So I was re-watching the 2nd series the other day and as much I love how they brought Sister Bernadette and Dr Turner together, it did occur to me that her being diagnosed with such a deadly illness kind of shocked them both into action and I thought it would have been quite interesting to see how they would have overcame their problems if this wasn't the case.
Which brings us to this story. It picks up right after the TB screening, but Sister Bernadette's x-ray is clear.
"I think it's safe to say that today was a roaring success," Sister Evangelina sighed, slapping her hands against her ample hips and giving a small stretch as she continued, "That queue was a thing of beauty."
Sister Bernadette stifled a laugh at the reverent tone to the older woman's voice, she did love order and more than that she adored being the one to instil it. As she ducked her head to avoid being caught, she couldn't help but catch Dr Turner's gaze, and her smile widened as she saw the grin on his face, the sight of it sending the strangest sensation shooting down her spine. She looked away, her cheeks colouring and heating. "Yes, well it did help," she finally replied carefully.
"Help," Sister Evangelina scoffed. "It made all the difference, it's no good having these mass screenings if you can't get people organised enough to keep them going through at pace. Although it would have been preferable if it had ran at a separate time from our clinic," she added meaningfully.
"I agree, Sister, of course I do," the doctor replied, forcing himself to look away from the young, blushing nun, lest his preoccupation with her was noticed. "But as we asked for the screening as a matter of urgency it would have been foolish for us to then start dictating dates."
"Humph, well let's try not to repeat it anyhow." She gave another groan as she looked up at the clock. "I need to get back, I'm first on call tonight." She glanced over at Sister Bernadette, asking, "Will you manage?"
"Of course," she assured her easily. "It's only the cups left to wash, and I'm sure that won't prove too much for me. You go ahead."
"Very well." She gave a curt nod. "I'll see you back at Nonnatus. Good night, Dr Turner."
"Good night," he muttered as he shrugged off his white coat, placing it haphazardly on the coat rack. He sucked in a deep breath as he heard Sister Evangelina's heavy footsteps cross the floor, watching as Sister Bernadette turned her attention to the cups, filling the large sink with warm water and adding a liberal amount of liquid soap. The heavy double doors clanked in the background, signifying the elder nun's departure and finally he felt able to talk to her, his tongue finally coming free from the roof of his mouth. "You were a great help today," he told her sincerely.
She glanced up, her cheeks still tinged pink as she offered him a small, gracious smile and replied, "Thank you, but I did no more than anyone else."
"I don't think that's strictly true, I saw you, putting people at ease, making sure that they did not let fear stop them from carrying through with the x-ray." He brushed his fingertips against his thumb as he continued, "You have such a way with them, I probably shouldn't admit this to a nun of all people but I envy you it."
She let out a small trickle of laughter at his confession. "At least it's not the worst of the bunch. But either way you have absolutely no need to feel it, I've seen you ease the worry of so many of your patients," she assured him, her tone sincere, earnest. "You're a very good Doctor, and we'd struggle to find another who would match your dedication to the Parish."
"High praise indeed," he answered after a moment, his eyes fixed on her face. She looked so very young and yet she seemed to be one of the wisest people he knew, at least she seemed to know exactly what to say to him, no matter what the subject. He should really be leaving now, he thought to himself, his work for the day was done, and yet he couldn't. It was wrong but all he wanted was to spend some time alone with her, some time getting to know a bit more about the woman behind the habit. Definitely dangerous, he had no business even trying to find that out, and yet his next words slipped from his mouth unthinkingly, "I'll give you a hand cleaning up."
Her head tilted. "Oh you don't have to," she assured him. "I'm sure you have more important places to be."
"None that I can think of, anyway you know what they say, two sets of hands are better than one. You can wash and I can dry."
A small smile spread across her features again, she should tell him to go, should push him away, her feelings were confused and her mind troubled enough as it was but instead she found herself replying, "Very well then, if it will see us both home quicker."
He deftly undid the buttons at his cuffs and pushed his shirtsleeves up to his forearms, and Sister Bernadette found herself watching him, her eyes fixing on his arms, noting their solidness and the smattering of dark hair that decorated his skin. Inhaling sharply, she looked away, what was the matter with her? Why did this one man seem to throw everything she had thought she had known and wanted into sharp relief? She did not want to dwell on any possible answer to that, and instead busied herself with the washing. Her breath caught again as he moved behind her, reaching past her shoulder to grab the tea towel before settling close to her side. "Do we know the results of the screening yet?" She asked suddenly, work was a safe topic for them both and would hopefully keep her mind too occupied to think about anything else.
"From what I can gather there are a few cases in the early stages and some slightly further on." He gave a weary sigh, "I shall receive the full results in the next week or so, and then I have to deliver the news."
"As wretched as that will be, it is better that they know now, so that they can have some hope of a successful treatment."
"Yes, I keep telling myself that, but the reality of having to break such news to so many families..." He tailed off, shaking his head.
"I am sorry."
"It is not your doing, it just seems needlessly cruel." He glanced over at her. "How do you keep your faith? After all we have seen, I admire it, but I admit that I cannot understand it."
"I...I don't think I can answer that," she admitted after a moment. "At least not satisfactorily, all I can say is that sometimes, not all the time, it helps to believe that God has a higher purpose for us all, that no matter how impossible it may seem, there is a reason for everything."
"And when it doesn't help?"
"Faith does not spare us pain, it is simply there to give us the strength to get past it."
"If only you could bottle it," he joked weakly.
"I think that would defeat the purpose somehow," she replied as she placed the last tea cup on the draining board.
"Yes, I suppose it would rather."
The following seconds passed in a comfortable silence before Sister Bernadette asked, "How is Timothy?"
"Very well, he can't stop talking about his triumph at the three legged race, I believe that you are his favourite person at the moment. He was so pleased that he's yet to mention the fact that I missed it."
"Well, as I've said before children are very resilient."
"Yes, well he's had to be." He caught her gaze and gave a shrug, "Neither of us can change what's already happened."
"No, but it doesn't stop it hurting though."
"No, but time does," he told her, only realising as he said it how true his words were. He did not miss his wife any less, but the pain was no longer so acute. When he thought of her he was finally able to smile now, and he did not spend every day dwelling on her absence from it. He had finally moved on, he realised with a start. "And Timothy and I rub along quite well together, most of the time," he added wryly. "When I don't try and cook." Sister Bernadette laughed, and he felt himself smiling along with her, she looked so carefree when she did so, so young and so very pretty. He placed the last cup on the tray with the others. "Done," he remarked needlessly.
"Yes, so it looks as though we are both free to go." Her blue eyes twinkled as she asked, "Will you be cooking tonight?"
"No, it's been a long enough day without subjecting us both to that. It'll be fish and chips for us."
"I feel we'll soon have to be lecturing you on the merits of a healthy diet," she teased.
"I know the merits, I just can't seem to provide the result," he admitted with a rueful grin on his face.
She did love seeing him smile, she realised with a jolt, seeing the laughter lines that crinkled around his eyes and mouth, the way he looked so much younger, transformed from the over-worked Doctor into just a normal man. Her fingers itched to fan themselves against those lines, and she looked away again, shocked at the route her mind had taken. Muddled, she turned away from him.
"Are you feeling unwell?" He asked, his voice lowering in concern as he watched Sister Bernadette's face pale and she suddenly twirled away from him. He reached out carefully, his hand resting gently on her shoulder.
"No," she replied quietly, taking in a deep breath and steeling herself before facing him again, feeling his hand fall from her shoulder and inadvertently brushing against her arm. "I just..."
She tailed off suddenly when his hand pressed gently against her forehead. "You don't feel warm, you do look quite flushed though," he remarked, his eyes studying her intently. Her mouth felt dry and she watched as he seemed to catch himself, realise what he was doing. "I'm very sorry, I shouldn't have..."
"It's quite alright, but I feel quite well."
"Good, I'm glad to hear it."
Her breathing growing heavy, her eyes flickered upwards to where his hand was still resting against her skin, the warmth of his hand seeping though her.
He followed her gaze upwards and realised that he was still touching her, he began to draw his hand away when he saw her lick her lips, and heard her breath catch and instead he drew one finger carefully down her smooth cheek, watching as her eyes fell shut and she turned her face into his touch. He cupped her face, his thumb brushing against her cheekbone, marvelling at the perfection of her skin.
Her eyes opened, bright blue meeting his, and he could see the haze of desire clouding the intense colour. He couldn't help himself, he moved closer to her, his face dropping as hers turned up to meet him. She sighed softly, a noise of contentment as his lips brushed gently against hers, the softest most fleeting of kisses.
For a brief second they both just stood in their embrace, her hand shaking as she reached up and drew her thumb across the lines that fanned out from his eye, giving into the temptation she'd had earlier. He caught her hand gently, fingers caressing her wrist before his head turned, pressing a kiss to her pulse point. She shivered under his touch and he felt his stomach kink at the thought of her wanting him, he felt so weary and care-worn so much of the time now, and yet when she touched him he felt like a young man again.
He wasn't sure who initiated the following kiss, but it was much more than a momentary touching of lips this time. Her lips soft and warm, parted under his, her breathing snatched and uneven.
She let her hand curve around her back of his head, pressing herself up onto her tiptoes, wanting to be closer to him. She could not even describe how she felt, just that she did and in that instant, for that moment the confusion that had plagued her was gone. The arms she had so recently admired were wrapped around her, surrounding her in warmth, holding her against the solidness of his chest, he made her feel so wanted, protected.
His hands shifted, moving, caressing her waist, her face and then brushing gently against her habit. Her habit. She jerked back in horror, shame suddenly flooding through her. The moment was gone. She couldn't meet his eyes, she heard him breath in, knew that he was about to talk, to apologize no doubt, and she couldn't bear it, she didn't want him to be sorry, she was the one who should be that, and so she ran. Ran from the hall, from him and everything he made her feel.