Ian’s fingers keep up a steady beat against his thigh. His legs are stretched out in front of him, his lean body spread out across the seat in the small airplane. Next to him, Ellie’s eyes are trained outside the window. Her own fingers have practically worn through her khakis from where she keeps rubbing the material distractedly. She hasn’t even complained about Ian’s drumming, which Ian assumes means her mood is dire indeed.
“Best laid plans,” he murmurs softly to himself, stretching his back a little in the seat, and Ellie turns to look at him. “Didn’t expect I’d ever be making this trip again,” he clarifies. Her lips twist a little in a rueful smile.
“Thought you’d be using this as a prime example of chaos theory,” she says.
“You know me,” he says, voice demure despite the glint in his eyes, “I hate to brag about always being right.”
She grins at that—it’s fast and fleeting, but she does. Her gaze slides to the window for a moment, and then back to him.
“He’ll be fine,” she says firmly. “And after we make sure he’s fine, I’m going to kill him.”
“You—ah—you didn’t like the melodrama of having his grad student fax us letters if he didn’t return?” Ian asks.
“I’d have preferred a phone call. And him not running off to play with the dinosaurs. But I see how that’s asking a lot,” she snaps. Her fingers twist uncomfortably in her lap. “I told the board that I had a family emergency and needed a sub for an indeterminate amount of time. Inconsiderate jackass,” she says.
Ian, who’s well aware that she’s far more worried than irritated, nods solemnly.
“I probably should’ve acquired a sub,” he says. Ellie shoots him an outraged look.
“You didn’t get a sub? But what will your students do?”
“I like to think of it as a practical lesson on chaos theory,” Ian says, the corner of his eyes crinkling up. “Sometimes your professor disappears for days at a time, and who could have expected that?”
Ellie laughs, then, even if it’s a bit restrained and her eyes still worried. “Ian Malcolm. You’re a terrible professor.”
He smiles, slow and easy. “I teach them everything they need to learn,” he says. “Perhaps my guidelines differ from others, but I’ve yet to hear anyone complain.”
The grass is wet beneath his feet, and he slips a little before catching his balance. His hand slams into the side of a tree, the bark scraping his skin, as he slides, and then he’s off and running once more. Air burns in his throat, but all he can concentrate on is the sound of movement behind him, and the way sweat is pooling at the small of his back.
“Billy said Alan wanted him to mail us the letters,” Ellie says. She looks at the pack at her feet, which she’d thrown together in the few short hours she’d had before getting a ride to the airport and getting on a plane to meet Ian. “If Billy hadn’t faxed them to us, who knows when we would’ve figured out what was going on.”
“I mean, how could he do this to us? Tell us in a letter that he’s giving an aerial tour of Isla Sorna? Funding for the dig or not, does he have a death wish?”
“If he thought it would be safe,” Ian says, quietly agreeing with her, “He wouldn’t have written us those letters in the first place.”
Ellie flushes a little, thinking of what he’d written to her, of the chicken scratch apology in words more touching than she’s ever heard him speak. Ellie, if something goes wrong—which is not so unlikely given everything—if something goes wrong, then I’m sorry. I owe it to you to say it to your face, but in case I don’t have that chance, I’m sorry. I should’ve told you that I always wanted you to stay.
“He hasn’t been the same these last few years,” she says. “That’s why I took that sabbatical two years ago. I just…I needed a break. And then I was offered that teaching position and…”
“It’s a good job, Ellie,” Ian says.
“I know,” she says. “Alan told me I should take it,” she says. “Did I tell you that? He told me they’d be damned lucky to have me, and that it would open up a lot of opportunities.”
“Alan Grant encouraged you to get a desk job?” Ian asks, looking amused.
The three of them have kept in contact over the eight years since Isla Nublar. The last time they were all together was for Tim’s high school graduation—they became, after everything, surrogate aunt and uncles to Lex and Tim, sending Christmas cards and birthday checks and occasionally stopping by for visits. (Tim's often talked to Alan quite seriously about classes and girls and the future. Alan answers most of his questions, but often sends him to Ian for girl advice.)
Ellie tends to send emails and handwritten letters quite often. Usually at least once a month she’ll wring a telephone conversation from the other two. She and Ian often email back and forth amusing stories from classes and their respective students, but Alan, especially lately, has been harder and harder to get ahold of. Ian tends to make grand gestures—over the years he’s showed up on Ellie’s doorstep more than once with a dress and heels for her to change into and reservations at some fancy restaurant. He’s stolen Alan away when he was in town, and they’d spent the day bickering at museums or bickering on long walks or—one memorable time—bickering on a sailboat. He’s given both of them flowers with flourishes and amused glances; Ellie had smiled, flattered, and put them in water, and Alan had raised an eyebrow at the single blossom and tucked it into his buttonhole.
If Ellie is constant and sure, and Ian is a sporadic romantic, Alan is careful. He forgets birthdays and sends cards too late and tends to have his head stuck in his work, but he also drives out and helps Ellie put furniture together and answers the phone when Ian calls at three a.m. because he can’t sleep. If he forgets the days and mixes together holidays, he is still always there when it matters. Except these last few years.
“You know,” Ian says after a pause. “Four years ago, after San Diego but before Sarah left again, he flew out to see me. He took me out and we got blindingly drunk.”
“Alan?” she asks, because he drinks, but she’s never seen him set out to get drunk.
“I—ah—honestly I don’t know that I’ve ever been that drunk before,” Ian says. He smiles a little, looking almost longingly reminiscent. “I didn’t know he had it in him,” he adds.
Ian, Alan had written, If anything happens, take care of Ellie and Tim and Lex, will you? And let them take care of you? I know how irresponsible you are, and how much you need someone checking in on you. I know I haven’t kept an eye on you as much this last year or two, and I’m sorry for that.
“He was worried about you,” Ellie says softly. She remembers when she first heard about the San Diego incident. Alan had paced and called everyone he possibly could until he’d finally called Hammond and chewed him out for ever letting Ian go back, and for not letting Alan and Ellie know. She remembers that feeling of despair and those waves of memories as the footage from San Diego had rolled, and the helplessness she’d heard in Alan’s voice.
(Sometimes, sometimes she thinks that was the beginning of the end, because Alan had needed to be able to protect Ian, and he hadn’t.)
Behind him, a noise splits the air. It’s something between a shriek and a roar, and it’s a sound that’s too often haunted his dreams, and now it’s following on his heels. Before his lungs can give out entirely, he launches himself at a low branch of a tree. The impact has him momentarily off balance, and then he’s a hand around a branch further up and pulling himself up. He climbs high into the tree, leaving the dinosaurs below as he makes his escape.
“Guys,” the pilot says, leaning out from the cockpit, his voice straining unreasonably high, “Guys, we’ve got a problem.”
“What’s going on?” Ellie asks, leaning forward in her seat. The pilot doesn’t have a chance to answer before the front of the plane explodes. Ellie shrieks and slams back into her seat as the small plane swerves and then drops drastically in the air.
Ian unfastens his seatbelt and staggers to his feet, groping for the emergency parachute pack secured to the back wall. He lands hard against the side of the plane as it rolls, and he can just about feel the bruises blossom on his skin, but his fingers snag the strap and the pack falls into his arms.
“Ellie!” he yells, and he meets her terrified eyes across the small space. She’s always had a backbone of steel and a well of fire inside her, though, and she takes off her seatbelt and stands, practically falling into his arms as the plane shifts further on its side, ducking into the strap of her bag.
Ian pulls the straps around himself and then attaches an anchor to her belt, pulling him tightly against him. She feels a soft brush of his mouth against the side of her head, and then he’s yanked the emergency door open and they’re falling into the air’s embrace. It’s cold, and high, and she can’t think much beyond the wrap of his arms around her, and the way her fingers haves curled into the folds of his shirt underneath his jacket.
He pulls the cord, and the parachute flows out above them, catching them; the gravity catches up with her stomach and her insides feel out of place and beneath them it’s green and dangerous. Ian’s leg curls around hers, pulling her in closer as the air hisses past them, and she concentrates on the smell of his cologne as they fall.
Alan switches between the channels on the walkie talkie until he finally hears voices. He keeps the volume turned low as a precaution, even though he’s some thirty feet up from the ground.
“We shot down […] plane,” he makes out through the static. “No sign…survivors. Will search…area.”
Alan frowns. While he’d come out here to give an aerial tour—or what passed for one considering he’s never even been to this island before—to a wealthy couple, he’d been unceremoniously been hit over the head and knocked out as the plane landed. Upon waking up, he’d found himself in the middle of a poaching ring. They said they needed his expertise on raptors in order to both catch live raptors for a wealthy man’s private endangered animal zoo, as well as kill them in order to sell their heads and claws to private collectors.
He’d only escaped last night, which had been a struggle given not only the high security but the working over they’d given him when he’d at first refused to comply.
Why there’d be an airplane coming in that they’d have to shoot down, he has no clue, but he feels as if he should find out; given the danger anyone on this island is in, it’s alarming to consider innocent people might just have been dropped headlong into this mess.
Ellie and Ian wake up mostly in each other’s arms. The tree is firm beneath them, and she knows she’s going to have to stretch when she stands, because everything is stiff and sore by now, but the heat of Ian’s arm across her body is oddly comforting, she thinks. They’d landed safely the night before, and taken refuge in a tree to pass the night, figuring they’d wait until morning to see what they could salvage from the plane.
“Hey,” she says, prodding him in the side, and it takes him a moment to stir, his eyes fluttering open lazily until memory returns. He bolts upright.
“Everything all right?” he asks, his usual languid way of speaking turning sharper and more hurried as his eyes rake the area.
“As far as I know,” she says. “We should probably get moving, though.”
“Of course,” he says, his voice turning downright amused, “We’ve a missing paleontologist to find.”
They follow the path to the still-smoking wreckage without much difficulty, but as they draw closer, they realize that they’re not alone. They can hear the steady thrum of a car engine in the distance, and they wait in the bushes until it drives past. It’s an InGen Jeep, and the men inside are heavily armed.
Alan finds an old trail and works his way towards one of the old InGen buildings. He’s halfway there when he hears the voice behind him; he curses himself roundly for forgetting that they’re poachers, and that they’re used to sneaking up on their prey.
“Grant,” the one with the gun pointed at him says. “Enjoy your little jaunt?”
The second is less vocal, but the right hook gets his message across pretty clearly.
Ian and Ellie follow the men with the guns back to the old InGen lab that they’ve evidently made their base of operations. From what they can tell, there’s around twenty of them. They have a few old InGen Jeeps running and enough guns to have either of them worried. They aren’t as organized as they first appear, though; Ian and Ellie catch a spectacular yelling match about Grant getting away.
“What do you think’s going on?” Ellie whispers to Ian. Ian’s stripped off his jacket, and his tight black shirt would be a little distracting for her in any other situation, but right now she’s just appreciative of both it and the way Ian’s eyes have narrowed thoughtfully as he surveys the area.
“I don’t know,” he whispers back. “I don’t think this has anything to do with InGen, though. It doesn’t look like they have a whole lot of money backing them, for one.”
“But why did they bring Alan?” she asks. “Why trick him into coming here?”
A radio crackles in one of the men’s hands, and Ian and Ellie quiet and strain their ears.
“Boss, we picked up Grant near Station 10. We’re heading back now.”
They throw Alan into the backseat of the open-top Jeep Wranger. He flails for a second as momentum carries him forward, and before he can stop himself he slides off the edge and lands between the rows of seats, cracking his elbow in the process. He lies there more a moment, considering things.
The ropes around his wrists and ankles are digging into his skin, and he’s trapped somewhere in the wilds of Isla Sorna, dinosaurs abounding, and there are two letters traveling across the United States en route to the only two people that might actually miss him. He drops his head back against the floor and tries to give himself a pep talk, but it stutters off after he thinks it could be worse, anything further drowned out by an earth-shattering roar.
The Tyrannosaur approaches and Alan squirms in the backseat, vainly struggling against the bonds around his wrists and ankles. It roars again, and his throat works unsteadily. In the front seat, the two poachers are yelling each other and trying to find the keys they must have dropped while tying up Alan.
The one with the right hook finally jumps out of the passenger seat and takes off running, while the other starts trying to hotwire the jeep. The T-Rex butts its head against the first, throwing him against a nearby tree. He screams in the half-second before he connects with it and then quiets on impact, slumping unconscious on the ground.
Alan tries to burrow farther down in the seat, forcing himself to go lax despite the tension that’s thrumming through his body. The man in the front seat doesn’t take the advice Alan can’t give through the gag, and keeps fumbling with the wires beneath the dashboard, a steady litany of curses working their way through his mouth.
The T-Rex catches the top half of his body in its mouth and lifts him—kicking, struggling, suddenly lax—out of the car, passing directly above Alan. Alan’s fingernails dig into his palms and sweat pools at his nape and the small of his back and he can’t breathe for wanting to scream, but he holds himself together, barely.
It finishes its meal before it leaves.
Alan’s muscles are trembling minutely by the time it goes.
It’s Ellie that crawls forward, staying low and out of sight, and slashes the tires of the InGen Jeep. There’s a quick hiss as the knife eases through, and then it grows louder as it starts to escape. Ian’s working on the other Jeep, and she can see the black splash of his clothes underneath it. Ellie snags a handmade map of the island off one of the seats as she starts back, skimming it for Station 10.
Alan’s managed to tip himself out of the Jeep. He’s collected a few scrapes from landing on the ground without being able to catch himself, and he’s still not managed to free himself from the ropes digging into his skin. He manages to at least get away from the Jeep, tucking himself behind a tree and trying to slow his heart, which has been beating erratically ever since the T-Rex first appeared.
When he first hears the footsteps approaching, he folds himself in tighter, his wrists—already rubbed raw and near bleeding—straining desperately against their bonds.
“Do you see him?” a woman’s voice asks, but he knows that voice. He knows that voice as he knows his own name. Ellie.
“It looks like a T-Rex was here,” Ian’s voice says softly, and Alan can’t help the noise that attempts to escape the gag in his mouth, because Ellie and Ian. He’s scrambling to find purchase on the ground and move, but even his slipping against the trunk of the tree is enough noise for them to hear.
“Did you hear that?” Ellie asks, and he can hear them draw closer until finally they’ve come around the tree and he can see them.
“Alan!” Ian practically throws himself down next to him and starts on the rope around his wrists; Ellie unties the gag in his mouth.
“You had us worried,” Ellie chides softly, her fingers gentle against his face, and he doesn’t quite manage to stop himself from leaning into her touch.
“What are you doing here?” Alan asks, his mouth cottony. Ellie pulls out a bottle of water and lifts it to his lips.
“Why do you think?” Ian says wryly, finally giving up on the rope and pulling out his pocketknife. “What mess did you end up getting yourself into, anyway?”
“They’re poachers,” Alan says as Ian cuts through the rope. “They brought me because they wanted to know how to kill raptors.”
Ian’s slender fingers pause on the rope at that, and he and Ellie exchange looks.
“They’re not InGen?” she asks. Alan hisses as the ropes come loose, angry red welts revealed beneath them as Ian eases them away.
“No, they’re working for some rich bastards with too much money and not nearly enough common sense,” Alan growls. “But what are you doing here?” Alan asks. Ian’s eyes narrow, and his grip on Alan’s arm tightens almost painfully.
“Would you—ah—have preferred we left you to be eaten?” he asks. Alan fairly glowers.
“Did they bring you here, too?” he asks, and there’s a note of possessiveness and protectiveness in his voice that would be downright charming if Ian weren’t so inclined to kill him.
“We’re rescuing you,” he growls. “Remember writing your fare thee wells?”
“I didn’t write those letters so you’d come here and get yourselves killed!” Alan says. His fingers curl in the edge of his jacket and he lifts his chin a little. “They were just to tell you a few things I should’ve told you by now,” he says, his voice dropping unexpectedly.
Ian and Ellie exchange matching frowns.
“You didn’t think we’d come for you?” Ellie asks. “Why wouldn’t we come for you?”
“I just didn’t want the pair of you hurt,” Alan says, but Ellie’s had practice with him avoiding answering a question, and she slides closer to him, her fingers tangling with his. “You shouldn’t even have the letters yet.”
“Billy sent them early. Alan, you’d come for us,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter,” Alan says, and now he just sounds worn out. “You’re here now, and there’s nothing to be done about it.”
“We’re adults,” Ian says sharply. “We made the decision to come here because we care about you, you idiot.”
Alan’s eyes skim Ian’s face at that—the angular features and the soft lips, the intent eyes so close to his own. Ellie cuts through the rope around Alan’s ankles and leans in to the both of them.
“We’ll always come for you, Alan,” she says, sounding a little world-wearied by the fact this isn’t obvious to him. “Now come on, we need to move.”
Ian’s hands settle against Alan’s sides as he helps him up; Alan’s a little too battered to be climbing trees easily. It’s clear from his eyes that he’s exhausted, and what with the dinosaurs and the men with guns, speed is certainly the better part of valor right now. Finally they find a wide enough place to settle, their backs to the trunk.
Ellie leans in against Alan’s side. Ian obligingly crowds him in on his other side.
“I’m fine,” Alan says, frowning at the both of them in turn. Ellie pats his hand and Ian nods sagely.
“Of course you are,” Ellie says.
Alan’s eyebrows lower even further.
“I don’t need you mothering me, Ellie, and I sure as hell don’t need you trying it, Ian!” he growls out. They snuggle in a little closer, Ellie tipping her head against his shoulder.
“Shush,” Ellie says.
“Some of us are trying to get some rest,” Ian says.
Ellie’s eyes sparkle with amusement as she looks across Alan’s body and meets Ian’s eyes; Ian looks thoughtful as his fingers curl lightly around Alan’s wrist. Alan is exhausted, and he’s cold, and the warmth of their bodies is more than enough to quiet him. There’s more to it than that, he knows—more to the way his heart leaps traitorously as they curl protectively around him—but for now he soaks in the heat of their skin and closes his eyes.
In the morning, Alan wakes first. He knows he should wake the two of them, but it’s hard to pull away from soft skin and sleep-lax faces. There’s innocence in Ian’s face, a naiveté brought about only in slumber, and there’s a familiarity to Ellie’s that tugs at his heart and sends reproaches tumbling through him. He wakes them anyway. Alan has always done the necessary.
Ian grumbles for a while. Ellie scrubs her hands across her face.
“Tell me you brought a satellite phone,” Alan says. “Tell me you’ve some way of contacting Hammond.”
“We brought a satellite phone,” Ellie says.
“It—ah—it was in the plane,” Ian adds.
“Of course it was,” Alan says. “We could try to steal one from the poachers.”
“Perhaps a plan with a smaller chance of us being shot?” Ian suggests.
“Most of those have a higher chance of us being eaten.” Alan snarks.
“What about the InGen stations? Maybe we could find an emergency generator and a working phone?”
“Well,” Ellie says, glancing between the two of them, “It’s worth a shot.”
Ellie finds them edible berries to eat as they walk. More than once they have to hide from something or someone, and each time they crowd together; Ellie’s hair in Ian’s face and Alan’s hands on Ian’s hip. Ellie tries not to hover too much, but the bruise on Alan’s cheekbone has left her anxious and unhappy. Ian seems to feel the same, given the way he keeps a hand near Alan's elbow.
“You planning on staying in the field forever?” Ian asks, after a while, making conversation. Alan rubs the back of his neck thoughtfully before shrugging.
“What’s that saying about teaching an old dog new tricks?” he says, his lips tugging up slightly in a wry smile.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Ian drawls, his eyes trailing lazily up Alan’s body. “I bet I could teach you to beg,” he smirks.
Alan turns a deep, deep red; any reply dies on his lips, and he stares at Ian silently. To the side, Ellie starts cackling.
They’re interrupted by finally seeing one of the InGen stations rising up out of the trees before them; Alan breathes in a relieved inhale and leads them forward.
Just inside the station, past the destroyed doors, their luck runs out.
The raptor advances, and Alan has a hand splayed open on Ian’s chest, a hand on Ellie’s wrist to hold her back. He hasn’t realized yet that they’ve walked into a trap for the raptor, but Ellie’s looking at the net above them and the shadows in the far doorway.
“Alan,” she hisses, tugging him, and he stumbles on a step back but keeps his footing.
When the net drops, it catches the four of them—Ian, Ellie, Alan, and the raptor.
But raptors hunt in packs.
Ian and Ellie are trying to cut themselves out and Alan’s still trying to back away from the now enraged raptor, and three poachers come out, laughing.
“Looks like we managed without your help, Dr. Grant,” one of them smirks. Alan’s a bit too busy to respond to the gloating, though. And when two more raptors skid into the room, speaking to their trapped comrade, the three poachers are, too.
One of them gets off a few shots, and one of the raptors falls. The other screams and attacks, and Ellie and Ian drag Alan out of the heavy netting, and one of the poachers calls for backup over his walkie. The third poacher yells and then screams as the raptor pounces atop him, and the three of them flee; they slap the door shut behind them and flip the lock and try to remember what breathing consists of.
“You know,” Ian pants, “You don’t always need to shove everyone else behind you.”
Alan shoots him an irritable look but deigns to comment.
“Good talk,” Ellie says wryly, “But I found a phone.”
They call Hammond.
(They call Lex, because Ellie remembers her number, because Lex calls and talks to her often, because the boys in computer science classes are often awful and sometimes Lex needs to hear that being a woman in a boy’s club is worth it at the end.
Lex calls Hammond, keeping her cool in a way that makes the three of them endlessly proud, although maybe they’ll reflect on how grown up she is after they’re no longer in danger of being eaten.
Hammond calls the whole damn military.)
After the airport, after Hammond, after debriefing with the authorities about the poaching ring and after a trip to the hospital for several stitches and bandages, and after an overnight stay in a hotel that involves falling into a restless sleep around five a.m., after all of that, Ellie takes them home.
She tells Hammond, quietly, when he mentions buying them tickets home, and he nods and changes the tickets and smiles at her quietly.
On the airplane, Ellie takes the window seat and Ian sprawls his long legs into the aisle. They sandwich in a vaguely protesting Alan between them, and if Ian’s hand rests proprietarily on Alan’s leg and if Ellie catches Alan’s fingers in her own, they don’t mention it.
Ellie has a nice place outside of a college town; the land rolls out on all sides and fields glint in the distance with the fading sunlight and Ellie smiles a little as she ushers them in. Ellie presses cold beers in their hands and Alan stands out on the porch, eyeing the far off horizon and the way the wooden rail feels beneath his fingertips. Ian tips back the bottle and swallows, his throat working. The lines of his face are thrown into sharp edges and shadowed panes in the half-light until Ellie brings out a small lantern.
Ellie curls up on the old wooden swing that Alan helped her put up not long after she bought this place. She can still remember the way his fingers lingered on his tools. She can still remember the way he never asked her to stay. She catches the beer label beneath her fingernail and works it loose until it flutters in the warm breeze.
Ian’s thrown his jacket somewhere inside the house and sprawls out next to her, his long limbs loose and easy. He keeps up easy, one-sided chatter for a while as Alan scans the distance and Ellie waits.
“What if I stayed,” Alan says at long last. He doesn’t turn to face them, his voice rolling low in the space between them.
Ellie stays quiet and watches the shape of his shoulders and he leans his weight forward on the rail.
“I have enough data to go through. I want to go over my findings with linguists and animal behavioralists. I don’t need to be in digs to do research. I could stay.”
She leans against the side of the bench swing, the ground shifting beneath her feet. The wind catches the loose hair around her face, softening her somehow, and Ian watches the pair of them, the push and pull of them.
“Could you?” she asks. Just that, posed without sarcasm or challenge. It’s enough to make Alan falter; it’s enough to make him turn to face them.
“Yes,” he says. The word transforms as it travels across his tongue, becoming something more than the sum of its syllables.
Ian’s fingers fumble with the chain of the swing. He steadies his feet on the ground and shifts on the bench, preparing to stand. It’s Ellie’s hand on his arm that makes him pause. It’s the way Alan’s eyes have shifted to pin him in place.
“And you?” Ellie asks. Ian’s confused for a moment, flustered and unsure, because no one has ever asked him to stay, certainly no one who knows him as well as these two do.
“And I—ah—I—ah what?” he half-stutters out, a quizzical smile spread across his face. Alan leans his shoulder against the post, his face shadowed.
Ellie thinks about the letters Alan wrote, and the meaning behind the sentences. She thinks of being in a tunnel with only Ian’s voice over the walkie to guide her, and Ian’s arms tight across her back as they leapt out of the airplane. She thinks of Alan getting Ian drunk, and Ian taking Alan out to see awful movies, and the way the three of them have always found each other, and always come for each other.
She leans into Ian and presses her lips against his, following instinct and swallowing a prayer. Ian is quick to startle, turning to look at Alan, but Alan is watching them quietly.
“Stay,” he says.
Alan wakes up early every morning and makes coffee. He’s a guest professor at the university this semester, teaching one class and giving a series of lectures. When he’s not there, or in Ellie or Ian’s offices, he spends time at libraries poring over books or corresponding with various experts. He converted one of the two spare bedrooms into an office, and tends to glower when Ian comes in and looks over his shoulder, and he is sketching, from book and link and the endless notes he has kept all these years, a picture of raptors and their behaviors and their society.
Ian found a full-time position at the university, and he and Ellie often drive in to work together. Ian often sits in the passenger seat and finishes making notes for class topics for the day while Ellie shakes her head disapprovingly, but he is a surprisingly good cook and he can make her forgive him. Sometimes he disappears with a pen and notebooks and takes long walks around the area, and more often than not he forgets his phone. He presses open-mouthed kisses to Alan’s neck when he’s working, and he coaxes Ellie into heated kisses in the parking lot, and more than once he hasn’t given the other two a chance to make it to the bedroom before clothing is off and bodies are pressed together.
Ellie is up for departmental head, and she’ll probably get it. She stays up late some nights grading papers, and the other two will already be curled up together in the king-sized bed by the time she turns in, but always they pull her in, half-awake and still reaching for her. Alan washes and she dries the dishes after Ian makes dinner, and she sings old songs badly in the shower and let’s Ian cut her hair despite Alan’s dire predictions. She’s taken to sketching again, sometimes, at night, when they’re all out on the porch and Ian’s hooked up his old record player and they’re breathing in the night air and letting the taste of beer and freshly cut fruit linger on their tongues.
They stay together.