The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
It took a couple of weeks before Owen really even noticed it. Or the lack of it, to be more precise. It's not like he hadn't known that Claire had been mad. She was right; he wasn't that dense.
Over the years, he'd noticed that there were levels to her anger. If it was minor, she'd growl at him about it, but it'd blow over really fast. If it was more than that, but not quite major, she'd yell, which seemed to be her way of breaking through all the tension and stress; blowing off the needed steam. He usually ended up yelling back, but that seemed to be okay. It was how they dealt. But when it was major… when it really bothered her, that's when she'd go quiet. She wouldn't yell or growl. She'd state her case plainly. And if it didn't work – and he'd admit that he was equally stubborn and quick to temper himself, so it often didn't – she'd walk away.
When this happened, when she'd close in on herself, letting herself work through the problem on her own, never wanting him at her side, Owen never knew what to do. It wasn't often, but he felt like it had occurred enough times now, that he should know. Or at least have an inkling of an idea. But he didn't. Each event seemed so completely unique; each one resolving differently from the last.
On one hand, he thought her walking away had probably saved their relationship more than once. It gave them both a chance to regroup before they finally said something they couldn't walk away from. Before they crossed the line from general anger to being downright cruel. Pushing the buttons that only they knew about. The ones the other had told them in confidence. Their greatest fears about themselves, which could so easily become the sharpest weapon in the wrong hands. Owen wasn't sure he'd ever have the same strength to walk away that Claire did; to stop their fights before they reached that point.
But even those fights, they didn't drag on. They'd walk away, but only for a short while. A couple of hours usually, maybe a day or a weekend. Except once. Once, they had parted for a year. But that had been different, or so he kept telling himself. That time, he'd walked away. Okay, so she'd told him too, but he still believed that it was him who left, not her. He needed to believe that. He needed to know that she'd come back, when she was the one who left. He needed that other break, the one that cost them a year, to be his fault.
Of course, it was so different now. She hadn't really left. Not the way they'd normally walk away from each other. She'd hid in her office that night, while Owen had wandered the house restlessly, not sure what to do or how to fix things. And also mad at her. Mad at all the expectations that seemed to be piling up. Do this, be that, dress this way. He was his own person, dammit. He got that being an adult meant doing things he didn't like. He did that every day. Was it so wrong that for one night he just wanted to be comfortable? That, yes, he got it was "her" night, but, how did what he wear change that? He still went, albeit late, but, like he'd said, that was normal for him.
Even now, even after all this time, she still didn't seem to get that the DPG was her thing. That it was never going to be his. And that he didn't want it to be. That watching Blue get shipped to the sanctuary, that even watching the clips on the website or listening to Claire and/or Maisie discuss some of the latest news, was so painful for him. She didn't seem to get thatt he'd had to watch Blue walk away from him twice, that he'd watched all her sisters die, and that he'd been unable to save them. And that each time that happened, that he'd been barely able to save Claire. And that looking back on it felt like staring all his failures in the face.
He'd been relieved the following morning when he'd been able to duck out of the house to go and collect Maisie from her friends. They still hadn't said a word to each other. He'd gone for a run in the morning, pushing his normal easy 5k into a brutal 10, trying to run out all the tension building within. When he'd returned, her office door was still closed and he'd assumed she still hadn't budged. Except, he'd entered their bathroom to find it still slightly fogged up, a sure sign he'd only missed her by mere minutes. Not ready to talk to her either, he'd had a quick shower, before dropping a note in the kitchen saying he was going to get Maisie and do some grocery shopping. He knew it was petty. That he could've knocked on the door and told her. That he should've knocked on the door and told her. He told himself it was okay, that she'd go and investigate when she heard his truck, and that he had his phone, so it wasn't like he was disappearing; this time he'd be reachable. This time he'd return.
He wasn't surprised when he didn't hear from her, even if he checked his phone more often than not. Grocery shopping with Maisie was always pleasantly distracting, both of them enjoying their normal routine in the store. They'd rush around and get everything on the list first, making sure they hadn't forgotten a single item, and then, once that was done, they'd slowly cruise up and down the aisles, taking their time. They were, both of them, suckers for new products – unable to resist trying every variation of Oreos that hit the shelves.
The first time they'd come home with items not on the list, Claire had just groaned and shook her head, before putting the parsnip chips away (which actually turned out to be really good). The second time they did, they had been so distracted by their new items they'd missed a few items off the main list, and they'd both had to listen as Claire chastised them for it, before sending them back to the store. Every since then, they'd always made sure that the main list was taken care of first.
When they'd arrived home, he'd put away the groceries while Maisie had gone into Claire's office to fill her in on her night. He'd listened, with half an ear, to the two of them chattering away, but hadn't made any move to join. Claire had sounded happy as the two had talked but he wasn't sure that would last with his added presence.
Instead, he'd spent the afternoon putting together a lasagna and helping Maisie with her homework. Claire had emerged from her office for dinner, which had been a relatively quiet affair. They'd both directed questions at Maisie, using her to keep the conversation going and to avoid any direct confrontation. After dinner, he'd suggested Maisie pick out a movie. He had known Maisie would ask Claire to join, but he also knew that on the off chance that Claire said yes (she didn't), a movie wouldn't require any talking.
He had wondered if Claire was going to avoid him for a second night. He hadn't made it to bed the previous night; catching just a few restless hours on the couch. He wasn't sure how Claire was still functioning, as she hadn't left her office overnight, both of them apparently trying to avoid a potentially awkward situation in the bedroom. He was exhausted. When the movie was over and he'd sent Maisie to bed, he'd snuck a glance at Claire's closed office door, before heading upstairs himself. As he'd changed, he'd been worried his brain wouldn't let him sleep, still worked up over the whole fight, but he was out the moment his head hit the pillow.
The next morning he'd woken early, a consequence of his early night. He'd blinked opened his eyes, pleasantly surprised to see Claire had joined him, even if she appeared to be hugging the edge of the mattress. He assumed that meant things were starting to blow over. That they would move past this, as they had their other fights.
In fact, the day proceeded as if things were better. A regular Sunday, with everyone puttering around the house generally feeling lazy and not ready for the week to begin. They hadn't talked, well, not about the fight anyway. Although, there'd never really been a good opportunity to, since he knew neither of them would want to bring it up in front of Maisie. But, all in all, it was a pretty average day.
But now, a couple of weeks later, he was just starting to realize that they'd never talked about it again. Instead, they'd both just moved forward, brushing it aside, never finding the time, or trying to find the time, to actually discuss it.
He wanted to be relieved. It felt like he'd found a loophole. Letting life be the distraction it was, and just continue forward as if it had never happened. Except, he knew that he couldn't, shouldn't, do that. It really sucked being an adult.
It took him a couple more days before he found a chance to actually follow through on it. Well, both found a reasonable time and place and worked up the courage, if he was being totally honest.
He debated giving her a heads up, but was worried she'd schedule something and prevent his plans. So, instead, he showed up at her work, having confirmed ahead with Zia that her schedule was free, ready to take her out for lunch. Zia had acted normally when he'd arrived, and when he hadn't seen Claire in the main area, he'd strode confidently to her private office. No point appearing nervous to anyone there, it would just cause a round of gossip that would make Claire mad all over again.
She'd looked up, surprised to see him in the doorway, and hesitated over his question about lunch.
"I thought you had work today," Claire was confused.
"Took the day off," Owen shrugged, trying to act like it was no big deal. "It's been a while and I thought we could grab lunch. Zia said you had time today." He threw in the Zia mention, knowing that Claire wouldn't want to deal with Zia's questions if she didn't go.
"Yeah, sure," Claire nodded, closing her laptop and picking up her phone, purse, and a light jacket. "Where'd you want to go?"
"The Deli?" Owen suggested, referring to the place they normally went. "It's actually nice out today, we could go eat in the park."
"Okay," Claire agreed, following him through the main area. They waved good-bye to Zia and Franklin, who were, as usual, busy arguing.
He waited until they were had settled on a bench in the park, sandwiches unwrapped, and first bites enjoyed before explaining why he was really there.
"So, I realized something the other day," Owen started, getting a raised eyebrow in question from Claire, as she bit into their shared pickle. "We've never talked about that night."
"The DPG party," Owen replied, resisting the urge to call her out on her bluff. It would be an easy distraction from the real conversation. "Normally, when we have…fights like that, we talk about it...after."
"Normally," Claire hummed in agreement, chewing slowly. "Of course, last time, you left for a year. I'm not sure not talking is really anything noteworthy."
"Claire–" Owen looked pained at the reminder. He moved his gaze away from her, instead, slowly sweeping it across the park. It was busy that day, full of people out for noontime walks, others similarly enjoying their lunch outside, and a few toddlers running around. "Things are different this time, aren't they?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's not just us anymore," Owen shook his head, gaze still focused on the rest of the park.
"So we should talk because of Maisie?" Claire scoffed.
"For Maisie," Owen nodded. "And for us." He finally turned back to her. "I'm sorry."
"You're...sorry?" Claire looked at him in disbelief. "For what?"
"Ruining your night," Owen sighed. "For not sucking it up."
"I don't–" Claire cut herself off, not really sure where she was going or what she wanted to say. "Owen…it wasn't…I just…" She sighed heavily, looking down at her sandwich, but no longer feeling hungry. "I know those types of event aren't your thing, but…if you really didn't want to go, why didn't you just say something?"
"You were so excited about it," Owen shrugged. "I didn't want to–"
"Ruin my night?" Claire interrupted.
"Yeah," Owen gave a hollow laugh. "Didn't really plan that out well."
"No shit," Claire rolled her eyes. "Why this? You went to Zia's birthday a couple of months ago…"
"It's just…nothing," Owen attempted to dismiss it. How could he tell her it was her job?
"It's not nothing, Owen," Claire disagreed. "You're the one who wanted to talk."
"I wanted to apologize," Owen said. "And I did."
"Really? You're not going to tell me?" Claire looked put out.
"It's not something you need to worry about."
"Well, now I am worried. What's wrong? Why won't you tell me?"
"I don't want you to get mad."
"You do get that this path you're on isn't helping, right?"
"Claire," Owen scowled at her, and she softened her expression, gesturing for him to continue. "It's just…it's the DPG."
"You don't like my job?" Claire looked even more confused.
"No, not exactly," Owen paused. "When you look at the DPG, you see it as a sign of hope, right? You created it to save the dinosaurs, and that's exactly what you're doing."
"Yeah, well, when I look at it, all I see are signs of my failure."
"The DPG has nothing to do with you," Claire looked baffled.
"Right," Owen agreed. "You started it after I left."
"Did you…do you want to be involved?"
"NO!" Owen's response was so immediate, that both he and Claire looked a little taken aback by the force of it. "No, not involved. It's just…everytime I look at the DPG, everytime I think about it, I think of Charlie being blown up. I remember Delta thrown onto the grill and Echo being tossed aside like a rag doll. And I see Blue walking away from me, twice."
"You never said anything."
"What was I supposed to say?" Owen shrugged, picking up the pickle and taking a bite. "It's your pride and joy."
"I'm not really sure what to say," Claire admitted, picking up her own sandwich again.
"You don't need to say anything. It's my issue. I'm working on it." They both lapsed into silence at that.
"Is there anything I can do?" Claire asked a couple of minutes later.
"No more events I have to dress up for?" Owen suggested hopefully.
"Yeah, I can't promise that," Claire laughed softly.
"I can always hope," Owen grinned. "But, really, don't worry about it. Time heals all wounds, right?