“Good morning Steve,” Rafael said in greeting as he stepped out onto his balcony.
A warm coo rang out, seemingly in response to his morning greeting, as a decent sized greyish blue pigeon flew down onto the balcony railing and began to watch the man with interest.
“What exciting plans do you have for today?” Rafael asked the bird as he walked over to the small metal bird bath that sat near the corner of his little balcony area. “Are you gonna go to the park? Met up with your other pigeon friends? Maybe get fed some bread by a nice child?” he asked a little playfully as he pulled the small bath from its main base part.
The pigeon again cooed out some kind of answer as Rafael walked back to the balcony door.
“Ah I see, sounds like an exciting day” the ADA said as he slid open the glass door with his hip. “I’ll be right back” he called over his shoulder as he entered his apartment and walked into the kitchen. He dumped the day-old water out into the sink and ran the faucet for a second to rinse the small bath. Once he deemed it clean he filled the bath about 2/3rds full and turned off the sink.
He then set said bath on the counter as he opened one of his cupboards and pulled out a small tupperware container of bird seed.
He picked up the small bath and balanced it on top of the tupperware easily, like he had done almost every day for the past two years since moving into this apartment, and walked back outside.
As he reappeared a loud, semi angry sounding, coo rang out over the balcony.
“Hold on Steve I’m coming, I’m coming” he chuckled out at his impatient friend.
He set down the food container on the ground as he easily resecured the bath onto its stand. He then picked up the container and popped off its lid. He pulled out a handful of food and sprinkled it into the small food holder area of the little bath.
“There” he said as he wiped the slight dusty residue of the feed off of his hand “breakfast is served”.
He walked back into the apartment and put away the feed before grabbing his coffee mug and tablet. He then returned back out to sit and start his day the way he always did by sitting with Steve as he read the news and listened to the city below as it slowly began to wake up.
As he sat down in his chair, that was just far enough away for Steve to deem him not a threat, said pigeon flew down from the railing and onto the side of the bath. But instead of landing as gracefully as he always did Steve landed weird and fell into the bath making a loud splash.
Rafael sat down his tablet prepared to go help his friend but the bird righted himself and shook off his soaked wings before he hopped back onto the rim of the bath so he could eat his breakfast.
Rafael narrowed his eyes as he looked over Steve to make sure was truly okay. He was about to go back to his news when the look of Steve’s foot caught his attention. It looked as though some kind of string or thin wiring was wrapped tightly around it which was restricting its movements.
‘I wonder if that’s what caused him to slip’ Rafael asked himself as he watched his little friend hop around the edge as he de-shelled a sunflower seed. As he hopped around the edge Rafael noticed the bird wasn’t as balanced and sure footed as normal, which made the man grow even more concerned for the little guy.
He continued to watch over Steve, taking in his restricted movements, until his tablet beeped quietly signaling it was time to get ready for work. He sighed as he slowly stood, as to not spook his breakfast companion, and headed inside.
Pigeons were tough little birds so Steve would be fine... right?
“Barba” Amanda called from across the desk to the ADA who, while he was technically looking down at the paperwork in front of himself, clearly wasn’t paying attention. “Barba” she called again. “BARBA!” she finally yelled causing the man to jump.
“Why are you yelling?” Rafael asked as he glared at his friend “I’m only a couple feet from you”.
Amanda shook her head “yeah in body only. Mentally you are miles away”. She looked at her watch “I’ve been here oh about 10 minutes and you already zoned out on me like 7 times”.
The older man sighed “I’m sorry... my mind is elsewhere”.
Amanda made a slight motion with her hand indicating that ‘duh she already knew that’ “can you even tell me what I came over here for in the first place?” she asked in a slightly teasing way.
Rafael looked at the women before shaking his head “honestly... no”.
Amanda laughed as she slide over the file she had brought “I was telling you about this rape homicide case Nick and I picked up, but it’s all written out in the file so when your mind is back you can just read it yourself”. She scooted her chair a little closer to his desk and leaned against it “now that work is all over you wanna tell me what’s pulling your attention away”.
The older man sighed as he sat back in his chair “you’re just going to make fun of me”.
The detective shrugged “probably, but that’s what friends are for”.
Rafael let out a small warm chuckle before sighing in defeat “I guess you’re right... it’s about Steve...”.
Amanda squinted “Steve?... Oh, that stupid pigeon that lives on your balcony?”.
Rafael lightly glared at her “hey, be nice to him. He’s never done anything to you so you have no right to be mean to him”.
Amanda huffed an amused laugh “... I guess you’re right.... fine what did your little friend do now?”.
“He hasn’t done anything” Rafael said sitting forward “actually something’s been done to him... or at least I think it has anyway. He has some kind of string or wire wrapped around his foot and it’s making him all off balanced”.
Amanda stared back at her friend “you do realize he’s a pigeon... right?... a rat with wings”.
Rafael sighed as he fell back into his chair “yes I know... but he’s still my friend and I’m worried about him, okay? I mean I don’t judge you when you freak out about Franny”.
Amanda glared at the ADA “well dogs and pigeons are very different... but I guess you aren’t so wrong...”. She sighed “I can’t believe I’m even asking this... but what are you gonna do about it?”.
The other man bit at his lower lip as he thought then lightly shrugged “I have no idea... I mean I’ve never done the whole animal thing... not since I was a kid anyway so I don’t know what to do in this situation... especially as Steve is a wild animal technically...”.
Amanda looked at her hands for a moment “if you’re that worried I could always call Franny’s vets office and see what to do...”.
Rafael’s face lit up “really? You’d do that for me?”.
A small laugh pulled itself from Amanda at her friends happiness “sure, why not. Steve is like your pet so it can’t hurt''.
She pulled out her phone and went through her contacts for a moment before putting the phone to her ear. It rang for a moment before Rafael could hear someone pick up.
“Hi, yes this Amanda Rollins. My dog Franny is a patient of Dr. Carisi’s”.
The voice on the other end went higher in happy recognition.
“Oh yeah, hi Bella. Oh yes, she is the bestest girl in the whole world, but I’m actually not calling about her. My friend has a... I don’t even really know how to describe this, a “friendship” with the pigeon who lives on his balcony and he’s noticed the bird has like some kind of string or wire wrapped around his foot that’s causing him to be a little off balanced. And we’re not really sure what to do about it... or if there is anything we can do...”.
The women on the other side stayed quiet for a minute before speaking.
“Oh really? Well that sounds serious”.
Rafael frowned as Amanda and the other voice sounded concerned.
“Yeah... that wouldn’t be good.... oh, you do?... he can? Oh great! When?... tomorrow at 11 o’clock?”
Amanda turned to Rafael “they say they can squeeze him in at 11 tomorrow. Will that work?”.
Rafael thought for a second trying to think if he had anything in court before nodding.
“Yes, that will work perfectly... his name is Rafael Barba and the bird's name is Steve... yes that Rafael... I know... okay thank you so much... okay goodbye Bella” Amanda said as she hung up the phone “Steve has an appointment to see Franny’s doctor at 11 tomorrow”.
Rafael smiled “that’s great...” he paused “what did you mean by that Rafael?”.
Amanda just smiled “oh I talk to the nurses and doctor about you and the squad sometimes... I mean I’ve been going there forever”.
The other man nodded as he guessed that made sense. He pursed his lips as another question popped into his head “... how am I supposed to get Steve to take him in though…?”.
That question plagued Rafael all day. Sure, he was happy that Amanda got him in to see a vet but how was he supposed to catch Steve? The plan of how to carry him in was quickly figured out though as Amanda showed up right as he was about to head home and gave him Jesse's cat carrier backpack. It was a bright plasticky purple color with small holes for the animal to breath and a big clear plastic bubble shaped dome that stuck out so that the animal inside could see out.
While Rafael was grateful to have the carrier that still didn’t help with the most important aspect of this whole operation which was how to capture a wild pigeon.
When he finally got home he didn’t do his normal routine of dinner, tv/reading, and bed, he instead started to google the night away. He found plenty of helpful and not so helpful YouTube videos and articles.
After a couple hours or so of intense research he found two ideas he really liked but only one he thought would work.
The first option came from a wiki-how article (the world's most helpful website) that suggested you train the bird to get into the carrier all on its own and then just trap them on the day. While Rafael saw this as the best overall option he also knew it wouldn’t work as he would need more time than he had. So, he decided to go with option two, the blanket method.
Now this option was overall good and safe but Rafael just knew Steve would hate it. To roughly summarize the blanket method was as easy as it sounded. What you do is lure the pigeon in with food then throw a blanket over it. The blanket should incapacitate the bird so you can easily and safely pick it up and transfer it into a cage or carrier of some kind. While Rafael was sure Steve would hate him for this betrayal he found it to be the best method so he set the plan into motion.
The next morning, like clockwork, Rafael went out onto his balcony and was greeted by a friendly coo.
Instead of going about his normal routine of cleaning the bird bath, setting out food, etc. Rafael set his plan into motion. He pulled out, from the back of the cabinet, Steve’s special occasion feed. Now while Steve wasn’t technically Rafael’s pet that didn’t mean he didn’t want to spoil his friend on occasion. So, he had a decent sized mealworm feed cake just for special occasions (Christmas, New Years, Steve’s birthday which he decided was May 16th, etc.).
He broke off a decent chunk of the feed like brick and took it outside. He set it down in the ground and walked back to the apartment where he grabbed his trusty ‘it’s cold but not cold enough for a real blanket’ blanket as he deemed it the perfect blanked that was weighty enough to trap Steve but not too weighty as to accidentally hurt the little guy.
Steve stared at Rafael and the chunk of bug and seed for a while until finally giving into his wants and gliding down to the balcony’s floor. He hopped around the chunk of food inspecting it until he deemed it an acceptable offering and began to peck at it.
Rafael watched him slowly begin to eat for a moment as to give him time to adapt. Once Steve was in his feeding zone the lawyer pounced and threw the blanket covering Steve. The pigeon cooed and squawked angrily as he tried to flap away the covering to free himself.
Rafael hovered over the blanket until Steve finally calmed down. He leaned down and as gently as he could and lifted the small bird into his arms. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry Steve, I’m sorry” he lightly chanted over and over again as he moved the bird into his apartment and deposited him into the carrying case. Which he had slightly tricked out with a small blanket floor and decent sized chunk of mealworm cake that would hopefully work as an apology for kidnapping the bird.
Steve glared out of the small clear plastic window and cooed angrily at Rafael as he worked on smoothing his ruffled feathers.
“I’m sorry Steve” Rafael tried to reason “but this is for your own good, I swear”.
Steve didn’t like the other man’s reasonings and just let out another angry coo.
“HELLO!” a large cockatoo screamed at Rafael as he pushed open the door into the veterinary clinic.
“Hello to you too,” Rafael chuckled as he looked at the bird who was sitting on top of a small metal cage full of four playful kittens near the door.
“Oh, just ignore Pepe he’s just a grumpy old man” a very beautiful blond woman wearing light blue scrubs said from behind the large U-shaped office desk area. She walked from her computer towards the front of the U and smiled “welcome to Rockwell Animal Hospital, how can I help you today?”.
“I’m here to see Doctor Carisi... I’m his 11 o’clock” Rafael said as walked over to the large office space that seemed to take up most of the visible clinic area.
The room itself was set up with the nurses station in the middle in a large U shape. Wooden doors ran along both sides of the office area leading to small patient rooms. The U opened towards the back where the kennel and surgical area clearly was. The whole clinic was very bright as it’s front was mostly windows and it made everything inside have a quaint charming glow to it that slightly helped ease the ADA’s mind.
“Oh of course sir you’re the one with the pigeon” the blonde nurse said clearly excited as she walked back to her computer and brought up a form. “So, what’s the name again?”.
“Umm...” Rafael paused as it semi hit him at how ridiculous this whole situation was “Steve”.
“Okay Steve,” the nurse said as she typed “now what’s your bird’s name?”.
Rafael let out a small laugh “oh no I’m sorry, I thought you were asking his name. My name is Rafael Barba the bird’s name is Steve”.
The nurse also laughed as she deleted and re typed out a couple lines of her page “oh that’s my fault. You wouldn’t believe how many times that mix up has happened”. She looked down at the back pack as an angry coo rang out from it and laughed as she turned back to her computer and typed a few more things onto the document. “Okay Mr. Barba, if you’ll take Steve into examination room 2 the doctor will be with you in just a moment”.
Rafael nodded as he carried Steve into the room.
He placed the weird back pack on the examination table and sat down next to it on one of the waiting chairs. He looked in on Steve and received a deathly glare. “I’m sorry buddy” he said as he lightly pet against the bag “as I said before this is for your own good, and as soon as the doctor checks you out we’ll go back home and you can go back to doing what you normally do when I’m not there... like pooping on my neighbors cars and such”.
A quiet laugh pulled Rafael away from his companion and towards the door. A very tall and attractive man in a white coat stood in the doorway watching the two friends interact.
“Hi,” the stunning doctor said his eyes bright and happy as he stepped into the room and closed the door. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your little pep talk to your friend there” he said smiling obviously holding back some laughter. He walked to the other side of the table and set down his clipboard before turning back to the pair “but it was just so cute I couldn’t resist”. He held out his hand “I’m Doctor Dominick Carisi Jr but you can just call me Doctor Sonny”.
Barba quickly took the other man’s hand and shook it “nice to meet you Doctor, I’m Rafael Barba”.
The doctor smiled again as he turned to finally look into the back pack “what seems to be the problem. I’ve heard Steve here has something wrapped around his foot”.
The older man nodded “yeah I put out some feed the other day and noticed he wasn’t as stable as normal”.
The doctor nodded as she slowly moved the back pack so he could see in it better “well if it’s just some string or wiring hopefully we can just unwrap it or cut it off and he’ll be right as range”. He pulled on some gloves then reached again for the bag but stopped as he looked at Rafael “he’s really lucky to have a friend like you as without help he could have lost his foot. I can’t tell you how many pigeons I’ve seen with infected or missing feet''. He slowly began to unzip the bag “did you know pigeons frequently eat their feet when they fall off?”. He lightly shivered in disgust “so gross... but also so cool if you think about it”.
Rafael just stared at the obviously excited man “yeah.... I could have gone my whole life without that image... so thanks for that”.
The taller man’s eyes widened “oh shoot I’m sorry. I just get so excited about my work I forget talking about it so passively is sometimes... not normal... sorry about that. Here’s a lighter fact: pigeons understand the concept of space and time... and can be trained to like different kinds of art… also back in the day the military did experiments with them to spot targets and they performed with a 93% accuracy as opposed to the humans who only scored I believe 36% which is just wild!”.
Rafael let out a fond chuckle at the adorable man “now those are fun facts”. He looked over the doctor and smiled “and it’s okay, I can tell you’re obviously excited about that foot fact... even if it was... gross”. He shrugged lightly “I’m an assistant district attorney myself so I understand wanting to talk about your job but no one wanting to hear about the grimmer details”.
“Oh yeah, you work with Franny’s mom. I’ve been treating that girl since she was a puppy, and pardon my language but I freaking love that dog” he said as he finished unzipping the bag. “Her mom’s a detective with the SUV unit... right?” the other man asked his eyes seemingly brightening at the thought of the detective and her dog.
The ADA let out a small laugh filled huff as he nodded slowly, of course this beautiful man would light up thinking about Amanda, “it’s actually the special victims unit so SVU but yeah... she’s the one that recommended I bring Steve over”.
Sonny nodded as he slowly slipped his hands into the open back pack to carefully grab Steve “oh right SVU, my bad” he chuckled out, obviously slightly embarrassed. “I believe people prefer to hear about the icky issues you deal with over weird and gross animal stuff I know though. I mean people used to attend public hangings back in the day and love to watch crime shows now but no one’s ever been excited to see an ASPCA commercial” he lightly joked.
Rafael nodded as he laughed “well you’ve definitely got me there, I guess there is something interesting about the macabre of crime... but I did like the other pigeon facts”.
Sonny’s cheeks lightly pinked as he ducted his head “thanks”. He then cleared his throat as he slowly began to pull Steve out of the backpack and place him on the exam table. The grumpy bird cooed angrily and puffed up his feathers making both men laugh.
“Hey Mr. Steve my name is Sonny and I’m gonna be helping you out today” the doctor said gently as he lightly pet down Steve’s back “your friend Rafael here brought you in for me to look at you”.
Steve seemed to sense what the man was saying and turned to look at Rafael slightly de puffing as he was soothed.
“Yeah, that’s your friend Rafael. He wants to help you so he brought you here” as he talked he slowly picked Steve up to look at both of his feet. He quickly saw the string and hummed to himself “okay I see the problem”.
He looked at the door then to Rafael then back at the door. “Okay...” he said slowly as he thought “now normally this is where I would ask the owner to kinda hold their animal so I can get a better look... but Steve is a wild pigeon and I’m not sure how comfortable you would be holding onto him...”.
Rafael slightly pursed his lips “I... I guess I could help...”.
The doctor smiled happily “oh good!”. He slowly set Steve back on the table “come over here and take up the position where my hands are”.
The other man nodded and sucked in a small breath as he tried to pump himself up as he stepped closer to the table. He put on the gloves that Sonny handed him and slowly moved his hands above Sonny’s as the doctor slowly began to remove his.
“Now be as strong but also as gentle as possible when holding him... like a handshake grip” Sonny said once his hands were fully away.
Rafael nodded slowly as he held Steve who was full on glaring at him. “I’m sorry buddy” he said quietly to Steve who let out another angry coo.
“Okay, now if you could slowly pick up Steve so his feet are facing me” Sonny said quietly as he grabbed his surgical scissors from the table behind him.
Rafael, again, took in a nervous breath as he nodded and slowly began to lift Steve. The bird began to move and tried to flap Rafael’s hands away but the ADA did his best to hold on to him. “Stay calm, stay calm stay calm” he chanted under his breath as he held onto the pigeon until it finally relaxed.
“I think you’ve calmed him,” Sonny said proudly as he watched the man.
Rafael lightly blushed and ducted his head “I was talking... to myself more so than him”.
The doctor smiled as he watched Rafael “I’m honestly still so impressed. I mean I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that a man who stands up to harden criminals everyday can keep his cool when holding a pigeon, but I’m still impressed”.
Rafael slightly beamed under the other man’s complement.
“Okay now I’m going to touch his foot which may make him start flapping again so just be prepared” Sonny said as he leaned in closer to Steve.
To his credit Steve started to coo and tried to bite at Rafael and Sonny as the doctor cut and pulled at the string around his foot. As soon as it started though Sonny was finished and stepped away.
He held up a small white string and smiled “tada! I’m done”.
Rafael placed Steve back down on the counter and smiled “well that was easy”.
The doctor nodded as he wrote something down on his chart “I’ll say”. He turned back around and looked down at Steve, petting his head lightly, “you’re very lucky little guy”. He looked back up at Rafael “I’m glad you caught it so quickly. I thought from what Bella, my nurse, told me yesterday that this was going to be a whole thing where he would probably lose a toe at least, but no he’s all good”.
He gently took Steve out of Rafael’s hands and held him close to look at his feet again “he might walk a little stiffly for the rest of the day but by tomorrow he should be right as range”.
Sonny gently put Steve back in his carrying case before taking off his gloves and picking us his clipboard “and with that we are done”.
Rafael nodded as he bit at his check. While he was happy for Steve to be okay he was weirdly sad that this whole thing was over as just being in the other man’s presence was nice.
“Umm... before you go,” Sonny said, his cheeks turning again a light pink color “I wanted to ask you something... but I don’t wanna make it weird or anything...”.
Rafael cocked his head “okay...”.
The doctor stood up a little straighter and cleared his throat obviously slightly amping himself up “Amanda has told me a lot about you... well she’s told me a lot about all her coworkers as she usually gets a call to come in during our exams and stuff... but she’s mentioned more than a few times that she thinks we’d be a good... match...”.
Rafael lightly rolled his eyes as all the times Amanda would mention Franny’s doctor or weirdly invite him to go to exams with her all started making since “she’s been trying to set us up, hasn’t she?”.
Sonny nodded “yes... yes she has. She’s even given me your card a few times but I find that kinda weird, you know. I mean I’ve never met you before and calling you randomly is just weird to me... but we’ve met now and I think you’re really sweet... I mean you brought in a wild pigeon like that’s just super adorable… so I was hoping that maybe, if I haven’t turned you off with my terrible pigeon facts, you’d like to go out sometime?”.
The older man lightly smiled “I would like that... and your pigeon facts were actually kinda adorable... I mean not the foot one obviously but the fact that you were so excited about your job was really nice to see”.
The doctor’s eyes widened “really?! I'm gonna be honest I assumed you were going to say no”. He smiled so brightly it almost blinded Rafael “the clinic doesn’t open till 9 each day so maybe we could grab coffee some morning? As I’ve heard it’s basically all you drink”.
Rafael nodded and lightly rolled his eyes again “of course Amanda would mention that”. He shook his head fondly “I’m actually free tomorrow morning till 9:30 so maybe we could meet for coffee around 7ish?”. He paused as he looked at the back pack “make it more 7:30 ish as I usually put out Steve’s breakfast around 7 and I know he’s mad at me so I don’t wanna push it; but there’s a nice little shop a couple blocks from here called Higher Grounds that’s pretty nice”.
The other man chuckled and nodded “that sounds perfect. I shall see you around 7:30 tomorrow then”.
In seeming agreement Steve let out a loud but content coo which made both men look at the back pack and laugh.
“I believe Steve has given us his blessing,” Sonny said happily.
“Oh, thank goodness” Rafael replied sarcastically “I was so worried he would be against us”
Both men just laughed.