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From The Ashes

Chapter Text

Smoke billowed from multiple windows of the old apartment complex, filling the night sky with ash. It was difficult to breathe, even more difficult to see as the numerous engines and rigs flashed their lights, staining the darkness with neon reds and blues.

 

Maya stood outside, the building schematics in her hand, and despite her frustration at being named temporary captain while SFD investigated Beckett, she had to admit that taking charge of the scene was exhilarating.

 

“Captain Bishop, we’ve cleared floors three to five. Herrera and Gibson are in the basement – there’s reports of people trapped,” Ruiz’s voice crackled over Maya’s radio. She reached for it and brought it close to her mouth.

 

“Copy, Ruiz. Herrera? Gibson? Report.”

 

There was a pause and Maya eyed the map in her hands again, her gaze drifting to the building’s lower levels. The fire had started on the second floor and quickly burned through the ceiling and above. While it was also spreading downward, the poor ventilation and ancient wiring system meant that the flames were unpredictable. With Station 19 on civilian extraction, Maya couldn’t be entirely sure of the status of the fire. She just wanted her people to get out safely with anyone trapped inside.

 

“Bishop, we’ve got a problem.” Jack called out and worry pricked at Maya’s spine.

 

“Gibson, what do you see? Are you with Herrera?”

 

“Maya,” Andy’s voice was as serious as Jack’s, “everyone is out except one.”

 

“Let’s go, Herrera, you need…”

 

“We can’t move her.”

 

Maya’s frown deepened. Were they trapped?

 

“Herrera, the structural integrity is unknown, and Captain Park is getting ready to flood the east side. Is she dead? Because if she’s dead you…”

 

“Negative, Captain Bishop. She’s pregnant,” Jack said.

 

“And you can’t move her?”

 

“I’m pretty sure she’s crowning. There’s a lot of blood and she’s unconscious, but if we move her…I think she might bleed out if we try.”

 

Shit

 

Maya noticed the Incident Commander walking by and immediately flagged him down. While she was in charge of her team, she didn’t have command of the entire scene and she needed to run any decisions by him first.

 

“Captain Kowalski, we have a situation,” she said, setting her tablet on the hood of a nearby car. Kowalski’s face was covered in sweat and soot, but unlike Beckett, he was a fair man and an excellent captain.

 

“Bishop?”

 

“My team has a pregnant woman trapped in the basement. They can’t move her without killing her and the baby,” Maya explained, awaiting further instructions.

 

Kowalski checked his own tablet, pointing to the basement.

 

“Where are they?” He asked and Maya understood why it mattered.

 

The fire was on the east side of the building, but the west side remained mostly untouched.

 

“Gibson, I need a location update,” Maya said into her radio, relieved when Jack answered back immediately.

 

“Southwest corner, lower level. Air quality poor, but no visible signs of fire.”

 

Kowalski nodded to himself, confirming the information, and then took his radio.

 

“Dispatch, call ahead to Grey-Sloan, we need an OB, maybe a trauma surgeon, tell them to send a team now.”

 

Maya blinked in surprise as an odd feeling settled into her bones. She kept her work life and her personal life separate. Even though Carina was a familiar face around the station and heavily involved with the clinic, Carina was over there and Maya was over here and the fire was over here too, and the two worlds could not overlap.

 

“Sir,” Maya shook her head, “there’s no time!”

 

“Tell your team to prep that PRT of yours. Let’s be ready.”

 

Kowalski turned and walked away before Maya could say another word.

 

~*~

 

The minutes ticked by and Maya found herself quickly distracted. She checked in with her crew, ensured the safety of Gibson and Herrera, and stayed in contact with the other captains on scene. When she heard the sirens of an ambulance, she at first ignored it. There were lots of ambulances around the area, helping former occupants of the building with smoke inhalation and burns.

 

This ambulance was different. It was clearly labelled Grey-Sloan on the side and Maya prayed that Jo Wilson was about to step out the back. Except when the doors opened, Carina hopped out with an intern, and Maya grumbled.

 

Dressed in pink scrubs and a blue Grey-Sloan jacket, Carina looked out of place next to the endless array of firefighters in turnout gear. She hoisted a bag over her shoulder and when her eyes met Maya’s her expression turned unreadable. Maya was about to join her when Ben appeared, drawing Carina’s attention.

 

“I have the PRT ready,” he said, “not sure if we’re looking at a C-Section, but we should be good to go.”

 

Carina nodded and handed Ben her bag.

 

“Gibson,” Maya spoke into her radio, finally moving closer to Carina. It all felt too out of place, her worlds colliding, and she felt her concentration slip.

 

“Captain Bishop the bleeding is getting worse and the baby is definitely crowning.” They could all hear the worry in Jack’s voice. When Carina grabbed Maya’s radio off her chest, Maya startled, but quickly calmed herself.

 

She was not looking at Carina her wife. She was looking at Carina DeLuca, one of the world’s preeminent OB/GYNs.

 

“Jack, can you see the baby’s eyes?”

 

“Carina?”

 

“No!” That was Andy, her voice sounded distant.

 

“Is the bleeding continuous?”

 

Jack spoke again. “Uhh…I think so. We tried to lift her, but the baby moved, so…”

 

“Okay. I’m coming to you,” Carina said, her voice commanding.

 

Maya yanked her radio back, anger burning in her chest.

 

“Absolutely not,” she said, staring Carina down.

 

“I go in or they both die, Captain Bishop.”

 

Ugh, of course Carina had to pull the rank card. Hearing “Captain Bishop” was enough to remind Maya that she couldn’t let emotions guide her decisions. If Jo Wilson was standing before her, saying she needed to enter the scene, how would Maya react?

 

“Dr. DeLuca, we cannot allow civilians inside, the building is unstable,” Maya tried to reason, though she knew that doctors had been taken into similar situations more than once to help with rescue and recovery.

 

“If I don’t go, she dies. And so does the baby.”

 

“Carina…” Maya whispered, but what she was about to say was cut off when Kowalski appeared again.

 

“You’re from Grey-Sloan, I presume?” He asked, pointing at Carina’s jacket.

 

“Yes, Dr. DeLuca.” Carina shook his hand and then turned back to Maya who realized that if Kowalski gave Carina the go ahead, Maya could do little to stop it.

 

“Sir, we’ve just spoken to Gibson. They cannot move the final civilian. Dr. DeLuca has volunteered to go in, but…” Maya explained, praying Kowalski wasn’t going to say what she expected him to say.  

 

“Excellent.” Kowalski clapped his hands together. “Captain Bishop, I leave you in command of this situation. Dr. DeLuca will need turnouts, but I need all of you in and out in twenty minutes. Understood?”

 

“Yes, sir.” Maya wanted to tell Kowalski that Dr. DeLuca was her ridiculously stubborn wife, but she kept quiet. Instead, she turned to the task at hand.

 

“Take off your shoes,” Maya pointed at Carina’s runners, “Warren, find her some turnouts. Now.”

 

It took a few moments to find a firefighter that matched Carina’s height, but soon Maya was doing something she never thought she’d do. She watched Carina step into the turnout pants, the suspenders thick against her scrub top. Next came the boots and then the jacket.

 

“Do the braids you do for surgery,” Maya reached up to lightly tuck a strand of hair behind Carina’s ear, but the familiar touch was too intimate, too personal. She tore her hand away and busied herself calling Sullivan and preparing their oxygen tanks and masks.

 

When Sullivan came running to the scene, Maya took a deep breath and tried to remember who they were and where they were.

 

She was Captain Bishop. Carina was Dr. DeLuca.

 

“I’m going to guide you in,” Maya said, helping Carina with her oxygen cannister, “Sullivan will be right behind you. Do not let go of my shoulder. Okay?”

 

Carina nodded. She took her bag from Warren and with a determined look, set her hand on Maya’s arm.

 

Captain Bishop moved forward then, Dr. Carina DeLuca by her side.

 

Carina’s hand on her shoulder felt heavier than all of their gear combined.

Chapter Text

Logically, Carina knew that Maya’s job involved walking into burning buildings.

 

It was one thing to know and quite another to do.

 

The air was thick and hazy. She could smell the fire, but the only light came from Maya and Sullivan’s coats and helmets. Water dripped from the ceiling, pooling around their feet, and Carina found herself wondering if this is what Maya did every day? She was reminded of Dante – oh, how she used to hate reading Dante in school – but the descent, the inferno…

 

“Gibson, Herrera, call out!” Maya said into her radio, pausing their slow trek deeper inside the building. Sweat poured down Carina’s face, made worse by the oxygen mask she wore.

 

After a few seconds, they heard the tell-tale sound of metal banging against pipes and Maya started walking again. They entered a large sub-basement, empty save for foundation pillars and a row of washing machines. In the middle of the space, Carina could just see Jack and Andy crouching on the ground, a body between them.

 

She released Maya’s shoulder and ran, knowing that time was against the mamma and the baby.

 

“Jack, I need more light,” she yelled, falling to her knees next to the prone victim.

 

All four firefighters made a semi-circle around her, creating a spotlight that allowed Carina to see what she was doing. She raised the woman’s dress, biting back a curse when she saw the blood staining her thighs and the stone floor below.

 

Opening her bag, she quickly found sterile gloves and ducked lower, trying to check on baby. It was definitely crowning, she could see the top of its head, but between the blood and the fact that the mother was unconscious, Carina’s hopes were low. But she’d never give up on a patient. Not without fighting first.

 

“Andy, stay by her head, keep your fingers on her neck and tell me if you lose the pulse,” Carina pointed to the space in front of her.

 

Between the helmet and the mask, Carina could barely see her own hands, let alone enough to deliver a baby. She took off the helmet first and then slid the oxygen mask over her head, knowing she was about to be on the receiving end of…

 

“Carina!” Maya barked her name, but Carina was not prepared to argue with her wife in the middle of a dangerous delivery.

 

It was far too late for a c-section and the mother was not likely to gain consciousness anytime soon, so Carina did the only thing she could. She curved her fingers around the baby’s head until she could feel tiny shoulders against her fingertips. As carefully as possible, she placed her hands on the baby’s arms and started to pull.

 

The baby was small and between its size and the copious amounts of blood and mucus, it wasn’t long before Carina was able to slide it out completely.

 

Slide her out completely.

 

She looked at the infant in her hands, quickly running her thumb under its nose and then into its mouth. The baby coughed and breathed, and Carina sighed in relief. She had no time to run further tests, though she guessed the baby was no more than three pounds and needed immediate attention from the NICU. Quickly tying off and cutting the cord, Carina shifted focus.

 

“Maya?” She called over her shoulder though she didn’t turn. Instead, she reached into her bag and found a blanket, which she proceeded to wrap around the tiny life in her arms.

 

“I’m here.” Maya was beside her, resting on one knee.

 

Carina knew there was only one way the baby would survive. She also knew her wife wouldn’t like it.

 

“You need to run,” Carina said, lifting the baby towards Maya.

 

“What? I’m not leaving, Carina, I’m…”

 

Bambina…”

 

The air made her lungs ache, but she held back a cough. She didn’t want Maya to worry. She needed Maya to be strong and brave like she always was. Maya’s eyes were frightened though, frightened and unsure, until she clenched her jaw and opened her turnout coat.

 

It almost felt like time stopped moving as Carina passed the baby towards Maya. She placed the little bundle against Maya’s chest, just as Maya brought up one arm in support. Carina’s fingers brushed the space right over Maya’s heart, a muscle memory, and the feel of Maya’s warmth, of her sweat-soaked shirt, gave Carina the courage she needed to keep going.

 

Maya stood, the baby safely tucked into her jacket.

 

“Gibson? Herrera?” Her voice was loud, but Carina could hear the tremor.

 

“You know we will,” Jack said, nodding as he spoke.

 

Carina took one last look at Maya and tried to force a smile.

 

Ti amo, Tesoro.” She could hear how raspy she sounded, but there was no time for any more words.

 

The sound of Maya’s boots against the cement floor echoed across the room as Carina got to work saving another life.

 

~*~

 

Maya flew out the door in a rush of smoke.

 

She kept her head down, concentrating on the little, fragile life held against her chest. As soon as she felt the cool air on her face, she looked up, tearing her mask away.

 

“Hughes!” She searched around wildly from 19’s Aid Car and quickly found it. Vic had already opened the back doors and was looking at her confused.

 

“Bishop? Wha…”

 

Maya ran until she could finally climb in beside Vic. When she opened her coat, Vic gasped, but her surprise was quickly replaced by her training

 

“Put her down here, Maya,” Vic pointed at the gurney, already trying to find an oxygen mask small enough for the baby. It wouldn’t be possible. The Aid Car was not equipped for preemies.

 

Maya tore off her jacket and her helmet, letting the O2 tank fall to the floor behind her.

 

“We need to go,” Vic said, about to call Travis over to start driving when Maya grabbed her arm and pulled.

 

“We can’t.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Maya leaned over the gurney, watching the rise and fall of the smallest chest she’d ever seen.

 

“Carina is in there,” Maya’s voice was low, and she didn’t look up at Vic as she spoke. She didn’t want Vic to see her fear. Instead, she focused on the baby, whose breath sounds were shallow and who was visibly shaking.

 

Vic swallowed hard.

 

“Maya…”

 

“We need to get her warm.” Maya moved without thinking, yanking off her sweat-soaked t-shirt and lifting the baby to her chest again. She likely looked silly, her turn-out pants and suspenders didn’t exactly match with a Nike sports bra, but they couldn’t just leave the newborn shivering on the table.

 

Vic found some of their rescue blankets and wrapped one around Maya’s shoulders, trying to create a cocoon of warmth. It would have to do until they could get the baby to the NICU and an incubator.

 

The minutes ticked by, each one more horrible than the last, and Maya could not stop her mind from racing. It was taking too long. The building could collapse. Maybe they were hurt? Maybe Carina was…

 

“I need to go back in,” Maya finally said, about to stand when they all heard the loud bang of the building’s metal doors swinging open.

 

Smoke poured from the entrance making it hard to see what was happening, but Maya distinctly heard Herrera shouting for Warren. He came running, the gurney from the PRT beside him, and Maya had to squint to make out what she was seeing. There was more movement, more shouting, and then Maya watched as Jack lay a woman on the gurney and Carina climbed on top, straddling the body, performing chest compressions while barking orders Maya could not hear.

 

She looked on in semi-disbelief as Warren and Jack ran the gurney to the PRT, her wife still in turnouts, riding on top of her dying patient.

 

“Carina is such a badass,” Vic laughed, shaking her head.

 

Badass was one word for it. Maya swallowed hard and then shook her own head, trying to clear away the fog produced by worry.

 

“Let’s go, Hughes,” she said, eager to get to Grey-Sloan, and not just because of the infant in her arms.

 

Chapter Text

Walking around Grey-Sloan’s pit half naked was not exactly how Maya foresaw her shift going when she’d arrived at Station 19 earlier in the day.

 

The air outside was so cold that by the time they’d reached the hospital, the idea of placing the baby on a gurney seemed dangerous, which is how Maya found herself walking towards Cormac Hayes, still wrapped in a blanket, still without a shirt, still holding a baby.

 

They’d called ahead and Hayes was ready, but Maya felt like it was her job to carry the infant from danger to safety. She wanted to complete what she’d started.

 

“Newborn, premature, gestation age unknown,” she said, shrugging off the blankets. The baby flexed its hand against her chest and for a split-second Maya felt the urge to hold on, to keep the little one right where she was. The feeling passed and she lay the baby down. Under the florescent light, Maya could finally see the child more closely and even as she updated Hayes, she kept her focus on the baby.

 

It was very small, its arms and legs tinted blue. Each breath looked laboured, a rib cage smaller than a tennis ball rising and falling in shuddering inhales. Maya took in the light, downy hair covering the baby’s skin, the way she shivered, unable to regulate her own body temperature. But it was the light cover of brown hair atop the baby’s head that gave her pause.

 

Maya felt something strange in her chest, as if her heart had forgotten its rhythm, and then the sensation was gone and Maya tore her eyes away from the little girl and back to the doctors trying to save her.

 

“Thank you, Lieutenant Bishop,” Hayes said, “we’ll take it from here.”

 

Maya raised one hand, waving as the baby was taken away, before remembering that she was standing around in her bra and turnout pants in the middle of Miranda Bailey’s emergency room.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop!”

 

Sure enough, Bailey appeared as if summoned by the thought alone.

 

“Hi, Dr. Bailey, have you seen…”

 

“Oh, I’ve seen and heard. You’d best go talk some sense into her or I will.” Bailey’s frown was all show, Maya could see the worry in her eyes.

 

“Thanks, I’m on it.”

 

“Oh, Bishop? Put some clothes on, this isn’t a calendar photoshoot.”

 

“Uh…”

 

“Bay six!” Bailey called before promptly turning around and walking away.

 

Maya pulled the blanket more snuggly around her and set off in search of her wife.

 

It didn’t take long to find Carina, despite the hectic surroundings. Her voice was so distinct that Maya heard her well before she could see her. And what she heard made her frown.

 

“No, Teddy! I don’t need it, this is ridiculous what are…”

 

Maya pulled back the curtained partition, shocking both Carina and Teddy into silence. Carina sat on a gurney, still wearing turnout pants and a pink scrub top. Her face was covered in soot, especially under her nose, and her eyes looked blood shot. Maya knew without anyone telling her that her wife had smoke inhalation.

 

“Why are you naked?” Carina asked, coughing as she spoke.

 

Maya rolled her eyes. “Okay, first of all, I’m not naked. Second of all, why are you giving Teddy a hard time? Put on that oxygen mask now.”

 

The slew of Italian that followed was too quiet for Maya to make out, but from Carina’s angry expression Maya knew that the woman on the gurney was displeased. Carina took the mask from Teddy and reluctantly placed it over her face before folding her arms and shooting Maya a look that said happy?

 

“Teddy, is the smoke inhalation bad? Does she need a chest x ray?” Maya asked, stepping forward to stand beside Carina’s gurney. She’d had smoke inhalation often enough to recognize the signs and Carina looked to be in bad shape. Every breath came with a wheezing sound. It made Maya anxious.

 

“Definitely smoke inhalation,” Teddy said, “so, yes to the chest x-ray. I also want to get Lin down here to check your throat. And ophthalmology for your eyes.”

 

Carina growled, clearly agitated.

 

“I’m fine. I’m breathing normally, my vision is unaffected…”

 

“Your throat hurts, you’re coughing, and you don’t get a say in this,” Teddy spoke firmly, though the small upturn of her lips indicated that she wasn’t truly angry. Doctors made for the worst patients. Carina was behaving accordingly.

 

Carina turned to look at Maya. “Bambina…”

 

“Nope. No Bambina business. If Teddy says you’re staying for tests, you’re staying for tests.”

 

“Maya…”

 

Amelia suddenly appeared around the corner, her smile widening as she openly took in Maya and Carina.

 

“I thought I heard the DeLuca-Bishops,” she said, “guess it’s true what they say about gay couples dressing alike…”

 

“Amelia?” Maya turned from the neurosurgeon to her wife, who looked just as surprised as she felt, “Wha…did you hit your head? Did you fall? I’m going to murder Jack, I swear to…”

 

“No, Maya. I did not hit my head, though I wish I had with all this.” Carina gestured to Teddy and Amelia, waving her hand angrily.

 

The more Maya looked at Carina, the more she realized that her wife was not okay. She seemed genuinely mad and while Maya understood that being in the hospital was not fun, it was not usual for Carina to be so standoffish amongst her colleagues.

 

“Hey, do you think I could get a minute alone with my wife?” Maya asked, directing her question over her shoulder.

 

“No problem. I’ll get her admitted. Just one night, Carina, you can go home tomorrow,” Teddy promised, and Maya appreciated her kindness. Amelia lingered by the curtain, the smile on her face indicating that whatever she was about to say would be…

 

“You didn’t tell me she was ripped,” Amelia said, pointing at Maya.

 

Carina groaned. “Amelia, please stop objectifying my wife! Only I am allowed to objectify my wife!”

 

Amelia raised both hands in surrender and then joined Teddy, leaving the DeLuca-Bishops in peace. They both knew it was temporary as Carina would need to go up to an observation ward, but in the moment of quiet, Maya felt all the feelings of the day rush back.

 

She sat on the edge of Carina’s bed and took her hand.

 

“Can you maybe leave the running into burning buildings to me?” She asked, wincing as Carina coughed.

 

When she was through, she took a deep breath and then looked at Maya with sad eyes.

 

“The mamma died.”  

 

That explained the anger. Carina so rarely lost a mother that every loss was extremely personal to her.

 

“You did everything you could,” Maya said, knowing without a doubt that she was right.

 

“The baby?”

 

“We got her here. She’s with Hayes now, but she’s really, really small. And she wouldn’t stop shivering. It felt like she was trying to burrow into me.”

 

Carina’s gaze flickered to Maya’s chest.

 

“Were you doing skin-to-skin?” She asked, the rasp in her voice making it sounds like a whisper.

 

Maya nodded and gestured to herself. “Hence…this.”

 

There was something in Carina’s expression that Maya recognized. A softness that appeared whenever they spoke about their future baby. Carina lay back against the gurney and raised her hand to tug on Maya’s arm. She seemed tired and Maya could not blame her. Wearing nearly seventy pounds of equipment and delivering a baby surrounded by fire wasn’t easy for the most experienced firefighter, let alone someone who basically wore pyjamas to work every day.

 

The gurney was narrow, but Maya managed to wedge herself in beside Carina, smiling affectionately when her wife rolled against her and tucked her head just below Maya’s chin.

 

“It works very well…skin-to-skin,” Carina said, coughing again. Maya raised one hand to Carina’s back and began rubbing comforting circles. Everything smelled like smoke, from Carina’s hair to Maya’s bra, but neither wanted to move an inch.

 

“You scared me today,” Maya confessed.

 

Carina held on a little tighter.

 

~*~

 

The stress of the day finally caught up with Carina and though she fought it, she fell asleep an hour after she was moved onto a ward. Maya sat in a chair, watching quietly as Carina breathed in and out, in and out.

 

She didn’t love seeing her wife in a hospital gown. She didn’t love the nasal cannula Carina was wearing either, but the chest x-ray came back clear and both the ENT and ophthalmology said Carina was fine. Still, Maya could not shake the image of Carina inside that building. Of leaving her inside that building.

 

An intern had brought her a pair of scrub bottoms and a Grey-Sloan sweatshirt, and Bailey had told Maya that she could go home. But she couldn’t leave Carina. The idea of stepping into their apartment, sleeping in their comfortable bed while Carina was stuck in the hospital?

 

Maya wanted no part in that. And, if she was being honest, she didn’t want to sleep alone. Carina was fine. She was safe. The fact that she’d been involved in one of 19’s call had shaken Maya. It was like her wife had appeared out of place and out of time, a red marble amongst a sea of blue. Maya’s head couldn’t quite make peace with it yet.

 

She stood, drawn to Carina, but she didn’t want to wake her wife who looked exhausted. Instead, she pressed a soft kiss to Carina’s forehead and then decided to take a walk. With a short stop at the nurse’s station ask them to text should Carina need her, Maya began to wander the halls of Grey-Sloan.

 

The hospital felt different at night. Unlike the always busy pit, the ward was quiet save for the constant beeping coming from different rooms and different patients. Nurses walked up and down the corridor, checking bandages and providing evening meds. Maya liked the calm.

 

She rarely visited Carina at work, but she knew the way to the OB floor, which is how she found herself lingering outside of Carina’s office, unsure why she’d chosen this as her destination. She turned, continuing her slow walk until she realized that she was standing in front of the NICU.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop?” Cormac Hayes popped his head out the door and beckoned her closer.

 

“Isn’t it a little late for you to be here, Dr. Hayes?” She asked, though she stepped into the room, following him.

 

“My boys are at a sleepover and I hate a quiet house. I’d rather be with this wild group,” Hayes whispered, gesturing to the numerous incubators spread across the room. There were a lot of beeping and flashing lights, though the room itself was dim for the evening.

 

Hayes handed Maya a yellow gown and stopped in front of an incubator in the corner of the room.

 

Inside was the baby and the sight of her broke Maya’s heart. While she didn’t recognize all the tubes and wires, she knew that the little girl now had a feeding tube, chest leads were stuck to her little stomach, and an IV engulfed her hand.

 

“Is she going to be okay?” Maya reached out to touch the incubator, but then pulled her hand away.

 

“She’s got a long road, but we’re optimistic,” Hayes said, “We’re guessing she’s about twenty-nine weeks gestation, so obviously her lungs are underdeveloped. We have her on supplemental oxygen and medication. It’s our hope that she’ll continue to develop here – give her organs more time to grow. But in the meantime, we’ve not been able to identify her or the mother yet. So, she’ll be a bit of a lonely one – at least until we find her family.”  

 

“At least she’s warm now. She was shaking so badly on the way here.”

 

“Would you like to spend some time with her?”

 

The question surprised Maya. Her gut instinct was to say no, but she pushed it down. She was wandering the halls of a hospital in the middle of the night while her wife was asleep. What else did she have to do that was so pressing? Plus, as Hayes said, the baby was all alone…

 

“Sure. Is it okay if I use this chair?” Maya pointed to a nearby stool. Hayes nodded and then left her to check on another preemie across the room.

 

At first Maya wasn’t sure what to say. She wasn’t even sure if the baby was awake because her eyes were covered with a protective mask.

 

“Hello,” Maya said as softly as she could, her face nearly pressed to the plastic shell of the incubator, “my name is Maya Bishop. My wife delivered you. Her name is Dr. Carina DeLuca, by the way. Just in case you wanted to know.”

 

Maya scratched her head, wondering what to call the baby, when she caught sight of the sticker hastily attached to the incubator.

 

Jane Doe

 

“Jane Doe?” Maya frowned, “You don’t really look like a Jane. I could just call you Baby, but that feels very impersonal and you’ve seen me without a shirt, so I think we might be past that stage.”

 

Acting on instinct, Maya reached one hand through the opening in the incubator and ran her fingers down an impossibly tiny arm. The baby’s other hand was attached to an IV, but her free hand quickly curled around Maya’s fingertip when she stroked the baby’s tiny palm.

 

It was the softest squeeze. Barely a fluttery of pressure. But it made Maya pause.

 

“You look like a Jamie,” she said, wishing she could see the baby’s eyes, “you can tell me if you don’t like that name, but I don’t know, Baby. You look like Jamie to me. Anyways, this is the preeminent NICU in the State, so you’re in good hands. We’ll find your family and life will get easier, I promise.”

 

“She does look like a Jamie.” Cormac’s voice startled Maya who immediately tore her hand away from the incubator.

 

“Sorry, just making small talk.”

 

“No, no. It’s good. As I said, she’s alone and she had quite a scary start. Some small talk is good for her.”

 

Before Maya left, she reached into her pocket for her phone. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but she felt the need to take a picture of the baby for Carina to see. The loss of a patient always upset her wife, but seeing the babies often made her feel better.

 

Maya tapped her screen and then looked at the baby one more time.

 

“Goodnight, Jamie,” she said, pressing her hand to the incubator in farewell.

 

~*~

 

Carina’s room was dark when Maya walked back in. She paused in the doorway, pleased to see her wife still asleep, and then approached the bed as quietly as she could.

 

Technically, visiting hours were over, but loving one of Grey-Sloan’s physicians came with perks. Maya slipped off her shoes and climbed up onto the bed, curving her body around Carina’s. It’s how they slept at home and it felt comforting despite the unfamiliar surroundings.

 

“Mmm…Bambina?”

 

Carina’s voice was still raspy, so different from her usually light tone.

 

“Hey, you should be sleeping,” Maya said, brushing her nose against Carina’s shoulder.

 

“Where did you go?”

 

Maya reached into her pocket for her phone and with a few swipes of her thumb, she draped her arm over Carina’s middle and held up the screen.

 

“Meet Jamie,” Maya smiled when Carina took the phone out of her hands.

 

“Jamie?”

 

“They were calling her Jane Doe, but…she just looks like a Jamie?”

 

Maya couldn’t see Carina’s face, but she was obviously studying the image intently.

 

“Poor, Piccolina.”

 

“Cormac says they’re very hopeful. She wasn’t on a vent, so I guess that’s good too? But they’ve yet to identify the mother, so…”

 

“So she’s all alone up there,” Carina whispered, handing the phone back to Maya.

 

She didn’t say another word before falling back asleep. Maya took another minute to assure herself that Carina was safe and solid in her arms before closing her own eyes.

 

Her last thoughts were of Jamie. She hoped the baby was sleeping too.

 

Chapter Text

Bailey insisted that Carina take the next day off, but by Friday she was back in the halls of Grey-Sloan, feeling much more like herself. Except for a light rasp in her throat, the smoke inhalation cleared quickly – though Maya hovered for nearly twenty-four hours, narrowing her eyes every time Carina coughed.

 

“Is it true you ran into a burning building?”

 

Carina looked up from the nurse’s station, finding Jo staring at her, clearly excited.

 

“Yes,” Carina said, a slow smile spreading across her face, as her protégé looked on in amazement.

 

“Ugh, of all days to miss! A preemie delivery surrounded by fire and pretty firefighters?”

 

Carina raised her eyebrows, still amused.

 

“Pretty firefighters?”

 

“You haven’t noticed that Station 19 is entirely staffed by super models?”

 

Carina shook her head. “If you knew them, you’d realize that they are very real, very crazy, very silly humans.”

 

She thought of one very real, very crazy, very silly human in particular and couldn’t help the affectionate half-smile that appeared on her face.

 

“Okay, but the interns are saying that your wife ran the baby out of the building half-naked!”

 

“What?” Carina started laughing. While Grey-Sloan functioned entirely on gossip, she wasn’t used to being its focus. Let alone her marriage.

 

“And she’s like a six-time Olympic champion or something?”

 

Basta,” Carina said, “She’s a gold medalist and the only naked one was the baby.”

 

“And totally ripped…” Jo mumbled, blushing profusely when she realized that Carina overheard.

 

“And totally ripped,” Carina confirmed, setting down her chart.

 

“I’m never taking a day off again,” Jo sighed. Carina stood and passed Jo the tablet she’d just used.

 

“I’m off for lunch. If you need me…”

 

“Page you,” Jo finished, leaving Carina to her own thoughts.

 

~*~

 

She’d very much intended to spend her hour eating lunch in her office. But a short chat with one of her labour and delivery nurses led to a walk to the NICU, which is how Carina found herself standing next to Cormac Hayes looking at preemie babies.

 

She wasn’t a neonatologist or a pediatric surgeon, but there was something nice about seeing the little lives she’d helped deliver, especially when their births had been so dramatic.

 

Hayes pointed to the corner and Carina followed the line of his finger, her eyes widening when she realized what he was trying to show her.

 

“Say hello to Jamie,” Hayes said, guiding her towards the incubator. Carina was surprised to hear Cormac use the name. She was even more surprised to see the tag on the baby’s incubator that read “Jamie Doe,” “Jane” very clearly crossed out.

 

Carina took in the wires and tubes. The tiny chicken legs. The chest rising and falling. She reached her hand through one of the incubator’s openings and brushed one finger up and down the cutest foot she’d ever seen.

 

“She’s doing well, all things considered,” Hayes explained, obviously noticing the worried look on Carina’s face.

 

“No vent?”

 

“No. She’s breathing on her own for now. The mother was apparently illegally living with a boyfriend in the building. No name yet, but they’re working on it.”

 

Carina nodded, wanting to listen to her colleague, but enthralled by Jamie’s soft skin and her tiny toenails. She didn’t even notice Cormac walk away and it was only when a nurse appeared at her elbow that Carina realized she’d been so distracted.

 

“We just can’t get her heart rate to steady,” the nurse said, her voice pulling Carina from her trance.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“She does well with skin-to-skin, but we’re so short staffed…it’s not always easy to give her the time she needs.”

 

“Oh,” Carina said, “I could do it?”

 

The words came out before she thought them through. Jamie was so small and so alone and Carina felt oddly responsible for her. She hadn’t been able to save Jamie’s mamma, but Jamie deserved every chance. She deserved a full life.

 

A rocking chair appeared and then a blanket. Carina pulled off her scrub top and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. When the nurse lifted Jamie from her incubator, Carina found herself holding her breath. The baby was no more than three pounds and she was connected to so many sensors and wires. She looked like a tiny puppet attached to strings.

 

It took some careful maneuvering, but soon the nurse lay Jamie on Carina’s chest, mindful not to jostle her IV or feeding tube.

 

“I’ll be back in a bit, Dr. DeLuca. Thank you so much – we’re really swamped today.”

 

The nurse quickly left to check another baby across the room and Carina glanced down, warmed by the sight of Jamie snuggled against her.

 

“Are you comfortable, Piccolina?” Carina whispered, one hand supporting Jamie’s tiny butt. She carefully stroked Jamie’s cheek with her fingertips and then her back, amazed by how light Jamie felt, but how sweet it was when Jamie flexed one hand against her skin.

 

Carina kept her voice low, lulled by the motion of the rocking chair. “You had a very scary start, didn’t you?”

 

Jamie was wearing a little hat and her eyes were covered with a mask, but Carina smiled affectionately at the button nose and the impossibly small cleft in the baby’s chin. It reminded her of Maya’s chin…

 

“Do you remember Maya? I will tell her you say ciao and that we are friends now.”

 

Jamie slept and Carina rocked back and forth until her phone buzzed thirty minutes later. She was due to deliver a set of triplets in the next hour and had to check on the mamma. But first Carina raised her phone and took a selfie. She wasn’t sure what inspired her to do it, she wasn’t sure why she didn’t ask the nurse to take Jamie back, she just wanted to hold onto the moment for a second longer.

 

With a quick text to Maya, Carina reluctantly shifted in her chair, sad to let Jamie go, wishing she could stay.

 

~*~

 

From the catwalk, Maya watched the captain’s office and seethed.

 

There was nothing to see. Beckett was inside, doing whatever it was that he did, and Maya was very much not included. She could feel the anger bubbling in her chest. It had been there since Natasha Ross dashed her hope and it was ignited once more when Beckett was reinstated. The only good thing to come out of the situation was Sullivan’s shocked face when Ross announced Beckett’s return.

 

Guess sleeping with the boss doesn’t get you everything you want

 

Maya heard footsteps approaching, but didn’t bother to see who it was. When Jack appeared beside her, she barely acknowledged him.

 

“Trying to shoot lasers?” He asked, leaning on the railings with his forearms.

 

Maya grunted in response.

 

“Are you going to transfer stations?” Jack’s question surprised her, and she finally tore her eyes away from the barn.

 

“What?”

 

“Hey, I know you. I can see that you’re ready to set this place on fire. You’re not happy, Maya.”

 

“19 is my home,” was all she could think to say.

 

She didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to run away. Maya Bishop did not run away. She ran forward.

 

“Carina doing okay?” Jack’s change of topic was a welcome relief, though thinking about Carina put a dent in Maya’s focus, which meant her anger subsided just enough for hurt to flood in.

 

“She’s good.”

 

“Big weekend plans?”

 

Small talk. Why did it have to be small talk? Maya grit her teeth and willed herself not to bark.

 

“Listen, Gibson, I get it. I appreciate the support. But we don’t need to do this,” she said.

 

“This?”

 

“I’m angry. I’m obviously angry and I’m tired of this department walking all over me and getting away with it. But there’s nothing I can do. They’ve tied my hands behind my back and now I have to figure out how to live with it. How to live with Beckett and Sullivan and Ross. Because if I don’t, then I can’t do this job. And this job is all I have.”

 

There was an awkward silence after she spoke. She watched Jack scratch the back of his head, his eyes squinting as he obviously weighed the risk of saying whatever it was that he wanted to say.

 

“That’s not true,” he said, folding his arms.

 

“Jack…”

 

“You have Carina. I get that you’re mad. I’m mad for you, but Bishop…don’t freeze her out.”

 

Sometimes it felt like there was too much to balance. Her marriage. Her job.

 

A baby

 

Maya closed her eyes and exhaled.

 

“Please just…don’t, okay?” She didn’t want to discuss her marriage with Jack. Or anyone. And she certainly didn’t need a reminder of the words he’d said to her years before. Words that had sparked her anger so much that she’d nearly destroyed her entire world just to shut them out.

 

Jack sighed, but raised his hands in surrender. He gave her one last pointed look before heading towards the Beanery, leaving Maya alone again.

 

Am I freezing her out? Is that what I’m doing?

 

As if Carina sensed Maya’s thoughts, Maya’s phone vibrated, and when she checked the screen she found herself staring at a picture of her wife.

 

Of her wife and Jamie.

 

Carina: My lunch date

 

Maya looked at the image intently, confused by how it made her feel. Anxious. Wistful. Annoyed.

 

Carina looked happy and beautiful. It was good to see Jamie too even though all she could really see of the baby was a blue hat and tiny little hands against her wife’s tan chest.

 

Maya was not someone who cried often, but tears stung though she refused to let them fall. She was just so angry. She was so upset. And Carina, perfect, wonderful, Carina was caught in the crossfire.

 

Jack’s words had forced their way in, combining with every ounce of self-doubt and frustration already swirling around her body. She took a deep breath and then another before looking at her phone again.

 

The most beautiful face in the world stared back at her.

 

Maya: Should I be jealous?

 

Three dots appeared and Maya waited expectantly.

 

Carina: Never. You’re my favourite bambina, Bambina <3

 

Station 19 was Maya’s home. But Carina DeLuca was her universe.

 

~*~

Maya spent the rest of her shift in a strange mood. She could feel the tension within, as if two worlds were vying for space in her mind. The anger about her job swelled, but there was something else too…

 

Carina

 

As she opened the door to their apartment, the tension felt suffocating. She wanted to leave work behind, she wanted to forget Jack’s words, but she couldn’t quite figure out how to do either.

 

The shower in their bedroom was the only sound in the otherwise dark space. Maya locked the door and kicked off her shoes. She felt drawn forward, an aching need begging for attention. An aching need tinged with fear.

 

Have I been freezing her out?

 

Have I messed this up too?

 

Carina’s back was to the bathroom door when Maya entered, but the sound of Maya’s feet against the tiles drew her attention. At the sight of Maya she smiled, a smile Maya felt she didn’t deserve at all.

 

Ciao, Bella,” Carina said, standing beneath the spray. Water cascaded over her shoulders, between her breasts. Maya licked her lips, biting back a soft gasp as something swooped low in her stomach.

 

She didn’t respond to Carina. Instead, she stripped, ignoring Carina’s small laugh of surprise. When she stepped into the shower, Carina was still laughing, though her smile faded at the sight of Maya’s face.

 

“Is everything alright, Maya?”

 

Maya took Carina by the shoulders and turned her. She liked to feel Carina’s back against her front. Despite their height difference, Maya loved dragging her lips over Carina’s shoulders, she loved the bumps of Carina’s spine just below the skin.

 

Bambina…”

 

Carina was about to turn around again, but Maya stopped her with two strong hands holding her hips in place. She dragged her fingers across Carina’s abdomen and then moved up, cupping her breasts, unable to keep her hands away.

 

She didn’t say anything. She had nothing to say. All she had was want, and the feel of Carina leaning against her, her head tipped back over Maya’s shoulder…

 

Let her in. Tell her. Tell her about your anger. Your rage. Tell her…

 

The familiarity of Carina’s body was like a salve. Carina was separate from the Station, she was separate from Ross and Beckett and Sullivan. She was separate from Jack and his stupid advice and his worried face.

 

Maya reached down, biting Carina’s shoulder as she delicately placed her middle finger against Carina’s clit. She heard a small gasp and almost melted into her wife’s body. The feel of her was overwhelming.

 

Touching Carina made light shine through. The anger swirled beneath the surface, but the smooth silk against her fingertips was like an anchor, a reminder. Carina breathed in short inhales and exhales, her chest moving in jagged motions against Maya’s arm.

 

Tell her you love her, tell her she’s beautiful

 

Maya rubbed Carina in quick, hard circles, unable to speak. She just listened to Carina’s moans, she just concentrated on holding up Carina’s weight as she sagged against Maya’s body, her legs unstable.

 

Even the sound of Maya’s name from Carina’s lips did little to calm Maya’s racing thoughts, though it made her tighten her grip on Carina’s breast, squeezing painfully.

 

One of Carina’s hands tangled in Maya’s hair, forcing her to turn her face into a wet kiss. Carina’s mouth was warm, as warm as the perfection between her legs, and Maya wished she could stay like this forever. Touching her wife. Feeling her.

 

The fingers in her hair pulled and Maya could tell by the sudden quick jerks of Carina’s hips that she was close.

 

At least I can give her this, at least I can make her feel good…

 

Carina rose on her toes as she climaxed, her back arching against Maya’s front. Maya held on tight, circling Carina’s clit over and over until she felt a shaky hand tap her wrist, stilling her movements. It took a moment for Carina to open her eyes, and in that moment, Maya decided she wanted more. Touching Carina was the only thing that didn’t make her want to tear the world apart. She quickly turned off the water and with rough hands, grabbed Carina’s hips and started guiding her out of the shower.

 

“Maya, wha…”

 

The floor was slippery, but Maya kept Carina from falling, her only goal was to get Carina on the bed. To keep kissing her. She wanted to be inside. She wanted…

 

“Wait, Maya, I…”

 

Carina gently pushed at Maya’s shoulders, but Maya would not stop until she had Carina sprawled on the bed. The air in their bedroom was cool, cool enough that Carina started shivering almost immediately, her wet hair and skin darkening the bedspread beneath her. Maya ignored it, climbing on top of her wife, kissing her with a gnash of teeth and tongue.

 

“Maya…”

 

Carina was practically shaking, her teeth chattering, but if Maya stopped, if she stopped this, the anger would pour in, the anger, she couldn’t…

 

Sharp hands squeezed her biceps, even as Maya straddled Carina’s hips, pressing their chests together.

 

“Maya, stop.”

 

The angry stop was like a slap to the face. Maya lurched up, releasing her hold on Carina’s arms immediately. She looked down at her wife, her heart pounding, and found Carina staring up at her with furrowed eyebrows.

 

“What are you doing?” She asked, clearly displeased.

 

Maya rolled away, the words still trapped in her chest. She watched Carina sit up and disappear into the bathroom. For a moment, she worried Carina was going to kick her out to the guestroom or start yelling. But Carina returned a few seconds later, her hair wrapped in a towel. She had two other towels in her hand. One she used to brush against her body, the other she handed to Maya who ignored the offer.

 

Carina sat down again, crossing her legs.

 

“Maya, you need to tell me what is going on right now,” Carina said, her voice low and tense.

 

“I…”

 

There were no words. Maya couldn’t find them. All she could do was curl both fists into the blanket and lean forward. She wasn’t looking at Carina, resting on her knees, prostrated on the bed, she felt her concentration slipping.

 

It was just rage. Rage blinded her. She squeezed her eyes shut, the sound of her heart pounding in her ears. Every muscle ached, her teeth, her jaw, she felt like she contained fire, like if she opened her mouth, she’d singe her entire life.

 

“I’m so angry,” she finally managed to say, more of a hiss than a statement. She felt strangled, but the three words loosened something within and more words came forth, so many words.

 

“I…I’m so angry, Carina, it’s all I can…it’s all I can think about. It’s all I can feel. My whole body…I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want…”

 

“Did something happen today?” Carina already knew about Beckett’s reinstatement, she’d already seen the aftermath of that news in Maya’s cold shoulder and incessant exercise.

 

Maya shook her head. “I’ve tried everything. I tried running until my feet started bleeding. I…I work as hard as I can, as best as I can…and they keep…Jack said…I…Carina?”

 

With her eyes still closed, Maya couldn’t see what her wife was doing, but she felt a shift on the mattress.

 

“What is it, Bambina?”

 

“I don’t want to hurt you. I feel like…like I’m going to say something, like…I’m freezing you out and I don’t want that. I’m just so angry all the time. All the time. And…and…my chest hurts so much…”

 

A hand fluttered against her neck and she belatedly realized that Carina was checking her pulse. She heard a tsk and then there was more movement against the mattress.

 

“Open your eyes for me,” Carina said, very obviously in physician mode.

 

Maya obeyed, wincing at the effort. Her biceps ached from strain and it hurt to breathe. Carina stood up and walked out of the room, quickly returning with candles. She set them on the dresser and their nightstands.

 

“I’m not in the mood, Carina.” Maya bit back something sharper, frustrated that her wife interpreted her confession as cause for romance.

 

But Carina rolled her eyes as she lit each wick. When she was done, she turned off their bedroom light and returned to the bed, sitting against the headboard.

 

“It’s not for romance, Maya. I’m not in the mood either.”

 

Oh…

 

“Now, come here please.” Carina pat the spot between her legs and Maya forced herself to move. Her legs throbbed and her hands felt like claws and her stupid heart…

 

Carina helped her get settled, urging her to lie down. With her head against Carina’s chest, Maya tried desperately to catch her breath, but it was hard, so hard when all she wanted to do was flip a table and punch her fist through a wall.

 

“You’re overstimulated,” Carina explained, “so we will sit in the dark. Now I need you to take a long breath through your nose.”

 

Again, Maya forced herself to obey. She had to admit that the candles felt better than the overhead lighting. Carina’s hands found her arm, the back of her neck, and they squeezed her aching muscles.

 

“Hold it,” Carina continued, “now release. Good. Again.”

 

Maya listened to the steady thud of Carina’s heartbeat, concentrating on its rhythmic pattern. It helped her focus on her breathing and eventually, she felt less tense, less overwhelmed. As she calmed, Carina shifted, lying back just a little. There was a soft tug as Carina removed her towel, and then Maya found herself lying against Carina’s naked body as her wife held her like an infant, like a helpless child.

 

“I’m sorry,” Maya whispered, wondering if she should move.

 

Carina tightened her hold, her fingers kneading the sore muscles in Maya’s shoulders.

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“Jack asked if I was leaving 19. He told me not to freeze you out. He said…”

 

“Don’t think about any of that right now, Maya. Not here.” Carina pulled at their discarded blanket, covering them both. Maya practically sagged into the warmth of Carina’s skin, nearly sighing as the soft duvet brushed against her legs.

 

“I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, the darkness a safe space for secrets and fears.

 

“Right now we sleep. That is what we do. Tomorrow? We will figure that out too.”

 

“I don’t want to freeze you out. I don’t want to be that person anymore.”

 

“You are not,” Carina whispered, “you are here with me now, no?”

 

Maya nodded, her cheek nuzzling Carina’s chest. It reminded her of Carina’s selfie from earlier.

 

“How’s Jamie?” The thought of the baby brought even more warmth, though Maya chalked it up to being tired and overwhelmed. Jamie was cute and her wife was beautiful and the picture was the only moment of her day that didn’t feel humiliating.

 

“She’s good. She told me to tell you that she says hi.”

 

“She said that?” Maya felt her eyelids grow heavy though she smiled at Carina’s joke.

 

. You are very much alike, you know? She likes skin-to-skin too.”

 

Maya nodded again, half-awake, unable to think about anything more than sleep and how good Carina smelled and Jamie’s tiny hands.

 

She drifted off, the anger and pain leaving her depleted. But at least she was in Carina’s arms again.

 

Carina who had spent her day calming two racing hearts.  

 

 

Chapter Text

Morning light pulled Carina from an uneasy sleep. She blinked, frowning at the intrusive sun, and it was only then that she realized how quiet her bedroom seemed to be. Usually, morning involved the sound of the treadmill or a blender or the shower. Maya was an early riser, full of energy and resolve from the second she opened her eyes.

 

Carina turned her face to the left and was surprised to find her wife still asleep next to her. Maya lay on her side, her back to Carina, the sheets wrapped tightly around her body.

 

They both had to be at work, but Maya so rarely slept in that Carina didn’t want to wake her. Instead, she scootched forward, close enough to gently kiss a pale shoulder peeking out of the blanket. Carina took an indulgent moment to breathe Maya in, to rub her nose against Maya’s back. Even first thing in the morning, Maya smelled so impossibly good. But memories of the night before kept Carina from reaching over and waking her wife with a kiss.

 

Maya needed rest. She needed peace. And Carina could give her both.

 

After a shower and a good thirty minutes spent dealing with her hair, Carina walked out of the bathroom, expecting again to find Maya busy with their morning routines. But Maya was still in bed, her face nearly hidden in the pillow. Carina eyed the clock, trying to decide what to do. The fact that Maya hated to be late forced her decision. She crouched next to the bed and lay a gentle hand on Maya’s arm.

 

Bambina?” She whispered. Maya’s eyes opened immediately. She’d obviously been awake for a long time.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Maya, are you feeling okay?”

 

Maya didn’t move. Her gaze was oddly blank as she looked at Carina’s face.

 

“I’ve been trying to convince myself to get up for the past hour,” she explained, emotionless.

 

Carina swallowed hard, trying to hide her own concern.

 

“I’m okay,” Maya insisted, though it was clear that she was far from okay. Carina slipped her hand into the cocoon surrounding her wife and found warm fingers clutching the sheets.

 

“Can I sit with you for a little bit?” She asked recognizing all the signs of a depressive episode. Her father’s mania always ended in darkness. Andrea’s often ended in tears.

 

Maya didn’t have depressive episodes. Maya channelled her anger and her pain into action, as if her anguish became fuel for her muscles and her mind. Lying in bed? Unable to move? That was not Maya.

 

Carina’s heart pounded in her chest. She felt helpless.

 

Until Maya took her hand and held on tight.

 

“I’m okay,” Maya said again, with eyes so dull Carina barely recognized them.

 

~*~

 

It was hard not to be distracted. Carina found her thoughts drifting to Maya constantly, worry swirling in her stomach.

 

She was present with her patients, but in moments of quiet, in moment when she was sitting at her desk or reviewing patient charts, her mind would fill with the image of Maya’s face. Usually, it was a pleasant problem to have. Now, it only brought her concern.

 

Maya was quiet. She was withdrawn. Carina was relieved that the two of them had broken through Maya’s need for physical isolation, but outside of their apartment, Maya was not herself and it was starting to scare Carina.

 

Every day Maya would go through the motions. She worked out. She made her disgusting smoothie. She’d stand by the door taking deep, centering breaths and then walk out, her shoulders slumped. On clinic days, Carina watched her wife move robotically through the station. She didn’t smile. She rarely sat in the Beanery anymore. And by the time she got home, she was nearly non-verbal. This morning had been the worst of it so far…

 

Carina knew that Maya was depressed. She knew that something needed to be done, but Maya was a complex person and springing therapy on her would only make her run away. It was becoming difficult to watch from a distance. It was painful to see the person she loved most in the world in so much turmoil. Maya’s insides were all twisted up, her mind was running a mile per minute – Carina just knew by looking at her.

 

A knock on her office door made her blink. She looked down at her desk and realized she’d been drawing circles on an open journal for the past ten minutes.

 

“Come in,” Carina called, expecting Jo or one of the interns.

 

Instead, Amelia popped in all smiles.

 

“You busy?” She asked, already settling into the chair opposite Carina’s desk.

 

“Not really.”

 

“Good. Because I owe you one. No…I owe you a million, Dr. Orgasm.”

 

Carina raised her eyebrows and settled back into her chair.

 

“Oh?” She asked, intrigued.

 

“For your suggestion the other day…”

 

“Ah, the strap on.”

 

Amelia laughed. “Listen, I’ve had some good sex in my life. Great sex. But…”

 

“With the right partner, it’s fantastico,” Carina agreed, nodding her head, sending a brief grazie into the universe for sending her a beautiful woman with Olympian stamina.

 

“Do you wear it or does Firefighter Barbie do all the work?”

 

Amelia Shepherd had no filter, which usually Carina found very amusing. But the mention of Maya made her frown and all talk about sex toys quickly died.

 

“Everything okay with you two?” Amelia was obviously trying to be respectful and Carina didn’t want to overshare private details about her wife’s mental health, but she was also struggling to keep all her worries inside.

 

“She’s having a very hard time at work,” Carina said, trying to remain vague.

 

“With the demotion? Still?”

 

“It’s…bad. She’s not, I mean, ugh I don’t know what to say.”

 

“You guys still working on baby plans?”

 

Carina shifted uncomfortably, the question more upsetting than she expected. When a single tear ran down her cheek, she wiped it away, frustrated by her own emotions.

 

“Hey,” Amelia leaned forward in her chair, “I know I make a lot of jokes about Firefighter Barbie because she’s unfairly attractive, but I’m your friend, Carina. Whatever you say doesn’t leave this room.”

 

“She could barely get out of bed this morning. I’ve never seen her like that…ever. She’s always up before me, on the treadmill or out for a run…I don’t know what to do.” Carina bit her lip, the memory enough to force another tear from her eye.

 

“Has she talked to anyone?”

 

Carina shook her head. “Maya is not good with confrontation. She needs time and space or else she runs. But I’m scared. Her job…if she’s distracted, I just…”

 

A horrible, helpless feeling flooded Carina’s chest as her eyes drifted to the framed photo on her desk. She had taken it on one of the rare mornings that Maya slept in. Her wife was fast asleep, peaceful and cozy, oddly innocent. She was so worry-free that Carina hadn’t been able to stop herself from snapping a picture.

 

Now it served as a reminder that Maya was far from peaceful or cozy.

 

“All you can do is what you’re doing now. Be there for her,” Amelia said.

 

“I don’t think I’m enough.”

 

“Oh,” Amelia smirked as she spoke, “Carina DeLuca, you are more than enough. Now, when’s your next patient?”

 

Carina turned to her phone. “Not for another ninety minutes.”

 

“And after that?”

 

“Going to pick up Maya from work.”

 

“Perfect. For the next ninety minutes do something that makes you happy. Charge up. And then go rescue your sexy wife and heal her with orgasms. Or soup. Whatever works. Maybe both?” Amelia stood up, her reassuring smile easing some of Carina’s self-doubt.

 

“Thank you, Amelia,” Carina said quietly.

 

“For you, Dr. Orgasm? Anything.”

 

~*~

 

Initially, Carina had planned to spend her ninety minutes finding coffee. On her way to the elevators, however, Cormac bumped into her outside of the NICU and motioned her forward.

 

“Someone wants to say hello,” he said. Carina quickly forgot about coffee and instead gave into the odd sense of excitement that bubbled up inside.

 

When she reached Jamie’s incubator, she couldn’t help but smile. They’d removed the eye mask and Jamie was awake, blinking in the low light.

 

Ciao, Piccolina,” she laughed, relieved to see that Jamie had gained a little weight.

 

“Her mother was Jenny Palmer – apparently the boyfriend wasn’t the father. So, we’re still searching for next of kin. But in the meantime, Miss. Jamie is a ward of the state and a permanent resident of Hotel Grey-Sloan,” Cormac explained, though Carina was only half-paying attention.

 

“It’s nice to see her face.”

 

“Yes, ol’ blue eyes here has the nurses wrapped around her finger.”

 

“And her heartrate?”

 

Cormac frowned. “Still worrisome. She calms with skin-to-skin, but we obviously can’t give her that all day. Any chance you’re free for the next hour?”

 

Which is how Carina found herself once again shirtless in the NICU, sitting in a rocking chair with a tiny baby lying on her chest. She gave into the peace it brought her, it was so much better than the constant worry. Jamie’s hand curled around Carina’s fingertip, as if in greeting, as if she recognized Carina’s touch.

 

It was a trick of the light, Carina knew it was a trick of the light, but looking down, she couldn’t help but think of the picture on her desk. Jamie’s button nose and her little chin reminded her of Maya. It was silly, beyond silly, so Carina pushed away the thought and instead nuzzled her cheek against the top of Jamie’s head.

 

Sei bella,” she whispered, nearly sighing at the feel of Jamie’s toes brushing against her, “sei al sicuro. Mia dolce bambina.”

 

You are beautiful. You are safe. My sweet baby.

 

~*~

 

The burn was addictive.

 

Maya chased it – on calls, on runs, on the exercise bike. The second her muscles started straining, her mind cleared, her worry faded. She could focus entirely on her body, which was easier than focusing on Beckett’s half-assed leadership and her crew’s sympathetic looks.

 

Her shift was nearly over, but Maya couldn’t bring herself to stop cycling in the gym. Each movement of her legs caused a pull, a tug of muscle and tendon, and each pull distracted her from everything going on outside the room.

 

It was only when Vic popped her head in the doorway that Maya looked up at all.

 

“Bishop, come here,” Vic hissed, motioning with her hand.

 

Maya puffed, trying to catch her breath. “Why?”

 

“Just do it. Come here.”

 

Vic looked so amused, and Maya belatedly realized that she’d barely spoken to her friend in days. With Vic on Aid Car most of the week and Maya on the engine, they only saw each other for occasional meals – meals Maya had been skipping as of late.

 

Slowing the bike, Maya hopped off and grabbed a towel, wiping her brow.

 

“Can I go change or…” she started, before Vic grabbed her wrist and yanked her towards the Beanery.

 

The kitchen was empty and suspiciously clean, save for a jar left on the counter. Vic walked right past it and guided Maya to the table where she forcibly made her sit.

 

“What’s going on?” Maya asked, looking around.

 

“Some idiot from B-Squad bought garlic-free pasta sauce and Carina is walking up the stairs right now.” Vic had her phone pointed towards the kitchen, her finger lingering over the record button on the screen.

 

“Wait, are you setting up my wife?”

 

“Yes, now shut up! She’s coming.”

 

Carina’s head was tipped down over her phone as she walked into view, the click of her boots the only sound as she appeared in the kitchen. Maya and Vic watched in silence as Carina looked up, her eyes obviously catching sight of the lone jar.

 

She narrowed her gaze, a frown immediately appearing on her features. And then her nostrils flared and her eyebrows shot up to her hairline and Maya could swear she saw smoke coming out of her ears.

 

Cos’è questa merda?,” Carina picked up the jar and marched it to the garbage can, “Chi lo farebbe? Hai sputato sulle tombe dei miei antenati!

 

It was only after she tossed the jar and it made a loud thud at the bottom of the can that Carina realized she had an audience.

 

Vic burst into laughter first, howling as Carina placed her hands on her hips.

 

“Did you do this?” She asked, directing her question at Vic.

 

Vic shook her head, the laughter making it impossible for her to speak.

 

Grazie Dio that my nonna did not live to see this,” Carina grumbled, eyeing the trash can like the jar might try to crawl out.

 

“Do you know what she said?” Vic asked Maya who was trying to stifle her own giggles.

 

“Pretty sure she claimed someone spit on the grave of her ancestors?”

 

Basta, basta.” Carina shot Vic and Maya a warning look before joining them at the table, taking a seat beside Maya.

 

Vic stood, stuffing her phone in her pocket as she moved. “Have a good night, DeLuca-Bishops. Pretty sure that added three years to my life.”

 

Maya watched Vic leave, a small smile still on her face.

 

“It’s nice to see you laugh.” Carina’s voice was tentative. Maya wasn’t sure how to feel about the statement.

 

“Hi,” she said instead, leaning over for a light kiss. Carina’s knee hit hers under the table. It was as close as they were willing to get in such a public space.

 

Ciao, Bella. How many calls today?”

 

“Six. How many babies?”

 

“Four. Oh, but look…” Carina placed her phone on the table and with a few clicks, revealed a picture of Jamie.

 

Maya studied the image, her smile growing wider.

 

“No more eye mask?” She raised the phone, taking in Jamie’s face for the first time since the night of her birth.

 

“She told me to tell you that you look very beautiful today. Even though you’re all sweaty.”

 

“You know, Jamie is very talkative for a preemie.” Maya squeezed Carina’s thigh under the table.

 

“She is sweet though, no?”

 

Maya looked away from Carina’s phone and instead watched Carina’s face as she spoke. There was a lightness in her voice, an obvious happiness.

 

“She is,” Maya agreed, unsure how to feel about Carina’s obvious affection for the baby, but unable to deny how beautiful Carina looked as she smiled down at Jamie’s picture.

 

Maya brushed her nose against Carina’s shoulder, breathing her in.

 

“Can we go home?” She asked wanting very much to be away from the station. She tried to absorb some of Carina’s happiness, she desperately wanted to replace the heaviness in her chest with anything else.

 

Carina’s arm curled around Maya’s back, bringing them together in a half-hug.

 

Sì, Bambina. Andiamo.”

 

Maya stood up and offered Carina her hand. She took it gladly.

 

Chapter Text

Diane Lewis had a habit of appearing.

 

When Maya was captain, she could at least call to arrange the therapist’s visits. But now she had no idea when the good doctor would walk around the corner, which is why she nearly fell off the treadmill at the sight of SFD’s favourite psychologist in the gym.

 

With her headphones in, Maya hadn’t heard Dr. Lewis, but the sudden wave of a hand in her peripheral vision sent Maya flying backwards and she barely caught herself before falling to the floor.

 

“Oh, sorry!” Dr. Lewis said, that ever present half-smile on her face.

 

Maya removed her airpods and forced a reassuring grin.

 

“It’s fine.

 

“Mmhmm.”

 

“Is there anything I can do for you or…” Maya tried not to let the humiliation of her demotion cloud her feelings. She’d once been the person to invite Dr. Lewis to the station, to use her office, to speak with her firefighters. And now Maya was just one of the many good little soldiers required to speak to a therapist whenever the captain required it.

 

“Chief Ross has asked that I debrief you all after the Sinclair incident last week.”

 

Maya scowled. A member of D-Squad had been hurt and a civilian was caught in a flashover. It had been a hard call. Harder still because Beckett refused to let Maya or Jack do anything without running it by him three times first in some lame attempt at proving his authority. To Maya it had looked like a whole lot of dick swinging and if Beckett wanted a contest, Maya had a drawer full of giant d…

 

“Uh…right,” Maya said, clearing her throat, “I was on Aid Car that day. Gibson and Warren were inside. You’re probably looking for them.”

 

Dr. Lewis nodded once and then titled her head, looking at Maya with eyes that somehow saw everything, even the things Maya was trying to hide.

 

“How are you feeling about the demotion? I was told Chief Ross denied your appeal.”

 

“It’s…fine.” Maya kept her voice even, but turned towards the weight wrack. She picked up something much too heavy for casual lifting, but the burn felt better than acknowledging that Dr. Lewis’s question landed like a kick in the teeth.

 

“Really? That would surprise me. From what I can tell, you were an exemplary Captain. Waiting a year for news and then not getting the news you want? If it were me I’d be screaming in the streets.”

 

Maya curled her arm, lifting the dumbbell and then lowering it.

 

“I don’t need your sympathy,” she huffed, eyes focused on the window beyond Diane’s shoulder.

 

“I realize that. But you do have my empathy.”

 

Carina’s voice rose in her mind. Too soft…

 

“Dr. Lewis, I appreciate your concern, but the department made it very clear that I am insubordinate, unworthy of command, the wrong man for the job.” Maya sped up her movements, her biceps screaming in protest.

 

“It’s been a long time since you and I spoke about the clouds, a lot has changed in your life since then.”

 

She pictured herself stepping away. Disappearing. There one minute in the gym and gone the next. As if there had never been a Maya Bishop at all. And in that space, that impossible, invisible space, she could breathe again, she could breathe…

 

“Lieutenant Bishop,” Dr. Lewis continued, “do you still think about them?”

 

The clouds were soft. They carried her. Supported her. She could close her eyes and life would be gone, everything would be gone and in its place the nothingness would wrap around her like a blanket, like Carina’s arms…

 

Carina

 

Maya stopped moving and set the weights down. Despite wanting to walk away, a part of her was too tired to keep fighting. She’d been fighting for hours, for days. Every second spent at the station was a fight not to scream. She just needed a minute without fighting.

 

“I do,” Maya said, raising her face, expecting to see Diane Lewis concerned. Instead, Dr. Lewis only nodded again and crossed her arms.

 

“Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself?” She asked.

 

“No.”

 

“Okay. Last time we talked about them, I suggested that you could find love and rest in this life. I heard you got married?”

 

Maya thumbed the wedding ring on her finger. “I did.”

 

“And how’s that going?”

 

My wife deserves so much more than what I’ve dragged her through. She deserves so much more than I can give her. She would be better off if I no longer existed, if I was never here, if she’d never met me, if…

 

“Good. My wife is an extraordinary woman,” Maya said, meaning every word.

 

“And how’s all this effecting her?” Diane gestured to the room, obviously implying the larger situation.

 

“We’re…we want to start a family. But, uh, things have been…I’ve been…we can’t decide on a sperm donor. So that’s been difficult.”

 

“It’s an incredibly important and personal decision. Have you spoken to her about the clouds?”

 

Maya scoffed. “She’s scared enough that I’m not going to come home someday. She doesn’t need to worry about my crappy mental health too.”

 

Dr. Lewis narrowed her gaze, clearly unhappy with Maya’s answer.

 

“If she were suffering, would you want to know?”

 

Oh, not fair…

 

“Of course,” Maya said, “but she’s not. I am. And she deals with enough from me. I’m not exactly fun to live with these days.”

 

“Last time we spoke about the clouds…what did you do with my suggestion? Obviously you allowed love into your life. But how long did it take you to do that?”

 

Maya smiled, softening at the memory. “I asked Carina to go on vacation with me that night. It was the first vacation I’ve taken since joining SFD.”

 

Diane nodded and looked at Maya with caring eyes. “Love and rest. You seem to have found it, Lieutenant Bishop. Maybe not here in this building. But in your life? It sounds like you have a whole lot of love and while it may not solve anything work-related, don’t forget that you have that respite. You have somewhere safe and somewhere good where you can lay down your burdens and just be. That doesn’t make you weak or less focused or less determined. It makes you lucky.”

 

The words washed over Maya, adjusting her thought process, realigning neurons. It felt like a slap in the face, but a welcome one, a needed reminder of what she had. And while the heaviness in her chest didn’t dissipate, while the simple act of being at work was exhausting now, Dr. Lewis was right. She had one small corner of her life that felt right, that felt like it was working.

 

One small corner that was perfect.

 

The klaxon blared overhead before Maya could say anything more, but Dr. Lewis seemed to be done dispensing wisdom. That half-smile, that annoying half-smile reappeared, and as Maya stood, getting ready to run, Dr. Lewis walked out of the room, disappearing down a hallway.

 

~*~

 

You have somewhere safe and somewhere good where you can lay down your burdens and just be. That doesn’t make you weak or less focused or less determined. It makes you lucky.

 

Long after Maya had finished for the day, Dr. Lewis’s words echoed in her mind. As she extinguished a small apartment fire, as she returned to the station and showered, as she listened to Beckett scold her for rolling her eyes, the thought of somewhere kept her moving forward.

 

By the time she got home, the words felt excessively loud. She opened the door to their apartment, breathing in, some of her darkness clearing as she smelled Carina’s shampoo in the air. It was nearly midnight, but the light in their bedroom was on, which meant that Carina was there, waiting for her.

 

The thought made her quicken her movements. She tossed her backpack and her jacket. She kicked off her shoes. She didn’t pause for a glass of water. She just needed to see Carina.

Stepping into the bedroom, she smiled at the sight of her wife propped up in bed, surrounded by medical journals. Carina was busy reading, but she looked up at the sound of Maya opening the door and her smile was a beacon.

 

“I missed you,” Maya breathed, crawling onto the bed. She was close enough to take Carina’s face in her hands and she did, pulling her into a kiss.

 

Relief flooded her system and she couldn’t help the small laugh that arose from inside.

 

“What is it?” Carina asked, smiling against Maya’s lips.

 

“Oxytocin. I read a study about it once. Great for pain relief.”

 

“Oh you did?” Carina pulled back, but Maya didn’t let go of her face. After a day spent in a world that seemed grey, Carina illuminated every corner with blinding colour.

 

The feeling made her greedy. She spent so much time wanting things that she couldn’t have. And that constant want ate her up inside. But Dr. Lewis’s words reminded her that there was a place where that wasn’t true. Where she could have exactly what she wanted. Where she already had it.

 

“Carina?” Maya bumped her nose against her wife’s.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“I think I need more oxytocin.”

 

Carina bit her lip and tossed the journal in her hand over her shoulder and then rolled onto her knees and pushed Maya down on the bed, quickly ridding her of her jeans and panties. With one final wink, Carina settled between Maya’s legs, inhaling deeply as she set Maya’s thighs over her shoulders.

 

There was no warning before Carina licked her with the flat of her tongue. Maya arched just a little in surprise, settling back, allowing herself the comfort of Carina’s mouth, the pleasure of it all. Lips closed over her clit, sucking and for a brief moment her thoughts drifted again.

 

That makes you lucky.

 

That makes you lucky.

 

That makes you lucky.

 

Maya looked down her body, watching Carina lick her, watching as Carina’s hands drifted from her thighs to her hips and finally to her breasts, still covered by her shirt and bra. Maya hummed, placing her own hands over Carina’s, wanting to feel the connection. She closed her eyes and turned her face into her pillow, breathing heavily, giving in to Carina, wanting nothing more than her wife.

 

Maya moved her hands slightly, clutching at Carina’s, needing to hold them close as she rolled her hips and bucked against the mattress. She cried out when Carina’s tongue entered her, when she felt Carina’s nose against her clit.

 

It was the best she’d felt all day. All week. It was the best she’d ever felt.

 

Because nothing felt good. Every day was a humiliation. Every day she was kicked further and further down, stepped on, overlooked. Every day they tried to make her feel small.

 

But under Carina’s touch Maya remembered who she was. She remembered her strength. Carina touched her with love, with respect. She touched her with reverence and Maya would have broken down into tears if not for the oxytocin flooding her system, bringing a smile to her lips.

 

Carina returned to sucking her clit and Maya squeezed her wife’s hands, pushing herself up with her feet, pushing herself closer to Carina, pushing…

 

Maya came hard, as if all the tension in her body needed to be released. Her muscles locked and she moaned loudly, Carina’s hands the only tether to the world. She felt Carina move, she felt Carina’s tongue as she orgasmed, she felt her wife licking her, cleaning her, hungry, and the thought alone made her come a second time.

 

She opened her eyes minutes later to find Carina pressing soft kisses to the inside of her thighs, to her tummy. Maya released Carina’s hands, allowing her wife to climb over her body and settle heavily against her. When they kissed, Maya could taste herself, and she smiled.

 

“How do you feel?” Carina asked, which made Maya laugh. Sometimes she was surprised that Carina didn’t take notes after each orgasm.

 

“Good. Really good. Can I return the favour?”  

 

“Maya, I mean it, was your day okay, or…”

 

“I just want to touch you. We can talk about my day after, but I just want to touch you now,” Maya said, desperate not to lose the moment. Carina studied her face, dark eyes full of concern, and then settled against Maya’s side, resting on her hip.

 

Maya slipped her hand into the waistband of Carina’s silk boxers, finding her wife wet already.

 

She stroked her, watching the changes to Carina’s expression, the movement of her eyebrows, the way her lips parted, the way her eyes fluttered shut. Maya luxuriated in the comfort of it all, once more finding herself at peace just from the feel of Carina’s body.

 

Carina licked her lips, inhaling with a shaky breath, her fingers sharp where they squeezed Maya’s bicep. Maya tucked her face into Carina’s neck, sucking lightly on the skin just below her jaw. She knew she shouldn’t leave a mark, but she could feel Carina’s pulse against her lips, the way it quickened with each stroke between her legs, and that word came back, that word…

 

Lucky

 

Carina whispered something in Italian and came quietly, her eyes closed, her lips upturned into a content grin. She shifted just enough to press her forehead against Maya’s and then stilled, her hand never leaving the sleeve of Maya’s shirt.

 

Maya loved the freedom of their sex life. It was an unexpected perk of marriage. They had nights of passion, of playful, silly touches. There were moments of deep emotional connection and moments that spoke more to exhaustion and needed comfort. She loved that she could lie beside Carina who was still fully clothed and watch her unravel in the middle of the night when they both had work the next day. She loved that she was half naked and yet somehow felt safer than she’d ever felt. She loved that Carina was hers, that she could touch Carina and that Carina could touch her forever.

 

“Tired?” Maya whispered. Carina shook her head and then opened her eyes.

 

She traced Maya’s cheekbone with her fingertips, the blissful expression on her face giving way to concern.

 

“Are you okay, Tesoro?”

 

How to answer. Maya’s gut instinct was to lie, to tell Carina that she was fine. But she wasn’t, to the point that she couldn’t remember feeling quite so lost, not even after her athletic career came to a sudden end.

 

“I don’t know,” Maya said, reaching underneath the blankets for Carina’s hip.

 

“It’s okay if you’re not. You don’t have to pretend.”

 

“Sometimes I want to. It’s…easier.”

 

“Can you try not to? For me?” Carina asked. Maya reluctantly nodded her head. She curled herself into Carina’s body, her face tucked below Carina’s chin. It was the only safe place on the planet. The only place where nothing could ever hurt her. She felt like a child stricken by a nightmare seeking warmth and comfort to chase the monsters away.

 

“Jamie was very alert today,” Carina’s voice was soft, pulling Maya from her thoughts.

 

“You saw Jamie again?”

 

“At my lunch hour. All the other bambinos have parents and teddy bears…”

 

“Did she have anything she wanted to tell me?” Maya yawned, draping one arm over Carina’s side. She felt Carina nuzzle her nose against the top of her head.

 

“She thinks you’re very strong. And very brave.”

 

Maya closed her eyes, the warmth of Carina’s skin lulling her to sleep. She knew the sun would rise and she would need to face the darkness again, but for the moment she could pretend that she and Carina were alone in the world.

 

That she could close her eyes and disappear. Not into the clouds.

 

But into her wife.

 

~*~

 

While Carina was a familiar face around Station 19, Maya rarely visited Grey-Sloan unless she was bringing a patient in the Aid Car.

 

Babies had no sense of timing so regardless of Carina’s schedule, it was impossible to predict when she’d be called away for a delivery or an emergency consult. But Thursdays were set aside for research, which meant that Carina stayed in her office for most of her shift.

 

The Station had become a difficult place for Maya and she was struggling with the loss of feeling safe at work. She’d always rolled her eyes at the idea of a “safe space,” but the Station had provided that for her in a way nothing had in her life. At least not until she’d met Carina.

 

Dr. Lewis reminded her, however, that she still had somewhere safe that she could go, somewhere safe that belonged to her. It helped her get through her days. From the minute she stepped through the doors of 19 to the minute she left for the night, Maya kept the memory of home, of her wife, tucked deep inside.

 

She was still able to do her job well. Eyes forward had its benefits. But in the hardest moments, the moments when she felt humiliated, when Chief Ross or Beckett would make yet another demeaning comment, she’d let her mind drift to Carina’s arms, to their bed, to the familiar scent of their kitchen.

 

While eyes forward may have been her mantra, you’re safe was quickly takings its place.

 

Which is why Maya decided to go see Carina on a rare Thursday she was off shift. She knew she couldn’t stay long, but after being gone for twenty-four hours, Maya needed her safe place. Plus, she had a delivery to make.

 

She walked through the hospital’s entrance, taking the elevator up to the OB floor, smiling at a few familiar faces as she did. Before she could get to Carina’s office, she had to pass the NICU, and curiosity got the better of her as she paused before the door, straining to see inside.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop, right on time!”

 

The sound of Cormac’s voice made her jump and she turned, slightly red faced.

 

“On time?” She asked, pressing a hand to her chest. She held a firefighter teddy bear in her other hand and had planned to hand it to one of the nurses for Jamie.

 

“For Jamie’s first bottle feed. Would you like to do it?” Cormac walked by her and through the door, and Maya didn’t think before following him.

 

The NICU looked the same as it did last time, though there were more parents sitting around incubators during visiting hours. Jamie was still in the corner, still alone, and the thought made Maya’s chest feel heavy. Carina was right. There were no stuffed animals or toys or blankets knit by anxious grandmothers. There was just Jamie and her incubator.

 

Before Maya could agree to Cormac’s proposal, a nurse brought her a chair, and then she was sitting, her arms open, as Cormac carefully lifted Jamie from her little bed. Once more, there were a lot of wires and tubes to contend with, but soon Jamie was settled, cradled against Maya’s chest.

 

Unlike the day of her birth, Jamie was alert, her eyes slowly opening and closing. She looked up at Maya and Maya looked down at her in equal amazement.

 

“Her suck reflex has kicked in, so we thought we’d give this a try today,” a nurse said, holding a bottle.

 

“Uh…I’m not sure I’m the best person for this job? Babies aren’t’ really my thing,” Maya glanced at the nurse, hoping she’d step in.

 

“Didn’t you rescue her? Seems right you should be the first.”

 

Maya felt like a lot of things were happening to her at the same time. The same nurse passed her the bottle and then lay a blanket over Maya’s shoulder. The firefighter teddy bear was placed on top of Jamie’s incubator, which left Maya and Jamie together, staring at all the action.

 

“Rub the nipple against her lips,” the nurse instructed, which gave Maya pause.

 

“The nipple?”

 

“The top of the bottle.”

 

“Oh,” Maya nodded, “got it.”

 

She followed the nurse’s guidance, watching with bated breath to see if Jamie would accept the bottle. It took a few tries, but then Jamie latched on and started drinking, her little eyes closing as she sucked.

 

“Good job, kid. I knew you could do it,” Maya whispered, oddly enthralled by the sight before her. Other than the night of Pru’s birth and the safe-drop baby, she’d barely interacted with babies, let alone a tiny preemie like Jamie.

 

It felt more peaceful than she had ever imagined.

 

“We’re learning as we go, aren’t we?” Maya said, trying to keep her voice low, “You’re pretty tough, hey Jamie? Thanks for not making me look like an idiot just now. It was a close one.”

 

Jamie raised one hand. It came to rest on Maya’s knuckles.

 

“Milk is good, right? There’s a lot of good stuff out there. How do you feel about kale?”

 

“Maya?”

 

Maya looked away from Jamie and found Carina standing in front of her. The look on Carina’s face was strange – surprise, but something else too. She almost seemed wistful…

 

“Oh, hi. I was just coming to see you and then, uh…this happened.”

 

Carina rolled up a stool and sat down, close enough that their knees touched.

 

“Look at her doing so well! Such a big girl already, mia piccola amore.”

 

Maya raised her eyebrows at the affectionate nickname.

 

My little love

 

“I brought her a friend,” Maya said, gesturing to the teddy bear with her chin.

 

Again, Carina’s face shifted into that surprised, wistful look. Her eyes even seemed to go hazy for a moment.

 

Maya wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But Carina looked so happy and Jamie felt warm and comforting in her arms. She decided not to push it and instead took Dr. Lewis’ advice and let herself have the moment.

 

Because she felt safe. For the first time since leaving her apartment the day before, she felt safe.

 

Chapter Text

The Beanery was usually a place of comradery. It was a place full of laughter, a place where the stress of the job was temporarily forgotten.

 

But with Chief Ross roaming the halls, the Beanery just felt like another space filled to the brim with tension. Beckett’s reinstatement had given most members of Station 19 pause and with the addition of Andy and Ruiz, A-Squad felt a little too full, a little off balance.

 

Maya sat at the table, twirling her wedding ring, trying to decide if she wanted an apple or if she wanted to wait to eat with Carina at home, when footsteps from the stairs pulled her attention. All around her, the conversations stopped as Chief Ross came into view.

 

“Chief,” Andy said, standing at attention.

 

There was an awkward lull as Maya eyed Sullivan who stood silent in the corner. It set her teeth on edge.

 

“Herrera. Don’t let me interrupt,” Ross smiled a tight smile. Maya didn’t miss the glance she shot Sullivan, nor could she ignore the small smile he gave her in return.

 

“Bishop?” The sound of her name from Ross’ mouth was the last thing Maya wanted to hear. She slowly turned in her chair, trying not to scowl.

 

“Yes, Chief?”

 

“I’d like you to fill in at District Six for the next three weeks.”

 

“Fill in?” Maya stood slowly, unsure exactly what was happening. She sensed an uncomfortable stillness in the room and belatedly realized that all her colleagues were present.

 

They were all listening too.

 

“Yes. Fill in. They’re down a Lieutenant and you would be a good fit.”

 

“With all due respect, Chief Ross, District Six is in Cowlitz County. That’s a two-hour drive from here.”

 

Ross crossed her arms, her expression still stern. “I’m aware.”

 

“Is this post going to be permanent?” Maya raised her chin and tried to regulate her breathing. She could feel the rage building, she could feel the despair around the edges.

 

“Bishop…”

 

“Chief Ross?” Jack spoke up, circling the table. “I’d be happy to go. Lieutenant Bishop has a family and the commute would be inconvenient.”

 

“That’s very kind of you, Lieutenant Gibson. But it will be Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

“Why?” Maya asked, ignoring Jack’s low Bishop said in warning.

 

“Pardon me?” Ross took one step closer.

 

“Why me? Why would I be a good fit?”

 

“You are a good fit because as your Chief, I am telling you that you are a good fit. Are we clear here?”

 

“No,” Maya said. She was fairly sure she heard Vic gasp behind her, but she didn’t dare turn away from Ross.

 

“This is what I mean, Bishop. This is what I mean by insubordinate. You lack control, you lack discipline, you lack any respect for the chain of command.”

 

Maya widened her eyes, she could hear each shaking breath as she inhaled and exhaled.

 

“I saved a child,” she hissed, weeks of pressure and anger bubbling to the surface. “There are others in this building who have done far worse than that. But I saved a child and you’re right, I have no regrets, I’m not sorry. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

 

“Do you really think you were demoted based on one incident?”

 

This gave Maya pause. Her confusion must have been evident because Ross rolled her eyes in response.

 

“Is it not true that you left this Station on the day of your inspection to aid two civilians without permission from the department?”

 

Maya’s hands started shaking.

 

“PD and SFD were on board. The perpetrators were known to us. We followed protocol and contacted the FBI. I did nothing wrong,” Maya explained, unwilling to back down. Not about this.

 

“Nothing wrong? You let your personal life cloud your judgement. When you had no business involving SFD, you pulled in favours, you used SFD vehicles including this station’s engine and Aid Car, you put your colleagues at risk unnecessarily. And a civilian died on your watch, am I wrong? From what I’ve been told, it could have very easily been two. How do you think that reflects on this station? On SFD?”

 

Civilians.

 

As if Andrew and Carina were random. Inconsequential.  

 

Maya could still hear Carina’s screams in her sleep. She could still feel the weight of Carina’s body as she collapsed at the news of Andrew’s death.

 

“Chief Ross…” Jack stood by Maya’s shoulder, clearly about to defend her. But she wouldn’t let him fight her battles. Not about this. Never about this.

 

Maya could take the insults. She could take the humiliation. But she could not take even a hint of disrespect towards her wife. And the suggestion that Carina could have died? That somehow Maya’s decisions had put Carina in harm’s way?

 

Maya snapped.

 

“I will never, ever regret my actions on that day,” Maya said, her voice barely controlled rage, “I regret the outcome. You have no idea how much I regret the outcome. But I do not regret my involvement. And I ask that you never speak about my wife or my brother-in-law as if they were collateral damage to this department’s public image again.”  

 

Ross clenched her jaw and Maya wondered for a moment if she was about to take a swing.

 

“You’re suspended for the rest of the week, Bishop. I expect you to report to District Six first thing Monday morning. If you don’t, I’ll have your badge. I suggest you spend this time contemplating your future in the SFD. Now leave my sight.”

 

For a moment Maya was frozen in place. She knew she had to go to her locker, change out of her uniform, and take her bag. But she couldn’t stand to stay for one more second. She couldn’t stand the smell of the soup on the stove or the worried look on Jack’s face or the feel of the badge on her chest.

 

She pushed past Ross, ignoring Jack and Andy’s call for her, and ran down the stairs, out the door and into the street.

 

Without thinking it through, without taking a second to calm down, Maya started to do what she did best.

 

She ran.

 

As hard and as fast as she could.

 

She ran. And she didn’t plan to stop.

 

~*~

 

Carina was certain of two things.

 

She was certain that she loved her wife.

 

She was also certain that she was hopelessly in love with Jamie.  

 

As she paced her living room, she felt her stress level rise because her love for Maya and her love for Jamie seemed to be in conflict.

 

Maya wasn’t well. Maya was going through one of the most difficult periods of her life and it was no time to toss a baby into the mix.

 

But Jamie consumed Carina’s every waking thought. She hadn’t meant for it to happen. At first, her visits to Jamie were just a lunch hour pastime. And then the visits became more frequent: between patients, after surgeries, Carina found herself drawn to the NICU as if Jamie’s incubator was magnetic.

 

It didn’t help that Cormac had started texting her Jamie updates multiple times a day. Initially he texted her out of collegial respect. They were colleagues and Carina understandably was curious about the baby’s progress. But then the updates became less about Jamie’s health and more about Jamie in general.

 

The mother had been squatting in the building’s basement with a boyfriend. Jenny Palmer was not a resident of Washington State, and while they were trying to track her family in Florida, so far, they’d found no one who could claim the little girl. A social worker had been assigned as Jamie’s medical proxy, but once Jamie was healthy enough to go home, she’d enter the foster care system and the thought made Carina’s stomach turn.

 

She knew that babies were the first to be adopted and there was a very good chance that Jamie would find a loving home, but it was a chance. And Carina didn’t want Jamie to find a loving home. She wanted to be that loving home.

 

Everything came to head on the day she’d walked into the NICU and found Maya feeding the baby. It had been a revelation, it had nearly left Carina winded. But the sight of her wife gently holding Jamie, of the cute little conversation…

 

Carina was overwhelmed. She knew she was being ridiculous. She knew she was being crazy. She knew Jamie’s chin probably didn’t resemble Maya’s chin as much as she thought it did.

 

So she did the only thing she could think of.

 

She called Gabriella.

 

“Why are we speaking English?” Carina asked, anxiously sipping her wine.

 

Gabriella frowned on the screen, clearly unimpressed. “Because it is four in the morning, Tesoro, and the man in my bed does not speak English. Do you want this man to know that you have lost your mind? Fai?”

 

“Gabri!”

 

Scusa. Now, what do you want me to say?”

 

“I want you to talk me out of it. Or…talk me into it. I don’t know,” Carina said, feeling so unlike herself. She wasn’t a person who made rash decisions. She was calm and mature and thoughtful. This felt out of control. She felt out of control, as if her brain was fighting itself.

 

“What about having a baby? I thought you wanted to carry?” Gabriella yawned, clearly exhausted.

 

“I do. Someday, I do. But…Gabri, I already feel like she’s mine. I don’t know what to do.”

 

There was a long sigh.

 

“Carina, you do know what you to do.”

 

“Ga…”

 

“You need to talk to your wife, Bella.”

 

Deep inside, Carina knew Gabriella was right. She knew that the only way in any direction was to talk to Maya. But how could she? How could she spring this on Maya?

 

“I’m so worried about her,” Carina confessed, “She’s so strong, but…how much can one person take?”

 

“You love her. She loves you. You talk. Tutto qui.”

 

Carina lowered herself to the couch and stared ahead, her eyes catching the picture on her mantel of Maya with Vic and Andy. She missed that smile, that toothy grin.

 

Bene,” Carina said, knowing Gabriella was right.

 

Prego. Now, please let me sleep. The idiota in my bed kept me up half the night and now you keep me up the other half.”

 

Carina waved goodbye, blowing a kiss, and then tossed her phone down on the cushions. She tilted her head back, trying to figure out how she was going to tell Maya, trying to guess Maya’s reaction.

 

What if she said no?

 

What if she said yes?

 

When the phone started buzzing seconds later, Carina assumed it would be Gabriella with one more piece of wisdom.

 

It was not Gabriella.

 

Jack: Is Maya home yet?

 

Carina furrowed her brow.

 

Carina: Doesn’t your shift end at 7?

 

Vic: Heads up – shit hit the fan between Maya and Ross. Total bloodbath.

 

Carina sat up straight, staring at her phone as more text messages arrived one after the other.

 

Andy: Can you ask Maya to text me? She’s not picking up her phone and I just want to make sure she’s okay.

 

Jack: She was sent home hours ago. She’s not there?

 

All thoughts of Jamie faded as a cold fear spread through Carina’s chest. She set down her wineglass and started dialing Maya.

 

There was no answer. It went to voicemail. A voicemail inbox that was apparently full.

 

Carina: Text me now please

 

She took another second to decide what to do before dialling Jack’s number.

 

“Carina?” He huffed into the phone, clearly on the exercise bike.

 

“What do you mean she was sent home hours ago? She’s not here. She not answering her phone…”

 

The noise of the bike cut out.

 

“Okay, Andy and I are coming over. Just sit tight.”

 

“Wait, wh…”

 

The call ended before Carina could finish her sentence. She tried texting Maya again to no avail. Why was Maya sent home? And why did Vic say bloodbath? And what did Vic mean about shit and fans?

 

Twenty minutes later, a loud knock pulled Carina from her phone-side vigil. She opened the door to find a worried Jack and Andy looking back at her.

 

“What’s going on?” She asked, swallowing hard as she saw Andy drop Maya’s backpack on the table.

 

“Things got ugly with Ross today. Maya’s been suspended,” Andy explained.

 

What?” Carina could barely believe what she was hearing.

 

Jack looked deeply concerned. “Maya ran out, we just assumed she was home with you and continued with the day, but she wasn’t answering anyone’s texts or calls, so we got worried.”

 

Carina rubbed her forehead, a nervous habit.

 

“She…I don’t know where she is, Jack,” Carina said, “What if she’s hurt? What did Ross say? Why did…”

 

“Carina,” Andy stepped forward, setting a comforting hand on Carina’s shoulder.

 

Carina didn’t want platitudes. She needed information. “Tell me.”

 

Jack glanced at Andy and nodded.

 

“Ross called her insubordinate,” he said, “She brought up the day with your brother as an example…”

 

Carina balled her hands into fists, anger turning her face red. If not for Maya’s efforts, the entire operation would have failed. Andrea’s death would have been in vain. If not for Maya, Andrea would have bled out on the floor of a train station.

 

She’d had one last conversation with him. One last chance to look into his eyes, to comfort him, to smile at her stupid little brother.

 

Because of Maya.

 

“Why are they doing this to her? Every day they hurt her. Again and again.” Carina really didn’t want to cry in front of Jack or Andy, but she couldn’t help the single tear that cascaded down her cheek.

 

It was a tear of frustration more than anything. Frustration and fear because apparently her wife had been missing for hours.

 

“Do you have any idea where she’d go?” Jack asked, squinting in that strange way he did.

 

“We can go check the parks? She wouldn’t go see her mom, would she?” Andy shrugged, obviously grasping at straws.

 

The problem was that Maya usually ran to the station, not from it. And if she wasn’t at the station and she wasn’t at home, she could be anywhere.

 

The sound of Carina’s phone ringing startled everyone in the room and they all jumped, immediately ending their brain-storming, though Carina recovered quickly.

 

Until she saw Teddy’s name on the call display.

 

With a shaking finger she accepted the call.

 

“She’s okay,” Teddy’s voice was reassuring, but stern, and Carina wasn’t sure if she could take any more stress for the evening.

 

“Teddy…”

 

“Some hikers found her passed out on a trail three hours from here. She has heat stroke, but we have her on a drip and she’s going to be fine. I thought you’d want to be here to yell at her when she wakes up.” It was obviously a joke, Carina could practically hear the smile in Teddy’s words, but the information was hard to comprehend.

 

Passed out? Three hours away?

 

“Thank you, Teddy. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Can you text me her room number if they move her before I get there?”

 

“Of course. See you soon.”

 

Carina lowered the phone.

 

“Could you drive me to Grey-Sloan, I’ve been drinking and…” Carina felt so small. She felt alone despite the presence of Jack and Andy.

 

She felt sixteen again. After her mother left. When her father would come home and break dishes or sleep for sixteen hours or not sleep at all.

 

Jack nodded and Andy did too. Carina tried to shake the invasive thoughts, she tried to push away her fear.

 

She just needed to get to Maya.

 

Chapter Text

Maya Bishop was not a tall woman, but her confidence made her seem larger than life.

 

Seeing her curled up in a hospital bed, Carina was struck by how vulnerable her wife appeared to be, how small.

 

Carina stood just outside Maya’s room, arms crossed over her chest as she listened to Teddy give her more details about what exactly had happened.

 

“She regained consciousness in the ambulance. Some delirium – though she definitely asked for you. We’ve got her temperature back down and she’s getting fluids and electrolytes,” Teddy said.

 

“And her heart?”

 

Carina knew that heat stroke could be deadly. That it could cause organ failure and a host of other medical concerns.

 

“Her EKG and chest x-ray came back normal. Blood and urine look good too. She can go home tomorrow, Carina, unless…”

 

“Unless?” Carina turned from looking at Maya towards Teddy.

 

“Do you want me to call for a psych consult?”

 

On paper, Maya had the classic signs of self-harm. She’d run for three hours, three whole hours, to the point of collapse and hospitalization. Carina understood that to an outsider, Maya likely seemed mentally unwell.

 

But Carina knew her wife. She was not in denial. She was not ignoring Maya’s problems. She just understood that Maya likely did not consciously realize how long or far she’d gone. She’d likely found herself caught in an eyes forward/embrace the pain loop after months of increasing pressure and anxiety from work.

 

“It’s okay,” Carina said, “the department has a therapist. She’d likely be more open to talking with her.”

 

Teddy pursed her lips, but didn’t say another word.

 

Carina wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that Jack and Andy knew what happened. The situation between the department and Maya was outwardly tense and Ross was looking for any excuse for further demotion. Carina just prayed Jack and Andy wouldn’t be called upon to testify against Maya should the time come.

 

The room was cold and Maya lay with a cooling blanket over her legs. She slept on her side, an IV inserted in her left arm. Otherwise, she looked fairly normal. Carina raised the blanket to reveal Maya’s feet and sighed heavily at the sight.

 

Bloody toes and bloody heels. Maya had run in her work shoes – and they’d cut her feet to shreds.

 

Carina sat down next to the bed, feeling adrift. She lowered the rail and took Maya’s hand, squeezing gently. Maya had beautiful hands, Carina loved to play with her fingers, and touching them now helped focus her thoughts.

 

She traced the prominent veins on Maya’s inner-wrist and then ran her thumb over each knuckle.  

 

“Please don’t yell.” Maya’s voice was barely a whisper, but Carina was relieved to hear it. She weaved her fingers into Maya’s hair, brushing it away from her still-warm forehead. Maya held her other hand tightly.

 

“Maya…”

 

“I know I’m in trouble, but I have the worst headache. So please yell later,” Maya asked, barely opening her eyes.

 

Carina sighed.

 

“You are in big trouble, scaring me like that.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay, Bambina, sleep now,” Carina said, hoping Maya would listen to her.

 

“I got suspended,” Maya confessed.

 

“I know.”

 

“She talked about Andrew.”

 

“I know, Tesoro, I know.”

 

“She can’t talk about Andrew. Or you. She can’t talk about you ever.”

 

Maya was quickly becoming agitated, and Carina very much wanted to keep her wife as calm as possible.

 

“You take care of me. No one has ever done that before, amore mio,” Carina said, her thumb still rubbing Maya’s knuckles.

 

Sempre.”

 

“Yes, sempre.” Carina watched Maya’s eyes grow heavy again and dared not move until she was certain her wife was asleep.

 

She wondered briefly is it would be wise to call Andy or Jack. If it would help the situation to have their insider opinion on what to do next. But the hour was late and Maya was still clinging to her hand.

 

Sempre, sempre,” she whispered into the silence, her heart aching for the woman lying in the bed.

 

~*~

 

Although it took some convincing, Carina agreed to leave when visiting hours ended. Maya was set to be discharged the next morning and a few hours apart wouldn’t cause any harm.

 

The plan was for Maya to spend the night asleep, but as she was quickly learning, plans change. Which is how she found herself sitting on her hospital bed, staring at the wall, trying to calm her racing mind.

 

Lying in bed left her to her thoughts and her thoughts were all extremely unpleasant. And while running had caused her current predicament, Maya decided a short walk wouldn’t hurt. Moving always made her feel better.

 

She gingerly set her feet on the floor, pleased to find that they weren’t overly painful. Her shins hurt and her old ankle injury burned, but otherwise, everything seemed to be fully functional.

 

An intern had left her a pair of scrub pants that she quickly put on under her hospital gown. The final touch was a set of bright yellow hospital-issue socks that would keep her from slip-sliding down the hallways. She looked ridiculous, but it already felt good to stand up, so she didn’t let her outfit hinder her plans.

 

Dragging the portable IV poll beside her, Maya luxuriated in the quiet. She wondered if Carina liked it too during her rare overnight shifts. No one stopped her on her way off the ward, nor were there any comments as she took the elevator up to the seventh floor. It was only when she stood in the doorway of the NICU that she realized her evening stroll may not have been the best idea.

 

A nurse looked up from a nearby incubator and frowned at the sight of her.

 

“Are you lost?” The nurse asked, not unkindly.

 

“Oh,” Maya looked down at her odd ensemble and grit her teeth, “uh…sorry, I’m Lieutenant Maya Bishop with the Seattle Fire Department…Dr. DeLuca’s wife. I was just wondering how Jamie is doing.”

 

The nurse smiled in recognition.

 

“Ah! Lieutenant Bishop, of course. Dr. Hayes put you on Jamie’s visitation list.”

 

“He did?” Maya was surprised to hear it.

 

“Yes. You and Dr. DeLuca are the only two who visit her…other than the social worker. Perfect timing actually. Little Miss Jamie is refusing to sleep.”

 

The nurse ushered Maya in and offered her the chair next to Jamie’s spot in the room. Maya noticed that Jamie was no longer in an incubator. She was lying in a very small plastic box, wrapped in pink blankets.

 

Maya’s IV and Jamie’s IV made the situation somewhat awkward, but eventually Maya found a way to cradle Jamie in her right arm while keeping her left free, making sure that both she and the baby were still attached to their saline drips.

 

“Hi Jamie,” Maya said, always amazed at how peaceful she felt when Jamie was close by.

 

Jamie stared back up, very awake and alert. Her eyes were blue and for the first time, she wasn’t wearing a little hat, which meant Maya could see her wispy brown hair.

 

“You don’t look like a baby dinosaur anymore,” Maya continued, rubbing her thumb over Jamie’s hand. “Sorry, you probably don’t get that reference. Jurassic Park is really good – you’ll have to watch it when you get out of here. But when you were first born you kind of looked like a tiny chicken. Or a baby velociraptor. No offense meant, by the way.”

 

Jamie bent her legs at the knee and kicked.

 

“Oh, exercise? Good call, Jamie. You like to keep moving, I can tell.”

 

Maya took one of Jamie’s feet and very gently bent her leg again. She repeated the action with the other foot and smiled when Jamie started moving her legs on her own.

 

“Can I tell you a secret, Jamie? You can’t tell anyone, but you seem like a very trustworthy person, so I’m going to take the risk. I did something really stupid today.”

 

Maya cradled Jamie closer, finding her warmth soothing.

 

“I scared my wife. Do you remember Dr. DeLuca? The pretty one, that’s right. And I could’ve injured myself badly, which would have made everything worse. But here’s the secret, Jamie. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do at all and that really scares me.”

 

Jamie’s hand curved around Maya’s thumb. It almost felt like she was acknowledging Maya’s words or offering reassurance. Her eyes never left Maya’s face.

 

“I feel like I’m in a room without windows or doors. And the only thing that makes me feel better is Dr. DeLuca.”

 

Jamie blinked twice and squeezed Maya’s thumb again.

 

“Oh, I know, the most beautiful woman of all time, right? You’re so observant, Baby T-Rex, it’s very impressive.”

 

Maya kept talking and Jamie kept listening even as the night dragged on. When Jamie finally closed her eyes, Maya found herself unwilling to move. She dragged her nose over the top of Jamie’s head, breathing her in, relieved for the temporary distraction.  

 

~*~

 

Two days after Maya’s hospitalization, the DeLuca-Bishops found themselves at a standstill. Carina had taken the rest of the week off, feeling like she wanted to be close to her wife. Although she was mostly unharmed, Teddy told Maya that she wasn’t allowed to run for the next week, which meant that Maya was stuck at home.

 

A Maya who couldn’t run was a grouchy Maya.

 

As Carina folded laundry in her bedroom, she felt panic rise in her chest. Life was feeling just a little too much. On Monday, Maya was expected to report to District Six. Neither knew if the position was temporary or if it was the start of a formal transfer.

 

And then there was the matter of Jamie. Carina didn’t know how to tell Maya what she was feeling, she didn’t know how to add yet another layer of stress to her already stressed wife. Instead, she kept quiet, swallowing down her anxiety, trying not to show how excited she was each time Cormac sent an update.

 

She wished Gabriella lived closer. She wished she could talk to her mama…

 

Her friends at the hospital would support her, they would encourage her to go ahead and try to adopt Jamie. But that wasn’t fair to Maya. She needed someone balanced, a third party. Or someone who had no problem delivering tough love when it was necessary. Gabriella would smack her across the face if she felt that Carina needed a good smack.

 

Carina could hear Maya shuffling around the apartment, wandering the space like a caged animal. She was about to ask if they should pick a movie when she heard her phone ping in the kitchen.

 

“Carina?” Maya called, a tremor in her voice.

 

It made Carina frown. She walked out of the bedroom and found Maya standing by the table, staring down at the phone that had just buzzed.

 

“Do you have something to tell me?” Maya looking from the phone to Carina’s face, clearly upset.

 

“What do you mean?” Carina was baffled until she saw what was on her screen. And then she blanched and swallowed hard.

 

Gabri: You need to tell her.

 

“Maya…”

 

“Tell me what?” Maya’s eyes were so wide, so intense, that Carina wanted to turn away. But she couldn’t, especially once she realized what Maya may have inferred from the message.

 

“I want to freeze my eggs,” Carina blurted, unsure what else to say.

 

Maya raised her eyebrows, her previous upset replaced by confusion.

 

“Oh. Uh…okay…so, we’re putting baby plans on hold, I guess?” Maya nodded as she spoke, still unsure.

 

“Yes. I mean no. I mean…”

 

“Carina? You look like you’re going to throw up,” Maya said.

 

Carina felt her heart beating faster, she felt like she was about to dive off a cliff, jump out of an airplane, she felt a desperate desire to stop talking at all.

 

“I want…” She began to speak, but the words lodged in her throat.

 

“Hey,” Maya stepped forward, taking Carina’s hand, “Are you okay? You’re not sick or something? Oh God, Carina…is that why you’re freezing your eggs? Are you, do you have…”

 

“No. I’m fine, Maya. I just…”

 

Carina took one step back and exhaled. It was time to jump.

 

“I want to adopt Jamie.” Carina kept her eyes on Maya’s face as she spoke, refusing to hide.

 

She could see concern melt into confusion. She could see the words sink in as Maya’s eyes narrowed.

 

“What?” Maya stuttered, her mouth open in shock.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Bambina, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t, it just happened.”

 

Anxious tears welled in Carina’s eyes, but she brushed them away quickly.

 

“Wh…what are you talking about?”

 

“I love her, Maya. I love her so much. I…we could give her a home. A beautiful home and I know it’s crazy, I know…”

 

“You’re right. It’s crazy, Carina!” Maya shook her head, the words hitting Carina hard.

 

“Maybe it’s not,” Carina cried, “I see how you are with her. I know you care too.”

 

“Of course, I care. But there’s a difference between caring and taking a baby that’s not ours!”

 

“She is ours!”

 

Maya was about to protest, but Carina pushed forward.

 

“Don’t you see? We saved her. You and me, Maya. We were the first people to touch her, to hold her. She’s ours Maya. Please, Bambina, I know it’s a lot to think about…”

 

“Carina…what happened to you wanting to be pregnant?”

 

“I still want that someday,” Carina said.

 

“Oh, so now we have two kids? Great. I could lose my job any day now, but sure, let’s add some babies.”

 

“Don’t mock me, Maya! Please…I…I love her. I’m sorry, I didn’t…I love her and I don’t know what to do and I’m scared, Maya.”

 

Maya took a deep breath though her face was still red. She pinched the bridge of her nose and winced.

 

“Carina this is insane,” she whispered, shaking her head in disbelief.

 

“She has no one, no family. She’s going to be sent into the foster care system. I can’t…I can’t stand the thought of it.”

 

“But that’s not our problem. She’ll be adopted, someone will love her, and be her parent, and take care of her. That’s how it works.”

 

“That’s not always how it works,” Carina insisted, “What if she’s put somewhere bad? What if she’s abused?”

 

“Carina…”

 

“Stop saying my name like that! I’ve seen how you are with her. You’re so wonderful, Bambina, she listens to your voice. She knows you already.”

 

“I can’t do this,” Maya said, dropping her face into her hands.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I can’t have this conversation. I can’t think about this. I just…I cannot do this.”

 

Carina couldn’t stop the tears. She sniffled, overcome by a sudden sense of devastation. It was only belatedly that Carina realized that Maya’s eyes were wet too.

 

“I love her,” was all Carina could think to say.

 

Maya shook her head again. “Are you giving me an ultimatum here? Is it her or me?”

 

Carina picked up her purse and her car keys. She needed space and she knew Maya did too.

 

“It’s you, Bambina,” Carina said, “it will always be you.”

 

She moved closer to Maya and cupped her cheek.

 

She saw anguish in Maya’s eyes.

 

With a soft kiss to Maya’s forehead, Carina turned and walked out the door.

 

Chapter Text

Carina knew going to visit Jamie was a bad idea given the circumstances.

 

The more time she spent with the little girl, the more difficult it would be to say goodbye.

 

But she could hardly stand to stay away. Her fight with Maya had been devastating, the chance that Jamie could belong to someone else, a pain she had never felt before. So, she drove to Grey-Sloan, took the elevator up to her floor, and walked into the NICU like any of the other parents in the room. She slipped off her sweater, leaving herself in only a tank top, and carefully picked up the tiny baby who had so thoroughly stolen her heart.

 

As a physician at Grey-Sloan, Carina had certain privileges, which meant that no one stopped her from scooping Jamie into her arms. They left her alone, likely assuming that she was there for purely medical reasons. Carina had no desire to correct them, not if it meant she could hold Jamie whenever she wanted.

 

It felt practiced, routine almost, as she set Jamie on her chest. The baby flexed her hands against Carina’s skin in hello and Carina held on as tightly as she could without hurting Jamie’s sensitive body.

 

Piccolina, do you think we should bring you some clothes soon?” Carina asked the baby, unable to do anything but smile as she felt Jamie nuzzle against her.

 

As Carina swayed with Jamie in her arms, she glanced around the room, unsure how to feel about the fact that she was standing amid numerous parents checking on their own preemies.

 

Was she an imposter? Was she being inappropriate? Was she somehow mocking the experience of actual parents who sat day in and day out with their sick children?

 

Maya’s words echoed in her head.

 

She’s not ours.

 

How was it possible to feel so strongly? Carina had delivered hundreds if not thousands of babies. She’d seen more preemies than she could count. So, what was it about Jamie?

 

Maybe that’s what parenthood was? Sudden. Inexplicable. Carina knew Jamie was hers in the same way she knew that her eyes were brown. Jamie was hers and had always been hers. She couldn’t explain it, she barely understood it, she just knew.

 

“Do you want a bath? Hmmm? Maybe a bath and then a bottle for my Jamie.”

 

A nurse helped set up the small tub in a nearby sink and some of Jamie’s sensors were temporarily removed, along with her diaper. Carina held her in one hand and used the other to gently wash Jamie’s wispy brown hair. She didn’t realize that she was crying until someone behind her cleared their throat and she was forced to turn and look.

 

“Carina? What happened?” Amelia and Teddy stood side by side, staring at her with growing concern. It had been Amelia who asked the question, but Teddy’s mouth was open as if she was about to say something too.

 

Carina cut her off before she could. “Nothing, it’s okay…I’m…”

 

Amelia rolled her eyes and took a step closer, setting her hand on Carina’s arm.

 

“You’re crying. Clearly, you’re not okay,” she said, which made Carina’s sniffling even worse.

 

“Did you lose a patient?” Teddy tried to peek over Carina’s shoulder, but Carina suddenly felt protective, as if she didn’t want to share Jamie with anyone. Even her friends.

 

“Please. It’s fine,” she tried again, hearing the weakness in her own words.

 

Jamie started waving her arms and though she was still too small to cry, Carina could tell that the baby was uncomfortable. She immediately wrapped her in a towel and carried her back to her cot while trying desperately to get a hold of her emotions.

 

Teddy’s hands appeared first, sticking sensors to Jamie’s chest and tummy. And then Amelia was there with a diaper, carefully lifting Jamie’s legs and folding the diaper’s flaps. Jamie was still waving her arms, and Carina knew instinctively that she was cold, that she needed to be held. She hated the thought of Jamie being cold.

 

As soon as Carina set Jamie against her chest, the baby stilled. She opened and closed her tiny hand, gripping Carina’s shirt, and before Carina could even reach for a blanket, Jamie fell asleep. Carina lay one hand against Jamie’s back, drawing circles with her fingertips, smiling at the feel of Jamie relaxing in her arms.

 

“So…who is this?” Amelia sat down on a stool and pointed at Jamie.

 

“Because this isn’t just a random baby,” Teddy added.

 

It was useless to resist. Teddy and Amelia would not stop asking until she explained. And they were her friends. She’d delivered their babies. They knew what it was to be a mother.

 

They would understand.

 

“A few weeks ago…the day I was admitted with smoke inhalation,” Carina began, looking at Teddy who nodded, “we…I mean, Maya and I, we rescued her.”

 

Amelia was clearly putting together the pieces quickly. “The mother didn’t make it, right?”

 

Carina nodded her head.

 

“It’s crazy,” she whispered, “I know it’s crazy. I’ve delivered thousands of babies and I’ve never felt this way before. Even the babies who were abandoned or given up for adoption. I brought them into the world and then I knew my job was done. But when I hold her…”

 

“She feels like yours,” Teddy finished.

 

Carina felt tears spill over her cheeks. She was overwhelmed and confused and the person she really needed was the one person she could not have.

 

“Maybe I’m just baby crazy? Maya and I have been talking for months and maybe…” she shrugged, knowing she was just making excuses.

 

“Maybe there’s a gas leak in here because the same thing happened to Jo Wilson,” Amelia looked at the ceiling, eyes darting from air vent to air vent.

 

The comment made Carina laugh, it helped clear some of the tension in her chest.

 

Teddy didn’t look as amused.

 

“Have you talked to Maya about this?” Teddy asked the question carefully though Carina knew what she was thinking.

 

It had been Teddy who treated Maya for heat stroke. And it had also been Teddy who suggested that Maya might need psychiatric help. Carina knew her friend meant well, but despite how upset she was with Maya, she also didn’t want anyone misjudging her wife.

 

“She thinks I’m crazy,” Carina said, not missing the way Teddy and Amelia glanced at each other.

 

They wouldn’t understand. They couldn’t possibly understand how much pain Maya was in. They didn’t see her walk in day after day defeated, demoralized. Her job had turned into a schoolyard full of bullies who all sounded like her father. It was a mess.

 

“I’m a terrible wife,” Carina continued, “she’s in the middle of a career crisis and I just dropped this on her without warning. I didn’t mean to…”

 

It kept coming back to intention. Carina had no intention of forming a bond with Jamie. She’d had no intention of straying from their initial baby plan. But intentions meant nothing when the universe intervened with its strange sense of timing and its stranger sense of humour.

 

“You’re not a terrible wife. Firefighter Barbie is lucky and she better know it,” Amelia said, wiggling her eyebrows.

 

“She’s so good with her. Maya, I mean. She named her and she talks to her…” Carina smiled thinking of Maya feeding Jamie, of how entranced those blue eyes appeared to be as they watched Jamie take the bottle.

 

Teddy looked surprised. “Wait, Maya named her?”

 

“Yes. She said that Jamie didn’t look like a Jane and then Cormac changed the name on the incubator and now…she’s Jamie.”

 

“Definitely not a Jane,” Carina agreed.

 

“Carina,” Teddy said, “you need to talk about this with Maya again. Over and over until you both come to a decision. Adoption is beautiful and it’s rewarding and I don’t know what I’d do without Leo in my life, but it’s not a decision you make after one conversation.”

 

Teddy’s words were hopeful and honest. Carina appreciated her friend’s rationality in the midst of a heated moment.

 

“How long before Jamie has to go into foster care?” Amelia asked. The question alone made Carina tighten her grip on Jamie’s little body.

 

“Eight weeks. Maybe six, but more likely longer. She still has an arrhythmia, and she needs oxygen support,” Carina said.

 

Amelia nodded and leaned forward, setting her hand on Carina’s knee.

 

“You’re going to talk to your smoke show of a wife,” she began, “And you’re going to talk some more. You’re going to talk until you can’t stand the sound of your own voice. Or her voice. And then you’re going to keep talking. And then…then you’ll make a choice. Together.”  

 

Teddy nodded in agreement. “Together.”

 

Carina let the words wash over her. She let herself believe that she had time, that the initial conversation from earlier in the day was only that – an initial conversation. She understood that she couldn’t force Maya to do anything, especially not something as big as this.

 

But they had time.

 

“Thank you,” Carina whispered, pressing her cheek to top of Jamie’s head.

 

Teddy smiled warmly. “Well, if you don’t adopt her, I will. How is her chin so cute?”

 

Carina adjusted Jamie, cradling her so her friends could see the baby’s face more clearly.

 

“I want to eat her nose,” Amelia cooed, reaching out to tap one finger against the little button nose that Carina couldn’t stop thinking about.

 

“I really am crazy because every time I look at her, I think she looks like Maya.” Carina waited for her friends to make fun of her, but they didn’t. They just shot each other a knowing glance.

 

“You’re so in love it makes me nauseas,” Amelia said, earning a smack on the shoulder from Teddy.

 

Carina shook her head, smiling for the first time in hours. “How could I not be? Amelia, you’ve seen her arms?”

 

Amelia tipped her head back laughing and Teddy joined in too. There was tiny movement against her chest and when Carina looked down, she found Jamie lightly kicking her feet.

 

“Is it funny, Piccolina?”

 

Jamie gurgled in apparent agreement. Carina stood to change Jamie’s diaper, but paused when she heard her phone vibrate in the purse she’d left on the ground next to Jamie’s crib.

 

“Could you?” She asked Teddy, her hands full supporting Jamie’s head and bottom.

 

She turned her back, carefully laying Jamie in the middle of her small, pink bed, and when she reached for the phone, she found both of her friends smiling knowingly. Teddy held the screen up for Carina to see.

 

Maya: Come home <3

 

~*~

 

Maya scrolled through her contacts, trying to decide what to do next.

 

She felt as though she’d been kicked in the head. As if Carina had taken a meat tenderizer right to her temple.

 

She knew that Carina had spent time with Jamie. She also knew that Carina received occasional updates from Dr. Hayes about the baby.

 

But adoption? Love? Parenting?

 

Maya groaned, blinking rapidly as if to clear her vision.

 

She quickly decided that she needed to call in backup. Between her suspension and her hours long run that ended with a trip to Grey-Sloan, Maya was fully willing to admit that she was not exactly thinking clearly. And she needed to think clearly.

 

Especially about this.

 

This.

 

Her wife had fallen in love with a random baby and now wanted to keep the random baby forever.

 

The first name on the list was Andy and Maya took a moment to think about what Andy would say. Andy had a way of seeing life as if she was the star of her own movie. While she’d try to be supportive, she’d also probably find a way to turn their discussion into a story about Sullivan or Beckett or her childhood.

 

No to Andy.

 

The next name Ben. Ben had literally adopted a human being because his wife said they were going to adopt a human being. Ben could not give her an unbiased opinion and that’s what she needed. Not someone who was all the way on the yes side. Not someone who was all the way on the no side. Someone with zero skin in the game. A neutral third party.

 

Which meant no to Jack too. He’d spent enough time in the foster care system to know its dangers and its drawbacks. It wouldn’t be fair to place him in a position of trying to decide whether or not to send another orphan into the same childhood he’d experienced.

 

Maya kept scrolling, skipping her mother, skipping Vic because Vic would show up with whisky and scream oh my god no and Maya would wholeheartedly agree with her because…

 

Oh my god no!

 

Her finger paused over one name, a name she hadn’t even considered, and for a moment she wondered if it would be inappropriate. Except this was a pretty massive life decision, it was bigger than trying to figure out what type of car she should buy or what to make for dinner.

 

This was a life. A whole, real life.

 

Maya pushed the call button and held her breath.

 

Here goes nothing

 

~*~

 

Diane Lewis looked out of place sitting at Maya’s table. It was like seeing a teacher outside of school over summer holidays, but there she was, hand folded, looking on expectantly.

 

Maya took a seat across from her and cleared her throat.

 

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything else? My wife made these amazing torcetti, I could…”

 

“Coffee is perfect, Lieutenant Bishop,” Diane said, watching Maya’s every move.

 

Her gaze always made Maya just a little nervous.

 

“Thanks for coming here. I…I didn’t know if that was a thing you did or…” Maya trailed off with a shrug, spinning her wedding ring on one hand as a way to stay focused.

 

“I’m not here in any official capacity. Anything we discuss will be strictly between us, unless you confess to a murder and then, well…”

 

Maya mumbled ha, but appreciated Dr. Lewis’ cander. She was always no-nonsense, and Maya liked that in people.

 

It reminded her of Carina. Blunt. Unflinching.

 

“I don’t know how to start. I’ve never done this outside of a work situation,” Maya confessed.

 

“This as in therapy?”

 

Maya nodded.

 

“Well,” Diane said, “why don’t you tell me the reason you asked me to come here. Let’s start there.”

 

Maya nodded again, trying to choose her words.

 

“My wife wants to adopt a random baby we rescued a few weeks ago and I think she’s insane.”

 

Maya heard herself speaking rapidly, as if her body needed to be rid of the words like a host expelling a parasite.

 

Diane tilted her head in thought. “And who is the random baby?”  

 

“Her name is Jamie. I mean, technically I guess she doesn’t have a name, but she looks like a Jamie, so I called her Jamie and now everyone calls her Jamie.”

 

You called her Jamie?”

 

Maya took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose.

 

“A few weeks ago, we attended a fire at an apartment building. There was a pregnant woman in active labour stuck in the basement, she couldn’t be moved. We called for backup from Grey-Sloan and Carina helped deliver the baby. And now…” Maya spread her hands, finding herself still in disbelief.

 

“That must have been quite traumatic for Carina. I’m sure she isn’t used to an active fire scene.”

 

“Honestly I think it was more traumatic for me,” Maya laughed, but quieted when she caught Dr. Lewis’s strange half-smile.

 

Damn that stupid half-smile

 

“I mean, my wife is very brave and very stubborn and could’ve easily been hurt or worse. Seeing her in danger,” Maya shook her head, “let’s just say I didn’t like the feeling.”

 

“And was she hurt?”

 

“Smoke inhalation. She took off her mask to deliver the baby and then she made me run Jamie to the Aid Car while she tried to save the mother. I…”

 

“You had to leave her inside?”

 

“Uh…yes. Jamie needed immediate attention, so Carina told me to get her out of the building.”

 

“And you found that understandably traumatic. Did you get to see the baby after that?” Diane took a sip of coffee, giving Maya a moment to gather her thoughts.

 

“Dr. Hayes, he’s the head of paediatrics at Grey-Sloan, he let me go into the NICU to see her. She was really, really small. Like a baby dinosaur.”

 

“A baby dinosaur?”

 

Maya smiled warmly at the memory. “She had these little chicken legs.”

 

“And after that? I’m assuming Carina has seen her a lot considering how she feels about the baby, but what about you?”

 

“I…I saw her a few more times,” Maya said, “Dr. Hayes let me give her a bottle. And a few days ago when I was in the hospital, I went to visit her and we had a good conversation.”

 

“Back up…you were in the hospital?”

 

Dr. Lewis leaned forward on her elbows, studying Maya with a neutral expression.

 

“I…kind of…got heat stroke.”

 

“Kind of?”

 

This was not why she’d asked Dr. Lewis to come over. This was not about her or the suspension or District Six or Maya’s bleeding feet. This was about Carina and Jamie.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Maya tried, wanting to push ahead.

 

“I think it does.”

 

“I’m sure you’ve heard about my suspension?”

 

Dr. Lewis leaned back in her chair. “I did. I have to say, I was surprised. You’re a skilled, responsible firefighter. It’s hard to imagine you doing anything that would warrant such harsh punishment.”

 

“Chief Ross disagrees,” Maya said darkly, crossing her arms.

 

“Oh?”

 

“She says I’m insubordinate. Unrepentant. But she’s the one who dragged my family into this, so no, I’m not going to be repentant about that. She tried to use my wife for her own gains and…” Maya couldn’t continue, anger stealing her words.

 

“You love your wife a great deal, I can see that, Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

Maya nodded, lowering her head. “I do.”

 

“So, you’ve been suspended. You’ve been temporarily reassigned to a house that requires a four-hour daily commute. And your wife has now asked you to adopt a baby completely out of the blue. Do I have that right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Bishop, the fact that you’re not on the floor is a testament to your strength. Because most people would be on the damn floor.”

 

Maya looked up, surprised to find Dr. Lewis smiling back at her. She’d expected something harsh, something about how she was selfish, how she was cold, how she was mistreating her wife. But instead, Dr. Lewis looked impressed. Maya wasn’t quite sure how to react.

 

“Now, let’s get to the real question,” Dr. Lewis continued, “how do you feel about Jamie?”

 

It was the question she’d been asking herself since Carina walked out the door. She wrestled with it, examined it, tried to see all sides, and found herself incapable of clarity.

 

She stretched her shoulders and rubbed the back of her neck.

 

“I like spending time with her. She’s cute and a good listener. And I want her to have a great life,” Maya said.

 

“Let’s say she’s being picked up by social work tomorrow. Foster parents waiting for her. You’re never going to see her again. Now how do you feel?”

 

Maya’s mind instantly drifted to Jamie’s little legs. She thought about how Jamie learned to kick only a few days ago. How she would curl her hand around Maya’s fingertip, and how it tickled. She thought about how good the top of Jamie’s head smelled and how she hoped none of the nurses noticed how long she would sit with her nose pressed into Jamie’s wispy brown hair.

 

“I care. Spending time with her has been…peaceful? And I never expected peaceful.”

 

“What did you expect?” Diane asked.

 

“That I’d have nine months to prepare myself for becoming a parent.”

 

“You didn’t answer my original question. She’s gone tomorrow. How do you feel?”

 

Maya exhaled sharply, forcing herself to dig deep. “Sad. I’d miss her. Carina would be devastated.”

 

“True. But you can’t make this decision based on what your wife wants. It has to be mutual.”

 

“I’d miss Jamie,” Maya said again, “I’d be worried for her. But…she’s not ours.”

 

She kept coming back to it. They couldn’t just take a baby.

 

Dr. Lewis leaned forward again, staring intently at Maya. “No, but she could be.”

 

“I don’t know, okay? I don’t know how I feel. Four hours ago I was getting ready to watch a movie with my wife and now we’re adopting a kid? And she still wants to have a baby someday? So we have multiple children? I don’t know how I feel, Dr. Lewis!”

 

Her outburst was met with approving glance and Maya belatedly realized that Dr. Lewis had tricked an answer right out of her.

 

“You’re not adopting a kid yet,” Dr. Lewis said, “You’re also not having a baby yet. Four hours ago, your wife told you that she wanted to adopt a child. You’re allowed to not know. But you also don’t need to make this decision today. Or even tomorrow. You and your wife need to talk. You need to talk more than you’ve ever talked before. You weigh the pros and cons. You talk about daycare. You talk about whether you want to send the kid to private school. You talk about organic baby food. And you do not stop until you’ve both come to a decision. And then you’ll know how you feel, Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

Maya couldn’t help the slow smirk that emerged. Diane Lewis shot from the hip.

 

“You’re annoyingly good at this, you know?” Maya laughed.

 

The half-smile returned.

 

“One last question. And then I’ll take you up on one of those torcetti.”

 

Maya gestured for Dr. Lewis to continue.

 

“How do you think your wife is feeling?

 

Dr. Lewis played dirty

 

The idea of hurting Carina was at the forefront of Maya’s mind. She thought of Carina’s face as she told Maya about Jamie. She remembered the way her hands shook. She remembered Carina’s words…

 

“She’s scared,” Maya said, realization setting in, “she told me she was scared and I called her crazy. God…I really am a terrible person. Who does that?”

 

“You’ve had four hours. That version of you had four minutes.”

 

“I want my wife to be happy. I want to make her happy.”

 

“You cannot do this just to please your wife, Maya, but you also don’t need to make this decision right now.”

 

“I know,” Maya said, feeling herself calm and clear for the first time all day.

 

Dr. Lewis’ words released her. She’d spent hours feeling trapped, feeling tricked. Feeling like she was being forced into a decision, like her marriage was on the line. But she wasn’t trapped. She wasn’t being forced into anything. Dr. Lewis had given her the gift of time. The gift of communication.

 

And her marriage?

 

A life without Carina was unfathomable. So unfathomable that Maya picked up her discarded phone and quickly sent a text.

 

Maya: come home <3

Chapter Text

As a child, Maya understood that her assigned chores were not optional. They were a reflection on her character. An unmade bed spoke of laziness, it showed a lack of responsibility. It was disrespectful.

 

And while the adult version of Maya realized that her father’s rules were yet another way of controlling every aspect of his environment, some habits were hard to break.

 

After Dr. Lewis left, Maya took to cleaning the apartment. She smoothed the blanket on her bed. She adjusted the throw pillows on the couch in the living room. She cleaned the microwave. She was about to dawn a pair of gloves and go to town on the shower when she heard the door open quietly.

 

Cleaning had provided an excellent distraction because while she very much wanted Carina home, she had no idea what to say. At least not yet.

 

Setting down a bottle of mildew remover, Maya stepped out of their room and expected to find Carina in the kitchen. Instead, Carina was still in the doorway, slowly removing her coat and her shoes.

 

“Hey,” Maya said, uncharacteristically nervous around her wife.

 

“Hi,” Carina answered looking at Maya with unsure eyes. She’d obviously been crying. The sight of her tear-stained face was enough for Maya to break through her own anxiety because if there was one thing she could not abide it was her wife in tears.

 

Maya opened her arms. “Come here.”

 

Carina only hesitated for a minute before stepping into Maya’s embrace. She tucked her face into Maya’s neck and they clung to each other, despite their height difference they fit, their bodies locking in a familiar set of hips against hips and a shared heartbeat.

 

“Did you go see Jamie?” Maya whispered already knowing the answer. Carina smelled like Jamie, that perfect Jamie smell and Maya smiled when she felt Carina nod against her neck.

 

Carina was usually so calm and level-headed. She was usually the one to stay rational and clear-sighted. But she had told Maya that she was scared and it was obvious in the pull of her hands against Maya’s hoodie and her refusal to move her face from the shelter of Maya’s neck. It’s something she did when she felt vulnerable, a silent acknowledgment that she needed Maya close.

 

Despite her silence, Maya heard her loud and clear.

 

“I’m sorry for what I said before,” Maya stroked Carina’s hair, “You just really surprised me.”

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this, I didn’t plan…”

 

“Hey,” Maya took Carina’s face in her hands and forced her to make eye contact, “do you feel up to talking?”

 

Carina nodded, eyeing Maya with surprise.

 

Maya stroked her thumbs along Carina’s cheekbones. “Go sit down on the couch. Do you want wine?”

 

“Yes. A lot of it.”

“Okay,” Maya laughed, taking Carina’s hand and guiding her towards the living room. She grabbed a bottle of wine and two glasses from the kitchen, and then joined Carina, sinking into the couch cushions.

 

It occurred to her that she and Carina had shared some important relationship moments on the couch. They’d planned their first vacation there. Carina had called Maya her home while perched against the leather upholstery. And they’d started searching for their sperm donor there too – both a little drunk, both still high from a day of sex.

 

For a time, they both sat next to each other in awkward silence, each sipping wine, each hesitant to start speaking. But inspired by Dr. Lewis’ guidance, Maya decided to break the ice first.

 

“I’m sorry for what I said before,” she said again, reaching out to take Carina’s hand, “you’re not crazy. That was…”

 

“I am crazy. I don’t know how this happened. I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Carina sighed heavily. She looked tired. A little defeated.

 

Maya set down her wine glass and moved closer to her wife on the couch, close enough that she could cup Carina’s cheek with her hand.

 

“You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. I’m not surprised that you fell in love with Jamie. That’s what you do, Carina, you see the best in everything. In everyone. You see the best in all the broken pieces. Especially the broken pieces.” Maya stroked her thumb against Carina’s soft skin, wishing she could just agree to take Jamie in. Wishing it were that simple.

 

When Carina didn’t respond, Maya tried again.

 

“We need to talk about this. A lot,” she said.

 

Carina smiled tightly. “That’s what Amelia and Teddy said too.”

 

“You told Amelia and Teddy?” It wasn’t an accusation, Maya just wasn’t sure how long Carina had been hiding her feelings.

 

“They saw me in the NICU.”

 

“I told Dr. Lewis. She said we needed to talk too.”

 

Carina raised her eyebrows, clearly surprised.

 

“You talked to Dr. Lewis?” She asked, the corner of her lips lifting in an almost-smile.

 

“Yes. I’m a very mature, well-adjusted adult.”

 

Carina laughed and it broke the tension. It no longer felt like they were trapped in two individual bubbles, unable to let the other in. Carina’s arm slid behind Maya’s shoulders and Maya’s hands found Carina’s face and her bicep and suddenly they were practically sitting on top of each other, bundled up as though they could never be parted.

 

“How long would we have to make a decision,” Maya asked, desperate not to give Carina false hope. But she needed details. Information. She needed a schedule and instructions and a way to make sense of what seemed not to make any sense at all.

 

“Six to eight weeks. Depending on her heart,” Carina said, playing with the collar of Maya’s hoodie.

 

“Her heart?”

 

“She has patent ductus arteriosus – it means that one of the blood vessels that was open in utero has not closed, but Cormac is hoping it closes on its own. So far though…”

 

Maya could sense Carina’s worry. It inspired her next question.

 

“How long have you felt this way?” She kept her voice low and calm, even when Carina squirmed uncomfortably.

 

“I don’t know,” she confessed, “I’m sorry, Maya, I…”

 

Maya shook her head. “No, no. It’s just, Carina, I’m going to think about this. And we’re going to talk about this. But if I can’t get there…if the answer is no, are we going to be okay?”

 

Carina gazed down at Maya’s lap, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. And then she leaned forward for a kiss, her mouth needy against Maya’s. It lasted for only a second before Carina’s wedged her face against Maya’s neck, breathing in deeply. Maya felt the smallest nod. She also felt the warmth of Carina’s tears.

 

“Okay,” Maya whispered, wrapping Carina in her arms, holding her close. Her wife was usually so strong, so confident, that Maya was surprised to see Carina so fragile. She was shaking and teary and clearly confused. As she clung to Maya, Maya considered all that Carina had been through since Jamie’s birth.

 

The constant stress from Maya’s job hurt them both. Sometimes Maya lost sight of the fact that her pain was also Carina’s pain. That her volatile temper, her depression, her sadness all effected Carina’s life too. In the same way that Carina’s stress or her worry for her patients or her habit of ignoring her own feelings in favour of helping others often led to Maya’s own angst.

 

“Are you still scared?” Maya asked, stroking Carina’s hair. She felt another nod against her neck.

 

For a moment Maya considered leaning back to see Carina’s face, but she let her be, sensing that Carina wanted to hide, that she needed her safe space for strength.

 

Maya snuck her hand up the back of Carina’s sweater and tickled patterns against the smooth skin she found there. She waited until Carina sighed, clearly relaxed, and then pushed on.

 

“Can you tell me what’s scaring you?”

 

“That you’ll say no,” Carina said, “I..I’m scared because this is not me. I am not this person who does stupid, reckless things.”

 

Falling in love with a baby was neither stupid nor reckless, but Maya didn’t want to interrupt Carina’s train of thought.

 

“I’m scared something bad is going to happen to you.” Carina nuzzled her forehead against Maya’s shoulder as she spoke, but her words were unexpected.

 

Maya assumed the fear was entirely based around Jamie. About Maya’s reaction. About Carina’s own depth of feeling.

 

“You mean on the job?” Maya prodded gently, knowing that the dangers of being a firefighter weighted heavily on Carina.

 

Carina finally sat back, her eyes watery, but clear.

 

“Yes. But also…you’ve been so unhappy, Bella. They’ve made you so unhappy. I’m scared they’re going to put your life at unnecessary risk. I’m scared of your sadness, of what this has done to you. I’m scared that you’re going to hurt yourself again…not on purpose, but…I’m just scared, Maya.”

 

Maya took Carina’s hands again and held on tight. It was easy to forget sometimes that even in their few years together, Carina had lost so much. Her brother. Most of her aunts and uncles. Her nonna. Carina’s family seemed to get smaller and smaller every year, and her fear for Maya was genuine and rational.

 

To love another person took a leap of faith. To love another person and risk all the pain of losing them took unyielding bravery.

 

Carina was the bravest person Maya knew.

 

“I know it’s been…a lot,” Maya said, “And it’s put our baby plans on hold. I’m sorry, Carina, I’ll try…”

 

“No,” Carina shook her head, “it is not your fault.”

 

Maya wasn’t sure she entirely agreed, but she also didn’t want to lose focus.

 

“What if we make a plan? Some deadlines? I don’t want to hurt you, Carina, I want to want what you want, but I don’t know if I do. But maybe if we can…figure out some next steps? That will help me think things through clearly? Either way?”

 

Carina nodded, her lips lifting at the corners again.

 

“So you said six to eight weeks, right?” Maya asked.

 

.”

 

“I’m assuming we’d need a lawyer…we’d need to talk to Hayes. The social worker. Maybe we could try to do all of that just to get information?”

 

“We can do that. Would you…want…or, would…”

 

“Hey, tell me.”

 

“Would you want to spend time with her?” Carina looked away from Maya’s gaze, clearly nervous.

 

The truth was that Maya liked spending time with Jamie. She didn’t actively plan to do it, but whenever she was at Grey-Sloan, she found herself hovering around the NICU. Holding Jamie was one of the only things in her life that brought her any modicum of contentment. Other than Carina, Jamie was her port in a storm.

 

“I think I should,” Maya said, “I’ve never thought about her like you do. Like she could be more than just my cute new friend who lives in the NICU.”

 

“Your cute new friend?”

 

“Yes. I’ve promised to introduce her to kale and a selection of Steven Spielberg movies when she’s older.”

 

Carina tilted her head and smiled at Maya with an exasperated, but affectionate grin. It faded quickly, almost as soon as it appeared.

 

“You can’t do this for me, Maya. You can’t make this decision to make me happy,” she said.

 

“I know. Trust me, I know. But I think if we start looking into the logistics, if I can spend some time with Jamie, it’ll help me make a clear decision. It’ll help us make a clear decision.”

 

Carina seemed to take in Maya’s words. The smile returned.

 

“Thank you,” she whispered, teary, and Maya couldn’t stay away a moment longer. She pulled Carina towards her, hugging her, trying to reassure her that no matter what, she’d always be Carina’s home.

 

Maya kissed Carina’s cheeks and then her forehead before finding her lips. She was about to deepen their kiss when Carina’s stomach grumbled so loudly that it sent Maya tipping back against the couch in a fit of laughter.

 

“Hey!” Carina said, playfully smacking Maya’s arm.

 

“Sorry, sorry, I just don’t understand how a human stomach can make that noise.”

 

“Maya!”

 

“Sorry,” Maya laughed again, pulling Carina back into a hug. She leaned in to kiss Carina’s neck, nipping the skin lightly.

 

Bambina…”

 

“Can you make pasta al forno?” Maya smiled, trailing her lips from Carina’s jaw line to her mouth.

 

“Mmmm…Maya…” Carina tried to answer, but Maya wouldn’t let her, silencing her with another kiss.

 

As Carina moved in to deepen the kiss, Maya leaned back and pouted. “Please, Carina? Please, please, please?”

 

Carina rolled her eyes and laughed and Maya was so relieved to see the teary, fearful expression fade from Carina’s face.

 

She knew that they need to talk more. She knew that she had a lot of soul searching to do. But their conversation felt like progress, like a step forward.

 

And Maya always wanted to step forward with Carina by her side.

 

~*~

 

Maya approached the NICU with caution. She knew this visit was going to be different than her previous visits. This was not casual. This was not even a visit, technically.

 

Before she’d seen Jamie as a sweet spot in her days – days filled with exhaustion and humiliations. But now she was about to look at Jamie differently. She was about to try and feel whatever it was that she truly felt about Jamie.

 

Feeling her feelings was something Maya still struggled to do. Part of what had initially terrified her so much about Carina was the depth of emotion her now wife evoked. Maya had craved it as much as she’d shunned it too.

 

It was easier not to feel everything. It was easier to run into a burning building when she didn’t feel the fear. It was easier to walk into Station 19 when she didn’t feel the intensity of her anger.

 

Except she had to feel now. She had to open herself. Whether she felt love or not, she needed to feel.

 

They’d both decided that Carina wouldn’t accompany Maya for this particular visit. Maya didn’t want to give Carina a false sense of hope and Carina didn’t want her presence to influence Maya’s decision making.

 

Maya still marvelled that she had someone in her life like Carina. Someone who loved and cared about her. Someone who worried about her. Someone who saw her as more than a cold, unfeeling machine. Carina saw Maya as someone who could be a mother. As someone with the capacity for love. And even though Maya wasn’t sure if Carina was right, she so wanted her to be. She wanted to be that person.

 

Which is why she took a deep breath and stepped into the NICU, ready to face the challenge head-on. Because Maya Bishop did not want to run from this. From Jamie. From Carina. No matter the outcome, she wanted to give it her all.

 

Maya walked to the back of the room, already smiling as she neared Jamie’s crib. There was a nurse leaning over, fussing over the baby, and that’s when Maya heard an unfamiliar sound. A sound that wrapped itself around her heart and tugged.

 

“Is she crying?” Maya asked, listening to the tiniest mewl coming from Jamie.

 

The nurse turned around and shot Maya a tired smile.

 

“She is. Just started yesterday and now someone is very unhappy about this bottle,” the nurse said, raising the bottle in question.

 

“Could I try?”

 

“Of course. Take a seat and I’ll pass her to you.”

 

Maya set down her backpack and settled in the overstuffed armchair next to Jamie’s crib. She raised her hands, taking Jamie carefully, still mindful of her IV and sensors. Sure enough, as Maya tucked Jamie against her chest, the baby looked up with her wide blue eyes and immediately relaxed, her little cries gone.

 

“Hey, Jamie,” Maya said, running her fingertip along the softest little cheek.

 

Jamie waved her arms and curled one hand into Maya’s t-shirt. She tugged gently, a little hello that again made Maya’s heart beat just a little quicker.

 

“Should we try this?” Maya held the bottle up, but if Jamie had an opinion, she kept it to herself. Maya rubbed the nipple over Jamie’s lips and just like the first time, the baby quickly latched on, her other hand coming to rest on Maya’s wrist.

 

Maya watched Jamie drink for a time, studying the little face, trying to really take her in. She looked so much different from the day of her birth. Jamie was still tiny, but she was no longer covered in a downy layer of hair. She was developing baby fat in her arms and thighs and cheeks. It struck Maya that Jamie was starting to look like a baby, not a sick preemie who was barely holding on.

 

“So, listen, we need to talk,” Maya said quietly, smiling as Jamie pat her knuckles, “do you remember Carina? The beautiful doctor lady who comes to visit you all the time? Well, you’ve seduced her, Jamie. And that’s not cool – she’s mine, okay? I married her and everything.”

 

Maya tried to concentrate, but the image of Carina holding Jamie seemed permanently etched behind her eyelids. They were beautiful together, more than beautiful. But both Carina and Dr. Lewis were right. Maya couldn’t make a decision based on making Carina happy.

 

Jamie finished her bottle and Maya set it down before turning back to the baby in her arms. She continued to study Jamie, she wanted to memorize everything about her from her round belly to her button nose. Her legs were still so skinny and when Maya took one of Jamie’s feet in her hand, she was concerned to find it cold to the touch.

 

“We’re friends, right Jamie?” Maya asked, reaching behind her for a blanket. She managed to wrap Jamie up while placing her against her shoulder and then began to pat the baby’s back, listening for tiny little burps.

 

“Would you want to come live with us? We have a really nice condo. And you’d have your own bedroom.” Maya tried to picture it, a crib in the guestroom instead of a bed. Diapers and teddy bears and onesies.

 

When Jamie was done burping, Maya shifted her again, cradling her. It seemed that Jamie liked to lie in her arms, against her chest, looking up with her big blue eyes. Maya liked it too.

 

“I’m going to tell you another secret because you were really good at keeping my last one,” Maya glanced around the room making sure no one was watching before bringing Jamie’s head closer to her nose, “I don’t want to mess this up. I don’t want to make the wrong decision for you. Or for me and Carina. You don’t know this yet…maybe you do….but Carina is magic. Carina makes me better, she makes everything better. And I can’t lose her. But I can’t do something that’ll hurt you either, Jamie.”

 

Jamie let out another tiny mewl. It looked like it took her entire body to release the sound, but Maya felt proud. Crying was progress and Jamie’s voice…hearing her little voice…

 

“Did you learn how to roar, Baby T-Rex?” Maya pat Jamie’s back, which seemed to calm her. She sniffed Jamie’s head and breathed her in, letting her thoughts drift towards a future. What would it be like to bring Jamie home? Or to the Station? What would it be like to have this tiny life totally dependent on her for survival?

 

What would it be like for Jamie to call her mom?

 

The last thought made Maya swallow hard. She felt anxiety wash over her, but then Jamie grabbed onto her shirt again and it brought a surprising calm.

 

You know me, don’t you? You recognize me…

 

Maya felt her foot hit the backpack she’d left on the floor and remembered why she’d brought it in the first place.

 

“Oh, that reminds me, I brought you a present,” she said, reaching into the bag with one hand while still holding Jamie. She closed her fingers around the little stuffed t-rex she’d seen while grocery shopping and raised it up, holding it in front of Jamie’s face.

 

Jamie eyed the plush doll, and when Maya lightly set it on her chest, the baby lay her hand on the stuffy’s green fur. Maya briefly looked around the room, noting how each preemie seemed to have a mountain of toys and blankets. So far Jamie had her firefighter bear and now a dino. Maya found herself wanting to bring Jamie more. More toys. More warmth…

 

“I have to go away for a while, kid, so can you do me a favour while I’m gone?” Maya playfully booped Jamie’s nose with the t-rex and pulled it away, laughing a little as Jamie knit her nearly invisible eyebrows together in confusion.

 

“I need you to take care of Carina, okay? Sometimes she doesn’t tell me when she’s feeling sad, so if you notice anything, you call me. I’m going to see you on FaceTime a lot too and then I’m going to see you here next weekend. So, you need to be good for the nurses and drink your bottle, and I need your little heart to find its rhythm too. Can you do that for me, Jamie?”

 

Jamie turned her face towards Maya’s chest and snuggled against her, nuzzling her nose against the blue t-shirt Maya wore. She watched as Jamie’s eyes closed, as she fell fast asleep, and again, Maya forced herself to feel. As painful as it was, as scary as it was, she needed to feel.

 

She felt sad at the thought of not seeing Jamie for the week.

 

She felt terrified at the enormity of what she and Carina were considering.

 

There was fear for Jamie’s health and love for Carina and self-doubt all mixed into one.

 

But under it all, beneath the hesitation and confusion, hope was trying to break through.

 

And that scared her most of all.

 

Chapter Text

The clock read 4:30AM, but Maya was wide awake. She had another thirty minutes before the alarm would sound and she’d need to get out of bed, but there was no use in trying to sleep.

 

It was Monday, which meant that she had to report to District Six. The drive was two hours long and Maya wasn’t sure what to expect upon arrival. She’d been with Station 19 since the day she graduated from the academy. Pruette Herrera had chosen her personally. She’d learned how to be a firefighter there, how to do the job better than anyone else could. Station 19 had been the first safe place she’d found safety in her entire life. After years of living under Lane’s roof, the station provided a home in a way she’d never experienced.

 

She cooked in its kitchen and slept in its bunks. She knew every inch of the station. Every corner, every filing cabinet, every grease stain in the barn.

 

But all of that safety had been ripped away from her. Her home no longer felt like a home. It felt like living with Lane all over again. The anxiety walking through the door – never knowing if she was about to face a reprimand or humiliation. The loss of her captaincy and constant reminders that Ross and Beckett saw her as worthy of disdain.

 

Maya shrugged her shoulders, uncomfortable with her racing thoughts. She knew she could still get a quick run in if she moved fast, but she didn’t want to move at all because there was a warm body pressed against her side and Maya didn’t want to leave.

 

If she’d thought of Station 19 as a home, Carina redefined that word. For so long Maya had thought that if she prioritized her marriage, she was somehow not taking her job as seriously as required. That if she put anything but the job first, she would be irresponsible and lazy. Her ambition focused solely on work and anything else was a distraction.

 

Now she understood that she had been wrong. She could have Carina, she could have love and rest. And it didn’t make her a bad firefighter. It made her a better one. Carina was her home, Carina was her safety. It didn’t mean she couldn’t find home and safety at the station again, but she could have both, one didn’t cancel out the other.

 

They’d made plans. Good plans to help make the next three weeks pass as painlessly as possible. Due to conflicting schedules, Maya was going to spend the first week staying at a motel in Castle Rock. She’d come home on the weekend for a visit, but with Carina spending most of the week at the hospital, it didn’t make sense to do the commute only to come home to an empty apartment.

 

In the meantime, Carina was going to look into freezing her eggs and she also planned to speak with Cormac about Jamie. Maya asked Carina to update her about Jamie as often as possible. She wanted to FaceTime when Carina was in the NICU and she wanted pictures too. The plan made Maya feel in control, it helped calm some of her anxiety.

 

It also made her even more upset that she needed to leave at all. While she hadn’t decided about Jamie yet, spending time with the baby and sleeping next to her wife were proving to be the cure for Maya’s inner turmoil. She didn’t want to go. She resented the fact that this placement meant that she was missing time with her wife. That she was missing time with Jamie. And even though she’d be home in six days, it was six days too much.

 

Plus she had another two weeks to get through after that…

 

Which is why she was so loathe to get out of bed.

 

Bambina, you are thinking very loudly.” Carina’s sleepy voice held a note of annoyance, but it made Maya smile.

 

“Sorry to disturb you, Sleeping Beauty.”

 

Carina pushed herself up on one elbow and looked down at Maya with a soft smirk.

 

“Tell me what’s here,” she said, tapping one finger against Maya’s forehead.

 

The last thing Maya felt like doing was talking about her feelings. They were ever present, they were a constant source of distraction. Her mind was so loud, her brain twisting itself into knots over and over again. She wanted a reprieve.

 

Maya shrugged again. “It’s nothing, Carina, you should try to get more sleep.”

 

Two perfectly manicured eyebrows rose in clear displeasure. Carina was not impressed and Maya knew her wife was not going to accept silence.

 

“I’ve been with 19 since my early twenties. I’ve never spent a day anywhere else,” Maya sighed, forcing herself to speak, “and now not only am I going to a new station, but I have to literally leave Seattle. And I have to leave you and it’s just…it’s not fair and I’m pissed and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

 

“They will be lucky to have you, you know?” Carina lay one hand on Maya’s stomach and Maya tried to absorb the comfort.

 

“Ross has probably told them I’m incompetent.”

 

Carina shook her head, frowning.

 

You are Lieutenant Maya Bishop,” she said, the hand on Maya’s stomach sneaking under her tank top, “you are very strong. And very brave. You have the fastest response time in the state.”

 

Carina kissed Maya’s shoulder, letting her hands wander across Maya’s abdomen.

 

“You are an Olympic champion, and you are beautiful, you know more about fire than anyone because you are dedicated and brilliant and no one can compete with you because you always win.”

 

Maya knew exactly what Carina was doing, but she wasn’t about to stop her. She felt a confident grin tug at her lips, she felt herself agreeing with Carina because Carina was right.

 

She was the best.

 

She knew she was the best.

 

Carina pulled Maya’s tank top up, letting it settle just beneath her chin and before Maya could register the cool air against her, Carina leaned over and circled one nipple with her lips.

 

“Oh, uh…okay…” Maya half moaned, half laughed as Carina sucked her. First one nipple than the other. She stopped just as quickly as she started, rising to look at Maya with dark, wanting eyes.

 

“No one has ever touched me like you do. No one has ever given me pleasure like you do. No one has ever taken me like you do…”

 

Maya completely forgot why she was upset in the first place. She felt six feet tall. She felt like she could tear logs in two with her bare hands.

 

Carina’s mouth was so wet against her, she wanted desperately to feel that mouth elsewhere, but soon the alarm sounded and Maya groaned, knowing she had to move. Carina stopped her with a strong hand on her shoulder, pinning Maya to the bed.

 

“So, Maya Bishop, you are going to go to this Castle Rock and you are going to show them who you are. And when you come home next Sunday, I am going to do things to you that you cannot even begin to imagine, and I am going to let you do things to me that are unspeakable.”

 

Maya whimpered, especially when she belatedly realized that Carina was naked beneath the nightie she’d worn to bed. Carina straddled Maya’s hips and thrust up, rubbing herself against Maya’s stomach, leaving a wet streak that left Maya winded.

 

“I want you to think about that all week,” Carina leaned down, nipping at Maya’s ear, “I want you think about it when you are with your new colleagues. When they are rolling hoses or when you are running drills. I want you to think about what you have waiting for you. What’s yours and only yours. What no one else can ever have. Can you do that for me, Bambina?”

 

The alarm blared and Maya found herself rendered speechless, overwhelmed with a heady sense of lust and self-confidence. She knew Carina had just the sweet spot of her praise kink and she didn’t even care. Whatever Carina had done worked and Maya felt on top of the world. Before she could tell Carina though, Carina gracefully slid away from Maya and hopped off the bed, leaving Maya lying flat on her back staring up at the ceiling.

 

“You’re going to be late,” Carina chided, already walking out the door.

 

Maya covered her face with her hands and exhaled.

 

~*~

 

Carina fussed around the apartment as Maya readied to leave and usually Maya would have found it annoying, but now it made her feel cared for, it made her feel loved.

 

She still wasn’t used to that particular feeling – a part of her would always be the child trying to earn love through achievements. The fact that Carina just loved her without any stipulations would always come as a bit of a shock. A welcome shock, but a shock nonetheless.

 

Maya stood by the door, double checking her backpack and the small suitcase by her feet. She’d packed her turnouts, helmet, and gear the night before and it was already in her car. The sky was still dark and Maya could still feel the warmth of their bed and the warmth of Carina’s body. Saying goodbye was just a reminder of another happiness taken from her. Another piece of joy ruined by bureaucracy.

 

Carina appeared with a travel mug in one hand and started playing with the zipper of Maya’s jacket. She zipped it and then tucked a strand of hair behind Maya’s ear.

 

“You will drive safe?” She asked, handing Maya the coffee.

 

“I will.” Maya set her free hand on Carina’s hip, pulling her closer.

 

“And you will text me when you get there?”

 

Maya leaned forward for a kiss, quieting Carina.

 

“Yes,” Maya whispered against Carina’s lips before moving her head down to find that long, graceful neck. She licked Carina’s pulse point, breathing deeply as if to memorize that perfect Carina scent.

 

“And you will be careful, Bambina. You are going to a volcano.”

 

Maya pulled away, surprised by the statement.

 

“You mean Mount Saint Helens?” Maya laughed, slipping her hand to rest on Carina’s lower back.

 

“Yes.”

 

“It hasn’t erupted since 1980. I think I’ll be okay. Plus, doesn’t Italy have a volcano?”

 

Carina raised an eyebrow and tilted her head. “ and look how well that went. Boom! And everyone is dead and covered in ashes and now stupido tourists pay a million euros to look at dead bodies.”

 

“Okay, okay,” Maya swallowed back more laughter and instead kissed Carina’s lips again, “I will keep away from any lava I see. And stupido tourists.”

 

Bene.”

 

Carina traced Maya’s bottom lip with her tongue, forcing her to open her mouth, and Maya cursed the Seattle Fire Department for keeping her from this woman for even a day. For even an hour.

 

She finally pulled away, pressing her forehead against Carina’s.

 

“I have to go,” she said, unable to keep the sadness from her voice.

 

“I know, Bella. Ti amo.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Maya took the handle of her suitcase in her free hand and turned towards the door. She felt a hard smack against her ass and with one final look at her smirking wife she left, already counting the minutes until she could come home.

 

~*~

 

The streets were nearly empty as Maya drove through early morning Seattle. She followed the robotic voice of her GPS, turning south, heading towards the I-5. It all felt surreal, as if any moment Station 19 would appear before her and she’d go to work. Like normal. Like usual.

 

But nothing was normal or usual anymore.

 

The freeway took her through nameless suburbs and she lost count of the number of McDonalds and Targets and Walmarts she passed. A podcast about international sports scandals played through the car speakers and Maya tried to drown out her endlessly racing thoughts. An uncomfortable sadness mingled with frustration, the helplessness that came with unfair punishment…

 

Maya resented every mile that took her farther and farther away from Carina. She resented every minute that ticked by. She thought about what Jack and Andy were doing. What Vic and Travis and Ben were doing. How lucky they were that they could go to 19, that they didn’t have to experience exile.

 

Ben hated to be away from Bailey for even a day. He was always grouchy during his 48-hour shifts. So how was it fair that Maya had to leave her wife? How was it fair that Maya’s family mattered less than Andy’s ambition or Jack’s confidence? How was it fair that Maya’s own ambition and confidence were viewed as greed and insubordination? She stewed quietly, sipping her coffee, trying to let the familiar taste of Carina’s unique blend bring her calm.

 

Soon, the urban sprawl gave way to dense forest and something shifted in Maya’s chest.

 

Away from the city, far from the constant reminders of Station 19 and SFD, the douglas firs blew lightly in the wind and she watched, spellbound, breathing in time with the swaying branches. She turned down the volume on her podcast and cracked open the window, wondering if she could hear the rustling of the trees and sure enough, over the din of her car engine, she could just make out the forest’s whisper.

 

The air smelled like pine and with an hour left on her drive, Maya finally felt herself calm enough to focus on the day ahead. She was going to District Six located in the town of Castle Rock in Cowlick County. The captain’s name was Nadine Dale, a local legend whom Maya had once seen from afar during her academy days. She didn’t know much about Cowlick County, but she knew fires and she knew fires started in big cities and in small towns and they had little concern for location or who was in charge of extinguishing the flames. Fire was fire. And Maya knew fire.

 

She drove, listening to the trees, smiling softly at how comforting it was to be so surrounded by nature. Maya’s thoughts naturally drifted to Carina as she wondered if her city-loving wife would enjoy the pine scented air or the noisy leaves. Carina appreciated beauty, she saw it in so many things, and Maya wished that Carina was beside her.

 

Thinking about Carina immediately led to thinking about Jamie. Maya found herself imagining Jamie in a car seat, or Jamie strapped to her chest as they walked a forest trail. She wished Jamie could smell the air, she wished Jamie could see the sky. It hurt Maya’s heart to know that the only time Jamie had been outside was the night of her rescue.

 

I want to show her everything. The trees. The sky.

 

I want to show her the world…

 

The trees suddenly thinned out and the road rose before her, and in the distance, Maya could see the looming grandeur or Mount Saint Helens. She hadn’t been since childhood on a school field trip – a trip marred by Lane’s insistence on chaperoning. They’d shared a tent and in the morning before her classmates awoke, he’d had her running up and down the trails. He’d also kept her from eating s’mores or drinking soda or doing much besides walking and unpacking camping equipment.

 

What would he think of me now…

 

Maya shook away the intrusive thought, choosing instead to take in the mountain. Again, her mind drifted to Jamie. Only this time Jamie was thirteen, her hair brunette like Carina’s, her eyes blue, and Maya would let her eat s’mores and drink soda and fall asleep surrounded by her friends.

 

She wasn’t sure what to make of the idea, of the fact that instead of focusing on the job ahead, she kept thinking about the little baby lying in Grey-Sloan’s NICU. But she knew the thought of taking Jamie camping was much more pleasant than the thought of Lane’s displeasure, of how disappointed he’d be in her demotion, in her marriage, in every single thing about her.

 

The GPS instructed her to veer off the freeway and with the mountain still looming ahead and the trees once more blanketing the landscape, Maya turned towards Castle Rock. It was a small town, quaint, with one main street dotted with gift shops and local amenities. Maya knew that District Six serviced numerous towns and villages in the county, but she wondered how much work there really was to do. Maybe Ross had sent her away to die of boredom.

 

District Six was a modest building close to the river, far different from Station 19’s modern, sleek construction. She pulled into the lot and parker her car but paused before venturing out. With both hands on the wheel Maya tried to centre herself.

 

I am Lieutenant Maya Bishop

 

I am great

 

I am the best

 

Maya unplugged her phone and sent a quick text to Carina saying that she had arrived safely. She smiled as three dots blinked under her message and dutifully waited to see what her beautiful wife had to say.

 

Carina had nothing to say. She had something to show and Maya nearly moaned as the picture Carina sent appeared onscreen.

 

Her wife was very naked, up on her knees, biting her lip, and looking at the camera in a way that told Maya she knew exactly what she was doing. One hand had disappeared into her barely there thong and her nipples were visibly hard, and Maya wondered if she should turn the car around and drive back to Seattle.

 

Maya: Not helping, DeLuca ;)

 

Carina: Miss you already <3

 

Maya: <3

 

~*~

 

The front desk of District Six looked more like a high school principal’s office than a fire station. Maya could see a door leading to the barn on her left and a long hallway to the right was likely the location of numerous offices, lockers, maybe even a gym or a beanery.

 

She approached the desk, eyeing the white-haired man sitting behind a desktop computer, squinting at the screen.

 

“Hello?” She stood tall, unsure what to expect. The man’s uniform read Jennings and judging by his age, he’d likely been with the department for a long time.

 

“Hi!” Came the friendly reply.

 

“I’m Lieutenant Maya Bishop.”

 

White eyebrows rose in recognition and then a smile appeared beneath a comically bushy moustache. “Yes! Lieutenant Bishop! We’ve been expecting you. Second door to your right, Captain Dale will be pleased.”

 

Jennings pointed towards the hallway and Maya was a little surprised by the warm reception. She’d expected hesitation or suspicion. She was a stranger walking into a well-established station. It always caused a little unease.

 

Maya quickly followed Jennings’s instruction, already hearing the tell-tale signs of a station kitchen as she walked down the hallway. At the second door she paused and then knocked, waiting until she heard come in before entering.

 

Unlike the captain’s office at Station 19, District Six’s captain’s quarters appeared to be warm and homy. There was a couch on one side of the room and the desk was likely a relic from the 1960s. Maya tried not to react to the taxidermized bear head over the desk, though admittedly she preferred her bears dead on a wall to alive and dismantling faces.

 

Captain Nadine Dale stood as Maya entered, her smile again surprising Maya.

 

“Welcome, Lieutenant Bishop,” she said, gesturing for Maya to take a seat.

 

Nadine Dale was in her 50s, one of the rare female captains in the state. She had a round face and greying hair, but Maya could tell from her strong shoulders that she was still very fit for duty.

 

Maya sat in the offered chair. “Thank you, Captain Dale. I hope I’m not late.”

 

“Late? You’re ten minutes early, Bishop. Can I get you a coffee? I know you Seattle types think your coffee is the best, but this right here,” Dale said raising her mug, “this is God’s coffee, I swear.”

 

Maya raised her eyebrows but decided not to share the fact that her wife was Italian and, therefore, any coffee made on this side of the Atlantic was immediately considered swamp water.

 

“I’m fine. Thank you,” Maya said instead.

 

Dale took another sip and settled. “I do appreciate you being here, Lieutenant Bishop. We’ve had a recent retiree and we just can’t keep up with the demand.”

 

“Demand?”

 

“I know it looks small around these parts. You won’t find tall buildings on fire or even factories. But between the campfire accidents, containing potential forest fires, tourists doing stupid things, old cabins…it’s a busy place.”

 

Maya nodded, trying to conceal her surprise.

 

“Anyways,” Dale continued, “I’ve sent you your schedule. We have a locker for your gear and another one for your uniform. If you’d like to meet the rest of the crew, I’d be happy to make introductions.”

 

It was 7:15AM and Maya found herself in unfamiliar territory that somehow felt familiar. She stood in the Beanery, shaking callused hands with people who she recognized as fellow firefighters. These were her people; she was part of this family.

 

Maya was pleased to see a woman amongst the group of mostly male firefighters. She extended her hand in greeting, noting the woman’s uniform read Hawk, and after exchanging names, the woman held onto her hand for a second longer than necessary.

 

“Bishop? Your station has the fastest response time in the state. I heard you were responsible for that?” She asked.

 

Maya nodded. “It’s true.”

 

“Care to reveal your secrets?” A probie who had introduced himself as Mike Jacobi asked.

 

Again, Maya was struck by how friendly everyone seemed to be. How open.

 

“Sure, if it’s fine with Captain Dale.” Maya turned to the captain, mindful not to overstep. Running drills was the captain’s job. And Maya wasn’t the captain.

 

Rather than refuse, Captain Dale smiled wide and took a whistle out of her pocket, which she proceeded to hand to Maya.

 

“They’re all yours, Lieutenant,” she laughed.

 

No one eyed her as a competitor. They were legitimately grateful for her presence. They wanted to learn from her. They appreciated her knowledge and her experience. Maya had forgotten the feeling though if she was honest with herself, she’d never really felt it before in her career.  

 

Before she walked out to her car to grab her turnouts, Captain Dale showed her where the lockers were, revealing a crisp new navy shirt for Maya to wear when she was not on calls. It looked just like her usual uniform, her name embroidered on the chest and a single bar on each collar.

 

She took in the unfamiliar patch, sighing heavily at the Cowlick County District Six emblem. And then she reached into her backpack and retrieved the ring box that she usually kept in her locker at Station 19.

 

She took off her gold wedding band and placed it inside the box, switching it with her silicone ring.

 

District Six was not Station 19. The names of her colleagues were new to her. The embroidered sigil on her uniform was not the same. But as she placed the ringbox on the top shelf of her locker, she felt her resolve strengthen. Because what mattered most was still there. She was a skilled firefighter. And she was a devoted wife to the most extraordinary woman on the planet. And no one could take that from her.

 

I’m Maya Bishop.

 

And I am great.

 

~*~

 

By the time Maya pulled into the lot of her motel, it was well after dark. The single-story building was a modest establishment, ten rooms side by side, backing onto what seemed like an endless forest. Maya was still enamoured with the huge douglas firs, finding herself distracted by their presence on her way to the front office to grab her keys.

 

She’d picked The Roadhouse North for its four-star reviews, but she hadn’t realized that the motel was slightly off the beaten track.

 

Despite the short distance from town, she liked the separation. Castle Rock was small, but the ten-minute drive to the motel made her feel like she’d left work behind and entered a different world. The air once again smelled like pine and as she came to a stop in front of room seven, she took one extra moment to inhale deeply before slipping the key in the lock and walking inside.

 

The room itself was simple but clean. A queen-sized bed took up most of the space and there was a minifridge in one corner and a TV on top of a dressed facing the bed. Someone had left a few tourist brochures on the small table under the window and Maya briefly glanced at them.

 

There was one for the Monitor Ridge Summit Trail that led to the top of Mount Saint Helens and another simply labelled “Big Foot Tour.” It made Maya roll her eyes though the dense forest behind the motel seemed especially mysterious so late at night. She was fairly certain she could hear an owl hooting somewhere in the distance…

 

Maya set her suitcase on the bed and quickly unpacked. She looked at the clothes as she re-folded them – a pair of jeans, gear for running, a Henley or two – and it all seemed out of place. Seattle was only two hours away, but it may as well have been across the ocean. Despite the warmth of the room and its quaint charm, Maya suddenly felt uncomfortably alone.

 

She kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the bed trying to decide what to do. Usually after a shift, she’d share a glass of wine with Carina and they’d watch something together. Or they’d have sex. Tired sex or I missed you sex or we’re bored sex or I can’t live without you sex. Ending the day with Carina in her arms always made life feel a little less intense, a little less exhausting.

 

Inspired by the memory, Maya pulled out her phone and tapped Carina’s name on the FaceTime app. She knew Carina was at work, but on the off chance her wife had a few minutes to spare…

 

The phone rang twice before Carina picked up. There was a bit of static before her face came into view, but Maya felt herself immediately smile as she realized that Carina was in the NICU.

 

Ciao, Bella,” Carina said, her voice soft, but full of genuine happiness.

 

“Hey, you,” Maya answered, settling back against the headboard.

 

“How was your day? Were they nice to you?”

 

Maya briefly felt like she’d gone off to summer camp and Carina was trying to protect her from bullies. The bullies were back in Seattle. Maya was much safer in Castle Rock.

 

“It was good, “Maya said, “everyone was very welcoming. The captain even let me run drills.”

 

“How many calls?”

 

“Three. A campfire and then some idiot fell down a ridge and needed rescue. Same thing happened to another guy a few hours later.”

 

Stupido,” Carina shook her head. Maya couldn’t disagree with her assessment.

 

“It felt…weird,” Maya said, “They’re all nice and skilled. But I don’t know, this just feels…it feels weird.”

 

Carina nodded and then tipped her phone down, adjusting the camera to show Maya that they were not alone. Jamie lay in the crook of Carina’s elbow, sniffling with teary eyes.

 

“Is she okay?” Maya sat up a little straighter, concern flooding her body.

 

“Yes. The nasal cannula has been rubbing against her cheeks for too long. They’re very red and very sore, aren’t they Piccolina?”

 

The phone shifted one more time and Maya realized that Carina was likely trying to find somewhere to set it down. There was some shuffling before the image came back and then Maya could see that Carina had adjusted Jamie who was now lying on her shoulder. One of her little hands was curled into the collar of Carina’s scrubs and Maya was struck by how badly she wished she could be there. By how badly she wanted to take Jamie’s hurt away.

 

“Is there a cream they can use?” Maya felt helpless, fantasizing that she could reach through the phone and dry Jamie’s tears.

 

. And the nurses adjusted the tape, but we are very sad tonight. Non è vero, Jamie?”

 

Carina rubbed Jamie’s back and Maya wondered if Jamie liked the feeling as much as she enjoyed it.

 

“Any update on her heart?” Maya asked, frowning when Carina shook her head.

 

Jamie blinked heavily, her eyes finding the screen, and Maya waved, though she had no idea if Jamie could see her or not.

 

Guarda, angioletta! Puoi dire ciao?” Carina kissed the top of Jamie’s head, nuzzling her cheek against the baby’s wispy brown hair. It still made Maya feel like she had whiplash. She was equally enthralled as she was terrified by the image of her wife and this baby who had entered their lives without warning and was now potentially about to change everything.

 

Rather than let herself feel the anxiety of the situation, Maya settled against the pillows and stifled a yawn. “Are you on all night?”

 

“Yes. My break is almost up. Are you okay, Bambina?”

 

“I don’t know. I guess so.”

 

I want you here with me. I want to bury myself in you. I want to cling to your body in the night, my face pressed into the back of your neck. I don’t want to do this alone.

 

“Have you been thinking about what I told you this morning?” Carina never tore her eyes from Jamie, but Maya could see the coy grin on her face.

 

“Yes. I really, really wish it was Sunday,” Maya sighed.

 

Jamie tugged at Carina’s shirt and yawned so widely that Maya could see her tiny pink gums.

 

“Bring the phone closer to her,” Maya asked, waiting as Carina moved again. The screen was now entirely filled with Jamie’s face.

 

“Hey, Jamie,” Maya said, watching Jamie blink her big blue eyes, “anything to report? You taking care of Dr. DeLuca for me like we discussed?”

 

Carina laughed, lifting the phone. “You left Jamie in charge?”

 

“Jamie and I have an understanding.” Maya shrugged, not missing the way Carina hummed in response.

 

Eventually, Carina had to leave and the disappointment on her face matched the disappointment Maya felt.

 

“Will you be able to sleep?” Carina studied Maya, knowing how stressful the situation was.

 

Maya scratched the back of her head. “Hopefully. I wish you were here – you’re very good at putting me to bed.”

 

“Oh?” Carina’s grin was pure evil.

 

“Oh.” Maya answered, rolling her eyes affectionately.

 

“Well, if you need inspiration, I believe I sent you some this morning. And I put something in your backpack to help you get the job done.”

 

Maya glanced at the bag she’d left by the door.

 

“Did you put a vibrator in my backpack?” She asked, raising one eyebrow.

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Carina, have I been carrying around a vibrator all day?”

 

Maaaaaaybe.”

 

Before Maya could respond, Carina’s pager sounded, effectively ending their conversation.

 

Puoi dire arrivederci?” Carina asked Jamie, playfully waving her little hand at the phone.

 

Maya waved back. “Goodbye, Baby T-Rex. Goodbye, Dr. DeLuca, you temptress.”

 

“I love you, Maya Bishop,” Carina said.

 

“I love you too.”

 

And then the call ended and Maya was alone again in a motel room somewhere far from her wife.

 

Somewhere far from Jamie.

 

She exhaled, trying to hold onto the vision of Carina’s brown eyes, of Jamie’s fingers clinging to Carina’s scrub top, of Carina’s voice.

 

The trees blew restlessly outside the window, but inside, Maya let herself rest, warmed by the memory of Carina’s hands and Carina’s mouth and Carina’s heart.

Chapter Text

For what felt like the thirtieth time in as many minutes, Carina questioned whether or not she was crazy.

 

It was a word she hated – a word that had been carelessly flung at her father and her brother.

 

But even Carina had to admit that the only word suitable for what she was considering was crazy.

 

She tried to relax as she sat in Cormac’s office because while she may have felt off-balance, she didn’t need her colleagues seeing her so frazzled. When Cormac walked in and sat down, she leaned back in her chair and crossed one leg over her knee.

 

“Checking on the Sigurdsson baby?” Cormac asked, referring to the baby with a cleft palate she’d delivered earlier in the day.

 

“No. I wanted to talk with you about Jamie.”

 

If Cormac was surprised, he didn’t show it. Instead, he smiled knowingly, and Carina briefly wondered if Amelia or Teddy had said something to Link or Owen or any number of people who shared hospital gossip. She pushed away the thought – her friends wouldn’t betray her trust over something so important.

 

“Ah, of course. We’re monitoring her PDA closely. So far, I’m still hoping it will heal on its own with indomethacin,” Cormac said.

 

Carina knew that PDA was quite common in newborns, especially preemies, but the thought of Jamie’s heart defect made her anxiety flare. She couldn’t wait to see Jamie later in the day and hold her close.

 

“Have you tried ibuprofen?” She asked, trying to keep her voice even.

 

“No. Be we’ll likely introduce it next week, depending on her latest EKG.”

 

Carina nodded, agreeing with the plan.

 

She felt herself tongue-tied, as if her body was trying to prevent the words from coming out. But Carina DeLuca was never one to censor herself. She was never one to not say exactly what she wanted to say. So, with a silent prayer for courage, Carina pushed ahead.

 

Now or never.

 

“There is one more thing,” she said, relieved that Cormac couldn’t tell that her hands had gone cold from nerves.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“My wife and I are considering adopting her.”

 

Cormac raised his eyebrows, clearly caught off-guard, but the shock was soon replaced with curiosity.

 

“We will need to speak with the social worker, of course,” Carina continued, watching Cormac’s face for any sign of judgment, “but I was hoping you could set up a meeting. The decision hasn’t been made yet, but Maya and I want to know the process.”

 

“That’s a bit of a surprise, Carina, but I’d be more than happy to make introductions. She’s a special little thing, isn’t she? Looks up with those blue eyes and suddenly you want to give her the moon.”

 

Carina nodded knowing exactly what Cormac was referring to. Her need to see Jamie only intensified.

 

“Thank you. And…one more thing? If you could keep this between the two of us, I would appreciate it.”

 

The last thing she needed was the hospital gossiping about crazy, baby-hungry Dr. DeLuca.

 

“Of course,” Cormac said, still smiling. She could sense he was pleased with the idea and Carina had to force herself not to skip too far ahead. She had to force herself not to imagine a day when Jamie could come home, safe in Maya’s arms, protected and there’s forever.  

 

They were just gathering information. They were not making a decision.

 

Yet.

 

Carina stood and thanked Cormac again before leaving his office. She had two hours to go before the end of her shift. Two hours before she could see Jamie again.

 

~*~

 

Jamie was just waking up from a nap when Carina arrived.

 

The baby waved her arms in what appeared to be a full body stretch, but as soon as Carina picked her up, Jamie yawned and promptly fell back asleep, comfortable, and safe against Carina’s shoulder.

 

Carina pulled a small side-table closer and set her phone on a stand she’d brought the day before. With Maya away, she knew they’d be spending a lot of time on FaceTime, but it was easier to have her hands free so she could hold Jamie properly while still carrying on a conversation.

 

When her phone buzzed a second later, Carina eagerly hit accept, unable to keep the smile from her face as Maya appeared.

 

“Hey,” Maya said, running her hand through her hair. Carina’s fingers twitched, she badly wanted to do the same. Maya’s hair was so soft, Carina couldn’t seem to keep herself from touching it. Not that Maya ever complained.

 

Ciao, Bella,” Carina whispered, wistful. It had only been a few days, but she really missed her wife. Especially as they were in the midst of such a tumultuous, confusing time between considering adoption and Maya’s career angst.

 

Maya leaned forward and narrowed her eyes. “How’s Jamie? She asleep?”

 

“Yes. Being a baby is very tiring.”

 

“What about you? Long day?”

 

Carina nodded. “Four deliveries. One c-section. And an emergency hysterectomy. I am very tired.”

 

Maya winced in sympathy.

 

“Isn’t your shift over? You should go get some rest, Carina,” Maya said.

 

“Soon. I talked to Cormac today. He’s going to set up a meeting with the social worker for us next week.”

 

Carina wasn’t sure how Maya would take the news. Theoretically adopting Jamie was one thing. Actually putting a plan into motion was another.

 

Sure enough, Maya exhaled sharply as her eyes widened in obvious surprise.

 

“Is that okay?” Carina asked, unable to read Maya’s expression.

 

Maya bit her lip. “Yeah. I mean…yes, it is. It’s good. Just…a lot, you know?”

 

È molto,” Carina agreed.

 

Carina watched as Maya refocused, as her worried gaze found Jamie. It was as if Jamie was an anchor point, a touch stone. As if Maya sought Jamie as a way to quell her own anxiety.

 

Because despite the enormity of what they were considering, at its centre was a very small, very beautiful little soul. And while Maya had yet to say it out loud, Carina knew her wife well enough to see that Jamie was very important to her.

 

As expected, Maya’s next question was a redirect, but impossibly sweet.

 

“Is she cold? She’s always in just a diaper and she’s so little,” Maya said, her face etched with concern.

 

You love her. I can see it all over your face. Just let yourself feel it. Let yourself want it. Let yourself have it. We could have this, Maya, we could have her, she could be…

 

“I have an extra blanket here, Bambina. I’ll make sure she’s comfortable.” Carina curled her hand around one of Jamie’s feet, melting at how tiny it was, how soft it was.

 

With a heavy sigh, Maya looked at Carina and pouted.

 

“I have to go soon,” she said, clearly not wanting to move.

 

“Be safe please.”

 

“No guarantees. Not with Big Foot and all the lava…this place is a deathtrap.”

 

“Big Foot?” Carina raised one eyebrow, choosing to ignore her wife’s strange sense of humour.

 

“Big Foot. Giant, hairy guy. Walks around scaring people.”

 

“Sounds like my Zio Salvatore.”

 

Maya snorted and the sight of her smile made Carina’s longing even worse. She loved that toothy grin. It was such a rare sight in recent days.

 

Despite her promise to Maya that she’d go home and get some rest, Carina stayed with Jamie well into the evening. She bathed her and changed her diaper and sniffed the top of her head, soaking up every second she could.

 

When it was finally time to leave, Carina looked down at Jamie sleeping in her little crib. She was still hooked up to an IV and numerous censors. The nasal canula taped to her face was a constant reminder that despite her progress, Jamie was not out of the woods.

 

But she had a squishy firefighter teddy bear and a stuffed T-Rex to protect her, to watch over her, and Carina found herself once again wishing that Maya was waiting for her at home. She so hated to be alone. And she wanted her squishy firefighter for protection too.

 

We can have this. We can have her.

 

She could be ours.

 

~*~

 

Five days into her Castle Rock exile, Maya realized that she no longer showed up to work angry. It was such a change, such a welcome shift in perspective, that she almost felt like she was forgetting something. She’d lived with the anger for so long that she’d nearly forgotten what it felt like not to be angry.

 

Sitting in the Beanery with her new colleagues, Maya looked around, shocked once more by how functional District Six seemed to be, how professional. From what she could tell, there were no personal entanglements. The team respected Captain Dale, they respected each other, and if there were rifts or professional jealousies between them, they managed to keep it very quiet.

 

Maya sipped coffee from a chipped District Six mug and watched the people around her go about their morning assignments.

 

Hawk was in the barn rolling hoses with Jacobi, their newest recruit. He was barely out of the academy, but Maya liked his work ethic. She also appreciated Hawk’s comradery and her dedication to the job. On calls, Maya found herself working most often alongside the short, dark-haired woman and while they’d yet to develop the same short-hand she had with Jack or Andy, Maya trusted her, which meant a great deal in their line of work.

 

Jennings was on desk duty, as usual, which left Briggs Packard and the District’s other lieutenant, Bobby Truman, to make breakfast.

 

“Big weekend plans, Bishop?” Packard asked from his position near the stove. He was frying bannock and the smell was making Maya’s mouth water.

 

“Heading back to the city,” she said, trying not to sound too eager.

 

Packard nodded once. “Ah. A few of us are heading to the pow wow at the community centre if you were interested.”

 

“Rain check?” Maya was genuinely touched by how inclusive her new team seemed to be. They’d known her for five days and were already trying to include her in social events outside of work. She could barely remember the last time she’d gone to Joe’s with A-Squad...

 

Truman set down his clipboard and smiled widely towards Maya.

 

“Enough Packard, she’s been playing with that ring all week. Excited to see your husband?” He asked, his eyes darting from Maya’s finger to her face.

 

The question gave her pause and she found herself doing the quick mental calculation that always happened in this situation, weighing whether or not it was safe to come out. But she was also unwilling to hide her marriage, so better to tell the truth. Worst case scenario? The next two weeks would be hostile and she’d have to punch a homophobe.

 

Hostile work environments were kind of her thing lately.

 

“I’m excited to see my wife, yeah,” Maya said, studying Truman’s face as she spoke.

 

He didn’t react. Neither did Packard.

 

“Alright then, let’s see your girl.” Truman crossed his arms and waited expectantly. The door opened as Truman made his request and Hawk, Jacobi, and Captain Dale walked in, ready for breakfast.

 

Maya couldn’t help the swell of pride in her chest as she placed her phone on the table and showed Truman her lock screen. It was a candid picture from the night of Seattle’s post-covid celebration. Carina was sitting next to Maya, her arms wrapped around Maya’s body, and they both appeared totally lost in each other, smiling some secret smile that no one else but them could understand.

 

Truman pulled the phone closer to his side of the table and did a double take.

 

“Are you serious?” He asked.

 

Maya shifted uncomfortably. “What do you mean?”

 

“Guys, Bishop’s wife is a movie star!” Truman held up the phone for all to see and soon there was a semi-circle around him, all swooning over Carina.

 

It made Maya want to preen. It also made her miss her wife terribly.

 

“Tell us everything,” Hawk begged, sitting down next to Truman.

 

“Uh…her name is Carina. She’s a doctor at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital in Seattle,” Maya said, unsure what everything entailed.

 

“Carina,” Jacobi breathed the name as if trying it out for himself.

 

Packard set a plate of bannock on the table and then yanked the phone from Truman’s hand to get a better look.

 

“Where’d you meet, what’s she like, does she have a twin sister?” He joked, making Maya smile.

 

She wasn’t overly comfortable with the attention, nor did she love the focus on her personal life, but everyone was just so friendly. She was so used to being guarded, she was so used to trying to keep every single step inline that even the concept of friendliness was foreign.

 

“We met at a bar,” Maya said, grabbing her phone from Packard’s grip, “or…technically she saw me at the hospital earlier that day. But she’s…brilliant, one of the preeminent OB/Gyn’s in the world. And she’s from Italy…”

 

“Italy?” Truman sighed. Maya realized Captain Dale was in the corner, laughing at the scene.

 

“Yes, Italy. So, she’s the best cook and super funny, at least she thinks she’s super funny, and…yeah. That’s Carina. She’s just…she’s the best.” Maya blushed profusely, realizing she was gushing over her wife, but she couldn’t help it.

 

No one knew her here. No one would bring up her once held beliefs about monogamy and use them to mock her. They were genuinely curious – no strings attached.

 

Packard stared Maya down for a moment, a sly smile spreading across his face.

 

“Damn, Bishop, you married up,” he said, winking at her before breaking out into a boisterous laugh.

 

Maya found herself joining in because he wasn’t wrong.

 

Soon there were pictures of other partners and families littering the table. Hawk’s boyfriend and Truman’s wife. Packard’s two kids and Jacobi’s grandmother. Captain Dale approached and placed her phone down, pointing it towards Maya.

 

“That’s my Maggie,” she said, showing Maya a picture of a grey-haired woman sitting next to a bouquet of sunflowers. She was laughing, the laugh lines around her eyes were deep, as if she’d spent a lifetime smiling.

 

The captain took a seat next to Maya and leaned in, lowering her voice.

 

“When I first started with SFD, every door seemed closed. There were no women in the force, let alone female lieutenants or captains. Without Maggie? I would have lost myself completely,” Captain Dale explained.

 

“I think I can understand the feeling.” Maya tried not to let her sadness show, but Nadine Dale saw right through her façade.

 

“No matter what they throw at you, no matter what they take from you, hold onto her,” Dale said, pointing at the picture of Carina, “hold on as tight as you can, Bishop. And you’ll get through. It won’t be easy, it’s going to hurt more often than it won’t, but you’ll get through. Hold onto her and you’ll get through.”

 

The klaxon interrupted before Maya could say thank you, but Captain Dale seemed to understand. She pat Maya’s shoulder once and then they all took off running, their bannock and coffee long forgotten.

 

~*~

 

“You sure you’re okay, Bishop?”

 

Truman’s voice pulled Maya from her thoughts as they stood at the lockers, readying to leave. She switched her rings and gingerly pulled on her bomber jacket.

 

“Nothing an ice pack can’t fix,” she said, grimacing as she moved.

 

Truman nodded in understanding and the two walked out together, making small talk about the day’s calls and tomorrow’s schedule. Station 19 had so many lieutenants that they seemed always at odds with each other. Maya liked Bobby Truman, she liked that he listened to her, that he was an ally instead of a competitor. He was like Jack that way, without the complex entanglements that Jack brought to all of his relationships.

 

After a quick goodbye, Maya hesitated in the parking lot, looking up to take in the stars. The night sky was dotted with light, as if a canopy of sparkling glass had penetrated the darkness. She was struck by how clear it looked, by the constellations she could so clearly see.

 

It was beautiful, but it made her feel so small.

 

She didn’t want to go back to her empty motel room yet, even though Carina was probably available for a phone call. Sometimes seeing Carina made their separation even more difficult. At least when she was working, she could concentrate on the job. On fire. Seeing Carina but not being able to touch her or smell her was a small torture.

 

Maya decided to take a detour on her walk back. She stopped into a roadside diner that Captain Dale had suggested days ago and smiled at the kitschy, late 70’s design. Everything was wood panelling and red leather-lined booths. Even the waitresses wore old fashioned uniforms in powder blue. Maya had initially been skeptical, but the coffee was to die for and the pie…

 

It was late on a Friday night and Maya needed some joy. She stepped up to the counter, eyeing the day’s menu.

 

“Maya, right?” The woman behind the till pointed at her.

 

Maya nodded.

 

“How are you enjoying our little town?”

 

The woman wore a badge that read Norma and she had the faded look of a former high school prom queen.

 

“It’s great,” Maya said, forcing a smile. She was tired and a little bit lonely, but Castle Rock was much more tolerable than she’d initially expected.

 

Norma seemed pleased by the answer. “What can I get you?”

 

“Do you have any of that cherry pie left?”

 

“Hold on just a minute and I’ll see what I can do.”

 

Norma disappeared into the kitchen and returned a minute later holding a box.

 

“Last one of the day,” she said, setting it on the counter.

 

“Oh, I just need a slice.”

 

“On the house, Lieutenant. You’re doing me a favour – I’d have to toss it in the morning anyway,” Norma inched the box forward and Maya realized she had no excuse not to take the free dessert.

 

She thanked Norma again and then continued her walk, enjoying the sound of leaves blowing in the wind. The air smelled so clear and just down the road, Maya could make out the sign for The Roadhouse North, neon against the night sky.

 

She hadn’t heard from Carina all afternoon, which usually meant that her wife was busy in surgery. Maya resigned herself to a quiet night of pie and crappy TV. She had one more day to get through before she could drive home for a 48-hour reprieve.

 

By this time tomorrow night, you’ll be on the road

 

The thought warmed her and she picked up her pace, eager to get back to her room. She crossed the highway, releasing a sigh of relief as she felt the small gravel stones beneath her sneakers, indicating that she was one step closer to a comfortable bed. There were a few cars in the motel’s lot and lights beamed from behind curtained windows. Despite feeling lonely, she was not alone out in the dark woods. There were others too, living their lives, going about their business. She was just one of them, no better, no worse. This warmed her too.

 

As she approached her own room, she realized that the light was on inside though she had certainly turned it off in the morning before she left. She wondered if a maid had left it on for her, marvelling again at how friendly everyone in Castle Rock seemed to be.

 

Holding the box in one hand, Maya dug into her pocket for the key and slipped it into the doorknob, expecting to find an empty room waiting for her.

 

She turned the handle and swung the door open, and it was only as she stepped inside that she realized it was definitely not the maid who was responsible for the light.

 

Sitting on her bed, her legs crossed at the ankles, Carina beamed at her like something out of a dream.

 

“Wha…how?” Was all Maya could think to stay, standing frozen in the doorway just in case she was hallucinating.

 

Bella, it’s cold, shut the door.”

 

Definitely not hallucinating.

 

Carina’s voice startled Maya into motion and she nearly tossed the pie on the dresser and slammed the door behind her before taking a running leap onto the bed. She landed heavily on top of Carina, a tangle of limbs and laughter and Carina’s surprised Maya! echoing in the small space.

 

Maya shifted, planting one knee on either side of Carina’s hips, but made no move to climb off her wife.

 

“Hi,” she said, her face inches from Carina’s.

 

“Hi,” Carina answered, setting her hands on Maya’s ribs.

 

Maya closed the space between them, pressing her lips to Carina’s. She moaned into the kiss, licking Carina’s mouth, needing more. Carina’s tongue was warm against her own, warm and wet as it licked the roof of her mouth.

 

“How did you get here?” Maya whispered, kissing Carina’s cheeks and her neck, letting her hands tickle Carina’s sides.

 

“Do you remember Dr. Zhao in radiology?”

 

Maya lowered herself, straddling Carina’s body.

 

“No,” she shook her head, much more interested in ridding Carina of her t-shirt than remembering a random doctor.

 

“He mentioned he was driving to his cabin one town over. I asked for a ride. I missed you too much, Bambina. I couldn’t wait.”

 

Carina’s confession ignited something in Maya and she pressed down, grinding herself against Carina’s pelvis. Her jeans provided wonderful friction and she felt herself quickly reacting.

 

“Can I touch you?” Maya asked, continuing to roll her hips.

 

She liked to hear Carina give her consent. There was something beyond hot about Carina allowing her the honour of her body. And even though consent between them was always assumed, hearing Carina give her permission made Maya wet every time. It also drove Carina wild, something Maya very much enjoyed.

 

And after a week of longing, Maya wanted her wife wild and wanting and overwhelmed with pleasure.

 

“Yes,” Carina breathed, licking her lips.

 

“Can I take you?” Maya dragged her fingers beneath Carina’s t-shirt, distracted by Carina’s nipples poking against the fabric.

 

Carina arched, allowing Maya to pull the shirt off entirely.

 

“Yes,” she said.

 

“Can I fuck you?” Maya sunk her teeth into the tendon between Carina’s neck and shoulder. It earned her a loud moan.

 

Bambina…”

 

“Tell me.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Maya rolled off Carina without another word. She stood up, discarding her own clothes as Carina did the same on the bed, and then she briefly searched the room for Carina’s bag. She knew her wife never travelled without toys and sure enough, as she opened Carina’s carry-on, she found herself staring at a large assortment of dildos, vibrators, a harness, and a bottle of lube that could only be described as Costco-sized.

 

Usually it made Maya laugh. But as she pulled out the harness and one of the larger dildos, she only felt hunger. She took a vibrator and lube too and then returned to the bed where a very eager Carina was watching her.

 

Maya strapped herself into the harness and adjusted the dildo in front, centering it, but Carina was apparently impatient because before Maya finished, Carina’s hands circled the purple cock now protruding between Maya’s legs.

 

“Look how big you are, Bambina,” Carina said, stroking the shaft. The visual made Maya’s hands shake. She was about to grab Carina’s shoulders, but again, Carina moved faster, pushing Maya flat onto her back.

 

She hovered over Maya’s body, the angle of her shoulder blades making her look like a panther stalking its prey.  

 

“Are you going to use this on me?” Carina leaned forward, licking the tip of the dildo.

 

“Carina…”

 

Maya watched Carina bob her head, taking the cock in her mouth. When she pulled away, the dildo was visibly wet and Maya arched just a little at the sight. She wasn’t willing to give up control quite yet though, the power-play between them kept their sex life constantly exhilarating, so with more control than she thought possible, she raised herself on her elbows and stared Carina down.

 

“Get it ready for me,” she said, leaving no room for argument.

 

Carina bit her lip, but could not keep the wide smile from her face. She opened the bottle of lube and applied it liberally, moving her hand up and down the shaft as her eyes never left Maya’s. When she was done, she brushed her hand against Maya’s thigh, leaving a wet streak, and Maya decided that she’d had quite enough bratty behaviour from her wife.

 

“Go stand by the table,” Maya gestured towards the window, but stayed still herself, waiting for Carina to obey.

 

The smile remained on Carina’s face, but she raised one eyebrow, clearly curious about Maya’s plan. She gracefully stood, letting Maya watch her walk away, those swaying hips proving a distraction. Once she reached the table, Carina was about to turn, but Maya was behind her in an instant, pressed against her body.

 

She took Carina’s wrists in her hands and forced her to bend over at nearly ninety degrees, her arms sprawled in front of her, held down by Maya’s strength.  

 

Maya leaned over, lightly kissing Carina’s shoulder before finding her ear.

“Is this okay?” She whispered.

 

Carina nodded eagerly.

 

“Can I hear it please?”

 

“Yes, Maya.”

 

Maya straightened and slapped Carina’s ass hard, delighted by the shocked giggle it evoked from her wife.

 

“Don’t move,” Maya instructed taking one step back. She returned to the bed, gathering her discarded vibrator and then remembered one more thing she’d seen in Carina’s bag.

 

She tried not to laugh when she realized that her hands were full – it wasn’t exactly sexy walking with her arms loaded full of toys and lube – but she was confident she could regain the mood.

 

She set the vibrator next to Carina on the table and then took her position again, the dildo bumping against Carina’s ass.

 

“Maya,” Carina’s voice was already rough, she looked over her shoulder, just a little bit needy, and it inspired Maya to quicken her work.

 

When Carina realized that Maya was holding a butt plug, she groaned, wiggling in anticipation. Maya smacked her again, earning yet another giggle, and Maya was once more delighted that spanking inspired glee in her wife. She understood. It inspired glee in her too.

 

“Only you would pack two types of lube,” Maya mumbled, spreading lube on the plug and between two now very red butt-cheeks that somehow managed to be both super cute and super hot all at the same time.

 

“If you don’t put something in me right now, I’m going to be very, very angry, Bambina.”

 

“Such a dirty mouth, Dr. DeLuca,” Maya said, stifling a moan because Carina had a way with words that often left Maya feeling like her brain had turned into cotton candy.

 

Maya lined up the butt plug and started slowly pushing it in, only stopping when she felt Carina eagerly push back against her.

 

“Slow,” Maya whispered, using her free hand to rub circles over Carina’s back. She watched the plug disappear until all that remained outside was a circular blue knob, she watched as Carina’s body sagged over the table, as she hummed in pleasure.

 

“Maya, per favore,” Carina’s voice was strangled, she was already panting in anticipation.

 

Taking her place behind Carina again, Maya guided the dildo lightly over Carina’s centre. She rubbed it there and then up, hitting Carina’s clit, taking her time to tease until Carina’s hands clawed at the tabletop, trying to find some release.

 

She slipped the tip inside Carina, pausing at the sound of Carina’s sharp inhale.

 

“More, Maya…” Carina reached back with one hand, trying to grasp Maya’s hip or thigh, urging her forward.

 

Maya thrust all the way in, gasping as Carina cried out. She thrust again, and then rocked her hips, fucking Carina in hard, slow jerks that left Carina squirming against her. With both hands on Carina’s hips, Maya found herself enthralled by the sight before her, by the sight of Carina’s arms sprawled forward, by her hands trying to find something to hold onto.

 

She wanted more, Maya always wanted more, and she quickly pulled out, turning Carina so that she was sitting on the table, facing Maya, her legs spread wide apart as she tried to adjust, as she tried to find comfort, the butt plug making it difficult.

 

Maya didn’t give her time to settle. She pushed herself inside again, this time watching as her cock disappeared between Carina’s legs, watching as Carina’s abs twitched, as she fell back on her elbows, eyes closed in extasy.

 

Maya thrust in and out, in and out, changing her angle when Carina released a strangled sob. Maya’s knees ached and her back hurt, but she refused to slow her movements. She reached for the vibrator next to Carina’s hip and turned it on, choosing a low level before touching it to Carina’s clit.

 

The effect was immediate. Carina gasped and fell back against the table, her back hitting the wood hard. Maya turned up the intensity of the vibrations, continuing her relentless movement, sliding inside, pushing against Carina’s tightening pelvic muscles. She clicked the vibrator again, increasing its speed, her mouth dropping open as she watched Carina arch off the table. She looked like a woman possessed, her back curved, her head pressed against the wood. Carina brought both of her legs up, locking them behind Maya’s back and her thigh muscles turned rigid as her voice grew louder and louder.

 

Maya could barely thrust anymore, Carina was holding her so tightly, but she tried, grinding again and again, until Carina unravelled before her. She cried out Maya’s name, she cried out, her body twitching as she thrashed. It looked like she was trying to crawl out of herself, as if her orgasm had overtaken every nerve and every molecule and every modicum of awareness left in her brain.

 

She was still gasping for air when Maya pushed down harder with the vibrator, forcing Carina’s eyes wide open.

 

“I…Maya I…I can’t…I…” Carina tried to speak, but was quickly cut off as her legs tensed again. She slapped her hands down hard on the table, her body nearly pushing Maya out with the intensity of its spasms.

 

She whined, turning her head to the side, the veins in her neck prominent, and she arched one more time before collapsing onto her back again, arms sprawled out at her sides.

 

“Stop,” she whispered in a voice made hoarse from yelling and Maya immediately moved the vibrator away from Carina’s body.

 

She turned it off and then pulled out slowly, swallowing her own moan as the dildo emerged soaked and dripping. Carina was sprawled on the table, her legs over the sides, and all Maya wanted to do was take care of her, to make sure she was okay, though she could tell from Carina’s blissed out expression that she was likely still flooded with oxytocin.

 

Maya stepped out of the harness and left it on the floor before carefully removing the butt plug, cooing as Carina flinched just a little.

 

“Come here,” Maya said, stepping between Carina’s legs. She leaned forward just enough to slip her hands under Carina’s arms and then gently helped her sit up. Carina draped herself over Maya’s body, a rag doll incapable of much more than sagging against Maya’s chest.

 

“Wrap your legs around me,” Maya instructed, and once Carina did, she carefully lifted her from the table, one arm around Carina’s back, the other beneath her ass. If Carina was aware of Maya carrying her, she didn’t show it.

 

Maya lowered her to the bed as carefully as she could and then crawled in beside her. She kissed her cheeks and her chest, she stroked her hand up and down Carina’s arms and her tummy. Carina turned onto her side, and Maya tucked her into a loose hug, kissing her hair, her chin, anywhere she could reach.

 

Per favore, potresti…”

 

Maya cupped Carina between her legs, smiling softly when Carina squeezed her thighs together, trapping Maya’s hand.

 

“Are you okay?” Maya asked, lightly kissing Carina’s lips. Carina’s eyes fluttered open, still hazy, still beautiful.

 

Sì. Sono buono. Sei tutto per me. Ti amo tanto. Tanto, Maya. Non andare. Non partire.”

 

Sometimes after intense orgasms, Carina temporarily forgot how to speak English and it always made Maya feel intensely smug. And while she was far from fluent, Carina’s words brought a soft smile to her lips.

 

A soft smile and a pang of concern.

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Maya vowed, “I’m not leaving. I love you too, Carina, tanto.”

 

Promettere.”

 

Maya kissed Carina’s forehead and sighed. “I promise.”

 

She waited for Carina to come back to herself. Waited as Carina snuggled against her, nuzzling her throat with a cold nose. Carina squeezed her thighs again, keeping Maya’s hand in place. Eventually she stretched and rolled onto her back, her eyes losing their punch-drunk gaze.

 

“Hi,” Maya laughed when Carina turned her face and looked at her.

 

Ciao, Bambina.”

 

Carina reached out, blindly patting Maya’s side when her palm hit a bruise, making Maya wince.

 

“Maya?” Carina pushed herself up, eyebrows knit together in concern. She forced Maya onto her stomach, which provided Carina a clear view of the angry, purple blotch just below Maya’s shoulder.

 

“I’m fine! I swear I’m fine,” Maya insisted.

 

“What happened?”

 

“You won’t believe me when I tell you.”

 

Carina raised one eyebrow, clearly unwilling to let it go so Maya sat up and tried to stifle her own laughter.

 

“I fell out of a tree,” she said. Carina looked even more confused.

 

“Why were you in a tree?”

 

“Because I was rescuing a cat.”

 

Confusion turned into a look of genuine worry and with wide eyes Carina reached out, settling her hand on Maya’s bicep.

 

“But is the cat okay?” She asked, trying her best to keep a serious expression on her face though Maya could see a smile trying to break through.

 

Maya gasped and pulled away.

 

“Seriously?” Maya couldn’t hold back her amusement anymore, especially when Carina broke too, and they both lay back, giggling, Maya’s bruise long forgotten.

 

Carina moved first, pushing herself off the bed and standing. She stretched again, her arms raised over her head and then looked over her shoulder, considering Maya intensely.

 

“Lie down,” she said and while her voice was casual, Maya knew better than to disobey.

 

Maya settled against the mattress, smirking when Carina walked to her bag and started digging through it.

 

“Did you pack any clothes or just sex stuff?” She asked.

 

Carina paused. “Would you like me to get dressed?”

 

“No. Definitely not.”

 

The view was exquisite. Maya would never tire of Carina’s body, of her long legs and graceful hands. She was perfect, beyond perfect, and Maya indulged in openly staring. She loved Carina’s prominent shoulder blades. She loved the swell of her breasts, the taste of her skin. She loved the shape of her hips and that ass…

 

Carina walked back to the bed, carrying four black scarves and a blindfold and Maya felt a nervous flutter in her stomach. She was already wet from grinding against Carina and the strap on had rubbed her in all the right ways.

 

They were both silent as Carina tied Maya’s wrist to the bedpost. She circled the bed and repeated the action, testing the knot, making sure Maya wouldn’t be able to free herself. Carina leaned over the bed and softly kissed Maya. It was sweet, a marked contrast to what Maya knew was likely ahead.

 

“Your ankles too?” Carina asked.

 

Maya felt herself fall in love with Carina all over again While they both enjoyed some light bondage, Carina knew that Maya sometimes liked to keep a modicum of control. Tying her legs meant that she’d be totally helpless, a feeling that Maya both craved and occasionally feared too. There was so much trust involved, and on days when Maya was feeling vulnerable, helplessness did little to alleviate her stress.

 

But Maya trusted Carina more than she’d ever trusted anyone in her life. And while having her legs tied down sometimes made her anxious, there were many days when she could think of nothing better than letting Carina have total control. Maya’s job was intense, the need for constant perfection left her mentally exhausted and letting Carina take charge, letting her make all the decisions, could be addictive.

 

And after the month they’d had…

 

Maya nodded, kissing Carina again, unable to keep a shy smile from her face.

 

Carina moved to the foot of the bed, tying one of Maya’s ankles to the bedpost and then the other, leaving Maya spread eagle and at her mercy. When she was done, she returned to the bedside table and picked up the final piece she needed. Without warning, she set a blindfold over Maya’s head, turning her world dark.

 

“Stay still, Maya,” Carina instructed, leaving Maya blind and bound.

 

Maya could hear Carina walking towards the washroom, she heard the door close and the sink come on. Part of her wished she could press her thighs together for some relief, but she was also anticipating Carina’s return, knowing her wife would take care of her.

 

The room was cold and Maya shivered, though whether from chill or from excitement, she couldn’t say.

 

She listened carefully, licking her lips when she realized the sink was no longer running. The door to the washroom opened again and once more, she could make out the sound of Carina’s feet on the carpet.

 

The sensation left her disorientated. She knew Carina was close, but she couldn’t pinpoint where. It wasn’t until she felt a fingertip against her stomach that she realized Carina was likely leaning over her.

 

The fingertip dragged along her skin, down to her hip bone and then across to the other. It was a light touch, barely a tickle, but Maya strained against her bindings, unable to kick her legs, but wanting to.

 

“Do you know what seeing you like this does to me?” Carina’s voice was somewhere above and Maya turned her face towards it.

 

“Tell me,” she whispered. Her request was met with a sharp pinch to her thigh. It made her hiss.

 

“Will you be good for me?”

 

Maya arched, marvelling at Carina’s power.

 

“Yes,” she managed, gasping when she felt teeth against her earlobe.

 

“You filled me up, Bambina, you like that, don’t you? You like to fill me up.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

Maya sensed that Carina had moved away again. She squirmed against the mattress, uncomfortably turned on.

 

The bed dipped near Maya’s hip and she braced herself, the knowledge that Carina was near, that Carina could do anything at anytime already had Maya sweating.

 

“Suck,” Carina said, pressing two fingers to Maya’s lips. She pushed them into Maya’s mouth and Maya instantly moaned when she realized the wet, sticky fingers tasted like Carina. She sucked greedily, cleaning Carina, trying not to come from the thought of Carina secretly fucking herself somewhere in the room.

 

When Carina pulled away, Maya cried out, so desperately wanting more.

 

Again, she sensed that Carina was no longer close. Again, she waited, her heart pounding. She licked her lips, and debated asking Carina to sit on her face, she so wanted another taste…

 

“You’re so pink, Tesoro, all of you così rosa.”

 

Something freezing and wet slipped between Maya’s breasts and she yelped, shocked by the temperature change. Carina dragged an ice cube down Maya’s torso, stopping just below her navel before moving it away.

 

The sensation returned, this time circling her areola, Maya felt the ice cube dripping down her breast and it was so cold, so wonderfully cold. It disappeared and when Carina’s hot mouth sucked her nipple Maya couldn’t keep the strangle-scream from slipping out.

 

The ice cube appeared again and again, smeared across Maya’s lips, tracing a line from one hip bone to the other, and when it touched the skin just above the trim patch of hair between Maya’s legs, she felt her pelvic muscles squeeze so tightly that it almost tipped her over the edge.

 

“Carina, please, I…please…” She barely knew what she was asking for, she just knew her entire body felt like it was about to tear apart.

 

Carina thumbed Maya’s nipple and then closed her hand over Maya’s breast, squeezing, and then the ice cube appeared again, this time on the inside of Maya’s thigh, one then the other, and Maya realized she was practically on the verge of tears in the best way.

 

“Carina,” she tried again, cut-off by Carina’s mouth, by Carina’s tongue.

 

“Are you a good girl, Maya?” Carina husked in Maya’s ear, continuing to inch the ice closer to Maya’s centre.

 

“Uh huh.”

 

The ice slid closer and closer, Maya bit her lip in anticipation, knowing any second she would…

 

Carina moved her hand away, and Maya whimpered when the ice slipped over her hip bone. She thrashed her legs as best she could, balling her hands into fists around the ropes, but she couldn’t move, she couldn’t do anything, and her pelvic muscles clenched again leaving her throbbing.

 

“You are so swollen, Bambina.” Carina’s voice came from the foot of the bed and Maya imagined what she must look like to her wife. Spread and open and a soaked mess.

 

“Carina…”

 

Ice reappeared on the inside of her thigh. Maya swallowed hard.

 

Again, she felt the frozen wet so close to where she needed it, to where she wanted it, she was almost certain Carina was almost touching her, so close…so close…

 

Without warning, Carina dragged the ice cube between Maya’s legs, a move so fast that Maya gasped and pulled at her restraints. When it happened a second time, Maya tipped her head back, struggling against her bindings, and then Carina’s mouth was on her clit, hot, warm, the pressure too much and…

 

Maya’s release tore through her body, a surge so hard that she tugged the scarves cutting into her wrists as she tried desperately to ride out her pleasure. She arched and rolled her hips, jerking, her throat raw as she called out for Carina whose tongue thrashed at her. Carina entered her hard with two fingers, moaning against Maya’s cunt, the vibrations only increasing Maya’s sensation and she pulled her arms again and again, her heels dragging on the bed, as her lungs gave out.

 

She clenched over and over, even as she calmed, even as the pleasure dissipated, her walls held Carina inside, squeezing rhythmically until she finally settled, her tense muscles suddenly jelly.

 

Maya sagged against the mattress, her ragged breathing the only sound she could hear. Carina pulled out gently and with one last kiss to Maya’s clit, she disappeared. In the aftermath, Maya no longer wanted to be tied, she no longer wanted the blindfold. She wanted to be covered, she wanted to curl her body around Carina’s.

 

Before she could say a word, Carina’s started undoing the scarves around Maya’s ankles. She freed them both and then walked to the head of the bed. When she removed the eye mask, Maya blinked heavily, adjusting to the lamplight in the room. She found herself staring up at Carina who looked down with so much affection that Maya’s blissed-out brain could only register beautiful and want and mine.

 

Carina got to work on Maya’s wrists, untying the scarves. Maya’s strength was gone and she let her arms drop, her shoulders sore from all the pulling.

 

Stai bene,” Carina cooed, taking one of Maya’s hands and rubbing her thumb against the red skin chaffed from the bindings. She lay down beside Maya, and Maya immediately curled up, bringing her knees to her chest, her back facing Carina’s front. Carina’s lips were soft against Maya’s shoulders and cheek, her hands even softer as they rubbed Maya’s arms and her wrists over and over.

 

Carina molded herself to Maya’s body, using the discarded blanket to create a little cocoon that made Maya hum in contentment. She let her body calm, she let her muscles release their tension, all the while giving in to Carina’s gentleness, her love.

 

When Maya finally felt herself able to move, she turned from her side and rested her head on the pillow. Carina lowered herself too and they lay there, staring at each other, Carina’s hands stroking Maya’s hair off her forehead, Maya’s fingers tracing patterns over Carina’s ribs, both a little overwhelmed by how big the feelings were, both understanding without any words needed.

 

“I missed you a stupid amount,” Maya confessed unsure how to articulate that she sometimes felt like she was drowning without Carina by her side. That she worried she relied too heavily on Carina to stay afloat.

 

Carina inched closer. “Mi ami?”

 

Do you love me?

 

Maya knew Carina was joking, she knew that Carina knew, but she’d never tire of saying it.

 

“More than anything,” Maya whispered taking Carina’s hand and squeezing it.

 

“I’m glad that they have been nice to you here,” Carina said. Maya could only nod and agree.

 

“It feels so weird to just…go to work…no politics.”

 

“Hmm. I’ve been so worried, Maya.”

 

Maya’s first instinct was to assure Carina that everything was fine. That she didn’t need to worry. But it wasn’t exactly true and Maya found herself thinking about what Dr. Lewis would say, what Dr. Lewis had said about how she’d feel if the positions were reversed, if it was Carina who was suffering.

 

With a deep breath, Maya decided that a little motel room in the middle of nowhere was as good a place as any to open up to her wife.

 

“If I tell you something, can you promise you won’t get scared?” She asked, knowing she was being vague.

 

Carina furrowed her brow. “I’ll try.”

 

“I used to think about dying a lot. When I was younger. Before I met you. Sometimes it still happens, but it’s not like I want to hurt myself. It’s not like that.” Maya wanted to assure Carina, especially when she could see her words were upsetting. Carina flinched, but stayed quiet, letting Maya continue.

 

“When I was a kid I used to fly all over the country for meets and I was so tired and so stressed…I’d look at the clouds and they seemed so peaceful. Like I could lie down in them and close my eyes and be gone. No more running. No more early mornings or diets. Just…nothing. And thinking about nothing helped me feel calm.”

 

Carina’s fingers traced the line of Maya’s collarbone. Her eyes were wide and a little teary, but Maya could see her trying to be supportive, to listen.

 

Maya swallowed hard and continued. “After we met, I didn’t think about them as much. I didn’t want nothing, I didn’t want to be gone. I wanted you. And thinking about you was so much better than thinking about clouds. But sometimes when things get really bad at work or if we have a fight…I still think about them. About dying. Dr. Lewis said I should tell you…I…I don’t want to hurt myself. I promise I don’t. But lately…I think about it a lot. Maybe too much, I don’t know. So, I imagine you, and being home. And I think about Jamie….”

 

Carina nodded, a stray tear cascading down her cheek.

 

“I don’t know what to do about my job. And I don’t know what to do about Jamie. But I do know that I want to make the right decisions for us. For all of us. I’m trying Carina, I know it may not seem like it, like all I think about is work and my career, but I am trying, I…”

 

Carina cut her off with a kiss, a desperate, breathless kiss that tasted like tears.

 

“I know you are, Bambina, I know,” Carina said, nuzzling her nose against Maya’s. She brought her hand up to Maya’s face.

 

“I don’t want to give you false hope, I don’t want to hurt you,” Maya said.

 

Carina blinked and more tears fell, but she managed a wobbly smile.

 

“Thank you for telling me about your clouds,” she said, her thumb tracing Maya’s cheekbone.  

 

“I’m sorry if I scared you.”

 

“You will tell me if it goes beyond just thinking, yes?”

 

Maya nodded. She knew from her brief sessions with Dr. Lewis that the second her thoughts moved from ideation to something more active, she needed to speak up. Carina exhaled and then cast her eyes down, deep in thought.

 

“Maya…about your job…” she began, but hesitated, clearly unsure if she should continue.

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t know how SFD works, but have you thought about speaking to a lawyer?”

 

The question surprised Maya. “No. I…what would I need a lawyer for?”

 

“They demoted you and then made you wait a year for a hearing. A hearing that was not official. Chief Ross is granting favours to Sullivan, who she’s also having sex with…I don’t know if there is a case, but it does not seem legal, Bambina.”

 

Maya pushed herself up, sitting against the headboard.

 

“I…what would that do to 19?” She asked out loud though the question was rhetorical. Carina sat up too, running her hand through her hair as she stretched out her legs.

 

“I don’t know. It’s up to you. Whatever you want, I’m here. I just hate what they’re doing to you. Every day they hurt you more…I know I can’t do anything, but it is so hard to watch, Tesoro.”

 

It still startled Maya that Carina cared as much as she did. That she was selfless, that she worried as if Maya’s pain was her own. And in many ways, it was. Just like Carina’s pain made Maya heartsick. The version of Maya that had spent so much of life alone, so much of life thinking that love was a distraction and a weakness, still existed in some tiny, imperceptible way. Maya was getting better and better at shutting those thoughts away, but the surprise at how wrong she had been still lingered.

 

“I need to think about it,” Maya said, puffing out her cheeks, her mind already racing ahead.

 

Carina kissed her shoulder and then her cheek. “Not tonight, Maya. Tonight it is just you and me and those big trees outside that make so much noise I will not sleep.”

 

Maya laughed, happy for a temporary reprieve from their tense conversation.

 

“Are you hungry?” She asked, remembering that there was an entire pie sitting on the dresser beside the TV.

 

Carina nodded and then started laughing herself when Maya sprang off the bed and grabbed the pink box and two forks she’d left beside it.

 

“What is this?” Carina asked, taking the box from Maya’s hands as Maya sat down again.

 

“It’s the best pie in the world.”

 

“The world?”

 

“Okay, I know it sounds crazy and I don’t know what’s going on out here in Castle Rock, but this pie…I don’t even understand how it exists,” Maya said, handing Carina a fork.

 

Carina looked doubtful, but obviously wanted to amuse Maya, so she opened the box and took a forkful, rolling her eyes before popping it in her mouth.

 

Maya watched the play of emotions across Carina’s face. Her doubt turned into shock, which then morphed into something between euphoria and an orgasm. When she swallowed, she looked down at the pie and then back at Maya’s face, the fork still in her hand, hovering in the air.

 

“How?” She marvelled, as if Maya had just showed her all the secrets of the universe.

 

“I don’t know. And…you are not going to believe me, but the coffee…”

 

No. Non è possibile.”

 

Maya took a forkful of pie and fell backwards, moaning at the taste.

 

“This is the second best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life,” Maya said, raising her head to catch Carina’s gaze. She wiggled her eyebrows and licked her lips, which made Carina point at her with one finger as if in warning.

 

Bambina. You are very bad. I like it.”

 

“I know you do.”

 

Carina finally placed her fork down and joined Maya on the bed, lying next to her.

 

“I am going to buy ten more of these tomorrow,” she said.

 

“That’s what you’re going to do while I’m at work tomorrow?” Maya reached for Carina’s hand and amused herself by playing with the numerous rings on her fingers. She liked spinning them, especially her wedding ring.

 

“Yes. But also, I booked a Big Foot Tour.”

 

Maya looked to see if Carina was joking, but her wife shrugged as if to say it’s true.

 

“God, I love you,” Maya laughed, shaking her head. Carina’s smile was so wide, so blinding, that Maya found herself smiling too.

 

They laughed and kissed and laughed some more, both relieved to be in each other’s company, both content to feel each other close by. Eventually, Maya started yawning and Carina followed, and they decided it was time to go to bed. Maya set the leftover pie on the table and Carina disappeared into the washroom with her toothbrush and soon enough, they were both back under the covers, Carina snuggled into Maya’s side.

 

“Hey,” Maya said softly, dragging her fingertips over Carina’s arm, “if we talk about some hypotheticals…I mean about Jamie…is that going to upset you?”

 

She was so anxious about giving Carina false hope. About hurting her. But Carina shook her head and pulled Maya closer.

 

“Public school or private school?” Maya asked, the room so dark that she could not make out the ceiling.

 

“Public. I went to Catholic school…I don’t want that for our bambina.”

 

“Agreed. No religion-based schools. How do you feel about organic baby food?”

 

Carina laughed against Maya’s shoulder. “We are too busy to make our own baby food. But healthy food? Yes. And cookies.”

 

“And cookies,” Maya nodded.

 

“Swimming lessons?” Carina mused, her nose brushing against Maya’s neck and Maya felt herself growing heavier and heavier.

 

“Mmm. Yeah,” she yawned, her eyes closing.

 

It was the exhaustion, the relief of seeing Carina again, the stress of the job, but what she said next she said without realizing it, without thinking it through.

 

“I want to bring her to the station and show her the truck. And the lights. Do you think they’ll hurt her eyes?” Maya asked, half-asleep, barely conscious of the fact that her question was not hypothetical, that it was not about a hypothetical child that they might hypothetically have.

 

It was about Jamie. It was specifically about Jamie.

 

She passed out before Carina could answer, guided towards rest by the image of Jamie in her arms, unaware that Carina lay awake beside her, hope and despair keeping her from sleep.

 

~*~

 

They held hands on the short walk to the station. Maya was struck by how relaxing it was, how different it was from their usual hectic mornings. She was distracted by Carina’s skinny jeans and white t-shirt. By the leather jacket undoubtably purchased in Milan and the aviators hiding her eyes. Even her Converse sneakers looked sexy.

 

Carina DeLuca was a miracle and Maya hated that she sometimes let herself forget it.

 

The conversation weaved in and around Jamie the entire time. Maya would ask a question and Carina would answer and neither pushed it further than that. They were respecting each other’s needs: Maya’s need for time, Carina’s need for Jamie.

 

“Church?” Maya asked, rounding the corner towards the station.

 

Carina swung their joined hands. “Mmmm. I don’t know. Maybe we can introduce them to lots of religions? Let them choose?”

 

Maya mulled that over and decided she liked the idea.

 

“What if they misbehave? Time out?” Maya didn’t know a lot about childcare, but the ghosts of her own childhood forced the question and she nervously awaited Carina’s answer.

 

. Though it depends on the sin, no?”

 

“My dad was big on manual labour. Especially for Mason.”

 

“Like cleaning or…”

 

“Yeah. Cleaning. I just got extra laps or a bucket of water to the head or no dinner,” Maya shrugged as she spoke, only realizing how awful it sounded when Carina stopped walking.

 

“We won’t be like that,” she said, “or like my dad. So much yelling. Always yelling. Andrea used to hide in my closet he was so scared.”

 

“Did he ever hit you?” Maya remembered a few times when she was especially young that Lane resorted to spanking. He’d stopped as soon as Maya showed a talent towards athletics. Her body became Lane’s greatest achievement – he wouldn’t lay a finger on her lest he damage the sacred vessel that would gain him glory.

 

Carina sighed heavily beside her. “Yes, it is maybe more common in Italy? But I could never. All it does is scare the child. It does not teach them anything, it is just about dominance and power.”

 

“And not in a fun way,” Maya said, stepping into Carina’s space and hugging her, trying to lighten the mood.

 

Carina lay her forearms over Maya’s shoulders and kissed the tip of her nose.

 

“Definitely not in the fun way,” she whispered, a knowing smirk on her lips.

 

“So, we reserve spanking for ourselves. Got it.”

 

Bambina…”

 

Maya winked and then pulled away, leading Carina towards the door of District Six. She barely walked inside before Carina was whisked away. First by Jennings and then by Jacobi who spotted the DeLuca-Bishops through the barn window and came racing towards the front desk.

 

By the time Maya changed into her uniform, she found her wife in the Beanery, sitting next to Jacobi’s grandmother, animatedly discussing basket weaving. Hawk and Truman seemed to be arguing about who got to prepare Carina’s coffee, and the whole scene made Maya feel warm inside.

 

She noticed that in addition to Jacobi’s grandmother, Truman’s wife was present. It almost appeared to be a family day at the station and when Captain Dale strolled in with her Maggie, Maya realized that apparently Saturdays were set-aside for spouses and partners to visit. Unlike Station 19, where half the people were dating each other and the other half were exes, District Six was positively cozy.

 

Carina laughed so easily, her charm radiating outwards so that everyone seemed caught in her smile. She was kind and dotting towards Jacobi’s grandmother, she enthusiastically joined Truman’s wife in the kitchen to help flip pancakes…

 

She just fit in. It didn’t matter that they were in a small town in the middle of a forest. It didn’t matter that Maya was coming off of a suspension and was basically exiled. Carina took it all in stride and Maya loved her desperately for it.

 

She was so caught up in watching her wife that she didn’t realize Captain Dale had approached until the older woman’s hand found her shoulder.

 

“Hold onto her, Bishop,” Dale said, “Don’t you dare let go.”

 

Maya felt her heart flutter, she felt some of her lost resolve return. Because even though she didn’t know what to do about Station 19, even though she felt lost when it came to Jamie, she was beginning to realize that she’d gone about everything all wrong.

 

Her ambition was commendable. Her desire to succeed was not a negative character trait. But her need to push everything else aside was not the way forward. Carina was. Their marriage. Their lives together. As long as Maya had Carina, as long as she had them, everything would be okay.

 

She wasn’t alone. And Carina wasn’t alone.

 

She no longer had to rely only on herself, on her own strength. Combined with Carina’s, she was stronger than she’d ever been. Through the fear and the unknowing, she held onto that knowledge.

 

She had Carina. And Carina had her. And if she could just keep focused on that fact, if she could just remember not to forget…

 

“Maya!” Carina’s shocked voice pulled Maya from her thoughts, and she looked up, finding her wife standing in the kitchen, holding a mug of coffee.

 

“Uh…yeah?”

 

Truman was laughing and so was Hawk as they watched Carina take another sip, her eyes wide in confusion.

 

“What is in this?” She asked the room, looking from one face to another.

 

“It’s the water,” Dale answered, gesturing towards the window, “something in the rain out here.”

 

“I heard it’s the trees,” Jennings said, “an old magic from the woods.”

 

Com’è possibile?” Carina wondered out loud, staring down the cup in her hand.

 

Maya took a seat at the table and poured herself a mug.

 

“Is it better than Italy?” She asked, biting her lip when Carina flashed an angry glance and held up her hand, stopping Maya from saying more.

 

Basta. Smettila di parlare ora prima che ti debba punire.”

 

Stop talking now before I have to punish you…

 

Maya blushed furiously, relieved the team didn’t speak Italian.

 

“What does that mean?” Packard ask from the end of the table, laughter in his voice.

 

Maya cleared her throat. “Uh…just that’s it’s probably in my best interest to never ask that question again.”

 

Amongst the loud chuckles, Maya caught Carina’s gaze one more time and she found her wife looking positively devious over the rim of her coffee cup. Despite Carina’s warning, Maya thought a little punishment may not be so terrible. She stood, casually sidling up to Carina behind the counter and when no one was looking, she leaned in to whisper in Carina’s ear.  

 

“Tonight?” she breathed, watching Carina swallow hard.

 

Questa sera. Domani. Per sempre.”

 

The words, the promise, filled Maya with longing and strength and happiness. Long after Carina left to go hunt Big Foot, longer after the klaxon pulled them away from breakfast, Maya silently repeated Carina’s answer, holding it to her chest like a security blanket.

 

Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever.

Chapter Text

Carina gazed out her windshield at Station 19 and felt her frown growing ever deeper. She reminded herself that she was an adult. That she had obligations regardless of what was happening in her marriage. That Jack and Ben were not to blame for Maya’s current situation.

 

But it still didn’t change the fact that she really, really did not want to go inside and help with the clinic.

 

It was already Wednesday, Maya would be home on Friday for their meeting with the social worker, and even though Carina had just seen her wife on Monday, the absence still stung. They were in the midst of something bigger than themselves and Maya was forced to stay away, exiled to the woods, although Carina took comfort in the fact that District Six had brought a smile back to Maya’s face.

 

She glanced at the passenger seat, eyeing the small stuffed bear she’d brought with her, wondering if she should jam it into her purse and take it inside the station. It was a silly thought, but her heart was hurting and even worse, her anger was clouding her judgment. She needed a clear head to work the clinic. Her patients deserved a clear head.

 

Carina took the bear from its seat and brought it to her nose, imaging she could smell Maya in its brown fur. She smiled at the memory of how she received the bear in the first place, smiling at the thought of her Maya, her tough, strong Maya who had blushed furiously in the moment.

 

“One more thing,” Maya said, picking up a bag from the motel room closet. Carina was half-way out the door, but paused as she waited for Maya to do a final check of drawers and the bathroom.

 

They’d decided that Maya would stay in the motel for the remaining two weeks of her assignment with District Six. She’d be home on weekends, but it was too exhausting to make the drive every day and Carina didn’t want Maya distracted at work.

 

But it was Saturday night and they were about to leave for Seattle. Maya had left her turnouts at the station and only packed a small overnight bag. She’d have to get a different room upon her return, but the motel happily gave her a reservation at a discount – firefighters never paid full price, they explained.

 

Carina eyed the plastic bag in Maya’s hand with curiosity. It appeared to be from a grocery store, but clearly contained no groceries.

 

“What’s that?” She asked, holding the door open.

 

Maya’s cheeks turned red and she bit her lip, shrugging a little in discomfort.

 

“I…uh…just some stuff for Jamie,” she said, scratching the back of her neck.

 

Carina’s held in a sigh, she held in the desire to sweep Maya into her arms and kiss her senseless. They were both being cautious with each other when it came to Jamie. Maya was terrified of hurting Carina and Carina was terrified of pushing Maya. But it was so hard not to take Maya by the shoulders and shake her because it was obvious how much she cared for the baby.

 

Instead, Carina stood by the door and tilted her head, trying to ease Maya’s embarrassment.

 

“More firefighter toys?” She laughed, extending her hand.

 

Maya shook her head and dug into the bag. She pulled out a stuffed Big Foot and smiled wide.

 

“Just so she knows that I’m in Big Foot country,” Maya explained. She tucked the plush toy under her arm and then reached into the bag again, retrieving a stuffed wolf.

 

“Un lupo?” Carina was beyond charmed, but again, she held in her desire to grab Maya and tear off her clothes.

 

“All the other preemies have a giant pile of stuff. I just thought…” she trailed off, shrugging and then put both toys back in the bag.

 

“She’ll love it, Bambina. She’s very well guarded now. A wolf and a Big Foot and a dinosaur.”

 

“And a firefighter teddy bear.”

 

“You’re very cute, Maya Bishop.”

 

“No, I’m not!” Maya took a step closer to the door, but paused as if trying to decide something. She reached into the bag one more time and pulled out a stuffed black bear.

 

“A bear too?” Carina was about to gently chide Maya for buying so much except Maya shook her head.

 

“Not for Jamie. For you,” she said.

 

“Me?”

 

“It’s how we met,” Maya held the bear up to her face and wiggled it.

 

Carina could no longer stand to stay away. She let the door close as she walked towards Maya and then draped her arms over Maya’s shoulders.

 

“Very cute,” she whispered kissing Maya’s forehead.

 

“Am not.”

 

Maya’s lips found Carina’s, silencing anymore protest.

 

Maya had spent most of her Sunday with Jamie, returning home in a pensive mood that left Carina wanting to ask an endless stream of questions. She chose to stay silent instead. They’d spent the next hours lost in each other, Maya’s hands so needy that Carina wished she could read Maya’s thought through her anxious fingers. She wished she could ease Maya’s worries with her body.

 

It was now Wednesday. Maya would be home on Friday. And all Carina had to do was survive a clinic day and a few more shifts at the hospital until she could be reunited with her wife.

 

Setting the bear down again, Carina gathered her purse and left her car, deciding that she didn’t want to bring a piece of Maya into the station. The station that had already taken so many pieces of Maya from them both.

 

She walked the short path from the parking lot to the front door, bracing herself for whatever the day would bring, but before she could get past the desk, Jack appeared in the lobby pacing back and forth.

 

His eyebrows rose at the sight of her, and he darted forward, taking her elbow.

 

“Come with me,” he said in barely a whisper, pulling her towards the stairs. Despite her reservations, she followed, looking around to see if anyone else had noticed Jack’s strange behaviour. He guided her towards the washrooms, peeking over his shoulder, then glancing down the hallway, to the point that Carina was about to pull her arm away and demand answers.

 

They stumbled through the door and before Carina could say a word, she realized they were not alone. Vic and Ben leaned against the sinks, their faces uncharacteristically serious. Jack locked the door and then exhaled.

 

“Have you heard from Maya this morning?” He asked.

 

Carina was overcome with a horrible sense of déjà vu.

 

“No, she’s on a 48-hour shift…why?”

 

Jack looked at Vic who crossed her arms and huffed, clearly anxious.

 

“Beckett has been fired,” she explained, though her serious expression let Carina know that the news was not good.

 

She turned to Ben who was equally somber.

 

“We got an email this morning,” he said, “Beckett is leaving 19. And we have a new captain. It’s Andy.”

 

Carina took in the information, nodding to herself.

 

Vic grimaced before she spoke again. “We also have a new Battalion Chief.”

 

“Sullivan,” Jack said, squinting.

 

Carina rubbed her forehead and then held up her hand, trying to pause any further discussion.

 

“Let me see if I understand this. Beckett is leaving and Andy is replacing him. But Sullivan has been promoted above Andy?” Carina turned to Jack, knowing that he’d been lieutenant the longest.

 

“Seems that way,” he said.

 

“And you all received an email this morning?”

 

“From Ross,” Vic said.

 

Carina pulled out her phone and immediately texted Maya.

 

Carina: You do not have to call. Just tell me you’re okay. If I don’t hear from you, I will call Captain Dale. Just a text.

 

She knew without a doubt that Maya had seen the email. And judging by Maya’s silence, she was upset. Carina’s worry flared because an upset Maya was a potentially reckless Maya. A Maya who would go on a three-hour run and end up hospitalized with heat stroke.

 

Carina glanced at Jack and then looked away. A reckless Maya could set her life on fire…

 

I used to think about dying a lot. When I was younger. Before I met you. Sometimes it still happens…

 

Carina swallowed hard and tried to keep her fears at bay. She tried to focus on Maya’s strength, on the fact that Maya was far from 19 with people who respected her. With a Captain who understood what it was to be a woman in a job that was still a boy’s club.

 

She tried to focus on the fact that the Maya who had run to Jack all those years ago was not the same woman who shared her bed, who insisted on wearing her wedding ring every second of every day. The same woman who loved her with a ferocity Carina had never experienced in her life.  

 

And if Maya wasn’t present to defend herself, Carina would do it for her. Carina would be her protector. She didn’t understand SFD’s bureaucracy. She didn’t know if Maya had any legal grounds to sue. But she was not going to stand by as Station 19 continued to destroy Maya’s dreams.

 

“You know they’re sleeping together, right?” Carina said, gesturing to the door. She was no longer interested in professionalism or keeping secrets.

 

Vic raised her eyebrows. “Andy and Sullivan?”

 

“No,” Carina shook her head, “Sullivan and Ross.”

 

Jack looked grim. He stared at Ben and then at Vic, whose mouth was open in shock.

 

“Carina, we can’t just…accuse them of something like that,” Jack said, obviously trying to be diplomatic.

 

“So they can hurt my wife every day? That’s fine?”

 

Ben squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. “This is a mess. What are we even supposed to do? Because if what you’re saying is true, Ross just promoted her boyfriend twice and gave Andy the captaincy to…keep her distracted?”

 

“Should I call Travis and Theo?” Vic raised her phone, but Jack shook his head.

 

“They’re on Aid Car. We can’t all be locked in the bathroom,” he grumbled.

 

“Why promote Andy and not you?” Carina asked Jack, trying to work out the complex puzzle of SFD’s chain of command.

 

Jack shoved his hands in his pockets, clearly uncomfortable. “I don’t think there was much discussion, to be honest.”

 

“Isn’t there a captaincy test? Maya studies from morning until night,” Carina thought of all the binders Maya carried with her, of all the evenings spent with her face hidden in stacks of paper.

 

“Yeah – but Andy took it years ago. Before Maya did. I guess the results are still valid?” Jack began pacing again. His nervous energy did little to calm Carina.

 

Carina stared at the door, suddenly feeling exhausted. There was a lot of information to take in, a lot to think about, and the more she thought about it, the more she understood what was happening. What had already happened.

 

“They’re burying her,” she whispered to herself, lowering her head.

 

“What do you mean?” Jack asked.

 

“She’ll never be promoted again. As long as Ross is Chief, Maya will never have the chance to be captain again. Ross will make sure of it. Maya has always said that Andy wanted the Captaincy more than anything. So now she has it. And she’ll have it until the day she retires. Whether Andy knows about Ross and Sullivan or not, they’ve bought her silence and they’ve blocked Maya’s career.”

 

An uneasy silence settled over the group. It was interrupted when Carina’s phone vibrated. She eagerly looked at the screen and exhaled when she saw the simple message.

 

Maya: <3

 

Carina pressed her hand to her chest and closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm. She wished Maya had called, she wanted to know every single thing Maya was feeling, but she knew her wife well enough to understand that Maya would talk in her own time. Not a minute before.

 

There were no more words. Carina had nothing left to say and it seemed that she was not alone in the feeling. Vic made her excuses and unlocked the door, likely on her way to contact Theo and Travis. Ben looked more troubled, which Carina understood because Benjamin Warren was a man with a strong sense of morals and even a whiff of unethical behaviour was enough to make him angry.

 

Jack was clearly upset too, but Jack had been a firefighter longer than Vic or Ben, he’d been a lieutenant for years, and he was a good soldier. He listened to the rules, he obeyed the chain of command. And he was clearly struggling with what to do next.

 

Eventually, they had to go set-up the clinic. They walked down the stairs to the barn in silence, and each step made Carina feel more and more nauseas. She felt herself torn in two – as a physician, working at Station 19’s clinic was an important part of her job. But as a wife…

 

She felt as if she was betraying Maya by even entering the building.

 

As she set up her station, she noticed Andy standing outside of the captain’s office. Even from a distance Carina could make out the double bars on her collars. Andy noticed Carina staring and tipped her head, raising her hand in a small wave. Carina returned the gesture, though she did not miss the firm set of Andy’s mouth.

 

Most of Station 19 believed that Maya had stepped over Andy to become Captain. They ignored the fact that Maya had passed her Captaincy test. That Sullivan made the recommendation. In their eyes, Andy was the rightful heir to 19 and Maya was a usurper. The nausea became more pronounced, as did the feeling that the walls were closing in.

 

It was eleven o’clock in the morning. The clinic ran until the mid-afternoon. Carina’s shift at the hospital began at five. She looked around the barn and saw Ben hard at work stacking gauze. Travis had returned at some point and was adjusting a gurney.

 

There were enough people to run the clinic without her. Leaving would not be neglecting her duties. And she firmly believed that if something didn’t feel good, it was okay to get up and walk away. For her own sanity, for her own health. For her Maya.

 

The nausea in her stomach forced her hand. She couldn’t stay. She couldn’t stand around and wonder if any of Maya’s colleagues would stand up for her should the time come. Would vouch for her. Carina hated feeling so suspicious, she liked Ben and Vic and Jack and Travis and Theo. She liked Andy.

 

But had any of them ever supported Maya? Had anyone sent her a text to check in? Did anyone see her pain? Did they care?

 

They still joked that she’d skipped Andy in line, as if the captaincy of Station 19 was a monarchy and Maya a Shakespearean, back-stabbing villain.

 

Carina picked up her jacket from a chair and slipped her purse over her shoulder. She left without telling Warren or Travis. She just needed some air.

 

She found Jack near the front door about to open the clinic for the public.

 

“I have to leave,” Carina said, holding back all the venom bubbling inside.

 

“Carina…”

 

“They are going to get her killed, Jack. They are going to take my wife from me and I won’t allow it. I won’t.”

 

Jack knew better than anyone how dangerous the job could be. He understood that distraction lead to higher risk, that stress could be deadly. Ross had already sent Maya away once, what was to stop her from purposefully placing her in harm’s way? Of forcing her to obey incompetent leaders like Beckett?

 

Between Maya’s anger and the department’s obvious dislike for her wife, Carina felt more and more like Maya was one wrong call away from a horrific accident. She could feel her thoughts spiralling, images of Maya alone, abandoned by her team, trapped…

 

She brushed past Jack, her heart beating too quickly as she nearly ran to her car. It was only when she was sitting behind the wheel, the door firmly closed, that she felt like she could breathe again. That her mind slowed. That she felt her focus return.

 

Carina picked up the stuffed bear she’d left on the seat and raised it to her nose, once again trying to imagine she could smell Maya. Trying to imagine that Maya was safe wherever she was, that she wasn’t about to do something reckless.

 

I used to think about dying a lot. When I was younger. Before I met you. Sometimes it still happens,,,

 

~*~

“One more, Elizabeth, just one more…”

 

Carina managed to drown out the cries of her patient as she prepped to deliver a healthy baby boy. She squeezed the woman’s leg, but otherwise stayed focus, the cries of I can’t! and the husband’s assurance of you’re doing great nothing more than white noise to Carina. She heard it multiple times a day. She’d heard it endlessly in her career. And while she took each delivery seriously, she was fairly certain that she could deliver babies in her sleep if necessary.

 

Her father dismissed her work as easy. As unnecessary. But Carina knew he was wrong. Every baby she brought into the world mattered. Every pap smear. Every hysterectomy. Every sexual assault kit. Each and every one mattered.

 

She felt herself on autopilot as she provided reassurance, as she gently gave instructions, and then she leaned forward, her hands the first to touch a precious new life. It was hard not to smile every time, especially when the baby was healthy. She stood, the screaming infant wriggling in her arms, showing his parents that he was healthy and whole.

 

It was an uplifting moment in a day that was far from uplifting.

 

Long after the delivery was over, Carina remained loitering behind the nurse’s station, procrastinating over a chart because she didn’t want to go back to her office. Her office was quiet and the quiet forced her to think and her thoughts were confused and unpleasant.

 

She had two mammas in the early stages of labour, but otherwise, there were no more patients to see. As an attending and department head, she was within her rights to go home. Jo Wilson could handle her cases. But again, home meant lying in an empty bed, longing for her wife, worrying endlessly.

 

Before she even gave herself a moment to think about it, Carina placed down her tablet and started walking towards the NICU. Jamie had become her beacon of calm and she’d been longing to see her baby for the better part of the day.

 

Her baby…

 

Her patients often asked if she was a parent and she always answered no with a smile. But the answer now caught in her throat because she was not a parent, but every delivery, every happy family she saw, made her need to hold Jamie almost unbearable.

 

She had a baby. It just wasn’t hers.

 

It was long after visiting hours were over by the time Carina stepped into the NICU, which meant that Carina had the room to herself. The nurses mostly left her alone, unless Jamie needed a bottle or meds, so Carina never worried about interruptions or other parents staring at her curiously, wondering what the doctor in scrubs was doing cooing at a preemie.

 

Jamie’s little plastic bin was now surrounded by stuffed animals, each one provided by Maya. While Jamie was still too small and too young to show any favoritism, Carina liked to hold up the different creatures and see how Jamie would react. So far, she seemed especially fascinated by the T-Rex.

 

Carina frowned as she looked down at the baby, realizing that she was swaddled in a blanket instead of lying in just her diaper as usual. When she picked up Jamie, she found her shaking just a little.

 

“What is wrong, Picollina?” Carina asked, holding Jamie close to her chest. She flipped open Jamie’s chart, scanning the pages for any updates about Jamie’s PAD. Cormac had started her on a new course of antibiotics and ibuprofen, but Jamie was obviously cold, a sign of circulation troubles. Carina finally sat down and cradled Jamie in her arms.

 

The baby was fussy, she looked miserable, and Carina could barely stand it.

 

“Everyone is sad, Jamie,” she said, coasting her lips over Jamie’s forehead, “my Maya is sad and my Jamie is sad.”

 

Jamie continued to struggle, so Carina loosened the blankets, releasing Jamie’s arms. The baby immediately latched onto Carina’s scrub top with one hand. It felt like she was asking Carina for help, as if she wanted Carina to make everything better.

 

Rocking back and forth in her chair, Carina forced herself to stay in the present, to stay focused on Jamie. She kissed Jamie’s cheeks and held her hand, worried to find it so cold. With the IV, the sensors, and the nasal canula, Jamie was still so fragile and the sight of her made Carina feel helpless.

 

Between Maya’s job and Jamie’s health, Carina felt helpless constantly. She hated it.

 

But she also wasn’t one to wallow. If there was a problem, she wanted to fix it. She didn’t want to sit passively by, waiting for a solution. She wanted to do the work and get results.

 

She began with Jamie.

 

Cormac Hayes was an exceptional physician and he was more than capable of monitoring Jamie’s PAD and making decisions about her care. Carina decided to shelve that particular worry and instead concentrated on how much weight Jamie had gained since birth, on all the progress she’d made. The baby in her arms was far different from the preemie she’d pulled from a dying woman in the basement of a burning building.

 

Hayes had the situation under control, which meant that Carina could temporary shelve her concerns and move to the next problem on her list.

 

She let her mind shift to Maya.

 

Inspired by the thought of her wife, Carina reached out and grabbed the stuffed T-Rex, holding it up to see how Jamie would react. Sure enough, Jamie released Carina’s scrub top and set her impossibly small fingers on the T-Rex’s green head.

 

“Do you miss Maya, mia piccola amore?” She asked, watching as Jamie opened and closed her hand against the dinosaur.

 

Maya needed help. Not psychiatric help, though that wouldn’t hurt. Carina was proud that Maya had reached out to Dr. Lewis and she planned to encourage more sessions between them. But Maya needed career help. She needed advice from a trusted source. And a big part of the problem was: who could Maya trust?

 

Maya’s colleagues at Station 19 were still reeling from the day’s news and Carina couldn’t be sure who was an ally and who was a foe. She knew her friends at Grey-Sloan would try to be supportive, but they couldn’t understand the intricacies of SFD or the politics involved.

 

The realization gave Carina pause. Because there was someone at Grey-Sloan who might understand. Someone who could possibly set her on the right path.

 

Knowing she had a way forward, knowing there was a next step, finally calmed Carina’s racing thoughts. She glanced at the clock on the wall and exhaled. A few more minutes with Jamie and then it was time to get to work.

 

~*~

 

The light in Bailey’s office was on despite the late hour. Carina knocked and waited until she heard Bailey say “come in!”

 

She took a deep breath and entered.

 

Bailey looked up from her laptop and smiled at the sight of Carina. While the two rarely worked together, they very much respected each other professionally. Still, Miranda Bailey was an intimidating presence and Carina always found herself a little nervous around her.

 

“Dr. DeLuca, we’re going over the budget tomorrow, I should have an update on the new ultrasound equipment by end of the week,” Bailey said as Carina took a seat across from her desk.

 

Carina nodded once, but decided to get straight to the point.

 

“Thank you, Dr. Bailey, but I’m not here as a physician,” she said.

 

Bailey furrowed her brow.

 

“You are married to a firefighter,” Carina explained, “and I am married to a firefighter.”

 

“Ah, yes. Fools the two of us,” Bailey laughed, and Carina couldn’t help but join in.

 

“It’s the arms.” Carina pointed to her own bicep.

 

Bailey shook her head. “Those damn arms.”

 

“I’m sure Warren has filled you in on Maya’s demotion?”

 

Bailey had been at their wedding. She’d seen the fallout firsthand. Carina also knew that Miranda Bailey was likely aware of everything, everywhere, like some omniscient, omnipresent tiny deity.

 

“The demotion. That Beckett character. I thought we had drama over here,” Bailey said, gesturing to the window.

 

“Have you spoken to him today?”

“About that email?”

 

“Yes,” Carina sighed, relieved she didn’t need to repeat every detail.

 

Bailey considered Carina for a moment and then tilted her head, clearly recognizing the stress on Carina’s face.

 

“How is Maya doing in all of this?” she asked.

 

Carina realized for the first time that she’d never had the chance to talk about what it was to love a firefighter. Other than her brief chat with Emmett, Carina kept her fears and frustrations to herself. How could anyone else possibly understand the terror and the pride and how it all tangled together?

 

But Miranda Bailey understood exactly what she was talking about. It was like a weight lifted from Carina’s shoulders.

 

“Bad. She’s…well, she’s currently away, in another county because Chief Ross apparently hates my wife,” Carina said.

 

“Benjamin said they made her wait an entire year for her hearing.”

 

“Hearing?” Carina shook her head, the anger rising, “there was no hearing. Chief Ross pulled her aside in the barn and called her insubordinate. That’s why I’m here. I need some advice. Because no one else can possibly understand this…”

 

Bailey leaned forward in her chair, resting her elbows on the desk.

 

“How can I help, Carina?”

 

“Chief Ross and Robert Sullivan are sleeping together. She seems to be granting him favours and, in the meantime, she’s destroying Maya’s career. She…she blamed her for Andrea’s death…”

 

Saying it out loud was surprisingly painful. Carina felt the grief rise up and it shocked her how quickly it could surface, how suddenly it slithered around her lungs and filled her with aching, frigid, sadness.

 

Carina could see the shock on Bailey’s face too.

 

“What would you do if it was Warren?” Carina asked, “If he was being treated like this? I don’t know the legalities, I don’t even know if there’s anything that can be done, but what would you do? Because I’m afraid I’m going to lose my wife, Miranda. Maybe I’m over-reacting or exaggerating…but it doesn’t feel like I am. You know how dangerous it is for them – and if Maya is ordered to do something or if the team doesn’t have her back…”

 

Bailey stood up and circled the desk. She perched against it, settling in front of Carina, and then reached out her hand to squeeze Carina’s shoulder.

 

“If it was Benjamin? I would move heaven and earth to keep him safe. When he became a firefighter I was so terrified that I made him move out of the house. The fear was so much that even looking at him made me feel like I was going to come apart,” Bailey said.

 

Carina hid her surprise at the confession.

 

Bailey continued speaking, her voice strong with resolve. “I’d start with HR. Get some information. It’s Maya’s choice, of course, but this is putting the entire station in danger. It sounds like Chief Ross has made this personal, and I don’t know the woman obviously, but bringing your family into this?”

 

Bailey pursed her lips and shook her head.

 

It felt good to have someone affirm her feelings. It felt good to know that wasn’t completely off base with her worries.

 

“Maya is afraid that this will destroy the station. She’s always put 19 first, even when they didn’t deserve to be first,” Carina said.

 

She would never forget the day Maya cried in her arms, the day she repeated I’m the truck over and over.

 

It was the day Carina had realized that she was falling in love with Maya Bishop. And it was also the first time Carina had seen how painful Maya found her team’s dejection.

 

“Benjamin isn’t home until tomorrow morning, but I’m going to speak with him, get his view on things. But if I know my husband, if something isn’t legal? He’ll be up in arms,” Bailey said.

 

Carina was touched by her kindness, by her allyship.

 

She glanced at the clock on the wall and frowned, knowing she had to go home to an empty bed. All she wanted was Maya.

 

“Thank you, Miranda. It’s hard to know who to trust.”

 

“Hmm. We did this to ourselves, you know? Why couldn’t we fall in love with some dermatologists? Had to be firefighters,” Bailey wondered aloud.

 

Carina laughed. “It’s the arms.”

 

“Those damn arms!”

 

A dark apartment awaited. Carina knew that talking to Bailey was only a small step down the road to helping Maya. But she felt better knowing that at least she was on the road, that at least she’d made some movement. She felt clearer, some of her confusion replaced with resolve because Miranda Bailey was a wise woman and Benjamin Warren was a decent man. She was relieved to have them in her corner.

 

What happened next would be Maya’s decision.

 

Chapter Text

Maya double checked her gear, methodically digging through the backpack she’d borrowed from Captain Dale.

 

Four litres of water. Bags of trail mix. Protein bars. Bananas and apples.

 

Waterproof jacket. Waterproof gaiters. First aid kit. Extra socks. Extra long-sleeve shirts. Baseball hat.

 

She zipped up the bag and swung it over her shoulder, clicking the buckles in front of her chest and her stomach.

 

The mountain loomed before her, its peaks still covered in snow, and Maya tried to mentally prepare herself for the hours ahead. She slipped on her gloves and a warm hat. Her hiking boots were well-worn and wouldn’t hurt her feet on the way up. She’d made sure to avoid cotton lest sweat and snow turn it damp – the last thing she needed was hypothermia.

 

With her trekking poles in hand, Maya stretched her legs one more time and then started to walk.

 

The trees were imposing, closing in on the path around her as she dutifully set one foot in front of the other. It was a well-worn trail, though Maya knew the true challenge lay ahead. In the meantime, there were birds and leaves and the smell of sod and stone.

 

With each step, Maya tried to concentrate on the world around her. On the greenery and the beauty. But with each step, the realities of her life screamed louder and louder until it was all she could think about.

 

Andy was captain and Sullivan was chief.

 

A door had very firmly closed behind her. Maya felt as lost as she ever had and even worse, she felt small. Maya Bishop never felt small.

 

Which wasn’t exactly true. Though it took her years to recognize, her father had made her small too. His punishments, his judgment, they forced her into a tiny box until the box felt like reality, until she couldn’t see how small and confining it truly was.

 

Sometimes Maya wondered who she would’ve been without the box. Certainly not an Olympian. Likely not a firefighter. But maybe she would have been a kind person? The type of person people liked? The type of person who cared about things like that.

 

Rocky outcrops punctuated the forest floor and Maya began to feel the slight burn in her calves as the trail rose up before her. The climb would take hours, Maya was counting on it, and each step away from civilization fueled her forward.

 

She hadn’t told Carina that she was going to climb the mountain. She’d told Captain Dale and she’d checked in with the park office, letting them know her plan. It wasn’t that she was being reckless or irresponsible, but talking to Carina meant talking about her feelings and climbing an inactive volcano felt like a better use of her time.

 

Maya paused for water, stepping off the path to catch her breath. Her thoughts drifted to Andy, to the complexity of their relationship. If they still even had a relationship.

 

It wasn’t that Andy didn’t deserve the captaincy. She did. But Maya was made to fight tooth and nail for a modicum of respect because everyone else felt that 19 belonged to Andy. That Andy had earned 19 just because she was Captain Herrera’s daughter.

 

The surrounding woods made her think of their ill-fated camping trip. How Andy had mocked her, ignored her, treated her like dirt. And maybe Maya had earned some of that. Maybe she’d earned a lot of it. But it didn’t stop the hurt from pressing in or the loneliness.

 

The memory brought with it something pleasant too. Because she’d carried all the hurt and loneliness into a bar the very same night and the universe had smiled down upon her. For once, it had smiled.

 

An hour passed by and then two. Maya could sense the air thinning as her shoes hit snow. She breathed in deeply, pushing herself ahead, ignoring the few fellow-hikers she met along the way.

 

Some small part of her wanted to run. She let herself imagine getting in her car and driving. Leaving. She’d be free. She wouldn’t have to live day in and day out with the agonizing questions beating at her head. She could close her eyes and drift away. It would be easy.

 

It would be the hardest thing she’d ever done.

 

She veered left down the path, watching the trees thin all around her. Her toes were cold and the tip of her nose was numb, but she knew to expect it. The air was damp all around her, damp and frigid, and for a moment Maya wanted to sit down in the middle of the trail and stop.

 

She’d lived with anger for so long. She didn’t know what it was to live without it. But her week at District Six had opened her eyes to the fact that maybe anger wasn’t part of the job. She’d been fighting for her entire adult life. At the academy to prove herself amongst the men. At the station to advance despite endless pushback from Andy and her team. She’d sacrificed her personal life, she’d sacrificed her happiness, she’d sacrificed Carina’s happiness…

 

Something about Carina was causing Maya’s brain to put up walls. It was as if thinking about her wife would still her legs or hurt her back. She kept pushing away the image of Carina’s eyes, her smile, her love.

 

Just get to the top, just get to the top

 

Maya huffed as she moved, paying attention to her breathing, forcing herself to keep going despite the burn in her calves. She cleared her mind of everything but the steps ahead, taking small pleasure in the feel of snow beneath her shoes.

 

Another hour passed and then another, each one hurt more, each one was more rewarding. An old wooden sign with an arrow pointing right read Summit Rim and Maya grit her teeth in a harsh smile.

 

She paused, realizing she was standing in the rim of a volcano. The ground was still covered in snow, but beneath it black rock served as a reminder that at one time, the area had been swirling with lava.

 

An old memory surfaced, a memory from childhood of Mason and couch cushions and jumping from one to another while Lane was away on a business trip. She closed her eyes, remembering the laughter, remembering how Mason had tried to push her off the safety of the pillows and she’d pushed back, laughing and laughing, high on their rare chance to play together, to be children.

 

The path veered upward, and Maya knew she was almost there, almost where she needed to be. With the echoes of her brother’s laughter in her ears, she carried on, the air cold and still around her. She moved in silence, her heart pounding steadily, a drumbeat to guide her.

 

And then she reached the summit. The highest point. She stood on the rocky outcrop and the realization that she had done it, that she had climbed the mountain flooded her with wonder.

 

She could see everything. Mount Rainier in the distance. Valleys and lakes. She could see the world in a way she never had before, not even when she’d trekked to base camp at Mount Everest.

 

For one startling moment Maya realized that she was in the clouds. That she’d made it. She was finally in her clouds and tears poured down her cheeks as all the pain and happiness mingled together to freeze against her skin.

 

In the clouds her mind cleared, the knot that was her heart untangled. She understood so much, she could see…

 

She wanted Carina with her. She wanted Carina. All she wanted was Carina.

 

Andy was captain and Sullivan was Battalion Chief and that way was closed to her. But it was not the only way. It was not the only path.

 

She stood above the world and knew for the first time in months, in years, exactly what she should do.

 

Maya laughed, she laughed like she’d laughed with Mason, she laughed until her belly hurt, until she could barely breathe. She’d spent her whole life dreaming about the clouds. Seeking them. And now they were here and she was free.

 

With one final glance at the horizon, she turned around and set back down the trail.

 

There was somewhere she had to be.

 

~*~

 

Rain thrashed against the windows, the sound so loud that Carina flinched with each rumble of thunder. She stood in the kitchen watching the deluge, the minutes feeling longer and longer as she nursed a glass of wine and tried to once again, calm her racing thoughts.

 

She hadn’t heard from Maya since the day before and while she knew that it was important to trust her wife, part of her was expecting a call from Castle Rock telling her that Maya was hurt or missing or worse.

 

Lightning flashed across the sky, burning Carina’s eyes, and she turned away, the damp chill in the air doing little to provide comfort. She hoped Jamie was sleeping, that the sound and the lights weren’t keeping her awake.

 

A particularly loud clap of thunder shook the walls and the apartment was suddenly cast in darkness. Carina startled in surprise and returned to the window, only to see that the entire neighbourhood was apparently without power.

 

Italy did not experience rain like Seattle. It still shocked her sometimes, the absolute flood from the sky. She shivered and sipped her wine, wishing it would warm her, but ultimately, she knew it wouldn’t be enough.

 

Carina carefully crossed the room until she stood before the fireplace. Maya was much better at putting the logs in properly, but Carina set down her glass on the mantle and got to work, piling a few logs against each other. She found matches nearby and lit one, hoping the fire would take. After three attempts it did, and the sudden orange flame made her feel a little less alone.

 

She got to work setting up candles – a few on the mantle, some on the kitchen table. There was no point in covering the entire apartment, but at least she could keep one room warm and bright. She wondered if it would be best to sleep on the couch near the fire – their bedroom would grow cold soon enough without heat and without Maya, the bed was cold anyways.

 

Carina picked up her glass again and finished it, eyeing the bottle she’d left in the kitchen. It took the edge off, it made her feel a little less afraid for Maya. But she didn’t want to wallow in the dark, the wine a crutch to help her forget. Instead she stood by the fireplace, watching the flames, entranced by the shifting oranges and yellows and blue. She braced one hand against the mantel, ignoring the picture of Andy, Vic, and Maya, ignoring everything but the candlelight around her and the sound of the rain.

 

Thunder sounded again, so loud that the framed picture next to Carina’s hand fell over. She was about to fix it when the front door swung open, smashing against the opposite wall, scaring her so badly that she jumped and yelped, at first unable to distinguish the dark figure standing in the hallway.

 

The dark figure soon made itself known as Maya stepped into the light. She was soaking wet, her jeans and flannel shirt plastered to her body. Her hair was held back in a ponytail, but she looked as if she’d just stepped out of a shower, drenched to the bone and shaking.

 

“Maya?” Carina stuttered, her voice wavering in fear.

 

Maya quickly closed and locked the door behind her before moving further into the room. Her sneakers squelched as she walked and the closer she came, the more Carina realized how determined she seemed to be, as if Carina was her finish line and she’d been running all day.

 

Maya’s eyes were so wide and she was breathing strangely and…

 

“I want to adopt Jamie,” Maya said, staring at Carina with an intensity that was nearly uncomfortable.

 

“What?”

 

“I want to adopt Jamie. Right now. I want to sign the papers and bring her home.”

 

Carina set her glass down and crossed into Maya’s space.

 

“You’re freezing, Bambina, come here,” she said softly, terrified that Maya was manic.

 

Maya shook her head and pulled away.

 

“I want to adopt Jamie,” she insisted, her hands finding Carina’s face, “I was so afraid, I was so…I was so stupid, Carina. But you were right. She’s ours. She’s been ours since the first moment we saw her.”

 

“Maya don’t say these things.”

 

“Why?” Maya’s fingers were like ice against Carina’s cheeks.

 

“Because you don’t mean them. You’re…upset and you can’t make decisions like this when you’re upset.”

 

Maya shook her head again, spraying water from her hair as she moved.

 

“I’m not upset. I promise you, Carina, I swear. It’s like…it’s like the lights are on again and I know exactly what I want. I can see it so clearly.”

 

Carina wasn’t sure what to make of Maya’s strange words, but she had to admit that upon closer inspection, Maya didn’t seem to be in overly emotional or frazzled. She was soaking wet, shaking from cold, but her eyes were clear and her grip on Carina’s face unyielding.

 

“I’ve felt like this exactly three times in my life,” Maya whispered, obviously needing Carina to understand, “the seconds before I knew I was about to win gold. And…and the day I cut my hair, the day I realized that I was in love with you, that I couldn’t live without you. And the day you asked me to marry you. I knew so clearly, I saw everything, and Carina…please, please Carina, I want us to adopt Jamie.”

 

Carina felt dizzy. She felt winded. She curled her hands around Maya’s wrists and searched her wife’s face, trying to understand what was happening.

 

“You’re upset,” Carina tried again, “about Andy and Sullivan…”

 

“No. I mean, yes, I’m upset, but it doesn’t matter. Not compared to this. To us. I can figure out work, I can move stations or talk to a lawyer, but there’s not another Jamie. And there’s not another you. Please Carina…”

 

Carina wanted to believe. She wanted to give in. But they’d spent months, over a year in agony over Maya’s demotion. And now suddenly Maya was saying it didn’t matter?

 

“Maya, please don’t say this if you don’t mean it. Please. I can’t…” she felt herself tear up, emotion stealing her words, “please don’t do this if you don’t mean it, Maya, please…”

 

Maya pulled Carina into a tight hug, her wet clothes soaking Carina’s t-shirt.

 

“I mean it. I mean every word. You’re the best thing in my life, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I want us to bring our baby home.”

 

Carina held back a sob, she swallowed it down, she let Maya hold her as the gravity of what was happening surrounded them both. Maya’s hands returned to Carina’s face and then they were kissing, Maya’s lips hungry against her mouth. Carina kissed her back, tangling her fingers in Maya’s damp hair, needing to bring her closer and closer.

 

Maya’s tongue was hot against Carina’s, so hot that Carina opened her mouth, letting Maya in, moaning at the feel of being so close, moaning as Maya licked and bit her lips.

 

“Come here, Bambina,” Carina whispered, grabbing the collar of Maya’s shirt so she could guide them both backwards, closer to the fireplace. Maya was relentless, unwilling to let go of Carina for a second, her teeth scrapping against the sensitive skin of Carina’s neck. She nibbled and for once Carina didn’t worry about marks, she wanted the world to see that she was Maya’s, that Maya had claimed her.

 

Maya moved to kiss her again, even as her hands found the hem of Carina’s t-shirt and tugged upwards. They only broke apart so Maya could toss Carina’s shirt on the floor and then her hands were coasting up Carina’s torso, pressing and needy. She reached behind Carina’s back, unhooking her bra, never pausing as she brought her hands to Carina’s front again, whining at the sight of her so exposed. Maya dipped her head down, licking one nipple, circling her mouth around it, and as she sucked Carina gasped, overwhelmed by how quickly Maya was moving, by how intensely needy and desperate it all felt.

 

Maya released Carina’s nipple and stood up, panting, through Carina could hear her teeth chattering from cold.

 

“Take off your clothes,” Maya said, her hands already thumbing the button of Carina’s jeans, “I need to feel you.”

 

“You first,” Carina breathed against Maya’s mouth, already unbuttoning Maya’s shirt. She pushed the wet flannel over Maya’s shoulders, worried to find Maya’s skin so cool and clammy from the rain.

 

Maya’s jeans were more difficult to remove, but with Carina’s help, they were on the floor soon too. As they stripped each other, the world felt dark and small, it felt like their’s and their’s alone. Carina wanted only to cover Maya, to keep her warm, so she took her hand, encouraging her to lay down by the fire.

 

The floor was hard, but the throw carpet they’d bought months before provided enough cushion that Carina lay back comfortably, watching Maya who sunk to her knees beside her. She leaned down to kiss Carina, to return to her breasts, to place one hand on either side of Carina’s shoulders and loom over her, all pale and shaking and hers.

 

Maya’s body was a study in contrast. She was muscular and fit, but soft too. Maya’s body fascinated her, it moved her, she loved it more than she’d ever loved anything in her life. Carina had never before experienced such constant want.

 

As a doctor, she’d seen countless bodies. As someone who loved sex, she’d seen countless more. But Maya stopped her in her tracks. She craved her, she fantasized about her, even after years of marriage, Carina found herself slack-jawed and hungry for the pale lines of her wife. She loved Maya’s strong shoulders and muscled thighs, she loved her ass and her breasts, how her wife was athletic and strong and under all the turnouts and gear she was soft and full.

 

Carina snuck her hand between them, palming Maya’s breast, moaning at the weight of it, the perfect, smooth weight of it.

 

Vieni qui, amore mio,” Carina said, stroking her fingers up and down Maya’s sides, bending her legs at the knees and letting them fall open, offering herself to Maya, needing her closer.

 

Maya raised herself up just enough to adjust her position, moving to rest between Carina’s spread legs. She settled on top of Carina, her hips brushing Carina’s thighs, her breasts against Carina’s, so close that Carina felt a wave of safety and warmth ignite in her chest. She fit, Maya fit Carina’s body as if they had been forged by the same star, as if they were always meant to find each other, as if nothing could ever separate them.

 

They both sighed at the intimacy the position afforded them, sighed and then moaned when Maya moved again, aligning their bodies. When Maya rolled her hips, Carina gasped, overwhelmed by the sensation of Maya’s clit so swollen against her own.

 

She let Maya set the pace, slow and hard, each thrust wetter than the one before. It was so hot between them, so close, that Carina felt herself blushing, even as she opened her legs more, wanting every inch of Maya. The friction and Maya’s moving hips and the streaks of wetness Maya left against her made Carina’s breathing go ragged. She held onto Maya’s shoulders and then reached down, molding her hands to Maya’s ass, as those strong thighs brushed against hers.

 

The warmth of the fire and the heat of Maya’s body was nearly too much. Carina felt sweat gather at her temples, she could see it across Maya’s brow. She arched, forcing herself closer to Maya, as if they were the same body, as if there was no end and no beginning.

 

Maya kept her rhythm, kissing Carina as she continued to thrust against her, kissing her even as they both gasped for air.

 

“I love you,” Maya whispered against Carina’s ear before rearing up so she could look down, so she could watch Carina.

 

Carina could feel pressure building low in her abdomen, she could barely hold on, she could barely catch her breath. Maya moaned, the veins in her neck straining as she too tried to keep going, but the feel of how wet Maya was against her, the knowledge that Maya was cumming against her, on her, in her…

 

In the shelter of Maya’s body, Carina unravelled. She whined, turning her face, welcoming the white light that eviscerated all other awareness. She was floating and Maya was with her and her body throbbed and spasmed as Maya brought her to bliss. She was barely aware of her hands on Maya’s back, she was barely aware of Maya moaning her name in reverence.

 

All she knew was that she was safe. That she was with Maya. That she was home.

 

When she finally opened her eyes, she found Maya still on top of her, though she could not tell if Maya’s red cheeks were from exertion or the heat of the fire or from blushing.

 

They were no strangers to intimate sex, but this felt like something more. It felt like their wedding night. Like their reunion after their breakup. Like the first time they had been intimate after Andrea’s death. It felt like all those big moments.

 

Gentle and profound and bigger than either of them could put into words.

 

Maya rolled onto her back beside Carina, and Carina found herself stifling a moan at how wet they both were between their legs, how it glistened in the firelight.

 

Carina reached for Maya’s hand, squeezing it, and Maya finally turned her face. They lay shoulder to shoulder, watching each other, both aware that they’d somehow created a sacred space, a sanctuary.

 

Even as the world wept, they found a way to smile. Even in the darkness, they created light.

 

~*~

 

They carefully brought a few candles into the bedroom, placing them on their dresser and night tables. Maya made quick work of the fireplace and despite the chill in the air, their room felt cozy. The rain continued, thunder and lightning warring, but inside there was only safety and relief.

 

Maya lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling and Carina curled into her side, her forehead pressed into Maya’s neck.

 

“When can we see her?” Maya asked, her finger stroking patterns up and down Carina’s forearm.

 

Carina pushed herself up on her elbow, admiring how the candlelight cast shadows on Maya’s face, sharpening her jaw and darkening her eyes.

 

“Jamie?” Carina already knew the answer, but she was still in a state of disbelief. She wanted assurance, she wanted to double check that the rain and the warmth and the brush of Maya’s stomach against hers as they writhed together on the floor wasn’t a front. Wasn’t a temporary distraction.

 

Maya nodded, finding Carina’s gaze.

 

“I want to see her right now,” she said, “I wish we could go. Do you think the storm is scaring her?”

 

Carina kissed Maya’s shoulder, trying to hide how moved she was by the question. It’s not that she didn’t want Maya to see her emotions, but she needed some time to sort them herself.

 

“She’s got a dinosaur and a lupo and Big Foot and a firefighter bear to keep her safe,” Carina smiled against Maya’s skin, thinking about Jamie’s ever-growing menagerie.

 

“We can’t go now, right?”

 

Was it possible for a heart to break from happiness? For a heart to burst from feeling too much?

 

“We can go first thing tomorrow morning. Our meeting with the lawyer is at eleven,” Carina said.

 

Maya seemed to take that in, returning her gaze to the ceiling. She took Carina’s hand and linked their fingers. Carina couldn’t stop herself from pulling Maya’s arm closer to her. She so loved the prominent veins inside Maya’s wrists and elbows – one of the many inexplicable pieces of her wife she found beautiful. They spoke to Maya’s fragility and her strength. Delicate blue against pale skin. They were her life’s blood, her heartbeat. Carina lightly kissed Maya’s wrist, indulgent and warm.

 

“I climbed Mount Saint Helen’s today.”

 

Maya stated the fact as if she was telling Carina about a traffic report, as if it wasn’t something remarkable. Carina raised her eyebrows, startled by the sudden shift in conversation, and all thoughts of fragility and softness disappeared.

 

“You climbed up and down a volcano and then drove two hours in the rain to get here?” She unlinked their fingers and set her hand on Maya’s tummy, wondering how her wife was still awake, let alone talking.

 

“I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. I needed to get to you. To Jamie,” Maya’s voice was quiet, but still strong. There was no wavering, no second thoughts. She was as determined as Carina had ever seen her.  

 

Carina dragged her fingers over Maya’s hip, needing to keep her close. “When do you have to go back?”

 

The fact that Maya still had one more week in Castle Rock pained Carina. She wanted to march into Chief Ross’s office and explain that they had a baby, that they were about to start a complex, difficult process and she needed her wife by her side, not off in the woods, climbing volcanoes.

 

Maya turned just enough to press her body against Carina’s under the blankets, bringing their chests together, their thighs. Despite their shared exhaustion, Carina couldn’t help the satisfied sigh that escaped her lips.

 

“Sunday morning,” Maya said, searching Carina’s face.

 

Carina tried to keep her expression neutral, but Maya saw right through it. Her fingers stroked Carina’s cheek and jaw line, gentle and reverent, as if her touch alone could take away the ache.

 

“I left the clinic early,” Carina confessed, leaning into Maya’s palm.

 

“You did?”

 

Carina nodded. “I couldn’t be there. All I could think about was what they did to you. What they were doing to you. How much I missed you…”

 

“I’m going to make this right, Carina. I promise.”

 

“Maya…”

 

Maya moved her hand, curling her arm around Carina’s body.

 

“It’s not going to be perfect. I haven’t figured out all the pieces yet, but we’re going to bring Jamie home. That’s what matters most. You and Jamie. Our family. I can still be a firefighter and have this. Have you. Whether it’s at 19 or somewhere else…I just want Jamie home with us.”

 

You will be her home, Bambina. I think you already are,” Carina said, settling one hand on Maya’s back, holding her close. She watched as Maya settled against the pillows and stroked her fingers up and down Maya’s spine, soothing the weary woman next to her.

 

“You and Jamie,” Maya whispered again, blinking heavily.

 

“Sleep, Tesoro, do not fight it.”

 

“I’m sorry, Carina, you come first, you always come first, you’re the best th…”

 

“Shhh, Bambina…”

 

Maya’s eyes closed, but Carina could see her trying to stay awake, her mind obviously racing.

 

“We need a crib,” she said, “and a rocking chair…she likes the rocking chair in the NICU…and…”

 

Carina kissed her forehead, wishing she could slow that beautiful, frustrating brain. “Vai dormire, Bella, sleep now.”

 

“I want to see her,” Maya’s voice was barely audible, her body felt heavy in Carina’s arms.

 

Her breathing evened out seconds later and Carina was left holding her exhausted wife, her exhausted wife who finally looked peaceful.

 

Carina pressed more gentle kisses to Maya’s forehead and then lay down on her pillow, content to watch Maya in her sleep, memorizing the way her eyelashes settled against her cheek, the way her lips parted slightly.

 

It was late and Carina knew she should sleep too, but she wanted one more moment to feel the enormity of what existed between them.

 

To feel the enormity of what the next day would bring.

 

Chapter Text

Carina had to admit that it felt funny walking through the halls of her department, hand-in-hand with her wife, dressed in their regular street clothes

 

To outsiders, they likely looked like worried parents on their way to the NICU. To Carina’s staff, they likely looked out of place, though no one said anything other than a friendly hello or how are you.

 

Maya walked quickly and if not for Carina’s long legs, she would’ve fallen behind. But like anything Maya set her mind to, she was determined and laser focused. Carina just couldn’t believe that all of that Bishop determination and laser focus was now on Jamie. It was like a dream. An exciting, somewhat scary, totally exhilarating dream.

 

Maya had barely let Carina make coffee let alone breakfast before insisting they go see Jamie. Visiting hours began at eight and although Carina had special privileges, they both wanted to see the baby as potential parents, not as a doctor and a firefighter who happened to be on her visitor’s list.

 

The NICU was busy as it always was in the morning – the residents performed rounds at seven and the nurses switched shifts thirty minutes later, so there was a flurry of activity as charts were reviewed and parents wandered in for their daily vigils.

 

Maya made a beeline to the back corner, reaching Jamie’s bed before Carina did, and part of Carina wanted to stand back, to watch her wife have this moment. But it was their moment, it belonged to her as much as it belonged to Maya and she didn’t want to miss a thing.

 

Jamie was just waking up when they arrived, her tiny face scrunched into a yawn. Maya reached for her and then paused, looking back at Carina.

 

“Can I…?” She asked, obviously concerned about Jamie’s IV line and wires.

 

Carina nodded, stepping closer to help.

 

Maya slipped one hand behind Jamie’s head and the other beneath her bottom and as she lifted her, Carina made sure all the tubes and attachments didn’t tangle. Instead of taking a seat in the nearby rocking chair, Maya stayed standing with Jamie in her hands and the two took each other in, studying each other.

 

“Hey, Jamie,” Maya said quietly, bringing Jamie closer. She kissed Jamie’s forehead, something Carina had never seen her do before, and then lay Jamie in the crook of her arm, freeing one hand.

 

“You’re safe now, Baby T-Rex,” Maya continued, giving Jamie her finger to hold, “we’re going to do everything we can to bring you home. You don’t have to be scared, Jamie, I’m here now. I’m going to protect you, me and Carina…”

 

Maya swayed with Jamie in her arms, nuzzling her nose against the top of Jamie’s head. She seemed so relieved, as if she hadn’t been sure whether she’d make it back to Jamie. Carina set her hand on Maya’s hip and cuddled up behind her, pressing her front to Maya’s back.

 

“You’re going to have your own room and I’m going to show you the fire trucks. You can go down the pole when you’re older and we’re going to roll hoses together,” Maya leaned against Carina but never stopped talking to Jamie, “Carina is going to teach you Italian. Both of my girls are going to speak Italian.”

 

Carina circled her arms around Maya’s waist, overwhelmed by how vulnerable Maya was being, how open and honest. Any pretense, any fear was gone and Carina couldn’t stop herself from pressing a light kiss to Maya’s neck before raising one hand to stroke Jamie’s cheek.

 

“We just need your little heart to get better, okay? Can you do that for us, Jamie? We’re going to do everything else. Sign all the paperwork and talk to all the people we need to talk to. We just need you to keep getting big and strong so we can bring you home,” Maya said, “You’re going to have such a good life, Jamie. I promise, you’re going to be so happy. I’m going to make sure you’re so happy, Baby T-Rex. You can take swimming lessons or learn how to draw. You can be exactly who you want to be, Jamie. We’ll never force you to be someone you’re not. We’ll never force you to do anything that will hurt you. I won’t let that happen. I promise, Jamie, I promise.”

 

Maya turned just a little, enough to pass Jamie to Carina who held her with one arm too. Carina picked up Jamie’s little hand and brought it to her lips, kissing her tiny first over and over.

 

They stood together in a tight hug, Jamie between them, and it felt as if they were gathering strength from the baby, strength for whatever lay ahead on what was sure to be a complicated journey. There were so many what ifs, so many hurtles, but Carina had never felt closer to Maya than that moment. She’d never been more in love with her wife.

 

“You’ll speak to her in Italian?” Maya asked, never taking her eyes off Jamie’s face.

 

Sì, Bambina. Anche lei sarà italiana.”

 

Maya smiled and nodded. “Did you hear that, Jamie? You’re Italian now.”

 

“Maya?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

Dammi un bacio.”

 

Maya raised her chin, just enough to brush her lips against Carina’s. They pressed their foreheads together, staring down at Jamie who looked up from Carina’s arms with her wide blue eyes.

 

Carina thought back to the moment of Jamie’s birth. She remembered curving her hands around Jamie’s head, she remembered how delicate Jamie had been, how delicate she still was. She remembered holding her breath as she cleared Jamie’s mouth and nose, as she watched Jamie inhale for the first time. She remembered turning to Maya, Jamie in her hands, and how Maya had tucked her into her jacket, how Maya had set Jamie right over her heart, how Maya had held Jamie against her skin, keeping her alive, breathing for her.

 

“I love you,” Carina said. To Jamie. To Maya.

 

Ti amo tanto,” Maya answered back.

 

Jamie waved her arms before settling, taking one of Maya’s fingers again. She held Carina’s thumb in her other little hand.

 

As if she was saying I love you too. As if she knew that she was part of a family now. As if she knew that she was home.

 

~*~

 

The boardroom was cold, though Maya couldn’t be sure if it was the air conditioning or her own nerves. She sat next to Carina who looked as serious as Maya had ever seen her, but they sat hand in hand, taking strength from each other.

 

Across the table they both watched as Jamie’s social worker organized her papers. She quickly consulted with the lawyer sitting to her right, and Maya studied the two, willing them to be open and friendly and understanding. She really had no idea what to expect.

 

Finally, the social worker set down her pen and looked up at the DeLuca-Bishops with a smile on her face.

 

“Hi,” she said, reaching over the table to shake Maya’s hand, “I’m Nancy Lucas, Jamie’s social worker.”

 

Maya shook her hand. “I’m Lieutenant Maya Bishop and this is my wife, Dr. Carina DeLuca.”

 

Nancy took Carina’s hand too before settling back in her chair. She turned to the man next to her, waiting for him to make introductions.

 

“Simon Gillespie,” he said, pointing to himself. They all politely nodded in greeting.

 

“Dr. Hayes tells me that you’re thinking of adopting the Jane Doe baby?” Nancy asked, her gaze shifting from Maya to Carina.

 

“Her name is Jamie,” Maya corrected, “and we’re not thinking about it. We’d like to proceed.”

 

Nancy raised her eyebrow and returned to her paperwork, scanning the sheet.

 

“It’s a recent decision,” Carina explained.

 

“You’re both aware that this is a difficult, drawn-out, expensive process?” Simon leaned forward on his elbows, clasping his hands on the table. Maya wanted to snap at him, but she realized he was just trying to be honest and transparent.

 

“We are, Mr. Gillespie,” Carina said, squeezing Maya’s hand in reassurance.

 

“And am I correct that you two delivered her?” Nancy flipped a page, her dark eyes scanning Cormac’s report.

 

Maya nodded. “My wife delivered her.”

 

“Maya saved her life, she got her out of the burning building and made sure she arrived here safely,” Carina added.

 

“I will say, you two make wonderful candidates for adoption. Your jobs, financial stability, your marriage, it all looks very good on paper,” Nancy said, turning towards Simon.

 

“And they’ve found no next of kin?” He asked, glancing at the tablet in his hand.

 

“None. The mother, Jennifer Palmer, is deceased. We’ve had constant contact with child services in Florida, which turned up no one. Palmer’s mother died ten years ago and her father was never in the picture. We’ve found nothing about the baby’s biological father either. Florida Social Services will keep searching, but no one has stepped forward to claim Jennifer Palmer’s remains, let alone inquire about her baby. I can’t promise they won’t find someone, but it’s looking less and less likely,” Nancy read from her report, passing it to her left.

 

Simon read it quickly and nodded, his white eyebrows knit together in concentration.

 

“The other matter is, of course, the child’s medical situation,” he said, looking directly at Carina.

 

“We are aware. Dr. Hayes is monitoring her PAD closely, but otherwise she’s gaining weight and eating well,” Carina spoke with the confidence of a physician. It made Maya proud.

 

“You seem very determined,” Simon smiled at the DeLuca-Bishops, his serious face suddenly much more friendly.

 

“We are,” Maya said, leaning forward.

 

“Very well. Here is how I would proceed. We’d file an Emergency Minor Guardianship petition and a petition for Minor Guardianship at the same time. The Emergency order would give you guardianship for sixty days, but in the meantime, the paperwork for the non-emergent order could process and make the situation more permanent. You’ll both need a criminal background check and a CPS report. Dr. DeLuca, what is your immigration status?” Simon asked, again looking at his paperwork.

 

“I have a non-immigrant marriage visa,” Carina said, her voice wavering with nerves.

 

Nancy grinned, clearly pleased. “Excellent. That’s just fine. And Lieutenant Bishop is an American citizen. No problems there.”

 

“You’ve been married for over two years?” Simon was obviously going through a checklist, but Maya felt like she’d just walked into a pop quiz.

 

“Yes. Almost three,” she answered, trying to keep track of all the information.

 

“Great. We can request your background checks and the CPS reports immediately. Now, adoption is a bit trickier, but we’re also going to file that paperwork when we file the Emergency petition,” Simon began typing something on his tablet. Maya wished she’d brought a clipboard.

 

 “For adoption, you’ll both need to complete the orientation, although we may be able to bypass it given your jobs. A doctor and a firefighter likely do not need a course in CPR training,” Nancy said, still smiling, “We’ll need fingerprints, home assessment, financial and medical information, work-place assessments. There is not a corner of your lives that won’t be inspected.”

 

“How soon can we do all of this?” Maya asked. She wondered if Carina felt as overwhelmed as she did.

 

“Once you have legal guardianship and once Dr. Hayes gives his approval, Jane…Jamie, sorry…can come home with you immediately. She’ll need to live with you for at least six months before the adoption is finalized and during that time you’ll have multiple visits from a social worker, likely me in this case. I will warn you that during that time, the adoption can be contested should any relatives step forward, but the guardianship will give you some protection, as will the fact that none of Jennifer Palmer’s relatives or the child’s father seem to be in the picture.”

 

Maya turned to look at Carina who stared back at her with wide eyes. She nodded slightly and Maya nodded back, unable to keep her lips from turning up.

 

“Okay?” Maya already knew Carina’s answer, but she could see the joy spreading across Carina’s face and wanted to hear her wife say it out loud.

 

, Maya.” She reached out, curling her hand around the back of Maya’s head in a familiar, intimate touch.

 

Maya leaned in, adrenaline coursing through her body.

 

“Let’s bring our baby home,” she said, brushing a tear from Carina’s cheek with her thumb.

 

Carina sniffled, nodding again. “Our Jamie.”

 

Maya kissed Carina’s forehead and held her face in her hands.

 

“Our Jamie,” she breathed, unable to keep the laughter from her voice.

 

~*~

 

Maya had experienced an emotional hangover exactly three times in her life.

 

The day she’d won gold only to find out that Mason OD’d.

 

The first time she and Carina had been intimate after their breakup.

 

And their wedding night.

 

Standing in their apartment, watching Carina set out a plate of crackers, Maya felt like she was about to fall over.

 

Leaving Jamie was hard, especially because Maya would be away for another week. But they’d also made arrangements with the lawyer to file the Emergency Minor Guardianship petition as soon as Monday. There was a good chance that by the time Maya came home for good, they’d be Jamie’s official guardians and on their way towards legal adoption.

 

“Are you sure about this?” Carina asked, pausing near the table.

 

A large charcouterie board sat in the middle, Carina’s handiwork.

 

“Yes. They deserve to know. And we deserve to share the news on our own terms,” she said, carrying a stack of paper plates. She set them down next to a pile of napkins and had to admit, the DeLuca-Bishops knew how to host a gathering.

 

It wasn’t a party though. It wasn’t even a celebration, although they had every reason to celebrate. But the clarity Maya had gained on top of the mountain had not dissipated. She knew every step she needed to take. And this was one of them.

 

A knock on the door sounded minutes later and with a deep breath, Carina turned to answer it. Ben and Bailey walked in first, handing Carina a bottle of wine, and then Jack appeared too. Travis came with Theo and Vic. Andy was the last to arrive and while she greeted Carina warmly, Maya could see the tension all over her face.

 

Carina was a consummate hostess, effortlessly breezing between guests, filling glasses with wine or explaining the numerous cheeses she’d set out. She seemed to be in the midst of giving Travis a lesson on prosciutto when Maya cleared her throat, ready to get to business.

 

“So, I’m sure you’re all wondering why we asked you here,” Maya said, feeling a little unsettled when seven faces turned to look at her.

 

“We just assumed that Carina was pregnant,” Vic shrugged, laughing when Carina gestured to her own wine glass and shook her head.

 

Maya smiled tightly. “Close, but not quite.”

 

“You’re pregnant?” Vic looked genuinely shocked until Travis smacked her arm, pointing at Maya who was holding a half-empty beer bottle.

 

Carina took the momentary interruption to join Maya in front of the fireplace. She set one hand on Maya’s lower back and nodded at her.

 

I’m here

 

Let’s do this

 

“Carina and I are adopting a baby,” Maya said, surprised when the entire room burst into cheers. Jack was up and hugging Carina and then Vic was yelling firehouse baby and there was an endless stream of questions and laughter that touched Maya.

 

Because she hadn’t expected it.

 

She really didn’t know how 19 felt about her. Not anymore.

 

“Okay, okay,” she said with a smile, “we’ll answer everything in a second, but there’s more.”

 

The group took their seats again.

 

“Part of the adoption process will mean work-place visits,” Maya explained, nodding towards Warren who nodded back, “and we may need some character witnesses.”

 

“Well, we have tons of nice things to say about Carina,” Jack said, which led to more laughter and clinking beer bottles.

 

“I also wanted you guys to hear this from me, but I will be going to HR about my demotion. I…I just want…I deserve a fair hearing.”

 

Where moments before the room was full of boisterous voices, the crowd now stared back at Maya in silence. She felt her resolve weaken slightly, the concerned faces of her colleagues making her question whether or not she’d made the right decision.

 

But Carina seemed to sense her nerves because she stepped forward, taking Maya’s hand.

 

“I’m not trying to take your captaincy, Andy,” Maya said, finding Andy in the crowd, “I don’t even know if I’m going to stay at 19. I just want a fair hearing, which means some of you may be asked to testify on my behalf. Or against me. I’m not going to tell you what to do or say, but I didn’t want you to be surprised if you receive a subpoena. I…I hope you understand.”

 

“You’re leaving 19?” Jack furrowed his brow and again, Maya was surprised about his concern.

 

“I don’t know, Jack. But I have a family to think about. Carina and Jamie…”

 

“Jamie?” Vic raised her eyebrows, already smiling.

 

Maya couldn’t help but smile too. She looked at Carina whose grin was blinding.

 

“Our daughter,” Maya said, trying out the word for the first time. Carina squeezed her hand so tightly that Maya knew she was also marvelling at the fact that they were about to have a daughter.

 

Nostra figlia,” Carina whispered, testing out the word herself.

 

Maya turned back to Jack. “I need to do what’s best for my family.”

 

“I get that. I’m really happy for you guys. And…whatever you need,” he said. It earned him a few surprised looks, but Maya just appreciated that she had at least one ally in the group.

 

“Agreed,” Warren stood, setting his hand on Bailey’s shoulder, “you guys need letters, testimony? You got it.”

 

“Just maybe keep out the part about masturbating in my MRIs,” Bailey added, though the look she shot Carina was all warmth.

 

There was an odd mix of people saying congratulations and people looking slightly shell-shocked. The prospect that 19 was potentially facing legal action was likely concerning, and Maya knew she was a divisive figure.

 

Still, she was warmed by Jack’s support and relieved to have Ben and Bailey onboard too. Vic shot her a thumb’s up and as the evening wore on, Maya felt more and more confident about her decision to proceed with filing a formal complaint.

 

It was only when she realized that Andy was sitting silently in the corner that Maya understood that things were likely about to get complicated.

 

After another thirty minutes of congratulations and drinks, everyone else left and then it was just Maya and Andy and Carina.

 

“I’m going to check in with Jo,” Carina said, gesturing to their bedroom with her thumb. Maya was relieved that her wife was so perceptive. With a quick kiss to Maya’s temple, Carina disappeared, leaving Maya alone with Andy who continued to stare back at her.

 

“Andy, I’m not trying to take your captaincy,” Maya said again, hoping Andy was in an understanding mood.

 

“No? Because it sure seems like you are.”

 

Not an understanding mood

 

Maya jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “I waited a year. You know I waited a year and for what? Ross tore a strip out of me while I was in the middle of cleaning the engine. No official hearing. No character witnesses. Nothing.”

 

“And you waited to do this until I was captain?”

 

“What? No! It’s like I told Jack. I need stability for my family and I can’t keep working with people who have no problem sending me away or using my wife against me.”

 

Andy rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes.

 

“Did you ever think that Ross was right?” She asked.

 

Maya took a step back. “What do you mean?”

 

“Maya, you’re a great firefighter. I’ve been by your side since the academy, but…you can’t leave an inspection. You can’t get involved with the FBI or…”

 

“So it’s okay when you run into an active scene when Sullivan is involved, but when I try to bring down an international sex-trafficking ring, I’m the bad guy?”

 

Andy stood and exhaled sharply.

 

“I earned this, Maya. You know I did,” she said and Maya thought there it is.

 

Princess Andy Herrera finally ascends to her throne.

 

“And so did I! I’m not taking this from you. I get that no one wants me to be captain of 19. Trust me, I get it.”

 

“Because it wasn’t yours to take!” Andy balled her hands into fists, her voice rising.

 

“I didn’t take it. Sullivan put me forward. I earned it, same as you. Don’t pretend like I didn’t.”

 

“Maya…”

 

“You know they’re sleeping together, right?” Anger forced the words, but Maya didn’t regret them.

 

Andy frowned and looked away.

 

“I’m not saying it to hurt you,” Maya said, trying to keep her voice quiet, “but you deserve to know, Andy.”

 

“I earned this,” Andy said again, though Maya didn’t miss the brief flash of hurt surprise cross Andy’s face.

 

Maya sighed heavily. “I know you did. I’m not saying you didn’t. But I earned it too. Despite what you think, despite what the rest of them say…”

 

“This will destroy 19 and you know it. You’re going to destroy my father’s legacy just because…what? You’re mad at me? Or…Robert? What exactly is your goal here, Maya? And don’t say it’s about your family. I’ve known you too long…this has eyes forward written all over it.”

 

Maya reeled back, fighting down the urge to demand Andy leave. Because is that really what Andy thought about her? That she was still the ruthless, cold person who didn’t believe in monogamy, who shunned love and rest and kindness. Is that what they all thought?

 

“I love my wife…” Maya began, her voice trembling with rage.

 

“I know you do.”

 

“Obviously you don’t. Because if you did, you’d understand that people can change. That I’ve changed. I have a baby, Andy. A real, live, perfect, beautiful baby. And I can’t go to work feeling unsafe. Feeling like I’m about to be abandoned by my crew or sent far away because I said the wrong thing. I can’t,” Maya said, wondering when she and Andy had shattered so badly.

 

“Listen, I’m happy for you. I really am. But you’re about to tear 19 apart. Don’t pretend you’re not.”

 

“Do you think I want to be in this position?”

 

“I honestly don’t know,” Andy sighed, “because when I was sent to 23, I didn’t complain. I followed orders even though I hated them. I spent over a year away from my home. And I did it because that’s what firefighters do. Except you don’t, Maya. You don’t care about any of that.”

 

“Of course I do! I know this may be hard for you to believe, but not everything is about you, Andy. This is about my family. Not yours. Mine.”

 

“You’re about to destroy Ross’s career! And Sullivan’s! Because you can’t accept the possibility that you were wrong. That you messed up.”

 

“You were there, Andy, you heard what she said about Carina,” Maya pointed to her closed bedroom door.

 

“She shouldn’t have said that…at least not the way she did. But it doesn’t matter, Maya. She’s the Chief. If you’d just kept your head down and waited your turn, you’d get promoted again.”

 

“Wait my turn? 19 isn’t a monarchy, Andy.”

 

“No, it’s not. It’s a hierarchy. And you skipped the line. You took something because you wanted it, even though you hadn’t earned it. That’s what you do. You take what you want, you always have.”

 

“What are you…” Maya trailed off, slowly realizing what Andy was referring to.

 

She shook her head in disbelief. “Jack? Is this really about Jack?”

 

“There’s a code, Maya…”

 

“You never change, do you?” Maya said, “That was years ago. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m married to the love of my life. I’ve moved on. You should try it sometime.”

 

Andy breathed heavily and ran one hand through her hair, pushing it back off her forehead.

 

“I think I should go,” she said.

 

“You were my best friend, Andy. I thought you still were.”

 

“You were my best friend too,” Andy said, so quietly Maya barely heard it.

 

Andy didn’t say another word. She picked up her jacket from the couch and walked past Maya, leaving with a quiet click of the door.

 

The feeling of being hungover returned.

 

Maya lowered her head and closed her eyes, overwhelmed by the day. She didn’t hear their bedroom door open, nor did she sense Carina nearby until two arms circled her from behind.

 

“What do you need?” Carina whispered, her lips against Maya’s ear.

 

Maya turned, pulling Carina closer. She nuzzled her cheek against Carina’s shoulder, inhaling the scent of her moisturizer, that unique Carina scent that instantly flooded her with calm and contentment.

 

“Should we drink?” Maya asked, leaning back and lightly holding Carina’s arms.

 

“Couldn’t hurt,” Carina shrugged.

 

There was no laughter, not when the pain was so fresh. But tired smiles and sad eyes and a bottle of wine lessened the sting.

 

Chapter Text

Carina was especially despondent as Maya packed for her final trip to Castle Rock.

 

Maya understood her wife’s dark mood all too well.

 

The week ahead was going to be stressful. The Emergency Minor Guardianship order was to be filed on Monday. Carina also had an appointment with her gynecologist to set-up a plan for freezing her eggs. It was busy and important and Maya hated that she couldn’t be present when Carina needed her most.

 

She knew that all the documents could be signed electronically, but she wanted to sign her name in ink, to physically write Maya Bishop on a piece of paper that would help bring Jamie home.

 

Maya watched Carina putter around the kitchen, though her wife’s usual Sunday-morning frivolity was missing. They’d both had an uneasy sleep the night before.

 

Maya re-playing her argument with Andy.

 

Carina so attune to Maya that she stayed awake as Maya tossed and turned.

 

The two-hour drive ahead felt infinite and although Maya genuinely enjoyed her colleagues in Castle Rock, she wished she could stay home. She wished she had another day to spend with Jamie. Six days away was far too long.

 

“You going back to bed soon?” Maya loitered near the kitchen island, unsure how best to comfort her wife. Usually Carina was the one to calm her nerves, not the other way around.

 

Carina poured Maya’s coffee into a travel mug and handed it to her.

 

“Maybe. I’ll go see Jamie this afternoon,” she said, clearly tired. Clearly sad.

 

Maya set the mug down and took Carina in her arms, her fingers dragging over Carina’s silk-covered back.

 

“One more week, okay?” Maya leaned in, kissing Carina’s pout, trying not to find it cute. Even though it was ridiculously cute.

 

She was answered with a low grumble.

 

“I’m going to let Captain Dale know I need to have my phone on all week. Anything comes up? You call. With you, with Jamie…” Maya could hardly believe her own words. Mere weeks ago, the idea of interrupting her work day for a family matter was unthinkable.

 

Now, she couldn’t image being out of contact. Not with so much on the line.

 

“I am going to sue Chief Ross myself,” Carina said, resting both hands on Maya’s chest.

 

“Oh? For what?”

 

“Emotional distress.”

 

Maya kissed Carina’s forehead, still holding her close.

 

“Maybe I’ll send you a treat later?” She whispered, brushing her lips against Carina’s ear. She felt her wife shiver in her arms.

 

“A treat?”

 

“Mmmhmm.”

 

The hands on her chest pulled at the material of Maya’s t-shirt, forcing her closer.

 

“Emotional distress and loss of intimacy,” Carina added, which made Maya smirk.

 

“Next weekend. We’ll make up for all of this lost time. I promise.”

 

Carina took Maya’s face in her hands and pulled her into a kiss, a kiss that spoke of her sadness at their separation and her hope for Maya’s return.

 

It was a kiss that Maya carried with her as she left the apartment, as she climbed into her car, as she drove away from Seattle, away from her heart.

 

The next time they kissed, Maya would be able to stay.

 

The next time they kissed, it would mark the end of a difficult chapter and the beginning of whatever came next.

 

~*~

 

The days moved quickly.

 

Maya threw herself into work, eager for the distraction. She felt herself excelling, she felt like she was alive again after months of letting herself rot with anger.

 

There was hope now. And while she didn’t want to leave 19, the possibility no longer terrified her.

 

Perhaps it was the top of the mountain.

 

Perhaps it was the warmth of Carina’s body.

 

Her priorities had permanently shifted and with them, the darkness staining her life had gone too. She would never be without it, but she now understood that it didn’t have to be the only thing in front of her. That her ultimate goal did not have to be the clouds.

 

She’d reached them. She’d conquered them.

 

Her reward was Jamie.

 

Her reward was Carina.

 

When she closed her eyes, she could still picture Carina beneath her, she could still feel Carina’s body, and it took her breath away, the memory of that night, the night they’d decided to bring Jamie home. She wasn’t one for romance novels or romantic comedies. She barely believed in fate or destiny.

 

But they’d created something sacred together in that moment. Somehow in the joining of their bodies, in the promises they whispered, in the wet heat, they’d created a new life.

 

A new family.

 

It was the most profound experience of Maya’s existence and she carried it with her like a talisman, the memory as precious to her as her wedding ring.

 

Each day felt like a checkmark. Each day was one step closer to moving forward.

 

Each day was also stressful and overwhelming and Maya would return to her hotel room in a state of disbelief and exhaustion.

 

She’d signed so many legal documents. She’d agreed to let strangers explore her background, her finances, her medical history.

 

Her nightly calls with Carina usually ended with the two of them staring at each other, half-laughing, half-panicking. It was exhilarating. It was also discombobulating.

 

With two days left in Castle Rock, Maya found herself sad to say goodbye to her new squad-mates. They seemed genuinely sad to see her go too. They asked after Carina, they were ecstatic to hear about Jamie. Maya knew without a doubt that each and every one would crawl through hell for her. And they’d only known her for three weeks.

 

As she was about to leave the station, she heard Captain Dale call out her name from behind the closed door of her office. Maya raised one eyebrow in surprise, but then peeked her head in, finding the Captain seated at her desk, nursing a cup of coffee.

 

“Take a seat, Bishop,” Dale said, gesturing towards a chair.

 

Maya sat down, unsure what to expect.

 

“You’re an exceptional firefighter, Bishop. I’m sorry to see you go. If you ever want a more permanent position here, all you need to do is ask,” Captain Dale smiled, leaning back in her seat.

 

“Thank you, Captain, that means a lot. But my wife…”

 

“Of course. A world-renowned OB/Gyn needs a world-renowned healthcare facility.”

 

Maya was warmed that Captain Dale had obviously looked up Carina online. Though she blushed only slightly upon realizing that much of her wife’s renown was due to her oxytocin study.

 

“You have an incredible team here,” Maya said, feeling like she was speaking with an equal. Someone who respected her, someone who saw her skill.

 

Captain Dale nodded. “I have to say, Bishop, I wasn’t sure what to expect when you arrived. Chief Ross…”

 

“Chief Ross warned you that I was insubordinate?” Maya guessed.

 

The Captain stayed quiet, but the twinkle in her eye let Maya know that she’d guessed well. For a moment Maya considered defending herself, explaining the situation. But she paused, realizing that she trusted Captain Dale. That Captain Dale was on her side.

 

“Captain, if I could ask your advice?” Maya asked.

 

“Ask away.”

 

“I’m planning to file a formal complaint against Chief Ross next week about my hearing. Or…my lack of a hearing. It’s likely going to cause disruption for my station, it could lead to people losing their jobs. It could lead to me losing my job. And while I know I have a case and I know I have a right to do this, do you think I should?”

 

Dale considered Maya with an unreadable expression on her face and Maya was nervous that she’d read the captain wrong. That maybe she wasn’t as amiable as Maya initially thought.

 

“Natasha Ross is a formidable woman,” Dale finally said, “but so are you. From what I’ve heard, your demotion was based on questionable evidence and there was no formal hearing. So, yes, I think you’re doing the right thing. Not just for you, but for the SFD. This kind of thing sets a precedent.”

 

Maya nodded, deep in thought.

 

“What does that wife of yours think?” Dale smiled as she mentioned Carina.

 

“She’s with me every step of the way. The timing is terrible, we’re in the process of adopting a baby, but Carina…Carina is the strongest person I know. It was her suggestion to take action in the first place.”

 

“Jamie, right?” Dale’s smile grew and Maya found herself grinning too.

 

“Jamie,” Maya said the name as if it was oxygen, as if the sound alone could heal.

 

“Then you fight, Bishop. You fight for yourself. But you fight for your family first and foremost.”

 

Dale stood up, extending her arm towards Maya, who rose from her chair. They shook hands, both beaming at each other, and Maya was about to express her gratitude again when her phone starting vibrating in her pocket.

 

She checked the caller ID and saw Carina’s name.

 

“Sorry, Captain, it’s my wife,” she said, already clicking accept. Dale nodded, understanding.

 

Maya turned around before speaking. “Carina?”

 

“Maya, it’s Jamie.” Carina’s voice was unsteady, as if she was holding back tears.

 

Maya felt cold fear spread through her veins. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

 

“She needs surgery, Bambina. Tonight.”

 

~*~

 

Carina stood next to Nancy in the NICU trying desperately not to scream.

 

She kept both hands on Jamie, one on her head, the other on her belly, as if touching the baby alone could keep her safe. Jamie shivered and blinked her eyes heavily. She was lethargic, her breathing rapid, and her hands and feet were freezing cold. Carina’s heart was shattered.

 

“I’ve called in a favour,” Cormac was saying, but Carina could barely concentrate. Her mind was racing, her thoughts scattered, as she found herself alone in an impossible situation.

 

Don’t take her from me too. Don’t take her from me…

 

“It’s just our luck that Dr. Montgomery is flying into Seattle tonight. She should arrive within the hour…”

 

Cormac’s lilting voice penetrated Carina’s panic and she latched onto the name. Dr. Montgomery.

 

“Addison Montgomery?” Carina asked, trying to keep as calm as possible lest Jamie sense her fear.

 

Cormac nodded. “Only the best neonatal surgeon in the country for our Jamie.”

 

“And the surgery is necessary?” Nancy stepped up beside Carina, a file in her hand.

 

“Yes. Jamie’s condition is deteriorating. Without surgery…”

 

“Without surgery she’ll die,” Carina said, sharper than intended.

 

The guardianship order was still processing. They were mere days away from its completion, but in the meantime, the state of Washington was in charge of all medical decisions relating to Jamie. Carina could only pray that Nancy was reasonable.

 

“Dr. DeLuca,” Nancy turned towards Carina, “I know this situation is highly unusual, but I will follow your lead here.”

 

Carina exhaled in relief. “You said Dr. Montgomery would be here in the next hour?”

 

“Her flight lands in thirty minutes,” Cormac explained.

 

“Okay. I want to see her as soon as possible.”

 

“Of course, Carina. Take some time now – we won’t start prepping her until Dr. Montgomery is ready to go.” Cormac set a comforting hand on Carina’s shoulder and she had to actively stop herself from shrugging it off.

 

Too soft, why was everyone always too soft?

 

Nancy seemed to sense Carina’s angst and walked away with Cormac, giving Carina space.

 

She lifted Jamie from her cot, her resolve breaking when she realized that the baby was sniffling, her cheeks damp with tears.

 

“No, no, Tesoro, none of that now,” Carina cooed, sitting down with Jamie safely cradled in her arms.

 

Jamie gasped for breath, her little heart beating far too quickly.

 

“You are going to have a nice sleep and when you wake up, I will be here. Do you remember what Maya told you? You are safe, picolla amore, you are safe.”

 

Carina raised her legs, tucking them close to her chest, creating a tiny cocoon that was just her and Jamie. She wanted to keep the baby warm, but mostly she wanted Jamie as close as possible.

 

She knew the surgery was necessary. She also knew that Addison Montgomery could perform a PAD closure in her sleep.

 

But her baby was about to be taken to the OR. She was about to be placed under general anesthesia. A scalpel was about to…

 

Carina tried to memorize Jamie’s face. Her button nose and little cleft chin. Her wide blue eyes. Her barely there eyebrows and the wispy, light brown hair on top of her head. She studied Jamie’s hands and the perfect curve of her fingernails.

 

Her nonna’s voice echoed in her mind, that warm, chiding voice.

 

Dì le tue preghiera, Carina

 

Say your prayers…

 

Carina squeezed her eyes shut and willed it away. She’d prayed for Andrea. She’d lit candles. And he had been taken from her. Just as her mother had been taken from her. Instead, she found herself aching for her brother, for her mamma

 

Please, mamma, don’t take her, don’t take her from me, mamma…

 

She was so caught up in her thoughts that at first she didn’t hear the loud footsteps outside the NICU. It was only when she registered that someone was running that she looked up and for the second time in as many weeks, Maya appeared out of nowhere, standing in the doorway, out of breath, still in uniform, and clearly afraid.

 

The sight of her alone cracked whatever courage Carina had left. She let herself cry for the first time in hours, she let tears stream down her face because she knew Maya would dry them.

 

“Maya?” She called out, extending her hand.

 

Maya was at her side, crouching down, her hand settling on Carina’s back.

 

“I’m here,” Maya said, “what’s happening? Wha…”

 

“They’re taking her soon. We’re just waiting on the surgeon.”

“Dr. Hayes?”

 

“No,” Carina shook her head, “Addison Montgomery. She’s probably the best in the world.”

 

Maya nodded to herself. “Good. That’s good, right?”

 

“How did you get here?” Carina tilted her head towards Maya and Maya reacted immediately, pressing a kiss to her temple.

 

“As soon as you called I told Captain Dale I had to go. I couldn’t stay there. Not when…”

 

Jamie cried out, so quiet, but loud enough to make both Maya and Carina look down in concern. Carina lowered her legs from the chair and leaned forward so Maya could touch Jamie too.

 

“Hey, Baby T-Rex,” Maya cooed, curving her hand around Jamie’s head, her thumb stroking Jamie’s forehead.

 

“She won’t stop shivering, I can’t keep her warm. I tried, but I can’t…”

 

“Hey, look at me,” Maya used her free hand to cup Carina’s cheek, forcing her attention. Something about Maya’s blue eyes instantly calmed Carina. It was the trust between them, the love.

 

She leaned in to Maya’s palm and forced herself to slow her breathing. After a few moments, she felt more centred, calmed by Maya’s presence. They sat huddled together, Maya’s arm around Carina’s back, both holding Jamie.

 

A nurse walked in then and Carina tightened her grip, knowing already that it was time.

 

“Dr. DeLuca, Dr. Montgomery has asked me to prep Jamie for surgery,” she said, but Carina couldn’t bring herself to stand up, let alone hand Jamie over.

 

“Carina? Let’s make sure she’s ready, okay?” Maya said, and even though Carina could see the obvious fear in her wife’s face, something about Maya’s words convinced her that they could do this.

 

She stood up, placing Jamie in Maya’s arms, giving her wife a moment.

 

“Don’t be scared, Jamie, we’re going to be right here when you wake up,” she whispered, nuzzling the top of Jamie’s head. Maya was obviously struggling with her emotions, her voice wavering with unshed tears. But Maya Bishop was also the bravest person Carina knew, nothing scared her, and it was clear as day that Maya was gathering strength for all of them.

 

She carefully lay Jamie on her bed and leaned over, kissing Jamie’s forehead and then her little belly. She took one of Jamie’s hands and kissed it too before nodding at Carina, a silent I’m ready passing between them.

 

The nurse started with Jamie’s diaper and then checked her IV and nasal canula. Carina slipped her hand into Maya’s, though they never looked away from Jamie, at least not until Addison Montgomery walked into the room alongside Cormac.

 

Carina had only met Addison briefly at a conference, but she was relieved to see her. The woman exuded confidence and her presence alone already had Carina feeling slightly less panicky.

 

“Dr. DeLuca,” Addison said, extending her hand, “it’s good to see you again, though I wish the circumstances were different.”

 

“Thank you, Dr. Montgomery. This is my wife, Lieutenant Maya Bishop,” Carina looked at Maya as she spoke, proud as she always was to introduce Maya as hers.

 

Addison shook Maya’s hand too before turning towards Jamie.

 

“As you know, the procedure is relatively straight forward. We’ll go in here,” Addison said, touching her fingertip to Jamie’s ribcage.

 

“And she’ll make a full recovery?” Maya asked, more of a statement than a question.

 

Addison nodded. “Once we repair the PAD, her heart rate should improve rapidly. Her breathing will normalize. She’s live a full, healthy life.”

 

As a doctor, Carina was well-aware of the procedure. As a mother, she felt like she was about to throw up.

 

Jamie kicked her little legs, clearly displeased, and her sad little gasps made it seem like she knew what was about to happen, like she was scared. Something about Jamie’s fear gave Carina strength – because Jamie needed her to be strong.

 

Maya reached out and took Jamie’s foot in her hand, squeezing gently.

 

“I would like to come with you to the OR…only until she’s anesthetized,” Carina said, not wanting to leave Jamie alone.

 

“Usually I wouldn’t allow parents in the room, but I realize these are special circumstances. You know, I delivered my son too. And adopted him. I know it’s not the same, but I understand what it’s like to bring them into the world.’ Addison’s eyes were kind above her mask and Carina was relieved she didn’t need to explain the unique circumstances of Jamie’s birth.

 

Carina had brought her into the world and Maya had carried her to safety.

 

They were her guardians, and not just because a soon-to-be approved legal document said they were.

 

Still, Carina felt more of her resolve weaken as she watched an orderly roll a small gurney into the room. She knew she had to let the nurses do their work, she knew that they were the best at what they did. But she couldn’t seem to stop herself from stepping forward and lifting Jamie herself.

 

Maya was right at her side as they lay Jamie on the bed and when the nurses switched Jamie to a portable IV and monitor, Maya leaned over the gurney and let Jamie take one of her fingers.

 

“You’re not alone, Jamie, you never were and you never will be. I’m right here,” Maya whispered and Carina wondered how many times it was possible to fall in love with her wife

 

Because in the midst of chaos, Maya radiated calm, her voice as gentle as her hands.

 

She was, protecting Jamie, comforting her. Maya Bishop who people claimed was cold, unfeeling…

 

Carina watched her wife transform into a parent right before her very eyes and it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen in her life.

 

The walk towards the OR was slow, each step more painful than the last, and when they finally reached the doors, the group paused.

 

“Wait in my office?” Carina set her hand on the back of Maya’s neck, squeezing lightly. She could feel the tension in Maya’s muscles.

 

Maya didn’t look at her before leaning down again, her face close to Jamie’s.

 

“I love you,” Maya said, three words that Carina knew Maya never used lightly.

 

I love you and I’ve never said that about anyone before except my brother, so it means something. I love you, Carina…

 

Maya straightened and took Carina’s hand and Carina had to resist the urge to kiss her senseless. Somehow in the middle of the most terrifying moment of their marriage so far, Carina found herself falling deeper and deeper in love with Maya.

 

“I’ll be there soon,” Carina promised, kissing Maya’s cheek before turning towards the OR doors. She looked back once, finding Maya standing in the hallway, her eyes wide and scared, but so beautiful.

 

Always so beautiful.

 

The doors swung closed behind them and Carina forced her attention back to Jamie who shivered from the sudden cold. Carina adjusted the baby’s blanket and then held her little hand, the fluttering pressure of Jamie’s fingers squeezing in time with her heartbeat.

 

~*~

 

Carina scrubbed in, never taking her eyes off Jamie through the OR window. She walked through the doors, arms held up, and even though she didn’t technically need gloves, she allowed the nurse to help her, wanting to be sure that everything was sterile and safe.

 

Jamie looked so small on the OR table, small and vulnerable. They’d removed the blanket keeping her warm and the sight of her naked and shivering was almost too much for Carina to bear. But she reminded herself that Jamie couldn’t be the strong one here, that was her job. And Maya would be strong for both of them.

 

She wished she didn’t know the dangers of anesthesia for preemies, she wished she could erase the knowledge that sedating an infant as young as Jamie could effect brain development. All she could do was hope that Jamie wouldn’t be a statistic, that she’d be okay, just like Addison and Cormac said she would be.

 

Jamie looked up at her, still crying, still shaking, and Carina placed her hand on Jamie’s tummy, trying to keep her warm.

 

Stai bene, angioletta. Io sono qui e Maya è qui. Starai bene,” Carina whispered before making eye contact with Dr. Ezra, the anesthesiologist.

 

“We’re ready to go, Dr. DeLuca,” he said, inserting a syringe into Jamie’s IV line.

 

Carina rubbed her thumb over Jamie’s forehead and watched as the baby closed her eyes.

 

Ti voglio bene, il mio piccola, tanto, tanto.”

 

Dr. Ezra lowered a small mask to Jamie’s face just as Addison walked through the door with Jo at her side. Carina was surprised to see her protégé scrubbed in.

 

“We’ve got her, Carina,” Addison promised, “but you need to go now. You don’t need to watch her be intubated. Go be with your wife. Go be a worried mother.”

 

Carina appreciated Addison’s confidence and her kindness.

 

“We’ve got her, Dr. DeLuca,” Jo repeated, “I’ll send updates every thirty minutes. You’ll be in your office?”

 

Carina nodded. With one final look back at Jamie, Carina walked out, tears soaking through her mask.

 

Chapter Text

By the time Carina returned to her office, Maya was busy doing push-ups in the middle of the room. Carina paused in the doorway, waiting for Maya to notice her, and as soon as she did Maya hopped up, her face full of concern.

 

“They’ve just started,” Carina said, gratefully stepping into Maya’s outstretched arms.

 

Maya sighed heavily against Carina’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner, I…”

 

Bambina, no more driving in a panic to Seattle, okay? I’m worried enough as it is.”

 

Carina felt Maya’s lips curve into a smile.

 

A painful silence fell between them. Their shared worry, their shared fear made conversation impossible, so instead they shot each other understanding looks and moved apart. Maya yawned and rubbed her eyes, stretching her shoulders in a way that let Carina know she was sore from her drive and obviously tired from the stress of the day.

 

“Do you want to change…I can get you scrubs?” Carina tucked a strand of hair behind Maya’s ear, taking comfort in the familiar softness.

 

Maya nodded, grateful, and Carina made a quick phone call that resulted in a knock on the door minutes later. A nurse handed Carina a pair of blue scrub bottoms and a Grey-Sloan hoodie, which she gave to Maya who immediately kicked off her shoes and started on her belt buckle.

 

Carina sat down on the couch, watching Maya strip, and she couldn’t stop the amused smirk on her face upon seeing Maya in scrubs.

 

“Dr. Bishop,” Carina said, beckoning Maya closer.

 

In dark blue scrub pants and a white tank top, Maya looked like something out of Hottest Doctors Monthly.

 

She crossed the room, coming to stand between Carina’s legs, and Carina couldn’t stop herself from raising Maya’s shirt just a little to kiss her tummy. She’d missed her wife. And their baby was in surgery. And Maya’s body was where Carina always felt safest.

 

Maya twirled her fingers in Carina’s hair as Carina wrapped her arms around Maya’s hips, bringing her in for a hug.

 

“She’s going to be okay,” Maya said, though Carina knew that Maya was saying it for her own comfort too.

 

Carina nuzzled against Maya’s hip bone. “She’s been through so much already. I wish we could bring her home.”

 

Maya hummed in agreement and scratched lightly at Carina’s scalp, both content to share the same space, until Maya stretched awkwardly again.

 

“Sit,” Carina said, half-pulling Maya onto her lap. They reclined on the couch, Maya’s back against Carina’s front, and Carina set her hands on Maya’s shoulders, applying pressure. She concentrated on pressing her thumbs into Maya’s sore muscles, the familiar feel of soft skin and hard bone doing much to alleviate some of her anxiety.

 

She thought Maya had fallen asleep until she heard a relaxed sigh.

 

“Oh, hey, look at this,” Maya said, reaching into her pocket for her phone. She swiped up revealing an Amazon wish list full of baby supplies. Carina smiled against the back of Maya’s head at the sight of cribs and baby books and diaper hampers.

 

“I’ve been researching this stroller,” Maya explained, scrolling down, “but I think this might be the way to go. Do you think she’d like this one? It has 7,000 positive reviews and the CPSC calls it the safest one on the market.”

 

“It looks perfetto, Maya. But I think it’s more expensive than my car.”

 

“Would she like black or purple?” Maya asked, ignoring the comment. She was almost hyper-focused on her phone and upon closer inspection, Carina realized that Maya had multiple wish lists, clearly labeled and organized.

 

Because how else would Maya Bishop approach parenthood?

 

“Show me what else you’ve found,” Carina said, kissing the side of Maya’s head. She wrapped her arms around Maya, just below her breasts, as if keeping Maya close could somehow keep Jamie close too.

 

“Hey, I should be holding you,” Maya turned her face just a little, letting Carina kiss her cheek.

 

“You are. Now show me this list here.” Carina pointed to the screen where it said Books.

 

Maya showed her a wide selection of parenting material and children’s stories, but there were also numerous titles in Italian, some classics and some Carina had never heard of. Looking at Maya’s research made the time pass, it made Carina think of the future with Jamie instead of the present.

 

She was also so grateful for her wife, her wife who sometimes struggled to understand her own emotions but had clearly spent hours upon hours trying to ready herself for becoming a mother.

 

“I want to start setting up her room this weekend,” Maya said, scrolling through a selection of cribs.

 

“Don’t you go back to work on Sunday?”

 

“Yes. But we need to take apart the bed and I’m going to order a changing table just as soon as you pick one. Plus, we need to safety the entire apartment.”

 

Somewhere in Maya’s belongings, Carina was certain she’d find a clipboard labeled Jamie.

 

“We will, Bambina. What have you found for cribs?” Carina liked listening to Maya’s plans, she liked hearing her wife talk about diapers and basinets and baby monitors. It was almost surreal, as if Carina expected that any moment Maya would turn around and start chatting about hoses and turnouts.

 

Time moved strangely. They talked or lay quietly together, each nervous, each taking comfort in their shared embrace. It was only when Maya set her hands down on Carina’s thighs and released a shaky exhale that Carina realized Maya was not as calm as she seemed.

 

“She looked so small on the gurney,” Maya said softly, “Dr. Montgomery is the best…right?”

 

Carina kissed Maya’s neck before resting her chin on Maya’s shoulder. “She is.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Carina was about to say more when they both heard a light knock. They looked at each other and then wordlessly, Maya stood, pulling on the Grey-Sloan hoodie before opening the door.

 

Addison and Cormac stood outside and Maya quickly stepped out of their way, letting them into the office.

 

“She did great,” Addison said, as Carina nearly jumped off the couch, taking Maya’s hand.

 

“Textbook procedure. You can see her in about thirty minutes, but it could not have gone better,” Cormac added, his smile almost more reassuring than his words.

 

Carina pulled Maya into a tight hug and they both laughed, relief flooding in.

 

“Wilson is with her now,” Addison said, “and she’ll bring her down to the NICU.”

 

She won’t be alone

 

Carina sniffled, unable to keep the joy from her voice. “Thank you, Addison. Cormac. Grazie mille.”

 

“Thank you,” Maya repeated, one hand clinging to the back of Carina’s scrubs.

 

There were handshakes and tears and Carina found herself thinking once more of Andrea. Of her mamma.

 

Thank you, mamma…for keeping her safe…thank you…

 

~*~

 

The only thing standing between Maya and passing out from exhaustion was the triple espresso in her travel mug. Carina had woken up bleary eyed, and without saying a word, walked into the kitchen, made Maya coffee, handed it to her, jammed her tongue into Maya’s mouth, smacked Maya’s ass, and then disappeared back into their bedroom.

 

The whirlwind experience helped Maya make it from their apartment to her car, and the coffee kept her safe as she drove to 19, but sitting in the parking, all the stress of the previous two days and the anticipation of her upcoming shift made her woozy.

 

They’d both stayed at the hospital most of Thursday night, waiting for Jamie to return to the NICU and then sitting with her well into the next day. After a brief trip home for a shower and change of clothes, they’d returned to the hospital and only left because Maya had to work early Sunday morning.

 

It was hard to be away from Jamie, especially as she was still recovering from surgery. But Carina would be with her all day and had promised updates and pictures. Maya checked her phone, quickly swiping through her “Jamie gallery,” taking comfort in the cute little face staring back at her.

 

With one final centering breath, Maya left the car and walked into the station. It had only been three weeks, but she felt like a probie on the first day of a new job. She signed in at the front desk, surprised that no one was milling around at the start of shift, and was about to go upstairs when she heard her name.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

Maya turned to find Andy standing in the doorway of her office.

 

“Captain Herrera,” Maya said, inwardly annoyed when Andy motioned for her to come closer.

 

Maya felt no shame as she walked into the captain’s office. A week before she would have been humiliated, she would have been furious. But her priorities had shifted. She had a plan. She had clarity. And whatever Andy had to say couldn’t touch her.

 

“Welcome back,” Andy said, taking a seat behind her desk.

 

Maya chose not to sit. “Thank you.”

 

“Chief Ross will be in later today. I thought you would want to know.”

 

Maya studied Andy’s face for a moment, but found no indication of what she was feeling.

 

“Thank you, Captain Herrera. I appreciate that,” Maya said, standing at attention.

 

“Warren told us about…the baby…I mean, the surgery. Is she okay?”

 

Again, Maya took Andy in, trying to read her. She truly did appreciate Andy’s question, but she was also highly aware that their relationship was permanently altered. This wasn’t Andy her friend from the academy. It was Captain Herrera, her superior.

 

Maya took a deep breath and nodded. “She is. I do hope you’ll understand that should an emergency come up, I may need to leave early.”

 

The last time Maya had left a shift early was the day Andrew died. And while she knew it was generally frowned upon, there was no way she wouldn’t drop everything should Jamie or Carina need her. Not anymore.

 

Andy folded her hands on the desk. “Of course. That’s all, Lieutenant.”

 

Maya turned on her heels and left, feeling no need to say more. It was easier to stay professional at work, easier than acknowledging how painful it was that their friendship was likely over. She hoisted her backpack on her shoulders and returned to the lobby, though this time she made it up the stairs.

 

“Bishop!” Vic cheered from the beanery. Maya was genuinely happy to see her.

 

“Hey, Hughes.”

 

“Okay, let us see. Show us this baby.”

 

The word “baby” seemed to summon most of A-Crew. Jack appeared from the lounge and then Warren popped his head out of the lockers. Travis left the gym and Theo nearly ran from the washrooms. It was how Maya found herself swarmed by her colleagues, all eager to see Jamie.

 

“Hold on, hold on,” she laughed, digging her phone out of her pocket, clicking on the photo albums.

 

“Why does that one say Expenses 2021,” Travis asked, pointing at a folder.

 

Maya pulled the phone a little closer, trying not to blush.

 

“Nudes,” Vic said, which made Maya’s ears turn red. She was very relieved that she’d enforced a password, retina scan, and fingerprint app for that particular folder. Only she was allowed to view her wife’s talent for photography.

 

The resounding laughter made it hard to concentrate, especially as Travis grabbed her shoulders and playfully shook her, but Maya was able to finally click on her Jamie folder and all laughter was replaced with loud awwwssss and cooing.

 

Maya beamed as she showed off picture after picture.

 

Jamie yawning. A little video of Jamie kicking her legs. Jamie snuggling against Carina. Jamie holding Maya’s finger.

 

Each picture made Maya happier and happier.

 

“She looks so different now,” Jack said, his smile kind, and Maya belatedly remembered that he’d been present at Jamie’s birth.

 

“If not for you, she wouldn’t be here,” Maya said, setting her hand on Jack’s shoulder.

 

He shrugged, bashful, but Maya meant it.

 

Vic was still flipping through Maya’s pictures, sharing comments with Travis with each one.

 

“How have you not eaten this baby yet?” She asked, and Maya laughed, understanding the impulse herself.

 

“Oh! Wait!” Warren snapped his fingers remembering something and then darted into the locker room. He emerged holding a tiny onesie that said Probie across the back. There was a little firetruck on the front and Maya had to resist the urge to grab it and drive right to the hospital.

 

After three weeks away and news of a possible investigation, Maya had expected a cold shoulder. Instead, she was reminded that 19 was full of good, decent people. And while she still very much planned to go ahead with her complaint, she was relieved to find that she had allies at work. She wasn’t alone. Which meant that Carina and Jamie weren’t alone either.

 

Footsteps on the stairs interrupted the reunion and when Andy walked into the beanery an awkward silence fell. Maya understood it all too well. She’s experienced the same shift when she’d become captain. It was hard to suddenly be the boss, to be a superior to friends.

 

“Meeting in the barn in five minutes,” Andy said with a tight smile.

 

The group broke up and Maya walked to her locker, already pulling off her jacket. She slipped into her uniform but paused before shutting the door. Looking over her shoulder, she checked that she was alone before reaching into her backpack and taking out the picture she’d printed the night before.

 

Carina held Jamie in her arms, looking down with so much love, so much joy. She was beaming, a smile wider than any Maya had ever seen. It almost pained her to look away. She pinned it inside her locker, taking one last look before removing another copy of the picture from her bag and heading downstairs.

 

She popped into the equipment room, again checking to make sure she was alone, and then pulled her helmet down from the rack. Maya flipped it over and placed a smaller print of the photograph inside. It was covered in plastic, safe from sweat and smoke. But Maya felt better knowing it was there.

 

It kept her focused. It helped constantly remind her to keep her eyes forward, but only if Carina and Jamie were in her direct line of sight.

 

~*~

 

One hour before the end of Maya’s twenty-four-hour shift, Maya found herself anxiously sitting in Grey-Sloan’s emergency room. She sat on a gurney, looking over her shoulder towards the nurse’s desk, hoping that she wouldn’t see her wife.

 

It was a strange feeling because usually she always wanted to see her wife. But not this time.

 

The small burn on the back of her hand was barely a scratch and Jack’s bleeding face was the result of the smallest nick they’d ever seen, but Andy insisted they go get checked, which is how Maya and Jack found themselves in the pit waiting for clearance.

 

“She might kill you,” Jack said, seated next to Maya.

 

Maya rolled her eyes. “Not if she doesn’t see me.”

 

“Who’s not going to see you?” Amelia Shepherd strolled in, a penlight in hand.

 

“Amelia, is Carina in the OR?” Maya asked, hopeful her wife was very busy.

 

Amelia’s smirk grew wider.

 

“Hello yourself, Firefighter Barbie,” she said, looking at Maya before turning her attention to Jack, “and Ken.”

 

“Uh…I’m Jack Gibson?” Jack extended his hand, which Amelia shook enthusiastically.

 

“I’m told you hit your head?” She asked, unceremoniously shining a light in Jack’s eye.

 

“Barely, it wasn’t tha…”

 

Maya Bishop!

 

A loud voice carried over the already loud space and Maya winced, her shoulders hunched close to her ears.

 

“That wasn’t an Italian accent, right? Totally Irish? Spanish? Maybe Australian?” Maya mumbled to herself, nearly falling off the gurney when Jack elbowed her in the side.

 

Carina appeared in a flurry of scrubs and a surgical gown. She was still wearing her surgical cap too and Maya bit her lip because Carina with her hair up was a situation.

 

As was Carina with her hair down.

 

“Show me,” Carina said, both hands on her hips.

 

“It’s really nothing, I swe…”

 

Mostrami subito!”

 

Maya thrust out her arm out in obedient silence. It made both Jack and Amelia laugh, though they quieted when Carina raised one finger in warning.

 

She took Maya’s hand, inspecting it carefully, before shaking her head.

 

Bambina, you cannot injure your hands,” she warned with a heavy sigh.

 

Amelia snorted, “Oh, I want to hear this.”

 

“I don’t think I do,” Jack whispered, once again ignored.

 

“It’s just a tiny burn,” Maya insisted, “I’ve done worse in the kitchen at home!”

 

Tesoro, we need your hands!”

 

Maya blushed furiously. “Carina!

 

“I had a dream like this once,” Amelia hissed, but was cut off by Carina tsk’ing her.

 

Carina raised her phone, showing Maya the screen.

 

“How else will you sign this?” She asked, a slow smile spreading across her face.

 

Maya squinted, confused, until she understood what she was looking at…

 

“Is that…?” She stood up, her burn totally forgotten as she took Carina by the hips.

 

“We’re her guardians, Bambina, her legal guardians!”

 

Maya grappled Carina into a hug and twirled her around, nearly knocking over a tray of gauze and an unsuspecting intern.

 

They both laughed, Carina in surprise, Maya in overwhelming joy, and when Maya set Carina down again she didn’t think twice before pulling her into a kiss. She didn’t care that they were in the middle of a busy emergency room. She didn’t care that Carina was at work and technically, she was still on the clock.

 

Maya needed to kiss her wife.

 

Nothing was going to stop her.

 

Carina’s laughter broke them apart, but Maya kept her hold, wrapping her arms around Carina just as Carina grabbed the back of Maya’s t-shirt. They were cheek to cheek, Carina’s face pressed into Maya’s neck, as close as they could get without burrowing into each other.

 

“Can we go tell her?” Maya asked, stroking Carina’s hair.

 

She felt a nod against her before Carina pulled back to rest her forehead against Maya’s.

 

“You smell like a chimney, Maya, shower first,” she said, though she did not loosen her grip at all.

 

They were so caught up in each other that they both startled when they heard a loud sniffle behind them.

 

“Are you crying?” A red-eyed Amelia looked at Jack who was very quickly shaking his head.

 

“No! You’re crying!” He said, blushing furiously as one tear slowly cascaded down his cheek.

 

Carina’s fingers found the collar of Maya’s shirt and curled inward, tugging just a little, just enough to keep Maya with her.

 

It was where Maya planned to be for the rest of her life.

 

 

Chapter Text

The rain felt appropriate given Maya’s mood.

 

She stood in the middle of a busy sidewalk, umbrella in hand, but couldn’t quite bring herself to walk away yet. A few drops of cold water dripped onto her back and her hair was damp.

 

Somehow, she found the weather comforting.

 

Rain and Seattle were synonymous. She’d grown up running in rainstorms, on tracks made slick from stormy weather, in flooded high school fields. Lane had insisted she run in the rain because there would be no excuse for losing a race.

 

So, Maya had trained her feet and her legs to compensate when the ground was slippery. She taught her body not to notice the cold or the wet. She forced her eyes to see through the droplets. And sometimes standing in the rain was still where she felt the most control, as if her entire body was at her command, every nerve, every tendon.

 

She took one last second to breathe in the damp air, aware that she was disrupting busy morning commuters, which is what finally inspired her to walk away from SFD Headquarters and back to the car.

 

Submitting a formal complaint had been surprisingly easy. As with everything related to bureaucracy, it was all in the paperwork.

 

She wrote down her name. Her station. Her rank.

 

She wrote down her take on the situation and made a list of witnesses and evidence.

 

And then she’d signed at the bottom and handed the papers to a clerk.

 

That was it.

 

The papers would go to HR, who would likely kick them up the chain until they reached the desk of Chief Ross and every other senior member of the fire department. Including the Battalion Chiefs.

 

Maya guessed she had only a few days before Robert Sullivan received word. Which meant Station 19 only had a few days too.

 

Her thoughts were distracted as she approached Carina’s Porsche, though she forced herself to concentrate as she set aside her damp umbrella. Driving the Porsche was a rare treat and Carina had very strict rules. Rainwater on the leather upholstery would not be appreciated.

 

Maya managed to climb in without making a mess and as she sat in the driver’s seat, she took a moment to smile. Because Maya Bishop had a thing for driving powerful cars.

 

Fire engines.

 

Aid cars.

 

Her wife’s precious Porsche.

 

She revved the engine and set her hands on the wheel, her smile growing wider because even when she wasn’t present, Carina had a way of making her happy.

 

Maya merged into traffic, still focused on the fact that she’d finally done it, she’d finally filed the complaint. It made her anxious too, but the smell of leather and Carina’s bodywash enveloped her like a security blanket all the way to the station.

 

It was a clinic day, which left Maya feeling both excited and disappointed. While she was looking forward to seeing Carina, she desperately wished for a very large, very dangerous fire to keep her distracted.

 

Upon entering the station, however, her disappointment faded immediately because she caught sight of Carina in the barn, setting up, and her wife looked particularly beautiful as she moved a portable ultrasound device from one end of the room to another.

 

Carina hadn’t seen her yet, so Maya headed upstairs. She was already in uniform, but she needed to re-do her hair and put her backpack away.

 

Jack and Warren were downstairs in the clinic, which left Travis on breakfast duty. He waved as Maya walked by and she waved back, guilt eating away at her.

 

Would they interview Travis? Would he take her side? Travis liked to point out that Maya stole Andy’s job, but Travis rarely said anything that didn’t end in a punchline, so Maya couldn’t be sure.

 

Theo and Vic were busy sparing in the gym, and with Andy presumably in her office, Maya had the lockers and washroom all to herself. She set down her backpack, smiling warmly at the sight of Carina’s purse and jacket already stowed away. Maya lightly touched the picture of Carina and Jamie as she grabbed a brush.

 

This is what matters. This is why you’re fighting so hard.

 

The thought revived her, and she managed to push some of her worry aside. Filing a formal complaint was important for her career. It was so much better than sitting around passively as corruption ruined her dreams. If her colleagues spoke out against her, there was nothing she could do to stop them.

 

But Maya knew she had allies in the building too.

 

And more importantly, she had her wife. And their baby.

 

Walking into the washroom, Maya still shook her head at the idea of their baby. Jamie was doing better and better every day. She was gaining weight and her heartbeat had finally stabilized. It seemed like every time Maya went to see her, Jamie had one less sensor. One less IV line. They just needed her lungs to mature a little more and then she could leave the NICU.

 

Maya pulled the elastic from her hair and ran her fingers through the damp strands. Her ears were cold and so was her nose. Despite wanting a firegasm, staying inside for the day was probably a good idea.

 

The door swung open just as Maya raised her brush and she paused upon seeing Carina in the mirror because Carina’s trousers fit her just a little too perfectly and Maya was nothing if not observant.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop, do you come here often?” Carina leaned against the doorway and winked before walking in and locking the door behind her.

 

Maya raised an eyebrow, but didn’t complain. Theo and Vic were undoubtably making out in the gym, she was allowed a little privacy with her wife.

 

“Dr. DeLuca,” Maya said in greeting, turning from the sink to find Carina standing right in front of her.

 

“Did it go okay?” Carina asked, taking Maya’s hand.

 

Maya nodded. “Yes. But am I supposed to feel this nervous about it? I feel nervous about it.”

 

Carina took one step closer.

 

“You are doing what’s right, Maya. What’s fair and just,” she said, leaving no room for doubt.

 

Maya considered her words. “Do you want to hear something silly?”

 

“Always.”

 

“When I signed the paperwork? The first thing I thought was…I hope I make Jamie proud, which is dumb because she’s tiny and probably thinks I’m just a shadow blob that gives her milk, bu…”

 

Carina cut her off with a kiss so desperate that Maya gasped for air. She quickly recovered, moaning at the feel of Carina’s tongue sliding against her own. Two hands found her belt buckle, but she managed to get a hold of Carina’s wrists before her wife could get any further.

 

“Whoa,” Maya laughed, finding Carina staring at her with open lust.

 

Scusa, you’re going to be an amazing mother and…”

 

“…that turns you on?”

 

Carina answered with another kiss, bringing both hands to Maya’s face.

 

“It is very, very sexy,” she said, panting just a little.

 

Maya filed away that information for later, but not before sliding her hands down Carina’s back and squeezing her ass.

 

“I’m going to paint the guest room this weekend,” Maya wiggled her eyebrows as she spoke, trying not to lose it as Carina bit her lip.

 

“The things you say, Bambina.”

 

“And I ordered a diaper hamper,” Maya whispered, wedging her thigh between Carina’s legs. She knew it was mean, but that didn’t stop her from pushing up. Carina leaned forward, planting her hands on the counter, pinning Maya in place. She rolled her hips, a challenge, and Maya was seriously considering breaking her own rule against public displays of affection at work and finding the nearest bunk when someone knocked on the door.

 

“Please stop lesbianing! I have to pee!” Vic’s voice was muffled, but it was enough to cool down the DeLuca-Bishops who moved apart, both slightly out of breath.

 

Before letting Vic in, Carina turned to Maya one more time.

 

“Jamie is proud of you, Maya. She will always be proud of you. Just like me,” she said, heartfelt and true.

 

She blew Maya a kiss and then unlocked the door, side-stepping a hopping Vic as she disappeared.

 

~*~

 

Throughout the day, Maya found herself pausing her work to catch a glimpse of Carina. It wasn’t like her – she was usually hyper focused on her job and clinic days offered time to do inventory and stack hoses. Instead, she was lurking around corners and smiling like a lovesick teenager when she occasionally heard Carina’s distinctive voice instructing patients or making a diagnosis.

 

Something about Jamie had softened Maya, though she would never admit it to herself. And Carina was the only other person who could understand the feeling. They loved each other, but it felt like Jamie had somehow injected their already big love with steroids.

 

There was also the fact that Carina had decided to torture her all day long. A little teasing was one thing, but Carina was basically edging her, and Maya was grateful for it. Not just because it felt good, but because it was a distraction from her worries about the formal complaint.

 

Instead of anxiously watching the door in case her colleagues were about to be served with subpoenas, Maya was watching Carina, or, at the very least, she was waiting to see when Carina would strike next.

 

At lunch Carina sat next to her in the Beanery, her hand slowly gliding up Maya’s thigh under the table. They ran into each other again at the lockers where Carina bent over searching her purse, her ass conveniently pushing against Maya’s pelvis. She hugged Maya as she left, slipping something into her pocket before prancing from the room. Maya nearly fell over when she discovered that the something was a thong. A still-warm thong.

 

Maya was in such a good mood that she didn’t notice Chief Ross’s presence until the woman herself appeared in the barn, walking up and down the cubicles. Andy was beside her and they were deep in discussion though Ross had a pleased smirk on her face. It faded slightly as she caught sight of Maya, but Ross quickly recovered, schooling her features into a mask of indifference.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop,” she said, pausing in front of the equipment room.

 

Maya stood at attention, her chin raised, praying Carina wouldn’t overhear. She didn’t want Carina to hear this humiliation, she didn’t want Carina to see her cut down.

 

“Chief,” Maya answered, her voice neutral.

 

“It’s good to see you back at 19. Captain Herrera informs me that congratulations to you and your wife are in order.”

 

Maya felt her hands go cold. The last thing she wanted was for Jamie to be anywhere near the situation. Chief Ross had already demeaned her wife. But her baby? Maya willed herself to stay calm.

 

“Yes, Chief. Thank you, Chief.”

 

“Captain Dale was very complimentary about you, Bishop. I’m glad to hear it.”

 

Maya nodded.

 

“Captain Dale is the exemplification of leadership. I was honoured to serve with her,” Maya said, relieved the conversation had moved away from her family.

 

“Excellent. Then you’ll be honoured to serve under Captain Herrera too.”

 

Under not with.

 

Maya swallowed hard. “Yes, Chief.”

 

The sound of heels on cement pulled everyone’s attention and they all looked to their right where Carina had just stepped out of a cubicle.

 

Maya watched as her wife’s face shifted from friendly physician to secretly enraged spouse. Her cheekbones were somehow sharper. Her eyebrows arched. Maya was relieved that Ross likely could not pick up on the subtle changes, though Maya knew better than anyone that Chief Ross was in danger. At least judging by the set of Carina’s mouth.

 

Huge danger.

 

“Ah, Dr. DeLuca, so good to see you again.” Ross spun around, facing Carina.

 

“Likewise, Chief Ross.”

 

Maya felt her heart beating too quickly. She really did not want a fight to break out between her boss and her wife. Though Carina would never make a scene, the tension alone was anxiety-inducing.

 

“I was saying to your wife that I hear congratulations are in order?”

 

Carina’s jaw twitched and her nostrils flared. Maya was certain that a silent prayer had just been sent to a very angry saint and Ross was going to wake up the next day with the measles.

 

“Thank you,” Carina said, her accent thicker than usual, a sure sign that she was trying to hold back a wave of emotion.

 

“It’s quite the thing! Herrera told me that you both rescued her? It would make a great story, a real human-interest piece. Would you consider an interview and maybe a picture? I can get in touch with my contact at The Times – they’re always looking to promote the SFD and this would be perfect.” Ross spoke breezily, as if she was suggesting a picnic in the park.

 

She didn’t seem to notice that Carina’s face had turned red or that Maya was breathing strangely. Maya was about to step in and burn her career to the ground, but Carina found the words first, subtly raising her hand to stop Maya.

 

“Thank you, Chief Ross. But my wife and I prefer to keep our private lives private,” Carina said, her look pointed.

 

“Understood. Though if you change yo…”

 

“We won’t.”

 

Ross looked from Carina to Maya and back again, as if she could understand the silent language that existed between the two. But she couldn’t. No one could.

 

Because Maya was saying thank you as she tilted her head.

 

And Carina was saying I love you as she raised her eyebrow.

 

“I should let you both get back to work,” Ross said, looking at Carina, “Thank you for your efforts here, Dr. DeLuca. It’s a testament to this station and the community.”

 

Carina responded with a small nod of acknowledgment and the DeLuca-Bishops watched in silence as the Chief and Andy walked out of the barn and towards the stairs. When they were out of sight, Carina let out a low growl and stormed back into the cubicle. Maya followed quickly.

 

Come osa parlare del nostra bambina. Come osa!” Carina paced the small space, raising one finger and shaking it skyward.

 

Maya looked over her shoulder, making sure they were alone, and then caught Carina’s hand, pulling her closer.

 

“Why do you think Andy told her?” Maya wondered out loud.

 

Carina huffed. “I do not know. But if any of them think they can use our Jamie…”

 

“Hey,” Maya took Carina’s face in her hands, “she can’t touch Jamie. I won’t let her.”

 

Weeks ago the confrontation would have broken Maya. It would have sent her spiralling. But holding Carina’s face, knowing she’d taken a step forward to right the wrongs of the past year, Maya channeled her anger into strength instead of darkness.

 

Carina’s anger, however, was still palpable, a rare occurrence given her ability to find the good in even the worst situations. She wrapped her hands around Maya’s biceps, squeezing, and despite the seriousness of the moment, Maya couldn’t help the small smirk.

 

“I’ll protect you. And Jamie. Forever,” Maya said, flexing just a little, just to see if Carina would notice.

 

Sure enough, Carina licked her lips, her anger shifting into something else entirely.

 

Baciami,” Carina whispered, demanding. Usually, Maya would refuse given their location, but her boss had just tried to use their baby as propaganda. Decorum be damned.

 

Plus, Carina didn’t specify where she wanted a kiss, which left Maya with so many options.

 

She tucked her face into Carina’s neck, licking her pulse point before lightly biting the sensitive skin. If Maya’s parenting plans were an aphrodisiac for Carina, the way Carina fearlessly defended their family was very much working for Maya too.

 

“That’s not really where I want to kiss you,” Maya brushed her lips against Carina’s ear, her voice husky.

 

“Maya…”

 

“I mean, it’s perfect. Every inch of you is perfect. But I want something very specific. Something that just mine.”

 

Carina inhaled deeply and when Maya pulled back her eyes were squeezed shut.

 

“Just a few more hours, Dr. DeLuca,” she said, backing out of the cubicle, “a few more hours until I give you that kiss.”

 

Carina’s dopey smile and hazy look eviscerated the memory of every word Chief Ross said.

 

~*~

 

They walked quickly through the parking lot, hand in hand, until Carina’s Porsche came into view. Maya had parked it far away from the other cars, knowing how cautious Carina was about scratches.

 

Carina circled the Porsche and slipped into the driver’s seat while Maya took her place on the passenger’s side, both tired from a long day spent on their feet. Maya tucked her backpack away and then reached for her seatbelt, only pausing when she felt Carina’s eyes on her.

 

“Everything okay?” She asked, finding her wife staring at her intently.

 

Carina pressed her hand to Maya’s cheek and then slid it behind her head, pulling her closer. The leather squeaked as Carina leaned over to kiss Maya, her lips warm and soft. Maya opened her mouth, relieved to finally have the freedom to kiss her wife properly, the Porsche’s tinted windows affording them privacy. She curled her hands into the lapels of Carina’s jacket and forced her forward, deepening the kiss, running the tip of her tongue along Carina’s bottom lip before licking inside, moaning as she felt Carina’s tongue in her mouth.

 

They’d been teasing each other all day and with the added stress of Ross’s appearance, the need to touch was almost unbearable. Carina pulled away first, searching Maya’s face.

 

“Home?” Maya panted, expecting Carina to turn on the car and tear out of the lot.

 

Instead, Carina furrowed her brown in thought and then bit her lip.

 

“Take off your shoes and get into the back seat,” she said, finally releasing her grip on Maya’s head.

 

Carina didn’t let Maya drink coffee in the Porsche and now she wanted to…

 

Maya didn’t wait for her wife to change her mind. She reached down, quickly untying her sneakers before kicking them off. Very carefully, she lowered her seat and climbed into the back, waiting to see if Carina would do the same.

 

The light from the Station provided enough illumination for Maya to see the blush on Carina’s cheeks. Carina removed her jacket, leaving it on the front seat, and then discarded her boots before somewhat awkwardly climbing over the centre consol. With her long legs, Carina was less graceful than usual in her movements, but she quickly ended up sitting beside Maya, still breathless.

 

Despite the late hour, Maya knew that B-Squad was on for the night. She could see cars pulling into the lot and while she knew the Porsche’s windows appeared black to anyone outside, the thought of people nearby thrilled her.

 

She didn’t say a word when she started unbuttoning Carina’s silk blouse. The buttons were delicate, and each took longer than she wanted, but the effect was alluring. Carina was revealed slowly, every mouth-watering inch of her torso.

 

Maya carefully leaned over, placing one knee on the seat between Carina’s legs.

 

“Hi,” she said softly, close enough to kiss Carina though she chose not to. Not yet.

 

“Hi,” Carina smiled.

 

“Thank you for today. For being beside me. I know it hasn’t been easy and…”

 

Carina shook her head as she set her hands on Maya’s shoulders.

 

“Maya, how many times do I have to say this? I want to be beside you,” Carina’s exasperation was clear. As was her love.

 

“Guess I’m still not used to it…I’m really good at chasing people away.”

 

“I love you,” Carina whispered against Maya’s lips, “and I choose you forever.”

 

Warmth spread throughout Maya’s chest and all thoughts of guilt fell away as Carina kissed her again. With her wife sprawled beneath her, Maya felt like she’d stumbled into a dream. She found Carina’s neck, nuzzling against it, overwhelmed by how good Carina smelled. But how soft she was.

 

“You’re so beautiful,” Maya said, kissing Carina’s chest, licking the curve of her breast.

 

“Mmm…Maya…”

 

The sound of her name gasped from Carina’s lips made Maya hungry. She maintained her balance with one hand on the back of the seat, but managed to lower herself further, pleased to see Carina’s bra was sheer and see through. She didn’t bother pushing it down, instead sucking Carina through the fabric, eliciting the sweetest moan from above.

 

It was so tempting to tease, but Maya really had been anticipating this all day. She paused as Carina reached behind her own back with one hand, clearly struggling under her shirt, and then her bra loosened giving Maya so much more to work with.

 

Eye-level with Carina’s chest, Maya was suddenly light-headed. Everything was just so perfect.

 

Bambina, you look like a teenage boy right now,” Carina laughed, though judging by her hard nipples, she didn’t mind Maya’s attention at all.

 

“Sorry, they’re just so…” Maya sighed, her concentration slipping until Carina cleared her throat and gave her a pointed look.

 

“You have made me wait for a very long time, Maya,” Carina cupped her own breast, rubbing her thumb against her nipple.

 

Maya so loved to watch Carina touch herself and Carina knew it, but Maya had other goals, which is why she lowered her hands to the button of Carina’s trousers, dropping to her knees just below the seat. It was a tight fit, but Maya was determined, and the Porsche was spacious.

 

With Carina’s help, Maya managed to pulled Carina’s pants down to her knees and then off one leg. It left Carina seated half naked, her shirt open, her bra askew. She looked positively tussled, and Maya could not wait any longer.

 

She kissed Carina’s stomach, just above her navel, and tried to slow her breathing. This was about Carina. Carina’s pleasure. Carina’s joy. Maya wanted to ignore her own desire and take her wife.

 

Carina apparently wanted that too because she spread her legs, offering herself, one bent at the knee and pressed against the seatback, the other sprawled, her foot nearly in Maya’s lap.

 

“Fuck,” Maya whispered, almost incapable of speech. Carina knew exactly what she was doing, she always did. She knew the exact thing to say or the exact way to move her body that would drive Maya into a state of feral need.

 

Carina set her hand on top of Maya’s head, her fingers sinking into Maya’s hair.

 

“Did you not say it was yours?” She asked, coy.

 

Maya growled and descended. She spread Carina open with her thumbs, revealing her clit, taking it into her mouth and sucking hard. Carina’s spasmed, not expecting Maya’s sudden movement. She arched, one arm braced against the back seat, trying to find some leverage to move her hips.

 

Cazzo, Bambina…” Her voice was loud in the small space and it made Maya smile. It made her greedy too.

 

She took Carina’s hips in her hands, forcing her to stay still, removing any chance that she could move away. Carina’s fingers were so sharp against Maya’s scalp, but Maya loved it, she loved feeling Carina’s pleasure.

 

Maya turned her face, nipping at Carina’s thigh, so close to where she knew Carina wanted her to be, but not close enough. She licked the smooth skin, sucking it just hard enough to leave mark, before turning.

 

“You taste so good,” she said almost to herself, licking Carina’s entrance with the tip of her tongue. The hand in her hair pulled, which forced Maya forward. She licked inside, moaning at the feeling, using her nose against Carina’s clit, lapping her up in frenzied need.

 

She didn’t think before lowering one hand into her own jeans, she was throbbing, fucking Carina, tasting her, feeling how wet she was, it was almost too much for Maya. After a day of waiting and wanting, after a whole day, she couldn’t help it, she couldn’t…

 

Maya slipped her hand into her panties and rubbed herself, gasping against Carina’s body as she finally found some relief. The sound obviously surprised Carina who in the midst of her own gasps looked down at Maya, meeting her gaze.

 

“Maya…are you…”

 

Maya nodded, soaking her chin as she did, pushing her tongue inside Carina again as she watched her wife’s mouth open in a silent moan. As Carina climaxed above her, Maya used her free hand to press down on Carina’s clit, rubbing in hard, relentless circles and the rush of moisture it induced had Maya on the edge herself. She swallowed, knowing her face was a mess, tasting Carina, wanting all of her.

 

But as Carina came down for her orgasm, Maya was nearly in pain, the spasms between her legs growing stronger and stronger. Carina was still blissed out, but she managed to bring her hands to Maya’s shoulders and pull at her shirt, and Maya understood what she wanted immediately.

 

It wasn’t easy slipping onto Carina’s lap in the small space. Maya leaned forward, her head bowed over Carina’s shoulder, but she managed to plant her knees on either side of Carina’s thighs as they sat sideways on the seat.

 

There was no way to pull Maya’s jeans down, but Carina didn’t seem to care as she slid her hand inside, forcing Maya’s own hand away. Her fingers were inside Maya so quickly that Maya felt her heart stutter.

 

“Carina…please…”

 

The fingers curled, searching, searching…

 

Maya surged forward, her upper body smashed against Carina, her shoulder nearly hit Carina’s chin, but Carina rubbed her fingers in exactly the right place and Maya could feel herself on the precipice, she could feel herself about to jump off that cliff.

 

“Fuck…I’m so close…I…”

 

Carina’s thumb circled Maya’s clit, the touch light, a tease.

 

“Is this mine, Bambina?” Carina’s voice was so calm, so low, but the implication of her words made Maya clench hard around her fingers.

 

“Yes…fuck…yes…”

 

The pressure on her clit increased, and then a hand tickled down the back of her jeans, grabbing her ass. Carina squeezed, her blunt nails scratching lightly.

 

“And this?” She asked, squeezing again.

 

Maya squirmed, setting one hand on Carina’s shoulder, needing to feel her.

 

“Yes…please…Carina…fuck…Carina…I…”

 

“So good for me, Maya, such a good girl,” Carina whispered into Maya’s ear, smiling, before she slipped a third finger inside Maya without any warning.

 

The stretch was enough to shock Maya’s system. Her orgasm tore through, a relentless, pounding, flood of sensation that felt endless as she struggled through, Carina’s body all that stopped her from shattering to pieces. She bucked against Carina’s hand, unable to control her hips from moving, unable to control the moans from her mouth, unable to control the gush of moisture that soaked Carina’s fingers as she continued fucking her.

 

It was only when Maya opened her eyes minutes later that she regained any semblance of awareness. She was somehow lying on top of Carina, her head just below Carina’s chin, though Carina seemed comfortable beneath her. Two hands coasted down Maya’s back until the settled against her ass again, holding her close.

 

Maya frowned as she realized how wet she was and tried to look down at her body, but it was too dark in the car to see much.

 

“Did I…” She wondered out loud still looking down until she heard Carina laugh.

 

“Did you squirt and almost ruin the upholstery? Yes, you did,” She said, which in turn made Maya push herself up on two hands so she could look at Carina’s face.

 

“Pretty sure you did first,” Maya licked her lips, still tasting Carina.

 

Carina raised one eyebrow, but her smirk widened.

 

Maya pressed a soft kiss to Carina’s mouth, knowing Carina could taste herself too.

 

 “I should file complaints with HR more often,” she mumbled, sighing when Carina squeezed her ass again.

 

“Hmm. It was all that talk of diaper hampers and nursery painting,” Carina almost looked thoughtful as she spoke.

 

“Oh? That worked for you?”

 

.”

 

“And if I told you I’d narrowed down our crib choices to two?”

 

Carina stared at Maya with dark eyes. “Help me get dressed. We need to go home, right now.”

 

“Big plans?”

 

“Yes, Andiamo, Bambina!”

 

Maya didn’t move, she liked the look on Carina’s face. She liked the open desire.

 

“And what will I get if I do?”

 

“It’s more like what will I get.”

 

This time Maya raised her eyebrow, increasingly curious about what lay ahead.

 

“Tell me and I’ll move,” Maya lowered her body again, just enough to feel Carina’s breasts against hers.

 

 “When we get home, I want you on all fours for me.” Carina said, leaving no room for argument.

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“And then I’m going to use the green one and see if I can make you ruin our bedsheets just like you ruined your jeans, Bambina.”

 

The green one…

 

“Just the green one? You know I can take more, Carina,” she laughed, but quieted when she saw the devious grin on her wife’s face.

 

“You assume you know where I plan to use it.”

 

She squeezed Maya’s ass again, hard enough to leave red marks in the shape of her manicured fingernails.

 

“God, you are such a butt girl,” Maya teased, unable to keep her voice from shaking at the mere thought of what Carina had planned.

 

Carina shrugged against the seat, casual despite their increasingly heated discussion.

 

“Well, it’s mine. And I can use it however I want to,” she said, leaving Maya speechless.

 

They lay together for another minute, both content just to look, to memorize each line, each freckle, each scar.

 

Maya kissed Carina just as the rain started again.

 

She didn’t feel the cold because Carina’s warmth permeated every piece of her.

 

She didn’t feel the cold.

 

Chapter Text

The sound of a power drill pulled Carina from a fitful sleep. Her first thought was I’m going to murder my wife. Her next thought was Why did I marry someone who wakes up so early in the morning?

 

As she tossed back the blankets, she winced, though the feeling came with an odd sense of relief. After two weeks of hormone shots, her egg retrieval had gone very well, according to the fertility specialist. It felt like a weight had lifted, like a constant anxiety in the back of her mind was silenced.

 

She didn’t know what the future held. She didn’t know if she and Maya would ever want more children. But they had the option now, they had time.

 

And while the procedure had left her with cramps and her abdomen was still bruised from the daily injections, it was all worth it to secure a possible tomorrow.

 

But Carina wasn’t someone who dwelled on what could come next. She liked to live in the present and in the present, Maya was making all kinds of noise on their one day off.

 

Carina was intensely displeased.

 

She had to be a morning person, I just had to fall in love with a morning person…

 

The sound of the drill masked her steps, so Maya didn’t turn around when Carina appeared in the doorway of what had previously been their guest bedroom. It allowed Carina to watch Maya work and she quickly remembered why marrying a morning person was worth it.

 

Why marrying this particular morning person was worth it.

 

Maya knelt on the floor assembling a crib, her running tights emphasizing muscled thighs and the curve of her ass. She was in only a sports bra too and every time she pushed the drill, her forearms tensed. Carina very much loved Maya’s forearms.

 

Bambina, fermati!” Carina crossed her arms, though it was hard to scowl as she looked around the room.

 

They’d chosen a light blue, something gender neutral and airy. Maya spent every moment she wasn’t at the station building furniture or dismantling items from the guest room. They had the diaper table set up, as well as a rocking chair in the corner by the window. Maya was just finishing with the crib when she turned around, concern all over her face.

 

“Shit! Did I wake you? Do you need a heating pad? Water?” Maya hopped up and she was suddenly standing in front of Carina, her hands fluttering from Carina’s face to her hips, as if she couldn’t decide where to set them.

 

Buongiorno, my beautiful wife, how did you sleep? Oh, me? I slept okay thank you for asking,” Carina said, unable to keep the smile off her face.

 

Maya bit her lip and Carina found herself lost in those wide blue eyes.

 

“Do you like it?” Maya asked, a little unsure, and Carina softened, unable to keep any façade of annoyance.

 

“Maya it’s beautiful,” Carina said, taking Maya’s hand and squeezing it.

 

“Do you think Jamie will like it?”

 

Carina wondered if she’d ever not want to swoon when Maya spoke so lovingly about Jamie. It always felt like a love bomb had detonated in her brain, which left her dazed, sometimes horny, but always hopelessly in love. As if she wasn’t already hopelessly in love.

 

The additional hormones in her body, however, made her weepy, and Maya’s concern turned into genuine worry.

 

“Carina?” Maya reached for Carina’s face, brushing away a tear with her thumb.

 

Scusa, scusa, it’s the hormones.”

 

“Estrogen attack?”

 

“So much estrogen,” Carina said with a watery grin. Maya instantly relaxed. She led Carina from the nursery, back into their bedroom, and Carina was surprised when Maya lay down with her on the bed.

 

“Sorry I woke you,” she said, “I just want everything to be ready.”

 

Carina understood the feeling. There was a good chance that Jamie would be able to come home within the next few days. Cormac was running a few more tests, but it wouldn’t be long before she was with them. The idea was surreal. As excited as Carina was, she was scared too.

 

Lying on her back, Carina stared up at the ceiling, trying to give in to the comfort of Maya beside her. She sometimes forgot that she didn’t need to do everything alone. That everyone wasn’t entirely her responsibility.

 

Maya turned onto her side and raised the hem of Carina’s tank top before pressing soft kisses to the bruises dotting Carina’s stomach. It was so sweet, so loving, that again Carina found herself near tears. While she was never one to shy away from emotion, she was very much looking forward to her hormone levels returning to normal.

 

“When they brought Andrea home, I begged to sleep in his crib with him,” Carina said, lazily stroking her fingers through Maya’s hair.

 

“Did they let you?”

 

Carina scoffed. “Never. But the minute he started crying I asked if nonna could keep him.”

 

“Do you think your nonna would have liked me?”

 

Other than a brief hello over FaceTime, Maya hadn’t had the chance to meet nonna before she died. It still pained Carina that she’d been unable to go to the funeral, that her nonna had died gasping for breath.

 

She shifted on the mattress, her hand never leaving the comfort of Maya’s hair.

 

“She would have tried to feed you. Sei tutto ossa!” Carina laughed, deciding to focus on the good memories.

 

Nonna had not been a tall woman, but she was strong and graceful and Carina had inherited the same eyes – dark and deep.

 

“I’m not all bones!” Maya said, raising herself on her elbows.

 

“Your Italian is good, Bambina!”

 

Maya blushed and returned to kissing the particularly angry mark close to Carina’s navel.

 

“Then she would have told me that I’m not feeding you enough,” Carina continued, “and then she would have bought a San Floriano medallion and worn it every day and prayed for your safety and called me every two weeks to check in on la mia americana.”

 

Maya paused, clearly deep in thought.

 

“I guess things are a bit complicated in the grandparent department,” she said, the frown on her face a marked change from the happy smile of moments ago.

 

Carina stilled her hand on top of Maya’s head.

 

. Would you want to call your mom and tell her about Jamie?”

 

Carina could almost hear Maya’s inner struggle as she watched anger and fear and sadness wash across Maya’s face.

 

Finally Maya shrugged and started playing with her wedding ring, spinning it over and over.

 

“She’s not with him anymore,” Maya said, as if trying to remind herself, “it’s just…hard for me to trust her. I get that she was abused, probably more than even I know, but as a kid she was so…distant. I understand that was Lane’s fault, I really do….”

 

“But twelve-year-old Maya didn’t,” Carina finished.

 

“What about your dad? Are you going to tell him?”

 

Carina groaned quietly. “I want him to know he has a nipotina, but he’ll either jump on a plane the second I tell him or he won’t care at all.”

 

Even thinking about the conversation exhausted Carina.

 

“How has he been?” Maya asked, her hand warm on Carina’s thigh.

 

“Ehh. Not the best.”

 

Carina had a network of spies made up of cousins and family friends who kept a close eye on Vincenzo. While she tried to speak to her father at least once a month, she found the discussions emotionally taxing. Their relationship was better with an ocean between them, though it pained Carina to feel that way.

 

“Okay, so…we may need to hire actors if Jamie wants non-problematic grandparents,” Maya said.

 

The idea made Carina laugh.

 

“You know, there was a time in my life where I would have run back to Italy to take care of my dad. Dropped everything because he was manic or he was in trouble,” Carina said, remembering how often her plans were ruined because her father needed her.

 

“It shouldn’t have been all on you. All on your shoulders.”

 

Carina knew Maya was trying to speak carefully and with respect, but Carina would always feel somewhat guarded about her father. It was the residue of her own abuse, the echo of a childhood punctuated by tragedy.

 

“Maybe not,” Carina sighed, “but Mama couldn’t stay in that house. And I knew she’d never leave Andrea. I was old enough to understand that.”

 

“You were sixteen. You should’ve been worried about prom or school…”

 

“Were you worried about prom or school when you were sixteen?” Carina continued playing with Maya’s hair, already knowing the answer.

 

“Prom? No. School…I was worried about my grades because bad grades were not tolerated.”

 

Carina tried not to smirk because Maya’s teenaged study habits had clearly crossed over into adulthood. Her wife was the biggest keener she’d ever met.

 

The happiness faded though when Carina pondered her sixteenth year. The pain of her mother leaving. The growing realization that she was alone with her father’s moods. And then at seventeen…

 

She shivered, forcing away the dark thoughts. Forcing away the fear that always came when she remembered what had happened to her at seventeen.

 

“Hey, you okay?” Maya reached for Carina’s hand and furrowed her brow.

 

“Having a daughter is a little scary, no?”

 

Maya looked pensive and then her eyes flickered to Carina’s face. They didn’t talk about Carina’s assault. Not really. Carina didn’t feel the need to open those wounds very often, even though she knew she was safe to do so with Maya. It was part of her life, it had shaped her, but it did not define her and Carina always chose to live in the light as much as she could.

 

But Jamie had forced them both to rethink everything. Their lives. Their relationship. Even their childhoods.

 

“It’s terrifying,” Maya confessed, “but…she has us, right? Forever.”

 

.”

 

“Plus she’s not leaving the house until she’s twenty-five.”

 

Carina laughed but shook her head. “No, no. She will be strong and independent and…”

 

“And I’m going to buy her a giant dog. The biggest dog.”

 

Stupida,” Carina lightly bopped Maya’s nose, but she was almost bubbling with affection.

 

Motherhood looked far too good on Maya Bishop.

 

“I guess just as long as we don’t turn into our parents…”

 

“Well, I’m not planning to lose my temper three times a day and I don’t think you’re planning on turning Jamie into a running machine, so I think we’ll be okay?” Carina tried to speak lightly, though it was impossible to ignore the pain in her words.

 

They were about to be parents. Parent to an actual baby. And their role models were not exactly enviable.

 

Maya exhaled sharply. “We know what we’re doing…right?”

 

“No. Not at all.”

 

“Okay, good,” Maya laughed. She stretched out, content to return her lips to Carina’s bruised stomach.

 

“I think we just love her, Bambina. The rest?” Carina raised one shoulder and shrugged.

 

“Have we just destroyed our sex life for the next eighteen years?”  

 

The question caught Carina off guard, and she raised her head, finding Maya staring back at her, her chin resting against Carina’s hip bone.

 

“Nothing could ever destroy our sex life,” Carina said, running her thumb along Maya’s cheekbone.

 

“Oh? Not even a screaming baby or a temperamental teenager?”

 

“No,” Carina laughed, “I will always find you, Maya. Always.”

 

Carina wiggled her fingers in Maya’s face, giggling when Maya lightly caught one between her teeth.

 

The extraction had left Carina feeling bloated and achy, but lying next to Maya helped her forget that she’d turned her body into a pincushion for the past two weeks. She’d never expected to be a person who would worry about daycare or organic laundry detergent. She thought her life would be an adventure with all roads leading back to Vincenzo.

 

Instead, she was lying next to her wife. And they were about to bring home their baby. She could barely believe it sometimes.

 

“Are you ready?” Maya asked.

 

“No. You?”

 

“Not even close.”

 

Carina had never felt more at peace. She’d never felt more in love.

 

Because all roads led to Maya.

 

And Jamie.

 

~*~

 

As she stood in the elevator next to Carina, a part of Maya wondered if she was hallucinating. She wondered if she had fallen asleep or if she was in a coma in some other universe and this universe was a figment of her imagination.

 

Because she was about to be a mother. To a baby. An actual baby.

 

Maya puffed her cheeks out and exhaled.

 

It drew Carina’s attention and Maya was relieved to see that her wife looked equally anxious.

 

“Has this elevator always moved so slowly?” Maya asked, pulling at the collar of her t-shirt. She felt warm, maybe too warm.

 

A familiar hand found its way into her own. Maya could feel Carina’s rings against her fingers.

 

The fifth floor passed, and then the sixth, and when the elevator dinged, Carina startled, which oddly made Maya feel better. They were both scared and unsure and ecstatic. Maya wasn’t already failing at parenthood, Carina was just as frazzled.

 

If Maya was jumping out of an airplane, Carina was right there beside her.

 

The walk to the NICU was familiar now, but this time it felt different. Hand in hand they took the required steps, hearts beating loudly.

 

Nancy stood in the doorway, a file tucked under her arm, and she smiled at the sight of them.

 

“Hello!” She called, clearly excited, ushering the DeLuca-Bishops forward.

 

Maya noticed the other parents in the NICU staring at her with wistful faces. They all wanted to bring their babies home too.

 

This is the last time you’ll be in this room. This is the last time Jamie will be in this room. Jamie has never seen the sky in daytime. She’s never seen the sun. She’s never breathed air free from smoke. Jamie is coming home

 

“We’ve got all the paperwork cleared on our end,” Nancy was saying, “the nurse will bring the discharge papers and instructions, but I’m sure you’re familiar with all that, Dr. DeLuca.”

 

Carina nodded and set down her bag on the rocking chair they kept near Jamie’s bed. Maya lowered the car seat she’d brought to the floor and despite her earlier worry, seeing Jamie helped her focus. Excitement seeped in.

 

Jamie is coming home.

 

“Hello, Piccolina,” Carina whispered, smiling down at the baby. Jamie turned to look at her, obviously aware of Carina’s presence.

 

“Can we…” Maya pointed at Jamie and then at the bag they’d brought too.

 

Nancy gave her a thumb’s up. “Yes, of course!”

 

For the first time in her short life, Jamie was free from wires and sensors. She was just a baby, lying in her bassinet, looking for all the world like the picture of health. At six pounds Jamie really looked like a baby for the first time though Maya knew that technically, she was still tiny for her age. Jamie wasn’t a newborn, but to everyone else she likely appeared that way.

 

Maya reached for her first, scooping her up with practiced ease.

 

“Have you been lifting weights, Jamie?” She asked, laughing when Jamie kicked her legs. She seemed to like kicking her legs whenever Maya or Carina spoke to her, a small acknowledgment that she was listening.

 

“It’s time for clothes, Jamie,” Carina said, holding up the onesie they’d brought from home. It was white and covered with tiny pizza slices, a present from Vic.

 

Maya laughed, lifting Jamie just enough so she could kiss the small scar on her ribs left from surgery.

 

“No more naked baby,” she whispered against Jamie’s forehead, before setting her down in the bassinet again.

 

Jamie immediately started crying, her face contorting into the saddest expression Maya had ever seen.

 

“Hey,” Maya cooed, “it’s okay! We just have to make sure you’re not arrested for public indecency on the way out of here.”

 

“Maya!” Carina chided though she did so with a huge smile. She tucked Jamie’s feet into the bottom of the onesie and proceeded to slip the rest of the material under Jamie’s tiny butt.

 

“You’re really good at that,” Maya watched Carina expertly grab Jamie’s hands and place them through the sleeves. She closed the snaps down the front of the onesie and then lightly clapped her hands

 

Finito!

 

Jamie was still crying and still waving her arms, but as soon as Carina picked her up, the tiny mewling stopped. With a quick adjustment Carina held Jamie against her shoulder, gently rubbing circles against her back.

 

Maya wondered if she’d ever get used to the sight of Carina with Jamie. She was not surprised that Carina was such a natural, but she was surprised by how emotional it made her feel. They were so beautiful together, Carina so happy and Jamie so content.

 

Nancy appeared again, obviously trying to give the DeLuca-Bishops a moment, but there was paperwork to fill out before they could leave. And they so wanted to leave.

 

“So, the legal guardianship has been approved, as you know,” Nancy said, opening her file, “and Simon filed the adoption petition at the same time, so that’s in process too.”

 

“How soon will we know if the application is accepted?” Maya asked.

 

While the legal guardianship was an important first step, the adoption would make Carina and Maya official parents. They both knew that the adoption could be contested at any time before it was approved and were eager to sign the papers and protect themselves and Jamie.

 

“We’ve started scheduling home visits. Work-place visits will likely happen in the next few weeks. You’re look at six months…right around Christmas,” Nancy explained.

 

Six days was too much let alone six months.

 

“And if someone contests the adoption?” Carina asked, the smile on her face replaced with obvious concern.

 

“The legal guardianship gives you a lot of protection. We can cross that bridge if necessary, but for now? Enjoy this time, I know how long you’ve been waiting.”

 

Maya squeezed Carina’s shoulder, hoping to lend some strength. It would be so easy to give in to fears, but she didn’t want to. Not in this moment. Not when Jamie was in Carina’s arms.

 

They had very few items to pack up, except for Jamie’s collection of stuffed animals. When Carina tried to place Jamie down to help Maya grab an extra blanket, Jamie squawked, those little legs moving again.

 

“I know, Jamie. She smells too good, right?” Maya laughed, closing her bag once all the toys were packed away.

 

Carina rolled her eyes. “Bambina…”

 

“Which one?” Maya pointed at herself and then at Jamie. It made Carina sigh.

 

The next challenge was getting Jamie into the carrier. Maya looked at Carina and Carina looked at Maya and they both silently wondered if Jamie was going to like her new car seat. She’d sat in one the day before to complete her car seat test, but the baby seemed especially clingy now, as if she was scared that Carina was going to walk out the door and leave her behind.

 

“Okay Jamie, this is state-of-the-art, NHTSA approved,” Maya said, setting the carrier on a nearby table. She moved the straps out of the way and then turned to Carina, raising an eyebrow.

 

Carina nodded once before slowly moving Jamie in her arms. She supported her head in one hand and used the other to support her bottom and they both held their breath as Carina placed Jamie into her seat.

 

As soon as Jamie was safely tucked in, Carina pulled her hands away, holding them close to her face, as if any sudden movement would trigger Jamie’s tears.

 

Jamie blinked and her bottom lip wobbled and before anyone knew what was happening, she started crying again, this time wheeling her arms and legs.

 

Carina set her hand on Jamie’s tummy, trying to comfort her.

 

“Shh, Picollina, va tutto bene,” she said, shooting Maya a worried look, which Maya returned because they’d yet to even leave the NICU and already Jamie was fussy.

 

Maya looked at the crying baby in front of her and her concerned wife and an idea came to mind.

 

“Give me your sweater,” Maya said, holding out her hand.

 

Carina turned her face from Jamie. “What?”

 

“Your sweater.”

 

Carina shrugged off her cardigan, handing it to Maya who immediately tucked it around Jamie’s little body as a blanket. Jamie sniffled once, and then again, and then she yawned and promptly fell asleep.

 

“First parental victory,” Maya whispered, pumping her fist. She turned, expecting to find Carina smiling happily, but instead Carina’s hand curled into the front of Maya’s shirt and yanked, forcing Maya into a passionate kiss, the type of kiss that was usually reserved for very, very private moments.

 

Carina pulled away almost as quickly as she’d leaned in, her cheeks red.

 

“Uhh…wow,” Maya said, stammering, taking a quick peek around the room to see if they’d shocked the other NICU parents. No one appeared to be paying attention to them, though one man in the corner seemed particularly intent on not looking in their direction.

 

Scusa, it’s just when you…ugh…”

 

Maya bit her lip, feeling very smug. “What’s going to happen the first time I change her diaper?”

 

“You cannot say such things in public, Maya,” Carina said, still red-faced, still panting just a little. She raised both hands and made a motion that clearly said enough. Maya couldn’t stop herself from kissing Carina’s cheek before she busied herself with their bag again.

 

Cormac appeared not a moment later, smiling wide, clearly delighted.

 

“I’ve got your discharge papers,” he said, raising both hands, showing off the forms in one and a pen in the other.

 

Maya tried her best to listen to the instructions. She wanted to get everything right, but she also felt her attention slipping as she realized that as soon as Carina signed the last page in Cormac’s hand, they could go.

 

It happened quickly and not quickly enough. Carina’s neat signature freed Jamie from the NICU and with a gesture towards the door, Cormac nodded and looked on expectantly.

 

“Ready?” Carina asked, hoisting Jamie’s bag over one shoulder. Maya closed her hand around the carrier handle and gripped it tight.

 

“Ready,” she said, looking down one more time, as if to ensure that Jamie was really there.

 

The baby slept soundly, unaware that she was being carried away from the only home she’d ever known. Wrapped in Carina’s sweater, she was almost hidden from view, innocent and perfect and their’s.

 

~*~

 

Every moment felt surreal as Carina and Maya walked through the hospital.

 

They were both silent, both caught in the gravity of what they were doing, and Carina made sure to take as many back staircases and staff elevators as possible. It’s not that they didn’t want people to see Jamie, but Jamie was still very tiny and they were both feeling especially protective.

 

She was about to go through a big change and while cooing friends would be more than welcome, Maya and Carina felt strongly that Jamie deserved some privacy as she acclimatized to her new home and family.

 

Maya had installed the car seat three days earlier. She was surprised to see that it didn’t look out of place in her car, though she had a feeling Carina’s Porsche would be another story. As they approached Maya’s jeep, Maya paused.

 

It was a clear spring day, not a cloud in the sky, and even though Jamie was sleeping, Maya felt the need to raise the carrier until she was holding it with both arms to her chest.

 

“That’s the sky, Jamie,” she whispered, humming when she felt Carina’s hand squeeze the back of her neck.

 

An ineffable magic seemed all around them. Even as Maya drove home, every time she glanced in the rear-view mirror she found herself surprised that Jamie was really with them. Carina sat in the backseat, gazing down, the smile on her face so wide and so loving that Maya felt her chest tighten.

 

They were quiet as Maya parked the car. She hopped out, opening the back door to remove Jamie’s carrier again. Carina was in charge of Jamie’s bag and soon they were back in another elevator, eager to reach their destination.

 

“Isn’t it weird that when we left this morning, we didn’t have a baby and now we have a baby?” Maya asked, following Carina down the hallway towards their apartment.

 

“Yes,” Carina laughed, unlocking the door.

 

She didn’t step inside and neither did Maya. Instead, they looked at each other, silently acknowledging that this was it. After weeks of planning of hoping of fighting and loving and everything in between, they were about to be a family of three. At home.

 

Maya set Jamie’s carrier down, suddenly wanting to carry her over the threshold herself. She unclipped the straps and removed Carina’s sweater. As she slipped her hands behind Jamie’s head and back, Jamie’s eyes fluttered open, and Maya almost felt giddy. Before Jamie could cry over the loss of Carina’s sweater, Maya lifted her from the seat and settled her in the crook of one arm. She wanted Jamie to be able to see everything.

 

“Welcome home, Jamie,” Maya said, finally stepping into the familiar hallway. She looked at her apartment, the place she’d lived for years as if she’d never seen it before.

 

Carina walked in behind Maya, setting their bag on the floor.

 

“She’s looking at you, Bambina,” Carina said, setting her chin against Maya’s shoulder.

 

“Should I show her around?”

 

Carina pressed a quick kiss to Maya’s temple before nodding.

 

Maya remembered buying the condo years ago. Still flush with endorsement money from the Olympics, Lane had insisted that the apartment was a great investment. She’d have no mortgage, she wouldn’t have worry about rent, and considering the average wages of a probationary firefighter, it would likely be the last time she could afford such luxury.

 

In the years that followed, Maya found herself with an assortment or roommates and one-night-stands. It was a place where she kept her things, where she stored her food, and take her Wednesday night conquests for a few hours of fun before kicking them out with the sunrise.

 

And then came Carina with her vagina art and kitchen appliances and imported Sicilian shampoo that haunted Maya’s every waking moment in the best way. The growing pains of cohabitation quickly gave way to comfort. Despite her massive wardrobe and cheese collection, Carina cared little about how the condo was decorated. She made few changes, so used to travelling that she’d never acquired enough furniture or possessions to settle down.

 

But as Maya walked through the apartment with Jamie, she found herself considering the space anew. It was light and airy. The pictures on the shelves were of friends and Carina’s family. There were few of the two of them, they preferred silly selfies that they kept on their phones.

 

As Maya carried Jamie around every familiar corner, she thought about change. She thought about plastering the walls with images of Jamie’s face. She thought about fingerpaintings hung on the fridge with magnets. She thought about a trail of toys through the hallway and into the kitchen.

 

“We should get another couch,” Maya blurted, her mind already ten steps ahead.

 

“A replacement?” Carina was obviously confused but would never say no to a shopping opportunity.

 

Maya shook her head. “Instead of these chairs near the TV. We should get something comfortable…for movies…so Jamie…”

 

She blushed, feeling a bit sheepish until she caught sight of Carina’s face. That smiling, perfect face.

 

Carina stepped closer to Maya, facing her and they tipped their foreheads together, bumping noses.

 

“Should we show her the nursey?” Maya asked though she had no desire to move away yet.

 

Carina nuzzled against her, tilting her head for a small kiss. Her chest bumped into Maya’s arm and they both laughed when they heard the smallest, indignant mewl from Jamie.

 

“And so it begins,” Maya sighed, smiling against Carina’s lips.

 

Maya passed Jamie into Carina’s waiting arms, biting her lip as the angry little face Jamie made as she was jostled between them. The expression cleared as soon as she lay against Carina’s shoulder. She gurgled, her little tongue sticking out of her mouth, though her eyes stayed on Maya’s face.

 

“Listen, Jamie,” Maya whispered, leaning in closer, “you have to share her, okay? I’ll start the paperwork tomorrow.”

 

“Paperwork?”

 

Maya shrugged. “We share custody. Of you.”

 

Carina raised her eyebrow and Maya was certain that if not for Jamie’s presence, her wife would have said something obscene about body part ownership. But Jamie was present so instead Carina turned around, waiting for Maya to join her as they both walked towards Jamie’s nursery.

 

The guest room had been home to numerous members of Station 19 over the years. Maya had rarely thought about it as more than an extra bed for friends going through breakups or storage space for Carina’s extensive collection of couture. Now it was her favourite room in the house.

 

She watched from the doorway as Carina showed Jamie around the room, whispering in Italian as she pointed out the crib and the changing table. Maya let her mind wander again, wondering if Jamie’s first word was going to be in English or Italian.

 

Carina bounced a little as she walked, swaying Jamie as she did, and Maya could only tilt her head and give into the surreal moment.

 

“How is her butt so tiny?” Maya asked out loud, marvelling that she found a tiny baby butt so cute.

 

Carina didn’t answer. She just kissed the side of Jamie’s head and continued her tour, pointing and whispering, and welcoming Jamie home.

 

~*~

 

They spent the rest of the day somewhat shell-shocked. Jamie needed a bottle and then she needed a diaper change. She slept and woke up and slept more. And through it all, Maya and Carina found themselves looking at each other in surprise, as if they couldn’t believe any of it was real.

 

As the evening wore on, the emotions of the day caught up with them and instead of staying up with a glass of wine like usual, they decided to call it an early night. Maya set up a bassinet on Carina’s side of the bed, but they weren’t quite ready to end the day.

 

Carina set Jamie down in the middle of the mattress, and they watched the movement of her legs and arms, as if she realized she had so much space unlike her tiny incubator in the hospital. After they brushed their teeth and changed into pyjamas, Maya sat down on her side of the bed and Carina sat down on her side, and they huddled next to each other, both crossed-legged, both enchanted by the sight of Jamie yawning.

 

“Should we tell her?” Maya wondered out loud, turning her face towards Carina. Carina nodded, so Maya reached out with both hands and scooped Jamie up from the bed.

 

It was a topic they’d discussed endlessly. They’d researched and asked the social worker and even consulted with Grey-Sloan’s child psychiatrist. But the final decision had come down to how badly they both wanted the same thing. They didn’t want to confuse Jamie, but they also didn’t want to wait until Jamie was six months old. It was important for Jamie’s development that she knew who was taking care of her. That she knew what to call them both.

 

Jamie fit perfectly in the crook of Maya’s arm and Maya made sure she was facing Carina too. The baby was sleepy, but alert enough that her eyes fixed on Carina, as if she was waiting to hear Carina’s voice.

 

“Hey, Jamie?” Maya said softly, smiling when Jamie turned her head just a little, just enough to look up at her. Carina leaned in closer, resting her head on Maya’s shoulder.

 

“So, the beautiful lady that you’re already obsessed with? That’s mama,” Maya pointed at Carina who reached out and set her hand on Jamie’s tummy.

 

“And the bella donna holding you is mommy,” Carina said.

 

Maya had held many titles in her life.

 

Olympic champion

 

Lieutenant

 

Captain

 

Wife

 

But “mommy” was something new. “Mommy” was completely unexpected. She’d been terrified of it, the very idea sending her into an anxious sweat.

 

Except that was all before Jamie. Because when Maya looked down at Jamie, when she searched her little face, she knew without a doubt that the baby in her arms was hers.

 

Mommy fit just like her wedding ring fit. Perfectly. As if it had always been there.

 

Jamie reached up with one hand, curling her tiny fingers into Maya’s t-shirt. The feeling evoked the memory of smoke and flame, of Carina turning, an impossibly small baby in her hands. Maya could still remember how light she was, how fragile she felt. She could remember Jamie lying against her chest, only minutes old, she could remember running, Jamie tucked beneath her turnouts…

 

“Maya?” Carina’s hand on her shoulder pulled Maya from her thoughts.

 

“Do you think she knows who I am?”

 

The question surfaced without warning. Maya wasn’t even sure why she asked it, but love was still hard for her sometimes, allowing herself to contain such a big emotion didn’t always come naturally. She so desperately wanted Jamie to feel safe and comfortable. To know that she was loved, that she didn’t need to do anything to earn Maya’s devotion. She already had it.

 

Carina’s arm wrapped around Maya’s back.

 

“She does, Maya. She knows you and she knows your voice. Look how she watches you, she always does when you speak to her. She knows exactly who you are. You’re her home, Bambina.”

 

Maya so wanted it to be true. She so hoped it was.

 

Later, once they’d finally moved Jamie to her bassinet, Maya and Carina lay on their backs, side by side.         

 

“We have a baby,” Carina whispered into the dark room, her voice full of awe.

 

Maya exhaled, her fingers finding Carina’s on top of the quilt.

 

“We totally have a baby,” she said in response.

 

Still surprised. Forever grateful.

 

Chapter Text

Exhaustion seeped into every muscle and every bone and Carina had never been happier.

 

She trudged from the parking garage into the elevator, weighed down by heavy shopping bags, and while she’d usually call Maya down to help, Maya was needed more elsewhere.

 

The motion of the elevator lulled her into a temporary stupor, and when the car came to a halt, she startled back awake, a smile already spreading across her face despite the fact that she hadn’t showered in three days and her shirt was covered in spit-up stains.

 

Carina heard Maya before she saw her. As she pulled the bags through the door of their apartment, she could just make out what sounded like soft cheers.

 

“You’ve got this, just another minute, you’re doing amazing,” Maya said, out of sight.

 

Carina slipped out of her shoes and peeked her head into the living room though she paused before making her presence known.

 

Maya was lying on her stomach beside Jamie who was apparently in the middle of her daily tummy time. Resting on a pile of blankets, Jamie was clearly displeased with the activity, a frown on her tiny face. Her eyes were clear though and she was obviously watching Maya too, even though her lip was wobbling in a sure signal that any second, she might start crying.

 

Maya held her phone in one hand and Carina could just make out the stopwatch app running quickly. Her other hand was stretched towards Jamie who had curled her fingers around Maya’s thumb. It looked like they were holding hands, they were even dressed alike – Maya in a black t-shirt and Jamie in a black onesie that Carina knew said “KISS ME I’M ITALIAN” on the front.

 

She raised her own phone as quietly as possible and took a picture, one of the hundreds she’d already taken that day. Jamie was proving to be very photogenic.

 

There was also the fact that motherhood looked extremely good on Maya Bishop. More than good. Carina wasn’t sure which she found more alluring: the nudes Maya occasionally sent her or the picture she’d taken three days ago of Jamie fast asleep on Maya’s chest while they both caught a quick nap.

 

Carina cleared her throat lightly, biting her lip as Maya raised her eyebrows in surprise and looked in her direction.

 

“Hi,” Carina said, lowering herself to the floor.

 

Maya smiled, a little shy, before returning her focus to Jamie and the stopwatch.

 

“Ten more seconds, Baby T-Rex, you’re killing this,” she cheered, leaning over to pepper Jamie’s cheek with kisses. She closed the stopwatch before it could ding, trying to avoid startling Jamie, and then carefully turned Jamie onto her back and picked her up.

 

“Look, Jamie,” Maya said, turning Jamie towards Carina, “it’s Mama! She came back!”

 

Maya and baby talk were very much a work in progress, but Carina adored the enthusiastic, sometimes overly mature way Maya spoke to Jamie.

 

She gladly accepted Jamie from Maya’s outstretched hands, pulling her in close to her chest. She’d only been gone for thirty minutes, but she’d missed her baby.

 

Maya had offered to go, but unlike Maya, Carina was on mat leave for three months, while Maya would need to return to work in two weeks’ time. While Maya was eligible for mat leave, they agreed that given the investigation, it would be best for Maya to be visible at work.

 

Giving Maya extra time with Jamie was no burden. Carina could not get enough of watching her wife and daughter fall deeper in love with each other.

 

Ciao, Picollina, ti sei divertito con la mommy?” She cooed, trying not to laugh at the ridiculous onesie the baby was wearing.

 

Vic was an endless source of silly baby clothes apparently.

 

“We had lots of fun,” Maya answered on Jamie’s behalf, “we crushed tummy time. We also discussed today’s lunch menu.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“She wants formula. And I want…”

 

Carina sighed heavily. “I brought you more of that gross protein powder that tastes like wet grass.”

 

“…a smoothie,” Maya finished, scooching closer to Carina on the floor.

 

Their fridge and cupboards were almost bare, and Carina had to admit that it had felt nice to get out of the apartment and visit her favourite Italian deli. She didn’t tell Maya about the three types of cheese she’d purchased or the stupidly expensive mortadella she’d brought home. The protein powder and mint chip ice cream would be distraction enough.

 

“I’ll put away the groceries?” Maya asked, tucking a strand of hair behind Carina’s ear. She apparently didn’t mind Carina’s slightly dishevelled, very much in need of a shower, state. Then again, Maya had dried spit up in her hair and Carina found her stunning – they were very much rocking the new mother chique.

 

Carina nodded. “And I’ll do lunch. But you have to make your smoothie.”

 

“Of course.”

 

One bottle, one smoothie, and one temper tantrum caused by a much too loud blender later, Carina found herself once more watching Maya and Jamie.

 

They were sitting at the table, Jamie in a highchair tipped back to support her head, and Maya next to her, carefully cleaning the baby’s face.

 

Maya was so attentive, so focused, Carina could tell that Jamie was her entire world in that moment. For a woman who had worried she’d be a terrible mother, Maya was proving to be sweet and loving and fiercely protective. But Carina knew her wife still had doubt in herself, that she still worried about her temper and her father’s legacy.

 

Whatever pieces of Lane that still existed in Maya lay dormant because all Carina could see was a woman who loved her baby, who would rather die than hurt her child. It was beautiful. Carina kept coming back to that word. Beautiful. Every single moment.

 

“Oh no,” Maya said, her eyes widening as she stared down at Jamie.

 

Carina blinked, clearing her mind and trying to refocus. “What is it?”

 

“She pooped.”

 

“Okay?” Carina wasn’t sure why Maya looked so scared. Jamie pooped often and always.

 

“I mean, she really, really pooped.”

 

Maya very gingerly tipped Jamie’s head forward and those concerned eyes grew impossibly bigger.

 

“Poop is poop. Andiamo,” Carina said, standing, ready to go change Jamie’s diaper.

 

Maya shook her head. “Carina, I’m pretty sure it’s in her hair. I’m pretty sure it’s…everywhere poop can possibly be and even the places it shouldn’t be at all.”

 

“Pick her up, Bambina, let’s go clean her off.”

 

“Pick her up?” Maya’s hands hovered over Jamie, hesitant, and Jamie just stared right back up at her with watery eyes and a wobbly bottom lip.

 

She started crying seconds later and Maya’s hesitation disappeared as she grabbed the baby, holding her at arm’s length with both hands, still supporting her head with her fingertips.

 

“Okay, okay, let’s go!” Maya almost yelled and Carina had to stifle a laugh as Maya sprinted towards Jamie’s room. Jamie’s cries were getting louder and louder, she was obviously uncomfortable, so Carina moved quickly too, ready with an extra set of hands.

 

Sure enough, Jamie had managed an impressive amount of poop for such a tiny body. Carina was almost proud. Almost.

 

“How should we do this?” Maya asked, still holding Jamie as far from herself as she could.

 

Carina tilted her head to the side, considering her options, and then came to a decision.

 

“Let’s get her into the shower,” Carina said, already gathering supplies they’d need for a diaper change.

 

“What?”

 

“We’ll spray her off with the detachable shower head. Much easier and more hygienic than wet wipes.”

 

“You want me to bring her into our shower, covered in poop…”

 

Carina sighed, both hands on her hips. “Maya, she is a baby. Babies poop.”

 

“But this is like…litres of poop!”

 

Bambina she’s crying, you must be brave now.”

 

Maya Bishop actively chose to walk into burning buildings every day, but dealing with her first blowout diaper was proving to be far more challenging. Carina didn’t chide nor did she make fun, because even though Maya was uncomfortable, she was still fully dedicated to doing everything she could for Jamie, including carrying her from the nursery into their own bedroom.  

 

Jamie wheeled her little legs as Maya sped into the bathroom, making the mess even worse.

 

“Okay, Jamie, okay let’s do this,” Maya said stepping onto the bathmat. Carina lay down towels and turned on the shower before going back to help Maya.

 

With Jamie in her hands, Maya couldn’t undress, so Carina helped her out of her sweatpants, leaving her in only a pair of boyshorts and her black t-shirt. With one final fearful look towards Carina, Maya carefully walked into the shower with Jamie and then gave Carina a nod.

 

Carina checked the water temperature before directing the stream it at Jamie’s back, trying to be as gentle as possible.

 

“This is the grossest thing I’ve ever seen,” Maya whispered, watching on in horror.

 

“Didn’t you and Jack once put out a fire in a septic tank?” Carina asked, setting down the showerhead so she could start on Jamie’s onesie. It was luckily held together with snaps so she could strip Jamie without the need for Maya to set her down.

 

“Oh yeah,” Maya said slowly, frowning at the memory.

 

Carina dropped the soiled onesie close to the drain, followed by Jamie’s diaper. She quickly washed the back of Jamie’s head and her little butt, pleased that her idea was working. Jamie had stopped crying and was instead smiling at Maya, gurgling happily.

 

“Do you like the water?” Maya asked, all thoughts of poop apparently gone because Jamie’s smile was delicious.

 

Jamie wiggled her toes, and waved her hands, lightly hitting Maya’s arms.

 

“Turn her around,” Carina instructed, “I don’t want her to get a UTI.”

 

“Babies can get UTIs?” Maya did as Carina asked, her face clouded with worry.

 

“Yes, and that’s why we keep you very clean, Picollina!”

 

Jamie was still smiling, but Maya’s mood had obviously changed. She pulled Jamie closer to her chest, apparently no longer worried about poop.

 

“I don’t want her to get a UTI,” Maya said, settling Jamie’s back against her front, “I can’t even stand the thought of her with the sniffles.”

 

Carina wondered if anyone else knew how sweet Maya could be. If anyone else saw how much love she had to offer. Maya was very good at hiding it, but as Carina looked at her wife, she was once more overwhelmed by Maya’s vulnerability. There was no bravado, no avoidance. Even through her own discomfort, Maya would rather hold Jamie covered in poop than not hold her at all.

 

“If our poopy baby wasn’t here, I would kiss you very hard, Maya Bishop,” Carina said, never making eye contact. She set the handheld shower head down again and squeezed some baby soap onto a washcloth.

 

Maya laughed. “You’re way too comfortable with poop.”

 

“I’m an OB. Do you know how much poop I see every day? There’s a reason I have to buy new shoes every six months.”

 

Maya grit her teeth and stared at the wall beyond Carina.

 

“That’s…” she began but trailed off, shaking her head.

 

Jamie yawned, lulled by the warm water and the comfort of Maya’s chest. When Carina finished wiping her down, she switched a small lever that turned off the handheld shower head and instead made the overhead spout come on. Maya sighed at the feel of it against her back, though she was likely uncomfortable in her soaked black t-shirt.

 

“I’m going to get her PJs and diaper ready,” Carina said, “I’ll be right back.”

 

Maya nodded, eyes closed, both arms wrapped protectively around Jamie who was quickly falling asleep.

 

Carina thoroughly washed her hands and returned to the bedroom, trying to get everything ready for a quick diaper change so she could put Jamie down for her nap without waking her. She was nearly finished when she heard Maya call out.

 

“Carina!”

 

“Coming,” Carina said, expecting to find Maya in need of an extra hand.

 

She found her wife still very much the same – standing in the shower, Jamie against her chest. But the frown on her face let Carina know that she was displeased.

 

“She peed on me,” Maya said, her frown deepening.

 

Carina bit her lip.

 

“It’s not funny, Carina!” Maya insisted, which just made Carina’s need to laugh even worse.

 

Scusa, but…it is a little funny.”

 

“It’s really not.”

 

A little,” Carina giggled, pleased to see Maya trying not to smile. She failed miserably as her toothy grin quickly spread across her features.

 

“Are you going to take her or are you going to make me stand here covered in baby pee?”

 

“You do look very cute covered in baby pee,” Carina said, snorting at Maya’s offended expression.

 

“Do not!”

 

Basta,” Carina finally took pity on her wife and reached into the shower for Jamie. The exchanged her carefully, mindful of how slippery the water made her skin, but soon Carina had a very sleep tiny human wrapped in a towel, yawning in her arms.

 

She left Maya to clean up while she stepped back into their bedroom and lay Jamie on the changing mat she’d placed on their bed. As she affixed a new diaper, she could hear Maya cleaning the shower, the sound of a spray bottle loud and clear. Knowing Maya, by the time Carina returned to the washroom, the whole place would be sparkling.

 

Jamie continued to fight sleep as Carina tucked her into a clean pair of PJs. When she was done, she raised Jamie from the bed and snuggled her for a moment, hoping to lull her enough that she’d easily go down for her nap. They were trying to start sleep training as early as possible, but Jamie was still getting used to her new surroundings, so they weren’t overly strict about it. Carina knew that if Jamie didn’t get a few hours in the afternoon, they’d have a very angry baby in the evening, and no one wanted that.

 

As she sang a lullaby, she listened for Maya who was apparently finished scrubbing tiles and instead turned on the shower again, undoubtably getting to work on cleaning herself.

 

A Maya in the shower was a very naked Maya and Carina thoughts drifted from sleep training to something far less appropriate.

 

She placed Jamie down, adjusting her blankets, and waited to make sure that she would stay asleep. Jamie’s arms were bent at the elbows, and she slept with her little hands balled into fists resting close to her face. Carina found herself enthralled. Even though Jamie always slept in the same cute position. Even though she’d seen her sleeping day in and day out. The tiny curve of Jamie’s fingernails, her parted lips, the button nose, Carina could not look away.  

 

It was only the sound of the shower that  magaged to pull Carina from her affectionate vigil and she knew that time was of the essence. Jamie usually slept for at least an hour in the afternoons, which meant that Maya and Carina had one hour to sleep or eat or do anything they wanted to do. And after weeks of doing nothing, Carina was not about to lose this stolen time.

 

The bathroom was full of steam as Carina walked in, but instead of moaning at the sexy vision in front of her, she keeled over laughing, nearly dropping the baby monitor from her hand.

 

Maya was covered in soap suds from head to toe. They were all over her face, creating a bubbly white mask, her hair was nearly standing up in the middle from the amount of shampoo, and every inch of her appeared to be foaming.

 

“Hey!” She stage-whispered, pointing at Carina, “that was a lot of poop, okay?”

 

Carina wheezed, but managed to nod. She quickly pulled off her clothes, the prospect of a shower more exciting than it had ever been. After three days of no shower, the idea of washing her hair felt downright luxurious. Plus, she had what appeared to be a giant marshmallow to keep her company as she rinsed off days of baby spit-up.

 

The water was hot, far hotter than the gentle warm stream they’d used on Jamie. Carina took Maya by the hips and guided her under the showerhead, watching as it washed away the layers upon layers of soap. It was an attractive scene – Maya’s body was pale and pink and the water darkened her usually light hair. Carina licked her lips, and her hungry look did not go unnoticed by Maya who raised her eyebrow and set both hands on Carina’s shoulders.

 

“Hi,” she said, a cocky grin already on her face. She knew the effect she was having and was apparently enjoying it.

 

“Hi,” Carina answered taking a small step forward and letting her hands wander, sliding up Maya’s abdomen to brush against a very pink nipple. Maya hummed, closing her eyes.

 

“I feel like I haven’t seen you all week,” she said, a content smile on her lips as Carina squeezed her breast, holding its perfect, familiar weight.

 

They’d spent every waking moment together, but Carina knew exactly how Maya felt. She leaned in, kissing Maya’s neck, sucking gently on her pulse point. Each touch was delicate, each touch was comfortable, she was not trying to ignite anything passionate. She’d just missed touching her wife, she missed their intimacy.

 

The firm muscle beneath Carina’s fingertips, the taste of Maya’s skin, the tickle of the closely trimmed hair between her legs brushing against Carina’s thigh…

 

It was restorative.

 

“Do you want…” Carina brushed her hand down Maya’s body against, cupping her gently. Maya hummed again, circling her arms around Carina’s back and resting her forehead against Carina’s shoulder.

 

Maya shook her head. “I think I’m too tired…but it feels so nice.”

 

Carina couldn’t stop herself from stroking her fingers between Maya’s legs, needing to feel how soft she was, how perfect. The touch made Maya sigh, but Carina knew they were both exhausted, so she moved her hand up, returning to Maya’s hip. She kissed Maya’s neck again, dragging her lips along her collarbone, ducking her head to kiss the skin between Maya’s breasts. Maya’s nipples were hard, which made Carina smirk, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she turned her face to the left and licked pebbled skin, closing her lips and sucking, just enough to evoke a soft moan from Maya’s lips.

 

She decided to show mercy, knowing that Maya really was exhausted, but it was hard to stop. Maya nipples always felt so good in her mouth.

 

“What about you?” Maya asked, her voice muffled by the sound of the water. She slipped her hand around Carina’s throat, not squeezing, but applying just enough pressure to inspire a tugging swoop in Carina’s stomach.

 

“Mmm…I…”

 

Her words were cut off by the sound of the baby monitor. Jamie’s cries echoed in the small bathroom and both Maya and Carina froze, surprised by the sudden intrusion. They quickly recovered and Maya laughed, shaking her head.

 

“The timing, I swear,” she said, still smiling. Carina was about to step out of the shower when Maya grabbed her arm.

 

“Wash your hair,” she said, kissing Carina’s cheek, “I’ve got her.”

 

They switched spots and with one final, lingering kiss, Maya stepped away, calling for Jamie as she wrapped a towel around her body and disappeared out the door.

 

Carina worked as quickly as she could, not because she didn’t want to wash her hair, but because an afternoon nap next to Maya sounded extremely attractive. If they were lucky, Jamie would sleep for another thirty minutes, and Carina wanted nothing more than to join her.

 

She shook her head, remembering a time when she’d stay out at the clubs all night and gone to class the next day, perfectly fine. Now she was semi-orgasmic at the thought of getting more sleep. Gabriella wouldn’t even recognize her.

 

Though Gabriella had already sent a box of designer baby clothes that Maya deemed way too expensive and Carina deemed perfetto, so it seemed that Gabriella was very supportive of the world’s newest DeLuca.

 

Carina rinsed the soap from her hair and then turned off the tap, pleased to find a clean towel hanging on the bar just outside the shower. She wrapped it around herself and then used another towel to bind up her hair. The more she thought about getting into bed, the more tired she seemed to feel.

 

She walked into the bedroom, expecting to find Maya fast asleep, but Maya was very much awake, lying on the bed with Jamie resting on her chest.

 

Jamie’s hands were clenched into Maya’s white tank top, but she seemed to be asleep again, her little back rising and falling under Maya’s protective hand. Maya was reading to the baby, her words quiet and low.

 

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be,” she read, her eyes following the words on the tablet she held in her free hand.

 

Carina didn’t bother with pyjamas. She found an oversized t-shirt on the floor and pulled it on, dropping her towels on the spot. Usually, Maya would chide her for leaving towels around, but Carina didn’t care. She slipped into bed, lying on her side so she could watch Maya and Jamie’s little sleeping face.

 

“Do you think tomorrow is going to be okay?” Maya whispered, never tearing her eyes from the tablet.

 

Their first home inspection was the next day. There would also be individual interviews and Carina knew Maya had some concerns.

 

“I do,” Carina said, setting a comforting hand on Maya’s thigh under the covers.

 

“They’re going to ask about our childhoods. Our parents. And my job…”

 

“We just tell the truth, Maya. And we hope that Nancy sees how much we love Jamie, how much we love each other and want to be a family.”

 

“We are a family,” Maya corrected. Carina inched forward, her forehead nearly touching Maya’s hip.

 

vero.”

 

“I just don’t want my past to mess this up. Or the stuff with work.”

 

“We are not our parents,” Carina said, as a reminder, “and as for your job? You’re standing up for what you believe in, for yourself. There is no shame in that, Bambina. It is admirable and brave and…”

 

“Carina?”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“I love you.”

 

Carina snuggled closer, draping her arm over Maya’s lap.

 

Anch’io ti amo, Tesoro,” she whispered, closing her eyes, overwhelmed by comfort.

 

She fell asleep to the sound of Maya’s voice, to the sound of Maya reading to their baby.

 

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be…”

 

Chapter Text

Maya was used to stressful situations. She’d once performed a tracheotomy on a moving train without so much as breaking a sweat.

 

But following Nancy around her apartment while she performed their first home inspection had Maya in a tizzy. Nancy was holding a clipboard, making small checks on a form Maya couldn’t see, but she appreciated the organization.

 

 Nancy’s clipboard game was strong. Maya could respect that.

 

The social worker asked questions or pointed to numerous features that Maya had baby-proofed, all while Carina carried Jamie and breezily guided Nancy around the space. Maya had safety covers on every outlet, she’d replaced all the batteries in their smoke detectors three times, she’d installed locks on all the cabinet doors, she’d removed any dangling cords from window blinds, and she still felt like it wasn’t enough.

 

What if Nancy disapproved of their crib choice? What if she disagreed with their chosen laundry detergent? What if she decided they were the worst people on the planet and Jamie wasn’t safe? What if…

 

Maya noticed a tiny set of eyes staring at her over Carina’s shoulder. They were wide and blue and Maya stared back, sticking out her tongue just as Nancy turned around to speak with her.

 

“Uh…sorry,” Maya stuttered, red-faced, but Nancy just laughed, her smile warm and friendly.

 

“You’ve done a remarkable job with such a short amount of time,” Nancy said, looking around.

 

Carina shot Maya a reassuring glance, but Maya still felt her stomach in knots. They had to get through the interview. Or, she had to get through the interview.

 

A thoracotomy on a moving train was kid’s play.

 

“Would you like some coffee, Nancy? Or breakfast?” Carina, the consummate host, had already filled the kitchen table with an assortment of baked goods and fruit.

 

“Coffee would be wonderful. We can get started on the individual interviews too. I’m sure you’re both eager to get on with your day.”

 

Carina nodded once, warm as always.

 

“Maya, could you change Jamie’s diaper while I get Nancy a coffee?” She asked and Maya forced herself to concentrate, to quiet her racing thoughts and her racing heart.

 

She took Jamie from Carina’s waiting hands and left to take care of Jamie in the privacy of her nursery.

 

Away from Nancy’s clipboard, Maya breathed a short sigh of relief. She placed Jamie down on the changing-table but paused before removing her onesie.

 

“I’ve got this, right?” She said out loud, finding herself drawn to Jamie’s face again.

 

Jamie waved her fists in the air and then settled.

 

“I know, I know, Mama said to be honest, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Maya got to work on Jamie’s clothes, unzipping the onesie quickly because Jamie was not a fan of cold air on her sensitive skin.

 

She let out a little squawk of protest, which Maya silenced by leaning down and blowing a raspberry on the cutest tiny baby belly the world had ever seen.

 

“You always say the perfect thing, Baby T-Rex,” Maya cooed, removing Jamie’s diaper and tossing it in the bin.

 

“Okay, we’ve got wet wipes. Check. We’ve got new diaper. Check,” Maya carefully slipped the diaper under Jamie’s bottom and closed the flaps before picking her up, one hand under each of Jamie’s arms.

 

She blew another raspberry and then peppered Jamie’s cheeks with kisses, laughing when Jamie started wheeling her legs. A soft knock on the door interrupted them.

 

“Maya?” Carina popped her head inside, her smile wide as she caught Maya dangling Jamie in the air.

 

“Uh…we were just having a conversation. It was very private,” Maya said.

 

Carina rolled her eyes and closed the distance between them.

 

“Is mommy silly?” Carina cooed, pressing a kiss to Maya’s shoulder.

 

“Mommy is nervous as hell,” Maya sighed, which made Carina look up and catch her gaze.

 

“Mommy is the bravest person I know,” Carina said, taking Jamie from Maya’s hands, “and the most beautiful, and no one loves us like Mommy does.”

 

Carina whispered the last part into Jamie’s ear.

 

“Nancy waiting?” Maya pointed at the door, exhaling sharply.

 

“Yes. Do you want to go first or…”

 

Maya shook her head. “I want to get it over with.”

 

Bene. I’ll be in our room. You’ll do great, Maya.”

 

Maya wasn’t so sure, but before she could answer, Carina curled one hand into the front of her t-shirt and forced her closer, close enough that Carina could nibble gently on Maya’s bottom lip.

 

“Keep an eye on Mama,” Maya said, breathless as she pulled back, “she’s something else.”

 

With a quick kiss to the top of Jamie’s head, Maya walked out of the room, emboldened by Carina’s confidence and the feel of her mouth so warm against her own.

 

~*~   

 

“This coffee is so good,” Nancy said, staring at the mug in her hand as if it was sparkling.

 

Maya forced a smile, desperate to hide her nerves, but finding every moment spent sitting at the table across from Nancy more and more anxiety inducing. Still, Nancy was very friendly and obviously on their side, so Maya nodded enthusiastically, giving the social worker her full attention.

 

“That’s Carina. She could put Starbucks out of business,” Maya said, folding her arms, willing herself to stop bouncing in her seat.

 

Nancy took one more sip before setting down the cup.

 

“Shall we get started?” She asked, pen in hand.

 

Maya nodded again. “Sorry, I’m a bit nervous. It feels like…a lot is on the line.”

 

“Most adoptive parents are nervous, Maya. We’re digging into every corner of your life – it’s a level of scrutiny that would inspire anxiety in anyone.”

 

Between the criminal background check, medical reports, financial information, and ongoing interviews with colleagues, Maya felt poked and prodded from all angles. She knew they were great on paper, especially when it came to their finances and health, but the results of a blood test didn’t exactly say abusive father or temper problems.

 

“As you know,” Nancy continued, “I’m going to ask some basic questions about your childhood and family, about you and Carina. This is all to get a better picture of the type of home you plan to provide for Jamie.”

 

“Got it.”

 

“Let’s start easy. Where were you born?”

 

“Here. Seattle,” Maya said, spinning her wedding ring.

 

“Do you have any siblings?”

 

Maya swallowed hard. “A younger brother, Mason.”

 

“And is he involved in your life?”

 

Carina would tell her to be honest, to be herself. And Carina was usually right, so Maya decided to forge ahead and pray that Nancy didn’t find her answers horrifying.

 

“He’s not,” Maya said, “my brother…he…he’s an addict. Or he was an addict. I haven’t seen him in years, although the last time I saw him he was clean. It’s…complicated.”

 

“I’m sorry. That must be very difficult.”

 

Maya shifted in her seat, finding the attention uncomfortable.

 

“Mason is a talented artist, he was always such a talented kid. I feel guilty about what happened to him and I wish I could help him, but I don’t know where he is and I think he prefers it that way.”

 

“Why do you feel guilty?”

 

Shit…

 

“Growing up, I guess you could say I was the favourite? Mason was ignored a lot. I should’ve stood up for him. Helped him more, I guess,” Maya said, scratching the back of her neck.

 

She felt like she was digging her own grave.

 

Nancy didn’t appear shocked or horrified. She just continued casually with her questions.

 

“And how would you describe your family growing up? Your parents?” She asked, her dark eyes finding Maya’s.

 

Maya took a deep breath.

 

“We were pretty average, middle class, I’d say. My dad owned a small chain of sports good stores – just local, nothing fancy – and my mom did occasional volunteer work at my school, but was mostly a stay-at-home mom,” Maya began, wishing she could avoid the conversation entirely.

 

“How would you describe your relationship with your parents?”

 

“Uh…that’s…my uh…”

 

The truth could cost her Jamie. Nancy would see Maya for who she really was. A cold, heartless, unfeeling monster, molded by a cold, heartless, unfeeling monster.

 

Except Carina didn’t think that was true. Carina looked at her with so much love, Carina trusted her with Jamie, Carina married her and wanted her and saw that she was so much more than what Lane Bishop made her to be.

 

Maya cleared her throat and refocused. “To be honest, my dad was abusive. It took me over twenty years to realize it, but he was verbally and sometimes physically abusive. For a long time, I thought his attention was the sign of an attentive, caring parent, but I was wrong. He abused my mother and brother. And he abused me too.”

 

It still felt odd to say it out loud. A part of her would always fight it, a part of her that spoke in her father’s voice.

 

“Is he still in your life,” Nancy was eyeing Maya with an unreadable expression, but it was too late to back down.

 

“No. I haven’t spoken to him in nearly three years.”

 

“And your mother?”

 

“She left him for good about a year ago. We don’t see each other a lot, but I do want her involved in Jamie’s life. Carina and I are trying to decide the best way for that to happen,” Maya said.

 

“How would you say your childhood shaped your perception of parenting?”

 

Maya raised her eyebrows, trying hard not to scoff.

 

“My dad recognized my talent and pushed me to be the very best and I used to think that meant he was a good father. I ignored the diets he made me keep and the schedule. I ignored it all the way to the Olympics, all the way to a career-ending injury…”

 

Maya wasn’t sure if she was saying the right thing, but she felt strongly about the question and wanted Nancy to understand.

 

“You were in the Olympics?” Nancy asked, clearly surprised.

 

It used to be the first thing she told people. Hi, I’m Maya Bishop, Olympic gold medalist…

 

“Yes, 2012. 10,000 metre sprint. The medal is somewhere in storage…” Maya looked over her shoulder, trying to remember where she’d put it.

 

At one time she had her medal front and centre – in her locker, on her desk. But that was before she accepted the truth about Lane and before her demotion. Before she realized that her path to the Olympics was strewn with broken shards and sharp words. Before SFD had kicked her down.

 

She wasn’t ashamed of her achievement, far from it, she just didn’t quite know how to see it outside of Lane’s influence yet.

 

And the day she’d had to remove the medal from her office, from the captain’s office, made the demotion feel somehow worse. So, it stayed in storage. Temporarily.

 

“Medal?”

 

“Gold,” Maya smiled, because even though her feelings about the Olympics were complex, she was still Maya Bishop and Maya Bishop was the best.

 

“Wow! Sorry for interrupting, but wow!”

 

“Thanks,” Maya shrugged, turning serious again, “but as I was saying, I think my parents taught me how not to parent. To be honest, before Carina I had never really considered kids. And then Jamie came into our lives and I had to figure out this parenting things quickly…I’m still figuring it out. I just know what I don’t want for her and I know what I do want. And those things are tied in to how I was raised and how I don’t want to raise her.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“I want her to have love and rest. I want her to excel at whatever it is she loves, but I don’t want her to feel pressured into doing things she doesn’t want to do. I want her to have a childhood, I want her to do her best and work hard, but I also want her to have fun and make mistakes. I want her to feel safe with me…I want her to know that I love her no matter what she achieves or doesn’t achieve. And I want her to know that I will fight for her, I will protect her. Every single day.”

 

Nancy blinked and bit her lips, her eyes watering.

 

“Sorry,” she sniffled, “that’s…that’s lovely, Maya, thank you for being so open.”

 

Maya could only nod. Happy tears were much better than giant red exes on a report.

 

“Okay,” Nancy said, clearing her throat, “let’s talk about Carina.”

 

All of Maya’s previous anxiety vanished. She smiled widely, unable to stop herself.

 

Nancy noticed and smiled too. “When did you meet?”

 

“About four years ago now. We’ve been married for almost three. But we met at Joe’s Bar.”

 

“Quick engagement?”

 

“You could say that,” Maya said, unable to forget that day. The day her life had changed forever.

 

Please, Bambina…

 

“What makes you want to parent with Carina? You said you didn’t think about children before you met her…what changed? And why now?” Nancy asked.

 

“Carina is…” Maya felt herself at a loss. How to describe Carina? How to possibly articulate what she felt.

 

“Before Carina I was a different person,” Maya pushed on, “I…thought I knew what I wanted. I thought life had to be a certain way. The way my father told me it had to be. And then I met Carina and…I’d never been in love before. I’d never wanted to be in love. But Carina is…I’ve never wanted anything the way I wanted Carina. I don’t mean that in a possessive way, more like…I don’t work without her. She makes me better, she makes me want to be better. She sees me in a way that no one else ever has and I don’t know if I deserve it, but she makes me believe in a version of myself that I so want to be real. Watching her become a mother? Watching her share all that love? She’s my best friend. She’s my favourite part of every day. I couldn’t do this with anyone else. I wouldn’t want to.”

 

Nancy stared at Maya with a wistful, glazed over look, as if she’d just finished watching the best romcom ever written.

 

She blinked heavily, clearly trying to focus.

 

“You both presumably work long hours. How do you plan to provide adequate childcare for Jamie?” Nancy asked.

 

Maya had researched possible interview questions for days and wasn’t surprised that Nancy asked.

 

“I tend to work twenty-four shifts, but Carina has more regular hours, unless she’s called in for an emergency. There’s a daycare at the hospital that’s going to take Jamie. And we have a network of babysitters too. But Carina and I try to match our schedules as much as possible.”

 

“Can you talk about your work? I know from your adoption statement and in discussions with your references that you’re in the midst of an internal investigation,” Nancy’s unreadable expression returned.

 

Maya set her hands on the table, her anxiety returning in full force.

 

“I love my job,” she said, “and I love my team. A few years ago, on my wedding day actually, I was demoted. I then waited a year for a formal hearing, which never happened. It was not an easy decision to go to HR…I don’t want to be disruptive, and I will accept the findings of the investigation, but I felt strongly…and so did Carina, that I had to do this. For myself. And for our family.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“I want Jamie to know that she can fight for what she believes in. That when she seems something unfair or unjust, she can step up and use her voice. I…I want her to be proud of me…it’s not easy for women in the Fire Department. It’s not easy for women in a lot of places and I want to make the world easier for all of us. For Jamie. So, yes, I want my captaincy back. And, yes, things at work are not exactly stable right now. But I want my daughter to know that I fought. That I didn’t back down when things felt impossible. I want her to know that.”

 

Again, Nancy’s eyes brimmed with tears and she sniffled, shaking her head as she did.

 

“Sorry, sorry,” she laughed, taking a deep, centering breath.  

 

Happy tears twice in less than five minutes?

 

Maya passed Nancy a napkin and sat back in her chair, her confidence rising.

 

~*~

 

Carina sipped her espresso, keeping her eyes on Nancy who was busy writing down something on her clipboard. Her thoughts drifted to Maya in the other room, Maya who had left her interview with a cocky grin and a swagger in her step.

 

Now it was Carina’s turn and while she wasn’t anxious, she was feeling the pressure.

 

“Where were you born,” Nancy asked, pen in hand.

 

Carina set down her cup and crossed her legs.

 

“In Sicily, have you been to Italy, Nancy?”

 

Nancy shook her head.

 

“I’m from the south and so is my family,” Carina explained, knowing most Americans knew Rome and Venice and everything else was just pizza and wine.

 

“And your family? Do you have any siblings? Anyone here in Seattle?”

 

Even though she knew it was coming, the questions still caused a small pang in Carina’s chest.

 

“I had a little brother. He died just over three years ago,” she said, trying not to dwell on the fact that Andrea would never get to meet Jamie. He’d never know he had a nipotina.

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

 

“My mother died when I was in my early twenties and my father is still in Italy. But here? It is just me and Maya.”

 

“Can you talk about your childhood?” Nancy spoke softly and Carina appreciated her kindness.

 

“It was…complicated. Andrea, my brother, was five years younger than me, and our parents had a volatile relationship. But we had our nonna and our uncles and aunties. Even though my parents fought, it felt like we were raised in a village. Food and laughter…the beach every day,” Carina sighed, wistful.

 

“Sounds lovely.”

 

“Hmmm. Some of it was. My father is not a well man. He’s a genius, but he is bipolar, and that meant sometimes we didn’t have money, or we’d go live with Nonna during his moods. When I was sixteen, mama filed for a divorce. She wanted to leave Italy, to get far away from papa, but she didn’t want to leave Andrea. He was only eleven. So, I told her she should take him and move to America.”

 

Nancy paused, looking up from her clipboard. “Your mother left you in Italy when you were sixteen?”

 

Carina forced herself not to take offense with Nancy’s tone.

 

“Yes. It was difficult for many years. And then she died very suddenly. But I still had Andrea and I still had to take care of my father. I moved here when I heard Andrea had been hired by Grey-Sloan. The program is world-renowned, and I wanted to do my research here. So that’s how I ended up in Seattle.”

 

“And what would you say your childhood taught you about parenting?”

 

Carina scoffed. “It taught me how not to parent.”

 

She was about to continue when Nancy smirked, giggling softly.

 

“Your wife said the same thing,” she said.

 

“Ah, yes. We are…how do you say it…two peas in a pod?”

 

“Certainly seems that way.”

 

,” Carina continued, “my parents fought non-stop. Every single argument resulted in screaming until I think they truly hated each other. They couldn’t stand to be in the same country, let alone the same house. For a long time, I didn’t believe in marriage because I saw how it trapped my mother.”

 

“What changed?”

 

Carina smiled, warmth flooding her chest. “Maya Bishop. Love is a very silly thing, Nancy.”

 

“Don’t I know it.”

 

“I want Jamie to know that Maya and I love her, but I also want her to know that we love each other. I want a home full of love, a home where everyone stays and no one runs away. Maya and I aren’t perfect, I’m not saying we never fight. But…we’ve worked so hard to understand each other. To learn each other. When I think of how my mother and father fought, how they hated each other? I do not understand. Because as much as they hated each other? That’s how much I love Maya.”

 

Nancy bit her lip, trying to keep from crying.

 

“You two,” she grumbled, batting away a stray tear from her cheek.

 

“Do you plan to introduce your father to Jamie?”

 

Carina rubbed her forehead with one hand. “Yes. Eventually. I would like to take her to Italy someday.  For now, Maya and I are being very cautious about introducing Jamie to her grandparents. We have so many wonderful friends – we’ve built our own family here – we just want to make sure the timing is right for Jamie.”

 

“Could you describe your social group here in Seattle? You’ve mentioned friends, would they be involved in childcare? Or Jamie’s life?”

 

“I have many colleagues at the hospital,” Carina explained, “I’ve delivered some of their babies even. Jamie will go to the daycare at Grey-Sloan with their children too. And Maya’s colleagues are…”

 

Carina paused, unsure how to continue. Sometimes Maya’s colleagues felt like family. And sometimes they felt like strangers. But she also knew how much they loved Pru. They would love Jamie just as much and just as hard.

 

“Maya’s colleagues are basically a family already. We are lucky to have many people wanting to support us. Because family hasn’t been easy for either of us. But our friends, the people we work with, that’s the family we choose for Jamie,” Carina said, knowing that as a social worker specializing in adoption, Nancy would understand that biology had very little to do with what made a good family.

 

“Lovely,” Nancy said, “and what makes you want to parent with Maya? What helped you decide that the two of you were ready for this?”

 

Maya placed a sandwich in front of Carina on the table. She walked back into the kitchen, serious and kind, as she told Carina that she’d taken care of all the details regarding Andrea’s funeral, his apartment, his bank…

 

For a moment Carina was stunned into silence. It felt like water was filling her lungs, her chest. Because no one had ever done anything like that for her before. No one.

 

She’d arranged her mother’s funeral alone. She’d picked out a casket, she chose the readings and spoke to their priest. She’d sorted through her mother’s suitcase, trying to find something for Lucia to wear. But the suitcase was small and Lucia’s dresses were all in America along with a life that Carina could only imagine.

 

She still remembered driving into town, walking into a clothing store, staring at row upon row of black dresses. She remembered the saleswoman cheerfully offering to help her and she remembered the guilt because her mother would go to rest wearing a dress that she’d never worn in life. A dress that had never seen parties or dinners or happiness. Carina kept the tags on her dresser for a month after the funeral.

 

She remembered Andrea’s anger, his inability to understand why she’d lied, why she’d told him that their Mama was only sick, why she’d kept the truth from him as he flew over the Atlantic. He didn’t know what the lie had cost her, he didn’t know that she’d curled into a ball after the phone call, trying not to throw up, trying to concentrate on all that still needed to be done.

 

She didn’t have her mother’s rosary, so she needed to find one for the coffin. She needed to arrange food for after the funeral. She had a list of over fifty people to call.

 

She hadn’t slept since Lucia’s heart stopped days before. She couldn’t because every time she closed her eyes she would see her mother’s still, pale face. The unnatural way her chest no longer moved up and down. The horrific realization that Lucia no longer had a heartbeat, that as Carina lay next to her, holding onto her, she could no longer hear the comforting rhythm that had lulled her to sleep as a child.

 

And now Maya was telling her that she’d done all the work. That Carina wouldn’t need to call the priest or hire a moving company or fight with bank managers. Maya who hadn’t left her side since Owen told her that Andrea was gone. Maya who held her or gave her space or made her sandwiches. Maya…

 

Carina’s voice wavered as she began to speak, the emotion so close to the surface.

 

“I am a very independent person,” Carina said, “I always have been. I’ve had to be. But Maya takes care of me in a way that no one else ever has. She’s stubborn and head-strong and she drives me crazy, but she loves so big…people think she doesn’t, but she does. She would die for Jamie. And maybe that doesn’t automatically mean she’s a good parent, but I have watched my wife grow into the person she’s always been, the person her father tried to erase. There is no one else I could do this with, no one else I’d want to do this with. I don’t know if we’re ready, I don’t think anyone is really ready, but Jamie is here and we both know without a doubt that she’s ours. She’s our daughter. Sometimes it feels like Maya and I made her, I know…ridicola, but it is true.”

 

Nancy was crying again and Carina had to stifle a laugh. It was likely a good sign for that their social worker was so moved by their relationship and their devotion to each other and Jamie. At the very least, a tear-stained application was certainly one way to prove suitability for adoption.

 

Nancy continued taking notes and Carina let her mind wander to earlier in the day when she’d found Maya carrying Jamie around the apartment before sunrise. They’d been deep in conversation – Maya chatting to Jamie about the time she’d found herself trapped in a garage, while Jamie drank her bottle, her eyes never leaving Maya’s face.

 

Carina picked up her espresso and took another sip, happy to answer Nancy’s questions but quite eager to join Jamie and Maya again. She wanted cuddles and laughter.

 

She wanted her little family.

 

Her perfect little family.

 

One more question. One more answer.

 

Each bringing her closer and closer to her dreams.

 

~*~

  

Maya woke up disoriented and alone. She had no memory of falling asleep, let alone wandering into her bedroom and lying down. Her watch said 5PM and there was light coming from under the door, but otherwise, her head remained foggy.

 

She pushed herself up, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand and then checked the bassinette beside her.

 

Empty.

 

Which meant she was missing both a wife and a baby.

 

The day had been long, successful, but long. Nancy had been enthusiastic and kind, and Carina was full of positivity, but Maya felt as if she’d just run a difficult race. She wasn’t sure if she’d come in first yet, and not knowing was frustrating. And scary.

 

Shaking away her negative thoughts, Maya made a quick stop in the bathroom to splash some cold water on her face and then decided the best cure for an anxious mind was Carina DeLuca.

 

The only lights on in the apartment came from the kitchen and the small lamp in the living room. It made the space feel cozy and intimate and the sight of a fire in the fireplace warmed Maya further. Carina wasn’t sitting on the couch, however, so Maya headed in the opposite direction, holding in a sigh at the sight of her wife and baby together in the kitchen.

 

Carina had Jamie in a sling, strapped across her chest. In one hand she held a medical journal and in the other she held a tomato and from the smell, Maya was in for something very carby and very cheesy and very delicious.

 

“Hi,” she said, biting her lip as Carina looked up, her pinched expression disappearing as soon as she realized Maya was in the room.

 

Buonjorno!” She laughed, setting down the journal to beckon Maya forward.

 

“You should’ve woken me,” Maya said, feeling slightly guilty that she’d left Carina to do all the work. Carina’s day had been stressful too, but she’d apparently cooked and made a salad and snuck in some research at the same time.

 

Maya stepped closer, loosely wrapping her arms around Carina’s hips, mindful of Jamie between them. She was still sleepy and Carina’s shoulder looked particularly inviting.

 

“You were tired, Bambina. Rest is good.” Carina kissed Maya’s forehead, her lips warm and soft.

 

“What were you reading about?”

 

“A new clinical trial for women who experience infertility after cancer therapies.”

 

It struck Maya as it so often did that Carina was a good person. She was a person who brought babies into the world and championed women’s healthcare and would stay up half the night on a conference call if it meant helping a patient. Maya knew firefighting was a noble profession, she knew her work was invaluable, but Carina’s mind, her commitment, her skill…it astounded Maya.

 

“Do you miss work?” Maya brushed her nose against Carina’s throat, breathing her in.

 

“Sometimes. But Jo sends me updates on my patients.”

 

“And you’re totally going to sneak in for a delivery or two next week.”

 

Maya kissed Carina just below her jaw, unable to stop herself. She didn’t miss the little sigh it evoked from her wife, nor did she miss the way Carina’s free hand came to rest low on her back, her fingers pulling lightly at Maya’s shirt.

 

“I’m delivering quadruplets on Thursday,” Carina confessed and Maya smiled against her cheek.

 

“That’s a lot of babies.”

 

A light flutter between their bodies alerted them to a very specific baby who was apparently tired of being ignored.

 

“Jamie did you make dinner with mama?” Maya reached into Carina’s sling and lifted Jamie who was curled into a little ball, apparently just waking from her nap. Maya knew the feeling.

 

“Let me finish here. Almost done,” Carina said, just as Maya set Jamie against her shoulder.

 

With Jamie safely in her arms, Maya walked into the front room and sat down on the couch, soothed by the firelight and Jamie’s gurgles. She thought back to Nancy’s questions, back to their discussion about her childhood.

 

She couldn’t remember ever seeing her parents affectionate with each other. Her mother had dinner on the table each day on time. Her father might thank her, but was more likely to chastise her for an overcooked steak or the wrong brand of soda. The dinner table was a place of tension, a place where Maya spent her time reading the man who dictated what she was allowed to eat and when.

 

Maya looked over her shoulder, watching Carina move around the kitchen with practiced ease. The table was already set, complete with a bottle of wine, and Maya knew without a doubt that she was in for a pleasant evening. She knew without a doubt that her wife would insist on second helpings, that Carina would kiss her and hold her and love her just because she wanted to. She didn’t need a reason, she didn’t need evidence of Maya’s accomplishments before bestowing affection. And their dinner table was a place Maya looked forward to every day. No matter what was on it – Carina’s cooking or takeout or leftovers – it was safe. As was Carina.

 

She so hoped Carina felt the same.

 

She hoped Jamie felt the same too.

 

Maya looked down at Jamie who was snuggled up to her chest and offered her a finger, which the baby immediately grabbed with fluttering strength.

 

“Progress report, Probie,” Maya said, leaning over just enough to kiss Jamie’s forehead, “Nancy was here today and me and Mama told her all kinds of unpleasant things, but I think it may have worked? Remember how I told you we were going to sign all the papers and talk to all the people we needed to talk to? Well, we’re doing that. So, you don’t need to worry about anything, okay? You just need to concentrate on being a baby. I’m going to take care of everything else.”

 

Jamie listened intently, her grip on Maya’s finger stronger than it had ever been. It was still shocking to Maya that Jamie recognized her voice, that Jamie would seek her out and watch her as she spoke. The feelings were so big, bigger than anything Maya had ever experienced and sometimes she felt overwhelmed, she felt as if she didn’t know who she was, as if pieces of her had been swallowed up.

 

But she knew that wasn’t real. She knew that nothing had been lost and everything had been gained.

 

“I love you so much, Jamie,” Maya whispered, needing the baby to know.

 

She sniffed the top of Jamie’s head and smiled and wondered at how soft Jamie’s palm felt against her fingertip.

 

Chapter Text

Carina was used to her ghosts.

 

She lived with them daily. They whispered in her ears or squeezed her heart or appeared out of the corner of her eye.

 

Their names were Andrea.

 

Nonna

 

Mama

 

And for the most part, they were comforting. Carina lived in the present, she sought light and joy over darkness. She tried to take happiness from her ghosts – from the memory of her Nonna’s hands or Andrea’s laughter or her mama’s…

 

She tried. She really did.

 

But Nancy’s questions had stirred something within. It was like an forgotten scar had suddenly torn open, something Carina thought well healed.

 

As she watched Jamie sleep, an old pain flared, a pain in the shape of her mother.

 

Lucia died when Carina was twenty-three. But Carina had lost her far earlier. When Carina was sixteen, Lucia had packed her things and taken Andrea and left. Carina had told her mother to go, but it did not lessen the sting, it did not take away the hurt she felt deep down.

 

Because maybe a part of her had really believed that Lucia would stay. That Lucia would choose her.

 

Carina had seen many people die. She’d worked in hospitals since medical school, she’d called time of death on numerous patients and she’d delivered stillborn babies.

 

But watching Lucia die…

 

Carina shivered, wishing she could forget. Wishing she could not picture that day, or the bedspread, or how frail her mother felt as Carina lay beside her, how frail and how cold. She wished she could forget the sound of Andrea walking in the door, his screams…

 

She wished she could forget how as soon as Andrea arrived, she’d had to let go of her mother, she’d had to be strong. She wished she could have been the child.

 

She wished for one last moment…

 

Carina had long ago taught herself to self-sooth. No one else would do it for her, so she filled her world with beauty – good food, good friends, skilled lovers, fine clothes, and expensive cars. She wasn’t a materialist, she just chose to focus on pleasure. But sometimes she still forgot that she didn’t need to self-sooth anymore. She didn’t need to do anything alone.

 

It was a hard habit to break.

 

Carina walked out of her bedroom, baby monitor in hand, and joined Maya on the couch in front of the fireplace. She lay down, her head in Maya’s lap, and willed herself to soak in her wife’s strength, her love. Maya’s fingers threaded through Carina’s hair, stroking it back from her forehead, and Carina tried to replace the thought of her mother’s still, cold body with the feeling of Maya’s warmth.

 

“Do you think it went okay today?” Maya asked, taking Carina’s hand.

 

Carina nodded. “I made Nancy cry.”

 

“Same.”

 

“Did you say something romantic?” Carina watched Maya blush and held back a delighted giggle.

 

“I never want to talk about my childhood again,” Maya said, quickly changing the topic.

 

Carina reached up, stroking her fingers down Maya’s cheek.

 

“I liked the part where I got to talk about you.” Carina found herself looking up into soft, blue eyes, eyes that so clearly loved her.

 

“Oh? You talked about me? I didn’t say anything about you.”

 

Carina moved her hand, pointing her finger at Maya. “Hey!”

 

The hand in her hair scratched lightly at her scalp. Carina’s eyes fluttered. Maya was about to respond when the baby monitor flared to life, pulling their attention. They watched Jamie on the small screen, both wondering if she was about to start crying, but instead she huffed softly and stayed asleep.

 

“She sleeps like you,” Maya laughed, bringing Carina’s hand to her lips.

 

“Hmmm. I did not sleep like that when I was little.”

 

“No?”

 

Carina wondered what it was about the day that evoked so many memories. Nancy had apparently kicked open a long-forgotten box that Carina wished desperately had remained hidden away.

 

But Maya was holding her, and she was far from the sadness that clung to her childhood.

 

“I used to try and stay up so late because after I went to bed, my parents would start fighting. It was always worse after Andrea and I went to sleep. Like they waited all day and stored it up and then boom! They would yell and yell, so I thought if I didn’t go to sleep, they wouldn’t yell anymore and Andrea wouldn’t be scared,” Carina said, keeping her focus on Maya.

 

Maya frowned and stroked her thumb across Carina’s forehead.

 

“That’s terrible,” she said.

 

“Hhmmm. Today made me remember lots of things. Things I maybe wish I could forget.”

 

Maya slipper her arm behind Carina’s shoulders encouraging to sit up. They adjusted, though Carina was sad to leave the comfort of Maya’s lap.

 

“Come here,” Maya whispered, taking Carina’s face in her hands. She kissed her, barely a brush of lips against lips, but Carina leaned in greedily.

 

“I never want that to be us,” Carina said between kissing Maya, voicing her fears.

 

“It won’t be.”

 

“Maya…”

 

A harsh mouth silenced her, teeth nibbling on her bottom lip. Carina was breathless and needy, and Maya’s tongue teased her, licking inside, claiming her.

 

Carina slipped her hand up Maya’s hoodie, frustrated to find a tight sports bra keeping her from what she truly wanted. Maya sighed nonetheless and they both luxuriated in how good it felt to be so close.

 

“Can I touch you first?” Carina husked in Maya’s ear, already pulling at the bottom of her shirt, “I need to feel you, Bambina.”

 

She felt the smallest nod and then Maya sat back, yanking her hoodie off and tossing it on the floor. Carina insisted on the bra too and when she had Maya naked from the waist up, she forced her down onto the couch. Carina settled on her side, managing in the narrow space, as she draped herself over Maya.

 

They’d barely touched since bringing Jamie home. Neither was upset about it, both were overjoyed by the reason for their lack of intimacy. But as Carina rubbed her thumb in circles over Maya’s nipple, the need became unbearable.

 

Maya arched, bringing her thigh up between Carina’s legs. It made Carina feel lightheaded, she couldn’t stop herself before grinding down, her jeans creating much needed friction. Maya’s hands were inside her shirt, squeezing her breast, though Carina could tell that Maya was quickly growing frustrated by the angle.

 

Carina decided to be helpful, pausing only enough to remove her t-shirt and bra before settling back down, her breasts pressed against Maya’s.

 

“Fuck…” Maya gasped, trying to stay as quiet as possible, though the blush rising up her throat was enough indication that silence was not an easy task. Carina kissed her again, licking into her mouth, sliding her tongue against Maya’s in wet abandon.

 

Time was against them. Jamie could wake up any second, they both knew it. There was no time for anything slow and sweet. Carina unzipped Maya’s jeans and forced her hand inside, moaning at the feeling of Maya against her fingertips.

 

Così calda,” she said to herself, rubbing Maya in quick circles, wishing she could take her time, wishing she could taste her.

 

Maya’s mouth fell open, she breathed in short, hard pants, grabbing hold of Carina’s elbow and shoulder in some attempt to anchor herself. Carina felt teeth against her shoulder, the sharp pain urging her on. She wanted to watch Maya’s face, she wanted to see her eyes squeezed shut and her mouth open and the way she smiled when she was close…

 

The smile appeared when Carina leaned back just enough to brush their breasts together again. Carina dipped her fingers lower, gathering moisture, stifling a moan at how slippery everything felt, at how slippery Maya’s clit was as Carina rubbed her harder and harder.

 

Her wrist hurt and her forearm burned, but Maya was so beautiful as she came undone, she was so expressive and even though she was trying to be quiet, Carina heard every ounce of her pleasure in the way her hips lifted from the couch, in the way her fingers pinched against Carina’s skin. She came with a silent scream, the air escaping her lungs in a desperate exhale. Carina licked a path from Maya’s collarbone up her throat and then pressed her mouth to Maya’s, swallowing whatever cry she was trying to hold in.

 

When Maya opened her eyes again, the smile remained, a tired, satiated smile, and Carina reluctantly pulled her hand away, bringing her fingers to her lips, needing a taste. Maya watched with hazy eyes and then wrapped one hand around the back of Carina’s head, forcing her down into a kiss.

 

“Take off your pants,” Maya’s voice was rough, but she spoke clearly in Carina’s ear.

 

The urgency between them remained. Carina didn’t argue with her wife’s demands, instead she stood up and shimmied out of her jeans. Maya moved quickly too, taking hold of Carina’s wrists and pulling her back down onto the couch. As Carina settled, Maya quickly moved, perching on her knees between Carina’s legs.

 

She leaned forward, using the flat of her tongue to lick Carina over her panties. The sudden damp warmth made Carina hum.

 

Using one finger, Maya pulled the thin material covering Carina’s centre to the side, exposing her, and the cool air and Maya’s proximity had Carina already squirming. She closed her lips around Carina’s clit and sucked, thrashing her tongue against the swollen bud, creating an impossible combination of suction and light, wet touches that had Carina desperately reaching for a pillow to muffle her cries.

 

She could tell Maya was wasting no time. There was no teasing. No playing. Her orgasm was building quickly, embarrassingly quickly, but Carina didn’t care. She kept one hand in Maya’s hair, urging her forward, overwhelmed by Maya’s unrelenting, rhythmic movements. When they stopped suddenly, Carina’s eyes snapped open, confused, until she felt Maya fingers on her clit while her mouth moved lower.

 

Carina instantly understood what Maya wanted. She instantly understood why Maya’s tongue licked its way inside, and when she released she came in Maya’s mouth, just as Maya wanted,  the thought alone sending Carina into euphoric bliss. Her hips rolled as she rode out her orgasm, over and over against Maya’s face, until she finally stilled, gasping for breath while staring up at the ceiling.

 

“I wish we had more time,” Maya said, her hands trailing over Carina’s stomach, her breasts, her arms in comforting, familiar touches.

 

“Mmm. I do too.”

 

Maya kissed her one more time, her lips sticky from Carina’s release. It was decadent and beautiful and Carina never wanted it to end.

 

Jamie apparently had a different opinion.

 

Sudden cries from the baby monitor tore them apart, and Maya stood first, shooting Carina an apologetic glance.

 

“I’ll go,” Carina said, managing to rise from the couch on slightly shaking legs. She wanted Maya to see to the fire and lock up, but not before one final hug. They pressed their bodies together, Carina indulging in Maya’s soft curves and defined back muscles. But Jamie was getting louder and Carina couldn’t stay away another moment.

 

She quickly washed her hands and face in the bathroom, before going to check on Jamie, expecting to find a dirty diaper or a onesie covered in spit up. Instead, Jamie stared up at her with sad eyes, and Carina’s heart ached in her chest.

 

“What’s wrong, Picollina?” She asked, scooping Jamie out of her bassinette. Carina was reminded of their skin-on-skin moments in the NICU, though this time it was Carina who was only in her underwear while Jamie was sporting a very fashionable Seattle Seahawks onesie.

 

Maya appeared then, dipping into the bathroom too, the sound of the sink loud in their otherwise quiet room. Carina took the moment to sit down on the bed, her back to the headboard.

 

“She okay?” Maya asked, returning in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. Carina immediately missed the less-dressed version of her wife.

 

“I think she just wanted to say hello,” Carina said, patting Jamie’s back. Jamie turned to face Maya, her cheek pressed to Carina’s chest.

 

“Jamie, I just needed mama for a few minutes. Just a few. Remember we need to share?”

 

Maya slipped under the covers and then reached up to boop Jamie’s nose.

 

“She loves your voice,” Carina whispered, fascinated by the sight of Jamie’s pale little hand against her tanned skin.

 

Maya smiled a little sadly. “I wish we could sign the papers right now. I hate this waiting.”

 

“Me too.”

 

“Only two more home visits and a few more months,” Maya said, wistful, though Carina could hear the worry underneath.

 

Carina shivered, whether from their cool bedroom or from her own worries she couldn’t say. Maya noticed though and immediately crawled behind her on the bed. She wrapped her arms around Carina’s middle, helping her hold Jamie, and as Carina lay back against Maya’s chest, she realized that her ghosts were quiet.

 

She’d spent all day outrunning them, all day trying to pretend that they weren’t there just out of sight. But in Maya’s arms they were vanquished, silenced by her strength and her protection.

 

~*~

 

The apartment was still dark as Maya quietly readied for her day, but the gloom reflected her mood.

 

There was a time when a twenty-four-hour shift excited her. When the prospect of a firegasm was enough to pull her from bed and rush to the station, eager for whatever lay ahead. She still loved her job. She still loved a firegasm.

 

But she also loved seeing her baby in the morning and putting her to bed at night. And for the first time in two weeks, Maya would miss it all.

 

She grumbled to herself as she slicked back her hair in the mirror, gathering it in a beige elastic. Quickly checking her weather app, she tiptoed to the closet, careful not to wake Carina who had been up late with Jamie. Their bedroom was a disaster zone of clothes strewn on the floor and spit-up covered onesies.

 

Maya slipped into her jeans, but struggled to find a clean shirt, trying to remember the last time they had done laundry. It was so unlike her, it was also so unlike the careful schedule she’d written down in her Jamie clipboard. The schedule fell by the wayside as soon as Jamie came home and Maya realized that planning every inch of a newborn’s life was a fool’s errand.

 

Jamie pooped when she wanted. She cried when she wanted. She slept when she wanted. She spit-up when she wanted.

 

And Maya was enthralled with every single moment.

 

The only clean shirt she could find that was still neatly folded was one of Carina’ Team Italia t-shirts, but Maya had no other choice and she hoped Carina wouldn’t mind. It fit a little snug in the chest, but it also smelled like Carina’s shampoo so Maya wasn’t about to complain.

 

She circled the bed, knowing that she had to leave, but wanting one last look at Jamie to tide her over for what already felt like a dauntingly long shift.

 

Maya was surprised to find Jamie awake in her bassinette, quietly lying on her back. She’d awoken in the middle of the night crying, apparently uncomfortable in her PJs, so Carina had left her in just her diaper, and it reminded Maya of all the NICU visits, all those weeks where Jamie had been a mostly naked baby covered in tubes and wires.

 

The tubes and wires were gone and other than a tiny scar on her side, Jamie appeared to be a healthy baby. She was still small for her age, looking to all the world like a newborn instead of a three-month-old, but Maya knew how much progress Jamie made every day.

 

Maya stroked Jamie’s hair, finding it a little sweaty from sleep.

 

Bambina you will be careful?”

 

Carina’s voice was barely a whisper as she rolled onto her side, facing Jamie’s bassinette. Maya took the opportunity to sit down on the edge of the bed.

 

“FaceTime later?” Maya blushed in the dark room, embarrassed to be so needy, but Carina only nodded.

 

“We will miss you.”

 

“I’ll miss you too. You sure you’re okay?”

 

Carina was the most capable person Maya knew and she was a natural with Jamie. But two sets of hands was different than only one and they’d spent the past two weeks perfecting a rhythm between them.

 

“Mmm. . What about you?” Carina’s hand snuck up the back of Maya’s shirt.

 

The familiar touch almost made Maya want to crawl back into bed, but instead she gently set her hand on Carina’s hip and helped her roll onto her back again. Carina’s crop top left so much perfect skin on display and if Maya was going to be gone for twenty-four hours, she wanted one last taste. Leaning down, she kissed the skin just above Carina’s navel, knowing Carina found it ticklish.

 

“Maya…” Carina warned, humming a little when Maya dragged her lips over her tummy.

 

“I have to go,” Maya whispered, pressing one last kiss against Carina’s side before sitting up. She reached into the bassinette for Jamie, lifting her with practiced ease.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Baby T-Rex,” Maya said, kissing Jamie’s forehead. Carina sat up and took Jamie from Maya’s hands before settling her against her chest.

 

Maya looked back once on her way into the kitchen. She paused in the doorway, catching Carina’s soft smile, watching how gently Carina cradled Jamie against her.

 

My entire world is in that bed…

 

She still loved a firegasm. She still loved the adrenaline rush. She still loved the strategy and complexity of her work.

 

But she also loved coming home. Maya who had grown up around an unsafe dinner table, who had shunned the very concept of domesticity because she thought it came with violence and despair, now craved her family more than anything else.

 

Carina blew her a kiss, a kiss that Maya kept with her as she gathered her things and set out for Station 19.

 

~*~

 

The door to the captain’s office was closed as Maya walked into work. She was partially relieved because a confrontation with Andy so early in the morning would only make the rest of the day more difficult. Leaving Jamie for the first time already had her on edge – she just wanted to ease back into work without the extra stress of Andy-related drama.

 

The smell of bacon wafted down the stairs and Maya eagerly followed it, trying to shift her focus from missing Jamie to whatever the day had in store for her. She took the steps two at a time, popping her head into the Beanery before heading to the lockers, expecting Travis or Warren behind the stove.

 

Instead, the entire team was sitting at the table and when she walked in, they all turned to look at her. Even Vic looked serious.

 

“Uh…everything okay?” Maya asked, pausing, unsure what exactly was going on.

 

“We all got subpoenaed last night,” Jack said, scratching the back of his neck.

 

“Oh. I…uh…”

 

“We were also contacted by social services about being character witnesses for the adoption,” Warren said, the smile on his face doing much to relieve Maya’s worry.

 

“Sorry,” she started, “I really didn’t think that would happen all at once. I…”

 

“Mine is pretty much written.” Vic shrugged, leaning back in her chair.

 

Warren laughed, nodding. “Miranda is basically writing a novel. I think she called Carina the most gifted OB in the western hemisphere.”

 

“Well, that’s true,” Maya said, unable to keep the proud grin from her face.

 

Theo was smiling too though he looked somewhat bashful as he spoke.

 

“I know I don’t know you guys as well, but Carina helped my mom through a cancer scare. Went to her house and everything and explained all the test results. Anything you guys need? You’ve got it,” he said, earning him a goofy stare from Vic.

 

Maya didn’t always feel like she was a good person, like she was a person deserving of love. But Carina was the best person and her good deeds and kindness were paying off. Maya pressed her hand to her chest, unsure what to say. Unsure how to express thanks in any way that conveyed how truly grateful she was.

 

Because despite the turmoil she was causing with the investigation, her team wanted to help her family. They wanted to support her and Carina.

 

They wanted to support Jamie.

 

Maya didn’t even know how to respond.

 

Jack stood, crossing the room and pat Maya on the shoulder.

 

“You’ve had my back more times than I can count,” he said, “I know we have a complicated history. I know me and Carina haven’t always been on good terms. But I’m in your corner, Maya. For the adoption. For the hearing. Like Theo said, you’ve got me.”

 

Maya blinked and then looked up at Jack’s face.

 

“Jack…I…I’m going to hug you know…don’t make this weird,” she said, wrapping her arms loosely around his shoulders.

 

He awkwardly hugged her back and then they broke apart, both trying not to laugh. The hug seemed to break whatever tension was left in the room and soon A-Squad was busy fighting over breakfast. Maya stepped into the locker room and quickly changed into her uniform, eyeing the picture of Carina and Jamie before she closed the door.

 

Her phone vibrated in her pocket as she was leaving, and she swiped her thumb across the screen, opening a text from Carina.

 

It was a picture of Jamie still in just her diaper, staring back at the camera with a drooly smile. Maya felt herself melt, especially when she read Carina’s caption.

 

Carina: Buongiorno, Mommy!

 

Maya held the phone close to her chest, letting herself feel all the happiness she could, gathering strength from Carina’s love and Jamie’s button nose and the promise of future good morning kisses.

 

~*~

 

It was hard not to grimace as the hot spray hit her body.

 

Maya grit her teeth and looked over her shoulder, frowning at the large bruise forming on her ass. Of all places.

Carina was going to be displeased.

 

The shower washed away the scent of smoke and ash, but the bruise couldn’t be erased with clean water and soap. Falling through a skylight was not the best moment of her life, but there’d been a strange exhilaration too as she’d rappelled into an inferno.

 

She wasn’t going to tell Carina about that part.

 

She’d focus on the seven-year-old she’d carried through the flames. Although she wouldn’t say flames, she’d say small kitchen fire and Carina would point her finger and groan and shake her head, displeased.

 

Thinking about Carina made Maya sigh. It was dinner time and she wondered if Jamie was having her bottle. Carina had sent a few texts during the day giving updates about tummy time and naps. But it wasn’t the same.

 

Maya knew she’d eventually ease into being back at work, that while she’d still miss her little family, it wouldn’t sting quite so much. But the prospect of the lonely night ahead made her chest hurt. She turned off the tap, trying to cheer herself with thoughts of dinner because Travis’ mom had brought them bulgogi and soup, which was way better than the broiled hot dogs Jack tried to feed them every Monday.

 

She towel dried her hair, running a comb through it, before leaving the bathroom and heading into the bunkroom where she changed back into her uniform and re-did her ponytail. The sound of laughter from the Beanery was a good reminder that Station 19 could be a happy place too.

 

A welcoming place.

 

Despite everything that had happened, Maya knew she was part of the team, she had a place at the dinner table. Jack’s kindness and Vic’s humour and Warren’s support made her feel less alone. It was nice to feel something other than anger, it was nice to be with her friends again.

 

When the laughter turned into a cheer, Maya furrowed her eyebrows, confused, and quickly made her way to the Beanery, wanting to know what had everyone so delighted.

 

She didn’t expect Carina to be the answer.

 

But there she was, facing away from Maya, her head tipped back in laughter at whatever Travis had just said.

 

Skinny jeans and a white t-shirt and Maya’s bomber jacket…beautiful and full of joy…

 

“Carina?” Maya called out, which made Carina turn around revealing that she did not come alone.

 

She had Jamie in a sling across her chest and even though the material mostly hid Jamie from view, Maya could see the little hand holding onto Carina’s t-shirt.

 

Ciao, Bella!” she said, ignoring everyone else in the room.

 

Maya moved in for a hug immediately, kissing Carina’s cheek and then looking down, desperate to see Jamie.

 

“Hi, Jamie!” Maya tried to keep her voice calm, but she couldn’t keep the excitement from seeping in, especially when Jamie turned her face from Carina’s chest to look up, searching for Maya with her wide blue eyes.

 

Maya almost felt giddy as she lifted Jamie from the sling, overjoyed to find her wearing the Probie onesie Warren had given them. Mindful of her badge, Maya held Jamie against her chest, breathing her in, kissing her little cheeks as if it had been weeks since she last saw her instead of hours.

 

“What are you doing here?” Maya asked, unable to tear her eyes away from the baby who yawned, scrunching up her nose in the process.

 

Carina shrugged, dismissively waving her hand. “Jamie missed you.”

 

“Oh, Jamie missed me?”

 

Carina was about to respond but was quickly drowned out by Vic who shouted “BABY IN THE FIREHOUSE!”

 

“Volume!” Maya hissed, placing her hand over Jamie’s ear.

 

Vic grit her teeth as Travis smacked her arm, but Carina apparently found the whole thing hilarious because she tipped her head back again and started laughing, the sound enough to clear away Maya’s annoyance.

 

As soon as Maya walked into the Beanery, she was met with a chorus of coos and awwwws and grown adults making googly faces. Jamie looked for the source of the noise, taking Maya’s offered finger for comfort.

 

“Okay, everyone wash your hands,” Maya said, leaving no room for discussion.

 

“Oh, I like when Mommy is bossy,” Carina whispered in Maya’s ear, bumping Maya with her hip.

 

“And I like when Mama behaves,” Maya answered, noting Carina’s quiet growl.

 

Vic approached first, hands outstretched, and Maya held her breath as she passed Jamie over. She knew logically that Vic was very good with babies and that she’d practically raised Pru as a newborn, but they’d yet to introduce Jamie to their friends, which meant that technically, Vic was the first person other than the two of them and healthcare workers to hold Jamie.

 

“She’s so tiny,” Vic marvelled, booping Jamie’s nose. Jamie squawked in response, but settled again, apparently content.

 

Maya felt Carina’s hand tuck itself into her elbow as they watched each member of A-Crew come for a visit. Theo ran his finger over Jamie’s head, smoothing her hair. Warren took a turn holding her, his deep voice apparently fascinating for Jamie who waved her arms every time he spoke. Travis tickled the bottom of her feet and Vic sang her something silly and Maya soaked in the moment, still amazed that the baby in Vic’s arms was her baby.

 

Jack approached, and Vic carefully passed Jamie towards him, laughing when Jamie yawned as she settled in Jack’s arms. She seemed so small as he held her, she was barely the length of his forearm.

 

“She looks so different,” he said, his smile wide.

 

Maya nodded in agreement. “She’s six pounds.”

 

“Almost six and a half,” Carina added, squeezing Maya’s arm.

 

“Awesome work, Jamie. Drinking your mom’s gross protein shakes?” Jack snorted, before blinking heavily, “wow…Bishop you’re a mom.”

 

“Crazy, right?” Maya could still barely believe it herself.

 

Carina’s grip tightened as she gave Maya a knowing look.

 

“Not so crazy,” she said, her voice soft and kind.

 

Before Maya could respond, Jamie sniffled, her bottom lip shaking in a sure-fire warning that…

 

“Uh…she’s crying,” Jack announced, quickly handing Jamie to Maya just as Jamie’s mewls grew louder.

 

Maya sighed, looking at the sad little face staring up at her.

 

“That’s her pee face,” she said, reaching for the backpack Carina still wore.

 

“I can do it, Tesoro,” Carina said, but Maya shook her head no.

 

“You’ve been on diaper duty all day. Go eat, Jamie and I are due for a team building exercise.”

 

She took the bag from Carina’s shoulder and happily walked towards the lounge, crying baby in tow.

 

In truth, she was craving a moment alone with Jamie. Even if it was just to change her diaper, Maya had been missing her terribly all day and was feeling greedy.

 

She crouched on the floor in the lounge, spreading out Jamie’s changing mat before setting Jamie down and unzipping her onesie.

 

“Were you good for Mama today?” Maya asked, laying a new diaper and wet wipes beside Jamie on the mat.

 

She removed the soggy diaper and replaced it as quickly as possible, knowing that as soon as Jamie felt dry again, the crying would stop. Sure enough, she settled as Maya folded down the flaps, apparently content now that she was no longer uncomfortable.

 

“Did you get cuter?” Maya lay down on her side, not caring that she was at work or that anyone could see her. She’d finished her chores for the day and unless the klaxon sounded, it was dinner time and she could do as she wished.

 

She blew a raspberry on Jamie’s tummy, laughing when Jamie started waving her hands in response.

 

“Don’t tell Mama, but I bruised my butt today. She’s going to be very mad, so we need to keep this on the downlow,” Maya said, taking one of Jamie’s feet in her hands.

 

She carefully bent Jamie’s leg, watching as Jamie repeated the action once Maya let go. Jamie furrowed her brow and huffed, which Maya knew meant she no longer wanted to be on the floor. As soon as she was back in Maya’s arms, cuddled against her chest, Jamie yawned again, her eyes growing heavy.

 

Maya was so mesmerized by the sight of Jamie’s eyelashes against her cheek that she didn’t notice Andy until the woman in question stepped fully into the room.

 

“Sorry,” Andy said, clearly feeling out of place.

 

Maya shook her head. “It’s fine. Do you want to hold her?”

 

Regardless of the tension between them, regardless of how broken their friendship, Maya knew that Andy Herrera was a good person. She was the person who stood by Maya’s side in the academy. They’d pushed each other and raised each other up and even though life had sent them on different paths, Maya trusted Andy with Jamie. With her most precious thing.

 

Andy was clearly surprised by the offer, but quickly recovered, nodding her head.

 

For the first time in what felt like years, Andy and Maya sat in the same room, content to be in each other’s company. Maya perched on the couch while Andy sat in one of the overstuffed recliners, a sleeping Jamie in her arms.

 

“She’s beautiful, Maya,” Andy said, her smile soft and warm.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“I’m really happy for you and Carina. I know things have been…”

 

“It’s okay,” Maya raised her hand, and Andy understood that whatever feud lay between them was temporarily on hold.

 

Jamie slept and Andy watched her face while Maya watched Andy. At one time, Andy would have been Maya’s first choice for godmother. And while that time was over, while those days were gone, Maya was still touched by the sight of Andy holding her baby.

 

“I didn’t know about Ross and Sullivan…when I accepted the captaincy, I mean,” Andy said so quietly that it took a second for Maya to realize what she’d said.

 

Maya stilled remembered watching Andy’s love for Sullivan bloom, she remembered thinking that if they could make a marriage work, she and Carina could too. And she couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to see someone you loved as much as Andy had loved Sullivan move on, be with someone else…

 

The thought alone made Maya slightly ill. But it also made her feel grateful because she had Carina. Without a doubt she had Carina.

 

And Andy didn’t have anyone.

 

“You deserve the captaincy,” Maya said, “you earned it.”

 

Andy didn’t respond and Maya decided not to push.

 

She let Andy hold Jamie, knowing how comforting it was, and instead busied herself searching Carina’s bag for a pair of PJs.

 

“Baby Yoda or Kermit?” Maya asked, holding up two options, unsure when they’d acquired either. Between Carina’s shopping habit, the Grey-Sloan family, and Station 19, Jamie had a wardrobe that would rival a Kardashian.

 

“What’s the difference?” Andy eyed the onesies in question and Maya found herself agreeing with her assessment. Both green. Both owned by Disney. Both stupidly cute.

 

Maya tucked the Kermit PJs back in the bag, the tiny hood with Yoda ears forcing her decision.

 

“At least she didn’t pack the baby Versace,” she grumbled, which made Andy snort.

 

“Versace makes baby clothes?”

 

“Carina’s friend Gabriella sent us a box of designer onesies. I’m scared to touch them let alone let Jamie wear them.”

 

Andy shook her head in disbelief. “If I were you, I’d sell them and start her college fund.”

 

Maya laughed and Andy joined her and for a moment they could both pretend that they were still best friends, laughing together, without a care in the world.

 

The sound woke Jamie, but before she could start crying again, Andy stood up and lay her on the couch next to Maya.

 

“Should we get some jammies on, Jamie?” Maya asked, tucking Jamie’s feet into the onesie. She tickled Jamie’s tummy before working on her arms, forever obsessed with the way Jamie always watched her intently.

 

“I’m really proud of you, Maya,” Andy said. Maya stopped what she was doing to look at Andy, finding her pensive, but honest.

 

Maya nodded, a silent thank you, and then finished zipping Jamie’s PJs, playfully flipping the hood over her head. The sight of Jamie with Yoda ears made even Andy coo and they both fumbled for their phones when Travis popped his head into the room, clearly trying to hold in laughter.

 

“Maya, you might want to come see this,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb.

 

“See what?”

 

“Just…trust me. You want to see this”

 

Confused, Maya stood from the couch, Jamie against her shoulder, and followed Travis out of the lounge with Andy close at her heels. She stopped when he motioned for her to pause and the three stood looking at the Beanery where the rest of A-Squad was apparently sitting at the table, listening to Carina.

 

At first, it was unclear what Carina was saying, but Maya quickly realized that her wife had acquired a laptop and the diagram was impossible to miss.

 

“As you can see,” Carina said, pointing to the screen, “the prostate is essentially the male G-Spot. There are numerous nerve endings in the anus, which is pleasurable on its own, but men are so fearful of anal play thanks to our patriarchal heteronormative society…”

 

Jack tilted his head and it was only then that Maya realized Carina’s audience consisted of a blushing Warren, Theo, Vic who was in the midst of a laugh-attack, and standing in the corner, Robert Sullivan.

 

“Why does this always happen when I’m in the room?” Warren grumbled, burying his face in his hands.

 

“There is no need for embarrassment. Pleasure is natural,” Carina shrugged, breezy, which made Vic’s attempt to stifle her laughter all but impossible.

 

“So…like…this requires…t-toys or…” Jack was squinting, clearly trying to wrap his mind around the idea.

 

Carina nodded, encouraging. “You want to start small, a finger will do. But, yes, building up to a butt plug or beads or a dildo is very easy. You’ll want to use a silicon-based lubricant for any anal play, but I’m assuming you’re all aware of the necessity of lube regardless.”

 

“Yep. Yeah. For sure, for sure,” Jack stuttered, folding his arms across his chest.

 

“Says the man who claimed we didn’t need any because he knew what he was doing,” Andy laughed, which made Travis join in. The sound pulled Carina’s attention and soon there was a group of profusely blushing firefighters seated around the table.

 

“I leave you alone for five minutes,” Maya said, shaking her head at Carina’s coy grin.

 

In the midst of all the noise, the boasting and the awkward questions and Vic’s incessant giggles, Maya only had eyes for Carina who crossed the room to join her.

 

Ti senti meglio, picolla?” Carina cooed, taking Jamie from Maya. Jamie immediately nuzzled her nose into Carina’s shoulder, as if she was trying to burrow into her shirt.

 

There was a long twelve hours to go, but Maya felt rejuvenated, the night ahead no longer so lonely. She led Carina into the bunkroom, closing the door to drown out the sound from the Beanery, and in the privacy of the room, she took Carina’s face in her hands and kissed her.

 

“Thank you,” she whispered against Carina’s lips, soaking in every moment she could.

 

Carina hummed against her and leaned in, brushing her nose against Maya’s.

 

“I missed you,” she said, pouting when Maya pulled away from her.

 

You missed me? I thought Jamie missed me?”

 

Jamie, la mommy non è gentile con me.”

 

“Jamie,” Maya said, wrapping her arms around Carina’s hips, “I am being very nice to mama.”

 

They stood forehead to forehead, and Maya couldn’t stop herself from thinking about Andy, about Andy’s pain at the realization that Sullivan had moved on.

 

“I feel so lucky,” Maya confessed, hardly realizing that she’d said it out loud until Carina’s free hand found that back of her neck.

 

Jamie slept snuggly between them, unaware that her mothers were watching her.

 

Unaware that she was their love made manifest – a tiny soul that contained the enormity of their universe.

 

 

Chapter Text

Joe’s was surprisingly lively for a Thursday night, the result of an overtime baseball game and two bachelorette parties. Maya nursed her whisky, looking around the bar, feeling slightly out of place.

 

She had to remind herself that going out every once in a while was acceptable, it didn’t make her irresponsible or a bad parent. Going out after an inspection was Station 19 tradition and despite the investigation and tensions between Maya and the department, she didn’t want to miss the social gathering. Especially because it was Andy’s first inspection as captain and Maya was trying to be supportive.

 

So, she sipped her whisky and watched Jack flirt with one of the wedding groups, wincing when she realized he was making eyes at the bride. Andy must have caught on too because she was suddenly speed-walking towards him, which meant that Maya wouldn’t have to intervene. Stepping into Jack’s drama was really the last place she ever wanted to be.

 

She checked her watch, relieved to see the time because Carina was due any minute to join her.

 

It was the first time they were leaving Jamie since bringing her home. Amelia had insisted on taking the baby for a few hours because Carina had barely left the house in weeks and was starting to go stir-crazy. Maya caught her watching c-section videos on YouTube and insisted that a glass of wine at Joe’s with A-Squad couldn’t hurt.

 

But even Maya was feeling anxious about the idea that someone else was taking care of her baby. And while it was true that Amelia was a world-class surgeon and had yet to drop her own child, Maya had a hard time trusting anyone other than Carina with Jamie.

 

She took another sip of whisky, letting it settle warmly in her chest, and tried to concentrate on enjoying her evening.

 

“Sorry, I just think it’s gross.”

 

Vic’s voice caught Maya’s attention and she looked across the room, finding Vic and Travis seated next to each other in a booth. She decided to join them, the prospect of rescuing Jack from an angry group of bridesmaids feeling less and less appealing.

 

“Do you not have a romantic bone in your body? How can you not have a romantic bone in your body?” Travis was saying as Maya slipped in across the table.

 

“What’s gross?” She asked, taking in Vic’s vaguely nauseas expression.

 

“Survey time,” Vic said, “how do you feel about the term making love?”

 

Maya furrowed her brow, the whisky slowing her thoughts.

 

“Uh…as an organizational tool or an activity?” Maya wondered out loud.

 

Travis raised both eyebrows. “An organizational tool?”

 

“Yeah, I mean…for differentiating types of sex,” she said.

 

Vic nodded slowly, starting to understand.

 

“Like there’s casual sex,” Vic said, thinking deeply

 

“And morning sex. Afternoon sex. Also evening sex, always a crowd pleased,” Travis seemed to be getting it too.

 

“Tired sex, I missed you sex, we’re bored sex,” Maya continued.

 

“Do we count sex locations?” Vic asked, “Like bedroom sex, kitchen sex, shower sex…”

 

Maya wasn’t sure when she’d developed such a strong opinion about sex classification, but she shook her head, frowning.

 

“No, I think by type,” she said.

 

“Oh, birthday sex and anniversary sex,” Travis listed on his fingers, which made Maya shoot him a thumbs up.

 

Vic pursed her lips. “Okay, so is fucking included?”

 

“Yes. See? Exactly,” Maya said.

 

“Wait…why exactly?” Vic looked even more confused.

 

“There’s a difference between fucking and making love,” Travis explained, though his words gave Maya pause.

 

Because he was right, but Maya still felt a little uncomfortable with the latter term.

 

“Obviously, but I don’t do making love,” Vic laughed, “that’s gross and squishy and way too many feelings. Why can’t it just be fun, happy, good time sex?”

 

“Vic, it’s your first anniversary and your boyfriend said he wants to make love to you, why are you not swooning?” Travis asked, clearly exasperated.

 

“I just…no…nope…no. Do not want,” Vic gagged.

 

“You do not want what?” Carina appeared in front of the table, holding a glass of wine in one hand and another whisky for Maya in the other, and Maya couldn’t keep the dopy grin off her face.

 

“Vic has taken personal offense with the term making love,” Travis said, as Carina sat down next to Maya.

 

She set the whisky on the table and then leaned over, pressing a quick kiss to Maya’s temple.

 

Ciao, Tesoro,” she said, a content smile on her face.

 

Maya smiled back. “Jamie okay?”

 

, but she cried when I left and now…” Carina pressed her hand to her heart and Maya understood exactly what she was feeling.

 

“Should we text Amelia?” Maya started to tap her phone when Travis reached across the table and grabbed it out of her hand.

 

“It’s for your own good!” he said and though Maya wanted to protest, she eventually surrendered, refocusing on her drink.

 

“Vic, tell me about this love making problem,” Carina sipped her wine, waiting expectantly, and Maya belatedly realized that she was sitting next to Dr. Orgasm.

 

Carina had no shame and very few boundaries when it came to discussing sex. In public? In private? With friends? With strangers? Carina didn’t care and Maya only hoped that Vic knew that she was about to get the full Carina DeLuca experience.

 

“It’s nothing! Theo may have used the term making love and I may have puked in my mouth a little and apparently that makes me a bad person!” Vic shoved Travis in the side with her elbow.

 

“But making love is wonderful. It is the most beautiful thing two people can do together,” Carina said, taking Maya’s hand and kissing her knuckles.

 

Maya blushed so hard that she could feel her ears turn red.

 

“Bishop, I don’t even recognize you anymore,” Vic shook her head, only half-joking, but Maya understood where she was coming from.

 

She’d spent years of her life shunning anything other than casual sex. The second she sensed someone had feelings for her or the sex was more than fun, she’d disappear, icing them out of her bed and her life in a heartbeat.

 

Being cold and unfeeling became her thing. It was almost a joke. She was the queen of one-night stands. She didn’t involve herself with anything messy.

 

But that was all before Carina.

 

“Hey! I’m just trying to drink my drink over here in peace,” Maya said.

 

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t gross you out,” Vic insisted, “I know you, Bishop. I know you.”

 

Maya felt Carina’s eyes on her, though she knew her wife likely found the entire conversation amusing.

 

“Uh…I guess the term is kind of cheesy,” Maya shrugged.

 

“What you call it does not matter,” Carina said, “it is about vulnerability. And intimacy. Finding a person to be that vulnerable with? To share that level of intimacy? It is a gift, Vic.”

 

“It’s a gift I don’t want,” Vic laughed, though there was something behind her smile that told Maya far more was going on beneath the surface. Carina seemed to sense it too because she didn’t push and neither did Travis.

 

Vic stood then, the smile still a little too wide, though her voice was light.

 

“Now, if no one else needs me, Jack is about thirty seconds away from losing at beer pong,” Vic bowed to the table and spun on her heels, walking off into the crowd.

 

Travis sighed heavily watching her go.

 

“It’s Ripley,” he said, the sadness in his tone unmistakable.

 

“Ripley?” Carina looked from Maya to Travis, clearly confused.

 

Travis turned back, sighing again. “Vic was engaged a few years ago…he died.”

 

“Chief Ripley,” Maya raised her glass, clinking it against Travis’s beer bottle.

 

Carina softly gasped, setting her wine down on the table.

 

“Oh, that’s terrible,” she said, her hand finding Maya’s thigh.

 

“She loves Theo, but…when you lose the love of your life? Nothing is ever really the same. Including sex. Trust me…I know,” Travis spoke almost to himself, though Maya could see the sadness clear as day on his face, “Like you said, when you have that level of vulnerability and intimacy with someone? And then you lose that someone? You kind of don’t want to try and find it again. It just hurts too much, it’s too risky. And…wow…I was a shit boyfriend to Emmett…why did no one tell me I was such a shit boyfriend to Emmett?”

 

Maya and Carina glanced at each other, surprised by the change in topic.

 

“Anyway,” Travis continued, “I get it. I don’t think I’ll ever get there again with anyone else. I’m not sure I’d ever want to. It would feel like betraying Michael somehow? Like cheating on him? Why am I talking so much?”

 

Travis looked at the six empty beer bottles in front of him and blinked heavily.

 

“Uh…you okay Travis?” Maya asked, watching the play of emotions across the table. Sadness quickly turned into a neutral half-smile, which then turned into a shrug.

 

“I am,” he said, “honestly I am. But she’s not. So I’m gonna…” Travis slid out of the booth and pointed towards the back of the bar where Vic was busy gesturing wildly at Jack.

 

The DeLuca-Bishops watched him go, both a little startled by Travis’s confession though Maya felt something dark seep into her chest. Dark and uncomfortable.

 

Travis had lost his husband and Vic had lost Ripley.

 

Andy had lost Ryan and she’d lost Sullivan too in a different way.

 

Maybe it was the whisky, maybe it was Travis’s words or Vic’s fake smile, but Maya realized for the first time that they were surrounded by tragedy. As if reading her mind, Carina was suddenly there, her forehead pressed against the side of Maya’s head.

 

“Hey, want to be boring moms and go rescue our baby from Amelia?” Maya asked, sensing the conversation may have upset Carina.

 

She felt warm lips against her cheek, smiling.

 

.”

 

“She’s going through our drawers…you know that, right?”

 

Carina leaned back, a knowing smirk on her face. “I locked my bedside table.”

 

Despite the heaviness of the moment, Carina always found a way to bring light. Maya laughed even though an uneasy dread still tugged at her chest. She laughed because Carina was beside her, Carina who would never leave her alone is the dark.

 

~*~

 

It’s terrifying. It’s like ripping your heart out and watching it walk around the world.

 

Maya stood in the washroom brushing her teeth, hoping Carina wouldn’t notice her staring.

 

They’d stayed mostly silent in the Uber home, holding hands while looking out opposite windows. After a brief chat with Amelia, Maya had retreated to the bedroom to wash up for the night and Carina had gone to see that Jamie was settled and now Maya found herself enthralled by the sight of her wife and daughter lying next to each other on the bed.

 

It was well past Jamie’s bedtime, but she’d started fussing as soon as they’d walked through the door, so Carina was trying to lull her to sleep with tummy time and some encouraging words that Maya couldn’t quite make out. Usually, tummy time zapped Jamie’s little body of its strength and she’d go right to sleep.

 

Maya watched the baby trying to raise her head, her tiny fists in front of her.

 

Ripley had died and so had Michael. Ryan was dead and Sullivan had moved on.

 

Meanwhile, Maya’s entire heart was sprawled on her bed and she could feel her hands shaking.

 

An old voice in her head, familiar but unwelcome, whispered that this is exactly what she didn’t want. It was so risky. She could lose everything. The only time in her life that she had allowed herself to love was her brother and she’d lost him. Love was dangerous. Love put her at risk. Love could ruin everything.

 

Except Carina’s laughter was rain after a drought and Jamie’s eyelashes were miracles and Maya silenced the old familiar voice because she wanted this. She wanted it more than anything she’d ever wanted in her life.

 

She’d toss her medal in the ocean if it meant a day by Carina’s side.

 

“Mommy thinks we can’t see her, but we can,” Carina said, never taking her eyes away from Jamie.

 

Maya rolled her eyes, but knew she’d been caught. She turned off the light and joined Carina on the bed, lying on her stomach just like Jamie.

 

“She’s lifting her head,” Maya watched as Jamie pushed herself up for a few seconds before lowering herself again. It looked like she was doing tiny baby push-ups, especially as she huffed from exertion.

 

When it seemed that Jamie had tired herself out,  Carina rolled onto her back and carefully placed Jamie on her chest, knowing her heartbeat usually helped Jamie fall asleep.

 

“I didn’t know Vic was engaged before,” Carina spoke softly, folding her hands on top of Jamie’s little butt.

 

“Hmm. He was a good chief, even though he tried to move me to Station 23 once.”

 

“He did?”

 

“After I made lieutenant. 19 had too many, so Ripley wanted to transfer me. Sullivan asked him not to.”

 

Station 19 now had five lieutenants, an oversight that could only be the result of Ross’s intervention.

 

Carina was quiet for a moment, absorbing the information.

 

“I still don’t like Sullivan,” she said after a time. Maya smiled at her, amused by Carina’s grudge.

 

“Vic moved on pretty quickly after Ripley. People gave her a hard time about it, but…I don’t know…”

 

It felt like another lifetime. Maya wondered if it felt like that for Vic too.

 

“People shouldn’t judge. She survived. That’s all that matter.” Carina spoke with conviction though she didn’t make eye contact.

 

Maya could tell by the hardline of her jaw that Carina was struggling with something.

 

“Carina, are you…”

 

“Surrounded by people who lost their great loves in the line of duty?”

 

Maya winced. She chose not to mention Ryan too. Technically his death was a freak accident, but she didn’t want to add to the pile of Station 19’s tragic losses.

 

“Carina…”

 

Non voglio parlare di questo.”

 

Carina sat up with Jamie in her arms and turned her back to Maya, busying herself with putting Jamie to bed. Maya didn’t say anything as she watched Carina adjust Jamie’s blankets and whisper buonanotte, mio piccola amore. She could tell by Carina’s sharp movements that she was processing her feelings, something she liked to do on her own time.

 

But Maya wasn’t about to leave her alone either, so she stayed on the bed, quiet, waiting for Carina to finish with Jamie.

 

Maya couldn’t assure Carina that she would always come home. She couldn’t tell her that she wouldn’t end up widowed like Travis. All they could do was live in the present and hope for a long future together. Sometimes hope felt like a poor consolation prize for certainty.

 

A change in topic felt necessary.

 

“I never think about sex as complicated, but I guess it can be complicated,” Maya wondered aloud, shifting onto her side.

 

Carina was busy changing into a tank top, but she paused, looking over her shoulder.

 

“What do you mean?” She asked, the troubled expression on her face shifting to curiosity.

 

“What Travis said about Vic and not wanting to…uh…you know…”

 

“Make love?” Carina teased, which made Maya groan and shake her head.

 

“So cheesy.”

 

“Maybe? But accurate, no?”  

 

“Not at all!” Maya said sitting up. “Love cannot be made. It’s not something physical.”

 

She belatedly realized that she was debating romance with an Italian, and from the smug look on Carina’s face, Maya didn’t stand a chance.

 

“And yet, we have. Explain that,” Carina said, raising her eyebrow in challenge. She sat down, her back to the headboard.

 

“Okay, yes, we’ve had intimate sex, but…”

 

“But nothing. We have made love, Maya. I was there. You were there.”

 

“Okay, I know, but…ughhh.” Maya lay back, hiding her face in her hands.

 

The conversation made her feel naked, which usually wouldn’t bother her around Carina, but this was…a lot. She felt exposed, like she couldn’t get comfortable in her own skin, but she couldn’t quite explain why.

 

She kicked off her jeans, deciding that if she didn’t have the words, she’d get ready for bed and hope Carina would drop it. But a warm hand on her ankle stopped her from moving anymore, leaving her in her t-shirt and boyshorts.

 

She really was naked. Or somewhat naked.

 

There was a dip in the mattress and when Maya turned her face, she found Carina lying on her stomach next to her, staring down into her eyes.

 

“There is no need for shame, Bambina. It was beautiful. It always is,” she said, kissing Maya’s shoulder.

 

“It’s not that…it’s just…I’d never done that before you. With anyone. And it makes me feel inexperienced or like an amateur and I know you’ve done it before with other people and I’m not jealous, I…”

 

“I haven’t done that with other people,” Carina said, which made Maya scoff.

 

“Carina, I know you’ve been in love before.”

 

“Yes, but you’re my wife.”

 

Maya furrowed her brow. “We definitely did that before we were married, so…”

 

Carina gently took Maya’s chin with her thumb and turned her face.

 

“There is a difference between doing that with someone you once loved and doing that with the love of your life.”

 

Damn that Italian romance game

 

The confession made something roar in Maya’s chest. It made her feel less like an awkward novice and more like she and Carina had truly shared something similar, something profound.

 

Something uniquely there’s that neither had known before.

 

“And I think you’re wrong when you say that love can’t be made,” Carina continued. The statement made Maya roll onto her side so she could look at Carina face to face.

 

“Oh?”

 

“The night we decided to bring Jamie home. I think we made something. It felt like we did.”

 

Carina was uncharacteristically shy, and Maya realized that her wife had just shared something vulnerable, something that she’d likely felt for a long time but wasn’t sure if Maya would agree.

 

But Maya had felt it too. She just didn’t have the words.

 

“We did,” Maya whispered, taking Carina’s hand where it lay on the bed.

 

Carina closed the gap, her lips light against Maya’s. When she settled down again, she was smiling, her eyes almost hazy.

 

Ti amo così tanto, cuore mio,” she said, squeezing Maya’s hand.

 

Maya wrapped her arm around Carina’s middle and pulled her in, leaving no space between their bodies. They kissed and held each other, hands casually passing over hips and shoulder blades and it was only when Carina blinked heavily that Maya finally found the strength to move away.

 

She helped Carina get under the covers, tucking her in before settling next to her, warmed when Carina wiggled as close as possible. She lay her head on Maya’s chest, her eyes already closed, and Maya let herself listen to the steady sound of Carina breathing and the softer, but no less beautiful inhales and exhales coming from Jamie’s crib.

 

Maya thought about their evening. About Ripley and Michael. She thought about Ryan too, his kindness, the way he had listened to her speak about Mason with a friendly ear instead of judgment.

 

For her entire adult life, Maya had shunned the notion of family. There was no comfort there, no safe haven. But things were different and Maya’s perspective had changed. She stroked her hand up and down Carina’s arm, worrying into the late hours, amazed that she had a family of her own, a family she had built. But with the amazement came fear because what if the universe had other plans? What if her fate was the same as Ripley’s or Michael’s?

 

“Carina?” Maya spoke into the night, though she could tell that Carina was still awake.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“I think I’m ready to call my mom.”

 

Family had not been a comfort or a safe haven, but it was now. And she wanted Carina and Jamie to have all the comfort and all the safety she could give them. Even if she wasn’t there to do it herself.

 

 

Chapter Text

Blood dripped down Maya’s leg, staining her sock and pooling in her shoe, but she kept running.

 

She knew the cut was deep, too deep for just a Band-Aid and part of her wondered why no one had said anything. Why no one had pulled her father aside and explained that she needed a doctor, not punishment.

 

Except, Maya knew that was wrong. She did deserve punishment. Because even though she’d won, her time was abysmal, it was unacceptable.

 

She knew that.

 

Rain soaked through her hair, her t-shirt and shorts. It mingled with the blood streaming down her leg and she felt light-headed, but she kept running because the only way to stop the pain was to get through it. Her dad had left her at the track for a reason. He’d taken the car, despite the rain and despite her bleeding knee, and told her to get home herself.

 

Losers didn’t get a chauffeur, he said.

 

Shame radiated throughout her body, shame because she knew why she’d been so slow at the meet. She knew why and she hated it.

 

Her father had almost sneered when she red-faced explained that she had her period, that it was her first one ever, that she had cramps and it hurt to move let alone run. Maya didn’t mean for it to happen, on some level she knew that it was not something she could control, but she hated it. She hated her body. She felt betrayed.

 

She hated her mother’s kind smile, she hated the conspiratorial “you’re a woman now” from her mother’s lips. It was the same conspiratorial smile she’d worn while shopping for Maya’s first training bra. Maya hated it then too.

 

Lane would never say it out loud, but Maya knew her father loathed her changing body. She could tell in how strict the diets became, as if he could make up for her growing chest by forcing her to lose weight elsewhere. She was so hungry, the smell of hot dogs at the meet enough to make her nearly fall over from want.

 

Hot dogs were full of chemicals and garbage. They were empty carbs.

 

Maya whispered that to herself over and over. Chemicals. Garbage. Carbs.

 

The rain was cold and Maya’s knee hurt so badly. Her sports bra was too tight and her pelvis throbbed and Maya wanted to cry. She wanted to fall over and scream and ask why this had happened to her.

 

She didn’t want to be a woman. She wanted to be an Olympian.

 

A car slowed as it approached her, but Maya ignored it, hoping whomever it was would lower their high beams and get out of her way.

 

“Maya!”

 

The familiar voice cut through the rain, but Maya was scared to stop. Because what if…

 

“Maya!”

 

The car slowed and Maya could see her mother rolling down the window, calling out for her.

 

“Mom?”

 

Katherine stepped out with an umbrella, crossing the small distance between them and pulling Maya into a tight embrace. Maya stiffened, but then melted into her mother’s arms, the warmth and comfort so rare.

 

“Sweetheart, let’s get you home, okay?” Katherine rubbed Maya’s back, but Maya didn’t move.

 

“Does he…I mean…did Dad…”

 

“You’re hurt, Maya. I’ll speak to him later, but we need to get you home.”

 

“But mom, I…”

 

Katherine cupped Maya’s cheek, her face full of concern.

 

“He’s going to be even more upset if you catch pneumonia or if that knee gets infected,” Katherine said.

 

It was true. Her mother was right.

 

Maya still didn’t move.

 

“It really hurts mom,” she said, sniffling, unsure if she was talking about her leg or her stomach or her life.

 

Katherine sighed and despite the rain, despite the fact that she was parked in the middle of the street, she pulled Maya to her again.

 

“I know, honey,” she whispered, “I know. And I’m so sorry.”

 

~*~

 

Maya watched herself in the mirror, frowning at the sight of her father’s eyes staring back.

 

She knew she had Lane’s eyes. People had commented on it for as long as she could remember. When she was little it was “you have your daddy’s eyes” and as she got older it was “oh, you look like him” and then she moved away and found her life and her eyes became her own.

 

Most of her Wednesday night conquests spoke about her eyes. Flirty. Meaningless.

 

Hey, blue eyes

 

Jack thought she had pretty eyes and at the time that was enough to get him into her bed.

 

But like most things in Maya’s world, there was a before Carina and an after Carina and after Carina, her perception had changed all over again.

 

Because Carina didn’t just think her eyes were pretty or sparkly or hot.

 

Carina thought her eyes were beautiful.

 

She’d look at Maya’s face, she’d hold her gaze, she’d rub her thumb under Maya’s eyelid, mesmerized, whispering to herself in Italian as if she couldn’t quite believe what she was seeing.

 

And Maya let her. She forgot about her father’s eyes just like she’d forgotten the names of those faceless Wednesday pursuits, because Carina loved her eyes.

 

Carina loved her.

 

Every once in a while though, Maya caught her own reflection and felt unease. She could see her father’s anger, his cruelty. She could see it all reflected back and doubt crept in.

 

Could Carina see it too?

 

Could Jamie?

 

A noise from the doorway pulled Maya’s attention and seconds later Carina walked into the small space, setting down her comb on the counter. She’d obviously caught Maya staring at herself too because when she came to stand behind Maya, she raised her hand, lightly touching one finger just below Maya’s left eye and whispered bellissima.

 

Maya shrugged, but relaxed when Carina wrapped her arms around Maya’s hips, pulling her back.

 

“Are you nervous?” Carina asked, meeting Maya’s gaze in the mirror.

 

“Not nervous, just…cautious…maybe?”

 

“Hmmm.”

 

“She’s not a bad person. She wasn’t even a bad mother, she tried her best,” Maya said, more to convince herself, “there are just so many bad memories. Sometimes I forget the good stuff.”

 

“You have her smile, you know?”

 

The statement surprised Maya. She’d never heard it before.

 

“I have his eyes,” Maya couldn’t stop herself from saying it. An old defense mechanism. If she acknowledged it first, she couldn’t be caught off guard when someone else mentioned the resemblance.

 

“No. You have your eyes. But you have your mama’s smile,” Carina set her chin on Maya’s shoulder, holding her tightly.

 

“I wasn’t always nice to her. I…I yelled or…I could be cruel for no reason…”

 

Bambina.”

 

“I did that to you too. The yelling…”

 

The hands around her hips tensed uncomfortably.

 

“Stop, Maya. We are not our parents. You are not him, just like I am not my father,” Carina’s voice was stern, but she wasn’t angry.

 

Maya turned in her arms, away from the mirror, no longer wishing to see herself. She wanted to look at Carina instead.

 

“This is a good idea, right?” She asked, setting both hands on Carina’s shoulders.

 

“It’s a great idea.”

 

“We do need more babysitters,” Maya whispered, tipping her face down to kiss Carina’s neck.

 

“Mmmm. Very true.”

 

Clever hands slipped into the back pockets of Maya’s jeans and squeezed. Maya leaned in for a kiss, but before her lips so much as brushed against Carina’s, they heard a knock on the front door.

 

Carina sighed, but smiled. Maya didn’t feel quite so cheery.

 

“I’ll get the door,” Carina said, giving Maya’s ass one last smack.

 

“And I’ll get the star of the show.”

 

~*~

 

Of all the experiences Maya expected to have in life, introducing her child to her mother was not one of them.

 

As Maya reached into Jamie’s crib, she found herself unsure how to feel. Unlike some people, she’d never dreamed of seeing her parents as grandparents, of giving them grandchildren. Her family wasn’t like that. Maya and her mother didn’t muse about the future, they didn’t talk about some hypothetical husband or hypothetical children. Lane barely seemed aware that Maya existed beyond her athletic career. When she’d decided to become a firefighter, he’d spoken of her future in terms of promotion.

 

Youngest captain.

 

Battalion Chief.

 

But mom? Never mom. Even though it was the greatest promotion of Maya’s life.

 

Jamie looked very cozy in her jammies so Maya decided not to change her. Besides, she quite liked the little t-rex on the front of Jamie’s onesie, green against a light purple backdrop.

 

“This could get weird,” Maya said, running her fingers through Jamie’s messy brown hair.

 

With a deep breath, Maya picked her up, adjusted Jamie against her chest, and then stepped out of the nursery, bracing for whatever was to come next.

 

The first thing Maya noticed about her mother was that Katherine’s hair was no longer grey. She’d dyed it, blonde, her original colour and it made her look ten years younger. It made her look the ways she’d looked when Maya was a kid. She was also wearing makeup, something Lane never allowed. Unlike the mousy woman who’d had to sneak away to attend her own daughter’s wedding, Katherine appeared healthy and happy and unburdened.

 

Carina was just in the process of showing Katherine to the couch when Maya made her presence known. She stood, Jamie in her arms, unsure quite what to say. But as soon as Katherine caught sight of her, her eyes filled with happy tears and she pressed one hand to her mouth.

 

“Hi mom,” Maya said, uncomfortable with her mother’s display of emotion, though she knew it was an old feeling, a feeling enforced by someone no longer welcome in her life.

 

“Hi sweetheart,” Katherine said, her smile watery. She also seemed unsure how best to proceed, standing next to the couch, tears streaming down her face.

 

Carina looked from one Bishop to the other in clear exasperation before shaking her head.

 

“Katherine, would you like to hold your granddaughter?” She asked, holding out her hands for Jamie.

 

“Yes…I…is that okay?”

 

Katherine’s eyes remained on Maya. She was waiting for permission. The thought made Maya feel guilty.

 

“Of course, mom,” Maya said, “do you want to sit down or…”

 

Maya passed Jamie to Carina and then joined her mother on the couch, wishing things didn’t have to feel so awkward. She wanted this moment to be warm and special, but the Bishops weren’t exactly warm and special people.

 

Thankfully, there was a DeLuca in the mix. And DeLucas were especially warm and special.

 

Jamie, questa è tua nonna,” Carina whispered against Jamie’s temple before lowering her into Katherine’s waiting arms.

 

They all held their breaths, waiting to see if Jamie would settle, and as if sensing the attention, Jamie yawned and curled into Katherine’s chest.

 

“She’s beautiful,” Katherine said, reverent, stroking one finger down Jamie’s cheek.

 

“Yeah, we think so,” Maya smiled, pleased when Carina settled on the armrest next to her.

 

Katherine’s tears continued, though the smile on her face let Maya know they were happy tears.

 

Still, Maya set a hand on her mom’s shoulder, worried. “Mom are you okay?”

 

“Sorry,” Katherine said with a laugh, “I just never thought this would happen.”

 

“You mean grandchildren?” Maya asked.

 

Katherine shrugged a little, turning to look at Maya.

 

“You never really talked about wanting a family and then…well, with your father, I…I wasn’t sure if you’d want me involved.”

 

The guilt came back twofold. Maya winced, lowering her head.

 

“I do, mom. We do.”

 

Maya felt Carina’s hand on the back of her neck, a reassuring warmth that helped her focus.

 

“I don’t see your father anymore,” Katherine said, “I haven’t in nearly a year. I just want you to know that Jamie is safe with me…”

 

“I know, mom. We…I want you to know her. I want her to know you and spend time with you,” Maya said, wishing she didn’t feel so stilted.

 

Katherine sniffled loudly again.

 

“What would you like her to call you?” Carina asked, a welcome reprieve from the heaviness of the conversation.

 

“Oh…uh…I don’t know? Maya and Mason called my mother gran, so I guess that’s what I’ll be too. Yes, that would be quite nice now that I think about it.”

 

“Gran,” Maya tried out the word, a word she’d never associated with her mother. But it worked.

 

Gran

 

Jamie mewled a little, kicking out her legs, which made the adults in the room laugh.

 

“Are you saying hi to gran?” Maya reached for one of Jamie’s feet and gave it a little wiggle. She could feel Katherine watching her and moved her hand away, self-conscious.

 

Carina shifted, sliding her hand to Maya’s shoulder. “Jamie follows Maya’s voice. She’s always looking for her.”

 

“My baby is a mom,” Katherine laughed, shaking her head.

 

“Not what you expected, I’m sure.” Maya tried to keep her voice light, but failed, doubt creeping in. She’d never been a warm person, she’d never been someone who wanted hugs or cuddles. Maya was sure her mother didn’t expect her to have enough empathy to be a good parent. Let alone enough love…

 

“I’m not surprised, at all,” Katherine said.

 

She passed Jamie to Maya, watching carefully as Maya took Jamie in her hands and then cradled her in one arm. Jamie immediately curled her fist in Maya’s shirt, something she did almost every time Maya held her. Carina insisted it was because Jamie knew that Maya was the one who rescued her, that she recognized Maya’s scent and it made her feel safe.

 

Maya wasn’t quite as sure, but she cherished each little tug. It felt like Jamie’s way of talking to her, of keeping her close. Jamie wanted her close.

 

She brushed her nose against the top of Jamie’s head, unsure what to make of Katherine’s statement.

 

“Maya is a wonderful mother,” Carina said, once more breaking the tension as she stroked her fingers through Maya’s hair.

 

Maya blushed. “Okay, enough with all that…”

 

“Again, not surprised. She was always so sweet with Mason when he was a baby. Wanted to hold him and feed him,” Katherine smiled at the memory.

 

“I don’t remember that,” Maya said softly, deciding not to discuss what she did remember.

 

“You were barely three years old, dear. But such a serious little thing. You’d watch everything with those big blue eyes, even when you were barely a week old, you’d watch. And then with Mason – I could barely keep you away from him to let him sleep.”

 

“Tell me everything about baby Maya and also send me pictures later especially if they are baby Maya in the bathtub pictures,” Carina said, which made Maya groan and Katherine laugh in delight.

 

“She never sat still. Ever. Those little legs…” Katherine shook her head, “you’d crawl so fast. Your poor little knees were always bruised by the end of the day. And then you never really learned to walk…you learned to run.”

 

There was a Lane-shaped elephant in the room. Every memory came with a question: where was Lane?

 

Where was Lane when Maya insisted on helping with her baby brother?

 

Where was Lane when Maya bruised her knees?

 

Where was Lane when Maya stood up and instead of hobbling on her tiny legs, she ran around the coffee table over and over until Katherine stopped her…

 

“When did she get her first clipboard?” Carina asked, which made Maya turn and lightly smack the side of her leg.

 

“Hey!”

 

Katherine pressed her hand to her mouth, trying to stifle a giggle.

 

“Three,” she said, “there were lots of stickers involved.”

 

“Colour coded,” Maya insisted, as if a three-year-old owning a colour-coded clipboard was nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Carina and Katherine could no longer keep quiet, and they both laughed, startling Jamie with the noise. She turned her face, staring up at Carina, and then tried to turn again to see Katherine.

 

“Everyone is ganging up on me, Jamie,” Maya said, smiling when Jamie waved her little fist in the air.

 

She let the laughter wash over her, trying to pretend she didn’t find it beautiful. Trying to pretend that she wasn’t secretly emotional because her wife and her mother were sharing embarrassing childhood stories while she held her daughter.

 

Instead, Maya kissed Jamie’s forehead and leaned back into Carina’s body and watched the laugh lines around her mother’s mouth and eyes.

 

She wondered if she’d get them too.

 

She hoped she would.

 

~*~

 

 Katherine stayed most of the afternoon and to Maya’s surprise, it was lovely.

 

Her mother shared stories with Carina, eager to talk about her children as if she’d never had the chance before. Maya didn’t remember her mother ever having friends to the house and she wondered if maybe Katherine had never been given the opportunity to share her memories or her parenting advice. To spend time with other mothers in comradery. Treated like an equal.

 

Treated like someone worth listening to.

Not that Maya thought of her mother as a bastion of parental skill, though she had to admit that Katherine was a natural when it came to Jamie. She held her and fed her and changed her diaper. She put her down for her nap and told Carina about the best way to enforce sleep training.

 

And above all, she looked at Jamie with so much love that Maya could feel it across the room.

 

She knew her mother loved her. And Mason. She had always known. But Katherine’s passivity had caused Maya so much heartache. She’d needed a defender, someone to stand up to Lane on her behalf, and while she understood why Katherine couldn’t be that person, Maya wasn’t sure she’d ever quite get over the feeling of wanting her mother to be that person.

 

Without Katherine, Maya didn’t have anyone else to shape her but Lane. He had turned her cold and cruel, especially after Hima.

 

At the time, Maya wondered what it would have been like to have a relationship with her mother like the other girls in her class had with their mothers. She had wondered what it would be like to share her feelings with Katherine, to go shopping – and not just for items Lane pre-approved. She’d wondered what it would be like to tell her mother that she liked girls too, that she was scared and it made her feel different and lonely and paranoid.

 

As she cleaned up the kitchen, Maya stewed over the warring parts of herself that she could not seem to reconcile.

 

The part that would forever blame Katherine for letting Lane abuse her, even though she logically understood that Katherine was just as much a victim as she was, maybe even more.

 

And the part that loved her mother and craved her warmth. The part of her that was still thirteen and running home in the rain with a bleeding knee and an aching heart.

 

It was impossible to imagine any scenario where Maya would let Jamie come to harm. Where she’d leave her alone with someone cruel or someone who mistreated her. And it was equally impossible for Maya to imagine what it would feel like to fear a spouse, to cower from the person who shared your life, who shared your children and your bed.

 

Maya closed the light and decided to put away her thoughts for the night. She was tired and feeling too many feelings and she also knew that Carina had been up the night before with Jamie. They both needed sleep.

 

During her first month at home, Jamie had seemed so small and so fragile that they’d wanted her close by. Now that she was stronger, it was time to transition her to the nursery and while she’d cried the first night, it seemed that she was getting used to her new surroundings.

 

Maya popped her head in, expecting to find Carina in the rocking chair with Jamie in her arms. Instead, Carina stood over the crib, arms folded, and she seemed to be watching Jamie in silence. The hard frown on her face gave Maya pause and she approached, settling her hand on Carina’s lower back.

 

“Everything okay?” Maya asked, taking a quick glance at Jamie who was fast asleep in her dino onesie.

 

“She won’t have a nonna,” Carina said, the sorrow in her voice enough to shatter Maya’s heart.

 

There was no healing this wound, so Maya just stood quietly next to Carina, rubbing her back, hoping to at least provide comfort.

 

Maya watched her wife’s face, she took note of the sharp cheekbones, the slightly gaunt look that appeared when Carina was upset. She also watched as Carina stayed quiet, as she internalized whatever it was that she was working through because while Carina was especially good at articulating her feelings, the deep stuff? The dark stuff?

 

She kept it away from Maya, no matter how many times Maya asked her not to.

 

“Tired?” Maya plucked at the back of Carina’s sweater, hoping to, at the very least, encourage her to get some sleep.

 

Carina nodded and then pressed two fingers to her lips before reaching out to touch Jamie’s forehead.

 

Ti voglio bene, cucciola,” she said, which made Maya smile. She knew that Italians had an endless stream of endearments for children, but hearing Carina refer to Jamie as a puppy was ridiculously adorable.

 

Then again, she’d also heard Carina refer to Jamie as a potato and a meatball, so she couldn’t say she entirely understood what constituted an appropriate nickname in Italian or not. Carina still looked gloomy as she turned with the baby monitor in hand, so Maya decided not to ask for an Italian lesson and instead followed Carina into their bedroom.

 

They readied for bed in silence, though Maya stole glances at Carina as she brushed her teeth and as she changed into pyjamas. It was only after they’d both crawled under the covers that Carina seemed to emerge from her fog.

 

“Your mother looks so happy,” she said, genuinely pleased.

 

“She does, doesn’t she? I haven’t seen her with makeup…maybe ever.”

 

Perchè no?”

 

“My dad didn’t allow it. He said it was a frivolous expense,” Maya sighed, “I remember her asking once or twice and he’d always say who are you trying to impress, Katherine?”

 

Stronzo.”

 

Carina’s hand snuck under the hem of Maya’s t-shirt, tickling patterns over her sides.

 

“Do you want to talk about your mom?” Maya stroked her fingers up Carina’s arm, unsure if Carina brought up Katherine to deflect from her own feelings.

 

The fingers beneath her shirt stopped moving and instead slipped up, across her back.

 

“Her hair was just starting to turn grey when she died, but only here,” Carina said, removing her hand from Maya’s shirt to tap her own temple.

 

Maya had never seen pictures of Lucia DeLuca in her youth. She knew Carina favoured her – they had the same nose and chin. Carina’s height came from her father’s side of the family and her eyes were all from her nonna. But that glorious, thick hair…

 

“She’d be so proud of you,” was all Maya could think to say because it was true. She couldn’t see how any parent wouldn’t be overwhelmed with pride to call Carina their daughter.

 

Then again, Vincenzo was less than complimentary, which made Maya want to shake him.

 

The distant, gaunt look returned to Carina’s face, and she shifted in discomfort.

 

“Maybe. She didn’t always approve of my…lifestyle,” Carina said, her hand returning to Maya’s shirt, playing with her collar.

 

“Your lifestyle? Like the gay thing?”

 

Maya belatedly realized that she didn’t know Carina’s preferred label or if she even had one. Carina’s type seemed to be people regardless of gender or identity.

 

“She wasn’t homophobic or anything like that, but I think she wanted me to settle down. With a man. Give her nipoti. She lived so far away that I never really had the chance to introduce her to girlfriends or boyfriends, but every phone call hai già trovato un marito? Her friends in Italy were always trying to set me up with their sons or cousins…I think she was pulling ropes…”

 

“Pulling strings?” Maya asked, biting her lip as Carina rolled her eyes.

 

, strings.”

 

“Any of the sons keepers?”

 

Carina laughed at the memory. “Obviously not. Not even the twins. That was a very confusing week in my life.”

 

“Twins? Were their names Mario and Luigi?”

 

“Maya!” Carina pinched Maya’s hip, though her laughter continued. The sound made Maya smile even wider. She hated to see the far away sadness in her wife’s eyes.

 

“Did you come out to your parents? My mom must have figured it out way before I realized she did because she didn’t seem overly surprised the first time she met you, even though she thought you were one of my firefighters,” Maya said, trying not to dwell on the memory.

 

Katherine’s first meeting with Carina had set off a chain reaction that led to Maya making the biggest mistake of her life. The less she thought about it the better.

 

“I never came out. It was pretty obvious after I brought my third-grade teacher a rose and asked her out to dinner. Ah, Signora Messina…”

 

“Wait…you asked your teacher on a date?” Maya raised herself on one elbow, amused by the dreamy look in Carina’s eyes.

 

“I did. Mama was not pleased.”

 

“But you must have been so cute!”

 

“All arms and legs. Mama said like giraffe,” Carina raised her arm as if to demonstrate.

 

“I like your arms and legs. And all your other body parts too.”

 

Carina raised her eyebrow, coy. “Well then it’s good Signora Messina said no because I was very ready to marry her and then you would not have access to my arms and legs and other body parts.”

 

“I would fight her for you.”

 

“Hmmm…” Carina’s eyes drifted to Maya’s biceps and she curled her hand around one, squeezing.

 

“Come on, what does she have that I don’t?” Maya playfully rolled Carina onto her back and pinned her to the mattress.

 

“Well, she read to me…”

 

“I read to you,” Maya said, kissing Carina’s cheek.

 

“And she made me snacks…”

 

Maya leaned over and playfully kissed Carina’s other cheek.

 

“I make you snacks,” she laughed.

 

“And she sang to me…”

 

“I sing to you all the time.”

 

“No! Non vero!

 

Maya pushed herself up just enough to hover over Carina’s body. She narrowed her eyes, taking in Carina’s teasing grin, searching for any last vestiges of sadness. There were none. As always, Carina found the good. She found the light.

 

The night we met I knew I needed you so,” Maya began to sing, trying not to laugh, as she did.

 

Carina took Maya’s hips and pulled her closer until Maya was practically lying on top of her.

 

And if I had the chance I’d never let you go…”

 

The smile on Carina’s face changed into something softer, something that told Maya all thoughts of Signora Messina were likely fading.

 

So won’t you say you love me…

 

Maya kissed Carina’s lightly, pulling away before Carina could kiss her back.

 

I’ll make you so proud of me…”

 

Bambina…”

 

We’ll make ‘em turn their heads every place we go…”

 

Carina’s lips silenced Maya’s attempt to sing the chorus. Her mouth was warm, needy, and Maya smiled into the kiss, moaning softly as Carina’s tongue slipped against her own.

 

“I know what you’re doing,” Carina said, bringing both hands to Maya’s face.

 

“Oh?”

 

“And it is working.

 

Maya stared down, relieved to see Carina so relaxed, so happy again.

 

“I hate when you’re sad,” she said, “I’ll do anything to fix it. Sing to you, or fight your age-inappropriate Italian crush, or buy you as many little gold rings as you want…”

 

Carina raised one finger in warning, before breaking out into a smile again.

 

“It would have never worked out with Signora Messina,” she sighed, fisting her hands into the front of Maya’s shirt.

 

“Oh?”

 

“She didn’t have these blue eyes,” Carina said.

 

“Ah, yeah, I can see how that would be a problem.”

 

“And she didn’t have this smile.” Carina slid her thumb beneath Maya’s bottom lip.

 

Maya settled more heavily on top of Carina, molding their bodies together. She could feel Carina’s legs tangled with hers, those long legs that made her graceful and tall.

 

“We’re going to tell Jamie all about her nonna,” Maya whispered, “and we’re going to tell her about your nonna too. And Andrew. She’s going to know them, Carina.”

 

 Silence followed Maya’s statement and at first Maya was worried that she’d upset Carina. But while there were tears brimming in Carina’s eyes and her chin wobbled slightly, the expression on her face was pure happiness.

 

Tu sei l’amore della mia vita.” Carina kept her hold on Maya’s face, her fingers moving along Maya’s cheekbones, stroking gently.

 

The love of my life

 

Maya had never loved before Carina. She’d never wanted to love, nor had she expected wanting anyone to love her back. Love was messy and painful and attachments just led to vulnerability and vulnerability was weakness. Vulnerability was a sprained ankle or a torn Achille’s tendon.

 

And then Carina showed her that love was indeed messy and painful and attachments really did lead to vulnerability. But love was also safety and passion and Maya felt herself enveloped in it whenever Carina looked at her.

 

Carina was quite literally the love of Maya’s life too.

 

“Ha! Take that, Signora Messina!” Maya said, pumping her fist though she gazed at Carina with soft eyes. With gentle eyes.

 

Carina just laughed and shook her head and pulled Maya down into a bruising kiss that erased any thoughts of Italian grade schoolteachers or lost family or pain.

 

 

Chapter Text

Carina should have known to expect the worst. She should have known the second Jamie woke crying in the middle of the night. It was not going to be a good day.

 

And it had truly been a horrific day.

 

She sat in her car, both hands still on the wheel, trying to convince herself to calm down. Her knuckles were white from squeezing and she chastised herself for staying in a parked car instead of going upstairs and seeing her wife and baby.

 

But she was upset. And she was uncomfortable. And she didn’t want to bring it home with her.

 

Trying to take a centering breath, Carina closed her eyes and thought about the morning. She’d had to go in to work for the first time in weeks because Jo was out with bronchitis and no other attending was available. Despite her lack of sleep thanks to Jamie’s sore tummy, Carina had looked forward to putting in a day at the hospital. She loved every second she had with Jamie, but she also missed her patients and delivering babies and speaking to people who were over the age of five months.

 

Except the day had not provided a much needed reprieve. Far from it.

 

With an exaggerated grumble Carina decided that seeing her family might help alleviate some of her angst. At the very least, she’d get cute cuddles with Jamie, though it was Maya whose arms she longed for.

 

The apartment was quiet when she walked in, all the lights off save for their bedroom, which meant her girls were camped out on the bed together. Carina hung up her jacket in the closet and unzipped her boots and again tried to take a deep breath.

 

She just couldn’t seem to shake the dark feelings. Not yet.

 

Maya sat on the bed, Jamie sleeping on her chest, apparently watching something on her phone while absentmindedly kissing the top of Jamie’s head. Her eyes drifted from the screen to Carina and she smiled, quickly removing her airpods.

 

“Hey,” she said, “good day?”

 

Carina bit her lip and shook her head. Maya’s smile instantly disappeared.

 

“Carina?” She held out her hand, but Carina didn’t take it. Instead, she circled the bed and started to disrobe, wanting something more comfortable than a shirt buttoned up to her throat.

 

With her back to Maya she tried desperately to push down the sadness, the devastation, the fear. She didn’t want to bring it into her bedroom. She wanted to smile at her wife. She wanted to hold Jamie…

 

“Carina,” Maya tried again, “is everything…”

 

“I called my dad.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Frustration flared though Maya didn’t deserve any. Maya couldn’t read her mind. But Carina needed more than oh. Not that she could explain exactly what she needed.

 

Pulling on an oversized t-shirt and kicking off her trousers, Carina sat down on her side of the mattress, trying not to grind her teeth. She watched Jamie for a moment, the way both hands were resting near her face balled into fists, the swirl of her hair, her sweet little red onesie. Jamie was so innocent and so peaceful, her body curved around Maya, and it made Carina feel even worse somehow.

 

Her family was beautiful.

 

More than beautiful. How could anyone not see it?

 

But then Vincenzo…

 

“He seemed surprised at first,” she said, eyes on Jamie, “and then he started telling me about his research project. I call to tell him he has a nipote and he tells me about enterovesicular fistulas and stem cells and qualunque progetto pazzesco stia lavorando ora invece di dirmi che è felice o orgoglioso o…

 

“Whoa,” Maya raised both eyebrows and gently squeezed Carina’s arm, trying to slow down the slew of Italian pouring out of her mouth.

 

Carina flinched at the touch before relaxing, though she could see that Maya noticed her reaction.

 

“If it was Andrea…if Andrea had…” Carina trailed off, unable to finish the thought. There was too much pain there.

 

Her father’s favoritism.

 

Her father’s inability to be proud of her.

 

The fact that Andrea wouldn’t have children.

 

The fact that Andrea would never know Jamie.

 

“Hey,” Maya tried again, ducking her head to try to catch Carina’s gaze.

 

“I was never good enough and now my bambina isn’t good enough?” Carina avoided Maya’s attempt to look at her and instead still focused on Jamie, her eyes brimming with tears.

 

She knew Vincenzo’s reaction would be unpredictable. She knew it was unlikely that he’d throw a party for them anytime soon. But as always, she’d hoped for her father’s support, for his love. She’d hoped that Vincenzo would welcome the news.

 

He’d almost ignored it entirely.

 

With her hope came anger pointed inward because she knew better. Her father had known of Andrea’s death for three days and didn’t call. He’d left her alone with it, all the arrangements. He’d left her alone to mourn. He didn’t check on her, he didn’t ask if she was okay.

 

He’d asked why she’d let it happen.

 

The same question Carina asked herself daily.

 

Maya sat up and carefully placed Jamie in the bassinette they still kept next to the bed. It freed her hands, which she immediately used to reach for Carina’s face. But Carina pulled back again and Maya furrowed her eyebrows, clearly confused.

 

“Carina what’s going on?” She asked, and the question broke whatever restraint Carina had left.

 

She couldn’t not talk anymore. She couldn’t force it down because it wasn’t working.

 

“My last patient of the day was a really hard one,” she said, her voice already shaking.

 

Maya nodded, but made no move to touch Carina again. “A mom or…”

 

“No. I was paged to the pit. A seventeen-year-old girl came in, beaten up badly. She was so scared and she kept begging me not to call her mom.”

 

“And they called you?” Maya frowned, unable to connect the dots.

 

Until she did.

 

And then her face shifted into something between concern and sorrow and love and pain.

 

“It never gets easier,” Carina whispered, “the rape kits. I’ve done so many, more than I can count. It’s the most important thing I do, but…she was so young. And so alone. And seventeen…”

 

Maya swallowed hard, her eyes wide, intense, and something in Carina’s brain clicked back into place as she reached forward, curling her hands in Maya’s t-shirt, forcing her close.

 

They lay back and where moments before Carina didn’t want to be touched, she found herself squished into Maya’s side, her head on Maya’s shoulder, greedy for her wife’s warmth and strength.

 

Maya understood that Carina didn’t need words. There were no words that could take away the trauma. But Carina was so grateful for Maya’s physical presence, for the way her hands held on tight.

 

It was so rare that Carina dwelled on her own assault. Rarer still that she was triggered. But when it happened, Maya became her comfort and her shield. Carina knew that Maya would remain awake, staying up long after Carina fell asleep, guarding her, ensuring that Carina wouldn’t have nightmares, fighting off the ghosts so Carina didn’t have to.

 

She breathed in Maya’s scent, letting it calm her, letting it help fade the memory of a tear-stained young face. Not vanish. It could never vanish. But lessen. An echo instead of a loud, beating drum.

 

“I think I’m mad at my mom,” Carina confessed, letting out the thought she’d allowed to fester for weeks. Guilt spread through her chest, more guilt than she knew what to do with, but if anyone could understand misplaced anger towards mothers, it was Maya.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Maya’s voice was barely a rasp.

 

“She left me behind,” Carina said, the guilt stilting her ability to explain, “I know why she did. I told her to do it. But…why did she listen to me? I was a child and she left me and then…it’s not her fault, I know it’s not her fault…it’s no one’s fault…except…it’s…the man who…I…it wasn’t her fault. But she left me and I was…someone hurt me and she wasn’t there and I was all alone with it. I…since Jamie, I feel…”

 

Maya’s embrace tightened. “Baby T-Rex has changed everything, hey?”

 

Carina nodded against Maya’s chest. “She was a wonderful mother. She loved me. I used to feel like I understood her choice because I gave it to her. She left because of me. Because I gave her permission. But now?”

 

For years Carina had defended Lucia. When people heard that Lucia left Carina in Italy, they often reacted with shock. With surprise. With judgment. And Carina would always explain her mother’s actions. She saw her mother as brave, as dismantling the patriarchal trap that was her marriage, as saving her young son from a life of instability and giving him a chance to flourish.

 

But as Carina lay in Maya’s arms looking at Jamie asleep, the excuses disappeared and all that was left was the question how could she leave me?

 

Because Carina could never leave Jamie. Ever. She would rather die.

 

It was all feeling like too much. Her father. Her patient. Her mother. Images of her past lurked behind her eyelids and Carina didn’t know how to push the pain away. She was with her wife and her child and she just wanted to feel that happiness. She didn’t want to dwell on the past, on the unanswerable questions, on the horrors…

 

She didn’t want to think about her father.

 

“Do you want to know what I think?” Maya’s voice was a good distraction and Carina nuzzled her nose against Maya’s throat, nodding gently.

 

“Your father is a narcissist and an asshole,” Maya began, which made Carina’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. But Maya had just started one of her famous Maya Bishop monologues, so Carina kept quiet. Curious and slightly concerned by whatever direction her wife might take.

 

“And I know he’s your father, I know you love him and he was your hero and you want him to be proud of you,” Maya continued, “I get that. You know I do. But it’s time for you to be a narcissist and an asshole too.”

 

“What?” Carina pushed herself up and Maya moved with her so they were both leaning against the headboard.

 

“He’s not allowed to steal your joy. You’ve taken care of him for your whole life. And you know what? Sorry. That’s wrong. It’s wrong, Carina. He’s a grown man and he can’t have it both ways. He can’t call you at 4AM one day demanding you come home for Christmas and then the next day tell you your job isn’t important or make excuses for why he didn’t call on your birthday. You have me and you have Jamie and you have a life that you built and I’m not saying we’re a replacement for him or that you shouldn’t talk to him, but it needs to be on your terms. Put your needs before his. Do what’s best for you. But you’ve earned some freedom, Babe. You’ve put in your time.”

 

Carina blinked, letting Maya’s words sink in, but apparently Maya wasn’t finished because she turned her body towards Carina and with a furrowed brow kept talking.

 

“And as for your mom, I’m sure she was wonderful. In fact, I know she was and not just because you have the same nose. But parents are human beings and they make mistakes and they mess up. I mean, I’m kinda the poster child for parents making mistakes and messing up. So you’re allowed to be mad at her. It doesn’t mean you love her any less or you’re dishonouring her memory. Because you’re right, she left you. She left you and you needed your mother. You needed her protection and I know she’s not to blame for…”

 

Maya trailed off, her jaw twitching in anger. She shook her head and exhaled sharply through her nose and continued.

 

“You always tell me that I’m not my dad. Well, you’re not your mom. All the beautiful parts of her? Yes, that’s you. But her mistakes? No. That’s not yours to own. Those are hers. So…I think you need to lighten the load. The responsibility for your father. Defending your mother’s decisions. You can’t carry them anymore not because you aren’t strong enough – you’re more than strong enough. But you shouldn’t have to carry them. You don’t need to. You get to put them down.”

 

Carina wasn’t sure what to say. She opened her mouth and then closed it again, overwhelmed by all the words.

 

“And about what happened today?” Maya gently took Carina’s hand, “whatever you need, I’m here. Always. We can talk about it or we can not talk about it. But I’m here and I love you and Jamie loves you and we went grocery shopping today and bought you Baiocchi Cookies so we can eat those too, whatever you need. Also, I talk a lot, am I talking a lot? I’m talking a lot.”

 

Again, Carina found herself speechless, only this time she couldn’t stop herself from smiling. After the day she’d had, the smile felt like a miracle.

 

“Thank you, Bambina,” she said, squeezing Maya’s hand. Maya nodded, slightly sheepish after her very long speech, and for the first in hours, Carina felt herself relax.

 

She lay down again, curled against Maya’s side, and all the tension in her muscles disappeared as she forced herself to be in the moment. Because the moment contained Maya and Jamie. It was free of ghostly voices, of ghostly hands. The only voice was Maya’s, low and raspy, and the only hands were Maya’s hands, strong and beautiful, and holding her close.

 

“I didn’t ask about your day…” Carina whispered, slipping her fingers under Maya’s t-shirt so she could lightly scratch her nails against Maya’s abdomen.

 

“My day involved a lot of poop.” Maya shrugged, which made Carina laugh.

 

“Oh?”

 

“Last night’s tummy ache is no more. But it resulted in all the poop. Almost called in hazmat at one point.”

 

Before Carina could respond, a soft mewling came from Jamie’s bassinet, indicating that she very much wanted in on the conversation. Carina rolled onto her back and was surprised when Maya picked up Jamie and then immediately lay her on Carina’s chest.

 

Ciao, Piccola,” Carina laughed, booping Jamie’s nose with her fingertip.

 

Jamie pushed herself up on her elbows, looking at Carina’s face intently.

 

“She heard you had a bad day so she’s just checking in,” Maya explained, settling on her side.

 

Carina smiled at the idea. “That’s very thoughtful, Jamie.”

 

Jamie responded with something that sounded like aahhh-pfffft, which made Maya nod very seriously.

 

“I only ate three cookies, not five,” Maya said, continuing to nod as Jamie gurgled back at her, “Wow, Jamie, I thought we agreed not to tell Mama that I bought two bags, but now there’s only one left. Thanks for giving me away, kid.”

 

Bambina, you ate a bag of cookies?”

 

Jamie smiled a very drooly smile and kicked her feet against Carina’s tummy.

 

“My own baby spilling the beans.” Maya smacked her hand against her forehead, feigning distress.

 

“What else did you do today, cucciola? Besides poop and tell on Mommy?”

 

Jamie wiggled on Carina’s chest and it seemed like her whole body shook as she let out a loud, “Aaahhhh-bbbbb!”

 

It was so surprising that Maya pushed herself up on one elbow and nearly toppled over from moving so quickly. “Did she just laugh?”

 

It was a new sound. They’d seen smiles and short little babbles. But laughter?

 

Carina felt herself tearful again only this time they were happy tears. She tickled Jamie’s chin with one finger and sure enough, Jamie let out another aaahhhh-bbbbbbbbbb!

 

“Oh my God she’s laughing!” Maya practically crowed, reaching for Jamie. She scooped her up, holding her in the air for a moment and Jamie’s laughter disappeared as she just stared back, slightly confused by the sudden shift from Carina’s warm chest to dangling in the air.

 

Carina lay her head on Maya’s shoulder and circled both arms around Maya’s middle and just watched as Jamie started laughing again and Maya laughed too.

 

To Carina’s ear it was a symphony, the most perfect duet, and she let it fill her.

 

She let it heal her.

 

Long after Jamie fell back asleep, Carina was still pressed close to Maya’s body. Unwilling to let her go, the dark shadows in the room a reminder of the spectre of her day. She knew she was being clingy, but she also knew Maya didn’t care. She could feel it in the may Maya’s hand coasted along her forearm, an old habit, but one Carina associated with comfort and love.

 

“Going to sleep?” Carina asked, feeling drowsy herself.

 

Maya shook her head. Her jaw twitched, determined. Protective.  “No, I’m going to stay up for a while. But you should close your eyes.”

 

In the dark, Maya couldn’t see the small, teary smile on Carina’s face. She couldn’t know that without Maya’s watchful guardianship, Carina would be too afraid to sleep, too afraid of what lay waiting for her in her dreams.

 

But Carina knew. Carina knew what she felt and as she allowed herself to shrug off the day and give in to her exhaustion, her nonna’s words drifted back to her, a faded whisper in the night.

 

Domani andrà meglio.

 

Tomorrow will be better.

 

 

Chapter Text

“The main take away needs to be, act normal. Be yourselves, but not…too much yourselves. Just…normal. Am I clear?”

 

Maya paced back and forth across the Beanery, clipboard in hand, the muscle memory from her captaincy returning in full force. She made eye contact with each person seated around the table, hoping to convey the severity of the situation.

 

What lessened the impact somewhat was the fact that Jamie was strapped to her chest in a baby carrier, looking out with big blue eyes and a very drooly smile.

 

“Is she okay? The vein in her forehead looks like it’s going to pop,” Vic whispered, pointing towards Maya. Travis shrugged and turned back to tossing grapes at Theo’s head.

 

Maya was about to reprimand them, when she caught sight of Carina walking up the stairs next to Katherine. Glancing down at her checklist, Maya was pleased to see they were right on schedule.

 

Pack diaper bag

Dress Jamie

Bring Jamie to work

Carina picks up mom

Address the team

Carina and mom arrive

 

At the sight of Carina, Jamie started wiggling her legs, her babbles growing louder and louder as Carina approached.

 

Ciao, mio piccola amore!” Carina cooed, pointing at Jamie who immediately wrapped her tiny hands around Carina’s fingers.

 

Maya nodded, pleased with the proceedings.

 

“Excellent timing,” she said with a nod before looking over Carina’s shoulder at Katherine.

 

Buongiorno to you too,” Carina smirked, though Maya could tell she was nervous too. Nancy was due any minute for their first work-place visit and both moms were feeling the pressure.

 

They knew that Nancy was very much on their side. They also knew that the first home visit had gone very well. But there were far more variables at play in Station 19. Maya had once seen a man’s toes fall off in the clinic. Anything could happen. Anything.

 

She eyed her checklist again. There was no listing for “avoid rotting body parts.”

 

Katherine took Jamie’s diaper bag from Carina’s shoulder and looked at Maya expectantly.

 

“Mom, you sure you’re good with this?” Maya asked, already undoing the carrier’s straps so Carina could hold Jamie.

 

Katherine’s smile was wide. “Spend the day with my granddaughter? Are you kidding? I’m great with it!”

 

An alarm on Maya’s phone sounded indicating the beginning of phase two. It was time to open the clinic for the day.

 

“We’ll just be downstairs,” Maya said, rubbing her thumb over the back of Jamie’s neck. The baby had fully latched herself onto Carina’s shirt and Maya prayed there wouldn’t be too many tears when it was time to separate the two.

 

Behind them, Travis, Theo, and Vic stood up and started making their way downstairs to a chorus of hi Carina! and hi Mama Bishop! and hi Jamie!

 

It really was time to get going. Andy had graciously allowed Katherine to stay in the lounge with Jamie for the day and the Clinic meant that 19 wouldn’t need to attend any calls, so there was no worry of the klaxon sending everyone away.

 

With Carina on mat leave, the clinic also allowed Nancy the opportunity to see Carina in a workplace setting too. It was convenient, and far less complicated than having Nancy attend active fire scenes or operating rooms.

 

Jamie fussed as Carina passed her to Katherine, though she seemed to settle quickly.

 

“There are diapers, formula, three changes of clothes, baby Tylenol, her stuffed dino, a hat in case the air conditioning bothers her…” Maya pointed at the bag over Katherine’s shoulder, but stopped talking when Jamie showed off her newfound laughing skills with aaahhh-bbbbbb!

 

“Is Mommy funny?” Carina asked, stroking her hand over Jamie’s head.

 

“Mommy is just trying to stay organized and be prepared,” Maya said. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and when she checked the screen, she discovered that the front desk had sent her a message.

 

Nancy had arrived.

 

“Okay!” Maya said with a nod, “Jamie, Mama and I have to go. Be good for gran. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

 

She took Jamie’s little hand and shook it, missing the incredulous look Katherine shot Carina who just shrugged and gazed at the back of Maya’s head with pure affection.

 

Maya barely waited for Carina to join her before trotting down the stairs. She was hyper-focused on the day ahead and first impressions mattered.

 

“Hello Nancy,” Maya extended her hand to the woman waiting in the lobby. Nancy held a large file-folder, but her face was friendly, so Maya tried not to focus on the reams of paperwork that apparently held their fate.

 

Nancy had a clipboard too. And Nancy’s clipboard was bigger than Maya’s clipboard.

 

Maya gulped.

 

“Maya, Carina, I’m very much looking forward to today,” Nancy was cheerful as ever and Maya felt herself forcing an overly wide smile.

 

It occurred to Maya that Nancy might want to know Jamie’s whereabouts too. She took one step forward, clasping her hands behind her back and clearing her throat.

 

“Jamie is upstairs with my mother. Her clothing is all fireproof and we only use organic shampoo and…”

 

Carina hand on Maya’s back silenced her, as did the surprised expression on Nancy’s face.

 

“Oh,” Nancy said, “that’s lovely! Good to know.”

 

Should I offer coffee? The coffee here is terrible. What if she sees the kitchen and decides it’s a biohazard? I told Travis to clean the stovetop…did Travis clean the stovetop? I might have to murder Travis.

 

“Now,” Nancy continued, “pretend I’m not even here. I’ll stay out of your was as much as possible. Think of me as a fly on the wall.”

 

Carina gestured towards the door to the barn, guiding Nancy forward.

 

“We do the clinic once monthly, though we’re trying to get funding to increase that,” Carina said, breezily pointing out their setup and numerous places Nancy could stand and observe for the day.

 

Unlike their first clinic day, word had spread amongst the community quickly and there was usually a lineup at the door before they could even open. Jack was especially relieved, concerned about Dean’s legacy and living up to his promise. For Maya, the clinic reflected well on the Station and that was important. Even though she was no longer captain, it was the kind of program she wanted to support.

 

Station 19’s current captain was in her office, the door closed, and Maya felt a familiar pang of tension when she thought of Andy. It was hard to see her in that office. Maya could admit that she was jealous. Part of her was offended by how easily 19 accepted Andy, how obvious it was that they felt Andy was the rightful captain.

 

Maya shook away her thoughts and returned to Carina’s side, pleased to see Nancy smiling and clearly interested.

 

“Bishop…” a voice whispered from one of the cubicles and Maya ducked her head in, raising an eyebrow at Warren who seemed to be hiding away.

 

“Warren?”

 

“Just when you think it’s going bad, that’s when it’s actually going well. I thought my workplace visit was a disaster. Turns out I nailed it.”

 

“Uh…thanks?”

 

Warren shot her a thumbs up, leaving Maya even more worried than before.

 

What if something really did go bad? What if a patient died or Ross showed up or…

 

“Here we go, 19!” Jack called, hitting the lever to open the barn door.

 

The sound centred Maya. She realized that Nancy was nowhere to be seen, undoubtably lurking in some corner. Carina was busy getting set up herself, which meant that Maya had a job to do too. She looked at her clipboard one more time and grimaced.

 

Survive the day

 

~*~

 

The morning passed without incident.

 

Maya was pleased by how mundane it was, how boring. Patients came and went, most with minor complaints. Carina stitched a nasty head wound while Nancy stood by, looking slightly green.

 

For once, the station felt drama-free and everyone was working like a well-oiled machine. Maya was practically skipping through the barn by the time lunch rolled around and they closed for a thirty-minute break.

 

Carina stood up and stretched her back, the silk material snagging across her chest much to Maya’s distraction.

 

Focus, Bishop! No sexing up your wife during the work-place visit.

 

Instead, Maya offered Carina her hand and led her to the steps.

 

“So usually we take turns making meals,” Maya explained as Nancy joined them, trying to remember who was in charge for the day.

 

Nancy nodded happily. “Oh, that’s lovely. Very communal!”

 

Maya was feeling quite smug. They were killing it. They were absolutely nailing it. Nancy was going to check-off all her boxes and some judge somewhere was going to look at it and Jamie would be officially adopted in no time.

 

Her smugness instantly evaporated, however, when the trio reached the top of the stairs, only to find pure chaos in the beanery.

 

Vic and Travis appeared to be mid-argument in the kitchen, both gesturing towards the oven. The smell of burned something was definitely in the air and Theo was staring into the sink, likely the location of the burned something.

 

But what really had Maya ready to keel over was Jack, who had Jamie up on his shoulders. She was so small that she was essentially lying on top of his head, and though he had both hands on her to keep her safe, the visual of her baby holding on to Jack Gibson’s stupid hair was enough to make Maya want to scream.

 

“Jack!” Carina’s voice rang out over the beanery, “Cosa stai facendo al mia bambina?

 

The rapid-fire Italian gave everyone present pause and Jack winced, squinting his eyes.

 

“Uh…” he started to speak before Maya stepped fully into the room.

 

“Where’s my mom?” She asked, just as Katherine strolled out of the washroom and took in the scene.

 

Her eyes darted from Jack to Jamie and back at Jack and then she burst into laughter, holding her stomach as her shoulders shook. It broke the tension and suddenly there were pots and pans crashing and more laughter and the normal comradery that came with Station 19’s chaotic A-Squad.

 

Jack carefully plucked Jamie off his head and handed her to Carina who was still staring him down. But Jamie seemed no worse for wear. If anything, she was extra smiley, though that may have been because she was back in her mama’s arms. Sure enough, Jamie nuzzled her cheek against Carina’s shoulder and used one little hand to grab onto Carina’s shirt and Maya was fairly certain they were going to have a hard time prying her away.

 

“Did Uncle Jack make you laugh?” Maya asked through gritted teeth, stroking the top of Jamie’s head while shooting Jack a death glare.

 

Jamie turned to look at Maya, her drooly grin widening and Jack was smart enough to back away as soon as Maya was distracted by Jamie’s perfect little face. It was only belatedly that they realized Nancy was still standing behind them.

 

“Nancy,” Maya said, bracing herself, “I am so sorry, that’s not…”

 

Nancy was smiling ear to ear, eagerly jotting down something on her clipboard. She raised her head at the sound of Maya’s voice and from the look of her red cheeks, she’d been laughing too.

 

“Lovely, lovely!” She said, taking a step closer to Carina and offering Jamie her index finger, which Jamie took with a tentative squeeze. Nancy wasn’t Carina or Maya or gran, so Jamie was apparently not excited about shaking hands.

 

Maya tried to usher the group towards the table, trying to see if there was anything to eat or if lunch was going to be burned perogies. Thankfully, Travis’s mother appeared at the top of the stairs almost as soon as Maya had the thought and the sight of her hands full of soup containers made Maya want to reach out and kiss her.

 

Looking around the beanery, Maya couldn’t help but once more feel like they were nailing it. The squad was happily eating together, Nancy had a chance to see Jamie’s village up close in person including Katherine, and the social worker seemed enthusiastic and genuinely happy.

 

As Maya stood behind the counter grabbing an extra pitcher of juice, she allowed herself a moment to pause, a moment to review her own mental checklist. Everything was on time and as scheduled.

 

“Bishop,” Warren appeared behind her without warning and Maya jumped, slamming her hand to her chest.

 

“Jesus, Warren, what is with you today?”

 

“My social worker had a way better poker face. Looking good, looking good DeLuca-Bishops.”

 

He took the juice from her hand and strolled towards the table as if he hadn’t just scared the crap out of her.

 

Lunch proceeded as normal. The crew passed Jamie around, each taking a turn to hold her or tickle her. Vic even sang to her which resulted in Jamie staring up in wonder, her little legs kicking in excitement. Maya watched as each of her friends interacted with her baby – she watched as each one adored her, and it made her feel both a pang of sadness and of gratitude.

 

She wished that life was simple, that she could stay at 19 with her found-family and raise her baby surrounded by the station’s warmth. She wished that there was no need for her investigation, that there was no chance of her needing to leave.

 

But watching Jamie with her friends strengthened Maya’s resolve too. She didn’t want her daughter in a toxic environment. She didn’t want Jamie to see a world where women couldn’t speak up, where her mom couldn’t speak up. Maya would always be grateful to 19, she was proud to be part of Pruitt Herrera’s legacy, but she would also do anything to protect her family and show Jamie that standing up against wrongs was the right thing to do.

 

As the crew finished lunch, Jamie finally made it back to Maya’s arms. The baby immediately relaxed and so did Maya, lifting her in both hands so she could kiss her cheeks over and over.

 

Carina appeared in her peripheral vision and it wasn’t until she pressed her lips to Maya’s temple that Maya realized she was so close by.

 

Sei bella,” Carina whispered before taking Maya’s empty plate and carrying it to the kitchen. Maya watched her go, love-struck as always, and then turned back to Jamie who scrunched up her face in a way that let Maya know a diaper change was necessary. She stood, making a quick stop in the lounge for Jamie’s diaper bag, but before she could walk into the washroom, Natasha Ross appeared at the top of the stairs.

 

Both Maya and Ross paused, awkwardness descending.

 

“Bishop,” Ross said, curt.

 

Maya nodded back, subconsciously tightening her grip on Jamie. When Andy strolled down the catwalk seconds later, the situation became even more intense, as Andy looked from Ross to Maya, clearly picking up on the tension.

 

“Uh, Chief Ross, there’s some paperwork that needs your signature in Sullivan’s office,” Andy explained, obviously trying to defuse the situation.

 

Ross ignored Andy’s request.

 

“I assume this is the baby in question?” Ross asked, smiling what appeared to be a genuine smile.

 

The baby…

 

“Yes. This is Jamie,” Maya said, hyper-aware that Nancy was nearby. The last thing they needed was a confrontation.

 

Ross’s smile widened. “She’s very sweet, Bishop, congratulations again.”

 

Maya was about to say thank you and move on, but Ross reached out her hand first, stroking her finger down Jamie’s cheek.

 

Which made Jamie burst out into tears so loud that even Maya startled. Ross snatched her hand back, eyebrows raised, and Maya had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.

 

“Sorry,” she said, “she just really needs a diaper change.”

 

“Of course. Hererra? You were saying?” Ross spun on her heels, practically speed-walking away, and Maya was relieved to see her go. She made a mental note to thank Andy later.

 

As soon as Maya walked into the washroom, Jamie stopped crying. It was like someone had turned off the faucet. She looked up at Maya with her silly little smile and Maya couldn’t help grinning back.

 

“You’re my girl, Jamie. That was awesome.” Maya bumped her fist with Jamie’s, choosing to believe that Jamie’s outburst was purely out of spite and had nothing to do with her soggy diaper.

 

With one final kiss to the top of Jamie’s head, Maya got to work, the smile never leaving her face.

 

~*~

 

The afternoon continued in much the same way as the morning. Patients came and went, Nancy lurked in the corner with her clipboard, and Maya had to keep the pleased smirk off her face.

 

She stood by the front of the barn, checking-in patients and going on supply-runs when needed, though her supply-runs were usually code for go tickle Jamie’s tummy. It was only when she turned towards the front door that she realized a young girl was watching her with frightened eyes.

 

“Hi,” Maya said, approaching cautiously, “can I help you?”

 

“Uh…I…this is the clinic, right?”

 

The girl looked no more than fourteen. Maya sensed fear radiating from every pore.

 

“It is,” Maya nodded.

 

“Are you a doctor?”

 

“No, but I’m a trained EMT. And we have doctors here too. Would you like to see one?”

 

The girl swallowed hard and then winced, one hand pressing against her stomach. Her clothes were baggy, but Maya could tell that whatever the problem was, it was definitely abdominal.

 

“Maybe? It’s kinda embarrassing though…”

 

“Trust me, the doctors here have seen it all. They don’t think anything is embarrassing. Can you tell me your name? I’m Lieutenant Bishop, but you can call me Maya.” Maya extended her hand, feeling like she was talking to a scared colt.

 

“Uh…I’m Sasha.”

 

“Hey, Sasha. Do you mind if I ask your age?”

 

Sasha dug into her back pocket for her wallet and handed Maya a driver’s license. Despite her youthful looks, Sasha was apparently eighteen, which made things easier. There was no need for parental permission or special forms.

 

Still, eighteen was young and Sasha was clearly afraid.

 

“Okay, perfect,” Maya said, handing back the card, “if you follow me, we can find you a doctor.”

 

“They’re nice, right? I…my doctor is really judgemental and I don’t have insurance and…”

 

“The doctor I have in mind is the nicest.”

 

Sasha winced again as she started walking, bracing herself against a nearby table. She let out a low moan, clearly suffering, and Maya decided to speed up the process. She grabbed a nearby wheelchair and had Sasha sit down, patting her shoulder as they started rolling.

 

“Dr. DeLuca,” Maya called out, knowing Carina was likely nearby.

 

A familiar face popped out of one cubicle, motioning for Maya to come forward.

 

“Sasha, this is Dr. DeLuca. As I was saying before, she really is the nicest,” Maya said.

 

“Hello, Sasha. Would you like to hop up on this table for me?” Carina motioned to the gurney behind her, but Sasha groaned, clamping her hand around Maya’s wrist.

 

“Can you stay?” Sasha asked through gritted teeth.

 

“Uhh…”

 

“Sorry. You just remind me of my sister. She left for college and I know it’s stupid, but she’s half-way across the country and…you just…”

 

“No problem,” Maya said, trying to ignore the small pang in her chest as she thought of Mason.

 

With Maya’s help, Sasha lay down on the gurney, both hands resting on top of her stomach.

 

“Sasha can you tell me what’s wrong?” Carina asked, dawning gloves. Maya stood near Sasha’s head, trying to stay out of Carina’s way.

 

“My stomach has been hurting since yesterday, but when I woke up this morning and went to the bathroom…ugh this is embarrassing…”

 

“I have pulled a flashlight out of a grown man’s rectum. Nothing is embarrassing,” Carina said with a shrug, which made Sasha drop her jaw in shock and Maya mumble Carina in half-affection, half-exasperation.

 

“Okay,” Sasha continued, “so…I went to the bathroom and there was like this gush…like I didn’t know the body could pee that much at once, and then things really, really started to hurt. I tried to take an advil, but it didn’t work.”

 

Carina raised her eyebrows and Maya did too.

 

“Sasha, do you mind if I lift your shirt?” Carina asked, waiting for Sasha to give her consent. Sasha nodded and Carina pulled up the hem of Sasha’s hoodie, revealing a very small bump. Carina’s poker face was impeccable because she didn’t react at all. Maya, meanwhile, was quickly putting the pieces together and had to refrain from yelling oh shit!

 

Carina circled the gurney, calm as always. “Sasha, when was the last time you had your period?”

 

“Uh…I don’t know? It’s irregular…I’m on the track team, or I was…graduated two months ago…”

 

Maya and Carina exchanged another look and Maya could only nod her head in understanding. Her period hadn’t been regular until after the Olympics. She’d saved a fortune on tampons in high school.

 

“And when is the last time you were sexually active?” Carina’s voice was calm, steady, totally without judgement, but Sasha’s cheeks turned red nonetheless.

 

“Oh, I mean…like…like a few months ag…oh my God.”

 

Sasha tried to sit up, clearly panicked, but Maya stepped in, her hand on Sasha’s shoulder, gently holding her down.

 

“It’s okay, Sasha,” she said, “you’re going to be just fine.”

 

Carina offered Sasha a warm smile, a smile that always made Maya feel safe. She could see it working on Sasha immediately.

 

“Sasha, I would like to examine you with a portable ultrasound. I will need you to remove your pants. Is there anyone you’d like us to call?”

 

Sasha shook her head, her breathing rapid.

 

Bambina, could you get the ultrasound, some towels, the portable heart rate monitor…” Carina listed, clearly distracted enough to use a pet name in front of the public.

 

“On it,” Maya said, but Sasha’s hand found hers and squeezed.

 

Carina pat Sasha on the knee one more time, understanding that she wanted Maya to stay.

 

“I’ll go gather everything,” she said, disappearing and leaving Maya alone with a very panicked teenager.

 

“Sorry, sorry, this is just…is she saying…I’m…” Sasha was nearly hyperventilating as she spoke.

 

Maya took a deep breath. “Carina is the best, okay? I would literally trust her with my life. And my kid’s life. And I don’t trust anyone with my kid. Hardly even myself.”

 

“That’s…you guys must be really good friends.”

 

Maya saw the tiny rainbow flag pin on Sasha’s backpack and took a chance.

 

“Well, she is my wife, so I have to say nice things,” she said, pleased to see Sasha smile.

 

“Oh! That’s really cool. And you have a kid?”

 

Sasha was afraid and alone and small talk was apparently helping her focus, so Maya decided to just keep on speaking.

 

“We do. She’s upstairs right now.”

 

“Who’s upstairs?” Carina asked, bustling in with her arms full of equipment. Vic dipped her head in too, dropping off towels and the portable vital signs monitor.

 

“Jamie.”

 

If Carina was surprised by Maya disclosing personal information to a patient, she didn’t show it. Instead, she smiled upon hearing Jamie’s name, and then quickly set up equipment all around Sasha.

 

“Can I take off your pants and underwear? We will cover you with this towel,” Carina said, waiting again for consent.

 

At this, Sasha started sniffling, tears dripping down her cheeks, and Carina stopped everything to come stand beside her and take her hand.

 

“Sasha?” She asked, so gently.

 

The teenager nodded, looking right at her.

 

“I know this is very scary, but I am going to be here with you the whole time. And so is Maya. I’m going to start with an ultrasound and then I will need to check your cervix.”

 

“I didn’t know,” Sasha confessed, “how did I not know? I barely gained any weight…I thought it was just because I stopped running.”

 

“Are you sure there’s no one we can call?” Maya asked. Sasha shook her head.

 

“What am I supposed to do? I’m going to college next year. I don’t want a kid!”

 

Carina squeezed Sasha’s hand. “When we are done here, I am going to send you to Grey-Sloan to see my colleague, Jo Wilson. Do not worry about insurance or anything like that. But Dr. Wilson will help you look at your options and I will see you tomorrow too. For now? I need to examine you and make sure you and the baby are okay.”

 

“Baby,” Sasha whispered, still clearly in disbelief.

 

“Maya can you get a blood pressure read? Do heartrate too and temperature.” Carina took her spot at the foot of the gurney again.

 

“Wait!” Sasha looked around, “this is a fire station! I can’t have a baby in a fire station!”

 

“You wouldn’t be the first,” Maya said, which made Sasha tilt her head.

 

“Really?”

 

“Nope. Yours will be the third.”

 

“Oh. Okay. I…okay,” Sasha motioned towards her jeans and Carina stepped forward again.

 

Maya couldn’t help but feel warm all over as she watched Carina work with such care. She was gentle and friendly, she told Sasha every single thing she was doing, from removing the teenager’s jeans and underwear, to draping a towel over her pelvis. When she had the ultrasound equipment set up, Carina quickly spread gel on Sasha’s abdomen and used the wand, concentrating on the small screen.

 

Her eyes narrowed and Maya stared, wondering what it was about Carina doing her job that she always found so impossibly attractive.

 

Her confidence. Her intelligence. Her expertise.

 

Carina sat down on a stool, taking position between Sasha’s legs.

 

“You’re going to feel my hand now, okay?” Carina said, waiting for Sasha to nod.

 

She winced as Carina worked, but Maya held her hand, squeezing tight.

 

“I only did it once,” she whispered in a voice so small that Maya barely heard her.

 

“You only did…”

 

“Sex. Just one time at a party. I…it’s so stupid,” Sasha cried, a contraction stealing her words.

 

“Hey,” Maya said, “it’s not stupid, okay?”

 

“I didn’t want to still be a virgin when I went to college. It’s so stupid! It seemed like everyone else was having sex, but I was so busy with track…it wasn’t even good! It really hurt and I didn’t even like him that much even though he was nice…and we used protection and everything…”

 

Jamie is never leaving the house. She is never allowed to talk to boys. Or look at boys. I am going to buy her two big dogs. Two big dogs and a wolf. She’s going to learn krav maga. Starting tomorrow. Krav maga lessons. They must have krav maga lessons for babies…

 

“Boy are dumb,” Maya grumbled, which made Carina whip her head up from the foot of the bed.

 

“Maya!”

 

“What!”

 

Carina pursed her lips, but turned back to Sasha, patting her knee.

 

“These things happen,” Carina said, “but sex should never hurt, Sasha. It just means you weren…”

 

Maya scoffed. “Carina? Seriously? Now?”

 

Before Carina could respond Sasha laughed, a noise so surprising that the DeLuca-Bishops paused their argument to look at her.

 

“Are you two always like this?” She asked, gritting her teeth as another contraction began.

 

Maya squeezed Sasha’s hand, trying not to bark in pain. The girl had a strong grip.

 

“Sasha, when you feel your next contraction, I want you to push,” Carina instructed, her eyes finding Maya’s.

 

If Sasha was ready to push, she was fully dilated, which meant that she’d essentially made it to the Station in the nick of time.

 

“Can you…” Sasha huffed, “can you tell me about the other…ugh…the other babies born here?”

 

Carina nodded for Maya to go ahead.

 

“There was a huge blizzard a few years ago and we opened the Station for people stuck in the roads or who just couldn’t get home,” Maya said, reaching for a nearby towel to wipe Sasha’s forehead, “and one of the firefighters…Dean…his girlfriend showed up here in active labour, but we couldn’t get her to the hospital, so she had no choice but to have the baby here. On the floor of the washrooms actually…”

 

Sasha groaned but was clearly listening.

 

“And I didn’t know anything about delivering babies, but…I’d been texting a very beautiful OB from Grey-Sloan, which was extremely convenient given the circumstances,” Maya caught Carina’s eye, earning her a sly grin.

 

“Was the baby okay?” Sasha asked, panting.

 

“She was! She actually just turned four.”

 

Maya could still remember the exhilaration. She remembered holding Pru and Dean coming in to see his baby for the first time. But what she remembered most was the sun that morning, pink and orange and warm enough to melt the snow. She’d stood outside the station, the wind turning her cheeks red, and all she’d wanted in that moment was to see Carina DeLuca again.

 

She remembered texting Carina, the anticipation of Carina’s reply. And she also remembered what happened later. She remembered taking off Carina’s clothes for the first time. How painfully gorgeous she was. How Maya’s heart had start beating so quickly, how warm Carina’s mouth was, how good it felt to touch her.

 

How after it was done, Maya realized she wasn’t interested in a Wednesday night pursuit. And how she’d pushed that thought away, ignoring it, pretending that the scent of Carina’s perfume hadn’t followed her for days. How the scent of Carina on her fingers hadn’t driven her to distraction.

 

Sasha’s yell pulled Maya from the memory, but she just knew that when the day was done, when Jamie was safely sleeping in her crib, she was going to take Carina to bed and love her and taste her and revel in the fact that they belonged to each other.

 

“I think I have to push,” Sasha yelped, struggling on the gurney.

 

Maya grit her teeth and held on, listening to the teenager scream in pain while Carina calmly gave her instructions.

 

“And again,” Carina said, encouraging.

 

Maya squeezed Sasha’s shoulder, trying to give her support. “Almost at the finish line, kid, a few more laps and you’re there.”

 

“I hate running!” Sasha practically screamed, leaning forward as she pushed again.

 

Maya blanched. “Message received!”

 

“Sasha, I can see the baby’s head. You’re doing so well.” Carina tapped Sasha’s leg.

 

There was another push and then another and Maya found herself wondering if her hand was broken. She hadn’t expected to do this for anyone other than Carina and the thought alone…

 

Maya chanced a glance at her wife, suddenly overwhelmed by the image of Carina someday giving birth, of Carina in pain, holding on, screaming…

 

“Good, good, good,” Carina said, getting ready to catch the newborn.

 

With one more push, Carina instructed Sasha to stop, only for her to request one more push to finish the job.

 

Sasha obeyed, her face red with exertion, but as she yelled out in pain, another voice joined the chorus, a high, whining, sobbing voice coming from Carina’s arms.

 

“It’s a girl,” Carina said, smiling, though she was obviously tempering her exuberance. The situation was complex and no one wanted to force Sasha to feel a certain way. Sasha lay gasping for breath on the table, her face stained with tears, but she tentatively reached out as Carina lay the baby on her chest.

 

“Do you want to cut the cord?” Carina asked, holding a clamp towards Maya.

 

“Uh…no,” Maya said, staring at the clamp before meeting Carina’s confused gaze. Carina did the job and then instructed Maya to take the baby so she could help Sasha deliver the placenta.

 

It was only as Maya held the little bundle that she realized there was a crowd outside the cubicle. She poked her head out, shocked to see half the station standing outside, including Nancy.

 

“Did someone just give birth?” Jack asked, incredulous, and Maya rolled her eyes. She was literally holding a newborn baby.

 

“Obviously. But everyone let’s give her some privacy, okay?”

 

When she returned to Sasha’s side, the teenager seemed much calmer though she was still clearly in shock.

 

“Can I hold her?” She asked.

 

“Of course you can,” Maya said, helping Sasha take the infant.

 

Sasha pulled down the blanket, staring at the baby’s face for a moment before looking up at Maya again.

 

“Maya?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Could you call my sister for me? The number is in my phone.”

 

Maya pat Sasha’s arm once before chancing a quick glance at Carina who was gazing back at her with soft eyes.

 

“Sure think, kid,” she said, “sure thing.”

 

~*~

 

Maya and Carina stood side by side as they watched Warren drive away with Sasha in the Aid Car. They were both smiling, the adrenaline of the afternoon very much still coursing through their veins and as always, Maya found herself feeling very mushy inside over her wife’s brilliance.

 

She would’ve said as much if Nancy hadn’t appeared, her excitement palpable.

 

“That was incredible!” She said, gesturing with her clipboard.

 

Carina shrugged. “Anything can and does happen in the clinic.”

 

“But delivering a baby? I’ve been on a lot of work-place visits and seen a lot of things, but that? Never in all my days!”

 

Maya held back from pumping her fist in victory.

 

“Would you like to see Jamie again?” She asked instead, unsure if Nancy needed to do a check on Jamie’s well-being too.

 

Nancy shook her head. “No, we’re good here. We’ve got one more home-visit scheduled for six weeks from now, and I really shouldn’t say this out loud, but I am going to do everything in my power to get these adoption papers signed as soon as possible. Everything else at this point is theatre.”

 

Carina’s hand found its way into Maya’s, her cold fingers a sure sign that she was excited.

 

“That would be,” Maya began, shocked to find her throat closing with emotion, “that would be amazing, Nancy. Thank you.”

 

Grazie mille,” Carina repeated, bouncing on her feet just enough to let Maya know that she was three seconds away from hopping up and down.

 

Nancy took a few last notes and then waved goodbye, leaving the DeLuca-Bishops alone on the sidewalk.

 

“We killed that,” Maya whispered, giggling when Carina took her hand and started skipping towards the door.

 

“We really did!” She said, dragging Maya with her, past the front desk, up the stairs, and finally into the bathroom where they could have a moment alone.

 

Carina wrapped her hand around the nape of Maya’s neck and pulled her closer, smiling into a kiss. She was half sighing as she pressed her mouth to Maya’s and Maya couldn’t help but join her, wrapping her arms around Carina’s middle to pull her as close as possible.

 

“There’s something about watching you deliver babies…” Maya breathed, brushing her hand over Carina’s side, the silk of her blowse wonderfully soft against her palm.

 

Carina gasped a little as Maya cupped her breast over her shirt, clearly surprised by the bold move.

 

“Mmm…why wouldn’t you cut the cord?” She asked, her free hand hovering just over Maya’s belt buckle.

 

It took Maya a moment to remember what Carina was talking about. Another moment still to remember why she’d refused in the first place. She’d barely been conscious of the why before she’d spoken. Now she was.

 

“I only want to do that when it’s our baby,” Maya said, leaning back to look at Carina’s face.

 

“Our baby?”

 

“When you have our baby. I don’t want to cut the cord for any other baby. Just ours.”

 

Carina’s eyes nearly turned black. She growled, the hand on Maya’s neck squeezing.

 

“I wish we weren’t at work right now,” she hissed, cupping Maya over her trousers. Maya bit her lip, silencing her moan.

 

“Oh?” She managed, smirking when she felt a hard nipple beneath her palm.

 

“I need to taste you.”

 

Maya clenched, trying with difficulty not to give in to Carina’s words. They were at work. The door was unlocked. And Maya was getting tired of quickies and stolen touches. She wanted hours with Carina. Hours to do every single thing she wanted to do.

 

She licked a path up Carina’s neck, kissing the warm pulse point she found, greedy with want.

 

“Are you wet?” She asked, nipping Carina’s earlobe.

 

“Maya…”

 

“Tell me.”

 

Sì. Tutto per te.”

 

Something possessive coiled in Maya’s stomach, something primitive triggered, something….

 

A loud, very familiar wail filled the air, alerting Maya and Carina that just outside the door, their baby was still very awake and likely in need of attention. They both laughed a little, forehead to forehead, breathless, but achingly happy.

 

“Her timing is worrisome,” Maya laughed and Carina agreed, nodding.

 

“Tonight. When she is sleeping. I will show you what you have done to me.” Carina’s words were a promise, one Maya clung too as they straightened their clothing and headed towards the door.

 

Maya had much to show Carina too.

 

~*~

 

Laughter followed them all the way home.

 

Maya laughed as she drove, listening to Carina sing a silly song in Italian while Jamie gurgled along.

 

They laughed in the elevator up to their apartment. And they stayed laughing as they walked through the front door, relief at surviving the day washing over them. Maya couldn’t remember ever feeling so happy, so content. She watched Carina carry Jamie into her nursery and sighed, wondering what she’d done to deserve the good she now had.

 

Even with the investigation looming, Maya felt hope for the first time in a long time.

 

When her phone rang, she smiled again, seeing that it was Nancy undoubtably calling to congratulate them on an excellent work-place visit.

 

“Hi, Nancy, “Maya said, still distracted by the sound of Carina singing to Jamie from the bathroom.

 

“Maya?”

 

Nancy’s voice was serious. Serious enough that Maya’s smile faded.

 

“What’s wrong?” She asked, unsure how to brace for whatever was to come next. She heard a heavy inhale on the other end of the line.

 

“Jamie’s grandmother has come forward. She’s contesting the adoption.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Dawn Ferguson was not a tall woman.

 

She looked older than her years, her skin damaged from the Florida sun, but otherwise, she appeared average. Black hair, clearly dyed, in a pixie cut. Brown eyes. Fingernails painted red.

 

She was normal. She looked normal. And Maya so wished she didn’t. She so wished Dawn Ferguson had fangs or horns or a forked tongue.

 

Because it would be easier to hate someone like that.

 

Dawn was just normal. A normal woman trying to take Jamie.

 

Maya despised her regardless.

 

They sat in a small court room, Maya and Carina behind their lawyer, Simon Gillespie, and Nancy. Dawn Ferguson sat on the other side behind her lawyer.

 

It was all very civil and very tame and Maya wanted to scream.

 

The judge had been reviewing paperwork for what felt like hours. Maya stared her down, willing her to do the right thing, to find any reason for Dawn Ferguson to be tossed from court.

 

She was terrified to lose Jamie.

 

But she was also terrified to lose Carina. Because Carina looked so drawn, so gaunt, so pale that Maya was genuinely concerned that her wife needed a hospital.

 

Carina had been throwing up since Nancy’s phone call. She’d stopped sleeping. She’d stopped eating. It had only been three days, but the shadows beneath Carina’s eyes were purple. Maya held her hand, wishing she could provide some comfort, but she couldn’t. She knew she couldn’t. She just felt alone without Carina’s warmth and her guidance.

 

“I’ve reviewed the paperwork,” the judge said, pulling Maya from her thoughts, “Ms. Ferguson, as part of any adoption appeal, you are required to undergo a criminal background check, work-place visits, home-visits, we’ll need financial and medical records. While I sympathize that you are biologically related to the child, I am concerned about the late timing of this appeal.”

 

Ferguson’s lawyer cleared his throat. “Your honour, Ms. Ferguson was unaware of the Jane Doe baby as was her son who is currently incarcerated. She would have stepped forward much sooner had she known.”

 

The Jane Doe baby…

 

Jamie liked her blue Team Italia onesie more than her red Team Italia onesie. She woke up every day from her nap and wanted to be held before she’d let them feed her or change her diaper. Her favourite place to sleep was Carina’s shoulder or Maya’s chest. Her favourite song was “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” which Maya accidentally played for her in the car one day and ever since, she laughed and bopped whenever Tina Turner hit the chorus. Jamie hated tummy time and loved the bath and wouldn’t sleep unless Maya read to her first.

 

The Jane Doe baby…

 

“Granted,” the judge continued, “Ms. Ferguson, do you agree to this investigation?”

 

Dawn Ferguson leaned forward. “I do, your honour.”

 

“And according to this form, your intention is to take the baby back to Florida?”

 

“It is. She should be with family. Family values are very important to us. We would give her a proper home.”

 

Family values

 

Carina clenched her fists, the quietest moan escaping her lips, and Maya reached up to hold her. She wrapped her arm around Carina’s shoulder, willing her wife to stay strong.

 

Even though her own heart was breaking. Even though the implication that their family was somehow less than, somehow inappropriate…

 

 Maya heard through the code, the faked niceties. She heard it loud and clear.

 

“Ms. Ferguson, I will allow a once weekly supervised visit while the investigation takes place,” the judge said, her eyes darting to Carina who muffled a sob behind her hand. Maya tightened her grip, pressing her forehead to Carina’s temple, trying to calm her.

 

“Mrs. Lucas,” the judge looked at Nancy, “you will be present during these visitations. In the meantime, Ms. Ferguson, you must stay in the state of Washington. Any attempt to remove the child will be met with an instant withdrawal of your petition and potential kidnapping charges. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, your honour,” Dawn said.

 

They were told to stand as the judge left, but Carina couldn’t, she remained seated, bent forward, her knuckles white where she held onto the bench in front of them.

 

Simon turned around then, taking in the DeLuca-Bishops with a sympathetic gaze.

 

“You are her legal guardians,” he said, “that comes with a lot of protection. The fact that it’s taken her months to come forward, the required checks, don’t give up hope, okay?”

 

Maya nodded.

 

“I’ll be with her the entire time,” Nancy said, though it was little comfort. In 48 hours, Nancy was going to come and take Jamie from them. It would only be for the day, she’d be home for bedtime, but what if the judge ruled in Dawn Ferguson’s favour? What if the day became forever?

 

As the small group dispersed, Maya knew that she needed to get Carina up on her feet. She’d never quite seen her in such a bad place. Not since Andrew’s death. And this felt different. There was a finality in Andrew’s passing. He wasn’t coming back. There was no hope there.

 

A custody trial meant that hope and despair sat side by side. They were in limbo. Jamie was their’s and she wasn’t their’s. Jamie could stay with them or Jamie could be taken away.

 

Maya understood Carina’s agony, she just hadn’t expected her wife to give into it so quickly.

 

“Carina?” Maya said, crouching down.

 

Carina nodded, her eyes hollow as they stared ahead.

 

“Babe, we need to go home now, okay? Let’s go see Jamie.”

 

Non posso.”

 

Maya looked up, ensuring that they were mostly alone, before taking Carina’s face in her hands, forcing her to make eye contact.

 

“No one is taking her away from us, okay?” Maya knew she couldn’t promise, but she also knew she was prepared to fight for their baby. There would be no giving up. There would be no rolling over. Maya was going to fight with everything she had.

 

Carina’s eyes filled with tears, but she placed her own hands on top of Maya’s, her grip strong though her fingers were like ice. It took her another minute to stand, but when she did, Maya immediately wrapped her arm around Carina’s middle, holding her up.

 

She could feel Carina shaking.

 

And she just prayed that she had strength enough for all of them.

 

~*~

 

Carina walked straight into Jamie’s nursery when they got home and Maya didn’t stop her. She paused by the door, removing her shoes, and then peeked her head into the kitchen where she found Katherine making coffee.

 

“Hey mom,” she said, surprised by the exhaustion in her own voice.

 

Kathrine looked from the nursery to Maya’s face and sighed.

 

“What happened?” She asked, hesitating before setting her hand on Maya’s shoulder. It was strage to feel comfort from her mother. Maya wasn’t used to it.

 

“They approved supervised visits while they run background checks. Once a week until the judge makes her decision.”

 

“Oh, sweetheart.”

 

The pain in her mother’s voice did little to make Maya feel better. She wanted Carina. Carina’s confidence and Carina’s assurance. But Carina was caught in her own pain and Maya wasn’t sure how to reach her.

 

“Carina is…” Maya’s voice wavered, “she’s not okay, mom. I don’t know what to do.”

 

She didn’t mean to make the confession, especially not to Katherine. But the part of Maya that was still thirteen and longing for her mother resurfaced.

 

Katherine pulled Maya into a hug, which made Maya tense until her mind caught up with her body and she sagged into it, greedy for her mother’s support.

 

“I’m no expert on marriage,” Katherine said with a humourless chuckle, “but I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people who love each more than you and your wife. It makes me so proud, Maya, and it’s also why I know everything is going to be okay. You hold onto each other, and you both hold onto Jamie, and it’s all going to be okay.”

 

Captain Dale’s words came back to Maya, her instructions to hold onto Carina. To never let her go.

 

Maya nodded once, feeling some of her own resolve return.

 

“Thanks, Mom. For being here,” Maya whispered against her mother’s shoulder, not quite ready to leave her warmth.

 

“Thanks for letting me be here, sweetheart.”

 

One more second to be a child. One more second to need her mother. And then Maya knew it was time to be a wife. To be a mother herself.

 

One more second.

 

~*~

 

Jamie was so innocent.

 

She sat in her little bath and kicked her legs as Carina poured water over her head and all the while she smiled up at her mothers, completely unaware that her world was about to change.

Maya lingered in the doorway for a moment watching before lowering herself to the floor next to Carina.

 

“Hi, Baby T-Rex,” Maya said, squeezing Jamie’s foot. She felt Jamie’s toes flex against her palm and it made her smile despite the situation.

 

Taking a washcloth, Maya got to work wiping Jamie’s arms and her little belly, trying to take comfort in Jamie’s happiness.

 

“Are you hungry? I could make us something?” Maya asked, chancing a glance at Carina who was still wearing her suit from court.

 

Carina shook her head, grim, and Maya held in a sigh.

 

“You haven’t eaten since yesterday, Carina.”

 

“I do not want to eat.”

 

“Carina…”

 

“Are you going to work tomorrow?”

 

The question came out of nowhere. Maya furrowed her brow, concerned with Carina’s clipped tone.

 

“Uh…yes,” she said.

 

Carina huffed, her jaw shaking. She picked up a nearby towel and wrapped it around Jamie, lifting her from the bath as she did. Without a word she stood, leaving Maya on the tiled floor, confused and more than a little worried.

 

She drained the tub and put away Jamie’s baby bath, trying to give Carina space though her instincts were telling her to do the opposite. But her wife could be tricky when it came to big emotions. Maya always felt that she was the one who couldn’t express her feelings properly, but Carina had a habit of keeping her pain close to her chest. She liked to work through it on her own, even though she didn’t need to. Childhood habits were tough to break.

 

Maya found Carina sitting with Jamie in the rocking chair, silent, and she wasn’t sure if she should interrupt. Except she wanted to spend time with Jamie too.

 

“Should we bring her into our room tonight?” Maya tried, unsure how best to navigate a devastated wife.

 

And a wife who was apparently mad at her.

 

Carina shook her head, scowling, and Maya bit her tongue.

 

She swallowed back a sharp response, willing herself to keep a cool head.

 

“I’m going to text Simon. Anything you want me to ask him?” Maya gestured with her thumb towards the door, knowing she’d left her phone on the table.

 

Once again, Carina shook her head, pressing her cheek against Jamie’s temple. Maya wanted to take the baby, she wanted to tell Carina that Jamie needed a diaper, that she was going to pee on Carina’s nice suit and to snap out of it for one second. But she couldn’t. Because she understood how Carina was feeling. She understood the fear. The despair.

 

So she decided to let Carina be. At least for the moment.

 

~*~

 

Carina didn’t move and Maya paced the apartment, wishing she could go for a run. It had been hours and Carina had yet to speak, so a part of Maya seriously considered pulling on her shoes and vanishing until the desire to punch her fist through a wall subsided.

 

But she settled for the treadmill, wanting to stay close to Jamie. Instead of music, she thought about the judge’s words, about Dawn Ferguson’s words. Over and over again.

 

Family values

 

Proper home

 

The fury made her run faster, her feet slapping against the running belt.

 

How could anyone look at her family and see anything but warmth and love? How could anyone look at Carina and not see a perfect mother? The most perfect mother? Maya didn’t want to let it hurt, she didn’t want to give Dawn Ferguson that win, but it did hurt. It always did.

 

She had been lucky in life. Homophobia rarely touched her. She was straight passing, she’d barely dated before Carina, there had been few opportunities for anyone to register she was queer, let alone comment on it. But she could remember the microaggressions from childhood.

 

The way Lane had always quietly disapproved of any gains in the queer rights movement. Same-sex marriage. Adoption. All the blood and sweat and tears that went into giving Maya the right to marry Carina, to adopt Jamie, her father would shake his head and wonder why they always needed so much attention.

 

She’d heard the words tossed around casually in high school locker rooms. She’d heard dyke thrown at other girls, but she kept to herself. She kept quiet. She kept her eyes forward.

 

It felt different now. To know this stranger saw her and her family as something disgusting. Something abhorrent. To know some random person wanted to take their baby because she thought Jamie wasn’t safe with two moms. That their home was dangerous for her.

 

Maya felt rage. But she also felt despair. The despair that came from intolerance and hate.

 

The fact that it was directed at her marriage? At her love?

 

Maya hated how much it hurt. How much she let it hurt.

 

She’d texted their lawyer, wondering if Dawn Ferguson’s statement would help them or do the opposite. Washington was far more liberal than Florida, but the entire queer community was one bad vote away from losing same-sex marriage, from losing the ability to adopt. Maya chastised herself for pretending none of it affected her. For leaning on her straight-passing privilege, for assuming no one could take her marriage or her child.

 

She’d been so naïve.

 

The wait for Simon’s response had been excruciating, but when he answered, she breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Simon Gillespie: It looks good for us.

 

Maya: Is there anything else we can do?

 

Simon Gillespie: Let the social workers do their investigation. The fact that Jamie’s bio dad is incarcerated is also a point for us. I have people on the ground in Florida. Try to stay positive as much as you can.

 

Stay positive. Maya didn’t do stay positive. Carina did.

 

But Carina also hated waiting. She hated not knowing. And Maya wasn’t quite certain how to be the positive person in their relationship. She was darkness. Carina was light. They met in the middle. It’s how it worked.

 

Maya gave Carina space for as long as she could. She ate dinner by herself and cleaned the living room. She brought Carina a sandwich though she knew it would remain untouched. She did the laundry and then spent thirty minutes folding impossibly small onesies while trying not to cry.

 

It was only when the exhaustion of the day pulled at her that Maya tried to reach Carina again.

 

“You coming to bed?” She asked from the doorway, concerned to see Carina sitting in the dark.

 

Jamie was fast asleep in her arms, though Maya was relieved to see that Carina had dressed her in jammies.

 

“I’m going to stay here,” Carina said, her eyes never leaving Jamie’s face.

 

“Carina, come on, we can put her in the bassinette. You need to sleep.”

 

“I’m staying here.”

 

Maya sighed and walked into the room.

 

“Can I at least say goodnight to her?” Maya extended her arms, bighting back her own anger.

 

Carina’s hesitation only made Maya’s temper flare.

 

She’s my baby too. I’m going through this too.

 

But then Carina placed Jamie in Maya’s hands. Jamie yawned a little as Maya brought her closer, close enough to rub her nose against Jamie’s forehead and inhale her little Jamie smell.

 

“Goodnight, Baby T-Rex,” Maya whispered, bouncing a little as she moved about the room. Even in the dark, Maya could make out the perfect shell of Jamie’s ear. Tiny and precious.

 

When Maya went to put Jamie down in her crib, Carina snapped her fingers towards her and shook her head.

 

Maya paused, frowning. “Carina, she needs to sleep.”

 

“She will sleep here.”

 

“It’s better if she sleeps in the crib.”

 

“It’s better if she sleeps with her mother,” Carina growled back.

 

Maya was about to argue but decided against it. Jamie was sleeping and Carina was being irrational and Maya didn’t have the energy to fight with her wife. She kissed Jamie’s head one more time before placing the baby in Carina’s arms.

 

They were both hurting, but Maya didn’t know why Carina had so firmly closed a door between them. She paused in the hall, taking one last look at her wife, before walking away. The bed would be cold. And it would be empty.

 

Maya had no other choice.

 

Chapter Text

Morning came far too quickly and the tension remained.

 

Maya dressed, she brushed her teeth and combed her hair, and when she went out into the kitchen to make her smoothie, she found the apartment quiet, which meant Carina had spent all night in Jamie’s room.

 

Usually, Carina would wake up with her. They’d make coffee, or Carina would spend far too long choosing her outfit for the day while Maya chided her. More recently, mornings were for kisses with Jamie and bottles and diaper changes.

 

But what if they lost kisses with Jamie and bottles and diaper changes? What if Jamie was gone and all that was left was this silent apartment?

 

Maya tried to push the thought away as she dumped kale and protein powder and honey into the blender. She added ice and yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon and, without thinking, she pushed the power on, the loud grind of the machine piercing in the morning calm.

 

She was so distracted by her dark thoughts that she didn’t see Carina storm out of Jamie’s nursery until she was practically standing in the kitchen.

 

“Maya!” She yelled over the sound of the blender, red-faced and clearly angry.

 

Maya hit the off switch and belatedly realized that Jamie was crying.

 

“Shit, sorry,” she mumbled, ducking her head.

 

“You couldn’t skip it just one morning?”

 

“I said sorry, okay?”

 

Carina grumbled and walked away, still wearing her crumpled trousers and blouse from the day before. It was time to go, but Maya’s concern pushed her to go check on Jamie before she left. The baby was still crying as Maya stepped into the nursery, though Carina was busy walking back and forth, bouncing her against her shoulder.

 

“Hey, Jamie,” Maya said, wishing Carina would slow down, “mommy is a moron sometimes.”

 

Jamie hiccupped and then turned her head, trying to follow the sound of Maya’s voice.

 

“Carina…” Maya tried to step into her path, but Carina avoided her. “Carina, come on!”

 

“Go to work, Maya.”

 

“You know I have to. You know with the investigation I can’t just not show up.”

 

, always with the priorities.”

 

Maya flinched. “She’s my baby too, Carina. I’m going through this just as much as you are.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you? Because you’re making this harder than it already is,” Maya said, balling her hands into fists.

 

“But you go to work. They take her from us tomorrow, but you go to work.”

 

“Carina…”

 

“Just go, Maya.”

 

“This is happening to me too, Carina. So, yes, I’m going to work. You won’t even let me touch her, so why should I stay?” Maya spun on her heels and walked out, ignoring Carina’s call for her, unable to find any sense of calm in the situation.

 

The sound of Jamie’s tears broke her heart, but the sound of her name from Carina’s lips was equally painful.

 

~*~

The punching bag did little to relieve the tension in Maya’s body.

 

She hit it over and over, grunting as she moved, trying not to think about lawyers or grandmothers or wives. Despite Carina’s protests, Maya wanted to be at work. She wanted the distraction, but her go-to methods of avoidance were not working.

 

Jamie’s face swam before her, the feeling of Jamie’s fingers against her cheek, her smell, her button nose. Maya growled, picking up her pace, wishing that life wasn’t always so hard. Wishing it all didn’t hurt so much.

 

“Everything okay in here?”

 

Diane Lewis stood in the doorway, appearing out of nowhere as she so often did, and Maya had to blink, worried she was hallucinating. She paused, trying to catch her breath.

 

“Everything is the opposite of okay,” she said, wondering how the psychologist always seemed to sense when she was at her worse.

 

Diane crossed her arms and nodded.

 

“My wife and I are dealing with custody issues. And this country is broken.” Maya tossed her boxing gloves and picked up a bottle of water she’d left on the bench.

 

“Wait, you and your wife are in a custody battle?”

 

“Yes. No…I mean, yes, but not with each other.”

 

“Ah. So, I take it the decision to adopt Jamie…”

 

Maya could not keep the frown from her face. Usually, Jamie’s name had the opposite effect.

 

“We did,” she said, “and everything was perfect. And then Jamie’s homophobic biological grandmother showed up and contested the adoption and now we might loser her. So, I’m trying to kill this punching bag and my wife is refusing to speak with me and this is exactly why I didn’t want any of this.”

 

This being…a family?”

 

The word “yes” lodged itself in Maya’s throat. An old version of Maya Bishop would have screamed it at the top of her lungs. A version of her that could not fathom love, could not fathom the concept of home.

 

But Maya couldn’t bring herself to say it now. Because it would be a lie. A betrayal.

 

“If we lose Jamie…” Maya tried to finish her thought but emotion stole her ability to speak.

 

Diane sensed her pain and stepped further into the room.

 

“Where are you right now with the adoption?” She asked, calm and collected.

 

Maya cleared her throat. “We had three more months until the paperwork was supposed to be finalized. Twelve weeks.”

 

“And now that the grandmother is here?”

 

“They’re doing a full investigation of her background, just like us. But she gets supervised visits. Starting tomorrow.”

 

Diane nodded, narrowing her eyes. “And how is Carina dealing with everything?”

 

“She…um…not well.”

 

Maya shuffled her feet, the room suddenly feeling too small.

 

“I take it she’s at home with Jamie now?”

 

“She won’t sleep or eat. She won’t let me hold Jamie. She’s mad I came to work today, but I have to be here,” Maya said, worry and frustrating mixing together.

 

“Why do you have to be here?”

 

“The investigation. If I’m not here, it will look like I don’t take my job seriously.”

 

The half-smile appeared on Diane’s face and Maya knew she was about to have her brain rearranged. She braced for whatever was to come next.

 

“Dealing with a family emergency is not taking your job seriously?” Diane asked.

 

Maya shrugged. “Chief Ross is looking for any excuse to demote me again. Or fire me.”

 

“That didn’t answer my question. Warren has a family. Has he ever taken time off?”

 

“Yes, but…”

 

“You have a wife and a baby, Bishop. Sounds like a family to me.”

 

A family that could shatter any second. The family I never thought could be mine. The family I could lose.

 

“I don’t think Carina wants me home right now anyways,” Maya said.

 

“No?”

 

“She’s devastated. I’m not helping.”

 

Diane leaned against the doorframe, openly considering Maya. It was an unnerving feeling, one Maya deeply disliked.

 

“You mentioned once that Carina’s brother died?” Diane asked, thoughtful.

 

“Yes. A few years ago. He was murdered.”

 

“And her family? Does she have support here?”

 

Maya shook her head. “Her mother died when she was in her early twenties. And her father is in Italy. They don’t really talk that much.”

 

“That must be so difficult.”

 

“Her grandmother died of Covid. And a bunch of her uncles. It’s been really hard for her,” Maya said, her heart aching for her wife, her wife who seemed to always lose the people she loved most…

 

Shit

 

Shit shit shit

 

“I’m so stupid,” Maya whispered, smacking her forehead with one hand.

 

Diane raised her eyebrows. “Uh…I wouldn’t say…”

 

“Why do I always do this? Why do I always lose sight of my wife?”

 

“Is that rhetorical?” Diane tilted her head, waiting for Maya to answer.

 

When Maya found herself unable to speak, Diane stepped into the silence.

 

“Bishop, you’re not stupid,” Diane said, “and I think for the most part, you and your wife seem to be an incredibly solid couple. But when it comes to the big stuff? We always regress to what we know from childhood, our oldest coping mechanisms, regardless of whether or not they’re healthy.”

 

“So…I run to work and Carina shuts herself away and refuses any help from anyone.” Maya closed her eyes, exhaling.

 

“There’s no roadmap for this, Maya. No guide or instruction manual. All you can do is gather the tools you have and go from there.”

 

“The tools?”

 

“Why do you think Carina shuts herself away? Or refuses help?”

 

Maya scratched the back of her head. “Her mother left when she was sixteen and she had to take care of her father. It was way too much responsibility for anyone, let alone a teenager. There was no one to help her…or protect her…”

 

Nausea swirled as it always did when she thought of Carina’s adolescence. Maya felt guilty for her anger towards a mother-in-law she’d never met. But it was there. And likely always would be.

 

“And now?” Diane encouraged.

 

“And now she still feels like she needs to take on everything herself. She’s always taking care of everyone first, even when I tell her she doesn’t need to. That’s just the kind of person she is.”

 

Diane nodded, the half-smile indicating that Maya had clearly answered her question correctly.

 

“She’s shouldering this entire thing,” Maya said to herself, “and I’m here instead of showing her that she doesn’t have to.”

 

“You’re allowed to prioritize your family,” Diane said, “you’re allowed to rest. And to love. And it sounds like you need to do all three right now.”

 

Maya could only nod, her worry for Carina and her fear from Jamie making it difficult to do much else.

 

“It was good catching up, Bishop. But I think you know what you need to do.” Diane smiled and bowed her head lightly before walking out of the room.

 

It was such an abrupt exit that Maya followed her into the hall, only to find the space empty. She looked around, so focused that when Jack walked by a seconds later, she barely acknowledged him.

 

“Uh…Bishop?”

 

“Did you see Dr. Lewis just now?”

 

Jack frowned and shook his head. “Haven’t seen her since last month.”

 

“Huh.”

 

Maya decided not to press it just in case Diane Lewis was a real-life fairy godmother who’d just poofed out of existence.

 

Instead, she refocused, clarity helping her move forward.

 

“Is Andy in her office?” Maya asked, already turning towards the stairs.

 

“Yeah. Is everything okay?”

 

Maya paused and nodded firmly. “It will be.”

 

It had to be.

 

~*~

 

The apartment was still too quiet as Maya walked through the door. She set her bag down and took off her shoes, but there was no hesitation in her movements.

 

She didn’t call out for Carina, she knew exactly where to find her, and sure enough, Carina was still seated in the rocking chair, still wearing her clothes from the day before, still holding Jamie.

 

As Maya walked into the room, Carina looked up, her eyes widening in shock.

 

“Maya?”

 

Maya didn’t say a word. Instead, she crossed the room and took Jamie from Carina’s arms.

 

“Come with me,” Maya said, motioning with her head towards the door. Carina’s confusion was plain as day, but she followed Maya without another word.

 

Maya led Carina into their bedroom, where she paused to place Jamie in her bassinette. Before Carina could protest, Maya took her hand and gently pulled her towards the washroom. She set Jamie’s baby monitor on the counter and then leaned into the shower, turning on the tap, and when she was happy with the water temperature, she turned back to Carina, determined as ever.

 

“Maya what are you doing?” Carina asked.

 

She looked so unwell, so gaunt. Her cheekbones were like razors and even thought it had only been a few days, Maya thought Carina looked thinner, hollow somehow.

 

“I’m here,” Maya said, starting on the buttons of Carina’s shirt, “and I’m going to be here even if you don’t want me to be. But I’m not going anywhere, Carina. And neither is Jamie.”

 

“Maya…” Carina lightly pushed Maya’s hands away, but Maya wouldn’t let her.

 

“I know you’re scared. I’m scared too,” Maya continued, “so we’re going to be scared together.”

 

Watery eyes stared back at her, but Carina stopped moving and let Maya remove her shirt. They were silent as Maya worked. She reached behind Carina’s back and unhooked her bra. When it was on the floor, she unbuttoned Carina’s trousers and pushed them down her legs, along with her panties. The bathroom filled with steam and Maya took Carina’s hand, guiding her forward, hoping Carina would walk into the shower without argument.

 

Carina only hesitated for a moment before obeying Maya’s instructions. She stood under the spray, unmoving, which prompted Maya to get to work on her own clothes. When she was naked, she stepped into the small space, facing Carina, and then reached up with both hands, carefully tilting Carina’s head back, trying not to get water in Carina’s eyes.  

 

She watched the waves soak Carina’s hair, watching as Carina relaxed, watched as tears spilled down Carina’s cheeks.

 

“Maya?” She whispered again, almost to herself, and Maya realized her wife needed more from her.

 

She moved even closer, wrapping her arms around Carina’s middle, forcing their bodies together, locked in a painful embrace.

 

“You’re not alone,” Maya said, kissing Carina’s cheek, “I’m right here with you.”

 

Carina’s head was heavy against Maya’s shoulder, Maya could feel her chest shaking, she could feel sharp fingertips against her shoulder blades and winced. But Maya knew that Carina needed the close contact. She needed Maya just as much as Maya needed her.

 

The tears came in earnest then as Carina finally allowed herself to cry. Big, gulping sobs, that made Maya close her eyes and dig deep. She held on so tightly, tipping her head forward against Carina’s neck.

 

Carina sniffled, and Maya could tell by the heaviness of her body that she was exhausted.

 

“I’m going to help you wash your hair and then you’re taking a nap, okay?” Maya whispered, nuzzling against the side of Carina’s head.

 

She felt Carina tense in her arms.

 

“I don’t want to sleep,” she said.

 

“Babe, you’re so tired. Come on. Just an hour.”

 

When Carina shook her head, Maya leaned back, forcing Carina to look at her. She found her wife in tears again.

 

“Why not?” Maya kept her voice low and even. She wasn’t confronting Carina, she just wanted her to share her pain.

 

“Because I don’t want to miss any time with her,” Carina said, her voice breaking.

 

“You’re not. I promise, Carina. We’re going to get through tomorrow and it’s going to suck. But she’s going to come home and no one is taking her from us. No one.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

“I do. Because when has Carina DeLuca ever given up on the people she loves?”

 

Carina bit her lip, her chin quivering, but Maya could see her words take hold. She didn’t speak again, nor did she move any further away from Carina who kept her hands on Maya’s biceps, slipping them down to her chest, staying in close contact.

 

They were quiet as Maya started shampooing Carina’s hair. She scratched her fingers against Carina’s scalp, spreading suds through the long, thick strands, careful not to snag or pull. Carina closed her eyes, giving into the comfort of the touch as Maya made sure to press her thumbs near Carina’s temple, massaging her head as she worked, squeezing and rubbing until it was time to rinse the bubbles away.

 

Carina didn’t try to help, she stood, breathing in and out, her palms sliding along Maya’s collarbone, content to let Maya start on her conditioner. Maya felt enveloped in Carina, her familiar scent, the lines of her bones, her muscle. As she let the conditioner set, Maya started on Carina’s body, gently dragging a cloth along her arms, over her breasts, across her abdomen. She leaned down, careful not to fall as she lathered Carina’s thighs, her knees, between her legs. Under her guidance, Carina turned, just enough to let Maya access her back and shoulders.

 

She scrubbed and washed, paying close attention to Carina’s deep inhales and exhales. Carina was so obviously tired, even with her eyes closed, Maya could sense the exhaustion and stress radiating from every pore. Her wife had barely slept in four days. She’d barely eaten either and while Maya felt equally stressed and tired, doing something, actively doing anything was better than sitting around and wallowing.

 

Washing Carina’s body felt important. It felt like something she could do to help in a situation that was beyond help. And the body under her hands was sacred to her, it was beautiful. Even though Carina was pale, even though her hip bones looked sharper than usual, Maya understood the trust between them and how lucky she was to be the one to help Carina, to stand by her, to take care of her.

 

When they were finished, Maya wrapped a towel around Carina and another over her hair. She squeezed out the excess water before finding a towel of her own. Jamie was still asleep as they stepped back into the bedroom, so they moved quietly, Maya collecting a t-shirt for Carina while Carina stood still and allowed Maya to dress her.

 

“Just the shirt?” Maya asked, unsure if Carina would want to sleep in more. Sometimes when she was feeling especially vulnerable, she preferred her flannel pants and a hoodie.

 

Carina nodded her head.

 

There was still hesitation in Carina’s movements, still a clear resistance towards sleep, so Maya turned-down the duvet on their bed and reached out with one hand, inviting Carina to sit. She was relieved when her wife obeyed, despite her open discomfort.

 

Maya handed Carina her hairbrush and then stepped away to find her own clothes, pulling on a pair of boy shorts and a tanktop. When she turned back to the bed, she found Carina combing her hair while staring down at Jamie, her eyes dark and troubled.

 

“Okay, lie down, please,” Maya said, holding out her hand for the brush.

 

Bambina…

 

Maya circled the bed and crawled onto her side, which made Carina turn towards her too.

 

“Lie down,” Maya repeated, gently, her hands on Carina’s shoulders.

 

Carina final set down the brush on her bedside table and did as Maya instructed, snuggling underneath the blanket. She blinked heavily almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, but Maya could tell she was fighting her own exhaustion.

 

“Jamie is sleeping,” Maya whispered, “and you’re going to sleep too.”

 

Tear-filled eyes stared back. Carina looked so young, like a child spooked after a nightmare. Except the nightmare was real and Maya could only hold her hand while they both navigated the fear. Maya wrapped one arm around Carina, pulling her close until their foreheads touched.

 

She traced invisible patterns on Carina’s back, letting her hand drift to her ribs, down to her thighs and up again, under the t-shirt to tickle a sharp hip bone. Carina sighed just a little, just enough to let Maya know that she found the touch comforting.

 

“I can’t do it,” Carina whimpered, shaking her head against the pillow. Maya held in a sigh. Her wife was over-tired, maybe even dehydrated. Carina wasn’t thinking clearly and all of her past traumas were mixing with the present.

 

“No one is leaving, Carina. Jamie is going to be home for dinner tomorrow.”

 

“I lose everyone. I always lose everyone.”

 

Maya closed the space between them, needing Carina to feel her, to believe her.

 

“Not me,” she said, “and not Jamie.”

 

Carina surged forward, her lips wet with tears as she pressed her mouth to Maya’s. It was unexpected and Maya tensed before giving into Carina’s need. When Carina pulled back, she was still crying. Maya felt helpless.

 

“I’m so tired,” Carina finally confessed, “I want to sleep, but I can’t and…”

 

“What do you need? Do you want me to rub your back or…”

 

For the second time in under a minute, Carina surprised her. Maya felt Carina’s fingers under the blanket as they circled her wrist, encouraging her to move her hand. She guided Maya between her legs, holding her there.

 

“Are you sure?” Maya asked, cupping Carina as gently as she could.

 

Carina nodded, still so teary.

 

“I don’t feel safe, Bambina,” she said, her voice wavering.

 

Maya understood then. She understood Carina’s need, she understood the why and it made her feel overwhelmingly protective.

 

“Hold onto me,” Maya instructed, waiting for Carina to do as she said. Carina slipped one arm over Maya’s side, reaching up to press her hand against Maya’s shoulder blade. Her right leg slid over Maya’s hip, but it was Carina’s face pressed to Maya’s throat that made it feel like there was no space between them. They had to be quiet, but they were both aware too that this wasn’t about pleasure.

 

Not really.

 

It was about making Carina feel something other than sorrow and fear. Even if only temporarily. It was about letting Carina use Maya’s body as an anchor.

 

It was about helping her feel safe in a world that was unpredictable and violent and threatening to destroy their family.

 

As Maya moved her fingers to Carina’s clit, she closed her eyes, homing in on the way her wife moved, the sounds she made. Maya rubbed gently before stroking back, gathering silky moisture.

 

“Inside?” She whispered against Carina’s hair, pausing when Carina shook her head no.

 

Maya moved her fingers up again, circling Carina’s clit, overwhelmed as she so often was by how perfect Carina felt against her fingertips, perfect and warm and soft. It was a heady experience, and Maya had to bite her lip to stifle a moan.

 

How could anything be so perfect?

 

Carina rolled her hips, her breathing changed into short, sharp inhales and exhales, and Maya continued rubbing, pressing down just like Carina liked.

 

“You’re safe,” Maya whispered against the top of Carina’s head, “I have you. I always will.”

 

Bambina…I…”

 

“Let go, Babe. I’m here.”

 

Maya emphasized her words by stroking Carina again, circling her entrance. Even though Carina didn’t want penetration, Maya knew how sensitive she was there, how wet. The softest whine sounded from Carina’s throat and Maya could tell she was close. Her clit felt swollen when Maya touched it again, the thought alone made Maya’s mouth water, but it was not the time for her own need or her own desire.

 

Carina’s hand circled Maya’s arm, squeezing her elbow, and she bucked under the covers, coming undone against Maya’s hand. She held in whatever cry was surly in her throat and Maya could feel her nuzzling her face into the pillow, below her chin, trying to ride out her orgasm. Maya helped her, guiding her, her fingers moving until Carina slumped further into the mattress, clearly finished.

 

Maya leaned back just enough to see Carina’s face, pleased to see her wife blinking heavily, satiated, and calmer than she’d been all day.

 

“Sleep now,” Maya said, kissing Carina’s lips before moving her hand. The loss of contact made Carina whimper, so Maya slid her hand back to Carina’s hip, resting it there, waiting to see if Carina would listen to her.

 

This time, Carina didn’t argue. She closed her eyes, the fading oxytocin and stress of the day finally enough to grant her rest.

 

Maya stayed very still until she was certain Carina was asleep and then rolled onto her back, carefully moving away from Carina’s body. She waited another minute before getting out of bed, part of her very much wanting to stay. But lying beside a sleeping Carina would give her time to think and Maya was desperate not to let her mind wander. Staying busy, taking care of Carina, watching Jamie – it was all so much better than facing the reality of the next day.

 

Because as much as Maya believed her words to Carina, as much as she was planning to fight, she knew that in a few hours, Nancy was going to take Jamie from them. Even if it was temporary, even if it was only for part of the day, it was too much. A minute without Jamie was too long. A second…

 

Maya pulled on a pair of sweatpants and quickly ducked into the bathroom, washing her hands and then getting to work picking up the discarded clothing on the floor. She folded it, placing some items into their laundry hamper and some back in the closet. There was tiding to do in the kitchen, so Maya tiptoed from the room, leaving the door open a crack in case Carina or Jamie called out.

 

She’d left her phone on the table and was surprised to find a pile of missed text messages.

 

Jack: Hey, heard about Jamie’s grandmother. You guys need anything?

 

Vic: We planning a heist?

 

Vic: Seriously – we could drive Jamie to Canada?

 

Vic: I probably shouldn’t have texted that

 

Vic: FBI man reading this I was joking

 

Warren: You’ll get through this, DeLuca-Bishops

 

Warren: Do you need food?

 

Andy: Take as long as you need

 

Gabriella: Tell your wife to pick up the phone

 

Amelia: Carina isn’t answering her phone, but just checking in

 

Amelia: I stole your number from Bailey

 

Amelia: Send nudes!

 

Amelia: Or not. Sorry.

 

Kathrine: Thinking of you, sweetheart

 

Maya blinked, trying to soak in the support. She didn’t have the energy to respond to everyone, but knowing that there were people wanting to help them? Who were thinking about them?

Knowing Station 19 had embraced Jamie just like they’d embraced Pru?

 

It helped. It broke through some of the pain.

 

But thinking about why the pain existed in the first place made Maya’s chest feel heavy, so she pushed the thought away and went back to her chores. First, she quickly placed an order for pho, hoping she could convince Carina to eat at some point in the evening. There were counters to clear and a dishwasher that needed emptying.

 

Maya methodically returned plates to their proper shelves and Carina’s cookware to its proper cupboard. She wiped down the table and cleaned ash from the fireplace. Time moved and Maya moved with it, her concentration absolute, only disrupted by the delivery man whose knocking pulled her from deep cleaning the oven.

 

As long as she was cleaning, she could avoid thinking. Avoid thinking about Dawn Ferguson, avoid thinking…

 

Jamie didn’t like strangers. Her eyes always searched for Maya or Carina, as if she was afraid that they’d disappear, that she’d be once more a lonely baby in the NICU without anyone to take care of her. She’d curl her hand into their sweaters and t-shirts, holding on, looking up with so much trust that Maya sometimes wondered if Carina was right – that Jamie remembered her rescue, her birth. She knew it was impossible, but she also knew that Jamie relaxed in her arms, that she’d try to burrow her tiny face in Carina’s shoulder, squirming to get closer and closer. And tomorrow…tomorrow Jamie was going to be with a stranger. A stranger who wanted to take her forever. And if she took her…would Jamie forget them? Would Jamie grow up in the sunshine, away from Seattle’s rain, never knowing about the beautiful doctor and the firefighter who lived and breathed for her? Would Jamie…

 

Maya didn’t realize she was crying until she felt Carina’s arms circle her from behind. She was pulled back against Carina’s body, Carina’s forearms pressing into her stomach.

 

“Sorry,” she mumbled, batting away her tears, but Carina shook her head, sliding her chin along Maya’s shoulder.

 

Va bene, amore. Sono qui.”

 

She didn’t want Carina to think that she’d lied earlier, that she’d tried to minimize the situation. But she was also scared that she was about to lose her baby. And no matter how fierce Maya was, no matter how brave, the fear whispered in the background.

 

“She’s going to be home for dinner tomorrow,” Maya said to herself, covering Carina’s hands with her own where they hovered against her.

 

A cold nose brushed against her neck.

 

The words were of little comfort. But they had little else to hold onto.

 

And beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Chapter Text

The morning felt like a funeral, though Maya tried as hard as she could to push that thought away.

 

A funeral meant death. It meant someone had died. Never to return.

 

And this wasn’t a funeral.

 

It was a loss. There was no denying it, but it was far from the end.

 

Because there was no end that didn’t involve Jamie coming home for good. Maya refused to entertain the thought.

 

She held Jamie close as Carina methodically packed her diaper bag. Jamie was still sleepy and mostly napped against Maya’s shoulder, her little hand tucked into the collar of Maya’s t-shirt.

 

“You do that too,” Maya said, pointing at Jamie’s strong grip.

 

Carina looked up and forced a smile. “You are always moving, Bambina, it’s how we make you stay still.”

 

Still

 

Every instinct was telling Maya to run. To set Jamie down and turn towards the door and take off, forcing her muscles to work until they couldn’t work anymore. Running meant embracing the pain instead of drowning in it. And Maya was in so much pain.

 

There was a loud knock on the front door, interrupting whatever Maya had planned to say next. Instead, she tensed, and so did Carina, and they looked at each other with sorrow-filled eyes, knowing the hardest part was yet to come.

 

Nancy looked equally somber as Carina let her inside, which was somewhat of a relief. The social worker was very much on the DeLuca-Bishop’s side. She wouldn’t let anything bad happen to Jamie. It made the sting a little less. But only a little.

 

“I will have her home at six sharp,” Nancy said, taking Jamie’s diaper bag.

 

Maya tightened her grip on Jamie’s body. “And you have our numbers?”

 

Nancy nodded and then paused.

 

It was time for Jamie to go.

 

Carina brushed her hand over Jamie’s head, smoothing back her wispy curls. She sniffled, trying to hold in anything louder lest she scare Jamie, but Maya could tell that she was shaking.

 

Ti voglio bene, Jamie. Presto sarai a casa. Con me e la mommy,” Carina’s voice wavered, but hearing her speak to Jamie in Italian made Maya feel stronger.

 

This was their family. Jamie was going to speak Italian too. She was going to cheer for Team Italia and she was going to learn how to make pasta with Carina and she was going to play on the beaches of Sicily just like her mama.

 

Maya kissed Jamie’s forehead, stroking her fingers down one chubby cheek, memorizing the softness of her skin.

 

“It’s going to be okay, Jamie. I promise,” Maya whispered, closing her eyes, bracing for what came next.

 

Maya Bishop was a strong woman. She bench-pressed hoses. She wore 70lbs of equipment daily. Despite her height, she was powerful.

 

Except her arms felt like jelly. The idea of moving them, of using them to send Jamie away, felt impossible.

 

Nancy seemed to sense her difficulty and reached out, taking Jamie in both hands. It took only a second for Jamie to register that she was no longer in Maya’s arms. Sleepy contentment shifted to fear and Maya knew what was about to happen before it did.

 

Jamie’s lower lip wobbled and then she was crying, loud, angry tears, that inspired a muffled sob from Carina. The sight of Jamie’s tiny face, red, scrunched up in confusion, was almost too much to bear.

 

“It’s okay, Jamie,” Maya said again, wanting to believe it, wanting so desperately to believe her own words.

 

Nancy took a steadying breath and bounced Jamie against her shoulder, trying to calm her.

 

“By six,” she said, “I won’t let her out of my sight.”

 

Maya could only nod, unable to form words, while Carina pressed a hand to her mouth, and as Nancy walked out the door, they stood frozen in place, the sound of Jamie’s cries drifting all the way down the hallway and into the elevator.

 

Step one: close the door

 

She couldn’t run, but she could plan, and Maya allowed her mind to organize. To create a strategy for surviving the day. A map that she could read and follow.

 

Maya walked to the door and closed it.

 

Step two: Wife

 

Perhaps the most complex part of the day’s map. Maya turned to find Carina bracing herself against the kitchen table, her shoulders shaking though she did not cry out. The gaunt look had reappeared, her eyes simultaneously glassy and dull. She looked ill, stripped of her usual healthy radiance.

 

“Carina?” Maya stepped closer, placing one hand on Carina’s arm, encouraging her to stand.

 

“She was scared,” Carina whispered, giving voice to what hurt Maya the most too.

 

“I know. That was terrible.”

 

Carina nodded. “That was even worse than I thought it was going to be.”

 

“So much worse. Do you want to go scream about it?”

 

Carina shook her head and she looked so defeated that Maya decided it was time for emergency measures.

 

“Sit down,” she said, patting one of the chairs. Carina raised an eyebrow, but obeyed, emotionally exhausted and still a little shaky.

 

There were reminders of Jamie everywhere – clean bottles in the drain, a dirty bib on the countertop. Despite her aching sadness, Maya decided that being surrounded by Jamie was actually a good thing.

 

Jamie lived here. With them. And that wasn’t changing just because some judge decided to allow a random stranger to take her for one day a week.

 

Maya opened the fridge and pulled out a fresh package of bacon, already knowing that Carina would complain about its poor quality. But poor quality bacon was better than no bacon, so Maya was not about to take any criticism.

 

“We’re having bacon,” she explained, grabbing a frying pan.

 

Carina scoffed. “Why?”

 

“Because we’re sad. And we deserve bacon.”

 

“Maya…”

 

“Go get dressed. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”

 

“Get dressed?”

 

Maya turned from the stove top, eyeing Carina’s sweatpants. They were very un-Carina.

 

“We’re going out,” Maya said, leaving no room for argument.

 

Carina rolled her eyes. “Maya, I do not want to go out.”

 

“Well, that’s too bad. We’re going out after we eat this bacon. Now go put on those jeans I like.”

 

Mi scusi?

 

“That’s an order, Probie.”

 

“Probie?” Carina practically growled the word, which made Maya smirk.

 

“Don’t make me ask twice.”

 

Maya turned back to the pan, pleased to hear Carina’s footsteps head towards the bedroom. There was a lot of cursing in Italian too, but cursing in Italian was preferable to weeping on the floor.

 

Step two was going better than expected.

 

They ate in relative silence. Maya playfully stole bacon from Carina’s plate and Carina playfully slapped Maya’s hand and while they were both heartbroken, being heartbroken together somehow made the situation easier.

 

When they were done breakfast, Maya dipped into their bedroom, slipping into a pair of joggers and a Henley. She crossed the apartment, grabbing her sneakers by the door, and then turned to Carina who was still in the kitchen sipping coffee.

 

“Do you want to drive or should I?” Maya asked, pulling her bomber jacket from the hook.

 

Carina sighed. “Maya I really do not want to go out.”

 

“You make a compelling argument. Get your shoes on.”

 

“Maya!”

 

Maya secretly loved the way Carina said her name when she was exasperated. The second syllable was emphasized, higher than the first. No one said her name like Carina said her name.

 

“We can sit at home for the next nine hours and cry, or we can go spend money and carb load,” Maya said with a shrug, feeling like she was dangling a metaphorical carrot in front of her wife.

 

Carina narrowed her eyes, staring Maya down, but soon grit her teeth and let out a frustrated grunt.

 

“I’m mad at you!” She said, already working on her boots.

 

“You can’t be mad at me. I gave you bacon and I give you sex.”

 

“You give me…sei incredibile…” Carina shook her head, brushing past Maya into the hallway. Listening to her continuous rant made Maya mentally give herself a high five.

 

It was still early in the day. They had hours to go. But Maya knew without a doubt that they’d make it through. And so would Jamie.

 

~*~

 

Step three: Distraction

 

Maya carefully parked her Jeep, biting her lip as Carina leaned forward and stared out the windshield.

 

“Target?” She asked, her brow furrowed.

 

“Target,” Maya confirmed, unclicking her seatbelt and unceremoniously prancing out the door.

 

Carina was less than enthusiastic, but she followed Maya across the lot and into the store, walking with her arms crossed, a permanent pout on her lips. Maya grabbed a cart and avoided the urge to kiss Carina’s cute face.

 

They wandered the aisles, though Maya knew exactly where she was going, but there was something amusing about watching Carina - whose closet was full of imported couture - walk through the clothing section. Half of Maya’s wardrobe was from Target, but she had no intention of browsing for herself.

 

“Come on,” she said, picking up her pace, ensuring that Carina was behind her as she walked closer to their destination.

 

She came to a stop in front of a display stand covered in tiny bathing suits, and tiny sunhats, and tiny sandals. All around them, baby clothes hung from hangers or were stacked on tables. Nearby was the toy aisle and next to it Maya knew they’d find a large selection of baby books.

 

“Maya what are we doing?” Carina asked. She looked uncomfortable and so unhappy.

 

“We’re shopping for Jamie.”

 

“Why?”

 

Maya released her grip on the cart and took one of Carina’s hands.

 

“Because Jamie is coming home and no one is taking her from us. So, we’re going to buy her a pile of stuff and think about the future and make plans, okay?”

 

The pout on Carina’s face disappeared. She looked up, meeting Maya’s gaze, and smiled with a wobbly bottom lip. Carina wouldn’t be the first overwhelmed mother to cry in Target, nor would she be the last, but Maya wanted to see that perfect smile on Carina’s face again, so she stepped into Carina’s space and wrapped her arms around her in quick hug. Staying strong for Carina was helping her cope with her own fears. The plans and the schedule served as much needed distraction, but holding Carina was the best cure for Maya’s pain and sadness about the situation.

 

She was terrified for Jamie. Terrified by the idea that Jamie was somewhere in the city with a stranger, and even though she was with Nancy, her tiny baby brain likely could not comprehend what was happening at all. Was she scared? Was she lonely? Did she know that she’d see her moms again? That they were waiting for her? That they loved her?

 

Maya could not get the thought out of her mind. Jamie was scared and needed them and maybe she felt like they’d abandoned her. Like she’d never get to go home again.

 

And something about buying Jamie new onesies and blocks and books made the terror smaller. Something about trying to make Carina smile helped too. They had to survive seven hours, but when seven hours were up, Jamie would be in their arms again.

 

As if sensing Maya’s own inner turmoil, Carina relaxed and pressed a small kiss to Maya’s shoulder, obviously aware that they were in public. With a deep centering breath she leaned back, looking stronger than Maya had seen her in days.

 

Bambina, why didn’t you say we were going on a shopping spree?” She asked, already eyeing a display covered in Jamie-sized pyjamas.

 

Maya picked up a pink onesie patterned with dinosaurs and volcanos.

 

“Should’ve led with that, hey?” She laughed, dangling the outfit in front of her.

 

Carina snatched the jammies and dropped them in their cart.

 

Step three: Distraction

 

~*~

 

Step four: Carbs

 

The second time Carina saw Maya Bishop, she was struck with a frustrating sense of familiarity. In truth, she’d really only seen Maya in profile at the hospital, the object in her hand more distracting than the delicate cheekbones and strong jaw.

 

Under the dim light at Joe’s, far from the harsh hospital fluorescents, Carina quickly fused the two images together.

 

The woman with the plastic bag.

 

The woman seated next to her. Beautiful and sad.

 

She’d been surprised by Maya’s voice. It was lower than she’d expected. Raspier.

 

She’d also been surprised by Maya’s eyes because she hadn’t expected them to be so blue. She’d dated blue-eyed people before, but even in those first few moments, Maya’s eyes shifted shades. They were dark and when she turned, they appeared lighter. Carina found it fascinating.

 

She’d never fully understand why they didn’t sleep together that night. The attraction was there. Carina had been fairly determined to get Maya naked as soon as possible, but something stopped them.

 

They’d talked most of the evening. Laughing easily, both surprised to be able to do so in the company of a stranger. They’d also confessed things – things that made sex even more tempting, but things that also made Carina want to know Maya beyond her skills in the bedroom.

 

Because Maya had looked at her with a wry smile and said, “you’re the first person who’s wanted to drink with me in a long time.”

 

And Carina smiled back and said, “I find that hard to believe.”

 

Which caused Maya’s shoulders to slump so heavily that Carina worried that she’d hurt herself.

 

Getting to know Maya was like trying to pry apart a box welded shut. She was brash and confident and arrogant. But she was also sweet and attentive and sad.

 

She was so sad. It clung to her like a perfume. A sadness so deep that it lingered always in her eyes.

 

At first Carina thought it was the result of a stressful job.

 

Later, she came to understand that it was the part of Maya that had been subdued by an unfeeling father. The part of her that Lane killed with his demands and his insults. The part of Maya who’d kissed a girl she liked only to be punished for showing kindness.

 

The part of Maya still in braids and braces.

 

Over the years, Maya’s defensive walls had come down bit by bit. Her temper, her cruelty, her cold exterior faded, revealing warmth and love and a beautiful heart that Carina had never expected. She’d watched Maya struggle through pain, mistreatment, injustice. She’d seen all the hurt that Maya tried to push down.

 

She also saw all the good too. Underneath the bravado there was a sweet soul, there was a version of Maya that Lane hadn’t been able to shape. That she’d kept hidden, that she was desperate to silence lest anyone interpret it as weakness.

 

Carina saw that version of Maya clearest of all.

 

And then Jamie had forced the welded box open. Maya couldn’t hide her heart anymore. Even if she wanted to.

 

Carina could tell that it sometimes overwhelmed Maya. The depth of her feelings. But she could also see how hard Maya was working to accept the hidden, silenced pieces of herself. To give in to her joy, her love.

 

It was all over her face as they sat in a quaint Sicilian restaurant that Maya had discovered the year before. After their Target run, Maya hurried Carina back into the car and drove without a hint about their destination. That Bishop determination could be infectious and instead of fighting Maya for information, Carina decided to go along with Maya’s plans. Plans that were likely helping Maya cope with her own anxieties.

 

La Fontana Siciliana was as close as Carina could get to her nonna’s cooking and the fact that Maya had even thought of it had Carina in a near-swoon.

 

She was heartbroken over Jamie, fearful every time she thought about her little baby with a stranger.

 

But Maya was making the intolerable tolerable. She was holding them up on her strong shoulders, though Carina knew her wife well enough to see the cost too. Maya would tear herself in two if it meant making Carina and Jamie happy. Carina very much did not want Maya tearing herself in two.

 

Bambina, thank you for this,” Carina said, reaching across the table to take Maya’s hand. Maya looked up from the menu, smiling.

 

“Honestly? I just wanted the cannelloni. Totally selfish move on my part.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

Maya folded her fingers into Carina’s and they stayed locked in silence until a waiter appeared, his accent telling Carina that he was from Sicily too.

 

She always felt a little lighter speaking in Italian. It was as natural to her as breathing. It made something as simple as ordering food oddly relaxing. Another layer of stress fell away upon hearing the waiter’s familiar cadence. Maya likely knew this about her too. Another reason she’d probably chosen this restaurant.

 

The outdoor terrace and warm August day made the scene almost romantic. If not for their shared sorrow, it would’ve been a wonderful date.

 

Except Carina watched Maya carefully, knowing that her wife had spent most of the past few days trying to be a supportive spouse. She wasn’t sure if Maya had slept properly or if she was eating. And it was her turn to check-in with Maya. Her turn to hold them up for a little while.

 

Carina stayed quiet as Maya stared at their joined hands, worrying her bottom lip, as a small wrinkle appeared between her eyebrows. She was clearly concerned, her over-active brain working through multiple scenarios. Carina rubbed her thumb over Maya’s knuckle, pulling her attention.

 

“What is it?” Carina asked gently, catching sad blue eyes.

 

Maya shrugged. “It’s fine.”

 

“No. None of that. Not today.”

 

A humourless smirk appeared on Maya’s face and she bowed her head.

 

“She doesn’t know she’s coming home,” Maya said, “she thinks we abandoned her.”

 

It had bothered Carina too, the idea that Jamie was scared and confused. But hearing it from Maya softened the edges of Carina’s fear. Sharing somehow made it less of a burden.

 

“So, we must hold her extra close tonight,” Carina said.

 

“What if she thinks we did it on purpose? That we hurt her?”

 

There were people who thought Maya Bishop was ruthless, heartless. An unfeeling machine. But Carina knew the truth. Carina knew that her wife had the biggest heart, that her capacity for love was beyond even Maya’s ability to comprehend. She thought about Lane, about the man who’d convinced her wife that love was a distraction, a burden. That she was incapable and unworthy of it.

 

Yet here she was, terrified that she’d somehow hurt their baby. Even inadvertently. Even without intention. Maya was scared she’d inflicted harm.

 

“Oh, Bambina, no,” Carina sighed, reaching across the table to cup Maya’s cheek.

 

“I want her to know she’s safe. I told her I’d protect her…”

 

If they weren’t already married Carina would have proposed on the spot.

 

“You do protect her. You protect me too,” Carina insisted knowing her words could only go so far to convince Maya.

 

Maya turned her head and kissed Carina’s palm. She didn’t say anything else, choosing instead to lean back in her chair, and close her eyes, taking in the late summer sun.

 

When their food arrived, Maya seemed to perk up, eager to dig into her meal. It revived them both, the familiar flavours, Maya’s questions about Sicilian cuisine, about nonna.

 

Time was passing. They could both feel it. And with each moment that ticked by, their hope returned.

 

“When do you want to take Jamie to Italy?” Maya asked, surprising Carina.

 

“As soon as I get my Green Card, I guess?”

 

“She’s still so little. But, yeah, we should do that.”

 

At five months old, Jamie appeared to be the size of a three-month-old, but Carina knew she’d likely catch up by the time she was a toddler. The thought of Jamie’s impossibly small toes brought a rush of anxiety and Carina forced herself to refocus on her meal and Maya and the fantasy trip they were weaving.

 

“You know what else we should do in Italy?” Maya was saying, clearly caught up in a full-blown brainstorming session, so Carina just sat back and decided to let it happen.

 

“What?”

 

“We should get a civil union. Because our marriage isn’t recognized in Italy, but that’s where you’re from, so I want to lock things down.”

 

Carina took a sip of wine, trying to hide her laughter. “Lock things down?”

 

“Yes. Because sorry Italy, Carina DeLuca is off the market. Finito.”

 

“Maya…”

 

“It’s to protect us too,” Maya explained, “but mostly, I just want to be married to you everywhere.”

 

Oh, she is getting so much sex tonight and she doesn’t even know it yet...

 

Carina stroked the rim of her glass with one finger. “Bene. A civil union. We really must work on our proposals, Bambina.”

 

“We’re not down on one knee kind of people,” Maya laughed and then groaned when Carina raised an eyebrow and smirked.

 

Maya continued to plan a perfect vacation, her hands flying as she spoke, a habit she’d picked up from Carina who sat quietly, content to watch and listen.

 

For a moment Carina forgot that they were in the midst of a custody battle.

 

That Maya was in the middle of an internal investigation at SFD.

 

They were just two women in love, planning a future they could only imagine, excited to show their baby the world.

 

 

Chapter Text

Somehow going home felt more daunting than leaving.

 

They were both filled with anticipation and with four hours to go, the seconds only felt like they were getting longer and longer.

 

Carina knew they would have to do this all over again next week, but she wanted to concentrate on today. She didn’t want to get ahead of herself. Four more hours and Jamie would be back where she belonged.

 

As Maya parked her jeep in their underground garage, Carina caught sight of Jamie’s car seat in the rear-view mirror and the anxious, needy energy coursing through her body became even more intolerable. Maya dutifully grabbed their three large Target bags, insisting on carrying it all herself, and Carina followed her to the elevator and then down the hall to their apartment.

 

For someone who initially didn’t want to leave, she was surprised by how reluctant she was to step inside. Maya’s day of activities had been the perfect distraction. After lunch, they’d gone for a walk, hand-in-hand, only stopping to pick up gelato. It was an Italy-themed day, except for the American bacon for breakfast, and Carina was so touched by Maya’s thoughtfulness, by her selfless devotion to making Carina feel more centered.

 

Carina was still worried that Maya had ignored her own needs. Comfort for Carina was in food and wine and shopping. It was in holding Maya’s hand and looking at the ocean. Maya’s needs were a little different. Her wife likely would have enjoyed a long run in the morning. Maybe some diner food. Maybe even a shift at work because despite the investigation, being a firefighter was still one of the great joys of Maya’s life.

 

Except Maya didn’t say a word, so Carina didn’t prod, though she wondered if she should tell Maya to go for a run, that she’d be okay on her own.

 

“I’m going to put this stuff away,” Maya said, raising her hands to show off the bags.

 

Carina nodded. “I can help.”

 

“No, no. I’ve got it. Didn’t you say you were in the middle of reading that new study? The one with the…uh…Ureth…no…Uter…”

 

“Ureterovaginal fistulas,” Carina corrected.

 

“Yeah. That. Pure nightmare fuel, by the way.” Maya shuddered as she spoke.

 

Carina couldn’t blame her.

 

“I’m operating with Meredith Grey next week and I’m hoping to find something less invasive than our current plan,” Carina said, frowning because it was a hard diagnosis and their patient had experienced numerous infections already.

 

She was excited to return to work, though she’d miss her time with Jamie. But Jamie would be close by in the daycare and Carina liked the idea of her baby coming to work with her every day too. The happy thought was quickly crushed when Carina remembered that Jamie would have to go for another visit with Dawn Ferguson next week. That this would be their life until the judge made a decision.

 

A decision that could destroy everything.

 

She wanted to move forward and watch Jamie grow. She wanted Jamie to play with Amelia and Teddy’s kids, she wanted to visit Jamie at lunch and show her off to the nurses. And the custody battle made everything feel so tenuous. She hated the dark cloud it had cast over them.

 

Shaking away the thought, Carina forced a smile, though no force was required when Maya sweetly kissed her cheek and then disappeared into the nursery. Carina decided to work in their bedroom, choosing the comfort of her pillow over the more rigid chairs in the dining room. She could vaguely hear Maya across the hall, and it was comforting – Maya had been her rock, her constant support, and Carina felt less anxious about Jamie with her nearby.

 

She checked her email, noting Meredith had sent their patient’s latest CT results and frowned when she realized the fistula was more complex than initially thought. The black and white scan took residence in her brain and she closed her eyes, imagining each step of the proposed surgery. The patient had already undergone an unsuccessful stent procedure and was at risk for incontinence. Carina very much wanted to avoid a urostomy. That, combined with a poorly done hysterectomy at another hospital had Carina totally dedicated to repairing the fistula successfully the first time.

 

And while she very much wanted to lose herself in work, while she had very much intended to loser herself in work, it was becoming increasingly difficult because she could hear Maya in the nursery.

 

 Maya who happened to be singing.

 

Carina heard snippets of the song and could not stop herself from smiling.

 

You’re simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I’ve ever met…

 

Although Maya would never admit it in public unless under the influence of alcohol at a karaoke bar, she had a good voice and she was prone to singing to herself while she did chores or thought no one could hear her. Carina always loved to catch these moments, especially after Maya told her that there had been no singing or music in Lane Bishop’s house. Vincenzo was known to play opera at four in the morning while manic, so the idea of a quiet home was beyond foreign to Carina.

 

But Maya’s voice was sweet and it always gave Carina butterflies. She knew it was silly, they’d been married long enough that Carina had heard Maya sing many times before, but something about Maya’s secret little habit made Carina remember the early exhilarating months of their relationship. The nervous excitement. The too-wide grin when the phone pinged indicating a good morning text or a good night.

 

Carina closed her laptop and lay back, imagining Maya next door, folding onesies and re-organizing the closet.

 

I’m stuck on your heart, I hang on every word you say, tear us apart, baby, I’d rather be dead…

 

She wondered if Maya would want a ceremony for their civil union in Italy. Would she want Carina’s family to attend or would it just be the two of them and Jamie? Would any of her family even want to attend? While there was some support from her younger cousins, with nonna gone, many of the remaining relatives had stopped speaking to her, disapproving of her marriage.

 

Would Maya want food and speeches? Would they actually manage to write their own vows this time? Would there be dancing…

 

The thought of dancing brought with it the memory of their wedding and Carina inhaled sharply at the image of Maya in her wedding dress. It had been overwhelming, more than overwhelming, and Carina had spent most of the night sneaking riskier and risker touches. Every curve highlighted. Every perfect inch teased. Every muscle, every hidden place that was only for her…

 

Carina licked her lips, checking the clock, and then decided that after a day of Maya distracting her successfully, she was going to distract Maya.

 

As expected, Maya had her back to the door and was in the midst of rearranging the changing table when Carina walked into the nursery. She was still humming, her hips swaying just enough to make Carina cross the room in two long strides and wrap her arms around Maya’s waist. She dipped her head, kissing Maya’s neck, inhaling deeply.

 

“Dr. DeLuca aren’t you supposed to be working?” Maya asked with a laugh in her voice.

 

Carina reached up with one hand and brushed Maya’s hair to the side, revealing more of her throat. She felt Maya go very still her in arms and took the opportunity to nip at her earlobe.

 

“What if I don’t want to work anymore?” Carina dragged her lips to Maya’s jaw, finding the steady pulse point just below. Just where she liked to lick.

 

“But I thought you love looking at vaginas.”

 

Carina smirked, tightening her hold. “There’s only one vagina I want to look at right now.”

 

The comment made Maya bow her head and groan, the whispered oh my god and blush almost enough to make Carina laugh. But she wasn’t in a laughing mood.

 

“Please, Bambina,” Carina dragged her hands up Maya’s torso, cupping her breasts over her shirt.

 

Maya tensed again in surprise. “Oh! Hi!”

 

Ciao, amore, vieni con me…

 

Carina stepped away, releasing her grasp, and then took Maya’s hand, walking backwards to the door as she urged her wife to follow. Though Maya feigned reluctance, Carina could tell by the look on her face that she was quite eager to participate in Carina’s plan.

 

They’d barely made it through the door before Carina grabbed the front of Maya’s shirt and unceremoniously pushed her down on the bed. She landed with a bounce, laughing as Carina climbed on top of her, wasting no time. Maya moaned into their kiss and it made Carina want her even more.

 

She felt like a teenager making out with her crush, the anxiety in her stomach transforming into those old familiar butterflies. Maya’s hands molded to her sides, holding her up just enough so Carina could balance her weight on her knees, one on either side of Maya’s hips.

 

There was so much of Maya she wanted. Carina wasn’t sure what to do with her hands first. She settled for sneaking one underneath the hem of Maya’s henley, dragging her fingers up and over a bra-covered breast. With the other she found Maya’s hand, pressing it above her head into the mattress, squeezing as she attacked the pale line of Maya’s throat with her tongue.

 

“Carina?” Maya breathed, arching under her.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Wait, wait, Carina!”

 

Carina shifted so she could look down at Maya’s face.

 

“Is everything okay?” She asked, preparing to move her hands.

 

Maya nodded, but seemed pensive. “Is this wrong?”

 

“Is what wrong?”

 

This. Our baby is in the hands of a stranger getting traumatized and we’re having sex? It just feels…”

 

Carina sat up, still straddling Maya, but she moved her hands, planting one on either side of Maya’s head.

 

“Is it wrong if I am scared and you are scared and touching you makes me feel less scared?”

 

Maya tilted her head in thought, but Carina wasn’t done.

 

“It can never be wrong, Maya,” she said, “not between us. Not this.”

 

A familiar electricity existed between them, an energy that had Maya’s eyes shifting to a darker shade of blue. She took Carina’s face in her hands and studied her intently.

 

“I meant what I said today,” she said in a voice low and raspy.

 

For a moment Carina was confused. Maya had a habit of jumping ten steps in any direction and expecting Carina to follow her train of thought as she did. It was as amusing as it was frustrating.

 

Maya raised her head just enough to trace Carina’s lips with the tip of her tongue.

 

“I want to be married to you everywhere,” she breathed, settling back onto the bed, bringing Carina closer.

 

“Maya…”

 

“Every state. Every country. Everywhere.”

 

Vieni qui…”

 

“Every planet, every universe, every gala…”

 

Carina silenced her with another kiss, forcing her tongue into Maya’s mouth, though Maya seemed more than pleased to accommodate her. They pulled away from each other breathless and Carina decided she’d been patient enough.

 

“You are,” Carina swore, sliding her hand down Maya’s tummy, “you already are, Bambina.”

 

They both moaned as Carina slipped her fingers into Maya’s panties and found her already wet. Maya flushed, biting her lip, squirming under Carina’s body. As good as Maya felt against her hand, Carina wanted something else, something that made her mouth water as she reared back and pulled at Maya’s joggers. Maya managed to half sit, allowing Carina to strip her from the waist down while she tossed her shirt and bra to the side.

 

It left her naked and sprawled on top of the covers, flushed and already panting.

 

Carina sunk her fingers into muscled thighs and pushed them apart, lying down on her stomach as she did.

 

Her first lick was purposefully light, the tip of her tongue against Maya’s clit. It earned her a frustrated growl and Carina smiled against Maya’s heat, amused by her always expressive wife. When a hand found its way into her hair, Carina decided not to tease because she couldn’t wait either. Not when she finally had Maya like this.

 

She licked inside, the taste alone enough to force a moan from her own throat, she’d never tire of it, never have enough…

 

Carina swirled her tongue, closing her lips over Maya’s clit, changing pressure as she sucked and lightly bit. Each graze of her teeth made Maya arch, a needy whine forced from her throat as Carina took her. Took all of her.

 

All of Carina’s stress, all of her fear melted away as she sunk two fingers into Maya, as she slipped inside, as Maya’s body surrounded her, surrendered to her, sheltered her, made her feel like the world made sense again. The hand in her hair tugged, and Carina understood, starting to thrust and curl her fingers, thrust and curl and suck, as strong thighs tried to trap her in place.

 

Part of Carina didn’t want Maya to finish yet. She wanted to keep going, Maya’s smell and taste so intoxicating that she wanted to stay forever. But she also wanted to give Maya pleasure, so much pleasure, her Maya who was her strength and her guardian.

 

Maya’s legs twitched, she dug into the mattress with her heels, and Carina could tell she was chasing whatever surge had started deep within. Her hips bucked, but Carina did not let go, sucking with unrelenting pressure as she fucked Maya hard, hard enough that she could hear her fingers as she thrust and curled, thrust and curled…

 

She wanted to tell Maya to let go, but even more she wanted to keep her mouth between Maya’s legs, so instead she used her free hand to stroke up Maya’s body, between her breasts, flattening her palm over Maya’s heart. It raced beneath her touch, steady and strong, and Carina almost faltered when Maya’s hand found hers and brought it up to her lips, where she proceeded to lick Carina’s fingertips.

 

As Maya closed her lips around Carina’s thumb, as she sucked, Carina felt herself lose focus, though she quickly found herself again, desperately wanting to feel Maya’s release. She thrashed her clit, moving her tongue in quick circles that forced Maya to tilt her head back and gasp for air.

 

“Carina,” she called out, strangled, “fuck…babe…Carina…”

 

It happened so quickly. Maya shook beneath Carina’s touch, her walls clenching around Carina’s fingers, and then with a half-scream she came, both hands fisted into the sheets, as if she would ascend without the steady anchor.

 

Carina helped her down, slowing her movements until she pulled her fingers out and replaced them with her tongue, wanting her reward. Maya was breathing heavily, each inhale nothing more than a shaking vibration, her eyes closed in blissed-out pleasure while Carina cleaned every inch of her, greedy with want.

 

The soft, happy sigh from above inspired Carina to move. She dragged her lips against the inside of Maya’s thigh, tasting her there too, and then shifted upwards, dipping her tongue against a hipbone, a warm tummy, between Maya’s breasts where her heartbeat felt like the air in Carina’s lungs. When she reached Maya’s face, she found her smiling, her blue eyes watching Carina with satiated contentment, a vast change from the worry that she’d worn for days and days.

 

Carina kissed her, brushing her lips against Maya’s, wanting her to taste. To taste herself, to taste how good she was.

 

“Thank you for today, Bambina,” Carina said, still hovering over Maya, her knees holding her weight.

 

Maya stretched and then settled, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind Carina’s ear. She considered Carina for a moment, dragging her fingers over Carina’s cheek, across her lips, until they paused on Carina’s chin, holding her in place.

 

“No one is taking her from us,” Maya said, low and firm, leaving no room for argument.

 

Carina believed her. She believed every word because Maya believed them too.

 

The stress of the week bloomed across Carina’s back, making her muscles feel heavy and worn. She lay down, her head on Maya’s chest, knowing she was likely heavy but unable to stop herself.

 

She was just so tired. The constant worry. The fear. The loss.

 

Carina was exhausted.

 

Maya’s skin was impossibly soft beneath her cheek, she smelled so good, Carina could barely keep her eyes open though part of her knew that she needed to move, or get undressed, or do anything other than pin Maya beneath her.

 

“Let’s put you to bed,” Maya said, her strong arms suddenly around Carina’s back. She rolled them both, and then helped Carina crawl higher up the bed until her head reached her pillow.

 

“But…che ore è?”

 

There was movement close by and then the mattress dipped and Carina knew without looking that Maya was no longer next to her. She cracked an eye open, watching Maya circle to her side of the room, naked and still flushed.

 

“Two hours,” Maya answered, undoing the button on Carina’s jeans. She pulled them down Carina’s legs, leaving them on the floor before grabbing the extra blanket from the chair in the corner of the room and draping it over Carina’s body.

 

Non voglio dormire per due ore.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Maya?”

 

English was becoming difficult. Carina could feel it slipping away as she gave in to the comfort of their bed.

 

Dovresti andare a correre,” she said, reaching out blindly. Her hand landed on a soft hip. It made her sigh.

 

The mattress dipped again and Carina felt Maya sit down beside her.

 

“A run?” She asked, obviously struggling with the translation.

 

Carina nodded.

 

Warm lips pressed against her forehead. “I’ll go for an hour, okay?”

 

, Tesoro.”

 

Sleep pulled and Carina chased it, allowing herself to finally rest. She was vaguely aware of Maya moving about the room undoubtably getting dressed. A hand stroked through her hair, brushing it off her forehead, but Carina was barely conscious. She couldn’t move even if she wanted to.

 

“I love you.”

 

Maya’s voice sounded far away. It was the last thing Carina heard before giving in to her exhaustion.

 

 

Chapter Text

Between a stellar orgasm, an invigorating run, and a restorative shower, Maya was feeling shockingly good despite the circumstances. If not for the constant fear over Jamie, the day would have felt downright magical.

 

But as Maya checked her watch for the tenth time in under a minute, anticipation flooded every molecule in her body and she could barely sit still. Carina was pacing the living room, though Maya couldn’t be sure if it was anxiety or the two cups of coffee she’d had as soon as she’d woken from her nap.

 

Maya fussed around the kitchen, checking to see they had Jamie’s formula ready to go. She pondered restocking the diaper caddy in the nursery when her watch beeped indicating that it was exactly six o’clock.

 

Come on, Nancy, come on, come on, come on…

 

They both heard the telltale sound of elevator doors opening and stopped in place, staring at each other across the apartment. Maya smiled first, watching Carina shift from a frustrated ball of energy into pure joy.

 

The feeling faded as soon as another sound filled the room. A sound they both hated more than anything.

 

Jamie was crying.

 

Carina was out the door before Maya even registered that she’d moved. Jamie’s crying became louder, she was screaming, and as Maya finally forced her legs to work, she was confronted with Nancy standing right outside in the hallway, clearly exhausted, and Jamie…

 

Jamie was red-faced, wheezing, and upon seeing Carina, she nearly tipped herself backwards in Nancy’s arms trying to get to her.

 

Carina caught her and all three adults in the room huddled together as Jamie nuzzled against Carina’s shoulder. She moved her face from side to side, trying to get closer, trying to mold her little body to Carina’s chest. Two tiny hands grabbed hold of Carina’s t-shirt, pulling with surprising strength for someone so small.

 

Va bene. Stai bene,” Carina cooed, her lips coasting over Jamie’s forehead. She bounced a little, the sound of her voice an instant comfort to the baby who was still crying though the screaming had stopped

 

Maya cupped the back of Jamie’s head, bending her knees so she could try and see Jamie’s little face.

 

“Hey, Baby T-Rex,” she said, startled when Jamie turned to her. Maya held out her hand and Jamie immediately grasped one of her fingers, holding on as if she was trying to keep Maya with her. The tears would not stop, nor would her hiccupping, gasps for air.

 

Carina continued to cradle Jamie in her arms, though Maya could tell that anger swirled beneath her calm façade.

 

“She’s shaking,” Carina said, looking at Maya with wide, concerned eyes.

 

Maya finally remembered that Nancy was in the room. Nancy who looked deeply concerned and exhausted.

 

“What happened?” Maya asked, trying her best not to snap.

 

Nancy was uncharacteristically serious, her eyes on the back of Jamie’s head. “I was with her the whole time. Didn’t take my eyes off her for even a second.”

 

Maya didn’t like Nancy’s tone. Or her words. “Did they hurt her or…”

 

The social worker shook her head. “I am legally not allowed to share information. But…I will be calling your lawyer later today. There’s a lot to discuss.”

 

“What does that mean?” Carina shrugged, accidentally jostling Jamie in the process. The baby wailed again, and Maya realized that she was wearing an unfamiliar onesie. Pink and…

 

Miami Dolphins

 

Maya almost hissed.

 

“It was not an easy day. But she was never in danger. I even did all the diaper changes,” Nancy said, adjusting her bag. Maya imagined it was full of clipboards.

 

Jamie was so vulnerable. She was still so small. Knowing Nancy had taken care of her made Maya breathe a little easier. She hated the idea of strangers touching her baby, though someone had clearly dressed her in a onesie that was too big for her tiny body.

 

“Should we call Simon or…” Maya realized she had no idea what the process was, no idea what came next, but Nancy held up one hand and shook her head again.

 

“Simon will call you. Maya, Carina, I know this is hard. And I wish I could say more, I shouldn’t even say this, but…I am going to do everything in my power, everything, to keep this little girl safe and in your arms,” Nancy’s serious face and determined words were both comforting and concerning.

 

“Thank you, Nancy,” Carina said and Maya noticed that her wife’s eyes were glassy with tears. It was hard to see Jamie so clearly traumatized, hard to listen to her painful tears.

 

Nancy said her goodbyes, promising that she’d be in touch as soon as possible, before sweeping out of the apartment. She was a woman clearly on a mission.

 

Jamie was still crying, so Maya held out her hands, taking the baby from Carina. The brief movement made Jamie scream again, her grip on Carina so strong that they had to carefully remove a little fist from her t-shirt.

 

“You’re home now, Jamie,” Maya said, kissing one red cheek and then another. She dangled Jamie in front of her, letting Jamie take in her face. The onesie was three sizes too big and Maya wondered if Jamie was feeling claustrophobic, unable to free her feet. The baby kicked her legs, churning them, and Maya brought her in closer, rubbing her fingers over the back of Jamie’s neck where her skin was impossibly soft.

 

Carina considered Jamie with worried eyes, clearly trying to decide how best to comfort her.

 

“I think she’s having an anxiety attack,” she finally said.

 

“I would be too if I was dressed like this,” Maya frowned at Jamie’s outfit. The baby Versace would be an improvement.

 

“Let’s see if we can fix this, Piccola, come with me.”

 

Carina motioned for Maya to follow as she disappeared into Jamie’s nursery.

 

“I think she was talking about you,” Maya whispered, her lips coasting over the top of Jamie’s head. A little face burrowed into her neck, wet from tears and warm from screaming.

 

Maya walked into the nursery and set Jamie down on her changing table while Carina dug into a nearby drawer full of Jamie-size PJs. The baby started screaming again as soon as she realized she was no longer being held, so Maya stayed close, quickly removing the uncomfortable onesie before leaning down and blowing a raspberry on Jamie’s tummy.

 

“Did they make you wear ugly Florida clothes?” Maya cooed, tickling Jamie’s belly, trying to maintain contact. Jamie waved her arms, her bottom lip wobbling, and Maya wished Jamie could tell them about her day. About what she saw and did. She wished Jamie could understand that she was home again and her moms were never, ever going to give up on her.

 

Carina appeared beside her, Seattle Mariners jammies in hand.

 

“Not Team Italia?” Maya bumped Carina’s hip with her own.

 

“I want my bambine to be happy.”

 

Jamie coughed, still hiccupping, still in tears although the screaming had stopped. It was such a marked contrast from Jamie’s usual gurgles and smiles. When Maya lifted her from the table, she could feel Jamie shivering in her hands, as if her tiny body couldn’t contain its residual fear from a day spent separated from her home.

 

“Should we try swaddling her,” Maya asked, passing Jamie to Carina again. Despite her worry, she couldn’t help the small smile that appeared as she watched Jamie snuggle against Carina’s shoulder, her whole body relaxing in Carina’s arms.

 

Maya understood the feeling.

 

She watched for a moment as Carina paced the room, bouncing Jamie, clearly deep in thought.

 

“She sounds a little congested and the water always makes her calm” Carina said, “let’s try the shower.”

 

They gathered supplies for their new mission - towels, and a dino stuffy, and a new diaper. Maya wondered if she’d ever go anywhere again without bags full of Jamie-related things. She couldn’t even walk into her own bedroom without an armful of blankets and onesies.

 

Carina let Maya turn on the shower, choosing instead to cradle Jamie close, singing softly in Italian. Whatever she was saying seemed to be working, as Jamie’s breathing evened out. She still looked a bit shell-shocked, which broke Maya’s heart, but Maya was determined to make her baby feel safe again, to bring back her gummy little smile.

 

Once Jamie was out of her diaper and Carina out of her clothes, Maya carefully passed the baby to Carina who stood under the warm spray, her hair piled high on top of her head.

 

Jamie immediately curled her little body inwards, a squishy little lump against Carina’s tan shoulder. The crying had stopped and with it, the DeLuca-Bishops breathed for the first time since Nancy walked through the door.

 

Steam filled the room and Jamie opened and closed one tiny hand against Carina’s chest, as if she was checking that Carina was real. That she was solid and present. Their contrasting skin tones struck Maya – Carina sun-kissed, Jamie pale and rosy cheeked.

 

“You are staring, Maya,” Carina said, and Maya realized that she was.

 

Her wife and her daughter.

 

Carina was always beautiful, but somehow holding Jamie amplified what was already there and Maya could not look away.

 

Carina watched Maya with dark eyes, a strange smile on her lips, but they both remained quiet, the steam and the water lulling Jamie into a much-needed sleep. Maya felt like she was witnessing a painting come to life, like one of the masterpieces Carina showed her from the Uffizi was living and breathing in her shower.

 

She pushed herself off the wall and reached into her pocket for her phone.

 

“Can I take your picture?” She asked, surprised to hear herself so breathless.

 

Carina raised her eyebrows. “Why?”

 

“You’re both just so…” Maya couldn’t find the words. There were none that could adequately capture what she was feeling.

 

Carina just smiled her mysterious little smile again and nodded.

 

As she clicked the screen, Maya somehow knew that the image was going to be with her for the rest of her life. She’d captured Carina from the waist up, Jamie resting in the crook of her arm, which she held close to her chest. Carina wasn’t looking at the camera, instead her head was bowed, watching Jamie, her free hand holding one of Jamie’s hands as the baby slept, finally peaceful.

 

Maya wished she could put the picture in her locker. On the mantle. She wished she could make it her lockscreen, though she knew Carina likely wouldn’t appreciate a semi-nude plastered in public spaces.

 

Sometimes Maya felt like knew Carina’s body better than her own and looking at her with Jamie was like seeing her for the first time all over again. Jamie slept against her breast, Carina’s arms held her protectively, every inch of her attuned to Jamie’s needs.

 

She’s a mother. My wife is a mother.

 

The love between Carina and Jamie was as old as the earth itself. For Maya who had grown up with an absent mother, who knew so little of what it meant to be nurtured, Carina was a revelation.

 

She stepped into the shower, far enough from the spray to spare her clothes, though water soaked through her socks. Carina startled, but didn’t say anything as Maya leaned forward, kissing her, the softest brush of lips against lips. Maya’s fingers wrapped around the back of Carina’s neck, holding her in place, as she kissed her again and again, Jamie fast asleep between them.

 

“I love you” was not enough. The words felt empty in light of what Maya was feeling. So, she used her mouth, her fingertips. She used the air in her lungs, giving it to Carina, breathing for them both as they stood together. Kissing softly until the water ran cold.

 

Long after they finished with the shower, long after they’d dressed Jamie for the night and brought her into their bed, Maya found herself drifting back to that moment, that perfect, sliver of a moment.

 

Her wife and her daughter. Each more than she ever thought she deserved. Both a miracle of fate. Of destiny if such a thing existed.  

 

Jamie slept sprawled against her chest, and Carina’s head lay heavily on her shoulder, but Maya stayed awake, occasionally planting kisses on Jamie’s brow or Carina’s hair.

 

Carina inhaled and Jamie exhaled and Maya silently vowed that she would never let anything separate them.

 

Not the law.

 

Not a stranger from Florida.

 

Not anything.

 

~*~

 

They passed an uneasy night.

 

When Maya carefully put Jamie down to go use the washroom, Jamie started crying. When Carina tried to lay Jamie in her bassinette, the baby screamed. For hours they traded off, dark thoughts swirling because their baby was traumatized. She was scared. And she couldn’t understand what had happened to her or why.

 

Maya lay on her side, watching the light change behind the window blinds. Carina had her eyes closed, but Maya could tell she wasn’t asleep. Her hands were folded over Jamie’s back, holding her firmly to her chest, unwilling to let go.

 

It was a relief to see Jamie finally sleeping. Maya knew that one wrong move could wake her, but Carina was still and gave no indication that she was planning to change her position.

 

Maya was feeling restless though. Restless and angry.

 

She pushed herself off the bed, but paused when she noticed Carina crack her eyes open. Maya gave her a nod and pointed to the door with her thumb. Carina nodded back and closed her eyes again, clearly exhausted.

 

With one last look at her wife and baby, Maya slipped out into the hallway, exhaling in relief as she did.

 

Not long ago, the early morning had been Maya’s favourite time of day. It was the best time to run – the air crisp and clean. She’d leave early enough that the paths in the park were mostly empty, letting her pick up her pace, unconcerned about knocking over anyone else on the trail. She’d clear her mind, no matter what else was happening in her life, she allowed herself the intensity of the moment. The burn in her lungs and in her legs an addictive rush.

 

The early morning was the hardest part of a twenty-four-hour shift though. So close to going home, but not close enough to relax. Before Carina, Maya used to feel disappointed at the end of shift. She wanted more work. More fire. Home was where she kept her stuff. Spending time there was meaningless. It was just a place to sleep.

 

And then Carina entered her life and those few hours before the end of shift became a small torture, especially on days when Carina had to leave for the hospital just as Maya was walking through the door. Maya had gone from feeling indifferent about going home to craving it. To craving the warmth of her bedroom and the woman in her bed.

 

As she stepped into the kitchen, the only thing she felt now was unease. She considered going for a run, but she wanted to stay close in case they had more trouble with Jamie. Her shift didn’t start until noon and Carina was in her final days of mat leave – their time together as a family of three was about to become more complicated.

 

A family of three

 

Maya turned on the coffee maker, tapping her foot as she waited, her mind running scenarios, trying to find solutions to a problem that was totally out of their hands.

 

It was the hardest part. They were at the mercy of a judge. Of one person who didn’t know them beyond a few documents detailing their credit scores. The lack of control was driving Maya crazy.

 

She kept coming back to the same thought: there has to be something I can do.

 

She put out fires for a living. She could read the wind and she could read smoke. She carried people to safety. She saved lives.

 

She’d carried Jamie to safety.

 

She’d saved Jamie’s life.

 

When the coffee was ready, Maya poured herself a mug, hoping Carina wouldn’t mind that she didn’t use the French press. She took a long sip, willing the hot drink to help her calm down.

 

But nothing could help calm her. Not when her baby was in danger.

 

Maya Bishop rescued people when they were in danger.

 

It was what she did.

 

And she’d be damned if she couldn’t rescue her own child.

 

She picked up her phone, knowing it was likely too early to do what she was about to do, but she didn’t care. Not as she dialled the number. Not as she let the phone ring. Not even as a tired voice on the other end said, “Ms. Bishop?”

 

“Mr. Gillespie, hi, I’m sorry to call you this early, but it’s urgent.”

 

There was a shuffling sound. She’d caught the lawyer still in bed, apparently.

 

“Ms. Bishop…” Simon began, but Maya cut him off.

 

“I don’t care what you have to do, but Jamie is not going for another visit, supervised or otherwise. My child is traumatized. She’s terrified. I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I will not allow it to happen again. If that means getting arrested myself that’s a risk I’m willing to take. “

 

“Ms. Bishop…” Simon tried again. Maya wouldn’t let him.

 

“I will get every child psychiatrist in this city…in this state to testify if I need to. The court is harming my baby. They are hurting my child. And if you think for one minute that I am going to sit by and let it happen? You are sorely mistaken.”

 

The door to their bedroom opened and Maya belatedly realized that Carina had joined her, sleepy, but obviously concerned.

 

“Ms. Bishop, I had planned to call you later in the day, but I suppose now is as good a time as any,” Simon said, surprising Maya in the process.

 

“Oh…I…”

 

“Is your wife present too?”

 

Maya motioned for Carina to join her and then hit speaker phone, lowering the volume as to not wake Jamie.

 

“We’re both here,” Maya said, sharing a confused look with Carina.

 

“I’ve spoken with Nancy Lucas about yesterday’s visit. Dawn Ferguson’s common-law husband, a Mr. Gerry Smith, accompanied her. The name wasn’t familiar, so I had my people in Florida do some digging. The guy has a rap sheet a mile long – tax evasion, armed robbery, fraud, arson. There’s also the matter of the biological father, Steven Ferguson. Turns out he’s in jail for sex with a minor.”

 

Oddio!” Carina gasped, as she grabbed Maya’s wrist and squeezed.

 

Simon cleared his throat and continued. “Looks like the biological mother was underage when Jamie was conceived. I just thought the timing was strange – Jamie is almost six months old and social services in Florida conducted an extensive search. Mrs. Lucas told me that they both seemed uninterested in the baby during the supervised visit and most of their questions were about when they could take her back to Florida, about any paperwork they’d need. Something about it didn’t sit right, so last night we got a warrant to search Smith’s laptop and Ferguson’s phone. They want Jamie for the tax break and subsidies. Their search histories pretty much spelled it out.”

 

Maya clenched her fists, trying to push the anger down.

 

Family values

 

Proper home

 

Carina seemed to sense Maya’s growing rage and locked their fingers, a silent reminder to stay grounded and in the present.

 

“I’m calling an emergency meeting with the judge this morning. We’ll present evidence, Mrs. Lucas will attend and testify, as well. We’re hoping that by Monday, their petition for adoption will be denied. We’re also going to file a restraining order,” Simon’s voice was calm and professional, like he’d done this a million times. Which he likely had.

 

But for Maya, it was all brand new and a little overwhelming. There was a lot to process.

 

“Do we need to come to court on Monday?” Carina asked, clear-headed as usual.

 

Simon exhaled. “No. No need. I will call you with any and all updates.”

 

They said goodbye and thank you, standing together in the pale morning light, hand in hand. It should have been a happy moment. The happiest. Except Maya couldn’t stop picturing Jamie crying in Nancy’s arms. She couldn’t stop thinking about Dawn Ferguson’s red nails, about Jamie alone and neglected in a loveless home. She couldn’t stop thinking…

 

Jamie cried out, startling Maya from her thoughts, relief flooding in as her mind and body registered that Jamie was very much still present. And she wasn’t going anywhere.

 

They’d won. She was safe.

 

“Coming, Baby T-Rex!” Maya called, quickly kissing Carina’s cheek before walking into the bedroom. She found Jamie waving her arms and legs, which was Jamie speak for up.

 

She returned to the kitchen, Jamie against her shoulder, and smiled as Carina handed her a freshly made bottle. With a small adjustment, she moved Jamie to the crook of her arm and for a second, she was reminded of the first time they did this. The first bottle. How unsure she’d been and how Jamie had made her feel more confident.

 

As Maya watched Jamie drink, she allowed herself to breathe, feeling at peace for the first time in days. Carina looked equally relieved from her spot near the stove.

 

“She never has to leave,” Maya said, almost as if she needed to hear it again to believe it.

 

Carina nodded, her eyes soft as she watched Jamie in Maya’s arms.

 

“And in a few more months…” Carina trailed off joining Maya in the middle of the kitchen.

 

“A few more months…” Maya whispered, tipping her forehead against Carina’s.

 

She didn’t want to say it yet. She didn’t want to jinx it. But she was thinking it and she knew Carina was too.

 

In a few more months, the baby in their arms was going to officially be a DeLuca-Bishop.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jamie sat in her carrier, her tiny brow furrowed, and Maya understood the feeling too.

 

The morning was barely controlled chaos. Between Carina’s return to work and the wait to hear from Simon Gillespie, the DeLuca-Bishops were in a tizzy.

 

Carina zipped in and out of the room, a biscotto between her teeth, as she searched for her shoes and then her car keys. Maya was trying to be as helpful as possible, making coffee, but they nearly came to blows when Carina took a sip and scowled.

 

“Seriously?” Maya grumbled, eyeing her own cup. She took a taste. It was fine.

 

Carina’s phone buzzed as she spun around the apartment like a tornado, the call display reading MEREDITH GREY, and Maya could hear her talking in the bedroom, her voice distracting Jamie who turned her face and frowned.

 

“Where did she go?” Maya asked, tickling Jamie’s belly.

 

“ahhhhhhh-ba ba ba!”

 

“No, you’re right, you’re right. I should’ve used the moka pot.”

 

Jamie huffed and held up one tiny hand, opening and closing her fist.

 

“Mama is just anxious because she forgets how to deliver babies,” Maya said, lifting Jamie to her shoulder.

 

Carina chose that moment to reappear, gesturing wildly with the biscotto in her hand. “Maya!”

 

“They just slide out and they kinda look like this.”

 

Maya held Jamie up like baby Simba, which made Carina roll her eyes.

 

She took Jamie from Maya’s hand, peppering her cheeks with kisses before bringing her in closer to her chest, holding her.

 

“I’m going to miss you, Piccola,” she said.

 

Jamie relaxed into Carina’s shoulder, yawning a gummy little yawn.

 

“We have a super busy schedule today,” Maya said, playing with Jamie’s foot, “first we’re going to wait around for the new couch delivery. And then we’re going swimming…”

 

Maya wasn’t sure quite how to feel about the Mommy & Me swim class scheduled for the afternoon, but Carina seemed to think it would be fun, so she agreed to take Jamie on her days off.

 

“You will send pictures, yes?” Carina leaned in, suddenly face to face with Maya.

 

After three months of mat leave, Maya wasn’t used to seeing Carina in anything but practical tights or casual sweaters. The trousers and silk blouse looked good. The fact that she was wearing heels and holding Jamie and texting Meredith Grey about fistulas simultaneously was impossibly attractive.

 

Maya slid her hands down Carina’s sides, coming to rest on her hips.

 

“Dr. DeLuca are you trying to get bathing suit shots?”

 

,” Carina laughed, her lips warm against Maya’s mouth.

 

Before Maya could deepen the kiss, her phone rang, and Maya felt her heartrate accelerate. She stared down at the object on the table, gathering courage before clicking accept.

 

“Mr. Gillespie?”

 

“Hello, Ms. Bishop. Dr. DeLuca.”

 

Maya glanced at Carina whose smirk had been replaced with open worry.

 

“I won’t keep you waiting,” Simon said, “the judge immediately tossed their petition. And granted a restraining order. Dawn Ferguson and Gerry Smith can’t come anywhere near Jamie.”

 

For the second time in 24 hours, Maya found herself struggling to take in the information.

 

“So…it’s…we…” She stammered, blinking once and then again.

 

“It’s done?” Carina seemed to settle first, a smile spreading over her face.

 

“It is,” Simon confirmed, “As I said before, your adoption will likely be finalized in a few months. You can speak to Mrs. Lucas about the remaining home visit, but given what happened this week? The judge seems just as eager as you are to secure Jamie’s future.”

 

Jamie’s future.

 

Jamie’s future was their future too.

 

Again, Maya and Carina said their goodbyes, and again they stared at each other in shock. But Carina’s smile was infectious, as was her laughter.

 

Jamie was studying Carina’s face intently, her little hand coming to rest on Carina’s chin.

 

La mia cucciolotta,” Carina cooed, teary eyed.

 

Maya pulled Carina in for a hug, her hands drawn to Carina’s hips once more. They swayed, Jamie between them, and Maya couldn’t help but remember their wedding, the tears as she swayed in the sanctuary of Carina’s arms.

 

Now there was only laughter. Now Carina’s arms held their world.

 

~*~

 

It wasn’t until they were half-way to the pool that Maya realized how different her life was from anything she’d expected or planned.

 

She reviewed the morning in her head, part of her in disbelief that this was her world now.

 

The new couch was similar to their other couch, brown leather, but it was comfortable and perfect for movie nights with Jamie. Maya had watched the delivery men set it down and then she’d stretched out on the soft cushions, Jamie on her chest, and imagined showing Jamie The Wizard of Oz for the first time. She wondered if Jamie would be afraid of the flying monkeys or if she’d love them.

 

Maya had loved them as a child.

 

Now she was driving to a community pool. She was willingly taking a class that would force her to make small talk with other moms. Her entire day was scheduled around doing things for Jamie.

 

As an athlete, Maya had lived at the centre of her own universe. It had made her selfish out of necessity. Understandably so.

 

She’d had to pay attention to her body. Mold it. Care for it.

 

And then after the Olympics, she’d dedicated herself to getting exactly what she wanted when she wanted it.

 

Battalion Chief by 40.

 

Sex on Wednesdays.

 

The captaincy.

 

Glancing in the rear-view mirror as she stopped at a red light, Maya caught sight of the back seat of her car. There was an empty bottle. Jamie’s wolf stuffy. A pair of running shoes. Carina’s dry cleaning.

 

Who am I?

 

The thought wormed its way in like a parasite. A parasite she couldn’t quite reject. Not yet.

 

Had she given up too many pieces of herself? Was there anything left of her?

 

Who was this person she’d become? A devoted wife. A loving mother. A firefighter who put her family first. Who made decisions based on what was best for that family?

 

Maya swallowed hard, concentrating on driving and the sound of Jamie gurgling in her car seat. As she pulled into the parking lot, the feeling worsened, something about the building in front of her triggering an old memory.

 

She climbed out of the car and opened the back door, sighing in relief at the sight of Jamie’s drooly grin. The baby looked at her and the grin grew bigger, and Maya laughed at the way Jamie always stuck out her tongue when she smiled wide. Maya snapped a quick picture for Carina, and was about to send it when she paused, the conflict inside her clashing with her happiness.

 

Because she was so happy. She was happier than she’d ever been. She was looking at her child who was looking back at her with clear love. She was about to text her wife, a woman who made every day worth living.

 

The hearing with SFD loomed over them both, but ultimately, Maya forced herself to embrace the fact that life had changed, and it was so much better than anything she’d ever dreamed of.

 

She still wanted to make Battalion Chief. She still wanted to climb the ranks.

 

But she didn’t need to sacrifice her personal happiness to do it.

 

She used to think that she was happy. She loved her job and she loved the freedoms her life afforded her. But happiness came in multiple shades and the version of Maya who had loved meaningless sex had come to learn that meaningful sex with the love of your life was just as rewarding.

 

More than just.

 

Maya sent the picture to Carina before reaching into the car and removing Jamie from her car seat. She balanced Jamie in one arm and their bag in another and with a deep breath walked into the building.

 

The uncomfortable familiarity became worse. How many community centres had she attend with her father? How many locker rooms and public track and field competitions? How many times did Lane insist she run indoors when he felt the outdoor conditions were unacceptable? Maya practically grew up in community centres.

 

She signed in at the desk, peeking down at Jamie as she did as if to ensure that she really wanted to be here. As if she could grant her consent in a way that Maya never could.

 

“Okay, Jamie, if you don’t like this, you just tell me and we’re out of here,” Maya said before kissing Jamie’s forehead and walking towards the locker room.

 

She chose a locker mid-way between the showers and the entrance to the pool. There were tables near each section where other moms were changing their babies and the smell of chlorine wafted in the air.

 

“First time here?”

 

Maya turned towards the sound of an unfamiliar voice and found herself looking at a woman standing across from her, a baby in her arms too.

 

“That obvious?” Maya said with a smile, reminding herself to be friendly.

 

“I’m Lakshmi and this,” the woman said pointing to the baby, “is Devi.”

 

Maya reached out to shake Lakshmi’s hand.

 

“Maya,” she smiled back, “and Jamie.”

 

“Oh my goodness, so sweet! How old is she?”

 

Not the small talk. Anything but the small talk…

 

“Almost six months,” Maya didn’t miss the surprise on Lakshmi’s face.

 

I should ask about her baby. I don’t care about her baby. I’m sure she’s a perfectly good baby, but she’s not Jamie. Jamie’s the best baby. Jamie wins.

 

“Devi is six months too,” Lakshmi said, starting to unzip Devi’s onesie.

 

Devi looked like a giant compared to Jamie. It made Maya feel unnecessarily defensive.

 

“Jamie was born at twenty-nine weeks,” Maya explained, subconsciously setting her free hand on Jamie’s back, holding her even closer.

 

“Oh my! A fighter! That must have been so difficult.”

 

“It was.”

 

Oh my God please make this stop. Please. She’s going to mention the weather next, just watch.

 

“Well, she’s beautiful. And I can see where she gets those blue eyes,” Lakshmi said, pointing towards Maya.

 

Before Maya could formulate a response, Devi started crying. Lakshmi shot Maya an apologetic look before scooping up the baby and walking away, bouncing the unhappy little girl as she did.

 

“What do you think, Baby T-Rex?” Maya glanced down at Jamie who tipped her head up and pressed her little hand to Maya’s mouth.

 

aaapfffffffffah!”

 

“You’re right, J, that wasn’t totally awful. I’m trying to play nice like Mama told me to.”

 

Maya placed Jamie on the nearby changing table and reached into her bag for the swim diapers she’d packed the day before.

 

“Sharks or whales?” Maya asked, holding up both options for Jamie, but Jamie was busy trying to eat her own foot, so Maya made the decision for her.

 

Sharks. Definitely sharks. Badass tiny sharks.

 

She convinced Jamie to put her foot down long enough to change her out of her onesie and regular diaper and then it was time for Maya to undress too. She’d worn her bathing suit under her clothes, making sure to change in front of Carina as she slipped it on. It was the same one she’d worn on their first vacation together. Carina very much liked the zipper feature.

 

“Do we have everything?” Maya looked around her space, making sure she had towels. She picked up her phone, about to take one more picture for Carina, when she realized that her wife had already sent her a text.

 

Maya expected a simple have fun. What she got instead was a picture of Carina in her office, leaning back in her chair, wearing scrub pants and only scrub pants. She’d obviously taken the picture holding the phone above her. She’d even had the audacity to throw a peace sign.

 

“Your mama is a menace to society,” Maya grumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

Maya: I am about to take our innocent child swimming, Dr. DeLuca. With other children.

 

Carina: Are you going to punish me later?

 

Maya bit her lip to keep from moaning. She glanced up, noting a few other people walking towards the pool, and she briefly wondered if they too had insanely sexy spouses who sent pictures of their insanely sexy naked bodies, at insanely inappropriate times.

 

Maya: You’ve been very bad.

 

Carina sent a devil emoji in return.  

 

“An absolute menace,” Maya said, exhaling sharply. She picked up Jamie and their towels and then set off towards the pool, praying no one would notice the red blush across her cheeks.

 

~*~

 

The first thing Maya saw was the massive flag set high above the swim area. There was no mistaking the five multi-coloured rings she’d spent half her life chasing. They always filled her with pride, with confidence, and with a pang of bittersweet sadness.

 

Because she’d stepped off the podium in pain, and she’d faced the press, and later that night she’d found out that her brother had almost died.

 

That he was all alone and he’d almost chocked to death on his own vomit while she was crying as the national anthem played.

 

More recently, the rings brought a strange unease that Maya couldn’t quite reconcile yet. The Olympics were so tied into Lane. The rings had been his goal all along. He’d held them in front of her, he’d used them as motivation, and he’d used them as punishment.

 

She associated them with exhaustion and hunger and pain.

 

She also associated them with triumph and determination and greatness.

 

Carina would say that they could be all of those things at the same time. Carina was also quite encouraging of Maya’s wish to finally get the rings tattooed onto her body. She’d earned them. And Lane could no longer control her decisions.

 

He could no longer tell her that tattoos were for trashy women. That she’d ruin herself if she got one.

 

Maya looked at the flag and propped Jamie just a little higher on her shoulder.

 

“Let’s go kick these other baby’s butts,” she said, before grimacing, “uh…unless you don’t want to. Your leg work is really strong, but you have to do you, Jamie. I support you 100%.”

 

A small group had gathered in the shallow end of the pool. There were other moms milling about, holding infants of various sizes. As she got closer, Maya noticed small mats set out on the pool deck. The instructor looked no more than eighteen years old, and Maya had half a mind to demand her credentials, but she refrained because the class had great reviews online and she’d done her research.

 

As if reading her mind, the instructor descended a small ladder into the pool and bobbed.

 

“If you all want to put baby down and get into the pool?” She asked.

 

All the moms obeyed, so Maya did too, leaning over to place Jamie on her little mat. She set their towels and phone down too, just in case Jamie started crying. She was sensitive to cold air and Maya didn’t want her to get upset.

 

Once Jamie was safe, Maya sat down on the edge and slipped into the water, pleased to find it warm.

 

“I’m Becca,” the instructor said with a wave, “and if we could all go around and introduce ourselves? Your name, baby’s name, your job, and the reason you’d like your baby to start swimming lessons.”

 

Don’t roll your eyes. DON’T ROLL YOUR EYES.  

 

Maya forced herself to listen as one by one, the adults in the pool dutifully introduced themselves. There was a teacher, a restaurant manager, a stay-at-home mom. One woman close by was a cardiothoracic surgeon as Seattle Presbyterian, and Maya had to refrain from name-dropping Carina even though she very much wanted to share that her wife, Carina DeLuca MD, was one of the world’s preeminent OB/GYN’s.

 

The woman next to Maya introduced herself as Faith, laughing as she pointed over her shoulder towards her baby and said, “that’s Malcolm and he’s going to be an Olympian someday.”

 

Maya looked over at Jamie, making eye contact, and she smirked when the baby waved her fist in the air, which Maya proceeded to bump with her own.

 

If they only knew, right Jamie? Greatness in their midst.

 

When it was her turn, Maya forced a smile.

 

“I’m Maya,” she said, “and this is Jamie. I’m a firefighter and it’s imperative that children learn water safety as soon as possible. 90% of drowning deaths are preventable.”

 

There was an awkward silence, but Maya didn’t care. She knew Jamie was in full agreement.

 

“Okay everyone. If you leave your phones on the mat, Sarah will be by to take pictures to mark baby’s first swimming lesson. But in the meantime, take for baby to get in the pool!”

 

Maya deeply hated how Becca used “baby” to indicate all the babies. It set her teeth on edge, so she decided to concentrate on her baby, who was busy kicking her feet. Maya lifted her up, her annoyance fading at the sight of the perfect little baby belly and Jamie’s impossibly tiny shoulders.

 

“Did you get cuter in the last thirty seconds?” Maya laughed, playfully kissing Jamie’s tummy because she could not get enough of it.

 

She adjusted Jamie, letting her little toes hit the water and waited, wondering how Jamie would react.

 

“Now, if you want to lie baby on their back, keep your hands under their head and their bottom,” Becca said, walking around the semi-circle.

 

Maya did as she was told, again watching to see what Jamie would do. She looked on as Jamie lay flat on her back in the water, her little face scrunched up in confusion. Maya had read that babies often mimicked the facial expressions of their parents, and the tiny frown was pure Carina.

 

But then Jamie kicked her feet and the confusion lifted, replaced with her usual drooly smile. Some of the other babies started crying, some looked fairly relaxed, but Jamie’s arms and legs never stopped moving.

 

Becca instructed the moms to gently drag their babies through the water, still holding them from underneath. When Maya started, Jamie laughed, her nose scrunched up in a way that reminded Maya of her own face.

 

“Wow, she’s a natural!” Becca said as she swam by, and something roared in Maya’s chest.

 

She’s killing this. She’s naturally talented. I should look into better lessons, something that helps strengthen her arms and…

 

The roar was quickly replaced by ice. Maya lifted Jamie from the water and held her close, spooked by how quickly her brain had gone there. How quickly he rose within her.

 

“I’m sorry,” Maya whispered against Jamie’s head, “I’m so sorry. You’re perfect and so is your mama and I won’t…I’m sorry.”

 

Jamie nuzzled her face into Maya’s neck. She was so trusting. She obviously felt safe in Maya’s arms though for a moment Maya didn’t feel she deserved that trust.

 

Maya turned her back, no longer wanting the Olympic flag in her line of sight.

 

The lesson continued for another ten minutes. Becca had all the moms hold their babies in various positions. By the end, most of the little ones were in tears, including Jamie, cold and tired from their big adventure.

 

Maya found herself again next to Lakshmi as they walked back to the locker room. Jamie was swaddled in a towel, half asleep against Maya’s chest.

 

“Girl, you need to tell me your leg routine,” Lakshmi said, shaking her head. She waved and then turned her attention to Devi who was whining, clearly still cold from the pool.

 

One of the other instructors had left their phones waiting on a table inside the locker room, so Maya grabbed hers, hoping there was at least one good picture to send Carina.

 

Thinking about Carina evoked the memory of Carina’s last text, which caused instant distraction. She nearly walked by their locker, only stopping because Lakshmi was already there.

 

Jamie was fast asleep in her arms, but Maya knew she had to shower, get Jamie dressed, get herself dressed, and then head to the grocery store to pick up food for dinner.

 

A checklist began to form in her mind, each step becoming clearer and clearer.

 

Shower first.

Dress Jamie.

Dress yourself.

Get groceries.

Give Jamie a bath.

Make dinner.

Kiss wife. 

 

Maya quickly grabbed her shampoo from their locker and went off in search of the showers. She found an empty stall and was relieved to see that some thoughtful person had set up baby baths in each cubicle, which meant she could safely put Jamie down while she washed her hair. She belatedly realized she was still holding her phone too so the fact that the baby bath was away from the splash zone was an added bonus.

 

With Jamie still sleeping, Maya slipped off her bathing suit and then turned on the shower, double checking that Jamie wouldn’t be sprayed. She was chilled and the warm water felt nice, as did the shampoo. The pool chemicals were harsh, and she could just imagine Carina frowning if she found Maya’s hair anything but soft.

 

Carina…

 

“Jamie, stay asleep, okay?” Maya whispered, drying her hands on a towel and grabbing her phone.

 

She picked her angle, deciding to give Carina a taste of her own medicine and held the phone overhead. She even flashed the same peace sign.

 

Except Carina had been wearing pants and Maya very much was not.

 

Maya: Sorry it’s not the bathing suit shot you wanted…

 

Her phone started pinging seconds later, but Maya had already shut off the tap and wrapped the towel around her body. She raised Jamie, her hands full with the baby and the shampoo bottles and the dinging phone. It was only when she made it back to the locker that she decided to see what Carina had to say.

 

Carina: Bambina…

 

Carina: You can’t do that

 

Carina: Now who is being bad?

 

Maya bit her lip, feeling rather smug, and then got to work on changing Jamie’s diaper. She was in the middle of buttoning her jeans when one more message came through. A message that made her desperately want to kiss her wife.

 

Carina: Tu sei bellissima, amore mio <3

Chapter Text

There was a familiar ache in Carina’s calves and her lower back hurt, but she couldn’t stop the smile on her face. Three births, a C-Section, a hysterectomy, and a long meeting with Meredith Grey meant that her first day back at work had been a success.

 

What made it even better though was the knowledge of what was waiting for her at home. She felt like she was floating, she could hear herself giggling when people asked about Jamie, it was all so lovely and so wonderful, and Carina could not get enough of the feeling.

 

Before Jamie, Carina would often go home to an empty apartment if Maya was working a twenty-four-hour shift. She’d sleep alone and wake in the morning to Maya softly kissing her and that had been the highlight of her day.

 

But now she would never spend the night by herself again. Because Jamie was there. And Maya was home too, which made Carina feel like she could levitate from happiness.

 

The pictures from Jamie’s swimming lesson were so sweet that she’d already showed half the OB floor and Jo Wilson. There was one of Maya holding Jamie in the air and they were laughing, Maya with her toothy grin, both with their noses scrunched up. Carina had immediately changed her lock screen.

 

It didn’t hurt that Maya’s biceps looked particularly shapely.

 

It also didn’t hurt that Maya had sent her another picture that was very much not lock screen appropriate, but had very much required a quick trip to the private staff washroom because that was a lot of perfect, naked, curvy deliciousness and Carina was only human, after all.

 

She knew Jamie would be asleep, but the anticipation of seeing her baby and her wife chased away any sadness over missing bedtime. It was tempting to call out for Maya as soon as she walked through the door, but she refrained, not wanting to wake up Jamie.

 

Instead, she paused in the doorway, sniffing the air, her smile growing even wider when she realized that Maya was making enchiladas. She zipped off her boots and walked into the kitchen where she found Maya pensive, standing over the sink washing a spatula.

 

Ciao, Bella,” Carina said, pleased when Maya leaned in for a light kiss.

 

“Hey. Good day back?”

 

Carina nodded. “I’m just going to say goodnight to the bambina.”

 

“I thought I was your bambina?” Maya said, clearly teasing.

 

Sempre.”

 

Maya kissed her again before turning back to the sink, but Carina did not miss the troubled look on her face.

 

A small nightlight illuminated the nursery, bright enough for Carina to see Jamie fast asleep in her crib. Everything about her was perfect. From the way she slept with both hands near her face, to the tiny, parted lips, Carina could not stop herself from gently stroking her fingers over the top of Jamie’s head.

 

Ti voglio bene, angioletta,” she whispered, taking one last look before going to join Maya again.

 

She found her wife just setting a casserole dish on the table, but before they could sit down, Carina caught Maya’s hand, pulling her closer.

 

“Now,” she said, taking Maya’s face in her hands, “why are you sad?”

 

Maya rolled her eyes. “I’m not…”

 

Bambina…”

 

“Fine. My hearing is next week. They sent the email today.”

 

The worried, determined look suddenly made sense. A stressed Maya could be an unpredictable Maya, so Carina wasn’t quite sure how to respond. But her wife was home, she’d made dinner, she’d bathed their daughter and put her to bed. She wasn’t on the treadmill, and she had yet to tell Carina that she was going for a run, so Carina decided to let Maya guide the conversation.

 

She let go of her face and took her in, trying to read the shade of Maya’s eyes.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Carina asked, finally taking a seat. Maya circled the table and sat down too, eagerly filling her glass with wine.

 

“I’ll need to testify, but otherwise? It’s just a bunch of stuffy HR reps holding my fate in their hands.”

 

“Hmmm.”

 

Carina wondered if she was in for a week of Maya studying, of that single-minded Maya focus that meant everything else fell by the wayside.

 

“They’ve taken statements from everyone,” Maya continued, “and I have no idea what anyone said about me. I have no idea how this is going to go, but I guess it’s good that it’s finally happening.”

 

“You’ve waited so long, Tesoro, you deserve this time,” Carina agreed.

 

Maya tilted her head, deep in thought, so Carina got to work helping herself to their dinner. They silently filled their plates, and it was only once Carina took her first bite that she made any noise again.

 

Bambina, you must cook more often,” she said, stifling a moan. She had no idea where Maya had picked up her culinary skills, but the woman could make a mean enchilada.

 

The comment brought a small smile to Maya’s lips.

 

“I made soup today, too. Jamie slept for a few hours after the pool and we had all that chicken, so…”

 

“You’re never going to work again. I will keep you home.”

 

You will keep me home?” Maya laughed.

 

. My kept woman.”

 

Maya raised her eyebrows and smirked, but said nothing more.

 

They ate in comfortable silence. Maya had a lot on her mind, but she was still present, filling Carina’s wine glass, and laughing every time Carina complimented her cooking. They so enjoyed each other’s company that words were not always necessary. Carina just liked being close to Maya, she loved coming home to her at the end of the day. It was something she’d never expected or wanted and now she couldn’t imagine her life without it.

 

As they cleared away the dishes, Carina gave Maya the space she needed to process. Unlike the day Ross dashed her hopes, Maya wasn’t combative or even that angry. She just seemed deep in thought, so Carina decided it best to help clean the kitchen and then gently suggest another glass of wine by the fire.

 

Maya surprised her though when she took her hand and pulled her to the other side of the room, to their new couch, which Carina had completely forgotten about until she was standing right in front of it.

 

“Did you and Jamie watch a movie yet?” Carina asked, sitting down, pleased with how comfortable the cushions seemed to be.

 

Maya shook her head and joined her, handing her the extra glass of wine.

 

“We thought we’d wait for you,” she said, leaning back, her arm extended over the pillows, close enough to gently stroke her fingers up and down Carina’s bicep.

 

“She looked so happy in the pool.”

 

A shadow passed over Maya’s face, a grimace, and Carina didn’t quite know what to make of it. The pictures had shown a very smiley Jamie and a very smiley Maya. There was no indication that anything had happened to sully the experience.

 

Maya turned to face Carina, a frown on her face.

 

“It was really great…until I turned into my dad,” she said, bowing her head.

 

Carina wasn’t sure what to make of the statement. “Maya…”

 

“All the other kids cried or they just lay there, but Jamie kicked the whole time,” Maya’s face lit up at the memory, her pride shining through, “and then the teacher said that she was a natural and I…without even pausing I starting thinking that I should get her better lessons, that I should work on strength exercises with her. That she could excel…who does that? She’s six months old…”

 

Carina took Maya’s glass of wine and set both of their glasses on the coffee table. When she sat up again, she pressed her thumb to Maya’s chin, forcing her to make eye contact.

 

“Did you keep her in the pool longer than you should have?” Carina asked.

 

Maya furrowed her brow. “No, of course I didn’t.”

 

“Did you force her to keep kicking even when she got tired?”

 

“Carina…”

 

“Did you get mad when she cried? Did you ignore her?”

 

Maya tilted her head, clearly understanding what Carina was doing, though she still looked troubled.

 

“I hate that it was even in my head,” she confessed, “it shouldn’t be.”

 

“Maybe not, but if you think I haven’t already fantasized about her going to medical school, you’d be wrong.”

 

“I’m scared,” Maya said softly, the admission so out of character that Carina was concerned.

 

Bambina, no, you are so wonderful with her.”

 

“But what if…”

 

“No,” Carina said again, scooching closer to Maya on the couch. She wrapped one arm around her shoulders and with her free hand, tucked a strand of hair behind Maya’s ear.

 

“It happened so fast. Before I was even aware of…of thinking at all.”

 

“And how soon did it take you to stop thinking that way?”

 

Maya dipped her head, exhaling sharply.

 

“Besides, you are allowed to be proud of her, Maya. You are allowed to be excited that she excelled,” Carina said, relieved when she saw the beginning of a smile on Maya’s face.

 

“She really did. All the other babies sucked.”

 

“Maya!”

 

“What? She’s the best baby, okay?”

 

Carina rolled her eyes, but pulled Maya closer, forcing her into a cuddle.

 

“You both looked so happy in the pictures,” Carina said, kissing Maya’s cheek.

 

“She was ridiculously cute. Way cuter than the other babies.”

 

Bambina, you cannot say that out loud.”

 

“Why not?” Maya laughed, “You totally agree with me.”

 

Carina paused to argue, but found she couldn’t. Instead, she shrugged, feeling warm all over thanks to the wine and the comfort of Maya so close.

 

“Then there is the other picture you sent me,” Carina said, licking her lips.

 

Maya’s grin was coy.

 

“Oh, you liked that one?”

 

. I liked it so much I had to excuse myself early from a meeting.”

 

“Why would you need to…oh…oh…wait…at work???”

 

Carina studied Maya’s face, enjoying the blush across her cheeks. She liked catching her wife off guard, she liked surprising her.

 

“Yes. At work. I could not help myself. You showed me so much, but some things…just a hint…and…” Carina dragged her eyes down Maya’s body, settling in her lap, before finding Maya’s gaze again.

 

“That’s very naughty, Dr. DeLuca,” Maya said, clearly pleased with herself.

 

“You’ve never done it at work?”

 

Maya’s smile widened. “Oh, I didn’t say that. Those twenty-four-hour shifts are long.”

 

The thought alone was enough to inspire a low swoosh in Carina’s tummy. She leaned forward, ducking her head and finding Maya’s lips, smiling into a kiss that was as comforting as it was familiar. Maya’s hands slid from her elbows to her shoulders, holding her close, keeping her in place, pressed together.

 

“Do you want to make out on our new couch?” Maya asked, whispering against Carina’s mouth.

 

Carina nodded and yelped when Maya pushed her back, landing against the cushions with Maya sprawled on top of her. It took a moment to adjust, but soon Maya was settled between Carina’s legs, and Carina slid her hands under Maya’s t-shirt, greedy for the muscled back she loved so much.

 

Maya reared up, balancing herself on both hands. “Will you still think I’m attractive if I’m demoted next week?”

 

Bambina…”

 

“Or if I’m fired?”

 

Carina searched the beautiful face hovering above hers, unable to miss the worry and hurt reflected there.

 

“I love you, Maya, not because of your job. Because of you,” she said.

 

“I don’t really know who I am without this job.”

 

“You are a brilliant firefighter, and my sexy wife, and the best mom to our baby. I don’t care how many bars are on your collar, Maya. I just want you. As you are.”

 

“What if I have to leave 19?”

There it was…

 

At the heart of Maya’s concern, at the very centre of her racing thoughts, was likely this particular fear.

 

“I don’t know, Bambina,” Carina said, because she really didn’t.

 

Maya’s frown deepened as she settled heavily on top of Carina. In truth, Carina had long wondered if leaving 19 would be the best possible outcome. The station was too small for Maya and Andy to coexist, it was too small for their big personalities and their big skill and their big ambition. As long as Andy was at 19, Maya would never shine.

 

And Carina wanted her wife to shine because she knew how brightly Maya burned when given the opportunity.

 

“Maya?” Carina stroked her fingers up Maya’s spine, memorizing each bump of bone against skin.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“No matter what happens, I am here. And so is Jamie. Whatever decision you have to make…io sono qui,” Carina tapped her finger over Maya’s heart, hoping Maya understood what she was trying to say.

 

Maya looked down, studying Carina in that intense way she had, and then she lowered herself, enough to kiss Carina again, enough to press their lips together, all thoughts and worries forgotten as they closed their eyes and gave in to each other until Jamie needed them.

 

A welcome cry in the darkness.

 

~*~ 

 

It was hard not to look at Station 19 in a different light. With Maya’s hearing quickly approaching, Carina found herself wondering what it would be like if Maya left. She wanted her wife to be happy, she wanted her wife to succeed, but she would also miss seeing Maya on clinic days. Those stolen moments, trying to catch sight of her, sharing secret smiles and even more secret kisses in supply closets.

 

Station 19 had drawn Carina to it just as Maya had. At first her visits were all about seeing the beautiful, temperamental, frustrating firefighter whose presence felt like a much-needed drug. And then it became about more. It became about community, about actually helping people who needed her help.

 

She thought about what it would be like to work at the clinic without Maya close by. She thought about what it would be like to learn a new station, to meet new firefighters who would only see her as “Maya’s wife” instead of a friend and colleague. She thought about how much 19 had embraced Jamie.

 

And she also thought about how much pain 19 had caused Maya over the years. How often its members had disappointed her wife. How often they’d hurt her inadvertently. Or advertently. How often bureaucracy had pushed her down and tried to make her small.

 

Still, as Carina cleaned up from another day at the clinic, she found herself somewhat nostalgic. It was a warm August evening, and she could hear Travis and Theo in the back lot, taking advantage of the perfect weather to hose off the engine and truck. Maya was with them too, undoubtably rolling her eyes at their terrible humour though Carina knew she secretly found them both hilarious.

 

Katherine had dropped off Jamie thirty minutes earlier and the baby was upstairs with Jack who had promised Carina that he would never let Jamie use his head as a chair again. Vic was upstairs too, which is why Carina wasn’t overly worried about Jamie’s wellbeing.

 

They’d taken down the cubicles and stored the equipment, so all that was left was filing away the day’s paperwork, which Carina had volunteered to do because it meant everyone could go home on time. Andy was shut away in her office, so Carina tried to work quietly as she sat behind the front desk, sorting files that would need to be digitized at some point.

 

When the front door opened, Carina didn’t look up from her work. B-Squad was due any minute and she really wanted to have everything organized before going leaving. It was only when someone cleared their throat that she paused, raising her head.

 

She found herself looking at a tall, middle-aged man who stared back at her with watery, blue eyes. He was slouched, both hands in the pockets of his leather jacket and his greasy hair was balding at the front.

 

“Can I help you?” Carina asked, wondering if he needed medical assistance.

 

He narrowed his eyes at the sound of her voice. “This Station 19?”

 

The giant 19 on the building should have been a dead giveaway, but Carina bit back a sarcastic response. It wasn’t unusual for members of the public to wander in requesting Naloxone.

 

“Yes, it is. Were you looking for someone or…”

 

“Actually, I was hoping you could take a look at my hand.”

 

“I’m sorry, sir, the clinic is closed for the day, but if you need assistance, Grey-Sloan is six blocks from here.”

 

Usually she’d offer to help, but all the equipment was locked up for the night. If he required anything more than a band aid, he’d need to go to the hospital.

 

“Please,” he asked, “it’s nothing much. Just want to make sure it’s not infected.”

 

Against her better judgment, she sent a quick text to Jack asking him to keep Jamie for a few moments longer, and then stood, setting down her phone and circling the desk, her back to the stairs.

 

He stared at her, tilting his head. “Are you Carina DeLuca?”

 

Carina’s heart stuttered. She felt something cold spread across her chest.

 

“Sir, I think you should leave,” she said, her thoughts suddenly scattered.

 

Maya is outside. Jamie is upstairs. They can’t hear me outside. Andy’s door is closed. Vic is upstairs.

 

Jamie is upstairs. Jamie is safe.

 

Jamie is safe.

 

Maya is…

 

“It’s a simple question,” the man said, “are you Carina DeLuca?”

 

“Sir…”

 

He straightened to his full height, the watery eyes entirely focused on her. Carina only belatedly realized that he’d removed one hand from his jacket and that’s when she caught sight of it.

 

The knife.

 

Small but sharp.

 

Lethal.

 

“All you need to do is give me the baby. That’s all. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’m just here to take her home.” His voice was calm as he spoke, though he took a menacing step closer, close enough that she could smell the sweat radiating from his body.

 

“There is no baby here,” Carina said, willing herself to stay calm. If she panicked, he might lash out, and she needed to keep him far from the stairs. Far from Jamie.

 

“Oh, but we both know that’s not true. So, are we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

 

“If you come any closer, I will scream.”

 

A hand darted out, grabbing the front of Carina’s shirt, and in her surprise she tripped forward, her side hitting the desk with a hard thud. The sudden pain was disorienting, as was the way the man pulled at her, forcing her to stand upright again while he brought his other hand to her neck where something cool suddenly pressed against the skin just below her jaw.

 

“You scream? I slit your throat. Now where is the baby.”

 

An old memory surfaced. The fear. The paralysis. Carina struggled to connect her thoughts, to force herself to stay present, to not stumble into the past and lose control. Terror clung to her, she could feel her lungs struggling, but she had to stay focused, she had to.

 

Because Jamie…

 

She wanted to see Maya’s hair turn grey. She wanted to see the laugh lines deepen around her eyes, her lips. She wanted to see her own hair turn grey too. Her mama’s hair had never turned grey.

 

Her mama…

 

The knife bit into her skin, it stung, and Carina could feel something wet drip down her throat. She tried not to make a sound, she did not want to give this man anything, not even a whimper, but her hands were shaking so badly as they curled around his wrist and forearm, and his grip was so strong, and the knife…

 

“You’re running out of time here, Doc,” the man said, turning his face towards the barn and then the staircase, clearly trying to figure out where to find Jamie.

 

She was in pain now, the cut enough to make her wince.

 

“There is…no…baby…here,” Carina managed, trying to distract him, trying to keep him from going anywhere else in the station.

 

Anywhere near her wife or her daughter.

 

The hand holding her shirt collar shook her, forcing her head to whip back as her body hit the desk again. It made her dizzy, it made it hard to concentrate as the knife pressed against her and her ribs burned from the force of his push, but she wouldn’t give in, even as the stinging feeling from the knife became worse.

 

She could see her phone light up on the counter, she knew it was likely Jack asking her what was taking so long, and she prayed her captor didn’t see it too, that he didn’t read it…

 

There was a commotion somewhere in the barn, the sounds of boots on cement. The man holding her looked towards it, his brow furrowed, distracted, and Carina saw her chance. She kicked him in the shins as hard as she could, hoping he’d let go, hoping he’d startle enough to make a sound, to alert someone, anyone...

 

He shouted in pain, loosening his grip only enough for Carina to lean back, to try and move away from the knife, but he recovered too quickly, his hand finding her shirt again, the knife once more nestled just above her carotid.

 

“You stupid bitch,” he growled, close enough that Carina could see his yellow teeth.

 

But he’d yelled. He’d yelled loudly. He’d drawn enough attention that Andy’s door suddenly swung open. She was looking down at a report, an annoyed frown on her face.

 

“What’s going on out he…” Her words died as she looked up while her eyes widened in shock.

 

She lurched forward, but a new fear bloomed in Carina’s stomach and she held up her hand, stopping Andy in her tracks, because her captor could attack any second, one wrong move and she’d bleed out, one wrong move and he’d be up the stairs, closer to Jamie, one wrong move…

 

“You’re both ridiculous,” a familiar voice wafted into the space, a voice full of laughter.

 

Her favourite voice in the world.

 

“As the resident hose expert, I beg to disagree.” That was Travis, the accompanying groan was Theo.

 

Carina’s heart felt too big, it felt like it was beating too quickly, and all she could do was watch helplessly as the door to the barn opened and Maya walked into the lobby. Like Andy, Maya paused, her brow furrowed in confusion until she met Carina’s gaze and realization washed over her features.

 

Realization and horror.

 

Chapter Text

Maya’s shoulders ached, though she was in a surprisingly good mood. The hearing was constantly on her mind, but in small moments, she could almost ignore it. Rolling hoses with Travis and Theo was a good distraction – their constant banter enough to keep her laughing or groaning or some combination of both.

 

“You’re the slowest here, Montgomery,” Theo said, shoving Travis in the side with his elbow.

 

Travis scoffed, pressing a hand to his chest in mock offense. “As the resident hose expert, I beg to disagree.”

 

They slowly walked through the barn together while Maya’s thoughts drifted to the evening ahead, even as she snorted and grumbled “you’re both ridiculous.”

 

Jamie was upstairs and the DeLuca-Bishops were planning to pick up something greasy and go home to watch a movie. As they approached the lobby, Maya could just make out Carina through the window, and she picked up her pace, looking back at Travis for a second as she opened the door.

 

The first thing she saw when she turned again was Andy staring right back at her. The next thing she noticed was the stranger, pale and sweaty, standing in front of Carina.

 

Why was a stranger standing so closely to Carina?

 

But he wasn’t just standing.

 

He was…

 

It took a moment for Maya to fully understand what she was looking at. A man held Carina’s collar in one hand. The other was tucked under her jaw, curled around something, and Carina’s shirt was stained.

 

It was stained red. The collar was stained…

 

“Carina!” Maya cried, barely able to move before Travis barrelled in front of her. The man released Carina and pushed against her chest, swinging around to face Travis, but Maya was fast on her feet, catching Carina before she hit the floor.

 

She could hear a tussle behind her and then Jack was on the stairs, flying past them, joining Travis, and the dull thud of a fist connecting with flesh echoed in the small space.

 

Maya searched Carina’s face, trying to read the pinched expression, trying to understand the shallow inhales and exhales, until she felt Carina’s hands on her shoulders, pushing her. Pushing her away.

 

Shittoo soft

 

Maya let go, startled when Carina sunk to the step beneath her and pulled her knees up to her chest.

 

There was a loud groan behind her, and Andy was yelling at Theo to call the police and Maya felt her fear melt away as fury took its place.

 

It was cold. Ice. It bubbled up so quickly that Maya could barely remember a time before it existed within her. She turned, taking in Travis and Jack who held up the stranger by both arms as he sagged between them, winded.

 

“Who are you?” She yelled, balling her hand into fists.

 

When she received no answer, she took a step closer.

 

“Look at me,” she demanded. When he refused, she growled, wanting nothing more than to lash out. To physically hurt him.

 

But she knew that would only hurt Carina too. Carina who didn’t need to witness anymore violence.

 

Instead, she harshly grabbed at his jacket, searching the pockets, trying to find any identification. They were empty except for a polaroid picture. A polaroid picture of Jamie taken the day of Dawn Feguson’s supervised visit. 

 

Three names were written on the back.

 

Maya Bishop

 

Carina DeLuca

 

Jamie

 

Her hands started shaking, hands that wanted nothing more than to curl around the man’s throat and squeeze. She could barely breathe, could barely see from the anger coursing through every vein, every bone.

 

“Look at me,” she said again, a command. She recognized that voice. She knew where it came from and for once, she didn’t push it away. She embraced it.

 

Jack grabbed the man by his hair and forced his head up, forced him to make eye contact and Maya found herself staring into hard, cold eyes.

 

“I don’t know who you are,” Maya said, “I don’t know who sent you. But I do know that in thirty seconds the police will be here and when they arrive, I am going to make sure they bury you in a hole so dark and so deep that you will know nothing but suffering for the rest of your miserable life. If you think you can come into my station and touch my wife? Threaten my child? You think you can touch my wife?”

 

Her voice shattered around the word.

 

Wife

 

She swallowed hard. The idea alone sending her reeling. She felt unsteady on her feet, she barely recognized the level of violence she wished she could inflict. Because the garbage standing in front of her had touched Carina. He’d hurt Carina.

 

Her Carina.

 

Maya shook her head, forcing herself to keep going. “I will end you. I will make your every living moment a nightmare. I will make sure you do not know a moment of peace until your pathetic excuse for a heart gives out. You will be alone and you will rot and I will laugh every single day knowing that you are suffering. So, you’d better hope you can afford a good attorney because I am here to promise you that you’re done. You’re going to wish for death over and over and it will never come. Because you don’t deserve even that. I will be at every parole hearing. I will know about every transfer, every sorry attempt you make to free yourself. And when you die an old man, broken and diseased, I will dance on your grave. I promise you that.”

 

“Maya…” Travis’ voice broke her rant and she looked up, the sound of sirens and flashing lights surprising her.

 

She heard a whimper over her shoulder, a quiet please don’t, and when she turned, she found Andy crouching next to Carina, trying to comfort her. Vic was there too, sitting beside Carina, about to place her arm around her and Maya knew it would only do more harm.

 

“Don’t touch her!” Maya yelled, louder than she meant to. They couldn’t know that Carina was triggered. They couldn’t know that touching her would make the situation worse.

 

There was too much happening at the same time. Too many moving pieces. Maya wanted to be with Carina, but she also wanted to make sure Jack and Travis had a handle on the man currently sneering at her. And then there was Jamie upstairs…

 

Three police officers walked in alongside a woman in a suit who was obviously a detective and Maya felt frozen in the middle of the lobby, unsure where to start or what to do.

 

Andy straightened, visibly shifting into Captain Herrera mode and for once Maya was grateful. Her heart was beating so loudly that she could hear it in her own ears. She wanted to yell and she wanted to hold Carina and she wanted to find Jamie. And somehow all of those wants had her incapable of moving at all.

 

“I’m Captain Herrera,” Andy said, extending her hand to the suited woman.

 

“Detective Kim. What se…”

 

“He assaulted my wife,” Maya pointed at the man in question, “and he threatened my daughter.”

 

Detective Kim raised her eyebrows.

 

“And you are…”

 

“Lieutenant Maya Bishop.”

 

Detective Kim looked over Maya’s shoulder, clearly taking in Carina who was still huddled on the stairs. She nodded once to herself before placing both hands on her hips.

 

“Take him in,” she said to the police officers behind her, who immediately cuffed the stranger and began reading him his Miranda Rights. Andy pointed to the knife of the floor and for a moment, everyone seemed distracted as they showed Detective Kim evidence and explained what happened.

 

Maya only had eyes for Carina.

 

She perched on the step below Carina, wanting desperately to touch her, but knowing she couldn’t. The sight of Carina shaking, her collar soaked in blood, made Maya feel so helpless.

 

“Babe?” Maya said softly, ducking her head down, hoping Carina would look at her.

 

Carina raised her head, gaunt, but breathing steadily.

 

“Jamie?” Carina’s voice was barely a whisper.

 

“She’s safe. She’s with Vic. She’s safe.”

 

Carina nodded, wincing as she moved her head. Before Maya could say another word, Detective Kim appeared again, though she seemed much less confused than before.

 

“Dr. DeLuca? I’m Detective Kim. I know this is the worst timing, but I’d like to take a statement. We’ll also need to photograph your injuries for evidence,” Detective Kim spoke slowly, her tone even, and Maya appreciated the calm she seemed to exude.

 

Carina apparently felt it too because she sat up, clearly understanding the necessity of Detective Kim’s request. The blood on her neck was beginning to dry, but Maya so wished she could check to see if the cut was deep, if Carina would need stitches.

 

“Can my wife come with me?” Carina’s question surprised Maya, as did the feel of her cold fingers when they circled her wrist.

 

“Of course.”

 

“We can use the washroom upstairs,” Maya said, eyeing the Detective’s camera. She hated that Carina needed to go through this, that she needed to make herself even more vulnerable than she already was.

 

When Carina stood, Maya instinctually wrapped her arm around her waist, steadying her. Carina tensed and then exhaled, as if trying to convince herself that Maya was safe, that she could trust Maya’s touch. Of all the horrible events of the past thirty minutes, knowing Carina was afraid of her was perhaps the worst of all.

 

They took each step together, silent, Carina holding on to the railing, Maya holding on to Carina. When they reached the beanery, Carina paused, her cold hand finding Maya’s once more.

 

“Can you bring Jamie?” She asked, her eyes pleading.

 

Maya could only nod, finding it difficult to speak. Every instinct was screaming that Carina needed her, she needed protection, she needed to be held and ignoring those instincts was making Maya feel sick. But she also wanted more than anything to help Carina feel safe, so she forced a small smile and left Carina to take Detective Kim in the washroom. It wasn’t the most orthodox place for an interview, but it would do.

 

Vic was on her feet before Maya even walked into the lounge, shock all over her face.

 

“What happened? Is Carina okay? Who was…”

 

Maya raised her hand. “Later, I promise, I just need Jamie right now.”

 

Vic nodded, understanding.

 

“She slept the whole time,” Vic said, which brought an odd comfort. The idea of Jamie even hearing any part of what had happened sent shivers down Maya’s spine.

 

Jamie was awake when Maya approached her carrier. Someone had dressed her in a navy onesie covered in red fire trucks, and somehow the sight of her big blue eyes made Maya’s fear melt away.

 

“Hi, Baby T-Rex,” Maya whispered, lifting Jamie into her arms. Jamie propped herself against Maya’s shoulder, taking in the room.

 

With one last look at Vic, Maya left, making a quick stop at her locker to grab an extra t-shirt for Carina and a first aid kit.

 

Maya kissed the side of Jamie’s head and took a deep breath.

 

“Let’s go make Mama feel better,” she said, pushing open the door to the washroom.

 

Carina and Detective Kim were in the middle of a conversation, though Carina stopped speaking as soon as she caught sight of Jamie. She couldn’t hold her yet, not until they’d photographed her and bagged her shirt for evidence, but Maya hoped the baby’s presence would be enough to lend Carina some strength.

 

“Feel free to continue, Dr. DeLuca,” Detective Kim held a pencil to her notepad.

 

Carina exhaled sharply. “As I said, that’s when Maya came in…it all happened so quickly. Travis pushed him away and Maya caught me…I didn’t see Jack, but he was there too. That’s all I know.”

 

“And other than asking for the baby and threatening you, he didn’t give any indication of his identity?”

 

“No,” Carina shook her head, “but he knew who I was.”

 

“Mmhmm. He had a Florida driver’s license in his pocket. Does that mean anything to you?”

 

Maya caught Carina’s gaze and they both looked at each other in horror.

 

“Our daughter’s biological grandmother is from Florida,” Maya said, stepping closer to Detective Kim, “she tried to contest our adoption, but the judge denied her request. We have a restraining order against her.”

 

Detective Kim made a few more notes and then seemed to notice Jamie in Maya’s arms.

 

“Is this the cause of all the trouble?” Detective Kim smiled at Jamie who immediately turned to look at Maya, her tiny brow furrowed.

 

“It’s okay, you can say hi,” Maya said, surprised to hear herself laugh. Given the circumstances, laughter was miraculous.

 

Jamie seemed to take that under advisement though her focus soon shifted to Carina.

 

Ciao, piccolina,” Carina waved, her voice wavering.

 

Detective Kim likely knew that the next part was delicate, it was the part Maya was dreading the most too. She wished she could hold Carina’s hand while it was happening or at least let Carina hold Jamie for comfort.

 

But her wife was resilient even in moments of fear.

 

“Dr. DeLuca, I’m going to photograph your wounds now,” Detective Kim said, picking up the camera she’d left on the counter.

 

Carina nodded. She looked grey.

 

All Maya could do was stand close by and watch as Detective Kim had Carina tilt her head back revealing her throat, as a bright flash captured the damage to the spot Maya so loved to kiss.

 

“And your shirt, please,” Kim spoke softly, as if Carina could bolt any second.

 

Maya could see Carina tense, she could see the moment of hesitation, but it passed quickly as Carina got to work unbuttoning her blouse. She handed it to Kim who carefully placed it in an evidence bag.

 

A large bruise was forming over Carina’s ribs where she’d been pushed into the desk. It painted her usual tan skin purple and angry blues. Maya could tell it was painful, she could tell it was also going to get worse over the next few days, and the anger returned, so much anger. Except Jamie was in her arms, Jamie who was brushing tiny fingers over Maya’s chin and her mouth.

 

Without giving it a second thought, Maya playfully captured Jamie’s hand between her teeth, and the sound of Carina laughing shocked them all. Maya looked at her wife, her wife who was hurting and scared, her wife whose smile was wide as she watched Jamie.

 

“Did Mommy get you, cucciola?” Carina’s voice was steady again, steady and warm.

 

When Jamie smiled her big drooly grin, Maya knew everything was going to be okay. Despite the trauma and the fear, everything was going to be okay because they were together. The three of them. It didn’t take away Carina’s bruising or the blood on her skin, but they would find peace and healing again. She just knew it.

 

“Okay, Dr. DeLuca, we’re done here. I’ll be in contact once we know more, but for now, go home. Be with your family,” Detective Kim seemed to sense the DeLuca-Bishop magic in the room as she spoke, looking from Carina to Maya with kind eyes.

 

Once she left, Maya found herself still hesitant to touch Carina. She wasn’t sure how much contact Carina wanted, but they needed to examine her cut and get her cleaned up. Carina eagerly took Jamie, holding her tight, kissing her forehead over and over, and Maya took the opportunity to open the first aid kit she’d brought and sort through supplies.

 

“Can I look?” Maya asked, holding up an antiseptic swab.

 

Carina nodded slowly, leaning her head back.

 

The cut was thin, superficial, and Maya sighed in relief that they wouldn’t need to go to the hospital. She took a deep breath, hating that she had to hurt Carina, though she knew it was for the best.

 

“This is going to sting,” she said, waiting until Carina nodded her head again. Her grip on Jamie tightened and Jamie seemed aware that something serious was happening because she tipped her head against Carina’s shoulder and watched Maya with eyes that almost looked solemn.

 

Maya worked fast, wincing herself when Carina hissed as the alcohol swab brushed against her skin.

 

Jamie whimpered, picking up on Carina’s energy, but before Maya could comfort her, Carina exhaled slowly and started rubbing circles on Jamie’s back.

 

La mamma sta bene,” she cooed. Maya wondered if that was true.

 

She applied a few steri-strips and then covered everything with a large, white bandage. It was an awkward placement, stark against Carina’s tanned skin, and it took all of Maya’s willpower not to kiss the spot. The way she did every day. Ten times a day.

 

Once she was finished, she cleaned the dried blood from Carina’s neck, careful not to touch her more than necessary. Carina had yet to reach out for her since the interview, so Maya wasn’t about to make assumptions about what Carina wanted or what she needed.

 

“I brought you a t-shirt…or…I think I have a hoodie if you’re cold?” Maya said.

 

Carina looked at the navy tee on the counter, her cheek pressed to the top of Jamie’s head.

 

“Is it yours?” She asked, swaying just a little.

 

Maya nodded.

 

Bene.”

 

Maya held up her hands to take Jamie, expecting Carina to pass the baby. She didn’t expect Carina’s hand on her shoulder, nor did she expect the soft tug against her shirt sleeve as Carina pulled her closer. Maya circled Carina’s waist with one arm, mindful of the bruising, stepping so close to Carina that their foreheads touched and then she reached up, resting her palm over Carina’s hand where it lay on Jamie’s back.

 

They stood huddled together, breathing in sync, and again Maya was struck with the unshakable knowledge that they were going to be okay.

 

 

Chapter Text

The drive home was silent.

 

Jamie slept in the backseat and Carina sat looking out her window, so Maya kept her eyes on the road, weaving in and out of evening traffic. She wished she could keep driving, she wished she could take her little family and go far away, somewhere safe, a place where nothing bad could touch them.

 

Her thoughts drifted to the image of Carina with a knife to her throat, the picture so upsetting that Maya blinked and squirmed in her seat, willing the memory away.

 

She chanced a look at Carina, smiling just a little when she noticed that Carina had the collar of her t-shirt up over her nose. At least Maya was providing some comfort, even inadvertently.

 

Maya started making lists in her head, settling into the familiar comfort that plans and schedules always gave her. She knew they likely needed a lawyer. Simon Gillespie was an expert in adoption, but maybe he could suggest someone. Or maybe he’d know how to proceed. The police would likely need additional testimony and judging by the Florida connection, there was far more to the story than a random man walking into the fire station, trying to kidnap Jamie.

 

Why was life so constantly hard?

 

Maya thought back to her weeks at Castle Rock, how despite the difficulties of being away from home, Captain Dale’s team had embraced her. She thought about the night Carina surprised her, about how perfect Carina looked wandering the town the next day with her aviators and her Balenciaga purse and a shirt that said, “I Found Big Foot And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”

 

The memory inspired hope. Because while it was true that life was hard, it could also be impossibly beautiful.

 

“After the adoption is finalized, we should go on a holiday. Just the three of us,” Maya said.

 

Carina shifted in her seat. “Hmmm?”

 

“I know you’re not much of a winter holiday person, but Captain Dale said we were free to use her brother’s cabin. Might be nice to get away from the city for a while.”

 

“In the snow?” Carina sounded incredulous, but at least she was talking.

 

“Yes, in the snow. But there’s apparently a fireplace, and a jacuzzi tub, and at night you can see all the stars.”

 

Carina didn’t say anything, and Maya took her silence as rejection until she felt a hand settle on her thigh.

 

“That sounds perfetto.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I like that. Just the three of us.”

 

By the time they arrived home, Carina was sore enough to require ibuprofen. She winced as she stepped out of the car and Maya quickly reached into the backseat for Jamie, trying hard not to jostle her awake.

 

The baby wiggled as Maya held her, her tiny face wedged against Maya’s neck. Maya could feel the flutter of eyelashes against her skin.

 

I almost lost this. I could have lost this. If we didn’t get there on time, if Travis didn’t…if I didn’t…if he had…if Carina was….

 

Carina leaned heavily against Maya in the elevator, her face pinched, her obvious pain breaking Maya’s heart.

 

“Do you want to take a shower? I’ll put her to bed,” Maya said as they walked through the door.

 

Carina nodded and then kissed the top of Jamie’s head before disappearing into their bedroom.

 

Taking care of a sleepy baby proved to be the perfect distraction from Maya’s dark thoughts, though changing Jamie’s diaper without waking her felt like deactivating a bomb sometimes.

 

Maya managed to remove Jamie’s onesie, but the cool air in the room was enough to disturb Jamie who blinked heavily and then burst into tears, her tiny, scrunched up face the very portrait of betrayal.

 

“Sorry, sorry!” Maya cooed, trying to pick up her pace while keeping a hand on Jamie’s tummy, “I know, Mommy is the meanest.”

 

The crying stopped as soon as Maya taped up the new diaper and zipped Jamie into her PJs. Maya could still hear the shower in their bedroom, so she decided to hold Jamie for a little while longer, giving Carina some privacy.

 

“You did such a good job making Mama feel better today,” Maya said, cradling Jamie in her arms. The baby yawned, her little body curling into Maya, seeking her warmth.

 

Maya raised her high enough that she could brush her nose against Jamie’s soft brown hair.

 

“That was really scary, hey Jamie? I know. I was really scared too. But you’re safe, I promise. I might have to go kick some ass in Florida…don’t tell Mama I taught you that word…but I will if I need to.”

 

Jamie’s eyes fluttered shut, but Maya took another minute with her, watching her sleep. When she heard the shower cut-out, she kissed Jamie’s head and placed her in the crib, hoping she had good little baby dreams about little baby things.

 

With one of her girls accounted for, Maya turned her focus to Carina.

 

She stepped into the kitchen, grabbing a few ice packs from the freezer and a glass of water, and then went off in search of her wife.

 

Carina was lying on Maya’s side of the bed, dressed in only her flannel PJ bottoms. The bruising stained her ribs and her hip, angry and dark and Maya could see the discomfort all over Carina’s face.

 

“Hey,” Maya said, trying not to startle Carina whose eyes were closed.

 

Carina frowned and then turned her face on the pillow, taking Maya in.

 

“Is Jamie sleeping?” Carina asked, her voice still so quiet that Maya subconsciously took a step closer to the bed just to hear her.

 

“She is. I brought you ice packs and ibuprofen.”

 

“Thank you, Bambina.”

 

“Is there…I mean…do you…” Maya wasn’t quite sure what she was trying to say as she stuttered, her thoughts moving faster than her ability to speak.

 

“What is it?”

 

She finally settled on the question that had been on her lips since she’d seen Carina on the stairs. “What can I do?”

 

Carina studied Maya with dark eyes, as if she was trying to find an answer to the question too.

 

She looked so pale, so tired, but she turned onto her back, wincing at the movement, before reaching out with one hand.

 

“Ice?” Maya asked, pleased when Carina nodded.

 

Maya set the ibuprofen on the bedside table and then got to work laying the ice packs along Carina’s side, using the bed to keep them propped up against the bruised skin. Carina shivered and Maya’s first instinct was to crawl into bed with her and hold her, to keep her warm just like she’d kept Jamie warm.

 

But Carina hadn’t asked her to do that, though the fact that she felt safe being half-naked around Maya was a good sign. For a moment at the station, Maya was worried that Carina had gone comatose or that she’d refuse any help or any touch.

 

She seemed caught somewhere in between. Lost in her memories, but wanting to stay present too, wanting to stay with Maya and Jamie.

 

When she was done with the ice, Maya handed Carina the bottle of ibuprofen and decided to start getting ready for bed. She changed into boxers and a t-shirt and then quickly popped into the bathroom to brush her teeth.

 

She hovered in the doorway when she was finished, looking at Carina who lay so still and who looked so lost.

 

“Is it okay if I sleep in the bed tonight?” Maya asked, fully prepared to take a few blankets to the couch.

 

Carina turned her face, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

 

“Of course, Maya,” she said.

 

“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure if…how you were feeling or…”

 

“I need you here with me. I…I don’t want to be alone.”

 

Maya almost jogged to the other side of the bed. She lay down facing Carina, and Carina rolled over too, a pained look flashing across her face as she jostled her ribs.

 

“Oh, Babe…” Maya reached out, wanting to take Carina’s hand, but she stopped herself. Instead, she fixed the icepacks, draping them over Carina’s torso. Again, Carina shivered and again Maya had to resist the urge to hold her.

 

Only this time Carina noticed.

 

She locked her fingers with Maya’s, joining their hands in the middle of the mattress.

 

“Sorry, I’m on your side of the bed,” Carina said, her lips lifting just a little.

 

Maya couldn’t stop the cheeky smile on her face. “Technically, this was my side of the bed. You stole it.”

 

“What?”

 

“The first time you slept over, you took this side and I just never said anything.”

 

“Why not?” Carina laughed, her thumb brushing over Maya’s knuckles.

 

“I’d never really allowed anyone to sleep over before…I mean…I did, but not like I did with you…”

 

“No?”

 

Maya shrugged. “You were the first person who stayed over that I didn’t want to kick out the next morning.”

 

“Oh? And why is that?”

 

“Because you smelled so good and I really, really liked you even though I was trying to pretend I didn’t and…”

 

“You really, really liked me? Bambina always so romantic.”

 

Maya hummed, content just to watch Carina, just to be close to her. It was always so easy between them, they brought each other peace in a way that neither had known before. Which is why it was so painful to see Carina hurting, to see the world invade their private little sanctuary.

 

When Carina’s eyes filled with tears a moment later, Maya squeezed the cold fingers locked with her own.

 

“I was so scared he was going to hurt Jamie,” Carina confessed, “but…I…I didn’t want to leave you. I was so scared he was going to take me away from you, that we wouldn’t get to grow old together.”

 

Maya bit her lip, willing herself not to cry too. 

 

“I was scared too,” Maya whispered, “when I saw you…Carina, I love you so much. You know that, right?”

 

Carina nodded, sniffling.

 

They both moved closer together, a well-choreographed step of Carina tucking her head below Maya’s chin and Maya’s arms circling Carina’s body. The ice packs fell off again and Carina’s skin was cold, but Maya felt her heartrate steady for the first time in hours.

 

Carina’s chest heaved, though she didn’t make a sound, so Maya just held her, stroking her fingers through her hair, letting Carina guide how and where she wanted Maya’s hands. Carina pulled at the back of Maya’s t-shirt taking fistfuls, keeping her close, not that Maya had any intention of moving away.

 

Her hold on Maya was like a vice, almost uncomfortable, but Maya welcomed it, she craved it. She couldn’t squeeze Carina in the same way, making do with gentle, feather-light touches against Carina’s shoulders and back.

 

It was always like this when Carina was triggered. She’d want space. She’d shun Maya’s touch. And then an invisible switch would flip and she’d grab on with sharp fingers, as if she was relearning Maya’s body, relearning the trust between them.

 

When Carina’s tears slowed, Maya kissed the top of her head, tucking a long strand of hair behind her ear, exposing her face.

 

“Are you tired?” Maya asked, unsure if Carina would want to sleep, or even if she could.

 

She felt a nod against her chest.

 

Maya reached over to turn off the lamp before resuming her position holding Carina.

 

“Okay. I’ve got you,” she whispered into the dark.

 

There was a tug against the back of her shirt again, a silent affirmation that Maya was solid and present and not going anywhere.

 

“I’ve got you,” Maya whispered again, grateful she could say it.

 

Grateful it was true.

 

~*~

 

Maya couldn’t move her legs.

 

Her legs that had always carried her. Her legs that gave her speed and agility. Her legs that were her father’s greatest accomplishment.

 

And now she couldn’t move them.

 

She stood in the barn, staring through the window, staring at Carina who stared back.

 

And Maya couldn’t move her legs.

 

She could hear Jamie crying. She could see the blood dripping down Carina’s neck.

 

And she could not move her legs.

 

Maya reached out, trying to lurch forward, trying to do anything, but all she could do was watch.

 

As the man moved his hand.

 

As he moved it horizontally across Carina’s…

 

As the blood…

 

As Carina…

 

Maya gasped, pushing herself up on her elbows so violently that it disturbed Carina who called her name, though Maya couldn’t answer her yet.

 

She tried to breathe, she tried to remember how, and when the dark room came into focus her brain finally registered that she’d been caught in a dream, that it wasn’t real, that Carina was beside her…

 

A warm hand circled her wrist, but Maya still couldn’t bring herself to turn. Because what if the blood…

 

What if…

 

Bambina?”

 

Maya swallowed hard, forcing her eyes closed, trying to count each breath, each heartbeat.

 

It was just a dream. Just a dream. It was just a dream.

 

Her legs worked. She wiggled her toes under the blanket. She could feel everything.

 

“Maya?” Carina’s voice was hoarse from sleep and Maya wanted to lie down again and tell Carina that she was okay.

 

But she wasn’t. She couldn’t quite find her voice.

 

Carina sat up next to her, cursing softly in pain. The whispered cazzo pulled Maya from her stupor as she realized that Carina was hurting, Carina needed her, Carina was right beside her.

 

“Sorry,” she said, finally turning her face, her heart still beating too loudly. It made her feel dizzy.

 

“Maya are you okay?”

 

“I…”

 

Say yes. Tell her yes. Just…say…yes…

 

“Maya can you please talk to me?”

 

The hand on her wrist moved up, cupping her cheek, and Maya leaned into it, greedy for the contact.

 

“I…it was just a dream. I’m okay,” she managed.

 

The room was cast in grey and it made Carina look blurry, as if she wasn’t quite there. Maya hated the thought.

 

“Maya, please.”

 

“Carina, honestly, I’m fine,” Maya said, wondering what time it was. She wanted to go for a run.

 

“You don’t need to be fine, Maya. If it was you…I wouldn’t be fine.”

 

Maya fisted her hands into the blanket, her knuckles turning white. She was afraid that if she spoke, she’d start to cry, and she didn’t want that. Not when it was Carina hurting.

 

Except Carina’s fingers found their way into Maya’s hair, scratching lightly at her scalp, and it broke through her carefully constructed defenses as it always did. She bowed her head, clenching her jaw as the first tear fell, hating how tight her chest felt.

 

“I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, “I should’ve been faster. I shouldn’t have…”

 

“No, Maya, no…” Carina’s arm wrapped around Maya’s shoulders, holding her closer.

 

Maya pulled her knees to her chest and brought her hands to Carina’s forearm where it lay draped across her body. She held on, pressing her forehead to it, trying to get herself together, to keep herself together.

 

It was Carina who needed comfort. Who needed her arms and her safety.

 

“I froze,” Maya confessed, “when I first saw you…I froze…if Travis hadn’t…”

 

Carina shifted on the mattress. She was suddenly there, pushing down Maya’s knees, straddling her lap, her hands settling on Maya’s shoulders as she faced her. It happened so quickly that Maya tensed, unsure where to put her own hands because she didn’t want to touch Carina in any way that would upset her. Carina made the decision for her when the fingers on her shoulders moved into her hair, encouraging her to lean in.

 

Maya pressed her face between Carina’s breasts, her arms circling her hips, and she breathed in deeply, allowing herself tears now that she was protected and safe and home.

 

“There was nothing you could have done,” Carina said, her fingers still in Maya’s hair, “but it is over. And Jamie is safe. And I’m…”

 

“I don’t want to be here if you’re not here.”

 

Her words were muffled, she spoke too quickly, but they tumbled out before she could stop them, before she could fully understand what she’d said.

 

Carina’s whole body became rigid and then her hands were on Maya’s face, forcing her back, forcing her to look up into dark, worried eyes.

 

Bambina, do not say that,” she said, her thumbs tracing Maya’s cheekbones.

 

“I thought he was going to take you from me. And I…Carina…I can’t…I’m supposed to go first. That’s how this works. I’m supposed to go…”

 

Carina’s eyes welled with tears, as she shook her head, her chin trembling.

 

“I’m supposed to go first,” Maya said again, unable to keep the agony for her voice.

 

Toccami.”

 

Maya furrowed her brow, surprised by the request.

 

“But…you’re hurt,” she said, “and…”

 

Carina cut her off with a kiss, soft and sad, but Maya leaned in. Needing to feel Carina against her. She didn’t want to do anything that would make Carina uncomfortable, she was scared to trigger her again, but she’d be lying if she said that touching Carina wasn’t healing the wounds left by the evening.

 

“I’m here,” Carina said, still holding Maya’s head, “I’m here and no one is taking me from you.”

 

She helped guide Maya to her neck, and Maya understood the permission she’d been granted. The bandage felt rough beneath her lips, but she kissed it nonetheless, lightly, brushing her nose against Carina’s jawline.

 

The bruising on Carina’s ribs was dark, even in the dim light Maya could make out the purple and black, and she dragged her fingertips over it, careful not to apply any pressure.

 

Before Carina, Maya couldn’t imagine being with one person for the rest of her life. Sleeping with one person. Having access to one body. She thought she’d want a parade of bodies, a temporary, exhilarating, once-a-week encounter that she’d quickly forget because a body was a body.

 

She wasn’t blind. There was the redhead she met at the karaoke bar whose ass had driven Maya to distraction. Until the next morning where not even that ass could convince Maya to let the nameless woman stay for breakfast. There was the guy with glasses whose hands looked like they’d been sculpted by Bernini. She’d made him leave in the middle of the night. It was one thing for those hands to touch her in pleasure. It was another for his arms to wrap around her in bed as he spooned her. She’d shuddered and rolled over and kicked him out with little thought and even less guilt.

 

Jack had nice eyes. Though the double-barred captain’s badge had eventually appealed to her far more than anything Jack had to offer.

 

And then Carina DeLuca walked into her life. The first time Maya stripped Carina naked, she found herself rendered speechless, as if her brain had liquified and she was no longer capable of forming coherent thoughts. Everything about her drove Maya wild. Maya felt insane, she felt herself dwelling on bone structure and musculature. She could have written essays about Carina’s kneecaps, her toes, her collarbone.

 

Logically, she understood that a body really was a body. That boobs were boobs and hip bones were hip bones. But Carina’s body…

 

The body that she held in her arms. The body that someone had brutalized. The body that she’d sworn to love and honour and protect.

 

Maya was crushed. She felt like something had been taken from them, something she desperately wanted back. And it seemed like Carina felt the same way because her fingers were cold against Maya’s face, cold and desperate as she found Maya’s lips again.

 

Toccami,” Carina insisted, rearing back, her hands finding the hem of Maya’s t-shirt.

 

Maya still hesitated. She didn’t know how to negotiate this. She didn’t know if giving in to Carina’s request was the healthy things to do. Would it hurt Carina even more?

 

“But, Carina…are you sure? Because I don’t want to…upset you…or…before you were…and”

 

Carina bowed her head, sagging a little in Maya’s lap.

 

“He put his hands on me,” she whispered, “he touched me and I didn’t want him to touch me. I only want you to touch me, Maya. Just you.”

 

Maya took a deep breath before pulling her shirt over her head.

 

Sex was power. It could be fun and it could be beautiful and it could be awkward and everything in between. But at the end of the day, the level of trust Carina granted Maya and Maya granted Carina was as binding as the signatures on their marriage certificate.

 

Carina’s control had been taken from her by a man who wanted to destroy their family. It echoed another time and another man and Maya wanted her wife to take her control back. So she waited, not touching, not kissing.

 

She waited though she did not need to wait long.

 

Carina set her hands on Maya’s shoulders, her fingertips tickling as they stroked down her arms, her biceps, her wrists. She nodded, which inspired Maya to rest both palms against Carina’s thighs, tentative, but warm.

 

Togli questi,” Carina said, plucking at the waistband of Maya’s boxers.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Sì, Bambina. Vieni qui.”

 

They awkwardly broke apart to undress, Carina balancing on her knees, Maya wiggling beneath her, but soon Maya’s boxers and Carina’s PJ bottoms were on the floor and Carina was back in Maya’s lap, warm and naked. Maya reclined against the pillows, bringing Carina with her. She set her hands on Carina’s hips, taking a moment to enjoy how good it felt to have Carina pressed against her.

 

Maya could feel the rise and fall of Carina’s chest. She could hear each inhale and exhale. She could see the blush across Carina’s cheeks and the tension in her muscles as she held herself up over Maya’s body.

 

And she could taste…

 

Maya raised her head just enough to kiss the bandaged skin below Carina’s jaw again. She stroked her fingers up and down Carina’s spine, smiling when she felt Carina’s hand sneak between them to cup her breast. Mindful of the bruising, Maya tickled Carina’s sides, wishing she could cover the evidence of Carina’s pain. Of how close she’d come to losing Carina forever.

 

The thought spurred her on. She pressed open mouthed kissing Carina’s shoulders, nipping the skin, stifling a moan as Carina thumbed her nipple. She found Carina’s lips again, kissing her, each movement languid, as if they had time.

 

Because they did. They’d come so close to never having time again.

 

Maya raised one hand to Carina’s throat, settling the pads of her fingers against Carina’s pulse point, feeling the strong, steady beat of that precious heart.

 

“Sit up,” Maya said, careful not to be demanding. She just wanted to hold Carina, to shelter her, to make her feel surrounded and protected.

 

Carina didn’t protest and instead let Maya guide their movements. They both sat, Carina between Maya’s legs, her back to Maya’s front. Her body rested heavily on Maya’s as she leaned her head against Maya’s shoulder and let herself go limp, using Maya’s thighs to keep herself steady.

 

The position allowed Maya to wrap her arm around Carina’s chest, to cup her breast and hold her, as she let her free hand drift down Carina’s torso, down to where Carina was so warm, and so soft. Maya’s first touch was tentative, she wanted to give Carina space to stop everything if she decided it was too much, but Carina only sighed and squeezed Maya’s thighs and spread her legs further.

 

Maya set her lips against Carina’s shoulder, looking down, watching the movement of her fingers against Carina’s clit. She listened to the way Carina’s breathing changed, to the soft little moans, the fluttering, rigid movements of her hands. She held her so close, she felt like she contained Carina, like Carina’s body was part of her own, like every arch of Carina’s back molded into her skin.

 

She felt Carina’s life beneath her fingertips.

 

Swollen and throbbing, each stroke making Maya’s fingers wetter and wetter as Maya dipped inside. She released Carina’s breast, wanting to rub Carina’s clit as she thrust in and out, as she filled her. Carina moaned Maya’s name, reaching up to thumb her own nipples, pinching them as Maya brought her close to the edge.

 

She could feel Carina trembling, she could feel the fluttering muscles around her fingers, and she could also sense that Carina was close, not quite there, but close, and struggling…

 

“I love you,” Maya whispered, her lips brushing Carina’s ear.

 

“Maya…”

 

“Let go for me, Babe, I’m right here to catch you.”

 

Carina whimpered, tipping her head back so far that her chin brushed Maya’s cheek. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out, instead she breathed in, her chest expanding, and then tensed in Maya’s arms, her eyes squeezed shut, her body riding out its pleasure. Maya worried that Carina was going to hurt herself, that the movements would pull at her neck or her bruises. But Carina seemed not to care as she pushed herself back into Maya over and over, one arm reaching behind her, finding Maya’s hair, holding on.

 

She slumped over seconds later, and Maya moved her hands, gently draping them across Carina’s chest, again feeling the steady, rhythmic pulse that was Maya’s entire world.

 

She waited for Carina to gather herself, to move her body again, smiling when Carina turned and caught her her lips in a soft kiss. The angle was awkward, but Maya didn’t care, she just wanted to be kissing Carina forever. Carina seemed to agree because she turned more in Maya’s lap, all the way until they sat facing each other, Carina’s legs locking behind Maya’s back.

 

Carina’s mouth silenced Maya’s moan at the feel of them pressed together so intimately. It was so overwhelming that Maya had to lean back, she had to gasp for air in some small attempt to slow down her heart, to still the swooping sensation low in her belly.

 

“Are you okay?” She asked, knowing Carina had likely jostled her injuries, finding it easier to focus on Carina than pay attention to the intensity of her need.

 

Carina’s hands found their way back into Maya’s hair, tugging just enough to force another soft gasp from Maya’s throat.

 

Without speaking, Carina reached down, moving Maya’s legs so that her thighs lay over Carina’s. She pushed on Maya’s shoulders, forcing her to recline against the pillows, just enough so that Maya was left open and vulnerable in Carina’s lap, an offering.

 

From the new angle, she watched Carina’s eyes drift from her face and down…

 

She watched her lick her lips and Maya grabbed hold of the blanket beneath her, sensing that any minute Carina was going to touch her. She was going to feel her.

 

Voglio te,” Carina mumbled, dark eyes watching Maya as she slipped her fingers between Maya’s legs without warning.

 

It was only belatedly that Maya realized how turned on she was, how wet and needy. Touching Carina always had that effect, but she’d been concentrating so closely on Carina that she was almost surprised to feel how slick Carina’s fingers became as they teased her.

 

She tightened her grip on the blanket, watching Carina’s graceful fingers as they spread her open.

 

“Inside,” she husked, tensing her jaw when Carina obeyed, burying two fingers deep, deep enough that Maya rose up, almost seated, until Carina used her free hand to press down on her pelvis, forcing her back against the pillows.

 

The part of Maya’s brain that was still able to form thoughts knew that it was important to stay quiet. Jamie was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake her baby.

 

But Carina was pushing her closer and closer to oblivion and it was hard not to cry out, it was so hard not to call for Carina. Instead, she tried to watch Carina’s hands, but the sight of her wife’s fingers disappearing inside her, the feel of Carina so deep, Maya could not keep back the strangled gasp.

 

Carina must have sensed her struggled because she rose up on her knees and lay herself over Maya, covering her, her mouth close enough to Maya’s that they could kiss, that she could take Maya in and lick her bottom lip and claim her.

 

Each thrust was hard, it was steady, Carina kept up an unrelenting pace and all Maya could do was buck underneath her, was hold onto her shoulders and pray she wouldn’t break apart. She raised her head, pressing her face into Carina’s neck, belatedly realizing that she’d chosen the side where a knife had slit Carina’s skin, where it had drawn blood.

 

The bandage felt strange against Maya’s lips, but she couldn’t tear herself away, not when her entire body tensed, when every muscle spasmed, not when she could only spread her legs wider, and give herself entirely to Carina, and struggle through a half-mangled version of Carina’s name.

 

She came hard, coating Carina’s fingers, gasping so harshly that her chest hit Carina’s, her breasts and her rib cage and her stomach sweaty and slick against Carina’s skin. Carina was whispering to her, soothing her, but Maya was caught in the molten kaleidoscope behind her eyelids, her hips locked as they met Carina’s thrusts over and over and over and over…

 

Carina lay heavily on top of her. Maya couldn’t tell if she was crying or if it was sweat. She didn’t care. She just wrapped her arms around Carina’s body and held her and refused to let go.

 

“Are you tired,” Maya asked, slipping her fingers into Carina’s hair.

 

Carina shook her head. “I wish I was. But I do not want to sleep.”

 

“Nightmares are the worst.”

 

. But we will not have them tomorrow, at least.”

 

This gave Maya pause. “Oh? How do you know that?”

 

Nonna said that if you have nightmares one night, you cannot have them the next night. It is impossibile.”

 

“Huh. Nonna seems like she was a very wise woman.” Maya knew without a doubt that Carina would impart the same wisdom to Jamie.

 

And while she knew that Nonna’s theory was likely untrue, there was an odd comfort in the idea. As if their shared nightmares could not survive another day. As if they could already take comfort in the fact that the bad dreams were over.

 

“She was.” Carina tucked her head beneath Maya’s chin and dragged her fingertips over Maya’s arm, tracing invisible patterns.

 

“What did she do when you were sick?”

 

“Soup. And cake,” Carina said with a laugh.

 

“Cake?”

 

Certo. Cake makes everything better.”

 

“More Nonna wisdom?” Maya teased, relieved by their light conversation and the welcome weight of Carina’s body on top of hers.

 

“No. Science, Bambina. But what about you? When you were sick?”

 

So much for a light conversation. Maya tried to think back to her childhood. She tried to remember if she’d ever taken a sick day with her gran.

 

“I didn’t get sick,” she said, knowing how ridiculous it sounded.

 

Carina pushed herself up on her elbows, still hovering over Maya. She furrowed her eyebrows, considering Maya’s face.

 

“How? Everyone gets sick. Schools are full of bacteria.”

 

Note to self: buy Jamie a hazmat suit…

 

“Uh…only losers got sick…so…” Maya trailed off awkwardly, shifting her eyes away from Carina’s all-seeing gaze.

 

“Maya…”

 

“My mom would sneak me pudding.”

 

It was an odd memory, murky, but she could picture herself lying in bed, sniffling, and then Katherine was there with a pudding cup and a spoon. Whispered words and worried glances over her shoulder.

 

Carina kissed Maya’s chest, nuzzling her nose against her sternum.

 

“Jamie will have soup and cake and pudding,” Maya said, smiling as she felt Carina nod against her skin.

 

They lay in silence for a moment, content to breathe against each other, until Carina’s ibuprofen wore off and she winced just as Maya’s bladder made itself known. There was no use trying to go back to sleep, so they both got up, popping into the bathroom, washing their faces, pulling on robes and sweatpants.

 

“Are you going for a run?” Carina asked, sitting on the bed while holding an ice pack to her side.

 

Maya shook her head. “Maybe later. I can take Jamie with me so you can nap.”

 

“Mmm. Marry me?”

 

“Sure. Why not?”

 

Carina extended her hand and Maya gladly accepted. They couldn’t erase the fear or the trauma, they couldn’t erase Carina’s bruises or the blood. But they could stand together, hand-in-hand, breathing the same air, trying to heal.

 

Maya leaned down, kissing Carina’s forehead.

 

The baby monitor cackled to life seconds later, indicating that Jamie was up for the day too.

 

“I’ll get Jamie,” Maya said, still holding Carina’s fingers.

 

“And I’ll get coffee,” Carina laughed, standing.

 

Jamie was a tiny ball of righteous anger as Maya walked into the nursery. She was kicking her legs, her little face scrunched up in a frown that was pure Carina.

 

“Baby T-Rex, why the roar?” Maya scooped Jamie up and dangled her high in the air. Jamie still seemed displeased, though the crying had stopped, so Maya brought her closer to her chest, cradling her.

 

“Are you upset about what happened to Mama?” Maya studied Jamie’s pout, wondering if she could sense that something was off, “It’s okay if you are. I am too. Should we go see her?”

 

Jamie huffed, staring up at Maya, which Maya took to mean Andiamo, mommy!

 

She carried Jamie into the kitchen, rolling her eyes when Jamie’s frown turned into a wide grin at the sight of Carina.

 

“Oh, sure, I see how it is,” Maya said, biting back her own laughter when Carina took Jamie and held her close.

 

Maya loved to see their heads bowed together, she loved the way that Jamie nuzzled against Carina every time.

 

Buongiorno, cucciola,” Carina cooed, her eyes never leaving Maya’s face.

 

Jamie’s little fingers brushed against Carina’s bandaged neck and though they could not take away what lay underneath, they could heal.

 

Maya knew without a doubt.

 

They could heal.

 

Chapter Text

Life became a series of lawyers.

 

Their adoption case had now morphed into a criminal case, so Simon Gillespie was constantly on the phone, updating them on charges and investigations and the increasingly disturbing details of what was apparently a conspiracy to kidnap Jamie and take her to Florida.

 

They had to wait and see how the state wanted to handle Dawn Ferguson, her common law husband, and Carina’s attacker, which meant they had to wait and see if Carina would need to go testify in court.

 

And then there was Maya’s hearing. The reason Carina woke up alone to a cold bed and a racing heart.

 

Everything seemed to always happen at once. They’d spent hours on the phone with Simon the night before and now it was barely seven in the morning and apparently Maya was up and out for a run. She needed to report to SFD by noon and Carina had watched in supportive silence as her wife turned inward, as she became quiet and distracted.

 

Maya was still attentive towards Jamie. But her movements were almost robotic – Carina could tell she had daily checklists in her head that she was following to a tee. Sometimes Carina wished she could make checklists in her head too.

 

Because she wasn’t quite sure how to handle the situation. Her instinct was always to find the good. She wanted to buy champagne, she wanted to plan a celebration regardless of the hearing’s outcome. Maya had waited for so long, she’d struggled for so long, win or lose, Carina wanted to mark the occasion.

 

But Maya did not always take kindly to that attitude. And before Jamie, Carina would have been in for a sullen, angry spouse who’d insist on space until the angry part of her burned away.

 

Jamie changed things. Maya couldn’t be a sullen, angry mother. She didn’t want to be, and Carina had no doubt that her wife had been fighting herself, the parts of her that just wanted to run and withdrawal with the parts that wanted to tickle Jamie’s feet and kiss her little tummy until the baby laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

Carina groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

Why couldn’t they have normal problems? Babysitting difficulties. Food poisoning. A flat tire.

 

Instead, Carina was lying in bed trying to figure out what to do if the Seattle Fire Department fired her wife. Or if a psychopath from Florida might find a way to hurt her family. Again.

 

The sound of the door opening forced Carina out of bed and away from her worries. She wanted to be as present for Maya as possible, in whatever way Maya needed.

 

As she slipped into her robe, she grabbed the baby monitor on Maya’s bedside table, but did a double take when she realized the crib was empty.

 

If Jamie wasn’t in her crib…

 

Carina walked into the living room just in time to see Maya push Jamie’s jogging stroller through the doorway. Her wife was red, sweaty, though the tiny running shorts were enough to temporarily distract Carina from the fact that Jamie looked a little windswept herself.

 

“Did you buy her a sweatband?” Carina asked, staring at the impossibly tiny headband around Jamie’s head.

 

“Yeah. Didn’t want sweat to get in her eyes.”

 

“Maya…are those Nikes?” Carina didn’t know they made running shoes so small.

 

“I still get a discount,” Maya huffed, trying to catch her breath.

 

Carina lifted Jamie from the stroller and bit her lip to keep from giggling at her rosy cheeks and the way her hair was tangled like a bird’s nest.

 

“How fast were you going?” She laughed, realizing Jamie’s onesie was also Nike. Her baby looked like the world’s most adorable endorsement ad.

 

“Could’ve gone faster.”

 

Carina looked at Maya, taking in her distracted expression. She’d yet to make eye contact.

 

“Do you want breakfast or…” Carina started to speak, but decided instead to let Maya do what Maya wanted to do. And what her wife wanted to do was apparently strip.

 

She yanked her sports bra up and over her head and then finally seemed to realize that Carina was there and talking to her.

 

“Shower,” Maya said, “and then…the incident report…and then…yeah, shower, incident report, iron my shirt, shoes need shining…”

 

Maya walked away as she spoke, disappearing into the bedroom, which left Carina and Jamie alone, staring at each other in surprise.

 

“She’s crazy, but we’ll keep her,” Carina said with a shrug, laughing again when Jamie raised her eyebrows and then scrunched up her nose, a facial expression that was pure Maya Bishop.

 

~*~

 

Maya looked at the lieutenant badges on her collar and frowned.

 

She smoothed the hair at her temples, ensuring not a single strand was out of place and as she stared back at herself in the bedroom mirror, she felt like she was observing a stranger.

 

Something about her demotion made her feel like she’d failed an exam. Like she’d come last in a race.

 

And the hearing felt like being called to the principal’s office.

 

Not that Maya Bishop had ever been called to the principal’s office.

 

She played by the rules. She memorized the rules. She could recite protocol in her sleep.

 

So who was this person about to sit in front of a room full of superiors and face the charge of insubordination?

 

Carina slowly opened the door, though Maya didn’t move. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Carina stepped into the bedroom and took her place by her side. She smoothed the shoulders of Maya’s Class A uniform and then straightened her tie.

 

“I like when you wear this,” she said, licking her lips, her eyes sweeping over Maya open in open appreciation.

 

Maya forced a smile. It would be so easy to grab onto Carina and hold her. To tell her that she was scared her career was over. But Maya didn’t want to do that. She wanted to be strong and brave and she wanted justice.

 

More than anything, she wanted justice.

 

She squeezed Carina’s hand once and then straightened, grabbing her hat from the dresser.

 

“I should go,” she said, not wanting to be late.

 

Carina settled her palms on Maya’s shoulders. “Are you sure you do not want me to drive you?”

 

“No. I’m good. I’ll text you when it’s done.”

 

Worry and disappointment flashed across Carina’s face, but Maya couldn’t think about it. She felt herself building walls, laying foundations. She felt the ice form around her heart again, bolstering her. And she also felt how unfair that was to Carina.

 

Before leaving, she walked into the nursery, quiet to avoid waking Jamie from her nap. She stared down at the baby, finding it difficult to maintain the icy indifference because Jamie’s eyebrows were so light that Maya could not stop herself from reaching out and tracing one with her fingertip.

 

“I’m sorry,” Maya whispered, unsure where the apology came from, but needing to say it nonetheless.

 

I’m sorry for being so cold, for not picking you up and holding you. I’m sorry for not kissing Mama before I go…I’m sorry that we’re all in this mess because of me…I’m sorry this world treats women like trash and I’m sorry you may find that out someday…but I will do everything in my power to make it better for you…to make your world better than mine is or was or will be.

 

Maya left without another word.

 

~*~

 

An old familiar voice rose as Maya drove to SFD headquarters. She could hear him as if he was in the car beside her. And for once, she didn’t push it away. She didn’t fear it. She embraced it.

 

Eyes forward

 

Each red light. Each left turn. Maya paid attention to her breathing, she paid attention to her racing thoughts and calmed each one.

 

The only way out was through. She could not control the result of her hearing, but she could control every word that came out of her mouth.

 

And no matter what happened, Maya knew she was right. She had done the right thing. She had zero regrets. She was right.

 

The parking lot was busy, but Maya’s focus was absolute, and she didn’t let the extra time it took to find a spot bother her. She’d arrived early. She was calm. She was right.

 

She was also great.

 

She knew she was great.

 

“I’m great,” she whispered to herself, still seated, still holding onto the steering wheel.

 

She was also anxious because she didn’t know who she was without the job. She didn’t know who she was with the SFD badge on her chest. And she didn’t want to find out. She was so tired of fighting, so tired that she wished Carina was with her to hold up some of her weight.

 

No. Eyes forward.

 

She could hold her own weight. She didn’t need anyone. Or anything.

 

A quick glance in her rear-view mirror put a dent in that philosophy. Because Jamie’s wolf stuffy was lying on the backseat, apparently forgotten alongside an impossibly tiny sock.

 

Maya stared at it for a moment before reaching back and closing her fingers around its grey fur. She held the plush toy in her hands, feeling the ice melt, feeling the truth…

 

She could hold her own weight, but it was so much easier when Carina helped her do it.

 

She needed Carina.

 

She needed Jamie.

 

And they weren’t here because she’d kept them at arm’s length. She’d frozen them out and kept her eyes forward and…

 

Maya tossed the stuffy on the passenger’s seat and opened the door, hopping out into the warm afternoon sun. The uniform was hot and itchy, but it made her stand tall and she would be damned if she walked into that building with anything but her head held high.

 

The sidewalk was crowded as it usually was in front of SFD, which is why it took her a second to realize that she recognized the group of people standing by the door.

 

Jack waved and Vic did too. Theo was with her and so was Travis. Ben and Andy and…

 

Robert Sullivan.

 

Maya swallowed hard, her icy resolve shaking.

 

“You’ve got this, Bishop,” Jack said. Andy nodded, her eyes intense, but kind.

 

“I…thank you for being here,” Maya didn’t know what else to say, she was shocked to see her team, she was shocked anyone cared.

 

“Bishop,” Sullivan began, taking one step closer to her, “you were a great captain. And you will be a great captain again. I know we’ve had our differences and I know today could affect my career and yours. But I have always been proud to serve next to you. That hasn’t changed.”

 

Maya had to force herself not to stare at the man in shock.

 

“Thank you, Sullivan,” she managed.

 

They all wished her well, all of them, with open smiles and reassuring pats on the back. When Maya turned to finally go inside, she was again surprised to find that she recognized the people standing in the lobby.

 

“Captain Dale?” She stuttered, overwhelmed by the sight of her former-captain and Donna smiling widely at her.

 

“The rest of the team sends their best,” Dale said, “but someone had to stay back and put out fires.”

 

“I…I mean…how did…”

 

“That wife of yours is very convincing,”  Donna laughed.

 

Of course…

 

“Bishop,” Captain Dale’s kind eyes and her reassuring smile did much to calm Maya’s nerves, “no matter what happens today, hold onto the fact that you’re an exceptional firefighter. You have a team that showed up for you and that counts for a great deal. And you also have a wife who’d give you the moon if she could. That’s a lot to hold onto, Bishop. You’re a wealthy woman.”

 

Captain Dale’s words echoed as Maya stepped into the elevator. In five minutes she’d gone from following the path Lane made for her to realizing that she’d long ago left that path behind and forged her own.

 

It was a path dotted with friends and colleagues. With pain, true, but also companionship. There were people beside her, cheering her on, guiding her. She didn’t need to go alone. No matter what happened next, she didn’t need to go alone.

 

Guilt surfaced immediately as she remembered how cold she’d been with Carina in the morning. She checked her phone, noting the time, wondering if she’d have a moment to at least send a text. Her lock screen showed Carina and Jamie in a moment of shared contemplation – Jamie learning Carina’s face, Carina watching Jamie with equal fascination.

 

If her friends were beside her, Carina and Jamie were in front, compelling her forward, urging her on. They were her finish line every single time and they would be until her dying breath.

 

Maya inhaled, straightening her back, confidence flooding her system as the elevator dinged indicating she’d reached the correct floor. She found herself in a long marble hallway lined with benches. People milled about, most in SFD uniforms, many with comically large moustaches, and Maya forced away the memory of her wedding night. The mad dash to MacCallister’s office…

 

She turned a corner, concentrating on room numbers, when she found herself once more shocked by what she was seeing.

 

Because somehow Carina was there. Carina and Jamie.

 

Carina rose from a bench, Jamie in her arms, and she offered Maya a shy smile, clearly worried that she’d overstepped. The sight of her family alone was invigorating. Maya’s doubts, her fears, her worry evaporated as she nearly jogged to Carina’s side.

 

Jamie was wearing a navy-blue onesie she’d never seen before, the SFD logo on the front. But when she twisted to look over Carina’s shoulder at a loud noise, Maya felt her eyes well at the name printed across the back.

 

DeLuca-Bishop

 

“Very clever, Dr. DeLuca,” Maya said, wishing she could sweep her wife off her feet and kiss her. She had to settle for taking her hand. At the sound of Maya’s voice, Jamie turned again, her fingers finding Maya’s nose in greeting.

 

“Baby T-Rex, I need that,” Maya laughed, taking the baby from Carina. She kissed Jamie’s forehead, nuzzling her cheek against the softest hair, as she looked at Carina with more love than she knew what to do with.

 

“I know you said you wanted to be alone…”

 

They were in public and Maya was about to be called in for the most important moment of her career, but she couldn’t stop herself from leaning in and gently kissing the small band aid beneath Carina’s jaw. She raised the hand she was still holding and pressed a kiss to Carina’s knuckles before they both sat down, waiting together.

 

Carina’s fingers were strong and Jamie’s palm brushed against Maya’s lips and when a door opened moments later and her name was called, Maya stood proudly.

 

She looked at her child, healthy and happy. She looked at her wife, beautiful and vibrant.

 

And she decided to take her life back once and for all.

 

~*~

 

The room contained two long tables.

 

Maya sat at one and across the room, three men sat behind the other. She watched them shuffle papers, reading their name tags, wondering if their white hair and their mustaches would bode well for her.

 

Battalion Chief Edward Adams

 

Captain Max O’Reilly

 

Battalion Chief Len Backowitz

 

Three old white men held her fate in their hands. Maya wanted to roll her eyes. Instead, she linked her fingers on top of the table and waited.

 

Battalion Chief Adams cleared his throat, finally looking up at her.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop,” he began, “you are aware of why you are here.”

 

“I am, Sir,” she said.

 

“Today we will review the circumstances surrounding your demotion and subsequent hearing. You will be allowed to speak. We have also reviewed the…I must say…copious number of witness statements. At the end, we will make our decision regarding today’s outcome. Is that clear?”

 

“Yes, Sir.”

 

“Good. In your own words, could you please describe the events of June 1st, 2021?”

 

Maya took a centering breath and nodded.

 

“There was a housefire. Station 23 was present on the scene, so 19 took charge of rescue operations,” Maya said, remembering the call that had haunted her every day since. “There were a number of civilians unaccounted for, which caused a great deal of confusion. But we had everyone out, except for a young boy, Zaza Delgado. Our aid car was unavailable, and when Zaza was found, he had extensive full-thickness burns.”

 

Captain O’Reilly scratched his cheek. “And why was the aid car unavailable?”

 

“It was used to transport another patient. Zaza’s mother did not realize he was in the house until after the aid car left. When I called for another car, I was told none were available.”

 

“Can you describe the child’s condition at this time?” Chief Backowitz didn’t look at her as he asked, his eyes remained firmly on the papers in front of him.

 

“To be blunt, he was dying. He needed immediate attention and without the aid car, there was little we could do for him. That’s the choice I had to make. Let him die or break protocol.”

 

“Chief McCallister clearly told you not to use the engine. Do you agree?” Chief Adams clicked his pen, his dark eyes making her nervous.

 

“I do, Sir,” Maya said, “I know it’s against protocol. But protocol does not state what to do when response times plummet, when there are no aid cars available. I chose to save a child’s life. Was I insubordinate? According to protocol, I was. But protocol would have left that boy to die. As Captain, I made a choice. I stand by it.”

 

There was a series of muffled conversations, whispered words, and Maya remained very still, watching. Wondering whether she’d helped her case or just destroyed her chances.

 

“Is it true your station participated in a rally for the Black Lives Matter movement?” Adams leaned forward, his brow furrowed.

 

“I cannot dictate what my team does in their private lives, Sir.”

 

“True, but did you not have a run-in with SPD that led to the arrest of members of your station?”

 

Maya grit her teeth, cursing the day Dixon was born. “That is true. Police offers brutalized and arrested two of my crew without merit. They proceeded to antagonize us…so, yes, members of Station 19 chose to march in a protest after hours, out of uniform, as private citizens.”

 

“You as well?” O’Reilly asked.

 

Maya nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

 

“According to the report, you were demoted on June 3rd, 2021. How were you notified?”

 

“By email. Though I didn’t see it until much later in the day.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Because I was getting married,” she said, thumbing her wedding ring.

 

Backowitz raised his eyebrows. “I’m sorry, just to be clear, June 3rd, 2021 was your wedding day?”

 

“It was.”

 

“And from what I understand, you had a confrontation with Chief McCallister that evening, as well?”

 

“Yes. He threatened to dismantle 19 and send Captain Herrera to another station if I did not step down.” Maya clenched her fists, trying to keep the furious tremor from her voice. The demotion, McCallister’s sexist dismissal, the image of Carina, stunning and graceful, standing behind her, holding her up on what should have been their day.

 

“So you stepped down pending investigation in order to keep Captain Herrera at 19? But she was transferred to 23.”

 

“Yes, Sir.”

 

Backowitz frowned and Maya hoped he realized that McCallister had essentially forced her hand, that he’d treated her like a chess piece. That he’d exiled Andy just because he could.

 

“Let’s move on to your hearing. Again, can you describe in your own words the conversation with Chief Ross that took place on March 7, 2022?” Backowitz asked.

 

Maya shuffled in her chair. “Chief Ross asked to schedule a meeting, which I did. On the day of she informed me that we could have a conversation in the barn, which is when she told me that I was not going to get my captaincy back.”

 

“Did she provide more explanation?” Backowitz continued.

 

“She said I’d put my crew in danger,” Maya said.

 

“And did you?”

 

“With all due respect, Sir, she compared me to a soldier in Afghanistan whose entire unit died due to his negligence. My crew was literally in the suburbs of Seattle.”

 

O’Reilly bit his lip though Maya could see a smile trying to break through.

 

“And after this conversation, how would you describe your interactions with Chief Ross?”

 

“Chief Ross made it clear that I was not her favourite person,” Maya said, trying to bite back on sarcasm, but failing miserably.

 

Adams tilted his head, surprised. “Oh?”

 

“I was sent to District Six in Castle Rock with no explanation. And I’m sure Chief Ross would say it’s because I was a good fit for the job there, but zero consideration was given to my family or how it would affect us. My daughter had to have emergency surgery and I almost missed it. She could’ve…”

 

Maya’s voice shook, so she stopped speaking. Not wanting to utter the word. Not even wanting to think it.

 

“Ah, yes, that was after your week-long suspension?” O’Reilly circled something on the paper in front of him, as if reminding himself of an important detail.

 

“Yes, Sir.”

 

“The official report states that your suspension was due to insubordination. There seems to be a theme here, Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

“Again, with all due respect, Sir, Chief Ross said something deeply offensive, and I reacted. Maybe I reacted poorly, but I doubt anyone in my position would have done differently.”

 

“Can you elaborate on that?” Adams asked, folding his arms across his chest.

 

Maya hated that the discussion was turning so personal. She wanted to keep her family in one box and her work in another. But she also knew her worlds had intertwined long ago. Carina was practically a board member of Station 19. She was also surprisingly good at rolling hoses…

 

“Chief Ross accused me of letting my personal life cloud my judgment. She said…” Maya took a steadying breath, “she said I was responsible for the death of a civilian.”

 

“You’re referring to the DeLuca incident, correct?” O’Reilly tapped his pen again.

 

The DeLuca Incident

 

Nothing more than a footnote. Three small words.

 

“Yes, Sir,” Maya said quietly.

 

“And how is this connected to your personal life?” Adams asked.

 

“Andrew DeLuca, the civilian who died, was my wife’s brother. My wife…we weren’t married yet, but…Carina was present that day too. Chief Ross implied that my actions resulted in Andrew’s death and that my wife could have easily died as well.”

 

The anger was still there. The flippant, effortless way Ross had tossed out her claim.

 

With a shrug.

 

With a wave of her hand.

 

Oh, Carina could have died, what’s for breakfast, Bishop?

 

Maya bowed her head, trying to hide her pain. She wanted to appear strong and impenetrable. The last thing she wanted to be was a woman crying in front of three old men. It’s what they’d expect.

 

Fuck their expectations.

 

“Lieutenant Bishop, we have spoken extensively with witnesses from that day, including the FBI. From what we have found, you did not break protocol, nor were your actions tied to the incident in the train station,” Backowitz spoke kindly, almost in reassurance.

 

Maya raised her head, surprised. It emboldened her. Maybe they were on her side? She studied her interviewers for a moment, noting that each of them wore a wedding ring.

 

“I was suspended because I refused to allow Chief Ross to disrespect my wife.  I doubt any of you would have behaved differently if you were in my shoes,” Maya said, raising her chin, ready for whatever homophobic, patriarchal garbage was about to come her way.

 

She could take it. She would take it. There was no backing down about this. Ever.

 

There was more murmuring as all three men leaned in towards Adams, and again Maya wished she could decipher what was happening. 

 

She took in Backowit’s receding hairline and O’Reilly’s beard and Adams’ sideburns and wondered what it would take to change the department that was obviously so averse to change. She wondered how Natasha Ross couldn’t see the opportunity she had. How she didn’t see people like Maya and Andy and Vic as the future, as a way to smash the glass ceiling to pieces so small that it could never be rebuilt.

 

Natasha Ross wasn’t a monster. Maya respected her ambition. She respected her success. But she could not respect someone who tossed women under the bus, who climbed the ladder and instead of reaching behind her to help the next person up, she kicked down, blocking the way.

 

As always, Maya’s thoughts then drifted to Jamie. Because what would Jamie face in her life? Would she have to fight just as hard as Maya did? Or would the world be more open by the time Jamie stepped into it?

 

“Lieutenant Bishop?” Adams sat up straight, and Maya knew without a doubt that the committee had come to some sort of decision.

 

“Yes, Sir?”

 

“We have spent many weeks reviewing your case, talking with witnesses, reading victim-impact statements from the Delgado family. We’ve spoken with the FBI, numerous medical experts, and firefighters from multiple jurisdictions. Without a doubt, McCallister was correct when he accused you of insubordination.”

 

Maya’s stomach dropped. She clenched her jaw, ready to defend herself, ready to throw it all away because no…no! This was not happening.

 

“However,” Adams continued, “we also feel that the punishment far outweighs the crime. Your record is exemplary, Lieutenant Bishop. We have testimony from your team, from the team at District Six, there is no reason that we can see for you face further demotion.”

 

Wait…wait…

 

“We would like to reinstate you to the rank of captain. You’ve more than done your time, Lieutenant Bishop.”

 

Maya opened her mouth to speak, but found she could not form words. After a year of fighting, after a year of feeling like she was drowning, something had gone right. 

 

“Station 77 is in need of a captain. Their lieutenant is quite green, but shows potential. Under your leadership, 19 had the best response times in the city. We’d like you to bring that skill to 77,” Adams said, which gave Maya pause.

 

Because there was always a catch.

 

“Station 77?” She asked, though she already understood what Adams’ words meant.

 

“Yes. We understand that leaving Station 19 is a decision you will need to make, but 19 is not in need of a new captain, 77 is.”

 

Maya gulped, but forced herself to appear neutral despite the strange mix of joy and sadness she was experiencing. All three men stood, and she rose too, sensing the meeting was over.

 

“We will need your answer by Monday. But for now? SFD would like to extend its congratulations, Captain Bishop.”

 

They saluted her, those ancient bastions of what remained a boy’s club, saluted her, and Maya saluted them back, her head held high as she did.

 

“Thank you, Sir,” Maya said, an old familiar feeling flooding her body. A feeling she still craved.

 

She’d won.

 

She’d crossed the finish line first.

 

She’d won.

 

They were playing the national anthem and she was highest on the podium.

 

She’d won.

 

Carina was still sitting on a bench with Jamie as Maya left the room, but she stood up at the sight of Maya, her face etched with worry.

 

The worry gave way to happiness when Maya smiled, when she beamed at her wife and baby. She crossed the hallway in one quick stride and wrapped her arms around Carina before tipping their foreheads together, her smile so wide it made her cheeks hurt, and they both breathed out in relief.

 

Mia capitana,” Carina said, cheeky, and Maya felt it too.

 

The confidence. The swagger.

 

She wasn’t sure how to feel about leaving 19. It was something she’d need to discuss with Carina. But for once, Maya decided not to jump ten steps ahead. She wanted to stay in the moment, in Carina’s arms, standing in a marble hallway filled with people going about their day, unaware of the bittersweet joy radiating from the little family huddled together in their midst.

 

 

Chapter Text

Spending the afternoon beside Teddy and Owen’s new pool was not how Carina expected the rest of the day to go.

 

Maya wasn’t scheduled back at work and Carina wasn’t working either, which is why when Teddy sent the invitation, they both paused in the parking lot of SFD and shrugged. It was late August and the temperature was sweltering. Jamie loved the water and they’d just found out that Maya was being promoted and that she’d have to leave the only station she’d ever known.

 

A pool party surrounded by doctors instead of firefighters asking questions was oddly appealing.

 

Which is how Carina found herself stretched out on a deck chair, margarita in hand, openly ogling her wife.

 

“Okay, there are children here,” Amelia said, suddenly blocking Carina’s view of the pool.

 

Carina shrugged. “Yes, I know.”

 

“You are undressing your wife with your eyeballs, Carina.”

 

“You can’t see my eyes. You do not know what I am doing with them,” Carina said, pointing to her sunglasses.

 

Amelia took a seat beside her, the smile on her face pure evil.

 

The sound of splashing and laughter filled the air, and while Carina didn’t want to give Amelia the satisfaction of being right, she was, in fact, totally correct.

 

Because watching Maya in the pool had Carina near orgasmic.

 

Maya wasn’t doing anything particularly alluring. She held Jamie in both hands, playfully dipping her in and out of the water, laughing as Jamie kicked each time her toes hit the surface. It was true that each curl of her arm gave Carina the perfect view of her biceps, but it was the combination of a slightly revealing blue two piece, Maya’s obvious happiness with Jamie, and the swagger she’d carried with her from the hearing.

 

One of Meredith’s kids splashed too closely to Jamie and Maya immediately gathered the baby up close to her chest, scowling as she placed a protective hand over Jamie’s head. Her displeased pout made Carina sigh.

 

“Seriously, children Carina, children everywhere,” Amelia cut in though Carina didn’t turn away from her wife who was now busy waving Jamie’s little hand towards Pru as she swam close by under Teddy’s watchful gaze.

 

Carina raised one finger. “You are looking too. Do not lie.”

 

“Her shoulders are right there. Where else am I supposed to look?”

 

Carina could think of many places to look, but decided not to share that with Amelia. There were some things for her eyes only.

 

Owen walked by then holding a box of popsicles, which Carina gratefully accepted, the heat of the day, her thick hair making everything feel a little too sweaty. She broke it in half, sharing with Amelia, and then continued her poolside vigil, content to watch her little family.

 

Even from the small distance, Carina could see the tips of Maya’s ears and her shoulders turning red, and though they’d smothered Jamie in sunscreen, it looked like Maya had forgotten a few spots on herself.

 

Bambina!” Carina called out, getting Maya’s attention.

 

Maya raised her eyebrows, clearly surprised.

 

Stai brucianda, Tesoro!”

 

Carina couldn’t always be sure how much Italian Maya actually understood, but her words had the desired effect, because Maya hoisted Jamie to her shoulder and climbed out of the pool, which gave Carina a perfect view of water droplets rolling down muscled thighs and tight abs.

 

She raised the popsicle to her mouth, her eyes on Maya’s as she licked the tip, swirling her tongue before closing her lips over its length.

 

“You two are obscene,” Amelia growled, though Carina ignored her, having much more fun watching the way Maya’s lips rose into a smirk.

 

Carina was about to tease Amelia about Kai when Jamie started crying, apparently displeased to be away from the water. It broke any and all sexual tension and Carina practically tossed her popsicle on the ground, worried instead about finding Jamie’s towel.

 

“Hey, Baby T-Rex, what’s happening?” Maya laughed, still walking towards Carina, now close enough that they could all hear the question. She scooped Jamie up and blew a raspberry against her neck which made the crying turn into boisterous laughter.

 

Amelia whistled low. “Okay, yeah, no…that’s insanely attractive, I get it.”

 

“Amelia!” Carina tried to stay serious, but it was hard because Jamie’s giggle, her tiny hands fluttering against Maya’s face, the funny way her hair was sticking up in the middle, Carina couldn’t be mad if she tried.

 

Maya took a seat on the end of Carina’s chair and passed Jamie to Carina who had a towel all ready.

 

“Dr. Shepherd,” she said, raising her sunglasses and resting them on top of her head.

 

Captain Bishop,” Amelia answered back, which made Maya’s cocky grin grow wider and wider.

 

Jamie bit down on Carina’s shoulder with a gummy little mouth, which made all three adults laugh. The baby was apparently not in the mood to be swaddled and she pushed against Carina, as if she was trying to look her in the eye.

 

“Are you mad, Picollina?” Carina asked, finding herself face to face with a very unimpressed little girl.

 

Jamie fussed, her bottom lip wobbling, but before she could start crying in earnest, Amelia plucked her from Carina’s hand.

 

“Hey, Mini DeLucs, what would you say to a nap?” Amelia asked. Jamie turned her head to look at Maya, her little brow furrowed.

 

Maya shrugged and booped Jamie’s nose.

 

“Ultimately it’s your decision, Jamie,” she said, which made Jamie turn back to Amelia. She seemed caught between wanting to cry and wanting to sleep, and when she reached out her little hand towards Carina, Carina took it, trying to remain still and calm.

 

Jamie wasn’t a huge fan of people she didn’t know and while she’d met Amelia before, Carina sensed that her baby had a touch of separation anxiety. It was to be expected given her traumatic birth and more recent traumatic custody battle. While she likely couldn’t remember either or the weeks she’d spent in the NICU, some subconscious part of her always wanted Carina or Maya close. It both worried Carina and made her heart feel like it was going to burst.

 

That this tiny life needed her? That Jamie recognized her? That she’d chosen Carina to be her mother?

 

Maya pressed her hand to Jamie’s back and they all watched as Jamie closed her eyes and yawned and finally fell asleep against Amelia’s shoulder.

 

Carina could tell that Amelia was somewhat bewildered by what had just happened, but she appreciated that for once, there was no flirtatious remark or sarcasm. Amelia knew everything the DeLuca-Bishops had been through to make their family. She knew all the pain and turmoil of the past few months.

 

As she stood from the chair, she winked, both hands holding Jamie, and for once Carina didn’t feel a pang of fear as she watched Amelia carry Jamie into the house. With every day that passed, they came closer and closer to signing the official paperwork. Jamie was safe and so were they.

 

Maya moved closer on the chair and Carina uncrossed her legs, helping to make room. She reached into the bag next to her, retrieving their sunscreen. Maya was burning through SPF 30. Carina would need to invest in something stronger.

 

“Come here,” Carina said, patting the space between her knees.

 

Maya glanced down at Carina’s hand and then up again. “We are in public, Dr. DeLuca.”

 

. And you are turning into a lobster.”

 

“A lobster?”

 

Andiamo, Capitana!”

 

With an indulgent smirk, Maya settled between Carina’s legs, sighing lightly when Carina placed a kiss on the back of her neck. She seemed content, both hands finding Carina’s knees, and Carina belatedly realized that it was the first time they’d been alone all day.

 

Technically they were surrounded by her colleagues, but they had both focused almost entirely on Jamie since leaving SFD and now they had a moment of just the two of them.

 

Carina massaged sunscreen into Maya’s shoulders, frowning slightly at the pink skin.

 

Bambina you need to wear a hat,” she chided, ignoring Maya’s annoyed grunt because even as she protested, she reached into their bag and found her Mariner’s cap.

 

As she placed it on her head, gathering her ponytail, Carina couldn’t help but kiss the back of her neck again. She knew Maya was likely hyper-focused on the outcome of her hearing. On the fact that she was going to leave 19.

 

By the time the hearing was over, A-Crew was long gone, called back to work, so Maya had sent a vague text to their group chat indicating that everything went well and she’d fill them in later. Telling her team that she was going would be hard. Stepping away from the only house she’d ever known would be harder.

 

But Carina also knew Maya well enough to understand that she’d talk when she wanted to and not a minute sooner.

 

“This is nice,” Maya said, relaxing under Carina’s touch.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“The party. It’s easier…”

 

Carina understood exactly what Maya was trying to say, even without words.

 

Easier than being with 19, with people who kne