Chapter 1: Part One
It had been three months since Priti and Sonny had last been bouldering, so she forces herself out of bed. It is an effort and a half, but she ignores the ache in the pit of her stomach and stumbles into the shower.
The steaming hot water is refreshing and motivating. I can't miss today, I can't back out now, not after all the complaining I did to get Sonny to agree to this, she thinks.
Priti closes her eyes and rubs her abdomen, willing away the gnawing sensation growing there.
Raf is too busy at work and is too tired to do anything. Olivia has her happy little family and would rather spend all her time with them. At least you've still got Sonny. He is your best friend, he actually wants to spend time with you . . . or else he just wants you to shut up for a while so he can go back to hanging out with Amanda.
She frowns at the thought and turns off the shower head, takes a deep breath, and pushes down the queasiness in her stomach. Flinging on some leggings and a t-shirt, she rushes out of the apartment and drives to the bouldering wall.
She suspects that there is more than to Sonny’s friendship with Amanda and today is the perfect time to interrogate him. She knows that he lets his guard down when he is puzzling over a complicated climbing route and is more likely to be forthcoming with personal details.
Priti feels that it would be great for Sonny to finally have someone special in his life, but she can't shake the unsettled feeling inside her. Is it jealousy? she asks herself. There is no time for an answer, because as soon as she climbs out of her car, she hears him bellowing her name across the street.
“Priti!” he shouts, waving. He sprints over towards her with the usual huge grin on his face.
Priti can't help but smile, how could you not? Sonny always has a way of making you feel special, which is why his absence has been tough. “You made it! Finally, you have some time for me!”
“I’ve always got time for you, Priti. What are you talking about?”
“Do you remember the last time we hung out?”
She doesn't even wait for an answer. Bitterly she says, “It's okay, even my own husband doesn't seem to have time for me these days - it's not like I'm expecting miracles.”
“Hey, woah there,” Sonny puts a steadying hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure that’s not true. How could he not want to spend time with you. Just look at you.”
He waves his hand from her head to her toes, which makes her smile and blush a little. “And me, how could I not want to spend time with you?”
Then he winks, trying to give her a hint about what’s going on with him. “Well .. you and Amanda -”
“See, you'd rather hang out with Amanda than with me.” Priti turns and walks into the building.
“Priti, it’s not like that, it’s - “ he chases after her, grabs her by the elbow, stops her, and turns her around. “Look, you know how you’ve always said you think it would be great if I found someone?”
“Yeah?” she crosses her arms, suddenly forgetting the pain in her belly.
“Well, Amanda and me ...” he stutters a little and blushes. “Well we ...”
“You what?” Priti prompts, feigning ignorance. She has been feeling abandoned and believes that Sonny should be tortured… at least a little. And what better way is there than making him admit he had a thing for his partner?
He looks down and scratches his head. Why is this making him nervous? This is Priti - his best friend. This should be easy to admit to her, but somehow it isn’t.
“We, uh ... we’re kinda together now,” he whispers, talking to the floor and shuffling his feet. He nods his head a bit and adds, “you know.”
There he said it. She should be happy for him. He nervously looks up and meets her eyes.
“Sonny, that's great! Really wonderful.” She smiles at him, but it’s a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. She isn't sure why it is suddenly so difficult.
He grins back at her, so relieved to have gotten this off of his chest that he doesn’t notice that she isn’t one hundred percent elated for him. It has been more than two months now. He isn’t one to keep secrets so he tells himself that it had just ‘never come up’ with Priti. But in reality it’s probably just because he has been avoiding her - instinctively knowing that a relationship with Amanda might bother her.
Priti had already ‘lost’ Liv to a baby and is trying to have one with Rafael, but so far that isn’t happening. So Sonny hadn’t been sure how she would take ‘losing’ her best friend to a woman with a child. But he is so happy to be able to finally talk with her about Amanda that he loses sight of his reservations in that moment.
“It really is great, huh? I mean Amanda, she ...” he stares off for a minute with a goofy grin, thinking of how much fun they would always seem to have together. How much fun all of them could have together someday, now that the cat was out of the bag.
Maybe this hadn't been a good idea after all, Priti thinks. I should have just stayed at home.
“Well, let's get cracking, Sonny, I thought we came here to climb!” she interrupts his silent reverie, brushes off her negative thoughts and sits down on the bench to put on her climbing shoes.
Sonny notices her tone and quickly comes back to the present. Oh shit. This was bothering her. His brow furrows as he watches her roughly pull on her shoes, tugging at them with a look of pain on her face. Snapping the velcro down tightly, gritting her teeth. This must really bother her - she looks like she is in physical pain.
“I’m sorry, Priti.” He knows her well enough to know he didn’t have to say any more. That she would catch his meaning without further elaboration.
"Sonny, I'm happy for you," she smiles a little sadly, but he knows the statement is genuine despite her expression.
"Come..." She pulls him up.
Priti approaches the nearest wall and ascends to the top, then jumps down nimbly. The impact with the ground does nothing to improve the stitch that had moved to her right side. She hides the flinch well, letting Sonny take his turn. She looks up, and the room lurches suddenly, tipping in a direction that is not physically possible. Priti closes her eyes and takes a deep breath and the room rights itself.
Sonny motions to Priti to try the next route. She tentatively takes a few steps up the wall. No pain, no vertigo. You can do this , she thinks to herself confidently, putting her foot on the next step, not noticing that the grip isn't quite stable.
What happens next is a blur for both Sonny and Priti. She doesn't even have time to shout, and before she knows what is happening, she is already on the floor. Sonny is at her side in an instant.
“Priti! Are you alright?” he yells, attracting the attention of fellow climbers.
Priti can only groan in response. She curls up into a ball holding her abdomen, searing pain shooting through her like a hot poker.
“What are you all just standing there for?” Sonny shouts angrily at those who are gawking. Yet within seconds his anger dissolves and he starts to panic. “Somebody call a bus!”
The full force of his anxious cry is directed at the scared looking teenager who is standing closest to him. In response, the teenager grips his cell phone tightly and creases his brows in consternation. He doesn’t understand.
Sonny shakes his head and briefly directs his attention back to Priti, who needs his comfort right now. He gently pushes her hair away from her face and rests his hand on her forehead, feeling an unexpected heat radiate into his palm.
“You’re burning up. Talk to me Halliwell, what's going on?” he pleads.
“Oh God, I think I'm gonna hurl,” Priti moans and rolls over onto her side.
Sonny rubs her back sympathetically. “I'm getting help, hang in there.”
He turns back to the frightened teenager and fixes him with a stern gaze.
“I am an NYPD Detective. This is a medical emergency and I need your phone immediately.” His tone is authoritative and final. The teenager hands over his cell without so much of a squawk of protest.
“This is Detective Sonny Carisi of Manhattan SVU, badge number zero, one, eight, eight. I need a bus to Steep Rock Bouldering, 1506 Lexington Ave. This is a medical emergency.”
“Sonny?” Priti’s voice is barely a whisper, but he is there by her side in an instant.
“What is it? I called a bus, hang in there, help will be here soon.”
“Sonny, I think it's my appendix … or else I’m pregnant and this is an ectopic ... but I doubt it.”
Chapter 2: Part Two
Sonny rides in the back of the ambulance with Priti, holding her hand. She is muttering Rafael’s name over and over. She obviously needs his comfort.
“Come on Barba, pick up,” he mutters in desperation, facing away from her but still holding her hand. He hits redial for the third time. He turns back and gives Priti a reassuring smile as it rings and goes to voicemail yet again. The smile is for her benefit only - it is fake. “Don’t worry, I’ll get him here.”
“He’s probably asleep,” she whispers, looking very very green. Even though she speaks quietly, it’s still loud enough for him to detect the bitterness in her voice and he squeezes her hand a little tighter.
Then she passes out.
Okay, time to try a different tactic. Sonny fumbles around in Priti’s purse as the EMT’s attend to her, finding her cell phone. Yup! Just as he suspected, Lucia Barba is on her ‘in case of emergency’ list.
“I can't believe you called my mother,” Rafael grumbles. He and Sonny sit side by side in the surgical waiting room on hard green chairs the color of puke, the hospital’s sterile light bearing down on them. Sonny glances over at Rafael and smirks. Rafael’s hair is poking up in different directions.
Lucia had kindly gone over to Rafael’s apartment and woken him. She had wanted to stay at the hospital until Priti was out of surgery, but one of her neighbors had just called and asked for help with something and felt that she should go - but she was reluctant. Rafael and Sonny had reassured her that they would send regular updates on Priti’s progress so that she felt more comfortable leaving. Now Sonny and Rafael are alone.
“I can’t believe you slept through five phone calls,” Sonny jests and jostles Rafael’s shoulder. “What are you Rip van Winkle or something? Should I have given you another nineteen years to sleep it off?”
“Did you just compare me to a lazy Dutch villager who tried to escape his nagging wife?” Rafael shoots daggers at Sonny. He is embarrassed and extremely worried, making him more sarcastic than usual.
“I would never call Priti a nag,” Sonny says, “A little jealous maybe. But a nag? No.”
“Don’t say that about my wife!” he snaps.
Sonny put his hands up in defense. “Sorry, man. I thought you knew she could get jealous from time to time.”
“I don’t know where you got that idea,” Rafael says defensively.
“I guess it’s not really jealousy ... I just got the idea that she has been feeling a little … lonely … lately, you know?”
Rafael looks down and sighs, feeling a bit guilty at being neglectful towards Priti even though it was his heavy workload that had been sapping all of his time and energy away lately. Not his fault. Certainly not hers. What else had Sonny just said?
His brows draw together in thought before he looks back up at Sonny. “Nevermind that, where do you get off calling me lazy?”
Sonny stares carefully at Rafael, realizing this isn’t the time for joking. He’s really worried about his wife.
“I’m sorry, man. You know I know you’re not lazy. That’s not why I called you Rip van Winkle. It was just the sleeping thing.”
“Yeah, I got that,” Rafael says sullenly, still embarrassed over sleeping through all of this.
Sonny claps him on the back and looks him in the eye. “She’s gonna be okay, Barba. Seriously. She’s tough. You should have seen her when she fell. It was like an afterthought for her that her appendix might have ruptured. This is nothing for her. She’ll come through it just fine. Trust me on this.”
“She fell? You didn't say that she fell. What the hell happened, Carisi?”
“She didn’t tell you we were going bouldering today?”
“I … I don't … I'm not sure,” Rafael sighs. “Carisi?”
“Thank you for being there for her. I appreciate it. But I need to know exactly what happened.”
“Anytime. You know I care about her, too.”
Sonny gives Rafael a little side hug and begins to explain to him exactly what had transpired, but before he can get his words out they are interrupted by the waiting room doors opening. Priti’s surgeon walks over to them and Rafael and Sonny are on their feet in an instant, the little colour that remained in Rafael’s face draining away rapidly.
The surgeon is still wearing his mask so it is impossible to read his expression. Rafael can't seem to find any words, so Sonny obliges.
“How is she, doc?”
Dr. Webber pulls down his mask to reveal a smile on his face. “Are you Dr. Halliwell’s husband?” he asks Sonny.
“No, that would be me,” Rafael says, more forcefully than he had intended.
“Well,” Dr. Webber redirects his attention to Rafael, “I'm pleased to say that Dr. Halliwell’s surgery was a success. Barring any postoperative complications and the correct antibiotic therapy, there is no reason that she shouldn't make a full recovery.”
Rafael closes his eyes and takes a few deep breaths. It is rare to see him at such a loss for words, so Sonny takes it upon himself to thank Dr. Webber profusely for his services, while shaking his hand.
Dr. Webber tells Rafael that he can see his wife as she is coming out of recovery, but then turns to Sonny and says, “Family only.”
“And that’s my cue,” Sonny says matter-of-factly. “I need to get home to Amanda anyway.”
Oops. He didn’t mean to let that slip. Rafael doesn’t know about them yet, but it is obvious that he is too distracted. He just wants to see his wife. Whew!
As Rafael walks towards the recovery room, Sonny yells after him, “Hey Barba!”
“Call your Mom.”
Rafael rolls his eyes and Sonny walks away smirking.
Chapter 3: Part Three
“Hey there Dr. Halliwell!” Priti is greeted with a cheerful voice as she starts to regain consciousness. “Nice to see you're awake!”
Priti opens her eyes to see the image of a petite blonde woman standing beside her bed, which had been tilted up slightly. “My name is Sandy, I'm one of the OR nurses.”
Priti opens her mouth to greet Sandy, but there is no sound. Her eyes widen in panic.
“Nothing worry about, my dear, just a bit of temporary hoarseness from that breathing tube we use during surgery,” Sandy says calmly.
Priti relaxes and flushes slightly, embarrassed at her reaction.
It is as though Sandy can read her mind, because the next words from her mouth are, “Everyone feels a little disorientated after having an anaesthetic. It doesn't matter how often you've been on the other side of this, it's frightening being the patient.”
Priti smiles her appreciation at Sandy's words.
“So why don't you try saying something else. Here, take a sip of this water first,” Sandy says glancing over Priti’s head and smiling. “Okay. Now, can you tell me, your husband's name?”
“Rafi,” Priti croaks.
“I'm right here, cariño,” Rafael says gently, taking her hand.
Priti looks up in surprise.
“You're here,” she smiles and sighs.
Rafael’s heart clenches, she sounds relieved that he has come, like she half expected him not to. “Of course, did you think I wouldn't?”
“No ... I, you've been busy, I ... I wasn't sure if you'd make it.” The anaesthetic has reduced her inhibitions and she is more forthcoming with her thoughts.
Rafael reaches out and gingerly grazes his fingers across her forehead. “Priti ... I, I'm sorry I've been so busy lately ... I should have made time for you, it's just ... it's been so exhausting. I know, I know it's no excuse but ... I …”
Priti puts her hand up to his lips, silencing him. “I understand, I haven't enjoyed it, or been pleased about it. But I understand. You don't need to apologize.”
Rafael takes her hand and kisses her palm softly, then holds her hand between both of his. “You may not need me to apologize, but I need to. I mean, Carisi had to call Mami to come wake me up.”
“What?” Priti says in a shocked whisper, before she starts laughing. Laughter which is cut off quickly by a sharp stab in her stomach. “Note to self, don't laugh at husband's dorkiness.”
Rafael smiles, then points at the blanket covering Priti. “May I?”
She frowns slightly, but nods. Rafael peels the covers back slightly, revealing the dressing on the right side of her abdomen.
“Is this where is hurts?” he asks, softly placing his hand on her belly.
Priti nods. Rafael rubs her abdomen tenderly. “How's that?” he asks.
“Better. Thank you.”
“Priti, we've been going through a rough time recently…”
“I wouldn't exactly call it a rough time, Raf. Let's just say our schedules have clashed a little.”
“Does it bother you? Do you want me to change?” Rafael asks, worriedly.
“No, Rafi, I … we both have jobs that are busy and important to us. We just need to remember to make time for each other. I guess I’ve just been feeling a little sore about our lack of success at becoming parents. And seeing all our friends happy just makes me feel … lonely.”
“When you get out of here, we need to sit down and …”
“Rearrange our schedules?” Priti laughs and winces simultaneously.
“Make more time for each other.”
“I’d like that.”
After a few moments of silent massaging, Priti notices Rafael’s eyes drooping slightly, his face looks haggard. He is clearly still exhausted. She puts her hand on his to stop his movements.
“I'm going to be here a while, why don't you go home and get some rest.”
“No, I'm not leaving,” he says stubbornly.
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” she smiles and pats the bed, “Come here.”
Rafael lays his head down beside her shoulder and she puts one hand on his back while she runs the other through his hair.
“Priti?” Rafael says sleepily after a while.
Something is tickling the back of his mind now that he is slipping into unconsciousness. Had Carisi said he was going back HOME to Amanda? Did that mean ...?
“Did you know about Carisi and Rollins?” he asks his wife.
“Yeah ... and it's about time, too,” she answers, confirming his suspicions.
Curiosity satisfied, he snuggles into her side and allows himself to succumb to sleep. Priti sighs in a satisfied way, glad that her husband is beside her and her best friend has finally found someone of his own.
Chapter 4: Part Four
Soft sleepy breathing.
A whiny “Noooo...” permeates the dark.
There’s a playful shove.
Then there’s a grumbling and shuffling of sheets.
Followed by a brief silence.
Minutes later she is awakened against her wishes.
“Hey, Amanda, I can’t do this one. She needs to be fed.”
Amanda pushes through the haze of sleep and forces herself to sit up in bed. She looks up bleary-eyed at the man she has so recently let into her life. His blue eyes are drooping as much as hers. He looks like hell.
“You tried everything else?” she asks wearily.
“Yeah, she’s hungry. Trust me.” Sonny is rocking her daughter in his arms soothingly yet she’s still screaming at the top of her lungs, refusing to take his comfort. Hadn’t she just been silent? At least for a second?
Amanda groans, but then holds her hands out to take her baby girl from him. Time to nurse. His favorite time of the night.
“You can go back to sleep you know,” she says wryly.
“I like to watch.”
“I know you do.” There’s a pause and a smile. “Pervert.”
He gets back into bed and she turns her back to him, in an unspoken yet understood invitation to join them. Jesse latches on as Sonny entwines his arms around Amanda from behind, hugging the two of them like a little boy holds his teddy bear at night. They are cocooned in his warmth.
“You two,” she says softly as he gently places his chin on her shoulder and lovingly looks down at the baby she is nursing.
It’s her favorite time of night too.
A loud cry from the crib in the other room startles each of them awake again. It had been a very long night. Jesse just couldn’t seem to stay down.
“I think I know how Barba feels,” Sonny says drily as they both find their way out of bed.
“Yeah?” she asks sleepily as they head into Jesse’s room. “How so?”
“Look at us. We’re the walking dead here, Rollins.”
She barely has enough energy to give the tiniest of laughs.
“What is it this time, Jesse?” Sonny croons as he picks up the infant from her crib.
Jesse has no answer for him but a cry.
They each take turns trying to soothe her, walking around with her, talking softly and rocking her - all to no avail. She had a fresh diaper, she had been recently fed and burped, she wasn’t running a fever. This was just “fussy baby” time. And this wasn’t the first time. They knew from experience that there was nothing they could do but wait it out.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Sonny says when he notices the faint red light coming in from underneath the blinds in her room. The sun was about to rise.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“We should go visit Priti.”
“Now?” Amanda raises her eyebrows in surprise.
“Yeah. It will be a good change of scenery for Jesse. Might just do the trick.”
“I don’t know - ”
“C’mon, do you even think Barba is awake right now? That guy was wiped. He might be by her side right now, but I guarantee you he is sleeping.” Sonny tips his head knowingly. “And Priti won’t appreciate that. If she needs him and he’s snoozing ...? Could be bad times for him.”
“So you just want to go there to help him out? Wake him up? Keep him out of trouble?” she wonders.
“Something like that,” Sonny says and shrugs. “But really more like ... I don’t want Priti to feel neglected, you know. And she has been feeling that way lately.”
“You’re a good friend, Sonny.” Amanda kisses him on the cheek. “You never neglect anyone.”
“She kinda feels like I’ve been neglecting her lately.”
“Yeah, cause of ...” He hesitates, not wanting to say this to Amanda. But he decides to come clean. “Cause of us, you know.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Amanda replies. “I didn’t mean to take you away from your best friend.”
“No, it’s okay. I’ve just gotta find a way to balance you two. Cause her friendship’s important to me too.”
“I know it is ...” Now Amanda hesitates for a bit. “And I know Jesse and I take so much of your time. I mean, look at tonight. You don’t need to be here, helping me out like this. I mean, I appreciate it, but I’ve got it under con - "
“No, Amanda stop.” He puts up a hand. “I want to be here. I want this experience with you and Jesse. Even on nights like these. Don’t take that away from me.”
He puts his hands firmly on her shoulders and looks her straight in the eye, the crying baby between them. “My friendship with Priti is important to me but so are you.”
His tired eyes shine in the dim light.
“So important, you have no idea,” he says and touches her lips gently with his own in a soft caress. Without pulling away he whispers against them, “I think I’m falling pretty hard for you. I . . . ”
Amanda’s heart races in that moment. “You - ?”
“Yeah,” he says almost shyly, looking down and pulling away a bit.
Amanda nods and he lets go of her shoulders. She turns her attention back to Jesse.
“Okay,” he says, resetting his shoulders, rearranging his entire posture in an attempt to shake off the intense emotions that had just passed between them. He goes back to pacing while she rocks the baby gently in her arms. Jesse’s crying shows no signs of letting up.
“I need to make time for both of you in my life and unfortunately that means Priti will have to give up some of what she had been used to. I know she wants what’s best for me, so even though she’s not been too happy about it right now, she gets it. I know she does. She’ll understand that I need to make time for you. For this. For us,” he says returning to Amanda’s side and stroking Jesse’s head softly.
“Let’s go.” Amanda looks up at him. “Let’s go check in on the Barbas.”
Chapter 5: Part Five
Hospital beds are surprisingly comfortable, Priti thinks, as she lay in the private room she had been moved to from recovery. Rafael had climbed into bed with her after the nurse had left and is now sound asleep on her left side, nose buried in the crook of her neck. He had been ever so careful when he slid under the blanket not to disturb her surgical wound. Priti had slept for a while but the rising sun has awakened her and now she is lying peacefully beside her husband watching the nursing staff scurry around outside of her room during their shift change.
Priti hears them out in the hallway. His voice at first, not only because it carries the most, but because that thick Staten Island sound of his is so distinctive. But then she also hears Amanda’s usual “tell em like it is” cadence and realizes it’s them. The two of them - together. What are they doing here so early?
They come into her view just outside of the doorway, but it’s obvious they don’t realize that they are right in front of her room. That she’s watching them.
She sees Sonny lovingly touch Amanda’s back as she rocks and soothes Jesse a bit. Priti feels a stab of jealousy pierce her heart and the bitterness overwhelms her for a minute. She will never be able to have a child, share a child with Rafael in that way. Why does her best friend get this? This happiness that she will never have?
“Yeah, that’s it,” Sonny encourages Amanda quietly, beaming down at her.
And then Priti notices the most astounding thing - Amanda beams right back up at him.
Priti has never seen anyone look at Sonny that way before. It dissolves the bitterness and ignites the tiniest flicker of warmth deep within her heart. She realizes how much he’s needed this in his life. He’s always been the one who was there for others. He’d been the light in her life when she’d felt she had none.
Now finally someone is shining that light upon him and it is wonderful to see. She feels a lump in her throat as the warmth in her heart blossoms. She doesn’t want to deny him this.
Chapter 6: Part Six
A dishwater-gray haired nurse with an old-fashioned nursing cap on her head strides down the hallway towards Sonny and Amanda, who have unwittingly passed Priti’s room not knowing how close they had come to finding it.
“Will you get a load of this?” he whispers under his breath to her, jerking a thumb subtly towards the nurse’s head, positioning his body so only she can see it.
“I know, right? Does anyone wear those things any more?” Amanda whispers back and then clears her throat and smiles brightly at the obviously agitated woman bearing down on them. “Hi there!”
The nurse stops abruptly in front of them, sniffs loudly, and pushes her glasses up further onto her nose. Looking down at them over her nostrils she says sternly, “Well hello to you, too. What do you think you’re doing here? And with an infant nonetheless?”
“Uh well . . . We’re visiting a friend who just got out of surgery. You got a problem with that?” Sonny says defensively, yet he has to try hard to hold back an obnoxious grin. This is ridiculous. He leans in towards her to read her name tag. “Edwina?”
The nurse sniffs even louder now.
“That’s Mrs. Hyde to you, young man!”
Amanda buries a grin by pretending to snuggle Jesse. But still she murmurs ‘young man’ loud enough for Sonny to hear. He turns and purses his lips at her and decides to change tactics.
Turning back to this Mrs. Hyde, he decides instead to plead his case with her. Everyone else probably already makes fun of this poor woman who’s obviously still trapped in the last century- the early part of last century. So he also decides to be kind and lose the snark as he makes his case.
“Sure, okay, Mrs. Hyde.” He starts over with her. Nicely this time. “My friend, she’s a doctor, Priti Halliwell - Doc Halliwell. You see, she just got out of surgery and we’ve heard she’s on your floor. We’re here to see her. Baby in tow!”
He beams brightly as Amanda lifts Jesse up in her arms to show her. Jesse gurgle-smiles at the unimpressed nurse. Her earlier fussiness seems to have evaporated.
“Is that her baby?"
“What? No. Why?”
Mrs. Hyde sniffs again and leans in for a closer peak at Jesse. Amanda raises her eyebrows and looks over at Sonny.
Seemingly satisfied, Mrs. Hyde leans away and pushes back her cap a little. Crossing her arms she says with authority, “Only family can visit at these hours.”
“Well, I guess we’re S.O.L. then Rollins.” Sonny grins at Amanda with a bit of mischief twinkling in his eyes. She knows what he’s thinking and plays along.
“Guess so,” she says.Turning to leave with Sonny she nods to Mrs. Hyde and gives her a parting, “Nice to meet you.”
“‘Nice to meet you my ass,’” Sonny grumbles under his breath as they walk away.
“Hold up,” Amanda says and stops walking once they’ve lost Mrs. Hyde. “I’ve got an idea.”
“Of course you do,” he says and smiles back at her wickedly.
She gives a slight indication of what she’s thinking with a tip of her head towards the nurses station. They see a tall black man in scrubs hustling about like he’s a sports coach setting various plays in motion. He’s running interference, directing other nurses with a large smile, and keeping everything running smoothly and calmly on the ward. They listen for a while and wait for the right time to interrupt him.
“Let me handle this,” Amanda says and they walk over there together. Turning up the Georgia peach in her voice she asks him, “Where you from?”
“Jekyll Island,” he responds with a warm Southern smile. “You?”
“Ah, you’re from Southern Georgia. I’m from just outside of Atlanta.”
“Good to meet you! I’m Henry."
“Amanda,” she replies and nods her head to the right. “And this is Sonny.”
“And of course, a little baby. . . “ Henry smiles warmly at the bundle in Amanda’s arms.
“Yes, Jesse.” She smiles down at her and then says to the man a little conspiratorially, “Look, my friend and I here are trying to see a friend of ours. She just got out of surgery and we want to check in on her, make sure she’s doing all right, you know?”
“I hear that.”
“Well, you know, we ran into this other nurse,” Amanda squints her eyes in that way that makes Sonny grin like a fool every time he sees it. “She said only family could see her. You know, Mrs. Hyde . . . “
“Ah, the lovely Mrs. Hyde,” the man says and nods with full understanding. He turns to one of the other nurses at the station. “Nancy, can you go along and fetch Edwina for me?”
“Oh no, there’s no need to do that,” Sonny says putting his hands in the air and stepping back a little.
“It’ll be okay,” Amanda says and places a hand on his forearm, restraining him. “You’ll see.”
“It sure will,” Henry replies smoothly.
Mrs. Hyde comes striding back down the hallway towards the nurses station looking all put out while she adjusts her nursing cap. When she comes up to them, she takes a moment to look Sonny and Amanda up and down disdainfully before turning to her supervisor.
“Yes, what did you need, young man?”
“Edwina, these nice people are here to see Dr. Halliwell in room 221. Could you kindly show them the way?”
“It’s before visiting hours officially start.”
“And when do they officially start?”
“In five minutes.”
“I think we can let them in a little early, don’t you?” He waits while Mrs. Hyde just crosses her arms grumpily, not answering.
“I think we can do them that small kindness.” Henry says to the older nurse firmly.
“I can’t believe they let a man like you be Head Nurse!” she says angrily and sniffs, looking down her nose at him. “Men, doing women’s work. It’s disgusting.”
“I’ll trust you to refer to me as the Director of Nursing, Edwina.” He commands. “And I’d also prefer it if you didn’t introduce yourself as Mrs. Hyde to our patients and visitors anymore. It’s not very warm or welcoming. Why don’t you call yourself Edwina instead? Okay?”
She answers him with yet another sniff. But then she uncrosses her arms in a slight indication of defeat.
“Come along you, two. Let me show you to your friend’s room,” she says, the full grump strong in her voice - and in her walk as she leads them down the hallway.
Amanda watches Mrs. Hyde walk away from them down the hallway after she’s taken them to Priti’s room. She turns to Sonny and says, “What a witch!”
“Don’t you want to use a B with that word, Rollins?” Sonny jokes.
“Please, there’s children around.” She says with a slight inclination of her head towards Jesse.
He tips his head sideways and his face shoots back its own wry expression of ‘please.’ Then he pops his head into Priti’s room.
“Doc Halliwell! Good to see you!” Sonny beams one of his most bright, cheerful smiles at Priti as he enters her room. Rafael is still laying on her chest, dead to the world. “Enjoy your Holiday?”
Sonny gives Priti a little ‘wink wink’ action.
“I hate it when you call me that,” Priti says testily.
“What? What did I call her?” He opens his arms wide in all innocence and looks towards Amanda for a response.
“‘Doc’? That’s all I heard.” Amanda says all innocent-like herself.
Priti rolls her eyes but can’t help but smile a little. Amanda’s got his back alright, even if it’s technically “against” her. She really hates being called “Doc Holliday” - she’s not some Wild West outlaw - she’s a medical doctor. But still she softens. Sonny needs more people like Amanda in his life. People who will stand up for him, take him seriously, support him. Guess there’s two of them now - herself and Amanda.
Sonny notices Rafael in Priti’s hospital bed. He wonders if that’s regulation and is pretty sure Mrs. Hyde wouldn't think so.
“Is that your personal Endymion laying there, Priti?”
“What obscure reference are you making this time Sonny?”
“Oh, you know, the guy who fell asleep for eternity? Doesn’t seem like Raf will be waking up anytime soon.”
Now Priti remembers the myth and smiles sourly. “You mean the guy who never woke up so his lover Selene had to make him father their kids in his sleep? All fifty of them? What are you implying about my husband?”
“Look Sonny, he’s no slouch. And he takes care of me fine. Just fine.”
“Priti, I didn’t mean anything by it -”
“You know how hard he works! Of course he’s tired.” And unspoken, she thinks bitterly And you know how hard we’re trying to have kids .
Priti is getting so agitated by this point that Rafael starts to stir. “What - ?”
“And the prince awakens,” Amanda says sarcastically.
Sonny turns back to her, “Not helping, Rollins.”
“Sorry,” she mutters and turns her attention back to Jesse.
“What the hell are you doing here, Carisi? Rollins? Is that you? What's going on?” Rafael asks looking baffled.
“Raf, Sonny and Amanda just came to visit us,” Priti lowers her voice to avoid alarming Rafael.
“Priti needs to rest, are you sure you should even be here?” Rafael is always more grumpy than normal when he is woken suddenly.
“It's visiting hours,” Sonny counters.
“Not according to Mrs. Hyde it’s not,” Amanda says sardonically, looking up at Sonny, sharing their own little private joke.
And speak of the devil, the elderly nurse comes into the room as if Satan himself had called. Upon seeing Rafael in bed with a patient she just sputters for a bit, forgetting to sniff. But then she composes herself and shoves her glasses high upon the bridge of her nose.
“You!” She points a threatening finger at Rafael. “Out of that bed! What is wrong with you?”
Rafael scrambles out of the bed in an instant, acutely aware that he is breaking the rules.
Priti chuckles at the state of his hair, still sticking up in different directions.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mrs. Hyde declares as if she’s giving some kind of formal address. “We do not allow -” She makes a big show of counting heads, including Jesse’s. “- four visitors at a time? What is wrong with you people? Don’t you read the signs?”
“Signs? What signs?” Sonny jokes with her, trying to get her goat.
Amanda just rolls her eyes at him followed by a teasing ‘will you quit it?’ look. She tugs at Rafael’s elbow slightly. “Hey Barba, how about we go and get you some coffee?”
Rafael glares at Sonny for a few more moments before turning to Priti. “Is that okay, cariño?”
“Of course, Raf. Go and get your daily caffeine intake. I think Sonny and I need to have a chat. Go on, go,” Priti encourages Rafael to join Amanda.
“Come on, Barba,” Amanda says and leads him out of the room.
Chapter 7: Part Seven
As they leave, Sonny sits down on the edge of the bed.
"So, darlin'" Sonny starts, as he takes Priti's hand, and shakes it gently. "What's going on? It's not like you to be this agitated. I was just joking around. You know I like to kid. Talk to me."
"I know Sonny. Sorry, I just get a bit defensive when people talk about Rafael that way."
"You really love him, don't you?"
"That's why I married him … doofus."
He cocks a smile at that. Something about her calling him 'doofus' always makes him happy. "Well, your protective nature towards your hubby aside, it seems like there's more going on here."
"I don't know what you mean," Priti says, trying to be nonchalant.
He furrows his brow and thinks about that for a minute. But then he finally realizes . . . Oh no!
"Priti - oh my God - about Endymion. I wasn't thinking."
"Don't worry about it Sonny, it doesn't matter."
"Uh, of course it matters! Are you kidding me? I know how much you and Barba are trying to have kids." He smacks himself in the head with his free hand. "I just wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry."
He gives her a forlorn look, complete with baby blue puppy dog eyes. "Forgive me?"
Priti smiles sadly. "There is nothing to forgive. You haven't done anything wrong -"
"Of course I have silly." He smiles teasingly, trying to lift the sadness from her face. "You gotta admit, that was a JV move back there. I really put my foot in it when I brought up Endymion."
He almost laughs, shaking her hand again, trying to get her to join in and poke fun at him. He's leaving the door wide open . . . But she doesn't take the bait.
"It's certainly not your fault that Raf and I …" She trails off, unable to say the words. She can't look at his face, and she lets go of his hand. He looks so happy, it is almost unbearable.
"Hey," he says softly. "It'll be okay. It will happen for you guys."
"Will it? I don't even know anymore. Sonny, I see how happy you are with Amanda and Jesse and it's amazing. . ."
He looks down and smiles into his hands. 'Amazing?' He is so glad his best friend thinks of them that way. Maybe he really does have a good thing going on here after all . . .
He looks back up at Priti and she continues, ". . . but it hurts so much … don't get me wrong, I'm so happy for you, but it just reminds me of what I'm missing."
She almost doesn't want to say it, but she does anyway . . . in a whisper, "Please don't hate me."
"Whoa there, Priti . . . Why would I ever hate you for anything like that? It's okay to feel that way." He looks down into his hands again, not smiling this time, but with the gravity of Priti's situation weighing on him. When he looks back up at her he says, "I just feel so bad that my happiness is causing you pain. I don't want it to be that way."
"Sonny, I don't want my problems to get in the way of your happiness." There are tears in Priti's eyes as she turns to look at him. She reaches out her hand to him and he takes it once again, giving it a comforting squeeze. "You know, I still haven't thanked you for saving my life. You're my hero."
"I'm your hero? What ever did I do to deserve that title?" He smiles a little.
"You took care of me. I appreciate that."
His brows crease. He's not sure he understands.
"People die from sepsis after rupturing their appendix, you should know that Dr. Carisi!"
"Oh yeah, that's right. All those years working Homicide. Yeah, death by appendix rupture - we saw that all the time." He laughs lightly.
"Thank you, Sonny," she says. They are both silent for a moment, before Priti grins and asks, "so are you going to spill on all the details, or are you going to make me interrogate you?"
"I think a little interrogation might be in order -"
Right then Rafael and Amanda return, coffees in hand.
"What's she going to interrogate you about, Sonny?" Amanda asks. "Us?"
She had heard a bit of the conversation coming back in. Sonny turns a little pink. She loves it when he does that and just stands there and grins while he gets up from the bed.
"Come on, now - speak up. I'd like to hear what you have to say." She loves teasing him too. And she's got him skewered. She winks at Priti. "Fire away."
Sonny shuffles a toe and blushes a deeper shade of pink.
"Carisi, you're going to have to think faster on your feet, if you're ever going to make it as a prosecutor," Rafael interjects, grinning into his cup of coffee.
"I think that in this case, I'm going to have to plead the Fifth," Sonny snipes back.
"If you're pleading the Fifth, you obviously have something to hide," Rafael says in a mockingly reasonable voice.
"Yeah, like my feelings," Sonny retorts.
Amanda rolls her eyes. "Like you ever do that."
Sonny looks back at Amanda, pursing his lips and tipping his head to the right. Please. But then when he looks down and takes a small breath she suddenly understands that this isn't a joke to him.
So she moves closer and takes his hand. "So what's got you so shy all of a sudden?"
He doesn't look up. Instead, he pulls her down close to him and whispers into her ear, "It is my feelings, Amanda. I'm not lyin' about that."
"And you can't tell your best friend?"
He looks over at Priti who says, "What?"
"I haven't really told you yet," Sonny says softly. He thinks he's speaking quietly but Rafi and Priti can still hear him anyway.
"Oh," Amanda says and pulls back, straightening up a bit, a little uncomfortable now in front of the audience they have.
Priti and Rafael look at each other. 'Awkward' she mouths at him.
"Uh, yeah guys," Amanda says and starts fussing with Jesse. "I think we should go."
"Oh but … I haven't had a chance to play with Jesse," Priti holds out her hands towards the toddler squirming in Amanda's arms.
Sonny takes a good look at Priti, softness and amazement lining his eyes. She really will be okay with this. He smiles warmly at his friend as Amanda transfers Jesse to Priti's awaiting arms. We'll all be okay here.
"You know, we'll be okay here with Jesse, if the two of you need to … you know, talk," Rafael says as he slips off his shoes, nudges Sonny out of the way and climbs into the hospital bed beside his wife.
Priti rolls her eyes at her husband before snuggling into his embrace with Jesse.
"Yeah, we'll talk alright," Amanda retorts, shaking her head at Rafael.
Sonny joins her side and they link up at the elbow. He kisses her on the head and says softly, "Look at them."
"I must say, the staring is a little creepy," Rafael comments while Jesse grabs his finger and jams it into her mouth. "And that's disgusting."
"Speak for yourself," Sonny retorts. "C'mon Rollins, let's give them a little privacy."
"Give them some privacy?" Amanda shakes her head. "Okay Sonny, whatever you say."
Chapter 8: Part Eight
Sonny takes Amanda out into the hallway and leads her down about halfway to some benches that have been stolen from the wrong waiting room. This floor is red and blue - the benches are green and purple.
"We should be far enough away now," Amanda says quietly even though she is right - they are far enough away and she doesn't need to whisper.
"Don't be coy. You had something to say."
"Uh yeah," he scratches his head and slouches back uncomfortably on the bench. "About that. . ."
"You have some feelings . . .?" She brings her own hand up to his head, where his hand was still scratching. She stops him from his agitated motions and takes it in her own. She smiles radiantly. "Am I going to like them?"
"Uh, I don't know Rollins. That's why I haven't told you."
"You can call me Amanda."
"Uh yeah, right." Why is he so nervous all of a sudden? He's felt this way for a long time. Long before they even got together. He's never been one to be shy. He tries the chicken's route.
"You know," he says and gives her a look. He's hoping he doesn't have to say it out loud.
"No. I don't know." She smiles wickedly. She's skewered him again. She's going to make him say it.
"Are you going to make me say it?"
Yes. The wicked grin on her face deepens as she plays innocent. "Say what?"
Arggh! "All right! You want me to say it?"
"Fine, I will."
"Fine, then do."
"Alright Rollins, I love you. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"Oh my God!" the throws his hands up in frustration and they come down to slap his knees. "There's no winning with you, is there Amanda?"
"Yes, there is," she says huskily, finally letting him off of the hook. "I love you, too."
She draws him into a kiss just as -
"Oh no no! No you don't! There will be no canoodling in here!"
They freeze, heads less than an inch away from each other. They both mouth 'canoodling?' to each other before looking up to see Mrs. Hyde standing there - her antique hat all cock-eyed on her head.
"You look a little 'askew' there, Edwina," Sonny jokes.
Amanda punches him lightly.
"That's Mrs. Hyde to you!" she states and sniffs, bringing her hand up to the bridge of her nose yet once again.
"How far up can she press those glasses?" Sonny mutters quietly to Amanda. "She's going to run out of nose."
Amanda giggles softly.
"Hurrumph!" Mrs. Hyde walks away.
Towards Priti's room.
Sonny bolts off of the bench and runs past her, making it back to the room in record time. It should be enough time . . .
"Barba! Yo, Barba!"
He sees some movement in the bed, but isn't really looking - he keeps ducking his head outside the door to check on the progress of Mrs. Hyde.
"Come on, man. Get out of bed. The nurse is coming!" He waves at Rafael. There's no response from him.
"Huh?" Priti mumbles distractedly, still playing with Jesse.
"The evil one. Hurry!"
"Oh crap," Priti breathes, then pokes Rafael in the abdomen. "Raf, get up."
He had, of course, been snoozing by her side. He wakes with a start and looks around slightly disorientated. "What?"
"Barba! This is no time to sleep on the job!" Sonny says anxiously just as -
"Get out of that bed this instant!" exclaims Mrs. Hyde, pushing past Sonny to enter the room.
"Dude, you're busted!" Sonny gives up and just laughs lightly, shaking his head. Oh well, he tried.
Rafael, in his haste to follow Mrs. Hyde's command, lunges out of the bed. Having forgotten to disentangle his legs from the bed sheets, he lands unceremoniously on the floor beside it.
"Rafi!" Priti shrieks, and holding Jesse close to herself, she leans over the side to see if Rafael is hurt.
Sonny leaps to assist Rafael just as Amanda finds her way to the room.
Mrs. Hyde is standing above Rafael, just shaking her finger at him, "What did I tell you, young man?"
Amanda can't contain it once she sees the scene spread out before her. She bursts out laughing.
Sonny looks back at her, agitated. "A little help here?"
"I don't need any help," Rafael grumbles. "Especially not from the two of you."
He gets up and dusts himself off.
"Thank you, Mrs. Hyde, that will be all," Rafael says in an authoritative and dismissive voice.
"But, but -" she stammers, taken off guard.
"I said that will be all. You can leave now."
Mrs. Hyde's eyes dart back and forth. She's confused. "Um, okay. If you won't be needing anything."
"No, we're fine here. Thank you." Rafael turns his back on her.
Amanda is trying to stifle that belly laugh again. Sonny had mouthed 'can it' to her during the little exchange that had just occurred between Rafael and Mrs. Hyde because if she laughs t will not help the situation.
She is able to hold it in just long enough for Mrs. Hyde to leave.
"What was that?" Sonny exclaims, beaming back at his mentor. He's impressed.
"Rafi, are you alright?" Priti is still concerned about his physical wellbeing - Rafael has a habit of putting on a show.
"I'm just fine. Carisi, Rollins," Rafael turns to face them. "I think we've had enough for today, don't you? I suggest you take your baby home and let my wife get some rest."
"Seems like you're the one needing the rest," Amanda mutters, lifting Jessie out of Priti's arms.
"Thanks for coming by Amanda. See you later, Jesse!" Priti coos at the sleepy baby.
Sonny flops down onto the bed and envelops Priti in his long gangly arms, ignoring Rafael's scowling face.
"Thanks for coming, Sonny," Priti whispers into his ear.
"Always," he whispers back before placing a peck on her cheek and following Amanda out the door.
Priti turns to look at Rafael, who is still glaring after Sonny.
"This bed is getting a little cold," Priti says innocently, stroking the empty space beside her.
"I'm not sure Mrs. Hyde will be so forgiving if she finds me in here again."
"I'm not sure your wife will be so forgiving if she has to sleep alone."
"Touché!" Rafael climbs back in gingerly, wincing slightly as he puts weight on his arm - the one that had smacked the floor first when he fell out of bed.
As soon as she is tucked comfortably in his embrace, Priti looks up into her husband's face. "Rafi, are you sure you're alright?"
"I'll be alright when you come home." He looks down at her sadly. "Priti, I'm sorry I've been away with work so much. I promise, I'm going to try and get some time off."
"Wouldn't that be nice," Priti smiles.
"Maybe we could try a bit harder on starting our future and expanding our family?" Rafael raises his eyebrow and gives her a small sultry smile.
Priti rolls her eyes and laughs, and this time it's her time to wince.
"Okay, maybe we can we save the sex for when you're feeling a little more up to it," Rafael concedes comically. He pulls her closer, as she closes her eyes. His heart aches to think that he could have lost her. Soon her breathing is slow and deep and Rafael strokes her hair gently, promising himself that he will be more watchful in future.
Chapter 9: Part Nine
The iconic picture of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J day at the end of WWII was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Sonny and Amanda head out, spying Mrs. Hyde down the hallway. He turns and gives her a wicked smile.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?"
She smiles back and shrugs. "Probably."
"I think Mrs. Hyde needs some V-J Day, no?"
Amanda looks over at the ridiculous nursing cap the crotchety old woman is wearing and grins from ear to ear. Yes, she probably would like that. She sets down Jesse and before she knows it Sonny yells out, "Hey Edwina! Watch this!"
He grabs Amanda, tilts her back and kisses her fiercely. She cocks her foot a little so that they look just like the iconic picture of the nurse being kissed by the sailor in Times Square at the end of World War II.
Instead of provoking Mrs. Hyde's wrath, she stares at them with hearts in her eyes and clasps her hands together. After they break apart and just stare at each other for a while, Mrs. Hyde finds her eyes getting a little moist and has to pull out her emergency Kleenex.
Sonny smiles back at her and winks.