Jac swept into the Darwin staff room and stopped abruptly, eyebrows arched at the crowd squashed into the room. Practically everyone from Keller, Darwin and AAU that knew Serena and Bernie personally were there, some looking amused, like Fletch, some, like Ric, shuffling uncomfortably, and some, like Zosia and Lou, the AAU/ Trauma nurse, with looks of determination.
“Who knew they were so popular,” Jac quipped, paving a way to lean next to Zosia at the kettle counter. Zosia handed her a steaming mug without hesitation, and Jac practically smirked into it.
“So,” Zosia began. “We all know why we’re here. Again.”
Ric cleared his throat. “Actually, Dr. March, I really have no idea what’s going on here. If someone could… fill in the blanks?”
He looked around expectantly, as everyone seemed to look at Jac and Zosia just as expectantly. Jac rolled her eyes.
“In your absence, Mr. Griffin, it seems that half the hospital have become sick to the back teeth of our apparently expertly oblivious AAU-Trauma co-leads tiptoeing around each other. The other half are… quite fatigued by stumbling into serious eye-fucking sessions and half-finished sentences between them.”
Ric blinked. Blinked again. “Ohhkay…”
Zosia rolled her eyes. “It’s very apparent, Mr. Griffin, that there is a serious attraction between Ms. Wolfe and Ms. Campbell. More than an attraction. Their behaviour towards each other-”
“Eye fucking,” Jac muttered into her cup, meeting Zosia’s eyes unapologetically.
“-their behaviour,” Zosia glared, “suggests mutual want to advance their relationship, but also mutual stagnation on said advancement. It’s not affecting their work,” she added, hurriedly, seeing the frown gathering on Ric’s face. “But on a personal level, we want them to acknowledge it. We want them to be happy.”
“We want them to sort out the bloody Sapphic Angst fest they’ve started in theatre – honestly, it’s like a production more than a procedure sometimes,” Lou chimed in, to various sympathetic sounds from the AAU staff. “They both preach from their pedestals about professionalism, that they don’t want the hospital, the trauma unit, AAU, the patients, the bloody agency nurse who did one shift once two winters ago to suffer due to inter-personnel relationships. Not about each other, of course. They talk about it separately, to other people, about other people,” she continued, looking at her AAU co-workers expectantly.
Fletch shifted uncomfortably. “Well, it’s just… I mean, I’ve got a teenager at home, and that’s hard enough. They’re supposed to be giving me a clue on how to deal with her, not following her lead!”
“We just… sort of thought they’d have figured it out and done something about it by now. They’re brilliant together! But they really are exasperatingly clueless!” Morven blurted, then blushed furiously and sunk back behind Raf as much as she could.
Jac heaved her eyes heavenward again, and they landed on a blushing Zosia.
“Dr. March here, has taken on the role of Bernie Wolfe’s fairy godmother, it seems. She just wants them to be happy,” Even Ric couldn’t conceal a smirk at Jac’s disgusted emphasis on the word. “So she drags us all in here every so often to put some ludicrous plan or other into action to try and shove them into the blindingly obvious. Quite why we can’t actually shove them, save us from this torture, is still beyond my comprehension.”
“They’re too… rigid,” Essie explained. “Serena likes to see herself as the height of professional integrity, and Bernie’s still carrying around so much guilt about her life that she doesn’t think she deserves anything good. If we just shove them, they’ll spend three weeks apologising to each other then never speak again!”
“Then we’re back to eye sex, but it’d be guilty, masturbatory eye sex, and I think we can all agree that stumbling into that all the time would be even more bloody uncomfortable than it is now!”
Although Jac could only agree, even she took a moment along with the rest of the room to critically observe the squirming Ollie, who held up his hands in defence.
Mo stared at him in amazement. “Guilty, masturbatory eye sex,” she mouthed, incredulously.
“I thought we were going with honest, critical appraisal,” he muttered.
She dug him in the ribs. “You need a better life, mate.”
“Anyway,” Fletch picked up, slowly drawing his nonplussed face away from Ollie’s. “It’s not that it’s affecting work, per se,” he said, concerned that Ric would grasp the wrong end of the straw completely and split them up before they were even together properly. “It’s just that, well, the longing looks, the...the eye sex wouldn’t be so bad if… if…”
“If they were actually having sex,” Jac finished, helpfully. “Honestly, it’s disgusting, and I barely see them together.”
“They need to get it on, or knock it off. Under it or over it,” Dom supplied. Jac regarded him with a twinkle, and their eyebrows and sucked in cheeks congratulated each other.
Ric looked around at the varying degrees of blushing faces, although no one disagreed with either statement.
“So… let me get this straight,”
Dom snorted, but cowered somewhat under Ric’s glare.
“Ms. Wolfe and Ms.Campbell are… attracted to one another?” his tone hovered between disbelief and amusement.
Zosia nodded. “More than attracted, we’d bet, but yes.”
“And you’ve been devising plans to… to instigate a relationship between the two of them, unbeknownst to them?”
Zosia nodded again.
“I can’t believe I’m allowing myself to get this invested but… What’s been done so far?”
At this, Dom barked a laugh. “Oh, well, maybe Mr. Levy here could explain his brilliant Plan A?”
Sacha held up his hands. “It was a good idea, I thought!”
“So, does anybody have any ideas?”
Everyone in the room bent their heads; sniffed; scratched; shuffled, until Sacha suddenly waved his arm and clicked his fingers.
“I’ve got it!”
Dom, standing next to him, rubbed his ear, frowning. “It’d better be good,” he grumbled. Sacha grinned widely. “It’s brilliant. Failsafe,”
Jac raised her eyebrows expectantly. “Well. I’m prepared to be dazzled,” she said, in a tone that suggested she was anything but.
Sacha wagged his finger. “All I’m going to say is, raffle. If Serena asks any of you if you’ve bought a raffle ticket, just say yes. Leave the rest to me.”
Zosia looked dubious, but nodded slowly.
“Ok. And if Bernie asks?”
Sacha looked blank.
“They share an office. They share lingering looks over candlelit tables in restaurants,” Zosia explained, as though Sacha was particularly dense.
“Ah, yes. Of course. Right,”
“Sacha, maybe it would help if you did actually share-” Essie began, only to be cut off by Sacha vigorously shaking his head as he wound his way from the room.
“No, no. Leave it all to me. If Serena or Bernie asks, you’ve all bought a raffle ticket!”
A stunned silence followed his departure. Jac tilted her head, before setting her mug down and pinning Zosia with an arched eyebrow. “Oh, dear,” And she, too, left the room.
Dom leaned over Zosia to put his mug in the sink.
“Ditto,” he said, before following in Jac’s wake.
Zosia looked around at the various occupants now making moves towards the door. She caught the tail end of Raf and Fletch’s conversation as they stood.
“Twenty quid it goes tits up,” Fletch said, and Raf, ever the optimist, sighed deeply before shaking his hand.
Zosia was suddenly hit by a wave of adrenaline and nerves.
A week later, all consultants were gathered in a meeting room, just about to leave on the heels of Hanssen, when Sacha cleared his throat.
“Guys, I may as well do this now, seeing as you’re both here. The winners of this month’s raffle are Serena and Bernie! Well done, ladies.”
To a smattering of light applause, and some confused glances from the consultants not involved in Zosia’s Grand Plan, Sacha fished out two crumpled envelopes from his pocket.
“Spa days!” he announced brightly. He handed the envelopes to a beaming Serena, and a dubious-looking Bernie. “Generously donated by that posh place in town, there’s a day of massages, facials...umm… all those other spa-ry things! Enjoy!”
He looked so proud of himself that Jac almost – almost – managed to conceal her smirk when Bernie held out the envelope towards Serena.
“Yeah...no, I thought so,” Serena said, her eyes twinkling as she took the envelope from Bernie, who was holding it between her fingertips as though a masseuse might jump out at her then and there. “Gratefully received by one Elinor Campbell, thank you, Ms. Wolfe!”
They all stood and made their way out of the room. Serena squeezed Sacha’s arm.
“Excellent idea, Mr. Levy. I do look forward to next month! Especially with half the proceeds going towards our little Christmas shindig. It’s going to be marvellous this year, I have faith in you!”
Once the co-leads had disappeared, Sacha buried his head in his hands.
“Don’t,” he raised a finger as he saw Jac’s shoes stop in front of him. “I’m not looking at you. Please go away.”
Ric shuffled to appraise Sacha. “You set up a raffle where they were the only entrants, and bought them both a spa day?”
Sacha opened his mouth, but Dom piped up first.
“Don’t forget the part where he told them that it was an inter-staff mindfulness initiative, so half the proceeds go on prizes and half go on a hospital-wide staff party at Christmas.”
Ric looked at him in disbelief.
“What?!” Sacha huffed. “I thought it was foolproof! Both of them at a spa together, all relaxed, and semi-naked.”
Jac rolled her eyes. “Of course, yes. A spa day for an aloof macho army medic who can’t stand to be touched. And I wonder who Serena Campbell, mother of one self-absorbed, preening tween, would possibly want to take with her, besides someone who wouldn’t enjoy the experience in the slightest?” Jac fluttered her lashes as Sacha glowered.
“I thought nothing could go wrong. I obviously hadn’t taken that into account, had I? I just thought that they’d leap at the opportunity to be in that situation together, and when they got together, they’d be blissfully happy and the raffle would be completely forgotten.”
Raf snorted and Ric laughed out loud. “The woman who bears take-it-to-the-grave grudges and quaffs expensive bottles of wine like it’s water, forget about the chance of a free-booze party, or the fact that she was lied to about it?”
Mo dug Sacha in the ribs as he paled considerably. “Get the overtime in, Mr. Levy. Christmas is an expensive one for you this year, if you wanna keep your job and all your bits in the right place. Bet Bernie knows a thing or two about teaching lessons.”
Sacha regarded her balefully. “Well, if I’m going down, Effanga, I am taking you with me!” He crossed his arms petulantly as Mo gaped.
Ric looked between them, eyes narrowed. “What’s this?”
Jac’s jaw worked overtime as she tried to contain her glee.
“I believe he’s referring to Mo’s Plan B.”
“Do I even want to know?”
“Mo bought them a puppy!” Sacha blurted, looking gleeful.
Ric turned incredulous eyes towards Mo, who sighed.
“I didn’t buy them a puppy, I sort of… borrowed one on an undetermined contract. I snook by Bernie’s just before she was due home and plonked him on the doorstep.”
“I’m afraid to ask, but what, exactly, was the thought process behind this?”
Mo stared at Ric as though he were an alien.
“It’s a puppy. Who can resist puppies?”
“Serena Campbell, apparently,” Dom chuckled. Mo glared at him.
“Anyway. It was going really well, I watched to make sure she took him in; she did. She took him round to Serena’s the next day.”
“She has more of a garden, apparently,” Dom interjected with a smirk.
“Yeah, and then it all started going to shit,” Mo finished, glumly.
“Literally!” Ollie piped in, picking up the thread. “Obviously, it’s not toilet trained. Got really excited and peed everywhere, constantly. Which apparently, wasn’t insurmountable, at first. But then Serena was at Bernie’s a day or so later, and when she went to put her shoe back on, the dog had managed to, very neatly, throw up in it.”
“Yeah, she wasn’t the best to be around after that,” Raf said. “But it was the stair carpet episode that put the tin hat on it. God, I think she’s still makes swipes about it when she gets testy.”
“It basically chewed a hole right through one of Serena’s stairs. Not just the carpet, made a good dent in the woodwork, too. Jason saw it first, and started shouting at the dog, Serena went to see what was up, and started shouting because she couldn’t calm Jason down and she was hellish mad at the dog, Bernie came to see what was going on, ended up shouting at Serena for directing her shouting at Jason, and the dog got so nervous that it peed right there in front of them all over, and in, Serena’s suede handbag. And that, as they say, was the end of that.”
Ric looked incredulous. “Bernie got rid of a dog, because it irritated Serena, and they still don’t know they’re more than friends?”
“We did try telling you,” Mo carried on. “Anyway, not quite. They did end up a bit tetchy with each other, almost bloody divorced before we can get them married, but Bernie promised to keep the dog at hers whilst she got it house trained and the like, and Serena seemed to be ok with that, but she stopped going round to Bernie’s for a while, and Bernie couldn’t go round to hers because of the dog, and the next thing we know, apparently both of her kids are allergic, and she’s phoning around everywhere again to try and locate his owner, or a legit adopter.”
“… Who happens to be?” Ric smirked, already knowing the answer from the resigned look on Mo’s face.
“Apparently, an undetermined contract means he’s actually mine forever.”
“I still don’t think you’ve shared the best part,” Fletch chimed in. “Go on, tell him about the dog.”
“He’s a wolfhound,” Mo sighed heavily, to which the entire room dissolved into laughter again. “It’s not funny, guys, he’s the size of my shed as it is!”
“You bought Berenice Wolfe a wolfhound?!” Ric chuckles, wiping his eyes.
“For Serena,” Mo snapped. “I thought she’d find it… cute. And his name is Sernie, now, in homage to an almost love story,” she added, defiantly, which set them all off into peals again.
“And you still think that all of this planning is a good idea?” Ric asked Zosia when they’d calmed down.
“Yes!” Zosia exclaimed vehemently.
“Can’t we just send them on a blind date?”
Morven rolled her eyes. “When I say they’re both absolutely clueless, I mean, totally in denial. Dense. Stupid. If we sent them on a blind date, they’d probably assume they were there for two different people, chalk it up to coincidence that it was in the same place, same time, call it uncanny when both are carrying red roses, downright odd and ridiculous that neither of their dates appears to show, split a bottle and call it a night!”
“It is a big ole river, mate, denial,” Fletch said, sagely.
“Quite. So, what’s plan… what are we on now? C? D?” Jac looked at Zosia expectantly.
“Well… um… let’s just go with plan ‘anything’s worth a shot at the moment’, shall we?”
Jac rolled her eyes. “So, what shot are we going for? Get to the point, Dr. March. If anyone dies, they’re going to wonder where all the staff were, and I can only imagine Serena’s face if-” she broke off, momentarily lost in imagination. “Second thoughts, carry on,” she leant back in her chair with a smirk. Zosia tutted.
“So, they’re rigid about PDA’s, yes? About staff relationships. And they won’t take telling. So, I was thinking, we show them,” she paused dramatically and looked around, only to be met by a sea of confusion.
“You… want us to project pornography onto the walls of AAU?” Fletch offered, to Raf’s sniggers. Dom shook his head thoughtfully.
“No. Ms. Wolfe would die of embarrassment. Ms. Campbell on the other hand...” he pretended to seriously consider it, before dissolving into laughter along with the rest of the room. “What are you on about, Zosh?”
Zosia began to think she may as well glue her eyes to the ceiling. “I mean,” she began to explain, as though it were obvious. “That we show them that we’re comfortable with PDAs-”
“-We’re not,” Jac interrupted.
“-that we don’t have a problem with observing or encouraging intimacy-”
“-that, despite allowing ourselves a personal life, inter-staff personal lives, we don’t allow them to affect our professional lives-”
“JAC!” Zosia exploded. “For the love of God, can you just put it on hold for two minutes!”
Jac blinked, but acquiesced with a look that very definitely said she was merely allowing Zosia to carry on digging her own grave.
“Dr. March,” Ric said, massaging his temple. “Am I right in thinking that you’re suggesting that we… use actions, instead of words? With each other?”
Zosia nodded. “Well, yes. Sort of. I mean, I just think that if they can see that it really isn’t a big deal, perhaps they’ll stop making it one with each other.”
“You want us to go around… groping each other?” Essie asked, dubiously.
“No! Well, yes, but…” she sighed, barely resisted the urge to elbow Jac in the ribs as she smirked into her mug. “Look, we can either pair off, or we can-”
“-call it an orgy?” Zosia glowered at a giggling Dom before continuing.
“Just be casually, emphatically affectionate with each other. Exaggerated hugs, lingering touches, maybe the odd kiss. Only when it’s appropriate!” she quickly added. “Obviously not in front of patients, and without it interfering with work. That’s the whole point. To show them that we can be personal and professional. Just… whenever they’re in sight, and it’s feasible - a quick peck walking down the corridor, a brush to the cheek when you’re grabbing coffee…”
“A cheeky snog in a quiet area if you see them comin’,” Fletch said, evidently warming to the idea. Zosia beamed.
Morven held up her hand. “Despite the… glaringly obvious dangers with this, can I just point out that, seeing as they’re based almost exclusively on AAU, the onus is going to be mostly on us,” she gestured to the small group of core AAU staff, blushing along with Lou, and Raf visibly paling.
“Hmm, that is a shame,” Jac sniped, but the sparkle in her eyes as she appraised Zosia stopped the retort that Zosia was about to throw at her.
Ric cleared his throat, and began backing towards the door. “I think it for the best if I have absolutely no part in this. I’ll work on another angle.”
He turned just before she shut the door behind him. “Mr. Levy, perhaps at the end of the day, you could check your emails for any schedule adjustments I may have to make, in the interests of making sure all staff partake in the upkeep of their skills in all departments.”
Sacha frowned, then lit up as the door clicked shut. “Oh! Right!” His face fell again. “Oh. So, we’re all in on this, then?”
“But… none of us are in relationships… We don’t even fancy each other!” Raf protested. Several pairs of eyes fell to the floor, an awkward silence punctuated by tiny coughs filling the room. Whilst Mo side-eyed Zosia, Lou side-eyed Raf and Fletch, and when their eyes met, they shared a conspiratorial grin.
“Aw, come on, guys!” Mo piped up. “It’s just acting! I love a good stage production. That’s all we’re doing - putting on a show! You just gotta zone in to that; get in to character, tell yourself it’s fiction, and go for it! Be as understated or as dramatic as you’d see yourself in your school’s end of year show!”
“I was always the triangle player,” Ollie grumbled.
“Well then, here’s your chance to shine, Valentine!” Mo trilled, sidling up to him, grabbing his face and planting a whopper of a kiss on his lips. After blinking rapidly, and Mo still standing expectantly mere inches from his face, he threw up his hands.
“All right! All right.”
Mo squealed, punched him playfully in the ribs, and made her way towards Jac, who promptly held up a finger to Mo’s lips. “Don’t even think about it,”
Jac sighed, and took her time in placing her mug down on the counter.
“Fine,” she said, finally, flicking her hair back behind her shoulder. “Dr. March is with me,”
And promptly swept from the room. A stunned silence resided for several moments, whilst all pairs of eyes slowly made their way first to the cacophony of emotions playing out on Zosia’s face, then to the crestfallen look on Ollie’s.
“Right! Well! Don’t worry Ollie-boy, there’s plenty of me to go ‘round!” Mo patted him on the cheek and followed Jac.
Sacha beamed at Essie and Dom. “Now, I don’t want any arguments. There’s plenty of me to go around, too.”
Essie laughed, slipping her arm into Dom’s. “Come on, then. We need to work out a time-share.”
Dom groaned as they passed Zosia on the way out. “You owe me an all inclusive. Somewhere very hot. And very gay. Full of hot gays. And if I end up having to kiss Sacha, it’ll be 5 star in St Tropez. You’ll be covering my shifts.”
Zosia managed a smile as Dom sniffed at her before leaving.
The next morning saw an unusual amount of staffing traffic around the entrance to Pulses and around the lifts.
“We can’t all suddenly be touchy feely,” Zosia hissed. “They’ll think we’ve all inhaled something if we all start now!”
Jac rolled her eyes. “Raf, Fletch, Morven, Lou, be off to GayAU, you’ve got all day. Mo would kiss everyone if she could-”
“-so there’s just you and I, now,” Jac shrugged.
Zosia nodded, tried miserably to appear nonchalant. “Ok, right. Well, they’re on their way through the door, what should we-”
Jac cut her off by cupping her cheek and stroking gently with her thumb.
“No need to go for the big guns straight away,” Jac said, softly. “This’ll give them enough of a shock for the day, I should imagine.” She slipped her hand to tuck a lock of hair behind Zosia’s ear, who couldn’t help the soft smile spreading across her face, one that threatened to break into a huge beam when they both overheard Bernie’s un-contained Bloody hell! and saw a not so discreet elbow to Serena. Jac immediately snapped back into her usual mode, albeit with an added arm pat for Zosia, and a reluctant acquiescing to Mo’s full body squeeze as they boarded the lift.
Serena and Bernie were still discussing Jac’s divergence from Stone Bitch, when they almost stumbled into Fletch and Raf at the doors of AAU.
Serena eyed them suspiciously. “What are you two doing?”
Raf fidgeted and cleared his throat so much that Bernie thought he may wriggle out of his shoes, whilst Fletch summoned his usual bravado.
“Mornin’, controllers! Carriages awaitin’ and ready to depart!”
Raf stopped fidgeting enough to glare incredulously at him, whilst Serena and Bernie looked bemused.
“Riight,” Serena drawled, striding through the doors as soon as Bernie’d opened them. “Let’s get to it, then.”
Raf and Fletch dissipated as soon as they were able, leaving Bernie and Serena to enter their office.
“Is it me,” Bernie started, “Or were they-”
Serena held up a hand. “Bernie. I have had half a cup of coffee this morning. I’m putting it all down to that. Please, just let me, and let’s not mention anything out of the ordinary we think we’ve witnessed this morning,”
Bernie opened her mouth, but Serena pinned her with a raised eyebrow akin to an arrow.
Around lunchtime, Serena found herself stuck on a tricky consult with Morven, so Bernie took it upon herself to run to Pulses to grab a meal deal each. Upon exiting the lift, she almost bounded straight in to Sacha, and opened her mouth to apologise, but stopped abruptly when Sacha turned enough for her to see Essie standing right in front of him, cheeks a-glower.
“Gosh, I’m so sorry-” she began, a bit bewildered.
“No, no!” Sacha hastened to interject. “No problem, we were just catching up on our break, nothing major… Major!” Sacha winked and Bernie, still somewhat nonplussed, chanced a glance at Essie, whose eyes were roving along the floor, tucking an errant hair behind her ear, cheeks aflame.
“Riight,” Bernie said as she moved towards the cafe. “Um… as you were then. Right-o,”
Sacha gave an exuberant wave as Bernie backed away, eyebrows still weaving confusion.
She decided to take the long way back, having not been paged and Serena still covering the ward. Two coffees tucked neatly into her hands, and two sandwich packets poking out from her scrub pockets, she stopped momentarily to ensure that her ID badge was clipped to the outside of her pocket. She was about to carry on her way when noises coming from near her left made her pause. She took a few more steps and stopped outside the staff locker room door, eyes widening as she processed the sounds coming from within. Manouvering the coffees into one hand, she rapped on the door, fully intent on shouldering it open just as a breathless Dom poked his head around the semi-ajar opening.
“Ms Wolfe!” he beamed, his face beet red and glistening, and even from the neck up, Bernie could tell he was breathless. “We’re just...err…”
“-Boxing!” Ollie Valentine interjected, his head floating above Dom’s in the doorway. “Just honing my skill. On our break. Won’t take long!” he grinned and disappeared, and at the look on Bernie’s face, Dom didn’t hesitate in closing the door once more, cringing into his boots as he heard her mutter “No, don’t suppose it will,” as she walked away, just missing Dom’s vehement declaration of a 5 star all inclusive coming his way.
Bernie entered the office just after Serena, and as she turned to shove the door shut with her foot, she missed her co- lead throwing herself into her chair, elbows on the desk and fingers pinching the bridge of her nose.
“S’rena,” Bernie began as she turned, decanting the coffees and shaking her fingers out before she fished for the sandwich packets to throw them both on the desk. “Have you noticed-Are you all right?” Bernie interrupted herself as she noticed Serena’s position. Serena lifted one finger away from where her hands were massaging her temples, and waggled it.
“Unless it’s something related to someone losing their toes, Bernie, I really don’t want to hear it. I never thought I’d say this, but give me patient complications over whatever craziness has taken over my staff, any day.”
Bernie detoured to Serena’s chair, ran her hand over Serena’s arm before perching on the edge of the desk, throwing the sandwiches into the centre. “Care to share?” she asked, indicating the table, and Serena, finally, looked up and around gratefully.
“Always,” she replied, as they set about their normal routine of splitting their sandwiches, decanting the crisps in the middle, and opening the coffee lids for quicker cooling. When it became clear that Serena wasn’t about to divulge what tested her patience, Bernie, after swallowing down the last of her sandwich with a tepid mouthful of Mocha, cleared her throat.
“Mr’s Copeland and Valentine were shagging in the locker room.”
Serena swallowed air with the last of her sandwich, and spent precious seconds trying not to choke. “Beg pardon?” she gasped into a tissue.
Bernie tried not to look smug. “Boxing, Valentine called it. Told you he was gay.”
As Serena gathered herself, Bernie continued. “Of course, we’ll have to have a word; I mean, boxing on hospital time, even on their break, is probably frowned upon by us senior members… Serena?” Bernie finally noticed Serena eyeing up the coffee with something akin to suspicion.
“Bernie, Morven needed assistance with the patient in bed 10. Lou ran the obs etcetera. I could have sworn that after the consult, I saw them… well… almost boxing… before they noticed me and dispersed.”
“Almost boxing?” Bernie repeated, incredulously.
“Well, I’m using your terminology here, Bernie!” Serena huffed, pinkness coating her cheeks and her chest. “They were… close. Closer than needed, and yes, they were on a break, but sequestered into a corner, whispering, and then...well…”
“Boxing?” Bernie supplied, and Serena frowned almost viciously.
“Something is not right, and I am determined to find out what.”
Serena did not find out what, becoming tangled in a serious RTA, and by the time she left, all she thought about was the lasagne and glass of wine she’d promised herself when her shift ended five hours previous, discarding her second and not sparing a third thought for Zosia and Jac, hanging about the hospital entrance standing far closer to each other than Serena would ever have thought normal for the aloof Naylor.
The next morning saw Bernie seconded to the ED, so Serena walked to Pulses alone. She’d almost forgotten about the absurdisms of the previous day, until she spotted Jac and Zosia standing by a pillar, Zosia seemingly almost pinned against it by Jac’s body, in a heated exchange. When Jac lifted her hand to Zosia’s cheek, Zosia momentarily leaned in to it, but when Jac inclined her head closer and whispered something with a smirk, Zosia grabbed her hand and shoved it down. Zosia forcefully held Jac’s chin between her thumb and finger, aggressively whispering something before barging past her. Serena’s eyes narrowed as she took in the satisfaction on Jac’s face, the way her eyes followed Zosia’s retreating figure, and all the weird events of the previous day came flooding back.
She was on edge for the rest of the morning; hawk-eyed with the staff, and subconsciously counting down the time until Bernie might return.
Bernie stumbled in to the office and fumbled with slamming the door behind her. Serena looked up in surprise, her delight at seeing Bernie dimming somewhat as Bernie sagged against it, breathing heavily.
“Everything all right?” she asked, as Bernie looked at her like a startled deer. “Oh, don’t tell me you’ve found some porters shagging in a supply closet, because at this point I really- Bernie?” Serena cut herself off as Bernie’s face did a theatre worthy thirty second play of all emotions.
“I… ah… I think I’ve just been propositioned by Connie Beauchamp,” Bernie said, somewhat wondrously. The words punched Serena squarely in the chest, and it took a moment for her to form words around the feeling.
“I’m sorry - what?”
Bernie raked a hand through her hair, ran a finger over her lips.
“Well, she asked for a private word, so we went into the office and… umm… I’m almost sure she kissed me.”
This time, the air left Serena’s lungs with an audible whoosh, as the colour drained from her face.
“She what?” Torn between disbelief and...something, Serena glared at Bernie as she slumped into her chair.
“She… umm… the man with the bike seat stuck up… umm… she wanted to transfer and then… umm… well, I think she asked me out and kissed my cheek.”
Serena’s knuckles turned as white as her face.
“Coherent sentences, Berenice, please. What do you mean, you think? She either did, or did not kiss you. And ask you out,” Serena added, darkly.
“She talked about the patient, then she stepped… Well, umm. I was perched on her desk a bit, and she stepped sort of tightly next to me… said something about being impressed in the flesh, pressing some flesh, I don’t… anyway, she said she looked forward to getting to work closely together more often, and maybe if...if I’d like to have a drink we could… get closer. And then, she sort of… I mean, she did kiss my cheek. Caught me a bit on the lip, too.”
Serena had been working frantically to keep a poker face, but it was still several seconds of working her jaw, Bernie staring wide-eyed at her, before she trusted in achieving an even tone.
“And did you want her to kiss you?”
“Serena, it’s the first time I’ve met the woman properly! It wasn’t what I was expecting from a consult about a man with a bike seat stuck up his arse!”
“Well, you’re… both very attractive women, can see how sh-you’d be tempted,”
Bernie opened her mouth, but before she could formulate a thought, Serena was up and halfway out the door. “I’ll leave you to ponder, patients to see, etc.” in an all too cheery voice. Bernie stared after her, flummoxed, before collapsing back in her chair and crossing her arms.
Serena took herself off for a short walk down a long corridor, trying to disperse the nausea she felt until such time as she’d settled enough to work through the feelings broiling inside her. She was meandering, until she heard a squeal followed by indignant shouting. She snapped into focus and zoned in on the scene unfolding some yards ahead, striding determinedly towards Oliver Valentine standing in front of an irate NA, hands held in front of his body in surrender.
“God, I-I thought you were- I’m SO-”
“MISTER Valentine!” Oliver, to Serena’s satisfaction were she not so incandescent, jumped and a squeaky shit! escaped from between his clenched teeth. “What on earth- No, you know what? Don’t even. I have had quite enough of whatever it is that seems to have taken the professionalism of the staff of this hospital and replaced it with a bunch of… horny adolescents!”
Before either person could get a word in, Serena steered the NA with a hand on her back.
“Come with me. Dr. Valentine, take the rest of the day off. And try not to grope anyone else on your way out. Honestly.”
“That was an, ah, interesting email sent around yesterday evening,” Bernie broached the next morning as she entered the office, placing a coffee down in front of Serena, who was already firmly ensconced and typing away furiously. Before Serena could reply, the office door swung open again, and in stormed Jac, visibly seething.
“What’s this?” she demanded, slamming down a memo on the desk. Bernie looked wildly between the two as Serena took her time finishing, before dragging her eyes slowly up to meet Jac’s.
“Are you suddenly illiterate?” she asked calmly.
“Obviously not,” Jac replied. “But I’m not suddenly a pervert, either! Sexual harrassment in the workplace? Mandatory attendance? Risk of further action? What the hell, Campbell?”
Serena rose, and Bernie automatically took a step back, whilst also eyeballing Jac’s clenched fist.
“It has come to our attention, Ms. Naylor, that the conduct of many staff members over this last week has been less than exemplary. Leading to conflict in the workplace that is completely unacceptable-”
“I’m not Valentine’s bloody mother, I can’t-”
“I’m well aware of what you aren’t to Dr Valentine, Jac,” Serena paused, the implication of her statement making Bernie wince. “What I’m also aware of is the utter lack of professionalism shown towards co-workers in the workplace, especially by senior members of staff who ought know better.”
Before Jac could respond, Serena took a step closer to her, and Bernie consciously had to hold herself back from stepping between them. “You might want to consider the impropriety of your actions towards Dr. March, let alone in the middle of the hospital foyer. Maybe this course will allow you, and the others, to reflect on your decisions as of late.”
Jac’s jaw worked furiously, and as her hand shot out towards the desk, Bernie pushed herself away from the cabinet she was leaning against. Jac momentarily glanced at her, looking back at Serena in time to register the softening of her features as she realised Bernie’s protectiveness, before she grabbed the memo, rolling her eyes.
“My behaviour with Dr. March. Not towards,” she stormed back towards the door, muttering. “God, that girl has a lot to answer for. Unbelievable.”
Bernie and Serena both let out their breath as the door slammed behind her.
“Well,” Bernie said eventually. “That was…”
“Better than I imagined,” Serena finished, slouching back down in her chair. Bernie perused the paperwork on top of her keyboard, detailing the change of rota for the next day. She whistled.
“That’s a lot of jostling about. Who exactly have you sent on this course all together?”
Serena rolled her eyes.
“It’d be easier to say who I haven’t. Oliver and Dom, obviously. Jac and Zosia. Morven and Lou; Mo - did you know I caught her encouraging Raf and Fletch into a laundry cupboard the other day? Unbelievable! So Raf and Fletch, too, I don’t know what’s gotten in to those two-”
Bernie snorted, but Serena wilfully ignored her. “Sacha and Essie, who I honestly expected better of, not that I expected this from any, well, most, of them to begin with! Oh, and Connie Beauchamp,” she added the last part with a forced nonchalance.
“Mrs. Beauchamp?!” Bernie repeated, incredulous. “What’s she done?!”
It was Serena’s turn to look incredulous. “She propositioned you, Bernie!”
“Which isn’t a crime,” Bernie refuted.
“She kissed you without permission! It’s unprofessional, and she should know better. What you both do in your own time is your own business, but here, it’s mine. Now, get up to speed with who’ll need monitoring tomorrow whilst they cover. Excuse me, I have to get these to Hanssen.” She hurried through the doors and off the ward, avoiding eye contact. Bernie could only blink.
Jac entered the conference room, rolling her eyes at the rest gathered. Before Zosia could fully get to her feet, Jac held up a finger.
Zosia fell back into her seat as Jac strode past her, making a beeline for the tea table. After an unbearable amount of silence, with everyone shuffling, coughing, looking at the clock, anywhere bar each other, Zosia stood and resolutely made her way to the table where Jac was still leaning against the wall and staring out of the window.
Happy now?” Jac said, shortly. Zosia’s eyes closed briefly as Jac stirred her mug.
Jac turned fully towards her, ignoring the muttered oh, no which could have come from anyone in the room that had worked with her.
“Your ridiculous fetish about our resident Sapphos. Do you know what it’s cost me today? As if I needed to be lumped in with the rest of this… shambles.”
Zosia slowly spun around to face Jac, licking her lips and raising an eyebrow, ignoring the oh, dear that could have come from anyone in the room that had worked with her.
“Oh, I am sorry. Now that you mention it, I distinctly remember the part where you refused to have anything to do with it and left.”
“I warned you-”
“And then you kissed me!”
There was a collective intake of breath from the captive audience, until Jac turned to glare at them all.
“I did not kiss you.”
“You touched my face. From you that’s practically intercourse.”
A collective lift of eyebrows went up in the room. Sacha watched through his fingers, whilst Mo looked on in glee as Jac seethed. She opened her mouth just as the door was flung open, and in strode Connie Beauchamp, not even glancing around the room before she strolled to the opposite side of it and perched on the edge of a desk.
“She’s not wrong, Ms. Naylor,” Connie remarked, examining her nails. Jac took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and when they reopened she pinned Zosia with a this isn’t over look, before she turned to face Connie.
“Mrs Beauchamp!” she greeted, full of false joviality. “Don’t tell me; your many talents now extend to HR, and you’re here to teach us all the error of our ways.”
Connie arched an eyebrow as she finally met Jac’s challenging glare.
“A pleasure as always, Jac.”
“Right, so if I just apologise, I can get out of here and go back to my operating theatre where I actually need to be, yes?”
“Yes,” Connie replied, pushing herself fully onto the desk and crossing her legs. Before Jac could take a step, she continued. “When the facilitator actually arrives of course you’re welcome to try it. After I do.”
Jac looked at her blankly. “What?”
“I think what Mrs Beauchamp means is that she’s actually here with us,” Sacha said. “Not...er… for us.” As multiple sets of eyes darted between Sacha and Connie, Jac’s eyebrows hit the ceiling.
“No!” she rounded on Zosia. “You got her involved? How did you-” she flitted back to Connie. “-how did she… why did you…” Jac shook her head. “This is not happening. This is all just a dream of a badly acted farce.”
Connie smirked as she tapped her heels - red, Louboutin - together three times.
“Nope. Sorry, Jac. Looks like home is this nightmare. God, Ric better come good with that Harley.”
Jac spun back to Zosia, who shrugged her shoulders, nonplussed.
“Ah, so that’s how he did it!” Sacha blurted, colouring when all eyes turned to him.
“Come on Mrs. B,” Mo piped up, jovially. “We’ve all basked in the glory of our embarrassing actions. Do spill!”
Connie sighed dramatically as she recrossed her legs. “Ric Griffin promised me a Harley if Major Wolfe agreed to a date with me.”
“...and?” Mo prompted, when it became clear that no other information was forthcoming. “You don’t get sent on a sexual harassment course for asking someone out!”
“Unless your style is Edward Campbell,” Fletch muttered, to a glare from Raf. When Connie squirmed almost imperceptibly, Fletch’s eyes widened. “Oh, Christ, you did an Edward Campbell!”
Jac looked on amused as Connie almost eviscerated him with a glare.
“What?!” he shrugged his shoulders, glancing around the room. “Don’t look down on me, mate, you’re in the same boat as us at the minute.”
Before the situation could escalate, Zosia intervened.
“Mrs Beauchamp, I think it might help all of us in any future… dealings we may have to have with either Ms Campbell or Ms Wolfe, if you just tell us what happened. Then, Sacha can include you in his Christmas party, too. All inclusive on him, because of his colossal failure of a plan.”
“Please! I’m not the one that’s put us out of work for a day!” Sacha groused.
Dom patted him on the arm. “But you could have stopped it, if you’d succeeded, couldn’t you? And you did promise a free-for-all Christmas shindig.”
Sacha crossed his arms petulantly, shrugging Dom off. Connie rolled her eyes.
“I asked her out. Gave her a peck on the cheek. It seems Ms Campbell has quite the jealous streak.”
“See! I knew it!” Zosia cried, triumphantly.
“Keep your knickers on, Doctor Love. We’ve still had more action than they have. Should have listened to me in the first place.”
“We weren’t putting a sodding dildo etched with Bernie’s name in Serena’s locker, Jac. Jesus!” Zosia shouted, exasperated.
“Well, your brilliant plan has landed us all on a bloody sexual harassment course! At least mine would have been worth it; it would have only been your precious army medic in here!”
“Well, I’m sorry if I’m the only one that thinks it was worth it,” Zosia retorted, hands bunched into fists, waves of anger and hurt almost visibly emanating from her. Jac sighed.
Before they could fully forget about the other occupants of the room, a throat clearing from the open door drew their attention, most people jumping as they finally noticed the looming figure.
“Would anyone care to explain to me why most of my senior members of staff, and quite a few of their subordinates-” at this, Hanssen threw a pointed look at Jac, who flushed but nevertheless tilted her chin and met his gaze unflinchingly. Sacha, on the other hand, ran a hand through his hair, squirming guiltily. “-are sequestered in a human resources room under the orders of my deputy CEO?” His eyes roamed the room, all pairs of eyes save Connie and Jac’s practicing avoidance.
Sacha crumbled first, and under numerous pairs of disbelieving eyes, began to ramble his way through an explanation. It was at the point that even Jac winced, when Connie cleared her throat.
“Oh, please!” she pushed herself off the desk. “Henrik...” her voice lowered an octave, and she engaged in a staring contest until, eyes twinkling, Hanssen moved fully into the room, allowing both Ric and Jason to enter behind him. Connie folded her arms almost triumphantly.
“Whilst I don’t condone the actions of anyone in this room-” Hanssen’s eyes almost pinned everyone, leaving them squirming. “-the reason for said actions has not escaped my notice, and nor do I question the fact that you believe you were acting for the greater good. However ill advised.”
He met Zosia’s wide eyes with this last comment, and she blushed profusely, although resolutely maintained eye contact. It also did not escape his notice how Jac looked on, impressed.
When no more seemed to be forthcoming, Mo was the first to clear her throat.
“So, umm, Mr Hanssen, are you saying… I mean… Do we have to…” she laughed awkwardly. Hanssen merely raised an eyebrow. “What I mean is… we sort of… As this was a purely altruistic… thing…”
“Mr Hanssen, you’re quite right,” Jason piped up, cutting off Mo’s increasingly awkward stammering. Jason turned to address the group. “You’re none of you very good communicators, are you?”
All eyes moved between the three men stood by the doorway, alarmed. Hanssen’s eyes twinkled as he elaborated.
“Mr Griffin filled me in when it came to my attention that a substantial amount of our budget was to be spent on basic workplace etiquette.”
Zosia’s blush deepened.
“So, he put me up to it, but gets to escape the consequences?” Connie indignantly said.
“Mrs Beauchamp. You are a senior consultant hired because you are competent and therefore, I would assume, capable of making sound decisions. If you still regard your course of action as a sound decision, then I may be forced to concur with Ms Campbell’s statement and seriously look into other options.”
Fletch whistled, whilst Morven gasped.
“She really said that?” Raf asked, incredulous.
“We all know what Serena on the warpath can be like,” Ric said. “I thought it best to, ah, nip this in the bud.”
Hanssen carried on as though no one had spoken. “And whilst Mr Griffin should have come to me sooner, and your actions – all of you – give cause for reflection on the need for some internal pastoral care assurances, some deep personal reflection at the very least-” his gaze flicks knowingly between the people who had paired off for Zosia’s latest plan, leaving most faces clashing with Dom’s Keller scrubs. “I can, however incomprehensible I find your actions, sympathise with their intent.”
“But really, if you wanted Aunty Serena and Doctor Bernie together, you should have just asked,” Jason shrugged. He flashed a big smile before turning and striding purposefully from the room.
“Where… where’s he going?” Essie asked.
“To...umm… get to the point, I suppose,” Ric shrugged.
The AAU team shared panicked looks. Fletch was the first to lurch forward, Raf and Morven hot on his heels.
“Mr Hanssen, please! You gotta let us follow him! You’ve got agency nurses and random F1s down there; they’ll all run for the hills if Serena goes off on one, you know what she can be like! And none of us have seen Bernie proper lose it, what if it goes down like a lead balloon… whatever it is?!”
Hanssen raised an eyebrow. “Very well, Nurse Fletcher,” he unconsciously rubbed his nose, Ric hiding a smirk under his hand. “The AAU staff may head back there.”
They clamoured for the door, only Lou hanging back as long as possible.
“I don’t want to see this… disaster written all over it…” she muttered as she reluctantly followed the rest.
“I’m with her!” Jac piped up. “I’d like to not be a part of this any longer.”
“Let the records show a traitor,” Zosia muttered darkly.
Dom would later swear he saw Hanssen smirk.
“You’re all free to go. Perhaps try to stay away from Ms Campbell for the foreseeable. And within less touching distance of each other, if at all possible. Mr Levy, I look forward to this year’s Christmas gathering.
As you were.”
He was gone almost as quickly as he’d appeared. Ric held up his hands as Sacha glared accusingly at him.
“Don’t worry, Mr Levy,” Connie drawled as she sauntered away, stopping just in front of Ric. “However much you have to pay out in scotch for him, just remember the money he’s saving is going towards my new bike.”
Essie snorted as she rubbed Sacha’s shoulder. “Come on; I’ll help you budget. Sooner you start…”
Dom followed them out. ‘St Tropez, Zosh!” thrown over his shoulder with a glower that was only half joking.
Mo glanced quickly between the remaining occupants, decided to stage an intervention before the tenuous secondary plan she’d surreptitiously enabled was scuppered completely by its oblivious participants. “C’mon then, Naylor. You’ve got a Valentine to eviscerate over a dubious diagnosis.”
Jac rolled her eyes, stretched around Zosia to put down her mug, eyebrow raising as their arms touched.
“Come along, then, Doctor March. If there’s no rest for the wicked, then you haven’t a hope in hell.”
Mo physically marched Oliver from the room as Zosia gasped, her eyes trained on Jac.
Fletch and Raf burst through the doors of AAU, Morven and Lou hot on their heels. They stopped dead as Fletch looked wildly around, and spotted Jason.
“I understand, Aunty Serena, I really do!” Fletch heard Jason exclaim, triumphantly holding up a key. They caught up to him by the admit desk.
“Jason! What’re you doing, mate?” Raf asked, leaning heavily on the counter. Jason frowned, eyeing the breathless group suspiciously.
“Getting Aunty Serena and Doctor Bernie together,” he explained, as though they were particularly dense. “That was the point of the futile exercises you’ve been engaging in, was it not?”
They looked between them. “Well, yeah, but mate, you can’t just go locking people in a room!” Fletch panted.
Jason shrugged. “You can’t make up lies, or go around groping other members of staff whilst you’re on duty and on hospital grounds, but that hasn’t stopped any of you,” He pointed out.
Morven and Lou shrugged at each other, whilst Fletch hurried towards the locked door of the office.
“What’re they doing?” Fletch asked, trying to squint through the blinds.
“Having a deep and meaningful, I presume,” Raf answered, frowning as he saw Bernie frown. “Hold on…”
After a minute, Raf returned with a couple of pieces of paper, handing one to Fletch and one to Jason. “Just stand there and hold these up… By the window where Serena can see you…. The right way around, Jesus Christ!”
Jason and Fletch shuffled until the “tell her you love her” signs were actually facing Serena and in the right order.
“What’s happening?” Raf asked, unable to see over Fletch’s shoulder.
“S’rena’s moved. Think she’s standing next to Bernie, now. They’re definitely talking.” Fletch lowered his sign and nudged Jason, who elbowed past them to peer through the smaller office window.
“Jason!” Fletch hissed, as he saw him give a thumbs up, then rifle through his pocket.
“Auntie Serena? Auntie Serena, I’ve lost the key!”
Fletch gawped as the blinds were unceremoniously flicked shut, and Raf dangled the key in front of him with a wink, before swiftly pocketing it and moving Jason along.
He shook his head. “Flamin’ Nora, what a day!”
Two weeks later
“Ready for this, Ms Campbell?” Bernie nudged Serena’s shoulder as they exited the ward.
“Jason’s at Alan’s for the night, I get to have the most eligible consultant escort me home safely, and we both have the day off tomorrow… I daresay I’m more ready than Sacha Levy’s wallet is.”
Bernie barked a laugh. “Go easy on him!”
Serena laughed. “Why? In case you’d forgotten, it was Jason who helped us see what was staring us in the face, in the end.”
Bernie’s face softened as she tickled Serena’s hand with her own. “How could I forget?” she murmured, eyes crinkling as Serena squeezed her fingers with a smile. “Still, they all tried.”
“Yes, they were all trying,” Serena retorted, sarcastically, then chuckled as she side eyed Bernie. “But I suppose we wouldn’t have gotten to the point where Jason made us see sense if they hadn’t, so yes, maybe I’ll go easy… But not on the Shiraz!”
They’d almost made it to the end of the corridor when they noticed a door slamming just ahead, and heard muffled noises from within. With quirked eyebrows, Serena strode ahead, hand already outstretched for the handle of the linen cupboard.
“S’rena, maybe we shouldn’t-”
Serena threw Benrie a glare just before she threw open the door, and words died on her tongue. Serena stared, open mouthed, into the room, until Bernie reached in front of her to push the door. “Come out of the closet, lads,” she tried to sound severe, but she couldn’t help the smirk at Fletch and Raf’s twin mortified expressions as the door swung shut on them.
Serena looked at Bernie and blinked. “Are they- Were they-Is it…” “Boxing?” Bernie supplied, helpfully. “Probably.” She gently steered Serena by the shoulders.
“Come on, let’s get some wine inside you.”
“I’m going to have to have a word,” Serena managed eventually, as they were halfway across the car park.
“Of course you are,” Bernie smiled.
“It’s not funny, Bernie!”
“Of course it’s not,” Bernie nodded, seriously.
“Time was,” Serena carried on, ignoring the burgeoning laugh bubbling from Bernie beside her. “I’d have had them both out on their ear, carrying on like that inside-”
“-Of course you would have,” Bernie, full on grinning, interjected as she grabbed Serena and pinned her against a car with her hips, leaning in for a kiss.
“Bernie,” Serena’s warning tone was belied by the octave her voice lowered. She leant in to the kiss, pulled Bernie’s hips closer before gently pushing on them.
“We’ll have a word,” Bernie said, stepping marginally away so Serena could glue to her side. “Sometime after tomorrow,” she nudged Serena’s hip with her own as they walked. Serena gazed at her, a sloppy smile spreading. She quirked an eyebrow.
“Oh, yes… tomorrow! Now remind me again-Jesus Christ!”
“-Bloody hell!” Bernie jumped away from Serena as she shouted and seemingly stumbled over the curb as they mounted the pavement in front of Albie’s alley. Bernie rounded on Serena, about to chastise her, when she followed Serena’s gaze to the alley entrance. Momentary shock abating, she squeezed her lips together, and ran a hand over her face, as Serena began frothing.
“Now, this really is the limit! Honestly! I’d have thought that that course would have taught you at least something about acceptable behaviour, but here we are again, and you, of all people, Jac, honestly! Raf and Fletch I’d somewhat expect it of, given that we haven’t- No, Bernie, this is ridiculous!” Serena interrupted herself as Bernie pulled on her sleeve and called her name.
Bernie stepped back at Serena’s brusque brush off, and shrugged apologetically as Zosia, somewhat sheepishly, and Jac, very defiantly, emerged completely from the shadow of the alley entrance. Jac stood in front of Serena and slowly wiped her lips, smirking. Zosia side eyed her, rolling her eyes as she stepped almost between them.
“Ms Campbell, I-”
But Serena was full flow, already pacing, head shaking, hand flailing. It was when Jac stopped looking amused and took a defensive stance that Bernie stepped forward again.
The authoritative tone stopped Serena in her tracks and she turned to look at Bernie. Bernie took a step, and continued more softly. “Serena, I..umm.. I don’t think that this is part of…” Bernie gesticulated wildly between them, eyeballs comically wide. “I think they’re sort of…” she shrugged between them, again. As Serena’s brows knitted, Zosia stepped forward and grabbed Jac’s hand, but before she could utter a word, Jac took a step.
“You won’t hear me say this again, Campbell, so listen up… If Doctor March here didn’t have some sort of weird sapphic affiliation with your Big Macho Army Medic,”
At this both Zosia and Bernie opened their mouths as they blushed, but were silenced by twin looks from Serena and Jac.
“-then none of us would be in the situation where we’re snogging the face off the best thing to ever happen to us.”
As Zosia turned to face Jac, almost beaming, Jac held up a finger.
Zosia rolled her eyes, squeezing the hand that Jac still held, despite her raised finger. “So, why don’t we just go for a drink, pretend none of us have seen the other snogging in public,” Zosia and Bernie exchanged quick smiles at Serena and Jac’s wrinkled noses, as though they were discussing something neither of them had been indulging in moments previously. “And say no more about it.”
They entered Albie’s to a chorus of applause, which had dimmed slightly in confusion when Zosia and Jac were the first to enter, but picked up momentum again when Bernie and Serena brought up the rear.
“Are they together now, too?” Jac heard someone whisper, and she turned to glower at Zosia.
“First round’s on you.”
“But Sacha-” Zosia looked around imploringly.
“Don’t look at me,” Serena said, aiming for the bar. “You brought this upon everyone. Poor Sacha.”
Bernie shrugged as she was pulled to the bar. “I’m with her.”
Serena couldn’t help it. Since they’d opened up about their feelings, since they’d properly allowed themselves to touch each other, she couldn’t get enough of her hands on Bernie. Her hand found Bernie’s on the stem of her wine glass and her fingers stroked as she listened to Bernie chat animatedly with Ric, letting the conversation flow over her as she observed them and the rest of the room. It was when her hand froze that Bernie glanced at her, tracked her narrowed eyes to the approaching figure of Connie Beauchamp and promptly buried half her face in her glass.
“Ms Campbell! How delightful to finally bump into you out.”
“Ms Beauchamp,” Serena replied almost stonily. “Always a pleasure.”
Connie laughed. “I just wanted to thank you, for landing me on that course.”
Serena looked at her, aghast. “I sent you on that course because of an unsolicited kiss you bestowed on my co-lead! And because you may or may not have asked her out,” she said, darkly, before adding, hastily. “On hospital time!”
Ric hid a smirk as Connie replied. “As I see before me, your co-lead is a fully grown adult. And as I recall, your co-lead didn’t say no.”
Bernie held up her hands in defense. “As the co-lead recalls, she didn’t say much of anything.”
Connie smiled. “No. You practically bolted from my office. Glad to have played some small part in helping you to realise your feelings were only for one certain short haired brunette consultant. No offence taken. And glad to have ignited such jealousy in order for you to get a clue, Serena. Nice to see I still have the touch. Which brings me nicely around to the point. Hello, Ric!” she leaned in to air kiss him. “Excuse us, ladies, we have assets to discuss. About that Harley.”
Bernie looked perplexedly between them all until Serena grabbed her hand and headed for a table. “Come on. I’ve heard quite enough for one month about how we've been so blind that most of our staff have breached protocols, morals and probably laws in trying to shove us together.” Bernie side-eyed her. “It’ll keep. I’d like to make the squirming last.”
Bernie smiled. “Ah. There’s the Serena I know and love.”
Serena beamed at her as Morven made room on a sofa for them. “And that’s enough of that!” Serena chided as Morven simply stared at them, grinning, head resting on her palm. Serena winked as she rested her hand on Bernie’s knee. “You’re all ridiculous. Henrik should have you all on a warning. After I warn him about not following through with that bloody course, don’t think I don’t know!”
An hour later found Bernie back at the bar standing next to a forlorn looking Oliver Valentine, his eyes sliding between his half empty glass and Jac and Zosia, in the middle of a crowd but looking for all the world like they were in a bubble of their own, even without touching.
Bernie slid another glass towards him. “I thought she really liked me,” he sighed. Mo piped up from his other side. “Of course she likes you, Ollie. She just doesn’t… like you like you.” “How’s Sernie, Mo?” Oliver snapped, taking brief pleasure in how Mo’s eyes widened comically as she looked between him and Bernie. Bernie’s eyebrows knitted together. “Sernie?” she asked.
Dom popped up behind them. “Oooh, you’ve found out about the puppy!” he said gleefully. “Honestly, Ms Wolfe, it’s quite romantic, really. I mean, once Mo’s got him house trained you should set up a time share, I’m sure Serena’d love him when she can be sure her shoes are safe!”
Bernie arm-pitted the bottle of wine and picked up the glasses. “Come on, Serena’s going to love this one,” she said, tapping Mo on the back and pointing her in the general direction of their table. She leaned back towards Oliver. “It’s really hard lines, Oliver. I mean, your name is Valentine. Literally the only person you could have lost out to would have a name like Naylor.” She gestured the barman to place the shot she’d ordered down in front of him. “Bad luck.”
She reached the table just as Mo was beginning to pace, muttering about should have just asked Jason all along to the audience of Morven and Serena now joined by almost everyone else in on the farce. “Look,” she began, defiantly. “It was a good plan…”
“The best laid schemes…” Ric muttered, casting a dark glance over at Connie Beauchamp.
“Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!” Everyone jumped at the hearty Scottish voice, most of all Ric, almost falling from his stool as he spun around to see Hanssen, stood behind him looking as though he’d just solemnly read at a funeral, but for the twinkle in his eye and the smile dancing at the corner of his mouth. His eyes darted between everyone before he stepped forward and bent over to place a bottle of champagne on the table, his eyes focussing between Bernie and Serena, Raf and Fletch, and Jac and Zosia.
“But sometimes they don’t.” Gone just as unexpectedly and quickly as he’d appeared, Bernie took the momentary astonishment to glance over the room, catching Serena’s eye as they both looked over at Zosia and Jac talking animatedly now as though nothing had happened, and Fletch and Raf shyly joining the group fully, placing a bottle on the table and squashing into a seat together.
Bernie squeezed Serena subtly into her side.
“We’re still not having the puppy,” Serena deadpanned almost immediately, then, to the delight of everyone, leaned over to kiss Bernie’s astonished face. “What we are having, is words with that gangly Swede…” Serena stood and pulled Bernie to her feet, forcefully enough that Bernie stumbled into her. “After tomorrow,” she muttered, close to Bernie’s lips. “Let’s go home.”
Over in the corner, Zosia turned to Jac. “Just think, if we pretended to split up now, we could end up with a puppy called Zac.”
Jac rolled her eyes. “You’re incorrigible.”
“Where are you going?”
Jac turned back to Zosia.”Just think. If we leave right now, we can shout at your lovebirds in the alley, how fun will that be?”