Seven hundred and eighty-eight days. Two years and two months. However you put it, it had been over two years. It had been over two long, hard, excruciating years since she had last seen her. Berenice Wolfe. The woman whose face and name were permanently seared onto her heart. The woman who had been in her thoughts every day for two years, who she’d stupidly walked away from because she was scared. Who’s the coward now? She thought as she stopped for a minute on her way to the entrance of the building where she was sure to see the woman of her dreams again.
Her head lifted up and her eyes scanned the structure in front of her. Bright morning sunlight danced off the windows that covered the walls, people walked past them in a hurry, doctors and nurses chasing test results or relatives and friends rushing to see injured and sick loved ones. None of them glancing through the glass for a second to see the madness of the rest of the world. To see her standing there, her mind wandering as she closed her eyes to shield them from the reflected light. With her eyes closed, she could hear the chaos around her more clearly. Sirens from ambulances whizzed past her as orders were shouted to other doctors, telling them what treatment that particular patient needed. Is Bernie going to be trying to save them? What ward is she working on now? The woman watching the scene unfold wondered. Altogether the sights and sounds added up to one place. Holby City Hospital.
Why did I agree to do this? What if she doesn’t want to see me? Who am I kidding, I told her she broke my heart by walking away, and then I went and broke hers exactly the same way. Of course she isn’t going to want to see me. Although she came to this conclusion, the woman continued her journey into the hospital. Inside was filled with people sitting and standing around. Catching up with each other or enjoying their early morning caffeine fix.
Her eyes scanned around her as she walked towards the lift, trying to see if the blonde haired surgeon was in the café or talking to someone. When she didn’t see her, she breathed a sigh of relief she didn’t know she was holding. As much as she wanted to see Bernie she didn’t think she was quite ready yet. She didn’t know what she was going to say when she finally did see her, and she would rather have some idea as to how she was going to explain, practically beg her for forgiveness and suggest they give their relationship another go.
The lift was full of people going about their business and the woman was grateful that the all of them seemed too preoccupied with their own lives to notice her. She had worked here before; there was the definite possibility that someone was going to recognise her. As the lift pinged on her floor and the doors opened, she stepped out into an anything but empty corridor. She walked down it until she came to the door she was looking for. The plaque adorning it read, Henrik Hanssen CEO. The woman knocked sharply three times and waited for permission to go inside. In a matter of seconds, a voice from inside called “enter” and she proceeded to open the thick, wooden door, revealing the office inside. Alex Dawson had returned to Holby, and for Berenice Wolfe and her fellow doctors, life would never be the same again.
Berenice Wolfe hated paperwork. She hated it with a passion and it was no secret to anyone who knew her. She had put the mountain of paper, which could currently rival Everest, off for too long, and came into work early that morning reluctantly determined to finally get it done. Throwing the latest completed patient file over to one side and reaching to pick up the next with a long sigh, she was so focused on the task at hand she didn’t hear the door to her shared office open and the very woman she shared that office with walk in, coffee in hand, and come up behind her.
“Having fun?” Serena whispered close to Bernie’s ear.
Bernie almost hit the ceiling she jumped so much at Serena’s unexpected presence and clutched at her chest to try and slow her heart down which was currently beating out of her chest.
“Bloody hell Serena! Now who needs louder shoes?” Bernie gushed.
“Haha, finally! I’ve been trying to sneak up on you for months.” Serena had such a sense of triumph in her voice.
“Are you expecting a medal?” Bernie’s breathing was still heavy with surprise.
“Nope, the feeling of pride I have is enough.” Serena smiled.
“Well, I’m glad you’re pleased with yourself.” Bernie had finally got over her shock and let out a short laugh. She couldn’t help but feel wonderfully euphoric inside at the sight of her girlfriend’s intense smile. How did I get so lucky? Bernie wondered.
“I bought you coffee by the way.” Serena held out the still steaming coffee for her lover to take. “Thought you might need it. Seeing as you’ve finally decided to tackle that stack of paperwork on your desk.”
“I know. I love being a trauma surgeon, it’s the best job in the world, but I could most certainly do without the paperwork that comes with it.” She replied, taking the cardboard cup from Serena.
“Me too, but you know, comes with the territory.” Serena took a long sip from her own cup.
“There is one thing that makes paperwork infinitely better though,” Bernie smirked over the rim of her take away coffee.
“And what’s that?”
“Doing it across the room from you.”
Bernie gently took Serena’s drink from her and placed it with hers quickly onto the desk before leaning down to thoroughly kiss her. Serena revelled in the feeling of Bernie’s lips on hers, the taste of cigarettes and the coffee she had just drunk invading her taste buds. Hands quickly found their way into messy blonde curls and around necks pulling each other impossibly closer. An abrupt knock on their office door broke up the moment and the two women were forced to part, breathing heavily having poured all their energy and breath into the kiss. They somewhat composed themselves and a short “come in” was called to whoever was on the other side of the door.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Raf entered the room with a sheepish grin on his face, “But Hanssen has called a last minute meeting with everyone at the nurse’s station, and sent me to come and get you both.”
“Don’t worry Raf.” Bernie found her voice significantly faster than Serena to reply to the Scottish registrar. “Tell Hanssen we’ll be out in just a minute.”
“Okay,” Raf said as he exited the room, with one final questioning glance at the still slightly flushed Serena Campbell. “See you out there.”
He shut the door tight behind him, correctly suspecting the co-leads of AAU would need a minute alone before facing Hanssen and the rest of the ward. Bernie turned to face her brunette colleague with a smile.
“That was a close one.” She released a breathy laugh as she observed the slight redness of Serena’s cheeks and the heavy rise and fall of her chest.
“Too right it was. Too close. We really need to stop having moments in the office when all and sundry could walk in, and more often than not do.” Serena had slowly got over the embarrassment of almost being caught passionately snogging her girlfriend and co-lead in their office enough to find her own voice.
“Oh don’t pretend you don’t love the danger of possibly getting caught.” Bernie said knowingly.
“Whatever.” She replied, knowing in all good faith she couldn’t deny that accusation, “We better go and see what Hanssen wants before he gets his knickers in a twist.”
“Agreed” Bernie smirked, and with a final kiss to Serena’s cheek, she swept out of the office.
That woman is going to be the death of me, Serena decided staring into the empty doorway Bernie had just walked through, and what a wonderful way to go.
Once all the necessary staff of AAU were present and situated around the nurse’s station, Hanssen finally thought it appropriate to proceed with whatever announcement he had planned.
“Good morning everyone. As you all may be aware Miss Young, our regular anaesthetist, has taken off for a week in the Caribbean. Because of this, we will need a locum to fill in for her until her return.” He began.
Wonderful, Serena thought, we’re probably going to be stuck with some ridiculously old man who thinks he knows everything. What a fabulous week this is going to be.
Unaware of Serena’s thoughts Hanssen continued, “Now I’m sure many of you have been acquainted with this particular woman before, and our very own Ms Wolfe has worked very closely with her in the past, so lengthy introductions are unnecessary. For the next seven days, you will be working with none other . . . than Miss Alex Dawson.”
He paused his short speech to gauge the reaction of his staff. He knew about the rumours of Ms Wolfe and Miss Dawson and he also knew that the rumours were not just rumours. Something had happened between the two women out there on the battlefield, and Alex’s presence in Holby could most certainly have an impact on the entire hospital. Many people were close to Berenice Wolfe and not only that but her own girlfriend co-ran this ward with her. It was very possible that he was opening up a very big can of worms by taking on Alex Dawson for even a week.
Bernie had to clench her jaw to prevent her mouth from dropping open at the mere mention of Alex’s name from her boss. She was here. In Holby again. How do I feel about that? She wondered, to be honest, I would have comfortably left our relationship where we did. I have a life here now. I have Serena and Jason, Cam and I are finally talking, Charlotte and I have little communication but it’s so much better than it was. I have friends; I have Fletch, Raf, Morven, and Dom, not to mention Sacha, Essie and everyone I’m acquainted with on Darwin. I have Holby City Hospital, and life has never been better. Now all of that is going to be thrown into turmoil because of a ghost from my past. Bernie glanced over to Serena to see how she was taking the news of having to work with her girlfriend's ex for the next week.
Serena knew exactly who Alex Dawson was. Bernie had told her everything, not to mention the rumours she had heard from the majority of the hospital. What did this mean for her and Bernie? Was Alex here expecting a warm welcome and to pursue another relationship with the blonde? If she was would Bernie take her back? Would she leave me to be with her? Maybe it was fate. Maybe Alex was just meant to just swagger in here and sweep Berenice Wolfe of her feet, leaving me in her past. She glanced over to her girlfriend, and in one look, Serena could read all of her thoughts. And what she saw was enough to put all her fears to rest. For now.
“Miss Dawson,” Hanssen continued “is currently in the locker room getting ready for her shift, and when she arrives onto the ward I expect you all to give her a big Holby City welcome.”
Serena’s eyebrows raised a barely noticeable fraction at Henrik’s words.
“Now for my final announcement, I think congratulations are in order. It has been officially two years since Holby City’s extremely successful trauma unit was first opened. The endeavour wasn’t an easy one but its goal was reached with most wonderful results. Anyone who wishes to join me at Albie’s later, I will be getting the first round in as a sign of my congratulations and thanks, and also to toast too many more years of successful partnership between Ms Campbell and Ms Wolfe.” Hanssen nodded his head to the two women as a sign of respect and, in true Henrik Hanssen style, swiftly left AAU.
As soon as he was out of sight Bernie all but ran to her office. She needed a moment to herself after that bombshell. Serena’s eyes tracked her movements until the door to the office was practically slammed shut. She took a deep breath, briefly closing her eyes before turning to face her staff.
“Right you all heard Hanssen, when Miss Dawson gets here show her the ropes, and make sure she feels welcome. Now I know we’ve all heard the rumours about Ms Wolfe and our new locum anesthetist, but I expect you all to treat them both no different than you normally would. We are all Bernie’s friends, some of us more than others granted, but we’re all her friends in some form or another, so let’s ignore the past she shares with our guest for the time being. Yes?” Serena was determined not to let Bernie’s past interfere with the present and the relationships she had worked so hard build with everyone at Holby.
Answers of ‘yes’ and ‘of course’ were all aimed Serena’s way, and she smiled. Holby truly did always look out for their own when it really came down to it.
“Thank you. Now back to work everyone, this ward isn’t going to run itself.” Serena declared, and the congregation of people scurried off to their allocated jobs. Now the hard part, thought Serena, talking to Bernie about all of this.
Serena slowly opened their office door and closed it as quietly as possible behind her. She paused for a fraction of a second before turning and facing Bernie. The blonde was hunched over her desk, head in her hands, quiet sobs making her body shake. Serena wasted no time in rushing to her lover’s side, crouching down beside her and wrapping her arms around her.
“Shh,” She soothed as she rubbed her back gently, “I’m here, its ok.”
She held Bernie until her crying subsided to small sniffles and she could talk to Serena.
“I’m sorry,” Bernie whispered just loud enough to be heard.
“What on Earth do you have to be sorry for?” Serena asked.
“I’m sat here crying over my ex, and you’re still here comforting me. What in the world did I do to deserve you?” Bernie questioned wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Bernie, Alex meant so much to you once upon a time. She helped you discover who you were and for that, I will be forever grateful to her. Without her, I wouldn’t have you now. Alex was a big part of your life at a time when you didn’t have anyone else out there on that battlefield. Yes, you left her but it’s not like you had a choice is it? I mean you were blown up for god sake! When it came down to it you begged her to stay and she still left and she never came back. Until now. And I know what it feels like to lose someone you love, under the illusion that you don’t know what you want, and it hurts. So I know what you went through. The big difference being however, I got you back, and the deal I made when we got together properly was that I would stick by you no matter what. Ex’s and all, I love you Berenice Wolfe and don’t you bloody forget it.” Serena shut down any insecurity that Bernie may be feeling with one of her impressive speeches.
“Nice speech Fraulein. I love you too.” Bernie replied, a smile finally making its way onto the blonde's face. That was one of the many things that Bernie loved about Serena, her ability to put a smile on her face no matter how down she was feeling. “I don’t know what Alex wants, but the one thing she will not get back is me. That ship sailed a very long time ago and I came to terms with it, even if she hasn’t. I’m not giving up the best thing in the world for a woman I don’t even love anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I think it was just the adrenalin of leaving the field for a few stolen moments.”
“Do you think that’s what she’s back for then? She wants you and her to try again?”
“I’m not going to try and guess what Alex is here for or what’s going on in her head, but me and you are not going to act any differently with each other because of her presence. You know I think people would start to get worried if you and I went a shift without our lingering touches and heart eyes from across the ward.” Bernie said, a laugh escaping her lips.
“I do not make heart eyes at you.” Serena protested.
“Yeah you do.” Bernie quickly placed a kiss on Serena’s lips, much faster than the one they had shared earlier that morning, and proceeded to take Serena’s hand and get up off her chair, making the brunette stand up with her, “and I don’t want you to ever stop. Even when we’re old and grey I want to look across the room and see you staring at me with that adorable look on your face. Now come on then Ms Campbell, AAU isn’t going to run itself.”
“You are absolutely right Ms Wolfe. Shall we return to battle?” Serena asked agreeing that they had said everything they needed to for the moment.
“Into battle” Bernie replied, and with a smile fixed firmly on her face, she reached out to take her girlfriends hand, squeezing it gently before letting it drop and both women walked out the door feeling completely ready to face whatever Holby City Hospital had to throw at them next.
Bernie was barely out onto the ward before her brain registered a familiar figure, with her back to her, across the ward. Familiar short brown hair, unchanged since their last meeting over two years before, the same slender figure, and before Bernie had time to take in anything else of the other woman, she turned and Bernie’s chestnut eyes locked onto bright blue and memories of their time together came flooding back.
“Alex.” Bernie breathed.