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Love You From a Distance

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It was hot. The type of hot that made your skin crawl and your forehead bead with sweat. The type of hot that made you so uncomfortable that you were almost begging for some form of relief. The type of hot that made you feel somewhat delirious at points, where you mind felt fuzzy and your throat was dry and scratchy, the last drops of water drained from the bottle around an hour ago; which retrospectively was a poor choice, that is only realised when the blast of the AC begins to have zero effect on your attempt to cool the air from the blazing heat.

The road ahead was empty, the only sight being the long stretch of road framed by copper mountains and sand, the sun high in the sky which bounced off the grey tarmac strip. A small, shimmery, reflective haze laid ahead, and no matter how far you drove would never get any closer, an illusion of the mind twisted with the heat from above.

The tyres twisted to the left, the idea of getting a cold drink being the only form of motivation that pushed her to not just spin the car around completely. As she switched the car off, she opened the door and felt the suffocating feeling of calidity enter her lungs, so much so it was painful.

When she pushed the door forward, a small silver bell chimed above her ahead and she took in a large inhale. The air was chilled, the small hum from the air conditioning filled the empty space, compared to the sticky, torturous, humid air of the Californian desert.

“You made it!” A voice said from over the counter.

“You owe me one,” was all she replied, walking into the back room.

“No, honestly Carina. Thank you - I know it’s your day off but I appreciate you coming all the way down here,” the curly brunette man said, resting against the doorframe, his back turned while his sister quickly changed into some new clothes.

“You’re my little brother, I couldn't say no,” she replied with a cheeky smile, ruffling his hair as she walked past.

“Here I have some lemonade,” he said, handing her a glass, condensation dripping down the glass.

She downed nearly the entire thing, her throat finally relieving itself of its parched state. “Just like mama,” Carina said, noting the familiar taste.

“Just like mama,” he affirmed.

“So, who else is working,” she asked, picking up a notepad as well as a thigh length apron around her waist, where she stowed away a few pens as well as the paper.

“Amelia and Maggie,” he responded.

“I haven’t seen them in a while, I’ll go and say hello,” she said.

“Thank you again Carina,” he said, before walking back into the kitchen.

Carina DeLuca was sister to Andrew DeLuca, who owned a small roadside cafe in the middle of the desert. If you asked Carina to guess the daily number of customers she would have guessed it to be lower than what she could count on two hands, but as she began to help her brother out she slowly realised her assumption had been far from correct.

The place was always filled with truckers and people on road trips, and the occasional person who had taken a wrong turn and decided to make a quick pit stop. She helped when she could, but given it was a fair way from her own home she wasn’t able to come down too often.

She looked around the restaurant and mentally counted the eight or so customers sitting at their respective tables, each keeping to themselves - probably all thankful to just be out of the heat.

“Hi you two,” Carina greeted, seeing the two women behind the bar top counter.

“Carina! It’s been a while,” Amelia said, giving her a side hug, any form of close body contact not ideal in this weather.

“I know, I’ve been very busy lately, but I had the day off so when Andrea called I agreed.”

“Well, it’s nice to have you here for the day,” Maggie added.

“Oh heads up,” Amelia said, nodding towards the door. A small chime indicating the arrival of some more customers.

“I’ll take it,” Carina offered, quickly drinking another glass of water before she headed over.

As she turned the corner, she was met with three women sitting down in the booth. From the back she saw a blonde, a brunette and then sitting on the opposite side, facing Carina was the final woman who had dark curly hair, pulled back into what Carina assumed was a low bun.

As she got nearer she noticed that they were all dressed in identical outfits, olive green short sleeve t-shirts and camouflaged trousers.

“Hello ladies,” she greeted, her eyes immediately drawn to the blonde woman. She had these bright, blue eyes that seemed hardened and closed off, yet they peaked Carina’s curiosity. What was hidden behind those blue eyes?

“You’re new.” The blonde stated more than questioned, staring right back at her. The tone in which she spoke made Carina falter for a moment, not quite expecting her to be so direct but if anything it only interested her more.

“Something like that. My name is Carina,” she introduced.

“It’s nice to meet you Carina,” the brunette woman said, giving a pointed stare to the blonde that could only be described as silently saying: what is wrong with you, be nice.

“Likewise. Are you guys in the army?” She asked curiously, the choice of outfit being her main source of evidence.

“Marines,” the other woman replied. “Corporal Victoria Hughes,” she added, sticking out her hand which Carina shook.

“Corporal Andy Herrera,” the brunette said in turn.

“Sergeant Maya Bishop,” the blonde finished.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you all. Thank you for your service,” she responded with a grateful smile. “So Sergeant huh? Does that mean you are these two’s boss?”

“I lead the unit, yes,” Maya replied.

“A very good one at that,” Vic spoke up. “Even if you made us workout like crazy people.”

“You joined the Marines,” Maya quipped back, Carina seeing the first smile from the blonde since they’d been talking.

“Okay - can we actually order please? I’m starving,” Andy said, interrupting the pair.

“Oh yes sorry. Can I have sausage, egg and bacon, and an orange juice?” Vic ordered.

“Chocolate chip waffles please and a water,” Andy said.

“Black coffee and a breakfast burrito please,” Maya finished, handing her menu back over to Carina, their fingertips lightly brushing at the contact.

“Of course, I’ll be back with your drinks soon,” she said, her eyes once again landing on Maya as she spoke before having to turn away.

As she walked back, she couldn’t help but hear both Andy and Vic whisper-shouting something to Maya although she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.

“Who was it that came in - you were a while?” Amelia asked when Carina returned to the bar.

“Three women from the Marines,” Carina replied.

“Ah they haven’t been here in a while,” Maggie noted, checking the drink order from Carina before pulling out some glasses.

“Andrea! Order!” Carina said, putting the piece of paper up on the ticket rack.

“Grazie!” He replied.

Back at the table the three Marines were sat waiting for their drinks.

“What the hell was that Bishop!” Andy said, punching her friend in the arm.

“Ow - what do you mean?” Maya replied.

“The very attractive brunette that just came to our table to take our order. Why didn’t you talk to her?!”

“I did!”

“Saying: you’re new. Isn’t talking to her. She was looking at you too!”

“Oh guys c’mon, seriously? I’ve known her for like two minutes, what could you have gathered from that?”

“That she likes you, or is at least interested in you, did you not see how she was looking at you?” Vic exclaimed, getting excited for the blonde.

“I’m sure it was just the uniform,” Maya waved off.

Despite her friends’ comments and her somewhat reserved tone she had, of course, noticed the stunning brunette that had served them. She had wavy brown hair that seemed to have this golden, caramel tint when the light hit it through the glass. Her eyes were a similar colour, a caramel brown with small flecks of gold if you looked close enough, and this bright smile.

She was inquisitive, kind, carefree, smart and that was only from that first conversation. Maya had a good sense of character and there was something about Carina that felt drawn to. The only thing was it was currently battling with her desire to be alone, to have no strings, no concerns, no baggage. She’d left all her baggage when she’d joined the Marines - she’d never had any intention to pick any up, until now.

“It was not the uniform, we are all wearing the exact same thing and she didn’t look at us like that, so try again Bishop. Go and talk to her, ask her for a drink or something. We have the night off tonight. Make the most of it!” Andy encouraged.

“This is ridiculous,” Maya stated, not liking being pressured by her friends.

“No it’s not. Just do it - enjoy yourself!”

“Maybe,” Maya relented, for the sole purpose of getting them off her back so she could enjoy her breakfast without being bombarded with questions and comments about her dating life, or lack thereof, for that matter.

“Can I get you anything else?” Carina asked as she put down the Marines’ food.

Andy and Vic looked at Maya expectantly.

“No we are all good thank you,” Maya said, receiving looks from the other two.

“Okay great. If you do, just let me know,” and with that charming smile Carina left the table so the women could eat.

“Really Maya?!”

“Enough - both of you,” Maya said, her word final. Andy and Vic shared one last look before deciding to leave the conversation alone, for now at least.

The Marines finished their food but not without some more convincing of both Andy and Vic to get Maya to ask Carina out, but after the threat of additional drills the following day they gave up.

In a similar fashion, Carina’s shift came and went, the heat was still unbearable and the entirety of her day was spent thinking about a certain blonde haired, blue eyed Marine.

2 weeks later:

“Carina, thank you so much for coming again!” Andrew cried gratefully, seeing his sister walk through the doors.

“It’s fine Andrea - I was only going to be doing research anyway,” she brushed off, changing her clothes. It was the second time in the past 2 weeks she had helped her brother out and while she liked to tease him about it, she appreciated getting to spend more time with him.

“Ciao Amelia,” She greeted the brunette.

“It’s nice to see you back here DeLuca, missed us that much?” She grinned.

“You wish,” she laughed back. “Where’s Maggie?”

“Just serving this couple, here she is,” Amelia said, seeing her fellow waitress approach.

“Carina!” Maggie smiled, pulling her in for a hug. “I didn’t expect to see you back so quickly.”

“Neither did I, but Andrea said he needed me so here I am.”

“Yeah, Teddy’s kids came down with the flu, and now she has it-“

Their conversation was interrupted by the small chime of the bell, signalling the arrival of another customer.

They all turned to the door, a small smile falling on Carina’s lips seeing the blonde Marine walk through the door again.

Maya seemed to stop and have a look around, her blue eyes landing on brown before giving her a small smile as she sat down.

“I’ll go,” Carina rushed out, not leaving any room for the others to stop her.

She walked over to Maya’s table, the blonde dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, a different look compared to her uniform from the last time Carina saw her.

“Hello again,” Carina smiled, looking down at the blonde.

“Likewise,” Maya said.

“Do you want the same as last time? Black coffee, breakfast burrito?”

“You remember my order?” Maya asked, surprised given the last time she was in here was two weeks prior.

“I remember things about interesting people,” Carina quipped back.

“You think I’m interesting?” Maya grinned, settling back into her seat as she looked at the brunette.

“You want to prove me wrong?”

“Not particularly.”

“Good. I’m normally right anyways.”

“I bet you are. When do you finish your shift?” Maya asked, her true purpose for coming to the restaurant giving itself an opportunity.

“5 o’clock.”

“Drinks. 7 o’clock. The Kennedy Bar.” Maya said.

“Is that a question?” Carina asked, enjoying the blonde’s directness.

“Depends on your answer.”

“I’ll see you there,” Carina smiled, before walking off.

“What was that?” Amelia asked as soon as Carina returned back to her.

“I’m going for drinks tonight,” Carina replied.

“You’re going on a date?!” Amelia cried, jumping up and down

“Sì,” Carina grinned.

“I want all the details - especially as it’s with the hot blonde Marine,” Amelia said, making Carina laugh.

“Just don’t tell Andrea, otherwise he’ll go into his protective fratellino mode,” she said, as Amelia swiped her fingers across her heart in a cross pattern.

Carina couldn’t wait until her shift was over.

Later that night:

It was 6.55 that night and Carina was standing outside the Kennedy Bar. After her shift had ended she’d driven home, showered and changed - not before standing in front of her wardrobe for twenty minutes trying to figure out what she should wear. Dress? Shirt and jeans? Blouse and skirt? Heel? Flats? Jacket? No Jacket? There were too many options.

But, thankfully she managed to decide on some black skinny jeans and a pink long sleeve blouse, a pair of heeled boots and a jacket - despite it being hot out when nightfall came it could get quite chilly.

The bar was a single storey, brick building. Neon signs lining various parts of the wall and a wrap around porch, a few tables scattered around with groups of people enjoying their night. She looked up and saw a sign above which read ‘The Kennedy Bar’ in lime green, this was the place.

It had an old school charm to it, a characteristic that was carried through into the inside - old 70s and 80s movie posters on the wall along with a healthy collection of sports memorabilia, a jukebox in the corner. Booths covered the left and back walls while tables filled the remaining space. On the right hand side was a long bar, various shapes and sizes of bottles topped the numerous shelves, glasses were hung from the racks above with a line of barstools below.

But the one thing that caught her eye in particular was a blonde haired, blue eyed Marine nursing a glass of whiskey as she waited patiently at the bar.

With a smile and an air of confidence Carina walked towards her.

“Mind if I take this seat?” She asked, standing next to the blonde who had been unaware of her arrival.

Maya turned towards her, her face breaking out into a smile. “You made it.” She sounded somewhat relieved, almost as if she hadn’t been one hundred percent sure she would turn up.

Carina shrugged off her jacket, placing it on the stool beside her as she took a seat next to Maya.

“You look beautiful,” Maya said, her eyes appreciating the well styled clothes that the brunette had chosen.

“Grazie, as do you.”

Maya also had on a pair of black jeans, although hers were ripped in various places across the lower leg and knee with a black hoodie and a light denim jacket, a pair of white trainers to match. It was casual yet Carina thought she made it look incredibly attractive.

“Can I get you a drink? You look like a wine kinda woman.”

“You would be correct,” Carine replied, enjoying the matched level of confidence Maya seemed to have.

“I’ll have a white wine over here please?” Maya called out to the bartender who gave a quick nod, throwing his towel over his shoulder.

“Aren’t you hot in that?” Carina asked, noticing how hot the room actually was with the combination of the lights and the general movement in the building.

“I’ve been in warmer places.”

“So, Maya Bishop - what’s your story?” Carina asked, thanking the bartender as he brought over her drink.

“I don’t have a story.”

“No?”

“I’m just a girl in a bar.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“Do you?”

“As I said earlier - I’m usually right. So, I shall ask you again. Maya Bishop - what’s your story?”

Maya took a sip of her drink as she looked at the brunette who was looking right back at her, a half smirk, half smile on her face knowing she had won.

“Okay. Fine. I’m a Sergeant, I lead a team of Marines in various missions across war fields in various locations.”

“To put it in short,” Carina joked, noting the lack of detail from the blonde.

“Pretty much.”

“So what do you do exactly?”

“Well….” Maya stopped for a moment to think about the best way to explain her job. She could never disclose mission information, but she could tell Carina what she did. “I guess you could say we drive and transport things. Equipment, soldiers, medical supplies, that sort of thing. But we are all trained in firearms and such too, so I can shoot from a fair few metres away.”

“How many is a fair few?” Carina asked, deeply intrigued by Maya’s story.

“Five hundred or so give or take with the wind,” Maya shrugged.

“Five hundred?!” Carina asked, her mind mentally realising how far that actually was.

Maya nodded.

“That’s impressive. I guess,” she teased.

“You guess?!” Maya laughed.

“I’m only joking Bella - that is crazy!”

“It’s not too bad - our actual snipers can shoot between six and twelve hundred metres,” Maya informed the brunette who had wide eyes.

“How long have you been serving for?”

“Eight and a half years - I signed up on my birthday so it’s easy to keep track,” Maya laughed.

Carina’s eyebrows rose at the blonde’s answer, “Your birthday? I’m guessing there’s a reason behind that.”

“Play your cards right - maybe I’ll tell you,” Maya winked, making Carina smile.

“I think we’ve talked enough about me. But you didn’t answer my question when I first met you,” Maya stated, taking a sip of her drink.

“Cosa?”

“So you’re a new waitress?”

“Ah,” Carina said, remembering the blonde’s statement. “Well if I recall you came to that conclusion yourself. You never actually asked,” she replied.

“You’re going to keep me on my toes aren’t you,” Maya responded.

“If you play your cards right - maybe,” Carina said with a coy smile,

Maya smiled, recognising the use of her own words being thrown back at her. “So, are you?”

“No. I’m a doctor,” Carina answered. The blonde’s eyebrows raised, clearly not expecting such a different response. “My brother, Andrea, owns the restaurant. He was short staffed so he asked me to step in,” she explained.

“Ah I see. So, a doctor - that’s very impressive. What do you specialise in?” Maya asked, her interest peaked by the sudden new piece of information she’d learnt about the brunette.

“I’m an OB/GYN,” Carina replied.

“Not what I was expecting,” Maya admitted.

“No? What were you expecting then?” Carina asked, intrigued by what the blonde’s answer would be.

“Trauma maybe. You look like you could handle a crisis or two, high pressure situations,” she paused. “Actually, childbirth sounds like a very terrifying situation so I guess they are similar in that sense,” she chuckled.

“You’d be surprised by the things I’ve seen.”

“Yeah? Go on then.”

“Well, you have the basics, partners fainting and the like, I had one who had to be taken to surgery because he hit his head on the corner of the chair. Stupido.” Maya laughed as Carina shook her head, the memory clearly coming back to her. “Then you move up to more of the stranger things. But, I don’t just deal with childbirth and the surrounding areas but other things such as the health of the female reproductive organs.”

“So, does this mean you have a few crazy stories?” Maya asked.

“Sì, I had a woman who hid $10,000 in cash and wanted to hide it from her ex-husband.”

“I’m sorry - how much?!” Maya exclaimed, her eyes wide.

“Then, I had a jar of ashes, a candlestick, hairspray, shower head, oh and I got to witness a gun being removed from a woman’s pelvis.”

At that admission Maya choked on her drink. “A what?!”

Carina patted the blonde on the back while she laughed, “Sì, poor girl tried to sneak it into a prison for her boyfriend, she was admitted to the ER after she fainted complaining of abdominal pain and then after being examined it went off and shot a man in the leg. She thought it wasn’t loaded-“

“Let me guess - she forgot the one in the chamber?” Maya predicated.

“Sì. She didn’t even know what one was.”

“Wow - I thought my job was dangerous, apparently being a doctor is quite high up on the list,” Maya joked, making the brunette laugh.

“So, you seemed nervous earlier. You don’t go out for drinks a lot?” Carina asked, the bartender serving them a second round.

“Not too often, no. My life is…”

“Unpredictable?” Carina answered.

“Yes. So, I tend to stay away from relationships, I avoid the pain that they bring. People get bored of me being away, so they eventually leave. I’ve learnt from those in the past and I find it’s easier now,” Maya said with a shrug, drinking her whiskey.

“Why are you here then?” Carina asked curiously. If Maya had said she didn’t do relationships, why ask her out for a drink.

“Honestly? I don’t know. As soon as I saw you, something shifted in me. I had this deep rooted desire to get to know you and I let it go the first time. When I saw you earlier today, I didn’t want to let it slip away. If you want even more of the truth I turned up in hopes of seeing you there and asking you out, I guess something was working in my favour today,” Maya revealed with a smile.

“Well, I’m very glad you asked. Plus I think anyone who gave up on you, wasn’t worth it anyway. You deserve someone who will be there for you when you get home.”

“You think?” Maya asked, scratching the back of her neck nervously. No one had ever said that to her before.

“I do. I know that you haven’t known me long, but I would like to be that person. If you’d let me?” Carina knew it was a bold move. But, it was worth it. There was something special about Maya. Something unique. Something unexplainably captivating.

She held Maya’s gaze as she waited for an answer. She was getting nervous and she pushed it too far, until she saw that familiar cheeky smile wash over the blonde’s face.

“I’m willing to try.”

 

Month One:

Maya walked through the busy doors of UCLA hospital, only narrowly avoiding being knocked down by a gurney rushing through the ER.

“Can I help you?” A short woman in a white coat asked.

“Yeah, sorry…umm Doctor Bailey,” Maya said, reading from the woman’s coat.

“It’s Chief Doctor Bailey as matter of fact,” she responded, her lips pursed as she waited for the blonde to get to her point.

“Sorry Chief Doctor Bailey,” Maya corrected, the woman making her nervous. Which was a very rare feeling for Maya, she was a sergeant in the US Marines, she didn’t get nervous. Period. But, here she was.

“Do you need something - I have lives to save,” Dr Bailey continued, her eyes glaring.

“I need to see Dr Carina DeLuca,” Maya finally revealed.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No - I’m her gir- I’m her friend. Just want to drop off some coffee,” Maya said, proving herself by holding up the tray of hot beverages in her hand.

“Fine,” Dr Bailey relented. “East Wing, 4th floor, room 208 - if you need further assistance there will be people on other floors you can ask.”

“Thank you very much, I appreciate it,” Maya smiled, thankful to finally have some directions.

“Next time - don’t stand in my halls!” She called after the blonde.

Maya quickly got into an elevator, which took her up to the fourth floor, she stepped out and followed the rest of Dr Bailey’s instructions: East wing, room 208.

She received a few stares as she walked through the building, some properly thinking she was a parent or a relative which was why she hadn’t been questioned any further. When she finally found the room, she stared at the nameplate. Dr Carina DeLuca, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology - seeing the title caused a swell of pride to run through Maya’s body. Even though she’d always known about Carina’s position, just seeing it in her own eyes made her feel different. She knocked on the door, the sudden excitement of surprising Carina made her form a silly smile on her face.

A muffled response came from the other side, “Come in.”

Maya opened up the door, a slight difficulty given the pastries she had in hand but she managed it.

“Has Mrs Andrews already arrived? She wasn’t supposed to be here for another two hours-“ Carina’s back was to the door, clearly expecting one of her staff to be entering her office, instead of the coffee bearing blonde.

“I mean I can always go and check?” Maya teased.

Carina quickly spun around, “Maya!” She stood up from her desk and walked towards her. “What are you doing here Bella?” She asked, circling her neck with her arms.

“You said you were having a long shift so I thought I’d come and surprise you,” Maya smiled.

“Consider me surprised,” Carina laughed, pulling her in for a kiss. “I missed you.”

“I brought coffee and breakfast, well more like lunch I guess,” she replied, seeing it was closer to 12 than it was to 10.

“You’re the best.”

They took a seat on Carina’s sofa, Maya handing over the brunette’s coffee order as well as the food she brought to which they both eagerly tucked in.

“I didn’t realise how hungry I was.”

“I can see that,” Maya chuckled, seeing how quickly the Italian had demolished the cinnamon swirl bun she’d brought for her.

“How did you know where my office was?” Carina asked, tucking one of her legs under herself as she rested her head on the blonde’s shoulder.

“Well, funny story I guess,” Maya started. “After almost getting knocked down by a gurney, I was a bit lost and was just standing in the halls when Dr Bailey came and asked me what I was doing.” At Mayas’ reveal she’d had to engage with Chief Bailey, Carina started laughing, even she got scared of the woman and she’d been working in the hospital for years now. “She is a terrifying woman and I will admit she scared me, but in the end after a brief interrogation she gave me directions to your office,” Maya explained.

“That’s sweet of you bambina,” Carina replied, running her hand down the blonde’s arm before clasping their hands together.

“I won’t be making a habit of it,” Maya said, which made Carina laugh. Both knowing that she was trying to maintain her tough persona.

 

Month Two:

Carina was currently driving to Maya’s apartment, they had been together just over two months now and it had been amazing. They had this undeniable connection that constantly excited the brunette. Whenever she received a text from the blonde she would smile like an idiot and laugh, so much so her friends had begun to notice it at work. Her colleagues and best friends Addison and Jo being her confidants now to anything relationship related.

They were taking things at their own pace which suited both of them perfectly fine, from good morning and goodnight texts, to late night hour long calls, flower deliveries being sent to Carina at work and homemade meals being brought over to the blonde.

Carina couldn’t think of a time in her life that she had been happier. Maya brought something out in her that she never knew truly existed, and it was something she never wanted to lose.

Maya had invited her over for dinner, with the promise to cook, which was a very generous offer from the blonde given she didn’t have the most experience using an oven and a grill but nevertheless Carina was excited for the night they would have.

She quickly pulled into the parking lot outside Maya’s apartment before letting herself in, thanks to the neighbour who was just leaving and left the door open for her.

She climbed the stairs up to the 6th floor before knocking at the door. The wine bottle she brought with her clutched in her hand.

She heard the sound of running footsteps coming towards the door before it opened up, revealing the blonde.

“Hey Bella,” she greeted.

“You look amazing,” Maya said, opening the door more for the brunette to walk into her apartment.

“As do you,” Carina returned the compliment. She put the wine bottle down on the counter before walking back to Maya and giving her a long-awaited kiss.

“You smell nice,” Maya said afterwards as she buried her head in the crook of the brunette’s neck, the height difference making it the perfect spot for the blonde.

“Grazie, Marc Jacobs,” the brunette provided, enjoying the feeling of Maya’s strong arms wrapped around her waist.

They were brought out of their bubble by Maya’s phone alarm ringing. “That’s the chicken,” Maya said, regretfully pulling away from the brunette to go and check on the food.

“Do you want to open up with wine?” Maya called from the oven.

“Sì, do you want a glass also?” She asked, knowing the Marine was careful with her alcohol intake.

“Please,” Maya replied. She quickly pulled the chicken from the oven, removed the vegetables and took the sauce off of the heat.

Carina poured them both a glass of wine before putting them down on the table, which Maya had already beautifully laid out. She took a seat and waited for the blonde to re-emerge from the kitchen.

“Okay, so I cannot guarantee you won’t get food poisoning, but I tried my best,” Maya smiled shyly as she put down the plates.

“It looks amazing Bella,” Carina responded, being very impressed by the plate of food in front of her. “Where did this sudden culinary skill come from?” She asked.

“Vic may have helped with that,” Maya laughed.

“Well, I appreciate it a lot,” Carina smiled, her heart warming at the thought that Maya had enlisted her friend’s assistance to help her cook.

“I know it’s only been 2 month since we started dating but it’s crazy how much you already know me,” Maya smirked, referring to the brunette’s suspicion behind her cooking abilities.

Carina winked in response, “And I can’t wait to know more.”

After an incredible dinner, followed by a set of cannoli that Maya had bought earlier on, they were now relaxing on the sofa. Carina’s head in Maya’s lap while the blonde gently ran her fingers through wavy hair. The background was being consumed by the low volume sound of one of Maya’s playlists.

“So I had a question,” Carina started.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Maya teased, receiving a backhanded hit to her arm. “Sorry, please continue.”

“You live off-base.”

“Correct,” Maya confirmed.

“Does everyone, or can you stay on base?” She asked. Ever since she’d first walked into Maya’s apartment she wondered about the blonde’s living situation. Despite her very minimal knowledge about the military services she did know that people lived on base and had always been curious but never asked.

“It depends,” Maya started, trying to think of the best way to explain some of the Marine regulations to the brunette. “So, in the first few years I stayed in the barracks on base, which is where I met Andy and Vic actually. We were all roommates. Then, as you move up the pay ranks - which go from E-1 through to O-10, but that includes Officers and Generals, which is way above my pay grade,” Maya began to ramble, but caught herself. “Sorry, back to what I was saying-what?” She asked, seeing the brunette smiling up at her.

“You’re cute when you talk about the things you love, I can see your eyes shine when you talk about the Marines - even if it is to do with pay grades,” Carina said, seeing Maya blush in response.

“But, yes, as you move up the ranks you get more privileges, so when you reach E4 which is a Corporal, you can move off-base at the Government’s expense,” Maya explained.

“Sounds very technical,” Carina said, not expecting the answer to have as many elements to it as it did. “What about when you aren’t here?” Carina asked. She didn’t want to think too much about Maya deploying to another country, even though they had only been dating for 2 months, but her natural curiosity won her over.

“Well, we have something called a Service member’s Civil Relief Act which means any military member is allowed to break their lease, without penalty, if we are going be away from than 3 months. So quite a few people just decide to pack everything up, pocket their housing allowance and then find somewhere when they come back. But, thankfully for me, the owner of this building is a veteran and he lowers down our rent prices - there’s a few of us from the Marines here - so I just decided to keep this place. I prefer having a sense of normalcy compared to changing places every year or so. Plus it’s less hassle when you think about it,” Maya continued.

“What about Andy and Vic?”

“Andy is married so she lives with her husband Robert Sullivan, who was also in the Marines but now works as a Firefighter. Then Vic, she also lives alone, but if you couldn’t tell I’m difficult to live with so we have our own spaces.”

“You? Difficult to live with? Never.” Carina teased, having already experienced a few of Maya’s tendencies including her preoccupation with negative shelf space - whatever that was supposed to mean.

“Shut up!” Maya laughed, before the brunette pulled her down to press their lips together.

“Thank you for tonight,” she whispered.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Maya smiled. “Want to continue it?” She proposed.

“Do you have to ask?” Carina responded. She was quickly answered by the blonde sliding out from under her and lifting her up off the sofa and into the direction of her bedroom.

 

Month Three:

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Maya asked down the phone.

“Of course it is!” Vic replied.

“What if she says no.”

“I highly doubt that,” Andy added, from her place next to Vic - it being very convenient that the blonde had phoned while the two had been hanging out.

“I’m nervous.”

“Who wouldn’t be? Look Maya you’re happy and you’re in love - even if you refuse to admit and you still have this tough persona we all know that Carina is different. Don’t let yourself shut away something like this - don’t be afraid to let someone in. You have a great night planned and just enjoy yourself, have fun!” Andy encouraged.

“Okay, okay yes. You’re right,” Maya agreed, her nerves beginning to subside at her best friend’s words.

“Of course we are right!” Vic said with a laugh.

“Now, go and get dressed and make that girl yours!” Andy yelled down the phone before the dial tone sounded.

Maya looked down at her phone with a silly smile, sighed and threw her phone down on the sofa before going to get changed. Tonight, everything would change.

Later that evening….

“How are you so good at this!!” Carina cried, seeing the blonde win yet another round of air-hockey - the red lights flashing indicating another win.

“It’s just raw talent,” Maya smirked.

“Oh shut up!” Carina replied, bumping Maya’s shoulder.

“So we have played three rounds of darts, you have achieved the top score in pac-man, several games of skee-ball and after 3 failed attempts I finally won you a teddy bear from that machine…so Dr DeLuca what do you want to play now?” Maya asked.

She had taken Carina to this new place that had just opened up in town - a cross between an arcade and a restaurant. It was perfect. It had only been around a month ago when she had discovered the brunette’s ruthless competitive nature when it came to games after a small get together with Andy and Vic for a game night where Carina had refused to leave until she had won. So, Maya thought there was no better place for her to take her, for what would continue to be a very enjoyable night.

“Can we get another drink?” Carina asked.

“Sure,” Maya said, leading the brunette back through into the restaurant so they could sit back down at their table. “Do you think you have enough tickets there?” She laughed, seeing the mountain of yellow tickets that they had collected throughout the night.

“We need to win more if we want to get the polar bear.”

“You do know I could buy you one if you really wanted it?” Maya asked with an amused grin.

“That’s not the point!!” Carina cried.

“Okay - okay,” Maya replied with a laugh, throwing her hands in the air.

An hour later…

“I must admit I didn’t think you’d do it,” Maya revealed as she and Carina walked out of the arcade, a polar bear wrapped in the brunette’s arms.

“I am a very determined person.”

“That you are,” Maya agreed, giving her a soft kiss. “So there was another reason I asked you to go on a date tonight.”

“Oh yeah?” Carina asked, their hands swinging between them.

“These past few months have been nothing short of…”

“Wonderful?”

“Wonderful,” Maya repeated. “What we have is special and it’s something that, three months ago, I would have been terrified of. Until I met you. You set something off in me that I have never experienced before and never thought I could ever find. You are one in a million and I am incredibly grateful that I found you and that I asked you to get a drink with me because that was the night things changed and I realised that everything I had ever dreamed of was sitting right in front of me. But, I am hoping that tonight I can change something again,” Maya now stopped in the middle of the street and faced the brunette who was just staring into midnight blue eyes as she poured her heart out.

“So this is me, asking you if you, if you will be mine and be my girlfriend?”

A short silence fell over them as Maya waited for her answer.

“Sì bambina, but only if you will be mine?” Carina asked.

“Always,” Maya responded before pulling the brunette in by the waist to kiss her deeply, not caring who saw or where they were because she was the happiest she had ever been in her life and it was a feeling she never wanted to lose, she wanted it to grow and expand and with Carina by her side she had no doubt that that would happen.

They had gone from strangers to girlfriends with so much more of their journey to go and neither girl could wait to see where their path would lead them, and as long as they were together, walking hand in hand, they would be happy.

 

Month Four:

It was just past seven in the morning when Maya walked back through her apartment door, her face and body coated in sweat from the burning California weather. She quickly downed a glass of water to relive her body before slipping her trainers off and placing them by the door. As she walked back through the kitchen and down the hall she pulled the bottom part of her tank top up to wipe her face, then she slowly pushed open her bedroom door.

She leant against the door frame and just admired the sight ahead of her. The sunlight was streaming in through the blinds casting a golden glow of the brunette currently occupying the space. The sheets were bunched around her waist, her bare back on display and her dark brown hair sprawled out on the pillows. She was a true goddess and Maya couldn’t believe how lucky she was to have this incredible woman in her life.

She crept forward, not wanting to disturb the sleeping brunette just yet. She crawled onto the bed and continued until she was ontop of her before leaning down and placing soft kisses up and down her spine, smiling when she felt her shift in her sleep.

“Bongiorno,” Carina mumbled, feeling the weight of the blonde above her.

“Good morning,” Maya smirked, continuing her actions.

Carina turned her arm, expecting to feel Maya’s naked body given it was how they ended their night, but was met with a sweaty and gross blonde.

“Maya!” She complained, immediately shielding herself from Maya’s sweaty and exhausted body.

“What?” She laughed, despite knowing the brunette preferred it when they could wake up together.

“I hate you,” she complained, flipping over onto her front.

“Well, I love you,” Maya said, both stilling when they realised the three words that had been said. “I - uhm.”

“I love you too bambina,” Carina smiled, seeing the panic wash over the blonde.

“Yeah?” Maya asked, a wide smile on her face.

“Yeah,” Carina agreed, pulling her down into a kiss. “But, please go and shower,” she begged.

“Only if you come with me,” Maya challenged.

“Fine,” Carina relented, allowing herself to be lifted from the sheets with a laugh and carried into the bathroom.

After a very hot and steamy shower the pair were lying down in bed, which was how Carina had wanted to start her morning but given how it had gone - she wasn’t complaining.

Carina’s head was on the blonde’s chest while she had her arm behind her, laughing at a story Carina was telling her.

“So you just got the woman to orgasm so she could have her baby?”

“Pretty much,” Carina smiled.

“How did everyone react?”

“Pretty much the same as you. They were all quite awkward at first, some didn’t quite want to believe me but we laugh about it now,” Carina said.

“Tell me more about your doctor skills,” Maya asked.

“Why?” Carina laughed.

“It’s really attractive,” Maya replied honestly, a grin on her face.

“Just for you then,” Carina said, shivers running down her spine as she felt Maya’s fingertips trailing up and down her back.

She took a moment to think about what she could tell Maya when their earlier confessions of love ran back through her mind, making her smile. “Okay - did you know there is something called the love hormone?” Carina asked.

Maya shook her head, her interest instantly peaked.

“So, there is a list of hormones and chemicals that our body releases when we are falling in love. PEA is a natural form of amphetamine-“

“Isn’t that like adrenaline?” Maya questioned, some of her basic medical training coming into use.

“Sì,” Carina confirmed. “Pheromones produced from DHEA create a sense of wellbeing and comfort.”

“What’s DHEA?”

“Dehydroepiandrosterone,” Carina replied.

“Yeah, let’s stick with DHEA,” Maya laughed. “What’s a pheromone?” She added, the word a bit tricky on the tongue.

“A pheromone is like a behaviour altering agent. So, it is something that we produce and it will affect the behaviour of another person,” Carina explained, the curiosity Maya had making her feel a swell of happiness. It wasn’t everyday that somebody would take such an interest in what she did, most just only wanting to know the basic details or nothing more than the fact she delivered babies.

“So, Oxytocin has been called the cuddle hormone and it stimulates the secretion of dopamine, oestrogen and LHRH. All of these hormones and neurotransmitters are also generally accompanied by poor judgment, which is where the term, ‘crazy in love’ comes from.

When we're in love, the prefrontal cortex, which is at the front of the brain,” Carina pointed to Maya’s forehead. “And is where we make most of our good, rational decisions, goes into…hibernation, so to speak. And the amygdala, which activates our threat response defences, basically takes a day off. Which leaves us pretty vulnerable to take more risks. And left alone without our normal neurological protections, we might find ourselves in dangerous and unexpected places we normally wouldn't dream of going,” Carina said, finishing off her brief introduction to some of the ‘love hormones’.

“So you're basically telling me that you falling in love with me is a result of parts of your brain switching off and making bad choices?” Maya asked.

“Well when you put it like that…”Carina teased.

“You are a nightmare!” Maya cried, pulling the brunette into a hug as they both laughed.

“You do make me feel crazy though. You make my brain feel fuzzy, whenever I’m near you my heart beats a bit quicker and I get nervous,” she admitted.

“You do?” Maya asked, with a smile.

Carina nodded. “Well, the feeling is mutual - plus if it takes my brain to shut off in order to be in love with you then I’ll happily take it,” Maya said, leaving soft kisses on Carina’s collarbone.

“Ti amo, bambina,” Carina whispered, sliding her hand up to cup the blonde’s jaw as she kissed her.

 

Month Five:

“Ciao Bella,” Carina greeted, meeting Maya outside of her apartment.

“Hey you,” Maya smiled, giving her a kiss. “Are you ready?”

“For our spontaneous date - I am.”

“Good. Keys please?” Maya requested.

“You’re sure you know how to drive it?” Carina teased.

“I am almost offended by this question. If I can drive an AM General HMMWV GMV and an AM General HMMWV M1025 I think I can drive a Porsche Cayenne,” Maya stated, her mind rambling off the exact models and makes of the cars she drove as if it would make any difference to Carina.

“Showoff,” Carina laughed, receiving a wink from the blonde as she took the keys and slid into the car.

They began cruising down the highway, to wherever it was that Maya was taking them, their hands wrapped together while they rested on the brunette’s leg .

“So are you going to tell me where we are going?” Carina asked.

“Nope.”

“Please?”

“Nope.”

“Maya?!” Carina complained.

“Carina?!” Maya said, imitating the brunette.

“Eugh fine,” Carina replied, slumping back into the passenger seat.

“How was work?” Maya asked, an amused grin on her face at her girlfriend’s behaviour.

“It was good. I delivered two sets of twins and 3 babies - all mamas and bambini were healthy,” Carina replied.

“You say it like that’s just another day in the office,” Maya grinned.

“It is.”

“Have I ever told you how incredible you are?”

“Once or twice…” Carina smiled.

“Well, I shall tell you again. Carina DeLuca you are incredible, I honestly cannot ever imagine being able to do what you do. You’re amazing,” Maya said, her thumb running up and down the top of Carina’s hand, her eyes flickering between the brunette and the road.

“Thank you Bella. I think you’re pretty amazing yourself - risking your life, every single day you are out there. You are a hero to me and to everyone else,” Carina said, returning the compliment.

They continued the car journey, the radio on full blast as they cruised down the roads - the sea peacefully crashing against the shore beside them.

When the song changed Carina gave Maya a knowing look as the blonde tried to pretend she was oblivious.

“Maya?” Carina grinned.

“Hmm?”

“Come on,” she tried to encourage, her body beginning to move to the beat - as much as she was allowed to within the confines of the car.

“No,” Maya replied, for once she was determined not to give in.

“Please…” Carina tried.

“Carina-“ However she was quickly stopped by the fingertips running up from her wrist to her elbow and back down again - something Carina knew would always get the blonde’s attention. “Fine.” Maya relented before beginning to join the brunette in their very own car concert - the windows all the way down, the wind flying through their hair.

Twenty minutes later Maya pulled the car off the main street and down a turning.

“Where are we going?” Carina asked.

“You’ll see,” Maya replied with a cheeky grin.

A few seconds later Carina’s question was answered when the view of the beach came into full view. However, this beach was unlike anything Carina had seen before - the sand was golden, the last rays of sun bouncing off the grains. The blue hues of the waves pulsed and crashed in perfect synchronisation. The sky was a marble of colour - like an artist’s palette - pink, yellow, orange, all stretching far and wide, the light reflecting down onto the water. It was the epitome of peace and beauty.

“This is-“ Carina struggled to find the words to describe the sight in front of her.

“I know,” Maya smiled. “Come on.” She shut the car off and opened her door, circling to open up the brunette’s and take her hand. “Want to go for a walk?”

“Sì,” Carina nodded, her thumb brushing up and down the back of Maya’s hand as they left their shoes in the car and let their bare feet walk across the sand.

They walked further along the beach, a few feet away from the water, a comfortable silence falling upon them as they just took in the atmosphere. The slight twinge of saltiness to the air, the hot sand between their toes, the dwindling heat of the sun as it continued to go down, the feeling of their hands gently swaying between their bodies and the light breeze making the ends of their hair float in the air.

“How was your day Bella?” Carina asked, disturbing the silence but realising she hadn’t spoken to the blonde about her own day.

“Tiring. We worked a 12 hour day - running drills, doing some maintenance on our equipment, fitness. My throat hurts a bit too-“

“It’s all that yelling you do,” Carina grinned.

“How do you know that?” Maya challenged.

“Andy and Vic told me.”

“Of course they did,” Maya laughed, loving how close her girlfriend was with her two best friends.

“So, why are we at the beach?” Carina asked.

“Do you remember what I told you about my job when we were at the bar?” Maya asked as their hands swung and their feet walked across the sand.

“That it was unpredictable,” Carina recalled.

Maya nodded. “When I’m out there I try to find things that give me a sense of routine. Something that I can find that will be there every single day. As harsh as it may seem, that can’t be people, and it can’t be things because you never know when you will have to move base or when you will be attacked or ambushed. But, I managed to find something.”

“What is it?” Carina asked. She could see how much this moment meant to Maya, the way their hands were held together a little bit tighter and the way Maya’s eyes sparkled against the sky. She could almost feel it in the air, and she could only describe it as feeling proud that the blonde would trust her enough to share this with her.

“The sunset. No matter where I was, or how hard the day had been. The sun would always set, and then it would rise again the next day. It was the one thing I could rely on. So, whenever I come home I make an effort to always watch the sky, to watch the sun fall and the sky become this beautiful mess of colour. The pinks, oranges and yellows, they are all beautiful as one but when they come together they create something so magical that I can’t take my eyes off of it,” as Maya finished, she stopped and pulled Carina to face her, taking both hands in her own as she looked up into golden brown eyes.

“You have become such an important person in my life. If you’d asked me whether I’d have a girlfriend six months ago I would have laughed. But you’re the best thing that could have ever happened to me. My life isn’t easy, but you make it so much more worth living. I wanted to bring you here because this place is special to me - it’s the place where I go to relax and where I felt at home, until I met you. You are that for me now. I love you so much and I never thought I would get the chance to tell someone that - so I guess what I am trying to say…is thank you,” Maya smiled, wiping away her own tears, as well as the brunette’s, both falling quicker and quicker at the blonde’s heartfelt and beautiful admission.

“Maya - I love you so much. I never thought that me taking on a shift at my fratellino’s restaurant would ever lead to meeting someone like you. I know it’s still relatively early on in our time together but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. You never have to thank me Bella. You have given me so much in such a small amount of time and for that I will be forever grateful. I’ve never been too good in long-lasting relationships but as soon as we sat down in the bar together I knew you were different and as I said to you all those months ago-“

“You’re normally always right,” Maya laughed, her forehead resting against Carina’s as they held one another.

“Mhm,” nodded with a smile.

“I love you,” Maya whispered. “And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying it.”

“Me either.”

They sealed their words with a passionate kiss - the sunset acting as a background for their love story. A perfect blend of affection, trust and romance and just like the colours in the sky, they are all beautiful alone but when they come together, they create magic.

 

Month Six:

“Do you need some help there?” A voice said, scaring Carina away from her current actions.

“Ah sì, sorry you scared me,” She admitted, but welcomed the new arrival.

“Is Andy on her way up?” Carina asked, as Vic took the other end of the white sheet and helped her tie it up against a wall.

“She should be here any- there she is!”

“Sorry, I was just parking,” Andy apologised. “Where do you want me?” She asked.

“Fairy Lights,” Carina replied, pointing to a box on the floor.

Over the six months Maya and Carina had been seeing one another, and the three that they had been girlfriends the brunette had become rather close to Maya’s best friends. From getting a drink, or having a night-in together or just doing something on the weekend whenever Carina had a free few days from the hospital.

So she knew that when it came to Maya’s birthday she had to get the pair involved in some way. Which led them to this moment - all three of them standing on the rooftop of Carina’s apartment, putting up fair lights, pillows, snacks and a large white sheet to act as a screen for what she hoped would be the best movie night they would ever have.

Carina had found out that Maya had been deployed for the last two of her birthdays on a year-long spell across seas which meant her birthday celebrations had been limited. So she knew she had to make this one special and with the blonde’s love of movies, sweets and chocolate she thought it would be the perfect idea.

“She’s going to love this,” Vic said, climbing down from the stepladder after the sheet had been securely put across the wall.

“You think?” Carina asked, still slightly nervous.

“100%,” Andy agreed with a smile. “What films have you got lined up?”

“Die hard, Psycho, Jaws, The Godfather, Game Night and a few others so she can pick what she wants.”

“All her favourites - see it’s going to be great!” Vic encouraged. “What time is she getting here?”

“7 - she had a meeting at base and had some things to sort out so she’s been gone pretty much all day, so it’s given me plenty of time.”

“Well, let’s get this place finished then,” Andy smiled, grabbing a pile of pillows that Carina had brought up.

7pm….

“Happy Birthday bambina!” Carina greeted as Maya walked up the stairs.

“Thank you my love,” Maya smiled, giving Carina a kiss. “A doorstep welcome - how chivalrous of you,” she teased, seeing Carina standing outside her own apartment door.

“That is because we aren’t going inside,” Carina replied, taking Maya’s hand. “We are going upstairs.”

Carina led the blonde down the hallway before turning to go up the set of stairs that led to the roof.

“Whats-“

“Just follow me,” Carina said, opening up the door. “Happy Birthday Maya,” Carina smiled, seeing the look of surprise and excitement on the blonde's face.

“Happy Birthday!!” Andy and Vic yelled, jumping out with their hands in the air.

“You guys!!” Maya laughed. “You did all this?” She asked, turning towards her girlfriend.

“Andy and Vic helped, but I wanted to give you a birthday you would never forget.”

“Well mission accomplished already,” Maya replied, giving her another kiss.

“Go on Bella,” Carina said, pushing Maya out towards the movie night set up. Carina had to admit the three of them had done a good job - the warm light from the fairylights cast a magical feeling over the rooftop, with tons of cushions splayed out with piles of blankets and a whole table full of all of Maya’s favourite snacks and drinks. It was perfect.

Maya just took in everything around her, a smile gracing her face as she was engulfed by her two best friends. “Thank you guys, this is amazing!” She said.

“Thank your incredible girlfriend,” Vic replied.

They all moved to sit down, making sure they had filled up their bowls with popcorn and chocolate before getting under the blankets as the first film played out. One of Maya’s all time favourites - Die Hard.

“Yippee ki yay motherfucker,” Maya said in synchronisation with Bruce Willis - a small chuckle following afterwards.

“You’re cute,” Carina whispered with a grin, Maya’s arm pulling her in closer as she just smiled. She’d accepted the fact that her girlfriend would call her cute from time to time and they both knew she secretly loved it.

“Ah I love that movie,” Vic said, stretching out.

“You can’t beat it,” Maya said as she got up to get more popcorn and another beer from the ice-bucket that Carina had put under the table.

“Do you remember when you did the bit with him in the vent when we were away?” Vic asked, the memory coming to the forefront of her mind.

“When me and Jones had a battle to see who knew the most quotes? Yeah I remember because I won,” she said triumphantly. “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” Maya said, making the three laugh.

“Do you want your presents now?” Carina asked as Maya returned to her seat and Andy began to set up the next film.

“Presents!” Maya cheered while taking a drink before throwing some popcorn into her mouth.

Carina jumped up and went to retrieve a bag she’d hidden behind some pillows and placed it down in front of the blonde.

“Okay - go on then,” Carina said, as Maya opened up the bow holding it together. She took out three neatly wrapped gifts and put them down in size order. The first being a collection of the blonde’s favourite chocolate.

“Give her a week and that will all be gone,” Andy teased.

“I would be offended by that, but it is probably true,” Maya laughed.

The second one was a softer package and folded up neatly. She peeled back the paper, a wide grin forming as she began to unravel it.

“Is this what I think it is?” Maya asked.

“Maybe…” Carina smiled, her head resting on the blonde’s shoulder as she continued to open her gift.

“Seahawks jersey!!” Maya yelled, holding it up. “Is this you telling me you will finally come to a game with me at some point?”

“Yes it is,” Carina revealed, making Maya cheer and throw her fist in their air.

There was one thing about Maya and that was that she loved football, and growing up in Seattle she had always supported the Seahawks, something that had followed her even though she moved to California.

But Carina had once made the unfortunate mistake of being at Maya’s while a game was on meaning she had to endure the entire night of the blonde yelling at the tv screen, making commentary on things she had no clue about it although it had eventually worked in her favour with a reward of victory sex as the team carried through another win.

Since then she had never watched another game again, mainly because she couldn’t stand the hours of the blonde just pacing around the room and yelling random words at the screen every so often - but this was her way of finally giving in to Maya’s requests to go and see a game with her.

“Look at the back,” Vic said, making Maya quickly flip the jersey around and see the name ‘BISHOP’ in silver letters at the back, the number 19 accompanying it below, the blonde's favourite number.

“This is the best - thank you,” Maya smiled, giving Carina a series of kisses.

“Hmm - You’re welcome,” Carina replied between kisses.

“Okay lovebirds you have one more,” Andy said, throwing a piece of popcorn at Maya’s head.

“Later?” Maya proposed with a cheeky grin.

“Later,” Carina confirmed with a final kiss, being thankful her shift started in the afternoon the next day.

Maya moved onto her final present which was quite heavy, she looked down curiously at it before ripping open the paper.

“Carina…” Maya whispered as she saw what it was.

“I thought you could have a place where we could put all the memories of our relationship in - a story of our journey,” Carina explained as she watched Maya open up the scrapbook and look lovingly at every page.

From their first official date, the secret photos she had taken of the blonde and those that Andy and Vic had captured of the pair, of one’s at Vic’s birthday and the night Maya had asked Carina too be her girlfriend - each one told a story and each one held a beautiful piece of their journey together.

“You did all this?” Maya asked, seeing the small notes that Carina had written under every picture. `The night we both got a bit too drunk on your sofa’, ‘I’m officially yours!’, ‘Game night!’, ‘You look cute when you’re asleep’ - as well as the date that they were all taken.

“You are amazing,” Maya said, pulling her in for another kiss, not caring what Andy or Vic said.

“Happy Birthday mi amor,” Carina smiled.

 

Month Seven:

“How much longer do we have?” Carina asked, from Maya’s shoulder.

“Around an hour or so left,” Maya replied, playing with the rings around her girlfriend’s fingers, as she adjusted her cap on her head.

“I can’t wait until we get there. Seven days of uninterrupted peace and quiet,” Carina said, wrapping her Boyd a little bit tighter around Maya’s arm.

“Me either. I don’t think I’ve taken a holiday off from work. I’m surprised they gave me the time off.”

Maya had been given the notice that she would be deploying again, which meant her time with Carina was limited. She knew she wanted to do something special so they could hold onto one another for just that little bit longer, so when she’d suggested a short vacation to the brunette she knew she’d made the right call.

This idea however had not come without planning. For each month you were an active-duty member you would acquire 2.5 days of leave, which would total up to 30 days a year. But, Maya was not exactly one to use them to relax, never really having a reason to unless Andy or Vic had all but demanded they go away for a night or two. She mainly ends up spending them at her apartment, occasionally taking a road trip or two. But, having an actual reason to put down on her ‘leave chit’ - a form where one would request time off, felt good. It felt like something Maya could get used to, finally having found her reason to rest and love and see the beauty in the world.

Her command had also been pleasantly surprised to hear she was taking a vacation, and even more surprised when Maya had divulged who she was in fact going with. She had a good relationship with her command, a mutual respect that was also extended to a professional friendship.

But, her leave had been approved and now they were off on their way to Cancún, Mexico to stay at the Villa del Palmar Cancún beach resort. Both were excited about taking this next step in their relationship, but to also create some memories for the two of them.

4 hours later they had finally landed and checked into their hotel. It was a beautiful place, with restaurants, spas, pools and everything you could ever ask for in a place. The sun was shining and the smell of the sea gave both women an overwhelming sense of relaxation.

It was now day four of their vacation. They’d spent the first days exploring as much as they could, heading down to the beach, renting out a jet ski and speeding their way across the ocean, Carin’s arms wrapped tightly around the blonde as they laughed. They’d also relaxed by the pool, taken a trip to the spa as well as taken a day out to look around the general area - having some lunch at a small local restaurant. Before having a walk along the beach as they watched the sunset.

Which now was becoming a tradition between the two whenever they could - a special one too that both wanted to continue for as long as possible, and one that would tie them together after Maya would leave for deployment.

The early morning sun was shining through the window, the silky white blinds gently swaying in the breeze as the two laid in bed, just taking in the calmness they were both feeling. Carina’s finger was slowly running down Maya’s side, following the inked lines that were there. It had become a subconscious habit that she’d picked up ever since she’d discovered the artwork that occupied part of Maya’s body.

“Bambina?” Carina asked, the blondes eyes shut despite her being awake and just enjoying the sensation of the brunette tracing her finger along her body.

“Yeah?” Maya replied, slowly opening up her eyes to meet inquisitive brown.

“What does your tattoo mean - I’ve always wondered?” She asked, continuing her actions as if she was drawing it herself. She knew that not every tattoo had a meaning, but with Maya everything had a reason. It was actually one of the many things she loved about her - because even the simplest of things contained some thought behind them, making them, in Carina’s opinion, just little bit more special.

The tattoo in question was fairly simple in concept. It was a collection of three trees, the one in the middle being slightly bigger with two smaller ones either side. It was minimalistic and had been done as if with a pencil - almost like a sketch.

It was something that had always fascinated Carina, she’d sometimes stay to come up with reasons for why the blonde had chosen this specific design but had never asked her. In a way she liked the mystery that surrounded it - but while they were cuddled up in bed, the feeling of being on vacation putting any worries they had at home, she found that she had a desire to know.

“Well, you know that I grew up in Seattle,” Maya started, getting a nod from Carina.

She’d known a brief summary of Maya’s childhood, she’d been a long-distance runner all throughout high school, had won Nationals four years running, she’d then been recruited for the US Olympic Team and had won gold in London 2012. After that she’d decided she’d need to leave her abusive father and step out into the world on her own, so she’d joined the Marines at 22 and had never looked back.

Maya had told her when they'd first met that if she played her cards right she would tell her the story of why she signed up on her birthday and one night after a long day at work for both women Maya had told her.

2 months ago…

“Hey Maya,” Carina asked from her place in Maya’s lap.

“Yes my love,” Maya replied.

“Do you remember when we first went to the bar?”

“Best night of my life - of course,” Maya grinned. “What about it?”

“You told you would tell me why you signed up on your birthday if I played my cards right and I think I’ve done pretty well-“

“I would have to agree on that one,” she teased. “But, yeah I’ll tell you. So, after I won the gold I knew I wanted to stop running. I found that I hated it, I hated the competitiveness and the memories and stress it brought me, so I left home. I packed my things and I left. I explored the states, took road trips and went to all the National Parks and just enjoyed nature. But, I made myself a promise. If, by twenty two, I had not found something that had made me happy I would do something worthwhile with my life. So, four years passed and I did odd jobs here and there but never found anything that made me feel alive. So, on my twenty-second birthday I joined the Marines. I took part in basic training and I found that while it was still competitive, we were all there for the same deep-rooted reason. To be a part of something,” Maya explained.

“Were you scared?” Carina asked.

“I was. I didn’t quite know what I was stepping into but when I was there I felt happy. I felt like I had people I could rely on and I felt like I had a family, and that was something I’d never had.”

“I’m glad you found your happiness bambina,” Carina smiled.

“Me too, and I’m glad I found someone that brought me even more,” she added.

“I love you,” Carina said, laughing at her girlfriend’s cheesy words.

“I guess I love you too,” Maya teased before being brought down for a kiss.

Present time…

“When I was seventeen me and Mason were allowed out for the night on a camping trip. My dad was away at a weekend conference so we had two whole days free of him. So, we took advantage of it. We grabbed our tent and we headed to the woods. I’ll never forget that weekend, because it was one of the only times when I was younger that I felt truly happy and at peace.

We took so many pictures while we were there, but there was one of the trees that Mason took. When I found out he’d left, I decided to get the picture tattooed - so I’ll always have a piece of him with me,” Maya finished.

“That’s beautiful,” Carina said with a small smile. She knew family was a tough subject for the blonde, but hearing her talk about something so personal and so close to her heart nearly made the brunette cry.

A few hours after their heart to heart they were swimming in the pool outside the hotel. Thankfully for them, kids were still in school which meant that it was pretty quiet around the grounds, allowing the pair to relax in the peace and the sun.

“If you dunk me one more time Maya!” Carina warned, wiping her eyes from the water for what felt like the umpteenth time.

“You just make it too easy,” the blonde laughed.

“I’m your girlfriend, you're supposed to be nice to me!”

“I am nice to you.”

“I beg to differ,” Carina replied, folding her arms.

“Oh don’t be sad just because you lost,” Maya chuckled, pulling the brunette into her arms.

“I didn’t lose - you cheated!”

“I did not cheat!”

“You did! How am I supposed to beat you in a swimming race - you’re a Marine. You’re built for these things!” Carina complained, making Maya laugh.

“Sounds like a personal problem to me babe - anyway you’re taller than me so technically you should move faster,” Maya argued.

“You’re infuriating - you know that right?”

“Oh I do - you tell me frequently,” Maya laughed, resting her forehead against the brunette gently pushing back some of her hair from her face.

“You’re not too bad though,” Carina added with a smile, before she wrapped her legs around the blonde and passionately kissed her, her arms wrapping around her strong shoulders as the world fell silent around them.

They slowly pulled apart from one another as air became a problem, their eyes opening and the familiar sparkle being shared between the pair.

“Want to go up to the room?” Maya asked, wanting to get the brunette naked under the covers and to make the most of their final days of vacation before they had to return home, especially while she was in that bikini.

“Later.” Carina said. “But, first, mozzarella sticks and cocktails. Hurry up Bishop. I’m hungry,” the brunette said, before swimming away.

“So was I,” Maya mumbled.

“What was that?” Carina asked, getting out of the pool.

“Nothing babe - I was just on my way,” Maya quickly replied, saving herself.

Maya could definitely get used to spending vacations with her girlfriend and she was sure this would be the first of many more to come and for the first time in her life, being able to spend time with someone in this way excited her.

 

Month Eight:

Neither of them wanted to wake up, because they knew if they did it would be the last time they woke up next to one another in what would be a long time.

Today was the day. The day Maya would head back to base for the final preparations before her next deployment. She would be there for around a week having to carry out a variety of tests including a physical, medical, mental evaluation that would ensure she was fit to return back to her services. While Maya wouldn’t technically be leaving for another few days, this would be the last time they saw one another before she had to go.

They had long talks about what would happen while Maya was away, with the blonde explaining some basic details of the process, how they could stay in contact while she was gone as well as answering any questions she knew the brunette would have all of which she answered to the best that she could.

While Maya had deployed a good few times in her career, this was the hardest one she’d had to go through - because she finally had something worth staying for. Carina had changed her life, she’d come in like a breath of fresh air and taken her by complete surprise. She never thought she would find anyone who she would love as much as she did Carina, nor someone who could love her, for all her flaws and faults and unusual circumstances, but she had.

“I wish we could sleep forever,” Maya heard from the woman in her arms.

“Me too, my love. Me too.” she replied with a sigh, the exact same feeling coursing through her veins.

Carina shifted under the covers, her eyes opening to see ocean blue staring down at her as she twirled blonde hair between her fingers.

“How long do we have?” Carina asked, the question lingering in the air. It was unwanted, but needed to be said.

“I have to leave here at 12, so we have around 4 hours or so,” Maya said, her fingers tracing up and down Carina’s back as she felt a similar sensation run across her tattoo. She would miss these moments. The moments of complete peace. The moments where she was hopelessly in love, where she felt like she was on cloud nine all the time and the moments where she was able to be with the love of her life in their own little bubble, the world and their responsibilities a distant memory.

“Well, we will make these the best four hours we’ve ever had then,” Carina declared, pushing herself up and giving Maya a passionate kiss.

“You’re mean,” Maya said, sitting down at the table.

“I don’t think giving you four orgasms is mean, but please go on,” Carina laughed with a smirk.

Maya blushed and shook her head, her girlfriend’s frank use of the English language, and Italian for that matter, never failing to surprise her.

“What I meant was you cooking me all this nice food, I’m going to feel hungry all the time when I’m away,” Maya complained with a smile as she continued to tuck into her fresh plate of French toast.

“Oh I do apologise for the inconvenience,” Carina teased, pulling a raspberry off her fork.

“You need to stop doing that too,” Maya warned, waving her fork at the brunette.

“What this?” Carina replied, repeating the same action with another berry. “Why?”

“Because I still have to pack and if you keep doing that we won’t leave the bed.”

“And that’s a bad thing because?” Carina teased, wanting to capture this single moment forever. In a time where they could both be crying and feeling sad, they were laughing and smiling and Carina would do everything in her power to know just how much Maya was loved before she left, even if it broke her to see the blonde go.

“You are trouble,” Maya replied, taking her and Carina’s now finished plates to the sink.

“So you’ve told me many, many times.”

With Maya not knowing how to reply she simply walked back over to the brunette and picked her up off her chair and put her over her shoulder.

“Maya!!” Carina yelled.

“I told you, I have to pack!” Maya laughed, running them into the bedroom.

An hour or so later Carina was helping the blonde pack up the last of her things into a large duffel bag that lay at the end of the bed.

“Is this everything bambina?” Carina asked, seeing the various piles.

“Pretty much, I’ll be given some things when I’m at base so this is just the essentials really.” She had a few different sets of things, a shower bag with all her things in, shampoo, deodorant, shower gel etc, laundry detergent, a pillow and then she had her iPad which was used for watching films, reading books anything that she could download as wifi was never a given, nor always safe to use. Then she had two tubs of crunchy peanut butter, a few bars of chocolate and some other home comforts that she wouldn’t be able to get when she was away.

She’d also packed a few pictures from the photo album Carina had bought for her birthday so she could hold onto some of their memories while she was away. Her favourite being one that she had taken of the brunette while they’d been at Andy’s birthday - she had a lopsided party hat on, was slightly drunk but looked undeniably beautiful in her cropped white t-shirt and black jeans.

She wanted to put this one in her helmet, a place where soldiers would commonly put pictures of their loved ones as a constant reminder of those that they had at home and up until now Maya had never had a reason to participate….but now she did, it felt like the best thing in the world.

She would be given all her uniforms and additional gear on base so she didn’t need to worry about that but she had packed all her underwear and some other clothes that she would need. She felt strange, she’d been through this same procedure countless times but as she began to pack her things up she felt this emptiness.

This longing to stay, and it was all because of a certain Italian brunette who was folding up her clothes. In a sudden surge of desire Maya took two steps forward, cupped Carina’s jaw and kissed her. All of her love needing to be expressed at this very moment.

Carina quickly got over the initial surprise of Maya kissing her and deepened it, pulling the blonde down as they laid back onto the sheets, Maya’s hand pushing aside the pile of socks as their lips effortlessly moved together….

“What was that for?” Carina asked with a smile.

“I love you,” Maya said. “I love you so much and I know we promised not to get sad about anything but I need to tell you because….because I don’t know what’s going to happen out there. I wish I could promise you forever and if we were in a different situation I would. I would promise you the world and I also know that me saying this really isn’t want you to hear but I am not guaranteed a lifetime with you. But I can promise you that I will love you for every day that I can and every day after that. You, Carina DeLuca, are the love of my life,” Maya said, her eyes doing all the talking that needed to be said.

“You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me Maya Bishop and I will always love you, no matter what. Whether I have to love you from a distance or from in my arms, I will always be yours,” Carina replied, her eyes glossy as her hand gently held the blonde’s jaw, both just staring into each other's eyes hoping they could just stay here forever. “While we are being sad and emotional I have something for you.”

“Me too,” Maya smiled, rolling off of the brunette as she went into her drawers to get her gifts as Carina quickly ran to the living room to bring out her own.

They both sat cross legged on the bed, facing one another as they handed over their respective gifts. “You open yours first,” Carina said, gesturing to the bag in Maya’s hands. She smiled as she unravelled the ribbon and pulled out three neatly wrapped gifts, each with a handwritten label - very Carina. Ever since Maya had known the brunette she’d noticed her girlfriend had a thing for neatness, whether it be gift wrapping, her clothes or her work - everything was in perfect order, so much so even Maya was shocked by some of it.

Maya opened up the first one and smiled - it was a set of necklaces, each a rectangular shape with part of the side cut out, and when they came together it formed a heart - however what was most intriguing to Maya was the numbers engraved on top of it.

“What are these?” Maya asked, her thumb brushing over the coordinates.

“Look it up,” Carina replied, her knee now tucked under her chin as she anxiously awaited Maya’s response.

Maya grabbed her phone and typed in the numbers, her hand instantly coming up to wipe away the tears as she saw where the numbers led her too.

“The beach…” Maya whispered.

“You told me that that was where you felt at home, until you met me. So, I wanted to put the two ideas together - so you will always have the beach and my heart with you wherever you go…and I will have yours; two halves of one whole…” Carina tailed off before being swiftly cut off with a kiss.

“You’re perfect - do you know that?” Maya asked with a soft smile.

“You may have mentioned it,” Carina laughed.

Maya set aside the necklaces before moving onto the second gift. This one was heavy and felt-bookish, which funnily enough was very accurate as she unfolded the paper. A leather bound book falling into her lap. Maya’s brows furrowed as she tried to figure out what it was.

“Okay so I think I should explain this one,” Carina started. “I was talking to Andy and Vic a few weeks ago about what I should get you and they were telling me this story about the first deployment they ever did with you. They told me how you used to write in a journal, things about your day, letters, notes, stories, whatever you wanted but then they said you stopped. But, I wanted you to continue so I can share this part of your life with you - if you want to use it to write letters or just put down random information, it’s up to you but they told me how much you used to love it…”

“Carina-this is amazing. Thank you,” Maya smiled, her hand running down the solid leather of the book. “I used to write but as I began to climb the chains I think I forgot about the little things that made me happy, I became too goal-orientated. Focused on the next mission, the next deployment but you seem to have changed all that and you clearly keep reminding me of what it feels like to be happy,” Maya said, gesturing to the book.

“You’re welcome bambina, I’m just glad you liked it,” Carina smiled.

“Final one,” Maya said, opening up the paper, but as she did so she was met with lots of smaller pieces of paper spewing out across her lap. Letters. Fifteen of them to be exact.

Maya swallowed her tears as she read over the titles of each individual one: Open when you miss me, when you’re sad, when you’re stressed, when you want to laugh, when you need me to remind you how much I love you (p.s it’s a hell of a lot), when you’re having trouble sleeping, when you’re bored, when it’s Christmas, when it’s New Years Eve, when you want to take a trip down memory lane, when it’s Valentine’s day, when it’s our one year anniversary, when you’re bored part 2 (p.s you may want to be alone when you open this one!), when you’re having a bad day, when you’re coming home to me.

As Maya’s eyes read over each title she smiled. “Carina…I-I don’t know what to say,” Maya whispered. She’d never received a gift like this, a gift that had so much thought, so much care, so much…love put into it.

Of course she’d received gifts from Carina in the past, her birthday and other occasions but this was special. This was different. This meant so much more to her than anything she’d ever been given - a meaning much deeper than words could ever explain.

“Carina you don’t know how much this means to me-I honestly-I don’t know what to say except thank you. Thank you for being you, thank you for being more than I ever deserved, thank you for loving me,” Maya said, her head shaking in disbelief at how one person could be so perfect in every way.

“You never have to thank me for that bambina - I just wanted to do something nice for you. I know it’s going to be hard while you are gone, and I don’t think I truly know just how much so, but if I can do something to make it somewhat easier then I will. These letters are a way for me to be able to talk to you, even when I can’t physically be there in-person or through a screen. Plus now everyone will know you are officially off the market,” she finished with a cheeky grin making Maya laugh.

“I do have one question though?” Maya said, sifting through the letters again. “What’s in this one?” She asked, holding up the one named: Open when you’re bored part 2 (p.s you may want to be alone when you open this one!)

“Just a few pictures…” Carina winked. In every one there was a handwritten letter, with some including pictures or some small gifts - New Year’s Eve for example contained a handful of confetti which she knew would make Maya smile, even if it was for a small moment.

“I can’t wait,” Maya smiled - she knew being away was going to be hard, but these letters might just make it a little bit more bearable. “Can I give you mine now?” She asked, reaching for her own bag of gifts.

Carina nodded as she was handed a heavy bag that was also rather large. “What is in here?” Carina laughed.

“You’ll see,” Maya replied, hoping the brunette would like her gifts.

Carina looked curiously into the bag, pulling out some tissue paper followed by three gifts - a little more haphazardly wrapped, but that was typical Maya and it made her smile.

She pulled out the first gift, which resembled a pillow albeit just a bit shorter in length. She tore open the paper and smiled as she revealed what was inside. A hoodie. Well, not just any hoodie. It was the blonde’s favourite one, and to anyone this may seem like a pretty normal gift but the thing about this hoodie was that Maya never let anyone wear it. Carina knew that because she had tried countless times to try and get her girlfriend to let her wear it, but had been denied her requests every time.

It was a reddish burgundy colour with white writing that simply read San Francisco, California Est. 1850. She’d gotten it while being on a short weekend trip with Vic and Andy and while it reminded her of the time she’d spent there it was the most comfortable thing she owned. It was fluffy and warm and just the right size for her to cuddle up on the sofa with. So, for her to give Carina the hoodie, she knew the brunette would understand it’s meaning.

“Maya…” Carina smiled. “You didn’t have to,” she said, running her hands over the piece of clothing, the strings twirling between her fingers.

“I figured that even if I can’t be here, you can still have something of mine.”

Carina brought the hoodie to her face and sighed as she smelt the familiar scent of the blonde. It was a mix between sandalwood, lime and the blondes perfume which was no surprise given that the first two were the scent of Maya’s body wash; which Carina may or may not have a bottle of at her apartment.

Carina then moved onto the next gift, a smallish rectangular black box. She looked down curiously at it before pulling open the top.

“I guess great minds think alike and all,” Maya said sheepishly as she watched Carina take out two necklaces.

They were dog tags, similar to those that Maya wore when she was on active duty. On them they had each other’s initials, the words ‘you’re mine’ as well as a small cut out heart in the bottom right hand corner. Maya watched as Carina ran her thumb over the date that occupied the top half of the tag.

“You know what that is?” Maya asked knowingly.

“The day you asked me out,” Carina smiled, her mind flashing back to that night at the bar. “Bambina these are perfect,” Carina said, pulling the blonde in for a tight hug, her tears threatening to fall with each passing minute.

“I love you so much,” Maya whispered.

“Ti amo anch’io,” Carina replied, her face buried in the blonde’s neck.

“Come on, last one,” Maya said after some time, pulling away from the hug.

Carina wiped under eyes before pulling out the largest, and heaviest gift from the bga. She opened up the present and was both confused and surprised to see a clear, glass jar filled to the brim with what looked like chocolate - also very typical Maya.

“So, I have a feeling you’re a bit lost,” Maya started, guessing correctly when the brunette nodded. “Okay, well as you know I am going to be away for seven months which means I won’t be able to kiss you for a very, very long time.”

“Oh trust me I know,” Carina said, the exact number of days engraved into her brain.

“But, there is a solution - sort of,” Maya continued. “In this jar there are two hundred and fourteen Hershey’s kisses. One for every single day I will be away from you plus a few extra for the special occasions: Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, our Anniversary plus the day I finally get to come back to you and be in your arms. But this is for you to know that I will be thinking of you every single day and while I know they aren’t exactly the same I figured it would be a nice way for me to tell you that I love you every single day, even if I can’t do it myself,” Maya explained, Carina’s hand wrapped in her own.

“I’m going to miss you so damn much,” Carina said, her tears returning.

“Me too baby, me too,” Maya said, welcoming Carina into her arms as they just held each other, never wanting to ever let go.

2 and a half hours later…

“I know you have to, but I really don’t want you to go,” Carina said, Maya’s hands in hers as they stood by the door, Maya’s bags at their feet.

“I know,” Maya replied. She knew how long deployment was, and she knew how lonely it could get there, but this time it would be a whole new experience for her, because this time she had someone to miss, someone to care for back home, someone to love.

“We’ll be okay,” Carina said, her words a statement over a question because she knew they would be okay. Their love was stronger than any number of miles and like Carina had said to the blonde earlier. She didn’t care whether she had to love her from a distance or from right here in her arms. She loved Maya Bishop with everything she had, and would never stop loving her.

“We’ll be okay,” Maya reaffirmed.

“You be safe - okay,” Carina said.

“I’ll do my best, my love. I’ll be fighting to come back to you as soon as I can.”

“That’s all I can ever ask of you Bella,” Carina smiled.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Maya whispered, the brunette’s forehead resting against her own as they just tightly held each other.

“And I’ll be waiting for you when you do. One Hershey’s kiss at a time.” Carina smiled, the blonde’s face matching.

“You promise.”

“Sì, I promise.”

Chapter Text

Love You From a Distance - Part Two 

‘Missing someone gets easier everyday because even though you are one day further from the last time you saw them, you are one day closer to the next time you will.’ - anonymous.

Month One:

Carina never truly realised how lonely her life had been before she’d met Maya. Of course she had her friends and her brother, but there was something about having that special person in your life that had changed everything for her. Maya had become her everything. She was on her mind 24/7, whether they were together or not. She was consumed by the blonde haired blue eyed Marine, and the thing was, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Maya was her other half - but right now she just wished she could have her other half in her arms and not thousands of miles away.

She loved her job, being able to bring new life into the world was one of the greatest joys and having the ability to do that everyday and see the euphoric look on parents’ faces. Today, however, was not one of those days. Not only had she woken up just wanting to hold the blonde in her arms, but she had also had a thirty-six hour shift ahead of her and to make matters even worse she had a new set of residents that had already messed up. She’d asked for a set of patient files to be updated and sent over to her, but not only were they an hour late, they were for the wrong patient which meant Carina had had to go down there herself and sort it out in the midst of having a mountain of paperwork to get through. So it was safe to say she wasn’t off to the best start.

As she strode through the hallways and into her office, she was in such a wound-up state she missed the redhead sitting on the sofa, only noticing when her tossed tablet was caught by said redhead.

“I know it’s a Monday and all but what did this thing ever do to you?”

“Addison, you scared me!” Carina cried, holding her hand to her chest as she tried to catch her breath.

“I mean I would have said something but you seem a tad distracted,” Addison replied, crossing her legs as she looked up expectantly at the brunette. “So - are you going to tell me or just sit in your office all day drowning in….whatever…this is?” She asked.

“You’re awfully annoying - anyone ever told you that?” Carina asked, slumping into her office chair.

“Daily - sometimes twice if I’m lucky,” she smirked, making Carina roll her eyes with a smile. “I have all day you know.”

“I miss Maya,” Carina revealed.

“The blonde that caught your heart. How long has it been?”

“Twenty seven days,” Carina sighed. She had been telling Addison and Jo all about her relationship with Maya and they’d always been there for he. They’d helped her plans dates and surprise gifts and they’d been there for her when she’d cried her eyes out the day Maya had left - not that she would say that to the blonde, she had to be strong for them both.

“Do you know when you’ll be able to talk to her?”

“No. They aren’t allowed any contact for at least the first month because they have to set up, get settled and do all the things they have to do. But, I’m so used to having her around, even just to text her or get a message saying she’ll see me after work. I never realised how hard all the little things would be y’know,” Carina said, mostly to herself, as her hands ran across the necklaces hanging around her neck. It had become an unconscious habit these past few weeks - whenever she thought of Maya, which was always, she held onto her necklaces. A reminder that no matter the distance, they were one, they were Maya and Carina, they could get through this - together.

“I remember when you first met her - you came into work so smiley that me and Jo knew something was up.”

“What can I say - she makes me the happiest I’ve ever been,” Carina grinned, spinning in her chair.

“I don’t say this a lot, but I’m proud of you. For finding your person, it’s not an easy thing to do but I think you’ve done it DeLuca,” Addison smiled.

“Thank you. I think I found it too - she’s the one,” Carina replied, a small blush on her face.

“How about we go out tonight - me, you and Jo and head down to the bar. I know I need to have a drink and I think you do too. You’ve been drowning yourself in work so you need to go out. No arguments,” Addison declared before walking out of her office, the sound of her heels clicking against the floor as the door promptly shut behind her.

Carina sighed and ran her hand through her hair, her eyes casting back down to her paperwork and the mountain of it that she had yet to finish.

Before she picked up her pen though she dug her hand into her pocket and pulled out a silver wrapped chocolate. A Hershey’s Kiss to be more exact. She slowly unwrapped it and placed it in her mouth, an instant sense of comfort washing over her as Maya’s beautiful smile flashed in her mind.

“I love you Maya,” she said to herself, a daily ritual she had found herself doing, unbeknownst to her that a certain blonde was doing the exact same thing…

Over 7000 miles away….

The air was warm yet it had a slight breeze to it as the sun had disappeared for night leaving a blanket of darkness to fall over the sky, the stars were scattered moondust and the moon a bright, white disc shining down in its full glory, illuminating the area around base as people milled around and went about their nightly routine.

It was quiet and peaceful, Maya could hear the faint sounds of music coming from a tent not too far away which was probably where everyone was given the bunks were all empty, leaving her with just her thoughts and the occasional chirp of grasshoppers.

She was lying down on her bed, her beige camis on as her fingers toyed with the jewellery having from her neck. A simple, yet invaluable reminder of the past eight months with the woman she loved.

“I love you Carina,” Maya whispered, bringing the necklaces to her lips as she thought of the gorgeous brunette. Her wavy hair and her mesmerising eyes, the way her smile would light up a room and her laugh would always make Maya feel like nothing else in the world mattered.

“You’re thinking about her right?” Andy asked, sitting down on her bed which was next to the blonde’s.

“Always,” Maya replied, not choosing to sit up but to continue laying down. “I don’t know how you and Robert do it.”

“We’ve got used to it - but you saw me when I first met him. How sad I was when we were away. You’ll get through this Bishop - one day at a time,” Andy said, knowing that had been their mantra for as long as they could remember.

One day at a time.

“I just - I want to hold her in my arms, is that crazy?” Maya asked with a laugh.

“No. It’s human - it looks good on you Bishop. I like seeing you in love, it suits you. Now, Vic will probably be dying without the two of us to keep her company, so come on, let’s go.” Andy stood up from her bed and held her hand to the blonde.

Maya looked at it for a moment before sighing and pulling herself. “Come on then,” She smiled.

They threw their arms over each other's shoulders as they walked across the base towards another set of tents.

Maya could do this; she just had to take it one day at a time…

Month Two:

“I think that’s the seventh Christmas themed baby I’ve delivered all week,” Carina complained as she collapsed down onto the sofa in her office. “And it’s Tuesday!”

“Well think on the bright side - at least you're winning,” Jo replied, nodding to the chart on the wall.

Every year the OB department would set up a chart that would determine who would give birth to the most festive-themed named babies - it was a UCLA Hospital tradition and normally brought in quite a lot of laughs with a gift of an expensive bottle of champagne and chocolate to the winner.

So far Carina was leading the department by three yet it was not matched by a festive spirit.

The decorative banners and snowflakes hanging from the walls, with hot chocolate being served and a brief spell of snow, although Carina had deemed it fleeting rain and not anywhere near the fluffy white powder that was ‘actual’ snow, had done very little to cheer the Italian up. She was currently on day 53 of Maya being away and it was still hard.

She’d had some good days though, days where she’d lived her life as normal and she was getting to the point where she wasn’t constantly sad about the absence of the blonde, but rather changing her mindset to anticipate her eventual return.

It was draining - to hide herself away and try to distract herself, and it didn’t work. No matter how many files she filled out, or budget reports she drew up nothing could ever take her mind off of her girlfriend being thousands of miles away from her.

So, she embraced it. She refused to ‘mope’, as Addison and Jo had called it, around. Everyday she would have her Hershey’s kiss, tell Maya she loved her and she would get on with her day. One day at a time…

Christmas was one of Maya’s favourite holidays, she knew this because it had been something the blonde had shared with her over a bottle of wine they’d shared after a late night walk, which of course had been accompanied by the sunset.

She remembered listening to Maya share all of her favourite parts about it, the decorations, the food, the chocolate - of course, the games…she just wished she could be with her to celebrate the time of year. She wanted to be able to make some new memories with her, to see the joy light up on her face and her eyes brighten the way she had imagined so many times…

“What are you doing this year?” Jo asked, referencing the upcoming celebration.

Carina sighed, “I don’t know, with Maya gone I might spend it with my brother but I have no firm plans.”

“It’s the 23rd!” Jo exclaimed.

“I know. I know-“ Carina began, before being quickly cut off by her colleague.

“I asked because I wanted to say you are always welcome to mine and Alex’s. We have a few friends over anyway so you’d be in good company. I can’t imagine what it feels like, but I don’t want you to be alone. It’s Christmas, we need people around us,” Jo said with a comforting smile.

“Grazie. I may just take you up on that,” Carina replied with a small nod and smile, her heart warming as she thought of how thankful for all the people she had in her life that looked out for her, through thick and thin and the highs and lows. She may not have much of a family in regards to blood but she had a village of people who she could always count on.

“Bring your brother along too if he’d like, the more the merrier,” Jo suggested as her pager promptly buzzed making her stand and wave as she walked out of the office. “Oh and just so you know I’m not taking no as an answer. I promised Maya that I wouldn’t let you spend the holidays alone and blondie scares me so for my own sake…come to ours for Christmas,” she added, poking her head back into the office before running out again.

Carina was stunned silent and the women’s admission. Had she heard her right? Maya had asked her friends to make sure she wasn’t alone? With a happy sigh she rested her head in her hands, elbows on the desk and her hands covering her eyes.

“Oh bambina, you really are perfect aren’t you?” Carina said out loud, her fingers clutching at her necklace.

After a while she sat up again and noticed the scene outside her window. Due to the change in season the days had been getting shorter, meaning the sun would rise late and set early - but it did mean she got a beautiful view of the city from her corner situated office.

It was just coming up to eight in the morning, which not only signalled the end of Carina’s night shift but also the beginning of the sunrise.

The sun was just peeking out above the horizon, casting sun beams to reflect off of the city skyline windows. Pale yellows, brilliant pinks and copper oranges mixed with the cool bluish tones of the sky as the clouds just began to settle.

Carina stood from her chair and walked right up to the window, her breath hot against the cold pane of glass as her eyes stared out at the vats stretch beauty in front of her, her mind instantly taking her back to that night she shared with Maya on the beach as they’d watched the sunset.

With a small smile she rested her hand against the window, just watching as the clouds moved and the sun continued to rise higher and higher - a sign of a new day, full of new opportunities and new beginnings…

 

“Mind if I join?” A voice said.

“Sure,” Maya replied, her eyes not leaving the sight ahead of her. Another day was closing and with it the sun was falling from view, inch by inch it was getting closer to hiding behind the horizon, ready for the following day. The sky was a wide span of burnt orange, the colour seeming to have had the dominant space in tonight’s show.

The blonde was sat on top of a rock, her knee brought up to her chest and her hands hanging by her side as she emerged herself in the silence.

“It’s beautiful.” Andy commented.

“It is,” Maya replied.

“What’s that?” Andy asked, nodding down to the piece of folded paper that occupied one of Maya’s hands.

“A letter from Carina.”

“From the set she gave you?” Maya nodded.

Maya had been re-reading over her girlfriend’s letters for the past three weeks, making sure she didn’t just open them all at once. So, she managed to keep her needs at bay by reading them again, trying to find small details within the words every single time.

She still remembers the day she opened up the first one. Open when you miss me. And god she missed Carina a hell of a lot.

Dear Maya,

If you are reading this then it can only mean one thing: you miss me. I miss you too. I miss you every single day, and while I know I am writing this to you before you have left my statement still remains true.

You have become such an important person in my life, in what would be considered a fairly short period of time and the funny thing is, I think I fell in love with you the second I met you. You were sitting with Andy and Vic in the booth, although I will admit you did look somewhat grumpy (which was strangely quite endearing to me) but your eyes held a mystery that I felt compelled to unravel.

When you left to go back to what I now know would have been Base I couldn’t get my mind off of you. Even when I was busy working at the hospital you were there. But, it was just my luck when you walked back through that door two weeks later. That day will be one I will never forget, because it was the day we started our journey together.

I miss your smile.

I miss your laugh.

I miss the way you would send me random messages while I was at work.

I miss the way you would always wrap me in your arms after you’d been on a run whenever I had stayed the night.

I miss fighting with you over who is the better driver….I still think it’s me by the way, regardless of your job.

I miss the way you pick me up when you know you are losing an argument just because you don’t know what else to say.

I miss your quick-witted jokes that would always make me laugh.

I miss the way we fight over the popcorn while we watch a film.

I miss making you French Toast in the mornings and watching you devour the entire plate in less than five minutes.

I miss everything about you….

I did a study in Paris a few years ago over the summer and while I was there I was told something by a patient that I will never forget.

In French, you don’t say, “I miss you.” You say, “tu me manques,” which means, “You are missing from me.”

She was saying it to her husband who couldn’t be with her at the time as he was stuck at an overseas conference. But, I think the phrase is perfect for how I feel.

You are missing from me. I don’t feel as if I am whole anymore without you, because we are two parts of one whole. We are made for one another. You and me - we are in this together.

I love you. I love you so much it hurts, but I know that for everyday I have to be without you is another day closer to the day I finally get to be back in your arms where I belong.

Stai al sicuro, amore mio. Per sempre vostri,

[Stay safe, my love. Forever yours]

Carina x

When she’d read that letter for the first time she’d let a few tears fall. She’d read the letter in her girlfriend’s voice, she could hear the times where Carina would have laughed, or would have cried. She just knew. She had read it three times that night - just needing to be close to the brunette in any way she could.

However, the letter was not the only thing that had been placed in the envelope. As she’d pulled out the paper an A5 picture had fallen out onto Maya’s bed. She turned it over, an immediate smile washing over her face as she remembered the moment behind the captured image.

It was of her and Carina both doing hand-stands in Andy’s back garden with party hats both on their heads. It had been Sullivan’s birthday and the couple had decided they\d wanted to host a BBQ to celebrate. So a group of both Andy and Sullivan’s friends all turned up and enjoyed the day, full of funny stories, good food, cake and a round of truth or dare which had led to the friendly competition of who could do a handstand the longest out of Maya and Carina.

Maya had lost, but she’d blamed it on the beers she’d consumed while Carina just laughed and told her she was a sore loser.

The picture had made her laugh thinking back to that night and the fun they’d all had, but also how much she missed hearing the laugh of her girlfriend and the look she got in her eyes when she knew she was right. Which as the brunette would always tell her, ‘was usually always’ and had since become something the pair would always end up saying.

She never thought she could miss someone this much…but she had just two more days until she could open her second letter. Open when it’s Christmas. And she couldn’t wait.

Two days later: Christmas Day

“Merry Christmas!” Jo cried as she opened the door, revealing the DeLuca siblings.

“Buon Natale,” they both replied.

“Come in, come in,” she said, stepping back as the two walked in.

“Here we bought you this,” Andrew said, passing over a bottle of wine.

“And these are your gifts,” Carina added, handing over a bag of presents.

“Thank you very much, both of you,” Jo smiled, walking them through to the kitchen. “Andrew I’m sure your sister can introduce you to everyone, but this is my husband Alex,” she introduced.

The two men shook hands as Carina gave him a short hug.

A few hours later and it was just after four o’clock, they had all enjoyed a plethora of incredible food and consumed a good few bottles of wine between the large group.

Andrew was in the middle of a conversation between Addison Montgomery and Levi Schmitt while Carina was talking to Jo in the kitchen.

“How was your morning?” Jo asked.

“Hard,” Carina admitted, her thumb circling the rim of her wine glass. “But, as always, she found a way to make me smile.”

At Jo’s confused expression, she continued. “Maya would always try and surprise me with small gifts. Coffee being sent to my office, my favourite pastries on my kitchen counter before she went to work - small things really. But she knew they were always my favourite. I had just woken up and heard a knock at my door. I wasn’t expecting anyone except Andrew, but he wasn’t supposed to be coming until later on. So you can imagine my shock when a man was standing there with a bouquet of white roses, and a box addressed to me.”

“Maya?!” Jo cried, realising where this story was heading. “She sent you gifts all the way from across the world?”

“Sort of. The man told me that the order had been put in three month ago - she’d already ordered my Christmas presents before she’d even left…” Carina revealed, shaking her head with a silly smile.

“You two really are the definition of perfect,” Jo smiled.

“Even thousands of miles away she takes care of me…she even asked you to make sure I wasn’t alone and that nearly made me cry when you told me,” Carina mentioned.

“She was right though, you shouldn’t be alone at Christmas. Plus, it’s been lovely getting to meet your brother - he seems to get on really well with everyone,” Jo said, looking out to see everyone happily chatting with one another.

“Grazie.”

They were promptly cut off from their conversation by the sound of Carina’s phone ringing. She reached across the island to pull it towards her but when she saw the name on it - she couldn’t help but just stare at it.

“Carina? What’s the matter? Who is it?” Jo asked, concerned from her friend’s shocked expression.

“It’s Maya…” Carina whispered, not quite processing the fact her girlfriend was phoning her.

“Answer it!!” Jo yelled.

The sudden change in volume brought Carina back to reality as she grabbed the phone and ran outside towards the balcony.

“Maya?!” Carina cried, as the call connected.

“Merry Christmas, beautiful,” Maya smiled through the screen.

“Oh my god…I can’t - What-“

“I know,” Maya grinned, a small tear running down her cheek.

“Bambina…I miss you so much.”

“I miss you too, so bad. I love you and honestly I can’t wait until I’m home. How’s your day been?”

“It’s been good, I wish you could have been here. But I’ve spent the day at Jo’s…”

“Ah she followed through on my request then?” Maya smiled proudly.

“She did. Thank you Bella. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Of course I did. I wouldn’t let my girlfriend be alone on Christmas so I just had to be sure you’d be around your friends.”

“You really are perfect.”

“So I’ve been told,” Maya teased, making Carina laugh. “I’ve missed that laugh.”

”I’ve missed everything about you,” Carina revealed, her eyes just staring into her favourite pair of blues. The same pair she loved waking up to in the morning when they’d shared a bed the night before. The same pair that she could read every emotion through. The same pair that she fell in love with the second she saw them.

“Did you get any surprises this morning?” Maya asked, her chin resting on her hand as she just took in everything that was Carina DeLuca.

“I did,” Carina drew out. “I think it’s from a secret admirer though,” she teased.

“Oh yeah? They must love you quite a bit,” Maya replied, playing along.

“I think so, with the amount of gifts that were in there and the flowers.”

“Well my girlfriend deserves to be treated on Christmas, especially when I can’t be there to celebrate with her,” Maya said, her charming personality coming into full effect.

“Wait, those were from you?” Carina laughed.

“I hate you…”Maya groaned with a laugh.

“Oh I hate you too bambina,” Carina smiled.

“We haven’t seen each other or heard one another in two months and we say we hate each other on Christmas. What a good pair we are,” Maya laughed.

“That we are,” Carina laughed.

“I read my letter.”

“Ah you did?”

“Hmm - the candy canes were a nice touch. Thank you,” Maya smiled. “How did you even get those?”

“They start selling Christmas things in September,” Carina laughed.

“Fair point,” Maya nodded. “You know before I read the letter for Christmas I would just continue to read and re-read the one before. Tracing your handwriting and counting down the seconds before opening the next one.”

“I’m glad you liked them,” Carina smiled.

“I don’t think I could ever get tired of reading them, no matter how many times I do.”

“You’re sweet,” Carina blushed.

“I try,” Maya grinned. “Oh and how can I forget! You gave me your own little surprise didn’t you?”

“Maybe?” Carina smirked.

“I can’t believe you asked Andy to keep another jar of peanut butter for me in her bag for my Christmas gift,” she laughed.

“Well, I know you and I had a feeling you would have eaten all yours by now, am I right?”

“As usual, yes you are,” Maya smiled. “Thank you, I miss peanut butter so much.”

“Is that the only thing?” Carina teased.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Maya replied with a cheeky grin, as Carina shook her head with a laugh.

“What time is over there anyways, Bella?” Carina asked, noting the darkness around the blonde.

“Nearly five am,” Maya replied, checking her watch.

“Ah so it is Santo Stefano,” Carina smiled.

“Santo-what?” Maya asked not hearing what her girlfriend had said.

“In Italy December 26th is called Santo Stefano - St. Stephen’s Day,” Carina revealed. “It’s a big holiday in Italia where we all spend the day with friends and family, we go outside and spend time with everyone,” she further explained.

“Well happy Santo Stefano day,” Maya smiled.

“Why are you up so early?” Carina questioned. Releasing how early it must have been for the blonde.

“I’m glad you asked,” Maya said. “The sun is just about to rise here, and if I’m right then it’s about to set where you are?” She confirmed.

Carina took a look out to the sky and nodded, the sun was indeed beginning to make its way down past the horizon. “Do you want to watch them together?” She asked shyly.

“I’d love nothing more,” Carina smiled, a sense of familiarity washing over her as she remembered all those days and nights where they would just sit in silence and watch the movements of the sun. No matter how far apart they were they would always be two parts of one whole.

Month Three:

“Maya! I need you to listen to me! You need to calm down!” Andy rushed out, her entire body panicking seeing her best friend and Sergeant in this state. “Vic what do we do?”

“I-I don’t know! Maya! Come on please!” She tried.

Maya was currently curled up in a ball on the floor, her entire body rocking and shaking with her cries. Her knees were brought up high, her face buried into her chest as her arms wrapped themselves around her. Almost as if her body was forming its own protective barrier around herself, blocking out everything in the outside world.

She felt like she couldn’t breathe, her mind was a chaotic mess and she’d done well to hold it all together, but as soon as she entered the storage tent everything had collapsed.

She couldn’t hold in the pain anymore and without the one person she needed most, she just allowed herself to cry. But, her two best friends had never seen her in this state before, in such an inconsolable state that even had them worried to the point they were getting seriously concerned.

“Maya what can we do?!” Andy asked, kneeling down next to her. “Please just talk to us, we know this hurts. Trust me. Just don’t shut us out,” she begged.

“I need Carina,” Maya managed to get out between her cries, her body still rocking in place on the ground.

“Shit -okay. Uhm,” Vic said, rubbing her forehead as she tried to think of a solution. She whispered a suggestion to Andy and when the woman nodded in agreement she quickly rushed out.

36 hours ago…

Maya and her team had been sent on a supply transportation expedition to a combat camp around two hundred miles out of the main base into the Nawa district. They had gone in two different vehicles - four members each. Bishop, Herrera, Butler, Vasquez in one and then Hughes, Gibson, Miller and Higgins in the other.

The trip there had been smooth sailing, no problems, four hours of just them and the road.

It had allowed them to engage in some fun conversation, ‘brotherhood banter’ as it was called as well as some teasing among the squad.

When they’d arrived they were greeted by the commanding officer in charge who had assisted them in the drop-off of the supplies while informing them of an incoming sandstorm that was only a few miles out. She’d been told that the CO had arranged for her crew to stay the night and avoid any unnecessary issues regarding the weather conditions.

Maya had readily agreed and told her crew about their change in itinerary.

It had been 3 in the morning when her eyes had snapped open to the sound of gunshots.

They were loud and heavy, she could hear the sounds of bullets smashing against wood as it splintered and cracked.

“Maya what the fuck is happening?” Andy yelled above the noise.

Everyone had dropped to the ground and was getting dressed as fast as physically possible, moving their protective gear over the bodies as well as grabbing their firearms.

“Sergeant Bishop to CO. Anderson - what’s the status out there?” She radioed, clipping everything into place.

“Firing from the East and West side, your team are trained?” He responded, the sound of firing coming through as he spoke.

“Affirmative.”

“Take the East side and join with Sergeant Ripley.”

“Copy that Sir,” Maya replied. “Let’s take the East Side - let’s go, let’s go,” Maya cried, leading her team through the bunks, out into the main quad before cutting East through various tents and vehicles before joining up with Ripley.

“Sergeant Bishop?” He asked, his eyes trained on the mountains where people were firing from.

“Sergeant Ripley.”

“Get your team further back and take who you can! It looks like a small number of them but we can’t be too sure,” He yelled.

“Copy that!” Maya replied. “You heard him!” She added to her team who all followed their sergeant orders. Each taking their stances behind various pieces of protection, a small outhouse, supply crates and such before doing what they could to help defend themselves.

Maya felt a sudden rush of adrenaline course through her veins every time she felt her forearm hit back against her shoulder. But for the first time in her military career, she felt an element of fear creep in her body. She had someone at home for her, someone she loved and cared about. She needed to get home.

It was the phrase she kept repeating in her mind, get back home, get back home, get back home.

Her eyes focused on the task at hand and she just kept pushing. Pushing her body to it’s limit and pushing her mind to it’s limit.

They continued defending the base for close to forty-five minutes, bullet after bullet. A few rockets had been launched destroying part of the base, but thankfully all of Maya’s team were safe.

Well they had been until a small group of enemy fighters and managed to sneak their way down onto a more grounded level without being seen, thanks to the large rocks at the base of the mountain ranges.

Maya heard a loud groan, followed by a yell as she watched one of her team fall to the ground.

“Gibson!” Maya yelled, crouching down and crawling her way over to him.

Just as she reached him she let out a string of swear words. “Fuck!” She instantly dropped to her stomach and rolled behind a set of crates as she propped herself up. Blood was staining her arm sleeve. But she was pretty sure she’d hadn’t been hit and would be just a graze, but with the amount of adrenaline she had in her she doesn’t think she would even be able to tell the difference.

She took a deep breath in before scrambling across the sand and dirt on the ground and grabbing a hold of Gibson under his frontal body armour and dragging him across the open space, watching as Andy covered for her, following them towards a safer destination.

“Gibson! You stay alive, you hear me!” Maya yelled at the man. “You don’t die on me!”

Jack just groaned in response, the pain clearly getting to such a point he couldn’t speak.

Maya ripped open his gear and assessed the injuries, he’d been hit four times across the upper chest, leg and arm. It was bad. Anyone could see that.

“Maya you’re bleeding!” Andy cried as she saw the red stain on her best friend’s arm.

“I know but he’s the priority right now!” Maya said, grabing at a roll of bandages to wrap around his injuries. “Come on Jack! Come on,” She begged. “Open your eyes for god sake!” She yelled.

“Maya,” he whispered, grabbing at her hand.

“Jack,” she said, shaking her head. “Don’t…”

“Tell Inara that I love her okay and Marcus. Tell the both for me please,” he said, his words trailing off in places as blood continued to pour out from his wounds.

“Jack, no. You’re going home to them.”

“I’m not. I know it, I can see the look in Andy’s eyes. I’m done,” he whispered. “It was an honour serving with you. Semper Fi,” he smiled.

“It was an honour Jack, Semper Fi,” Maya and Andy said, each taking a hand as they watched his eyes close.

A silent tear rolled down both their cheeks as Maya pulled the tags from around his neck before placing them in her pocket to be kept safe.

“Enemy terminated.” A voice said over the radio, all firearms falling silent - the blanket of the night returning to it’s peaceful state, except nothing that had happened had been under any state of peace.

They had lost someone. They had lost one of their brother’s. They had lost part of their family, and that would never be okay.

Hours later, Maya and the remaining squad had returned back to their base. After a meeting with the leading CO about the attack that had happened, and another look at the medical attention Maya had received on grazed arm, they had been released to return to their day to day operations.

“Maya hold on,” Andy called, watching the blonde practically run off.

Vic followed along, both getting concerned at the rate at which Maya was moving.

“Bishop,” Vic yelled.

Maya didn’t stop, her lungs were burning and her chest felt tight. She couldn’t breathe. Everything felt as if it were too close, like the world was closing in on her. This was her fault. It was her job to protect her team and keep them safe. But she’d failed. Jack had died because she’d failed, and now Inara and Marcus had been left without a husband and step-father. A family was now broken, and it had all happened in a matter of seconds and under her watch.

She rushed into a storage tent and pulled at her shirt, trying to get some air into her body.

“Maya -what’s happening?” Andy asked, her face full of worry.

Instead of answering Maya just began to cry, her body crumbling to the ground as she curled up into a ball.

“Maya what can we do?!” Andy asked, kneeling down next to her. “Please just talk to us, we know this hurts. Trust me. Just don’t shut us out,” she begged.

“I need Carina,” Maya managed to get out between her cries, her body still rocking in place on the ground.

“Shit -okay. Uhm,” Vic said, rubbing her forehead as she tried to think of a solution. She whispered a suggestion to Andy and when the woman nodded in agreement she quickly rushed out.

Vic burst back through the tent, with a folded piece of paper in her hands.

“Hey Maya - look,” She said, kneeling onto the sand. She showed Maya the paper in her hand as the blonde read over the words.

‘Open when you’re sad’

Carina’s letter.

With a shaky hand, she reached for the envelope.

“Do you want us to wait outside?” Andy asked, wanting to give her Sergeant some privacy.

Maya nodded before peeling back the flap and pulling out the paper, wiping her tears as she did.

Dear Maya,

In a way I hate that you are reading this letter right now, because it means you’re sad. Which makes me sad to even think about.

One of the things I love most about you is your smile and the fact that you probably don’t have one on your face right now. It is something I wish I could fix….but even though I can’t hold you in my arms and tell you everything will be okay. I hope my words will be enough.

When I lost a patient a few months ago you were there. Addison had messaged you to tell you what had happened and that I would need someone, and you were. You were there while I cried, while I felt like I was useless, while I blamed myself, while I wanted to be shut out from the world. You were there. You sat with me while I stared endlessly in the shower - the cries of the woman’s husband screaming in my mind. You never left, even when I wanted you to because I didn’t want you to see that side of me.

But I will always remember what you told me.

“No. You are my person and whatever we go through, we go through it together. I won’t let you walk this alone.”

So, now it is my turn to say these words to you.

Maya, you are my person and whatever we go through, whatever It is that you are facing right now that made you open this letter, we will go through it together. I won’t let you walk this alone.

You can do this bambina. I am so proud of you and I love you. Never forget that.

Whenever you get sad you like it when I hold you. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to wrap you in my arms. My arms over your shoulders, while yours hold me around my waist. Each holding tight as if we will never let one another go. Your forehead will rest just above my collarbone (because I am still taller than you Bella). If you want to shake with cries then I will only hold you for longer and remind you of how amazing you are. I will stand and be with you as long as you need, whether it be all day or all night, I don’t care.

I will always be here for you Maya, even from a few thousand miles away our love won’t ever break, because we are stronger than that.

I”m so sorry you aren’t feeling okay Bella but I hope I could help you heal or at least make you smile.

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” – Pablo Neruda

TI amo, mi amore

Carina xx

Month Four:

Carina sighed loudly as she collapsed down into her office chair, immediately kicking off her trainers and resting her head on the table.

Her mind was split, while today was one of the happiest she had been it was also one of the most stressed she’d been.

Today was her and Maya’s one year anniversary and even though she hadn’t been able to wake up the blonde she had been greeted at her office by a beautiful bouquet of red tulips - a meaning of true love.

She still didn’t quite know how Maya was ordering flowers to her place of work all the way from Afghanistan, given the Internet connection was limited and the service almost extinct. But she enjoyed the mystery and the surprise that came with them as well as the thought that could go into every delivery too. Carina loved flowers and was always telling Maya about the meanings behind them and the origins of said meanings, going all the way back to Victorian England and the publication of flower dictionaries.

It made her smile to think that Maya had remembered all her random rambles from many months ago.

Despite her aching body, which was the result of an eighteen hour shift, six deliveries, and three surgeries, she had a smile on her face. In precisely three minutes she was expecting a Skype call from Maya - it had taken a lot of planning and organising but they would finally have some time together to celebrate this milestone in their relationship.

Before that however, she had one more thing she had to do. She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out two Hershey’s Kisses, one for today and another because, per Maya’s instructions, she got to have another one on special occasions.

She opened up her laptop and looked at the screen, waiting and waiting until it began to ring. A small pop up screen appeared. She immediately clicked on it and couldn’t help the smile that appeared on her face as she saw the blonde haired blue eyed woman flash onto her screen.

“Happy Anniversary my love!” Maya smiled.

“Felice anniversario,” Carina replied.

“You look beautiful.”

Carina looked down at herself. “Bambina, I’m in my scrubs,” she laughed.

“My statement still stands,” Maya winked.

“Always a charmer.”

“I’ve missed your face,” Maya sighed.

“Me too Bella. Me too.”

“I think I’ve looked through the photo album at least a few times a week this month,” she admitted. “But I will admit those pictures in my letter for Valentine’s Day were a big help,” she said suggestively.

“Oh they were, were they?” Carina replied with a smirk.

“Hm,” Maya nodded.

Carina wanted to give Maya a small gift for Valentine’s Day so she had taken a few photos of herself in some brand new red lingerie she had bought.

“How did you keep that from me before I left?!” Maya exclaimed, knowing the photos would have been taken before she’d deployed given she’d been given the letters before she’d left.

“I just thought it would be a nice treat for you when you come home,” Carina replied.

“Oh it certainly will be,” Maya replied. “So I actually wanted to give you something,” she continued, shyly looking down before meeting Carina’s eyes again.

“What do you mean Bella?” Carina asked, the physical distance between the two creating her confusion, despite the countless gifts Maya had managed to get to her - today’s one being a prime example.

“Throughout my time here you have saved me, more times than you can count with your letters. They have made me laugh and cry and smile and I can’t ever thank you enough. But, I thought for our anniversary I could return the favour. So, I wrote you a letter.” Maya held up her journal, Carina instantly recognising it as the one she had gifted the blonde four months ago.

“You did?” Carina asked, already trying to hold back her tears at the thoughtfulness her girlfriend had put into this gesture.

“I did - can I?” She asked.

Carina nodded, not trusting herself to speak words.

“Dear Carina,

I can’t imagine my life without you. We spent eight incredible months side by side and we have spent the past four more being thousands of miles apart. Not many people would have stuck by me. Most would have left at the first sign of it getting hard, but you didn’t.

You have given me the strength to continue more times than you will ever know. Being able to read your letters when I cannot hear your voice has been something that has kept me sane.

You make me laugh, you make me smile, you make me the best version of myself, you make me want to sing songs in the car and take you on spontaneous dates. You make me want to bring you coffee at work and surprise you with flowers and small gifts.

I love you so much that it hurts. I love your jokes, I love the undeniable care you have with all your patients, I love the random spews of information you seem to know about everything and I love the way you will tease me like no one else can. But most importantly I love that you allow me to be myself around you.

I have never felt more free in your arms and I have never felt more loved when I am with you.

You may be thousands of miles away, but no one is closer to my heart than you are.

You are it for Carina DeLuca. I knew that the minute I saw you, and I can’t wait not only for the day where I get to finally have you in my arms again, but for all the years I will get to spend with you - building a life together and creating endless new memories.

I exist in two places, here and with you - no matter where you are. I will always be yours.

I love you, happy anniversary!

Forever yours,

Maya x”

When Maya finished she slowly lowered the journal and saw the brunette crying.

“Don’t cry baby, please,” Maya begged, feeling her own eyes glaze over.

“I can’t help it,” Carina said through her tears. “I just miss you so much and now you are being all romantic and I can’t-“

“You want me to be less romantic?” Maya joked with a grin.

“Yes because it means I won’t cry as much,” she replied, her own smile forming as she looked into her favourite blue eyes.

“Well I can’t promise you anything,” Maya teased.

“I love you so much,” Carina whispered.

“I love you too. Not long left my love, we are over half way through and then I can hold you in my arms.”

“And never let go?”

“And never let go,” Maya confirmed.

Month Five:

“So I know we haven’t spoken about it - but how are you doing?” Vic asked, taking a sip of her beer.

All three of them knew exactly what Vic was referring to. Jack.

Since his passing no one had spoken about it. It had gone unspoken about and everyone had just gone back to their normal lives. In an unfortunate and dark, yet uncomfortably true way - that was the life of the Marines. People died and there was nothing they could do about it, except to try to honour him. Feelings weren’t a thing - as it was known around the bases ‘we don’t use the f-word around here.’

“I’m fine,” Maya replied. “Got any sixes?” She added, holding a hand of cards between her fingers.

“No. Go fish. Are you sure? Does Carina know what happened?”

Maya took a card from the middle pack before placing down a set of four. “Set of nine’s,” she said. “No she doesn’t. She shouldn’t have to be worrying about me anymore than she already does.”

“Does she know you got injured?” Andy added.

“I wasn’t injured.”

“You got shot! Any eights?”

“Here,” Vic said, tossing two cards over.

“I didn’t get shot - it grazed my arm,” Maya protested.

“You have a scar - she’s going to notice when you get back.”

“And I’ll tell her when I get home - why stress her out?”

“Okay - but are you okay?”

“I just told you-“

“Honestly Maya. I’ve never seen you like that before. I was seriously worried and I know that day was a lot, I know that and any reaction is completely valid and understandable but I would not be a good friend to you if I didn’t ask. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m…I don’t know,” Maya sighed, leaning back into her chair as she took a sip of beer. “That morning just keeps running through my mind and I try to shut it off with photos and my letters and workouts but whenever I fall asleep he’s there in my mind…bleeding out as he begs me to tell Inara and Marcus how much he loves them.”

“I have them too,” Andy confesses. “You’re not alone Maya. You can talk to us,” she encouraged, not wanting the blonde to believe she had to go through this by herself.

“Thanks guys - I appreciate it,” she smiled, giving them both a nod. She knew her friends had her back, but feelings were a hard one. With Carina it was easy, she felt like she could tell the brunette anything, but not this. There was no way she would subject her girlfriend to the traumas that occupied her mind. At least not now.

“Okay - well I won,” Vic announced, deciding to change the topic as she saw six neatly stacked sets in front of her.

“Will we ever beat her?” Andy laughed, tossing her remaining cards in the middle.

“Probably not,” Maya smiled, her mind feeling a little lighter after speaking her mind. She wasn’t all the way through what had happened but she was getting there. One day at a time.

“Come on - it’s Luau Sunday and there is good music, a BBQ and pineapple juice calling my name!” Vic cheered, standing up from her chair and walking out of their tent towards the music.

“I hate pineapple juice,” Maya complained.

Month Six: 

“What’s up with you?” Andrew asked his sister skeptically as they walked down the streets of Los Angeles.

“What do you mean?” She asked, drinking her coffee.

“You haven’t stopped smiling and as much as I know you adore hanging out with your little brother I have a feeling it’s not for me,” he said, trying to figure out what was going on with the taller woman.

“Can I not just be happy Andrea?”

“Not when you refuse to tell me why?”

“Okay fine,” Carina relented, knowing she wasn’t going to be able to get out of her brother’s pestering. “It’s officially one month until Maya comes home, so sue me if I’m happy,” She said, unable to help the wide grin on her face.

“Ah I see,” Andrea smiled as they moved to walk through a park. “The woman who has stolen my sister’s heart. You know you can’t keep her all to yourself, I’m going to have to meet her properly. You dated her for eight months while she was here, 6 while she’s been deployed and I have seen her only briefly in passing.”

“Well I may just keep her myself for a little bit longer, but then if she agrees you can meet her,” Carina replied, both sitting down on one of the wooden benches underneath a large tree.

“Can she cook?”

“Somewhat.”

“Can she speak Italian?”

“She’s learning words here and there,” Carina chuckled, thinking back to all the late night Italian lessons she’d given Maya.

“Can she protect you?”

“Andrea, she is a Marine of course she can. She could beat you in a fight, that's for sure.”

“Hey!” He protested, pretending to flex his muscles. “I’m stronger than I look!”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night fratellino,” Carina quipped back.

“I’m just making sure she ticks all the boxes. I’ve got to make sure she’s the one for you.”

“She is,” Carina confirmed, knowing where her heart belonged - and that was to a beautiful, blonde haired Marine.

“Then I’ll have to bring out the brother talk,” He said proudly. “Intimate her a bit, make sure she’s never thinking of hurting you.”

“I don’t your going to intimidate her, Andrea,” Carina laughed, the image of her younger brother trying to scare Maya in her mind.

“Still…it’s the thought behind it right?” he said.

“It is. Thank you. Earlier you said she was the woman who’d stolen my heart, but if I’m being honest. I think it was always meant to be hers,” Carina revealed, speaking her mind.

“As Mama used to say,” he continued.

“Only save your heart for someone capable of giving you theirs,” they both said, the words of their mama engrained in both of them.

“We were meant for each other,” Carina smiled, tucking her leg underneath her.

“I’m glad you found the one,” Andrea said, pulling his sister in for a hug.

“Grazie fratellino,” Carina said. “Speaking of Maya though…” she trailed off, grabbing her phone and tapping on it.

“What are you doing?”

“Everyday I put a cross on the calendar and count down the day until she’s home,” Carina explained, showing him her phone which showed a calendar with months and months of red crosses on them.

“You really love her don’t you?” Andrea smiled.

“More than anything,” Carina replied without hesitation.

“I think she may be my favourite girlfriend you’ve ever had,” he declared, finishing off the last of his espresso.

“You’ve never met her,” Carina chuckled as a warmth spread through her, hearing those words from her brother.

She didn’t really have any family. Her mama had passed and her father was a very difficult man to be around, sure she had a few aunts, uncles and cousins but they were all back in Italy which in her mind, was associated with a lot of pain and hurt from her childhood. So all she really had was Andrea and her friends, and now Maya. So to hear that one of the most important people in her life approved of her relationship with the woman she loved, even though she didn’t need it, was something that she couldn’t be happier to hear.

“Well that’s down to you,” Andrea replied with a knowing look. “But, if she can keep you smiling and happy without even being in the country then that’s enough for me. That’s all I ever want for you Carina. For you to be smiling and happy,” he ended.

“I love you Andrea,” Carina said, wiping away a stray tear and pulling him into another tight hug.

“Ah I love you too Carina,” he returned. “But I want to meet Maya.”

“Deal.”

Month Seven:

Today was the day. The day Maya was coming home to her. She’d woken up with a smile so wide she’d almost laughed. The ache in her heart had seemed to grow a thousand times more now that the day was actually here. She’d eaten her last chocolate before dancing into her kitchen and cooking a plate of French Toast, the exact same meal she’d made for Maya before she’d left seven months ago.

She’d make quick work of having a shower and getting dressed before getting into her car and driving over to Maya’s apartment.

She wanted to make sure it was all clean and tidy before the blonde’s return, knowing she would be exhausted and she didn’t want her to have to worry about changing the sheets or vacuuming the floor - which Carina knew Maya would end up doing. Plus, Maya’s plane wasn’t due to land for another four or so hours so she had some time to kill.

She wiped down all the surfaces, dusted the shelves, mopped the floors and got a fresh set of sheets on the bed, went round the apartment spraying some air freshener and made sure the place was as clean as it could be. She also took another quick trip down to her car to collect a box of things that she’d brought with her.

A box of brownies, knowing they were some of the blonde's favourite chocolate treats, a ‘welcome home’ banner as well as a box of rose petals that she scattered across the floors.

She could barely contain her excitement at the thought of her girlfriend finally being able to be home, back in her arms, where she belonged.

As she finished hanging up the banner her phone began to ring.

“Hello?” She said, not checking the caller ID.

“Carina!” Jo’s voice said through the other end. “How are you feeling about today?”

“I honestly can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed about this day so many times and now it’s here…it doesn’t feel real,” Carina sighed, dropping down onto Maya’s sofa.

“What are you doing now? Her plane lands at three right?” Jo asked, her conversation from a few days prior about Maya’s return coming back to her.

“Yeah, so I’m just at Maya’s apartment now. I did some cleaning and washing just so everything is ready for when she’s back. You know she…”

“Would try and do it all as soon as she returned?” Jo laughed, knowing what Maya was like from there countless engagements over the eight month period where the blonde was at home.

“Exactly and I just want her to relax and not worry about anything. I called ahead and made sure all the power and water was turned back on too - otherwise it would be a bit of a mess,” Carina explained, her eyes casting up to a framed photo of her and Maya on one of their dates at the beach.

It was one that she hadn’t realised Maya had taken, she’d been looking out at the sunset while Maya had her eyes on her, a look of pure love and admiration on her face.

This morning she’d made sure she had woken up early enough to watch the sunrise, for hopefully the final time alone, at least for a while anyways.

She’d sat there with her espresso in one hand and the other clutches around her necklaces as she thought of the blonde who was probably already getting ready to depart and come back home to her. In that moment she’d let a few tears fall as the reality had really begun to set in. Maya was coming home.

“I know it’s your day off and work is the last thing you want to be thinking about - but do you have. A few minutes to talk over this case? I just have. A few questions and DR Montgomery is in surgery?” Jo asked apologetically, not wanting to push into Carina’s day, a very social day at that.

“Of course Jo, I don’t have to leave for the airport for another thirty minutes so ask away,” Carina said, lying down on the cushions as she listened to her friend’s queries.

“FLIGHT 568 is now landing.” A voice over the tannoy said.

Carina instantly jumped up from her place on one of the metal chairs in the arrivals lounge and began pacing, her phone tapping against her hand as a way to try and calm down her mind. The desire to just run through the airport and find her girlfriend was way too strong knowing Maya had now landed on American soil. They were so close to being back in each other's arms that it hurt.

Every second felt like an entirety as she waited…and waited….and waited.

“Come on Maya - where are you mi amor,” Carina whispered to herself as her eyes flickered back up to the large clock hanging on the far wall.

She looked back at the escalators where she knew Maya would be travelling down, a gathering of other family members and friends all in the same position. Just waiting.

Finally, Carina saw the hint of green appear from the escalators, the hanging wall above blocking her off from seeing who it was.

They were back.

Carina saw a woman rush forward and engulf the man who had barely stepped off the escalator and her heart began to swell as she thought of how close she was to being in the same position.

She continued waiting, until she saw another set of boots, which were accompanied by a pair of bright blue eyes and blonde hair. She ran with a speed she didn’t know she had in her until she met with her. She jumped up into her arms, and instantly felt an arm wrap around her body.

“I’ve missed you so much,” Carina cried, unable to stop the tears.

“I’ve missed you too, more than you can imagine,” Maya replied, walking them over to the side so she could drop her bag and hold onto her girlfriend properly.

Once they had some more space Maya’s other arm instantly wrapped itself around the brunette and she hugged her with everything she had. Every emotion she had felt since the day she’d left, everyday of longing, everyday of sadness, everyday of wanting to come back home, everyday she thought of the brunette, everything had finally come to a fruition.

She was back where she belonged.

Maya buried her face into the brunette’s neck, her own tears beginning to fall as she just held onto the love of her life.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Maya mumbled.

“I love you too,” Carina replied, pulling her head back so she could look into her favourite pair of blue eyes.

Her hands cupped Maya’s face, her thumbs gently brushing away the tears that matched her own.

“God I’ve missed your eyes,” she whispered, as she rested her forehead against the blonde’s.

“I’ve missed everything about you,” Maya sighed, the hint of Carina’s perfume making her mind go foggy as her eyes just took in the beauty that was Carina DeLuca. She was still trying to comprehend that they were here. She was in the arms of her girlfriend. After all the long nights and dreams of this day it was here. “You know we’ve been standing here for nearly five minutes and you haven’t kissed me,” Maya pointed out, her flicking down to the brunette’s lips.

“Well, let’s do something to change that,” Carina said, before surging forward and connecting their lips. When they kissed, it took them both back to the first kiss they’d shared. It was like fireworks, this inexplicable desire and magic all culminated together. It was a kiss that made up for seven months of being pulled apart from one another. A kiss that showed how deep their love for one another was. A kiss that was, in simple terms, magic.

Maya dropped one hand from holding Carina up so she could place it at the base of Carina’s jaw, needing to feel her skin as they got reacquainted with one another - an arrangement Maya was sure would continue long into the night.

Carina’s lips were just as soft as Maya remembered as they brushed over one another, passionate yet gentle. A push and pull. Like a magnet. Because they were made for one another and they couldn’t be without each other, they were two parts of one whole.

Whether they had to love each other from a distance or from right here in each other’s arms it didn’t matter.

Her life may take her to unexpected places, but her love would always bring her home.

And that was what Carina was. She was her home. She was her girlfriend. She was her ‘love of her life’. She was her forever. 

The End 

Chapter Text

As Carina opened up the door to Maya's apartment she couldn't help the butterflies that were flying around her stomach - finally having Maya back in her arms was a dream she'd been reliving for the past 7 months and now it was here...she still couldn't believe it. She was scared that any minute now she would wake up and be in her apartment alone, Maya's return still a distant wish - but it wasn't. She was here, in all of her blue-eyed beauty with her infectious smile....she was home.

Maya couldn't help but chuckle as she saw the banner hanging up in her apartment, large red letters spelling out the words 'Welcome Home!'. How did she get so lucky?

"Carina...you didn't have to do any of this," Maya sighed, wrapping her arms around the brunette. Something she hadn't stopped doing ever since she'd stepped off the escalator - even when they'd been driving home they'd made sure to be in some form of physical contact.

"Of course I did, I had to celebrate my soldier coming back to me," Carina smiled, burying her head in Maya's shoulder breathing in the sandalwood and lime scent - even though she'd had one in her own apartment and would occasionally use it just to trick her brain into believing Maya was with her there was nothing like it being the real thing.

Her fingers were tangled in the loose strands of hair at the back of Maya's neck, an action she'd found would always release any tension her girlfriend had, and over the months they'd been together she'd found it to be comforting to herself as well.

"I've never had anyone do this for me before," Maya admitted, her arms tightening their hold.

"Well you deserve it bambina," Carina whispered, placing a kiss on the side of her head. "You deserve everything."

"I love you," Maya replied, a few tears falling from her eyes. The love she had for this woman was incomprehnsiable, she'd never felt anything like it before and not being able to hold her in her arms for the last seven months had been torture for her.

She'd craved her during the day and dreamt of her at night, the way her eyes would light up as she read something interesting, the way her laughter would ring out and never fail to make Maya smile, the way her touch was so delicate yet intentional, the way she could challenge Maya with her whit while reason with her in a way no one else could have done before. She made Maya want to come home at night to a night by the fire, or to run the brunette a bath with candles and chocolate because she had a tough shift, or to a night full of passionate love-making, or a night where they would cook a meal together just for the sake of spending time together. She made her feel like being in love was the best thing that could have ever happened to her, and it was.

Being in love with Carina DeLuca was one of the greatest pleasures she'd had and seeing just how much her love was returned made her so grateful she couldn't help her tears.

"God I missed you so fucking much," Maya breathed out.

"I missed you too, every single day."

They both just stared into each other's eyes and as Maya dropped her bag to the ground Carina surged forward crashed their lips together.

It was hot and heavy, a kiss so full of desire and yearning. A kiss they had both been dreaming about for the past seven months.

Pushing her bag further inside the apartment with her foot she then kicked the door shut with a slam - the noise not even close to breaking their kiss.

Maya slid her tongue forward and pushed it past Carina's lips, making her moan loudly - her back coming into contact with the kitchen island.

The blonde's hands were on Carina's waist, her hands skimming under to touch the soft skin that lay underneath while the brunette had one cupping the blonde's jaw and the other over her shoulder, pulling in her as much as she could. She forgot just how addictive Maya was to her. How she had lived seven months without this woman was insane.

Maya's hands ran up the brunette's side before quickly undoing the buttons on her shirt and pulling it off her shoulders, her eyes widening at the sight of the new expanse of Carina's skin and a black laced bra. She raised her brows as Carina just smirked before pulling the blonde back in.

Their eyes were both closed in blissful pleasure as they just explored each other - marvelling at the the tase they had been begging for for so long. God they had missed this.

Carina's hand's spread to the counter top as Maya's body pressed into her own, her hands still at her waist a tight grip making the brunette want to just have sex with the Marine right there and then.

Maya apparently had different ideas....

"Brownies!" Maya cried pulling away from the kiss, seeing the tin of chocolate delights.

"What?" Carina breathed out, her mind fuzzy from the way Maya's lips had moulded with her own. Seeing Maya's eyes cast to the side she turned around in the blonde's arms. "I'm seriously standing here half-naked and your focus is on the brownies?"

"But they look so good!"

"Bambina! I need sex with you. Right now, before I explode!"

"Just one! Please?" Maya begged, her eyes widening and her bottom lip sticking out - she knew Carina couldn't say no to her now.

"Oh my god, you are like a child. Fine. Just one. Hurry up!" She wined, while also finding her girlfriend incredibly amusing.

Maya lunged over the counter and grabbed one from the tin, not even bothering to break it up instead just putting the entire thing in her mouth - moaning at the incredible, sweet taste that invaded her taste buds.

"These are so good - I miss chocolate!" Maya said, half her words unintelligible through her chewing.

Carina just stood there, chest exposed, watching the blonde eat her brownie and wishing with everything in her that she would just hurry up and eat the damn thing.

"Finished?" She asked with a smirk as the blonde swallowed, a happy smile on her face.

"Finished." Maya confirmed, before surging forward and capturing Carina's lips between her own.

As they moved from one side of the kitchen to the other Maya wrapped her hand under Carina's thigh and picked her up and placed her onto the counter, finding she could get even closer to her from this position as two legs circled her waist and pulled her back in with a groan.

Moving her hands from her waist to back below her ass she lifted her effortlessly off the counter and began to walk her down the corridor, the lips still attached as Carina's hands ran their way through blonde locks.

The sexual tension in the room was palpable - it was a burning, craving, hot and heavy kind of tension. One that needed to be broken as soon as physically possible.

Maya walked them into the bedroom and leant down, Carina still wrapped around her as she placed her down on the sheets - a moan escaping both their lips at the shift in pressure as Maya pressed down into her.

"Oh god," Carina whimpered as Maya moved from her mouth to her neck - treasuring it in a way Carina had been fantasising about since the day the blonde had left.

Maya couldn't get enough, she felt insatiable. Her lips moved feverishly against tanned skin, making sure nothing was left untouched. She wanted to feel every part of Carina. She needed to.

As her eyes flickered up to see Carina's red swollen lips, messy hair and darkened eyes. Her breath hitched in her throat - god she was so lucky that she got to call this woman hers.

As she continued to make her way down past Carina's chest, making sure to removed the black lacy bra - as much as it was appreciated, Maya preferred it on the floor - her mouth travelled over stiff peaks and ran her tongue in a few quick perfect circles, Carina's body lifting up at the blonde's movements as she just smirked proudly.

Once Maya was happy with the attention she'd given to the brunette's chest she continued moving south until her lips met the top of Carina's hips as well as her jean clad legs.

"Now - I don't know about you but I think these should come off? What do you think?" Maya teased, resting her chin on the brunette's stomach and staring up at her.

"Get them off," Carina begged. "Please Maya!"

"If you insist," Maya chuckled to herself before moving the zipper down at a tantalizingly slow pace.

"Maya I swear to god!" [Italian!]

"My, my....so impatient," Maya replied, finally finishing undoing the jeans before all but ripping them off Carina's legs - the entire movement taking less than a second before she was met with a matching set of black lace underwear, staring right back at her...teasing her - in the best ways possible.

She tucked her finger under the lace and pulled them down long legs before flicking them down to the ground.

"I missed you so much," Maya murmured over Carina's skin, her lips returning to her hipbones, her hands applying pressure to the top of the brunette's thighs, just enough to make her squirm.

"Maya...." Carina breathed out doing her best to hold herself in - but she'd been waiting for this for seven months so she wasn't going to blame herself for not lasting long.

Maya then ran her tongue down past Carina's stomach, lower and lower until she reached the one place Carina had been craving for so long. A loud moan left her throat as one hand flew up to grip the metal bars on the headboard, the cool temperature being a nice contrast from the white heat surging through her body, her other hand tangled in the sheets as Maya worked between her legs.

"Shit Maya!" Carina cried, her face shaping into one of pleasure, or desire, of lust and of love.

"Let yourself go beautiful. Let go for me," Maya whispered, her voice causing vibrations to circulate through Carina's body.

And she did. Once. Twice. Three times.

"Oh my god," Carina cried, tangling her hand in her hair as her brain just tried to process what had happened - the feeling of ecstasy running through her veins as Maya slowly kissed her way back up the brunette's body.

"I'm glad I didn't lose my touch," Maya grinned.

"Oh you definitely didn't," Carina assured her with a wink before flipping the blonde over.

She swiftly straddled the blonde and tried to pull at the blonde' olive coloured shirt but the sleeves were rolled so tightly it wouldn't budge.

"Off now!" Carina demanded. Maya smirked and the brunette's frustration and sat up - not missing the way Carina's eyes fluttered shut as she did so, her stomach muscles tensing beneath her naked girlfriend clearly have the desired effect.

Maya shimmed her way out of her shirt, a practiced manoeuvre that had taken many times before to get off before. Even becoming a marine base competition with the three girls at who could get it off the fastest.

"Happy?" Maya asked, tossing her shirt onto a nearby chair which she could fold up later.

"Very," Carina mumbled, before placing a hand on the blonde's chest and pushing her back down onto the covers, the smirk being wiped away from her face. "My turn."

Carina pushed Maya's t-shirt up as she began to distribute kisses across her toned stomach, occasionally biting a piece of skin before soothing it over with her tongue - an almost devilish grin on her face.

"Can you hurry up?" Maya asked, her hands threading through brunette waves as she tried to push her further down.

"Now who's being impatient?" Carina teased, undoing the button on Maya's camo coloured trousers.

Carina's response made Maya just let out a groan as she threw her head back into the soft comfort of the sheets.

The brunette moved further down before kneeling on ten ground and taking Maya's tightly laced boots in hand - her fingers working quickly and nimbly to loosen the laces before slipping them off her feet. She then pulled the trousers off completely leaving Maya's toned legs to her complete and utter disposal.

She ran a single finger up from the blonde's ankle, leaving a trail of goosebumps in her path up past her knee, down her thigh and slipping right over her underwear where she knew Maya wanted her most.

But patience was a virtue.

"Carina!" Maya breathed out, her face full of determination to not just give in.

"Hm mi amore?" Carina hummed, her eyes lifting to look into Maya's ocean blues, a knowing smile on her face.

"Please...." Maya pleaded. "I need you."

Carina didn't reply, she just continued her journey - her finger catching under Maya's t-shirt before she grabbed it and pulled of the blonde's head - her full, beautiful, body on display.

"That's better," Carina sighed before she returned her lips to Maya's neck, doing just as she had to her stomach - making a few marks before soothing them over. She smiled into Maya's shoulder as she felt the blonde's hands grip onto her waist - silently encouraging her to stop teasing her and do something.

Carina pushed her lips to Maya's ear and gently took the small piece of skin between her teeth before playfully pulling down - a groan getting stuck in Maya's throat.

Her hand quickly travelled back down the blonde's body before she came into contact with Maya's underwear - she pushed them down, Maya assisting by all but kicking them off her legs - Carina holding back a laugh at her girlfriend's clear desperation. She'd teased her long enough she thought.

Her fingers made their way past Maya's stomach, inching lower and lower until they hit just the right spot - fact that was confirmed my the animalistic groan that left Maya's lips, one she'd been holding back but had reached the point she couldn't anymore.

They pushed themselves through Maya's warm, wet heat and then slowly pulled back until they thrust right back in again.

"Fuck!" Maya cried, a thin sheen of sweat covering both their bodies.

"That's it Bella," Carina husked, her tongue gently swiping its way across Maya's red tinged ear.

"I'm nearly there," Maya said between breaths.

Carina just kissed her way down Maya's jaw before moving moving back up to her lips, her fingers not stopping their paces. A few seconds later Maya pulled away from the kiss, a gasp leaving her body as she finally found her release, her body teasing up as her hips contested with the pressure of Carina's body holding them down.

With one final kiss to Maya's semi- parted lips she removed her fingers and brought them to her mouth - making sure she held contact with the blues staring right back at her.

"Jesus fuck," Maya breathed out watching her girlfriend's almost licentious actions.

"I missed you," Carina replied, the taste of Maya dominating her tongue, before settling her head on Maya's shoulder.

"I didn't realise how much I missed sex," Maya said, trying to control her breathing as her chest rose and fell.

"Hm really - because I missed it quite often," Carina teased, turning to a kiss on her collarbone while her fingers made their way across the blonde's body - paying particular interest to the tattoo that she had missed tracing in the early morning hours.

"Okay I lied, I missed sex a hell of a lot," Maya laughed, running her hand through brunette locks as they just laid in bed, the covers pooled at their waists.

"What happens when you are away? Do people get into relationships? It must get lonely."

"Some do," Maya replied. "Unfortunately you have people who will cheat on their spouses while they are away....others sometimes just have some fun. Vic had a bit of a thing with one of the guys from another unit, Ruiz. He sounds like a nice enough guy but who knows what will happen now we are back. Andy is married so obviously she doesn't get involved in anything but it depends I guess."

Carina just nodded at the information, continuing her ministrations. "I guess at least Vic has someone there with her, even if it is just for fun."

Maya agreed. "Lucky for me though I have an incredibly perfect woman waiting for me when I get back," Maya said, brushing her nose against Carina's as she turned from her back onto her front.

"You'll have to introduce me," Carina replied, a smirk on her face before pressing a kiss to Maya's lips.

Maya just hummed in content, before her eyes landed on the matching necklaces hanging from Carina's neck. "Y'know, I used to just hold these at night. When everything was quite - I used to just hold them and think of you," Maya admitted, subconsciously reaching for them.

"Me too," Carina smiled. "I think it became a habit at work - I'd be filing out charts or reports and I'd just twirl them between my fingers. It had happened quite a lot, which tells you how often I thought of you, which was all the time by the way."

"Yeah?" Maya said with a dopey smile.

"Yeah," Carina confirmed with a laugh.

Her hands moved from Maya's back, up over her defined shoulder blades and down to her arms, her movement suddenly stopping when she felt a rough patch of skin on the blonde's arm - one that hadn't been there when she'd left.

She bolted up and pulled Maya's arm towards her - "Bambina! What happened!" She asked, her heart suddenly pounding out of her chest seeing the scared skin running down Maya's tricep.

"It's not that bad," Maya started, but after seeing the look one her girlfriend face she knew she may as well just be honest. The only problem was, she had tried to push that morning out of her mind, the memories were just too painful for her to think about...but she couldn't keep this from Carina, at least not all of it.

"We had a situation," Maya started, twisting a round on her back again and pulling the covers from her waist up to cover her body, clutching at the white fabric as Carina listened intently, her hand still wrapped around her arm. "We had gone on an expedition delivering supplies to a base a few hours away. We stayed the night there, the threat of an incoming sandstorm being too risky to drive through especially in the middle of night. Then in the early hours of the morning we were awoken by gun shots. We were being attacked," as Maya recounted that night, Carina tried to keep her expressions hidden but hearing that they'd been attacked made her hand cover her mouth as she felt her eyes water.

"There were loads of them, in the mountains, on the ground - we joined up with Sergeant Ripley and we fought them off," it was at this point her story where Jack would get involved, even thinking about him made her want to curl up and cry - but she couldn't. A flicker of uncertainty crossed her eyes but she hid it behind a small shuffle under the covers.

"We were moving across base to a more secure location when I was shot," she heard Carina's gasp and a choked sob but she pushed through it and continued, her eyes staring forward knowing that if she were to look over at her girlfriend she would just break down.

"It was just a graze really but I had to have it stitched up, I was all cleared for it and was back to work after a day."

"When did it happen?" Carina asked, collecting herself enough to talk.

"Four months ago..." Maya trailed off.

"What?! You got shot four months ago and didn't tell me!"

"I didn't want you to worry! You are already panicking and I'm sat right next to you - could you have imagined if I'd told you while I was still out there....I-I couldn't do that to you Carina. Please don't be mad...I just," Maya ran her hand over her face. "Eugh. I'm sorry. I just wanted to protect you - keep you away from all this stuff," Maya finished with a sigh, bowing her head and staring at the sheets.

Carina didn't reply - she needed a moment to let all of this sink in. Her girlfriend had been shot. 4 months ago. And she didn't know - until now. She wasn't mad, if anything she was more concerned than angry. How could she be angry at her girlfriend who risked her life for her country? She couldn't be - and she knew going into this relationship what that meant - Maya had told her on their very first date that her job was unpredictable, she just never thought something like this would happen to Maya. To her Maya. Her perfect, funny, smart, thoughtful, romantic Maya.

She took a breath and then turned Maya's face towards her own, having noticed the woman hadn't looked at her the entire time she'd been telling her story.

"Look at me Maya," She asked softly, when the blonde resisted she flipped the covers off and straddled her lap. "Maya," with both hands cupping her jaw and the softness of her voice Maya finally looked up to see the concerned face of her girlfriend staring right back at her.

"I'm not mad mio amore. I promise." She affirmed her words by pressing a kiss to Maya's lips. "I was just worried - you're everything to me, and losing you...ah I don't like to think about it, but I know it's job okay? You don't have to hide things from me - I'm stronger than I look. You don't need to battle these things alone..." she whispered resting her forehead against Maya's as she spoke to her.

"Okay," Maya nodded.

"Let me in Bella. I'm here for you."

Maya pressed a kiss to her girlfriend's cheek, another tear falling - but this time it wasn't out of fear, or out of love, but out of guilt. Because she knew that for the first time in her relationship with Carina she had lied to her....there were some demons she knew she just had to battle alone, no matter how much they hurt.

"Now, no more tears," Carina smiled. "Today is a day to celebrate - what do you want to do?"

Before Maya could answer her stomach rumbled, making them both laugh.

"I think that's answered our question," Carina continued. "We should go and make something - I stocked your fridge earlier so you have enough food in."

Carina got up from off Maya's lap, picked up one of the blonde's sweatshirts off the ground and slipped it over her head, followed by a pair of Maya's running shorts from in the drawer.

"You coming?" Carina asked, her hair flipping over her shoulder.

"Have I told you how much I love you," Maya said with a lazy smile.

Carina pretend to think, "Maybe once or twice. Now, chop chop Bishop we have food to make!"

Maya watched as the brunette sauntered off out of the bedroom and down the hall towards the kitchen. She brushed off the dark thoughts that had previously occupied her mind and tried to focus on the fact she was finally home, with the woman she loved. That was what was important now.

Carina was just rifling through Maya's cupboards, trying to find the ingredients she needed to make pasta when she felt two strong arms slip around her waist, a kiss being placed on the side of her neck.

"What are you making?" Maya asked.

"We are making pasta," Carina replied emphasising the we in her statement. "I believe it is my personal responsibility to teach you how to make homemade pasta and the fact that I am yet to teach you is a crime!" Carina slipped from Maya's embrace and pulled her hair back in a bun.

"Right first things first - wash your hands," she instructed, watching as Maya went over to the sink while she lifted herself up onto the island worktop and simply watched.

"I thought this was a we activity. Its looking a lot like a me activity," Maya laughed as she dried her hands.

"You can make it and I'll instruct you," Carina grinned, knowing she will be enjoying the view, Maya just rolled her eyes in response but allowed for he girlfriend to have her fun regardless.

"Where do we start then?" Maya asked,

'Right make a mound of flour," Carina started, watching as Maya poured the flour out onto the worktop. "Make a dip in the middle then add two eggs."

"This isn't too bad," Maya said as she threw anyway the shells.

"We haven't even started bambina," Carina laughed. "Now, add a third of a cup of water. Then beat them together, slowly bringing in the flour!" She continued.

Maya nodded and followed Carina's instructions, sensing Carina's watchful eye as she carried out her task.

"Is it supposed to look like this?" She asked, seeing the lump of flour coated dough.

"Sì, good job bella," Carina praised. Maya hide the proud smile by holding the back of her neck - forgetting her hands were covered in flour leaving a large white stain across both her t-shirt and the side of her neck.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Maya asked, seeing the amused grin on Carina's face.

"You've got a little something...there," Carina laughed, waving her hand around Maya's face.

Maya frowned and went over to the mirror, sighing when she saw what she'd done. "This was my favourite shirt!"

"Why would you wear it to cook in then?!" Carina cried.

"Because I was comfy!"

"Well that was your fault then - it will come out with some water anyway."

"This was supposed to be easy!"

"It is! If you don't cover yourself in flour like a five year old!"

Maya just playfully glared at her as she walked back into her room to change.

While Maya was gone, Carina covered the dough with a teatowel and left it to rest.

"What's next then?" Maya asked, sliding her arm through a new, but old-t-shirt, one that was more suitable for cooking than the one previous.

"Well the dough has to now set for about half an hour so now you make the sauce," Carina answered hopping back up onto the counter.

"What's that then?"

"Prupetti - Sicillian meatballs," Carina supplied. "I left all the ingredients out for you."

"I didn't even knew I owned half of this stuff," Maya chuckled, lifting the parsley to her nose and sniffing it.

"You didn't, which is why I did your grocery shopping. Now, you will have all the essential Italian ingredients to cook for me," Carina smiled.

"Let's just see how this goes first," Maya said, realising this was a lot harder than the chicken she'd made for Carina before she'd left for deployment and that was mainly because she had help from Vic.

Carina began to guide the blonde through all the steps, laughing as she watched her gag when she had to squeeze the milk out from the breadcrumbs.

"11...12," Maya said proudly, looking down at her tray of meatballs, even though some were slightly different shapes but Carina was proud of her girlfriend regardless.

"They look amazing!"

"Thanks!" Maya smiled, before putting them into the oven to cook.

"Sauce time!" Carina cheered. "Olive oil, onion, pan - go!"

Maya's eyebrows rose as she watched the brunette get very enthusiastic about this next stage.

She chopped the onions, being very adamant she wasn't going to cry to which Carina just hummed and waited until she heard the small sniffle and had to make sure she didn't laugh.

"I'm not crying!" Maya declared.

"Of course Bella - there's just water coming from your eyes," Carina replied.

"Yeah exactly," Maya agreed.

Once the onions were cut Maya tossed them in the pan, the sizzle as they hit the oil filling them room. She continued to follow Carina's memorised recipe - adding tomato paste, purée and water to the mix.

"This smells insane," Maya said, the grumbling in her stomach getting louder.

"Now we leave it for an hour and a half."

"Hour and a half!" Maya yelled. "I'm starving!"

"Have another brownie then," Carina grinned.

"But I want pasta," she wined.

"Good things come to those that wait," Carina whispered, pecking Maya on the lips. "Anyway you still have to finish the pasta."

Maya tipped her head back with a groan. She grabbed another brownie from the tin, broke it into two and ate it quickly. She was pretty sure she could have eaten the entire tin of them at this rate.

"Just as good as the first one," she said.

Carina took the towel off the dough and placed it back onto the table, quickly checking in on the meatballs as she did so.

"Right break this into four chunks - then because we don't have a pasta maker...do you want one? I'm going to get you one." She rambled, getting off course. "Sorry - right. Four chunks, then knead them and we will make them into small worm like shapes."

"Right," Maya nodded, not completely understanding all of the instructions.

"You can plan military expeditions but you can't make pasta - come on Maya," Carina joked, nudging her shoulder into the blonde's.

"I've got this - trust me," Maya said, some of her confidence making an appearance as she followed what Carina was saying.

Between the two of them they began to roll out the pasta, Carina helping Maya in place and showing her where to cut it. Within thirty, very long, minutes they had two decent sized portions of pasta set aside on the worktop.

"So how was your first time making pasta?" Carina asked as they tided up the kitchen. Meatballs now removed from the oven and waiting to go into the sauce in in about half an hour.

"So hard!"

"What?!" Carina laughed, "How was that hard?"

"It just was and everything takes forever!"

"That was only because we had to do everything by hand - when you have a machine it's a lot quicker and it was your first time. But, with practice you'll be perfect," She said, giving her a kiss.

"I have to do this again?!" Maya joked, while half serious.

"Sì," Carina laughed, wrapping her arms around the blonde as they swayed in the kitchen. "I'm so happy you're home," She whispered.

"Me too, my love. Me too," Maya sighed, holding on tight to the brunette.

"This better be the best thing I've ever eaten because I don't think I've ever waited longer for a bowl of pasta," Maya said, carrying over the two plates towards the sofa - both of them just wanting to cuddle under a blanket instead of eating at the dining table.

"I'm confident it will be," Carina laughed taking the bowl from her girlfriend while simultaneously shifting up the sofa to allow the blonde to slide in behind her.

Maya took a bite off her fork and moaned in happiness. "Oh my god that's incredible," she said between mouthfuls.

Carina let out a small chuckle at the Maya's reaction, before taking a bite herself. "You did very very good bambina - especially for someone who has never made pasta before."

"What can I say - raw talent," Maya joked, knowing Carina had helped her every step of the way.

"Oh so you'll have no problem making this again in a few weeks time for me - without my help?"

"I mean there is nothing wrong with a good old restaurant," Maya laughed, knowing she wasn't ready to do it alone, not yet anyway.

"As long as I'm with you - that's all that matters," Carina replied, resting her back against the blonde's shoulder as she gave her a kiss.

"You're cute," Maya smiled, going back to eating her pasta, half of the bowl already gone. "So, what have I missed while I was away? Tell me everything."

"Well, Alex and Jo are expecting a baby," Carina revealed. "They just found out last month."

"That's amazing," Maya smiled. "I'll have to congratulate them the next time I'm at the hospital."

"Amelia has met someone...his name is link, he was a customer at the diner and they totally hit it off."

"Sounds like a familiar story," Maya chuckled, finishing off her bowl and putting down on the coffee table.

"Yeah? You'll have to remind me," Carina joked, taking a piece of pasta on her fork and lifting it above her head for Maya to eat, the blonde not hesitating to having a few more pieces. She was starving after all.

"How is the hospital - apart from Jo that is?" Maya asked, running her fingers up and down Carina's arms.

"Good - stressful as always, but I have a new set of interns now."

"Oh yeah? How is that going?"

"Well some of them are incompetent and end up running around the hospital like headless pigeons-"

"Chickens - but I like that better," Maya said, sharing a laugh with the brunette.

"Some of them are very good though - even Addison likes them which is saying something," Carina added.

"She still terrifies me," Maya admitted.

"My big bad marine is scared of Addison Montgomery?" Carina teased.

"Hey she is quite scary - when I first met her she just sat and stared at me for like five minutes and didn't say anything," Maya recalled.

"She just wanted to make sure you were good for me. Unfortunately for you that just comes in the form of trying to scare you."

"Well I'm glad I don't scare easily then," Maya chuckled.

"Sì, it is."

"How is Andrew? Everything okay with him?"

"Oh yeah, he's doing fine. We actually had a talk about you," she revealed.

"Hm what about?"

"He wants to meet you."

"He does?!"

"Well, we've been together for over a year and half, eight months of that was when you were deployed so he hasn't really had the chance, but he seemed excited to."

"I'd love to," Maya said. "I've seen him occasionally at the diner but he was mainly in the kitchen so I never saw too much of him - but you should set it up. I have the next three weeks off before I have to go back to work on base so we should have plenty of time."

"Well, I have the next week off - Dr Bailey said I could use some of my holiday to spend time with you. Plus I worked some extra shifts while you were away so I'll speak to him in the morning and let him know," Carina smiled. "Thank you bambina!"

"Of course my love. He is important you, and that means he is important to me too."

"You're the best," Carina said, giving the blonde a kiss as she too put her bowl on the coffee table.

"I try," Maya laughed.

"Does it feel weird being home?" Carina asked, shifting up the sofa and turning to look at the blonde.

Maya took a moment to think. "I guess in some ways. Having you back feels like I can finally breathe again, but also strange at the same time. I've been dreaming of this moment for so long that now it's here....it still feels like I could wake up at any moment."

"I thought that too," Carina assured her. "When we walked into the apartment earlier - it felt strange, but so good all at the same time."

"Then the other things like being able to just use the Internet whenever I want or have a hot shower. They are things we take for granted, when you are out there you don't have all the luxuries you are used to - so having them all back again, all at once - feels a bit odd. But, after a few days it feels a lot more like normal. Funnily enough one of the strangest things about whenever I am back home is going to the grocery store."

"The grocery store?" Carina asked, surprised by the answer. "Why?"

"Because there is just such an abundance of food - you have to basically eat what you are given - regardless of whether you like it or not. The military isn't exactly known for having millions of choices. So, when you step foot into this massive place full of food where you can just pick you want - it feels weird," Maya explained.

"I guess that makes sense - luckily you won't have Ito do that for a while since I stocked up for you. I figured you might just want a few days of rest without having to worry about housework or anything."

"You figured I would want to rest, or you wanted me to rest?" Maya teased, both of them knowing it was the latter.

"Just let me take care of you," Carina said. "You took care of me while you were away, something I still don't really know how you did, but that means now it is my turn!"

"I guess I could live with that," Maya said, reaching up for a kiss, one Carina happily gave in to before resting back down onto the sofa.

"We should get to sleep - we've had a long day, you especially," Carina said, nuzzling her nose against the underside of Maya's jaw.

"You're staying right?" Maya quickly asked, turning her head as much as she could with Carina on her chest.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Carina said softly, her finger tangling with the blonde's.

"Good. I've been away from you for so long that I don't think I could bare one more night without you by my side."

"I see you didn't lose your charm while you were away," Carina teased.

"Mhm - never," Maya laughed. "Right let's go to bed." Maya shifted out from behind Carina and stretched as she stood up. She held out her hand for the brunette, but when Carina held both arms up Maya just rolls her eyes and shook her head.

"Come on then," Maya laughed, before scooping Carina up in her arms and carrying her into the bedroom.

They changed out of their clothes and then got under the sheets, finally settling into the comfort they found within one another's arms. A comfort they had been craving for so long, and one they finally had the privilege of having. They were home.

"Sweet dreams bambina," Carina said, planting a soft kiss on the blonde's lips - finally able to share a bed at night with the love her life for the first time in over seven months.

Maya just smiled, but underneath she just wished Carina's words could be true - because the thoughts that circled her mind were anything but sweet....they were haunting. 

Chapter Text

They came by in white flashes - snapshots - as she twisted under the covers, a thin layer of sweat coating her forehead.

The crack as bullets splintered against wooden crates.

The loud gunshots that rang to in her ears. One after the other. BANG. BANG. BANG.

The recoil in her shoulder as her gun fired.

The cry of pain from Jack as he fell to the ground.

Her arms stinging in pain as she got hit.

His eyes closing for the final time.

One after they other they flashed through her mind. Each as painful as the one before it. That morning constantly replayed in her head , the cruel memories torturing her as she tried to sleep.

Then it felt as if the weight that had been crushing down on her chest had been lifted and she could breathe, with a gasp she shot up from the sheets, her hands instantly clutching at her eyes as she tried to get those images from her mind.

The light grey track t-shirt she had worn to bed was now patched in sweat and she felt hot. She felt like she was on fire, like every nerve ending was being burnt - she couldn't be in this room anymore, she felt like she was suffocating and she needed to get out. Before she could even leave the sheets though a caring hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"Bambina - what's the matter? What's wrong?" Carina's voice asked in concern, despite it still being tainted by sleep.

"Nothing, my love. I just got hot - I'm going to get a glass of water and I'll be back," Maya promised, doing her best to collect herself while placing a kiss on the brunette's forehead before walking on shaky legs out of the bedroom.

As soon as she crossed the threshold between the bedroom and the hallway she felt a breeze of coolness hit her body. She ran her hand through her hair and tilted her head back, trying to take deep breaths as she padded into the kitchen, grabbing a glass and filling it to the brim with water.

She instantly gulped down the whole thing, liquid even spilling down onto the floor and on her shirt as she did so in such a rush - desperately trying to find some relief from the heat invading her body. Her fingers pressed down on the cold metal of the sink, her knuckles white as she held onto the edge of the counter with such force.

"Breathe Maya. Just breathe," She muttered to herself. She'd had these nightmares before - more so after Jack's death, but over time they'd subsided. Tonight however, three nights after her return they had weaved their way back into her mind.

She didn't know why, well she could hazard a guess but she didn't want to dig deep enough within herself to see if she was correct. She figured it was out of guilt. She was back at home, with the love of her life basking in the post-deployment joy, and she was alive. Jack wasn't. He would never get that opportunity again and she felt so guilty. That could have easily of been her, she'd been only a few steps away from him when he'd been hit, so much so she'd been hit too - but she was standing on her own two feet, she'd made it through.

Maybe this was why she still hadn't gone to see Inara and Marcus yet. The guilt was too much for her to handle. She didn't know what to do - there were parts of her that wanted to scream her pain out from the rooftops, and others that wanted to keep it buried, to not subject anyone to anymore pain that they'd already endured.

She'd faced battles alone before, she could handle this too.

She pushed herself up off the counter and held her necklaces in her hand - she could get through this. She had too. For Jack. For Carina.

Maya took three more deep breathes before walking back into her bedroom, a small smile gracing her face seeing Carina fast asleep again. She slipped under the sheets, the brunette instantly gravitating back towards her, her arm resting over her stomach. Maya tucked her arm behind her head and stared up at the ceiling, her eyes wide as she waited for the morning to arrive.

By the time seven am rolled around Maya was startled out of her thoughts. She'd been awake for the past four hours, just staring up. As she blinked, her eyes felt dry - a fact she shouldn't be surprised by given the circumstances. But, she rubbed them with her fists as she felt the body beside her begin to shift, a signal her girlfriend was moments away from waking up.

She lightly ran a hand up and down her back, easing the brunette awake until she saw those two caramel eyes flicker open and stare back at her.

"Good morning beautiful," Maya greeted, doing her best to hide her own tiredness.

"Bongiorno," Carina smiled, nuzzling her heads further into Maya's stomach as her grip tightened. "Are you okay now?"

"Hmh?" Maya questioned.

"Earlier when you woke up - you okay now?" She asked again, resting her chin up so she could look at the blonde properly, noting the redness in her eyes and the exhaustion behind her features.

"All good - I just got very hot in here," Maya explained, kissing Carina's concern away.

Carina smiled in response, but she didn't exactly believe the blonde. She'd been in Afghanistan for the past seven months, yet she felt too hot while she was asleep in California? It wasn't even a particularly hot night either. She didn't want to dwell on it too much however, Maya could have been telling the truth for all she knew.

"What do you want to do today?" She asked, changing the topic.

Maya let out a contented sigh, "That is a very good question. What do you want to do?"

"I asked you first," Carina pointed out.

"Fine. Could we go and see Andy and Vic maybe? I know I've spent ages with them but-"

"Of course we can. I'd love to see them too! I'm going to shower and make us breakfast - you message them and let me know," Carina said, kicking the sheets off her body and walking out the bedroom towards the bathroom. "If you hurry you could join me!" She called back, not turning around.

At that Maya smiled and quickly grabbed her phone to text her best friends.

"You know I have missed the smell of French toast so much!" Maya mumbled as she rested her chin over the brunette's shoulder, her eyes on the sizzling brioche in the pan and the delectable smells filling her apartment.

"You have said that every single morning since you've been back," Carina laughed, using the spatula to flip their breakfast over. "You want to give me a hand?"

"Sure. What do you need?" Maya asked, moving her arms from the brunette's waist.

"Can you cut the fruit up please - I've laid it out."

Maya looked over to the side and saw a few bananas and a bowel of strawberries waiting for her.

"Did you buy everything in the store?" she teased, knowing she never really had this amount of food in her kitchen at any one time.

"If I hadn't we would have had to go shopping already with the amount we have eaten," Carina joked back.

"Touché. I guess I should thank myself that I have such a considerate and thoughtful girlfriend then."

"That you should," Carina agreed. "Right - fruit please!"

"Got it boss," Maya saluted, leading to the brunette attempting to hit her with the tea towel but only narrowly missing much to the blonde's amusement.

Ten minutes later, two plates of french toast, along with a selection of fruit, were placed down on the dining table.

"I don't know what I'm going to do when you go back to your place." Maya said, taking another mouthful.

"Probably die of starvation," Carina replied with a playful smile.

"I would be offended but I think you are right," Maya laughed.

"I don't understand why cooking is so hard Bella. You just follow the recipe!"

"I don't have any cookbooks!" Maya protested.

Carina's eyes widened and her head swivelled to look around Maya's apartment...how had she never noticed that before?

"What- how?" Carina was too shocked to formulate a full sentence.

"How have I managed this long without owning a single cookbook?" Maya filled in. Carina nodded.

"Well, before I met you my meals would usually consist of a protein shake in the morning, I'd eat lunch over on base and then I'd either just microwave some rice, pick something up or take some leftovers from lunch."

Carina replied with only a grimace.

"What?" Maya laughed.

"Bambina - seriously, come on... No no questo è inaccettabile. Assolutamente no. Come fai a non avere neanche un libro di ricette?"Carina cried, throwing her hands in the air.  [No, no this is unacceptable. Absolutely not! How can you know own a single cookbook?]

"Okay it's not that bad," Maya protested, despite being slightly confused by her girlfriend's change to her native language.

Carina just raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

"I'm being serious! Then when an incredible woman came into my life, my day consisted of....protein shake, lunch at base, and then whatever you decided to bring over to my place then I'd have the leftovers until you brought more."

"So my cooking was in place of microwaved rice and leftovers from base....thanks," Carina said sarcastically.

"I'm sorry I don't know how to cook! But, I am learning! I promise - one day I will cook you a whole meal, without any help!"

"If you say so," Carina said in a sing-song voice. "What time are we meeting Andy and Vic?"

"In about..." Maya checked the time on her phone, "Two hours."

"Mhm okay - do you mind if I have a quick phone call with Jo and Addison - I just want to make sure everything it alright at the hospital?"

"Of course - you go and do that, I'll clean all the plates up," Maya said.

"Thank you bambina, I'll be in your room," Carina smiled, leaning over the table to give Maya a kiss.

"No worries!"



"Hey you two!" Andy greeted, opening up the door.

"Ciao Andy!" Carina smiled, pulling in the other woman for a tight hug. "I've missed you!"

"Ah I've missed you too Carina!" Andy said. "Vic is already inside - please, come in."

The two separated their hug and then the couple walked through into the back yard where Vic was already sat.

"Hey guys!" She said, jumping to give them both a hug.

"How you settling back in Hughes?" Maya asked, taking a seat.

"Still as strange as ever - been to the grocery store yet?"

"Nope - this one decided to buy the entire store so my kitchen is fully stocked," Maya stated proudly.

"Wow...I'm impressed, with actual food too," She teased.

"Did you two know she doesn't own a single cookbook?!"

"We did!" The two friends laughed. "Bishop is not one for the cooking side of life skills."

"Incredibile," Carina said, still in disbelief. [Unbelievable]

"I'm right here!" Maya protested.

"We know," all three of them laughed.

"So how has it been being back?" Carina asked, taking a sip of her drink that Robert had brought out for all four of them.

"Good - it's nice to be home, be with family. Well y'know what I mean," Andy said - referring her blood-related family over her military family although at this point she felt they were all mixed up bunch anyways.

"How has it been for you two? Maya wouldn't stop going on about how excited she was to be back the entire plan ride home," Vic teased.

"Shut up!" Maya cried. "You make me sound soft!"

"You are soft bambina," Carina laughed, getting a pout from the blonde. "At least only around me."

"Yeah around us you are as tough as nails."

"Well I have to be to keep you all in line," Maya joked.

"We aren't that bad!"

"Hm that is debatable."

Both Andy and Vic threw a napkin at the blonde's head making everyone laugh.

"So what have you two been up to since you've been back?" Vic asked.

Maya and Carina shared a look. "Okay - aside from sex every chance you get!" Andy cried, making the couple laugh.

"We've had fun - we cooked."

"No - I cooked! You just sat on the island and told me what to do!" Maya protested.

"Yes so we cooked!" Carina repeated. "I would say it took the both of us to come out with a successful meal."

"Fine." Maya relented.

"We've watched a few movies - I caught her up on all the hospital gossip."

"Sounds salacious," Vic laughed.

"You haven't heard the half of it," Maya said knowingly - god she loved hospital gossip.

"What else bambina?" Carina asked turning to face the blonde.

"Oh!" Maya suddenly exclaimed. "We had French toast this morning!"

"The orgasm worthy French toast?!"

"What?" Carina cried in amusement.

"Oh yeah - your girlfriend wouldn't shut up about this French toast of yours - claimed it was very close to being better than sex!" Andy laughed, knowing she was dropping Maya in it.

Carina lightly flicked Maya on the ear. "I can't believe you!"

The rest of the table laughed.

"What about you Vic?" Carina asked, as the woman began to talk.

"I'm just going to grab a drink," Maya said, squeezing Carina's shoulder as she got up from her seat and walked over to the table in the corner.

"I'm going to join her," Andy added, excusing herself from Vic and Carina's conversation.

"How are you doing?" Andy asked, standing next to Maya at the drink's table.

"I'm good thanks. Why do you ask?"

"Because I know you are lying." Maya's eyebrows furrowed, her eyes remaining on the cooler below her. "I can see it in your face Maya. The nightmares are back aren't they?"

Maya didn't respond immediately, but then gave a small almost missable nod.

"And I'm guessing, knowing you, you haven't told Carina yet either," Andy added.

"I just- I don't see why I should add more stress onto her. You should have seen her when she saw the scar on my arm - I didn't even mention anything about Jack and she looked so scared Andy!" Maya whispered.

"What did she say when you told her?" Andy asked, guessing Maya must have told a very summarised version of that morning, given she hadn't even mentioned the death of their fellow soldier.

Maya tipped her head back with a sigh. "That I didn't have to hide things from her. That she was stronger than she looked. To let her in."

Andy just rose her eyebrows, "So what are you doing then?"

"I can't do it Andy," Maya declared. "I just- I can't."

"What are you afraid of?"

"That she realises how screwed up I am and leaves me."

"Do you really believe that or is that what you are just telling yourself?"

Ironically enough, Maya's lack of an answer told Andy exactly what she needed to know.

"I can't lose her Andy...I just can't. I don't want to give her a reason to pity me or to..."

"To what Maya? To have her help you? To have her be by your side through all this? We lost someone. We lost a brother. We lost part of our family. You can't just push that all down and hope it all goes away."

Maya stayed silent, she knew Andy was right. She knew that. She just didn't want to admit it.

"What happens if she wakes up and sees you having a nightmare?" Andy continued. "What will you say to her then?"

"I just told her I was hot and needed to go and get some water."

"Hot?! Maya we've been in Afghanistan for the past seven months there is no way she would believe that you were hot in your apartment in California."

"Well she seemed to."

"I highly doubt that - she probably just didn't want to question you."

"Okay - Carina has gone to the bathroom, I didn't want to just leave the conversation because it would draw suspicion to whatever is going on over here. But you both look serious, so what is happening?" Vic said, joining the group.

Andy looked at Maya, but when she just dipped her head again Andy spoke up.

"Maya's been having nightmares again about what happened."

"But you're talking to Carina right? You said you would? Is she not helping you with them?"

"No - the exact opposite. Maya won't tell her anything. Well, Carina found the scar on Maya's arm so she told her a brief summary of what happened, but left out the part about Jack. So Carina has no clue he died, and no clue what Maya is going through."

"Maya..." Vic sighed. "You promised us you would talk to her."

"I was going to, but seeing her reaction to what happened without the whole Jack thing, she was devastated. She was so scared Vic and what? Was I supposed to then tell her that he died!"

"She is stronger than you give her credit for, she even said it herself. Let her in," Andy said, trying to get Maya to understand Carina wouldn't leave her for grieving the loss of their friend.

The pair watched as the blonde just shuffled her feet.

"You have to talk to her. That woman is the most understanding, caring and patient person I have ever met and she loves you. With everything she is. We can see that, and you love her! She will be there for you Maya. She can be your shoulder to lean on, cry on, whatever you want - but you have to let her in! Don't keep her in the dark, it won't only be bad for her, but for you also. You can't keep all this bottled up, it's not healthy," Vic said, changing tactics.

"Just please try Maya. Even if its just something small..." Andy pleaded.

She'd known Maya for years, and she'd seen first hand how bad Maya's nightmares could get, especially when they'd dealt with something particularly horrifying or lost a member of their team, and even more so when Maya blamed herself for what had happened.

She knew she had to try and push Maya to talk to the Italian, for her own sake as much as Carina's. All she wanted was for her to be safe, to be mentally and physically healthy and right now...she wasn't. She wouldn't be a good friend if she didn't at least try. She had Robert to help her work through her emotions.

She'd spoken to him about Jack, had actually told him over one of their video calls because she needed his advice on the situation, someone to talk to who hadn't been there to physically witness the death. He was her safe space - she just wished Maya would let Carina be hers.

"I'll try," Maya said - although she knew she probably wouldn't.

"Good, thank you. We are only saying all of this because we love you," Andy smiled.

"I know," Maya nodded, the two best friends pulling the blonde in for a tight hug.

Later that night....

"Gibson!" Maya yelled, crouching down and crawling her way over to him.

Just as she reached him she let out a string of swear words. "Fuck!" She instantly dropped to her stomach and rolled behind a set of crates as she propped herself up. Blood was staining her arm sleeve. But she was pretty sure she'd hadn't been hit and would be just a graze, but with the amount of adrenaline she had in her she doesn't think she would even be able to tell the difference.

She took a deep breath in before scrambling across the sand and dirt on the ground and grabbing a hold of Gibson under his frontal body armour and dragging him across the open space, watching as Andy covered for her, following them towards a safer destination.

"Gibson! You stay alive you hear me!" Maya yelled at the man. "You don't die on me!"

Jack just groaned in response, the pain clearly getting to such a point he couldn't speak.

Maya ripped open his gear and assessed the injuries, he'd been hit four times across the upper chest, leg and arm. It was bad. Anyone could see that.

"Maya you're bleeding!" Andy cried as she saw the red stain on her best friend's arm.

"I know but he's the priority right now!" Maya said, grabing at a roll of bandages to wrap around his injuries. "Come on Jack! Come on," She begged. "Open your eyes for god sake!" She yelled.

"Maya," he whispered, grabbing at her hand.

"Jack," she said, shaking her head. "Don't..."

"Tell Inara that I love her okay and Marcus. Tell the both for me please," he said, his words trailing off in places as blood continued to pour out from his wounds.

"Jack, no you're going home to them."

Maya shot up out of bed for the second night in a row. Sweat coating her body and her eyes wide with fear. Why won't they go away? Why won't they leave her alone?

She looked to the side of her, her hands resting back on her pillow as she tried to open up her chest and get as much air in her as possible. She was thankful the brunette was such a heavy sleeper and she was still sound asleep beside her.

She quietly snuck out of the sheets and walked into the kitchen, doing the same ritual as the night pervious.

A glass of water - filled to the brim. Instantly gulped down.

But as she went to walk back into the bedroom she stopped herself. Her legs suddenly felt like lead and it was as if there was brick wall stopping her from returning. So instead of battling her mind, it already tired from its midnight adrenaline fuelled awakening, she just gave in and stayed in the living room.

Meanwhile Carina stared in her sleep, her arms reaching out for the blonde's body but she was met with only semi-warm sheets. Quickly her brain began to wake itself up as she noticed the lack of her girlfriend beside her. With a few blinks her eyes fluttered open and she slowly pushed herself up from the mattress to look around the room - her eyes still heavy with sleep.

"Bambina?" She whispered, but got no response. She turned around and saw through the crack under the door a faint light coming from the hall. She climbed out of the bed and peered out the door, frowning when she heard faint whispers.

Wrapping her arms around herself she continued further on into the the living room and kitchen, her eyes widening when she saw her girlfriend doing pushups on the ground.

"Maya what are you doing," She exclaimed.

The addition of the new voice startled the blonde, breaking her out of her laser focused state of mind.

"Sorry Bella, I didn't meant to startle you," Carina apologised - lowering her voice to a more acceptable level for almost three in the morning. "What are you doing?"

"I'm sorry, I couldn't sleep - I didn't wake you did I?" Maya asked, her face sweaty and her eyes looked almost like their were wired, yet she looked exhausted at the same time.

"No you didn't. But I tried to find you in my sleep and you weren't there so I had to come and find you," Carina smiled, trying to ease the thought that what was going on with the blonde was much deeper than the apartment being too hot.

"Oh right I see," Maya chuckled.

"Do you want to come back to bed?" Carina asked carefully.

"I uhm," Maya's eyes began to dart again while her heart felt like it was being torn into two. She wanted to go back to sleep with Carina and just be able to forget about all her demons, but she knew if she tried to sleep she would be haunted by the flashbacks again. If she were to stay out here she would be able to occupy herself and distract herself enough she wouldn't be able to sleep, and wouldn't get any nightmares but she would be away from Carina....she couldn't find a way to win. "I think I might stay out here if that's okay?" Maya replied tentatively.

Carina nodded, seeing that something was going on with Maya and that she might need some space to process it. "Of course Bella." She took a few steps forward and placed her lips on the blonde. "Ti amo," She added.

"I love you too," Maya replied with a small smile.

"Want me to bring you a pillow and a blanket?"

Maya thought about saying no but at least she knew agreeing would ease Carina's state of mind and her concern.

"Please," Maya smiled.

Carina nodded and went to retrieve the two items, then returning back to the living room to place them on the sofa.

"Night Bella. Sogni d'oro." [Sweet dreams]

"Night my love," Maya replied, giving her a small wave.

Morning came as slowly as it did the day before, most of it was spent with Maya doing an endless number of push-ups and sit-ups, just staring up at the ceiling, even attempting to read and force her mind into a different reality than the one she was living in. But now the sun was up and streaming through the blinds, giving Maya hope that today could be different, because in those hours she'd been staring up at the ceiling she knew what she had to do.

At seven am on the dot she began pulling out her supplies to make a protein shake - laying them all out on the island counter before putting them into the blender and wizzing them up. Having already heard Carina wake up moments before she knew she wouldn't be waking her up.

"Morning Bella," Carina yawned as she walked into the kitchen.

"Morning beautiful," Maya smiled over the noise of the blender.

"Did you manage to get some sleep?"

"Yeah I got a few hours in," Maya answered, cutting the power to the blender and unscrewing the lid.

Carina nodded, Maya not realising she'd already seen the untouched pillow and blanket on the sofa.

"I might go and see Amelia today if that's okay? We spoke about meeting up a few weeks ago," Carina voiced.

"Okay love, that's fine. Do you need your car?"

"No - she said she can pick me up from here - why do you ask?"

"I just have a few errands to run and was wondering if I could borrow it?" Maya asked, drinking her shake as she rested against the counter.

"Of course you can," Carina smiled, "I'm going to go and shower before Amelia gets here. Care to join?"

"How could I ever say no to that," Mays smirked, finishing off her drink before following Carina into the bathroom.

Maya soon got dressed after their extended time in the shower and while Carina was still drying her hair Maya opened dup the door to her closet and kneeled to the ground so she was face to face with her Marine duffel bag. She reached for the side pocket and felt her hands latch onto a piece of metal. She closed her and eyes and took a deep sigh, with a heavy heart she clutched it in her fingers and held it tight. She then put into her pocket and put her shoes on.

"Hey beautiful - I'm off," Maya said, walking into the kitchen where Carina had already walked through.

"Okay - here," she threw over her keys to the Porsche to which Maya caught one handed. "I love you - don't crash!" She joked.

"This again?" Maya laughed, remembering the time Carina doubted her driving skills despite her doing it as a job.

"Can never be too careful!"

"Bye!" Maya yelled, closing the door behind her.

She quickly walked down the stairs of her apartment and out into the parking lot where Carina's car had been sat for the better part of a week.

She opened it it up and slid into the driver's seat, pulling out onto the main road to a destination she wished she really didn't want to go to but knew she had to. Maybe it would help her - maybe it wouldn't, but it was the right thing to do.

As the destination creeped closer and closer the anxiety boiling up in her stomach began to simmer - she shifted around in her seat, her fingers began to knock against the steering wheel and her breathing began to get deeper. She didn't get nervous, except when she was around Carina but that was a different matter. Right now, however she was fighting every single instinct to not just turn the car around and go home. The small weight in her pocket being the driving force to stick this out.

She turned the last corner and tightened every muscle in her body as she watched the number of houses creep down until she slowed the car and stopped it outside one. One specific house. There was no turning back now.

She took a deep breathe, mentally counted to three and then got out of the car. Locked it and then walked up the front path, stopping path the front door and knocking. She waited a few moments before she heard footsteps, the door opened and Maya felt frozen.

"Maya - hi. What can I do for you?"

"Hi Inara," Maya said, letting out a breath.

"Please, please come in," she said, opening up the door more to let Maya inside.

Maya nodded and followed the brunette in her home. She led them through into the living room where Maya perched on the side of the sofa, her anxiety not allowing her to feel any form of comfort in this situation.

"Can I get you a drink or anything?" Inara asked.

'I'm okay - thank you though," Maya replied rubbing her hands up and down her jean clad thighs.

Inara nodded and then sat down. "What can I do for you?" She asked tentatively. Maya could see that her visit had stirred something inside the woman, and she wasn't shocked by it. Who wouldn't be after seeing their husbands boss after he'd died?

Just as Maya was about to speak she saw the small head of a boy peek in from the hallway.

"Hi Marcus," Maya signed - Jack having taught the team some phrases here and there during their downtime on base over the years.

"Hi Maya," he signed back in response, giving her a small wave.

"Marcus could you leave Maya and mommy for a moment - we just have to talk about some important things. You can see her before she leaves though?"

Marcus nodded and then went back into his room.

"I'm sorry to show up here announced," Maya started. "I also wanted to say how sorry I am for what happened to Jack. He-He was a good friend, a good soldier. He-he was family, and I couldn't protect him the way I should have and I'm sorry," It took everything in Maya to stop the tears threatening to spill down her face. But she wasn't the one who could be emotional now, if that was to be anyone's job it was Inara's. She was allowed to be upset.

"What happened?" Inara asked in a shaky voice. "The men told me he was shot but I don't know how or why or what happened..."

Maya nodded and looked to the ground, her fingers playing with each other as she began to recall the very nightmare that occupied her mind in the midnight hours.

"We were on on a trip to a base to deliver supplies. We arrived and we were told of an incoming sand storm, it was too dangerous to drive back, especially as it was getting dark and it was risky territory anyway. We stayed the night at the base and at three twenty four in the morning we were awoken to the sound of gunshots..." Maya's mind began to throw itself back to that moment.

They were loud and heavy, she could hear the sounds of bullets smashing against wood as it splintered and cracked.

"Maya what the fuck is happening?" Andy yelled above the noise.

Everyone had dropped to the ground and was getting dressed as fast as physically possible, moving their protective gear on over the bodies as well as grabbing their firearms.

"Sergeant Bishop to CO. Anderson - what's the status out there?" She radioed, clipping everything into place.

"We met up with Sergeant Ripley and began to fight off the enemies from the East Side- we were at it for around forty-five minutes when one of the fighters found a way to the ground level. He fired off a round of bullets, one of them hitting Jack - the other hitting my arm. Me and Andy grabbed him into a secure area where we attempted medical practice - we put pressure on the wound but it had hit a major artery - we tried...it wasn't enough. I'm. I'm so sorry. He told me to tell you how much he loved you and Marcus. They were his last words..." Maya said, every single moment etched into her brain, down to the very second. She couldn't escape that night. No matter how much she tried.

At this point Inara was pushing her palms into her eyes to stop herself crying but her body still shook with tears. "Thank you for telling me that," she said after some time, using the sleeve of her cardigan to wipe her face. "He spoke very highly of you and I want to say that I don't blame you. I know you all looked out for each other," she continued.

Maya didn't respond, she just reached into her pocket and pulled out Jack's dog tags. "I want to give you these. You deserve to have them as a reminder - he was a good man," Maya said, standing up and holding them out for the woman. Inara reached for them and held them to her chest.

"I should go. I'm sorry again. If you every need anything please don't hesitate to call me."

Inara nodded, her finger running over the inscription on the metal, seeing Jack's name on them making her smile softly.

As Maya was about to turn she saw Marcus reappear in the hallway. "He loved you so much - never forget that. I'm sorry I couldn't save him," she signed, taking a deep breath as she felt her eyes glass over - no child deserved to live without a parent - especially such an incredible kid such as him.

"Thank you Maya - you were a great friend to him," he signed back. Maya just let out a small smile, not feeling like she deserved those words of gratitude.

"Bye Inara," Maya said before letting herself out and getting back into the car.

Her body feeling like it was ready to explode and as soon as she closed the door a stream of heart-wrenching sobs left her body.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" She screamed, hitting the steering wheel with her fist, ignoring the pain that radiated down her arm. "Fuck!" She yelled again.

She continued crying - every single emotion leaving her body as she thought of that night. She hadn't cried for him yet, she'd kept a brave face. She kept one for her team, she kept one for Inara and Marcus but she was at her breaking point. She couldn't take the guilt screaming in her mind anymore. She couldn't.

She felt numb.

Broken.

 

Chapter Text

"You know watching these were never the same without you," Carina said, her head on Maya's shoulder as they watched the sun rise over the horizon.

"Neither," Maya agreed, her fingers gently drawing a pattern down the brunette's back, their feet in the sand as they sat together.

A peaceful silence fell over them - both just enjoying the serenity of the moment, the calm and the smell of salt in the air, the wistful breeze brushing through the air. It was like the first time all over again.

"How are you feeling about later?"

"About meeting your brother? I'm feeling okay. I just hope he likes me," Maya admitted.

"He already does - he just...wants to meet you properly. He will probably go all younger brother on you and try and intimidate you but don't take any notice of him," she chuckled.

"I mean I am sort of intimidated by him - he's your brother! The closest you have to family and what if I mess up!"

"You won't Bambina - he knows how happy you make me. Trust me. Don't tell him about him intimidating you though - you'll give him an ego boost," Carina warned.

"Noted," Maya laughed. "Ready to go?"

"Sì - only you would convince me to meet you here at such an illegal time," Carina said.

"I would hardly say six am is illegal," Maya laughed as they dusted themselves off of the sand. "Plus wouldn't you say that the benefits outweighed the inconvenience of waking up early?"

"Hm I suppose they did," Carina laughed, turning her head over her shoulder and giving Maya a smile as they walked backward to Carina's car. "I still can't believe you ran here!" She exclaimed. She received a text from Maya last night - Carina's week off work having come to an end and meaning she decided to return back to her apartment instead of staying at the blonde's - saying to meet her at their spot by six thirty. Of course Maya had wanted them to watch the sunrise together....because what else would be a better way to start their day?

"Why?"

"It's like ten miles!"

"Olympic gold medalist," Maya just replied with a small smirk.

"Oh whatever - you athletic crazed person!"

"Right in the heart Dr DeLuca," Maya replied, pretending to clutch at her chest.

"Oh shut up!" Carina laughed, pulling Maya towards her and kissing her. "Thank you for starting our day off like this," she continued, their foreheads touching as the sun continued to rise behind them.

"You're welcome, my love. Now, back to mine so we can change and go and meet Andrew?" She suggested.

 

"Let's go! Come on we are going to be late!" Maya called from the front door.

"Yes! Yes! I'm here," Carina replied running out from the bedroom.

"You look beautiful, now hurry up!" Carina finally exited Maya's apartment and with a sigh the blonde locked the door before they headed out meet Andrew.

"I don't know what takes you so long," Maya laughed, sitting in the passenger seat of Carina's Porsche.

"I just does - plus I was trying to find a specific shirt but I realised it's back at my place," Carina explained as they neared the small coffee shop where they would meet Andrew.

"Which one?"

"The burnt orange one, with the cut-off sleeves."

"Oh yeah I know what you mean - but I will say I like this one a lot," Maya complimented, her eyes roaming over the green camoflaughed shirt her girlfriend was wearing, the sleeve cuffed to her elbows matched with some black jeans and a pair of the blonde's white sneakers.

"I saw it and thought of you," Carina admitted bashfully, a small blush tinging her cheeks.

"And you say I'm the soft one!" Maya laughed before lacing her hand with Carina's and bringing it to her lips. "I love you."

"Ti amo bambina," Carina smiled back.

 

"Nice to meet you Andrew - officially this time," Maya said, shaking the man's hand.

"Nice to meet you too Maya," he replied, walking inside the coffee shop - discreetly shaking out his hand from the blonde's tight grip.

He held open the door for the two women before they sat at a small booth in the corner of the shop - the strong smell of ground coffee beans lingering in the air, faint indie music in the background and the occasional whir of the coffee machines. It was a place that was frequented by both of the DeLuca siblings and had become a regular spot for them to meet whenever their busy schedules aligned.

"How was your week fratellino?" Carina asked as they all got settled.

"Good - we had a few deliveries so we were all busy and there was some big festival of some sort that all the truckers were going to so we were packed all day Saturday and Sunday. What about you two - has it been since you've been back?" Andrew asked, directing his question at Maya.

"It's been great - you don't realise what you have until it's gone for seven months. But being back is always a bit strange to get used to again - no matter how many times you do it. We've spent lots of time together though - we went to the beach this morning and watched the sunrise," Maya said, her hand holding onto Carina's under the table - the brunette's gently rubbing her thumb over the back of it.

"Even if it was at an ungodly hour," Carina said rolling her eyes playfully.

"Wow you got my sister to wake up before sunrise - you must be special," Andrew smirked, knowing how much his sister loved her sleep.

"Well I make exceptions for some people," Carina shrugged.

A waitress then appeared at their table, notepad in hand and asked for their orders.

"One macchiato, one black coffee and - a cappuccino for you?" Carina asked Andrew, getting a nod in response.

"Perfect - I'll get those sorted for you," the woman smiled before walking back behind the counter.

"So Maya, I know I've seen you occasionally at the diner but I guess I don't know too much about you - plus Carina has been keeping you pretty hidden from me," he said, raising his eyebrows at his sister.

"Things were pretty new at the beginning plus I wanted to just stay in our bubble before she left but I promised you when you asked that you could meet Maya," Carina pointed out.

"True," Andrew agreed. "So Maya where are you from originally - round here?"

"No actually, I'm from Seattle - I left home at 18, tried to find my feet for a while until 22 then decided to join the marines. My base is not too far from here so I decided to move, which was around nine years ago now," Maya explained.

"You a big sports fan then - coming from Seattle and all?"

"Oh don't get her started," Carina sighed, throwing her head into her hands as Maya just laughed.

"If you couldn't tell by Carina's reaction, I'm a big sports fan. Football mostly, but I can watch baseball too. You?"

"Oh yeah - I'm a Rams fan."

"Stiff competition then - sort of," Maya teased.

"Oh come off it - we beat you by nine points this season!"

"But overall we have the better scorecard - 25 to 20," Maya quipped back.

"I...I can't argue with that. We should go next time - see who wins?" Andrew suggested.

"I'd like that," Maya smiled, Carina giving her hand a squeeze - trying to communicate to her girlfriend that she was doing well. "I finally managed to get Carina to go to a game with me at some point."

"You keep doing the unthinkable," Andrew laughed, just as the waitress returned with their drinks.

"Thank you," They all said collectively.

"So you got family?" Andrew asked taking a sip of his drink.

"Andrea!" Carina cried, thawing her napkin at him. "Non puoi semplicemente chiedere alla gente questo tipo di cose!" [You can't just ask people about those kind of things!]

"Non è per niente una domanda invasiva!" [It's hardly an invasive question!]

"I don't really know what's happening but it's fine - you're within your rights to ask," Maya assured, placing a hand on the brunette's thigh so she would stop glaring at her brother. "I'm not close with my parents - I have. Brother mason but I haven't seen him since I left home at 18. We have a complicated relationship so it's not something I talk about too much," Maya replied, her head dipping as she shuffled her feet.

"I'm sorry," Andrew apologised, feeling bad for asking.

"You don't have to be - I found my family within the Marines. Two of my best friends Andy and Vic are like sisters to me - as much as they annoy me," Maya chuckled to herself. "My team out there are my family," the image of Jack flashed past her her mind, she crewed her eyes shut and willed it to go away, taking a deep breath before then turning to Carina. "Plus I have this one here, that's all the family I'll ever need."

"And I thought I was charming," Andrew joked, seeing the smile Maya made Carina have. She'd known how happy the blonde had made her, even when she'd been thousands of miles away but seeing it in person. It truly was a beautiful sight to see, it made his body feel warm and fuzzy to see the joy and the love on Carina's face - something he doesn't think he'd ever truly seen before.

"I do have to ask though," he said, his one big concern with his sister dating Maya coming to light. Both Maya and Carina turned to look at him, Carina looked confused while Maya looked somewhat terrified of what he was going to say, the change in his tone of voice indicating the shifting mood. "Your job is dangerous and there are times when you won't be here for nearly three quarters of the year - what does that mean for Carina?"

"Andrea!" Carina warned.

"Ancora una domanda valida! Sto solo prendendo cura di te! Questo è importante Carina, ho bisogno di sapere che stanno prendendo cura di te!" [Again a valid question! I'm just looking out for you here! This is important Carina I need to know you are being taken care of!]

"Lo sono! Maya è... lei è perfetta! Lo so che ha un lavoro pericoloso. Lo sapevo dal primo giorno ed è stata una mia scelta continuare con la nostra relazione. Sono consapevole dei rischi!" [I am! Maya is....she's perfect. I know she has a dangerous job. I knew that from day one and it was my choice to continue with our relationship. I understood the risks!]

"Can we go back to English please? This sounds angry..."May commented, her protective side of Carina coming out - not liking it when anyone yelled at her girlfriend regardless of who it was.

"Sorry bambina - he is just worried that something will happen," Carina sighed.

"It's okay," Maya whispered, giving her a quick kiss. "He's your brother - it's good he wants to know all this, it shows he cares about you."

Maya then turned back to Andrew.

"My job is dangerous. Incredibly so and I know I can't promise Carina a forever because it's unrealistic but...I do my best to make sure I can come home to her. She is my reason for staying alive - my reason to fight. I keep a picture of her in my helmet to remind me of that, that I have someone I need to go home to. As Carina's brother I respect your concern and it's completely valid, if I was in your position I would be asking the same questions. But truthfully I can't say too much to it. I know the risks of my job, Carina knows what it means to be in a relationship with me and we are still figuring some parts out but what I can promise you Andrew is that I love your sister, with everything I have - I just hope that can be enough."

Carina's eyes were welled up at Maya's speech and Andrew himself was surprised by the blonde's answer, not expecting something so heartfelt and so earnest and romantic to just come from her so off the cuff. What it did indicate to him though was just how much Maya loved his sister, he knew in that moment that Carina was safe with her. That Maya could take care of her. But he wasn't finished yet.

"So Maya - you ready for a speed round? And just so you are aware - I will be heavily judging you on your answers." Andrew said, making Carina groan and throw her head into her hands and Maya worry - she'd thought she'd made it through all of his questions....

"Favourite movie?" He asked, his face deadly serious.

"Sorry?" Maya asked, her head tilting to the side in shock, expecting some form of interrogating questions....not this.

"Favourite movie," he repeated.

"Jaws."

"Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?"

"Crunchy," Maya instantly replied, grimacing at the thought of ever using the latter, making Carina laugh - she knew how much her girlfriend loved the treat.

"What's Carina's favourite colour?"

"Ocean blue," both Maya and Carina replied with a chuckle.

"Wait it is?" Andrew asked, always remembering it to be yellow from their childhood.

"It is," Carina confirmed.

"Why?"

Carina just nodded her head in Maya's direction making Andrew look at the blonde and realise. Her eyes.

"I can't tell whether that is adorable or the worst thing you have ever said," he pondered.

"You asked!" Carina laughed.

"Touchè - hot coffee or iced coffee?"

"Hot," Maya replied, knowing if she said cold the brunette would maybe breakup with her - a threat she'd made early on in their relationship.

"Good. Words or actions?"

"Depends on the situation."

"Messy or tidy."

"I'm a neat freak so tidy, this one however," Maya joked.

"I'm not that bad!"

"No you're not," Maya agreed with a chuckle.

"Chocolate or vanilla?"

"Chocolate."

"You're obsessed," Carina laughed, Maya not contesting that fact.

"Okay, final one. Do you have intentions on marrying my sister?"

Maya and Carina's eyes both bulged at his question, too shocked to immediately answer until the image of Carina walking down the aisle crossed Maya's mind - the way she would have a ring on her finger symbolising their love. Maya smiled.

"I would be the luckiest woman if I ever got the chance to marry your sister," Maya said, her eyes on Carina's.

The brunette clutching her hand as they stared at each other, their love been spoken without words.

A ringing interrupted their moment and they all checked their phones before Carina saw it was hers.

"Sorry - it's Jo. Do you mind if I take this?" She asked.

"No - of course. Go," Maya smiled, sliding out the booth so the brunette could get out.

They watched as Carina excused herself from the coffee shop to step outside and take her call, leaving just Maya and Andrew alone.

"I like you Maya." Andrew smiled. "You're good for her. I can tell how much she loves you, how you have this unspoken bond, you make her eyes shine and I haven't seen her like that in a long time."

"Thanks Andrew - I appreciate that. I really do love her y'know," Maya said, unable to help herself by looking out the window and staring at the brunette, a small smile gracing her face.

"Want me to give you some advice?" he offered.

"Please," Maya welcomed, finishing off her coffee.

"Be honest with her. She appreciates honesty and no matter what is going on just talk to her, she is the most understanding person I have ever known. So, yeah. Just talk to her, and don't lie to her," he simply said, his words having more of an effect on Maya than he ever could have realised.

The past few nights where she'd been restless and unable to sleep flashing through her mind, the times where she'd just told Carina she was getting used to being back, or adjusting to the timezone - not having the guts or the heart to admit to what happen in Afghanistan. Despite having gone to Inara's and telling her Jack's final words she couldn't get that morning out of her mind. The guilt was still screaming at her.

Maya gave a firm nod in understanding and Andrew seemed content with her response.

"Sorry I'm back," Carina apologised, coming back into the coffee shop, running her hand through her hair.

"Everything okay?" Maya asked, letting Carina back into the booth.

"Sì, we had a mama that we'd been closely monitoring go into labour. I asked Jo to keep me updated with how she was progressing."

"Do you need to go?"

"No - Addison has it all covered, they'll both be fine without me there. If it does get urgent they know they can call me," Carina explained. "Were you two okay while I was gone?"

"Carina it's not like we were going to kill one another because you disappeared," Andrew laughed. "I just gave her some advice that's all."

"You didn't try and intimidate her did you?"

"No - I promised you, didn't I?"

Carina just shot him a playful yet skeptical look.

"I promise!" Andrew exclaimed again.

"He's telling the truth - he just gave me some advice," Maya said agreeing with the younger DeLuca.

"Such as?"

"That is for me to know and you to never find out," Maya teased, receiving an eye roll from the brunette.

"On that note - I have to get back to the diner. I've left Amelia and Maggie in charge for too long," He laughed.

They all stood up, Maya paying for all their drinks before all walking back outside into the hot Californian sunshine.

"It was really good meeting you Maya - and not just seeing you from behind the counter while I was working," he laughed.

"You too - I'm glad we could finally do this - even if it has been a lot longer than most would have waited before meeting family," Maya agreed.

Andrew brought the woman in for a short hug, followed by Carina who he gave a kiss on the side of her head.

"You picked a good one here Carina - I like her," Andrew smiled, assuring Maya that all had gone well.

"I like her too," Carina teased, taking Maya's hand in hers.

"I'll text you later but we should do this again at some point!"

The two women agreed before both parties separated and went to their respective cars.

The entire road home Maya's mind felt split - she was happy that things had gone well with Andrew, the anxiety in her stomach easing but his words remained with her.

Just talk to her, and don't lie to her.

Does she talk to Carina? Does she tell her what really happened in Afghanistan? Does she subject her girlfriend to the nightmares she's been living through since she got home?

Maya had been stuck in her head for so long she didn't even realise they'd returned back to her apartment until the car engine had turned off.

"You okay?" Carina asked, turning in her seat to face the blonde. "You were pretty quiet on the way home."

"Yeah I'm good - just a bit tired," Maya smiled.

They both got out of the car and headed up to Maya's apartment - the blonde's mind still swimming. She began to feel the same suffocating tension in her body, her chest getting tight and her eyes feeling hazy.

"I- I'm going to go for a run," Maya breathed, quickly walking into the bedroom to strip herself of her clothes and changing.

"You went on one earlier?" Carina said, slightly concerned by the way Maya was acting right now, she looked frantic and nervous.

"I know - I guess I just still need to get rid of some nervous energy," Maya excused.

"But bambina-"

"I love you," Maya rushed out, giving Carina a quick kiss before leaving the apartment before Carina could contest it further.

Maya's feet pounded down on the sidewalk, her breathing controlled, her mind a mess.

She couldn't live like this. She couldn't keep lying to Carina but then could she admit the trauma she had lived through to her girlfriend?

She had the same nightmare almost every single night - only feeling thankful Carina was now spending more time back in her own apartment as she was back at work which meant she didn't see Maya waking up dripping in sweat and shaking.

Each time it happened that morning would twist itself in maya's brain - almost making it more horrific than what she'd witnessed. There had been one nightmare where the blood had stopped it had just kept pouring out onto the ground, staining her hands and her clothes and Jack begged her to save him. Screaming in pain until the screams got so loud she woke up.

She was exhausted. She felt scared in her own apartment, sometimes not going back to sleep in fear of being transported back to where she'd faced the worst moment in her military career. The only time she felt truly safe was when she was in Carina's arms - but once she knew how broken she was, would she even want her? Did she deserve someone like Carina?

She kept running, ignoring the ache in her legs, her body worn out both physically and mentally.

Meanwhile....

Carina was lying down on the sofa, her head resting back on the arm rest, her phone resting against her ear.

"Everything is all good - a perfectly healthy boy," Addison happily announced over the phone.

"Something's wrong," Carina stated.

"What?" Addison replied, her mood shifting to a concerned one.

"I think there is something wrong with Maya. She's been acting weird since she's been back - waking up in the middle of the night, running, acting jittery and I ask if she's okay and she just makes up these excuses but I can tell something is bothering but I don't want to push her," Carina rambled, her hand laying against her forehead as she tried to ease some of the tension beginning to build there.

"Okay Carina, you need to calm down," Addison started. "First of all you have to remember what is happening right now for her. She's just got back from a seven month tour in a war zone - I can't even imagine what that must be like and then to be suddenly put back into a normal life? That switch on the brain and the body would be more than either of us could comprehend. She might just be still getting familiarise herself again."

"She got shot Addison! She got shot and she didn't tell me!" Carina reminded her - having confided in her best friend since she'd returned to work. "I can't relax knowing something else might be going on that she's not talking to me about."

"Carina! You just said it yourself - she got shot. She went through something traumatic. Give her time. She's never had someone who's really been there like you are before - so give her time, time to open up, to process what is going on. I'm sure it has nothing to do with you," Addison advised, always knowing when Carina was beginning to spiral into the pit of her own mind.

"You- yes you're probably right. I'm-I'm just so worried," Carina admitted.

"I know you are. That's natural, and it's okay to be. Where is she now?"

"Running. Again."

"Well at least whatever she is going through she has an outlet for it - that's good Carina."

"I guess," Carina replied, she'd rather have Maya talk to her instead of run but if that was worked the blonde needed then she respected that decision.

"You'll be okay - as I said. Just give her time. Now, distract yourself with something - maybe that medical journal you were talking to me about the other day?" She suggested.

Carina blew out a breath, "Thank you Addison."

"You're welcome. I have to get back but I hope everything is okay."

Carina hung up the phone, tossed it onto the coffee table and followed Addison's advise, reaching for the book she'd brought round to the blonde's a week or so ago and settled into the cushions....waiting for her girlfriend to come home.

Maya continued to run, the heat sticking to her body as she moved - stride after stride, breath after breath, minute after minute, mile after mile.

The entire time she'd been running her mind had been consumed by the brunette, the internal battle of whether to tell her not. Andrew had told her to tell teh truth.. To be honest. But by being honest she would be opening a wound she'd been trying so hard to keep shut. She'd been letting Carina in to the true dangers of what her future could be like. So far she knew Carina was aware of the risks, but having it hot so close to home only made some people realise the true longevity of what they were being faced with. All she wanted was to keep Carina protected from that. To keep her safe from the pain.

But by doing her best to keep her from it, she was only exposing it to her more. She knew that. She could see the heartbreak in Carina's eyes every time she made up some excuse and knowing she was the reason behind that was a pain made her want to run back and tell her everything.

She thought back to what Andy and Vic had told her the week before when they'd visited.

She will be there for you Maya. She can be your shoulder to lean on, cry on, whatever you want - but you have to let her in!

She had to let her in. No matter how much it hurt. She had to.

Maya turned to the apartment twenty minutes later.

"Hey!" Carina said softly, the lights dim as it was darkening outside.

"Hey!" Maya replied, kicking off her shoes and putting them back in the basket. "I'm just going to change and then I'll join you."

Maya walked back into the bedroom to change, deciding on taking a shower later - she couldn't put this conversation off any longer, she knew if she did she would psyche herself out of it.

"How was your run?" Carina asked as she heard the soft footsteps of the blonde as she emerged.

"Good, I just needed some space to think," Maya admitted, taking a seat at the end of the sofa, her elbows resting on her knees as a silence fell over them.

Carina could sense the energy radiating off the blonde and following Addison's advice, she waited for the blonde to talk other. She wa going to give her time. Go and her pace.

Five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen. Carina continuing to occupy her mind by the words in her journal as Maya seemed to just simmer in her own silence.

"Hey Carina," Maya nervously said, breaking the quiet, her leg bouncing against the hardwood floors, her eyes not drifting from the coffee table.

"Sì bambina," Carina replied, her eyes flickering up from pages in her lap.

"I-" Maya breathed out, the nerves in her body pinging around like crazy.

"It's okay - take your time," Carina encouraged, closing her book and tucking her leg under herself, her focus now fully on the blonde.

"I haven't been entirely honest with you." 

 

Chapter Text

"I haven't been entirely honest with you."

"What do you mean?" Carina asked, putting down her book and shifting closer to the blonde, her eyes full of concern hearing the broken expression in the tone of her voice.

"About what happened when I was away. I didn't tell you the whole truth and I'm so sorry," Maya said, finally turning to face Carina where the brunette saw bloodshot blue eyes staring back at her.

"Hey, hey. It's okay," Carina assured her. "Talk to me Maya. I'm here for you," she continued, placing a gentle hand on the blonde's shoulder, careful not to startle her.

Maya bit her lip as her leg bounced up and down, she took a breath before she let her mind wander and the words began to just tumble out.

"I tried to save him Carina...I tried but it was too late," Maya cried, finishing the story as the brunette's arms clung around her, pulling in, protecting her.

She also had tears streaming down her face. Her emotions were all over the place, her heart ached for Jack's family, Inara and Marcus as the blonde had told her from hearing about his last words. She cried for him, for Maya and for Andy and Vic, she cried knowing Maya had kept this from her, she cried for all of the strange things she thought about the blonde that now were making a lot of sense.

The waking up in the middle of the night, the way she would sometimes space out of conversations, the way she jumped when Carina had dropped a pan the other day, the way she had made up excuses to go running and the sudden changes in behaviour. Her heart ached knowing Maya had been going through all of this alone - afraid to tell her the truth about what happened that day.

Maya's hands were twisted around Carina's shirt as she cried, finally letting everything out as Carina pressed kisses into blonde tresses, her fingers gently stoking the back of her neck in an effort to soothe her, while giving her the time and space to express her pain.

As Maya had told Carina the story of what had happened she'd felt like the weight had been lifted, like she could breathe but she was still scared. Scared of it suddenly all coming crumbling down back on her, surprising her when she would least expect it...she knew what was going on wouldn't suddenly go away, she could feel it, as much as she hadn't wanted to admit it. She felt broken, but she needed to put herself back together.

"Oh bambina," Carina whispered, still holding onto Maya tight - these being the first words either of them had said since Maya had told Carina the truth about Afghanistan. "I'm so sorry."

All Maya could do in response was nod. No apology could make Jack come back, no apology could make Maya's guilt fade away but it helped. In a small way that Maya might understand in time to come, it would help, Inara telling her it wasn't her fault, Marcus thanking her for being a friend to Jack, they would all help.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you before," Maya mumbled, her hand reaching to wrap itself around Carina's arm as they both seemed to naturally lean back, Carina returning to where her back was against the arm rest with Maya between her legs, curled up like a koala - she looked so vulnerable in that moment and Carina was determined to protect her. To keep her safe - she just wished she would be able to keep Maya safe from the trauma of her mind.

"Why didn't you?" Carina asked, her tone not accusatory but curious, her fingers containing to trail down Maya's arms in attempt to keep her brain moving and active, scared that if she allowed herself to sit still she would break down again and she couldn't do that. Maya needed her right now.

"I was..." Maya struggled to find the words. She closed her eyes, took a breath and tried again. "I was scared," She admitted, her voice small and shaky. "Scared of what you would think." She continued.

Carina's breath caught in her throat at her girlfriends words. Maya had been scared? Of what? Of what she'd say?

"I didn't want to worry you," Maya said, finding a loose string on the side of Carina's t-shirt to occupy her fingers with. "What I do is terrifying and its dangerous and I've never had to answer to anyone before, no one to explain what my injuries meant and where they'd come from. I didn't want you to worry about me...."

"I'll always worry about you Maya," Carina quickly said. "I worry about you every minute of every day, whether you are here in my arms or thousands of miles away. I will always worry because I love you."

"I love you too," Maya replied, burying her head further into Carina's stomach, finding the warmth that was radiating from the brunette comforting as they continue their heart-to-heart.

"I never knew Jack," Carina started. "But from what I know about your team they are all incredible people and they don't blame you Maya. I know that much."

"How do you know?" Maya asked with a sniffle, her head resting against the warmth of the brunette chest as she listened for her heartbeat.

"Because I know you, and I know you take every precaution there is to protect those you love. You never would have put anyone in deliberate danger if you could have avoided it. Sometimes, we can't save everyone. It happens and it hurts because you feel like its your fault, you think you should have done more and you go over it meticulously until you convince yourself you made a mistake regardless of whether that is true or not," Carina spoke, mainly from her experience as a doctor, hoping she could provide some relief to her grieving girlfriend.

Maya digested Carina's words - everything she had said was true. She'd done all those things, gone over every moment, blamed herself to the point she'd convinced herself it had been her fault. Deep down she knew it wasn't, unfortunately her mind hadn't seemed to get the same message and was determined to keep Maya trapped in a box of survivor's guilt and trauma.

"I went to go and see them," Maya said, her eyes still focusing in on the string between her hands. 

"Who's that?" Carina asked as she watched a lone tear trailed its way over the curvatures and ridges of Maya's features.

"Inara and Marcus. When you went out with Amelia - it's why I needed the car. I had to give them his tags. I thought it might help, I think. But I knew they needed to have them. It was only right, but there was a part of me that thought returning them would make the nightmares go away."

"But they didn't?" Carina guessed, based off the phrasing.

"No."

"The pushups and the running - it was your way of dealing with it all."

"Exercise has always been my escape," Maya said. "Even when I was a kid and my dad would make me run mile after mile I managed to find an escape in all of it. It made me feel free," Maya let out a small, almost breathless laugh. "In some of the worst years of my life I found the one of the only things that manages to calm me down. Ironic right?"

"It gave you a sense of control," Carina said, Maya's head turning towards her. "You can regulate your mind, decide what you want to do and when. Running gives you control."

"Did I ever tell you how smart you are," Maya replied with a small sniff, some of the tension in the room easing.

"Once or twice," Carina said with a small smile, her fingers still running though Maya's blonde hair.

A silence fell over the pair, Maya able to breathe just a little bit easier now she had told Carina what had been happening while the brunette was processing all the information she had been told by her girlfriend, trying to think of ways she could help her.

"Maya," Carina said softly, her tone tentative. She knew what she was about to say could be taken a number of ways she just hoped Maya would listen to her or at least consider her suggestion. "Have you ever thought of therapy for what you are going through?"

"What do you mean?" Maya asked, sitting up and looking back at Carina.

Carina took a breath - trying to organise the words in her head before she spoke again. "Just someone to talk to about what you are going through - someone who knows what it is like to be in your shoes. It might help you bambina," Carina tried, not wanting to overstep but also offer advise.

Maya was silent for a moment, Carina could tell she was thinking - from the way her mouth drew itself into a straight-line and her eyebrows would furrow, her left one ever so slightly deeper than the right. She knew Maya's facial expressions like the back of her hand.

"Can I think about it?" Maya asked, her fingers beginning to tangle with each other.

"Of course you can," Carina assured her - wanting Maya to know that this was in her control and they could go at any pace the blonde wanted or needed. "If you do decide I think I know someone who could help you. She is a therapist at the hospital - Dr Diana Lewis - she was also in the military, she runs a few meetings for veterans or current service members. It was done in an effort to support the VA but I've heard it has high recommendations."

"Thank you," Maya breathed, tucking herself back between Carina's leg and resting her head on her chest again.

"For what?" Carina asked, resuming her ministrations on Maya's hair and arms.

"For...everything. For not thinking I'm broken and for not leaving me," Maya tried off, not expecting to have admitted to that specific thought that had run through her mind.

"Bella?" Carina sniffed - her emotions returning to their peak again at Maya's words. "You thought I'd leave you?"

"It crossed my mind - I was just scared. I didn't want it to be all too much and for you to realise you didn't want to deal with all this stress," Maya sighed.

"Oh Maya," Carina sighed, hugging the blonde closer to her body - never wanting to let her go. "I would never leave you bambina. I will always be here for you - through everything." Carina promised, pressing kisses onto her head as a few tears slipped down her cheeks.

"Thank you," Maya cried - her own tears reappearing as she returned her girlfriend's hug. Both just clinging to each other, needing the comfort of being in one another's arms as their emotions came to the fore front.

Neither woman was sure how much time had passed, but the apartment was almost surrounded in darkness, the only light being from a small lamp that was sitting on one of the bookshelves. They were still tangled up together on the sofa, no words being needed to be said - they knew that they had entered a new stage of their relationship, one that was deeper, more understanding, one that went beyond comprehension.

They had solidified a level of trust and a level of vulnerability that neither had truly been able to share before, and they both felt it. They felt it throughout their entire bodies and despite the pain and the heartache they gone through that evening there was this feeling of peace. A sense of calm where a storm had once been.

Because sometimes you have to drop your guard so your heart can breathe and for the first time in a while, Maya felt like she could breathe.

"Do you want to stay out here tonight?" Carina asked softly.

"Could we?" Maya asked shyly, nuzzling her head closer into Carina's neck finding comfort in the faint smell of vanilla that touched the brunette's skin.

"Of course," Carina replied. "We could build a pillow fort?"

"Like kids?" Maya chuckled.

"Exactly like kids," Carina confirmed with a smile, her heart warming seeing Maya's amused expression.

"Let's do it," Maya agreed.

They slowly got themselves up off the sofa, Maya's muscles aching from the two long runs she'd been on and the fact she hadn't really moved off of the sofa since she'd returned. They both stretched themselves out, a small yawn escaping Maya's body which made Carina smile. She wasn't exactly sure why, but it did - Maya just made her happy and knowing that what was happening was something they could get through together was something that made her feel just a little bit lighter. They would be okay. Carina could help Maya - they could do this, together.

They walked into Maya's bedroom and grabbed all the pillows as well as the duvet and dragged it through into the living room. They took a few chairs from the dining table and laid the duvet down over the top and then threw all the pillows, including the sofa cushions and a load of blankets - a Carina influence on the blonde's apartment.

Once they settled in, rummaged for some snacks and turned a film on they were set. Now usually Maya was the one to have her arms around Carina, but this time those roles were reversed, Carina sat against the base of the sofa a few pillow surrounding her as Maya settled against her chest. The opening sequence of Game Night beginning to play out.

The comedic relief of the film was a welcomed change from the heightened emotions they had gone through earlier, both needing to just take a moment to relax and be in each other's arms.

"How many times have you watched this?" Carina laughed as she listened to her girlfriend recite another scene.

"A few," Maya said, joining in the laughter. "It was then very first film I watched when I first got deployed."

"It was?" Carina asked, twirling blonde hair between her fingers.

"Uh-huh - it made me laugh so much I forgot about what was happening, all the anxiety about being away from home, in a terrifying situation with lots of people I didn't know. It helped, being able to laugh."

"That makes sense," Carina said.

"Hey - watch this bit," Maya said, shifting in Carina's arm to grab a handful of popcorn, placing one above her head for her girlfriend to take.

The pair watched as the two of the main characters began to prepare to extract a bullet from the other - mindful of the fact neither were medical professionals in any which way and their equipment had come from a gas station on the side of the road.

"No rubbing alcohol so they got Chardonnay," Carina commented, watching the scene play out, with a laugh. "I may have to suggest that to Dr Bailey if we ever find ourselves in a shortage," she joked, making Maya shake with laughter.

"Would you do that for me?" Maya turned and asked.

"What? Slice your arm open in the middle of an alleyway, using WedMD as my guide to try and get a bullet from your wound using a pair of tweezers?"

"Yeah." Maya said as if it was obvious making Carina laugh out loud.

"No bambina."

'What? What do you mean no!"

"I want actually look at your arm and then sort you out properly, maybe take you to a hospital," She laughed.

"That's a good point," Maya relented, as Carina smiled, thankful to finally see a proper and genuine laugh come from her girlfriend despite the emotional weight that they'd experienced earlier on.

Seeing Maya's smile was one of Carina's favourite things and she would never get tired of seeing it.

"That reminded me of our first date," Carina added with a reminiscent smile.

"I can't tell whether that is a good thing or not?" Maya laughed with a confused expression wondering how someone being shot related to their first date.

"A good thing. Do you remember the story of the woman with the gun in her vagina?"

Maya burst out laughing, having completely forgotten but the memory coming back as clear as day. "Gun-gina," Maya recalled.

"Yeah - it reminded me of that - an exit wound, no entry wound - we thought she'd been shot at until we realised what had happened."

"I still can't believe that," Maya said.

"Neither - it was a crazy day."

They both refocused their attention on the movie, at times ending up in full on belly laughs at what was happening on the screen.

By the end of the night they decided to stay in the living room in their makeshift fort, their hearts a little easier and their minds a lot clearer - that night Maya had shared her demons, she just hoped this was the start of a new chapter in her life, a chapter to heal and to find peace.

"Night bambina," Carina whispered, placing a soft kiss on the woman's temple.

"Can I ask you something?" Maya suddenly asked, turning around to face the brunette.

"Of course," Carina replied, her hand on her cheek as she stared into blue eyes.

"I want to go Jack's grave tomorrow, would you-uhm - would you come with me?" She asked quietly, not wanting to make Carina feel compelled to come or uncomfortable.

"Of course I will," Carina said with a soft and understanding smile. "I told you, I'm here for you. For anything and everything."

"Thank you," Maya whispered, resting her head on the brunette's chest between her neck and collarbone, placing a soft kiss. "I love you."

"I love you too," Carina replied before they both fell asleep inside their fort, surrounded by the unconditional love they shared, a love that went beyond anything in the dictionary.

"You sure you are still okay to come?" Maya asked as they sat in the car of the cemetery.

"I'm sure - are you sure you want me there?"

"I am," Maya smiled, squeezing Carina's hand before she took the keys out of the car, having drove there while Carina sat in the passenger seat and getting out the car opening up the brunette's door before she could do it herself.

Maya took a slow deep breath, her hands begin to shake, despite her turning them into fists in an effort to stop them moving only to have Carina gently unwrap them and lace them between her own.

"I've got you Maya," She said. "I've got you."

Maya nodded, before they began to walk to where Jack's grave was located. The cemetery was in a nice location; large, well kept trees lined the edges, the grass and stones were all well looked after. There were a lot of military personnel here, it becoming almost a common thing for people to buried in similar locations. Brothers and sister forever.

They walked past the rows and rows, passing by a few people who were sat in front of their respective grave stones, some talking quietly, others placing down flowers and some just silently standing or sitting. Cutting down the left hand side and walking twenty metres they finally stopped, Maya's grip on Carina's getting every so slightly tighter as her eyes finally laid on his name.

Corporal Jack Gibson.

A loving boyfriend and father.

A loyal friend and soldier to the US Marine Corps.

Sempre Fi, always remembered never forgotten.

1988-2021

A single, slow tear ran down Maya's face but she made no effort to wipe it away letting the salty taste touch her lips as she closed her eyes, she could do this. She had Carina by her side, she could do this. Breathe Maya. Breathe, she said to herself.

Maya made an effort to sit down on the grass, thankful for the hot weather that meant it was neither cold, nor wet - Carina following her, being her silent support as she watched her girlfriend take in this emotional moment for the brother she had lost out in the field.

The blonde took a look at the brunette, who nodded in confirmation - she could do this.

"Hey Jack," Maya said, looking at the stone as if it would respond. "I'm sorry it took me so long to come and visit....I had some things to work through, things I still need to work through but I needed to come and see you. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you out there, I tried to save you. I really did, I wished I could have done more, I wished we could have got you to the medical bay quicker...I wish. God I wish so many things were different. You were an incredible man Jack. You were kind and caring, funny and honest - you were damn annoying too," she chuckled, already sensing the emotion coming from her girlfriend. "I will always remember this one time on base when we were playing a game of jump rope - how you managed to even get everyone to do it is still beyond me..."

5 years ago....

"Come on Bishop!" Andy called out - "Come and join us!"

"I'm good thanks," Maya replied, going back to her crossword.

"Put down the bloody game of scrabble and have some fun!"

"Its a crossword!" She protested.

"Whatever! Hurry up!"

With a sigh Maya threw down her book and went outside the dorm tents to go and see what Andy and the rest of the squad had been yelling at her about - when she walked out, however she was seconds away from turning right back around.

"Ah look she is alive!" Vic teased, "Come on Corporal."

"What even are you doing?" She asked, her hands on her hips as she watched them all messing around.

"Jumping rope," She replied as if it was obvious.

"And what am I supposed to do?"

"Join in!" Jack said. "I started this all anyway!"

"Of course you did."

Andy quickly exited the jump rope, Vic and Miller still continuing as Jack and Vasquez moved the rope in circular motions.

"Come on Corporal," she encouraged, going behind Maya and pushing her closer and closer to the rope.

"It looks like a death trap," she stated.

"Can you jump up and down?" Andy asked simply.

"Yes," Maya replied.

"Great then you won't die - now go!" She cried, pushing the blonde with so much force that she was forced to begin jumping in turn with Vic and Miller, otherwise be tripped up and land flat on her face in the dirt - something she definitely didn't want to do.

"I hate you all!" Maya yelled, still jumping unable to get out.

"Sure you do Bishop!" Jack laughed in response.

"Especially you Gibson!"

"Its just jump rope Maya," he said, continuing to laugh as the blonde scowled at him.

"You just wait until I make it to sergeant and I'll make you run drills as pay-back."

"Whatever you say," he shrugged with a grin.

"God that stupid jump rope," Maya said with breathless laugh. "I did eventually end up falling on my face and you made no effort to help me up, instead just laughing your face off." At this Carina let out a small laugh picturing not only her girlfriend jumping rope, but also tripping up as she did so. "You find it funny too huh?" Maya turned, a smile on her face.

"A little bit," Carina said, pinching her fingers together.

Maya playfully nudged her in the shoulder. "Oh and this is Carina by the way," Maya introduced, turning back to the stone. "You used to say I made her up because apparently I would never actually get into a relationship but even after the photos you never believed me but here she is," Maya smiled, lacing her hand with Carina's and kissing the back of it. "I think you would have really liked her - she's amazing."

"Hi Jack," Carina said, pleasantly surprising Maya. She hadn't been expecting Carina to want to speak to Jack but here she was, being the incredible and caring woman she was. "As you can see I am plenty real," they both laughed, a few happy yet sad tears rolling down Maya's face.

"I want to say although I never knew you personally I am sure you were a great man. Hearing stories from Maya has only solidified that. Thank you for being a friend to Maya and protecting her." The blonde's head dropped to Carina's shoulder - her words only increasing her number of tears. "I'm so sorry we weren't able to properly meet, that you weren't able to come home to you family. I know how much you meant to Maya and I hope that wherever you are, you are looking down on everyone - because I know they are looking up at you," Carina finished, holding Maya's head to her shoulder as she cried, small sniffles occasionally come from her.

"You okay bambina?" Carina said after some time.

Maya nodded - she was okay, and this time she meant it. 

"Thank you," Maya sighed, turning her face up to meet Carina's with her bloodshot eyes and tear stained cheeks.

"I love you," Carina simply replied, knowing that those three words would mean more than anything else she could have said. She would do anything for Maya, because she loved her. She would help her through everything she possible could, because she loved her. Maya was the one, and when you find the one you do everything you can to make sure they are okay, and right now that was Carina's job. To make sure Maya was okay.

"I love you too," Maya smiled, a few more tears falling as she wiped them away.

As that sat at Jack's grave Maya may not have known it at that moment but this was the first step of many to recovery. She would never forget him, and she still had so many more demons to face, but when she had Carina by her side and her friends and chosen family beside her she could get through anything. Even if she had to ask for some help along the way.

She was getting there. One small step at a time.

 

Chapter Text

"I still don't know why we agree to do this with you," Andy panted, the burning sun beating down on the three Marines as they ran tirelessly down the road.

"Because it's fun and good exercise," Maya replied, her breathing way more controlled than that of her two friends.

"I disagree on both," Vic countered. "This is torture."

"You didn't have to come," Maya laughed.

"But how else were we going to get the inside info about your life?"

"Ask," Maya said bluntly.

"Okay fine - whatever. So, how have things been?"

"Good, I went to go and see Jack," Maya revealed.

"You did?"

"Carina came with me - I told her the truth about what happened, I couldn't lie to her anymore, it was hurting us both."

A pair of small smiles gracing both Andy and Vic's faces. "I'm proud of you Mai," Andy said, squeezing the blonde's shoulder as they continued to run.

"Me too," Vic agreed. "I know how hard it is for you to share the f-word. But it's a step right - talking about it?"

"It is," Maya said with a smile, proud of herself for having spoke to her girlfriend, breaking the bad habits of bottling her emotions. "She suggested speaking to a therapist," she continued.

"Who did? Carina?"

"What are your thoughts on that?" Vic questioned, not sure how the blonde would have taken that suggestion given she knew how hard it had been for her to open up to those closest to her, let alone a stranger.

"I said I'd think about it," Maya revealed, surprising both Andy and Vic, although they didn't show it.

"I think that's amazing Maya," Andy encouraged. "Just do what is right for you, even if it may feel strange or uncomfortable at first."

"Yeah - just one step at a time, but I might go and see her today? At least consider it as an option."

The two others nodded in agreement.

"So, how have things been regarding that?" Andy asked, referring the nightmares.

"Still there but i'm coping with them better, letting Carina know when they happen - sometimes we talk about them afterwards, others I take some space but always come back to the bed."

A few nights ago....

Maya had another night of her mind taking her on a twisted path to her darkest memories, at times manipulating the stories to make them even worse than they already were. Sometimes it was Jack who died, sometimes it was Andy sometimes it was her whole team.

She would be stuck there just staring at the pools of blood circling her feet as she was unable to help, she was forced to watch them all die as she blamed herself for their deaths.

Tonight though, tonight was different. This time it was Carina.

Maya was looking out from her place on base, the empty desert staring back at her - the vastness intimidating and scary, an endless number of dangers hidden under its surface.

Until she was stopped in her tracks, she saw something in the middle, or more like someone. Someone who wasn't supposed to be there.

Carina.

She was standing there in the middle of the desert dressed in a white dress that was blowing in the breeze - just standing there, until a loud bang sounded, echoing off the mountains and a sudden red stain appearing on Carina's dress, growing larger and larger.

Maya yelled, and screamed, and cried- tried to move but found her boots sunken in the floor, trapped. The stain only continued to get bigger until the brunette fell to her knees begging for Maya to come and save her and as much as Maya tried she couldn't.

Carina then collapsed on the ground, her eyes still locking in on the distraught blue staring back at her - begging for help, pleading.

"Carina!" Maya yelled. "Just hold on!" She tried to pull herself free but she was stuck, no matter what she did.

She then watched as Carina's head fell and dropped to the ground, her body stopped moving and her cries for help fell silent.

"Carina!" Maya yelled, tears streaming down her face as she watched the love of her life die right in front of her. "Carina!"

She then shot up out of bed, yelling Carina's name - her heart beating out of her chest and her eyes wide.

"I'm here Maya - I'm right here," Carina instantly said, wrapping her arms around the blonde as she cried, clinging to her shirt as they held one another. "What happened bambina?" She asked, her hand shifting to rub the back of Maya's neck and ease the tension that lingered.

"It was you," Maya cried. "It was you."

"Oh Bella," Carina sighed, knowing what she was referring to based on the previous nightmares she'd shared with her. She pushed Maya's head closer to her chest as she whispered comforting words to her, occasionally placing a soft kiss on her temple. "I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere okay. I'm right here."

"Holy shit Mai - that's some intense stuff," Andy said, her concern growing for her friend, not having realised they'd reached that level of intensity.

"I know," Maya sighed. "It think it was why I decided that I should pay Dr Lewis a visit. I can't be dealing with them every night."

"I agree - you're doing the right thing Maya," Vic said, wiping her forehead of sweat as they stopped their run to start walking seeing as they entered downtown, looking to go to their favourite smoothie place that was about 80 yards away.

"What am I supposed to say to her?" Maya asked, her arms crossed behind her head as she breathed.

"Just be honest."

"Honesty is the best policy," Vic pointed out.

"The more you talk to her the more you will get from it."

"Yeah I guess - I just don't want to get stuck," Maya said.

"Stuck?" Vic questioned.

"You mean you don't want your walls to go up?" Andy guessed, getting a nod from Maya. "Well, that's why going to see this woman will be a good thing. You probably won't be the first person she has met that is reluctant to open up and she will know the best way to connect with you."

"You're right," Maya agreed, opening up the door to the smoothie shop - all three woman sighing as the cool air-conditioned room hit their sweaty bodies.

"God that's nice," Vic sighed, fanning herself.

"I need a drink stat," Andy declared walking to the counter to put in the three women's orders, knowing them off by heart.

While Andy was ordering Vic and Maya went to take a seat at their usual booth - one right at the back, close to the air conditioning but also next to the window where they got enough sunlight and could see the side of the street corner and the passersby.

"So we've spoken enough about me - what new with you?" Maya asked.

"Not much really," Vic shrugged.

"So you haven't been spending a certain amount of time with a Mr Theo Ruiz?" Maya questioned with a cheeky grin.

"Oh whatever," Vic replied, flipping the blonde off, only making her laugh more.

"What you two laughing about?" Andy said, carrying over the three drinks and sitting beside Vic.

"Nothing-"

"Vic's boyfriend," Maya answered, taking a sip of her drink.

"What?!" Andy cried, turning to face her friend. "Theo is your boyfriend?!"

"No he's not!" Vic protested, shooting Maya a glare.

"So sex friend?"

"More like it - friends with benefits maybe."

"Hm okay - go get that Hughes," Andy cheered, dancing in her seat.

"I think I want to ask Carina to move in with me," Maya suddenly said, both Andy and Vic choking on their drinks at the blonde's words.

"You what?" Andy choked.

"I think I want to ask Carina to move in with me," she repeated.

"You think or you know?" Vic asked. "As great as that is Maya, and trust me this is amazing. Do you think now is the best time? With everything that's going on right now?" Her words were genuine, she was incredibly happy for Maya - knowing she had met someone who she felt vulnerable and comfortable enough with to share her space completely and totally, but she also want to make sure Maya was making this decision with a clear mind, one that wasn't fuelled by the nightmares which had been torturing her.

"I know - and I understand Vic. I do - but I'd been thinking it about this for a while now, ever since I left actually."

"That's months Mai!" Andy cried.

"I know," she blushed, looking down at her drink and twirling the straw between her fingers. "But I don't want to have to spend another morning where I don't get to wake up to her. I don't want to have to keep saying goodbye as she goes back to her apartment, I was us to call a place home, together. I want to be able to do nice things for her when she finishes an exhausting shift and go to sleep with her in my arms. I want her to move in with me," Maya said, pouring her heart out to her two best friends as they silently listened.

Andy and Vic shared a look once Maya had finished.

"I think it's a great idea Maya," Vic smiled - happy that she was doing it for the right reasons.

"Me too," Andy smiled. "God I never though I'd see the day," she sighed with a teasing, yet genuine smile.

"She just needed the right person."

Maya just took a sip of her drink as she smiled - she was going to ask Carina to move in with her. It was really happening.

"So how are you going to ask?"

"I'll just ask?" Maya said, confused.

"No gesture?"

"I mean," she scratched the back of her head as she thought. "I could put it in a box and wrap it?"

"Good enough," Andy nodded with a smile, seeing the excited look on Maya's face that she was trying to hide.

"How are you feeling about going back to work?" Vic asked, all of them due to report back to base in a few days time after their three weeks of downtime from deployment.

"Good - it will be nice to get back into a proper routine although I'll miss having the freedom to do what I want all day everyday. I'll make the most of it over the weekend though."

"Any plans?"

"Not yet - I might take Carina out on a date, it's been ages since we've been on one," Maya thought out loud.

"Hm sounds nice - moving in celebration?"

"If she agrees," Maya pointed out.

"Oh she will," Vic brushed off.

"Yeah?"

"Of course Maya," Vic said, leaning forward to squeeze the blonde's wrist. "She is so in love with you I think she'd agree to about anything you asked. But trust me on this - she'll say yes," she assured, making Maya smile.

"Okay," she agreed. "I'll do it today," she decided.

"Today?" Andy asked, expecting it to at least be tomorrow.

"Why wait?"

"Good point."

"Carina's shift starts at ten - crap, we need to get going. I need to get my keys cut and copied and then buy a box and paper and we need to get back," Maya rambled realising she had a lot to do in not so much time.

"Okay," Andy drawled out, sensing Maya begin to panic. "Divide and conquer," she said, nodding in Maya's direction.

"Divide and conquer," Maya repeated. "Right - I'll go and get the keys sorted, Andy you go and find a small box or something that I can keep it in -oh and a piece of card so I can write a message on it. Vic you are on paper and ribbon," she instructed.

"Yes Sergeant," both Andy and Vic nodded, straightening up and saluting her with a playful smile.

"Oh stop it," Maya laughed all of them getting up to leave to 'divide and conquer'.

"See I told you - divide and conquer," Andy said twenty-five minutes later when they all met back up.

"Okay - so we have everything?"

"Box, card, ribbon, paper and-"

"Key," Maya finished, dangling the shiny metal between her fingers.

"Should I call us a ride back?" Vic asked, getting her phone out.

"Are we not running back?" Maya asked.

"No!" Both Andy and Vic declared - already exhausted from their run into town, as well as the sun that was rising higher into the sky making it already hotter than it was earlier.

"Okay then," Maya sighed. She took the box from Andy and placed the key inside, right in the middle and then wrapped it in the paper and tied the ribbon across the top, finishing it with a nice bow. "What do you think?"

"Perfect," Andy smiled. "Oh I got you a pen as well for the card," she added, handing it over as well as a piece of card, about the size of a business card.

"Thanks," Maya said, taking the card - Andy turning around for the blonde to rest against - and began writing down a message, a smile gracing her lips as she did so, signing it off with the words - Your love, M.B x - she then tucked it underneath the bow and held it in her hands.

"Ride will be here in five," Vic said, tucking her phone away.

"Now remember - she'll say yes, so don't panic," Andy assured her as they pulled up outside Maya's apartment.

"Got it," Maya smiled. "Thank guys, for helping me and for listening."

"Always Mai," Vic smiled back, giving her a short hug.

"Now go and get yourself a roommate!" Andy cried as Maya got out of the car.

"Bye Herrera, bye Hughes," Maya laughed, waving to the pair as the car disappeared.

"You've got this Maya," she said to herself, clothing the the box in her hands as she walked up the stairs to her apartment.

"Hey bambina," Carina called out, screwing the lid on her coffee cup as she shot a smile over her shoulder.

"Hey," Maya smiled, moving the box behind her back as she greeted the brunette with a kiss.

"How was your run?"

"Good - long, hot" she chuckled.

"I can imagine - Andy and Vic okay?"

Maya nodded.

"Everything okay?" Carina asked seeing the nervous expression on the blonde's face.

"Yeah - I got you something actually."

"You did?"

"Uh-huh," Maya agreed a smile forming on her face. "Here," she said, handing over the box.

Carina smiled as she took the box from the blonde's hands, tilting her head curiously as she saw the small note tucked in under the red ribbon.

"Dear Carina,

Being with you has been one of the most unexpected yet exciting journeys I have ever been on. You make me do things I never thought I would and this is one of them.

Ever since I left for deployment I realised I never want to have to live without you.

So - could you grant me that wish and move in with me?"

"Are you serious?" Carina asked, her face in disbelief as Maya stared at her, a smile on her face.

"As much as I can be," she replied.

"Yes! Yes," She cried, throwing herself into the blonde's arms and giving her a kiss. "I love you so much."

"I love you too,: Maya replied, tangling her hand in chestnut waves as their lips moved together. "Look in the box," Maya said as they pulled apart.

Carina opened up the box in her hands and smiled as she saw the key laying in the middle.

"This belongs on here," She declared, reaching for her keys and sliding the new key onto her keyring.

"Looks perfect," Maya smiled.

"It really does," Carina agreed. "Speaking of gifts - I also got you something, which I guess could now be classed as a moving in gift." She quickly disappeared back into the bedroom and returned with a present in her hand. "Open it when I go," She smiled.

"Hm okay," Maya replied, pulling Carina in by her black pant beltloops, her lip between her teeth as she appreciated her girlfriend's very attractive work clothes.

"I really wished I didn't have to go to work right now," Carina said with a smirk, looking down at Maya's still somewhat sweaty and muscly body.

"You are a cruel woman Dr DeLuca," Maya whispered, her hands still on the brunette's waist as they just stared at each other.

"So you tell me," She replied, before giving the blonde a passionate kiss, which although she wanted it to continue she had to get to work, or face the wrath of an annoyed Chief Bailey.

"Have a good day," Maya smiled, pulling away from the kiss but quickly giving her one more peck. "When you come home we can maybe think about moving your stuff?" She suggested.

"I'd love that," Carina nodded. "But I have to get work. I love you."

"I love you more," Maya responded. "Have a good day!"

Carina reluctantly left the blonde's arms and picked up her bag and keys, the new shiny addition making her heart soar. "Grazie bambina! Don't forget to open your present!" She called before walking out the door, blowing her girlfriend a kiss.

As the door closed Maya let out a relieved sigh, she'd said yes. She did a small, childlike spin before her eyes caught hold of the gift sat on the kitchen island. She made her way over and curiously began to unwrap it, it was heavy-ash and rectangular. Book-ish but she wasn't too sure what it could be. The paper fell to the floor and as Maya held the gift in her hand she laughed out loud, her girlfriend certainly had a funny sense of humour.

Italian for beginners: A learner's guide to perfect pasta

She put it back on the side, picked up her phone and sent the brunette a message.

Carina: Haha - very funny. Thank you though, I'm sure in all due time I will certainly be able to make you some 'perfect pasta'.

She knew the doctor was driving so she didn't expect a message back so decided to go and rid herself of her sweaty clothes and went to take a shower.

Meanwhile....

"Okay what do we have?" Carina asked, snapping on a pair of gloves as she walked into the pit.

"MVC victim, female, 28, 31 weeks pregnant complaining of abdominal pain and back pain."

"Okay my name is Dr DeLuca, what's yours?"

"Charlotte - Charlotte Davis," She answered her face contorting with pain.

"I need to do a physical exam Charlotte to check you and your baby are okay and safe," She said before placing her hands on the woman's stomach and feeling around for tenderness or rigidity.

"Okay - can we get an ultrasound in here!" Carina yelled to any one of the interns of nurses that were around her.

Once it was finally in place she ran the probe over Charlotte's stomach, her eyes trained on the screen hoping she wouldn't find what she suspected was wrong with her.

When she finally found it she held back a sigh - thickening of the placenta and disruption of the retroplacental circulation. Shit.

"Get me an OR now!!" Carina yelled, ditching the probe.

"What- what's happening?!" Charlotte cried, her face full of pain and fear.

"You've had placental abruption," Carina explained, always wanting to be as honest a possible with her patients.

"What does that mean?" She asked as the bed began to move, Carina following along as she spoke to her.

"That means the placenta has partially separated from the wall of your uterus - because you are close to being full term I will have to deliver your baby. Do you have anyone we need to call?"

"My husband! James!" She cried.

"Let's get him here!" Carina said, an intern running off to do as she'd asked.

"Okay Charlotte you are going to go in now okay? I'll be in in a few seconds after I've scrubbed in."

"You'll save my baby?"

"I'm one of the best OBs in the state - I will do my very best," Carina promised.

"Thank you Dr DeLuca," Charlotte smiled before being wheeled into the OR.

"Never a normal day," Carina sighed before walking into the next door to scrub in.

An hour later...

Maya had finished her shower and had also made herself some eggs - a food she was able to make -  and was now flicking through the cookbook Carina had bought her, enjoying reading some of the personal anecdotes from the author. There had been a few recipes she'd seen that interested her, what was helpful that there was a difficulty scale next to each one - but she was a determined person, and she would be damned if she let some Italian food get the best of her.

She would make sure she would become the best chef ever if it meant making Carina happy.

Speaking of Carina Maya thought their morning had ended way too early and it had been a while since she'd been able to surprise her girlfriend at work. With that she closed up the book, placed her finished plate into the dishwasher and then grabbed her shoes.

She called an uber and made her way back into downtown LA to get two very essential gifts to bring to the hospital.

Flowers and coffee.

There was this small shop, round the corner from where Maya, Vic and Andy went this morning and a few streets away from the place where she'd met Andrew, which sold beautiful flower arrangements. It was the same place where Maya had pre-ordered all her gifts to the brunette while she was away.

"Martin!" Maya smiled when the bell chimed above her head.

"Maya," He returned, circling the counter to give her a tight hug. "I haven't seen you in ages!"

"That's the Marines for you," She chuckled.

"Of course - so what can I do for you?"

"Your finest bunch of roses please," she said.

"Ah a special gift for Carina I presume?"

"Who else," Maya laughed.

"Lucky lady."

"I'd say that would be me," Maya blushed.

Martin just smiled knowingly as he got to work preparing the arrangement while Maya waited.

"Special occasion?" He asked, cutting some thin rope to wrap around the cellophane wrap.

"I asked her to move in with me this morning," Maya revealed.

"That's amazing! Congratulations!" He grinned as Maya paid for the flowers.

"Thank you Martin - now I have a certain girlfriend to go surprise," She smiled.

"Enjoy!" He waved, the blonde leaving the shop returning his gesture.

Next stop. Coffee. Arguably the most important part of her visit. If there was one thing her girlfriend loved it was good coffee. She made her way back down to the coffee shop and patiently waited until the order of Carina's macchiato and her black coffee was called.

Now with both flowers and coffees in hand she made her way to the hospital, thankful it was only a ten minute walk away and with her request to make the coffee extra hot and the addition of a cardboard tray to hold them both in she was hopeful they wouldn't be cold by the time she actually got to Carina's office.

"Sergeant Bishop," Bailey greeted, seeing the blonde walk into the hospital. "Glad you now know not to walk in through my ER for social visits."

"Bailey, call me Maya."

"Maya call me Chief Bailey," She quipped back, getting a silent nod from the blonde - too far, got it.

"Sorry Chief Bailey," She apologised. "Do you know where Carina is by any chance?" She asked, holding up the coffees and flowers.

"She should just be finishing up surgery so head up to her office," She replied, getting interrupted by her pager beeping. "I have to get this - but it was nice to see you Bishop."

"You too," Maya laughed - enjoying the friendly banter she had with the woman, although she was never quite sure whether the woman was being serious or not since she was still scared her.

She turned left and walked up the stairs, narrowly avoiding a running intern that was sprinting down the middle of the walkway before skidding around the corner.

Maya continued walking across the walkway, a smile on her face at the thought of surprising her girlfriend. She passed by some of the doctors, a few of them smiling in her direction, until they weren't.

Until Maya wasn't holding two coffees in her hand, until the flowers weren't clutched between her fingers but were soaked in brown stained liquid, petals scattered on the floor around her.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

Gunshots.

 

Chapter Text

Maya continued walking across the walkway, a smile on her face at the thought of surprising her girlfriend in just a few hours, two coffees in a cardboard tray in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. She passed by some of the doctors, a few of them smiling in her direction, until they weren't. 

 

Until Maya wasn't holding two coffees in her hand, until the flowers weren't clutched between her fingers but were soaked in brown stained liquid, petals scattered on the floor around her. 

 

BANG. BANG. BANG. 

 

Gunshots. 

 

Screams echoed through the atrium of the hospital as people began to run for the exits. But Maya couldn't move. She felt stuck. 

 

Frozen. 

 

Paralysed. 

 

Several people knocked into her as they ran, but Maya stood her ground, her feet glued to the floor as the screams began to turn to silence, her mind shutting them out as she tried to gasp for air. 

 

Her eyes flickered, but as she started to see double and her breathing became laboured she just let them close and managed to move her hand to the railing for support - the cold metal grounding her. In and out Maya, she told her herself. In and out. 

 

The same nightmare flashed passed through her brain, the sound of the gunshots bringing her right back to that moment. In her dreams she was used to everything being all a master manipulation of her mind, but now it was her reality. There were actual gunshots. Gunshots in the hospital. Hospital. Carina was in the hospital. Carina was in danger. 

 

At the notion of her girlfriend being in any sort of harm, her eyes snapped open and her brain seemed to reset itself. With a final deep breath she found her strength again and pushed herself back up off the railing and began to run. 

 

She pulled open the door into the main body of the hospital and almost collided with the woman she had only just spoke to moments ago. 

 

"Chief Bailey - what is happening?" She asked. 

 

"Bishop?! What are you still doing in here?!" 

 

"My girlfriend is still in this hospital I'm not leaving until she's safe." 

 

"Bish-"

 

"I'm the most qualified person in this hospital right now to be dealing with this so please let me help!" She all but demanded, not going to take no for an answer. 

 

"Fine!" Bailey replied, too stressed and scared to argue with the blonde. "Follow me." 

 

 

The pair ran back into the hospital going in the direction of her office. "I need radios and I need a map of this place," Maya said as soon as the door locked. 

 

Bailey opened up a large cabinet and pulled out a set of radios as well as a large map of the entire building. 

 

"For power outages and workmen," She replied, throwing a radio over to the blonde who clipped it onto her jeans. 

 

"Sorry to ask the obvious but the police have been phoned?" 

 

"I activated the silver alarm - they will get notified of the situation. I need to alert the staff I-uhm," Bailey began frantically searching her pockets for her phone. 

 

"Put everyone into lockdown - nobody comes into the building and no one leaves their floors," Maya said as Bailey nodded and continued typing into her phone, sending a page to every doctor and nurse in the hospital. 

 

"Okay good - is there anyone else who is qualified for this type of thing?" She asked while studying the map with intense detail, her eyes subconsciously taking a bit more time to look over the maternity ward of the hospital. 

 

"Doctors Owen and Megan Hunt - they were doctors in the Army," She replied. 

 

"Okay good - happen to know where they are?"

 

"Surgeries - both of them, OR 4 - trauma case, we had a car accident come through not too long ago. Carina is also dealing with one of the patients in OR 5."

 

Maya nodded before grabbing two more radios from the set and folding the map back up and stuffing it into her pocket. 

 

"Stay here - lock the door, close all the blinds," Maya instructed. "If I need to come back I'll knock three times okay?" 

 

Bailey gave a shaky nod, her usual strong demeanour beginning to show cracks. Maya double checked she had everything before Bailey stopped her. 

 

"Wait! Here!" Bailey quickly ran to her desk and pulled out an all-access key card. "The building is on lockdown - you'll need this to get through some of the doors - this is the master key, it will by-pass department floor lockdowns," She said putting in the blonde's hand. 

 

"Thanks," Maya said, before pulling open the door, looking left and right before closing it behind her, not moving until she heard the click signalling it was locked. 

 

She then took off down the corridor, her training becoming second nature to her as she stopped at every corner, checking before continuing, her stance crouched as she hurried with caution. 

 

She'd made it around 200 yards, moving through a receptionist area and climbing up a set of stairs until she was met with a group of people, all huddled in various spots. 

 

"Everyone okay?" She whispered, gaining the attention of them all. "Sergeant Maya Bishop of the Marines," She introduced, wanting them to all know she could be trusted and could help them. 

 

"He shot her," a woman said, Maya's head turning to see a few people crouched behind a desk. She quickly made her way over, her hands forming fists as she saw a woman with a bloodstained forehead and a small pool of blood around her body. 

 

"I'm so sorry," Maya said, looking at the woman's tear-stained face who was still shaking with fear and most likely shock. "I'm doing my best to keep as many of you safe, which way did he go?" 

 

"Left," the woman whispered, her hand moving to clutch her best friend's as more tears fell. 

 

"Thank you - I need everyone to go into that conference room and lock the door, close the blinds and nobody make any noise and don't leave until someone tells you too" Maya said. "Understood?"

 

Everyone nodded and began to follow the Sergeants instructions, moving in groups to get to safety. 

 

"I can't leave her," the woman cried. 

 

"I know it's hard. Trust me, I know it better than anyone. But right now you have to get to a place of safety, when all of this is over your friend will be properly cared for," she explained, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. The woman took a second to think before nodding. 

 

"Okay," she whispered, brushing a few tears away, her fingers stained with blood which transferred onto her cheeks. 

 

Maya nodded before watching as the woman got up on shaky legs and managed to go into the conference room, joining the rest of the people. She took one last look at the nurse on the ground before pulling her map back out and finding her place. Within a few seconds she knew where she had to go to get down to the basement where Carina was as well as the hunt siblings were. 

 

She continued down a corridor, them all unsurprisingly empty, the only sound being her footsteps as she moved. She made a few turns, left then right, right again, down a set of stairs - all while being as cautious as possible. 

 

She had walked just past the cafeteria when she heard two sets of voices making her spin on her heel and go back towards them. 

 

"So if you were in a place crash and you die, then the kids would be mine?" 

 

"Yes Cristina - you've been their godmother for years how do you not know this!" 

 

"I'm sorry, I just don't listen to half the things you say these days."

 

"That's encouraging to know, thank you."

 

"You're welcome."

 

"What are you two doing here?" Maya asked, the two doctors in white coats turning around. 

 

"I'm sorry?"

 

"The hospital is in lockdown-"

 

"Yeah we're not walking outside," One of the women said, Maya reading her lab coat as Dr Yang. 

 

"That's not what lockdown means, it means stay where you are!" Maya cried. 

 

"Did you know that's what it meant?" Dr Yang, said to Dr Grey. 

 

"No, I thought it meant-"

 

"Come with me," Maya said, dragging the two down the corridor, seeing a door for a supply closet a few metres away - that would have to do for now. 

 

"Who are you some secret government agent?" Dr Yang asked. 

 

"Nope, I'm just someone trying to keep you safe."

 

"Safe from what? Are you going to tell me there is an axe murder on the loose?" She joked. 

 

"Yes pretty much," Maya replied, opening the door and pushing the two of them in. 

 

"Wait? What?!" 

 

"There is a shooter in the hospital so I need you both to stay in here and lock the door. Don't move," Maya said, closing the door behind her as she returned back to her mission of getting to the basement. She knew she had to be in the east-stairwell to get down, which was thankfully only another thirty or so yards away. 

 

Moving past a crossroads in the corridors, checking no one was down them she moved past until she reached the door which would take her downstairs. She swiped the key card Bailey gave her and watched the light turn from red to green before she gently pushed it open. 

 

She listened for any sign of movement and when she found none she slipped inside and then ran down the stairs, keeping close to the wall for protection as well as keeping an advantageous viewpoint.  

 

Three sets of stairs later she swiped the card once more and moved her way into the OR corridor - it smelt even more sterile than the typical hospital smell, or so much so Maya felt her nose tingle in discomfort. 

 

She kept moving, keeping her back to the wall until she reached OR 4, knocking on the door and getting a muffled response before a confused scrub nurse opened it, quickly closing it for the sterile field, although Maya was pretty sure the hallway was just as sterile as the operating rooms. 

 

"Hello?" The nurse asked, wondering why a blonde woman had interrupted a surgery. 

 

"Are both Dr Hunts in there?" 

 

"Yes - but who-"

 

"I need to see them," She demanded, time not exactly being in her favour right now. 

 

"They are in the middle of-"

 

"This is a matter of potential life and death so I am kindly asking you to get me one of them," She continued. 

 

The nurse rolled her eyes, but got Owen anyway - thankful there were more than enough qualified residents already in the OR assisting. 

 

"You are Dr Owen Hunt?" Maya asked as soon as the ginger man stepped out, in full scrub cap and gown, blood staining his gloved fingers. 

 

"Yes," He replied. 

 

"Have any of you seen your pagers?" 

 

"No - we haven't had time - why?" 

 

"You were also an Army Medic correct?"  Maya said, ignoring his question. 

 

"Also yes - what-"

 

"There is currently an active shooter inside the hospital," She revealed, wanting to get straight to the point, Owen's eyes immediately snapping to attention. "I need the assistance of both you and your sister to help me make sure people are safe or at least help me find this guy before he causes any more harm." 

 

"Who are you? Police?" He asked. 

 

"No, Sergeant Maya Bishop of the Marine Corp - I was here for personal reasons but am now helping with this situation. The hospital has gone into a silver alert lockdown, only people with direct access can enter or exit the building. Dr Bailey gave me instructions on where I could find you." 

 

"Right - uhm okay. What do you need Sergeant?" He asked, his posture subconsciously straightening out. 

 

"I have these," Maya said, holding up two radios in her hand. "I need to try and find someone and we have to keep everyone as safe as we can. Once that has happened, connect with the police and see if we can take whoever this is down or into custody." 

 

"Okay - hold on a second," he agreed. "Schmitt!" He called, a man with glasses turning around. "Can you close?" 

 

"Yes Dr Hunt," He replied, an eager nod following. 

 

"Good, Megan I need you out here, we have a situation." The fellow Hunt left the OR and joined her brother. "We have an active shooter in the hospital," He said, being mindful of the volume in his voice, the other lady's eyes widening in shock. 

 

"What the hell?!" She whispered, pulling down her mask. 

 

"This is Sergeant Maya Bishop of the Marines - there's not enough time to go over the details but she is here to help us." 

 

"Nice to meet you," Megan replied. 

 

"Schmitt can close and then no one is leaving that room," Owen said. "But they can't know what is happening - they will freak out." 

 

"Agreed - Bokhee," Megan said, calling over their most experienced scrub nurse. "Myself and Dr Hunt have an urgent matter to attend to- no one can leave this room under any circumstances," she instructed, the woman nodding, asking no questions but trusting the two doctors. 

 

Both the hunt siblings stripped themselves of their gowns and gloves and took the two radios from the blonde. "Right go to every OR on this floor and inform only the people who need to know what is going on," Maya said, knowing exactly which OR she was heading to. 

 

The pair nodded before they all took off going to various doors, Maya turned around and headed for the one she'd just ran past and knocked on the door. Another nurse appearing. "Is Dr DeLuca here?" She asked trying to peer around the woman and see her girlfriend, but the door was pulled too close for her to try. 

 

"No she left," the nurse replied. Maya's heart stopped - what did she mean she left? Left to go where? 

 

"Where-uhm - where did she go?" She asked, internally panicking as she felt her body begin to go into overdrive. 

 

"Her and Dr Wilson left one of the residents to finish up - I believe they headed to her office. Is there a problem?" She asked, clearly seeing the expression on Maya's face. 

 

"Don't let anyone leave this OR until you are told to, under no circumstance - matter of security," She said. 

 

"Understood" The woman replied, closing the door. 

 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

 

She took out her phone and rang the brunette, praying she would reply. "Come on Carina, come on, come on," She muttered, the drone of the call playing through her ear until it finally connected. 

 

"Bambina? What do I owe the pleasure?" Carina asked. 

 

"Where are you right now?" Maya quickly asked, no time for pleasantries. 

 

"At work," Carina laughed, no understanding what was going on. "Why?" 

 

"Where specifically are you?" 

 

"In my office - Bella you are scaring me, what is going on? Where are-"

 

"Have you seen your pager?" 

 

"Yes we are in lockdown but I don't know why-"

 

"Bishop - every OR has been notified," Owen said running back over to her. 

 

"Is that Owen? Wait - why are you in the basement?" Carina asked. 

 

"I don't have time to explain but you need to get everyone on your floor into rooms and tell them to lock the doors!" Maya said, the three of them leaving the basement and climbing the stairs. 

 

"Maya what is happening?!" 

 

"Just please do as I say Carina - no one leaves their rooms got it! You included! Stay in your office!" Maya all but ordered. 

 

"Okay I will-"

 

"Good I'll be there soon, stay safe!" Maya said, before ending the call and continuing to climb the stairs until they reached the next floor. "Right we need to try and connect with the police," Maya said. "Try all the channels until you reach their frequency." 

 

They all began to fiddle with their radios until suddenly Megan's one came alive with noises and voices. 

 

Maya and Owen adjusted their accordingly until they reached the same signal. 

 

"We need to do something!" A man's voice said. "Have we got any more intel?!"

 

"Hello?" Maya said. 

 

"Who is this?" Someone replied, their confusion evident. 

 

"Sergeant Maya Bishop of the US Marines - I'm currently inside the building along with Retired Lieutenant Hunt and Major Hunt of the US Army. We are telling as many people as possible to stay in their rooms and are not to exit on any circumstances - I have one known body," She replied, that news shocking both the Hunt siblings. 

 

"Police Officer Prescott. Okay - can you be your eyes and ears? We are currently assembling a SWAT team to come in and assist but it's taking longer than we thought." 

 

Receiving nods from both Owen and Megan Maya agreed. "We can do that Sir." 

 

"Thank you - if you see the shooter, do your best not to engage, I know you are all trained but you have no means of defence and I don't want any further injuries," the man spoke, clearly whoever he was he was in the man in charge. 

 

"Understood," Maya replied. "If we develop any further details I'll let you know." 

 

"As will we," he replied, the line falling silent shortly after. 

 

"I need to get up to the OB ward," Maya said, stuffing the radio back in her pockets. "What other departments do we need to make sure are secured?" 

 

Megan and Owen shared a look, both trying to come up with answers. "Peds?" He answered, his sister agreeing. 

 

"8th floor," Maya recalled, remembering the map.  "Okay - do one of you want to head up there, tell whoever is in charge of the situation and get everyone to safety - locked in rooms, blinds down," Maya said. 

 

"I can do that," Megan replied. 

 

"I'll go to the ICU," Owen added, knowing if anything was to happen there it would be very bad for the patients who were all in very vulnerable situations. 

 

"Good - keep on the radio, inform the police if you have any information," Maya said, all three of them nodding. "Stay safe," she added. 

 

"You too," they both replied, before they all split up to go their own self-designated floors. 

 

Meanwhile... 

 

"Who was that? Maya?" Jo asked as the two walked down the halls of the OB floors, doing their best to keep movement to a minimum by talking to the nurses. 

 

"Yeah - I don't know what's going on but something is happening. She's here in the hospital." 

 

"She is?"

 

"I heard Owen talking to her in the background, she was down in the basement with the ORs." 

 

"Why?" 

 

"No clue, but with the lockdown page we all got, I'm nervous," Carina admitted. 

 

"I'm sure everything is fine, maybe it's just a coincidence she was here too," Jo suggested, trying to calm her friend's nerves. 

 

"She was worried though - told me to lock everything up. She knows something and whatever it is, she's out there, potentially in danger!" She said, the nerves beginning to really settle into her body. 

 

"Look we can't worry too much, okay? Are there any patients that are critical right now?" 

 

"No - it's quite quiet on the floor, we discharged around five mamas yesterday and anyone who is at risk of giving birth has doctors and nurses in their rooms on standby." 

 

 "Okay good - so we just need to lock these doors and go back to your office?"

 

"Sì." 

 

The two women locked the main entrance and exits to the floor before walking back towards Carina's office. 

 

"Speaking of Maya - how is everything?"

 

"Good," Carina smiled, the memories of the morning crossing her mind. "She asked me to move in with her," Carina revealed. 

 

"What?! Carina that's amazing," Jo smiled, hugging the brunette. 

 

"I know - it's a big step, but it feels like the right one."

 

"I'm so happy for you!"

 

"Grazie Jo," Carina smiled, walking past the door to the unlocked stairwell unaware of the danger that stood behind it. 

 

Maya continued to climb the stairs still keeping to the edges for safety but moving at an incredibly fast speed, she needed to get to Carina and she needed to know she was safe. Finally reaching the floor for OB she exited the stairwell and pulled open the door, this one not needing key card access. 

 

She moved past the receptionist desk, thankful to see most of the patient room doors all closed with the blinds down just as she'd instructed. 

 

She continued down the corridor taking a left then a right until she found herself on her way to Carina's office but when she heard small sobs her heart rate began to pick up, she quickened her pace almost at a run until she stopped dead still seeing the door to her girlfriend's office opened ajar. 

 

"Carina," Maya called out, walking right into the office. When she saw Jo on the floor she immediately rushed to her side. "Jo what happened?" She cried, the woman unconsolable as her face streamed with tears and her body shook, every second that went by only making Maya worry more and more. 

 

"He-He-" Jo tried to speak but her cries only seemed to make their way out. 

 

"Jo," Maya asked, placing her hands on the blonde's shoulders. "Where is Carina?" She asked, praying that the answer in her head wasn't the one Jo was about to give. 

 

"He-he took her," Jo sobbed. "I tried to stop him but he pushed me over, we'd just walked into the office when he came in with his gun and pointed it at Carina, told her if she didn't go with him he'd shoot me." 

 

"Okay," Maya breathed, her hands shaking as a million different possibilities ran through her mind. She wanted to just run and go find her girlfriend but she knew she needed more information to help her. "What did her look like?" 

 

"He-uhm, grey hair, older man, he looked familiar but I don't know..."

 

"Clothes?" Maya asked, knowing she could give this information to the police. 

 

"Brown jacket, grey shirt, blue jeans," Jo continued, her body beginning to rock and her hand on her stomach. 

 

"Okay that's good Jo, that's good," Maya encouraged, reaching for her back pocket for the radio. "Hunt I need you to come to Dr DeLuca's office right now - he came in, took Carina and I need someone here for Jo!" She said, already mentally planning what she needed to do, except she didn't know much - she didn't know where they'd gone or why he'd taken Carina or this man even was. 

 

"On it!" The response came back quickly, "Be there in three." 

 

"Okay Jo, Dr Hunt is going to come and stay with you until the police come. Can you stay here?" 

 

Jo silently nodded, her eyes far away as she continued to rock. 

 

Maya stood up and took a deep breath before walking back out of the office and running down the hallway. She needed to get to Carina, now. 

 

 

Carina was shaking with fear, eyes staring down the barrel of a gun as the man yelled at her, his own hand shaking as he spoke. 

 

"Mr Clark - please," Carina begged. 

 

"Shut up - no talking," He barked back, jutting the gun further forward. "I'm in charge. You killed my daughter!" He yelled. 

 

"You killed her and you killed my granddaughter! A father looks after his kids but I didn't! I left them in the hands of you - I wasn't a father then, to trust their lives with you! But I will be now!" 

 

"Mr Clark - I couldn't save them, nobody could have saved them," Carina said, doing her best to hold herself together, the fear running through her body doing a good job, she felt frozen, so much so it was like her body wouldn't even allow itself to shut down. 

 

"Stop talking!" He screamed, tears beginning to fall. "What kind of hospital is this?! It isn't safe here!" 

 

"I'm sorry," Carina said, her eyes glassing over as she began to accept her fate. "I tried to do everything I could and you're right, it wasn't good enough. I'm a human being, I'm flawed, I make mistakes - we all are. You want justice, you want somebody to pay - you're a good father Mr Clark I can see it in your eyes," She said, trying to talk the man out of what he was going to do, her hands still shaking and her blood running cold. 

 

That was until a small strand of hope ignited in her stomach - that strand of hope coming in the form of her girlfriend who was slowly and silently walking towards them, Mr Clark unaware of her entrance. 

 

A few moments ago...

 

Maya was still running through the hospital but this place was a maze, despite knowing where she was going, to certain degree, knowing where the gunman had taken Carina was an entirely different matter. She could be anywhere in the building. 

 

She was beginning to feel sick to her stomach, her head and heart pounding as she tried to think of a logical solution. She was a problem solver, she could fix this. She had to fix it. 

 

She kept running until she stopped. Shouts. She could hear shouting, she quickly turned left and kept running, the same pace as she did in last lap of the Olympics, if not faster. She followed the noises finding herself in almost the exact same place as she started - the walkway. Just before she would walk through the entrance she slowed her movements and ducked into a supply closet, wanting to be as quiet as possible. 

 

"Bishop for Prescott," She called through the radio. 

 

"What have you got?" 

 

"I have eyes on the gunman," she said, keeping her eyes trained on the walkway through the glass. 

 

"What's the location?" 

 

"Walkway atrium - west side of the building. He currently has a woman held at gunpoint Brown jacket, blue jeans." 

 

"SWAT is on their way - I'm sending them to your location. Do not engage!" 

 

"Sorry Sir - but that hostage is my girlfriend so no can do." Maya replied, before switching off the radio, leaving it the supply closet and slipping back out into the hall to go and save Carina. 

 

She was thankful that the entryway doors to the atrium were already open, meaning she wouldn't make any noise when entering. She locked eyes with the brunette, her heart breaking as she saw the pain and fear behind them - she put a finger to her lips, indicating for Carina to not acknowledge her presence, then moved her two hands in a horizontal spinning motion meaning: keep him talking. 

 

"She was my everything!" Mr Clark yelled. "She was my only child and you took her from me! You took my daughter and my granddaughter and I will never get to see them again!" 

 

Carina's eyes landed on two spilt coffees on the ground and bunch of roses, petals splattered across the white tiles as she tried to keep her emotions at bay as the gun was jutted awards her once again. 

 

"I'm so sorry Mr Clark," Carina cried, tears beginning to fall - the same tears she'd tried to hold in the entire time but they'd reached their breaking point, she was so scared. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. 

 

Everything that happened in the next three seconds felt like a flick of a switch, one minute there was gun pointing towards her head the next Maya had kicked Mr Clark in the back of his knees while simultaneously putting her hand on the chamber, her other forcing his wrist inwards forcing the gun to move away from Carina - she followed all those movements up by elbowing him in the chest, his body collapsing to the ground as Maya wrestled the gun from his grip...

 

Then Carina's world felt like it had crashed when two shots went off followed by her own scream...