“Damn.” He cussed and struggled back down the path towards the camp pausing every twenty yards or so to catch his breath and give his back a rest. By the time he reached the courtyard he was panting and a niggling ache was building in his lower back. He hauled the big kettle over the low burning flames then poured the first of his haul into it to boil. Gathering up his buckets and ignoring the growing pains he repeated the trip two more times. An excruciating pain consumed him on the third trip back making him stumble, sending the pails tumbling to the ground spilling their contents. He sank to his knees his arms wrapped round his gut and the pain possessed him once more. His breaths came short and shallow his vision blurred as yet another seizure ripped through him. Sending him crashing into the carpet of blue and gold. The scent of the blooms overpowered him, making his head feel thick and heavy. He cried out for Justin, but his voice came out as little more than a whimper. He arched up as another contraction racked his fragile body. Fighting his tears he waited for it to pass before dragging himself by his fingertips slowly and painfully towards home. His progress hampered by the agonising tightening of his belly.
He tried to reach out with his mind something he hadn’t tried to do since he had recovered from his illness. “Justin, Justin please hear me.” But there was nothing. “Justin, please help me.”
Lance and Chris spent the morning building sand castles with their friends’ children. Jovian had quickly caught on to the idea but the quads struggled to dig deep enough to find the wet sand. Little Jewel stopped flicking at the sand with his tiny spade his bright blues eyes growing cloudy and dark. “Poppa.” His little voice went unheard over the giggling of his playing siblings. He got unsteadily to his feet and toddled over the shifting sand pulling on Lance’s pant legs. “Uncy poppa uncy.” Lance picked the little boy up resting him on his hip and carried on talking to Chris. Jewel reached out chubby little hands and pulled at the mans cheek. “POPPA UNCY, POPPA, POPPA.”
“I guess the little fellow is missing JC.” Chris said as he took the near hysterical baby from his partner “It’s ok baby we will be going home soon. Are you hungry?” NO poppa want poppa now.” He scrubbed his tiny fists across his eyes and began to cry. Jovie looked up from his play along with his brothers staring intently at the baby of the family. “Jewel wot wrong?” He asked his baby voice tinged with concern. Little Jewel sobbed “poppa … da … daddy.. Go to poppa … Jewel want poppa.”
Lance took the child back from Chris. “I think maybe I’ll take him inside the shuttle call up his daddy get him to go get JC to talk to him. Why don’t you start packing up, they could all probably do with a nap right now.”
Justin crawled out from under what was left of the main console and flipped the speaker on. “What’s the problem Lance?”
“Jewel is getting very distraught here he’s calling for JC, we told him we’d bring him home but it’s not helping can you talk to him?”
Justin looked at the half open panel he had been struggling with .“go ahead.”
“Da … daddy.”
“Hi honey what’s the matter baby?”
“Po … pop … poppa.”
“Poppa is out side sweetie you want me to get poppa?”
Jewel began to nod enthusiastically wiping his little nose. “Esss daddy, get poppa now.”
“Ok honey I’ll be right back, put uncle Lance back on will you. Lance I think maybe you should bring them home now he seems real upset.”
“We’ll be about 30 minutes.”
“I’ll contact you when I have Josh here.” Justin closed the transmission and looked at the system box he had been struggling with, sighed frustrated as he picked his way carefully over the meters and meters of cable and electronic components that littered the floor. He judged it to be about 1400 hours by the position of the sun, time he took a break anyway. He wandered back into the courtyard.
He looked around, where was he? “JOSHUA.” The big silver kettle bubbled furiously over the fire boiled almost dry beside it was the huge tub that JC used for laundry. This was wrong so wrong. Concern pricked at his skin as he strolled towards the river. “Joshua where are you baby?”
JC lay almost buried by the sweet smelling blooms, the contractions coming faster and faster. His head was numb he couldn’t think anymore, somewhere he could hear Justin calling for him.
“Ju ….Justin help…. Please help.” he struggled to speak, spasms convulsed him again. He tried to crawl towards his lover reaching out. “Justin.”
Justin called out again and again, how far could JC have got? He was nearly 8 months pregnant , he waddled for god’s sake and his feet swelled after standing for more than an hour. He turned round about to go back to camp when one of the dark brown wooden buckets that JC used to ferry water back and forth caught his eye. It was just laying abandoned on its side it’s contents spilt out. He searched the surrounding area, scanning into the distance. “JOSHUA.” A infinitesimal whimper caught his ear. He spun round “Josh.” He breathed. A pale hand showed briefly above the blue gold carpet, dropping from sight almost as it appeared. Justin ran towards his lover stooping down and gathering the almost unconscious man in his arms, he hooked his arm under his legs and draped JC’s arm round his shoulder preparing to lift him. His hand felt wet he pulled it free and stared down at the scarlet stain. Bleeding Joshua was bleeding. He heaved the fallen man into his arms, half running back to the camp. He went straight to the surgical building that Lance had insisted on setting up before he would even see to his own accommodation and laid JC on the stainless steel operating table. “Honey, Josh baby …. Can you hear me? Squeeze my hand baby. If you can hear me squeeze my hand.” JC’s hand closed slightly, Justin hardly felt the touch but at least it showed his lover was still coherent.
“Joshua, I’m going to give you a local anaesthetic. The baby has to come out now.”
“No … Justin no it’s too soon … my baby Justin … too soon.” JC’s eyes rolled back in his head.
Justin slapped his face, “No sweetie keep awake, talk to me honey … what are you going to call the baby?” All the time he was talking he was preparing the powerful drug that would numb JC’s body enough for him to cut the infant free. He rolled JC onto his side holding him securely as he swiped the base of his spine with surgical spirit. He waited till he felt the stomach muscles contract tight before plunging the injection in deeply and taping it in place. Careful not to dislodge it he laid his lover back on his back and opened the valve that would let the colourless painkilling fluid flow into JC’s body. He bathed the fevered brow waiting for the drugs to take effect. The pregnant brunettes face smoothed out as the analgesic took hold.
Justin kissed his lovers forehead and whispered “I love you Joshua, I have to do this, I don’t want to loose you, if it comes down to your life or the baby. I will save your life.”
“Justin … save my baby .. Our baby.” JC begged and clenched at Justin’s arm.
The tall alien picked up his scalpel and made the first incision shallow to start, cutting slightly deeper with each stroke minding the unborn infant, not wanting to injure him. As soon as the opening was big enough he reached inside, manoeuvring the slippery form out, snipping the cord. He reached for the towel that he had prepared wrapping the tiny baby, cleaning the mouth and eyes encouraging it to take its first breath. The tense moment passed as the thin pathetic wail rang out. He placed the baby into poppas’ arms and turned his attention to the afterbirth , ensuring he got all of it before he closed the gaping wound. Justin sighed with relief and dragged a chair to his lovers’ side his eyes moist at the pretty sight. JC loosened the wrap and began to cry, tears flowing down his face like water over a rocky fall. “A girl Justin .. You gave me a little girl.” the short haired man squeezed his eyes shut and thanked every power he believed in. Intensely blue eyes stared up at them both as she found her mouth with her tiny fist sucking her thumb inside.
“Justin what made you come look for me when you did, you said you would be working all day?”
“Jewel was fretting for you I was coming to ask you to talk to him.”
“He knew didn’t he. He knew something was wrong with me.”
Justin watched dotingly as his daughter yawned and sucked her hand hard. Her blue eyes drifting slowly shut as she slipped into slumber. “I think he did baby. He’s such a smart little cookie, you named him well angel he is truly a Jewel. Talking of names what should we call this little lady?”
“JC smiled “I have the perfect name.”