Unfortunately for Bernie, there never seems to be a spare moment to allow her to speak to Serena. Before she knows it, the weekend of the wedding is looming, and she’s not entirely convinced that it would be the ideal opportunity to talk to Serena in such closed quarters with no escape if it all went south.
“I’ll pick you up at yours at 2pm tomorrow. It’s only a 4hour drive at most to Cambridge. We could have dinner at the hotel when we arrive, or find a nice pub or something to eat at. Although, I have heard whispers of dinner already being arranged for everyone at the hotel, so we might have to go to that.” Serena was surprised by how much she was looking forward to spending the weekend with Bernie.
“Sounds like a plan.” Bernie was incredibly nervous about the whole thing, but she couldn’t deny that a weekend away with Serena would be great, even just as friends.
Serena calls for the blonde as planned the following day, and pops the boot so that Bernie can throw her bag and zip-up inside.
“My God woman, you were not kidding about your bags.” Bernie laughs and hops into the passenger seat.
“One has to be prepared for every eventuality.” Serena says in mock-offence.
“Right... and if one of those eventualities is that we have to sell some of your things for money to get home, then I think we’re all set.” Bernie teases her good-naturedly.
“Oi, you can get out and walk to Cambridge!” Serena winks at the blonde beside her.
“Ok, ok.” Bernie holds up her hands like she’s surrendering as they both laugh.
“Have you had lunch yet?” Serena asks once the last of their laughter has subsided.
“No.” Bernie turns towards the brunette with a question in her eyes.
“There’s a nice little place that I would often stop at when I’m visiting Ellie. If you fancy it? Be nice to go there with some company for a change.” Serena is feeling a bit selfish with her time with the blonde, she’s not quite ready to share her with the other wedding guests at the hotel yet.
“Sounds lovely.” Bernie offers her a soft smile and Serena’s stomach flips over a few times. She thinks that she just might be in love with Bernie Wolfe. She’s just not sure if this weekend was the right time for that particular conversation.
“So... did you and Charlotte ever make it to that gay bar?” Serena tries to make it sound light and casual, just friendly curiosity, but jealousy churns inside her, till she can practically taste it in the back of her throat.
“What?” Bernie raises her eyebrows for moment, confused by the question. “Oh, right... um not yet, no.” The blonde shrugs off the notion, she wasn’t really interested in being in such a crowded place with girls her daughter’s age.
“You think you will, then?” Serena seems determined to break her own heart. She didn’t want to hear about Bernie meeting someone else, so why was she asking this?
“I don’t know. I’m not keen on it, but if it means I get to spend time with Charlie then maybe... it’s not really my scene. Maybe I can persuade her to go somewhere else.” Bernie stares unseeingly out the passenger window, not really comfortable all of a sudden.
“I could come with you, if that might make you more comfortable. The oldies sticking together.” Serena can hear how desperate her own voice sounds and hates herself for it. As if she’d really want to be there to witness Bernie flirting and being flirted with.
“I’m not interested in anyone so young. Age is just a number, obviously, but I don’t feel like I’d have anything in common with uni students. I’ll probably not go.” Bernie still hasn’t turned to look at Serena yet.
“I imagine there might be some women our age there, if what Charlotte said is true.” Shut up, Serena. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up!
“Why are you pushing this?” Bernie thinks she knows: Charlotte was wrong, Serena wasn’t interested in her.
Even Serena herself doesn’t know the answer to that. “I’m not. Just making conversation.” She mumbles and then turns the radio up so that the music might drown out all the thoughts and feelings swimming around her head.
They drive a little way like that – uncomfortable silence, covered only by the radio playing songs Bernie doesn’t recognise, until she turns it back down again to speak. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just not very good at dating, and I don’t actually want to go to the bar with Charlie, but if it’s the only way she’ll see me, then I’ll just have to suck it up I suppose. I don’t want to spoil our weekend, so let’s just forget it. Ok?” She glances hesitantly over at the brunette, praying she’s not ruined the whole weekend.
“You could tell her that you don’t want to go, that you’d rather spend time with her on your own.” Serena smiles, letting the blonde know that everything was alright between them.
“I might just do that.” Bernie squeezes Serena’s hand as it settles on the gearstick. “I have been kind of looking forward to this weekend. Well, apart from the wedding.” The blonde says it so seriously and Serena can’t hold in a laugh.
“Which just happens to be the main reason for this weekend.” Serena can’t suppress another tiny giggle.
“You know what I’m like at social events.” Bernie pouts jokingly and that only makes Serena laugh again.
“I’ll be there beside you the whole time.” Serena vows, as they pull up to the pub for lunch.
“Oh look, there’s a walk around the forest trail.” Bernie stops for a look at the map.
“Food first, Major.” Serena hadn’t realised she was this hungry until they were within sniffing distance of all the lovely pub grub.
“Yes ma’am.” Bernie holds the door open for the brunette and extends her arm to let her past.
The food is absolutely delicious and they are even able to sit by one of the log fires after they’ve eaten because they’ve missed the lunchtime rush. They just relax and drink their coffees, chatting about everything and nothing.
“Shall we do this walk of yours?” Serena is full and content and doesn’t really feel like moving, but it would be nice to walk the trail while it was still light out.
“We don’t have to.” Bernie gets the attention of a passing waitress and requests the bill.
“I’m getting this. You never did let me repay you for that Italian takeaway we had a few weeks ago.” Serena stands firm when Bernie tries to protest. “Besides, you’re doing me a huge favour by coming to the wedding with me.”
“It’s hardly a trial to spend time with you, Serena.” Bernie smiles at her out of one side of her mouth, and Serena has to dip her head to hide her blushes. “Let’s have a go at this trail then.” Bernie sees the brunette’s discomfort and wants to ease it.
Serena links their elbows as she starts to walk, wondering what it might be like to hold Bernie’s hand. She isn’t sure how much longer she can ignore the elephant in the room.
“It’s a gorgeous spot you’ve found up here, Campbell.” Bernie scans the horizon and sighs to herself, she can’t remember the last time she’d stopped to really take in the beauty around her and appreciate the now.
“It is, isn’t it?” Serena had never walked the path before. It seemed there was a plethora of things she’d never done before Bernie Wolfe had snuck into her life and turned it upside-down.
“Thanks for inviting me.” Bernie uses her free hand to squeeze the one that the brunette had looped through the blonde’s arms.
“I’m the one who should be thanking you.” Serena replies quietly.
“Let’s not worry about who should be thanking who, let’s just enjoy the weekend.” Bernie sees the brunette start to shiver beside her. “Are you cold?”
‘A little.” Serena hadn’t wanted to ruin their walk by mentioning it.
“Here.” Bernie slips her scarf from her neck and wraps it around the brunette’s instead. “Better?” Serena nods as Bernie ties the scarf to hold it in place and runs her thumb along Serena’s cheek, making the brunette’s breath hitch. “Huddle in to me and we’ll head back to the car.” Bernie holds Serena tightly against her side, trying to share her body heat.
Serena immediately turns the heater up full blast when they are back inside the car. “Oh here.” Serena moves to take off the scarf and give it back to Bernie.
“Keep it. At least until you warm up properly.” Bernie kindly offers.
Serena is touched by the gesture and she can’t resist breathing in the blonde’s scent clinging to the fabric a while longer. She has no idea how she’s going to get all the way to Sunday without declaring her ever-growing feelings for Bernie and throwing herself at the blonde, if she’s reduced to this state just from a bloody scarf.
“That was a nice walk.” Bernie feels like the brisk exercise and fresh air has cleared away the cobwebs. She had been a bit lax on her fitness regimen of late, so she had brought her gym gear and swimming suit. That way she could use the hotel's facilities this weekend.
“Yes, looks like this weekend won’t be so bad after all. Thanks to the company.” Serena sets her hand on Bernie’s thighs momentarily, a little smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, before placing it back on the steering wheel.
“I hate to sound like the child of the car, but are we almost there yet?” Bernie tries to take her focus away from the heat on her thigh where Serena had touched it.
“Yep, should only be another forty-five minutes or so.”
“Mind if I doze off? Bit full from all the food.” Bernie already has her eyes closed.
“That’s ok, love.” Serena has to stop calling her that. She turns down the radio so that it won’t disturb the blonde’s nap and steals quick glances at Bernie’s sleeping form as she drives.
* * *
“Bernie...” A voice calls to her from somewhere outside of her dream, then there is a warm touch on her cheek.
“Just five more minutes.” She shifts to get comfy again, ready to fall back to sleep.
“Bernie, we’re here.” Serena is stroking her fingers through the blonde’s hair and Bernie begins to blinks awake.
“Hmmm, that’s lovely.” Bernie revels in Serena’s hand in her curls, and nuzzles into the touch, like a cat enjoying being fussed over.
Serena smiles fondly at the pleased look on the blonde’s face until Bernie’s eyes spring all the way open and they are left staring at each other. Neither can help but notice that there is a telling darkness in the other’s eyes as their gazes flit over the other’s face.
“Bernie...” Serena’s voice is low and hoarse, loaded with the desire she feels pulse through her body.
“Yeah...” The blonde sits up straighter in her seat, scarcely able to believe what she’s seeing. Serena was looking at her as if...
A knock on the drivers side window startles them both into pulling apart.
“Mum!” Serena’s daughter shouts through the glass.
“Ellie!” Serena quickly opens her door and steps out to greet her with a long hug.
“I saw you pulling up, we’re just going to explore the grounds. Do you want to come, or you could settle in your room before dinner tonight?” Ellie steps aside to reveal her friend Clara and the other bridesmaids.
“Oh Serena, thank you so much for coming!” The bride-to-be hugs the brunette close.
“Clara, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It will be great to catch-up with your parents!” Serena returns the embrace warmly, and shakes hands with the other bridesmaids as Clara introduces them in turn.
“My parents aren’t here yet, but they should be here before dinner tonight. You can meet Tim’s parents too. Tim and the groomsmen will arrive in the morning.”
“I can’t believe you’re getting married tomorrow. Seems like only yesterday you & Ellie were this height.” Serena moves her hand to indicate a small child.
Bernie grabs everyone’s attention by opening the boot to start unloading the bags. “Hi.” She holds her hand up in greeting, a little quiet and shy.
“You must be Bernie!” Ellie enthuses. “Mum never stops talking about you.” Serena squawks at that, blushing deeply.
“Hello, Elinor. Nice to finally meet you.” Bernie shakes the girl’s hand with a friendly smile.
“Likewise. I like her much better than Robbie already, Mum. You’d have had no chance of him helping with your bags for a start. You were right to dump him for Bernie.”
“Well... I mean... that’s not why... Bernie and I... we aren’t dating.” Serena explains lamely.
“No, your Mum and I are just friends.” Bernie confirms, head low with disappointment. She starts grabbing bags to bring them in to the hotel lobby.
“Who are you trying to kid, Mum? It’s written all over your face that you like her.” Ellie whispers it to her mother, under the guise of another hug, then she pulls back to look at Serena. “I take that back, you more than like her, if your expression is anything to go by.” The young woman winks at her mother.
“Ellie, please...” Serena tries to deny it, silently begs her daughter not to say a word to Bernie. At least not before she had spoken to the blonde herself.
“Why don’t the pair of you check in and get comfy in that suite of yours?” Ellie fixes her mother with a pointed look. “Talk to her, she has a rather sizeable crush on you too in my opinion. She seems nice, I’m happy for you, Mum.” She gives Serena a final squeeze before joining her group to go off exploring.
“Everything ok?” Bernie sees the shocked look from the brunette as Serena tracks her daughter’s movements away from them. “Serena?”
“Uh... what... yes, yes, everything’s fine.” Serena swats away the blonde’s worry. “Let me give you a hand with the bags.”
“I’ve got most of them inside already.” Bernie grins pleased with her progress.
“Let’s get inside and settled then, I can’t wait to see the room.” Serena looks like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Have a thing for hotel rooms, Campbell?” Bernie bumps her hip against Serena’s, her tone light and teasing.
“It’s nice to feel pampered every once in a while.” Serena winks and lifts the zip-up bag with her dress in it.
It takes a couple of trips, but they’re quickly unpacking their things as Bernie winces because her back has gone into spasm.
“Bernie, you put your back out lifting all these bag, didn’t you?” Serena’s eyes flash with concern.
“L’il bit.” Bernie hisses out through gritted teeth.
“Let’s be having you.” Serena signals for her to lie down.
“What?” Bernie does an on point impression of a deer in the headlights then.
“Take your top half off and lie on your stomach.” Serena uses her best uncooperative patient voice.
“Um... I’m sure it’ll pass...” Bernie doesn’t know what to do as she glances around the room for an emergency exit. Not that she’d ever make it without Serena catching up to her because of her blasted back.
“You’re in pain. Let me help you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a doctor.” Serena tries to lighten the mood.
“Uh – right – yes – ok –” Bernie tries to remove her jumper and shirt but her back protests too much. “Could you?” She mumbles for assistance with her jumper halfway over her face.
“Here.” Serena undresses her and then searches for her anti-inflammatory gel in her wash bag. “Bra too.” She calls to Bernie as she looks for the gel.
“Ok.” Bernie’s voice shakes, as she unhooks it and lets it drop to the floor, but not from pain. She lies prone on her belly and tries to brace herself for Serena’s hands on her bare flesh. As if she could.
Serena starts and stops a few times on the way over to the bed. She’d have to straddle Bernie’s hips to massaged her properly, and there was so much smooth, pale, gorgeous skin exposed that she isn’t sure she can do this. “Um... I’ll just have to...” Serena mimes climbing to sit over the blonde’s hips and Bernie blushes wildly.
“Alright.” Bernie would not survive this, she just wouldn’t. She forgets how to breath as Serena moves to sit astride her backside.
The first few passes of the brunette’s hands are met with moans of discomfort and pain, but they are swiftly replaced with moans of something else entirely. The blonde’s pain starts to ease and then she is left more relaxed and thoroughly enjoying Serena’s hands working against her skin. “Urgh... oh God, that’s good.” It slips out unbidden before Bernie can even register that she’s said it.
Serena flushes at the blonde’s obvious pleasure and feels her body start to react as though she was hearing it in a completely different context. Jesus, you can’t go getting aroused while you’re supposed to be helping a friend who’s in pain, Serena! She internally berates herself. An involuntary moan leaves her as she cants her hips down, almost grinding on Bernie’s arse.
Consciously she knows she can’t be doing this. Subconsciously she starts to wonder if there is a legitimate way to keep rubbing her groin against the blonde’s back until she reaches orgasm. It definitely wouldn’t take long at this point. But she knows she can’t use Bernie like that, no matter how much the need between her legs is begging her to. “Bernie... I...” Her voice catches in her throat and she has to clear it to try again. “I think we’re done.” Serena slides off the bed and tries to regulate her breathing. She knows without even touching herself that she is soaked.
“Thanks.” Bernie has her bra back on now and makes Serena jump when she reaches out to her, the blonde’s touch making her feel like she was on fire. “Serena, what’s wrong?” She forces the brunette to meet her eye.
“I... just... I... should have a quick shower. Freshen up before dinner.” Serena rushes off into the bathroom, quickly locking the door behind her.
“Serena, what’s going on?” Bernie raps her knuckles against the door. “Are you alright?” The blonde can’t figure out what had made Serena dash off like that.
“I’m fine. Just going to take that shower.” Serena starts running the water and hopes Bernie can’t hear her heart hammering through the door. She strips off and steps into the spray, desperately wishing for it to wash away the barrage of images of the gorgeous expanse of Bernie’s back. Bernie. Who was on the other side of the door utterly clueless to Serena’s feelings for her. A stifled sob escapes her as she covers her mouth with one hand. She can’t do this anymore. She has to talk to Bernie. She has to know if there’s any chance that Bernie might want her the way she wants Bernie.
“Serena, are you crying?” Bernie knocks on the bathroom door again, ready to break it down if need be to comfort her friend.
“No, I’m ok Bernie. Really.” Serena washes herself quickly and then wraps a towel around her body. She stands staring at herself in the mirror for a moment longer. Then she comes out of the bathroom in a puff of steam, and paints on a tight smile.
Bernie has already changed into a fresh pair of skinny jeans and a dark green shirt styled like a chef’s jacket. Her unruly curls frame her face beautifully and she has touched up her makeup. “Is this ok for dinner? I wasn’t sure how formal it would be...”
“You look great.” Serena smiles and Bernie swoons under the brunette’s praise.
“Are you sure you’re ok? I thought I heard you crying in there.” Bernie studies her, worry lines etched on her features.
“I’m...” Serena’s eyes dart all over the blonde’s face and she starts to get emotional again. “... I just...” Her voice breaks then as a single tear slips down her cheek.
“What’s wrong?” Bernie wraps her in a fierce hug and makes soothing noises. “Did something happen to make you this upset?” Both forget that Bernie is holding Serena in nothing but her towel. “I know thirteen ways to kill a person with my bare hands, if that helps?” She pulls back to face Serena and is rewarded with a tiny smile. Bernie holds the side of Serena’s face in her hand and wipes at a stray tear with her thumb, making the brunette shiver at the touch. It’s then that Bernie takes in that Serena is still in her towel. “You must be freezing.” She observes. “Why don’t I head downstairs to the bar and get us a couple of pre-dinner drinks and you can have some privacy to get dressed?”
“No, will you stay here with me and we can go down together?” Serena asks, grabbing hold of Bernie’s wrist.
“Ok.” Bernie perches herself on the end of the bed and wonders if Serena is going to get dressed right here in front of her, the thought makes her face colour and her mouth go dry. She’s not sure whether she’s disappointed or relieved when Serena gathers her clothes and goes back into the bathroom to change.
When Serena comes back out she’s wearing black dress trousers and a chiffon blouse in a gorgeous pink colour that suits her perfectly and makes her look beautiful.
“Serena, you look amazing.” Bernie is vaguely aware that she’s gaping at the brunette.
“Thank you. So do you.” Serena smiles in the reflection of the mirror she’s currently applying her makeup in.
Bernie is enraptured watching her, it’s like there is nothing else in the whole but her sitting here while Serena works at the mirror. “So, are you going to tell me what’s up?”
“I’m sorry, I’m alright now.” Serena knows it’s a lie.
“I hope you know that you can tell me anything. I’d do anything I can to help.” Bernie is certain in that moment that she would walk over hot coals or anything else she had to do just to make Serena’s anguish disappear.
“I know. I’m fine. Honestly. Now, let’s go meet everyone for dinner.” Serena picks up her small clutch bag from the chair by the window and pops her lipstick inside.
“Ok.” Bernie puts her purse and phone in her pocket and they both make their way down to the restaurant.
The blonde feels very uneasy throughout the meal. She doesn’t know anyone there apart from Serena and everyone keeps mistaking them for a couple. The brunette’s daughter keeps looking at them strangely, and Serena is close to inducing in her some sort of cardiac episode with her heightened tactility. She could sob with relief when her phone pings and it means Serena has to release her hand to let her check it.
“Something wrong?” Serena sees Bernie frown at the screen.
“Just a message from Charlie. She wants to go to that bar next weekend.” Bernie would rather pull out all of her own teeth.
“Oh... well that will be nice for you. Get back on the horse, as it were.” Serena is almost blinded by jealousy. “I think I might head up to the room.” She barely looks at Bernie as she says it, before hastily wishing their party goodnight and dashing off.
Bernie is left at a table full of strangers to stare after her. It takes a few moments for her to gather herself and follow Serena. She finds the brunette stepping into the lift and just manages to slip in before the doors close to join Serena inside.
“Serena, what’s going on? Why did you run off like that?” Bernie tries to reach out to her, but Serena shrinks away.
“It’s nothing.” Serena says a little too quickly to be convincing.
“Please, tell me what’s upset you.” Bernie pleads, she hates to think of Serena hurting.
“I don’t know.” Serena replies until Bernie raises an eyebrow, she wasn’t buying it. “I don’t know!” Serena begs herself not to cry.
“I think you do. Is the reason you won’t tell me because I’ve done something?” It saddens the blonde deeply to think that she’s caused this in some way.
“It’s...” Serena’s eyes flit over the other woman’s face and something inside her breaks. “... it’s the thought of you going to that bar.”
“I’ll be with Charlie, it’ll be perfectly safe. Thirteen ways, remember?” Bernie chuckles and hugs Serena to her.
“It’s not that.” Serena lifts her head to look straight at the blonde.
“What then?” Bernie scrunches up her face, totally confused.
“I don’t want you to go.”
“Neither do I.” Bernie laughs again until she sees the serious expression on Serena’s face. “What is it?” She runs her fingers through the brunette’s hair, smiling when Serena leans into the touch.
“I don’t want you to go because –” Suddenly Serena’s phone buzzes, forcing them apart. “It’s Robbie.” Serena glances uncertainly up at the blonde, who tenses from head to toe. “He wants to try again.” Serena notes the flicker of pain ripple over Bernie’s features for just a moment.
“That’s good, if you want the same.” Bernie stomps off to their room when the lift stops at their floor. Sliding the key card into the slot to open the door, she steps inside and tries to regulate her breathing. “I should go.” She throws her bag on the bed and starts packing up her things. “If you tell Robbie yes, then he could be here for the wedding tomorrow.” Her hands are shaking and she clenches her fists, annoyed that she had clearly not put this silly infatuation behind her.
“And how exactly would you get back to Holby?” Serena places her hands on her hips, wishing the blonde would see sense. “We drove here in my car.”
“I’ll ask reception to call me a taxi to the station.” Bernie refuses to look at her.
“Bernie, just stop for a second.” Serena puts her hand over both of Bernie’s trembling ones. “I invited you because I wanted to. There’s no one else I’d rather spend this weekend with. Certainly not Robbie. I’m not getting back together with him.”
“You aren’t?” Bernie looks half puzzled half hopeful.
“No.” Serena reassures her. “How could I be with him when I’m falling for someone else?” Serena hopes it shows that she means the woman in front of her.
“Oh...” Bernie’s heart sinks, Serena hadn’t mentioned that there was anyone else. “... well, I should still go then. You can invite this other guy to join you for the wedding.” Bernie tries to free herself from Serena’s grasp, but the brunette holds firm.
“Bernie, stay please. I don’t want anyone else to be here with me...” Serena searches for some spark of understanding on the blonde’s part and is sadden to not see any. “... besides, it’s late and we have a long day tomorrow. We should get some sleep.” Serena grabs her pyjamas and heads in to the bathroom. She angrily wipes at the day’s makeup wishing she could shake the blonde to make her see what was right in front of her. Once she’s brushed her teeth and changed into her pyjamas, she switches places with Bernie to let her do the same.
When Bernie comes back out in her pyjamas, Serena is already in bed with her back to the blonde but her bedside light is still switched on. Bernie slips in beside her as gently as she can so as not to disturb Serena in case she’s asleep. Serena closes her eyes tightly when she feels the mattress dip as Bernie gets into the bed. It breaks Serena’s heart that they are mere inches apart physically and yet it may as well be miles. A sudden chill seeps into her bones, making her shudder.
“Are you cold?” Bernie’s touch makes Serena spring away and the blonde pulls her hand back sharply.
“No.” Serena snaps, even though she is cold.
“Do you want me to see if there’s a spare blanket anywhere?” Bernie offers in a small voice.
“Go to sleep, Bernie.” Serena refuses to turn and look at her.
“We could...” Bernie starts to say and then thinks better of it. “Never mind. Goodnight, Serena.”
“We could what?” Serena shuffles until she is facing the blonde.
“I just thought that if you were cold, I could... I mean... I wouldn’t mind... um...” Bernie bites her bottom lip, nervously trying to finish the sentence. “I could cuddle you.” Bernie only hears how pathetic that is when she says it out loud. “Stupid idea. Let me go see if I can find a blanket.” She pulls back the duvet to get out of bed.
“I’d rather have the cuddle. If... if that’s ok.” Serena looks up at her shyly, cheeks flushed with embarrassment and something else.
“Alright.” Bernie slides back in beside the brunette, opening her arm for Serena to settle into.
Serena snuggles up to the blonde, entangling their legs and resting her head on Bernie’s chest. She fidgets and fusses trying not to get worked up at being so close to the object of her crush.
“Relax. I don’t bite.” Bernie chuckles, feeling the brunette go as stiff as a board in her embrace. “Not unless asked to of course.” Serena reels at the thought and a strangled whimper slips out just imagining Bernie’s mouth all over her body. “Serena, are you ok?”
“Yep. I’m fine.” Serena lies and hopes that Bernie can’t see how flustered she is. “Goodnight then.” She tries to pull away, but Bernie holds fast.
“It’s ok, if you're comfy here and I don’t mind keeping you warm.” Bernie lets Serena settle into her again, and despite the fact that they’re both quite keyed up by their proximity they somehow manage to drift off to sleep.