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Lost and Found

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~~~~~~~~~~~Lost and Found~~~~~~~~~~~

The current tries to take his hat away from me. I close my fingers on it and manage to heave myself another foot or so up on the bank. My feet are still in the river, up to my knees, I guess, it's so cold I can't tell. But the hat's out of the water now. I've got it. I won't lose it.

Unlike some other things...

I hope they got to that boat. I hope they got it working. I hope...

No. I know Alan will make it. It will take more than a island full of genetically engineered theme park monsters to kill him. He's indestructible.

Not like me, I'm afraid. I'm so cold... But that won't be what I die from. Something will come along and eat me. It's just a matter of time. Or maybe I'll bleed to death first. I think I'd rather that. It would hurt a lot less. And be more dignified than dying of hunger or infection. But I won't do that. Nothing just dies here. Something finds you first.

Dino burger... No. For dinos. Billy burger. Dino Chow... Suddenly I'm giggling, and then it turns into coughing. And it hurts. Oh, god, it hurts. I'm cold and it hurts and I'm so scared...

I clench my fingers on his hat. Alan... He's all right. He and Kirby got Eric out of the water and they're all all right. Especially Alan. He is. Single-minded, stubborn son of a bitch that he can be, this place won't be where he dies. Not even for those eggs...

Damn you, Brennan. "It was an impulsive decision but I had the best of intentions."

I should have known better than to say that. It was wrong all the way around. I don't think Alan even has impulses any more. If he ever did, he learned to stomp on them. He thinks before he acts. So careful... so damned careful...

I think I'm crying. Good thing no one's here, though I bet I'm slashed up enough they'd cut me slack. And it does hurt. Inside worse than out, though.

And good intentions... Alan doesn't really care about intentions. I know that. Results, that's what he cares about. Not that you have to be a success, no, not that... but I've heard him talk about Hammond, and InGen, and playing God... It's not results, really, no; it's means. Means and ends, and good intentions don't justify... the kind of thing I did. Knowing better while I was doing it.

And I did. God, of course I did, while I was settling the first egg into place in my bag I knew what he'd think. Why else was the first thing I did next to lie to him? Because I knew what he'd think. Not that I expected what he said.

"You're no better than the people who built this place."

God, that hurt. He wasn't right. Was he? I didn't do it for the money. Not the money. Not as money. I did it for what the money would do. For us.

For him.

It's always been him, since the first day almost...

God, it's cold. It hurts. Will something come and eat me, please? Now would be nice, before I remember everything I've lost.

Thrown away.

Alan...

I had to go for the kid. It wasn't an impulse, either. And I'd have done it if Alan hadn't been mad at me... I would have, wouldn't I? Sure. I would have. The kid... Gotta take care of the kid.

I'm giggling again. That kid. Eric. He's a resourceful little brat. Two months alone on this place, after seeing Mom's boyfriend chomped in half, and he's enough on top of things to yank Alan out from under the noses of those raptors.

Who were chasing him because he had those eggs. Why did he pick up that bag? Why didn't he let it lie there? Because it might have useful stuff in it? Because he just saw it there and he could?

God. Because it was mine, and I'd told him it was lucky? He was behind us, he's always behind us, making sure we're safe... I didn't see him, don't know how much risk he took to get the damned thing. To make himself the target. God, who'd have believed how fucking smart they are, those raptors? I've been listening to Alan for three years now and I didn't, not really... Another betrayal. Not the first. And not the last. God, no, not the last. Just almost the last.

When I'm dead, it'll be over. I won't be able to hurt him again. Won't have to look into those slate-colored eyes and see them hard and cold and hiding baffled hurt, won't have to miss them laughing and warm... And he'll be able to remember I saved the kid. I gave him that much. Like a man...

You have to save the kids. He doesn't even like kids, Alan, but he throws himself in between the stuff of his nightmares and them, because, well, you do, don't you? The only good thing I ever heard him say about Malcolm, because "oh, yes, he's smart, all right" isn't a good thing; the only good thing I ever heard him say was that Malcolm had jumped in front of a T Rex to save kids...

King Tyrant-lizard... all I jumped into was little Wing-fingers. I'm giggling again, suddenly. It doesn't hurt so much. That's bad. And that's good. Won't be long now, probably. Compies or something, even. That would be okay... might hurt, nibbled to death by compies. How fast do you pass out, I wonder? I deserve to hurt, though. I haven't seen a trike... those're his favorites. They've gotta be here, they were on Isla Nublar after all. And I know they wouldn't eat me, but they might stomp me to death. I'd like to go like that... though there's so much mud here it would probably be like having an elephant step on you, just squish down...

Oh, god, now I'm seeing that stupid little trike from those horrible cartoon movies, and he's bouncing up and down, and it hurts to laugh, really laugh, and now I'm crying. Really crying...

Alan, I swear to god I didn't do it for the money. I did it for you.

I can't feel his hat any more. I try, really hard, and manage to move my arm enough to see it's still here. At least that.

I can't picture him without it. He's had it... forever. Since I met him, and that's forever. What happened before that doesn't matter. Doesn't matter at all. Except what it did to him. My before him, that doesn't matter. Hardly was real.

Why doesn't something come and put me out of my misery? Though remembering him isn't misery, at all...

Damn, I was pissed when I got that call in New Zealand. Come home, go to college, or else grandpa's gonna take the money back and find something else to spend it on. And I don't have a work visa for New Zealand, and I don't want a job anyway. So, back to the States it is and then on to college. And this time actually do some work, stay in, get the damned degree.

So I'm a Major-Undeclared, and I figure I'll get the hard sciences out of the way first. Paleontology 101. Early morning class. Perfect. I like mornings, and there won't be many students, and half of those that are there will do badly and cut and drop out... It'll work. And then, better proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy than beer: our TA gets hit by a car and breaks both his legs. Poor guy. And we get Dr. Alan Grant to fill
in.

Yeah, that Alan Grant. Even I've heard of him. Isla Nublar. Jurassic Park. Real dinosaurs, except he says they aren't real. He calls them "genetically engineered theme park monsters" and he doesn't want to talk about them. He wants to talk about rocks. The
truth is in the rocks, he says.

And I'm looking at his slate-colored eyes and knowing it: the truth is there...

Okay, not right off. It took a week. But by the fifth class, I was gone. I start doing extra reading so I can impress him in class. I find his books and read them. There's an odd difference between them, though the second one, when he'd seen so much, really just confirms and elaborates the themes of the first--nothing he saw on Nublar disproved his theories. Of course, I guess that's why Hammond picked him... But there's a difference, and I can't put my finger on it. I will, though; I promise myself that.

I go to my advisor and declare a major in Paleontology. He doesn't care, though he points out it won't pay well. I don't care about money. I never did, really; I like what money gets you--the trips, the excitement--but I couldn't ever want more than Alan. He doesn't care about money, either. Oh, I know, he went to Nublar for money. Hell, he came here for money... but he wants to dig. And money lets him dig. That's all it means to him.

Alan, I swear, I didn't do it for the money. I did it so you could dig.

I take Paleo 102. He doesn't teach it, they've found another TA. He teaches senior seminars and grad classes. Fine. I'll be there. But I've discovered a few things about him, and one of them is, impatient as he can get with fools and idiots and busybodies, he has all the patience in the world with students. Real students, the ones who want to learn. He'll pour every ounce of knowledge he possesses into you if you'll let him. And I'd let him.

He converts me. I started learning dinosaurs to get to him, and pretty soon I'm almost as in love with them as he is. The whole thing excites me in a weird way, all the way back to trilobites, but it's the reptiles that get to me. His reptiles... dinosaurs, pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs... all of 'em. Dinos first, of course. And it's funny, because when I was a kid I didn't do dinosaurs. They bored me as soon as I found out they were all dead. I could have fallen into cryptozoology, I think, gone hunting Nessie and Bigfoot, but the truth is, I liked real things. And I liked getting out there, seeing, smelling, getting my hands dirty.

Never thought dinosaurs would do that for me. Can't get much realer than teeth and claws and blood--your own blood...

And then I found out that he took some students every summer to his dig. I flew, I nearly broke my neck, to apply. They told me I was too late, he didn't have the budget for any more people. My first taste of Dr. Grant's perpetual fight for a living budget... I sidestepped the whole issue by saying I'd be happy to work for nothing. No university can turn that down, even if they have to engage in charades with pay-checks that you endorse back to them so you can be covered by insurance. I got signed on, and called home.

My old man thought I was crazy, working for nothing. I should come back for the summer, do something that paid. Like flipping burgers.

I told him it was an investment in my future. I explained how I'd signed up late, but how going this summer would put me at the top for next summer, and salary. I told him I'd found my career. Paleontology, I told him. I'd known the big word would impress him. Not having me underfoot all summer impressed him more. I went.

I haven't been home since.

Home... Haven't thought of that as home since. Home is where Alan is. Museum, university, desert, Isla Sorna... exhibits, libraries, dusty digs, dying in the mud.

Better to die at home than be kicked out of it, after all.

Why the hell doesn't something come and kill me?

That first dig was hell. And heaven. Heaven because he was there. Hell because he wouldn't let me in. And, to be honest, because I hadn't expected it to be such goddamn hard work. "Dig" is almost a euphemism. You uncover. Bit by bit, millimeter by millimeter. With toothbrushes sometimes. And sometimes you don't find anything at all. But you're up with the sun and you work all day, and for some reason fossils aren't found in, say, upstate New York or Kentucky, where it's green. No, they're found in dusty damned deserts, where it's hot and cold on the same day, and there's not a single thing to do at night.

But then I found out that Dr. Grant, Alan in my mind always, didn't sleep well. He naps, but he doesn't sleep for long periods of time. Nightmares. Now I think I can guess what they're about... and now I've given him new ones. Nice work, Brennan.

But at the time, I just found out that he'd go for long walks at night, and if I joined him, and let him pick the topic, he'd talk. We'd talk. By August, he was looking for me at night, and when I told him I wanted to come back next year, he admitted that I'd been hopeless at first but now he liked having me around. He said I was quite useful.

Thought I'd died and gone to heaven...

The next summer was better. He let me do stuff for him. I took a lot of the dog-work off him, arranged things so he didn't have to deal with the idiots. I showed him how to use Oracle for databasing; every time he touched the keyboard, almost, it crashed, but I didn't mind. It gave me an excuse to stay in his tent, entering data and talking. That's when I found out about the nightmares. That's when I learned how to wake him when they started so he didn't know I'd noticed.

That's when I learned about his loyalty. I said something about Dr. Sattler, and he ripped me a new one. I had it coming, I suppose; I didn't know why they'd broken up. I had no business assuming it was her fault. It was just... how could it have been his?

Not that he's perfect, of course. He's stubborn, and he's set in his ways, and he has no patience with fools and administrators, and he can be really, really rude... But, god, he's smart, and funny, and willing to teach and wanting to learn and find out, and you can't make him quit, and he's loyal. And gorgeous.

But he still wouldn't let me in. So I made do. Goddamn it, but I learned to be satisfied with what I could get, which my parents could have told you wasn't in my nature. I got as close as he'd let me, and every now and then I leaned a little. But when I leaned, he pushed and stepped back, so I stopped. He told me he was old enough to be my father. So what if maybe that was true? (Okay, was true?) I didn't care. He was a professor. That was okay, too; he wasn't mine. And then one night, when I actually managed to get him to drink enough to talk, he told me he was old and tired, and I was young and fresh, and I needed to find someone suitable.

I almost argued with him, almost told him there was no one more suitable in the world, but I didn't. He always thinks before he says anything important, and if you let him say it you'll need dynamite to make him change it. I was afraid he wouldn't let me stay, wouldn't let me come back the next summer, if I pushed him. So I didn't.

So there we were, third summer, Fort Peck Lake, when Paul Kirby showed up. Paul Kirby... How could I have believed him? Kirby Enterprises, permission from the Costa Rican government to fly low over Sorna, blank check...

That's what did it. The blank check. Alan had been gone two weeks giving talks at various schools, recruiting and fund-raising. He hates that. He hates that more than InGen, probably. More even than he hates me now, maybe. And travelling tires him. He shouldn't have to do either. In a just world he wouldn't have to. But the rocks are just the rocks, now. Now everyone's thinking about Isla Sorna. The real thing. And nobody will listen to the men who were there. Not that Malcolm's worth listening to: chaos and sermons, that's all you get from him. Philosophy. Alan says what you need to hear: that InGen didn't make the real thing; they made monsters. Critters that didn't know anything about being dinosaurs. Monsters that weren't even pure dinosaur, with damned frog DNA in them. Nobody cared about the rocks. Or the truth.

And Kirby's blank check would fund the dig for a couple of years, anyway.

So I fell for it. And I promised Kirby that I'd get Alan to listen to him.

Alan came back tired. I was helping Cheryl when he got out to the site. She was flirting with me a little, and I guess I was flirting back, but as soon as I saw him, that silhouette next to the old truck, the sun going down behind him, I was up and to his side. I took his bags out of the truck and asked him, "How'd it go?"

"It's not too late to change your major," he said.

The hell. Not only was I graduating in January, having discovered in myself the ability to work harder than I'd thought, but there was no way I was ever leaving. Paleontology, or him.

Yeah, Brennan... nice ambition. Whatever happened to it?

So, here we are. Or here I am, anyway. So cold. So scared. So alone.

Alan has to be out there, somewhere. He has to be all right. He knows the raptors like no one else, and he kept the eggs. He has to have thought about why, even if he wouldn't tell me. The Kirbys won't be much help, but they listen to him; they're that smart, anyway. And Eric... the kid's clever. Resourceful. He stayed alive on his own. Alan's fine with them. They won't get him killed.

They won't.

And he'll outsmart the raptors. I don't care how clever they are.

He will.

He has to.

God, Alan... please believe me, when you think about it later. I thought I could sell them. I thought I could fund the dig. That's all I wanted. No fancy cars. No vacations. Just fund the dig. Just stop you working yourself to the bone for what you should have for the asking. Take that tired out of your eyes.

It wasn't the money. It was you.

It's always been you.

It's so cold. So cold. And you're so angry. You've never been angry at me before. Not angry. Annoyed, irritated, once or twice even pissed off. But not this coldness. Not this refusing to look at me, talk to me.

"As far as I'm concerned, you're no better than the people who built this place."

I died then, when he said that. I really did. I kept on breathing, but... and then that pterry grabbed Eric, and we were running after, and it dumped him for the chicks. And I knew--knew from listening to him talk about Nublar, knew from knowing him--that he'd find a way to go. To save the kid. Because you do--he does.

So that's why I was still there. To go instead. One last thing for him.

And maybe he even minded. For real, not just because he'd brought me here. For me. Maybe...

"No, Billy, don't!"

I had to. I had to, Alan. Please don't hate me. Don't hate yourself, either. You're right: I shouldn't have taken the eggs. I am no better. The ends don't justify the means. But I love you, Alan. I did it for you.

Not the money.

God, it's cold. I hurt. I'm so scared... won't something come kill me?

There's a noise, finally. Something big... King Tyrant? King Tut? King Dinosaur? What an awful movie that was... an iguana playing T. rex... what a good idea, though. Nuke Dino Island. Nuke the dinos... Wait till Alan's off, though... The noise is getting louder.
Sounds like... something. Talking. Maybe it's the raptors. That would be good. Kill me. I took your eggs. Not Alan. Leave him alone.

"Dr. Grant!"

Did they learn his name? The Kirbys have been calling him... that's not the Kirbys, though. Are the raptors that smart? They set that trap with Udesky's body, almost got Amanda Kirby... maybe they are. Why aren't they coming closer?

Come kill me, you theme-park bastards. Eat me all up. Don't leave any bits for Alan to find and get guilty over. Come on, froggie-raptors...

I'm so cold.....

It wasn't raptors. It wasn't Spinosaurus either, or any other predator, even a truck-load of compies. And it wasn't trikes, either. It was the Navy. Our Navy. USA, USA...God only knows how they found out we were here. Or why they came, when the Costa Ricans have the place bottled up and Kirby said the Embassy wouldn't... And they were looking for Alan. Not the Kirbys, not Eric. Not me. Alan.

Me is who they found. I don't want to be found. Not alone. Not alone.

I can't do it without Alan. Nothing.

Even finding a new dinosaur in China or something and naming it for him... why didn't something eat me? Why am I lying here in this helicopter, all bandaged and drugged, alive and alone?

They tried to take his hat. I wouldn't let them.

At least they're not leaving. If they found me, they say, they'll find him. He was alive. He called, must have found a phone somewhere, he was alive and they'll find him... if he's not dead now. I can hear them. Some of them think he's dead. But they aren't leaving. They
aren't...

Please, god. Please...

"Dr. Grant, is this man with you?"

Oh, god, they found him. They found him, and he must be fine, they're talking with him, just talking. Oh, god. Alan... Am I? Am I still?

I have to be.

He sits on his heels beside my stretcher. God, he looks good. Tired, banged up, a little bloody, but alive, oh, god, alive and whole. He starts to reach out, then stops, remembering where he is, and just rests his arm on the stretcher's side. His hair's falling in his face, but I can see his eyes. I've prayed to see them again, I've feared it, and now it's just this joy bubbling up inside me. Even if he wants me to quit, even if he hates me, he's here doing it, whatever it is. I think the morphine's making me giddy... damn, I'd better say something quick before I say what I want to.

"You made it," I say. It's supposed to come out like I never doubted it, but I don't think it does. He hunts for something to say, and I don't want to hear it, whatever it's going to be. I need something else to say. What I come up with is, "I rescued your hat."

He takes it from me and stares at it a minute, and then he looks at me. And then I see the most wonderful thing ever. It's moving in his eyes, and I know he's forgiven me all the stupid, irresponsible, dangerous things I did. I know he's willing to let me back into his life. He smiles at me, that shy smile almost no one sees, and suddenly I think, maybe it's going to be all right after all. Really all right...

"Yeah, well, that's the important thing," he says, and then the Navy hustles him away.

I lie still, picturing him, some competent navy rating buckling him in so he'll be safe, and then we're off. I hear Eric say something, wanting Alan to look at something--pterries, I think, 'cause we're flying and it's, they're, going somewhere, new nesting grounds Alan thinks--and Amanda Kirby says something about Oklahoma, and Kirby says, sounding certain of himself, "Let's go home."

Yeah. Let's.

the end