi, who finally took it, holding it almost reverently in his hands. “That’s more or less what Barba told me,” he said, smiling. “You should really meet him sometime — I have a feeling you would like him.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Fr. Michael said, smiling as well. He paused before asking, “How is Barba?”
Carisi’s smile widened. “He’s good,” he said, running a hand over his tie, a rich, purple silk number that Fr. Michael was fairly certain Barba must have bought for him. “We’re good. I, uh, I don’t know if my ma filled you in—”
“That you and Barba are living together?” Fr. Michael finished. “Yeah, she told me.”
Carisi fiddled with his Rosary for a moment, rubbing the beads with his thumb before telling him, his voice quiet, “She took it pretty hard when I told her, and I mean, I get it. No one wants to learn their only son is living in sin, you know? And this is kinda the biggest sin of them all, in that regard. But she’s gotten better, and, uh…” He trailed off and gave Fr. Michael a furtive look before continuing, “She told me you’ve been helping her with that.”
There was a question in Carisi’s tone, and Fr. Michael just shrugged. “What’s discussed in confessional is privileged,” he reminded Carisi. “Even when it comes from your own mother.”
Carisi nodded. “I know that,” he said, before adding, “But, uh, if you did say something to her, then — thanks.”
Fr. Michael gave him a knowing look and nodded, once, before clearing his throat and changing the subject. “So what brings you back here, Carisi?”
“Barba,” Carisi told him, his smile spreading even wider across his face. “Just like it’s always been about Barba, I guess. But in this case, he encouraged me to come back, when I was ready.” His tone was unmistakably fond, and Fr. Michael wondered how many conversations they had had about this, about Carisi’s faith — and about Barba’s. “He knew that I missed going to Mass and missed feeling like a part of something bigger than me.”
“So he encouraged you to come back,” Fr. Michael said. “That was — good of him. But I have a feeling you’re not as convinced.”
Carisi shrugged. “I mean, I still don’t know…” He trailed off, clearly struggling to put whatever he was feeling into words. “I still don’t know if I can call everything that Barba and I have spent the past year building a sin. Which I think leaves me at the same place as I was a year ago.”
Fr. Michael looked at Carisi, at the confident set of his shoulders, at his smile-creased face and the genuine happiness and contentment that seemed to emanate from him, so different from the misery that had threatened to consume him not even a year ago. “No, I don’t think you’re in the same place at all,” he said, and Carisi’s forehead wrinkled in confusion, but before he could ask what he meant, Fr. Michael continued, “You know, believing oneself above God’s law is a form of pride, the worst of the seven deadly sins, the sin that got Lucifer cast from Heaven.”
Carisi snorted. “Considering everything I’ve done over the past year, Father,” he joked, his smile not fading, “you should probably just put it on my tab.”
“And you should let me finish,” Fr. Michael said, his voice a little sharper than he intended. “I don’t think that you truly believe that you’re above God’s law — I think that you believe the Church’s interpretation of God’s law is...flawed.”
“To say the least,” Carisi muttered, before quickly adding, “Sorry, Father. I’ll let you finish.”
Fr. Michael rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “My point is this,” he said, “and if you tell anyone at the Archdiocese that I said this, I will probably not kill you, but I’ll tell your ma who really broke that vase from your great-aunt during sophomore year.”
Carisi looked horrified. “You wouldn’t dare. She loved that vase.”
“I absolutely would,” Fr. Michael said, something almost impish in his smile. “But that’s not the point. I’m telling you this less as Fr. Michael the priest, and more as Michael Rossi, alright?” Carisi nodded but didn’t say anything, clearly intrigued, and Fr. Michael took a deep breath before continuing, “I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, that St. Paul’s writings, the teachings of the early Church — they all come from God. But they were written down by humans, and interpreted by humans, humans who are limited by their human understandings and prejudices. Which means the only person who truly understands every aspect of God’s law is God, and which also means that God alone knows where you stand with him.” He shrugged. “Is homosexuality a sin? Maybe. But maybe to say that is a misinterpretation of sexual practices at the time. This is what I know to be true — ‘The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.’ Romans 13. Have you sinned, Carisi? Yes — just as we all have. But not in loving Barba.”
Carisi’s eyes had gotten almost comically large as Fr. Michael spoke, and when he finished, Fr. Michael thought he might have seen tears glinting in Carisi’s eyes before he bowed his head. Carisi took a long moment before he looked back up at Fr. Michael, and he gave him a shaky smile before jokingly asking, “Did Pope Francis change his stance on LGBT rights while I was avoiding church or something?”
Fr. Michael laughed. “No. Hence why you’re not allowed to tell anyone at the Archdiocese that I said that.” He hesitated for a moment. “But do you remember Anthony D'Amico? He was a couple years older than us in high school.”
Carisi looked almost confused at the question. “Yeah, of course I remember Anthony,” he said, giving Fr. Michael a crooked smile. “Hard to forget the guy who was almost single-handedly in charge of supplying alcohol to all our high school parties.” He hesitated, clearly wanting to ask where Fr. Michael was headed with this, but he settled for asking, “How is Anthony?”
“He’s good,” Fr. Michael said simply, before adding, “He and his husband are both very happy.”
If Carisi’s eyes had been large before, it was nothing compared to now as he openly gaped at Fr. Michael. “You mean — he — and he got married?” Fr. Michael nodded, watching as something close to awe stole over Carisi’s expression. "Did he come to confess to you as well?"
Fr. Michael shook his head. "Not quite," he said. "He actually came to me to see if I knew anyone who might be willing to do Pre-Cana with them."
"And I'm assuming you told him there was no priest in his right mind who would do Pre-Cana with a gay couple." Something had tightened in Carisi's expression, though he quickly replaced it with a smirk. "I mean, he might as well have asked you to officiate."
"He and his husband were already planning on getting married at City Hall, so they didn't need an officiant," Fr. Michael said, ignoring the point of Carisi's jibe. "And I told him that there was a priest who might be willing to do it — me. Outside of the church, of course."
“Of course,” Carisi repeated, a little faintly, still gaping at Fr. Michael as if trying to wrap his mind around what he had just told him.
Fr. Michael gave him a moment to let it sink in before he told him, almost gently, "And while this will come as no surprise to you, Pre-Cana with a gay couple is pretty much the same as Pre-Cana with a straight couple. The same arguments, the same issues to work out, and most importantly, with the same love at its core."
A grin slowly spread across Carisi's face. "Amazing how that works, Father," he said, with a little too much sincerity to be as snarky as he clearly intended. "And that's really great for them. Tell Anthony congrats — I’m really happy for him.”
“Tell him yourself if you come to church on Sunday,” Fr. Michael said, a little pointedly. “And then you can even meet his husband.”
Carisi laughed. “How do the congregants feel about that?” he asked, a little teasingly.
Fr. Michael shrugged. “Half the old ladies have convinced themselves that Anthony and his husband are just roommates. But you know how good Catholics are — they keep the worst of their comments for behind closed doors.”
Carisi’s smile faded slightly. “Yeah, I know how that goes,” he muttered. After a moment, his smile returned and he told Fr. Michael, “Thank you, Father, for telling me all that — about Anthony and about what you believe.”
“I just wish I could have told you it a year ago,” Fr. Michael said, honestly, but Carisi shook his head, his expression contemplative.
“I dunno if I would’ve been ready to hear it a year ago.”
They sat in comfortable silence for a moment before Carisi leaned forward. “So you did Pre-Cana with Anthony and his husband?” Fr. Michael nodded and Carisi smiled. “Would you ever consider doing it again with another same-sex couple?”
Fr. Michael laughed. “That depends,” he said teasingly. “Do you have a couple in mind?”
“Maybe,” Carisi shot back, grinning. “But first, I gotta propose.”
Chapter 7: Sloth
Thank you, as always, for everyone who has read, kudos'd, commented, etc. on this fic. When I set out starting to write this, I had an entirely different vision for what I wanted it to be - a lot lighter, with frankly a lot more of Barba (if not in appearances than in conversation). What this ended up being was instead a very personal fic that has been hugely cathartic for me to write and be a part of, and I want to thank everyone who's been around for the ride.
Fr. Michael watched through the window of the Italian bakery not too far from the church as Carisi and Barba approached, hand in hand, though Barba paused, pulling out his phone and frowning down at it. He said something to Carisi, who rolled his eyes, kissed Barba on the cheek, and left him outside the bakery to field whatever call he had gotten. “Haven’t even been back from the honeymoon for a whole day, and already work’s more important than me,” Carisi sighed as he slid into a seat across the table from Fr. Michael, but he was clearly joking, given the grin he gave Fr. Michael. "Good to see you, Father."
“Good to see you, too, Carisi,” Fr. Michael said with a smile of his own, and he took a sip of coffee before telling him, “Though I can’t pretend that I’m not intrigued as to why you wanted to meet with me the day you got back from your honeymoon, and why you wanted to meet here instead of at the church.”
“Listen, I’ve spent the last two weeks in Cuba, and while the pastelitos there are delicious, they got nothin’ on a good zeppole,” Carisi said with an easy smile. “Besides, we brought you a gift, and I figured it was something I should give you outside of the church.”
Though Fr. Michael protested, “You didn’t have to get me anything!”, he nonetheless accepted the bag from Carisi, groaning exaggeratedly at how heavy it was. “What did you get me, a brick?”
“Yeah, Father, we went all the way to Cuba and brought you back a brick,” Carisi deadpanned. “Open it and see.”
Fr. Michael rolled his eyes and reached into the bag, pulling out a bottle of amber-colored liquor. “Ron Santiago de Cuba Añejo 11 Años,” he read out loud, his Staten Island accent tripping over the Spanish words. “Rum?”
Carisi’s smile turned wicked. “Yeah, I figured enough time had passed since Shelly Kane’s infamous party senior year that you might be able to tolerate the taste of rum again.”
“In fairness, I’m not convinced that was actually rum,” Fr. Michael said, hefting the bottle in one hand. “Pretty sure it was rubbing alcohol.” He returned Carisi’s smile. “Thank you, though. I will enjoy drinking this in a responsible manner, unlike at Shelly Kane’s party.”
Carisi laughed and nodded towards the bag. “There’s one more thing in there,” he said.
Curious what else Carisi could have brought for him, Fr. Michael set the bottle on the table and reached into the bag, pulling out something rectangular and wrapped in tissue paper. “What’s this?” he asked, mostly to himself, and he unwrapped it carefully, his smile widening when he realized what it was. “This is — thank you, Carisi. This is wonderful.”
It was a picture frame, but the frame wasn’t the important part. The important part was the picture in it — Fr. Michael in a simple clerical shirt, standing next to Carisi, dressed in a tux and with his arm around Barba, also in a tux, all three laughing in City Hall at some asinine comment Carisi had just made only minutes after pledging to love Barba until death do they part.
Fr. Michael hadn’t expected to be invited to Carisi’s wedding, figuring it would be just family and close friends, but when he had been invited, he hadn’t even hesitated before accepting. And he would be forever glad that he did.
Carisi’s expression was fond as he looked down at the picture, twisting the platinum ring on his left ring finger in a distracted gesture. “Best day of my life,” he said, a little gruffly, before looking back up at Fr. Michael. “And it never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for you.”
“I think that’s giving me way too much credit,” Fr. Michael told him, though he added, “But thank you. And if he never manages to gets off the phone so that I can thank him person, please pass my thanks on to Rafael as well.”
“I will,” Carisi promised, though his expression fell into a mocking scowl. “I still can’t believe Rafi let you call him Rafael after, like, a week. Do you know how long it took me to earn that privilege?”
His mock-outrage made Fr. Michael laugh, and he gave Carisi a smug smile. “One of the few perks of the collar, Carisi,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I could call you Dominick and you’d let me.”
Carisi favored him with a calculating look. “You could try,” he allowed. “But then I’d have to tell everyone the nickname your brother gave you after that incident in sixth grade.”
Fr. Michael looked horrified. “You wouldn’t dare,” he hissed. “You swore you would never tell anyone.”
“Oops, I lied,” Carisi said, grinning wickedly at him. “Thankfully, you’re a priest, so — Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Their snorts of laughter drew a disapproving look from the nonna working behind the counter, and Fr. Michael quickly managed a more somber expression. “So while we’re on the topic, anything you need to confess?”
Carisi gave him a lazy grin. “Besides the usual?” he asked. “I mean, pretty sure lounging around with your husband for two weeks on your honeymoon is the definition of sloth, so there’s that.”
Fr. Michael laughed. “Sounds more like happiness to me,” he said. “And while I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, happiness is not a sin.”
Carisi looked out the window at Barba, who was still talking animatedly on the phone, and his smile softened. “You know what, Father?” he said. “I’m beginning to think you’re right.”