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A Most Supremely Powerful Force

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Maybe Carina DeLuca is a silently suffering martyr of her own making, falling into the pattern of fixing broken people in spite of herself.

Maybe she’s a masochist; she likes a little pain mixed with the pleasure of seeing her people thrive.

Carina does what she can for others and does her best to protect her heart from the aftermath. She always has, always will. She is nothing if not tenacious, and sometimes that comes back to bite her in the ass.

She wonders if she was always meant to be a caretaker or if the circumstances of her life molded her into it over time, smoothing over the rough edges of her independence and forcing her to watch over others, provide a sounding board, act as the glue desperately bonding them together as breaks and crumbles reign.

She remembers years of shepherding Andrea out of the house during brutal screaming matches between their parents, heart stampeding in her chest as she held him close, a hand running over unruly hair as she’d lead them to the park. She would find a bench and sit them down, and she would sing as Andrea curled up in her lap, until he finally settled.

Then, and only then, would she let her mind run wild, thoughts racing her heartbeat for first place.

Carina would cry, but only until the church bells rang out the hour. Then, it was time to compose herself, wait half an hour, and then wake Andrea with reassurances that everything would be alright as they reluctantly made their way home.

When her mother died, she supposes, is when her role as caretaker became family wide. Or maybe before then. Definitely before then.

Carina tells her mamma she will be fine when their family fractures down the middle, leaving Carina with her unstable father while mother and brother get to live out their great American adventure. She promises her mamma she will look after her father and the house and her nonna, makes her mother promise her the same of Andrea and herself, and her mamma knows Carina will take care of things, as she always does.

But no one promised to take care of Carina. Therein lies the problem.

Carina spends her teenage years placing calls to her mother and brother in Wisconsin, with excuses for her father’s absence, makes no mention of the fact that her father has been holed up in his office for four days straight, plates of food and glasses of water she’d left him remaining untouched outside the door. She doesn’t mention to her brother or her mother that she’s slept on the floor of the hallway just in case her father snaps out of the mania long enough to take care of himself. Instead, she distracts Andrea with stories of her classmates and her customers at the cafe, and eventually, Andrea stops asking to speak with their papa, and Carina feels a weight lifted.

She hates to lie to him.

When their father is his normal self and she can get him to speak with Andrea, it seems like her efforts to keep their household afloat are nothing much at all. Her mother doesn’t ask questions, making it very clear she doesn’t want to see her ex-husband ever again, let alone speak with him, so she only has to keep Andrea off her trail.

To her mother, she updates her as to the latest projects she’s working on in school, and informs that her mamma’s predicted the fall-out of the latest friendship drama in her group down to a tee. She fails to mention that she is paying the bills and going to school and cooking and cleaning and working and taking care of her father and she goes on like that, for years, not wanting to worry anyone.

It’s a lonely existence, but someone’s got to do it.

She finds herself spread so thin that she’s exhausted. She has relationships, or really more like extended flings which call themselves boy or girlfriend. But she can’t put in the emotional labor.

Medical school is surprisingly a major relief with the burden of her father’s care shifted to his own shoulders for once, and Carina lets herself work hard, play harder, and have fun for the first time in ages.

Flings are fun, flings are easy. But when too much emotion finds its way in, Carina is generally good at letting go. It’s a protective measure, really. Emotions tend to put a damper on things and Carina has enough bummers in her life as is. She sees enough of it at work, being the calming force of reason for expectant parents and scared young patients alike, and in her family, always the emotional punching bag for father and brother alike.

Friends are almost out of the question, or at least new friends. She’s got plenty in her life that requires her attention and she can barely maintain the friendships she already has.

It’s not as if Carina is not committed; she is- to her work, to her family, to the desires of her heart.

So she moves, every now and again, to learn in a different environment, to get a fleeting hit of freedom, to remind herself she still can before the inevitable breakdowns of her father send her- ever the dutiful daughter-back to Italy to take care of everything.

After one particularly brutal and cruel episode of her father’s mania, Carina contemplates calling Andrea for backup; their father always seems to value his son’s opinions over her own, and he’d made it very clear how little her opinions mattered to him in his latest bout of illness. But then she thinks Andrea is in his residency. She can’t interrupt his career. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

She knows it’s not fair to her, either. But someone has to handle their father, someone must retain a level head, and so she always returns.

Such is the pattern of her life; move, learn, fling, breakdown, back to Italy, repeat. She’s a free bird, whether by virtue of circumstance or choice- she doesn’t think too hard into it.

And the pattern had worked so well until Seattle.

She finds a fling rather quickly on her second night in town, decides she’s close enough to Andrea that if something truly bad were to happen, she could get to him in a heartbeat, but gives herself the day after settling in to indulge in her latest fling before informing her brother of her arrival.

She finds herself at a hole in the wall just a few blocks from the hospital she hopes will become the home of her latest research, and very quickly a blonde sitting on a barstool catches her eye.

Arizona.

She is fun and flirty and not too serious, and that’s all Carina is looking for, really, so she gladly accepts the offer to go home together.

But of course, what are the odds that her brother would live with this fling of hers? The last they’d seen of each other, he had taken a three week refuge on her couch after a bad breakup. And here she is defiling his own couch.

Her luck, truly impeccable.

Carina finds as she settles into her researching and her brother-watching and her flinging that she doesn’t hate Seattle the way she thought she would, doesn’t even mind the gloomy weather because for once in her life she’s feeling balanced and in control and happy. She surprises herself one day toward the end of her research, wishing to extend her trip. She might go so far as to say she likes it in Seattle, or at least doesn’t mind it.

And maybe this has something to do with the fact that she’s less worried here, her anxiety over Andrea’s possible mental health issues assuaged by their close, if slightly adversarial, relationship, and her proximity in the event of a manic episode.

Eventually, in spite of her free spirited self, some roots poke their way through.

Carina settles easily into a routine of flirting with her girlfriend in the hallways between patients and keeping her eyes and ears open for signs of trouble with her brother’s precarious mental health, and it’s loose and casual and less restrictive than she’d thought it would be.

She thinks maybe she could live a life here in Seattle.

Then she gains privileges to practice at Grey Sloan and it all seems to fall into her lap. She gains regular patients and finds a semi-decent coffee shop, and makes time to check in with her brother. Things seem to be going well.

Arizona up and leaving had thrown her for a loop. This is completely new to her. Usually she’s the one who leaves. The one who disappears and keeps on keeping on. That’s the way Carina likes it, or the way she used to like it. She’s not so sure anymore. She feels for her former flings after Arizona leaves her.

She decides wants to put down roots and promises she won’t go running from the next one, will just let it take its course. She vows to make Seattle her home, at least for a while, decides she’ll give it a fighting chance.

Carina throws herself into work to forget about the sort of relationship with Arizona and eventually finds herself in Owen Hunt’s bed, which is all fun and games, just what she needs to get her mind off of things for a while.

But then of course, her father breaks down again and that fling goes out the window as she finds herself on a flight to Italy once more.

She smooths over the ruffled feathers caused by his latest manic episode, nurses him back to himself over the course of two months, regales him with stories of her travels as he slowly comes back to a semblance of himself and she feels comfortable leaving him be. Except he insists on returning to Seattle with her, and Carina has no choice but to acquiesce.

Each time the jagged edges of her family come together, always smashing and crashing until they almost fit as one whole but never without breakage, Carina wonders why.

Well, because she loves them, of course.

Why else would someone be so crazy as to repeatedly get on the same terrifying roller coaster?

It’s no different this time. Carina finds herself with a constant headache as her father’s grandiose delusion of a study gets approval and he begins working manically. She knows Andrea doesn’t really see it at first, so again, she must step in, be the contrarian for the betterment of her loved ones. And she does, allows herself permission to save lives at the expense of her own relationship with her father, who berates her in front of her coworkers, goes behind her back to promise patients unreasonable outcomes, who acts as if her years and years of specialized training are nothing, as if she’s nothing. The headache doesn’t lift until he leaves.

And then, there is so much to focus on professionally and interpersonally that she lets her sexual needs fall on the back burner.

Carina has no time for flings, too busy helping multiple coworkers through obstetric treatment with the utmost care, perhaps trying to prove to herself that her father’s harsh assessments about her profession aren’t true, and then with worrying for her brother who straddles the line between commitment and obsession which scares her more and more as time goes on.

She loves her father, and she loves her brother, maybe to her own detriment, but she will always look out for them both, even if they don’t appreciate her help. It’s exhausting work, but again, someone has to do it and it must be Carina, because neither of the two can go it alone.

The weeks that follow are much the same for Carina who still has no time to think about flings, let alone committed relationships. She is busy, taking care, looking out, guiding wayward ships to shore.

But then, one day as Carina works the pit, a blonde in a red jacket comes in with a nose in a plastic bag, and she finds that she can’t stop staring until the patient in front of her grabs her attention once more.

And later that night, Carina runs into that very same blonde, who initially rebuffs her offer of company before changing her mind, and both of their lives forever.

Maya Bishop is something else entirely.

They start out as a fling, it’s true. But soon Carina finds herself thinking more and more about the woman and eventually, they’re together. Carina thinks about Maya all the time, and she decides she can tamp down on the urge to fly as soon as things get too emotional, semi-forced by Andrea’s deteriorating mental health to stay put.

She owes her beautiful budding relationship to her brother, in a weird way.

Carina thinks she might have fled at the first sign of true intimacy beyond sex had she not been needed in Seattle, but she finds when she holds Maya close, her heart is lighter. And she can’t wait to share the intricacies of her day with Maya, who listens without boredom and asks all the right questions.

Without even processing it, Carina’s internal checklist of people to care for grows by one very important person. When she goes to bed at night, praying to her mamma for all that she has left, Maya’s name finds its way to the end of her very small list. When she shops for groceries for herself and Andrea, she finds herself picking up the gross protein powder Maya is so fond of for their mornings spent together.

Maya makes her feel things she’s never felt before.And she doesn’t hate it.

Carina is proud of herself, and proud of this relationship she never really envisioned herself in.
They help each other through the tricky situations they find themselves in and have great sex and go on vacation and talk to each other and it’s good. It’s so, so good in spite of all the stuff going on with her brother. It was even going great with all the issues Maya had been having at work.

But then Maya’s familial issues drop into the station, and Carina, ever the doctor, the caretaker, the protector, just wants to help Maya heal. So, she pushes. And Maya pushes back. Insists she is fine and everything is okay and nothing has ever been wrong.

Carina knows this isn’t true but the flash of fury driven by pain that she sees in her girlfriend’s eyes as Maya denies her abuse gives Carina pause.

She brings it up after a few rounds of truly profound sex, thinking Maya has always been most open with her when they find themselves under the covers together.

She will admit, in hindsight, that her tenacity can come out of her at her own expense, and she should probably have let Maya come to grips with her abuse in her own time.

But Carina has such empathy for Maya, she knows the pain of being abused by your hero, the devastation of realizing that the very one who insisted he was taking care of you, doing the best for your wellbeing, is actually destroying you. It’s a hard pill to swallow. She wishes she’d had someone to help her through it.

They’re just two broken-hearted daddy’s girls, trying to make sense of the harm their role models have inflicted. She knows denial is a strong force, but she also knows Maya is smart. And Maya is strong, and Maya can come out the other side of this realization once she’s had it.

And so, Carina does what she always does.

She cares too hard and pushes out of a practiced need to make Maya feel better.

Except Maya isn’t ready for help, doesn't even want to admit that what happened in her youth was abuse.

Carina can’t see this, too deep in her own pain, mind swirling with memories of her own father.

She’s too wrapped up in the past to see that the Maya in front of her is overwhelmed, and when Maya gets overwhelmed she lashes out and she leaves. Carina tries in vain to stop her, but she knows when Maya has her mind set on something, she won’t waver. And so, Carina waits.

Why, Carina wonders an hour into the waiting period, why wait in the quiet of Maya’s apartment for her girlfriend to hopefully eventually return?

Because she’s committed to this.

Because she really enjoys Maya.

Because this is such a good thing they have going for themselves and an argument will not be the end of them if Carina has anything to say about it.

What other reason could there be for her remaining when things get tough, when in the past she’s flown off at the first signs of trouble?

Maybe that’s why it stings so badly when Maya returns to the apartment hours later, gives Carina every reason to be angry, and throws their relationship away in one fell swoop.

Because she’s committed.

Because she truly cares for Maya, maybe even loves her…loved her?

No.

Yes.

Without permission or conscious thought, Maya Bishop had slid into all the hidden crevices of her heart, smoothing over the fragmented edges and making her way into the very synapses of Carina’s brain, and Carina suddenly realizes she’s been thinking a lot about her future goals and plans, and always factored Maya’s in too.

It startles Carina to realize how devastated she is by the revelation of Maya’s indiscretion against her. Carina has never felt so crushed as this at the loss of a relationship, has never really gotten to the point of exclusivity before, let alone to the point where she considered the other person in her future endeavors, cared if their presence was absent from them.

But Carina feels the cold loneliness seep it’s way in before Maya’s declaration of disloyalty is even finished.

It takes her a moment, after Maya shuts herself away in her bedroom, just a moment to collect herself so she doesn’t look like the mess she feels as she makes her way down to the street and slides into her car. It is then that Carina allows herself to break.

When she leaves Maya’s place she can hardly see and has to pull the car over for half an hour before her vision is tear-free enough to continue the drive home and crawl back into her bed.

Alone.

Carina realizes as she lays there that as much as she’s mad at Maya, she’s mad at herself too. She told Maya from the start that she wasn’t in the habit of fixing broken people.

That was a lie.

But god, does she wish it were the truth. It would have saved so much heartache, in the present, in the past, probably in the future, too.

Carina knows she’s a fixer, always has been from the moment her parents first started arguing and Carina flung herself to the floor, picking up broken glass by hand after a particularly volatile fight between the ill matched pair. She still remembers the crunch beneath her feet, the fear when a piece cleaved off at her touch and her mamma’s voice scolding her for being careless. She was ten and not even thinking about a broom and a dustpan, just desperate to put the broken shards of her family back together before it could fracture further. All she wanted was to fix the glass, fix it so it never collided with the painted wood of the kitchen cabinet and spilled across the cold tiles. Carina remembers wanting to fix it so well you could hardly see the cracks, display it on the shelves again, and it would be like mamma and papa loved each other. Even then though, she knew she was chasing fantasies, and the glass was quickly discarded in the trash can.

And yet, her restless hands still ache with the familiar and pressing need to pick up hers and Maya’s broken pieces, meld them back together again and put them on the shelf .

Carina scolds herself this time.

But she can’t bring herself to sweep the glass into the dustbin just yet, can’t take the noise or the finality of it all.

Instead, she leaves the shards on the ground, steps around them as she moves about her life for weeks, ignoring the errant pieces that cut her fingertips as they graze over the protein powder she’d just restocked and the pair of too short joggers she pulls on after a rough night shift, and the face full of Maya’s fucking citrus shampoo in the pillows as she falls bed.

She can almost pretend everything is fine if she stands perfectly still in the middle of it all.

But Carina knows this is not practical. She can hear the shifting of glass beneath her feet and she knows it’s still there, of course she does. It aches and it burns in turns but Carina refuses to yield to the pain. Instead, she carries on fulfilling her oath to her patients, to her mother, to brother, and she keeps taking care of everyone else.

She has lived without Maya for over three decades. And she can do it again.

Carina knows this.

And she tries to remind herself of this during late nights when there’s no one to take care of, no one relying on her and she lays awake breathing deeply- not to get a whiff of the damn pillow, she tells herself- to calm her mind enough to get to sleep.

But as much as Carina wants to move on, she finds that she can’t.

Carina finds even in her grief, she can’t help but think of Maya, and in moments of clarity which become more frequent with distance and time between herself and the inciting incident, Carina can acknowledge the grief Maya must be working through- or so she hopes.

She knows her own grief began at 15 when her parents announced their divorce and the idea of their family unit disintegrated before her eyes. With the help of a therapist friend of her mamma’s she was able to overcome the grief and process the trauma and leftover anxiety. She only hopes Maya has someone to help her through her mourning period.

Carina oscillates between this, and berating herself for giving Maya such grace. It’s a heavy burden to bear, this level of empathy, this level of love.

And that is what this is, love.

If it weren’t it wouldn’t hurt so much.

Love isn’t always logical, she knows. But it is the most powerful force in the world; it’s what allows mothers to lift cars for their trapped children, or sisters to uproot themselves and their lives to look after little brothers, or girlfriends to grieve their respective losses for innocence.

She’s not at all expecting Maya to show up at the coffee cart outside of the hospital sporting a new haircut and an uncharacteristically high level of anxiety as she hastily stammers out an apology and promises to spend as long as Carina will allow proving her loyalty. And then Maya confesses her love for Carina and Carina doesn’t know if she wants to curl up into a ball and cry or cheer for the progress Maya has made in the time they’ve been apart.

She hates herself a little for considering even taking Maya back. Carina doesn’t know how she could possibly trust Maya again, but the sick masochistic martyr in her tells Carina she should try.

Carina has never ever been so frustrated and devastated and aroused and intrigued and enlightened by anyone before Maya. She knows that means something, something potentially very, very big. And her mind is racing with the implications of this knowledge. Carina almost doesnt know what to say.

But then there’s Teddy Altman- of all people- butting in, twice, and she just has to bring the L word into it.

She’s right of course, Carina does really truly love her, and a frustrated groan escapes her at the realization. She’s tried to ignore it, tried to retreat behind the shallow moat surrounding her heart- usually enough to deter eager suitors. But Maya Bishop is no ordinary fling, and Carina knows exactly what to say.

So, Carina is honest for the first time in weeks, tells Maya that she loves her and she truly means it with her whole heart.

And then Carina damn near stamps her feet on the ground, all the pent up emotions threatening to spill out of her as she demands, “Come kiss me”.

Carina knows it isn’t perfect. And she won’t forget, but she knows she’ll forgive, in time.

Even in this moment, the martyr, the masochist, and the caretaker within Carina are soothed by the balm of her and Maya’s love for one another, a most supremely powerful force, which drives them together again and again, heartache and grief and devastation be damned.