A/N - I apologize in advance, both for the length of time for the update, and the fact that I can't create a language to save my f'ing life. If anyone is creative like that and wants to add their skills, please let me know.
As for the length of time – well, besides the fact that RL became an almighty bitch, my ITD muses and I had a massive argument as to the direction this story is taking in a few chapters. They have won, and beaten me into submission, and I am humbly writing out the story. No guarantees on the next chapter, however, because even though I've flown the white flag of peace, RL is still a bitch.
On a separate note - with the new image manager, if any readers are artists, I would love to commission covers for my stories. PM me if you're interested!
Matt left the following morning after a quick breakfast, but not without promising to return. He was going to teach Alex as much as he remembered about the language and the land in case he was able to get back. Alex was in a fairly good mood that morning, considering. Curled up next to Lisa like they had when they were kids, he had actually gotten the best night's sleep since he had been back. He was already trying to figure out excuses to get a repeat for that night.
Unfortunately, his good mood was quickly squashed when he went to make his morning cup of coffee as Lisa smacked his hand away and glared at him until he backed away from the counter.
"No more coffee; caffeine's bad for the baby." She shooed him over to the table and placed a cup of orange juice in front of him. "Stick to juices or water; no soda, energy drinks, coffee, tea or alcohol."
Alex groaned and buried his head in his hands. He needed his coffee. Everything else he could live without, but he could freely admit he was addicted to his morning cup of coffee.
"I'll be helping you out with your diet while I'm here –really, you should have been following a much better diet since the beginning, especially with all of the unknown factors with this pregnancy. From now on, considering that there's no way you can have any prenatal checkups, and I wouldn't want to risk vitamins, you need to be extra careful. I also want you to think about what you can remember your guy eating; since this baby isn't fully human, we need to take that into consideration. You said he was feline? Did he seem to eat a lot of meat? Obviously raw is out of the question, but we can up your protein intake if that's the case."
He grimaced as he thought about his eating habits. They had never been very good, and lately they had just gotten worse. But Lisa was right; he had to be better since he wasn't just eating for himself now. At least he had her here to help him out with that.
Lisa grinned, as if she could read his thoughts. "Don't worry; I don't plan on going anywhere. I'll have to stop by home occasionally to show Greg I haven't died or anything, but other than that well, he knows how important you are to me."
Alex felt tears threatening again, and he cursed the new hormones affecting him. Lisa had been overly emotional during her pregnancy as well, so he had that to look forward to as well. "Thank you Lisa, I can't even imagine going through this without you."
"What are big sisters for? Now, before Matt gets back, we need to go over your 'to-do' list. With that door possibly opening at any time, we need to be prepared." Lisa grabbed the two plates off the counter, and set them down on the table, before grabbing her own cup of coffee and sitting down. Alex glared at the offending drink, but was easily distracted by the full breakfast in front of him.
Lisa grabbed a piece of toast with one hand, and a pen with the other. "So. First things first, we need to have food and water for you to bring with you. You said the last time you started out in the middle of the woods, so that's definitely the priority. Besides, even if you ended up in a town or somewhere similar, you wouldn't have any money or anything. Just because Matt's going to teach you a bit of the language won't help with that. Although I suppose we can ask if he happens to have any; I doubt he'd need it anymore so he probably wouldn't mind giving or selling it to us."
Alex nodded, watching as his sister jotted down different possibilities for food. It was hard to find things that would travel, not go bad, and still be healthy. Protein bars were definitely going, as well as apples for fruit as they kept the best, but without anything to heat up the food, it was going to be an extremely limited diet; not good for someone in his condition.
"Clothes too – I really don't want to be stuck in the same thing for days or weeks again."
"Yes, but we need to get you new clothes anyway. What you have won't fit for long, the rate you're going."
With a groan, Alex forced himself to look down at his stomach. Unfortunately his sister was right. The jeans he had on were only able to close because they hung so low on his hips. All of his slacks he had grown out of already and the majority of his shirts were becoming skin tight.
"I really, really don't want to have to go shopping; what will I have to do, go to a maternity shop?" The thought alone was enough to make him shudder. Thanks to the fact that he had already been a bit overweight, he didn't particularly look pregnant, so there was still a chance to just get bigger sizes, but how long would that last for?
"Well, for jeans and trousers I can go and get some relaxed fit, neutral looking pairs in the maternity stores, for shirts you can get away with just another size up or two in the men's section. You should be fine. I'll go out this afternoon and pick up one or two and bring them back for you to try. I did it all the time when I was pregnant – the worst thing when I started showing was everyone, even complete strangers, trying to touch my stomach. I'd want to get in and out as fast as possible; I can't be the only person who feels that way."
Alex has the awful thought that if the door didn't open, and he was stuck here for the entirety of the pregnancy, his clothes wouldn't matter because he wouldn't be able to leave the apartment anyway. It wasn't something he really wanted to think about. There was a limit to how big he could get before he couldn't pass it off as fat, and for people he knew, they would question the rapid weight gain. He'd never been skinny, but putting on that much weight all at once would make even the most oblivious person notice.
"Alright, I guess that'll work. So what else will I need?"
Tapping the pen against the table, Lisa frowned in thought. "Well, I'd say those are the two biggest priorities. Do you happen to have any camping supplies?"
Snorting, Alex shook his head. "Have you ever known me to go camping, or have even the faintest desire to go camping?"
Laughing, his sister conceded the point. "True enough. Alright, well, while I'm out I'll see if I can pick up some easy to carry camping supplies. At least a sleeping bag so you're not right on the ground. You don't want to get sick either."
"Thanks Lisa. Anything else?"
"Hmm, you should bring a lighter or matches just in case you want to start a fire, I'll see if I can find a little first aid kit that's not too heavy, and I want you to bring a knife with you. I'd say a gun, but you'd probably just shoot yourself in the foot, and I don't know if we'd be able to get one in time anyway. Bug repellent; lotion rather than spray though, we wouldn't want you to breath in any of those chemicals, but at the same time, who knows if they have poisonous bugs there. Hmm, and a better pair of shoes; hiking boots preferably. Something that's comfortable, but durable. And we should get you a flashlight as well, with some extra batteries. We'll leave off anything else for now, until Matt can tell us more about the place."
His mind was whirling as he listened to Lisa rattle off the things he'd need, and the list grew even longer. It really made it sink in how incredibly lucky he had been that Muranthen had found him the first time around. If he hadn't, Alex probably would have been dead. It was a really scary thought, and he quickly turned his mind back to what Lisa was saying.
"So, that's for when you go, now how about figuring out how things will go if you're stuck here?"
Alex sighed; he knew they had to prepare for it, but he didn't like the thought of having to bring up his child here. If it was a fully human baby, it would be one thing, even if it would be legally a bit dodgy. They could simply say a one-night stand had left the child with the assumed father, a paternity test would show that Alex was a parent, and they'd be set with a birth certificate and a story that, while hardly something he'd want to admit to, would be believable. Surely there had to be gay men that had been drunk enough to sleep with a woman.
But a half human child would be too obvious for them to ever have anything resembling a normal life. Even if there were few enough differences to be able to pass off as a birth defect that would bring its own problems. Alex had dealt with enough hatred, discrimination and taunts being gay; disabilities were met with, at the very best pity. His child would have to deal with even worse than he put up with, especially given that he wouldn't be able to hide his differences the way Alex had for most of his childhood.
Still, that was for the future – the more pressing concern, assuming he couldn't get back, was how he was actually going to...give birth. It was still a very odd thing to think about, and Alex wasn't really sure he wanted to. Unfortunately, his sister gave him no choice.
"How are we even supposed to be able to plan? Neither of us have any clue how this will work."
His sister rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Alex, use common sense. Obviously the baby will need to come out the way it went in. And once he or she's born, well, I imagine for the most part it would be like any other baby. You'll need formula, clothes, a crib, toys, diapers, and everything else. Luckily I still have most of that from when Lexi was a baby, though you'll still need to get the clothes, diapers and formula. I'll have Greg dig it out of storage when it gets closer to the time; give it some time to air out. We'll have to convert your office to a nursery; best to do that sooner rather than later. I remember once I got to my third trimester even moving from the bedroom to the living room seemed a major ordeal."
Lisa continued to ramble on about what the baby would need, but Alex was stuck on the first sentence. He had to try a few times before his voice worked, and even then it had a squeaky tone to it. "Are you sure about that Lisa?"
She stopped her diatribe, and gave Alex a weird look. "Well, I suppose you can skip a high chair for now, but you will eventually need one. You can't hold him the entire time."
"No...I mean, about the baby, um, coming out from..."
Lisa gave him a sympathetic look, but nodded. "I would imagine so. I mean, it's either that or a Caesarean. And honestly, as scary as it sounds, a natural birth would be better than a C-section since that would need to involve a doctor. Doctor-patient confidentiality I'm sure only goes so far."
Alex grimaced, but nodded. As sad as it was, given how much money someone would be able to make over a story like his, there was no way he'd be able to trust a doctor, or the nurses that would need to be involved.
"How do we know for sure?"
"I suppose we can ask Matt when he gets back if he knows anything else, but really, it would be impractical to not have a way to give birth naturally. Think how many babies are born at home, or in cars, or wherever else because they weren't able to get to the hospital in time. It also sounds like they're a bit behind us technologically so they might not even have the medical knowledge necessary to do something like that."
"Thanks Lisa; now I'm nervous about it regardless of where I am."
She grinned sheepishly, but continued. He may not want to hear what she had to say, but they were things he needed to hear. "Sorry; but it's true. I'm sure that they have their own methods to make it safer and more comfortable that we just don't know about. Anyway, I've signed us both up for home birth classes, and once we've done the first course we'll know what we need for that."
"And you think everything else I need would be the same?"
Lisa nodded. "Except possibly the formula you'll need. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to find out what vets would give to abandoned kittens and see what sort of difference there is. "
"I'm not going to give my child kitten formula."
Snickering, Lisa shook her head. "Of course not – but I do want to look at what different nutrients are in it. It's likely we'll have to supplement the regular baby formula with something."
Alex calmed down, a bit sheepish at his outburst. Apparently he was already feeling 'maternal' – and that was rather scary, in more ways than one.
"And what are we going to do if he can't pass for human?"
"For now, you two will just have to remain here. There's still the chance the door might open, and that would be the best place for both of you. Once he's older, we'll have to look into if we can get a place with lots of property and no close neighbours. I know you're more of a city boy, but the country's nice too. I'm sure we can figure out something for you to do – something you can work from home, or even farming."
Alex nodded, not happy with the scenario, but understanding it was the best option. If the differences were slight, he could probably be home schooled, but be able to get a job when he was older. If the differences were too drastic, however, wherever Lisa found for them to live would be the only place that his child would ever see. It was a dismal thought, but something they had no choice but to consider. They would be going over the times that Matt could remember the door opening, to see if they could predict when it would next open, but there might be no discernible pattern, or it could be years away. Matt had already confirmed he knew of no way to force it to open. At least, if they could determine without a doubt, the next time it would open, they wouldn't need to be constantly watching out.
With a quiet sigh, Lisa got up to clear the table. She hadn't meant to depress her brother, but there also wasn't anything she could say to cheer him up that wouldn't be blatantly false hope.
Glancing at the clock only to notice it had barely moved, Alex wished fervently for a break in his 'lessons'. Matt had freely admitted he'd never tried to teach anyone anything before and Alex had just barely managed to pass his French classes in school. So, it was fair to say things were not going well. Lisa bad sat with them for a while to try and help, but eventually she had disappeared to run out and do some shopping. She had already gotten most of the camping equipment on the list, and several outfits, but he had already mostly grown out of them. The swell of his abdomen could barely be passed off as weight gain any longer, and the reality of the situation was finally settling in. He was more and more worried about his future, and his child's future. To try and cheer him up, Lisa had mentioned that, if the pregnancy was similar to a human's, he'd be feeling the baby moving soon. As anxious as he was about the pregnancy, he couldn't help admitting, at least to himself, that he was excited to feel that.
Grumbling, Matt pushed his chair back and stood up. "Alright, break time. You ain't learning anything new anyway." He went into the kitchen and came back out a few minutes later with a bottle of beer for himself and a glass of water for Alex.
"So, do you think you learned anything?"
Alex shrugged. "A little. I'll probably sound like an idiot, but it should be enough to get the point across." Though he wouldn't tell the other man, he'd only really picked up a couple words from the 'lesson'; he would be better off with just the sheet of common phrases that Matt had written up. He would probably mangle the language horribly, but it was better than enduring Matt's teaching. The other man had simply gone over each phrase, and had Matt repeat it umpteen times. But the two most important phrases were written down and he was fairly confident in his ability to parrot them back. Out of everything 'do you know Muranthen' and 'how do I find him' were definitely the most crucial in his opinion.
Matt hadn't known anything about childbirth, or really anything to do with the children at all – he had only met adults on his travels; of that race anyway. More useful was the man's information on the land itself; he had found out that the place was called Ilya, and the cat men Ilyans. Having names for them was much better than calling them cat men and the land 'that strange place'. They had five main 'provinces' and a main city per province, though Matt could only remember one of the city's names, Krrithash. But he now knew the word for 'city' so that would have to do. Matt had assured him that all five cities had the shops that provided the languages, so it wouldn't matter which province he landed in, or what city he went to. It was also a relatively small country, and was supposedly surrounded by even stranger places. Matt had said that he had met at least five different types of people; and two didn't even go on two feet.
The most common other two species were the Havacks and the Trylls, both who commonly had jobs mainly as wandering merchants, mercenaries (in the Havacks case) or entertainers (in the Trylls case). They tended to move as pairs, regardless, with the Havack working as the fighter and the Tryll working as the scout. The Havacks, from Matt's description, were very similar to centaurs except they had six legs and the top halves weren't exactly 'human'. They were humanoid, but like the Ilyans, with distinctively non-human aspects. The Trylls were practically like human-sized storks – they had talons instead of feet, white foliage, and a black feather-like crest rather than regular hair (or even fur) They had wings rather than arms, and their dexterity came from a pair of 'hands' similar to on a bat's wing only advanced enough to have a 'thumb'. Matt had cringed a bit, and admitted it disturbed him just a bit to see them use their hands.
He had also seen a race similar to a canine version of the Ilyans (with the exception that they had females), whose name he couldn't recall, Faylans, which looked nearly identical to the griffins of human mythology, and Shhrathes, who were lizard-like in appearance, with vestigial wings. They apparently had an on-going hostility against the Trylls that everyone else assumed was from the fact that the Trylls could actually fly, and Shhrathes couldn't.
All in all, it wasn't a great deal of information, but hopefully, between that, and the supplies that were sitting ready in his room, he'd be able to find Muranthen. It was a scary, daunting task, but no less terrifying than staying when he had no clue how he was supposed to have his child, and had no way to give that child anything resembling a normal life. Alex knew himself well enough to know that if it were just him, he would never have had the courage to try to find Muranthen, but for his son (and with Lisa kicking him in the rear the entire way) he'd do it.
Alex was rudely woken by his sister shaking him. He grumbled and turned over, trying to get back to sleep. As he struggled into full consciousness, he heard Lisa calling his name.
"Come on, wake up! Wake up dammit!"
She sounded frantic, and a bit exasperated, and he finally cracked an eye open to look up at her. Her face matched the tone of her voice.
"I'm awake, I'm awake!" He batted away his sister's hands, wondering what could be so important to have her waking him up when he'd finally gotten to sleep. Sure, it was the middle of the afternoon, but he had really wanted to get a few hours in before his 'date' with Jamie. He still really wasn't sure what he was going to tell the other man. Sure, in this case it really was 'it's not you, it's me' but that wasn't a breakup line he particularly wanted to use. The last couple of times he had seen Jamie, he had chickened out at the last minute, though he could tell the other man knew something was wrong. Lisa had read him the riot act each time, with good reason. This time, she had told Alex to invite Jamie up, and he knew she wouldn't let him leave without Alex officially breaking it off. As large as he was getting, though, he wouldn't argue – there was no way he was leaving the apartment, and Jamie couldn't not notice his stomach.
"It's open, come on, get dressed. " Lisa had retreated in to his closet, and he could hear the rustle of clothes as she searched for outfits he could still wear.
Open? The door? Finally clicking, Alex started moving as quickly as he could, grabbing the clothes that were being tossed haphazardly out of the closet. Most were slowly starting to get too tight, and some still had the tags on them from Lisa's latest shopping trip. He grabbed one of the other, larger pants and shirts, not knowing when he'd be able to get new clothes or even wash his current clothing once he got there. Rushing out of the bedroom, he barely had time to blink before a pack was shoved in his face, stuffed with snack bars and other food that wouldn't go bad and didn't need to be cooked, as well as the 'camping supplies' that Lisa had insisted on. Next came the sleeping bag that had been bought just days before; it was lightweight, but durable, and would hopefully be worth the astronomical price Lisa had paid. There was also a military style canteen filled with ice water, which he slung over his other shoulder trying to distribute the weight. It wasn't going to be fun to carry all of it, but he'd survive. Alex sat down to get his shoes on, keeping an eye on the black space that shimmered in his doorway. It was good that he hadn't gotten a good look at it the first time – it looked far too reminiscent of a black hole; there was no way he would have willingly gone through one if he hadn't known it was safe.
Finally set, he stood in front of it, feeling nervous. This was it – as Matt had said there was a chance he could get back, but it was random and there was no way of knowing when he'd get back. He already had his bank account set up to give Lisa all of his money – some of his stuff would go into storage, but the apartment would still be in his name. Thankfully the landlady had been willing to actually sell him the apartment, so he didn't have to worry about anyone moving in. Just in case he returned; since it would be very hard to explain to a new tenant why he was randomly appearing in their living room. His savings would cover the few bills left for quite some time, and even though Lisa could access everything, it was all automatic so she wouldn't have to do anything unless something changed. Still, those were only precautions; because he was unwilling to completely give up any foothold in this world. This could be the last time he was ever in this world, and it was a scary thought. He felt his sister come up behind him, and put her hand on his shoulder.
"You know, you don't have to do this. We can figure something out and there's sure to be another chance."
Alex shook his head. He knew this was what he wanted to do – it was just a matter of taking that step. "I know Lisa, and I appreciate it. But I want to go." He turned around and pulled his sister into a hug. "I love you Lisa, take care of Greg and Alexi for me."
"You know I will little brother. Take care of yourself and my nephew."
"Of course." He nodded at Matt, who had stepped aside to give the siblings a minute, and to keep an eye on the doorway. "Thanks for everything."
The man shrugged, trying to appear unconcerned. "Don't mention it. Take care, kid."
Squeezing Lisa's hand one last time, he let go and took the few steps forward to take him through the portal, and hopefully, back to Muranthen. He felt Sascha bat against his leg and carefully, so as not to topple over with all the weight, bent down to pick her up. Alex couldn't believe he had almost forgotten her; she had to come with him. She was his baby, and besides, Greg was allergic so Lisa couldn't take her in. Muranthen had seemed to like her as well. It was a strange, but nice thought, that hopefully soon he would have his own family; the image of Sascha sitting on Muranthen's shoulder, as she had gotten accustomed to doing, while he held their child was what finally gave him the courage to take that final step. He could just barely hear his sister yelling 'good luck' as everything, once again, went dark.
A/N – for this of you who like Jamie, and are ready to strangle me for not having closure, don't kill me. He will have his own story. I never meant for him to be more than a passing character, but then he went and insisted on becoming a more important part, and I can't just leave him all alone now!