AN: All I can say, if you're still interested in this story, is thank you. Thank you for excusing the long break - and thank you for sticking with Syd and Vaughn.

One thing I've always thought missing with this format is the lack of visual. While I love written words, I've wished to share with you my mind's eye. So I did, during the hiatus, decide to re-publish this story on a blog - fantasymusing .tumblr .com (remove the spaces for the actual link). If you're so inclined, check it out. I only made minor revisions to fit some of the visuals. You can also chime in and let me know what you think with the "Ask" button. Maybe I'll see you there?

Ripe ~ Chapter 16

What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all. – Benjamin Spock


[Previously] "Okay, Sydney, the good news is – you're half way there already, about 5cm." As his hands continue to probe her belly, he grows increasingly concerned.

When the contraction finally passes, she flops back on the pillow, drenched in sweats. "Half way…" she murmurs and nods briefly in acknowledgement.

"You're incredible, Syd," Vaughn puts another cold towel on her forehead, "… Now, close your eyes a little while." He doesn't like how pale she looks as daylight slowly creeps through.

"I'll take a look with the ultrasound while you rest." Her doctor removes the monitors before spreading copious goo on her exposed belly, "Sorry this feels cold." He methodically moves the wand up and down her rounded mound, lingering at both the top and the bottom.

"Mhmm," he sighs and turns the screen around to display the image. "Sydney, Michael, the baby must have flipped again the last few days. It is now breech. We'll need to reconsider our strategy for delivery."

"What does that mean? You said everything looked good during your last visit." Vaughn has a million questions.

"It doesn't happen often, but some babies do go back to a bottom-down position after they have turned head-down." Campbell pushes the wand harder into her lower abdomen to pinpoint the fetus' legs, making her wince from the pressure.

Sydney can't believe what she is hearing, as if her labor isn't trying enough already. Not another complication, please oh God! Too fed up to care anymore, she lashes out in frustration.

"Damn it! Just cut me open and take the baby out. Do it NOW!"

"Syd," Vaughn clasps both her hands, "I don't understand this either... but please, you can't give up." He rests his forehead on hers, wishing desperately to share the burden of this latest development.

"I'm scared… and I'm tired." She relents dejectedly after a moment, as a lone tear rolls down the side of her face. She looks listlessly at him, before closing her eyes and giving in to her fatigue.

"I know, Syd. I know." Slowly wiping her tear trek with his thumb, he is overtaken by indescribable heartbrokenness – this isn't fair, not after all that they have been through.

As he watches her in the faint early morning light, he notices the dark circles that now frame her deep set eyes. His thumb lingers, and he gently caresses them. Vaughn refuses to think of the worst but he knows in his heart of hearts he cannot lose her.

"Argh! Argh!" Sydney lurches forward, breaking the short-lived silence. Vaughn keeps a hand on her back as she curls up into a ball, with the flat of her palms firmly rubbing the sides of her enormous stomach, as if hastening her unborn child. "Mhmm…" a throaty groan escapes her clenched jaw.

"Sydney! Listen closely. Do NOT push no matter what," Dr. Campbell urges solemnly. "You may want to, but DON'T! Your baby is not ready to come out right now. Do you understand?"

Sweat beads on her brow as she grunts to sit up straight. Vaughn drops down beside her and wraps his arm around her shoulder. She squirms to press her back against him, bucking her hips in discomfort as her swollen stomach continues to tense visibly during her strong contraction.

"I can't help it… There's… so much… argh…" she can hardly breathe, let alone speak. "ARGH… press…pressure…"

Taking in a short heavy breath, she stammers, "What… what's… happening… to… my baby?"

"Syd, don't worry. Dr. Campbell knows what to do. Just focus on breathing, okay?" Vaughn tightens his grip on her shoulder to reassure her.

"Sydney, it's actually a good thing your fetus is still fairly high up and your water hasn't broken. I can try a procedure we call 'version' to turn your baby back to a head-down position with my hands." Seeing her massive contraction subsiding, her doctor wastes no time to explain his new plan.

"Here's what I'm going to do. I will give you an injection to slow your contractions to a stop. And then I will try to literally turn your baby from the surface of your belly. You will feel some pressure and may get a bit uncomfortable but you can have meds to help you relax.

There is about a 50% chance the procedure will succeed. If it does, I will break your water right after to restart your labor. Sydney, Michael – are you following so far?"

With a bewildered look on their faces, they nod in unison.

Campbell's tone turns even more serious as he continues. "Before I begin, I must also tell you the risks. It will take some force to turn the fetus – with Sydney's history of placental abruption, even though she hasn't had symptoms in the last three weeks, the procedure can cause her placenta to separate. If that happens, she will need an emergency C-section.

Or, if her water breaks during my manipulation, I will have to stop trying – to make sure I don't end up hurting the baby. Of course there is also the risk of an unsuccessful version attempt. In any case, if the baby stays breech, it will be best to deliver by Caesarian." Dr. Campbell stops and looks at Vaughn knowingly.

They have considered flying Sydney to Bangkok a week before her due date to afford her better care in case of emergency during delivery. Since Sydney's captors obtained intimate knowledge of her pregnancy during her abduction, Vaughn believes Prophet Five or Irina will be monitoring birthing facilities around the world for any woman fitting Sydney's description. Afraid they will be sitting ducks in her most vulnerable hours, Sydney and Vaughn made the decision to remain in Tambor for their child's birth. They'd rather contend with the house being less equipped, and their location being less accessible to medical assistance.

"Time is of the essence here. I need to start before the baby gets further down your birth canal. Sydney, would you like me to proceed?"

Sydney is seldom indecisive. But she is scared out of her mind right now. And she turns to Vaughn in tears.

He knows.

He knows what is troubling her because it troubles him just as bad.

And it kills him to see her like that.

"I'm scared too, Syd." He brings her hand up to his lips and kisses it, wishing to dispel both their fears. "I'll help you if you want to try. If you don't, Dr. Campbell can do a Caesarian – and we'll get you to a hospital if necessary. I just care that you are safe."

She stares at him for a moment, believing they have made up their mind. She then nods in the direction of her doctor.

"Okay, I'd like you to try."

Campbell immediately proceeds to giving her the injection. The medicine works quite fast and Sydney is pleased about the brief reprieve from contractions. Dr. Campbell suggests she go freshen up while he prepares the room for a C-section should she need one during the procedure.

Sweaty and tired after hours in labor, she waddles to the small bathroom to splash water on her face.

With a thousand thoughts racing through her head, Sydney looks down at her raised belly – in it lives her dream of her own family with Vaughn – and she is again petrified something bad may come about to rob her.

She turns around to search Vaughn's face before putting her head on his shoulder, "I'm scared, Vaughn. All I ever want is for us to be a family…" She sorrowfully cradles her stomach, "but that is in jeopardy now. I can't compartmentalize my fear."

"You're not supposed to, Syd. To bring a tiny human to the world is no small feat. What we just heard from the doctor is a lot to take in. I don't know how you can be so brave. I'm scared stiff – for you, for our baby. All the training I've had doesn't help a bit. But I know we have each other, nothing will ever change that. I'm not gonna let anything happen to you, Syd. Just work with Dr. Campbell and let us take care of you, okay?"

She squeezes his hand in concurrence, "Okay – as long as you're with me, I'm ready for the procedure."

She looks energized yet apprehensive when she gets back onto the exam table.

"No medicines. I don't want to be delirious… I want to know what is happening to the baby. Please."

"Of course." Dr. Campbell is happy to comply as he lies her flat down to have her sizeable abdomen fully accessible.

"Michael, before I start, you need to have the beacon ready. If I end up performing an emergency surgery, Sydney may need additional support."

After they decided to stay in Tambor and deliver the baby at the house, Vaughn and Campbell arranged to have a medevac on standby for four weeks – two weeks before and two weeks after Sydney's due date. The pilot will only find their location once the beacon is activated. It will airlift Sydney to a hospital for urgent care.

Holding her hand, Vaughn can't bear the thought of his precious Sydney suffering serious complications. "I know you think it's risky but first thing first." Campbell remarks sympathetically. Vaughn understands its necessity and steps away to retrieve the beacon, praying he wouldn't have to use it.

When he returns to a tense looking Sydney, the doctor is all set to begin.

"You'll be fine, Sydney, but I need you to be very still. Michael, hold her shoulders to keep her from moving when I try to turn the baby. I'm gonna use the ultrasound to help me, so I will squirt quite a bit of the jelly on you."

Dr. Campbell sweeps the probe across her stomach to confirm the fetus' position, before putting his hands on her belly to locate the baby's head and buttocks.

"Sydney, I can feel your baby's head with my left hand and her bottom with my right. I'm going to apply pressure to rotate her anti-clockwise – you may be a bit uncomfortable. Don't worry, I owe it to your dad, and I promised Michael, to take good care of you." Dr. Campbell starts a conversation to distract her from the discomfort she is about to feel.

With a copious amount of gel spread around her belly, he kneads his hands into it in circular motion like a big round piece of dough. He is quite gentle initially, just trying to get a better handle of the baby – and Sydney seems to slowly relax.

"You know my dad well?" Sydney wonders out loud.

"Your father is the reason my family and I can live here peacefully the last ten years. But that's a story for another time." He says smiling while pushing his hands into her abdomen much harder to rotate the fetus. Vaughn is dumbfounded watching the kind of force used on her – never imagining a baby bump to be so maneuverable. He is keeping his fingers crossed that her placenta can withstand the aggression and stays intact.

Feeling the extreme pressure, Sydney gasps with each twist. Vaughn keeps his hands on her shoulders to keep her steady while dropping small pecks on her forehead to soothe her.

"Jack knows I will do anything he asks. But he's never asked in ten years, until last November – when he sent me to pick up Michael in Italy, bring him back here and keep him alive at any cost." He looks up and sees a now rather unnerved patient.

"Sydney, you're doing great, just relax." Dr. Campbell can feel the baby has not flipped the way he would like it to, so he is left to try turning in opposite direction. As he continues to work her abdomen, he needs to divert her attention some more.

"So as I was saying, this one here, Michael, was such a handful." Sydney's eyes widen with curiosity. "The only way I could get him through some of the toughest days was to tell him about how a fetus develops week by week, and what changes the mother goes through at the same time. And then it became our routine for every visit. I had to give myself an OB-GYN refresher just to keep the guy happy." Dr. Campbell chuckles, hoping he's eased the couple's nerves.

Her eyes brimming with tears, the strong emotion evoked does manage to displace Sydney's current predicament temporarily. Clearly moved by the revelation, she reaches for Vaughn's hands.

He murmurs "I love you, Syd" into her ears in response, as there are no more fitting words at this moment.

After one last exaggerated turn, Dr. Campbell lifts his hands from Sydney's tummy and quickly grabs the ultrasound probe. Resting it at the bottom of her belly, he is pleased with what he sees.

"Look, Sydney and Michael, her head at the bottom. Good job you two!"

Delighted by the outcome, they both let out a sigh of relief as Dr. Campbell wipes her gel covered belly and puts the fetal monitors back on.

"I need to watch the baby for about an hour to make sure everything is okay after the flip. Sydney, you should rest. If everything looks good, I'm going to break your water. So recharge before the hard work."

Though her stomach aches from the manipulation, she has appreciated the break with no contractions since she got the injection. Finally lying comfortably, Sydney remembers what she learned earlier about how Vaughn passed his time in hiding and she smiles sweetly at him. "Hey."

He is glad she is no longer in distress. "Hey, how are you feeling? You okay?"

"Sorry the baby and I gave you a good scare." She knows he was worried sick she might need emergency surgery. "I feel fine … we're fine."

Taking her hand into his again, Vaughn can't hide how pleased he is. "Syd, don't you worry about me. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you smile. Go ahead and rest, I'll be right here."

Sydney didn't realize how much the emotional roller coaster of her labor and her latest complication with the baby tired her. She feels her eye lids drooping and she is asleep within minutes.