“You were always happiest when you were doing that.”
JC smiled, “Hi Chris, come and sit with me. You can give Crystal her bottle.”
“The older man moved agonisingly slowly to where his friend was sitting. The blue-eyed man frowned. Chris had aged thirty years almost overnight; his skin was nearly as grey as his hair. “You aren’t well Chrissie. You should rest.”
“I’m okay babe, just tired.”
“You look pale.”
Christ stared at his hands, something clearly on his mind. “Chris, what can I do? I want to help you.”
The older brunette took slow shallow breaths, gathering his thoughts together. “JC,” He whispered, “I’m getting worse.” JC sighed. “I’ve been bleeding, and the pain is almost unbearable at time.”
“What does Lance say?”
“He doesn’t know.” Chris lifted Crystal from her resting place on JC’s chest and settled her in his arms.
“What do you mean, Lance doesn’t know? Are you crazy? You could die!”
“I am dying Jace, that’s not going to change. It’s a fact. I love Lance so much and I’m hurting him. I see him watching me, biting his lip, feeling helpless … useless. So I figure, I don’t tell him … he won’t hurt.”
“Kirkpatrick logic eh?” JC gave a half-hearted chuckle.
“Yeah, that’s about it.” Chris let out a deep breath and held the bottle to Crystal’s lips, she took it hungrily, sucking strongly.
“Jace…. Look after him for me … don’t let him grieve alone for the rest of his life.”
The blue-eyed brunette wiped away a tear that was running down his beautifully carved features. “Come on Chris, you’ll out live all of us.”
Chris shook his head, denying his friends attempt of bravery. “It’s close Jace, closer than you think.”
“Don’t leave us Christopher, not yet … it’s too soon.” His tears started to flow again; he squeezed Teddy tight, causing the infant to grizzle in complaint.
The older man handed the baby girl back to her poppa, smiling weakly, don’t cry Jace, we knew that this time would come eventually.” He stood up, his hand slipping down, holding his lower belly, wincing as he straightened. “You’re my best friend Jaycee, you and I have been through so much together. I’ll see you at dinner babe.” He leaned down kissing JC’s tousled head, then he left, leaving JC with the feeling he had just said goodbye to his oldest friend.
Jewel sang to himself as he packed up his picnic basket, he cooed at the baby boy kicking contentedly in his mosses basket. He had planned this down to the last detail. Lance had finally given him the all clear, and he was ready to exercise his right and seduce his lover over a nice meal and a bottle of Chris’ rocket fuel. Joshua, Jaden and Jared had gone out scavenging for food on the far side of the woods; a quite whisper in Josh’s mind and the afternoon could prove quite interesting. He lifted Bastian out of his crib and strapped him into the carrier on his chest, picked up his hamper and made his way to the camp perimeter.
The blue-eyed brunette lifted his face to the sun, letting it warm him as he sang softly to his baby. He stopped, startled, a strong feeling that he was being followed. His jaw worked furiously, his heart pounding in his chest. He looked around him, peering through the trees. He began to walk again, faster this time, certain now that someone or something was stalking him. He stifled a scream as a low deep growl, rumbled from the undergrowth. Backing away, he clutched his precious child to him and sent out a metal cry for help.
Two golden eyes materialized before him and he gasped as a huge triangular head pushed out of the greenery, followed by a long sleek pitch-black body, the feline’s tail swished back and forth, his growls sending shivers down the 16 year olds spine. Jewel was frozen, not knowing what to do for the best. If he turned and ran the beast would be upon him before he had taken more than a couple of steps. He backed away again and the feline let out an almighty roar. Jewel screamed with terror stumbling backwards as the cat gathered his back legs ready to pounce.
Chris lifted his head, hearing the panicked cries of the teen. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. He grabbed a hunting spear from the weapons rack and forgetting his Illness he set off running towards the perimeter. JC came running behind him. Chris shouted over his shoulder “Stay here Jace … protect the children.”
“Stay here, get the kids in the house and contact Justin and Lance.”
Driven by pure adrenaline his feet pounded on the ground, he breathed evenly through his mouth. In the distance he could see the cat stalking the young teen and his baby, letting out a loud howl he charged.
Jovian and Joey and Jaren charged into the compound. JC came out of the house. “It’s Jewel and Bastian, something’s happened to them!”
“Jaren stay with poppa, arm yourself, Jovian come with me.” Joey took control, passing out orders as naturally as anything.
“Chris … Chris went … he’s ill Jovie!” JC was beside himself with worry.
“I’ll find them poppa. Did you call daddy?”
JC nodded “he’s coming, he can feel where Jewel is.”
“Jovian, Now!” Joey thrust a spear into his young lovers hands and took off at speed, Jovian hot on his heels.
Chris’ cry stunned the feline, causing him to turn and crouch, it roared, its long pointed teeth glinting in the sunlight, carefully weighing up his options. The boy cowering with the tender child, or the man with the weapon. He snarled and roared again and gathered his strong muscular legs beneath him.
“Run Jewel, run now” Chris lifted his spear above his head and charged the snarling animal. Jewel turned and ran, keeping a tight hold on Bastian. Snarls and growls echoed behind him as his feet hit the ground, he saw Joey and Jovian running towards him.
“Chris, help Chris!”
“Get back to the compound, there may be more than one.” Jovian shouted as he kept running after his boyfriend who was yards ahead of him.
The feline leaped and Chris raised his spear grazing the cat’s shoulder. The black beast howled and sank its teeth into Chris’ arm, shaking him like a rag doll. His razor claws raked down the mans chest, ripping him open. The smell of fresh blood drove the cat into a frenzy and it bit again, this time into Chris’ shoulder. The fifty-year-old man was knocked backwards and the feline took advantage, leaping on top of him. Chris’ eyes blurred, shouts and screams filled his ears then silence.
“Hold on baby, hold on, please hold on.” Chris opened his eyes. Lance was hovering over him pressing a wadded shirt to his wounds, trying to stem the flow of blood that was soaking him scarlet.
“Lance.” His voice was barely audible. Lance began to cry at the weak, thin sound that came from his life lover. “Lance .. Jewel?”
“He’s fine baby. Don’t move … we’ll get you home … you’ll be okay baby … you’ll be ok.”
Chris coughed, blood trickled from his mouth. “No Lance … I have to tell you … have to ..”
“Don’t you leave me Kirkpatrick … not like this .. I won’t let you … I won’t. Justin hurry please!” Tears blinded the doctor as he could see the life of his lover ebbing away.
“Love you … Lance … never regretted one …. day.” Chris groaned his breath growing shallower and shallower. His eyes drifted shut.
“Don’t you dare … don’t you dare leave us alone.”
“I’m sorry baby .. I lov …” Chris’ body shuddered and the last breath rattled in his throat and then he was gone.
Lance threw back his head and screamed, Joshua fell to his knees sobbing inconsolably, as a stunned silence fell over Justin and his children.
Lance hugged his lover’s lifeless body to him, rocking him back and forth as he wept unashamedly.