A sharp pain jabbed Britland in the side. Moaning in his sleep as another pain clutched at his insides twisting and tearing. He gasping for breath he curled his knees into his swollen stomach. Biting his bottom lip to keep from crying out another searing pain swept through him. He wrapped his hands around his stomach in a vain attempt to soothe the pain.
The bed felt too big. Too empty. Carson had moved back into his room concerned his restlessness would keep Britland from getting the rest he needed. He was just a few feet away. A short walk down a hall. It was impossible. He may as well be in Siberia for all the good it did him. Feebly Britland reached for his phone that should have been on the nightstand. His fingers encountered nothing but empty space, a smooth surface. No phone.
Had he knocked it onto the floor in his sleep? He cried out as the pain increased in intensity. His insides felt like they were on fire. Something was terribly wrong. Sweat dripped from his forehead as he struggled to sit up. Swaying he clutched the bed sheets, a vain attempt to steady himself before standing.
Nausea swept through him as the room danced around him. Squeezing his eyes tight he swallowed several times willing the pain away. It didn’t help.
He almost fell over as he placed his feet on the floor. His vision dimmed becoming dark around the edges. A persistent buzzing filled his ears that coalesced into a roaring rush of a waterfall before he had taken the few steps to his door. Leaning against, panting as if he had run a marathon. Sweat dribbled down the small of his back. His hair matted around his forehead and neck. He shivered from cold.
Any other day Felix would have been home studying late in the living room. Not today. He and Crystal had a romantic weekend planned. The thought of his best friend brought Britland a momentary respite from the agony he was in. He could only hope that this time Felix didn’t chicken out like he did twice before.
Taking a deep breath he pushed off the door. Staggered across the hall bouncing off the far wall before he realized he his feet were moving. Each step that led towards Carson’s door was like climbing a mountain with lead bricks weighing him down. His knees wobbled as if he were walking on stilts. Any moment he was sure he’d fall flat on his face. The hall seemed to go on forever like he was trapped in some sort of nightmare of someone’s idea of a fun house.
The door handle slipped from his hand as he struggled to open the door. The combination of his weight and the slight pressure on the handle worked miracles. He toppled forward landing on his knees. “Carson” he croaked from lips that were bone dry.
Jumping from the bed Carson held a hand to his chest. Blinking he stared at the man in his room. “Brit” he mumbled as his brain seized control from his panic. Dropping to his knees he pulled the blond into his arms. He could feel the tremors running through the blonde’s body.
“The baby” Britland clutched at his stomach whimpering “something’s wrong.”
“It’s going to be alright” Carson tried to reassure his fiance despite the voice in his head telling him it wouldn’t be. How long had Britland been like this? How long had it taken him to wake him up? “I’m sorry” he mumbled running a trembling hand through his tangled purple hair.
He watched as Britland’s lips moved saying something he couldn’t hear. He leaned in close “Ambulance” his voice was nothing more than a raspy breath.
“Oh gawd I’m an idiot” he muttered to himself as he reached for his phone. After making the call he announced “it’s on the way.” He brushed the blondes thick hair from his face “you’re shivering.” He stretched a hand out tugging on the blanket freeing it from the bed. Wrapping the blanket around the blonde Carson repeated “you’re going to be ok.” Feeling helpless as he watched Britland twist and turn moaning in agony.
“Promise me” Britland whispered forcing Carson to lean in close to hear “the baby…”
“What about the baby” Carson’s heart sank. He knew what Britland was trying to tell him but he didn’t want to hear it. “No it’s not an either or thing. You’re going to be alright.”
“The baby…. promise” weakly he grabbed Carson’s hand “please.”
“I…” swallowing he blinked back tears. He couldn’t make that promise and was saved from doing so by the arrival of the paramedics.
Several hours later Britland stirred beneath the stiff white sheets. Squinting into the bright overhead light he moved a hand to his stomach taking comfort in its size and girth.
“Careful” Carson’s voice seemed to come from out of nowhere. “You’ll knock the electrodes loose.”
“The what” he mumbled his fingers picking at the foreign objects on his abdomen.
Gently Carson laid a hand over Britland’s fingers stilling them. “It’s to monitor the baby.”
“The baby” Britland’s eyes locked onto Carson. His green eyes appeared to be sad and vulnerable “he’s alright?”
“He” Carson asked.
“I don’t know. Not for sure” Britland stammered looking away “it’s just a feeling I have.”
“Uh huh” Carson slowly stood from his chair to sit on the edge of the hospital bed. Tenderly he cupped Britland’s face between his hands “I’m sorry. I haven’t been here for you like I should have been.”
“It’s alright” Britland his lips quivered as he attempted to smile “you’ve had a lot to deal with lately.”
“It’s no excuse” he growled “I’m sorry.” Brushing Britland’s hair from his forehead. He could see the recoil in the blonde’s gentle green eyes. The hurt and pain were there too. “Because of me you’ve been stressed out. I should have been helping you instead of you helping me.”
“You needed me” Britland struggled to sit up. Carson’s hands on his shoulders gently pushing him back to the bed tired him out until he fell back onto the unyielding mattress.
“I know” Carson’s voice quivered “this is all my fault.”
“What’s all your fault” Britland demanded his voice rising “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Sighing Carson reached for Britland’s hand. “The baby. You went into premature labor because of all the extra stress.”
“What happened” Britland asked squeezing Carson’s hand “tell me everything.”
A nearby monitor started to beep faster and faster. “I will. I will” he assured the distraught male “you have to calm down first. They’ll make me leave otherwise.”
Britland seemed to sink into his pillow. Closing his eyes he took several deep breaths. The loud annoying beeping slowed until it ceased. A nurse popped her head into the room “everything ok in here?”
“It’s fine” Britland assured her opening his eyes. The nursed approached the monitors checking their readouts before leaving. Britland turned to Carson “tell me” he demanded.
Taking a shaky breath Carson stared at the floor. “You were in labor. The baby was turned wrong. Oh gawd …. it as awful.” He wiped a hand over his face “thankfully the doctors were able to stop the labor. Twenty-eight weeks was too early for the baby to be born.”
“What caused it” Britland asked. Carson had mentioned stress but he hadn’t felt particularly stressed the night before.
“Stress” a woman’s voice replied making both of them jump. “I’m Doctor Hiller.”
“Doctor” Carson stood up as if he had received a jolt from an electric prod “how is he?”
Pausing as if considering the young male’s question the doctor rubbed her chin. “His stat’s all seem to be normal. The trick is keeping them that way.”
“Does that mean I have to stay here” Britland asked his voice a near whine.
“You want what’s best for the baby don’t you” the doctor asked meaningfully.
“Of course we do” Carson assured her.
“The cost” Britland mumbled “we can’t afford this.”
“We’ll manage” Carson laid a hand on Britland’s shoulder. “I’ll take on more jobs. Whatever it takes.”
“No buts” Carson turned to the older woman silently pleading for her help.
Clearing her throat Doctor Hiller tapped the monitor with her index finger. “You need to be on bed rest until the baby’s born. No prolonged standing. No extended walking. We need to keep you calm for the next several weeks. The baby needs a chance to mature.”
“Alright” Britland agreed sinking further into the pillow.
“It’ll be fine” Carson took Britland’s hand “think of it as a holiday. A vacation.”
“Not likely” Britland complained.
“I guess it’s a good thing that you won’t be staying then” the Doctor said interrupting them. “You’ll need to stay for at least a week to make sure the baby has stabilized. After that you should be able to go home. If…” she paused until the young couple looked up at her. “If you follow my instructions and stay off your feet.”
“Don’t worry I will” Britland promised.
“Good we want to get you as close to thirty-six weeks as we can to give the baby a chance.” The doctor smiled confidently before turning and leaving the room.
“Where are you going” Britland asked as Carson moved towards the door.
Turning Carson forced a smile to his lips. “You need to rest and I need to go to work.”
“Oh” disappointment clouded Britland’s eyes and voice.
“Don’t worry I’ll be back” he retraced his steps to give Britland a soft kiss on the cheek. Something he should have done before he tried to leave the first time. “I’ll be back. I promise.” He could feel the blonde’s eyes on his back long after the door closed behind him. He leaned against the door breathing hard. He couldn’t escape the thoughts swirling around his mind. If it weren’t for him and his preoccupation with the past none of this would have happened. Britland had spent too many sleepless nights holding him when he should have been sleeping.
Well not anymore. He pushed himself from the door. It was time he started to take care of him. With determination Carson walked down the hall towards the exit. He flagged down a taxi. Once he was seated and the driver had the address of the photo shoot Carson relaxed. Closing his eyes he let his thoughts drift.
“I’m starving” Britland said picking up the menu the waiter had set in front of them. “I want the biggest plate of spaghetti they have.”
“You’ll need to do a ton of cardio to burn off all those extra carbs” Carson pointed out picking up his menu.
“It’ll be worth it” Britland set the menu aside “I’m going on an all you can eat diet.”
That penetrated Carson’s dark thoughts enough for him to close his menu. “Don’t forget you still have photo shoots to go on.”
“Um” he picked at the table-cloth “about that…”
“You’re not thinking about breaking your contract, are you?” Panic was clear in his voice. He wasn’t ready to model with anyone else. He had done it before but he had grown comfortable with Britland.
“I might not have a choice” he looked up shyly. “There’s something I need to tell you.” He reached across the table taking Carson’s hand “I know this is terrible timing. We didn’t plan it. We’re not ready but um….I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a daddy.”
Something snapped inside him. Baby. Pregnant. Daddy. The words swirled around inside his head. It didn’t make sense. How could this be happening? He could see Britland’s mouth moving but no sound came out. It wasn’t until Britland had pulled his hand away and left the table that he realized what he had done. The slumped shoulders nor the tears streaming down Britland’s face inspired any feelings inside Carson. He sat like a statue. Frozen. Unable to think until someone head slapped him.
“Go after him” his Aunt snapped at him.
He stood stiffly, staring blankly around the full restaurant. He stumbled forward when his Aunt pushed him in the direction of the bathrooms. His feet carried him forward and through the door. The first thing that greeted his ears were the muffled sounds of sobs.
“Britland” he called approaching one of the closed stalls “I’m sorry.”
“You hate me” he sobbed blowing his nose.
“Nonsense” Carson protested leaning against the stall door “just shocked. I never thought about having kids. Becoming a dad.”
“Ever” Britland gasped his voice full of disappointment.
“No not ever” Carson amended his words but yes he was terrified of becoming a parent. “Give me a some time to absorb this.”
“You’re not upset” Britland asked peaking around the stall door as he opened it a crack.
“Not at you” he sighed “it took both of us to make the baby. I’m just…” he groaned out loud “it’s the timing.”
“I know it sucks” Britland agreed emerging from the stall. “We had a little too much fun in the hotel shower.”
“I guess we did” Carson smiled stiffly as he took the blonde into his arms. He could still feel the shudders running through Britland’s body as he slowly calmed down. He couldn’t help the guilt that sliced through him. It was his fault this happened. He had taken on the responsibility of protection. One lapse in caution and their whole world was crumbling down around them. “We’ll get through this. I promise.”
The taxi came to a stop as Carson realized he hadn’t lived up to his promise. Everything had fallen onto Britland’s shoulders as he fell further and further into depression. He pulled out his wallet to pay the fare. He found the business card Britland had given him. It was for a psychiatrist who specialized in repressed memories of childhood trauma. He had refused to go. Maybe it was time to help himself so he could help Britland. He needed to be more present in the here and now. He needed to do it before Britland came home and before the baby was born. It wouldn’t happen overnight he knew that but a start in the right direction was better than where he was now.
“You should be lying down” Carson admonished Britland as he entered into the room and finding the blonde waddling around.
“I hurt” he complained “all my muscles are sore from lying around all the time. I need to move. He gave Carson his trademark puppy dog eyes that never failed to bring a smile to his face.
“You know how to get what you want” Carson smirked placing a hand on the baby bump. He jerked his hand away as if the surface was scalding hot. “It moved” he gasped surprised
“He’s been active today” Britland grabbed his hand and forcefully placed his hand on the spot where the baby was kicking.
“Does it do that all the time” Carson asked pressing his hand over the spot.
“He’s always moving” Britland grinned watching Carson as he leaned forward like he was going to kiss stomach.
“Your Daddy thinks you’re going to be a boy” he looked up and smiled. “I kind of hope you’ll be a girl though.” Gently he pressed his lips to the baby bump “whatever you are, know that you are loved.”
“Do you mean that” Britland asked scarcely breathing.
“I do” Carson grinned up at him “you’ve been up long enough. Time to lay down.” He wrapped his arms around the blonde guiding him to the couch.
“Sit with me” the blonde requested “I get so bored laying here by myself.”
Looking at the scattered debris, books, folders, pens, pencils, papers, laptop Carson grunted. “What else do you need? I’ll get it for you” he offered.
“Company. Someone to talk to” he pouted “you get to go out and work. Felix and Crystal come and go checking on me. I’m stuck here with here day in and day out. For hours with no one to talk to.”
“OK you’ve twisted my arm” Carson agreed sitting on the couch letting Britland lean on him. “What do you to talk about” he asked once they had both been silent for several minutes.
“Names” Britland indicated a nearby book.
Groaning Carson read the title Unique Baby Names. “We are not calling our baby Blossom or Blessing or anything along those lines.”
“Blossom would be a cute name for a girl” Britland pointed out.
“You think the baby will be a boy” he pointed out turning to the boys section.
“I was thinking” Britland hesitated a moment before continuing “if it’s a boy maybe we could name him for your brother.” He heard Carson’s sharp intake of breath “it’s a terrible idea isn’t it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have suggested.”
“No it’s a good idea. It’s just if I do this I feel like I’m admitting he’s gone.” He closed his eyes willing the tears back. “I know he’s probably been gone for years but to me it’s like it just happened yesterday.”
“We don’t have to decide right away” Britland conceded “we have a little time before baby needs a name.”
“Do you have one you like” Carson asked cringing at some of the names he saw on the page.
“I like the name Rush” he admitted somewhat timidly.
“Rush Dawson Olivia” Carson said as if seeing how the name tasted on his tongue “I like it.”
“We don’t have to go with my last name” Britland said “It could be Rush Dawson Ratcliff.”
Carson shook his head adamantly “when we get married I’ll take your name. That is if you’ll let me.”
“Of course” Britland assured him “you’re already family. The name never mattered.”
“What name if it’s a girl” Carson asked.
“It won’t be a girl” Britland told him.
“You little sneak” Carson cried “I knew you peaked at the results.”
“I couldn’t help it” he admitted.
“What happened” Carson demanded his tone light, teasing. “The results just fell out of the sealed envelope?”
“Something like that” Bitland giggled relieved that Carson wasn’t upset.
“I love you” Carson kissed Britland’s neck “even if you are a little sneak.”