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don't care what you keep doin' (just keep on doin' it with me)

Chapter Text

Bernie wasn't really sure where the idea had first come from. Perhaps a throwaway suggestion at Albie's when she leaned in close in a haze of shiraz and admitted to Serena that she had received the final paperwork for the divorce. Or an idea mentioned in the midst of carols and eggnog as Bernie quite accidentally spent the entirety of her Christmas holidays at Serena's home (a fact that made her predicament all the more challenging by Jason's love of hanging mistletoe all over the house). And by predicament, of course, she meant the fact that somehow between early morning coffees and late night bottles of shiraz and working all day together in between she had done the most daft thing she could possibly do and fallen head over heels in love with her best friend. Her wonderful, heterosexual, best friend.

But anyway, somewhere somehow Serena had suggested (you deserve a vacation, it's tax deductible, we'll gain valuable knowledge for the AAU) and Bernie had agreed (who could say no to a determined Serena Campbell) and now they were going to be enjoying a lovely 2 weeks on a cruise through the Grecian isles spending their mornings learning about the latest research in treating facial trauma, their afternoons exploring local culture, and their evenings quaffing endless complimentary bottles of shiraz. It was, in effect, Bernie's greatest dream and biggest nightmare all in one. For as much as she was looking forward to all the time alone with Serena she wasn't quite sure how she was supposed to keep her hands to herself.

Ever since that night on the theatre floor after Fletch's surgery, the night when Serena told her how fantastic she was, the night that she had almost—almost—dropped her ever-present British reserve and pulled Serena into her arms with a sound kiss, she had found herself constantly fighting the desire to kiss her. And it did not help that Serena seemed to have absolutely no qualms about touching at all. She was constantly placing a hand on Bernie's arm as she walked past, standing so close their arms touched as they went over charts together, reaching over to tuck a stray piece of Bernie's hair behind her ear. It was maddening.

And Christmas! Oh, Christmas. They had, through some immense luck, managed to both escape being on call throughout the holiday and so had spent many cozy evenings enjoying drinks and treats by the fire, singing along to carols with Jason as Serena snuggled into Bernie's side as though it were the natural thing to do and Bernie got completely distracted and spent the entire time wondering where she was supposed to place her hands. Jason's carefully placed mistletoe had been circumvented by gentle kisses on the cheek, though that had not stopped Bernie's fierce blush at each occasion. And in each moment of perfect joyous domesticity Bernie's heart ached slightly for the imaginary could-have-been she just couldn't seem to shake from her head. Despite all her efforts a part of her wondered at every possible turn. What if she turned her head under the mistletoe and caught Serena's lips in a proper kiss? What if she professed her true feelings? What if Serena craned her head up as they cuddled on the sofa and pressed shiraz-stained lips to her own? What if dyed in the wool heterosexual Serena decided that for Bernie she could make an exception? What if…

Her phone beeped, distracting her from her thoughts. She looked down to see a notification from Cameron confirming their rendezvous for coffee the following day and smiled. Despite her rampant inability to do right in her personal life, by some grace she and her son were managing to build their way back to some facsimile of a proper relationship.

****

Bernie sat down in the café, a cup of hot coffee in her hands and another on the table in preparation for Cameron's arrival. She was early. She felt that considering her history of not being around throughout many of Cam's most important childhood events she could at the very least be on time now. Bernie sighed. Serena had been prodding her for months now to go to see someone and talk to them about her life, her military service, her rampant feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and all the other messy emotions she generally tried to pretend didn’t exist. Much better to tamp it down, box it away, and never deal with it she had always felt. But as Serena had pointed out (multiple times, she would most likely interject) that method was not working out for her very well. So she had looked around and found someone she thought she could put up with and she had a first appointment in February.

It had been her unofficial extra Christmas present to Serena, actually. She had taken the ugliest Christmas card she could find, scrawled ‘happy now?’ inside, put the confirmation card from the receptionist in with the card and hidden the envelope at the very bottom of the pile of gifts under Serena’s tree. Jason had found it long after everything else had been opened when he had gone to water the tree. The look on Serena’s face when the realisation of just what Bernie was telling her hit was one of Bernie’s favourite memories. She mused on Christmas while sipping at her coffee, trying to keep her mind from wandering to the memory of how Serena’s body felt tucked into her side.

When Cam arrived she was grateful for something else to focus on. She stood as he came up to the table and they embraced, albeit slightly awkwardly, before sitting down. She peppered him with questions about school and exams, glad to hear the joy in his tone even if it was hidden beneath a thick layer of youthful disdain at his mother's obvious pleasure. She learned more about his Christmas holidays (spent in Switzerland with friends from uni), his new apartment (cramped but nicer than the last), and his love life (currently single but mustering up the courage to ask out a girl in his program).

When the subject matter turned to her instead, Cam was equally curious. He asked thoughtful questions about her life, about AAU and her colleagues there, and about her Christmas. He quirked an eyebrow when she admitted she had spent the time at Serena’s and she rolled her eyes playfully at the implication. Ever since his ill-advised trip to the hospital in the summer she could not shake the idea from his head that she had a crush on Serena. Funnily enough his questions about the exact nature of her and Serena’s relationship were what had initially prompted her to examine just how she felt about her, but she didn’t feel as though her son needed to know about his mother’s pathetic unrequited crush. She assured him that Serena was doing well.

"Well if you must know we're going on a bit of a vacation together." She admitted after he pushed a bit further. But was quick to follow up as his grin widened. "No! Not like that. Just a bit of a getaway. As friends ." She pierced him with a mock glare. "Nothing more"

"Okay, okay." He raised his hands in surrender. "When are you headed out?"

"We'll be gone the 13th through the 26th."

Of all the reactions Bernie was expecting, a loud guffaw from Cam was not on the list.

"I'm sorry." He calmed down, "sorry mum. I just think it's a bit funny. You and dad being split up for good, you know. And suddenly you're taking vacation at the same time."

"Ah." She paused a moment to gulp down the rest of her coffee. "And tell me, where will your father be spending his time?"

"Some cruise? He said something to Charlotte about Greece and facial trauma. Not too sure. Haven’t talked to him about it directly to be honest."

And that was the moment Bernie stopped listening. She continued to visit with Cameron, using every ounce of control she had to maintain a calm exterior, but her mind was in turmoil. She was trying desperately to process the fact that for some godforsaken reason fate had decided she hadn’t had a shit enough 2016 and was looking to ruin 2017 right from the get go.

****

After she and Cam said their goodbyes, Bernie got into her car and sped to the hospital. She ran up the stairs to the AAU, unwilling to wait for the lift and rushed into the office she shared with Serena glad to see her seated inside. Breathless, she slammed the door behind her and blurted out the words she'd been thinking since she had left the cafe.

"We can't go."

"What?" Serena looked up from her work in consternation at the panting mess of Bernie in front of her.

"The cruise. Our trip. We can’t go."

"What do you mean? Of course we're going! The trip's booked, as are our flights, Hanssen's approved the time off, Sue and Alan have arranged a schedule with Jason to which Jason has agreed, and I have called in a truly unholy number of favours with Ric Griffin so that he'll cover the ward while we're gone. We are going." She cocked her head. "What's the matter, anyway? I thought you were looking forward to our little Grecian escape."

Bernie hung her head and mumbled,

"I think Marcus is going on the same trip."

"Sorry?"

"Marcus is going on the same trip."

Serena stared at her, looked as though she was about to say something, and instead pulled the chair by the door closer to her desk.

"Take your jacket off, have a seat, and start from the beginning."

Bernie did as she was instructed, chucking her coat and scarf onto her desk before collapsing in the chair.

"I was at coffee with Cameron" she began, as though Serena was not perfectly aware. “And I mentioned our vacation and he thought it was amusing that Marcus and I would be taking holidays at the same time now that, well, everything's finalized with the divorce and all and then when I asked about specifics he said that Charlotte had said that Marcus was going to Greece to learn about facial trauma." She looked up at Serena, "And as I doubt there are 2 such cruises happening in the exact same time and place that would mean that…"

"Ah" Serena interjected. "Yes, well. Rather hard to have a good-riddance-old-boy trip if the 'old boy' in question is there the whole time, isn't it?"

"Exactly." Bernie let out a huff and leaned back. "So that settles it. We're not going."

"Oh no. We are definitely going."

"But—"

"Bernie, I have been looking forward to this trip for weeks. As have you! Why don't you just use the opportunity, you know, let Marcus know that you are well and truly over him." Serena seemed considerably less affected by Bernie’s news than she was hoping.

"How?"

"Easy. Just let him believe that you are happily in a relationship, make sure you look absolutely fabulous each time you see him, and grind his heart under your heel.”

"Who would I say I'm dating? And why would he believe me?" Bernie didn’t really think Serena was thinking this through at all.

"I assumed he would assume that you and Alex are still…"

"Oh." Bernie looked down at her hands, biting her lip. Serena waited patiently for her to explain.  "Marcus is actually aware that Alex and I are not, are no longer in communication."

"How?"

"The subject of my, ummm infidelity uhhhh arose during some of the proceedings. And things got spirited and I may have let Marcus know that Alex left me before I left him."

“You got pissed off and let it slip in the heat of the moment?” Serena grinned at Bernie’s confirming nod. “Well I can’t say I’d have done less.”

Serena furrowed her brow for a few moments, considering the implications of everything Bernie had just laid out. Then she snapped her fingers and looked over at Bernie with a grin. “I’ve got it! You can just tell him you’re dating me."

Serena may as well have run her over with a lorry. Bernie sat completely still for half a minute before managing to splutter out some words.

“I— You— What ?”

“Oi don’t have to be too surprised!” Serena playfully swatted Bernie’s knee “I’ll have you know I’m a catch.”

“No, no, no, Serena that’s not what I meant. I just.” She paused, took a breath. “How?”

“Simple. We hold hands, tell everyone we’re together. Maybe kiss once or twice while Marcus is watching” she shrugged.

“Are you sure Serena?” She leaned forward, making eye contact with Serena. “I mean, it would be asking a lot.”

“You’re not asking, I offered.” Serena’s soft gaze was more reassurance than her words could ever be. "It’s the perfect solution Bernie. You get to stick it to your ex and I get the well deserved holiday with my best friend that I have been anticipating for weeks."

“Okay” Bernie agreed finally. She held her hand out, “Girlfriends?”

Serena took the proffered hand in a warm shake, holding on a couple moments too long.

“Girlfriends.”

Bernie was almost out the door of their joint office when she heard Serena call after her,

“Oh and I’ll just call the cruise company and tell them to move us to one room instead of two.”

Oh shit .

Chapter Text

When Bernie got to the airport at 5:30 in the morning, she stumbled through check in and blearily made her way through security, sending up a silent prayer of thanks to whomever the god of air travel was that she wasn't selected for a random screening. When she arrived at the departure gate Serena was waiting for her, extra coffee in hand. Bernie thought it was entirely unfair that Serena was able to look so incredibly good at this godforsaken hour at an airport , the one place where all of humanity had agreed that everyone would let down their regular façade and show the world just how haggard they could look. But no. Serena Campbell was eminently awake and looking fabulous in black trousers, maroon shirt, and chic but comfortable grey cardigan. Had Bernie been any less pathetically in love with her she would have hated her in that moment.

Thankfully Serena respected the fact that Bernie looked as though she had crawled out of bed 5 minutes before she was due to leave (she had) and didn't try to initiate any form of small talk until Bernie had consumed her first coffee and was well on her way to finishing her second.

"Glad you made it, soldier" Serena said with a playful smile.

"I think you'll note that I made it with plenty of time to spare." Bernie rebutted. The flight wasn't due to board until 6:15, giving her 45 minutes of grace from the point the taxi had dropped her off. "When did you get here?"

"It is clearly stated on essentially every piece of paperwork you get when flying that you should arrive at the airport two hours before departure for any European flight." Serena was using her prim-and-proper-Ms-Rules voice but Bernie did not miss the defensiveness.

"Please tell me you were not here at 4:45 in the morning."

"Well," Serena grimaced. "4:35 actually, I calculated 10 minutes more for the taxi than was strictly necessary."

"Christ. What have you been doing since then?"

"If you must know I caught up on the latest issue of the BMJ, skimmed The Economist, and made friends with the lovely young man who will be our flight attendant today."

"Charmed the pants off of, you mean." Bernie could not believe Serena's innate ability to enthrall those around her wherever she went.

Serena shrugged, but she was grinning wickedly,

"Suffice it to say I am very confident that we will each have a mimosa in hand within minutes of reaching our seats."

"Of course!" Bernie laughed, she should have known.

Their conversation was cut off by the flight attendants beginning boarding announcements. True to word, 15 minutes later Bernie and Serena were seated comfortably, mimosas in hand nigh immediately. Bernie did not miss the slight flush in the attendant's cheeks as he handed Serena hers and she spared a moment of pity for the poor lad. No mere mortal could resist the Serena Campbell charm, but to experience it in all its magnitude at this hour of the day was truly unfair.

She turned to Serena, meeting her triumphant smile with a grin of her own, clinking her glass against hers before taking a long sip.

As the plane lifted off the ground, Bernie couldn't draw her eyes away from Serena. Serena had taken the window seat and so the view Bernie had as the vessel cleared the clouds was the bright sun of early morning streaming through the small airplane window and enveloping Serena in an ethereal glow. Her heart skipped in her chest at the sight, golden sunlight accentuating Serena's graceful features as she smiled that glorious smile that Bernie could swear was reserved just for her.

In the midst of that splendor Bernie was left to wonder once more what she’d been pondering for weeks: how the hell was she supposed to survive this trip with her heart and her dignity intact?

****

Serena Campbell was no fool.

Say what you would about her, and she was well aware people did, no one would call her that. She had been cognizant for some time of her troublesome little infatuation for her co-lead and best friend. The same best friend that was currently dead asleep, splayed out across Serena's tray table, head pillowed on her arm, a streak of drool running down her chin. The fact that Serena found it adorable was what brought her to the matter of the infatuation.

She had noted over the past 6 months that her perceptions of Bernie were being… Coloured . She was reading too much into each and every interaction, her brain making connections that simply weren't there to hint at something more than just friendship in what they had. At least, nothing more than friendship was being projected from Bernie's side. Serena herself all too frequently found herself losing track of their conversations because she was busy thinking about what Bernie's reaction would be if she kissed her or how long it would take to locate every single mole on Bernie's fair skin.

The matter of her sexuality was, well, a non-issue in her opinion. She was much too far along in life to be bothered by labels, though she would privately admit to a couple of shiraz-fuelled google searches that read something along the lines of "51 female and in love with my female best friend am I gay" all results to which had been completely unhelpful, when she had first noticed her view of Bernie changing. It was the 21st century for god’s sake and she was confident in herself and if she had been noticing the beauty of women a little more than she had before, then so be it. The concern of course, was that Bernie Wolfe: gorgeous brainy blonde trauma surgeon could have any woman she wanted, really, and why would that woman ever be Serena Campbell?

Though she had never cared to mention it to Bernie, she had met Alex Dawson in passing during her locum at Holby and she could fully understand what Bernie saw in her. Gorgeous, slim, ten years her junior, what wasn't to love? Fully aware that she was nothing near Bernie's type, Serena was quite determined to let her feelings fade into obscurity. Something which was bound to happen over time.

So for now, she lived with the fact that her breath quickened a pace when Bernie got too close, that her brain obsessively catalogued each minute sensation every time they touched, that she looked forward to the first glimpse of her she would get in the day like a tobacco addict looked forward to their first cigarette. She accepted it all with the tacit understanding that what she felt would never be returned and with absolute practicality. She was lucky to have this incredible woman in her life as her best friend and it would not do to ruin that for some hair-brained attempt at something more. Her imagination be damned.

Though it had not been a consideration when she’d offered herself as a solution to Bernie’s Marcus problem, Serena did plan to use this opportunity to get it all out of her system. She and Bernie would kiss and hold hands and share a bed and she would let her body get its fill of Berenice Wolfe.

The ding of the seat belt sign turning on broke through her thoughts and she leaned forward to shake Bernie awake.

****

Bernie happily followed Serena’s lead throughout the process of disembarking, collecting their baggage, and finding a taxi to take them to the Port of Piraeus. Well armed with a phrase book, Serena was able to get them where they needed to go and Bernie learned that Serena’s considerable charm worked across cultural and lingual barriers. The drive took nearly an hour as the taxi took them almost right through the center of Athens allowing a delightful glimpse of some of Athens’ most famed sites. Serena eagerly pointed out each landmark, earnestly trying to relay in a couple of minutes what was obviously a vast amount of knowledge about Greek history. Watching and listening to Serena, Bernie couldn’t help but be glad they had chosen this trip, in spite of the complications that had since arisen. When she and Serena had finally sat down to choose where they wanted to go they had discussed many different locales, including some tropical trips that would have been much nicer weather-wise at this time of year. But Serena’s throwaway comment of having always been interested in visiting Greece had piqued her interest. After she had wheedled Serena into admitting that she had studied both Ancient Greek culture and language extensively at university, the choice had made itself.

Once they arrived at the harbour, They found their ship with ease and stepped on board, joining the line of people waiting to check in. The helpful young woman organising the check in gave them each a room key and a program for the conference, along with a brochure on the ship’s many wonderful amenities.

When they got to their cabin, Bernie took one look at the singular queen bed inside and balked. Knowing in theory that they would be sharing a bed—god, she’d thought of nothing else for weeks—was one thing, coming face to face with it was another. She could feel the blush rise on her cheeks as she stammered,

“Uhhh, I can sleep on the floor, ummmmm if you’d like. It’s no problem. Really Serena I don’t mind.”

“Don’t be ridiculous Bernie! We can share the bed, we’re both adults.” Serena grinned at her, “just don’t tell me you’re a cover hog.”

“No” Bernie managed to choke out.

“It’ll be like a sleepover!” Serena’s giddiness overrode any objections Bernie may have had. She bowed to Serena’s wishes on the matter of preferred bed sides and set her suitcase down on her side of the room.

She stepped into the loo to wash the grime and sleep from her face and then joined Serena sitting on the edge of the bed and opened up the program she’d been given. They flipped through, pointing out to each other the talks and speakers they were most excited for. Then skimmed the tourist destinations planned, Serena circling those she thought were the most important. They looked over the impressive list of facilities on the ship as well, Bernie laughing as Serena took the time to note the location of each and every bar. With hours to spare before the party that would kick off the cruise that night, Bernie and Serena agreed to set out and explore the sizeable ship on which they would be staying.

Chapter Text

Knowing that the trip would begin with a soirée, both Bernie and Serena had planned to be looking their absolute best. And not just because they were sure they would run into Marcus there. Despite not being the type of person who had ever enjoyed shopping, Bernie had put an extensive amount of effort into looking for outfits for this trip. In the weeks leading up to the trip she had spent her spare time at shopping centres, searching for the perfect outfit for every occasion.

The dress she was wearing she had spied immediately from outside the store as she’d been walking past. The pale teal had caught her eye because it was exactly the same shade as Serena's scrubs. She had bee-lined for it and was grateful when the dress had fit well and looked good. The fabric of it was delicate lace, sheer from the sweetheart neckline to her collarbones and extending all the way down her arms. It draped over her body in a flattering manner, highlighting her curves with a trumpet skirt that hugged her hips. The pièce de résistance was that the dress was completely backless. It cut down from her shoulders and joined together at the small of her back leaving the rest of her back completely bare. She had been unsure about it at first, loving the colour and cut but nervous that she was much too old to be sporting such a look but the shop girl had gasped and lauded the look and she had let herself be convinced.

Her hair she gathered up in a twist with a lovely silver clip that Jason had bought her Christmas. She had been overjoyed when she'd opened the gift and even more pleased with it later on when Serena had affirmed that he had picked it out all on his own.

Bernie emerged from the toilet, nervously smoothing down the dress. She had not realised how much she cared about Serena's reaction until the time for it had come. But as soon as she saw Serena she stopped in her tracks. She was standing by the bed in a white button down, dark grey slacks and matching waistcoat. Bernie wasn't sure if she would ever breathe again. The waistcoat was darted in at the sides showing off Serena's curves, the line of the trousers highlighting the length of her legs. There was a complimentary suit jacket laid out on the bed. Her blouse was still undone at the top, just open enough to show a hint of cleavage, and Serena had a pale turquoise paisley tie hanging around her neck. When Serena had cajoled Bernie into texting her a photo of her dress fabric so they 'wouldn't clash' Bernie had never imagined she was planning on doing this: on dressing so there couldn't possibly be any question that they were together. And somehow that stark symbol of possessiveness only made her more alluring.

Bernie had never really thought of herself as a sexual person. She enjoyed sex, of course. But it was never her primary motivator in life. At that moment, however, she could think of nothing but pinning Serena up against the nearest wall and ripping that beautiful suit off of her. Kissing every inch of her skin, burying her face in the valley of her breasts and the apex of her thighs. Unaware, Bernie let out a gasp and Serena whirled around at the sound.

She gave Bernie a casual once over and looked up at her with that wicked grin that always made Bernie speechless.

"Do mine eyes deceive me? Berenice Wolfe owns something other than skinny jeans and crumpled blouses?"

Bernie gave her a slight smile in return, not trusting her ability to form words, immediately drawing her bottom lip between her teeth and nibbling at it. How could Serena not know the effect she had on her?

She continued to stare as Serena buttoned her sleeves and then did up the rest of her blouse and went to go tie her tie. After two unsuccessful attempts Bernie stepped towards her.

“Here, Serena. Let me.”

“It’s different tying it on yourself” Serena explained. Bernie nodded in agreement, her mind completely taken by the task at hand. She took her time, made sure the windsor knot was tied perfectly. There was something undeniably intimate about the actions. They didn’t speak. No sound but the soft slither of silk against silk. Bernie’s knuckles grazed Serena’s neck as she worked. The air around them seemed to thicken. When Bernie was done she took a step back, needing some space between them lest she used the tie in her hand to pull Serena towards her, kiss her square on the lips. End this trip before it began.

She turned away to rummage through her suitcase for her shoes, completely missing Serena choking on air behind her as she saw the naked expanse of Bernie's back. By the time she had put her simple nude kitten heels on and turned back, Serena had recovered and carefully schooled her expression to one of expert neutrality.

Serena donned her shoes: tall leopard print stilettos that put her on par with Bernie for height. One look at them and Bernie knew they’d be featuring in her fantasies for weeks.

Holding the crook of her elbow out towards Bernie she said

"Now take my arm Ms Wolfe and let's go show them what we're made of.”

**** 

When they walked into the ballroom, they both gasped appreciatively at the splendor of it. The lights and high vaulted ceilings were undeniably impressive. They wandered through, taking in the overwrought splendor of it all.

Once they had travelled the perimeter once Serena turned to Bernie.

"I think I spied someone with champagne. I'll be right back."

"Of course.” Bernie chuckled. She would expect nothing else.

Serena squeezed her hand briefly and then she was off. Bernie stood awkwardly where Serena had left her. She had never felt comfortable at formal affairs and once Serena had left her side she didn’t know what to do with herself.

"Bernie?" She heard her name behind her. Whirling around she came face to face with her ex-husband.

“Marcus.” She faltered. What the hell was she supposed to say in this situation? She let her consternation play out on her face as actual surprise. It would never do for him to know that she’d known he’d be here.

“Small world.” He offered. She hummed in agreement.

The silence stretched between them. It felt like the past 10 years of their marriage were still going strong.

“The kids didn’t mention you were going on holiday.” She tried to break the awkwardness.

“Huh.” He shrugged. “I didn’t know you were speaking to them.”

“Right.” She did not feel the need to divulge that her contact with Charlotte had been completely non-existent. She didn’t feel as though he needed the ammunition.

More silence. Apparently not all things changed in divorce.

“Well, you look great Bernie.”

“Oh. Thank—Thank you.”

Bernie fought the urge to fiddle.

"Here you are darling” Serena’s voice cut through the awkward silence and Bernie had never been more grateful to see her. Serena handed her a glass of champagne, her hand going to rest on the small of Bernie's back as soon as it was free. She smiled up at Bernie, holding her gaze with a long, warm look. Bernie immediately felt as though everything would be okay. Serena finally turned her attention to Marcus. "Oh, Mr Dunn! Fancy seeing you here!"

"Ms Campbell, good to see you again."

"Serena, please." She was the picture of easy grace.

"Of course, and please call me Marcus” he returned.

Serena nodded in acknowledgement and took a sip of champagne, before flitting her eyes to Bernie.

“Darling you didn’t tell me your ex-husband was going on this trip.” Bernie could feel Serena’s hand moving as she spoke, coming around her body to rest more visibly on her hip.

“I had no idea. We just bumped into each other.”

Serena shifted almost imperceptibly closer to her. Marcus looked between them, furrowed his brow.

"Darling? Wait. Don't tell me the two of you are…”

"Lovers?" Serena interjected and Bernie almost spat her champagne across the room because that was not the word they had agreed on.

Serena stared at Marcus with that incredible self-assuredness Bernie had oft envied, daring him to say anything. She almost ( almost ) felt bad for him.

"I uh," he tried to recover. "I wasn't aware that you were, um,"

"A lesbian? Or sleeping with your ex-wife?" Serena smiled sweetly, "well I am." She turned towards Bernie, making eye contact with her before she used their now-equal height to her advantage, leaning in and capturing her lips in a kiss. Bernie's eyes fell closed as Serena's lips met hers. She couldn't believe how soft her lips were, how incredibly right this felt. She could feel Serena's thumb stroking her hip through her dress, could hear her moan faintly into the kiss. Bernie wished desperately that they were anywhere but in a room full of people and standing directly in front of her ex-husband, a fleeting thought that served as a crushing reminder that the only place this would ever happen was in a room full of people standing directly in front of her ex-husband.

The result was as immediate and painful as brain freeze. This was not real.

She pulled back from the kiss and Serena was grinning at her. She brought her hand up from where it had been resting on Bernie's back and wiped a smear of lipstick from the corner of her mouth.

"I'm going to go find us a table. Come find me when you're done?"

Bernie nodded, and Serena turned on her heel and left her alone to face her ex.

"A bit quick, wasn't that Bernie?"

"We got divorced, Marcus, I didn't join a convent."

"Still. Not like you have to rub it in my face. I'm on holiday for god's sake." The kiss had bolstered Bernie, filled her with a Serena-inspired confidence and made her more verbose than usual. She accessed the coil of anger that had been building since he’d served her with divorce papers, at her work of all places, unleashed it.

"I'm sorry Marcus, how was I to know that you'd be here? Did you send up a smoke signal that I missed? Or was it semaphore? Or, like our entire marriage, was I supposed to just read your mind?" Marcus opened his mouth to interject but Bernie cut him off. "No! If you must know, I am on this trip as a holiday because I just went through a horrendous year where amongst other things I got blown up by an IED and almost died, resigned my commission for a completely pointless cause, and had my husband drag out our divorce to be as nasty as possible and use my own children against me. So I am going to enjoy myself! I am going to hang out with my girlfriend and I am going to hold her hand and kiss her because I am so incredibly overjoyed at finally getting to go through life without having to hide who I truly am. And if you have a problem with that you can FOH."

"FOH?"

"It's one of Serena's favourite acronyms" Bernie couldn't help but grin as she thought about Serena's absurdly adorable love of abbreviations "the last two words are 'Off' and 'Home' I’m sure you can figure it out."

And with that she stalked off.

Bernie found Serena at a table with two other couples. As she sat down beside her Serena tilted her head at her questioningly and Bernie smiled.

"I got angry and told him to FOH" she murmured.

"Good girl" Serena replied, catching one of her hands in her own and squeezing it tightly. Bernie fought furiously with her brain for a moment to stay focused on what was in front of her instead of going off on a tangent of other, rather more carnal occurrences, in which Serena might say those words to her. "I was just getting to know our table companions. This is Blair and Jonathan. They’re from New Hampshire. And Harold and Martha here live in Toulouse.”

****

In the end they probably had a couple too many glasses (okay bottles) of shiraz. By the time they made it back to their room neither of them could've walked in a straight line if their lives depended on it. Serena seemed to be touching all of Bernie's body at once. Bernie knew that Serena had a tendency to get a little, well, handsy while drunk. But this level was unprecedented. They tripped through the door and Serena fell against Bernie, one hand curling around her the neck as the other spanning her waist. Her face was hidden in Bernie's neck and her curves were pressed insistently against Bernie's front and Bernie was trying so very hard to be good.

She knew that Serena didn't mean anything by this. It was nothing to do with desire and everything to go with an inhuman amount of red wine but unfortunately while she was just barely managing to keep her liquor-addled mind aware of this fact her body was another matter entirely. Her neck was all goose pimples from Serena's breath on her skin, her nipples were hard as rocks, and she knew if she checked she'd be embarrassingly wet. She cast these thoughts to the side and concentrated instead on taking care of her very drunk friend.

“Come on Serena, at least try to help me get you out of these clothes.” She tugged Serena’s jacket off her shoulders and lay it on the chair near the bed.

“Ms. Wolfe are you trying to get me naked?” Serena’s voice was like honey and Bernie very nearly shivered at the sound.

“You are going to be very uncomfortable if you go to sleep in these clothes.”

“Mmmmm I didn’t say I was complaining.” Serena slurred, both arms twining around Bernie’s neck.

“Can you at least try to co-operate?” Bernie shot back. She was not nearly sober enough to be in the position of getting them both into bed safely but she was rising to the challenge.

Blushing the whole time Bernie managed to get Serena out of her shirt, tie and trousers and into the nightie she found in her baggage.

The bra (purple and lacy her brain screamed) was staying put. Bernie was only human after all.

She coaxed Serena into drinking a glass of water before tucking her into bed, making sure she was lying safely on her side. She filled up the water glass again, left it on the bedside table with a couple of paracetamol, then stripped down herself and pulled on the worn t-shirt and boxers she slept in. She forced herself to drink a glass of water and then laid down beside Serena. She didn’t fall asleep until Serena’s gentle snoring had filled the room.

 

Chapter Text

As Bernie began to stir the next morning she became aware of multiple things very quickly: she was very warm, the room was very bright, and she had the slightest headache niggling at the base of her skull. She opened her eyes and looked down the bed, the cause of extreme warmth immediately apparent.

One Serena Campbell lying almost entirely on top of her.

When they had fallen asleep the night before, Bernie had made certain that there was a good amount of no man’s land space between them on the bed. While they slept however, Bernie had obviously migrated towards the centre of the bed (a bad habit she had acquired post divorce). and Serena had shifted as well. Now she was pressed into Bernie's side, her head pillowed face down on Bernie's chest and her leg hitched up over her hip. One of her arms was beside her head, hand gently grasping Bernie's breast and the other was wrapped around Bernie's midsection, having delved inside of her t shirt so her hand was resting on bare skin. With her leg bent up as it was, Serena's satin nightgown had ridden up so as to barely be covering her arse, exposing a good deal of upper thigh to Bernie's groggy gaze.

In the calm still of morning, Bernie allowed herself the freedom to do one thing she rarely let herself do without endless recrimination and repression. She let herself dream. Laying there she allowed herself to pretend that they weren't on a cruise where they were pretending to be gay to piss off her ex and only sharing a bed in furtherance of said sham.

She traced the curves of Serena's body with her eyes as she let herself believe instead that they were in the master bedroom of Serena's home (their home now perhaps) ensconced together in a warm pile the morning after a joyously average evening of fish and chips and quiz shows (Serena shaking her head fondly as Bernie and Jason yelled out responses at the screen). They had had a glass of wine each and sat close on the sofa, Serena leaning her head on Bernie's shoulder and Bernie resting her cheek on Serena's head. Afterwards they had tumbled into bed, kissing and touching, building each other up to come crashing down with gasps and moans. Gentle and loving and perfect. They had fallen asleep in each other's arms and now Bernie had awoken first and was contemplating whether to wake Serena with a kiss and murmured "I love yous" or whether to wait a few more minutes for the shrill tone of the alarm. This was her ideal, waking together and going to work together and coming home together. No need for dozens of roses or dramatic declarations of unwavering devotion and adoration. No need for fanfare, Serena knowing and understanding that Bernie showed her love in quiet gestures (a reassuring nod, a hand in theatre, "I've got this Serena, I've got you”) not in grandiose proclamations. Instead just warmth and consistency and togetherness. A constant presence by her side to remind her that she is loved and cherished and she is not alone. And in return, Serena always somehow finding the right words to say, to allay Bernie’s fears that she is going to screw this up. A kiss on the cheek in the morning, a coffee in the afternoon. A note left on Bernie’s desktop before she goes into theatre. The sweet perfection of coupled domesticity in their everyday life: that was what she yearned for more than anything.

Bernie blinked back the wetness in her eyes, surprised at her visceral reaction to the  images she had let play out in her head. This was absurd. She was just a foolish woman who didn't know how to have a friend without her mind twisting it into something more. Here she was, wrong side of fifty and a divorced lesbian who was pathetically in love with her best friend. She gritted her teeth, slid out of the bed, doing her best not to disturb Serena in the process, and made her way to the loo.

When she came back to the bedroom Serena was awake and looking much less the worse for wear than Bernie would have anticipated.

“Well good morning you.”

“Good morning” Bernie replied. “You’re looking remarkably chipper.”

“Mmm. Not feeling too rotten after all.” She grinned up at Bernie, “I don’t quite remember how we got back here but looks like it all went okay.”

Bernie had a sudden flash of clear memory from the night before. Of a very drunk Serena. Of Bernie having to help her get undressed. Of Serena in just her bra and pants. She fought down the blush threatening to colour her cheeks and gave Serena a wan smile.

They got dressed for the day, Serena in high waisted dark wash jeans and a lightweight jumper in a gorgeous dark teal that had Bernie dying to tell her how good she looked (‘you look nice’ was as close as she got) and Bernie in a long grey jersey dress with a dark sweater that covered the length of it. She tied a scarf around her neck and rolled her eyes at the look Serena directed to the converse she paired with the outfit, reminding her that not everyone held exclusively to designer footwear, thank you very much.

****

Breakfast was a glorious affair. The dining room in which it was held sported numerous massive buffet tables all piled high with a dizzying array of breakfast foods. Bernie began earnestly tucking into a mound of scrambled eggs and barely noticed Serena had disappeared until she came back and placed the largest Bloody Mary Bernie had ever seen in front of her.

“Hair of the dog” Serena said serenely in response to Bernie’s aghast look.

“That’s the whole bloody pelt!”

“Oh come along Ms. Wolfe” Serena chastised. “You need to at least try to keep up with me.” Bernie grinned, shook her head, but took a big gulp all the same.

“You know, I’ll be blaming you for the cirrhosis.”

****

The ship had landed at Mykonos early that morning and Serena and Bernie had decided to explore the townsite on their own. Serena had a guide book filled with sticky tabs and notes and Bernie was happy to go where she bid.

When they got out of the taxi in the heart of the town of Mykonos Bernie was shocked to feel Serena slip her hand into hers. She twined their fingers together and looked at Bernie with a shrug,

“Have to make it look authentic don’t we? Someone might see us.” They wandered through the town taking in the classic bright white buildings. Serena dragged her through both the Mykonos Agricultural Museum and The Aegean Maritime Museum and Bernie was surprised at how much she enjoyed both of them. Though she think she’d enjoy just about anything with the warm weight of Serena’s hand clasped in her own.

For lunch they stopped at a small hole-in-the-wall souvlaki restaurant. They ordered an assorted platter of goodies and a large carafe of wine. Bernie quite happily fumbled through eating everything with her fork in her left hand—her right was still caught in Serena’s grip, resting on the table, Serena’s thumb gently rubbing across her skin as they ate and talked.

“What made you decide to be a doctor?” Bernie asked suddenly. “I just realised I have no idea how you chose your career.”

Serena finished her mouthful of wine before smiling a little shyly across the table,

“I wanted to be a doctor ever since I knew that women could be doctors. I think even before then, I wanted it. But I didn’t know it was possible. And then when I was 7 years old I broke my arm and my Mum took me into the hospital. The doctor who treated me was a young woman. Dr. Sandra Webb, I’ll never forget her. My Mum left to go do paperwork of some sort and left me alone with her. Oh god!” She laughed. “I absolutely peppered her with questions! Everything I could think of, how had she become a doctor, what did she do, how did she like it, anything I could think of I asked.” She paused to take a bite of food before she continued. “I went home that night and I wrote in my diary ‘Dr. Serena McKinnie’. And from that day on,” she shrugged “I don’t think anything would have stopped me.”

“God help anyone who tried!” Bernie replied with a laugh. It was good to know some things, like Serena Campbell’s determination, were constant. “Is that why you’ve been so supportive of Evie?”

“I would and will support any of Fletch’s children in whatever they choose to do.” Serena replied almost reflexively before pausing to truly consider Bernie’s question. “Yes. I guess she does remind me somewhat of myself.” She changed tracks suddenly “what do you think of Raf and Fletch?”

“Ummm” Bernie was admittedly confused. “Nice guys? Good work ethics?”

“No, no! I mean: Raf and Fletch.”

“Raf? And Fletch? Are you serious?” Bernie couldn’t quite wrap her head around what Serena was suggesting.

“What? You don’t think so?”

“For starters they’re both straight.”

“Well” Serena laughed. “So was—” she stopped and coughed. “So were you.”

Bernie couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Fair enough, really. She listened politely as Serena laid out all her reasons for why she thought Raf and Fletch were secretly in love with each other. At the very least, Bernie figured, if she was pouring all this time and energy into over-analysing the guys Serena wouldn’t be paying too much attention to Bernie’s actions.

“What about you, Ms. Wolfe?” Serena asked out of nowhere, as though just remembering their previous conversation hadn’t touched on Bernie at all. “When did the hippocratic persuasion catch your fancy?”

“Well.” Bernie dithered. She hadn’t really thought too much about this, deliberately didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how she’d gotten to where she was. “I don’t know, really. I guess I kind of fell into it. I had a teacher in secondary school who really pushed me towards going on to university and doing something. Said I ‘had too many smarts for them to go to waste’.”

“She had a point.” Serena interjected, “‘Occam’s razor’ ring any bells?” Bernie looked down at her plate.

“Yes, well. I guess so. She pushed me towards medicine and it seemed alright. I had always known I would serve in the Armed Forces. My father was career Army. As was his father. My brothers all served in one capacity or another. I thought maybe I would join the WRAF. But I did well in school and the RAMC gave me a bursary to complete my education, and,” she shot Serena a half smile. “Here we are.”

“Indeed.” They sat in silence for a spot until Serena asked Bernie another question. “What about your brothers? I remember you saying you have 3 but I don’t remember much else.”

“Colin and Roger are the oldest. They’re both still serving in the Army. Both married, children. Damian’s only a year older than I am. He was in the RAF for about 20 years, runs a charter firm up in Manchester.”

“Single?”

“Damian,” Bernie paused, looked at Serena, she didn’t know how to phrase it. Serena cottoned on anyway.

“Gay?”

“I,” she sighed. “We don’t talk about it. Maybe? Yes? But it’s not like he’s bringing a partner round for Sunday supper.”

“Ah.” Serena squeezed her hand. “I take it you haven’t told your parents about” she waved her hand in the air.

“They know Marcus and I split. Nothing else though. I should, I guess. Maybe if I were dating someone that I wanted them to meet I would—”

“Bernie!” Serena cut her off. “You don’t have to justify that to me. It’s your choice who you tell or not. End of. Though if you’re looking for familial support why don’t you give your brother a ring?”

“And say what? ‘Hullo Damian we haven’t spoken in a year and a half but are you a homosexual? Because I sure am!’”

“Maybe not quite like that, but it might be nice for you to have someone in the family on your side. Plus,” Serena grinned wickedly “at the next family reunion you can just pretend to date each other’s partners. Makes it easy.”

“You’re awful.”

****

After lunch they toured the folklore museum (again at Serena’s behest) and then explored further into Mykonos. They were walking through a dockside market when Serena stopped in her tracks, pulled Bernie towards her, and kissed her gently. Her lips were honey-sweet from the Moustokouloura they’d bought from a local bakery and even softer than they’d been the night before. The sun was peeking out from the clouds and seemed to be shining directly on them. Bernie lost herself in the kiss, just barely keeping herself from letting out a little whine when Serena pulled back.

“Don’t look now, but your delightful ex-husband is behind you.” Serena murmured.

“Right. Of course.”

Chapter Text

When they returned to the ship, dusk had just begun to settle over the hills of the island. They got dressed for dinner, which was apparently always a formal event on a cruise such as this. This time Bernie had chosen to wear a suit (simple, black jacket and trousers, crisp white shirt, and loafers because Serena had refused to let her wear her chucks) and Serena was wearing a brocade gown, black with swirling golden flowers, that ended just below her knees. Slim line and classic, it reminded Bernie of something from the 50s. Paired with black heels that put her just a hairsbreadth taller than Bernie she looked stunning.

The meal was incredible, Bernie would definitely miss the food when she was back in her apartment in Holby and reliant once more on her meager cooking abilities. But the most impressive part of it all was the dark chocolate mousse she’d chosen from the dessert cart the waitstaff wheeled around after the plates had been cleared.

"Serena this is so good you have to try it!" Without thinking Bernie grabbed a spoonful of the mousse and held it out to Serena. It was only after Serena had taken the proffered mouthful and was moaning in delight at the flavour that Bernie remembered they were not alone. Feeding each other morsels of their food was something they did so often in the privacy of Serena's home that Bernie had never quite considered how intimate it would look to outside observers.
"You too are so cute!" One of their table companions (Bernie was fairly certain she was named Anne) exclaimed. "How long have you been together?"
"Not very long at all, actually." Serena replied. "4 or 5 months? To be honest I'd never even thought of dating a woman before Bernie."
"Gosh! Really? That’s so sweet! How did you get together?"
"Oh." Bernie tried desperately to deflect her line of questioning. "I'm sure none of you really care about that." But the resounding chorus from the table was that yes they did in fact care to know about it. "Serena?" She tried not to make it sound quite like the plea it was. Talking about her feelings for Serena to anyone would be awful. To an entire table of people with Serena present? Nightmarish.

"Oh please, Bernie, you tell it so much better than I!" Serena's eyes were gleaming and Bernie made a mental note to get back at her some time for putting her on the spot like this. She endeavoured to rush through as quickly as possible.
"Well. I had thought Serena was just lovely from the first moment we met, of course. But I was still married and there were other... Complications. But we kept running into each other quite accidentally and then I ended up working on the same ward as Serena. We worked together for months and I just grew fonder and fonder of her." Bernie glanced over at Serena who seemed to be enjoying watching her spin this tale hoping to god that she wouldn't be able to tell that much of this was fact rather than fiction. "We became good friends and co-leads and then one night one of our colleagues, and a dear friend, got stabbed. We had to operate on him, it was really rough. And umm afterwards we were sitting on the floor of the theatre and I was blaming myself and Serena sat with me and comforted me and told me what a, a wonderful doctor I was. She was so earnest and beautiful and I couldn't help myself. I just leaned over and kissed her." She stopped, glancing over shyly to Serena before glancing at the other occupants of the table.
"Yes, and?" Anne prompted.
"And I kissed her back" Serena took over. "I was on her lap with her hand up my scrub top when a nurse walked in."
"It must have been tough.” Anne’s partner Jeremy interjected. “To never have been attracted to a woman and suddenly, just.”
"It was admittedly a little awkward at first" Serena agreed. "I would’ve thought I was a little long in the tooth for such a revelation. But I mean look at her, who would say no to a good snog with this one." She quirked an eyebrow at Bernie before leaning forward with a wicked grin and in a conspiratorial stage whisper said to the rest of the table “after all, she really does have the hands of a surgeon." Everyone laughed uproariously at that, and even harder at Bernie's fierce blush.

****

They excused themselves soon after. Serena led Bernie up to an upper deck after wheedling three bottles of shiraz from one of the many servers she already knew by name. They leaned against the side of the ship and Serena cracked open one of the bottles taking a hefty swig before handing it to Bernie. Together they sat drinking, occasionally chatting but mostly enjoying the silence, and staring at the stars in the sky above them.

They were done the first bottle and had made some headway on the second when Serena spoke tentatively.

"Bernie I have a question. You don't have to answer if you don't want to. It's not really my place to ask but you kind of made reference to it earlier and I’m curious… Was it just Alex or are you. I mean…"

"Am I a lesbian?" Bernie got right to the point. "I think so, yes. I've thought about it a lot. The past 8 months especially. It's tough though, I mean how am I supposed to know if this is how I felt my entire life? I think I was always so caught up in the expectations of how my life was supposed to go that I never really thought about how I felt about it all. I've always found women beautiful, of course, but was what I felt ever anything more than just wanting to be friends with a woman? I don't know."

"What about Marcus? I know divorce turns everything bitter, but the start?" Serena could not remember the last time she'd heard Bernie open up this much about herself as she had that day and she couldn't help but press for more.

"Marcus and I were friends. In university we were always the top of our class and we had this friendly rivalry, we got on like a house on fire, and he wanted me so badly. And I thought that that was what love was. I mean, we were both still virgins when we got married it was very… Old fashioned. I knew it wasn't like in books or films but I just assumed it would never be like that. That it wasn’t for anybody." She let out a short bitter laugh, "Obviously I didn't know any better. Not just about, umm, me and women. But about some of Marcus' foibles as well. It wasn't until after I'd had Cam that I learned that Marcus expected me to give up my career to be a mother."

"He wanted you to leave the RAMC."

"Not just the RAMC. Marcus wanted me to stop working entirely."

Serena snorted,

"Men! Why is their career always so much more important than ours? I hope you told him right off."

"I made it explicitly clear that I had not spent the better part of a decade working my arse off to become a surgeon to give it up nigh immediately for a life of nappies and bottles."

"Good for you."

"The RAMC was a godsend in that regard, I'd made a commitment to them that I couldn't break. So I left, went back on tour, but I don't think Marcus ever truly forgave me for it. We worked it out, you can't stay married for as long as we did without kissing and making up. But my career was a point of contention from that moment on. We kept plodding on, had another kid, lived life the way we were supposed to I guess. I didn't know that there was more to romance and love than slightly stilted comfortable companionship until, well, until Alex kissed me one day. And suddenly it was like… Like seeing fireworks for the first time at 47 and never before knowing that beauty like that could exist."

"No fireworks with Marcus then?"

"Definitely not. Sex with Marcus was always, um, perfunctory?" At Serena's grimace, Bernie quickly tried to retract her words. "No! No. It was… Average. Pleasant."

"I had pleasant once in my life," Serena said dryly. "Needless to say the man in question was not invited to try again." Bernie laughed at that and Serena shrugged "Quite simply, life is too short for bad wine and mediocre sex."

"Is that the Serena Campbell motto?"

"You bet your life it is."

Serena leaned into her, taking another swig of wine before passing the bottle to Bernie. Bernie took a few drinks, staring up at the stars before speaking again.

"To answer your original question, yes I think I would refer to myself as a lesbian. Not that I really know what that means for me. I've been married for so long that 'getting back out there' seems like a ridiculous proposition no matter what gender it's with."

"Well," Serena grinned up at her. "You could always ask Cam to get you set up on uhhh Tinder or whatever it's called."

"I'd rather not give my son a heart attack, thank you very much. I think I'll stick to the old fashioned way of meeting people for now."

"See who walks through the door of Holby then?"

Bernie tried to give a little smile in response. How was Serena supposed to know that the one person she wanted in life (the only person who could make her possibly feel as though going through a relationship again might actually be worth it) walked through the doors of Holby every single day, usually at Bernie's side?

Serena shivered in the brisk breeze coming off the water and Bernie moved without giving it a second thought. She pulled off her suit jacket and wrapped it around Serena's shoulders. Her arm lingered after putting her jacket in place. Serena turned in towards her, raising her face towards Bernie's.

"Thank you." Serena whispered. Her face was close enough to Bernie's that Bernie could feel the heat of Serena's breath on her cheeks. Their eyes locked. Time seemed to slow. In that moment it was like nothing else existed but Bernie and Serena and the warmth of their bodies brought close in a haze of red wine. Bernie leaned in even further, her nose brushing against Serena's.

Bernie's eyes flitted down to Serena's mouth as Serena's tongue darted out to wet her lips. Her breath hitched. Bernie inched impossibly closer, unable to stop herself as she moved to meet Serena's lips with her own.

A loud clang broke through the silence. Bernie and Serena jumped back from one another in surprise as one of the crew members walked out onto the deck. He nodded in hello to them and they smiled back. He peered out at the sea, made some inane comment about the weather that Bernie barely heard and left once more. The spell was broken though. Bernie agreed with Serena that they should go back to their rooms while internally berating herself. How could she have been so foolish? Almost ruining their trip on the second day! She needed to keep herself in better check, she was a grown adult and this foolishness was just absurd.

****

Back in their cabin they got ready for bed in silence. Once they were under the covers with the lights off Bernie lay as close to the edge of the bed as she could manage, doing everything to give Serena her space. She concentrated on evening out her breath trying to force herself to go to sleep.

“Bernie?” By the sound of Serena’s voice she was almost asleep.

“Yes Serena?”

“I’m cold.” The pout was audible and Bernie was overwhelmed by how cute sleepy Serena was.

“Oh. Do you want me to see if I can find another blanket?” She didn’t know if there were more in the cabin but she thought she could probably call someone and get some.

“No just come closer.” Serena demanded. Bernie tentatively edged towards Serena, finally meeting her in the center of the bed. She was still lying on her side and Serena made short work of spooning into her, grabbing Bernie’s arm and tugging it around her waist. She hummed with contentment and murmured,

“Goodnight Berenice.”

Chapter Text


Monday morning dawned soft and grey. Bernie was still curled around Serena when she opened her eyes. She lay there for a few minutes listening to Serena breathe. Serena sighed, shifted in her sleep, and managed to rub her arse against Bernie’s crotch in the process. Bernie gasped at the sensation. She was unbearably turned on and she needed to move before she did something she would regret.

She slid out of the bed and half ran to the bathroom, leaning up against the door after she closed it behind her. She slipped one hand into her pants and found herself absolutely drenched. Not exactly a surprise, she’d been getting progressively more turned on the more time she’d spent with Serena and spending the night pressed up against her obviously hadn’t helped matters. She pulled her hand out hissing as her hand brushed her clit. Reasonably, she thought, the only thing to do about this problem was to take care of it. It certainly wasn’t going away on its own. She shoved her pants off her hips and dipped a couple fingers into her wetness, her thumb rubbing her clit.

She tried not to think of Serena while she did it. Tried not to think of her grinding back against Bernie’s crotch. Tried not to think of her pale thighs and small breasts and the peaks of her nipples that her nightdress did nothing to hide from Bernie’s gaze. Tried not to think of what it would be like to fuck her from behind, Serena on her knees with her arse in the air looking back over her shoulder with a salacious grin. Tried not to think about grinding herself off against Serena’s thigh while she talked her through it, Serena’s sultry voice coaxing her to completion. Tried not to think of parting Serena’s thighs, nosing into her bush, and licking her folds, swirling her tongue around her clit, bringing her to orgasm with just her mouth, her chin shiny with her juices. Tried not to think of Serena’s lips, and Serena’s hands, and Serena’s soft dark eyes.

Bernie came with three fingers curled inside of her and a hand clamped over her mouth to stifle the name on her lips.

She showered after, scrubbing at her skin as the room filled with steam and her mind filled with recriminations. When she got out she wrapped herself in a towel and peered out into the room. Serena was still fast asleep where she’d left her on the bed.
Bernie went to her bag and rummaged through it for clothing. She had donned boyshorts and bra , towel abandoned in a pile on the ground, and was bent over her luggage searching for an outfit when she heard Serena’s sleep-laden voice behind her.

“Well that’s one hell of a sight to wake up to.”

Bernie froze and then turned slowly, shirt clutched to her chest, her blush spanning from the apples of her cheeks to her collarbones.

“Sorry. Thought you were still asleep.” Serena’s hair was tousled and she had a lazy grin on her face.

“I didn’t say I minded.”

After months of friendship, Bernie knew that Serena’s casual flirting was frequent and meaningless. That being said, Bernie needed at least half a cup of coffee before she could hope to go toe to toe with Serena in this mood so she wordlessly turned back around and finished getting dressed as quickly as possible.

She sat down on the bed and read the program for the day while she waited for Serena to shower and get ready. They made their way down to breakfast together and then stopped by an espresso bar to get massive double shot lattes before heading for the first class of the course that was nominally the reason for the whole trip in the first place.

When it came to seat selection they compromised between Bernie’s desire to sit in the furthest back corner and Serena’s preference for a good view, choosing seats in the relative middle of the large room. Once they had sat down, Bernie stretched her arm along the back of Serena’s chair, shrugging wordlessly at Serena’s brief inquisitive look. They had to make this look real, after all. They listened politely to the speaker introduce himself and nodded with due respect at his list of credentials and accomplishments.

They weren’t thirty minutes into the talk before Serena started nudging Bernie’s foot with her own. It was so gentle that at first Bernie thought she was imagining it but the little kicks became more and more insistent. When she looked up from her page of notes Serena stilled entirely and shot Bernie a look of pure innocence. She shook her head and went back to her notes but as soon as her head turned Serena started it up again. Making sure to keep her features schooled in a mask of polite attention she began to kick back.

They sat like that for a long time, ostensibly paying attention but nudging each other with their feet until they dissolved into silent laughter. They stopped after that, Serena not wanting to draw too much attention, Bernie trying desperately to be good and pay attention. Unfortunately the speaker was droning on and Bernie could tell she knew more than he did about the entire subject. She started doodling mindlessly on her notepad.

“Is that you and I?” Serena whispered in her ear. Bernie looked at her and then down at her clumsy stick figure drawing of her and Serena standing on the prow of the cruise ship. “Are we doing the Titanic thing?”

“No we’re not!” She whispered back. “We’re just standing there.”

“It looks like we’re doing the Titanic thing.”

“I’m just not a very good artist.”

“Which one of us is Jack and which one of us is Rose?”

“It’s not Titanic!”

“Are you going to take up an entire raft and force me to drown in the sea when there’s clearly enough room for both of us on the floating door?”

“They tried to get Jack on the raft! It didn’t work!”

“I cannot believe,” Serena shook her head mock hurt scrawled across her features, “that you would let me drown to death instead of sharing your raft.”

“Obviously I would never let you drown to death! Stop distracting me!”

“Oi, Van Gogh! You obviously weren’t paying attention anyway.”

Bernie responded by sticking her tongue out at Serena and turning her attention back to the speaker.

Five minutes later she pushed the page onto Serena’s desk. Bernie had drawn a little stick figure Serena drowning in the ocean (x’s for eyes and all) and herself triumphantly safe on a raft. Serena laughed so hard that Bernie could see tears forming in her eyes as she dissolved in silent mirth. The talk’s importance paled in comparison to getting Serena to laugh so hard that her eyes shone and the wrinkles at the side of her mouth deepened. They passed notes back and forth for the remainder of the morning, ever more complex doodles and messages that had them both struggling to keep their composure and if Bernie caught Marcus’ eye across the crowded room and slid all the closer to Serena she certainly didn’t say anything about it.

****

After the morning of talks was over they were free to explore the port of Volos in which they’d docked just before dawn. First they went on a bus with a group of people from the ship to the ancient settlement of Dimini just outside the city. They toured the ruins of an acropolis, some walls (Bernie was beginning to privately cultivate the opinion that one old crumbling wall looked much the same as another) and two admittedly impressive beehive tombs. Then they chose to wander on their own once more. Traipsing through the winding streets of Volos, Serena regaled Bernie with the real and fictional history of the area. She told her of the ruined cities of Demetrias, Pagasae and Iolkos on which Volos had been built. Explained the relevant political events of their past. And went into a long winded explanation of the tale of the hero Jason who had boarded the ship Argo accompanied by the Argonauts and sailed to Colchis in the quest for the Golden Fleece.

“Berenice is a Greek name” Serena said while they were walking about. “Did you know that?”

“I can’t say I did.” Bernie didn’t know what to think. Had Serena looked up her name? Or was this just another scrap of knowledge she held in that impressive mind of hers?

“In about 350 BC in Lete, which is way north of us, close to Thessaloniki, there was a priestess of Demeter named Berenika. First known use of the name.”

“What was Demeter the god of?”

“Goddess. Of grain.”

“Hmmm.”

“And fertility.”

“Oh.” Bernie was blushing.

“Of the earth! Really Ms. Wolfe,” Serena was grinning at her in the naughtiest of fashions. “You must get your mind out of the gutter.”

Bernie shoved her with her shoulder hoping Serena wouldn’t notice her blush deepening.

****

On Tuesday Bernie and Serena woke at almost the same time, spooned together once more in the center of the bed. Serena leaned back against Bernie’s chest and craned her neck to look at her.

“Welcome to the island of Lesbos” she said with a sleepy grin.

“Oh god. You’re not going to give up on that joke are you?”

“Not on your life.”

They spent their morning in seminars, all (thankfully) more engaging than the day before. They paid attention, barring a couple of nudges and the odd note, and ended up learning some helpful new methods for treating severe head and face trauma. They had lunch on the ship, eagerly discussing how best to implement the methods they had learned in the day-to-day of the AAU. For the afternoon they had signed up for the group tour provided by the cruise company that promised to take them to all of the most important locations on the stop. Only having the one day in Mytilene Serena was adamant that they take in as many of the sights as possible.

Due in no small part to Bernie not getting ready until about 2 minutes before they needed to leave they were a bit late. Not late enough to miss the bus, but late enough that Serena was starting to nag a bit and the bus was almost full. They slid into the last available pair of seats and only after the bus had started moving did they look over and find out they were sitting across the aisle from Marcus.

The bus was incredibly warm. Bernie and Serena had both dressed in anticipation of seasonably chilly weather on the island and so part way through the drive Serena stood up and pulled off jumper

“Do you want me to put away yours too?” She asked.

“Please.” Bernie shifted towards the aisle, pulling off her mac and handing it to Serena. Just as Serena was about to sit down the bus hit a bump, jolted, and Serena was flung into Bernie’s lap. Bernie reached out and caught her almost instinctively. Her arms wrapped around Serena’s waist to hold her up, Serena’s arms had grasped Bernie’s shoulders for much the same effect.

Bernie’s initial instinct was to pull away, blush, apologise. But then she remembered that Marcus was right there, no doubt watching the entire thing. So she tightened her grip around Serena’s waist, pulled her closer.

“My hero” Serena drawled, allowing Bernie to guide her towards her.

“Mmmm.” Bernie leaned forward, “happy to help.” She brushed her nose against Serena’s, then dipped her head towards hers and brushed her lips against hers. It was less of a kiss and more of a series of kisses. Soft, brief brushes of their mouths that got deeper and longer as they went.

“Bernie Wolfe and such a public display of affection? Never thought I would see the day.” Marcus’ snide comment broke in. Bernie and Serena pulled away from each other and Bernie, seeing that Serena was about to say something, shook her head almost imperceptibly and turned to Marcus.

“I guess the island is having an effect on me” she shot back and then she pulled Serena back towards her and lowered her lips to hers once more. This time, however, was no gentle brushing of lips. This was forceful, consuming, passionate. Bernie dipped her tongue into Serena’s mouth at the first opportunity. One of her hands moved from Serena’s waist to grasp her arse and pull her even closer towards her. Serena, to her credit, went along with it beautifully. She responded to Bernie’s kiss, deepening it even further, her hands moving to tangle in Bernie’s hair and cup her cheeks. Her breath hitched and she moaned artfully as her tongue brushed against Bernie’s. She really was a phenomenal kisser.
When they finally separated, gasping for air, Marcus was looking out his window his foot angrily tapping against the ground.

Chapter Text

After supper the next night, Bernie and Serena retired with many of their peers to one of the general entertainment decks on the ship. The room they ended up in was spacious. It had a bar at one end and a number of tables and chairs in various arrangements. They walked around for a while, arm in arm, making conversation with the other doctors and their partners. Serena was effervescent, as always. Shamelessly talking Bernie up, both personally and professionally, as though she was doing everything in her power to make her blush. Bernie was happy to stand by her, adding to the conversation where necessary but as usual in social situations letting Serena take the lead.

They had just finished a lively discussion about the funding issues of the NHS with a couple of British doctors they had met on the tour the day before when Serena turned to Bernie and excused herself.

“Going to go stand outside for a few. Goddamn menopause I feel like I’m about to combust” she explained with a smile.

“Oh. Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, no! No reason for you to freeze your arse off. Stay here. Mingle.” She winked on the last word and Bernie knew that Serena knew damn well how much mingling she’d be doing without her by her side. And then she was off.

Bernie walked around for a bit, tried not to just stand by the wall and count the minutes until Serena returned, exchanged pleasantries with someone before they wandered off, and then figured she might as well get a drink. She walked over to the bar, ordered a double whiskey and waited for the bartender to pour it.

“I always liked it when you wore your hair up” Marcus’ voice announced his presence as he came to stand beside her at the bar. Bernie fought down the petty urge to immediately take her hair out of its clip.

“Thanks.”

“Not that you would have done it for me, of course. I was just the poor sod who was fool enough to marry you after all.”

Bernie sighed. Downed her drink in one gulp. Turned to Marcus,

“Can we not do this here please?”

“Fine.” He led the way out of the room and into the corridor which was thankfully devoid of people. “Well?”

“Look, Marcus. I don’t know what you want me to say. I can’t apologise for being myself. And I’m sorry that I hurt—”

“Oh come on now Bern!” He cut her off. “Don’t pull that crap with me. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you’ is a bullshit apology and you know it. ‘Being yourself’, ha! Save me your sapphic rhetoric. At least I know now why you were so frigid but it's still not an excuse for being such a bitch.” He laughed bitterly “I wish you'd told me earlier, could’ve at least gotten a threesome out of the deal.”

“Christ, don’t be disgusting.”

“Sorry I’m not overjoyed that my wife turned out to be a lesbian.”

“Oh sod off, Marcus. My sexuality has nothing to do with you.”

“Nothing to do with me?” He had her backed up against the wall and was shouting in her face. “We were married Bernie. Not that you were around for it most of the time.”

“You know Marcus, it wasn't easy on me either. Always leaving, not having more than a letter or a phone call for months. Coming home and feeling like there was no place for me, like you'd cut me out, like I may as well have just never come back.”

“Hard on you, Bernie? You were off living it up in the desert with your girlfriend while I stayed home and did everything.”

“What was I supposed to do? I made a commitment to the Army, I wasn’t about to go back on it.”

”What were you supposed to do? Not cheating would’ve been a start. If you’ll remember you made a commitment to me, too, when you married me!”

“I've already apologised for Alex, Marcus. It was the wrong thing to do and I know that but I don't know what else you want me to do.”

“Oh this isn't about Alex, Bernie. It's about you! It's about 25 years of being married to an ice queen for god’s sake. We could have been happy Bernie. We could've been really happy but you had to go ruin it like you've ruined every other relationship in your life. It's like you get some sick pleasure out of destroying everyone around you. Look at me. Look at your kids. Hell, look how long Alex stuck around for! She cut and ran the second she saw the real Bernie Wolfe, didn't she? And now you and Serena! Wandering around like schoolgirls holding hands in your little bubble of happiness. How long do you really think it's going to last for, hey? How long until you fuck up and destroy this too? Look at me Bern; I was just a nice young kid when we met, eager, in love, and then you chipped away every vestige of happiness in my life. I hope Cam and Charlotte have the sense to run in the other direction before you can ruin them any more than you already have.”

“Do not bring our kids into this!”

“Oh are they our kids now? Funny it didn't feel like that when I was raising them.”

“No. No. You do not get to have this fight with me again. I had a career Marcus. I was a surgeon the same as you I wasn't about to drop it all to stay home with the kids.”

“Instead you chose not to stay home at all.”

“I was serving my country.”

“Oh god forbid family come before duty!”

“Don’t you dare imply that I didn't love my family. It hurt each and every time I left. But I was saving lives.”

“Well funny it didn't feel like you loved me when you were lying beside me like a block of ice. If only I'd known all it would've taken to change that was a pretty girl.”

“I'm not about to defend my sexuality to you Marcus. I didn't know. I was just trying to do the right thing.”

“You were always trying, Bernie, just somehow never quite managing it.”

She had to choke back tears at that. Damn him. 25 years of marriage and he knew exactly what to say to tear her down.

“It takes 2 people to ruin a marriage Marcus. You’re not absolved of guilt here.”

“I’m not the one who turned around and decided to be a dyke.”

“You will not use that word with me!”

“Oh please! You’ve been gay for all of five seconds and now you’re offended?”

****

After Serena had excused herself she had found the closest exit to outside and stood leaning against the railing, letting the cold breeze whip around her. She was not having a hot flash, she just needed to take a moment to regroup. Being around Bernie constantly was driving her half mad with incredibly inconvenient hormonal urges. What she really needed was a cold shower. Well. What she really needed was a bottle of shiraz and about six orgasms but that was going to have to wait until she got home.

In many ways she never wanted this trip to end. The bubble of happy closeness she and Bernie were in was exquisite. They had been friends for months but Serena felt she'd learned more about Bernie in the past 5 days than she had in all that time. And of course there was the touching—constant, casual, like it was second nature—and the kissing. Oh, the kissing. When she’d fallen on Bernie’s lap the day before, the way her strong arms wrapped around her, and the exquisite kiss Bernie had planted on her had been overwhelming. Hence the rather singular frustration she was now dealing with. She stood out there for a few minutes, watching the waves lap against the side of the boat and composing herself.

She walked back inside, looking for Bernie in the room where she’d left her but she wasn’t there. She passed through into the hallway and came across the worst sight imaginable. Marcus bloody Dunn yelling at Bernie. He had her cornered against the wall, was right up in her face. Bernie had her arms crossed, fingers grasping her ribs, holding herself so tightly her knuckles were white with the exertion.

“All hail Bernie Wolfe: Destroyer of Worlds” he was shouting sarcastically. Serena could tell that Bernie was close to tears. Why the hell had she ever left her alone? She fought back the urge to slug Marcus in his stupid smug face.

“Marcus! Get away from her!” She shouted instead, using her best ‘bitch in charge’ voice. He wheeled around, looked as though he was about to say something but saw the look on her face and obviously thought better of it. He stalked off and Serena moved to Bernie, put her arm around her waist. “Hey, I’m here. I’ve got you” she said as Bernie sagged into her, eyes shining with unshed tears. “Let’s go back to the room, okay?”

Bernie nodded against her. They made their way to the cabin, Bernie keeping her composure until Serena closed the door behind them and they were finally alone. She sat down on the end of the bed and broke down sobbing. Serena sat beside her, wordlessly gathered her into her arms. She stroked Bernie’s hair as she cried making gentle soothing noises. She didn’t know who she was more pissed at, Marcus for being such a total ass or herself for being stupid and self-absorbed enough that she had inadvertently left Bernie alone with him.

“I’m. I’m sorry” Bernie gasped out as her sobs lessened. “I’m sure this isn’t how you imagined your vacation. You should be necking shiraz from the bottle, not comforting silly old me while I lose it.”

“Hey, none of that.” Serena twisted, cupped Bernie’s face in her hands and wiped away her tears with her thumbs. “There is nowhere else I’d rather be, okay?”

Bernie sniffled.

“I need you to believe that, Bernie. Crying or not I would choose being here with you over anywhere else with anyone else any day of the week. And I am so so sorry that I wasn’t there to stop him.”

“‘S not your fault” Bernie whispered.

“No. I guess not. But it’s not yours either. If anyone’s to blame it’s that awful ex husband of yours.” She got a chuckle out of Bernie with that.

“Can’t believe I married him.”

“Yes, well. If you ever have the displeasure of meeting Edward you’ll learn I’m in no place to judge. Come on now, let’s get you ready for bed.” She waited patiently while Bernie washed her face and changed and sat beside her in the dark stillness drawing patterns on her back with her fingers as she fell asleep.

Once Bernie’s breathing had slowed and evened, Serena got up. She went into the loo and checked to make sure her makeup was still perfect. Reapplied a coat of the dark red lipstick she was wearing, smoothed down her dress and very quietly left the room.

****

It should have been immediately apparent to all who saw her that Serena Campbell was livid. She strode down the hallway, the forceful clack of her heels against the floor a warning to anyone in her path.

She found Marcus seated at the bar in the room where they’d been, looking like he’d been drinking steadily since she’d found him in the corridor with Bernie. Serena could tell that Marcus had probably had one drink too many, however as he had just put her best friend through absolute hell, she saw no reason to spare him the forthcoming verbal lashing. Serena walked up, spun his chair around and leaned in close.

“What the hell did you say to her?” She spoke quietly, hissing the words.

“Hello Serena. Bernie send in the cavalry then?”

“My dear Berenice doesn’t know that I’m here having this friendly little chat with you. And she never will.”

“Don’t call her that. She hates it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Marcus. Does Berenice not like it when you call her that?” She tsked. “Shame.” Marcus’ face screwed up at that.

“Maybe she just hasn’t told you” he shot back.

“Oh really, you know better. Bernie may not be exceedingly verbal but she is very enthusiastic in her approval” she pulled back, paused. “Or is that only with me as well?” She smiled sweetly, could see him getting angrier by the second.

“What do you want Serena?” Marcus growled.

“I told you. I want to know what you said to Bernie.”

“Nothing that wasn’t warranted.”

“Bloody hell. So the same bull you’ve been feeding her your entire marriage, then? It’s all her fault right? All your unhappiness is because of Bernie, because she wouldn’t give up her career.” She leaned in, dropped her voice to a whisper. “Did she make you feel like less of a man? Is that it? Leaving you home with the kids when that was supposed to be her job because she’s a woman? Was your masculinity really so fragile it couldn’t handle a couple of nappies while your wife was laying her life on the line for her country?” She grinned viciously. “Tell me Marcus, do you feel emasculated by the knowledge that your ex-wife has fucked more women than you have?”

“Fuck off, Serena.”

“Like hell I will. How dare you do this to her. How dare—”

"Just you wait Serena” he broke in. “Just you wait. You think you know her right now. I know you do. Take it from someone who's been there, being around Bernie at first is magical. She's like sunshine and warmth, you can't believe that out of everyone in the world she would choose to be with you. But that only lasts so long. You see, she can't take it. Can't handle the happiness, maybe, or maybe just doesn’t like it. Either way, she withdraws. Slowly at first, so slowly you barely realise it's happening. She closes in on herself and she shuts you out and before long you're standing there alone, even though she’s right beside you, and feeling a right fool. Feeling ridiculous that you ever thought this could work."

"Are you operating under some absurd belief that I haven't noticed that Bernie has trouble dealing with her emotions? Do you really think that I had not noticed that she is scared? Scared of hurting and of being hurt? That she self-sabotages almost every opportunity she gets in her personal life? Because I have. You'd have to be blind not to. And I’m sure you haven’t helped with that in the slightest, making her feel as though everything that’s gone wrong in your marriage is on her. But I have also noticed that she is incredible . She is beautiful and kind and intelligent. And when she loves, it's with all her heart. And unlike you I will do anything I can to make her happy. I will give her everything I have. I will stand by her through any opportunity and any hardship. I will spend the rest of my life piecing back together what you have destroyed and thank god I’m a surgeon because there is a hell of a lot of damage. Your marriage was doomed from the start, and not because of Bernie or her sexuality but because of you. Because you are an unmitigated arsehole.” Marcus opened his mouth to cut in but Serena shook her head. “No. You don’t get to speak right now. You had the chance to be with the single most phenomenal woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and you wasted it with your whingeing and your martyr complex. I don’t give a damn about any of Bernie’s flaws or foibles. They pale in comparison to her. You’re so blinded by your years of bitterness that you can’t even see her anymore. But you should let that go and take another look because she is magnificent .” She paused, reached out a hand and cupped his chin, leaning in even closer. “You know, I really wanted to kill you earlier. So very badly. But unfortunately you just aren’t worth the bother, or the potential jail time. That being said, if you ever say anything to her beyond polite pleasantries necessitated by your children I will forcibly separate your testicles from your body and staple them to your forehead. If you do anything else to poison her children against her I will make your life a living hell. And so help me god, Mr. Dunn, if you ever make her cry again I will fucking destroy you.” She patted his cheek. “Got that?”

He was speechless. Sat slumped on that bar stool like Serena had just knocked his teeth out.

She took one last look at him and then turned on her heel and left.

 

Chapter Text

Thursday they spent their morning in an intense symposium on airway restriction in facial trauma led by a panel of Otorhinolaryngologists. It ran until 10:30, letting out earlier than usual so that they had as much time as possible to explore Rhodes. They spent their first couple of hours visiting the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights and the Acropolis of Rhodes, Serena delivering the now-expected anthology of knowledge about each location with her usual verve. After a quick lunch they visited (at Bernie’s behest) Kalithea Springs. They toured the springs first, learning the history of the baths and seeing the magnificent waterfalls. And then Bernie pulled Serena towards the water. She wanted to swim, absolutely loved water in all its varieties, but adored hot springs most of all. To her that was the purest form of relaxation, lying in perfectly warm water and letting her mind drift.

Bernie’s swimming costume was comprised of a simple blue halter top and plain black shorts. She was changed in two minutes and too eager to get in the pool to wait around for Serena. She was already luxuriating in the warm water of the hot spring when Serena came out. She was wearing a slightly sheer leopard print cover up and Bernie was aghast when she saw Serena sit down in one of the sun loungers rather than coming to join her.

“Are you not coming in?”

“No. I’m quite alright out here thank you.”

“Oh c’mon Serena.” Serena shook her head. Bernie sighed and scrambled out of the water walking to Serena and completely missing the way Serena tracked the passage of the water droplets rolling down her fair skin. She crouched down beside her and cocked her head to the side. “What’s the matter? Do you not like hot springs?”

“No it’s. It’s not that.” She took a deep breath, exhaled. “As much as the feminist in me hates to admit it, I don’t exactly feel comfortable in just my swimming costume.”

“Are you joking?” Bernie knew as soon as she said it she knew it was the wrong thing to say and she raised her hands in a gesture of surrender immediately. “No. No, sorry. That’s not what I meant to. Um. Look. Serena. You are absolutely beautiful.” The sincerity and the way she was looking at Serena with those big doe eyes was almost enough to make Serena really believe her. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, and if you don’t want to swim you don’t have to. We can go, if you want. But the water is perfect and, and it’s just me. No judgement. And really,” she laughed. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Because you are stunning.” She grinned, bit her lip, “even first thing in the morning when you’re just a tiny bit hungover.”

Serena laughed at that.

“Very well. I guess I can dip my toe in and see how it is.” She stood up, took off her cover up and took Bernie’s outstretched hand, letting her guide her over the rocks and into the water. “Oh” she sighed as she sat down in the warm pool. “You were right. This is just lovely.” She moaned and closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the rocks that edged the water.

Bernie was silent. She was busy tracing the pale expanse of Serena’s neck and chest with her eyes, using every ounce of restraint to keep herself from pouncing on her (her best friend she judiciously reminded herself about 12 times a minute) and kissing every centimeter of skin she could reach.

****

After getting back to the ship in the late afternoon, they decided to go for a walk. They wandered around the outer railing of the ship, casually holding hands. It was a habit they had fallen into and Serena found it to be incredibly comforting. It was like a physical extension of the consistent warm presence of Bernie at her side. They talked occasionally, pointing out fish or birds in the distance or commenting on the scenery. But generally they walked in silence. When they got to the stern of the ship they paused.

It was a stunning scene. The sun was just beginning to set, the horizon a warm hue just barely pink at the edges. She looked over at Bernie and couldn't help the way her breath hitched. Bernie was smiling as she gazed out on the ocean. Not just the little half grin that Serena knew so well. That fleeting quirk of her lips that always disappeared so quickly. This was a real full smile, a rare gift, but something Serena had been seeing on Bernie's face more and more in recent weeks. Bernie turned towards her as though she could feel her eyes on her.

"What?" Her brow furrowed as she asked and Serena hesitated.

"I- It's nice to see you smile."

"I smile!"

"Yes but not like this. Not this much." She paused, then let the words rush out of her mouth "you've been smiling more recently. Smiling as though you're truly happy and I like it."

"What's not to be happy about? I'm here, you're here-" Bernie broke eye contact and looked out over the water once more. "I mean, we're here on a gorgeous cruise. We're seeing a sunset over the Aegean Sea." Her voice trailed off and they stood there for a few minutes watching the sky deepen in colour. Then Serena felt Bernie's hand in hers tighten and heard Bernie take a deep breath. "Ummm." She paused, took another deep breath. "Really though, Serena. It's you." She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and worried at it while Serena waited patiently, her heart leaping into her throat. "This past year has been awful. Really awful. But you, you've been there for me. Through all of it. I think you've kept me sane, really. I don't know what I'd have done without you." She glanced over at Serena and smiled shyly. "I am so grateful that you—that we're friends. I mean. Thank you, Serena. For. For being such a good friend." Serena furiously blinked away the tears in her eyes, trying to ignore the fact that Bernie saying 'friend' felt like a crushing blow.

"Oh come here you" she growled, pulling on Bernie's hand to bring her towards her and enveloping her in a tight hug. She tucked her face into Bernie's chest, Bernie resting her cheek on the top of Serena's head. They stood like that for a long while, watching the sun dip further and further into the sea.

When the sky was darkened and purple, the sun almost gone from view Serena finally garnered the courage to speak. Her head still buried in Bernie's chest she said

"Before you came I was alone. I was feared at work, respected generally. Never liked all that much. And it was always just work, really. Through everything. Not just with work but with problems with Elinor and my mother's illness and her death I was always alone. I had colleagues, acquaintances. The odd romantic dalliance. But at the end of the day I always shouldered each burden myself. But then you showed up, oh god I must have seemed so desperate when we first met! Eagerly asking you to go for coffee or for drinks, I so wanted someone—a friend." She paused to take a breath, to give herself a second so she didn't say too much and she felt Bernie's arms hug her even closer. "And then suddenly you were there. Really there. I remember the day the trauma bay opened, I told you everything that was going on, vented my frustrations, not expecting anything in response but you just said 'I'm here now'. You dropped everything with the divorce and you made me a priority instead. No one. Bernie , no one had ever done that for me before. Suddenly I had someone. I had you. And ever since then, I mean we've had a couple of setbacks with, well with Cameron, and with your annoying propensity to omit the truth because you somehow think I’ll be the better for it. But through it all I've known that I can rely on you. Always there beside me when I need you. I don't think I can ever repay you for that." She took a shaky breath, stopped talking. Knew that if she kept going she might say something daft. Like 'don't ever leave'. Like 'stay with me forever'. Like 'never let me go'.

"Serena." She didn't know if she was imagining the roughness in Bernie's voice as she replied. "There's nothing to repay. There's nowhere else I would rather be."

She hugged Bernie a little tighter for a few moments and then stepped back with a shiver.

"It's gotten cold! Come along Ms Wolfe, we should go get ready for dinner."

They made their way back to their quarters, Bernie reaching out and grabbing Serena's hand as they went.

****

Back in the cabin they were almost ready to go out to dinner when Bernie stopped Serena.

“You’ve got a run” she said, pointing to the back of Serena’s stocking.

“Oh bloody hell. Why do you never notice them until after you’ve got the stockings on?” She put her foot up on the bed, pulling her dress back to reveal her thigh. Bernie couldn’t help but follow the line of Serena’s leg up from ankle to thigh the dark sheer fabric highlighting her skin in the most attractive way. And then she saw the top of the stocking, lacy detail cutting off below an expanse of pale flesh, two dark lines running down the center. Serena was wearing a garter and thigh highs.

That was the point at which Bernie’s brain short circuited.

The mental image of Serena in those stockings. Of Serena in nothing but those stockings. She wanted desperately to just rip the dress off her. To find out what the garter looked like. To pull those incredible legs towards her. To touch every inch of nylon before dragging them off and...

“Bernie?” From the tone it was not the first time Serena had said her name.

“Sorry. I uh. Zoned off there for a moment.”

“I could tell.” Serena was smiling at her, “be a dear and grab me another pair of stockings from my bag? They’ll be in that side pouch there.” Bernie followed where she pointed, pulled out a pair of stockings and unfolded them, leaving the silk scarf they had been wrapped in on the top of the bag. She dutifully brought them back to the bed and handed them to Serena. “Thanks.”

For some reason Bernie just couldn’t move away. She knew she shouldn’t be watching this. Shouldn’t be tracking Serena’s every movement as she toed into the stockings and slowly rolled them up her legs. Shouldn’t be watching with intent interest as she hooked them into the garter. Shouldn’t be imprinting each and every second of movement into her memory. Definitely should not be having the visceral reaction to this that she was.

Christ.

She needed to get a hold of herself before she did something really stupid.

****

After a sumptuous dinner they returned to their cabin for an early night. They had fallen into an easy rhythm in the evenings, trading off spots in the lavatory to change and brush their teeth and settling beneath the covers together, no longer bothering with the pretense that they won’t end up cuddling. Within 30 minutes of being comfortably ensconced in the bed Bernie was fast asleep, her head resting on Serena's chest. Serena had her arm around Bernie's shoulders and was playing with her hair absentmindedly as she flipped through The Lancet. Dinner had been an intimate affair, Marcus had been sitting at the table next to them so she and Bernie had been more physically affectionate than usual. They had sat close together, knees touching under the table as they had kissed, and leaned in to whisper at each other, and shared bites of food off each other's forks.

And thus Serena was forced to reevaluate her original hypothesis. She had thought that it would get better somehow. That being able to kiss Bernie, to be physically affectionate with her, would satiate her desire. It was having the opposite effect. Every time they touched, every time she held Bernie's hand, or stroked her cheek, or kissed her impossibly soft lips she just wanted more.

She had even begun to look forward to seeing Marcus (something she would have thought to be impossible) because his presence in the room was an excuse for her to press her lips against Bernie's. She had thought it was mere infatuation. Lustful confusion bred of months without getting any action. How could she have been so foolish?

The more time she spent in this situation the more she was forced to face the fact that she very well might be completely and utterly in love with Berenice Wolfe. And quite frankly she didn't know what to do with that information. She had never done this before. It wasn't about gender, that was a moot point by now, it was the fact that they were friends. She had never fallen for a friend before. She had always just gone right into dating. There had never been any stakes. It was easy to ask someone out when you barely knew them. When your lives weren't entwined, inseparable. When rejection would be disappointing, yes, but not utterly life destroying.

She refused, absolutely refused, to do anything to jeopardise her friendship with Bernie. She hadn’t been kidding when she’d told Marcus that she planned to spend the rest of her life working to heal the wounds that life had dealt to her. She was in this for the long haul. And if that meant loving Bernie from afar, standing to the side and watching her fall in love with someone else and make a life with someone else then so be it. She might only be Bernie’s friend but that was enough. Any little part of Bernie’s life would be enough because Bernie was enough. The guarded smiles and the shy sweetness and the puppy dog eyes and every single thing about her. Serena wanted to have it forever, for always. But she would do anything to just have a bit of Bernie for one meager second. She blinked away tears, couldn’t help but drop a gentle kiss to the top of Bernie’s head, turned off the lamp and went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Friday morning both Serena and Bernie woke around the same time. During the night they had shifted so Serena’s face was nestled into the crook of Bernie’s neck, Bernie’s arms holding her close. They didn’t move away right at first, content to ease towards wakefulness together.

“We’ve reached Crete at last.” Bernie murmured after a while. She knew from all Serena had said that this was the stop she’d been most excited for.

“At last? To me it feels as though the past week and a bit has just flown past!”

“Well I hope you’ve managed to find the time to brush up your knowledge of Minoan culture in that time. I wouldn’t want my education to be lacking.”

“Actually what’s most fascinating about Minoan culture is our lack of knowledge on it. You see—” Serena broke off mid-sentence, looked up at Bernie suspiciously. “Are you mocking me?”

“Ms. Campbell, I would never.”

“Of course not.” Serena rolled her eyes. “Come along then,” she shoved Bernie playfully. “Let’s get up and get you fed.” As if on cue Bernie’s stomach grumbled loudly and she cast her eyes down sheepishly. “That metabolism of yours!” Serena exclaimed. “Sometimes I think you go through more fuel than a 747.” But her smile was indulgent and Bernie couldn’t help but grin back.

That morning was to be the last day of the conference portion of the trip. They went to a few more talks before all gathering in the sizeable room where they had attended the first speech Monday. Bernie squeezed Serena’s hand gently as they sat down, understanding from her wink in response that she too was remembering their atrocious behaviour from before.

The final talk given was mostly just congratulatory bureaucratic matters. Bernie would admit to not paying too much attention. Two weeks had seemed like an eternity when they had started the trip but Serena was right: the days were flying by.  Their trip was just over half done.

What would it be like to go back? To fall back into the rhythm of day to day life in Holby and on AAU. She was excited to get back to work, to put the knowledge she’d gained to good use. She did truly love her job. But how was she supposed to adjust back to normalcy when she’d experienced first-hand what it was like to have Serena beside her all the time, every day?

She glanced up to the ceiling and nibbled at her bottom lip. She couldn’t think about that right now. It was only Friday. They wouldn’t be back in Athens until Wednesday, wouldn’t be flying home until Thursday. She vowed to put it out of her mind, glanced to Serena beside her and was surprised to see Serena looking right back at her.

Bernie quirked her lips in a small smile, her breath catching as Serena smiled back. Something about the way Serena smiled at her continued to affect Bernie. It didn’t matter whether it was the first smile or the fiftieth it always took her by surprise. Bernie broke eye contact first, turned her head to the speaker. Tried to pretend she could hear anything over the insistent pounding of her lovesick heart.

****

They spent the afternoon working through Serena’s list of stops she wanted to make in Crete. They both agreed that the Palace of Knossos was impressive, even if the restaurative attempts were a bit tacky for their taste, and agreed to disagree on the subject of which museum was the most enjoyable. They ran into many familiar faces from the cruise as they explored, greeting them with easy familiarity despite the short time they’d known them all. They saw Marcus only once, far in the distance, but they wordlessly turned to each other and snogged vigorously until he disappeared from view.

In the evening they explored the nightlife of Heraklion. Bernie teased Serena that she was going to drink the island dry as they wandered along and stopped for a glass of wine in every bar that looked half decent. In the interests of truly scientific exploration, they ventured into a nightclub, leaving 5 minutes after they’d entered complaining vigorously about the noise before laughing and bemoaning their middle age. When they finally made it back to the ship and fell into bed they were bone tired and they fell asleep within minutes.

****

All week long, Serena had clearly expressed her intention to sleep in on Saturday morning, so when Bernie awoke to the early morning sun streaming in through the window she very carefully extricated herself from Serena’s embrace and snuck out of the cabin. She grabbed her swimming costume and towel and made her way towards the ship’s pool. First, she stopped in at the small room of computers on the way and sent off a quick email to Cam letting him know that she was having a lovely time and looked forward to showing him her photos when she got back.

She swam some laps, enjoying the chance to clear her mind of all the confusion of the past week and concentrate simply on her breathing and the movement of her body. Once she had swum her fill she toweled herself off and stopped off to grab a bite to eat. Only after she saw the clock strike ten did she acquire a chocolate croissant and two coffees and make her way back to the cabin.

Serena was just stirring as Bernie came through the door and she was grateful for both the caffeine and the treat Bernie had brought back. The rest of their morning consisted of lazing about in their room. Enjoying the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Serena called Jason as they’d arranged before they’d left and Bernie was more honoured than she let on when Jason requested to speak with her as well.

But while their morning was idyllic, their afternoon got off to a slightly rougher start.

“I just don’t understand how you expect me to pack a bag if you won’t tell me anything about where we’re going or what we’re doing.” Serena had her arms crossed and was frowning at Bernie.

“Just pack normal clothes” Bernie replied.

“What does that even mean? Normal for what?”

“Like what you would wear to go hiking.” Bernie halted abruptly after the last word. That had definitely been the wrong thing to say.

“Berenice Wolfe you had better not be surprising me with a hike.”

“I’m n—”

“I have agreed to one hike on this trip”

“In Santorini, I know.”

“And that was only because you tricked me by showing me photos of the view before telling me what I’d have to do to see it.”

“Serena I promise we will not be hiking.”

“Promise?” Serena looked incredibly wary.

“Promise! Any and all walking will be entirely voluntary and not necessary for enjoyment of the surprise.”

“Hmph.”

“Trust me?”

Serena narrowed her eyes at Bernie for a long moment before nodding. Bernie was able to coax her through the packing and get them on their way in time.

****

At their rendezvous point they met a young man with a shock of black hair and an eager grin.

“Ms. Wolfe?” He asked and Bernie politely shook his hand as he introduced himself as Stefanos. He led them to a small, ancient red farm truck that was rather more rust than automobile in Bernie’s opinion and told them to throw their bags in the back. As they crammed onto the small bench seat Serena shot Bernie a look that said ‘if we die I’m never speaking to you again’. Bernie gave her a little smile that she desperately hoped was encouraging and patted her knee. She had meant to withdraw her hand after a couple of moments but Serena covered her hand with her own, squeezing her fingers.

Bernie watched Serena’s face surreptitiously for the entirety of the twenty five minute drive. She was waiting expectantly for the realisation of just where they were headed to dawn. Had been looking forward to it since she had booked this excursion a week and a half after she and Serena had booked the cruise in the first place. Surprising Serena was not something that happened very often but Bernie would gladly toil for the remainder of her life in return for just one of her shocked and amazed smiles.

Sure enough, as the rolling hills began to showcase even rows of short woody vines and they turned off the road onto a dusty path that cut through the plants Serena looked at Bernie her eyes gleaming and her lips already curving into a small smile.

“Don’t tell me.” She paused, looked around once more. “A winery?”

Bernie pursed her lips, glanced up at the sky and then down at her hands.

“Perhaps.”

Serena’s wide grin was answer enough. Bernie had chosen well.

****

If Bernie had thought Serena’s enthusiasm for Greek antiquities was endearing, she had been in no way prepared for Serena in a winery. Enjoying wine as a drink and caring about the process behind the making of wine were two very separate things and Bernie had been a bit concerned that she had over-estimated Serena’s interest in the latter. Apparently, however, she’d had nothing to worry about. It was adorably childlike, the way Serena pulled Bernie along, wide-eyed and enthralled as they were shown each and every portion of the process.

They were, strangely enough, still holding hands. Bernie didn’t know what to think of it, really, except Alessandra, the elderly woman who owned the place had interpreted Bernie’s e-mails about taking her friend with her to tour the winery as an implication of more than mere friendship. She had smiled generously when informing them both (through the judicious translations of Stefanos, who turned out to be one of her great grandsons) that one of her sons was gay and in very accented English proclaimed,

“Love is love.”

Serena had gone along with it with the casual flair she had brought to the entirety of the trip and had later whispered to Bernie that it was simpler to just let it be. The woman’s assumptions did bother Bernie to a certain extent though. Could a middle aged woman not want to go on a trip with her best friend without people assuming that it was something more? She worried at the question internally. For the duration of this trip it was a moot point. Things had already become convoluted enough what with their frequent displays for the sake of Marcus. But what about afterwards? Bernie did not want to make Serena uncomfortable by having everyone presume them to be in a relationship when they went places together. She had been an incredibly good sport with this whole pretending to be dating situation they’d been in, but that was only because she was doing Bernie a favour. What would it be like the next time they decided to go on a vacation?

She told herself she was being ridiculous. Assuming that she and Serena would what? Be holidaying in Brighton with Jason for the rest of their lives as an ever-aging facsimile of some absurd family ideal? That was never going to happen. Invariably Serena would find a nice man and fall in love and she would drag him around to wineries and dress up to go to parties with him and kiss him in the sunlight and Bernie would go to work and try desperately not to while her days away hanging off Serena’s every friendly word and casual touch.

She put the thought out of her mind; the last thing she needed was to become needlessly maudlin when about to put away what was sure to be an inhuman amount of wine. She paid attention to Serena instead who was intently asking Stefanos an incredibly detailed question about their fermentation process while stroking an oak cask with near-religious awe.

Chapter Text

At the end of the night, after hours of eating and wine tasting, Stefanos showed them to a small guesthouse on the estate, provided them with a few bottles of Serena’s favourite wine choices, and left them to their own devices. It felt different, somehow, being alone here versus in their cabin on the ship. Bernie was sure it was just the romantic tone of the day. From the idyllic walk through the vineyard to the candlelit evening meal, the tour had definitely been couple oriented. It was that, she assumed, and the fact that the wine was making things confusing. Making the air feel thick with implications. With some effort she ignored how she felt and instead made conversation with Serena.

She asked her what her favourite parts of the day had been and listened attentively to the flow of words Serena offered in return. She had wondered if Serena would prefer one of the fancier wineries she had found when she had planned this. She admitted quietly to Serena that she had struggled with the decision, unsure if she would find this place too homely, too underwhelming.

“No. Bernie. Not at all.” Serena reassured her. “This was… Perfect . Where did you hear about it?”

“Google.” Bernie replied with a shrug. Unwilling to admit that she had seen a mention of the place 40 pages back in a thread of people arguing about the best winery to visit on a Greek vacation forum. She also did not feel the need to tell Serena that she had spent 4 days scouring the internet for any further mention of the place and had actually had to reach out on Facebook to a complete stranger who had visited there the previous year to get contact information and arrange the trip.

They drifted into silence, concentrating on making serious headway into the wine that had been left with them.

“Morven told me something interesting the other day.” Bernie ventured casually after a while.

“Oh really?”

“Yes. Something about a patient who had known you when you were younger and I believe the words ‘give this girl a pole and she’ll teach you a thing or three’.”

Serena jumped at that, almost spilled her wine, and then tried her very best to act casual.

“Oh. That.”

“So it’s true then?”

“With the added bravado of alcohol I had the tendency to something of an, um, exhibitionist in my youth.”

“No! The ever-reserved Serena Campbell? I never would have guessed.”

“You know, I really hate when I can’t tell if you’re mocking me.”

Bernie grinned at her, boisterously drunk and not to be dissuaded from the matter of hand.

“Aye, aye. Come on then. Give us a bit of a show.”

“You soldiers are really all the same, aren’t you?

Bernie took Serena’s wine glass out of her hand and placed it on a nearby table before taking Serena’s hands in her own and dragging her to a standing position.

“Think of it as a morale booster, Serena.” She winked, “for the troops.”

Serena, never one to back down from a challenge, gave Bernie an inscrutable look before taking a deep breath.

“I can’t promise this will be pretty.”

Bernie’s brain, only just catching up to what was happening, was hastily considering a vow of silence.

Serena really went for it though. Completely unaware of the effect she was having on Bernie she twirled and gyrated, her hips moving fluidly and the look on her face positively sinful.

“This was my signature move.” She told Bernie solemnly, before demonstrating with aplomb. Bernie immediately understood why. She was busy trying to remember how to breathe when Serena stalked back, expression completely serious until the last moment when she dissolved into laughter and fell against Bernie. “Surely that’s enough to satisfy your curiosity?” She said against Bernie’s neck as Bernie struggled to keep them both upright.

“Yes.” Bernie cleared her throat. “Yes I think that’s just fine.”

“Fine? Oh dear I must have lost my touch!”

“That’s not. Not what I meant, not at all” Bernie stammered, red faced, until she caught the look in Serena’s eye and stopped speaking.

“Teasing you is really much too much fun.” Serena murmured. Her tone was heart wrenchingly fond; all Bernie managed in return was a slight smile. She held on tight to Serena’s frame for a moment before lulling away.

“Shall we to bed, Ms. Campbell?”

“Lead the way, Ms. Wolfe.”

****

The halls of the winery were dark, the musty smell of fermenting grapes permeated the air. Serena was in a room filled floor to ceiling with wooden casks of wine. She could feel Bernie's hand in her own. She didn't know how or why but Serena knew that they were well and truly alone.

Just them and a couple of tons of wine.

She pulled Bernie towards her, standing on her tiptoes and wrapping her arms around Bernie's neck as she met her lips in a deep kiss. Bernie responded immediately, dipping her tongue into Serena's mouth at the first opportunity. She manoeuvered Serena around until her back hit one of the stacks of oak casks. Bernie pulled back from the kiss and grinned.

"Who would've thought winemaking could be such a turn on?"

"Me of course." Serena kissed her gently "this does combine my two favourite things after all."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mmmm. You and wine."

Bernie laughed, ran her teeth along the shell of Serena's ear before whispering.

"Do you remember that night when you poured shiraz all over me and licked it off?"

Serena moaned, tangling her hands in Bernie's hair. How could she ever forget?

Bernie moved her lips down to Serena's neck, sucking at her pale flesh earnestly. Her hands moved down to Serena's thighs, coaxing her to wrap her legs around Bernie's hips. Serena went along willingly, allowing Bernie to hold her off the ground as she pressed her even more insistently into the wood behind her.

Bernie lifted Serena's hands over her head, pressed them into place,

"Keep those there" she directed, dropping a soft kiss on Serena's answering pout. "This is about you, not me." Bernie moved her hands down Serena’s body, one hand cupping her breast, the other rucking up her dress. She snuck her hand between their bodies and hissed when she discovered Serena wasn’t wearing any underwear.

"Oh, Serena ." Bernie's voice was throaty and deep and Serena shivered at the sound. "You're just drenched." Serena moaned as Bernie dragged her fingers through her wetness. It felt as though Bernie's hand was everywhere at once, thrusting, stroking, teasing. Toying with her. Serena was a helpless mess, unable to process anything beyond the delicious sensation of Bernie pressed up against her, touching her, kissing her neck. She could feel herself getting closer and closer to her breaking point, coasting on a wave of exquisite stimulation. She was almost there .

Serena woke up breathless and panting, her skin slick with sweat. She was so close, her heart was hammering in her chest, her breath coming in short, quick gasps. She could still feel pressure against her cunt, as though on some level the dream were still happening. She opened her eyes and looked down. Immediately blanching at the sight. Bernie had, at some point during the night rolled over to lay half on her pillow half on Serena and her leg was resting insistently between Serena's thighs.

She pulled away as best she could, gently shoving Bernie off of her, hoping desperately that she wouldn't wake up, blatantly ignoring the way her hips canted up in desperation at the sudden lack of pressure.

Once she had effectively extricated herself from that incredibly compromising situation she laid back and closed her eyes. She tried to will away the lustful urges. Tried to remind herself that this was not in the slightest bit appropriate. Tried to let the knowledge that she had just almost ground herself off against Bernie’s leg bring her back to reality. To no avail. Her cunt still ached for contact, awful, illicit contact. Gritting her teeth she slipped her hand between her thighs, came within seconds, didn’t even bother to pretend that she wasn’t thinking of Bernie as she did it.

Only after she had taken the edge off did her mind clear enough to realise what she had just done. She didn’t know how she would ever face Bernie. Yes, she had been asleep and dreaming, but the knowledge that her subconscious was to blame did nothing to absolve her guilt.

She stared at the ceiling praying for sleep that would never come.

****

Bernie knew something was wrong within minutes. Serena was not making eye contact with her. Was, in fact, avoiding looking at her all together when possible. There was no soft morning grin or teasing words as they got ready to leave. She racked her brain trying to think of what she had done. Something, obviously, had made Serena uncomfortable. Had she let something slip?

She thought back to their night, struggled to remember each second of conversation to ensure she hadn’t said something in a haze of liquor. She bit her lip  as she remembered in excruciating detail Serena’s exhibitionism of the night before but was confident she hadn’t said anything. But obviously something had happened. Had it been in her gaze? Had she let a touch linger too long? Had Serena finally seen, despite all of Bernie’s best efforts, how she truly felt?

She wondered if she should say something. Thought about it as they ate breakfast. Rolled the question around her brain throughout the drive back to Heraklion in Stefanos’ rickety old truck. Pondered it as they made their way back to the ship and unpacked. She had never been very good with words, or at least, not with words that might mean something. Crosswords and word games and texts upon texts of medical jargon Bernie could handle with ease. But a sincere question stuck in her throat.

“What did you want to do next?” Serena asked. Was Bernie imagining the awkwardness in her tone? She definitely wasn’t imagining the fact that Serena still wasn’t looking her in the eye. “I know we’d discussed visiting the Cathedral of St. Minas today did you still want to?”

Bernie took a deep breath, let the words tumble out of her mouth before she could think about it for one second more.

“Are you okay?”

Serena started at that. Looked at her, finally.

“What?”

“I.” Crap. She had spent so much time thinking about those three words she hadn’t thought about what she would say after them. “I’m sorry. It’s just. You’ve, you’ve been sort of off all day and I was just, um, worried?”

“Oh, Bernie.” She didn’t sound angry at least, sounded terribly fond, actually. “You’re so sweet to worry. I’m fine, really. Just didn’t sleep very well.”

“Oh. Good.” Now Bernie felt foolish, like she had completely overreacted. Her stupid brain making a big deal out of nothing, again. But then Serena reached out and squeezed her shoulder, smiled up at her. Said

“Thank you. For caring.”

Made everything feel okay again.

Chapter Text

On Monday something happened that, upon reflection, Bernie was surprised hadn’t happened before. She woke up slowly with the newly familiar warmth of Serena in her arms, opened her eyes and found herself face to face with Serena. Their noses were brushing, she could feel the warmth of Serena’s breath on her cheek. She watched as Serena opened her eyes slowly and looked at her, giving her that slow smile that had become synonymous with mornings. Bernie went to roll away, to put some distance between them, but before she could move Serena had grabbed her hand and was smoothing the skin with her thumb.

“You know, I expected to hate this?”

“Sorry?” Bernie was worried. Wanted to move and stop whatever conversation was going to happen about her making Serena uncomfortable or needing boundaries or whatever. But Serena was looking up at her with that soft half smile, her hand was warm in Bernie’s grasp, the bed was cozy, and she found she couldn’t bring herself to move.

“The sharing a bed, I mean. You know how it is, when you’re single. All used to spreading out in the middle of the bed and stealing all the blankets.”

“Yeah.” Bernie was wondering if maybe she should offer to sleep on the floor again. Or maybe in the tub?

“But actually this has been quite nice.”

“It has?”

“Yes. It’s been rather enjoyable to wake up with someone again.” Serena grinned, “just so you’re aware once we’re back home you might be getting calls from me in the middle of the night when I’m in need of a good cuddle.”

Bernie forced out a laugh. Did her best to make it sound believable. Didn’t know if that would be her life’s dream or her biggest nightmare. She didn’t reply, just laid there with Serena in her arms, so close that barely any movement would brush her lips against hers. It struck her that the situation reminded her of her promise to Marcus to quit smoking, and her one last fag that she held onto for years. Almost but never quite lighting up. Hand, cigarette, lighter. An exercise in self-control.

****

The hike was worth it, even Serena had to admit. They stopped at one of the high points near the end of the hike looking out at the vistas surrounding them. The view was absolutely stunning. Better, even, than the photos. The rough brown cliff face tumbling down into a calm azure sea. The small figures of sailboats in the distance tracking through the water, the round white structures of towns dotting the hills. The sun beating down, making everything light up, making the water sparkle, and the buildings glow, and the rock faces gleam. And amidst it all was Serena. Beautiful, incredible Serena. The warm glow of midday sun putting her features in sharp relief.

Bernie couldn’t help but stare. Couldn’t not let her eyes linger on Serena’s face. On her gorgeous dark brown hair, the way each strand caught in the light showing off the different hues, the auburn undertones, the beautiful lustre of those short locks. On her delicate features, her small round nose and wide smile and beautiful, expressive eyes. On the graceful cleft in her chin and on the fine lines of wrinkles that enhanced each and every part of her face. Creases by her eyes and on her cheeks and on her forehead, accentuating everything. Gorgeous little lines that told a tale in their own right of how much she had laughed and cried and smiled and yelled. A map to Serena’s past detailing exactly what has brought her to this place, standing on top of a mountain in Greece with Bernie.

Bernie knew that she was in love with Serena Campbell. Had known it for months at this point and thought of it often. Knowing, however, is completely different from actually letting yourself feel. Bernie thought she had felt the extent of her love for Serena. She thought that she had experienced that feeling in its entirety, the swell in her heart, the pounding in her chest, the ache of knowing that her love would never be requited.

She hadn’t.

In that moment, however, it crashed over her like a wave. Every single centimeter of her body was alive and singing, experiencing this feeling as she had never felt it before. It was overwhelming. The brightness, the strength of it all it felt so much more than Bernie has ever believed possible it was like a crescendo starting from her heart and pouring through her entire body. She thought she might explode. Might burst apart at the seams. She truly felt as though she would shatter into pieces from the sheer intensity of her feelings.

So she did the only thing she could, the only possible course of action, the only way to somehow harness those emotions and take ownership over them. A last, desperate plea to not let them destroy her very being. She kissed Serena.

She cupped Serena’s cheeks in her hands and lowered her mouth to hers in a breathtaking, all-consuming kiss.

Over the past week and a half Bernie and Serena had kissed many times. They had kissed with laughter and smiles and in frustration and in anger and mostly as a rather complex ‘fuck you’ to Bernie’s ex. This kiss was not like any of those.

This kiss was desperate. Yearning. As though Bernie was pouring everything she was feeling into the way her lips were sliding against Serena’s. Serena gasped, a small hitch of breath, but to Bernie it was as startling as a gunshot.

Like the crack of a starter’s pistol, and Bernie was off. She backed away two steps, her hands flying off Serena's cheeks like they'd been burned, and then turned and fled. She may never have done track and field but she had always been a master at running from her problems.

Bernie could very clearly remember her first crush. She hadn’t known what it was at the time, had not had any words to describe the way her heart ached with desire every time she saw the girl. She was 12 and thought she merely wanted to be her friend more than anything else in the world. Thought that until she realised that she wanted more than anything to press her lips against hers. She never really understood what exactly it was she was feeling but when the priest at church railed against homosexuality and her father forbade her from hanging out with her friend John, who kissed boys, she knew that they were in some way talking about her, too. So she ran from that. She ran and she married the boy from university with the kind smile, the boy that loved her, the boy she thought she might one day be able to love in return. And she ran from that, too, ran to the RAMC. Ran to trauma surgery and war and always another bomb or gunshot or disaster to keep her from facing how she felt. And in the midst of it all she met Alex. Lovely, brilliant Alex who ran with her without a second thought. There was a time in the midst of it all when she felt like she could run fast enough to keep it all at bay, to keep everything in its place and not have to face any of it. To have her family at home and her lover at work and to maybe glean some sort of happiness from it all.

And then, of course, it all came crashing down. For all of her intellect Bernie should have been able to see that there was no way she could keep it all going. Not a hope in hell.

But somehow, out of that mess and all her incredible cock-ups she had met Serena. Beautiful Serena, who supported and forgave and made her feel as though she could stop running, even just for an instant, and it would all be okay.

And then she’d fucked it all up.

All she’d had to do was keep her hands (and her lips) to herself. That was it. Keep her mouth shut and her hands to herself and everything could’ve been okay. But of course she got overwhelmed by the view and by Serena and by her stupid, inconvenient feelings and she’d gone and made a right mess of it all.

Her brain tried to fight back, for a moment. As she ran and the air burned her lungs and the tears burned her eyes her brain tried to tell her that Serena kissed her back. That maybe, just maybe , this wasn’t quite as hopeless as she thought. She dismissed that thought immediately. Of course Serena had kissed her back, she must have thought that Marcus had shown up and had gone along with it as she’d gone along with everything else on this trip. What a foolish idea that had been, as well. How could she have thought that going along with Serena’s harebrained scheme would work? That she would somehow have been able to keep her feelings at bay? She shook her head, put the thoughts from her mind. Kept running and paid attention to the pounding of her feet against dirt instead of any of the other intrusive thoughts to which her brain tried to pull her attention.

She ran until she hit the townsite and could find a taxi to take her back to the ship. As she caught her breath in the back seat of the vehicle she focused on planning, instead. Where was she going to go and where? She certainly couldn’t stick around.

****

Once she got her bearings, Serena would admit to being a little peeved. Not for the kiss. No that had left her stunned and bewildered but not angered. She had immediately looked about, expecting to see Marcus, or at the very least someone . But they had been alone on that summit. Which meant Bernie had kissed her… Why? Because she wanted to? Because it seemed like the right thing to do? Because this whole charade was getting much too complex and she was confused?

Serena didn’t know. But she knew she was peeved. She was peeved because Bernie had planted the most incredible kiss on her and then, instead of sticking around for five seconds and actually having a conversation with Serena, had turned about and high tailed it. Leaving Serena in the unenviable position of having to run after her.

She hated running. Really, absolutely thought that running was the worst possible thing to expect of another human. It was uncomfortable and it made her lungs hurt and she was not built for it in the slightest. But she bustled along at a desperate half-jog certain in the knowledge that if she did not catch up to Bernie soon she would be gone. Bernie would exile herself somewhere ridiculous like Canada or Ukraine and Serena would never see her again.

So she ran. (Sort of.)

As soon as she got close to a road she abandoned running in favour of scrambling up a hill to the roadside and flagging down a ride. She used the marginal amounts of Greek she’d acquired to charm her way into getting a lift down to the harbour and then set off once more, making her way onto the ship and rushing through the corridors to their room.

As soon as she heard the door close behind Serena, Bernie whirled. She was clutching clothing in her hands, obviously packing her bag with haste and tears were streaming down her face.

“Oh. Serena. Fuck. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I really, really am. I’m just going to go now and you don’t have to worry about anything.”

“Bernie.” Serena stepped closer and Bernie backed away, trembling. Serena’s voice cracked as she asked, “why?”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m going to leave but you should finish the trip. Oh god I’m so sorry. I’ll be gone, when you get back. I can leave the AAU if you want, go back to Keller. Or, or, I can just leave Holby. You don’t have to worry. I can go. Maybe get a secondment or something. I’m so—”

“Why did you kiss me?” Serena tried again. But Bernie just shook her head, crying even harder.

“I’m so sorry, Serena. I. You can’t know how much but I am so sorry.”

“Bernie.” It came out at barely more than a whisper. Serena paused, thought. Opened her mouth to continue, knew that what she was about to say was cruel. Couldn’t help it, needed to know why . “At the very least you owe me an explanation.”

Chapter Text

Bernie stilled completely at that. Looked up at Serena like a deer in the headlights, her mouth just slightly agape.

“I.” She pursed her lips, looked up at the ceiling. “I kissed you, because,” she looked down at her feet then. In the faintest voice she murmured “because I’m in love with you”.

“What?” Serena could barely make out the words, couldn’t trust herself to believe what she thought she’d heard. Bernie lifted her head and looked her in the eyes, the tears streaming freely down her face once more.

“Because I’m in love with you.” She gasped out in one breath. “Oh god, I’m so sorry Serena I know it’s daft and awful and I’m just being foolish but—”

“Berenice.” Serena cut her off. Wanted to say something, anything to allay her fears. To tell her the feeling was mutual. To stop Bernie from looking up at her like she was standing in the shadow of her own destruction amidst the rubble that once was her life. Somehow she just couldn’t find the right words to use so she settled for actions instead. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Bernie’s neck and met her lips in a bruising kiss. Bernie stood still for a moment, shell-shocked, before eagerly responding to the pressure of Serena’s lips against her own.

When she pulled back Bernie was staring at her in astonishment.

“I absolutely adore you, Berenice Wolfe” she murmured. Bernie let out a small choked laugh before she leaned down and reverently touched her lips to Serena’s once more. It was a gentle peck at first, soft and searching, but Serena quickly deepened it, dipping her tongue into Bernie’s mouth at the first opportunity. Bernie dropped her hands to Serena’s waist, using her leverage to move Serena back so she was pushing her up against the wall of the room. When they finally pulled apart again they were breathless, panting for air.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Serena asked.

“Me?” Bernie was grinning, her tone teasing and fond. “You’re the dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual here, if you’ll remember. I had no way of knowing you’d even be open to a bit of sapphic romance.” She bit her lip and then asked, “why didn’t you?”

“I.” Serena blushed, “I just couldn’t believe that you would want me. Like that.”

“Are you kidding me?” Bernie looked at her like she was daft. “How could you ever believe that I wouldn’t want you?”

“Well. I mean look at you. You look like a bloody model and I did actually meet Alex in passing you know and she’s gorgeous and I’m, well, me.”

“Oh Serena.” Bernie breathed out the words in a rush. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.” She started attacking Serena’s neck with her lips, speaking between kisses. “Absofuckinglutely stunning, actually.” She paused to suck at her pulse point, exalting in Serena’s responding gasp. “And not in some bullshit ‘oh she looks good for her age’ way you might be thinking but really gorgeous.” She pulled back and made sure to catch Serena’s gaze before she continued. “Like every time I see you all I can think about is ravishing you levels of incredibly sexy.” She blushed and ducked her head. “You would not believe the levels of self control the past couple of weeks have taken me.”

Serena trailed her hands down Bernie’s sides, rucked up Bernie’s shirt so her fingers could slide across her skin, pulled her close and brought her mouth to her ear.

“Oh really Ms. Wolfe?” She tugged at Bernie’s earlobe with her teeth. “Anything in particular?”

“Umm.” Suddenly Bernie was speechless again and Serena couldn’t help but feel a rush at seeing how her words were affecting her. “Uh there was the swimming costume. And uh, the suit that first night. And...” She stopped, pulled her lip between her teeth once more.

“And?” Serena queried, scraping her teeth down the pale column of Bernie’s neck. Bernie moaned and closed her eyes.

“And the um, the stockings. With the garter, I mean. Erm.”

“Ooooh, liked those did we?” Serena grinned as Bernie nodded. “I think I could be persuaded to model them for you again at some point.”

Bernie growled and lowered her mouth to Serena’s neck, biting and sucking her way down to her collarbones. Serena’s head thudded back against the wall. Bernie worked her thigh between Serena’s legs, pressing up against her. Serena hissed at the contact, used the shift to press her own leg up between Bernie’s thighs, giving as good as she got.

Bernie’s hand tore at Serena’s blouse, desperately undoing buttons to expose more of Serena’s skin to her lips, pressing her thigh against her ever more insistently against her as she went.

“Fuck. Please, Bernie!” Serena moaned, her hips thrusting against her. “It’s been torture, this past week and a half. Don’t tease.” Bernie took pity on her, knowing that if Serena had been going through half of what Bernie had been she must be incredibly aroused. She slipped a hand between their bodies, undoing Serena’s trousers and working her way into her pants, her other hand palming Serena’s breast through her bra.

When Bernie felt the evidence of Serena’s arousal she gasped.

“God Serena! You’re so wet.” She murmured.

“All.” Serena was panting as she spoke, “all for you.”

Bernie was the luckiest woman in the world, probably. She wanted to stop, to take a moment to revel in the knowledge that she had done this to Serena Campbell, sexiest woman alive. But Serena had told her not to tease and her own need was deepening, egging her on. She brushed her fingertips against Serena’s clit and grinned against her chest when Serena keened in response. She dragged her fingers through her wetness, then circled her clit again, using Serena’s responses as a guide. Serena was moaning wantonly, grinding her cunt down against Bernie’s hand at the slightest provocation. Bernie lifted her head and kissed Serena deeply, applying more and more deliberate pressure to her clit. It only took a minute before Serena was coming, breaking away from the kiss and crying out. When she had caught her breath, Serena opened her eyes and saw Bernie looking down at her, cheeks flushed and eyes dark with arousal.

Serena could feel Bernie’s heat radiating against her thigh. She shifted her leg slightly, testing a hypothesis, smiling in victory at Bernie’s resultant hitch of breath. She moved her hands to Bernie’s hips, encouraging her to thrust up against her as she pressed her thigh ever more insistently against Bernie’s cunt. Bernie was helpless at the whim of her need, her hips moving quicker and quicker.

“Christ Bernie” she gasped. “That’s so hot.” Bernie was panting, her hands planted against the wall beside Serena to keep herself upright. Serena continued to coax her onwards, exalting in the raw sexuality of Bernie’s actions. “Yes, just like that Bernie. Fuck, you’re perfect. Just like that.” Bernie moaned. Her eyes had fallen shut at the heady pleasure of it all but she opened them and caught Serena’s gaze. Serena could tell Bernie was getting close, her hips faltering ever so slightly in their movements. “Come for me Bernie.” She instructed. “Come for me.” And Bernie did, her body shuddering and her mouth open in a silent plea.

Bernie leaned her forehead against Serena’s as she struggled to catch her breath.

“Sorry” she gasped out at the first opportunity.

“For what?”

Bernie blushed and stammered, gesturing towards herself and Serena. Serena smiled fondly and cut in, seeing Bernie wasn’t going to get anywhere with what she was trying to say anytime soon.

“Making the indomitable Bernie Wolfe lose control like that was incredible.” She leaned forward and kissed her gently, pulled back with a smirk. “Not to mention incredibly arousing.”

“Oh is that so, Ms. Campbell?” Bernie brushed her nose against Serena’s and then dropped a gentle peck to the side of her mouth, laughing joyously as she did so. She pulled Serena to her, wrapping her up in a tight hug and kissing her repeatedly.

Chapter Text

Bernie stepped back from Serena, taking one of her hands in her own so as not to lose all contact. Laughter bubbled out of her once more, unheeded but unstoppable.

“What?” Serena asked. Bernie blushed, averted her gaze.

“I love you Serena.” Serena laughed with her then, stepped forward, cupped Bernie’s face in her hands and kissed her.

“I love you too.” They grinned foolishly at one another before Serena continued. “But if you don’t get on that bed and let me ravish you right now I won’t be very pleased with you.”

“Ooh ravish me will you?”

“I certainly plan on it. Hurry up Major.”

“Aye aye sir” Bernie replied with a wink and a grin, laughing as Serena pushed her towards the bed. She crawled onto it, sitting up in the center, reaching for Serena as she moved to straddle her. They grinned at one another again, taking the opportunity of a new position and new angles to run their hands over each other in avid exploration once more.

They kissed deeply, only separating so Serena could pull Bernie’s shirt over her head and fling it behind her. Her hands immediately moved down to cover Bernie’s breasts, palming them through her bra, her fingers eagerly analyzing the contrast between lace and smooth skin. She reached behind Bernie’s back to undo the clasp of her bra, fumbling slightly before she got it, yanking it off of her and then pushing Bernie back against the pillows. Bernie had her hands on Serena’s hips and was smiling up at her. Serena couldn’t help but kiss her again. She covered Bernie’s breasts with her hands again, dragging the pads of her thumbs over the nipples, the look on her face pure awe.

Serena lowered her head, swiping her tongue over one of Bernie’s nipples. Bernie hissed, her back arching up and Serena grinned. She took the nipple into her mouth, sucking on it and then flicking the tip of her tongue over the hard nub. She had Bernie writhing in pleasure as she laved at her nipple with her tongue then dragged her teeth over it, alternating between rough and soft, exploring all the ways she could excite. When she was satisfied she had given one breast enough attention she moved to the other and began the process once more. Bernie’s hands were moving over her back, fingers scrabbling against the fabric of her blouse, wordlessly urging her on. Serena moved back and forth between both breasts wanting to kiss and suck at them forever, high on the heady power of Bernie’s responses.

She moved one of her hands down to stroke her fingers over Bernie’s ribs and abdomen, needing to touch as much of her as she could.

As she did so, Bernie’s hands were busy pulling off Serena’s blouse and vest, choking slightly as she saw the leopard print bra underneath. She pulled that off as well, deftly undoing the clasp one-handed on the first try, winking at Serena’s little nod of acknowledgment. Bernie pulled Serena down against her, kissing her once more. Their lips slid together, their tongues stroking into one another’s mouths. Serena pulled away, sat up and reached down, undoing the button of Bernie’s trousers and pushing them and her pants down her legs. Bernie kicked them off and Serena took a moment to drink in the sight of her completely nude. Her long graceful limbs, stretched out on the bed, her messy blonde hair splayed out on the pillow. Her skin was gorgeous and pale, covered in little freckles and Serena wanted to kiss each and every one.

She brought her hand reverently to the apex of her thighs, looking at Bernie for permission before she let her fingers stroke the hair there.

“Gorgeous” Serena murmured. Bernie blushed. “You know, that was the one thing I didn’t like in the porn I watched. All the women were shaved. I rather think I like a nice bush.”

“I’m sorry” Bernie was quickly losing the ability to breathe. “You watched lesbian porn?”

“Well” Serena shrugged nonchalantly but her eyes were alight and her grin was wicked “I had to do research didn’t I?”

“I” Bernie looked at her, then decided against speaking in favour of pulling Serena down against her and kissing her again.

When they pulled apart, breathless, Serena’s hand was still drawing patterns over Bernie’s lower abdomen, upper thighs, stroking past the hair of her bush, teasing but never moving further down.

“This is so much better in reality. Better than any book or video or imagining.” She dragged her nails down Bernie’s abdomen. “And I have imagined this, my dear Berenice. Almost constantly. Ever since I first realised I wanted you.”

Bernie hummed happily,

“Do tell, when was that?”

“No, no.” Serena shook her head. “I want to hear from you first. When did you know?”

“That, that I loved you?” Bernie bit her lip nervously. Serena nodded.  “Do you remember the arm wrestle? Over the man with tap up his arse? It was right after you found out about me and Alex.”

“The one you oh so chivalrously let me win?”

“Yes, that one” Bernie blushed. “That was when I realised that I had a bit of a crush. I mean, I knew I was attracted to you, had been from the moment we met, really. But that was when I knew it was something beyond mere attraction. As for love, well. I’m not sure. I don’t know if it was on the floor of the theatre after Fletch’s surgery, or helping the Higgsons have an albeit ridiculous chance at happiness, or one of many nights spent drinking shiraz at Albie’s. But one day I just turned around and it was there . Undeniable. Like it had always been that way.” She was drawing patterns on the skin of Serena’s hip, she flicked her eyes up, caught Serena’s gaze and smiled shyly, gave a little shrug and Serena was overwhelmed once again with just how much she adored the woman underneath her. “Now your turn. When did you realise?” Bernie asked.

“Well I’ll be honest I thought it was just sexual for the longest time. I didn’t actually know I loved you until last Wednesday. Astonishing, really, how you can fool yourself, but I thought I just really cared for you as a friend.” She chortled, “a friend I wanted to pin up against the wall and snog the hell out of most of the time, of course.” She paused for a moment. “I have known for quite a while that I was attracted to you, though. Since the end of the summer, maybe, thereabouts.”

“Didn’t you…” Bernie stroked her fingers down the length of Serena’s arm. “I mean, you seem so casual about it all, but you were straight?” It was phrased as a question, tentative at that.

“It was unexpected, certainly. But I’m not blind and you are beautiful, there’s no denying that, and well. I guess the more I thought about it the less gender mattered.”

Bernie brought her hand up to Serena’s cheek and stroked it gently.

“You are incredible.” Bernie said. Serena smiled, the sincerity in Bernie’s voice floored her.

“The hardest part, really, was telling someone else. Actually saying the words out loud, that was just a little terrifying.”

“Who did you tell?” Bernie had moved her hand from Serena’s cheek and was stroking her hair.

“Ric Griffin, actually. Do you remember when Françoise Yeats came to the hospital?”

“How could I forget? We gave Ric hell that day.”

“Well that evening, at Albie’s, it was just Ric and I and in the midst of my teasing him about getting back out there he asked me when I was going to, umm, get back out there myself. And so I told him about my little crush.” Serena blushed slightly at the admission and Bernie couldn’t help but picture it, Serena blushing and smiling as she whispered the words over a glass of shiraz.

“Ric couldn’t have liked that!”

“What?” Serena cocked her head. “Why would you say that?”

“Well, he and I haven’t exactly gotten along.”

“He thought it was brilliant.”

“Really?”

“Said you’re a fine woman.” Serena grinned down at Bernie’s shocked expression.

“Oh.”

“Said I should lock the door to our office and snog the life out of you.”

“Smart man.”

“Mmmm” Serena leaned forward and kissed her sweetly. “I’m going to tell him you said that.”

“Don’t you dare.”                     

Serena laughed and kissed Bernie again, finally moving her hand down further and dragging her fingers gently through her wetness. Bernie gasped, her hips canting up towards Serena’s hand. Serena continued to tease her with her fingers as she kissed her way down Bernie’s body, finally settling between Bernie’s legs.

“Serena. You don’t have to” Bernie’s voice was tremulous,

“I want to.” Her voice was firm, comforting. “May I?”

Bernie nodded eagerly. Serena smiled up at her, making eye contact with her as she nosed into her bush and swiped her tongue up the length of her cunt.

Bernie thrust up against her, gasping as her hips desperately sought purchase. Serena pinned her hips down with her hands as she continued. The musky smell was overwhelming and the taste not quite as she had imagined. Unfamiliar but not unpleasant. She swept her tongue over her labia, and then up to her clit. She sucked the hardening nub between her lips, flicking at it with her tongue, letting Bernie’s gasps and moans instruct and guide her. She moved back down, licking over the length of her cunt once more, teasing and testing with her tongue. She was eager to explore everything, to experience fully, and, more than anything, determined to do this well. She was gentle, slow, then quick and insistent. Paying constant attention to the way Bernie’s hands grasped at the sheets, the sounds falling from her mouth, the struggle of her hips against Serena’s firm grasp.

Serena dipped her tongue into Bernie’s vagina, thrusting in and feeling victorious at Bernie’s responding gasp. She continued to penetrate her with her tongue, twisting and teasing as Bernie’s moans grew more desperate and her breaths came quicker and quicker, and then finally she moved back to her clit, stroking her tongue over it in an insistent pattern increasing in both speed and pressure as Bernie cried out.

And then Bernie was coming, her back arching and her hips grinding down as her cunt spasmed on Serena’s tongue. Serena continued her gentle assault on Bernie’s clit coaxing her through her orgasm and not letting up until one of Bernie’s hands gently pushed her away.

She crawled her way back up the bed, lying beside Bernie and kissing her deeply, blushing as she realised she hadn’t even paused to wipe the mess off her chin. She went to do so but Bernie grabbed her hand before she could.

“Don’t” Bernie rasped, her breath still coming in quickened gasps. Once her breathing had calmed she dropped Serena’s hand in favour of cupping her cheek, her eyes trained on her chin. “Fuck Serena, I,” she paused. “You cannot know how many times I have imagined this. Fuck.”

“Imagined what?” Serena’s voice was low and sultry. “My chin covered in your juices?” Bernie groaned, launched herself at Serena, catching her lips in a deep kiss as she pushed her back against the pillows. Bernie hovered above her, resting on one elbow as they kissed. Then she pulled back, maintaining eye contact as she swept her tongue over Serena’s chin, cleaning it off, licking up her own wetness. She couldn’t resist dragging her tongue over the cleft of her chin again and again, slowly, reverently.

“I love your chin so much.” She whispered, her eyes boring into Serena’s. “I love your whole face, your gorgeous eyes and your cute little nose and your lips” she paused to kiss those lips briefly. “I love the wrinkles beside your eyes and the lines of your cheeks that deepen when you smile. But I think I love your chin the most.” Serena squirmed a little at Bernie’s words.

“I always kind of hated it. You know, people always say they hate butt chins.”

“People are daft.” Bernie said with complete seriousness, leaning down to kiss Serena again, smiling as Serena giggled into the kiss.

Her legs tangling with Serena’s reminded Bernie that Serena was quite unfairly still half-clothed and she went to remedy that immediately. After she had taken care of that, Bernie resumed her earlier position, resting above Serena on one elbow, their legs entangled, her free hand leisurely exploring Serena’s skin. Her touch was reverent, gentle. She ghosted her fingertips over Serena’s clavicles, down her sternum to her breasts, leaving a trail of goose pimples in her wake.

She dragged her blunt nails over Serena’s nipples, then cupped each of her breasts in turn, stroking and kneading the flesh as Serena moaned and arched her back. Bernie refused to be quickened, taking her time with every touch. She finally moved her hand lower, stroking over the soft swell of Serena’s stomach and was surprised when Serena pushed her hand away, bringing her arm down to cover her stomach self-consciously.

“Serena? What’s the matter?”

“I’m not—” Serena was avoiding eye contact. “I don’t like people touching my stomach. I’m flabby and old, I have stretch marks. I just,” she was looking anywhere but at Bernie “can’t you just skip past that?”

Bernie moved her hand up to cup Serena’s cheek,

“Serena, please. Look at me.” Serena finally looked at her and Bernie made sure to maintain eye contact as she spoke. “I don’t want to do anything to make you uncomfortable. Ever. And if you don’t want me to touch your stomach then I won’t. But you are beautiful . Every part of you. I love your stomach, I love that it’s not flat, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I love the way it swells up into my hand, how soft it is. I love your curves, your hips, your arse. I love the shape of your body and I hate that anybody or anything has ever made you feel as though it’s not perfect just the way it is. And as for stretch marks? Those little silvery lines that grace your body so beautifully? Well” she leaned down and brushed her lips against hers, “for a woman who loves animal print so much I don’t understand how you could not love the tiger stripes on your own skin.”

Serena let out a little sob at that, pulled Bernie towards and kissed her. She pulled back and whispered,

“I love you.”

“I love you too. And I meant what I said, Serena. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but would you let me show you how just how much I love your body?”

Serena nodded, eyes still brimming with tears. Bernie moved incredibly slowly as she brought her hand back to Serena’s waist, watching her reaction the whole time. She stroked every inch of skin on Serena’s stomach, murmuring to her the whole time about how absolutely beautiful she was.

They stayed like that for a long time, Bernie whispering in Serena’s ear how perfect she was, as she traced her stretch marks with her fingers, dragged her knucks over the swells and valleys of her skin. Only after she was satisfied that she’d made her point, did she move her hand lower. She stroked the side of her hip, the top of her thighs. Bernie lowered her lips to Serena’s neck, sucking and nipping at her skin as her hand continued to explore down Serena’s legs and around to grasp at her arse touching her everywhere but where she knew Serena was dying to feel her.

She dropped one last kiss on Serena’s lips before she moved down the bed, pausing to suck her nipples into her mouth, flicking at them with her tongue and grinning up at Serena’s response. She laid with her elbows on either side of Serena’s hips, taking the time to pepper Serena’s abdomen with kisses. Looking up at her as she did so, whispering her awe at Serena’s beauty into her skin. She moved ever so slightly further down, nipping at her hips, kissing the tops of her thighs, enjoying immensely Serena’s ever more fevered moans as she moved closer and closer to her cunt. And then, just as she thought Serena might be considering homicide she brought one of her hands up and oh so gently trailed her fingertips through Serena’s wetness.

“Bernie!” Serena cried out as her hips gyrated. Bernie grinned up at her, her fingers delving further, slowly thrusting one finger into Serena’s cunt. Serena immediately gasped out for more and Bernie was glad to indulge her. She added another finger, thrusting in with vigour and lowered her head, bringing her tongue to Serena’s clit.

Serena was loud. Louder than Bernie had ever dared imagine. She was moaning and crying out with abandon, egging Bernie on with an endless litany of ‘yes’ and ‘harder’ and ‘faster’. Bernie added another finger, thrusting all three into Serena and Serena shouted out her approval at the stretch. Bernie continued to tease at Serena’s clit with her tongue, flicking over it and running her tongue around the edge in an ever quickening pattern that was driving Serena wild. Serena had one hand on Bernie’s head, pushing her down against her and one hand on the headboard, her grip tightening as her desperation grew. She keened as Bernie sucked her clit into her mouth and shouted out pleas to deities as Bernie thrust into her with particular verve. She was wild, zealous, unrestrained, and Bernie had never seen anything more beautiful.

Serena came without warning, her voice breaking as she yelled Bernie’s name, her hand tight in Bernie’s hair, the walls of her cunt pulsing around Bernie’s fingers.

When her hips stilled, Bernie removed her hand, licking her fingers clean, already in love with the taste of Serena. She moved up to lie over Serena once more, kissing her nose and her cheeks and finally her lips. Serena’s eyes were glazed in pleasure as she looked up at Bernie and grinned.

“Would it be in poor taste to give a thank you card to your ex-husband?” She asked cheekily and Bernie laughed until her stomach hurt.

They laid together for a while kissing languorously, their bodies pressed up against each other, Serena’s hand trailing up and down Bernie’s side.

“I had a dream about you, you know.”

“Hmmm?” Bernie’s tone was slow, content. “Just the one?”

“Well…” Serena laughed. “No. But one recently. That night we were in the winery. When I woke up you had your leg pressed up against me.” She blushed, “I was so turned on I had to erm, take care of myself right then right there.”

Bernie growled at that. Flipped Serena onto her stomach and pressed up against her back, trailing open-mouthed kisses down the back of her neck.

“Right there in the bed beside me?” She asked. Serena nodded, her cheeks burning. Bernie reached her hands around and groped Serena’s breasts, tugging at the nipples. “Fuck that’s hot.” She bit down at the juncture between Serena’s neck and shoulder. “What were we doing in the dream?”

“Oh god! You had me pressed up against a stack of oak casks and were, oh my god, you were fucking me.” Bernie dragged her fingernails down Serena’s sides, Serena’s ass grinding back against her as she moaned.

“How?”

“With, oh fuck! With your fingers.”

“Like this?” Bernie thrust two fingers into Serena without further preamble and Serena gasped.

“Yes! Oh god yes . Bernie!”

Bernie added another finger, curling all three inside of Serena’s dripping cunt, the heel of her palm and the weight of their bodies putting a delicious amount of pressure on her clit. Bernie was sucking and biting at her neck as she went. Serena ground back against her again and Bernie gasped at the sensation.

“You know you did that to me one morning” she whispered fervently in Serena’s ear. “I woke up with you in my arms and you ground your incredible arse against me and I had to run away so I didn’t take you right then and there.” Bernie had never been much of a talker, a fact which made the endless stream of words she was murmuring into Serena’s ear all the hotter. “You should have seen me Serena, seen how wet I was, how desperate I was. I stood against the door of the loo and fucked myself while thinking of you; had to put my hand over my mouth so you couldn’t hear me cry out your name.”

She increased the speed of her thrusts as she spoke, grinding her palm even harder against Serena’s clit and tugging at her nipple with her other hand.

Serena whimpered, her head falling back against Bernie’s shoulder, Bernie used the opportunity to suck at the pulse point of her neck. Serena let the waves of pleasure overtake her, shouting Bernie’s name as she came.

When she came back to herself, she made quick work of turning around in Bernie’s arms and beginning a measured attack on Bernie’s neck. She bit down on the juncture of neck and shoulder, observing Bernie’s response with interest, seeing how hard she could go. Happy to see that it seemed Bernie didn’t mind a bit of pain with her pleasure. While her mouth was busy kissing and biting at Bernie’s neck, making what she knew would be a quite impressive array of hickeys, her hands were on her breasts. She tugged and twisted Bernie’s nipples, loving how incredibly responsive she was, exulting once more in how perfectly her breasts fit in her hands. She ran her hands down Bernie’s sides, sinking her fingers into the flesh of her delectable arse hard enough that she knew there would be marks there in the morning. Couldn’t help the way her breath hitched at the image of Bernie marked by her. Marked as hers. She couldn’t resist verbalising her thoughts, her voice low and hoarse.

“I love your skin. I love how pale it is, I love how red it gets when I suck on it. I love seeing the hickeys on your neck. I can’t wait for everyone else to see them, to know that you’re mine.”

“Fuck. Serena!” Bernie gasped as Serena scratched her nails down her side. “That’s so hot.”

“I want to spend the rest of my life fucking you. I want to bring you home and lay you down in my bed and do nothing but touch and tease you for hours.”

She slipped her hand between Bernie’s thighs, nudging them apart. “What do you think about strap-ons?” She asked, voice artfully casual, grin wicked at Bernie’s pleading moan in response. “I don’t want you thinking I’m missing penises of course.” She dragged her nails down the inside Bernie’s thighs. “I think we’ve made it quite clear this afternoon that we need nothing of the sort to have a good deal of fun. But I can’t deny that I’ve thought about it.” She brought her hand to hover over Bernie’s cunt, smiling as Bernie’s hips canted up seeking her touch. “I love the idea of fucking you with a cock of my own. Filling you up, my hands still free to touch you all over. Would you like that Bernie? Would you like me to fuck you wearing nothing but those stockings and garter you love so much and a cock?”

“Yes. Please!” Bernie hissed out and Serena finally lowered her hand, tugging at Bernie’s clit before thrusting a single finger inside of her. Bernie practically sobbed in relief at finally finally getting contact.

“And you fucking me, too. I’ve thought of that so many times. If we’re being honest I always imagine it in our office. You bending me over the desk at the end of a long day, pounding into me, fucking me so hard I can barely walk out of there when we’re done.”

She had two fingers inside of Bernie’s cunt then, driving into her. “Fuck Bernie. Fuck you’re so tight. Tight and hot and wet. You look so good like this, I love how you look when I’m fucking you. So beautiful, so wanton. I could do this forever, could stay like this forever.”

Bernie’s breath was hitching, the only sound she was able to make a yearning whimper. Serena smiled down at her, decided to finally take pity on her. She lowered her thumb to her clit, rubbing it hard and fast, her fingers thrusting deep, driving Bernie to an intense orgasm. She was silent as she came, her teeth biting down on her lip and Serena was awestruck by the vision of her.

They dozed for a while after that, content in each other’s arms. Then Serena slid out of the bed, padding to the loo to get a drink of water. She filled one of the glasses by the sink and had finished half of it when she felt a warm presence behind her. Bernie stepped up so she was flush against her, dropping her hands to Serena’s hips and lowering her lips to her shoulder.

“What are you doing out of bed?” Serena asked, moaning as Bernie kissed her way up her neck, dropping the glass to the counter with a loud clunk.

“Mmmm. Saw your gorgeous arse and I couldn’t resist. I had to touch you again.”

“You couldn’t have waited 5 minutes?”

“No.” Bernie’s eyes met Serena’s in the mirror and her expression was completely serious. Serena grinned.

“You’re insatiable.”

“It’s not my fault you’re so sexy.” She dropped her lips to Serena’s shoulder again, kissing her skin gently, lovingly. Her hands were stroking over Serena’s hips, thighs, abdomen, teasing at the skin. She raised her hands to Serena’s breasts, ran the pad of her thumbs over her nipples, grinned at Serena’s moan in response. “Look at yourself Serena. I want you to see how beautiful you are. I want you to watch yourself as I fuck you.”

“Bernie” Serena whispered her name and it sounded like a benediction.

Bernie pushed on Serena’s back so she was ever so slightly bent over. One of Serena’s hands rested on the mirror, the other on the counter holding her up. Bernie started slow, one finger dipping through her swollen lips, stroking against her sensitive flesh before entering her. She thrust in and out at a gentle pace, slowly but surely working Serena into a frenzy. Her other hand gripping her hip.

Serena was busy obeying Bernie’s command. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the image, in fact. Herself and then Bernie, just ever so slightly taller, mouth sucking at her neck, hand on her hip holding her in place. She watched in the mirror as Bernie’s teasing touches drove her ever more insane. The mirror ended at the counter, at hip height. She couldn’t see Bernie’s fingers thrusting into her but she could see how her hips ground back against Bernie’s hand, could see how her skin flushed and her nipples hardened. Could see the desperate need on her face.

There was something undeniably erotic about it, watching her own mouth fall open as she cried out when Bernie thrust another finger inside of her. Watching her chest rise and fall quicker and quicker as Bernie quickened the pace of her hand. Watching herself fall apart as Bernie fucked her harder and harder, driving into her. She caught Bernie’s gaze in the mirror again, those soft doe brown eyes showing nothing but love. She came with a shout, her entire body shuddering in Bernie’s arms.

****

After they were back in bed, Serena folded into Bernie’s embrace, spooned together as they had been so many times before on this trip, Bernie finally worked up the nerve to speak.

“Serena. Ummm. Is this. I mean. Are we ummm”

“Girlfriends? Lovers? Partners?”

“Right. That.”

“Do you want to be?” Serena grabbed one of Bernie’s hands as she spoke, twining their fingers together.

“Yes.” Bernie nodded against her.

“Good. Then. Yes.”

They laid still for a while, breathing in unison. And then Bernie, voice timid, barely above a whisper spoke again.

“What if I bugger it up?”

“I won’t let you.”

Bernie laughed, still nervous.

“I don't think it's quite that easy”

Serena turned around in her arms, brushed a kiss over the tip of Bernie’s nose.

“No. You’re right it’s not.” She took a deep breath. “Life isn't simple, and relationships take work.” She smiled. “You can’t decide who you’ll love, my dear. But you can decide how you’ll love. You can choose to wake up every day and work at this relationship. You can choose to stay and talk to me instead of running and hiding. You can choose to go to therapy and work on your past and your hang-ups. You can choose to try your best. And some days your best won’t be good enough, true, but on those days I’ll be here for you, just like I hope you’ll be here for me when my best isn’t good enough.”

“I will.” Bernie’s voice was surer, then.

“Well there we go. That’s all one can ask, isn’t it?”

Bernie pulled Serena close, kissed her deeply, didn’t feel the urge to run, never wanted to leave in fact. Against all the odds she, Berenice Wolfe, was somehow stupendously, heart stoppingly happy.