“What’s your favourite colour?” You ask her one day. You’re leaning against her desk in your shared office, and she’s reclining in her chair. You’re both taking a minute to just inhale the steam from your coffees, savouring the time you have after the chaotic morning to enjoy a drink that’s still warm.
“Hmm?” Serena replies, absently, indulging in another deep sniff before her eyes flutter open to focus on you.
“Your favourite colour,” you reiterate, smiling as she slowly comes back to her surroundings. “Strikes me that I don’t really know. Know which ones you like, but not a favourite,” you shrug, looking down before you meet her eyes. When you look back up through your fringe, she’s put her coffee on the desk and is scooting closer to you in the chair.
“I suppose a case could be made for Trauma Scrub Blue,” her eyebrow raises and her eyes crinkle with a flirtatious upturn of lips. You laugh, dip your head again before you meet her mirthful yet suggestive gaze.
Serena scoots the chair closer still, then adjusts her posture so you're almost face to face. “Can’t help it. It’s the blue scrubbed consultant that does it,” she mock-whispers, with a wink.
“I’ll be sure to let Ric know, the next time he covers…” Before either of you can do anything but laugh again, Fletch appears by the door, and with a resigned sigh and a bump of knees, you both get dragged back to the grind.
“It’s my favourite colour.”
“Hmm?” You’re laying between her legs, head resting on her hip, hand playing with the waistband of her knickers, fingers running along the length of the waistband and letting it snap lightly.
“My favourite colour,” she sighs into your touch, her hand coming to card through your hair. “Is the colour of the garment you're currently torturing me with.”
“Purple?” you ask, lifting your head to meet her eyes.
“Deep purple,” Serena clarifies. “Dark purple. Plum. Like Shiraz.”
“I thought Shiraz was red,” you say, renewing your interest in the material covering her thighs.
“That’s because you’re a heathen,” Serena rolls her eyes, her smile widening with your own.
“Then educate me,” you say, planting your wide open mouth over her mound, relishing Serena’s gasp and the tightening of the hand in your hair.
You kiss up to her neck, lift your head once to kiss her deeply enough to elicit a moan, then nuzzle back in the warm silky hollow as your hand plays along the strap of her matching - obviously - bra. She tilts her head so that she’s talking into your hair, your entire head vibrating with her words.
“You hold it up to the light and you can barely see through it. It seems dark and impenetrable, but there are hues. Violet, and mulberry. Blackberry and plum. Swirled together. That’s my favourite colour,” she sighs as you shift your weight so you’re hovering above her, your mouth still nuzzling along her neck, chasing her clavicle. You meet her eyes. “The purple you can only see when the light shines through.”
You continue to gaze at her intently, but she gives a little shrug and looks away, follows the trail of her hand through your hair, covers your wandering fingers lightly with her own, a slight blush pinking her cheeks.
You’ve never loved her more.
“That’s beautiful,” you say, and move your entwined fingers up to her cheek, continue to stroke until she almost shyly meets your eyes again. “You’re beautiful,” you whisper, and before she can blush, or tut, or look away, you pull her lips into your own once again. “Violet?” you suck her lower lip and pull back, releasing it with a nip.
Her chin tilts. “Mhmm.”
“And mulberry?” You move incrementally lower, sucking at her pulse point in that blessed dip between neck and shoulder that you both can’t get enough of.
Her neck stretches. “Mhmm.”
“Plum…” your teeth snap at her bra strap, and her hand tangles in your hair, trying to hold you close even as you avoid settling for too long in one place. You wrap your mouth around as much of her breast as you can, weight shifting as she arches into you. You lift your head once again, make sure her eyes, wide and black, meet yours. “Beautiful impermeable,” you whisper, your tongue dragging along the edge of lace. “Beautiful when the light gets in,” you pull the lace down to encompass her nipple, unrestrained by material.
She looks at you as though you’re the sun that makes the hues, and it’s too much, how much you want to squeeze her into your bones, so you kiss your way down her stomach, around everywhere you can map, murmuring all the iterations of purple you can think of, until she’s moaning and squirming, her hand tightening in your hair, and you're between her thighs and “Shiraz,” escapes your lips on the end of a sigh, and you meet her eyes one last time before you dip your head. “Good enough to drink.” Your mouth and your ears are full with her.
“What’s yours?” you hear, sometime later when you're sweaty and sated and stuck steadfast to her skin in place of the lingerie that you’d paid reverence to before peeling it from her. You stretch to kiss her lips, and you both groan from the blissful effort, before snuggling back into her neck.
“S’pose a case could be made for Shiraz purple.”
“Green!” Even the anaesthetist jumps, and you still your hands momentarily as you meet Serena’s eyes, trying to process this apropos-to-nothing segue in conversation. She looks expectantly at you, and you blink, then with a nod to the nurse, go back to stitching the tendons. “Like green,” you shrug your shoulders, even as your hands remain steady in their work. “Green is nice. Grass. Cactus.” You fully focus back on the operation, but not before you can suppress a smirk at Serena’s knitted brow. “Thought cactus meant dead,” she mutters, and you beam. “Yeah. Still a nice deep green, though.” Since you’d told her you don’t really have a favourite colour, Serena’s made it her mission to prove you a liar.
“Orange?” she’d asked gently, when she walked in to you at the kitchen table, peeling the pith from a tangerine. “Why?” you’d asked, somewhat perplexed. “You’re being so reverent!” she’d said, almost accusingly. You’d shrugged. “I’m methodical. But I suppose I do prefer it for a colour of food as opposed to skin.”
“Brown!” The word wrapping around her lips as sensually as the tiramisu she’d just lapped off the spoon, waving the barely stained utensil at you, and you’d almost said yes then, just to see that smug smile wrapped around the spoon once more. “Like it on your mouth right now,” And, just because you couldn’t help yourself, “Less fond of it when it comes out of arseholes.”
“Leopard print is brown,” she’d said later, breathless as she sunk backwards into the coats hanging in the hallway and you’d had to fish around to grab her by the shoulder to pull her back into you.
“Leopard print isn’t brown, it’s Serena,” you’d answered, impatiently, your weight now that you had a firm grip on her, pushing her back into the cocoon of the coats, and thank goodness for the cushioned bench and Jason’s absence.
“Black and white aren’t really colours, you know?” she’d whispered to you, when you’d gone to the theatre, and she wore a black and white dress and you could barely tear your eyes from her, the two apparently non-colours meeting in her cleavage and melting down her hips to swirl together at her calves. “But… is it black?” You would have said yes there and then, but you remember seeing her in the lingerie she’d donned before the dress, watching as she pulled the white lace up her legs. Remember how she saw you jogging for a charity event around the hospital perimeter, and how you’d never been so grateful for matching sportswear as she went down on it. “White is ok, too,” you’d gasped this as quietly as you could, being in a semi-private box with her hand burying between your legs, willing yourself to concentrate on the stage, even as her face was intently fixed on your own.
You walk out of the hospital and turn your face towards the source of the heat. It’s been a long night on top of an even longer day, and the sun is welcome, even if you’re going to sleep through the best part of it. Serena’s come to drive you home, even though it’s her day off, even though she’s been working opposite shifts to you and you should have said goodbye to her twelve hours ago, but emergency after emergency had happened, and she’d only left six hours ago. It’s been a long night on top of a long day, and so she says nothing as you practically hang your head out of the window on the drive home, looking towards the sky as though it contains salvation. She has curry ready in the house; she takes off her coat and shoes, and with a touch to your shoulder leaves you to do whatever you want with “food’ll be ready in ten minutes.”
You have a quick shower and bask in the scent of Serena surrounding you, in the shampoo you use, the shower gel that permeates the room in the steam, the towels you wrap yourself in, the loungewear you dig out from underneath the pillows on her side of the bed. When you enter the kitchen, you’re relaxed and smiling, and so malleable that you can wrap around her like second skin; your arms move with hers and you follow her every step, until she waltzes you into a chair and then plonks a plate in front of you.
“Curry at breakfast time,” you comment, even as you dig in, inhaling and moaning. “Breakfast literally means breaking the fast,” she starts, as you knew she would. “Doesn’t mean you have to eat muesli. Especially when your shift pattern is arse backwards and your societally-acceptable breakfast would be at eight pm.”
You’ve never been poetic, although you love reading it, but you’re sure that your smile comes from your soul.
She watches you intently all through food, all through cuddling up on the sofa for a bit before you give in to the need for proper sleep, all through listening to the dulcet tones of David Attenborough and the film crew traversing Africa. You go from sitting next to each other, your head slowly dipping, to lying between her legs, head resting on her chest, and when you smile at the lion cubs causing mischief, she feels it.
You jump, almost comically in tune with the cub that startles at his own sneeze on screen.
“Beg pardon?” you shift more comfortably fully onto your front, propping your head up on your palm. She’s glowing, triumphant smile in full force.
“Your favourite colour; it’s yellow!” Her smile falters a bit as she watches you studiously absorbing her, your voice and face silent. “Is it not?”
Immediately what springs to mind is The Yellow Wallpaper, that story you read in your school days; how it haunted you on and off and here and there, this all too real tale about a woman driven crazy by treatment meant to make her adhere to social norms; about how she’d picked and nagged at the wallpaper, seeing someone trying to break free from it until she’d become that woman herself - you’d soon dispelled any notion your mother-in-law had of a yellow nursery for Cameron - and how the story still leaves you breathless with terror now and again. Then you remember that time in uni, when you were somewhat besotted by Ruth, who drove a yellow VW, and you’d found some research suggesting that actually, there was a particular shade of yellow that had the capacity to drive people crazy, and you were quite relieved, because then you had a definitive, scientific reason as to why you kept thinking of Wallpaper Lady and Ruth, and then years - God, a lifetime - later, when Google became your infuriating friend, when you started looking all of this up again, because God, the dreams, and you’re again trying to justify a reason outside of your own soul, and… And yellow can be sandy and hazy and lovely but the sands of Kandahar were also hazy and lovely before the bombs, though, weren’t they, and what if you’re a bomb and…
And then you remember something Charlotte told you once, not so long ago, but in a life so different as to feel like a century; that yellow is the happiest colour because it’s the sun, and when you smile, Mum, with your whole face and your hair like that, it’s like the sun, you’re like actual sunshine, and you’d listened to a song a few times called Yellow, it’s one of your favourites, by U2 maybe, because it makes you think of Charlotte, all awkward and obtuse - quite literally; you have the scar to prove it - and how she’d had to lay under a light because of her jaundice, all five pounds of too much skin stretched over too-visible bones. All of this passes through your mind in a split second, not even long enough for Serena’s face to change as you refocus on it, the triumph, the breathless expectation of your smile, and you start to believe in what Charlotte said, because just like then, with one expression, you can light up the person you love as though you’ve bestowed upon her a sunbeam, how it happens frequently and only now you’re really seeing; you remember how she looks, bathed in sunlight, basking, having to shield your eyes from her glow as she leans above you and pops a strawberry into your mouth when you’d picnic’d in the park; how she bathes in starlight, too, in streetlight, in moonlight, all swirling together to create a shade in yellow for you that she sees in her purple, to set aglow her skin as she sits astride you on a sweaty, summer night; how candlelight laughs across her skin and the shadows dance, and you chase them until she’s gasping, praying as though you’re everything holy when you finally settle between her thighs on the rug when you’d holidayed in the cottage by the sea. How sunflowers always make her smile, and she always picks a buttercup and holds it under your chin, and the reflection on your skin is nothing compared to the glow on her entire face as she says “love butter!” and laughs and laughs, and you both reminisce how your grandmothers always said “don’t pick dandelions, they make you pee.” and she follows up this gentle reminiscence with noise about maybe picking some, someday, to make her own wine.
You smile, and her face relaxes, and there’s beauty to be found in the sands of Afghanistan, even after the bombs, you’re sure, now.
“Yellow.” A confirmation that sets her aglow again, and if you had any doubt, then seeing her smile widen and her eyes sparkle as if you’ve just gifted her a temple puts them firmly to bed, and yes, you think, yes, how could it have been anything else? as she scoops you against her, pulls you down and then twists so she has you pinned to the sofa, peppering kisses all over your face.
“I could live in yellow forever.”