Julian got up slowly from the floor of the pit, still overwhelmed with the prospect of being alone with Sheridan through her impending act of childbirth. He could not believe the situation that had befallen him - that he would have to deliver his sister's baby - here, in a place that was not even up to dungeon standards. He shook his head in disbelief. He was all Sheridan had, he knew. He must be strong and help see her through this. Somehow, God willing, he would manage.
"Good to see you're not going to stay on the ground all day!" a voice bellowed from up above. Turning in the voice's direction, Julian eyed the larger of the two clowns peering down at him.
"I sure wish that you would tell your boss - the mute one beside you - that we need to call an ambulance for Sheridan. Things are getting worse. She's in tremendous pain - you can tell. I'm really worried about her." Julian's voice revealed how deeply concerned he was.
"My partner here is well aware of how Sheridan's doing," Charlie smirked. "There will be no ambulance for Blondie. You'll have to make do."
Julian held his hands up in protest. "Do I look like a doctor? I know nothing about childbirth. If you care at all about this woman and her baby, you will get her out of this damn pit this instant and get her the help she needs."
"Sorry, pal, it's you or the rats that'll deliver Blondie's baby. Take your pick." Charlie sneered. Then grabbing Beth by the arm, she pulled her away from the edge of the pit to discuss the matter.
"I don't like the looks of things," Beth said in a hushed voice. "Sheridan doesn't look well. I mean, I know I have never had a baby, but something seems wrong about this. Maybe it's because the baby is early."
"What do you want to do, Beth? Risk everything by trying to take Sheridan to the hospital?"
"No, we can't do that," Beth said. "This baby will have to be born right here. I just hope he or she makes it."
"Oh, our baby's going to come out of this just fine, Bethie," Charlie said, putting her arm around Beth's shoulder. "You'll see. We'll have a feisty toddler running around the place in no time."
Beth and Charlie headed back upstairs, leaving Julian completely alone with Sheridan. He had not had any luck picking up on what the revolting clowns were discussing. Julian turned his attention back to his sister.
He wet his handkerchief once more and applied it to her forehead. She opened her eyes and looked at him wearily. "Thanks," she muttered softly.
Julian smiled at her. "Looks like Dr. Julian will have to take better care of his patient," he said. "I'm sorry I left you for a moment."
"Don't be," she said. "You have been doing all you can for me...I want to thank...you."
Another contraction came on all of a sudden. Julian grabbed Sheridan's hand. "Breathe like you did before," he said. "Let it out in little bits."
Sheridan followed his advice and breathed through the contraction in a way that helped her handle the pain. The contraction soon ended, and Sheridan lay back on the cushion once more, completely exhausted. "How...far apart?" she asked.
"Still five minutes," Julian answered after checking his watch. He was grateful that the light from the lantern allowed him to see well enough to keep track of the timing of Sheridan's contractions. It was now almost dark outside; he could tell by the disappearing light from above.
Time continued to slowly tick by. Julian stayed by Sheridan's side for several more hours, helping talk her through each contraction. The kidnappers kept coming to check on them every half hour or so, he noticed, but normally would not even say anything. They would simply peer into the pit, whisper to each other, and leave. Julian had given up on pleading for an ambulance. He knew it was useless.
One thing that didn't change during those hours was the timing of Sheridan's contractions. They were still five minutes apart. From what little Julian knew of labor, he was aware that something did not seem quite right about that. Her labor did not seem to be progressing. "I know contractions are supposed to get close," he thought. "I've heard people talk about 'two minutes apart' and such. She's not even down to four after all this time."
Sheridan too seemed worried, but she said very little. Her mind and body were completely and utterly exhausted. She closed her eyes in between her contractions, not having the energy to leave them open.
Julian tried to talk soothingly to her, telling her that she was doing a good job, that Luis would be so proud of her right now, and that her baby would be born soon, and everything would be fine.
"Luis..." Sheridan murmured. "If I don't make it...tell Luis..."
"Sheridan, you're scaring me!" Julian cried. "Of course you're going to make it. Please don't talk like that."
"I...don't know..." she said, in a voice that was barely audible. "I feel...so strange...I just want to rest."
"Rest then, Sheridan," Julian said, trying to at once comfort his sister and urge her on. "Save your strength. You'll have more energy if you rest in between contractions."
Tears welled up in Julian's eyes. He felt so bad for his sister. He would give anything to trade places with her right now. He was the one who deserved to be suffering. He was the one who had wronged his sister time and time again. "Don't leave me, Sheridan," he thought. "Not when I just got you back...I can't lose you too."
Julian wiped the tears from his eyes. "Sheridan, hang on. You can do it," he said as he brushed the wet hair from her forehead.
Sheridan's body was rocked with yet another contraction. After Julian had tenderly helped her breathe through it, he noted silently that the interval was still not changing. Sheridan's contractions remained five minutes apart. "I know something's wrong," he thought.
Sensing her brother's thoughts, Sheridan opened her eyes and looked at Julian. "I think...the stress has hurt....the baby," she said in a voice now no louder than a whisper. "Dr. Russell said...the baby and I could....die...if we had...too much stress."
Sheridan's statement hit Julian like a dagger through the heart. "Sheridan, I had no idea," he said. "I didn't know there were problems with your pregnancy."
He quickly covered the devastation he was feeling from her words. "She can't see me worrying," he thought. To his sister, Julian remarked in as upbeat a tone as he could muster, "Everything's going to be all right, Sheridan. I just know it is."
Sheridan did not hear his words, however. She had lapsed into unconsciousness.
Julian noticed that her head had rolled to one side. "Sheridan," he said. Then in an alarmed voice he called out, "Sheridan! Wake up!" His sister had passed out, he realized.
"My God, someone has to help her!" Julian shouted. He jumped up and turned his eyes toward the opening of the pit. He saw the two women in clown costumes staring down at him. "Well, don't just stand there - do something!" he cried.
The abductors whispered to each other. He could not tell what they were saying. Julian grew more desperate as his heart raced with the urgency of the moment. "Please don't let my sister die!" he pleaded, "And the baby... Please don't let anything happen to that innocent baby." He remembered what Eve had gone through, losing their child. He would never wish that kind of pain on anyone else, especially his sister. What she had gone through these last couple of years! Most of it, because of him!
The guilt, fear, and hopelessness of the situation made Julian cry out loudly, tears flowing freely down his face. "I can't lose my sister! I can't! Not now, not after we just found each other again!" His head dropped into his hands as he sobbed uncontrollably.
Fighting back the sobs, he looked at the two kidnappers, his eyes pleading for help. "Sheridan is going to die...The baby is going to die...if we don't do something fast!"
The kidnappers whispered to each other some more.
Julian looked over at his unconscious sister and hung his head. "I promised Mother to look out for you," he cried. "I have done such a horrendous job of it so far... I was really trying this time... I was trying." He sank to his knees on the floor of the pit, sobbing.
While his head was bowed down toward the ground, a thought suddenly crossed Julian's mind...a flash of hope. He beat it back. He did not want to go there. "No," he muttered to himself. "I can't do it... Anything but that."
Julian slowly lifted his head and turned it once more to look at his sister. He wiped his eyes with his hands so that he could see her better. "If I don't ask, she's going to die...both she and the baby," he realized. "I can't let that happen. Please forgive me," he pleaded, closing his eyes tight.
Julian stood up and faced the kidnappers. He lifted his head toward them. He had just made the most selfless decision of his life - and the most devastating. But it was Sheridan's only hope. "All right," he said to the two of them, mustering up all his courage for the words that needed to follow. "Since you won't take Sheridan to the hospital, can you at least bring her doctor to her? Can you get Dr. Russell and bring her to this pit?"