Your love is a secret I'm hoping, dreaming, dying to keep
Change my priorities
The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury
Rafael felt a sudden jolt of pain on his chest and he almost dropped to floor with the force of it. He grabbed onto his desk to balance himself, gasping in search for air that wouldn’t come. Dread and horror washed over him as he tried to tap into his bond.
Sonny? , he called. A couple beats passed and he got no reply. He felt himself going cold, panic settling in.
Rafael gasped for Carmen, hoping she could hear him. Thankfully, the door yanked opened and she was by his side in quick strides, eyes wide and rushed tone.
“Mr. Barba, what’s wrong?,” she asked urgently. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s Sonny,” he breathed. “Sonny is hurt. Call Olivia, find out where he is.”
She bolted out of the room back to her desk. Rafael heard her talking insistently to someone, but before he could ask her what was going on, he felt an extreme wash of cold energy go through him.
Then, much like he had up until when he almost 28 years old, Rafael felt empty. The bond was gone. He was alone.
In agony, he let a scream pierce through him like a rusty knife as he caved and fell to his knees clutching his chest.
The pain was gone as suddenly as it came, but he still couldn’t manage to take a proper breath. His hands were shaking violently and his head was pounding with a growing headache. He tried to connect with Sonny again, to tap into their bond, but he couldn’t. There was nothing. Rafael felt lost.
“Mr. Barba,” Carmen came rushing back. “Detective Carisi was shot. There’s a squad car downstairs waiting to take you to the hospital.”
Carmen reached for his arm, trying to pull him up. His legs didn’t seem strong enough to hold him. Sonny was shot .
“Is he dead?,” he heard himself say. “Carmen, did he die?”
“No, Rafael,” she gave up pulling him up and knelt down in front of him. “He was shot in the chest, and they rushed him to the hospital. His squad is there, they’re waiting for you.”
“Then why can’t I sense him?,” Rafael asked through a sob. Carmen looked at him with sad eyes.
“I don’t know, but you need to go,” she said with a determined tone. “Come on, Mr. Barba, let’s go.”
This time, Rafael focused on getting himself up.
The ride to the hospital was, thankfully, a quick one. The mass of cars opened up in front of them like a miracle sent down from heaven. About 20 minutes later, Rafael burst through the ER room, his breathing still short, his hands still shaking just as much.
Olivia spotted him first and the worried expression on her face almost made Rafael fall to his knees again. “Liv, what the fuck happened?”
“It was a hostage situation, Rafa,” Rafael’s heart fell to his feet. He couldn’t help but think of Dodds. “Carisi put himself in front of the victim’s children and tried to negotiate with her husband to get them out of the house. He shot at Carisi to stop him.”
The nausea hit Rafael hard. His head still hadn’t stopped pounding. “What did the doctors say?”
“Nothing yet,” she sighed. “They rushed him to surgery. Rafael, I’m sure he’s going to be okay.”
“I can’t sense him, Olivia,” he shook his head and walked a few shaky steps to sit next to Fin. “It’s like we never even connected.”
Olivia looked distraught as she sat next to him, her head in her hands.
“Don’t jump to any conclusions, Barba,” surprisingly, it was Fin who spoke up. “They have a doctor specialized in bonds here, you can talk to them when he’s out of surgery.”
Rafael nodded his response, leaning back in the chair and closing his eyes. He tried to get his breathing under control, but it felt like he was standing in a foggy room. The air was too heavy, his lungs were too sensitive, it hurt to breathe in.
After what felt like an eternity, a doctor approached them with heavy steps. Olivia and Rafael jumped up, almost bumping into each other.
“Lieutenant,” he greeted.
“Doctor, please, this is ADA Rafael Barba, he’s Carisi’s soulmate,” she introduced him, a hand on Rafael’s shoulder.
“Of course,” he turned to Rafael. “Mr. Barba, the surgery went well. Detective Carisi got two broken ribs and the bullet also punctured his lung, so he’ll have trouble breathing for a while, but I’m positive he’ll make a full recovery in due time.”
Rafael let out a heavy sigh of relief, even though it hurt. “When can I see him?”
“We’re moving him to a recovery room in a minute. I’ll let you know when he’s ready,” he smiled politely. “He’s quite the fighter, Mr. Barba. He’s going to have to stay here for at least two nights so we can monitor him, but your mate will be good as new soon.”
Before the man turned to leave, Rafael grabbed his forearm. “Doctor,” he started, sounding slightly desperate. “When Sonny was shot, I sensed it. But -,” Rafael shook his head, dropping the doctor’s arm.
“It’s alright, Mr. Barba,” he said gently. “I understand. I’ll ask the specialist to come talk to you, okay?”
Rafael nodded and muttered his thanks. Olivia guided him back to the chairs and they sat down again.
“I should call his family,” he suddenly remembered, but Olivia shook her head.
“The hospital already took care of it,” she told him. “They’ll be here soon.”
Rafael had met most of Sonny’s family. His parents had been lovely to him, his sister Bella was their biggest cheerleader, and Teresa and Gina were nice, but much more over-protective of their little brother. Overall, they were accepting and supportive. And very Italian. And extremely loud. But Rafael grew fond of them as fast as he fell in love with Sonny.
It was about forty minutes later that the doctor approached them again. “Mr. Barba,” he waved him over. “He’s in his room now, but he’s still unconscious. It’ll probably take a few hours for him to come to, and even then he’ll be in and out a lot. But he’ll be okay. Just be patient.”
Rafael didn’t say anything, he just followed closely behind the doctor until they reached Sonny’s room. As he walked in, he felt his breath catch in his throat. Sonny looked so young. His hair was flat, falling on his forehead softly. He looked even paler than he was, his normally pink lips washed out. He looked small and innocent dressed in the thin hospital gown. Rafael almost started sobbing.
“The bond specialist should be here at any minute, Mr. Barba,” the doctor said while checking Sonny’s vitals.
“Thank you,” he nodded and pulled up a chair closer to the bed, sitting by Sonny’s side as his breathing became hard again.
The doctor left the room without saying another word and Rafael let his head fall, his shoulder sagging as he curled into himself.
He waited for Sonny for so long and today he almost lost him. Maybe they lost their bond, but he was alive, and Rafael was not going to let go of that.
Even so, being empty felt foreign to him. He missed Sonny’s warmth, his bubbly disposition, the constant burst of joy in his chest. He missed Sonny’s inputs, or the way Sonny would tell him silly stories throughout the day because they couldn’t see each other for lunch during a case.
The feeling of loneliness was heart-wrenching and, as tears ran down Rafael’s face, he begged whatever deity there was to bring their bond back.
As he tried to recompose himself and to keep the tears at bay, the door opened and he knew without looking it was Sonny’s family. He recognized the accent on their rushed mumbles as they walked in. Sonny’s mother was the first one to speak.
“My God, Sonny,” she said in a broken sob as she reached the bed. She took a moment to look at his face before turning to Rafael. “Oh Rafael, what happened?”
“It was a hostage situation,” Rafael said, his voice hoarse. “He tried to save the victim’s children. Unfortunately, the father was having none of it.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, he saw Bella with a tear-streaked face. “Ever the hero,” she said with a sigh.
“Is he going to be okay?,” Dominick asked, and he looked just as pale as his son.
“Yeah, the doctor said he’ll make a full recovery,” Rafael nodded, trying to find it in himself to comfort his mate’s family. “He’s strong.”
Teresa and Gina approached the bed as well, holding on to each other with matching wide eyes. “Little brother, how could you be so stupid?,” Gina asked.
“He was doing his job,” Bella said with an annoyed tone.
“His job is not getting himself killed,” Teresa bit back with a roll of her eyes.
“Oh my god, Teresa,” Bella grunted. “You can’t say that when our brother could actually have died. It’s a risk. It comes with being a cop. Right, Rafael?”
They all turned to him. He shrugged. “Right now I just want him to wake up.”
“Of course,” Sonny’s mom said with a soft smile then turned to her daughters. “Girls, you’re being insensitive.”
There was a knock on the door and Olivia peaked her head through it, another doctor right behind her. “Hey,” she said with a polite nod towards the Carisi family. “Rafael, could you step outside for a moment?”
He stood up slowly, afraid that his legs might give out again. Bella held onto his arm without a word, only shooting him a sympathetic look as he made his way to the door.
“Rafael, this is Doctor Mary Lindley, she’s the bond specialist,” Olivia said, pointing to a tall, blonde woman with a clipboard in hands. “Why don’t you talk to her for a moment while I take the rest of Carisi’s family questions.”
Rafael nodded. “Thank you, Liv,” he tried forcing a smile as Olivia walked into the room, but he wasn’t sure he managed.
“So, Mr. Barba, Lieutenant Benson told me you can’t sense your soulmate anymore,” she said with a somewhat neutral tone as she guided him to a small table in the waiting room. “Was your bond recent?”
“We met about five months ago,” he said shakily. “A few minutes after I felt the shot, all the senses went away. I can’t reach him, no matter how hard I try. It feels like there’s no connection anymore.”
“It’s not uncommon for bonds to unstabilize after a physical trauma like the one Detective Carisi went through,” Dr. Lindley explained with a sympathetic look. “He’s been unconscious for a long time, so it’s like there’s no one there for you to reach.”
Rafael felt nauseous again. He wasn’t sure what this meant, but the concept the doctor was painting made him uneasy. “So, is it broken?,” he asked. “The bond?”
“I can’t tell you that yet, Mr. Barba,” she sighed. “We could do an MRI scan on you to determine that -,”
“Do it,” he interrupted.
“Or,” Dr. Lindley continued with a raised eyebrow. “We could wait for Detective Carisi to wake up to establish what actually happened to your connection.”
“That could take hours,” he groaned.
“Mr. Barba, there’s no need to panic,” she said with a friendly smile then looked down at the records in her clipboard. “Tell me, are you experiencing any discomfort? Any trouble breathing, perhaps?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I feel like I might pass out at any moment, and it hurts when I take a deeper breath.”
“That’s from Detective Carisi,” she nodded. “You can sense his discomfort. So the bond is most likely not broken, but we should wait and see to learn more.”
It was something so small, but it made Rafael hopeful again. Suddenly, he felt himself embracing the pain in his chest. Because it wasn’t him, it was Sonny inside him, and he wanted to try to comfort him somehow.
“I believe you’ll feel more of his discomfort as he regains conscience, so make sure to keep yourself safe and comfortable,” Dr. Lindley tapped his shoulder reassuringly and stood up. “You’ll be the first to know when he starts waking up.”
Rafael let himself relax into the chair for a moment, blinking slowly as he registered what the doctor had said. They were going to be fine. The bond wasn’t broken. He hadn’t lost his soulmate.
Sonny would be back soon, and he couldn’t help but smile at the thought.
He knew now that he had been a fool, all those years thinking he didn’t need a soulmate. He had no idea of the privilege it was. Sharing everything with the person he loved meant a level of intimacy he never thought possible.
Having Sonny with him all the time was a beautiful feeling, and the fact that they fit together so well was exhilarating. He was glad he wouldn’t have to give that up.
But with his questions about the bond answered, Rafael yearned to be close to his mate again, so he stood up carefully and made his way back to Sonny’s room. He was surprised to find only Olivia there.
“They went to the cafeteria,” she told him when he walked in. “Bella said she’d bring you something.”
“Did they bombard you with even more questions?,” Rafael asked, amused, and sat back in the chair he’d pulled close to Sonny.
“Yeah,” Olivia chuckled dryly. “His eldest sisters wanted to know how could I let this happen to him.
“Liv, it’s not your fault,” he said, reaching for her hand and squeezing it. “He just had to play the goddamn hero.”
Olivia snorted and squeezed his hand back. “It comes with the job, Rafael. Every cop has a bit of a hero inside them.”
Rafael rolled his eyes, but he knew what she meant. Sonny had said something similar to him one night after he’d come back from undercover work. “It’s the idea of helping someone that keeps us going, Raf. Every cop thinks they’re a hero."
He just wished they knew they weren’t immortal, though.
They were silent for a while. Olivia sat in the corner of the room, tapping away on her phone as Rafael watched Sonny’s chest rise and fall. Inside his own chest, he felt a nasty sting as he breathed in. He coughed and it burned.
Rafael suddenly felt very warm. He pulled a bit at his tie and looked at Olivia. She seemed unfazed, even though it felt like the sun was beaming right on him.
Rafael jumped up from his seat, reaching for Sonny gently.
Sonny?, he tried. Can you hear me?
He waited, holding his breath. Behind him, Olivia had stood up, startled by his sudden movement.
“Rafa, is everything okay?”
“I think -,” he swallowed hard. “I think I can sense him.”
“Really?,” Olivia’s eyes widened. “Should I call a doctor?”
Rafael tried to get something more from him, any sign that Sonny might be fighting for his conscience, but he lay as still as ever. Rafael eventually shook his head, falling back into his seat.
The next couple hours were a blur of detectives and family members coming and going. Olivia left, Rollins and Fin showed up, even Chief Dodds paid him a short, formal visit at some point.
Sonny’s sisters took turns at the foot of his bed, Bella and her mother making sure to keep Rafael fed and hydrated.
All the ladies left at some point, Rafael had lost track, and he was alone with Dominick, Sr. for a while. Sonny’s father was much like him, upbeat, energetic and warm. Rafael liked being around him. “Rafael,” he said softly. “You should go home. Take a shower, change out of your suit. Bring an overnight bag. I promise I won’t leave his side.”
“I can’t,” he shook his head. “I want to be here for any changes. The doctor said I’d be the first to feel it.”
Dominick nodded, giving him an understanding look. Rafael reached for his phone and texted Carmen quickly, asking if she could stop by his place and bring him an overnight bag. Sonny’s father made a good point. He couldn’t sleep in his suit, after all.
“You’re a good guy, Rafael,” Dominick said. “I’m glad Sonny found you.”
Rafael almost sobbed at the sudden honesty. “I’m lucky to have him,” he replied with a soft smile.
“He’s never been happier, you know,” he said, patting Rafael on the back. “I’ve never seen him enjoy life as much as he has these past few months. When you two connected, he made it his mission to please you. It drove me and his mother crazy for a while.”
“Yeah, I remember his experiments,” he smiled fondly.
Then he felt something inside him stir again. It was like the first rays of sunshine as the sun rose in the morning. A little warm, a little bright, and very satisfying. But with it, came another pang in his chest. Rafael coughed again, but that he couldn’t stop coughing. The force of it made his chest tighten, he felt like there was no space for him to pull in a breath.
Rafael felt himself go warm as he wheezed, doing his best to just breathe but it was like he didn’t know how to inhale properly anymore.
“Rafael, are you okay?,” Dominick, Sr. asked, stroking his back. “You sound like you’re choking.”
“It’s Sonny,” he gasped.
Both men looked at the detective then. Rafael could see Sonny’s eyes moving frantically behind his closed eyelids. They opened suddenly. Sonny and Rafael both gasped for air, and Sonny started coughing much like Rafael had.
Sonny groaned in pain, absentmindedly reaching for his chest with one hand as he inhaled deeply.
“Call the doctor,” Rafael told Dominick, trying to stand up to hold on to Sonny, but he wasn’t strong enough.
A nurse and Sonny’s doctor came rushing in after Dominick. The nurse held Sonny’s head and torso up for a moment and the doctor placed a mask over Sonny’s mouth. He checked the monitor beside the bed as he shouted instructions. “Breathe through your mouth, detective. Deep breaths,” he said.
Rafael felt clean air fill his lungs suddenly, and he blinked quickly as the pain in his lungs went away.
Raf? , he heard. And it took everything in him not to cry again. What’s happening?
Sonny, take a deep breath. You were shot. You’re in the hospital now. You’ll be fine. Just breathe with me.
Rafael forced himself to relax into the chair as he started doing breathing exercise. It didn’t hurt anymore, so he let his lungs stretch to its maximum capacity before letting it all out in a slow, long breath.
“He’s back,” Rafael told Dominick.
“Really?,” he smiled softly as he looked from Rafael to his son. “Thank God.”
After a couple minutes, the doctor removed the mask and the nurse carefully laid Sonny back down. Rafael saw him blinking up at the ceiling and smiled. He looked extremely confused.
“Detective,” the doctor called. “How are you feeling?”
“Rough,” Sonny said hoarsely. “Am I okay?”
“You will be,” he nodded. “We’ll be monitoring you for a while, but you’ll be good to go in no time.”
“Let us know if you feel any discomfort,” the nurse said with a polite smile.
“Thanks,” Sonny breathed and looked around the room. “Raf?”
Rafael finally moved. He stood up on shaky legs - mostly from nerves now - and walked up to him, reaching for Sonny’s hand instantly. “I’m here,” he said in a small voice. “You scared me.”
“I’m sorry,” Sonny smiled sheepishly. “Did you feel it? The shot?”
“Very much so,” Rafael chuckled dryly. “But I’m sure it was worst for you.”
“Nah,” he pulled a face. “Walk in the park.”
Rafael gave Sonny’s father some space and took the opportunity to text Olivia and Carmen about his mate’s current status.
A few minutes later, the rest of the Carisi clan came rushing in with demands, questions, complaints, and a lot of love. Rafael watched from the back of the room as they all fawned over Sonny.
His mother kept running her fingers through his hair, Bella kept a firm hold on his hand, Gina on his arm, Teresa on his leg and Dominick, Sr. on his foot. He couldn’t help but smile. That was the Carisis in a nutshell: over caring, loving, touchy-feely. They were a good family, and Rafael was happy to be a part of it.
“Rafael,” Sonny’s mother called, turning to him. “Thank you for being so good to Sonny. We’ll give you two some time.”
A few more loving words were said, Sonny’s mother kissed his forehead as Bella, Gina and Teresa squealed about how much they loved him. Sonny had a the biggest smile on his face as they exited the room with a couple waves.
When the door closed, he looked at Rafael. Somehow, his smile grew even bigger. Rafael felt the affection deep inside him.
“Hey there,” Sonny said as Rafael came closer to him. “You look great, counselor. That suit looks stunning on you.”
“Thank you,” Rafael chuckled. “I missed you, Sonny. I thought I lost you. After you were shot -,”
“I know,” Sonny sniffed. “I felt it too. The bond. I thought it broke.”
“You felt that too?,” his eyebrows shot up.
“Yeah, right before I passed out. I tried to tap in to tell you I love you because -,” he stopped and swallowed hard. Rafael shook his head.
“Don’t say it.”
Sonny nodded. “But I couldn’t. I couldn’t reach you. I was so scared, Raf. I’m so sorry, I promise I’ll be more careful from now on. I know I shouldn’t have gone in without a vest, but those kids -.”
“Sonny,” he leaned forward, stroking Sonny’s hair like his mother had. “You had to do what was right. A vest would have prevented lot of stress, but it’s not like you planned the whole thing. I’m just happy you’re back.”
“It was the worst thing I ever felt, though,” he sniffed again, blinking heavily. “Worse than the bullet itself. Not being able to talk to you was way worse.”
“Okay, maybe you need to get your priorities checked,” Rafael joked. “But I’m here now. You can go back to sleep, Sonny. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
“You promise?,” Sonny smiled when Rafael nodded. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Sonny. So much.”
As Sonny fell back asleep, there was still the ghost of a smile on his lips. And deep in Rafael’s chest, he felt the sun shining again.