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Chaos Theory

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Alan Grant loves his life. That's a certified fact.

He doesn't love it because it's easy, though he supposes that in a lot of ways it is; he's a professor with tenure at a well-respected university and for the most part, even if it requires whoring himself to the media on occasion in ways that make him distinctly uncomfortable, his pet project out in Montana is well funded. He spends the summer there, Christmas, spring break, grading papers and setting exams on the rare occasions that he's not out there digging, cataloguing, getting his hands dirty. Once so far the school's acceded to his request for a year's sabbatical and he moved out there, packed up his place on the campus way up in the north east and lived out of a camper or a trailer or a tent depending what they had and when. He remembers the air mattress that would go flat in the night but somehow the ache in his back didn't deter him at all. All in all, he loves his life.

The dinosaurs have a lot to do with it, though in two distinct ways. It doesn't hurt that palaeontology is his passion in life, that he's been at it so long he could tell a species blindfolded from the shape of its skull or the curve of its spine. He loves dinosaurs and the world they inhabited, every period of their history – he used to listen to Ellie for hours as she spouted on about flora and fauna of the Cretaceous Period, has all of her books and read them not only from his sense of obligation. He can imagine how it was then, still does frequently, staring off into space while he sits at his desk the way Billy always says reminds him of his nephew making sandcastles at the beach. He supposes he does still think of dinosaurs with a childlike wonder, or he would have moved on.

Then there's the other way. But it's not something he likes to think about.

He's in his office now, in the Archaeology Department. There's a stack of papers awaiting grades on his desk but he's pushed them back, dangerously close to the edge where it's more than likely they'll fall off at some point if he's not careful, and he usually isn't. There's a book open but he's not reading, not only because the light's really too low at this time and with only the desk lamp on – it strains his eyes and he hates wearing his glasses even if they do make him look distinguished, so he's told. He should have left an hour or two ago, but the book on his desk, it's made him think.

There's an awful picture of the author on the back cover, black and white, probably because he thinks it looks classier. He hasn't changed at all, in the picture or at all – if he had, he wouldn't have sent the damn book in the first place. But apparently Ian Malcolm knows no shame, or he's under the mistaken impression that they share a bond because of Isla Nublar, because here the book is. He doesn't need to read it, any of it, to know he doesn't want to read it, how it's full of chaos this and chaos that because everything he writes always is. Alan always gets around to reading them sooner or later and each time he's reminded that the two of them have only one thing in common: they never want to go back to Jurassic Park.

Maybe he'll read it later, he thinks as he stuffs it into his bag. Maybe he'll let Billy read it first so he can give him the highlights – after Ian's unexpected visit to their corner of the world last spring, Billy even does a pretty good impression. But the whole thing, from the moment he tore open the wrapping this morning before his first class and right up to this second, just reminds him of the park. He can feel the ground tremble with the weight of the T-Rex, he can smell the triceratops, hear the raptors scream. He knows he'll never forget. He doubts that Billy will, either.

It was a strange time that he doesn't like to remember; Billy was in the hospital, in Costa Rica, for two weeks before he was ready to be moved. Alan stayed for the first few days, exhausted and occasionally snoring in a too-hard chair that made him feel even worse than that time on Isla Sorna, staring at the same four walls or eating bad cafeteria food while Billy slept. Alan couldn't name all the bones that he'd broken in his little stunt with the pterodon but he tried as he left, on the place, feeling sick. He told himself he couldn't justify staying and he went back to the States, went back to his dig, carried on though nothing about it seemed the same.

Billy called him when he came back into the country and they talked, awkwardly, because Alan had never really been one for small talk. Then Billy went to Washington, where his parents were, to a hospital there; Alan went to visit twice, sat there feeling uncomfortable in the extreme while Billy quizzed him about the dig, trying not to stare at the long metal pins sticking out of his broken leg. He couldn't stay long either time, made his excuses and got out of there quickly so he wouldn't have to see Billy look so utterly exhausted or deal with Billy's father the politician and all his inelegant questioning. He knew Billy's parents thought it was his fault. He didn't blame them in a way because he did, too.

Billy, on the other hand, never blamed him. He kept in touch as slowly he healed – he made Alan send data from the dig for him to analyse just to keep his mind busy. He came back to the school six months later and completed his PhD, then he took the job the faculty offered him at Alan's recommendation. Billy kissed him for that, full on the lips, pulled back embarrassed but didn't apologise; he remembers just how flustered he felt, clearing his throat and rubbing the back of his neck before they went back to work. Billy didn't mention it again but it stuck in Alan's mind.

In the end, it took three weeks to admit to himself what he wanted, then three months more to convince himself of what Billy wanted, too. Then he asked him to have dinner with him, stuttering almost, embarrassed the way he was sure a man of his age really shouldn't be. Billy teased him, pretended he didn't know what Alan was getting at when really he got the message loud and clear – that's something he's had to get used to since then, the teasing, until he grudgingly likes it. And so, they went out. They had steak and made conversation, Alan realising he didn't really mind hearing about the X-Games when it was Billy talking about it, even if it was just further proof that they really had little in common. That was what worried him, that and the age, but Billy didn't seem to mind and doesn't; he seemed to realise Alan would need a little push so he kissed him on the street outside his apartment then said good night.

It's been nearly three years since there, four and a half since Isla Sorna. Alan taps down his hat and heads for the door, wondering idly if Billy has something planned for them tonight or if it's going to be one of those nights they spend talking through each other's work, arguing in the best of senses, over a bottle of wine. They've been together all that time, through the teasing and jokes, vandalism, ugly letters they probably still have in a box somewhere because they've discovered even if they travel light, they're both packrats at heart. The house, so full of the junk of four continents' worth of excavations, is more than proof enough of that.

There's really only one difference between them that matters, and it's worrying to think it's exactly the point Alan has in common with his least favourite mathematician: Billy wants to go back. He's sort of the astronaut to Alan's astronomer, going there and doing that when Alan is content to observe. He thinks he's mad and they've fought about it more than once but in the end he knows, even if it meant seeing that place again, he'd wish Billy's leg would heal the way it ought to have. He still walks with a limp, a cane on the bad days. Sometimes Alan carries his bags but Billy hates that, though in the end they've come to an understanding – as long as Alan never treats him like an invalid, as long as he doesn't veto paragliding or maybe gentle kayaking, he can help without bringing on one of Billy's exaggerated sulks.

He'll give him Malcolm's book tonight, he thinks, and spend an hour almost working as he watches Billy read. They'll both be reminded but probably won't talk about it, the only sign of it in the way they stay too close to each other, almost touching, right up until they go to bed. All of this still seems new enough to Alan that wrapping an arm around his waist in bed will still send a thrilled shiver right through him, they'll kiss, make love that energetic way that Billy manages in spite of everything and that wears Alan out in the best way possible. In a way, Malcolm's probably done them a favour, but not the one he thinks. That's chaos for you.

Alan Grant loves his life, there's no doubt about it. Jurassic Park just reminds him of that.