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Seven-Day Challenge

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Serena slams into their shared office and glares, and Bernie knows something is up.

‘What’s the matter?’ she ventures.

‘What’s the matter is that nobody in this hospital can mind their own business for five minutes! I mean, is it absurd of me to hope that our sex life might go uncommented-on for a day, just a single day?’

‘Oh God,’ says Bernie. ‘What now?’

It’s mixed up in a lot of swearing and asides about how in their day junior doctors respected their elders, but Bernie eventually gathers that Serena happened to overhear some of the AAU team as she went past the break room.

‘There’s some new… internet thing,’ she says. ‘Apparently. A challenge. You’re supposed to try not to have sex for seven days. One of the nurses had just done it, they were talking about it. Then Fletch said something about how there was no way we could ever do it because we’d never be able to hold out that long, because we’re all over each other, which is nonsense because we’re always very careful at work, so how would he know?’

Suddenly Bernie’s starting to feel a bit put out too. ‘He did, did he?’

‘I walked in after that, and they soon shut up, but really, is a bit of privacy too much to expect?’

‘Fletch thinks we couldn’t do it?’ Bernie asks.

‘Yes, but…’

‘What does he think we are, a couple of horny teenagers? We’re consultants . We’re professionals . We’re fully grown adults with impulse control!’

Serena tilts her head, and Bernie can tell she's going to say something about how they haven’t gone more than three days without sex since they got together, and mostly a lot less. ‘Bernie…’

‘No, Serena. This is personal now.’

‘And it wasn’t before?’

‘People gossip, that’s what they do. But this... ‘

‘Well, it’s not as though we can do anything about it.’

‘Of course we can. We’ll do the challenge.’

‘And then what, send round an email?’

‘We don’t have to tell anybody else… I just want to prove that we can do it.’

Serena’s looking at her with pity now. ‘Let me get this straight - you want us to abstain from sex for an entire week because you feel like we have something to prove, even though we’re not actually going to do anything with that proof once we have it?’

‘It’s a matter of principle now,’ Bernie says darkly, and Serena sighs.

* * *

Bernie does some googling, and it turns out that there’s more to the challenge than she realised, but it’s too late to back down now and she’s burning with righteous competitiveness, so she just pastes it all into an email and sends it to Serena to look at.

From: b.wolfe@holbygeneral.nhs.uk

To: s.campbell@holbygeneral.nhs.uk

Subject:

I found out what exactly this challenge involves:

Day 1 - no physical contact whatsoever

Day 2 - hands and faces can touch hands and faces, but no kissing

Day 3 - kissing only, no other kinds of touching

Day 4 - kissing, hands and faces can touch hands and faces

Day 5 - kisses, hands and faces, any touching other than genital contact, but only through clothes

Day 6 - anything but genital contact

Day 7 - anything goes

Does today count as Day 1?

Serena’s reply pings back within minutes.

Yes, you were already working when I got here and we haven’t had a chance to kiss hello yet. Let’s not add an extra day to this already ludicrous regime. Who sat down and came up with this? Are we allowed to masturbate?

Bernie does a bit more googling. Opinions are divided but she tells Serena yes because she fears for her patients and staff if she tells her no.

The rest of the day passes more or less normally - it’s not as if they touch each other all that much at work anyway, Serena’s very strict about that sort of thing - but the knowledge that they can’t is already starting to get to Bernie. In their office, her fingers itch to cross the table and meet Serena’s. When they gather their thoughts at the Nurses’ Station, she wants to stand close enough that their arms brush together. She starts thinking of all the ways they could be touching right now if Serena hadn’t happened to walk past the break room when she did. Even during the working day, there’s scope for a pat on the shoulder, a gentle elbow in the ribs. They walk past a storage cupboard together on their way to Pulses and Bernie has a sudden, vivid mental image of dragging Serena in there and pinning her against the wall. Not that Serena would have let her get away with that even before they decided to do this.

She starts to think maybe this is ridiculous - she’s not going to be told what to do by a silly internet trend that was probably invented by a teenager - but as she and Serena leave for the night, walking close but not too close, Fletch waves and wishes them a lovely evening, and her heart hardens.

At Albie’s, their fingers almost brush together as their wine glasses touch, and Bernie jumps back. Serena’s looking especially lovely tonight, and usually by now Bernie would have an arm around her, but they sit like prim schoolmistresses and Bernie steadfastly ignores the plunging neckline of Serena’s top, the sparkle in her eyes.

They leave Albie’s after one drink and go back to Serena’s, where they watch TV with Jason and have an early night. Bernie watches Serena, half-undressed, as she takes off her make-up, and thinks about how normally she would stop and kiss her bare shoulder on the way past to brush her teeth. They get into bed, where normally Bernie would slide her foot against Serena’s while they read by the light of the bedside lamp.

Serena reaches the end of her chapter, Bernie reaches the end of her article.

‘Ready for lights out?’ Serena asks.

Normally, right now would be their last goodnight kiss.

‘Ready,’ says Bernie. ‘Love you.’

‘Love you too,’ says Serena, and she switches off the light.

Bernie lies there, ramrod straight like she’s being inspected. She can sense Serena on the other side of the bed, doing the same. She’s only inches away.

Who really cares, anyway? This whole thing is ridiculous. What does it matter if they can’t keep their hands off each other? Why should she feel like she has to prove anything? She argues with herself for a few minutes, and then finally she decides that this challenge is more trouble than it’s worth.

She turns on her side, to whisper this to Serena, but the long day has already knocked her out. She’s sleeping. In the half-light from the street lamp outside the window, her face is peaceful. One of her hands is tucked under her cheek.

Bernie sighs. She wouldn’t wake Serena for the world, and it’s not fair for her to decide to give up for both of them, no matter how much she wants to stroke Serena’s hair back from her face and kiss her temple, and snuggle close to her.

Sleep eludes her for a long time.

Chapter Text

Serena wakes a few minutes before the alarm is due. Something feels different, just slightly off, and after a moment she realises it’s that Bernie isn’t touching her. Usually by the time she wakes up one of Bernie’s limbs is splayed across her in some fashion, but this time - Serena shuffles to sitting and peeks - Bernie is curled up in a tiny ball, right over on her side of the bed.

Serena’s about to reach out a hand for a sleepy caress when she remembers the stupid challenge. Aren’t they allowed to touch today? They’re allowed to do something , she’s sure of it. She props herself up on a pillow and loads her emails to check the list.

Day 2 - hands and faces can touch hands and faces, but no kissing

After yesterday, that almost seems luxurious. Serena slides out of bed, goes to the bathroom, and when she gets back Bernie is just stirring.

‘Morning,’ she says.

Bernie makes her usual unintelligible mumble. Serena squeezes her hand, just because she can.

They get up, head out. There’s not time for a lot else before work, but they walk hand in hand to the car, and when they arrive they hold hands again all the way across the car park and into the building, then while they wait in the queue at Pulses, and then up to AAU. They lace their fingers together, holding tighter than usual. Serena rubs her thumb up and down Bernie’s, and Bernie squeezes her hand in return. When they reach the doors to AAU, they pause for a moment outside.

Some days, if it’s quiet enough in the corridor, this is where they exchange a quick kiss. Instead, Serena takes both of Bernie’s hands in hers, and they just smile at each other for a moment.

‘Right,’ says Serena. ‘Let’s see what’s in store today, shall we?’

She can hardly stand to let go of Bernie’s hands as they turn and walk in.

She’s always had this feeling, almost right from when Bernie joined her on AAU, that there’s an invisible thread that tethers them together. Something that makes her instinctively look up when Bernie is close, something that makes her ache when Bernie moves away.

Now that they haven’t so much as kissed for almost two days, the thread is shorter, pulled taut. Serena wants Bernie at her side every moment, with an intensity that she hasn’t felt since before they got together. Every time she sees her across the ward, she has to resist the urge to drop what she’s doing and join her. When she sees Bernie smile at a patient, she has to squash down a pang of irrational jealousy. When they both find themselves in the office that afternoon - Serena’s doing some paperwork when Bernie comes in looking for something she left in there - the urge to close the blinds and pull her close is almost overwhelming.

‘This is a nightmare,’ she says, matter-of-factly.

‘But we’re already a day and a half through,’ says Bernie. ‘Don’t you want to see if we can make it?’

Serena does get up then, glances through the window for a moment to check for observers before reaching out to stroke the line of Bernie’s jaw with a single finger. This much, at least, is allowed. She takes a step nearer, so that they’re as close as they can be without touching, and pushes Bernie’s hair back from her forehead, gets a proper look at her. Bernie’s eyes widen. Serena rubs the pad of her thumb against Bernie’s lips, and she feels the rush of air as Bernie breathes out.

Bernie’s hand grabs hers, tightens urgently. Serena’s knees go weak. After five and a half more days of this, she’s going to be climbing the walls.

But oh, won’t it feel good to touch and taste Bernie, when she’s had to hold back for so long? Serena thinks of the first time they had sex, how it turned her whole world upside down, how for days afterwards it felt like she was seeing everything with new eyes. All that waiting, all that pent-up wanting. Now she gets to touch Bernie any time she likes, and it’s wonderful, but God, there was something special about that first time, the revelation of Bernie’s body and hers together after dreaming it and needing it for what had seemed like a thousand years. She likes the idea of getting a taste of that feeling again, without the pain and uncertainty leading up to it.

‘Yes,’ she says. ‘I suppose I am a bit curious to see whether we can hold out.’

She pulls back, lets go of Bernie’s hand, smirks to herself as she watches Bernie attempt to find her composure.

Then the door flies open. The red phone’s ringing. They swing into action. Energy fizzes through Serena as they work together, anticipating each other, playing to each other’s strengths, back and forth like a dance that they’ve performed a thousand times. It’s a tough one - they’re all tough - but they’re on top form, and in theatre they save a young woman’s life together.

‘That was amazing work you did in there,’ says Serena, as they fetch their coats from the office afterwards. Her limbs are heavy now, and she’s feeling that giddiness that she always gets after a big, dicey surgery like this - like she could laugh or cry at any moment and she doesn’t know which it’s going to be until it happens. She’s trying to breathe through it.

‘You too,’ Bernie says, shrugging into her jacket.

She steps a little closer. Serena’s pulse jumps. Bernie leans forward, presses her forehead against Serena’s. They stand there quietly for a few moments, noses touching. Serena closes her eyes.

‘All right?’ Bernie asks.

‘Couldn’t be better,’ says Serena.

The giddiness is subsiding now.

Chapter Text

‘So,’ says Serena, as they’re waking up the next morning, lying in bed looking at each other, ‘we can kiss, but we can’t do anything else? Not even hold hands?’

‘That’s what it said,’ Bernie confirms.

‘Takes half the fun out of it,’ says Serena, pouting.

‘I think that’s supposed to be the idea,’ says Bernie.

Serena sighs, and wriggles closer so that their faces are almost touching. ‘It’s still going to be nice to kiss you after two days,’ she says.

Bernie leans in, moving slow to make the moment last, and her lips meet Serena’s. The first kiss is quick, the length of a heartbeat, and then they dive in again. Bernie’s still half asleep, can hardly keep her eyes open yet, but urgency is coursing through her. She needs to keep kissing Serena, needs it like she needs air. She pushes closer, kisses her harder, and gasps as Serena sucks at her lower lip, as Serena’s tongue pushes against her own.

It’s awkward like this, not being able to wrap her arms around Serena to keep her close, run fingers through her hair and turn her head where she wants it, but it doesn’t stop her. They kiss with a desperate heat that Bernie hasn’t felt since those first few times, and when she hears Serena whimper into her mouth, it triggers a powerful, visceral flash of that second time they kissed, the time in the office, when if Raf hadn’t interrupted them they might have torn each other’s clothes off right there and then, with no thought to the consequences. Heat floods through her.

This time it’s Jason who knocks on the door, and mercifully doesn’t enter. ‘You’re going to be late!’ he calls. ‘I’ve put the kettle on for you.’

Serena pulls back, panting. ‘Thank you Jason, we’ll be right down!’ she yells back.

She kisses Bernie again, a few quick, breathless ones, and Bernie can tell that she means each one to be the last but can’t quite stop herself. Finally though, she moves away, slides out of bed. Bernie watches her - she loves the way Serena wears proper matching pyjamas, and the way her hair sticks up first thing. She loves her face without make-up, the way hardly anybody gets to see it.

Serena gets in the shower, and Bernie brushes her teeth, and then they switch over. By the time they get downstairs, damp and blinking but more or less ready, Jason’s pouring their tea.

* * *

It’s a busy day on AAU, but not a terrible one. Most of the cases that come in are pretty straightforward. Generally at this point Bernie would be hoping for something to get her teeth into, but squashing down her increasingly distracting need for Serena is taking up all her extra attention, so for a change she’s glad to have mostly routine work to do, even as she throws herself into it in hopes of distraction.

She doesn’t hear about the accident in the car park until it’s almost over - heavy rain, poor visibility, a minor collision. The ED mops it up, Bernie only catches the news in passing, gossip at the Nurses’ Station.

Serena, who was out getting a sandwich, comes back to the ward soaked through, in her t-shirt. Her hair is plastered to her head, and she’s dripping a puddle in an even circle around her feet. Bernie’s heart contracts. She wants to put her arms around Serena and keep her warm, but even if it wasn’t for this stupid challenge, Serena wouldn’t thank her for it, not in the middle of the ward.

‘What happened to you?’ she asks instead, rushing over. ‘Where’s your shirt?’

‘A write-off,’ Serena sighs. ‘Sacrificed as a temporary bandage.’

‘You were outside when it happened?’ Bernie asks, catching on.

‘I was getting a bit of fresh air by the doors. I couldn’t just leave them to it, I wasn’t sure how long it would take anyone else to get there.’

‘Come on,’ says Bernie, leading her to the office and closing the blinds. ‘Out of those wet clothes. Have you got a backup outfit?’

Serena shakes her head. ‘Someone threw up on it the other day, I haven’t brought a new one in yet.’

‘I’ll get you some fresh scrubs, then,’ says Bernie. ‘Be right back.’

One of the nurses is already on his way in with a towel, and someone else has coordinated the mopping of the puddle. When Bernie gets back with the scrubs and a piping hot cup of coffee, Serena is towelling her hair. Bernie guards the door as Serena peels off her soaked t-shirt and trousers and starts to dry herself.

‘Are you enjoying the free show?’ Serena teases, and Bernie blinks, realises she’s been watching her hungrily, her eyes sliding over curves she’d like to stroke, hollows she’d like to nuzzle.

‘God! Sorry…’ she says, but Serena just laughs as she gets into her scrubs.

Bernie likes her like this - it’s not as if scrubs are particularly flattering on most people, but somehow on Serena they cling appealingly, so different from the usual drape of her shirts, and Bernie likes the little glimpse of collarbone through the triangular neckline.

‘Back to work, then,’ says Serena, when she’s presentable.

‘Just a minute,’ says Bernie. ‘While there’s an excuse to have the blinds down…’

They barely ever kiss at work, not since they made things official. This one’s slow and warm and tastes strongly of sugary coffee, and it stays with Bernie all afternoon.

Chapter Text

Today they’re allowed to kiss, as well as touch hands and faces, but they’ve barely had the chance. They started work at different times, and they’ve only seen each other once or twice across a crowded ward. Serena shared a private moment with the shower head this morning, hoping that it would take the edge off, but it only made things worse. She’s been in surgery most of the day, laser-focused on what she’s doing, and she’s only allowed herself the luxury of thinking about Bernie while scrubbing in.

This time, she’s spending the five minutes lost in a detailed fantasy, the two of them sunbathing on their own private yacht, miles from anyone or anything, nothing but the gentle shushing of water, distant sea birds, Bernie in the sort of bikini she probably wouldn’t wear in real life. In Serena’s imagination, Bernie dives like a fish into the sea - Serena’s not sure whether she can actually swim, she’s never thought to ask, but why let that get in the way? - and then emerges from the water glistening, her eyes sparkling as she climbs the ladder back into the boat. Serena stretches, feels the heat of the sun on her skin, rises to meet Bernie, pulls her close, kisses down her neck and between her breasts, lays her down on the warm deck, drinks in the look of anticipation in her eyes…

‘Excuse me, Ms Campbell… we’re ready if you are,’ says the scrub nurse.

That brings Serena right back down to earth, her cheeks hot, and she closes the door firmly on that thought, promising herself that she’ll return to it later.

That evening they find themselves convinced into a drink at Albie’s, and as they sit with their fingers twined together, laughing and talking with their colleagues, Serena’s mind keeps flashing back to that imaginary yacht, the thought of helping Bernie out of her bikini, kissing her stomach - would her skin taste of salt water? - licking a slow, teasing line across her hip bone, feeling Bernie’s hand tighten on her arm, her sigh of arousal…

But she can’t let herself get caught up, she’s supposed to be socialising, and she knows she’s starting to get that dreamy look in her eyes - Bernie squeezes her hand, winks, and Serena knows that she knows. She has to pull herself together, they’re in public, for God’s sake.

For a second she thinks about dragging Bernie away to the loos and fucking her against the cubicle wall, but they’re doing so well with the challenge, and they’re halfway through now. And she’s not too old for much, but she is too old for sex in pub toilets, even if they are reasonably clean. So she does her best to shake it off, tries to nod and smile in the right places, and she and Bernie escape the moment they politely can.

‘Are you holding it together all right?’ Bernie asks, as she drives them back to her place.

‘Absolutely fine,’ says Serena. ‘I don’t know why you’d think otherwise.’

‘Really?’ says Bernie. ‘I’m about ready to scream. Every time we touch I think I’m going to lose it. Are we really going to do this for another three days?’

‘It was your idea!’ Serena protests. ‘You were the one who wanted to prove we could do it!’

‘What if we can’t?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, of course we can. We can do anything. If we don’t keep up with it now, then it makes the last four days pointless. We’ve put in all this effort!’

Bernie sighs. ‘I know, I know. We shouldn’t have started in the first place, but now that we have we should see it through.’

‘Good, I’m glad we’re agreed,’ says Serena, fighting down the mutinous voice that says take me now! It’s fortunate really that Bernie’s still driving or she’s not sure she could control herself.

They’ve barely got in through the door before they’re kissing like teenagers, sloppy and gasping, still being careful to only touch in the ways they’re allowed, but taking advantage of all of it, hands in hair, fingers laced together, palms against temples, kissing jawlines, and then, as they half-fall onto the sofa, Serena realises that technically she’s probably allowed to suck Bernie’s fingers. So she does, sliding one gently into her mouth and running her tongue across it, then taking in another, sucking harder. Bernie’s moan sends shivers through her.

‘Oh fuck, this is impossible…’ Serena says, around Bernie’s fingers.

Bernie laughs helplessly.

Serena’s wound up like a spring. Something has to give. And before she realises what she’s doing, she’s sliding her free hand between her legs, where even the slightest brush of her fingers through two layers of damp fabric is enough to make her squeak and screw her eyes shut for a moment.

Bernie’s eyes widen.

‘Sorry… moment of weakness…’ Serena gasps.

Bernie grins. ‘Don’t let me stop you.’

So Serena lies back on the sofa, her head on one of the arms, and Bernie kneels beside her and holds her free hand, kisses her cheek and temple and hair, and encourages her as she touches herself. She can’t even go near her clit, it’s so sensitive it’s painful, so she slides her fingers back and forth around the entrance to her cunt, finds a building rhythm, lets the feel of Bernie’s hand in hers and Bernie’s warm breath close to her face wash over her.

‘Serena…’ Bernie says. ‘Do you know how incredible you are?’

Serena looks up at Bernie, who's watching her wide-eyed like she’s witnessing a miracle, and comes so hard that she sees stars.

Chapter Text

Bernie’s been looking forward to Day Five - they can kiss, touch hands and faces, and touch almost everything else too as long as it’s through clothes. She’s been dreaming of this day since they started. She’s been missing the way their bodies fit together when they cuddle in bed, or when they study a patient’s test results together, standing close enough that their thighs touch. It's funny, in some ways she's missed that the most, in spite of the building torment of her arousal. (A torment that she steadfastly refuses to give in to, even if she believes completely that it's not cheating when Serena does it.)

Last night she fell asleep thinking about Serena - kissing Serena's flushed face, Serena's hand tightening around hers, Serena's soft 'Oh... Bernie...' as she came back to herself - and wondering hazily where the line was between sex and not-sex. Because that had felt like sex, and in spite of not having come herself, she felt somehow sated.

But this morning she wakes with soreness that radiates from her neck in all directions, and suddenly the thought of being touched, even by Serena, sets her teeth on edge.

‘Are you in pain?’ Serena asks, as she spots Bernie reaching for the ibuprofen.

‘Think I just slept in a funny position,’ Bernie says. ‘I’m sure it’ll ease off once I’m moving about.’

‘Want me to help?’

‘No, it’s fine. Thanks, though.’

A hot shower doesn’t do much, but the painkillers start to kick in by the time they arrive at work, and she’s able to grit her teeth and bear it. It does start to get a little better as the day goes on, but she walks more carefully than she wants to and more than one person comments, forcing her to reassure them that she’s totally fine.

She and Serena hardly see each other, what with the usual lack of sufficient staff on the ward. Serena’s held up in theatre when it’s time for them to go home, but Jason’s shift’s finished and he’s keen to get going, so Bernie drives him home in Serena’s car, the two of them put together a pasta bake, and while it’s in the oven Bernie leaves him to keep an eye on it while she pops back to pick up Serena, who’s waiting outside the main entrance by the time she gets there, looking pale and sad and exhausted.

‘Long day?’ Bernie asks, leaning over for a quick kiss.

‘At least it’s over now,’ Serena says. ‘I don’t really want to talk about it. Should you be driving? Are you still in pain?’

‘It’s been going off a bit over the course of the day,’ Bernie reassures her. ‘It’s just achy now.’

Whatever’s happened to upset Serena - maybe she’s lost a patient, Bernie guesses - it’s distracting her enough that she’s silent as they make their way out of the car park. Bernie knows that feeling. It’s a kind of pain that sometimes requires solitude, and no matter how many times you feel it, you don’t really get used to it. You just get better at putting it aside. There’s nothing anybody can say to make you feel better, and you resent it if they try. So she doesn’t.

‘Shall I put the radio on?’ she suggests instead.

‘Yes, good idea,’ says Serena, and she sits back, closes her eyes as Bernie switches on Radio 4. I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is on, and Bernie half-listens as she drives, her eyes darting to Serena every now and then to check on her. Serena keeps her eyes closed for a few minutes, and then she opens them and looks quietly out at the street lights blurring past.

After a little while, she laughs at one of the jokes.

By the time The Archers is on, they’re pulling into the driveway, and Serena turns to Bernie with a wan smile.

‘Thanks for picking me up,’ she says.

‘Of course,’ says Bernie.

Jason’s heard the engine, and when they get inside he’s serving the pasta bake and the telly is on.

‘Jason, you’re a hero,’ says Serena, and he grins at her.

Bernie watches her grin back and thinks she’ll be all right now.

They eat their pasta and watch some telly, and Serena gets the most questions right on University Challenge. Jason comes in second and Bernie is a distant third, but she doesn’t mind - she likes watching Serena’s eyes light up when she’s figured out the answer before Jeremy Paxman has even finished reading the question out.

She’s almost forgotten that they’re allowed to touch today until Serena shifts across to her side of the sofa and lays her head on Bernie’s shoulder.

‘Is this all right?’ she asks. ‘Are you comfortable?’

Bernie wraps her arm around Serena, drawing her closer. Serena relaxes into her embrace with a little sigh, and Bernie smiles. ‘Completely,’ she says. ‘Don’t worry.’

She thinks of all the visions she had of the things they could do today, how right now they’d be perfectly within their rights to be wrapped together, clothed but otherwise touching and kissing whatever they wanted. God, she’s missed Serena’s soft curves, her spine, her collarbones. But it’ll all still be there tomorrow. For now, this is just right.

Chapter Text

They have the next two days off, and it’s a good thing too because Serena’s not sure she’d be safe to take care of patients right now, she’s so distracted. She wakes up early, in spite of how tired she was, and her sad mood has dissipated - she and Bernie slept cuddled close last night for the first time in days, and it feels like something’s fallen back into place. For a few minutes she just lies there, with that strange early-morning clarity that occasionally happens, when you snap awake with no fuss and feel quietly ready for the day ahead. She enjoys the feel of Bernie’s knee against her pyjama-clad hip, Bernie’s curled fist on her shoulder. And then she remembers that today, they can do almost anything at all. “Anything but genital contact”, the email said, and Serena is sure she's creative enough to think of lots of other exciting things that don’t break the rules.

She lies in bed for a while, checking her emails and the news on her phone. She watches Bernie, sleeping peacefully, her mouth a little open and her fringe flopping over her face. It seems unkind to wake her, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to stretch a little so that she sort-of-accidentally nudges her, and then, well, if she’s close to being awake it might bring her the rest of the way, and if not she’ll probably stay happily asleep. So Serena extends all of her limbs luxuriously, letting them brush against Bernie, but Bernie just mumbles something and turns over.

Serena lies there for a few minutes, feeling mildly frustrated, and then decides that she may as well start getting up. By the time she gets back from the shower, hair wet, Bernie is blinking awake, and Serena takes pleasure in dropping her towel and wandering the room naked, drawing Bernie’s admiring, hungry gaze. She leans extravagantly down to open her sock drawer, stretches and flexes across the dressing table for the moisturiser bottle.

‘You, Serena Campbell, are a minx,’ says Bernie.

‘I know, but aren’t I worth it?’ Serena replies.

She joins Bernie on the bed, sneaks a hand under the oversized t-shirt she sleeps in, strokes her stomach.

‘You don’t waste any time, do you?’

‘I try never to. Isn’t that what first attracted you to me, my efficiency?’

‘It was certainly a factor,’ Bernie says, and she makes a sound almost like a purr as Serena’s hand slides upward and comes to a halt at her breast, squeezes gently.

Serena’s impatient to touch Bernie, so with her other hand she pulls the t-shirt up and drags it over Bernie’s head. That’s better - it’s not as if she hasn’t looked at Bernie this week, but it’s so satisfying knowing that she’s allowed to touch her now. She runs her hands over her slowly, enjoying every little bit - the inside of her elbow, her calf, her neck, her sternum. She drags her fingertips across the ticklish spot on Bernie's side, enjoys the way she writhes. Her hair drips water across Bernie’s stomach, and they both laugh. Serena licks it off, then goes on exploring, marking each rediscovery with an open-mouthed kiss. Bernie lets her for a minute or two, and then she gets impatient herself, pulls Serena close so that their bodies press together, wraps her arms around her tight, tangles their legs, kisses her slow and hard. Serena's nerves sing, and thinks she could do this all day, this and only this, in spite of the ache between her legs. There’s plenty of time for that tomorrow.

Bernie sighs into the tiny gap between them as Serena’s arm curls around her thighs. Serena’s other hand is on the back of Bernie’s head, keeping her close. Bernie’s skin is warm and soft, and she smells so good - Serena buries her nose in the crook of her neck and breathes her scent.

‘God, I’ve missed you this week,’ she says.

Bernie draws her nearer again, like she can’t stand the fact that they can’t just merge together all the way, at least for a little while. Serena lets herself be lost in Bernie and forget everything else.

They jump at the distant sound of Jason's door closing as he heads downstairs, and Serena realises they’ve been doing this for long enough that her hair is almost dry. Her mouth is tingling and her clit is throbbing and she feels shaky but good, like she’s done a skydive.

‘We can’t just stay in bed all day,’ says Bernie. ‘What will Jason think?’

‘He’ll probably think we stayed in bed all day because we can’t keep our hands off each other,’ says Serena.

‘Still,’ says Bernie. ‘We should probably at least make a token effort to get up.’

Serena knows she’s right. They get up slowly, with a thousand pauses for brief kisses and hand clasps and pats and squeezes. Finally though, they’re both dressed, and when they go down to get coffee Jason is sitting at the counter reading the paper.

‘I thought you were never getting up,’ he says. ‘You’ve missed breakfast time by ages. It’s practically lunchtime already.’

‘I was very tired after work yesterday,’ Serena says, feeling only a little guilty. It’s true after all, even if it’s not the reason they’re so late.

She puts some toast in for them while Bernie makes them coffee, and Jason tells them about his plans for the day. He’s going to the cinema with his social club later on, and then staying over with his girlfriend.

It’s a gorgeous day, unexpectedly sunny and warm for the time of year, and Serena suddenly thinks it would be nice to see the world outside the hospital a bit. Once she’s checked that Jason has money and his phone charger and his keys, she and Bernie head out to the park down the road to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

They walk hand in hand down the paths, watching the dogs and the children on bikes. Serena squeezes Bernie’s hand tight, swings it backwards and forwards a little, basks in the knowledge that, of all the people in this park, she is the only one who gets to take Bernie home. Every inch of her is alive with wanting Bernie, and she knows Bernie feels the same because they keep finding excuses to get nearer to each other - Serena steps close to guide Bernie around a puddle, Bernie accidentally-on-purpose walks into Serena’s path, and after a while they give up pretending and just walk with their arms around each other’s waists, hips banging together. After a minute or two Serena slips her hand into the back pocket of Bernie's jeans and then leans to nuzzle her neck, making them stumble. They right themselves, giggling. A younger couple walking past frown at them, but it just makes them laugh harder.

‘When we get home,’ says Serena, once the couple have gone, ‘I’m going to tear your clothes off and kiss you all over.’

She watches Bernie’s face for the blush she knows is coming, and it does. She loves seeing it. She can sense Bernie tensing under her arm, knows she’s in as much of a hurry to get home now as Serena is. Serena isn’t sure if it’s sadism or masochism that makes her take them the longer route around the park, but by the time they get home she can barely stand it.

Jason’s gone already, so Serena keeps her promise and starts unbuttoning Bernie’s shirt the second the door closes behind them. She pulls it off, drops it on the floor, undoes Bernie’s bra and discards that too, then leans down to kiss from Bernie’s neck to her nipple, which she takes into her mouth and gently sucks, circling it with her tongue.

She plans to do the same on the other side, but she’s not really designed to bend that way for very long, so she leads Bernie into the kitchen and pushes her gently backward to sit on the table, which puts her at a much more comfortable height. She picks up where she left off, her heart speeding at the sound of Bernie’s soft moans. She kisses a line between Bernie’s breasts and down to her stomach, and then Bernie wraps her legs around her and draws her closer and reaches down to peel off her top, then her bra.

Serena tilts her head up to kiss Bernie, while Bernie takes one of Serena's breasts in each hand, massages them, rubs her thumbs over her nipples and smiles with satisfaction at the high-pitched noise Serena makes. Serena pushes into her hands, kisses her shoulder, steadies herself against Bernie's knees.

Once that gets too uncomfortable they move to the sofa, where they both wriggle out of their jeans, and Bernie takes Serena's foot in one hand and kisses with excruciating slowness all the way up the inside of her leg, past her ankle, up her calf, past her knee, and when she finally reaches her inner thigh she bites it softly, then kisses the spot, and Serena whimpers at the feel of Bernie’s hot breath there. 

After a while they realise they're hungry, so they make a quick omelette for dinner, putting on aprons for safety. They eat it on the sofa and open a bottle of wine, then spend a while alternately kissing and talking about anything that comes up, from their childhoods to the latest AAU gossip. When the evening gets later, they check the locks, turn off the downstairs lights, then head up to the bedroom, where Serena lays Bernie on the bed and climbs astride her, pinning her down by her wrists and kissing the hollow of her throat. Bernie flips them over so that she can run her fingers lightly, slowly down Serena’s sides, from her underarms to her hips. Everywhere Bernie touches her, it’s like sparks dancing on her skin. She hits a ticklish spot and Serena laughs, so loud she shocks herself, and Bernie chuckles and adjusts her position so that they can kiss, and Serena forgets everything for a while in the taste of Bernie, the scent of Bernie, Bernie’s strong arms around her.

When they slow a little and break away, Serena checks her phone.

‘It’s almost two in the morning,’ she says, feeling suddenly disoriented, like they’ve stepped out of a time machine. She could have sworn it was still hours earlier.

‘Good thing we’ve got the day off again tomorrow,’ says Bernie.

Serena looks at her contemplatively. ‘What time would you say a day officially starts?’

‘Well, midnight usually, I… oh!’

‘Would it be cheating?’ Serena asks.

She’s not sure herself what she wants to do. This has been such a gorgeous, aimless day, and she feels loose and satisfied, like she could just curl up and fall asleep with Bernie whispering sweet things in her ear. It’s perfect just how it is.

‘Let’s wait?’ says Bernie.

Serena nods. ‘We’ll wait. And perhaps I’ll wake you up with a surprise?’

They’ve done this once or twice before, and Serena can tell by the way Bernie’s eyes light up that she knows exactly what kind of surprise she means.

‘I’d love that,’ she grins.

They turn off the bedside lamp and lie with their arms around each other, and their conversation gets slower and sleepier until Serena dimly realises that she’s missed the last three things Bernie’s said, but before she can try to wake herself enough to ask what they were, she’s already drifting.

Chapter Text

Bernie wakes gradually and pleasantly, like she’s rising through a warm, soft cloud into sunshine, and it takes her quite a while to realise that the source of the pleasant sensation is Serena’s fingers gliding slowly back and forth between her clit and the entrance to her cunt. Her touch is light, almost feather-like, but it sends quiet ripples of heat through Bernie.

‘Mmmmmm,’ she says, without opening her eyes.

‘Good morning,’ Serena says, with amusement in her voice.

‘Mmmmmm,’ Bernie agrees.

Serena keeps doing what she’s doing for a while, unhurried and steady, and Bernie sinks into the sensation, still not opening her eyes, not wanting to leave this cocoon of sleepy closeness, this feeling that nothing is important except for the gentle brush of Serena’s fingers.

The bed creaks as Serena shuffles closer, draws Bernie in and kisses her collarbone, puts an arm around her waist, and slides a finger inside her.

Bernie makes a happy little noise as Serena’s finger traces a lazy spiral, and a moment later she feels a fluttering of surprise when Serena’s mouth meets hers, kissing her hard at first and then settling, slowing in time with her touches. Bernie kisses back messily, lost in sensation. Just as she’s getting used to it a second finger joins the first, and the motion is different now, Serena presses more firmly, and Bernie’s breath hitches.

The third finger hits that sweet, sweet spot just shy of too much, and Bernie makes a strangled noise.

‘All right, darling?’ Serena asks, pausing.

‘Mmmmm-hmmmm,’ Bernie confirms, and it’s almost a growl.

‘That’s my girl,’ says Serena. She kisses Bernie’s cheek once and picks up where she left off.

Bernie focuses on her building arousal, the fullness of her cunt, the steady stroke of Serena’s fingers, the way Serena has the heel of her hand against her clit and her other arm around her, keeping her close so that they’re pressed together at every possible point. Everything is so quiet and still around them that even Bernie’s shallow, quickening breathing sounds loud, and suddenly oh-so-good tips over into oh-god-please, and Bernie gasps, clutching at Serena’s back. Serena interprets it correctly as a request for faster, harder, more, holding Bernie tight as her fingers dance.

Bernie’s been ready for this all week, so ready that she knows she’s going to come any second, but time seems to stretch for her to enjoy the moment in all its glorious detail - she opens her eyes at last to see Serena’s breathtaking smile, daylight slanting in through the gap in the curtains. She’s so hot she can hardly stand it but she wouldn’t pull away from Serena’s warmth for anything. She’s breathing hard, every breath turning into a little cry, in time with the slow-motion pressure of Serena’s fingers inside her. She closes her eyes again, tightens her grip on Serena, pushes and bucks against her fingers, and the world rushes back up to full speed as her orgasm surges through every nerve like a wave crashing, then again, again, softer each time until the final wave just laps gently at the shore and recedes, leaving Bernie trembling in Serena’s embrace, Serena’s fingers quiet now.

‘All right?’ Serena asks.

Bernie opens her mouth to speak, but only incoherent noises come out. Serena grins. Bernie loves how smug she is about this. Her thoughts wander back to their first few times, how unsure Serena was, how tentative. And now she’s practically crowing, and Bernie knows that all day she’ll have that little swagger, that secret pride in her achievement.

‘Love you,’ Bernie says. ‘So good.’

She feels as wobbly as a baby deer, and about as capable of conversation.

‘I love this,’ says Serena. ‘Making you feel this way, watching you. You look so beautiful.’

She flexes her fingers, still inside Bernie, and Bernie yelps, making them both laugh. They lie for a while, exchanging soft kisses, and Serena withdraws her hand when her wrist can’t take the angle any more. Bernie gradually floats back down to earth.

Serena’s being as patient as she can, letting Bernie take her time, but Bernie can sense her hunger, and when she slides her thigh between Serena’s legs, she feels slick wetness. Serena makes a desperate noise in her throat. Bernie pushes harder with her leg, and Serena grinds down on it, and Bernie pushes again, and together they find a rhythm, a rocking motion that makes Serena bite her lip and breathe harder.

Bernie takes it slow at first, first pausing for kisses, hot and fierce, then taking a moment to tease Serena’s already taut nipples with her tongue before returning to her task. She keeps the motion steady and deep, until Serena’s groaning in time with every press of Bernie’s leg against her.

The feel of Serena’s cunt sliding up and down her thigh is exquisite, and Bernie makes her own hushed noise of appreciation. Serena shifts then so that her own thigh is between Bernie’s legs - it upsets the rhythm but they find a new one, clutching each other, pushing, grinding, kissing. Bernie feels herself getting close again already, enthralled by the symmetry of their movements, revelling in the firm, silken softness of Serena’s leg against her clit, where she’s so sensitive that anything else would be too much. She wraps an arm around each of Serena’s shoulders to give her more leverage, and Serena does the same, buries her face in the crook of Bernie’s neck, and after another minute Serena clenches fiercely around Bernie, and lets out a deep, shuddering cry.

Hearing it, knowing what she’s feeling, tips Bernie over the edge too - she comes whispering Serena’s name against her skin. Serena holds onto Bernie for a long time, breathing hard, and finally her limbs loosen and she falls back a little, smiling like she’s drunk.

Bernie leans up on her elbow and softly strokes Serena in a long line from shoulder to calf, while Serena looks at her dazedly, happily. Bernie thinks about how they still have all day, and no plans, and no responsibilities, and they can do absolutely anything they like.

‘God, that was worth the wait,’ Serena says.

Bernie smiles, remembering every moment of the last seven days - the longing glances, the ache of wanting, the giddy thrill of a single kiss, a single touch.

‘I wouldn’t change a thing about this week,’ she says, then she laughs. ‘Never again, though, right?’

Serena shakes her head, eyes sparkling. ‘Never a-bloody-gain.’