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The Return

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“Are you okay?” Serena’s question is asked calmly, but Bernie can hear the worry underlying her words.

“Course I am, Fräulein,” she responds, grabbing Serena’s hand and giving it a squeeze. “It’s just a few scratches, that's all. I had far worse in Afghanistan.”

“Don't remind me,” Serena says with a visible shudder.

Bernie chuckles. “I wasn't actually referring to getting blown up,” she says, lifting Serena’s hand and pressing a soft kiss to the back of it. She turns her hand over and presses a second kiss to the palm, then a third to the inside of her wrist.

Serena shivers, this time in what Bernie hopes is a good way, and she laps at the delicate skin on the inside of her wrist.

“Okay?” she asks quietly, dark eyes fixed on Serena’s face.

“Bernie,” Serena murmurs, her voice full of emotion.

She smiles. “Yes, love?”

“I'm sorry that I scratched your back.”

Bernie chuckles. “I really don't mind,” she says cheerfully. “After all, you did it in the throes of passion which, if you think about it, is a massive ego boost.”

“Oh you,” exclaims Serena, swatting at Bernie with her free hand, neither one of them having noticed that Bernie still held Serena’s hand in her own.

The former Major dodges the swatting with ease, laughing as she ducks away, then captures Serena’s other hand with her own, before tugging her lover in closer and kissing her deeply. Serena easily pulls her hands free, burying the right in Bernie’s messy blonde hair, then wrapping her left arm across Bernie’s back.

“Impossible woman,” says Serena with a tut once they part for air, their foreheads resting against each other.

“I've been called worse,” Bernie observes with a smirk, her voice full of fondness as well as love.

Serena sighs. “Including by me,” she says sadly.

“Hey, now, none of that,” Bernie says gently. “That's all behind us. We agreed last night that we'd start afresh now that I'm back from Nairobi for good.” She kisses Serena again, with less ferocity, but no less passion. “I love you, Serena Wendy Campbell, and I promise that I will be by your side from now and forever.”

“Is that your way of proposing?” Serena asks, eyes wide.

Bernie can’t quite help gaping at her. “No,” she says. “Not unless you want me to propose. We've never even discussed getting married again and to each other.”

Serena shakes her head. “Sorry,” she says. “It's just that your words sounded awfully like a vow.”

“Well, I am vowing to remain with you,” Bernie says slowly. “But that's all that was.” She gazes intently at the other woman. “Do you want us to get married?”

Serena shrugs, not meeting Bernie’s eyes as she fiddles with her pendant, until Bernie reaches out to clasp her hand and lower it to her lap.

“Love?” She reaches out with her other hand and gently turns Serena’s face to her own. “Tell me honestly, please?”

Serena sighs softly. “I have thought about it once or twice while you've been in Nairobi and I've been here. Wondered what it would be like to be one half of a married couple again. Not because I think we need a piece of paper to prove our love to anyone, including each other, but because of the legal protection it gives us in the event of one of us becoming ill or worse.”

“That makes sense,” Bernie says slowly. “I'm afraid that I hadn't even given that aspect of things any thought. No business brain, you see.”

Serena chuckles quietly. “I like your brain just as it is.”

“Thanks.”

“Will you give it some thought?” Serena asks. “And let me know?”

Bernie laughs softly. “Love, now you've put the idea in my head I won’t be able to stop thinking about it.”

Serena raises her eyebrows. “I trust you’ll also be able to think of other things? Because we have Sunday lunch with Jason, Greta and Guinevere later and I would like your help with preparing it.”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!” Bernie snaps off a salute and Serena falls back against the pillows, laughing.

“You silly goose,” she says fondly once she’s caught her breath.

Bernie smirks at her. “What time do you need to start making lunch?” she asks, her tone suggestive.

Serena smirks right back. “Not for a while. Why, Major, do you have plans?”

“I might,” Bernie says, practically purring as she leans over and pins Serena to the bed, before kissing her thoroughly.

“Well then, Berenice, I’m all yours.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Bernie says and shifts her body over her lover’s. She’ll give the matter of marrying Serena some thought later. Right now, however, she intends to enjoy being in the same country as Serena again.