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Late Bloomer

Chapter Text

Owen Anand stands at the window of his parents’ home, running his fingers along the glass surface. Over and over. At three years old, he had only recently taken his first steps. Something his brother had done two years prior. He sways from foot to foot, excited by the texture beneath his fingers.


“Owen.” Charlotte Wolfe calls to her son again, crouching near him. “Owen!” However, her son doesn’t respond, only swaying back and forth in front of the window in the dining area of the kitchen. It’s the only one he’s able to reach and he’d come to stand in front of it often. “Just going to ignore me?” She sighs softly. “Well, I’d better get used to it now instead of when you’re a teenager.”


Lane Anand, seeing his mother attempting to communicate with his brother, feels the need to help her in her pursuits, as he often does. “Is it time to pick up Cole, Mumma?” He gently takes his brother by the hand, guiding him toward the mother they share. An unwritten language between the twin brothers, it had always seemed Lane knew exactly what his brother needed.


“In a bit.” Char flashes her son a half smile, doing her best to cover her own fear.


It was almost as if Owen had regressed from where he was previously. He had taken much longer than Lane to walk, and still doesn’t really talk outside the occasional groan of, ‘Mum’ . Everything has always screamed to Charlotte that there might be something else going on with her son, but their pediatrician would constantly tell her that she was overreacting. Constantly tell her that Owen was just a late bloomer.


“Would you like a snack?” She asks both of the boys, receiving an eager nod from Lane, but no reaction from Owen. “Fruit okay with you, Laney?” Charlotte lifts Owen into her arms walking them over to their high chairs. She smiles softly to herself when Owen gently nuzzles his face against her neck.


“Melon?” Lane tilts his head to the side, waiting for his turn as his mother places his brother into the high chair. “Gran gives us melon all the times, but sometimes it’s frozen like an ice lolly.” He hums, pleased by the thought. Grinning broadly, Lane always wants to make his mother happy.


“You just reminded me. Gran said she’ll get Cole from school today. So, no need for us to rush...since I have a habit of giving you both a snack too late.” Charlotte buckles Owen in before placing the tray over top. “Means no wrestling with your brother to put on shoes either,” She makes quick work with Lane, not needing to buckle him in or anything, just placing the tray over top.


“Will Daddy be home later too?” Lane watches his mother, his head tilting to the side.


“For dinner, as usual.” Charlotte smiles at him before walking back over to the fridge, “did you want to make him a picture like you did the other day?” Finger painting was an activity that both boys enjoyed, and were able to do. She did need to keep an eye on Owen so that he didn’t eat the paint, but she could relax a bit since it was non-toxic and colorless. It felt of wax and would show up on the special corresponding paper. They loved it, all for different reasons. Charlotte that it wasn’t messy, Lane that he could create his art, and Owen that it felt interesting.


Most of their days were just like this. Spending uneventful time together. Lane craved attention from his mother, who was more than happy to oblige him when she wasn’t attempting to decipher what was making Owen tick. Her parents had suggestions, but she didn’t want to hear them. A part of her was afraid to hear them. Not because she was angered by them in any way, but she feared for what her son was going to have to face as he grew older.


Bernie pushes her way into her daughter’s home, watching as her eldest grandson runs past her to look into each room, finding his siblings and mother in the kitchen. “In case you couldn’t hear, we’re home.” She chuckles a little, “Cole, you don’t need to make that much noise.”


Cole motions to his brothers who have moved onto finger painting after their snacks were complete. “Mum, can I do that too?” He pats her leg, smiling up to the woman.


“Let’s talk about playgroup first, sweet boy.” Charlotte reaches a hand toward him, gently pushing the light brunette hair from his face. “Did you learn anything new today?”


“No.” Cole answers simply, glancing over to his brothers for a second, then back to his mother, “can I paint now?”


“Cole.” Bernie warns, folding her arms.


“I told them all about my birthday party.” Cole offers.


“Your birthday party?” Charlotte furrows her brow, “but we haven’t talked about that yet.”


“I know it’s soon.” He continues, “and I want a doctor party. Everybody dresses up like a doctor and-”


“Performs surgery?” Char tilts her head to the side, “I don’t know if that would be very fun.” She pauses, “how about we wait for your father to get home and we can all talk through it together? Brainstorm a bit.” It isn’t that she wouldn’t do whatever his request would be, but their family has always been so ingrained in the medical field, that she doesn’t necessarily want her son to feel forced into anything.


“I want a doctor party.” Cole responds again, then motions to his brothers painting. “Can I paint now, please?”


Sighing softly, Charlotte nods, “go and get your supplies and a smock.” She watches him excitedly run off before glancing at her mother, “I bet you’re loving every second of this.”


Bernie lifts her hands up to show her innocence, “I am remaining completely neutral in this discussion.” She moves over to Charlotte’s fridge for the pitcher of cold water. “I would like to point out that he gets that behavior honestly though.” She pauses when she notices her daughter roll her eyes, “I seem to remember a little girl about the same age who wanted to be a creme egg for Halloween.”


Char begins to smile to herself, “I don’t think I begged, per say.”


“You were very certain about what you wanted.” Bernie smirks, obtaining a glass from the upper cupboard and pouring herself a glass of water, then returns the pitcher back to the fridge. “Your father tried to talk you out of it over and over again. You would answer him very simply, very concisely with a denial each time. Even when he told you that no one made a costume of a creme egg.” Bernie takes a sip of the water, “you told him-”


“Anything is possible.” Charlotte nods, chuckling softly to herself. “I guess I’m being a bit-”


“I think you made the right call about talking it through with Ryan, if it’s any consolation.” Bernie walks next to her daughter, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze.


“I should order him a pair of scrubs.” She lifts a hand, running it through her hair before tucking a portion behind her ear. When her eldest son returns with his supplies, she sets him up at the table there without much thought.


“I think I can cover that for you.” Bernie smirks, watching her grandchildren. She notices Owen ready to put his paint covered hand into his mouth. She rushes over to him, blocking him from doing so. “Probably not the best idea, Owen.” 


Owen lets out a frustrated yell, no real words or anything like that, just a yell. He follows the blocking hand of the woman up to meet her face, but looks away quickly, smiling to himself. He loved when his grandparents were over and didn’t notice that his Gran was there. He reaches out again, taking her hand, wanting to show her what his Vaseline-like paint felt like.


Bernie watches closely, obliging him and watching his smile grow a bit more.


Char watches her son’s interaction with her mother, especially with how gentle he’s being with her despite just having an outburst. He isn’t often that gentle with her, but maybe it’s her fault as well for expecting more from him than what he seems able to give. She closes her eyes,inhaling and exhaling slowly. “Mum, would you mind keeping an eye on them? I’m just...going to get some paracetamol upstairs.”


“Feeling poorly?”


“Headache. I’ll just be a moment.” 


Bernie watches as her daughter walks off, staring in the general location for a moment. She turns her attention to the twins in front of her, being certain to act amazed at their abilities.


“She does that often, you know.” Cole uses his large paintbrush on the paper in front of him. Same brand as his brothers’, the paint wouldn’t show up unless used with the special paper that went with it. When his grandmother moves to sit next to him, he continues, “locks herself in the bath sometimes...or her bedroom.” He shrugs, “usually waits for Dad to get home...or when you or Nan are here.”


Bernie leans forward, watching what he’s doing as she speaks, “sometimes, Mums just need a few moments to themselves. It might seem silly, but...sometimes that’s all we need to relax.” She pauses, “especially with three rambunctious boys like your mother has.”


“Do they usually cry?” When she doesn’t answer him for a moment, Cole glances over to his Gran. “When Mums need a moment, do they usually cry?”


“Everyone is different.” She answers softly, knowing he wouldn’t ask the question if he hadn’t heard it first hand. Reaching over, Bernie runs her hand through the boy’s hair, “but it isn’t anything for you to worry about.” Bernie offers him a reassuring smile.

Chapter Text

“You really didn’t need to have us over for dinner, Charlotte. I’m sure you want to spend time alone with Ryan.” Serena offers to her, helping the young woman to wash dishes.


Charlotte shakes her head negatively, “when you all aren’t here, he has a habit of staying with the kids for maybe thirty minutes before he runs upstairs to bed...or to watch telly. Then I’m stuck by myself with the kids for hours.” She smiles ruefully to herself, “when you and Mum are here, he stays downstairs...interacting with his children.”


“I’ll have a word with-”


“No, no, that isn’t what I want.” Char glances to her stepmother, “just...please, don’t say anything to him.”


Serena isn’t happy, but she’ll abide by her stepdaughter’s wish. “Have you ever told him that you weren’t happy with his behavior?”


“It isn’t my place. He sets his own legacy with his children.” She has a dishwasher, but would often do this just for a breather. The movement was relaxing, to say the very least. Charlotte swallows, handing the woman the last dish, “can I ask you for a favor?” When her stepmother nods, Char dries her hands on a dishtowel before folding them across her chest, “I need a ride from hospital tomorrow. They aren’t going to let me go without a buddy.” She doesn’t go into things. “I don’t want Ryan to know that I’m going in the first place and I don’t want Mum to worry.”


Slowly finishing drying the dish, Serena falls quiet before looking up to the young woman. It takes a moment for her to realize why the young woman would be given instructions such as that. Serena sets the dish on top of the others before leaning a hand against the counter top. “I wish you’d have told me sooner.”


“It’s okay if you can’t. I can...see if I can find someone else.” She pauses, shrugging a little, “Fletch or Ric.”


“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, of course I’d help you.” Serena licks her lips, reaching a hand up to place against her stepdaughter’s cheek. “What of the twins? I’m off, but your mother isn’t.”


“Evie is...going to tend to them for the day. Give me a breather.” Charlotte lifts her hand to place onto Serena’s. “I don’t want to...make a big deal of it. I just...I just want it done and over with.”


“A termination is going to take more than a few hours for you to recover from.” Serena’s voice just above a whisper, doing her best so that the others wouldn’t be able to eavesdrop if they tried. “It can be anywhere from a day to three days. For some women, it might even be more. How do you expect to conceal that?”


“Menses.” Char shrugs, “it isn’t as if he tracks my cycle.” Her ex-partner used to do that. She always worried her husband might. “I can’t...emotionally afford another baby right now. I just can’t.”


“I’m not...” Serena exhales a breath she wasn’t aware she was holding before continuing, “I’m not discouraging you, by any means. You wouldn’t have come to this decision lightly. I know you, darling.” It takes her a moment before she carefully wraps her arms around her stepdaughter in an embrace. “How about you come home for a few days? Let Bernie and I tend to the children.”


“I need to push through it. Mum has already me odd looks. Last thing I need is for you to bring up watching over them for her to-”


“You really should give her more credit.” 


“It isn’t about credit. It’s about...worrying her.” It’s more about disappointing her, but Charlotte isn’t about to admit that.


Serena sighs, pulling away to hold the young woman at arm’s length, “She’s made of sterner stuff than-”


“Will you help me or not?” Char asks abruptly, “I need to know now so I can make calls if you-”


“I already told you that I would.” She lets the young woman go, draping the dish towel between her hands over the edge of the sink. Serena gives another glance to her, “you really people more. Everyone here wants the best for you and would support you in whatever-”


“Ryan would not support me in this.” She shakes her head, “discretion is paramount.”


“What kind of marriage are you in if you aren’t even able to speak to your husband about something that’s bothering you?” Serena asks a tough question, “what sort of...example are you lending to your children about partnerships?”


Charlotte is taken aback slightly, her eyes widening as she looks incredulously at her stepmother, “He loves me unconditionally. He gave me these two beautiful boys and adopted Cole, without me ever expecting him to or asking him to. He virtually cut off contact with his mother  because of how negative she was being toward me. He’s never laid a hand on me and-”


“One of his strong suits shouldn’t be that he’s never beaten you. That should be expected, Charlotte.”


“Stop judging my husband.” Char shakes her head, “you’ve done it ever since we were married.” She places her own dish towel over the edge of the sink. “Stop trying to find reasons for me to-”


Serena displays an unsure expression, then relaxes before continuing, “You deserve the best. Someone who loves you and honors you. Not someone who refuses to tend to his children unless his in-laws are around. Not someone who only pays attention to you for appearances while you’re on telly or who only wants to sleep with you. That’s not how-”


“Everything okay?” Bernie interrupts, seeing the two most important women in her life standing in front of one another. She could hear hushed arguing, but couldn’t quite figure out what was being said. “You aren’t exactly the most quiet individuals in the world.”


“Yeah, fine.” Charlotte responds quickly, deciding to use her mother’s intrusion as her opportunity to get out of the conversation with her stepmother.


Bernie watches as her daughter moves back to the lounge. “I don’t know what’s going on with her.” She says quietly, then looks at her wife, “did she confide in you?” It was something Bernie knew happened between the pair. She felt left out, but knew her own history with her daughter was probably to blame. When her partner doesn’t outright confirm anything, only looking away from her, she knows her assumptions are correct. “Is she okay?”


“She will be.” Serena nods, “I just wish she’d stand up for herself more often when it comes to him.” She gives a nod toward the general direction of the lounge.


“You really need to leave that alone.” Bernie exhales, “you know how much it bothers her.” She remains calm, just tired of the arguing between the pair.


“I’ll stop bringing it up when she does something about it.”


“Maybe she’s happy with her arrangement. It might seem...ridiculous or illogical to us, but to her it might be perfect. Might be exactly what she wants in her marriage.” Bernie folds her arms over her chest, “let her deal with that. If he mistreats her, that’s one thing, but...I don’t think he ever would intentionally.”


“There’s no communication.” Serena mumbles to herself before she shakes her head, speaking clearly, “you’re being too lenient.”


“No, I’m observing and making educated conclusions.” Bernie watches her wife, “move on from this, Campbell.” She pauses, “I don’t want her to start pushing us away.” Though she and Charlotte have been on great terms for over five years now, it’s always been something in the back of her head that threatened every disagreement with her daughter.


“She has no reason to.”


“She has every reason to when you constantly harp on it.” Bernie shakes her head, her voice remaining calm though it didn’t need to be. Bernie Wolfe was speaking from the heart. She turns from her wife, moving toward the doorway, “Come and join us in the lounge for a bit before we head home.”


Serena watches as her wife walks off, taking a moment to collect herself before following behind her wife.

Chapter Text

Bernie stands at the nurses’ station, reading over a file. She glances over when she notices paramedics pushing her next patient into the space. “Give me a low down.” She calls out, moving closer to them. Bernie motions for them to take the patient into the Trauma Bay area.


“Male, age three. Fell from the top of a play structure at the park into convulsions. It’s unknown if the seizure began before or after impact with the ground below. About a two and a half meter fall. Patient displays a bloody nose, but no visible broken bones. He did lose his breath and vomited en route.” The medic answers, motioning the couple other paramedics to move out of the way for the consultant to move into the space. “He isn’t speaking and didn’t respond when we asked him his name.”


Exhaling, Bernie finally manages to fit into the relatively small space. She pauses, looking down at the boy on the gurney, “He’s...” She swallows, “who was he with?” Instantly recognizing the boy as her grandson. She leans down a little, seeing the boy begin to smile toward her before he moves his eyes from her face, “It’s okay, Owen.” She feels him take hold of a few of her fingers with his hand.


“The sitter. She shouldn’t be too far behind us.” The medic answers, “we’ll get out of your hair though.” 


Bernie watches as the paramedics exit the space, lifting her head to a nearby nurse, “let’s get him a full bloods work up as well as an MRI.” She exhales, “his name is Owen, he’s non-verbal.” She watches the young man jog from the room to put in the order for the tests asked for. “I’d say to see if there’s a bed available on Otter, but his father is a consultant there. If he’s the only one on duty, let’s leave him here, if not-”


Donna watches the tenderness between the consultant and the boy, “is this your grandson, Ms. Wolfe?” She notices the woman’s subtle nod, “want me to fetch Ric to take over for you?”


“That’s unnecessary. Let’s get some answers first. See about Otter for me, please.” She lifts her head, noticing Evie hovering near the door with a scared Lane in her arm. “Evie.” She calls for her to enter, glancing around to the others in the space, “let me have the room for a few, please, just tell me when imaging opens up.”


Evie carefully moves into the trauma bay once the rest of the staffers leave the space, “is he okay?” Her voice is soft, worried. It’s obvious she’d been crying in the car, her eyes reddened. “They were playing, I didn’t-”


“It’s okay.” Bernie offers the young woman a reassuring half smile, “I’m sorry you were the one needing to deal with this. Are you okay?”


Nodding, Evie’s just glad this woman isn’t angry with her. “Did he break anything? I was...I was worried about something happening to his neck. I tried to keep him as still as I could.” She swallows, “it was like nothing to him. He was ready to just get up and keep going when he stopped shaking.”


“You did everything correctly. Don’t worry.” Bernie smiles between her and Lane, “why are you sitting for them? Where’s their mother?” She pauses, “or Serena, she’s off today.”


“Um.” Evie thinks for a moment, “Char seemed...nervous. Said she needed to see her doctor and that Auntie Serena would take her.” She pauses, “I asked if she was okay and she slipped and said she was seeing Ms. Fanshawe, but didn’t really go into it.”


“Okay.” Bernie nods, “would you mind staying with him? I’m...going to do a bit of digging.” She carefully disentangles her fingers from her grandson’s grasp.


“Of course.” Evie nods.


Bernie leaves the room quickly, looking to the nurses’ station. She quickly captures Donna’s attention before calling out, “I changed my mind, get Griffin on this. I have something I need to investigate.” When the nurse nods in understanding, Bernie jogs off toward the stairs next to the elevators.


Serena reads through a book she had brought along. Luckily, her connection to both Fleur and the hospital, served as a benefit to her and her family. Even though she isn’t currently on duty, and normally wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the hospital on her day off, this was quite relaxing to her. Quiet space for just a few hours wouldn’t do anything to her. Looking over the top of her book, she can see scrubs standing just in front of her. Her eyes slowly move up the form of the surgeon standing in front of her, arms crossed. She offers a soft smile, “Berenice.”


“I thought we agreed to no more secrets.” Bernie gazes down to her wife, disappointed more than anything.


“Well, to my credit, I didn’t think you’d ever realize I was here.” Serena slips the bookmark between the pages of her novel before closing it to award her wife all her full attention. “So, who gave me up?”


“Evie Fletcher.” Bernie unfolds her arms, placing her hands on her hips, “Owen had a seizure and is currently in my AAU.” She pauses, “where’s Charlotte?” When Serena just continues to look at her without answering, Bernie raises an eyebrow, “shall I look into it on my own?”


“I wouldn’t be breaking a promise if you did.” She pauses, “might want to assess the roster of the outpatient OR while I head down to AAU.”


It causes Bernie to pause before stepping over to the space behind the nurses’ station. She is able to quickly find the current location of her daughter within the hospital. Not saying a single word to the other staffers as she makes a bee-line to the room. She knocks gently before entering the space. “Continue on. I’m only here for emotional support.”


“Werewolf.” Fleur smirks a little to herself, “fancy seeing you here.” There’s a curtain separating her patient's upper portion and lower portion at the waist. It made things easier during surgery instead of just staying under a cloth for Fleur.


“Tell me about it.” Bernie mumbles to herself, gently pulling over a rolling stool. These operations usually only included the woman, without any real support. At least, no support they were willing to accept. An act of shame that wasn’t shameful.


“She’s a bit out of it.” Fleur warns, “as one would imagine.”


“Yeah.” Bernie responds quietly, moving to her daughter’s side of the curtain at her waist. She swallows, gently taking hold of her daughter’s hand. Quickly earning her attention at the soft touch.


Charlotte slowly makes out her mother’s form, her eyes blurry from the slight anesthetic. “Stepmum gave me up.” She appears dejected, disappointed in herself and the situation as a whole.


“Not at all. I found you myself.” Bernie offers her a reassuring smile, “I have eyes everywhere, remember?”


“Course, Major.”


She smirks to herself a little, still looking down at her daughter on the gurney, “you could have told me though. I’d have helped you through all of this.” Bernie brings her other hand to gently run her nails through her daughter’s hair, “without question.”


It was a tenderness that Fleur had never witnessed before with the Werewolf. Not that she doubted the woman had it in her, but she never thought she’d be privy to witnessing it. Actually, it warmed Fleur to see Bernie Wolfe had some human emotion saved for someone who wasn’t Serena. “Few more minutes and we’ll be all finished.”


Charlotte swallows, “I don’t want-”


“Just the people in this room and Serena. That’s all that knows and will know.” Bernie calms the young woman’s worry, “unless you want another person to know, that’s your decision.” She swallows, “you’re going to need a few days recovery time.” Bernie decides against telling her about Owen for the moment. That can wait until she’s out of recovery, “I’m off tomorrow. Serena has today.” She pulls in her bottom lip to her mouth. “Will you let us help you through the rest of this?”


Maybe because it’s her mother asking, maybe because of the light sedative coursing through her veins. Char nods a little, “I trust you, Mum.”


“Okay.” Bernie blushes slightly as she offers her daughter a reassuring smile. “Serena and I will take care of everything.”

Chapter Text

“You all overstepped your bounds.” Ryan shakes his head, pacing a little within the lounge of his own home. “I had to find out, second hand, that my son was in AAU. You didn’t even offer me the common courtesy of a bell that my son was brought in. I’m his father. He has two parents.” He pauses, “speaking of which, where the hell was Charlotte and why were the twins being watched over by the sitter?”


“Believe it or not, Ryan, your wife is allowed to relax once in a while. She’s her own woman and she’s allowed to do things on her own without you. She doesn’t owe you or anyone else an explanation for her whereabouts today.” Serena scowls, “Evie did everything correctly. There’s nothing she, or anyone else, could have done differently that would have prevented Owen’s seizure and you know that.”


“That isn’t what I said.” Ryan continues, “you never called me until he was ready to be released.”


“That isn’t true. I had my staff contact Otter. If you were the only consultant on duty, we couldn’t have sent him to your floor for care, which you were. I never told them not to tell you that Owen was on my floor.” Bernie stands in the doorway, “they’re both fine, by the way. You seem more upset about something that isn’t even true instead of their general health and wellbeing.”


There’s something about Bernie Wolfe that told Ryan to never question her, never take what she would say as anything except a fact. “Why didn’t you phone me? My mobile, not my department.”


“You could have been in theater. Also, I was more worried about Owen receiving the proper treatment to think about mobile calls...regardless of who they were to. I didn’t phone Charlotte either.” Bernie watches him, “you need to think about your son having autism. MRI showed some abnormalities, but nothing life threatening and nothing we could or should treat on AAU.” She licks her lips, “he shows all the signs...and I truly wouldn’t doubt another seizure in his future.”


Ryan shakes his head, his hands on his hips, “Just because my son is non-verbal now doesn’t mean-”


“It does.” Serena continues, “it’s an attribute and you know it. As is his aversion to eye contact, his lack of a pain response, the fact that he rarely answers to his name. There’s so many more that you just...don’t want to see, Ryan. All the things that Charlotte has been watching helplessly, hoping the pediatrician or her pediatric consultant of a husband would say the words and do the work so that she wouldn’t stress herself over it.”


“She’s petrified.” Bernie finally says softly, “making herself sick with worry.” She watches her son-in-law, noticing Serena growing upset and rushing from the room. Bernie stands still, watching him still as the room falls silent for a moment. “You think we don’t see what happens between you and my daughter? All she wants is your support, all she wants is for you to be present for your children. That’s all she’s ever wanted.” Her eyes are glassy, but she’s doing a really good job at keeping herself together. “You promise her the world, you promise her every ....everything she wants and then you let her down. Over and over...”


“It’s a two way street, Major, she pushes me away just as much.” Ryan shakes his head a little, “I try to do all of those things, but...she doesn’t actually want that. She doesn’t want me to try to help with the twins. Lane draws me pictures and Owen...I didn’t know what it was, but she didn’t want me to interact with him much.” He sighs softly, “I understand now, but she could have gone about it differently.” He runs a hand through his hair, “I want to go through the proper channels for him, get him the help he needs to possibly even obtain more skills. Even if he never talks, at least he’ll be able to function.”


“What I saw yesterday was a son that was thrilled to have his father interact with him, as if that father hasn’t properly interacted with him for a while.” Bernie sighs softly, “It doesn’t matter. What’s going on between you and Char is between the two of you. All I want-”


“Yeah, I’ll...I’ll talk to her.” Ryan swallows, “I’m sorry I...I’m sorry I got angry with you over the whole-”


“It’s okay.” Bernie nods slowly, “Serena isn’t due to work until mid-morning so we’ll be in your guest room to help with the children. Char’s really...not feeling well. Maybe a bit of...tenderness might help.” Bernie raises an eyebrow before backing out of the doorway and taking to the stairs. 


Ryan stands there for a moment, thinking about the suggestion from his mother-in-law. Turning off the lights of the lounge, he takes to the stairs himself. Looking to the end of the hall, he sees the lights on in the guest room before retiring to the room he shares with his wife.


“Serena.” Bernie watches her wife as the woman sits with her arms folded, staring straight ahead. “I don’t understand why you’re so cross about this.”


“Because Charlotte doesn’t want his help, she wants our help.” Serena shakes her head, “we should have taken her home.”


“We did. This is her home.”


“Oh, you know what I mean.” Serena shifts her gaze to look at her wife, “the fact that she stays with us so often-”


“Doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a home.” Bernie smirks a little to herself, listening to her wife, “yes, we’d prefer it if she were with us, obviously, but we need to take a step back sometimes...unless she asks for our help.”


“She isn’t going to ask for help, she’s like you. I was shocked she said anything to me about ferrying her between hospital and home. Charlotte would have sooner faked having a ride home if she knew Fleur wouldn’t check. It isn’t required by the hospital, but Fleur told her that it was because she was worried about her and knew she wasn’t about to stick around for any longer than she needed to.” Serene explains, visibly calming ever so slightly. “You need to talk to her.”


Bernie exhales, “for?” It isn’t that she doesn’t want to, but she’s always afraid to say the wrong thing to her children, even though she’s stayed still for over five years.


“Support her. Empower her. Encourage her.”


“Encourage her to do what exactly, Campbell?” Bernie begins to undress, carefully unbuttoning her cotton blouse, “Leave her husband, move back in with us and leave the children here to him to care for?” She paces a little as she speaks, “Take the children and run away to...well, that’s not for us to decide. Could be Canada, could be Egypt. Who knows? She won’t be with him and we’ll never hear from her again.” She tilts her head from side to side, “she’d take on a new identity and work as a-”


Serena scowls toward her wife as the blonde walks back and forth, “You think this is a joke?”


“Yes.” Bernie finally stops in her steps, removing her shirt and putting it into her overnight bag. She pulls on a short-sleeved cotton shirt and shorts that match in order to sleep in, then removes her bra through her shirt so as to not accidentally expose herself if anyone were lurking in the hall. “I think you’re being ridiculous about this. She did what she had to do and I agree with her decision, especially during the current situation with Owen. What you see as a...marriage of abandonment, sounds like a dream to me.”


“Well, if you feel that way-”


“I mean with Marcus.” Bernie shakes her head, “if he just...weren’t there, I’d have no problem...and I didn’t for many years.” She exhales, “she isn’t me though and this isn’t the same circumstances. They love one another. Truly love one another, Campbell. I hope Charlotte pushes herself to...escape from the mindset she had put herself in because of her previous relationship.”


Serena knows her wife is correct, but doesn’t know if she wants to admit it. “Since when are you a hopeless romantic?”


“Since I met you.”


Rolling her eyes, Serena begins to blush ever so slightly as she smiles, “set myself up for that one.”


Bernie starts to laugh a little to herself, crawling across the top of the bed to hold onto her wife. She hums against her wife’s shoulder before turning her head to the side, “you just...need to separate yourself a bit. He isn’t abusing her, far from it, and she knows she’s free to leave whenever she wishes. Let them deal with their own affairs.” Bernie tilts her head back, looking up to her wife, “we’re here for the grandchildren...and to offer support in whatever Char requires. Agreed?”


Looking down to her wife, she nods. “I don’t need to like it though.”


“Never said you did. neutral between the two of them unless it’s required, please.” Bernie leans up a bit, pressing a soft kiss to her wife’s lips. “We both love her and want the best for her, but...sometimes that means not getting involved.”


“Fine.” Serena wraps her arms around her wife, “but only because you’ve asked.”


Bernie notices the subtle movement at the door, causing her to sit up a bit to glance in the direction. “Yes?”


Cole was really trying to be secretive. He pushes the door open, moving into the room a little more. “I thought Mum was joking when she said you were staying over.” 


“Not at all. I’ll be here all day tomorrow, kiddo.” Bernie smiles softly to her eldest grandson. When the boy climbs onto the bed, snuggling between she and her wife, it causes her grin to grow a bit more, “oh, are you staying with us tonight as well?”


“Can I?” He asks quietly, hopeful.


“Well, you’re here now. Might as well.” Serena strokes his hair with her short nails once he finishes squirming to get comfortable, “nearly five years old. I can’t believe it.”


“Did you tell Nan what sort of birthday party you want this year?” Bernie smirks a bit, “or should she guess?”


“Oh, I’m not very good at guessing things.” Serena shakes her head, amused by the pair’s interaction with one another and how tender Bernie is with the grandchildren, in general, “I’d much rather you just told me.”


“I want a doctor party.” Cole explains, “and everyone dresses up like doctors-”


“Everyone else is a doctor.” Serena mumbles.


“And we have doctor cake, and doctor games.” Cole finishes, beaming with his idea. “Doesn’t it make you excited, Nan?”


“Oh, I certainly am. I just...think about all the doctor games I usually play...while being a doctor.” Serena hears her wife’s suppressed laugh. “However, if there’s cake, you know I’m there.”


“You’ll wear your doctor clothes, right?” Cole raises his hopeful eyebrows.


“Well, they’re my regular clothes, so-”


“No, the other ones. You wear light blue ones and Gran wears dark blue ones, and Uncle Ric wears blue ones.” Cole explains, “Dad wears yellow ones.” He watches his Nan, “they’re your doctor clothes.”


“Nan doesn’t really like her scrubs, Cole. They aren’t comfortable for her.” Bernie tries to protect her wife from something so simple that bothers her so much. “For everyone else, sure, but not for Nan.”


“Oh.” Cole sits up and turns around, betting to look at the both of them. “That’s okay then.” He pauses, “you might feel left out though if everyone else is wearing doctor clothes.”


“I don’t believe your brothers will.” Serena smirks a little, “though I have a better idea, what if you dress like a proper consultant? We don’t always wear scrubs anyway, only when going to theater...except for Gran. We just need to get you some proper business wear. We could even get you a white lab coat if you’d like. Ric likes to wear those at times when he’s teaching.”


“Really? Like Dad too?”


Serena nods slowly, “absolutely.” Though she wasn’t exactly the most thrilled with Charlotte’s husband, his children still thought the world of him. She wasn’t about to ruin their vision of him. She’s met with the boy’s eager hug, “whatever you wish to have, little cub.” Serena rubs his back gently, meeting her wife’s gaze over the boy’s shoulder, she offers a soft smile.

Chapter Text

“I’ll tell you, Charlotte certainly knows how to put on a spread.” Serena responds cheerfully, carrying mugs of tea for both herself and her wife into their lounge. The night after the fifth birthday celebration for Cole, “food was delicious. She said for us to come round tomorrow and grab something extra. I don’t know how she managed. Also, Cole looked absolutely adorable in his little business trousers and shirt, a pair of bucks. Coordinated with Ryan very nicely.” 


“You even gave our son-in-law a compliment, if I remember correctly.” Bernie smirks, raising an eyebrow toward her wife as she accepts the mug of tea from her, “without a single drop of drink in you.”


“He’s a good father where it counts.” Serena nods a little, “when we...take a step back and let them work things out instead of constantly rushing to the rescue.” She takes a seat on the sofa, next to her wife. “Again...I suppose you were correct.”


“Look, I may not have been a good mother as my children were growing up, but I did try to understand them...even if I wasn’t always successful. I do still attempt to make an effort.” Bernie nods a little, “Sometimes I accidentally get things correct.” She wraps an arm around Serena’s shoulders, pulling her closer.


“Oh, I don’t think it an accident at all. I think you’re learning more about they are you. You’re opening yourself up to them, darling. Something you were...afraid to do in the past, I reckon.”


“Never let them see you sweat.” Bernie answers softly, almost absently. “I...had a habit of treating them more like cadets than children. That’s where the issue came in. I couldn’t always separate home life and military life. Not completely...because I’d rush back there. Back away from Wyvern.” 


Serena listens intently, gently rubbing her hand along Bernie’s thigh. Not in any sort of suggestive way, but in an encouraging one. “And now you don’t need to do any of that. Your second life and your first life have somewhat...melted into one.”


“Suppose they have.” Bernie starts to smile a bit to herself, turning her face to softly kiss Serena’s temple. “Our boy turned five today. Can you believe it?” It’s a rhetorical question, not one she expects answered. She continues, “and the grin he had when you gave him his own doctor bag with those...metal and wooden play instruments.”


“I just hope he doesn’t attempt surgery on his brothers.” Serena’s grin grows, “I think my bright spot was seeing his excitement when you gave him the scrubs sets that matched every department in Holby.” She shrugs, “they were all gifts from both of us, but that was your brilliant idea about the scrubs.”


“Marcus thought I was joking when I told him to wear a pair of scrubs to the party.”


“I underestimated just how much Charlotte was going to look like you in those scrubs.” Serena leans her head back a little, turning it to look towards her wife, “if it weren’t for her hair...” She teases, “I may have gotten her confused and brought her home.”


“Come now, I’m not nearly as thin as she is.” Bernie chuckles to herself, “and she was wearing Keller scrubs while I was wearing Trauma scrubs.”


“Yes, but I seem to remember when you started your tenure at Holby, that’s where you were stationed. Before we stole you to keep in AAU, I remember very well...” Serena nods, “who would have thought I’d marry you years later.” She pauses, “I surely didn’t.”


“Oh, that’s right. You thought you were still straight.”


“I always had thoughts and was never really brave enough...until I met you.”


Bernie gives a cheeky smirk, “well, I’m glad I was the one that put you on the turn.”


Serena leans closer, pressing her lips against that of her wife, “I don’t think anyone else could.” Another kiss, “I’ve only ever had eyes for my Big Matcho Army Medic.” A giddy, low toned giggle escapes her lips, glad to be in her wife’s arms. 


“It was also nice to see how interested Jason was with Owen. It probably feels nice to be able to help and speak from experience for him.” Bernie smirks.


“Charlotte said after she told Greta over the phone, they rushed over with pamphlets and a few age-appropriate sensory toys for him. They had previously bought them for Guinevere because they thought, in part because of Greta’s love of statistics, that she’d have autism as well. They prepared. So when she didn’t have it, they just had these toys left over.” Serena nods, “it’s nice to see them both smile. I think Cameron got a good with his mobile camera of them smiling.”


“Good, I’ll demand a copy to frame.” Bernie smiles a bit, leaning her head back comfortable, “we have a really great family, all things considering.”


Serena hums her approval, “we do.” She takes a sip of her tea.


“I never would have imagined we’d be at this point...ever. At least not with myself and my children, we were always in Jason’s good graces...just about.”


“With you, certainly.” Serena smirks, settling a bit more against her wife, “Today was great. Every bit of it.”


“Char was in her element, everyone was relaxed, even Owen. I know the seizure was a wake up call to both of his parents, but it also helped in his diagnosis. I mean...autism can take a while to diagnose at times and it didn’t take them but a week or two to say finally.” Bernie turns her body a bit to face her wife more, “it’s nice when we’re all able to come together to show support.”


“Of course we would.” Serena turns a bit to face her wife as well. She leans forward, gently pressing a kiss to her wife’s lips, “Not only for Owen during his diagnosis, but for Cole...on his fifth birthday. Everyone participated. Even Greta and Guinevere, which I doubted because I needed to explain things several times.” 


“Scrubs feel like pajamas. I was more than happy to oblige.”


“To you.” Serena starts to grin a bit more, “and you wear them well. Really, you could pull off a potato sack and still be the most beautiful woman in the room. It isn’t fair.”


“Maybe when I was younger, but not so much anymore.” Bernie blinks slowly, focusing on her wife, “besides, you were ready to bring Char home instead of me if it weren’t for her hair, remember?”


“Oh, shut it.” Serena leans in, capturing her wife’s lips again, kissing her deeply. Mostly to quiet her teasing, but also because she simply can’t help it. Something about togetherness brings about warmth not only to Serena, but between she and Bernie. Things were finally...right. At least for now.