Claire looked up from her laptop, where she'd been trying to grasp the latest email from the DPG's accountant, working to wrap her head around what all the numbers meant going forward. It looked promising, which was something she still didn't take for granted, knowing it wouldn't take much for it all to backslide again. Zia was leaning against the doorframe of her office, peering in at her.
"Hey, come on in," Claire waved her friend in.
"How's everything?" Zia asked, feigning nonchalance, which Claire picked up on right away.
"What's up?" Claire replied, raising an eyebrow in question.
Zia put on an innocent expression, shrugging, "I don't know what you mean. Just here to say 'hi.'"
"Yeah, I'm not buying it," Claire rolled her eyes, turning her gaze back to her laptop. "I've got stuff to do if that's all you're really here about."
"Man, you've become less fun the longer you've been a mom," Zia groaned, flopping back against the back of the chair. She chuckled when Claire's gaze snapped back to hers. "Knew that would get your attention."
"Fine, what do you want?" Claire closed the lid of her laptop, giving Zia her full attention.
"Um…" Zia hedged again, pausing briefly. "We're doing prep to sort out who's going on the upcoming sanctuary visit."
"Well," Zia drew it out, before finally spitting it out off of Claire's exasperated look, "Blue's on the schedule."
"So?" Zia asked a couple minutes later, when it became clear that Claire wasn't going to say anything else.
"What do you want me to say?" Claire looked at her friend. "Who goes, who stays, what dinosaurs are getting check-ups, etc, is all your responsibility."
"But it's Blue."
"Just tell me what you want," Claire sighed.
"It's just… I thought you might want to tell Owen. That he might want to join the team this time."
Claire looked away, moving her gaze to the small window her office had, not that it looked out at anything interesting. Ever since their conversation a few weeks ago in the park, she couldn't get Owen's comment out of her head: "All I see are signs of my failure."
"Do you think he might want to?" Zia pressed when Claire didn't reply.
"Um," Claire turned back to her and shrugged. "I'm… I'm not sure."
"Can you ask him for me?" Zia continued. "Last time we gave Blue a check up it was a pain. We ended up having to tranq her. I think it might be a lot easier with him there."
"Why don't you ask him?" Claire said. "You don't have to go through me, you know."
"I know." Zia paused for a moment. "I just thought it might be weird coming from me and not you. Are you sure everything's okay?"
"Yeah, it's fine," Claire nodded. "I'll ask him and let you know."
x x x
That evening, as Claire was folding the laundry she had spread all over the bed, she tried to figure out a way to bring it up. Ever since Owen's confession about his thoughts around the DPG, she'd been actively trying to not mention it around him. Trying to give him the space she thought he wanted and needed, feeling like any mention of her work would be seen as pushing it on him, and she didn't want that. If her job was causing him pain, she would keep it separate as much as she could.
But, she was also a terrible liar. And if she went back to work tomorrow and hadn't asked him, Zia would know. And then she'd push, and Claire didn't want to deal with that, either. There really wasn't a good way to avoid all of this, as far as Claire could tell. Which left her with the only option of actually asking him.
She was still folding when Owen entered the bedroom, giving her a quick nod as he headed into the bathroom, pulling off his shirt on the way. And for a moment, as she watched him walk by, she was tempted to follow him, especially when she heard the shower turn on. If she timed it right… except, no. She couldn't do that. Wouldn't do that. If things went badly, she didn't want to have that connection in her head. Didn't want him to have that connection.
He wasn't in there for long, and soon enough emerged back into the bedroom, towel low on his hips, toothbrush hanging from his mouth as he looked through his drawers, before he turned towards her. Before he could ask, she grabbed a pair of boxers from the folded stack on the bed and tossed it over to him, and he nodded his thanks, before dropping the towel to pull them on. Claire bit her lip, again tempted to just throw caution to the wind, before looking back down at the bed and picking up the next shirt to fold.
Owen's voice startled her out of her thoughts, and she looked up to see the toothbrush gone. She hadn't even heard him leave (albeit briefly).
"Just tired," Claire shrugged, gathering up a couple of folded piles of clothes and handing them over. Owen took them, heading to his drawers to put them away, while Claire did the same with her own. She put Maisie's piles aside – she'd put them away tomorrow.
"So, Zia came by to talk today," Claire announced as she climbed into bed, Owen already settled on the other side.
"Hmm," Owen hummed, acknowledging her statement, but focused on the book in his hands.
"They're sorting out the details for the next trip to the sanctuary. She wanted me to … She mentioned that… It's just–" Claire groaned, burying her face in her hands, this shouldn't be so hard.
"Wanted what?" Owen asked, his attention now pulled from his book.
"It's just… it's Blue's turn. Well, not just Blue, but she's one of the dinosaurs scheduled for a checkup," Claire rambled briefly, before cutting herself off. "Zia was saying that last time, they really struggled with Blue."
"Why are you telling me?" Owen asked, sitting up in bed and placing his book on his bedside table.
"Zia thought it might be helpful if you went. That Blue might be easier to deal with. And that it would be safer for everyone," Claire couldn't meet his eyes when she asked.
"We'd… the DPG would hire you – as a contractor – to go. You'd get paid."
"Jesus," Owen let out a slow breath. "It's not about being paid."
"I know," Claire finally looked over at him, blushing. "I promised her I'd ask, but you don't have to go. I know that…" she sighed, before finishing, "you don't have to."
"Good, then I'm not," Owen said firmly, turning out his light, and sliding down the bed, pulling the covers up, before turning on his side, back to her.
Claire watched him, not sure what to say or what to do. She supposed it could've gone worse, even if she wasn't really sure how, exactly. Turning off her own light, even though she had planned on reading, she lay down, staring at the ceiling.
"I wish… I don't want you to hate the DPG," Claire said softly a few minutes later. She knew he wasn't asleep, his breathing hadn't settled into the rhythm she now knew by heart when he was sleeping. A rhythm she had used to calm and soothe herself to sleep on more nights than she could count. She closed her eyes, trying to will herself asleep, when she felt the bed shift. Turning her head, she watched as Owen rolled on to his back, his gaze focused on the ceiling.
"I don't hate the DPG," he said after a long pause.
"But you don't like it," Claire said, her gaze still focused on him. He didn't look at her.
"It's not that," Owen sighed, bringing a hand up to scrub down his face.
"Like I said, you don't have to go," Claire repeated. "I just… Zia wanted me to ask. And I wasn't going to but…"
"But?" Owen finally turned his head, his gaze locking on hers.
"It's Blue," Claire stated. "I wanted you to have the option. I thought, maybe, it would help if you got a chance to see her again."
"I–" Owen paused, his gaze shifting back to the ceiling. In the end, the most he could offer her was, "I'll think about it."
They both fell silent.
Claire listened as Owen shifted around, trying to get comfortable. She moved closer to him, cuddling into his side, resting her head on his shoulder, before lifting her hand to run it through his hair a few times. She then let her fingers trail down the side of his face and along his jaw, repeating the gesture. Owen tilted his head towards her, eyes opening to meet hers. Claire pushed herself up onto her elbow, brushing her lips against his briefly. She moved to settle back down, but Owen raised the arm that had been tucked under her, sliding it up into her hair and guiding her face back to his, capturing her lips in a deeper kiss.
When he pulled back, Claire raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were tired."
"Never too tired for this," Owen gave her a suggestive look, bringing her back into a kiss as he pulled her until she was sprawled over him, his other hand slipping under her shirt.
Claire chuckled into the kiss, but her own hands were already sliding down his chest.
x x x
"Are you sure?" Claire asked Owen again, as they stood on the tarmac, not far from the helicopter that was going to take Zia, Owen, and a few others over to the sanctuary for the day. Owen wasn't looking at her, too busy looking through the bag he'd packed, checking to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.
"I'm sure," Owen said, looking up at her briefly, just long enough to roll his eyes. In all fairness, it was about the tenth time she'd asked him since they had woken up that morning.
Claire took a moment to look him over again. It felt a bit like deja vu – both to that day on Jurassic World and then just over a year and a half ago when they had last gone to Nublar. He was wearing a henley with a leather vest over top, and had a knife strapped to his belt at his lower back. He had slipped his sunglasses into the front of his shirt as he checked his bag. The main difference, was that this time he had a rifle slung over his shoulder. That, and she wasn't going with him.
Until that moment, the fact she wasn't going and he was hadn't even crossed her mind. She'd been too focused on confirming that this was really something he wanted to do. But now, for the first time, a tendril of fear rose up in her chest. Sure, he'd survived both previous incidents. But he hadn't been alone – she'd been there. She'd led the T-rex into battle. She'd found the gun and used it against the Indoraptor. What if something happened this time? She wouldn't be there to help.
As if reading her thoughts, Owen closed his bag, slipping it on his back, before moving to stand in front of her, tilting her chin up until she met his gaze. "It's going to be fine. We're only going to be there for a few hours. And with all the cameras on the island, you'll be able to watch it all happen. We've got a whole crew for protection. It's not going to be like Nublar. I promise." He slid one hand around to rest on her lower back, pulling her towards him. "You know, if you'd feel better, you could always come."
"I can't," Claire shook her head, her gaze darting to the left, over to where Maisie was chatting with Zia. "Can you imagine what would happen if we both went and left her behind?"
"Yeah," Owen chuckled softly, his gaze following hers. Maisie had not been all that pleasant to be around the past couple of weeks after they'd told her what was happening. Not once she'd learned that she couldn't go. "Good luck with that."
"You owe me," Claire half-threatened, half-teased him, her gaze moving back to his, her tone growing serious. "Promise me you'll be safe. That you won't do anything risky."
"I promise," Owen said, gaze boring straight into hers. "Nothing's worth not coming back." Claire nodded, clutching at his shirt tightly with one hand, her other reaching up and wrapping behind his neck, pulling him down for a kiss that was just shy of being impolite for the company around them. When she pulled back, he grinned down at her. "Looking forward to continuing that tonight."
Claire rolled her eyes, her hand letting go of his shirt to slap at his shoulder lightly, pushing him away. All a response that Owen had expected. He stood up straighter, his gaze moving back towards Maisie and Zia.
"We about ready to go?"
x x x
Owen wasn't really sure what he had expected to happen when he agreed to go. It hadn't been an easy decision. He'd actually said no again, to both Claire and then Zia when she had personally phoned to ask him. The idea of seeing the dinosaurs in person again just felt too painful. Too… real? Like he wouldn't be able to keep hiding and pretending about what had happened. Wouldn't be able to keep shoving it into the back corner of his mind, and pretending it had no relevance to what he did now and who he was now.
Not that all the memories associated with the dinosaurs were bad. As he had said when Wheatley had asked him back on Nublar, some were good. And if it wasn't for either incident, he can't say that he and Claire would've actually become something, and that was something he'd never wish away.
However, he would say that he hadn't expected the visit to be quite so boring. They'd been on the island for two hours so far, and he'd essentially been tasked as an errand boy, grabbing various equipment for Zia and her team members as they requested it. And the rest of the time just staying back and out of the way. Blue was scheduled to be the last of the checkups for the day, and he was starting to get antsy. He didn't want to be there any longer than he had to be. Wanted to be back home, back in his life, not this flashback to what it could've been or would've been if things had been different.
"Hey, we're ready to bring her in now," Zia sidled up beside him, and Owen pulled himself out of his thoughts.
"What do you need me to do?"
x x x
Maisie's voice ringing across the DPG headquarters had Claire out of her chair. She'd been sitting in her office trying to focus on work for the past hour. She'd been finding herself getting increasingly antsy and anxious the longer Owen was on the island, even if everything was going smoothly, the same way it had the previous 5 checkups that the DPG had done in the past. Knowing that didn't make it any easier to watch.
Maisie, on the other hand, once she'd gotten over not being allowed to go, had been glued to the video feeds. They weren't streaming the checkup feeds live on the website. The cameras they used for streaming were based on where the dinosaurs were most active, which was not where the paleo-vet visits took place. Also, they tried to avoid, as much as possible, showing any human-dinosaur interactions. They wanted to showcases the dinosaurs as animals separate from humans, thriving on their own (as much as possible), with limited human intervention.
Claire had reminded Maisie that just getting to watch the feed from the visit made Maisie special, and set her apart from everyone else. That her access was exclusive, and while she wasn't able to go to the island, she should be excited about having this. Claire had been surprised when it had worked, and then reminded herself that Maisie was only 11 and she should be grateful for the time left where it would; it would be over before she knew it.
"Have they got her?" Claire asked, slipping onto a chair beside Maisie, looking at the feed.
"Not yet," Maisie shook her head, eyes not leaving the screen. "I just saw a glimpse of her. I think they're going to have Owen go out and try to bring her in."
Maisie's voice raised in excitement over the prospect, but Claire's heart dropped. Sure, she had wanted Owen to see Blue. To maybe reconnect with the dinosaurs. Or, at the very least, to find a way to at least be okay with her job. But the more the day was progressing, the more she was realizing she hadn't thought it through. That Owen might end up face to face with Blue was something she expected, she just expected bars or cages or tranqs to be involved. Not what she was watching, which was Owen standing in the middle of an open area, his old clicker in his hand.
"Oh god," Claire said softly, sinking back into her seat.
"Are you okay?" Maisie finally looked away from the feed to look at her. "You're kind of pale. Do you need a glass of water?"
"I'm fine," Claire reached out a hand, resting it on Maisie's shoulder. "Thanks, though."
The two watched in silence as they spotted Blue's head peak out from the tree cover on the side, Owen swinging around in the frame, also catching it. Then, they watched as Blue entered the clearing, stopping a few feet away from Owen. Claire could feel her breath catch in her throat, unable to breathe as she waited to see what happened.
It ended up playing out more normally than she expected. Owen offered up a treat, and Blue actually accepted it, before eventually taking a few steps towards him, bumping him lightly with her snout, Owen resting one hand on her neck, the other one between her eyes. Claire wished she could see the expression on his face, but the camera position meant their view was coming from almost directly behind him, preventing them from seeing much. And then, using the treats, Owen managed to lead Blue towards whatever the others wanted him to do, and soon they were out of sight of the camera.
Claire supposed she should find it more stressful, now that she couldn't see what was happening, but she actually found it easier to breathe again. She was realizing, that maybe she needed to see this just as much as Owen might need the actual interaction. Sure, Claire had been working hard for over two years now to save the dinosaurs via the DPG. But, after the events at the Lockwood Estates, Claire didn't actually want to be near them. She still believed in their mission. She fought even harder for the DPG. But she had been glad that she hadn't ended up face-to-face with one since, turning down previous opportunities to go to the sanctuary. She wasn't sure she could face it, face them, after Lockwood. Wasn't sure she could see them as anything less than dangerous now. Even Blue. Even knowing that Blue had saved them. Maybe she hadn't dealt with the fallout any better than Owen, she had just managed to hide from it better; to hide it from even herself.
x x x
Owen noticed a different look in Claire's eyes when he climbed out of the helicopter. He hugged Maisie back, listening with half an ear as she unloaded about everything she had watched, but his gaze was stuck on Claire. He couldn't put his finger on what it was. She didn't look upset, exactly. But she didn't look happy, either. At least, not beyond the momentary relief that had passed over her face when she'd first seen him.
The rest of the afternoon and evening flew by. Maisie spent most of it stuck by him, asking him question after question as to what happened on the island. About everything she couldn't see, and everything she had. To be honest, he had always thought her interests in dinosaurs was going to disappear, or at least decrease, given both what happened with her grandfather and that fateful night, but also just as she got older, with interests usually changing with age. Maybe it was the DPG, or maybe it was just going to be one of those passions that followed her throughout life, whatever it was, Maisie was as enthusiastic today as the day he'd met her and she'd realized he was the one in the videos with baby Blue.
By the time Maisie had finally been sent to bed, Owen was exhausted. It had been a long day, and an emotional one at that. He was still processing his own thoughts of the day, of his encounter with Blue. Until she'd stepped out in front of him, he hadn't been sure what to expect of the trip. But knowing that she still remembered, that she seemed to trust him, had blown his expectations out of the water. And to feel her leathery skin under his palm, rough and sort of pebble-y. To see, with his own eyes, not just through occasional glimpses from the DPG feeds, that she was okay. That she was healthy and thriving. It had been something he hadn't known he'd needed.
But that still didn't explain Claire's reaction. He'd expected her to be nervous while he was gone. He would've felt the same if their roles had been reversed, wanting to be beside her, to make sure that nothing happened. But it felt like the experience had hit her differently.
He headed back downstairs to see what Claire was up to, finding her, not surprisingly, in the kitchen cleaning up the final dishes and starting the dishwasher. Owen waited until the dishwasher door was closed, before he reached out for her, turning her around and pulling her into his grasp.
"Thank you," he whispered into her hair. "For pushing me. For today."
Claire didn't say anything, just winding her arms around him, pulling herself into him, holding on tightly. Owen copied her movements, tightening his own grip. She shifted slightly, her forehead pressing against his shoulder, and he nuzzled his nose into her hair, breathing deeply. They stood like that for a couple of minutes, before Owen realized his shoulder was getting wet, and he pushed Claire back slightly, getting her to look up at him, surprised to see her red eyes, glistening with tears.
"Hey, what's this about?" Owen asked, reaching one hand up, gently wiping the tears away.
"I'm sorry," Claire shook her head, her own hand coming up to cover her mouth. "It's just… today…"
"Yeah," Owen nodded in agreement, pulling her closer again. "It's been a long day."
"I was so scared," Claire finally confessed, resting her head on his shoulder, face turned into him, her voice muffled.
"Nothing happened," Owen reminded her. "We all came back in one piece. Not even a scratch."
"They're dangerous," she breathed out. "Blue could've killed you, and there would've been nothing anyone could do."
"Of course they're dangerous," Owen chuckled, "they're dinosaurs." He felt Claire stiffen in his arms, and he tightened his grip before she could pull away. "I knew what I was doing. They knew what I was doing. I don't know what you saw, or how much. But I wasn't alone. Nothing was going to happen. I wouldn't have let it. Zia wouldn't have let it."
"One bite, one slash," Claire mumbled.
"I'm not saying Blue's not dangerous. She absolutely is," Owen said softly. "But, I promise you, if I had had any doubt, I wouldn't have done it. You and Maisie come first. I wouldn't put you through that."
"I can't do this without you."
"This. Maisie. The DPG. Everything."
"You can do anything."
"Not this," Claire shook her head, burrowing deeper into his hold. "Promise me I'll never have to."
"Claire…" Owen sighed out her name, wanting more than anything to promise her that, but knowing that he couldn't. "You know I can't," he said softly, feeling her start to tremble in his arms. "But know that I will always do everything I can to prevent it."
He felt Claire shift in his arms, and loosened his grip just a little, letting her move just enough, so that she could rise up, arms encircling his neck, pulling him into a kiss. It started off soft, mostly as a method of reassurance, a reminder that he was there and okay. But it didn't stay that way for long, Claire clutching at him, pulling him towards her, deepening the kiss, letting all her emotions of the day flow out. He could feel her tugging at his shirt, and he pulled back just enough to yank it off, before diving back in, his own hands reaching for hers.
If she needed to feel alive, if she needed this reassurance, he wasn't about to deny her that. And, to be honest, he could use it, too.