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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: Just for the weekend: the makeup sex.
"I thought we could play tourist, go to the Natural History Museum, maybe talk our way into the back rooms." He stalled when he saw Billy's lack of enthusiasm written plainly across his face.
Alan gazed down, shuffling slightly.
"It's just that we haven't seen much of each other, since you've been back. You've been so busy. I just thought it might be fun, you know, just you and me, and some old bones. Come on," he nudged. "I haven't seen you hold a fossil in your hand for ages - sometimes I worry that you've forgotten you're a palaeontologist."
Billy's eyes narrowed viciously. "That's not fair. I can't work in the field like you. I can't dig and you know it. What I do now is how I stay in the field, and I thought you appreciated that, because it wasn't from damn choice, you know. I can't pick over bone beds, so I have to pick over other people's work, like a scavenger."
"Billy, no, that wasn't what I meant. It's just that, you've been so busy with interviews and magazines and the like, I thought maybe it'd be good to get you back to your roots, remind you of your first love, why you do this."
"You think I need reminding?"
"I think you need to reconnect."
"Reconnect?" Billy repeated, unable to believe the words that were spilling out of Alan's mouth. "I have left you alone too much," he agreed ruefully. "Because it sounds like you've just been sitting on the couch watching Oprah."
"Well, what the hell else am I supposed to do? You've been avoiding me."
"I've been busy."
"You haven't stopped. Look, I know crap happened and I know running about all over the place means you don't have to think about it, but it's time to just stop, Billy. Stop running and make a stand. Decide what you want to do: with your life, with your career, with us."
"Us?" Billy suddenly looked slapped, red highlighting his cheeks. "Alan?"
"In case you haven't noticed, there hasn't been an us since you got back. You've shut me out, and enough is enough. Your choice, Billy, but before you decide, I'm asking you to spend the day with me. Take the time and maybe you can find whatever it is you've lost - because you've lost something. Even I can see that."
"I- I can't."
"Please," Alan asked, holding out his hand. "Just give me today."
Alan was looking so appealing, so ready to forgive almost anything, so willing to try. Alan was also right, Billy had lost something, and it felt like his soul. Maybe he could get it back, or at least reclaim part of it. He was willing to try.
He reached up his hand to Alan, and Alan took it, smiling, relieved.
Billy felt uncomfortable, Thanksgiving uncomfortable. He felt like he had to be on his best behaviour. To be honest, he was shaking inside. Alan had spoken of breaking up and last chances. Of all the things he'd expected Alan to say, neither of those had been one of them.
Billy felt as though he'd been slapped, and slapped hard, and Alan hadn't even touched him, or even said those terrible words. Alan had just hinted, quietly, that he'd had enough. Billy could see now the toll this had taken on Alan, how tired Alan looked. He must be tired, because Alan wasn't usually so subtle when expressing his displeasure with Billy.
Billy had been angry, angry at himself more than Alan, but Billy had been pushing Alan away since Russia, and enough was enough.
Billy should have known Alan had his limits - he'd certainly stepped on them and over them before. He just hadn't given it much thought. He hadn't thought much about anything other than getting from moment to moment, and doing whatever he had to do to get there. He'd shut Alan out because he didn't want Alan to see what he'd done, what he'd become.
He didn't want Alan to see it in his eyes.
Only Alan had. Alan had known something was wrong, very wrong. Alan just couldn't understand why Billy was shutting him out.
It wasn't just Alan. Billy had been desperately trying to shut the whole world out. He'd been stripped raw and he'd thrown up walls in defence where nothing could get in or out, not even Alan.
Alan had managed a breech though, he'd pierced Billy's defences, he'd made Billy do the last thing he wanted to do, he'd made Billy feel something.
Billy was trembling. He'd locked his fear away and now it was threatening to spill over. If he pulled down his walls to let Alan in, everything else would fall out. He couldn't, he just couldn't, but he couldn't lose Alan either. He needed Alan, and that was something.
Alan glanced at him.
Billy looked at him sharply, pain in his eyes. Those wounded eyes.
"Don't leave me."
"I won't," Alan reassured him softly.
This was a start. He needed to push Billy a little, but he could see Billy slowly taking the steps back towards him. It was as if Billy was standing on that damn fence again, only this time Billy was waiting, willing to give Alan a chance to reach out to him.
"Stop looking like you're out on a school excursion, this is meant to be fun," Alan goaded fondly. "Just you and me and some old bones. You never know, we might poke around and find something nobody's ever noticed before, a couple of pieces that fit together like two peas in a pod. You do remember your basic anatomy, right? The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone," he started singing.
Billy slid him a look. "Please stop." Billy almost smiled. That was a definite start.
They wandered around the dinosaur hall, feeling somewhat foolish and out of place as it seemed more circus than science, at least to Alan. Billy, with a look of long suffering, indulged Alan as he loudly critiqued the animatronic and model displays for anyone who cared to listen. He even had a beef about the styled postures of the fibreglass casts that had been arranged into posed plastic skeletons to impress and frighten little children. Billy quietly reminded him that not everyone had eyewitness accounts to work from, nudging Alan, amused at his rants.
Alan, meanwhile, had to suffer the sudden appearance of a crocodile of screeching young schoolgirls. Worse, the schoolgirls all recognised Billy and flocked around him like he was a damn pop star, leaving Alan ignored and off to the side. It had been a while since Alan had been on television, and out of sight out of mind, and while Alan had always been infamous for his strong opinions, Billy was now genuinely famous for his friendly little soft science series.
The little monsters had mobbed Billy, crowding around him, and it reminded Alan of that scene from Close Encounters where the aliens had surrounded Richard Dreyfus and herded him onto the mother ship.
Alan wasn't about to let those little harridans take Billy anywhere, and he waded boldly into the throng, yanking Billy free of their clutches, quite literally nearly pulling Billy off his feet as he dragged him sharply aside.
Billy was almost laughing, accusing Alan with bright eyes of being insanely jealous of a pack of eight year old schoolgirls.
Hell, yes, Alan was jealous. This was supposed to be his day with Billy, and nobody else's, and he wasn't about to start sharing now.
They retreated from the displays and the shrieking, sugar hyped school kids and Alan had to suffer yet a further blow to his already bruised ego. He'd meant to impress Billy, using his reputation to get them into the sacred, cloistered halls of the palaeontology department and into the closely guarded collections. Billy, however, quietly trumped him, not only by producing an access card from his pocket, but also having a small work space set aside from him within.
It was from here that Billy liased with the museum and conducted a great deal of the research used in the series, chasing down both evidence and colleagues with interesting theories and papers. Other experts in his field might do the hard, grinding detail, but Billy pulled it all together, presenting the big picture, often bringing separate projects in touch with each other.
Billy might simplify and popularise new theories and projects, which made some of his more traditional colleagues glare down their noses at him, but Billy brought in the funding and he brought in the punters, and without either of those they wouldn't have their precious research grants. Even the most hard nosed professional was forced to regard Billy as a necessary evil.
Alan would normally have been one of those who regarded Billy as more Barnum than scientist, and Billy knew it. Billy had heard Alan express those sentiments many times, with vehemence, before Billy had been forced to retire from the field. Alan had turned down a great any opportunities to play on his infamy. Billy had embraced them.
Alan was slightly cowed now. He hadn't listened, he hadn't realised. When Billy disappeared for months at a time, when Billy had said he was doing some research at the Natural History Museum, Alan had expected, what? That Billy was just flipping through the books in the gift shop? That he was running around the skeletons like a five year old? Selling tickets and popcorn?
Clearly more hard work and hard science went into Billy's work than his editors would make it appear.
Billy started up the terminal on his little desk.
"Pull up a chair. I've been dying to show you this for ages. I'm going to use this in my next series. They've been making studies of the gaits of modern animals like elephants and emus with motion sensors, and capturing it all on computer, like this." He played a short video of an elephant covered in white dots running slowly across the screen. It reminded Alan of those photographic studies of horses running from the turn of the last century.
"Then they map out the muscles and bones, from careful anatomical study, like so." Billy played another linear computer generated image of a trotting elephant skeleton.
"And by comparing the way the bones and muscles move together, and the wear and tear, we can hypothesise the movements of this Camarasaurus here." He played a computer animation of an extinct beast that was close, but didn't look quite right. It had that slightly jerky, unnatural gait of an old Harryhausen creature, but that was just a fault of the technology and its present limitations. The theory was sound, and Alan could see why Billy was impressed.
Billy was enthusiastic. "Not only can we use this to guess how the animals moved, but we can use it to tell if we've got the right bones the right way around. Stick the wrong bones together the wrong way and the poor thing will fall over. You can even use this to tell if all the bones you've got belong to the same animal."
Alan nodded. Even the best of them mixed up bits from different animals on occasion, especially if the remains were fragmentary or all jumbled together in an untidy mess. They couldn't DNA test the bones to match them, the bones were usually too small, too fragile, DNA extraction too clumsy, too wasteful.
Assembling the bones on computer, seeing what worked, what looked right, like a 3D jigsaw and comparing it against modern animals - yes, Alan was impressed.
He could see why Billy liked his job: he got to play with all the latest toys and ideas, picking which ones to present to the general republic.
Billy had a wistful expression in his eyes.
“Wouldn’t it be great to get back to the island, and film those animals, you know, get it all on record before they’re destroyed.”
“Yeah, film them trying to eat you,” Alan groused, still somewhat bitter at the memory. Then it struck him that this was the very first time he’d heard Billy speak of the Island, or mention it at all, without the slightest hint of the pain the experience had cost him.
They decided to walk back through the park on the way home, taking in the scenery and the fresh air that carried the sting of the coming winter.
Billy was walking several paces ahead but he had stopped, head down, as though pondering something.
Billy had borne a lot for a young man. Hypothermia had kept him from bleeding to death on the island, and there had been so much blood in the water, as if Alan could ever forget it. Deeply in shock, freezing cold and torn open, Billy had still managed to climb up a tree and survive.
Billy had survived again. He'd been subjected to every known abuse and he'd lived. He was strong and he took comfort in that, he even took pride in it.
He wanted to stay strong, but afterwards, now that he was safe, now the fear poked at him with sharp pointed fingers, when he was least expecting it. He felt that he had to be on his guard at all times, because if he let his guard down for a minute, it would all come rushing up to him like a wave and he'd drown in it.
He'd kept everything locked up tight, and locked out, including Alan. To let Alan back in would mean letting his walls down, and he wasn't sure if he could, or if he wanted to.
Alan caught up with him and Billy flicked him a wan smile, one that meant to say: 'I'm okay, really,' but his eyes told a slightly different story.
Billy appreciated Alan's concern. He reached out his hand and they twined fingers gently, then Alan leant in close and quickly pecked a kiss on Billy's throat before letting his arm drop loosely around Billy's waist.
Billy slipped him a sideways look, but held his tongue about Alan's uncharacteristic public display of affection. He wanted it and he needed it and he leant into Alan for a moment before slipping away, very gently, feeling claustrophobic.
Alan took Billy's withdrawal with good grace, pointing to a coffee vendor with a cart up ahead and they took their coffee to a nearby park bench, settling onto the soft, damp wood.
Alan didn't know what to say, but the awkward silence that had settled between them was worse, so, fiddling with the plastic lid of his coffee, he asked quietly: "If and when it happens, do I need to practice safe sex?"
"Yes," Billy answered in a small voice, gazing down.
Alan nodded tightly. He'd come to suspect as much.
Billy set his paper cup down on the seat and peeled off the lid of his coffee, letting the steam curl up as it cooled, sipping at it delicately. It was still a touch too hot.
"They said at least three months to be sure, maybe more. It's mostly hepatitis I've got to worry about, because what little they gave us to eat and drink wasn't the best, and often contaminated."
Billy fell silent again, sipping at his coffee.
Alan knew better than to push for more, and he really didn't want to know all of it, though he wondered whether what ran through his imagination was worse than the reality. He knew Billy had been beaten, tortured, starved and kept locked in a dark, tiny little room, but that's all he knew. Billy might tell him more, eventually, when it wasn't so raw.
"I'm okay, Alan, really. You don't have to handle me with kid gloves all the time. I don't break that easily," Billy promised, blowing gently on his coffee as he held it close.
"You look better," Alan acknowledged, because Billy had looked like one of those horrible, haunted camp survivors when he'd first been released. "More like your old self." He smiled at Billy fondly, and a little bit lecherous.
Billy gazed at him over the rim of his paper cup. He was quietly expressing a willingness to try.
Alan was twitching. It had been well over a month and he hadn't had his welcome home shag or any kind of shag with Billy. Billy hadn't put him off so much as found excuses to avoid any and all opportunities.
Alan wasn't heartless or insensitive. He knew Billy was traumatised, but such experiences had usually brought them closer together, not further apart.
He wanted to give Billy the time and space he needed, but he needed Billy, too, and a part of him was afraid that if he didn't reach out and grab hold of the boy then Billy would just fall away from him again. He needed to make contact, he needed to pull Billy back into the here and now.
They drank their coffee in complete silence, watching the park life go by. Then, as the afternoon began to ease into twilight and the temperature dropped a little, Alan reached out and gathered Billy's hand in his again.
So gently and tenderly he turned the hand over in his, caressing and stroking it, teasing the wrist and tracing the long fingers. Carefully, as Billy watched, Alan turned up the palm and kissed it, then blew across the wetness of his kiss, just a little.
Meeting Billy's eyes he performed the same trick on Billy's wrist, lapping and tickling at the pulse point. He brushed his lips to one fingertip, wetting it, teasing it, sucking it, and then he swallowed it whole, sucking hard.
Billy dove forward, burying his face in Alan's shoulder to stop himself from making a sound out loud.
"Oh, fuck, Alan," he managed to breathe. The fuse had been lit. He gazed up into Alan's face urgently.
"Take me home, now." He was desperate: afraid he would lose this moment, like a snowflake melting in his hand.
They hailed a black cab and fell into the back, kissing like a couple of drunken teenagers, Billy giggling as Alan hungrily grazed his cheeks with kisses. Alan was so hard up he no longer cared what anyone thought.
The taxi driver was watching them in the rear view mirror, amused. He was squinting at Billy, trying to place him. He'd get it eventually, after all, how many one armed TV presenters were there?
Billy popped up suddenly, catching sight of something through the window and crying out "Stop! Stop!" until the taxi driver screeched into a gap by the curb.
They fell out onto the footpath, shoving a ten pound note at the driver, and Billy ran back half a block, dashing into the chemist. Billy emerging a few minutes later with a paper bag that no doubt contained the essentials, trotting back up to Alan with his parcel like a happy retriever dog with a mallard.
Alan took Billy by the elbow and they quickened their pace, covering the last few blocks in record time to the Kilburn flat Billy kept when he was in London. His little investment, he called it, but for now it was home and they were barely through the door before Billy was pushed up against the door as it slammed shut. Mouths tore at each other and hands ripped at skin as clothing was pushed and scrunched out of their way. They scrabbled at belts and flies and underwear and dug into each other's pants and came too soon, gasping into each other's mouths, then resting cradled against each other.
After a moment Alan pulled back a little, allowing them to tuck themselves in a little. Billy's shirt was hanging open so very casually and his eyes were bright and he was looking very, very desirable.
"Shower," Billy smiled, brushing past Alan and luring him like a siren.
Alan grinned, a carnal grin, and crouched to pick up the paper bag and keys that Billy had dropped on the floor. He peeked into the contents of the bag: as he suspected, condoms and accoutrements, because Alan hadn't thought that far ahead, and a packet of cigarettes.
Damn Billy and his smoking. He'd always been a recreational smoker, but during his captivity some of the kids guarding him had taken pity on him and given him cigarettes, and Billy had smoked them out of appreciation and boredom. So he was smoking again.
Alan could see he was going to have to stock up on nicotine gum as well as condoms, because he couldn't stand it. Billy wasn't just smoking any ordinary cigarettes, oh no, he had to go and get a taste for Russian cigarettes, or Turkish ones, if he couldn't get those, and they were filthy things, smelling more like burnt camel dung than tobacco. The whole house reeked of them and Alan hated the damn things.
He could hear the shower already running as he slipped the keys in his pocket for safe keeping. Billy had stripped and was testing the water temperature warily with his hand - British showers always required engineering degrees to operate, being so needlessly complicated.
Alan was more concerned with containing his disappointment over his realisation that he wouldn't be able to bathe with Billy for the duration. Damn. He loved the feel of a slippery Billy in his arms and between his thighs. Showers just weren't the same.
Sex just wouldn't be the same. He caught Billy's hand, twining it with his own.
"I won't do anything that -" he began.
"It's okay," Billy finished for him, nuzzling Alan's hand. Then he pulled at the top of Alan's jeans. "Now get yer gear off or I'll pull you in fully clothed," he teased, affecting a British accent, mischief in his eyes.
Alan grinned his carnal grin and quickly shucked his clothes. He stepped under the shower and wrapped his arms around Billy, rubbing his cheek against Billy's shoulder.
Billy covered Alan's hand as it lay flat across his stomach, tracing the silver ring Alan still wore, the ring Alan never took off.
Alan pressed a kiss between Billy's shoulder blades.
"We'll take this as slow as you need."
"Slow is good," Billy agreed, turning in Alan's arms for a kiss that faltered nervously at first under the streaming water, Alan unsure of where to tread. It was Billy who eased them into their natural rhythms, guiding Alan. Slow and sweet they kissed and caressed and traced skin under the water, finding their way again. Slow and gentle, Alan was inside Billy, because Billy wanted him there. Slow and tender Alan made it last, drawing in and out in a long, slow dance until Billy, taken so carefully step by step to the top of the mountain, fell, and Alan was there to catch him in his arms. He rubbed his face against Billy's skin, sighed softly and spilled into his sheath.
Alan withdrew as lightly as possible, snapping off the condom, twisting it and tossing it out into the rubbish bin.
Billy turned and rested against him, eyes closed, sated yet a little sad that their lovemaking had taken on an unwelcome clinical aspect. That had been one of the greatest pleasures in loving Alan, the freedom they had with each other.
"Alright?" Alan asked.
Billy nodded against his shoulder.
"I needed to feel you. It makes this real, the rest a bad dream."
The sky had darkened at last, and Billy was lying on the couch, using Alan as a pillow, as he often did, half dozing in front of the television, neither of them really watching or listening.
Alan was playing softly with the short curling ends of Billy's honey coloured hair, growing out from the buzz cut at last, his fingertips gliding across Billy’s scalp. Billy was blissed out of his mind, and Alan knew it. He kissed the top of his lover's head fondly.
"The next time you see your doctors, I'd like to be there, as your partner. Is that okay?"
Alan had been excluded this time from Billy's rescue, and he'd not been able to see him until he'd been discharged and debriefed. Chastened and a little terrified by the bureaucracy, Alan had let himself be pushed aside and left out of it, and that had been a mistake. At the time he hadn't wanted to make a fuss, or draw attention to Billy's sexuality, but it wouldn't do. He needed to know what Billy was going through, as his partner. He needed to know the things Billy couldn't and wouldn't tell him.
Billy was a man, after all, and not given to sharing or admitting vulnerabilities unless absolutely necessary. Billy might be fine, like he said he was, and he might have toughened up. Certainly the knowledge that he could endure and survive the most extreme situations had given him a quiet confidence that was deeply charismatic.
Alan worried though that old wounds had been opened, both physical and emotional. Billy had always been a reckless boy, but life had smacked most of the silliness out of him. Alan missed that, in ways he'd never imagined he would. Billy had grown up in his eyes, from boy to man, in just a few short years.
He kissed Billy again. He wanted to ask if Billy knew when he might be getting a new arm, but that question would have to wait, because Billy was asleep.
Getting anew prosthetic arm unfortunately wasn't as easy as buying a new pair of shoes. It didn't help that Billy was a more difficult patient than most, with his amputation being so high and close to his body. Of course it would be, those damn animals had attacked him across the back and shoulders, biting right through to the bone in his arm and breaking it.
It hadn't looked so bad on the helicopter, all bandaged up and strapped down, and Billy had been as high as a kite on all the morphine they'd pumped through him, but it had been bad, very bad, and quite simply the arm had been mauled beyond saving.
How Billy had survived, and clutching Alan's hat of all things, no one would ever know, not even Billy. His ordeal was a jumbled mess of pain, delirium, blackouts and things best forgotten.
Billy's arm would have to be built and fitted to him. It wasn't cheap, it wasn't easy and it was painful and time consuming, but Billy needed a new arm for his job so it was something he had to endure.
Alan stroked the sleeping face with the impossibly long eyelashes softly.
He wished he could spare Billy any further pain, but it was simply beyond his
power to do so.