In No Way Easy

This is a Star Ocean fan-fiction. As much as I want, I don't own the characters, they belong to Square Enix and Tri-Ace. Though I would like to see them make another one.

My apologies to die-hard fans that some of the characters may be out of character.

WARNING: This specific fan-fiction contains yaoi/gender-bending, and some themes and language that may be disturbing to some people. Please take care if you decide to continue reading.

Now that all that's out of the way, we shall begin.

To say the crew was stunned was an understatement. They were more than stunned; in fact, three of them were appalled.

"What did you say, Lym?" asked Reimi.

"I said, Faize had a weird paper with him. And I saw part of it, and it said surgery on it." Lymle repeated, and not for the first time. She'd told this to Baccus and Edge as well before the whole crew, minus the afore-mentioned Faize, had been gathered in the item creation room.

The crew consisted of three humans (Crowe was on board), two Morphus, one Limurian, a pair of Eldarians, and two Roakians. And a hellhound.

"What would Faize need surgery for?" asked Crowe. He looked at Arumat, the only Eldarian present.

Arumat saw the way they were looking at him. "What makes you think I know?" he demanded.

"You and Faize seem to be pretty close." Edge replied. "We thought he may have confided in you about this."

"He did, on oath that I not tell a soul without his permission." Arumat replied. "If you want to know so badly, ask him."

"He's not on the ship." Reimi replied. "It's not like he'd find out."

Arumat only snorted. He knew where Faize was currently hiding, and if anyone had really thought about where they were meeting, they would have probably chosen a better meeting place.

"Meow." said Mericle. She started bouncing around Arumat, board with the meeting.

Arumat glared. In one swift motion, he had her by the tail and was dragging her off.

"Oh, I think she got him mad." said Serah, who hadn't really been paying attention to the conversation. "Now, could someone explain to me what's going on?"

Crowe covered his face with his hand. "And why did you keep this one?" he asked Edge.

Edge shrugged.

Everyone jumped when they heard Mericle's shriek from the upper deck. Arumat came back, looking smug.

"What did you do, Mattie?" asked Lymle.

Arumat folded his arms. "Taught the cat a lesson." he replied. He had made sure to be leaning on the wall on the right side of the ship.

"Come on, Arumat. Tell us." said Reimi. "Or is that stupid oath on your fallen brethren that strong?"

"If you must know, it's not the oath, but the threat of his rapier up my ass that keeps me silent."

Even Myuria seemed shocked. "He threatened you?" Myuria asked. "That little petit thing actually managed to threaten you?"

"I'm not a thing."

They turned. Faize stood there, dressed in a loose shirt and pants, as opposed to his usual uniform. He seemed upset.

"What's . . ." began Reimi.

"It's not your concern." Faize said. He looked at them. "I'm just tired of the way I'm treated."

"But, Faize, we've always treated you as one of the crew." Edge said.

"And I appreciate that." Faize said. "Truly, I do. It's the other way I'm treated. I got sick of it. So, tomorrow I change it." He seemed to hold himself as though he were scared.

"That soon?" Arumat asked. He saw the worry on Faize's face. "You still want me there?"

Faize nodded, then turned and walked to his room. Arumat followed.

"Faize, you're sure you want to do this?" Arumat asked, holding the smaller close.

Faize nodded. "All my life, it's never been consistent. I'm tired of the pain. I'm tired of the assumptions. I just want one or the other. This is the only way." He looked up at Arumat. "Besides, the pre-surgery tests came back."

"And?" Arumat asked, looking at Faize's pale face.

"It's positive. This has to be done now." He leaned in on Arumat's chest. "That's why it's set for tomorrow."

Crowe approached Arumat at the hospital the next day. "Hey."

"Hi." said Arumat. He was reading up on Faize's after-care.

"So his surgery was today, huh?"

"Why are you here? Did Edge send you to find out what was going on?"

"No, actually I came on my own. I think I may know what's going on, but I wasn't going to ask in front of the rest of the crew. I have more respect for Faize than to embarrass him like that."

"What do you think it is?" Arumat asked. He closed the pamphlet.

"Faize is bi-gendered, isn't he?"

Arumat didn't answer.

"You don't need to answer. I kinda figured it out on my own. He's the only guy on the ship that uses tampons."

"How could you tell it was Faize?"

"I've seen you and Edge both naked, and Baccus only leaks oil on occasion. That only left Faize to be the one leaving the little bloody packages wrapped in toilet paper in the waste basket of the men's washroom."

Arumat sighed and turned the pamphlet over so Crowe could see.

"Care after sex change." Crowe looked up at Arumat. "How long has he been in?"

"Three hours. They should be finished soon."

Just then, a bed went by from the surgery. The patient was on oxygen and a few monitors, but slept soundly. A nurse stepped over. "Mr. Thanatos? We finished. She's in recovery."

"Thank you." Arumat got up, and Crowe followed.

"She?" Crowe asked.

Arumat nodded and followed the nurse to where Faize slept. "It should take a few for the anesthetic to wear off. Someone will be by to check in about an hour." said the nurse. She left.

Faize looked peaceful lying there.

"The nurse said 'she'." said Crowe. "Faize chose to be a girl?"

Arumat nodded. "Kinda had to."

Crowe didn't say anything for a while. "Will you tell the rest of crew when you return?"

"No." said Arumat. "Faize will let them know. It's her life."

Faize shifted and blinked awake. "Arumat?"

"I'm here." Arumat said. "Crowe stopped by, too."

Faize was quiet.

"It's alright. He told me he'd figured it out on his own what was going on."

"Does he know why?" Faize asked.

"No. I figured that would be your choice if he knew now or later."

Faize sighed. "If he was smart enough to figure me out, then he probably already knows why I chose to be a girl."

"A desire for offspring." Crowe said. "I do know you and Arumat are a couple, even if Lymle hasn't figured it out." He scratched his head, studying Faize. He looked a bit concerned. "Faize, would you happen to already be pregnant?"

Faize nodded. Her hand went to her lower stomach, where there was just a small bit of firmness. "Yeah. The doctor said that I had to be careful afterwards, or risk losing the baby. But…"

Crowe placed a hand on Faize's. "It's alright. If you need someone to take your place on the bridge, I'll fill in, alright?"

"Thank you." Faize suddenly raised a hand to her head.

"Faize, is something wrong?" asked Arumat.

Faize didn't answer. She made a face.

"She's gonna blow chunks." said Crowe. He handed her a kidney dish, and just in time. It was only bile, but Faize threw up.

"Sorry." Faize whispered, gasping for her breath. She kept a hand on her stomach.

"Is something wrong?" Arumat asked.

"Pain." Faize whispered. She passed out, still affected by the sedative used for the surgery.

Arumat looked over as a doctor came by to check on her. "She mentioned pain, just before she fell asleep."

The doctor nodded and adjusted something on the IV. "She may have to stay overnight. There are unwanted effects of the surgery that we need to stabilize before she leaves."

"What effects?" Crowe asked.

"And you are?"

"Her commanding officer."

The doctor sighed. "Her body went into pre-labor during the surgery. That's what this medication is for. It's too early to even hope to save the child if she were to birth. It would be considered natural abortion if she did."

"How far along is she?" Arumat asked.

"Only eight weeks. She'd have to make it to at least twenty to have a hope." The doctor looked from Arumat to Crowe to Faize. "You'll both have to learn how to care for her. In any case, she's going to be bedridden for at least a week, and unable to lift anything heavier than five pounds afterwards."

It was a week later that Faize returned to the ship, carried by Arumat.

"Faize?" Mericle sniffed the air near her a few days later. "You smell different."

"It's just your imagination." Faize said. "What makes it different, anyway?"

Mericle sat down and tilted her head. "You smell more like Myuria and Reimi."

Myuria looked over. "Mericle, run." she called.

Arumat looked slightly annoyed that his target ran off as he walked over to Faize. "You needed something?"

"I wanted to try walking again." Faize replied. "It's about all I can do on the ship anymore."

Arumat helped her up, then suddenly went ridged. "Faize, are you wearing the screen?" he asked.

Faize nodded. "Baccus doesn't know a thing."

"And why would you need to shield Faize from Baccus?" asked Myuria. She put her hands on her hips.

"It's nothing you need to concern yourself with." said Faize. She suddenly bit her lip and looked at Arumat.

"Should I take you to our room?" Arumat asked. He scooped Faize up when she nodded and carried her off.

Crowe watched, concern etched to his face.

"You know something, don't you, Crowe?"

His red hair seemed to almost stand on end, and he turned to face the speaker. "Jeepers, Edge!" He sighed, regaining his composure. "Yeah, I know what's up. Give it a few, and Arumat will probably come out with his scythe and go practice."

But Arumat didn't come out with his scythe. He came out looking very worried. "Crowe?"

"What is it?"

"Faize needs help." He stepped back into the room.

Crowe got up and followed, leaving the rest of the crew wondering.

"What do you need help with?" he asked as he flipped the door to LOCK.

Faize lay on her bed looking pained.

"It's not stopping." Arumat said. "She's bleeding."

Faize looked at Arumat, tears running down her face. "It's not going to make it, is it?" she asked.

Crowe touched her face. "We'll try, ok?" He knelt and attached the IV tube to the lock in the back of Faize's arm. "It going to hurt for a moment."

Faize winced as the medication began to flow. The monitor Arumat had strapped to her stomach showed that the labor was beginning to ease up, and eventually stopped. She looked over at Arumat and Crowe.

"Thank you." she whispered. She was still crying.

"This is the third time in a week since coming back to the ship." Crowe said. "I'm sorry, Faize, but I don't think you should leave this room, or come off the IV."

Faize nodded. "Don't tell the others, please? Just tell them I'm sick or something."

"It's going to be hard to keep them from eventually finding out, but we'll try to postpone it as long as possible." Arumat said, gently running his scarred fingers through the fine green hair. "I worry about you, love."

Faize nodded. "I love you."

Edge gave Crowe a look. "What are you reading?" he asked.

Crowe ignored him and kept reading.

"Crowe, I asked a question."

Still nothing. Crowe sighed and closed the book, handing it to Arumat. "Your turn."

Arumat took the book and settled into a corner to read. He tossed Crowe a pager. "Your turn." he said with a smirk.

Crowe caught the pager and looked at the time. "Arumat." he said. "You know it's feeding time."

"Uh-huh." said Arumat, opening the book. "Have fun."

Crowe sighed and got the food together. "You know, I hate making this formula."

"Yeah, and the recipient doesn't like eating it. Have fun anyway."

Reimi watched Crowe head up to Arumat and Faize's room. "Edge."

"Yeah?"

"Did you know Crowe re-wired Arumat and Faize's room door? I can't get in."

"Good, we don't want you in our room." said Arumat as he continued reading.

"That's another thing." said Edge. "Why are we staying docked here?"

"Because we have yet to pick up a competent doctor." Arumat returned. "There will be one coming on board today or tomorrow, and then you can cart us around wherever to your stupid human heart's content."

"Arumat, we have healing symbology, and most of us have field medicine skills. Why would we need a doctor?" Edge asked.

"Adverse effects of surgery require a full-time doctor on staff." said Crowe. He looked at Arumat. "And the sooner the doctor gets here, the sooner we can hopefully contain the vomiting upstairs."

Arumat looked over, noting the stain lines down Crowe's armor. "How much did we lose?"

"Half the bottle." Crowe replied. "That doctor had better be on board soon."

Just then, there was a knock.

"I got it." said Edge. But Arumat got to the door of the ship first, letting in a well-built human male. The person carried a small backpack on their back, and a medical crate behind them.

"This way." Arumat led the person to his room, where they disappeared with Crowe.

Faize looked over, groggy. She was tired, felt awful, and was wondering why she was being forced to swallow that nasty formula. It had been three weeks since the surgery, two since returning to the Calnus Mark 2.

"You're Faize Beleth?" asked the doctor.

Faize nodded. She wasn't feeling too good from the formula. "You are?"

"Dr. Travis Colour. I saw to you at the hospital." He looked at the IV. "Still having trouble?"

"Yeah." said Arumat. "The rest of the crew only knows she's sick; they have no idea of the fact that Faize is female, or pregnant. And at the moment, until the first trimester is over, we'd like to keep it that way."

"Very well." said Travis. He checked Faize's eyes, throat, and chest. "You seem to be developing well."

"Huh?" Faize asked.

"Your breasts." said Travis. "They're actually starting to prepare to make milk."

Faize looked down at her chest. True, it had changed, and there were now two soft, small mounds. Very small mounds. "But their kinda small." she said.

"They'll grow." said the doctor. "The good thing is that they're growing." He continued to check Faize, trying to be careful when feeling over the uterus. "Hmm."

"What?" Faize suddenly felt a wash of sickness flow over her, and she tried to keep what remained of lunch down. "Crowe, what is in that formula? It smells like chicken in mushroom sauce." She made a face again. "And tastes like thick mud."

"It's an Eldarian nutrient drink." Arumat replied. "Basically, it's our equivalent to a multivitamin."

"I'll take the vitamin." Faize groaned. She looked at Dr. Colour. "What are you doing?"

"It's a sonogram, also called an Ultrasound, and it'll let me check on the baby." Dr. Colour smiled. "It won't hurt, unless I have to put a bit of pressure somewhere to see better."

Crowe raised an eyebrow. "Looks like a music player with a wand attached."

"It does, doesn't it?" said the doctor. He checked over Faize's stomach. He looked concerned. "Who fathered the child?"

"Me." said Arumat. "Why?"

"The aging doesn't match." Travis looked at a wheel-chart he had in the crate. "When was your last menstruation?"

"Hmm?"

"Period." Crowe said.

"Three months ago. It was never very consistent when I had both genders." Faize replied.

"And how many partners do you have?"

Faize looked a bit worried. "Arumat's my only one." she said. She didn't look too comfortable.

"Faize." said Travis gently. "I need to know everything. Is there another partner?"

Faize looked away.

Crowe sighed. "Yes, there was a second partner, but only once, about three months ago."

Arumat looked at him. "What?"

"You can't hold your alcohol as well as you think you can." Crowe said. "We were all drunk. I . . . I woke up next to Faize the next morning. There was evidence we'd been . . . doing things the night before. I was mortified, and hid in mine and Baccus's room."

"Oh, yeah." said Arumat. "That night. I woke up next to Edge." He made a face and shuddered.

"Well, that does clarify some things." Travis looked at Arumat and Crowe. "There's a month difference in their gestational ages from what I can see."

"What do you mean?" Crowe asked.

Faize looked back at them. "I have more than one, don't I?"

Travis nodded. "Three, to be exact. Two are the same age, so one of these two gave you twins." He sighed. "The younger two, to be exact."

Faize sighed. "Is that . . . Is that why I can feel something moving?"

"Yeah." The doctor looked at all three of them. "This also means we have to try and keep Faize pregnant for as long as possibly safe, to give them the best chance of survival once they are born."

Crowe and Arumat nodded.

Edge wasn't too pleased. A door on his ship had been re-wired so that only the four occupants could access it, and something was going on on his ship that he didn't know about.

"Crowe."

"There you are, Edge." Crowe walked over. It had now been about a month since Faize had returned to the Calnus. "Hey, uh . . ."

"What's going on?" Edge asked.

"Funny you should ask." Crowe said. "Faize thought you should be the first to know, since you're the captain, and a close friend." He grabbed Edge by the arm and dragged him up to the living quarters. Putting himself between Edge and the key-pad, he keyed the door, then dragged Edge in.

The room was very different from the way it had originally been designed. Two cots were lain out, one on either side of the door, against the walls so as to keep out of the way. Arumat's side of the room had a stack of books, all with the binding facing the bed, and some folded laundry. The scythe was leaned against the bed-stand, unused in a while. Then, there was the large picture window that faced the vast Star Ocean, but only half of it was able to be used. A desk had been set up, and on it was a thick set of medical files, a laptop computer that was currently running its screensaver, and a few pieces of small medical equipment. Beside that was another bed-stand, where Faize had leaned the rapier. Faize's bed was beside that, naturally, and there was an IV stand nearby, connected to the occupant of the bed. At the foot end was the medical crate, stood up on end and showing that it had items in it for almost any medical emergency.

Dr. Travis looked over from checking Faize's heart-rate. "Hello, you must be Captain Maverick. I'm Dr. Travis Colour."

"Uh-huh." said Edge. "What's going on? This looks like a hospital room." He noticed a crib-cot was set up on Arumat's half of the window. "And what's that for?"

Arumat motioned for Travis to be quiet. "Let Edge try to figure it out." he said.

Edge looked at Faize. Something seemed off, not just in the fact that the Eldarian was lying on their side, but something else. Faize's hair was starting to get longer, but that was normal just before the Eldarian cut it. But Edge couldn't place his finger on what was wrong.

"I give." said Edge. "I know there's something up with Faize, but I don't know what. He's been sick before."

Crowe tried hard not to laugh. "And there is where you're both right and wrong."

"Huh?" Edge asked.

Faize sat up, the only thing she could do. "Do you see something different now?"

Edge looked Faize over. "Are you getting fat?"

Faize made a face. "I'm not fat." she said defensively. "I'm pregnant."

Edge's face was priceless. In fact, it looked like it was about to fall off. "You're WHAT?! But, but you're a guy. Aren't you?"

Faize shook her head. "I was bi-gendered, and the inconsistency of certain body functions was getting hard, and painful. So, I made a choice. I decided to get rid of the parts that made me male, in favor of being female. Arumat and I had discussed it, but we never figured on my being pregnant at the time of the surgery."

Edge looked confused. "So, it was you leaving the . . . oh, god. And here I thought one of the girls was wandering in the men's washroom during those times." Now he just looked embarrassed. "Hey, wait. How did Crowe find out?"

"I put a few things together, and asked Arumat the day of the surgery. My guess was right, and . . . well . . ."

Travis spoke up. "Faize has a rather unique pregnancy. One child belongs to her lover and partner, Arumat. The other belongs to an accidental partner, your friend Crowe."

"How could Crowe accidentally fuck something that once had a wang?" Edge asked.

Crowe put his face in his hand. "Always crass." he muttered. He looked at him. "We got drunk. I accidentally did Faize, and you had your ass done by Arumat."

Edge backed away from Arumat. This, sadly, backed him into Faize's bed and made him sit down.

"Edge, I wanted you to know first, since you've always been there when I needed help. And now, more than ever." Faize put a hand on her stomach.

"What's wrong?" Edge asked. "I know nothing about pregnancy, what could I possibly do to help?"

"You know how and who to tell of the crew that things have changed, and that I'm expecting." Faize said. "We won't be able to keep the scanner-screen up forever, so it might be an idea to let Baccus know first."

Edge nodded. "Uh, just out of curiosity, when are you due?"

Faize looked sad. "I don't know." she said. "I just know it's been about three and half months."

Travis spoke up. "One child is older than the other, so it's hard to gauge. But Faize will most likely have them in about five months."

"Alright." said Edge.

He caught Baccus, Myuria, and Reimi all together, which was probably going to be easier than telling them separately. And, he had Crowe with him, so he didn't feel like he was going to be all that sick.

"Edge, are you alright?" Reimi asked.

"You look like someone stabbed you, boy." Myuria added.

"Just about." Edge replied. "Um, I kinda need to talk to you. All three of you."

"We're listening." said Reimi.

"It's about Faize."

"Yeah, he hasn't come out of his room." Reimi said. "Is he alright?"

"I, too, am concerned. My scanners have been impeded ever since he returned to the ship." Baccus added. "I know Mr. Faize was not well before the surgery, but I have not been able to watch his recovery as I would have liked."

"So, where is the boy?" asked Myuria.

Crowe was trying not to laugh.

"There's some difficulty." Edge replied. He was trying to find the right words to tell them their shipmate wasn't what they thought.

"What kind of difficulty?" asked Reimi. "And what's so funny, Crowe?"

Edge looked at Crowe and sighed. "You want to tell them?"

"Which part?" Crowe snickered. "The fact that Faize can't come out of her room, or that she's pregnant?"

Edge put his hand over his face. "Thanks, Crowe."

There were three stunned faces looking at them.

Myuria found her voice first. "Faize is what?" she asked.

Edge sighed. "Pregnant."

"But, Faize is male." said Reimi. "I mean, you guys all showered together at the base. He has to be a guy. Stop joking."

"That is not entirely true, Miss Reimi. Mr. Faize exhibited several female traits as well, though he tried hard to keep those parts shielded from my sensors." said Baccus. "Therefore, it is possible that Mr. Faize is now pregnant."

"But, who could be the father?" asked Reimi. "And how could Faize have let it happen to him?"

"First, stop calling Faize 'him'." said Edge. "That surgery paper Lym saw? It was so Faize would have one gender, and now he's a girl."

Reimi just stared, mouth slightly open.

"Secondly, we've known, sort-of, that Faize and Arumat were together. So that should answer the parentage thing." Edge continued.

"It doesn't answer why Crowe looks guilty." Myruia pointed out.

"Uh, Faize has more than one." Crowe said, scratching the back of his head. "I'm the other father, by mistake."

"How can you accidentally father something from a person who used to have a dick?" Reimi asked.

"Damn, she's just as crass as you, Edge." said Crowe. "You remember that night we went out drinking?"

"Clarify." said Myuria. "I do a lot of drinking."

"About four months ago, now." said Edge. "We all came back plastered, even Lymle."

"Yeah. I had a wicked headache the next morning." said Reimi. "What about it?"

"Not all of us woke up in our own beds." said Crowe. "I woke up beside Faize."

"So. I've woken up beside Edge, it doesn't mean we've had sex." Reimi said.

"We were both in the buff, and there was plenty of evidence I'd done something to Faize." Crowe said, getting flustered. "The point is, Faize is in bad shape. She's having trouble keeping the babies inside right now, so she can't leave her room. She's board half to death because she's not even allowed to walk around the room without risk to the children."

Edge continued once Crowe ran out of breath. "Lymle, Mericle, and Serah don't know about it. Serah wouldn't get it, and neither would Mericle that Faize is different now."

"What about Lym?" asked Reimi. "She had a very deep crush on Faize."

"If I'm correct, Miss Faize tried to rebuff her every time she tried to get affectionate." Baccus stated.

"That's true." said Myuria. "So if she feels sad about this, it's because she didn't pay attention."

Faize sighed. She was sitting up in her bed, and at least for the moment, was alone. Quietly, she put her hand on her stomach.

"So, at least one of you has a different father." Faize sighed again. The room felt very warm, so she'd kicked off the blankets. There was a knock at the door, and then it opened. Arumat and Myuria stepped in.

"She wanted to see you for a moment." Arumat said. He sat on his bed and picked up the book on premature infant care.

Faize motioned for Myuria to sit on the edge of the bed. "Hi."

"Hey." Myuria looked at the round belly. "So, how are they?"

"Dr. Travis says they're doing fine." Faize replied. She put her hands on her forehead, as though she had a headache.

"Are you alright?" Myuria asked.

Faize tried to look at her. "Headache." she said softly. "And it's too warm in here."

Arumat shook his head, readjusting the sweater he was wearing.

"Do you know how many?" Myuria asked, trying to make light conversation.

"Three." Faize said, her words becoming quieter. She felt faint, and tried to ease herself back on the bed. Only, she lost balance, and fell back.

"Faize?" Myuria asked.

Faize coughed, trying to catch her breath. It was while trying to do that that she fainted, still gasping.

"Faize?!" Myuria looked over at Arumat. "She just fainted."

Arumat put his book down and walked over. He checked her heart rate and breathing, which seemed normal now. But when he brushed his fingers through Faize's hair, he paused.

He tapped the pager on his belt, then tried to rouse Faize, with no success.

"You paged?" asked Travis.

"Does she seem warm to you?" Arumat asked.

Travis checked Faize's forehead, then put a temperature strip over her head to check. He shook his head when the results came up.

"What's wrong?" asked Myuria. She gently tucked a small stuffed bunny in Faize's arm.

"Slight fever." the doctor replied. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to go."

Myuria nodded and got up. "Let me know when she gets better." she said as she left.

"What is it?" Arumat asked.

"I lied to the Morphus. Faize is very feverish." Travis attached the monitor to Faize's stomach. "And she just reached twenty weeks for the youngest child, twenty-four for the oldest. But if she gets any sicker, we're going to have to let her birth."

Arumat swallowed. "What can I do to help her?"

"Wipe her forehead with a cool cloth, and keep her in light clothes." Travis said. "I'm going to have to pick up medicine for her when we land."

"That's not for another week." said Arumat.

"I know. Let's pray she doesn't get sicker."

Everything seemed hazy, foggy, like a mist in a dream. Her ears felt like someone had stuffed cotton balls in them, it was hard to hear. And dry. Try as she might, her mouth was dry like sandpaper.

"She's awake." said Crowe. He walked over and checked the temperature strip. "No change in her temperature."

Faize shifted, trying to get comfortable. A little paw hit her face, and she tried to look down. A pair of large button eyes looked back from a fluffy pink face.

"Bunny?" Faize asked.

"Myuria left it for you." said Crowe.

Faize sighed. Her hearing had cleared up, and her vision was getting better, but damn was she thirsty. "Water." she whispered.

Arumat helped hold her upright and held the cup to her lips. Faize drank greedily, disappointed when the cup was empty. But her throat wasn't so scratchy anymore.

"How are you feeling?" Arumat asked.

"My throat's scratchy." Faize whispered. She noticed the lighting was different, that some was coming from the window. "Where are we?"

"Roak." said Crowe. "You've been unconscious for almost a week."

Faize sighed. She turned her head when the door slid open, letting Dr. Travis into the room.

"She woke up. That's an improvement."

"Faize said her throat was scratchy." said Crowe.

"Hmm." Travis came over and checked Faize over. He didn't look too happy.

"What is it?" asked Arumat.

"She's steadily getting worse. Inform Captain Edge we have to return to an Earth colony as soon as possible. Faize is going to need a lot of help."

"What?" Faize asked. She looked up at the doctor as Crowe left the room.

"You're getting very sick, and it's possible your babies are suffering from it as well. I have to remove the IV preventing birth."

Faize looked scared. "But . . ."

"I know it's dangerous, but leaving them in you is even more dangerous right now."

"What is it that Faize has?" asked Arumat.

"If my diagnosis is correct, Faize has a strain of Eldarian Fever."

Arumat swallowed. Eldarian Fever, to a normal Eldarian, could lead to severe disfigurement. The bonus was that you could only have it once, and that it often happened to teenagers. But for Faize to get it now, while she was pregnant, meant she'd been sheltered away from anyone that might have passed it to her. It also meant the babies most likely had it.

Crowe came back in. "Edge has the ship heading back to Aeos. It's a three-day journey, but he's got the ship going as fast as possible as soon as I told him it involved Faize."

Travis nodded. "We need to prep Faize for delivery."

Faize was scared. Dr. Travis disconnected the IV, then asked her to dress in the light hospital gown with nothing on underneath. She had done so rather shyly. Now, she was lain on the bed tilted slightly upright, with the early feelings of labor washing over her belly.

"Arumat, don't leave me." she whispered, and not for the first time.

Arumat gently ran his hand through Faize's hair. "I'm right here, love. I'm right here."

Faize winced as the contractions got harder. "Arumat?"

"Yes?"

"I . . . I want to see."

"The babies?"

Faize nodded.

Arumat pointed up to the ceiling above the bed. There was a mirror there, angled just right that Faize could see her exposed private area. "We thought you might. I also have a recording device set up, so you can see it later, if you pass out."

"Thank you." Faize winced again, panting slightly.

"What is it?" asked Crowe.

"Pulling." Faize said. "Like I'm being pulled apart."

Travis looked over. "What did you say?"

Faize groaned, her hand squeezing Arumat's. Tears dripped down her face, and she had barely enough time to catch her breath before another painful spasm hit.

Travis came over and checked. "It's coming." he said. "If you can, push with contractions."

Faize let out a blood-curding shriek, and the head of the first baby came into view. It was only moments later that the child was born.

Crowe swallowed as Travis cut the cord and laid the baby in the crib-cot. He'd heard of early deliveries, and that the children were small, but this baby was tiny. The child was so small; they could have fit in his two hands together. The second baby was the same way.

Faize gasped, her world beginning to swim in and out of focus. Her hand tightly gripped Arumat's, and she tried to focus on the birth of the last child. The pain was excruciating, but she didn't seem to notice or care. The children were what mattered right now. She'd worry about the pain she was in later.

The third child was soon born, and then, it was over. Faize quite easily passed the afterbirths for all three children, then lay there, panting. It was a good fifteen minutes later that she finally let go of Arumat's now-broken hand.

"I told you." said Travis as he diapered the babies, "I said only two fingers, but you gave her your whole hand."

"I didn't have much of a choice." Arumat returned.

Crowe finally found his voice. "Can you tell who's is who's?" he asked.

"Yes." said Travis. He indicated to the larger baby. "This one's yours."

Crowe felt numb, like he was walking in a dream sequence. Carefully, he reached his hand out and touched the baby's soft, red hair. He'd seen when Travis had diapered this one. "A girl." he whispered. He pulled his hand back as the room seemed to pitch around him, and then went black. He'd fainted.

"So much for his façade of being a strong human." said Arumat as the doctor set his hand in a cast. "Well, what are mine?"

"Twins." Travis grinned. "Also girls." he replied. "There we go, your hand is fixed."

It was sheer agony for Faize. Day after day, week after week, she watched her babies mostly from behind glass as nurses attended to them. She only got to hold them briefly, usually twice a day each, to try and nurse them.

"Faize?"

She didn't turn to look at the speaker, only stood watching through the glass.

"Faize, what went wrong?"

She knew that voice. It belonged to Lymle. Faize said nothing.

"Faize, I asked a question." Lymle came up beside her. The others had followed, too.

"Faize?" asked Edge. He saw the tears. "Faize, what is it?"

Arumat looked into the room. "Where's Emily?"

"She's sick." Faize finally said, her voice nothing more than a whisper. "They shooed me out, took her, and vanished."

Crowe looked at Arumat. Emily had been the first one born. He stepped up beside Faize. "How's Faye?" he asked. Faye was his daughter.

"She's out of the isolation bassinette." Faize replied, her finger pointing to the baby that was happily chewing on her baby mittens.

There was silence a moment. Then Reimi spoke. "And the third one?"

Faize pointed to a bassinette that was covered over. She didn't say anything.

"What happened?" Arumat asked. He pulled Faize close to himself and held her. "What happened to our little Matilda?"

Faize only gripped Arumat's shirt and cried. "I don't know." she sobbed.

A nurse stepped out. "Miss Beleth?" she asked.

Faize glanced over, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. "Hmm?"

"What is it?" Arumat asked.

"It's about Emily." said the nurse. "Your baby has Eldarian Fever."

Faize didn't say anything.

"What's going to happen?" asked Arumat.

"She's been moved to isolation, since the babies here are generally too weak to handle a disease." The nurse looked at Faize. "It's a mild case, so she should be back with her sisters by next week."

"And what's wrong with Matilda?" Arumat asked.

"She's just light-sensitive, so while she's asleep, we cover the bassinette."

It was months later, almost a year after they had been conceived, that Faize was able to take her children home.