Serena had learned early in her medical career that stylish pyjamas were a necessity of life. Unless you were on holiday somewhere nobody could reach you (particularly nervous F1s), your nightwear needed to be presentable at all times. No climbing into bed in ragged jogging bottoms and a holey T-shirt, because you'd inevitably end up walking through the halls of a hospital wearing them.
And if you were really lucky, you'd meet someone you were trying to impress. Or worse luck, the love of your life.
So. Stylish pyjamas were as important as a good pair of shoes. At least if the pyjamas looked amazing, they might distract from the messy hair and lack of make-up.
But just because Serena owned a range of beautiful pyjamas, that didn't mean she wanted her F1s to see all of them often enough to recognise them. As she climbed into her car, a coat quickly thrown over the night's silk and brocade number, she tiredly reflected that she was in danger of repeating a pair because she'd made so many of these trips lately.
There were probably other things she should be worrying about--maybe the reason why Nicki didn't seem to trust the new registrar--but it was much simpler to worry about the state of her nightwear. Simpler. Calmer.
Simple and calm had been in short supply lately and Serena's temper was growing short, too.
Between Jason and the hospital, sleep was in short supply, too. A tiny, guilty part her really wished she'd just turned her phone off when she saw Hanssen's number on the screen. She could be with Bernie in Nairobi, doing hard, scrappy medicine in a place where silk and brocade pyjamas would be ridiculous.
Where ratty scrubs and a holey T-shirt were acceptable nightwear because her girlfriend would probably strip them off her before she had a chance to feel self-conscious about them. Bernie was rather magical that way. She said it was the Army training.
Serena was fairly sure the Army only trained people in how to strip themselves in record time, not their lovers.
Serena smiled to herself, before giving herself a mental slap. Reflecting on Bernie's many talents weren't getting her to the hospital and the reality was that she'd answered Hanssen's call and that had led to this.
It was two o'clock on a Tuesday morning and she was driving to Holby City hospital in her pyjamas. Again.
Serena started the car and drove away.
Fifteen hours later, dressed again in her natty silk and brocade PJs, Serena pulled onto her driveway, turned off the engine, and put her head down on the steering wheel.
Just because she was acting CEO of the hospital, it didn't mean she could fire every junior doctor who annoyed her. She repeated that mantra under her breath five times.
It was so tempting, though.
It wasn't even fully dark yet, but the prospect of crawling straight into bed was incredibly appealing. She was already dressed for it, after all. In fact, going to sleep where she was sitting was starting to look pretty good and Serena shook herself. No matter how tired she was, sleeping in the car wasn't worth it.
There was nobody around to massage out the knots and cricks that would result.
The sharp ache of loneliness made Serena's breath catch in her throat. Why did she have to be such a bloody martyr to the cause? Why hadn't she been able to tell everyone to take their problems somewhere else so she could follow Bernie to Nairobi and get her happily ever after?
Serena sighed and straightened up. Those kinds of thoughts were no use to anyone. She'd made her decision and she couldn't just hop on a plane and leave a horrible mess behind, no matter how tempting it was.
The cool evening air didn't blow any of the tired fogginess away when she got out of the car and it was habit more than conscious thought that made her lock it as she walked to the front door. She was so tired, in fact, that she didn't notice the alarm didn't beep as she opened the door, or see the extra coat hanging on the rack on the wall. Serena shrugged out of her own coat, hung it over the end of the banister, and eyed the staircase tiredly. On the one hand, her bed was up there.
On the other hand, she had a sofa and a bottle of Shiraz downstairs. There might even be some crackers and cheese lurking in the kitchen to line her stomach. Serena couldn't actually remember eating anything all day.
She passed a small suitcase in the hallway without taking note that it wasn't hers and hadn't been there in the morning. A pair of boots next to the case also escaped her attention.
Even in her exhausted state, though, Serena noticed the unexpected person in her kitchen. And not just because the visitor was holding out a class of lovely red heaven, either.
Serena stopped in the door way, blinking. She calmly and deliberately held up her arm and pinched it. Hard.
No, definitely not asleep. Not dreaming. This was real.
"Bernie?" Serena couldn't keep the hopeful uncertainty out of her voice.
Bernie's wide smile and warm eyes were exactly as she remembered. "Were you expecting someone else?"
"Well, as I wasn't expecting you in the first place, I...ah...have no idea where that sentence was going, actually."
"Nowhere good, I suspect."
"You're probably right." Serena could feel a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth, but she wasn't sure about releasing it yet. "What on earth are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Nairobi."
"I can go back there if you want." Bernie gestured behind her. "If this isn't a good time--"
Serena didn't give her a chance to finish the question. She crossed the kitchen in a couple of long strides, tiredness draining away, and pulled Bernie into her arms. Bernie made a small surprised sound, a puff of air warmed Serena's neck, but she recovered fast and there was a soft chink of glass on granite counter before Serena felt warm arms wrap around her.
Serena didn't cling. She never clung. That wasn't her style. But she did hold on very, very tight, burying her face in the mess of Bernie's hair and breathing in the familiar scent she'd missed so much.
Her eyes felt hot and damp when the long hug loosened just enough for her to kiss Bernie, to taste the hint of coffee on her breath and lose herself for a while in the mingled thrill and comfort of lips and tongue and teeth. God, she'd missed this. Missed Bernie. Missed everything about being with this woman.
They kissed until they ran out of air, until Serena had to pull back and catch her breath, unable to hold back what was probably a very goofy smile.
Thank goodness she hadn't been foolish enough to invite Jason to live here. He would have had something to say about the flush heating her face and the silly expression she could feel on her face.
"I missed you," Bernie said.
Bernie's smile was infinitely gentle. Her hand was warm when she cupped Serena's jaw. "I found myself with a few days off and I missed you."
"I missed you, too," Serena said, unable to think of anything else.
"You sounded so tired when we talked." Bernie tilted her head. "Are you wearing pyjamas?"
If Bernie hadn't been holding her very firmly, Serena would have backed away and tried to find her coat to cover up. It felt quite silly to be wearing nightclothes now.
"What have they been doing to you?" There was a hint of amusement in Bernie's voice. "Did you go to work in your pyjamas?"
Serena rolled her eyes. "Well, it was two o'clock in the morning and there didn't seem any point changing when I'd be putting scrubs on as soon as I got there. My F1 is...and my registrar is...you know how it goes. I'd fire the lot of them if we weren't so short-staffed."
"You'd never fire them."
"I would. Just watch me. I'll do it right now. I'm the CEO, you know."
Bernie chuckled. "Acting CEO. And I know you far too well. You'd never fire them. You'll support them into being doctors you'd never want to fire. That's just who you are." Her voice dropped. "That's the woman I fell in love with."
Serena stared at her for a long moment before sighing. "Sometimes I wish you didn't know me so well."
"No, you don't."
"You're right, I don't." Serena couldn’t resist kissing her again, a slow, sweet kiss, and she rested her forehead against Bernie's when they parted. "I've missed you."
"This wasn't what I planned."
"It wasn't what either of us planned."
"I didn't have to meet Henrik. I could have told him I was far too busy and walked away."
Bernie didn't say anything, but she didn't have to. She wasn't very good at hiding her expressions--Serena only had to lift her head and refocus to see everything Bernie wasn't saying.
She loved Serena, knew her, and she understood why Serena hadn't been able to walk away. She got Serena in a way nobody else ever had. It was what made her such a perfect partner, even if it did make her incredibly hard to pick a fight with.
"I have an idea," Bernie said.
Serena raised one eyebrow and waited. The wicked smile curving Bernie's lips was promising.
"Are you on call tonight?" Serena shook her head. "Is there anything happening tomorrow that you can't reschedule?" Another shake. "Then I propose a bottle of wine, a bath, and Chinese food in bed before you get a proper night's kip."
Serena lifted her other eyebrow, too. "That wasn't quite where I thought that would go."
Bernie's smile widened. "Just making sure you're fed and rested up, Ms Campbell."
"For staying in bed all day tomorrow, if the hospital can spare you."
Serena grinned. "I'll make bloody sure they can, even if I have to put Jac Naylor in charge."
"Steady on, I wouldn't go that far."
"I would," Serena said. "How long are you here for?"
"Only until Sunday," Bernie said, with a small sigh. "Sorry it can't be longer."
"We'll just have to make the best of the time we have. Did I mention that I've missed you?"
"I think so, but I don't mind hearing it again."
Serena smiled. "I missed you."
"I love you."
Their noses bumped when they leaned together for another kiss and Serena knew she wasn't looking or feeling her best, but it didn't matter. It was perfect anyway, that was what counted.
Bernie was in her kitchen, in her arms, and everything was always better when that was her truth.