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take a breath and breathe in (know your voice will, again sing)

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Elinor’s doctor goes to Bernie first. He doesn’t think Serena would give him the most logical answer, and logical answers are important right now.

 

“Ms Wolfe,” he says, walking up to the woman slumped in a chair outside Elinor’s room. She looks up and he can see the tears glistening in her eyes. He knows of her and Serena’s situation – how could he not, with a rumour mill like Holby’s? He knows that she is more worried about Serena than Elinor, more worried about the implications of Elinor possibly not surviving on Serena.

 

Bernie hums a reply and meets his eyes. She can see a flash of confusion in his face, but she can’t work out why, he’s supposed to be the bearer of all knowledge, a neurosurgeon, he’s really the only hope Elinor has.

 

“Elinor’s test results,” he says, passing the paper over with concern in his eyes. Bernie furrows her brows and scans the numbers, but something catches her eye and she stops, takes in an unsteady breath and looks up at him.

 

“What?” she breathes out, standing up and holding the paper with shaking hands. “Order an ultrasound,” she says and pushes past him and into Elinor’s room. She shoots a glare at the nurse loitering in the corner and the young woman scampers out the door. Bernie decides to take a calmer approach with Serena, she doesn’t think an authoritative tone will help anything in this situation.

 

“Serena,” she whispers, placing a hand on her shoulder and holding out the paper with still shaking hands. Serena turns her head and glares at Bernie for a moment before properly taking in the worry written on her face and picking the paper out of her hand. “It’s Ellie’s test results, she’s-”

 

“Pregnant,” Serena breathes out, finishing Bernie’s sentence for her. “I did have my suspicions, it was the first Christmas lunch she hadn’t drunk at since she was eighteen, and all the loose clothes…” Bernie nods slowly and points to another result. Serena looks over and whines that same whine she had in theatre earlier, and falls forward onto Ellie’s bed.


“I’ve got them to order an ultrasound, then you can work out what you want to do from there,” Bernie says, her voice soft and calming.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You know the facts Serena, if she’s far enough along it’s possible to keep Ellie on life support to carry the baby to term, and it might give her time for her brain to heal.”

 

“Oh,” Serena says, her head still resting on the mattress in front of her. “It says here she’s twenty four weeks. Oh god,” she whines.

 

“I’m going to go and call Edward. Have a think, Serena.”


Serena reaches up to squeeze the hand on her shoulder, and turns around to look Bernie in the eyes. They are bleary and her face is ridden with worry, and it hurts Serena to know her daughter is hurting Bernie like this.

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“He needs to know, and you need some time to think.”

 

Serena nods and Bernie takes Serena’s phone from its place on the bed. Shoots another glare at the young nurse now loitering in the side room. The rumour mill shouldn’t be top on her list of concerns right now, but she can’t shake the feeling that she and Serena are never safe from gossip in this hospital.

 

She dials Edward’s number and he answers on the third ring, out of breath and fumbling with his phone.

 

“Serena? What’s happened?” he says, and Bernie takes a deep breath before answering.

 

“It’s Bernie, Edward, Serena’s not really up to it at the moment, but someone needed to tell you this. We’ve had some of Elinor’s test results back, and she’s got cocaine in her system. She’s also… she’s six months pregnant, Edward.”

 

“I know,” he sighs.

 

“You knew? About the cocaine or the baby?” Bernie shrills.

 

“Both.”

 

“Both? Bloody hell Edward, Serena’s going to kill you, how could you keep something like this from her?”

 

“Ellie begged me not to, I had no choice.”

 

“You always have a choice, dickhead,” she says, abruptly hanging up the phone.

 

She goes back into Ellie’s room to find Serena still where she left her, slumped on the bed with silent tears staining the sheets.

 

“He knew, didn’t he.”

 

“Yes, he did, about both.”

 

“Oh.” Serena sucks her bottom lip into her mouth and turns her head away from Bernie, who understands it as a dismissal and makes to leave the room.

 

“I’ll be in the on-call room, if you need me,” Bernie says. As much as she knows Serena needs some rest she also knows that Serena will not leave Ellie, will not leave her possibly dying daughter for longer than strictly necessary. She knows that if Serena decides she is ready to sleep she will come and find the on-call room Bernie is in and curl up to her.

 

Bernie slumps down onto the single bed and reaches for her phone, firing a text off to Cameron and Charlotte asking if either of them is available to call. Charlotte’s name flashes on the screen almost immediately and Bernie answers without hesitation.

 

“Mum?” Charlotte’s voice in her ear is too much to handle, and she fights to choke back a sob. She fails. Knows that Charlotte has heard. “Mum? What’s happened?”

 

“It’s Elinor, she’s -” she takes a deep breath, trying to form the words. “She’s got a serious brain injury and it’s not looking good.”

 

“Oh god.”

 

Serena, of course, does not come in to the on-call room that night, and Bernie finds her slumped over Ellie’s practically lifeless body the next morning.

 

 

~

 

 

It’s two and a half months of stress and grief before they take Ellie in for a C-section. Edward wants nothing to do with it, and Serena wouldn’t let him even if he did. Serena visits Ellie most days, sits with her and rants, about Ellie, about the baby. Bernie comes in when AAU is quiet, wanting to give Serena space, but not to stray too far out of reach.

 

The baby, when it comes, is unexpectedly, perfectly healthy. They both knew that statistics were greatly stacked against them when it came to this, but the baby isn’t showing any signs of being affected. Bernie arranges for Cam to meet them at home to get the baby settled. She knows Serena won’t want to leave Ellie for too long; Ellie who has miraculously increased her GCS. Bernie organises the car, takes the baby from the hospital crib next to Ellie’s bed and carries her down to Dom waiting in the car to drop them home. The baby cries the whole way home, despite Bernie’s desperate attempts to soothe her with a finger latched in her mouth.

 

“She’s beautiful, obviously.” Dom’s voice interrupts her train of thought and she hums and smiles at him in the rear-view mirror, his face beaming back at her.

 

“She is.”

 

“Have you thought about names yet?”

 

“Serena wants to wait for Elinor to wake up, if Elinor wakes up,” she sighs, and coos down at the infant who wails when Dom hits a speed hump.

 

“Right.”

 

Dom drops her and the baby off, helps her sling the diaper bag over her shoulder and walks her to the front door. Cam opens the door before she can even get her keys out, and he reaches for Dom and takes the car seat still carrying the baby.

 

“Hiya, Mum.” Bernie smiles and drops the bag, leans over to press a kiss to his cheek and then one to Dom as he hugs her goodbye. “How’s she doing?”

 

“Alright, I think. Let’s just get her settled,” Bernie says, smiling as Cam lifts the baby out of her car seat and settles her on his chest. “You look good with a baby.” Cam chuckles and strokes her cheek with the side of his finger, then drops his head to place a gentle kiss on the top of her head.

 

“You do too,” he says, and Bernie smiles and makes her way to the kitchen. Cam follows and the baby starts to sulk. “I grabbed some formula and bottles on my way here.”

 

“Thank you, Cam.” Cam starts to move around to set up a bottle, adding some lukewarm water then the formula and then bringing it to the baby’s mouth once it’s mixed. She latches on straight away and contentedly sighs.

 

“How are Serena and Elinor?”

 

“Elinor’s been partly conscious and breathing on her own since the caesarean, and Serena hasn’t moved from her bedside since her GCS rose to twelve.”

 

“That’s good, I suppose.” Bernie nods and fills the kettle, places a teabag in each of their cups and then sets the kettle to boil.

 

Bernie thinks, knows, that without Cam, and soon Jason, she couldn’t have done this. She couldn’t have taken responsibility for this baby whilst it’s mother and grandmother were somewhat incapacitated.

 

Grandmother.

 

Serena is a grandmother. She and Serena are Grandmothers.

 

 

~

 

 

Serena talks to Ellie every possible moment of every day, talks to Ellie for days, weeks, until she is fully conscious. Conscious and alive with only minor memory loss from a few weeks before her accident. Only just remembers who Bernie is and only just remembers her mother’s Sapphic revelations.

 

What the fuck happened to me?!” Serena thinks that there probably could have been better things to come out of her daughters’ mouth for the first time in three months. She laughs and is surprised by the sound, quickly comes to realise that she hasn’t laughed since the day of Ellie’s accident. Serena is as patient as she can be whilst she explains to Elinor what happened, fires off a quick text to the Wolfes + Serena group chat, then asks one of the nurses to call Edward. He, as promised, doesn’t want anything to do with it; tells Serena to tell Ellie that he sends his love, but says that he doesn’t want to come in. What an absolute dickhead, Serena thinks.

 

Bernie gets Serena’s text and fires all into action. Luckily, Dom had decided to spend the day with her, and he helps to get everything into the diaper bag and into the car. She fidgets and bounces her knee all the way to the hospital, and jumps from the car and races round to get the baby. She picks up the car seat and hauls it from the backseat, thanking Dom with a kiss to his cheek and a one-armed hug.

 

She walks through the main entrance and goes straight to the stairs; the lift will take too long and she needs to be as quick as she can. Serena meets her at the top and her face is tear stained, her eyes bleary and red-rimmed.

 

“She’s awake,” she breathes, and Bernie pulls her into a quick hug and presses a kiss to her cheek. “And she’s only got a little memory loss.” Bernie smiles and Serena takes her free hand and leads her out of the stairwell and into the corridor. Bernie waits with the baby outside Elinor’s room, waits for Serena to give her the all clear.

 

Elinor is sitting up on the bed, still slightly groggy but she smiles when she sees Serena.

 

“I’ve got someone here I’m sure you’d like to meet.” Ellie looks puzzled for a moment but then nods when she sees the flash of blonde hair outside the window. Serena pops her head out the door and nods, and in walks Bernie, baby-laden and smiling.

 

“Fuck,” Ellie breaths, looking down at the baby in the car-seat, her eyes going wide. “Is that?” She points to her stomach, looks up at Serena who nods, smiles hopefully.

 

“You don’t have to explain yourself, not yet at least, but would you like to meet her?” Elinor nods and Bernie edges closer, puts the seat down on the floor and lifts the baby out. She coos down at her and then passes her over to Elinor, who takes her in her arms and looks down at the infant. Serena can see the fear in her eyes, can see the way her shoulders are tense and her breathing shallow and fast.

 

“It’s alright Ellie, just take some deep breaths,” Bernie says, and Ellie nods and starts stroking the baby’s cheek, taking care to focus on her breathing.

 

“Has she got a name?” Ellie asks, looking up at Serena.

 

“Not yet, we wanted to wait for you to wake up. She’s your child, it’s your decision.”

 

~

 

Three weeks later, Serena and Bernie take Elinor and Audra home. Elinor had decided on a variation of Adrienne, and Serena had cried. Elinor is surprised to see the house fully equipped with baby paraphernalia, and Bernie laughs and tells her that she and Audra have had fun pottering around an empty house.

 

When Serena tries to convince Cameron to get Charlotte over, it is surprisingly still relatively difficult. Serena had, however, insisted that Bernie was kept in the dark, because if Charlotte didn’t come then she wouldn’t have gotten her hopes up, and if she did, then it would be a nice surprise. (Serena had admitted later that this may have been a little selfish of her.)

 

 

“You have to understand that what mum did had nothing to do with you, and that she never did it to hurt either of us. You managed Christmas, this won’t be too much of a hardship.”

 

“I know Cam, it’s just everything with Elinor and-”

 

“I know,” he interjects, giving Charlotte a moment to sip her coffee and compose her next sentence.

 

“So, how’re they doing?”

 

Cam chuckles; he knows a subject change when he hears one. “Serena’s coping. She was the one that wanted you to come over, after all. If you had asked me that six months ago it would have been a different story, but now Elinor and the baby are home she’s doing okay. And I do think that it would be good for her and mum if you came.” Charlotte smiles solemnly, sips the last dregs of her coffee and then looks up at her brother.

 

“Okay, I’ll come. But I swear if they start getting all canoodley I’ll scream.”

 

 

~

 

 

Bernie is stunned into silence when she opens the door to reveal Charlotte, who is standing in a long skirt and a cropped flowing top, holding a bottle of expensive Shiraz (Cameron’s idea). Serena rounds the door and smiles a beaming smile at Charlotte from over Bernie’s shoulder.

 

“Hiya mum,” she says, burying her face into the crook of Bernie’s neck and breathing in the much-missed scent of her mother. “Hey Serena.” Serena comes fully into the hallway and Charlotte can see the baby on her hip, her face nestled into Serena’s flank. “Hey baby,” she says, walking up to Serena and pecking her cheek before stroking the infant’s head with her knuckles. Serena is struck by how similar Charlotte’s fashion sense is to Zosia’s, thinks that it must be a generational thing.

 

So they end up all sitting around Serena’s big oak table, sipping wine and murmuring thanks to Serena for the delicious food. Elinor sits next to Bernie, baby poised on her lap, gurgling happily. Charlotte distinctly remembers Elinor being somewhat horrible to her on Christmas day, so is surprised when Elinor keeps mostly to herself, occasionally offering Charlotte a small smile across the table when their eyes catch.

 

“Are you at university, Charlotte?” Elinor asks when Serena and Cam have got up to start clearing the table. It’s the first interaction they’ve had apart from tense smiles, and Charlotte feels hopeful.

 

“Yeah, I’m studying Law,” she says, doing her best to plaster a reassuring smile onto her face. Bernie smiles from her place beside Elinor and gives Charlotte a small nod. “Do you think you’ll go back to uni?”

 

“Maybe,” Ellie says. “Just once everything’s settled with Audra.” Charlotte smiles and Elinor gets up and offers the baby to Charlotte, who smiles and takes her into her arms with enviable grace. Bernie feels a little tearful as she watches her daughter coo to the infant, who is gurgling happily in Charlotte’s arms.

 

Elinor wanders into the kitchen to find her mum and Cameron plating up the cake Cam had brought. She gives them a small smile before heading up the stairs and into her bedroom. She has been getting migraines since the accident, a couple times a week, and Serena understands that she needs her space and a quiet room when they come on. She says nothing and smiles at her daughter’s back as she disappears up the stairs.

 

“Ellie’s just gone for a lie down,” she tells Bernie when she passes over the slice of cake, pointing briefly to her forehead to let Bernie know Ellie will be gone for a while.

 

“Okay.” Bernie smiles and looks over to Charlotte, who is busy bouncing Audra gently on one knee whilst she shovels cake into her mouth. If there’s anything her daughter inherited from Bernie it’s her love of food, and her ability to eat it at an unrealistic pace. Jason notices Charlotte struggling with the juggle, and holds out his hands to take Audra from her. She mumbles her thanks around the mouthful of cake, and Jason gently lays the baby down in her bouncer.

 

A while later, Bernie goes to check on Elinor. She hates to think of it, but if one good thing has come out of her accident, it’s that Elinor seems to like her. After the fiasco that was the ‘coming out’ phone call, then Christmas day, Bernie is happy to see that Elinor is happier.

 

She can hear Serena’s deep laugh from downstairs, and it warms her heart to know Serena is content after all this anguish. She sneaks across the landing and pokes her head into Elinor’s room. The young woman is curled into herself in the middle of the bed, her eyes screwed shut in what is obviously pain.

 

“Ellie,” Bernie whispers, opening the door a fraction further and tiptoeing into the room. “I brought you some things.” Elinor opens her eyes and squints at her as she places the cup of water down on the bedside table and hands over some medication.

“Thanks, Bernie,” Ellie quietly says, “For everything, especially for looking after Audra while I was… you know.” Bernie smiles a tight smile and gently sits down on the bed next to Ellie. She remembers sitting like this with Charlotte sometimes, and the thought makes her realise that Elinor has become just as much a daughter to her as Charlotte since her accident.

 

“S’alright,” Bernie says, reaching out to pat Elinor’s arm. She smiles at Ellie again and then gets up to leave. Just before she reaches the door, Elinor speaks again.

 

“You’re good for mum, and don’t tell her I told you, but I think she wants to marry you.”

 

Bernie thinks that if Elinor needs to relearn anything after her accident it’s discretion.