Mainland

Preface: I wrote this for my Internet friend duckythefangirl on Archive of Our Own. Her story, ‘Chaos Theory’, features the original cast of characters with one exception: Ian Malcolm is genderswapped and called Irene Malcolm. This is sort of a spiritual successor to that story, so that’s why Ian’s a lady all of a sudden. Hope you enjoy it!

When Irene Malcolm was six years old, she broke her arm. It was nothing major, really; it was a tiny fracture, no infection developed and the bone healed just fine. She still had to go to the hospital, though, had to ride in an ambulance that hurt her ears and stay in a place that was far too bright and clean and white. A lot of things happened during her short stay at that place. She’d been poked and prodded, she’d had to have emergency surgery and hadn’t been allowed to see her parents for hours and hours, and through all of it her arm hurt more than she’d ever thought anything could. But Irene always had the skill of dissociation, so while people in white and needles and bulky machines had swirled around her, she’d just looked forward and concentrated on the infinitely long hallways, on the obnoxiously bright fluorescent lights and the generic flowers painted on the walls. So in the end, that was what had stuck with her—the way the hospital looked—and that was what she’d ended up having nightmares about, of all things.

For years and years as a kid, she’d  woken up shivering in cold sweats after dreams of labyrinthine halls, pure white walls closing in, agonizing screams from behind doors and unspeakably horrible things just around the corner. She’d eventually grown out of those dreams, moving on to more adult nightmares like kidnapping and deaths of family members. She hadn’t had hospital nightmares for years, but when she woke up at some miserable hour of the morning in a foreign hospital that seemed to radiate hostility, for a moment it seemed like she was right smack in the middle of one of her childhood nightmares. Every element of her old nightmares was there, even the way the tiles looked.

But the short, thin figure standing in the doorway and bathed in red light from an EXIT sign, and the little voice saying, “Dr. Malcolm? You—you awake?” flipped a switch in Irene’s brain and changed her focus entirely. In the few seconds it took for her eyes to focus, she squinted, blinked and fumbled for her glasses on the little metal nightstand next to her bed. She finally grabbed them, shoved them on and saw who her visitor was. “’Course I’m awake,” she said, her voice still groggy but growing warm. “Yeah. C’mon in.”

Lex, looking almost ghostly with her long hair falling down her shoulders and her white hospital nightgown, flitted across the room and perched on Irene’s bed, carefully avoiding the older woman’s bandage-wrapped leg. “Thanks. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“Not—not a big deal,” Malcolm assured, trying to sound as soothing as she could and assessing the child’s face for signs of terror. She lifted her arm and said, “You want to lie down for a minute?” Lex shrugged and curled up next to her, leaning her little blonde head against Irene’s shoulder. Irene pulled her in closer and said quietly, “You have another nightmare? You know it’s—uh, it’s all over now, right?”

“Not really—”

“No, no, I’m serious. The dinosaurs are all gone, I promise.” In the dark, barely visible, she grinned a little. “You scared ‘em off. Made ‘em fear the power of the UNIX.”

Lex giggled. “No, I mean I didn’t have a bad dream for once. I just—I kinda need your help.”

Irene sat up and her face grew serious again. “They’re not threatening you, are they? I—I saw those InGen bast—uh, lawyers coming to your room. You know they can’t do anything to you, right? You—you didn’t sign an NDA, so there’s nothing they can do. And if they even try to lay a finger on you, you, ah, you just tell ‘em to—”

“No, it’s not that, it’s different.” Lex sat up as well. “Dr. Malcolm—”

“You can call me Irene, sweetheart, remember?”

“Irene. I really need you to help me with something, but you have to promise. You can’t tell anyone. You have to promise me.”

“Lex, if someone’s hurting you or you’re—”

Lex shook her head. “It’s nothing like that. Just promise me.”

“…Okay, I promise.”

“And you have to promise you won’t get mad.”

“Of course not.”

“Great. I just need to get something. Gimme a minute.” Lex got up and darted out of the room, her nightgown swishing behind her as she disappeared down the corridor. Irene closed her eyes and let her head fall back, her dark, damp curls spreading over the pillow again. She took a second to assess her situation— something that had begun to feel necessary after the time she’d woken up in a pool of body parts and her own blood—and found everything as she left it, her black clothes dirty and torn, her left leg in traction and her starchy sheets tangled. She noted the TV and the tissue box and the posters in Spanish around her, and let herself relax for just a minute before Lex returned.

“Careful, he might bite,” met Irene’s ears, and she looked up to see the little blonde girl holding something about as big as both of her hands, wrapped in an old hospital sheet.

Irene stared in disbelief for a moment and then finally got out, “Is that—an animal?”

Lex nodded and slowly walked over to the hospital bed, carefully cradling the little thing in the sheet as if it were a sleeping baby. “It’s fine if you don’t want to hold him,” the girl said, carefully lowering her arms and showing Malcolm the bundled-up thing. “Just be careful, I don’t wanna wake him up. He’s kind of loud.”

“Did you find a lizard outside or something?”  Irene shook her head. “Lex, you—you know that’s a bad idea. You don’t know these native animal species, you can’t be sure he’s not poisonous or something.” Lex stayed silent, so Irene peeled back the sheet with the tips of her fingers. And then she paused and yanked her hand back. Calmly slumbering in its little nest, a tiny green lizard-like thing was nestled, its tail wrapped around its body and its head tucked under its little arm, red light from the exit sign shimmering off its scales. It only took a second for Irene to realize what she was looking at.

“You brought a compy back?” Irene pulled away from the thing, but winced and went still when she was reminded how painful it was to move her leg. “You—you—you—” She pushed her hair out of her face and gestured wildly, trying to find what to say. “Lex, how?”

“I’m so sorry!” Lex’s lower lip wobbled. “I saw him while we were about to get on the helicopter, and he had a broken leg and he was away from his family and he just looked so hurt, and I hid him under my shirt and brought him to the copter and now I don’t know what to do!”

“Why did you…” Irene still couldn’t fully comprehend this. “That’s a dinosaur! Lex, that thing’s gonna kill you. Put that outside right now!”

“Well, we can’t just put him outside, ‘cause he’ll die out there, and now I wish I didn’t bring him here but I can’t just let him die now!”

“And now you’re bringing me into—” Malcolm took a moment to calm down and take a deep breath. “All right. Okay. Let’s—let’s just cross that bridge when— How’ve you been feeding him all this time?”

“I ordered beef from the nurse,” Lex said, wrinkling her nose a little. “It’s gross, but he likes it.”

“Why would you keep it here with you for two weeks and not let anyone know?” She stopped, mentally answering her own question. “Better yet, how did you hide—never mind, never mind, we’ll worry about that later. What—what exactly do you want me to do?”

 “I can’t fix his leg. I don’t have any gauze or anything in my room, and they only let me leave my room this morning. I thought you might have, you know, leg stuff in here. Do you think you could try it? Please?”

“I’ll give it a try if you put that damn thing outside as soon as you possibly can.”

“I will,” Lex said, eagerly nodding. “I have a plan. I’ll put him on a boat back to the island.”

“And, ah, how is that gonna happen?”

“There’s a big fishing dock a couple blocks away. I’ll just sneak out and put him with someone who’s going back to the island.”

“And you promise you’ll do this tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Lex widened her eyes and looked hopeful; she must have known how persuasive that was with adults.

“Okay,” Irene said, steadying herself. “I’m gonna help you fix his leg, and—and then we’re gonna get him out of here as soon as we can. Gonna put him on the next boat to Nublar. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Hand me some gauze from that drawer over there. And the antiseptic, it’s the stuff with the green lid.” Lex obeyed and handed Irene a thin roll of white gauze and a little white tub; she unrolled some and looked critically at the tiny, still-sleeping dinosaur, running her fingers over its lower leg. “All right, looks like a pretty good snap, but maybe I can wrap it up.” She unscrewed the lid of the antiseptic container and dipped her fingers in the cold white cream, smearing it over the little dinosaur’s injury as delicately as she could. Once that was finished, she unrolled the gauze and laid a strip over the compy’s limb, trying to determine how she was going to do this. Trying as hard as she could to remember how the nurses had put gauze on her own leg, she wrapped the compy’s leg entirely, following the crisscross pattern on her own injured leg. It took her a good few minutes, but she finally mastered the task, tying the gauze strip in a little knot at the top of the animal’s thigh. “That’s the best I can do,” she sighed; the dinosaur stirred in his sleep, kicking his little legs, but otherwise showed no sign of waking up. “Wow, that’s, uh, a sleepy little dinosaur.”

“I gave him a little tiny bit of morphine,” Lex said, holding up her fingers and indicating how tiny the dose had been.

“Huh,” Irene commented as the girl gathered up her charge in the blanket and held him close to her again. “I guess I have a lot in common with the little guy, ah, don’t I?”

Lex gave her a tiny smile. “Yeah, I guess you do. Thanks for helping.”

“I’d do pretty much anything to get a dinosaur off the mainland. But I—I’m glad you told me, Lex. It was the right thing to do—you know, uh, considering.”

“Yeah, well, I learned my lesson. I’m not a dinosaur doctor, am I? I’ll just stick to hacker.” She turned to leave. “See you in the morning.”

“Wait,” Irene called, and Lex stopped. “Someone told me you and your brother are getting out of here tomorrow. That means you need to get the little guy out of here immediately. First thing tomorrow morning, you hear me?”

“Okay,” Lex nodded, the good news of her imminent release lighting up her face.

“I’m not kidding. Th-this is serious. You can’t let him out on the mainland. Under no circumstances, got it?”

“I promise, Irene,” Lex said, and without another word she was gone. Irene watched her go for a minute and then fell back again, exhausted. Deciding that there was nothing else she could do, she let her eyes close and allowed herself to drift off. Her head swam as the darkness came back, and she dreamed of falling rain and the sounds of growls deep in the forest.

xxx

The next day was barely a day at all to Irene. Various drugs pulled her in and out of restless sleep, and doctors and nurses flitted in and out of her room like apparitions. A few times, through the veil of morphine cloaking her brain, she saw dinosaurs prowling around the room, pouncing on her and then disappearing into thin air. This agony continued for an unknowable amount of time. Finally, when a nurse pulled the needle form her arm and the drugs slowly worked their way from her bloodstream, she was aware that it was a hot afternoon and she was in the same bed in the same hospital, that sunbeams painted her floor and birds sang outside her window, and that all was comparatively well.

Irene lay in bed a few hours after she’d recovered from her stupor, eyes closed and breathing steady for once. A while ago, Alan and Ellie had taken the kids out for a walk on what was to be their last day in the hospital. Since they’d gone from the sight of Irene’s window, disappeared for a while and then returned to the building, there was nothing outside worth looking at anymore. Now Irene lay silently and listened to the softly droning television, which played some Spanish soap opera; she was trying to use her fluent knowledge of Latin to try to translate the words and pick a few phrases up. A strongly emphasized phrase came from the TV set, which sounded like it might have meant “I don’t want to speak to you”. “No quiero hablar con usted más,” she murmured, carefully imitating the words. She might not need to say it to a nurse, but it sounded like it could be useful for an ex-husband.

She suddenly stopped and pressed a button to silence the TV when she heard soft, deliberate footsteps outside her door. Irene looked over, and familiar little figure had appeared in the doorway. “You like the gardens out there?” she called over to the little girl. “I saw you walking through ‘em. I’m really glad you’re, ah, feeling well enough to go outside.” The warmth in her voice was genuine; true to her nature and despite her own injuries, her biggest fear over these past few days had been that one of the kids had caught some weird dinosaur disease. If they had and she’d been stuck in bed, unable to help, it would have been more terrifying than the possibility of recovering from her own ailments.

“I did it,” Lex said cautiously.

“Did wh—oh, you did?” She sat up. “Come over here, how’d you do that?”

Lex tiptoed over and sat on the edge of the newly-sheeted bed. “I made sure there weren’t any nurses around, and then I ran over to the docks. I found a fishing boat going to Nublar and I stuck him in their… I dunno, the place where they keep cargo.” She grinned proudly. “I even talked to them in Spanish. Asked if I could see their boat.”

“Really? How’d you do that?”

“Learned it from this Telemundo stuff they play on the TV.”

Malcolm put a hand on Lex’s shoulder. “Smart of you, that’s smart of you. But you, uh, absolutely made sure he’s on his way to Nublar, right? Nowhere else?”

“Yeah, he is.”

“Good. Fantastic.” Irene let herself relax and leaned on her elbows. “Just make sure not to mention any of this to the crackp—your grandpa, and, uh, it’ll be like none of this happened, all right? Just keep this between us?”

“I—I don’t think we can, actually.”

Irene shot back up. “Oh, no no no. Did he bite you or something? Or scratch you?” She took Lex’s arm and started scanning it for telltale wounds. If she got sick, if this poor little girl who’d been through so much got sick and there was nothing anyone could do…

“He didn’t, he didn’t,” she said, pulling her arm away and reaching into her left shorts pocket, rummaging around for something. “And the thing is—last night when I went back to my room, well, something kinda happened. He’s not really a he, she was a girl.”

“How do you know?” Lex didn’t answer; she fished a tiny object from her pocket and dropped it into Irene’s palm. Irene looked at the little thing, inspecting it closely, turning it over in her hand. And then she finally got it. Freezing, she held the little, white, oblong thing up and said, “Laid an egg. She—she laid an egg.” Silently, Lex nodded and looked at Malcolm questioningly. Within its tiny casing, Irene thought she felt a tiny creature inside the egg, just beginning to stir.

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