No infringement of the following characters
and situations is intended.
Warning: Rated [MA] Mature Adults only. Contains adult themes
Title: Working Without A Net
Series: Jurassic Park III
E-mail address: email@example.com
Pairing: Alan Grant/Billy Brennan
Date: 18 July 2003
Disclaimers: The characters of Dr. Alan Grant, Billy Brennan, et al. are the property of Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment and (in Alan's case) Michael Crichton. No copyright infringement is intended or inferred.
Warnings: may contain slash, H/C, violence, m/m hanky panky, sex scenes, drug use, nudity, coarse language, horror, dodgy research, adult themes
Spoilers: Jurassic Park III
Summary: Dinosaurs aren't the deadliest creatures on the planet.
Previously: In this series Billy carries the scars of Isla Sorna, most noticeably in the loss of his left arm, but also emotionally. Now new horrors are about to be piled upon old and even if Billy survives, his relationship with Alan might not.
Notes: Some minor details, such as how a luddite like Alan came to own a mobile phone and Billy's evolution from field palaeontologist to tv palaeontologist are described in the fic I haven't quite finished yet that's meant to go before this one. My bad.
Alan pressed himself forward with a degree of menace, just about ready to climb over the large oak desk and create a diplomatic incident.
"What do you mean I can't see him?"
The British bureaucrat flustered and shuffled papers.
"As I said, immediate family and next of kin only."
Alan stalled. He wanted to reach across the desk and explain to the gentleman, simply and plainly, that Billy was estranged from his family and that he, Alan, had been Billy's partner for just on five years now. Only a fear of making things worse stopped him.
Nevertheless, Alan gave him the eye. The one that could reduce his students to a blubbering mess.
"I'm here on behalf of Mr Brennan's family,” he fibbed. “Either you let me see him or I get on television and start talking about how the British government is holding an American citizen in custody, without charges and without access to legal representation or his family."
The bureaucrat was about to call Alan's bluff, and then he saw that Alan wasn't bluffing.
Billy was sitting up in his hospital bed, cuts and bruises dark against pale skin. He looked incredibly brittle, yet pissed off and bored enough to snap at anyone who came near.
Billy glanced up at the tall, slim blonde who entered the room, and then glanced away again, deliberately ignoring her. She could understand his anger and frustration.
"The Brits treating you alright?" she asked at last in a drawl that would be sexy under any other circumstances.
Billy flicked dark eyes at her.
"They died, because I'm an American."
"I know. It sucks. Are you going to cry now or are you going to grow up?"
The next look he shot her was venomous.
"Who's Degler to you?"
"Friend of the family."
"He's been making a nuisance of himself, making noises, putting pressure on us to get you out."
"Thank fuck for the SAS then."
Billy met her eyes, hostile and hurt, betrayed and belligerent, burning into her. It had been the SAS who had eventually got him out, with the rest of the surviving hostages, and not before time. Billy had deeply suspected the Russians had been about to crucify them, literally, or maybe they would have just shot him in deference to his disability.
She'd never know what he'd been through. With any luck she'd never know. By rights he should be dead, or been left for dead, because her government didn't negotiate. Fortunately the British couldn't afford the deaths of a BBC film crew on top of everything else. So here he was, alive, more or less. There was something dead in his eyes.
She glanced away.
"I've told the Brits to let you go when they've finished with you. There's nothing more you can tell them and your friends are being impatient and a nuisance."
Billy's expression registered hope for a second, knowing this meant Alan must be London, surely, but he quickly buried it so she could not see it.
"I'm tired of questions. I've told you everything I know. I just want to go home."
"You will," she promised coolly, noting on his file that he was of little further use to them.
Billy watched her make her little notes on him dispassionately.
"They won't tell me, you know, The Brits, whether Iain was really Five or Six."
She glanced up sharply, then shot him an annoyed look that had tried for bland but failed.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"And you're just from the Embassy, right. Sure. Fine. Whatever."
Billy sank back into the pillows of his hospital bed. This interview was at an end.
They'd kept him there in that hospital, for observation, they said. Billy was bored and he fiddled and frailly prowled the corners of his room, dressed in the clothes they'd given him. He seemed to have exchanged one form of captivity for another.
The men from the British government watched him pace up and down, annoyed he was being difficult but expecting nothing else from an American, and their refusal to be goaded made Billy prickle further.
Billy slumped back into his chair. He was sick of answering their damn questions. He hadn't done anything wrong. He was a victim of circumstance, nothing more. He'd just been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He didn't know how or why Iain had taken the phone. Iain must have known the risks and he’d paid for it. Billy didn't really know why they had been taken: for money, for publicity, for political point scoring, or all of the above. He hadn't really had a chance to discuss politics in depth with his captors, and they'd mostly just tortured him for laughs.
He scowled at them, tired of the way the questions looped around over and over, as if they expected him to say something different on the tenth or eleventh go round.
Suddenly he paused, distracted. Billy had seen that damn old Akubra bobbing along the tops of the windows in an agitated fashion just outside in the corridor.
Billy stared over the heads of his interrogators, eyes focusing. It was like he'd just woken up, and they no longer existed, part of his dream world. He almost looked through them as much as over them, as he slowly and stiffly rose up from his chair.
Alan was there. Alan was just standing there, waiting for him, through the open doorway. Poor Billy's face nearly broke apart with relief and repressed emotion, but he managed to hold himself together, struggling not to burst into tears right there and then.
Ignoring the two British agents who were trying to debrief him, Billy walked around them, shuffling painfully, limping slightly, his face still threatening to break into tears at any moment. A couple of times he nearly lost it, but he paused, gathered himself up and kept on taking shaky yet determined steps towards Alan.
He stopped just in front of Alan, looking very much like a bedraggled dog who'd just walked cross-country rather than be left behind. He gazed into Alan's eyes, searching for forgiveness, looking slightly sheepish, deeply aware that they had left off badly.
He saw more than forgiveness in Alan's eyes and he started to crumple.
"Take me home, please," he whispered in a trembling voice.
"Of course," Alan soothed, deeply relieved to see Billy more or less in one piece again.
Billy fell against him and Alan's arms went around him and held him up. Alan was holding him good and close and he was so warm and familiar and Billy felt safe at last. Billy still didn't break apart but Alan felt a tear slide free and roll down his own cheek as he hugged his beloved boy tight, nuzzling the soft buzz of his hair against his cheek, so glad he had his Billy back.
It was a different Billy that Alan had taken home with him. Billy’s hair was shorn short into a dark buzz cut that was only just growing out. Gone were the sun bleached, honey gold, soft strands of hair that would curl gently if he let them. He was terribly thin, which made his face pointed and sharp, and his skin was dull and pale and there were still large dark circles under his eyes. His empty sleeve hung loosely in the too big clothes and army surplus jumper somebody had acquired for him, his own clothes not as yet recovered. His arm was gone, too, stolen, no doubt sold on the black market already. It was a very fancy and expensive piece of equipment and though it had been custom made for Billy alone, Alan supposed whoever had it now wouldn't much care. The empty sleeve in that too big jumper gave him an almost sadly comical urchin like appearance, and his eyes, those dark, wounded eyes that would barely meet Alan's, only to glance away again.
It was an uncomfortably silent trip home in the taxi, and Billy had seemed mildly surprised when they'd pulled up at his flat. He'd been expecting an anonymous hotel room, but Alan had taken him home, and suddenly he was surprised by his things, trapped with the familiar and he had to bite down hard on the need to scratch and claw his way free and escape. It was too much, too normal, as if the everyday couldn't exist side by side with the hell he'd been through.
He'd felt like this before, after the island, yet this was somehow worse. Even though he'd spent nearly the entire time of his ordeal shut up in a tiny room, he suddenly felt so claustrophobic he couldn't breathe, and he swallowed huge mouthfuls of air as Alan pulled the drapes closed on the large bay windows of his terraced flat.
Alan was asking him if he wanted tea, coffee or a beer, and he managed to shake his head. Alan was looking at him with an odd mix of sympathy, pity, bemusement and desire and Billy glanced away again.
Alan was now asking him if he wanted to have a bath and go to bed and Billy managed to nod his head.
The cuts and bruises and dark lines down his back were shocking as he slowly and numbly peeled out of clothes but Alan just about managed to hold onto his distress, fussing with getting the water temperature just right and coaxing Billy's antique pipes to behave themselves just this once. The pipes shuddered and thrummed like a disused organ but Alan didn't care about the neighbours at this point.
Billy sank gratefully into the steaming water, visibly unclenching tensed muscles in spite of himself. He let Alan wash him gently, closing his eyes as the warm soapy cloth softly stroked along his skin, but he was in no mood for anything else. He stayed soft as Alan dabbed hopefully around his genitals, just washing back and forth with the swirl of water currents but nothing more.
Alan took it as a sign of exhaustion. Living with Billy for several years now he knew exactly where to touch Billy to make him respond, just like pushing a button or playing an instrument. Billy clearly wasn't in the mood tonight, so Alan let him be, keeping his interactions tender and concerned, but nothing more.
He bundled Billy into a towel and then his pyjamas like a child, making him sip some warm milk and brandy and try and keep down some dry biscuits before rolling him into bed and curling up beside him, just because he needed to feel Billy beside him.
It was in the wee small hours of the night that found Alan up and making a call to the States. Alan twisted slightly while still on the phone to gaze through the doorway into the bedroom.
"No, the debriefing was rather gruelling, as I understand it, but their doctors checked him over and though he's malnourished and battered all his remaining limbs are all where they should be, and that's all that matters. No, I am going to get him checked out again when we get back to the States, he's in pretty bad shape even though they let him go. I'm pretty sure some of his old injuries have been aggravated - I think that hip fracture might have opened again. No, I'm just glad to have him back, alive. I can't thank you enough. No, really." He paused to wipe his eyes. "Thank you, Ellie, for getting him back for me."
He gently placed the phone down then wandered back into the darkened bedroom. He sat down on the edge of the bed, shoulders sagging, weary as the weeks of worry caught up with him. Billy stirred slightly, feeling the dip in the mattress, surfacing but not quite breaking through his drugged and exhausted sleep. Alan leant over him, brushing his hair and kissing a temple softly.
"Ssh, go back to sleep," he whispered tenderly, stroking skin until Billy's eyelashes closed again. Alan lay down beside him, just spooning up ever so gently. It felt so good to have Billy back beside him. It had been a long hard separation this time and he was glad it was over.
It wasn't entirely over. Billy still had contractual obligations and the BBC had no dinosaur documentary. He was going to have to stay on in London and give them something before they let him go home with Alan.
That’s all Billy wanted to do right now, to go home with Alan, to be an indoor palaeontologist, maybe working with Alan on his next book, as a collaborator, or even just a research assistant. It was quiet, safe steady work, and just what he needed as his injuries healed and his sleeping patterns started to return to normal.
Teacup Dinosaur Hunters, Alan had called indoor palaeontologists and sneered at them. Real palaeontologists worked out in the field, in wild and remote areas under the sun in absolutely shitty conditions, and they loved it. Alan only ever bothered to write up his notes into books because his tenure required it. Alan had no time for teacup palaeontologists who worked from libraries, museums or labs, and yet that was exactly the sort of palaeontologist Billy had become.
Since losing his arm Billy had worked less and less in the field and had moved more and more indoors, first writing his books and then ending up on television. Having survived a dinosaur attack, Billy was a curiosity and qualified in ways few other palaeontologists were.
Alan made exception for Billy, of course, and all of Alan's grumblings against the new breed of palaeontologists who used computers rather than picks and shovels naturally included an asterixed disclaimer excluding Billy from his rants, but Billy still felt slighted all the same. Especially since he shared Alan's love of just getting down and dirty with the bones and he hadn't exactly chosen his new career, nor had he expected to be quite so successful in it.
Ironically even being a teacup palaeontologist wasn't safe any more, as Billy had suffered more than any man should be forced to endure. Compared to what he'd been through, lightning strikes and flash floods were a doddle.
Billy was just reacting against the big bad world. He wanted to curl up in his room with his laptop and never come out. He'd get over it eventually, of course, it just didn't help to see Alan's almost involuntary lip curl when he mentioned his ideas to re-examine early 19th Century work as a basis for his next paper.
Alan watched as Billy's hand shook slightly as he stirred sugar into his coffee, but other than the strained expression, the one that slipped through between the smiles for Alan's benefit, he seemed fine.
Well, as fine as could be expected. He was hungry, but he was on a strict diet - Alan had been warned that if he let Billy gorge himself he'd really get sick. He was still stiff and sore and Alan was concerned. Alan remembered the nasty crack Billy had taken against the cliff on the island, not to mention his plummet into the river. It really looked like those old injuries were playing up again.
Alan supposed this whole experience hadn't done Billy's PTS any good either, and Alan was resigned to living with a Billy who was as jumpy as a cat.
The coffee probably wasn't a good idea but Billy looked like he could use it - the shadows under his eyes could put a corpse to shame.
Alan gazed at him over the top of his newspaper.
"So, when can I take you home?"
Billy shrugged, chewing absently on his toast crust. It was a childish habit, one he reverted to in times of stress, without even thinking about it.
"The BBC owns my arse," Billy reminded, muffled through the toast. "They want me around to do a couple of exclusive interviews for them - they're turning our little adventure into a doco."
Alan's expression began to darken into to outrage but Billy shook his head.
"I owe them a documentary, so they might as well get one. There's talk of having another go at the series at a later date, maybe do some stuff in Australia over the winter. I've got a few weeks off, to recuperate, more, if I really need them, I think."
"So," Alan asked carefully. "Do you have plans?"
Billy smiled, dimpling, giving him that little boy look that never failed to work.
"I was thinking of going home with you." The dimples deepened. "And maybe help you with your book?" The voice rose in a plea.
Alan shook his head, bemused that he was such a soft touch.
"That would be fine," Alan relented, trying to look gruff, but his eyes were shining. He missed having Billy work with him, side by side, more than he would admit.
Billy twisted in his seat slightly, happy, and relaxed.
"Good. I really do feel like being a total armchair palaeontologist for a bit. This Indiana Jones shit, it's not as easy as it looks."
"No, it's not," Alan agreed. He gazed at Billy again. "I'm so glad to have you back."
Billy met this gaze. "You were what kept me alive."
Billy pushed himself up across the table to meet Alan's lips in a buttery kiss. Alan licked at the faint traces of marmalade on Billy's lips, and then kissed him again.
Yes, it had been another close call but Billy was back and that's all that mattered.
It was some time during this reunion breakfast that Billy's phone rang, urgently, setting the tone for the weeks to come in which Billy would be urgently summoned to attend either another debriefing, some form of media relations exercise or a further medical checkup. Each time the phone rang Billy would pick up his coat and dash out, leaving Alan feeling as abandoned and uncared for as the dirty cups piling up in the sink.
Alan had put his work, his book on hold. He'd dropped everything to be here for Billy, and here he was, washing up the dishes like he was the hired help, and feeling just about as noticed or regarded.
He knew Billy had commitments, but he felt he was coming in last on a very long list. Billy's initial desire to return home with Alan and pick up his old job as Alan's research assistant seemed to have evaporated. Alan wanted things to return to normal, but apparently this was normal now and he felt as though Billy had been kidnapped by people even more loathsome than terrorists - publicists.
" Billy?" Alan came to the door of Billy's room and saw that Billy was still sound asleep, curled in the middle of the bed, sleeping on his left side. The sheet had slipped from him, leaving his lithe and naked form free for Alan to see. Alan paused for a moment to admire the beauty of his lover: everything from his peaceful face, his slender neck, the muscles of his arm, the shape of his hand and fingers, his scarred back down to the soft curve of his arse, and those long, lean legs.
Alan stepped right up to the bed and brushed a hand along Billy's flank, then he slapped him fondly on the backside, calling his name again.
Billy was normally an impossibly light and skittish sleeper these days, so Alan knew he must have taken something to make him sleep so soundly.
He shook Billy again and Billy woke with a start. Then he rolled over onto his back, stretching slightly and shooting Alan a look that was both shrewish and amused. Billy saw the way Alan was looking at him and stretched again.
"Like what you see?" he teased.
"Always," Alan murmured.
Billy sat up slowly, never breaking eye contact, leaning close to Alan, so close, their noses almost touching. Then he glanced at his clock past Alan and pulled away suddenly, exclaiming that he was late, he was late, like that damned white rabbit.
Alan drew back and let Billy bustle about the room, grabbing at clothes and notes. Alan was learning not to stand between Billy and his work, mores the pity.
"You seem pretty settled," commented Alan, following Billy out into the living room as Billy swept papers into his briefcase one-handed. Nothing in the room seemed to indicate that Billy’s work was winding up or that he was coming back to the States with Alan as promised anytime soon.
Billy shrugged his lopsided shrug.
"My work's here now, more or less,” he admitted, then he put the boot in. “And I find it's a lot easier to be gay and crippled here. Not to say people don't get mean, but they're less hung up about it. Most people are pretty cool. I like it here."
Alan couldn't say anything to that. What the hell could he say? He wasn't responsible for Billy's sexuality, but the loss of his arm, well, Alan would always carry that cross. As for the rest, well, Alan should have known Billy would find life in the mid-west restrictive.
Alan glanced about Billy's flat. It really didn't look like Billy was ready to leave, or that he had much reason too.
"I've got work to do," Billy explained blankly, his way of sidestepping the conversation. It wasn't even a lie. He was being kept very busy, and he wasn't about to say no to any of the demands being made on his time, because work filled up the hours. Work kept him from thinking about anything else, and he desperately needed not to think about anything else.
Not even Alan. It was all tangled up and twisted into something he didn't
want to deal with. And besides, he had work to do.