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There but for the grace of God

Chapter Text

Delia pulled the door to their building shut and turned to face her, barely suppressing a grin. Patsy felt the same. Their building.  

Behind that green door and up the stairs was the door to their flat. Their home . She could barely believe it herself. After almost four years of hiding and constant vigilance they would finally be able to relax, to breathe, to love. They could lock the door and finally just be together.

“Shall I take the keys and get a set cut for you?”

Delia reached out, placed the keys in her hand and held it, using the exchange as an excuse to touch her, to hold on to the freedom they had enjoyed just moments before for just a bit longer. Patsy’s face broke into a full smile at the contact. She sometimes thought that she and Delia had developed a kind of supernatural ability that allowed for so much to be communicated through simple touches, gestures, glances. Or maybe it was more scientific, an evolutionary trait for survival - like how pigeons could sense magnetic fields.

Patsy had compared herself to a pigeon . God, she really did love this woman.

“Yes. I’d come with you, but I’ll be late on duty if I don’t fly,” Delia said, as Patsy released her girlfriend's hand and slipped the keys into her pocket.

The redhead looked at her watch, “Gosh, yes it’s twenty to.”

“Twenty to? I thought it was about quarter past!” Delia huffed, examining her own watch and finding the glass foggy with moisture. “Oh, I must have got water in my watch.”

“You’d best pop off then.  Wouldn’t want to risk the wrath of matron.” Patsy couldn’t help the half-smile that creeped up her face as she watched her flustered girlfriend.   She really does look so adorable with her eyebrows crinkled like that. “And give it here. I’ll take it to the watchmaker to get it repaired. You don’t want to let it wait or the works might rust.”

“You really are a sort of angel. Tragedy is, no one will ever know that either.”

Her stomach flipped as Delia looked her up and down as she spoke, electricity sparking between their fingers as the brunette handed over her ruined watch with a wink. Patsy felt like a giddy schoolgirl - or rather what she assumed one felt like, she herself had never been remotely giddy when she was a schoolgirl.

“All the better. I do have a reputation to maintain,” she flirted back, waggling her eyebrows, and exaggerating her RP accent around ‘reputation.' Focus, Patience. Delia really did have to rush off if she was going to make her shift. “I’m on call tonight, but if I get called out I’ll leave the keys for you at Nonnatus.”

Delia gave her a dazzling smile, her dimples flashing. “Keep warm, Pats.”

Patsy watched as her girlfriend turned and walked swiftly down the street, occasionally breaking into a little jog for a few steps in her rush. Adorable.

The redhead felt a twinge of guilt as she watched Delia rush around the corner at the end of their street. It was Patsy after all who had insisted they scrub the floor before they laid the blanket down for their picnic.

Well actually she had insisted they scrub it twice . It really had been filthy.

Still, if Delia was late and got in trouble with matron Patsy would feel responsible. For a moment she had thought to loan Delia her bike to get her there on time, but there really were a lot of errands to run before her shift and she wouldn’t have time to go by the London to pick up her bike beforehand. Plus, Delia really was a terror on two wheels.

As she mounted her bike, Patsy made a mental note to pick up a present for Trixie while she was out as an apology for being nearly run over that morning. Some cigarettes maybe, or perhaps a trip to the Off License was in order. Yes, a bottle of good scotch would serve nicely as an ‘I’m sorry I’m moving out to live with my girlfriend that nearly ran you over but I cannot tell you she’s my girlfriend so you probably just think I like her better as a friend than you’ gift. She sighed, pushing off and heading in the direction of the Commercial Road. There really wasn’t a good enough gift for that.

Trixie. As happy as she was to start her life with Delia, Patsy could not help feeling like she was abandoning her best friend. And worse, she couldn't even tell her why. She knew Trixie was jealous of her ‘friendship’ with Delia, no matter how she tried to hide it with jokes and coy smiles. Patsy was well versed in putting on an act, and it hadn't taken long into their friendship for her to recognize Trixie’s tells. But lately there had been a subtle change in her roommate. The slips in her mask, when Patsy caught them, revealed something deeper and darker than usual. And she didn't think it was all heartbreak over Tom or even her own relationship with Delia. As she dismounted outside the locksmith, Patsy resolved to make an effort to spend more time with Trixie after they had settled in.

 

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Patsy parked her bike on the pavement outside of their flat ( their flat! ) with an hour to spare before her shift. It had been a busy afternoon.

After the locksmith and watchmakers she had visited the hardware store to pick up paint samples. Fred had offered to help procure some paint for them, but Patsy had decided it was well worth a few extra shillings to avoid any dodgy business dealings with the handyman. It wasn't that she thought he would purposely swindle them, she had just heard too many stories from Trixie and Sister Evangelina to trust his sources. Delia had put on a show of being game to dive headlong into the black market, but when Patsy recounted a story Trixie had told her about feathered toffee apples the brunette conceded, not wanting to risk paint contaminated by fuzz, fur, or worse. Patsy suspected the real reason was that Delia didn't want to risk Fred’s ‘yellow’ paint, wanting to be more particular over the specific shade of the hue. For her own part, Patsy held out hope that Violet might be a good influence on her fiancé, although she had heard him talking to Tom just last week about a mushroom farm. She smiled ruefully to herself. Love is a funny thing.

Exiting the shop with the sample books, Patsy walked her bike a few doors down to a kitchenwares shop. She wandered through the shop, taking note of all the things they would need ( Gosh, there really is an awful lot ), and only bought what she thought of as absolute necessities for the next few days - primarily a kettle, saucepan, dishtowels, and an odd assortment of cooking utensils. Her bike was nearly full with her shopping, but there was one more stop Patsy wanted to make. They had talked about getting a record player, but with all that they needed to purchase to make the flat habitable, a dancette was low on the shopping list. Nevertheless, Patsy wanted to start slowly building their record collection for that future time, and she knew exactly which record she wanted to be the first they owned together. Together. She really could get used to that word.

After bringing the lot home, she headed back out into the brisk November afternoon for provisions. They both had the next morning off and planned to do a full shopping together after coffee, but Delia had put Patsy in charge of getting tea, coffee, milk, sugar, and pink wafers for the interim. Patsy decided they needed more than biscuits to survive and purchased eggs, bread, cheese, and jam as well. On her way home she passed a flower stall and her eyes found a bouquet of white chrysanthemums that would catch the morning light beautifully - even in that ghastly jug .

Patsy spent thirty minutes of her last free hour tidying away the shopping and cleaning up the mess from their picnic. As she filled the kitchen sink with soapy water she was struck with the domesticity of it all. This was actually happening . She had never expected to live independently, not really.

Patsy had known since she had kissed Constance Huxley-Nash in the fencing changing room at fifteen that she was not destined for the traditional path of marriage. The heartbreaking fallout of that experience had equally convinced her that she was destined to be alone. The thought had not especially bothered her. Alone was something Patsy was used to. After training she had planned to continue living in the Nurses Home, or somewhere similar, for the rest of her working life. She would have happily been like Nurse Crane or Sister Julienne ( well, without the wimple obviously ) and gone her entire life never paying a bill or putting up a bookshelf.

But that was before Delia.

Just today she had bought her first pint of milk and it felt glorious . As she finished washing the remains of their picnic along with the newly purchased kitchenware ( really, one shudders to think of the sanitary conditions in the saucepan factory ) Patsy couldn't help the smile that slid over her face. She was home.

Ten minutes later the ginger midwife was dressed in her light blue Nannatus uniform and red cardigan, her makeup and hair impeccable. She pinned her hat on and for the first time hoped for a quiet night on call so that she could return home to Delia as soon as her shift ended. As she shrugged on her mackintosh, her eyes made one final sweep of the flat, making sure all was in order. She grinned lopsidedly as she imagined Delia’s face lighting up upon seeing the flowers and her bouncing on her toes impatiently while she waited for Patsy to get home to open the package containing the record.

The last rays of the late afternoon sun shone down as she mounted her bike for her first commute to work. A small part of her wished it was dark so that her huge grin would be lost in the shadows, for once her trusty ‘Nurse Mount’ persona just couldn't cover the happiness that kept bubbling up inside her. She pushed off and rode toward Nonnatus. The two sets of keys jangled merrily in the pocket of her mac as she rode over the cobbles. Patsy smiled, the brisk wind felt wonderful on her glowing cheeks. She turned left and down a slight hill between the brick buildings. Entering the crossroads, she saw a flash of grey and chrome out of the corner of her eye.

And then there was nothing.





Chapter Text

Sister Winifred sat smiling in the front seat on the upper deck of the Number 5 bus as it wove its way towards Poplar. It really had been a lovely afternoon.

Having devoted herself to the religious life, the young nun didn't have nearly as many days off as the nurses of Nonnatus House. But ever since her collapse the previous year, Sister Julienne had made it a point to give her fellow sisters one full day off each month - free from even their studies and devotions, aside from Morning Prayers and evening Compline of course. Sister Winifred liked to spend her free afternoons taking in a matinee at a cinema she had noticed a few months back on that awkward bus trip back from Mr. Newgarden’s townhouse.

The cinema was perfectly located, just far enough out of Poplar that she would not be recognized but close enough that the trip was not a long one. Not that Sister Winifred was trying to conceal her activities - the Order had no rules against going to the pictures - but she knew that some of her sisters, or rather one of her sisters, would not have approved. Sister Winifred really did not like getting on the wrong side of Sister Evangelina if she could help it. She suspected Sister Julienne might know how she spent her days off, but her superior never mentioned anything or questioned where she had gone that day. Once she had even deflected the conversation at breakfast when Barbara had politely inquired about the junior sister’s plans for her day off. The young nun was grateful for her elder’s discretion. Sister Winifred would never lie about her cinematic activities, but she was thankful to not be put in the position to reveal them around certain members of staff.

Oh, and today's film had really been lovely. The nun had been a little tentative about seeing The Millionairess, but she was pleasantly surprised and a little bit impressed with Sophia Loren’s character and how she fought for good working conditions at the pasta factory. A crusade like that was something Sister Winifred could admire.

As the bus approached her stop, the sister jumped up and hurried down the stairs. She flashed a wide gummy smile at the conductor wishing him a good rest of his day, and stepped off into the brisk November late afternoon. It really was quite windy down this close to the river. Sister Winifred stuck her hands in her pockets and pulled her navy coat closer to her small body for warmth. She didn't mind the chill. She had actually got off the bus a stop early so she could enjoy a little walk in the fading evening light. Her mind drifted back to Nonnatus. Maybe she would work on her handicrafts when she got home, perhaps some knitting. She shivered. She could use a new scarf actually, but she would, of course, make one for the charity box first.

Up ahead she noticed a crowd standing around an ambulance in the crossroads at the bottom of a short slope. As the rear doors shut and the vehicle pulled off, the sister said a silent reflexive prayer for the poor soul inside. She peered around at the scene. A young man stood shaking beside a grey car while a PC questioned him. Ahead of her on the right, Sister Winifred saw another constable propping something against the far side of a low concrete wall. She couldn't quite make it out but as she got level with the wall the object came into sight. Her heart stopped. That's a nurse’s bike.

Time seemed to stand still as thoughts raced around impossibly fast in Sister Winifred’s mind. That's a nurse’s bike. But surely that doesn't mean it's one of ours. The few seconds felt like hours as she took in every detail of the twisted bicycle. The ruined front wheel, the missing right pedal, the slight bend in the frame, the scuffs along the cover that secured their medical bags. No. Not their medical bags. The poor faceless nurse’s medical bag. It couldn't be one of them. It couldn't. It could belong to any of the countless nurses in London...in the East End...in Poplar. Her mouth was dry. No, the odds were against them there.

But what had happened? All of the nuns and nurses at Nonnatus were quite proficient cyclists, aside from Nurse Crane of course, but there was no danger of it having been the older nurse. One of their own couldn't possibly have had a cycling accident could they? And what on earth could have happened to have bent the front wheel in such a violent manner that it had fallen off the frame?

Slowly she dragged her eyes away from the broken bicycle and once again took in the scene around her. The man talking to the PC. By the grey car. That was stopped in the middle of the road. Oh God. The nurse had been hit by that car. Sister Winifred said another reflexive prayer.

Unconsciously her feet began to slowly pull her towards the car as her eyes fell to the bonnet and the road in front of it.

A dark red scarf.

That colour was achingly familiar. Usually the site of it filled her with joy and pride for what it represented. Skill, professionalism, compassion, friendship. It was the red of the caps and cardigans of the nurses who shared her home and life. They might not be her sisters, but they were her family.

Sister Winifred was gripped by a sense of urgency as she suddenly quickened her pace and bent down to pick up the scarf. The texture of the weave under her fingers confirmed her worst fears. It was undoubtedly a Nonnatus scarf. So. Trixie, Patsy, or Barbara then. The nun’s stomach felt like it had filled with lead. Her eyes caught on a swatch of white and she flipped the red wool over to reveal the neat embroidered initials on the tag in pink thread.

P.M.

Sister Winifred took a shuddering breath, clutching the scarf to her chest. Patsy.

 

 

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Barbara stood leaning against the doorframe of the clinical room, her hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her face. She watched as if from the wrong end of a telescope as Sister Julienne waited for news from the silent receiver. Phyllis stood by her side, her reassuring hand resting on her young roommate’s shoulder anchoring her to the world.

Barbara just couldn't believe it. Not Patsy.

Patsy, the sweet new friend who had stayed up with her well past 3.00 in the morning on her first night at Nonnatus, holding her hair and sponging her forehead with a cool flannel as she suffered through the effects of Trixie’s ‘fortified wine.’ Patsy, the fierce nurse that could, with a single look and stern word, make overbearing mothers-in-law wish they could sink into the floor. Patsy, who had supported her and talked her through her doubts during her first months at Nonnatus, helping her regain her confidence after Sister Evangelina and Nurse Crane had given her a dressing down about protocol. Patsy, who had been so strong and taken charge when Barbara had frozen in terror during Mrs. Bissette’s tragic stillbirth, and who had rallied and helped the exhausted grieving mother through the delivery of the unexpected second baby with an encouraging smile. Barbara still couldn't comprehend how she had summoned that smile.

No. She was too strong, too capable, too kind for this to have happened to her. She had to be alright. It felt like a bad dream.

Sister Evangelina entered the small telephone room, squeezing by the teary-eyed Sisters Winifred and Mary Cynthia, and deposited a file folder on the desk in front of Sister Julienne. Sister Monica Joan stood silent behind her superior’s back, clutching the wooden cross around her neck. There really wasn't enough space in the tiny room for them all, but no one showed any sign of leaving, finding comfort in their proximity.

“Yes, good evening. I'm calling to inquire about a patient we believe was brought in following a cycling accident. Nurse Patience Mount.” A pause. “No, I am her employer. Sister Julienne of Nonnatus House.”

Sister Julienne opened the folder in front of her, sliding her index finger down the top sheet until she found the information she sought. “Charles Mount, her father. I do not have a telephone number, but his address is in Hong Kong.” Another pause. “No, I'm afraid I am not aware of any family in England.” Sister Julienne closed her eyes, taking a shaky breath. “I see. I'm sure you can understand that as her employer I feel a sense of responsibility to my charge, especially given that her family is so very far away.”

Sister Evangelina bristled, her chin sliding to the side as she ground her teeth. Barbara thought she looked like she was barely suppressing the urge to yank the phone out her superior’s hand and tell the registrar exactly what she thought of The London’s rules and regulations. She herself had been on the receiving end of a number of Sister Evangelina’s tellings-off, so even in her dazed state, the young nurse recognized the signs. Sister Julienne met her sister’s eyes with a warning shake of her head.

Barbara watched as her blurry superior suddenly sat up straighter in her chair. The brunette nurse blinked to clear her vision. She hadn't even realized Sister Julienne was capable of slouching. She focused intently on the older nun, who for her part was equally focused on the words making their way over the copper wires, her gaze inward.

“Thank you. I do appreciate your kind consideration in this matter,” she paused to listen, a small sad smile sneaking its way slowly across her face. They sat in silence for a full five minutes as Sister Julienne was updated on Patsy’s condition. “A colleague and I will be over later this evening to consult with the doctors. Would it be possible to see her?”

Six sets of eyes shot up, alert. “I see. Thank you again for your assistance on this matter.” Slowly, deliberately, the senior nun placed the receiver on its cradle. She stood to face them, her back to the on-call board.

“I'm afraid Sister Winifred’s assessment at the scene of the accident is correct.” The sister in question shook, her grip tightening on the scarf still in her hands like it was the ginger midwife’s only link to life.

Sister Julienne continued, “Nurse Mount was struck by a car as she was cycling to work. It is too early to get a full picture of the extent of her injuries, but the registrar could tell me that she suffered a fracture to her arm and several ribs. They are monitoring her for signs of internal damage, but their biggest concern is that she may have received a severe brain injury when her head made contact with the tarmac.”

The sudden stillness in the room was palpable.

Sister Julienne continued, “They can only speculate about what kinds of...complications...such an injury will cause.” Her voice wavered and Barbara felt her knees buckle, Nurse Crane catching her beneath her arm. Good Lord.

Barbara wasn't the only one affected by the news. Sister Mary Cynthia looked impossibly smaller than normal as she clutched Sister Winifred’s arm, who in turn had squeezed the scarf so tightly that her knuckles looked as white as the bones underneath the skin of the joints. Sister Evangelina gave a great shuddering sigh and looked towards the ceiling as if the answers to this tragedy were engraved upon the rafters. Sister Monica Joan bowed her head to meet the cross in her hands.  Nurse Crane focused on supporting her young roommate, her own body supported by the exoskeleton of her nursing armor.

“Unfortunately the only thing left to do is wait until Nurse Mount regains consciousness so the doctors can ascertain the extent of the damage, if any.”

Patsy was still unconscious? It had been close to an hour since it happened. Barbara felt dizzy and nauseous like she had just gulped down a pint of Trixie’s ‘fortified wine.’ Good Lord.

Chapter Text

The silence in the room was palpable. Sister Julienne looked around at the stunned faces of her colleagues and knew that what they all needed was to take action. That is how nurses cope.

“Sister Mary Cynthia, go to the surgery and alert Dr. Turner to what has happened. Please ask him to meet us at The London as soon as he is available. I would like to have him involved with Nurse Mount’s care and his authority as a doctor will help our cause to act as her next of kin until her father can be reached.”

The young nun nodded. “Of course, sister,” she said quietly, turning to leave.

The elder nun’s eyes flitted over to Barbara’s stunned face. A thought occurred to her. She knew that Sister Mary Cynthia had been close to Nurse Mount before the smaller nurse had joined the Order. The older nun was all too aware that one of the hardest parts about being called to the religious life was leaving behind all the people you cared for most. To then be surrounded by them each day, so close yet so distant, must have been difficult for the novitiate. Sister Julienne knew that the quiet nun before her was extremely resilient but also very sensitive.

“And sister,” she called out to Sister Mary Cynthia’s retreating back, causing the younger nun to pause and turn her head slowly. “When you return, I would like you and Nurse Gilbert to wait up for Nurse Franklin to return from the Dillen birth. I know the three of you are closest to Nurse Mount and will no doubt find comfort in each other’s company during this difficult time.”

Sister Mary Cynthia gave her a sad, grateful smile and left.

Sister Julienne’s observant gaze shifted to the other young nun in her charge. Sister Winifred looked utterly distraught, her large eyes wide with despair, hands wringing the red scarf as if trying to squeeze the very dye out of the wool.

“Sister Winifred, you have had a terrible shock, witnessing what you did today. But you are to be commended for your level head and for bringing the situation to our attention so quickly.” She gave the younger nun a tender smile. “I feel the next course of action for you is to rest. Go lie down and Nurse Gilbert will bring you a cup of Horlicks.” She glanced at Barbara who nodded without taking her eyes off the floor in front of her.

“N-no,” Sister Winifred spluttered. “I want to do something. I need to do something.”

Sister Julienne smiled kindly, regarding the junior nun. She was so very agitated - but still - determined. “Very well. Please join Sister Monica Joan in the chapel. I fear prayer is the most we can offer Nurse Mount until we know more about her condition.” She turned to the elderly nun on her left, and Sister Monica Joan gave her superior a nod and a knowing look.

The old nun took Sister Winifred by the elbow leading her away towards the chapel. “Come my dear and have hope, for it is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on the earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.”

Sister Julienne smiled softly as she watched her sisters leave. A part of her wished she could go with them and seek solace and guidance in prayer. But that would have to wait, there was too much to be done first. She turned to her remaining colleagues, scrutinizing the youngest of their number. Barbara looked very pale, but there was a set in her jaw that hadn't been there before the senior nun had begun giving out tasks. Good. Her strategy was working then. Nurse Gilbert had really come such a long way in her months at Nonnatus.

“Nurse Gilbert, I know this situation is very difficult for you, but our duty to our patients cannot go unfulfilled. Nurse Mount will no doubt be furious with us if we neglect our patients on her account.” She paused. She knew that Nurse Gilbert looked up to the redheaded midwife and hoped that invoking her impeccable sense of professionalism at this moment would help further steel the brunette’s resolve. By the sudden squaring of Barbara’s shoulders, it appears she was correct.

“I'm afraid I have to ask for you to remain first on call. Sister Mary Cynthia can be second once she returns. In the meantime, do you know if Nurse Mount kept an address book? We will need to find her father’s telephone number if he has one.”

“I'm afraid I don't know, sister. I’ve never heard Patsy say anything about her family. I can ask Trixie when she gets back. I do know that Patsy has packed most of her things for her move. I can have a look through the boxes.”

“Thank you, Nurse Gilbert.” With a nod, Barbara left the room.

Sister Julienne turned to the two women remaining with her in the room. She would need to leave one of them in charge at Nonnatus while she was at The London, the other she would take with her. Nonnatus would be perfectly safe in either set of hands, but she also knew that both women would want to be at the hospital fighting to make sure Nurse Mount was receiving the very best of care. Nurse Crane and Sister Evangelina hid deep wells of compassion behind their gruff exteriors. She considered them carefully. She had noticed how Nurse Crane had become a kind of mother hen to the younger nurses over the recent months, even spending time with them socially. She would be more comforting to them in this time of worry than Sister Evangelina. In turn, Sister Julienne herself would find more comfort in her Sister in Christ.

“Nurse Crane, would you mind running Sister Evangelina and I to The London in your car?”

“Of course, Sister. I'd be happy to assist you at the hospital in any way.”

Sister Julienne smiled. “Actually, Nurse Crane, I was hoping that you would return to Nonnatus House to be of support to our younger colleagues. This is going to be a very difficult time for them, especially Nurse Gilbert and Nurse Franklin, and your presence will bring reassurance.”

Nurse Crane’s eyes softened. When she spoke her voice was gentler than before, “I will do what I can.”

Sister Julienne smiled at her. Just one more detail and they could depart. “Thank you, Nurse Crane. And if you would have a word with Nurse Noakes when she returns. I know she is only here for a class, but with what has happened we could use reinforcements.”

“Say no more, sister. I will see to it,” a pause, “and to our patients.” The sister smiled at her senior nurse, happy that she had taken in the deeper meaning behind the words. She had faith in her staff’s ability to perform under pressure, but Nurse Noakes was not as close to Nurse Mount as the others and it would be good to have a more emotionally stable midwife available tonight should any of their more complicated cases go into labour.

Sister Julienne turned back to the desk and picked up Nurse Mount’s file. Her back to the others, she said the smallest of prayers, asking for strength, but was interrupted by Nurse Crane, “Sister, what do you suggest we do about young Nurse Busby? She and Nurse Mount were set to spend their first night in their new flat tonight. Someone needs to tell her what has happened.”

Nurse Busby. Of course. In her immediate concern over Nurse Mount and the situation at Nonnatus, Sister Julienne had completely forgotten why the ginger midwife had been commuting to work in the first place.

She turned back to her colleagues, “Nurse Busby works at The London, does she not?” she asked.

Phyllis nodded. “On male surgical, but I don't know if she is on shift currently.”

For the first time since she entered the room with Nurse Mount’s personnel file, Sister Evangelina spoke up. “After we see to the doctors and make sure Nurse Mount is...alright...I will see if I can track down Nurse Busby on the ward. If she isn't there I will telephone here and one of the nurses can go to their flat to find her.”

Sister Julienne nodded, her mind on the Welsh nurse. She had only met her on a few occasions, but she had been struck by the young woman’s cheery carefree nature and how she brought out a similar - heretofore unseen - side of Nurse Mount. They were clearly very close.

She looked to her colleagues, “Whoever finds her, make sure to tell her she is welcome to stay at Nonnatus for the time being if she desires. She may prefer to be with her own friends at the Nurses Home, but it might do her good to be around others that care for her friend as much as she does.”

 



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The drive back from the hospital was as quiet as the drive there had been, but this time Phyllis was alone.

Poor kid.

Phyllis had taken quite a liking to Nurse Mount over the past few months. The young midwife was meticulous, efficient, resilient, and compassionate - a tricky combination to pull off - with a quick dry wit that Phyllis felt a particular affinity to. The redhead was serious about her career too. She had never heard the young midwife giggle or gush over a man, unlike her other young colleagues. She seemed focused on the tasks at hand. Nurse Mount reminded her of a posher, public school version of her younger self. Still, Phyllis was certain that if Patsy did find love, she would be just as serious and fierce about it as she was everything else in her life. The older nurse smiled, remembering her own unexpected love of her airman during the war. Phyllis sighed. She just hoped the redhead would get the chance to find out.

Poor kid. Head injuries are a tricky business.

Still, no use expecting the worse. Nurse Mount could wake up and be perfectly fine, albeit a little worse for wear. There was just no way of knowing.

But then Phyllis had watched Sister Julienne closely during her phone conversation and after it ended. Nurse Crane was nothing if not observant. Attention to detail was essential in a good nurse, and Phyllis was an excellent one. She was sure Sister Julienne was withholding some of what the registrar had told her in order to shield the younger nurses. She didn't think the senior nun held back any facts on the injured midwife’s condition, but instead she suspected the sister had not shared all of the specialist’s speculations. She sighed. Doctors could be wrong, she mused ruefully, heaven knows it wouldn't be the first time she’d experienced that almost unheard of occurrence.

She parked the Morris, turned off the engine, and took a deep breath. It was fully dark now, the sliver of the autumn moon barely visible through the smog. Phyllis suspected she would see a lot more of this dark night than she had anticipated when she had woken up this morning. But, barring the hospital, there was no place she would rather be under the circumstances. She had really been quite touched when Sister Julienne had suggested that her presence would be a comfort to the younger nurses. Phyllis had grown quite fond of her colleagues, and she felt rather protective of them all - especially Barbara, Trixie, and Patsy. She would do what she could for them. And for Patsy, right now at least, that meant taking care of her friends.

She found Barbara and Sister Mary Cynthia in the kitchen sitting silently across the table from each other, their hands cradling untouched cups of tea. They both looked up hopefully as she entered.

“No news yet, I'm afraid. I dropped Sister Julienne and Sister Evangelina off at The London. They are meeting with the specialist and will be in touch when they can. Any luck with a telephone number for Nurse Mount’s father?”

“Not yet. I didn't want to go through her things too much though. Patsy is very private and it just felt…” Barbara’s voice trailed off as a tear slid down her cheek.

Sister Mary Cynthia reached across the table and took her hand. The nun spoke softly, “You did the right thing, Barbara. Trixie will have a better idea of where to look, and Sister Julienne will want to make the call herself if we find a number. It can wait until morning.”

Phyllis sat down beside her roommate and squeezed her shoulder. “Quite right too. I'm going to put the kettle on.” She turned to the nun. “Do you think your sisters would like a cup of tea? We’re in for a long night I'm afraid.” Sister Mary Cynthia nodded and left the kitchen. “Let me get you a new cup, kid. That one’s gone cold.”

Ten minutes later, the three nuns and two nurses sat quietly sipping cups of well-sugared tea. They had relocated to the dining room, as the kitchen table could not comfortably accommodate their number.

Plus, it was nearer to the phone.

No one spoke, each lost in their own thoughts. The only sounds were the occasion slurping of tea, swallowing throat, and chinking of cup on saucer.

The phone rang and they all jumped, Sister Winifred sloshing tea down her front. Phyllis was first to her feet, she had positioned herself in Patsy’s usual chair, closest to the phone. The others rose and followed her.

“Nonnatus House, midwife speaking.” It was Sister Julienne. “Any news, sister?” She listened as the senior sister updated her on their colleague’s condition. “I see.” Phyllis closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose between finger and thumb. The others deflated.

“And what of Nurse Busby?” The sister informed her that Nurse Busby had already left for the day when Sister Evangelina had gone to find her. “I see. Leave it with me. Thank you, sister.” She hung up.

They returned to the dining room and took their seats in silence, all eyes on Phyllis. “I’m afraid Nurse Mount has had two seizures since our last update.” Barbara’s hands flew to her mouth as the tears began to fall. Sister Winifred gasped and again clutched the red scarf to her chest - no one had had the heart to take it from her yet. Sisters Mary Cynthia and Monica Joan both began studying the wood grain of the table, the latter grasping her wooden cross. “It’s not unexpected with a head injury like this, but they are still hopeful that all might be well once the swelling goes down. They’ve sedated her to try to keep her resting and to minimize any more seizures.”

They all sat in silence for a few long minutes.

Barbara spoke up, “What did Sister Julienne say about Delia?” The brunette nurse looked anguished, as if expecting more tragic news about yet another friend.

Phyllis thoughts turned to Nurse Mount’s Welsh friend.

Nurse Busby was no doubt at home, waiting for her flat mate who would not be returning. She would send someone to her once they all had a moment to process the news. Phyllis opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell.

Once again, she was first to her feet. It was most likely a family member of one of their mothers or a constable come with information about the accident. Either way, Phyllis was in charge and would deal with the visitor.

What she didn't expect to find on the other side of the of the door was a beaming Delia Busby.

“Good evening, Nurse Crane! Is Patsy here? She said she would leave keys for me if she was called out.” The short nurse bounced on her toes as she spoke, her voice lilting with undisguised enthusiasm.

Poor lass, you’re going to be in for quite a shock.

Phyllis wrestled her stunned face into a semblance of a smile that she hoped didn’t look as much like a grimace as it felt. She needed to get the young woman into a chair before delivering the news.

“Nurse Busby, welcome. Do come in and have a cup of tea. The others are in the dining room.”

Chapter Text

Delia walked through the dark streets of Poplar with a spring in her step and a wide smile on her face. Her shift was over and soon she would be going home. Home. What a lovely word.

Delia hadn’t had a real home since she left Wales over five years ago. Sure, living in the Nurses Home had been nice, fun even, at least until Pats had moved out last year, but it had never really felt like home. She felt like her life was finally beginning. It was exhilarating.

She reached up and placed her hand over the ring hanging from the chain beneath her uniform. The metal was warm against her skin. The warmth seemed to radiate outwards, under her skin and into her chest. Delia smiled, her blue eyes filled with unshed happy tears that glistened in the light from the streetlamp as she passed. They had done it. After years of struggle and sneaking around, they had finally found a way to be together. Delia felt like a blushing bride, and for once, she wasn’t even bothered that no one could know.  For once, the secrecy felt like something precious. Like cupping a baby bird in your hands, keeping it safe.

Today felt perfect, like a sign from above (if Delia had believed in such nonsense). Miraculously, she had not been late on shift. Maybe it was because she had practically levitated to the bus stop, her feet gliding across the ground instead of walking - like the static charge from Patsy’s touch had changed her body’s polarity so that she was quite unable to touch down. Still, she barely made it. There hadn’t been an open seat, but Delia didn’t think she could have sat still anyway. She bounced on her toes a little, nearly losing her balance a few times as the bus soared through the sparse late morning traffic towards Whitechapel, depositing her at The London with two minutes to spare.

Matron had actually smiled at her when she arrived. A rare occurrence indeed, though Delia had a feeling her own face splitting grin might have forced the gesture out of her stern superior. The petite brunette’s joy today had been infectious. Her patients on male surgical had seemed almost cheery and only one had tried to pinch her arse - a record low! Sure, Mr. Jenkins was still a complete and utter prat, but Delia thought the surgeon wouldn't be able to curb his boorish, condescending nature even if he was discussing horses with the Queen herself.

Her shift had soared by until the final hour when her giddy anticipation made each minute feel like an age. She had watched the clock incredulously, its traitorous minute hand seemed to slow as if wading through a pool of cooling treacle. The final five minutes, as the hand crept from the 11 to the 12, were agony. As the minute hand finally clicked over to signal the new hour, Delia practically sprinted off the ward saying a rushed goodnight to matron as she fled the hospital.

Delia’s heart was pounding as she passed their new street, bypassing it to pick up the keys at Nonnatus. Looking down she would swear she could actually see Patsy’s ring bouncing off her chest in rhythm with each beat. Her fingers tingled from the increase of oxygen pumping through her arteries. She hoped her lucky day would continue and Patsy would be there, though reality told her it was unlikely. Her girlfriend had told her that they had no less than twenty mothers due in the next week, which was why the midwife wasn't able to take off an entire day for their shopping tomorrow.

To be honest, Delia was actually looking forward to having the flat to herself for most of the next day. It would give her a chance to clean in her own way, without Nurse Mount looking over her shoulder, scrutinizing her every move. She smiled fondly, thinking of her girlfriend’s face when she had insisted they scrub the floor for a second time before they laid out their morning picnic. The range of Patsy’s facial expressions never ceased to amaze her.  The redhead’s practiced inscrutability was her regular expression around others, but when it cracked, boy did it crack. Her facial muscles were almost acrobatic.  Delia loved the way she could lift a single eyebrow while the rest of her face was completely still - somehow clearly conveying cheek or skepticism or judgement or amusement . And the way she would sometimes smile like a fisherman had hooked one corner of her mouth and then the other - Patsy could melt her with that smile.  Delia felt a warmth spread through her chest, pushing away the November chill as she approached Wick Street.

Delia grinned as she began planning her evening. She would make the most of her time alone in the flat and prepare to welcome her love home. Welcome home . She grinned wider, her dimples deepening. First thing would be to set up the camp beds they had borrowed from the cubs’ supplies to tide them over until they could shop for proper beds in the morning. If Patsy was out, maybe she could ask Trixie or Barbara if she could borrow some horlicks or hot chocolate to go with their pink wafers for a midnight feast. And after their snack, maybe they could enjoy some other activities that the freedom of privacy had to offer.

Hmm, maybe they’d skip the snack.

Despite the chill, Delia felt suddenly hot as she bounded up the steps to Nonnatus and pressed firmly on the door bell.

A moment later, the heavy wooden door swung open to reveal a rather stern-faced Phyllis Crane. To be fair, Nurse Crane usually looked rather stern, so Delia gave her her best smile.

“Good evening, Nurse Crane! Is Patsy here? She said she would leave keys for me if she was called out.” The short nurse bounced on her toes as she spoke, her voice lilting with undisguised enthusiasm.

Phyllis smiled at her - if you could really call that a smile . It looked rather forced to Delia, and she suddenly felt a flicker of concern for the older woman.

Delia rather liked Nurse Crane. The Welshwoman was well practiced in seeing past stern exteriors and into the big hearts they hid beneath. She knew all too well how deeply women like that cared, and suspected that Nurse Crane had had a tough night. Not surprising given her profession. The short brunette knew from her own experience with a certain red-haired midwife that the job could be the most joyous of any nursing vocation, but when things went badly, it could be devastating.  

“Nurse Busby, welcome. Do come in and have a cup of tea. The others are in the dining room.”

Phyllis stepped to the side gesturing for the younger nurse to enter. “Let me take your coat.”

Nonnatus was quiet. Delia would have assumed everyone was out if Nurse Crane hadn’t mentioned ‘the others’ in the dining room. Every time she had visited in the past there had been some sign of life - the sisters’ voices raised in song drifting from the chapel, staticky chatter buzzing over the wireless from the living room, music and laughter descending from the first-floor bedroom shared by Patsy and Trixie - but not tonight. A sense of unease began prickling its way beneath the bubble of joy in Delia’s chest.

Delia’s step faltered slightly as she entered the dining room and took in the scene before her. I feel like a gatecrasher at a wake. Sisters Monica Joan, Winifred and Mary Cynthia sat at the long table their eyes downcast or closed in prayer. Barbara was there too, tears streaming steadily down her face. Something terrible must have happened. A stillbirth maybe. Or perhaps a mother or baby lost.

Or both.

Her Welsh heart went out to these women. She had grown quite fond of sweet Barbara over the past few months. She found the fellow brunette’s open, earnest personality refreshing, especially after enduring an hour or so of quips and banter from Patsy and Trixie. Delia barely knew the sisters, but they had always been very welcoming to her on her occasional visits to Nonnatus. She especially liked Sister Monica Joan, with her mischievous comments and grins. The petite brunette secretly wished she could be a fly on the wall and follow the elderly nun around for an afternoon to see what she got up to. She always seemed so jovial and ready for hijinks. But there was no evidence of that tonight. The atmosphere in the room felt thick with grief and worry.

She took in the scene again, her eyes pausing curiously on the object in Sister Winifred’s hands. Delia couldn’t quite make it out from this angle, but something about it tugged at her mind - and her heart. Suddenly there was movement and her blue eyes swung around to meet Barbara’s teary green ones. They were filled with despair and worry and fear. What stopped Delia’s heart was that they also suddenly flashed with love and concern - for her.

“Delia…” The brunette midwife jumped to her feet and hurried over, wrapping Delia in a crushing hug that squeezed every ounce of feeling from her Welsh body as understanding suddenly washed over her.

Nurse Crane’s forced smile.

The mournful atmosphere that was too intimate, too personal to be for anyone other than one of their own.

The object - a dark red scarf - clutched to Sister Winifred’s heart.

Trixie and Patsy missing.

The look Barbara had given her.

Oh, God. Something has happened to Patsy.

Her knees gave way and the two girls sunk to the floor, Delia sat limply as Barbara clung to her for dear life.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sister Mary Cynthia was on her feet at once, reaching the two girls on the floor at the same time as Nurse Crane. She gently prised Barbara’s arms from around Delia and helped the taller girl to her feet, leading her back to the table. It took a little longer, but Nurse Crane somehow managed to do the same with the smaller brunette.

Meanwhile, Sister Winifred, finally relinquishing her hold on Patsy’s scarf, had retreated to the kitchen and returned with a cup of tea for the Welsh nurse. “Here, take this. It’s well sugared.” It seemed the presence of someone in greater distress than herself had galvanized the nun.

Delia managed a small smile, the effort of which looked to Sister Mary Cynthia like it took every ounce of strength she had. The Welsh nurse reached out with small shaking hands to take the cup, and nearly spilled half of the tea into the saucer on its rattling trip down to the table.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

They had sat Delia at the head of the table and Nurse Crane sat back down beside her in Patsy’s usual seat. “Pay it no mind, lass,” the older woman soothed.

Sister Mary Cynthia sat down across from Phyllis and placed a hand on Delia’s arm. The comforting contact from someone she barely knew seemed to be the final confirmation the Welsh nurse needed to voice her fears.

“H-has...has something happened to Patsy?” Delia’s voice was almost inaudible, the last word coming out as barely a breath as she closed her eyes.

Sister Mary Cynthia looked to her colleagues around the table, silently questioning who would be the one to explain. Barbara and Sister Winifred both looked too distressed to speak calmly, and neither looked forthcoming at any rate. Sister Monica Joan was obviously out of the running, as Delia needed straight answers not mystic metaphors. Her eyes met Nurse Crane’s, and the small nun began to speak. She knew that Nurse Crane could be gentle when she needed to, but Sister Mary Cynthia thought the distraught brunette didn’t need to hear about Nurse Mount at the moment. She needed to hear about Patsy.

“Delia,” she began soothingly. The brunette’s glistening blue eyes looked up into her own, burning into her, searching for answers. Right to it then. She spoke softly, measuredly, “There’s been an accident.”

A sense of deja vu rushed over Sister Mary Cynthia and for a moment she was in her nurse’s uniform peeking around the door to the room Trixie shared with Jenny, not Patsy. She blinked the image away, returning firmly to the present and the woman in front of her.

“Unfortunately we have very little information about Patsy’s condition at the moment,” Delia’s eyes had closed at the word ‘condition’ and a single tear fell softly down her cheek and splashed onto her lilac uniform. The nun squeezed her arm, “but I will tell you everything we do know.”

As she spoke, Sister Mary Cynthia watched as Delia seemed to withdraw inwards, her unseeing eyes resting on the discarded red scarf on the table. By the time the small nun had told her about the seizures she looked hollow and lifeless, her head swaying slightly from inertia as Nurse Crane reached out to squeeze her shoulder. “I know this has come as a real shock,” the elder nurse's voice was as gentle as Sister Mary Cynthia had ever heard it, “Sister Julienne wanted you to know you are welcome to stay with us tonight if you’d like. I’m sure you’re done in after your shift and the shock. Perhaps Nurse Gilbert could take you upstairs for a lie down. We’ll come fetch you immediately if there’s any news.”

Delia’s eyes looked up slowly, the only sign of life from her body. Nurse Crane seemed to take this as a sign of assent to her plan and turned to Barbara, but it was Sister Monica Joan who rose from her chair. For the second time this evening, she quoted verse while leading a distraught young woman by the elbow, “Come child, I will take you to a place of respite where ‘what cannot be said will be wept.’”

A thick silence fell over the room.

Nurse Crane spoke first, “Poor kid.”

“She and Patsy are ever so close. They’ve been best friends since training,” Barbara added earnestly.

“Do you think she would know how to contact Nurse Mount’s father?” Sister Winifred asked hopefully.

Sister Mary Cynthia sighed inwardly. She loved her sister dearly, but sometimes her sense of tact was sorely lacking. “Perhaps, but I don’t think now is the time to ask. She and Patsy were so excited to be moving into their new flat. Now who knows what will happen. Not only is her best friend in critical condition, her whole life and living arrangements have been turned upside down.”

While she had been speaking, Sister Monica Joan had returned from taking Delia upstairs. She nodded along with the young nun’s words. “And we will support her in her hour of need. ‘Come to me now and loosen me from blunt agony. Labor and fill my heart with fire. Stand by me and be my ally.’”

“Of course, sister,” Winifred replied wearily.

Silence fell again.

As the time crept by, Sister Mary Cynthia was reminded of another vigil from almost exactly two years ago. It felt different this time somehow, more sinister. More like a wake. Maybe it was the lack of something to do. Pouring all the worry and fear into sewing together that blanket had been like making prayer tangible. Or maybe it was that they had felt more in control then. Chummy’s placental abruption had been terrifying, certainly, and as midwives, they were all very well aware of the possibility of a fatal outcome. But having knowledge, any knowledge, was better than this.

Sister Mary Cynthia looked around the room. Or maybe it was that she had been surrounded by her dearest friends. She had had Jenny and Trixie, Sister Evangelina and Sister Julienne. Sister Monica Joan was the only other person at the table from before, and she was very thankful she was here now. Everyone else felt so new.

But in a way, so was she.

Sister Mary Cynthia thought of Trixie. It had been so difficult to know how to act around her friend since she got back from the Mother House. Their friendship from before had been marked by laughing and talking, sharing secrets and cocktails, dancing and singing into wooden spoons. She didn’t know how to start over. Not like this.

It had been easier with Patsy. For starters she didn’t have near the history with the ginger midwife as she did with the blonde. But Patsy herself had made a real effort to make the transition easier on her. She remembered the sweet smile that the redhead had given her when she stood on the steps of Nonnatus talking about being on the edge of a great happiness. (Sister Mary) Cynthia had been touched at how quickly her friend had gotten over her own shock to show her support. Later, when her friends were talking in the hall, Cynthia had crept to the door to listen as Patsy tried to talk Trixie down.

“Cynthia doesn’t seem to be rushing into anything.”

“Do you suppose there’s no hope at all?”

“Trouble is...it’s our hope versus her faith. And I’m not sure that that’s a fair fight.”

In the days that followed, Patsy had walked a tight line, supporting and empathizing with both of her friends while gently steering Trixie to accept whatever decision Cynthia made. For that Sister Mary Cynthia was eternally grateful. Patsy really was a remarkable friend.

The nun bowed her head in prayer. No, this was a vigil, not a wake. Patsy would make it through this trial, and Sister Mary Cynthia would do what she could to help her friend through it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Trixie stepped out onto the pavement outside Nelson Tower and breathed in the cold night air. For a few hours, she had been part of a truly beautiful thing, helping Mrs. Dillen bring her son into the world with her husband by her side, but now...now she felt hollow. The midwife put her medical bag down, leaned against the tower block wall, and lit a cigarette hoping the nicotine would soothe her frayed nerves.

It did.

For a second.

She could feel herself slipping away. How had it got to this point?

The blonde looked out into the dark empty streets, taking another drag on her Sobranie. She supposed it had really all started to come apart for her with those poor Teeman children. Little Gary had really touched a nerve, one that the midwife had thought had long since lost all feeling. It had been like stepping through a door into the past and suddenly Trixie was a little girl putting on a show in an effort to charm a smile from her father - to make him forget about the smell of blood and sulfur as he tried to drown his war terrors in scotch. As she grew older, her charm had become a kind of armor, making her stronger. But lately it had felt like nothing more than a flimsy carnival mask, the protective armor gone, leaving her vital organs vulnerable.

Or maybe just my liver. She smiled ruefully, flicking the remains of her cigarette out into the street. She watched the orange embers explode as it met the tarmac. Trixie took another deep breath, sucking in as much cold air as her smoker’s lungs would allow, making them burn. The pain felt good. It made her feel alive.

She shook her head, clearing it. Come now, Trixie. You're being frightfully melodramatic. The midwife pushed herself off the wall, picked up her bag, and began loading it onto her bike.

Riding through the gloomy night, Trixie felt her mood begin to darken further. Yes, the ordeal with Gary the cheeky chappie had been the initial pull on the thread, but it seemed every week there was another tug, and Trixie felt herself unraveling like a loosely knit jumper.

The biggest blow had of course come from the implosion of her relationship with Tom. True, she had broken it off with him because she couldn't bring herself to tell him about her ever increasing problem with drink, but that had just been the last straw. She knew she could never live up to what he and the church expected of a curate’s wife. But if she was honest with herself, she also just didn't love him enough to give up her own expectations of life to meet his. Trixie could never be a subservient wife. She needed a partnership. To be an equal. She could never have that with Tom, so breaking the engagement had been the right thing to do.

Knowing this didn't make things any easier, though. Especially with Fred of all people re- engaged (and using her engagement tray under his cake!) and ready to be married in under a fortnight.

That was a low blow.

And then Cynthia had come back, or rather Sister Mary Cynthia had come back, those two additional titles dividing her from her best friend better than any physical barrier or distance could do. She couldn't even call Cynthia her best friend anymore, barely a friend really. That thread had irrevocably been severed. She wondered if it would have been better if Cynthia hadn’t come back to Nonnatus at all. At least then they could write. That would be more communication than they had these days. Spending every day in this never-ending friendship limbo was an exquisite torture for the blonde midwife. At least Tom had the decency to live across the street. She didn’t know how she would’ve managed over the recent months if it hadn’t been for Patsy.

Trixie had grown very close to the redhead over the past year and a half they had roomed together. They understood each other on a level that Trixie had never shared with Cynthia, or even Jenny, Chummy, or Barbara. The blonde knew that Cynthia and Chummy had both had difficulties in their childhoods, a sick brother and distant parents respectively, but Patsy and Trixie had grown up in an atmosphere of constant fear, neglect, and abuse. It had left a mark, and Trixie knew it was a wider and a deeper one in Patsy’s case - she had born witness to more than a few of the redhead’s nightmares, not to mention the scars. Still, both had managed to survive and thrive even, developing remarkably similar coping mechanisms to do so - namely cigarettes, humor, alcohol, and unshakable facades. But for Trixie, the second was hard to find these days, the third was becoming more problem than help, and the fourth was not so unshakable after all. That put everything on cigarettes. A lot to ask, even of Sobranies .

And now Patsy was moving out, and Trixie had never felt so alone.

The blonde was pleased for her friend. Truly she was. If anyone deserved to find happiness in this life it was Patsy. And Trixie could tell that Delia made her friend very, very happy.

Trixie Franklin was no fool. She had known about the true nature of their ‘friendship’ for a while now. Well, she had been certain about their relationship since the square dance, but she had known Patsy was that way since that horrible mess with Mr. Amos.

Looking back, of course, it was obvious. “Trixie, having a boyfriend isn’t the be all and end all.” How many times had Patsy said this exact phrase? Too many to count, really. And the exasperated looks and constant deflections whenever Trixie asked about her type, or old boyfriends, or teased her about being on the shelf. At the time, she had chalked it up to the redhead’s seriousness about her career. It's not like Barbara or Cynthia had ever really talked about chaps either. But then Cynthia is a nun now - so there’s that.

And then came the Rose Queen. Trixie had been so fixated on proving she could be a good wife to Tom (an irony not lost on her now), that she had again misconstrued all of Patsy’s tells. She had seen Patsy’s downcast eyes when she had asked if Trixie wouldn't have been able to forgive Mr. Amos because of what he was. She had also seen the sad smile slip across the redhead’s face when she had said, “It’s the same for nurses. They told us the day we enrolled.”   But Trixie had just chalked it up to the ginger nurse’s deep compassion for and empathy with her patients.  After all, this was the same woman who had traipsed all over London before going to Liverpool just for one bottle of medication for a patient. The blonde had even noticed how her friend had quietly put down her fork when Sister Winifred had been nattering on about sin. Now she knew it was probably due to sudden loss of appetite or to keep her hands from shaking, but at the time Trixie had thought it was to prevent herself from tearing into the self-righteous nun. Not that Trixie had had any problem doing just that.

The penny had dropped days later as Trixie had been removing her lipstick before bed.

“Why do you care so much?”

She had watched her friend carefully in the mirror’s reflection for a response. A sadness had flicked across the redhead’s eyes. Just the briefest slip in Patsy’s impeccable facade. Only a fellow actor like Trixie would have caught it.

“Perhaps I’m like Sister Monica Joan. Perhaps I don’t hold with culls either.”

Patsy might have just turned off the lamp, but a light had dawned suddenly for Trixie. The flippant remark had clenched it. It was textbook deflection. Trixie would know. Suddenly everything made sense. The casual remarks. The eye rolls whenever Trixie would ask about a chap. The endless parade of checked shirts and trousers (honestly, that alone should have tipped off a sartorial connoisseur like herself). And of course the actions and re actions over the past weeks. Trixie felt sick when she thought about what all those women had said to Marie earlier that day. It must have felt like a slap in the face to her friend.

“Just not in public.”

Patsy’s words were echoing in the blonde’s head days later when Mr. Amos had come into the community center. While Tom gave some flimsy excuse about how they assumed Marie wouldn’t be attending, Trixie could almost feel the waves of hurt and anger rolling off of Patsy’s body stood behind her. Her friend was too at risk to speak up again, but she wasn’t. Trixie could and would stand up for her. In public.

Trixie leaned into the turn off Cable Street towards Nonnatus and pedaled on. Once she had known about Patsy’s proclivities, casual observation of her interactions with Delia the night of the dance had told the rest of the tale. The blonde was, after all, an absolute expert on flirting, no matter how subtle. She had caught the brief looks of complete adoration and happiness Patsy gave her Welsh friend when she thought no one was watching.

Her Welsh girl friend.

No matter how much Tom had professed to love her, Trixie had never seen him look at her like that. For her part, the blonde was certain she had never looked at him that way either.  

Speaking of Tom.

“Good Evening, Trixie.”

She pulled her bike to a stop with a squeak of her brakes and gave her ex-fiancé a tight smile.

“You look tired.”

Ever the charmer. On a better night she would have given him a snappy retort about proper things to say to a lady. But Trixie was tired. Utterly exhausted, really. Undone. So instead she just gave him a quick upturn of her lips.

“I’ve just delivered a baby.”

He took a breath, “And I’m off to sit with a dying man.”

“That’s life, really. Isn’t it?” It's all the bit in between - the living - that’s so bloody complicated.

“Best be off.” She watched him walk away through the tunnel, feeling the darkness of the night close in around her.

Trixie was too tired.

She dismounted and walked her bike the rest of the way to Nonnatus. Grabbing her medical bag off the rear rack, she climbed slowly up the front steps - dreading the empty bed beside her own, and the full bottles beside it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sister Evangelina sat in the hard formica chair beside the bed holding Patsy’s hand. The sedatives seemed to be doing their work, as the redhead had not stirred since the nun had arrived. That’s a blessing at least.

She had left Sister Julienne and Dr. Turner with the specialist as soon as they were given permission to see their colleague, the poor girl had been alone for too long already.

She looked down at the young midwife. They had laid her on her left side in preparation for any seizures, so Sister Evangelina had a clear view of the damage to the ginger’s right side where she had hit the road.

There was just so much white.

Patsy’s skin was somehow paler than usual - something the nun had not thought possible - it was practically the same colour as the hospital gown. Her right arm was bent fixedly at ninety degrees, encased in white plaster from wrist to above the elbow. Her face looked battered, but peaceful. Someone had removed her makeup and Sister Evangelina was struck by how wrong it looked, pale peach lips instead of cherry red. Deep purple bruises and irritated red abrasions left by the road stood out vividly amongst the sea of white. But of course her fiery red hair was brightest of all.

She’ll make it. She’s got too much fight in her.

That was something of which Sister Evangelina was certain. Unlike most of the new midwives, Nurse Mount had never given her any reason to doubt her competence and skill. Sure, her bedside manner had needed a little coaxing at the start, but it hadn’t been long until she had found her footing and become one of their best. The young nurse was nothing if not determined. Of course she’d have to be, after what she had been through as a girl.

The camp.

When they’d first arrived, the specialist had asked about the scars. The sisters hadn’t known about them, but they could easily guess their source.

“That makes sense,” the doctor had said, looking like he had just found a satisfying solution to the Wednesday crossword. “Most appear to be lash marks, but there are some that look like cigarette burns. They cover approximately thirty percent of her back and some run down to her upper thighs.”

He was so nonchalant, like he was reciting an interesting anecdote he had heard on the radio that morning. If the news had not made her feel so ill, Sister Evangelina might have given him a slap.

The nun had caught a glimpse of some of the scars as she had entered the room. Patsy was faced away from the door so it was easy to spot the little strips of darker skin on her shoulders through the gap in the rear of the gown.

The nun’s eyes welled as she squeezed the redhead’s hand. No, if the Japs couldn’t break her, she’d not be done in by some kid from Poplar. One hand still in Patsy’s, she drew the other up and gripped her cross.

Sister Evangelina began to pray.

 


>>>>><<<<<

 


Delia sat with her back against Patsy’s headboard, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped around the redhead’s pillow.

It smelled like her.

Delia took a shaky breath, feeling her chest constrict impossibly tighter with each inhale of her girlfriend’s spicy scent. She leaned her head back, resting it on the sharp edge of the top of the mahogany headboard. She had never felt so helpless.

Her beautiful Pats, her whole world, was in a cold hospital bed in Whitechapel, completely and utterly alone. And there was nothing she could do about it. She felt the ring on her chest, the metal strangely cool at the moment. If Patsy had been a man, that thin strip of gold would mean Delia would be at the hospital right now, talking to the specialists and getting answers. It would mean that Delia would be at Patsy’s side, holding her lover’s hand and whispering ‘I'm here. I love you. I'm never leaving you,’ into her unconscious ear. But more than anything, it would mean Delia would be able to see her love with her own eyes and confirm that, despite the fog of mourning engulfing this house, Patsy was still alive - her magnificent heart beating out a stubborn, glorious rhythm. The very thought of any other possibility made her Welsh body empty out, leaving only fear and anger rattling around inside her hollow shell.

In all their years together, Delia had always been the one to feel the injustice of their situation more acutely. She had become increasingly frustrated with Patsy’s seeming ability to take it all in stride. In one of her most bitter moments, the brunette had accused her partner of coping better with facades, but she knew that wasn’t really it. Patsy just coped better with injustice. Why shouldn’t she? She’s had plenty of practice at it since she was nine years old.

Her strong, beautiful Pats.

Delia felt hot tears begin to slide down her cheeks and neck. She remembered sitting on another of Patsy’s beds, holding hands as the then blonde woman told her about what had happened to her and her family.

 

-----

 

They had been friends for nearly a year when Delia had come off shift to find a frozen Patsy sitting rigidly on the edge of her bed, sightless eyes on the floor in front of her feet. She was still in uniform despite having finished her shift on intensive care hours ago, her hands fidgeting mindlessly with the violet fabric.

“Pats? Is everything alright?”

No response. Delia wasn't even sure her friend had heard her. The blonde seemed very far away. She closed the door and walked quietly over to Patsy, kneeling down in front of her long legs so that her own face entered her friend’s blank gaze.

Speaking very softly, Delia reached out and took Patsy’s fidgeting hands in her own, “Pats?” The contact seemed to break the trance as two sets of blue eyes slowly met.

“Deels?” She sounded confused, the look on her face was one of questioning surprise, like she couldn't understand how Delia could possibly be kneeling in front of her.

“It's okay, Pats. I'm here sweetheart.”

Her words appeared to break something in Patsy and the blonde nurse's body seemed to collapse in on itself as she sobbed uncontrollably. Delia was on the bed in an instant, pulling her friend into her arms and stroking her silky golden hair. She felt the uniform around her chest tighten as Patsy’s hands clutched the fabric. Her chest had tightened too, but Delia knew it was not the constricting fabric that had been the cause.

Delia loved Patsy. No. Delia was in love with Patsy. She had admitted as much to herself months ago, although the blonde did not know, could never know.

Seeing the woman she loved so broken had gripped her heart like a vise. She had never seen Patsy shed a single tear, much less sob. She wrapped her small, strong arms tightly around her dear friend, saying nothing, not trusting herself to speak or else her love might be squeezed from her clenched heart and come flying out of her mouth.

It was nearly half an hour before Patsy’s sobs began to ease. It was a further ten minutes before Delia heard her speak. The blonde’s voice was thick and nasally, “He reminded me of them.”

The brunette was lost. Who reminded her of whom? The blonde had stopped talking so Delia gave her a gentle nudge, “Who, sweetheart?”

Patsy sat up slowly, her hands returned to worrying the fabric in her lap. “Today. On the ward. There was a man. He contracted malaria while fighting in Kenya. He thought it was just a cold. Didn’t tell the doctors. Left it untreated.”

Delia nodded. Malaria was a tricky disease, but with all the recent advances in antimalarial drugs, it was manageable if caught early. Left alone, well, it could be terrible to witness. But they all witnessed terrible things everyday. The Welsh nurse remembered her own rotation in intensive care a few months back. It had been hard - so many of their patients on that ward were terminal. But Patsy had seemed to be coping well, even after that horrible toxemia case last week.

The blonde spoke again, “I kept telling myself, ‘malaria, not typhoid.’ But all I could see was them.”

Now Delia was well and truly lost. Yes, advanced malaria did share a number of symptoms with typhoid, but how in the world had Patsy seen a case of typhoid, much less multiple, as the ‘them’ implied. As far as she knew there hadn’t been a single case in the hospital since they started training. Sure, it wasn’t completely unheard of in the tenements, yet it was still quite rare. But where else could her friend have seen advanced typhoid? Certainly not in her posh boarding school.

Patsy looked up at her then, and the confusion in her blue eyes must have been obvious to the observant blonde nurse.

“My mother and sister,” she said, her voice catching.

Delia felt her eyes widen in surprise. She had not been expecting that at all, not least because she had so rarely heard Patsy talk about her family. She hadn’t even known she had a sister. Or had had one, as she soon found out, for Patsy had begun to talk. It was the most she had ever heard the blonde speak about her past. Now she knew why. Delia reached out and silently took Patsy’s hand, anchoring her to the bed as her mind traveled back to the Far East. The tears fell steadily as she talked, but she did not sob again, not even when she recounted the horrific details of the slow deaths of her mother and sister.

Suddenly all of Patsy’s seemingly conflicting character traits made complete sense. Her tough exterior, her compassionate heart, her sudden inexplicable changes in mood, her incredible thoughtfulness. Life had been crueler to her than most, but that little girl had left the bodies of her closest family behind and emerged from that camp with a burning desire to care for others. She had turned her injustice into an armor.

 

-----

 

Delia wished she had an ounce of Patsy’s strength right now. Her eyes studied the ceiling, her mouth smiling ruefully. Honestly, she’d take any part of her she could get at the moment - even the cautious, careful, (infuriating), looking over her shoulder Pats.

Actually, maybe that was the Pats she needed most of all. Delia had always been the one to wear her heart on her sleeve. It was more difficult for her to hide the love she felt for her ginger girlfriend. But right now that was too dangerous. She couldn’t let anyone see just how much this had shaken her, how much her entire world was on the edge of collapse. She would need to borrow one of Patsy’s thicker, tougher masks and act the part of worried friend, not devastated lover - if she hadn’t shattered that facade already. She thought back to what she could remember of those first moments upon learning the horrible news. She had been in shock, that much was obvious. But she hadn’t wailed or become hysterical, or dashed off recklessly to the hospital. Thank God for shock. Good. Their secret was still protected.

The thought lit the smallest of fires in Delia’s stomach. She could protect them.

Not so helpless after all.

She got up, crossed over to ‘Trixie’s Bar’ and poured herself a neat scotch. Sitting back down on the mustard counterpane, she took a swig from the glass, thinking hard. The liquor burned in Delia’s gut like hot coals, forging her anger into determination. She would stay here for the night, sit vigil with the rest of Patsy’s friends, and wait for any news that might come. She could keep it together until the morning. For Patsy. For their love. She would make it through until she could go back to the flat. Their flat. She would wait until she was safe behind their locked door, then, and only then, would she allow herself to fall apart.

Delia tossed back the rest of the scotch in one and placed the glass on the bedside table. She rose and walked towards the door, her legs more steady than she would have predicted. Dutch courage. She had only made it halfway there when the door burst open revealing a wide-eyed Trixie.

The blonde rushed at her and before she knew what was happening, Delia found herself pinned in a hug with her arms at her sides for the second time that evening. The slender midwife squeezed her so fiercely that Delia could not breathe. Suddenly her grip slackened and Trixie pulled back, hands on Delia’s shoulders, looking her full in the face.

“Oh, you poor girl.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Oh, you poor girl.”

Delia stared blankly at the blonde woman clutching her shoulders, too shocked by events to formulate thought. Trixie steered her back to Patsy’s bed, sitting to face her from her own. They sat in silence for a few moments, the blonde staring intently at the brunette. Slowly, Delia’s mind seemed to whir back to life. Trixie had just hugged her. That was odd. She didn’t know the blonde midwife that well, but it seemed out of character.

Trixie leaned forward, her elbows on her knees, “How are you holding up, sweetie?”

Delia’s mind slammed back into full working order now. Why was she asking that? Remembering her earlier vow to protect their love at all costs, the brunette adopted what she considered an appropriate ‘worried friend’ posture, the scotch helping her body seem more natural. “Same as everyone else, I suppose. It’s come as quite a shock.”  

“Mmmmm,” Trixie narrowed her eyes at her. Delia felt a panic begin to rise from somewhere in her abdomen.

The blonde seemed to be choosing her next words very carefully. She reached out and took the brunette’s hands. When she spoke, it was calm and measured, “Sweetie. You’re not like everyone else, though are you?”

Delia felt blind panic seize her body. Those were words she had feared since she was seventeen years old. But Trixie couldn't know that. Couldn't mean that. They had been so careful. Patsy certainly would never have let anything slip. Think, Busby, think. Maybe when she said ‘everyone else’ she just meant the Nonnatuns, or…

“I-I don’t know what you mean, Trixie,” her voice sounded strange in her ears. Trixie gave her a penetrating look that made her stomach churn. She was regretting the scotch now. She felt a stinging sensation behind her eyes. No. No. I will protect us. I will not let Patsy down.

Trixie gave her a sad smile. “Well, I just know that if the person that I was in love with had been in a horrible accident and was in hospital with just Sister Evangelina for company, I’d be having a rough go of it.”

Delia felt like a dam broke inside her chest. It felt like the emotions she had been keeping so carefully contained since she found out about the accident - hell, all the emotions that she had ever kept locked away throughout their entire relationship - had suddenly come rushing out. She slid down the edge of Patsy’s bed and onto the floor between the two frames, her head resting between her knees. She was sobbing uncontrollably now, but she didn’t care. What did it matter? She had failed her. It was over. She would never be allowed to see her beautiful Pats again. She would never know if she was okay. She would never get to hold her, kiss her, run her fingers through her silky hair. It was all over and it was Delia’s fault.

Suddenly, she felt thin arms slide around her shoulders, and a kind voice close by her ear, “It’s alright, sweetie. I’ve got you. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

She choked, her sobs coming to a sudden, shuddering halt. What? She pulled back, blinked away her tears, and looked at the blonde through swollen eyes. Trixie’s blue eyes were wet too, but they were also filled with a fierce compassion.

“So you’re not…” Delia began, her voice failing.

“Going to tell anyone? Of course not,” she paused looking Delia squarely in the eyes, “Patsy is my best friend, she’s clearly in love with you, and she needs you now more than ever.”

Delia could hardly believe her ears. She felt relief wash over her as she sank back into Trixie’s arms, the tears flowing thickly once again.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Trixie sat on the floor between the twin beds with her arms around Delia. The brunette seemed to have finally stopped crying, hiccupping slightly as her breaths became slower and steadier. The blonde’s body felt stiff from the cramped quarters and awkward position. She gently released her hold on the smaller girl. “Come on, sweetie, let’s both get out of these uniforms. I know I must smell horribly of amniotic fluid and you must be dying to get out of those wretched puffed sleeves.” She stood, offering her hand to Delia and pulling her to her feet. “Why don't you go down the hall and freshen up a bit. I'll find you some pyjamas.”

Alone again Trixie's mood quickly darkened. Being there for Delia had brought her out of her gloom and out of her own problems in the same way that nursing did. When she was ‘Nurse Franklin’ she had a role to play and responsibilities to others. It made her feel needed. Trixie was no good on her own, not anymore.

She felt her eyes began to burn as they came to rest on Patsy’s bed. Trixie wasn't ready to lose her. Not like this. Not now. She really and truly didn't think she could cope.

Her eyes drifted over to the bottles by the window. Her fingers twitched with the urge to unscrew a bottle and pour a glass. They had to settle for a cigarette, her mind drifting as she looked around at Patsy’s neatly packed cases.

 

-----

 

When Trixie arrived home, she had felt lower than she ever had in her life. She craved nothing more than to crawl upstairs into her empty room and into a bottle of gin. Well, that wasn't entirely true, what she really craved was to feel whole. To laugh a real laugh with friends. To feel happy and in control of her life again. But in the absence of that miracle, gin would do.

And she hated herself for it.

She closed the heavy front door behind her and trudged wearily towards the clinical room to unload her dirtied instruments, but before she could get there, she was intercepted by Sister Mary Cynthia. “Trixie, can you come into the dining room? Nurse Crane needs to speak with you.”

“I'll be there in a moment. I just need to turn over my kit.”

“It can wait.”

That was distinctly odd. Nurse Crane was an absolute tyrant about procedure. Trixie followed the little nun into the dining room and had immediately known something was wrong. Well, Barbara’s face alone would've been enough of a clue there, but the fact that no less than three nuns and two nurses sat around the dining room table at this hour, that had clinched it.

When they told her what had happened, Trixie didn't cry, she just sat there, her mind not fully comprehending. If she’d have been in a better state, she knew she would have cried, broken down even.

Instead, a strange hysterical laughter bubbled out of her.

The others just stared.

Slowly, Sister Mary Cynthia reached out, took her hand, and the laughter slowly simmered into steady tears. But Trixie felt too hollow to cry for long, and after only a few minutes she wiped her eyes, regaining her composure. “So, what do we do now?”

Nurse Crane looked at her thoughtfully, knowing eyes seeing right through her, “There isn't much for us to do now, I'm afraid. Why don't you go up, get changed and have a lie down, we’ll let you know if there is any news. I'd say get some sleep, but I don't think any of us have much hope for that under the circumstances. Maybe see if you can find pyjamas and a dressing gown for Nurse Busby too. I dare say she'd like to get out of her uniform if she's going to stay with us for the duration.”

Trixie’s head snapped around, “Delia’s here?”

“Yes, Sister Monica Joan took her up to your room not half an hour ago.”

Trixie was on her feet in a second. “That sounds like a marvelous plan, Nurse Crane. I'll see to it at once.”

The news that Patsy’s girlfriend was upstairs acted like a shot of adrenaline to Trixie’s inert body. She had suddenly been given purpose - here was someone in need, someone she could help, someone only she could help. She left the dining room quickly and dashed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

 

-----

 

Trixie took a deep drag on her cigarette and pulled her thoughts back to the task at hand.

Right. Pyjamas then.

Her eyes found what she had been looking for and she stubbed out her cigarette. Patsy had packed most of her belongings last night. The redhead didn't have too many possessions, but she had accumulated more over the past year and a half than would fit in the solitary black suitcase she had brought with her to Nannatus, so Trixie had loaned her case to her roommate for the move.

The blonde smiled sadly to herself as she popped open her own case, remembering how she had teased her friend when she had thanked her for the loan, “Oh, Patsy, it's the least I can do given that the dramatic increase in your wardrobe is so clearly down to my superior fashion influence.”

Patsy of course, had not missed a beat, “And here I just thought you were keen for me to clear out so you could have the closet all to yourself.”

“Well it will be a relief not to have my eyes assaulted each day by a horde of clashing plaids.” They had laughed then, both knowing that they would miss the comfort of their easy banter.

Trixie spotted what she was looking for at once. Patsy had of course known that she would need these first tonight so she had made sure they were on top. Always so organized.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Delia leaned over the basin, splashing cold water on her face. It felt good on her hot cheeks and swollen eyes. She hadn't even looked at herself in the mirror when she first came into the bathroom, no need, she knew she looked a right mess.

Still avoiding the mirror, she turned to investigate her soap options. Patsy’s usual Pears was gone (probably packed that morning) so she opted for what she assumed was Trixie’s Camay. It was probably for the best, she didn't want to smell like Patsy. It would be a constant, visceral reminder of her absence. Like sitting with her ghost.

She scrubbed away the last of the salty tear tracks with the flowery soap, rinsed again with cool water and finally looked in the mirror. She looked less blotchy than expected. That was good. She reached up and patted under each eye cautiously with her forefinger. Definitely less puffy. Leaning forward, she examined herself closely. She looked tired. Well, she was tired. The utter range of emotion she had cycled through in the past two hours had left her feeling completely spent.

Had it really only been two hours since she left The London? She looked down at the watch pinned to her uniform to confirm. Two hours. That's all it took for her world to be completely turned on its head. She bit down on the inside of her cheek. What a morbidly apt metaphor.

Two hours. Patsy must have been brought in before she had left work. She was probably in A&E, her light blue uniform being cut off her beautiful body, as Delia had passed the ward on her way to the bus stop. She gripped the basin tightly, knuckles white.

She had to pull herself together.

But now that the dam had broken, Delia was having a hard time keeping her emotions inside. Damn Trixie .

Trixie . Somehow Trixie knew . And what's more, she said she was going to keep their secret. The thought was equal parts comforting and terrifying. She needed to talk to her. To understand. To make sure.

Trixie had already changed into her green silk pyjamas and was on her bed smoking another cigarette when Delia slipped into the room. The blonde’s eyes darted quickly over her face, appraising her state. Trixie slid gracefully off her bed and reached over to Patsy’s, picking up a pair of blue striped pyjamas. “I’ve only got silk clean I’m afraid, and it gets awfully drafty in here.” She handed them over with a meaningful smile, “You should borrow a set of Patsy’s. They’re much warmer.” Delia felt her eyes burn, welling up again, but then Trixie spoke, and the words broke the tension and pulled an unexpected laugh out of her Welsh body, “Of course you’ll have to roll them up so you won't trip, that woman has the most ridiculously long legs.” She winked and then walked past the brunette for her own visit to the bathroom.

Delia felt calmer as she slipped the flannel pyjama shirt over her shoulders. It smelt like Patsy, but this time the scent filled her with hope and comfort instead of yearning despair. It must be the pyjamas themselves, the presence of something so tangible, so Patsy, wrapping around her body, keeping her safe and warm.

She was sat on the edge of Patsy’s bed, rolling up the second leg of the overly long pyjama bottoms when the blonde returned, smirking slightly at the sight. Trixie crossed over to the vanity and began massaging cold cream into her face. Delia knew they should go down and join the others in the dining room soon, but first she needed to talk to Trixie. She needed to know how she knew and what exactly she planned to do with that knowledge. There was too much at risk and Delia was too on edge to leave anything to chance, to leave their future to chance.

“Trixie? Do you mind if I ask you something?” Her voice was nearly steady.

The blonde looked back at her through the reflection of the mirror as she wiped at the cold cream on her face. “Not at all.”

Delia took a deep fortifying breath, “How did you know? Did Patsy tell you, or…” she paused, fidgeting with the hem of the pyjama top, searching for the right words. “We thought we were so careful.”

The blonde’s hand stilled in its motion. The fear and defeat in Delia’s voice must have been obvious. Trixie set the cream down slowly and turned to face her. “Of course you were, sweetie. But we do live together, so I know her better than most.” She crossed over and sat on the bed across from Delia, mirroring their positions from before.

“So she didn't tell you?”

Trixie merely raised an eyebrow in response, pulling another nervous laugh from the Welsh brunette. No words needed. Of course Patsy hadn't told her. Her infuriating girlfriend never talked about anything personal if she could help it. But if Patsy hadn't told her, then that meant Trixie had figured it out on her own. And if the blonde could do it, then someone else would too - if they hadn't already. She had to know how.

As if reading her thoughts, Trixie reached out and took her hands again. “Oh, Delia, don't worry. The only reason I was able to put it all together is because we share a room. It's much harder to hide something when you spend so much time with someone,” her blue eyes flicked briefly to a spot over Delia's shoulder before continuing, “And even then, it took over a year. It was during that horrible mess with Mr. Amos that I figured it all out. I saw how it affected her. I don't think anyone else did; she is awfully good at hiding her true feelings, as I’m sure you know.” She smiled, “And then I started thinking about little comments here and there, and how she’d reacted all those times I teased her about men, and everything just made sense.”

Delia felt her throat constrict in affection for the blonde before her. She remembered how difficult that time had been for Patsy, for them both. It had been a chilling reminder of how much they risked to be together. Of course, it wasn’t illegal for them, but they could still lose their jobs, their homes, everything. The redhead had dealt with it all in her usual way, withdrawing behind her careful constructed walls.

 

-----

 

Patsy had been avoiding Delia for weeks, and she was sick of it.  The brunette had had to practically browbeat her girlfriend into meeting up at the Silver Buckle a few days before the Rose Queen, and now she wondered why she had bothered. They had been sitting in near silence for twenty minutes, Patsy staring moodily into her untouched tea, before Delia had given up and dragged her girlfriend out into the streets. The brunette linked arms with the redhead, ignoring the taller girl’s flinching at the gesture, and steered her down towards the quay. They sat at their usual bench, staring out at the lights of London glittering across the river.

“Alright, Pats. Spill it.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Deels.”

Delia turned in her seat to face her girlfriend, giving her a pointed look, “Patience Mount. Are you really going to just sit there and tell me that everything is perfectly fine? Do you think I should just ignore that gigantic black cloud hovering over your head?” She paused, but when Patsy didn’t answer she spoke again, this time more softly, “Pats, we’ve talked about this. You don’t have to be brave with me. Let me in. I can help.”

Patsy turned to her then, meeting her eyes for the first time that night. The brunette was stunned to see the pain and fear in those beautiful blue eyes. Delia had only seen Patsy this afraid on one occasion, but that was when the redhead had been reliving her nightmarish past. She had never seen her lover frightened like this about the present. “I’m sorry, I just can’t. I have to keep you as far away from this as possible, Delia. It’s too dangerous.”

“What is, Pats? Tell me what’s going on, sweetheart. I promise I’ll keep my distance, but please talk to me.”

The redhead sat quietly, her jaw stiff. Delia waited, knowing that her patient silence would eventually draw her reluctant girlfriend out of her shell. And it did. Once she started talking, she couldn’t stop. Patsy told her all about Sergeant Noakes and the honey trap, her patient’s distress and denial that her husband could be so ‘unnatural,’ the conversation at the dinner table when Sister Winifred had railed about sodomy and sin, the yellow ‘QUEER’ splashed across the Amos’ front door, those self-righteous women who had taken such joy in slinging insults at Marie at the community center, the trial and the inhuman ‘treatment’ that was Mr. Amos’ sentence.

“That’s why I’ve been keeping away. I’m just so upset and angry, and I’m afraid that someone will see it and suspect. I can’t put you at risk too, Delia.”

And Delia had understood. She knew the risks just as much as Patsy, and while she herself was more inclined to be defiant of society’s rules, she knew that her girlfriend was the one in most danger right now. And she also knew what Patsy needed to help her through it. “I am so sorry, Pats. I don't like leaving you alone in this, but I understand. We’ll keep our distance until this all blows over.”

Patsy gave her a small smile and squeezed her hand. The brunette turned back to the water and felt a cheeky smile slip over her face, “You will have to make it up to me, of course.”

The redhead looked over at her girlfriend, one corner of her mouth creeping up into her trademark lopsided smile, “Oh. And what exactly did you have in mind, Busby?”

Delia turned to face her, a flirtatious look on her face. “You know what I like, Pats,” she said, voice full of suggestion. Even in the dark she could see the blush blooming on her girlfriend’s cheeks. The brunette waggled her eyebrows, “Haddock, chips, and marrowfat peas.” She winked.

Patsy titled her head back and laughed. “I love you, Delia.”

“I love you too, cariad.”

Delia had not expected to see her ginger girlfriend for weeks. Patsy was fanatical in her caution and would wait until she was absolutely certain the Amos affair had blown over before she would risk seeing the Welshwoman again. So the brunette was surprised when her girlfriend knocked on her door at the Nurses Home only two days after their talk at the quay, steaming newspaper parcels in hand. She was even more surprised by the smile of relief that played across her cherry red lips. Patsy sat on the bed, careful not to crease her Akela uniform, and handed Delia her food. “As requested,” she said, flirtatious smile on her face.

“Contraband chips. Aren’t you a dark horse,” she smiled, snatching a chip from the redhead’s portion

As they ate, Patsy told Delia about how Trixie had stood up to the horrible women at the community center and about the standing ovation for Mrs. Amos at the Rose Queen. “I had to see you. I know I was in quite a state the last time we talked, and I couldn't bear to leave you worried like that. We will be careful, Deels, but we’ll always find a way.” And at that, the midwife stole a chip of her own.

 

-----

 

Delia’s eyes watered at the memory. Trixie had known . She had known and she had stood up to those women, not just for Mr. Amos, but for Patsy too. The brunette felt the tightness in her chest ease ever so slightly. Her love was still in the hospital - out of reach, her health and future uncertain - but at least Delia wasn’t completely alone anymore. She had Trixie Franklin, and she couldn’t imagine a better ally to have in her corner.

 

Chapter Text

“Would you mind terribly if I put on some music? Not too loud, just enough to keep this dreadful quiet from driving me absolutely mad.” She looked over at Delia who seemed to consider it for a moment before nodding.

They had been sitting in a tense, if companionable, silence for the past ten minutes, both minds fixed on the same point almost three miles away. It was starting to become too much for Trixie. She needed something more than the three cigarettes she had already smoked to take the edge off, and she hoped music would do the trick. She really wanted a drink, but she knew that once she started she wouldn’t be able to stop, not tonight, not with how utterly desperate she felt at the moment. The blonde midwife knew that Sisters Julienne and Evangelina would be home later that night and she needed to be sober to soak up everything they would have to report - and to look out for Delia.

She slid off her bed and walked over to the dancette. “Any requests?” she asked, her cigarette free hand flipping lazily through the rack of records.

“Not really…” Trixie heard the hesitation in the brunette’s voice and glanced over her shoulder, raising a questioning eyebrow. “just...just maybe not one of Patsy’s.” Delia eyes fell, studying her fingers in her pyjama-clad lap. “What with her bed, her pyjamas, I think...I think her music might be too much right now.” She looked up, meeting Trixie’s gaze with soft eyes and a tight smile, “Especially certain songs.”

Trixie nodded thoughtfully, turning back to the records where her finger had reached Patsy’s copy of Sam Cooke’s “You Were Made for Me.”


-----

 

Patsy had only been at Nonnatus for two days and already Trixie was a little bit in love with her. Not only was she a wonderfully hard worker who seemed to actually enjoy doing all the tedious cleaning and sterilizing work, she was also the perfect roommate - she smoked, had impeccable fashion sense, and came supplied with her own bottle of scotch.

The only thing Trixie was a little unsure about was the redhead’s taste in music.

Both midwives were smoking cigarettes in their pyjamas, sitting cross-legged with their backs leaning against their respective headboards, each sorting through a pile of the other woman’s 45s splayed out in front of them. Trixie pulled a face as she held up two of Patsy’s records, “Honestly, sweetie. You have the most eclectic collection of American music that I’ve ever seen. And yes, I'm just being polite. Elvis Presley I understand, but The Coasters and Eddie Cochran?” She dropped the records dismissively before picking up a stack of around four or five singles by the same artist. “Big fan of Chuck Berry I take it?”

Patsy rolled her eyes. “I like music I can dance to, Trixie.” The redhead took a long drag on her Woodbine, blowing the smoke up towards the ceiling. “You would too if you had been forced to waltz with all those dreadful girls at St. Mary’s. I swear my poor toes still haven't fully recovered. And don’t even get me started on all those appalling junior doctors during training. Suffice to say I now very much prefer music that allows for more space around my feet and gives me a chance to dance with my more rhythmically inclined friends.”

Trixie giggled, her blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “I remember those dances. How men who claim to be medical professionals could have missed out the fact they had two left feet is enough to doubt the future of the entire NHS.”

The blonde continued flipping through Patsy’s records. Two by The Drifters, one by Dion and the Belmonts… “Just a moment, Nurse Mount. I thought you only owned dance music. While ’Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha’ certainly fits the bill, these other two Sam Cooke records are decidedly romantic.” She held up the 45s in question, waggling her eyebrows at her ginger roommate, mischievous glint back in her eyes.

The redhead barely gave the records a glance, “Those two were gifts,” she said dismissively, tossing aside a Connie Francis album.

Trixie smelled gossip. “From some now utterly heartbroken gentleman caller, no doubt.”

Patsy continued casually flipping through the records in front of her. “Sorry to disappoint, Trix. They’re from a friend,” she must have heard her roommate inhale, ready to speak, because she cut her off without looking up, “A friend from nurses’ training.” She finally looked over, giving the blonde one of her coy half smiles, “So they’ll be no worries about some scorned chap throwing pebbles at our window in the small hours,” she put her hands over her heart and tilted her head dramatically, “declaring his love for all of Wick Street to hear.”

 

-----

 

Trixie smiled down at the record under her finger. She now knew who that ‘friend from training’ was - those records had been gifts from Delia. She wondered how many of the others were too. How many nights had the two of them sat listening to love songs from Patsy’s Welsh girlfriend, the redhead never letting on? The blonde felt a stab of regret, wishing now that she had talked to Patsy about Delia once she found out. How dreadfully lonely it must have been to hold that all inside.

She took a deep drag from her Sobranie, needing a surge of nicotine to fight the anxiety beginning to settle in her chest. “Mmmm, Billy Fury it is then. I know for a fact she can’t stand him.” She turned back towards the beds, and Delia gave her a grateful smile.

Trixie sat back down on the edge of her bed, facing the brunette. She crossed her legs and leaned back elegantly on her right hand. “Sweetie, do you mind if I ask you something, now?” Delia looked back at her cautiously. “I don’t mean to pry, and you don’t have to answer, but I obviously haven't been able to talk to Patsy about any of this since I found out.” The Welshwoman continued to look wary, but nodded.

“How long have you been together?”

Delia gave her a small smile, “Nearly four years. Since about a year and a half into training.”

The blonde’s eyes widened in surprise. “Four years!” That was longer than any of Trixie’s friends had been together. Jenny had known Philip for less than a year and they were already married. And Fred and Violet had been together for just a few months. Even Shelagh and Dr. Turner had only been together for two years, though who knows how long their romance was building before Sister Bernadette left the Order. “Why you’re practically an old married couple!"

A flash of sadness, and something else that Trixie couldn’t quite place flicked over Delia’s face. The brunette brought her left hand up and rested it on her chest, her fingers toying with the fabric of the pyjama shirt a few inches below the hollow of her throat. “Practically.”

A sting of guilt hit the midwife as she realized the full meaning of her words. Of course they never could be a married couple. If they could, Delia wouldn’t be here, holed up at Nonnatus talking about her relationship in hushed tones. She would be at The London, with Patsy. “I’m so sorry, Delia. I didn’t mean…”

But Delia waved her off with a shake of her head and a watery smile. “It’s okay, Trixie. I know what you meant. It’s just…” she paused, considering her words carefully, “sometimes it’s just...so bloody hard.”

Trixie nodded, knowing there was more the brunette wanted to say, but couldn’t - or wouldn't.

Delia sat up straighter, shaking her shoulders a little as if working a cramp out of a stiff muscle. “Now. As we’re on the subject of questions, I have another for you, Trixie.” She eyed the blonde steadily, managing a small smile. “You said that Pats made little comments that tipped you off.” Trixie nodded, feeling a smirk creep over her face. “What kind of little comments?” She spoke each word slowly, exaggerating their enunciation, clearly ready to change the topic to something lighter.

“Well, ‘having a boyfriend isn't the be all and end all’ might has well have been her motto. I was almost afraid she was harboring secret ambitions to become a nun.” At this, Delia nearly choked.

“And then of course there was the time she taught Tom to dance.”

Saying her ex-fiancé’s name out loud had caused Trixie’s stomach to drop into her feet. The brunette gave her a quick look of concern, but she ploughed on, not wanting to lose the lightened mood in the room. “Did she tell you about that?”she said, a little too airily.

Delia was evidently well versed in dealing with deflection, as her look of concern shifted smoothly into one of attentive listening. “I don’t believe so.”

“Well she and Fred did it as a surprise for me. They spent an entire evening at it in the community center, all in vain I might add. Well, I was cycling past as he and Patsy were leaving. I didn't see Fred, so naturally I jumped to the completely wrong conclusion and accosted the poor girl when she got home. Of course she was incredibly put out that I would think her capable of stealing my boyfriend, and went on to say that he wasn’t her type in any case.” Trixie’s blue eyes sparkled at the memory. “Of course, at the time I had never heard her say so much as one word about her type, so naturally I was curious and asked her what she meant.” The blonde midwife looked so mischievous that Delia couldn't help giving her an actual, genuine smile. “And she said,” Trixie attempted an imitation of Patsy’s RP accent, “‘there are certain things he lacks, and certain things he has too much of...for me.’”

Both woman burst out laughing, and for a moment, forgot that the redhead in question wasn't perfectly safe, wasn't lying unconscious in a hospital bed in Whitechapel.

Delia was incredulous, “She didn’t!”

“She did. And you should have seen the look on her face when she said ‘too much of.’ It was a picture.” Trixie’s eyes were shining with laughter.

“Patience Mount. Honestly, ‘certain things’ indeed. And she always says I’m not careful enough. She is never hearing the end of this.” Their laughter began to peter out as the implications of Delia’s last words trickled over them. They had forgotten for a second. The relief from the fear and worry had been welcome, but now it was back with avengence, bringing a healthy dose of guilt along with it.

They sat in silence, listening to the last strains of Billy Fury when it was interrupted by a hesitant knock on the door.

Barbara poked her head in cautiously, “They’re back.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Nonnatus House was eerily quiet as Nurse Crane led them into the dining room where most of their colleagues were waiting. “Nurse Gilbert, would you please go up and fetch Nurse Franklin and Nurse Busby.”

Patrick watched as the thin brunette nodded before ducking out of the room. He turned, taking in the others seated around the scrubbed wooden table. Sister Monica Joan sat opposite in Sister Julienne’s usual place at the head, with Sisters Winifred and Mary Cynthia on the right side. All three looked downcast, but expectant. Nurse Noakes was there too, seated in one of the four chairs on the left side of the table, her fingers worrying her gold cross pendant. Nurse Crane and Sister Evangelina made their way over to the right side of the table and took their places between the sisters, leaving the vacant seats on the left for the imminent arrival of the three young nurses.

He stood at the head of the long table with Sister Julienne, flanking the empty chair. “We’ll wait for the others before we get started,” Sister Julienne said, laying the brown wrapped parcel containing Nurse Mount’s personal effects on the table in front of the chair like some bizarre dinner plate. The action seemed to draw every eye in the quiet room, each mind aware of the contents, each heart clenching.

The spell was broken by the arrival of the three latecomers. Patrick was surprised, and a little embarrassed, to see that Nurses Franklin and Busby were in their pyjamas and dressing gowns. Or rather, Nurse Franklin was in her pyjamas and dressing gown, Nurse Busby’s were clearly borrowed, her fingertips barely peeking through the ends of the sleeves of the yellow tartan gown. The three nurses went to take their seats at the table, Nurses Gilbert and Franklin automatically taking their usual spots, leaving Nurse Mount’s empty seat for Nurse Busby. But before the Welshwoman could sit, Sister Julienne reached out to her, grasping her hands. “Nurse Busby, I know that this horrible accident has affected you just as much as the rest of us. Please know that you are very welcome here with us tonight. We are a family here at Nonnatus, and as Nurse Mount’s dear friend, we consider you part of that family.”

The petite brunette gave the sister a grateful, teary smile and managed to speak despite the obvious tightness in her throat, “Thank you, sister.” He watched her as she took her seat, her eyes falling on the parcel in front of her, the blood draining from her face. Had she not already been seated, the doctor thought she might have fainted.

Patrick had only seen the Welsh nurse on a handful of occasions, and had only spoken to her once at the cubs’ square dance. Even in that brief encounter, she had struck him as a wonderfully good natured and cheerful woman. The latter characteristic was in no evidence tonight, however, and the doctor could tell that Nurse Mount’s accident had hit her especially hard. The small woman sat rigid, staring blankly at the brown paper parcel.

Sister Julienne cleared her throat to speak, and Patrick hung back. He was only there as ‘Dr. Turner’ to deliver the medical details and answer any questions. He cared a great deal for each of the sisters and nurses of Nonnatus House, but no matter how close he felt to them, he would always be a bit of an outsider. His gender alone guaranteed that. Patrick didn’t mind, though. He was honored to be counted among their community in any way they would have him.

“As you all know, Nurse Mount has been the victim of a cycling accident. In a moment, I will let Dr. Turner give you the details of her condition. But first, I wanted to inform you all that I called in a favor with the Matron-in-Charge at the London. Nonnatus House has always provided nurses whenever they were short staffed, and she has always been very appreciative. She also remembers Nurse Mount as an excellent nurse from her time there on male surgical, and as one of their own, wants to make sure she receives all the support there is to offer. Therefore, I am pleased to tell you all that I have been appointed ‘acting next of kin’ for her until such time as her father can be reached.”

A wave of relief swept around the room. “That means that we will be able to visit and be updated on her care and prognosis.”

“Were you able to see her tonight?” asked Nurse Gilbert, her voice equal parts hope and dread.

“I sat with her while Dr. Turner and Sister Julienne spoke to the specialist,” replied Sister Evangelina. All eyes shot to the nun, even Nurse Busby managed to drag her own away from the parcel in front of her.

“How is she?” the Welsh nurse asked, voice tight.

Sister Evangelina sighed, “About as good as can be expected. She’s pretty banged up from the road,” she paused, looking up to stem the tears making their ways to her eyes, taking a deep breath, “but she’s resting peacefully.” Patrick felt his own eyes sting at the show of gentle emotion from the typically irascible nun.

Nurse Franklin spoke next, her voice sounding quiet and strained, “When will we be able to visit her?”

“As part of my arrangement with Matron, she has put in Nurse Mount’s notes that any member of Nonnatus House is to be allowed to see her during visiting hours, though no more than two at a time, of course.”

“What about Delia?” Trixie immediately asked, her voice sounding stronger. And after a pause and a quick glance towards Patrick, she added, “And Mrs. Turner?”

Nurse Busby’s head whipped around to take in the nun beside him, eyes pleading. “I spoke to Matron. She holds you in high regard, Nurse Busby, and remembers how close you and Nurse Mount were during her time at the London. She agreed to add you to the notes as well,” replied Sister Julienne, calmly, “As for Mrs. Turner, she, through her work at the clinic and maternity home, is already a member of Nonnatus House.”

“Of course,” Trixie replied, abashed.

“Thank you, sister,” added Nurse Busby, her voice choked with emotion.

Patrick smiled. He never ceased to be amazed by the depth of Sister Julienne’s compassion for others. They may not agree on everything, but she always put duty and care before rules and regulations, and he admired her greatly for it. As a doctor, he felt much the same way. And as a husband, he was eternally grateful that his wife had such a wonderful mentor and friend.

“Now, Dr. Turner has agreed to relay the details of Nurse Mount’s injuries and answer any questions you might have.” She turned to him, gesturing that the floor was now his.

“Thank you, sister. For starters, there are more questions than answers at this stage, I'm afraid. So, I’ll begin with the more straightforward injuries. Luckily, Nurse Mount wasn’t struck directly by the car, it seems it hit the front wheel and part of the frame. This means the left side of her body, the side facing towards the car, was mostly unhurt. She does have some bruising on the inside of her left leg and ankle from the bike frame, but that is all. Unfortunately, the car did strike the bike with some force, so she hit the road quite hard. Apparently, she landed with her right arm underneath her, fracturing her right ulna and three ribs.”

He looked around the table, taking in the impact of his words. The women all looked faintly queasy and he was reminded that while they were nurses, this was their friend, not a case. He mentally chastised himself. It was just so familiar to be stood at the head of this table reporting on a patient’s condition in clear, stark, medical terms, that he had just fallen into his usual habit. But this wasn’t just a patient, this was Nurse Mount. He softened his manner, “The good news is that bones are easily mended. The injury to her arm was a clean, simple fracture, with no damage to the skin or muscles. The fractures to her ribs are very minor, and there are absolutely no signs of internal bleeding or any other damage to her organs.”

Patrick took in their faces again. They all looked calmer. Good, because here comes the bad news.

He made his voice as gentle as possible without being patronizing, pouring every bit of compassion he had into cushioning the blow, “The trouble comes from the injury to her head. Nurse Mount has suffered severe concussion, and she lost consciousness for almost an hour. The good news is that she was starting to come to, but then, she started to have seizures. This is actually quite common with a head injury, and they typically only occur within the first few hours or days. Trouble is, they are indicative of an injury to the brain, and there is no way of knowing if any lasting damage has been done until she is awake and can be assessed. For now, the specialist has decided to sedate her to allow for any swelling around the brain to reduce. They are going to begin weaning her off onto a milder sedative in the morning to see how she responds. If all goes well, she might be awake by as early as tomorrow evening. But if the seizures continue, they might put her back under for another day or so.”

The silence in the room was deafening. Patrick looked around at his colleagues as the implications settled in - they were all trained nurses after all. They knew that there was a good chance that the redhead lying in hospital might wake and be a different person than the Nurse Mount they all knew and loved. Each face around the table was paler than before, Sister Winifred, Nurse Gilbert, and Nurse Busby each looked a little grey.

They all jumped as the telephone rang. The thick silence made it seem louder than usual, like it was ringing inside his head. Already on her feet, Sister Julienne rushed off to silence it with the customary, “Nonnatus House, midwife speaking.” The familiar phrase seemed to act as a tonic to the midwives before him. Pale faces began to pink up, and even Sister Winifred and Nurse Gilbert’s complexions became a less alarming white. Only Nurse Busby remained ashen, but of course she wasn’t a Nonnatun. Patrick figured a call of ‘we have an acute appendicitis’ might work better for the nurse from male surgical.

All looked up as Sister Julienne returned. “It seems Mrs. Chakrabarti has gone into labor,” she said, looking expectantly towards Nurse Gilbert who was first on call.

Nurse Gilbert began to slowly push her chair back but was interrupted by Nurse Noakes’ plummy voice, “I’ll go. It’s been ages since I did a late night call out, and I wouldn’t want to get rusty. Just let me pop up and put on my uniform. I’ll be back in two ticks.”

“I’ll prepare your kit,” said Sister Evangelina.

Patrick smiled as he watched the tall nurse and stout sister depart. He really loved these women. They were all so strong and caring, especially when it came to each other. That would serve them well in the current crisis.

The room grew quiet again, but it felt less heavy after the interruption of duty and familiarity. The nurses looked more alive than when he had first finished talking. Sister Julienne broke the silence. “Does anyone have any questions for Dr. Turner before we let him go?”

Sister Mary Cynthia shook her head slowly, her sad eyes on the senior nun. Sister Winifred looked expectantly across the table at Nurse Franklin, who in turn looked over at Nurse Busby, who just stared waxen-faced at the table in front of her hands. Nurse Gilbert looked to Nurse Crane who took a quick scan of the table and cleared her throat. “Thank you, Dr. Turner. I think you’ve covered everything quite thoroughly.”

Patrick nodded, relieved to be saved from delving into all the myriad ways this injury could forever change their friend. He cared for Nurse Mount too. Expecting the worst would do nobody any good. It was best just to wait and see.

He turned to the nun on his left, “Then, I’ll take my leave. Don’t hesitate to call if there is any news. I’ll swing by the hospital tomorrow to check on her before my rounds.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

Patrick stepped out into the cool night air and took a calming breath. The events of the evening had left him rattled, and he reached in his coat pockets automatically for his lighter and cigarette case. The lighter flame burned bright in the smoggy darkness, knocking out his night vision for a moment. He stood still on the step in the black, taking a drag on his Henley. His thoughts drifted across town to the London. Nurse Mount was in for a tough road ahead. He knew the chances of her making it through this unscathed were practically nil. But he’d seen miracles before, and nearly all of them were down to the women whose dining room he had just left.







 

Chapter Text

Delia woke with a start, surprised she had slept at all. It certainly didn’t feel like she had. She had lain awake most of the night - not tossing and turning, but lying perfectly still on her back, staring at the darkened ceiling.

She hadn’t even wanted to sleep. How could she? If felt like a betrayal - something so simple as sleep. Patsy wasn’t sleeping. She was unconscious, sedated. Delia had felt the need to keep watch, if not over her lover, then for her. She had struck an insane bargain with herself - or God maybe, she was in a convent after all - that if she kept her vigil, Patsy would be okay. Delia would surrender all of her sleep and rest to her beautiful Pats, and her love would take it in, and she would wake tomorrow, physically injured, but otherwise whole and unchanged.

It was utterly irrational, she knew, but it didn’t matter anyway. She had slept.

She lay there in Patsy’s bed listening to Trixie’s gurgling snores. The blonde was obviously having no trouble sleeping, but the brunette put that down to the four gins she had drunk before bed. She had poured a scotch for Delia too, but after taking one sip, the Welshwoman realized she would not be able to stomach it. The liquor had burned like bile in her throat. Delia’s anxiety had been simmering steadily since she had first heard the news, but after the meeting with Dr. Turner, it had heated up to a rolling boil, ready to spill over at any moment - and the liquor did not help.

It was strange really, it’s not like the doctor had told them any new information. Not really. Delia had seen plenty of head injuries in training during her rotations in A&E and Intensive Care. She knew that someone who had been unconscious for nearly an hour would have sustained a serious brain injury. She knew that in all likelihood that person would wake up changed in some way. But when Sister Mary Cynthia had told her the news she had somehow convinced herself that that knowledge didn’t apply here. Not to her strong, beautiful, brilliant Pats. But as she had sat staring at the parcel of what she knew were her lover’s ruined clothes, with Dr. Turner talking so clinically about ‘Nurse Mount’ and ‘hitting the road’ and ‘swelling around the brain,’ she realized that it did.

Oh God.

Patsy.

Delia dug the heels of her hands into her eyes and rubbed hard. It was still dark out, but it was a different quality of dark, more brown than the blue-black of deep night. It was nearing dawn.

She dreaded the coming day. Today was supposed to have been the beginning of their new life together. No more hiding, no more living a half-life. Behind that closed flat door, they would have been just like any other couple. Achingly, gloriously normal. But now...now Delia didn't know what would happen. The only thing she did know was that she needed to be at the hospital, needed to see Patsy. But it was hours until visiting time. Ages really. The brunette didn't know what to do with herself until then. What did the rest of her day matter? It was just counting time until she could finally be where she should be, holding Patsy’s hand and waiting for her to wake.

But who would she be when she woke?

Delia had seen patients who had sustained a brain injury wake with a completely different personality. Would she even still love Delia? Would she want something different from life, someone different? Someone easier - someone she didn't have to hide?

A tear slid down Delia’s cheek and into her ear as a darker, guiltier thought slipped unbidden into her brain. If Patsy woke up a different person, could Delia even still love her? Could she forgive this new imposter who had stolen her Patsy’s mind and body?

She pushed the thought away, feeling sickened. Of course she could, and she would. Delia had to believe that no matter how this injury affected her girlfriend, she would still remain, undeniably, Patsy.

She had to.

God, she had to.

Delia took a shaky breath as more hot tears slid down her face. But even if her personality remained intact, there were plenty of other things that could go wrong. She could have trouble thinking clearly, remembering things, or finding words. She might even have trouble talking or walking. The brain was just so bloody complicated, and Patsy’s more so than most.

Delia’s mind had been circling around all the ‘what ifs’ all night and she was beginning to feel a little crazy.

She should get up.

But if she did, she might have to talk to someone and she really couldn't stomach that right now.

It had been comforting, at first, to be around all of Patsy’s friends and coworkers. To be with others that loved her ginger girlfriend, others that were so obviously scared and worried too. It had freed Delia to show some of the emotions swirling around inside her Welsh body. But as the night went on she found it harder and harder to be around them, even Trixie. Sure, they were all worried, and she didn’t doubt their genuine love and concern for Patsy.  But Delia didn’t just love Patsy. Patsy was Delia’s world. Her whole life. If she never recovered it would be Delia who lost everything. The others would be sad, would mourn their lost friendship, but ultimately, they would move on. Delia’s life would end. As she had sat with Barbara and Trixie after Dr. Turner left, it had taken everything she had not to scream at them. They didn't have the right to this worry and fear. It all belonged to her.

She dug the palms of her hands into her eyes again to stem the flow of tears. Delia knew she was being unfair. Both Trixie and Barbara really did love Patsy, and she knew that if the redhead never recovered it would change the two midwives forever. She thought that it would especially devastate Trixie. She had seen the empty look in the blonde’s eyes. The desperation. And sweet Barbara, she so looked up to Patsy, relying on her so much for strength and confidence as she began her midwifery career. Delia knew all this, but quite frankly, she just didn't bloody care. Her whole world was collapsing and she didn't have the energy to give a damn about how others were coping. It wasn't fair to them, but then Delia wasn't feeling very fair right now.

The room was beginning to come into focus as the dawn light crept through the window. She could faintly hear singing drifting up from the chapel where the nuns were performing their morning devotions. Were they praying for Patsy? Would it help? Delia wished for the first time in a very long while that she still believed in God. Maybe that would make her feel better, having someone to look to for comfort - or maybe to blame. Come to think on it, agnosticism might be for the best after all, given her current situation. Being angry with God would certainly not endear her to Sister Julienne, and she needed to stay in the nun’s good books so that she could see Patsy and be informed on her condition. Otherwise, she thought she would certainly skip breakfast. The thought of facing that ordeal was excruciating, but she had no choice. She needed the keys.

The keys.

They had to be in with Patsy’s personal effects. A wave of nausea rolled over Delia again. Her blue eyes had barely left the wrapped paper parcel throughout the meeting in the dining room. A part of her had wanted to snatch the bundle off the table, claim it as hers. Wanted to pour over every inch of torn fabric and scuffed leather, inventory every speck of dirt and drop of blood. She wanted to preserve the last thing that had covered her precious Pats while she was still whole and hers. But another part of her had wanted to cast the whole lot into the fire. Erase these traitorous items from existence - Patsy’s nursing armor that had failed her at last.

But Delia knew that there were two sets of keys, probably in the pocket of Patsy’s mackintosh, in that parcel. Two sets of keys that were supposed to symbolize their chance at a real future together. She needed to get them if they were to have any chance at that future.  Because they still could, couldn't they? All hope wasn't lost, was it? The morning light was now pouring through the window, lightening the room and Delia’s thoughts. There were still so many unknowns, so much possibility for disaster, but they had fought too hard to be together to give up now. She needed to go to the flat. Their flat. In the light of the new day she made a new bargain with herself - or God, if he existed and was listening. She would not give up hope, and that would bring them through it. Delia’s faith in Patsy, in them, would make everything be alright. That seemed much more reasonable than not sleeping because this was a bargain she could keep - her belief in their love had always been unshakable.

 

-----

 

 

Patsy was pacing outside the Silver Buckle when Delia rounded the corner, running five minutes late for their date. It had taken her longer than normal to make herself presentable after her shift owing to the impressive range of Mr. Kearns projectile vomiting. She had needed to give her shoes a good ‘Nurse Mount quality’ cleaning before they dried.

“I’m sorry I’m late! Another champion vomiter in bed four. I swear I should just wear wellingtons on the ward.” She smiled brightly at her girlfriend, but her grin faded quickly as she took in Patsy’s face.

The blonde looked agitated. Her eyes were a little too wide and her lip looked jagged where her teeth had obviously been worrying it for quite a while. Delia looked down at the pavement and saw the butts of three of Patsy’s signature Woodbines, their filters stained with cherry red lipstick. She was smoking her fourth.

“Have you been here long, Pats?” she asked, feigning nonchalance to gauge the degree of ‘anxious Pats’ she was dealing with.

The tall blonde took a deep drag from her cigarette and looked down at her watch. “Nearly fifteen minutes, I think. You know me, Deels. If I’m not early, I’m late.” She smiled. It looked particularly forced to Delia’s experienced eye.

The brunette looked down at the pavement again, catching the impatient twitching of Patsy’s right ankle. Four cigarettes in fifteen minutes. “Everything okay, Pats? You seem a bit...tense.”

“Right as rain,” she said, a little too brightly. “Shall we?” She gestured towards the coffee shop.

Delia thought caffeine was the last thing the anxious woman before her needed. “Actually, it’s such a lovely evening. I think I fancy a walk instead.”

Patsy nodded and fell into step beside her petite girlfriend. They walked in silence for a while, Delia stealing occasional glances at the blonde’s pale face as they made their way aimlessly down towards the river. She was still worrying her lip, and the brunette had a feeling she was moments away from another cigarette. To distract her, Delia launched into the story of the sick patient in bed four. The Welshwoman knew she was an excellent storyteller. She exaggerated in all the right places and used her accent for comedic effect in a way she knew that Patsy loved. Her strategy seemed to be working as the stiffness of the tall woman’s shoulders seemed to ease as she talked. Good. She was a little disarmed.

“So how about you, Pats? How was your day.”

Patsy’s pace slowed and she sighed loudly. “Rubbish, actually.”

Delia reached out and put her hand on her lover’s arm, stopping them both in their tracks. “What happened?”

The blonde seemed to deflate before her. “That’s just it, Deels. Nothing happened. It was the same as always. I thought the change to midwifery would get me excited about nursing again, but it turns out it was a year of training wasted. It’s just so impersonal. I became a nurse because I wanted to help people, but if anything, it’s worse on the antenatal ward. I don’t even see the patients after they give birth. I feel more like a factory worker than a caregiver most times.” She hung her head.

Delia felt her eyes burn as she took in the uncharacteristically sagging posture of her prim and proper girlfriend. Patsy had been so dreadfully unhappy on male surgical during her last year on the ward that it had come as a relief to them both when she had decided to train as a midwife after that district nurse who had been seconded to their ward gave her the idea. She had been so excited, soaking up the new information with gusto like she had during training. Delia had helped with her revision, and it felt so like training that it had them acting like that newly in love couple again. It had been wonderful.  But then the reality of hospital rules and regulations had come crashing down, and Patsy was even more miserable than she had been on male surgical. The Welshwoman hated to see her like this.

“Sweetheart, have you ever considered that maybe it's the hospital regulations that’s the problem here, not nursing.”

Patsy had succumbed to the pull of another cigarette, and her voice sounded muffled as she talked while she lit it, “Of course, I know that.” She inhaled deeply and blew the smoke out the side of her mouth away from Delia. “But it’s not like there’s anything I can do about that is there?”

Delia gave her a steady look, making sure that Patsy was giving her her full attention before she said what she had been thinking for months. “Pats, what I mean is...have you considered transferring to district practice?”

Patsy stared at her, open-mouthed.

The brunette went on, “That nurse from a year ago, the one who got you thinking about midwifery…”

“Nurse Lee.”

“That’s right. She’s a district midwife, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” Patsy’s voice sounded strange. Was it suspicious?

“When you first talked to me about midwifery, the way you described your reasoning sounded like it was the district aspect that you were really keen on - the personal side of it. I think...I think you should start looking for a new job.”

“I can’t,” Patsy said firmly.

“Pats…”

“I can’t leave the London.” She looked stricken by the thought.

Delia was confused. The blonde had just said how much she disliked the hospital. “Why not?”

Patsy’s beautiful blue eyes bored into her. “I can’t lose you, Delia.”

The Welshwoman was so shocked by the blunt statement that she let out a little laugh. She reached out and took the blonde’s cigarette free hand in both of her own. “Patience Mount, do you really think something so little as that could break us? I’m sure you will have no trouble finding a job in the East End, it’s not like there’s a long queue of nurses just waiting for their big chance to slog through the tenements. It would only be a mile or two that separated us, maybe less. We can overcome that. But seeing you so unhappy all the time is breaking me, cariad. I can’t be the reason you stay somewhere that makes you feel so horrible.”

She looked up into the glistening blue eyes she so loved. “Now come on, let’s go back to the Nurses Home and get started on your application letter to the board. You have a job to find, Nurse Mount.”

 

 

-----

 

 

Delia smiled at the memory. They had made it work. Their usual coffee spot took on a new significance as they realised that it was positioned almost exactly at the midpoint between the Nurses Home and Patsy’s new job at Nonnatus. It had felt like fate. Sure, they had no longer been able to see each other daily, but the change in Patsy had made it worth the work - she had blossomed in district practice. And just days ago they had thought they had even figured out the distance problem. Everything had seemed so perfect then, and Delia had to believe that they could still have it all. This wouldn’t break them either. Delia would not let it.

She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, facing the wall. Patsy’s packed luggage was stacked neatly in the corner, ready to be carried over to their new home. Delia needed something to wear. She really couldn't face putting her filthy uniform back on this morning. The brunette popped open her girlfriend’s black suitcase and began to carefully pick through the neatly folded clothes. This was going to be a challenge. Pyjamas were one thing, but finding an outfit of Patsy’s to wear in public, even under her coat, was going to be difficult. Eventually she settled on a blue check shirt and green A line skirt. It would never have been a combination the redhead would have put together, but it suited Delia’s more colorful sense of style. The shirt fit surprisingly well, once she rolled up the sleeves. Patsy was wider in the shoulder than Delia, but the Welshwoman’s breasts were larger, so it evened out. The skirt was a little looser than she would have bought for herself, but it still fit. She slipped her own stockings back on and laced up her nursing shoes.

She paused, eyeing the two boxes beside the cases. Patsy had packed all of her clothes in the suitcases, and everything else in these two boxes (aside from her records which she had left for Trixie until they could purchase their own dancette). Delia felt her heart squeeze in her chest. Two suitcases and two small boxes. That was all that was needed to hold twenty-seven years’ worth of life. Just the two boxes, really - the cases held only clothes and makeup, not really the stuff of life. Delia had at least three times as many boxes waiting to be moved at the Nurses Home. Boxes filled with books and photographs, old letters and keepsakes. There were more at her parents’ house in Pembrokeshire too, relics of her childhood that she wasn’t quite ready to give up. But not Patsy. This was everything.

The brunette flipped open the flap of the nearest box. Inside, on top, was the battered blue shoebox that contained Patsy’s most precious possessions. She had never seen inside of it, but her girlfriend had once shown her the mirror that had belonged to her mother. It had been her mother’s birthday, and Patsy had been uncharacteristically drunk. Delia smiled sadly at the memory and picked up the fragile box, placing it gently on the bed. She turned back to the larger box on the floor. There wasn't much left in it now, just ten or so books and a towel to cushion the more precious cargo that Delia had already removed. She quickly found what she was looking for among the cloth covered spines- Patsy’s leather bound address book.

Sister Julienne had asked both she and Trixie about it after Dr. Turner had left. Delia had been prepared for this. She had known that someone would ask for a way to contact Patsy’s father. She also knew that her ginger girlfriend had what could generously be called a ‘complicated’ relationship with her father. Patsy would want a say in informing him of what had happened. She had stubbornly refused all financial assistance from the man since she left boarding school to train as a nurse. They wrote occasionally, but rarely spoke on the telephone, the physical and emotional distance was just too great.

So, Delia had lied to a nun. And what’s worse, she didn’t feel bad about it.

The Welshwoman was not dishonest by nature, but when it came to protecting Patsy or their relationship, she never hesitated. Some things are more important than honesty.

Delia had told the sister that she thought Patsy might have already taken her address book, along with a few other items, over to the flat. Trixie had shot her the briefest glance before readily agreeing with the tale. In truth, the only items the redhead had taken to the flat were cleaning supplies and a picnic basket, but the brunette wanted to buy some time to allow for her love to wake up before her father was called. She suspected that he might insist his daughter be moved to a private hospital more suited to what he saw as her status. If that happened, Patsy would be out of her reach, as well as that of all her friends. No, it was better to have Sister Julienne as Patsy’s next of kin until the redhead woke up and could make decisions for herself.

Delia slipped the small leather bound book into the pocket of her neatly folded nurse’s uniform, ready to take it back with her to their flat. The brunette took a long look at the disintegrating shoebox before gingerly picking it up and placing it securely back in its place in the box. Standing up, she straightened her borrowed skirt and walked past the bed holding a still snoring Trixie.

It was time to face this new day, whatever it might bring.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The nuns’ singing had been quieter this morning, less joyful than their usual devotions. As they closed their prayer books, Sister Evangelina cast a quick, appraising glance over her sisters’ faces. Each one looked as drawn and tired as she felt herself.

Part of their state was down to the fact that they had been up much later than usual the night before, but she knew that the main reason for their despondency was that each woman in the chapel that morning had slept poorly, if at all, their thoughts and prayers focused on a hospital bed in Whitechapel. Sister Evangelina was just thankful that the others didn't have the visual of their beloved colleague lying broken in the white bed to add to their worried minds. Every time she closed her eyes, her mind was bombarded by pale skin, purple bruises, red abrasions, ginger hair, and shiny scars.

The sisters filed out of the chapel, Sister Julienne to her office, Sisters Winifred and Mary Cynthia to prepare breakfast, and Sister Monica Joan to do whatever it was she was want to do at this hour - probably read some obscure tome about astrology or some other such nonsense. Sister Evangelina didn’t much care where everyone went, she just needed some time alone to think and pray before the day began.

She needed guidance.

Sister Evangelina had never had any doubts about her calling. She had always felt she heard and understood the Lord’s meaning quite clearly, even if she sometimes took longer to grasp his reasoning. But today she was having a hard time understanding anything. She could not, for the life of her, understand why this had happened to Nurse Mount. Hadn’t the poor girl been through enough trials in her short life? And her poor father; he had already lost a wife and a daughter, to lose another...no. She couldn’t think like that.

Sitting on a chair in the front of the chapel, the sister looked up at the altar, eyes searching for an answer. Nurse Mount had been through hell as a child. When the camps had been liberated, the young girl would have had every reason in the world to retreat behind her father’s money and influence and live an easy life. No one would have thought the worse of her for it. She could have married and been well taken care of by a rich husband, her biggest care being what canapés to order for their annual Christmas party. But no, she had chosen to serve. Her experience in the internment camp had resulted in a calling to nurse, and that was something to which the stout sister could relate.

She smiled sadly to herself. It was funny, she had always felt that way about Nurse Mount. Her posh accent and well-bred manners had never rubbed her the wrong way like they had with Nurse Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne. Well, the single-barreled name did help matters, but really, it was something about the redhead herself. She was such a hard worker, and a damn good nurse. Sister Evangelina might have been raised on the complete opposite end of the social spectrum from Patience Mount, but both women had known and seen true suffering as children, and both women had taken that suffering and turned it into a deep need to help others.

Nurse Mount was truly one of the best of God’s servants, even if the nun knew that was not how the nurse saw herself. She served the impoverished community in the East End, not out of some sense of upper class guilt, but because she truly wanted to ease others’ suffering and hardship. How then, could He allow this to happen? What could His meaning or purpose in this possibly be? Sister Evangelina had so rarely had a crisis of faith, but she couldn’t help but feel lost now.

She needed to pray.

After a while, she became aware of a presence to her left, and felt a boney hand take her own. Slowly, the stout nun opened her eyes to reveal Sister Monica Joan seated beside her. Her elder sister gave her a penetrating look that told the younger nun that she knew exactly what troubled her. It never ceased to amaze her how, despite her dementia, Sister Monica Joan could be the wisest and most perceptive among their number. The two sisters exchanged a small smile, full of love and understanding. They sat together in silence for a few moments until Sister Monica Joan gestured to the object she held in her lap. But it wasn’t the cake tin that Sister Evangelina had expected, it was the brown paper parcel containing Nurse Mount’s personal effects. They locked eyes again and the younger sister nodded wordlessly.

Together they stood and made their way to the clinical room. It was early, too early for the nurses to be awake, and this was something that was best to take care of while they slept. They didn’t need to see this. Sister Monica Joan placed the package carefully on the worktop and gently untied the string. Together the sisters laid the contents out on the bench: uniform, cardigan, mackintosh, shoes, stockings, undergarments, hat. There was a large envelope as well, which Sister Evangelina set to the side. Silently, each sister took an article of clothing and began studying it intently, ascertaining if it was salvageable. Sister Evangelina immediately picked up the stockings and dropped them in the bin behind her; they were torn to shreds and peppered with stiff bloodstains. She reached for the cardigan, eyes searching the dark red wool. Sister Monica Joan was working her thin fingers over the mackintosh, taking note of the broken buttons, greasy stains, torn fabric, and cut right sleeve. She shook her head. It was beyond repair. Sister Evangelina looked over and nodded her agreement, setting down the cardigan as she did so. The staff at the London had cut the right arm to remove it as well, so it too was unusable. It looked clean though, the mackintosh had protected it from the blood and dirt from the road. Sister Evangelina set it aside for the handicraft box - they could unravel the wool for their knitting. She looked over to see Sister Monica Joan snipping the thread that bound the still-whole buttons to the mac. Nothing wasted.

The younger nun turned her attention to the uniform. It was in surprisingly good shape. Apparently, the staff in A&E hadn’t felt the need to cut the short-sleeved uniform in order to remove it from the nurse’s body. The skirt was quite dirty, but that battle-hardened garment had seen worse before. The collar, though. Sister Evangelina gingerly unbuttoned the stained collar from the light blue dress. It was stiff and stained a ruddy brown on one side with dried blood. She looked up with wet eyes to see Sister Monica Joan staring mutely at the hat, eyes focused on an area that was a darker, more sinister red than the rest. The sisters both knew that head wounds did tend to bleed an awful lot, regardless of the severity, but the sight left them feeling numb. The nuns stood stock still for a long moment before Sister Evangelina took a deep, fortifying breath and dropped the collar into the bin on top of the tattered stockings. Sister Monica Joan still seemed unable to move or draw her eyes from the bloodstained hat, so the younger nun reached over and placed her hands on her elders’, gently removing the cap and breaking the trance. The elder nun blinked, eyes looking as though they had just returned from a distant journey into her addled mind. Sister Evangelina wordlessly handed her the envelope before setting the cap aside for cleaning and picking up the scuffed shoes. A spot of polish would get these back in good order, maybe not to the exacting standards of Nurse Mount, but someone could use them. Sister Monica Joan slit open the envelope and tipped its contents out onto the bench - nursing fob watch, wallet, diary, compact, two sets of keys, and about a dozen kirby grips. Glancing over the pile in front of her elder sister, Sister Evangelina turned to exit the room in search of polish but stopped short at the sight of Nurse Busby standing in the doorway.

She didn’t know how long the shorter woman had been standing there, but from the ashen look on her face it was long enough. The Welsh nurse didn’t seem aware yet that she had been spotted, her eyes were trained unblinkingly on the stockings and collar in the dust bin. She jumped when Sister Evangelina placed a hand on her arm, gaze snapping up to lock with the nun’s. The girl looked wretched. Her blue eyes were sunken and brimmed with tears, dark circles stood out vividly on her unusually pale skin. The nun guessed that the sisters hadn’t been the only ones that had had a sleepless night.

“Let’s get you a cup of tea,” the sister’s voice sounded scratchy from its long silence. She took the young nurse’s elbow and began to steer her away from the site of her friend’s belongings laid out on the worktop. As they turned, Sister Monica Joan scooped the smaller items back into the envelope, the metal objects jangling almost cheerily together in the silent room.

The noise seemed to break the brunette out of her trance, and she stopped in her tracks. “I need the keys,” she said in a whisper.

Sister Monica Joan looked over at her with eyes full of compassion. She reached into the envelope and removed one set of the keys, placing them in the young woman’s hands and holding them in her own. The two women’s eyes met for a long moment, the elder hands squeezed the younger briefly, and let go.

“Right, then. Let’s see about that tea, shall we?”




>>>>><<<<<




Breakfast had seemed to last an eternity. Delia had spent most of the meal staring morosely at her plate, pushing bits of egg and bacon around its surface. She hadn’t even been able to eat any toast, her mouth too dry to chew the bread no matter how much butter she had used, and she hadn't been able to face the jam. It was too red. Too much like blood.

Luckily she needn't have worried too much about talking to people. The meal had taken place in near silence, the occasional request for passing salt or condiments, or logistical details about patients, had been the only conversation. That had suited Delia perfectly.

There had been no mention of Patsy or her accident at all, and Delia was beginning to think that she would be able to get out of Nonnatus without having to face it all again. The meal ended, and Barbara and Sister Winifred rose to begin clearing the table, but Sister Julienne cleared her throat, signaling for them to retake their seats.

“As you all know, visiting hours on intensive care are from 2.30-8.00 this evening. I know that all of you want to visit Nurse Mount, but I’m afraid our own duties, coupled with the restrictions of the hospital will not permit that. I do think it is imperative that one of us is present during the whole of the time allowed, I would like Nurse Mount to wake to a friendly face if at all possible. We have clinic this afternoon, so perhaps Sister Monica Joan could sit with her until we are finished.” She turned to the eldest sister, who nodded.

Delia felt her body tingle with panic. No. She had to be there. She needed to be the face that her darling Pats saw when she finally opened those beautiful blue eyes.

“Sister, I have today off. I was hoping that I might sit with Patsy this afternoon,” she wanted to say ‘instead’ but she knew she couldn’t, so instead she said, “if Sister Monica Joan would not mind the company.”

The elderly nun reached her left hand over to rest on top of Delia’s right. “If you are agreeable, I will attend to my duties at the clinic before joining you. I am certain our colleague will be in capable hands with you present, and I would not want our patients to suffer in my absence. I shall join you at four.”

Delia could not help the grateful smile that lit up her face when she met the old nun’s knowing eyes. She knew that there were no real duties for the elderly sister to do at clinic, Patsy had told her that she mainly smuggled sweets to the children and told them entertaining, if sometimes terrifying, stories. But Delia was grateful for the pretense, it meant that she would have an entire hour and a half alone with Patsy. She wanted to jump out of her seat and fling her arms around the nun, but she settled for placing her left hand over the sister’s and squeezing. “I’m sure I can manage, sister. I look forward to seeing you when you’re finished.” And she meant it.

Sister Julienne smiled. “Excellent. In that case, Nurse Gilbert, you are not on call tonight. If you’re willing, you can relieve either Nurse Busby or Sister Monica Joan after clinic.”

Barbara shot a quick glance at Delia, “I’d be happy to, sister.”




>>>>><<<<<




Delia sat on the edge of her bed at the Nurses Home, unsure exactly how she had got there. She had set out from Nonnatus with every intention of going back to their flat, but somehow her feet had refused to turn down their street as she had passed. She supposed that subconsciously she had known that she couldn't face the flat until she saw Patsy, until she knew how she was. The flat would be full of the redhead. It would smell of bleach and she was sure Patsy would have left some token of her love for Delia to find when she returned from her shift. She really couldn’t face that. No, the brunette needed to be in her own space, not their shared one. She couldn’t sit in the flat for hours, waiting to see her broken love, with the memories of their picnic, of their plans, swirling so vividly in her head.

Not that this room wasn’t full of memories. This was, after all, where their relationship had begun. This was where Patsy, full of whisky and daring, had surprised Delia by kissing her for the first time. This was where she had told Delia she loved her. This was where she had given her the ring.

The brunette’s left hand instinctively reached up to finger the ring beneath Patsy’s checked shirt. Her heart clenched at the memory. That had been the happiest moment of her life, at least until yesterday when they had sat on that threadbare blanket on their freshly scrubbed floor, making plans for their home together. Yes, this room was full of memories, some beautiful, others heartbreaking, but they were memories, and Delia could deal with them, no matter how difficult or bittersweet. But hopes. And plans. Those were things she didn't feel equipped to manage at the moment.

Delia shook her head to clear it. She needed to focus on the present, not some future that may or may not be. There were almost seven hours until visiting time began. She should try to sleep. She knew she looked terrible, and she wouldn’t want Patsy to worry. Her mind automatically began making a list of things that needed doing before the visit. She would need to bathe and dress. She should wear something cheery too, maybe her yellow dress that Patsy loved so much. And flowers, she should pick up some flowers. But first, sleep.

She removed the skirt and crawled into bed, still wearing Patsy’s checked shirt. She knew the redhead would be scandalized by her sleeping in her neatly pressed blouse, but the brunette suddenly felt all the sleep she had fought off throughout the night rage against her barricades. She managed to hold off long enough to set the alarm on her bedside table before she gratefully succumbed to the nothingness.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Delia stood frozen outside the pale green doors to the ward. Looking through the square window she could see Patsy laid out in the first bed on the left. Her girlfriend was on her side, facing away from the door, but even from this position, Delia could tell she was different, diminished. She looked so pale and small in the bed, her hair not quite as vibrant as it should be in the low fluorescent light. Delia’s grip tightened reflexively on the flowers she held. Patsy was right there. The brunette had been waiting for this moment since she had first heard the news, and here she stood, finally, with just this pastel door between them, and Delia couldn’t make her feet move forward.

She watched as a lavender clad nurse stepped over to the bed and began checking Patsy’s vitals. The familiar action broke her from her stupor, and she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. Patsy was obviously alive, her pulse jumping under the nurse’s able fingers. Delia reached out her hand and pushed the doors open.

She could barely feel her feet as she floated, dreamlike towards the bed. It reminded her of an eerily inverted version of the feeling she had had yesterday as she had glided to the bus stop - but this time she was giddy with dread instead of happiness.

The nurse looked up as she approached and gave her a small smile, “Oh...Delia, hi.”

The Welshwoman slowly dragged her dazed eyes away from the bed to take in the nurse. Through her hazy mental state she recognized the nurse as Mary Boyd, one of their classmates from training. She looked paler than Delia remembered, but behind her wire glasses, her stormy blue eyes were still as genuine and caring. Mary had always been funny and kind, and not one to indulge in petty gossip like most of the other trainee nurses. Patsy and Delia had both rather liked her. She too had been serious about a career in nursing, not just using the training as a means to a husband. But they had lost touch with Mary once training ended, and she had taken a position in intensive care while they had both gone to male surgical.

“Hello, Mary,” they met gazes briefly before both turned their eyes simultaneously to the figure in the bed, “how is she?”

Nurse Boyd’s eyes narrowed in concern; she ran a hand over her thick unruly hair, causing a few dark strands to fall out of its messy bun, “Hard to tell, really. Her bodily injuries seem to be doing quite well. The bones set nicely and her clothes took most of the real damage as far as abrasions go. She only needed stitches on her scalp, but then it doesn’t take much to necessitate stitches when it comes to head wounds.”

Delia nodded, her hand traveling subconsciously up to the spot on the top of her own head where her cousin Elis had ‘accidentally’ dropped a toy aeroplane on her when she was six. The metal tail fin had cut open her scalp and she had needed two stitches. Her mam had nearly fainted from all the blood.

“Mr. Edwards reduced the sedatives early this morning, so we hope she’ll start to wake in a few hours. She is still on a mild dose to keep her calm; it’s likely she’ll be confused and disoriented when she wakes.” The dark-haired nurse looked at her over the top of her glasses, “How are you doing, hon?”

Delia was surprised at how the question didn’t affect her this time. Perhaps it was that, coming from Mary, it didn’t feel so threatening. The bespectacled nurse had known both Patsy and Delia for years and knew they were very close. But more likely it was that Delia wasn’t capable of feeling that kind of fear right now, not when she was standing beside her worst nightmare.

“Not great, if I’m honest. It’s been a rough twenty-four hours.” She looked at her friend, who gave her an understanding smile.

“I’m so sorry, Delia. It was enough of a shock for me and I haven’t really spoken to Patsy in years. She was always such a great friend to me during training...well you both were. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. If there’s anything you need.”

Delia smiled. She had forgotten how open and honest Mary was with her thoughts and emotions. It was refreshing. “Thank you, Mary. I will.”

The dark-haired nurse reached over and squeezed Delia’s shoulder. “I need to see to my other patients, but I’ll be just over at the desk if you need me.” She looked the Welshwoman right in the eyes, “She’s in the best of hands, Delia.” And with that, she turned and made her way to the next bed, pulling the curtain behind her as she went.

Delia stood facing the ochre curtain, unable to turn around. God it's such an ugly colour. She was finally alone with Patsy, and she had never been more afraid. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, the brunette turned and made her way to the hard chair beside the bed, setting the flowers on the side table as she went.

She had never seen her like this. Patsy was always so strong, always such a commanding presence. But not now. Now she looked so small, so vulnerable, so exposed. Patsy never showed her vulnerability to anyone except Delia. To see her like this...well. Delia was out of her depth. Not for the first time she found herself wondering what Patsy would do if the roles were reversed. To have her safe, Delia would have traded places without a second thought, but her heart clenched at the thought of her beloved redhead sitting in this chair with her brave face firmly in place, fighting the panic in her chest as she faced the loss of yet another person she loved.

Delia felt that panic acutely.

She reached out, suddenly needing to touch her, to make contact, but she didn't know where to touch - Patsy was so bruised and her skin looked raw with angry red scratches. She placed her small palm gently on her girlfriend’s shoulder, but it felt so formal, so foreign, so clinical. Delia felt like an interloper, like she was touching a stranger. She snatched her hand back quickly. Even through the fabric of the gown, the redhead’s skin was hot from the blood pooling in the purple bruise.

Delia was very thankful that Nurse Boyd had closed the curtain. She felt foolish. This was Patsy, her girlfriend; she had touched her countless times. She shook her head to clear it.

Her hand - that was a good place to start.

She reached out and took the ginger’s uninjured left hand in both of her own. This felt familiar, the cold hand was rough and calloused from its overexposure to harsh chemicals. She rubbed her thumb over the cracked cuticles, feeling, as always, the sudden urge to rub lotion into the dry nail beds. The familiarity of the feeling was like a tonic to the brunette’s nerves. Patsy was here. Patsy was alive.

Delia sat holding her lover’s hand for at least ten minutes, not daring to take her eyes off this wondrously normal looking part to take in the rest of her battered form again. Finally, she got up the courage to look at her properly, and her vision was instantly blurred by the tears that rushed to her eyes. She blinked, allowing the green, white, purple, and red haze to coalesce into a clear picture as the tears fell slowly from her eyes. Her gaze started at the edge of the green blanket and made its way slowly up her girlfriend’s body. Patsy’s right arm was encased in plaster, but the skin she could see was covered with deep purple bruises. Her elegant long neck looked as perfect as ever, creamy skin contrasting with the coppery locks that draped loosely around it. The Welshwoman’s breath caught as her eyes continued up to Patsy’s pale face. Her right cheek was mostly covered with a bandage, but small red scrapes, shiny with ointment, were scattered around the larger one that must be hidden beneath the plaster. There was a large bump on her head right above her temple and a brilliant purple bruise crept down from her hairline over her eyebrow.

“Oh, sweetheart.” Delia reached out her left hand automatically to run her fingers gently through the ginger hair. She rose silently from the chair and leaned over her lover’s head, pushing aside her fringe to place a gentle kiss on her forehead to the left of the bruise. Tears fell slowly down her cheeks as she moved her mouth over to Patsy’s ear. “I’m here, cariad. I love you. I’m right here with you, darling.” The redhead’s fingers twitched slightly in Delia’s right hand. She smiled, “That’s right, Pats. It’s me. I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart.” She kissed her forehead again and sat back down, one hand holding Patsy’s while the other continued to gently stroke her copper hair. She sat like that for what felt like hours, stroking Patsy’s hair and occasionally dropping a kiss onto her fingers, thankful, once again, for Nurse Boyd’s consideration in closing the curtain.

She knew it must be nearing time for Sister Monica Joan to join her. Instinctively, she looked down at her wrist before remembering that Patsy had taken her ruined watch the previous morning. She stood and leaned over her lover again, wanting to get one final kiss in before they had company.

“We won’t be alone for much longer, sweetheart, but I am staying until visiting hours are over. I won’t be able to say this again tonight, but just know that I will want to as soon as you wake. I love you, Patience Mount. I am right here with you, and we will get through all of this together. Like you said just a few weeks ago, ‘for better or for worse.’ I love you, cariad. Always.”

She kissed her forehead gently one last time.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Delia heard Sister Monica Joan before she saw her. The horrible ochre curtain was still closed, but the nun brought a certain bustle onto the ward that was unmistakably her own.

“Excuse me,” she called loudly, obviously to Nurse Boyd seated across the ward at her desk, “I am in search of my colleague who has been laid low by the inept ministrations of an automobile driver. I was told I could find her here.”

Delia could hear the clipped pace of Mary’s strides as her nurse’s shoes clicked along the lino. When her voice came, it was quieter and right outside the curtain. “Good afternoon, sister. Do you mean Patsy Mount?” Sister Monica Joan must have given some sign of affirmation as she quickly followed with, “One moment, sister.” Suddenly, Mary’s head popped through the seam of the curtain; it looked almost comical to Delia, that head with the fly-away hair floating in space. “Delia?” her friend gave her a questioning look, and the Welshwoman was touched, yet again, by her friend’s consideration.

She smiled and nodded. The dark haired nurse drew back the curtain. “Good afternoon, Sister Monica Joan. I hope clinic went well.”

The sister stepped forward and grasped Delia’s hands, as Mary bustled off to find another chair. “We were quite at capacity, but I managed to escape unscathed. I was even able to purloin some of Nurse Crane’s beloved barley sugars to sustain us until we can take tea.” She pulled the sweets out of the pocket of her habit with a twinkling eye.

Delia smiled at the old nun as she popped a sweet into her mouth, choosing not to ask how, exactly, they had been acquired. If she could not be alone with Patsy, she could honestly think of no better companion to sit with than this lovely woman.

“These flowers need water!” the elderly nun chirped, sweeping the bouquet of bright pink zinnias with yarrow and white carnations off the bedside table.  “Nurse, would you mind procuring a vessel for these? We do not want their blooms to fade prematurely.” Nurse Boyd had just returned with the chair, but she smiled kindly and went in search of a vase.

Delia’s heart clenched a little at the nun’s last words. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” she said quietly.

The sister gave her a kind smile. “Have faith, my dear. Nurse Mount is of stout character. She will not be easily subdued for long.”

They sat together for the next hour and a half, Sister Monica Joan holding Delia’s hand, and she, in turn, holding Patsy’s. The brunette did not dare stroke the ginger hair again, but she didn’t think holding the redhead’s hand would arouse any suspicions under the circumstances. She listened as the old nun kept her entertained with stories of Greek mythology and the cosmos, occasionally squeezing her lover’s hand gently to remind her she was with her.

As the clock neared six, Barbara Gilbert appeared at the ward door, looking exhausted but earnest as ever, a solemn looking Fred at her side. She pushed open the door and made her way over to the bed, leaving the handyman staring at his shoes in the hallway. “Sister Monica Joan,” she said kindly, “Fred’s come to take you back to Nonnatus for tea. I’ll sit with Delia for the rest of visiting time if you don’t mind.”

The nun nodded in her own unique, almost regal, way and turned to the Welsh nurse beside her. “I will see you when you return, my dear,” she said, lowering her voice to a whisper to add, “I will save you a slice of cake.” She winked, squeezed Delia’s hand, and rose gracefully from the chair.

Both brunettes watched her go, chiding Fred about something as she passed him. Barbara turned back to Delia and gave her an uncomfortable smile. “Do you mind?” she said, gesturing at the now vacant chair.

Delia was already missing the comfortable presence of Sister Monica Joan. She loved Barbara - she was such a sweetheart - but she looked so dreadfully awkward at the moment, and Delia just didn’t have the energy to go about making her feel more comfortable. There wasn’t much she could’ve done anyway, the whole situation was decidedly un comfortable.

She watched as the taller brunette removed her hat and mackintosh, hanging them on a stand by the ward door. She was still in uniform, obviously coming here directly from her shift at the clinic. She sat stiffly beside Delia on her chair, hands trying vainly to smooth the almost permanent creases in the well-worn light blue fabric, eyes determinedly avoiding the figure on the bed. Despite her earlier thoughts, Delia’s heart went out to the nurse from Liverpool.  She reached out and took Barbara's hand with her Patsy-free left hand. The gesture seemed to fortify the young nurse, and she managed to bring her eyes up to smile softly at the Welshwoman. Delia returned the smile and with her encouragement, the brunette midwife finally took in the resting figure on the bed.

And immediately burst into tears.

“Oh, Patsy,” she said, reaching out to place her free hand on her friend’s blanket covered hip. Delia released Barbara’s hand and began rubbing the crying girl’s back in slow circles. “I still just can't believe it,” she said in a choked whisper, her hand over her mouth making her voice nearly inaudible.

“I know,” Delia’s own voice sounded hollow, flat.

She continued rubbing Barbara's back as the taller brunette sobbed. She still couldn't quite believe that she was comforting Barbara about her own girlfriend, but for some inexplicable reason it did make her feel better. Patsy would want me to. That was it. The redhead had adopted a protective elder sister role with the younger nurse, and she knew that this was exactly what Pats would be doing if she could.

At that moment, as if summoned by her thoughts, Patsy’s hand twitched again in Delia’s. Wait, not just her hand - her leg moved too, and Barbara let out a gasp as she felt the shift under her palm. Both brunettes sat rigid in equal measures of shock, fear, and hope.

Nurse Boyd was over to them in an instant. “What happened?”

“She...she moved,” came Delia’s shaky voice.

Mary smiled, “It looks like she’s starting to wake up. I'm going to call Mr. Edwards. You two can stay here for now, but once she’s fully conscious, he will want the assess her.”

“We should call Dr. Turner too,” said Barbara. Mary looked at her quizzically. She smiled by way of an explanation and added, “He's her GP.”

“Of course,” the bespectacled nurse said kindly, “His number is in her notes. You sit tight, I'll ring him after Mr. Edwards.” She spun on her heel and strode purposefully towards her desk.

Barbara and Delia sat in mute, attentive silence. Both sets of eyes and ears trained fully on the redhead laid out in front of them, alert for any movement or sound. Slowly, over the next half an hour, a change seemed to gradually come over Patsy. She looked less unconscious somehow, more asleep. Delia felt foolish even thinking something like that, but that's how it seemed to her. Her eyes were locked on her lover’s closed lids, ready for the slightest hint of blue.

Suddenly, the tawny lashes fluttered and opened, revealing the most beautiful site Delia had ever seen. Her heart nearly exploded with sheer joy and relief. Automatically, she slid off the chair onto her knees, resting her chin on the edge of the bed so her teary eyes were inches from Patsy’s.

“Pats?” she said, her voice choked with all the feelings that had been swirling around inside her for the past day. “Pats, sweetheart, can you hear me?”

Barbara spun around in her chair and waved her arms urgently at Nurse Boyd, “Nurse, nurse! She’s awake!”

Delia knew she only had moments She took advantage of Barbara’s inattention and Mary’s movement to camouflage her words. “I'm here, sweetheart. I'm right here, cariad.” Patsy’s eyes looked at her without focus. She dropped her voice so that it was barely a whisper but loud enough for her lover to hear, “Rwy'n dy garu di.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The ringing of a familiar alarm woke Delia from her slumber and she flung out an arm to silence it. She rolled over, taking in the morning light as it danced along the peeling wallpaper of her room at the Nurses Home. It was all so familiar that it took her sleepy mind a few minutes to remember the events of the past day and a half.

Patsy.

Patsy was hurt.

Patsy was awake.


-----



Barbara sat in the hard chair outside the ward door as Delia paced the hallway. They had been shunted off the ward as soon as Patsy had opened her eyes so that the specialist could assess her. Delia paused at the door, peering in to see Patsy laid out on her back, a small torchlight being shined into each eye to check pupil response. Even from this distance she could see that the redhead was dazed, but she was managing to answer some of the doctor’s questions.

She could talk.

That was one horrible possibility off the table. Though, of course, Delia couldn’t be sure if she was talking coherently, but the knowledge that she would hear that wonderful husky voice again was enough to fill her with hope.

The doctor changed his position, blocking Patsy from view, and Delia resumed her pacing. Barbara was watching her warily. She seemed to want to engage with her pacing Welsh friend, but was thinking better of it.

“They’re checking her pupil response,” she said, releasing the midwife from her awkward decision making, “and asking her questions. I can’t tell what about.”

Barbara stood up and moved over to the door. “It looks like they are testing her reflexes now. They look good...Oh, the nurse is coming.”

Delia spun around to face the door, “Is it Nurse Boyd?”

“Is she the one with the glasses? Then yes.”

Barbara stepped back to allow space for the door to open, and Nurse Boyd stepped through.

“Mary? How is she?” Delia asked, straining to keep the desperation out of her voice.

The bespectacled nurse looked shaken, and Delia felt herself begin to panic. Mary must have seen it in her face, as she quickly crossed the space between them and ushered Delia into one of the waiting chairs. Barbara sat down beside her.

“She’s very disoriented, which is completely to be expected at this stage. She has no memory of what happened, or where she is, or even who she is, really. But that is completely normal for someone just waking up after a brain injury.”

Patsy doesn't know who she is. Delia felt all feeling drain from her body.

Mary looked instantly concerned, kneeling down in front of her friend and taking her hands, surreptitiously checking the brunette’s radial pulse as she talked. “This doesn’t mean anything. She is already sounding more coherent now than when she first woke up fifteen minutes ago.” The kneeling nurse’s storm blue eyes flicked over to take in Barbara’s state as well. “She needs a good night’s rest, but I’m sure she will be much more with it tomorrow.”

Delia still couldn’t find speech, so she was incredibly grateful when Barbara voiced her question for her, “She doesn’t know who she is?”

Mary took a deep breath. “No, but as I said, that’s very common for someone just waking up from a severe head injury. But for that feeling to last more than a few hours is incredibly rare.” Her eyes flicked appraisingly between the two brunette nurses seated before her. “Look, the best thing all around is for you both to get some rest tonight. They aren’t going to let you see her again until she is a little less disoriented. Is there someone I can call to pick you up? Or I could ring for a taxi?”

“I’m just going to stay at the Nurses Home. I can walk,” Delia had found her voice at last, though it sounded lifeless in her ears.

Barbara cast a quick, concerned glance in her direction before adding, “I can get the bus back to Poplar. It’s still early enough.”

“Alright. But just remember, we don’t know anything for certain yet, and worrying about it all won’t make any difference to Patsy. All it will do is wear you both out, and she is going to need you at your best.” The dark-haired nurse was ostensibly addressing both of them, but her dark blue eyes were locked on Delia’s. The Welshwoman nodded.

Hours later, Delia was lying on her bed in the Nurses Home, strangely craving a cigarette. She could count the number she had smoked in her entire life - seven, and all while drinking - but she found she really wanted one now. She had been running on pure anxiety for the past twenty-four hours and she just needed something to take the edge off. She was seriously considering going out in search of one to bum when there was a knock on her door. She swung herself off the bed and opened the door to find Mary Boyd holding two mugs of what looked like Horlicks.

“Mind if I come in?”

Delia stepped aside by way of an assent. Mary handed her a mug on the way in and made her way to the desk chair, leaving the bed for its owner.

“I knew you’d still be awake, so I thought I’d bring you this,” she raised her mug, “and an update.”

The Welsh nurse watched her friend closely, hugging her mug with her numb hands. “She’s doing much better, Delia.”

The petite brunette felt her eyes begin to burn. Hold it together, Busby.

“She is still very disoriented and...confused, but when I left she knew who she was and that she was in hospital in London, so all very good signs.” The dark haired nurse took a thoughtful sip of her drink. “I knew you were worried about that so I wanted to let you know. I know I would want to.”

Delia was unaware of the tears that had begun to fall as she had listened to her friend’s brief report. The relief was overwhelming; it was so powerful that the brunette almost didn’t notice the tingling sensation in the back of her mind that was trying to tell her that Mary was holding something back. “Is there anything else?”

Mary took another sip of her Horlicks. “It’s too soon to tell anything else for certain. I didn’t get much more time with her before my shift ended. I’m sorry, Delia.”

The Welshwoman nodded, wiping her tears away with her fingers. This news was the best she could expect right now, she knew that. And the anxiety in her gut had sated slightly at the news that Patsy did at least know herself. If nothing else, Delia was no longer craving a cigarette. “Thank you, Mary. You’ve truly been wonderful today.” And she meant it. She had not really seen or spent any time with her friend since training, but she had done so much for her today.

“It’s the least I could do, Delia. I know both you and Patsy would’ve done the same for me if it was someone I cared for,” she met Delia’s eyes steadily over the tops of her glasses.

Oh.

Delia took a big gulp of the malted milk and spluttered. Mary laughed, “I should have warned you. I put a tot of scotch in. Thought it would help you sleep.”

Her blue eyes were watering for a different reason now, but she managed a laugh between coughs. “Are you working again tomorrow during visiting hours?”

Mary shook her head, smiling fondly. “I’m off tomorrow. I’ve promised Allie I’d go with her to the Science Museum,” she rolled her eyes in mock frustration, “I would much prefer a lie in and maybe a trip to the pub in the afternoon, but imagine wanting to actually rest on your day off.”

Oh.

Delia smiled, knowingly. Alleyne Owen. She had been two years behind them in training, and Delia would probably have never known the gangly blonde’s name if she hadn’t also been from Wales. Cardiff, if she remembered. She also remembered seeing a lot less of Mary in their final year of training, as she seemed to often be tutoring the younger trainee. Well, Patsy and Delia had not minded the time alone to ‘study’ either.

Mary Boyd. You dark horse.

“Well I hope you both have fun. The museum sounds lovely. And tell Allie I said ‘S'mae.’”

“Thanks,” she got up to leave. “And, Delia, I mean it. If you need anything.”

Before she could stop herself, the petite Welshwoman was on her feet, wrapping her friend in a tight hug.



-----



Delia sat up, yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She had slept surprisingly well. The pure exhaustion from the past thirty-six hours coupled with the warm milk and scotch had knocked her right out, which was just as well, she had a shift this morning, and she would need to be focused. She was actually relieved to have to work, it would keep her mind occupied until she could finally see her now conscious girlfriend.

Patsy was awake.

The thought brought a cautious smile to the brunette’s face. She knew that her lover was far from out of the woods yet, but the fact that she was alive and awake was something to be thankful for. Maybe it was the sleep, or the vision of those sky blue eyes beneath long tawny lashes, but Delia felt a little lighter as she got up to prepare for work.

 


>>>>><<<<<

 



Everything felt blurry, like looking at the world through a rain-slicked window. Or fog, maybe? London was foggy, right? Maybe that is where this feeling came from. But this was fog of a different quality. It wasn’t in front of her eyes like a dirty window pane, but behind them, inside her head, intercepting the nervous impulses from her optic nerve and scrambling it before it reached her brain.

Optic nerve? How the hell did she know that?

Maybe it was the pressure causing this cloudy feeling. Her head felt too big somehow, too heavy. Or maybe the same size, but too dense? Like there was a leaky pipe in her skull and it was slowly filling with water like a balloon.

And the buzzing. She was fairly sure that the buzzing was coming from outside of her head. A low electrical hum that rushed in through her ears and attacked her bruised nerves.

She felt sick.

That, she was certain, was from the pain. She had never felt pain like this, or at least she didn’t think she had, but then again, she couldn’t remember anything prior to this morning. Regardless, she didn’t think it was possible to feel more pain than this. Well, maybe childbirth. That might be more painful. But how would she know that? Had she done it? God, did she have children and not remember them? She supposed it was possible, she didn't remember her own mother, after all.

Instinctively her left hand trailed down to her stomach, searching for stretchmarks. No. She didn't think she had children. Surely not. But why then had she thought of childbirth when she had thought of pain?

The pain.

Her head felt like it was being squeezed by a vise. It was constant - searing and throbbing all at once. She moved her hand up over her eyes. It felt cool, and the darkness was a relief.

She took a calming breath, trying to rein in her thoughts.

Had her mind always wandered like this? She supposed when one didn’t have any memories to fill it, there wasn't anything to keep one’s mind centered.

Focused.

Still.

She cast her mind towards what she did know, trying to find an anchor. Her name was Patience Mount. Patsy, for short. She lived in London. She had been in an accident. She hit her head, and now had no memory.

God, it felt like something out of a penny dreadful.

She would laugh if it weren’t for that steady buzzing panic in her chest. It was a distinctly odd feeling to know more about one’s optic nerve than one’s own mother.

Patsy felt the hand over her eyes begin to shake, and a sudden stinging sensation on the right side of her face. She drew her hand back and squinted at it through her eyelashes. It was wet. She was crying, the salty tears burning the wounds on her face.

She couldn't breathe. It felt like a gigantic boulder had been suddenly rolled onto her chest. She was shaking uncontrollably now, each shudder sending a wave of pain through her body as her injuries were jostled. The tears were filling her ears, making her feel even more like she was underwater. She couldn't breathe.

I'm going to drown.

A violet blur filled her vision. She felt a slight pinch in her left arm, and could hear vague soothing tones in an East End accent. After a moment, a calm, sleepy feeling began to spread through her chest, and she could breathe again. She took a few deep, gasping breaths. Her brain felt foggier now, but the panic in her chest had eased somewhat. She opened her eyes and took in the blonde nurse before her.

“That's right, Miss Mount. Deep breaths.” Patsy tried to follow her instructions, focusing on mirroring the woman in front of her as she set a breathing pace. “What’s your name?”

“P-” inhale…

exhale…

“Patsy,” inhale…

exhale…

“Mount.”

“Very good. Do you know where you are?”

She continued to breathe deeply, “London. In-in hospital.”

“Excellent. Can you tell me where you were born?”

A panic began to rise in her again. Where was I born? Think. Where was I born? London? No. That didn’t feel right. England, didn’t either. She shook her head and regretted the motion immediately. It felt as though she had just rung a large church bell, if the church bell was her head, that is. Her free hand flew immediately to her eyes.

“That’s okay. Don’t let it worry you. You’re still healing. Why don’t you try to get some rest before Mr. Edwards makes his rounds.”

She couldn’t speak through the blinding pain, so merely gave a small, tight smile by way of acknowledgement. She continued taking deep breaths, waiting for the pain to subside a little. With each breath she tried to empty her head of all the thoughts that were troubling her. She felt her swollen face drift into a wry smile. Imagine, an amnesia patient trying to empty her head. That shouldn’t take long.

At least she had a sense of humor.

She felt the calm, sleepy effect of the drugs overtake her, drifting into a deep sleep filled with dreams of crystal blue and yellow, flowers and music, and a strange, beautiful voice speaking a language both foreign and familiar.

 

>>>>><<<<<

 


Delia walked down the corridor as quickly as she could without breaking into a run. She had already lost more than an hour of precious visiting time, and she didn’t want to lose anymore. She had rushed home after her shift to change and freshen up; she didn’t want to see Patsy smelling of bile and antiseptic. She had made record time of it, but still, nearly an hour and a half lost.

She paused outside the ward door to gather her composure, running her hand over her skirt to smooth it. She could see Patsy sitting up in bed, eyes closed but obviously awake, her fingers toying with the edge of her blanket nervously as if they wished to be holding a cigarette. Delia felt her face split into a wide smile as she pushed open the door.

The redhead’s eyes opened at the noise and for the first time since that fateful morning, blue met blue in complete focus. The brunette continued to grin, her dimples becoming impossible deeper, as the corner of Patsy’s mouth twitched up in a subdued version of her trademark half-smile. Delia’s throat tightened at the site. Her girlfriend looked to be in tremendous pain, her face swollen and scraped, but still, she had managed a smile.

Patsy watched her carefully as she made her way to the chair beside the bed. Delia sat for a few moments just looking at her girlfriend, not knowing where to begin, what to say. Her throat was so tight with emotion she didn't even know if she could speak. The brunette wished more than ever that Mary was on duty to come and pull the curtain closed. She was burning to kiss Patsy, to cup that beautiful face and tell her everything would be alright. She reached out to take her girlfriend's hand, but Patsy pulled it away, giving Delia a cautious look.

The Welshwoman felt a familiar sense of frustration rise suddenly and she could not help but be angry with her girlfriend, injury or no. Of all times to be cautious. Patsy had nearly died. No one, no one would suspect anything untoward by them holding hands. Not now. Not under these circumstances. Delia couldn’t help the icy feeling that slipped into her gut at her infuriating lover’s actions.

Patsy had raised her left hand to her mouth, and out of the corner of her eye, Delia could see that she was chewing on the cuticle of her thumb in her characteristic, (cigaretteless) nervous gesture. The brunette couldn’t meet her eyes, knowing that her own would betray her fury. She cast about for something neutral to talk about, her gaze drifting to the long fingers poking out of the end of the plaster cast. Hygiene. That would be a safe topic.

“There’s still some dirt from the road around your fingernails.” Patsy paused in her attention to her cuticles and looked down at the fingers of her other hand, seemingly willing to take the olive branch. “It’s by that little graze,” said Delia, “When they next give you a bed bath, just get them to rub it away with the corner of the flannel,” she said, and in order to show she was truly willing to forgive her over cautiousness, “A spot of antiseptic wouldn’t go amiss.”

“You sound a bit like a nurse,” Patsy said.

Delia felt relief at the playful banter, even if the tone of her love’s voice wasn’t quite up to its normal form. “Do I?” She said, looking up with a grin, ready to find the redhead’s usually cheeky glimmer.

But she didn’t.

Patsy looked earnest, questioning.

“Are you a friend of mine?”

Delia felt the bottom drop out of her entire world. There was a rushing in her ears so loud that she barely heard her own voice when she finally found it.

“Yes.”

Even without her hearing, she knew it sounded desperate, pleading.

Patsy looked confused, but determined to find out more about this stranger sat across from her, “Have we been friends long?”

Oh, God.

Delia was a little relieved at the tears that had sprung up to cloud her vision, blocking out that heartbreaking look on the face she so loved - that look of polite curiosity that said, very clearly, that Delia was a stranger to her.

Her mind was racing. Patsy didn’t know her. Patsy didn’t remember them.

Their love was lost.

All her worrying, all her protectiveness, all her bargaining over the past day had been for naught. Patsy didn't remember them.

She felt like her heart had stopped beating.

“Have we been friends long?”

How could she possibly answer that?

Only my entire life. Because that is when it started, when I met you.

She was at a loss for how to respond. She blinked to clear her vision and looked up into those sky blue eyes that were usually her anchor to the world. Their look of polite curiosity began to drift into a fearful panic at her long silence.

Her stopped heart shattered.

Patsy must feel so alone. Oh, sweetheart. You must be terrified.

Delia hitched a comforting smile onto her face, hoping, despite the tears, that it looked genuine. Have we been friends long?

“A little while.”

The brunette watched as the redhead’s shoulders relaxed and her eyes cleared a little of the fear. “That's nice,” she paused, staring at the brunette intently, obviously searching for what else to say. “Do you have a lot of friends?”

Oh, cariad. Delia felt her body empty out completely at the sign of Patsy’s well-bred upbringing. It was as if they were meeting for the first time at a dinner party, and the redhead was making polite small talk.

Delia felt completely alone. 

“No.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Patsy sat in confusion as she watched the pretty woman in the yellow dress walk out the ward doors. To be honest, confusion seemed to be her only constant in this strange new reality she had woken to this morning. Her mind just seemed to drift so easily.

Had she said something to upset her? At first the woman had seemed so happy to see her. But then she had turned cold, then cheeky, then sad.

So sad.

It was all so bewildering.

The brown-haired woman had seemed to know her. Had said they were friends. It had made her cry. Patsy didn’t even know her name. Had she said it? No, she didn’t think she had.

But she had been Welsh, hadn’t she? Patsy didn’t think she had ever been to Wales, although she could have lived there for years for all she knew. But she definitely recognized the accent. How did she do that? She supposed she must have known a lot of Welsh people in her time in London. Or maybe just the one. The pretty girl with the dimples and sparkling blue eyes.

Something about those eyes. When the girl had looked up at her they had twinkled.

“Do I?”

Those eyes had looked so playful, so...intimate? Was that the word?

No. That couldn’t be it. Friendly?

That made much more sense.

Yes, friendly.

Of course.

That was why she had asked the girl if she was a friend of hers.

And then the girl had started to look sad. The change in her face had surprised Patsy. The natural sparkle had left her eyes almost at once, and she became so pale. So very, very pale. And the dimples were gone too. Patsy had watched the spot where they had disappeared almost mournfully. Her face looked strange with smooth cheeks.  

Why wasn’t she smiling? Think. What did I say?

I asked her if she was a friend and it made her sad.

She must be sad because I don’t remember her.

Are we good friends? Is that why she is so sad?

Patsy had wanted to know more. To know something, anything about her life other than the bare facts. She wanted this nice girl (her friend?) to tell her all about their time together. She yearned to know about her past. Her life. But this girl still felt like a stranger. It seemed so odd, so presumptuous, to ask this person she didn’t really know to tell her her own life story. She had decided to start out with a little detail - not wanting to press too much in case the brunette wasn’t really her friend, but just a nice person getting upset visiting her amnesiac acquaintance in hospital.

So, she had asked if they had been friends long.

She watched as the girl’s face became impossibly paler. Almost grey. Then suddenly the sparkle was back in those crystal blue eyes, but it was different - in front of her eyes, not in them - a glaze of tears glimmering in the low fluorescent light.

The lights. That was where that buzzing was coming from. It seemed to be boring into her brain, as if it was the whirring of a dentist’s drill. It was hard to concentrate.

She looked again at those crystal blue eyes. They seemed to be focused on something very far away, as if they were looking through the green walls to the city outside. Or maybe they were looking inward, it was hard to tell with the tears. Regardless, the Welshwoman was silent. Patsy wondered what she had said this time to upset her. It was so difficult, not having your memories. You never knew if you were putting your foot in it. The silence dragged and she was sure she had said something terrible.

Wait, what had she asked her? Her mind had drifted again. It was so hard to pin down her thoughts. Patsy began to feel her chest tighten in panic. What had she said to so upset this nice girl who had come to visit her? Think.

She had asked if they were friends.

The girl had said, ‘yes.’

She had asked if they had been friends long.

The girl had said…Had she answered?

Patsy stared at the brunette intently, feeling the panic and fear begin to rise.

Why hadn’t she answered?

And then, “A little while.” And a smile - the return of those dimples working a strange magic as the panic receded and the tightness in her chest eased.

They had been friends for a little while. She was curious about this nice girl in front of her. She was, after all, the only person who had come to visit her. For some reason, the fact that she herself didn’t seem to have many friends was not a surprise to Patsy. Even without her memories she somehow knew that this was true, but she wasn’t particularly sad about it.  In fact, given her lack of memories it would be a bonus. Less people to make cry.

But this girl. She seemed so nice. Patsy could tell she was still very sad, but she was smiling at her - trying to make the girl with amnesia feel more comfortable. She was glad that the pretty brunette would count her as a friend, although she was sure that she was just one of many.

But apparently, she wasn’t. The way the girl had said that word. “No.” It was so hollow, so defeated.

This sweet, sad girl didn’t have many friends. And now Patsy was sad. Truly, inexplicably, sad. Heartbroken. It was all her fault. The brunette’s tears were her fault and she couldn’t cheer her. She didn’t know her. And apparently there wasn’t anyone else who could either.

Patsy watched, helplessly as what must have been her best friend walked out of the ward.

She didn’t even know her name.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

“It’s called retrograde amnesia.”

The dining room at Nonnatus was as packed as Barbara had ever seen it. All of the nuns were there, as well as Trixie, Chummy, Nurse Crane, Dr. and Mrs. Turner, and even Tom and Fred. The only person missing was Patsy.

And Delia.

No one had seen the Welsh nurse since she had left Barbara waiting for the bus back to Poplar the night before. Trixie had called the Nurses Home to tell her about this meeting but apparently she hadn’t been seen there since she had left shortly after returning from her shift. Barbara was worried. Well, she had been worried about the shorter brunette since last night. She had wanted to walk her back to the Nurses Home - she looked that wretched - but Delia had begged off, and Barbara hadn’t felt like she could fight her on it.

But she should be here.

Retrograde amnesia? How is that different from regular amnesia?" asked Sister Winifred.

The doctor paused, considering his words carefully, “Retrograde amnesia is the technical term for the condition that we commonly refer to as amnesia. There are other types, but retrograde amnesia is most similar to what we see at the cinema when someone gets knocked on the head and forgets everything - who they are, where they’re from, their entire life history. But reality is a lot more complicated than the pictures,” Dr. Turner scanned the room, gauging their reaction. “Nurse Mount knows who she is, which is a good thing. She is not having any trouble making new memories, which is a very good thing - that would be a sign of anterograde amnesia, which is much more difficult to live with. Fortunately, she does seem to have retained what is called ‘semantic memory,’ which is general knowledge about the world. For example, she knows that this is London, and that London is the capital of England. She remembers a lot of that kind of thing, probably even information from her nurse’s training. But she is missing what is called ‘episodic memory’ - meaning the events or episodes of her life. She doesn’t remember anyone she has ever met or anything that has ever happened to her. And furthermore, she doesn’t remember how she knows the information she has retained in her semantic memory. So, she might know what a breech birth is, even how to deliver one, but she won’t know how she knows that.”

Barbara felt her stomach flip over. She stared at Dr. Turner, incredulously. The brunette nurse considered herself a kind, charitable person, but right now she was thinking some decidedly uncharitable thoughts towards the doctor. How could he stand there and say Patsy remembered who she was when she didn’t remember anything about her life? Just because she knew her name didn’t mean she knew herself.

Her eyes teared up in anger and frustration. And sadness. Loads and loads of sadness. Patsy didn’t remember any of them.

Where was Delia?

Dr. Turner paused, his eyes darting around the room. It was completely silent. “Umm, well the good news is that there is every possibility her memories will return...eventually. It’s more common for retrograde amnesia to be caused by a disease than by an injury. In the case of disease, the amnesia is typically permanent, but with an injury, memories can return. It may take a long time, but there is every possibility most, perhaps even all, of Nurse Mount’s memories could return in time.”

Could return?” Said Trixie, a noticeable edge in her voice.

Dr. Turner looked apologetic, “We just don’t know. The brain is such a mystery. But if she does begin to regain memories, it will most likely follow Ribot’s Law of amnesia which tells us that her earlier, more established memories will come first. The closer the events get to the accident, the less likely the memories are to reemerge. Think of memories like paths in a forest. The more well-trodden the path the easier to clear away the undergrowth.”

A thick silence fell over the room. Barbara was sure that everyone who knew anything about the midwife’s childhood was thinking the same thing. If Patsy was to lose any memories permanently, the earlier ones would be better.

 

-----

  

Barbara had only been at Nonnatus for a little over a month when she found herself seeking the quiet of the chapel on a Sunday afternoon instead of mass at All Saints Church. There was only one Sunday out of the entire year that the brunette skipped mass, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Mothering Sunday.

It had been over twelve years since her mother had died, but that holiday never got any easier. You never really got over that loss. But it wasn’t just the grief that kept her away from mass, it was the awkwardness. People would ask - people always asked - after her mother. Did she still live in Liverpool? Did she send her a card, or maybe flowers? Was it so hard for her, having her daughter so far away, and on Mothering Sunday too? Barbara almost felt guilty when she told them. Their faces. Their discomfort. Their pity.

It had been easier in her father’s parish - at least there everyone knew. But as soon as she had left for training, Barbara had studiously avoided people on this date. She had been nervous, living in such close quarters, that it would be harder to do so at Nonnatus. But then babies didn’t care what day it was, and they were quite busy. That suited the brunette midwife perfectly.

Most of the other midwives had either been called out or were taking advantage of the calm before they inevitably were. She could hear the buzz of the wireless in the lounge as she quietly made her way down the hall and into the chapel, looking forward to spending some time alone in quiet remembrance of her mother.

But she wasn’t alone.

Patsy sat in a chair in the front row near the altar, eyes staring blankly ahead of her. She turned at the sound of Barbara’s shoes on the wood floor and the brunette was alarmed to see the faint glimmer of tear tracks on the redhead’s cheeks.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb. I’ll just…” she motioned towards the door, indicating her path of retreat.

The older woman gave her a small smile, wiping the evidence of her crying away quickly with her fingers. “It’s alright, Babs,” she said, voice sounding a little too bright in the way that Barbara had already come to recognize as Patsy’s ‘Nurse Mount’ voice. “What brings you to the chapel on a Sunday afternoon? Shouldn’t you be at mass?”

This line of questioning was exactly what the brunette had been trying to avoid. But Patsy - strong, unflappable Patsy - was sitting alone, crying, in the chapel. She decided to just be honest. “It’s Mothering Sunday. My mother died nearly thirteen years ago, and well, I just don’t want to face any celebrations...or questions.”

Patsy gave her a small smile and patted the seat beside her. “You can sit with me, Barbara. No questions asked.” Barbara noticed that her voice already sounded more normal, if a little sad.

The two midwives sat in silence for at least twenty minutes, Barbara alternately thinking of her mother and wondering what was going on in the redhead’s mind. As if she could hear her friend’s thoughts, Patsy spoke, “I lost my mother too. When I was ten. It never gets any easier, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t.” The brunette reached out and took her friend’s hand. The redhead squeezed it. Barbara felt so safe in that place, holding her friend’s hand, that, for the first time since she came to London, she found herself wanting to talk about her mother. “I miss her every day.” Patsy squeezed her hand again, silently signaling that she was listening, but not pushing.

“She was so lovely, always doing what she could to help my father’s parishioners.” The brunette smiled in remembrance, “She taught the Sunday school class, and some of my fondest memories are sitting with her and my sister at our kitchen table, drinking tea and working on her latest handicraft creation to illustrate the lesson for the other children.” She laughed, thinking back to those happy times. “I think we had the most extensive collection of fuzzy felt characters in the whole of North West England. My favorite was Zacchaeus,” she giggled softly, eyes watering a little at the memory, “I begged to make the tree. I spent ages fretting over the position of the branches, wanting to get it just right, so that he would have a good vantage point to see Jesus. But in the end, I made it much too small.” She turned to the redhead, giving her a wet smile, “He certainly didn’t look like a ‘wee little man’ in our fuzzy felt. More like Goliath!” She sighed, wistfully, “But mum said it was the best sycamore tree she had ever seen.” Patsy squeezed her hand again. “She was so kind. And she had the most beautiful smile. Even towards the end, when she was weak and in so much pain from the cancer, her smile never lost a bit of its beauty.”

Silence fell over them again as Barbara found herself lost in memories. After a while, she was pulled out of her reverie when Patsy’s husky voice broke the quiet, “My mother loved music. We had a grand piano in our house in Singapore, and she used to play for hours, humming and sometimes singing along too. She had a lovely voice. But my sister...gosh, even at seven years old, she had the most gorgeous singing voice. It blew me away...that something so strong and huge could come out of that little body. My voice has always been dreadful, but Mother never cared. She claimed she loved listening to us both in equal measures,” she laughed, the corner of her mouth quirking up in a rueful smile. Barbara watched her in silence as the smile slowly faded from her red lips, her eyes focused back on the distant past, haunted. “Even when we were in the camps, she always encouraged us to sing.”

Barbara was listening intently. She had never heard Patsy speak of her family, so she was determined to just sit quietly and let the redhead talk. But her friend’s last statement had her puzzled. Despite her best efforts at silent support, she heard herself ask, “Camps?”

Patsy, took a deep, fortifying breath. “Japanese internment camps. We were captured as we were fleeing Singapore and interned in Java and Sumatra.” Barbara was shocked by the news, and to be honest, a little alarmed at the matter-of-fact way in which Patsy stated it. She stared at the redhead as she continued talking, her voice becoming tighter and tighter as she got further into her tale, “They moved us to a few camps over those three years, one even had a piano. Some of the women, missionaries I think, organized concerts in one of the barracks. It was still horrible, but the music filled us all with hope. Libby even performed in a few of the concerts, Mother playing for her. Those are the only bright memories I have of those dark years.” Barbara watched as her strong friend’s shoulders sagged. She squeezed Patsy’s hand, returning the silent signal of support, both wanting and dreading for her to continue. “A few months later they moved us to an abandoned men’s camp on the same island. It was the middle of summer, and the camp was hot, swampy, and filthy. There was no source of clean running water and disease spread like wildfire. My mother and sister didn’t make it to Christmas.” There was a long heavy pause at these words, but eventually she went on, her voice hollow, “The women organized another concert to celebrate the holiday, but I couldn’t face it. They should have been in it. It wasn’t the same without them, there was nothing left to hope for.”

  

-----

  

As Barbara made her way up the stairs with Trixie, she found herself sincerely hoping that they never had another late-night meeting in the dining room. The last two had been horrible. Well, these last two days had been horrible.

Amnesia.

Patsy didn’t remember them, didn’t remember her family, didn’t remember anything. She just couldn’t believe it.

“Do you want to come in?” Trixie paused at her bedroom door, looking expectant.

“In a moment, there’s something I need to do first.”

The blonde shot her a quick, questioning look, before shrugging and making her way into her bedroom. Barbara continued on into her own and went immediately to her bookshelf, pulling out a large volume.

She sat on her bed and opened it, the pages automatically parting to the spot where what she was looking for was pressed between them. It had been waiting on her pillow one evening a few days after she had delivered three little girls in one day, a few days after she had finally started to really have faith in her abilities as a midwife. Barbara opened the tissue paper that enclosed the object she sought. She felt the tears begin to fall as she lifted it up to catch the light - a perfect, pressed sycamore leaf.

 

 

Chapter Text

She went directly to the drinks cabinet as soon as she entered the room. She had no idea what Barbara ‘needed to do,’ but Trixie, she needed a drink.  The blonde midwife poured a generous amount of whisky into the glass and downed it in one fluid motion, setting the glass back on the cabinet.

Amnesia. Bloody amnesia. Trixie placed a shaking hand over her mouth to prevent the hysterical laughter she could feel fighting its way up from her chest. God, she was really and truly losing it.

The blonde cast a quick glance over her shoulder at the door to check for Barbara before pouring herself another neat scotch. She was on call soon, but surely one more wouldn’t hurt - she just needed to calm her nerves. She downed the second with a grimace and set down the glass, forcing herself to walk to her bed and put distance between herself and the siren call of more whisky and numbness.

Trixie really wished she wasn’t on call.

Amnesia.

Her best friend didn’t remember a thing about her life, her work, her friends, or… Delia.

Oh god, poor Delia. Where was she? Does she already know?

Trixie felt a cold tingle of fear begin to trickle through her veins, chasing away some of the warmth from the whisky. She looked back over at the bottles by the window. Maybe just another small one...

Just then she heard a faint knock on the door, followed closely by the sight of a red-eyed Barbara.

“Sorry. I just needed a moment,” she said, voice sheepish and a little thick. The brunette sat herself down on the very edge of Patsy’s bed, as though trying to disturb it as little as possible.

The two sat in silence. Trixie had no words for what she felt, or rather, what she didn’t feel. She just knew she was hollowed out. A shell of a person. Numb. None of those descriptions really carried the full weight of her emotion in this moment, but they were as close as her fuzzy mind could get.

Alone. That was the word.

She looked over at her friend sat across from her and felt nothing. Suddenly, she didn’t want Barbara there anymore. Not sat there, on Patsy’s bed. Trixie really did like Barbara, but the brunette was a poor substitute for Patsy, for Cynthia, for Chummy, for Jenny. For Tom. She was too new. She didn’t know Trixie yet, not really. If she did, she wouldn’t want to be sitting on that bed either. She would leave too.

The brunette was watching her warily. “Are you alright, Trixie?”

Trixie wanted to scream at her.

Of course, she wasn't bloody alright. She was so far from alright. The other side of the ruddy planet from alright. Trixie looked at her friend. Looked right at her. Barbara’s green eyes were bloodshot and puffy. “Are you?” she spat, knowing the answer, but needing to wound.

The green eyes dropped to her lap. “No...No, I’m really not.”

Trixie sighed, she didn't have the heart to take her bitter feelings out on Barbara. The blonde needed a fight, and the brunette before her just looked so dreadful, no fight in her at all. It'd be like kicking a puppy. She needed the one person who would spar with her. She needed Patsy. But that was the one person she might never really have again.

Trixie was alone.

“Neither am I.”

The pair sat in silence for a long while. Both brooding over the events of the evening and the state of their friend. It was Barbara who finally broke it, “Trixie,” she said, her voice desperate, almost pleading, “she doesn't remember anything.”

Yes, Barbara. I was there too, she thought. But, considering the distraught woman before her, said, “I know.”

“She doesn't remember her father…”

No big loss there, from what I've gathered.

“Or her mother and sister…”

How they slowly died in front of her eyes.

“Or the sisters…”

Living at Nonnatus had been the happiest she'd ever been.

“Or any of us…”

Her adoptive family. Her best friends.

“Or Delia…”

The love of her life.

Wait.

Trixie was suddenly cautious. Protective. Surely Barbara wasn't insinuating. Surely Barbara didn't know.

“She doesn't know any of us, Barbara,” she said, and continued on, thereby deflecting any further discussion of Delia, “Or anything about nursing or midwifery, either. And it's utterly dreadful, too. Nursing was her whole life.”

Barbara seemed to bristle at her use of the past tense - was. But the blonde didn't mean it like that. She meant that nursing was Patsy’s whole life in the sense that it always had been. Ever since she was nine. But she didn't care if it upset the brunette. It had distracted her from Delia.

Trixie’s worried thoughts drifted again to the missing Welsh nurse. Her absence could only mean one thing. She must know.

She felt her blood run cold again.

Barbara had told her earlier that Delia was working a morning shift that day. She must have gone to visit Patsy in the afternoon. Must have found out firsthand about her girlfriend’s amnesia. Must have looked in those blue eyes and saw a stranger looking back. Trixie shuttered. She herself was dreading that visit. But for Delia. God, that must have been absolutely devastating.

Where was Delia? Trixie wished she were here. Having the Welsh brunette at Nonnatus would not only assuage her worry, it would also give the blonde some purpose. Her blue eyes flicked over to the drinks cabinet. Purpose. She could really use that right now.

There was a knock on the door. “Come in.”

Trixie turned to see Nurse Crane nudging the door open with her foot. The blonde jumped to her feet to help, taking the tray from the older woman and setting it on the dresser.

“I thought you girls could use a warm beverage. Horlicks for Nurse Gilbert, and tea for you, Nurse Franklin. I thought you could use the energy, seeing as you are on call shortly.”

“Thank you, Nurse Crane.”

Each girl took their respective cups and sat back in their previous places, Nurse Crane joining Trixie on her bed with a mug of Horlicks for herself as well. The tea was much too hot to drink, so the blonde placed it on the bedside table to cool a little. Barbara cradled her mug in her hands.

The elder nurse shot a quick, appraising look at both of her young colleagues. Trixie tried her best to not squirm under her shrewd gaze - Phyllis Crane had recently proven herself a little too perceptive for the blonde’s liking. “How are you girls doing?”

Trixie kept silent. Barbara might not have had any fight in her, but Nurse Crane did - in spades. She didn’t trust herself to speak lest she lash out at her superior, and reveal too much.

“It’s just dreadful, Nurse Crane,” said Barbara, tears in her eyes.

“Under these circumstances, girls, I believe you can call me Phyllis. We’re all here as Nurse Moun...as Patsy’s friends. And, yes, it is all very dreadful, you’re right about that.”

They sat quietly for a brief moment, but apparently, Barbara quite needed to talk, “I still just can't believe it. She looked so strange in that hospital bed. It just didn’t seem like Patsy at all. She’s always so...well she can be so formidable,” she paused, “Could be,” the brunette’s eyes dropped to the drink in her hands.

“No, lass. If there’s anything about this that I have to believe, it’s that Patsy will still be Patsy, even if she doesn’t have her memories. You heard Dr. Turner. There are some things that are just ingrained, and who she is has to be one of those things.”

“But how?” said Barbara. She was looking agitated now - animated, even. Trixie raised an eyebrow. Maybe there’s some fight in this puppy after all.

“How can she possibly be herself if she doesn’t remember a single thing that has happened to her? Isn’t that what makes us who we are? Didn’t she become a nurse because of what happened to her family in that camp? Isn’t that horrible experience a huge part of what makes her such a caring and giving person, a person who wants to prevent as much suffering as she possibly can? Isn’t it what makes her so brave? I’d love nothing more than for her to have that painful experience erased, but would she be the Patsy we all love if it were? I can't believe she would even want that.”

Barbara was on her feet now, and Trixie was not surprised to see that her own mouth was not the only one slightly ajar. Nurse Crane looked like she had just walked in on Sister Winifred burning bibles.

It was Trixie who found her voice first. She spoke calmly and assuredly, as if to a scared patient, “Sweetie, I think what Nurse Crane is trying to say is that Patsy’s personality might be quite as unaffected as her ability to remember her own name. It’s like Dr. Turner said about the paths in the forest. Her personality must be the most well-trodden paths there are.”

“But what does that matter? What does it matter if her personality is intact? She’s lost her entire life. She can’t nurse. She doesn’t even know her own friends. And her father is miles away, in Hong Kong. Not that it matters - she doesn’t know who he is either. She is going to have to start all over!” Barbara’s voice broke on this last sentence, and so, apparently did her fighting spirit, as she sank back down on the bed.

Nurse Crane reached out a hand and placed it on her roommate’s knee in reassurance. “That’s right, kid. She will. And that’s why it's so important for us all to hold ourselves together. Nurse Mount is going to feel very lost and alone. We have to be there for her, and treat her as normally as possible under the circumstances. We have to help her find herself again.”

Barbara just nodded, her eyes deep in her mug of Horlicks. Trixie and Phyllis exchanged a look. “Come on, lass. Let’s get you to bed. You’ll need your strength in the morning.”

The blonde reached out and relieved both brunettes of their mugs, “I’ll take these down when I go.” Nurse Crane gave Trixie an appreciative look, helped Barbara up, and steered her by the elbow towards the door.

Trixie followed them, depositing the half-drunk mugs of Horlicks on the tray as she went. She watched from her threshold as the older nurse guided her young roommate next door, wishing them both a quiet, “Goodnight,” as they slipped into the room. Both doors closed in almost perfect synchronization, and Trixie leaned against her own, pressing her face into the dressing gowns hanging on the hook on the back of the door. She inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of stale tobacco and the vague mingling of Patsy’s perfume with her own. She was alone again. Part of her felt a relief to be rid of Barbara and Phyllis, but another, larger part, dreaded the quiet. The loneliness. She took another deep breath. She missed her friend.

Well, she missed all her friends.

She missed Tom.

How had her life got to this point?

Trixie was exhausted.

She turned around and faced the room, taking in the scene. Immediately she walked over to Patsy’s bed and, with unsteady hands, smoothed the spot where Barbara had rumpled the counterpane in her distress. She sat on her own bed, facing its now perfectly made counterpart, and reached for her tea. Her hands shook as she lifted the mug for a sip.

Trixie was unravelling.

Her eyes flitted back over to the drinks cabinet. She really did need to go downstairs to start her shift. A tot of scotch in her tea wouldn’t hurt anything. Just enough to steady her nerves, to still her shaking hands.

Ten minutes later, Trixie was sitting at the desk by the telephone, smoking a cigarette, and trying in vain to stay warm. Nonnatus was always so chilly at night in the autumn. She pulled her red cardigan closer for warmth as she thought back to this time last year.

Was it really only a year ago that her life had felt so on track. She had a job she loved and which she was very good at, colleagues that were like her family, and a boyfriend (soon to be fiancé) who made her happy. Everything was falling into place.

But then Jenny had left for the Marie Curie Hospital. And Cynthia for the Mother House. And Chummy for Aston Lodge. And then there was the ordeal with the Teeman children. And Patsy and Mr. Amos. And the bishop. And Tom.

She felt like the bottom had dropped out of her life when she had broken her engagement with Tom. But then somehow, the bottom kept dropping. Sister Mary Cynthia’s return was not the happy reunion she had hoped. Her friend was lost to her forever. And then Patsy started to pull away too. She understood why, but it didn’t make her feel any less alone. And now this - amnesia.

She took a deep pull on her Sobranie, her cigarette-free arm hugging her body ostensibly for warmth but really in a vain attempt to hold herself together. The only thing she had left was her job.

For now.

She blew the smoke out slowly and looked down at the mug of tea on the table in front of her. Trixie Franklin was drinking on duty. A rush of shame came over her. She was drinking. On duty.

Trixie dropped the cigarette into the mug.

She pulled out the directory and quickly flipped through to the number she sought. She didn’t have anyone here she could talk to, not about this, but maybe a stranger. Surely she didn’t need to want to kill herself to make this call. She wasn’t at that point, thank God. At least not yet.

Her hands shook as she dialed the number, the clicking of the rotary dial sounding impossibly loud in the still night.

She waited.

“Is that the Samaritans?”

She listened as a man with a kind voice answered, “It is. My name is David. How may I help you this evening?”

Trixie clutched her cardigan closer around her, when she spoke her voice was tight, pleading, “Is it alright to call if I don’t want to die? Because all I really want is just to stop drinking.”

Suddenly, she heard soft footsteps on the wooden floor behind her and a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Cynthia.

Cynthia, looking so much like her former self in her yellow pyjamas and lurid dressing gown - the white cap the only signifier of the drastic change in her life. Cynthia, taking the phone from her gently and saying, “Thank you, but there’s someone with her now. And she’s in a place of safety.” Cynthia, placing her small hands on her shoulders, looking her square in the face for the first time since returning from the Mother House and telling her, “You are not alone, Trixie.” Cynthia, kneeling down and taking her hands, looking up at her with those earnest eyes she had so missed and assuring her, “I promise you, you are not alone.”

Here was her friend. Her friend she had lost. Her friend that had left her to serve God. Here she was, kneeling before her, looking so much like the quiet girl with the mousey straight hair with whom she had shared so much. Kneeling before her, like a nun in prayer.

“If you say you’ll start praying, I guarantee you now that will not stop me crying.”

Cynthia shook her head, looking even more like her old self, “The world is full of healing, Trixie, and people who care, and who’ll help you to find it.”

The kneeling woman reached out, and, for the first time in almost year, pulled Trixie into her small arms. And for the first time in a very long time, Trixie Franklin had hope.





 

Chapter Text

Delia barely remembered the rest of her visit with Patsy. It hadn’t been long; she was fairly certain of that. She had the vague idea that she had politely excused herself shortly after Patsy had asked if she had many friends, not wanting to break down in front of her scared, fragile girlfriend. Oh God, can I even still call her that?

Girlfriend. Lover. Whole bloody world.

Everything was a blur.

Her feet had carried her, traitorously, all the way back to their flat. Two miles, and Delia remembered it as much as she remembered singing Welsh drinking songs in Lord Rodney’s Head on her twenty-second birthday. She had had to take Patsy’s word for that night. Now there was no one to remember it.

Patsy doesn't remember me.

Delia felt completely empty.

She stood outside the green door to their building, trying to decide if she should just go up or walk the two miles back to the Nurses Home. She was sorely tempted to do the latter, but her feet had seemed to know her heart, and her heart needed to wallow. Plus, now that she was again conscious of her actions, she honestly didn’t know if she could make it there without collapsing before the tidal wave of grief that she knew was inches from knocking her bloody lights out.

She fumbled with the keys in her coat pocket, and, despite her shaking hands, somehow managed to fit the right one into the lock. She walked slowly up the stairs, dreading the next door, the door to their flat, but unable to resist its pull. Her hands were traitorous too, having no trouble at all with the key to this door, welcoming her smoothly into the pain that awaited her within.

The first thing she saw were the flowers. They were right there on the windowsill. Right in that jug that Patsy had hated, but Delia had thought a sign - a little gift from the previous tenants. Of course, Patsy would do that. No. Would have done that. She felt like she had been punched in the stomach.

Patsy doesn't remember us.

Delia couldn’t breathe.

Surprisingly, no tears came to blur her vision. It was like she was beyond tears, her heart not wanting to shield her from a single detail of what she’d lost, craving to take in every last wound, to relish it.

Her eyes drifted from the window to the drop-leaf table against the wall. Patsy had been busy - the table was completely covered with the evidence of her morning errands. Delia could see the paint sample books from here, all open to the section of yellows.

I want yellow walls in here.

Her own voice rang in her head along with the memory of that feeling, that sense of security and excitement, and her broken heart shattered anew.

The brunette walked slowly over to the table, running her fingers along the chipped surface. It had been scrubbed clean. Of course, it had.

Beside the sample books were two wrapped paper parcels. One, obviously, a bottle of some sort, and the other...a record. She felt her chest constrict. She really and truly couldn’t breathe now, her shaking hands reached out to grip the table for support, knuckles white.

A record.

It had become a tradition between she and Patsy to gift each other 45s. It had started about a year into their relationship when the then blonde woman, fed up with Delia’s collection of slow, waltzing music, had cheekily given her “Reet Petite” by Jackie Wilson.

“It reminded me of you,” she had said with a smirk.

They had given each other many records over the next three years. Some playful - Delia’s gift of “Yakety Yak” to Patsy (“You’ll love it, cariad. It’s all about cleaning.”) - others sincere and heartfelt - Patsy’s gift of “This is Dedicated to the One I Love” to Delia the night before the newly minted redhead was to move to Nonnatus. It had become another form of coded language, a way to turn to each other for love and support even when they were apart.

They even had a 45 that they would exchange by way of apology when one of them had done something that hurt the other. It was a silent way of offering up their love that often worked better than an actual conversation - especially since one side of that conversation usually involved a reluctant Patsy. It was to be used carefully, and only with minor arguments, but still, Delia spent a lot more time in possession of that particular Drifters record.

It was a funny tradition, really. Neither of them even owned a record player.

But in a way, that’s what had made it all the more thrilling - they had to play the records around other people. Every time Delia played her girlfriend’s copy of Jackie Wilson’s “I’ll Be Satisfied” (a retaliatory gift from the brunette after “Reet Petite”) it was her way of challenging the reserved woman to be more affectionate. When Patsy played her gift to Delia of “For Sentimental Reasons,” it was both a declaration of her love and a playful reference to the day the shorter woman had mangled the lyrics to the Sam Cooke song whilst singing it during their walk in Victoria Park.

“Deels, the words are ‘I love you for sentimental reasons,’ not for obvious reasons,” she had said, one perfect eyebrow arched in amusement, “It is the name of the song, after all.”

The brunette had given her a bright smile. “Yes, Pats. But I love you for obvious reasons, so I like it that way better,” she had said with a wink.

God, they had both so loved this tradition. It was like openly flirting in a room full of people. It made them feel like any other couple.

And now Patsy had bought her one last record. One last love song.

The brunette grabbed the other wrapped parcel and stumbled blindly into the kitchen. She fumbled for one of the glasses from their picnic and tore the paper off the bottle, not caring what it was. Johnny Walker. That would do nicely. She poured two fingers in the glass and downed it. As she poured a second glass, her eyes took in the rest of the objects on the draining board. The kettle Patsy had bought was perfect - bright red and cheery, with a subtle geometric design around the base.

Delia wanted to throw it across the room.

Instead, she picked up the glass and bottle and headed back into the lounge, needing to face as much of the pain as she could. It would be like ripping off a plaster - a giant, full-body sized plaster. Best done all at once.

Back at the table, her eyes fell on a note folded in half and stood up on end. She hadn’t noticed it at first, the cream-colored paper nearly blending in with all the yellows in the sample books. Her eyes burned as she took in her own name written in that neat, heartbreakingly familiar script. She took a deep pull on her whisky, set down the glass, and picked up the note.

 

My Darling Deels,

Welcome home! Those words look so glorious, don’t they? I wish I was there to say them in person, but alas, duty calls.

As I am sure you have spotted, I picked up a little housewarming gift for us at the record shop. I know it will be torture, but wait for me to get back before you open it!

 

The words were suddenly jumping before Delia’s eyes as her hands began to shake violently. Welcome home...wait for me to get back. Innocent, hopeful words from a woman who was now lost to her. So many plans. Gone in an instant.

She dreaded to continue, but Delia couldn’t resist these words. The last words Patsy had written her. She pressed the paper flat on the table with numb fingers and continued to read.

 

I picked up the provisions you requested, but if you fancy something a bit more sustaining than pink wafers, there is bread and cheese in the kitchen.

I hope the babies of Poplar cooperate so that I will be home to you soon.

All my love,

Patsy

P.S. The scotch is a present for Trixie as an apology for nearly being run over this morning. I thought we could give it to her together next we see her.

 

Delia felt bile rise in her throat at the post script, but quickly pulled her focus back to the closing. All my love. She traced her shaking fingers over those three simple words as if trying to absorb the sentiment from the ink. She rested her index finger on ‘love,’ yearning to pull it into being, to feel Patsy’s breath as she whispered the word in her ear. All my love.

A single, unexpected tear splashed onto the page, right on top of the ‘to’ in the last line before the signature. She scrambled to find something to blot it, not wanting to lose any part of Patsy’s final note, but the moisture had already begun to run into the surrounding words so that ‘home to you’ was a blurry grey cloud.

And that was all it took.

She sank to her knees, resting her forehead on the edge of the table as that waiting wave of grief slammed into her at last. Her strong, beautiful, brilliant, loving Pats was gone, replaced by a polite stranger who barely knew her own name. Delia had lost her. Had lost everything. As if from a distance she heard a sobbing wail over the rushing in her ears, and realized, with some surprise, that it was coming from her own throat. She didn’t care. She needed this. Delia brought her hands up and gripped the table on either side of her head, leaning into the edge, feeling it dig into her forehead. Her necklace swung out from her chest as she leaned, Patsy’s ring swaying back and forth like a wrecking ball in front of her eyes. Her whole body was shaking violently as she wept for the woman she loved. For the future that had been stolen from them. For that terrified stranger in the hospital bed. For the shattered pieces of her own broken heart. Tears and snot were running freely now, dripping from her face onto the skirt of her yellow dress.

She felt her arms and head slide down from the table and her forearms dropped roughly onto the floor in front of her knees. Delia cried and cried - loud, messy, unrestrained tears. She cried until her throat was raw from her wailing. She cried until her face felt like it would explode from the pressure. She cried until her cheeks were gritty with salt. She cried until she could barely breathe.

After what felt like days, the tears were finally beginning to run dry, but her breathing was still erratic. She felt like she was hyperventilating. Somehow, she managed to sit up slightly and turn herself around so that her back rested against the dropped leaf of the table. Her newly upright posture helped to stretch out her lungs and she was able to begin to slow her breathing a little. The pressure in her head had also eased slightly with the change, but she desperately needed to blow her nose. There was nothing at hand, and there was no way she could move, so she took the only option available to her and used the skirt of her dress. She didn’t care. She would never wear this dress again. This dress she had worn when she asked Patsy to get a flat - when they had decided to begin a life together. This dress she had worn when that life had been ripped from them.

Delia stared through swollen eyes at the ugly, peeling paper on the opposite wall, focusing on her breathing. Without looking, she reached her arm up to the table behind her and found the whisky, bringing it down and taking a swig straight from the bottle. The alcohol burned her sore throat, shocking her lungs into a more steady rhythm. She took another pull. And another. Her heart was still shattered, but her nerves were beginning to become a little steadier.

She needed to get out of this dress. Slowly, she got up and made her way towards the bedroom, leaving the bottle on the floor. As she went, she reached back and unzipped the yellow dress that Patsy had so loved on her, letting it fall as she approached the suitcase she had brought along with the cleaning supplies on that fateful morning almost three days ago. She popped open the case and took out a pair of pale pink pyjamas.

Delia padded back into the lounge ten minutes later, feeling a little more like a human being. Her face had been scrubbed free of grit and snot, and she felt much more comfortable clad in her soft pyjamas. She would need the bodily comfort. She had one last dagger to drive into her heart. Slowly she made her way over to the table, picking up the bottle from the floor and the wrapped 45 from the scrubbed surface. She tucked the record carefully under her arm and grabbed the neatly folded blanket from beside the window. The brunette set down the bottle and parcel, threw the blanket around her shoulders, and slid down the wall until she was sitting on the floor beside the rickety wooden chair. Delia took a fortifying swig of whisky and brought the record up to rest on her knees in front of her.

This was it. This was the last gift Patsy had bought her - would probably ever buy her. This was the final love letter of their four-year relationship. She took one more pull on the scotch and set the bottle on the floor. Her fingers shook as she pulled on the string.

And there it was. As soon as she saw it she realized she had known what it would be all along.

 

-----

 

Patsy was nervous. More nervous than Delia had ever seen her. And it was adorable.

The Welshwoman’s cheeks ached from her efforts to suppress the grin that kept trying to fight its way up her face. This was highly amusing. It wasn’t just the degree of Patsy’s nerves that had her so entertained, it was that she had never seen this kind of nervousness in her girlfriend before. It was almost giddy. Patience Mount was giddy. The petite brunette pulled her cheeks in tighter to control the renegade corners of her mouth.

Delia had been lying on her bed, listening to Radio Luxembourg when Patsy had arrived ten minutes ago looking like the cat that’d got the canary. She was up to something, and the brunette had been game to play along. The redhead had made a big show of nonchalance, but as the minutes ticked by her nerves began to show. Now, she was making polite small talk about their respective days while pacing around the room, hands deep in trouser pockets, occasionally bouncing on her toes and wiggling a little in time to “The Twist” on the wireless. Patience Mount was wiggling.

Delia couldn’t take it anymore. The redhead stopped in her pacing and prattling on when she realized her girlfriend was shaking with silent laughter.

“Whatever is so funny, Deels?”

“You, you fool,” she giggled.

Patsy looked affronted, “Me? Why am I funny?”

“Just look at you! You’re giddy as a schoolgirl! Why, Nurse Mount, what on earth has got you so worked up?”

Patsy’s big blue eyes softened, cherry red lips quirking up into her trademark smile. The look that was only for Delia. “You’ve got me pegged, Busby.”

The brunette’s eyes sparkled as she grinned. “So, Pats. Spill.”

Patsy sat down on the bed beside her, looking suddenly serious. Delia instinctively took her hand, giving her an encouraging smile. The redhead looked down at their clasped hands in her lap and then back up, blue eyes peering through her mascaraed lashes at her Welsh girlfriend. She looked sheepish. When she spoke, he voice was low and husky, “You know how you said you wanted to get married.”

Delia felt her face fall, head automatically shifting from side to side. She stared at the redhead. They had been over this. It had been three days since Patsy had pulled her aside after the lantern parade to reassure her that they would find a way to be together. Delia had known she had been acting a little irrational, that the thought of losing Patsy in the fire at the maternity home had brought up all her frustrations with the society that kept them apart. It wasn’t her girlfriend’s fault, well, not completely. It would be nice if the redhead would be a little less cautious, but she knew why she was. Patsy had already lost so much.

“Pats…”

“Please, let me finish.” Patsy’s eyes had dropped back to their clasped hands as she continued, “I know that we can’t be married, and knowing that I can never be that to you breaks my heart.” Delia felt her eyes begin to tear up as she watched her lover’s face tense briefly in sadness. Patsy’s eyes were still trained on their hands and Delia could feel her long fingers tracing the outlines of her shorter ones.

The redhead opened her mouth to continue, but stopped, smiling softly as a new song began to play over the staticky wireless. The pair sat in silence, listening to the swirling string music that preceded Ben E. King’s smooth voice.

 

“This magic moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until I kissed you
And then it happened
It took me by surprise
I knew that you felt it too
By the look in your eyes…”

 

“I love this song,” Patsy’s voice was reminiscent, dreamy. “The first time I heard it, I thought of our first kiss.”

Delia smiled, a single tear falling from her wet eyes. “Me too.”

“It was magic, you know,” Patsy’s voice was thick as she finally drew her eyes up to meet the brunette’s. “Deels, I never thought I would find someone like me, much less someone who could love me. I was so terrified when I kissed you, I thought you’d hate me. But the look you gave me afterwards changed my life.” She paused as the chorus repeated.

 

“Sweeter than wine
Softer than the summer night
Everything I want I have
Whenever I hold you tight

 This magic moment
While your lips are close to mine
Will last forever
Forever ‘til the end of time...”

 

The redhead gave a little laugh. “It’s so fitting that this song came on now. Because, what I came over here to say to you is this: Delia, I would marry you in a heartbeat if I could. You are more than I could have ever hoped for in my life. Society may not allow you to be my wife, but that won’t stop me from asking you to spend the rest of your life with me.”

Delia sat stunned, her mouth hanging slightly open. Patsy’s eyes lit up with that softness she reserved for her Welsh love. She smiled as the song finished. “So what do you say, Delia Busby? For better or for worse,” she raised a single eyebrow in playful questioning, “forever ‘til the end of time?”

Delia felt a ring slide onto the third finger on her left hand.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Shelagh felt the morning light just beginning to drift across the bed as she woke. She rolled over to drape her arm over her husband - except, he wasn’t there. She sat up and squinted towards the red pyjama-clad figure at the foot of the bed. “Patrick?”

He turned, Angela in his arms, “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to wake you.”

Shelagh reached for her glasses on the bedside table, but she didn’t need her sight to tell that he was upset. She knew his voice too well. Grey eyes blinked as the figure before her came into clear focus. Angela was gazing up dreamily into her father’s face, which, as her mother had guessed, looked troubled. “What is it, dear?”

Her husband gave her a tired smile. “It’s this business with Nurse Mount.”

It was as she had suspected. Patrick had had two very rough nights at Nonnatus House. He hated being the bearer of bad news, and when it was about someone they all cared for very deeply, it was even more difficult for him. Everyone looked to him for answers, and in this case, frustratingly, there were none. Patrick always took on the full weight of his patients’ troubles, it was part of what worried her most about him, but it was part of what she loved most, too.

“I only wish there was something I could do,” he shook his head, “The brain is just such a mystery.”

Shelagh walked over to her husband and snaked her arms around his waist. “You’ll do - we’ll all do - everything we can for Patsy. She has a lot of people who love her. You can’t fix everything, dear.”

Patrick wrapped his free arm around his wife, pulling her in and placing a kiss in her hair. “I know. It’s just...to forget everything.”

They stood there quietly for a long moment. Shelagh’s thoughts drifted to the red-haired midwife. Not for the first time since getting the news about her colleague, Shelagh wondered what it must feel like to wake a blank slate. One thought kept occurring to her - Shelagh imagined she would want her mother. It was only natural, that primal desire for comfort. But if it were her in that bed, her mother would not come to her, and neither would Patsy’s. The poor girl must feel so alone. “And her only family is half a world away.”

She watched as her husband looked thoughtfully at their quiet daughter. “I just cannot imagine what it would be like for Angela or Tim to not remember us. I feel horrible for her poor father.”

“Yes. And he has already lost so much, too.” His wife, a daughter. And now his only remaining family didn’t remember him.

Shelagh couldn’t help but think of her own little family. Patrick, Timothy and Angela were all she had. She had thought she was going to stop breathing right along with Timothy on that horrible night he had contracted polio. But, like a miracle, he had come back to them. And then, less than a year later, another miracle had come to them. Shelagh had thought she had known happiness in her life - first in her religious calling, then in her love for Patrick - but when her husband placed Angela in her arms, that was the happiest she had ever been in her life. In less than a year she had a husband and two beautiful children. God truly did work in mysterious ways.

She would be utterly devastated if any of them forgot her - or worse - if she forgot them. But at least if that happened, she would have Patrick. She knew that he would be right by her side, just as he had been when she learned of her infertility. He would be there with her every step of the way, helping her to remember, or, if that wasn’t possible, making her fall in love with him all over again. Of that, she was certain. Their love had already overcome so very much, amnesia couldn’t stop them.

She hugged her husband more tightly, feeling his breath on the top of her head as he breathed in her scent. Shelagh felt completely safe in his arms. She wished Patsy had someone who could be there for her like that.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Delia slowly became aware of a pain in her neck. And in her hip. And shoulder. God, she ached all over. As she woke further she realized why - she had fallen asleep on the floor. Slowly, she sneaked open her left eye and the light hitting her retina felt like someone jabbing an ice pick right into her brain through the open lids. She slammed it shut again. Forget the body aches, her head was pounding. Delia felt dreadful.

Eyes firmly closed, she slowly, very slowly, dragged herself to a sitting position, leaning her splitting head back against the cool wall. Why was she on the floor? She brought a hand up to shade her eyes and squinted out through her lashes at the near empty bottle sitting on the scrubbed floorboards beside the Drifters record.

It all came flooding back. The flat. The crying. The memories. The whisky.

Patsy gone.

Delia forgotten.

She felt her chest tighten again, but no tears came, just an incredible weight. Her body felt so heavy. Objectively, she knew that part of that feeling was the almighty hangover she was experiencing, but the real weight was in her grief. The air just felt thicker. Like it would resist her body’s ability to move through it.

What time was it? Morning, judging by the light streaming through their east-facing window. But how early? Ready for the ocular assault this time, Delia opened her eyes a crack and peered towards the window. The early morning light was filtering through their new lace curtains and hitting those goddamn flowers just beautifully. It was exactly as she had pictured. Delia felt like she was going to be sick.

No, Delia was going to be sick.

Her body was suddenly moving faster than she would have thought possible, and she just managed to make it to the toilet. The brunette leaned over the bowl, hands gripping the sides as she retched.

Delia closed her eyes and focused on her breathing - she did feel a little bit better now. Well, at least her stomach did - her head still pounded. Leaning back, she reached over to grab some paper to wipe her mouth. She threw it in the bowl and flushed, not wanting to leave the bathroom floor until she knew she was finished, but not wanting to look in the bowl lest the sight bring up more bile unnecessarily.

God, her head hurt. She leaned forward, resting her forehead on the cool porcelain. It smelled like bleach. Patsy’s ring swung out from her chest as she leaned - it felt impossibly heavy, like an anchor. One hand on the cool floor tiles, she reached the other up and yanked the chain from around her neck. The violence of the action felt good. Right. Appropriate. She couldn’t wear it anymore. Not when the person who gave it to her didn’t know her. It felt like a false promise. Maybe if things changed. Maybe if Patsy remembered. But right now, Delia needed to be free of this constant reminder of all she had lost.

She dropped the ring and chain on the floor beside her, closed her eyes, and relished the cool feeling on her forehead, and the comforting smell of bleach.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Fred walked slowly through the quiet November morning towards Violet’s shop. He normally loved mornings this time of year - the air had a certain crispness to it that heralded the oncoming winter. He loved how you could smell it. But today that smell brought him no comfort. What a week it had been.

Just three days ago he had woken up feeling the lowest he had felt in years, the lowest he had felt since he got news of that bomb dropping with him too far away to be there for his girls. To be there for his wife’s funeral. He had been so happy with Vi, and then, suddenly, she had left him. But, with Nurse Noakes’ help, just as suddenly, she was back, and the wedding back on. And then later that day, the news about Nurse Mount.

That had been one cracker of a day, alright.

He had met up with Vi the next morning for their constitutional and the pair had discussed the wedding. After much consideration, they had decided to go ahead with their plans - Marlene would still be in town and Violet’s son Derrick only had so much shore leave - but the original plan of a reception at Nonnatus would have to be scrapped, of course. Fred had planned to inquire about the community center, or maybe the Hand and Shears would be better. They were too old to make a big fuss, and besides, it was the second time around for both of them.

But last night, after they got that horrible news about Nurse Mount and her memory, Sisters Julienne and Evangelina had pulled him aside.

"Fred, I wanted to inquire about your wedding plans. I was very pleased to hear that your engagement to Mrs. Gee is back on. Are you two still planning on the same date, or have your arrangements changed?”

The handyman had given his employer a small smile, still shaken by the news about Nurse Mount, but unable to fully contain his happiness about his own good fortune, “We’d already booked the church, and what with Vi’s son being on leave we reckoned we’d go ahead with our original plans. Well, we’ll find a new place for the reception, of course.”

Sister Julienne had shaken her head at that, looking confused, “Why would you do that?”

Fred had met her eyes, equally confused, “With what happened to Nurse Mount, we assumed…”

“Well you assumed wrong,” said Sister Evangelina, somewhat indignantly, before she had continued, a little more kindly, “If we learned anything from the war it’s that we must seize the good moments even from amongst the bad.”

“Quite right,” her fellow nun had replied, “And I am sure Nurse Mount would agree, if she were able. Please have Mrs. Gee call by later this week so we might plan the refreshments. Perhaps she could come by on Friday when Mrs. B is here as well.”

The handyman had felt equally stunned and grateful at the sisters’ kindness. To pull together a celebration when one of their own was so hurt…“Thank you, sister. I’ll do that.”

The wind cut through his woolen coat as he turned the corner by Violet's shop. He could see his fiancée bustling about inside, getting ready for the day. He loved to watch her work. She was so sure of herself, her hands moving expertly amongst the fabrics and trimmings. As he got closer, he realized she was on the telephone, probably putting in her weekly order with one of her suppliers. She caught sight of him and waved, holding up a finger to indicate that she’d let him in when she was finished. He just smiled and nodded.

Fred blew on his hands for warmth as he turned to take in the street behind him. A gaggle of children ran by on their way to the local primary school, whooping and teasing each other. He recognized a few of the cubs amongst their number, and his thoughts travelled back to Nurse Mount.

No memory. What a strange thing. Fred just couldn’t imagine it, not knowing anything or anyone from your life.

He had really liked Nurse Mount, too. She was posh, sure, but she wasn’t stuck up about it. And she had been great with those boys. Fred felt guilty suddenly, thinking of her in the past tense. She wasn’t dead, and if anyone could overcome something as bad as memory loss, it was Nurse Mount. His eyes followed the boys as they turned the corner. Still, he should look into finding them a new Akela. Maybe that Nurse Busby who had been helping out could take over. She seemed like a good sort.

“Good morning, Fred,” came Violet’s voice from behind.

He spun around, giving his soon to be wife a big smile. “Morning, Vi. I’ve got news from the sisters.”

He followed her into the warm, all worries about Nurse Mount and the cubs forgotten, excited to start planning their new life together.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Delia awoke to find that she was still on the bathroom floor, face resting on the cool, bleach-scented porcelain. God, she was hungover. As her senses started to return to her, she began to detect another familiar smell, mingling with the disinfectant.

It couldn't be.

Coffee.

She stilled, closing her eyes and focusing on the smell and the sounds coming from the kitchen. She could hear someone moving around in there, plates and mugs clinking on the worktop. And toast, she could smell toast too.

The more rational side of her brain must have been the part affected most by the alcohol, because the rest of her mind, or maybe her heart, had begun to hope.

Patsy?

She heard the approach of regulation NHS nursing shoes, and reality suddenly came crashing back down. That wasn’t Patsy’s walk. Of course it wasn’t Patsy. She was in hospital. And even if by some miracle she remembered everything, she was still far too injured to be discharged, much less be making coffee and toast with one arm in a cast.

“Hello, sweetie,” came Trixie’s gentle voice, “Let’s get you up and into the lounge. I dare say you could use a coffee.”

Delia allowed herself to be pulled up off the tile floor and led over to the wooden chair by the table. A plate of toast, glass of water, and two painkillers were waiting for her, “Milk? Sugar?”

“Two sugars and lots of milk,” her voice was raspy and almost inaudible. Her throat felt bruised from the events of the past night and morning.

Trixie simply nodded and retreated to the kitchen, leaving Delia to toss back the pain pills and slowly gulp down the entire glass of water. Her head was still splitting. She squinted her eyes and peered quickly around the room. Trixie had obviously tried to tidy as much as possible without seeming imposing. The blanket was neatly folded and the record had been placed on the sideboard. The scotch was gone, probably moved to the kitchen along with the empty glass. The sample books and note had been left untouched. Delia reached out to pick up the note, folding it and placing in face down, hiding her name in Patsy’s neat script.

The blonde midwife returned with two steaming mugs, placing the paler brew in front of the brunette before seating herself opposite her at the table. She didn’t speak. Delia was grateful to be allowed to sip her coffee in silence. As she swallowed the hot drink, she felt the liquid burn her raw throat as it travelled down, while a simultaneous warmth crept up the back of her skull. She took another sip and the warmth in her head travelled further, seeking out the source of her headache. The brunette knew it was probably all psychosomatic, but coffee always had this effect on her headaches. It was soothing.

After a few more sips, she felt like she could brave the toast. Trixie still just sat there in silence, waiting for Delia to speak. The Welshwoman knew she should at least thank her friend for breakfast, but she feared what would follow if she opened the door for conversation. Eventually, her manners won out, “Thanks, Trixie. You are a lifesaver.”

The blonde simply nodded, clearly not wanting to push her yet. Delia was grateful, but her curiosity was beginning to get the best of her, and after a few more minutes she asked, “How did you get in here?”

“Sister Julienne had your other set of keys,” she said. And as Delia had feared, the door to a conversation had been opened, “And no one at the Nurses Home had seen you since your shift ended yesterday, so I assumed this was where you’d be.” The blonde looked at her intently as Delia studiously tried to avoid her gaze, focusing on her own finger tracing the handle of her coffee mug. “Sweetie? You went to see her yesterday, didn’t you?”

The mug in front of her became blurred, but no tears fell. She bit her lip and nodded. The brunette opened her mouth to speak but all that came out was a shuddering sob.

“Oh, sweetie,” Trixie said, reaching out and taking her hand, “That must have been utterly dreadful for you. I am so sorry, Delia.”

Somehow, she found her voice, “So you know?”

The blonde nodded, “Dr. Turner came to see us again last night.”

Delia looked up into the blue eyes seated across from her, as much as she didn’t want to relive it, she needed to say the words, and the woman in front of her one of the few people she could confide in. “She didn’t recognize me, Trixie. She asked if we were friends. Friends.”

The blonde winced and squeezed the brunette’s hand. “Oh, sweetie.”

Delia’s eyes dropped to the hand holding her own, “She’s gone, Trixie. The woman I love, the most important person to me in the world, has just been erased. It’s like she’s dead...except...she isn’t. She sat right in that bed and talked to me like I was a stranger she was forced to make awkward small talk with.”

Now it was Trixie’s turn to sit in silence. Delia looked up at her and could see the tears beginning to pool in those big blue eyes. They were fearful, just like Patsy’s had been.

Delia suddenly felt ashamed. “Oh God, Trixie, she’s so scared. I know her better than anyone, and I looked in her eyes and saw how frightened she was. And what did I do? I left. I ran away. I left her all alone.” She took her hand back from Trixie and sunk her head down into both of her palms. “I let her down. I am so selfish.”

“No,” came Trixie’s strong voice from across the table, “You are a human being who just had a terrible shock. You went in there, excited to see the person you loved after they woke up from a terrible accident. Instead, you were surprised with the news that they don’t remember you or anything about their life. I would say you reacted like most anyone would,” she paused, “Look at me,” she commanded.

Delia pulled her head out of her hands and met Trixie’s gaze across the table. “What would be selfish, what would let Patsy down,” the blonde said, reaching out her clenched hand and placing it, palm up on the table, “Is if you gave up on her now.” She opened her hand and Delia stared at the contents, feeling sick with herself.

Patsy’s ring and the broken chain.

“I know it’s not legally binding, but if this is what I think it is, you made a promise to my best friend.” The brunette’s eyes were focused on the ring in Trixie’s hand, but she could feel steely blue eyes boring into her from across the table. “She’s not gone, Delia. Dr. Turner said that there is every possibility her memories could return. And if they do, it will probably be in roughly chronological order.” Delia’s eyes snapped up from the ring to meet Trixie’s, silent understanding flowing between them. Trixie reached out with her free hand and took Delia’s, placing the ring into her small palm. “You had your night to grieve, but now you are going to have to rise above it. She needs you.”



 

Chapter Text

Trixie woke, as usual, at first light. It didn’t matter how late she worked, she always woke early. She lay on her back, the usual ball of anxiety churning away in the pit of her stomach. That anxiousness had been her constant companion over the past few months, but today it felt different, lessened somehow. She rolled over and opened her eyes, taking in the sleeping form of Sister Mary Cynthia on Patsy’s bed. It took a moment for her groggy mind to piece together the events from the previous night.

 

------

 

Cynthia had held her as she cried beside the telephone table. She had held her until Trixie’s tears had slowed, and then held her until they stopped and her breathing became more regular. Her friends’ small arms had made her feel so safe, so much like before, so much like herself again.

Trixie took one last deep breath in and leaned away from her friend, Cynthia instantly relaxed her hold and allowed the blonde to pull away. She stood, reaching her small hand out to the seated nurse, “Come on, let’s get you a cup of tea.” Trixie allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and followed her friend mutely into the kitchen.

She sat, staring at her hands, while Cynthia put the kettle on and searched the cupboards for cake. She was still searching when the kettle finally boiled, and they were forced to resort to digestives. The nun settled across the table from her and they both cradled their mugs, feeling awkward.

This was the first time that the pair had been alone together since Christmas. Almost a year. Everything was so strange, and yet, just moments ago it had felt so natural.

“I miss you.” The declaration came out of Trixie’s mouth before she could catch herself. She hadn’t meant to say it. Hadn’t meant to ever say it. She knew that Cynthia hadn’t taken this step lightly. She knew the life she had chosen for herself was just as important and joyful a commitment as Chummy and Jenny’s marriages. But then, she missed those two as well.

“I miss you too,” came a soft voice in reply. Trixie looked up. She had not expected that. She had seen the joy on Cynthia’s face when she went off with the other sisters, just as her friend had noted Sister Winifred’s similar happiness after carol singing last Christmas. She had felt cast off, like Cynthia had moved on and away from her without a backwards glance. But she hadn’t. She missed her too.

“I just don’t know how to talk around you. You’re a nun now. We can’t exactly gossip about boys or …” she had almost said, enjoy a cocktail together, but Trixie didn’t want to talk about her drinking. Not yet. That was not the first conversation she wanted to have after a year without her friend.

If Cynthia had any inclination of the omitted phrase, she didn’t let on. “I’m a nun, Trixie. But you aren’t. You can still talk to me about those things,” she paused before adding, “To a point.” She smiled, “And it’s not like I did much talking about men even before I joined the order.” she laughed. Trixie did too. True, most of their discussions about chaps had been decidedly one-sided. “I can still enjoy hearing about all of your love lives. Remember how Sister Bernadette used to listen in on Jenny’s phone calls with Jimmy right along with us?”

Trixie raised an eyebrow, “I’m not sure if I would use Sister Bernadette as a guidepost for how a nun should behave in regards to romance.”

They both laughed. Trixie saw that awkwardly mischievous look in her friend’s eyes that she hadn’t seen in a long time. It felt so wonderfully normal.

“Do you miss it, your life before?” Again Trixie had spoken without thinking. She mentally chastised herself. This was so unlike her. I must be spending too much time with Barbara.

Cynthia looked thoughtful. “Some things, yes. Mostly my friends.” Trixie watched as a brief glimmer of sadness flashed across the nun’s face, but as she went on, it was replaced by a look of pure happiness. “But I have never felt more purpose. I get to continue serving the mothers and babies here in Poplar, but I get to serve Him as well. I just feel so blessed. And so very lucky.”

Trixie felt her eyes burn as she listened to her friend continue on about the excitement she felt about her studies and how much she looked forward to taking her life vows. She had tried to be happy for Cynthia when she first left them for the Mother House. She had succeeded in being supportive, but try as she might, she hadn’t been happy for her. But suddenly, sitting here listening to her talk about her new life, she was. She was truly happy for her friend. For Sister Mary Cynthia.

The two continued talking into the night, Sister Mary Cynthia staying by Trixie’s side without further need for explanation or declaration of support. The nun stayed with her until Sister Winifred padded sleepily, but cheerily, into the kitchen to relieve Trixie of duty. Even after knowing her for almost two years, Trixie was still surprised (and sometimes a little irritated, if she was honest) at the nun’s ability to be so enthusiastic all the time. That woman woke up chipper.

“Quiet night?” the sister asked brightly, looking questioningly at her sister. Trixie felt a sudden panic rise in her chest. There had been no call-outs, sure, but the night had been far from uneventful. Sister Mary Cynthia met her eyes briefly, but reassuringly.

“The phone hasn't rung once. I came down for a drink and decided to keep Trixie company for a while,” the smaller nun replied, “But I think I should be getting back to sleep. I’ll walk up with you, Trixie.”

The duo bid Sister Winifred goodnight, and left the kitchen. As they walked up the stairs, the air seemed to thicken with each step Trixie climbed. She was dreading being alone. Alone with all those bottles.

Sister Mary Cynthia placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Would you mind if I stayed with you tonight, Trixie?”

The blonde midwife felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over her. She reached up and placed her hand over her friend’s and squeezed. “I would like that very much.”

They entered the bedroom and Trixie walked straight over to the drinks cabinet, picking up two bottles by their necks in each hand. As she turned, she caught the inquisitive look on Sister Mary Cynthia’s face. “Would you help me. I don’t think I can do this alone.” The nun nodded and gathered the remaining bottles. Together, the two women made their way down the hall to the bathroom. Trixie set her bottles on the tile floor and turned on the tap. She started with the scotch. That seemed appropriate, it was the first liquor she had ever known.

Tears fell from her eyes, joining the amber liquid as it circled the drain. Sister Mary Cynthia took the empty bottle and handed her the gin.

 

-----

 

Trixie smiled at her friend’s sleeping form as she sat up and stretched. She may have only slept a few hours, but she felt more rested somehow. A little lighter. As if sharing her troubles and reconnecting with Sister Mary Cynthia had taken some of the weight off her shoulders and dulled the biting edge of her anxiety. But most of all, she felt just a little more like Trixie Franklin. Not a lot, mind, but a little. She’d take it.

The blonde leaned back against her headboard and reached for her cigarettes, finding the pack empty. A half pack of Patsy’s Woodbines were by the lamp, so she filched one. The smoke was not quite as smooth as her Sobranies, but the nicotine was just as good, and very welcome. She stared at the white tube, lost in her thoughts. Patsy must be absolutely gasping for a cigarette at this point, though she might not realize it. Trixie had only tried to quit once. It had been years ago, when she had been dating Richard, the curate before Tom. He had hated her smoking, saying it wasn’t a suitable habit for a curate’s girlfriend, so she had decided to try to give it up. Well, her heart hadn’t really been in it (neither in the quitting nor in the relationship, if she was honest) and she hadn’t even made it a week (with either one). But, cravings aside, the headaches and anxiety had been awful. Well, Patsy would be having plenty of both of those symptoms, nicotine withdrawal or no.

She wondered if Patsy would remember that she smoked. Was that fact part of her - what had Dr. Turner called it - her semantic memory? Her body would surely remember. Looking at the cigarette in her own hands, she could clearly see Patsy’s red-lacquered fingers holding the white tube, worrying her thumb over the tip of her ring finger. That practiced motion would surely still be there, etched into her movements, into her muscle memory.

What else would still be there? What would the redhead’s body know that her mind wouldn’t? There were so many unknowns. And if her memories started to come back…

She took a deep drag on her stolen Woodbine. If that happened, Patsy would need support. Trixie would be there for her, she had promised herself as much as soon as Dr. Turner had explained how childhood memories would most likely emerge first. But who Patsy would really need was Delia. The blonde felt her anxiety spike suddenly and took another drag. No one had seen the Welsh nurse since her shift ended. She knew. She had to. So where would she go?

The flat.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Breakfast had been another quiet affair. Sister Julienne wondered if things would ever be as they were at Nonnatus House. Most likely not, at least for a while. They had all suffered a terrible blow.

Amnesia.

One could hardly believe it. It felt like a plot from one of the American movies Sister Winifred was so fond of spending her free days watching.

Sister Julienne had spent the previous evening in prayer for their fallen colleague. She had watched Nurse Mount change and grow over her year and a half with them. The young midwife had always been capable, that was never in doubt, but the sister had watched as she had become one of the most caring and trusted members of their staff. She was still very emotionally reserved, but she had begun to open up a little - especially on those evenings when Nurse Busby would come to visit. The women had obviously developed a close bond during their time in training and later on male surgical.

She had also noticed how Nurse Mount had begun to adopt an elder sisterly affection towards Nurse Gilbert. Clearly the younger midwife admired the redhead, but Sister Julienne had noticed subtle shows of support from the older nurse as well. She cast a concerned look over to the brunette, who sat pushing her food around her plate. She hoped Nurse Gilbert would be able to find a way to move forward from this terrible circumstance.

And then, of course, there was Nurse Franklin. The roommates had developed a close friendship of sorts, well as close as two such reserved women could be. She had been pleased to see Nurse Mount slip into the blonde’s life, ably filling the space vacated by Nurses Lee and Miller. Sister Julienne had been concerned about how the redhead’s departure from Nonnatus would affect Nurse Franklin. True, it would be one less drinking buddy (Sister Julienne was not naive, she knew about the nurses’ cocktail hours), but it would also leave the blonde midwife alone. And after the events of a few months ago, that worried her. Nurse Franklin, clearly did not need a buddy to drink. The sister had been planning to have Nurse Gilbert move into Nurse Mount’s old bed. Perhaps she still should. The pair could support each other.

Her musings were interrupted by a familiar Leeds accent, “Sister Julienne, might I ask if you have given any thought to a schedule for visiting Nurse Mount. I know all of us are anxious to see her, and show her that, even though she might not remember us, she does have friends.”

The nun blinked, clearing away her previous thoughts. “I cannot say that I have.”

“Then might I offer to draw up a rota, I could factor in each of our work commitments and come up with a schedule so that at least one of us visits her each day.”

The senior nun smiled, unsurprised. Of course Nurse Crane wanted to create a schedule. She could see Sister Evangelina take a deep breath, ready to spar with her colleague seated to her right, but Sister Julienne interrupted her, “I think that would be most suitable. I do not think she should have more than one or two visitors each day. Nurse Mount will be meeting us all for the first time and we don’t want to tire her.” She looked around at each of her colleagues, “I spoke to Dr. Turner last night before he left. If Nurse Mount asks about her past, do be honest with her, however difficult it might be to deliver the news she requests. However, telling her about her life will not be the same as her remembering it. To her, it will be like hearing stories about another person. This will undoubtedly be a very difficult time for her. We must all do our best to be supportive and not allow her to feel any sense of guilt or shame for not remembering.” Everyone nodded in unison.

“Nurse Crane, I shall be visiting Nurse Mount this afternoon as soon as visiting hours begin. Please factor that into your schedule.”

“Of course,” said the senior nurse.

“Nurse Franklin, would you see me in my office after breakfast?” the sister asked. She needed to contact Nurse Mount’s father. It had already been too long, but given the recent diagnosis, the matter had become urgent. Sister Julienne was surprised to see a flash of fear cross Nurse Franklin’s normally controlled face. Interesting.

Ten minutes later, she heard a tentative knock on her office door. “Come in”

Nurse Franklin entered, looking uncomfortable, but determined.

“Please, have a seat.” Both women sat, Sister Julienne surveying her charge across her desk. The blonde looked tired. “I was wondering if anyone had heard any more from Nurse Busby? I was sorry she wasn’t able to join us yesterday evening.”

Nurse Franklin looked up at her, concern etched over her delicate features. “I called in to the Nurses Home again this morning. No one has seen Delia since yesterday evening. She returned there after her shift, changed, and then left right away.”

“I see.”

“Sister, I’m almost certain that Delia would have been going to visit Patsy, she said as much to Barbara the night before. I’m worried that she might have discovered Patsy’s amnesia...firsthand.”

Sister Julienne closed her eyes. If it was as Nurse Franklin suspected, that must have been a very difficult experience for the young Welsh nurse. They were after all, very close. “And she did not return to the Nurses Home last night?”

Nurse Franklin shook her head, “If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say she went to their flat. At least, that is where I hope she went.”

“I see.” Sister Julienne could see that the nurse before her was very worried about her friend. The nun rose from her seat and walked over to the telephone desk by the window. Her eyes found the envelope containing Nurse Mount’s possessions, reaching in, she took out a set of keys.  She turned, making her way around to the front of her desk so she stood in front of the blonde, “Go to the flat. If Nurse Busby is there, and in need of assistance, do what you can for her. If not, I need you to look through the items Nurse Mount brought over to their flat before the accident. It is imperative that we find her address book so that I might contact her father.”

Nurse Franklin’s eyes turned cold at the mention of the Charles Mount. Interesting. Clearly she knew something about him that the nun did not. From the look on the blonde’s face, Nurse Mount and her father had a difficult relationship. Sister Julienne decided to keep that in mind when she finally reached the Mount patriarch.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

The cold autumn air whipped through her mackintosh as she cycled over the cobbles towards Patsy and Delia’s flat. Turning the corner she heard a familiar voice call out to her, “Morning Nurse Franklin!”

She skidded to a stop as Fred Buckle emerged from his fiancée’s shop. “Good morning, Fred. Good morning, Mrs. Gee,” she added, as the woman in question followed him out.

“Where’r you off to?”

I’m going to check on Patsy’s girlfriend who is no doubt utterly distraught after the woman she has been in love with four years didn’t even recognize her.

“Sister Julienne has sent me to retrieve Patsy’s address book from her new flat. She needs to telephone her father in Hong Kong and give him the news.”

The handyman shook his head, “I don’t envy her delivering that news. Poor man will be heartbroken being so far away and all.”

The same man that put half a world of distance between himself and his twelve-year-old daughter after she was liberated from that dreadful camp. Unlikely.

“I’m sure,” she said, trying, and failing, to keep the dry tone out of her voice.

Mrs. Gee stepped forward, “I was very sorry to hear about what happened to Nurse Mount. She delivered my cousin Enid’s daughter’s first. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.”

Trixie smiled, “Thank you, Mrs. Gee, I will be sure to pass along your offer to Sister Julienne. But, I really must be getting on, have a good morning.”

She pedaled away amidst their farewells. Mrs. Gee really was a lovely woman. Trixie could still hardly believe she would be marrying Fred in a week’s time. As she rode, she thought back to her conversation with Patsy after their engagement party.

 

-----

 

“Can you believe Barbara?” Trixie was pacing their room, sucking on her cigarette so fiercely she was already halfway through it in less than a minute.

Patsy watched her from her bed, face full of concern, “I know. But you know she didn’t mean anything by it.”

Trixie gave her a look that she knew could kill.

The redhead winced, eyes squinting as her face shifted into her look that clearly said she was about to say something that her companion would not like, “She’s young, Trix. And you’re so good at hiding your feelings that she probably doesn’t realize how much breaking off your engagement has been hurting you.”

The blonde glared at her, “And what, exactly, do you mean by that?” Her temper was already in a smoldering burn, and Patsy seemed intent to stoke it into an inferno.

The redhead stood up, walked over, and took Trixie’s hands. Now that was unexpected. The blonde’s rage stuttered as Patsy looked her directly in the eyes and said, “Look. I know you don’t talk about these things, and I, of all people, can respect that. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t see things. You don’t have to pretend that there’s nothing wrong all the time. We all do that too much, and it’s utterly exhausting. I just want you to know I’m here, should you ever want to talk.”

Trixie felt her shoulders slump - the anger leaving her body, sadness sliding in to take its place. She didn’t want to talk, at least not about what she thought Patsy was referring to. So she deflected, focusing in on Fred and Violet - not on she and Tom, not on her ever increasing problem with drink. “I just don’t understand how it is so easy for them. They’ve only been courting, what, just over two months?”

The redhead sighed, “Since the square dance, yes. The third of September to be precise. Quite the whirlwind romance,” Patsy said, reaching out to steal a drag from the blonde’s stubby cigarette. Her voice dry, sardonic.

The sarcasm soothed Trixie’s nerves. She gave the redhead a small, but wicked, grin before retrieving her cigarette, “Now Patsy, be nice. They do seem madly in love.” As Patsy rolled her big blue eyes, the sting from Barbara’s words began to hurt less. Gosh, her naiveté was almost funny.

Almost.

There was a knock on the door and Cynthia popped her head in, “Patsy, it’s Mrs. Paige. Her husband said her waters have already broken, so things seem to be moving along rather quickly.”

“I’ll be right there.” She stole the cigarette out of Trixie’s hand once again, taking the last drag before crushing it into the ashtray on the footboard. “Right, I’m off. Try not to murder Barbara while I’m gone.”

 

-----

 

Trixie smiled sadly at the memory as she leaned her bike against the wall of Orient Buildings. Of course she had known at the time that Patsy was probably just as bitter as she was at the ease of Fred’s engagement. That was something she and Delia would never have, or two things, really - ease or an engagement. Therefore, neither had been overly sympathetic when Mrs. Gee had briefly called it quits, even if Marlene had been vile about it all. Of course Patsy had probably never heard the happy news of their reconciliation, Trixie had only been told right before she left to deliver Mrs. Dillen’s baby boy. She was sorry they would never be able to share quips about it to help each other feel better. Snide remarks that clearly said, I know. I understand. She was sorry she had never said those words outright. She was sorry about a lot of things.

Moments later, Trixie was knocking on the door to their flat. She had decided to let herself into the ground floor instead of ringing the bell, as it was rather early, and she didn’t want to wake the whole building.

No answer.

Fear began to bubble in Trixie’s stomach. If Delia wasn’t here…

Her hands shook slightly as she opened the flat door. The light was streaming in through the window illuminating the small lounge. Trixie looked around the room. A rumpled blanket lay on the floor under the window. Nearby, also on the floor, sat an almost empty bottle of scotch and a record.

“Oh, Delia.” The brunette had obviously had a rough night. “Hello?” she called, “Delia, are you home?”

No answer.

Her panic building, Trixie quickly closed the door behind her and rushed into the flat. She glanced in the first door to her left and immediately felt her panic ebb. Delia was sat on the bathroom floor, fast asleep with her head resting on the toilet seat.

“Oh, sweetie.” the blonde stuffed the keys in the pocket of her mac and knelt down beside the slumbering brunette.

And that’s when she saw it. On the floor by Delia’s left hand, glittering faintly in the morning light - a ring on a gold chain. No. An engagement ring on a gold chain. Patience Mount, you dark horse. Her fingers shook as she lifted the chain, the ring slipping off where the links had been yanked apart. She caught it, eyes turning cold.

She stood, leaving Delia on the floor. By the smell of her, the Welsh brunette could do with a coffee.

After that, she and Delia Busby were going to have a little conversation.

 

 

Chapter Text

Trixie and Delia stepped out into the cool November morning outside the Nurses Home, both in their uniforms. The blonde took a good look at the shorter brunette. She still looked a little peaky, which was not surprising given the amount of whisky she had consumed the previous evening. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright to go on shift?”

“Yes, I’ve worked with worse headaches,” Delia said, not meeting her friend's eyes.

“Delia, I’m not just talking about your hangover. I’m sure no one would think any less of you if you called in sick today. Everyone knows you and Patsy are close. If it would help I could ask Sister Julienne to speak to matron.”

The brunette looked up, locking eyes with the blonde. “Trust me, it’s better I go in. Working keeps my mind busy.”

Trixie nodded. That was a feeling to which she could absolutely relate. In fact, the only times she had felt like herself lately had been when she was working. “Alright. I am going to run this back to Nonnatus before my home visits,” she said, gesturing with Patsy’s address book that Delia had given her moments earlier. “Sister Julienne wants to phone Hong Kong this morning so she will have news for Patsy about her father when she visits her this afternoon.” The two women exchanged disgusted looks that said, all too clearly, what both thought of the redhead’s father. Trixie was pleased to see the anger that flashed in Delia’s eyes at the mention of Charles Mount. Good, her Welsh fighting spirit wasn’t all gone. She leveled her gaze at the brunette, “Are you going to see her after your shift?”

The blonde was further pleased that the brunette did not drop her gaze as she answered. “Yes. Depending on how my shift goes, I’ll either go straight there or pop back and change first. Given my luck with vomiters lately, it will probably be the latter.”

Trixie laughed. Apparently, she and the Welsh nurse had more in common than just their dislike of Charles Mount.

“Are you coming to visit her later?”

Trixie sighed, she both wanted and dreaded seeing Patsy. “Nurse Crane has been up this morning developing a rota that includes our shifts and visiting times at the London. I’ll have to see where I’ve been slotted.”

Now it was Delia’s turn to chuckle, “How efficient.”

“Quite.” Trixie couldn’t help but think how much Patsy would have been amused by, but quietly approving of, the system. She could picture that face perfectly.

“Speaking of Nurse Crane, I best be off or I’ll be late on my rounds. But before I go...sweetie, where are you going to sleep tonight?”

Delia sighed, “I’m not sure. I need to start moving my things out of the Nurses Home, so I thought I might take a box over to the flat after visiting time ends. So...I guess I’ll sleep there.”

Trixie eyed her carefully. “I think you should come back to Nonnatus.”

The brunette dropped her gaze and shrugged by way of an answer. The blonde was not letting her off so easily. “Delia, you don’t have to do this alone,” she said, seriously. Trixie thought of the empty bed in her own room. I don’t want to be alone either. “Besides, I could use the company,” she added, a little too brightly, “I’ve already read the latest copy of Vogue, and Barbara’s on call. Otherwise, it will just be me, Phyllis, and the nuns.”

Delia looked at her thoughtfully. Trixie could sense that the brunette could tell there was more to the story, that the blonde wasn’t just asking her to stay because she was worried about her. Well, she was Patsy’s girlfriend, after all. She would know all about deflections and facades.

But she simply answered, “Okay. If I don’t stay at the Nurses Home, I’ll come back to Nonnatus.” She seemed to consider something for a moment, before adding, “Thank you, Trixie.”

The last sentence was said with such conviction that Trixie was taken aback. She smiled, “Of course, Delia. I just really don’t think you should be alone.”

The brunette reached out and squeezed her arm, blue eyes meeting blue, “Not just for that. For everything you’ve done for me this morning.” Her other hand came up and rested on her chest, right over the spot where Trixie now knew Patsy’s ring hung on its replacement chain. “Thank you.” She gave the blonde a quick smile, before spinning on her heel and walking off towards the London.

Trixie smiled at her retreating back. Good. It looked like Delia had recovered from a bit more than just her hangover. The blonde midwife pulled her bike out of the rack, mounted it, and pushed off for the three-mile ride back to Nonnatus.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Dr. Turner stood nearby as Sister Julienne waited for her call to be connected. The nun had asked him to be there in case Mr. Mount should want to hear more about his daughter’s diagnosis and prognosis.

After a minute, a female voice broke through the crackling of the line, “The Mount Residence. Who’s speaking, please?”

“Good evening. My name is Sister Julienne, sister-in-charge at Nonnatus House in London. I was hoping to speak to Mr. Mount in regards to his daughter, Nurse Patience Mount. I am her employer.” There was a long pause, and Sister Julienne could hear an echo of her own voice over the international connection.

“Thank you, sister. Please hold the line and I will check to see if Mr. Mount is available.”

“It’s rather urgent,” she said, probably in vain, the slight lag in the line meaning that the nameless woman had most likely put down the receiver before the nun had even heard the end of her sentence.

She exchanged a tense look with Dr. Turner.

When Nurse Franklin had returned with her roommate’s address book, she had seemed rather reluctant to hand it over. That was the second time this morning the young midwife had let her less than amiable feelings about Mr. Mount be seen. The sister had decided right then that, hearsay or not, she needed to know what was bothering the blonde. It had taken some coaxing, Nurse Franklin was fiercely protective of her friend’s privacy, but at last the sister had convinced her that she needed all the information available in order to do what was best for Nurse Mount.

As Nurse Franklin had talked, Sister Julienne felt she understood Nurse Mount’s closed off nature even more. Patsy’s father had sent her off to boarding school as soon as she had recovered enough from the camps to where she was fit to travel. They’d hardly spoken since.

“Patsy has always been adamant about not accepting a single shilling from her father. I can say with absolute certainty that she would not want him making decisions about her medical care, especially if it involved moving her to a private hospital away from the people she considers her family.” she had said.

Sister Julienne had sighed, “I will do all that I can, but unfortunately he is her legal next of kin. Ultimately it will be his decision.”

Once Nurse Franklin had left her office, Sister Julienne closed her eyes, thankful that she had called Dr. Turner to come to Nonnatus for the call. She would need to brief him on the situation, of course. Between the two of them, she was hopeful that they could convince Mr. Mount to allow them to continue to supervise his daughter’s care.

The seconds ticked by as the long-distance line continued to pop and crackle.

“Good evening, sister. Or I suppose I should probably say, good morning. This is Charles Mount. My housekeeper tells me that you are calling in regards to Patience.” The deep voice was cordial, though not what Sister Julienne would categorize as friendly, his clipped RP accent even more precise than his daughter’s. The nun could detect a faint tremor to his voice, though she couldn’t be sure if it was from age, the poor connection, or the fact that he anticipated bad news coming from an unexpected call from his daughter’s far-off employer. Possibly it was a combination of all three.

“Good evening, Mr. Mount. I’m afraid I’m calling with some rather unfortunate news. Four days ago, your daughter was involved in a cycling accident with an automobile,” she paused, waiting for the news to sink in.

“I see. Is Patience alright?” his tone was measured and precise, giving no hint of the emotions he must be feeling at the news. Like father, like daughter.

“She suffered a broken arm and three broken ribs, amongst other minor scrapes and bruises. But, I’m afraid Nurse Mount has suffered a rather severe head injury. The doctors had to sedate her for the first day, but after she awoke and they were able to fully assess her yesterday, they discovered that your daughter is suffering from a rather severe case of retrograde amnesia.”

“Amnesia?” he said, his controlled demeanor unable to hide the surprise in his voice.

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry to tell you this, but it seems that she doesn’t remember anything or anyone from her life.”

The line went quiet, the pops and whirs of the poor connection the only indicator that Charles Mount was still on the line.

“I apologize that it has taken this long to acquire your telephone number. Nurse Mount was in the process of moving out of Nonnatus into her own flat, so it took some searching to find her address book.”

More silence.

“I know this must come as quite a shock. But the specialists believe that it is possible her memories could return in time,” she added, trying to give the man hope that his only remaining family member was not lost to him forever.

“Specialists?” he said suddenly, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Knowing my daughter, and the vocation and area of London she has chosen for herself, I am assuming that she is at some substandard NHS hospital.”

Sister Julienne bristled at the sudden change in his demeanor. “I can assure you sir, that the care at the London is excellent. Furthermore, as a former member of staff, your daughter is receiving even more special attention than their already high standard of care.”

There was a pause as Mr. Mount apparently reassessed his tone, for when he spoke again, the aggression and sarcasm were absent, but they had been replaced by a tone of command evidently honed over years of business negotiations, “I am sure that the doctors at the London are quite diligent. But I also know that the NHS has its limits. I will make arrangements to have Patience moved to a private facility where she will be able to receive the very best treatment available.”

Sister Julienne closed her eyes, taking a deep fortifying breath, preparing for her own negotiation. “You must do what you think is best for you daughter, of course. But if I may, sir. In cases of amnesia, it is beneficial for the patient to be around people and places from their life before. The familiarity can help to stimulate memory recall. We were hoping that once the doctors discharge her, we might bring your daughter back to her home at Nonnatus House. Here she will have round-the-clock care by trained nurses who are also her friends and colleagues. I believe there is no better environment for her to begin to try to rebuild her life. If you would like, I have her GP here with me now. He has been in constant consultation with the specialists at the London, and would be more than happy to answer any of your concerns.”

“Thank you, but I do not think that will be necessary,” he said, his tone clearly conveying his lack of faith in an opinion from an East End GP. “If you’re agreeable, I would like to take the day to consult with my own physicians and decide what course of action would be best for my daughter.” He paused, and when he spoke again his voice sounded slightly less harsh, “I do thank you for all you have done, sister. I can tell that you care a great deal for Patience, so in the meantime, I trust you will continue to supervise her care.”

“I would be happy to,” Sister Julienne said, feeling a slight sense of relief at this minor victory.

“Would you be available if I rang you tomorrow at this same time?”

“I look forward to it. The number here is Poplar 459.”

“I will talk to you then. Goodnight.” And he hung up.

Sister Julienne replaced the phone on the cradle with a sigh.

“That didn’t sound like it went completely against our hopes,” Dr. Turner said, looking concerned.

“He was just as difficult as Nurse Franklin predicted. I believe I may have convinced him not to put Nurse Mount in a private hospital, but he will ring back tomorrow with his final decision.”

Dr. Turner looked at her with a serious expression. “That is better than we had hoped for,” he smiled, adding, “Perhaps tomorrow we should let him talk to Nurse Crane if he hasn’t come round.” They laughed. Sister Julienne couldn’t help but think that that might not actually be such a bad idea.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Patsy sat propped up in her hospital bed, her head titled back, studying the cracks in the ceiling - the constant churning of anxiety in her stomach leaving her with a continuous feeling of nausea. She had been conscious for almost a day and a half. Well, technically she was told she had woken up two nights ago, but seeing as she had no memory of that, she was going to say it had been a day and a half. And in her opinion, that was more than ample time spent on this ward.

She had spent the majority of the hours sleeping, both at night and in little naps throughout the day. But she couldn’t be certain if these naps were from tiredness or utter boredom. Between her headaches and her listlessness, Patsy was sure she was going to go insane. She didn’t even have any memories to reminisce over or unfinished tasks for which she could plan. The only tangible memories and thoughts she had were of this room. And what an ugly room it was.

At this moment, Patsy would love nothing more than to have a word with the hospital's interior decorator. Of course, there probably was no such person. How else could one explain the various shades of pastel greens and mismatching creams in this place. In this low light, the ward doors almost looked like they were painted robin’s egg blue, though she had noticed when they opened and let in the harsher, brighter light from the hallway, they were, in fact, just another terrible pastel green. She preferred them in their imagined blue hue - there was something about that blue - and besides, the low light level was much better on her headaches.

Her headaches. They had changed today. If she didn’t move, the sharp blinding pain dulled to a constant throbbing. A low bar indeed when constant throbbing pain is an improvement. If only she could stop the lights from buzzing, she'd consider it a banner day.

Although, she only could remember two days, so in a depressing sort of way, it already was.

Patsy felt the panic begin to rise in her chest again. She took a deep shuddering breath, focusing her attention back on the decor.

The curtains. Their bold yellow ochre stood out in sharp relief against the sea of pastels. The colour really was dreadful in this context, but she had to admit that, to her eye, they were the least offensive items in the room. At least they didn’t look like they had been vomited from a child’s easter basket.

She hated this room.

Trouble was, there was nothing else to occupy her mind (other than the obvious reality of her predicament, of course, and dwelling on that would only send her into a blind panic again), so she became more and more focused on the little details. She had noticed the bed across from her must have been painted recently. It’s iron rails were just slightly less yellow than the grid on the wall that could be adjusted to support a patient’s back. She hated that she knew this.

But still, she knew this.

The fact that she remembered something, anything, gave her something tangible to cling to, however tenuously. Otherwise she feared she might lose the last remaining shred of her faculties.

Perhaps if she was on a more active ward she would feel less restless. Then, at least there would be some activity to watch. But most of her fellow patients were either unconscious, or resting quietly - their illnesses preventing them from anything more active. The ache in her entire body and the constant throbbing of her head reminded her that she was very much in the same boat as her neighbors. She knew that, no matter how listless she felt, she really did belong here. She sighed. At the rate at which her idleness was driving her mad, she reckoned that her next stop might be the psychiatric ward.

The doors swung open and Patsy looked over to see a lavender clad nurse stride onto the ward and over to the desk. She watched as the new nurse talked over the patients’ notes with the nurse who had been on duty since Patsy had woke that morning.

Shift change.

It was not exactly an exciting source of entertainment, but she found it more stimulating than counting the stripes on her pillow that she could see through the thin pillow case (33 navy, 32 white - another pointless detail on the short list of things she knew). She watched as the short blonde nurse from the morning smiled and checked her watch before waving goodbye to the newly on-duty brunette. Patsy watched the dark-haired nurse curiously as she flipped through a patient’s file, reading the information over the tops of her wire glasses, her lips pursed in concentration. She couldn’t be certain (a sentiment she was rapidly becoming all too familiar with) but she didn’t think this nurse had been on duty the day before. She watched her appraisingly as she made her way to the patient in the nearest bed and began checking his vitals. For some reason, Patsy had the impression that she was more efficient at her task than the previous nurse. Of course, that was a silly thought. How on earth would she know anything about nursing efficiency.

The dark-haired nurse smiled as she made her way over towards the redhead. “Good afternoon, Patsy. It’s nice to finally see you awake. How are you doing today?”

Something about her words felt different. What was it?

Patsy. All the other doctors and nurses had always called her Miss Mount.

“I’m sorry, but do I know you?” she asked.

The nurse smiled. It was a genuine, kind smile. “What makes you ask that?”

The redhead returned the smile as best she could, given her bandaged cheek and pounding headache. “You called me Patsy. All the other nurses have been on more formal terms.”

“Well I am happy to see that your head injury has not affected your keen observational skills,” she said, dark blue eyes sparkling through her glasses. “My name is Mary Boyd. You and I were friends and classmates during nursing training.”

Patsy was astonished. Another friend, and, “I’m a nurse?”

The nurse (Mary, was it?) smiled kindly, “Yes, and a very good one. You worked here at the London until a couple of years ago when you left to become a district midwife in Poplar.”

“A midwife?” the surprises just kept coming.

“That’s right. And by all accounts, you were excellent at that as well,” she said, reaching out to take her pulse. She raised her eyebrows, “Everything alright?”

No. Everything was certainly not alright. She was a nurse. And a midwife. A midwife. That seemed strange. Was that why she had thought about childbirth yesterday. Why had she thought of that, again?

Why was it suddenly becoming so hard to concentrate?

She closed her eyes, darkening her vision and slightly dulling the pounding in her head. The pain. That was it. She had thought about childbirth when she thought about the pain she felt.

“Patsy, are you okay?”

Deep breath. Focus.

Patsy opened her eyes. “I’m sorry, this is a lot to take in,” she said, her voice shaky. “You’re the first person who has told me anything about my life from before.”

Mary surveyed her over the top of her glasses. “Have you not had any visitors?” she asked, concern (and, was that alarm?) washing over her face.

Patsy thought back to her mysterious visitor from the previous evening. Crystal blue eyes, shiny with tears. “A woman did come to see me yesterday. But I think I must have said something to upset her,” Patsy’s eyes dropped to the fingers poking out of the plaster cast on her lap. “She didn’t stay long.” There was still dirt around her nails.

The nurse scrutinized her, and Patsy tried to hide the feeling of sadness that bubbled up in her when she thought about how the color had drained from her visitor’s face. She had decided not to think of her as her friend - she didn’t want to hope. She didn’t think she would see her again. Hear that lovely lilting voice...

“Brown hair? Welsh?” Mary asked.

Patsy jerked her head up quickly to meet the nurse’s gaze, and immediately regretted it. She had the sudden feeling of a dull knife being shoved into her temple. The room swayed.

She felt a cool hand on her uninjured cheek and another on the back of her head. Patsy let her head be guided back slowly onto her pillow, eyes closed. “Easy there. Let me get you a cold compress.”

Behind her closed lids, Patsy could clearly see the mystery woman’s pale, kind face. She watched as the woman smiled brightly, dimples sinking deep into her cheeks, and then the smile would vanish, leaving the beautiful woman looking stricken. Then she would smile again and Patsy would watch as the pain and disappointment hit her over and over again in a horrible loop.

She tried to concentrate on something else, anything else. The bed across from her is newer than the rest. Her pillow has...thirty navy stripes? No. Thirty-two. Wait, where they navy or black?

Why couldn’t she remember?

“I’m going to put this over your eyes. It will help with the headache.”

Patsy felt the cool flannel ease gently over her eyes. The temperature and added darkness instantly dulled the edge of the splitting pain. She took a deep breath in.

“Is that better?” she heard Mary ask.

“Very much. Thank you.”

There was a pause. Patsy had not heard the nurse’s footsteps so she assumed she was still standing at her bedside.

“Nurse...Boyd, was it?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

She had to know.

“Who was she, the Welsh brunette?”

Mary was silent for so long that Patsy began to wonder if she had once again said something wrong. Surely, Mary knew the woman. Hadn’t it been she who had described her?

When she finally spoke, her voice sounded strange, tight. “Her name is Delia. And she is your...very best friend. I don’t feel like it is my place to tell you anything more about her, but I know she will be by to visit you again soon.”

Delia.

Her best friend.

That’s what Patsy had thought as she had watched her leave, wasn’t it? But she had been so sad. And Patsy had been the cause of that sadness. Surely, she wouldn’t want to come back. No friend was worth all of this, were they?

“I hope so,” she said, feeling hot tears warm the edges of the cool flannel.

She felt a gentle hand on her left shoulder. “She will. I can promise you that.”

Delia.

My best friend.

Delia.

She repeated it over and over in her head. Adding this new important fact to the short list of things she knew.

Delia.

 

 

Chapter Text

Charles Mount hung up the phone and sighed. After his conversation with Sister Julienne, he had been on numerous calls with his doctors and solicitor this evening for well over four hours, and he felt exhausted. He removed his tortoiseshell frames, laid them on the desk, and massaged the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.

He felt dazed.

Patience - his only remaining daughter, the last member of the family he and Catherine had built, and the strongest of them all - had been struck down, with no memory. For the first time since he had put his frail, yet defiant, daughter on a boat to England fifteen years ago, he wept.

So much lost.

And he only had himself to blame.

He should have sent his wife and daughters back to England as soon as the Japanese had invaded Malaya whilst almost simultaneously attacking the Americans at Pearl Harbor. Shouldn’t that have been evidence enough that they were a worthy military adversary? But no, he had listened to the other men at the club - arrogant imperialists much like himself who could not fathom the great British Empire allowing the Gibraltar of the East to fall to such savages. He had thought they were safer where they were, far away from Hitler and the blitzkrieg of the Nazi war machine.

But then less than two months later his family had been ripped apart.

Patsy had just turned nine. He could still see her face lit up with excitement as she opened her birthday present - a delicate china doll with a beautiful silk dress. She had doted over that doll for the nearly two weeks she had owned it, before it disappeared into the South China Sea. Kate had been surprised that Patsy had even let Libby play with it, albeit with supervision - the two girls brushing her silky hair and having elaborate tea parties with their other dolls.

Charles had never watched his daughters play before. He had always been much too busy. Had more important things to which to attend. But the day after his eldest daughter turned nine, the British army retreated across the causeway from Malaya into Singapore to prepare for their last stand. So Charles Mount split his time between listening for news at the Singapore Club and spending actual quality time with his family for the first time in his life.

So many regrets.

Elisabeth singing with her mother at the piano, the sun filtering through the window to shine on her strawberry blonde hair. Patience, looking at her younger sister with awe and pride as she filled the room with her incredible voice. Catherine. His beautiful Kate, her fingers dancing across the keys with such grace. He had so loved to watch her play. The music was beautiful, but it was her movement that captivated him - she had played the piano with her entire body.

As soon as the invasion began in earnest on the 8th of February, he knew they had to flee. In his head he also knew it was already too late, but his heart held out hope. Four days later they were huddled together on a passenger ship leaving Keppel Harbour. After three days at sea, and aerial bombardment by the Japanese, the ship surrendered. And that was the end of the family Charles Mount had known.

He never saw his lovely Kate or beautiful little Libby again. And, if he was honest with himself, he never saw Patsy again either. The daughter that returned to him three and a half years later was changed. Gone was the precocious little girl with her white-blonde curls. The too-tall nine-year-old who was quick to smile and laugh, who teased yet protected her younger petite sister. The Patsy that returned to him was not much taller than when she left, her formerly strong frame gaunt and blistering from sunburn. Her beautiful blonde curls cropped and dull. Her sparkling blue eyes sunken and dimmed. He never saw her smile or laugh.

The Patience that returned to him, for the first time in her life, had fully embodied her name. Three years of learning to keep quiet, to not draw attention to oneself, to bide one’s time. Three years of waiting. Waiting to be rescued. Waiting to be moved. Waiting to be beaten. Waiting to eat. Waiting for your mother to die. Waiting for your sister to die. Waiting to cry. Waiting for your own life to end.

The waiting had left its mark on his little girl. But it had also left its mark on him.

Charles Mount had never been a good father. He had been a good husband, a good provider, but never a good parent. For two weeks in 1942, between Patsy’s birthday on the 30th of January and the capture of their ship on the 15th of February, he had had a glimpse of what truly being a father could be. But that was over. Dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Palembang. As he looked at his broken child sitting in that hospital bed in Singapore he could see that a part of her had been buried right along with her mother and sister. Even the Charles Mount before the camp would have been ill-equipped to deal with any child, much less this one. But he had come out of the camp a shell of the man he once was.

So he wrote to his cousin in London, who found her a place in a boarding school that would accept a student mid-term, a student who was too old for her class. Catholic nuns. Perhaps it was their religious calling that moved them to make allowances for the sad story of the girl from the camps.

Patsy had gained some of her weight and strength back, but her hair was still as short as a boy’s when he waved goodbye to her from the dock. His twelve-year-old daughter stood on the deck of the ship, staring stonily back at him as it disembarked from the same harbour from which they had fled over three years ago. He had only seen her a handful of times in the fifteen years since. He had still never heard her laugh.

He knew he should have done better by her. He knew that what she had really needed was love, not the money that he dutifully put in her account each month, that she never touched. He knew he should have been more of a parent than a provider. But he knew he was broken too. He had nothing to offer her - nothing that she needed at any rate.

And now, after over fifteen years of trying, she had finally forgotten him.


>>>>><<<<< 


Sister Julienne smiled at the redhead as she took the seat by her bedside. Nurse Mount looked at her politely, but warily - obviously suspicious of why a nun would be visiting her. The sister remembered that as a child, Nurse Mount had attended a Catholic boarding school, and judging by comments she had overheard over the midwife’s year and a half at Nonnatus, the experience had not been a pleasant one. She wondered if somewhere in her damaged memory she still had an ingrained sense of distrust at the sight of a wimple.

“Good afternoon, Nurse Mount,” she noticed the young woman’s eyebrows raise at her choice of address.

“Good afternoon, sister,” her voice was quieter than it usually was, and even huskier from lack of use.

“My name is Sister Julienne, and I am the sister-in-charge at Nonnatus House, where you work as a midwife. I am very pleased to see you awake and looking so well, under the circumstances.” The redhead was looking at her in stunned surprise, tears welling in her eyes, and Sister Julienne felt her heart clench.

“My dear, I apologize that I was unable to visit you yesterday, but we had quite a number of our mothers go into labor and all hands were needed,” she smiled awkwardly. Nurse Mount was still staring at her, stone-faced. “Your friends and colleagues at Nonnatus all send their regards, and wished for me to tell you that they look forward to visiting you as soon as they are able. In the meantime, I have brought you a care package with gifts from each of them to help keep you occupied. I know how difficult a convalescence must be for one who is so unused to idleness.”

The corner of Nurse Mount’s mouth quirked up into a familiar half-smile, and Sister Julienne felt some of the awkward tension leech out of her body.

“Thank you. I must admit I have been feeling a bit restless at being cooped up. It’s oddly comforting to know that it is a natural tendency of mine from...before,” she said, the last few words coming out stiffly, as if she was not pleased with her phrasing.

Sister Julienne smiled kindly, “I can assure you, Nurse Mount. You are one of the hardest workers I have ever had at Nonnatus. Inactivity has never been more than a passing acquaintance, I assure you. So, the fact that you are having a difficult time sitting still here in hospital, comes as no surprise to me.”

The redhead closed her eyes in thought for a moment, opening them she said, “Please, call me Patsy. I do not think I will be doing any nursing for the foreseeable future.”

Sister Julienne felt her throat tighten, but she nodded, “Of course. Patsy.”

The name felt wrong on her lips. Nurse Mount was the consummate professional. Sister Julienne had never even called her Patsy in her thoughts. She knew it was silly - of course the woman before her with no memories of nursing would want to be called something more familiar, something that did not remind her of the past she had lost - but the nun couldn’t help feeling like something was suddenly very wrong.

“Sister?”

Sister Julienne looked up into the fearful blue eyes across from her. She had been sitting there quietly, lost in her memories for a moment too long. She chided herself. This was not the time to allow in her own emotions. She needed to be present and supportive of her charge.

“I’m sorry, my dear. I got lost in my own thoughts for a moment,” she said, giving Patsy an encouraging smile.

The redhead seemed to relax a little, but she continued to look at the nun curiously, as if she wanted to ask her a question but was uncertain about something.

“Patsy, I want you to know that I am not only your employer. The nuns and nurses of Nonnatus House are a family, and I care about you a great deal. If there is anything you want to ask me, anything at all, I want you to know that you can trust I will answer to the best of my ability. And what I cannot answer, I will endeavor to find out, or find you someone who can.”

Patsy’s blue eyes gazed at her intently, appraisingly. She met her gaze openly, and eventually the corner of the redhead’s mouth twitched in approval.

“Thank you, sister. There is so much I want to ask. But, do you mind if we take it rather slowly? I find that when I’m overwhelmed with too much new information I have a difficult time concentrating.”

“Of course, my dear.”

“How long have I worked for you?”

“You came to Nonnatus House just over a year and a half ago, during the summer of 1959.”

“And I am a midwife?”

“Yes, and a district nurse. And I must say you are one of our best.” she smiled.

Patsy returned the smile, but it was tinged with sadness and loss.

The senior nun felt suddenly guilty, and more than a little foolish. She should be more aware of reminding her amnesiac charge of the full life that she could not remember but still loomed like a hulking shadow in the dimly lit room. From this point forward, she would let the redhead steer the conversation. “Is there anything else you would like to ask me?”

Patsy sat quietly for a long moment, teeth, worrying her bottom lip. When she spoke, her voice was very quiet, “Sister, I wonder if you know anything about my family, my mother and father? It’s just, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard anything from them or had any visitors aside from you and a...a friend.” Her sky-blue eyes dropped to her lap for a moment before looking back up at the nun searchingly.

Sister Julienne felt her heart break for the young woman in the bed across from her. Patsy was looking at her with a mixture of fear and hope. The nun wished she could give her a different answer, but she reached out and took the redhead’s uninjured hand. “Patsy, I am truly sorry to have to tell you this, but your mother died a number of years ago when you were a girl.”

Patsy’s, “Oh,” was almost inaudible.

“But I spoke to your father this morning. He lives in Hong Kong, so is unfortunately unable to be here with you at the moment.” Sister Julienne was surprised to see the tears streaming steadily down the redhead’s pale cheeks. She squeezed her hand for support as a wracking sob shook her tall frame. A Patience Mount, stripped of her memories was a Patience Mount without her mask of composure. It was a bit unnerving. Before she realized what she was doing, Sister Julienne had perched herself on the edge of the hospital bed and drawn the crying woman into her arms. The action surprised herself.

“I am so sorry, my dear. Your father wanted me to tell you that he loved you and wished that he could be here with you right now.” Sister Julienne did not usually lie, but she knew in this moment that the redhead needed to hear these words from her distant father. And besides, the irascible man might not have spoken them aloud, but the nun could not bring herself to believe that they were not, in fact, true.

Sister Julienne held Patsy as she cried. She seemed so like a child in the nun’s arms. Probably more like a child than the spirited young woman had been since she was nine years old. After a while, her sobs began to abate and her breathing to become more regular. Sister Julienne felt Patsy begin to pull back, and she relinquished her hold and returned to the formica chair, handing the redhead a handkerchief.

“I-I’m sorry,” Patsy said, her voice thick and nasally.

“Oh, my dear. There is no need for an apology. I am so sorry for your loss.”

The nun was surprised when Patsy laughed. It sounded hollow, and a bit bitter. “That’s just it, sister. I don’t feel any loss. At least, not in the way you are probably imagining. I don’t remember my mother. I feel…” she looked up towards the ceiling, as if the answer to this incredible problem had been inscribed in the wet plaster like some surreal fresco, “I feel a loss of the feeling of loss - I know I’m not making sense - I’m just incredibly...sad that I may never remember my mother. It’s all so…” she paused for a long moment, searching for the word, “...abstract.”

Sister Julienne, too, was at a loss for words. She was usually better at this. She usually knew exactly what to say to help a troubled woman find something to hold onto, no matter the direness of the situation. But not now. How did you comfort someone who was grieving the loss of herself? She should have more practice. After all, she dealt with the fluid memories of Sister Monica Joan on a daily basis, but this, this was Nurse Mount. She was a young woman who, despite her memory loss, was still sharp and very aware of her surroundings. She was a young woman who was in the prime of her life, not a senile octogenarian.

Sister Julienne felt completely helpless, and when she felt like this, she only had one recourse to which to turn. “I find that in times of uncertainty such as these, we must trust that the Lord has a plan, even if we cannot yet see it.”

Patsy’s mouth twitched up in a sardonic smile, “Then there is one huge flaw in his plan, sister.”

“Oh? What is that?”

“I cannot put my trust in God. I don’t remember if I even believe in him.”




 

Chapter Text

“I cannot put my trust in God. I don’t remember if I even believe in him.”

Patsy looked at the stunned expression on the older woman’s face and felt a stab of guilt. She probably shouldn’t have said that. Not to a nun. Not to a nun that she didn’t really know. And especially not to a nun who was apparently her employer and who was kind enough to visit and answer her questions. A nun who had so recently held her as she cried.

She knew she had really put her foot in it this time. As her panic began to rise, she said, “I’m sorry, sister. That was terribly rude of me.”

She was surprised when Sister Julienne let out a bark of laughter, “No need to apologize, my dear. In fact, it brings me great joy to hear you speak in such a way. If you don’t mind me saying, it quite reminds me of something you would have said before your accident.”

Patsy felt her face break out into a smile as the tension in her chest eased somewhat. Apparently these sardonic thoughts she had been having were not due to the depressing nature of her current situation. Or at least not just due to them. She had been just as snide before her accident, apparently.

Her accident.

She felt her face fall.

What had happened to her? Had anyone said? She saw Sister Julienne’s face shift from amusement to concern as the nun watched her face pale.

“Sister? I-I wonder if I might ask you what happened. I know I had an accident, but...I don’t think anyone has told me how I ended up like...like this.”

The nun gave her a brief smile and an awkward tilt of her head. “Are you certain you want to know now? I feel I have already upset you quite enough for one afternoon.”

Patsy felt her heart rate increase, blood pounding in her ears - it made her head spin. She closed her eyes against the pain, taking a deep breath to try to calm her racing heart. She had to know. “Yes, sister. I’m sure.”

“If you are certain, then I will tell you.”

The redhead opened her eyes and gave the tiniest nod, not wanting to move her head too much.

“Three days ago, you were involved in a cycling accident whilst on your way to work. A car hit your bike and knocked you off, and you suffered a blow to your head in the fall. I’m afraid that it's the head injury that has been the cause of your amnesia.”

A cycling accident. She had been hit by a car. Without realizing it, her hand had travelled up to rest on the bandage on her head. The lump was large and tender, clearly marking the spot where she had lost the life she used to have.

“Was it...the accident...was it my fault?” her voice sounded like she was speaking from the bottom of a well. She could barely hear the nun’s response through the pounding in her ears.

“No, my dear. The young man driving the car was going too fast and did not see the stop sign. I assure you that you did nothing wrong.”

You did nothing wrong.

The news left her feeling conflicted. Part of her wished it had been her fault. She wanted to feel like there was a reason she was the way she was. She wanted to feel...punished. But of course another part of her was relieved. Unless...

“Was anyone else hurt?”

The nun smiled sadly, “No, my dear. Just you. The young man is of course quite shaken, but he was physically unharmed.”

Patsy gritted her teeth. Quite shaken. What did he know about being quite shaken? Her entire life had been quite shaken down to its crumbled foundations. Quite shaken, indeed. Try not being able to remember a thing about your ruddy life, then tell me about feeling bloody shaken. Patsy suddenly wanted nothing more than to be left alone again.

She felt very tired.

They sat in silence for a while, the sister looking increasingly awkward with the redhead’s long silence. To fill the quiet, the nun began detailing the contents of the care package, telling Patsy all about each item and who had sent it. The younger woman barely listened. She didn’t want to hear about these people she didn’t know. She wouldn’t remember them anyway. Without any of their faces or any memory for reference, the names and bits of information just slipped through her mind like silk over skin. And there was nothing in the package from the only name she did know. Nothing from Delia.

Delia.

Patsy let her mind wander as Sister Julienne spoke, making occasional vague comments like “Oh how nice,” or “I’m so looking forward to meeting her,” so as to seem like she was paying attention. But really her mind had drifted to the pretty brunette. She wondered if she would indeed come back to visit her. Nurse Boyd had seemed certain she would, but Patsy kept seeing her stricken face and the fluttering of her yellow dress as she walked swiftly off the ward.

Would Patsy come see her again if the roles were reversed?

Of course that was a stupid question. Patsy didn’t remember the short brunette or their friendship, so she couldn’t possibly know how she would act. Still, she couldn’t help hoping that Mary was right.

Patsy couldn’t explain it, but she felt an inexplicable pull towards the Welshwoman. Surely it was just because she was the only friend that had visited her thus far (Patsy didn’t count Mary or Sister Julienne amongst her visiting friends - the former was a friend but was there by duty, and the latter was her employer, no matter how much she claimed to be “family”). Patsy wondered vaguely if she would feel the same pull towards these women the nun was going on about. It was possible, probable even. But right now all she wanted was to see someone familiar who was not there to remind her of her past life.

She wanted to see Delia. She wanted to apologize for upsetting her yesterday. She wanted to see those blue eyes sparkle again. She wanted to talk about nothing and hear her laugh. Delia probably had a wonderful laugh.

The ward doors swung open and Patsy looked over hopefully, but it wasn’t the Welsh brunette. Judging by the man’s white coat, it was another doctor, but one she did not recognize. She watched curiously as he made his way over to Nurse Boyd. She couldn’t hear what they were saying, but from the look on Mary’s face she did not like whatever it was. Patsy had been watching the dark-haired nurse interact with people all afternoon, and she was typically all smiles. Not with this doctor.

And then they both turned and looked at her.

Patsy felt anxiety grip her chest. There was something about the look on Mary’s face as she strode over towards her bed.

“Excuse me, sister,” she said, “I’m afraid I am going to have to ask that you cut your visit short. We have a specialist here at the behest of Miss Mount’s father who would like to assess her.”

The redhead’s anxiety increased as she saw the set in the nun’s jaw at the news. This man was sent here by her father, so why were both Mary and Sister Julienne looking so grim?

 

 


>>>>><<<<<

 

 


Delia’s heart was pounding against her ribs as she approached the ward doors. She felt guilty and more than a little nervous. Yesterday, she had run out on Patsy when she needed her most. What kind of first impression was that?

First impression. She still could not get used to that.

Would Patsy even want to see her again? Delia wouldn't blame her if she didn't. She had reacted completely wrongly. Selfishly.

She didn’t care what Trixie said about it being a natural reaction. She should have done better by Patsy. Her scared, strong, beautiful Pats. And she would. Starting right now.

Delia peeked through the square window in the pale green doors and was surprised to see the curtains pulled around Patsy’s bed. She had expected to see Sister Julienne sat at the redhead’s bedside. Her crystal blue eyes flicked over to the desk where Mary Boyd sat flipping through patient notes. Perhaps Mary had wanted to give the senior nun some privacy as she relayed news of Patsy’s father. Perhaps they needed it. She felt her breath leave her at the thought. News of the redhead’s father would inevitably lead to questions about her mother. And perhaps her sister.

Oh sweetheart.

The very thought of Patsy learning this heartbreaking news without being there to comfort her was enough to propel the brunette forward through the doors. Mary looked up at the sound and Delia was alarmed to see the look on her face as she signaled for the Welshwoman to come over to the desk.

What could possibly have upbeat, optimistic Mary looking so grim? Delia’s mind immediately travelled to worst case scenarios. Patsy must have had another seizure. Patsy was in a coma. The head injury had caused an aneurysm and Patsy was...Patsy was…

Delia’s body went numb as she stumbled over to the desk. Mary must have seen her skin turn chalky because she was at the brunette’s elbow in an instant.

“It’s okay, Delia. She’s okay,” Mary whispered, leading the shorter woman over and depositing her in her recently vacated chair. “There’s a specialist in with her now, so you will have to wait a bit.”

“Oh,” Delia said vaguely, her mind focused on the more important part of her friends words. She’s okay. She’s okay.

Patsy’s okay.

The bespectacled nurse’s voice dropped to an even quieter whisper as she knelt down in front of her friend, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about her memory loss the other night. The doctors honestly thought that it was just a result of her waking up, and I didn’t want to worry you unduly. I am so so sorry, Delia. I should have said.”

Delia blinked to clear her vision and looked at her friend. Mary’s eyes were wide behind her glasses, her eyebrows raising imploringly. Delia shook her head, “I would have done the same thing, Mary. You didn’t know. It’s alright”

“No, Delia. It’s not, alright. When I read her notes this afternoon, I felt completely wretched for how I handled it. I cannot imagine what you are going through.”

“Really, Mary. It’s okay. Well, it’s not okay, obviously” she said, gesturing towards the closed curtains, “but you and I are,” she said, looking her friend in the eyes. “You’ve done all you can for me, and I could think of no one better to be looking after her. Truly.”

Delia really did feel lucky that one of the two people who knew the true nature of her relationship to Patsy was the nurse who was working during visiting hours. Plus, Mary was an excellent nurse. 

Mary nodded, understanding flowing between the two brunettes. “How are you doing?” she asked.

The Welshwoman shrugged, “About as you’d expect,” she said vaguely, both women knowing that she could say no more in their current circumstance.

“Well, should you want to talk, come by mine anytime. I know you don’t really know her, but Allie’s there for you too. We both know how important it is to have someone who understands.”

Delia smiled, “Thank you. Fortunately, Patsy’s roommate at Nonnatus has been very understanding so far.” Mary raised her eyebrows and Delia shook her head slightly. “But I’m sure I will take you both up on it at some point, seeing as you have more firsthand experience with the situation.” Mary smirked as Delia met her eye.

A deep male voice with a rather posh accent floated over the ward. “That’s not Mr. Edwards, is it?” Delia asked.

Mary’s expression darkened, and Delia was reminded of her grim look when she first arrived. “No. That’s Mr. Stockton. He’s a posh consultant from up west. Very up himself, that one. Treated me like the ruddy janitor when he arrived.”

Delia’s eyebrows knitted together, “Up west? What’s he doing here?”

“Patsy’s father sent him, apparently.”

Delia’s head whipped around to face the curtains. The two women had been conversing in whispers up until this point, but she couldn’t help it as her voice rose to a normal speaking volume, “Her father?!?”

The other woman shushed her with a hand on her shoulder. “Yes. Apparently he wanted to send his own man to ‘make sure his daughter was receiving the proper care,’” she said, exaggerating a prim accent and attitude. Mary pulled a face. “As if there was anything else to do right now. We are very much in the ‘wait and see’ time, I’m afraid. And no amount of money and influence can change that.”

“Mmmm. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he will agree with you,” the Welshwoman said, “Patsy and her father never did see eye-to-eye on the subject of status,” she felt herself deflate, “He’s probably here with strict instructions to find the situation lacking, so that he can have her moved to a private hospital.”

Mary squeezed her shoulder, “Well if there is anything at all I can do to prevent that, Delia, I will. I promise you.”

Delia smiled up at her friend, but her smile faltered as she saw her face suddenly redden. “What is it?”

“Matron,” Mary hissed, “I better get you out to the waiting area in the hall before she has my guts for garters.”

The shorter nurse sprang to her feet, the threat of Matron working on her like a spike of adrenaline. “Of course.” The two woman began walking towards the ward doors. “I’ll be just outside. Please do come get me as soon as Mr. Stockton is finished. I’ll wait until the end of visiting time if I have to.”

The indistinct voices from the other side of the curtain grew silent as one word rang out loudly and clearly in an achingly familiar voice. A word the Welsh brunette had not heard from that tongue in almost three days. A word that made her heart leap into her throat.

“Delia?”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Patsy was beginning to understand why Mary had looked so put out. This man was an utter bore. He had introduced himself as Mr. Stockton, speaking very slowly and deliberately as if she was hard of hearing, or perhaps just slow witted. Now he was looking over her chart and explaining her diagnosis to her - again - in that same patronizing voice.

She gave him her best icy stare, but apparently he took her narrowed eyes to mean confusion rather than annoyance, for he slowed his speech even more, and began to use hand signals to make his points as well. At last, she could take no more. Ignoring him for a moment, she took a deep breath to clear her head - she needed to keep her focus.

“I’m quite sorry to interrupt, but as I am sure you can tell from the notes you are so ably referencing, I have lost my memories, not my mental faculties. I am perfectly capable of understanding what you are saying, Mr. Stockton, so do please stop talking to me as if I were a child.”

The specialist blanched for a moment before breaking out into an uneasy smile. “Direct and to the point. Like father, like daughter, I see. Alright then, Miss Mount. I will be direct with you as well. Your father has tasked me with making my own assessment of your condition and level of care here at the London. I’m sure you can appreciate that he is quite concerned about your well-being following your accident, and since he cannot be here himself, he would like me to make sure you are receiving the best possible care.”

Now that he was speaking more normally, Patsy realized his accent was quite familiar and stirred something within her that she could not quite place. Perhaps he ‘reminded’ her of her father in a way. After all, she could tell that her accent was quite similar to the good doctor’s.

“That all sounds very reasonable,” she said. She was still leery of the doctor, but now that he was treating her with a bit more respect, she was willing to give him another chance. He was here on behalf of her father, after all.

He began by giving her a series of words to remember, a practice that, by this point, was quite familiar. Then he looked at her physical injuries, comparing his observations with the notes in her file. So far, Patsy could tell no difference between this specialist and Mr. Edwards, the doctor who had been treating her since she woke up.

He was asking her questions to test her knowledge (Did she know who was the monarch? The Prime Minister? How old she was? What was her birthday?), when Patsy was distracted by a lilting voice right outside the curtain.

Patsy’s breath caught in her chest. She knew that voice. She strained her ears to try to decipher the words but she couldn’t understand them due to droning on of Mr. Stockton.

Nevertheless, she distinctly heard two sets of footsteps moving off towards the doors.

She’s leaving.

“Delia?” she called out, cutting off the specialist in mid-sentence.

The steps outside the curtain stopped suddenly, and she could hear an intake of breath.

“Delia? Is that you?” she said, her vocal chords feeling suddenly strained by the production of such a loud sound.

Mr. Stockton looked at her with interest before drawing back the curtains to reveal two figures standing there in shock. Nurse Boyd was leaning over to whisper something to the woman beside her - a pretty petite brunette in a dark purple dress.

Delia.

Patsy smiled at her, and was relieved when the brunette returned it, her dimples sinking reassuringly into her cheeks. Her blue eyes sparkled with tears again, but they were of a different quality than the tears from the previous day. Happy. Relieved.

“Hello, Pats.”

Pats .

She liked the way that sounded, Delia’s Welsh accent accentuating the ‘t’ in a way that made her feel...safe? Normal? Patsy couldn’t quite place the feeling. But it didn’t matter, because…

“You came back.”

Delia’s eyes flitted down to her shoes. She looked suddenly uncomfortable, and when she spoke her voice sounded strange, “I’m so sorry, Pats. I shouldn’t have left so abruptly yesterday. It was just a shock to learn about your amnesia like that. I know that’s no excuse. I hope you can forgive me.”

The redhead looked at her friend in stunned surprise. Delia was apologizing. Why? Hadn’t Patsy been the one to upset her .

It didn’t matter now. The person she had been wanting to see was here now. No apologies were necessary.

“It’s quite alright, Delia. It came as quite a shock to me as well,” she said, mouth quirking up in a small smile. The brunette looked up, mirroring her expression, their blue eyes locking on each other.

The specialist had been looking from one woman to the other throughout this exchange, like he was watching a match at Wimbledon. Sensing the end of the volley, he stepped forward, “Delia, I presume,” he said, extending a hand. “Good evening, I’m Doctor James Stockton.”

“Nurse Delia Busby,” she said, taking his hand and giving it a firm shake.

“Pleasure. I take it you and Miss Mount were friends before her accident.”

“Yes, sir.” Delia said, her eyes on Patsy.

The specialist flicked his eyes between the women again. “Good friends?” he asked, matter-of-factly.

Delia’s eyes returned to the specialist and she looked at him intently, appraisingly. Patsy thought that she looked a little guarded all of the sudden. It was very subtle, a shift in her stance and the pitch of her voice when she answered, “Yes, sir. We have known each other almost six years. We did our nurses training together and became quite close, as girls tend to do when you live and work in such close quarters. We worked on Male Surgical together here at the London too until Nurse Mount changed to midwifery.”

Six years . She had known Delia for almost six years. They trained together, worked together, and even lived together, it seemed. The brunette must know so much about her life.

The doctor gave her a tight smile. “So, you would say you know Miss Mount fairly well, then?”

Patsy was relieved to have the doctor ask the question for her. She felt such a pull to this woman. This woman that, as far as she could remember, she had only met once. But, inexplicably, she trusted her. Perhaps it was the unimaginable sadness she had seen etched across the brunette’s pale face when she realized that Patsy didn’t know her. That face had been playing through the redhead’s mind every time she closed her eyes, and she knew what it meant. Delia cared about her a great deal - or at least, she had cared a great deal about past-Patsy. She wanted to know more.

The brunette glanced at Patsy briefly before looking back at Mr. Stockton. She looked wary, but determined. “I would. Probably better than most anyone else. And definitely the longest of any of her friends in London.”

Probably better than most anyone else. What was it that Mary had said earlier? She’s your very best friend . Patsy suddenly wished the specialist would leave so she could be alone with the person that seemed to know her best in the world. She glanced at the clock on the wall by the nurse’s desk, quarter past five. He was wasting precious visiting time.

“Excellent. Nurse Busby, would you mind assisting me with my assessment of Miss Mount?” he turned to Patsy, “If you don’t mind, of course. It would be beneficial to observe your interactions with someone familiar.”

Patsy looked at the doctor, his hazel eyes bright and keen, and then at Delia, who looked inscrutable. She was thrown by the look on the brunette’s face. Delia had seemed so open, even in her despair, but not now. It made the panic rise in her chest again. She had the sudden desire to say no, but if she did that, Delia would have to leave, so…

“Not at all,” she said, her voice a little higher in pitch from her anxiety.

Over Mr. Stockton’s shoulder, she saw Delia’s eyes narrow ever so slightly in concern, but her face returned to its previous impassiveness when the doctor turned back to her. “Anything I can do to help,” she said, smiling tightly.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Mary’s stomach filled with dread as she watched Delia, Patsy, and Mr. Stockton disappear behind the ochre curtain. What was this doctor up to? She could tell from her slight change in demeanor that Delia was suspicious too. It was odd, and distinctly against protocol, to call an off-duty nurse in to assist with a patient’s assessment. Could he possibly suspect? Perhaps Patsy’s father had said something to him? Mary thought back to her early training days with Patsy and Delia. Strangely, she could not remember a single mention of the then blonde’s family. Would she have told him?

The patient in bed three coughed and the nurse suddenly remembered herself. Get a grip, Boyd. The last thing Patsy and Delia need right now is you calling attention to anything by acting foolish. She rolled her shoulders back to ease some of the tension and walked over to the nearest bed to begin making her checks.

But her mind was otherwise occupied, just as it had been since she arrived on shift.

Allie.

Mary could not help but see a little of her relationship with Allie in Patsy and Delia. For starters, they were the only other couple she knew who were like them . But there were other similarities too. Patsy and Delia were like a funhouse mirror version of she and Allie. Patsy and Allie were both tall and blonde - well, both natural blondes at least - while Delia and Mary were shorter and brunette. Delia and Allie were both Welsh, Patsy and Mary both English. Patsy and Mary were both a couple of years older than Delia and Allie too. And of course, they were all nurses.

So, when she saw Patsy wheeled onto the ward, battered and unconscious, Mary couldn’t help but think of Allie lying in that bed. When Delia walked onto the ward looking like her world was crashing down, Mary couldn’t help but think of Allie with that same look. When Patsy looked at her this afternoon without a hint of recognition in her eyes, she couldn’t help but picture Allie’s green eyes instead. She knew it was selfish to feel this way, especially when Patsy really was terribly hurt, and Delia’s world really was crashing down. But in a way, it made her stronger, more resolved. She would protect Patsy and Delia like she would have Allie.

As she did her checks on Mrs. Henley in bed two, Mary strained her ears to listen to what was going on behind the curtain. No luck. The thick fabric muffled the already low voices, making them intelligible. She could make out Delia’s Welsh tones standing out amongst the low, clipped RP of both her companions. She sounded...bright? Maybe a bit overly so. Well that was better than how she had been when she first arrived on the ward.

Mary had looked up when Delia walked in, and she must have been showing her displeasure with the pompous Mr. Stockton, because the Welsh brunette immediately went pale. Grey, even. Mary had sprung to her feet and caught her friend before her knees gave way. She had cursed herself. She knew from what Patsy had said about her previous day’s visitor that Delia had been there. Had discovered her girlfriend’s amnesia firsthand. Had felt her world collapse. She should have given her a reassuring smile when she walked onto the ward. Instead she had reacted poorly - again - which immediately made Delia fear the worst.

She needed to do better. She didn’t care what Delia had said earlier, Mary knew she should have told her friend everything she knew the other night. Yes, the doctors had thought it temporary, just a result of waking from the sedatives, but she should have told Delia. Should have warned her. Should have prepared her for this.

The only thing she had done right in all of this was to tell Delia that she was the reason Patsy knew her name. She had seen the hope flare up in her friend when the redhead had called out. It had been terrible to watch that hope die when she whispered the truth, but better Mary see it than Delia have to look hopefully into her girlfriend’s eyes and be met, once again, with no recognition of what they truly meant to one another. She knew it had been the right thing to do, but it still didn’t feel it. Nothing about this felt right.

She knew what Allie would tell her later when she confided all these feelings - that no one could be prepared for this, that Delia already had plenty to worry about that night without adding more, that she had just been going by what the doctors had said, that none of this was her fault, that she was doing her best in an unspeakable difficult situation. And she knew Allie would be right. Practical, rational Allie. But that didn’t change how she felt.

And she also knew what her girlfriend would say about that - she couldn’t change any of it. It was in the past. The only thing she could change was how she acted from this point forward. And Allie would be right about that too.

So, as she moved on to bed three, Mary vowed that she would do everything in her power to keep Patsy at the London. Though, admittedly, her power was rather limited.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Delia was completely confused. She could not, for the life of her, figure out what this doctor was up to. She assumed that he had been sent here to find fault in Patsy’s care at the London. She assumed he was here to give Mr. Mount a clear conscious so he could move his daughter to a private hospital. And if Delia was honest with herself, she would not hesitate to agree if it meant Patsy had a better chance at getting well. At regaining her memories.

But it didn’t.

In fact, from what Trixie had told her, it would have the opposite effect. Patsy needed to be around the people and places that she used to know. Familiarity could trigger recall. That’s what Trixie had told her. But of course, this specialist would know that. It was a matter of whether he would do what was right for his patient or his benefactor.

And Delia felt he could go either way.

This man was...odd. There was really no other way to state it. He was posh, and quite pompous, that was certain. But at times, he also seemed a bit chummy and even, dare she say, cheeky. Delia usually thought of herself as an excellent judge of character, but she just could not get a read on Mr. Stockton. And this worried her.

She knew how much of Patsy’s future - of their future - was riding on this man’s recommendations. Somehow, she needed to show him that Patsy was better off at the London, near her friends, but how could she do that when she didn’t understand the purpose of his, for lack of a better word, ‘assessment.’

Some of his line of questioning made sense. It was aimed at assessing Patsy’s knowledge base and ability to retain information. But then he asked Delia a lot of questions as well. Nothing sinister, just the kinds of basic questions one might ask someone whom they hadn’t known long. Where she was from, how long she had been in London, any siblings, etc. Many of the questions were ones that he asked Patsy as well. Basic small talk. It was like he was playing host at particularly dull dinner party.

A particularly dull, indeterminately long, dinner party.

At the rate this man was rambling on, she might not get a chance to be alone with Patsy at all. She mentally cursed her ruined watch. From behind the ochre curtain she could not see the clock on the ward wall either. But it must be at least six o’clock, if not later. The Nonnatuns had their Thursday clinic today, so someone would be arriving at any moment. Though, if he kept at it, this might go on all the way to the end of visiting time.

She just couldn’t figure this man out. But honestly, her focus was split. She was trying to put on an act, to please the doctor and convince him to leave Patsy at the London, whilst simultaneously trying to actually interact with the redhead - to show her she was there for her. It was a very fine line.

Delia had hoped that Sister Julienne would be finishing up her visit by the time she arrived. She had hoped she could sneak in some time alone with Patsy before the next member of Nonnatus House arrived. She had wanted to...what exactly? She couldn’t just tell her everything, could she? No. She couldn’t tell her that , not yet. She had already seen the heartbreaking look of unrecognition in those beautiful blue eyes, she could not survive the look of rejection. It was better to wait a bit.

But still, she did want to be alone with her. She wanted it to be just she and Pats, alone behind the ochre curtain. She wanted to talk to her. To apologize again. To reassure. To hold her hand. To answer any questions she had. To tell her she was there, and would never abandon her again.

Delia blinked as the specialist asked her another question, “What line of work is your father in? Sheep? Mining?”

It took every ounce of control she had to resist rolling her eyes at the man. Typical . People in London all thought everyone in Wales was either a coal miner of a sheep farmer. She met his gaze. “Draper,” she said, deadpan. Thinking that he probably now thought her father belonged in the tub alongside the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Patsy’s mouth twitch up in an amused smile.

“Smashing,” said Mr. Stockton. “Did you know H.G. Wells worked as a draper’s apprentice for a number of years? Thankfully, he was dreadful at it. Otherwise we would not have all his brilliant novels.”

“I wasn’t aware,” Delia said, voice still dry. Patsy’s smile deepened.

“Actually, his novel Kipps draws directly from that experience. Do you know it?”

“I can’t say that I do.”

“It’s his finest work in my opinion. I would highly recommend it.”

And on it went.

On.

And on.

And on.

After what Delia would guess was another fifteen or twenty minutes of inane questions, Patsy was beginning to look utterly exhausted. The brunette watched as she drew her left hand up and pressed thumb and forefinger against her eyes.

“Patsy, are you feeling alright?” she asked, concern and fear rising in her gut. Is a seizure coming on? Does she feel dizzy?

The redhead gave her a tight, unconvincing, smile. “I’m fine. Just a bit of a headache is all.”

“It looks like it’s time to wrap things up,” said the specialist. “Nurse Busby, thank you for your assistance. If you would excuse us, I would like to finish up some final notes with Miss Mount before leaving her to rest for the remainder of the evening.” He turned back to Patsy, “I dare say you’ve had more than enough stimulation for the day.”

“Oh course,” Delia said, getting to her feet. But she couldn’t just leave. She couldn’t just walk away again without saying a proper goodbye. But the doctor was standing right there, watching. The old Patsy would have wanted her to do just that. The old Patsy would have wanted her to avoid suspicion at all costs. But that Patsy was gone. This new Patsy needed reassurance that Delia cared. So she stepped forward, placed a gentle hand on the redhead’s shoulder, and leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. It was a quick, innocent, friendly kiss, but Delia felt it light up her entire body with hope.

“Goodnight, Pats. I will see you tomorrow.”

Patsy looked at her intently as she raised back to standing. “Goodnight, Delia. Thank you for coming.”

Delia turned and nodded goodnight to the doctor before slipping through the ochre curtain.

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

Mary was sitting at the desk when the ward doors opened and a thin, rather glamorous blonde nurse walked onto the ward. This nurse wasn’t dressed in the purple passions, she wore a light blue uniform under a dark grey mackintosh, her red hat tucked under her arm. The blonde looked around the ward curiously, her eyes coming to rest on the closed curtains hiding Patsy, Delia, and Mr. Stockton.

“May I help you?” Mary asked, striding over to her.

“I hope so,” she said, her voice bright as she smiled kindly. “I was hoping to visit Patsy Mount this evening. I was told she’s on this ward.”

Mary smiled at her, “I take it you are one of her colleagues from Nonnatus House?”

“Yes. Nurse Trixie Franklin. I should be on the list of approved visitors,” she said. Her smile was still bright, but, to Mary’s eye, seemed to be stuck on her face like a fuzzy felt on a board. Starched. Practiced.

Delia had told her about how close all the nurses at Nonnatus were. This woman must be quite worried and nervous to visit her friend who won’t recognize her.

She gave the nurse a reassuring smile, “Of course you are. But, I’m terribly sorry, you will have to wait. I’m afraid there is a specialist in with Miss Mount at the moment.”

Nurse Franklin’s blue eyes narrowed, “A specialist? Is that the one Patsy’s father sent?”

Mary tilted her head up in question. How could she know that?

The blonde shook her head, “I saw Sister Julienne before I left Poplar. She told me. So, he’s been in there all this time?”

“He has,” Mary said, cautiously. She really shouldn’t be discussing a patient with anyone but their next of kin.

“I see,” said the blonde, her voice suddenly much cooler as she eyed the yellow curtains. She turned back to the dark-haired nurse. “Has anyone else come by to try to visit with Nurse Mount? I was expecting to meet someone here.”

“Yes. Nurse Busby came to visit. She’s actually in there with the specialist now, at his request.”

Nurse Franklin’s head snapped around so quickly that her blonde hair became disarrayed, despite the obvious amounts of lacquer. But she didn’t move to smooth it. “Delia’s in there?” she said, alarm etched across her fine features. It faded quickly as she regained her composure. “Whatever for?”

The look on the blonde’s face and the quick return to normal was enough to tell Mary who this nurse must be. Patsy’s roommate. The one who was very understanding .

She could be trusted.

“I’m not sure,” Mary said. “All he said was that it would be beneficial to observe Patsy while she interacted with someone familiar,” she said, purposely using Patsy’s name to indicate that she knew her outside of just the patient-nurse relationship.

The blonde raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.

“I don’t mean to pry, but are you Patsy’s roommate at Nonnatus?”

Nurse Franklin’s eyebrows raised impossibly higher. “I am.”

Mary smiled, “Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound so creepy. Delia had mentioned you, is all.” The blonde looked guarded, but Mary ploughed on carefully. “I’ve known them both since training, and I know how close they are. I really appreciate how wonderful you all have been to Delia during all of this. I’m glad she has someone like you looking out for her.”

The blonde smiled cautiously, “Well, we are a family at Nonnatus, and as Delia is Patsy’s best friend, that makes her one of the fold.”

Trixie Franklin was obviously cautious and protective of her friends. Good .

There was a rustling of the curtains and both women looked around to see Delia walk dazedly out from behind the heavy cloth. The Welshwoman smiled when she saw them both standing there and made her way toward them, shaking her head a little as if to clear it.

“What was that all about?” Mary asked.

“I honestly haven’t the foggiest. That was unlike any assessment I have ever been a part of.”

The blonde nurse reached out and placed her hand on Delia’s arm, “Do you think he will move her?”

Delia shrugged. “I couldn’t say. He asked me as many questions as he did Pats.” She looked up, and gave a hollow laugh at the mirrored looks of concern on both nurses’ faces. “The questions were nothing...worrisome. Just the same type of ones he was asking Patsy. I honestly have no clue what he’s up to.”

Mary looked at her friend closely. She looked emotionally and physically exhausted. “Is he finishing up? Do you both want to visit with Patsy after he’s done?”

“Can’t,” she said, shaking her head, eyes glistening a little. “Pats is done in. She needs to sleep.”

“And so do you, by the looks of things. Come on, sweetie. Let’s get you back to Nonnatus,” said the blonde.

Mary nodded, “I think that’s a good plan. I’ll see what I can find out when he’s done.”

Delia smiled at her, “Thanks, Mary. For everything.”

“Of course.”

She watched the pair walk off the ward. Mary was glad that she had meet Patsy’s roommate. She felt a little better knowing that Delia had someone to turn to outside the Nurses Home. It could be so difficult to find privacy amongst all those gossiping girls. And many of them had been so nasty to both Patsy and Delia during training. Well, they had warmed up to Delia once she proved to be just as clever as any of them - not the Welsh country bumpkin they expected. But Patsy was so cool and unreadable. Her cleverness did nothing to endear her to her classmates, but rather made many of them more jealous and spiteful. Allie had told her that she had heard some comments from some of the pettier girls about Patsy since her accident. Mary was relieved that Delia was well clear of all that.

The sound of curtain rings sliding caused her to break out of her reverie. She turned to Mr. Stockton and pasted on a helpful smile. She didn’t speak, her experience with pompous specialist telling her it is better to let him have the first word.

He looked her over. “Miss Mount is resting now.”

“Of course, doctor. I will check in on her in a little while and she if she needs anything.”

He nodded.

“Is there anything else I can do to assist you with your assessment?”

Mr. Stockton gave her a measured look. “I think I have everything I need. I will be relaying my assessment to Miss Mount’s father in the morning, it is the middle of the night in Hong Kong now. Please put in her notes that I will report back with his decision regarding her care tomorrow. Goodnight, nurse.”

“Goodnight,” she said, a sense of helplessness washing over her as he walked away. She wanted to give her opinion. Wanted to tell him about all the people who cared about the redhead and who were slated to visit. But she knew, from the look on his face that it would do more harm than good.

They would just have to wait.



 

Chapter Text

Charles Mount paced the floor of his study. Throughout the morning, his mind had only been half on his work, but now, as the hour of his call with Mr. Stockton approached, he could think of nothing but his daughter.

This was a new experience for the shipbroker. He rarely thought of his adult daughter, other than logistically - putting money into her account and scheduling the odd dinner on his increasingly rare trips to England. He had effectively put all thoughts of his daughter, of his entire family, out of his head for the past fifteen years. Of course, there were nights - usually after his third scotch - when he let his thoughts drift back to the past, to all he had lost. And when he did think of Patsy, he pictured her piercing blue eyes staring down at him from the ship’s deck as it pulled out of Keppel Harbour, taking her off to England and out of his life. Those eyes haunted him. They were not full of hurt or reproach, not even of disappointment. That he could have managed. No, they stared right through him as though he was not even there, as if she had buried him in Sumatra beside Kate and Libby. They were cold and unfeeling. Neutral.  

He paused in his pacing to grip the desk chair. Those eyes were precisely why Charles Mount had not had more than two scotches in a night in years. The older he got, the more they burned him to the core.

He had failed her. He knew that. And with each passing year he felt it more and more. The occasional correspondence they sent became more and more formal. ‘Papa’ became ‘Father,’ ‘love’ became ‘sincerely,’ ‘Patsy’ became ‘Patience.’ She had become a stranger to him.

And now.

Now he was a stranger to her too.

But this was his chance to do things right. This was his chance to be the father he should have been when he first saw his broken little girl after the camps. This was his chance to start over.

He looked at the clock. Five to three. He resumed his pacing.

He would make sure that Patsy had the best care. That was what was most important. She should have the very best doctors in the country. He would have her moved all the way to Scotland if he had to.

And he would go to her. That, of course, was the trickier part.

His eyes flicked over to the clock on his desk. Two minutes.

He sat down at his desk and pulled a sheet of writing paper towards him with his left hand, setting his best fountain pen beside it. Ready.

Yes, the travel would be hard on him. Especially now. But he could manage it. He would, of course need to make sure everything was in order before he left.

The phone rang and the tension rose in his chest. Charles couldn’t remember the last time he felt nervous for a call. Adrenaline, yes - closing a particularly good deal always caused that. But nerves? It had been years. He waited for his housekeeper to answer. Three rings, then silence.

He heard the click of her heels as she approached his study.

“Mr. Stockton for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Sarah.”

He waited until she had ducked back out of the room before reaching out a slightly shaky left hand and picking up the receiver. “Good morning, Jim. Sorry to get you out of bed so early.”

“Not at all, Charles. Happy to be of service.” The doctor sounded distant, but cheerful - no trace of tiredness in his voice. Lucky him.

“And I do appreciate it. Look, Jim, I hate to skip right to business, but I do have to call Sister Julienne at Nonnatus House in an hour, so I want to make sure I have all the pertinent facts.”

“Of course. Not a problem,” he said, and Charles thought he could detect a hint of a smile in his voice. He waited, the faint shuffling of papers coming over the buzzing of the line as Jim consulted his notes. “Well, it seems what you heard from Sister...Julienne, was it...was correct. Your daughter does have some relatively minor physical injuries...fractures to the right arm and ribs, some contusions and abrasions...that should all heal with no trouble. There’s a possibility of scarring on some of the abrasions, but if treated properly, it should be very minor.”

Charles’ mind drifted to the scars he knew must cover his daughter’s back like one of those dreadful paintings by that American hack Jackson Pollock. They had been there in the hospital in Singapore after the war. Red. Angry. Some long healed, others fresh and oozing.

Her body had been marked enough.

“Have they been treated properly thus far?”

“Oh yes, the care has been quite excellent. Some of the wounds are just the kind that will scar no matter how well treated. But, as I said, they should be minor, and I expect they will fade.”

“Well that’s a relief. We can have them looked over again after she has been moved. Do you have a recommendation as to which hospital? You had mentioned the National as a possibility due to their specialization in neurological disorders. Or perhaps that private hospital up north.” He sat, pen poised over the paper as he waited for the response.

“I do have a recommendation.” There was a pause as the international connection popped and whirred. “I believe your daughter would receive the best treatment at the London.”

Charles was stunned. His pen paused on the paper, causing a puddle of black ink to ooze out of the nib. The London? In the East End? Surely not.

“You can’t be serious.”

“But I am. Not only has the care been excellent, the London has something that no other hospital can provide her.”

“And what is that,” he said, indignantly, blotting the ink.

He heard Jim take a breath, clearly steeling himself, “Familiarity.”

He snorted. The last thing his daughter needed was to reacquaint herself with that place. It was so below her.

“Here me out, Charles. The biggest obstacle your daughter is facing is her amnesia. She cannot remember anything about her life or anyone from it. Now, studies have shown that the best thing for patients suffering from retrograde amnesia as the result of a head injury is familiarity. She needs to be around things that can help her remember.”

“Well can’t we just tell her about her life. Won’t that help?”

“It won’t. It would be like hearing a story. What she needs is a more visceral reminder. Have you ever smelt something and been instantly transported back in time?”

Had he ever. He could not go down to the docks anymore. The smell of the sea, of sweat, of damp, of meat, of metal. In certain areas, the combination would be just right. Just like the barracks in the camp.

After a moment, Jim’s voice rose through his thoughts, “Charles? Are you there?”

“Y-yes. Of course. I know what you mean. Like how pipe smoke reminds me of my grandfather’s study.” He hoped the staticky connection helped mask the shake in his voice.

“Exactly. Well, it’s not just smell. Sights, sounds, tastes, situations, people. All these things can help. Your daughter worked at the London. It’s the best hospital for her to be in to recover her memories.”

“Is that really even a likely outcome?”

“We have to hope for the best.”

“Mmmmm.”

There was a pause as the specialist waited for him to say more. When he didn’t, Jim asked, “Charles, you do want her to recover her memories, don’t you?”

Did he? Did he really? Would he want his? What he wouldn’t give to forget the horrors of his life. To have those three horrific years erased along with all the heartache they brought. The torture, the starvation, the indignity. The loss.

All the loss.

Without her memories, he had a chance to have his daughter back. She wouldn’t remember the father who abandoned her, just the one who came for her. That would be the best outcome for them both, wouldn’t it? They would be a family again. Catherine would’ve wanted that.

Kate.

His lovely Kate. He would never want to forget her. If there was any chance, any at all of getting the memory of her back, he knew he would want it. Pain and all. He could not take her from Patsy. Nor Libby, for that matter. And perhaps his daughter had someone just as important to her as Kate had been to him. He didn’t know, but why would he? Patience would never have confided in him about a gentleman. He would have just received an engraved invitation when the wedding happened. If he was lucky.

But still, the London? Surely, she’d have more of a chance at recovering at a better hospital.

“Of course I do,” he said. “But surely any hospital would be familiar to a nurse. They all are painted that awful institutional green and the nurses all wear the same uniforms. Surely any one of them would be just as familiar.”

He heard the doctor sigh. “But it’s not just about the hospital, Charles. She has friends here. When I spoke to Mr. Edwards and the Matron, they told me that the entire staff of Nonnatus House had been granted visiting privileges as if they were family. And from what Matron tells me, the sisters are very protective of their nursing colleagues and it is a tightly knit household. Already, three members of staff have visited, and another tried to do so whilst I was doing my assessment. And she’s had another friend that she went through training with who has come every day.”

As if they were family. That rankled. He had given Sister Julienne permission to continue acting as next of kin in his stead, but he was Patsy’s family.

“But it’s not like she knows them? Isn’t having all those people come around terribly confusing and exhausting. Patience was never one for small talk.”

“On the contrary. It’s good to have the stimulation as long as she does not overtax herself. But these women are all trained nurses, so they are very aware of these kinds of things. Just tonight, I observed the friend from training I mentioned, a Nurse…Delia Busby...with your daughter and she picked up on her fatigue right away.”

“But that is exactly what I mean. Wouldn’t she be better off in a private hospital where she could rest? Especially so early in her recovery.”

“Private hospitals mean private rooms,” Jim said.

Exactly. Patsy had always been very private since the camp. He had seen it. And the nuns at St. Mary’s had written to him about it as well. Understandable really. “Patience is used to being on her own. In fact, she prefers it,” he said.

“She might have before. But she doesn’t remember that now. As I said, I observed her with her friend tonight. She seemed more relaxed and engaged than she did when it was just me there. She also seemed happier and less anxious, which is no small feat when you have complete retrograde amnesia. It was quite interesting to observe, really. I was performing my initial assessment behind the curtains, when your daughter heard this woman’s voice. Now, as far as she remembers, she has only met this woman once, yet she called out to her so that she would not leave. They seem to have been quite close before the accident. I know we talked yesterday about semantic versus episodic memory, do you remember?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Well, I feel that something about her interactions with Nurse Busby...the feeling of it...must still be stored in there somewhere. Despite her amnesia, there was a feeling of familiarity between the two...almost like they were sisters. Well, according to Nurse Busby, they have known each other for almost six years and were quite close. I’d be interested to observe how your daughter interacts with her other friends and colleagues as well. It’s all quite fascinating really, what the brain is capable of.”

Charles was beginning to get annoyed. If he was honest, it was the ‘sisters’ comment that had done it. Hearing that sent a knife right through his heart. Patsy had a sister - Libby. No one could replace her, especially not some nurse in London. And now Jim was going on about how fascinating it all was. Maybe to him. Charles found it rather distasteful.

But still, he could not ignore the doctor’s words. She seemed happier and less anxious, which is no small feat when you have complete retrograde amnesia.

Happier.

The vision of those cold blue eyes burning into him from the ship’s deck came rushing back. If he truly wanted to do what was best for his daughter, he knew what he would have to do. He would not leave her alone again. Even if it were not he that was the one who was there for her. Not yet.

“Alright, Jim. I see your point. She should stay at the London if that is what you think is best for her and for her recovery.”

“I really do, Charles. I could speak to Mr. Edwards and request to be brought in on her case if that would help ease your mind.”

Charles felt his shoulders relax a little. It would make him feel better knowing that someone he knew and trusted was keeping an eye on things until he could get to London. “That would be very much appreciated, Jim, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“Not at all. As I said, her case is quite fascinating from a medical standpoint, and quite rare. I’m happy to consult on the case.”

“Thank you. I shall be traveling to London as soon as possible, but it will take some time to get all my affairs in order. Do you know when she might be discharged from the London?” he asked, picking up his pen again.

He could hear the rustle of papers again as the specialist consulted his notes. “If all goes well, they estimate around a fortnight. But it could be longer. The fractures should take around six weeks to heal fully, but she should be recovered enough to move around a bit in two weeks’ time. But it really depends on how the concussion heals.”

“I see. Well, I shall hope for the longer timeframe. I expect it will take a fortnight to get everything arranged here, and then at least a week for the journey. I plan to travel by aeroplane, but as you know, I will need to take longer rests between flights than is customary.” He looked down at the paper before him, the slight tremor evident in his formerly perfect copperplate.

“Of course,” Jim said.

“I will speak to the housekeeper at the townhouse in Kensington. If I am not back by the time she is discharged, she can make arrangements to bring her home.”

There was a long pause. “Charles,” he began, obviously unsure how to say what he wanted to say.

The shipbroker gritted his teeth. “Out with it, Jim. I’m not paying you to protect my feelings.”

A nervous laugh floated over the buzzing of the line. “Well, Charles. It’s just, Kensington is not her home.”


>>>>><<<<< 


Delia’s stomach felt like it was boiling with nerves as she entered the corridor that led to Patsy’s ward. It had been a very tense day for the Welsh nurse. She had left Nonnatus early for her shift before Sister Julienne was due to speak with the redhead’s father, so she hadn’t heard what he had decided. The anxiety from the uncertainty had made her feel ill throughout her entire shift. Thank god there had not been any vomiters today. She would have surely added her own bile to the mix.

The lack of vomit had also meant that she hadn’t needed to return to the Nurses Home to change, so even if Patsy was being moved, she would hopefully still make it in time to see her before she left. Hopefully. She felt a swoop of anxiety in her gut at the thought and picked up her pace.

As she approached the doors, a flash of red instantly caught her eye and she felt tears of relief sting her eyes.

Patsy was still here.

Delia pushed open the doors and walked onto the ward. From the corner of her eye she saw Patsy’s ginger head turn towards her, but the Welshwoman’s gaze was on Mary.

She needed to know.

The dark-haired nurse looked up and, upon seeing who it was, broke out into a broad smile and nodded.

Patsy was staying.

Delia felt her own face split with a grin as the relief washed over her. She turned, taking in the inquisitive look on the face she loved more than anything in the world.

“Hello, Pats.”






 

Chapter Text

“Hello, Pats.”

Delia just stood there for a moment, looking at Patsy as the corner of the redhead’s mouth quirked up into that adorable half smile that got her every time. She could hardly believe it. Patsy was staying. She would be able to visit her everyday so long as she could keep her shifts in line - which she would, no matter what it cost her.

All was not lost.

She heard footsteps to her right and turned to see Mary smiling at her. “Good evening, Nurse Busby. You’re here early.”

Delia smiled back, “It was an unusual day on Male Surgical. Everyone decided to keep their own fluids to themselves for once, so I didn’t need to go home and change. I thought I’d come right up after my shift to get the most out of visiting time.”

Mary met her eyes over her glasses, “Well, we’re happy to have you. Shall I close the curtain and give you two some privacy?”

“Thank you, Mary. That would be lovely,” she said, unable to control the huge grin that was threatening to swallow her entire face. But the dark-haired nurse’s face almost mirrored hers as she pulled the curtain closed. Bless Mary. Delia really felt lucky to have such a great friend.

She turned back to the bed, still beaming. Patsy was smiling too, though she looked a little cautious, and her smile was more lopsided than usual due to the bandage on her right cheek.

Nevertheless, here they were, alone and smiling at each other.

Was it really only four days ago that they had last been like this? Only four days since she had left her girlfriend standing outside their new flat? It seemed much longer than that with all that had happened since. The accident. The waiting. The worrying. The amnesia.

She felt her smile falter a little as she was hit with a sudden wave of sadness.

Yes, so much had changed. The Patsy that was looking at her now was missing that certain gleam in her eye that told Delia that she was completely, head-over-heels, in love with her. The Patsy that was looking at her now was happy to see her, and perhaps a little apprehensive, but she looked at her as a curious new acquaintance, not as the woman she knew best in the world. Still, at least Patsy was here and able to look at her at all. That was something to be thankful for. Delia’s eyes travelled up to the bandage covering the side of that lovely ginger head. Things could have been much, much worse.

“Hello,” Patsy said, breaking the spell.

The brunette blinked. “Hello,” she said, feeling suddenly awkward at being alone with the woman she loved but who did not remember her. She didn’t know quite how to act.

Patsy seemed to sense her hesitation. “Would you like to sit down?”

Yes. Sitting.

That was a good place to start.

They sat in silence for a moment, just looking at each other.

Delia felt she really should say something. She should apologize again for walking out the other day. She knew she had done so in front of Mr. Stockton, but she should again now that they were alone. She needed Patsy to know that she would never leave her again. Of course, she couldn’t exactly say that - not without telling her the truth - that would be a very odd statement coming from someone who was supposed to just be her friend. But she could reassure her. Tell her she was here for her and standing by her.

“I’m so sorry for how I acted the other day,” she said, but Patsy had begun speaking at almost the exact same time and didn’t hear her.

They laughed, releasing some of the nervous tension in the air.

“You go first,” Delia said.

Patsy smiled. “I like your uniform,” she said, her husky voice filled with mirth.

The brunette felt her stomach flip. That voice. The familiar teasing sound of that voice nearly broke her heart. It felt so normal. So much like before.

But it wasn’t like before, she reminded herself. God this was so hard. She swallowed down the lump in her throat.

Not five minutes in and just one sentence teasing about these horrid purple uniforms and Delia had nearly come undone again. She took a breath and felt the ring press into her skin as the fabric of her dress tightened against her expanding lungs.

She could do this.

Delia hitched a devilish smile onto her face and adopted the cheekiest tone she could muster, “Well, aren't you the charmer. You used to have one just like it, you know.” She reached a hand up to pluck at one of the puffed sleeves. “I've always suspected that half the reason you were so keen on district practice was to get away from these beauties. Lavender never was your colour. Blue suits you much better, especially with your new hair.”

Patsy had been smiling at her as she spoke, but her face fell at the brunette's last words. “My hair?” she said, twisting a fiery lock around the fingers of her good hand and bringing it around for inspection.

Delia watched her, unsure of what she should say or do. But Patsy didn't look upset, just introspective.

When she spoke, her voice sounded almost dreamy. “It should be blonde,” she said.

“Y-you remember?” Delia squeaked, surprised she could manage to get any sound out at all around her heart which had suddenly lodged itself firmly in her throat.

Patsy blinked, disengaging her eyes from her hair and turning them on her visitor. Delia’s throat tightened even more when those eyes met hers, full of sadness and understanding. “No. I just know. Like how I know I have blue eyes, even though I haven't looked in a mirror since before...you know.” She gave the brunette an apologetic smile. “I'm sorry.”

She was sorry? “Whatever for,” the brunette asked, throat still tight.

“For not remembering,” she paused, eyes falling to her lap, “For not being her.”

The Welshwoman felt her heart drop like a lead ball from her throat into her stomach.

So stupid.

How could she be so bloody stupid?

Of course Patsy would know her hair colour, just like she knew her name. It was part of who she was. But, like an idiot, she had got her hopes up, and worse, let it show. And now Patsy - the one suffering from amnesia, the one who did not remember a single thing about her past, the one who must be filled with such fear and anxiety about the black hole that was her past life - was apologizing to her.

Delia felt ashamed.

She immediately reached out and took Patsy’s left hand in both of her own. “Oh, sweetheart. You have nothing to apologize for. I’m sorry if I seem at all disappointed that you don’t remember. Of course, I want your memories to return, but for your sake, not mine. I’ll be here for you no matter what. Whether they come back or they don’t, I will be here. Patsy, you are…” she paused for a moment, not sure what to say.

My entire world? The most important person in my life?

No. That was much too forward.

My best friend?

No. That didn’t come close to covering it.

“You are so very, very important to me. I cannot imagine not having you in my life.” She squeezed her hand, forcing the redhead’s eyes up to meet her own. “You might not have your memories, but I can promise you, you are still very much you. Not her. Not some past person who is lost. You.”

Tears began to fall from Patsy’s eyes and Delia felt the redhead squeeze her hands in return. When she spoke, her voice sounded strained, “So you really were my best friend, then?”

Delia scooted her chair forward and gripped her love’s hands even tighter. She felt tears form in her own eyes as she said, “No, Pats. Not were. Am.” She smiled, “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

 

 

>>>>><<<<<< 

 

 

Patsy sat listening to Delia talk. It felt so nice, so normal, just chatting with a new friend. And that’s exactly what the brunette was. For the first time she could remember, she had a friend.

A real friend.

Delia had made it very clear that she was her friend, not someone biding her time waiting for the return of Past-Pats (for that was what she had begun calling her pre-accident self in her own mind, she could hear it clearly in the brunette’s Welsh tones). And the redhead knew she meant it. She wondered if she could ever truly express how much that meant to her.

These past few days had been so very lonely. Delia’s first brief visit, the first interaction Patsy had with anyone aside from medical staff, had been horrible. Her amnesia had come as a such shock to her friend, and the redhead had been surprised when she had returned the next day. Not that they had been able to really talk then with Mr. Stockton carrying out his assessment. Nurse Boyd had been lovely, but she was on duty. She had a half-dozen patients to care for and could not sit with Patsy and talk. And Sister Julienne’s visit had been enlightening but not exactly social. No, the majority of the redhead’s days had been spent sleeping or talking about her condition with doctors and nurses.

But, at least one good thing had come out of one of those doctor’s visits. Thanks to Mr. Stockton, Patsy now knew a bit about her Welsh friend. So, after Delia had reassured her that she was there for her, not Past-Pats, the redhead had asked her more about her life. She wanted to forget about her amnesia for a moment and just hear more about Delia. She wanted to hear someone tell stories about a past they could remember.

And it felt so good.

It felt so gloriously normal to just sit listening to Delia tell stories. She really was an excellent storyteller. She had this way of exaggerating her accent when she was at a really humorous part, or when she was talking about something that was “very Welsh.” Patsy found it adorable. She found herself just watching the Welshwoman’s face as she talked. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she told her about some of the scrapes she and her brothers had got into when they were children. She smiled as she talked, and that smile seemed to light up their little curtain enclosed cubby. And her laugh. Patsy had been right when she had thought that Delia must have a wonderful laugh. It seemed to ring, like music.

She listened to Delia telling a story about a time her brother Wil had tricked his younger brother Edwyn into thinking he was having a growth spurt by meticulously trimming a sliver of fabric off his school uniform shorts every day.

“And this was during the war, so the fabric was harder to come by. Mam was furious when she found out. Granted by that time, Ed’s shorts were quite risqué. Dad was more impressed than mad. Wil had rehemmed them each day too, and apparently his craftsmanship was very impressive.”

Patsy found herself laughing right along with her Welsh friend. Wil and Ed seemed like such characters. She smiled at the look of affection on Delia’s face as she talked about her elder brothers. The redhead couldn’t help but wish that she had a Wil or Ed in her life. But then, maybe she did?

“Your brothers sound like such fun. Can I ask you something, Delia?”

The brunette looked at her reassuringly, her eyes still twinkling with merriment from the tale. “Of course, Pats. You can ask me anything.”

She closed her eyes and took a breath, her anxiety at asking about her own past caused her next words to tumble out in a rush, “Do I have any brothers or sisters? I have a sense that I’m an only child, especially since I have not heard from any family. I know my mother died years ago, but my father is in Hong Kong, so perhaps my siblings could be abroad as well. I’m sorry, I know this is terribly awkward.” She opened her eyes and looked at her friend.

The change in Delia’s expression shook her to the core. She looked stricken and ashen. Her tears of merriment changing to anguish in an instant.

Patsy felt the panic rise as the brunette reached out and took her hands again. “You had a younger sister. I’m so very sorry, sweetheart. But, she died around the same time as your mother.”

The redhead felt her throat clench and she struggled to swallow. She had had a sister. For some reason, this gap in her memory hurt more than not being able to remember her own mother. Because of course she knew she must have had a mother, even if she could not remember her. That was just simple logistics. But a sister? How could she not have known that? How could she not have felt that fact somewhere inside herself in the same way that she felt her blonde hair beneath the red dye?

“What was her name?” she croaked, tears spilling down her face, burning the cuts on her cheeks.

Delia reached out a hand and wiped some of them away with her thumb. “Elisabeth. But you called her Libby.”

Elisabeth.

Libby.

Patsy felt her concentration slip as her emotions swirled around inside her like a hurricane. She had a sister. No. She had had a sister. Libby. The name felt foreign to her.

“Did you know her?” she asked, he voice sounded so quiet beneath the pounding of the blood in her ears.

She didn’t look up, but she could hear the concern in the Welshwoman’s voice. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I didn’t. She died over fifteen years ago, during the war. You and I have only known each other for about six years.”

“Oh.”

That’s right. Delia had said that yesterday. Six years.

Patsy could feel the fog overtaking her brain in the way it did whenever she felt stressed or tired.

Deep breath.

She needed to calm down.

Patsy concentrated on her breathing.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

That’s right, Sister Julienne had said her mother had died when she was a girl. And Delia had just said that her sister had died around that time.

Of course.

She felt foolish.

“Oh, that’s right. Sorry, so silly of me.”

Delia reached up a hand and gently directed her downturned chin up so that their eyes met. “Patsy. You don’t have anything to apologize for. Not to me, and certainly not about this.” The brunette’s eyes bored into her. Their sincerity was almost too much. Blinding. Like looking into the sun. “I cannot imagine how difficult this is for you. There is so much about your life, both happy and sad, that you don’t know. And it will sneak up on you when you might not expect it. But just know that I will be here, Pats. I’m right here with you through it all. You don’t have to be brave or put on a front. Not with me, okay?”

Suddenly, Patsy could not breathe. She felt like a floodgate had been opened in her chest and the rising waters rushed up her throat, choking her as they flowed up and out of her eyes. She couldn’t find breath to speak, but managed a nod as she sputtered and gasped. Delia’s arms were around her in an instant, drawing her head against her chest.

“Oh, sweetheart,” she said, gently stroking her hair. “I’m here, cariad. I’m right here with you, Pats. And I’m not going anywhere.”


 

Chapter Text

Charles Mount leaned against the railing smoking a cigarette and looking out into Victoria Harbour. The sun flashed off the water as the waves moved in to crash against the embankments of Hong Kong International Airport’s famous runway 13. It was quite fitting that this runway extended out into a harbour. It would not have felt right to leave from a landlocked airport. Still, a boat would have been more apt. Another harbour, another Mount leaving these Eastern shores for perhaps the last time in their life.

He slowly raised a shaky hand and took another deep drag, relishing the buzz of the nicotine as he ticked off items in his mental checklist.

Everything was set.

He had gone over his accounts with a fine-toothed comb - both the business and his personal finances. All was in order. He was leaving the business in the capable hands of his junior partner. He had, after all, been preparing the young man to take over for almost two years now. And he was ready.

The house had been prepared for his absence. Sarah would look after things for as long as he needed. His most prized possessions were packed in his case along with his travel clothes, and all other necessities had been sent ahead to London. Sarah had been in communication with the housekeeper at the townhouse in Kensington and all should be in order there as well. He would miss Sarah. Charles wished that she would come with him to London, but her life was here. She might be English by birth, but she had never set foot in her homeland.

It had been years since he had as well.

Despite having two houses in his native land, Charles knew that this was his true home. He had lived in the Far East for most of his life. This was where he started his career as a young shipbroker in his father’s company. He had brought Kate here after they had married, and this was where they had started their family - Patsy was born in Shanghai, Libby in Singapore.

And this was where Kate and Libby would remain forever. He could feel them now, buried in unmarked graves some 3,000 miles away.

He squinted his eyes against the sun, peering out into the Pacific. Would he still be able to feel them in London - the cold mists feeling so unlike the humid heat of Sumatra and Hong Kong. He hoped he could.

But he had never been able to feel Patsy’s presence from that distance. Perhaps it was because they were both still living, each pulling further and further away. Each simply observing the social niceties like any dutiful distant relative.

Charles sighed, acutely aware of the card in his breast pocket. It had arrived over a week ago. A neat formal card informing him of his daughter’s change of address. That was all. No letter telling him all about her new home. No letter at all. Just a neatly printed address on cream cardstock.

Of course, Sister Julienne had mentioned in her initial call that Patsy had recently moved, so he should have expected it. His daughter was efficient to a fault. She would have sent the card as soon as arrangements were finalized, knowing how long it took for the post to reach Hong Kong.

But still, this concise, cold card had hit him unexpectedly hard. It was so detached and formal, he was actually surprised that it had been addressed to him and not his secretary. He wondered if it would have affected him so much if it had not been for her accident. He liked to think it would have, especially given his own changed circumstances, but he knew he probably would have forwarded it to his secretary with the same cold efficiency with which it had been sent. Instead, he had carried the card in his breast pocket ever since its arrival like some sort of bizarre talisman reminding him that he needed to be better this time around.

He closed his eyes against the sun and pictured those sky-blue eyes blazing down from the ship’s deck in Keppel Harbour.

He wanted his little girl back.

Eyes still closed, he took another pull on his cigarette. As he exhaled, blowing the smoke out into the salty breeze, he thought of those same blue eyes alight with happiness as she and Libby sat playing with their dolls just days before their family had been torn apart. More than anything, he wanted to hear his daughter laugh again for the first time since she was nine.

He needed to go home.

Charles opened his eyes and walked unsteadily towards the plane that would take him to Tokyo, the first leg of the journey back to London. He took a last drag from his cigarette before flicking it out into the crashing waves.

 

 

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

 

 

Patsy was sitting up in her bed staring at one of the crosswords in the book that Sister Mary Cynthia had given her. She was having a hard time focusing, but for once, it was not due to her head injury. Or at least, not just due to it.

She was going home.

Well, not home, exactly. She was going back to the place where she used to work and live. Her proper home would have to wait until her father arrived in a week’s time. But she was going back to what had been her home for the past year or so. Back to Nonnatus House.

She was equal parts nerves and excitement. But, mainly down to the fact that she was finally leaving this room, excitement was winning out.

Just barely.

She looked down at the clue for Six Across: Clairvoyants, five letters. Patsy brought the pencil up and pressed the cool lacquered wood against her lips, thinking hard.

If she was honest, she wished she was going somewhere a little quieter. The transition from being alone most of the day to living with a houseful of nurses and nuns was more than a little daunting. She wished she was going home to the flat she was to share with Delia. But she knew she couldn’t be a burden like that. Delia needed a flatmate who could work and pay her half of the rent. She needed a flatmate she didn’t have to worry about.

Funnily enough, it had been Barbara who had told her about the flat, not Delia. That seemed strange to Patsy, but she just guessed that the Welshwoman hadn’t wanted her to worry about how the accident had affected her living situation. From what she knew of Delia so far, that seemed very in character.

It had been nearly a fortnight since they had had their first visit alone after the initial, rather disastrous, one. Delia had been to visit her every day, and though she said nothing about it, Patsy could tell that something was off with the brunette. For starters, she looked exhausted. When the redhead had questioned her about it over a week ago, the Welsh nurse had said it was just that she had begun a rotation of night shifts. But it never levelled out as it should. Delia continued to look drawn and a little bleary eyed. Patsy suspected that her friend was missing out on sleep to visit her, even though the brunette had denied it.

She looked at the green and red painted pencil in her hand, flipping it back and forth between her first and second fingers in agitation. Bringing her eyes back to the puzzle, she continued her nervous movement, her third finger rubbing against her thumb. Ten Across: Closet Occupants, nine letters.

But it wasn’t just her tiredness that had Patsy worried. Delia seemed to be holding something back. Seeing as she hadn’t mentioned the flat, Patsy assumed that it must be related to that. Barbara had told her that she and Delia had planned to move in together because the brunette was losing her housing in the partial demolition of the Nurses Home in which she had lived. But now she was down a flatmate, and the strain of carrying that financial burden alone must be wearing on the Welshwoman.

Patsy set down her pencil. It was useless really. She had only been able to fill in a handful of clues in the entire book. And even then, she could only do the clues in ‘Across.’ Something about the vertical orientation of the ‘Down’ clues had her completely stumped. Not to mention she could barely read the letters she had written. She was obviously not left-handed.

She closed the book with a sigh, dropping it onto the pile of gifts brought to her by the various members of Nonnatus house. Shifting them slightly, she pulled out her favorite.

It had been brought to her midway through her first week on the ward by a kind looking woman with horn rimmed glasses.

 

 

-----

 

 

Patsy was pleased to report that it was Sunday the 27th of November. The fact that she could report this at all made her smile. And, yes, she was aware of how pathetic that sounded, but she didn’t care one jot. She knew the day.

She hadn’t noticed it at first, tucked in amongst the care package Sister Julienne had brought her the previous week. She had thought the slim book was a journal, and, seeing as she could hardly write, had thought it quite useless. But earlier this afternoon, while doing her beginning of shift checks, Mary had been talking to her about her gifts.

“Have you been able to do any more reading today?” she had asked, eyeing the book in the redhead’s uninjured left hand.

“Not really. It’s hard to concentrate for too long,” Patsy said, flipping the book over so that the pages splayed out on her lap, marking her place.

“Agatha Christie?” Mary said, her eyebrows raising in surprise. “Interesting choice from a nun.”

Patsy laughed, “Sister Winifred told me that she used to love her books before she joined the Order. She thought a mystery might help with my memory and focus. But really...it’s quite hard to follow. I think I might have preferred the other book she said she almost brought instead. A children’s book. Something about a girl named Alice or Agnes, I think”

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?” Mary asked.

“That sounds right. Do you know it?”

The dark-haired nurse smiled, “I do. It’s quite famous. But I daresay you’ll have more luck making sense of the Agatha Christie.” Patsy looked at her quizzically. “It’s a bit nonsensical is all,” she paused, eyeing the books on the nightstand, “Though I must say it would be easier to decipher than this one.” She hoisted a thick volume up, looking at the cover over the tops of her wire-rimmed glasses. “Proust?”

Patsy laughed, “Yes. And in the original French, Du côté de chez Swann,” she said, her accent perfect. “I was quite surprised that I could read it, actually.”

Mary’s dark eyebrows shot up, “Impressive. But then you would have learned French in school, I’m sure.” She eyed the thick tome. “Still, strange choice for a present.”

The redhead smiled, “I thought so too, but Sister Winifred told me I’d understand when I met the nun who gave it to me. Apparently she’s quite...what was the word she used...eccentric."

“Well French or English, I’m sure your reading stamina will improve in time. But it is good for you to keep trying.”

The redhead sighed. “I wish I was better, really. It would help pass the time. It just drags so. I don’t even know what day it is.”

A few wisps of Mary’s dark hair fell from her bun as she cocked her head to regard her patient. “You could mark it in your diary.”

“Diary?”

Mary handed her the slim book she had thought was a journal. Patsy laid the book on her lap and thumbed it open with her left hand. The first page was a calendar for 1960. She stared at it, hand shaking slightly. “What’s the date?”

Mary reached down and pointed, her finger resting on a day near the end of the year. The 27th of November.

Today is Sunday, 27th November, 1960.

Patsy felt her eyes burn as the nurse withdrew her finger. “Thank you.”

Mary said something in response as she walked off to her next patient, but Patsy didn’t hear her. She had placed her own finger on the date, feeling physically anchored to time for the first time she could remember. She began tracing her finger back, counting the days.

Yesterday, 26th November, she met Sister Winifred. The young nun had seemed very cheery and good natured, if a little uneasy. Delia had visited later that day as well and her presence had made the sister seem more at ease.

She traced her finger back to Friday, 25th November. That was the day that Delia had visited her for the first time since that horrible first visit. It was also the day she found out about her sister. Patsy felt a guilty panic rise again in her chest. She squeezed her eyes closed, breathing deeply. Delia had been so wonderful to her that day. Sitting up in bed with her eyes closed now, Patsy could almost feel those arms wrapped around her, strong but gentle.

After a moment, she opened her eyes and traced her finger back to the 24th. What had happened that day? Delia had visited then too, hadn’t she? Oh, yes. Her father’s doctor had come. And Sister Julienne. That’s when she learned that her mother was gone. She wished Delia had been there to hold her then as well, the scratchy wool of the nun’s habit had inflamed her already irritated skin.

But then she hadn’t thought she would see Delia again.

She dragged her finger back to the 23rd of November. The day they met. The first day she could remember. She knew she had woken up the night before, but that date, Wednesday, 23rd November, was the first day of her new life. She glanced up at all the days and months on the top portion of the page.

So many of them.

All blank.

To her at least.

She had sat, staring at the page for what felt like hours when the ward doors swung open and a woman in a rather conservative grey skirt suit walked in. Patsy glanced her way and then back to her diary. All of her visitors had been either nuns or Delia. This woman must be here to visit one of her neighbors. So, she was surprised when the woman stopped at the foot of her bed and spoke to her.

“Good afternoon, Patsy. I hope you don’t mind me dropping by to visit.”

Patsy looked at her visitor. She stood rather stiffly, her shoulders pulled back and her hands fiddling somewhat nervously with the handle of her handbag. Her hair was that colour between blonde and brown that Patsy knew would shift depending on the light and the amount of time spent in the sun. It was leaning more towards brunette in the dull hospital lighting and was swept back into a neat bun. The woman’s large grey eyes looked at her earnestly from behind horn-rimmed glasses. Her voice was soft and kind, and Patsy thought her accent was Scottish, though she was, once again, uncertain how she would know that.

The woman had called her “Patsy,” so she must have been a friend from before. The redhead met her gaze and gave a slight nod - her headache was still too painful to risk too much movement. Her blue eyes followed the stranger as she took the seat beside the bed.

“My name is Shelagh, Shelagh Turner. You’ve already met my husband, Dr. Patrick Turner,” she said.

Pasty gave her a small smile. Yes, she had met him. Dr. Turner had come to see her a couple of times and had told her that he was both her GP and colleague from her time in district practice. The redhead had quite liked the doctor. He lacked that air of arrogance and superiority of the others she had met so far. Patsy blinked and focused her attention back on Mrs. Turner as she continued.

“I was a midwife myself before I was married, and I still work in Patrick’s surgery as a nurse and secretary, as well as at the maternity clinic. You and I have worked together quite a lot over the past year.” She smiled, her face lighting up as she spoke about work.

Patsy smiled back at her, but the smile felt hollow. She was getting quite good at mirroring other’s happiness to hide her own feelings of emptiness. Every time she met someone from her past, they would look at her kindly and smile a little nervously until she returned their smile. It was as if they needed her permission to relax.

Then, inevitably, they would talk about some shared experience. It was only natural. They did, after all, remember all the times they had shared with her. But these reminders of the life she had lost simply filled Patsy with an unexplainable sense of emptiness. It wasn’t even sadness. Just...nothing. A void. But that was too difficult to explain, so instead, she smiled.

Shelagh’s shoulders seemed to lose some of their stiffness as she continued talking, “I have a present for you. Our son Timothy has recently become interested in photography. He and Chummy...That’s Camilla Noakes, she’s a midwife from Nonnatus too, but she’s currently acting as matron at a mother and baby home. She’s in town for a class and, well, Chummy was Timothy’s Acela when he was in cubs. He enlisted her help to make you…this.” She pulled a book out of her purse and placed it in Patsy’s lap.

The book was about the size of a sheet of paper, covered in some sort of imitation red leather and bound on the short side by a cord threaded through two holes. The word ‘Photographs’ was embossed on the cover in flowing script.

A photograph album.

Patsy’s hand shook slightly as she opened the cover to reveal the picture on the first page. It was a large, old, brick building that looked rather like a school or a convent. It was a little foreboding in the black and white print, but, for some reason, she thought it looked rather welcoming too. Written on the page below the print in neat block letters were the words, ‘Nonnatus House.’

So, this was where she had lived and worked. She traced her finger over the words, feeling, for the second time in under an hour, like she was being anchored by printed text on paper.

This had been her home.

She vaguely sensed Mrs. Turner’s grey eyes on her as she turned the page. There were more photographs, portraits of smiling faces in wimples. She recognized Sister Julienne and Sister Winifred. There were others she didn’t recognize, but their names were written there for her in any case - Sister Evangelina, Sister Mary Cynthia, Sister Monica Joan. That last name she recognized as the nun who had given her the book by Proust. She looked into her eyes. Even in the black and white print they seemed to twinkle with mischief.

The next page was filled with more portraits of women she did not recognize, but these were nurses - Trixie Franklin, Barbara Gilbert, Chummy Noakes, Phyllis Crane. She stared at their faces, trying to pull a memory from the glossy monochrome.

These were her friends.

She looked up at Mrs. Turner who was watching her with wet eyes and a small smile. Patsy smiled back, but her smile was much larger. Her heart felt full for the first time all day. “Tell Timothy…” her throat tightened as she searched for the words to adequately convey her gratitude, but all she could manage was,  “‘Thank you.’”

 

 

-----

 

 

As she carefully turned the pages of the photograph album, Patsy decided she must think of a very good Christmas present for Timothy Turner. This book had been such a comfort to her over the past twelve days. She had felt much more confident now that she could recognize her visitors when they came on the ward for the first time. However, she had learned to hide this recognition after seeing the hope and excitement light up Sister Mary Cynthia’s face when she addressed her by name later that evening. Still, facade or no, just knowing that she knew people helped with her anxiety.

The pictures also helped her remember what gifts her colleagues had sent her. When Barbara visited, she was able to thank her for the deck of cards, as well as for her thoughtful note with instructions for how to play ‘Patience.’ And when Trixie visited, she made sure to note the blonde’s hairstyle and thank her for the copy of Vogue. The photograph album was like a crutch she could lean on as she walked through the action of having an actual conversation.

And now, it was helping her prepare to go home. Timothy and Chummy really had done a marvelous job. There were photographs of the inside of Nonnatus too - the kitchen, the dining room, the lounge, even the bedroom she shared with Trixie -  as well as the surrounding shops and people whom she saw regularly. There were pictures of Fred the handyman and his fiancée Mrs. Gee. Of Reverend Hereward and Sergeant Noakes. Of Dr. and Mrs. Turner and their children. Of Delia.

Just looking at these photographs helped calm her nerves, allowing the tension to finally give way to excitement. In just a few hours, Patsy was going home.

 

 

 

 

>>>>><<<<<

 

 

 

 

Delia lay on her side on the camp bed in the bedroom of her flat staring at the boxes stacked neatly against the wall. She still hadn’t unpacked. The boxes sat staring at her like bricks in the wall that stood between the life she had thought she was about to lead, and the one she had now.

It had been almost a week since she had moved the last of her possessions out of her room at the Nurses Home, but she just could not face unpacking. What was the point? She couldn’t stay here. Not without Patsy. The idea of finding a roommate to share this flat was out of the question. She shifted into a sitting position, the very thought driving any notion of sleep from her body.

Trixie had suggested it. She knew Delia didn’t want to let go of the flat and it would have allowed her to hang on until Patsy recovered. If Patsy recovered. But the brunette had refused outright. This was to be their home. She could not share it with another, no matter how temporary.

Delia sighed and swung her legs over the side of the bed, resting her elbows on her knees. She was utterly exhausted, but sleep would not come to her. She glanced at the clock propped up on the box by her bedside - half past noon. Patsy would be discharged in a few hours. She was going home.

Home to Nonnatus.

The brunette got up and padded softly into the kitchen. She needed coffee.

It made sense, really. Patsy should go to Nonnatus. There, she would spend every moment surrounded by nurses that would be at her side immediately if she had any trouble. Delia just could not provide that kind of care. And even if she could, what would she have even said to Sister Julienne to change her mind. She had no claim to Patsy, not in their eyes. Not even in Patsy’s eyes. Not anymore.

Delia stared at the kettle as it heated, allowing her vision to lose focus so that the off-white geometric pattern around the base blurred until it was a pink band beneath a fuzzy red mass.

She knew that, as soon as she found out about the amnesia, she should have talked to the other girls who had put their names down to leave. Should have seen if any of them needed an extra flatmate. But she didn’t. A tiny, irrational, part of her had thought that Patsy’s amnesia would clear up. That she would remember.

The kettle’s whistle broke her out of her reverie and she blinked to bring the red pot back into focus. God, it really was perfect. She didn’t think she could have envisioned a better tea kettle for their flat, much less actually found it. But Patsy was always very good at that kind of thing.

Or at least she had been.

Delia wondered what this new Patsy would be like once she was free of the confines of the hospital. It was so difficult to know. There were moments when everything felt so normal. Moments when this new Patsy was so like her Pats. But then she would shift, and it would be like there was a stranger across from her.

The redhead was still guarded, that much had not changed. But it was different than before. Even with her anxiety and amnesia, there was something lighter about this new version of Patsy. Delia thought that her defenses had more to do with protecting herself from the secrets of her past than with hiding something. If anything, this new Patsy seemed more open. But then, she didn’t remember the reasons she used to be closed off.

Delia took her coffee and moved into the lounge, taking a seat at the scrubbed drop-leaf table. It was too hot to drink so she wrapped her small hands around the porcelain and breathed in the rich aroma. Her eyes seemed to twitch in anticipation of their much-needed dose of caffeine as they drifted around the room.

This room.

So many plans.

Delia could still clearly picture the flat as she had described it on that fateful morning. She had known exactly how she wanted it, all the way down to the china pattern. Now she wished she had asked what Patsy had wanted. How had her brilliant girlfriend with impeccable style pictured their home together? She must have had some ideas. But no. Throughout their planning it had always been what Delia had pictured, what Delia had wanted.

She took a sip of the strong bitter drink and closed her eyes.

Delia had been the one with the plans for the spotless flat with the record player. For the yellow walls and geometric patterned china. For the real flowers on the windowsill. She hadn’t even asked her girlfriend if she wanted those things too. And now she would never know - although she could be certain the redhead would have readily agreed with both the spotlessness of their flat and the record player.

The only thing Patsy had said she had wanted was something other than that ugly jug for their fresh flowers.

One request.

And even that she had given over when Delia said she liked it.

The brunette stared down into the murky depths of her coffee, feeling guilty. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the paint sample books piled at the other end of the table.

Patsy - her beautiful, brilliant, thoughtful Pats - had listened to her ideas for their flat and gone right out and procured items to help fulfill her vision: yellow paint samples, geometric patterned kitchenware, coffee, and fresh cut flowers in that ghastly jug.

Delia took another sip of the bitter liquid as her eyes burned. It really was fitting that there was nothing of her girlfriend’s style in the flat.

After all, it was her home now. Not theirs.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Trixie Franklin had never enjoyed cleaning. It was a necessity, certainly - as a nurse she knew this better than most - but never a pleasure. She had always watched her roommate in fascination as she scrubbed and polished already spotless surfaces. It had seemed to bring the redhead such calm, such satisfaction. Trixie was no stranger to the satisfied feeling of a job well done, but she considered dusting a completely dust-free surface less a job well done and more a complete waste of precious time.

But here she was, polishing the surfaces she had cleaned just the day before and enjoying it.

Maybe it was that she had stopped drinking, the itch for a scotch replaced with the desire to scrub until her arms were too tired to contemplate unscrewing a bottle. Or maybe it was that, in the absence of her roommate’s compulsive cleaning, she had actually noticed just how much dust collected in this old building. Or maybe, she was just anxious to have everything perfect for Patsy’s return.

Or maybe it was a bit of all three.

Regardless, as she leaned back to look at the top of the dresser from a different angle, checking for streaks, Trixie felt calmer and more satisfied than she had before she began. It looked perfect. Patsy had really been onto something with all her cleaning.

She stood up straight and, not wanting to get beeswax paste in her hair, used her forearm to push a stray blonde lock out of her face. The sweet, woody scent of the wax filled her nose - so warm and comforting. No wonder Patsy loved it so much.

Trixie turned and took in the rest of their room with a satisfied smile. It looked perfect. The beds were both neatly made. The bedside table polished and free of clutter. The vanity mirror shiny and spotless, with all of their respective toiletries laid out as they always had been. The records and dancette dust-free and ready to be played. Both of their clothes were stowed neatly in the wardrobe; Patsy’s arranged, as always, by colour.

It had only been two nights ago that she had finally unpacked the redhead’s luggage. She had been putting it off for as long as possible for Delia’s sake. The Welsh nurse had not been sleeping at Nonnatus since she started her run of night shifts, but she still came by on occasion to visit and talk. Still, Trixie knew she hadn’t unpacked her own things at the flat, so she was following her lead. The midwife wanted to do anything she could to help her friend, even if it meant leaving Patsy’s clothing to grow musty in the suitcases.

The brunette looked utterly exhausted. Trixie could tell that the strain of visiting Patsy every day - of playing the friend, of hiding her feelings - was wearing on her. The last time she had been in this room, she had simple sat on her girlfriend’s bed, staring blankly at the unpacked boxes as the midwife tried in vain to engage her in conversation.

Trixie removed the marigolds from her hands and took out a cigarette. Quite frankly she was worried about the Welshwoman. The blonde could tell she wasn’t sleeping well, the dark purple half-moons under her blue eyes told her that much, but that wasn’t all. Trixie was fairly certain she knew what was at the root of the brunette’s troubles.

The flat.

They had talked a lot about the flat, and, more specifically, if Delia could live there without Patsy to share the rent. The couple had been smart in their choice of living accommodations - Delia’s rent allowance easily covered her half of the rent, and Patsy would just have a little less to put away into her savings now that she had to pay for her housing. But now...with Delia flatly refusing to get a roommate, things were quite up in the air.

Trixie took a drag on her Sobranie and flicked the ash into the tray on the bedside table. She knew why Delia wanted to keep the flat, truly she did. But unless Patsy’s memory returned soon, and in full, she wouldn’t be joining her there. Not for a long time at least.

Her blue eyes stared at the tip of her smoldering cigarette, watching as the tendrils of smoke danced up towards the ceiling. The blonde thought that there was a distinct possibility that the pair could fall in love again, regardless of the redhead’s amnesia. Delia’s feelings were obviously still there, and Trixie had noticed that Patsy asked after the brunette more than she did the others. True, that could be because Delia visited daily, so she knew her better, but on the two occasions that Trixie had visited at the same time as the Welshwoman, she thought she caught something in the way Patsy would look at her petite friend. Of course, she could just be projecting, but it was something she was going to keep an eye on.

She stood and made her way over to the mirror to check her makeup. Still perfect. Well, if she could deliver a baby in a cramped ship’s quarters without smudging her mascara, she should be able to polish some furniture. Her hair though, that could use a bit of work.

Even though she thought there was still hope for them to find each other again, Trixie did not think there was hope for the flat. Delia simply could not manage on her own, not long term. But the Welshwoman wasn’t hearing sense. And she was running herself into the ground. The blonde shielded her eyes as she sprayed her newly fixed hair with lacquer. It might be time to have a conversation with Mary Boyd.

Delia had told her that Mary knew about their relationship and was supportive. Perhaps Trixie could enlist the bespectacled nurse’s help with talking some sense into their mutual friend.

Trixie was reapplying her lipstick when there was a knock at the door.

“Come in.”

She turned to see a smiling Nurse Crane standing in the doorway. Trixie always thought it looked strange when the older woman smiled, as if her face was performing a complicated gymnastics routine. “I thought I’d offer you a lift to the London on my way to my home visits. That way you can ride back with us in my car instead of having to take your bicycle back alone.”

“Thank you, Nurse Crane. That would be lovely. I’ll just grab her things and meet you downstairs,” she said. Trixie watched the elder nurse turn and make her way towards the stairs. She might not smile easily, but the woman certainly was thoughtful.

After finishing up her final touch-ups, Trixie turned back to the room, giving it one final inspection. She made her way over to her bed and smoothed out the wrinkled spot on the counterpane where she had sat smoking minutes earlier.

Perfect.

She took a deep breath, turned, picked up the packed suitcase from the foot of Patsy’s bed and made her way down to meet Nurse Crane.


>>>>><<<<< 


Nurse Boyd snicked the curtain closed and turned to face the other two occupants of the newly formed cubby. “Ready?” she asked.

Patsy took a deep breath and gave a small nod. Real clothes. She was more than ready.

She heard the click of a latch as Trixie opened the suitcase on the side table and watched as the blonde pulled out a silky cream blouse, green tartan trousers, a white bra, and knickers. Patsy felt her face grow hot. She wished she could dress herself. But her body still ached all over, and her right arm was useless.

“Right then, sweetie. First let’s get you out of that gown,” said Trixie. Mary came over to the other side of the bed and drew down the blanket and top sheet. Together they helped Patsy sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bed.

“Take your time,” the dark-haired nurse said. “You don’t want to bring on another headache by standing too quickly. We have plenty of time.”

Patsy closed her eyes and felt her equilibrium begin to level out. This was not the first time she had been out of bed, after all. The doctors had been having her take small walks around the ward for the past week - simply walking ten feet had felt so glorious, despite the utter exhaustion it brought on - but this would be the first time she would leave the ward. Leave the hospital.

The sheer idea of it almost made her dizzy.

She felt gentle hands on her back as Trixie began to undo the ties of her gown. “I’ll undo as many as I can before we have you stand, alright?” When the blonde reached her waist, she nodded at Mary who came and stood in front of the redhead’s knees.

“Alright, Patsy. I’m going to help you stand. Hold on to me and Nurse Franklin will help you with your knickers,” she said, just loud enough for her two companions to hear.

She stood, her left hand on Nurse Boyd’s shoulder for balance. Mary held her at the waist as she lifted one foot, and then the other, allowing Trixie to pull her underwear onto her legs and up her body. Patsy closed her eyes, feeling ashamed at her inability to do something so simple. It was also highly embarrassing to have someone she barely knew perform such an intimate task for her. Trixie finished undoing the remaining ties on her gown and they eased her back onto the bed.

Next, her bra was snaked around her plaster cast and fastened by expert fingers. It felt especially constricting after weeks of going without. Had bras always felt this uncomfortable?

Then came the blouse. Trixie had obviously given thought to what clothing would best accommodate her cast. It was short-sleeved and buttoned up the front - the wide sleeves slid easily over the plaster and the silky fabric felt like a godsend to her skin after weeks of thin, worn cotton.

“I thought you’d prefer trousers to messing around with stockings,” Trixie said, as Patsy eyed the plaid wool, suspiciously. “And don’t worry, they’re lined so they won’t irritate the cuts on your legs either.” The blonde raised the trousers up for inspection. “I must say, you do have exquisite taste in slacks.”

Patsy just stared. “These are my clothes?”

Trixie brought her arms down and looked at her friend intently. “Of course they are, sweetie.” She smiled, “No one else owns trousers nearly long enough to fit your legs.”

The redhead felt herself relax into the joke. That was one thing she had immediately appreciated about Trixie. She seemed to have an innate understanding of when Patsy was feeling anxious, and she would always make a joke. It felt so familiar. So comfortable.

Sort of like these trousers. They fit her perfectly, the silky lining feeling cool and soothing on her legs.

“Now, I know this isn’t the shoe you would normally pair with this outfit, but I didn’t think you should try wearing heels until you’re a bit steadier on your feet,” Trixie said, holding up a pair of brown lace-up shoes that were the twin of her own. They were newly polished, but looked rather well worn. The blonde watched Patsy carefully as she looked at the shoes. “They are your old pair of nursing shoes. I tried to find another pair of flats in your rather impressive collection, but it’s all low heels, I’m afraid.” The blonde smiled, “Still, you’ve logged plenty of miles in these, and I dare say they have quite a few more to go.”

Patsy just nodded. As they slipped the shoes onto her feet, she was struck with how worn they were, how perfectly molded to her feet. It was a strange feeling (stranger even than wearing what felt like someone else’s knickers) because she could literally feel her lost past. She could tell that she had worn these shoes for countless hours. She could almost feel the cobbled streets she had walked, the shifts she had spent standing on hard linoleum, the pressure on her toes as she kneeled to deliver a baby. But then she didn’t feel any of those things, not really. But she could feel that Past-Pats had. Her feet had left their physical mark in a way she wished something had on her brain.

She would definitely be needing to buy some new shoes.

“Now, sweetie,” Trixie said, pulling Patsy out of her thoughts, “Would you like for me to fix your hair, and perhaps do your makeup? I know you haven’t been able to take a proper bath in weeks, but I think we could do something to make your hair look a little more like how you usually wore it.”

Patsy met the blue eyes that were studying her appearance so carefully and was struck by the realization that she probably looked a right mess. As Trixie had said, it had undoubtedly been weeks since she had more than a bed bath - she certainly could not remember ever having bathed so it was definitely before her accident, over two and a half weeks ago. How had she never thought of that? She must look dreadful.

“Do you have a mirror?” she asked. The redhead could hear the waiver in her own voice.

It wasn’t just that she was worried about her appearance. She hadn’t looked in the mirror since the accident. Sure, she had a vague sense of what she looked like - it was like her blonde hair, ingrained deep in her subconscious - but would the reality match with her impressions? What if she looked nothing like what she imagined?

Then there were the injuries. She knew she had scraped her face on the tarmac. They had recently removed the bandage, but she had felt the rough patch where the scab was still healing. What if she looked like she imagined on one side of her face but the other…

Before she could worry anymore about her appearance, Trixie had produced a small hand mirror from the suitcase. She really was so prepared. She handed it to the redhead, face down.

Patsy took a deep breath and lifted the mirror so that it was level with her face. Startled sky-blue eyes looked back at her from under raised eyebrows. She looked...pale. Her skin seemed waxen and almost the same cream color as her shirt. But still, she looked familiar. This was indeed more or less the mental image she had of her appearance. She let out a breath that she had not realized she had been holding. She knew herself - or at least this outward version of herself. Still, no small feat.

She felt two sets of eyes watching her closely as she turned her head to get a better look at her injuries. All of the bandages were gone, and most of the tiny scratches on her face were almost completely healed, a slightly rough texture and reddish tint the only evidence of their existence. She brought her fingers up to feel the scrape on her cheek. The larger abrasion still had a scab, but you could tell it had dramatically decreased in size. It didn’t look too deep either, but it would definitely leave a slight scar, that she could tell. Hopefully nothing pan stick couldn’t cover.

Her fingers walked their way up from her cheek to the still tender spot above her right ear. The bump was much smaller, that she had already noticed, but she was amazed by the lingering yellow tinge just visible below her hairline. The bruise must have been very deep to linger this long. Or perhaps it was the bright copper colour of her hair that caused the yellow and pale white of the rest of her skin to stand out in such sharp relief. Her hair did look wretched though. The colour seemed glossier than it should, while simultaneously looking dull - the oil and buildup from over two weeks in bed giving it an odd luster. Her roots were showing as well, darker blonde than they should appear from lack of shampooing. Her fringe looked matted, but was mercifully long enough to tuck back behind her ears.

Patsy was staring at her reflection with an odd mix of relief and disappointment when Trixie cut in, “So, hair and makeup? I’m no Vidal Sassoon, but I can do wonders with just lipstick and a lick of mascara. I think simple plaits might be best for your hair.” She glanced over at Mary, who nodded and began to gently comb through Patsy’s red hair.

Trixie took a makeup bag out of the suitcase and laid out her tools. “I don’t think we need pan stick - your complexion is flawless and there’s no need to risk aggravating your abrasions. But a touch of lipstick, a little rouge, and eye makeup will have you feeling like a new woman,” she said, brightly.

It was strange, but Patsy didn’t feel at all uncomfortable about having her makeup applied. Trixie’s instructions to ‘look down,’ ‘look up,’ ‘close your eyes,’ ‘open wide,’ were all so familiar from her numerous inspections by various doctors and nurses that, for the first time since she had begun her preparations to leave the hospital, she felt quite at ease. Mary was gently weaving her hair into two loose plaits on either side of her head, and the sensation was soothing in a way she could not quite describe.

A few minutes later, the blonde stood up straight to admire her handiwork. She cocked her head to the side and nodded approvingly. “Would you like to have a look?” she asked.

Patsy just stared at her reflection in the mirror. She really did feel like a whole new woman. Her eyes were lined with black and her lashes looked longer with the dark mascara. The contrast made her eyes look brighter and much less tired than they had before. Her lips were a rosy pink which brought out the colour of the rouge that Trixie had lightly applied to her cheeks. This too made her look less like an invalid. Her hair was still obviously in need of a wash, but it looked less so - the plaits hiding the stringiness of her oily hair. The transformation was nothing short of impressive, and Patsy watched as the corner of her lips rose into a warm smile.

She dragged her eyes away from the mirror to look at the expectant faces of Mary and Trixie. Her throat was tight, but she managed to force two words out, “Thank you.”

The blonde gave her a wet smile in return. “You look gorgeous,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.

Nurse Boyd smiled too. “You really do look wonderful, Patsy.” She turned to Trixie, “I must get back to my other patients. Give me a shout if you need anything else.”

Trixie looked down at her watch. “I expect Nurse Crane should be here in about ten minutes. We should probably wait here, I’m afraid it’s a bit too cold to wait outside.”

Outside.

It took everything Patsy had not to insist that they go there immediately. She didn’t care if it was freezing and pouring down an icy rain. The thought of seeing the sky and breathing in fresh air was intoxicating. But, she did not want Trixie to think she had lost all of her senses, so she agreed.

“Sweetie, do you mind if I have a quick word with Nurse Boyd? I want to thank her for taking such good care of you,” Trixie said.

Patsy thought there was a hint of evasiveness in her voice, but nodded nonetheless - she was quite used to nurses and doctors talking in low voices around her. Her eyes followed the blonde as she pulled the curtain back and went over to the nurse’s desk. Mary looked surprised, then concerned at whatever Trixie was saying. The redhead felt her anxiety rise as she watched the two women talk. Something was most definitely worrying them both. Was it her? Was something wrong? She concentrated hard on their faces. They were completely focused on each other - not even stealing glances her way. That made her relax a little. Every time she had watched as doctors and nurses discussed her, they could not help but look over at her throughout the conversation. This clearly wasn’t about her.

So why the worried faces?

Her pondering was interrupted by the ward door opening and a rather damp Phyllis Crane entering. “Good afternoon, Nurse Mount,” she said, (Nurse Crane still had trouble calling her ‘Patsy,’ which the redhead found strangely endearing). “I got done with my home visits early, so I thought I’d come up to see if Nurse Franklin needed a hand getting you ready to go. But it looks like you are quite prepared. And, I must say, you look nice.”

Patsy felt her face break into a smile. “Thank you, Nurse Crane,” she said, as Trixie and Mary returned to the bedside.

“Good afternoon, Nurse Franklin,” the elder nurse said, “I see we have both finished our appointed tasks early.” The blonde smiled and nodded by way of agreement, her face wiped clean of all the worry Patsy had seen there just moments before. “And Nurse Boyd, a pleasure to see you as always. I trust all of Nurse Mount’s paperwork is in order for her discharge?”

The dark-haired nurse smiled warmly at the newcomer. “Good afternoon, Nurse Crane. Yes, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Stockton both came by this morning. Everything is quite in order.” She turned, to address Patsy, “You are free to go.”

Free to go.

Free.

Patsy certainly did not feel free. The very thought of complete freedom was both intoxicating and utterly terrifying. In reality, she was completely dependent on people, and while that was very frustrating, she knew it was out of necessity. At least for now.

As if to drive this point home, Mary helped her to her feet as Trixie placed a camel coloured wool coat over her shoulders. Nurse Crane pushed a wheelchair forward and the three of them helped her into it. They bade farewell to Nurse Boyd, and Nurse Crane led the way off the ward, Trixie pushing Patsy in her wake.

Patsy looked eagerly around at her new surroundings, only to be met with more low fluorescent lighting and terrible pastel green walls. She could not wait to get outside. At least there she was sure to be free from these milky hues.

A few minutes later they emerged into a murky London afternoon. It was wet, and foggy, and rather cold - the pastels of the hospital replaced with the browns and greys of the dirty streets. But to Patsy, these browns were beautiful. She took a deep lungful of the smoggy air and relished the burning sensation.

She was outside.

She had no memory of being out on a London street, but the noise, the dirt, even the rain felt wonderfully familiar. Her eyes and ears drank in every sensation they could as Trixie pushed her towards a light grey car parked nearby. Nurse Crane tried in vain to shield them all from the wet with a large black umbrella, but Patsy could already feel the cold water soaking through the bottoms of her green and brown plaid trousers. The rain was cold as it splashed against her hands on the arms of the chair. It felt invigorating.

“Here we are, Nurse Mount. Let’s get you into the passenger side and Nurse Franklin can sit in the back behind you after she returns the chair,” said Nurse Crane, her voice bright against the inclement weather.

It was a little more difficult, getting into a car seat than in a normal one - the angle was all wrong. But they managed it without too much trouble in the end. Patsy was again thankful that it was her arm that she had broken, not her leg.

She settled into the red leather seat as Nurse Crane closed the door and walked quickly around to the driver’s side of the car. After another moment, a very wet Trixie slid gracefully into the back seat.

“Everyone ready?” asked Nurse Crane. When she had received two nodding heads in response, the elder nurse turned the key in the ignition and put the car into gear. “Best be off then.”

It was late afternoon and already beginning to get dark as they drove through the city streets towards Poplar. Nurse Crane was not going very fast (in fact, Patsy had the distinct impression she was being overly slow and cautious), but the buildings and people seemed to pass in a blur that was not solely due to the rain-slicked window. The redhead found that there were just too many new sights to take in, too much new information to process. She closed her eyes and pressed her left cheek against the cool glass as panic began to rise in her chest.

How was she going to do this?

She felt a gentle hand on her right shoulder. “Nearly there, sweetie.”

Patsy opened her eyes and was surprised when she recognized the brick building they were passing. The Poplar Community Center. God bless Timothy Turner. The site, and more importantly the recognition of the site, combined with the reassuring hand on her shoulder made her feel instantly more at ease. She reached her left hand up and placed it on top of Trixie’s, giving it a grateful squeeze.

Nurse Crane guided the Morris through a turn and into a short tunnel. As they emerged, Patsy felt her breath catch in her throat. They were here.

Nonnatus House.

Patsy’s blue eyes drank in every detail of the now familiar building. It surprisingly didn’t look so different in colour than in the print Timothy had made. The bricks and stonework were a dull brown, and that, combined with the dusky, late afternoon sky, made it appear to be printed in sepia rather than black and white. Nurse Crane pulled the car to a halt and, after turning off the engine, got out and opened up her umbrella.

The redhead felt a squeeze from the hand on her shoulder. “Ready?” Trixie asked.

“I think so,” she replied, her voice betraying just how uncertain she really was.

The blonde gave her shoulder one final squeeze before she too exited the car and joined her colleague outside Patsy’s now open door. Together, the trio made a slow, but steady progress towards the stone steps and the shelter beyond them, the redhead leaning heavily on Trixie for support. Patsy was concentrating so hard on not slipping on the wet steps that she barely registered the fact that they were suddenly standing in front of the closed entrance to Nonnatus House.

A blind panic seized her as Nurse Crane pushed open the heavy wooden door.

“Welcome home.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Barbara sat on the edge of the mustard settee dealing yet another hand of patience. She was feeling anything but. The brunette was having trouble concentrating on the game, her mind on an altogether different Patience who would be arriving at any moment.

She thumbed out three more cards from the deck in her hand and flipped them over, her green eyes scanning the columns laid out before her, seeking a place for the eight of spades.

Nothing.

As she repeated the action she heard a tutting sound from the elderly nun seated beside her. Sister Monica Joan did not lift her eyes from the olive-green scarf she was knitting as she sagely opined, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

Barbara scanned the cards in front of her more carefully. Drat. Right there in the third column, an open nine of hearts. She dealt three more cards from the stack and tried to pay more attention to the game before her. Not that she cared at all about cards - it was simply something to keep her busy until Patsy returned - but she was on edge and wanted to avoid more comments from the peanut gallery seated to her right.

She continued playing for a while, determinedly ignoring the frequent tuts and tsks from the elder nun, and occasionally stealing a glance at her companions in the lounge. Everyone except Sister Monica Joan looked tense. Sister Winifred had not turned the page of her book for nearly half an hour, and Sister Evangelina repeatedly huffed loudly as she kept having to recount her stitches in the booties she was crocheting. Barbara envied Sister Mary Cynthia who had recently been called out to deliver Mrs. Wilcox’s baby. The brunette would gladly brave the cold and rain if it meant giving her something to focus on other than the imminent return of their amnesiac friend.

As she gathered up another failed hand, Barbara heard the heavy front door open and a familiar northern accent float through the threshold.

“Welcome home.”

Barbara and the three nuns were on their feet at once. The young nurse led the way as they bustled out of the lounge, Sister Julienne joining them as they passed her office on the way to the front hall.

Patsy stood with her arm looped through Trixie’s elbow, a look of bewilderment on her face as Barbara wrapped her in a gentle, but firm, hug. “It’s so good to have you back,” she said.

The brunette nurse released her friend, but was quickly followed by greetings from each of the nuns in turn. Every member of Nonnatus House, save the duty-bound Sister Mary Cynthia, crowded around their colleague, united in their joy at her return. Barbara was brought out of her jubilation by Sister Julienne’s measured voice.

“Welcome home, my dear. I apologise if this is all a bit overwhelming for you, but we are just so pleased to have you back with us. Perhaps you would like to rest a little before dinner. I’m sure Nurse Franklin and Nurse Gilbert would be happy to help you get settled.”

Patsy’s face shifted from overwhelmed to relieved as she nodded at the senior nun.

“Barbara, would you mind taking the suitcase up? I believe Patsy and I can manage the stairs on our own,” Trixie said, cocking her head towards the suitcase in her left hand.

The brunette sprang forward and took the black case. She was surprised at how heavy it was. Trixie has taken a half-empty case of clothes with her to the London, but it seemed she had returned with it full of bricks. Barbara grasped the handle with both hands as she lugged it up the stairs.

Trixie and Patsy were on the first landing when she ducked back out of the bedroom to see if they needed any assistance. The blonde met her eyes, and shook her head once; Patsy’s blue eyes were fixed firmly on the green carpet under her feet. Barbara shuffled from foot to foot at the top of the stairs. She wanted to help, but she also could tell that Trixie had matters firmly in hand. After a moment’s more hesitation, she let out a sigh and returned to the bedroom to unpack the suitcase.

As the lid sprang open she immediately saw the source of the added weight. Books. Of course.

Trixie had filled the case with the various items that had been brought to Patsy throughout her convalescence. It seemed Sister Monica Joan and Sister Winifred had brought her a new book every time they had visited. Poor Patsy had confided in Barbara that she hadn’t had the heart to ask them to stop. It had taken her nearly a fortnight to muddle through half of the first Agatha Christie novel the young nun had given her. The rest, she barely even opened.

Barbara smiled as she added the volumes to the bookcase, nearly doubling Patsy’s sparse collection in the process. She had just returned Patsy’s makeup bag to the vanity when the redhead herself entered the room, looking exhausted.

“Which one is my bed,” she asked, eyeing the nearest one hopefully.

Barbara gave her a sheepish smile, “The far one, I’m afraid. Though you can feel free to collapse onto Trixie’s if you want. I sit on it all the time.”

Patsy smiled faintly in return and determinedly began to make her way over to her own bed, as the blonde in question entered the room.

“Would you like some help?” Barbara asked, moving over to offer support.

“I think I can make it,” Patsy said, her voice sounding very tired despite her words. “I can walk alright, just out of practice.”

Despite her friend’s protestations, Barbara’s nursing instincts kept her an arm’s length from Patsy as she walked the ten feet to her bed. She would never forgive herself if the redhead tripped or collapsed from her exhaustion without her there to catch her.

However, as she reached the bed, Patsy did not object to the brunette’s assistance in helping her to sit. It seemed her pride at not collapsing undignified onto the bed outweighed her pride at accepting help in this case. Or maybe she just knew her limits.

Barbara watched as the redhead scooted back onto her bed and rested against the headboard. She closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. “After over fortnight in bed I never thought I’d be happy to be back in one, but I must say this feels glorious.”

“Well, I’m not surprised by that at all,” said Trixie, depositing herself on her own bed and taking out a cigarette. “You’ve walked more in the past hour than you have in that entire fortnight combined. You must be quite done in.”

Patsy opened her eyes at the click of the lighter and watched the blonde as she lit her cigarette, an odd expression on her face. Barbara watched as the redhead’s left thumb began rubbing circles on the pad of her ring finger. She stared.

The brunette had always watched her two older friends smoke with some fascination, impressed with how glamorous and natural they looked doing it. She herself had no desire to learn - she knew she could never pull off a look that anyone would describe as glamorous - but she had noticed this thing Patsy always did with her thumb in her cigarette holding hand. The redhead would hold the thin white cigarette between her first and second fingers, her elbow crooked to keep it aloft, and absentmindedly rub her thumb over her third finger. Barbara had watched her do it dozens of times. And here she was, watching Trixie smoke, and performing that same motion.

Surely she could not be craving a cigarette? It had been nearly three weeks since she had last had one, so the nicotine withdrawals would have passed by now. What was it, then? Just an old habit, some pavlovian response to the swirling smoke?

Trixie glanced from the brunette’s transfixed face to the object of her attention and cleared her throat. “Right, sweetie. Would you like us to leave you alone to rest or would you care for some company?”

Patsy looked thoughtful for a moment before she spoke, “I think I would enjoy some company. However, I cannot guarantee that I won’t nod off on you.”

“Well, we shall endeavor to not take it personally if you do,” the blonde said with a wink, drawing a slow lopsided smile from the tired redhead. “How would you feel about some music?” she asked.

Patsy cocked her head and looked over at the dancette. “That sounds rather lovely, though I must confess I don’t have the slightest idea what kind of music I would enjoy listening to.”

Barbara was struck by that comment. Not only was it incredibly frank - something she was not used to, coming from Patsy - but the older woman had always so loved music, and had very strong opinions on the matter as well.

 

-----

 

Barbara was in a particularly good mood as she followed Patsy and Delia into the club. Her Nancy Drewing, as her redheaded friend had so wonderfully called it, had paid off. She had successfully tracked down Ameera Khatun and she believed she had even talked her into coming to the clinic. All in all, it had been a good day for the young midwife. And here she was, going out to a club with her friends.

Her green eyes scanned her surroundings with interest as they entered the main room. She had never been anywhere like this. It felt half large pub, half small dance hall. The lights were dimmed to give the illusion of privacy and the lighting was even dimmer due to the ever-present haze of smoke in the air. Barbara could just make out a bar on the left side of the room and a dance floor in the center.

“I’m going to go get us drinks,” said Patsy, her voice raised to carry over the music and chattering crowd. She looked at her Welsh friend, “What’ll it be, Deels?”

The petite brunette looked up to the ceiling in thought for a brief moment before coming to a decision, “A gin and tonic sounds like the best thing in this heat,” she said.

“Wise choice,” said Patsy, smiling widely at her friend in approval. “Babs?" she said, turning her attention to her other friend, “Tizer?”

The brunette smiled, relieved she did not have to go through the awkwardness of turning down alcohol. Patsy was always so good about that. Well, Barbara supposed her friend would probably never encourage her to drink again after manning the mop until past three on the brunette’s first night at Nonnatus. But still, she appreciated the gesture.

“That sounds perfect. Thank you, Patsy.”

“Come on, Barbara. Pats will manage the drinks, let’s find a table,” said Delia, hooking her arm through that of her taller friend and leading her confidently through the crowd.

As they slid into a table in the corner near the small stage, Barbara was struck with the realization that she had never been alone with the Welshwoman. She felt suddenly self-conscious, looking down at her lap and smoothing the nonexistent wrinkles from her turquoise skirt.

“So, Barbara,” Delia said, and the midwife looked up from her lap to meet her friend’s smiling gaze, “How are you enjoying living at Nonnatus? I hope Patsy and Trixie aren’t giving you too hard a time.”

Barbara felt herself perk up at the question. This she could definitely talk about. “Oh, they’ve been lovely, really. I know they joke around a lot, but both of them have been so nice. And ever so supportive. Especially Patsy. She’s always willing to help or give me some advice. She’s such a good nurse.” Delia listened attentively, a small smile playing across her face as her friend continued on in a rush, all self-consciousness forgotten. “I’ve watched her with some of the tougher mothers, and I don’t know how she does it. She can be very commanding. But just last month, I had a first-time mother with a dreadful mother-in-law who kept interjecting her expertise and scaring my patient. I thought to myself, ‘what would Patsy do?’ So, I pulled her aside and gave her a firm talking to. Now I’m no Nurse Mount - or Nurse Crane or Sister Evangelina for that matter - but it seemed to do the trick.” Barbara sat a little straighter in her chair and smiled.

Delia, could not help the laugh that spilled out when the younger nurse had finished her tale. “Well, good for you, Barbara. And if you think Pats can be commanding with the mothers, you should have seen her on male surgical.”

The two brunettes leaned towards each other conspiratorially, but before Delia could get into her own story, the subject of their conversation had returned.

“Don’t believe a word she tells you, Barbara,” Patsy said, setting down the drinks and giving her Welsh friend a look of mock reproach.

Delia beamed up at her innocently, “Why, Patience Mount. I have no idea what you are talking about.” She shifted her gaze down to her brunette friend, “I’m the model of discretion,” she winked.

“I’m sure,” Patsy said, giving her friend a fond look. “Now do you two think you can behave yourselves for a few minutes while I go put in a request with the DJ?”

“Of course,” both brunettes responded innocently and in unison, before bursting into a fit of giggles. Patsy merely raised an eyebrow at them both and strode of towards the table on the stage.

Two pairs of eyes followed her retreating figure in silence. Barbara found herself marveling at the difference in Patsy’s demeanor tonight. Maybe it was because they were out on the town, away from Poplar and the watchful eyes of the community they served, or maybe it was the Welsh nurse seated beside her. Delia brought a side out of Patsy that no one else seemed to, not even Trixie. The pair seemed so relaxed and utterly themselves around each other. She looked over at Delia who was still watching their tall friend as she chatted to the young man squatting at the edge of the small stage. Her face was lit up with affection for the redhead. Barbara smiled. She was glad that Patsy had begun to include Delia in some of the Nonnatus group outings. She reckoned they must have missed each other terribly since the midwife left the Nurses Home for Nonnatus. They really were so very close. Well, they had been friends for years - they must have shared so much.

The redhead returned to the table and sat down in the seat across from Barbara. She took a sip of her drink and smiled. “Good choice, Deels. A perfect refresher after such a blazing hot day,” she said, giving her friend a small smile.

“Why thank you, Pats,” said Delia, “And speaking of choices, what have you put in for us to dance to?”

A sly grin slid across the redhead’s face. “You’ll just have to wait and see. But I daresay you’ll approve. I even put in a Buddy Holly song, just for you,” she said, before sneaking a quick glance towards the disc jockey standing in front of his table filled with racks of seven inch records. “Although, I must confess that selection was partly inspired by the DJ’s style choices.”

They all glanced over and laughed. Even Barbara, with her limited musical knowledge, immediately knew what she was referring to. The dark-haired young man was thin, with huge thick plastic framed glasses resting on a rather pronounced nose.

The trio chatted amiably through the first few slow songs, each enjoying the others’ company too much to acknowledge the occasional man who hovered momentarily around their table looking for an opening to invite one of them to dance. Their first round of drinks was nearly finished when the opening guitar riffs of “Johnny B. Goode” exploded out of the speakers.

“Ladies?” Patsy said. “Shall we?”

Patsy and Delia immediately jumped to their feet, but Barbara hesitated. She was somewhat comfortable with a waltz or a foxtrot. But she had no idea how to dance to this kind of music.

Sensing her friend’s reluctance, Patsy leaned down so that Barbara could hear her, “Come on, Babs. No need to worry. The best part about this kind of music is that there are no real steps and you can dance with your girlfriends. Come on, we’ll show you.” She reached out a red nailed hand and pulled the brunette to her feet, tugging her out onto the dancefloor after Delia.

The three women formed a small circle in the middle of the floor. Barbara bounced uneasily on her feet, trying to get a feel for the music, while Patsy and Delia twisted and bopped around joyously. Occasionally, one of them would grab the other by the hand and spin them around during a particularly swinging part of the song. Patsy threw her head back and laughed as Delia surprised Barbara by doing the same to her.

As Patsy’s next request, the promised Buddy Holly number, came on, the Welshwoman leaned over and gave her arm a reassuring squeeze, “Relax and let the music take over! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, just have fun.”

Midway through Patsy’s final request, Jackie Wilson’s “That’s Why (I Love You So),” Barbara had finally let go. It was so much fun spinning and hopping around the dance floor with these two women. They all took turns dancing with each other, Patsy even sang along for a bit as she twirled a grinning Delia around. It was the most fun Barbara had had in a long time.

All three women were quite out of breath by the time the song ended, so they were grateful for the slow strains of The Platters that gave them an excuse to return to their seats. The two midwives gratefully sat down, but Delia grabbed her purse and said she would be back with another round of drinks.

As Delia departed, Patsy grabbed her own purse and pulled out her compact. Barbara watched her friend as she inspected her makeup and hair in the mirror. Patsy really did look stunning tonight. The brunette had not often seen her friend wear black, but her dark dress complimented her skin tone perfectly, and the bright red floral print practically matched her fiery hair and lipstick. Barbara thought that her friend was sure to receive dozens of invitations to dance from all the men looking her way.

“I’m positively melting tonight,” Patsy said, giving her hair a little fluff. “I should have worn my hair up, it would have been ever so much cooler.”

Barbara smiled. She thought Patsy’s hair looked nice down. And she so rarely saw it that way aside from when they were all in their pyjamas. Maybe that was part of why the redhead looked so much more relaxed to her this evening.

Patsy smiled suddenly and Barbara turned, following her gaze to see Delia skirting around the dancers, concentrating hard on not dropping the three glasses arranged in a triangle in her hands. The brunette midwife jumped up, “Here, let me help you.”

Delia’s eyes never left the glasses as she shook her head. “It’s easier if I just get them down to the table,” she said. And, after she had successfully landed the glasses on the sticky surface, she added, “Thank you for the offer though, Barbara,” her emphasis on the last word making it clear that she thought their other companion should have offered her help as well.

“Oh, Deels. You know I have the utmost faith in your glass carrying abilities. I never doubted you for a moment,” the redhead replied, her words somewhat muffled by the cigarette she was currently lighting.

The Welsh brunette merely rolled her eyes as she took her seat next to Patsy. “So, Barbara. Pats here tells me you had a rather interesting encounter with Sister Monica Joan when you first got to Nonnatus. I’d love to hear the true story; this one here is prone to exaggeration.”

Patsy narrowed her eyes at her friend, but her mouth betrayed her amusement as it hooked up into one of her trademark crooked smiles. Barbara laughed, “Actually, I’m sure no exaggeration was needed. It was quite the grand entrance, I’m afraid.”

Barbara launched into her tale, feeling her confidence grow with each laugh and incredulous look from her fellow brunette. Patsy sat smoking and watching them both with amusement. She was very familiar with the tale, so most of her enjoyment came from watching Delia’s reactions. By the time Barbara got to the part where the elderly nun stole the biscuit off her saucer, the Welshwoman was practically crying with laughter.

“The chance to live with Sister Monica Joan is almost enough to convince me to start midwifery training,” she said, her eyes bright with alcohol and merriment.

“Well, we’d love to have you, wouldn’t we, Patsy?” She turned to her colleague, expecting to see a bright smile at the idea of her best friend joining them at Nonnatus, but instead was greeted with a strangely troubled expression. “Patsy?” she said, her voice full of concern.

Patsy blinked, and suddenly seemed to come back to the conversation, but her smile and voice were a little too bright when she said, “Quite. We would love to have you join the ranks, Delia.” She stubbed out her cigarette in the tray in front of her and rose to her feet. “Now,” she said, smoothing out her skirt, “I’m going to go and see if I can request some more dancing music for us.”

As she walked away, Barbara turned to Delia, wanting to ask if she knew what was wrong, but the Welshwoman’s face slid smoothly from concern to polite curiosity as she asked, “Your father is a vicar, isn’t he?”

“A canon,” she said, wondering about the sudden change of topic, but not wanting to pry. Delia seemed to find this all very interesting and continued asking questions about the differences in titles amongst members of the clergy.

They both cut their conversation short as they saw the disgruntled face on their returning friend.

“Whatever’s the matter,” asked Barbara, concerned that Patsy was still upset from before.

“I tried to request “I’m Walkin’” by Fats Domino, but they only have the Ricky Nelson version,” she said this with such disgust that you’d have thought the DJ had committed an egregious crime.

Delia chuckled but Barbara wanted to cheer her friend. So, hoping to reassure her, she said, “Oh, I like Ricky Nelson.”

The Welshwoman nearly choked on her drink as Patsy gave Barbara a look of utter incredulity.

Barbara looked baffled, but Delia stepped in, “I’m sorry, Barbara. But Patsy has very particular opinions about her music.”

Patsy narrowed her eyes at her Welsh friend, and gave her a little half smile.

The petite brunette grinned mischievously before turning back to Barbara. “But in this case, I’m afraid she’s quite right. Ricky Nelson’s version is nowhere near as good. Too…” she drifted off, searching for the right words.

“It’s as if he has sucked the very soul out of the song,” Patsy deadpanned.

“Exactly,” Delia agreed.

Barbara’s confusion and, if she was quite honest, hurt at the slight on her musical tastes must have shown on her face because Patsy reached over and placed a hand on her arm. “I’m not saying that’s the case for all of Ricky Nelson’s music,” she said. Shooting a sly look at Delia she continued, “I am actually rather fond of a few of his songs.” Delia grinned and the redhead returned her attention to her colleague, “Just in this case, I think his version simply cannot hold a candle to the original.”

Delia gave her fellow brunette a comforting smile. “Don’t take it personally, Barbara. Pats here fancies herself the authority on good music.”

“That’s absolutely not true,” Patsy said, lifting her eyebrows in her defense. As the DJ announced the next song, she stood, holding out her hand to help first Barbara and then Delia to their feet. Flashing the latter a cheeky smile she added, “I just know what I like.”

 

-----

 

Barbara felt her eyes well up as she stared at her friend, her mind swimming from remembering the music, the dancing, and the conversations from that night.  

“I just know what I like.”

But now, she didn’t.

Patsy couldn’t remember any of the music that she had previously been so passionate about. Just like she couldn’t remember her friends or family, or being a nurse. Barbara had visited her friend at the London three times since she had woken after her accident, so she was well aware of the changes the redhead had gone through. She should have been prepared for this revelation. But something about having Patsy home in this familiar setting, listening to music as they had countless times over the past nine months, made it feel like she was truly back. Just for a moment. And now Barbara felt winded.

Trixie came over with a stack of 45s for Patsy to look through. As she passed, she glanced at Barbara’s face, her eyes widening. On her return, she tugged the brunette up by her arm, and turned her so that her back was to Patsy. Barbara could not help the tears that had begun to spill down her cheeks, and the blonde’s pointed look did nothing to stem them.

“Barbara, would you mind terribly going down to fix us all a cup of tea. I know I could do with some warmth after being out in the wet,” Trixie said, invoking the Nonnatus code of ‘making tea,’ which clearly meant ‘pull yourself together.’

The brunette did not trust her voice to not give away her feelings, so she just nodded and retreated quickly from the room. As she shut the door, she could hear Trixie’s bright voice as she took a record from Patsy. “Billy Fury. Good choice, sweetie.”

Barbara slid down the door to the floor as the tears fell hard and fast.







 

Chapter Text

Patsy leaned against the mahogany headboard as the music warbled out of the dancette across the room. This was not what she expected.

She had picked the song based strictly on the title and name of the singer - “Maybe Tomorrow” did sound rather hopeful, and in her circumstance, she could use some sunny optimism. But this song was anything but. And how could someone with the surname of Fury be such an utter bore? It sounded as if he were recording the song in an echoey room some ten feet away from the microphone.

Was this really her music? It just felt so...off.

Patsy had been pleasantly surprised by the clothes Trixie had told her had belonged to Past-Pats. She would not have expected herself to be so daring as to wear tartan trousers. But they were rather comfortable, and, she must say, rather stylish too. During her hospital stay, Patsy had poured over the fashion magazines that Trixie had brought her with interest. Many of the styles were a little too daring or gaudy for her own tastes, but there were others that she really rather liked. So, she had been pleasantly surprised when her fashion tastes had seemed to fit with those of her past self.

But now, she had to admit she was disappointed in Past-Pats’ musical tastes. How could they be so very different? Did this song have some sort of sentimental value; was that why she had liked it?

“How do you like the music?” Trixie asked, a polite smile plastered across her face.

“It’s alright, I suppose,” she said, not wanting to disparage her former self. This was all such a delicate balance, having a past life one could not remember. Every visit she had had from an old friend in hospital had been like walking through a minefield. She never knew which comment would set off some painful chain reaction for either her visitor or herself, so she had learned to be diplomatic. To wait and listen. To hedge her bets.

Trixie gave her a penetrating look. “You hate it, don’t you?”

Patsy felt a mingling of relief and defeat as she deflated, letting out a huge sigh. “Yes, I do,” she admitted, scrunching her face up in apology. “And it makes me feel so strangely disappointed in myself.”

The blonde raised a curious eyebrow “Oh? How so?” she asked.

The redhead shifted herself up into a straighter sitting position as she thought about how to answer that. “It's all rather complicated, to be honest,” she paused, considering her words carefully, “I’m disappointed in my past self for liking something I now find so dreadfully dull, and I’m disappointed in my present self for not being the same as my past self. If that makes sense,” she said.

Trixie came over and sat on the edge of the bed at Patsy’s knees. The blonde placed her hand on her friend’s arm. “Sweetie, I know this all must be so utterly confusing and difficult for you. But just know that no one here expects you to be exactly as before. We just forget sometimes because you actually are quite the same in many ways. For example,” she smiled, “you’ve always hated Billy Fury. This is my record, not yours.” She stood, and adopting a tone of mock hurt, said, “And I still take offense at the slight on my tastes.”

Patsy could not help but burst into laughter at this. She felt so relieved - at the joke, at the music, and especially at what Trixie had said. They were all sticking their foot in it, weren’t they? It wasn’t just her muddling through this minefield alone. For some reason, this made her feel better, even though she knew it would do nothing to prevent the inevitable, painful explosions.

“Well then, could we try playing one of my records?” she asked. Now that she knew that she agreed with Past-Pats on what they didn’t like, she was keen to see if she agreed on what they did.

Trixie looked suddenly thoughtful, even a little troubled.

“Did I say something wrong?” Patsy asked, afraid she had somehow inexplicably stepped on a mine.

The blonde blinked and suddenly she was back to normal, a sweet reassuring smile on her face. “Not at all, sweetie. I was just trying to decide which of your records to play.”

Patsy felt relieved. That was all? Well, her friend didn’t need to worry herself over that detail. “Really, anything you know I used to like would suffice. I am rather curious to see if I still do.”

Trixie nodded and picked up a record, seemingly at random. She placed the needle expertly down on the surface and the speakers emitted several pops and crackles. Suddenly, a solitary electric guitar played a few notes before being joined by the full band of drums, bass, saxophone, and piano. Patsy was so focused on the sound that she didn’t even notice that her left thumb had begun to tap against her thigh in time with the music. After several seconds, the lead guitar was replaced by a smooth voice, ‘You make me dizzy Miss Lizzy, the way you rock and roll…’

Now this...this felt right.

Her enjoyment must have shown on her face, because when she looked up, Trixie was positively beaming at her. “Better?” she asked.

“Much,” Patsy answered with a relieved sigh.

She sat in silence, listening to the rest of the song, as Trixie changed into a dry uniform. Patsy felt herself relax into the music, her ears focusing in on the different instruments in turn, cataloguing them all. That was piano, and that...that was the bass guitar. The relief and exhilaration she felt at the recognition was intoxicating.

“Can we try another one?” she asked, all exhaustion chased away by pure excitement.

Trixie smiled at her, “Of course. Another of yours?”

“Please,” Patsy said, returning the grin. She felt a flutter of anticipation as the blonde put another record on the dancette.

This song was different, a little jazzier - with almost a swinging feeling to it. And the singer was a woman, her voice smooth and soulful at moments, then brassy and commanding as she shouted, ‘Go Jim Dandy!’ Patsy was enthralled by her energy and range, listening with rapt attention as she sang all about Jim Dandy and his various exploits.

Meanwhile, Trixie had begun sorting the records into two distinct piles. After the saxophone played the song out, she turned to her friend. “Right, I’ve separated our records out so it will be easier for you to try out your old ones,” she said, moving the records onto the bed in front of the redhead. “Would you like to pick the next one?”

She looked down at the impressive pile in front of her, feeling suddenly overwhelmed. Gosh, she certainly had owned a lot of music. She decided to follow Trixie’s lead from earlier and slid a 7-inch disc out of one of the stacks at random: “Rockin’ Robin” by Bobby Day - well that certainly sounded upbeat.

And it was. The song seemed positively designed for dancing, and Patsy inwardly cursed her body and its limitations. She looked down towards the end of the bed and was surprised to see that her foot was unconsciously tapping, well, not exactly in time, but it was obviously making the attempt. She felt the corner of her mouth hook up - she would take what she could get.

The song ended and she picked out another, this one by Sam Cooke. Trixie looked a little pale as she took it from her and placed the needle down a little shakily, causing the speakers to emit a screeching sound. “Sorry about that,” she said, her back still turned, “It slipped.”

Well, no wonder. Despite the fresh clothes, she still looked rather damp from the trip home. Patsy was glad that Phyllis had managed to keep her relatively dry with her umbrella - she didn’t fancy changing again given the trouble it had cost to get her to her current state.

This song was slower than the others, but she still rather liked it. The singer’s voice was smooth and had a depth unlike anything she had heard so far. It seemed to pull at her somewhere deep in her chest.

The blonde midwife turned and made her way to the mirror to touch up her makeup. Patsy could feel her blue eyes on her as she wiped away her runny mascara. There was something about this song that was making Trixie act strangely. Her posture was just a little too stiff, and she kept stealing glances through the mirror’s reflection. The redhead opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but her question caught in her throat when Barbara suddenly returned with the promised tea and what looked like sandwiches and a large slice of cake.

“Nurse Crane thought it might be best if you ate up here instead of climbing all the way down the stairs again,” she said, her voice a little strange as she looked for a place to set the tray amongst the teetering stacks of vinyl. Patsy scooted them over to the edge of the bed so that she could take the tray in her lap. Tea and sandwiches sounded glorious after weeks of heavy hospital food.

“Thank you, Barbara,” she said, smiling up at her friend, “This looks delicious.”

The brunette grasped her hands together in front of her and rocked a little on her toes. “You’re quite welcome. And Sister Monica Joan provided the cake. She even gave you a larger slice than she cut for herself, which you probably don’t remember, but it’s very out of character for her.” She smiled awkwardly.

Patsy took a sip of her tea, and eyed Barbara appraisingly over the rim of the mug. She looked nervous, much more so than she had before she had gone downstairs, and her eyes were red too, as if she had been crying. The redhead felt a stab of guilt hit her stomach and put down her tea, the smell of the milk making her feel suddenly nauseous.

She knew she had been the cause of the brunette’s tears. She must have been. But try as she might, she could not think of what must have set the poor girl off.

“Here, Barbara,” she said, picking up the cake plate and offering it to her friend, “I’m not too terribly hungry, and am more in the savory mood as it is. Would you like this? I would hate for Sister Monica Joan to think I did not appreciate her generosity.”

Barbara smiled gratefully and took the plate and a seat on Trixie’s bed. As both began to tuck in, the blonde finally finished with her makeup and turned to face them. “Alright, you two. I’m on duty soon, so I’m going to go down to have some dinner. Try to behave yourselves while I’m gone.”

Two pairs of eyes watched her go before returning to their food. They ate in silence, Patsy feeling increasingly awkward and anxious at the quiet. She hadn’t realized how comforting the music had become to her. And there was something about that last song - it seemed to tingle in her brain, like an itch she just could not reach.

“Barbara, would you mind restarting the song on the record player?” she asked, hoping to fill the silence and scratch that niggling itch at the same time.

As the music began to fill the room again, Patsy felt that same pull in her chest as before. She also remembered how Trixie had watched her as it played. A sudden thought struck her. Perhaps there was something significant about this song! Maybe somewhere, deep in her subconscious she recognized it, or at least the feeling it brought out. The very thought made her heart start to pound. Could she possibly be having a reaction to a memory? Did that mean that her memory was not lost forever?

Patsy suddenly noticed that her sandwich had begun to shake in her hand, so she set it down quickly on the plate, dislodging a slice of beetroot in her haste. Luckily, Barbara seemed to be thoroughly distracted by the slice of cake in front of her, taking extra care to ensure she got every crumb and smear of icing.

The redhead took a deep breath before speaking, hoping that she could keep her voice calm despite her mounting excitement. “Barbara,” she said, and the brunette looked up, fork still in her mouth, “Do you know if there is anything special about this song? To me, I mean. Well, to me from before,” she was stammering. So much for sounding calm.

Barbara put down her fork. “What do you mean?” she asked, her eyes searching the redhead’s face, before suddenly going wide. “Are you remembering something?” she asked, her voice full of excitement.

Patsy immediately regretted her question. As much as she wanted to know, she dreaded getting anyone’s hopes up. She could still clearly picture that look on Delia’s face when she thought the redhead had remembered dying her hair from its original blonde.

“No, I’m not remembering anything. I’m sorry,” she said, giving her friend an apologetic smile as she watched her deflate. “It’s just a feeling that I’m getting. It’s different than any of the other songs that I’ve listened to thus far, so it just made me wonder.”

To her surprise, Barbara immediately seemed to recover her excitement. “Well, I don’t know about this song specifically, but you did rather like Sam Cooke. You have quite a few of his records,” she said, and she began excitedly shuffling through the stack to find what she was looking for, causing a few records to slide off the counterpane and onto the floor by the window. A part of Patsy winced inwardly at the mess, but she was too keen to hear the next song to bother trying to collect the fallen vinyl.

This one was a faster tempo, but Cooke’s silky voice was just as suited to this song as the last. Patsy listened closely, staring at the dancette as if an answer would appear hovering above the spinning record. But nothing did. Although she quite liked the song, it didn’t affect her in the same way.

She could feel Barbara watching her and after a moment she met her hopeful gaze. Her green eyes were sparkling and the redhead felt a sudden urge to protect her from the disappointment. Patsy smiled and adopted what she hoped was a convincingly positive voice, “I think you’re right. I must just be feeling that way because I like his music. Shall we test the theory and put on another?” The brunette looked at her with an odd look on her face for a moment before returning to the bed to find another record.

The pair had moved on from Sam Cooke to Patsy’s rather sizable stack of Chuck Berry singles when Nurse Crane appeared at the door, dressed in her mackintosh and red hat.

“Good evening, ladies. I hate to intrude, but Mrs. MacDonald has gone into labor, and, seeing as it’s twins, I’m going to accompany Nurse Franklin. The sisters will be going into Compline soon, so that puts you on phone duty,” she said, addressing the last sentence to Barbara.

“Off course,” the younger nurse said, setting down the record she had been holding and running her hands over her uniform skirt.

Nurse Crane, nodded and walked farther into the room. She turned to Patsy and fixed her with her warmest gaze, “I’m afraid that will leave you up here on your own, so I’ve brought this bell for your bedside. Give it a ring if you need anything,” she said. Her look shifted from warm to serious as she went on, “And I mean that, too. I don’t want you overdoing it by trying to undress yourself or make your own way to the toilet. You’re just out of hospital and we don’t want you returning with a fresh crack to your mending ribs. Do I have your word on that?”

Patsy managed to subdue the smirk that wanted to break out on her face, but still didn’t quite trust herself to speak. Instead she gave the elder nurse a solemn nod.

Nurse Crane looked satisfied as she deposited the bell on the bedside table. “Right, we’re off. I shall see you both in the morning.”

Barbara had leaned over and taken the tray from the redhead’s lap, preparing to make her own exit, when Patsy was struck with an idea. “Barbara, before you go, do you think we could move the dancette closer so that I can play some more records?” she asked.

The brunette smiled and set the tray down on Trixie’s bed. “Of course,” she said, and giving it a moment’s thought, added, “Best to have it on the side with your good arm, I think.” After she had moved both player and stand to the space between the two beds, she asked, “Anything else you need before I head down?”

“No, Barbara. This is perfect. Thank you.”

“Alright,” she said, picking up the tray once more, “But do promise to give me a ring if you do.”

“I will,” she said, giving the brunette a small smile. Barbara nodded once, turned, and left the room.

Patsy listened as Barbara’s muffled footsteps descended the stairs. Suddenly, she was aware of the quiet of the house. Or, lack of, rather. It was eerie. She could faintly hear singing drifting up from what she assumed was the chapel. It was almost like chanting, and that, combined with the creaks of the old building made her feel strangely uneasy. Patsy reached for a record without looking. She didn’t care what song it was, she just needed to fill the room with tangible sound.

She slowly shifted her body around to turn towards the player, being extra careful not to topple any of the unevenly stacked records. Again, she inwardly cursed her body’s limitations. The mere act of shifting her legs over the edge of the bed to face the dancette took a full minute. Patsy wished she could have just leaned over, but her achy ribs prevented that movement. At last, she put the record on the turntable and lowered the needle unsteadily with her left hand. After a few unsettling pops and screeches, she managed to land it down on the surface.

The song was another up-tempo one, with a tinkling piano overlaying a steady bassline. Patsy shifted herself into a more comfortable position on the edge of the bed to listen. The piano player was good, his stylized playing contrasting nicely with the steady backing band. She had picked up another record to try to make her next selection when the singer sang his opening line.

‘Luuuuciiiiille!’ The tail end of the word was almost a screech, and it caught Patsy by surprise, causing her to jump in her seat. The worn-out springs of the mattress caught her, causing a tidal wave of movement to ripple through the old bed, spilling a dozen or so records over the edge of the far side.

“Oh my good giddy aunt!” she swore, as the song played on. Her heart was beating quite fast and her rapid breathing made her feel a stabbing pain with each intake as her lungs pressed hard against her injured ribs. She closed her eyes, willing her breathing to relax. In the darkness, she grew to appreciate the singer’s technique. His voice shifted smoothly from howl to screech to smoothly melodic. It was almost more like an instrument than voice. By the end of the two-minute song, she decided she quite liked Little Richard.

Patsy smiled. No, she still quite liked Little Richard. She had almost forgotten this was her music. She looked through the remaining records on the bed searching for another by the singer. Nothing. Maybe there was one amongst the dozen or so that must now reside on the floor on the other side of the bed. She flipped the 7-inch over to the B-side and put the needle down a little more steadily this time.

She sighed. The mess.

She knew it wasn’t dire. There was no reason it couldn’t stay right where it was until someone came, inevitably, to check on her. But her fingers twitched at the very thought. Plus, there might be another record in there that would give her that feeling again.

Patsy knew she really should ring for Barbara instead of getting up herself to clean up the fallen records. The able-bodied nurse could no doubt have everything tidy in a minute, and that would include her journey up the stairs. She had promised not to risk injuring herself.

But how dangerous could it really be? She was just walking around to the other side of the bed. Just picking up records from the floor. Besides, there was no reason to pull Barbara away from the phone for this. If Patsy rang the bell now, less than ten minutes after she’d been left alone, the brunette would no doubt think something terrible was wrong. And then when it turned out to be only spilled records, well, that would just be embarrassing.

She could just try and see if she could do it. If not, she could just climb back into the bed from the opposite side. No harm done.

Using her uninjured arm for support, she pushed her way ungracefully to her feet. For a long moment she just stood still, testing her balance. So far, so good. Slowly, she inched her way around the bed’s perimeter, never letting herself get more than a foot from it in case her energy or equilibrium gave out. She reached the other side without incident or even any real struggle, and she felt so elated she might have risked a little dance if the song hadn’t ended (and if doing so wouldn’t have guaranteed her toppling over like a house of cards).

Now came the tricky part. How to pick the records up from the floor. She really hadn’t thought this through. She couldn’t just lean over - not only would she surely lose her balance, her sore ribs prevented any extreme bending at the waist. Feeling a little dejected, she lowered herself back onto the bed.

Patsy sat for a moment, thinking hard. Why did everything have to be so bloody complicated?

Maybe she could slide into a kneeling position? That would get her close enough to be able to lean slightly and pick the records up. She glanced over at the bedside table on the opposite side of the bed. She really should have brought the bell with her; if she got stuck on the floor…

No. She could do this. And at this point she realized she had to do this. She had to prove to herself that she could manage on her own. For the first time she could remember, she wanted to accomplish something - even if it was something so very minor in the grand scheme.

So, slowly and very cautiously, she slid off the bed onto her knees. With just a tiny bend at the waist, and the blessing of her long arms, she was able to easily reach the first cluster of vinyl. That was actually rather easy. Patsy couldn’t help but smile as she continued to pick up the scattered records, and before she knew it, she had retrieved all but a couple that had managed to slip under the bed. She would have to bend over a little bit more to get to these, but she thought she could manage it - the fractures to her ribs were mostly healed after all, so there was little risk of her reinjuring them if she was careful. She bent, the resulting ache in her ribs feeling oddly satisfying as she snaked a long arm under the edge of the bed.

Her fingers searched blindly for the renegade 45s - first finding what felt like a small box, then...a neatly stacked pile of what felt like four records.

That was odd.

They were under her bed, so that would imply that they belonged to her, but why were they hidden away here and not with her other records?

Patsy delicately pinched the edge of the stack and slid it out from under the bed. They were larger than the records she had been playing, but not by much. Her curiosity piqued, she placed the stack on the bed before fishing out the remaining two records from the floor and adding them to the pile.

Now came the tricky part. She had to stand up.

Patsy placed her good left arm on the bed and leaned into it as she brought her right knee up until her foot was flat on the floor. Next, she put as much of her weight as she could bear on her arm as she pushed up off the floor with her right leg. She barely made it. But still, she made it. Her head was buzzing with excitement and adrenaline at her victory as she slowly made her way back around the piles of records to the other side of the bed.

As she sat back down, Patsy felt giddy. She had done it. And she had done it all on her own.

High from her accomplishment, she decided to investigate these mystery records. According to their labels, three of these larger records were piano music of some kind, but the faded blue label on the fourth declared that it was ‘Vocal with Orchestra.’ And it looked old - much older than the stacks of vinyl she had played thus far. She picked it up and examined it more closely.

Perhaps it was an aftereffect of the adrenaline, but her fingers seemed to tingle as she held the 10-inch record in its paper sleeve. Or perhaps it was that it was so much older than the others, it’s sleeve yellowed and torn at the well-worn crease, making it feel precious and fragile. Regardless, it felt significant in a way she could not clearly describe. Patsy slid it out of the sleeve and replaced the long finished Little Richard single on the turntable. Holding her breath, she carefully lowered the arm, making sure not to scratch the surface.

The creeping string music and low, slow voice that spilled out of the speakers came as a surprise. Patsy blinked in astonishment at the dancette, her confusion mounting until she noticed the speed setting. She chuckled nervously, adjusted the speed, then lifted the arm to restart the song.

The orchestra sounded much better in the proper speed. The music was simply arranged, obviously not wanting to overshadow the singer. But that would not be a problem. Her voice was warm and rich, smooth and deep like velvet. She sang of hope and longing, and of a better place ‘somewhere over the rainbow.’

By the time Judy Garland was singing about wishing upon a star, Patsy Mount had tears rolling down her cheeks. But she no longer heard the young starlet’s voice, she was hearing a different singer from many years ago.

She was remembering.




Chapter Text

Delia jogged up the stone steps, head tucked down against the rain. The wind was really blowing now and the rain seemed to be coming from all sides, rendering her umbrella quite pointless. Arriving under the relative shelter of the porch, she lowered the useless object and shook it out, straightening up as she did so. She stood staring at the heavy wooden door like she had on dozens of occasions, but this time it felt different.

Patsy was home.

Home at Nonnatus.

It was not what they had planned, but under the circumstances, it was better than she could have hoped. Patsy’s father was not due to arrive back in London for nearly a week, and after that - well, no one knew really. Mr. Stockton had told Sister Julienne that he wanted to monitor the redhead’s progress at Nonnatus so that he could make a further recommendation to Mr. Mount when he arrived. Delia still did not quite know what to make of the strange consultant, but she was thankful that, for the time being at least, he did seem to have Patsy’s (and not her father’s) best interest at heart.

But even though she was so very thankful for how things had turned out, she had been dreading this moment all day.

When Patsy had been in hospital, Delia had been able to imagine that she was just waiting for her to come back home - to their home. It was wishful thinking, and she knew it, but it had kept her going. But now...now Patsy was home - her home. And Delia was alone in their home, or what should have been theirs but now would never be. Seeing Patsy sitting up in her old bed as usual was going to be hard. The brunette had prepared herself as best she could, but she knew it would never be enough. It was wrong. It was all so very wrong.

She shook the umbrella out once more, ostensibly to rid it of more water, but really in a vain attempt to shed her own anxiety. Taking a deep breath, she lifted her leaden arm and rang the bell.

After a moment, the hulking door swung back to reveal a smiling Barbara Gilbert. “Delia, hi!” she said, “Come in out of the wet.”

They stepped in quickly, and as the midwife closed the door against the cold wind, Delia was already shedding her damp wool coat and hanging it on the stand. Her wet feet felt like they each weighed a ton as her eyes traced the path up the stairs to where she assumed Patsy was waiting.

“Would you like a cup of tea to warm up before you go see her?” Barbara asked, no doubt reading the hesitation clearly etched upon the Welshwoman’s features.

Delia gave her a grateful smile. “That would be lovely, Barbara. Thank you,” she said, feeling the exhaustion in her own voice.

She followed the taller woman back into the kitchen in silence. Delia settled herself at the table and watched as Barbara began making tea. The taller woman seemed happy, even a little excited, but there was a slight puffiness around her eyes that made Delia think she might have been crying. It was an odd combination.

“How did everything go today?” she asked.

Barbara turned and leaned against the worktop to wait for the kettle to boil, looking thoughtful. “Well, she made it home just fine, by all accounts. She even made it up to her room with a little help from Trixie, but that tired her out quite a bit.”

Delia just nodded, feeling a slight twinge in her heart at the mention of ‘her room.’

“Then I spent some time with her listening to some of her old records,” she said, her voice speeding up a little with her mounting excitement. “And I think she almost remembered something about one of the songs,” Barbara said, continuing on in a rush, completely missing Delia’s rapidly paling face, “Or at least she said it felt different somehow. I thought it might be just because she had a lot of Sam Cooke records, but she didn’t react to the next one in the same way. She said she did, but in that falsely bright, ‘Nurse Mount’ voice she used to get when she was hiding something...”

Delia stared at her friend, feeling simultaneously numb and thrilled. No. She couldn’t get her hopes up. Not again.

“...which I thought was rather exciting in itself. I mean, it was something she always used to do. It could mean something, couldn’t it?” the midwife finished, finally taking a breath.

Delia could feel Barbara’s excited green eyes on her, but she was completely lost in her own thoughts.

Sam Cooke.

They had both so loved him, and some of his songs had meant quite a lot to them before all this. Maybe, just maybe…

No.

Delia hated to quash Barbara’s enthusiasm, but she could not let herself hope. She needed to be practical. Even if Patsy had begun to remember things, it probably would not be their relationship. The odds were just not in their favor.

Blinking her way back to the conversation at hand, she said, “It could have been anything, Barbara. It’s best not to read too much into things just yet.”

But she couldn’t help herself, she had to know.

As Barbara turned to collect the now screaming kettle, she adopted a tone of polite interest and asked, “Which song was it?”

“You Send Me,” she said.

Delia felt suddenly dizzy, her vision becoming white around the edges as if she was about to faint. Taking a deep breath, she placed both hands flat on the ochre tablecloth to prevent their shaking.

“You Send Me” had been the first romantic record she had ever given to her girlfriend. And she had given it to her to remind her of something very important.

It was the end of 1957 and they had each given the other a couple playful singles, but no real love songs. But that holiday season had been particularly hard for them. It was to be their first Christmas as a couple, and they would not be spending it together. Delia had gone home to her family, and Patsy, as always, had volunteered for extra shifts in order to avoid the thoughts that always cropped up around that time of year. But apparently, her attempts had been unsuccessful, because when Delia had returned from Wales it was to a particularly closed off and morose Patsy.

The blonde had begun to question their relationship. Patsy could never be what Delia needed her to be.  It wasn’t realistic. She was too cautious, too damaged, too female. She wasn’t worth Delia risking everything for, and she knew it was only a matter of time before the Welshwoman came to her senses and got over this infatuation. It was best to end it now before any real damage was done.

Delia had simply left the room, not daring to speak for the fury that was building in her gut. How dare Patsy question her love for her? How dare Patsy think she could decide what was best for her?

But as the days passed and the date of their one year anniversary approached, Delia had begun to think more about what Patsy had said. The blonde honestly didn’t think that it was possible for someone to actually love her. That realisation broke the brunette’s heart, and not for the first time, Delia cursed Charles Mount and his abandonment of his shattered twelve-year-old daughter. Why should Patsy think someone would love her, when the one living person who was supposed to had sent her away when she needed him most?

So, when the other nurses had all gone out to ring in the new year, Delia had borrowed Mary’s dancette and decided to show Patsy that she was not going anywhere. She had known she was in love with Patsy since well before they had finally confronted their growing attraction to each other, but she had never said the words. She had been afraid that it would scare the skittish blonde away, and she hadn’t wanted to come on too strong. But now Delia understood that she had been going about it all wrong. Patsy needed the reassurance. She needed to know. She needed to hear Delia tell her just how much she meant to her.

That night, Delia had barged into Patsy’s room without knocking, silenced the blonde’s questioning with a fiery look, and set the dancette on the dresser. Patsy had looked a little scared when Delia had finally turned to face her, the record now playing on the turntable. The brunette felt any residual anger leech out of her body as she took in the look on her love’s face, but a fire of a different sort was beginning to burn away inside of her chest. She made her way over to the bed and knelt down in front of her girlfriend’s knees, taking her hands.

“Patsy, there’s something that I need to say to you, and I need you to really listen to me,” she had said, reaching up to direct her girlfriend’s chin until she was looking her directly in the eyes. “You are exactly what I need you to be. You are brilliant and funny, and you have the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. If you are cautious, it’s because we need to be. If you are damaged, I want to do everything in my power to help you heal. And quite frankly, the fact that you are female is a big part of your appeal,” she smiled, pulling a nervous laugh from the blonde. “Knowing you, and being with you has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t care if it’s not ‘realistic’ in society’s eyes. Just being near you, holding you, kissing you is the most thrilling thing that I have ever experienced. Because I am completely and utterly in love with you, Patience Mount. And you don’t have to worry about me coming to my senses, because I am totally clear. I love you Patsy. And I am not going anywhere.”

Could Patsy really be remembering that? Maybe not the actual event, but the feeling?

Delia could vaguely sense Barbara preparing the tea as she willed her tunnel vision to clear. She must pull herself together. She couldn’t let on, not to Barbara.

“Is there something special about that song?” the midwife asked, setting a mug down in front of the Welsh nurse. “Delia, are you alright?”

Delia closed her eyes and gave a vague shake of her head. Taking a shuddering breath. “That was one of her favorite songs,” she said, unable to hide the breaking in her voice.

She felt a hand cover her own. “Oh Delia, I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. The two of you have been best friends for years. I’ve only known Patsy for eight months or so, and I started crying when I thought she now liked Billy Fury.” Delia looked up into Barbara’s watery green eyes and they both chuckled through their tears. “It’s going to be a hard road, but we’re here for you too. We’ll all get through it together.”

Delia’s throat was now so tight that she was unable to form words. Instead, she placed her other hand on top of Barbara’s and squeezed.

The Welshwoman sat in silence, trying to swallow small sips of tea as Barbara did her best to cheer her with the story of Sister Monica Joan’s latest exploits. After a while the comfortable familiarity of the tea coupled with the tale of all the contraband tinsel hidden around the convent began to act as a balm on Delia’s raw emotions.

As she got closer to the bottom of her mug, however, the nerves began to return. Patsy was upstairs. In her old room. Listening to her old records. What if…

No.

But Sam Cooke?

No.

She needed to be sensible, and sitting here allowing her thoughts to chase themselves around her head like a dog trying to catch its tail was getting her nowhere. Well, nowhere except a little crazy. Delia needed to see her. She needed to see that there was nothing to what Barbara had said. Patsy wasn’t remembering. She couldn’t be.

“Thank you for the tea, Barbara. I’m going to go up now so I can spend some time with her before my shift,” she said, standing and carrying her mug over to the sink.

“I’ll wash up,” said the midwife, “It will keep me occupied while I wait for the phone to ring.”

Delia gave her a grateful smile and headed towards the front stairs.

Despite her best efforts to suppress them, her hopes began to rise along with each step on the old wooden staircase. Could it be possible? Could Patsy be remembering something about their relationship, even just the feeling of it? Music was one of the things Mr. Stockton had said could be an effective trigger for memory recall.

Her pace increased as she cleared the first landing. Even if it was nothing concrete, and she knew that was the most likely scenario, Patsy had felt something when she heard that song; Barbara was sure of it. That knowledge filled Delia like a tonic. There was still something there.

She reached the top of the stairs and hesitated just a moment before approaching the open door. This was it.

She took a step forward.

The site that greeted her at the door nearly made her heart beat out of her chest. Patsy was sitting on the edge of her bed with a now finished record spinning on the turntable. Tears were pouring down her cheeks but her face was lit with joy and...love?

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Patsy had been reading on the window seat in the nursery when her younger sister came in, dragging her feet and looking miserable. The rainy season was always harder on her. Patsy could easily spend all day on her studies or reading one of the books Father had brought back from his latest trip, but Libby had all the restless energy of your typical five-year-old.

“What are you reading?” she asked, her voice small and sheepish.

Patsy stuck her thumb into the pages to mark her place and showed her sister the dark green cover. Libby squinted her blue-green eyes and concentrated on the title, sounding it out as her sister helpfully moved her index finger along the words, “Th-the Ssss-eee C-c-c Rrrrrr-eT G-g-g-aaah D-d En.” Her younger sister looked up at her triumphantly.

“Well done,” she said, opening the book back up so she could mark her place properly with her silk bookmark before setting it aside.

Libby crawled up onto the bench and into her elder sister’s now empty lap. “What’s it about?” she asked, picking up the book herself and looking at the illustrations, eager for a story to distract her from her listlessness.

Patsy wrapped her arms around her sister’s small shoulders. They were only two years apart, but Patsy was tall for her age and Libby small, which suited both sisters’ personalities perfectly. Although she was content to read quietly alone for hours on end, Patsy was actually quite open and outgoing, and never shy around other children or adults. She was also fiercely protective of her little sister. Libby was energetic, yet serious. Outgoing around her family, but generally timid around strangers, always seeking the comfort of her older sister’s hand.

Patsy’s white blonde plait draped over her younger sister’s shoulder as she leaned down and rested her chin there. “It’s about girl named Mary who grew up in India, but went to live with her uncle in England after her parents died.”

Libby turned her round face to look at her sister with an alarmed expression. “Her parents died?” she asked, and Patsy tightened her embrace to reassure her. “They did, but don’t worry, Lib. They got sick with some horrible disease that one can only get in India, so nothing like that will ever happen to Mother and Father.” Patsy knew this wasn’t exactly true, but the likelihood of them contracting cholera was slim, and there was no need to worry her.

The little girl nodded her head solemnly, her strawberry blonde curls bouncing and tickling Patsy’s arms. “Does she have a sister?”

Patsy smiled, “No, she doesn’t. No siblings at all I’m afraid. She does make friends with a boy named Dickon at her uncle’s house, so she’s not alone. But first she finds the key to a secret garden hidden behind high stone walls. It’s been closed up for years and years so it’s quite overgrown. She invites Dickon in, and they fix it up together.”

“Is it pretty?” she asked, eyes wide in wonder at the mere idea of a hidden garden.

“They make it pretty again,” Patsy said.

Libby turned her head to look out the window, her eyes squinting in an attempt to discern anything through the waves of rainwater rolling down the glass. “I wish we had a secret garden,” she said, her voice small once again.

“Well even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to find it in this rain,” Patsy said, squeezing her sister again and feeling the little girl’s disappointment seeping into her own bones. “But maybe we can ask Mother about making our own garden when it stops raining,” she added, trying to cheer her.

The smaller girl did seem to brighten a little at the idea. “Could we plant roses?” she asked.

Patsy bit her lip. Her knowledge of gardening was limited to what she had read in books, still, she knew roses were a lot of work. “Why don’t we go ask her,” she said, tucking her chin down and whispering in her sister’s ear conspiratorially. “But first. We might not be able to look for a secret garden today, but how would you like to practice your seeking skills by finding your hidden sister?”

Libby giggled and nodded her head, her face lighting up in a smile. It was her favorite game. And she always liked to seek, which suited her sister perfectly.

Patsy loved to hide. It was much more satisfying than seeking.

The best spaces were the ones that had a good lookout. That way she could either move when her sister was getting close or jump out at her in surprise. She nearly always chose the latter. Libby would squeal with delight as her elder sister suddenly emerged from behind the drapery and picked her up at the waist, spinning around until both girls were dizzy before crashing to the floor in a giggling heap.

The little girl slid down off her elder sister’s lap and immediately turned towards the wall. Covering her eyes, she began to count. Patsy was out in the hall before Libby reached ‘four.’

It was gloomy in the big house, the rain coming down in sheets blocked out the sun and crashed against the red tiled roof, filling the halls with its echoey sound.

Perfect hiding weather.

Patsy knew just where she would go. She was constantly on the lookout for good places to hide, even when they weren’t playing. This spot she had noticed two weeks ago when the maid had been cleaning one of the guest chambers. The bed was unusually low in that room. If she scooted back towards the wall, Libby would not be able to see her without bending down to look.

Perfect.

As she waited, laid out flat on her stomach, the older girl planned how best to reveal herself. From her hiding spot by the wall she had a clear view of the open doorway, so would easily spot Libby’s black mary janes as she came into the room. She doubted her sister would go straight to the bed; she nearly always checked the closet or curtains first. So, Patsy could wait and see which side of the bed she walked to and crawl out the other side. That could work.

She caught a flash of black patent leather and stilled, body tense, ready to move. Slowly and very cautiously, the shoes made their way around to the side of the bed near the windows. Patsy tucked her arms in, ready to roll out the far side, but was struck by a sudden idea. Instead, she shimmied along the floor towards her sister’s shoes and reached out a pale hand, grabbing her stockinged ankle. Libby squealed, collapsing to the floor as her older sister began tickling her legs. Once she was down, Patsy grasped her more firmly with both hands and pulled her under the bed, tickling her on her sides as the younger girl giggled and fought for breath.

At last she relented, smiling down at her bright-eyed, red-faced sister. “Come on, let’s go find Mother.”

The pair rolled out from under the bed and straightened their dresses. Patsy reached out and smoothed Libby’s tousled hair before they set off for the other end of the house. There was no need to search long. As they walked they heard the tinkling piano that told them exactly where she’d be.

The conservatory was large with tall windows on one side made up of dozens of square panes of rain-slicked glass. Mother was seated at the piano in front of them, the music she played reflecting the storm behind her. They both stood quietly, watching her. Patsy thought her mother looked prettiest when she smiled, but most beautiful when she was playing piano. She watched in a trance as her mother’s hands flew over the keys in an elegant dance. Then all at once, they stopped, and Patsy blinked at the sudden quiet.

“Hello, my darlings,” Mother said, her voice warm with her smile. “To what do I owe this magnificent pleasure?” she asked, spreading her arms out wide.

Libby immediately ran to her and was scooped up into her lap. Her mother held her much as her older sister had earlier, occasionally dropping kisses onto her red-blonde hair as she excitedly told all about their game and Patsy’s book.

“So, you want to have a garden, do you?” she asked. Libby nodded excitedly. Her mother looked thoughtful. “Well, we will have to talk to Mr. Lim and get his opinion for the plants. My gardening knowledge is rather lacking, I’m afraid. I haven’t done any since I was a girl, so anything I do know is more pertinent to England’s climate,” she looked out at the rain, a thoughtful expression on her face, “Which is quite different.”

Libby looked up at her. “Does it not rain in England, Mummy?”

Their mother threw her head back and laughed, the sound causing both girls to smile. “Oh darling, it rains quite a lot. Just not like this.”

“What do you mean?” Patsy asked, sitting down on the piano bench beside her mother.

Her mother looked thoughtful. “Well, it’s generally warmer here, and when it rains, it rains hard. In England, it can be more of a mist or a drizzle. But actually, it rains there almost as much as it does here. It’s just a different quality of wet.”

Patsy was thinking about all the different rain she had experienced when Libby’s voice broke into her thoughts. “I want to live somewhere where it never rains,” she said, her voice full of the sad restlessness of before.

Her older sister frowned at her in concern, but her mother just laughed again. “Oh my darling, you would not want to live in a place like that. You could never have a garden there; the plants would all die.”

Libby seemed to consider this, and Patsy, keen to cheer her further added, “And without rain, there would be no rainbows.”

Mother looked over at her and beamed. She seemed to know exactly why Patsy had said that. “Over the Rainbow” had been Libby’s favorite song since Father had brought the sheet music back with him from a trip to America almost six months ago. Patsy watched as her mother released her grip on her youngest daughter and stretched her long-fingered hands out towards the keys. Libby seemed determined to sulk, however, and Mother nodded encouragingly towards her eldest daughter to begin.

Patsy knew her voice was dreadful, no matter how much she loved music, but, with her mother’s reassurance, she began,

“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby…”

Her mother’s voice joined her, and after a moment her sister could no longer resist,

“Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me”

Patsy had stopped singing to listen in awe to her young sister’s beautiful voice. If it had been anyone other than Libby, she would have been jealous of that voice. But instead, she was quite content to listen to her sing forever, amazed at the strength and power coming from her normally soft-spoken sister.

“Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me”

For singing was the only time that Libby was anything but reserved. The sound just exploded out of her with such ease. Even in front of strangers. She seemed so relaxed and completely herself when she sang. And beautiful too. Just like when Mother played the piano.

“Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh, why can't I?”

Patsy felt the music fill her chest as her mother played and sister sang. Her five-year old sister sounded so much older than she was - Libby’s voice was so full of sadness and yearning that it would have broken her heart if she didn’t know the younger girl was so very happy in this moment. Still, she could not help the tears that blurred her vision as her sister finished the last pleading verse of the song,

“If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow.
Why, oh, why can't I?”

“Patsy, are you alright?” a voice asked.

“Of course, Mother,” she said, smiling through her tears. “Can we play it again?”

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Delia’s stomach plummeted and an icy chill slammed over her like she had suddenly jumped from a high rock into the cold Atlantic.

Mother?

Something was very, very wrong.

Delia strode quickly into the room and was kneeling in front of the redhead in an instant.

“Patsy, are you alright?” she repeated, her voice gentle.

Patsy appeared to be in a trance. Delia felt her heart rise into her throat. Could she be remembering? She stole a quick glance at the spinning record - it was a 10-inch with a light blue label. Definitely not one of ‘theirs.’ The Welshwoman knew that Patsy had kept a few records beside her memory box, but, like the contents of that box, she had never seen them. This must be one of them.

And she had mentioned her mother.

The brunette felt another icy chill rush over her as she reached out and took the redhead’s hands. The gentle gesture brought back two distinct memories for the kneeling woman. For the second time that evening, she was again reminded of New Year’s Eve three years ago, but also of a moment almost two years earlier than that when she had knelt like this in front of another Patsy consumed by memories of her mother. And just like that time, it was her touch that finally broke the taller woman out of the trance.

Patsy blinked, her blue eyes becoming clear and focused on the present. “D-Delia?” she asked, a look of confusion on her face.

“That’s right, Pats. It’s me. Are you alright, sweetheart?” she asked, searching the redhead’s pale face for answers.

“I-I remembered,” she said, her voice small and choked with emotion.

Mother.

The brunette’s heart stopped as she thought of the possibilities. Somehow, she managed to find her voice. When it came it was barely a whisper, “What did you remember?”

Tears were still streaming down Patsy’s face as she recounted every little detail of her memory. She told Delia about the house and the rain, holding Libby as they talked, their game of hide and seek, finding their mother at the piano, singing the song. It was the most Delia had ever heard her talk about her childhood before the camps. She listened with rapt attention and a steadily constricting heart as she realized that this was what Patsy would have been like with a normal childhood. Open. Happy.

Patsy seemed amazed by her own memories. “It was as if I was reliving it. It was all so vivid. I could feel the warmth of Libby’s body as she sat in my lap. I could even smell her hair,” she said, her breath catching as the full realisation of her loss crashed into her.

Delia rose up higher on her knees and wrapped her arms around the crying redhead, swallowing down what felt like shards of her broken heart as she felt the woman she loved shake with uncontrollable grief. She wanted to comfort her, but the words would not come. What could she say? Her sister had died over fifteen years ago, but to hear Patsy talk, it was as if she had just held her in her lap as they talked about having a garden, just heard her giggling laughter as she tickled her under the bed, just listened to her beautiful voice carry over the pounding rain. It was as if she had lost her again, right as she had got her back. Delia felt hot tears spill down her own cheeks as a desperate moaning sob clawed its way out of Patsy’s throat.

Gently, the Welsh brunette eased the taller woman up a little so that she could slide up onto the bed beside her without letting her go. Patsy’s body seemed to be collapsing in on itself, and Delia let the redhead fall completely against her, wishing to take all the pain and weight she could from her shaking shoulders. She felt Patsy’s long frame melt into her, and she guided them both down to the bed - Delia leaning against the headboard as Patsy clung to her chest. The brunette felt the tears soaking into an ever-expanding pool on her uniform right below where the ring rested on its golden chain, and even though she would have given anything to take this pain away, Delia relished the closeness.

They stayed like that for a long time, both mourning their rather complicated losses. Patsy wept for the family she had just remembered who she had lost years ago in, as yet, unknown circumstances. Delia cried more slowly, her grief having been steadily wrung out of her over the past fortnight. She cried for the lover she had lost, whose body she now held closer than she had in weeks. She cried for this woman who she still loved more than life itself, who was experiencing unimaginable grief. She cried for the knowledge of the untold horrors to come.

Oh, cariad. Maybe it would be better if you never recovered the rest of your memories. Maybe it would be better if you could freeze your mother and sister in time here, in this happy moment, and never remember them starving and suffering in that filthy camp.

As she held the shaking, sobbing body of her former girlfriend in her arms, Delia decided that she would gladly give up the chance of Patsy remembering their life together if it could spare her the grief and horror that she now knew was probably inevitable. Delia would gladly be the sole keeper of the memory of their love if it meant Patsy did not have to relive the camps in vibrant technicolor. Delia would gladly live with her pain if it meant Patsy - her strong, scared, beautiful Pats - could be spared some of her own.

She pulled the redhead closer, breathing in her scent, feeling her heart break again.

But it wasn’t up to her.

Delia held Patsy as her tears began to ease and her breathing became less frantic, but neither made any attempts to move. The Welsh nurse knew that she must be leaving soon if she was going to make it to her shift, but her body refused to budge. Patsy needed her.

At that moment, there was a knock on the door, and both women turned their puffy eyed faces to greet the newcomer. Sister Winifred’s smiling face fell as she took in the scene in front of her.

“I was just coming to check in, has something happened?” she asked, voice full of concern.

Patsy opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came, so Delia gave her a little squeeze, “I’ll take care of it.”

Gently, she lifted Patsy’s head and slid out from under her, placing a pillow in her stead. Delia felt suddenly cold without the warm body against her, but she managed to stave off a shiver as she made her way over to the nun.

“What’s happened?” she asked, eyebrows knitted together in concern.

“She’s just remembered something about her mother and sister,” she said, catching the look of alarm on the nun’s face as her green eyes flitted over to the bed. “It was just a simple childhood memory, but it’s the first she’s had of them,” she said, watching the sister’s expressive face relax a little at the knowledge that it was not the memory they all feared. Lowering her voice a little, she continued, “And knowing that they are gone, well, it’s just brought up a lot.”

Sister Winifred’s face shifted into a look of heartbroken concern.

Delia cast a quick look over at the bed, taking in Patsy’s broken posture and pleading look and wished she didn’t have to say these next words, “I have to leave soon for my shift at the London, but I wondered if you would help me get Patsy into her pyjamas and stay with her until she fell asleep.”

The young nun followed Delia’s gaze to the bed and then her eyes flicked over the brunette, taking in the pair. “Of course, but let me talk to Sister Julienne about covering your shift tonight. Nurse Gilbert has just been called out and Patsy should have one of her friends with her.”

Delia felt tears fill her eyes once again at the sister’s offer. “Thank you, sister, but I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that,” she said.

“You’re not asking, I’m offering. Besides, you can’t face Matron with your uniform looking like that,” she said, indicting the black streaks of mascara running through the damp patch on her chest. “Sister Julienne can call the night matron and explain the situation. Any one of us can work a shift on Male Surgical, but you’re needed here tonight,” she said, reaching out and giving the Welshwoman’s arm a little squeeze.

Now it was Delia who could not find her voice, managing only a nod as a single tear blinked out of one eye. Sister Winifred gave her a sympathetic smile, “I’ll be back in two ticks,” she said.

Delia took a deep fortifying breath as the sister retreated down the stairs. Turning back to the bed she said, “Well, Pats. It looks like I’ll be staying the night. So, why don’t we both get into something a little more comfortable.”

Patsy nodded, managing a little smile as her eyes fluttered over the puffed sleeves of the violet uniform. Delia went immediately over to the chest of drawers and took out two pairs of pyjamas, holding each up for Patsy’s inspection. “Solid or stripes?” she asked.

The brunette had laid out the blue striped pyjamas and was removing the redhead’s shoes, when Sister Evangelina appeared at the door. “Sister Winifred will be leaving for the London in a moment, so I thought I’d pop up to help get you changed,” she said, addressing Patsy, but giving Delia a kind smile.

The sturdy nun helped the tall woman to stand and Delia began undoing the green tartan trousers. She was keenly aware of every breath and hesitation in her hands as they performed this action she had been imagining for years. But this was definitely not how she had pictured undressing the woman she loved for the first time - with a nun overseeing every action. For just this moment, Delia was actually thankful that Patsy did not remember who they were to each other. She didn’t think she could have gotten through this if she had had to endure one moment of knowing eye contact with those gorgeous blues. It was tortuous enough as it was.

Instead, as she slid the trousers off of the redhead’s hips, she tried to think of her as any other patient. She was thankful to still be in uniform, the purple passions helping with this mental image, because Patsy’s curves were markedly different from the angular hips of her usual patients on male surgical. She laid the trousers neatly on the bed and replaced them quickly with the striped pyjama bottoms.

Sister Evangelina began unbuttoning her cream blouse, and Delia, not wanting to feel like a voyeur, folded the trousers and hung them carefully on a hanger in the wardrobe. She turned back to the bed and froze, her body gripped by a nauseating combination of fear, anger, and love.

Patsy’s back.

Delia had known about the scars. Had felt some of the larger ones through a few of Patsy’s thinner shirts when she had run her hands over her back in some of their more passionate moments. Had even asked about them and been told the bare minimum. She had thought she could fill in the blanks. She had thought she was prepared.

But she was not prepared for this. She could never have been prepared for this.

Patsy’s back was streaked with angry dark stripes. Some thin and barely visible against her pale skin, others brown, thick, and raised. Dotted amongst the stripes were circular scars about half the size of a sixpence. Cigarette burns.

Delia felt faint.

Sister Evangelina looked up to see what was keeping her and closed her eyes, indicating with a small nod that she knew what had made the brunette’s face grow ashen. “Nurse Busby, I think I can manage the rest. Why don’t you go down and fetch Patsy’s medication and a glass of water? You should have a bite to eat as well. You’re looking a little peaky,” she said, her voice more concerned than unkind.

Delia felt her head bob mutely on her neck and stumbled out of the room on numb feet. She made it to the landing before she was forced to sit down, her head spinning.

Patsy had been beaten. Patsy had been burned. Patsy had been tortured.

All before she was twelve.

Delia felt sick.

On the few occasions that her reluctant girlfriend had talked about the camps, she had scarcely mentioned the physical pain she must have endured. It was always, “We were beaten and tortured for the slightest misdemeanor,” said quickly and breezed right over. No more. No talk of whips and cigarettes. And that was just the torture that had left a permanent mark. What else could have been done to her? Or her mother? Or her sister?

No, talk of the camps was always centered around the sickness and loss of her family. So that had been what Delia had feared when the redhead had begun to remember. But perhaps that’s all Patsy ever talked about because that was all she had to talk about. Those facts were unavoidable. But the torture, it could be hidden beneath plaid shirts and trousers. Out of sight, out of mind - out of others’ minds that is.

Oh, sweetheart.

Suddenly, Delia was gripped with the need to hold Patsy in her arms. She got up and walked quickly down the stairs for the promised medication and water.

When she returned, Patsy was just being helped into bed by Sister Evangelina.

“Thank you, Nurse Busby,” she said, taking the pills and eyeing the Welsh nurse appraisingly as Patsy took her medication. “Right, you should stay in here tonight, and I will make up the box room for Nurse Franklin’s use if she gets back before sunup.” She turned to leave, adding, “If you need anything at all, I will be manning the phone.”

“Thank you, sister,” Delia said, following the stout nun to the door and closing it behind her.

She undressed quickly, not bothering to worry about creasing her soiled uniform as she slung it, and her stockings, over the back of a chair. She pulled on Patsy’s turquoise pyjamas, feeling a little chilled in the short sleeves as she perched on the redhead’s bed.

“How are you feeling, Pats. Are you ready to sleep or do you want to stay up and talk for a while?” she asked, looking at those drooping blue eyes and thinking she knew what the answer would be, or at least should be.

Patsy looked exhausted.

“I don’t think I can keep my eyes open much longer if I’m honest,” she said, and added, her voice tight and filled with emotion, “It’s been a rather eventful day.”

Delia automatically reached out and took her hand. “I know, sweetheart. You get some sleep, I’ll be right over there if you need me,” she said, getting to her feet.

The creaking of the old bed almost drowned out Patsy’s quiet voice, “Delia?”

“Yes, Pats?”

Patsy was staring down at her hands, looking uncomfortable and small. “I know it’s silly, but I just don’t want to be alone tonight. Would you...would you mind sleeping in my bed with me? I know it’s awfully tight, but…maybe just until I fall asleep?”

Delia felt her heart clench as she watched this strong woman ask for help. She smiled reassuringly, “Of course, sweetheart. I’ll stay with you all night if you need me.”

In fact, I’d love nothing more.

Patsy rolled over onto her left side and Delia flicked off the lamp and circled the bed to climb in behind her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, keeping a safe distance between their bodies. They lay in silence for a few minutes, but Delia could almost hear the question forming in Patsy’s ginger head. The air was tense with it.

“Delia?” she said, her voice small and fearful. “How did they die?”

The Welshwoman closed her eyes as her chest constricted. She reached out and wrapped her arm around Patsy’s long frame, pulling her gently closer. “Not tonight, cariad. I promise I’ll tell you, but tonight, you need to sleep.”

“Alright,” she said, sounding almost relieved. Delia felt the redhead exhale and relax back into her arms, letting her exhaustion spill over her. It wasn’t long before Patsy’s breathing was deep and steady.

But Delia didn’t sleep. She lay awake all night, glad that her body was trained for the night shift. She held the sleeping Patsy in her arms, making every sort of bargain with a God she did not believe in to try to prevent her from remembering anything more about her life. Wishing she could shield her from reliving the agonizing deaths of the two people she had just got back. Wishing her small arms were enough to protect her from the Japanese soldiers who were waiting to terrorize that frightened nine-year-old girl all over again.

But her wishes could never be enough. Patsy was remembering.

 

 

Chapter Text

Mary Boyd opened her large black umbrella and stepped wearily out into the dark London night. It had gotten much colder since she arrived for her shift earlier that day. The rain from the late morning had become sleet, stinging her ankles like icy needles and pinging off the umbrella into the night. It seemed autumn was weary too, giving over to winter a fortnight before their scheduled shift change.

The dark-haired nurse pulled her navy wool coat tighter around her throat and started off for the Nurses Home, her mind swirling with concern for her friend.

Poor Delia.

She’d noticed the ever-expanding dark circles under the petite brunette’s sad blue eyes. Of course, she had. She’d also noticed the forced smiles and deflections each time she tried to ask the Welsh nurse how she was doing. And it seemed she was not alone. Trixie had come to her that afternoon with concerns of her own.

Delia was not coping.

Of course, she wasn’t. How could she be?

Mary knew that she would not be doing nearly as good a job holding it together if she was in Delia’s position. She knew that this was nothing short of a nightmare scenario for someone like them. It was already so difficult to have to hide your love from the world, but to have to do so while covertly caring for the person you loved and hide it from them as well - she was honestly surprised Delia could get out of bed at all, much less come every day to face this stranger in her lover’s body. But it looked like only a matter of time before even her stubborn Welsh will gave out. Trixie was right; they needed to step in. Patsy might not truly know Delia, but they did. They could help.

Or could they?

How could they help, really? Nothing they could do would bring Patsy back. That would happen on its own accord, if it happened at all. And that was the only thing that would truly help Delia. Everything else was logistics.

Mary hated logistics. Sure, she was good at them when she needed to be - she was a nurse, after all - but that was different. It was part of the job. In her personal life, she hated them. Especially because, as a queer woman, they were everywhere. Logistics were almost like a third party in she and Allie’s relationship. They always had to plan, to be careful, to avoid suspicion. Frankly it was exhausting. She was very thankful that Allie was so good at organisation and planning, and, in fact, quite liked it. Otherwise, they would have no doubt been found out ages ago.

When it came to her emotions, Mary was just not a cautious person by nature. She felt - deeply, strongly, openly. At work, she could keep them in check, retreating behind the safety of her uniform like most people in tough professions. (Police, nurses, soldiers - their uniforms were ostensibly there to denote authority, but anyone who’d ever worn one knew they were really emotional armour). But out of uniform, Mary was a bundle of feelings in a loosely tied sack. And that’s just the way she liked it. If only society agreed.

She stepped up under the awning of the Nurses Home and closed her umbrella, shivering slightly as drops of icy cold water ran down the inside of her sleeve. Even if they did get her into trouble on occasion, Mary knew that her emotions were one of her biggest strengths. They enhanced her intuition. They made her more perceptive to others’ needs and moods. They were how she knew Allie was like her. They were how she knew Patsy and Delia were too, even before the pair knew it about each other.

 

-----

 

Something had changed between her friends, and Mary was pretty sure she knew what it was. And, she could not be happier for them.

She had known Patsy and Delia now for almost a year and a half - since shortly after the three of them had started as trainee nurses at the London Hospital. She had also known, for nearly that long, that these two were falling for each other. It was painfully obvious if you were paying attention, which thankfully, no one was. No one but Mary.

It seemed even Patsy and Delia had been oblivious to the other’s feelings. At least until yesterday.

She had watched them in amusement as they circled each other for months and months. It was in the looks and the gestures - a gaze that lingered a little too long, a blush when the other wore something that showed off her figure, an intake of breath at an unexpected touch, a smile that was just a little brighter than the ones they gave everyone else. It was, quite frankly, adorable. To Mary at least. She knew that their classmates would have a rather different opinion about the budding romance, so she had said nothing. She didn’t want to scare them away from each other with the threat of exposure. She simply watched and waited for the inevitable.

But as the months passed, her amusement had morphed into bemused exasperation. How could they not see it?

She had gleaned from careful conversation that each woman was aware of her own difference. It was in the way they both talked about men, or rather, the way they didn’t. It was in the way they both brushed off any inquiries about why they didn’t have a date for the dance, or which junior they had their eye on. Mary did the same, so of course she recognized it. But, why didn’t they?

Mary was constantly on the lookout for other women like her. How else would she ever find friends that would truly understand her? How else would she find love? But apparently, Patsy and Delia were so afraid of their feelings and of being found out that they wore blinders to shut out the rest of the world. So, Mary could understand how they didn’t see the difference in her - she was off to the periphery, in their respective blind spots. But how could they not see what was staring them clearly in the face?

There had been moments when the three of them were studying in one of their rooms, and the air would suddenly grow thick with the electric tension buzzing between the two women. They would look at each other a little too steadily, one pair of blue eyes inevitably flicking to the other’s lips. In moments like these, Mary wanted to scream, “Just kiss her, already!” But she didn’t. Instead she would find an excuse to leave them alone, usually a trip down to the kitchen for a snack or a cup of tea. She knew they’d get there on their own - eventually.

And apparently, they had. When she saw them the morning after New Year’s Day, you could have lit all of London with the brightness of their smiles. But they were walking a step farther apart, afraid that others would see it too. Good. They would need to be more cautious from now on. Because now that they had realized it for themselves, the love and happiness showed on their faces, and Mary was sure she would not be the only one to see it. Better to endure awkward questions about their non-existent new chaps than about the true reason for their new-found happiness.

Meanwhile, Mary would look out for them. She would do her best to make sure no one else suspected a thing.

 

-----

 

Mary pushed open the door to the Nurses Home and stepped quickly into the warm, her glasses instantly fogging up from the sudden increase in temperature. She had been so happy for her friends when they finally got together, but she hadn’t been able to help feeling even more like a third wheel. So, she had drifted away, giving them space. And then, in their third year, she’d met Allie.

She had so wanted to tell her friends about her own happiness, but they had never confided in her either, and really it was safer that way. Plausible deniability. One less detail to worry about.

But she wished she had. Especially after Patsy had finished her midwifery training and moved to Nonnatus House. Mary hadn’t seen much of either of them since training, but when she had bumped into Delia either at the London or in the Nurses Home over the past year, the Welshwoman had seemed to have lost a little of her sparkle. It had seemed that adding distance to the delicate balance of their hidden relationship was threatening to tip the scales. Would it have helped to have someone to talk to?

As she climbed up the stairs to her room, Mary thought about all the times that she had wished she had a friend to talk to about Allie. If nothing else, it would be so wonderful to be able to tell someone how much she loved the tall Welsh blonde. But there were also times when she wished she had someone to confide in. Because as much as they loved each other, they had problems just like every other couple. In many ways, Allie was the complete opposite of Mary - cool headed, rational, logical. And as much as those qualities were her strengths, they were also her greatest weakness, especially when it came to their relationship. Sometimes Mary just needed to feel, not problem-solve.

How many arguments and misunderstandings could have been avoided if they each had someone else to unburden themselves to. And not just about each other, either. How much easier would all the hiding, all the planning, all the misdirection be if they had someone to talk to about it. Someone to share their frustration with the world.

But she could be that for Delia. And so could Allie. True, nothing they could do would fix the brunette’s real problem, but they could listen. They could support. They could help her deal with some of the concrete, solvable problems. They could help handle the logistics.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Sister Evangelina stared into her tea, lost in her thoughts. This wasn’t a familiar feeling for the stout nun. She had never been much of a thinker, always more of a doer. But the events of the past few weeks had rendered her unusually contemplative.  

When they had been told about her amnesia, it had been a real shock. No memory. It was something Sister Evangelina could scarcely comprehend. As always, she had sought guidance through prayer. How could He allow this to happen? Nurse Mount was needed. What higher purpose could this accident possibly serve? For over a fortnight she had prayed, and discussed the matter with her sisters, and even read some of Sister Monica Joan’s recommended volumes. Her lowest point had come when she had sought out Reverend Hereward to get his thoughts. Unsurprisingly, he had been useless. The curate was too wet behind the ears to be able to offer her more than the standard platitudes: “God has a plan, etcetera, etcetera.” Well, of course He did. The sister knew He must have His reasons, but no matter how hard she listened, how diligently she looked for signs, she could not make heads or tails of it.

Not until tonight.

Nurse Mount was remembering.

From the little information that Sister Winifred had gleaned from Nurse Busby, it had just been a simple childhood memory, probably even a happy one. But recalling her mother and sister had only served to throw the loss of them into stark relief. And now, Nurse Mount was grieving.

And it was in that grief that Sister Evangelina had received her answer.

As a child, Nurse Mount has gone through unspeakable torment and loss. Alone.

She would not have been able to properly grieve her losses - in the camp she would have had to be strong. It would have been safer. It would have been the only way she could have possibly survived.

But when she was finally liberated from that dreadful place, when she was finally safe with her only remaining family, she had still not been allowed to grieve.

She had been sent away to a boarding school halfway across the world. Alone.

One more family member added to the list she had lost. At the age of twelve, she had lost everyone she had ever loved. And she had been completely alone in her grief.

No wonder she had become so closed off. No wonder she was so cold and efficient.

But in the year and a half she had worked at Nonnatus, something had changed. She had begun to open up a little. To let how much she cared actually show in her words and actions, not just in her nursing proficiency. To smile and laugh with her friends. To become a part of a new family. A chosen family.

And Sister Evangelina had noticed the change in her. True, she was as competent and efficient as ever, but she was also happier and lighter. In short, she seemed more Patsy than Nurse Mount. And it made her a better nurse. A better midwife. A better Acela. A better friend.

No matter how much she had tried to deny it all through her life, Patsy Mount needed people. And that was something to which Sister Evangelina could absolutely relate.

When she was a girl, Sister Evangelina had been fiercely independent. She’d had to have been.

Her family had been poor. Very poor. Her father had injured his back working in the Huntley and Palmers factory and, unable (or unwilling) to work, turned to drink. It was only through pure determination and hard work that her mother had kept the family out of the workhouse on the Oxford Road. Her older brother William had helped as much as he could, collecting scrap metal and finding any odd jobs that the men down at the wharf would give an eight-year-old boy. And as soon as she was big enough, Enid had done the same. Even as a child, she had been stout and sturdy, which came in handy when it came to hard labour.  But, being a girl, the options were rather limited.

Still, the family scraped by.

But only just.

There had been only one place she had felt secure. One place where she felt herself thrive rather than simply survive. The church. She had never expected to become a nun. After witnessing the birth of her brother Vincent at the age of five, she had begun having dreams of becoming a mother. But as the years passed and she watched her own mother struggle to keep them afloat, she began to have other dreams. She wanted to help her family. She wanted to help all of the other families in the tenements too. And at seventeen, God came calling.

Throughout her childhood, God had steadily become the only thing she could rely on - other than herself, of course. Her father was lost in a bottle, her mother was too busy sewing to pay her any mind, her elder brother was who she counted on the most, but he too was constantly working. So, Enid was on her own, caring for Vincent. Or at least that’s how others would have seen it. But she knew she was never on her own. Not really.

His call had become stronger and stronger, and her fate was sealed when a midwife came to deliver her cousin Gertie’s baby. She was a nun. And Enid suddenly knew what He needed her to do.

In the summer of 1909, Enid took her vows as a novitiate in the low light of a Reading chapel and became Sister Evangelina. No one in the family had been happy for her, save her brother William. He alone had understood her and her calling to get out of the tenements, to make a difference. He had felt a similar calling five years later when Germany attacked France, and overnight, Britain was at war.

And she had been happy then. God had been all she had needed. Her life had felt so complete, so full. She began to train as a nurse, and then as a midwife. But her midwifery training was interrupted when she too was called to serve in the Great War, parachuting down to the front to treat the injured and dying in the trenches. The suffering was unlike anything she had ever seen. But God had been there with her, helping her through it all - even when she got the news from home that William had met a fate she had, by that point, born witness to countless times.

When the war ended, Sister Evangelina returned to Chichester to complete her midwifery training. It was a massive change, bringing life into the world instead of fighting to keep it there - or easing it out. The joy it brought began to chase away the visions of charred flesh and blood-soaked wool. The cries of newborn babies began to drown out the anguished screams of men whose lungs burned with mustard gas. Day by day, birth by birth, the sister had begun to feel whole again, God finding ways to bring hope into the dark corners of her war-torn soul.

A few years and scores of babies later, she thought she had finally been healed. She really felt it, too. Sister Evangelina had God and her work; there was nothing else she needed in life. So, she had been very pleased when she was told that she had been called to serve in Poplar. The East End of London held some of the country’s most impoverished communities. Here she could make a real difference. Here she would be truly needed.

Sister Evangelina had expected to thrive at Nonnatus House, and she had. But it was not just the work that had fulfilled her. Not just God either. What had truly made Sister Evangelina feel complete was something rather unexpected.

Her sisters.

Of course, she had always been surrounded by other nuns. Always worked alongside her fellow Sisters-in-Christ. But, despite the familial title, they had always felt more like classmates or coworkers. Nonnatus had been different. These women were a family, and they welcomed her with open arms. She fought it at first, of course she had, but after she lost her first mother to a dreadful hemorrhage, and nearly lost the baby too, her sisters had rallied around her. Sister Aida and Sister Monica Joan helped soothe her pain in a way that even God had never been able to manage. Of course, she was still the same irascible, tough woman who had parachuted into near-certain death in 1917 - nothing would ever change that. But, for the first time in her life, Sister Evangelina had a real family and a real home.

So, she had not been surprised that Nonnatus House had had that same effect on Nurse Mount - another orphan finding a family in its musty halls. And in her hour of most desperate need, her family had rallied around the amnesiac redhead. And there they would remain. They would be with her through every recollection, through joy and pain, through hope and grief. This time, Patsy would not be alone. And maybe, just maybe, this time she would come out of this painful experience a little more whole than she had as a twelve-year-old girl. Because this time, Patsy would have her family with her. Maybe not the family she had been born into, but the family she had chosen. And Sister Evangelina knew that that was the family who you could really count on.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Patsy felt warmth against her back as she began to wake. The arm draped gently over her waist felt heavy, but in a comforting way, like the relaxing weight of a thick blanket. Delia had held her all night. The redhead smiled, feeling the Welshwoman’s hot breath between her shoulder blades as she breathed deeply, still clearly asleep. She really did feel lucky to have such a wonderful friend.

Patsy was very glad it had been Delia who had been there when she had finally snapped out of her vivid memory of the past and back to this uncertain present. There was no one that she would have rather had there. No one that was still living, at any rate. No one that she knew. Perhaps her father, but he was still a stranger to her.

Over the past fortnight, she had become acquainted with her former colleagues. Had even felt instantly at ease with some of them, particularly Trixie and Sister Mary Cynthia. But Delia was, so far, the only person she felt truly safe with. She was the only one who felt familiar. Perhaps it was because she had seen so much of her - Delia had visited every day, while her former coworkers were scheduled according to Nurse Crane’s rota. Or maybe it was because Delia seemed to know her better than anyone else, could anticipate her shifting moods and concerns more accurately than anyone else. Well, they had been friends for nearly six years, so she was most likely quite adept at reading the ginger’s expression.

Patsy wished she knew herself half as well as Delia seemed to. Or half as well as any of the people from her old life. It was so very frustrating to have all these people - Delia, Trixie and Barbara, Nurse Crane and the nuns, even the Turners - that all seemed to know the redhead better than she did herself. At first it had been exciting, hearing about her life from all these people who cared about her. But the more she heard, the less she wanted to. It was all just so mundane. So ordinary. So...removed. It was like hearing any story where one really doesn't know the main players - mildly entertaining at times, but really not all that interesting.

But perhaps that was all changing. Last night, Patsy had learned more about Past-Pats in a few hours than she had in over a fortnight of hospital visits. And then, of course, she had remembered. Patsy instinctively scooted back a little more into the safety of Delia’s arms.

Her mother and sister.

Patsy’s chest and throat felt suddenly tight. She had remembered them. It had been so vivid, so real. She could see every freckle on Libby’s pale face, feel Mother’s body move beside her as she played the piano, smell the dampness in the air from the rain. It had felt utterly incredible.

But it was more than that. If the physical, tangible sensations had been incredible, the feelings they brought with them had been positively breathtaking.

Safety.

Belonging.

Love.

Patsy loved Mother and Libby. Fiercely, unconditionally, wholeheartedly. How amazing. Before the memory, Patsy had had only the vaguest feeling about them. Like as if they were a distant relation - a third cousin perhaps, who you have been told you were quite close to as a very young girl, but have no recollection of. You feel like you should miss them, because you are told you were close, but there’s no memory to pin that closeness to, so you don’t. The most you can manage is missing the idea of them.

But that had changed in an instant. As soon as she had put the needle down on that well-worn Judy Garland record she had known. Had felt them. She knew that Past-Pats must have had earlier memories than the one she had recalled, and, although Patsy had not yet remembered anything earlier, the feelings from that lived experience were still there. The way she had held Libby, her mother’s laugh, even the house - it had not felt new. It had felt familiar.

It had felt like her life.

As wonderful as it had been to discover that she shared a common musical sensibility with Past-Pats, it had still felt like she was learning about the woman that used to live here, not herself. It was very difficult to explain, and Patsy would never have dared tell anyone about it. Not even Delia. But exploring Past-Pats’ life felt more like a game, or a puzzle maybe. Or perhaps more like learning about a historical figure whom you have a lot in common with. It was all so distant. So abstract.

But the memory was different. It had felt like finding something that you hadn’t realized you had lost, but now that you had found it, you could not imagine how you had lived without it. Like that first drink of cold water after being out in the hot sun all day - you didn’t realize how close to dehydration you had come.

Patsy closed her eyes, trying to go back into the memory. She could remember it all, but it was fuzzier now, less real. It was as if the more she tried to see it - to look right at it - the more it faded, like trying to look directly at a star. It was best to look at it obliquely, to just get the general picture.

But the feelings were are sharp as ever. And with the return of the love, had come the knowledge that they were gone. Patsy reached for Delia’s hand, pulling her closer.

What had happened to them? All she knew was that they had both died. Around the same time. When she had been a girl.

So, within a few years of that day she had remembered when she was seven. The redhead squeezed her eyes shut tighter as her mind began to race. Libby must have been so small. Had she been sick? She did seem so fragile in Patsy’s long arms. Perhaps she had succumbed to some tropical disease or childhood cancer. But then what had taken Mother? She had seemed so healthy and robust, so alive.

An accident of some sort? They lived in Singapore, and her father had traveled quite a lot. Perhaps he took the family with him on a journey and the boat capsized. Or it could have been an automobile accident.

Or perhaps the two losses had been unrelated? Delia had said they had died ‘around the same time,’ but that could mean anything. They could have died years apart.

Without warning, Patsy gasped. A suffocating panic had gripped her, and she hadn’t realized she had not been breathing. The weight on Delia’s arm was suddenly not comforting at all, but rather felt like it was pinning her to the bed, trapping her. But she couldn’t get it off, her own good arm was stuck under her side. She shrugged her right shoulder, trying to free herself from the leaden arm. No use. How could something as small as an arm weigh so much? She still could not breathe. Everything had gone silent, as if she was underwater. She felt her whole body begin to shake and she flailed her plaster covered arm again in an attempt to rid herself of the unwelcome weight.

And abruptly, it was gone. She felt gentle arms pull her into a sitting position followed by a soothing pressure rubbing against her back and through her hair.

Patsy didn’t know where she was. She had been running for what felt like hours, but somehow mere moments as well. But suddenly, she was sitting upright in bed, a cold sweat pouring down her face and back. And then Mother was there, holding Patsy to her chest, one hand stroking her blonde hair while the other rubbed soothing circles on her back. “It’s alright, my darling. It was just a dream.”

“Mother?” Patsy choked, the soothing comfort on her back helping her panic ebb and her breathing return.

“Shhhhh. It’s alright, cariad. You’re alright,” said a familiar Welsh voice.

Not Mother.

“Delia?” she whispered, her panic returning.

“That’s right, Pats. It’s me,” she said, rocking the redhead gently in her arms to try to soothe her further. “Take a deep breath, sweetheart.”

But she couldn’t. The pressure on her lungs was too great, as if she was at the bottom of a very deep pool. There was a small circle of light, quite far away. If she could only reach it...

“Come on Patsy,” Delia soothed, “I need you to breathe now, sweetheart.” Patsy felt a vibration in Delia’s chest as she began to hum, still rocking the redhead gently. The song was vaguely familiar, and Patsy thought it might be a lullaby. She focused in on the sound, letting it wash over her.

Mother sitting on the edge of Libby’s bed singing softly. Her voice slowly drifting into a hum when she thought both her her girls were asleep. Patsy fighting off the tiredness to feel her gentle kiss on her forehead before she left the room.

“That’s better, Pats. Deep breaths.” She was breathing now. She hadn’t realized it. But now that she did, she was able to follow the brunette’s instructions. She took several deep lungfuls of air, feeling her chest burn as her vision began to clear.

After a few minutes she pulled back, and Delia immediately released her, looking at her with her face full of questioning concern. But Patsy didn’t want to talk about it. Not yet. She looked at her friend and shook her head. Delia’s crystal blue eyes softened as she squeezed her hand and nodded, giving the ginger a small, reassuring smile.

There was a quiet knock on the bedroom door, and both women turned to see Sister Monica Joan enter the room carrying a tray laden with tea, toast, and a generous scoop of scarlet jam. “I come bearing breakfast,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “We must first fortify you with bread and jam, and then I will assist you as you traverse to the lavatory. A good soak will do wonders to cleanse you of the poison from that horrid place.”

Patsy gave the elderly nun a hesitant smile. A bath did sound simply marvelous, but, once again, she wished she could do it alone. She felt her smile begin to falter and hastily took a large bite of toast to cover it.

And instantly, the smile was back. The bright sweetness of strawberry exploded in her mouth. “This jam is delicious!” she said. The redhead was fairly certain she had never had better jam in her entire life, amnesia or not.

Sister Monica Joan gave her a cat-like smile, looking extremely pleased and a bit mischievous. “It is courtesy of the newly minted Mrs. Buckle. It seems Fred’s nuptials are fortuitous for all parties.”

Three quarters of an hour later, Patsy was easing into the gloriously warm bath water with the assistance of Trixie and Sister Monica Joan. Delia had had to leave after breakfast, and Patsy was sad to see her go, but the blonde had, after all, already helped her dress once, so it had not felt as awkward for her to undress her as Patsy had expected. They wrapped her plaster cast in a rubber sheet and Trixie helped her prop it up on the edge of the tub.

“Alright, sweetie. I’m leaving you in Sister Monica Joan’s capable hands. Sister, do come get me when you are finished.” They both nodded and the blonde nurse left the room.

“Now, my dear, Nurse Franklin has provided me with all of your previous incarnation’s toiletry preferences. Where would you like to begin?” the old nun asked, her voice gentle.

Patsy’s mind immediately travelled back to her reflection from the previous day. “My hair,” she said, remembering the limp, greasy strands.

Sister Monica Joan began nimbly undoing the plaits with her bony fingers. The sensation made Patsy’s head tingle pleasantly. “Now my dear, if you would tilt your head back, I will wet your hair.”

The ginger did as she was told, and moments later felt the warm water pour from her forehead down her head and into her ears, cutting off the sound for a moment.

“Tilt your head back, my darling. We don’t want to get shampoo in your eyes,” Mother said, placing her hand over Patsy’s small forehead and pouring the steaming water over her white-blonde hair.

Patsy felt gentle hands begin to massage the powdery smelling shampoo into her ginger hair.

Mother sat at her dressing table getting ready for one of Father’s parties. Dabbing Chanel No. 5 on her wrists and neck, and smiling through the mirror’s reflection at her watching daughter.

The warm water poured over her head again, rinsing the suds away.

Libby sat in the bath across from her, giggling as she blew a handful of soapy bubbles towards her.

“Is everything alright?” Sister Monica Joan asked, concern etched over her wrinkled face.

Patsy looked up into those kind blue eyes and realized that tears were flowing slowly down her own face. “I-I keep having little flashes of memory. Of my mother, mostly, and of my sister too. But they are all so out of context. The memory I had last night was so vivid and ordered, like watching a film or a television programme. But these are all jumbled. I don’t know when they all happened.”

The old nun closed her eyes and nodded knowingly. “I too am familiar with the fractured wanderings of the mind. But do not let it trouble you, child. ‘The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.’”

“Sister?” she asked, baffled.

The elderly nun smiled. “Fractures in one’s memory are like fractures in glass. The cracks run in all directions, intersecting and branching off like rivers - always seeking the paths of least resistance”

Patsy nodded, beginning to understand the sister’s meaning.

“Your mind is not like mine. For mine is fragmented by age, and therefore the root of my trouble will likely only grow,” she paused, her gaze suddenly very far away. Then, she blinked, and smiled, “But you, my dear, your mind is beginning to be restored to you. ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is good and acceptable and perfect.’”

Patsy felt another tear fall as her chest seemed to fill with affection for the elderly woman before her. It seemed there was someone who could understand how she felt. Someone who could relate to the complicated, abstract nature of her sense of self. She smiled and took the nun’s hand.

“Thank you, sister. I will.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sister Mary Cynthia looked across the board at Patsy. The redhead’s look of determined concentration was slowly drifting towards one of frustration. Of course, it couldn’t have helped that Sister Monica Joan had just played ‘QUIXOTIC’ on a double word score with triple points on the ‘X.’ Meanwhile, Patsy had struggled to form even the most basic words, and after four rounds, had a score of only 23 points.

Still, frustration or no, the young nun knew this was good mental exercise for the woman’s recovery. Sister Mary Cynthia had given Patsy a book of crosswords to keep her occupied in hospital, thinking it would help her pass the time. What she had not anticipated was how much trouble her friend would have with them. Patsy had always been clever, and she had a natural gift for wordplay and puzzles. But when the young nun had visited her friend, she saw that she had barely filled in any at all. She had tried to make excuses, saying how awkward it was to write left-handed, but Sister Mary Cynthia had noticed that the redhead had only completed clues in ‘Across’ and none in ‘Down.’ And it was the same in Scrabble. She had made sure to face the board towards Patsy so that it would be easier for her to read, but she was still yet to play a word vertically. In fact, every word she had played had started with a letter already on the board.

It seemed the head injury had caused more damage than simply amnesia.

Sister Mary Cynthia had played Scrabble with Patsy dozens of times, both before and after the smaller woman had joined the order. The two had always been evenly matched, with the redhead often having a slight edge, which Patsy had always chalked up to the torturous Latin lessons from her Catholic boarding school education. She had seemed to conjure obscure words from thin air - once eliciting ‘ACEDIA’ from a rack of only vowels to clear her tiles and finish the game. So, it was a strange experience to watch her friend now, squinting at the tiles in her rack, trying to find something - anything - to play.

It made the nun’s heart ache. As if having your entire life erased from your head wasn’t bad enough. It seemed Patsy now had a problem with words, or perhaps the abstract visualization of words. As she watched her friend struggle to piece together a word to play, Sister Mary Cynthia wondered what other cognitive skills had been affected. And, more importantly, would they prevent her from rebuilding her life as a nurse. If that was what the ginger still wanted, of course.

Patsy shuffled her tiles for what must have been the eighth time this round, brow furrowed in frustration, her eyes completely focused on the wooden squares in front of her. Suddenly, her eyebrows shot up and a little half smile crept onto her face. Sister Mary Cynthia watched as she placed three tiles after the second ‘I’ from Sister Monica Joan’s previous word: ‘N-C-H.’

‘INCH.’

“Rather fitting don’t you think?” she said, her voice filled with a dry amusement. “I stare at my tiles for nearly twenty minutes and only move an inch.”

The young nun smiled. Well, at least some things had not changed. It seemed Patsy’s sardonic sense of humour was as present as ever.

But Sister Monica Joan did not smile. She looked appraisingly at the redhead, giving her a measured look, “You attempt to make light of your struggle, but I know the truth. These jumbles of letters vex your mind, but you shall conquer them in the end, drawing them together like constellations amongst the scattered celestial bodies in the heavens. Have faith, child.”

The corner of Patsy’s mouth turned up in an unconvincing half-smile. “I hope you’re right, sister. I’m just finding it rather difficult to have faith in anything at the moment. Everything is just so…” she paused, looking contemplative, “...uncertain.”

Uncertain. The word triggered a memory in Sister Mary Cynthia’s mind. It was almost exactly a year ago that Cynthia Miller had been struggling with her own feelings of uncertainty.

 

-----

 

Cynthia sat alone in the semi-darkness, the endless questions that seemed to be her constant companion these days were making sleep quite impossible. She couldn’t place the exact moment it began, it had been so subtle at first, but Cynthia had begun to question God’s plans for her, feeling that He might be calling her to serve Him as something more than just a nurse and midwife. His call had become stronger and stronger as the holiday season approached and the young nurse had felt her questioning begin to change. She no longer wondered if God was calling her to His service. Instead, she could not help but ask why.

Why did He want Cynthia Miller? What did she have to offer? She was already serving Him as a nurse, which she would continue to do if she joined the Order. So, she would be giving up nothing. Cynthia had no great love to sacrifice, no big plans to abandon. The only people she would lose would be her parents, and really it would be more their loss than hers - it would after all, be the second child they would have lost.

No, the only thing Cynthia really had to lose was friendship. And that felt rather thin on the ground at the moment as it was.

She sighed, her eyes looking up at the crucifix on the altar of the Nonnatus chapel as her mind rehashed the events of the last few days for what felt like the millionth time.

She shouldn’t have said anything. She had known better. Had known how they’d react if they knew (well at least how one of them would react). But it was that word - normal - that had driven her to speak her mind.

Cynthia had had a complicated relationship with that word for as long as she could remember. First, of course, there was Walter. Her sweet little brother was born with water on the brain causing his head to be larger than most, his eyes to be perpetually downcast. At home he was just Wally, her perfectly ordinary, lovely two-year-old brother. But when they went out, Cynthia could see him as others did. He was a freak. An oddity. A cripple. No matter the word thrown at him, the sentiment was the same. He was not normal.

Cynthia had tried to do as her mother said. She had tried to stare back at those passersby who gawked at Wally. Tried to shame them. But she couldn’t. She was weak, or maybe just meek. Her ears would burn and her fingers would tingle with frustration and anger as those strangers would stare, but she would be helpless. All she could do was silently rage, not at the gawkers, but at herself.

She was ashamed. Ashamed for seeing her baby brother as something other than the funny, smiling, sweet toddler that he was. Ashamed for not being brave enough to even stare back. Ashamed for being so meek. She knew that Jesus had said that they would inherit the earth, but Cynthia had always thought she would trade in a portion of that inheritance for a little more backbone.

And perhaps God had heard that prayer, because timid little Cynthia Miller had become a nurse. Not a formidable one like Sister Evangelina or Patsy, but a caring, competent one. But, she did have her moments of bravery. Just a few months ago she had stood up to one of her diabetes patients who was bullying his wife. She had even managed to keep her hands from shaking until after he turned his back in disgust. Six-year-old Cynthia would never have believed it. But then, twenty-eight-year-old Cynthia could scarcely believe it herself.

She had been proud then. She had almost felt like one of the other nurses. She had almost felt normal.

But, Cynthia had so rarely felt normal throughout her life. She had played at being normal, drinking cocktails with Trixie and going to jazz clubs with filthy toilets. But the only time she had ever actually felt normal had been in those quiet moments alone with Jenny.

Jenny was the first friend who really accepted her for who she was. Who didn’t treat her quiet, sensitive ways as something to be pitied or changed. In fact, she had even defended her to Trixie on occasion. As much as Cynthia loved her, the blonde had a hard time understanding someone who was not as vivacious or glamorous as she was - who didn’t see the world as a box of Milk Tray ready for the sampling.

Cynthia knew she could never be like that. Perhaps it was from growing up with Wally as a little brother. She had always been quiet and well behaved, but as Wally’s needs increased, she had become good at being invisible. Invisible to her parents - never wanting to add an additional burden to her already overstretched mother. Invisible to her classmates - never wanting to draw attention to herself, and by extension, her brother. Invisible, sometimes, even to herself.

It was hard to say if being invisible was what caused her to be so timid and meek, or if it was a natural propensity to shyness that made her so good at being invisible. Nature or nurture? It didn’t matter, really. It was just who she was. Mousey little Cynthia Miller. Too invisible to ever attract male attention. Not that she really wanted to, but the possibility would have been nice. What she hadn’t told Trixie and Jenny was that her first kiss at eight years old had also been her last. After how they reacted to Jane’s news of never having been kissed at all, she knew what they would think. It wasn’t normal.

That word again.

Cynthia hated that word.

So, when they had been walking back from the carol singing, talking of Sister Winifred, and Trixie had said, “But it’s hardly a normal life for a young woman,” Cynthia was right back on that Portsmouth street feeling ashamed as strangers whispered and stared at her little brother.

She felt the familiar burning in her ears and tingling in her fingers as she listened to Trixie list all the ordinary things that Tom was free to do and still serve God. And then it hit her. Ordinary. That was just another word for normal, wasn’t it? But it felt different somehow. Or maybe she was different. She wasn’t that scared six-year-old girl who couldn’t find the courage to stare down judgmental adults. She was a nurse. And what’s more, she felt a calling so wondrous and powerful that it made even Trixie’s tremendous ability to judge seem like nothing more substantial than the wisps of hot steam rising from her bundle of chips into the cold December night. Cynthia didn’t want to live an ordinary life, she wanted a chance at something truly special. At something extraordinary.

So, she had climbed the Nonnatus steps, feeling stronger with that house of such faith and steadfastness serving as her foundation. She had felt like God himself was lifting her up as she told them about being on the edge of a truly great happiness. For a long moment, she thought their looks of stunned surprise might shift and mirror the happiness she herself felt. And Tom’s face did reflect that. But his smile seemed to startle Trixie out of her silence, and, as expected, her blonde friend did not take the news well.

But even though she had expected it, Trixie’s lack of support hurt. Of course it did. Trixie had known her for years, and they had been close. Trixie should know her better by now. Trixie should be happy for her. Trixie should know, as Patsy had said, that ‘having a boyfriend isn’t the be all and end all,’ especially for Cynthia.

As she listened to her friends talking in the hallway, Cynthia had been struck by how little Trixie actually knew her. Actually wanted what was best for her, not what was best for Trixie.

“Do you suppose there’s no hope at all?”

No hope? Cynthia’s heart was filled with hope. She had never hoped and longed for something so much in her life. How could her best friend not understand? How could she not see it? How could she not be happy for her like she had been for Jenny or Chummy or Shelagh? The blonde’s ire seemed to have cooled in the past few days, but Cynthia was sure that was down to Patsy’s influence, not Trixie’s sudden acceptance. Maybe they weren’t such good friends after all.

No, it seemed Cynthia had nothing to sacrifice after all. Not even friendship. So why would He want her? What did meek little Cynthia Miller have to offer up?

The sound of approaching footsteps pulled her out of her reverie and she turned to see Sister Julienne in her navy dressing gown.

“Sorry, sister. I couldn’t sleep.”

Sister Julienne smiled, “Nor could I. I was on my way to the clinical room for some aspirin.”

She looked down at the nun’s hand, a bandage covering the gash left by the broken ceramic sheep. “For your hand?”

Sister Julienne looked down at her lap, “Pain can be a sign that a wound is healing. It passes.”

Cynthia looked down at the hands in her own lap, remembering the tingling feeling of frustration in her fingers. It was gone now, given over, like so many other feelings, to the aching longing for something more. “I keep thinking this will pass,” the young nurse sighed.

“The questioning.” It was a statement, not a question, a knowing smile creeping up the nun’s face.

“The wanting. I’ve never longed for something so much in my life.”

The sister turned to her, “It seems to me that if that is what you are feeling, the questioning is over.”

Was it? Cynthia still felt so uncertain. She wanted to tell Sister Julienne all about her shortcomings and timidity. She wanted to explain that she had not lived enough, experienced enough, built enough of a life to have anything to give up. She wanted to pour out all the thoughts and doubts that had been circling her mind for days. But where to even start?

“I don’t know why he wants me, sister?” Meek little Cynthia Miller. “I have nothing to give, nothing to sacrifice, or offer up...” no man, no friends, no life, “...in exchange for all his love.”

Sister Julienne looked thoughtful as her eyes stared fixedly on the figure of Christ on the crucifix, “Once upon a time I thought I knew what God had in mind for me, but I didn’t. I thought I knew what love was, but I didn’t. Certainty is fleeting. That is why we must have faith.”

 

-----

 

“Certainty is fleeting. That is why we must have faith.”

Those words had branded themselves on Sister Mary Cynthia’s heart. In the days that followed that midnight talk in the chapel, they helped her come to her final decision to leave her old life behind and join the order. They had also helped her understand Trixie better. It wasn’t that she didn’t want what was best for Cynthia, she had been afraid of what would become of their friendship. Trixie had been afraid of the uncertainty.

“But they might change your name. You might be called something else. Be somebody else.”

Cynthia had thought she had had enough faith for both of them. “But you won’t,” she had said. What she hadn’t said, but she had hoped was, We won’t.

Of course, Trixie had changed. As had their friendship. But they had found each other again. Maybe it was a little of Sister Mary Cynthia’s faith, or perhaps even some hope on the blonde’s part, but their friendship felt stronger now than it had in over a year. And they were both all the better for it.

She looked over at Patsy. The redhead’s practiced facade was noticeably weaker since her accident. The nun could see the fear and anxiety flickering behind her sardonic smile.

Of course, Patsy had changed too, and more than any of them - the tarmac had made sure of that. The woman who was always so confident and self-assured had been reduced to this searching, uncertain stranger to herself. Sister Mary Cynthia knew better than to make any assurances for her recovery. Her memories might be returning, but that did not mean that Patsy would return to herself unchanged. In fact, the nun knew the odds of that were practically nil. But Sister Mary Cynthia had to believe that Patsy would find a way forward. No matter how much this accident had changed her friend, she was, undeniably, still Patsy. And Patsy Mount was not one to give up easily.

Sister Mary Cynthia reached out and took her friend’s fidgeting fingers. “You might be finding it hard to have faith, but we aren’t.” The redhead smirked and seemed to be just barely managing not to roll her eyes, her expression clearly stating, Of course you have faith, you’re nuns. Sister Mary Cynthia smiled, so very Patsy. “We have faith in you, Patsy. You had a major injury. It’s not even been three weeks and you are already doing amazingly well. You’re walking much better this morning, your short-term memory and concentration is getting better every day, and you are even starting to recover some of your long-term memories. I know things are uncertain right now, but as Sister Julienne once told me, ‘certainty is fleeting.’ You might not have faith, but you have every reason to hope.”

Patsy swallowed and nodded mutely, some of the fear in her eyes shifting to a steely determination.

The sister smiled at her and shifted her eyes to her own Scrabble tiles. As she searched for a word to play, Sister Mary Cynthia recalled Patsy’s words from a year ago as she and Trixie sat eating chocolate in the hallway. But this time it would be her hopes and the nun’s faith. And that was most definitely not a fair fight. Patsy would find a way through this. And Sister Mary Cynthia would be right there with her.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

She sat huddled on the bench in the garden, a blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders for warmth. The freezing rain from the night before had given way to cloudy grey skies and a smell in the air that made Patsy think inexplicably of snow. She took a deep breath and watched as the fog of her exhale spiraled up until it was lost in the cold afternoon air. The redhead could not remember ever having seen snow, but she had a feeling that it was coming.

How strange.

This time the thought was met with no flash of memory. Just a feeling. But then, the redhead surmised that there would have been no memories of snow from her childhood in Singapore. And so far, her early years in the Far East were all she had recalled.

The memories just kept coming. Other than that first vivid recollection, all had been short and disjointed. Nothing to anchor them in time. And all of her mother and sister. Mr. Stockton had found this ‘absolutely fascinating’ when he had visited after lunch to check up on how she was adjusting to Nonnatus. Patsy couldn’t say that she agreed with his assessment. She found it highly frustrating.

She blew out more hot air, watching the mist swirl away from her with a detached satisfaction. Yes, the specialist had been quite excited by the development, saying that he might recommend to her father that she remain at Nonnatus should the recall continue. This was, after all, where she had lived for over a year and a half. Apparently, she had rarely been to her father’s house in Kensington, and the doctor thought remaining in a familiar place would be beneficial. Patsy wasn’t so sure. As exciting as these memories were, it was exhausting and exasperating trying to pin them down. Plus, the bustle and noise of Nonnatus made her just feel so useless.

It was nice out in the quiet on the bench. Nothing to trigger a memory. Nothing to remind her of the life she had lost. No one to worry over her or offer words of encouragement.

Patsy closed her eyes, feeling ungrateful. Everyone had been so lovely to her. So supportive. And Sister Mary Cynthia’s words earlier really had meant a lot. But after a morning struggling to form words out of an incomprehensible mass of wooden tiles, followed by luncheon full of well-meaning chattering voices and an exhausting interrogation by Mr. Stockton, Patsy found herself relishing the cold solitude. It felt good to her tired mind, almost as if the winter air was leaking into her ears and soothing the inflamed membrane around her brain.

She just needed a moment to gather herself. To rest her brave face. She so wanted to be alright, or at least for the others to think she was doing alright. They were all trying so hard to help her. She hated to see their looks of hurt or sympathy or concern. But she wasn’t okay. Not really. She was exhausted and confused. She was torn between wanting the next memory to come and dreading it. She wanted to be useful and do something, but she also just wanted to crawl back into her bed and sleep until next week. But for now, she would settle for the quiet stillness of this winter garden.

But apparently that was not in the cards, as she heard approaching footsteps crunching over the frozen ground. “If you’re going to sit out in this cold weather, I must insist on a hot beverage to keep your core temperature up. We wouldn’t want you developing a dicky chest as your ribs are still healing.”

Patsy sighed, not looking at her visitor as she watched her own foggy breath roll and tumble away. “Good afternoon, Nurse Crane.”

The older nurse sat beside her and handed her a steaming mug of tea. As much as she hated to admit it, the heat of the ceramic and of the body to her left was most welcome. “I don’t want to intrude, I know you are probably out here for some peace and quiet. But you will need to come in soon and, if you don’t mind, I’ll just sit here with you quietly until you’re ready. You will no doubt be stiff from the cold, and I’ll feel better if you’re not navigating this uneven ground alone.”

Patsy just nodded, taking a sip of the warm fragrant liquid. It was unsweetened, and the redhead relished the way the milk dulled the bitter edge of the black tea without covering it up completely. She expected Nurse Crane to continue speaking, perhaps to bemoan Fred’s unkempt groundskeeping, but she didn’t. True to her word, the elder woman just kept her company, occasionally sipping from her own mug of tea. It felt so good. Just sitting in companionable silence. So easy. So normal.

Her tea was nearly finished when she finally spoke, her eyes still straight ahead. “I feel like it might snow tomorrow.”

Nurse Crane continued to face forward too, but her eyes flicked up to the sky. “Aye. Those clouds do look awfully heavy.”

“It’s the smell,” she said. “I don’t remember seeing snow, but I know that smell. Isn’t that strange?” she asked, her eyes again following her misty breath towards the grey sky.

“No lass, I don’t believe it is.”

Patsy turned to look at her for the first time. “You don’t?” she asked.

Nurse Crane’s shrewd eyes continued to search the clouds as she replied. “You have an entire life’s worth of knowledge and experience in that head of yours. Just because you can’t pull it out at will like a card in a rolodex doesn’t mean you will never have access to it again. You might recover everything, but then, you might not. It’s really too soon to tell, kid. I know this will be of absolutely no help at all, but you just need to practice the virtue of your namesake and give it time.”

Patsy cast her blue eyes up at the snow-laden clouds. Time. Well that was something she had in spades. It was refreshing not to be told to buck up or to have hope. Patsy knew very well that she might never fully recover from this accident. The way that everyone was tiptoeing around that topic had answered that question for her. So, hearing Nurse Crane say it so bluntly had actually felt like a relief.

“The sisters keep telling me to have faith.”

Nurse Crane smiled ruefully. “Faith,” she said thoughtfully, her eyes still on the clouds. “The sisters and I might have a similar attitude when it comes to professionalism and care, but our views on the existence of god are divergent to say the least. In times of crisis, they can turn to the almighty for answers. But, as a rational woman I must turn to science. And science is always more about questions than answers,” she paused squinting her eyes as the weak winter sun peeked around a cloud, “I’ve always found that comforting.”

Patsy nodded, breathing in a deep lungful of the winter air that told her snow was coming. Strangely enough, it was rather comforting.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Patsy sat watching Barbara in some fascination as the brunette midwife sat on her bed, licking stamp after stamp for her Christmas cards. She simply could not fathom having that many people to write to. There must be nearly fifty cards in that stack. Patsy could count on one hand the number of people she knew who did not reside under this roof. Still, she supposed she must have sent cards in past years; it would have been the polite thing to do. She wondered how many people would think her awfully rude and thoughtless this year when they did not receive their annual wishes of season’s greetings. Well, she was thoughtless, at least in that regard. She quite literally had no thoughts to give to these imagined strangers. Because, even if she had found a list of addresses, what would she have written?

“Sister Monica Joan’s in bed with a fever and dosed up on aspirin,” Trixie announced as she strode into the room carrying a tin of sweets. “Doctor’s going to call tomorrow.”

The redhead felt her chest tighten. The elderly nun had collapsed earlier that day when everyone else had been out. It had just been the two of them, alone in Nonnatus House. She knew it was silly, but she couldn’t help thinking she could have done something.

 

-----

 

Patsy smiled, feeling lighter than she could remember ever feeling. The morning had been truly lovely. She sat at the kitchen table, sipping on a cup of tea as Sisters Winifred and Monica Joan made the Christmas pudding. The elderly nun looked like a happy child as she searched the cupboards for brandy. Her excitement was contagious. Patsy was starting to feel like a child herself, anticipating the very first Christmas she could remember.

Of course, a big part of that excitement was the snow. Patsy had never seen anything like it. The way the flakes swirled and floated on the wind was like making air visible. She had wanted to stay out all morning, but after five minutes, Nurse Crane had said she would have to settle for watching from the warmth of Nonnatus. She peered over at the window, watching the flakes twist and dance on the air. Patsy smiled. There might not be any decorations up yet, but sitting in the warm kitchen, smelling the citrus and spices of the pudding as the snow swirled outside was putting her in the holiday spirit. Of course, she had nothing to compare it to, but this all felt rather jolly.

And what’s more, she had been helpful. Sure, her plaster encased arm prevented her from cutting out the greaseproof circles that Sister Winifred was currently admonishing her elder sister over, but she had mixed the minced meat, and was told she would have a turn at stirring the pudding too. It felt so good being useful.

She had even made tea for the nuns and nurses in the clinical room. That had felt glorious, if exhausting. Patsy had felt a warm glow of pride as Sister Evangelina had collected the tray with an approving nod. It was something so simple, and something she had no doubt done countless times in her life, but for the first time in weeks, she didn’t feel like a burden.

“See, you all thought me a fool to persist in my endeavors, but behold, I have located the brandy,” Sister Monica Joan said, holding the dusty bottle aloft like a trophy before unscrewing the lid and pouring a more than generous amount into the yellow bowl. “Now’s the time to sauce the Christmas pudding.” Patsy, Sister Winifred and Sister Monica Joan giggled like schoolgirls until the elder nun’s laughter was overtaken by a chesty cough. The redhead looked over at her in concern, but before she could ask after her, Sister Evangelina returned with the tray of empty tea mugs, giving them all a reproachful scowl, “Just don’t go saucing yourself in the bargain. You give us enough jip when you’re stone cold sober.”

Taking advantage of Sister Evangelina’s turned back as she delivered the tea tray to the sink, Sister Monica Joan shot her young colleagues a wink and tipped another tot of brandy into the mixing bowl. Patsy did her best to suppress a smirk. She may not have known them long, but she had already gathered that the elderly nun quite enjoyed getting under her younger sister’s skin. For her own part, the redhead too found it rather amusing.

“Ten more minutes, then you and I are off on the ulcer rounds,” the stern nun said, addressing Sister Winifred as she left the kitchen, causing the three remaining women to break out in another fit of giggles.

The rest of the morning had been spent chatting with Sister Monica Joan at the kitchen table as the pudding steamed. All of the other occupants of Nonnatus House were consumed by their duties, so it was just the two of them for most of the morning. The eldest sister was quickly becoming one of Patsy’s favorite people to spend time with. There was something in Sister Monica Joan’s openness about her own mind’s failings that invited confidences, and Patsy found herself opening up to the old nun in a way she hadn’t with anyone else, not even Delia. She told her more about the flashes memory she kept having. About how she of was unable to place them. About how lost it made her feel. About how they felt more like recollections than fully formed memories. Patsy knew that the distinction didn’t truly make sense, but Sister Monica Joan just nodded, her wise eyes telling the younger woman that she knew exactly what she meant.

"I know that you find the nebulous quality of these recollections troubling, but I disdain to understand your reasoning. Other than their lack of temporal continuity, do they not bring you joy and comfort? Why must you seek to pin them down like an entomological specimen on a board? ‘The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.’"

Patsy nodded, considering the nun’s words. Why did she need to slot everything together in a perfect order? What did it matter, really? Knowing if the memory of having her hair plaited came before or after her memory of slipping her small feet into her mother’s elegant heels, was not going to make her feel more in control of her life. Not really. But then a small, niggling voice in the back of her head seemed to say, ‘but it wouldn’t hurt, either.’

She sighed. Was this need for order a natural tendency or hers or was it a result of her life being in such disarray? Maybe it was precisely because she remembered so little about her life that she felt this need to analyze and put everything in its proper place. Or perhaps she had always been like this.

Patsy looked over at her companion. Sister Monica Joan sat twining silver and gold tinsel into a circular wreath, humming a vaguely familiar tune that the redhead could not place. Despite her own ‘fractures in her mind,’ as she called them, the old nun seemed so content. Patsy wondered if she could ever find that sort of peace with her own muddled thoughts.

“Is that how you cope, sister? By finding the joy and comfort in your memories, no matter how vague or scattered they might feel?”

The rustling of the tinsel abruptly stopped as the elderly nun’s bony hands stilled. Her eyes looked right into Patsy’s, the blue so pale they looked like pools of shallow rainwater. “I find joy and comfort in my own recollections precisely because they are so vague and scattered. They are a precious commodity,” she said, “But joy and comfort are to be found in more than these mere temporal apparitions. One must not neglect the present for sake of the p-p-past,” she said, the last word coming out in a stutter as a cough overtook her again.

Patsy looked at her in concern. Between her raspy voice and persistent cough, it was clear the elderly nun was coming down with a cold. “Sister, are you feeling alright?”

Sister Monica Joan looked up and peered over at the window as if trying to discern something through its foggy glass. “The hour grows late, and soon, luncheon shall be upon us. I must secret away this wreath of light and sparkle for it is an article of the future, and is not yet permitted in our sacred dwelling.” She stood, picking up the tinsel wreath and adding with a sly smile, “‘Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.’”

Patsy watched her leave the kitchen with a bemused expression on her face. She had gathered from the others that Sister Monica Joan sometimes spoke using references to poetry and literature, and, although she did not know who this Scrooge character was, she had a sneaking suspicion she knew to whom the elder sister was comparing him.

As she sat alone, drinking in the smells of the steaming pudding, Patsy began to think that Sister Monica Joan had a point, maybe not about Mr. Scrooge, but about her nebulous memories. After all, she had no memory of Christmas or of the food and festivities, but this smell made her feel excited and safe. It made her feel a bit like a child. Perhaps it was a dormant sense memory, or it could be just the comfort of her current situation - it didn’t matter - the result was the same. Maybe her desire to put everything in a neat little row was preventing her from seeing the bigger picture. These were still her memories. And the fact that she had so few made them unimaginably precious. Despite their discontinuity, she was actually starting to get a real sense of who her mother was, and, to a lesser extent, her sister. Nothing truly concrete, but a feeling. And that was rather remarkable.

She took another sip of her tea as she waited for Sister Monica Joan to return from hiding her wreath. The warmth and comfort of the kitchen was beginning to make her feel a little sleepy, and she hoped the caffeine would help. But, Patsy had a sneaking suspicion she was fighting a losing battle on that front. In the almost three weeks since her accident, she had yet to make it longer than five hours at a time before her brain and body seemed to shut down in utter exhaustion. Even in hospital, where she had done nothing more active than turn the pages of her novel, the physical exhaustion had been overwhelming.

She must have dozed at the table while awaiting the nun’s return, because suddenly a voice jolted Patsy awake, “The physical demands of our culinary preparations appear to have sapped you of your strength. Come, I will assist you upstairs so that you might rest comfortably.”

Patsy nodded sleepily, dragging herself to her feet and allowing Sister Monica Joan to help her to her room.

 

-----

 

Patsy squeezed her eyes shut. She had noticed the old nun’s cough, and the way she wheezed a little when she lifted the steamer onto the cooker. She should have said something. She should have encouraged her to lie down, to take better care of herself. Instead Patsy had allowed the sick old woman to take care of her.

“She sounded quite delirious when I went past her room,” Barbara said as Trixie took a seat next to her on her bed.

Poor old thing. Patsy sincerely hoped that she had not developed pneumonia. At her age…Well, they did call it the old person’s friend. No. She shook her head, trying to fend off such morbid thoughts. Taking a deep breath, she focused her attention back on her friends’ conversation.

“According to Sister Evangelina, we’ll be having swiss roll with custard on Christmas Day,” said Trixie, her voice filled with amusement, “She’s in a perfectly savage mood.”

Patsy felt her blood run cold. How could they make light of this? Who cared that the bloody Christmas pudding was ruined? She would gladly eat only dry bread on Christmas day if it meant Sister Monica Joan was alright. She looked over at her two friends on the bed across from her. Barbara sat calmly licking stamps, pulling a face after each one in a way that clearly indicated how wretched the glue tasted. Trixie sat rooting through the tin of sweets in her lap with a smile on her face. What was wrong with them? How could they be this calm when someone they cared about was in such a precarious position. Her breath caught in her chest. Were they this cavalier three weeks ago when she lay unconscious in hospital?

She felt her head shaking back and forth. No. She was being unfair. She had seen the concern etched across Trixie’s face when she had woken her to tell her of the elderly nun’s collapse. Patsy’s eyes trailed over her friends’ faces again. Barbara’s mouth had a particular tightness that spoke of something more than just the bitterness of the glue, and Trixie’s eyes refused to twinkle no matter how much her mouth played at smiling. They were worried. Of course they were, they were nurses. They would not do the job they did if they did not care, and deeply. But of course, they probably saw tragedy and illness every day, so they must have developed coping strategies. They would have to.

Patsy shook her head again, feeling a sudden dawning realization wash over her. Of course. All at once, Trixie’s jokes and banter took on a deeper significance. Patsy had found it so comforting, how the blonde seemed to always know how to diffuse the tension with a joke. But, perhaps that’s because they had been part of her own coping strategy. She had been a nurse too, after all. Maybe Trixie did that because she knew it was how Patsy dealt with stress. She felt suddenly dazed.

Trixie pulled a sweet out of the tin with a grin “Purple cellophane, I think this one has Nurse Mount’s name on it,” she said, looking over at Patsy with a face full of delight and tossing the sweet across the gap in the beds into the lap of the redhead.

Her face fell as she took in her friend’s confused look. The room seemed to still.

Patsy felt the change in the atmosphere and blinked, pulling herself out of her own thoughts and looking first at the wrapped sweet in her lap and then up at the stricken look on Trixie’s face. What had happened? Patsy’s mind felt suddenly blank, and she tried to focus back on the conversation, replaying it in her head. It took a moment, but realization slowly washed over her. Trixie had called her ‘Nurse Mount.’ Something about this moment had felt so familiar, so normal, that the blonde had momentarily forgotten. Patsy felt simultaneously touched and winded. But mostly winded. She felt the familiar pull of anxiety in her chest and she strained to drag her thoughts to the present moment.

Deep breath, Patience. Focus.

Trixie was looking at her with a troubled and guilty expression. Barbara looked pale.

She closed her eyes, blocking out their faces. Nurse Mount. She felt so divorced from this efficient, no-nonsense Nurse Mount she had heard so much about. Barbara had even used the word ‘formidable.’

But that wasn’t her.

She was Patsy.

Lost, anxious, Patsy who couldn’t even see past her own worries and pain to see that Sister Monica Joan was seriously ill.

Nurse Mount, indeed.

“Patsy, are you alright?” a voice said, but she couldn’t be certain who it belonged to.

Her thoughts began to fray as her anxiety and recrimination rose. Patsy’s hands found something small and round in her lap. She opened her eyes to take in the purple wrapped sweet.

How had that got there?

She stared at it, thinking hard as she struggled to focus her breathing and calm down.

Purple cellophane.

She felt the bed dip to her left and a gentle hand on her back. “Sweetie?”

Patsy blinked, pulling her gaze away from the purple sweet to look into Trixie’s worried blue eyes. “Sorry, I-,” she stammered, not sure what she was going to say.

Why had she panicked so over a chocolate? She took another deep breath. Had it been over a chocolate? She looked back down at her lap. No, she didn’t think it had.

She stared down at the purple cellophane. It really was quite pretty. She was sure Sister Monica Joan would have liked it. (To be fair, she had yet to discover a sweet the old nun did not like.)

Sister Monica Joan.

Her thoughts travelled back to the warm kitchen from that morning. “But joy and comfort are to be found in more than these mere temporal apparitions. One must not neglect the present for sake of the past.”  She took another deep breath and began to unwrap the chocolate.

“Did I like these...before?” she asked, looking over at her blonde friend.

Trixie smiled, looking relieved. “They were your absolute favorite. You thought them the perfect accompaniment to a whisky nightcap.”

Patsy raised her eyebrows as she chewed. That did sound rather good.

The blonde seemed to read the look on the redhead’s face and she gave her a tight smile before returning to the sweet tin in her lap. “You won’t tempt me I’m afraid. Alcohol’s perfectly beastly on the complexion,” she said, eyes downcast as she rooted through the Quality Street tin. Looking up, she added “Not to mention, a recovering brain injury.”  Trixie gave her a sympathetic smile and plucked a green foil wrapped triangle from the tin, “So chocolate will have to do.”

“Are there any coffee cremes?” Barbara asked, and they both looked over at her in surprise. The brunette midwife had been sitting there so silently that they had both forgotten she was there. “I need them to take away the taste of the glue,” she held up a stamp, “Eighteen down, twenty-four to go.”

Trixie laughed, searching the tin again and coming up with a gold foil wrapped sweet. “Looks like there’s just one.” She stood, placed it on Barbara’s tray and set the tin on the bed. “Alright you two, I’m heading out. Patsy, keep an eye on Barbara here. She has a wicked sweet tooth, and if you don’t watch her, she’ll eat the whole tin in an effort to take away the taste of the glue,” she said, her eyes twinkling mischievously as she gave the brunette a fond look.

Patsy and Trixie burst out laughing at the site of Barbara who, despite being caught in the middle of licking a stamp, was trying to defend herself, tongue still out. Her words were quite unintelligible, but the redhead didn’t think she could have heard them over her own laughter no matter how clearly they were spoken.  

As Trixie left, Patsy reached over and took half of Barbara’s remaining envelopes. “Here let me help,” she said, licking the first stamp and pulling a face at the disgusting flavour of the paste. “Revolting. I see what you mean, Babs. Looks like we’ll be splitting the rest of that tin.”

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Mary looked at her watch for what must have been the tenth time in the last five minutes. Allie smiled, “What time did you say we’d meet her?”

“Eight o’clock.”

Allie looked at her own watch. “Well, it’s not even quarter to six yet, so why don’t we have a cocktail? I think you could use one; you’re quite tense.”

Mary shot her girlfriend a sharp look, ready to argue, but deflated at the concerned look on the tall blonde’s face. Allie was right, she was tense.

“I’m sorry, Al. I just don’t know if surprising her like this is the best idea. She’s having a really hard time. What if she’s not ready for company right now?” Mary said, eyebrows knitting in concern.

Allie set the bottle of gin down on the dresser and made her way over to her girlfriend, pulling her into a hug. Mary felt the taller woman’s long arms wrap around her shoulders and melted into the embrace, allowing some of her tension to leech away. “But that’s just it, sweetie. She is having a really hard time, and ready or not, she needs company. You’ve been so worried about her, and after what Trixie said the other day, it doesn’t seem like you’re alone.”

The brunette nodded, pulling away a little to look up into Allie’s green eyes. “I know. It just feels a little like an ambush, is all.”

“Well I suppose that’s because it is,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and scrunching up her face in her customary look of ‘apologetically stating the obvious.’ “But, it’s not like she’s given you much choice. She has begged off whenever you’ve asked her over, and, from what you said Trixie told you, she has only gone over there to talk. She hasn’t had any fun in weeks.”

“It still feels like an ambush,” Mary said, her voice tinged with guilt and doubt.

Allie squeezed her tighter. “But it’s an ambush with alcohol,” she said, waggling her eyebrows and stealing a quick kiss before turning back to the bottles on the dresser.

Mary rolled her eyes, “I suppose that does make it more acceptable. So, what are we having tonight?”

She watched in amusement from the bed as her girlfriend poured in carefully measured amounts from several different bottles. “It’s called ‘The Last Word.’ Equal parts gin, chartreuse, maraschino, and lime. A perfect warmer for this chilly day.”

Mary giggled, “Is that why you have so much ice? To warm us?”

The blonde shot her a look, narrowing her eyes in a mock glare. “Shush, you. Now, go put on a record to cover the sound of the shaker. You definitely want to drink this chilled, not least because it will water it down a bit. Plus, I don’t much fancy warm gin.”

The brunette grimaced, “Point taken.” She rose to her feet and crossed the small room to the dancette. “Any requests?”

“Maybe something a little up-tempo to mask the noise. I’m supposed to shake it vigorously.”

Mary smirked, placing “Shout” on the turntable. “Will this do?” she asked, as the opening “We-eee-eeel....” spilled out of the tinny speakers. “Good enough for ‘vigorous shaking?’”

Allie smiled, “Perfect.”

Sitting back down on her place on the bed, the brunette watched as her tall girlfriend shook the cocktail shaker back and forth in time with the music, making quite a show of it in an obvious attempt to further cheer her partner. It was working. Mary couldn’t help the shaking laughter as she took in Allie’s expressive face as she lip synced along to the Isley Brothers.

A minute or so later, a slightly out of breath Allie joined her on the bed, handing her a pale green drink. “Cheers.”

Mary sniffed it cautiously, before taking a small sip. “Good lord, that’s strong!”

“Do you not like it? I know the maraschino has quite an odd flavor,” the blonde said, looking uncertain.

Mary shook her head. “No, it’s delicious. I’m just worried that after a couple of these we will all be quite legless.”

Allie smiled. “I thought it would help loosen us up to start off with a good stiff drink. They’re rather sour, so it will be tough to go through them too quickly. Plus, I’ve got tonic for later in the evening if we don’t want to get completely sloshed.”

“Always prepared,” Mary teased.

The blonde held three fingers aloft in the girl guides salute as she took another generous sip from her tumbler.

“Speaking of,” Allie said, her voice turning suddenly serious, “Does Trixie know about us?”

Mary thought for a moment. “Hard to say. I certainly haven’t said anything, it’s hardly something I would risk talking about on the ward. I suppose Delia could have told her, but I doubt that.” Allie nodded. “Trixie is not naive, though. It’s possible.”

“But she can be trusted, can’t she? She has been quite supportive of Delia precisely because she is Patsy’s girlfriend, right?”

Mary heard the hope and the caution in her partner's Welsh tones. She felt the exact same way. The possibility of another friend whom they would not have to hide their relationship from was equal parts thrilling and terrifying. How nice would it be to spend an evening amongst friends without having to be constantly on guard. Especially this evening. But, could Trixie be trusted? Her instincts said yes, but perhaps that was wishful thinking. The blonde midwife certainly seemed to have no problem with the nature of Patsy and Delia’s relationship, but that could just be because she and Patsy had been so close. They could have been the exception. It happened. Still, Patsy was a midwife. If the blonde had any strong negative feelings about queers in general, certainly she would have had serious reservations about the redhead performing such intimate duties, no matter how close their friendship. So perhaps she was more open-minded than most. But was it worth the risk?

“I think she can. But let’s hold off on laying it out there for now. Why don’t we just see how the night goes.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Allie said, giving the dark-haired woman an unconvincing smile. Mary knew her girlfriend wasn’t always comfortable in social situations with people she didn’t know well, and adding this uncertainty to the proceedings was sure to make her feel even more awkward. Once you got to know her, Allie was funny, sarcastically playful, and anything but shy. But it could take a while for her to feel comfortable enough to let that side of herself show. Mary looked a little more closely at her girlfriend, taking in a few of her little telltale signs of nerves - her foot tapping out of time with the music, her thumb stroking the side of her glass, her avoidance of prolonged eye contact. Maybe Mary wasn’t the only one who needed this cocktail to release a little tension.

She reached out and took Allie’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “It will be fine, love. Just be yourself and follow my lead on the Trixie front. If it feels safe, I’ll be in charge of letting the cat out of the bag. Okay?”

Allie met her eyes briefly and smiled, a genuine one this time. “Okay.”

Mary shuffled over on the bed and wrapped her arm around her girlfriend’s waist. “You’ve met Delia before, and Trixie is an absolute sweetheart. I’m actually a bit worried the three of you will get along a little too well, to be honest,” she said, placing a kiss on the blonde’s freckled cheek and grinning as she felt her girlfriend’s face shift into a smile. “Now come on, we should start packing up if we’re going to make our bus.”

Allie looked down at her watch, and nodded. “Let me go get my coat from my room and then I’ll pack up the alcohol. You okay handling the dancette and some records?”

“Sounds perfect.”

The blonde stood up and stretched, gathering their empty tumblers and hiding them in the wardrobe until they could be cleaned properly. Mary watched her with unseeing eyes as she felt her misgivings about the evening’s plans creep back in. Should they really be surprising Delia like this? She knew the Welshwoman was in desperate need of a little fun, but was this the right way to do it?

Strong hands pulled her to her feet. “It will be fine, sweetie. Stop worrying.” She felt Allie lean towards her and closed her eyes as their lips met. It was a kiss full of love and support, and Mary felt any remaining tension melt out of her as Allie deepened the kiss. After a long moment, they broke apart, and Mary looked up into those beautiful bright green eyes, smiling and somehow feeling a little more drunk than she had just seconds before. God she loved this woman.

Allie grinned down at her, her own nerves apparently quieted as well, “Come on, sweetie. Let’s get ready.”


 

 

Chapter Text

Trixie gritted her teeth as she turned the corner off of the Poplar High Street and into a gust of cold wind. She tucked her head down, wishing for what must have been the tenth time in less than a mile that she had just walked to Delia’s flat instead of taking her bike. Her increased speed made the bitter wind feel even colder as it ripped through her wool coat and assaulted her cheeks.

It had been difficult to pull herself away from the warmth and chocolates in Barbara’s bedroom but this was the only night for the next two weeks that she, Delia, and Mary all had off. And Delia could not wait that long. She needed a night with her friends. She needed a night where she could let loose and not worry about taking care of Patsy. She needed a night to let others take care of her. Whether she wanted to admit it or not.

The blonde midwife knew that guilt was a big part of why Delia had been rebuffing all of Trixie and Mary’s attempts to help her. The Welshwoman still felt horribly guilty for how she had reacted when she first learned of Patsy’s amnesia. And she felt selfish and ashamed for how she had ripped the ring from around her neck that next morning. So, she had been trying to make up for it ever since by visiting the redhead whenever she was allowed and generally putting her first in every possible way. It was admirable, if untenable. Trixie could see the way it was wearing her down, both emotionally and physically. She had even tried to convince Delia to take a break precisely because she needed to recharge if she was going to be able to be there for Patsy in the long haul. No good. It seemed the petite brunette was determined to play the martyr.

She turned onto Delia’s street and felt moderately warmer as the wind was suddenly blocked by the buildings. Trixie knew she wasn’t being fair. Delia wasn’t running herself into the ground in order to gain sympathy. How could she be? One needed an audience to play the martyr and the Welshwoman was struggling in almost complete secrecy. The truth of the matter was that Patsy was everything to Delia. Trixie still couldn’t quite fathom that kind of love. The blonde could only hope that she would find someone that she felt that strongly about one day, but for now she would have to focus on trying to feel a fraction of that way about herself. A tall order.

Still, she hadn’t had a drink in seventeen days. She had been tempted - god had she been tempted - but she had made it this far. Tonight would be tricky though. Trixie had been forced to agree when Mary had said she would bring the alcohol. She could not deny that strong drink would help in their attempt to get Delia to let herself have fun, or cry, or talk, or whatever it is she needed to do to release some of the burden she had been carrying. The blonde just hoped that she could stay strong and stick to her excuse of an early morning on call to avoid temptation. And questions.

She pulled to a stop with a squeal of her breaks just short of the green door of Orient Buildings. She was early. Mary wasn’t due for a good five minutes, which gave her plenty of time for a cigarette. She leaned her bike against the brick wall and retrieved her shoulder bag from the back rack. As she took the first welcome drag she noticed two figures a little way away turn the corner into the street. Trixie recognized Mary at once, the street light reflecting off her wire-rimmed glasses as she passed under it, arm-in-arm with a tall blonde girl. So that must be Allie.

Trixie took advantage of the distance and her location in the relative dark between the streetlamps to casually observe the pair. When she had approached Mary with her idea of this girls’ night during Patsy’s last day in hospital, she had been surprised when the dark-haired nurse had immediately said that Allie was free that night as well. Trixie had never heard of Allie. Not from Mary and not from Delia. Her inclusion in this evening’s proceedings indicated that she must also know the true nature of Patsy and Delia’s relationship, but why then had the Welshwoman never mentioned her? Trixie had a sneaking suspicion as to why, and she smiled behind her Sobranie as the pair noticed her and immediately unlinked their arms, a fleeting look of worry washing across the shorter woman’s face.

Well that’s that.

Trixie had been wondering how Mary had found out about her friends’ proclivities, and now she had her answer. It seemed she could spot her own.

The blonde midwife took one final drag on her cigarette before dropping it to the pavement and crushing it with her toe. “Good evening, ladies,” she called, her voice bright and unassuming. “I do hope you didn’t walk the whole way, you must be freezing.”

Mary smiled, her cheeks and nose pink from the cold. “Hello, Trixie. Not to worry, we took the bus. I didn’t want to lug this for two miles in this weather,” she said, tilting her head to indicate the dancette in her right hand. “I’d be afraid my hand would freeze to the handle.”

Trixie laughed, turning to the taller woman. “And you must be Allie. Pleasure to meet you,” she said, extending her hand and looking up to meet the taller blonde’s green eyes. Gosh, she was tall. Taller than Patsy, but not quite as tall as Chummy, and she seemed to be all arms and legs.

“Hello,” Allie said, extending her long arm to shake Trixie’s outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you too.” Her voice was bright with a hint of a Welsh accent.

“Are you from Wales as well?” Trixie asked curiously, looking at her blonde hair and the freckles dotting her round cheeks - not your typical Welsh colouring.

Allie smiled nervously, apparently following Trixie’s line of inquiry. “I am, but my mum’s Scottish, and my tad’s mum was English. I take more after them. My tad likes to joke that the only thing I got from him was his accent, and after three years in London I’ve even lost a bit of that.”

Trixie couldn’t help but laugh a little at Allie’s nervous babbling, as Mary cut in, saving her, “I’m sure we’ll get right into each other’s life stories after a couple of your cocktails, Al. But I’m freezing. Shall we get this ambush underway?”

Trixie’s laughter died in her throat at the mention of the cocktails, but she quickly recovered, pasting on a smile and pulling the keys from her handbag. “Ready when you are.”

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Delia sat on her camp bed, leaning against the wall and reading. Well, she couldn’t really call it reading, staring blankly at the pages would be more accurate. She just couldn’t focus. Her mind kept pulling her back to the scars on Patsy’s back and the inevitable terror the redhead was destined to relive. And here she was, sitting in what should have been their bedroom, a mile from where she wanted to be. From where she needed to be.

She needed to be there for Patsy. By all accounts the memories that have come back thus far were from her time before the camp, but that could only last for so long. After all, Patsy had only just turned nine when their ship had surrendered and those hellish three and a half years had begun.

She needed to tell her.

Delia knew there was nothing she could say, nothing anyone could say, that would make those emerging memories anything less that unimaginably horrific. But Patsy should at least be warned that they were coming. And she still needed to be told how her mother and sister had died.

She had meant to tell her that next morning, but then she had woken to an utterly panicked Patsy. Delia had barely managed to help her calm down when Sister Monica Joan had appeared and announced she would be helping the redhead to bathe, asking if the Welshwoman would assist in getting her undressed and into the tub. Delia had excused herself to go to the toilet, but had actually sought out Trixie in her temporary lodgings in the box room. She knew it was cowardly, but the brunette simply could not face helping Patsy to the bath. The events of the previous night and that morning had left her feeling frayed, and she feared that she would break down completely at the sight of the scarred, nude body of her former girlfriend. The mere thought of Patsy’s naked body left her feeling confused and guilty. She had, of course, thought of that scenario so many times in their years together. But the close quarters of the Nurses Home had rendered that idea quite impossible, even if they had been ready. Which they hadn’t.

That was the tricky thing about being such an ‘unconventional’ couple. There were no rules. No proper steps to be taken. Nothing proper about it at all, actually. So, they had decided to just take it one step at a time. Do what felt comfortable. What felt right. But what with the lack of privacy in the Nurses Home, combined with both of their nerves and uncertainties, they had never come close to doing that. They had never even removed any clothing aside from their shoes and the odd cardigan.

But something had changed when Patsy had given her the ring. Suddenly their relationship had felt more real somehow. More official. It wasn’t that their feelings had changed, not even deepened, really. But it was like a switch had been flipped, closing a previously unnoticed electrical circuit and causing the current to buzz through their connected fingers with an intensity they had never felt before. And suddenly they both felt ready. They hadn’t said it. Words hadn’t been needed, and besides, they could not have formed them with how firmly their lips were suddenly locked together. But they just knew. Their kisses had been different - more hungry, more searching, more charged. Their hands were suddenly everywhere too, travelling to as yet unexplored territory that they had barely dared dream possible, their breathing becoming heavy and thick as eager fingers fumbled with buttons and clasps. Every nerve in Delia’s body was screaming to be touched, and she began to feel a yearning hum deep in her core like she had never felt before.

A loud laugh outside Delia’s door had yanked them back to reality and they’d both pulled away, looking shocked and flustered, but unashamed.

Duw, Patsy had looked so gorgeous. Delia closed her eyes, wanting to recall the image in as much detail as possible. Patsy’s head was tilted slightly downwards as she looked up at her girlfriend through mascaraed lashes, her eyes wide and dark with a look that Delia had never seen in them before. Her previously perfectly styled ginger curls were mussed and tousled, framing her flushed cheeks and swollen lips smeared with cherry red. Patsy was breathing hard, and Delia could see her chest heaving in her black bra through her half-unbuttoned blouse, her creamy skin prickled with goosebumps. Delia had been breathing hard too, her blue dress was hanging off of one shoulder, and her hair in what she was sure was an equal amount of disarray. They had just stared at each other for a long while as they regained their breath, words failing them both.

It had been Patsy who had found her voice first, and when it came it was huskier than Delia had ever heard it, “I suppose one would typically be expected to apologise for getting carried away like that,” she had said, and Delia had felt her heart drop for a moment before the redhead had continued, “But I can’t apologise because I’m not sorry. Well, at least not for getting carried away.”

Delia’s eyes had snapped up to meet Patsy’s and she could see the question burning in those beautiful blues. “Neither am I,” she had answered.

Patsy had smiled then - nervous and shy and hopeful. “I am sorry we were interrupted, although I rather think it was for our own good,” she had said, and both women had cast their eyes to the unlocked door over Patsy’s shoulder and immediately broken out in a fit of giggles, releasing some of the tension that had built in the room over the previous minutes.

Delia opened her eyes back to the present and stared across at the dinghy paper on the far wall. After they had put themselves back together and had a drink to calm their nerves, they had talked vaguely of perhaps going away together after the new year. Nothing had been said, not explicitly, but both women knew what they wanted. They were ready. But then Delia had got word of the downsizing of the Nurses Home and of the rent allowance, and it had seemed they would not have to wait even that long to be together. To be alone. To lock the door.

She snapped her book shut with a sigh. But perhaps, given what happened, it was for the best that they hadn’t. It would feel so wrong to have that memory of Patsy when the redhead herself would not. Delia knew that, had the situation been reversed, she would not have wanted to have given herself and her body over so completely and have no memory of it. She felt strange enough about getting drunk and not remembering singing Welsh drinking songs in a pub on her birthday, so to not remember that? No. It was for the best that they hadn’t gone that far.

Wasn’t it?

Delia dropped the book onto the bed and padded into the kitchen to put the kettle on, her mind swimming with images of Patsy. Patsy, her chest heaving and eyes dark with desire. Patsy, lying unconscious in hospital, looking small and broken. Patsy, head thrown back and laughing at one of Delia’s stories. Patsy, eyes searching as she tried to make conversation with the crying stranger at her bedside. Patsy, biting her bottom lip to swallow her grin as they danced around each other at the square dance. Patsy, clinging to her and shaking with grief over the deaths of the two family members she had just remembered. Patsy, eyes shining with triumph and trepidation as she pulled back from that first, whisky-fueled kiss. Patsy. Patsy. Patsy.

She switched off the hob and opted for a drink instead, grabbing a tumbler and the half-empty bottle of scotch from the cupboard. But before she could pour herself a glass, there was a knock on her door. Funny, she wasn’t expecting anyone. A neighbor perhaps? Come to borrow a cup of sugar or some other domestic item? Her curiosity piqued, Delia was out of the kitchen and across the small lounge in a few seconds.

But it wasn’t a neighbor. It was Trixie Franklin, Mary Boyd, and Allie Owen. All pink-faced from the cold. All smiling. And all loaded down with various bags and parcels.

“Surprise, sweetie. We all have the night off too and decided to pay you a visit,” said Trixie. “We would have called ahead but I had a sneaking suspicion you would have magically had a prior engagement,” she added, giving the Welshwoman a pointed look. Delia’s look of bafflement shifted into one of begrudging irritation as the blonde steamed on, making her way past the brunette and into the flat. “Patsy is tucked up safe and sound at Nonnatus with Barbara, no doubt half-way through a tin of Quality Street by now, so you have nothing to worry about.”

“And we brought music,” added Mary, looking a little uncomfortable as she followed the blonde midwife through the door carrying her dancette and a heavy looking shoulder bag that no doubt contained records.

“And cocktails,” added Allie, holding up a bottle of gin with an awkward smile.

Delia’s irritation melted away a little in the face of Mary and Allie’s obvious discomfort. Even Trixie looked a little uneasy at their barging in, but as she had said, Delia had left them no choice. They were worried about her. Well, she knew that already - their constant badgering to come for a drink or go to the cinema was proof enough of that - but still, they should have asked.

Or should they? She would have told them no. And did Delia really want to be alone tonight? Maybe a distraction was just what she needed. Besides, she had been about to have a drink. She could be social for a little while. At the very least it might keep them from pestering her so much.

She linked arms with Allie as she closed the door, taking the tall blonde by surprise, “Well, Allie can stay at the very least. I would so love a cocktail, and I could never evict a fellow Cymry.” She shot a skeptical look at the two English women, “You two, on the other hand, can remain on a trial basis.”

Mary laughed, obviously relieved at the joke. “We’ll have to watch ourselves, Trixie. The Welsh are uniting.”

Allie rolled her eyes at her girlfriend. “Oh yes. Delia’s a real Owain Glyndŵr.”

“You know I don’t know who that is, Al. Although I can hazard a guess. But given that Wales is still a part of Great Britain, I’m going to have to say, I’m not too worried,” Mary teased, earning a reproachful look from both Welshwomen.

“Oh, but you should be,” said Allie, in a tone that bordered on flirtatious. She obviously heard it too because she seemed to still as she shot a quick glance at Trixie who was luckily busy unpacking her own shoulder bag, seemingly oblivious. “B-Because I can always just miss you out while making these cocktails,” she added, her tone back to normal. Turning to Delia she asked, “Which way to the kitchen?”

She began to lead Allie through to the kitchen but was interrupted by Trixie’s airy voice, “Oh none for me, sweetie. I’m on call at a ghastly hour in the morning, so I’ll have to pass.”

Delia could not help the look of surprise that washed over her face. Trixie Franklin passing up a drink at this hour? It was barely eight o’clock.

“I brought tonic too, if you’d rather just have a gin and tonic? I could mix them light.” Allie suggested.

For the briefest of moments, Trixie’s face seemed to slide into a look of utter despair. It was so quick that Delia almost didn’t catch it. If she hadn’t had so much practice with Patsy’s similar slips in her facade then she might not have. “Or maybe just some tonic and lime?” Delia asked. “Best not to risk it. Pats always said that being even the slightest bit hungover on an early delivery is a special kind of hell, what with all the smells and screaming.”

Trixie seemed to relax. “And she’s quite right, too. A tonic and lime sounds absolutely divine.”

Delia led Allie into her small kitchen but was only half listening as she described the night’s cocktail. There was obviously something going on with Trixie. She had noticed something was off the night of the accident as well as the morning the blonde had come round the flat to pick the Welshwoman off the floor. And it wasn’t just because of Patsy. She didn’t think it was Tom either. And now Trixie had turned down a light gin and tonic at eight in the evening because she had to work the next morning. That was very unusual.

As Allie carefully measured the liquor, Delia found herself staring blankly at the labels on the bottles.

Trixie’s Bar.

In all those times she had visited since the accident, she had been so focused on her own misery and on the boxes of Patsy’s possessions that she had not fully registered that Trixie’s usual cache of bottles was gone. But thinking back, they were. When had that happened?

Oh, Trixie.

Delia felt her chest tighten with concern and affection for her friend. Trixie was clearly having a problem with drink, and if she was honest, it wasn’t a complete surprise. Patsy had let certain comments slip, and Delia had caught the tension from her girlfriend and Nurse Crane the night of the square dance when Trixie had tossed back the bourbon with such relish. But sometime between her four gins the night of the accident and tonight, things must have come to a head. Yet here she was, braving what was sure to be a boozy evening to support her. She must be truly worried. Delia hitched on a smile as Allie handed her a glass of tonic and another containing a light green cocktail and resolved to give in to whatever her friends had in store tonight.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

After helping Trixie to open the drop leaf table so that they could all fit comfortably, Mary found herself feeling completely indecisive as she stared into the open lid of her red record case. She was at a total loss as to what to put on. It was a little early for something too upbeat, but everything else seemed to be a love song, and she didn’t want to upset Delia. Actually, even most of the upbeat songs were love songs. Why were all songs about love? Being in love, losing love, looking for love. Surely there must be something else worth singing about?

Allie and Delia returned, each carrying a glass in both hands, and Mary quickly found a Dion & the Belmonts record that she didn’t think would hit too close to the mark for the Welsh brunette - it was a love song, but then Delia was no teenager. As their opening “do-wahs” rolled through the small lounge, Mary took her cocktail from Allie and joined the other women around the small table.

“So, what kind of fun do you have planned for me this evening?” Delia asked, eyeing them all with a look of exaggerated suspicion.

Trixie and Mary exchanged a look. They hadn’t talked much about their plans, really. The plan was just to spend time with Delia away from Patsy and hope it helped her relax. The plan was to offer support. Mary had immediately decided that music and booze would be needed. Trixie had said she’d bring some games and snacks from the Nonnatus stores.

“Well, our main plans involved getting a little sloshed, to be honest,” Mary said, raising her glass, “So cheers to that.” Delia smiled nervously and clinked her glass with Mary, shooting a look in Trixie’s direction as the midwife took a careful sip of her tonic and lime.

“And I brought Monopoly, Scrabble, and a deck of cards to get us started. Any preferences?” Trixie asked. “Oh, and I have some gingerbread biscuits and a battenberg, courtesy of Mrs. B., with a chunk missing courtesy of Sister Monica Joan,” she added, with a tight smile.

Delia looked at her thoughtfully, “Well, Monopoly takes forever, and I almost always lose interest before we’re done. Scrabble might be a bit of an ask given Mary’s plans for the evening. So how about cards?”

“Bridge?” Allie asked, hopefully. Her girlfriend was always looking for a partner seeing as Mary couldn’t be bothered with all the complicated rules and strategies. One glance at Delia and Trixie told the dark-haired nurse that they felt the same way as she did, at least for tonight.

“How about Spades?” Mary asked. “It’s similar enough to Bridge, but much simpler.” And Spades was a team game too. Usually she would play with Allie, but maybe it would be best to mix things up so as to encourage more interaction amongst the group. “What do you reckon, blondes versus brunettes or England versus Wales?”

Delia laughed, “Definitely England versus Wales. You need to be taught a lesson after your snide remarks earlier, Nurse Boyd. Not to mention, I don’t think we can honestly play blondes versus brunettes seeing as not all the blondes here are natural,” she added with a smirk towards Trixie.

Without missing a beat, Trixie responded with a look of mock outrage. “Now Delia, that is quite rude. Allie’s dye job is exquisite,” she said, causing Allie to nearly choke on her drink. “It looks perfectly natural.”

“Alright then, let’s rearrange so the partners are across from each other. Allie, why don’t you and Trixie switch places?” Mary said, smiling innocently at her still spluttering girlfriend.

“You just want me in front of the window,” Allie finally managed, narrowing her slightly watery green eyes much to Mary’s amusement.

“Why’s that sweetie?” Trixie asked, her eyebrows raised in question as she glanced across the table at Delia who just shrugged, nonplused.

Mary smiled, “Allie here is a notorious cheat. You don’t want to be seated in front of any reflective surfaces or she will use them to look at your cards. So, we’re all better off if she is the one in front of the window.”

Allie however, did not smile, but her face was one of pure innocence as she stated, matter-of-factly, “I don’t cheat, I just use my eyes, sweetie. Just like I cannot help but see your cards when you tilt your hand and show them to me. It’s not my fault you’re not more careful.” But she rose from her seat without protest and took a chuckling Trixie’s place in front of the window.

By the time they finished the second hand, Mary could not help but wish that they had played blondes versus brunettes after all. It wasn’t that she and Trixie were bad, they just weren’t nearly as competitive as Allie and Delia. A little while later when her girlfriend got up to mix another batch of cocktails, the English were losing 212 to -130. But at least Delia seemed to be having a good time. The sadness behind her blue eyes was still there, but her laughter seemed genuine.

“Remind me never to play the two of you for money,” Trixie said, pulling out her cigarette case and offering one to Mary, who gratefully accepted.

“I’m still not convinced they aren’t cheating. Al does have quite the track record,” Mary said, leaning in to light her borrowed Sobranie.

Delia laughed, getting to her feet to change the record and adding, “I never took you for such a poor loser, Mary Boyd.”

“Hey, don’t count your chickens yet, Nurse Busby. We could still mount a grand comeback,” Mary laughed. Delia simply smirked and raised her eyebrows, clearly indicating her doubt.

Allie soon returned, cradling all four glasses carefully in her hands. “Come on, Allie. Put those drinks down, let’s have a mid-victory dance break,” Delia said, dropping the needle down and grabbing the tall blonde’s hand as the Big Bopper called “Helloo, baaaaaaby…”

Mary sipped her drink contentedly as she watched her friend and girlfriend bop around the small lounge. The alcohol combined with Delia’s openness and Trixie’s banter seemed to be pulling the Welsh blonde out of her awkward shell quicker than usual. She smiled, as Allie sang “Oh baby, that’s a what I like!” as she did the twist in her stockinged feet, her long ponytail bouncing and whipping around.

“How long have you and Allie known each other?” Trixie asked, blowing a stream of blue smoke towards the ceiling, her face and tone unreadable

Mary felt suddenly uneasy. The alcohol was making her too relaxed. Too off guard. Damn Allie and her strong cocktails!

She knew she had been watching her girlfriend dance a little too closely -  her smile a little too bright, her eyes a little too soft. But it was an innocent enough question, wasn’t it?

“Ummm, about three years, I think. She was two years behind Patsy, Delia, and I in training.”

“That’s quite a long time. So you met in training? I never had much contact with the girls below me in training school,” Trixie said, still completely unreadable.

Mary tried to hide her rising panic. Even if Trixie was hinting at what she thought she was, it didn’t mean that she and Allie were at risk. The blonde midwife could be trusted.

She hoped.

“We were placed in rotation on Psychiatric at the same time. She had a very difficult patient who was refusing his medication and got quite physical. I stepped in to assist and then invited her to the pub after shift to take the edge off. You know how stressful Psychiatric can be.” Mary said, and was relieved to see the blonde nodding sympathetically.

“Quite.”

“Well, she had calmed down a bit after her first pint, and I was able to get her talking. Turns out she was a little shy and didn’t have many real friends in her year. So, I started looking out for her, and inviting her along to the pictures and such. And we’ve been friends ever since.”

Trixie was watching Delia and Allie dance with a thoughtful expression on her face. What Mary hadn’t said is that she had suspected Allie was like her for a good two weeks before the incident with the aggressive patient. She had seen how the blonde would pale anytime she had to work with the male patients who they were treating for their urges. It was subtle, but if one looked closely one could see that, unlike their colleagues, the fear and disgust on her face was not directed at the patients, but at their circumstances. Mary recognised the difference because she felt the same way. A few overhead conversations about men in the staff canteen and she was fairly certain that Allie had no interest in finding a chap. One casual compliment about her dress as the blonde was passing in the hall of the Nurses Home followed by her nervous blushing had all but clinched it. Allie was queer too. And, she was ridiculously cute.

“Come join us, you two,” said Delia, pulling the dark-haired nurse out of her thoughts and onto the makeshift dance floor. “Let’s put this massacre on hold for a while and dance!” Mary was grateful for the interruption and stepped over to the dancette to change the record.

Allie grabbed her drink and slid over beside her at the record player as Delia pulled Trixie up as well. The look in her girlfriend’s eyes told her that she had heard a bit of she and Trixie’s conversation and was wondering if everything was alright. Mary gave her a little shrug and a nod.

She hoped so.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

Because I'm hoping, obviously
That someday, the answer would be
The girl can't help it, she's in love with me
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)

Bopping up and down as Little Richard’s voice filled the air, Delia felt lighter than she had in weeks. Of course, some of the songs - alright, most of the songs - reminded her of Pats in some way, but dancing had always made her feel better. It was like all her cares and worries couldn’t get a firm grasp on her when she was spinning and shaking about.

She had pulled Mary and Trixie onto their little dance floor in order to save the brunette from the blonde’s obvious line of inquiry, and now here they were, half a dozen songs in and the card game was quite forgotten.

As the last of the horns died away, the four women’s dancing faded to a giggling halt. “I think I need a break,” wheezed Allie, her hands on her high hips.

“And a drink,” added Delia, gesturing with her empty tumbler.

“I’ll help you in the kitchen, Al. One of you ladies want to choose the next record?” said Mary, collecting the glasses and following her girlfriend into the kitchen.

Delia flicked quickly through Mary’s records before selecting the innocuous “Get a Job” and flopping down in a chair beside Trixie.

The blonde lit her cigarette and took the first drag before looking over at her with a pleased expression on her face. “It’s good to see you smiling, sweetie.”

“I could say the same about you,” Delia said, and Trixie’s face seemed to cloud over behind the haze of her cigarette. The brunette stole a glance towards the kitchen to check that the other two were still occupied before lowering her voice and adding, “You know you can talk to me, Trix. About anything. Lord knows I owe you after everything you’ve done for me over the last few weeks.”

The blonde avoided her gaze and took another deep drag on her Sobranie. “Tonight isn't about me, you know.”

Delia reached out and placed her hand over the blonde’s cigarette-free one on the table. “Just know I’m here, alright.” Trixie nodded slightly, and the brunette gave her hand a quick squeeze.

As the other two girls returned with the drinks, Trixie took a turn at choosing the next record. Delia noticed that Mary and Allie both looked a little flustered. She raised an eyebrow at them in question and Mary smiled tightly, casting a nervous glance towards Trixie’s turned back, the interrupted conversation from earlier still clearly on her mind.

“Oh, this song is positively delightful,” Trixie gasped, slipping the 7-inch record out of its sleeve and placing it on the turntable.

Delia didn’t recognize it at first - the jazzy intro sounded like dozens of other songs - but then the young girl’s voice came in and she smiled. “Now I've got a guy and his name is Dooley. He's my guy and I love him truly…”

“Why Trixie,” Delia said, a smile spreading across her face, “I would think you were too fashion conscious to go for a man with such a flamboyant wardrobe.”

“Well, you’re right on that one. The pink shoelaces would be one thing, but I draw the line at a polka dot waistcoat,” she smiled, taking her seat and sipping her tonic. “But then most of the men I’ve stepped out with haven’t had the first clue about fashion. Appalling dressers, the lot of them.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, except for one,” she said, her eyes twinkling with amusement and a touch of sadness, “A junior doctor during training, melting to look at, but the other way inclined. But, he was a gorgeous dresser and a marvelous dancer, so I was happy to provide diversionary cover.”

Trixie Franklin never ceased to amaze her. Although she spoke with an air of casual lightness, Delia was struck with just how calculated this choice of record must have been. The blonde midwife had obviously twigged that Mary and Allie were a couple and was trying to signal to them that she was perfectly fine with the situation.

Delia decided to play along. “And here I thought Pats and I were special, Trix. But turns out you’re a regular fairy godmother,” she said, causing Allie to once again choke on her drink.

Trixie smiled at the joke, but then turned suddenly serious. “As I said to Sister Winifred during that awful business with Mr. Amos, it’s akin to fascism to tell someone who they can and can’t love. And I for one, won’t stand for it.”

Delia felt her eyes burn at Trixie’s words, and one glance at the shocked faces and wet eyes of Allie and Mary told her that they had been struck quite speechless. “So I think what she’s saying, ladies,” she finally managed, her voice tight with emotion, “Is that you don’t have to hide around her.”

“Exactly,” said Trixie, giving their two friends a warm smile. “You have nothing to fear from me. I think you two are lovely together.”

“But how did you know?” Mary spluttered, and Delia rose to change the record and give them a chance to talk.

She flipped mindlessly through the case, feeling happy for her friends despite the gnawing sadness that had begun to eat away at her edges. Mary and Allie deserved this. They deserved friends who they could be themselves around. They deserved to be happy and in love. But listening to Trixie gently probe about the beginnings of their courtship made Delia want to cry. Patsy never had this moment with her best friend. They, as a couple, had never had this moment with anyone. Their love had only existed between the two of them in secret. And once the secret was exposed, once their friends confessed that they had known all along, it was too late. Their love had already been lost.

Maybe it was the cocktails. It was inevitable that the initial happy buzz of the alcohol would tip her to sadness at a certain point - it was nearly always the case when she had something truly bothering her. But she tried to fight it. Tried to swallow down the knot in her throat and focus on her friends’ relief and happiness. Tried to find that light feeling again.

But as she flicked through the records in Mary’s red case, every one of them made her think of Patsy and the life they had had snatched away from them. “Bye Bye Love,” “Dream Lover,” “Come Softly to Me.” Even “Roll Over Beethoven” was ruined for her since Patsy had given her that record in her quest to convince her of Chuck Berry’s genius. Still, she was managing to hold it together until she saw that Imperial label. Her hands shook slightly as she slipped it out, placed it on the dancette, and lowered the needle. Ricky Nelson’s low smooth voice oozed out of the speakers as Delia gripped the edge of the sideboard with numb fingers.

I could never be loved by anyone sweeter than you…

Her mind swum with memories.

My only desire is loving you eternally...

Lying together on her bed in the nurses home the night before Patsy was to leave for Nonnatus, holding hands and just breathing each other in as the song played over the wireless.

For no, no other love could ever mean so much to me...

Unwrapping the brown paper to reveal the 7-inch record at their usual table at the Silver Buckle a few months later. “I thought you didn’t like Ricky Nelson?” Patsy looking at her with those soft eyes and fishhook smile, “There are exceptions to every rule, Busby.”

So if you say you love me forever I'll be true...

Patsy apologising to Barbara for disparaging her musical tastes, “I’m not saying that’s the case for all of Ricky Nelson’s music.” Shooting a sly look at Delia as she continued, “I am actually rather fond of a few of his songs.”

And what more could I long for than to live my life with you...

Running her hand across Patsy’s shoulders in the cafe after making her selection at the jukebox, “Do you want to hear my news?” Those perfect eyebrows perking up as her girlfriend responded, “You’ve given it quite the buildup, I’m rather afraid it’s going to disappoint.”

I could never be loved by anyone sweeter than you
And I could never belong to anyone sweeter than you

“Delia, are you alright?”

She hadn’t realized that the others had stopped talking until she felt Mary’s hand on her shaking shoulder. She hadn’t realized she’d started crying either.

Delia gripped the sideboard tighter. “N-no. I’m really not.”

Mary pulled her into a hug and Delia cried into her friend’s shoulder. “I know you aren’t, hon. How could you be?”

Safe in her friend’s arms, Delia felt all the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness she had been keeping at bay start swirling around in her mind. All the love. All the hiding. All the time wasted. All the loss. All the fear. All the worry. All the pain. All the horrors yet to come. But all she could manage to get out was, “I just don’t know what to do.”

“About what, sweetie?” came Trixie’s gentle voice from her other side.

“Anything.”

That one word released the floodgates, and in an instant, she was shaking uncontrollably as the tears came hard and fast. Trixie’s arms joined Mary’s as they wrapped around her from behind, “I know.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Delia woke slowly, feeling groggy and a little fuzzy headed from the night before. Allie’s strong drinks combined with her own strong emotions had been a formidable combination, and now her body was feeling the results. She’d felt worse, though. Actually, she might not confess it to her friends, but even with her hangover, she did feel better this morning than she had in weeks. But still, she desperately needed a glass of water and some painkillers. And coffee. Definitely coffee.

Swinging her legs over the side of her camp bed, she spotted Allie and Mary snuggled together on the other one. She felt a bittersweet smile sneak across her face as she took in her friends’ sleeping forms, looking so relaxed and comfortable in each other’s arms.

By the time their evening had wound to a close, it would have been cutting it awfully fine for the tipsy pair to make it back through the snow before curfew, so she had insisted on them staying the night. She was glad she had. Waking up with someone else in the flat made it, and her, feel a little less empty. But, she couldn’t help feeling a little jealous too.

As if trying to evade those poisonous thoughts, Delia stood quickly and slipped on her dressing gown, padding silently from the bedroom and easing the door closed behind her.

As the kettle began to whistle, she saw Mary trudge into the small kitchen to join her. The dark-haired nurse looked as bad as Delia felt as she took the proffered bottle of painkillers from the Welshwoman with a grateful grimace. “Coffee?” Delia asked.

“Just tea for me, thanks,” mumbled Mary, “But Allie will take a coffee, I’m sure.”

“Are you both off today as well?”

Mary shook her head. “I am, Allie’s switching to nights.”

They both sat in silence for a few moments as they stirred milk and sugar into their drinks. Mary broke it first, “Thanks for letting us stay last night.”

Delia took a sip of her coffee, relishing the bitter warmth. “Of course. And thank you, too,” she paused, trying to find the words, “For everything.”

Mary reached out and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “So, are you going to tell her today?” she asked, eyes full of sadness and concern.

Delia swallowed. She still felt a slight sense of betrayal for telling Mary and Allie about Patsy’s past. But it had just all come tumbling out last night along with everything else, and she had needed to lay out all her pain and all her worries. Trixie had been there and had held her hand as she did so, giving her a nod of encouragement. It was like they all knew that the night was special - that it was a safe space. They had all placed a huge amount of trust and faith in each other, so Delia felt certain that Mary and Allie would treat this confidence just as Trixie would treat theirs. Still, in the cold light of this December morning, she felt guilty for her divulgence. Nevertheless, she did not regret it.

“I am. Who knows when or if those memories might be triggered, but she has to be warned.”

Mary nodded. “And what about…” she said, pointing to the ring hanging from the chain around the Welshwoman’s neck.

Delia felt like Mary had pointed right into her clenched heart, and she quickly tucked the ring back under the neck of her pyjamas. “I-I don’t know,” she said. “Not today, that’s for certain. She has enough horrors to face without adding this burden on top.”

Mary studied her over the tops of her wire rimmed glasses for a long moment. “The love you shared is not a burden, Delia.” The Welsh brunette looked down at her coffee, trying to swallow down the lump rapidly forming in her throat. “It was real, and beautiful, and I cannot believe it is lost forever. I watched you two, you know. I saw it growing between you all those years ago, even before I think you did. And there’s still something in the way she looks at you and talks to you. I don’t think she knows it yet, but it’s still there.”

A tear splashed down into the milky coffee, and Delia pulled her face up to meet Mary’s steady storm-blue eyes. “I want to believe that. I really do. But I can’t. I can’t let myself hope again. Because if I do, and you’re wrong...if what we had is lost forever and I have hoped...it will break me.”

“You have to have hope,” came Allie’s voice from the doorway, and both brunettes turned to look at her in surprise. “Her memories are returning, aren’t they? Well, what if her memories of the two of you start to come back, and then she sees that you’ve lost that hope? What would that tell her?”

Delia stared at the tall blonde, at a loss for words.

Allie looked uncomfortable, but determined. “And having hope won’t break you, Delia. It can only make you stronger.”

Mary smiled lovingly at her girlfriend before turning to look her fellow brunette in the eyes, “She’s a little more blunt about it than I would be, but I have to agree. But even if things don’t work out and it does break you in the end, and I don’t believe it will, you have us and Trixie to help you pick up the pieces.” She reached over and took the Welshwoman’s hand. “You aren’t alone in this, Delia.”

Delia gave a shaky nod, as Allie joined them at the table. She sat, dazed, as the blonde pulled the mug of coffee Mary had prepared for her closer and wrapped her long fingers around it for warmth. Delia took a slow sip of her own coffee before looking up at her two friends, their faces were blurry from her teary eyes, “But I have had hope, so many times already. And each time it’s been dashed and I’ve felt like my heart has been broken again into smaller and smaller pieces. I just can’t go through it again.”

She cast her eyes back down into her coffee and felt the other two exchange a look. “But what if she’s falling in love with you all over again and you miss it because you won’t let yourself look?” asked Allie, her voice soft but unwavering.

Delia looked up at her, blinking in sudden revelation. She hadn’t thought of that. How had she never thought of that?

It was always about the past - what they had lost, if Patsy would remember. She had never once given a thought to a future together without that past. Would she want that? Her eyes seemed to glaze over as she recalled holding Patsy in her arms as she slept, her heart full of love and protection. Wishing to shield her from her painful past. Willing to give up all they had shared.

Yes. Yes, she would absolutely want that.

Delia still loved Patsy. And not just the Patsy she had shared so much with. Delia loved this Patsy too. She could start over anew if she had to. If Patsy wanted to, that is.

A big if.

But maybe Allie was right. If she closed herself off from the possibility, she might miss it. She closed her eyes, thinking back to all their interactions over the past three weeks. The way they had just stood smiling at each other when they had found out she wasn’t being moved to a private hospital. The way Patsy would watch her as she told a funny story. All the redhead’s shy smiles.

Could Mary be right? Could Patsy still feel that way about her? Or maybe Allie was right, and she was falling in love again? Or maybe Delia was just seeing what she wanted to see. What she hoped to see.

Delia could feel her friends watching her closely, afraid they had pushed too far. She opened her eyes with a sigh. “You might be right, both of you. But I just can’t deal with that today. Not with everything else. But I’ll think about it, I promise.”

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

“Nonnatus House, midwife speaking.”

Phyllis looked up from her work on the advanced rota to watch as Nurse Franklin tucked the phone under her chin and flipped through the log book in front of her.

“Slow down, Mr. Morris,” the blonde nurse said, her voice calm and professional. “Have your wife’s waters broken? I see. Just try to stay calm, I’ll be with you shortly.” Nurse Franklin hung up the phone and turned to face her elder colleague in the clinical room. “Eileen Morris. It sounds like the early stages, waters are still intact, but I better be off. Her husband sounded panicked and that won’t help put mother at ease.”

“Quite right,” Phyllis nodded, exchanging a knowing look with the young nurse.

Nurse Franklin picked up her bag and turned to leave, but hesitated and turned back around, her face looking concerned. “Delia is set to visit this morning. Patsy asked her about what happened to her mother and sister the other night, and now that her memories are returning we think it might be a good idea to tell her, well warn her really, about her time during the war. I spoke to Delia last night, and we agreed that it would be best if she were the one to do it. She’s known Patsy the longest and knows the most about it all.”

Phyllis nodded, looking grim. “That sounds quite sensible.”

Nurse Franklin nodded, relieved at Phyllis’ agreement. “I thought it would be best if they were given time alone without any interruptions. I meant to speak to Sister Julienne about it, but she is still up with Sister Monica Joan, and now that I’ve been called out…”

“Say no more, Nurse Franklin. You see to your patient; I will handle things here.”

The younger midwife nodded, turning to leave again.

“And, Nurse Franklin?” Phyllis called, causing the blonde to pause and turn her head. “You’re a good friend. She’s lucky to have you looking out for her.”

Trixie just smiled tightly and left.

Phyllis looked back down at the rota, a small sad smile playing at her lips. Yes, she was lucky to have Nurse Franklin. And by she, she meant Nurse Busby.

 -----

Despite having arrived home from helping Nurse Franklin deliver Mrs. MacDonald’s twins just four hours earlier, Phyllis woke, as always, at first light. She really should go back to sleep, but she knew she would never be able to manage it until she gave into her bladder’s increasingly insistent call for attention, so she reluctantly rose from her bed and made her way down the hall.

As she was walking tiredly back to her room, she was surprised to hear voices coming from the box room as she passed. In retrospect, Phyllis knew she shouldn’t have stopped, but she did. Sure, she could explain it away by saying she was worried that the voice urging Trixie to wake made her fear that Nurse Franklin had overindulged after their late return. Or perhaps she could say that Nurse Busby’s tense voice made her suddenly fearful for Nurse Mount. It didn’t matter why, but stop she did.

“Delia?” came Nurse Franklin’s sleepy voice, before snapping to attention, “What’s happened? Is everything alright?”

“Yes...and no. Pats is fine, well, as fine as she can be. She’s a bit shaken from the memory. But...but I need to ask you a favour,” came Delia’s hesitant voice.

“Of course, sweetie.”

“Sister Monica Joan wants me to help her get Pats into the bath and I…” Phyllis was shocked by the sound of the Welshwoman’s voice. It sounded choked. Pained. “Last night was the first time I had seen her undressed at all, and it was just...her back...the scars. Oh, Trix I just can’t see her like that,” Nurse Busby’s voice had steadily become quieter, but higher in pitch as it came out in a sobbing rush, “Not when we never. Not with how I still feel. It’s just all so confusing and painful and…”

Trixie cut her off, “Say no more, sweetie. I’m happy to help. Why don’t you go get yourself cleaned up, and I’ll get dressed and…”

Phyllis suddenly came to her senses and retreated the next few steps to the safety of her bedroom, silently easing her own door shut just as the door opened to the box room.

She shouldn’t have heard that. She really shouldn’t have heard that.

“Not with how I still feel.”

Hell’s teeth.

As she eased onto her bed, Phyllis thoughts drifted back to the night of the accident. As she had driven home she had mused about Patsy’s seriousness and focus. She remembered thinking that the redhead’s fierceness would serve her well when and if she ever found love. Well it seemed Phyllis had underestimated her young colleague. Patience Mount had already found love, but from the despair she had heard in Nurse Busby’s voice, it did at least look like Phyllis had been right on the second count.

Poor kids.

Nevertheless, she had to hand it to Nurse Busby. The lass was doing an admirable job of holding herself together. Phyllis had almost not even noticed. All of the young Welshwoman’s reactions the night of the accident could easily be explained away as the shock and concern of a best friend. The same could be said of the way that she visited Nurse Mount in hospital each day. Or the way she visited even now.

Harder to explain away was the drained look in her eyes. The dark circles that spoke of weeks of sleepless nights. The pushing herself to be at every moment of visiting hours despite needing to rest for an upcoming night shift. The worried looks Nurse Franklin cast her way.

No, that was harder to explain away as mere friendship. But still, not out of the question, especially if you weren’t looking.

Not that Phyllis had been looking. Alright, well she had been eavesdropping, but she had not expected that.

She was no stranger to that kind of affection between women - the war and her work had brought her into contact with all sorts - and she did not judge it either. Live and let live. But still, she had not expected this from Nurse Mount. She had not expected any romance at all from Nurse Mount. The ginger midwife had always seemed thoroughly uninterested in such things. Turns out, she was just quite good at keeping secrets. But then the accident had blown her life apart, revealing some of those secrets in amongst the rubble. And this was one of them.

Phyllis would never have gone looking through that rubble. Not intentionally. But now that she had, she knew it was imperative that no one else stumble upon it either.

Nurse Busby was a good kid. And a good nurse. And there was nothing wrong with the relationship she and Nurse Mount had had. Life could be hard, and happiness should be snatched where it could. Phyllis was very glad she had taken her own chance when it had come along.

Martin.

If she closed her eyes she could still just picture him with his chestnut hair and deep brown eyes smiling at her across the dancefloor in his blue-grey RAF uniform. She had loved him. Truly she had. But she had never intended to marry him. She had never intended to marry at all, which was just as well, seeing as he was killed over Germany later that year. She knew some people, the same people who would no doubt condemn Nurses Mount and Busby as well, would look down upon the night they had shared in Cleveleys as immoral. But Phyllis knew it had been beautiful - a moment of joy and love snatched from the horrors of war. When she had got word of his death, she had been very glad they had seized that moment, and Phyllis had resolved to take any of those moments she could - not those exact kind of moments, mind - but any opportunity at happiness, however fleeting. Everyone deserved that. Especially Nurse Mount. Especially now.

And anyone could see that Nurse Busby helped bring some happiness into the redhead’s complicated, troubled situation. The Welsh nurse had been a tremendous support to her over the past weeks. Now that Phyllis knew why, her heart broke for the poor lass. For both of them. But she admired how Nurse Busby had put aside her own heartbreak to be there for the woman she so clearly still loved. But she had to be careful. So very careful.

 -----

Uncharacteristically, Phyllis found herself having a hard time concentrating on her scheduling, as her mind kept coming back to Nurse Franklin’s words, “She’s known Patsy the longest and knows the most about it all.” Well that was true of more than just her horrible time in that internment camp. It was most fortunate that Nurse Busby had showed up when Nurse Mount had had her first experience with a memory coming back in vivid detail. From what Sister Winifred had told her, the redhead looked wretched afterwards, and it had been a happy memory. What would happen if she recalled an experience from that dreadful camp in the same way? Phyllis shuddered. She would need Nurse Busby there, or at least close by - there was really no one else equipped to deal with that kind of raw emotion coming from Nurse Mount. As she looked down at the rota in front of her, Nurse Crane began to formulate a plan.

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

“Good morning, Nurse Busby.”

Delia slowed to a halt right before the railway tunnel on Wick Street and turned to see Dr. Turner hurrying towards her with his medical bag in hand, his hat low against the swirling snow.

“On your way to Nonnatus too, I take it?” he asked, slowing slightly to allow her to fall in step beside him.

He looked like a man on a mission and Delia’s heart lurched into her throat at the thought of why he might have been called to the convent at this hour. “Good morning, Dr. Turner. I was just on my way to visit Patsy on my day off. Is everything alright?”

He glanced to his left and must have seen the worried look on her face, because he gave her a kind smile, “Everything with Nurse Mount is as to be expected as far as I know. I’ve been called out to see to Sister Monica Joan. It seems she collapsed with a fever last night.”

“Oh,” said Delia, her worry shifting from Patsy to the old nun. “I do hope it’s nothing serious.”

“As do I.”

As they exited the tunnel back into the snow, they saw Sister Julienne step anxiously towards them from the Nonnatus steps. “I’m so glad you’re here. I almost called you again,” she called to the doctor by way of greeting, worry etched across her face. “She’s upstairs.” Turning to Delia she added, “Good morning, Nurse Busby. I’m sorry to be so abrupt, but Sister Monica Joan is very poorly.”

Delia gave her a reassuring smile. “Please don’t worry about me, sister. I’m just here to visit Patsy.”

Sister Julienne paused, allowing Dr. Turner to go up the stairs without her. “Nurse Franklin has relayed to me the purpose for your visit this morning. Although the timing is complicated by our sister’s illness, I must agree that it should not be put off any longer. Please know we shall all endeavor to provide whatever support you might need.”

“Thank you, sister,” Delia said, her voice a little strained.

The nun cast a quick glance up the stairs before fixing Delia with a kind, if penetrating, look. “Before you leave, I would very much like to talk to you about an important matter if you have the time.”

Delia felt suddenly alarmed, but the nun was looking at her with such a kind expression, she didn’t think it could be about what she feared. So, she said, “I’d be happy to.”

“Excellent. Now, I must see to Sister Monica Joan. I believe you’ll find Patsy in the lounge.” Sister Julienne smiled and then followed Dr. Turner’s path up the wooden stairs.

Delia took a deep breath and headed into the hall.

She paused in the doorway of the lounge and took in the sight of Barbara, Patsy, and Sister Winifred huddled around a game of Cluedo. They were all so intensely focused on the game, that they didn’t appear to notice her. She leaned against the doorframe and watched in amusement as Sister Winifred moved her red game piece into one of the corner rooms. The sister studied her notes carefully for a moment before picking up the purple game piece and one of the tiny metal weapons and moving them into the room. Turning to Barbara she said, “Professor Plum, in the conservatory, with the revolver.”

Barbara picked up her cards and shuffled through them before showing one to the nun, causing her face to drop in disappointment.

Patsy picked up the dice and rolled them, moving her yellow piece confidently into the conservatory as well. “I’d like to make an accusation.”

Sister Winifred gasped and Barbara just smiled.

Delia watched with interest as Patsy moved the green game piece into the room. “Reverend Green, in the conservatory, with the lead pipe.” She reached out with a steady hand and picked up the envelope from the middle of the board, sliding the cards out and looking at them. Delia felt her heart tighten with a mix of hope, pride, and joy as she watched Patsy place the three cards face-up on the board with a huge smile.

Sister Winifred looked down at the solution cards with an uneasy expression, “Oh, I do hate when it’s the Reverend.”

“Oh, well done, Patsy!” exclaimed Barbara. “I had the suspect and the weapon, but not the room.”

“Very impressive, Detective Inspector Mount,” Delia said, her heart nearly exploding when Patsy turned to beam up at her.

God, that smile.

“Hello, Delia. It’s so good to see you. Fancy a game?” she said.

Delia caught the other women’s suddenly nervous expressions over the redhead’s shoulder. Clearly all of Nonnatus knew why she was here. All except Patsy.

“Hello, Pats. Maybe later. I think I need to warm up first.”

Taking the hint, Barbara jumped to her feet. “I’ll make tea. It is awfully chilly out there this morning.”

“And I best be off. I need to prepare some delivery packs for a few of our mothers who are due soon,” Sister Winifred said, getting to her feet and making to leave the lounge. “It’s lovely to see you, Delia.”

The brunette caught the nun’s arm as she strode past her. “Sister, I wanted to thank you again for covering my shift the other night. I do appreciate it, and Matron said you were ‘wonderfully diligent.’”

“I was happy to help,” she said, giving the Welshwoman a gummy smile. “Like I said, you were needed here that night.”

Delia smiled in return and Sister Winifred left the lounge, leaving her alone with Patsy. The brunette took the nun’s vacated seat and picked up Patsy’s note sheet, casually studying it for a moment. It was filled with cryptic symbols and untidy notes about who had which cards. Delia was impressed. At first, she had thought that perhaps Barbara and Sister Winifred had let the redhead win, but it seemed that wasn’t the case at all. Her heart filled again with that hopeful pride. Patsy had beat them on her own, despite her brain injury.

She could feel Patsy’s eyes on her, so she set the paper down and looked at the board. “I would have never pegged Sister Winifred as ‘Miss Scarlett,’” she said, causing the redhead to break out in a little giggle.

“Neither would I. But she was quite adamant.”

Delia chanced a quick look through to the kitchen where Barbara was preparing a tray. “Pats, she said, her voice turning serious, “I was actually hoping to talk with you. Do you remember what you asked me the other night before you fell asleep?”

She watched as Patsy’s eyes dropped to the table and her breathing became more rapid and shallow. She reached out and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze and holding it for a few moments until those blue eyes found hers and Patsy gave a breathy, “Yes.”

“Do you still want to know?”

Patsy didn’t speak but simply gave a small, shaky nod, her eyes still locked on Delia. She squeezed her hand again.

“Alright. But I think we should go up to your room, okay? It’s a complicated story and I’m afraid it’s going to be a difficult one to hear. I think you’ll be more comfortable talking about it in private,” she said, her heart feeling like it might break again just looking at the fear and uncertainty swimming in Patsy’s eyes.

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Delia sat cross legged on the bed across from her clutching her mug of milky tea. She looked uncomfortable and nervous, which, in turn, was beginning to cause Patsy to slide into a panic. It was rapidly becoming clear that whatever had happened to her mother and sister was bad. Very bad. Bad enough to make Delia look like that. Patsy dropped her eyes from the brunette’s face and stared into her own teacup, her chest beginning to tighten with that familiar sucking feeling of anxiety.

Her mind began to race with all the possibilities but kept stumbling and sticking on one. There was only one reason Delia could possibly be looking like that.

She didn’t want to tell her because...

It was her fault.

It was Patsy’s fault that her family had died.

She knew it.

“Pats?” came that soft Welsh voice, its tone and lilt so soothing that it managed to blunt the sharp edge of her anxiety ever so slightly. “Patsy, can you look at me, please?”

Slowly, very slowly, Patsy dragged her eyes up to meet Delia’s crystal blue gaze. The nervousness was gone, replaced by compassion so deep Patsy felt she might drown in it. “If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to.”

Patsy shook her head, “No, I need to know,” she said, trying desperately to take a breath, “I need to know what I did.”

Delia looked confused. “What you did?”

“It’s my fault. I know it’s my fault,” Patsy said, her voice shaking with emotion as her eyes dropped to her hands in her lap, her panic rising.

She saw Delia’s small hands gently lift her left hand and cup it securely between them. “Nothing about anything that happened was your fault, sweetheart. Why would you ever think that?”

Patsy looked up, searching Delia’s blue eyes for the truth. What she saw was like oxygen to her deprived lungs. “It wasn’t? Then...but you looked so uncomfortable, I thought…”

“Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I never meant to make you feel like any of this was your fault. I’m uncomfortable because...well, because it’s all very complicated and...rather upsetting, to put it mildly. I’ve been turning it over in my head all morning, and now I’m here I don’t really know where to begin. So that’s why I’m nervous. I want to do this right, but I’m afraid there is really no right or easy way to tell you about this.”

Patsy gripped Delia’s hand and gave her a little, shaky smile. The relief of not being the cause of their deaths combined with the effort of comforting her friend eased her own anxiety somewhat. She was, at the very least, breathing normally again.

“Patsy,” Delia began, her voice gentle, but firm, “Before we begin I want to make sure you’re alright. I know sometimes you have trouble concentrating when things get overly emotional or stressful, and unfortunately this information is likely to cause that. So, I want you to let me know if you need to take a break or slow down at any point, okay? I’m going to hold your hand the whole time, so why don’t you just squeeze it if things get overwhelming. Does that sound alright to you?”

Patsy smiled uneasily at her and nodded. Delia really was so very thoughtful. She still could not believe that she had ever been worthy of a friend like this woman sat across from her. But she was grateful to her past self for whatever she had done to earn this friendship. She was very lucky to have Delia.

Delia took a deep breath and looked her square in the eyes. “I should start by saying I don’t know the full story. You didn’t really like to talk about what happened. But there were a few times that you did open up to me,” Delia paused, her voice had started to become choked, and she took a sip of her tea. “But I will do my best, and tell you all I know.”

Patsy was studying her with rapt attention, this insight into her former self was a little unnerving. She felt so at ease with Delia, like she could talk to her about anything. But Past Pats hadn’t, not completely, at least. Not about this.

“How much do you know or remember about the war?” Delia asked.

Patsy felt her eyebrows raise. The war? “The one against Hitler and Germany?” she asked.

Delia nodded, “Yes. And Italy. And...Japan.”

Japan.

Patsy felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Japan. If her family had been in the Far East during the war, then perhaps a bomb or…

“Britain had a base in Singapore, where you and your family lived. People called it the Gibraltar of the East. Everyone thought it was so heavily fortified that it could never fall to anyone. Meanwhile, London had just gone through the Blitz and, along with many parts of the rest of the country, was still struggling through waves of aerial bombardment from the Germans. The Nazis had invaded and now occupied most of Europe, including France. The enemy was just right over the Channel. So, your father thought it was safer to stay in Singapore. That was late 1941.”

Patsy’s mind seemed to have gone completely blank. She was so focused on the brunette’s words that the only thoughts in it were those being told to her by Delia.

“But then things changed. Japan made advances against Allied forces all over the Pacific and suddenly Singapore didn’t look so invincible after all. As the Japanese advanced, your father decided that it was time for your family to flee.”

Delia paused, studying her for a moment with those beautiful crystal blue eyes that were shimmering with unshed tears. Patsy felt like her stomach was slowly filling with molten lead. But she had to know. She took a deep breath and nodded for the brunette to continue.

“Two weeks after you turned nine, your father found passage on a boat for all four of you, and you sailed for what you hoped would be safer harbours,” Delia’s voice had begun to falter a little, but she plowed on, “But after a few days, your boat was captured by the Japanese. You, Libby, and your mother were separated from your father and taken to an internment camp in Sumatra. Your father was taken to a camp as well, but you never said where.”

Patsy’s hands had begun to shake. An internment camp. They had been prisoners of war. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. She didn’t want to hear any more. The redhead felt hot tears begin to spill down her cheeks as she squeezed the brunette’s hand as if her life depended on it.

She felt Delia’s other arm wrap around her shoulders as she began to shake all over. If Patsy had been nine, then Libby had only been seven. And Mother…mother...

Her thoughts began to swirl as she collapsed in the Welshwoman’s arms. She couldn’t focus. Thoughts and visions and memories and fears all spun faster and faster in her mind and she felt like she was flailing her arms, trying to snatch at them like leaves on the wind. Her eyes were wide, unblinking, but without vision. Her breath was shallow and rapid. She vaguely felt a hand rubbing her back and could hear the faint notes of a melody over the rushing in her ears.

It seemed like they sat that way for hours. But Patsy had no real sense of time. It seemed to slide like sand under her unsteady feet.

Eventually Patsy’s surrounding began to slowly come back to her. The first thing she noticed was the steady beating of Delia’s heart against her ear as the brunette held her to her chest. She focused in on the sound, finding comfort in the steady thrumming. She thought of the blood being pumped through the Welshwoman’s arteries with each beat, carrying vital oxygen all the way to her fingers and toes. And Patsy began to breathe again. Steady regular breaths that began to calm her scattering thoughts.

An internment camp.

Mother and Libby had died there. Even though Delia hadn’t said it yet, she knew it was true. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out all the horrible scenarios that began to play through her head. Starvation. Disease. Violence. Her fists clenched at the very thought of anyone striking her little sister.

And suddenly she realized she needed to hear the rest. Not hearing it would not prevent her mind from conjuring up its own horrors. It was better to hear the truth.

She took one final deep breath, her nose filling with the comforting smell of Delia’s perfume, fortifying her further as she pulled back.

Delia released her at once, and without looking up, Patsy could feel her blue eyes searching her face with concern.

“Tell me what happened,” she said, her voice flat and hollow.

“Are you sure? It’s alright if you aren’t ready.”

Patsy looked up and met Delia’s soft eyes, feeling her own focus in a steely resolve. “I want to know. I want to know everything.” She reached out and took Delia’s hand this time, twining their fingers together and nodding her head for the brunette to continue.

Delia looked down at their interlocked hands and took a deep breath.

“You never went into much detail. But the conditions were horrible and the guards were cruel. It was a labour camp, and the work was hard, and there was never enough food or clean water to go around. It was the tropics and the sanitation was poor, so disease ran rampant. But there were nurses and even a couple female doctors amongst the prisoners and they set up a make-shift hospital in one of the huts. You were drawn to it, and helped out where you could. You told me later that that’s what made you want to be a nurse,” Delia smiled at her, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “Even amongst all that dreadful cruelty, there were women trying to help. Trying to make a difference. You said that it was the only thing that kept you going after…” Delia’s voiced faded away and Patsy looked down at her hands, both women knowing what the end of that sentence would be, but both understanding that they weren’t to that part of the story yet.

“They moved you all to several different camps over the three and a half years that you were interned,” Patsy felt her hand twitch involuntarily in Delia’s. Three and a half years. But she swallowed and met the brunette’s eyes, imploring her to go on.

“But in your second year you were moved to a camp that was worse than all the rest. It was even lower in elevation, well below sea-level and it would flood in any heavy rain, making the sanitation conditions worse than ever before. And, after a few months your mother got sick.”

Delia paused, her gaze fixing on the redhead’s to make sure she was still listening. Patsy felt the sick swirl of anxiety in her gut, but focused in on the Welshwoman’s voice, needing to get through it. She felt Delia rub her thumb gently over her palm before continuing.

“You weren’t sure how long she was sick before it got to the point where she couldn’t hide it anymore. Looking back, you told me you thought it was typhoid, but everyone in the camp just called it Bangka fever - the exact diagnosis not really mattering because there wasn’t any medicine for treatment. You just had to wait and hope she could fight it off. But she...I’m so sorry, cariad. But she was so weak. With the hard labour and malnutrition she just didn’t have the strength left to fight off the infection. You and Libby stayed by her side until she died around two weeks later.”

The room fell silent. Patsy could hear both of their anxious breathing rising and falling in the stillness. Her mind felt completely blank, her body hollow and weightless. Her mother had died of disease and malnutrition. That unvarnished fact seemed to slam into her like a wave, setting her completely adrift.

“Patsy?” came Delia’s quiet voice, her thumb rubbing reassuringly across her limp palm, “Do you want me to keep going?”

The redhead blinked her eyes back into focus and took in the Welshwoman’s face. Her eyes looked pained and full of sorrow, but expectant. She knew her friend would support her in whatever way she needed her. Patsy felt numb. She knew there was more horror awaiting her, but she also knew that nothing would be gained in prolonging it. So, she nodded.

Delia took a breath and squeezed her hand. “A week or so later you noticed that Libby was getting sick too. She was tired, had developed a dry cough, and complained of terrible headaches. You took her to the hospital hut and they told you it could be dehydration, but it could also be something worse and encouraged you to keep an eye on her. But then, a few days later, she woke with a fever. You stayed by her bedside for three weeks, doing everything you could for her. You gave her nearly all of your own rations until she lost her appetite completely. But, it was the same fever that had taken your mother, and I’m so very sorry, sweetheart, but it took Libby too.”

Patsy stared blankly at Delia as slow tears fell down the brunette’s face. Her own cheeks were wet as well, but she barely felt it. She barely felt anything.

She just felt so detached from it all. From this room. From her life. From her past. From the pain. From the grief. From the loss. From herself.

Her mind felt oddly rational as she thought over what Delia had told her. They had been interned for less than two years when Mother and Libby had died. Libby had only been nine, maybe even still eight. Between her natural petiteness and the malnutrition, she must have been so small. And Mother. Patsy could almost picture her slim, muscular hands wasting away until they were all sinew and bone.

So that was what happened. That was how they died.

Patsy suddenly felt so alone. Like an orphan. She wished she could remember her father. Maybe then she wouldn’t feel so abandoned.

She wished she could remember...

Oh, God.

Remember.

Patsy was beginning to remember her life. In all the memories that had returned, she had been seven, perhaps eight at the oldest. But then, according to Delia, she had been barely nine when they had been captured. Those memories were bound to be returning soon. And what if they were vivid, cinematic, memories like some had been? In those memories, every sense was alive and active - sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. They were so intense. She was suddenly very grateful for her odd detached rationalism because she was beginning to formulate a plan. If she couldn’t stop the memories (and by now she had realized she could not, they often came at her without rhyme or reason), then she could at least prepare. Because aside from the grief over her mother and sister, everything else about the camps felt like a story, like they happened to someone else. She needed to get the facts of that story before they became painful, vivid, experience.

She fixed Delia with a steady gaze, and ignored the brunette’s startled expression when she said, “I need to know every detail you can remember. Everything I ever told you about the camps, about how they died, about what I did for the next year and a half after. I need to know. I need to be prepared.”

Delia looked taken aback by her frankness, “Maybe another time, Pats. I think you’ve had enough upsetting information for one morning. I don’t want to overwhelm you.”

Patsy felt a sudden flash of anger. “I’m not a child, Delia. No matter what you or anyone else might think, I’m quite capable of making my own decisions about what I can and cannot handle.”

Delia looked stricken, literally. The shock and hurt on her face read like Patsy had slapped her. Her voice sounded choked as she stammered, “I-I’m so s-sorry, Pats. I never meant to make you feel…”

Patsy cut her off, the guilt at her friend’s hurt suddenly making her own anger more toxic, “I know you didn’t. I know no one does. Everyone is so bloody thoughtful and careful, and I know they just want to do what they think is best for me. But does anyone ever ask my opinion? I have amnesia, but I’m not blind. I’m not stupid. And I’m not completely helpless. If I say I can handle it, then I can,” she said, breathing hard.

Delia bit her lip, a strange expression playing over her face. The room fell into complete silence. Patsy could hear the clock on the bedside table ticking away - the sound seeming to grow louder and louder in the silence of the room as she began to regret her words. Her eyes dropped to the bed in shame as she prepared for Delia to walk away.

“You’re right.”

Patsy gaze flew up to Delia’s face in shock and relief.

“You’re absolutely right. I’m so sorry that I’ve made you feel that way, Patsy. I know you’re not helpless, and god, I could never think of you as stupid. I know I’ve been overprotective, but it’s just...I thought I lost you,” Delia said, her voice growing strained as she tried to suppress her tears, and Patsy felt like her heart was being squeezed tighter and tighter as she went on. “And Pats, that was the scariest moment of my life. But I didn’t. You’re here. And if I am overprotective it’s because I care so much about you and my first instinct is to take away as much of your pain as I can. But that’s no excuse, because you’re right. You’re not...you don’t need my protection.”

Patsy felt winded. All her anger seemed to have been squeezed from her as her heart had constricted at Delia’s words. She had never really thought about how her accident must have shaken her friend. Suddenly the image of Delia bruised and broken in a white hospital bed flew so vividly to her mind and she had to reach out and take her friend’s hands to reassure herself that she was really here.

“So, if you want me to, I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Patsy looked up, feeling confused for a moment before she realized Delia was again talking about the camps.

She nodded.

Delia began to tell her about how she had learned about what had happened to Patsy’s family. She recounted as best she could what Patsy had told her the night that she had found her sitting on her bed in the Nurses Home, lost in memory. Delia spoke with purpose. It was as if she was recounting some horrible affliction that a patient of hers had suffered, not the horrific past of the friend sat across from her. Patsy was thankful for her candor. She wanted all the horrors, all the harsh facts, all the details stripped bare of their sentiment. And there were plenty.

That night was when Patsy had gone into the most detail about her experience. Perhaps it had been the shock, or maybe the relief at letting someone know, but she had told Delia all about the horrible conditions of the camp - the filth, the disease, the starvation, the desperation. She had recounted in detail how her mother and sister had wasted away before her eyes, even down to the pink spots on Libby’s chest, and how she had plucked at the threadbare blanket as her fever raged.

But that wasn’t all. They had talked on other occasions as well, and that’s when Patsy had mentioned the guards and their dreadful cruelty, "They would beat and sometimes…” Delia hesitated, swallowing before continuing on in a thick voice, her composed demeanor suddenly cracking “...torture the women in the camp. You never went into specifics, but...but,” and Patsy was alarmed at the tears that suddenly spilled over Delia’s dark lashes as she pushed on, “I know you were beaten. You have scars...on your back. Lash marks and burns.”

Patsy instinctively rolled her shoulders, feeling the skin move over her muscles and bone. She let go of Delia’s hand and reached back over her right shoulder and under the fabric of her shirt. She ran her shaking fingers slowly down her back. She didn’t have to go far. She felt a long thick band of raised skin just inches below her shoulder. It started just under her bra strap and her fingers traced it gently as it ran to her left and over her spine, continuing on past where her long fingers could reach. And there, right below it, were two small circles that felt like, “Cigarette burns.”

She felt Delia’s small palm rest gently on her knee. “I was a child,” she said, shocked at the dreadful cruelty of the Japanese guards. “How could someone do that to a child?”

Delia reached out and wiped a tear away that had begun to fall slowly down the redhead’s face. “I don’t know, sweetheart. You never talked about it, so I don’t know why or…” she took a deep, shuddering breath, looking up to the ceiling and wiping her eyes to compose herself before continuing. “...how or when that happened. And I don’t know if anything like that ever happened to your mother or sister, either.”

Patsy closed her eyes, feeling suddenly sick. She was ready to be done with this. She needed to be alone. Opening her eyes, she asked, “Is there anything else? Do you know anything about what happened after...after they died?”

Delia looked thoughtful for a moment. “I’m sorry, cariad, but I don’t. You never talked much at all about anything other than the conditions and what happened to your mother and sister. I don’t know much at all about the year and a half between their deaths and the camp’s liberation in August 1945. All you ever said was that you helped out in the hospital hut. That helping others kept you going.” Delia gave her a small, sad smile.

Patsy nodded, resigned. So that was it. That was the story of her childhood. She thought back to how much she had enjoyed hearing Delia tell tales about growing up with Gwilym and Edwyn in Pembrokeshire. It had sounded so lovely. She had just assumed that her own childhood would be filled with similar adventures with her little sister. But no. They had only had seven happy years together before landing in absolute hell. And only Patsy had emerged. Alone.

“Thank you for telling me, Delia. But now I rather think I’d like some time alone.”

Delia nodded, looking pained and worried. “Alright. But there’s one more thing I want to talk to you about first,” she said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and retrieving an old blue and white shoebox along with the stack of 10-inch records from under the bed. Patsy looked at her curiously as she set them down in front of her.

Patsy watched as Delia reached out a hand and ran her fingertips gently over the lid to the box. “This box is very important to you. I don’t know what’s in it, but I do know that its contents are what you considered to be the most precious possessions you own. I’ve only ever seen one item from it, a compact mirror that belonged to your mother. She kept it with her somehow in the camp, and you must have kept it after she died. You showed it to me once, on her birthday.”

Patsy stared at the little battered box as the brunette continued, “I know there are other things in there, mementos of your life, and of your mother and sister, but that’s all you ever said, and I never pried. And these,” she said, placing a finger on the records, “were under your bed for the same reason. But I think you already know that.” She gave her a gentle smile as they both remembered the night Patsy had played the Judy Garland record that rested on top of the small stack. The other three were piano music, and Patsy knew that they were there to remind her of her mother.

“At the risk of being yelled at again, I really don’t think you should look through this today, but I wanted to tell you what I know about it,” she said, risking a tentative glance at the redhead and giving a small smile when she saw the smirk on Patsy’s face. She was right, of course. This conversation had taken so much out of her, that the last thing Patsy wanted was to trigger another memory. Still, the redhead cringed inwardly at her earlier outburst, especially at how much it had hurt her friend who was just trying to take care of her. Who had been so scared to lose her.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” she said, reaching out and taking the Welshwoman’s hand and gazing steadily into her crystal blue eyes. “For what it’s worth, I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you either.”

 

 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Delia sat on the edge of the closed toilet lid with her head in her hands. Her legs and arms felt shaky, like she had just run a marathon, which, in a way, she had - at least emotionally.

That conversation had been harder than she could have possibly expected. She had been ready for the tears. Ready for the panic. Ready for the shutting down. But she hadn’t expected the anger. The detachment. The cold resolve in those icy blue eyes.

Which, of course, was ridiculous. This was Patsy she was dealing with after all, and those were all textbook Patsy responses. But that was the first time she had seen that in this new Patsy. Delia supposed she should be relieved in a way. Despite their less than pleasant appearance, these character traits did tell her that her complicated girlfriend was still in there in all her frustrating glory. But it had stung. No, that didn’t quite cover it. It had felt like she had been kicked in the stomach before having her heart ripped right out of her chest.

She took a deep breath, her chest still feeling tight.

But then, that emotionally numb feeling had helped in the end. That’s the only way she could have possibly made it through the rest of that conversation. The only way she could have been so matter-of-fact about all that horrific detail. Nevertheless, she had still broken in the end when she had talked about the torture. And when Patsy had looked at her and said, “I was a child. How could someone do that to a child?” it had taken everything she had not to pull the woman that she loved into her arms and never let her go.

Delia took a deep, shuddering breath and lifted her head out of her hands to stare at the white tiled wall of the Nonnatus bathroom. But all of that, all of that emotional turmoil was nothing compared to what had happened at the end of their conversation.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you either.”

And that look.

Bloody Allie and Mary. Why did they have to bring that up this morning? All their talk of hope and Patsy still having feelings. Delia gritted her teeth in frustration as she felt her eyes begin to burn again and looked up to try to hold the tears at bay.

She couldn't deal with this right now. She still had to meet with Sister Julienne.

Delia got to her feet and gave her whole body a little shake in an attempt to rid herself of some of her emotion, before walking to the sink and splashing cold water on her face. She took a long hard look at her reflection in the spotless mirror. “Pull yourself together, Busby.”

Sister Julienne looked up as Delia entered her office. The Welshwoman felt strangely intimidated, as if she was being called to the headmistress’ office.

“Come in, my dear. Please have a seat,” the sister said, gesturing to the chair in front of her desk with a kind smile. “Would you care for some tea?” she asked, indicating the tray laid out on the desk.

“That would be lovely, thank you.”

Sister Julienne busied herself with preparing the tea as she talked. “I hope your conversation with Patsy went as well as could be expected,” she said, glancing up from the steamy tea she was pouring into two green china cups.

Delia gave her a tight smile, “I believe it did, sister. It wasn’t easy, but she did thank me for telling her.”

Sister Julienne nodded. “And where is she now?”

“She told me she wanted some time alone to rest. She did look rather tired by the end,” she added, the emotion in her voice clearly indicating that it was more than simple tiredness that was ailing the redhead. But then, the nun would already know that.

“I would imagine you both are,” Sister Julienne said, scooping a generous amount of sugar into one of the cups and placing it in front of the Welsh nurse.

As Delia took a sip of her tea, the sister fixed her with one of her kind, penetrating looks, “Nurse Busby, I must say that I have been impressed with how steadfast you have been in your friendship with Patsy throughout this ordeal. You have continually put her needs before your own, and that is to be commended. However, it is also concerning.”

Delia almost choked on her tea at the nun’s last words, and concentrated on her hands as she slowly set the cup and saucer back on the desk. “Concerning, sister?”

“Patsy’s recovery will most likely be a slow process, and who knows if it will ever be fully complete. You are setting her, and yourself, up to a standard that you cannot possibly continue to meet. The demands of your position at the London, combined with how much time you have been devoting to your friend cannot leave you any time to rest. When I say I am concerned, Nurse Busby, it is for your health and wellbeing.”

Delia nodded, feeling frustration begin to rise in her stomach. Quite frankly, she, like Patsy, was getting sick of people telling her what was best for her.

The nun continued, smiling a little, “I assume from your silence that, despite my concerns, you intend to keep up at your current pace?”

The brunette looked down at her hands and nodded. This woman was far too perceptive. Suddenly, Delia didn’t feel safe meeting her eyes for fear the nun would see the whole truth resting there in her desperation.

“As I expected,” the sister said, “Then I have a proposal for you.” Sister Julienne paused, taking a sip of her own tea, before continuing. “Nurse Mount’s injury has affected every aspect of Nonnatus House. We are a family here, and her injury and amnesia has shaken every member of that family. That is the greatest and most important impact it has had. However, as the sister-in-charge here, I cannot ignore the impact that her loss has had on our work as well. We were expecting a busy few months as is, but with Nurse Noakes still at Aston Lodge and now Nurse Mount unable to work, we are stretched unimaginably thin - a fact that Nurse Crane has only this morning made me painfully aware of. On top of all that, we are caring for two members of our household as well. I fear I have no choice but to write to the board with a request for more staff. Typically, we would be looking for a qualified midwife, but a nurse to take over the district rounds would be just as beneficial.”

Delia looked up in surprise. Was Sister Julienne saying what she thought she was saying?

“I know that working at the London has more opportunities for career advancement, but this position would have more regular hours. We visit our patients in their homes, so there are no night shifts, although we would perhaps require you to man the phone on occasion if we have an especially busy night. And of course, you would be welcome to live here at Nonnatus should you wish. In fact, I would prefer it.”

Delia just stared at the nun in front of her in surprise. She was offering her a job. And a room. At Nonnatus.

The sister took another sip of her tea, and Delia thought she saw her smirk a little behind the cup. “Nurse Crane and I thought that this arrangement might be beneficial for all involved. You could continue to nurse while looking after your recovering friend, and we would gain an excellent addition to our staff here. Of course, if you were to ever desire to leave, I would be more than happy to write you a glowing recommendation to whatever hospital you choose.”

The Welshwoman blinked, stuttering a little as she finally found her voice, “Wh-when would you like me to start?”

Sister Julienne smiled at her. “As soon as possible.”

Delia nodded. “I’ll hand in my notice this afternoon.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It was well past dark when she finally slipped into her room and closed the old wooden door behind her with a grateful sigh. It had been a long day. A long week. A long month, really. Sister Julienne leaned against the door and unbuttoned her wimple, instantly feeling just a little less strangled, which, in turn, made her feel a little guilty. But the guilt quickly faded. She knew He would forgive her for that.

She just felt so overcome.

They would have been busy enough even before Nurse Mount’s accident - a particularly cold and rainy spring meant that their roster of expectant mothers was quite full this winter. But as she had told Nurse Busby yesterday, with Nurse Mount unable to work and Nurse Noakes still at Aston Lodge, they were stretched incredibly thin.

She was stretched incredibly thin. Sister Julienne felt almost as physically exhausted as she had right before her collapse last year around Sister Evangelina’s jubilee. Which, ironically, was how Nurse Mount had come to Nonnatus.

But it wasn’t just her body this time, she was mentally and emotionally exhausted as well. She hadn’t faced a personal trial like this since Charlie had come back into her life last April.

 

-----

 

Her stomach was boiling with equal parts anxiety and anticipation as she rang the bell to Arcadia House, managing, as she had for the entire bus ride to Hampstead, to tune out Sister Winifred’s incessant chatter. That was, after all, why she had brought her along. If this were a visit to a typical potential benefactor, she would have come alone, but this benefactor was anything but typical, and she knew her energetic and loquacious sister would be an excellent buffer should things become awkward. And if the way her breath completely left her at the appearance of the man who answered the door was any indication, things were bound to go in that direction.

It was like stepping back in time. The young man before her looked almost exactly like Charles had when she last saw him, down to the bright eyes and brilliant smile. But this wasn’t her Charlie, this was his son, Anthony. And it seemed he had inherited his father’s easy charm as well.

“It’s terribly good of you to come at such short notice,” he said, closing the door and turning to face them as a housekeeper approached to take their coats.

She smiled, appreciating the formality, “There was no reason to delay, especially after such a kind approach by Mr. Newgarden.”

“You and Dad are old pals, in a manner of speaking,” he smiled, his eyes conveying that he knew much more about her relationship with his father than could be conveyed in such simple words.

Sister Julienne felt her heart drop, although her face continued to smile, even as she turned to face Sister Winifred’s questioning, “Really?”

She had not thought this through. Of course, Anthony knew that she had known his father, and even if he hadn’t said something now, it was bound to come up when she finally saw Mr. Newgarden. She should have already given her inquisitive sister an explanation before they arrived.

“Our families were friendly when our fathers were posted to Aden with the army. We were very small.”

Not a lie. Just not the entire truth. That was how they had met - as children on the military base. But they had grown up together and stayed friends when their families returned from Arabia to posts in Lancashire when they were both in their teens. By then their friendship had become more, of course. But Sister Winifred did not need to know that.

“I shall take you through. You may find he tires very easily, although he does a bit better now he has the oxygen,” Anthony said, approaching the first door on their right.

The false smile dropped from her face. Oxygen? Sister Julienne felt in need of the gas herself as she managed to choke out, “Is Mr. Newgarden unwell?”

Anthony’s genial facade seemed to slip suddenly, giving her a glimpse of the grief hiding beneath his charm. “He’s had heart trouble for a while, and now it’s failing,” he paused, “That’s why he’s making his will.”

Sister Julienne felt numb as she followed her host through the white door and into a sitting room.

And there he was, sitting in an armchair by the fire, his smile still as warm and comforting as she remembered.

Charlie.

“Come on in. I’m longer in the tooth than I was when I saw you last, but I don’t bite,” he said, his voice soft and gentle. He studied her, his eyes flitting over her habit and wimple. “How many years has it been?”

How many years? What a question. Could you measure that time in years? It felt more like a lifetime. And in a way, it was. The last time she had seen him she had been Louise. Another person entirely. But that was much too complicated for a first greeting, so instead she gave the simpler answer, “I think, not quite thirty.”

Actually, it had been twenty-eight, almost to the day.

But he knew that, of course. She could tell by the look on his face as she took her seat across from him. She could see the regret painted across his blue-tinged face, and it stirred in her a feeling that she thought she had left behind at the same time as she had left her old name. Something that Sister Julienne had not felt towards a man in twenty-eight years. And the weight of it rendered her completely speechless.

Thankfully, she had brought Sister Winifred with her. “You’ve a beautiful home, and a lovely garden too, what I can see of it out of the window.”

They chatted for a bit more about the National Health and how it had increased Mr. Newgarden’s spectacle manufacturing business, before he sent her younger sister to the kitchen in search of cinnamon toast.

“What a relentlessly good-natured young woman,” he said, his eyes on the door that Sister Winifred had just exited.

She laughed at his perfect description of her sister, “There are times when I’m very glad of it.”

He gave her a steady look, “Are you glad of it today?”

It seemed that even after twenty-eight years apart, she could not fool him. He knew that she had brought her cheerful sister along with her to serve as a buffer, and it seemed he wanted to cut right to the quick. One’s approaching mortality had a way of making people more honest and direct. She owed him the same courtesy.

“Yes and no,” she answered, her eyes dropping to her tea to avoid his steady appraising gaze.

“You haven’t changed,” he said.

“You know that’s not true,” she said, but she could hear the desperation in her own voice.

It wasn’t true, was it? Not only had she aged nearly three decades, but she was quite literally a different person with a different name. She wasn’t that carefree girl who had strolled through Moor Park on his arm while their fathers were stationed in Preston. She didn’t know the last time she had strolled at all.

But as much as she wanted to deny it, being around Charlie made her feel like that girl again. And perhaps he could see that.

“You’re still the pale, sweet girl with the wave in her fringe, who stood me up outside the Palace Cinema in 1932.”

She had been right. He had known exactly how many years had passed.

Feelings of guilt, and shame, and regret erupted inside her. “I’m sorry,” she said. Two simple words carrying so much more than their flimsy meanings could possibly convey.

“I’m sorry, too,” he said, his voice going soft. “I still haven’t seen Charlie Chaplin in City Lights and by all accounts it’s a bloody masterpiece,” he added, trying to break the tension with a joke.

He hadn’t changed either.

She laughed, the ease in her tension allowing her to make another apology. One much easier to put into words, “I should have done more than write. You deserved more than a letter sent after the event.”

“I treasured that letter,” he said, meeting her eyes for the first time since their apologizing began. “Did...Did you keep a souvenir?” he asked, looking hopeful.

Of course she had. She could have never let go of that photograph of them in Preston with Charlie in his smart grey suit and flat cap. But she couldn’t tell him that. “It wouldn’t have been encouraged in the religious life,” she said, feeling a little uncomfortable with just how easily she was lying by omission this afternoon.

He sighed. “I saw the way it was going, you know. I saw faith growing in you like...like some flower whose name I’d never known.”

“I didn’t ask it too,” she said, completely honest at last. “There were times I didn’t even want it.” Times I still don’t want it.

She expected this confession to hurt him further. Expected the knowledge that she had not truly wanted the life she had been called to to bring back that look of regret in his ashen features. But instead he was the one to try to reassure her.

“You came to a decision, Louise. And I respected that.”

A decision. It hadn’t been a decision. How could she ever have decided to give up this man she loved? How could she have decided to live a life with such poverty and trials? How could she have decided to leave behind everything she had ever known and become Sister Julienne?

No, if it had been a decision, she would have remained Louise, that sweet, pale girl with a wave in her fringe who loved Charlie Newgarden.

“It wasn’t a decision. I was called to do something and I did,” she paused, the enormity of it all crashing down on her at last. She couldn’t help the break in her voice when she added, “Please don’t call me Louise.”

Because Louise is still in love with you.

And Sister Julienne needed to put as much space between herself and Louise as possible.

As they rode in near silence back to Poplar on the Number 5 bus, Sister Julienne vowed to never see Mr. Newgarden again. They would make do without his funds somehow. She was sure Fred could cobble together some way to fix the leak in the upstairs hallway.

But apparently the Lord had other plans. Nonnatus House had larger problems than a simple leak. They had rats that had come in through large gaps in the roof, and both would need to be remedied or else Nonnatus would lose its clinical certificate.

So less than a week after their initial reunion, Sister Julienne sat in the armchair next to Mr. Newgarden with a slice of cake in her lap and a dozen children dressed as cowboys and Indians running around the room. They talked of his family and his late wife. It felt less loaded, somehow. More like two old friends who were catching up on each other’s lives. And in that spirit they had confessed a truth that they both already knew, “I wanted to see you.”

Who knew five simple words could say so much.

When Anthony called her days later to invite her to come over to watch City Lights, she hadn’t hesitated. It felt right, a fitting closure to that part of her life.

Charlie was charming as ever, standing to greet her in a grey suit that was so very similar to the one he wore in her photograph.

“Last time, I was intending to take you to the best seats in the house,” he said, indicating the pillow on her chair. “There are also choc ices in the refrigerator, because I was intending on purchasing your favorite refreshments,” he paused, “I was intending all sorts of things.”

Sister Julienne felt her heart drop again as she looked down at her lap and the simple band on the third finger of her right hand. For a moment, she pictured it on her left, resting above a glittering engagement ring.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and once again those two words were insufficient to carry all the weight she placed on them.

“Don’t be,” he said, waving her off. “You found a different happiness...and so did I.”

“Yes.”

He must have heard the doubt in her voice, for he turned and fixed her with a steady gaze and a gentle smile, “Louise, it hasn’t hurt you, to see the road not traveled?”

Louise. Hearing that name again felt like a needle in her heart.

But Louise couldn’t answer that question, so Sister Julienne did, this time telling an actual lie, but one born of kindness. One they both needed to believe.

“No. It hasn’t.”

“Who’s to say we would have found so much together as we did apart.”

“Who indeed.”

And this time they both were lying. They both were thinking about how in love they had been. They both were picturing what their lives together would have been like. True, their lives apart had been filled with love and meaning, but they both knew their lives together would have been just as robust.

When he reached out to touch her cheek, Sister Julienne thought her heart would burst from the exquisite pain of that brief connection. She hadn’t been touched like that in twenty-eight years.

As she sat in the dark watching City Lights, Sister Julienne decided that for this brief moment she would allow herself to indulge this fantasy of the road not traveled. Perhaps this was what God had intended when He had brought Mr. Newgarden back into her life. Charlie still carried the burden of their lost love, and here, at the end of his life, he needed closure. Perhaps she did too. After all, she had kept his picture for a reason.

So, in that darkness Sister Julienne disappeared and it was just Louise and Charlie, seeing City Lights at last. She giggled at the funny bits as she ate her choc ice, and even reached for Charlie’s hand during a particularly romantic scene. It felt as though they had stepped back in time and would leave the theater and stroll arm-in-arm down Market Place under the glittering stars.

And it was Louise who felt her breath leave her as Reverend Hereward handed her the letter from Anthony a couple days later. She didn’t need to read it to know what it would tell her. There was only one reason he would write. She only half listened as the curate spoke of the grieving Bissettes’ need to publicly recognize their loss. Louise could relate.

“What is love if it can’t be acknowledged?”

And her love could never be acknowledged. There was no one who would understand how she felt. No one who could know the conflict raging between Louise and Sister Julienne.

Or maybe there was.

“Who could I turn to, if not to you? Who would console me, if not you?”

The woman she had known for years as Sister Bernadette gave her an understanding smile. “You don’t need me to console you. The words are in here,” Shelagh Turner said, tapping her hand on Sister Julienne’s copy of Revelations of Divine Love which sat on her lap under the photograph of Louise and Charlie from 1932. “You know them in your heart as I do.”

She tried to deflect. To focus in on what Mr. Newgarden’s funds would mean for Nonnatus, but her former Sister was not to be so easily put off. She had asked her here for a reason, after all.

“Do you not believe that it was meant? The chance you didn’t take was intended all along?” She asked.

“I don’t know. And I don’t know how to not know anymore. I have so often had to be the wise one.”

It was true. She was the sister-in-charge. The practical and spiritual leader of Nonnatus House. Everyone looked to her for answers, and she always seemed to find one, no matter how dire the situation. But not this time. This time she felt completely adrift.

“It’s in here, sister,” Shelagh said indicating the book and her own heart, “Just as much for me as it is for you.” And then she began to quote the words of Julian of Norwich, “‘What? Do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning.’”

 

-----

 

It was fitting that it had been Nurse Crane that had come up with the solution to their staffing problem. After all, she too had come to them at a time when Sister Julienne had been at a particularly low point, albeit it emotional rather than physical. And perhaps that was why she had thought of Charlie this evening, and of Shelagh’s words, which rang in her head as Sister Julienne made her way to her dressing table.

Love was his meaning.

Love. Such a complicated emotion. She had seen it in all its many and varied forms over her near thirty years of service to the Order. If it was strong and true, it could help one through even the darkest trials. And it was that kind of love that would get them through their current ordeal. The love of friendship. The love of family. The love of service.

It was such a simple solution, offering a job to Nurse Busby. She couldn’t believe it hadn’t already occurred to her. True, what they really needed was another qualified midwife, but a designated district nurse would help tremendously, and it would ensure there was someone here at night in case Patsy needed support. And not just anyone - there was no one better for that job than the young Welsh nurse, Sister Julienne was certain of that. The petite brunette had demonstrated her love for the redhead again and again over the weeks since the accident.

Her reflection in the old speckled mirror gave her a small rueful smile. It seemed the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion would again bring another member to their Nonnatus family. Silver linings.

And Nurse Busby would fit in nicely to their little family. By all accounts she was an excellent nurse. She was hard working, efficient, and obviously capable of handling herself - one has to be to last as long as she had with the wandering hands and suggestive tongues on male surgical - but she also had a sort of unassuming charm that would serve her well in district practice. She had also been assisting Nurse Mount with the cubs since April, so was already a trusted face in the community. Furthermore, she already got on well with the rest of the staff. Sister Julienne gazed intently into her own tired eyes and sighed.

It was the right decision. If she kept telling herself that she might begin to really believe it.

She just wished that they didn’t have to wait until the Welsh nurse served out her notice at the London. With any luck, Matron would find a replacement quickly and Nurse Busby would be with them within a few days. Luck, however, had not been on their side of late. But they would make do. As always. They would band together and overcome this latest adversary. Nonnatus House had endured worse trials.

Or had they?

There was the war, of course. She had been so young then - not much older than Sister Winifred was now - so full of optimism and energy, ready to heed His call wherever it took her. But delivering babies during the blitz had been harrowing, to say the least. By some miracle they had all made it through relatively unscathed. Sister Aida’s leadership had been a marvel to behold. Sister Julienne had watched studiously as her predecessor had managed to somehow prepare and support her sisters as they served the impoverished and bombarded community despite the strict rationing of medicine and near nightly air raids. And all this before the NHS. No small feat.

Sister Evangelina, of course, had been in her element. Sister Julienne could still picture her zipping around cracked tarmac and burning incendiaries on that old Triumph Model H with its headlamp off, guided only by the fading glow from the smoky flames. She was always good in a crisis.

Or she had been. Something about this new crisis had shaken her typically unshakable sister. Sister Julienne could relate. She was shaken too. In many ways, this was a greater challenge than delivering a baby in a candlelit tenement whilst listening to the increasingly loud whistling of the Luftwaffe bombs, trying vainly to discern your proximity to death as you tried to bring life into this world that surely was about to end. But nevertheless, they persisted. They did their duty. Life might end in an instant, but that did not prevent them from living it right up until that sudden cessation. Even in that terror and darkness, their path was illuminated, despite the blackout conditions.

Not so here. Patsy’s future was anything but clear. And although the redhead herself might not remember (yet, the nun reminded herself grimly) the darkness of the redhead’s present path forward was probably more akin to her own time in the war than to that of the sisters. For as a prisoner of war, there would have been no path at all. Just uncertain steps on shaky ground. Just trying to survive, minute by minute, for nearly four years. Of course, Patsy’s future was nowhere near that dire, but the inevitable reappearance of that horrific past might make her feel otherwise.

She should talk to her. It had been over a day since Nurse Busby had told the redhead about her horrible experience in the war, and Sister Julienne was having a hard time reading how she was coping. Patsy had, understandably, kept mostly to herself for the remainder of that day. But when she had finally emerged for dinner, it was with a rudimentary version of her old facade firmly in place. It was a little unnerving, how quickly and easily it had come back, as if, like her memories, it just needed a little coaxing. It was still there today, though it seemed shakier. Perhaps that was due to the fact that she was yet to remember everything that she really had to hide. Or perhaps she just needed more practice. Regardless, that shakiness seemed to cause her young charge to cling to her flimsy mask all the more fiercely. Sister Julienne really should talk to her.

If only she could find the time.

She folded her wimple neatly on the dressing table and began to change for bed. Time felt in short supply of late, as if the days themselves were getting shorter as they approached the solstice, not simply the daylight, and Sister Julienne felt her usual calm demeanor cracking under the strain.

Typically, she would have turned to Sister Evangelina for support, but, if anything, her elder sister was more harm than help at the moment. She seemed more irascible than ever. Sister Julienne knew that Nurse Mount’s accident and resulting amnesia had left Sister Evangelina feeling particularly untethered, but she did wish her sister would at least make an attempt to keep her prickly grumbling to a minimum. But the chances of that were slim, especially now.

Sister Monica Joan’s collapse seemed to have pushed her carousing to new heights, the exploded pudding giving her a tangible target for her ire. If she had had more energy, Sister Julienne might have found it humorous. Over the years, she had lost count of the number of times she had heard her sister disparage any extravagant or excess food by talking about how she could remember being thankful for bread and drippings as a child, only to then pass over a perfectly good quiche or bemoan the lack of cake at tea. It was one of Sister Evangelina’s idiosyncrasies that she usually found quite endearing. But Sister Julienne hadn’t even been able to manage a smile yesterday when Dr. Turner had prescribed a sedative to keep their eldest sister calm, and Sister Evangelina had quipped, “Distival won’t bring our Christmas pudding back from the dead. Or from the ceiling.” No, she had not managed a smile, but she had managed a sigh.

She was just so fixated on the pudding. Sister Julienne suspected that it was just because it was easier for Sister Evangelina to be angry about the pudding than to be worried about Sister Monica Joan, or Patsy, or how exhausted she must feel. Still, she was showing even less tact than usual, and Sister Julienne was beginning to lose her patience.

Which is why she had been a little less conciliatory than usual when she had told Nurse Gilbert that morning that she would not be able to give her time off to return to Liverpool for the holiday. The brunette, as she could have predicted, was crushed. Sister Julienne had tried to show compassion as she told her the news: "It couldn't be helped. They were far too busy." But she couldn't help the niggling sense of irritation that bubbled up in her as those big green eyes filled with tears. "We have a duty, Nurse Gilbert. You will pull yourself together and do your job."

Nurse Busby could not start soon enough.

They needed the relief. And maybe, just maybe, the Welsh nurse would be able to slip behind Patsy’s hastily constructed walls before the redhead could reinforce them. Not that emotional walls were always a bad thing. Sister Julienne knew that they were valuable, and often necessary, in their line of work. But still, it was vital to include a door when constructing them - one always needed a way in and out. She hoped Nurse Busby would be able to help in that regard. Especially now that Sister Monica Joan was ill.

She had noticed how Patsy seemed to gravitate towards the elderly nun, at least until her fever had rendered her more incoherent than usual. It made sense, really. Sister Monica Joan could understand the redhead’s situation better than most. She too knew what it was like to forget oneself, one’s family, one’s life. Sister Julienne had quietly observed the pair on a few occasions as they sat talking in the kitchen or in the lounge. She had watched as Patsy would listen to Sister Monica Joan intently, a thoughtful expression on her pale face, and then her shoulders would seem to relax a little, her jaw unclench, her breathing steady. Her elder sister had become a support to Patsy in a way that no one else was capable of, not even Nurse Busby. And with the revelations about her time in the war, Patsy needed that support now more than ever.

Thankfully, it seemed that Sister Monica Joan was on the mend. Her fever had broken last night and Dr. Turner had every hope that she would be able to ease back into her normal activities in the morning. Small mercies. Losing their beloved sister on top of everything else they were going through would surely break them all, particularly at Christmas. And Patsy especially should not have to cope with any more loss than she already had - than she already was about to relive.

Sister Julienne just hoped that those memories would not be coming back until Sister Monica Joan was fully recovered and Nurse Busby had joined them. She would have a word with Nurse Crane and the rest of the staff to make sure that someone was always available to periodically check in on the redhead. She knew that Patsy needed her space, but she really shouldn’t be left on her own for too long. Just in case.

She crossed over to her bed and knelt by its side, preparing herself for her nightly prayers. Trying to clear her head. But it seemed like her thoughts were determined to run away with her.

Perhaps Nurse Franklin could fill the void as Patsy’s resident support person until Nurse Busby moved in. The blonde had been a tremendous help of late, seeming steadier and more dependable than she had in months.

Sister Julienne had been surprised when the young midwife had come to her days after Patsy’s amnesia diagnosis to ask for Tuesday nights off to attend weekly Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. She hadn’t been surprised that Nurse Franklin had a problem with drink, that fact had become blatantly obvious over the past year, rather she had been surprised, and impressed, that the blonde had admitted that problem to herself and taken steps towards combating it. So, although she knew this would add to their already strained workload, she had agreed at once. And, after only two weeks, she was very glad she had. The difference was quite remarkable. She knew the young nurse had a perilous journey ahead of her, but the fact that she was seeking support to overcome her problems gave the nun every reason to hope.

And perhaps there was something else Nurse Franklin could help her with. Charles Mount would be arriving in London soon - Mr. Stockton had told her this morning that he expected him sometime in the next few days - she should have another conversation with both she and Nurse Busby about Patsy’s father.

Yet another complication to add into the equation.

Sister Julienne could not say that she was looking forward to meeting him face-to-face, and perhaps a conversation with Patsy’s closest friends could better prepare her. In all of their phone conversations Mr. Mount had struck her as arrogant and prickly, which was the opposite of what his daughter needed at the moment. Patsy needed understanding and care, compassion and unwavering support. In short, she needed love. From what Nurse Franklin had already relayed to her, these qualities were lacking in the Mount patriarch. Sister Julienne could not imagine how a father could put his child who had just lost her mother and sister on a month-long boat journey with complete strangers, much less a child that had gone through the trials and deprivations that Patsy had. She knew that Mr. Mount had been through similar trials and deprivations himself, and of course he too would have been grieving the loss of his wife and child, but that was all the more reason that they should have clung to one another. They were all they had.

Perhaps now, with the time and distance from his loss, Charles Mount would be better prepared to provide the support and love that his daughter needed. Perhaps almost losing his only remaining daughter would ignite his dormant parental instincts. Perhaps he was just the person to help her through the inevitable reemergence of these ghastly memories because he was the only person in the redhead’s life who could truly comprehend their horror. Perhaps he could form a new relationship with his adult daughter that would be a balm to both of their old wounds. Or perhaps Sister Julienne was being too hopeful. Perhaps he would let his daughter down again. Perhaps he would be more harm than help. Perhaps he would take Patsy away from them.

Sister Julienne vowed to do everything in her power to keep Patsy at Nonnatus. She knew that this was the best place for her. This was where her friends were. Where the people she had considered her family where. Where the people who loved her were.

She knew she wasn’t being completely fair. Sister Julienne knew that Charles Mount loved his daughter. The fact that he was flying halfway around the world to be with her was proof enough of that. But Patsy needed an open, giving, selfless love, and she wasn’t sure that the Mount patriarch was capable of such a thing.

But there were people at Nonnatus that were.

Love is his meaning.

So, she would fight to keep her with them. One more thing to add to her already full plate.

She shifted her kneeling position, hoping the movement would help focus her back on her prayers, but instead it caused her mind to skip like bumping a record on a turntable.

Adding more to her plate. Reverend Hereward certainly had a particular knack for doing just that. She sighed, wondering if he ever did anything on his own. The harvest festival baskets last year had been enough of an added burden, but at least those were for a worthy cause. But filming in a place of worship. On Christmas. She didn’t think that qualified as a good cause at all. It was bad enough that they had televised the coronation, but at least the sacred anointing of the new monarch had occurred behind a screen. She wondered if they would afford the same mark of respect to holy communion. Probably not. Sister Julienne just could not fathom why the curate was so excited. Didn’t he understand that worship was not entertainment? It was holy and sacred. Both intimately personal and community building. It required active participation, not lounging on a settee with a paper crown on, reading jokes from Christmas crackers between hymn and homily. And to top it all off he wanted to use one of their newborn babies.

She sighed, trying to refocus her mind back on prayer. She supposed she should just be thankful that that was all he was asking of them. Well, he had asked for Nurse Gilbert’s assistance, but with how busy they will be over the coming weeks, Sister Julienne had not hesitated in refusing his request. Although, she suspected the good reverend had ulterior motives where the brunette midwife was involved, but that too was something that Nonnatus House just did not need at the moment. It had only been five months since Nurse Franklin called off her engagement to the curate, and just over two weeks since she had started to get a hold on her drinking problem. It would be hard enough on the blonde if her former fiancé started to court someone else, but her friend? No, that would be a disaster under their current circumstances. And honestly, Reverend Hereward should know better.

So, he would just have to get by without assistance from Nonnatus House this time. But perhaps she should warn Shelagh. Knowing the reverend, her former sister would probably be asked to take on quite a bit more responsibility than simply the children’s choir.

Sister Julienne got to her feet and crossed over to the water jug, unable to pray with all this chatter in her head. As she took a long sip of water, the cool liquid seemed to wash away some of her bitter thoughts. She wondered if Sister Aida had ever felt similarly during the war. She must have, but she never let it show. Sister Julienne set the glass back on the table and resolved to pull herself together. This wasn’t wartime. They could face these trials just as they had those.

Because they had love to guide them.

Tomorrow she would resolve to be kinder to Nurse Gilbert. It would be difficult for the young woman to be away from her father and sister for the first time on Christmas. She would also try to be more patient with Sister Evangelina, who she knew was going through a spiritual crisis on top of all their work. She would also find time to speak with Patsy. The redhead needed to be assured that they were all here for her in whatever way she needed. And she would speak to Mr. Stockton, too. The consultant had been the one to convince Mr. Mount to allow Patsy to stay at the London and to come home to Nonnatus House until he arrived. Perhaps he could help persuade him to allow her to stay.

But tonight, there was nothing more to be done. Tonight, she needed to rest. She crossed over to her bookshelf and took out her copy of Revelations of Divine Love. As she knelt at her bedside she flipped the book open to the passage marked by a black and white photo taken a lifetime ago, finding solace in the words that had always comforted her during her most difficult trials:

Our Lord never said, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he does say, ‘You shall not be overcome.’

Sister Julienne closed her eyes and began to pray.



Chapter Text

For a moment, the entire room was lit as if by a spotlight before being plunged back into deepest blackness. Then, almost immediately came a crash of thunder so loud that Patsy felt the whole building shaking around her. Her heart pounded in her ears as she sat up in bed, eyes searching through the darkness.

“Patsy!?!” Libby screamed, her voice filled with terror.

The blonde girl wrestled with the bedclothes, trying to reach her scared little sister, but her leg caught and she tumbled out of the bed onto the hard floor. Another flash illuminated the room and this time Patsy saw the lightning streak through the sky and strike the enormous rain tree outside her window, causing it to burst into flames as the house shook again from the enormous thunderclap. She kicked her leg frantically to free herself from the sheets and crawled through the darkness towards the sound of Libby’s terrified screams.

She found her cowering in the corner furthest from the windows, her wide blue-green eyes reflecting the flashes from the storm outside. “Libby?” she said, but the petrified girl just stared blankly ahead, clutching her knees to her chest and trembling. “It’s alright, Lib. I’m here. Everything’s going to be alright,” She wrapped her arms around her little sister and began to gently rock her back and forth, humming a lullaby as she tried to soothe her.

Moments later the door to the nursery flew open and Patsy saw a torch beam train first on her bed, then on Libby’s, before sweeping around the room.

“We’re here!” she called, squinting her eyes as the light swung around and fixed them in its beam.

“Patsy, are you two alright?” Father asked, skidding to a stop beside them in his bare feet and stooping down to examine his daughters.

“I’m fine, Papa. But Libby’s terribly scared, and the tree…” she said, pointing out the window to the still smoldering remains of the rain tree.

His ice blue eyes raked over his youngest daughter before refocusing on his eldest. “We need to move away from the windows. Come on, you take this” he said, handing her the torch, “I’ll carry Libby.” Patsy watched as Father scooped her little sister up into his strong arms, and jumped to her feet to follow him, lighting their path with the metal torch.

Once they reached the hall, he stopped and Patsy looked up at him curiously. “Blasted place is full of windows,” he said, as if to himself.

“Over here, darling,” Mother called from somewhere in the darkness to their left, and Patsy swung the torch beam around in that direction, illuminating her mother standing there in her dressing gown. She followed as Father made his way towards her.

“The storm appears to be right on top of us,” he said, and Patsy was shocked to hear the worry in his voice. Father never worried. “We need to find somewhere to wait it out that’s away from the windows. The rain tree in the side garden has already been struck by lightning, and if it hits the glass it could shatter and explode inwards.”

“Away from the windows? But where?” Mother asked, her eyes growing wide as they skimmed the hall, taking in the wall of windows running the length of one side.

“The kitchen,” Patsy said, picturing the enclosed white tiled room on the ground floor.

Father smiled down at her, “Good girl. Right, the kitchen it is, then,” he said, and led the way as they set off for the stairs.

Ten minutes later, they all sat huddled on the floor in the narrow galley of the kitchen of their black and white bungalow. Libby was in Mother’s lap, sipping a mug of warm milk and munching on ginger biscuits, looking much calmer away from the flashing lightning. Father was entertaining them with stories from Grimm’s Tales, and Patsy laughed along with the Princess when he mimed the train of people stuck to Simpleton as they wandered through the countryside.

It was so cozy and safe there in the candlelit kitchen as the storm raged around them, and Patsy was almost sad when Father looked up at the ceiling for a long moment before announcing, “I think it’s passed.”

Patsy closed her eyes, listening. She could still faintly hear the sound of the wind and rain hitting the windows, but no thunder.

Libby had fallen asleep and Patsy watched as her father stood and lifted her carefully from Mother’s lap. As the family made their way slowly from the kitchen, Patsy reached out and took her mother’s hand, feeling her long, soft fingers wrap around her own small hand.

Back in the nursery, Patsy could hear the low rumble of thunder in the distance, but the room remained dark as Father laid Libby gently in the bed and watched as Mother tucked both girls in for the remainder of the night. She turned to him, ready to leave but he said, “You go ahead, I’ll be just a moment.”

Patsy looked up at him from her pillow with interest. Father had never put them to bed before.

He walked over and sat gingerly on the edge of her bed, reaching out and tucking a stray lock of white-blonde hair behind her ear. “You were really brave tonight, Patience. It’s not easy, keeping a level head in such a tense situation, but you did,” he said, his ice-blue eyes fixed on her own, “And I’m very proud of you.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead before rising and placing the torch on her bedside table. “Just in case.”

 

 

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Patsy woke with a start, instinctively looking over at the bedside table only to find a cigarette case in place of the torch beside the lamp, water glass, and clock that told her it was barely quarter past five.

It had been a dream.

Or had it?

She had had a number of dreams since waking from her accident, but they had all felt...well, dreamy. They were filled with nonsensical situations and impossible non-sequiturs. In one she had been at a square dance on a boat at sea with all the midwives and nuns in their uniforms and habits, and another saw Sister Monica Joan trying to force Delia to eat a huge slice of cake despite the Welshwoman’s angry protestations. Often, they were frightening - an unseen shadow chasing her through jungles and city streets as she fled either on foot or by bicycle, or once, strangely, on the back of a scooter driven by Audrey Hepburn. Or else they were just incredibly vague, shifting scenes of grey and sepia, as if her brain lacked color without her full store of memories to draw from.

This dream hadn’t been like that at all - this had been like one of her vivid memories. But until this point, she had only had those while awake. So, was this a dream or a memory?

She focused in on the dream, trying to tease out all the details but they seemed to slip away like the fading embers of the smoldering rain tree.

Father.

This was the first time she had remembered him, if you could truly call it that. The fact that she couldn’t even be certain it was really him that she had remembered was more than a little disquieting.

But it felt like him, didn’t it?

Just like in her first memory of her mother and sister, the feelings of connection were just as vivid as the events themselves. More so, even. She felt love for her father for the first time she could remember.

Patsy had been nervous that she wouldn’t have any memories of him at all before he arrived in London. Worried that he would feel like a stranger to her. Worried that she would disappoint him. But now she felt love and the warm glow of his pride and approval. Really felt it. It was an incredible relief. And a welcome one too. A deep breath to clear away an ounce of her crippling anxiety.

Taking an actual deep breath, Patsy wondered if she would ever be free from that buzzing feeling in her head and suffocating tightening in her chest. It had fluctuated here and there since she had woken with no memories exactly three weeks ago, but it had never gone away completely, not even for a moment. And since her conversation with Delia two days ago it had become nearly paralyzing. Time seemed to slip as she drifted through the waking hours, her sole focus on just maintaining her composure.

But it seemed riding the crest of that wave of utter panic had an unexpected side effect. The acute nature of her anxiety appeared to be acting as a sort of block to any emerging memories. She hadn’t had a single recollection since Delia left her sitting on the bed with that ticking time bomb of a shoebox. At least not until now. If this last one even counted? Their absence was simultaneously comforting and profoundly disconcerting. Patsy dreaded the appearance of her memories of the internment camp, but she wasn’t ready to stop remembering altogether. She couldn’t live her life like this, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

During her more than two weeks at the London, Patsy had come to terms with the fact that she might never remember her life. She could have started over from scratch. It would’ve been difficult, but she would have managed somehow.

But then she came home to Nonnatus and everything changed.

After that first night with the Judy Garland record, the memories had just kept coming. Most were little flashes of events or information that she would suddenly know even though she didn’t think she had mere moments before. But some were cinematic and immersive - miraculous experiences which felt like stepping back in time. And now that she had remembered parts of her own life, now that her life felt real for the first time in weeks, she didn’t know what she would do if the memories ceased coming back altogether.

The redhead shuffled her pillows against the headboard and eased into a sitting position, experience telling her that she would not be able to fall asleep again. It was ironic, really. She could hardly stay awake more than five or six hours at a stretch, but then she could hardly sleep for more than two or three, aside from the night that Delia had held her. That had been the only solid night’s rest she had had since the accident - if you didn’t count her medically induced coma, which she did not. She wished she could get a hold on her anxiety, perhaps then she could overcome the persistent insomnia that plagued her each night.

But, that was unlikely.

Doctor Turner had offered her a sedative, but they made it difficult to concentrate, and Patsy already had enough trouble with that as it was. And her anxiety only made it worse. But then her inability to concentrate only increased her anxiety further. It was a vicious cycle.

So, insomnia seemed like the lesser evil. Or at least the more manageable one.

She sighed, her thoughts drifting to the box beneath her bed, as her eyes drifted over to her slumbering roommate. Trixie had come in late from a delivery, so she should be fast asleep for a little while yet. Perhaps she could take a look in the box? Perhaps something in there would help trigger a new memory and release her from this horrible waiting game.

Patsy swung her legs over the far side of her bed and slid off the side onto her knees. The action pulled her back to the last time she had reached to retrieve something from under the bed and she couldn’t help but smile at how much easier it was to move now than it had been just five days ago. Her ribs felt much better, and her coordination and strength had improved greatly from regular use. She was still a bit stiff as she leaned down and groped for the blue shoebox, but as she fished it out and placed in on the bed, she was struck at how much easier the task had been this time. She barely strained as she regained her feet, and she hadn’t needed to concentrate half as much on the movements.

Five days.

It seemed a lifetime.

But then it was, really. She had just been Patsy then, separated from Past Pats by a gaping chasm of empty blackness. Not the case now. Now she was this odd combination of past and present Patsy, as if someone had begun to build a bridge across that chasm that just didn’t quite reach yet.

And that was exactly how she felt too - incomplete and in the dark.

She sat down and stared at the top of the box, running shaky fingers over the yellowed surface just as Delia had done two days ago, still able to hear the brunette’s gentle, lilting voice, “This box is very important to you. I don’t know what’s in it, but I do know that its contents are what you considered to be the most precious possessions you own.”  Her fingers seemed to tingle as she gingerly gripped the edges of the lid. She stole another glance over at her sleeping roommate and froze.

She so desperately wanted to trigger another memory - a real one, a certain one. But what if something in this box made her remember the camp. And what if it was a vivid, technicolour, experiential memory. Her hands began to shake as she pulled them away. No, she didn’t want to be alone when she opened this box for the first time. She wanted Delia to be with her. Delia seemed to know her best, and, although she had never seen the contents, the Welshwoman would surely be the most likely person to help her understand what they were. And Delia was the only person she would want to see when she emerged from a traumatic memory. Even if that memory of her father could be trusted as genuine, she didn’t want him to see her weak and vulnerable. The only person she trusted in that state was Delia, with her strong arms and understanding blue eyes.

Patsy closed her own eyes, blocking out the world so that she could be honest with herself in the darkness. No, it wasn’t just that she wanted Delia to be there, she needed her to be. And that reliance made her feel incredibly guilty.

Especially now.

Delia was coming to Nonnatus.

Delia was giving up her job at the London, giving up her flat, giving up everything. For her. She hadn’t said it in those exact words, but the implication was clear. And although the idea of her best friend under the same roof as her was a marvelous comfort, Patsy felt incredibly guilty. She wished Delia had talked to her before she had turned in her notice. She would have dissuaded her. She wouldn’t have let Delia give everything up for her.

Patsy slowly opened her eyes and took in the room in the faint early morning light, wishing that she could live on her own. Be more independent. She hated that she was incapable of taking care of herself. Her plaster cast still locked her elbow at ninety degrees so she couldn’t even do up the buttons of her own shirt, much less hold down any sort of job. And even if she was in perfect physical health, what could she possibly do for work? Who would hire a girl who scarcely knew anything about her own life?

Perhaps it was for the best that her father would be returning soon. She would feel less guilty letting him take care of her in his townhouse in Kensington. He was her family. And although she barely remembered anything about him, that had to count for something, didn’t it?

Although the thought of leaving Nonnatus House made her feel suddenly breathless.

How could she leave these women whom she cared for so much, these women who had begun to feel like family? How could she leave this place that felt so much like home for an uncertain home with her real family? How could she leave Delia after her friend had given up everything to be here for her?

When he had come to assess her yesterday morning, Mr. Stockton had told her that her father would be arriving in London in two days’ time, although he might not be able to come to her until the following day.

“Miss Mount, as we have previously discussed, your father wishes to take you home with him once he has returned to London. However, seeing as you are my patient, I am less interested in what he thinks is best, than I am in what you do,” he had said, hazel eyes raking over her face as she tried to keep a handle on her composure. “So, give it some thought, and we can discuss it more when I check back in with you on Wednesday.”

Today was Tuesday. So, she still had a day to decide.

Now that she remembered him (or at least she hoped that she had truly remembered him) a part of Patsy wanted to run into her father’s strong arms and let him protect her. Shield her from the horrors to come. Anchor her in this uncertain reality. Care for her in a manner only a parent truly could. If only it were that easy. If only she were as small as Libby had been in her dream. If only he could scoop her up and carry her away from all that frightened her. If only her troubles were as simple as a thunderstorm.

But no matter where she went, her troubles would follow her. That was the trouble with your head - it was difficult to escape.

So the other, louder part of her wanted to stay right where she was. She felt safe here. When she had first arrived five days ago, Patsy had felt a bit overwhelmed with all the activity at Nonnatus after the quiet fortnight in hospital. But now the bustle and chatter felt familiar, even comforting, and sometimes it was even louder than the buzzing anxiety in her head. Other times it served as a place to hide - she could retreat into her own dark musings without the busy midwives taking notice. Safety in numbers. And she had found ways to be useful too. She took great pleasure in making tea and horlicks for the exhausted nuns and nurses when they arrived home from their labours.  

Even if this memory was to be trusted, she didn’t feel that same warm, comfortable, affectionate love like she had with her mother and sister. This love was more fatherly, more protective, but lacking in any sense of physical affection. That kiss on her forehead had felt surprising, not comforting. It made her feel proud, not safe.

Patsy might not remember the Kensington house, but she did remember enough about her upbringing in Singapore to know that living with her father would mean household staff to take care of all of her needs. It would mean being alone with her buzzing mind in the quiet townhouse. It would mean nowhere to hide.

But, it could also mean she wouldn’t be holding Delia back. It could mean the Welshwoman could rescind her resignation and resume her job on male surgical. It could mean that Delia could stop worrying about Patsy and get her life back.

So really, the decision was not whether or not she wanted to stay at Nonnatus or go home with her father. Patsy knew the answer to that question. The real question was whether she would be selfish and give in to her sense of neediness, or do what was best for her friend who had already done so much for her. She knew what the right answer was, but she just didn’t know if she was strong enough to give it.

The ringing of the alarm clock pulled her out of her thoughts and Patsy looked over at the bedside table, surprised to see that nearly two hours had passed since she had woken from her dream. But she really shouldn’t have been. Her sense of time had been unreliable at best since her accident, but downright unpredictable over the past two days.

Trixie rolled over and slapped the clock into silence. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she took in her roommate’s seated position with a look of concern. “Good morning, sweetie. Trouble sleeping again?”

Patsy just nodded, feeling a little disconcerted with the blonde’s use of the word again. Clearly Trixie had noticed her insomnia.

Even with her eyes trained on the wall across from her, Patsy felt Trixie’s gaze fall to the shoebox on the bed. “Is everything alright?”

Patsy’s left thumb had begun to nervously worry her third finger, and she clenched it into a fist to still it. “Just a lot on my mind, I suppose,” she paused, her mouth quirking up into a half smile as she met her roommate’s blue eyes, “Ironic, really. To have a lot on my mind but very little in it.”

Trixie tilted her head with a smile. “I’d say that is a better sign than if it were the other way around. I’ve dated my fair share of men who were quite happy to tell me all about their impressive lives, but couldn’t carry on a conversation at all if it weren’t about themselves. And I can promise you, they weren’t nearly as interesting as they thought they were.”

Patsy laughed, “Legends in their own minds, I take it?”

“Quite,” she said, swinging her legs over the edge of her bed. “Alright, sweetie. Want some help with those pyjama buttons?”

 

 

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Delia trudged up the stairs to her flat and gratefully pulled the door shut behind her. Her last two days on the ward had been brutal. It seemed Matron was intent on punishing her for her decision to leave the London by giving her all the most complex surgical cases to assist on. Although knowing Matron, she probably thought these an enticement to stay. Normally Delia would agree. She enjoyed hard work, and long, complicated surgeries certainly qualified as such. But instead she found herself counting down the hours until she was done with male surgical.

As soon as she had left Sister Julienne’s office, Delia had walked the three miles from Nonnatus to the London and handed in her notice. It had surprised her, how quickly she had accepted the nun’s offer. She hadn’t even had to think for a moment. Part of her had expected to second guess her decision, which was why she had walked the three miles instead of taking the bus. But she hadn’t. Each step had just increased her certainty.

Delia kicked off her shoes, flexing her toes in her stockings to try to work some feeling back into them after hours of standing stiffly on hard lino. She slipped her wool coat from her shoulders and laid it over the back of one of the wooden chairs in the lounge before entering her small kitchen and popping the kettle on the stove. If she was quick about it, she would just have time for a cup of tea before she had to leave for Nonnatus and the bus trip to see the Christmas lights.

The Welsh nurse had promised Fred that she would act as the leader of the Cubs this evening since he would be fulfilling his duties as St. Nick. Delia was even looking forward to it. The boys would be so excited and both she and Patsy had grown rather fond of the little scamps.

She made her way to the bedroom, unbuttoning her uniform as she went. God it was a mess in here. Her earlier decision not to unpack had backfired stupendously. Because, of course, she had needed things in those boxes. But instead of unpacking and neatly stowing away all of her possessions, she had taken out each item, one-by-one from the boxes, often displacing half the contents in the process. She wondered what Patsy would make of this mess.

She knew exactly what the Patsy before the accident would have thought, and imagining the look of horror on the redhead’s face actually made her laugh out loud.

Delia paused, her arm frozen midway through pulling her St. John’s uniform out of the wardrobe. She had reminisced about Patsy from before the accident and laughed. A genuine laugh too, not her usual rueful one.

Maybe it was her forthcoming move to Nonnatus that would bring her under the same roof as Patsy at last. Or maybe it was the prospect of getting back to the basics of what had made her want to be a nurse in the first place. Or maybe it was just that she felt like she was finally moving forward after three weeks of drowning in uncertainty and helplessness. Whatever the reason, Delia Busby felt different.

She felt hopeful.

 

 

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“Good evening, Nurse Busby,” Sister Winifred greeted with a gummy smile. “Are you excited for the trip to see the lights?”

“Good evening, sister. I am, thank you. It will be nice to get out and see the city with the cubs. I haven’t had much time to see them over the past few weeks, and I’ve actually been looking forward to it.” Delia answered brightly, turning to hang her navy coat on the stand. “Is Patsy, about?”

The young nun looked thoughtful. “I believe she is up in her room. I was actually on my way up to check on her to see if she needed any help getting ready since Nurse Franklin is out on a call.”

“Well, I’d be happy to relieve you, if you don’t mind.”

Sister Winifred gave her an understanding smile. “Of course. I’ll go and put the kettle on. You should both have a nice warm cup of tea before you head out into the cold.”

“Thank you, sister. That would be lovely,” she said, as they parted ways at the wooden staircase.

Just as the nun had predicted, Patsy was in her room. She was sat on her neatly made twin bed, leaning against the headboard with a book splayed across her legs, staring intently at the page in front of her with a look of utter concentration on her pale face. The redhead was so engrossed in the book that she didn’t seem to notice Delia’s arrival, so the brunette took advantage of the situation to study her for a moment.

She looked...well, gorgeous. As always. Trixie had clearly helped her with her hair and makeup, but her outfit was pure Patsy - tailored olive-green trousers and a black collared blouse with the neck unbuttoned.

But she looked troubled too. Her expression was tense, and her eyes were searching the pages of the book in front of her with a hint of desperation.

“Hello, Pats.”

Patsy’s startled expression quickly shifted into a wide smile when she took in her visitor in the doorway. “Delia! Hello,” she said, her voice filled with that false brightness that Delia knew so well.

Clearly, something was up.

“What have you got there?” she asked, crossing the room and taking a seat at the redhead’s feet.

Patsy held up the book and gave her a weak smile by way of an answer. Delia recognized the dark red cover of the photograph album that Timothy Turner had given her, and her heart squeezed in her chest. She reached out and placed a hand on the redhead’s knee. “Are you nervous about this evening?”

“Of course not. It will be lovely to go see the lights,” she said, again in that overly bright voice, and adding a wide false smile to really sell it.

Delia chuckled. “Fibber,” she said, meeting Patsy’s gaze with an amused smile. “You’ve always been a dreadful liar, Patience Mount.”

Patsy narrowed her eyes at her, but it seemed she didn’t have the energy for the playful pretense, as the cheeky look seemed to melt off her face as she sighed. “Sorry. I guess I’m just not dishonest by nature.”

“It’s hardly a criticism,” Delia said, giving her a reassuring smile.

She waited, wondering if her past strategy of patient silence still worked on this new version of her former girlfriend.  

It seemed it did. After a long pause, Patsy began to talk, her words addressed to the hands in her lap, “It’s silly really. I am so looking forward to getting out of the house. As far as I can remember, I’ve only been in the hospital and at Nonnatus, and the idea of getting out into the world feels glorious. But still, it’s all rather daunting. Especially with the cubs. I feel so dreadful, not remembering them all. And I’m just afraid that it’s all going to be a bit too much.”

“I know, sweetheart. But I’ll be there with you the whole time, as will Barbara. And Babs said that it shouldn’t be too awfully crowded either,” she said, giving Patsy’s knee a gentle squeeze. “And don’t worry about disappointing the cubs. Fred had Dr. Turner come to the last cubs meeting and talk to them about amnesia. I don’t think you have to worry about them being hurt, although you might want to prepare yourself for some rather ridiculous questions. Apparently, Joey Minton had some particularly hilarious inquiries. Mostly about sweets, from what I’ve gathered - their priorities are rather questionable,” she paused and was relieved to see a smirk playing across the redhead’s face. She shifted her voice to a more serious tone before continuing, “Fred and I are happy to run interference with the little troublemakers, and we’re bringing Tom along for reinforcements as well. But Pats,” she paused again, waiting for Patsy to meet her eyes at last, “You really don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

Delia watched as Patsy’s jaw clenched, here teeth grinding in agitation. She closed her eyes, clearly steeling herself.

This was a new development since their conversation about the camps. Patsy seemed determined to be strong. To hide her insecurities. It was a return of her old facade and Delia felt the ache of recognition. She hadn’t seen it directed at her in years - at least not in private. In public, Patsy could be cold, even hurtful. But in private, with her, Patsy had been able to finally be vulnerable.

“Patsy? Do you remember what I told you back in the hospital, on the day we talked about your sister?” she paused, waiting for those blue eyes to meet her own. “I told you that you don’t have to be brave or put on a front. Not with me. Do you remember?” Patsy nodded, her eyes shimmering. “I mean that. You can talk to me about anything. I won’t judge you or think you silly or a coward. You are one of the strongest people I know, Pats. You’ve faced things in your life that most people could scarcely imagine. And you’ve always done it on your own and with a brave face. But here, with me, you don’t have to be brave. You don’t have to face these things alone. So talk to me, cariad. Let me help.”

Patsy’s gaze shifted back to her lap, and when her voice finally came it was so quiet. So small.

“But that’s just it. I’m relying on you too much, Delia. And now...now you’re giving up your job and your flat...for me. I’m a burden. I’m holding you back.”

Time seemed to suddenly stop, and Delia was stuck by the sudden urge to either burst into tears or burst out laughing. Fortunately, Patsy’s words left her feeling rather breathless, so she was saved from either impulse - neither would have probably been very reassuring to the quiet redhead.

What could she say? She had given both of those things up for Patsy. That was the unvarnished truth. But it wasn’t a burden. The urge to laugh again seemed to bubble up inside her as she recalled Mary’s words from the other morning,The love you shared is not a burden, Delia.”

Her dark-haired friend had been right. Delia had felt nothing but a relief to be leaving male surgical for the loving warmth of Nonnatus House. She wanted to be there to support Patsy. No, she needed it. It was just as much for Delia as it was for Patsy. More so, perhaps. And they both had friends here. Had family.

As for the flat, she was incredibly relieved to be leaving it behind. Talk about a burden. The past three weeks had been like living in a purgatory of reminders of what could have been but would never be. They could never live there. Even if Patsy regained all of her memories, that flat would always represent the pain of their current circumstance. And if she didn’t, and by some miracle Allie was right and they could fall in love again, expecting Patsy to live in that flat would be like trying to force her to be someone she wasn’t - to live a life that was chosen for her, not by her. If they were to start over, Delia wanted it to be on level ground.

But Patsy wasn’t ready for the full truth. Not yet. Not with the specter of the camps looming large and the eminent return of her father. Delia studied her, taking in the downcast eyes and defeated posture. The quiet, broken voice and the constant fidgeting. She had never seen Patsy so fragile and uncertain - so needy - not even when she was sobbing in her arms.

No, their love might not be a burden, but right now, the full knowledge and implications of their past would be. But she could still show Patsy that she loved her. She could still love her - actively, in any way she could.

“Patsy. Look at me,” she said, her voice kind but firm. She waited, once again, for the redhead to drag those big blue eyes up from her lap to meet her gaze. “This was my choice. And I made it just as much for me as I did for you. I wasn’t happy on male surgical. And yes, being here with you, for you, did factor into my decision. But that’s what I want. Just like you reminded me a few days ago - I too am an adult, capable of making my own decisions about what’s best for me. And this,” she paused, her hand gesturing at the space between them on the bed, “is what’s best for me. You are what’s best for me. Patsy you are like my family. We’ve been best friends for nearly six years. I would do anything for you, and it’s because I want to, not out of some sense of obligation. And honestly, I’ve been miserable all alone in that flat. I was supposed to share it with my best friend, and without you it just feels so empty.”

Delia reached out and took Patsy’s fidgeting fingers in her hands. “So believe me when I say this, cariad. You are not holding me back. I want this change. I want Nonnatus. I want to be a district nurse who cycles over the cobbles by day and comes back and drinks horlicks in the lounge with you by night. I want to be here through all your emerging memories and new experiences. I want to build a new friendship with you, regardless of our past. You, Patsy Mount, could never be a burden to me.”

Patsy just stared at her, a look of utter astonishment on her face. But Delia didn’t look away. She hadn’t told Patsy that she loved her, not in those exact words, but the sentiment was there. Laid out as clearly as she could under the circumstances.

She expected nothing in return for this declaration. Patsy wasn’t there yet, if she ever would be. And that was alright. Truly it was. Delia had meant every word of what she had said. It was her choice. And it was not a burden.



 

 

 

Chapter Text

Patsy felt breathless as she let Delia’s words sink in.

“This is what’s best for me...
You are what’s best for me...
You are like my family…
I would do anything for you…
You could never be a burden to me.”

She looked into Delia’s steady gaze and knew that she meant it. Every word. Patsy wasn’t a burden. Patsy wasn’t holding her back. For a moment, a glorious shining moment, all her anxiety melted away and she felt safe.

She felt like she belonged.

She felt loved.

Delia thought of her as family. Patsy had begun to have thoughts along those same lines about the women she shared her home with, so to hear it validated made her feel like those feelings were real, not some desperate projection by the girl with no memory of real family (or at least not a living one). Delia was looking at her with such honesty, such openness, that for the first time since the accident, Patsy felt truly anchored.

Which was amazing and...a bit unnerving.

Patsy’s eyes fell to her lap, taking in her own hands cradled in Delia’s atop the red photo album. And just like that, the anxiety was back, rushing over her like a flame on dry paper, her moment of peace scattering like ashes in the wind. It had been nice while it lasted. It truly had. To know that she could feel a moment of respite from this constant tightening of her chest was utterly miraculous. It gave her hope.

And she was quite aware of how pathetic that sounded.

But hope was something, wasn’t it? Hope made her feel brave. Really brave too, not just the front that she had been fighting so hard to erect.

“Thank you,” she said, knowing those words were nothing compared to what Delia had just said. Nothing compared to the moment of peace and that feeling of hope. Nothing compared to how brave and safe Delia made her feel. Those two words felt so feeble, so inadequate. She searched her mind for something more to say. Something to fully convey the gratitude she felt towards this amazing woman sat across from her. But as she met that crystal blue gaze again the words caught in her throat, thick and heavy.

Delia smiled at her, her eyes shining with understanding. “You don’t have to thank me, Pats. I want to be here.”

Patsy shook her head, trying to swallow the lump of words in her throat. Delia waited. Patient. Giving her time.

“Not for that,” she said. “Well, not just for that,” she paused considering her words carefully, “For what you said. About me not being a burden to you. I don’t think you know how much that truly means to me.” Patsy took a deep breath. She could talk to Delia about this. The brunette had just reminded her that she didn’t need to be brave with her, hadn’t she?

She could do this.

Her eyes still focused on their clasped hands, Patsy continued, “I hear all these stories from you and Barbara and Trixie about me from before, and in them I just seem so...I don’t know exactly. You all make me out to be this imposing figure who can command a room and doesn’t take any guff. Barbara even called me ‘formidable,’” she gave a hollow laugh. “But I feel nothing of the sort. Ever since I can remember I’ve been so afraid. As glorious as it sounds, the idea of being on my own is utterly terrifying. And I hate that. It makes me feel like a child. But I’m not a child, I’m a grown woman who can’t look after herself. I went from being your friend, your equal, to this,” she said, taking her good hand from Delia’s grasp and fluttering it through the air down the length of her torso, from her teary face to her plaster encased arm.

“I’m just so...dependent. I’ve already been feeling like such a burden to everyone here. They have so much work to do, and my accident has not only taken away someone who used to help with that workload, I’ve added more on top of it. And then there’s you, Delia.”

She took the brunette’s hands again, eyes still on her lap. It seemed now that she’d found the words she just couldn’t stop them coming, “You’ve been so very wonderful to me. But I’ve seen how drained you look. How utterly exhausted you’ve been. But I didn’t say anything because I wanted you here. And gosh, I know that’s selfish. I’ve just become so reliant on you that I let myself ignore it. But when I heard you were giving up everything to come here, it made me feel so incredibly guilty, Delia. So much so that I was thinking I would go home with my father when he arrives.”

She paused when she heard Delia’s breath hitch. “Is that what you want?” the brunette asked, her voice very quiet.

The redhead looked up at her and felt the guilt wash over her again. Delia looked suddenly pale and fearful. And Patsy cursed herself. She was saying things all wrong, and now her best friend thought that she was leaving. She must be so panicked, thinking she had given up her job for no reason. That Patsy wanted to leave despite the wonderful things she had just said to her.

“No,” she said, looking intently into those crystal blue eyes and squeezing the brunette’s hands. “Not at all. I know it sounds foolish, but I feel so at home here. I feel safe. And with you coming to live here now too, I can’t imagine a place I’d rather be. My father’s house would be so dreadfully quiet and empty after Nonnatus. And he’s...well I don’t really know him yet, do I? I had a dream, but…”

She shook her head, this wasn’t the time to talk about her dream that was possibly a memory. That was all too confusing. She had to focus. She had to tell Delia how she felt.

“I was only going to go so that I wouldn’t be a burden to you,” her eyes dropped back to her lap and their intertwined fingers, “But I’m not. You told me I’m not,” she smiled, “And I don’t think I could ever explain how much that means to me. Delia, you feel like my family too,” she hesitated, “I know I barely remember my family, but I do remember how that feels. You feel as much like…”

Her voice was suddenly thick. She knew what she wanted to say, but the guilt of it felt so heavy on her tongue. It felt like a betrayal. But it wasn’t, was it? Libby would understand. Libby would’ve wanted her to find someone like Delia. And besides, it wasn’t exactly the same feeling because her friend was just so different than her little sister. She wasn’t replacing Libby. It was just that she had never felt this close to anyone else. And Delia should know that. Should know how much she means to her.

Patsy swallowed, “You feel as much like a sister to me as I remember Libby feeling.” She looked up at Delia through her mascaraed lashes, giving her a little half smile, “So when I say ‘thank you,’ I suppose that’s what I mean.”

Delia’s eyes were wet and she looked a little stunned as she gave the redhead a shaky nod, “Oh. Well…” she stammered, seemingly lost for words. A strange expression flitted over her face before she seemed to compose herself, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. When she opened them, they seemed a little pained, but were full of her usual warmth and kindness.

“You’re very welcome, cariad. And thank you for sharing all of this with me. For what it’s worth, no one here thinks you’re a burden, Pats. They all care so very much about you, and they do want you here. Sister Julienne told me as much yesterday. And I’m so very sorry if we’ve made you feel somehow lesser by talking about you from before,” she paused seeming to consider her words. “I suppose we just see so much of her in you. You are still just as smart, just as caring, just as funny, and honestly, I think Barbara is still a little intimidated by you.”

They both laughed, and Patsy felt a little more tension drain out of her.

Delia was giving her a full smile now, “And you won’t feel like this forever, sweetheart. Your body is healing, and you’re starting to get some of your memories back. But even if you don’t get them all back, you’ll still regain most, if not all, of your independence. That I promise you. I can’t promise you’ll be the same as before or that it won’t be hard or scary, but I will always be here to help you get there.”

She stood, extending her hand to the redhead. “And the first step, is to get out of this convent and come see the lights with me.”

Patsy smiled, setting the photograph album aside, she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She could do this. With Delia by her side, she could do this.

As the pair made their way down towards the dining room, Patsy began to notice that her companion seemed unusually quiet. It was difficult to tell in the low light and at that angle, but she seemed troubled. The redhead was about to ask if something was bothering her when the sound of raised voices caused her to stop. Automatically, she reached for Delia’s arm and steered her into the doorway of the chapel, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu as they hovered inside the door, listening to the argument coming from the dining room.

“Television?” came what she thought was Sister Evangelina’s exasperated voice.

“It is the portal to much happiness. I have seen it work its magic on a hundred children’s faces.”

Patsy recognized that voice as Sister Monica Joan, and she felt a surge of affection for the eccentric old nun. Delia raised her eyebrows in questioning amusement as they continued to eavesdrop.

“There are plenty of children round here who don’t need that sort of magic. They need a square meal and clean clothes and a loving hand. Not spending money hand over fist on television sets and tinsel.”

That was definitely Sister Evangelina, but Patsy was surprised at her tone. She knew that this pair were prone to sparring matches, often instigated by an amused Sister Monica Joan, but this sounded different. Angrier. Meaner. And all over television and tinsel? No there must be more going on here. Patsy remembered Trixie and Sister Mary Cynthia telling her that Sister Evangelina had grown up quite poor, and therefore hated anything she saw as an extravagance. Still, tinsel? This from the same woman who kept going on about the ruined Christmas pudding.

“Children incline to happiness. Even I knew delight and transportation as a child, and my youth was not a happy one,” Sister Monica Joan countered.

But before Patsy had a moment to reflect on what the elderly nun had told her of her childhood, Sister Evangelina’s voice interrupted her thoughts. It was harsh. Accusatory.

“Not happy? You never knew what hardship meant!”

Sister Julienne tried to intervene but neither of the arguing nuns heard her as Sister Monica Joan was now shouting. “I did! I did know!”

And then there was silence. Neither she nor Delia dared to breathe as they looked at each other with mirrored expressions of alarm and concern. What followed was harder to hear, but the defeated voice still managed to carry into the stillness of the chapel, tugging at Patsy’s heart, “But perhaps my mind is too misshapen to recall it now.”

Sister Evangelina’s voice seemed to shake with venom as she spat, “Well, all I can say is, ‘if the cap fits, wear it.’”

Patsy suddenly felt her back hit the wall, her shirt riding up as she slid heavily down it.

She felt like Sister Evangelina had just punched her in the stomach. How could she have said something like that? She was supposed to be a nun. The epitome of charity and selflessness. And to say that to her sister…

Sister Monica Joan.

Patsy blinked and was startled to see Delia’s worried blue eyes staring into her own. She felt gentle hands on her shoulders and realized that the Welshwoman was kneeling in front of her, her face mere inches away.

“Pats? Pats, sweetheart, are you alright?”

The redhead nodded, still lost for words. How long had she been on the floor? She needed to get to Sister Monica Joan. She needed to comfort her. To reassure her. She knew how lost she would be feeling right now, a crucial part of her past dancing just out of reach from her flailing arms.

“I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it. They had been arguing, and…”

“Where’s Sister Monica Joan?” she interrupted, watching as Delia’s eyebrows knitted together and her eyes questioningly searched her face.

“I- I think I heard her pass by. I’m sorry, I was a little focused on you.”

Patsy closed her eyes for a moment. Yes, Sister Evangelina’s words had stung. How could they not? Alright, perhaps ‘stung’ isn’t the right word. They had felt like she had reached into Patsy’s soul and ripped out her weakest, most insecure and feared part of herself, then served it up to her on a dinner plate in front of all of the women she had just so recently described as her family. Her chest ached like it had when she had first woken up, bruised and battered from the road. But she could face all that later. Sister Monica Joan needed her. The elderly nun had been such a godsend to her over her time at Nonnatus, and it was time for Patsy to repay all her kindness.

She opened her eyes again to find Delia still watching her in concern. “I’m sorry. But can you help me up? I need to check on her.”

Delia looked at her carefully, her expression suddenly softening. “Of course, cariad. Do you want me to come with you?” she asked, helping Patsy to her feet.

Patsy gave her a small half smile, “I know you said you’d be right by my side tonight, Delia, but this is something I’m actually certain I can handle on my own...Something I need to handle on my own.” She reached down and squeezed the brunette’s hand. “But thank you.”


 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Sister Monica Joan sat on the edge of her bed, staring down at her hands. Everything glittered. A spangled circle of silver and gold shone in her lap beneath the jewels in her clasped hands.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

A row of silver birch trees had stood sentinel in the grounds behind the house. Their leaves would turn golden in autumn. Silver and gold glittering against the bright blue sky. A shining thread she could extract from her misshapen mind.

But of course, Mr. Frost was speaking of spring, not autumn. Delight and transportation, again. Albeit as an adult, not a child.

She had loved to watch them shine. The riches of God’s creation were always far more valuable to her than those petty jewels of man’s.

Her mother had never agreed with her on that score, nor on any other. She had much preferred the riches of man. These hard stones and pearls the zenith of their tactile relationship.

Antonia looked down at the diamonds and pearls, the glittering blue sapphire. The pearls were cold and smooth under her fingers. So like their owner.

Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.

Why could she not remember the travails of her childhood. The Apostle Paul had been mistaken. She had sown bountifully but could now only reap sparingly. Her feet were cold. She needed a warm brick.

Was it so long ago, that Antonia was a girl? Her wizened hands said yes, but not her heart. Her heart still beat with the same pain and vigor as it had then, sending her life’s blood to her weary limbs.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,

So many leaves now. Just waiting to be counted, like Mary and Joseph. A census of her life. “If the cap fits, wear it.”

Antonia’s hand drifted unconsciously to the white fabric of her wimple. She had been cast out again. A second Eden lost, this one by want of an apple.

It was time to return to her first. Time to be counted.

The apple is there, where Caesar calls.

So dawn goes down to day.

“Sister?”

She looked up to find a tall redhead hovering by her door.

“Do you mind if I come in?”

She nodded, and her mind clicked into place again.

Patsy.

“Are you alright? Only, I couldn’t help but overhear.”

Patsy, with her own misshapen mind.

“I am beginning to understand your troubles, my dear. Our minds tend to be most unreliable when our needs are at their greatest. The ability to place events into their proper chronologies is not to be taken lightly. It is a foundation. And a house cannot stand long against such a raging hurricane without one.”

“Do you mean Sister Evangelina?” she asked, watching the nun as she gave a small nod. “I won’t patronize you and say she didn’t mean it, but I will tell you she’s wrong.” The tall girl’s face slid into a sly smile.

“We’ve talked a little about our childhoods since I’ve returned. And we have similar backgrounds, you and I. We both grew up in privilege, never wanting for anything. Never going hungry. But, as you know, there are other types of hunger.”

Patsy’s eyes dropped to her hands in her lap, and Antonia watched her carefully. “I might not remember it yet, but I know that my childhood ended when I turned nine. I know that after that I did learn the true meaning of hunger and deprivation. And the return of those memories is looming over me all the time, and that scares me so. But do you know what I’m most frightened of?”

The redhead’s eyes lifted and locked onto Sister Monica Joan’s own pale blue ones. They were wide and filled with unshed tears. “I’m most frightened of the memories that will come from the time after my mother died. I know that I can face all the horror, all the fear as long as she is there. Because I have no doubt that my mother loved me. But once she’s gone…”

Patsy took a big shuddering breath, and Sister Monica Joan reached out and took her hands.

Nothing gold can stay.

“I cannot imagine not feeling that love. That is a hunger I fear more than any malnutrition. And I know that was your childhood, Sister. You never felt that love. You might not remember the details right now, but it stays in your bones just like any other childhood deprivation,” she paused. “Sister Evangelina knows that too, even if she’s too proud or stubborn to admit it.”

Sister Monica Joan sat quietly, the redhead’s words turning over in her mind like compost on fallow soil. Perhaps it was not time for her to be counted, after all. Not yet.

But as she looked at the redhead’s troubled face, she knew that moment was approaching for Patsy. Caesar would be calling her home soon for that tenko. Or perhaps Hirohito.

“Thank you, child. You have reminded me of the advantage of blustering winds. If one is a skilled sailor they are much preferred to the doldrums. And I am more skilled at sailing those seas than any ancient mariner could ever hope to be.”

She smiled at her, “Now go. I expect the lights of the city are calling to you, my dear. I await a full telling of your adventures when you return.”


 

>>>>><<<<< 

 

 

Delia hopped through the aisle, a wide smile on her face as she led the cubs in song:

“If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet…”

Despite her uncertainty, the Welshwoman stomped her feet with vigor.

Sister.

God, that had felt like a punch in the stomach after she had all but confessed her love. Patsy thought of her as a sister.

Delia might not have any sisters, but she had told enough boys back home that she thought of them more like brothers to know what that meant. You like them, might even love them, just not like that.

“If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet.”

She had been happy. She had been the happiest she’d been in weeks. But then Patsy had stomped all over that with one simple word.

Delia looked over at the redhead who actually did look quite happy. Patsy was sitting by the window, smiling widely at her with a sherbet lolly in her hand. She looked more relaxed than Delia had seen her since before the accident.

Okay, maybe Delia was a little happy. Her hopes for their future together might have suffered a blow, but seeing Patsy looking so well gave her a different kind of hope. Hope that Patsy really would be alright. And that was what was most important.

It had nearly broken her heart to hear Patsy talk about how she had been feeling since coming home to Nonnatus. But still, she had opened up to her. She had told Delia all her fears and insecurities. She had called her family. And looking at that smiling face lit by the soft glow of Christmas lights, Delia thought that just might be enough.

“Enjoying your sweets?” she asked, sliding into the seat beside the redhead with a smile.

“Honestly?” Patsy said, scrunching her face up as she lowered her voice confidentially, “I’ve rather had enough. As you predicted, Joey was rather keen on helping me learn all about my confectionary preferences. I think my teeth actually hurt.”

Delia laughed, “Well, giving him all the leftovers from your taste-testing only encouraged him.”

“I couldn’t eat them all. It would ruin the scientific process by making me overly full and therefore biasing the results,” Patsy said, her serious tone betrayed by the slight quirk of her lip. “It was quite the elaborate experiment. I rather think he deserves a badge for it.”

The Welshwoman rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure they make one for that. But I’m glad to see you’re having such a good time.”

“I really am. Thank you for encouraging me to come. It was rather overwhelming at first, but the boys have been utter dears, and it feels so wonderful to be out and about. The lights are quite pretty too,” she added, looking out the window at the objects in question. “It reminds me of the Lantern Festival in Singapore. We would all go down to the Chinese district each year to see it.”

Delia watched her intently as she talked more about the festival, but did not dare interrupt. From the distant look in Patsy’s eye, it seemed to her like the redhead was recalling this for the first time since her accident. It was incredible to witness.

“There must have been thousands of paper lanterns, mostly red, but some other colours as well. It was so magical. In the darkness they looked like they were floating in midair. So delicate,” she paused. “Libby and I both so loved it, though I think she was in it more for the mooncakes than the lights,” she laughed, and it seemed to pull her back to the present. “She and Joey would have got on rather well on that score. Gosh, and she would have adored Sister Monica Joan. She’s the only person I have ever known (that I can remember at least) that loves cake as much as Libby did.”

As Patsy continued telling her about mooncakes, Delia felt a strange feeling of sadness wash over her. In all their years together, Patsy had never talked about these strange little cakes with their sweet, sticky fillings made of various fruits and beans. She had never told her about her sister’s love for sweets and pastries. She had never even told her about the lantern festival. No, it seemed that Patsy had locked the happy memories of her childhood away along with the horrors. The two were just too closely linked.

But they weren’t now. Not yet.

So Delia listened, almost hungrily. She began to feel strangely closer to her lost girlfriend. To the Patsy from before. But also, oddly distanced. Like there was so much about her she hadn’t known. It was a bizarre dichotomy.

She listened as the redhead talked about how her sister would always try to sneak little bites of Patsy’s mooncake once she finished her own, and Delia was reminded of the surprised look and bright smile that her then friend had given her when she had first stolen one of her chips. It was the exact look she was reenacting now. So indulgent. So fond.

Perhaps Patsy had always seen a little bit of her sister in Delia. Libby sounded like she was a lot shyer than Delia had ever been, but she had had a mischievously cheeky side as well. And there had clearly been a deep closeness between the sisters, a closeness Patsy never let herself feel again - until Delia. Maybe that was the feeling Patsy was describing when she said they felt like sisters?

Maybe.

But even if Patsy was starting to feel something for Delia again, she clearly didn’t recognize it yet. Not those feelings, anyway. If they were even there. It was possible, probable even, that Patsy did just have platonic, sisterly feelings towards her. But what if…

“Delia? Are you alright?”

She blinked, taking in Patsy’s concerned expression. Delia’s face had apparently been showing signs of the distress she felt as her thoughts had chased each other around in her head. She needed to let all those what ifs go for now. There would be plenty of time to think about that in the future, perhaps even with the assistance of Trixie or Mary, but right now she needed to focus on the present. She had promised Patsy she would be right beside her tonight, and that meant mentally as well as physically.

“I’m sorry, Pats. I think I was away with the fairies for a moment. All that jumping about after a long shift has made me rather more tired than I expected. What were you saying?”

Patsy squinted her eyes at her, scrutinizing her face. The brunette could tell she wasn’t buying the excuse, but thankfully, she didn’t comment. “I was just saying how I would love to do something like this again sometime. Not a bus trip with all the cubs, of course. But I would rather like to try to get out of Nonnatus a little more. If...if you wouldn’t mind, that is. I don’t think I’m ready to go alone yet.”

Delia smiled at Patsy’s awkward stumbling. “Of course. I would love to,” she said, meaning every word.

The redhead looked relieved. “I’d quite like to see more of the neighborhood. Maybe go to some places that I used to like. I’d even,” she paused, clearly steeling herself, “I’d even like to see the flat before you move, if that’s alright. See where we were going to live.”

Delia felt suddenly breathless.

The flat.

The very idea of Patsy back in the flat made the brunette a little dizzy. She was suddenly flooded with the image of her girlfriend smiling fondly at her across the picnic blanket, the morning light making her skin seem to glow with their shared happiness. The utter joy and hopefulness of that moment made her feel suddenly empty.

But Patsy still looked hopeful. It was a completely different kind of hope of course, but the brunette still felt it boring into her. As much as she might want to, Delia couldn’t deny that to her. It was her past, after all, and the redhead deserved to see it for herself, no matter how much the very idea was suddenly threatening to unravel the Welshwoman.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have to. It’s…”

She could scarcely hear Patsy’s voice over the pounding in her ears, but she reached out and placed her hand on her knee to silence her. Delia dug up a smile from the pit of her stomach and said, “Of course we can go to the flat. I’ll go wherever you want to go, Pats.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Charles Mount had forgotten how much he disliked London. It was just so difficult to breathe here. The air was too thick, too dirty. Hong Kong might be just as crowded (more so in places as it seems half of London has moved to the suburbs) but it’s coastal - the ocean air cleaner than the Thames could ever muster.

Still, he preferred London to the family home up north. The air was too clean there. And too quiet. Not that this house wasn’t quiet, nor the one in Hong Kong for that matter, but strangely he liked this quiet. It was his own domain, his refuge. The calm eye in the bustling hurricane of the city outside. He could step outside and be swept up at any moment.

Not that he ever did, especially not recently.

No, after that exhausting journey, Charles didn’t think he’d be doing much stepping at all if he could help it. But then he couldn’t. And that was the true problem, wasn’t it?

“Excuse me sir,” came Mr. Harper’s voice, interrupting his dark thoughts.

Charles looked over at the butler standing rigidly by the door to his study, giving him a nod.

“I have Mr. Stockton here to see you.”

Right on time. Charles should have known better than to hope the doctor would be late.

“Very good, Harper. Show him in.”

The shipbroker got unsteadily to his feet as the young doctor strode confidently into the room. Well, young was a relative term, and Charles suddenly felt very old as he realised that Jim was now closer to his fortieth year than his thirtieth. He could still picture him as that sandy headed youth running around the garden with his cousin’s son. That had been on their last trip home before Patsy was born. Ages ago. Kate had been pregnant even then, though she hadn’t realised it, mistaking her nausea on the return journey for seasickness despite never having suffered it before.

Charles cleared his throat, mentally reprimanding himself. He was being ridiculously morose and sentimental this evening.

“Good evening, Jim. Thank you for coming,” he said, reaching out to shake the doctor’s hand.

“Not a problem, Charles. It’s good to see you. I do hope you had a pleasant journey,” Jim said, smiling amiably, his face betraying a hint of that boy from the garden.

“I’m still adjusting to the time change, but it was as good as can be expected,” he said, watching the concern flit over the younger man’s face. But the shipbroker did not want to discuss that now, not that there was much to discuss. His own health was a foregone conclusion and talking would do nothing to change it.

So, before the doctor could inquire further, Charles cut off his intake of breath, gesturing for him to take a seat and adding “May I offer you a drink?”

Jim stilled for a moment, but quickly slipped back into his easy genial demeanor, clearly taking the hint. “Thank you. A scotch does sound marvelous,” he said, both men turning to the butler, “Neat, please.”

Mr. Harper nodded and silently left the room. The two men made polite small talk as they waited for the butler to return with their drinks, both knowing they would wait to discuss the true reason for the younger man’s presence until they could be sure of no interruptions.

“So,” Charles said, taking a sip from his recently delivered scotch on the rocks, “How is she?”

Jim studied the glass in his hand, swirling the amber liquid so that it caught the light of the nearby fire. “Not much different from when we spoke on Monday. Her ribs are nearly healed, and her strength and balance are both quite good, considering. Once her cast is ready to come off, she’ll be practically back to normal physically.”

“And mentally?”

The doctor sighed, “Unfortunately it’s still too early for any long-term prognosis, but she’s still having problems with anxiety, especially under duress. And the insomnia is an issue as well. It’s just difficult to know whether those problems are more psychological or neurological. But there are definite neurological symptoms too. As we discussed, she has trouble with certain types of abstract thinking, and she tires quite easily.”

“But could that be from the insomnia, couldn’t it?” Charles asked.

Jim looked thoughtful. “It could. But it could also be a symptom of her brain injury. Prolonged fatigue is quite common. As is her inability to hold her focus, especially when stressed. She seems to just...switch off for a moment. It’s like her brain seems to stall while everything goes on around it.”

Charles took a rather large swallow of whisky, thinking back to the decisive, focused Patience he knew as a girl. She had always been such a quick thinker. So fearless. So calm under pressure. It was what had made her such a good fencer. It was probably what had made her a good nurse, too. And it was why he had been unsurprised that she had been the one to survive.

“And her memories?” he asked, eyes in the crystal glass.

“Nothing more to report there, I’m afraid,” Jim said, his voice sounding apologetic. “She still just remembers basic childhood memories, up to around age seven or eight, I believe.”

So, still before the camps. Or at least, as far as she was willing to confide in her doctor. He wished there was some way to stop her recall there.

Patsy had remembered Kate and Libby. Whole. Alive. Happy. If only they could stay that way.

Charles’ last memories of his wife and daughter were of crying faces and clutching hands. Kate had tried to be brave, to make him not worry, but she was always a dreadful liar. He knew all her tells. But then he had known she hadn’t believed him either when he had told her not to worry. Told her that he was sure they’d see each other again soon.

His last words to her had been a lie.

“Charles?”

He blinked, the room coming back into clear focus again. “So, nothing after 1941?” he asked, knowing that the doctor would get the implication. Their families were friends, after all. He knew how the Mounts had spent the war.

Jim looked at him steadily. “It seems not. I know that was what worried you when I told you about how troubled she seemed on Monday. But she’s doing remarkably better than when we last spoke. When I saw her this morning she seemed much brighter.”

Charles felt himself relax a little. When he had spoken to the doctor from New York, he had been alarmed to hear how suddenly anxious and distracted Patsy had become. Naturally he had feared the worst.

He had feared the camps.

“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, reaching out an unsteady hand to the decanter on the tray. Jim was quicker, taking it upon himself to top off both of their glasses, and Charles smiled at him in thanks.

“Apparently she went on an outing to see the Christmas lights with some of the women she lives with and the pack of cubs she used to lead. It seems the venture did much to raise her spirits. She seemed more like herself this morning than she has since the accident.”

Charles looked up at him quizzically. More like herself? How would he know that?

Jim seemed to read the question in his eyes. He chuckled. “You don’t remember do you?”

The shipbroker wracked his memory but came up empty, shaking his head.

“We met at one of Eleanor’s dinner parties when you were visiting. It must have been nearly three years ago now. Being the only two single people under forty, she naturally sat us next to each other.”

Charles laughed, the memory suddenly rushing back. Patsy had jumped at the opportunity to have their obligated dinner with others instead of their usual awkward solo affair, but she had regretted it almost immediately when it became clear that his cousin Eleanor was trying to play matchmaker. For his part, Jim had looked more amused than annoyed, but just as uninterested.

“My cousin is a terrible meddler. She should know by now that you are perfectly happy in your confirmed bachelorhood,” Charles chuckled. “Besides, you’re far too old for her,” he added, smiling into his whisky.

“Right on all counts, I’m afraid,” Jim said, lifting his glass in salute, a slight mischievous glint in his eye. “But thanks to her meddling I did get to know Patience a little that evening, at least after she had had a couple of drinks and my solemn reassurance that I had no intentions towards her. And how she was today is the closest she’s been to the woman I shared a cigarette with on the balcony.”

Charles thought back to that night. He had seen them smoking from inside. He had been stuck in a thoroughly boring conversation with Eleanor’s dull husband and had watched the chatting pair through the window. He had never seen Patsy look that relaxed since she was a girl. But then, he had never seen her interact with anyone outside his own presence, and he, admittedly, did not bring out the best in his daughter. Though maybe he could change that now.

“And on that note, there’s something I want to speak to you about, and I know it won’t be easy to hear,” Jim said, interrupting his reminiscing.

The doctor was looking a little uncomfortable now, and Charles could tell he was bracing himself for the shipbroker’s anger.

“Go on,” he said, keeping his tone steady.

The doctor took a deep breath, “From my conversations with your daughter and with Sister Julienne, I believe I know part of the reason Patience seems to be thriving,” he paused, “It’s Nonnatus House.”

Charles felt his face slide into a scowl, but the doctor ploughed on, “The place is filled with activity, and she’s begun to find ways of being useful, which, in turn, makes her feel less like an invalid. Furthermore, she has support. The women there all know her and know her well. They know how and when she needs assistance, and conversely, when she needs space. But the most support seems to be coming from two very different individuals. Do you remember the friend from training that I told you about, Delia Busby?” the doctor asked.

Delia Busby. Charles thought he recognised the name. “Is she the one that visited Patience each day in hospital. The Welsh girl?” Charles asked.

Jim nodded. “Yes. Well, apparently she was to be Patience’s flat mate before the accident, and the two seemed to have been quite close. Miss Busby has continued to visit each day and has even transferred from the London to nurse at Nonnatus so that she can be more available to your daughter as some of the more...difficult memories begin to emerge. Sister Julienne has told me that Patience has become rather reliant on Miss Busby and on Sister Monica Joan, one of the elderly nuns who is retired from nursing, but nonetheless still lives at the convent. Interestingly, Sister Monica Joan is suffering from senile dementia, so can relate to many of the feelings of isolation and uncertainty that Patience is experiencing with her own memory loss. Apparently, she has been quite helpful in helping your daughter find ways of coping through this difficult and confusing time.”

Charles felt the anger that had been building inside him begin to slip away, an aching sadness sliding in to take its place. She didn’t need him. This had been his chance to try to rebuild their relationship, but he was too late.

He sighed, “She wants to stay there, doesn’t she?”

Jim looked apologetic. “She does. And I’m sorry to say it, but I think it’s what’s best for her too. I truly think staying at Nonnatus gives her the best chance of regaining her memories and rebuilding her life. But, Charles...she still really wants to see you.”

Charles looked up, surprised at the hopeful feeling that suddenly began to fill his chest. “She does?”

Jim smiled, “Yes, she does. She’s started remembering you too, Charles. She was telling me about a festival with paper lanterns you used to take the family to each autumn. There are other memories too, ones she’s not as certain about. But she wants to see you and talk to you about everything. And she wants to visit you here as well.”

Charles felt his chest tighten. She remembered the Mid-Autumn Festival. He and Kate had gone each year when they lived in Shanghai, and the tradition had continued once the family had moved to Singapore. The girls had loved it, of course. He could still see them running about with their arms out and their heads tilted back, their eyes gleaming from the glowing red lanterns strung above them.

The shipbroker swallowed, his throat feeling suddenly tight. For a moment he feared the worst, but then he realised it was just emotion. An unusual feeling, but not an unwelcome one. He looked down at his nearly empty second glass of scotch. Or an unsurprising one.

“Thank you, Jim. I’ll be sure to visit her tomorrow.”

“Happy to help, Charles,” he said, pausing for a moment to study the shipbroker, whose eyes were still on the glass in his hands. The doctor seemed to sense that the conversation had reached its conclusion. Draining the last sip of his whisky and setting the glass on the side table, he said, “I think I’ll take my leave so that you can rest, that is, unless you have any more questions for me.”

Charles looked up at last, shaking his head and managing a tight smile. Both men stood and shook hands. “Thank you for coming, Jim, and for taking such good care of Patience,” he said.

“Not at all, Charles. As I said, her case is unique, and I’ve been more than happy to consult.”

After the doctor had gone, Charles sat back in his armchair and poured himself another scotch. For the first time in years, he had three in one night. But tonight, he wasn’t worried about seeing Patsy’s haunting blue eyes staring right through him from the ship’s deck. Instead, he allowed himself to be pulled back into his memories from before everything fell apart. He watched Kate smile indulgently as their daughters played in the red glow of the lantern light. He listened to her at the piano as Libby sang. He snuck glances over his newspaper at Patsy studying her toast with a comically serious expression.

His throat grew tighter as his eyes shone in the firelight. But he didn’t fight the memories. Not tonight. Tonight, he would allow them to wash over him. Tonight, he would spend time with his family. With all of them. He would remember the times when they were together, before everything had been torn apart.

And then tomorrow he would try to start rebuilding what they had left.


 

>>>>><<<<< 


 

Patsy sat cross legged on her bed looking down in trepidation at the object in front of her.

“Take your time, sweetheart. Whenever you’re ready,” came Delia’s gentle voice from the other end of the twin bed. “I’m right here with you.”

The redhead took a deep breath before reaching out and resting her hands on the yellowed cardboard lid. Her fingers seemed to tingle, just like they had when she first held the ten-inch record of “Over The Rainbow.” It seemed electric. Important. Patsy felt like opening this box would be the key to unlocking all of her memories.

And she was terrified.

“It feels rather like Pandora’s box, doesn’t it?” she said, looking up into the blue eyes sat across from her. Her joke trying vainly to mask the tremor of anxiety in her voice.

Delia gave her a sympathetic smile. “I think you’ve been spending too much time with Sister Monica Joan,” she said, releasing a much-needed laugh from both women, before her voice turned serious, “But even if opening it does release all those bad memories into the world, there will be hope in there too, just like in the story. You wouldn’t have saved all of these things if they didn’t bring you comfort. Everything in here is from your past, cariad. You faced it before. It didn’t break you then, and it won’t now.”

Patsy nodded, feeling a little calmer with Delia’s reassuring words and tone. Slowly, she shifted her hands to either side of the box top, gripping it gingerly. She looked up again into her friend’s encouraging gaze and lifted the lid off, still not daring to look down at its contents.

She sat there for a full minute, just gazing into the brunette’s increasingly concerned expression as her own panic rose.

No, it wasn’t that she didn’t dare look, she couldn’t look. Her eyes and head seemed frozen in attention, quite incapable of lowering. After another moment, she felt Delia’s hands gently take the top from her and place it back on the box.

Patsy blinked. The closed lid seemingly breaking her frozen trance, and her eyes fell back to the box.

“Pats?” Delia asked, her voice very gentle.

“I...I’m s-sorry, D-Delia,” Patsy stammered. “I...I don’t know what h-happened.”

Delia reached out and placed a hand on the redhead’s knee. “It’s alright, sweetheart. We don’t have to do this now. It can wait until you’re ready.”

Patsy shook her head. No, it wasn’t that. She was ready. It was just…

“No, I want to do it,” she paused, gathering her thoughts. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to look, it was just too much, too overwhelming. Too unknown. “Only...would you look first?” she looked up hopefully, meeting the brunette’s gaze again.

Delia looked stunned. “Pats…” she started, shaking her head, her tone almost apologetic.

But Patsy interrupted her, “I know the me from before didn’t share this with you, Delia, but I trust you. And more than that, I need your help. I think I can manage if it’s one thing at a time, and you can see if there’s anything you recognise.”

“If you’re sure,” Delia said, her voice still betraying her uncertainty.

“I am.” Patsy answered, her own voice steady and clearly certain.

Delia nodded once, taking the box and moving over to the small table by the window to examine its contents away from the redhead. Patsy watched her closely, her eyes trained on the Welshwoman’s every expression, never daring to follow her gaze down to the table.

The brunette’s shoulders stiffened a little as she removed the lid, as if she was bracing herself for something. From her peripheral vision, Patsy could see Delia’s small hands shifting through the contents, but she focused on her face. A ghost of a smile was followed by a pained expression that quickly became tearful as she sorted through what looked vaguely like a stack of cards. Then she smiled in earnest and even laughed softly as a tear splashed down her cheek. She set the stack aside and picked up what looked like some sort of thin brown book. Patsy still did not dare look at it properly, and she was glad she hadn’t when Delia’s face went pale and her eyes were suddenly filled with a profound sadness. She set it aside too and Patsy listened as she shuffled some heavier objects around within the box.

As she watched Delia’s uncertain face scrutinising the contents of the shoebox, Patsy felt herself becoming angry with Past Pats for the first time since the accident. Before, her previous self had always seemed like this puzzle she had to solve, but now she felt more like an obstacle. Why had Past Pats never shown this box to her best friend? Why had she been so damn secretive? Because by now Patsy had realised she had been. There were questions she had that no one seemed to have answers for. Simple questions too - about her father, about her schooling, about her life before she met the women she lived with. But they knew very little, and Patsy just could not understand why.

Any questioning about her father was met with vague answers at best. They hadn’t been close, that was all anyone could - or would - tell her, because their expressions seemed to say they knew more than they were letting on, but, with his impending arrival, didn’t want to say. And it was becoming clear that knowledge had left both Trixie and Delia with a rather protective edge when it came to her father. But that just didn’t track with what Patsy remembered - or thought she remembered at any rate. Still their reticence to share didn’t bother her nearly as much as her own past self’s tendency to do the same. Because maybe they only had this less than flattering opinion of her father because she didn’t share anything of importance about him with them. Maybe her reluctance to speak of him had made them infer that he didn’t care. Or maybe it had been she who hadn’t cared. Maybe after all that happened, she had shut him out.

After all, a lot had happened. Of course, she could understand why Past Pats hadn’t wanted to talk about her time in the camp. But she had nine years of life up until that began, and her friends seemed to have never heard anything about it. Trixie hadn’t even known her sister’s name, for god’s sake. Weren’t they supposed to be good friends? And nearly all the memories she had shared with Delia - with Past Pats’ best friend - had been things the Welsh brunette had never heard before. Had those happy times been so painful to recall that she repressed them completely?

But then her friends’ knowledge of her life after the camp was just as empty. What Delia and Trixie had been able to tell her of Past Pats’ school days was hazy at best: catholic boarding school, good fencer, good student. All fuzzy and shapeless. The only real story from that time was about how she would occasionally sneak out into the grounds at night to smoke cigarettes and drink whisky with friends. And Past Pats had only told it to Delia because the pair had had to sneak back into the Nurses Home one night when they’d missed curfew. They had lost track of the hour, and by the time they had come home it was to find the door locked and all the lights out. Apparently Past Pats had told Delia the story of some of her midnight escapades as she calmly surveyed the building’s facade before suggesting they shimmy up the drainpipe into an open lavatory window on the third floor. Delia had been astonished that her proper friend had such a rebellious side - not to mention such practiced skill tipsily climbing drain pipes.

And that was the only thing of substance anyone could tell her. It wasn’t that Patsy wished to hear more of these stories, they still felt so removed from her life, but she was angry with Past Pats for holding back. If she hadn’t, Delia wouldn’t be looking at these objects with such uncertainty. She would know the stories behind them.

She would know which ones were safe.

Of course, Past Pats couldn’t have predicted she would ever be here. How could she have? Still, the degree to which she had shut out some of the most important people in her life was chilling. Patsy was certain that she must have had her reasons, and that chilled her even more. She was terrified to discover those reasons. Worse, she feared she might be doing just that very soon.

She was drawn out of her thoughts as Delia turned to face the bed, her hands clutching the stack of cards Patsy had seen her sorting through. “I think these will be a good safe place to start,” she said, returning to the bed and sitting back in her previous spot facing the redhead.

Looking down at the Welshwoman’s lap, Patsy realised that it wasn’t cards that she held, but photographs. She watched as Delia reached out and placed one of the pictures on the mustard counterpane, facing Patsy.

It was bizarre.

It was a photograph of her. Or maybe of Past Pats, but it looked like her - like Patsy. It was just all so confusing. In it, she was standing beside Delia who was smiling at the camera. Past Pats looked caught out, like she didn’t realise the picture was being taken until right before it happened.

“That was taken last September at a square-dance you helped organise to raise money for the cubs. That’s why we’re dressed like that,” the brunette told her.

Patsy stared down at the picture. They were both dressed a little unusually, Past Pats in a check dress, her arm cocked at the elbow holding a cigarette aloft, and Delia in a polka dot skirt, white blouse, and neckerchief.

Gosh, this was strange. It was one thing to hear stories about her past, but it was quite another to have this kind of documentation. To see herself standing there in strange clothes, in a strange place, smoking a cigarette beside her best friend who was smiling wider than she had ever seen her do so in life. It felt even more jarring than when she had first put on her old nursing shoes. She could see it all in that photograph. She had had a life. But now it was gone.

“I smoke,” Patsy said, her voice sounding dazed. She didn’t know why she said that. It had just come out. It seemed strange that it was something so simple as smoking that made its way through her jumbled thoughts and out her mouth. But that was just it. Something so simple, yet still lost to her. Just one of countless small details she didn’t know about herself.

“You did,” Delia said, sounding a little concerned.

Patsy looked up at her, “Are there any more?”

The brunette nodded, placing another photograph beside the first. Trixie and Tom stood grinning at each other on the steps of Nonnatus House, the sun streaming down on them. They were surrounded by Barbara and Nurse Crane in their uniforms, the nuns in their habits, and the Turners too. Patsy spotted herself wearing a different uniform standing between Delia in her St. John’s and Trixie in a pretty patterned dress. They all looked so happy.

“That was taken last April after Trixie and Tom’s engagement party.”

Patsy’s gaze snapped up from the photograph, “Trixie is engaged to Tom? The vicar?” She couldn’t believe it. Not only had Trixie never mentioned it, she just couldn’t picture the two together.

Delia shook her head, her face a mix of sadness and concern. “Not anymore. Trix called it off a few months later. I know it’s been hard on her, not that she ever talks about it.”

The redhead felt her chest tighten at the Welshwoman’s words. Poor Trixie. Patsy had thought she had looked tired lately - well, not lately, of course - ever since she could remember, really. She had chalked it up to overwork, and perhaps a little worry over her own condition. But now she felt a little foolish, and more than a little self-centered. Trixie had her own worries. Patsy’s accident had merely added to them.

Delia placed another photograph down on the bed. This one showed Past Pats in that same strange uniform surrounded by some of the cubs she recognised from the bus trip. They were all crowded around a banner that read “Rose Queen of Poplar.”

“This was taken last May. As Tom’s fiancé, Trixie was asked to organise the Rose Queen this year, and of course the cubs were part of the processional, so you were in charge of wrangling the little scamps,” Delia said, her voice a little tighter now.

Patsy studied the picture. So that’s what that uniform was - her Acela uniform. Looking back at the picture from Trixie and Tom’s engagement party, Patsy realised that she and Delia must have just come from, or were on their way to, a function with the cubs. That explained why Delia was in her St. John’s ambulance uniform. She had worn that on the bus trip with the cubs, too.

“Did you help out a lot with the cubs?” Patsy asked.

Delia smiled. “I did when I could. You originally asked me to come help teach them first aid after Fred did a rather disastrous job teaching them to light fires,” she laughed lightly at the memory and flashed a cheeky grin. “Let’s just say my first lesson was in treating burns.”

Patsy chuckled. She had only spent a few hours with the boys since her accident, but she could tell they were a rather exuberant lot. She would definitely not trust them with matches.

“I came and helped out a few times after that, especially if Fred wasn’t available because of his duties with the CDC, or on more special occasions.”

“Special occasions?” Patsy asked.

Delia looked up towards the ceiling, thinking back, “I came along with you to the District Jamboree and helped out at the lantern parade on Halloween, things like that. I also helped with the square-dance as much as I could, though that was mostly just pedaling tickets.”

The redhead looked down at the photograph in front of her. Half of the boys crowded around the banner looked like they were ready to bolt as soon as the picture was taken. Even in the still black and white photograph, she could practically see them fidgeting.

“But not the Rose Queen?”

Delia looked thoughtful, and a little sad. “No. Not the Rose Queen. You told me you had it all under control,” she said, giving Patsy a smile that looked quite hollow to the redhead’s eyes.

It seemed like there was more to the story, but before she could ask, Delia had set down another photograph. It was of a group of around a dozen or so nurses in what Patsy recognised as the uniform of the London Hospital.

“This was taken right after we qualified,” Delia said.

Patsy studied the women, her eyes instantly finding Delia amongst the crowd standing beside a grinning Mary Boyd. And there was Past Pats standing on her other side, smiling more brightly than she had in any photograph, her blonde hair swept up neatly beneath her frilly white cap. She looked so young. So happy. So ready to face the bright future laid out before her.

It was ironic really. That Patsy was so looking towards the future, apparently ignoring her painful past. But this Patsy could think of little else. Her past was all she could see of her future, and it was anything but bright. It was dark and menacing, looming ahead of her like some oncoming disaster.

Patsy stared blankly at the bedspread as the brunette placed the last photograph down. There was only one person in this picture - Delia. She was smiling at something off to the photographer’s left, wearing a nurse’s cap and white apron emblazoned with the St. John’s cross.

“I gave you this picture because it was your fault it got ruined,” Delia chuckled. “I had just joined the ambulance brigade and you insisted on meeting me after my orientation to take me out for celebratory fish and chips. Well, it started absolutely pouring rain on your walk over so instead of waiting outside like we planned, you tried to slip quietly into the hall,” the brunette laughed, her dimples sinking deep into her cheeks as her gaze went back to the past, “You were absolutely drenched. Your fringe was utterly flattened and blocking your eyes a bit, and you crashed into a table of leaflets, sending them flying every which way, and drawing every eye in the place - well, every eye other than the photographer’s who snapped this photo as soon as I looked away. Luckily, he took two, so my St. John’s identification photograph doesn’t show me staring off into space about to laugh,” she giggled, “Although it does show me struggling valiantly to hold one back,” she gave an exaggerated sigh. “But at least I’m looking at the camera.”

Patsy smiled, looking down at the picture. Delia did have a rather funny expression on her face, and the situation as Delia described it sounded quite amusing. But Patsy couldn’t laugh. Suddenly, she could barely breathe. Looking down at her recent past splayed out in front of her, she was struck by a profound sense of grief.

Past Pats seemed to have had such a full life.

No.

She had had such a full life. That’s what it was. For the first time she really saw it. The easy friendships. The career she loved. The volunteer work that brought her joy.

Joy. What a novel concept.

In nearly every photograph she was smiling so happily. All except the one from the square-dance, but that had only been because she had been surprised. Still, her posture showed how comfortable she had been. How happy and relaxed. Patsy could not imagine ever feeling that way without some impending doom coming along and tearing it all away. After all, the only time she could remember feeling anything close to joy had been when she recalled that first memory of her mother and sister, and that had ended with the devastating realisation that they were gone. That she would never feel that way again.

How could she ever hope to feel something so simple and pure as joy? She looked down at the images of her lost life and quickly scooped the photographs into a stack, thrusting them back into Delia’s hands.

The Welshwoman looked startled, “Pats? Are you…”

But Patsy cut her off. She didn’t want to explain. Not now. Not with the grayscale image of Delia’s beaming smile so fresh in her mind. The joyful smile she had yet to see in colour.

“What else is there?” she asked.

Delia’s brows knitted together in concern, but she kept silent as she stood and returned the photographs to the shoebox.

As she waited, Patsy felt her guilt and anxiety battle for dominance in her gut. She knew she shouldn’t have been so terse with her friend. Delia was just trying to be supportive. She was, in fact, being incredibly supportive. But the anxiety was winning the fight in the redhead’s stomach so she resolved to apologise later. Right now, she had more pressing matters to face.

“I’m not sure what most of these things are,” Delia said, “But I can tell that some are at least related to your time in the camp. And then there is your mother’s mirror which I know has both happy and sad memories attached. So, it’s up to you, sweetheart. Where would you like to start?”

Patsy considered her options. None seemed particularly appealing. She was loathe to trigger a camp memory, so maybe the mystery items would be best. But then they could be related to the camps too. She was sorely tempted to just put it all back under the bed. Hide it all away. But the thought of that felt like letting Past Pats win. Like falling back into her old patterns. And Patsy was still too angry with her former self to give in.

And given that sentiment, she decided to be a little more open with her friend too.

“Let’s start with the things that you aren’t certain are related to the camps. I fear I won’t want to face the rest of it if I see something that triggers one of those memories first,” she said, giving the brunette a shaky half-smile.

Delia’s own smile was sympathetic as she turned and studied the contents of the old shoebox. Her hand hovered over it for a moment, seeming indecisive before she took a deep breath and collected a few items.

The first left her utterly baffled. It was an origami frog made out of yellow lined notebook paper. It looked well handled, but otherwise it’s age and origin were completely indecipherable. Patsy looked up at Delia, who merely gave a small shrug.

“I have no clue, cariad. But I think I know what this one might be,” she said, gingerly placing a silk, lace trimmed handkerchief into the redhead’s hand. It was real silk, too. Patsy could tell by the coolness of the fabric and the way it ran over her hands.

“Judging by the monogram, I think this belonged to your mother,” Delia said, her voice filled with tenderness.

Patsy looked down at the creamy silk, turning it in her hand until she saw the delicate initials embroidered in a flowing script: a large ‘M’ flanked by two smaller ‘C’s.’ She had no memory of this from her childhood, but she knew what it must be.

“This is her bridal handkerchief,” she said, her voice filled with reverence.

Automatically, she brought the cool fabric up to her face, inhaling deeply. A disappointing musty smell filled her nostrils, causing her heart to sink, and her nose to wrinkle in disgust.

Gosh, she was foolish. For a moment she had expected it to smell of her mother, of Pears soap and Chanel No. 5. But, of course it didn’t. How could it? Her mother had been gone for more than fifteen years, and from what Delia had described, this handkerchief looked far too clean to have been with them in the camps. Patsy wondered where it had come from.

She looked up at Delia who was watching her quietly, her eyes filled with compassion.

“I don’t have any memory of seeing this before, but that’s what it must be,” she said, “She might have had it at our house in Singapore, but I’m not sure. I don’t think so, for some reason. Perhaps my father will know more about it.”

There it was again.

At the mention of Patsy’s father, Delia’s eyes had seemed to lose some of their usual warmth. In fact, they looked positively icy.

“Delia, can I ask you something?”

Almost immediately, the brunette’s eyes softened and their warmth returned. “Of course, sweetheart. You know you can ask me anything.”

Patsy studied her for a moment, “I don’t know exactly how to ask this. I’ve talked about it a little with both you and Trixie, but I’ve never really been able to figure it all out. So I suppose I will just be direct.”

Delia smirked a little at this last statement but nodded, “Go on, then.”

“Why don’t you like my father?”

Delia looked taken aback. “What makes you think that?”

Now it was Patsy’s turn to smirk. “You’re hardly subtle. Both you and Trixie turn cold as soon as he’s mentioned. I know that I obviously did not talk a lot about my past with anyone, but I must have told you something about him for you to react that way. It’s not like you’ve met him, have you?”

The brunette’s eyes dropped to her lap, “No, none of us have.”

“So what is it then?”

Delia sighed, dragging her eyes back up to meet the blue ones sat across from her. “I didn’t want to say anything, especially with him coming here and you about to, for lack of a better word, ‘meet’ him for the first time. I know how you felt about him before, but I suppose I didn’t really feel it was my place to say anything.”

“But you do know how I used to feel, and it’s obvious it wasn’t exactly favourable. So, tell me. Please,” she said, her eyes staring steadily into the brunette’s.

Delia nodded. “Alright. Well, you didn’t exactly get along. Part of it was that he puts a lot more stock into class and social status, but that’s probably more the result of the initial rift.”

“Which was?”

The Welshwoman looked extremely uncomfortable. “I don’t know, Pats. I don’t feel like I should tell you right now, especially when you’re set to see him tomorrow.”

Patsy felt a flash of irritation and barely managed to keep her voice calm, “Delia, if there was some reason that I didn’t get along with my father I want to know. You had no problem telling me about my family dying in those bloody internment camps, and it can’t be nearly that bad.”

Delia looked a bit pained, but she gave a slight nod, “It’s related, actually.”

Patsy merely stared at her expectantly. At last, Delia sighed, and began to explain, “A few months after the camps were liberated, as soon as you were healthy enough to travel, he sent you away to boarding school in England.”

The redhead sat stunned as the brunette continued, “Apparently he told you it was so that you could better catch up on the years of schooling that you had lost, but you told me you didn’t believe him,” Delia’s voice began to take on a noticeable edge of anger as she went on, “You said that in those months while you healed he could barely look at you. That it had felt like he was disappointed that you had survived instead of Libby or your mother. And then he just put you on a boat to England with a chaperone you hardly knew. You were twelve, about to turn thirteen. Since then you’ve seen him every couple of years when he comes to England and you write occasionally, but that’s all. Oh, and he puts money in an account for you each month, but you’ve never touched it.”

They sat in silence for a long time.

Patsy felt empty.

He had sent her away.

After nearly four years separation. After living through unimaginable deprivations. After starving and suffering and somehow managing to survive. After losing half of their family.

He had sent her away.

Her father.

Her only family.

No wonder Past Pats was so secretive.

No wonder Past Pats was so hesitant to trust.

Patsy wished she hadn’t asked. Why had she? No good had come from asking about her past.

Only death. Suffering. Abandonment.

Just when she thought there could be no more pain, there always was. It was just waiting behind the curtain, ready for its turn on stage. What further horrors were waiting in the wings for her? Was it really better to know what was coming? Or would it be better to wait for the curtain to rise on its own accord.

It was impossible to know.

But as Patsy sat there feeling nothing but pain creeping through her fading numbness, she came to a decision.

“You were right,” she said, her voice so quiet it was almost inaudible.

But of course, Delia had heard her. Of course her thoughtful, supportive friend was sitting there quietly, ready to listen. “About what, sweetheart,” she asked, her voice so soft, so gentle.

“You shouldn’t have told me. I shouldn’t have made you.”

“Pats…” she began, but the redhead cut her off.

“I don’t want to know anymore,” she said, her voice starting to gain a quiet fire.

Delia had obviously heard the edge in her tone because her own was cautious, “Know what, cariad?”

Patsy looked up into Delia’s questioning eyes. “I don’t want to know any more about my past life. I don’t want to be warned. I don’t want to be reminded,” her hurt and frustration were simmering dangerously now, threatening to spill over in a rolling boil “I don’t want to learn anything more about all the horrible things that happened to me or all the wonderful things that I’ve lost. I don’t want to know anything more about her,” she practically growled, the last word dripping with contempt, “I realise that my memories are coming back, and of course I want them to. But until they do, I don’t want to know any more.”

She looked into Delia’s eyes and suddenly her frustration evaporated. The pain in those blue eyes were like a mirror to her own.

“I’m sorry, Delia. I didn’t mean to snap at you,” she sighed, “It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. You’re doing the best you can. I’m just so… Gosh, I’m just so tired,” she said, her voice suddenly choked.

She felt her body sag for a moment before strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her close.

“It’s alright, cariad. You’re alright,” the soft words seemed to sweep soothingly over her like gentle waves on a sandy beach.

She felt her body being eased back onto the bed, letting that lilting voice wash over her as she let the exhaustion overtake her.




 

Chapter Text

Patsy sat on the edge of her bed, her knee bouncing up and down in a vain attempt to shed some of her restless energy. Despite her best efforts, her gaze was drawn by the clock on the bedside table.

Two minutes.

Only two minutes had passed since she last checked, and still a good fifty-two to go until her father was scheduled to arrive at Nonnatus. She rose from the bed and went over to the dancette, flipping the now finished record over to the B-side and lowering the needle.

“Have you ever had the blues
Didn’t know which way to go…”

She snorted. How appropriate. She certainly didn’t know what to do with herself at the moment. Though she doubted Mr. Price had ever had circumstances like the ones she was facing in mind when he penned his song.

Did feeling anxious about meeting your father for what felt like the first time, even though it wasn’t, qualify as the blues? She thought not. Blue didn’t feel like the proper colour at all. Too soothing. Too peaceful. Patsy’s feelings were decidedly greyscale, swinging from a deep charcoal to a blinding white in an instant.

She looked over at the clock.

Fifty-one minutes to go. And that was assuming he was on time. She couldn’t spend it here. She needed more of a distraction.

The horns suddenly fell silent as Patsy switched off the record player and left the room.

The ground floor of Nonnatus was quiet, but she should have expected it. It was clinic day after all. The nuns and midwives would all be over at the Community Center wading through the queue of expectant mothers and newborn babies. But someone must be here. That was something she had quickly learned about the convent - someone was always on call in case a mother went into labour.

She found Sister Winifred in the lounge. Patsy smiled at the sight of the young nun seated in one of the old armchairs knitting what looked like a child’s jumper. Sister Winifred was always so bright and chatty. She would be the perfect distraction.

“Good afternoon, sister. Mind if I join you?”

The nun looked up, beaming her characteristic gummy smile up at the redhead. “Hello, Patsy. That would be lovely. I’m just working on some things for the charity box while I wait for the phone to ring, but I can knit and chat at the same time. Are you having a good afternoon?” she asked.

Patsy took her seat on the settee as she considered how best to answer the nun’s question. If she was honest, the answer was, ‘not particularly.’ All the waiting and wondering was making her quite anxious. So many questions kept circling her head. Would she recognise her father? What would he be like? Would he be more like the protective father she thought she remembered from her dream or like the man who apparently abandoned her only a few years later? Would she love him? Would he still love her?

But she had sought out company to distract her from her thoughts, so she kept her answer vague. “I suppose so,” she said. Not an outright lie, but not the full truth either.

“Lovely,” Sister Winifred replied. “Are you looking forward to seeing your father?”

So no avoiding her thoughts, then. She sighed.

“Honestly, I’m rather nervous. And all the waiting is starting to drive me a bit mad. I was hoping I could sit with you and talk while you knit? I’d adore to have something else to keep me occupied.”

The sister looked thoughtful for a moment. “Would you like to give it a try? I don’t suppose you can knit with your arm in that cast, but I have a crochet hook if you’d like to give it a go. I can show you the basic stitches.”

The nun didn’t wait for her companion to answer before she set her half-finished jumper and needles aside and began picking through her knitting bag. The redhead thought it was probably a disaster in the making, but at least it was something to focus on other than her father’s impending arrival. As she waited, Patsy admired the jumper Sister Winifred was knitting. She really was quite good. The jumper looked like it would fit a child of around nine or ten, a boy by the looks of the cut. The deep red yarn was of good quality and was obviously being repurposed from some other garment, the strands kinked and wavy like hair recently released from a tight plait. Something about it tugged at the redhead’s mind.

“Here we are,” Sister Winifred’s bright voice cut through her thoughts, “I was thinking you could start by trying your hand at blanket squares. How’s that sound?”

Patsy smiled, “I don’t know how good I’ll be. I’ve gotten much better at doing things with my left hand, but I fear crocheting might be beyond my skills. I’m game to try though.”

Sister Winifred picked up two balls of yarn and two crochet hooks and joined the redhead on the settee. “No harm in trying. If they don’t turn out we can just unravel them and try again,” she said, her smile as bright as her words.

The next thirty minutes seemed to fly by as Sister Winifred patiently taught Patsy how to crochet a granny square. The nun had produced a perfect square in that time, and Patsy was about halfway through her rather wonky one.

The sister returned to her knitting, chatting away as Patsy continued to work on her blanket square. It was slow, frustrating work. She found it nearly impossible to keep her tension consistent due to her cast and her clumsiness with her nondominant hand, but she was getting the hang of it. Sort of. But it felt so nice to be making something useful. Sure, it might be the ugliest blanket in the Commonwealth, but it would be warm.

“Oh drat,” the sister exclaimed, her comforting chatter coming to an abrupt halt.

The redhead looked up to see a tangled knot in the nun’s wavy red yarn. She watched as she carefully placed the incomplete jumper aside and began to pick at the knot in her lap.

Patsy felt her blood turn cold. Her eyes were fixed unblinkingly on Sister Winifred’s pale fingers as they plucked at the blood red thread, an inexplicable feeling of terror beginning to bubble in her stomach. All sound was instantly muted, and her vision began to go white around the edges as her panic began to rise.

Then suddenly, the hands were gone.

And the yarn.

And even the lap.

Patsy blinked in confusion as her vision came back into full focus just in time to see Sister Winifred’s habit disappear around the corner and into the hall.

After a moment she heard the great wooden door creak open and the sound of voices making their greetings. The doorbell must have rung.

What time was it?

Patsy’s eyes scanned the room for a clock but before she could find one the voices began making their way down the hall and towards the lounge.

Those voices.

One belonging to Sister Winifred and the other to…

“Hello, Patience.”

She knew that voice. It was older than she remembered, but still, she knew it. And the recognition almost made her burst into tears.

Patsy rose, dreamlike, to her feet and looked up to meet those familiar ice blue eyes. “Papa?” she asked, but she knew the answer.

She knew.

This was her father.

The pair stood stock still, staring at each other for what felt like ages before Sister Winifred’s cautious voice broke the silence. “I hate to interrupt, but clinic should be letting out now and the others will be returning very soon. I would imagine the two of you would like somewhere quiet to talk. Might I suggest the chapel? I can bring you tea if you’d like.”

Her father seemed to find his voice first. But even as he spoke to the nun, his eyes never left his daughter. “Thank you, sister. That would be very kind of you.”

Sister Winifred departed for the kitchen, and her father gave Patsy a small smile. “Shall we retire to the chapel as the sister suggested?”

Patsy blinked, her mind seeming to restart itself at last. She felt her father’s gaze flit over her twitching fingers and she brought her arms up to cross against her chest, the motion stilling her fidgeting and providing a feeling of comfort. “Of course,” she said, “Follow me.”

The redhead led the way out into the hall, her arms still hugging her chest in a vain attempt to control her shallow breathing and pounding heart.

Her father was here. He was really here.

The pair entered the dim chapel, and Patsy began to feel the calm of its quiet stillness seeping into her veins. She took the seat closest to the altar and her father sat to her right, leaving a seat between them.

She was grateful for the distance. It allowed her to see him more clearly, to take him all in. It also felt strangely safer somehow, and she couldn’t quite understand why.

Father and daughter sat in silence while they waited for Sister Winifred to bring their tea. Both looking each other over, but never quite meeting the other’s eye.

After a few minutes, her father finally spoke. “I like your hair,” he said, his eyes raking over the ginger tresses hanging loosely around her shoulders. “The colour suits you.”

She felt her chest tighten. So, it had been that long, had it? Patsy didn’t remember exactly when she had dyed her hair, but she did know that Trixie had never seen her as a blonde. The bottle blonde herself had mentioned it just the other day when they had discussed getting the redhead’s roots retouched. So it had been at least a year and a half since she became a ginger. And in that time, she had not seen her father. She wondered how many times they had seen each other since he sent her away.

Patsy heard the sound of approaching footsteps followed by Sister Winifred’s cheery voice cutting through the thick silence, “Oh lovely. This empty chair is the perfect place for the tray,” she said, depositing the tea tray between them. “Is there anything else I can get you before I leave you alone?” she asked, her smile falling a little as her green eyes flitted between the pair.

Patsy shook her head. “No, thank you, sister. This is perfect.”

Sister Winifred’s wimple bobbed as she nodded and left the chapel, easing the door closed behind her.

The silence seemed to grow thicker.

Patsy just didn’t know where to begin. How did one start a conversation with their estranged father whom they hardly recalled? It felt like there was just too much, and strangely, too little she wanted to say to him. Fortunately the tea tray gave her an opening.

“Milk? Sugar?” she asked, looking up into her father’s eyes for the first time since entering the chapel. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember how you take your tea.”

He gave her a small smile, “White, please.”

The corner of the redhead’s mouth twitched up in a lopsided grin, “The same as me, then.”

Her father nodded as she poured milk into both cups. “Yes. Though I wasn’t certain if that would still be the case.”

“I’m fairly certain my food preferences are mostly unchanged, at least according to Delia and Trixie. Apparently, I still prefer what Delia calls a ‘criminal amount’ of vinegar on my chips.”

She grinned, thinking back to their walk to get chips after the bus ride with the cubs. The brunette had turned up her nose, even as she laughed at the amount of vinegar the redhead had poured over her chips. It hadn’t stopped her from sneaking one, though.

He smiled. “Delia is your friend from training school, the one you were going to share the flat with?” he asked, taking a small sip from his tea.

Patsy looked down into the caramel colored liquid steaming up from her cup. “She was, though I don’t remember any of that. But I do know she has become my closest friend. She’s been so wonderful through all of this. I really don’t know how I would have coped without her,” she said, looking up and displaying one of her trademark crooked smiles.

Her father nodded. “I’m glad you have such a good friend,” he said, taking another sip of his tea before asking, “And Trixie? Who is she?”

“Trixie Franklin. She’s my roommate and best friend here at Nonnatus.”

“So not a nun, I take it,” he said, an amused smirk flitting over his face.

Patsy chuckled, “No, definitely not a nun. She’s far too fashionable for a wimple.”

It was odd, just chatting with her father like this. It was like making polite conversation with a mutual acquaintance. But in a way he was, wasn’t he? This was Past Pats’ father, not hers. Her father was younger. Stronger. The man before her looked like a frail shadow of the man from her dream.

But then maybe that was the problem. It had been a dream. She couldn’t really trust it, could she? Perhaps it had just been wish fulfillment - what she wanted in a father, not what she had. But it hadn’t felt that way. It had felt real. Maybe he just seemed weaker and older because he was weaker and older. After all, it had been almost twenty years since the memory in the dream would have happened. And nearly four of those were spent suffering starvation and torture. That kind of experience could prematurely age a person. But still, he just seemed so different.

She studied him as he took another sip from his china cup, noticing the slight tremor in his hand as he lowered it back to the saucer.

And it hit her.

It wasn’t the age that made him a stranger. It was this.

He was nervous.

Her father was never nervous. Her father was a confident titan of business who never showed any weakness. Her father never failed to meet someone’s eye.

This man looked awkward. Uncertain. Anxious.

This man was Past Pats’ father. The distance and awkwardness she felt from him was as much a result of their estrangement as it was the accident. She wondered if he would know how to talk to her even if she didn’t have amnesia.

A big part of her thought not.

“How was your journey?” she asked, trying to keep the conversation flowing. “You flew, didn’t you?”

He smiled. “I did. It was quite the journey. Hong Kong to Tokyo to Wake Island and then Hawaii. I spent an extra day resting in Honolulu before traveling to San Francisco and on to New York. I flew out of Idlewild early yesterday morning and arrived here in the evening,” he looked up at her, adding, “I’m sorry I didn’t come to see you as soon as I arrived, but it was past seven by the time I got to Kensington, and I’m afraid the long journey had quite tired me out,” he gave a small rueful laugh, “I wanted to be at my best when I saw you.”

Patsy couldn’t help the smirk that crept up her face. So, he felt the awkwardness as well. But of course, it must be difficult for him too. There was just so much expectation. They were father and daughter. This should have been a joyful reunion.

But a reunion presupposed that there had once been a union. Not the case here. By all accounts they had been strangers before Patsy’s amnesia had made that metaphorical definition a literal fact.

That was why this conversation felt so different than the first ones she had had with the other people from her past life. Delia and Trixie, the nurses and nuns, even Fred and the Turners - they all knew Past Pats. They all knew enough about the adult woman she had been to have a guide to how to interact with her. But not her own father. The distance between them had been too great.

And she knew now that that was his fault. He had sent her away.

“Jim tells me that you want to stay here instead of coming to live with me in Kensington,” he said, his tone cautious.

Patsy’s own nervousness suddenly spiked, and she carefully set her cup back in its saucer.

“I do,” she said, feeling strangely guilty, “I’m sorry.” She met those ice blue eyes as she apologised and saw the pain and sadness in them. She knew Mr. Stockton would have given him an explanation, but stranger or not, he was still her father, and if she wished to have a real relationship with him, she owed him one of her own.

“Nonnatus feels like home to me. I have friends here, and Kensington seems so far away. It would just be you and I there, and I think we can both agree after this conversation alone, that it would be dreadfully quiet,” she said, watching as her father’s eyes dropped to his tea cup. “And that’s to be expected,” she added, trying to reassure him, “Even before my accident, you lived halfway around the world. We can’t have seen much of each other. And now, anything we did have is gone. We’re starting over.”

He looked up at her again, his eyes full of a new hope.

“I do want to get to know you again,” she said, “but until then I need to live with people who I already know. And with Delia moving here tomorrow, and with Trixie and all the other women I used to work with here, there is nowhere I feel more comfortable.”

A sad wistful smile flitted over her father’s face. “I am happy that you have found somewhere that you feel so at home,” he said, his gaze drifting over to the crucifix on the altar. “Though I must confess I never would have thought it would have been in a convent.” He looked thoughtful. “I remember getting your letter over a year ago telling me that you were moving here. I must say I was surprised, and I never thought you would stay for long. You never did like nuns.”

Patsy felt her whole body tense as she listened to her father’s musings.

“At least these aren’t catholic. I’ve never seen a catholic nun so much as smile, and that one who showed me in was positively cheerful,” he said, “Still…nuns,” he finished, his voice distant and full of reflection.

“Why did you send me to a catholic school then?” Patsy asked, her voice very quiet.

Her father blinked, turning his gaze from the figure of Christ to that of his daughter seated across from him. He straightened his posture. When he spoke his tone was neutral, businesslike, “Well, it was a good school.”

Patsy felt her temper flare, but she managed to match his tone as she said, “Let me rephrase. Why did you send me to a catholic boarding school...in England...so soon after we were liberated from the internment camps where Mother and Libby died?”

He blanched, clearly shocked by her question. “I didn’t know you remembered that yet,” he said.

Patsy felt the anger begin to build in her chest. She may not remember the camps, or his abandonment, but she did remember her mother and sister. She did feel that grief. And her twelve-year-old self must have felt it tenfold. It would have been sharp to her. Fresh. The images of their diseased and dying bodies must have been etched into her young mind. The feeling of their cold skin after they died would have still been on her thin fingers. How could he have sent that little girl away?

“I don’t,” she said, and even she could hear the spiteful tone in her voice as she continued, “But Delia told me about the camps, and about what happened after. She wanted me to be warned, you see. So that the memories wouldn’t come as a complete shock,” she eyed him carefully, “She’s wonderfully supportive and caring like that,” she paused, “Like family.”

Patsy could see the muscles of his jaw tighten at those last words, but she didn’t care. She was angry. God, she was so angry. This entire circumstance - the camps, her father, her accident, her insomnia, her amnesia - all of it. Her entire black bloody future made her so bloody angry.

Her father met her fiery gaze and she could see his own fire burning in his eyes for a moment before he closed them and sighed, bringing his right hand up to finger a card in the breast pocket of his suit. He looked like he might pull it out but instead took a deep breath, and when he opened his eyes again the fire seemed dimmer in that icy blue - still smoldering and hot but contained by a resigned sadness.

“She had no right to tell you that,” he said, his voice low.

“Yes, she did,” Patsy said, her expression full of stubborn defiance. “It’s my life and I have a right to know about it.”

He shook his head. “You misunderstand me. She had no right to tell you about something that she cannot possibly understand. How could she? I still can’t understand it,” his eyes shifted back to the altar. “Such dreadful cruelty.”

Patsy waited for him to continue, but he just sat staring at the cross, lost in his own memories.

They sat in silence for what felt like hours before the quiet was disturbed by the sounds of the returning midwives.

He turned to her, his eyes on her but still seemingly focused on something in the distance. “I did the best that I could for you, Patience. I know it doesn’t feel like that, but I did try.”



>>>>><<<<< 


Delia sat on the floor surrounded by the unkempt boxes littering her bedroom. Her fingers absentmindedly playing with the ring on the gold chain around her neck as she reread the final letter Patsy had left for her.

My Darling Deels,
Welcome home! Those words look so glorious, don’t they? I wish I was there to say them in person, but alas, duty calls...

She hadn’t read it in weeks. Hadn’t let herself read it. She had needed to put the past behind her, so that she could have the strength to face the present, much less the future. But just for tonight, this last night in the flat that should have meant the beginning of their life together, she allowed herself to indulge.

If only for a little while.

Plus, she simply couldn't face packing.

In theory, it really shouldn’t have been this difficult to repack everything. After all, she had never truly unpacked in the first place.

But then that was the problem.

She had been so careful and efficient as she had packed her belongings to leave the Nurses Home, but now the boxes were all only half filled with those belongings, the contents jumbled and disorganised as they rattled around the half empty containers. She really would be better off just taking everything out and starting over, but that just felt so counterproductive.

Lately, everything felt counterproductive.

She sighed, setting the note aside and looking down at her watch - nearly six o’clock. Mary should be arriving to help in around half an hour. The brunette decided to give up on her packing charade until then and retreated to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.

Delia hadn’t originally thought she would actually need help packing. The idea had just been a pretense to coax the dark-haired nurse over for an ulterior motive, one she knew her friend was bound to protest if broached anywhere other than the confines of the flat. But now, she was grateful for the assistance. Another set of hands, and more importantly a clearer head, would do wonders towards speeding the process along.

And she would need that clearer head, because after the events of the past two days, she needed an outside perspective on some other things as well.

As she waited for the kettle to boil, Delia took a look around the kitchen, wondering what to take with her. The kettle itself she could not part with. It was, after all, perfect. Even if she and Pats were destined to never be more than friends, she wanted this small, simple reminder that they had once shared a home together, even if only for a morning. But the other kitchenwares were plain enough, obviously purchased more for their utilitarian purposes than for aesthetic or sentimental ones. There was no reason to keep them. They would be easily replaced if she ever lived independently again.

The brunette was pulled out of her musings by the initial burbling whistle of the kettle, followed almost immediately by the ringing of the buzzer downstairs.

Mary was early.

Delia switched off the hob and hurried over to the door.

She was actually quite pleasantly surprised that Mary was early. She had really just been making herself tea as a way to burn time until her friend arrived. As she bounded down the stairs to the building’s entrance, she hoped that they could get the packing done quickly so that they could relax for the rest of the evening and talk. She thought she might need the extra time to convince her friend of her proposal.

The Welshwoman smiled as she opened the door to greet her friend, but her smile faltered as she took in the stranger on the front stoop. He was tall, well over six-foot with a build that she could tell had been athletic in his youth but now looked lean and drawn in his bespoke suit. Piercing blue eyes looked at her fixedly from beneath neatly styled greying blonde hair. His mouth quirked up in an eerily familiar half-smile as he took in her appearance.

Delia felt her stomach drop.

Patsy’s father.

It must be.

“Good evening, you must be Miss Busby,” he said, extended his hand in greeting. “Charles Mount. Patience’s father.” His tone was almost friendly under his precise accent, and Delia reached out a cautious hand to shake his.

“Nice to meet you, sir,” she managed through her shock.

His fish hook smile only grew. On Patsy, that smile could make her heart melt, but on her father, it seemed to chill her to her very core.

“So sorry to drop by unannounced like this, but I was on my way back from visiting Patience at Nonnatus and realised that I was in the neighborhood of her flat,” he laughed lightly, “Or rather what would have been her flat,” he said, pulling a cream coloured card from his breast pocket.

Delia recognised it at once and felt her chest tighten in pain - the change of address card Patsy had sent out to her limited number of correspondents.

“Patsy tells me that you are moving tomorrow, but I wondered if I might take a look. I must say I am curious to see where my daughter was planning to live, and I thought it might be nice to meet you as well. She does speak so highly of you,” he said.

The last thing Delia wanted was to be alone in what should have been their flat with Patsy’s father. She didn’t trust him or his sly smile, and she certainly didn’t trust herself to remain diplomatic around the man that had been the cause of so much pain to the woman she loved.

She arranged her face into a look of sincere apology, “I’m afraid I’m expecting company soon. A friend is coming over to help me pack, and the flat is a bit untidy with all the preparations,” she said, hoping he would take the hint.

He didn’t.

“Oh, I shan’t be long,” he pushed, “And please don’t worry about any mess. I just moved myself, and I know how chaotic it all can get,” he said, offering her a friendly smile.

Despite his genial tone, the Welsh nurse felt this visit was anything but a friendly one. But she also knew that refusing him would only make matters worse. He was still Patsy’s father, and although he seemed to have accepted his daughter’s decision to remain at Nonnatus without a fight, she knew that if pushed, he would be a dangerous enemy to have.

“Alright, so long as you don’t mind the mess,” she said, standing aside to let him pass, “Please come in, it’s just up the stairs on the right.”

He stepped into the building’s small vestibule and gestured towards the stairs, “Please, lead the way.”

Delia closed the street entrance and walked past him and up the stairs, sending up a silent prayer that Mary would indeed come early. She was thankful that her friend was never late, so she could at least rely on the fact that she only had to make it through half an hour with her former girlfriend’s father. But she knew from experience, thirty minutes could feel like an eternity.

She reached the door to the flat and felt instantly self-conscious as she took in the grubby paintwork, knowing that it opened onto a lounge covered in equally grubby wallpaper. She hadn’t been able to face painting it, not without Patsy there. In fact, even though she had been living there for nearly a month, the flat looked almost identical to how it had when she had first come home a few days after Patsy’s accident. But now she wished she had made some improvements. Patsy had told her enough about her father for the Welshwoman to know that this flat would not live up to the standards he expected for his daughter. But then, she had to admit that fresh paint wouldn’t have gone far into changing his opinions.

Delia opened the door and turned, ready to make her excuses about the flat’s appearance, but to her surprise, Mr. Mount wasn’t there. In fact, he was still only about three-quarters of the way up the stairs. And he seemed to be struggling.

Despite her surprise, Delia’s nursing instincts kicked inland she hurried forward to assist the Mount patriarch.

“I’m sorry, the stairs are rather steep,” she said, offering him a pretense to accept her help even though the stairs were no steeper than typical.

“I can manage, thank you,” he said, waving her off, his eyes never leaving his feet.

With his focus diverted, Delia was able to watch him as he climbed the remaining four steps. He seemed unsteady on his feet, almost a bit clumsy and uncertain with his footfalls. She wondered if he was injured. He didn’t appear to favor one leg in particular, but perhaps it was his back. The Welsh nurse could imagine that flying halfway around the world would cause some stiffness.

He reached the top, and Delia turned back to her open flat door before he could raise his head and catch her watching him.

“Please, come in,” she said, allowing him to enter before her.

He stood in the middle of the small lounge, taking in the peeling wallpaper and second-hand furniture, a strange look on his face. Disappointment? Relief? Satisfaction?

An embarrassed flush crept up the Welshwoman’s neck, surprising her. She had expected to feel defiant. Delia had never wanted this man’s approval even when she and Patsy were together. In fact, she had dreamt of their meeting for years. Dreams filled with rebukes, cold stares, and, when Patsy was feeling particularly hurt, the occasional slap to the face. She had even had fantasies of telling her girlfriend’s father exactly what his daughter meant to her. Of telling him that she would never abandon her. That she would be the family Patsy deserved to have instead of the poor specimen of a man she had the misfortune to call her father. But with that Patsy gone, Delia felt the need to defend her love’s choices to this man whose approval she knew, despite all her facades and brave faces, had still meant so much to her girlfriend.

“I know it looks awfully dingy in here, but Pats and I had planned on painting and cheering the place up a bit,” she swallowed, feeling the pain hit her anew as she found herself fumbling for his approval, the memory of their picnic suddenly vivid in her mind.

I want yellow walls in here.

Patsy’s smile hooking up her face as she had watched Delia gazing around the flat, planning their home.

God, that smile.

So loving. So indulgent. So bloody adorable.

So gone.

“But,” she started, her voice suddenly sounding choked. She swallowed, “After what happened, I knew I wouldn’t be staying long.”

He turned, studying her for a moment, his eyes raking over her. “I’m sure you would have made it feel quite cozy,” he said.

Delia tried her best to smile but felt her breath leave her as his eyes rested for the briefest of moments on the ring hanging just below the hollow of her throat. The ring she had neglected to tuck away when she went downstairs to greet who she thought was her friend.

“I know it’s quite small, but it does have its own bathroom, which was quite the selling point for this area,” she said quickly, gesturing down the tiny hall to the door on the left. Mr. Mount glanced towards the door but made no move to enter. “The bedroom is through there,” she pointed to the open door across from it, “And the kitchen is right off the lounge,” she finished, feeling her nerves steadily increase with his silence.

“Would you care for a cup of tea?” she asked, feigning hospitality in order to have something, anything, to fill the time until Mary arrived.

“That would be lovely,” he said, his eyes resting on her briefly again before traveling back down the small hall towards the bedroom.

She knew he wanted to see it, but she also knew that his sense of propriety would never allow him to ask. Delia could offer to show him, but mess or no, she wasn’t willing to cede him that victory.

“Please, make yourself at home,” she said, gesturing to the wooden chair by the drop-leaf table. “I’ll be just a moment.”

The kettle was still warm from when she had switched it off not five minutes before, but she emptied the water into the sink, refilling it with the coldest water her tap could muster. Taking advantage of the cover of the running water, Delia closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath as she tucked the ring under the collar of her dress. She knew he had seen it, but she didn’t want him to have a chance to study it any closer. Please hurry, Mary.

When she returned with the tray, Mr. Mount was seated at the table, looking completely at ease as he waited patiently. Delia had expected him to be irritated with her long absence, but his stoic calm was more unnerving than any display of displeasure could have ever been.

“So, Miss Busby,” he began, “I hear you have been quite the dedicated friend to Patience throughout this whole ordeal. I do hope you know how appreciative I am of all the support you’ve shown her.”

Delia noted the lack of any actual declaration of gratitude. “Of course. Patsy has been my closest friend for years. I know she would have done the same for me, had the roles been reversed,” she said, taking a sip of her tea.

“I’m sure,” he said, smiling, his eyes seeming to flit ever so briefly to where the ring was now tucked safely under her dress. She felt her stomach drop. Had she imagined that? Surely she had. He had probably just blinked.

Stop being so paranoid, Busby.

Nevertheless, she knew she needed to tread carefully.

“Still, it is quite noble of you to give up your promising career at the London for her. I don’t know if Patience would have been quite as steadfast, I know how resolute she was in her commitment to her vocation,” he said, his tone full of the heartfelt sincerity that failed to carry through his words or body language.

Delia felt her anger flare. Careful be damned. How dare he presume to know anything about what Patsy would have done for her? How dare he presume to know anything about his daughter at all?

She could feel her eyes blazing as she leveled her gaze on him, but she imitated his sincere tone as she responded, “I had actually been considering leaving male surgical for quite some time,” she said, the lie coming easily as she followed it with the truth, “District practice gives me a much better opportunity to connect with my patients on a more personal level and get back to what drew me to nursing in the first place.”

Delia paused, finally feeling that defiance that had eluded her when he had first set foot in their lounge. She clenched her hands in her lap, trying to focus all her anger into her hands in an attempt to keep her voice level as she continued, “Which is exactly why Patsy made that same change over a year ago. She too became a nurse because she wanted to help people, and she too gave up a ‘promising career’ at the London so she could do just that,” she said, feeling her righteous indignation burn in defense of the woman she loved and her choices.

“I was happy to accept Sister Julienne’s offer because Nonnatus is where I feel I can do the most good - for the community and for my friend. I’m not giving up my career, sir. I’m just changing tracks within it.”

Mr. Mount narrowed his eyes slightly and gave the brunette his version of one of his daughter’s fishhook smiles. It felt like a threat.

“I stand corrected,” he said, “In that case, I wish you all the best in your new venture. I know that Patience is very pleased with your move, but it does ease my mind to know you are doing this as much for yourself as you are for my daughter.”

“I am,” she said.

“Good,” he said, fixing her in a steady gaze. “Because, I want to be frank with you for a moment, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded, clenching her teeth.

“As I’m sure you are aware, there is every chance that Patience will never return to nursing at Nonnatus. From what I understand, even if she recovers all of her memories, her brain injury might make it so that she cannot cope with the stresses and pressures of district nursing, much less midwifery.”

He was right of course. No matter how much she wanted to deny it - to deny that her strong, beautiful, brilliant Pats might not be able to go back to the job she so loved - she knew he was right. Delia felt her anger fizzle into a fervent ball of anxiety as he continued.

“Despite how you might feel about me,” he said, smirking a little at the Welshwoman’s obvious surprise at these words, “Yes, Patience has made your opinion of me quite clear. And despite what you might think, I do love my daughter, and I do hope she gets her entire life back,” he said, meeting her eyes with a steely look.

Her stomach lurched. He couldn’t know. He couldn’t. You’re just being paranoid again.

“But I am not the type to rely on hope, Miss Busby, not anymore. The reality of the situation is she may not be able to return to her old life. And in that case, she will need me in a way that she has not for most of her adult life. I can provide security for her regardless of her career prospects. I know you think I failed her in many ways when she was a child, but I have, and always will, strive to do what I think is best for my daughter. And I will not hesitate to take any action that insures her best possible future.”

Delia felt numb. All feelings of defiance and anxiety had been driven from her by his final words.

Because that had definitely been a threat.

She just didn’t know what exactly he was threatening.

Surely he couldn’t suspect. Patsy would never have told him before the accident, and she was in no position to tell him now. But he could take Patsy away eventually, and possibly even sooner if he really wanted to. She wouldn’t be able to stay at Nonnatus long term unless she returned to nursing. He was right about that. And she would not be surprised if he had the connections to destroy her own career.

She swallowed, feeling anxiety start to bubble in her stomach again as her numbness receded. “I didn’t intend to tell her anything about you. But she asked, and I couldn’t lie to her.” she said, remembering Patsy’s insistent stare, and feeling some of that steely resolve strengthening her like armour.

She looked into his cold blue eyes, feigning a determination she didn’t quite feel. “I won’t lie to her.”

He looked almost amused as he studied her. “I’m happy to hear that.”

They sat in silence, each seemingly waiting for the other to break first. After a long, heavy moment, a slight smile began to creep up Mr. Mount’s face.

“I should be going, I know you have a lot to do this evening to prepare for tomorrow,” he said, rising to his feet and taking his coat from the back of his chair. “Thank you for the tea, Miss Busby,” he said, glancing down to his untouched mug before locking those ice blue eyes on hers. “And for the conversation. It was enlightening.”

Her mouth felt suddenly dry. “Likewise,” she said, rising to her feet to usher him out.

He waived her off. “I won’t trouble you. I can see myself to the door. Have a good night, Miss Busby. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again very soon.”

Delia felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as she realised he was right.

“I look forward to it,” she lied.

He just smiled.


>>>>><<<<< 



Mary gawked at the black Rolls Royce as it passed her just as she turned the corner onto Delia’s street.

Well, that’s not something you see every day.

It was a gorgeous car though. Mary had always dreamed of having a car. Nothing nearly that fancy, mind. Just something she and Allie could use to escape the city now and then. Somewhere they could be alone, just the two of them. She could picture the wind blowing through her girlfriend’s long blond hair, her green eyes squinting against the sun as she sang along to the radio.

The black town car turned the corner at the end of the street, and she pulled herself out of her daydreaming. Focusing back on the task at hand, she walked the remaining block to Orient Buildings.

Mary rang the bell, bouncing on her toes in the chilly December evening as she waited for Delia to let her in. She checked her watch. Right on time. She continued to bounce as she waited.

And waited.

She looked at her watch again. It had been nearly two minutes and still no answer. Where was Delia? Mary felt suddenly very worried. She reached out to ring the bell again but her arm stopped in midair as the door finally opened revealing a very pale and obviously shaken Delia Busby.

Mary’s worry instantly blossomed into a panicky concern. “Delia, are you okay? What happened?”

The Welsh brunette cast a glance up the street and shook her head. “Inside,” was her only answer.

Mary followed her friend upstairs and into the flat. Delia sunk into one of the wooden chairs while Mary went directly to the kitchen and found her friend’s whisky and two glasses. She plunked a neat scotch in front of the Welshwoman and took the seat across from her as Delia took a shaky sip.

“What happened?” she repeated.

Delia closed her eyes, her left hand drifting to finger the ring beneath the fabric of her blue dress.

“Patsy’s father,” she said, her voice sounding almost hollow. “He came here.”

Mary’s eyes went wide, her mind racing. “Here? Why did he come here?”

The Welshwoman shook her head, her eyes fixed unseeingly on the table in front of her. “He said he wanted to see where Pats was going to live. But he really wanted to talk. And threaten me.”

“Threaten you?” Mary exclaimed, and she watched Delia flinch at the volume of her voice. She took a breath, reaching out and placing her hand over Delia’s clammy limp one on the tabletop. Speaking much more quietly, she asked, “Why did he threaten you, hon? Do you think he suspects?”

Delia’s head seemed to bob on her neck as she made a gesture somewhere between a shake and a nod. “Dunno,” she said, her voice sounding thick. “He was angry that I told Pats about why they’d fallen out. But it felt like something more, too. I’m not sure.”

Mary felt a bit helpless as she watched Delia swim in her agitated uncertainty. She wished Allie hadn’t been workin