Title: Problem Solving in Complex Systems

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

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

Summary: "Is there such a thing as a Murphy's Law of Attraction?" Ellie grinned. "Because that would explain a few things." 1900 words.

Spoilers: Jurassic Park (1993)

Notes: For Muir_Wolf, as a treat for Yuletide 2011. Ellie, Ian and Alan: missing, altered, and tag scenes for the first movie. Slightly AU.

"He's … enthusiastic, isn't he?" Ellie leaned over to murmur in Alan's ear.

"Hmm?" Alan blinked, still half-focused on the black-clad, highly animated form of the mathematician walking in front of them, then fell back half a step to walk next to her. "Enthusiastic? Yes; he's certainly … that."

Ellie grinned at him, bemused by the dry tone of his reply. "The nerve of him, asking if I was familiar with the concept of attraction." She laughed. "If that's what mathematicians are like these days, maybe I should have gone for a degree in chaos, not paleobotany."

"Ah, but you can't dig up math in the Badlands, now can you?" Alan pointed out. "And whatever would I do there without you?"

"Break equipment, scare children, dig up dinosaurs … pretty much the same things you do right now," she teased, shrugging a shoulder. "You talk a good game, Dr. Grant, but you don't fool me. Your first love was sixty five million years older than I am."

"Yes, well." He tucked his chin down a little, the wide brim of his hat shading more of his sheepish expression as he failed to deny the charge. "I'd do all those things with a lot less enthusiasm without you."

"Including scaring children?" she asked, arching her eyebrows.

He reached to tangle his fingers with hers, chuckling. "Especially scaring the children. I'd be much more of a curmudgeon on my own, and you know it. A discovery shared is a joy doubled."

"Except for the part where you have to share the byline in all the journals," Dr. Malcolm – Ian – interjected abruptly, dropping back to join the conversation. "Or if you don't, and their article gets published first – well, it can get fairly messy. Must work out well for the pair of you, though, working in complementary but non-identical fields."

"I take it you've – collaborated – with another, ah, chaotician before?" Elle replied, enchanted by the way he used his mobile, highly expressive hands and mouth as he talked.

Ian shuddered delicately by way of answer. "It's a sad state of affairs when one of our number becomes predictable in their very unpredictability," he said, affecting a disappointed pout. Then Hammond said something else to draw his attention, and he sped up again to join the man, taking his leave of them with an apologetic grin.

Ellie grinned over at Alan again as the mathematician passed out of the range of their hearing. "Shame we'll only all be here for a couple of days," she said. "Tactile, flirtatious – and I think he actually twinkles more at you than he does at me," she hinted.

The archaeologist flushed a little, wearing that boyish grin that never failed to turn her heart over in her chest. "You could always ask him what university he works for," he teased her.

It was a pleasant fantasy, one she was happy enough to play along with. They didn't often find compatible thirds, and it had taken awhile to reach a stage where they were both secure enough in each other to explore such possibilities. Ian was certainly attractive enough, and brilliant enough for both of them, if unlikely to reciprocate. "Maybe I will," she teased back.

He just laughed, unconcerned. "Whatever you say, my dear."

"By the way, Dr. Sattler…?" Ian said, eyeing the scientist seated next to him. Dr. Grant's mood seemed to have soured along with the weather; he was still wearing his Indiana Jones style hat even in the Jeep, as though it could provide further armor against the dark and wet outside. "She's not, like … available, is she?"

He'd asked the question mostly to prod the guy into saying something, anything – and it got his attention, all right. But Dr. Grant's – Alan's – expression as he turned away from the window wasn't quite the picture of crankiness the mathematician had been expecting. He eyed Ian speculatively, wearing the same little smile he'd favored Ian with in the chopper while Ian had been entertaining himself provoking Hammond.

"Only in the sense that we're a package deal," he said nonchalantly, then turned back to the window as though he didn't at all care what Ian thought of the statement.

Ian's eyebrows went up, and he started studying Alan's profile with increased interest. He was used to confining his outright flirtation – well, two thirds of it at least – to the fairer gender, but there'd been a lot of equal opportunity appreciation going on that day. As much as the concept of what Hammond was doing at Jurassic Park horrified Ian, the awe he'd seen on Drs. Grant and Sattler's faces when they'd first spotted the brachiosaurs, and when they'd watched the raptor egg start to hatch, had lit his mood with an infectious glow. There was nothing more beautiful than a human being in the grip of wonder.

Except, perhaps, a human being in the grip of another, more … immediate, powerful emotion. Alan had called his girlfriend tenacious earlier; and now Ian was wondering just what kind of attention to detail an archaeologist might bring to the table. It had certainly done amazing things for his physique.

Ian's grin widened. "And what a package," he said, brightly. "I just might be tempted to unwrap that offer, later – if Dr. Sattler's amenable."

That drew Alan's attention back to him again – surprised, but intrigued, too; the man might have originally meant it as a throwaway comment to beat Ian at his own verbal games, but there was definitely a spark of interest there as well.

Unfortunately, that was the moment the Jeep chose to interrupt the conversation by jerking to a halt.

"What'd I touch?" Alan said, exasperated, throwing up his hands and glaring toward the automated display between the front seats.

Ian snorted. "Chaos theory at work yet again," he muttered, and leaned forward to see if he could figure out what was going on.

Ellie looked considerably less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than she had that morning, as she and Muldoon got Ian settled in the control room of the visitor's center. That was fair, though; he was wet, bloody, and several shades paler than his usual attractive self as well.

There was still a kind of essential beauty about her, though, as she bustled around him. Dr. Sattler was clearly worried about her boyfriend and Hammond's grandkids, lost out in the park, but was soldiering along at the task in front of her rather than panicking or picking a dark corner to cry in.

"Found it," she said, pulling a square box marked with a cross out of one of the room's cabinets. "One shot of morphine, coming right up."

"My angel of mercy," Ian sighed, smiling wanly at her. "I hope Alan knows what a treasure he has in you."

"Ah, well," she replied, the corner of her mouth twitching a little as she rallied to the conversation. "I'm afraid I don't have much cause for dispensing morphine in Montana. Antiseptic mostly, and Band-Aids; Alan and tools more complicated than trowel and brush don't always get along."

Ian chuckled at that. "I gathered as much. Might be worth studying sometime – a walking example of a Murphonic field."

"Murphonic?" She raised an eyebrow at him as she prepped the needle.

"As in Murphy's law? I'm sure you've at least heard of that," he said, wagging his eyebrows suggestively.

"What can go wrong, will go wrong," she nodded, then grinned suddenly, a delightful flash of white, even teeth. "Is there such a thing as a Murphy's Law of Attraction? Because that would explain a few things."

"Ahh. It would, wouldn't it?" Ian replied musingly, running with the subject to distract himself as he rolled up his sleeve. "For example, the fact that we spotted that ill triceratops when I was in the middle of flirting with you – seated just a few feet away from him. Or," he forged ahead, following where the impish sense of possibility from earlier led him, "the fact that I was flirting with him when the power died in the cars and the T-Rex showed up."

Ellie's eyebrows did their own little dance at that – but she looked just as intrigued as Alan had, which did interesting things to his pulse. "Really."

Unfortunately, further research in that vein was going to have to wait, because his pulse was doing interesting enough things already without any help, and it was getting harder and harder to ignore the pain in his thigh.

"Really," he said breathily, as she finally administered the shot. Then he let out a heavy sigh of relief, relaxing into a prone position as the drug did what it did best.

Ellie patted his arm as she disposed of the needle, and struck by an impulse, he reached out to lay his other hand atop it. "He's going to be fine, you know. Told you. Nature selected out the dinosaurs, right?"

"Right…?" She didn't seem to be following, though she gave him a slight, humoring smile.

"So, Murphy killed them," he shrugged, grinning. "Your boyfriend is going to be fine."

She huffed a laugh, then patted his arm again. "I hope you're right."

"So," Ian said, unexpectedly. "I realize that certain suggestions were made – certain, perhaps, implied verbal contracts – that might or might not have been spoken in the heat of the moment."

Alan pulled the phone back for a second, staring at it blankly, then pressed it carefully back to his ear. "Ian?" he asked, sleepily.

The mathematician cleared his throat. "Sorry, sorry. Time zones, right. I was just..."

Ellie stirred against Alan's chest, and he stroked a hand over her back. "Shhhh." Then he winced as Ian cut himself off mid-sentence. "I didn't mean you. Ellie's been having trouble sleeping."

"Glad to hear I'm not the only one," Ian replied lightly, though Alan could hear the strain in the tone. "So, uh. Anyway. I was thinking I could use some time in a dry, cooler climate where I can see things coming for miles in every direction. And since I'm still on medical leave..."

Alan's tired brain took a moment to put the pieces together, but when it did, he buried a dawning smile against Ellie's hair. Emotional sharing had never been his forte, and he and Ellie had been having trouble talking about things since they got back; an animated third presence who never shut up but didn't have to be told what subjects to avoid might be just what the doctor ordered. Even if it didn't get any more complicated than that.

"All of Montana isn't the Badlands, you know," he chided the other man, his tone warm. "But you know we'd love to have you here, Ian."

"That's Ian?" Ellie murmured, stirring again and yawning as she snagged the phone out of his hand. "Hey," she said into the receiver. "Something wrong? It's three thirty in the morning."

Whatever Ian said back made her chuckle, too, and roll her eyes. "Ian!" she scolded him. "You know that's not true."

Alan pulled the sheet back up over his shoulder, heart warm and full at the glow rekindling in her eyes, and shut his own again. "Make sure you get his flight details," he yawned, then let himself drift back to sleep to the murmuring counterpoint of their voices.

Maybe things weren't all right yet – but he had a feeling they would be soon.