My second contribution to the Pupcake Patchwork over on AO3.
"Everything was finally as it should be."
Delia rolled her eyes at Patsy's improvised story ending, and watched on as the redhead glanced at the two small sleeping faces at the foot of the bed, smiling.
The redhead turned to the head of the bed, a pair of very wide awake eyes watching her from under a worried brow. "I think you can call me Patsy, Jeremy. You and your brothers are sharing my bed for the night after all."
The boy looked away from her, his fingers plucking at the pillowcase. "Patsy, is Mammy going to be ok?"
Delia stood from where she'd been leant against the door frame, the creaking of the floorboard beneath her drawing the attention of the two awake occupants of the room. "She's doing just fine." Her voice seemed loud in the cosy quiet of what was ostensibly Patsy's bedroom, but the small smile from her love, sat on the floor, reassured her that she wasn't intruding. "I just spoke to the hospital, your baby sister arrived a couple of hours ago. All being well they'll be home tomorrow afternoon."
The young furrowed forehead relaxed. But only for a moment. "Why did she have to go to hospital? Isn't that where people go to die?"
Oh goodness, she thought. Was it really her place to educate a 5 year-old about life and death?
"Some people do die in hospital," Patsy explained softly, stroking the boys unruly curls out of his face. "But most people come home feeling much better. Hospitals are there to help people."
"Like my mam?"
"Just like your mam," Delia smiled. "Your little sister had gotten herself into a bit of a pickle, and she needed more help than I could give her. But the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her and your mammy."
Jeremy accepted their reassurances with a nod, before frowning up at them. "Patsy?"
"Where are you going to sleep if we're in your bed?"
"Oh," Delia startled, heat growing in her cheeks.
But of course Patsy had it all in hand. "I'm going to share with Delia for tonight."
"Are you going to top and tail like us?" Jeremy yawned.
"Of course," Patsy trilled. "How else do you share a bed with a friend?"
When an even bigger yawn prevented Jeremy from responding, Delia watched on as Patsy retrieved a battered old teddy bear from the children's suitcase and tucked it under the sheets with the youngster.
"I don't need him," insisted Jeremy. "I'm nearly 6!"
"I know you don't," Patsy scoffed, making it sound like the most ludicrous assumption in the world. "But the twins might, and seeing as you're the only one awake at the moment, well, who else is going to look after him?"
Hesitantly, the bear was pulled under the covers and Patsy stood. "We'll just be down the hallway if you need us. Good night Jeremy."
Delia turned to the door but was waylaid by a snuffling sound.
Tucked snuggly between the two younger boys, she spied a beady black eye watching her from a mass of brown and white fur.
"Garbo, come on," she sighed.
The only response she got was a huff as the dog nudged her way under a small arm.
Patsy squeezed Delia's shoulder. "Leave her. It's just for one night."
Delia glanced at her incredulously. "When did you become such a soft touch?"
In the relative privacy of their own bedroom, they both went about getting ready for bed.
"Not exactly a typical bedtime story back there cariad," Delia commented as she sat at the vanity and released her hair. "Surely you must know a traditional fairy tale or two?"
"Of course I do," Patsy murmured, reaching over Delia's shoulder for the hairbrush, drawing it gently through the welshwoman's thick, dark locks. "But my own experiences beyond the nursery deemed them frivolous. Happily-ever-afters aren't encountered by many in this world. There's only so much sugar-coating that's useful to a child."
"I suppose you're right." The careful, rhythmic tugging at her hair was making her drowsy. It wasn't often Patsy did this for her, but she loved it when she did. "They're lucky you're home tonight. I wouldn't have had a clue what to do. You're so good with them."
"You would've been just fine darling," Patsy whispered against her ear, pressing a soft kiss to Delia's temple.
"No I wouldn't. You know how to play with them as well as how to look after them and when to be stern with them, you answer all the endless questions, even the difficult ones, I…once they're out of the babe-in-arms stage I'm lost as to how to handle them."
Patsy placed the brush back down, rested her hands on Delia's shoulders and watched her through the mirror. "Is this really about your childcare abilities? Or is it about their mother?"
Delia stood abruptly, shrugging off her love's hands. "Don't Patsy."
"You did everything right Deels—"
"If I'd done everything right she'd have been on her way to hospital at the first signs of labour!" Delia snapped. "I examined that woman every day for the last two weeks, ever since she bled, and she trusted me when I told her everything was fine but it wasn't!"
"Come on old thing," Patsy consoled, attempting to wrap her arms around the brunette, but Delia wasn't ready to be consoled and stepped away from her. "Placenta praevia is extremely difficult to diagnose—"
"You probably would have spotted it," Delia snipped as she paced, arms folded tight over her chest. She knew she was being unfair, but she was just couldn't stop herself. "Nurse "I can perform a forceps delivery" Mount."
Patsy sighed and rubbed her eyes. "How many times, I did not perform that delivery—"
Delia scoffed. "You might as well have for how clueless that bloody locum was." She surprised herself by stamping her foot. "What kind of midwife am I if I can't even tell when the placenta has grown over the goddamn cervix?!"
"A bloody good one I'll have you know."
"Don't patronise me! You get sent to all the complex cases, Nurse Crane can handle any complication thrown at her, Trixie can perform caesarean sections with a barely equipped operating theatre!" She was almost shouting now, and remembering that there were little ears just down the hallway she forced herself to take a deep breath. "Because of me, those little boys could've lost their mother today."
This time when Patsy wrapped her arms around her she gave in, leaning into the embrace, burying her face in her beloved's neck and inhaling deeply, allowing her scent to calm her.
"May I point out," Patsy began softly, "That no-one at the hospital, when she was admitted a fortnight ago, spotted it either. You gave her the best care you could, and the moment you discovered she was haemorrhaging, you summoned help, you examined her, discovered the problem, got her bundled into the car so she wouldn't have to wait for an ambulance and you let the hospital know so they would be ready to treat her appropriately on arrival. All in all, the actions of an excellent midwife. And then you went above and beyond by taking in her boys, I don't know many midwives who would do that!" The redhead squeezed her tighter and nuzzled her hair. "You did everything you could."
The sob was out of Delia's mouth before she even knew it existed, but she was too tired to fight back the tears. Patsy swayed her gently, holding her safely, whispering sweet-nothings in her ear as the stress and fear of her day slowly released.
When Delia was finally able to breath steadily again, Patsy pressed her lips softly to hers. "I love you Delia Busby, you brilliant, brilliant woman."
Delia dropped her head with a small, embarrassed laugh, but then took a deep fortifying breath and looked Patsy straight in the eye. "I love you too."
"Glad to hear it," Patsy grinned. "Come along then, to bed. I'll take tail shall I?" She queried as she slipped out of her jeans.
"Err…excuse me?" She wasn't sure if she'd actually missed something or if she was just completely distracted by the sight of Patsy's long legs.
Patsy smirked at her. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if we end up with company tonight. It would be safest to top-and-tail."
Delia groaned dramatically, letting her head fall back as she grumbled. "Why does it have to be when I need a cuddle the most?!"
They were woken twice during the night. The first time by Garbo leaping onto the bed and pawing at them both. Delia found herself cuddled up to one of Patsy's feet, but she soon became aware of whimpering coming from down the hallway.
"I'll go," Patsy sighed, extracting herself from their warm sanctuary, the dog following her out of the room.
The second time, Delia was surprised to find two small bodies burrowing under the covers beside her, Fraser nudging under her arm and Duncan crawling onto her chest. Or was that the other way around? She wasn't awake enough, and it was too dark to tell the difference between them. All she knew was that when Patsy tried to share the burden, lifting away whoever was on her chest they both protested loudly, little fingers holding tight to her pyjamas.
"Just leave them cariad," she croaked, cautiously placing a hand on each boy as they settled. It might not have been with Patsy, but it seemed she was still going to get cuddles that night.
The next morning was a little fraught. Jeremy refused his breakfast and the twins were taking it in turns to be clingy. And Delia was their chosen focus.
"Well you do look more like their mother than I do," Patsy pointed out as she struggled to wipe Jeremy's face with a flannel.
Soon even Patsy's patience was wearing thin as she tried to clean around the boys, who insisted on tearing around the place shouting. Garbo of course thought it was wonderful. Fraser and Duncan continued to vie for Delia's attention, and she was developing a new appreciation for the back problems many of the mothers she cared for suffered with.
In order to save everyone's sanity Patsy and Delia deemed it sensible to release children and dog into the courtyard out front of their ground-floor flat, where they could all let off some steam with the other local kids. It was a sunny Saturday, albeit fresh in temperature, so there was no need to keep them cooped up.
Delia hoped that allowing them their freedom would give her enough time to at least hang out the washing, but it wasn't to be. As soon as she put down the basket she found Duncan wrapped around her leg. Was it Duncan? No, it was Fraser, there was a bit more of a curve to his nose.
"All right there little man?" she asked as she pegged out the bed sheet. "You going to help me?"
"No!" the two-year-old giggled, before raising his arms. "Up!"
Delia sighed as she dodged the boy to grab the pillow cases from the basket. "Can you wait just a few minutes cariad?" She knew she was in trouble when his little face fell. "Fraser please, I'll pick you up as soon as I've finished hanging this out."
His only response was to plop down on his bum and start whimpering. But what could she do? Patsy was busy inside, and if she left the washing in the basket to crease her fiancee would not be impressed. She considered for a moment trying to complete the task while holding him but then it would take twice as long. So she got to it, pegging everything out as quickly as she could. By the time she got to their uniforms Fraser had taken hold of the hem of her skirt while he continued to cry and she was terrified she was going to trip over him. As she grabbed the last item out of the basket he wrapped himself around her thigh again, wailing.
Final peg in place she leant down and swept the boy up with a groan. "There there now, enough of that," she murmured, bouncing him on her hip.
A chuckle behind her made her spin around.
A neighbour from 3 doors up was likewise hanging clothes on the line. "Getting in some practice Nurse Busby?"
"So it seems Mrs Crighton, so it seems," she grumbled as she struggled to pull the line up one-handed.
"You're too soft on 'im," the woman chided her good-naturedly, nudging Delia aside and raising the line for her. "You just gotta let them cry like the rest of us, you'll never get anything done otherwise."
"Probably, I expect he's just missing his mam though."
"Cora doing all right?" asked Mrs Crighton as she dug around in her pinny for a packet of cigarettes.
Delia retrieved the empty washing basket, trying to shift her little, now much calmer, koala to a more comfortable position. "Yeah, she'll be discharged after lunchtime rounds."
"Bet you can't wait to hand them three back," the woman chuckled, returning to her own washing.
"I'll say," Delia rolled her eyes and stepped back inside. The boy was a dead weight in her arms, his head resting on her shoulder, but facing away from her. "Pats?" she called out, dumping the basket in the kitchen and following the sound of scrubbing to the bathroom.
She found Patsy on her knees, scrubbing the tiled floor. "All right there Deels?" she smirked.
"Has he fallen asleep?" she turned to present the boy to the redhead. "I can't tell and I daren't disturb him to find out."
"No, he's not," Patsy chuckled as she stood, pulling off her marigolds. "Let me take him for a bit."
She grasped Fraser around the ribs, but the boy screamed in Delia's ear, clutching tight to her dress.
"Or not," Delia flinched, her ears ringing as she shifted Fraser to her other shoulder. "If you need me I'll be peeling veg outside," she huffed in resignation.
Eventually, she settled outside the front door, Fraser contentedly straddling her lap with his thumb in his mouth. He'd managed to liberate a few strands of hair from her bun and was twirling them round and round his fist. It wasn't the ideal set up for peeling potatoes and carrots but if it kept him calm she'd manage. And at least she could enjoy the sunshine while she kept an eye on the other two.
When the peeled vegetables were all sat in the bowl next to her she sat back with a groan, the sleeping boy in her lap seemingly content. As she rubbed his back and absent-mindedly placed a kiss on top of his head, she let her eyes drift to the lush green hills beyond the the city. She and Patsy had intended to spend today hiking up there. It wasn't often they both got a whole day off together, and she was desperate for some green space. Oh well, they'd have other opportunities.
The phone ringing inside pulled Delia back from her daydream in time to see Duncan trip over the dog and sprawl across the tarmac. He lay there for a second, stunned, before the wailing began. Great, that was all she needed.
Standing and reluctantly waking the twin in her arms, she squatted down next to the fallen one and attempted to asses the damage.
Just as he calmed down enough that she could ascertain it was only skinned knees, Patsy emerged from the flat, in uniform, kit bag in hand.
The redhead at least had the wherewithal to cringe. "I'm sorry Deels, I've been called out."
"What?!" Delia called incredulously. "But it's your day off!"
"My nervous first-timer has gone into labour early and she's refusing to let Sarah near her."
"Pats you can't leave me on my own with all of them!" the welshwoman cried.
"I'm sorry! Their parents will be back in an hour, just try and get a sandwich down them," Patsy shouted over her shoulder as she jogged towards the bike shed.
"Oh for the love of…" Delia growled as she awkwardly scooped both the twins into her arms and stood. "Jeremy? Garbo! Inside please."
Amazingly, boy and dog came willingly, and lunch was more readily eaten than breakfast had been. Even Fraser sat willingly at the table, working his way steadily through his sandwich and apple.
Meanwhile, Delia had Duncan sat on the counter, cleaning his war wounds and placing a kiss on each plaster as it was applied, giggling when the youngster lunged forwards to wrap his arms around her neck.
With everyone fed they settled in the sitting room, Fraser and Jeremy playing happily with some cars and blocks she'd brought over from their house, while Duncan curled up in her lap on the settee.
Now that she had a moment to breathe, she found she was actually quite enjoying having a small warm body nestled against her. For a moment her mind wandered to the idea of a child being around more often. To Patsy walking around with a dark-haired infant cradled in her arms.
She shook her head. Don't be ridiculous Busby.
The sound of a car motor outside shattered the peace, Jeremy leaping up to tug aside the net curtain at the window.
"It's Mammy and Daddy!" he cried and sped into the hallway.
Delia was barely out of her seat before she heard the front door open, shifting Duncan onto her hip and collecting the boys' suitcase on her way outside.
She was greeted by a tall, grinning man stepping out of the car. "Thanks ever so Nurse Busby."
"Oh please, I think Delia is more than acceptable at this point," she grinned back at her neighbour.
"Then you'd best start calling me Blaine," her neighbour rumbled, reaching out to take his son from Delia's arms. "Were they terrible?"
"I'm sure they could have been far worse," Delia chuckled.
"Well, we're forever grateful. Care to meet the new arrival?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye, cocking his head towards the other side of the car.
Delia rounded the vehicle to where the new mother was sat with the door open, Jeremy and Fraser standing close. "Hello there Cora," she greeted the woman softly, a gentle grin spreading across her face at the sight of the bundle of blankets, a tiny sleeping face just peeping out.
"Hello Nurse," Cora smiled. "Come and say hello to Cariad."
"Cariad?" Delia frowned, crouching down by the car.
Cora nodded. "Cariad Jeanette Wallace." Carefully, she handed the precious bundle into Delia's arms.
Stunned, Delia got to her feet, unable to take her eyes off the child. "Well…Hello Cariad…Such a pretty welsh name for such a pretty scottish girl."
"It was the least we could do," remarked Blaine as he helped his wife out of the car. "We know how seriously it could've gone yesterday. We can't thank you enough."
"Oh…no! I should have worked it out sooner, you should never have been put in that position!" Delia exclaimed, tears welling in her eyes as all the feelings from the night before flooded back over her.
"Now now, enough of that," Cora reached out to squeeze her hand. "The nurse at the hospital explained everything, and praised you no end. So anything we can do for you, just let us know."
A familiar squeaking of break-pads echoed across the courtyard, and Delia turned in time to glimpse Patsy beaming at her as she cycled towards the little group.
"False alarm," she called cheerfully. "What did I miss?"
Delia wiped at her eyes as her grin returned. "Patsy Mount, meet Cariad Wallace."
Delia stood by the sitting room window, watching as the whole neighbourhood seemed to come out to welcome it's newest resident. Cora looked tired but radiant as she sat in a comfy chair outside her front door, barely able to take her eyes off her new daughter, as all the local women cooed and fussed.
Twisting her loose lock of hair around her fingers, the welshwoman grinned when the twins ran past the window and waved.
"Looks like you've made a couple of friends there," a low voice spoke behind her, strong hands coming to rest on her shoulders.
Delia hummed and took a few steps back, manoeuvring them both into the shadows so they couldn't be seen through the net curtain and pulled Patsy's arm across her chest, leaning back into her solid frame. She allowed herself a moment to enjoy the contact while Patsy nuzzled her temple.
"It's not something we ever talked about was it. Having children," Delia murmured into the quiet.
She felt the vibration of Patsy's chuckle against her back. "It wasn't something you were exactly eager for was it. And hardly an option for us." The redhead leaned back. "Don't tell me less than 24 hours with that lot has made you broody Busby."
She swatted Patsy's arm. "Don't be absurd," she chastised, before retreating back into her thoughts. Was she being honest with herself? Right now she truly didn't know.
"I'll admit you did look rather charming this morning, tucked up with those little ones. Maybe your mother didn't scare all the maternal instinct out of you after all."
"Don't you dare tell her about any of this, I'll never hear the end of it," Delia said, shaking her head. "I'm just still baffled. Children usually keep their distance from me."
"Well I can't blame them for wanting to cuddle up with you," Patsy whispered against her ear, wrapping her other arm firmly around Delia's waist. "I'd cuddle with you all day if I could."
"You really have gone soft," giggled Delia, turning to plant a kiss on her beloved's lips, before turning back to the scene before her. "As you say, it's not an option for us."
"Children of our own might not be an option," Patsy sighed, "but I daresay there's 4 wee'uns over there who would be very glad to have you in their life."
Delia smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. It troubled her a little that any such thoughts were even passing through her mind, wanting something she couldn't have, something she'd never even considered she might want before now. Children had never been part of her life plan. Maybe it was her age. Maybe it was that only now after all this she felt like maybe this city could feel like home, that maybe there was hope of creating a new found-family, the like of which she hadn't experienced before or since Nonnatus.
But there was no rush to work all that out.
At the end of the day, they had a roof over their heads, they had jobs, they had a community. And they had each other.
They would make do.