Dominick “Sonny” Carisi looked up from his computer screen at the light knock on the door to see Noah Barba standing in his doorway. He leaned back in his chair, stretching his long arms over his head, happy for a break.
“Hey, Noah! What are you doing in the city? Thought you’d be cramming for mid-terms.”
The young man shook his head but didn’t move from the doorway. “No, mine aren’t til the end of the month.”
“Here to see Jess, then? Maybe you can drag her away from her books for an afternoon. Is it as nice out there as it looks?”
Noah and his adopted daughter had been dating since the previous spring and the man couldn’t be happier. If he had been asked to hand pick someone for her, Noah would have been at the top of his list. The young man was smart, well mannered, funny -- but he honestly didn’t expect anything less of Olivia and Rafael Barba’s son, who was a poster child for the nurture over nature philosophy. Anyone who met him and didn’t know better would swear he possessed Rafael’s genes for as much as he was like him. The third year law student fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to another, not having moved from his position in the doorway. He glanced out the window behind the lawyer’s desk and could see the changing leaves in the distance, not answering as his palms began to sweat, thinking about why he had taken the train from Boston to visit his girlfriend’s father.
“What? Oh, sorry, Uncle Sonny. No, um, actually I came here to see you.”
“Me? A law school question? Your dad is probably better equipped to help you than me.”
“No, no, it’s not about school.”
“Okay, then. Well, come on in, son. Take a load off. Want something to drink?” The former detective waved toward the mini fridge in the corner.
“No, thank you.” Noah didn’t think he could fit anything into his stomach with all the butterflies that had taken up residence there. He forced his feet to move toward one of the chairs on the other side of the desk from the ADA and sat down. As he did, the box he’d picked up before coming to 1 Hogan Place and put in his pocket, poked him in the leg; a reminder of why he was there. Rubbing his palms on his jeans, he took a breath and exhaled audibly. Now Carisi looked at him with concern.
“Noah, is something wrong? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“No!” he said louder than he meant to, then again, more quietly. “No. No, trouble.”
Noah didn’t know why this was so hard. Uncle Sonny had always been easy to talk to. He ran a hand through his hair, sending the brown curls askew.
“I, um, I wanted to talk to you about Jesse. Jesse and I,” Noah said, watching the older man’s blue eyes narrow with suspicion. Shit, he thought his heart pounding, he thinks she’s pregnant or something. “It’s nothing bad. Honest. You know I love Jesse.”
That earned him a small nod and Noah felt a trickle of sweat run down his neck. He swallowed but his mouth had gone dry and his tongue was sticking to his teeth. This was worse than sitting across the breakfast table from his parents and Jesse’s and telling them they’d slept in the same bed in the motel when they broke down on the way to the Outer Banks and then again in the beach house and that they had feelings for each other. He stood up.
“Think I’ll have that drink now,” he mumbled, going to the mini fridge and removing a bottle of water. He turned and held one up. Carisi raised his arm and Noah tossed it to him. Closing the fridge, he twisted the top off and took a long drink.
“Better?” The older man asked. Noah nodded and sank back down into the chair he’d vacated. “So you were saying how much you love Jesse,” Carisi prompted. He knew exactly where this was going, but he was enoying watching the young man squirm a little.
“Yes.” Noah drew up his courage and plunged ahead, speaking quickly. “I love Jesse and I want your permission to ask her to marry me.”
Leaning back in the chair so he could work his hand into his jeans pocket, he pulled out the black jeweler’s box and put it on the desk with a thunk. The lawyer’s eyes widened with legitimate surprise. He was expecting the question, not that Noah had already purchased a ring; even though Liv and Rafael had told him and Amanda they thought their son was shopping for one since he’d withdrawn a sizeable amount from his savings account. When Noah got no response, he continued arguing his case.
“Listen, Uncle Sonny, I know we’re both still in school, but we graduate in December --”
“Overachievers,” the older man teased. Noah was finishing a semester early and his daughter just one semester over four years after double majoring in forensic science and criminal psychology.
“-- and Jess is going to the academy but not until the spring, and I already have two job offers I just need to decide which one I want to accept, and I thought if we got engaged now we could get married before she starts the academy -- “
“Whoa. Noah, son, take a breath,” said Carisi, holding up his hands.
He looked at him, his face flushed and chest heaving after speaking that all in one breath and knew what his answer would be. There was no one else for Jesse. Or for Noah. He and Amanda knew that back in March when they were all together for Spring Break. You could see it in their eyes any time they looked at each other. Noah opened his water bottle and took another drink, while Carisi reached for the box and flipped open the lid. The ring inside was a simple, emerald cut diamond solitaire on a plain band.
“It’s almost a carat,” Noah told him. “It’s white gold, not platinum. Platinum was out of my price range.” He laughed a little self consciously. “I looked at other rings. With more diamonds, but I kept coming back to this one.”
“It’s beautiful. Jesse will love it. She’d love a ring from a gumball machine, though, if you were the one giving it to her.” Carisi closed the box with a snap, stood and held it out to Noah with his left hand, extending his right as well. “You have my blessing, son. Although you didn’t need to ask.”
With those words, Noah felt all the tension leave his body and he smiled broadly. “Thanks, Uncle Sonny,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “But I did. Dad said it was the right thing to do.”
“Your dad’s a very wise man. When are you going to ask her?”
“Neither of us have classes on Columbus Day, so she’s coming up for the long weekend. I haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to do it,” Noah said.
“I proposed to ‘Manda with Jesse asleep on the couch between us. I had it all planned. We were supposed to go out but she got sick and we stayed home,” the lawyer chuckled at the memory.
“That’s not very romantic,” said Noah, tucking the box safely back into his pocket.
“She didn’t care. Neither will Jess. You’ll come up with something.” He looked at his watch. “Crap. I have a meeting downstairs in ten minutes.”
“I need to get to the train station and get back anyway. Jess and I have a facetime date tonight to talk about the weekend. If I miss it she’ll want to know why. You won’t say anything, will you?”
Carisi walked around from behind his desk and slid his arms into his jacket that was draped across a chair and clapped the younger man on the shoulder.
“My lips are sealed.”