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A Night Out on the Town

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            All the nurses are relaxing in Trixie and Patsy’s room in their pajamas. The wireless is on and Patsy is mixing everyone drinks. Laughter fills the room as they recount the day’s hijinks and mishaps. The song “Lollipop” begins, and both Trixie and Delia perk up.

            “Oh, I love this song,” they cry at the same time. Barbara and Patsy laugh.

            Trixie gets up, Bitter Lemon in hand, and starts dancing at the foot of the bed. She holds out her hand to Delia.

            “Come on, sweetie.”

            Delia gets up and joins her, and giggles as Trixie gives her a twirl. Barbara and Patsy bounce along with them from their seats as they dance to the song. When the song ends, they both collapse onto Patsy’s bed and dissolve into giggles. Barbara claps enthusiastically. 

            “Oh, it’s been ages since I’ve gone dancing properly – to a proper dance club,” Trixie says.

            “We should all go,” Delia says.

            Trixie presses her lips together. “Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t gone to a club since …starting AA,” she says shyly.

            Delia and Barbara look down and nod solemnly, understanding.

            “Don’t let that be an excuse,” Patsy says. “Delia and I are drinking now, and it doesn’t bother you.”

            Trixie tilts her head, and her hair flounces after her. “I suppose not. No, it doesn’t really at all. But this is my room, and you’re my friends. What would I do if some handsome gent offered me a drink? One’s got to be polite.”

            “You know, Trixie, you don’t have to accept a drink just because a man offers you one,” Delia says, teasing. “When my hospital friends take me out dancing, I always decline if someone offers me a drink, and no one thinks it’s rude. Usually.”

            Trixie puts her glass down with a snap. “Honestly, Delia,” Trixie says in mock horror. “It’s no wonder you haven’t got a boyfriend, if that’s the way you behave.”

            “No wonder at all,” Delia giggles. She shoots Patsy a mischievous look; Patsy is pressing her lips together to disguise her smile, eyes twinkling.

            Trixie watches the look they exchange disapprovingly. “Don’t tell me you don’t want a boyfriend either,” she says in disbelief.

            “Why should I? They seem like more trouble than their worth,” Delia says.

            Trixie shakes her head disapprovingly. “Honestly, the pair of you are both absolutely hopeless,” she says. 

Delia holds her hand out for the cigarette Patsy is smoking at her perch at the foot of the bed. Obligingly, without looking away from the conversation, Patsy hands it over, and Delia takes a drag. Trixie watches them.

            Patsy cuts in. “Trixie, you know you can always ask them for something non-alcoholic.”

            Trixie’s eyes widen. “I wouldn’t want him to think me a …prude,” she says with a shudder.

            “Well, you’re not a prude. And if one man doesn’t like what you order, you can always find another who does,” Patsy says matter of factly.

            Trixie considers for a moment. “What do you think, Barbara? Would you like to come dancing?”

            “I’m not very good, but I’d love to ask Tom to come, if that’s alright. Although I don’t know if he likes dancing.”

            Patsy and Trixie look at each other.

            “He’s scared of dancing,” Trixie says with a laugh.

            “He’s got two left feet, but he can dance,” Patsy says.

            “Thanks to Patsy,” Trixie says with a smile. “And I’m sure he’d love to dance if it means dancing with you.”

            “Alright, then,” Barbara says brightly. “I’ll ask him.”

            “Then it’s settled,” Patsy says decisively. “We’ll just have to convince Nurse Crane to give us all the same evening off.”

Delia has emptied her glass. She moves to get up and refill it, but Patsy is already reaching out to take her glass. Trixie notices as she refills it and hands it back with a smile.

“Excellent!” Trixie says, returning her attention to the conversation at hand. “Barbara and Tom sharing their first dance. And as for the three of us –” She points threateningly at Patsy and Delia. “None of us are leaving until we’ve been treated to a drink by someone sufficiently good looking.” She raises her glass. “Promise?”

“Whatever you say,” Patsy says.

***

            The next week, thanks to some maneuvering of the schedule on Nurse Crane’s part, Patsy, Delia, Barbara, Trixie, and Tom find themselves standing in a basement East End dance club, one Trixie has frequented in the past, and she’s brimming with excitement to be back. The dance floor is crowded with energetic couples throwing themselves around to the music of a live band, and the surrounding tables are crowded with couples and gaggles of friends socializing. The bar at the back of the room is busy.

            Trixie is bouncing on her toes, eager to dive into the fray. Her hair is elegantly curled to provide just the right amount of bounce. Patsy wears her hair down, and both of them wear colourful blouses and dressy trousers. Delia and Barbara wear dresses with flouncy skirts. Barbara has her arm through Tom’s, who is looking a little bit out of his element at the dance floor in front of him.

            They all look at each other with wide grins and then dive in.

Chapter Text

           Tom and Barbara are dancing – Tom is mostly looking at his feet but keeps glancing up to smile at Barbara. Trixie has found some gent who is twirling her around the room. Patsy and Delia sit in the corner, close together, chatting.

            A man swaggers up to them. “Can I buy you ladies a drink?” he asks.

            “My boyfriend’s at the bar getting us drinks,” Delia says automatically, barely looking up from Patsy.

            “Oh, come on, Dels, we can’t sit here all night,” Patsy says, as the man flees. “We came here to dance. And Trixie will be disappointed.”

            “I want to dance with you,” Delia says.

            Patsy gives her an impatient look. “Well, you can’t. Anyways, you dance with all sorts of men when you go out with the girls from the hospital.”

            “You’re not there then. I can’t help it if I’d rather sit and do nothing with you.”

            Patsy presses her lips together to hide a smile, turning faintly pink. She looks at Delia out of the side of her eyes, giving a slight glare to hide that she’s pleased. “But you love dancing.”

            “Then we should go back to the Gateways Club,” Delia presses her.

            Patsy’s glare deepens. “Maybe. It makes me nervous. But you have to have fun tonight.”

At that moment, they both perk up as the band starts up a new song: “Itty Bitty Pretty One.” They look at each other. Patsy tilts her head. “Your favourite song.”

            At that moment, a man in a slightly rumpled suit and tie plops himself down in the chair beside Delia and leans toward her, interrupting their conversation. Delia leans back slightly.

            “Which of you girls wants the pleasure of joining me on the dance floor?” the man says.

            Before Delia can say anything, Patsy gives her a push towards him. “As this is her favourite song, she’d love to.”

            “Alright then, sweetheart,” the man says, taking Delia’s hand and pulling her towards the dance floor. Delia glares at Patsy over her shoulder as she follows. Patsy gives her an unapologetic wink and takes a sip of her drink.

            “What’s your name, darling?” the man asks.

            “Delia,” says Delia.

            “Joe,” says Joe, before giving her a twirl. Soon, she seems to be genuinely enjoying herself and the chance to dance to the music. Patsy sits, drink in hand, watching her with a pensive smile.

            Barbara and Tom are dancing in the middle of the dance floor, stealing glances at each other and smiling, as dancers swirl around them.  

            Over Tom’s shoulder, Barbara spots Patsy sitting alone, staring into the crowd of dancers. As the song ends and a new one begins, she says, “Tom, will you go and ask Patsy to dance? She’s been alone all night.”

            Tom glances over his shoulder and turns back to Barbara with a smile. “Of course. I love how considerate you are.”

            Barbara looks surprised. “Well, I want her to have a good time.” She leans forward and kisses Tom on the cheek. “Thank you.”

            Patsy looks up as Tom approaches her and holds out his hand. “May I offer my dance teacher a dance?”

            Patsy grins and takes his hand. “Let’s see if you remember everything I taught you,” she says.

***

            Meanwhile, Trixie’s gent has taken her to the bar.

            “What’ll you have, sweetheart?” he asks, hand on her back.

            “I’ll have a bitter lemon, please,” Trixie says to the bartender.

            “Oh, come on, have something a bit more exciting than that,” the man says derisively. “Two martinis please.”

            With a slight lift of her chin, Trixie picks up her cardigan, makes a show of tossing it over her shoulder and starts swaying away.

            “Eh – where’re you going?”

            “To find a man who’ll buy me the drink I want,” Trixie says without turning around.

            “Hang on a minute – I was only joking. Two bitter lemons please,” the man says quickly.

            Trixie allows herself a victorious smile before spinning back around and elegantly plopping herself on the bar stool next to him.

***

Some time later, Tom and Patsy are still swinging around the floor together, Barbara is bouncing to the music in her seat, and Trixie and her bloke are dancing. The upbeat song they are all dancing to ends and the much slower “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” starts playing.

            Patsy smiles at Tom. “I think it’s time for you to show Barbara all I taught you about slow dancing.” They walk back over to her, and Barbara and Tom disappear onto the dance floor to sway in each other’s arms.

            Elsewhere on the dance floor, Joe pulls Delia closer and tries to start swaying to the music. Delia steps firmly away, so there is still space between.

            “I think I’d better go find my friend,” she says.

            “Dance this song with me first, sweetheart,” Joe says, pulling her back. This time, Delia pulls herself out of his grasp.

“Thank you, but I’m going to join my friend.”

            “Let me at least buy you a drink,” Joe says, trying to grasp her hand.

            “No, thank you,” Delia says, and she disappears into the crowd of couples.

            She finds a seat at the bar and scans the room for her friends. Patsy comes up behind her and leans close to her ear. “Can I buy a pretty girl a drink?”

            Delia turns to her with a bright smile, which makes Patsy grin back. “You certainly can,” Delia says. Patsy orders and the bartender hands over two bright pink drinks. They clink glasses with knowing looks at each other. The deep, smooth tones of the music still fill the room.

            “Did you have fun?” Patsy asks.

            “I did.”

            “I won’t say I told you so,” Patsy says with mock superiority and a sip of her drink.

            “That’s not like my Pats,” Delia teases. “Such self-restraint.”

            “Yes, I’m exercising lots of self-restraint at the moment,” Patsy says slowly, letting her eyes drop to Delia’s lips. Delia turns pink.

            Patsy rests her hand on the bar next to Delia’s. Delia twitches her little finger ever so slightly towards Patsy’s. Both girls avert their eyes, looking as invisible as possible. Delia reaches out to brush her little finger along Patsy’s, then curls her finger around Patsy’s. Patsy is suppressing a smile, eyes forward and shining. Trixie appears at Delia’s side, breathless and red from dancing, and grabs Delia’s shoulder in excitement. “Hello, ladies!”

            Patsy whips her hand away and both girls spin to face Trixie innocently. “Having fun?” Delia asks.

            “Bucket loads of it!” Trixie cries. “What about you? I saw you dancing with that handsome gentleman,” she says coyly. “Did you think he was handsome?”

            Delia shrugs. “I suppose.”

            “You’re such a bore. Please tell me he bought you this drink.”

            “’Fraid not,” Delia admits. She gestures to Patsy with her head. “This is courtesy of Patsy.”

            Trixie huffs indignantly. “I wouldn’t bother with a boyfriend either if Patsy spoiled me as much as she spoils you.”

            Delia’s eyebrows fly up. Patsy looks over, alarmed.

            “Whatever do you mean?” she snaps.

            “Oh, come on, you do,” Trixie insists. “Always looking out for her every need.” Patsy and Delia stare at her, gears turning in their heads. Trixie glances from one alarmed face to the other. “Soon you’ll have known me for as long as you’ve known Delia, and then you’ll have to buy me all my drinks.”

            Delia chuckles. Patsy attempts to.

            “Anyway, I shouldn’t keep Andrew waiting any longer – or whatever his name is – ” and with that she disappears again.

            Patsy drains the last of her drink and sets down her glass. She still looks agitated from Trixie’s comment. The crowd has gotten bigger, the music seems to have gotten louder, and the dancing rowdier. She leans towards Delia. “Let’s go out and get some air.”

            Delia notices her strained face and nods. “I suppose I’m allowed to leave; I’ve followed Trixie’s orders and had a drink on someone sufficiently good looking.” 

            Tom and Barbara are just settling down as they get up to leave, and Delia explains they are stepping out for some air. Elsewhere, Joe, surrounded by a group of rowdy friends, notices them leave.

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            When they step out into the fresh air and the empty street, Patsy lets out a breath and relaxes. The pair look at each other and smile.

            “At least Trixie’s having fun,” Delia says. Patsy raises her eyebrows in agreement. Delia continues, “Can I have a cigarette?”

            Patsy goes in her bag and opens her cigarette case, only to find it empty. Her shoulders sag.

            “Afraid not,” she says.

            Delia looks around the little laneway they are standing in. They are at an intersection amongst the high walls of the dingy East End brick buildings. Several streets branch off into darkness around them, with little pools of light and sound pouring out of the dance club below them and from other clubs farther down the road. Directly across the intersection from them is a dingy-looking smoke shop with a dim light still on behind the window.

            “That place looks open,” Delia says, somewhat cheekily.

            Patsy makes an ‘ugh’ noise, tilts her head and looks at Delia in disbelief.

            Delia rocks back and forth on her feet. “Please?” she says.

            Patsy sighs, defeated. Delia’s grin widens. “Only because I love you so much,” Patsy says. She heads across the street, muttering, “This is what Trixie was talking about.” She disappears into the shop.

            Delia leans against the wall of the club, idly listening to the music. She looks up as a group of about five men come up the stairs out of the club, guffawing and jostling each other drunkenly. She makes eye contact with the man she was dancing with earlier. Joe.

            “Alright sweetheart? Thought you was eager to be with your friend,” he says, grinding to a halt. His lackies all stop their conversation and crowd around him.

            “I am,” Delia says, drawing herself up taller. “I just came out for some air, and she’s just– ”

            “Then come for a walk with us, we’re getting some air,” Joe says. Behind him, the others chuckle and nudge each other.

            Delia gulps, and looks nervously from one man to the other. “Actually, I’m waiting for my friend, she’s just buying cigarettes.” Delia gestures towards the smoke shop.

            “Well, she can come too, we’re not picky.” Joe steps closer. “Come on, sweetheart, we didn’t get a chance to talk earlier. Come for a stroll with us.”

            Delia takes in a shaky breath. “No, thank you,” she says.

            Joe takes a step closer, and Delia shuffles back, but runs into the wall. His friends are still crowding around him. “I just wanna talk.”

***

Back inside, Barbara looks around. “Patsy and Delia have been gone a long time,” she says. “Maybe they want to go home.”

            “It is getting late,” Tom says.

            Barbara catches Trixie’s eye from the middle of the dance floor, and waves her over. Trixie abandons her dance partner and comes over.

            “Patsy and Delia went outside for some air. I think we should go check they’re alright,” Barbara explains.

            Trixie nods, date forgotten. “I’ll get my bag.”

***

            Outside, Joe reaches out to stroke Delia’s cheek and she flinches away from him. “I’m – I’m going insi – my friend Tom will be looking for me.” She steps towards the stairs, but Joe and his gang move to block her path. Delia freezes, taken aback, breathing coming fast now.

            “Don’t be like that, sweetheart,” croons Joe. “We’re a nice bunch of lads. Right lads?” Behind him the men laugh and whoop their agreement. “We certainly know how to show a lady a good time.”

            Panic is starting to rise in her; her neck and cheeks have gone red. She backs herself against the wall. Tears in her eyes. Frozen.

            “Come on, come, I’ll prove it.” Joe grasps Delia’s upper arm, hard, and starts to pull her towards a side street, while his cronies snigger amongst themselves.

Eyes wide and frozen, Delia stumbles a few paces after him before pulling herself together and shouting: “Let go of me!” She pulls against him and Joe’s grip on her upper arm tightens.

            At that moment, three things happen. Joe gives Delia a yank and draws her, helpless, to the entrance of the alley, followed by his friends. Trixie and Barbara, followed by Tom, start climbing the steps out of the club, and freeze in horror at the sight before them. And Patsy exits the smoke shop.

Chapter Text

            Patsy is fishing around for her matches in her bag as she steps outside, but she looks up. It takes her only a split second to take in the scene; the tinkle of the bell hasn’t yet died when she yells “Don’t touch her!” in alarm.

            “Here’s your friend,” Joe says with a smirk. “She can join us if she likes.”

            Patsy drops her purse and begins striding powerfully across the lane, fury emanating off her. “Get your hands off her,” she shouts.

            Joe and his friends smirk. “And what are you gonna do about it, sweetheart?”

            But Patsy has reached them. Without breaking stride, she grasps Joe’s wrist and rips his hand off Delia’s arm with her left hand. In the same fluid motion, she punches Joe in the jaw with a satisfying smack that sends him stumbling backwards with a yell. Patsy uses his momentary distraction to put herself between him and Delia, face hard.

            Joe, evidently, is accustomed to being punched, and he recovers quickly. He turns back to Patsy, wiping his bloodied lip in surprise.

            “Why, you little –” He grabs her by the shoulders.

            Without missing a beat, almost calmly, Patsy grabs him back, pulling him roughly towards her and at the same time driving her knee into his groin. Joe grunts and crumbles; Patsy shoves him onto the ground. He groans, winded.

            Everyone is silent for a moment. Joe is in no shape to get up.  Joe’s friends are stunned. Delia, safe behind Patsy, still looks panicked. On the steps, Barbara and Trixie are wide-eyed with shock at their friend’s new-found talent. Patsy’s jaw is set as she calmly surveilles Joe’s gang.

            The gang pulls itself together.

            “Hey, now.”

            “You can’t just – ”

            “Who do you think you are?”

            As one, they make a move towards Patsy. She holds out her arm to completely block their path to Delia, and stands her ground.

            “Try it” she says through gritted teeth.

            They move as one.

            Trixie and Barbara rush out from the stairs to Patsy’s side. Barbara puts her arm around Delia.   

            “No one is trying anything,” Trixie says sharply. “We’re leaving.” She looks from the gang to the still-prone Joe on the ground.

            Faced with reinforcements, including Tom at the top of the stairs, Joe’s gang give them some colourful suggestions, but make no move to stop them.

            Patsy leads Delia with her hand on the small of her back away from the gang, following Trixie and Barbara across the square. Barbara retrieves Patsy’s abandoned bag. Tom steps over Joe to follow them.

            “Alright, Reverend?” someone calls after him, but Tom ignores him and links his arm through Barbara’s.

            “You alright?” Patsy whispers to Delia as they follow the others. She gives her back a stroke. Delia gives a quick nod.

            They haven’t left the square when Joe finally manages to sit up. His lip and jaw are already swelling and bruising.

            “I hope she treats you right,” he calls after their retreating forms. “Couple of ugly dykes.”

            Patsy stops. Delia stops. Trixie, Barbara and Tom stop, and turn in time to see Patsy, brimming with anger, spin around.

            “What did you call us?” she says quietly, jaw clenched. She has drawn her already-bruising hands into fists.

            “What you are,” Joe calls. He spits onto the ground. “Dykes.”

            Patsy is seething with rage. Without thinking, she takes a few furious steps towards him, deaf to the protestations of Barbara and Trixie, easily brushing past Tom’s attempts to pull her back. The gang starts jeering as she marches closer.

            “Patsy,” Delia says softly. Patsy stops. “I want to go home.”

            Patsy closes her eyes; takes a deep breath; spins back around and marches back towards Delia.

            “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Joe yells after them.

            Patsy wraps her arm around Delia’s shoulders, and marches off. Tom gives the gang one more disapproving look before following the ladies.

Chapter Text

            The group of young people bursts through the door of Nonnatus, chattering excitedly, and makes their way to the dinner table.

            Trixie sighs heavily and sets down her bag. “I think we’re all in need of a spot of Horlicks. You look like you need it, Patsy.”

            Patsy does look like she needs it; her face is closed and hard. Trixie sets a kettle on the stove to start boiling. Tom starts looking for mugs.

            “Are you alright, Delia?” Barbara says softly, giving her arm a rub. “That must have been so scary.”

            Delia nods. “I’m fine. No harm done.” She looks down at Patsy’s hand. “Your hand’s bruised!” she says in alarm.

            Everyone looks over as Patsy examines her hand. It is indeed already starting to turn dark red and blue over the back of her knuckles.

            “I’ll fetch a first aid kit,” Barbara says, hurrying from the room.

            “It’s fine,” says Patsy, but Barbara is already gone. With Tom and Trixie puttering around the stove, filling mugs, Delia takes Patsy’s hand and raises it to her lips. Patsy watches her for the quickest of seconds, face softening, but then pulls her hand away as Trixie and Tom come over and hand them steaming mugs of Horlicks, and Barbara returns.

            She opens the first aid kit and reaches for Patsy’s hand, but Delia pulls the kit toward her and takes Patsy’s hand first. The others peer in again as Delia carefully cleans Patsy’s bruise with some antiseptic. Despite her best efforts, Patsy sucks in through her teeth as it stings where the skin is broken.

            “That’s quite a bruise,” Tom says sympathetically. Trixie makes a face.

            “I still can’t believe how you hit him,” Barbara chimes in, Horlicks in hand. “You looked positively scary marching across that square. I’ve never seen a proper fight before.”

            “Wasn’t much of a fight,” Tom says.

            “Well, I have seen proper fights,” Trixie says. “But I’ve never seen someone knocked down with one punch like that. It was positively heroic.”

            “Where did you learn to throw a punch like that?” Barbara asks.

            Patsy glances down as Delia begins gently wrapping a bandage around her hand. Delia gives her hand a subtle squeeze, although she doesn’t meet her eye, as she already knows the answer.

            “In...the…prison camp,” Patsy starts slowly. “Towards the end of the war, there wasn’t always enough food to go around – at least not food that was fit for consumption. Most people shared what they could, but not all. There was always someone older and stronger than us, and I’m sure they just wanted their loved ones to have enough but…there were times when, if I couldn’t fight, I didn’t eat. Or my sister didn’t eat.”  The others have gone quiet, horrified, watching. Patsy looks up and forces a smile. “You don’t grow up in a place like that without learning to protect what’s yours.”

            “Oh, so Delia’s yours, is she?” Trixie says with a smile and a sip of Horlicks, to lighten the mood.

            Patsy opens and closes her mouth for a moment. Delia releases her now bandaged hand and makes a show of blowing on her steaming mug. “No, of course not, I only meant –”

            “I’m sure we’ll all think twice before crossing Delia in the future,” Trixie continues. Barbara laughs. Patsy attempts a light-hearted smile.

            “I am very sorry about those men, Delia,” Tom says. “I’m tempted to go to the police.”

            “I’m fine,” Delia repeats.

            “Men can be so rotten,” Trixie says with a disapproving shake of her head.

            “I should never have made you dance with him,” says Patsy shakily.

            “You didn’t make me do anything,” Delia says.

            “What does that matter? He should never have cornered her like that, or grabbed her, even if she did dance with him.” Trixie gives a shudder.

            “And he never should have been so rude. I don’t even know what ‘dykes’ means, but I could tell it was supposed to be awful,” Barbara says.

            Everyone else stills. Patsy and Delia stare straight into their Horlicks, shifting uncomfortably. Delia steals a glance at Patsy for help but Patsy avoids her gaze. Tom awkwardly pulls at his sleeves. Trixie raises her eyebrows.

            “You haven’t heard that word before, Barbara? Or read it somewhere?” Trixie asks.

            “No. Why, has everyone else?” Barbara asks, noticing everyone’s awkwardness.

            “Patsy’s heard it, obviously,” Trixie says, glancing at her sideways. Patsy glares down into her mug, watched carefully by Delia. “I’ve read it…in those awful, trashy magazines,” Trixie says.

            “What does it mean?” Barbara asks.

            “It means…well no, its a nasty word for…women who –”  Trixie says with awkward glances at Patsy, whose jaw is angrily set again.

            “For lesbians,” Delia cuts in. Patsy’s eyes flash angrily in her direction for a brief second.

            “Oh” Barbara’s eyes go wide, her mouth a perfect ‘O’. Tom pulls at his collar and examines the ceiling.  “And he was calling you – oh,” she says. “That is an awful thing to say! I’m so sorry.”

            Delia sucks in a patient breath.

            “Only because he used such a nasty word for it,” Trixie says. “It’s not really such a terrible accusation on its own, is it?”

            “I don’t think so,” whispers Delia. Patsy rolls her eyes angrily.

            “No. Frankly, I think any one of us would be lucky to have Delia on our arm,” Trixie says, playfully linking her arm through Delia’s. Delia laughs.

            Barbara snorts. “Trixie!”

            Patsy huffs. “I don’t like that word,” she says through gritted teeth. Barbara and Delia stop laughing. Trixie’s brow gives a confused twitch as she surveilles Patsy.

            “It was hardly the worst thing that happened tonight,” Tom says.

            “Why? You haven’t been called that before?” Barbara asks.

            Delia’s eyes widen. Patsy gives a slight shake of her head.

            Beside them, Trixie looks from one to the other, processing their reactions. She glances down at Patsy’s carefully bandaged hand; the back of Delia’s is resting gently against it. Slowly, her eyes widen and she takes a quiet breath, then looks away.

“Now, Tom, if any of the nuns catch you here at this hour, there’ll be hell to pay. Literally. Off you go,” she gives him a little shove towards the door and he goes, brushing Barbara’s arm as he passes. “As for the rest of us, we’ve all got to be up in a matter of hours. I prescribe a good night’s sleep for all of us. We’ll need it.” She starts shoving them all into the hall and up the stairs.

            “I can’t wait to see you explain to the nuns what happened to your hand, Patsy,” Barbara says.

            “I think Sister Evangelina will be thrilled,” Trixie says. “You can’t convince me she hasn’t given her share of black eyes.”

            Barbara gives a laugh, covers her mouth and tiptoes to her room.

            “And you, straight to bed,” Trixie orders Delia.

            They have reached the top of the stairs, and Delia’s room. Looking like she’s trying to hide her disappointment, Patsy looks Delia over.

            “Right, then, I’ll… see you in the morning?” Patsy says. The helpless look she gives Delia is not lost on Trixie. “Sleep well.”

            Trixie takes a surprised breath. Her eyes flash.

            “Oh, we’ve gone and left the mugs out. I don’t want Sister Julienne to find them and clean them up.”

            “Do you want help?” Delia asks.

            “No,” Trixie says quickly. “I’ll just pop down and do them now. I’ll be fifteen minutes or so, I’m sure. No less.”

            Without giving them another glance, Trixie turns on her heel and heads back downstairs, biting her lip to hide her smile.

            Patsy and Delia watch her retreat in surprise. Then Delia grasps Patsy’s hand and pulls her into her room.

Chapter Text

            No sooner has Delia closed the door behind them, than Patsy is reaching for her with urgent hands. She pulls Delia towards her and, holding her face in her hands, presses a long kiss to her forehead. Her face is pained.

            Patsy releases Delia and pulls her against her chest. Delia only comes up to Patsy’s chin and she rests her cheek against Patsy’s shoulder.

            “I’m supposed to be able to protect you,” Patsy says.

            “You did,” Delia assures her.

            “If he bruised your arm,” Patsy says, a threat back in her voice.

            “Pats,” Delia says, slightly sharply. “Can we just forget about it?”

            Without releasing her, Patsy nods.

            “I’m sorry he said…what he said,” Delia says carefully. Her arms circle Patsy’s waist.

            “I hate that word,” Patsy says. “I hate it.”

            “I know, my love.” Delia nods against her shoulder. “But you shouldn’t let it get to you. I don’t know why you give it such power. I’m not ashamed.”

            Patsy says nothing.

            “Are you?” Delia presses.

            Patsy stays silent. She lets out a sigh and closes her eyes. Holds Delia tighter.

            Delia sighs too. Experience has already taught her the answer. “You could tell me, sweetheart.”

            Patsy opens and closes her mouth a few times before deciding what to say.

            “I…well, I couldn’t give you up for anything,” she says finally.

            “Good,” Delia says. She gives Patsy a squeeze. “I suppose now you’ll take me to the Gateways Club some time?” she continues cheekily.

            Patsy lets out a breath. “I’ll take you to the Gateways Club whenever you want.”

            Delia leans back to look at her. She makes a show of checking her watch before placing her hands on Patsy’s waist.

            “Now, how much trouble can we get into in the next 15 minutes?” She says with a grin. Patsy gives her a withering look but can’t help grinning back.