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Invisible Smoke

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Serena groaned a little as their plane touched down in Edinburgh. Though it was only a ninety minute flight, this first leg of the journey had thoroughly worn her out, since they had had to be up at seven to be out the door at eight to catch the train to London. And she was grateful that her father had always drilled being early to the airport into her, since there had been a major line through security that had taken much longer than anticipated, and so they only just made it to their gate with thirty minutes to spare before the doors closed. She hated being that close to time, and so had felt anxious and on edge the entire flight.

That feeling didn't change when they looked at the flight board and saw that they would have to cross the terminal to get to their next gate. Taking a deep breath, Serena tried to stay positive, though that was quickly ebbing as a number of slow walkers kept them from getting to their next gate as quickly as she would have liked. Charlotte seemed to know that she was fast approaching the end of her rope, as she reached out and took hold of her hand, squeezing it tightly as she drifted closer to her. "Everything is going to be fine. EDI isn't that large an airport, and we'll get there. They know we're coming. And just think, once we've taken off from Frankfurt, you can sleep, since it's an overnight flight to Addis Ababa."

She nodded, knowing that Charlotte had the right attitude, and she squeezed her hand as they finally managed to pass the slow walkers and finally reach their gate. As soon as they were in their seats, Serena turned and looked at Charlotte, who was talking quietly to Cameron, and sighed, willing herself to stay awake as the plane took off. They were going to be landing at nine, which gave them almost an hour and a quarter to get to the next gate, and then, blessed sleep. Still, she couldn't stop the wide yawn that split her lips, and she sighed as she rubbed her head back and forth against the back of the seat before closing her eyes and listening to the noise around her.

And then, she was opening her eyes as her eyes popped, telling her that they were landing in Frankfurt. "I wanted to stay awake," she groaned as she sat up straight and cracked her back. "Now I'll never get to sleep on the overnight flight."

"I don't think we'll have to worry about that, Serena. Somehow I have the feeling that you'll get right to sleep as soon as we're aboard," Cameron said as they deplaned, and she shrugged as she adjusted how she was carrying her bag. "Now, why don't you and Charlotte see if there's a short line at the closest coffee shop while I find out where our next gate is."

Serena nodded a little and led Charlotte down the hall. Thankfully, just around the corner there was an open coffee shop, and she was able to get them all something to eat and drink in the time it took Cameron to rejoin them. "All right, where are we headed to now?" she asked as she handed him his cup, and he pointed in the right direction with said cup. She smiled and set off after him, grateful that this gate wasn't too far from their other one, as that allowed them to have time to eat and drink before they started boarding. "How are you two still so chipper?" she asked, rubbing her face with her hands in an effort to try and stay awake until their group was called.

"I'm used to running on adrenaline," Cameron replied. "Working with Jac kept me on my toes, and so I learned to function on as little sleep as possible and still work well. Plus, we're younger, so we can roll with the punches faster. Not that you're old, but…"

"I understand," she said, cutting him off. "And it was more of a rhetorical question, anyway."

"I knew that." He flashed her a quick grin before devouring the pastry she'd bought him. "I am seriously looking forward to sleeping on this leg of the journey, though. My stamina is flagging."

Serena gave him an understanding look as she pulled out her phone and checked her notifications, seeing there was an email from Henrik. Opening it, she smiled as she read about Oskar and how he was getting along being with him. While she knew that there would come a time when Henrik had to give him back to Sara, she hoped that it wouldn't come too soon. Somehow, having that precious little boy in his life was helping to heal the wounds of losing his son, his best friend, and his love in such quick succession.

As she was writing a reply to him, the gate attendant began to announce the beginning of boarding. Thankfully, Serena had decided to pay a little extra for business class on the leg of the flight, since she had wanted to be comfortable while she slept, so they were able to get in line shortly after the announcement. After showing her boarding pass and passport, she started down the jetway, absently tapping out an answer to Henrik as she waited for the small group of first-class passengers seemed to take forever boarding. Finally, though, they were finding their seats and she smiled happily to see that Cameron and Charlotte had switched seats so that they could be together. It was a little thing, but she knew that it would be easier to get to know Charlotte a little better before they inevitably fell asleep.

"So, where will we head first?" Charlotte asked once they were settled in their seats, and Serena smiled tiredly as she fastened her seatbelt. "I'm assuming our hotel, since we don't want to go to the hospital right from the airport. It would be so awkward to carry a suitcase and my satchel with me."

"Yes, I thought that we could head to the hotel and drop our bags off, maybe refresh a little. I made certain to call ahead and request an early check in, since we'll be arriving well before typical check in times." Serena rummaged through her carryon bag and pulled out her tablet, bringing up her book app and opening the current book she was reading. It was nice to try and relax enough to read, since she didn't really take that time to do so when she was home, filling her days with enough busy work to keep her mind from wandering to the fact that she had lost Bernie due to her own stupidity.

"Do you miss Mum as much as I do?"

The question was quiet, and Serena set her tablet aside so that she could look at her, reaching out to caress Charlotte's cheek as she nodded. "I think that I might. It's a different sort of missing, since you're her daughter, and I was her partner, but there's a hole in my heart that seemed to grow larger when Alex informed us of your mother's supposed death. I've bene trying to act positive and believe that Bernie is still alive, but there is a part of me that thinks I'm being foolish and prolonging my sorrow. Because good things haven't happened to me in the last few years, except for your mother. I lost my mother, I lost my daughter, I lost one of my F2s, I lost myself, and then I lost her. Even Jason has pulled away from me since the incident that separated Bernie and me. And I can't help but wonder where in my life I fucked up so badly that I can't seem to find a moment's happiness."

By the end, her voice had fallen into a hoarse whisper, and Charlotte, who was openly crying, reached out to take hold of Serena's hand, squeezing it tightly as she shook her head a little. "Life is a bitch at times, Serena, but you didn't screw things up. It's just life. Sure, there are probably a few decisions that you should have made differently, but all those decisions made you who you are. The kindness that you've shown Cameron and myself following Mum's disappearance, the obvious love you have for Jason and his family, those are not the result of someone who has been so downtrodden in life that things appear hopeless. Instead, they are the reaction of someone who has taken the blows life has given her and still has room for love and compassion in her life. You and Mum deserved to have a long life together. The threads of Fate seemed to pull you apart, however, but I really hope that we can find her and bring her home with us. And once we're home, I know that you're going to work everything out and that you'll find the happiness in life that you both deserve."

Serena gave her a small smile, the motion causing the tears trembling in the corners of her eyes to finally spill down her cheeks. "You have to keep hold of that sweet faith for me, Charlotte. Because while it might be the exhaustion of a full day of travel, I find my hope flagging. I'm trying to keep a brave face on for Cameron, but I feel like I can be honest with you."

"Probably because we're not as close as you and Cam are. And don't worry, I think that it's the exhaustion sapping away your hope. Once you've had a good night's sleep, I think that your outlook will change. So put the tablet away, get out the blanket and curl up in the seat to sleep. That is precisely what I'm going do, after all."

She gave her a little wider smile before bending forward and grabbing the plane provided blanket, unfolding it before snuggling up as best she could while the plane began to taxi and then take off. Once she was able to, Serena reclined her seat marginally, making certain she wasn't in the other person's space, before settling down to sleep, hoping that Charlotte was right and that with a few hours of good sleep her attitude would change.