And who cares about the thing I did that night?
Too much, too much, too much, too much, too much
Never, never, never enough
Oh, you wondrous creature
Despite the stress and turmoil of the day, Serena Campbell had almost no problem falling asleep. Even with her mind racing racing racing with the events that transpired, the moment she curled up in bed exhaustion took over, robbing her of what she had been looking forward to most that night - replaying that kiss.
It wasn’t until that morning when the enormity hit her. Not of Fletch, she had learned to compartmentalise early on in life, but of that surprising moment when on the floor of the theatre, Bernie had kissed her. And she kissed her back. And what’s more, she enjoyed it. Oh lord, how she had enjoyed it. It was - exhilarating. It was like the waves rushing over you at the beach, and looking up and seeing a countless stars at night, and breathing air that was sharp and clear and of being under a hot shower after a cold day. It was… all those things at once and yet like nothing else she could ever remember experiencing.
Her fingers ghosted across her lips and here, in the safety of her room she allowed herself to smile. She hadn’t been that throughly and properly kissed in far too long and leave it to Holby’s own brooding blonde to be the one to do it. Well, Bernie never did anything by half-measures, why should this be any different?
It had been surprisingly intimate, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the other woman on the floor, consoling her friend who was hurting, who was upset, who was unable to see how amazing she was (and she truly was). It reminded her of being sixteen all over again, consoling her friend Jenny Martin over some boy or another in the bathroom of the pub - goodness, were they ever that young? Except Jenny never kissed her in a moment of pain like Bernie did. Jenny never clung to her as if she was the most precious thing in the universe. Never held her as if she was made of spun sugar and steel, like Bernie did. It was in the moment that their kiss broke that she had a moment of startling clarity - if she was to give in to hyperbole - she wanted to continue kissing her. It didn’t matter that Bernie was a woman, it only mattered that she was her friend and she was hurting and then all at once she was so much more. All of her frustrations with, her fixations on and her constant desire to be with Bernie was because at some point along the way she had…well she had been attracted to her. She was smart, she was beautiful, she was funny and dashing and charming and quiet and loud and stroppy and those eyes and that hair - what right did that woman have, strolling into her life like a damned Botticelli painting. How was Serena expected not fall victim to her and her crooked smile?
Serena lets out a moan of exasperation and rolls over to her side, the sun peeking in through the blinds. She finds she can’t help but think of the kiss - an endless mental monologue about how she had kissed Berenice Wolfe and how it was good. It was better than good, it was damned amazing. Now the question is - what is she going to do about it?
By the time Serena makes it to work, she’s worked herself up into a right state. She doesn’t claim to know everything about the other doctor, but she’s worked with her enough to suspect that she’s beating herself up over … well, everything. Bernie, asides from doing nothing by half-measures, liked to take on the weight of the world onto her shoulders. Besides, focusing on Bernie means she doesn’t focus on herself. She glides in through the doors and greets people in passing without really registering them, picks up two coffees while having a mental discourse on the finer points about the spectrum of sexuality. She makes it to their shared office having reached exactly one conclusion that after she chastises Bernie for the marks left on her neck and chest, she’d like to continue kissing her. Now, she thinks, glancing about their empty office, to find the other woman.
She sets down their coffees and pulls out her phone and sends a quick text: You around?
Serena waits for a moment, taking a sip from her coffee before taking her coat off. She doesn’t look at her phone. She’s not desperate. She may have been straight up until nine hours ago, but even she’s heard about toaster ovens and u-hauls. She seats herself at her desk and begins reviewing the piles of paperwork. She certainly doesn’t look up every time someone rushes by their door, left open, and she most definitely doesn’t check that her mobile has reception and battery and have the volume turned on. No, because that would be silly and childish and immature and where the hell was this woman?
It’s not until she’s summoned to check on one of Bernie’s patients does she venture out of the office. “And where is Dr. Wolfe? Has anyone seen her this morning?” She asks, half to the Essie, half to the staff. “Out.”
“Sick.” Someone else commented from across the nursing desk.
“Came in, took one look at the roster, turned green and walked right back out.” Raf pointed out
“I bet,” Serena mutters under her breath before taking the charts from Essie. “Very well, lead the way.”
From there on, the day runs away from her. While not a particularly heavy day, the drama from the previous shift carried over and she’s doing the work of two as well as trying to make a dent on the pile of paperwork she hadn’t touched last night after… well… after. She eats lunch at her desk, sifting and triaging the mountains of paperwork into clear and distinct actionable items. A pile of already reviewed records to sign off on; a pile of records with clarification from other staff; and a pile for Bernie to do with as she damned well pleases when she mans up enough to… She takes a breath and a sip of her tepid coffee before grabbing another stack of folders. “Ah, Serena - glad to see you… what are you doing?”
“The work of two. How can I help you Henrick?” She looks up at the pale man hovering in her doorway - she wonders how much it would cost to get bells for the staff, just to wear around their necks. Not collars, per se but you know, to prevent people from sneaking up on her.
“Well it appears Dr. Wolfe will be out for a few days - wanted to check in and make sure you’d be staffed accordingly.”
“A few days? Since when?” Her mind snaps into focus hearing Bernie’s name.
“This morning. Let me know if you think we’ll need a locum.” And with that he leaves, leaving her to her mountain range of files and records and thoughts.
One thing's for certain, oh
A year like this passes so strangely
Somewhere between sorrow and bliss
If asked, Bernie would choose to describe how she felt this exact moment by saying she felt like a rubbish pile left out in the rain and then run over by a lorry. She was unbearably hot, but remove even a layer of the blankets and duvets wrapped around her and she would begin shivering uncontrollably. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t do much of anything other than lay on her couch, eyes open but not quite watching whatever was playing on the television.
She supposed she was due for one of her routine bouts of the flu - it happened like clockwork every five years - but damned if it didn’t have the worst timing. All night long she had wanted to see Serena, talk to her, apologise and explain about the kiss. Well, the kisses, because it was more than one. It was more than she could count - both of them lost very quickly in each other and their actions. Her cheeks bush even more as she remembers the night prior, all but dragging Serena into her lap, the sounds the other woman made as she tugged her hair back, mapping the expanse of the exposed neck, trailing along the sinew of her shoulder - and the moment where Serena, finally freed from the onslaught of Bernie’s lips began her own forward offensive - hands tangled in her hair, teeth nipping at her earlobes, scraping down … This wasn’t helping her. She had spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying not to think such thoughts about her friend, which in turn lead to more tossing and turning and thinking about her friend. It became a seemingly endless cycle which is why and how she didn’t realise she was ill and not just her usual, brooding self until she got to work. By the time she had gotten out of her car and made her way through to the ward, she couldn’t control her shaking, her nausea and her feverish sweating. In her defence however, she thought to herself, those were likely the same symptoms she’d have exhibited without the flu at the thought of Serena.
Her thoughts were running on into one another and she couldn’t quite stop them. God, as if her life couldn’t get any messier, she did the one thing she had sworn she wouldn’t do. She thought life was supposed to get easier with age, not more complicated. If she loses Serena, that’s it, she loses everything she’s built up since her return and she is so tired of losing. She is exhausted and weary of it. She has lost her children, her house, her husband, her lover and herself. She has lost it all and now she has to start from scratch once more. Her whole world has been demolished, reduced to rubble, and here she is, trying to sift through the ashes and she manages to… to what? Fall for Serena bloody Campbell? Stubborn, amazing, heartbreaking Serena Campbell. How did that even happen? One morning she was just another woman, then…with every colossal screw up, still she remained. Still she forgave her. Still she smiled at her, a little dimmer sometimes, a little softer, a little more…
The doorbell buzzes.
Bernie wants to shout at them to go away, but is afraid that’ll take more energy than she has so she just curls up a little tighter under her blankets and prays they leave soon.
The buzzing stops and she breathes a sigh of relief.
Then the knocking starts. Loud, steady and on the verge of breaking down her front door. Her head begins to pound and she can’t hear Mary’s comments about soggy bottoms on the television over it. “Bernie, it’s Serena.” No, it couldn’t be. “Berenice Wolfe, you had better be dead or hoisting yourself over to open this door right now.” Yep, it was indeed Serena. Groaning, she half-rolled off the couch into a semi-standing position and shuffled over to the door and swung open the door. “Oh dear, look at you.”
“Lovely to see you too Serena.” She mutters, tugging her blankets tighter around her.
“I do love what you’re wearing, very Grecian, very toga-like.” Serena comments in her usual snark, the concern in her eyes betraying her, examining Bernie. “Let’s have a look at you.” She walks in, uninvited, and hangs her purse on the door handle, closing it behind her. “To be honest, I didn’t think you were really sick.”
“No, forgive me, but I thought you were avoiding me. Or the paperwork that’s taken up residency in our office. Come on Bernie.” She cocks her head towards the couch before the living room. “On the couch with you.”
“You didn’t have to stop by.” Bernie finally replies, shuffling over to the couch where she seats herself down in a heap of wool and cotton and blonde hair.
“Didn’t I?” Serena asks, dropping to her knees before the other other woman. “Easy now Major,” She teases, seeing the look of terror cross the other woman’s eyes. “Just want to get a look at you.” She rubs her hands together briefly to warm them up before beginning a quick exam, laying them gently across her forehead, feeling her lymph nodes in her neck, moving her finger across Bernie’s eyes. “You didn’t exactly rush to reply to my texts.”
“I… I don’t think I even know where my phone is.”
“Oh, that’s brilliant, stay here sick, alone and without your phone.”
“Steady on - you almost sound like you care.” Bernie smiles, or does her best efforts at one, exhausted beyond belief at even the simple activity of getting up to the door.
“Because I do.” Serena admits, locking eyes with the other woman, her voice dropping, her hands finding Bernie’s.
“I do. Very, very much so.” She half-smiles and nods, her heart aching at the fear and uncertainty that was radiating off of Bernie, her tough and macho medic. It occurs to her that she could break this woman so easily. She would never - not willingly. But she could and the thought terrified her. She had wanted to be loved, to be desired and to be the centre of someone’s world - but it now standing on the edge of getting what she wanted (albeit in an unexpected way), it was exhilarating and terrifying. She can’t tear herself away from the other woman’s eyes. They’re so beautiful, even now. “I wouldn’t roll about the floor of my surgery with just anyone, no matter how attractive they are.” She teases, raising her hand and cupping the other woman’s cheek. “Now, lie back down please.”
“And we will. I promise.” Serena brushes her thumb across Bernie’s lips, “When you’re better and when I’m certain you’ll be lucid enough to have a proper conversation. Ok?”
“Ok.” Bernie finally concedes.
Serena helps her lay back down on the couch and settles the blankets around her. “When was the last time you drank anything?” She asks, finally taking in the flat around her and noticing the surprisingly clean area around Bernie. “I don’t…remember.”
“Really Bernie?” She sighs. “Alright, it seems we’re going to be that kind of patient are we?” She asks, walking off towards the kitchen. “You don’t have to, Serena. I’m sure you have other things to do.”
“Lucky for you, I don’t. And I want to. You think you’re slick, but I’m on to you.” She calls out from the kitchen, putting on the kettle for tea, opening the fridge and generally poking about the other woman’s new flat. “You’re just doing this to get out of the paperwork from the last few days.”
“You’ve found me out.”
“It’s grown into quite a lovely mountain range.” She sets out a pitcher of water, prepares the tea for the inevitable whistling. “I’m thinking of putting up a few villas and renting them out as holiday homes.”
“Ah, the scenic sights of Holby.” Bernie teases weakly from the couch. Her heart races a little more at seeing Serena here in her flat. She wishes it was homier, more…than what it currently is. It’s a rather painfully accurate metaphor for her current life - empty, transitory, a touch pathetic if she’s being honest.
Serena returns to her, expertly balancing teapot, pitcher, water glass and two mugs in her hands, setting them on the table. “Think you can stomach a drink?” She asks, pouring out some weak tea, letting hers steep longer.
“Can you try for me?” She smiles, “Humour a friend.” She helps Bernie sit back up and hands her a mug before settling in the open spot. “What are we watching?”
“I don’t… the baking show? Cameron was talking about it last week.”
“Was he? How’s he getting along?”
“Good. We’re… well we’re both trying. It’s not easy.”
“It never is, but it’ll be worth it.”
“Any word from Charlotte?”
“Ah, no. Not yet.” Bernie frowns, brows knitting together as she places her mug back on the coffee table.
“She’ll come around.” Serena hopes she’s not lying to the other woman. “Pass me that pillow?” She motions to the one on the other end of the couch. Bernie passes it to her and watches as she sets it on her lap. “Come on,” She pats it, motioning for her to lay back down.
“Serena, you… you don’t have to do this because I’m ill.”
“Do you want me to leave, Bernie?” She asks, hoping she hasn’t overstepped the other woman’s boundaries. She keeps everything so guarded, so close to the vest that sometimes (alright, all the time) she can’t quite read the other woman properly. She wants to stay. She wants Bernie to know that she’s not alone in all of this, whatever this was. “No, not really.” Bernie sighs, “I just don’t…” She struggles to find the right words. She wants nothing more than to curl up on Serena’s lap and fall asleep but she doesn’t want the other woman to feel bad for her, or pity her. She’s sick and tired and even though Serena said she cared, said it while brushing her lip with her thumb, causing her heart to beat wildly and erratically, she can’t quite believe that the other woman knows what that means. “You’re overthinking Dr. Wolfe, I can see the wheels turning. You have a nasty habit of doing that.” Serena smiles and cocks her head to the side, motioning for her to lie down. This is what it comes down to, Bernie realizes, wanting something versus working towards it. She can choose to want Serena from afar, watching her around the hospital and from across the desk, or she can put in the work, learn how to be in a relationship once more, learn how to trust someone, how to love someone and accept their trust and love in return. Fortunately, Bernie Wolfe’s not afraid of a little hard work.
She gingerly lays herself back down, settling herself on the pillow on Serena’s lap and over the tv she can hear the other woman slowly release the breath she had been holding. “Now, tell me again what we’re watching?” Serena asks, setting her mug down on the floor before gently rests her arm along the other woman’s body. She hadn’t realised how strong the desire was within her to touch the other woman. It has almost always been there, she can see that now, the way their bodies had found ways of gravitating towards each other. It was as if their bodies knew before their minds did. “Well,” Bernie begins, taking Serena’s arm and tucking it across her chest, placing a brief kiss on her hand, “It’s competitive baking.”
“Yes, but it’s also surprisingly soothing.”
“Soothing competitive baking?”
“Hmmm - I can’t explain it, you just need to watch. There’s more to television than quiz shows.”
“Don’t tell Jason that.”
“Hmmmm…” And with that, they both settle down to half-watch, half-wonder about how they found themselves in this level of domesticity. How they managed to find the other. With some stories, the meetings are fated, as if every last thing in the universe conspired to bring them here to this moment. But with them, it wasn’t the machinations of the world but rather something so organic, so natural - like grass and wildflowers sprouting up in the ruins and the rubble. Looking down at the woman in her lap, her breathing shallow but steady, there’s an unexpected swelling in Serena’s chest - her heart constricting against her ribs. All because of this dear, darling woman is curled up on her. The truth was, she cared about this woman quite a lot, that much was simple. And she knew Bernie cared for her as well, she could see that now, all the little gestures, the touches, the looks - it all made sense now. It was everything else about them that made it complicated. Work and the divorce and Jason and well, to be honest - neither of them were particularly adept at interpersonal human relationships - the odds were stacked against them. It didn’t matter though, there was something about the other woman that just made her want to try.
“Hmmm, that feels nice.” Bernie says, her voice soft and sleepy, lulled and soothed by Serena’s hand running through her hair. She smiles as she tries not to think about how those skilled hands may otherwise be employed in the near-future. “Don’t think I don’t see that smile Miss.” Serena all but whispers in her ear, her warm breathe tickling her. God, if she dies, it won’t be of the flu, but from a case of wanting Serena. She thought she’d never love another person, man or woman, as she loved Alex. And perhaps she doesn’t. This doesn’t feel the same. It’s not better or worse, it’s just… different. The urgency is gone. The distortion field of the war zone and army barracks has dissipated and things run on a different time here, unfolding naturally. This was one of the hardest parts of decompressing, adjusting back into supposed reality. Some people weren’t cut out for it, opting to return to their posts. To be fair, she had contemplated that in her darker hours. There there was rules and purpose and never enough time to think. Here, she thinks she could give it all up if it means curling up with Serena Campbell.
“Hiya…” Bernie offers, leaning against the doorway of their office a few nights later.
“Hiya yourself.” Serena beams at her from her desk. “Welcome back to the land of the living.”
“Thanks. Wanted to see you’d like to get a drink? You’re off soon, yeah?”
“I’d love to but… I have plans.”
“Oh.” Bernie’s face deflates, of course she’s have plans.
“Settle down, so do you.” Serena raises an eyebrow, “Do you see the Holby Alps that have sprung up on our desks? We’re digging ourselves out of it tonight before it threatens to bury us both.”
“That said, I have a bottle of Shiraz with our name on it at home and a table plenty big enough.” She rises and makes her way towards the doorway, her eyes never leaving Bernie’s as she watches her squirm under her gaze.
“Oh, big enough for?”
“Paperwork Dr. Wolfe, what else?” She glides her hand across Bernie’s waist, watching her swallow hard, red spreading across her fair cheeks. “Oh, this is going to be fun, isn’t it?” She murmurs into the blonde’s ear. “Hello Henrick.”
“Serena. Ah, Dr. Wolfe, nice to see you amongst the living. You alright? You’re looking a little red.”
“Fine, fine.” She chokes, trying to control her blush at the thought of Serena’s table.
“Are you certain? Perhaps you came back too soon?”
“I think she came just in time, Henrick, didn’t you Bernie?” She asks, walking out of the office to drop off the last of the patient sign offs, grin spreading wide across her face. This was going to be fun indeed.