The screech of the car, Frannie pushing a white ball of fur out of the way, a large black Newfoundland barking at the top of his lungs. The rain, the rain everywhere. Under the tires of the truck. Caesar . . .
He wakes up in a sweat again. His shoulder still hurts from when Frannie had yanked the handle of the leash out of his grasp in a frantic attempt to save the tiny white dog who for no apparent reason had foolishly run out into oncoming traffic last Sunday. Rainy last Sunday.
Frannie was a hero. But Frannie was dead.
He feels so impotent. Unable to protect her. Unable to protect Caesar.
And to top it all off he feels so miserable without Amanda. He knows she is hurting. He wants to comfort her, the way Gina had comforted him. But he's afraid to reach out.
He goes to church that morning with his family and sees some of the priests preparing for a funeral that is being held later that day. It is still raining. He hangs his head and walks home.
Fin calls him that afternoon and tells him that Amanda is holding a service for Frannie that night.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asks.
"Cause I think she would want you to be there."
"Are you kidding me?"
"No. For real, man."
Carisi sighs and scratches his head. He doesn't believe him.
Fin continues. "Hey, whether she'll admit it or not, she kinda needs you there. She's not handling this well."
"Okay. Okay I'll go." Carisi resigns himself. "For her."
Carisi stands outside for a bit before going in. He doesn't want to face her – doesn't want to see how much she's hurting. Because of him.
Catherine passes him on the way in with Winky and they chat a bit. 'Kibble' isn't coming. Good. The leader of the walking group shows up as well with Spartacus and Maximus in tow. Carisi is a bit surprised to learn that she was so close to Amanda and Frannie, but she's amazingly warm and sympathetic to his plight. On the way in her dogs brush up against his legs and she gives him a little hug.
He sighs and pulls himself together. It's time to face the music.
He sees Amanda sitting in the only shaft of light that has permeated the building on this gray day. She looks like an angel. A sad, grief-stricken angel.
"Amanda," he says to her cautiously as he approaches.
She pats the seat beside herself wordlessly. He takes this as his cue to sit down next to her. She is holding a sleeping Jesse fiercely – almost too hard.
"Would you like me to take her?" he asks her quietly.
She nods and he gently takes Jesse from her arms. The baby fusses for just a second and then goes right back to sleep. Now Amanda can focus on this tribute to Frannie, her precious pup who had been there long before Jesse. Long before him. She had always been a loving companion, a source of solace and strength. And now she is gone. Amanda hangs her head and cries.
Afterwards people come over to Amanda to pay their regards. Carisi is still beside her holding Jesse. Fin gives him a silent nod before he leans into hug Amanda goodbye.
When they're all gone, she slumps onto Carisi's shoulder. He winces.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt?" She pulls her head up.
"Nah, nothing time won't heal," he says almost wistfully, guiding her head back down gently with his free hand. "You can stay there. I got this from Frannie. Hopefully it takes some time to mend. Would be nice to keep her around for awhile, you know? "
"How did she do that?"
"Pulling - no, yanking herself free. My hand was attached to the other side of that leash you know, Rollins." He tips his head and rests it on hers.
They sit there for a while and she slowly takes his hand.
"Take me home," she says.
They put Jesse down. Then Amanda leads him to the bedroom, she wants to talk. But they are both so full of sorrow that they just sit on the bed together for a while not touching, not speaking.
Finally Amanda breaks the silence.
"I was just so upset that Frannie was with you - " she chokes a little " - and then she was gone before I could even say goodbye."
Carisi takes her hand and entwines their fingers.
"It's just been so hard." She clasps his hand back tightly, her fingers digging into the bones of his hand. "I only saw her body. My baby was gone . . . "
She begins to cry. "She was still partially cut open from the surgery. Her wounds were barely bound. So many of her ribs were broken. Her lungs. She wouldn't have made it no matter what."
She looks at him through her tears.
"Oh, 'Manda," he says and strokes her cheek.
"You did get to say goodbye to her didn't you?"
"Yes, yes I did." Carisi answered. "In a way."
"Tell me what happened."
When Carisi is finished relaying the horrible events of that rainy Sunday afternoon, Amanda says softly, "When you told me about the leash, suddenly I knew."
"That you weren't to blame."
He lets out something akin to a hiccup and suddenly lets go of her hand, pushing himself up from the bed abruptly. Facing away from her, he rubs his hands through his hair in agitation.
"Sonny?" she asks softly, perplexed and worried.
"I just –"
"Hey, what is it?" she asks, coming up behind him, entwining her arms around him in a hug, burying her face in his back. He lifts his arms to hers, sinking back into her. She rocks him a little from side to side, and waits for him to answer.
When he finally does he says defeatedly, "It was my fault. It's always my fault."
"No, it wasn't. Frannie wanted to save that other dog - be the hero she always was. It wasn't your fault the roads were slick. You couldn't stop her from putting herself in front of a car that couldn't stop in time. You have the sore shoulder to prove it."
"But Caesar - " He chokes.
She turns him around. "The first Roman Emperor?"
That doesn't even get a laugh. She creases her brow in worry. "Talk to me."
"He was my dog." He pauses. "My family's dog."
"Go on," she says, taking his hand and leading him back to the bed. He sits down heavily and she pulls his head into her shoulder as he tells her what he remembers from that Sunday when he was four.
When he's done he just looks up at her pleading, "See? It's always my fault. You can't trust me with pets. Can't trust me to keep them safe and alive."
Amanda studies him for a minute. "Does Gina think so? Does she agree that you're responsible for what happened to Caesar?"
He's surprised at her question. He doesn't know the answer, not really. That's when Jesse starts crying. Amanda looks over at the baby monitor.
"Why don't you get ready for bed, hon? I'll meet you back in here when I'm done with Jesse."
Carisi looks at her oddly. "You want me to stay the night?"
"Yes," she says plainly. "Just like you always used to."
The bedroom is dark when she returns. His long form is nestled underneath her sheets. The rain outside has finally stopped. She crawls into bed bedside him.
"You still awake?"
"Yeah," he answers softly. She can still hear the sadness in his voice.
"I want to tell you something."
"I know this pain - this pain over Caesar and now Frannie – it's a part of you."
Through the darkness she hears that hiccup again.
"I'm sorry I didn't listen when you told me you were uncomfortable taking care of Frannie that day. I didn't know about Caesar, but I should have listened regardless. I'm sorry I put you through that."
"'Manda. Don't be sorry. I'm the one who's sorry. I'm the one who put you thr– "
"Shh . . ." She reaches out to touch his cheek softly. "You need to hear something."
"Okay. I'm listening."
She takes a deep breath. "I still love you."
The silence between them is palpable.
"And I forgive you."
He collapses into her arms in relief and lets her soothe away the pain he has carried for so many years - the pain that Frannie's death has only added to. He is amazed that Amanda can even focus on his grief, his loss at a time like this - when she herself is still grieving.
She is his pillar of strength.
And he loves her more than he can say in that tender moment that passes between them.