Chapter 1: I Studied You With Hunger
Serena Campbell couldn’t remember the last time she’d found herself doing this.
Not analysing, deciphering, dissecting - just watching. She shook her head and berated herself before her attention slipped yet again and her eyes were drawn back to where they were before.
Possibly because she wasn’t just watching - in her mind that implied purpose which, well, she had none, and yet she couldn’t stop doing it. In fact, to anyone else who might be bearing witness, they might have ventured so far as to say that she was staring.
The subject of her attention chose that particular instant to demonstrate a point to an F1 by standing up and leaning forward. The loose lines of standard issue scrubs did nothing to flatter anyone’s figure but Serena was certain she could almost make out the contoured outline of a waist under the thin blue fabric just before it started flaring out under the elastic of the matching bottoms. The body shifted and bent over to pick something off the floor and this time there was no mistaking the clear definition of firm rounded muscle as the material of the bottoms clung tautly across the slim hips.
Staring was in grave danger of being upgraded to ogling if she continued and she pulled her gaze away in reflex. Serena searched for a distraction and the flashing notification on her screen caught her attention. Perfect. An email from Hansen was just what she needed to restore her focus. Before she read it, she couldn’t help but sneak another peek but she could no longer find what she was looking at before.
Ah well. All the better for concentrating on the mountain of paperwork in her intray. She sighed as she hit send on the reply to Hansen and pulled the first file off the top of the precarious pile. Still…
“Ms Wolfe, I’m not sure to do with Miss Murgatroyd in bay 3. She’s still not responding to the infusion and I’ve done the bloods and enzymes and they’ve all come back normal. Nothing makes any sense and I don’t…” Morven stopped short in her spiel when she realised that she had possibly been talking to herself for the past minute. Bernie looked a million miles away, her eyes pinned on something across the room. The young doctor followed her gaze, hazarding a guess that something out of the ordinary was holding her attention. Her eyes narrowed in confusion because there was nothing there. Well, nothing except the impressive pile of paperwork sitting on her desk mirroring a marginally shorter stack perched in front of Ms Campbell and it was a well know fact that Bernie Wolfe avoided reports and spreadsheets at every turn. She would have just given up and slunk away but she really didn’t know what to do next.
The head finally jerked in her direction. Morven couldn’t help but notice the slightly unfocused look on the older woman’s face. “Everything all right?”
Bernie blinked as she chastised herself for letting her concentration slip. The mantle of keeping calm, cool and carrying on had worn thin of late and it was growing thinner with each passing day.
“Yes, Morven. You were saying…?”
The young doctor had barely opened her mouth to repeat herself when all hell broke loose. The usual sounds on the ward - voices murmuring, the rumble of casters as carts skittered their way around the beds, the hum of various machines - were suddenly obliterated by a loud cacophony of shrill beeps. Morven jumped slightly before her training kicked in and she headed for the bed nearest to them. Bernie’s eyes swivelled immediately round the ward trying to pinpoint the source of the sound. Or, to be exact, sounds because every alarm in AAU seemed to have gone off simultaneously.
Voices were now audible above the din as murmurs were upgraded to chattering. Fletch and Raf were making attempts to calm the patients whilst checking the monitors and reassuring themselves that the alarms must be a technical glitch because half a dozen patients could not possibly be crashing all at once.
Bernie was still deciding what to do when she felt a presence a split second before she heard the voice that belonged to it and the tension in her head was immediately halved.
“What’s the hell is going on?”
“Yes, Henrik, I promise, hand on my heart, that I will let you know if anything changes.” Serena sighed as she put the receiver down for what seemed like the hundredth time of the day. She drew a deep breath and told herself that she should be grateful it wasn’t a more difficult conversation. The malfunctions in the heart and respiratory monitors were reversed within fifteen minutes and there were fortunately no casualties from the brief drama other than a few frazzled nerves.
She looked across the ward, smiling to herself as she remembered how seamlessly the team had worked together and stayed calm throughout. Bernie had decided straightaway that her skills were best served organising the troops while Serena used her legendary powers of persuasion to get maintenance down to AAU.
That last cheeky addition by Bernie earned her a mock glare and a swat on the shoulder but her co-lead didn’t seem to mind, judging from the smile on her face at the time. Serena’s concentration slipped again at the memory of that smile. The way her lips thinned and quivered as she tried not to let on that she was amused. The darkening of her eyes with mirth. How the corner of her mouth eventually twitched upwards and gave her away in the end.
Fletch’s voice pulled her back from her reverie.
“You all right?”
Serena’s eyebrow lifted quizzically.
“Never better, now that armageddon has been averted for another day. Why?”
Fletch paused, wondering if it was too late to change the topic. “No, nothing. Just checking in.” He started pulling the door shut behind him when Serena’s voice froze him in place. More to the point, it was the tone of her voice that changed his mind.
He pushed the door open again and stepped into the office.
"Out with it.” Serena’s expression made it crystal clear that she was not in a mood for beating around the bush.
“You seem somewhat distracted lately.” Serena’s eyebrow rose a little further, inviting him to elaborate. “And we’ve…”
He barely stopped himself from flinching at the crispness of that single syllable but forged ahead. “Raf and I are just concerned that you might be a little stressed out at the moment.”
“Am I now? Would you care to enlighten me on how the two of you came to that conclusion?” Serena’s voice would have put diamond cutting through glass to shame.
Fletch sighed as he clicked the door shut behind him. “Look Serena, you’ve got a lot on your plate with the ward, the trauma bay and Jason. He can be a lot to take on at times.”
“I’m well aware of how wonderfully challenging my lovely nephew can be but I’ve got it all under control. So thank you for your concern.” Serena started to turn her attention back to the screen in front of her before stopping short. “Why all this sudden interest in my well being?”
“Serena, you were either distracted or in need of an audiology assessment because I had to call out three times before you heard me.”
“Cheeky.” Serena grumped back with a smile, hoping that the flush of embarrassment at being caught wasn’t showing on her face.
“And that’s exactly why you love me. And remember, the offer’s always open. Unless,” the corners of his eyes crinkled as he grinned,”it’s something girly. I’m sure Morven won’t mind. Or Bernie.”
The door clicked shut behind him but Serena hardly noticed his exit.
Serena squeezed her eyes shut with a sigh. Somehow she couldn’t imagine having that conversation with Bernie would make anything better. Not in a thousand years.
Chapter 2: These Are Very Secret Days
The door clanged shut behind her but she barely noticed the noise. Bernie made her way to her usual spot - was it sad that she had been up here so often she had a usual spot? - and plonked down on the concrete ledge. This had to stop. She was losing sleep, her concentration and possibly her mind over a fantastical notion.
She paused for a moment, wondering if she was being overly dramatic.
Fantastical was more than appropriate considering how she was feeling at the moment. One minute her mind was sharp as a razor, dissecting the information from a patient’s scan and making a mental list of the tests she was going to order and in a fraction of a second it had turned into putty. All because her eyes happened to land in the direction of a familiar head bent over a patient in bay six. Heaven help her if the face was actually looking in her direction. The soft shine of the dark brown hair - ending just short of the nape of a slender neck - in contrast to the alabaster sheen of her skin was enough to distract her attention from everything else in the room. She found herself wondering how soft the hair was and how her fingers would feel running through it. Whether the skin on that neck was just as smooth and how it would feel against her lips.
A cart had bumped loudly against the bed frame closest to the nurses’ station and the distraction had pulled Bernie’s mind away from meandering down that dangerous path just in time. That was why, five minutes later, she found herself squinting into the sunshine surrounded by concrete fixtures and heating ducts.
“We really have to stop meeting like this.”
A wry smile formed on her face even before she turned and their eyes met.
“Visiting the graveyard?”
Dom shrugged as he answered. “I’m sure we’d have enough to build a nice shrine in that corner if we did a collection.” He dropped his timbre and spoke gruffly in a rough approximation of David Attenborough. ”And here, in the wild plains of Holby City’s rooftop, we see the scattered remains of generations of medics’ hopes and dreams. Abandon hope all ye who dare approach.”Bernie’s honk of laughter was infectious and it set Dom off. It wasn’t long before the two of them were bent over in fits of uncontrollable giggles. Bernie wiped the corner of her eyes as her face eventually straightened. Dom’s expression followed suit and they sat quietly for a moment staring into empty space.
“Hopes and dreams come up here to die, eh?” Bernie murmured, breaking the silence.
“Ms Wolfe-” He started to speak before Bernie held up a finger to stop him.
“On this roof we’re Bernie and Dom.”
He paused for a moment before nodding and hoping that his expression didn’t betray the little dance his insides was performing at the moment.
Bernie smiled as she took in the blatantly chuffed expression on Dom’s face. “So, what have you brought to the shrine today?”
“Same old stuff."
“Which old stuff? There’s so much to choose from.”
“Ouch. Fifteen love.” He pretended to be offended but the grin on his face gave him away immediately. “Okay, okay… personal, not work this time.“ The grin faded before the last word left his mouth as he angled his face away.
Bernie tilted her head in concern. “Dom?”
He waved a hand with an air of flippant resignation. “It’s nothing. Isaac had to cancel on dinner and it’s all a bit last minute, that’s all.”
“Dominic?” Bernie’s tone made it clear that she knew it was a lame excuse.
She watched him heave a huge sigh before turning to face her. “He’s got a lot on his plate at the moment and probably didn’t have the time in the first place.”
“I take it this isn’t the first time he’s changed dinner plans?”
Dom’s eyes slid onto the grey concrete of the rooftop. “We’ve been out for a couple of drinks at Albie’s but something keeps coming up every time we’ve talked about dinner.”
Bernie had an instinctive reply at the tip of her tongue but the look on Dom’s face made her hold back. “Does he know?”
“Does he know what?”
“How much you wanted to have dinner with him.” The tone of Bernie’s voice made it clear that the conversation had moved on from Dom and Isaac sharing a meal.
“I don’t think he sees me as anything more than a work colleague.” His lips twisted into a bitter smile.
Bernie snorted and rolled her eyes. “You’re not that good, Dr Copeland.”
“Good at what?”
“He’d have to be blind not to notice the puppy eyes and glow.” Bernie held up a hand to stop his rebuttal, “and no, it’s not the moisture mask.”
The remark earned her a chuckle and the young man’s face brightened up significantly. “I’ll just need to practise harder, I guess.”
“That’s the spirit.”
They shared a smile which Dom noticed didn’t quite reach Bernie’s eyes. “Enough about me. What about you?”
“I assume you’re not up here for the scenery, so...feel like sharing?”
Bernie’s head tilted as she considered his offer for a fraction of a second. It would be refreshing to give her thoughts an outlet instead of having them pinballing inside her head. She was about to open her mouth to speak when the squeaky voice of reason stopped her. What was there to talk to Dom about? She herself didn’t really know why she was behaving the way she had been. Bernie Wolfe had always prided herself on being logical, sensible and pragmatic even in times of great crisis. These qualities were in grave danger of being washed away by the self-indulgent fantasies she’d been entertaining in greater and greater frequency of late.
“Bernie?” The sound of Dom’s voice made her realise that she had stayed silent a little too long.
“Thanks for the offer but I just needed to clear my head.”
He was about to protest when a loud chime interrupted. He fumbled the pockets of his hoodie and finally retrieved a phone. Bernie could just about see the name plastered across the top of the screen and held her breath. Dom’s face changed from anxious to smiling brightly in the space of two seconds.
“I take it dinner’s back on?” Bernie teased.
He nodded, barely able to restrain his excitement. “The elective he was scheduled for cancelled and we both finish in half an hour.”
“Well, what are you waiting for? Go get ‘em, tiger.” She punctuated the sentence with a gentle punch to his shoulder.
Dom’s footsteps faded rapidly as he raced his way off the roof and Bernie was pleased, both for him and the for reprieve of the distraction from their conversation. The downside was that the persistent images that she came up here to shake off were gradually creeping back into her mind. Bernie squeezed her eyes shut, as if that would stop their relentless march, knowing it was futile before she even started.
Serena bloody Campbell, of all people.
It was early days but Bernie recognised the symptoms - you’d think she would know better by now - and the effect it was having on her ability to concentrate on anything other than Serena when they were within a ten-foot radius of each other. The only silver lining on this cloud was that her prior, painful experience with Alex meant that she had picked this up early. There was a glimmer of hope of keeping her feelings platonic and, yes, it would require a great deal of caffeine and discipline, but she could make it work.
She had to.
Bernie didn’t know if she could survive losing Serena’s friendship.
Chapter 3: The Work You Do
Serena sighed with relief as she scrawled her signature on the last scrap of paper in the folder and fell back into her chair. There would no doubt be more of the same come Monday morning but for now she could put triplicate forms and inventory reports out of her mind and, she mused as she shoved that last piece of paper into the bulging folder it originated from, out of her sight. There were still ten minutes left of her shift and unless the red phone of doom sounded, she would soon be on her way home. Not just home, but to a house that was to be blissfully empty for an entire weekend. Jason and Alan were away to something called (she had no idea what it was but the weeks of Jason talking about it meant that the words had been seared into her memory for as long as the ticket had been plastered on the door of the refrigerator) MCM Comicon. She loved her nephew dearly and couldn’t imagine her life without him but she was looking forward to some time to herself.
The door to the office stuttered open a few inches and stopped. Serena looked up and was greeted by the sight of a scrub-clad shoulder propping the door open whilst a blonde head muttered curses as she struggled to keep a large pile of folders from falling out of her arms.
Serena was out of her chair in an instant, relieving half the stack from Bernie’s arms before it ended up scattered on to the floor.
“My pleasure.” Serena couldn’t help sweeping her eyes across the front of the top folder. “Admissions and discharge reports? And I thought I was slacking.”
“I was planning to get round to them next week. Top of my list of things to do.”
“I’m sure they were. After all, your penchant for paperwork is well-renowned is it not, Ms Wolfe?” Serena’s lips curled in mild amusement.
The look of mock indignation on Bernie’s face quickly transformed into an embarrassed smile.
“Well, you know what they say about payback being a bitch,” she muttered as she dropped the rest of the pile on her desk, “and at least I now have plans for the weekend.”
Serena allowed her eyes to settle on the flushed face of her co-lead as she plopped herself down onto her seat.
“Yes, well, Hanssen suggested it might be an idea that I got these signed off before the weekend. In case they turned into a fire hazard.”
Serena’s raised eyebrow invited her to elaborate.
“I had set them aside momentarily in the records room until I found the time to complete them.”
“These are from a month ago.” Serena’s eyes flicked onto the topmost file to confirm the date.
“It’s been busy,” Bernie protested. And it’s not easy to sit in this office doing paperwork when you’ve been distracting me.
“It does look like you have your work cut out.” Serena pulled her gaze away before she started staring again. Just before she did, she couldn’t help but linger a second longer. Bernie looked as if someone had stolen her puppy and Serena’s heart melted a little more. She formed the next words carefully in her head before she spoke.
“Jason’s away with Alan the whole weekend.”
Bernie looked up at her in mild confusion at the non sequitur. Serena took the opportunity to plough forward. “I was looking forward to getting a curry, going home and not leaving the house for the next forty eight hours, but I might be convinced to change my plan. First port of call and all that…”
Serena could almost hear the cogs turning in Bernie’s mind as she contemplated an appropriate response.
“No. Serena, I couldn’t ask…”
“You’re not asking. I’m offering.”
“Are you sure?”
The brunette couldn’t help having the last word. “No, I must be turning daft, so pass me over some of that before I change my mind.”
“I can’t believe that’s the last of it.” Bernie groaned as she shoved the final folder into the box next to her feet.
“Well begun is half done, so they say.” Serena’s eyes sparkled teasingly in spite of the clear fatigue written all over her face.
“Thank you, Mary Poppins.”
“Fine way to thank a friend who’s given up her Friday night to bail you out of paperwork hell.”
Bernie’s face stretched into a wide grin. “What would I do without my very own action woman?”
They burst into laughter simultaneously.
“I don’t know about you but I think we should get out of here before anything else comes up.”
Bernie pulled Serena’s coat off the coat hanger and handed it to her before working her arms into the sleeves of her own. “Home?”
“Yes, via a Tesco Express I imagine, judging from the time.”
Bernie’s eyes slid towards the clock at the corner of her screen and was vaguely surprised at the lateness of the hour. It had seemed no time at all but she wasn’t shocked. Time had taken a strange Dr Who-in-the-Tardis-like quality since her head decided to be preoccupied with Serena Campbell.
“You know,” she offered hesitantly, “I learned how to make a pretty passable Qorma Lawand when I was in Afghanistan.” She concentrated on keeping her hands steady as she did up the buttons of her coat. “Do you want to…”
Serena couldn’t stop her heart from leaping a little at the idea of spending more time with Bernie but she hesitated before answering. “Are you sure that’s not too much work at this time of night?”
Bernie shook her head, barely able to stop herself grinning at the prospect that Serena might say yes. “I’ll only need a few things - chicken, yoghurt, coriander. I’ve got the rest of the ingredients in my spice rack.”
Serena’s eyebrow lifted, impressed. “A spice rack. This I have to see.”
“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Let’s see...trauma surgeon, army major and now cook extraordinaire. Is there anything you can’t do?” Serena paused, her eyes twinkling. She couldn’t resist having one last jibe. “Other than keeping up to date with paperwork, of course.”
Bernie wasn’t sure if the flush rising on her face was from the teasing or the sound of Serena’s voice, purring in its lowest register. She was convinced the brunette knew the precise effect of that husky timbre when she chose to use it, despite her numerous protestations in the past.
“Curry for paperwork is a fair trade, don’t you think?”
“Only if there’s a bottle of Shiraz thrown in as well.”
“Deal.” Bernie stretched an arm out and Serena gripped her hand in a firm shake. Their hands hung in midair, lingering for a fraction before pulling apart. “Now let’s leave before that bloody phone actually rings.”
Serena leaned across the desk to pick up her bag. Her fingers rubbed the palm of her hand absently - it was still tingling from the touch of Bernie’s skin and she couldn’t stop a small smile creeping onto her face. “Lead the way, Nigella.”
Serena turned towards the sound of her name and found a flustered Morven peeking her head through the open gap of the office door.
“Yes?” Serena dropped her pen and leaned back into her chair. The young woman had a vague look of terror on her face and folder clutched to her chest.
“I, uhmm…” the poor girl stammered as her fingertips picked nervously at a loose corner of the cardboard.
“What is it?” Serena pulled herself upright in her chair, her brow crinkling slightly in anticipation.
Morven took a huge breath before launching into her spiel. “Ms Campbell, I know I should have handed this in earlier but it was really busy and Miss Murgatroyd in bay three took a turn and I only remembered when I got home on Friday that-”
Serena put a hand up and it was as if someone threw a switch. The young woman froze straight away and stared wide-eyed at the bemused expression on Serena’s face.
“Now, why don’t you start again. Just this time, can we try not performing an impression of a Gatling gun?”
Morven winced as she finished her story a second time, fully expecting the tirade that would obviously follow. All she got was a nod and a request for the folder in her possession.
“There we are.” Serena thumbed through the file and soon found the appropriate page. She scrawled her signature on the obvious spot before flipping the cover shut. “Anything else?”
Morven shook her head and managed a limp smile as she all but grabbed the folder back. “No. Thank you, Ms Campbell.”
Serena flashed her a beaming smile before turning her attention back to the pile of paper on her desk.
Morven blinked once, then twice as she retreated and pulled the door to the consultants’ office shut behind her. Her pulse was slowing down and her ability to think was quickly recovering but it still felt surreal. Had her mistake actually not been as bad as she’d thought it was? It was either that or Serena Campbell had had a personality transplant over the weekend. She’d expected a lecture about proper record-keeping at the very least. It wasn’t that she wasn’t glad for the reprieve but she couldn’t help the spark of curiosity that had already started taking root in her head.
“Aye, right.” Raf snorted as he turned his attention back to the page he was reading.
“I’m not making this up,” Morven huffed as she settled onto the edge of the desk. “She actually smiled at me after all of that.”
“Who smiled at you?" Fletch sidled up, curiosity plastered all over his face.
“Morven thinks that Ms Campbell has gone soft.”
“No, but something’s just...” She paused, searching for the right word.
“Nae right?” Raf chipped in, a huge smirk on his face. It earned him a glare from Morven and a burst of laughter from Fletch. His laughter was infectious and soon all three of them were chuckling softly.
“So, Dr Digby, why do you think the boss has gone daft?” Fletch wiggled his eyebrows while grinning broadly.
“That’s not what I said. She was just smiling a lot even though I handed a patient discharge report in three days late.”
Raf and Fletch’s eyes widened impressively.
“You didn’t get the inquisition?”
Morven shook her head. Fletch opened his mouth to say something but stopped suddenly as an idea started forming in his head. “It all makes sense now.”
He scratched his head thoughtfully. “I might be completely off the mark but we may be on to something here.”
Morven and Raf leaned a little closer as Fletch started explaining.
“So, let’s summarise the evidence we have so far. She’s been distracted.” Morven looked to Fletch who nodded in confirmation. “She was practically fluffy with me over a report I should have handed in days ago and she’s smiling a lot .” She finished by emphasising the last word.
Fletch tilted his head in consideration for a moment before nodding in agreement and, by the look on his face, Raf had given up all interest on the page in front of him.
“So, you know what we need to do then?” she said.
Fletch frowned. “Ask her what’s up?”
“No!” Morven grinned gleefully. “Surreptitious science experiment!”
Raf’s brow crinkled in confusion. “Eh?”
Morven sighed impatiently. “We, Mr Di Lucca, are going to find out who or what is responsible for this transformation by observation and careful analysis.”
“I’m in.” Fletch replied without hesitation.
Raf grinned as he rubbed his hands together dramatically. “Count me in. So, when shall we three meet again?”
“Albie’s after shift.” Morven replied swiftly. “In the meantime, I’ll set up a file on Google Sheets for what we need to cover.”
Raf and Fletch exchanged looks of confusion before turning back to her.
“Just check your emails, gents.”
Serena brushed an imaginary speck of dust off her empty desk and she allowed herself a mental pat on the back. All her paperwork was up to date, emails answered, inbox cleared and it was just coming up to lunch time. She leaned back into her chair and smiled. It had been a while since her day had gone this smoothly - no frantic emergencies, no tedious red tape and no distractions from the staff.
Speaking of distractions...
The smile widened slightly as her mind meandered back to Friday night. The promised food was more than passable and Bernie had even managed procure an extremely decent bottle of Shiraz, despite the limited inventory of a Tesco Express. They enjoyed the meal in easy conversation, mostly about work but, to be honest, Serena would have been happy listening to Bernie reading out a telephone directory. There was something about the sound of the trauma surgeon’s voice that made the hairs on the back of her neck shiver.
Serena curled her fingers and brushed them along the palm of her hand. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment and she felt her skin tingle just as it had the last time Bernie touched her. The tingle grew into a thrum that gradually covered her chest before drifting downwards. A picture formed in her head, of blonde hair framing sculpted cheekbones, and an unruly fringe falling over the deepest, darkest, brownest eyes. Serena shook her head and pulled her thoughts back just in time as the thrum threatened to make her wriggle uncomfortably.
She mentally berated herself for allowing her thoughts to take this little excursion into daydream. Serena Campbell was too long in the tooth for adolescent fantasies, especially ones involving a colleague, a friend and - she took a nervous breath - a woman. But there was no mistaking the attraction she felt and she’d even said the word out loud just to hear how it sounded.
Serena Campbell. Lesbian.
Her lips formed a half smile at the thought. This was definitely one situation she couldn’t flirt her way out of. She was by no means a shrinking violet and she saw the symptoms for what they were. There was just the small matter of how she was ever going to get any work done when Bernie wasn’t in theatre, like she was today.
She heaved a sigh and pushed the conundrum to the back of her mind. She still had a ward to run and with Bernie otherwise occupied for the rest of the afternoon, she’d better check in with the troops. Serena pulled the office door shut behind her and made her way across to the nurses’ station. Morven was scribbling away frantically on a clipboard but stopped suddenly as Serena approached.
“Everything all right, Dr. Digby?”
The young woman nodded, a bright smile plastered across her face as she shoved the board under a pile of patient folders. Serena opened her mouth to ask what it was but swiftly changed her mind. She decided that, on this occasion, it was probably better not to know.
Everyone likes a bit of hilarity right? :)
Chapter 5: Mind The Mind's Eye Trickery
“Give me a second to set this up…” Morven pulled her tablet out of her bag and tapped on the screen, bringing up the appropriate app. She flicked through the spreadsheet for a moment to check that everything had updated before turning to Fletch and Raf.
“So gents, what’ve we got?”
“I started filling in the chart but that RTC came in and it was busy till the end of shift so...” Raf shifted as he pulled his phone out of a pocket, “...here’s the last two.”
Morven glanced on the screen and nodded. She updated the information onto her tablet before turning to the nurse.
Fletch gave the two doctors an embarrassed look before rummaging in the pocket of his coat. He smiled when he finally found what he was looking for. “I couldn’t make head nor tail of what you sent but I have it on paper.” He produced a crumpled piece of A4 and straightened it out as best as he could before handing it over to Morven. “What? Nothing beats good old fashioned paper, right?”
Raf chuckled as Morven rolled her eyes. She extracted the piece of paper from his hand and it took less than a minute for her to complete the task of transferring the information onto her spreadsheet before plonking the completed results on the middle of the table with a flourish.
“So...” Raf craned his neck eagerly as Fletch squinted at the screen. “What’s the verdict?”
“It’s a little more complicated than that.” Morven sighed impatiently. “I need to analyse the results and run the statistical…” She paused as she noticed the confused look her companions had exchanged.
“We must have something?”
“Well, I think it’s safe to say it’s a who rather than a what, judging from the fact that nothing out the ordinary happened on the ward today.”
Raf’s ears pricked up immediately at the suggestion. “Do you think Robbie the Bobbie’s back in the scene?”
“Or maybe Edward’s been singing REO Speedwagon at her again?” Fletch hazarded a guess which earned him a groan from Raf and a swat on the shoulder from Morven.
A short burst of cold air drifted in their direction and distracted them as the door to Albie’s opened and a familiar figure clad in her trademark skinny black jeans strode towards the bar and mounted a stool.
“I’m getting an idea.” Raf’s eyes lit up immediately.
“Go on then.”
Raf tilted his head in the direction of the bar. “I see a golden opportunity for some insider knowledge.”
“That’s it Mr Di Lucca, the next round’s on you.” Bernie smiled as the young surgeon dropped his head with a groan. “You made the rules, not me…”
“No arguments there Ms Wolfe.” He got up and made for the bar. As soon as he was out of her eye line, he winked at Fletch and Morven and nodded his head urgently in Bernie’s direction.
“So, Ms Wolfe-” Morven started, her voice a little stringy.
“Bernie, please.” She shifted her gaze between Morven and Fletch. “What’s this about?”
Morven’s nervousness faded as she continued. “We’re conducting a scientific experiment and we’re wondering if you might be able to help.”
Bernie set her tumbler back onto the table and leaned back into her seat. “I’m intrigued.”
Raf reappeared at that moment and set the tray of drinks back on the table. “What did I miss?”
“Nothing, Mr Di Lucca. You’re just in time for the big reveal, it seems. You were saying, Morven?”
Morven’s smile wavered slightly before she answered. “We’ve been trying to find out what’s been distracting Ms Campbell.”
Bernie froze momentarily at Serena’s name.
Fletch took the silence to mean that Bernie was interested in their plan and carried on. “She’s a little out of sorts lately and we think there’s something going on.”
“Possibly a new man in her life,” Morven chipped in before Raf interjected. “Or, maybe Robbie’s back on the scene.”
Bernie’s mouth went dry at the thought that her imaginings weren’t just fantastical but now on the brink of being practically impossible. She took in the three faces that were staring back at her expectantly and somehow found her voice. “I don’t see how I can help.”
“You’re friends with Ms Campbell. Maybe she’s mentioned something about who she’s been seeing?”Bernie shook her head. Her mind was whirring through the possibilities even as the knot in her stomach grew in size. “What makes you think it’s something romantic that has her preoccupied?”
Fletch answered immediately with a smirk on his face. “I’ve known Serena long enough to recognise that look on her face. And I can tell you that it’s not extra funding or a budget report.”
Bernie seemed fascinated by the grain of the tabletop. “So what did you want my help with?”
“Well, we were thinking that you could help us with your insider knowledge and reconnaissance.”
“Me?” She only just managed to avoid the single word coming out as a pained squeak.
“You share an office so, you know, front row seat and all,” Raf added.
Morven shoved her tablet towards Bernie. “We’ve got a list set up to gather the data but we haven’t got anything conclusive yet.”
Bernie flicked her eyes between her companions. “I’m starting to think that you three have far too much time on your hands. And, no, you can keep me out of this.”
“But you won’t tell Ms Campbell will you?” Morven’s face creased in anticipation.
Bernie paused a moment as if she were considering her answer before making a gesture of sealing her lips and throwing away the key. “You have my word.”
Serena had already started her rounds by the time Bernie stepped out of the locker room. The ward wasn’t busy but Bernie knew that could all change in an instant and she should check on all of her patients before that happened. The conversation the night before did make her wonder - was Serena seeing someone? Surely she would have said something to Bernie. No, Morven, Raf and Fletch must have just been imagining it all.
Bernie looked up and at that very instant caught Serena staring into the space behind her with a distracted look on her face. It lasted two, possibly three seconds at most before her eyes met Bernie’s and she smiled. Bernie managed a weak smile in return and averted her gaze immediately. She now understood what Fletch meant about ‘the look’ and it felt like she had been intruding on a private moment. Her chest tightened further and and a gnawing feeling started to work its way up from her stomach before it stuck like a lump in her throat.
With a muffled curse, she deliberately shelved her whirling thoughts. She was here to do a job, not moon over her hopelessly straight co-lead. It was about time she remembered that.
Chapter 6: Turning Up My Collar To an Unseasonal Chill
“Shall we try and leave on time tonight? Jason doesn’t like it when his dinner is late and I still need to get something from the shops,” Serena said, glancing over her coffee as soon she heard Bernie entering the office.
Bernie stopped short and winced internally. She’d almost forgotten about tonight. Ever since the revelation at Albie’s her mind had been preoccupied between being sorry for herself and fighting off the green-eyed monster at the thought of Serena being with someone else. The dinner was supposed to be a thank-you for Bernie’s efforts last Friday.
“Uhmm...I think I may have to cancel,” Bernie mumbled. With her current state of mind, she didn’t trust herself to be able to be in close proximity with Serena for that length of time. Even with Jason as chaperone.
“But Jason will be so disappointed.” Serena had to bite her tongue before she added how much she had been looking forward to spending time with Bernie. She wasn’t absolutely sure she wouldn’t blush if she did
“Tell him I’m sorry but some other time, perhaps.”
Serena frowned. “Everything all right?”
“Yes, yup… something’s just come up last minute and I couldn’t say no.” The non-excuse sounded even more pathetic out loud than it had in her head.
Serena quirked an eyebrow. Bernie was clearly uncomfortable about something but she knew better than to ask outright. Perhaps her co-lead would loosen up with a bit of banter.
Serena had expected a glare or at the very least an eye roll. What she didn’t expect was the sight of Bernie’s face flushing pink immediately.
The mention of a date rattled the floodgates holding in her emotions and Bernie knew she had to end this conversation before she said something to embarrass herself. “Well, uhmm...right. I’ll see you in theatre in a bit.” She had barely finished the last word before she dashed out the door
Serena found herself staring at thin air and pursed her lips in consternation. So, Bernie had a date. A strange feeling grew in her chest, a mixture of disappointment and something else. She told herself that she was just annoyed by Bernie blowing hot and cold, but that little voice in her head squeaked in protest. It had been a long time since anyone made her feel this way and admitting what it was was like putting on a pair of shoes she hadn’t worn for a while. Uncomfortable, but not unfamiliar.
She was jealous.
Serena shook her head and tried to concentrate on the pile of paperwork in front of her but all her brain seemed to want to do was make a mental list of who this mystery date could be. She sighed, knowing that this was going to be a long day after all.
“It must be contagious.” Fletch sighed glumly as he leaned up against the desk at the nurses’ station.
“What is?” Morven replied as she continued typing on her tablet.
“Whatever it is that’s distracting Ms Campbell.”
Morven frowned. “How do you mean?”
“I was in theatre with her and Bernie earlier and she’s almost as bad as Serena. The anaesthetist had to practically repeat every word he said to her and Serena, well…”
Morven looked up, her interest in the tablet all but abandoned. “What did she do?”
“I’ve never seen her fumble about so much in a surgery. It’s a good thing she could have performed it with her eyes closed because it would have been tragic if it weren’t so funny.”
“What did Bernie have to say about it?”
Fletch’s forehead creased as he racked his brain. “Funnily enough, she hardly said anything at all. She just kept staring at Serena.”
“No banter?” Morven’s eyebrows raised in surprise. It was always a joy to watch the two consultants plying their trade because they made it look so easy. It was as if it wasn’t complicated, life saving surgery they were performing but just two friends having a chat over tea and biscuits.
The nurse shook his head. “Nope. Serena was mostly avoiding eye contact with Bernie and you could cut the tension with a knife. Believe me, it was not a happy theatre.”
The door to AAU opened and Morven and Fletch stopped talking as the subjects of their discussion entered the ward and strode towards them.
“We’ll be in the office if anyone needs us.” Serena’s tone was terse and Bernie looked grim. The pair nodded silently as the two consultants stormed their way into their office.
“Would you like to tell me what the hell is the matter with you?” Serena muttered before the door even closed completely.
“Me? What’s that supposed to mean?” Bernie snapped back instantly.
“I’m not the one who needed everything repeated back to me twice back in theatre.”
Bernie snorted as she reacted instinctively. “Pot calling the kettle black? It was a good thing we didn’t run out of instruments before you dropped them all.”
“Says the woman who’s so out of it because she’s been preoccupied the entire day with,” Serena sputtered as she searched for the right words, “a hot date.”
Bernie should have been confused by what Serena meant but she was on an emotional roll.
“At least I haven’t been going about with my head in the clouds.” She paused as Serena gave her a confused look. “You know what I’m talking about. Everyone on the ward knows you’ve been distracted and we all know why that is, don’t we?”
Serena froze and heat rose from her neck up to her cheeks as she took in what Bernie had said. Was she that obvious? And from Bernie’s behaviour today, was it her way of letting her down easy? She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. Hell would freeze over before she allowed herself to be humiliated like that.
“Well, Ms Wolfe, I’m so sorry my inconvenient feelings have embarrassed you.”
Serena pulled her gaze away from Bernie and practically wrenched the handle of the door off as she stormed out of the room. Bernie stood open-mouthed as her head struggled to catch with the jumble of emotions whirling inside her. Serena was a proud woman but her reaction was unexpected even by her standards. She must be really serious about this mystery man, Bernie decided. Nothing else could explain the vehemence of her outburst. The knot in Bernie’s stomach grew with the realisation that she’d never be able to have what she wanted more than anything in the world.
Chapter 7: The Foolish Thrill
The return of the three amigos (witches)!
AAU was a well oiled machine. Yes, it was chaotic at times but even in the worst emergencies it was organised chaos and everyone went about their job with confidence and ease. There simply wasn’t time to tiptoe about and dither when there were lives to save. Not until now, anyway.
The ward was relatively quiet for once and there weren’t any surgeries scheduled for the day. This was normally a good thing but today it meant that both Serena and Bernie were spending their shifts on the ward the entire day. Usually, this was an opportunity for the both of them to shut themselves in the office and plough through the never-ending stream of paperwork that was part and parcel of the NHS. Except that the two women seemed to be going out their way to avoid each other today.
The sight of Serena entering the consultants’ office pulled Raf’s attention away from the report he was reading. They were only two hours into the shift but he could predict what would happen next. Just like clockwork - like the last three times that morning - Bernie practically flew out of the office and headed towards the nurses’ station.
“Everything all right here?” she asked crisply, her eyes darting across the surface of the glass countertop as if she was looking for something to focus on.
“No change since the last time you checked, Ms Wolfe.” Raf was about to add just twenty minutes ago but decided that Bernie was probably not in a mood for cheek.
“Good, good... I’ll just go, uhm, check on the obs for Mr Smith in bay three.” She nodded and strode towards that corner of the ward, narrowly missing Fletch who had to swerve to avoid crashing into her.
“What’s that all about?” He pointed his thumb back in Bernie’s direction before dropping into the seat next to Raf.
“Your guess is as good as mine. Mr Smith must think there’s something we’re not telling him from the number of obs he’s been getting today.”
Fletch tilted his head thoughtfully. “Better him than us.”
“What do you mean, mate?”
“You weren’t here earlier when those two,” he waved a hand between Bernie and the figure of Serena hunched over her paperwork, “were forced to speak to each other.”
“Was it that bad?”
“I was looking for a shovel to dig a trench to hide in. Everyone on the ward is afraid to take a breath in case it sets one of them off,” Fletch replied with a wry grin.
The door to the office banged shut again and Morven exited, her arms full of cardboard folders. She scurried over to the two men and dropped the folders down on a level surface the moment she could.
“Just kill me now,” she sighed miserably.
“What have you got?”
“My cases from the past three months. Ms Campbell decided that it’d be a good time to do a clinical audit and pointed out that these needed tidying up.”
Raf flipped the cover of the top folder open and read the note on a fluorescent yellow post-it attached to the page. “She’s correcting your grammar?” Raf only stopped chuckling when Morven punched him in the shoulder.
The young doctor sighed glumly. “I think we’ve broken mum and mum.”
Fletch stretched as he got out of his seat. “We’d better find a way to fix it because there aren’t going to be enough bays in AAU for all of us.”
The afternoon was a slight improvement over the morning but only because Bernie was called up to Keller for a consult. Some time later, Serena emerged from the office and muttered to Fletch that she was off to Pulses to get some coffee.
Raf and Morven (and probably the rest of the ward) breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Morven propped a hand up on her chin as she leaned up against the counter of the nurses’ station. “This has to stop. What do we do now?
“You’re the one with the fancy spreadsheet. Tell us what we’ve got.” Fletch answered.
“Well, taking today out of the equation, we’ve got six instances of staring into blank spaces and two of excessive smiling.”
“We could do with some of that just now,” Raf muttered.
“So, we’re no further into finding out this mystery fella is.”
Morven shrugged her shoulders. “No, but why would Ms Campbell and Ms Wolfe fall out over it?”
The doors of the lift opened just at that moment and Dom stepped out of it, hands deep in the pockets of his scrubs and heading straight for them.
“What have you done?” he demanded as he leaned up against a corner of the desk.
“What?” Fletch’s brow knitted in confusion.
Dom quirked an eyebrow. “Really?”
“What are you on about Dr Copeland?”
He answered by sighing dramatically. “I’ve just spent the last three hours assisting Bernie Wolfe in what should have been an hour long surgery.” He paused before emphasizing the last two words, “at most.”
“Complications?” Raf asked.
“No. Unless you consider a possible alien abduction which transformed her from a world class trauma surgeon to a grumpy woman with the attention span of a goldfish a complication.”
Morven buried her face in her hands in misery. “This is all my fault.”
Dom frowned curiously. “What is?”
“We were trying to figure out what had been distracting Serena and, well, decided that roping Bernie in was a good idea,” Raf said.
“I probably made them fall out with that stupid idea.” Morven pulled her face out of her palms, muttering despondently.
“We were all in it so equal blame all round.” Raf smiled ruefully as Fletch nodded in agreement.
“What did the three of you do?”
Morven dug under a pile of files for her tablet and handed it over to Dom. He scanned the information for a few minutes before looking up triumphantly. “You’ve been trying to find the person distracting Ms Campbell.”
All three heads nodded simultaneously.
“And you can’t see the obvious link?” Dom groaned at the blank faces staring back. “Must I do all the work around here?” He grabbed a piece of paper and scrawled a circle on the middle of it. “Now, you’ve got Serena being distracted here.” He drew another circle overlapping the first one. “And Bernie over here.” He finished off by shading in the intersecting area with his pen. “So, it’s obvious what we have, isn’t it?”
Raf peered for a moment before answering. “A Venn diagram?”
Dom rolled his eyes so hard they nearly fell out of his head.
“Are you saying what I’m thinking?” Morven’s voice grew excited.
Fletch’s expression cleared up instantly as a huge smile spread across his face. “I think it’s time we go bang two heads together.”
Morven sneaked a peek at the consultants’ office as Serena entered and settled into her chair. She looked on nervously as Serena sifted through her mail before pausing as she extracted a single sheet of folded paper from the pile.
A shrill sound from the phone next to her made her jump and distracted her attention momentarily. When she looked up again, Serena was leaving the office and walking towards the open doors of the lift. She could only be heading to one place, if things were going as planned.
It was Fletch who came up with the idea to leave both Bernie and Serena identical notes, purportedly from each other, inviting the other woman up to the roof.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Morven chewed her lip, a worried look on her face.
“Fletch is right,” Raf replied. “That’s the only the two of them are going to sort this out. Unless you want every day on AAU to be like today?”
The three of them stared at each other for a second. The idea of Bernie and Serena circling each other like wounded lions and making the entire ward miserable in the process brought them to consensus immediately.
“Right, notes it is then. What should they say?” Morven asked.
“Has to be direct,” Raf suggested. “No point beating about the bush.”
“How about...” Fletch waved a finger in the air. “This is getting ridiculous. We’re both grown-ups. Meet me on the roof, we need to talk ?”
Morven and Raf had executed their best form of the infamous doctors’ handwriting, hoping they vaguely resembled Bernie and Serena’s, before Fletch sneaked the notes into the consultants’ office after both their bosses left (separately) for coffee half an hour ago.
Now all they could do was wait to see if their little plan worked.
Bernie fingered the note in the pocket of her hoodie one more time. Part of her was glad that Serena wanted to talk because, despite of all her anger, hurt and confusion, she had missed her best friend, even if that was all Serena could ever be to her. She didn’t know how she was going to do it but, in time, she would have to learn to live with that huge hole in her heart.
She pushed the door open and stepped out onto the roof and climbed up the metal steps. A quick scan around confirmed that she was alone. Bernie made her way to her favourite spot out of habit and settled down on the edge. She pulled the crinkled sheet of paper out of her pocket and was about to unfold it when she heard a familiar voice.
“I got your note.”
Bernie looked up and blinked. Only Serena Campbell could make the unflattering lines of the standard Holby City hoodie look that good. She had to swallow a deep breath before she replied. “No, I got your note.”
Serena’s brow wrinkled in confusion as she pulled a folded square of paper out of her pocket and held it aloft as she walked up to the ledge.
Serena arched an eyebrow as they passed their notes to each other. “Well, this looks nothing like my handwriting,” she grumbled.
“Nor does this look like mine,” Bernie agreed. “I’d have expected you to know that.”
“Maybe if you ever actually did your paperwork,” Serena muttered under her breath. “Honestly, we’ve shared an office for months - you can’t tell my writing from an imposter’s?”
Bernie, still smarting from the paperwork comment, snapped back. “I’ve honestly never found it legible enough to make the distinction.”
The two women stared at each other for a moment before Bernie held up her hands in the universal sign for surrender.
“I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.” She peeked at Serena and was relieved to see her looking back at her with an embarrassed smile on her face. “Can we just agree that we’re both having a bad day and draw a line in the sand?”
Serena nodded and both women knew that the conversation was subtly shifting away from a discussion on penmanship.
Their eyes lingered as they stared at each other. Serena blinked, her eyes magnetised to Bernie’s. The blonde was equally trapped in their gaze and had to swallow hard to stop her hands from trembling. It must have been just a fraction of a minute but it felt like forever. Serena felt an ache growing in her chest and it threatened to swallow her whole as the realisation hit her that this was what she couldn’t have.
She turned and blinked away her disappointment. “How did the date go?”
“Date?” Bernie frowned.
Serena somehow managed to cobble together the semblance of a bright smile because that was what she excelled at. “The hot date last night. DId you have a good time?”
“Oh that. I…” she paused, trying to find the right words to redeem her lie but Serena stopped her.
“I know, none of my business.” Serena cleared her throat uncomfortably and pushed herself upright from the ledge.
“There wasn’t a hot date.”
Serena froze and dropped back down on her seat. “But I thought…”
“No, Serena, you assumed.”
“So you just didn’t want to have dinner with me...” Serena stammered, rising to her feet, “...with Jason and me. You should have just said.”
Bernie’s heart seized at the look of disappointment on Serena’s face. “I just thought that with everything else you had going on that you didn’t need the bother.”
“What are you talking about?” It was Serena’s turn to look confused.
“It must be difficult to find enough time with work and Jason and now you have your hands full with the new…” Bernie had to stop her voice from cracking, “man.”
“Everyone on the ward knows. They’ve been trying to figure out who’s been responsible for making you smile excessively the past week.”
Serena smiled. All the furtive glances and skulking about finally made sense. She turned and stared thoughtfully at Bernie. “Is that what’s been bothering you? My mystery man?”
Bernie stared wildly at her and Serena couldn’t help but smile at how adorable she looked when she was flustered. Serena paused a moment while she contemplated her next words. She would be taking a shot in the dark but what the hell...
“Yes, there has been someone distracting me but…” She trailed off, a small enigmatic smile curling her lips upward. “It isn’t a man.”
Bernie froze for long enough that she was certain she was making a fool of herself by staring back at Serena like a goldfish. “Oh!” She blinked hard. “Well, uhmm, I know it’s not easy…” She shifted uncomfortably. “A late in life, uh...revelation. From experience, you understand. If you need someone to talk to...”
Serena arched an eyebrow. Bernie hadn’t been that receptive to talking about feelings over the last few days, or, indeed, ever. “I might take up your offer because it’s been a bit of a job getting her attention.” Serena shifted her hand so that it just touched Bernie’s, relieved when she didn’t pull away.
“Oh?” Bernie managed the single syllable with just the tiniest hint of squeaking. “Is she...uhm...not that way inclined?” She knew better than most how heartbreaking it was to be hopelessly pining after a dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual.
Although, apparently Serena was a little gayer than originally thought. That was somehow more heartbreaking if anything.
Serena inclined her head. “Oh, she is,” she said. “She’s interested in women in a general sense. But...well, I rather fear she may not be interested in me.”
Bernie’s eyes widened incredulously. “Who could possibly not be interested in you?” A silence hung between them as Bernie blushed furiously and Serena smiled, having obtained the final piece of confirmation she needed.
“You.” Serena spoke the single word calmly, as if her next words wouldn’t be a life-changing statement or possibly a heartbreaking question. “Would you be interested?”
Their eyes met again and Bernie could barely keep her voice steady when she answered. “What about the mystery woman?”
They drifted a little closer and Bernie realised that she was staring at Serena’s lips. Her heart was pounding so hard that she almost saw those irresistible lips say the words before she heard them.
“It’s you, you berk.”
Serena reached out and grasped the loose material of Bernie’s hoodie, pulling her forward until their lips met. It started as a gentle kiss but deepened quickly as Bernie’s hand found its way round the nape of her neck, pulling them a little closer. Her own hand lost itself in soft cornsilk hair and the kiss soon became a tangle of tongues and scraping teeth.
They finally pulled apart when neither of them could continue without taking a breath.
“Sorry,” Serena murmured, her cheeks flushed and pink.
“Are you kidding? I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks.” Bernie smiled, her breath starting to catch up with her hammering pulse. “So, just to be sure, all of this distraction was…”
Serena leaned forward answered the question by devouring Bernie’s lips again. A cool draft of air finally reminded her where they were and she reluctantly pulled back. She indulged in the sight of Bernie looking slightly dazed, proud of the fact she was responsible for it.
“I take it that answers your question?” Serena all but purred.
Bernie managed a shaky nod.
“I still owe you dinner. Tonight? My place?”
Bernie needed a moment to collect the scattered pieces of her mind. She tilted her head in confusion when she finally answered. “I thought that Jason was at Alan’s for the rest of the week.”
“He is.” Serena dropped her voice to its lowest register and Bernie was sure she would have collapsed in a heap if Serena’s arm wasn’t still wrapped around her waist.
Raf and Fletch were in the middle of discussing a patient’s file when the lift doors opened. Serena and Bernie stepped out and headed for their office.
“What do you think, mate?”
“They’re smiling so that’s a positive right?”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
The women emerged from the office, coats on, bags slung across their shoulders and hands linked.
“Is that...?” Morven squealed from behind the nurses’ station as both men gaped with matching grins on their faces.
Serena squeezed Bernie’s hand a little tighter, luxuriating in her newfound freedom to do so. The action was immediately reciprocated reassuringly. It was distracting enough that neither of them noticed the fist pumps and high fives that were being exchanged behind them as they entered the lift.
Got there in the end!
Chapter 9: Counting Shades of Light
Slightly superfluous but I was feeling fluffy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bernie’s fingers plucked nervously at the label on the bottle of wine in her hands. She glanced at the clock on her dashboard. Six fifty eight. She tried to tell herself it was an old army habit to arrive early. The truth was that she hadn’t been able to think about anything other than Serena since they kissed.
A tap on the window broke her out of her reverie and she turned, finding herself looking into a bemused face. Bernie smiled back and grabbed the bottle before pushing the car door open.
“I thought I would rescue you before someone reported you for loitering.”
Serena watched the blush rise in Bernie’s cheeks and she couldn’t help but wonder how many more times she would see that tonight.
“I was early and I didn’t…” Bernie paused. “How did you know I was out here?”
It was Serena’s turn to blush. “I might have been watching out for a certain blue MX5 for the past ten minutes.”
“You do know me so well.” Bernie took Serena’s hand and laced their fingers together. Now that she knew how her skin felt, it was impossible to resist touching Serena whenever she had the opportunity.
“Shall we?” Bernie felt her hand being pulled forward as Serena led them back into the house.
“Thank you for dinner,” Bernie murmured into Serena’s ear as she leaned over to place the last plate into the dishwasher. Serena’s breath hitched at the proximity of her voice. She hadn’t realised that the blonde was right up behind her.
“We need to get you louder shoes.”
“Oh?” A pair of arms slipped round her waist and Serena leaned back into Bernie’s embrace. “Why is that?” The arms tightened a little and Serena felt Bernie’s breath on the back of her neck an instant before that very same patch of skin was covered by the softest pair of lips. She moaned and arched her neck, granting further access which was eagerly accepted.
She knew she was meant to answer but her brain could just about cope with breathing and keeping her heart beating at the moment. Higher order skills were simply an impossibility.
“You smell so good.” Bernie had reached the little hollow at the base of her neck and Serena’s resolve broke.
She wrenched herself around, her lips hungrily finding Bernie’s as she pulled their bodies flush. Her fingers stumbled across a sliver of bare skin at her waist and it was all the excuse that she needed to slip her hand under Bernie’s shirt. A strangled moan at the touch was her permission to proceed. Her hands relished their newfound freedom and started exploring the contours of Bernie’s back. There was so much strength and definition but at the same time softness and fluidity as her muscles reacted to Serena’s touch. Her hands chased the rippling movements until they met the edges of something rougher, possibly lace. Somehow she managed a moment of logical thought and paused, steadying her breath as the kitchen came back into focus.
Bernie pulled her head up from the rising swell of Serena’s chest and looked at her. The top two buttons on her blouse were undone and nimble fingers were in the middle of working on the third.
“We should stop.” Serena just about managed to keep her voice from squeaking.
Bernie’s reflexes were a little slower than usual and her cheeks flushed pink when Serena’s words finally sank in. “Oh god, I’m sorry…” She started pulling away but the hands around her torso pulled her back.
“I just meant,” Serena husked, “that we should stop before I start being badly behaved.” She emphasised her point by edging a finger under the lace.
A bolt of desire shot through Bernie’s body and her voice wavered as she mumbled a response. “And what makes you think I want you to behave?”
Serena’s back hit the wall with a thump, hard enough to knock a picture askew. The blouse she was wearing was abandoned halfway up the stairs along with Bernie’s shirt. Bernie pinned her against the wall as her lips skimmed the skin of Serena’s chest. Serena groaned and tugged at the elastic under her fingers, nudging the strap off Bernie’s shoulder. Her tongue soothed the faint marks it left and that drew another strangled moan. Her fingers deftly dismantled the rest of the lace and she stared unabashed.
Bernie Wolfe laid bare and gasping before her. This was the stuff of her wildest fantasies come true. Her hand ran through Bernie’s hair, the overhead light catching the subtle hues. It was mesmerising - like watching liquid gold drifting through her fingers. When she’d lost count of the shades of light tumbling over her fingertips, she pulled her gaze away and lowered her lips onto the soft swell of Bernie’s chest.
“No need to worship me.” Serena pushed them both away from the wall and pulled their bodies towards her open bedroom door. “Not just yet, anyway.”
Bernie couldn’t remember the last time she’d found herself doing this.
But then again, watching was a massive understatement. Adoring. Craving. Devouring. Those would be more appropriate words because what she felt when she looked at Serena went beyond anything proper or inhibited. Bernie almost chuckled aloud because propriety should be the least of her concerns seeing that she was lying naked in Serena Campbell’s bed.
She shifted, keeping her arms wrapped against the sleeping figure of her lover.
Because that was what there were now, without a doubt. There had been a moment of hesitation as the final piece of clothing was tossed away unceremoniously but it hadn’t lasted long. They had stared reverently at each other for a moment before Serena pulled her in for a kiss. That one brief moment lit the touchpaper and their world transformed into a blur of tangled limbs and heated skin.
A warm ache grew within her as she remembered the delicious weight of Serena’s breast in her hand as she placed hot, wet kisses along the luscious curves of her belly. The trembling hand buried in her hair, urging her lower. Bernie’s lips curled into a satisfied smile at the memory of the sounds Serena made when she did. Soft moans when she dipped in for the first tentative touch, turning into louder groans as Bernie grew in confidence. She vaguely heard her name punctuated by pleas and curses when her fingers filled Serena for the first time. And when the slick skin of Serena’s thigh thrust upwards between Bernie’s legs, she pressed herself onto it without hesitation, greedy for the friction. Bernie’s eyelids fluttered shut as her skin tingled anew at the thought of how they’d clung desperately to each other as the waves of pleasure wracked through their bodies.
Serena shifted and pulled Bernie’s arms round her a little tighter. Bernie heaved a satisfied sigh and snuggled in against Serena’s back and placed a kiss on the curve of her shoulder.
“Hmmm?” Serena grunted sleepily.
“Nothing,” she murmured.
Serena twisted her head round just enough so that their eyes met.
The blonde placed another kiss on her temple. “It’s nothing, really. It’s just that…”
Serena pulled herself up and turned onto her back. Her hand curled around Bernie’s neck and brought their lips together. It was a kiss full of promise and reassurance, conveying all the emotions that weren’t quite ready for words just yet. Serena’s eyes sparkled as she pulled away when she saw that the ploy had worked. The remnants of doubt were fading from Bernie’s eyes.
“I know, darling,” she said. “We need to work out who we’re going to kill on Monday for trying to forge our handwriting.”
Bernie laughed as she thought back to the other night in Albie’s: Morven’s spreadsheet and Raf and Fletch’s conspiratorial grins. “I may have some idea,” she murmured, then thought of the good that had come of their meddling. “But...let’s go easy on them, hmm?”
That's it, folks - end of the road, finally.