Bernie Wolfe is fresh out of the shower following her post-work run when her phone buzzes to indicate a new message. She moves across her room to grab it and smiles when she sees Serena’s name, but the smile disappears when she reads the text message sent by her best friend and co-lead: He cancelled.
She feels her ire rising. Robbie ‘the Bobby’ Medcalf does not, in Bernie’s opinion, deserve Serena Campbell, who is the kindest, loveliest, and frankly most alluring, woman of Bernie’s acquaintance. Plod the Policeman, as she’d mentally dubbed him, is routinely unkind to Jason and frequently rude to Serena, who always brushes it off as ‘just his way’ or, when he makes disparaging remarks about her figure, claims to be intending to do something about her weight. In Bernie’s eyes, Serena needs to do nothing about her weight – she has a gorgeous figure, very curvaceous and sensuous, and Plod ought to be damn grateful that Serena is gracious enough to give him the time of the day, let alone prepare his favourite meals for him or otherwise spend time with him.
Why has he cancelled this time? Bernie texts back, recalling that tonight’s dinner at ‘a little Italian restaurant with an extensive wine list’ is actually the second rescheduling of Serena’s date with the copper. (The first date had been for their anniversary. That had been rescheduled for ten days later. Which had then been rescheduled by a further fortnight. As anniversary dates went, this one is well overdue.)
She briskly towels herself dry as she waits for Serena’s response, then pulls on her underwear (grey boxer shorts and a plain white sports bra), before reaching for a shirt just as the phone buzzes again.
Something came up.
Bernie snorts rudely as her fingers deftly move down the line of buttons at the front of her shirt.
Now I’ll have to ring the restaurant again to cancel for a third time.
Bernie hits the dial button and when Serena picks up she hears a sniffle. “You didn’t have to call me to commiserate,” Serena says, and she sounds utterly devastated.
“Didn’t,” Bernie tells her. “Get your glad rags on, girl. You’re going out.”
“What?” splutters Serena. “He cancelled.”
“Just because he cancelled is no reason to let that restaurant booking go to waste,” Bernie says insistently, pulling on some socks, then a pair of tailored black trousers. “I remember you telling me how difficult it was to book it in the first place and how snotty they were when you rang to change it, especially the second time.”
“I said ‘snooty’, not ‘snotty’,” Serena objects and despite the attempt at humour, Bernie can hear the misery and anger in her best friend’s voice.
“I said what I said,” Bernie retorts with a smirk, knowing Serena will know she’s smirking, even though she can’t see Bernie’s face. “What time’s the reservation for?”
“Three quarters of an hour.”
“Did you change out of your glad rags yet?”
Serena sniffles some more, then says, “No. I’m sitting on my bed in my best frock and fanciest underwear.”
“Aye, aye,” Bernie says, the words slipping out unintentionally, but in the next moment she realises her reaction’s a good one when Serena honest-to-god giggles softly. She smiles as she secures her shirt sleeves with cufflinks.
“Shush you,” she mutters. “I wear sexy underwear to make me feel good.”
“Oh, so Plod the Policeman wasn’t going to get lucky tonight?” Bernie teases.
Serena’s belly laugh is the most beautiful thing Bernie’s ever heard and she immediately resolves to do everything in her power to inspire it again. “Plod the Policeman,” Serena repeats, her tone disbelieving, yet still full of laughter.
“It suits him,” Bernie argues, heading towards her wardrobe. “He plods around in his size elevens and, as far as I can tell, he’s an absolute plodder when it comes to detective work.”
“He did find Jason for me.”
Bernie suppresses a snort. “I know, love, but that’s the one and only good thing he’s done for you, so far as I can tell, in all the time you’ve known him. Now, are we going out for dinner or not?”
“We? You mean you’re going to take me on a date?” Serena’s spluttering, but Bernie’s not sure if it’s surprise or outrage – or possibly both.
“It’s not a date – it’s just dinner at a fancy restaurant. As I said, let’s not let that booking go to waste.” Bernie pulls a final item from her wardrobe and slips it on, buttoning it rapidly. “Unless you’re feeling too dismal to go out?” she asks, grabbing her hairbrush and dragging it through her hair.
“No, not if you’re going to join me. You’re always good company.”
“Why thank you, milady.” Bernie adopts a cut-glass accent and hears Serena giggle again. “So, how about you sort out your make up and I’ll be with you imminently?” she suggests.
“Okay. Thank you, Bernie. You’re my dearest friend.”
Bernie chuckles. “Don’t let Fleur or Sian hear you say that,” she warns. “I might not survive their wrath.”
Serena tuts as Bernie pulls on her black wool coat, tucking her green scarf around her neck. “Big Macho Army Medic like you? I’m certain you could take either one of them – even if you couldn’t take me when we arm wrestled.” Bernie snorts at that and hears Serena’s breathy laugh. “So, you did let me win,” she says. “I thought as much. Why?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Bernie says. “I’ll be with you soon.”
“Thank you, Bernie. Seriously.”
“It’s seriously nothing,” Bernie tells her. She cuts the call, folds herself into the driver’s seat of her sports car, then focuses on driving safely, yet swiftly, across town to collect Serena. With luck the traffic won’t be too bad, and she’ll be able to get them to the restaurant on time.
Fortunately, the traffic is light enough that Bernie gets to Serena's in a timely fashion. Even better, though, is the fact that she managed to find a florist who was still open and had in stock the very items she required. So when she rings Serena's bell fifteen minutes after ending the call with her, she is able to present her co-lead with a bouquet of flowers that makes Serena gasp in surprise.
"Bernie," she exclaims, clearly shocked. "You didn't have to buy me flowers as well. And these are my favourites. How did you know?"
Bernie shrugs nonchalantly. "You mentioned it once."
Serena shakes her head. "You'd better come in just while I put these in some water."
"Okay. Better not be too long though in case we have trouble parking."
"Two minutes," Serena promises, already making her way to the kitchen.
Bernie closes the front door behind her to preserve the heat. "No Jason?" she asks, surprised by the lack of television noise from the sitting room.
"It's good that the two of them have remained friends," Bernie observes. "I don't think our Jason has too many friends, does he?"
Serena gives her a look which Bernie cannot interpret, before answering, her hands already busy as she deftly sorts out the flowers into two vases. "No, he doesn't, unfortunately. The other porters seem only to tolerate him, and he made only a couple of friends at the college when he was there."
"It's a shame," Bernie says, "he's a lovely, bright young man with a good heart."
She follows Serena back down the hallway and outside, stepping past her friend as she turns to lock her front door.
Serena's eyebrow lifts when she sees that Bernie's holding her passenger door open for her. "Very gallant, Major. Why hasn't some lucky woman snapped you up, yet?"
Bernie snorts as she closes Serena's door, then circles the front of the car and folds herself into the driver's seat. "Who'd want a crock like me?" she asks, starting the car, then reaching her arm along the top of Serena's seat as she turns to look out of the back window before reversing rapidly down the drive.
"A crock?" repeats her friend, sounding offended. "You're not a crock."
Bernie chuckles as she withdraws her arm and swings the car onto the main road. "You're biased, love," she says. "I've got a dodgy back and poor sleeping habits. I can barely cook and I’m untidy. Oh, and I smoke."
Serena tuts. "The first two are a result of getting blown up in the line of duty after twenty five years service so are not your fault; you can learn to cook and to be tidier; and if someone really objects to you smoking, well there's always nicotine patches or vaping. And on the plus side, you're a loyal, generous, and kind-hearted person; a fantastic, fearless surgeon; a handsome woman; and an excellent friend."
Bernie chuckles. "Biased," she mumbles. "Totally biased."
"Oh you," Serena says in a fond tone, and Bernie can't help smiling at how much happier her best friend sounds now.
"So, not to bring your mood back down, but what are you going to do about Plod the Policeman?"
"Nothing," Serena says.
"Nothing?" Bernie repeats, irritated. "Serena Wendy Campbell, you cannot and should not allow that useless excuse for a boyfriend to continue to take advantage of you. He's not worthy of your time and you deserve someone who will treat you like a queen."
"Are you done?" Serena asks and her friend flushes with embarrassment.
"Yes," Bernie whispers.
"Good. I'm not going to do something about Robbie Medcalf because I already did something after you rang me."
"You – you did?"
"Yes. I broke it off with him."
“Oh. How do you feel about that?” Bernie asks cautiously, chancing a glance over at her friend.
“Light as in light-headed?”
Serena chuckles, swatting at her arm.
“Oi, no violence while I’m driving!” Bernie says teasingly.
“Oh, but I get to be violent with you when you’re not driving?” Serena teases back.
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Hmm.” Serena’s hum sounds light-hearted enough, at least, Bernie thinks. “To answer your question, I feel lighter for having got shot of Robbie the Bobby or Plod the Policeman if you prefer.”
“Glad to hear it,” Bernie says, pulling into a parking space not too far from the restaurant. “He didn’t deserve you.”
“Oh, well, he was fairly attentive at first and the sex wasn’t too bad.”
Bernie splutters a bit as she’s reaching to undo her seat belt. “‘The sex wasn’t too bad’?” she repeats, scandalised. “That’s a terrible reason to continue dating someone, especially given that he was no longer ‘fairly attentive’ – and that, by the way, is also damning. I am so glad I gave up men.”
Serena’s belly laugh echoes around the small car’s interior, making Bernie flush. “Are you saying I should join Team Sapphic?” she asks, “Even though you’re not getting any at all, not even sex that’s not ‘too bad’?”
Bernie snorts and finally gets the seat belt free, then opens her car door. “If you did, you’d be off the market before you were barely on it. Any woman would count herself lucky to have you as her partner.”
“Flatterer,” Serena says, getting her seat belt undone in one smooth move, then climbing from the car.
“It’s not flattery if it’s true,” Bernie tells her, and hurries around the front of the car to step up onto the pavement beside her friend, offering her arm.
“Flattery and gallantry, Major,” Serena teases. “Why are you still single?”
“We went over that earlier. Did you forget?”
“Cheeky,” Serena says, swatting at Bernie’s arm before sliding her own through the elbow crooked towards her. “I didn’t forget. I just think women of the Sapphic persuasion around here must be blind not to see what a catch you are.”
Bernie snorts, shakes her head, then tugs Serena in closer as a large group of chattering twenty somethings pass them on the pavement, careless of other pedestrians.
Once they reach the restaurant Serena gives her name to the waitress at the door, then allows Bernie to ease her out of her red wool coat. Her attention is still on the young woman checking the list of bookings for her name, which means Bernie has time to gape, open mouthed and flushed, as she takes in the little black dress that Serena’s wearing. The dress leaves her shoulders bare and clings to her friend’s curves in all the right places, showing them off beautifully, too. Serena’s also wearing kitten heels and sheer black stockings, along with a flame red wrap in a light, float-y fabric that’s resting just below her shoulders, showing the latter off.
Bernie gulps silently as something she’s been hiding from herself for so many months suddenly hits her over the head with the force of twenty hammers: she is incredibly attracted to her co-lead and best friend – which is a bit of an issue given that said friend is a dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual. Then Serena turns to Bernie and she feels a flush of heat flooding her body as she sees the way the dress dips into her friend’s cleavage, making her look positively voluptuous.
“Are you alright?” Serena asks, a little frown line marring her forehead. “You look awfully flushed.”
“Hot flush,” Bernie lies, not daring to admit that she is totally smitten with her co-lead.
“Do you want to nip to the ladies before we’re seated?”
“You go ahead,” Bernie says with a half smile. “I’ll be there in a moment.”
“Are you sure?” Serena lays a hand on Bernie’s forearm in concern, then frowns. “It might help if you take your coat off,” she points out.
Bernie gives a weak laugh. “Good point.”
Serena tuts and shakes her head. “Too gentlemanly by half, you are,” she says, with a look at her own coat, which is draped over Bernie’s right arm.
Bernie shrugs, then reaches up to draw her scarf out from around her neck.
“Shall I show you to your table?” the waitress asks.
“I’ll wait for my friend,” Serena says as Bernie pulls her scarf free, then shrugs out of her long black coat.
The waitress gives them both a smile. “Let me take those from you,” she says, and accepts their coats and Bernie’s scarf. “If you want to freshen up, the ladies is over there.” She points to a discreet door to their right and Bernie nods her thanks, then crosses to it.
Once inside she heaves a great big sigh. “Oh, you’ve done it now, Wolfe, you idiot,” she mutters, crossing to the long row of posh marble sinks and running the cold tap. She scoops some up and swallows it, then scoops some more and uses it to rub at her over-heated cheeks. It cannot cool the fiery heat at her core, but she’s used to ignoring the discomforts of her body while she’s working so she’ll just focus on being a kind friend to Serena and ignore the heat and lust that’s flooding her body at the sight of said friend. She pats at her damp cheeks with a tissue from the pack in her pocket, bins it, then hurries back out to join her friend.
Serena has been seated in the interim and as the waitress leads Bernie over to their table she can’t help noticing that it’s in a secluded corner, a romantic spot which makes sense when the table was for Serena’s date with Plod the Policeman, but which now makes Bernie somewhat uncomfortable. She grits her teeth and inhales through her nose a couple of times, then makes sure she’s smiling properly once she’s within a few feet of the table.
“Sorry love,” Bernie whispers once she’s been seated and has a menu in her hands.
“It’s fine,” Serena says, and Bernie can’t help frowning a little at her friend’s tone. There’s something a little off about it.
“Everything okay?” she asks worriedly.
Serena clears her throat. “I – uh – yes. I meant to say, you look very handsome tonight.”
Bernie glances down at herself, taking in the RAMC-blue embroidered waistcoat that she’s paired with her tailored trousers and a formal dress shirt, then back up at the brunette. “Thank you. You, of course, look as elegant and gorgeous as you always do.”
Serena blushes, which is surprising, but Bernie doesn’t pursue it as the waitress returns with a carafe of water and two glasses, and she nods her gratitude with a smile, which earns her a bright smile, accompanied by a dimple.
“Are you ready to order or shall I come back in a few minutes?” she asks them.
“Can you give us a few minutes, since my friend’s only just looked at the menu?”
“Of course.” The young woman smiles at them both, then turns away and Bernie’s startled when Serena tuts.
“Less than five minutes in and you’ve got an admirer.”
“An admirer?” Bernie looks at Serena, then glances around at the rest of the diners. “Who?”
Serena rolls her eyes, then shakes her head slightly. “The waitress,” she says in a low voice. “Couldn’t take her eyes off you.”
Bernie raises her eyebrows, then shakes her head. “She’s just being attentive.”
“Of course,” Serena says, in a rather disbelieving tone.
Bernie bites her bottom lip, frowns, then turns her attention to her menu. She has no intention of arguing with Serena tonight. This might not be a date – is definitely not a date, actually, given the sudden realisation of the nature and depth of her feelings for her co-lead, but she still wants it to be an enjoyable evening for her friend, given that Robbie the Bobby stood Serena up no less than three times – and for his own anniversary dinner, at that. Men! she thinks scathingly.
“Are you ready to order?” Serena asks, “because your new admirer is on her way over.”
“Please don’t tease me about this, Serena,” Bernie asks quietly. “I just want to enjoy a nice meal with my best friend.”
Serena reaches over and clasps her hand briefly, gives her a smile, mouths ‘Sorry’, then withdraws her hand just before the waitress arrives.
“Are you ready to order?”
Serena nods and starts with the wine, which is no surprise to Bernie, then gives her food order. Bernie requests a steak, medium rare, with a side salad, deferring to Serena in the matter of the wine. Even she knows you don’t usually drink white wine – her personal preference – with red meat.
The waitress disappears again, and Bernie breathes a silent sigh of relief. She pours herself some water and peeks at Serena through her fringe. The other woman is watching her very intently.
“Alright?” she asks quietly, wondering if this was a mistake after all.
Serena startles, as if unaware that she’s effectively been staring. “Yes, of course. I just can’t quite get over you in a waistcoat and trousers that are not jeans.” She laughs softly and Bernie snorts.
“I do own other clothes, thank you very much,” she says in mock outrage.
“So I can see. I like that shade of blue.”
“Thanks. It’s the RAMC blue – well, the same colour as the RAMC dress uniform I had to wear on formal occasions.”
Serena’s face lights up. “You had a dress uniform?”
“Yes. Emphasis on dress.”
“Can I see it?”
Bernie shrugs. “If you really want to,” she says. “I’d have to dig it out of storage first though.” At her friend’s questioning look, she elaborates. “My flat’s too small to hold all of my stuff, little of it though there is, so the stuff I was sure I wouldn’t need very often is in a storage locker. That stuff includes my dress uniform and my fatigues.”
“Do you have any pictures?”
Bernie manages to swallow her mouthful of water rather than choking on it. “Why?”
Serena’s hand lifts to fiddle with the pendant at her throat, sliding it back and forth along its chain – a nervous gesture that Bernie’s not even sure her friend’s conscious of making. She can’t help wondering why Serena would be feeling nervous about her request.
“I just wondered if you look as handsome in your uniform as you do in tonight’s outfit.”
Bernie laughs weakly. “I look uncomfortable in my dress uniform,” she says. “I always hated having to wear it. I’ve never really enjoyed wearing a dress.”
“I suppose that makes sense, given how athletic you are,” Serena muses as she continues to toy with her pendant. Bernie wishes she was sitting close enough to reach over and clasp her friend’s hand and draw it down into her lap. She wonders whether to ask the brunette what’s making her nervous, but she thinks it’s possible that Serena’s nervous, as a heterosexual, about people seeing her as Bernie’s romantic partner given that they’re having dinner in a fairly intimate setting. She heaves a huge sigh internally and wishes that instead of insisting they keep this booking, they’d ordered take away and watched something on Netflix.
“Would you have preferred to stay home tonight?” she asks softly.
Serena’s eyes widen and her answer is instant. “No. Why, do you regret coming?”
Bernie shakes her head. “Not at all. I just thought you might.”
“Why?” Serena looks confused now and Bernie wishes she hadn’t asked.
“You – well, you’re fiddling with your pendant,” she says. “And I’ve noticed you tend to do that either when you’re nervous or when you’re lying. Since we weren’t talking about anything that would warrant you lying, I thought you might be nervous.”
“What have I got to be nervous about?”
Bernie bites her lip. “This. Us.” When Serena still looks confused, she elaborates. “We’re having dinner in a fairly romantic setting and you’re with me. I thought it might be making you feel uncomfortable, that you might be worrying people think we’re a couple.”
Serena chuckles, which is a surprising reaction, but better than some reactions she was envisioning so Bernie waits to see what Serena has to say for herself.
“I don’t care what people here think about us having dinner together. What you and I think is the only thing that matters.” Serena pauses, swallows visibly, then continues, “What I think is that you are an incredibly kind and generous friend to give up your evening to have dinner with me, dressed up smartly, too, when you could’ve just commiserated with me over the phone and stayed home in your pyjamas, eating take away and lounging on your couch – assuming you have such a thing in your very small flat?” Bernie nods, not daring to speak for the moment. “No one’s ever done anything like this for me before and I hardly know how to thank you.”
Bernie waits a few moments, then reaches across the table and clasps Serena’s free hand. “You don’t have to thank me, love. I didn’t do it to be thanked, I did it because you deserve nice things and I knew you’d been looking forward to having dinner here tonight. What else would I do when my best friend’s been let down by her boyfriend? I could hardly let you down, too.”
Serena lets go of her pendant to press a finger under her eyes, one after the other. “Don’t make me cry,” she says softly. Bernie squeezes her hand, then starts to withdraw it, but Serena catches hold of it before she can draw it all the way across the table. “It wouldn’t have been the case of you letting me down if you hadn’t come out with me tonight. I could’ve come on my own.”
“And would you?” Bernie asks softly.
Serena laughs weakly. “No, probably not. You could’ve suggested we stay home, eat ice cream and binge watch something on Netflix.”
“It never even occurred to me to suggest it,” Bernie admits. She shrugs. “Again, I knew how very much you wanted to try this place out. That’s why I brought you.”
Serena smiles a bit more strongly, gives Bernie’s hand a final squeeze, then lets go of it just as their waitress appears with their first courses, and the sommelier arrives in her wake, carrying Serena’s choice of drink.
“Thank you,” Serena says, graciously as the sommelier pours their wine and the waitress sets their plates in front of them.
“Buon appetito,” says the sommelier, leaving the bottle of Shiraz behind.
The waitress sticks to English and disappears after murmuring, “Enjoy your meal.”
“I hope you do enjoy it,” Bernie says, looking over at Serena’s lasagne.
“And you,” Serena says, with her proper smile.
They eat in silence for the first few mouthfuls, both simply savouring their food, then Serena asks, “Do you have any plans for tomorrow?”
They both have the day off – a rarity as Serena prefers that one or other of them be on AAU if they’re not both on together.
Bernie shakes her head. “I should probably go food shopping at some point.”
“I thought you couldn’t cook?” teases Serena.
She rolls her eyes at her friend. “For bread, breakfast cereal, coffee, Charlie’s favourite tea in case she comes over, biscuits, ice cream, fresh fruit. That sort of thing.” She smirks. “And M&S ready meals.”
That earns her an appreciative chuckle. “Did your mother never teach you to cook?”
Bernie swallows. “She died – of breast cancer that metastasized to, well, pretty much everywhere – when I was ten.”
“Oh Bernie.” Serena sets down her fork to reach across the table for Bernie’s hand and she lets her friend take it and squeeze it repeatedly. “I am so sorry.”
She gives a half shrug, swallows, then says, “Long time ago, now.”
“Your father never remarried?” Serena asks gently.
Bernie shakes her head. “No. He brought up my two older brothers and I with the help of the staff. Unfortunately, the housekeeper wasn’t the motherly sort and I was a bit terrified of the cook, so no real female role models in my life.” She snorts. “Which probably explains a good deal about me.” She frowns. “Let’s not talk about that, now. I wanted this to be a fun evening out for you. Not a – what is it Charlie calls it? Oh – sad fest.”
“I don’t mind,” Serena says with a reassuring smile.
“Even so, do you mind if we talk about something else?”
“Of course not.” Serena gives her hand a final squeeze, then lets go to resume eating. “How’s your steak?”
“Delicious.” Bernie cuts off a piece and holds out her fork across the table. Serena’s eyes go wide, then she smirks and takes the piece with a delicate manoeuvre of her lips that makes Bernie tingle.
“Mm, you’re right. That’s definitely delicious,” she says once she’s chewed and swallowed.
Bernie gives her a half smile, then reaches for her glass of wine. “How’s your lasagne?” she asks after a good swallow of Shiraz.
“Divine.” Serena scoops up a forkful of lasagne and reaches across the table with it. Bernie stretches out her hand underneath Serena’s in case of mishaps and allows her friend to slide the forkful into her mouth. She doubts her manoeuvre is as delicate as Serena’s and closes her eyes a moment to concentrate on the food in her mouth, rather than her friend’s beautiful face.
“It is very good,” Bernie agrees as she opens her eyes, then swallows again when she sees the way Serena’s looking at her. It must be a trick of the low light, she decides, because her dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual friend can’t possibly be looking at her with adoration. She reaches for her wine glass again and drains it, then nods when Serena offers to refill it. She’ll have to go easier on the second glass, or she won’t be fit to drive her friend home.
They talk about Serena’s plans for her day off – which largely seem to revolve around mowing her lawn and weeding her ‘sadly neglected’ flower beds. That segues into a discussion of gardens and Bernie finds it easier to talk of the garden at the Wolfe family home than she did to talk of her lack of cooking skills.
They agree to have dessert, opting for tiramisu – which Bernie almost instantly regrets on seeing the way Serena sensually savours her dessert. They forego coffee, Serena offering Bernie a cup at home, which she knows she ought to refuse but doesn’t have the fortitude to turn down. They almost have a fight over who’s going to pay the bill. Bernie says she should because she was the one who insisted on Serena keeping the booking, but Serena vehemently disagrees, and in the end Bernie gives in and they split the bill between them.
They wrap themselves up in their coats again and Bernie offers Serena her arm as they make their way back to her car as her friend is definitely stumbling a bit in her heels.
“C’mon Princess, let’s get you home,” Bernie says, teasing her a little.
“Princesses are blonde,” Serena says once Bernie’s got her settled into her seat, with the seat belt secured.
“Pretty sure most of the current crop are not,” she replies, easing her car out into the thankfully sparse traffic.
“No, no, in books,” Serena says. “They’re always blonde, never brunettes.”
“Okay. Doesn’t mean I can’t call you Princess though, does it? Unless you dislike it?”
Serena giggles and Bernie raises her eyebrows, glancing sideways at her friend. “Are you going to call me Princess at work?”
“Well, it’d make a change from Fräulein, wouldn’t it?” she teases.
That earns her a giggle-snort and Bernie half wishes she’d never found out how bloody adorable Serena is when she’s tipsy.
Bernie’s so focused on driving carefully and safely that it’s not until delicate snores start emitting from the passenger seat that she realises that Serena’s fallen asleep. She shakes her head, smiling, and resolves to tease her tomorrow for being a lightweight.
She pulls into Serena’s drive, behind her car, and cuts the engine without her friend stirring an inch and she chuckles softly, unfastens both their seat belts, then climbs out of her car and circles around to help Serena.
“C’mon Princess Sleepyhead,” she says, shaking her gently. “We’re home.”
“Nm-mm,” protests the brunette. “Five more minutes.” The words are so slurred as to be barely coherent and Bernie tuts, then works to manoeuvre her friend out of her seat, hoping that she’ll wake up once the cold fresh air hits her in the face. Instead, however, Serena buries her head in the crook of her neck and wraps her arms around Bernie. She gives her co-lead a poke in the ribs but gets absolutely no reaction from her.
“Oh Fräulein, what am I going to do with you?” she asks softly. She edges Serena away from the car, shuts the door and locks it, then with a grunt, she scoops Serena up into her arms and carries her up the drive to the front door. Her back regrets the move before she’s halfway there, but continues anyway, setting Serena back down on her feet by the door. “C’mon Serena, wake up.”
Bernie shakes her a bit more firmly and gets a groan, then a mutter of “I’m awake, I’m awake.”
“I hope so,” Bernie says, “otherwise I’m going to start digging through your handbag for your keys.”
One eye opens and she finds herself on the receiving end of a baleful glare. “You’re a harsh taskmaster, Major,” she mutters.
“And you’re a real lightweight tonight,” Bernie teases. “You only had two thirds of a bottle.”
“Shh,” Serena whispers loudly. “Don’t tell anyone.”
Bernie shakes her head smiling fondly at her friend. “C’mon love, open the door. It’s perishing out here.”
Serena fumbles her keys out of her bag, then drops them; fortunately, Bernie’s got fast reflexes and she catches them before they can hit the doorstep.
“You’ve got such clever hands,” Serena says, leaning heavily against her as she unlocks the front door.
“Thank you,” Bernie says, then guides Serena over the threshold. “Come on, Princess, time for some coffee.”
She turns to shut the door behind her and is surprised when she turns back around to see her friend heading up the stairs. She’s just contemplating leaving Serena to it when she trips on the stairs, and Bernie’s up them in a flash, catching Serena before she can tumble all the way back down the stairs.
“What are you like?” she asks her friend rhetorically. “Well, not sober, I guess. C’mon love, up we go.” She wraps her arm around Serena’s shoulders and guides her up the rest of the stairs. They pause at the top, and Serena slips off her kitten heels, to Bernie’s relief, leaving them in a huddle at the top of the stairs, where someone could easily trip over them in the morning. Shaking her head, she scoops them up, then wraps her arm around Serena’s shoulders again. “Where are we going?”
Bernie’s relieved to discover that her friend retains enough of her wits to be able to lead them into her bedroom and she sets the shoes down just inside the door, then eases Serena out of her woollen coat. This probably ought to be downstairs, she thinks, but she puts it on the bare hanger that’s hanging on the back of the bedroom door.
When she turns back around, Serena’s lying on her side on the bed, her eyes firmly closed. Bernie can’t help rolling her eyes a little bit.
“C’mon love, you’ll regret it if you sleep in your clothes. Trust me, I know.” She eases her friend up into a seated position and draws the wrap from around her neck. “Can you manage to get undressed by yourself?” she asks.
“I suppose that’s a no, then.” Bernie sighs. She shakes her head, then asks, “Where’s the zipper on this dress?” Because as much as she’d enjoy undressing Serena Campbell when she’s sober and has given consent, she’s not going to start pawing at her while Serena’s definitely not sober. Then she bites her lip when she realises that she’s probably going to have to undress Serena, or at least help her to get undressed.
“Here,” Serena says, reaching under her left arm. She tugs, then mumbles something indecipherable, and Bernie guides her arm up above her head, finds the runner on the zip and uses it to slide it down. The fabric of the dress folds down from the top, exposing the bold red lace and silk bra that Serena’s wearing, and Bernie gulps as she recalls her earlier conversation with her friend about Robbie the Bobby getting lucky tonight. She swallows hard, then guides Serena to her feet, holding her left arm in her right hand, while gathering the dress in her left hand and easing it the rest of the way down. Serena seems to step out of the dress on autopilot, and Bernie turns away from her to put it on the hanger that’s hooked to the top of the wardrobe door.
When she turns back around she’s simultaneously shocked and aroused by the sight of Serena, now bra-less, trying to take off her stockings, and she immediately drops her eyes. She’s just about to ask if she can manage to finish undressing herself when Serena growls and her eyes involuntarily snap up to see her friend is wrestling with getting undone the clips holding her stockings to her garter belt. She can’t help moving to assist Serena, but she does, at least, have enough self preservation to keep her gaze lowered and to suggest that her friend put on her pyjama top, so she doesn’t catch cold.
She’s so focused on getting the stubborn clips undone that it takes a little while for Bernie to realise that she’s kneeling at her friend’s feet, her face barely inches away from Serena’s knickers. She bites her lip, holding her breath and works as quickly as she can to undo the remaining clips.
“Where do I put my arms?” whines her friend, and as the last clip comes unfastened, she glances up and sees Serena struggling to put her pyjama jacket on. She fights the urge to laugh, and gets to her feet, taking the jacket from her friend and helping her to ease her arms into the sleeves, while keeping her eyes up so that she cannot lose herself in staring at her friend’s bare breasts.
She buttons the pyjama jacket for Serena, then makes her sit down and rolls her stockings off, before guiding her feet and legs into her pyjama trousers.
“Okay, love, we’re nearly done. Let’s just get your make up off and get your teeth cleaned, and then you can sleep.”
Bernie’s surprised when Serena wraps her arms around her shoulders, and absolutely shocked when the brunette plants a kiss on her lips. “You’re my best friend,” she whispers. “Always got my back.”
“You’re my best friend, too,” Bernie says, her voice gone husky with the intensity of her emotions. “And I will always have your back.” She presses her forehead against Serena’s, then asks, “Where’s the bathroom?”
That earns her a chuckle, then she staggers as Serena tries to move them both in the direction of a door that Bernie hadn’t previously noticed which leads into an ensuite bathroom.
Between the two of them, they get Serena’s make up off and her teeth cleaned, then Bernie makes her drink a glass of water, before guiding her back to the bed.
“C’mon then, love, time to sleep,” she says softly, helping her friend into the bed and pulling the duvet up to her shoulders.
“Stay,” Serena says.
“I–” Bernie stumbles to a halt. She really wants to stay, but she’s concerned that Serena’s not sober enough to issue that invitation. Then a hand works its way out from under the duvet and captures Bernie’s wrist.
Bernie curses silently as she realises she cannot say no to her friend. “Okay.” She shucks her coat and scarf, adding them to the hanger on which she’d earlier put Serena’s coat. Then she slides off her boots, leaving them on the floor beside Serena’s kitten heels.
“I don’t think my pyjamas will fit you,” her friend says, watching her with a more focused gaze than Bernie would’ve expected a few minutes ago. “Bottom drawer.” She waves vaguely at the chest of drawers beside the wardrobe. “Jogging trousers and t-shirts that I rarely wear.”
“Thank you,” Bernie says. “Do you have a spare toothbrush?”
“Cabinet above the sink,” Serena says. “Ellie often forgets hers, so I keep spares.”
“Thank you.” Bernie finds a dark grey t-shirt and a navy pair of jogging trousers in the drawer and takes them into the ensuite with her. She might be used to undressing in front of her army colleagues, and even in front of her hospital colleagues these days, but right now she doesn’t dare to get undressed in front of Serena Campbell.
She changes quickly, then uses the toilet, washes her hands and face, and cleans her teeth. She also drinks a glass of water, though she shouldn’t have much of a headache in the morning as, compared to Serena’s intake, she drank hardly anything.
When she comes out of the bathroom she’s surprised to see that Serena’s turned off the ceiling light and instead switched on the lamp on the bedside table nearest her side of the bed. Bernie gives her friend a slightly nervous smile and gets a firm smile in response.
“Get in, soldier,” Serena says with a soft chuckle, so Bernie circles to the other side of the bed and climbs in, allowing her friend to pull her close so that Bernie is spooning her. “Goodnight, Berenice.” She turns off the lamp.
Bernie smiles and rolls her eyes at the use of her full name. “Goodnight, love. Sleep well.”
Within moments Serena’s out like a light and Bernie smiles, then closes her eyes and falls asleep soon after her friend.
Bernie wakes up slowly, barely conscious of the warmth and weight of a body lying in her arms. She’s smiling as a dream of sharing a bed with Serena recedes from her mind. Then she opens her eyes and finds it’s not a dream at all, and she freezes in place, too shocked to move.
“Morning, soldier,” Serena says, smirking with evident amusement at her friend.
“I – you – what?” Bernie splutters, unable to form a coherent sentence.
That earns her a chuckle. “Cat got your tongue?” Serena teases.
“You’re in bed. With me,” she manages.
“Technically, you’re in bed with me since it’s my bed.”
“But–” Suddenly Bernie remembers everything – Serena calling her, distraught, because Plod the Policeman had stood her up yet again; her insistence on taking Serena out for dinner anyway; Serena looking utterly gorgeous; glorious food and warming wine; and Bernie having to help her friend get undressed and into bed because she was tipsy and sleepy. “Oh.”
The smirk’s still firmly in place, but now it’s joined by a raised eyebrow. “All coming back to you now, is it?” Serena asks.
“I don’t know what you’re so chipper about,” Bernie says, a little irritated. “You’re the one who was tipsy and falling down.”
Serena smiles. “Do you know what I realised last night?”
Bernie frowns, thrown by the apparent non sequitur. “What did you realise last night?”
Serena shifts closer, wrapping her arms firmly around Bernie’s body, their legs tangling together. “That you love me.” She says it simply, as if it’s no big deal, but Bernie wants to bolt, wants to run from this bed, this room, this woman whom she does love – far too dearly.
“I – what – why do you say that?” she stutters, trying to rein in her fight-or-flight response, which is definitely emphasising the flight option right now.
“One: you kept calling me ‘love’,” Serena says. “Two: you took such immense care of me. Three: you actually took me out to dinner because my dull ex had stood me up for the third time in a row. Four: you look at me with such adoration, sometimes. Especially last night.” She presses her forehead against Bernie’s, her breath tickling against Bernie’s lips. “It’s okay,” she whispers. “I love you, too.”
Bernie can’t help pulling back at that, eyes anxiously searching her friend’s. “But you’re a dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual,” she says.
Serena chuckles. “Pretty sure I’m not. Fairly sure that if I was going to use a label, it’d be bisexual.” The smirk comes back. “Or maybe I’m just a Wolfesexual.”
Bernie can’t help snorting at that last. “Ridiculous woman.”
“Oh if the cap fits,” Serena says, and before Bernie can ask her to elaborate, warm lips meet her own and a hand cups the back of her neck, holding her steady as her best friend kisses her with obvious intent. Bernie can’t help herself, she kisses back, opening her mouth with a soft moan when Serena’s tongue slides along the seam of her lips.
The kiss deepens, tongues tangling together and soft moans and whimpers escaping, though whether it’s Bernie or Serena, or both of them, making those noises, Bernie cannot tell.
It’s not until they pull back, chests heaving as they try to get their breath back that Bernie realises her right hand is inside Serena’s pyjama pants, squeezing her ass, and her left hand is halfway up her back inside her pyjama jacket. Not that she has anything to be ashamed of, given that Serena’s right hand is cupping Bernie’s left breast underneath her t-shirt, and her thigh is pressed firmly against Bernie’s hot, wet core.
“Oh,” she whispers. “You – uh – like me.”
Serena chuckles. “What gave it away?” she teases.
Bernie bites her lip. “I more than like you,” she offers. That earns her a nose nuzzle, Serena’s warm breath tickling her mouth.
“I know, darling. And I ‘more than like you’ back.”
“Are you – um – are you sure I’m not just a rebound?” she asks and hates herself for asking.
“No, you’re not. I’ve fancied you for ages, but I kept making excuses for my feelings. But last night, when you came riding to my rescue, like my own personal knight in shining armour, I realised that I’d been kidding myself. I stopped fancying Plod the Policeman ages ago. I just couldn’t admit it.”
“What about you?” Serena asks.
“What about me?”
Her friend rolls her eyes. “When did you realise you were attracted to me?”
Bernie shrugs, biting at her lip. “I don’t know. I only know that I realised last night that I was in love with you.” She peeked at Serena through her fringe. “I think I was attracted to you the first day I saw you.”
“You asked me if my engine was growling or whining.”
Bernie smirks, then says, “I actually saw you before that. I’d gone outside for a cigarette and you were having an argument with your mechanic. You had your back to me, but – I don’t know, you sounded so feisty and I definitely fell in love with your voice then.”
Serena huffs. “‘Feisty’,” she repeats.
“Mmhmm.” Bernie can’t help smirking again. “I liked it,” she whispers against her friend’s lips. “I more than like you.”
Serena makes a growling noise in the back of her throat, then nips at Bernie’s lip, before kissing her, the pad of her thumb sliding across her nipple, making Bernie moan into the kiss.
After a few moments, though, she recovers her senses and with a quick movement, she throws Serena onto her back and begins kissing a path down her body, deftly unfastening her pyjama jacket as she goes. She licks around the other woman’s navel, eliciting a mewling sound, then she shifts backwards and drags Serena’s pyjama trousers down and off, dropping them carelessly onto the floor. She glances up at her friend, seeking permission to continue, and Serena growls, “Don’t stop”, which makes her smirk a third time before she picks up her lover’s left foot and presses a kiss to the ankle. She plants tender kisses all the way up her leg as far as the soft skin of her inner thigh, then she lowers Serena’s leg and picks up her right foot and repeats the kisses up to her inner thigh, then she softly blows air over Serena’s sex. That elicits a groan and a hand grabbing the back of her head, pushing her face closer, which makes her hum against her lover’s flesh. Serena shudders, physically and audibly, and Bernie can wait no longer, dragging her tongue up the length of Serena’s sex, before licking inside her.
She smiles against Serena’s thigh, then dives in, nudging the hard little bundle of nerves that's her clit with her nose as she uses her tongue with precision to drive her lover higher and higher, keeping her poised on the cliff edge of her climax, before biting gently but firmly down on her flesh. Serena’s hips have been bucking upwards repeatedly throughout, but now her back arches up off the bed, pressing her cunt against Bernie’s mouth as she comes with a string of broken words, none of which she can decipher.
Bernie licks her carefully, bringing her back down gently, then placing soft kisses on her inner thighs again. Eventually she lifts her head and asks quietly, “Okay?”
“Come here,” Serena croaks out, and Bernie moves back up the bed, planting soft kisses and little nips on the way until her mouth captures Serena in a searing kiss.
“Bloody hell, woman,” she says, breathing raggedly, her voluptuous chest heaving in a delightful manner. “No one’s ever gone down on me like that before.”
Bernie smirks. “Well, you’ve been fucking men. What do you expect?”
Serena half heartedly swats at her arse. “Cheeky.”
“Mmhmm. I think you like my cheek, given where your hands are.”
Serena chuckles, then says, “As soon as I get my breath back, I’m going to do everything in my power to drive you crazy and make you scream.”
Bernie smirks again. “If you like.”
“Oh don’t pretend to be coy with me, Major.”
“I wasn’t, love,” she says. “You don’t have to go down on me or do anything else just because you think you should. I don’t keep score.”
Serena reaches up with her free hand, brushing Bernie’s fringe out of her face. “You ridiculously noble woman,” she says, her tone fond. “It’s not about keeping score. I want to explore this with you if that’s okay with you.”
Bernie smiles. “I’d be delighted,” she says, and lets Serena roll her onto her back. She feels her breathing hitch a little as her lover straddles her thigh and she feels how warm and wet Serena is after her ministrations.
“Can I start with my fingers?” she asks.
“I honestly don’t mind, love,” Bernie tells her. “You can use your mouth, or your fingers, or both. Or a toy.” That makes Serena grin widely at her. “Or I can get myself off and you can watch.”
“Mmm. I’d definitely like to watch you sometime. And use a toy on you if that’s okay?”
“It is,” Bernie agrees.
“And maybe you could do that for me?” Serena ducks her head after asking this, and Bernie slides her index finger under her lover’s chin and lifts it.
“Love, I’d very much enjoy fucking you with a toy if that’s what you’d enjoy.”
Bernie draws Serena’s head down and kisses her, enjoying the way she moans into her mouth. Then she moans when Serena slides a finger over her mound and teases her clit a little before easing her finger inside Bernie’s sex.
“You keep your bush neater than mine,” Serena observes as she shifts against Bernie’s thigh.
“Mmm, yes. Force of habit.” When her lover raises her eyebrow, she elaborates. “It’s more hygienic when you’re living somewhere hot and sandy without much water.” She kisses Serena, then nips at her lower lip. “But I like your wild, untamed bush.” She chuckles softly. “It’s very you.”
Their kisses turn hungrier as Serena works a second, and then a third, finger inside Bernie, driving her closer and closer to the edge. Then she presses her thumb against Bernie’s clit and her entire body gives a convulsive jerk as she gasps out her lover’s name, one hand holding Serena steady as she rides Bernie’s thigh, the other clutching at the bedding as she shudders through the aftershocks.
“You didn’t scream.”
Serena sounds disappointed and Bernie holds her body more firmly against her own.
“Force of habit, love,” she says softly. She clears her throat. “Alex and I had to be discreet.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.”
Serena’s face flushes and Bernie kisses her. “It is absolutely not a reflection on how good a job you did,” she says, trying to reassure her. “Marcus never made me scream, either. It may just be that I’m not a screamer.”
Serena’s embarrassment disappears in a flash. “Challenge accepted.”
Bernie laughs softly. “Okay. If you want to try to make me scream while I climax, I’m not going to withhold my screams if I feel such a need.”
“Good.” Serena opens her mouth to say something else but is derailed when Bernie’s stomach gurgles loudly.
They both laugh, then help each other out of bed and into the shower, where a certain amount of kissing and fondling takes place before they climb out and dry themselves off before heading downstairs.
“What time’s Jason due back?”
“I’m not entirely sure. There was a new documentary starting last night that he and Allan both wanted to watch, so Allan invited him over.” Serena swallows, looking chagrined. “Jason prefers not to be here when Robbie comes over.”
Bernie growls at the mention of the policeman’s name. “I’ve a good mind to find him and teach him better manners,” she says.
“Don’t,” Serena says sharply.
Bernie gives her a surprised look, then pulls her in for a quick kiss and cuddle. “I won’t. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Serena gives her a squeeze. “Let’s go and get some breakfast.”
They’re just finishing up their breakfast when Jason lets himself into the house, then comes into the kitchen.
“Hello Aunty Serena. Hello Doctor Bernie.”
“Good morning Jason.”
“Hello Jason.” Bernie smiles at him around a mouthful of toast. “Did you enjoy the documentary last night?”
“Yes, thank you. Is that your car in the drive?”
“It is,” Bernie tells him. “I took Serena out for dinner last night.”
He frowns. “I thought you were having dinner with Robbie?” he asks his aunt.
“I was. He couldn’t make it. Something came up.”
Jason’s frown deepens and he looks from Serena to Bernie, his expression both thoughtful and scrutinising. “Good.” When he sees their puzzlement, he elaborates. “Doctor Bernie is a much nicer date. She is always very friendly with me and she cares about you a lot, Aunty Serena.”
Bernie feels her face heating up and ducks her head, reaching for a second slice of toast. “Thank you, Jason,” she murmurs.
“Will you two be dating each other now?”
Serena splutters a bit, which amuses Bernie. Her lover really should be used to her nephew’s directness by now.
“We will,” Serena says eventually. “Do you mind?”
He looks confused. “I just told you that Doctor Bernie’s a nicer date.”
“Do you mind that I’m dating a woman?” Serena asks.
“No,” he says simply. “I’m going up to my room now.”
“Alright. We’ll see you later.”
“Yes.” He disappears and Bernie looks at Serena, who’s looking both bemused and relieved.
“I think that means we’ve got the official Jason Haynes seal of approval,” Bernie teases.
“Hush, you,” Serena says, but she smiles. “I’m glad he doesn’t mind.”
“Me too,” Bernie says. “We should get dressed.”
“What are you going to wear?”
“Don’t worry about that,” she says. “I carry an emergency kitbag in the car. Never know when some patient’s going to bleed or vomit on you, or when you might end up spending the night at the hospital unexpectedly.
“I’d better get dressed, then I can bring it in for you.”
“You mean you don’t want me nipping out to my car dressed in Elinor’s too-short bathrobe?”
Serena swats at her shoulder. “No, I do not, thank you very much Major Wolfe.”
Bernie smirks, clearing the kitchen table of their breakfast things, then washing them up while Serena goes upstairs to get dressed.
Everything has turned out far better than she could have anticipated.