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Recovery, A Sequel to Darkest Before the Dawn

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Barba’s doctor and nurse rushed back into the ICU. The doctor bent down towards Barba and took his hand from the wheel chair-bound Carisi. “Mr. Barba, can you hear me?"

"You’re right. He is starting to wake up. Maybe he will pull through this after all.” The heart monitor was beeping at a faster and steadier pace.

When the doctor released Barba’s hand, Carisi grasped it firmly again. He was certain that he felt another faint squeeze. He stroked Barba’s luscious but now scruffy, oily, brown hair. He yearned to see the ADA open his emerald green eyes again.  Carisi found it alarming seeing the proud, confident, sometimes arrogant prosecutor, perhaps the strongest and most passionate man he had ever known reduced to just a limp, unconscious body in a hospital bed with only his brutalized face visible from the blankets attached to life sustaining machines. "This is a nightmare. It has to be," Carisi tried to convince himself.

The doctor continued, “I am going to try to remove the intubation tube to see if he can breathe on his own.” A male orderly escorted Benson out and wheeled Carisi from the room leaving the doctor and nurse to do their thing.

Peering through the window, they watched as the doctor removed the mask and long tube from Barba’s throat. Carisi tried to stand to see better, but the orderly kept him down by pressing down on his shoulders. Benson felt a lump grow in her throat as the minutes went by.

Carisi zoned out. Everything was in slow motion, black and white, with no sound. After what seem like an eternity, the doctor looked up and smiled at Benson and Carisi through the window. The nurse invited them back into the ICU room and the orderly rolled Carisi back into the room behind Benson.

“I am cautiously optimistic. He is breathing on his own, but he is not technically conscious yet. He is waking up from his coma. He is progressing into what we call a 'minimally conscious state'. He has generalized responses to stimuli, so he is starting to come out of it” the doctor explained.

“So when Sonny talks and Rafael squeezes his hand…” Benson mused out loud.

“Exactly. This is a sign that he is progressing to a minimally conscious state. He isn’t out of the woods yet. In addition to his visible injuries, he did suffer a few severe concussions. We just don’t know what deficits he may have until he regains full consciousness. I’ve never seen a patient this close to….come back like this.”

The doctor noticed the tears streaming down Carisi’s face and knelt down next to him so that he was eye level. He gently held both of Carisi’s shoulders and said, “Your friend here is one hell of a fighter. Don’t give up on him just yet.” He turned to Benson, “we are going to move him to a private room outside of the ICU and you both are welcomed to stay with him.”

“Thank you, doctor.” Benson said through a rather raspy whisper.

After Barba was settled into his new room, Benson persuaded the staff to move Carisi to the adjoining room so he could be closer to Barba. Who knows what favors she called in for that, but Carisi was ever so grateful.

Carisi’s emotions were like a roller coaster and his anxiety levels off the charts. He kept having panic attacks where he would struggle to breathe and shake uncontrollably.  The nurse switched out Carisi’s IV bag with another medication that caused sedation. Sonny was battling to keep his eyes open, but clearly he was losing. Just before he lost consciousness, he could hear commotion from Barba’s room. Someone said “hematoma” and “OR.” It went black.

- - -

When Carisi opened his eyes he was staring dazed at the ceiling. He felt cold and shivered and then he realized a grip on his hands. Turning his head he saw Rollins holding his hands. “Where’s Rafa?” he immediately inquired in a weak tone with a delirious look while trying to get up.

“Easy, Carisi,” she said as she pushed him back down to his pillow. “He is fine. He had to have surgery because his brain was bleeding. He came out of it just fine. Liv is with him now.” Carisi closed his eyes again. Noticing that he was shivering, Rollins tucked him in with extra blanket.

---

The next morning, after everything checked out, Carisi was officially discharged. He was prescribed an anxiety medication that Rollins retrieved from the pharmacy. He was desperately struggling with the events of the past week. He was worried about about Barba’s condition and his contributing role to it. “It’s not your fault” he kept hearing Liv’s voice in his head. “You both did what you needed to do to survive.” Really? His guilt was overwhelming. He used those phrases so many times with the victims they worked with. Did they really buy that? He sure wasn’t.

Fin arrived and offered to take everyone home for showers, fresh clothes, and to get “real food.” Benson and Rollins accepted, but Carisi refused to leave Barba’s side. Sitting on a chair next to Barba’s bed, Sonny laid his head on the bed and held Rafael’s hands. He considered getting into bed to hold him, but quickly dismissed the thought when he recalled all of Barba’s injuries. He popped a few anxiety pills and drifted asleep next to Barba.

---

Dream Sequence

Memories and images of his relationship with Barba from their first meeting, to him irritating Barba on cases, to shadowing him for his law courses. Then numerous reflections on their personal relationship from being together, laughing, hanging out, to their first kiss, and their first time in the bedroom.

Then his dream drastically shifted to him sitting in a dark room among an audience watching intently as Barba gave a breath-taking performance of “Defying Gravity.” He started out just standing at the stage mic and by the end he was dramatically belting the lyrics with incredible stage presence. This was "their song." Such a fitting song for the couple. Carisi was one of the very few people to know Barba’s secret talent.

at

https://youtu.be/QaSV7xk9fSs

Something has changed within me

Something is not the same

I'm through with playing by the rules

Of someone else's game

Too late for second-guessing

Too late to go back to sleep

It's time to trust my instincts

Close my eyes: and leap!

 

I'm through accepting limits

'Cuz someone says they're so

Some things I cannot changed

But till I try, I'll never know!

Too long I've been afraid of

Losing love I guess I've lost

Well, if that's the love

It comes at much to high a cost!

I'd sooner buy

Defying gravity

Kiss me goodbye

I'm defying gravity

And you can't pull me down

 

Unlimited

Together we're unlimited

Together, we'll be the greatest team

There's ever been

Dreams, the way we planned 'em

If we work in tandem

 

There's no fight we cannot win

Just you and I

Defying gravity

With you and I

Defying gravity

 

They'll never bring us down!

Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!

And if I'm flying solo

At least I'm flying free

To those who'd ground me

Take a message back from me

Tell them how I am

Defying gravity

I'm flying high

Defying gravity

And soon I'll match them in renown

And nobody in all of Oz

No Wizard that there is or was

Is ever gonna bring me down!

Bring me down!

- ---

A hand squeeze woke him from his dream.  He looked up to see Barba’s green eyes slowly opening and closing his eyes. Then his eyes began scanning the room for clues as to where he was. Carisi could see confusion in his dazed glaze. “Raf! I’m here. You are okay. You’re in the hospital.” Barba shut his eyes again. “You are okay, you are okay,” Carisi kept repeating in a quiet soothing tone. He stroked his hair ever so gently, being sure not to put any pressure on his head. Just like that, Barba was out again, but at least he was sleeping…as confirmed by one of the nurses.

Asleep the man seemed so delicate and vulnerable. His hair still was a scuffled mess. Carisi asked the nurses for some personal grooming supplies. He used a comb to straighten his hair, applied a dry shampoo to help with the greasiness and then continued combing. He ever so gently dabbed a warm moist cloth on his face. It had been almost a week since Barba probably has last shaven and Carisi could see the rough stubble around his face. Gently he shaved him the best he could without hurting him.

The squad returned dismayed that they missed Barba’s brief moment of consciousness, but relieved that he at least did wake up, even if it was only for two minutes. Visiting hours ended and the squad went home for the evening. Fin managed to bribe one of the nurses into setting up a cot in Barba’s room and to let Carisi discretely stay the night with him. Carisi was never especially close with Fin, but this gesture meant the world to him.

---

It was nearly dawn again. Nearly 48 hours being freed from their captors. Carisi’s blue eyes opened to meet Barba’s glassy green eyes. He was staring at Carisi, but not speaking. He appeared very confused.

The doctor came to examine the ADA.

"Can you squeeze my hands? Good."

“Can you tell me your first name, sir?”

The first one was easy. “Rafael.” Check.

“Do you know where you are?”

After gazing around for a minute,, he ventured “A…hospital?” responding more as a question than a statement.

“Do you know why you are here?” Carisi’s heart sank.

“Am I sick?” Barba speculated.

“No, Mr. Barba, I am afraid you were assaulted.”

Carisi felt somewhat relieved that Barba did not seem to remember this.

“Do you know who your friend is here?”

“Sonny,” Rafael answered again, very slowly.

The doctor gestured Carisi to the door. Hesitantly leaving Barba’s side, he assured Barba he would only a few minutes. “I’ll be right back Rafa, I promise.”

Outside the room the the squad was gathered. “We are his family,” he heard Benson persuade the doctor for an update. Pausing, hesitant to the cross the professional lines, the doctor gave his update. It is going to take time to recover physically. His long term memory is intact but he doesn’t seem to remember the past week. His memory of the events could come back, maybe not. If he continues to improve we can discharge him in a few days.”

The doctor paused. “I’m not a psychiatrist nor do I know all the details, but I really think he will need one hell of a support system and a therapist. This may just be conjecture, but from what I have heard about your ADA friend, accepting help is not his strong suit, is it?”

The entire squad looked at each other and then all burst out laughing, which Carisi desperately needed. He always diffused tense situations with humor and laughs and this moment gave him the chance for this release.

“You have no idea, doc,” Fin said confirming the doctor’s apprehensions.