The first time it happens Bernie’s working but Serena’s not – she’s got a day off booked for various ‘life admin’ matters as she’d phrased it to Bernie – and Bernie gets into their shared office to see a blue post-it note fixed in the middle of her computer monitor.
She frowns, wondering why whoever left her the note couldn’t just leave it on a regular piece of paper on her desk, but she hangs up her coat and scarf on the coat rack before she crosses to her desk, setting her satchel down on the seat of her chair, then reaching out to unstick the post-it.
There, in Serena’s familiar handwriting, are the words Don’t forget to eat a proper lunch, Major. And don’t forget I love you. S xx
Bernie feels warmth spreading throughout her body as she reads the note. Serena Campbell is truly one of a kind and Bernie considers herself blessed to have even met the woman, never mind the two of them falling in love.
She tucks the post-it into the front pocket of her satchel, then lifts it off her chair and puts it in the bottom drawer of her desk before she turns on her computer and sets to work.
It becomes their ‘thing’: post-it notes with scribbled messages and an ‘I love you’ left on each other’s computer monitors whenever they’re not going to be on the ward together. Serena takes two days off to visit her daughter in Cambridge and attend the closing night of the student production of whichever play Elinor’s in (Bernie’s forgotten, but she’s sure she’d hate the play if ever she saw it, purely on principle because it’s keeping Serena away from AAU for two days), and Bernie finds two post-it notes full of instructions on her monitor, with And don’t forget I love you. S xx at the bottom.
When Bernie travels to Newcastle to carry out a complicated surgery on a former comrade who got blown up by an IED, much as she had, she makes sure to leave Serena a post-it with I’ll be back as soon as I can. And don’t forget I love you. B xx scrawled almost illegibly on it.
It turns out that she’s away much longer than she’d anticipated when she left for Newcastle because Lieutenant Prentiss needs two further surgeries after the initial one.
She texts Serena the morning of the day she’s finally going to leave: I should be back in Holby by 6pm. Prentiss’ parents want to take me out for lunch to thank me for saving both her legs and I feel it’d be churlish to refuse.
It’s 5.30am, but she knows Serena will be awake as she’ll need to be getting up soon for work. Ten minutes later, as Bernie finishing packing her few things into her kitbag her phone pings to let her know she’s got a new message.
Come for dinner and stay the night. S xx
I’d love to, thanks. B xx
Enjoy lunch, drive safely, and don’t forget I love you. S xx
Bernie emits a noise that’s as much sob as it is laugh and responds with a thumb’s up emoji and And I love you, too. B xx Then she pockets her phone and goes downstairs for breakfast.
After breakfast she heads out to buy some souvenirs, finding her way to a shop where she picks up a book about the Angel of the North for Jason; a coaster with ‘Proper canny lass’ on it and a tote bag with ‘Bought wine instead of milk’ on it for Serena; for Elinor, she gets a couple of coasters with local landmarks depicted on them; Cam gets a keyring with ‘Proper canny lad’ on it and Charlie gets a keyring with ‘Bonnie Lass’ on it. For herself she gets a keyring with ‘Calm doon al mek yee a cuppa’, which the shop assistant “translates” for her as ‘Calm down, I’ll make you a cuppa’, although having served with Lieutenant Prentiss for three years, Bernie hardly needs help understanding a proper Geordie accent. She doesn’t tell the young woman that, however, as it’s not really important.
She slips her purchases into her satchel, then heads to a coffeeshop for a strong, hot coffee and a pain au chocolate to while away some of the time she has to spare before she makes her way to the restaurant where she’s meeting Mr and Mrs Prentiss for lunch.
The food is good, as is the company, but Bernie feels somewhat embarrassed by how effusive Mr and Mrs Prentiss, Tom and Alison, are in their thanks and praise for her efforts in saving Jenny’s legs.
“Jenny tells us you’re the best trauma surgeon in the country,” Tom says as they’re finishing lunch. “And her medical team seems to agree. We really cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done for our daughter, Major Wolfe.”
Bernie feels heat in her cheeks as she does her best to accept the compliment gracefully. “Thank you,” she says. “I’m just glad that I was available to help Jenny. She’s a great lass and we got on very well while we were serving together. I’ve given her my number so she can call me if she has any questions about the surgery, although the other members of the surgical team should be able to answer her and your questions. I won’t lie to you, she’s got a long road of recovery and rehabilitation ahead of her, but I’m confident she will eventually be able to walk again. And the RAMC will see to it that she’s taken care of, financially.”
“Thank you, Major Wolfe. Thank you, very much.”
“You’re welcome.” She shakes hands with them both, then slips out of the restaurant towards the hotel car park to collect her car and head home. She puts her satchel in the passenger seat, then pulls the seatbelt across and clicks it into place before remembering she’d intended to text Serena once she was about to hit the road. She snags her satchel, pulls out her phone and sends off the text, then shoves the satchel back and starts the engine. Time to head for home – or rather, Serena’s home. While Bernie spends four or five nights a week there she hasn’t actually moved in yet, but she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that she considers it her home far more than the blandly utilitarian flat she rented after she moved out of the Dunn family home.
She’s on the approach to the junction for Sheffield when a car two in front of her starts swerving wildly across the road and she feels her heart leap into her throat at the thought of the accident she’s sure is about to happen. She takes a deep breath in, then exhales it slowly, relaxing her muscles as much as she can, and watches in horror as the car swerves to the left and hits the back half of the car in front of it. She’d already begun slowing down as had the cars in front of her, fortunately, so they manage to avoid a multiple car pile-up, but the crash is still bad enough and she doesn’t hesitate to pull onto the hard shoulder, switching on her hazard lights before scrambling across into the passenger seat and out onto the verge. She snags her phone from her satchel and calls 999, explaining that she’s a trauma surgeon and will do whatever she can to help. She ends the call, then delves into her boot for the first aid kit she always carries in the car, before she pulls off her coat as it will only get in the way, as will the blazer she wore with her tailored trousers for her lunch with the Prentisses. She quickly rolls up her shirt sleeves, then grabs the first aid kit and jogs up the grass verge to the crashed cars.
She ignores the traffic that’s passing the scene, most of the cars slowing to a crawl in order to allow the occupants to rubberneck, and pulls open the passenger door of the Fiat that caused the accident. There’s a little girl in the backseat, just beginning to cry, but Bernie ignores her for the moment, more worried about finding out whether the driver, a woman in her late thirties, is still alive. She half climbs into the passenger seat and reaches across for the pulse point in the woman’s neck and is hugely relieved to find there’s a pulse there, albeit somewhat thready and weak.
“Hello love,” she says, trying to adopt Serena’s usual comforting manner. “I don’t know if you can hear me but my name’s Bernie and I’m a doctor. I’m going to assess your injuries while we wait for the emergency services to get here. Can you tell me your name? Or your daughter’s name?”
The woman makes an odd sort of grunting sound which immediately raises a red flag in Bernie’s mind, and she climbs properly into the passenger seat to carefully turn the woman’s head just far enough to see the droop in the left side of her face, pulling her mouth down at the corner.
Well, a stroke explains the accident, she thinks wearily. “It’s okay, love,” she says. “I can see that you’ve had a stroke, which means you’ll struggle to speak or move the left side of your body.” Bernie reaches over and clasps both the woman’s hands in both of her own. “I know it’s scary, but try not to panic, okay?” She swallows. “I’m going to check that your daughter isn’t injured in any way. I don’t think she will have been because she’s very secure in her seat, but I need to check.”
The woman’s right hand slides out of Bernie’s, then she points at her handbag which is on the seat Bernie’s kneeling in. Guessing that the woman might have some form of ID in it, Bernie picks it up and makes sure to look the woman in the eyes as she says. “I’ll open it for you, then you can get out what you need.”
The woman blinks twice in quick succession and Bernie decides to take that as an agreement, so she unfastens the bag, then holds it open for the woman. She slides in her hand and it comes out holding her passport, which she taps on Bernie’s wrist.
Bernie gives her a brief half smile, then accepts the passport. “Hello, Amanda South. And that must be Jemma in the backseat.” Bernie slips the passport back into the handbag, fastens it again, then returns it to its spot on the passenger seat. “I’m going to get in the back seat with Jemma and check her over. I’ll be as quick as I can,” she says, and Amanda blinks twice again.
It’s a relief to Bernie to discover that Jemma is okay, and she’s able to retrieve the little girl’s plush fox toy from the floor where she suspects it had tumbled during the crash. Having the toy calms the little girl down and Bernie slides back out of the backseat and puts her head in through the passenger door again.
“I’m sorry to have to abandon you, Amanda, but I want to go and check on the people in the car that was in front of you when you had your stroke. I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can, but–”
She cuts herself off when Amanda makes a distinct shooing gesture with her good hand and Bernie nods her understanding. “The emergency services are on their way and I’m hoping they’ll be here before too much longer,” she tells Amanda, who gives her a thumb’s up. “You’re very brave, love,” she adds, then climbs out of the car to go to the one in front.
This one contains three people: a woman of about her own age and two older women whom she guesses to be in their seventies at least. She notices that the front passenger window is down and leans in towards it.
“Hello. I’m Bernie and I’m a doctor. Are you all okay in here?”
“Oh, a doctor! Thank goodness!” says one of the two women in the backseat. “Gloria says her chest is aching.”
“And which one of you lovely ladies is Gloria?” asks Bernie, trying to channel Serena again. She knows very well that her bedside manner tends to be brisk, if not outright brusque.
“I’m Gladys,” says the woman who spoke first. “That’s our daughter Gloria driving, and this is my wife Ginny.”
“Pleased to meet you all,” Bernie says. “Do you have a pre-existing health condition, Gloria, or has it only started aching since the crash?”
“Since the crash,” says Gloria. She speaks in a soft, breathy voice and Bernie wonders about damage to her ribs, perhaps she hit the steering wheel when Amanda’s car hit hers; since the crash was from the side and not at great speed the front airbag hadn’t deployed. Bernie had only been doing fifty and she was fairly sure neither Amanda nor Gloria had been travelling as fast.
“Do you mind if I get in the car with you?” Bernie asks, then lifts her head and looks back along the road – she can just make out the sound of sirens and see blue lights approaching.
“Do whatever you need to, my dear,” says Gladys immediately, so Bernie opens the passenger door and gets in.
“Can you show me where your chest hurts, please?” she asks.
“Here.” Gloria’s hand flutters in the area of her right breast and the middle of her chest.
“It might be nothing more serious than your seatbelt cutting in,” Bernie says. “Do you remember if you jerked forward when the car hit yours?”
“We all did,” Gladys says. “I grabbed onto Gloria’s seat with one hand and grabbed Ginny’s hand with my other one.”
Bernie nods. “There are paramedics on their way,” she says. “Do you want to wait for one of them to examine you properly, or would you like me to take a quick look?”
“You look, dear,” says Gladys immediately.
Bernie raises her eyebrows at the older woman. “It has to be Gloria’s decision,” she says gently. “She’s the patient.”
Gladys makes a tsking noise, then shrugs, and Bernie turns back to Gloria.
“Will you take a look, please?” Gloria asks.
“Of course.” Bernie carefully unfastens her cardigan, then the buttons of her blouse, easing aside the fabric on the right hand side. “Oh yes,” she says. “You’ve got a very nasty bruise developing. I expect you’ll be taken to a hospital in Sheffield and given a scan just to be sure it’s nothing more serious, but I don’t think anything is broken.”
Bernie nods and leaves Gloria to rebutton her blouse and cardigan, turning her attention back to the two women in the backseat. “And how are you two?” she asks.
“Fit as a fiddle and right as nine pence,” Gladys says immediately.
“And you, Ginny?” Bernie asks.
She nods, then says, “I’m fine” in a voice barely above a murmur.
“All right, then,” Bernie says. “If you don’t mind, I’ll leave you to wait for the paramedics while I go back to my other patient.”
“What happened?” asks Gloria.
“The lady driving the car behind you suffered a stroke and lost control of her car,” Bernie says, which elicits a chorus of concerned commentary from all three ladies before she leaves them to await the ministrations of the paramedics while she heads back to Amanda and her daughter to talk to both the paramedics and the police officers who are climbing out of their vehicles as she reaches Amanda’s car.
She explains the medical situation to the paramedics first, then gives her statement to Detective Inspector Phillips and leaves her contact details as well, before she’s finally allowed to leave. She decides to text Serena before she drives off since she’s been held up a good hour by this point.
Car crash outside Sheffield. I wasn’t involved but stopped to assist those in both cars. No one too badly injured in the crash. One driver suffered a stroke. Stopping at next services for coffee and a pastry. May be a couple of hours later than expected getting to yours. Don’t wait for me for dinner. Love you, B xx
There’s no immediate response so she assumes Serena’s busy with a patient or in a meeting. She puts her phone back in her satchel, pulls on her blazer, then fastens her seatbelt and re-joins the traffic, which is being directed past the scene by a couple of uniformed bobbies in hi-vis vests.
It’s not until she’s about to leave the services about forty five minutes later that her phone buzzes with an alert to tell her she has a new text message. She pulls it back out of her satchel, having only just returned it there when she got back in the car, and is pleased to see it’s a message from Serena.
Did my big macho army medic get to be a dashing hero? Will tell Jason not to expect you for dinner. He’ll be as disappointed as I am. Drive safe. And don’t forget I love you, S xx
No heroics. I’m disappointed, too. Will do. Love you, too. B xx
Bernie slides her phone back into her satchel, then gets underway. More than anything, she wants to get home to Serena.
It is nearly 9pm by the time Bernie finally pulls into Serena’s drive. She’d run into an horrendous thunderstorm while passing Birmingham and had to reduce speed dramatically to avoid having an accident herself. After she stops the car she has to take a few moments to find the energy to climb out of the car as her back is aching horribly and she feels as stiff as a board. She finally manages to unfasten her seatbelt, then grab her satchel and climb out of the car. She’s just moving to get her kitbag from the boot when Serena appears.
“Oh love,” she says softly. “You look utterly exhausted.”
“Feel it,” Bernie murmurs, getting the boot open on the second try. Serena’s at her side almost immediately and she grabs the kitbag and takes Bernie’s satchel from her, then she wraps her free arm around Bernie and guides her indoors.
“Did you eat?” she asks solicitously.
“Had a couple of sandwiches I grabbed at the services when I stopped after helping out at the crash.”
“Do you want anything to eat or drink now?”
“Just a shower and bed,” she says, grimacing apologetically.
“Okay. Just pop your head around the door to stay goodnight to Jason, then we’ll go up.”
Bernie nods agreement and as soon as she’s shed her coat and boots, she shuffles to the sitting room doorway and steps halfway through.
“Hello Jason and goodnight.”
He was already looking at the doorway when she appeared in it and he gives her one of his trademark piercing gazes, then says, “Good evening, Doctor Bernie. Are you alright?”
She smiles at the concern etched on his face. “I’m very stiff and tired,” she tells him, “but I’m alright otherwise. Thank you.”
He nods. “Good. I’m sorry you weren’t able to get here in time for dinner.”
“So was I, Jason.”
“You should go to bed,” he announces. “I’ll see you at breakfast. Goodnight.”
“See you in the morning,” Bernie agrees. “Goodnight.”
She and Serena make their way upstairs and the bedroom door is barely closed before Serena is kissing her, while simultaneously undressing her.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Serena says, sounding a bit plaintive as she draws her shirt off.
“I missed you, too,” Bernie tells her, unhooking her bra since Serena’s busy getting her trousers off. “I would’ve been very glad of your assistance with Jenny’s surgeries. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got a good surgical team, but none of them were you.” She sighs a little as Serena runs her hands up her legs, then clasps her hips before easing off her knickers.
Serena tilts her head, one eyebrow raised. “And was it only my surgical prowess you missed, Major?”
Bernie chuckles. “Of course not. I missed sharing a bed with you. I missed cuddling with you, and sex, and having breakfast with you.” She reaches down and urges Serena to stand up again. “As ravishingly sexy as you look down there,” she says. “I definitely don’t have the energy for sex tonight. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be silly,” Serena says immediately, wrapping her arms around Bernie. “I know you’re too tired for more than a shower and a quick cuddle.” She gives her a quick kiss on the mouth. “Go and grab your shower, love.”
“Thanks.” Bernie kisses her back, then opens her kitbag for her toiletries bag, before making her way into the ensuite. It’s a disappointment to be too tired to do more than shower and sleep, just as it was a disappointment to miss dinner with Jason and Serena earlier, but she’d never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t stopped to help out at the accident, even if there had been little she could do in practical terms.
When she steps back out of the ensuite, wrapped in Serena’s fluffy bathrobe, she smiles tiredly when she sees her lover has set out her sleepwear – an actual pair of pyjamas that Serena bought her for her birthday in the same shade of blue as her trauma scrubs – and there’s a bottle of aromatherapy oil on the nightstand.
“I wasn’t sure if the shower would be enough,” Serena says as Bernie crosses to the bed, “so I thought I could give you a massage if you like.”
“I do feel a lot less stiff,” Bernie tells her. “But I’ll never say no to one of your back massages.”
Serena’s smile goes coy. “Oh yes?”
“Oh you,” Bernie says and pulls her into an embrace, kissing her very soundly, before pulling away to yawn, a hand clapped over her mouth to try to hold it in. “God, sorry.”
Serena chuckles. “Apology accepted, soldier. Make yourself comfy, why don’t you, while I use the bathroom, then we’ll see about that massage.”
“Thank you,” Bernie says, tightening her hold on her lover for a few moments before releasing her and shedding the bathrobe, which Serena takes from her to hang up again on its customary hook in the bathroom.
When Serena returns from the ensuite a short time later, Bernie’s already half asleep, although she does manage a pleased murmur when she sees Serena’s changed into her own pyjamas, which are a shade of red Serena calls Shiraz, but Bernie would be inclined to class as Burgundy. She’d bought them for Serena as part of her Valentine’s Day present after she kept threatening to steal Bernie’s pyjamas for herself because they seemed so warm. (She’d also bought Serena a sexy lingerie set, just in case the brunette felt that a pair of warm pyjamas wasn’t a romantic enough gift.)
“Ready?” Serena asks.
“Mmhmm.” Bernie can’t quite summon up the energy for a proper answer, but Serena doesn’t seem to mind as she hears her lover opening the bottle of massage oil in the next moment.
Serena does an excellent job, as always, and Bernie is practically catatonic by the time she finishes. They manage to get her into her pyjama top between the two of them, though Bernie would be first to admit that Serena has to do most of the work.
“Go to sleep, love,” Serena tells her, kissing her forehead, then kissing her very briefly and chastely on the lips. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“’kay. Thank you.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you, too, soldier. Now sleep.”
Bernie sighs softly, then snuggles into her pillow, barely noticing when Serena pulls the duvet up over her.