Billy is so excited about his new toy, and his face lights up when he grins. Alan has a history of hiring boys just like Billy for his digs, boys teetering on that line right before they become jaded adults. They’re men, mostly, but their enthusiasm is childlike, a wonder, a joy.
They always bring technology into Alan’s world, and he always breaks it. That, like the turn of the earth, like life and death, is inevitable. It is his nature; anti-technology is coded in his genes.
Biology will out, but he is not bothered. Technological advances can, he thinks will, lead to the end of the world. He is better off being unable to interact with them. Though, he admits, at least the machines at the digs never try to eat off his face.
But Billy has a new toy, and he wants to share. Alan can be pleased with his happiness, and with the potential the machine holds, as long as he doesn’t go near it.
And then, Billy puts the resonating chamber of a velociraptor to his lips, and blows.
There is no Billy. There is no machine. There is no dig.
His heart pounds, his breath is too fast. His muscles tense, and that is nature, too, human nature, prey nature. He will fight or flee, his body knows and prepares before his mind has caught up.
The sound is all he can hear, and he freezes and his breath sticks in his throat. There is nothing else, no world around him, no hot stone or bright sun. There is only his terror, and the raptors hunting him.
They do not ever hunt alone.
Alan wakes up with his fist pressed against his mouth. He jerks upright, chilled though he’s sweating; he’s breathing hard and trying to cover the sound.
Billy mumbles something next to him, and rolls over. He squints at Alan, and then hauls himself halfway upright, his weight on one arm. He reaches over with the other, touches Alan’s wrist, wraps his fingers around it, and pulls down his fist.
“The island again?” he asks, and his voice is rough with sleep.
It’s not true, but Alan nods anyway. That is easier to explain – post-traumatic stress disorder, or, at the very least, actual memories of almost dying – and he doesn’t want to talk about it. It has been years, but some terrors never go away.
“They’re not here,” Billy says around a yawn. His head tilts back and his eyes are closed. It startles Alan. He’s reading Alan’s mind, except Alan doesn’t believe in that. Raptors communicating, learning to open doors, setting traps – that’s scientific. That’s nature. Mind reading? Not so much.
Billy’s quite observant. It’s one of his best talents in the field. In life, it’s far more frustrating when he watches, and listens, and learns. Intelligence and knowledge together can be a frightening thing.
That is what makes the raptors so dangerous, and Billy.
He’s slumping, and Alan thinks he’s asleep again, but then he bumps his head against Alan’s shoulder, and presses a kiss there after. Alan tenses. He hasn’t shared a bed like this for years. Sometimes he meets up with an old friend and has dinner and sex – though that started tapering off after Ellie stopped doing fieldwork and went domesticated, wife, mother. He doesn’t blame her, he couldn’t give her that part, wouldn’t, but it cut down the number of people he was comfortable seeing him naked. He doesn’t date. He doesn’t have time. His work is far more important to him, this career he loves, this career which has become an obsession.
He can hear their breath, the soft noises the raptors made at each other, and then when he wakes and the night goes silent, he knows they are there, the monsters just outside the door, and the handle is turning.
Alan always sleeps alone since Ellie, and not because she broke his heart.
But here’s Billy, taking up far more than half the bed. It’s so easy for him, there’s nothing to it. Everything’s easy to him, flirting with the girls at the dig, flirting with the boys at the dig, flirting with Alan. He’s so open with his wants, eager and friendly and no pressure, man, just thought you should know.
He kisses Alan’s shoulder again and then flops back onto his pillow. His breathing is even, steady. It’s all science, the way he breathes in, the way he breathes out. The way his heart beats and his blood flows and his skin is warm.
Alan tucks the blankets over him, and settles down himself. He closes his eyes, regulates his breath, but he doubts he will sleep. He thinks about dinosaurs and science and the rules of the world, of his world.
Mostly, he thinks about Billy, while outside his windows, dawn comes again and there are no monsters.
Why the hell doesn’t he ever wait for the check to clear?
Alan is an intelligent man. He has degrees and publications and, sometimes, a good reputation in his field. That should mean, he thinks, that he’s smart enough to learn from his past. After Hammond, there’s absolutely no smart reason for him to trust rich men who offer to fund his work in order to get what they want.
Unfortunately, that is the game of research, of digs, of his life. He wants to continue his research, is still comforted by what he is learning about the raptors and their intelligence – the why of that is better left unexamined – and so he must play.
Still. Just because the rules are set doesn’t mean he can’t tweak them. Next time – he hopes, fervently, that there won’t be a next time, but knows better - wait for the check to clear when dealing with rich men who have slightly disturbing fascinations with islands of genetically engineered dinosaurs.
His shirt sticks to his skin. He’s sweating, and he stinks. He lifts his hat, smooths his hair, puts it back on. He’s getting old, his joints ache. He gets tired, running from the theme-park monsters.
It was easier the first time.
Alan really has to stop doing this.
The T-Rex’s breath is hot and stinks of bloody flesh, that half-sweet rot of meat stuck between its teeth. It snorts, and blows damp, warm hair into his face. Beneath his palm, Lex’s mouth moves, and he presses his hand against her until he can feel her teeth.
He always thought he wasn’t afraid of death. It was a part of the process: he was born, he grew up, and he would die. What happened in between, the discoveries he made, the mark he left by finding and studying and analyzing the marks left millions of years before, that was the important part.
Premature death by dinosaur? That brings out his fear.
There is a moment, when the T-Rex bursts into the visitor’s center and the raptors turn on it, that he is filled with a childlike glee. It has nothing to do with being alive, and everything with the clash of the monsters.
Alan has been struck with awe, and horror, and anger, many times on the island, but the first and last time he sees the dinosaurs, those are the moments filled with glee.
He will never admit to it. It isn’t natural. It isn’t real.
His nightmares, after, are filled with velociraptors. Sometimes, they raise their heads and speak to him in the voices of the dead. Those are the better nights. On the worse, there is no sound, just pain.
He touches Billy more than he should. It’s such an easy thing, to put his hand at the small of Billy’s back, to drape his arm across Billy’s shoulders, to bump their shoulders together when they bend, side by side, to work together on a dig.
At dinner, he puts his hand on Billy’s thigh.
Billy doesn’t even blink, just keeps talking to Ellie, laughing and sharing stories about digs and Alan’s peculiarities. They dance around the Apatosaurus in the room – Ellie smiles at him, and her eyes are sparkling. She knows. There’s no reason to verbalize the fact that he’s involved with another man. That it’s more than sex – and her husband put her kids to bed hours ago, but it’s comforting, all told.
They’ve all survived dinosaur attacks. It bonds them and the others, the outsiders, will never understand. He isn’t sure how Ellie manages to spend so much time with people who don’t know the first thing about dinosaur fear.
Then again, he did the same thing, before Billy.
The moment he saw the soldiers on the beach, Ellie riding to the rescue by proxy, he thought he’d never loved anyone more. Finding Billy in the helicopter – with his hat, and in that moment he knew that whatever it is between them, the things he doesn’t yet put into words, was more than just a flirtation – was even better.
Alan holds back many of his thoughts, keeps them to himself, but in the hospital room, he whispers apologies to Billy. He meant what he said, but not the way he said it; or, perhaps, he meant the way he said it, the anger, the frustration, but not the actual words.
He is haunted, sometimes, by the expression on Billy’s face in that moment, the simultaneous heartbreak and the hardening of his hero worship. Alan isn’t perfect, no matter what Billy thinks. Now he knows, and that is better.
Alan thinks many things while Billy and Ellie talk, about the past, and the future, and, sometimes, even the present. Among them is a throw-away thought filled with amusement about the rhyme of their names.
He’s comfortable, at peace. It’s easy, being with Billy, being friends with Ellie, sharing his life with the both of them, and he’s pleased.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Michael Crichton and others.
Warning: Non-linear story with non-explicit boy slash.
Written for: Sierra in Yuletide 2008
Warning: Non-linear story with non-explicit boy slash.
Written for: Sierra in Yuletide 2008