Pain woke him, stabbing him in one side and out the other, like a knife through his chest. He groaned, and rolled onto his side, feeling nothing but instinct as he lungs began to rebel. A series of violent coughs shook his frame, each like bright sparks of pain, wracking his body and hurting, just hurting. He tasted the nasty water as it came back up, and as glad as he was to have it gone, out of his system, he wished there were a better way to get rid of it. He held himself up on one hand and one elbow, his head hanging towards the ground, waiting for the fit to pass.
It did, eventually, and he slumped down again, went limp against the jumble of branches and leaves and other debris beneath him. He could feel a fresh seep of cold water invading his clothes, but he didnt have the strength to pull himself farther up the bank. Hell, he didnt have the strength to turn his head. All he could see was the muddy river bank, and a segment of the river flowing past him slowly, bordered on both sides by thick jungle. The sky above the water was still light. Small waves sloshed rhythmically against his legs.
It was evening, still. Gold sunlight rippled on the river. He was alive.
Alive, but sort of wishing he wasnt. His senses returned to him slowly, and he began to take stock. He ached all over. Not surprising, considering the fact that hed just been volleyed back and forth by a bunch of ptaradons... More specifically, his lungs hurt. He could hear and feel them rattle with every breath. His head hurt, and he felt dizzy. The fact that the pile of wood he had been washed up against was bobbing up and down with the river really didnt help much. He fought back the wave of nausea with a deep breath.
Dizzy, weak, helpless, and surrounded on all sides by man-eating reptiles. Billy realized uneasily that although he had somehow survived the first attack, he was now fair game for any scavenger that happened along. Or anything else, for that matter.
This was a problem. A large problem... but somehow he couldnt summon the energy to care. He was tired. He hurt. He just wanted to close his eyes, drift off again...
What would Alan think?
Billy forced himself to blink, to stop his eyelids which kept desperately trying to flutter shut. Alan. Couldnt die, what would Alan do without him? Was Alan even still alive?
Of course, of course, dont even think that, hes alive....
His beautiful Alan. Billys lips turned up at the thought, his lovers cruel last words to him forgotten. His body was weak and his mind was drifting, and he found that with very little effort he could conjure up an incredibly real image of the man... he could see him, smell him, hear him, as though he were right there... Billys smile widened, and he let his eyes fall shut, let his tired mind fill in the details, pull him away from his pain...
The night they met... a cool night early in the spring, cold really. The memory was vivid as a dream... he could see the stars quavering in the black velvet desert sky, hear the sage bushes chattering in the breeze. Everyone had warned him that Alan was guarded, cynical. That he never got close to his students, kept them at arms length. It had been a joke really, Billys vow to break that ice. When he had arrived at the dig for the first time it was after nightfall, and Alan had come up to meet him when he got out of his rented truck. He could see himself, in his dream state, walking up, shaking Alans hand while bathed in the bright white light of the trucks highbeams.
He could still remember the surprising warmth of Alans dry hand, the firm grasp of his handshake. As he lay there cold and wet, halfway in the river, he felt again the first light rush of attraction, tingling through his limbs, pushing the pain back at bay for a moment as the memory overpowered reality...
A noise awoke him, and he flinched, violently, feeling for an instant as though there was nothing beneath him, he was falling. Then he remembered where he was. Somehow, night had fallen. It was dark, cold. The pain returned with a vengeance, as if to repay him for the few hours of blissful oblivion that must have passed unnoticed. The night noises of Isla Sorna filled his ears, chirps and rustles, and... and a motor. A motor. He squinted, and shapes faded into being in the blur of darkness before him. The trees, the river, a sky dusted with zillions of stars...
Something was moving, out there on the river, far away. A boat. A BOAT! Alan. Alan, it was Alan, he knew it, it had to be...
He tried to shout. The air rasped through his throat catching briefly, staggeringly against his vocal chords like shards of glass, and nothing emerged but a whimper... a tiny whimper. He tried again, but it hurt too much. He would wait, conserve his strength. Theyd get closer.
He was still tired. Still so tired. He shivered, but at the same time, felt hot. He realized that the sheen of liquid on his forehead was sweat, not water. Fever. He was sick. The bites burned with pain, they must be infected. He tried to move, just to get a little more comfortable.
Bad idea. The attempt to move his muscles only set off more of his pain receptors. He groaned, and lay still again. He turned his thoughts back to the only thing that he knew would distract him from the pain.
He and Alan had come together gradually... dancing around each other... it was something of a mating dance, Billy mused, smiling again. They spent time together, a lot of time, talked to each other for hours. They started inviting each other to dinner or movies, not calling these things dates, but treating them like they were, until finally... they were working late one night on a tiny skeleton, a baby raptor, in beautiful condition. Theyd uncovered the first piece of it rather late in the afternoon, and neither of them had wanted to leave it. Billys mind filled in the sensory details of the memory, the packed dirt hard under his knee as he knelt over the skeleton, Alans shoulder pressed against his thigh, firm and warm, the scent of Alans cologne. The older paleontologist was digging at the moment, while Billy held the flash light. They had lights for the dig, but the skeleton was so small, a flashlight was just as good and cheaper to operate.
Alan lay flat on his stomach, his breathing coming in soft grunts, labored by the pressure on his lungs from the awkward posistion. Naturally, he seemed to barely notice the discomfort. Billy watched in silence as he worked, using only a very fine paint brush to dust the dirt away micrometer by micrometer from the incredibly tiny, delicate bones.
The sound of his voice made Billy start and nearly fall.
Move the light over little, my shadows in the way.
Billy complied, kind of pleased that the best angle to hold the light at required him to press even closer to his mentor. In fact... it might be easier if he...
He warned Alan that he was moving, and then pulled away for a second, just to give himself enough maneuvering room to lie down next to the other man, then wrap his flashlight arm all the way around him to point the light over Alans other arm. Alan turned his head towards him and looked at him a long time, his face lit from the flashlight below.
What? Billy said, feigning innocence, as though he hadnt noticed that he was now lying beside Alan, flush against him, touching him along his side all the way from his chest to the tip of his toes, and with his arm around his shoulder.
Nothing, Alan said, in a tone that indicated that two could play at that game. Then he went back to his work. But as he worked, his foot moved over and hooked around Billys ankle.
Billys only response was to raise his eyebrows.
For a while they were silent. Then, smoothly, naturally, Alan said, Take a look at this, gesturing at some part of the skeleton Billy couldnt quite see from that angle. He scooted forward, craning his neck around the other mans shoulder, trying to see...
... And Alan caught his cheek with his hand and turned Billys face towards his own. They stared at each other in the glow of the flashlight, brown eyes burning into blue, so close to each other their noses almost touched. And then, Alan moved in. He gave Billy all the time he could need to protest... too damn much time in Billys opinion, but finally, finally, their lips touched. And stayed touching, tasting, and exploring for a long, long time. Billys heart hammered against Alans shoulder. When they parted, they were both a little dizzy. But happy. Very happy.
The warm memory was cut off abruptly by an earth shaking roar. Billy panicked, and he actually managed to move, blindly rising to all fours and scrambling, before the pain caught up with him and knocked him flat, a few feet away from where he had been before, but thankfully out of the water.
The roar had not been directed at him, he realized. Where was it - oh God. The boat. The Spino was attacking the boat. From so far away, the beast seemed ridiculous, huge to the point of ungainliness, dwarfing the vessel it was attacking. The breeze picked up and Billy heard muffled screams and shouts.
All was silent around him, it seemed like the only place in the entire world there was movement at that moment was there on the river. Billy could only vaguely make out the shapes of the humans... they were on the boat... it was only when they moved he could see them at all. It seemed they were in some sort of cage. Which the Spino was... was pulling in the water. They would drown. Alan would drown.
No! Nonono! It was intended as a shout, but it came out a hoarse whisper. He lowered his voice, let himself whisper. No, please, no, no. Alan.
He sank miserably against the ground, resting his head against a log and watching the whole scene sideways. The Spino was biting at the cage, clawing it. Billy was sure they were all dead, until suddenly, the Spino left the cage alone and turned its head, looking up at the crane that extended over the river. Something was moving there. When the breeze picked up again, it brought words, Hey, hey, up here! Kirbys voice.
Then a bright pink spot seared across his retinas. The Spino turned towards the source of the flare just in time for another to be launched. It arched gracefully and then hit the water, which burst into flames. The Spino fled.
Against the blazing background, Billy could see small silhouettes. One, two... three.
Who? Who was missing? Eric, Amanda, Paul... or Alan? Billy couldnt tear his eyes away. He was about to give up... when he saw it. A fourth silhouette, staggering away from the crane. Paul Kirby, it had to be. So... so that was all of them. Alan was alive. The knowledge alone was enough to leave Billy exhilarated, even when the four people vanished into the woods on the wrong side of the river, taking away any hope that they might find him. Alan was alive.
Billy shut his eyes, smiling. Everything would be all right.