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READER RESTRICTIONS: NONE

Disclaimer(s): none

publish date:

Originally published on July 15, 2015

Revised edition published on November 27, 2023

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"We're brothers. We're gonna always be brothers, and we're

always gonna come back to one another. No matter what."

Zach Mitchell, Jurassic World (2015)

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        Gray felt it: the pull of that long black claw, like a polished scythe, catching on the strap that was around his waist. The claw of the Indominus Rex, tugging him out of his brother’s arms. As he slipped slowly from his grasp, he remembered thinking, for the briefest of moments, that he was going to die. His throat was hoarse from screaming, his eyes burned from the tears, the back of his neck was sticky with chilling sweat.

        There was nothing he could do. The strap held fast, and that sociopathic beast, in its unceasing quest to kill, was going to rip him apart, right after ripping him away from the person he loved most. The Indominus’s roar shattered the sound waves, the deafening noise seeping out through its serrated teeth and cracking across the otherwise silent skies. Gray closed his fiery eyes, facial muscles straining.

        Slipping, slipping.

        The I-Rex snarled. The tip of its onyx claw raked down across the concrete.

        Zach, please don’t let go. Please. Gray couldn’t speak. He wanted to scream, but his voice failed him. Zach, PLEASE! His older brother’s forearm was now up high on his chest. He was being dragged out from under his hold--weaker now. It was only them: two brothers, sitting together at the threshold between life and death, a Jurassic reaper inviting Gray over the edge.

        Please don’t let him get me, Zach.

        “I w-won’t, Gray. I won’t,” Zach whispered, almost as if he could hear his thoughts.

        Please.

        “I’ll never let go, Gray.”

        Promise?

        “Promise.”

        But Zach had been lying. Because he did let go.

        And suddenly, Gray was alone: screaming as he slid away from the apathetic face of his older brother; dragged across the cold, marred concrete toward the jagged jaws of the “untamable king.” He braced himself as the Indominus bellowed proudly, its roar rivaling the thunderstorm outside.

        The thunderstorm.

        Thunder.

        Not a roar.

        Thunder.       

        Gray opened his eyes. 

november 2022
A few months after the events of
jurassic world dominion

        "Damn," Gray muttered to himself. He exhaled and wiped at his eyes. He hadn't had that nightmare in years. He brought a hand to his face, feeling the stubble around his jaw, feeling the pulse beneath his Adam's apple. He ran his fingers through his long hair, then brought a hand to his chest, broad and flat. He wasn't twelve years old; he wasn't back on Isla Nublar. He was nineteen, and he was in his old bedroom in Wisconsin.

        Safe. Relatively safe.  

        As his surroundings came into focus, he let his tired eyes wander to the blue walls around him, once filled with dinosaur memorabilia, shelves brimming with plastic sauropods and other science-related toys. Now, they were mostly barren, most of the reminders of his experience at Jurassic World packed away, just like the bad memories in his brain. He sat up and shook out his oversized night shirt, which was a little cold with residual sweat. He looked down at his nightstand, where his mom had left an old framed photo:

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        He huffed a quiet laugh to himself. How different things had been back then. Back when the only way to see a living, breathing dinosaur was to make the long journey down to a small little island off the coast of Costa Rica, back when Gray was naive enough to want to follow in his aunt Claire's footsteps and work at, what he felt at the time, was the greatest place on earth.

        Gray exhaled again and grimaced, then shook his head, disappointed in himself for being so young. So dumb. The clouds grumbled outside again, the sounds enough to pull him from his bed, out his bedroom door and down the hall. He wasn't surprised to find the rest of the house still quiet, but he was a little disappointed. He'd hoped, by some miracle, that his parents would have managed to make it back before the storm; the weather obviously hadn't held out. It had been so unpredictable lately. Last week, it had snowed. Over the weekend, there'd been sun, and a promise of temps as high as the fifties. And now--rain and thunder, leaving his parents stuck at his grandma's in Richland, and Maisie, Claire, and Owen's flight delayed. At this rate, he feared Thanksgiving would be cancelled. 

        When he arrived at the top of the stairs, he caught sight of a dull blue light flickering across the living room below. He spotted a silhouette sitting on the sofa--the only other person who had managed to make it home on time.

        Zach. He had his headphones on, his eyes buried in the screen of his laptop despite the television buzzing away in the background. Gray hesitated at the top step. He considered going back to his room for a moment. He wasn't sure how his brother would feel about his bothering him at this hour. Before he could step away, however, another clap of thunder reverberated through the house. Gray shivered, recalling the ear-shattering cry of the Indominus again. He wrapped his trembling fingers around the banister of the staircase and slowly made his way down. 

        "Hey," he muttered upon stepping into the room. 

        “Gray?” Zach's response was almost immediate. Like Gray, he was wearing flannels, a t-shirt, and long white socks. "What are you doing up?" There was a tinge of concern in his voice. Or maybe it was annoyance?

        Gray lowered himself into the recliner seat adjacent to the sofa. "Couldn't sleep."

        Zach set his laptop down beside him and Gray caught a glimpse of the screen: an old information page about the Dinosaur Protection Group. He furrowed his brow. "Why are you looking up the DPG?"

        Zach rolled his eyes and closed the laptop completely. "None of your business."

        "You know it's defunct, right?"

        "I know that, genius," Zach grumbled. "Is that what you came down here for? To bother me?"

        Gray exhaled, ignoring his brother's question. "You couldn't sleep either?" he asked.

        Zach ran his hands through his hair too, which was also looking a big shaggy. Their mom was going to kill them both when she saw them. "Nah. The storm." He went quiet and they both listened to the heartbeat of the rain outside, the soft pitter-pattering on the windows and rooftop. He went to turn up the volume on the television, which was currently running some previously-recorded footage of a report on the dwindling Biosyn locust epidemic. The glimmering screen was cloaking the room in the blue darkness that was the storm-riddled night.

        "Can you...maybe...not turn up the TV?" Gray asked tentatively.

        "Oh." Zach hesitated and backed away from the remote on the coffee table. "Um. Sure, I guess? What, you wanna talk or something?"

        "Talk?"

        An annoyed expression crossed Zach's face. "Well, yeah. I don't know. You just want to sit there and sulk?" He sounded defensive.

        "No. I'm not-- I...don't know."

        "I mean, I don't care. Do whatever you want." Zach grabbed his laptop again and reached for the headphones around his neck, but at that moment, the storm clouds decided to interject once more. This particular wave of thunder was louder than the rest, and in that brief flash of sound, a memory fired away. Gray saw it, for a split-second:

He gasped and seized up, almost as if his muscles were locking in place. His eyes found Zach’s, also wide with what could only be described as unease. Both boys remained silent and frozen, long after the echoing crack in the skies had faded away.

        "Zach," muttered Gray softly.

        "What."

        "Doesn't it...sound...like...?"

        Zach nodded. "Uh. Yeah. Yeah, it does. A little." He set his laptop down again and removed the headphones completely from around his neck. "Sorry. I...should've figured you'd be freaked out too."

       Gray sighed heavily. Bitterly. "It really sucks."

       Zach tried to smile and he breathed out an irritated laugh. One quick beat. "Yeah. Yeah, it does."

       "I can't believe there was a time when I actually liked dinosaurs." Gray decided to voice his thoughts aloud from earlier. 

       This comment piqued his brother's interest. Zach leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. His expression went from concerned to inquisitive. "What--you've suddenly decided that you don't?"

        "It's not really suddenly."

        "C'mon." Zach smiled. "Look, I get how you feel about the Indomino. I do too, but--"

        "Indominus, Zach."

        "Whatever." Zach shook his head. "But it's not like you've stopped loving dinosaurs. Even after Jurassic World, you were going on and on about how you wanted to join the freaking DPG when you were old enough." He gestured back to his closed laptop, referencing the article he'd been reading only minutes ago. "It's too bad it got shut down."

        "Yeah, well a lot's changed," Gray grumbled.

        "Sure, but--"

        "Look at everything that's happened, Zach." Gray's voice cracked. He propped himself forward as the emotions rose within him. The clouds outside voiced their agreement and the weight of the rainfall intensified. "I'm not just talking about Jurassic World. The Lockwood incident. Biosyn." He counted off each example on his fingers. "Mom told us about that Dimorphodon attack in Madison last week! Dimorphodons, Zach. Remember those?"

        Zach nodded slowly. "Um, yeah." He cleared his throat and gestured to the space in front of his face. "Long snouts. Ugly. Sharp teeth."

        "So, yeah." Gray sighed. "Maybe-- Maybe...I used to love dinosaurs, Zach. But that was before I saw them killing people. And now... now they're everywhere."

        "Not all the dinosaurs--"

        "Stop, just stop." Gray said, the finality in his tone effectively shutting his brother down. The house grew quiet again. The rains outside softened. The television droned on in the background. Zach watched his brother turn away from him in the recliner, bringing his arms to his chest, bringing his knees up. He let out a long breath. "I'm...sorry," he said finally. 

        Gray didn't respond.

        Zach thought a moment. He scooted down the sofa, just a little bit closer to his brother. "I just... I know I'm probably not doing a very good job of making you feel better. I was...never really good at that."

        Gray still said nothing.

        "Can you answer one more thing for me?"

        "What."

        "Can you still...name them all?" Zach asked tentatively.

        "What?"

        "The dinos. I mean, we hear about 'em all the time now, but I still can't remember their names. What did you just call those creepy flying ones? Dimorpho...?"

        "Dimorphodons."

        "And the Indominus." Zach made sure to say it right this time. "I'm still impressed you remember its name."

        "I'm surprised you don't. It almost killed us."

        Zach's mouth twisted up. He watched his sibling curl more tightly into himself as if he were retreating from the world. He asked Gray another question: "There was this one you were, like, super obsessed with as a kid. What was it called?" He began snapping his fingers, as if each sound would help jog his memory.

        Gray was growing weary. "I don't know." He heard his brother get up from where he was seated, which finally prompted him to look back in his direction. He was a little surprised to see Zach rounding the coffee table and approaching the recliner. "What are you doing?" he asked.

        "I think it started with a...T?" Zach's tone was still soft and encouraging, but there was a strange expression on his face now. Something almost...playful?

        Gray tried to think back to that time before, that time when he did love dinosaurs, when he used to view the fact that he had family in the business of making them as the icing on the genetically-modified cake. "Are you talking about the T-Rex?”

        "Oh, yeah! It sounded similar!" Zach smirked, snapping his fingers again.

        Gray was now very much confused. He turned onto his back, so that he was lying flat again, legs extending outward again. He pulled himself up in the seat, locking eyes with his brother's twinkling brown irises. There was something about that look... It was familiar, and for some reason, it made him nervous.

        Zach stopped at the base of the recliner, standing tall over his brother, his form silhoutted by the incessant glow of the television. "I think it was...the Ticklesaurus Rex." He cracked a mischievous grin. "You remember it?"

        Gray went wide-eyed again, but now for an entirely different reason. His heart drilled down into his stomach. He hadn't heard the name of that "dinosaur" since he was five. His first instinct was to run. In a panic, he tried to push himself up from the chair. "No! Z-Zach, are you insane?"

        Zach didn’t verbally respond. Instead, he leaned forward, lowering himself, arching his fingers, pulling his arms tight against his ribcage as if to mimic the stance of a predator. Gray had to admit that it looked more Raptor than anything else.

        “You're joking, right? W-what are you d-doing…?” he whimpered.

        “Eyeing my prey,” Zach said with a sincere shrug.

        "N-no! Zach! I swear. Don't! Get aw-awayhay!" Gray began to giggle helplessly. This was completely out of nowhere. It’d been years since Zach had really touched him, let alone tickled him. The mere fact that Zach had hugged him so many times back on Isla Nublar--it’d meant more than he could ever know. This, however… Gray had no idea what to do with this--his twenty-three-year-old brother was about to full-on tickle him, just like when they were kids.

        “What’s wrong?” Zach asked flatly, fingers still descending toward Gray’s stomach.

        "Za-hahach! Don't you daharehare! I'm serious!" Gray could only whimper and shake his head, raising his hands up to try and fend off his fingers. He didn't know how else to respond.

        “W-what?” Zach laughed, watching his younger brother ball up into a fetal position. “Gray, I haven’t even touched you yet.”

        “Nohoho! I'm not in the moohoohood!”

        “Who's ever in the mood to get tickled?" Zach said.

        "Just stahap!" 

        "Look, if you’re gonna laugh, a might as well be tickling you,” Zach teased and finally touched down on Gray’s stomach with full force. His nimble fingertips immediately slipped beneath Gray’s white tee and prodded into the warm, tender flesh.

        Gray squealed. It was a sound he wasn't aware he was capable of producing. “EEEEEEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!”

        Zach chuckled, raking his fingertips down his brother’s smooth flanks.

        “AAAAAHHAHAHAHAHA!” Gray yelped and rolled onto his side, kicking his legs. His frantic laughter began to drown out the heavy rains outside.

        “Damn, Gray! I really don’t remember you being this ticklish!” Zach chuckled. 

        Gray didn’t remember it either. This was terrible. His brother’s fingers were like little Compys scampering across his skin. His whole abdomen was tingling. Zach began to knead his sides--thumbs up top playing with the flesh at the slight divots above his hipbones, while his fingers beneath were sliding around the edges of his back. Shivers shot up Gray’s spine and laughter continued to bubble up through his tight lips. “AggghhahaHA!”

        Zach’s hands clamped down harder, each squeeze was like a jittering jolt of energy that ricocheted around his insides before bursting up through his esophagus like a firecracker. “Heheheh,” Zach teased, sticking his tongue out through an open-mouthed grin as he continued his work.

        Gray couldn’t see much, his eyes squeezing shut from the ticklish spasms seizing his upper body. “HAHA! ZAAAAHAAAAHAAACH!” he pleaded as his brother began to slide his hands up toward his ribs. The laughter-inducing sensations amplified. 

        “The Ticklesaurus shows no mercy!” Zach taunted, almost uncharacteristically. Another flash of distant lightning cast sporadic bursts of blinding light into the otherwise dark living room.

        “I H-HAYHAYHATE THE TIHIHIHICKLESORHORHORHORUHUHUHS!” Gray screamed, eyes scrunched shut. The muscles in his face were tight. He felt the prickle of sweat at his hairline. He began to blindly reach up and slap at his older brother’s attacking arms. This, however, just gave Zach an opening. His strategic fingers bolted up into Gray’s hollows, which were lined with soft, delicate hairs.             

        “AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Gray screeched, eyes shooting open.

        “Now what, huh?!” Zach giggled.

        "NOHOHOHO!!! I C-CAN'T TAYHAYHAYHAKE IT!” Gray protested. Zach’s fingers continued to nibble away at his sensitive underarm flesh and Gray squeezed his biceps tight against his chest in an effort to pinch them out.

        “Not gonna work,” Zach pointed out. His eight fingers were working their magic on his little brother’s armpits, but his thumbs were still free. He pressed down on Gray’s nipples, each also lined with a small ring of hair, and he began to stroke the tender skin in circular motions.

        “AGHKPTH! AGGGHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA!” Gray bucked upward, and tried to turn away again. Zach responded by advancing further, swinging his legs over his brother’s waist. Gray felt the weight of his sibling locking him down against the recliner. Zach was only a little taller than him, but decently heavier.

        “Hey, Gray,” Zach prompted, pausing mid-tickle, “You at least still like the Ticklesaurus, right? Screw those other ones.”

        Gray took the opportunity to catch his breath, his chest rising and falling as his grateful lungs took in air. He stared into his brother’s glowing face, his own tear-filled baby blues catching on Zach's smiling eyes of brown. True, Gray had to admit that this tickle torture was absolutely awful, but it was also…kind of...fun?

        Another roar of thunder resonated throughout the house, but this time, the sounds only made Gray giggle softly. Yes, he was feeling helpless, trapped beneath his brother, but it was a good kind of helpless this time…

        This wasn’t the Indominus.

        This was Zach.

        “N-no!” Gray managed to say.

        “Oof, wrong answer.” Zach warned, applying a few quick, succinct squeezes to his brother’s armpits. "Say it."

        "S-SAY WHAT?!” Gray repeated with a tight grin.

        “You like the Ticklesaurus,” Zach demanded, tickling again.

        “Nonohohoho!” Gray refused, a torrent of gurgles rolling up from his stomach.

        “Saaaay it!”

        “NOOHOHO!"

        “Fine.” Zach playfully growled, suddenly sliding back off of his brother’s waist. He turned around, back to his brother now, and planted himself on Gray's ankles, eyeing his socked feet,

        "NO!" Gray shouted. "Not my feet!"

        “Your fault,” Zach flippantly stated.

        Gray felt the socks ripped from his long feet, cold air now weaving in and out of his toes. "Not my feet, Zach!" he pleaded once more, but he knew that it was pointless. Zach struck almost immediately, fingernails skittering across his insteps.

        “HOLY CRAHAHAHAHAHAP!” he screamed, the electric jolts bursting across his bare soles like sparklers. Zach was not a merciful tickler. He always dug in hard. His fingers chomped their way into his soft skin, wriggling in a crazed frenzy.

        “HAHAHAHA! ZACH, PLEEHEEHEEASE!” Gray begged trying to pull his long legs from out of his brother’s grasp. He kicked, and writhed and pulled, but to avail. Zach held on firmly. And then he felt the fingers dive into the crevices beneath his toes. “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! ZAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHACH!!!!!! NOHOHOHOHO!”   

        “Whoa, dahahamn!!” Zach snickered. Gray could feel the sounds jolting up from his diaphragm, rocking his body. He bucked, he squealed, he squirmed, but he was at the complete mercy of his tickle-tormenter.

        “The Ticklesaurus claims another,” his older brother announced, and Gray felt him thread his bony fingers in between his long toes, nipping at the sensitive webbing.

        This was a whole new level of ticklishness, driving the nineteen-year-old wild. Gray’s head was spinning. His cheeks were tight and cramping up from his smile. His eyes were blurry from the tears. His throat was a little sore from the screams. He was desperate and he decided to take action. After all, Zach’s sides were within reach. 

        So, Gray took a shot.
      He’d never really tickled Zach before--such a move would have ended badly for him when they were kids--but, he figured things couldn’t get much worse now than they already were. So, with as much energy as he could muster--through a bubbling onslaught of giggles and trembles--he bucked forward, reached his hands out, and brought his fingers down onto both sides of Zach's ribcage.

        "H-hehey! HEY!" Zach yelped and immediately arched backward, pulling his hands off of Gray's feet. This small moment of freedom was enough.

        “RRRRRRRGGGH!” Gray released a hybrid noise--the base sound a laugh, the rest classified (a growl) --and, high on adrenalin and playful energy, he pulled his legs out from under his sibling and leapt forward, tackling his brother. Zach fumbled sideways from the force of Gray's pounce, and the two siblings tumbled onto the carpeted flooring, all grunts and giggles and a mess of long limbs. Gray scrambled downward onto his brother's torso and gave Zach a taste of his own medicine.

        “Q-quihihihit! Ah, you bi-bihihitch!” Zach’s manly giggles were pleasing to Gray’s ears.

        “Language," Gray scolded. "You know how Mom feels about that." He ran his nimble fingers all over Zach's upper body. His brother’s stomach was flat and firm. He could feel his abs clench up as he laughed.

        “You’re such a bayhayhayhaybeehee!!” Zach chuckled as Gray explored his chest, trying to jam his fingers into his older brother’s armpits. “Ahahaha noo!” Zach dropped his head off the edge of the bed and squeezed his eyes shut.

        "I'm a baby? You're the one that started a damn tickle fight." Gray felt a lightness accumulate in his chest. It was almost indescribable, seeing his older brother, whom he always saw as the "alpha" between them, reduced to a smiling fit of giggles at his hands, Unfortunately, because Zach was stronger than he was, he didn’t get to make much progress. Every strike was usually countered or blocked with ease. Gray knew that he wouldn't have the upper hand for long, so he decided to try a different approach. He retreated from off of Zach’s body, scrambled down his skinny legs, and tried to get his own arms around his large socked feet. He had to work fast, but he'd only managed to get one of his brother's socks halfway off, before Zach started kicking.

        "No you don't!" he grunted.

        "These are coming...off!" Gray insisted, finally freeing one large, pale foot. He quickly pressed his long fingers into the doughy sole. He never realized his brother's feet were so soft.

        “Hehey!” Zach yelped. "N-noho! Get off my feet!" 

        Gray wasn’t about to listen. His fingers scrambled hungrily onto his brother’s cream-colored instep. Zach's feet were narrow, his arches pronounced. His stubby toes scrunched up immediately and he began to kick and buck around, rocking Gray back and forth along the carpet.

        "Whoa! Whoa! Easy there!" Gray teased, still managing to tickle his brother's feet, despite the fact that he was being tossed about like a pendulum. In fact, the motion aided in him pulling off the other sock. As soon as the other foot was bared, Gray advanced his onslaught, his fingertips diving beneath both sets of toes. 

        Zach roared. “STAAHAAAHAAAHAAAP!!!!! G-get awhawhawhawhawff!!” His scream was so high-pitched, his voice finally cracked too. Gray giggled--he figured that ticklish toes ran in the family. Unfortunately, his brother's next kick was successful in jarring him loose. Gray had been at a disadvantage from the start. To make matters worse, he immediately realized that Zach still had energy to burn.

        “You’re dead!” his brother declared and, after withdrawing his legs, he slid up, and tackled Gray once more, forcing him into the ground just beside the recliner. 

        "N-no, wait!" Gray started to beg. He didn't know if he could take another round, but it didn't matter. Zach was already straddling his waist again. This time, however, he forcibly pried Gray's arms up over his head, taking a wrist in each hand. After a moment, the room grew still. The sounds of weakening rain and the boys’ heaving breathing accompanied the Northeastern storm currently rippling across the sky.         

        “Any last words?" Zach asked, a smile decorating his face.

        Gray kept his eyes locked on Zach's. His heart was racing, his chest heaving. He didn't reply.

        "Last chance," Zach warned playfully. He used his left hand to lock both of Gray’s wrists in place above his head. He slowly began to lower his right hand, fingers descending down toward Gray’s exposed armpit.

        “Go to...hell?” Gray knew what he was asking for it. He could already feel Zach’s fingers ghosting in his hollow--like an anxious pressure tingling in his underarms.

        “Oh, you're the one that's about to be in hell, little bro,” Zach said with another shrug. Gray felt the fingers touch down hard. He held his breath and sealed his lips. He pulled down against Zach’s hold, but it was no use.

        Gray’s insides felt like they were going to burst. He squeezed his eyes shut, nostrils flaring. He began to shake his head violently back and forth, his long, sand-colored hair whipping across his face. His memories--once nightmares of the Indominus’s claws and jaws--were ricocheting around amongst those of Zach--his brother, running with him to safety, hugging him, holding him close in the back of Claire’s van…

        “C’mon, Gray. Give up,” Zach taunted, now sweeping his fingers across his chest and into his left pit. Gray tried to pull his arms down again, but he couldn’t. The pressure continued to build in his chest. "Admit it. You still love dinosaurs. You love the Ticklesaurus."

        Gray felt the laughter ready to dive from his tongue. His straining cheeks pulled his lips taught. A toothy grin quickly cracked through. “MMMMMHHMMMHMHMHM!!!”

        “SAY IT!” Zach demanded.

        “N-nnnnnnoooooooooo…”

        “Saaaaay it!” The hand moved back to the right armpit, Zach snaking his fingers into Gray’s sleeve the second time around. As soon as they scampered up into the damp, hairy expanse of flesh beneath Gray's arm, he broke. The crackling laughter streamed forth sloppily from his lips, shallow and breathy. "PFFFFFTTTTKKKHHEEHEEEHEEHEEHEE!"

        “Say it and I’ll stop,” Zach reasoned.

        Gray shook his head again. He pulled and pulled against Zach’s hold, but it was no use.

        “C’mon… I could do this all night,” the older boy urged, continuing his assault. Gray continued to splutter and snicker, ready to scream.

        “Okayokayokay,” he breathed, about to burst. “I-if I ssssay it, y-you promise youhoohoo’ll st-stahahap?”

        “I promise,” Zach said with a nod, pausing for a second.

        “Eeeerrrrrgh,” Gray moaned. He really didn’t want to give in, but this was absolute torture. Unfortunately, Zach really didn’t give him much of a choice. He released Gray’s wrists, brought his second hand down into his other armpit and double-teamed both hairy hollows at once.

        This was too much. The nineteen-year-old howled. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHA!! OOOOOOHKAYHAYHAYHAYHAYHAY! OKAY!! I STILL L-LIHIHIHIKE DIHIHINOSAURHARHARHARS! HAHAHAHA, STAHAHAHAP!"

        Zach kept his promise. He immediately pulled his hands free and rolled off of Gray, bringing himself to lie down next to him on the floor.

        “Oh. My. G-god.” Gray moaned exhaustedly. He climbed back up onto the recliner, panting for air, throat and mouth dry. He stared up at the ceiling, waiting for his heartrate to slow. His nerves were still firing away all over his body.

        "Damn, I can still feel your fingers on my feet," Zach said, as if he were reading Gray's mind. In another surprising move, he decided, for some reason, to join his brother on the large armchair, forcing his younger sibling to scramble over uncomfortably to the left. They hardly fit; one of Zach's legs was propped up awkwardly along the armrest. 

        "You deserved it," Gray said.

        Zach chuckled and brought his arm around his brother. Gray immediately flinched and began to giggle, but Zach merely pulled him into a side-hug, patted his chest a few times. Gray couldn’t help but let a surprised gasp softly seep through his lips.

        “You good?” Zach asked, amusement lacing his tone.

        Gray nodded. "B-barely," he moaned.

        "Better than before?"

        "U-uh. Maybe?"

        "See? Not all dinosaurs are bad," Zach teased. 

        Gray shook his head. He really couldn't follow his brother's logic--a tickle attack wasn't about to transform a mindset, but Gray had to admit, he felt...lighter now. Present too. The fear and unease--the anger--he'd been feeling before, they'd been diluted by something soft and warm now. Sure, there were dinosaurs living among them now. But here, in this moment, Gray was with Zach, not with them. And he was safe. He knew one night didn't mean forever. There would be good days...and bad. The dreams were sure to come back. So would the uncertainty. But that was okay. He was okay. For now. And in that moment, it was enough.

        "I guess that's true," Gray muttered after a long moment. "And, technically, the Indominus wasn't a real dinosaur."

        Zach breathed a laugh. "Yeah, the 'real' dinosaurs ended up kicking its ass, remember?"     

        Gray nodded. "I remember." As he continued to reflect on the events during and after the brief reign of the Indominus Rex on Isla Nublar, he found himself appreciating something that he sometimes took for granted. If it hadn't been for what had happened at Jurassic World, Gray wouldn't have become as close as he was now with Zach; their parents might not have come back from the brink of divorce; he wouldn't have an uncle in Owen or a cousin in Maisie.  There was some good that come from his experience after all. Not just trauma, but a stronger family...a larger one.

        "Hey," said Zach after what seemed like forever. "I think the rain stopped." 

        Gray pulled himself from his thoughts and instead focused in on the new stillness of the night, a sudden and powerful exhaustion grabbing hold of his consciousness. "Oh, yeah." He sighed, closing his eyes. “You...wanna just sleep down here tonight?”

        “What, like...this?" Zach wriggled around in place, trying to get comfortable.

        “Yeah."

        Zach chuckled. "It's...kinda weird, right?"

        Gray shrugged. "And a tickle fight wasn't? Whose idea was that again?"

        Zach grinned. "Touché. But if you start snoring, I'm out."

        Gray, eyes still closed, smiled. As he listened to the white noise of the television and his older brother's soft, rhythmic breathing, he slowly settled into slumber. Finally able to drift off without the worry of the Indominus waiting for him, Gray focused on the fact that Zach was holding him--strong arm wrapped around his neck and chest--just as he had done on the island all those years ago, back when he was trying to protect him. And all throughout the night, he never let go.

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Author's notes: 

This story was originally published on July 15, 2015, about a month after the release of Jurassic World. I have always been a huge Jurassic fan, and as soon as I saw these two characters onscreen, I knew I needed to get them involved in some playful, brotherly tickling. I recently reworked the story to be "age appropriate," meaning that both characters involved are at least eighteen (18) years of age. Though the tickling in this fic is completely innocuous, this edit has been done to maintain the boundaries asserted throughout the rest of the site. It was also a fun challenge writing these characters from a more mature perspective; I always enjoy working in the events of the film timeline as well to make my stories as "canon" as possible.

Fun fact--I actually got to meet Ty Simpkins (Gray) in August 2018 when my best friend and I went to see a production of Cabaret in Burbank. I got to talk to him briefly--he was very nice! I only wish it would have been socially acceptable to ask him if he were ticklish and where...

DISCLAIMER: 

This story is a work of a fiction. The use of Nick Robinson's portrayal of the character Zach Mitchell and Ty Simpkins's portrayal of the character Gray Mitchell is done solely for the purposes of entertainment and is not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, Mitchell, Simpkins, or Universal.

REVIEWS: 

"This was probably my favorite of your old stories. So happy to see it with the face lift! The only thing I'm sad about is that their feet aren't tickled for longer but I loved Zach's comment about the tingles on his soles towards the end...Seriously amazing!" @boytickler35

"Wow!!! I LOVE this update! I remember being a gigantic fan of the original piece back when it first came out. Time sure flies. Thank you for this fantastic story!" @OctopusILoveYou2

"I loved this story! So cute, playful, really fun and highly charming. I don't know why but part of me was like, how is he gonna pull this off? A tickle dinosaur?! And then as soon as I saw it becoming Zach I realized a) how stupid I'd been and b) how great a set up it was! I really like the way you use the psychology of a certain mindset and then somehow weave the tickling into it (like with Harry and Liam's fic) it's pretty damn clever!" @famous&ticklish

"You're one of the best writers I've seen so far. I love how natural you make tickle scenes...You really do make it feel organic -- the brother dynamic in [this] fic was so cute and I like the uses of multiple tickle spots -- it's fun!" @son_of_magic

"Awwww! A lot of tickle fics are kinky or interrogatory and I love those, but this is more innocent and playful. I like that too. What's great is seeing two brothers having a bit of fun and possibly healing from their traumatic experience, while showing Gray he can still love dinosaurs in spite of the incident." @jakenayna150

"This is by far one of the cutest stories I have read in a very long time. To see both brothers this happy after all they had been through just warms my heart to the core...This was also very well written. I really enjoyed reading it. Gosh I love Jurassic World so much. Thank you for this wonderful story." @angelofdarkness089

"YES! This was perfect. My heart physically aches from how lovely this was. Your writing is so charming, please write more of these two." @papyrus4sirus

"Awww! Such a great scene, and good to see the boys trying to come to terms with things, as well as Zach trying to save Gray from giving up one of his passions completely...they were really adorable." @jujukittychick

"Agh! I love the bond between these two and Zach coming out of his [typical] grumpiness to try and protect Gray (and being pretty damn resourceful about it), so I can totally see this happening." @theintelligenthufflepuff

"Love, love, LOVE this!!! Seriously! It was cute, it was fluffy, it was smile inducing. Your word choice and language was very well thought out and even the inflections you placed on their words while they were laughing was just SPOT ON! It reminded me of childhood--mine with my brothers and just childhood in general. I love fics where Zach comforts Gray and I'm a sucker for a good thunderstorm story but I just love how he used a childhood memory to help fight his brother's fear. This was one of the sweetest brotherly fluff fics I have ever read. Thank you so much for this gem!" @justowrites

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