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Jurassic World fic: Some Other Beginning's End (2/3)

July 23rd, 2015 (07:37 pm)
complacent

feeling: complacent

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE



It the morning, she wakes up sore and tired. Her mouth feels cottony, and her skin feels tight over her bones somehow.

Sitting up, she blinks a few times before seeing Owen perched in a familiar posture in the chair at the edge of the room.

“Hey,” she says.

He barely glances at her.

Absently, she smooths her hair. “How did you sleep?”

He shrugs. “Better than you, it seems.”

It’s not an accusation, but it’s also not spoken in comfort. “Yeah,” she says, feeling her cheeks redden. “Look, about that--”

“It’s not your fault,” he says, preempting her. “After what you’ve been through, you’re doing remarkably well.”

There’s more sincerity in that sentence, but he still will hardly look at her. Scooting to the end of the bed, she lets her legs down. “What we’ve been through.”

Inexplicably, that garners almost no reaction, and she becomes aware of the fact that something has changed. There’s something distant in his demeanor, and his disposition is entirely noncommittal. It’s so unlike Owen that her heart skips a beat.

“Owen, is everything okay?”

At that, he looks up before his gaze skitters around nervously. “Of course it is,” he says. “We’re safe here.”

She shakes her head, because he’s trying to brush this off. He’s trying to brush her off, and she’ll put up with a lot right now, but not that. Not from him. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

He’s weighing his answer, the back and forth so visible on his face that it’s almost funny. That’s when he purposefully puts his cell phone on the table next to him. “I talked to Barry.”

If he’s waiting for her to take the lead, he’s badly mistaken. Although her sister accuses her of lacking patience, Claire has unparalleled tenacity. She has no patience for subpar performance or irrelevant things, but she can stick with the things that matter with more vigor than a dog and its favorite bone.

He seemed chagrined under her stare, and he clears his throat. When he lifts his eyes, there’s an unmistakable and foreign resignation. “They’re putting together a team to go back to the island.”

Determined as she had been for an answer, this isn’t the one she’d been expecting. Honestly, she’s fairly certain she’s misheard him. Because that’s utter insanity.

With a long suffering sigh, he continues. “InGen’s been gathering up everyone they can find who’s qualified, and Barry’s--”

This time, she laughs. She’s traumatize, this much is certain, and sometimes she feels like she’s hanging onto the dwindling wisps of her sanity, but all her years of spreadsheets and checklists can’t be so easily forgotten. Especially in the face of such blatant, unremitting idiocy. “The ACU was decimated -- and it’s safe to question whether they were actually qualified to go back,” she says. “And there are no protocols for this kind of thing; we have no procedures in place.”

Owen nods.

She lets out an incredulous huff. “I mean, the scale of it would have to be military-grade,” she says. “And containment isn’t even feasible without technical support staff in place, not that that would matter until construction crews can repair the damaged enclosures. And none of that is possible without containment. The first team to go back would be virtually unprotected. It’s, it’s---”

She stops, faltering badly.

He’s looking at her quietly.

Too quietly. She’s missing something here -- something obvious. Something so obvious that she probably already knows it.

She probably doesn’t want to know it.

Just like that, her heart drops to her stomach. “Oh,” she exhales, suddenly feeling light headed. “It’s not just any team they’re sending back to the island. It’s your team.”

He’s already shaking his head. “They’ve got a lot of teams, and there’s been nothing confirmed as of yet,” he says. “But they’re going to start with security teams to create secure containment zones. Once those zones are established, full construction can start. They won’t even start dealing with the animals until--”

“Until never,” she interjects, voice starting to rise. “They can’t go back there. You can’t go back there.”

With the demand laid out so plainly, he noticeably bristles. Even so, he looks more regretful than he does defiant. “I have to think about it.”

He’s trying to sound reasonable. As if there’s anything reasonable about trying to go back there. “You said it was over, though,” she tells him, trying not to sound as absolutely desperate as she feels. “You told me just yesterday not to go back.”

“I told you that you didn’t have to go back,” he corrects.

The nuance only makes her hackles stand on end, the way it always does when people talk down to her. Something settles inside of her, turning her horror into anger. “What, so you can go back alone and clean up my mess?” she asks pointedly. “You think that’s what I need? Owen, the hero, still protecting the poor, stupid damsel in distress.”

Owen has put up with a lot, and he’s handled it with more grace than she’s let herself realize. He’s never blamed her; he’s never let her shoulder any of that burden, at least not by herself. Sure, he’s been flippant and crude with her from time to time, but he’s mostly been supportive.

This is the first time she’s seen him angry.

Even back on the island, when he’d nearly been eaten by the Indominus, he’d been firm and incredulous and zealous, but never angry.

Never at her.

His eyes darken, and his jaw settles tautly. “Believe it or not, this isn’t just about you.”

There’s a hint of warning in his voice, and she knows him well enough to sense that she’s pushing buttons she probably shouldn’t.

A few days ago, she would have been polite enough to stop there

They’ve been through too much now.

She’s not going to be cowed by convention, and Owen Grady is not her alpha. “So what is it about, then?” she asks, voice heavy with accusation. “Is it Barry? Do you two need to go mourn the loss of your stupid raptors?”

At that, he visibly pales, fingers tightening imperceptibly into a fist.

She doesn’t stop. “Or is it InGen? Are Hoskins’ minions throwing enough money at you to make you forget everything you told me when this started?”

Slamming his fist on the table, he gets to his feet. The rickety thing wobbles as he paces toward the window. “It’s about me,” he says, the words thick. He turns back toward her with bright eyes. “It’s about why I came to the island in the first place. Because I didn’t come for the money, Claire, and I knew from day one that I’d never be able to do what they wanted me to do. But I stayed because I knew I could do something better.

“Better?” she asks with her eyebrows up. “Your so-called trained raptors decimated an entire contingent of men. Men who risked their lives to control the situation; men who put their lives in your hands.”

“For the love of God, Claire,” he says, rubbing a hand over his face. “It’s never been about control--

“Then what? It’s the good of the animals?” she asks. “The Indominus severely depleted the island’s population. Your raptors are mostly dead now. Whatever’s left there isn’t going to see you as an alpha anymore, or even a friend. You’re just going to look like their next meal.”

He stares at her now, hard and unapologetic. “I don’t walk away from the things I start, especially not relationships,” he says. “Blue’s still out there, and so are a lot of other animals.”

It’s like a blow to the chest, stealing her oxygen. “You’d go back for a raptor, but you wouldn’t stay for me?”

Visibly, Owen deflates. “That’s not fair--”

“No, it’s not fair,” she agrees. “It’s not fair that you tell me to take time, to go off grid, to hide from all my problems while you’re planning to go back without even telling me.”

“It’s not like that.”

“It’s not?” she asks, and she sounds almost hysterical now. “Because I’ve trusted you with everything, and now you’re making plans without even talking to me.”

He swears abruptly, running a hand through his hair. “I wasn’t making plans,” he says. “Shit, Claire, I haven’t planned anything. I just wanted to make sure that Barry was okay -- that was all. And he sprung this on me.” He shrugs, almost helpless. “And I can’t ignore the fact that there are a lot of animals out there that need to be taken care of.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job of taking care of themselves,” she points out.

He nods. “And if I thought InGen was going to stay the hell off that island, I’d agree.”

“InGen is going to go bankrupt after this,” she says. “No one will invest.”

“You might be surprised,” he says.

“Well, we can be a part of making sure that doesn’t happen,” she tells him.

“And who buys out InGen?” he asks. “When they liquidate the assets, are they going to keep the park together? Or are the animals going to be purchased and shipped off to the highest bidder? Someone is going to make a profit off this, whether it’s InGen or the next company to come down the line. Those animals will never be left alone.”

She raises her chin stubbornly. “Maybe they should.”

“I’m just trying to be realistic.”

“Owen, please!” she says, gesturing widely with one hand. “There’s nothing realistic about any of this. I feel like I’ve spent the last decade of my life living in some alternate reality and I’m finally back on the planet Earth where everything makes sense. They’re dinosaurs, Owen. What are we going to do? Build more cages for them to break out of? Since that worked so spectacularly before. The entire thing is insanity. You’d actually have to be insane to even think about going back there.”

“Well,” he says, hedging. “I did take a job to train raptors.”

She refuses to be bowed by his attempts at humor. “And this is not the same thing.”

His shoulders fall. “What else am I going to do, then?”

“Anything!” she explodes. “We can do anything, Owen!”

He shakes his head, sitting down next to her on the bed. “Anything,” he repeats. “You can do anything, Claire, and I will support you, one hundred percent. I want you to do what you need to do for yourself.”

This close to him, and her resolve is faltering. She wants to melt into him, right into his arms. All her anger is an outlet for something else, something deeper. Something needy and broken inside of her. “You’ll support me, but you won’t stay with me.”

The tremor in her voice leaves him stricken. “I can, though,” he says. “I wouldn’t have to leave right away, and even when I do, security won’t be established enough to allow for residency. They’ll have to chopper people in and out each night, so I’d be here, okay? I’d still be here.”

He’s trying, and Claire knows it. But it’s still breaking her, a little more with every word. She pulls away from him. “I can’t believe you’re actually saying this.”

“Yes,” he says, not unkind but firm. “Yes, you can.”

She looks back at him, confused.

“There’s a reason I wore shorts on a first date, and there’s a reason you brought an itinerary,” he says. “Trauma changes us, but it doesn’t erase us. None of this actually surprises you, because you know me. You know me, Claire, and you’re not surprised at all.”

The answer isn’t the one she expected, but she also can’t deny it. All the same, she hates it. She hates that he’s talking like it’s fate. As if the two of them being together is as much an eventuality as them falling apart. “Then what are we doing here, Owen?”

“We’re figuring it out,” he tells her steadily. “Together.”

That’s not enough, though. They’re past the point where cliches will make a difference; they’re way beyond quick fixes and glossy finishes. “Figuring it out? What does that even mean?” she asks. “Is this just a vacation for you? A way to unwind? Maybe the chance to get a little action before heading back to work? I mean, am I part of your sex therapy?” She shakes her head. “You can’t possibly be that immature.”

“And you can’t be that obtuse,” he counters. “Don’t go acting like this is still our first date, okay? We’ve both been looking for the same thing in different ways, and once we get past ourselves, I think we’ll realize that we’ve found it in each other.”

She makes a face. “What are you even talking about?”

“A relationship, Claire,” he says. “Someone to work with, play with, survive with.”

She snorts. “But you want to leave.”

“I don’t want to leave,” he says. “But maybe I need to. I mean, eventualities, right? That’s what Simon called it. His mistake wasn’t in assuming the inevitable but not accepting what it meant. I believe that you and I can work if we want it to. Or we can go up in flames. I don’t know which way we’re headed, but I know that if we’re going to make it through this -- if we’re going to survive -- we can’t deal with idealizations or fairy tales. We have to face each other in the situation we’re in. Someone is going back to that island.”

“And it has to be you?” she asks, even though he’s the one who went back out in the jungle with her. Even though he’s the one that never left her when he had every reason and every opportunity. “You have to be the hero?”

“I’m not trying to be a hero,” he replies. “I’m doing what needs to be done.”

She shakes her head. “It’s someone else’s turn.”

“But no one else can do it right.”

Sighing, she rolls her eyes. The strength is leaving her voice; the tension is slipping from her posture. This is a fight she can’t win. “Going back there is a terrible idea. We’ll make the same mistakes all over again.”

“Maybe,” he says, leaning closer to her now. “But the opposite of control isn’t anarchy. The world doesn’t exist in black and white.”

She doesn’t pull back this time. “I don’t do so well with shades of gray.”

He considers that; he considers her. There’s something in the way he looks at her; something in the way he lifts his hand and brushes her cheek. He calms the raging parts inside of her; he brings steadiness to the parts of her that want to fall apart. When she’s with him, she finds a clarity she can’t explain. It’s not lust exactly, and she’s not sure it’s love yet. But it’s a connection she can’t deny.

A connection she doesn’t want to live without.

That’s why she’d said yes to a first date so long ago.

It’s also why she’d never asked for a second.

Claire doesn’t like needing people.

And it scares her how hard it is to imagine her life without Owen in this very moment.

“Owen,” she starts, but doesn’t know how to finish. She doesn’t know what she wants to say; she doesn’t know.

“Hey,” he says, softer now as his fingers thread through her hair. “If you need me to stay, I’ll stay.”

Her face starts to crumple.

He smooths away a tear with his thumb. “But I think you know I’m right,” he says. “Because we’re not that much different than the animals most of the time. Remember?”

She closes her eyes, thinking back to a time before this happened, back to a time when they were assets and profits and nothing more.

“We do what we need to do, just to survive,” he continues. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to survive.”

She breathes him in, willing herself to play this game. It’s a back and forth she remembers, but this time she knows it can turn out different. “And what do you need?” she asks, looking at him again. “What do you need to survive?”

“I need to eat,” he says. “I need to work.”

The familiarity is comforting; the lightness unfurls something tight in her chest.

His lips twist up into a smile. “I need to….”

She can’t help but laugh.

He shrugs, feigning innocence. “You have to relate to at least one of those.”

-o-

Food.

They get food.

Owen may be right about the other two, but Claire’s nowhere near ready to deal with them at the moment. The thought of work makes her heart skip a beat, and she’s fairly certain that if they have sex again, she’ll end up crying in the bathroom a second time. Just because Owen’s right on those two points doesn’t mean he’s not a little wrong, too, and Claire is having trouble putting her head back in control of her heart for the first time in her life.

Food, therefore, is the easiest of the three.

At least, that’s what Claire thinks. She actually manages to order her meal this time before the conversations around her start to make her twitch, and she’s almost hyperventilating by the time the waiter brings the water out.

Owen asks for two doggy bags and the check.

Food, work and sex.

Claire is batting zero of three.

-o-

After lunch, Owen says he’s going to lay down for a bit. Claire is thinking of an alternative when his breathing even outs and he’s asleep.

She sighs.

Maybe this is a mistake, she tells herself. What is she even doing here? She hardly knows Owen Grady -- one terrible first date years ago doesn’t count. And running for their lives is no definition of a second date, so this week-long getaway is probably the worst idea she’s ever had.

On the other hand, she can’t sleep through the night without him; she can’t even order lunch without a total breakdown. She’d be nowhere without him.

But where exactly is she with him?

She can’t reason this away; she can’t make it parse into a neat little box. She knows that she survived the Indominus Rex with little more than scratches, but she still feels like she’s been ripped to shreds.

And swallowed whole.

-o-

An hour later, Owen’s phone rings. Claire reaches to turn it off -- Owen’s still out like a light, and she has to think he’s earned it -- but she stops when she recognizes the number.

With a frown, she answers. “Karen?”

“Oh, um, wait,” Karen says over the line. “Claire?”

“Yeah,” Claire says. “How did you get this number?”

“Owen gave it to the boys before we left,” Karen explains. “But why are you at this number?”

Claire’s mouth opens but she realizes she doesn’t have a good answer. In fact, she’s not even sure.

“Are you two,” Karen says. “I mean, are you two together?

“No,” Claire says, a little too quickly. Her cheeks are turning red, and she’s grateful her sister is thousands of miles away. “I mean, yes, but not like that. We just thought needed to go off grid for awhile.”

“Off grid?” her sister asks. “Is that, like, a euphemism?”

Embarrassed, Claire gets up and moves toward the bathroom. “No, it’s not a euphemism.”

“So you two are just, what, hanging out?”

“Look, we went through a lot together, okay, and we’re figuring things out,” Claire says. “How are the boys?”

“I’ve already got them scheduled to see a therapist,” Karen replies. “I mean, they’re spending most of the time playing video games, and Gray threw out all his dinosaur toys and we literally burned the books, and I keep catching them in Zach’s bed together, but since it keeps Zach from sneaking out like he used to, I’m actually okay with that last part.”

Claire doesn’t miss the seriousness behind Karen’s banter. She’s trying to sound lighthearted, but there’s more to it than she’s letting on.

Not that Claire needs it spelled out.

She glances nervously back at Owen. “I’m sorry,” she says, phone pressed to her ear.

“They’re alive, though,” Karen says, a bit more soberly. “I actually was calling to see if he had a number for you. So this is a happy coincidence.”

“Oh,” Claire says. “I lost my phone back on the island.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Karen says. “But I just wanted to check in, you know. See how you were.”

It’s a small question with no small answer. Claire bites her lip. “You know,” she ventures finally. “Been better.”

“The offer to stay with us still stands,” Karen tells her. “The therapist would be a good idea for you, too.”

“Yeah,” Claire says, trying to keep her voice from slipping. “I’ll...think about it.”

There’s a hesitation on the line. “You took care of a lot of people in all that,” Karen adds. “Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.”

“I’m okay,” Claire says, clenching her teeth shut. “Really.”

It’s a lie, and they both know it. But Karen also knows Claire’s at her end, and decides that a long distance phone call isn’t the time or place to push those boundaries. Or maybe Karen already has her hands full.

“Okay,” Karen says. “Is Owen helping with that?”

“Karen!” Claire hisses.

“What!” Karen protests. “I was referring to your shared experiences, but I’m sure he’s helpful in a lot of ways.”

“It’s not like that,” she insists.

“Okay, okay,” Karen says. “So what is it like?”

Claire turns, looking back toward Owen, who is still curled on his side in the afternoon light. Her stomach roils. What is it like?

It’s the best thing, sometimes. She loves the way he knows what she needs, and she loves the way he gives it to her without having her suffer the indignity of asking. She loves the way he anchors her to the present, the way his voice calms her, the way his touch soothes the brittle edges of her sanity. She loves the sound of his heartbeat as it thrums next to hers in the night.

And then it’s the worst thing. Because she hates that every time she’s needy, he’s there to pick her up. She hates that she’s so scared of losing him when three days ago, she never gave him a second thought. She hates that she never agreed to a second date, and now she’s trying to talk him into staying with her permanently.

She hates that she’s falling apart, and he’s the only one who knows how to put the pieces back together.

“It’s...nothing,” Claire answer feebly.

“You two seem pretty close,” Karen says.

“Well, we survived the impossible together,” Claire says. “He helped me when no one else would. And when you’ve got that much adrenaline going, it’s pretty easy to work together. No matter who we were before, we share this now, and nothing will ever change that.”

“That makes sense,” Karen accedes. “I mean, the boys can’t stop talking about him. I don’t know who loves him more, Zach or Gray. Zach gets more excited talking about Owen than his girlfriend these days.”

“Owen did save their lives,” Claire reasons.

“It’s not just Owen, though,” Karen adds. “You, too. You two practically need one of those celebrity couple nicknames for all they go on about you. Clowen, maybe. What do you think?”

Claire takes a measured breath. “I think it’s normal for people to become bonded over trauma. It could very well pass.”

“Sure, but it could also last,” Karen says. “You two are good together, maybe.”

“We barely know each other,” Claire says, turning toward the bathroom again. “We’re basically strangers who shared one, intense day together.”

“Relationships have started with less,” Karen says.

“And fallen apart with more,” Claire argues.

“Look, I know I’m in no position to offer relationship advice all things considered,” Karen says. “But that’s kind of the point. Relationships are hard to keep; they take work. The thing is, though, I know how hard you work when you’re committed to something. If anyone can make something happen, it’s you.”

She flicks on the light in the bathroom and makes a face at her poorly kempt appearance. “You assume I want to.”

“Oh, please,” Karen says. “Don’t forget how well I know you. I mean, I may not get your desire to climb the corporate ladder, and I may not fully appreciate just how hard it is to do what you do, but I remember the things you used to want. Someone to be with you in the quiet moments; someone to grow old with.”

“Yeah, and when I was seven, I wanted a pony,” Claire says. “I grew up, Karen.”

“News flash: grown ups make mistakes, too,” Karen says. “Trust me. I know.”

Claire presses her fingers to the bridge of her nose. She knows, too. Better than Karen ever will. “I just -- I have responsibilities. Priorities.”

“Uh huh,” Karen replies. “And here I thought you finally knew what those were.”

Claire groans. “You still think having babies will fix me?”

“No,” Karen says with a remorseful chuckle. “But I think that keeping people you care about close to you for once might.”

-o-

She hangs up with a promise to call Karen as soon as she gets a new phone. No matter how much she wants to be, she’s not mad at her sister. Sure, Karen doesn’t always get it, but Claire has a new appreciation for that.

They’re all just doing their best.

Claire hopes that enough for today.

-o-

Owen is still sound asleep at dinner. She considers trying to go out on her own -- it could even be a surprise for Owen, after all he’s done for her. But she can’t bring herself to open the door, so she grabs a bag of potato chips from the stash of things Owen picked up yesterday and settles down to wait.

Bored, she flips on the TV, turning the sound on mute. For a while, she watches a Latin soap opera with subtitles, but she’s never been one for needless drama. Flipping through the channels, she catches the news cycle as it starts, and when the Jurassic World logo pops on screen, she almost turns away.

This time, there’s new footage of paddock nine, this time from the interior camera. It’s still a low quality feed, but it’s closer, and she can see the expression on her face as the locks slide out and the door opens.

She looks so small as the t-rex comes into frame. It’s an outrageous plan: using a monster to quell another monster. Using her last bit of control to surrender it altogether.

All or nothing, she’d thought.

Honestly, she’s not sure which she ended up with.

-o-

Owen is still sleeping when the sun starts to go down, and Claire finally can’t take it anymore. She doesn’t want to wake him up, but she definitely wants him to wake up, so she turns all the lights on and turns the volume up on the TV.

He twitches a few times.

When it still fails to produce actual results, she turns the volume up louder and switches to a channel with machine gun fire and explosions.

Finally, he startles awake.

Claire lets out a breath of relief. “Hey,” she says. “You’re up.”

He cranes his neck, blinking at her blearily. He’s awake, it seems.

But he looks terrible.

He’s paler than he should be, and despite the extra sleep, he looks more tired than ever.

Still, he makes a visible effort to push himself upright.

The small movements look like torture, and his face contorts. He hisses as he gingerly positions himself in a seated position against the headboard.

“Owen?” she asks, getting to her feet and crossing toward him. “Are you okay?”

He grimaces, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. “It hurts.”

She sits down carefully next to him. “It hurts?”

He lets out a panting breath, as if trying to retain his composure. “My back.”

The admission makes her frown, and she reaches up to the nape of his neck. He hisses again, but complies, dutifully tilting his head to the side while she pulls back the collar of his t-shirt. He flinches as she picks at the bandage over his shoulder, peeling it back from the wound.

Three days out, she expected it to be crusted but healing.

This is still oozing, and the edges are raised and raw. “I told you to get this look at,” she says, unsticking the last corner of the gauze. “Now it’s infected.”

He breathes heavily through his nose. “I had it under control.”

She gives him a stern look. “I thought it wasn’t about control.”

He rolls his head back toward her with a sheepish smile. “No one’s perfect.”

-o-

Claire has precisely no medical training, and she’s actually somewhat averse to doctors overall. She keeps herself healthy and clean, which seems to eliminate any serious health concerns, and there’s honestly a reason she’s meticulously about the medical staff that are hosted on the island.

Because when someone gets hurts, she delegates the responsibility.

This time, though, there’s no one to delegate to. It’s just her and Owen and the small but relevant fact that his injuries are still all her fault.

And it’s not like she can’t figure out basic first aid.

Wounds have to be cleaned and wrapped consistently.

That’s it.

Still, she can’t quite get her hands to start shaking when she fills the ice bucket with warm water and lays out the extra washcloths on the bedside table. Owen has obediently turned onto his back, though he seems restless as she organizes.

“This is silly,” he says, starting to roll over. “I can--”

“You can lay back down,” she says firmly, pushing him back to the mattress. “You’ve let this go on long enough.”

His face creases with discontent. “I’m fine,” he mutters.

“We’ll see about that,” she says, picking up the first washcloth and putting it in the warm water. “Now, lie still.”

-o-

She’s not entirely sure if she’s being too thorough or too lax. The wound is crusted over, but clearing away the oozing debris makes Owen get tense beneath her, his finger fisting into the sheets until his knuckles are white. He can’t quite hold back a cry when she scrubs between the jagged edges, doing her best to flush it out entirely.

When she’s done, she presses down a patch of gauze that she got from the first aid kit the front desk gave her. Helping Owen sit up, she wraps it, tying it tightly while Owen winces.

Sitting back, she feels satisfied at a job well done.

Owen’s pained look dampens her sense of accomplishment.

He’s leaned back awkwardly against the headrest. In addition to being pale, he’s also sweaty now and he looks more tired than ever.

“You still feeling hot?” she asks.

“I assume that’s not a compliment on my physique,” he quips.

She sighs. “Owen--”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says. “Sort of shaky, too.”

Nodding, she reaches for the Tylenol, undoing the child lock and shaking out two tablets into her hand. “Here,” she says, handing them over before picking up the cup of water she’s laid out for just this purpose. “You need your fluids, too.”

Without argument, he pops the pills in his mouth and takes a long drink, swallowing with a wince. He puts the cup back heavily before sighing in utter exhaustion.

“Maybe we should go to a doctor,” Claire suggests.

Owen shakes his head. “I’m fine.”

She’s always believed him about this, but it occurs to her now that he’s not always right. They are both their own greatest weakness.

But she doesn’t want him to be wrong.

Not about this.

-o-

He sleeps, and Claire holds an awkward vigil. It seems irresponsible to sleep, but staring at him just seems weird. Instead, she sits in the chair, watching TV with the sound off, listening to him breathe.

Maybe it’s too much; maybe it’s not enough.

Claire is trying, though.

God help her, she’s really trying.

-o-

Sometime after the late night shows, Claire starts to doze. She flips to an infomercial but the bright lights can’t keep her awake.

Sleep is not a refuge, but it is a necessity.

To that end, it’s not even a choice anymore.

Her own body rejects her will and wants, and that’s one of the greatest betrayals of all.

It’s also probably the most inevitable.

Because there’s no way to fight the darkness.

You just have to survive it.

-o-

She wakes to screams.

Her breath catches; her pulse races.

Then she realizes, they’re not hers.

The revelation startles her, and for a moment, she’s badly disoriented. She’s used to hearing screams in her sleep -- Gray and Zach, Zara and the ACU troopers, all the innocent visitors she failed -- but this is different. Closer, immediate, terrified.

Owen.

She scrambles to her feet, almost tripping on the pile of clothes on the floor.

It’s Owen.

On the bed, he’s turned onto his back and, even in the darkness, she can see that his face is contorted in pain. He’s sweating in earnest now with the tufts of his hair plastered to his head. And he’s straining, feet kicking in the sheets and hands grasping at nothing with such desperation that she’s scared, too.

She knows what he’s running from in his dreams.

Somehow, what’s in front of her now is even more terrifying.

“Owen,” she says, taking his arm in her hands. “Owen, wake up.”

She tries to remember how he does it; how he manages to pull her back and calm her down all at the same time. She tries to remember the words, the touch, the feeling.

He jerks beneath her, though, trashing with new desperation.

“No, Owen,” she says, his sweat-slicked arm slipping through her grasp. She half climbs on the bed to reach his face. “Owen, please.”

He doesn’t seem to hear her, and her self-control falters.

“Owen, it’s me, it’s Claire,” she says, making a face at her own ridiculousness. “I mean, it’s okay. It’s over.”

The words are right, but her voice doesn’t carry the same weight. Her touch on his face isn’t as sure, and she can know exactly what to do without knowing how to do it at all.

He whimpers now, body almost going rigid.

Gritting her teeth, she climbs on the bed, slipping over him until she’s on her knees at her side. She takes his face with both her hands, heart fluttering at the heat coming off his skin. “Owen,” she all but orders. “Wake up.

It lacks the compassion, and it lacks the steadiness, but it is the only non-negotiable she can offer at the moment.

She is a corporate executive, after all. She has a voice that can woo investors and put subordinates in their place.

She has to believe that she can surely wake Owen up.

To her great relief, his eyes open.

Relief is short lived, however.

Owen’s eyes are glazed and distant, and even though she’s right over him, he’s looking through her vacantly. His breathing is coming in short, wispy gasps now, and as the tension starts to drain from his body, she can feel the tremors that are running through him.

He’s not just dreaming; these are more than nightmares.

This is a fever -- and a bad one.

The infection, despite her best efforts, isn’t stopping. It’s spreading.

An asset out of containment, her mind screams, just like the first time she thought she’d sent Owen to his death in the Indominus paddock. He’d escaped that time with the forces of hell nipping at his heels.

Or, as it had been, trying to bite his head off.

He’d survived that. He’d survived everything.

And this is a fight he’s losing now.

She’s paralyzed with that, staring down in shock. Owen is tossing again, turning his fever-bright eyes as if he’s looking for something.

“Claire,” he moans, sounding pained. “We got to -- we got to -- the raptors, Claire.”

“The raptors are fine,” she says, not sure if she’s lying or not. “We’re fine, Owen.”

A tear leaks from his eye, and his breathing catches in a sob as he shakes his head. “They trusted me; everyone trusted me,” he continues, writhing helplessly on the sheets. “But I can’t control it -- people are putting their lives in my hands -- and I can’t control it--

He breaks off with another cry before his words run together unintelligibly. It’s not that she doesn’t think he dreams about the island. It’s not that she doesn’t think it’s affected him. It’s not that she even thinks that he doesn’t blame himself somehow, for not doing more.

It’s just that she’s not used to seeing him in need.

Owen is the one who is cool and calm and collected. Owen is the one who knows when to run and when to hide. Owen is the one who knows how to save himself and everyone around him. Owen is the one who outruns, outsmarts and outlives the worst of Claire’s nightmares.

When Owen wanted to stick together for survival, she’d assumed it was for her benefit.

She hadn’t even considered it might be for his as well.

She is the obtuse one, so resentful of her own needs that she didn’t see his.

All the times she hated the way he kept her from falling apart, she never once realized he might need her to return the favor.

They’re all looking for control, it seems.

And failing as much as they succeed.

-o-

There had been a moment, near the end, when Claire was standing at the gate to paddock nine. Owen was back with her nephews, and there was no one left but Lowery in the control room to back her up. She had no guns and no real exit plan.

When the doors had opened, there had been one moment -- just one moment -- where she’d thought she was going to die. Her body tensed up; her mind froze. There was no one left to save her.

But then she’d remembered.

She didn’t need someone to save her.

Not when she had the power to save herself.

And everyone right along with her.

In their shared motel room, Claire has another moment. Only this time, there’s no one in any control room and the life she needs to save is not her own. It’s Owen’s.

And there’s just this moment. When she thinks he’s going to die. Her body tenses up; her mind freezes. She’s seen too many good people die; she’s watched too many things fall apart. She’s lost more than she can afford to give, and she can’t lose Owen.

She won’t.

For the last decade, she’s let herself look at the big picture, but it all comes down to the tangible details. A hug from her nephew; a phone call from her sister; getting Owen through this alive. Maybe it’s not love.

Maybe it’s just survival.

Her world is teetering on the brink, and her sanity hangs by threads. She’s not sure if she can do this without him.

This time, there’s no back up. There’s no one coming to save her.

But then she remembers.

She remembers.

Claire doesn’t need a hero.

Because she knows what to do.

-o-

It’s simple procedure at this point. Medical incidences on a minor scale should be arranged with the closest medical facility. In case of emergency, however, 911 or the local equivalent should be leveraged immediately, regardless of situation or jurisdiction.

Since Owen is suffering from a fever that is high enough to cause mild hallucinations or incoherency, she feels that this situation does warrant emergency measures. Besides, in the middle of the night in a foreign motel room, Claire has few other options to consider. Even if she knew where a local clinic might be, transporting Owen in his condition would be impossible.

Therefore, she calls 911.

She easily navigates the phone, using articulate Spanish with the proper usted form to request assistance. The address of the motel is listed on the stationary, and although she struggles with the precise terms for his injuries, she requests prompt help.

When she hangs up, she calls the front desk to alert them to their situation. While she waits, she organizes a bag of things for herself and Owen, packing clean clothes and several toiletries to prepare for a hospital stay. As an afterthought, she also includes their extra snacks and a bottle of water along with Owen’s phone and wallet.

She even finds Owen’s insurance card, which she knows will provide easy coverage with the local hospital, and by the time she gets her own shoes on, there’s a knock at the door.

At that, she hesitates. Her heart starts to beat faster, and her palms start to sweat. It’s one thing, to be in control within the confines of a small, safe motel room. But the second she opens that door, there’s a whole wide world out there with variables she may not be able to control. That terrifies her more than a little, and her confidence slips badly.

But she looks at Owen.

He’s still breathing heavily on the bed, tossing fretfully every now and then. His condition isn’t getting better, and she’s not about to let him die for her own insecurities.

Insecurities be damned.

She’s not about to let him die, period.

Determined, she opens the door.

-o-

The medics seem competent, and the motel manager loiters just outside. Claire assures the manager that this is no cause for his concern while simultaneously answer questions in pristine Spanish about the onset and circumstances of the symptoms.

When they ask her what made the wound, however, she hesitates.

Taking a breath, she holds her head high. “Un dinosaurio,” she replies.

The medics exchange looks, but they aren’t altogether surprised. Mainland hospital undoubtedly received an influx of similar injuries, which will work in Claire’s favor at the moment. In a cotton nightshirt with disheveled hair, she doesn’t look like the corporate executive responsible for everything. No doubt, everyone is looking for her, but no one would think to look for her here.

“Pues,” she continues at their hesitation. “Estamos listos?”

They exchange looks before one reaches for the backboard. Owen is groans on the bed, still more unconscious than awake. “Are you his, uh--” one medic starts, struggling for the words. “Girlfriend?”

She’s been completely professional and totally prepared. But that question catches her off guard.

Is she his girlfriend? Does she even want to be? She’s a grown woman, not some preteen angsting at lunchtime. There hasn’t even been an official second date yet, and Claire’s been so busy being afraid of losing Owen to decide what she actually wants Owen to be to her.

But they’ve got Owen strapped down, and they’re lifting him up to take him out. It’s a choice she has to make, whether she wants to stay or go.

That’s not really a choice at all.

She’ll follow Owen.

That might not make her his girlfriend, but for now, it’s close enough.

She nods. “Yes,” she says. “Yes, I am.”

“Pues,” the other medic says as they move toward the door. “Vamanos.”

-o-

Claire is grateful that the lobby is empty at this time of night, and there’s no one on the street. Still, it’s crowded in the back of the ambulance, and she studiously avoids eye contact with the medic that is monitoring Owen’s vitals.

Instead, she watches the IV as it drips saline down into the crook of Owen’s arm and focuses on her breathing.

She’s okay, she reminds herself. She’s okay, she’s okay, she’s okay.

Unspoken, she reaches out and takes Owen’s fingers in her own. They’re clammy, and she gives them a squeeze.

They’re okay.

-o-

At the hospital, the nurses ask her to stay in the waiting room.

It’s a request Claire decidedly ignore.

“No, I’m staying with him,” she says in no uncertain terms.

Although she fully understands the litany in Spanish the nurse provides for her, Claire decides this is the perfect time to be the idiot tourist.

“Sorry,” she says. “I don’t speak Spanish.”