“Justin will be back soon, I know he will,” Joshua said in an attempt to comfort him. “He won’t abandon us.”
“I know darling, but I fear he might be too late. The pain’s are getting closer and closer.”
Joshua checked his watch as another contraction gripped his father, timing the length of the pain and the time elapsed since the last one. “Daddy that was only two minutes since the last one.”
Trystum groaned, “I’m going to need you to help me baby. I need to take off my pants.”
“No, Keep them on!” Joshua cried, his eyes wide with fear and concern.
Trystum clenched at his stomach as another pain consumed him. This time he couldn’t stifle the scream of agony. Joshua scrambled on his knees, grasping his fathers hand once more. Once the pain had passed Trystum gave his son a tiny smile. “Darling,” he panted, “my pants aren’t gonna stop this baby from coming“. He gritted his teeth and squeezed Joshua’s hand hard as the next contraction hit him. “I need you Joshie. I need you.”
The slender teen swallowed the bile that was rising in his throat and nodded his willingness to try. Trembling he helped his father undo his pants and slid them off his legs. He blanched as he saw blood on Trystum’s inner thigh. “You’re bleeding!”
“It’s nothing darling, ignore it.” Trystum tried hard to breath through another pain, collapsing back as it past. “It won’t be much longer Josh.” He gasped and gave a muffled scream, burying his face in his son’s chest. “Josh,” he panted, “thirsty.”
Joshua snatched up the canteen from its resting place on the ground, unscrewed the top and lifted it to the laboured man’s lips, giving him small sips of the cool water within. “Daddy,” Joshua wiped the sweat from his father’s forehead. “Does it always hurt like this?”
Trystum squeezed his son’s hand and hissed away another contraction, sighing as his stomach muscles relaxed once more. “Don’t be frightened, when you go through this you will have Justin holding your hand, a nice comfortable bed and pain killing drugs to help you through. Mmmmmmmmm!” another muffled moan rumbled in his chest.
“Oh god, that was less than a minute!” Joshua was beginning to panic as his father got closer to giving birth.
“Josh you n…need t…to get something to w…wrap the baby in.”
The teen jumped up and looked around panic-stricken then started pulling stuff out of his rucksack. Finding his jacket he ran back to his father and dropped down on his knees by his side. “Will this do?”
“That’s good baby, its good.” Trystum struggled to get into a comfortable position only to be stopped by the most powerful contraction he’d had so far. He gritted his teeth and howled against his son’s shoulder. He sagged exhaustedly in Joshua’s arms and stroked the teens face with weak fingers. “It’s time baby, support my leg for me.”
Justin stopped and wiped his forehead, he checked his watch. It had been four hours since he had left Trystum in labour with Josh. He had to be close to the checkpoint now. He picked up his pace, staying close to the road, but keeping a watch for southern invaders. There was no telling how far they had infiltrated into northern territory. Hearing a noise he moved deeper into the trees that lined the roadside. He dropped to the ground as a jeep passed him. Justin let out a shout and jumped to his feet, chasing after the motor vehicle, waving his hands around like a lunatic.
The jeep stopped and three soldiers got out, their rifles at the ready. Justin stopped dead and dropped to his knees his hands on his head. “Lieutenant Timberlake Sir, 45885213. I believe you’re expecting me Sir.”
“Papers,” a tall blond soldier demanded as he pointed his rifle menacingly.
Justin reached slowly and carefully into his jacket pocket and pulled out his orders. The blond soldier snatched them off him and opened them, reading them before passing them on to his commanding officer.
The officer, an African-American grinned a toothy white smile. “Where the hell you been Timberlake? We expected you yesterday. And where are the southerners?”
Justin stood up and retrieved his rifle from where he had laid it on the dusty road. “I had to leave them behind sir. They are about 45 miles back sir. We ran into a southern invasion party and had to abandon the jeep. Then Trystum went into labour. There was no way he would make it this far. I have to go back for him and Josh.”
“We set up headquarters in St Charles. We’ll fix you up with a jeep and an escort.”
“Sir, I need to go now. Joshua is just a boy. What if the Rebs find them? I won’t abandon them sir.”
The officer took off his helmet and rubbed his head before putting it back on. “Lieutenant unless you are planning to run all the way back and carry the breeders on your back I suggest you follow orders. Bridges.”
The blond soldier stepped forward. “ Yes Captain Wright.”
“Radio ahead, make sure a jeep and an escort is ready for Timberlake. Lets go children.”
Justin squirmed about in the back of the jeep, every minute that passed took him further and further away from Joshua. It would be dark again soon and he was beginning to worry that the two breeders would be panicked in the dark wilderness alone. He breathed with relief as they entered the city and pulled up outside the city hall. There waiting was a jeep. Justin jumped clear of the jeep he was travelling in as soon as it came to a halt.
“At ease soldier. You’re not going anywhere until you have rested and eaten.” Captain Wright said as Justin started to climb into the waiting vehicle.
“But sir my husband is out there alone except for his pregnant father! I have to get back to him.”
“Another thirty minutes won’t hurt Timberlake, besides your escort isn’t here yet.”
“I don’t need an escort sir. I just need to find my husband.”
“Typical JT stubbornness sir. I can handle him though.” A familiar voice interrupted.
“Kirkpatrick! What the fuck are you doing here?” Justin greeted his friend and former platoon mate.
“Well I got a call from a certain Captain Fatone who was concerned that a certain lieutenant had disappeared with his future child.” Kirkpatrick leaned back against the jeep and started to pick his teeth with a toothpick.
Justin gave an ironic laugh. “Should have known it wasn’t me he was worried about. Captain, now Chris is here can we get going? It’s going to be dark before we get to them as it is.”
Captain Wright sighed and rolled his eyes, “I’m not going to get any peace unless I say yes am I? Go on go, I want you back here tonight.”
Joshua was kneeling between his father’s legs, his combat jacket laid on the ground before him. “That’s it daddy push.” Trystum was propped up against a rock, his right leg resting on his son’s shoulder. He gritted his teeth and pushed as hard as he could, ending with a loud sob. “You’re doing really well daddy. You’re nearly there.”
Trystum’s head rolled to the side and he panted with exhaustion. He had been pushing for nearly forty minutes and was beginning to struggle. “Daddy, listen to me. You are nearly there. Just a few more pushes and you’ll have a baby.”
The laboured man took a deep breath as another contraction started and pushed with the last of his strength.
“That’s it! That’s it. Stop pushing, just breath for me. I got his head - I can see his hair!” Joshua’s eyes filled with tears and he quickly wiped them away and guided his father’s hand to the baby’s head. He gently manoeuvred the baby’s shoulders out. “Push daddy, push.” Trystum gave one last push and cried with relief as the baby slipped free.
Joshua cradled the child and wrapped it in his jacket, and with tears rolling down his face handed him to Trystum.
“He’s amazing. So beautiful. I’ve never seen anything so tiny. What’s his name?” Joshua sat by his father, overwhelmed as he examined the baby’s tiny fingers.
Trystum held the child tight to him. “He’s not mine to name darling. I’m not keeping him. He belongs to Captain Fatone and his husband.”
“But he’s yours, he’s my brother!” Joshua exclaimed, his eyes welling up again.
“Then you name him darling. I‘m sure the Captain won‘t begrudge you that.”
Joshua smiled at the tiny boy that seemed intent on sucking on his finger. “Caleb,” he said softly as he settled down to watch over his worn out father and baby brother.