The sitting room is in a slight state of disarray, and had she been alone, Serena would have chuckled heartily at the barely contained sarcasm of her thought. It is true, she likes things to be in order, for every object to be in its place and not cluttering every open surface available. But today isn’t one of those days. Today, Serena doesn’t mind the mess one bit.
For once, she actually thinks this mess is the best proof of life, of Bernie’s life. And of Bernie’s presence in her life, despite the fact that everyone and everything around them tried their damnedest to keep them apart.
Chief among them, the secondments and the RAMC postings in war zones.
One of those warzones had almost become Bernie’s grave. Or so they’d been told by an overzealous ex, jumping at the opportunity of Bernie having woken up from a short coma with barely a memory of the previous months and years to play a game of pretend and put her hands where they didn’t belong. Namely on Bernie.
Alex had lied to Bernie for weeks, telling her they were engaged, had been for a couple of years but that their relationship was kept secret because of the fact that Bernie was Alex’s direct superior. And then, the cruel woman had the gall to come to Holby to announce the bad news.
It had crushed Serena completely. And it hadn’t been helped by the fact that Alex had been cosying up to her and tried to get in her head with all sorts of ideas.
After this fateful day, things had gone from bad to worse, again thanks to Alex’s help and Serena had decided that Holby had taken too much from her at this point and left. She put her leafy detached - as Bernie had once called it - on sale, left for Cornwall and never looked back.
Imagine her surprise when a handful of months ago - and about two months after taking possession of her new home - she had opened her door, ready for her weekly grocery run in the local shops of the little village she lives on the outskirts of, only to find Berenice Bloody Wolfe on her front step.
She had fainted - out of fear, relief and incredulousness - straight into Bernie’s weary but still very strong arms. It was a complete cliché that scared Bernie in the moment but that makes them laugh now just as much as it still makes Serena blush.
Instinctively she lifts her gaze to look at her partner and the breath catches in her throat.
The light garlands have already been put up all around the room, alternatively blinking red and green. An appropriate choice of colors since it is the day before Christmas Eve.
But it isn’t the glittering lights that stop her in her tracks. It’s the halo they create around Bernie’s blonde head and once more, Serena is grateful that this incredibly gorgeous woman is foolish enough to still love her after all this time, and especially after all the time they spent apart for the sake of Bernie’s career.
That gratitude, enhanced by the powerful love she feels for Bernie, is what makes her stand up and slowly walk towards her partner.
A partner who currently has her hands full of sparkling, glittery baubles - red, white and green - looking at them with an expression of wonder mixed with a smidge of terror, making Serena smirk.
“Need some help, soldier?”
Bernie startles, baubles jumping everywhere and they scramble to catch them before they crash to the ground.
“Maybe we’ll just put them back in the box, for now,” Serena proposes wisely.
Bernie frowns as Serena takes the handful of ornaments away from her grasp, “I thought we -”
She never gets the chance to finish her sentence for Serena has her pressed against the wall between the tree and the fireplace before she even has the time to blink, and is now kissing her to within an inch of her life.
And she would know.
It feels like the first time they kissed. The first time they made love. And the first time after Bernie came back to life. Serena is all passion and tenderness, fire and softness. Her lips and teeth seem to be devouring, sucking, kissing and nipping at every available inch of Bernie’s skin just as her hands are stroking and caressing, fingers grasping and nails scratching.
A button pops open, the hem of a tank top is pushed aside and the very tip of Serena’s tongue starts to toy with the visible part of the scar between her breasts, making Bernie moan loudly and breathily.
It is that moan - the very expression of the burning desire Serena has woken up in Bernie, as only she is capable of - that makes her suggest they continue this upstairs.
“I couldn’t agree more, Maj -”
The front door is suddenly opened with an almighty rattle, forcing them to spring apart from each other, blushes adorning their cheeks. As they wait for the children to make themselves known, they start awkwardly straightening their clothes and hair and putting the room in order. A ridiculously tiny piece of craft paper goes into an improvised garbage bag, a two meter long white fluffy tinsel is slowly and delicately unwrapped and prepared to adorn the tree.
It is that suspiciously calm and collected scene that the children stumble upon, stopping them short in their tracks.
The children - all of them had made the trip for the occasion - who had fancied going on a relatively short walk in the snow are thus all standing at the entrance of the sitting room, still clad in their heavy jackets but sans the snow clogged boots, and dumbly watching their mothers and aunts.
Cameron is the first to recover.
“Caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar, Madre?”
He even has the audacity to smirk.
The reactions are varied. Bernie and Serena blush even harder, Charlie and Elinor groan in embarrassment and even disgust. Jason, Greta and Blu, Charlie’s partner, behave like their usual unaffected selves.
“Careful Mister Dunn,” Bernie admonishes in her best Major’s voice.
“Yeah, we don’t need that image in our heads, thank you very much,” Elinor pipes up.
“Well sorry everybody, but I don’t know what other kind of images could come to our minds considering they’re both acting like nothing happened, while being covered in glitter,” he comes a few paces closer, scrutinising them, “including underneath their clothes,” he adds as he can clearly see the little colored specks under the color of his mother’s shirt.
“Cameron!” Three of the women bellow while Serena turns towards the window, face as red as the decorations, a hand instinctively and nervously arranging the hair at the back of her head.
Blu leans their chin on Charlie’s shoulder.
“Remind me to tease your brother mercilessly the next time he so much as looks at someone.”
They both smirk, satisfied with their plan.
“Deal,” Charlie is quick to answer before swiftly kissing her partner’s cheek.
“Thanks so much, sibling-in-law,” Cameron comments, his tone dripping with sarcasm.
“You’re very welcome,” Blu replies with an - in Charlie and Bernie’s opinion anyway - adorable smugness.
“You know you don’t need to butter them up any more, they already like you,” the boy continues.
“I’m not buttering anyone up, just stating my intentions.” They then clap their hands enthusiastically before talking directly to Bernie and Serena, “now, how about I help you clean the place up a bit, while the others prepare some tea and then we’ll all finish decorating together.”
Various nods or hums of assent are sent their way and the group soon separates itself in two, Jason leading the charge towards the kitchen, reminding them that their walk in the cold makes them all eligible for a nice slice of creamy, chocolatey cake.
Bernie takes advantage of the fact that Blu is currently occupied on the other side of the room to rub a comforting hand across Serena’s shoulders, and ask her in a murmur if she is okay.
Serena chuckles, before turning around.
“Yes, just a little mortified is all. Believe it or not it’s actually the first time I’ve had to suffer through coïtus interruptus,” she replies quietly, not wanting anyone but Bernie to hear her.
And to their defense, Blu does an admirable job of pretending they can’t hear anything.
“Really?” Bernie whispers, eyebrows high in the sky.
“Yes. You of all people should know I can be very quiet, and very careful, when needs must,” she retorts defiantly and saucily.
Bernie’s answer is cut short by Elinor entering the room with a tray covered with a big cake and some small iced biscuits.
“We’re still here,” she declares, amusement and still a tiny bit of embarrassment coloring her tone.
“And we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Serena replies, opening her arms out to her daughter who immediately goes to hug her mother, under Bernie’s tender smile.
The others arrive with the tea, tea cups, milk and spoons and they all settle together as Bernie starts a fire in the hearth, ready to spend this holiday as a family, finally.