Maria stands in her doorway and resists the urge to wrap her arms around Carol and pull her close. She wants to move forward, wants to throw her arms around Carol, but every part of her hesitates. She’s already grieved Carol. She and Monica have already grieved for Carol, except Carol came back not remembering who they were and then had to leave again. Maria is still trying to deal with the way it set every part of her aching when Carol wasn't dead, but had to leave. Monica’s insistence that Carol would be back, she remembers them now, had only made that pain sharper. So, Maria hesitates. She doesn’t want to, but she does.
Carol hesitates too. She raises her foot and uses it the scratch the back of her calf. Her eyes dart over Maria’s face and then around past her.
“Monica’s at summer camp,” Maria manages.
“It’s this special science geared summer camp thing. She’s been excited about it for months,” Maria elaborates. It’s easier to talk about her daughter, to remember Carol’s motherly affection for her daughter, then it is to remember what it felt to be loved by Carol. Her daughter, Maria reminds herself, even though a part of her wants to say theirs.
“I wanted to see you too,” Carol says.
“How’s the galaxy you need to save doing?” Maria challenges, protecting her heart.
“The universe is a big place,” Carol says, clearly stalling. She wets her lips. “Safe without me for a time. I wanted…I’m starting to remember more things, about my life before, who I was and…”
Maria gives her time when she trails off. Carol wrinkles her nose, clearly annoyed with herself. Maria laughs. Carol grins and for a brief moment it’s like the last several years haven’t happened. Maria sighs internally at the want that she feels pulling at her.
“How about you come in and we head to the kitchen? I’m sure I have some tea or lemonade,” Maria offers.
Carol nods, eager.
They settle in at her dining room table with glasses of lemonade. Carol taps her fingers against the glass, looking around the house as if it has the answers she’s looking for. She’s looking everywhere, but at Maria.
“You remembered things?” Maria broaches, taking a sip of her lemonade.
“I think I…” Carol huffs a sigh out as she stares at the glass in her hands. Carol’s fingers still, settle against the condensation.
Maria tells herself she should point out that they’re different people now, that they may never again be the two people who loved each other, but the words stay trapped in her throat.
“I think,” Carol slowly continues. “I don’t remember ever hesitating with you. I think you made me feel safe.”
“You were always more of a look before you leap kinda of woman,” Maria manages. “Damn the consequences.”
Carol hesitates again. Her mouth opens, then closes, then she’s staring down at her glass again. The longing on Carol’s face cracks Maria’s hesitation. They’ll never be who they were before, but Maria can’t turn Carol away, can’t see a chance that they can be in each other’s lives again and not take it.
“That’s not…entirely true,” Maria soothes. “We knew there were consequences, could be consequences, and we’d try to account for them and plan how we’d manage.”
“You thought I died.”
“It could’ve just as easily have been me,” Maria acknowledges. “I’m kinda glad it’s not, but I still sorry it was you.”
Carol takes a slow steadying sip of her drink.
“I think I still have the paperwork that would’ve given you custody of Monica if I’d been the one to die,” Maria tells her.
“She said we were family.”
“We were,” Maria agrees.
Their eyes meet. There’s longing on Carol’s face and Maria isn’t ready for the hope that flares in her chest. She wants to say that maybe they could learn to be a family again. She wants to draw Carol in, but Carol has responsibilities that aren’t on Earth anymore. She can almost hear Monica tell her that they’ll just pick up and go with Carol, but they have family here too.
“Your parents would’ve been okay with me having custody?” Carol ventures.
“You were family. We just made it legal in every way available to us at the time,” Maria informs her.
Carol wets her lips. Maria takes a drink of her lemonade and glances away. She needs a brief reprieve. She wants, but she also knows that things will never go back to the way they were before, and at this point she wouldn’t want them to, but that doesn’t mean Carol and she would still work, does it?
“I loved you,” Carol tells her, no hesitation and no doubt coloring her tone. The words are stated like the fact they are. They sit there between them and Maria wants to fill the space with something more than the past tense. Carol tilts her head, let’s go of her glass and leans back, tilting the chair just slightly, as if she needs a different perspective on Maria. She sighs, then lets the chair come back down. “I don’t remember everything, I probably never will. I’m a different person now, but I remember loving you and I miss you. I barely know you at all and I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” Maria responds. The words feel small, almost contrite to the amount of feeling in them. For a brief moment she worries Carol will think they’re just a platitude. “I’ve been missing you for years.”
Carol exhales slowly. “I didn’t even remember you and I missed you.”
“I don’t expect you to be the same person you were before,” Maria reassures. “I’m not even the same person.”
Carol’s hand slides across the table. Maria’s hand meets hers. Their fingers intertwine.
“I remembered kissing you,” Carol say almost hesitantly. “I remembered that Thanksgiving that your dad called me your wife. I…”
Carols stops and stares down at their intertwined fingers. She squeezes. Maria squeezes back. Carol wets her lips.
“I’m willing to get to know who you are now if you’re willing to get to know who I’ve become?” Maria offers.
Maria wrinkles her nose as she feels tears well in her eyes. She swipes at her face. Carol lets go of her hand and makes her way over. She drops into the nearest chair and scoots closer, pulling Maria into her arms. Maria hugs her tightly, buries her face against Carol's shoulder and breathes her in. She never thought she'd get to hold Carol again, smell her again. Maria shudders, holds Carol close as she cries.
Carol rubs her back, presses a kiss to her cheek, and reiterates, "I miss you too."