Alan lowered the brim of his hat to shade his eyes from the relentless Montana sun, paused a moment to watch Billy, who was lying on his stomach, face creased with concentration as he carefully brushed dirt off of the bones they were slowly uncovering. He gently blew away some of the dirt, and a cloud of dust rose, surrounded his face before dissipating.
The dirt got everywhere, even when there wasn’t a breeze stirring. Billy had dirt smudges on the butt and hip of his jeans, and Alan knew his front would be covered when he finally took a break and sat up. It got into your eyes and your nose and your mouth, and sometimes it choked you. It got inside your clothing, coating sweat slicked skin until it dried and cracked, turning to mud under the shower spray.
The one place it didn’t stay was where Alan sometimes wished it would. Billy’s scars. The scars he’d gotten when he’d stolen on Alan’s behalf, and then lied to him, when he’d nearly died in his attempt to save Erik. To save Alan. No matter how much dirt covered the rest of Billy’s skin, the scars, some fine, thin lines, others raised and bumpy ropes of skin, cast it off, gleamed white against the darker tone of dirt-limned skin as if to make sure Alan wouldn’t miss seeing them.
Not that he could. Alan saw them during his waking hours, at the neckline of Billy’s shirts, the scars from claw and beak that crisscrossed Billy’s collarbone, and in his nightmares, where Alan was forced to watch as Billy was cut to ribbons and, still shrieking, devoured before his eyes.
Alan shook his head, shook away the memory of the nightmares that brought him screaming to shaking and sweating wakefulness, and continued on to Billy. When his shadow fell across him, Billy turned his head, squinted into the sun and smiled up at Alan. Alan felt his own lips curve in response. The sight of Billy, breathing and smiling and working, was enough to dispel the nightmares that plagued Alan’s sleep, the memories that tormented his thoughts. Usually.
“Mr. Brennan,” Alan greeted him with a formality that felt almost like a pet name.
Billy’s smile widened. His return, “Dr. Grant,” sent shivers along Alan’s spine.
Alan pushed his hat back, looked up at the sky. “Funding ran out two days ago.”
Billy effortless twisted around and sat up. “I know,” he said simply.
Alan felt Billy’s eyes on him, but Alan was afraid he wouldn’t be able to make the offer if he had to look Billy in the face while doing so.
“Given any thought to changing your major?”
“You’re kidding, right? And leave all this?”
Alan heard the smile in Billy’s voice. He glanced down, watched Billy gesture around them at the dig, their camp, felt his breath catch at the way Billy’s eyes never left his face.
Trying not to give away his relief at Billy’s response, Alan said, “I was just on the phone with Cummings.”
“Gerald Cummings?” Billy unfolded with a grace Alan’s knees no longer afforded him and stood, grasped Alan’s arms. Alan nodded and Billy grinned. The glee shining in his eyes, combined with the streak of dirt across his cheek, made him look sixteen. “What did he want?”
“He wants a book,” Alan said.
Billy bounced in place, vibrated with excitement, leaving Alan shaking in his wake. “That’s fantastic!” His eyes took on a faraway glaze. “You’ll get an advance, of course. A big one, don’t let them screw you on that, and then we can stay open, you’ll write, I’ll work the dig, maybe hire one more person, buy some food, because those MREs are horrible, and . . . .”
“Actually,” Alan said, finally able to break into Billy’s plans for their immediate future, “that’s not quite right.”
Billy’s face went carefully blank. “Which part?”
“The advance part. We will be getting an advance. That is, if you agree to co-author with me.”
The expressions crossed Billy’s face so quickly Alan barely had time to make them out. “Yes! Are you sure? Because yes, of course, you have to be kidding, this is the best thing . . . .”
Alan kissed Billy, partly to shut him up, and partly because Alan couldn’t resist any longer, a quick buss on his lips that could be explained away to the excitement of the moment if need be. Billy’s eyes went really wide and he stared at Alan’s lips.
“That part’s not mandatory, of course,” Alan started, worried that he’d screwed up their writing partnership before it had even begun.
“The hell it isn’t,” Billy said, and when he kissed Alan it was nothing that could be explained away. He bit and licked at Alan’s lips until Alan was force in sheer self-defense to let him into his mouth, and then he plundered -- and Alan would die before he admitted to anyone that he’d thought that -- Alan’s mouth.
Alan heard someone moan and he thought it might be him. He felt himself falling, and then his knees hit the hard ground, then his back. He felt the gritty dirt against the back of his head, his neck, sifting through his shirt, but Billy was on top of him, sliding over him and around him, his hand tugging at Alan’s shirt even as he clung to his shoulder, and the fact that he was lying in the dirt, about to be thoroughly and completely covered in it, didn’t matter in the slightest.
“Billy, Billy,” Alan said, and when Billy looked up at him, eyes bright, lips red and swollen, the admonition to slow down, they had all day, dried up in his mouth. “Hurry,” he said, dragging Billy’s shirt out of his waistband, and watched the smile bloom across Billy’s face.
Billy kissed him again, and Alan’s fingers slipped beneath his shirt, traced the scars on Billy’s back -- the fine one over his kidney, the thick rope of skin along his ribs -- and somehow Billy’s deft fingers had Alan’s shirt out of his waistband, one hand sliding over his belly as the other worked to unfasten his trousers.
“You’re getting dirty,” Billy whispered, as he shoved his hand inside Alan’s undershorts.
Alan groaned. “Christ, I hope so.”
Billy laughed, and the sound of it vibrated through Alan. He rolled them to the side so he could get at Billy’s waistband. Billy’s eyes fell closed and his head dropped back as he pushed eagerly into Alan’s hand before Alan had even managed to get it inside his shorts.
“Please, please,” Billy pleaded, “don’t make me wait anymore.”
The thought of Billy waiting for this, waiting for him, made Alan’s belly flutter. He lowered his head, licked along the scars marking Billy’s collarbone, tasted salt and dirt and Billy.
“I like getting dirty with you,” Alan whispered, and Billy let out a surprised huff of laughter before he stiffened, then came over Alan’s fingers with a sweet little groan that set Alan off.
Faces pressed together, they panted through the aftershocks of their orgasms.
“Wow,” Billy moaned. “That was . . . .”
“Surprising? Awful? Surprisingly awful?” Alan guessed without giving Billy a chance to finish.
Billy chuckled a little breathlessly. “Amazing,” Billy said, almost shyly tucking his face against Alan’s shoulder. “In fact, I wouldn’t turn down an encore.”
Alan thought his heart might burst out of his chest. “Are you certain about this, Billy?” Alan asked softly, as he pressed his fingertips against the hot, sweat-slicked skin of Billy’s back to reassure himself that Billy was still there, whole, covered with dirt and sweat and come instead of blood.
Billy’s lips brushed Alan’s neck when he said, “I am.”
“I’ve been told that I have a one-track mind,” Alan warned, unnecessarily, since Billy already knew this from personal experience, and had, in fact, told him so on more than one occasion.
Billy wiggled suggestively against Alan. “Mmm, I like that about you. Although,” he added, and Alan’s heart skipped a beat, “maybe after a shower, with a bed this time. Oh, and food, though, really, whoever thought MREs were a good ide—.”
Alan shut Billy up with a kiss. Just as Billy wanted, if the way he curled himself around Alan and kissed him back was any indication.