It’s been slow in every part of the 16th precinct on a Tuesday night, and Sonny’s spent the better part of the last five minutes complaining about it to Liv and Amanda.
“How is there literally nothing to do?” he asks, spinning in his chair. “How is it possible I’m all caught up on paperwork?”
Liv arches a brow. “I wouldn’t call it a bad thing, Carisi, but I’m sure I can find something for you to do if that’s what you want.”
Holding his hands up contritely but with a wide smile, Sonny says, “Nah, I’m good, Lieu. I appreciate the generous offer.”
“Didn’t Barba mention he needed something for a case?” Amanda asks pointedly, rolling her eyes when Sonny already starts shaking his head.
“He got that figured out already. Guess it’s just gonna be one of those nights.”
He should have kept his mouth shut.
Sonny's about to make some other quip, he hasn’t decided which one yet, but Amanda’s eyes widen before he can at something over his shoulder and he senses Liv tensing out of the corner of his eye. He swivels in his chair to find a man not two feet behind him, tall and youthful and yet with a hardness to his expression. That’s not the most significant thing about him, though, no.
There’s blood on his hands but a glazed look in his eyes and Sonny is the first to rise, taking a cautious step forward with a hand held out in front of him. “Whoa, sir, take it easy. Are you hurt?”
The man blinks, staring blankly at Sonny for a moment before finally shaking his head. “I need to turn myself in.”
Sonny purses his lips, feeling his heart sink in his chest. That’s someone else’s blood on this man’s hands, he knows. Someone’s out there, bleeding out or dead because of this guy right in front of him, and he glances over his shoulder at Liv and Amanda. They both look back at him with wide eyes, Amanda’s hand ready at the holster on her hip. With a deep breath, he turns back to the man. “Okay. Okay, well, you came to the right place. Can you tell us what happened?”
The man narrows his eyes then tugs his shirt up to reveal the butt of a gun tucked into the hem of his jeans. Sonny hears Amanda and Liv’s shouts coming from behind him and the panicked cries of other surrounding officers as they move to draw their own weapons, but he can’t take his eyes off the trembling hand that takes hold of the gun. There’s dread washing over him, there’s a pit deepening in his gut because there’s no way of telling what might happen, what could go wrong in the next couple seconds, in the mere blink of an eye.
But then the gun is being set down on a desk, it’s being shoved lightly in Sonny’s direction, and with a gasp of relief under his breath, Sonny remembers how to move. Without skipping another beat, he grabs the gun from the table and takes a few steps back, flicking the safety on before handing it off to Amanda, who stares back at him with wild eyes filled with worry.
They’re okay. He offers her a quick, reassuring nod, receiving the very same gesture from Liv. They’re all okay.
“I shot him. That’ll get me back in, right?”
“Get you back in where?” Sonny asks, even as Liv marches past him to pull the guy’s arms behind his back, cuffing him and already leading him to an interrogation room. Sonny follows blindly with Amanda trailing closely behind him, though she stays behind to watch behind the mirror while he enters the room with Liv.
“What’s your name?” Liv asks, her voice somehow both firm and gentle as she secures the cuff to the table.
The man answers without hesitation. “Devin Kelly. I just got out of Rikers a week ago, but I can’t, I can’t do it, I need you to send me back.”
Sonny sighs, following suit as Liv lowers herself into a chair. This’ll be an easy arrest, obviously, but the circumstances are shit. Nothing they haven’t seen before, a newly released convict who’s been in prison too long to adjust to the way the world works on the outside. The thing that gets Sonny about Kelly, though, is just how young the guy looks. He can’t be too much older than thirty, maybe thirty-five at most, but Sonny recognizes the defeat in his eyes. It’d be sadder if there wasn’t someone out there with a bullet hole in him just because Devin Kelly had decided the best way to get back to Rikers was to hurt someone.
And why come straight to SVU? Sonny feels a little nauseated now, thinking about the various possibilities for why Kelly had come here, specifically, to turn himself in.
“Okay, Mr. Kelly,” Liv says, “we need you to help us out here so we can help you. You said you shot him, who did you shoot? Where is he?”
“Thought he was a big shot,” Kelly mutters, his eyes darkening. “Cocky piece of shit, he thinks I’d forget that look on his face when they took me away?”
Sonny frowns, exchanging a glance with Liv. “Who, Mr. Kelly? You need to tell us who you’re talking about.”
“The guy who ruined my life!” Kelly shouts, slamming his hands down on the metal tabletop. “Asshole lawyer, he fucked up everything, he took eighteen years from me, but he’s paying for it now. Yeah, he’s paying for it, if I’m lucky he’ll die right where I left him and they’ll never let me out again.”
“Mr. Kelly,” Liv tries again, this time raising her voice, “tell us who you shot so we can help you.”
Sonny’s phone buzzes in his back pocket as Kelly starts to laugh, a heckling laugh that makes the hair on the back of Sonny’s neck stand on end. He fishes the phone out of his pocket, keeping his expression neutral even when he sees the display reads MERCY GENERAL, and he tilts it for Liv to see before stepping out of the room.
“Piece of work, this guy,” Sonny says, joining Amanda on the other side of the glass. She scoffs in agreement, returning her attention to Liv and the perp, and Sonny answers the phone. “This is Carisi.”
“Detective Carisi, my name is Nina, I’m a nurse here at Mercy General. I’m so sorry but I’m calling because you were listed as the emergency contact for Mr. Rafael Barba.”
Sonny frowns. He hasn’t gotten any calls or texts from Rafael for a couple hours now, why the hell would the hospital be calling about him? “Okay. Is he okay?”
That earns a curious look from Amanda and her brows lift in surprise when he mouths Rafael’s name.
“I’m afraid not, Detective.” There’s a second of maddening hesitation. “He was brought in about fifteen minutes ago to the ER. He’s been shot.”
Sonny’s gaze locks on Kelly through the glass even as his blood runs cold. “Oh, my god. Oh, god.”
He doesn’t even realize Amanda has come up beside him until a warm hand falls on his shoulder. “Carisi, what is it?”
It startles him, makes him jump, and he slides away from Amanda’s touch so he can pace, bringing his free hand to rub at the bridge of his nose. “Can you tell me anything else?”
“From my understanding, he was found in his office, the GSW is to his chest. The bullet missed his heart and lung but it’s a through and through, he’s lost a lot of blood. They’re preparing to take him up for surgery as we speak.”
Sonny appreciates that she states it so matter-of-factly. He needs that right now, he needs that to keep him grounded because otherwise, he might just crash through this glass to choke the life out of the man he knows is responsible for this, the man who’s sitting right fucking there. “Okay. Okay, thank you, I’ll be there soon.”
The call ends and his arm drops lifelessly to his side. He feels numb, he feels like everything around him is moving so much faster than he is even though there’s nothing happening around him at all, and he’s forgotten how to move.
“Sonny, what the hell is going on?”
Right. Amanda. He’d forgotten she was here at all.
“Rafael’s been shot.”
Liv’s head whips around to face them then, she seems to find Sonny’s eyes through the mirror as if she’d known exactly where he’d be standing and in that moment, Sonny knows she knows. Kelly had finally confessed a name. She leaps to her feet, ignoring whatever pleas Kelly shouts at her and rushing through the door to the watch room, her breathing labored as she skitters to a stop in front of Sonny.
“Carisi.” There’s a tremor in her voice, Sonny can hear it plain as day. “It’s Barba, he— he shot Barba.”
“I know.” Liv’s features twist with confusion. Sonny’s not sure whether that’s because of what he’s said or how calmly he’d said it. “Mercy General just called. He’s in surgery, he lost a lot of blood. Through and through to his chest so that’s, you know, that’s pretty much like getting shot twice, he’s not going to be happy because he wore one of his favorite suits today and— and— oh, god.”
Sonny stumbles, his knees giving out beneath him, and he would have crumpled into a helpless heap on the floor if not for Liv and Amanda taking quick action, each of them holding him up by an arm. He tries to fight them, even against what’s left of his better judgment, his cries of “please! Leave me alone!” echoing off the walls and attracting stares as they lead him outside to the bullpen, to the chair at his desk. Once he’s seated, he takes several deep, strained breaths before the static in his vision and the ringing in his ears finally begin to clear.
When he blinks the world back into focus, Liv is kneeling in front of him, one hand resting on his knee, and he can’t tell whether she looks more worried for him or agonized for her friend.
“Do you need me to drive you?” she asks.
He thinks a part of her wants him to say yes. A part of her wants to be there for Rafael even while the other part of her knows she needs to stay here to handle Kelly. That’s the tug of war that happens when it comes to knowing someone they care about is hurt because of the job but this isn’t just someone they care about, Rafael is someone they love.
But she needs to stay and Sonny needs to go so he shakes his head. “I’ll be okay,” he tells her. To absolve her of her guilt, he adds, “He’ll still be in surgery when I get there anyway, you can come when he wakes up.”
They don’t know when that will be, they can’t even be sure that will happen at all, Rafael could be dying on that table right now and Sonny hasn’t even taken a step to get to him yet. He slaps a hand over his mouth to muffle a whimper and Liv studies him with understanding.
“Go,” she tells him, squeezing his knee. “Keep me updated. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
He doesn’t remember the drive there. He doesn’t remember being led by a nurse to the ICU waiting room. He doesn’t even remember falling asleep but it feels like no time at all has passed before he’s being gently shaken awake by a doctor with a friendly face and a polite smile that tells him nothing. Sonny glances at the only other person in the room, a woman looking on at them with a hint of envy in her eyes from her corner, and he feels for her. She’s waiting for news, too. He hopes she gets it soon.
The doctor takes a seat beside him when it becomes apparent Sonny isn’t going to stand. He doesn’t have the energy, he doesn’t know if his legs will support him, so he just tracks the doctor’s movements with his eyes.
“Mr. Barba is in recovery now,” the doctor tells him. Her smile doesn’t change. Sonny finds it a little unsettling even as he recognizes that isn’t fair. This doctor has spent the last few hours fixing his boyfriend, saving Rafael’s life. He should be prostrating himself at her feet. “The bullet didn’t hit any major organs but I’m going to be honest with you, there was a complication during surgery, what’s called cardiac tamponade, but we caught it. We did have to put a chest tube in to help drain any fluid buildup around his lung.”
She pauses when Sonny’s eyes start to glass over, and he doesn’t blame her. It’s not that he isn’t listening or doesn’t appreciate how thorough and clear she’s being, he does. But all he can picture is Rafael lying on an operating table with his chest being opened up and it makes him want to double over and puke all over the tile floor. When he’s finally able to look at her again, the doctor offers a reassuring squeeze to his arm.
“The surgery went well,” she promises. “Mr. Barba is a real fighter. I’ll take you to him in a minute, I just want to make sure you’re prepared. He had to have a blood transfusion and like I said, we had to insert a chest tube so he may have some difficulty breathing when he wakes up. He has sutures on his chest and back from where the bullet entered and left him, they will leave scars. He may also have a scar from when we take out his chest tube. He’ll be in quite a lot of pain for a while but we’ll monitor his condition and if he continues to improve, we may be able to release him in about a week.”
“That soon?” Sonny chews nervously on his bottom lip. “What about infection, isn’t that a risk?”
“It is,” the doctor says soothingly, “but as long as he can keep the wounds clean and apply new bandages when they’re needed once he’s back home, he should be just fine. Do you live together?”
Sonny nods. “For about five months now, we’ve been together a little over a year.” She hadn’t asked, he doesn’t know why he’d said any of that.
“Okay,” she says. “He’s going to need support, not just for the pain but for the emotional trauma. I don’t want to overwhelm you but when he’s discharged, we can provide some names for doctors who can help if or when he needs to talk to someone. But can go over all that later, I just want to make sure I anticipate any questions you might have before we head to his room.”
“I love him.” Sonny’s cheeks flush as the doctor’s eyes soften. “He’s everything to me. It took a long time to make him believe—” He ducks his head, embarrassed. “You’re sure he’ll be okay?” Sonny needs Rafael to be okay.
The doctor is quiet for a moment, looking thoughtful before she answers. “The truth is, I can’t make guarantees, Detective. I’m sure you know what that’s like. What I can tell you is aside from the complication, surgery did go well and his vitals are stable. We’ll know more once he wakes up but from what I know right now, from his current condition, it’s my opinion his prognosis is good.”
“Okay.” Sonny scrubs a hand over his face with a long exhale. “Okay. Thank you. I think I’m ready now.”
It’s another couple hours before Sonny’s woken again, this time by sheets rustling in the bed he’s fallen asleep next to, waiting for any sign of Rafael’s stirring.
Sonny watches in silence as Rafael blinks wary eyes open, squinting at the fluorescent lights that greet him. His mouth contorts with pain as he tries to shift in bed, one hand flying up to his chest to press over his wound as a strained “ow” escapes him. Sonny has never heard him sound so small. He quickly reaches out to grab Rafael’s wrist, gently stroking it with the pad of his thumb and offering a small smile when Rafael finally looks at him.
“Hey, baby,” Sonny says, bringing his boyfriend’s hand to his lips to kiss his palm. Rafael looks confused, out of sorts and in pain with his usually coiffed hair sticking out every which way, but Sonny still hasn't seen anyone more beautiful in his life. He’ll never take for granted watching those green eyes look back at him ever again.
God, that voice. Even as gravelly as it is, it’s melodic, hearing his own name makes Sonny smile and he lets out a short laugh as he wipes a fallen tear on his sleeve.
“Yeah, it’s me. It’s me, Rafael, I’m right here.”
Rafael narrows his eyes, slowly observing his surroundings. His tongue flicks over dry lips as he glances down at the IV needle in his other hand, takes note of the padded bandage beneath his gown and frowns when he seems to notice the discomfort from his chest tube. “I think I was shot.”
“Yeah.” Sonny sniffles, urging himself to keep it together. “Yeah, you were, sweetheart. You’re in the ICU, you had surgery, but you’re going to be okay.”
“About twelve hours.” The worst fucking twelve hours of Sonny’s life. “Not too long. The doctor says everything is looking good so far.”
Rafael grunts, his fingers twitching in Sonny’s grasp. He’s too weak to hold on, it only makes Sonny hold tighter. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’m not going anywhere. You hear me? I’m going to be right here for you the whole time, no matter what.”
“Hear you. Love you.” Rafael’s eyes start to flutter shut again.
That comes as no real surprise, of course all the trauma would exhaust him, and Sonny doesn’t feel like he’ll be too far behind. He presses another kiss to Rafael’s knuckles, tears falling freely now that his boyfriend isn’t watching him anymore. “I love you, too, more than anything.”
There are people he should be calling, Rafael’s mom and the parts of his own family he cares to tell, Liv and Carmen and probably some others he can’t even think of because trying to sift through his thoughts feels like trudging through molasses.
But for now, just for now, he’s going to give himself this moment to recognize how lucky he is. The love of his life is alive, Rafael is here and breathing right in front of him. As long as he has that, he has everything.