He thought they’d have more time. More time for him to explain just how he feels. About her, them, and what she means to him. But now, as he watches her with sad eyes from across the room, he knows that what he wants - what he feels - it doesn’t matter anymore. This moment right now is about her. It’s about the love she feels for the man standing at her side with his arm around her waist to hold her close to him. It’s about the vows that they are going to say to one another in less than twenty-four hours. The same vows that he’s going to miss. Because no matter how strong he thinks he is, he is not strong enough to watch the woman he loves get married to another man. He can’t do it.
His thoughts are interrupted when Jesse approaches him, the seven-year-old coming to stand at his side and holding out an extra cup of juice.
Sonny smiles down at her and takes the cup from her hand. “Mmm. Apple juice?”
“Yeah. Mom won’t let me have the bubbly juice like her but she said I can have apple juice instead,” Jesse says as she takes a seat in the chair next to Sonny’s, fussing with her frilly skirt as she sits down. When she looks back up at Sonny, he’s staring down into his cup frowning. Jesse leans over to look into the cup but doesn’t see anything. “Uncle Sonny, are you okay?”
Her voice pulls him back to the present and he looks over at her, his brows furrowing together. “Sorry, what?”
She sighs and sets her cup down on the floor before reaching up to grab his face with her hands. “Are you okay? You look sad. I don’t like it when you’re sad. Don’t be sad, okay?”
She’s looking at him with her big blue eyes and he can’t help the smile that creeps onto his lips.
“Okay. I won’t be sad.”
Jesse squints her eyes at him. “You promise?”
Sonny nods as best as he can with her hands still squishing his cheeks. “I promise.”
Seemingly satisfied with the answer, Jesse nods and smiles as she returns to her seat. She picks up her cup off the floor, sips the rest of her juice, and kicks her feet back and forth while watching the rest of the party as they all talk amongst themselves.
Sonny watches the little girl curiously, not sure how she’s grown into such a strong girl in such a short period of time. It’s like she’s grown up right before his eyes. She and her sister both. And now, after being there for everything, he’s gonna lose them. He’s going to lose them all.
There’s a tightness in his throat and a sting behind his eyes that wasn’t there before. He clears his throat and drags a hand down his face before downing the entire plastic cup of juice and placing it on the seat of the chair as he stands. He scans the crowd looking for the rest of his friends and sighs when he notices them all engrossed in their own conversations with others at the party. Fin and Munch are talking animatedly with Captain Cragen while Liv and Barba are clinging to each other like the newlyweds they haven’t been for almost 2 years now. It warms his heart to know that they’re all having a better time than he ever could. Turning around to face Jesse, he crouches down until he’s eye level with the little girl and smiles when she flashes a grin at him.
“Hey, Jess, do you think you can do something for me?”
Jesse nods her head.
Sonny swallows over the knot in his throat. “I need you to tell your mom goodbye for me, okay? You wait until after I leave and then you tell her that I said goodbye. Can you do that for me?”
“Why can’t you just tell momma yourself? She’s right over there. Didn’t you see her? She’s with Roger right over there.”
“I know, Jesse, I know. I saw her already but I just can’t say goodbye. I have to go away for a little while and I have to leave really soon. So I need you to do this for me.”
Jesse looks ready to cry, tears welling in her eyes and her bottom lip quivering. “But why not? What’s wrong? Why can’t you say goodbye? Momma will be sad if you don’t tell her yourself. You have to tell her you’re leaving.”
He fights back the tears. “Jesse, sweetie, please. I just need you to do this for me, okay? Promise me you’ll tell her.”
“I promise.” Jesse sniffles, her cheeks already wet with tears. He stays crouched down in front of her for a few seconds and when he goes to stand, Jesse launches herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck and holding on tight.
Sonny wastes no time in hugging her back, he too is already crying. “I’m going to miss you every day.”
“I’ll miss you too, Uncle Sonny. I love you.” She manages to get out through her tears, the words spoken through sobs.
Sonny holds on tighter and speaks quietly, “I love you too, Jesse. So much. I love you, and Billie, and your Momma. I love all of you so much. And I promise you that I’ll be back, okay? Before you even know I’m gone.”
With a final squeeze and a kiss to the top of her head, Sonny wipes his face clean and heads for the exit. He stops at the door, turns, and waves goodbye to Jesse before pushing the door open and stepping out into the cool evening air.
He makes it almost to his car on the other side of the street when he hears someone calling his name. He knows it’s her and her voice gives him pause, stopping only a few feet from his car. Her voice gets louder until it seems to be only a couple of steps behind him.
“Dominick, what the hell?” She sounds irritated. There’s no doubt in his mind that she is. But he can’t bring himself to face her.
He tries to keep the tremor out of his voice when he answers her but he’s almost positive she could hear it anyways. “Amanda, go back inside. You’re missing the party.”
Her heels click across the asphalt as she takes another step towards him and then another until he can practically feel her standing behind him.
“I’m not going back inside until you tell me what’s going on.”
Dominick sighs. “I just, I have to go away. It’s only for a little while but I can’t stay. Please, forgive me, okay? I promise I’ll explain everything later.”
Amanda grabs at his arm when he tries to walk away and rushes to stand in front of him. “You want me to forgive you? Dominick, how am I supposed to forgive you for missing the most important day of my life? You’re my best friend and you won’t even be at my wedding.”
“I can’t.” Dominick looks away from her to keep her from seeing his heart breaking. He knows it’s written all over his face. And even if it’s not as obvious, she can always tell. She always knows how he’s feeling sometimes even before he knows himself. But this time is different.
She steps to the side to get him to look at her and her voice rises, “You can’t? Why not? Don’t you want to be?”
“No, Dominick,” she challenges, “tell me what you want.”
“I can’t.” He tries to step away but she follows him, her hand grabbing onto his arm again to keep him in front of her. She’s crying now. He hates it when she cries. He hates to see her sad. It’s why he had to leave without saying goodbye. He was doing it for her.
“Why not?” she cries out, her voice trembling and fingers digging into his arm. She just wants answers.
He can’t take it anymore and yanks his arm from her grip while stumbling back and shouting, “Because it doesn’t matter!”
“What?” she asks, confused. “What are you talking about?”
This is exactly what he wanted to avoid. All of this, everything that’s happening right now, could’ve been avoided had she just stayed inside. It’s too much. He can’t do this. He has to tell her now. There’s no other option.
“What I want,” he starts, his voice cracking. He swallows thickly. “What I feel — it doesn’t matter. Not anymore. All that matters is you. And what you want. What you choose. And you know what you want, Amanda. You chose him. You chose a life with him for you and your girls. One full of so much more than you’ve ever had before. The kind of life that I can’t give you.”
He wants to scream. He wants to scream until his throat is raw and tired and he can’t scream anymore. The look in her eyes has his heart shattering into a million little pieces but he knows that now, after everything, he can’t be the one to fix it. Not anymore.
“I love you, Amanda. I’m in love with you. I think I have been since the moment I saw you.”
“Sonny, please don’t go there,” she cautions him, her eyes avoiding his for the first time that night.
He takes a hesitant step forward. “I have to. I need to say this now because if I don’t, then I don’t think I ever will. I just need you to hear this.”
She stays rooted in her spot as he approaches her, one step after the other until he’s right in front of her, his hands coming up to rest on her arms. He smiles at her, a sad sort of smile, but she doesn’t smile back.
When she opens her mouth to speak again, he knows it’s going to hurt. And it does.
“I love him, Sonny. I love Roger. And he loves me.”
He nods. “I know you do. And I hope you two love each other for the rest of your lives. I mean that I really do. I’m happy for you Amanda, I hope you can believe that.”
“I do.” Amanda watches him with tears still wet on her cheeks and her lips parted ever so slightly as he leans in and presses a soft kiss to her forehead. Her eyes flutter closed at the feeling of his lips on her skin and when she opens them, he’s gone. “I love you too.”