Title: Strange Attractors

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.

Summary: "That's just what a man likes to hear; that his best feature is his hat," Alan sighs dramatically. 1500 words.

Fandom: Jurassic Park (1993) with references to The Lost World & JP III

Notes: Slash. Yuletide 2009 gift for muir_wolf. Originally posted at the AOOO.

It takes eight years, two books, a dueling series of reviews in the press, three visits to that damn island chain between them, and a graduate assistant with too much initiative and a tendency to meddle before Alan Grant finally gives in to the inevitable-- otherwise known as 'Ian Malcolm'. Or possibly the reverse-- after so much time, the details of exactly who started what are somewhat murky.

It isn't the frequent touch of Ian's hand in the booth at the local restaurant that does it; Ian's always been handsy with everyone, and if Alan's recent glumness has made him a little more tactile than usual in return, well, people do tend to seek connection after traumatic events. Post Ellie; post San Diego; post Sarah; after the last time Alan had had to temporarily close a dig for lack of funding; they're not young anymore, and there hasn't been much ease in either of their lives since they met John Hammond.

It isn't any kind of sudden revelation, either; Alan's always been drawn to tenacious brilliance in whatever its form, even when coupled with self-indulgent arrogance, and Ian's been giving him that little quirked smile of intrigued amusement since the first day they met. It had been inevitable that they'd talk about it sooner or later; and just as inevitable, from Alan's point of view, that they'd laughed it off and flown back to their opposite corners of the country when that evening was over. They make decent if prickly long-distance friends, as different as they are; so why complicate something that works just fine as is?

No, it's just a moment like any other; just life, evolving as it always does, at its own particular pace. As Ian once memorably said, life finds a way; and given the choice to adapt, or regret-- well, Alan's always been more progressive with people than with technology.

"Oh, come on," Ian says on this particular evening, gesturing with his beer as he elaborates on the current topic of choice. It's his second; he's not drunk, but it's had its usual effect on his inhibitions. "Don't think of it as selling out; think of it as waving a red flag for the vultures to chase so they'll leave you to your bones in peace. Just one joint conference with some of us other survivors to put the full picture out there. Think how much more work you'd get done if you didn't have to dodge so many reporters with stupid questions."

"You should know," Alan points out. "You wouldn't have had to dodge so many of them after Nublar if you hadn't broken the original non-disclosure agreement." That had been one of the early, and more volatile, points of contention between them, though Ian hadn't exactly been wrong. "Not that anything could ever stop them from asking stupid questions; they're reporters. That's what they do. And you're a theorist anyway. Since when is what you do work?"

"Hey, I don't mock your job, do I?" Ian smirks, nudging Alan's arm. "Well, at least, not much. And the university must think I'm doing something more than lounge around and make sarcastic chaos-related commentary, because I've got my very own graduate assistant now."

"Is that so?" Alan politely raises his eyebrows, shifting a little further in his seat so the side of his leg brushes against Ian's jean-clad thigh. "Is he as bright-eyed and headstrong as mine?"

"She," Ian grins, eyes twinkling as he takes another sip of his beer, lips lingering on the mouth of the bottle. "And yes, more's the pity. Luckily, she's already worked all the hero worship out of her system. I'm all for enthusiasm in my students, but damn, they get younger every year, and even I have my limits."

"Rock star," Alan accuses, smiling at him fondly.

"Rock hound," Ian smirks back. "Don't pretend you don't have just as big a following. With that-- that hat of yours, and the digging, and the dramatic action stories, you're practically a modern Indiana Jones. If you'd just put a little more effort into the social side of things, I'm telling you, you'd have a lot fewer problems with your funding."

Alan sets down his beer and picks the hat up off the seat next to him, settling it back on his head. "That's just what a man likes to hear; that his best feature is his hat," he sighs dramatically. "I suppose I'm lucky that it survived the latest adventure with me, then; it very nearly didn't."

Ian sobers a little at that, turning serious and intent as he leans over the table to tug at the hat's brim, carefully adjusting it to what Alan assumes is a more rakish angle. "You very nearly didn't," he says, dropping his hand slowly as he transfers his focus from Alan's hat to Alan himself. "Thank god for Ellie." His eyes are very dark, and deep; and that's when it begins to dawn on Alan that neither of them currently have promises to keep, and that perhaps the time has come to do something about that.

"You should never have gone to Sorna," Ian continues. "I'd already done all the discovering for you; did you really have to go see it for yourself?"

"We weren't supposed to actually land, you know," Alan replies, then huffs an amused breath. "You always used to say that discovery was a violent, penetrative act; I think this latest incident has more than proven your point."

"Mmm," Ian hums, leaning back a little. He seems to catch on to Alan's shift in mood then, and slides his empty hand under the table, unerringly locating Alan's knee. "That's not to say penetrative acts are always a bad thing, though," he murmurs, dropping his voice into a range not entirely appropriate for such a public place. "I can think of a discovery or two I wouldn't mind making while I'm here."

Alan's smile turns down a little at the corners, and he finds himself faltering for a response. He drops his own hand under the table to pry Ian's off his knee, but finds himself grasping it instead; fingers roughly callused from long years of trowel and brush laid over knuckles much more used to keyboard and pen. "Ian..." he begins, trailing off into the warm tension between them.

"Just saying." Ian's heavy-lidded gaze shifts into something Alan might almost call wistful. "I know, I know; you and I are like those seatbelt buckles you had so much trouble with in the helicopter when we were landing on Nublar; not naturally designed to function together. I don't disagree, as far as that goes; if we'd met in any other way..." He shakes his head, then pauses and tilts his head a little to the side. "Did I ever tell you exactly how we define 'chaotic', in chaos theory?"

"I'm sure you have at some point," Alan says lightly, stroking a coarse thumb over the back of the captured hand, out of sight of the few other customers still in the restaurant. "You know how that math stuff goes right over my head."

"'Math stuff.' Oh, that foreign realm of logic," Ian scoffs, then explains. "It includes sensitivity to initial conditions, topological mixing-- that's overlapping of space-- and density of periodic orbits." He waggles his eyebrows, and gestures between them with the neck of his beer bottle. "Strange attractors, Alan. That's about as fundamental as it gets."

Right. Even Alan can understand that bit of geometric euphemism, as illustrated by years' worth of interrupted flight plans, diverted book tours, outright visits, and bantering phone calls. As independent as both of them are, that's worth noting. There's one more thing he feels the need to make clear, though, before he finishes stepping across that line.

"You know I'm not interested in being the next ex-Mrs. Malcolm, Ian," he says, firmly.

Ian blinks, then smiles again, a wide, white flash of teeth and crinkling of eyes that makes Alan want to smile back-- before it shifts into a relieved leer. "And thank god for that," he says. "I don't think I'd know what to do with you if you did."

"And wouldn't that be a shame," Alan teases, finally letting go of the hand on his knee. He drains the last of his beer in one long swallow, and tilts his head toward the door.

Ian grips his knee, one tight squeeze that sends a bolt of sensation flaring upward like a preview, and shrugs his leather jacket back on.

It's too soon to tell which way this branch in the evolution of their lives will develop; what sort of new pattern will evolve from their... expanded intersections. But Alan's whistling when he returns to the dig site two days later, and can't even bring himself to chastise Billy for calling Ian in the first place.

No, he's not young anymore. But it looks like he has a few more discoveries in him yet.