Rome was a city of dreams, of ruins, good food, and movie stars. Carmen had wanted to visit Rome since she was a small girl, her Gran would watch old movies with her, her favorite was ‘Roman Holiday’ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
“A true romance,” her Gran would say before pushing the tape into the player and pressing play.
Now Carmen was finally there, in a city which seemed so foreign and yet so familiar. Excitement buzzed through her veins as she disembarked the Train at Roma Termini and made her way to the hostel she way staying at only a five minute walk away.
Soon she arrived at a laundromat, the front office of the Funny Palace Hostel, she had a private room booked. The check in process was easy and soon she was up in her tiny private room overlooking the street, not the best view but Carmen didn’t care. She had finally made it to Rome, she was about to have her dream vacation in her dream city.
She went to a restaurant round the corner, had some fried Zucchini flowers and a pasta dish before she finally climbed into bed and attempted to sleep away her jet lag. Tomorrow would be the first of seven days in the city, she couldn’t wait to get out and explore.
The Piazza della Republica seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t exactly what Carmen expected. Though the curved buildings were beautiful and the fountain quaint she expected something more. Instead Carmen found herself drawn to the Basilica which appeared to be built into the ruins of something far more ancient. She leaned against the railing and snapped some pictures before she turned and hit something solid, her hands immediately darted to her purse.
“Mi scusi,” a voice said politely before the tone changed dramatically. “Carmen? Of all the places.”
Of all the places indeed.
Detective Carisi stood before her looking quite unlike his workplace self. He was wearing baggy cargo shorts and a tee shirt, a bulky camera was hanging around his neck. The smile on his face was wide, causing his brilliant blue eyes to crinkle. He looked genuinely delighted to see her.
“Detective,” Carmen nodded, her smile warm.
“You can drop the formalities,” the detective chuckled. “We’re on vacation, call me Sonny.”
“Okay,” she smiled before testing the name. “Sonny.”
The detective flushed red, a goofy smile lit up his face. “What brings you to Italy anyway?”
“Since Mr. Barba has left the DA’s office I’ve found myself with some free time,” Carmen explained, watching the detective’s face carefully. “Plus I’ve always wanted to come to Rome.”
“First time eh?” Sonny waggled his eyebrows. “Mine too.”
“I thought you would have visited Italy before,” Carmen shook her head as she fought a smile.
Another burst of laughter spilled from the detective. “No Carisi has stepped foot in Italy since my great-grandparents.”
Carmen was curious. “No desire to visit?”
“I love my family,” Sonny shrugged. “But they have no interest in travel.”
“And what sparked your interest?” She teased.
“Good food and wine,” Sonny’s smile was soft. “And yours?”
“Roman Holiday,” Carmen felt her face flush red.
The detective’s smile grew a little wider. “Hepburn or Peck?”
“Excuse me?” Carmen choked.
The detective wasn’t “Who sparked your interest?”
“Neither,” Carmen chuckled. “It was my Gran’s favorite movie.”
The detective’s gaze softened at that, but only for a moment. He grabbed Carmen by the elbow and walked her out of the way of the other pedestrians, a large smile on his face. Once they were out of the way he turned to face her. “How would you like to have your own Roman Holiday?”
“That’s why I’m here?” She lifted a brow.
Sonny threw his head back and laughed. “I mean do you want to check out some of the movie’s sights with me?”
Carmen felt her mouth twist into a soft smile. “I’d love to.”
A short subway ride later, the unlikely pair found themselves opposite a fish fountain in Piazza Barberini. Sonny insisted on taking photos of every inch of the fountain before dragging Carmen down a long street to take in the city. Carmen had tried to point out that they could have rode the subway the entire way, but the detective fixed her a strange look as though to say ‘why would you do that?’
The street was stereotypically Italian. It was probably plain to someone who lived there, but to Carmen it looked like something out of a movie. Carmen had to begrudgingly accept that the detective had made a good choice. It wasn’t long until they found themselves at the Trinita Dei Monti.
The church was beautiful, at least the parts not covered by scaffolding were. Carmen took in the view of the square before looking down the widest staircase in Europe. She ran a hand over the stone rail before making her descent, a small flutter in her stomach. Audrey Hepburn had descended these exact steps.
When she reached the middle balcony Carmen let out a breath she hadn’t realized that she had been holding. She felt as though she had experienced a little history. She turned to look for Sonny, unimpressed at what she saw.
He hadn’t even started the descent, he was still at the top, camera fixed to his face. Carmen couldn’t help but roll her eyes, even so a small smile formed at the corner of her mouth. She shook her head and took a few pictures before making her way further down the large staircase.
When she finally reached the bottom she glanced back, unable to see the detective. She did spot a gelato store nearby, unable to resist the treat she made her way into the store and purchased herself a small tub. She moved back to the stairs, climbed a few and sat down. She ate her gelato and watched the other tourists climb up and down the stairs.
When Sonny finally appeared he looked windswept and tired. He eyed Carmen’s empty gelato cup with a small frown. “I’m hungry.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” the words fell from her mouth.
Sonny huffed a laugh. “Interested in getting some lunch?”
“How long did you spend taking photos?” Carmen looked at her watch and saw that it was almost two thirty. “Wow.”
“I like photography,” Sonny shrugged.
Carmen laughed. “An hour isn’t a like, it’s a choice.”
“Sure,” Sonny beamed. “And I choose to take photos.” He offered her his hand. “Now come on, I’m starving.”
Lunch was overpriced pizza, but it was still delicious. Carmen couldn’t believe how much she had eaten, Sonny though patted his stomach. A content smile graced his handsome features.
Then they were off once more. They made their way down Via Margutta, admiring the galleries and antique stores along the way. Sonny made a point to stop at number 51, where Joe’s apartment was located. As they made their way through winding streets they soon found themselves lost.
“I swear we were supposed to go down this street,” Sonny muttered as he tried to utilize Google Maps on his smartphone.
Carmen couldn’t help but sigh. “Where were you trying to take me?”
“The Trevi Fountain,” Sonny answered, his face tinged pink.
“Let me check my map,” Carmen chuckled pulling out her phone. Within moments she had worked out where they were. “It’s a twenty minute walk in the opposite direction.” She watched in amusement as Sonny’s face scrunched up. “But if we keep going this way we’ll reach the Piazza del Popolo.”
“Lead the way,” Sonny stepped forward and made a sweeping gesture with his arm.
They wandered down the street and into the Piazza, Sonny stopping to take photos every meter and Carmen rolling her eyes in amusement as they did so. The Piazza was huge and absolutely breathtaking with a large obelisk in the middle. Carmen couldn’t help but walk up to it and marvel at its sheer size, one of many which had been stolen from Egypt she was sure.
As she walked around the base she caught Sonny taking a photo of her. Carmen couldn’t help but flush red at the thought. She stalked over and scowled. “What are you doing?”
“The sunset,” Sonny took off his camera and spun it around. “See?”
Carmen had to admit the photo he had taken was stunning, the image of herself bathed in the warm glow of the sinking sun was something she hadn’t expected. Sonny Carisi had actual talent. She flashed the man a smile, he was full of surprises.
“Want to walk to the fountain?” He murmured softly.
“I’d love to.”
By the time they reached the fountain, the last rays of the sun had disappeared and twilight had descended on the city. Even so the Piazza was still packed with tourists enjoying the view of the now dramatically lit fountain by night. Sonny of course was one of them, he had pushed himself to the front of the crowd and was proceeding to take photos of every inch of the impressive structure.
Carmen had ulterior motives. She dug into her purse and pulled out four bronze pennies, two for herself, and two for her Gran. She whispered a simple ‘I love you’ to the coins before tossing them one at a time into the fountain.
“You’re only supposed to throw two of them,” Sonny chuckled as he appeared by her side.
Carmen rolled her eyes. “They’re not all for me.”
“Your Gran?” Sonny beamed, eager to learn all he could about her. Carmen nodded gently, unable to bring herself to smile. “It’s growing late. Dinner and then I’ll walk you back to your hotel?”
“Hostel,” she couldn’t help but correct. “I’d like that.”
Sonny took her arm and began to ramble on about their most recent case and how excited he was that he was being recognized for his contributions. Carmen allowed herself to be lost inside the sweet, mellow tones of his voice and for a moment she could relax. They were just two people without a care in the world.
The Colosseum was imposing, larger than life, just how Carmen had imagined it. As she moved towards the massive structure she couldn’t help but laugh at the tourists taking photos with the locals dressed as cartoonish versions of gladiators. She lifted her camera to take a few photos before heading towards the ticket booth. As she drew closer she grew dismayed, the line was long and she didn’t know if she wanted to wait.
“Fancy running into you here,” a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
Carmen whipped around to find herself standing face to face with Sonny Carisi for the second time in less than twenty four hours. The grin on his face and the sparkle in his eye suggested this meeting was not accidental.
“Sonny?” Carmen teased. “Are you following me?”
“Nah,” He shrugged her off, a devilish smirk on his face. “I just had a strong idea that you’d be here. Want to see the Colosseum with me?”
He held out two entry tickets and Carmen’s eyes went wide with disbelief. “How did you get those?”
“I waited in line at the Forum before coming here,” he grinned offering her his arm. “Shall we?”
Carmen took the offered arm gladly, holding her head high as the two of them glided past the crowds. Walking through the building itself was a marvel, she could practically hear the crowds roar and the swords clash. They slowly climbed the stairs up the side of the building and into the stadium itself.
The view was impossible to describe, photos failed to do it justice. Even Sonny had yet to pick up his camera, he was completely floored by the sight before them. Eventually the two of them had to move to make way for the crowds which was enough for Sonny to pick up his camera. Carmen even took a few pics of her own as they made their way through the seats and onto the stage itself.
Looking up into the stadium from the stage at the stadium was another experience entirely. Carmen had never felt so small in her life, she couldn’t help but reach out and take Sonny’s hand in her own and squeezing it gently. The two of them eventually broke apart and left the stadium in silence, matching grins on their faces as they emerged from the ruin.
“Wow,” Sonny laughed, his smile could light up the entire stadium. “That was just-- wow.”
“That was amazing,” Carmen agreed with a laugh.
“These tickets are good for the Forum and the Palatine if you’re interested?”
Carmen couldn’t help the grin that spread across her face. “I am very interested.”
Carmen didn’t see Sonny on Wednesday, he had told her that he wanted to attend the Papal service. She smiled and nodded, hoping that it was everything he needed it to be. Instead she made her way to the Villa Medici and explored the halls where the powerful family once roamed.
Thursday was spent at Vatican city. As she explored the intimidating building she wondered if Sonny had walked these same steps the day before. Her afternoon ended at the Vatican museums, exploring the churches collection of artifacts and art. But it was the Sistine Chapel that really took her breath away. The painting that adorned the ceiling was more spectacular that she could have dreamed, she wished she could have shared it with Sonny.
Soon Friday rolled around and Sonny had yet to appear again. Even though she had a wonderful time exploring the Borghese museum and Gallery and the surrounding area she found herself missing the detective.
When Saturday dawned she decided to drag herself to another location she was desperate to visit, the Mouth of Truth. When she finally arrived she noticed a familiar mop of dirty brown hair walking towards the church entrance. She couldn’t help but dash over and tap his shoulder.
Sonny laughed after he spun around and saw her. “Carmen?”
“Sonny,” She couldn’t help but join in his mirth.
“I’ve been looking for you,” he murmured softly. “I can’t believe that you’re here.”
“Me neither,” Carmen’s smile was soft. “I’ve been constantly checking over my shoulder.”
“Spend the day with me?” The question was earnest.
Carmen eagerly agreed. “Yes.”
They walked towards the line of people waiting to get in to see the bizarre attraction. Sonny couldn’t help but regale Carmen with the history of the ‘Bocca della Verita’.
“It’s a marble carving, probably a drain cover of the sea god Oceanus,” Sonny eagerly explained as the line moved closer and closer. “Rumor has it that if you’re a liar and you stick your hand in his mouth he’ll sever it clean off your arm.” His tone turned sinister and it dawned on Carmen that they were at the front of the line.
There was an elderly man accepting donations for the privilege to stick your hand in the carvings mouth and take a photo. “You want to try?”
“Why not?” Sonny shrugged before handing the man a coin and Carmen his camera. “Take a few pictures okay?”
He flashed Carmen a big grin before slowly inserting his hand in the mouth of the carving. Suddenly all the color drained from his face and his arm disappeared. Carmen burst out laughing before she took several photos of Sonny’s pained expression.
Then it was her turn.
She handed the man her donation and walked over to the carving. For something so old and weather beaten it was still remarkably detailed. She gave herself a moment to take in the beauty before tentatively sticking her hand in the carving’s mouth. She gave it a moment before she quickly removed it, unsure about why she felt so nervous sticking her hand in an old marble drain cover. As they left Sonny cocked a brow at her, a smirk adorned his features.
“What?” Carmen asked, the smirk irritating her.
“You were nervous,” Sonny teased. “Why? Have you been telling lies?”
“Come on,” he continued to prod, “You can tell me.”
“Can you just leave it?” Carmen muttered.
His tone changed. “Of course, let’s get something to eat then.”
“Do you always think of food?” Carmen couldn’t help the giggle that escaped.
“In times of crisis?” Sonny cocked a brow. “Yes.”
“Lead the way.”
They walked towards the city center, their shoulders bumping as they crowded together. Each time they connected Carmen felt a shiver run through her. She looked over to Sonny, his frame shrouded by the bright sun. It made her heart race. It was becoming harder to deny, since literally bumping into him Carmen had developed a crush, and if his smile was anything to go by he had as well.
Carmen took a deep breath before she took Sonny’s hand in her own. He looked down at her, a huge goofy grin on his face. Carmen pointedly walked forward, not wanting to make eye contact with the detective. Though she was secretly pleased when he squeezed her hand.
They found a small cafe hidden in a back alley, they dined on freshly cooked pasta and drank cheap wine. They talked about their last few days exploring the city, what they had seen and what they hadn’t been able to.
Sonny discussed the Papal Service and how it felt to be a single face in a crowd of hundreds. They both discussed their awe of the Sistine Chapel and how insignificant they felt staring up at the breathtaking painting. Unlike Carmen, Sonny had spent that afternoon visiting the Capuchin crypts and marveled in a different kind of art.
Once lunch was finished they made their way to the Pantheon and marveled at the structure, Sonny spouting off random history as they explored the building. By the time they were finished the sun was beginning to creep low.
“Come on,” Sonny grinned. “I have one more place I’d like to take you.” He took her hand once more.
They walked past the Palazzo Altemps and up to the Palazzo Borghese where Sonny couldn’t help but stop and take photos. As they headed towards the river Carmen spotted a familiar building in the background, the Castel Sant’Angelo.
As they crossed the bridge Carmen felt her heart race and her palms sweat. The building itself was large and imposing, fitting for a tomb she supposed. She released Sonny’s hand and started to stalk towards the building, eager to get inside.
She was halfway through the building before she realized that she had lost the blond. A small smile graced her features at the thought of Sonny still standing in front of the building getting pictures of the facade. She shook her head at the thought before continuing to explore the structure.
When she finally reached the rooftop she couldn’t help but gawp. The city of Rome lay before her in all of its glory, bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. Her heart ached at the sight, she wished her Gran were here to see it.
“Carmen?” Sonny’s voice followed by a gentle hand to her shoulder woke her from her daze. She spun around to face the detective, his face was soft with concern. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she brushed him off.
“No you’re not,” he said softly. Sonny reached out to cup her jaw before swiping a large thumb across her cheek, she felt a wetness smear across her face. “You’ve been crying.”
She looked up at Sonny, a soft smile was playing at the corner of his mouth. Carmen felt her heart throb and her breath hitch. She only had one thought running through her mind. “My Gran would have loved you.”
“What?” His expression was puzzled.
“My Gran,” Carmen continued slowly. “She would have taken one look at you and she would have known exactly who you were. She would have seen how kind, how wonderful you are. She would have loved you.”
“You don’t understand,” Carmen took a deep breath before looking into Sonny’s deep blue eyes. “She’s--”
“I know,” Sonny wrapped her in his arms. “And for the record I’m glad that she would have liked me.”
“Sonny,” Carmen smiled gently before taking a step forward. “Thank you.”
“For making this vacation everything I needed it to be,” she answered truthfully. “It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you.”
“You too.” The blond practically beamed.
A gentle smile flickered onto Carmen’s face. The look on Sonny’s face was warm and gentle and the sun was setting over the city of Rome. There was a question burning on her tongue, instead she turned away and asked another. “What happens when we return to New York?”
The question clearly confused the detective. “What do you mean?”
“Do we pretend this weekend never happened?” She continued, a small frown on her face. “Do I go back and pretend that everything is normal? Or--”
“Or?” He prompted.
She took a deep breath. “Do I seize the moment now?” She looked back at Sonny, the man looked truly magnificent bathed in the last rays of the sun. “Can I kiss you?”
“Are you always like this?” Sonny cocked a brow, a gesture he surely learned from his former mentor. The seductive smirk on his face sent a shiver down her spine. “Do you really have to ask?”
“Yes,” she breathed before reached up to wind a hand into his slicked back hair. She tugged him gently towards her before placing a soft kiss on his lips.
Sonny’s hands immediately went to her waist, his broad fingers made her feel tiny in comparison. The kiss itself felt like a breath of fresh air, sparks coursed through her body. As they pressed closer together, their bodies aligning perfectly, Carmen felt lost in the kiss. She had never felt anything more perfect, more wonderful, more fulfilling in her entire life.
Standing on the rooftop of the Castel Sant’Angelo, kissing Sonny Carisi, a man she could very easily fall in love with, felt like a dream. A fantasy even. One that Carmen wasn’t quite ready to give up.
When they finally broke apart, their foreheads pressed together and silhouetted by the setting sun, Carmen knew that she was finally getting her happy ending. She sent a silent prayer to her Gran before turning to look at the view once more. Because being there, wrapped in Sonny Carisi’s arms watching the city of Rome slowly slight up? It was the perfect end to a true Roman Holiday.