They don’t think much of the message that Alan’s research assistant relays to them from one Dr. Ian Malcolm.
‘Please come to San Diego’ is an unusually short and polite message for Ian, who tends to take his time writing out long e-mails that Ellie and Alan like to print out and sit down on their couch with to go through page by entertaining page, but he had sent them short last-minute invitations to lectures or events in the past.
They are currently between projects and have a rare day off, so Ellie books tickets for a flight to San Diego the next day and settles back into her hammock, her smile at the upcoming meeting with Ian mirrored on Alan’s face.
Any smiles are wiped off of their mouths that evening however, when Alan’s voice hollers through the small house, calling her to the TV where she finds him standing and staring in silent horror. A live feed of a full-sized Tyrannosaurus tearing through San Diego plays on the screen, a reporter hastily stammering out facts, narrating the gruesome scene of people screaming on the streets, cars piling up in their drivers' haste to escape the enormous dinosaur.
“I’ll pack,” Ellie whispers as she turns to sprint up the stairs, hearing Alan search for the phone in the living room to book a different flight.
“Maybe we can help,” Alan repeatedly murmurs in the car, ever so slightly above the speed limit to catch their plane.
“Maybe we can,” Ellie agrees, but they both know that the idea is a farce, that helping the population of San Diego is only the second thing on their minds because the first is undeniably ‘Oh god, Ian. Ian is in San Diego.’
It’s something of an unreasonable fear. If anything, Ian would be the one person in San Diego that is best prepared to survive an attack by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, seeing as he had gone through one before and had definitely learned from it, nightmare-induced whispers of ‘Don’t move, it can’t see you if you don’t move’ being the perfect proof of that.
But the fear is still there, gripping at their hearts and making their hands clammy with cold sweat where they are clasped together between them.
They land at LAX at about 11pm, having to reroute via Los Angeles due to San Diego currently being unallowed to receive any commercial flights until the authorities declare the city to be safe and under control again.
The radio in their rental car informs them that the dinosaur has been contained and is slowly but surely being shipped back to where it came from. They breathe twin sighs of relief that feel like their first real breaths in hours and stop at the first gas station they can find on the relatively undisturbed outskirts of San Diego to try and locate Ian via phone. After half an hour of trying several official routes and then calling up friends and (ex-)family of Ian, the wide awake voice of Kelly, Ian’s eldest daughter, reaches them.
“I’m at dad’s flat, it’s all good here. He and Sarah got carted off to the hospital after tonight, though.”
“Hospital?” Ellie exchanges a worried frown with Alan. “Do you know which one?”
“Naval Medical Center, it’s right by the San Diego Zoo. He said they were okay when he called. Even joked that they wouldn’t need to go back to our old room,” Kelly informs her.
“Your old room? What old room?” Ellie asks, confusion overtaking her worry as she hears that Ian himself had told Kelly he was okay.
“The one they put us in when we came back from the island on Saturday.” A slight shudder is noticeable in Kelly’s voice.
Four whole years had gone by since they had escaped Jurassic Park together and they still hadn’t figured out where they stood in their relationship.
Ellie and Alan were as strong a couple as ever, if not stronger due to the traumatic events they had overcome together.
Ian was… something else.
Right after the island, they had watched Hammond disappear in a storm of lawyers and legal work to get through and had stayed close to Tim and Lex in the hotel that the Costa Rican government had stashed them in. They took the kids on daily visits to Ian and kept them otherwise occupied to distract them from the memories plaguing all of their thoughts. Ellie was fairly certain the kids had seen through their plot from day one, but had still welcomed and accepted the effort.
When their parents arrived to be reunited with Lex and Tim, too confused by the huge variety of more and less believable stories thrown at them to thank anyone for the safety of their kids, Alan made sure to give all four members of the Murphy family a note with their current address and home phone number, as well as the number of his department at the university of Denver.
“We’re just one phone call away, okay,” Ellie reassured the kids as she and Alan hugged them goodbye.
In the three days following the kids’ departure, they spent most of their time with a very grateful Ian in the hospital as they called in various favours and, finally, help from Hammond, to arrange a safe transport to the Advanced Care Hospital of Montana.
As much as he would have preferred to get out of bed, Ian’s leg had been deeply slashed and broken in several places and would render him unable to even walk with unaided for another month.
Ellie and Alan yearned for the familiar comfort of their own home, but even with two of them they barely managed a few hours of sleep per night. Chances were, Ian wasn’t faring much better. They honestly barely knew him back then, but surviving an ordeal like theirs together tended to bond people and they shuddered at the thought of leaving Ian alone in a hospital somewhere in Costa Rica.
It had seemed only logical to get Ian situated in a hospital that was a half hour drive from their home and later on it felt equally logical to take him in when the hospital finally released him with one bulky walking cast and two aluminium crutches.
They could see that Ian wanted to ask sometimes, had questions about their easy acceptance of another person in their small and private home, but he never once spoke up about it. Instead he gladly took the offered help and comfort. The university of Austin had granted him indefinite medical leave and Ian settled into the tiny shoebox of a guest room, hobbled about, spun wild theories about chaos and predictability and laughed at Alan’s grumpiness in the morning just as much as Ellie did.
Tim and Lex visited, sometimes. Their parents didn’t understand, couldn’t believe what had happened on their trip to the island, but they understood that the contact with the three adults helped them deal and the fact that Ellie, Ian and Alan were all renowned scientists with a mostly good reputation reassured them enough to let their kids take a week of vacation in Montana.
The second day, Tim and Lex whined and moaned about the couch being a horrible, horrible place to sleep and after much mumbling and hm’s and ah’s, Ian proposed that he could sleep in Alan and Ellie’s king sized bed, if they didn’t mind sharing, and let the kids take his bed. During the few weeks of his stay, Ian had moved into their space so naturally that even the thought of not agreeing seemed odd to them.
Only while the kids are here, of course, he’d assured them as they agreed to his proposal.
‘Only while the kids are here’ turned into Ian simply not moving back into his downstairs bedroom. Sharing the bed was convenient and comfortable and soon either Ellie or Alan automatically moved to help him up the stairs whenever he declared the need to sleep.
Taking their relationship to the next level was the easiest thing any of them had ever done.
When the cast and crutches were gone, so was Ian.
He’d been writing while at their home, just some thoughts, but now he was releasing article after article and appeared in several talk shows to tell the truth about Jurassic Park, about how Muldoon and Arnold and Gennaro, even Nedry, had really died.
They followed the news with glum looks. Both of them agreed that the truth should be told, but the fallout of breaking his non-disclosure agreement hit Ian just shortly after the media trouble had died down slightly. His funding taken away, his reputation taking a huge hit, he finally lost his place at the University of Austin and they lost sight of him for a bit.
Then Ellie got a computer and internet and an e-mail address and suddenly, regular updates from Ian - who was spending most of his time with his children and even Lex and Tim, occasionally - started showing up in her inbox. And then Ian himself showed up on their doorstep one evening.
Alan’s surprise quickly turned into a wry smile as he pulled Ian in for a hug, Ellie joining them as soon as she saw just who their late visitor was.
It had been almost a year since Ian left, but he returned and settled back in as if he’d simply taken a weekend trip to a different state.
They fell into bed together because it was easy and natural, just as it was to serve meals for three again, to have two people instead of one soothing away the rare nightmare that reared its ugly head.
The children were visibly happy to see the three of them back together. Ian and Ellie quietly suspected that at least Lex had figured them out before even they had and the kids accepted it in the easy and unquestioning way that kids did when no adult had taken them aside to whisper hateful words of wrong and unnatural into their small ears.
And then Ian was gone again. They followed his updates as he regained his footing in the academic world, happy for him if still confused about the three of them.
For four years Ian came and went from their home, sometimes staying for a week and sometimes for two months and every time he filled the space he’d left so easily and quickly that it didn’t occur to them to ask him to stay until he was gone again.
They’d met Sarah a few times before they went to San Diego to search for Ian. As scientists in adjacent fields, Alan and Sarah eagerly read each other’s work and could go on endless discussions that tended to go completely over Ian’s head after an hour or two, but he never minded.
When they’d prodded him for details one slightly drunken evening, Ian had admitted that Sarah was one of the few ex-girlfriends he had broken up with while the split could still be called amicable, because he wanted to be able to keep her and her intelligent conversation around.
(Then he’d drained his glass of whiskey and went off to bed, Ellie and Alan following to pull him in between them, eyes meeting over the crown of Ian’s dark hair.)
As they walk into the emergency room, overcrowded with people injured in car accidents that happened in the general panic to escape the dinosaur, Ellie has never been happier to see Sarah’s beautiful red hair.
“Sarah!” They hastily run up to her perch on one of the many beds, where she is currently trying to pull wet shoes onto her feet. “Are you okay? Where’s-”
“Alan? That you?” A familiar voice greets them from one bed over, privacy curtain half-pulled and separating the bed’s occupant from the hustle and bustle of the room.
Ellie takes a step forward to rip the curtain aside and is met with a very surprised and somewhat battered Ian blinking at her. He freezes in the act of trying to pull on his partly dry shirt, then slowly turns to look at Sarah.
“I know I lost my contacts, but you see this too, right?”
Sarah laughs, nodding her head as she shares a smile with Alan, who had stopped to look her over. Satisfied that her wounds are all superficial, he takes in Sarah’s knowing smile and turns to Ian.
“You cut your hair,” he says and then Ellie and Alan move in to hug Ian, surrounding him on both sides as they sling their arms around his cold torso.
“I’m also glad but ow, ow ow ow,” Ian protests shortly after and they reluctantly step back to fully take him in. Like Sarah, any wounds he sports are much less severe than the ones he received on his last trip to Jurassic Park. There are mostly cuts and bruises, the most prominent one a large dark bruise that curls from his shoulder over his back and ends at the side of his torso.
“Why are you guys all wet?” Ellie asks, frowning.
“We kind of jumped into the harbour? There was a... thing.” Ian shrugs helplessly.
Alan rolls his eyes as he takes off his thick jacket, taking Ian’s shirt out of his hand and throwing the jacket into his lap instead. At the other bed, Ellie pulls the curtain around her and Sarah and takes off her own jacket to lend her thick sweater to Sarah.
Ian’s beloved convertible is lost and damaged somewhere around the harbour, so they opt to take the rental back to his flat after Sarah and Ian get released from the hospital.
Kelly all but runs her father over as they enter the flat and Ian lets out a loud oof as she throws her arms around his waist. After Sarah receives about the same treatment and Ellie and Alan get an enthusiastic smile and a wave, Ian surveys his flat with a pondering look.
“I pulled out the couch,” Kelly says and links her arm with Sarah’s. “We can share.”
Sarah nods happily, already ambling over to the couch in search of a soft surface to crash on while Ian settles his hands on his daughter’s shoulders.
“You’re amazing,” a kiss on the right cheek, “I love you,” a kiss on the left cheek,” and goodnight.” With a final kiss to her forehead he lets go of Kelly and shuffles towards his bedroom, pulling Ellie and Alan along with him.
His bed is a lot smaller than their king-sized one in Montana, but they don’t mind squeezing close together under the warm covers. Ian slides along the bed until his back hits the wall, Ellie following along and cuddling close to his chest. Alan arranges himself against her back, reaching over her with one arm to settle a warm hand on Ian’s side.
The darkness around them is surprisingly silent and for a moment they simply lie still, Ian holding onto Ellie and Alan as much as they hold on to him.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Alan whispers finally.
“I couldn’t.” Ian shakes his head ever so slightly, not taking his eyes off of them. “I needed to go, Sarah was already there and I didn’t have time and-”
“We could’ve helped you. We would have,” Ellie interjects.
“Yeah, I know,” Ian rasps with a smile. “That’s why I didn’t tell you.”
They stay in San Diego for a few days, on one hand to witness the aftermath, on the other because Sarah, Ian, and Kelly need the close contact and reassurance of being around each other.
Then Sarah leaves to visit her family and Ian brings Kelly home to her mother, where he gives her a ridiculous number of hugs and every phone number she might somehow need to contact him.
He hardly packs anything from his flat before they leave for the airport, because his flats are only ever temporary stays anyway. Anything he owns that is important to him is at the house.
Ian moves back in with them, but for once it is not with the same ease. For them, the good day they spent in the wilderness in panic and trying to survive lies four years back, but Ian has gone through a complete reset where it hasn’t even been a week since he last had to run for his life from a gigantic dinosaur.
The answering machine holds several worried calls from the children, asking if they know what happened in San Diego or even if they were there. They spend almost three hours on the phone with Lex and Tim, lying curled together on the bed with the phone on speaker as they relate Ian’s latest escapades to them. The kids are equally shocked and relieved to hear that Ian survived another round and demand to visit the very next weekend, to which Ian agrees with a soft smile.
The setback takes its expected toll on Ian, and Ellie and Alan are glad that he’s come back to the house with them. They let him sleep in the middle, where he wakes up gasping night after night, hands fumbling down towards his leg to feel for warm blood as the scars below his knee flare up in phantom pain.
Night after night, they soothe him back to sleep with soft murmurs and kisses to his temples, his shoulders, stroking a reassuring hand through his short hair.
It takes two weeks for Ian to sleep through the night and three weeks for Ellie to wake up and find him packing a bag, getting ready to return to some flat somewhere. She reaches over to shake Alan awake just as Ian looks at her, surprise turning into a sheepish smile.
“Didn’t mean to wake you,” he admits.
“I know,” she says and watches as he finds another black shirt to drop into his bag, awkwardly scratching a hand along his neck now that they’re watching him pack.
“Ian,” Ellie says softly and he turns towards them with an unreadable look in his eyes.
“Stay,” Alan says.
It’s neither a command nor a question, but Ian still looks torn, unsure of himself as he glances at his half-packed bag and then back at them.
“No,” Ellie cuts him off. “You don’t.”
“I, uh-” he starts, reaching up with one hand to tug at a strand of his hair, “yeah, okay. Yeah.”
With a nod, his eyelids droop slightly with his exhaustion and he slowly shuffles back towards the bed where they hold up the covers for him to slip under and nestle in between their warmth.