It wasn’t a secret. Sonny considered himself to be pretty much an open book, especially when it came to his squad. Just he never had his shirt off around them, and he hadn’t worn short sleeves to work since he was a uni. But one day when Ken brought Jaden in to say hello to his grandfather, the kid spit up on Sonny’s shirt.
He’d never been one for modesty and didn’t even think twice before peeling off his dress shirt and asking for the baby back. He’d been wearing a tank top instead of his normal crew neck undershirt, leaving the simple design on full display. It was a stylized compass on his outer bicep, with an arrow pointing straight up towards his shoulders, but it wasn’t at true north. If it had been it would have just been a compass and the numbers woven into the lines wouldn’t have meant anything.
“Whoa,” Rollins circled him to get a better look at it. “I never knew you had a tattoo.”
He chuckled, trying to keep the conversation good natured, “I got it a year or two after I started here. Wasn’t really a big deal at the time.”
“Oh come on, what’s it mean?” Fin hit the nail right on the head, asking the one question Sonny hadn’t wanted to answer. Ken even took his son back, so he didn’t have anything to distract him from the topic.
“It’s north if you’re holding a compass towards New York from my favorite spot in Palisades Interstate Park. I used to go hiking there.” His smile was tight. He hadn’t been back to that spot since he took the picture of his compass for the artist. It was hard going back there alone, and going with Bella or anyone else just didn’t feel right anymore. The park was haunted now with the ghosts of fond memories.
Rollins nodded, studying the ink, “5.25.16. What are the numbers for? Coordinates?”
It would have been so easy to lie, but Fin had been a ranger and someone was bound to realize sooner or later that the number wasn’t long enough to be a place. “It’s a date. The compass, it’s in memory of a friend.”
Everyone nodded, but no one really understood. They didn’t know off the tops of their heads. It wasn’t there fault. It had been two years and they’d been through a lot since then, but it still hit Sonny like a punch to the gut that they didn’t recognize May 25th as an important date. They’d all been there. Well, not Ken, he had an excuse.
“What friend?” Amanda asked gently, but her tone did nothing to soothe him. Not when he felt she should have been grieving too.
Both of his coworkers went pale. It didn’t give him the satisfaction he thought it would. It just made him get a shirt even faster than he would have if Rollins hadn’t drawn attention to the design.
The park was closing soon, but Sonny didn’t want to stand. He was comfortable, laying in the grass and watching the sky change from shades of blue to shades of red and orange. It had been a perfect day, a small respite from the tragedy they faced everyday at work. It also had been the first time they’d gotten a day off together in over a month.
“So you’re really leaving us?” he asked the air, not bothering to turn his head to his companion.
“Just a couple more years. Long enough to get a teaching degree. You know I can’t do this forever.”
Sonny squeezed his hand, “Then why do it at all. We can both get out of this. Barba’s setting up an interview with the Brooklyn DA for me. If that goes well, I can leave SVU, do something safer, where people don’t get shot.”
“We’d be settled.” A deep laugh came from his left, “A teacher and a lawyer in a little house in the suburbs. Hell, we could move to Long Island.”
His heart caught in his throat. “I didn’t know you were thinking that far ahead. I mean, it just sounds so domestic. So permanent.”
Mike turned so he was facing Sonny. His eyes were emeralds in the setting sun, the greenest things he had ever seen. He bought their joined hands closer and gave them a quick kiss, “I want permanent with you and if that’s too much, I’ll be happy with whatever you can give.”
When Sonny got back to his little apartment, alone since they still maintained that they lived separately (at least until Mike’s lease was up), he marked his calendar, the day he knew he was going to marry this man. He’d give it another year, maybe two, but on May 20th he was going to propose. Unless Mike beat him to it, of course.
Sonny woke with a start, taking deep breaths to try and calm his racing heart. He hated that this sweet memory had become a nightmare. He feared going back to it in his sleep because he knew it would end with him waking up alone and broken. The latter was nothing new though.
He’d tried to move on. It had been two years since Mike and he still couldn’t have a relationship last longer than three weeks. He felt like he was cheating on him, or that dating someone else would lead to forgetting Mike, but then that was the rationale that led to him getting the tattoo in the first place.
Originally, it was going to be a Celtic cross with Mike’s name and some sweet message surrounding it. “R.I.P. Michael Patrick Dodds” would forever emblazoned on his arm or back, but Bella suggested something a little more meaningful. A simple symbol that represented the climax of their short relationship, the moment when Sonny knew he would never get over Mike, no matter how much time passed. But as nice as the compass was, on nights like this Sonny would have preferred to have a ring.