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From the Beginning

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Maya gets home at her usual time. It’s quiet in the apartment and Maya wonders if Carina is still asleep. She doesn’t have to go to work early so she figures she probably is. Maya had text her last night after she found out about the happenings in Minneapolis and the death of George Floyd. Carina hadn’t heard yet, so she told her to turn on the news. If she knows Carina like she thinks she does then she knows Carina probably stayed up late watching the news, looking up information on her phone or laptop, learning and educating herself about the situation.

It's one thing Maya has learned about Carina. If she doesn’t know something, especially something specific to the United States, then she will sit down and educate herself on that subject. Which is a bit nerdy but in Maya’s opinion nerdy is good. The ability to educate oneself on a subject, to admit that you don’t know what you could about a subject, to want to better yourself on that subject is very sexy. Or maybe it’s just that Maya finds Carina’s intelligence and willingness to learn, anything, exceptionally sexy. Her sexy girlfriend with her big smart brain, worldliness, her use of multiple languages is very sexy indeed.

She quietly pushes the bedroom door open and sees Carina still asleep. Maya’s breath catches at the sight. Her girlfriend, laying on her side, one hand tucked up under her chin, the other wrapped around a pillow, Maya’s pillow, against her chest.

She kicks her shoes off near the bedroom door, sliding them out of the way with her foot so no one trips on them and makes her way across the room. Maya doesn’t bother with the covers, instead she lays down on top of them, gently pulling that pillow away from Carina. In her sleep, Carina lets it go but a little wrinkle forms between her brows. Maya leans in closer, so her body is inches away from Carina’s. She leans in until her lips can press to the little furrow, kissing the spot before pulling back a little to look at Carina’s face. The wrinkle stay there so Maya reaches up and rubs her thumb over it, smoothing it out.

That’s when Carina shifts, the touch waking her. “Maya?”

“You better not be calling anyone else’s name in our bed.” Maya jokes lightly. Carina frowns at her words. “Okay. No jokes this morning.”

“It’s not appropriate after last night.”

“I know.” Maya runs her hand over the side of Carina’s head, dragging her fingers through her hair.

“How was last night?” Carina asks, rolling onto her back, finally opening her eyes.

“Rough. I felt so out of place. My team, my crew – they’re- I could see them struggling. No one would admit it if you asked. I think everything is too fresh yet, but you could see in Ben’s eyes, in Vic’s the emotion. What emotion? I’m not sure. I felt it too. To see that, to see a human being be killed like that-“ Maya doesn’t know what to say really. She sighs, knowing the next thing she says isn’t going to be right. “Why can’t anything be easy right now?”

Carina holds her arm out, inviting Maya in for a cuddle. “It’s not about you.” She says as Maya tucks into her side, head on her shoulder, arm bent, hand over Carina’s heart.

“I know it’s not. I just feel that way.” Maya runs her index finger back and forth across Carina’s chest.

“It’s okay to feel that way but it’s not about you.”

“But it effects all of us.”

“It does.” Carina agrees.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“About?”

Maya scrunches up her face. Is Carina not understanding this? “My team. I’m not- not- black. I don’t know what that’s like. I’m not going to pretend like I do. That’s not right. There’s going to be emotions from them that I can’t and won’t understand. I want to support them. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t know an appropriate way to do that.”

Maya pushes herself up onto her elbow, so she is hovering over Carina. “My team is half, more than half- Me and Jack are the white people. And it’s crazy because usually it’s the other way around but we are the minority. Our station is-“

“Diverse.” Carina finishes.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t see any of them as anything other than my friends, my firefighters so it’s such a foreign concept that there could be racial issues within a workplace or society. But it exists. As we’ve seen on tv. As the country has been divided more and more in recent years. These racial tensions are coming to the forefront. And I guess it’s my white ignorance but it’s not something I’ve really put much thought or effort into. How do you feel about it?”

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around how someone could be so cruel to another person, so much so that they kill them. No matter the situation. And I’m still learning about this country and I’m finding that there is a lot that I don’t know. Like you, I feel ignorant. Racial injustice and inequality isn’t something I’ve ever really been around or dealt with or even I don’t know, what’s the word-“ Carina runs her hand up and down Maya’s arm. “I know it exists, but it has never been a my problem. It was always someone else’s problem. Or I felt like it was someone else’s problem. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Not enough white people, or not even white, just there aren’t enough people standing up for black folks. I’ve faced prejudice and being profiled so I know what that is like. I know that feeling. So, I more than understand that part of it.”

“You have?” Maya scrunches up her face.

“Si.” Carina chews on her bottom lip. “I have an accent. I’m an immigrant. I’m not from this country. People hear it when I speak, and they know. They might not know where I come from, but they know it’s not from here. There are dirty looks. Some people mumble things under their breath. Others will turn away from me or put more distance between themselves and me.”

“Why- why haven’t you told me this?” Maya’s head spins. Is it really that difficult for Carina to live in this country?

Carina shrugs. “It’s not something you just bring up. And it doesn’t happen that often.”

“I haven’t ever noticed it.” Maya mentions. She tries to recall all the times they’ve been out in public and can’t remember anything like what Carina is describing as happening.

“My point exactly.” Carina finds Maya’s hand, locking their fingers together, palm to palm. “But it does happen. I think the worst time was-“ Carina swallows thickly. “Was-“

“It’s okay. You don’t have to- if you don’t want to.”

“No. I need to.” Carina takes a deep breath. “When Andrea and I were in the train station. We were speaking in Italian. A guy heard us and made a comment about how we got in this country and that we, as Italians, were all carrying the coronavirus. Then a lady sitting across from us on the train heard us speaking in Italian and she clutched her bag closer to her chest before getting up and moving to a seat on the other end of the train from us so, yes, I’ve been profiled. It happens. I understand it. I get that feeling. I know it’s not the same as your firefighters or any black person in this country, but it’s not all that different.”

“Well, now I’m learning. Wow.”

“The reasons for profiling or prejudice against someone like me or a black person might be different, but it all comes from the same underlying place. That racism is inherently the same. We need to find ways to combat that. You, tesoro, need to acknowledge your privilege. While not a male, you are still a white woman in the United States. There is a certain privilege associated with that still.”

Maya hums. “I’m realizing that now. And I don’t know why I haven’t realized that until now. Sadly, it might have something to do with my father. He always instilled in me that I was better than everyone else. Male, female, black, white. It didn’t matter.” Maya wonders about her father for a moment. Just a moment though. She knows exactly how he is reacting to the news of a black man being killed by police in Minneapolis. It makes her cringe. “He- he wanted me to be the best. No matter what. He tried to turn me into him. He tried to turn me into someone like him.”

Carina leans in and kisses Maya. “You aren’t him. You are so much better than him. You have so much love and empathy for your fellow human beings, you could never be like that. You’re a firefighter. You help people.”

“Police are supposed to help people.”

Carina hums. “You’ve got a point there.”

“What do you think I should do? For my crew.”

Carina is quiet for a few minutes. “I don’t know.”

Maya rolls her eyes. “You’re a lot of help.” She chuckles.

“Maya. I can’t tell you what to do. The same as you can’t tell them what to do or how to feel. I think you probably just should be a supportive ear. Ear? Just support them if they need it. Maybe do what you’ve done with me.”

Maya raises an eyebrow at that. “Fall in love with them?” She teases.

It gets a genuine laugh from Carina. “No. Definitely don’t do that. Create a safe space so if they want to talk or need to talk, they don’t feel threatened or pressured.”

“You’re so freaking smart.” Maya kisses her. One kiss turns into two and then three and then Maya is caressing Carina’s face, trying to gain as many little kisses from her as she can. It dawns on Maya what she should do. “I know.”

“You know what?” Carina smirks before licking her lips.

“I’ll bring in Dr. Lewis.”

“Now you’re the smart one.” Carina teases. “That might be a good idea. As long as you, and she, make it clear that no one is being forced to talk to her. It’s optional. Everyone processes things differently.”

“Yeah.” Maya sighs. She feels like maybe she is onto something now. It’s not a solution but it’s a starting point. “When do you have to go to the hospital?”

“Later. Why?”

“Cuz I’d really like to keep kissing you and if you have to get up and get ready then I don’t get to do that.” Maya pouts a little.

Carina tips her head back and laughs. “I freaking love you.”

“Good cuz I love you too.” Maya’s tips Carina’s head back towards her. “Now come here and make out with me.”

Carina doesn’t need more convincing than that as she giggles as Maya kisses her.


Carina is in the kitchen. It’s her first day where she doesn’t have to be at the hospital for any reason. Her office is cleaned out, her patients have all been transferred, everything is pretty much wrapped up.

And she doesn’t know what to do with herself to occupy the free time that she has. Carina already went for a morning walk. Maya is at work so she can’t use her as a distraction or to occupy her time. She feels more stressed out than she has been lately. Which is saying a lot because there has been a lot of stress. There are just over two weeks until she has to leave and there is a certain apprehension surrounding that. She has anxiety about leaving for Italy, about being in Italy. Now that Maya isn’t going with, it seems worse somehow. She worries about how long she is going to be gone. Everything is out of her control. It’s not like Carina is a controlling person or has to have every detail mapped out like Maya, but she needs some sort of reassurance that things will work out. And she just can’t find any right now.

So, she’s in the kitchen, cooking. She’s already on her second dish of the day. There is more food than she and Maya can eat. It’s all going to be packaged up and put in the freezer. It’s just a happy coincidence but now Maya can have all these Italian meals to eat while she is gone.


Maya is second guessing her decision to bring Dr. Lewis into the station today when she sees Miller and Sullivan angry about her bringing Diane in.

She pulls her phone from her back pocket as she gets to the rear of the engine. Maya knows what she needs. She hesitates for a moment because she also second guesses making this phone call. In the past, she wouldn’t have made it. She would have made her decision and stuck with it no matter what. She wouldn’t need a second opinion or encouraging words. She wouldn’t need someone to hold her hand or talk her through something. Maya wouldn’t need and didn’t want any of that. It made her weak, it made her less than, it made her feel like a failure.

But now, as she pulls up Carina’s contact and hits the call icon, she knows it doesn’t make her weak, it doesn’t make her a failure. Those things that her father drilled into her have been released, they are less of a burden now. Maya knows that she has someone to support her and her decisions. She has someone that she can go to, turn to, for advice or support. To just listen. Things Maya felt like she didn’t need or couldn’t have because of her father.

“Ciao, bella. Cosa sta succedendo?” (What’s happening?)

Maya sighs. “Ciao. Some of my team seem upset or mad that Diane is here. Did I do the wrong thing? I didn’t want to upset them. I just wanted to- to do something. Ya know.” She feels a little panicky as the words leave her mouth.

“You’re bold. And you’re trying. Right or wrong, you tried something today. You tried something to help.” Carina thinks that’s the most important part. That Maya is trying something, doing something to try to help.

“Thank you.”

“I love you.”

Maya rolls her eyes and blushes a little, smitten with this wonderful women who is there to raise her up. She pauses for a moment to collect that feeling.

“I love you too.” Maya is uncertain about the next thing she is going to say. “Carina, I-“

“You can call me anytime today. I will be here. Do not worry about it. I’m off work. You are not interrupting. I will answer.” She reassures Maya, that no matter what might arise she will be there.

“Thank you.” Maya sighs. “I love you.”

“Te amo, bambina. Now get back to work.” Carina jokes.

Maya grins and hangs up the call.

The second time Maya calls Carina it’s with renewed confidence. She knows what she wants to do now. She knows she doesn’t and can’t silently support her team. She has to lead, to be a leader. She has to tell her team that she supports them and their decision to protest if they so choose. She needs to make that clear to Carina too. She knows there’s a risk involved with supporting her team. Maya feels like she needs to get Carina to understand that it’s not so simple to just give them support. She knows that the chief has a close eye on her and everything that she does. She knows that one misstep could lead to further consequences for her. Maya is very aware of what is at play with PD and SFD and how everything she does is being analyzed and scrutinized by multiple people.

“Why aren’t all the brothers, why aren’t all the friends, why isn’t ever member of the police force in the streets demanding systemic change? Why?”

Maya realizes that Carina isn’t on the same page with this as she is; all while she understands Carina perspective, her point of view, her argument.

“Because it’ll take them off a track.” Maya can’t just derail her career train off its track. Can she?

Ultimately, she decides to support her team. She calls Carina once more that day.

“Hello?”

“Ciao.” Carina yawns.

“Were you asleep? Did I wake you?”

“Si.”

“I’m sorry.” Maya closes her eyes when she looks at her watch and sees that it’s quarter past ten. “I’ll let you go back to sleep.”

“No. Don’t hang up.” Carina stretches her arms over her head on the couch. She was watching some cheesy Hallmark movie and fell asleep. “I’m awake now. What’s up?”

“I just wanted to call to say that I’m going to the protest in the morning. I’ve decided. Bureaucracy be damned.”

“Good for you. Do you want me to join you?” Carina doesn’t know if she should be there or not. She doesn’t know if it’s a crew thing only or if she’s welcome.

“Of course, Carina. Of course.” Maya sighs, hating that they are talking on the phone. “You know what?” She hears Carina hums. “I’m going to hang up.”

“Maya.” Carina whines. “I told you it was-“ The phone beeps on Carina’s ear and she pulls it away from her face to see that Maya has hung up on her. “Rude.” She pouts, until the screen lights up with Maya’s face on it with a video call. “Bambina.” Carina grins as she accepts the Facetime call.

“I know it’s not the same, but I needed to see your face.”

Carina shakes her head lightly. “I probably look all sleepy and tired.” She turns her head to the side. “Are there lines on the side of my face from the pillow?”

Maya grins. “Maybe slightly but you are as beautiful as ever. Absolutely gorgeous.”

“Maya, stop.” Carina bites her bottom lip.

“I tell no lies.” She winks. “So, I’ll see you in the morning? I can text you when we are ready to go.”

“Sure.” Carina yawns.

“Go back to sleep, my love. I’m sorry I woke you. I should have checked the time before I called. I will next time.” Maya wonders how many next times there are going to be while Carina is still in Seattle. The days are dwindling down. She knows it. Carina knows it. Neither of them have brought it up yet. But it hangs over them. “I love you.”

“I love you, Maya.”

“Good night.” Maya smiles.

Carina closes her eyes. “Good night, bella.”


“I want-“ Maya starts but stops. It’s still a hard thing for her to do, to say what she wants. It seems selfish.

“What?” Carina prompts. She runs her hand up and down Maya thigh where she sits next to her on the couch.

“Can we- I know you’ve been cooking a lot lately to help with your anxiety and fears and stuff about Italy but-“

Carina puts her book down and turns to Maya. “Cosa?”

“And it helps you cope.”

“Is this about the mess I’ve been making? Because I try to clean everything up every time. Sometimes the dishes are a bit much and I leave them for the next day, but I didn’t think that was that bad.” Carina explains knowing how Maya is with her space and messes.

Maya smiles. “No. You are perfectly fine.” She learned to live with a few things laying around. It helps that they are the love of her life’s things though. If it were just one of her friend Maya would probably have more issue with their stuff laying around.

Carina raises an eyebrow. “I know what fine means. I don’t want to be fine. I will do all the dishes the same day from now on.”

“Carina.” Maya takes Carina’s hands in hers. “You are good. You are so good. I don’t mind a few dishes in the sink. As long as everything else is cleaned up.” She winks. Carina hangs her head. “I’m kidding. Come on.” She tugs on Carina’s hands, getting her to move over a little so that Carina’s left leg hangs over Maya’s legs. “No pouting.” She lefts Carina’s chin. “No sad times. Only happy. Okay?”

“Si.” Carina nods.

“Good. Now, I want us to do something together. I was thinking of cooking. Like you could teach me one of your most favorite Italian recipes. And then while you are away, I can make it myself and try to prefect it for when you return.”

“Really?” Carina tries to hide her hopeful smile but it’s no use when Maya nods in confirmation. “God, I love you.” She throws her hands around Maya’s shoulders and pulls her into an embrace. “I love that idea.”

“Let’s make a mess in the kitchen together.” Maya grins as she holds onto Carina.

And a mess it turns out to be. There is flour everywhere.

“I think there’s flour in my underwear.”

“Probably.” Carina grins. She knows there is. It was on her hands when she slid them around Maya’s waist and into her pants, grabbing her bare ass with her hands.

“It’s absolutely everywhere.” Maya looks around the room. “Is it always this messy when you make pasta?”

“Not always but I don’t always have a sexy assistant chef in the kitchen with me.” Carina wiggles her eyebrows.

“So you’re going to blame me.”

“I’m not blaming you, bella. I’m just saying.”

Maya grunts. “Can’t I just buy pasta from the store, in a box, and boil it.”

“I thought you wanted to make something authentic and something that I enjoy.” She raises a challenging eyebrow at Maya.

“I do but-“ She shuts her mouth with that. “Let’s continue.”

“And it’s so easy. Even you can do it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Maya puts her hands on her hips, offended.

“That unless it comes in a package or from a box you struggle with homemade meals.” She boops Maya on the nose, getting some flour there.

Maya wiggles her nose, trying to shake it off.

“Okay. It’s ready.” Carina gets the ‘sheet’ of dough how she wants it. “We just need to run it through the machine now to cut it into strips of pasta.”

“And then what?” Maya watches carefully.

“We throw it in the boiling water, so it cooks. Then presto, buon appetito.” Carina winks over at Maya. “Ah, si, pero today we are going to make alfredo anche.”

“So, we’re making fettuccine alfredo?”

“Si.” Carina nods. “One of my favorites. Don’t tell la mia famiglia but I like how it is here. Where you add little chickens, or shrimps, or salmon or broccolis. In Italia it’s just the pasta tossed with butter and parmesan cheese. It’s very good like that but here- The cream, the added flavor with the chicken or shrimp or broccoli.” Carina raises her hand in the air, her fingertips pressed to her thumb. She brings them to her lips, kissing them before opening her hand. “Fantastico. It’s more of a meal that way. In Italia it’s kind of a side dish or a starter.”

Maya stands there, staring at Carina in awe. She reaches out, her fingertips find Carina’s jaw, tilting her head so that she’s facing Maya. Carina grins. “Cosa?” Carina recognizes that lovestruck look on Maya’s face.

Maya pulls her into a heated kiss. Carina wraps an arm around Maya, pressing her to the counter. Her hands roam Maya’s body as her hips keep Maya pressed to the spot. She brings her hand up to Maya’s face, her thumb slipping between their lips, tugging down on Maya’s bottom lip. “You want to do this now?”

Maya groans. She really does but she wants to know about the rest of this meal that Carina is showing her how to cook. “N-no.” She pushes Carina gently away from her. “Let’s finish this first. I’m eager to see what this tastes like.” She turns around so that she is facing the counter and Carina is behind her.

“Bambina, you’ve had my fettuccine alfredo before.” Carina comes up behind Maya and presses into her.

Carina words sound like something they’re not in Maya’s mind. She shudders as Carina runs her hands down her arms, finding her hands, locking their fingers together.

“We should-“ Maya swallows thickly. “I want to learn this. For you. With you.” Her eyes close as Carina places one single open mouthed kiss to the side of Maya’s neck.

“Okay.” She decides that’s enough teasing Maya for now. “You get a pot and fill it about halfway with water. Put it on the stove and turn the heat on. I think we have broccoli so get that out and rinse it and when that water boils throw the broccolis in.” Carina runs the pasta sheet through the machine to cut it into strands as she explains everything.

“Okay. Then what?”

“We make the alfredo.” Carina finishes with the pasta and sets it aside. She gets out another pot and puts water in and starts that to boil for the pasta. She gets a pan out. “Get the butter and cream.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Carina glares playfully over in Maya’s direction. Maya has her head stuck in the fridge, so she doesn’t see it. Maya comes back with the items and Carina takes them from Maya’s hands. In exchange, she gives Maya a block of Parmesan cheese. “Grate that. We need about two cups worth.”

Maya looks from the cheese her hands up to Carina’s face. “Why-“

“There’s a reason I keep all these cheeses and vegetables and seasonings and spices just laying around.” She uses air quotes around the last three words.

“I didn’t mean it like that when I said it.” Maya pouts. Of course, Carina doesn’t forget that day when Maya was crabby and having a bad day and she knocked a block of cheese off the counter when she was making a sandwich and mumbled ‘why do we have all this stuff just laying around’.

“I’m just giving you a hard time.” Carina makes up for it with a sweet kiss. “I know you didn’t mean any maliciousness. And I appreciate you and you letting me have my stuff laying around.”

Maya rolls her eyes.

Carina puts the cream and butter in the saucepan and turns on the heat, so it can come to a simmer. She then grabs a clove of garlic and minces it up and adds it to the pan.

Maya stomach grumbles.

“Is someone hungry?” Carina laughs.

“No.” Maya lies. “That was a noise from outside.” Except her stomach betrays her by grumbling again.

“Sure it was.” Carina laughs.

Maya can’t help but smile at the sound of that laugh. It’s one of her most favorite sounds in the world. “I love your laugh. It’s so rich. So carefree.”

Carina comes up behind Maya as she’s grating and wraps her arms around her stomach. “Is that so?”

Maya nods and Carina rests her chin on Maya’s shoulder as she watches the blonde grate the cheese. “That’s probably enough.” Carina takes the cutting board with her right hand and slips it away from Maya. She adds the parmesan cheese and starts whisking everything together. “Can you get the salt and pepper?”

“Si.” Maya grins.

Carina glances over at her with a slight shake of the head. “My little Italian in training.” She mumbles under her breath but loud enough that Maya hears her.

“Here you are, my wise Italian teacher.” Maya puts the salt and pepper on the counter next to the stove. A hand goes to the lower part of Carina’s back, up underneath the bottom of her t-shirt so it’s skin to skin contact.

Carina flinches. “Oooh, your hands are cold.”

Maya smirks. “Sorry.” She’s not sorry though.

“The pasta water is boiling. Oh, so is the broccoli water. Can you add those?”

“Certamente.” Maya smirks, remember and using some Italian.

“So, you are learning some?” Carina wiggles her eyebrows while she whisks.

“I have a very wise teacher. I think I just mentioned that. But, si. You know what helps. Stuff like this.” Maya stirs the pasta into the boiling water. “I’m a visual learner. I learn best and remember best when whatever I’m learning is attached to an activity, an action. It helps me connect, the word in this case, with something I’m seeing.”

“Interessante.” Carina hums.

“Repetition helps too. The more you hear something the more likely you are to pick it up. That’s how kids learn, right. They hear stuff repeated from their parents.” Maya adds the broccoli to the water.

Carina hums, thinking about Maya and her thirst for knowledge. Any subject, any topic. Whether it’s fires, or cooking, or how to perfect working a fire hose, she is willing to learn and willing to try until she gets something right. It a very attractive quality. Whatever Maya puts her mind to she can usually master.

Maya stands behind Carina, wrapping her up in her arms. “That smells amazing. No wonder my stomach is rumbling.” She presses a kiss to Carina’s shoulder and taking a deep breath. “You smell amazing. You are amazing.” Maya mumbles.

“Maya.” Carina’s bottom lip trembles. She doesn’t know what’s happening. She doesn’t know why she’s so emotional all of a sudden. “Bam- bambina-“

“What’s wrong?” Maya comes around to Carina’s side.

“I don’t know.” Carina sets the whisk down and covers her face with her hands. “I think- this is so nice. Like- do you know what I mean?” Maya looks at her with confusion. “This. Us. Here.” She motions to the food on the stove. “Cooking. In our- in our kitchen. It’s so simple.” She sniffles, trying to keep the tears at bay. “So nice.”

“It’s easy. You and me. This. It’s nice.” Maya gets it with a little bit of an explanation now. “And?”

“And, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss you- this- us.”

“Come here.” Maya pulls Carina into a hug. “I’ll miss it too.” She whispers and those words produce the tears form Carina.

They rock back and forth for a little bit. Carina crying on Maya’s shoulder as she clings to her. Maya rubbing her hand up and down Carina’s back and whispering gently in her ear.

“Here.” Maya moves them around so that Carina’s back is to the stove, so she can reach over and turn the heat off on the sauce and stir it so it doesn’t stick or burn.

Carina slowly peels away, wiping her face with the back of her hand. “I got your shirt all snotty.”

“It can be washed.” Maya shrugs. “Are you better?” Maya finds Carina’s eyes. The are dark with sadness and unshed tears. She reaches up, cradling the back of Carina’s head, pulling her in the kiss her cheek.

“I- that was so unexpected. It came out of nowhere.”

“You don’t have to try to explain anything away. What you feel is what you feel.” Maya makes sure to tell her.

“I ruined the rest of the day. We were going to eat delicious food and have delicious sex.”

Maya smirks. “We can still do those things if you want.”

“But I’m all crying and sad now.”

Maya runs her thumb over Carina’s left cheek. “How about we start with the food and see where that leads.”

“Maya?”

“Hmm.” Maya hums.

“There’s so much I want to do with you. Just in general, but also in the next-“ She chews on her lip. “Before I have to go.”

“Okay. We’ll do as many things as we can. I have to work most days, but I did take the day before you go off of work.”

“Bambina.” Carina starts crying again.

“I love you, Carina. And while I’m not thrilled about this, I am going to try to be positive and supportive. I know we haven’t talked about it. It’s a hard thing to talk about. But I just want you to know that I am here. For whatever. If you want to laugh, if you want to cry, if you want to dance and sing and act out a play, I’m here. If you want to go sit in the park or watch the sunset over the water, we can do that. If you want to just stay hunkered down in our apartment, we can do that.”

“You’re the amazing one.” Carina wipes at her eyes.

“How about we eat? Before my stomach protests anymore.” That gets a little laugh from Carina. “Good.”