: Field Trip to Isla SornaAuthor
: Jedi ButtercupRating
: B:tVS, JP III. Buffy hadn't been sure what to expect of the excursion the boys had arranged; especially not that the tour guide would turn out to be the most interesting part.
: The words are mine; the worlds are not. All your Buffy are belong to Joss Whedon, and your JP to Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton & etc.Spoilers
: Post-B:tVS (no comics) and Jurassic Park III (2001)Notes
: For amusewithaview
, who requested a B:tVS/Jurassic Park crossover, with Billy Brennan/female B:tVS character, not pre-island. Also includes a couple of vague references to characters from the first Lake Placid movie and the 1998 Godzilla movie, but nothing vital to the story.
Buffy stifled a yawn as she waited for her food to arrive, then straightened a little in her chair and reached for her glass of water, wishing she'd thought to order coffee. Or stayed up in her room and ordered room service, instead; after the long day of travel they'd had, the younger girls had chosen that option, and she didn't blame them. She didn't know how Caridad and Vi still had enough energy to go out dancing; all she wanted to do was pamper her tastebuds a little, then go soak in the tub in her suite, and the restaurant at their hotel was supposed to be the third best in San José.
Of course, third best in San José
also meant it was a little busy, especially since it seemed to be tourist season. She'd ended up at the bar instead of in the main restaurant, but even here the press of humanity and the scent of cigarette smoke was threatening to spoil her appreciation of the warm evening and gorgeous furnishings. Maybe when things calmed down a little she'd think about planning a real visit to Willow and Kennedy in São Paolo; she'd appreciate a chance to actually relax in a tropical atmosphere for once.
Small chance of that happening here. Buffy wasn't sure what to expect with this trip the boys had arranged for her and the baby Slayers; they were only supposed to swoop in for a low flight over InGen's facility out on Isla Sorna, but anything involving genetic engineering and creatures larger than the gigantic crocodile they'd already been to see was a perfect recipe for trouble. She shuddered at the thought.
"Looking forward to the tour that much, huh?" a sympathetic male voice broke into her thoughts.
Buffy looked up, startled by the interruption, into the cheerful, attractive face of a young man maybe five to ten years older than she was. He looked vaguely familiar, though she couldn't immediately place him; he was about average height for a guy, dressed academic casual, with brown eyes, unruly brown hair, and a smile that made her want to curl into its warmth.
Down girl, she thought to herself, and did her best to summon up an air-headed expression. "I'm sorry, what tour?" she asked, wondering who the hell he was, and how much he knew.
"No need to play coy," he replied, still smiling at her as though inviting her to share his joke-- or something else
she'd done without for far too long. "I'm with the Unnatural Predators conference over at the Ramada; you're with that group of young women with American accents and British money that wanted to hire one of us to meet you here, right?"
Buffy stared perplexedly at him for a moment, waiting for her tired brain to make some sense out of his statement. "Oh!" she finally said, as the dots connected. "You're the friend of Dr. Malcolm's he recommended to play tour guide?" They'd known when they'd spoken to the sharp-tongued, black-clad mathematician that he'd already sworn never to go back, but he'd been an acquaintance of Fred's, and as he and several other Park veterans would already be in the area for some kind of scientific shindig, they'd thought he'd be able to recommend a suitable replacement. Which explained why this man looked familiar to her; Buffy vaguely remembered looking through the files Giles had put together on the group, and thinking that this one's picture looked more like it belonged to a surfer than a scientist.
"Guilty as charged," he said, "though it's more acquaintance than friend; we mostly put up with each other because of Alan. Dr. Grant, I mean." Then he gestured at the seat to her right. "Mind if I sit down?"
"Only if you don't tell me your name," she said, bemused.
"Oh! Sorry about that," he grinned, sheepishly. "Dr. William Brennan, but everyone calls me Billy," he said, extending a hand toward her.
"Buffy Summers," she replied, taking the hand in a firm shake.
"Buffy," he repeated, an incredulous note in his voice-- but to his credit, he didn't laugh. "What an unusual name," he managed to continue. "And what group are you with? Ian didn't say."
"The group that paid him not to say," Buffy replied, unable to stop herself from returning his smile.
"Some group," Billy continued to hint good-naturedly as he took the chair he'd invited himself to. "The airspace over Las Cinco Muertes isn't as restricted now as it was even four years ago, but it still takes practically an act of God to get any new names added to the permission list."
"Ever heard of 'need to know'?" she parried.
He groaned, but never lost his smile. "And I don't need to know. All right, all right, I'll lay off. I just wanted to have a better idea of who I'll be working for before we go out to the island tomorrow, in case something goes wrong. I don't expect anything to happen, but then again, every other team that's gone out there started off thinking the same thing, and I'm sure you've heard all about those
Despite her intention to keep this whole trip purely professional, Buffy found herself warming to the guy-- in that tingly kind of way that meant her virtue, such as it was, was in potential danger. That hadn't happened with a completely human guy in quite a while; it charmed her, and made her more suspicious at the same time.
"I'm assuming that's why you showed up tonight, instead of meeting us tomorrow morning like we arranged?" she asked.
Billy shrugged. "Can you blame me?"
"Aren't your friends going to miss you at your conference?"
"Hardly," he chuckled. "Alan's busy getting-- reacquainted-- with Dr. Chapman; she always monopolizes his time when she visits. Ian and his latest ex, Dr. Harding, are busy arguing about chaos as applied to interpersonal relationships, and Dr. Cyr is discussing his theory of giant reptiles as divine conduits with the only other two people there I've even met, Drs. Sattler-Degler and Tatopolous. Forgive me if the last thing I wanted to do this evening was join one of those
"I hear you," Buffy said, shuddering a little as she thought about her own experiences with giant reptiles who'd aspired to, or were summoned by, the kind of deity that no-one in their right mind would ever want to worship. "Isn't Dr. Cyr the crocodile guy who worked with those game wardens at Black Lake in Maine? I know someone who was there. She said he was a little fruitcake-y, but pretty brave."
"That would be the guy," Billy nodded. "Of course, you could probably say that about most of us at the conference; you have
met Ian, right?"
Buffy snorted, then covered her mouth in embarrassment. "Okay, for that? You so owe me a beer."
"I thought you'd never ask," he grinned, and turned to the waiter as he finally arrived with Buffy's food.
Much later that evening, as she let the hot water soak the exhaustion of the day out of her bones, Buffy went over her dinner with Billy in her mind again. He was more charming than he had any right to be, and seemed like a nice guy overall. Strong personality, brave and stubborn enough to have survived his previous adventure on Isla Sorna, confident enough not to back off at the first hint of a brush-off, but not completely overbearing, either; his ego was balanced out by a strong awareness of his own mortality and a quick mind. Not to mention eyes she could drown in, and that body! Apparently, digging in the dirt for a living tended to keep a guy in decent shape. Yum.
In the end, though, she'd successfully avoided temptation and sent him back to his own hotel when she'd finished her meal. She wasn't about to tempt fate by knocking boots with him before they'd even gone out to the island; there'd be time enough for a one-night-stand after they returned from the flight-- if
he was still interested after spending a day trapped in a tin can with Buffy in general mode and a dozen hyper juvenile slayers. That was enough to scare any man off.
With a shake of her head, she finally levered herself out of the cooling water, then toweled off and slid into bed. Enough feeling sorry for herself; tomorrow would still be there when she woke up, and there would be time enough to worry about it then.
All the same, warm, laughing eyes and sun-touched brown curls followed her down into dream.
Buffy was still feeling groggy and insufficiently lattéd when the group gathered in the hotel lobby the next morning. Her Slayer metabolism had easily taken care of the aftereffects of the beers she'd drunk the night before, but hadn't helped one bit when trying to keep up with a gaggle of preteen superwomen giggling their way up and down the hall since the crack of dawn. Such was her life since Sunnydale, alas.
She stifled a yawn, then slid on a pair of sunglasses and scanned the crowd for their gregarious tour guide. He was already there, standing off to one side, watching the milling group with raised eyebrows and an amused expression; when she moved into his line of sight he grinned, then shook his head and made his way over to her.
"Reminds me of volunteer week at the dig site," he said in a confiding tone. "Half the students who show up are only there because they had crushes on Indiana Jones when they were kids, and Alan and I end up spending the entire time babysitting to make sure they don't damage any of the bones."
Buffy tilted her head at him, amused by the comparison, and nodded. "I'm afraid the girls are probably going to get about as much out of this so-called learning experience as your volunteers did from theirs, but there's only so much I can do."
"So is there some kind of title I should be addressing you by?" he asked, a speculative light-- and a tiny bit more deference-- in his glance that hadn't been there the night before.
"I'm not a schoolmarm," she said warningly, "if that's what you're thinking, and I don't have any fancy initials after my name, either. If you call me anything but Buffy--"
"--You won't accept the peace offering I've brought you?" he said, widening his eyes innocently as he pulled a white cardboard cup from behind his back.
Whatever threat she'd been planning to make vanished instantly from Buffy's mind as she breathed the chocolaty, hazelnut-y aroma wafting up from the cup. She wrapped her hands immediately around its warmth, snatching it from his grip, and favored him with a happy sigh. "How did you know I'd need this?"
"You told me last night, sometime after the second beer," he said, grinning. "And since I've had more time to scout the city than you, I thought I'd bring an offering to appease the 'early morning grumpies'. Hotel coffee just doesn't compare."
Buffy groaned as she heard her words repeated back to her; yes, she remembered that now. One of these days, she should seriously give up alcohol; it always led to embarrassment. "Don't tell anyone I said that. The girls tease me enough as it is."
"You're the boss," he agreed, affably.
"And on that note," she sighed and turned back to the seething throng. A quick whistle caught the girls' attention, and Caridad and Vi nudged them into a rough pair of lines in front of her. "Everyone had breakfast? It's time to get this show on the road."
Inevitably, one of them hadn't; at a raised eyebrow from Buffy, Vi dug an energy bar and a bottle of juice out of her shoulder bag and tossed them to the pouting thirteen-year-old. Between the trip to the private airport and the flight aboard the toy-sized aircraft, they'd be out awhile; Buffy had instructed her deputies to stock up as many non-sugary snacks as they could in case the excursion took even longer than planned. Billy wasn't the only one feeling mildly paranoid about their chances of avoiding trouble.
"At least it isn't Tuesday," she murmured under her breath, and began ushering the girls out to the bus.
That sense of impending danger continued to hover during the drive, but never quite materialized-- mostly thanks to Billy. He took the seat across from Buffy at the front of the bus-- not next to her as she'd expected, which would have been a bit crowded on the narrow seats, but still close enough for light conversation and the occasional brush of hand to shoulder. Buffy enjoyed both coffee and banter and did her valiant best to ignore the eyes she felt on them as the miles passed beneath them.
The mood didn't darken again until they disembarked to board the chartered plane. Billy paused for a moment, staring at it with a meditative expression, and shook his head. "You know, Alan thinks I'm crazy for doing this," he said.
"Then why are you?" Buffy asked, quietly, glancing around to make sure none of the other Slayers were listening in.
"Are you kidding?" He gave her a wry grin. "If I let previous bad experiences stop me from doing something amazing, I'd be giving in to fear, and I'm not about to let that happen."
"You're kind of an adrenaline junkie, aren't you?" she said solemnly, remembering Owen from her high school days with mixed feelings.
"Within reason," Billy shrugged. "I love the thrill, yes, but I've learned the hard way to be smart about it. 'Best intentions' don't mean much when someone's life is on the line."
"Good," she replied, sternly. "'Cause I'd be kind of annoyed if you won a Darwin award before I got to know you any better."
That earned her a bright, wide smile, and she felt herself slip just a little farther. She hadn't planned to fall in love on this little field trip, but it was beginning to look as though it couldn't be avoided.
She smiled back, then turned before her wobbly emotions could betray her and trudged up the steps into the plane. This time, she patted the seat directly next to her when he followed her down the aisle.
It was a bit over 200 miles out to Isla Sorna. Lively conversation continued; Billy told her a more detailed story of his last trip out than had been written in his and Dr. Grant's files, from their terrifying first encounter with the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus
that had taken down the airplane to their rescue by the United States government. The tale quickly gained an audience as the rest of the Slayers gathered in the seats nearest theirs; Billy was a passionate speaker, infusing his voice with the emotions he'd been feeling at the time, terror and wonder and laughter and relief building from one moment to the next.
Buffy listened to him in awe, and wished she'd met him a long time ago. If he'd been along when they visited the Black Lake crocodile, or any of the other predators on their tour, would the girls have learned the lesson she'd been trying to teach them before now? She'd never been able to make them pay attention the way he'd so effortlessly managed.
She'd been afraid that if this trip didn't work, if this group of the youngest and most reckless of the new Slayers didn't learn some respect for creatures stronger, deadlier and more ancient than they, that she'd lose all too many of them to their first real fights. They were so young, younger than she'd been before she'd taken up a cross and stake for the first time, and so very, very jaded about the dangers she'd faced every moment of her Slaying life. She didn't want to crush their spirits, but she needed them to understand
; she needed them to take their training seriously and listen
when the Scoobies tried to impress on them the seriousness of what they'd be facing.
But maybe all they'd really needed was someone who could catch and keep their attention. Someone who could explain it to them in language they could understand. Someone like Billy.
The expression on her face must have been pretty interesting as she listened, because he glanced over at her somewhere near the end of his tale and faltered mid-sentence. Buffy took a deep breath and summoned up a stiff smile, shaking her head at him, and he shrugged and continued, finishing the story with his awakening on a helicopter about to leave the island. The girls applauded, beginning to pester him with questions just as the pilot came on the intercom to announce their final approach.
Buffy ordered the girls back to their seats, then deliberately reached for his armrest, curling her small hand around his. "Thank you," she told him, quietly, studying the pattern of calluses on his hand to keep herself from getting all emotional again.
"What for?" Billy asked, sounding confused and more than a little pleased.
"For giving me hope," she said, then leaned her head on his shoulder so she wouldn't have to look into his face.
She continued to sit there like that, entirely focused on the man in the seat next to her, as they circled the island; she glanced past his shoulder toward the nearest window a few times when his voice grew particularly excited, but otherwise paid little attention to the dinosaurs they'd come to see, or the exclamations of the girls, or the swooping of the plane as it changed altitude more than once to avoid the more dangerous areas. Seen one super-predator, in her opinion, seen them all.
A man worth holding onto was a far rarer, and more precious, reward.