It was an odd way to find him. He lay there, his porcelain skin even paler than usual, eyes closed, almost completely naked in the grass. His clothes, stained with blood, were strewn about the area.
They approached his lithe form, almost afraid he was dead. The thin chest barely rose and fell with his breathing, but he was alive. Carefully, they moved him into a survival blanket. One person gathered the bloody clothes.
"His earrings are missing." said the one that gathered him up.
"I've got them." said the other. "Let's get him back to the ship."
The light was bright, almost too bright. With a moan and a groan, he rolled over onto his side. It hurt to lie on his back.
Another porcelain-skinned being looked at him, scars covering his body. His golden eyes watched the pale form on the bed nearby, as though studying him. The silver hair that framed his face was cut oddly, with part of it tied off to the side of his face and held in a unique clasp at the end. Carefully, he reached over and touched the wounded creature's face.
The wounded blinked and looked at him with half-open amethyst eyes. "Arumat?" he whispered.
The other nodded. "What happened to you? Didn't I train you to be more guarded?"
There was silence a moment. "A survivor." he whispered softly. "From the Phantoms. I . . . he grabbed me. Knew where I was weakest. I . . . I'm sorry."
"What kind of survivor?" Arumat asked. "A Phantom?"
The patient shook his head, and a few strands of bloody emerald hair fell across his face. "A . . . an Eldarian."
"We're still on Aeos, Faize. Tell me what he looked like."
Faize tried to think. "Your height. My build, I think." He coughed. "No weapon, but he took mine. Disarmed me immediately." He coughed again, clutching his stomach.
Arumat thought a moment. "Did you see anything else?"
Faize thought again. "Silver hair, I think. It was all loose, and he covered my mouth so I couldn't scream." He coughed again, still holding his stomach. "I was . . . forced to swallow something."
Arumat was starting to feel uncomfortable. "So, what caused your wounds?"
"I'm not sure. I . . . it hurt. He was rough with me, and I . . . I passed out."
Just then the person that has carried him back stepped in. His unique armor said everything. It was Edge. "Nice of you to wake up, Faize. We were worried for a while that you might have died on us."
Faize coughed again. "I wish I had." he whispered. "This hurts terribly."
"What happened?" asked Reimi, who had gathered up his bloody clothes. "You looked a wreck when we found you."
Faize sighed, then coughed again. This time, he practically doubled over in pain.
"As far as I've managed to get from him, he was raped by a survivor of the Phantom Fleet. An Eldarian that managed to hide."
"What? There was a survivor?" asked Edge.
"What Faize has told me is a little sketchy, though." Arumat added.
"Well, the preliminary check suggested that Faize was struck with a sword, specifically his own rapier." said Reimi. "Faize?"
He'd passed out again, lying there like a porcelain doll.
"Looks like he's in a lot of pain." said Edge. "Unfortunately, I have no idea how to treat him. All I know are human remedies."
Arumat looked at Faize's less-than-peaceful face. "A warm blanket might help." he replied. "Faize is frightened, so it's unlikely we'll get any real answers as to what happened to him for a while."
Reimi nodded and retrieved a blanket from the warmer. "There." She finished tucking it around the patient. "I wish he wouldn't get so scared."
It was a day later that Faize awoke again, gasping and panting. His amethyst eyes were wide with fright, and he moaned, holding his middle again.
"Faize?" asked Edge.
He lay there, gasping. "Edge?" he asked, finally gathering himself somewhat.
Faize swallowed. "An Eldarian survivor. They caught me, disarmed me . . ." He shuddered. "Struck me, several times."
"You're missing something." said Edge. "According to the tests done while you slept, you were assaulted as well."
Faize whimpered, but didn't deny it. Very slowly, he nodded.
"What did this survivor look like?"
"Tall. Arumat's height, my build. He wore a white uniform, and had loose silver hair." He looked lost in thought.
From the doorway, Arumat swallowed. He stepped into the room. "Can I talk to Faize alone?"
"Sure." said Edge. "I need to see if Baccus has picked anything up." He left, so Arumat sat where he had been.
Faize seemed to study Arumat a moment. "Why did you do it?" he asked suddenly.
"You were my assailant, weren't you?" Faize asked again. "The chest scar. It's slightly bloody."
Arumat sighed. "I missed the old days. When you and I would train together for a while, then fall to our more animal instincts."
"Arumat." Faize sighed. "Just tell me. I . . . I missed it, too."
"When you were assigned to Edge and Reimi's crew, I thought you preferred being away from me. The way you acted made me feel as though you were treating me as a stranger."
"I didn't want them knowing of our relationship. It's a taboo thing, both on Eldar and Earth, for a man to have a male lover."
Arumat leaned closer to Faize. Their lips met for a brief moment, then parted as they heard someone walking down the hallway.
"Hey." said Edge. "Baccus can't detect anything, so we're leaving the planet."
Arumat nodded. "You figure out the room arrangements yet?"
"Yeah. Baccus will stay in the lounge, while you will be staying with Faize."
Arumat nodded. He turned back to Faize, who lay there somewhat dazed. "Kid?" he asked.
Faize shifted. "Hmm?"
"You alright? You looked a little lost in thought, there."
Faize nodded, watching Edge from the corner of his eye. It was obvious to Arumat he wanted the captain to leave. But, sadly, Edge stayed.
"Care to share your thoughts?" Edge asked.
"Who carried me back?"
"I did." Edge replied.
Faize swallowed slightly. "And . . . who checked me?"
"That was also me." He felt Faize's forehead. "You seem to still have a fever. Rest up. I'll be back later." He turned and left.
Faize looked at Arumat again. "What was it I swallowed? My stomach hurts so badly."
"A speed pill. I took the liberty of looking up your construction records from the archives."
"I have impregnated you. The speed pill will accelerate the process down to nine weeks, but you'll be in a lot of pain, and be feverish through the whole thing."
"Isn't that what they use on Eldarians that break the taboo?"
Arumat nodded. "I managed to procure one under the pretense of having known of one that was pregnant. I didn't say who."
"What happens after?" Faize asked. "Anyone who's had a speed pill nearly dies in childbirth . . ." He clutched his stomach. ". . . or vomits to death soon after."
"I read up on delivery and after-care." He ran his pale, scarred hand through Faize's hair. "And I read about what to do because of the pill. If I help you with the fever, it's less likely you'll get sick." He turned and got a cool cloth from the sink, then washed Faize's forehead and bloody hair.
"You really are gentle."
"Don't tell anyone. I'm only gentle to you, love."
Faize sighed and dozed off.
"Arumat, where did you put Faize?" asked Edge.
Arumat glanced around. Asside from the missing Faize, all the other members of the crew were present. "I put him to bed. He seems to rest easier there, despite the pain."
"Pain?" asked Myuria. "What sort of pain?" She tossed her pink hair behind her shoulder.
"His wounds." Arumat replied. "I've done what I can to dress them and make him comfortable. Now, only time can heal him."
Edge nodded. "We'll be at Roak in a few days."
A few days. Faize would be nearing the end of his pregnancy then, and would require somewhere quiet and relatively safe in order to birth.
"How long will we be there?" Arumat asked.
"As long as it takes to get supplies." Reimi replied. "Why?"
"While we're there, I was going to take Faize out for some fresh air. I read that it may help speed his healing."
"That can be arranged." said Edge. "Just don't wander too far with him."
Arumat nodded. How he disliked the bizarre, motley crew. The two humans were fine, and so was the female Morphus, but the male was a little bizarre. His metallic body and ability to register some things without having to ask had resulted in Faize being partially covered by a static screen to keep Baccus from knowing what was going on with him. Then there was the little girl, who doodled everywhere and constantly had that blasted hellhound with her. Though Arumat was the only one Cerberus cowered away from. The Featherfolk was an airhead, and didn't understand anything. It made Arumat wonder what sort of rock she'd crawled out from under. And that blasted cat-girl. She was always skipping around him, meowing in that annoying way of hers that made him want to toss her out the airlock, or at least lock her in the shower for a while under cold water.
Roak came closer to view, and Arumat couldn't help but notice that the safest place for Faize may also be the worst. There was a clearing with some small shrubs a fair distance from where the ship had landed, near where some bunnies played. It was relatively safe, but also very open. There would be no protection from predators. He would have to quickly construct a tent.
After the others left for the supplies, Arumat gathered Faize in his arms, as well as some supplies in a backpack. He noticed Faize looked pale again. "Love?"
Faize panted slightly. "It's just a small bit of pain. It'll pass, like last time."
Arumat kept him bundled close as he hurried off and locked the ship.
"Where are we going?" Faize asked. He rested a hand on his heavily swollen body. He could feel the child inside of him, struggling.
"Somewhere safe for you to birth." Arumat replied. He hurried along, trying not to leave any trail the others might follow. Once they reached the clearing, he lay Faize against a rock and began to pitch the tent.
Faize watched, wishing he could do something. But the pain he was in, as well as his condition, didn't allow for it. He was already indebted to Arumat for caring for him during this time.
A bunny hopped over, and Faize idly stroked it's soft, fluffy fur. The light waves of pain over his stomach seemed to be getting stronger, and he moaned slightly.
Arumat returned to his side almost instantly, gathered him up, and carried him into the tent. "Faize?"
Faize panted, trying to breathe. The pain was rapidly intensifying, making it hard to speak. His flesh grew paler, and he grew weaker. Time seemed to stretch on, until at last he couldn't hold it in anymore, and he screamed.
Arumat continued to wipe a damp cloth over his forehead, and tried to soothe his beloved's pain. Gently, he unclothed Faize's lower body, only to note the wetness and blood. "Faize? It's alright, I'm here for you."
Faize gasped. The pain was worse than he'd imagined. It was tearing at him, like claws dug into his belly, attached to paint rollers that continually pressed down upon his stomach. Another cry issued forth from his lips, and he panted again. The pain was still intensifying, and now, something was moving through his lower body. Another scream came.
"It's coming, Faize. Just breathe."
Faize panted again, trying to hold back from another scream. Subconsciously, his body tried to push the baby out, and Faize shrieked. He felt as though he were being torn apart as his body opened and let the child slide out. Oh, the agony. His head lolled to one side, and stomach fluid flowed from the corner of his mouth. He convulsed, and whatever was inside him came spilling out across the soft ground.
Arumat dried and wrapped the baby, then looked over at Faize. His skin was white, and he barely breathed.
"Faize." He reached over and touched the porcelain cheek. There was hardly any breath left in him, and no strength. If nothing was done, he would die.
Gently laying the baby on Faize's chest, he tried to revive the dying youth. "Please, Faize. Don't leave me. Don't leave our son."
Faize coughed, and more fluid came up. Or down. Faize was still struggling. He looked at Arumat and tried to say something. But he could only mouth it, he was that weak. With a painful sigh, his head fell back into the grass.
The baby cried. Arumat tried to revive Faize, with little success. Turning his attention to the soft moans his lover made, he noticed Faize was still holding his stomach. He checked his beloved, only to realize Faize was doing what no Eldarian had done in years. He was birthing twins.
Faize moaned again. The pain was just as great as with the first, but he felt oddly calm. Like everything would stop hurting once it was over. Again, he moaned, and the second child slid from his ever weakening body. And then, blissful unconsciousness. His hand slid from his stomach and hit the ground with a light thud.
Arumat panicked. Wrapping the second baby up, he tried his hardest to revive Faize. This time, he was a bit more successful. Faize breathed, but was unable to wake up. He'd lost a lot of blood and fluid, and used a lot of energy to do what he'd just done. There was no way they could return to the Calnus. Not any time soon.
Edge looked around. "It's getting dark. We'd better search for them."
Baccus looked around, scanning the area. "There are four life-forms in the south-east direction." he stated. "Three are well, but one is dying." He looked back at Edge. "The dying one is Faize."
"What?" asked Reimi. "Don't tell me he was attacked again."
"It's only been nine weeks." added Myuria. "He'd have just recovered from the last attack."
Edge nodded. Just then, his communicator crackled to life.
"Edge Maverick? Captain, are you back at the Calnus?" It was Arumat.
"Yeah, I'm back. What's going on?" Edge asked. "You guys aren't back yet, and there's a storm coming in."
"I know. We were caught in it, and are sheltered for now." came the reply. "When you can, I need some help."
"I'll say. Baccus just reported that Faize is dying. And who's with you?"
There was silence a moment. "Abandoned children." came the tentative reply. "Just . . . get here when the storm lets up."
Faize blinked awake. His body was still pained, but not as badly as it was before. He felt exhausted, weak, and almost ready to pass out again. A small moan escaped him, bringing Arumat.
"Faize." Arumat sat him up some, cradling him like an infant. "Faize, stay with me."
Faize sighed, leaning his head on his lover. "Arumat." he whispered.
"It's alright. They both made it. Now you just need to get well."
Faize sighed, glad to have the answer he wanted. His head leaned into Arumat's chest, and he sighed again. "I . . ."
"Shh. I'll take care of you."
The storm raged for almost a week. Every day, Baccus gave his report on the four to the south-east. The news didn't sound all that comforting. There was no improvement to Faize's condition according to Baccus's reports, and Arumat himself was becoming weaker as well.
When at last the storm settled, Edge, Reimi, and Baccus headed out. What they found was disturbing.
A tent, or whatever remained of one, was hanging tattered from a few shrub branches. There was blood on it, and little food left nearby. There was a bunny tied nearby, looking a little bedraggled. Four filthy creatures, two with torn clothing, lay under the tent.
One creature shifted and looked up. The hair was unrecognizable; a mud-caked mess that came to the shoulders. It was the eyes that gave him away as Arumat. He was missing the vest that he so often wore, his scars caked in mud and blood. As he got up, Edge noticed the two babies cuddled under part of a blanket near the other bedraggled creature.
"What happened?" asked Reimi.
"We got caught in the storm. I tried pitching the tent, but three nights ago, it collapsed. This was the best I could do."
"What's with the bunny?" Edge asked.
"The infants needed food, and neither Faize nor I are exactly lactating." Arumat sighed. "Besides, in the close proximity, it helped shelter us as well."
The bunny wiggled it's nose.
"Infants?" Reimi lifted a tattered edge of the tent, noting both children were wrapped tightly in Arumat and Faize's shirts. "These look only about a week old."
Arumat swallowed. "They are."
"They also look Eldarian." added Baccus. "With genetic code from yourself and Faize."
Arumat sighed. "They are." he swallowed. "Faize needed a quiet, relatively safe place to have them, and I thought this would be safe enough. But he's been severely weakened, and has almost died on me daily."
Reimi gathered the children up. "Why didn't you just stay on the Calnus?"
"It's an old Eldarian custom, almost forgotten. We used to never birth inside a building, but rather in a safe thicket, or a tent. It was our way of showing nature she was still at work. Faize loved the old ways, so when his time came, I followed his wish. He was resting from the birth when the storm came in." Arumat looked over at Faize, who had managed to wake up.
Faize tried to get up, but fell back in the mud. His nearly white skin was covered in dirt, and he seemed almost too weak to even be alive. His hand shook as he tried to feel the ground for the children. When he couldn't find them, he lay as still as anything.
"Faize?" asked Edge. He placed his hand on the young Eldarian's head. "He doesn't seem to see me."
"He doesn't." Arumat replied. "It's maternal instinct he's reacting on. An Eldarian apparently goes blind for a while after birth, relying on instinct and touch to find anything around them. If what their looking for can't be found, they register loss. In those circumstances, the blindness may become permanent." He took one of the children from Reimi and turned Faize onto his back, laying the child on his chest. "There, see? Still ok."
Faize carefully raised a hand and placed it on the child's back. He sighed, content to have found even one child.
"Arumat." he whispered. "Is the rain over?"
"Yes. Edge, Reimi, and Baccus are here to help us back."
Faize was quiet a moment. "I can't move." he whispered at last.
"It's alright." said Edge. "I'll carry you back."
Faize reached out again, trying to find Arumat. "Where's the other?"
"Reimi has the other one." Arumat caught Faize's hand. "I won't leave you."
"I'm so tired."
Faize seemed to fall asleep instantly. Arumat gathered the child and handed them to Reimi. He watched as Edge gathered his ailing lover up into his arms.
"He's awfully light, Arumat."
Arumat nodded. "He needs treatment. He hasn't held anything down since the twins were born. Not even water." He took the bunny by the harness.
"Are we keeping that thing?" asked Edge.
"Unless you know of a crew member who's lactating, yes."
"Great." Edge muttered. "Now we need to get bunny feed."
"I thought you had several crates on the ship." Arumat replied. He tugged on the bunny's lead, and it followed him. However, he only got half-way to the ship before falling. Apparently, he'd gone without much food either, and was rather weak for it. Baccus picked him up, despite his protests, and carried him back, leading the bunny.
Myuria looked at them as they entered the ship. "The others are asleep." she said. She noticed Arumat hanging in Baccus's one arm. "What happened?" she asked, seeing Faize's pale body hanging limply in Edge's arms. The Morphus also noted the two babies that Reimi carried.
"Old Eldarian tradition." Baccus said. He lay Arumat in one of the beds in the small infirmary. "Arumat is suffering from lack of sleep and slight malnutrition."
Arumat shifted and woke. "Hmm?" He managed to sit up. "Faize?" he asked, looking around.
Edge lay his charge down. "He's stopped breathing."
Arumat looked over and saw the bluing lips. Faize seemed almost ready to die. But his body eagerly took the oxygen, and he seemed to rest easier. The IV was then added to his left arm, bandaged to keep him from grabbing at it.
"There." said Myuria. She turned to face Arumat. "Now for you."
"No." the older Eldarian said. "I am not being hooked up to one of those contraptions." He tried to stand, only to collapse to his knees.
"Oh, yes you are." said Edge. "We can't have you getting sick on us."
"I'm not sick." Arumat sighed. "I only had enough food for the two of us for three days. When I saw the storm was going to last a long time, I tried to ration it out, tried feeding Faize as best as possible. I knew I had more stamina and training for survival than he did, and he'd struggled hard to have the twins, so I rationed most of it for him. But he continued to get sick. I stopped eating in order to have enough to help him survive. If the storm had lasted even one more day, he wouldn't have made it."
"Well, you at least need rest and food." said Myuria. She looked at the twins. "Now, to care for these two."
"That's my job." said Arumat. "Don't touch them."
Faize shifted, his one hand reaching. He seemed to again be searching for something. This time, it was Arumat, who reached over and took his hand.
"It's alright, we're safe now. Just rest."
Faize tried to speak, but the oxygen mask muffled his already whispered words. He tried desperately to tell Arumat something, but he couldn't. Tears ran down his cheeks, and then, he vomited.
Myuria immediately removed the mask. The warm bile continued, now with the audible sobs. When it finally finished, it was obvious he was in pain.
"Faize." Arumat held the pale hand tightly. "Faize, it's alright. We're safe, now."
Faize panted slightly, then turned his head towards Arumat. "Help me." he whispered.
Myuria checked Faize's temperature. "You're very feverish. No wonder you keep getting sick." She continued to check his thin, wasted body, noting that his stomach was bloated and slightly distended. "Reimi, prep the sonogram."
"What's wrong?" asked Arumat.
"Did he ever pass anything that may have looked like a large, bloody sponge?"
Arumat shook his head. "There was one, after the second was born."
"He may have retained part of it, or another one entirely. It's poisoning him, effectively keeping him from getting better."
"It's ready." said Reimi. She moved the machine closer.
Myuria checked over Faize's pained belly, noting that the young Eldarian continued to cry out in pain, even if it was rather weak. But she was right. Faize had retained the other placenta, which was starting to decompose inside him.
"There are two ways of getting it out. One is to force labor on him again, causing his body to contract and hopefully force it out. The other way is to do an internal, and remove it by hand."
"Both sound painful." said Arumat. He brushed the filthy hair from Faize's face. Faize clutched Arumat's hand as tightly as he could. "Which one would be easier on him?"
"The internal. We'll make him sleep through it, so he won't feel any pain." Myuria replied.
It was the early hours before Faize woke again. His eyes seemed clearer, and he looked around. He noted his hair and body had been cleaned, and he was dressed in a medical gown. Leaning on the bed beside him, still holding his hand, was Arumat, sound asleep.
"He fell asleep after the procedure." said Edge, who was sitting nearby. "Arumat never left your side through the whole thing."
Faize looked at him for a moment. "Where are my children?" he finally asked.
"With the bunny." Edge replied. "We're going to try switching them to formula. The ship's too small to keep a full-size bunny locked up."
Faize sighed. "Thank you." he said softly. "I . . ." He paused.
"What?" Edge asked.
"I want to hold them." He looked back at Arumat. "Does he know where they are?"
Edge shook his head. "Arumat's been asleep for a while." He looked over as Myuria and Reimi came in with the babies.
Faize reached out for them, but Myuria shook her head.
"You're too weak, Faize. Holding either of them right now could very well injure you further."
He looked back at Arumat, who was just waking. Tears threatened, and finally ran.
"What is it?" Arumat asked. He noticed the look on Faize's face. Gently, he raised the bed up some so he was sitting. "Faize, they told me everything. How bad off you are, and that it's going to take weeks for you to get better." He brushed his fingers through his lover's hair. "It's alright."
Faize shook his head. "I want to die." he whispered.
Arumat sighed. "You can't die." he said. "I know you need them, but you can't hold them, Faize."
The tears continued, getting harder, until he was choking. Faize was determined to die if he couldn't have the children he'd borne.
"Faize? Faize!" Arumat grabbed him and held him close, trying to let his beloved know things were going to be alright. "Faize, it'll be alright."
Faize continued to cry, choking on his sobs. "But . . ."
"Faize, stop crying." said Arumat. He wiped the tears away. "I said you couldn't hold them. It doesn't mean you can't touch them."
Faize looked puzzled. "Huh?" Tears still ran down his face, and he desperately needed a tissue. He accepted the offered hankie and blew his nose.
"Here we go." said Myuria. She moved the bassinette with the twins over closer. "There, now you can spend time with them without holding them."
Faize tentatively reached over and touched one of the babies. "Arumat."
"Hmm? What is it?"
"Which one was first?"
"The one with amethyst eyes. The golden-eyed one was second."
Faize watched the baby for a moment. "This one." he said softly. He sighed. "Arumat."
"Staying with me, putting up with me, and . . . for choosing me." Faize looked over at him, and placed a rather indiscrete kiss on his lips. "Thank you."