Author's Note: This really is the last chapter which is a little sad, I've really enjoyed writing this and judging by the feedback, you've loved reading this which is what it's all about.
Thank you to everyone who has left a review, it makes such a difference and I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time one pops up in my inbox. :-)
I've got several stories in need of updates which are planned, if not yet written and a brand new story in draft stages too. :-)
So, until next time, folks.
Half past six on a September morning and Serena wakes to a Hanssen-shaped lump in her bed as she has done most mornings for the past few months. The summer has been and is slowly going, the inevitable march back towards winter relentless and as the nights start to become colder again, she is grateful for the extra warmth that her bedmate provides. Despite sleeping on her own quite contentedly for the previous thirteen years, Serena has quickly grown accustomed to sharing her bed once again and when one of them is working nights, she finds she misses Hanssen's presence rather more than she expected she would.
Life with Henrik Hanssen was no picnic, they still disagreed at regular intervals but maintaing a romantic relationship with him was decidedly easier than she'd ever imagined it could be; their work-home balance wasn't too much of an issue, to the surprise of both of them considering their natural tendencies to work all hours. However, Serena thinks that Hanssen had hit the nail on the head when he'd quietly remarked one evening that as neither of them were faced with empty homes any more, then perhaps their newly rediscovered personal lives shouldn't be so surprising. The Swede was almost disturbingly single-minded at times and at when he was at work, very little would change his focus but as soon as they were home she was lucky enough to have the legendary, intense focus directed at herself and Serena certainly had no complaints about that.
She honestly hadn't expected them to last this long and they still argued as much as before if not a little more but as Serena cracks open an eye, she muses to herself that making up was a lot more fun these days and to that end, she had deliberately provoked a couple of arguments for that very reason and she suspected that Hanssen had done the same, too. Not to mention that their more public arguments had the unexpected bonus of keeping the true nature of their relationship hidden from the hospital grapevine with the staff believing that they can barely stand one another.
Turning over to face her Swedish bedmate, Serena presses a kiss to his shoulder and runs her nails lightly across his skin, watching him shiver involuntarily as she slowly teases Hanssen into waking. After a few moments, Hanssen begins to stir and eventually he opens his eyes, looking at her bleary-eyed – a sight that no-one else at the hospital will have ever seen and Serena treasures the moment. Any past or current conflicts or frustrations with the man are long forgotten in the face of the sleepy, rumpled sight in front of her. Serena continues her ministrations until Hanssen is co-ordinated enough to grasp her hand, stopping her teasing as he grumbles in a gravelly voice, "you seem determined to wake me up."
It had amused Serena to no end at first to discover that Henrik Hanssen was not a morning person; although it was possible for him to go from fast asleep to wide awake in mere seconds it would leave him grouchy and excessively sarcastic for the rest of the day. His preference was to wake slowly and in various stages before he transformed from Henrik into Mr. Hanssen.
"Can you blame me?" He looks surprised momentarily at her answer, as he has done on previous occasions when she has said something similar.
"Easily." He mutters, closing his eyes and settles back onto his pillow, using an arm to draw her closer to him. Serena laughs and obliges, moving closer, intent on not going back to sleep. Walking her index and middle fingers up his torso, Hanssen twitches as she finds a ticklish spot.
"What do you want?" He cracks open an eye to look at her when Serena doesn't answer and she can see the amusement and a flash of something else flitter across his face as he spots her expression. "We don't have time for what that look suggests – we'll be late."
Undeterred, Serena presses a kiss to the underside of his jaw.
"It'll be fine, Henrik – I know the CEO, he's very understanding..."
"He's not that understanding. He has a meeting this morning..." Hanssen mutters trying to sound disapproving before giving in.
Later that morning, Serena has made her way down to Pulses Café on the ground floor of the hospital to get a coffee and to treat herself to something sweet to replace the calories she burned this morning, despite knowing perfectly well that the pastry she's about to buy far exceeds the energy she used.
There's very little chance of Serena and Hanssen ever marrying; not after Serena's experience of marriage with Edward and she doubts that the Swede would ever pluck up the courage to ask her anyway, which she is fine with, quite happy as they are. Neither of them require a piece of paper to advertise their commitment to one another, in fact, it would just invite rumour and gossip – things that they could do without – the people who need to know, know.
Reaching the front of the small queue, Serena hands over a fiver after giving her order and holds her hand out for the change, not bothering to count it as she drops the coins into a pocket and steps to one side with her pastry to wait for her drink.
Watching the people move through the reception area, Serena spots Terrance Cunningham exit the lift and stride out of the hospital – if the Chairman of the Board saw her, he was ignoring her.
Serena smiles to herself, unable and utterly unwilling to suppress her amusement; she and Hanssen had, rather reluctantly, recently informed Cunningham of their relationship and the memories of that particular conversation will probably keep her laughing to herself for years to come. The Chairman, once he'd realised that he hadn't misheard and that the two consultants facing him were quite serious and quite sober had looked like he'd swallowed a lemon. Whole.
In true typical fashion, Cunningham had managed to insult them both, questioning Serena's integrity and professionalism once he had rediscovered the ability to speak. She had been unable to respond to the Chairman's bitter accusations, Hanssen had beaten her to it, practically growling at Cunningham who sensibly shut up after offering a weak apology. The Swede's possessive streak still catches her out sometimes and although she doesn't need him fighting battles on her behalf, the fact that he is willing to do so speaks volumes.
"I have enough confidence in my abilities to get a job fairly rather than resorted to such underhanded tactics." She'd tried not to let her lips twitch as a mischievous thought occurred to her and she'd added lightly as an afterthought, "and besides Mr. Hanssen is rather good in his current position."
Cunningham, undoubtedly aided by Serena's expression immediately looked ill as his gaze flicked between the two of them as they presented a united front. After a few more exchanges, the Chairman had made his excuses and left the office and as the door closed behind him, Serena had exchanged a smug and lazily satisfied smile with Hanssen.
As Serena's gaze follows the suited figure of Cunningham out of the hospital, the automatic doors pulling aside for him, two figures pass him, entering and Serena's attention is drawn by them. Michael Spence strolls into the reception area with an over-sized white baseball jacket on, talking animatedly to the blonde woman next to him and Serena shakes her head at the American's tenacity.
'At least she's over the age of thirty this time,' Serena thinks to herself, trying briefly to identify her without any success – if the woman is staff, she doesn't work in a department that Serena has any contact with.
"One Americano." The call from the girl at the counter behind her distracts Serena from her thoughts and she turns sharply on a booted heel away from her colleague and his mystery blonde to collect her drink. Offering a half-mumbled thanks, Serena takes the hot paper cup and removes the plastic lid, grabbing two sachets of sugar and emptying them into her drink.
Becoming aware of someone stood next to her as she finishes stirring the sugar into her drink, Serena looks up, half-expecting to see Hanssen looming over her.
Serena glares at Michael Spence, part disappointment that it isn't the Swede but mostly because of his continued use of her nickname. Her glare seems to have no effect and Michael throws a heavy arm around her shoulders and turns her so that Serena can see Michael's mystery blonde who is half a step back and looking expectantly at them.
"I need a favour, Rena." Michael beams at her and before Serena can draw breath, he's turned back to his companion. "She'll sort you right out – good luck!" Clapping Serena on the back, Michael disappears and all Serena can do is watch as he goes, silently promising her colleague dire retribution for this stunt.
A quick glance at her watch tells Serena that she still has enough time before her afternoon electives are due if this doesn't take too long. Swallowing her annoyance, it isn't this woman's fault, Serena turns to pick up her drink and pastry and turns back to face the woman, a little surprised as she can see her more clearly than before and finds she is a lot older than thirty, much closer to Serena's age.
"I'm sorry about that." Serena apologises, involuntarily looking towards the way Michael had gone.
"It's ok." The woman speaks, shrugging slightly, apparently unconcerned by Michael's antics. "I am looking for Henrik Hanssen." The accent is foreign, European but Serena can't place it.
"Oh, well I'm afraid he's blocked his appointments this afternoon," Serena responds, in fact, she herself has barely seen her Swede since they arrived at the hospital this morning – he's had a morning of tedious interviews and meetings; as they'd crossed the car park first thing, she had extracted a promise of dinner from Hanssen in return for her not attending the morning's meetings with the Board as she holds the fort on Keller instead.
"He's very busy at the moment but I'm the Deputy Director of Surgery, may I help instead?" Serena eyes the blonde woman curiously and she watches the woman decide how to respond to Serena's interruption.
"I'm afraid not." The woman declines, pausing for a moment before explaining further. "No, it must be Henrik Hanssen – I've been trying to get hold of him for weeks."
"Ah, he's not often on the floor these days. Which ward was it? We can speak to them and-"
"I'm not a patient." Serena waits but no further explanation appears to be forthcoming from the woman and a quick look at the clock on the wall informs her that she will need to get back to Keller at some point sooner rather than later.
"Well, as I said, he's very busy and if you're sure that I can't help then you'll have to come back another time." Serena turns to leave, she has just under twenty minutes until she needs to be back on Keller to introduce herself to her patients but before she can take a step, she feels a tugging on her arm and looks back to find the woman has her hand on Serena's elbow.
"Please." Serena raises an unimpressed eyebrow at the contact but the woman doesn't let go, if anything, Serena thinks that the grip is tightened. "Could you just tell him I'm here. It's important."
Serena is about to refuse but she catches the look of almost desperation in the woman's expression and she sighs, she has to head back to Keller and Hanssen is quite capable of saying no – something she found out when she hacked his email account at the start of the year.
"I can ask him, but no promises – he is very busy." It feels like the tenth time she's said that in as many minutes and the woman offers a grateful smile, releasing her hold on Serena's elbow.
Serena hums, not exactly pleased by the situation but fishes her mobile phone out of her pocket and scrolls through the contact list to find Hanssen's mobile phone, knowing that he probably won't answer his office phone this afternoon. As the call connects, she sighs to herself, wondering just how annoyed Hanssen will be at the interruption. He answers after three or four rings, sounding unimpressed as he greets her.
"I'm in Pulses with a woman determined to see you." She explains, nodding as Hanssen curtly informs her that he's busy. "I know you're busy but apparently I can't help, it has to be you; it wasn't my idea, Michael dumped her on me and ran off." She hears Hanssen exhale on the other end of the line and she can just imagine him pinching the bridge of his nose.
After a few seconds of silence, he makes a decision, informing Serena that he will head to Pulses to stretch his legs, grab a bite to eat and meet this woman. He enquires after the woman's name, Serena turns and asks the same question, relaying the answer to Hanssen.
AN2: I know it's a horrendous place to leave it but that was the ending I was originally going to have on the previous chapter but then the story went in a slightly different way than I was initially anticipating.
The feedback for this story has been so wonderful and I know that there are a couple of things I haven't addressed (when Hanssen finally calls Serena, 'Serena', for example) which I couldn't quite fit in, so... a quick straw poll: would you be interested in a collection of one-shots about these two?
If yes, I'll need some prompts and ideas. Feel free to suggest ideas as a review, PM or on twitter ( _brandstifterin) and I'll see what I can do :)
Once more, thanks again - you're all amazing :)