It was quiet on the ward. Not that Serena was using the q word. What she was doing was taking the opportunity while Bernie was up doing a consult on Keller to blitz their office. In the more than two years that they had shared this office, Bernie had not improved in her levels of tidiness. So Serena had a black binbag and was throwing out all the detritus that had gathered itself in and around Bernie’s desk.
Once the obvious rubbish had been removed and Bernie’s coat had been hung back up on the coat rack, Serena decided that she was going to tackle Bernie’s desk drawers. Bernie had been moaning recently that she couldn’t open one of them which, knowing Bernie, inevitably meant that she had stuffed it so full that something had caught on the inside. But if living with Elinor had taught Serena nothing else, it was how to access a drawer that had got stuck. Armed with a nail file and a screwdriver she set to work, springing the drawer free after less than a minute.
It was, as she suspected, jammed full of paperwork, pens and bits of rubbish Bernie had clearly stashed there. She picked the first few things off the top, sorting the drawer so that at least it wouldn’t jam again so quickly. Sighing, she also realised she needed to have yet another conversation with Bernie about the state of the office. Talking to Bernie was usually a joy but she saw how Bernie shut down when they talked about her housekeeping ability.
Underneath the first layer of paper, she came across a familiar card. It was a birthday card, just a simple one with balloons on the front. She picked it up and turned it over in her hand. It was familiar but she wasn’t sure why. Until she opened it that was and saw that she had been the one to send it to Bernie. Although it was quite tricky to read her name. The ink in that area seemed to have been rubbed away far more than the rest of the card. But she recognised her own handwriting even if the name was obscured.
The knowledge that she had sent the card caused more confusion that it solved. Because Bernie’s birthday had been just a few short weeks ago. And Serena had definitely not sent this card. She remembered spending an excessive amount of time in Clintons picking out the perfect card and it definitely wasn’t this one. Which begged the question, when had she sent this one? Bernie had commented this year that it was the third birthday she had spent with Serena at Albie’s so it must have been one of the previous ones. So why had Bernie kept it for so long?
She placed the card carefully onto Bernie’s desk while she sorted through the rest of the drawer. After putting various patient files back in the filing cabinet where they belonged and throwing out a ridiculous quantity of chocolate bar wrappers, the drawer was empty enough to slide in and out with ease.
Fletch came to get her just as she was finishing up.
“Patient just arrived from A&E,” he said, sticking his head round the door.
“Thanks Fletch,” she said.
She dumped the binbag by the office bin and followed him out to bed five, leaving the birthday card sat on Bernie’s desk.
By the time Serena had gone through the treatment procedure for the man in bed five, Bernie was back on the ward. Serena’s eyes followed her as she headed back towards their office. She watched as Bernie sat herself down at her desk and she watched as Bernie noticed the card and picked it up. She opened it carefully and ran her finger repeatedly over Serena’s name. Serena wondered how often she had been doing that to cause the ink to be so rubbed out. Then Bernie closed the card and slipped it into the pocket of her scrubs.
Serena hadn’t expected that at all. She hadn’t meant to leave the card out but, having done so, she just assumed that Bernie would put it back in the drawer. Bernie stood and made to leave the office, one of her hands in the pocket with the card. And Serena knew that she needed to know the story behind the card. She rushed over to the office and intercepted Bernie in the doorway.
“Serena. Hi,” Bernie said, her cheeks tinged with pink, “Anything the matter?”
Serena paused, suddenly unsure about what to say. Because the slight colouring of her cheeks made Bernie look particularly good. Even if she wouldn’t meet her eye.
“I fixed your drawer,” she offered in the end.
“Next time don’t put so much in it.”
Bernie’s hand slipped into her pocket as they spoke. Serena’s eyes were drawn to the movement, knowing what lay within. She had to know why Bernie had kept it. And there was only one way to find out.
Bernie’s eyes snapped up to hers.
“Will you tell me about the card?”
Serena watched as Bernie’s blush deepened and her eyes flittered away once more. She hated to be the cause of so much uncomfortableness in Bernie.
“Sorry. You don’t have to tell me anything,” she said, “I’ll just leave…”
Bernie thrust her arm out to stop her. “No.”
Serena stopped immediately, feeling the heat of Bernie’s hand on her arm. “Bernie?”
“I do want to tell you, it’s just…”
She indicated towards the ward through the open door.
“Somewhere quieter?” Serena offered. “The roof?”
Bernie nodded. She grabbed her hoodie off the back of her chair and headed up towards the roof, Serena following in her wake.
The roof, thankfully, was deserted. Bernie sank down onto the steps while Serena hovered nervously nearby. More than anything, she wanted to be close to Bernie right now but she also didn’t want Bernie to feel crowded.
Bernie pulled the card out of her pocket and stared at it, almost oblivious to Serena.
“I’ve had this card more than two years,” she said quietly. “I’m not sure I can explain how much it meant to me at the time, how much it means to me now.”
She glanced up at Serena, her face full of emotion. Serena couldn’t resist offering comfort any longer and rushed forward to sit next to Bernie and take her free hand in hers.
“Two years?” Serena said, “That must have been the birthday you had just after starting on AAU.”
Bernie nodded. “It was just after… well everything. The divorce and everything. And I wasn’t really happy.”
“I remember,” Serena said, “You took some persuading to come out to Albie’s that evening. You just wanted to go home and hide like you usually did.”
“You were so nice to me that day. It was the first time I think I truly believed that maybe something good could come out of the mess I’d created. The first time I believe that someone might like me for me despite all my faults.”
“Bernie…” Serena breathed. She squeezed Bernie’s hand.
“I kept the card as a reminder,” Bernie continued, “So when I have bad days I remember that at least one person liked me once.”
“Oh Bernie I still like you, don’t think I could stop.”
Bernie turned her head to look at Serena.
“You’re magnificent,” Serena said, “You’re brave, determined, a frankly fantastic surgeon, beautiful, kind and oh so many other adjectives I can’t think of right now. I am so so privileged to be your friend.”
There were tears pricking at the edges of Bernie’s eyes but she held Serena’s gaze. “You think I’m beautiful?” she whispered.
“Oh.” Serena hadn’t realised that had slipped out in the middle of her sentence. “Well yes.”
She reached up to wipe away the tear that was running down Bernie’s cheek and Bernie’s eyes fluttered closed at the contact.
Bernie’s eyes opened for a second, full of emotion, before her lips came crashing down on Serena’s. Serena only had the briefest sensation of soft, pliant lips on hers before Bernie pulled back, apologies on her tongue.
But Serena didn’t want to hear them. The kiss had been unexpected but she hadn’t wanted to end so quickly so she leant back in and kissed Bernie again, pulling her close.
It was only the sound of an ambulance, sirens screaming, pulling into the car park far beneath them that broke the kiss. Serena slid her hands down Bernie’s arms to link their fingers together as she watched Bernie process what had just happened.
“You…” she said eventually, “You like me?”
Serena squeezed her hands. “Oh Bernie, I thought we’d already established that.”
“No, no,” she said, shaking her head, “I mean you like like me?”
Serena smiled at her. “At the risk of sounding like I’m back at school, yes I like like you.”
“But I thought you were straight?”
“So did I for a long time. But it turns out that isn’t the case.”
Bernie still looked confused.
“Never discovered something about yourself as you’ve aged? Anyway, enough about how I feel, how do you feel about me?”
Bernie’s cheeks turned a very attractive shade of pink.
“I like you so much,” she said in a small voice, “Ever since the first moment I saw you. God Serena, you’re just so beautiful.”
Serena couldn’t do anything else except reward Bernie for those lovely words with another quick kiss.
“Think we better get back to the ward,” Bernie said reluctantly.
“Come over tonight?” Serena asked, not wanting to let Bernie go so soon.
Bernie smiled at her. “Of course.”
They walked back down the stairs to the ward, fingers brushing against each other and both with a smile affixed to their face. As they reached their office once more, Bernie slid the birthday card out of her pocket and put it back in the drawer.
“Out of curiosity, what happened to the other birthday cards I sent you?” Serena asked.
“Oh,” Bernie said, “I took them back to my flat.”
She looked embarrassed for a moment.
“And whereabouts in your flat might they be?” Serena questioned.
Bernie shook her head. Serena raised an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips.
“Under my pillow,” Bernie replied eventually.
Serena reached out and touched her arm. “Well aren’t you sentimental Ms Wolfe.”
She leant forward as though going for another kiss but stopped herself.
“Tonight,” Bernie promised.
“Tonight,” Serena repeated.