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Our Boy

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Tears drip down Carina’s cheeks. Her Mamma’s casket closes shut, but not before she says her final goodbyes. Beside her is her baby brother, Andrew. The seven year old boy places a hand on his Mamma’s casket. “Carina?”

“Cosa?”

“I’m gonna miss Mamma.”

“Io so, Andrea, Io so.”

She leads the boy out of the funeral home. The Italian countryside had provided them with a beautiful day for a funeral. The July sun shines down on Carina and her brother, causing the tears on their face to dry up in a matter of minutes. 

The sadness Carina feels is nothing compared to the anxiety she has about leaving her baby brother in Italy with their manic father. Andrew being on the autism spectrum required those around him to have a certain level of patience that Vincenzo Deluca did not have. Andrew never says that his father scares him, but Carina sees the look on his face when their father raises his voice, or even moves his hand too close to Andrew’s face. 

The major age gap has always had an effect on the way Carina and Andrew bonded. Carina being in her late twenties, and Andrew not even being ten caused them to have a mother/son bond more than an actual sibling bond. Carina felt comfortable leaving for a job at Grey-Sloan Memorial hospital in America because Mamma was there to protect Andrew from his father’s anger. That shred of safety is gone now. Carina knows it. Andrew knows it. 

It was no secret that Andrew is considered a burden by his father. He had ignored Andrew’s autism diagnosis for years. Accommodations were non-existent. Simply having issues with sensory input would result in Vincenzo screaming at the top of his lungs at his son, while Carina would cover the boy’s ears and try to shoo away her father. Andrew wouldn’t admit it, but Carina was sure the bruises on him were from his father. 

So, she made the decision to become the legal guardian of her brother. It was hardly a fight for their father to give Andrew up. Once Carina had confronted him with the papers to sign and the reasons why, he quickly grabbed a pen to scribble his signature. 

Within days, the boy’s bags were packed and he was on a plane to go to Seattle with his big sister beside him. 

Maya stares at the wall art in both of her hands. One has an illustration of Spider-Man, the other of Captain America. She thinks for a moment before deciding that Andrew would probably prefer Spider-Man. A few more pictures needed to be hung. His bedding still needed to be put onto the bed too. 

Carina had left for Italy a month ago to be there for her mother’s funeral and to visit her little brother. Maya knew Carina had missed the boy. Andrew and Carina would talk on the phone for hours, usually far past Andrew’s bedtime. Their conversations grew sadder and darker once their mother suddenly died and Andrew was alone with their father. Something wasn’t right about Andrew, Carina had said. There was something wrong.

Maya got the call only a few days into the trip to Italy that Andrew’s tiny body was covered in bruises. According to Carina, Andrew had hid behind Carina whenever their father would come into the room. He was terrified to be alone with the man who was supposed to love and protect him unconditionally. 

Instantly, Maya knew what they had to do. Once she gave Carina the go-ahead, Carina filed for legal guardianship. Sure, it was sudden, but her wife’s baby brother needed a safe, loving home. 

Maya is set to pick them up from the airport in a few minutes. As much as she’s excited to see her wife, the anxiety of making a good first impression with Andrew is almost overwhelming. Carina had warned her that he was most likely going to be anxious around her. 

Meanwhile, at the airport, Andrew waits next to his big sister. Carina looks down at him and smiles. “Maya has been decorating your room for a few days now. You’ll get to see it when you get to the apartment.”

Andrew nods anxiously. “What is Maya like?”

“She’s a fire-”

“Fire captain!” Andrew finishes excitedly. 

“Sì, so she has to be really brave and super strong. She’s really nice. She’s been looking forward to meeting you.”

“Why?”

Carina laughs, “Because you’re my baby brother, silly.”

“Carina! I’m not a baby!” Andrew whines, then lets go of his sister’s hand. “I’m in first grade.”

Carina takes back hold of his hand. “Well, excuse me, sir. You’re not even in first grade anymore! You’ll be a second grader soon.” She continues bantering with him. Andrew is smiling and giggling as Carina teases him until his big sister stops to turn to the woman that has approached them. “Maya! Ciao, bambina.”

Carina pulls Maya in for a quick hug. It’s been a month since she’s seen her wife, and she wants nothing more than to hold her and love her all night long, but right now her jobs are to be Andrew’s guardian first, Maya’s wife second. “Andrea, this is Maya. Maya, this is Andrea, but he prefers the name Andrew.”

Maya smiles softly at Andrew. “Nice to meet you, buddy.” He didn’t look seven years old. He was so small that he could probably pass for a kindergartner. Clutched in his left hand was a stuffed dog, and clutched in his right was Carina’s hand. She notices that Andrew doesn’t look at her face, but instead he looks at her shirt. Andrew slowly reads the words written across her chest, “Seattle… Fire… De…Depart…Depart… Carina?”

“Department,” Carina says.

His eyes sparkle with excitement. “You really are a firefighter!”

“Yep, I sure am.” Maya grabs some of the Deluca siblings’ bags as they head back towards the car. It’s dark out now, so Andrew scoots a bit closer to Carina as they walk in the parking lot. Andrew tugs on Maya’s shirt.

“Maya?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you put out fires every day?”

Maya laughs at the boy’s curiosity. “Yes, most days.”

“Is it scary?”

“Sometimes it is.”

“Do you have a dog at the station? I like dogs,” Andrew says as he points to his own stuffed animal. Carina had told him he was allowed to ask as many questions as he wanted, but she didn’t expect her normally shy little brother to be so talkative. 

“We don’t have a dog, unfortunately. What’s your dog’s name?” Maya asks, stuffing the bags in the back of the car. 

“Bruno.” 

“That’s awesome, buddy.”

Carina gets settled in the backseat of the car, and buckles Andrew in. The passenger seat was empty, as Carina had to sit in the backseat. Andrew was sleepy from jetlag and wanted to lean on her during the ride home. Carina smiles softly at her brother who was so tired that his eyes were drooping. “The apartment isn’t far from here, bambino. Once we get home, you’ll take your bath, brush your teeth, and go to bed, okay?”

Carina ends up having to carry Andrew up two flights of stairs and into the apartment, while Maya got their bags. Maya huffs as she tosses the bags onto the floor and shuts the door behind them. “It’s pretty late. Why don’t you just put him straight to bed?”

Carina shakes her head as she lays Andrew down on the couch. “If I don’t follow his nighttime routine, nobody is going to sleep tonight.” She gently wakes the young boy and encourages him to go get ready for bed. She takes out his hygiene products and places them around the bathroom. She pulls out his favorite pair of pajamas and hands them to him as well. “If you need help, I’m going to be in the living room.” 

With a sigh, Carina sits down on the couch next to Maya. “I missed you so much, bambina. The trip really was only supposed to be two weeks… but- but Andrea. I couldn’t leave him-”

“Shh,” Maya says, taking Carina’s hands in her own, “It’s okay. The important thing is that both of you are here now. I missed you so much, but I knew you needed to be there for Andrew.” 

Carina and Maya sit in silence as they’re wrapped in one another’s embrace. They have bags to unpack, but that could happen later. Carina nuzzles her face into Maya’s neck, finding solace in the familiar scented body wash that Maya used. “I missed you so much,” Carina whispers. Maya agrees as she rubs Carina’s back. Carina almost falls asleep there in Maya’s arms, but is abruptly awoken from her half sleep state when Maya shakes her awake. She looks up to find Andrew in his pajamas with Bruno in hand. 

“Ciao, bambino. Are you ready for bed?”

Andrew nods. Carina shows him to his room. She smiles having realized that Maya had decorated his room while they were gone with superheroes and video game characters. Andrew excitedly runs to the picture of Spiderman that Maya had hung above his bed. “Tu vedi?”

“Sì, bambino, I do see. Do you like your room?”

“Sì!” He runs over to his bed to see many different Marvel characters on his comforter and bed sheets. He grabs Bruno, and jumps onto his bed. A brand new teddy bear is on his pillow. “Un orso!”

Carina can’t control the smile on her face. This is the first time in weeks she’s seen her baby brother genuinely happy. She allows him time to continue exploring before deciding that it is well past his bedtime. She tucks him in and hands him both Bruno and the brand new teddy bear. “What are you going to name the bear?”

“Teddy,” Andrew says. “Cause he’s a teddy bear.”

“That’s a beautiful name.” She presses a kiss to her brother’s forehead and then moves his hair out of his face. “I’m so, so proud of you. You have been a very brave boy for weeks, but you were very brave today. I want you to get some sleep tonight.”

“Where are you gonna sleep?”

“Maya and I will sleep in our bedroom. If you need me, you can come and get me. Our room is right beside your’s.”

“Carina?”

“Cosa?“

“I love you,” he says softly.

Carina is sure she can feel her heart melting. “I love you too, bambino. I love you so much.” She walks towards the door, and moves to flick the lightswitch off. “Buonanotte.”

“Buonanotte.”

Carina does her own nightly routine before joining Maya in bed. Maya is scrolling on her laptop, eyes glued to the screen. Carina laughs, and taps her wife on the shoulder. “Earth to Maya?”

Maya looks over at Carina who is now looking at her laptop screen as well. “I’m looking at schools in Seattle. School starts in a few weeks. He has to be enrolled somewhere. You mentioned it last week on the phone, remember?”

“Sì, but I didn’t expect you to be the one researching. That’s my job, bambina.” 

Maya shakes her head. “We’re in this together.”

Carina pulls Maya in for a kiss. She desperately wants to deepen the kiss and have things escalate, but the last thing she wanted was to wake Andrea up. She pulls back before grabbing the laptop and scrolling through the web pages Maya had visited. “I don’t know if I want to enroll him in this type of school…” Carina begins hesitantly. 

“You want to enroll him in private?”

Carina shrugs. “Andrew didn’t do well in Italy’s schools. He was put in the classes designed for autistic kids, but during lunch and recess he would get bullied. Kids stole his lunch, pushed him down… even teachers would tease him.”

“Poor baby…” Maya says sadly, “I still don’t understand where you’re headed with this, though.”

“There’s a school in Seattle designed only for autistic kids. I’ve looked into it. Tuition is high, but I think it’s what he really needs. It’s either that or homeschool, and neither of us will be able to supervise him all day every day. What do you think?”

“He’s your brother. You know his needs much better than I do. I do think giving him the accommodations he needs in an unfamiliar place would be beneficial. I’m on board with whatever keeps him happy.”

Carina closes the laptop. She curls up next to Maya and presses a kiss to her cheek. “How did I get so lucky?”

“I ask myself the same thing.“

“Are you sure you don’t mind Andrea being here? You-You didn’t even want kids and I-”

Maya runs her hand through Carina’s hair. “Baby, Andrew needed a safe home. It’ll be an adjustment for everyone, but having him here is something I’m ready for. I’m excited to get to know him.”

“Really?”

“Of course. I’m anxious, but it's a good anxious.” Maya thinks for a moment before saying, “I want to be just as involved in his life as you are. He needs as much love as he can get.”

“I love you so much, bambina.”

“I love you too. Let’s get some sleep, I want to take Andrew down to the station tomorrow and let him meet the crew. Do you think he’d like that?”

“He was mesmerized when I told him all about the people you’ve saved and the fires you’ve put out. I’m sure he’ll love it.”

Carina lays her head on Maya’s chest. Being back in her own bed gives her a feeling of comfort that she hasn’t felt in weeks. She listens for Maya’s heartbeat. The steady sound that reminded her everything was okay lulls her to sleep most nights. Within minutes, they’re both out like a light, but it doesn’t last long. 

Maya and Carina jolt awake to the sounds of cries coming from the room beside their’s. “Oh no,” Carina groans, “I’ll be back, bambina. He probably had a nightmare.”

“Let me know if you need help.”

“I will, but try to go back to sleep.”

Carina pushes open the door to Andrew’s bedroom, only to find her baby brother rocking back and forth on the bed, clutching both stuffed animals in his hands. “Bambino, what’s wrong?” She sits on Andrew’s bed and pulls him into her lap.

“I-I don’t want to sleep by myself,” Andrew says tearfully. It hits Carina that they had both slept in Andrew’s bed back in Italy, and that’s what her brother was now used to. Being in a new country, having a new house, a new bedroom, was all too much, and he probably needed a sense of familiarity. “Shh… you can sleep with Maya and I.” Carina knows Andrew needs to sleep in his own bed eventually. However, after the past few weeks they’ve had, now was not the time to teach the life lesson of independence. 

She picks the boy up and carries him into their bedroom. Thankfully, they slept in a big bed with plenty of room. “Bambina, we have a visitor.” Carina sees Andrew lower his head in shame, and hide his face in the crook of her neck. “He wanted to hang out with his big sister tonight.”

“Of course he does! His big sister is the best, after all.” Maya pulls the covers back and pulls the blankets over Andrew. “Hey, buddy. Hello, Bruno.” She points at the bear Andrew is clutching. “I see you found the bear I gave you.” 

“His name is Teddy,” Andrew says quietly. 

“What do you say to Maya?“ Carina crawls into bed next to Andrew so that he’s in the middle of the bed. 

“Thank you, Maya.”

“Of course.”

Andrew cuddles close to Carina. He feels his big sister’s arms wrap around him. His eyes flutter closed, and he begins to drift off with his stuffed animals in his arms. 

Maya watches lovingly as Carina soothes her little brother to sleep. Andrew falls asleep almost immediately. Maya whispers, “Goodnight, you two.”

“Goodnight, bambina.”

Chapter Text

Maya wakes up earlier than usual. She wonders why, until she realizes she’s laying in the middle of the bedroom floor. She looks up to the bed to find Carina asleep, hanging off the side of the bed, no covers to be seen. Meanwhile Andrew is fast asleep in the middle of their queen sized bed, wrapped up in the comforter and the sheet. 

Maya groans sleepily before heading into the kitchen. It’s only six in the morning, but she’s off, so she hadn’t planned to be up so early. She turns the TV to the old cartoon channel in hopes that Andrew would watch them once he awoke. 

She’s not the best cook, but she knows how to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon, so she begins to make breakfast for the Deluca siblings and herself.

Andrew slowly opens his eyes. He gasps, not at all recognizing where he’s at. He looks around in a panic until he sees his big sister fast asleep at the foot of the bed. He sniffs the air. He’s almost positive he can smell pancakes. 

Giggling quietly, he begins to tap Carina on the forehead. “Carina! Carina! Wake up!”

Carina opens her eyes to see her baby brother staring at her with a huge smile on his face. “Ciao, bambino. How did you sleep?”

“I closed my eyes.”

Carina sighs, “I meant did you sleep well?”

“Oh. Sì!”

Carina hears Maya cooking breakfast as well as the television in the living room playing some sort of children’s show. She decides that six thirty is way too early to be awake on a Sunday, but she still walks into the kitchen. Andrew follows behind her, but not before grabbing Bruno off the bed. 

Andrew waves at Maya. “Buongiorno!”

“Good morning, Andrew.” Maya presses a kiss on Carina’s lips. “Good morning, baby.” She quickly turns her attention back to Andrew. “Why don’t you watch TV while we make breakfast? Do you like pancakes?”

Andrew nods. “Sort of.”

Carina cracks a few eggs into a bowl. “After breakfast, we’ll get dressed and go down to the fire station. I want you to brush your teeth and brush your hair before you watch cartoons, okay?”

“Carina!” Andrew whines dramatically. “Why?”

“Because,” Carina says, pouring the now scrambled eggs into a pan, “Your hair is tangled and you need to brush your teeth.” Carina shoots him a look that even Maya was afraid to cross. Andrew groans before running off to go do what he was told. 

“That was such a mom look!”

Carina laughs. “Sometimes I have to give him the look before he listens. Mamma did it better than I can, though.”

Once breakfast is ready, Carina fixes a small plate for Andrew and one for herself and Maya. Maya looks confused when she sees Andrew’s plate. All that’s on it are two small pancakes. “Does he not eat bacon or eggs?”

“No. He barely eats most foods. Thankfully, he can handle pancakes.” Carina sits down at the table beside her little brother. Andrew smiles once he sees his breakfast sitting in front of him. “Grazie, Maya. Grazie. Carina.” 

Carina gestures to Andrew’s plate. “You don’t have to eat both pancakes, but I want you to at least try to eat one.”

Andrew nods, then begins attempting to eat the pancakes in front of him. He manages a few bites and a couple sips of orange juice before shaking his head and pushing his plate away. “I’m done.”

“Good job, Andrea. Can you go get dressed, please?”

“Then we go to the fire station?”

“Then we go to the fire station.”

A while later, Maya begins to clean up their dishes while Carina heads off to get ready, then to see if Andrew needs help with anything. After she’s gotten ready, she walks into Andrew’s room, and smiles when she sees that he has gotten dressed and is now playing with some of his toys on the floor. She sits down on the floor next to her brother. “What are you playing?”

“Spiderman,” Andrew says, holding up his action figure of the superhero so that Carina can see. Carina nods. She begins packing up a drawstring bag for Andrew to take to the fire station. She puts in headphones, a few fidget toys, as well as more of Andrew’s action figures in case he needs a comfort item. Being in a new place is exciting, but could also be stressful for the boy. “Andrea, do you want to take Bruno to the fire station?”

“Sì. Do I get to talk to Maya’s friends?”

“Yes, you can if you’d like.”

“Do you think they like Spiderman?” Andrew asks quietly. “I hope they do.”

Carina laughs a little bit, then nods her head. “I’m sure they like Spiderman.” She notices that Andrew seems nervous, so she sits down beside him. “Are you okay?”

“What if Maya’s friends don’t like me?”

“I’m sure they will, bambino. Maya already likes you so, so, so much. Her friends will feel the same.”

“Okay.” Andrew takes his bag from Carina. He can’t fully make out the words on the bag, but he recognizes the Grey-Sloan hospital logo on it. “When do I get to meet your friends?”

Carina leads Andrew back out of his bedroom, then hands him his shoes. “The hospital isn’t as fun as the fire station. But, I’ve got a few friends who would like to meet you. Maybe they could come over for dinner soon.” It’s true, Amelia had been dying to meet the boy she speaks so highly of. Ever since Carina had moved to America a few years ago, she would always talk about her baby brother to anyone who would listen. 

Maya smiles once she walks out of the bedroom and into the living room to find Andrew standing proudly next to his big sister. “Ready to go, buddy?”

“Yeah!”

Stuffed dog in hand, Andrew runs to the stairwell. He sticks his tongue out at Maya. “I bet you can’t beat me to the bottom!”

“Oh, really?” Maya asks, crossing her arms. “I’ll have you know that I won a gold medal in the olympics for running, little man. So, you’re on!”

Carina quickly grabs them by their sleeves. “Woah! Neither of you are running down a stairwell! I like both of you with unbroken bones.”

“You’re not fun,” Andrew mumbles. Maya shrugs her shoulders, and turns to her wife. “I agree.”

The ride to the fire station is barely even five minutes, but it gave enough time for Andrew to ask Maya at least one hundred questions. “Do you have a best friend? What’s her name? Do you have a boss? Do all your friends run into fires?”

“I do. Her name is Andy. I do have a boss, but he’s not there today. Yes, all my friends are firefighters.”

“All Carina’s friends are doctors! She doesn’t have a lot of friends,” Andrew says bluntly. 

Maya laughs at Carina's playful shake of her head. Carina looks back to see Andrew smiling mischievously. “Oh, you think it’s funny that Maya has more friends than me?” She asks, feigning shock. Andrew responds in a fit of giggles, causing Carina to laugh too. 

As soon as Maya pulls into the parking lot, Andrew goes to take off to see the trucks. Carina quickly stops him. “Slow down, Andrea. The firehouse has lots of loud sirens and alarms. Do you want to wear your headphones?” Andrew nods, so she slips his Spider-Man sound reduction headphones over his ears. “If you need a fidget toy or one of your Spider-Man figures, I have your bag with me. Do you want me to hold on to Bruno or do you want to?”

“I want to.”

“Okay, let Maya show you up to the kitchen.”

Andrew and Carina follow Maya up the stairs and into the kitchen, where Travis, Vic, Andy, and Jack were having breakfast of their own. Andrew suddenly goes shy at the sight of all the people, and hides behind Carina. Everyone greets them, but most of the attention is on the little boy behind Carina’s legs. 

“So,” Andy says, walking up to the three, “This must be Andrew. I’ve heard a lot about you, kid. My name is Andy.”

Andrew slowly moves from behind Carina’s legs, then cautiously waves at everybody. Maya pulls up a chair next to Vic, and gestures so that Carina and Andrew can sit down as well. Andrew is hesitant, but decides that it must be okay if Carina was going to sit with the group. He clutches Bruno in his hands as he sits in between Maya and Carina. 

“Those are some cool headphones you have on,” Travis says, “Spider-Man is the best.”

Andrew smiles. “You like Spider-Man?”

“Of course I do.”

Jack has an idea, so he quickly gets Andrew’s attention. “Do you want to slide down the pole? It’s super cool, and Spider-Man does things like that all the time.”

Andrew lights up with excitement. “Carina! Can I go with him?”

Carina nods hesitantly. “Sure… but only if Travis goes with you and Jack to supervise! Hand me Bruno so you don’t lose him.”

The three boys take off. It’s quickly followed with squeals of excitement and laughter. Vic shakes her head and smiles. “Captain, Carina, do you guys want breakfast?”

Maya shakes her head. “We just ate.”

Vic turns her attention to Carina. “He’s really cute. Some kids look weird, but that one’s cute.”

“Thanks… I think?”

“No problem,” Vic says, shoving a forkful of eggs into her mouth. Andy rolls her eyes, then says, “All kids are cute in their own way… except for Maya. She looked weird as a kid.”

“Hey!” Maya gasps dramatically. “I was adorable!”

“Those chunky braces from ages ten to sixteen were not kind to you,” Andy says dryly. 

Carina raises an eyebrow. “You had braces? Now I have to see a picture.”

Maya’s face begins to turn red, and she quickly shuts down the idea. “Nobody will be showing my wife a picture of my teen years. If you do, you’re on desk duty for two weeks.”

This shuts down any idea of showing Carina teenage Maya pretty quickly. The conversation soon switches back to Andrew, who could still be heard talking about Spider-Man with Jack and Travis. Andy looks at Carina confusedly. “How is his English so good? He just got here yesterday!”

“I’ve been fluent in English since I was a teenager. I lived in Italy with Andrea until he was 3, which was enough time for him to learn basic English from me. He’s been building off of it ever since. He’s not great at reading it, but he can have a conversation in English.”

Vic gestures downstairs to where the boys were. “Especially if that conversation involves Spider-Man, apparently.”

“He can talk all day about his special interests if you let him.” Carina stands up, and begins to head downstairs. “Speaking of which, I should probably free Travis and Jack from the clutches of my little brother’s endless Spider-Man facts.” Maya follows behind her wife.

They find Andrew beside Jack and Travis. He’s clearly in depth about some sort of Spider-Man related conversation. Carina hands Bruno back to her brother. “I think Travis and Jack want to continue eating their breakfast. Do you want Maya to show you the trucks?”

“Sì!”

By the time Maya is able to successfully show Andrew everything he wanted to see, it’s around noon. She’d shown him everything from the gear they wear, to the ladders on top of the trucks. Carina found joy in watching Andrew excitedly ask questions and follow Maya around. 

“Why don’t we go to the Italian restaurant nearby?” Maya asks, buckling her seatbelt as Carina starts the car. “Maybe he’ll eat more if the food is more familiar?”

Carina turns around to hand Andrew back his bag. “Andrea, do you want pasta for lunch?”

“Sì.”

Carina holds both Andrew and Maya’s hand as they walk into the restaurant. Immediately, Carina realizes her mistake. The Saturday lunch crowd had the restaurant slammed packed, and it was extremely loud to her own ears, much less Andrew’s hypersensitive ones. Andrew’s hands fly up to his headphones and he presses them harder onto his ears. His breathing begins to pick up. Carina looks at Maya and shakes her head. “We need to go back to the car. It’s too loud in here for him.”

As soon as they exit the restaurant, Carina encourages the boy to take deep breaths to try and calm himself back down. She buckles him back into the backseat. “Breathe, Andrea. It’s okay. You’re okay.”

Maya hops into the backseat next to Andrew, much to Carina’s surprise. “Hey, buddy,” she begins softly, “Can you take big, deep breaths with me?”

Andrew nods, and takes in a shallow, shaky breath. 

“Good job, Andrew. Can we take two more together?”

By the end of the breathing exercise, Andrew’s breathing is beginning to slow down. One hand is in Maya’s, the other’s in Carina’s. 

Maya squeezes his hand softly. “Why don’t I go in, get our food to go, and we can eat at home and watch cartoons?” Andrew nods his head in agreement. Carina watches carefully as Maya continues the conversation. “What do you want to eat? Pizza? Spaghetti?”

“Spaghetti,” Andrew answers quickly.

Maya nods. “Okay. Carina, do you want the pasta alla vodka? Yeah? Okay, I’ll be back in a few minutes. These guys are usually pretty fast.”

Carina can barely hold back her tears as soon as Maya is out of sight. Never had she seen anybody but herself effectively communicate with Andrew when he was stressed the way she did. Usually, Andrew would shut down when anybody except Carina spoke to him during a sensory overload episode, but not this time. 

Andrew sees the tears in his sister’s eyes. “Are you upset because it was loud too?”

“No, buddy. We’ll talk about it later. Do you want me to sit beside you?”

Andrew’s breathing is still extremely shaky, but he’s much calmer than before. Carina has him working on a puzzle ball, which seems to be keeping him content for the time being. However, she didn’t expect his headphones to be coming off anytime soon. “Do you want to talk about how those loud sounds made you feel?”

“Scared,” Andrew says quietly, “Really scared.”

“Do you know why?”

Andrew shrugs. “No lo so.”

“Do you think breathing big helped you feel better?”

“Sì.”

Andrew lays his head against his sister’s shoulder. The car’s quietness soothes him, but not as much as his sister did. “Thank you for not yelling.”

“Cosa?”

“Papa would get mad if I had to stop and take big breaths. He said I needed to act like a man, and men don’t cry in public.” Andrew looks up at Carina, his eyes sparkling with tears. “If I got upset, he would squeeze my arm really hard until I stopped crying.”

Carina tries to hide her anger, because it wouldn’t change the past. “Oh, Andrea,” she says softly, thumbing away the tears dripping down the boy’s cheeks. “It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to need to take a breath. Don’t ever feel ashamed for needing to calm down away from big sounds.”

“Okay. Mi dispiace.”

“Don’t apologize, bambino. You did nothing wrong.”

Pretty soon, Maya is back with the food. Andrew sniffs the air excitedly. The smells of the food are familiar. “Grazie, Maya!”

“You’re welcome.”

Once they’re back at the apartment, Carina gets Andrew’s plate set up, hoping that he would eat more than three and a half bites of food. Much to Carina and Maya’s surprise, Andrew manages to eat quite a bit of food before deciding he’s ready to go watch TV instead. Carina wipes his face, and sends him off to go watch the cartoon on the TV. 

“I noticed he seems really excited when Tom and Jerry is on,” Maya says, biting into her pizza slice. 

“Sì. There’s no words for him to try to understand.” Carina lowers her voice so Andrew wouldn’t hear from the next room and says, “You did really well when he had that sensory overload. He really likes you, I think.”

“I’m not autistic, but I had plenty of panic attacks when I was his age. I figured the same breathing techniques would help for a meltdown.”

Carina’s heart swells with admiration. “I love you so much. Thank you for being here with me and Andrea.”

“I love you too. I’ve only known him for a day, and I already want to protect him with my life. He’s a good kid with big struggles. I only want to help both of you.”

Carina opens her mouth to say something along the lines of how lucky she is, but she’s quickly interrupted by Andrew’s voice. “Carina, Maya, do you wanna watch Tom n’ Jerry with me?”

“We’re coming, bambino,” Carina says back. 

“It seems we’ve been summoned,” Maya laughs. They join Andrew in the living room, who was sitting on the carpet surrounded by his action figures, Bruno, and Teddy. She sits down next to the boy, and Carina follows. The three watch the cartoon cat and mouse, content as they could possibly be. Maya looks down at the little boy, and can barely contain the smile on her face. Two months ago, she never would’ve expected to house a seven year old boy. Now, she can’t imagine him being anywhere else. 

Chapter Text

Andrew is fast asleep on Carina’s chest. He’s still insistent on sleeping with Carina and Maya, and neither of them were going to fight him on that. It’s not too late, so Maya and Carina are both still up. Maya scrolls through the website for his new school on her laptop. It’s been around two weeks since Andrew has come to America. He’s settled in extremely well, but Carina is worried sick about what school would be like for him. 

“I hope he does well at the open house tomorrow. He seems excited to meet his teacher.” Maya brings up pictures of the inside of the classrooms for Carina to see. “Low lights, soft colors…” She continues scrolling. “They have those bouncy ball chairs and tables instead of normal desks.”

“Maybe that will help him stay still in class.”

“Hopefully.”

“I don’t know, bambina… I worry about him. He has separation anxiety. He’s been with either one of us or both of us every day and night for two weeks. The first day is on Monday, and it’s already Thursday. His anxiety won’t be magically cured in three days.”

Maya thinks back to the other day when Carina had to leave early in the morning for work, and Andrew had cried because he couldn’t come along. With much needed soothing and hugs, Carina was able to quickly leave. Andrew didn’t calm down for hours . This occurs almost every day Carina has to go into work early, and he stays damn near inconsolable the entire morning.

Maya shuts her laptop, and curls up beside her wife and Andrew. Carina shifts to allow Maya to come closer, causing Andrew to jolt awake. Carina places a hand on his chest. “It’s okay, bambino. Maya is just settling down.”

Andrew nods, then sleepily rolls in between Carina and Maya with a small smile on his face. ”I love this part,” he whispers. 

“What part?” Maya asks. 

“My favorite part of the day. I like it when we’re together.”

Carina and Maya both smile at each other. Carina moves Andrew’s hair out of his eyes. “We love being with you too, bambino.” Carina watches Andrew drift back off to sleep. The thought of having to leave Andrew at school for seven hours made her want to vomit. He did fine back in Italy, but it wasn’t as if he had a choice. He probably preferred being away from his father anyway. Carina sighs, closes her eyes, and allows herself to sleep.

The next morning, Andrew and Carina wake up to Maya getting out of the bed. It’s not even light out yet, so they both know how early it must be. Carina rubs her eyes. “Are you on the early shift today?” She sits up to better see her wife. 

“Yeah, I am. Captain’s duties. I’ll be off at two, and we can go to the open house then.”

Andrew grabs Bruno and situates himself in Carina’s lap. “Do you gotta work?” He stares up at Carina with an anxious look on his face. Carina shakes her head. “No, bambino. Not today.” She runs her fingers through her little brother’s shaggy hair. It’s obvious it hasn’t been cut in a while, but Andrew seems to like it at the length it’s at. Plus, she didn’t have the desire to get him to sit still long enough to let a stranger try to cut his hair. “Go back to sleep, fratellino.”

“Ciao, Maya,” Andrew says sleepily. 

“Bye, buddy. I’ll see you later today.”

“I love you, bambina.”

“I love you too.”

The apartment goes silent once Maya leaves. Carina doesn’t lay back down. She closes her eyes, but is soon met with the sounds of soft cries. “Andrea?” The moonlight beaming through the window allows her to see the tears slowly dripping down Andrew’s cheeks. “What’s the matter?”

“I miss Mamma.”

Carina wraps her arms around her baby brother. Andrew has seldom mentioned his mother since the funeral. His therapist back in Italy told her to expect random bursts of emotions, and that the best course of action was to allow him to cry or scream as long as he needed. “I know, Andrea. I miss her too.” Tears well up in Carina’s eyes due to both her own grief and her brother’s. “Let it out. It’s okay to cry.”

Andrew shakes his head with his hands now frantically wiping at his eyes. “Papa says boys don’t cry.”

“Papa isn’t in charge of you anymore. In our home, boys can cry.” Carina takes a deep breath to compose herself before continuing. “You are having big feelings. Sometimes those big feelings need to come out. Crying, screaming, or even hitting a pillow is okay. Never feel bad for crying, okay?”

Andrew’s soft cries turn into loud sobs. His small body racks with whimpers for his Mamma as Carina holds him tight. “I want Mamma!” Carina’s grip around the boy tightens. “I don’t wanna go to a new school! I miss Mamma!”

Carina says nothing. Instead, she rubs the little boy’s back and holds him close. It takes a few minutes, but Andrew calms down after he seems to have cried himself out. The sobs settle back down to soft whimpers as he trembles in Carina’s arms. She blinks away her tears so that her baby brother doesn’t see them. 

Carina remembers her father calling to tell her how ill her mother had gotten. She had immediately booked a flight to Italy. The next day, they were planning a funeral. It was all so sudden, and Andrew hadn’t a clue what was going on the entire time. 

“I feel upset about something else,” Andrew says tearfully. 

“Cosa è?”

“I don’t miss Papa. I wish… I wish it was him instead of Mama.” Andrew’s lower lip begins to tremble. He’s back on the brink of another sob. “He hurt me.”

Carina’s heart twists, and it feels as if her chest is about to explode. The tears are falling full force now, and she can’t stop them. “I’m so sorry, bambino. I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve any of that.”

“I did! Papa said that- said that I was bad! He said… He said Mamma was sick ‘cause of me.”

“Oh, Andrea,” Carina whispers. “No, bambino, that’s not true. You aren’t bad. Mamma was not sick because of you. She had cancer, Andrea. Do you know what that is?”

Andrew shakes his head. 

“It’s when our body's building blocks get sick. It isn’t caused by anything.”

“Can anyone get cancer?”

Carina knows she has to word this in a way that won’t give Andrew even more anxiety. “Yes, but it is very unlikely that you or I will get cancer.”

“What about Maya?”

“It’s unlikely for her too.”

Andrew looks slightly relieved at that statement. He’s much calmer now; Carina can tell by his breathing having slowed down. Carina holds him in her lap and rubs his back. “As for school,” Carina says, “We’ve talked about how this is a special school for kids just like you. Nobody is going to bully you for being autistic there, Andrea.”

“Promise?”

“I do.” Carina lays back flat, then tells Andrew to do the same. “Let’s try to go back to sleep.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, bambino.”

A few hours later, Carina wakes up to the sun beaming through her window. She checks the clock and realizes she’s slept in longer than expected. Somehow Andrew is still fast asleep on Maya’s side of the bed. Careful not to disturb him, Carina slowly moves out of bed and into the living room. 

She works on some paperwork for a little while to keep herself occupied. Having Andrea come to live with them had changed everything, but especially her work schedule. Thankfully, Amelia and Link had given her the open offer to allow Andrew to stay at their house if both Maya and Carina had to work. She hasn’t taken them up on it yet, as it has been working out to where Maya would schedule herself around Carina’s work schedule. 

Carina peers over the screen of her laptop to see Andrew walking into the living room with a few toys in hand. “Buongiorno, bambino."

“Buongiorno,” Andrew replies. He jumps onto the couch beside Carina. “What are you doing?” He pokes Carina’s forehead and then shoves a plastic Spider-Man toy in front of her face. “I’m hungry.”

“Somebody’s energetic today.” Carina closes her laptop. Letting Andrew sleep in for so long probably wasn’t her brightest idea. “What do you want for breakfast? Toast?”

“Sì.”

Andrew follows Carina into the kitchen with his toys still in hand. “What’s Maya doing?”

“She’s working right now,” Carina says, putting bread into the toaster. “She’ll be off at two, then we’ll go to school at three.”

“I’m not going to school.”

“You are. You’ll meet your teacher and maybe meet a few of your new friends.”

Andrew shakes his head. “I’m not going!” He crosses his arms in defiance. “I want to stay home!”

“You’re making yourself upset. Take some big breaths, Andrea.” She breathes in and out to show Andrew what to do. Thankfully, she’s able to calm him down. “I know you’re afraid. It’s okay to be scared. Maya and I will be with you during the whole afternoon.” She plates Andrew’s slices of toast for him. He sits at the kitchen table, then sits his toy beside his plate. 

A few hours pass, and soon Maya is walking through their front door. She smiles. Andrew and Carina are sitting on the floor playing with some action figures. “Honey, I’m home!”

“Ciao, bambina.”

“Maya!” Andrew shouts excitedly. “Hi!”

“Hey, buddy!” 

Carina puts most of Andrew’s toys back in his room, but she leaves the one he’s been playing with all day with him. “Are you two ready to go to the school?”

Andrew shakes his head. 

“Andrew, it’s okay,” Maya says. “Maybe you’ll find some friends who like Spider-Man too.”

Carina hands Andrew his stuffed dog as she leads him out of the apartment. “You can take Bruno and Spider-Man to school, but don’t lose them.”

The ride to the school isn’t long at all. Either Carina or Maya would drop off and pick up Andrew daily, so being close to the school is a necessity. Andrew is fairly talkative the entire ride, but clams up completely once they pull into the parking lot. He stares at the school with wide eyes. Bruno and Spider-Man are both clutched tightly in his hands. 

“Take a deep breath, bambino. It’s okay.”

“Are they going to make fun of me?” Andrew asks anxiously. “Are they going to hit me?”

“No, and no. It won’t be like that here.” 

“We hope,” Maya says under her breath.

The inside of the school was decorated colorfully with rainbow infinity symbols here and there, as well as lots of watercolor paintings on the walls. They quickly find Andrew’s classroom. Fidget toys were placed everywhere around the classroom. Instead of desks, there were yoga balls and bean bag chairs among other comfortable seats. A few kids and their parents walk around the classroom. Not to anyone’s surprise, the other kids in the room were just as timid as Andrew. Most hid behind their parents, while others played quietly on the floor with the toys placed around the room. 

Andrew has Bruno clutched tight in one hand, and has Carina’s in the other. He’d given Maya Spider-Man in the parking lot for whatever reason. A teacher approaches them, causing Andrew to try and take a step back with Carina, but Carina doesn’t budge. 

“I’m Mrs. Taylor.” The teacher smiles kindly at the now trembling boy. She didn’t look any older than thirty. “You must be Andrew.”

Andrew doesn’t respond. He looks up at Carina instead. 

“I’m Carina, Andrea’s sister and guardian. This is my wife, Maya.” Carina and Maya both shake the woman’s hand. Carina quickly launches into a list of questions about the school year while Maya nudges Andrew towards a small group of kids that had formed around a pile of legos. “Do you want to go play with them?”

Andrew anxiously shakes his head. 

“Carina and I are right here. If anything bad happens, we’ll stop it immediately.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

Carina watches in amazement as Maya somehow manages to get Andrew to go play with a group of kids. Within seconds, her baby brother is helping another boy build a structure out of blocks. He looks hesitant, but he’s not crying or trying to run back to Maya yet. 

“It looks like Andrew makes friends easily,” Mrs.Taylor says. “He seems like a very smart boy from what I’ve heard. I’m very excited to have him in my classroom.”

Carina and Maya exchange proud looks. “Andrea can be very anxious, but he is very smart. He struggles with American reading and pronunciation. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

“I try to teach each student at their own level. It’s why we keep our classes so small. He’ll do great.”

By the time they’ve left the school, Andrew is telling Maya and Carina all about his new friend and the house they built out of blocks together. Carina and Maya both let out sighs of relief. “So,” Maya says, “You had fun?”

“Yeah!”

“I’m very proud of you, Andrea.” Carina reaches back from the passenger seat to squeeze Andrew’s hand. “You did so good.”

Maya doesn’t take her eyes off the road, but she does smile at the exchange. “I’m proud of you too, buddy. That took a lot of courage.”

The rest of the afternoon goes much smoother now that Andrew is in a better mood. He has a little bit of dinner and plays with his toys for a few hours. Around nine or so, Carina tucks Andrew into their bed. “Maya and I are going to stay up a little bit later, but you try and get some sleep. You had a big day.”

“Are you coming back?”

“Sì. I love you. Goodnight, bambino.”

“I love you too.”

Carina shuts the bedroom door behind her before curling up on the living room couch beside Maya. She sighs, and lays her head on Maya’s shoulder. 

“What’s wrong?”

“I think we need to get Andrea a therapist soon.”

Maya presses pause on the show she had been watching, and turns to look at Carina. “Why?”

“After you left this morning, he had a breakdown about how he misses Mamma. I thought he was calming down, but then he started crying about how he felt bad because he wishes that Papa died instead of Mamma.” Carina’s voice begins to tremble and tears fill her eyes. “I-I can’t help him by myself, Maya. He’s dealing with so many feelings for a little bambino. He shouldn’t have to feel this way!”

Maya pulls Carina in for a tight hug. “I know, baby. It’s okay. He’s okay. We have childrens’ therapists who specialize in autism around Seattle. We’ll find him one soon. I promise.”

Carina wipes her eyes on her sleep shirt. “I just hope he’s happy.” She’s crying even harder now, but is trying to keep quiet so that Andrew doesn’t hear. 

“Carina,” Maya begins. She gently turns Carina’s head so that she’s looking her in the eyes. “That boy looks at you like you hung the stars in the sky. He loves you so much. As long as he has you, he’s happy.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I know so.”

Just as Carina has calmed down, Andrew comes into the living room with a mound of blankets, as well as Teddy and Bruno. “You take too long,” he says bluntly. Before Carina and Maya have time to react, Andrew is laying in both of their laps with his blankets and stuffies. Carina opens her mouth to protest, but Maya stops her. Andrew wiggles around until his face is nuzzled against Maya. “G’night.”

Maya and Carina soon nod off in the dark living room. When they wake up, it’s close to midnight. Maya expertly carries Andrew to their bed and tucks him in without waking him. 

“You’re a natural,” Carina whispers, while sliding into bed beside the boy. 

“You think?”

“I know.”

Chapter Text

“Andrea, please just put on your shoes so we can-”

“No! Go away! Lasciami solo!”

The shoes go flying past Carina’s head and over to the opposite side of the living room. Carina pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs in frustration. She decides to give Andrew a break in hopes he would calm down on his own. She walks into the kitchen, where Maya is packing Andrew’s Spider-Man backpack, as well as his lunchbox. “How is he doing?”

Carina shakes her head. “He’s back to yelling again. He doesn’t want to put on his shoes, because that’s the last thing we do before leaving the apartment.”

Maya zips up Andrew’s backpack and heads into the living room to find the boy sulking on the floor. Carina follows behind her. His arms are crossed and his shoes have been kicked to the other end of the living room. She sits down next to him. “Bad morning?”

Andrew nods. He doesn’t look up from the floor. 

“The first day of school is a big day. It’s okay to be anxious, buddy.” Maya places both of his sneakers beside him. “You had a fun time at the open house. You played legos and you even got to meet your new friends.”

Andrew nudges his shoes away. “My friends aren’t Carina. I want Carina to be with me.”

Carina kneels down next to her wife and her brother. “Andrea, are you afraid to be without me?” Andrew nods. “Oh, bambino, come here,” she coos, while pulling him in close. “I promise I will pick you up when school is over. You’ll have so much fun, you won’t want to leave.”

Andrew wipes his teary eyes on Carina’s shirt. “I-I don’t want you to leave me.” 

All of Andrew’s life, when Carina hasn’t been with him, things have been awful. Since being in America, he’s always had at least either Maya or Carina. At school, he’s alone. Separation anxiety quickly developed with Carina at a young age, and it’s only worsening as Andrew gets older. 

Carina runs her hand through Andrew’s hair. The boy stares at her; his eyes filled with admiration for his big sister. She glances at the clock, and realizes that they’re now running late. “Andrea, can you put on your shoes now? I know you’re scared, but I really need you to try and be brave today.”

Andrew nods hesitantly. Maya ties them for him, helps him up, and hands him his backpack. “Spider-Man is in the front pocket.” She points at the smallest pocket on the bag. “Do you want to take Bruno, or do you want to leave him at home?”

“Bruno,” Andrew says. He grabs his stuffed animal from Carina. 

Andrew has an entire list of questions to ask Maya and Carina about his new school. The entire car ride consists of the boy going on about how he’s sure he’s going to get bullied, and that he’s going to hate school. His tattered and torn stuffed animal is clenched tight in his hand. As they pull into the parking lot, Andrew holds Bruno to his chest even tighter. He’s trembling. 

“Andrea, bambino, it’s okay.” Carina opens the car door and unbuckles her brother’s seatbelt for him. “I’m going to walk you in since it’s the first day.”

Andrew wipes the tears from his cheeks as he exits the car. “Ciao, Maya.”

“Ciao, Andrew. I’ll see you later tonight when I get off work, okay? I promise you’ll have a good day.”

Not to Carina’s surprise, Andrew hides behind her legs as soon as they get inside the classroom. A few other parents are inside, with their kids also clutching onto them. Carina kneels down so she can look at her baby brother directly. “I love you so, so much. I will pick you up at three this afternoon.” 

Andrew’s eyes well up with tears and his chin begins to wobble. “Carina, please,” he whimpers. “Please don’t leave me!”

“Shh, shh…” Carina looks around in fear that they’re causing a scene, but just about every other parent is doing the same thing they were. “I’ll come back, Andrea, I promise. I would never lie to you. I love you. I’ll see you at three, okay?” She stands up and tries to walk away, but Andrew follows her. 

The same teacher they’d met on Friday approaches both of them with a sympathetic smile on her face. “Andrew, do you remember me? I’m Mrs. Taylor. Your sister will be back to pick you up, I promise.” She points to a corner in the room that was decorated with superhero posters, along with books, fidget toys, and some colorful action figures. “Why don’t you go play over there until class begins?”

Andrew looks at Carina, looks at his teacher, then looks back to Carina. He says nothing. 

“Go play, bambino. Ti amo.”

“Anch'io ti amo.” Andrew watches his big sister leave the room. His hands are clenched so tight around Bruno that his knuckles are turning white. Mrs. Taylor calls his name, causing him to look up at her. “Sweetie, you can put your backpack in the cubby with your name on it.”

Cautiously, Andrew moves to the cubbies. He places his backpack down in front of his name. He’s almost positive he saw a book with firefighters on it. The other kids near him aren’t even looking at him, but rather at their parents or whatever toy is occupying them. He grabs the firefighter book and moves to go sit on a beanbag chair, but is stopped by a familiar boy. 

“Hi,” the boy says. He’s not staring at Andrew, but rather Andrew’s shoes. “You played bricks with me. Do you like firefighters?”

“My Maya’s a firefighter.“

“Your Maya? Is that what you call your mom?”

Andrew sits on the beanbag. “No,” he says, opening the book. “Maya isn’t my sister, but Carina is my sister. Carina loves Maya. Maya lives with us. She’s not my sister, she’s my Maya.”

“I like firefighters,” the other boy says, now sitting across from Andrew. “You talk funny.”

“I’m not telling jokes.”

“No, your voice is funny.”

Andrew frowns, and his face begins to turn red with embarrassment. “There’s nothing funny about my voice.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. It’s not a bad thing to have a funny voice. You say your r’s real nice and sometimes you say words like the waiters at the pizza place. I think that’s cool.” He moves closer to Andrew. “My name is Samuel, what’s your’s?”

“Andrew.” 

“I want to sit next to you during class,” Samuel says. He’s sitting next to Andrew on the beanbag now. His eyebrows furrow in confusion. “You been on that page a real long time.”

“I’m looking at the firefighter with the yellow hair.” Andrew points at the blonde firewoman in the book. She didn’t look like Maya in any sense, but she was in uniform and had blonde hair. “My Maya looks like that at work. I get to play with her friends. Jack and Travis always let me slide down the pole. They say I’m gonna be a fire captain like my Maya.”

Samuel’s eyes go wide in amazement. “Your Maya’s the captain?” Andrew nods. “That’s so cool! She gets to boss everybody around!”

“My sister has a cool job too. She helps mamas have babies.”

“Is your sister the girl who dropped you off?”

“Sì.”

“She’s pretty, but her hair isn’t springy like your’s.” Samuel points to Andrew’s curls. “Springy hair is cool, but not as cool as my mommy’s firetruck hair. Why doesn’t your mom drop you off?”

Their conversation is cut short by the teacher calling them to find a seat to sit in, and that the lesson is about to begin. Andrew takes a big breath, and closes his eyes. Carina says that big breaths always help. Samuel taps his shoulder. “Come on, Andrew! Come sit with me!”

Meanwhile at Grey-Sloan Memorial, Carina is sitting in her office while doing paperwork. She lets out an anxious sigh as she places her pen back on top of her desk. Maya always made her promise not to push herself when she was anxious. 

Carina’s eyes wander over to the picture of Andrea on her desk. Her baby brother couldn’t have been older than four years old when the picture was taken. Andrew was a very happy kid up until the people around him realized he was different, and began to treat him as if he was lesser. Their Mamma had been the only adult in his life other than Carina to embrace his needs instead of challenging them. 

The past few weeks have been some of the happiest of her life. Andrew has his moments. Some days are more difficult than others. Nonetheless, the nights where Carina gets home from a long shift to find Andrew fast asleep in Maya’s arms makes all the meltdowns and sleepless nights worth it. 

By the time Carina’s shift is over, she’s off to pick Andrea up from school. She can’t help but feel anxious about how his day went. What if he had gotten picked on? What if he didn’t like his lunch and was hungry all day? What if nobody spoke to him, and he sat in a corner all day by himself?

All her fears immediately melt away once she sees Andrew come running to her car with a huge smile on his face and Bruno in hand. The teacher helps him into the backseat, and places his backpack on the floor board. “I’m proud to say that someone had a fantastic first day. He met a new friend and got to play Spider-Man with him between lessons.”

“That’s fantastico!”

The entire drive home, Andrew talks all about his new friend, Samuel, and what he learned at school. “I like Samuel, and I like my teacher, but I still miss you when you’re gone,” he says. 

“You can have fun while missing someone, Andrea.”

Once they’re in the apartment, Andrew shows Carina his homework. The “worksheets” were more coloring pages than anything else, but Carina helps him anyways. “What did you learn about today?”

“We talked about what we were gonna do every day for the rest of the year. We played outside and had lunch. I didn’t like my sandwich, so Samuel and I traded.”

“What did Samuel bring for lunch?”

“The same peanut butter sandwich I got, so I traded my sandwich for his Oreos.”

“You had cookies for lunch?”

“Sì.”

Carina sighs as she hands Andrew another crayon. “New rule; no trading at lunch.”

Maya arrives home around Andrew’s bedtime. She gets greeted with a hug from the boy as soon as she steps into the apartment. “Hey, buddy! I heard you had a good day!”

“Sì! I told Samuel about how you get to put out fires!” 

Carina walks into the living room with a small book in her hands. “Ciao, bambino. I was just about to tuck him in.”

“Nope. Too early,” Andrew says matter of factly.

Maya shrugs. “It is a school night.” Andrew rolls his eyes and dashes off to run away, but Maya picks up the boy and playfully tosses him over her shoulder instead. “Sorry, bud, but bedtime is non negotiable.”

“No fair,” Andrew huffs. “I didn’t get to watch cartoons with you tonight!”

Carina sees Maya’s face drop and turn into a pout as she stares at her wife. “Come on, Carina… one cartoon can’t hurt.” Andrew and Maya stare at Carina like kicked puppies. Carina sighs, and shakes her head in defeat. “Fine… but you are going to bed as soon as the credits roll, Andrea.”

”So,” Maya says, plopping Andrew on the couch. “Tell me about this Samuel.”

Andrew, Carina, and Maya all watch a very old episode of Looney Tunes. It’s obvious that Andrew is nodding off. His head rests against Carina’s chest, and his eyes are beginning to droop. Porky Pig’s “That’s all Folks!” is Carina’s cue to pick up the boy and carry him to bed. 

Maya helps to tuck him in by handing him his two stuffed animals. Andrew reaches sleepily for Carina as she pulls the covers over him. They both know Andrew can’t sleep in their bed forever, but that’s not something anyone wants to handle quite yet. “Buonanotte, bambino. Maya and I will be in here soon.”

“Stay,” Andrew murmurs. He grabs a fistful of Carina’s shirt and begins to gently pull her towards himself. “Please?”

“Andrea, Maya and I-”

Maya shakes her head. “No, go ahead. I’m going to take a shower, and then I will join you two. Does that sound okay, bud?”

Carina nods. She gets into bed next to Andrew, who immediately climbs on top of her and sits in her lap. The only light in the room is Andrew’s Spider-Man night light that had made its way into their bedroom, and the light coming from underneath the bathroom door. The sounds of the shower along with Carina’s heartbeat lull the boy to sleep in a matter of minutes. 

“I love you, Andrea.”

Chapter Text

“Get in the damn house!” Vincenzo shoves his son through the front door. He slams the front door shut, causing the little boy to cry out and cover his ears. Mamma is at work. He’s alone with his Papa, and nobody is here to help. “Shut up! Are you fucking stupid? You hit your fucking teacher!”

Andrew sobs. He didn't mean to do it, he really didn’t. He’d gotten in trouble at school again. A boy was touching his arm, his jacket was too tight, and the lights were buzzing so, so loud. Next thing he knew, he was sobbing on the floor of the classroom and hitting anyone who came near him. A teacher had tried to grab him, had tried to get him up, but instead, Andrew hit her… hard. He hadn’t meant to. 

“Stop crying! Now!”

“Papa, I didn’t mean to! I promise! She grabbed me and- and- I-”

With one quick movement, Vincenzo hits the boy on the mouth. Andrew shouts, and stumbles back. “Papa, please don’t!” Blood trickles down his chin. He’s sure his lip is busted open, but it wasn’t as if anyone was going to take him to get it stitched. 

Vincenzo grabs him, and pulls him close to his face. “If anyone asks, you fell down and busted your face. Do you fucking understand me?”

“Y-Yes, sir.”

Vincenzo throws him down on the floor with one final yell. Andrew tries his hardest not to wince. His father leaves the room; leaving him squirming on the floor. “Ow,” he whimpers softly, as he touches his finger to his lip. Crimson blood turns his finger red. His throat burns with the pain of holding back his tears for so long. 

But, he’d simply fallen down. He hasn’t decided if it happened whether it happened while he was playing or while he was walking to lunch. He’s not sure which is more believable. 

Carina watches her brother sleep most mornings. His small chest would rise and fall with each breath. If she listened closely enough, she could hear the faint sound of his heartbeat.

Andrew has nightmares every night. He doesn’t always wake up from them. He usually whimpers in his sleep, and grabs hold of Carina before settling back down. Tonight, Andrew seems to be having a pretty scary one. “No, no… Papa,” Andrew whispers. Carina’s heart breaks. She places a hand on his chest. “Bambino, wake up. It’s just a dream.”

Maya drowsily looks over to see what’s happening. “Nightmare?“

Andrew jolts awake, and cries out. He looks around frantically until his eyes land on Maya, and then Carina. Carina and Maya exchange cautious looks. Andrew’s eyes are wide, and he’s trembling. Nobody is sure whether he’s about to burst into tears or not. 

“Andrea,” Carina whispers. “Are you okay?”

Andrew stares at her in silence. 

“Can I hold you?”

He nods. He crawls into his sister’s arms with no hesitation. He’s crying quietly into Carina’s shoulder now, and still hasn’t spoken a word. The little boy tugs on Carina, and points to the doorway. Carina furrows her eyebrows. “You don’t want to be in bed?” Andrew shakes his head. 

One of the many benefits of Andrew being so small is that Carina is able to pick him up and carry him with ease. Carina scoops him up and moves out of the bed, but Andrew stops her. He points at Maya. 

“I guess I’m coming along too.”

“Bambina, please grab Bruno.”

Carina tucks Andrew in on the couch with a few blankets and his stuffed dog. Maya and herself curl up on both sides of him, so that he feels as safe and secure as possible. Andrew’s face is stained with tear tracks. 

Nobody speaks. Andrew is stuck staring straight ahead. Carina knows this look; it’s the look of sadness, guilt, and trauma. She had recognized Andrew’s cries for his father as he had cried in his sleep. She looks over at Maya to find her gently rubbing Andrew’s back. Andrew leans into her touch until he’s leaned over in her arms. His breaths are shallow and shaky, but soon he adopts Maya’s deep breathing pattern. It takes a few minutes, but the boy is soon asleep in her arms. 

Carina blinks away her own tears and emotions. “Thank you, bambina,” she whispers. 

“No, thank you.”

“Cosa?”

“I wouldn’t have him in my life without you. Thank you.”

Andrew sleeps heavily throughout the rest of the night and early morning. It’s Friday, but Carina had pulled him out of school due to an afternoon therapy appointment, so he could sleep as late as he pleased. Carina tucks him back into their bed and closes the door so that she and Maya can move freely and talk without worrying about waking him. 

“Did he stay asleep when you tucked him in?”

“Sì. He sleeps deep after bad nights.”

Maya nods, and sips her coffee. She tries to think of the proper way to word her next question. Carina sees the comical look of concentration on her face, and almost laughs. “What’s the matter, bambina?”

“Andrew… he didn’t speak. I know autistic kids can stop talking sometimes. What happened?”

Carina nods sadly. “Sì. He goes non verbal when he has flashbacks or really bad nightmares. He may talk this morning, he may not. It’s something I talked to the therapist about. She should be able to give us tips so that we can get him through these moments.”

“Does he go back with the therapist today by himself?”

Carina shakes her head. “Andrea is only going to feel comfortable talking if I’m with him.”

“So,” Maya says, “I assume they’ll be doing lots of coaching to help with grief?”

“Grief, separation anxiety, emotional regulation… He definitely has lots on his dish.”

“On his plate,” Maya corrects. 

“Sì, on his plate.”

Carina had been hoping for an easy day, but doubted that she would get one. Her brother hated talking about his feelings with any sort of therapist. They never understood him, or at least never tried to. The only reason he was in therapy in Italy was because of their Mamma. Papa didn’t approve. He claimed therapy was for sissies, and especially not for men. 

Andrew walks into the therapist’s office with his head low. Carina’s holding his hand as tight as she can without hurting him, whilst Maya is trying to distract him from the entire situation. He’s slowly regaining his speech back from the night before, so he doesn’t engage in much conversation with her. 

“I’ll get us checked in. Andrea, why don’t you go sit with Maya?”

“No,” Andrew says bluntly. “Together.”

“Okay, we’ll stay together.”

Andrew stays silent, except for when his therapist comes to get them. Carina grabs his hand and tries to move him forward, but he’s focused on something else. Maya isn’t standing up to come with them. “Maya,” he says, “I want Maya too.”

“I’ll go too. Whatever you want, buddy.” Maya gently nudges him towards Carina. 

The therapist leads them to a room with toys and games tucked neatly on shelves and put inside bins. In the corner of the room is a sand tray. It’s filled with toys, action figures, and small props. She encourages them to sit on the couch and to get comfortable, but Andrew is far from comfortable. Carina pulls Andrew on her lap to try and ease his anxiety.

“My name is Cassie,” the woman says. “We go by first name basis here.” Her demeanor is kind and comforting, unlike Andrew’s old therapist, who would stay rigid during his sessions. “You must be Andrew,” she says softly. Andrew stares at her blankly. 

“Sì, this is Andrea. I’m Carina, this is Maya.”

“Nice to meet you both.” Cassie quickly picks up on Andrew’s anxiety. He hasn’t taken his eyes off of her; not even for a second. “Feel free to play with whatever you want, Andrew. I’ve got board games, actions figures-”

“I got my own,” Andrew states. He rummages through Carina’s purse, then pulls out his Spider-Man figure. 

“That’s very cool!” Cassie points to the sand tray in the corner of the room. “I’ve got other toys you can play Spider-Man with, if you’d like.”

“Really?” Andrew moves to the sand tray, which has a multitude of superheroes. He picks up an Iron Man figure, and begins to interact with the new toy as well as his own. “In the movies, Mr. Stark and Peter are like Papa and son.”

“Oh, really?” Cassie begins jotting things down in her notebook. 

Carina and Maya watch Andrew take Iron Man out of the sand tray, and place him on the floor. Carina debates on questioning him, but ultimately decides to see where Andrew’s mind is heading. Andrew plays with the two figures on the floor. “Spider-Man wants to be away from all the other superheroes.”

“Why’s that?“

“Too much,” Andrew says, “He wants to be alone with his Papa. Tony isn’t a bad Papa, he’s a good Papa.”

Cassie furrows her eyebrows. “What’s the difference between a good and bad Papa to you, Andrew?”

“Bad Papas yell and hit. Good Papas… they’re like Carina. They’re nice and they never hit, even if they get upset. Carina isn’t a Papa, though. Carina is my big sister.”

Maya looks sympathetically at her wife, who is looking sadly at both the therapist and her brother. Both of them listen intently to what Andrew has to say. 

“In the movies, the good guys always save people from the bad guys.” Andrew pushes Spider-Man down, then pretends to make Iron Man pick him back up. “Carina saved me from Papa. My Papa isn’t a bad guy, I don’t think. Sometimes he was a bad guy, but not all the time. Some days he would hit, some days he would take me out for gelato.”

Cassie sighs sadly. “The bad days must have been really scary”

“They were,” Andrew says. “But Carina doesn’t have hitting days.”

“What are some things you like to do with Carina that you couldn’t do with your Papa?”

“We get to have sleepovers every night! Maya and Carina and me, we all sleep together. Sometimes we even get to watch movies really late at night, and we all go to sleep on the couch.” He directs his attention towards Maya and Carina. “Can we watch a movie tonight?”

“Sì, bambino.”

As promised, after the dreaded therapy appointment is all said and done, Maya pops popcorn and they settle down to watch Andrew’s current favorite movie, Luca. 

“Silenzio, Bruno!” The TV’s sound echoes around the living room. Andrew laughs, and joins in with a mouthful of popcorn, “Can you still hear him? Nope, just you!” He shakes his hands rapidly as his favorite scene begins to play. He’s giggling so hard that Carina and Maya can’t help but to laugh too.

Andrew grabs a handful of popcorn, but not before tossing a kernel at Carina. “Silenzio, Bruno!” He repeats. “Silenzio, Bruno! Silenzio, Bruno!”

“Silenzio, Andrea!” Carina mocks as she pops the popcorn into her mouth. Andrew collapses into a fit of giggles. He climbs on top of Maya’s lap. “Silenzio, Maya!”

“Hey, I wasn’t talking!”

“Shhhh,” Andrew says, “Silenzio, Maya!”

“I have a feeling we’ll be hearing this phrase for a while,” Carina whispers. 

“Silenzio, Carina!”

Usually their late night movies made Andrew settle down, but not this Friday night. Andrew loudly repeats just about every line of the movie back to the television. Out of excitement, he hits his hands against his chest and body. “Woah,” Carina says as she gently grabs his hands. She quickly redirects him. “You can’t hit yourself when you get excited, bambino. Shake your hands instead.”

Andrew spends the entire movie laughing and shaking his hands and head wildly. All that excitement has to be let out somehow, afterall. At the end of every exciting moment, there’s always a well needed rest. The credits roll as Andrew snores softly. He’s asleep on Maya’s chest, having fallen asleep after asking her a million different questions about her knowledge of the Italian language.

“Quick,” Maya whispers, “Turn it off before it starts over. We’ll never get to go to bed if that happens.”

Andrew barely wakes up as Carina and Maya tuck him in and slide into bed next to him. He stirs slightly, but only to roll over to where Carina is. Between skipping school and watching Luca- he’s decided that it’s been a good day. Even his therapy appointment wasn’t that bad. He peeks one eye open to see Carina fast asleep. “I love you, Carina,” he whispers. He nuzzles his cheek against his pillow before allowing himself to succumb to sleep. 

Chapter Text

It’s late. 

It’s really late. 

Andrew knows he isn’t supposed to stay up late without permission, but he’s not tired. He had managed to get out of bed without waking Carina up. Maya is working a night shift, which gave him an advantage. Carina is a heavy sleeper, but Maya would have certainly woken up. 

The city lights shine through the living room window. He looks out to the city, his eyes sparkling with wonder. It’s been two months since he moved to Seattle, but the view from his apartment never got old. 

Snow begins fluttering down from the clouds. Andrew smiles. “Wow,” he whispers. It rarely ever snows in Italy, but Seattle is freezing cold. He misses the villages and the cobblestone streets and the warm temperatures, but Italy isn’t home. Home is wherever Carina takes him. 

“Andrea,” Carina whispers. Andrew jumps, and turns around fearfully. “Mi dispiace.”

“You don’t have to apologize, but I want to know what you’re doing.”

“Snow.” Andrew points towards the window. “I’m watching the lights and the snow.”

Carina’s heart swells. She takes Andrew by the hand, and leads him towards the front door. “Let’s go see it,” she says. “Put on your coat.”

“Really?”

“Sì.”

Carina and Andrew find a bench right outside the apartment. It has the perfect view of the lights that Andrew had been looking at so intently. Carina pulls Andrew onto her lap, and holds him close. “What do you think?“

“Pretty,” Andrew whispers. He lays his head on Carina’s chest. Her sweater brushes against his cheek. He takes a deep breath; it smells like vanilla. “I love it here.”

“I love having you here.”

“We won’t ever have to be apart again, right?”

“Never again.”

“Do you promise?”

“I promise.”

A few moments later, Carina notices that Andrew has fallen asleep on her chest. She carries him back into the apartment, and assists him with taking off his coat. Zippers are still a challenge for him, as were most other motor skills. On most days, Carina has to tie his shoes, help him brush his teeth, and comb his hair, among other things. 

Soft snores begin to fill the bedroom, but they didn’t belong to Carina. She checks the clock. Maya would be home soon. As she looks over to Andrew, sound asleep in Maya’s spot, a wave of guilt washes over her. 

Maya hadn’t wanted kids. 

Then, in a matter of one month, a high maintenance child was living in her house. 

Their sex life had boiled down to nothing. There weren’t dates anymore, and there weren’t spur of the moment outings either. Maya isn’t legally tied to Andrew, but he loves her so much that she may as well be. It’s not Maya and Carina anymore; it’s Maya, Carina, and Andrew now.

Carina loves it… but what if Maya secretly didn’t?

Carina lays down on the couch in an attempt to distract herself from the awful feelings gnawing at her. The doorknob rattles, and Maya slowly enters the apartment. Carina can see a layer of sweat and soot covering her wife. Maya scans the room, and jumps when she notices Carina. “What are you doing up? It’s three in the-”

“I’m sorry,” Carina blurts out. She stops for a moment to make sure Andrew is still asleep. 

“You’re sorry about what?”

Carina shakes her head. Tears are falling down her cheeks. “I gave you a child you didn’t want. You didn’t want kids and with less than a month’s notice, you now have a disabled child attached to you at the torso!”

“Hip,” Maya corrects. “Attached at the hip.”

“Oh, qualunque cosa!” Carina looks down at the floor. “I’m sorry, Maya.”

“Stop talking.” Maya sits down on the couch, and gestures for Carina to sit beside you. “I said,” Maya begins, “That I didn’t want a baby. Andrew… Andrew is different. Sure, it was spur of the moment, but he’s your brother, and he was being abused. I couldn’t love that boy any harder if I tried. I don’t care if our relationship is different now. Raising this kid together is the best experience I never knew I wanted to have with you.” Maya wipes away Carina’s tears, leaving soot marks in their place. “Whoops.”

“You really mean all of that?”

“I do.”

Carina’s silent sobs turn into nothing more than soft whimpers as she pulls Maya in close. “How did I get this lucky?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re hugging a sweaty, disgusting human.”

A mischievous smile tugs at Carina’s lips. “Why don’t we shower together, no?”

After both women finish, Carina turns off the water and begins wrapping both herself and Maya in towels. Carina can’t help but to feel thankful that Maya no longer smells like a burnt house. “What’s it like fighting a fire in the cold?”

“We risk our water freezing, which is terrifying. It wasn’t a huge fire. It was an abandoned house that caught on fire out of nowhere in November, so I’m assuming some kids were messing around with fire.”

“Dio mio,” Carina sighs, “I hope Andrew is never a grumpy teenager who lights things on fire.”

“Give him time. The day will come.”

However, that day is certainly no time soon. Andrew snuggles in between Maya and Carina. Maya feels that there’s a stuffed animal wedged under her back, but everytime she moves it, Andrew moves it back. “No. Teddy’s gonna stay under you so he’s warm.”

“Why can’t Carina keep him warm?”

Carina groans. “I’m keeping Bruno warm.”

Andrew sleeps stretched out over both Carina and Maya like a starfish. Carina huffs, then looks over to Maya. “At least he’s comfortable.”

Maya pushes Andrew’s arm off of her head. “It’s his way of saying he loves us, I guess.”

The next day, Andrew occupies himself by sitting in front of the window. Snow is still falling down. When it finally comes to a stop, he makes his way over to the TV to watch the cartoons that were playing. He sits beside Maya on the couch. A delicious smell floats into the living room from the kitchen. “What’s Carina making, Maya?”

“Chicken noodle soup.”

“Why? I’m not sick.”

Maya laughs softly. “No, but it’s cold outside and very snowy. Soup makes us feel warm.”

“So…” Andrew raises his eyebrows. “Soup is like a food coat?”

“Soup is like a food coat, yes.”

Andrew nods thoughtfully. “Christmas is cold in Seattle. There wasn’t snow on Christmas in Italy.” Andrew shrugs. “There weren’t much presents either.”

“I’m sure Santa will come through big time this year.”

Carina brings two bowls of soup from the kitchen into the living room. “Slow down, bambina. Thanksgiving is first.” She hands Andrew a small bowl. “Be careful, it’s hot.”

“Of course Thanksgiving is first, but Christmas is way better.” Maya takes her bowl from Carina. “Thank you for dinner, by the way.”

“I agree, but Christmas has a month and Thanksgiving has a month. We should respect that.”

Andrew stares at Carina and Maya. “Why can’t we talk about both ?”

“That’s a fair compromise.” Maya slurps a spoonful of soup. “Both can be enjoyed at the same time, how about that?”

“Just eat your soup.”

Andrew sets his bowl down and moves to the DVD player. He flips through the stack of DVDs before landing on one. “Rudolph,” he says. “I want to watch Rudolph.”

“Soup, bath, teeth, then movie.” 

Andrew eats until Carina is satisfied. She runs his bath and sets out his choice of pajamas. “You have a choice between Spider-Man pajamas or Hulk pajamas.”

“Spider-Man.”

“I thought so.” Carina stops the water and lays out a towel. “If you need help brushing your teeth, let me know. I’ll be in the living room with Maya.”

“Thank you.”

Carina plops down on the couch next to Maya. “Brace yourself. Last time he watched Rudolph, he cried for two hours.”

A few minutes later, Andrew comes running into the living room. “Soup, bath, teeth, then movie,” he says, pointing to the TV. 

Sure enough, ten minutes in, Andrew is biting back tears as the other reindeer tease Rudolph. Normally, Carina turns off movies when Andrew begins to cry, but she always lets him watch this one in full. “It’s okay, Andrea. Remember, Rudolph’s nose is what helps at the end of the movie.”

“Why are they so mean?” Andrew asks. 

“The reindeer?”

“Sì.”

“Sometimes when things are different, we don’t know how to react. That can turn into big emotions like anger.”

Andrew nods thoughtfully. “I used to feel like Rudolph, but not anymore. People aren’t mean to me now.”

Carina and Maya exchange proud looks. 

By the time the movie ends, Andrew is no longer sad, and is going into great detail about how Rudolph is a crucial asset to Santa’s team. “Even if it snows in Seattle,” he says as he’s tucked into bed, “Santa can still see because Rudolph’s nose makes things bright.” He pauses. “How does Santa get inside of apartments?”

Maya stutters a bit, but Carina makes a smooth recovery. “Santa has a key that fits every lock. He comes in through the door.”

“Yep,” Maya says quickly, “He sure does.”

That night, Andrew stays up thinking about how Christmas would be with his big sister and Maya. Visions of playing in the snow and baking cookies play out in his head. He’s sure that Christmas, and even Thanksgiving, would be the best he’s ever had because of Carina and Maya. 

Chapter Text

It’s no secret that elementary schools are a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria. Flu season has hit Seattle hard. About half of the station had been wiped out with the flu at one point, but Maya had managed to avoid coming into close contact with anyone sick. Between sanitizing constantly and cleaning regularly, Carina and Maya are sure that the flu won’t come anywhere near them. 

That is until Andrew comes home with a runny nose and a sore throat. 

It starts small. At first, it’s only scarce complaints as he does his homework and eats his after school snack. 

“My throat feels bad,” Andrew says.

“Come here.” Carina presses her hand against her brother’s forehead. “You don’t have a fever. I think you’re just tired, no? Did you have a long day?” She pats a spot on the couch beside her, which is Andrew’s cue to curl up next to her. 

He rests his head on Carina’s lap. “When’s Maya coming home?”

“She’ll be home around dinner.”

Andrew falls asleep on Carina’s lap. He sleeps so heavily that he doesn’t even stir when Carina moves him. He only wakes up a few hours later when he feels the sensation of being drenched in his own sweat. He swallows, and winces at the sting. His eyes are heavy, despite having just taken a long nap. The smell of dinner wafts through the air, causing his stomach to do a flip. 

Andrew’s train of thought is derailed once he notices Maya staring at him. Had he really slept that long?”

“You don’t look very good, buddy,” Maya says softly. She turns her head towards the kitchen. “Carina, bring me the thermometer.”

Carina quickly walks into the living room to find a very ill looking Andrew. “I am a thermometer,” she says. "Come here, bambino.” She places her hand on his forehead. It’s about ten times hotter than it was just a few hours ago. “Oh no… you’ve got a fever.”

“Do you think it’s the flu?” Maya brushes his sweaty hair away from his forehead. “Maybe we could try a cool bath to help with the fever.”

“Can you go run the water while I finish dinner? Make it cold, but not freezing.” Carina turns her attention to the drowsy boy. She kneels down beside the couch. “My poor bambino,” she says softly.

Andrew is so exhausted that he falls asleep in the bath. Carina helps him finish up before wrapping him in a towel and pulling out an actual thermometer. Maya pops her head into the bathroom once she hears the beep of the thermometer. She begins to tease Carina. “I thought you were a-”

“Silenzio. I want an exact read.” The thermometer beeps, and the result is a bright red 103.1 degrees. “He’s falling asleep and achy on top of having a high fever.” She begins towel drying his hair while Maya gets his toothbrush ready. “It’s definitely the flu.”

“Did he get his flu shot?”

Carina laughs dryly. “Last time Andrea got an injection, he kicked the nurse and punched me in the jaw. So, no, he did not.” 

Even though it’s early in the night, Andrew is clearly ready to lay down. Carina pours out a dose of children’s cold and flu medicine, and places it in front of him. “Take this, it’ll make you feel better.”

“No,” Andrew says. “It’s gross.”

“I know it’s gross.” Carina nudges the small measuring cup towards him. “It will help, I promise.”

“I don’t want to.”

Maya hands him a drink. “It’ll be real quick, buddy. After that, we’ll lay on the couch and you can sleep, okay?” Andrew looks away from her. Maya kneels down, so that Andrew is on eye level with her. “Andrew, come on. I know being sick sucks, but this will make it suck a lot less.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’ll make going to sleep a lot easier.”

“Fine…” Andrew hesitantly swallows the medicine. He gags and coughs on it, but thankfully it stays down. “Gross.”

Carina picks her brother up and lays him down on the couch. He’s shivering. “I’m so sorry that you feel like this, Andrea,” Carina says as she sits him in her lap. Andrew whimpers and lays his head against her chest. Maya wraps a blanket around him in an attempt to calm his shaking, but Carina shakes her head. “His fever needs to lower.”

Andrew begins to cry against Carina’s chest. “I’m cold! I want a blanket!” His head is swimming from the fever, which only makes things worse. “I hate this!”

Maya runs to the bedroom to grab Andrew’s stuffed dog, Bruno. If he couldn’t have a blanket, then another soft comfort item may do the trick. “Look who I found, buddy.” She hands Andrew his stuffed animal. Immediately, Andrew nuzzles his cheek against it’s fur. 

“Bruno always knows how to make you feel better,” Carina coos. She rocks the crying boy back and forth; something that always soothed him. To Maya’s amazement, Carina begins to quietly sing an Italian lullaby. She’s never heard Carina sing, but it certainly isn’t a bad sound. Andrews’s sobs quiet down and his eyes slowly close.

“Wow,” Maya whispers. “That was beautiful.”

“Mamma sang it to both of us growing up. It works like a charm on him.”

Hours pass until it’s late enough in the night that both Carina and Maya have fallen asleep. The silence is abruptly interrupted by a quiet, painful groan.

“Carina! Maya!”

Both women jolt awake. Andrew is on Carina’s lap clutching his stomach for dear life. “It hurts!” Carina’s eyes go wide. She gently lifts up Andrew’s shirt to make sure nothing external is going on. “Your tummy hurts?” She gently presses against his belly to feel what was going on, causing Andrew to cry out. 

“I’m gonna throw up!”

Maya grabs the mini trash can at her feet and immediately places it underneath the boy’s chin. “Let it out, buddy.”

Andrew throws up just about everything he’d ingested in the past few hours. He shudders and gags in an attempt to stifle the vomit, but it only makes things worse. For all three of them, the awful moment feels like hours, but it only lasts a few miserable minutes.

“Oh, my poor bambino,” Carina whispers. Andrew is so weak that simply laying against his sister is a strain to his entire body. He cries weakly for Maya to come closer.

“I’m right here.” Maya holds his hand with one hand, and rubs his back with the other. “You’re being so strong, buddy.” She looks up at Carina, who has her hand placed on his forehead. “Does he feel any cooler?”

“He’s the same as he was before bed.” 

Andrew holds Bruno to his chest in an attempt to soothe himself. He glances at Maya, and then Carina. “I wanna sleep,” he says tearfully. “I wanna sleep but my tummy hurts and my throat hurts! This is stupid!”

“Okay, Andrea, let’s try to sleep. Do you feel like you’re going to throw up again?”

“No. My belly hurts but it isn’t ‘I gotta throw up’ hurting.”

Maya tucks a blanket around all three of them, and clicks off the lamp. A few minutes pass, but both Carina and Maya don’t even attempt to sleep. Instead, they stare protectively over Andrew. Andrew mumbles a bit in his sleep, and tosses and turns, but he doesn’t stir. 

Andrew wakes up to sunlight beaming through the living room window. Maya is sitting beside him watching TV, while Carina is what he’s laying on. He tries to breathe through his nose, but one nostril is so stuffed that he can barely get a full breath in. He groans, and closes his eyes back shut. 

“Oh, bambino, you’re awake.” Carina grabs the measuring cup sitting beside her on the inn table, and places it against Andrew’s chin. “You need a morning dose.”

He gags dramatically, and hands the full cup back. “It tastes so bad.”

“It makes you feel better,” Maya reminds. 

“I’d rather be sick.”

Carina raises her eyebrows. “ Andrea.

“Fine.”

Andrew flops back against Carina after he’s forced down the cursed children’s cold and flu medicine. He pulls a blanket up to his chest. While being sick sucked, being coddled by Carina and Maya certainly did not. “Am I con-tay-shush?”

Maya glances over. “Are you what?”

“Contagious,” Carina laughs. “Yes, bambino, you are very contagious.”

“Are you and Maya gonna get sick?”

“Probably.”

Andrew frowns. “Why would you and Maya be with me if I’m making both of you sick?”

“When you love someone, you don’t care about their germs.”

“That’s right,” Maya says. “No matter how gross your sister gets when she’s sick, I still take care of her. It’s my job. It’s just like how Carina takes care of you when you’re sick.”

“Does Carina take care of you when you’re sick?”

“I don’t get sick.”

“Why not?”

Maya shrugs. “I have a strong immune system. My body fights off colds really well.”

Andrew crawls into Maya’s lap, and situates himself so that he’s staring at her face to face. “My body’s pretty strong too. I’m one of the fastest on the playground!” He pauses. ”I bet I could beat you in a race!”

Maya laughs and exchanges a look with Carina. If only he knew just how fast she really was. “Maybe one day soon, buddy. You’re sick, so it would be unfair to you if we raced right now. Why don’t you lay down and rest up?”

“Hold?” Andrew asks as he lifts up his arms.

One of the perks of being tiny in stature is that Andrew can curl right up on either Maya and Carina. He fits perfectly. Maya nods, and allows him to wrap his arms around her as she holds him close. “Carina too,” Andrew says. As asked, Carina scoots next to them. “Is this better, Andrea?”

“Fantastico!”

“He gets that saying from you, doesn’t he?”

Sure, maybe they’d all be sick in a few days, but it didn’t matter. A few sick days simply meant more time at home with their boy. 

Chapter Text

“Andrea Deluca, if you eat one more marshmallow, so help me God-”

“He’s fine, Carina.”

“You need enough marshmallows to make these crispy rice treats! Andrea! Stop eating the marshmallows!”

Andrew talks around a mouthful of marshmallows, “They’re called rice crispy treats.” Carina glares at him. Andrew ignores her, and begins scooping rice crisipies into the bowl beside Maya. “Quante tazze?”

“Six cups,” Maya says. 

Every year, everyone at the station gets assigned a dish to bring to Thanksgiving. Maya was usually given the task to make a simple dessert and nothing more than that. Andy once asked her to do the mashed potatoes, but Maya had brought a mess of unseasoned potato mush. Since then, no one really trusted her to make anything complex. 

Maya melts the butter and marshmallows into a pot, then slips two more marshmallows to her tiny sous chef. Andrew had insisted on helping, but his version of helping is simply eating the ingredients and licking the spoon. “This tastes great, Maya!” Andrew bites into another marshmallow. 

“You can’t go wrong with marshmallows.”

“He’s going to get a tummy ache.” Carina nudges Andrew away from the kitchen. “Go get dressed please. After Maya is done, we’ll go to the station to eat.”

“I want to help cook.”

Carina rolls her eyes playfully. “No,” she says, “You just want to eat marshmallows.”

Andrew runs off to his room to put on the fall sweater and pants that Carina had laid out. The past two days haven’t been great. Thanksgiving break for most kids was exciting, but not for Andrew. It broke his routine for no reason other than for the sake of the holiday. 

Carina hopes that the noise and commotion of the day won’t be too rough on her baby brother. With Andrew being such a picky eater, having a holiday surrounded by nothing but eating foods prepared by people who aren’t his sister or Maya is enough to cause anxiety. 

Carina’s train of thought is interrupted once hears an angry shout from her brother. “Andrea?” She walks into Andrew’s room to find him sitting on the floor with his shirt off. His arms are crossed, and his eyes are watering. “Bambino, what’s the matter?”

“I can’t do it!”

Carina frowns. “You can’t do what?” She looks over to see that Andrew’s shirt is laying beside him. The pieces click together. “You can’t get your shirt on?” Andrew nods ashamedly. “That’s okay. Raise your arms for me.”

“Carina?”

“Hm?”

“Why could I get dressed yesterday but not today?

Carina smooths the wrinkles out of his sweater. “Sometimes things are a lot harder on days that are unfamiliar. It’s okay to need help.”

Maya pops her head into the bedroom. “Are we ready to go?”

“Shoes,” Andrew says. 

Maya nods. “Shoes, then we go.”

As soon as the car comes to a stop, Andrew bolts into the station. He finds Jack is setting up tables and chairs. “Jack!” Andrew calls out. “Hi!”

“Hey, dude,” Jack says as he sets a chair down. He looks over to Maya and Carina. “Hello, Captain and Captain’s wife.”

Carina digs through Andrew’s drawstring bag. She hands him his headphones, along with a coloring book and some crayons. “Why don’t you go play in Maya’s office?”

“I wanna be with Jack.”

“Jack is busy, buddy,” Maya says as she fits the headphones over his ears. “There’s going to be lots of moving around in here between the tables and the chairs and the food.”

Jack shakes his head. “It’s fine. Andrew, sit at this table and color.” He points at the table that he’s just sat down. Andrew nods excitedly, and pulls up a chair so that he can watch all the firefighters and color. 

This keeps him occupied for a total of five minutes before he wanders up to the kitchen. There, Travis is taking the turkey out of the oven while Vic and Andy finish up the sides. Andrew sneaks up behind Travis, then taps him on the shoulder. 

“Travis!”

Travis shrieks, then jumps back. “Bishop! Put a bell on your kid!”

Maya rolls her eyes as she walks into the kitchen. “Andrew is downstairs-” Andrew smiles and waves at Maya. “Okay, Andrew is no longer downstairs.”

“Hi, Maya!”

“Buddy, go downstairs. The kitchen is busy. You could get burned.” She nudges him towards the stairs. “Dinner will be ready in 10.”

Andrew runs off to find Carina reluctantly helping Jack with the tablecloths. He tugs on her sleeve. “Carina.”

“Ciao, bambino.”

“I don’t want turkey for dinner.”

Carina nods. Lately, Andrew has been eating a bit better. The list of foods he felt comfortable eating was beginning to expand. However, turkey was not on that list quite yet. “Jack, can you finish this up? I need to fix him a sandwich.”

“A sandwich? On Thanksgiving?”

“As long as he’s eating, I don’t care what he eats on Thanksgiving.”

As everyone fixes their plates, Carina delicately cuts the crusts off her little brother’s sandwich. “I’d like you to have at least one vegetable on your plate, bambino. What would you like?”

That evening, Andrew sits with his family and has his PBNJ sandwich. He doesn’t touch much of the broccoli on his plate, but Carina and Maya have learned to take their wins where they can get them. By the time the clean up is over and all the leftovers have been put away, Andrew is fast asleep in Maya’s office chair. 

“He’s so cute,” Maya whispers as she nudges Carina. 

Carina picks the sleeping boy up. “Are you ready to go home, Andrea?” Andrew nuzzles sleepily into Carina’s chest and nods his head. 

During bath time, Andrew decides to pop the question that’s been on his mind for a while. “Can we get a Christmas tree?“ 

“Sì, Maya and I have one every year. We decorate the inside with other decorations as well.”

“Is Santa gonna come?”

“Of course.” Carina helps Andrew to dry off. “What are you going to ask Santa for?”

“Spider-Man movies.”

“That’s it?”

Andrew nods. 

Carina smiles, and pulls him in for a hug. If Spider-Man movies were what Andrew wanted, he was damn sure going to get them this Christmas morning. 

After his bath, Andrew curls up in bed on Maya’s lap. It warms Carina’s heart to see how well they get along. “Leaving me for Maya, are you?” she teases. 

“Maya is warmer than you.” Andrew lays his head on Maya’s chest, and pulls the covers over him. “You’re always cold, Carina.” Maya holds Andrew closer, and laughs at Carina. “See? I told you you’re always freezing.”

Carina clicks off their bedside lamp. She tucks Andrew in between the both of them. "Buonanotte, bambino. Te amo.”

“Te amo anch’io,” Andrew whispers. Cautiously, he rolls over and taps Maya on the forehead. “Maya?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Everyone freezes. 

Carina looks to Maya, then to Andrew, and back to Maya. 

Andrew has never said that to Maya. 

Maya looks at the boy in front of her. The small smile on his face says it all. It may have taken a few months, but he was beginning to see Maya as a lot more than his sister’s wife. “I love you too, Andrew.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

That night, Andrew sleeps soundly on Maya’s chest with Carina’s hand in one hand and Bruno in the other. He doesn’t know, and will never know, that Carina and Maya both shed tears that night. They didn’t say a word to each other. They didn’t have to. Andrew feels loved, and that’s all they could ever want for him.

Chapter Text

Andrew curls up underneath the lit Christmas tree. It’s bath, teeth, tree, bed. Laying under the tree and looking up at the sparkling Christmas lights allows him to forget about his trauma- even just for a moment.

He closes his eyes. He can hear Maya snoring on the couch. Carina is preparing tomorrow morning’s pot of coffee. Living life in survival mode is a mindset that’s hard to leave behind. He always feels his muscles tense up at the slightest noise. Sometimes, he doesn’t take that second slice of pizza, because it used to be unthinkable to take more than the bare minimum. 

He opens his eyes again. He sees his reflection staring back at him from one of the glass Christmas ornaments. He stares for a moment. People always said he looked like Mamma. 

Mamma. 

It’s his first Christmas without Mamma. 

Maya jolts awake to the sound of soft cries. Andrew is sitting on the floor next to the tree with his head in his hands. “Andrew? What’s wrong?” She sits next to him cautiously. She doesn’t get a response from Andrew; he doesn’t even acknowledge her. “Do you want me to go get Carina?”

“I-I miss Mamma,” he whispers. 

“Oh, Andrew,” Maya says softly. “Come here, buddy.” She pulls the crying boy into her lap, his head resting on her chest. She can feel his tears soaking through her shirt. “Your Mamma is still with you, you know that. She’s watching over you and Carina all the time.”

“I want her here!”

Andrew’s voice is loud enough to catch the attention of Carina. “Bambino?” She isn’t sure how to react to the sight of Andrew crying in Maya’s arms. Does she leave him with her? Does she pick him up, hold him, and never let go? A slight tinge of guilt washes over her mind. How had she not heard him cry? “Andrea, what’s the matter?“ Andrew only cries louder in response. 

“Mamma,” Maya mouths. 

Carina nods. She kneels down next to both of them. Andrew’s face is buried in Maya’s neck, and his arms are wrapped around her. “Mamma was really sick, Andrea. She’s not in pain anymore.”

“Sometimes,” Maya says, shifting so that Andrew is looking up at her, “We have to let people go. Your Mamma is watching over all of us, but especially you. She’s still with you, Andrew, even if you can’t see her.”

Andrew wipes his eyes, and shrugs. “I guess if Mamma was here, I wouldn’t live here. I wouldn’t have Maya, and Carina would be really far away.”

Maya rubs Andrew’s back reassuringly. “Bad things happen, but good things can come from them.”

“Carina?” Andrew asks. 

“Hm?“

“Do you miss Mamma?”

“Sì, bambino. I think of her every day. I’m sure she’s so happy to know you’re safe with me and Maya.”

“Carina?”

“Cosa?”

“You and Maya won’t leave me, right?

“We’ll always be with you, bambino. I promise you’ll never be alone.”

Therapy has been helping with coping mechanisms and such, but the main thing Andrew needs is to know he’s not alone. So, every night, either Carina or Maya would spend a few minutes holding him. Sure, they held him most nights, but these few minutes were dedicated to uninterrupted contact. Physical contact is something he never got from his Papa.

Tonight, he chooses Carina. 

Andrew rests against his big sister. Carina realizes just how much Andrew has grown in these past few months. He’s still smaller than most of his peers, but he wasn’t nearly as malnourished looking anymore. Carina runs her fingers through the boy’s hair. It’s gotten even longer. His shaggy hair made him look like a sheepdog most days, but he liked it, and that’s what matters. 

“Goodnight, you two, I love you both.”

“I love both of you too.”

“Ti amo anch'io."

Christmas shopping can be a challenge. Thankfully, Andrew is a predictable child with few interests. Andrew is with Travis for the day so that Maya and Carina could pick out the gifts from Santa. 

“So, what is the goal here?” Maya asks, grabbing a cart from the parking lot. Carina shrugs. “I’m not sure. If it has Spider-Man on it, he’ll be satisfied. He’s picky, but not about gifts.”

“I wasn’t picky as a kid either. All I really wanted was a G.I. Joe, but my dad said his daughter wasn’t going to play with a boy toy.” Maya sighs, “I don’t want that to happen to Andrew. If he wants something, I want to make sure he gets it.”

Carina grabs a few of the candies that Andrew likes, and tosses them into the cart. “Bambina, he got scolded over asking for anything by Papa. Getting a list from him would be impossible.”

“A plush Spider-Man would be a lifesaver. Rolling over on that plastic one is a rude wake up call.”

Carina nods. “Sì. We’ll see what we can find.”

Many Spider-Man toys and dvds later, they stumble upon the Lego section. “They have Marvel lego sets,” Maya says, pointing to the boxes. “Does he like legos?”

“He likes structure and instructions. Following a list on how to build something special interest related can’t go wrong.”

More Lego sets were bought than either of them wanted to admit. 

Carina puts a few childrens’ graphic tees into the cart. “He needs new shirts. He’s chewed through the collars on most of them. The ones he hasn’t chewed through are too small now.”

“I’d say get him some pajama shirts, but he refuses to sleep in anything except that one Spider-Man pajama set.” Maya looks at the shirts in the cart. “He’ll chew through these in a few days. Didn’t Cassy mention those chew necklaces? They’re supposed to give him a better alternative to shirts.”

“We could order some of those.” Carina quickly adds some chewable necklaces to her amazon cart. “They have one that looks like a regular set of dog tags. The reviews are good.”

“Is chewing common in autistic kids?”

Carina nods. “It’s a form of stimming.”

They wrap a few presents from them, and put away the remaining to be from Santa. By the time Travis drops Andrew off, the boy is hyped up on about ten different forms of sugar. 

“Montgomery,” Maya asks, “Why is he covered in frosting?”

“We did some cookie decorating, but I think he ate more than he decorated.” Travis shrugs. “He likes my snickerdoodles.”

Andrew runs to the tree to find a bunch of presents addressed to him. “Wow,” he whispers. “Thank you, Maya. Thank you, Carina.”

“Thank us after you get to see what’s inside,” Maya says as she picks him up. She places him on top of her shoulders. “So,” she begins, “Pizza for dinner?”

“Pizza!”

“What about ice cream after?”

“Maya, he’s already had cookies-”

“Ice cream!”

“Dio mio…”

Chapter Text

“Merry Christmas, bambino.”

Andrew stirs awake. Maya and Carina are in the doorway of their bedroom. It takes a moment to register, but then it clicks. “Did Santa come?”

Maya and Carina exchange mischievous looks. “Why don’t you come and check it out?” Maya asks. 

The kitchen counter sits an empty plate and an empty glass of milk. “Santa came!”

Underneath the tree are many, many wrapped boxes that weren’t there the night before. The glass of milk on the counter was empty, and the cookies had been eaten. Andrew sits in front of the tree, and stares at Carina for instructions. “Can I open my presents?”

“Of course, bambino. Remember, one at a time.”

A few moments of concentrated silence ensue. Andrew carefully reads the name tag on one of the many boxes under the tree. “To Andrea… from Santa!”

“Red wrapping paper is from Santa,” Maya says.

Carina nods. “Green wrapping paper is from us.”

Inside the wrapped box is a brand new stuffed Spider-Man. Andrew smiles, and laughs loudly. “Spider-Man! I got Spider-Man! Maya, Carina, look!” He tears open the next box to find a plush blanket with Spider-Man designs and decals all over it. “A blankie!”

“Sì,” Carina takes a sip of her espresso. “You’ve got a few more from Santa.”

Andrew tears through more boxes. It’s toys and clothing and DVDs everywhere, but Maya is quick to assist with a trash bag. He gets to the last one after many minutes of unwrapping. He tears the paper more slowly now to savor the moment. Inside is his very own game of Operation. “Wow!”

“Sì, I know how much you loved to play my old game back in Italy, so we got you your own.”

“Thank you!” Andrew runs to hug Maya and Carina. He’s getting ready to sit in Maya’s lap when his stomach growls. “I’m hungry. Can I have cookies?”

Carina sighs, “It’s nine in the morning.”

“Please?”

“Oh, come on,” Maya says, “It’s Christmas morning! Christmas cookies for breakfast should be a new tradition.”

Andrew goes to the kitchen, and comes back with two handfuls of gingerbread cookies. He gives some to Maya and some to Carina, but he keeps a few to himself. “Breakfast!” 

Andrew shoves cookies into his mouth as Carina puts Rudolph on the TV. “Spider-Man,” he says through a mouthful of cookie. “Squishy Spider-Man.”

Maya and Carina snuggle up to Andrew on opposite sides. Andrew is going back and forth between the movie and his brand new plushie. “I wonder how Santa knew I would like this.”

Maya shrugs. “Magic.”

“Does Santa Claus go through customs when he flies?”

Maya and Carina exchange looks. “No.”

“If he eats milk and cookies at every stop, don’t you think he’d get sick?”

“I hear he eats healthy the rest of the year so it balances out.” Maya hopes this isn’t too much of a stretch for Andrew to believe. To her relief, Andrew nods. “That makes sense.” He sits quiet for a moment before looking over at his sister. “Carina?”

“Cosa?”

“We don’t have a chimney.”