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Invisible Smoke

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Serena felt like she was going through the motions throughout her entire shift, since the only thing she could think about was the fact that there was going to be a memorial for Bernie in just a few short hours. This was yet another event that she wasn't prepared for, and everyone seemed to be able to read her discomfort, though no one really wanted to say anything to her about it. Even Ric was dancing around the subject, as if he thought by saying something she might burst into uncontrollable sobs. No one knew that she had no more sobs left in her heart, just weak little cries, as if her body had turned into the Sahara due to all the grief she had experienced in the last two years.

Finally, it came time to head outside and she wrapped her jacket around herself, finding the day unseasonably cool. Or maybe her heart was just frozen solid, having used up all the warmth she had had that morning in getting Cameron to agree to allow Alex to come to the memorial, even after the little bombshell she had dropped about being engaged to Bernie. From the look on Cameron's face, he had wanted to strike her for that statement, and it had taken everything in Serena to not make a face as she cooled both of them down.

"Are you ready to head out there, Ms Campbell?"

Looking up at Dom, she nodded slowly, pulling herself out of her woolgathering as she tried to think about the time ahead of her and not break down in front of the young man. "Thank you for helping my pull this memorial together. I know that you were very close to Bernie, and your friendship meant a lot to her."

His eyes swam with tears, and she had to look away before she started to cry in sympathy. There would be a time for that later, not in front of him, after all. "And she loved you very much, Serena. No matter what anyone else who came her might say, I know that you were the one for her. We all make mistakes, and I am just so lucky that I still have Lofty here to forgive and make a happier future with. I wish that things had turned out differently. I know that the two of you could have worked through anything that the world threw at you."

"Yes, well, I wasn't able to resist a little piece of fluff, and that derailed the best relationship to ever fall into my life. She was my best friend before she was anything else, and I miss that most of all."

Dom nodded as he reached out and squeezed her shoulder softly. "I completely understand." They drew in simultaneous shaky breaths, and then they were making their way outside. Once there, Dom took charge of the situation, organizing the people as she looked around for Cameron. She had heard through the grapevine that he had had a tough day at work, that he had shown up more than a little drunk, but still trying to work his shift. It was a shame, but she understood trying to drink away the pain of it all. She had tried to do the same when her mother had passed, after all. "Where's Cam? He should be here, since he has to give the speech. Here, you take the poem and read it while I search for him."

Dom pressed a distressed piece of paper into her hand before hurrying back into the building, and she looked down at the paper in shock, not quite certain of what she was supposed to do with it. She had never been one for reading poetry, that was her mother's realm, and she let out a shaky breath as she approached the lectern and cleared her throat. "Well, I want to thank you all for coming out to honor the memory of one of the finest surgeons that has ever graced Holby City Hospital with their presence. I, I've been asked to read a poem that Dominic Copeland, one of Bernie's best friends, chose for her. You'll have to forgive me, I've never had the ear for poetry, so I just might butcher this." Once more, she cleared her throat and began to read the Dickinson poem, the syllables and patterns sounding janky to her ears, even as the beautiful words fell flat from her lips.

Looking up, she saw that Dom had managed to find Cameron, leading him up to the front row, his eyes looking so disappointed and sad to her. Wrapping up the poem, she gestured towards Cameron, only to have him shake his head furiously, shoving a sheaf of papers into Dom's hand before staring down at the ground, a slightly green tinge to his skin. Serena let out a deep sigh as she stepped down and took a seat next to him, reaching out to squeeze his knee as she listened to Dom read the words that he had written. In the middle of the tribute, Cameron began to sob, and she hurriedly wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close as Dom finished up and then invited the people to enjoy the refreshments that the hospital had provided.

Henrik and Alex were the first people she saw as she turned towards the refreshment table, and she tried not to frown at them, since she didn't want to offend Henrik. Taking a deep breath, she strode over to their sides, fighting the urge to shake Alex's hand off her shoulder as she stopped in front of them. "It was a good turnout, Serena. I think that Bernie would have been pleased to see how fondly she was remembered," he said, giving her one of those patented subtle smiles that said so much. She nodded and then darted her eyes to look at Alex, seeing that she was giving her a decidedly weird look. "I have to get back now, but anytime that you need to talk, my door is open to you."

"Thank you, Henrik," she said lowly before he turned and made his way back into the hospital. "What do you want?" she faintly hissed once he was out of earshot, and Alex blanched a little as she recoiled away from her, though she still didn't remove her hand from Serena's shoulder.

"I thought that you might want to head out for a drink, to reminisce about Bernie for a while. There are things that only we can share about her, after all."

Serena felt her brow furrow together as she mulled Alex's words over in her head. Though she didn't want to spend any more time than necessary in her presence, there might be the opportunity to get more information out of her as to what happened in Somalia. That seemed to outweigh her misgivings, and she gave a sharp nod before turning on her heel and marching over to her car. Cameron gave them an odd look, and she shook her head at him, trying to let him know with a look that everything was all right, and that she had things under control. That feeling quickly fled once they were inside her car and Alex was giving her that strange, earnest, look once more. Serena could feel the tension inside the vehicle build as the silence between them grew oppressive and then Alex was clearing her throat. Serena looked up into her eyes and felt a frisson of aversion run down her spine, even as the other woman started to lean forward. Before she knew what was happening, the woman was puckering her lips, and it was only at the last second that Serena turned her face so that she kissed her cheek instead.

"What do you think you're doing?" she asked, sounding close to tears. Which, inexplicably, she was. Alex's eyes widened as she pulled away quickly, guilt settling over her features, as if she had thought that Serena would have welcomed the kiss, and in that moment, Serena's feelings of unease solidified. There was more to the story that Alex had told her and Cameron, something that she didn't want known, and it didn't matter what else the woman might say, she knew that there would be no way she would ever stop looking for her Bernie, because they were right. She was alive, someone had taken her, or misidentified her, or something, but she was not about to be strong armed by Alex into believing a convenient lie that fell from her lips.

"I just wanted to comfort you, Serena. That's what friends do, after all."

Friends. That was a bit rich, though Serena chose not to comment on it, since there was still the chance that she might find out more once liquor had loosened Alex's tongue. "That's kind of you, but I'd rather not." Alex nodded as she settled back in her seat, and then she turned the car on and pulled out of her spot, choosing to head to a pub far away from the hospital, since she didn't want anyone getting ideas that she had quickly thrown Bernie over for her ex. And she prayed to whatever energy might be listening that she was about to take one step closer to finding out the truth.