It was early morning, that happy time just before the first patients of the day started to arrive. Dr Tukiko Troy and Nurse Maisie were in the treatment room.
It was especially happy because just for today, Tukiko would be entrusting the care of the Devil's Own northern camp to another.
This was to be a trial, and Tuki was crossing everything that it would be a success.
Just now, though, Tuki's thoughts were elsewhere.
Using the treatment table as a desk-cum-dining table, Tuki was slowly flicking through a magazine while holding aloft the steadily diminishing bulk of a mighty bacon and egg sandwich.
Across the room, while rummaging through various drawers and cupboards, Maisie was methodically filling a large canvas holdall with enough medical supplies to kit out a small field hospital.
Every now and then she would pause and fire an indignant, sometimes borderline insubordinate, sentence towards her breakfasting boss.
"You know, I thought we were through with this kind of thing when we came here."
Tuki slowly turned the page of the magazine Kirsten had given her. She and Tai were considering getting a nanny for Itchy.
During her almost non-existent breaks, Tuki sometimes joined her mother for coffee. And sometimes, Hyle would have one or more of her friends with her.
More often than not, Kirsten Kjaer-Spivey was one of them. Tuki marvelled at Kirsten's ability to find time to be so often away from the responsibilities and sheer hard work of motherhood.
But then, of course, Kirsten had a nanny. This morning, however, Tuki was finding out that nannies didn't come cheap. She didn't look up.
"This isn't the same Maisie, and it's only temporary."
Something delicate was jammed into the holdall.
"Isn't it now?! Not the same, is it?! We lived in daily fear of being beaten up by every kind of thug imaginable back then. Possibly murdered too." She paused for emphasis. "Or worse!"
Tuki's delicate brows met in the middle, and an annoyed frown distorted her ketchup smeared lips.
Really? That much? A nanny's, basic salary, it seemed, was pro-rata and linked to the number of children she was to look after along with any other duties required of her.
Tuki did a quick mental calculation.
If she had four children, or three children and required a nanny to do daily light housework, then the nanny's monthly salary would be remarkably close to her own.
Still not looking up from the page of adverts she was reading, Tuki took another bite of her sandwich.
"That's hardly likely to happen here though, now, is it?"
Maisie cast an angry but professional eye down the list of ingredients of two similar medications before returning the one to the cupboard and putting the other into the already bulging bag.
"Of course, back then you gave us all cyanide capsules, just in case."
Tuki licked the ketchup splatter from the page and tried to remember if Kirsten wanted this magazine back. Oh well, she'd blame it on Ichiro. Then she sighed.
Oh, but wouldn't it be nice to have some free time? Turning to the list of agencies Kirsten had recommended, Tuki did some more sums.
If she took some of the 'gifts' made by her Devil's Own patients... And Tai took some extra shifts at the ammunition factory... Tuki's face fell as her conscience slapped her around the head.
Dammit. She was left, then, with the only real option she had. She would have to ask her mom for a raise. Her finger stopped at an agency advert. Ooh, that's nice.
"You don't need cyanide capsules, Maisie. They're just like any other gang, don't give them a reason and nine times out of ten they'll leave you alone."
"And the other time?"
This time Tuki did look up. She had made up her mind. She wanted a nanny. She grinned at Maisie.
"Just use your natural charm.
" Tuki remembered one incident from their days at the travelling free clinic when Nurse Maisie's 'natural charm' consisted of a head butt which broke that particular young thug's nose...
There had been blood everywhere.
Maisie snorted and slung the huge and heavy hold-all over her shoulder.
"And if that doesn't work and they do kill me?"
Ignoring the fact that, like her, Maisie was a clone, Tukiko beamed a smile at her head nurse.
"Then I'll make sure you have the best funeral Hope Springs Clinic can afford."
"Hah! Dumped in a hole and burned then. Wonderful!"
With that, Maisie stomped out of the treatment room and almost knocked Taiyoko over as he was coming in.
When he entered the bacon-heavy air of the treatment room, Tuki was there to meet him with a tomato ketchup flavoured kiss.
When she dropped down off tip-toe, she gleefully presented Tai with the good news.
"We're getting a nanny!"
"Hey, great!" He helped himself to what was left of Tuki's breakfast. Chewing, he nodded towards the door. "What's up with Maisie? She muttered something about 'the valley of death?'"
Tuki started to tidy up, ready for the first patient of the day.
"Oh that. She's just nervous about her new patients."
"She's the new School Nurse."
"Tuki. Er, du gravid Igen?"
"Nooo! Of course not!" Tuki laughed off her embarrassment. Pregnant again? As if. "It's just... Well, Tai works hard, annnd... umm... well we both need... things... stuff?"
Hyle set the coffee down in front of Tuki and picked up Ichiro, hugging him tightly.
"Der er du, min lille elskede datterson. Mormor har faet dig!"
"You need time to yourselves and this little one, is what you need."
Tuki looked into her mug, Hyle had pre-empted her tack, again. "I know." She breathed into the aromatic steam.
Hyle's attention was fully on Ichiro, but she went on. "Why don't you find yourself a nanny, like Kirsten? I'll pay for her.
" She looked from Ichiro's smiling face to the speechless, open-mouthed and slightly reddened face of her daughter.
"Hvad?" Hyle's trademark half-smile appeared. "Kirsten said just the other day how Silja caring for Anni freed her time up considerably. You were here. You heard her, hmm?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"And I could tell by your face you wished also you could have one, right?" Hyle passed Ichiro down to Tuki. "But you would struggle to afford, so..."
Tuki's face was a fair picture of the conflict between gratitude and guilt as she took the toddler onto her lap. Hyle read it perfectly.
"So... I insist. We are a family. Troy's. It's what we do, hmm?" Hyle stroked Tuki's hair as she nodded. "Anyway, a nanny can look after... Two... Three... Four... Right?"
Tuki was happy... Wasn't she? Yes. Yes, she was. Why wouldn't she be?
In the northern camp of the Devil's Own, the experiment of leaving the three drudges; Lonely, Esme and Magrat to deal with the camp's medical needs had gone well.
Under the watchful eye of Longhand's inner circle, Lonely had exhibited the leadership and organisational skills Tuki had long suspected the girl possessed.
Esme, although sullen and matter of fact, had performed admirably and even Magrat had got through the day without mishap.
After talking with Longhands, it had been decided that Lonely and Esme would work together, with Lonely in charge,
for a further month and then be allowed to take over the more mundane and non-emergency aspects of camp medicare.
More importantly, to the girls at least, they would be adopted as full gang members. Magrat, however, had confidence issues and tended to allow herself to be intimidated by some of her patients.
It took Tuki some effort to persuade Longhands to let her take Magrat to work in the Hope Springs clinic for a month. Under Maisie's tutelage, Tuki was confident Magrat would toughen up fast.
So that was good. That was something to be happy about.
And they were getting a nanny for Ichiro. Tuki would go with Kirsten and interview applicants at Chez Spivey.
Tai rolled onto his side and propped himself up on an elbow.
"Just what?" He could see from the frown on her face that something was bothering her and he knew that, if he was going to get any sleep tonight, he was going to have to find out what it was.
"Well, it was wonderful of Mama to offer to pay for our nanny... I mean she's great that way... And I'd do anything for her... Absolutely anything..."
Tai, realising that Tuki had trailed off in that way she had, he gently prompted her.
Tai waited; this was familiar territory.
There it was.
"...She sort of... Maybe it was just me, but I got the impression... I'm probably wrong but she sort of..."
She was in a loop. Tai attempted a soft reboot by gently squeezing her hand.
"What is it, Tooks?"
Tuki squeezed back. The frown turned into a smile.
"I got the uncomfortable impression that I just sold my womb." The smile grew at the sight of Tai's expression. "I think she wants to start a dynasty or something."
They snuggled down together. Tai moving his hands to all the right places.
"Oh? And how do you feel about that? We could make a start right now if you wanted to."
Tuki dampened Tai's growing ardour with a very unsexy snort and rolled over.
"No way! One is enough for me. I'm never going through that again. No sir, not gonna happen."
Before sleep took her, Tuki decided that yes. She was very happy.