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Ad Vitam Aeternam

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This is what Sonny Carisi knows about soulmates, before he meets his own:

Dominick Carisi and Sabrina Fiore met in high school and their clocks stop at just the same time. They have the sort of perfect relationship, love at first moment, type of soulmate that you see in fairytales, but not in movies because it's a little dull. They meet each other and they know at that instant, forever, that they're meant to be together. They’ll have three little girls and a little boy, till death do they part. Pretty white lines on their wrists etched into nine forty-five, right before English with Mrs. Burnett for both of them, first day of Junior year.

Sonny expected this for himself. After all, everyone thinks they'll grow to be their parents and Sonny admired his more than most.

Bella meets her soulmate with a crash, literally. She's off to teach some kids who can hardly spell and Tommy works the type of job that will hire ex-cons. It takes--well it takes a second. Bella bumps into him, says "Sorry!" in an accented rush. Tommy catches her voice, catches her hair, doesn't catch much else and smiles, says no problem. Bella catches his smile and all of a sudden-

Everything stops.

“Oh my god. It's you!” She grins, so happy, barely resisting jumping up and down. Tommy's heart stops too. They're both almost late to work, but they make it in time. Turns out they take the same subway.

Bella recounts this story to her parents, who try not to be judgemental about Tommy’s life story. Bella tells her siblings, who are happy for her, very happy. But also, also...

Gina's soulmark doesn't tick. It starts and stops with spurts, stopping for days and weeks at a time. She falls in love with everyone she meets when it's stopped--an actor on tv, an eighth grade algebra teacher, her teller at the bank, her first boyfriend, a man at a bar. Ma frowns the first time it happens--not like she's mad, like she's worried and can't make sense of what happened. Dad smiles the first time it starts up again, uncertain. "Guess Gina's got a lot of love to give." He says it like a joke, or a comfort, but Gina doesn't think it's funny one bit.

Gina sobs broken, so scared the first time it happens, the second, the third. Sonny empathizes--he's cried too, but because his just wouldn't stop--makes her dessert and whatever she wants until she's back on her feet, swearing next time it'll stop for sure, next time will be the one for sure. Gina's been engaged six times and not a single one has stopped her heart for more than three months. Sonny’s started to think she’s worse off than Teresa.

Teresa doesn't have a clock; her arm is pale and smooth. Teresa dates older men who don't have soul marks, who do have soul marks, and all of which have a lot more money than her. What's anyone gonna say? What's she supposed to wait around for? There's no love in her future, according to everything, so why shouldn't she do what she wants.

What Sonny knows, as in, actually knows, about soulmates before he meets his own:

There are actually many exceptions to what Sonny thought about soulmates. Sonny is fourteen and Gina has had her first major heartbreak when he sits himself down at the library and does some pretty obsessive research. From case files, to scientific studies, to newspaper articles, he finds evidence that: some people are born without a clock and some people are born with a clock that will not stop even once their soulmate has met them or will stop for people who are not their soulmates. The most extensive scientific studies come from those whose soulmates have died--and it seems that half of their clocks start right up again, like they never stopped. Some people have more than one soulmate, he reports to Gina excitedly which, for some reason, she doesn’t seem to find comforting at all.

In a peak of pre-teen anger, Gina screams at him, pushing him out of her room. “I don’t want a lot of soulmates. I want my soulmate.”

She slams the door and goes to sob on her bed, muffled by her pillow but loud enough so that Sonny can hear. Sonny decides to officially give up trying to be nice to Gina for a while.

Still, the entire researching experience was pretty helpful. Sonny considers himself a little more knowledgable than most now, about the intricacies of the soulmate experience. About four percent of the population of the United States has a soulmate whose soulmate is someone else (theoretically, this number is higher). About one percent of the United States has no soul mark (this percentage is about four percent worldwide and, also, theoretically higher). And there are a wide variety of different reactions to meeting your soulmate--some people don’t have a reaction at all, some people experience incredible pain when meeting their soulmate, some people were born without a clock but gain one when they meet their soulmate.

Sonny’s mind is abuzz with information and secure in the knowledge that, while certain reactions might be statistically rarer than others, at least now he knows about them. At least he can prepare himself, prepare his sisters. To meet their soulmates.

This is what Sonny knows when he meets his soulmate:

Basically nothing.

Knowing all of this intellectually, doesn't prepare Sonny at all.

His time hasn't stopped despite his best efforts. Not even since he figured out he figured out it probably wasn't going to stop for a woman. Not a budge in his clock, not even a moment when the second hand shook, like it does when your soulmate is near but you haven't met them. Sonny watches it constantly, watching it tick through the day. It's so unrelenting that it feels more like wearing a watch, rather than a message from God that he's near the person he's destined to love.

Sonny's not expecting to meet his soulmate the moment he does. So much is new--new squad, new precinct, new division--his mind is so full of I've-never-done-SVU and what-if-they-hate-me that he's not even thinking soulmate.

Sonny thinks maybe it's a currently untested hypothesis some scientist should try. If you're thinking about your soulmate, you can't meet your soulmate. The moment you stop, you meet them.

That's why, when he makes eye contact with the new ADA he's working with, brushing past his shoulder, suddenly, his entire body is immobilized.

Bella described this to him. Her feeling of overwhelming relief, a sudden understanding of her life and her future that she never had before. No concrete moments, just a sense that she just met the man she was going to be in love with. A sudden shock of pain.

Sonny didn't understand, but he feels it now, motionless in the middle of the squad room. He whirls around and one of the detectives--Rollins--sends him a questioning look before turning back to the Sergeant.

Sonny's soulmate is standing there and he hasn't moved. Sonny's soulmate is standing like he didn't feel a thing.

Sonny wants to rush up to him and grab his arm, pull his sleeve up to see if his clock stopped too but he resists. He stares at the lawyer, before the Sergeant sends him a questioning look and Sonny leaves the room, as calmly as he can.

Sonny's clock stopped at ten fifteen in the morning, the first day of his new job.

He's fairly certain his soulmate's is still going.