Actions

Work Header

A Strange Attractor in a Stable System

Work Text:

Ellie looks genuinely pleased to see him. Alan doesn't, but then, Alan's Alan, so Ian figures that he's really scoring two-out-of-two here.

"You should have called. We do have phones, you know," Alan says.

"One," Ellie corrects him - fondly, Ian judges; there's definitely something going on here for him to get either in on or mess up beyond all repair. (Well, all of his ex-wives are still talking to him, so depending on the way you look at it, he's either doing great or long overdue for a spectacular mess.) "And it's out half the time."

"It's the dirt," Alan says. He looks dusty rather than dirty, but Ian decides not to quibble. He's a chaotician, not a geologist. "It gets everywhere."

Ian tries to think of some intelligent and preferably slightly suggestive direction to take that comment in, but he's drawing a bit of a blank. It's probably the fact that he hasn't been sleeping very well lately.

"Come on, we'll find you a nice tent," Ellie says, smiling like the good, kind-hearted person Ian isn't.

"Sounds great."

 

There's a campfire in the evening. Ian checks for anyone with marshmallows or, worse, a guitar before joining the circle.

He's heard of some people having fond childhood memories of camping trips with Mom and Dad, or of being shipped off to Summer Camp. Ian prefers hotels himself, and not shipping off his kids unless he's sure that it's what they genuinely want themselves, instead of what's convenient for the grown-ups. (It seems the least he can do for them, really. Basic decency.)

"I thought you'd be busy working on your next book," Alan says. He's wearing his hat, presumably to protect him against mosquitoes or something. " 'How I Almost Got Eaten by Dinosaurs', the new best-seller by Ian Malcolm."

There are times when Ian truly wants to kiss the man. Possibly with tongue, although he thinks Alan might be the type to object to that sort of stuff on a first date (without, of course, using the term 'date').

"Not really my style." His leg still hurts, sometimes. His doctor tells him it's psychosomatic, which is a fancy way of saying he thinks Ian's only imagining it.

"Alan's working on a new book," Ellie volunteers. She's sitting on the other side of Alan, close enough for Ian to talk to her but not so close that Alan will feel threatened.

Alan shrugs. "Well, you know what the say. It's a 'publish or perish' world out there."

"Is that what they say?" Ian doesn't pay much attention to what his colleagues are publishing. He's got a pretty good idea of how to package complex ideas in words that non-mathematically-inclined people will understand; that's good enough for him. "Does that mean you're working on something, too, Dr Sattler?"

"Well, paleo-biology's just a little - I don't know, boring? To most people, at least. I mean, on the one side, you've got dinosaurs. On the other side, plants. It's not exactly a fair competition."

"I wrote a book about abstract ideas and numbers, and I scored a best-seller," Ian says.

"You know, I read your book. I liked it. So did Alan."

"Thank you," Ian says.

Alan looks like he wants to protest, or at the very least make Ellie's statement less absolute, more conditional. Yes, he liked the book, but.

"I read yours, too. And Bakker's, for comparison." And because Ian likes to be thorough, to hear both sides of an argument before judging both of them to be inadequate, incorrect.

Alan scowls. Ellie smiles. "Scientists, huh? So should Alan and I look for some - what's the opposite of a chaos theorist? An order theorist?"

"The nice thing about abstract ideas is that there's very little in the way of physical evidence." Ian taps his temple. "It's all in here, you see. Thoughts, ideas. Hard to call someone out for getting it wrong."

"That's not how I remember it," Alan says.

Ian remembers pain and fear and an absurd struggle between a desire not to die and a desire not to have other people (very specific other people) think less of him. He remembers lying helplessly in the back of a jeep and seeing a T-rex come closer with every passing second.

"The water drops!" Ellie chuckles. "I'd almost forgotten."

Well. So much for Ian having made an impression.

Alan clears his throat. "Not to change the subject, but what, exactly, are you doing here?"

Next time, Ian tells himself, he'll sit down next to Ellie, and to hell with Alan getting his back up about that. It'll be better than feeling like Alan can read every single thing he feels off of his face.

"Just felt like taking a break from the city life," Ian says.

"So you're here on some sort of vacation?" Alan's expression is disapproving. "Is that what you think we're doing here? Taking a break?"

"You work, I'll watch. I'll be good, I promise. And hey, you guys need an extra toothbrush, I'm pretty sure I've got one of those. Just say the word."

Ellie chuckles again. Alan sighs.

 

The night sounds are different here. Less human, more animal.

There's no dinosaurs out there, of course, or even things that sound like them. If Ian's having trouble relaxing, it's because he's being illogical, irrational.

Fair enough, in a way. He's part of a complex system - kids, ex-wives, future ex-wives, people he'd like to sleep with but not marry and/or divorce due to legal restrictions.

It's only to be expected that he'd fall apart at some part, like another victim of entropy.

 

"So what are we looking at here - the predecessor of the common rose? The daisy, perhaps?"

Ellie smiles at him. She's showing a lot of leg. Ian wishes that he could stop imagining Alan dressing so sensibly, or simply settle down and enjoy the view. Ellie is an attractive woman. Ian is a man with a certain capacity for charming people. It should be a matter of basic maths.

"You know that it's not as simple as that."

Would people spring for a walk through a jurassic park that's really only a park? Probably not. Humans are perversely attracted to the idea of danger, of taking risks that aren't risks in an invisibly controlled environment. Witness John Hammond, not simply sticking to herbivores.

Ian supposes that it's just as well man and dinosaur were never in any real competition.

"Few things are," he says. "Take you and Doctor Grant."

It's an experiment, of sorts. It's a butterfly, flapping its wings, heedless of the consequences.

"You could call him 'Alan', you know. He wouldn't mind. Well," Ellie amends, "he might act a little grumpy, but you're friends."

"And you and I - we're not friends?" Ian asks. He tries to look disappointed, bordering on utterly crushed.

Ellie rolls her eyes. "Not if you need to ask."

"That's a 'yes', then?"

Ellie gives him a measuring look. "How'd you like to put that spare toothbrush of yours to good use?"

 

The problem, Ian thinks, is that he was wrong. Alan and Ellie aren't some sort of complex system. They're a stable one, perfectly ordered, all parameters explored and mapped already. He's not some strange attractor, capable of throwing things off course simply by being here.

He's a third wheel, trying to convince a metaphorical bicycle that it wants to be a three-wheeler.

 

"So," Alan says, "how does it feel to actually work for a living?"

"You're going to pay me?" Ian asks. For the first time, he thinks he understands the hat. He's sweating, rather a lot, actually. "How much?"

"Half a water bottle," Alan says, holding out what looks like all of one.

Ian decides not to make a point of it. "This is what you do around here? Day in, day out?"

"Exciting, isn't it?" Alan grins. "Don't drink too fast. Slow, small sips. Give your body time."

"You look very cheerful." Dusty, too. It's not a bad look, actually. "Big find?"

"They're all big," Alan says. "As a rule, if it's a dinosaur, it's big. There's a few exceptions, of course, but not too many."

Ian decides not to bring up the raptors. Pretty much all he knows about them is second- or even third-hand knowledge. "I meant the other kind of big."

"Compared to someone creating living, breathing dinosaurs - well, nothing I or anyone else is ever going to dig up will look like much. We're lucky that we already had our funding secured for the next three years."

"Hammond's?" Buying off his guilty conscience, likely as not.

"How he convinced us to come in the first place." Alan accepts the water bottle back.

"You're making me feel kind of cheap."

Alan smiles a little. "If the shoe fits."

"This is some very expensive footwear, I'll have you know."

"Kind of a waste to wear it here, then," Alan says.

Ian shrugs. "It impresses the ladies. The men, too, sometimes."

"Well, for what it's worth, I'm quite impressed that Ellie actually got you to use a toothbrush."

 

Jokes. Friendly banter. Stability.

Bird sounds at night.

Ian isn't sure when he starts sleeping well again. It simply sort of happens - as if all that was required was for hm to stop paying attention, to look away and let the process take care of itself.

 

"This is nice," Ellie says.

It's campfire night again, apparently. Ian's picked a spot at random, a bit surprised to look up and find himself in between Alan and Ellie.

"You can lean against me for a bit, if you want," he offers. "If you're tired or anything."

Alan chuckles. "She's a lot more awake than you are. I mean, look at you. You're practically asleep already."

"I'm not used to strenuous physical activity. Well, not this kind, anyway," Ian says. "The fun kind, sure."

"Are you saying that brushing dirt off of fossilized plants isn't fun?" Ellie asks.

"Mathematicians, eh?" Alan smirks. Ian wonders if Alan's also leaning against him just a little bit, or if he's imaging it, possibly due to wishful thinking.

"You should get some sleep," Ellie says.

"Probably be sore tomorrow. All those muscles you haven't used for years."

Ian wonders if Alan is agreeing with Ellie or if this is some tangent. "I can handle some sore muscles. I'm a very manly man."

Ellie smiles. Alan mirrors the expression, which is new. Ian was expecting to see another scowl.

"Come on. We'll walk you."

"We will?" Alan asks, even though he gets up as Ellie does.

Ian tries to tell himself that it's no big deal, that it will feel very good to lie down. That it will be worth it to put up with a bit of discomfort in the here and now.

"We will," Ellie says.

 

"This is not my tent."

It's also definitely not his sleeping bag-slash-bed.

"Technically," Alan says, sounding far too awake, "your tent isn't your tent, either. Coffee?"

Either Alan sleeps fully clothed, or Ian's missed out on some prime eye candy. "Please." He wonders where Ellie is. Logic dictates that she must have been here at some point. "What happened last night?"

"Nothing happened." Alan sighs. "Ellie was a bit disappointed. I'm afraid that I also made the mistake of pointing out that she really had no one but herself to blame."

"What are you, five?" Ian snorts. The coffee is horrible. "Rookie mistake." Horrible, but warm and full off caffeine.

"In my defense, you weren't exactly hitting home-runs either," Alan says.

"That's not a defense. That's drawing a causal connection where there isn't one."

"What happened to chaos theory? A butterfly in Peking causing a tornado in Colorado?"

Ian scoffs. "Simply because everything has the potential to be causally linked, that doesn't mean it is. That's why it's chaos theory, instead of everything-is-logically-connected theory."

"So, basically, the future is unpredictable. That's your big idea? That's what your book's about?"

"I thought you'd read my book." Ian wonders what has happened to the conversational branch that involved discussing the notion that both Ellie and Alan apparently planned on a threesome.

"Ellie read me some of the bits she enjoyed," Alan says. "I wasn't always paying as much attention as I might have."

Ian wants to say that he's offended, but his mind's sufficiently awake by now to come up with reasons why Alan might have been distracted. "You should read it. It's a great read. New York Times best-seller."

"I think I got the gist of it."

"I could sign a copy for you."

"Sign Ellie's," Alan says. "She'll probably appreciate it more."

Ian considers letting the whole thing go - for the moment, at least. It feels too much like a coward's choice, though. "Is this what it's going to be like when we get around to having sex, too? 'No, please, don't blow me, blow Doctor Sattler - she'll appreciate it more'?"

Alan doesn't so much as blink, which Ian takes to mean that Alan's probably been having more sex than Ian has, at least these past months.

"Self-sacrifice isn't really one of my turn-ons," Ian says. "Just thought you should know. I prefer people who aren't afraid to tell me what they want."

"We'll make a list." Alan smiles. "Might get a little long, though."

"Good. Is there more coffee? And has anyone seen my toothbrush?"