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In Love With Dreaming

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It took a very long time for Claire to gain the courage to tell her soulmate that she couldn’t see his face. Well, not in the traditional sense; her dreams with her soulmate were clouded around his face. Always scratched out or blurred, only ever seeing his body. He didn’t seem to mind now, but when she first told him, he had never seem more defeated; the way his shoulders slumped and everything seemed closed off, as though he saw himself as unworthy. She reminded him constantly that it wasn’t the case...she just wasn’t ready.

She hadn’t been ready for ten years. Ten fucking years. She was beginning to doubt herself, that there was something wrong with her. There were days and weeks where she couldn’t help but avoid him; she wasn’t worth his attention and his caring touch upon her shoulder.

Soulmates first connect when they’re twenty-one, and the first time she dreamed of him was a whirlwind of emotions. She turned twenty-one later than he did, he said he had been waiting nearly a year - he wondered if he was going to be alone in his dreams forever. It wasn’t common for soulmates to lose their other half so young, but it did happen.

Sometimes, Claire and her soulmate would just sit in a field and talk, or go to a cafe, anywhere they’re subconscious wanted them to go. Most of the time, they would be wandering empty streets and talk for what felt like hours just so they wouldn’t have to wake. There were times where she thought she could see his face but nothing ever stuck.

“Your hair is different,” he said, picking at flowers in the nearby. Claire tucked hair behind her ear, her red hair longer and out past her shoulders which she usually put up and out of her face. “You trying to impress me or something?” he chuckled. Coming back to Claire, he placed a little daisy past her ear; even though she couldn’t see his face, she felt like he was smiling at her fondly.

“Would it be so hard to impress you?” she asked, biting the edge of her lip. His hand slid up her face, thumb tugging her lip from her teeth. Claire felt the tremble in her breath, wondering if he would always make her feel like this; ten years of feeling weightless and swimming in air.

“Let me think,” his head obviously tilted. “Not at all.” When Claire laughed at him, she heard him giggle slightly, take her into his arms like he had done before, but there was a wanting that had only happened a few times before. Claire craved to know what the feeling ended with but she may not know.

“You’re a fool,” she shook her head, his rough hands running up her cheek, the sigh that left him was visible in his chest.

“I’m yours,” he said, voice low, gravelly and rough. And that feeling swelled in her chest, the urge to have him kiss and want her as much as she did. She sighed, her arms falling around his shoulders.

“One day, I’ll discover what it is like to kiss your lips,” she smiled, his hand still on her cheek, the same temptation seeming to fill his chest that filled her own.

“I know you wanted to see my face first, but...must we really wait?” he asked in a shaken breath and tempted laugh.

“I’ve made you wait ten years…” Claire looked at at his chest, her hands bound in his gray henley. “I don’t want you to wait ten more because of me,” she breathed, waiting patiently for anything to happen. Claire hated herself for never being able to see his face, to never know what the man she loved - the man the universe thought she was meant to be with for the rest of her life - looked like. It never mattered to her, but it mattered to her that she knew him.

Then, his head leaned down, Claire’s eyes fluttering to a close as his lips hovered over hers for a moment. And like that, his timid lips touched against hers, kissing her a little more eagerly each time until his forehead leaned against hers. Claire felt like she out of breath when it wasn’t even an intense kiss, there was just something so lifting about his lips on hers.

“I never knew you would feel so soft, taste like berries and….I want you to see me. I want you to know when I’m kissing you,” he rumbled, holding onto her like she could vanish from his arms in any moment.

“Once more,” she begged, and just as his lips were about to touch hers, alarms started to blare and sound, racketing around her room until Claire was startled out of her sleep. She leaned back into her bed, groaning loudly before she touched her lips, the soft feeling echoing with the strange scratched above her top lip. How Claire wished it hadn’t have been the morning. She wanted to fall right back into sleep and curl beside her soulmate for days on end. But work loomed and she knew she had to go.

The island had been her home for nearly six years, and waking up there every day didn’t hurt, but at the beginning and end of the day, she had a job to do. She changed and gathered her things, hearing the waking park as dinosaurs began to roar to life and wake for the day; a new start to a new day. As Claire put on her heels, she heard her phone alert her of something. Looking upon it, just noted more things she needed to do for the day; her mind now trained on more things.

Dressed in her bright red pants and white wrap shirt, Claire crossed things off her list as she made her way through the slow herds of staffers up before guests. Hair down and out, she was reveling in the fact that her soulmate liked it this way. She always liked impressing him.

Most staffers went for quick food and coffee to get them through the morning before heading off to their zone. Claire was the same, but she couldn’t help but feel a little out of sorts that morning. It was a beautiful island where most staffers enjoyed themselves, but something about the grass and the sea mixing in scent, filling the air; it just took her back to why she was stressed out in her dreams. This stupid island didn’t help her figure herself out.

It was early that morning, a few families around, but mostly staffers trying to get breakfast in before the day drained them out. Waving to a few staffers she knew and quickly meeting with a few she had to get quick information off of, she thought she had the morning under her belt. Yet, she knew better of herself.

It wasn’t until she was making her way to the main building that was caught by Owen Grady, the velociraptor trainer. She’d known Owen since he had arrived at the park, nearly two years ago, arriving nearly directly out of the army or something; and he had been a thorn in her side ever since. It wasn’t as though he was annoying - she did like his company - it was just, he had a way of getting under her skin, knowing her too well for comfort.

Owen came rushing over, that same leather vest and blue button up shirt with sleeves rolled up to his bicep. He tucked his hands in his pockets as he began walking beside her. “Grady,” she sighed, scratching another thing off her list.

“Claire,” he smiled. “A pleasure as always.”

Her hand covered her brow, stopping herself. One sentence was all it took for Claire to regret this morning. Bed. Sleep. Dreaming. All things she wanted right at that moment. “Not in the mood, Grady,” she snapped, knowing it was a far bigger snap than was probably justifiable.

“What’s got you in such a mood?” he scoffed. “Oh, trouble in paradise?” His brow wriggled and a cocky smile on his lips.

“What?” she asked, her clipboard firmly to her chest defensively.

“Trouble with your soulmate. Long distance?” he clarified.

“I can’t…” she started out of habit; the idea of telling someone everything was easier than she once thought - Owen made it far easier than she thought. “If you must know, I can’t see his face,” she confessed.

“Wait, really?” he asked, eyes a little wider than normal. When she nodded, Owen scoffed. “Like at all?” he exclaimed.

“I know roughly what he looks like but his face is just a mess,” she huffed, walking off abruptly.

Owen caught her arm, stopping her entirely. “So what’s with the mood?”

“I haven’t been able to see him for ten years,” she blurted out in frustration. “Look, I just -”

“Wait, Claire,” he paused, tugging her lightly to keep her still. “Just….talk it out with me,” he nodded down the long street full of shops and barely any tourists.

“You don’t wanna hear this,” she waved it off, Owen’s hand shaken off of her. But he remained in her sights, smiling in kind regard and making sure she knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Her chest felt tight.

“I offered. I want to help,” he nodded. Claire huffed before nodding along. They began walking back down the street slowly, keeping a distance between them - more so that Owen was keeping distant from her, giving her space to talk about this all. He had never done this before, given her room, made her vulnerability feel safer. In his defense, she’d rarely been vulnerable in front of anyone, so he was doing a really good job of it so far.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I thought I was fine with it. I would figure myself out and be able to see him but it’s been ten years. Why have I still not been able to see him for ten years?” she rambled, tucking hair behind her ear.

“Claire, what happened?” Owen asked, stepping a little closer to her.

“He kissed me. For the first time. And I realised how much I’ve been avoiding figuring out what’s wrong with me. He loves me so much and I can’t….I can’t even see his face,” she said in a cracking voice. Owen’s hand suddenly came softly onto her back, rubbing it to soothe her.

“Let’s keep going and I’ll buy you a coffee,” he said and Claire sniffed, a strong and needed sigh escaped her.

“God I would kill for a coffee,” she exasperated.

“It’s your lucky day and you don’t have to kill anyone,” he smiled and Claire laughed. They continued on until Claire pointed out that her favourite cafe on the island was coming up. “Look, figuring out your dreams is hard enough, but mix that with a soulmate, you’re in a completely different ball game,” he explained and Claire crooked her eyebrow.

“Really? Sports analogy?” she laughed.

“Yeah. I’m going to get you to throw a football one time. I’ve got a pool running and I want to win it,” he commented with a blush of red running over his cheeks. She’d known about it from Zara, who mentioned the men in some of the training departments didn’t believe she’d ever thrown a football before - despite her father being a college football coach.

“How much?” she asked to his surprise.

“Got about two hundred riding on it,” he nodded without delay.

“Next staff picnic, you’re getting that two hundred,” she quipped and Owen laughed.

“Nice,” he smiled. Owen ordered her the coffee she so desperately craved and sat them down at a table as they waited. He huffed before relaxing into his chair, confidence radiating from him; a trait that Claire loathed and admired depending on the day. “Now, you’re stuck because you haven’t figured out who you are. What kind of woman are you? Twenty-one is a confusing time because we’re pulled to jobs and careers, but we never really think about ourselves. Maybe you need some you time before you think about him. It’s a two way thing. If he really loves you, he’ll give you time.” The vague shrug he gave made Claire giggle a little; how could he talk like that as if it were nothing?

“I never knew you could be so profound,” Claire said, shaking her head and taking the first sip of her coffee. Amazing little drink that was going to keep her awake for the next few hours until food could sustain her.

“Eh, toss it up to my soulmate,” he beamed, a wonderful gleam in his eyes as he spoke.

“They must be really something,” Claire gave a melancholy smile in return.

“She is,” he replied, biting at the edge of his lip.

“What’s she like?” she asked and he blinked a few times, stuttering before he could answer.

“Stubborn, kinda loud when she wants to be,” he smiled, and Caire cleared her throat, looking away from him. “Not like that. We’ve never…” he defended.

“Seriously?” she exclaimed and Owen rolled his eyes.

“Says the woman who just got kissed by her soulmate.”

“Shut up.”

“I don’t know. She’s like...the world could be on her shoulders but she’ll hold it up with her fingertip.” The blissful way he spoke made Claire’s heart flutter. She didn’t know he could be so loving and caring.

“You really love her, don’t you?” He nodded.

“Since I was twenty-three years old.”

Brow crinkled, Claire leaned in slightly. “Not twenty-one?” she asked, taking another tentative sip of her coffee.

“She’s younger. Kinda sucked at the time but as soon as I met her, she was everything,” he explained, hand gripping onto his coffee cup a little tighter.

“Must have been lonely,” Claire said, knowing she had done something similar to her own soulmate. It wasn’t their fault, age just made things more confusing and frustrating to connect with a soulmate.

“Worth it,” Owen corrected.

They sat drinking and talking for a while. Owen talked about his family, how he missed them when he came to the island but it was better than dealing with his mother ask about his soulmate constantly. Claire related to that, but she also got questions from her sister, the pestering on when she’ll find out. The island kept those away for a few months of the year until holidays rolled around, but it was worth it. When the coffee finally ran out and both of them knew they needed to go to work soon.

“This coffee is exactly what I need,” she sighed, a weight off her chest.

“Glad,” he nodded, walking with her to the main building again. At the steps, they stopped. “You out of your own head now?” he asked, hand on her arms, soft and comforting.

“Yeah. A little,” she nodded. Looking down at the time, she knew she needed to get inside and talk with Zara about the day ahead, and Claire was already late. “I’ve got a meeting with investors today. Might catch up for a meeting later,” she said, starting away from him. Owen threw back his head in groan.

“Ugh, boring. You could have lured me with coffee or beer,” he started, but soon noticed Claire’s unimpressed look. “Or coffee, considering working hours,” he smiled and Claire rolled her eyes.

“Just keep your phone on you,” she told him, walking up the stairs and glancing back at him. Owen looked down at his watch before commented something under his breath and racing off. Claire scoffed and went inside for one long day ahead.

Zara met Claire outside her office, taking Claire’s clipboard and marking off things from the list within her own. They two conversed for a short while before Zara led Claire to the board room. Claire fixed up her attire before going into the room. The meeting seemed to go just fine, investors nodding and looked pleased with the current outcomes of the park. It wasn’t until her presentation was all complete that there were looks exchanged and soft murmurs. God, how she hated when they whispered amongst themselves.

It took a few more moments of politely smiling before any of the investors actually spoke to Claire. “Indominus Rex?” one asked, hands folded and looking far too concerned for Claire’s liking.

“Considered the next step in dinosaur genetics research and development,” she reinforced.

The same one replied, “Have we considered something docile before…”

“Something murderous?” another injected, taking Claire by surprise. When Mister Masrani originally talked with investors, they all expressed interest in seeing something like the T-Rex, yet with actual projections and viewings of it, they have changed their minds….again.

“A very valid opinion. We’ll discuss this with our research division,” Claire bared a smile that pricked at the side of her lips, paining her fully but she shook it off. The investors began to leave, shaking Claire’s hand as they left. “Thank you for your time,” she said to every one of them. Zara zoomed into the room, her tablet to her chest and a look of concern on her face.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“Tell Henry Wu I'm coming to meet with him,” Claire huffed, watching as Zara called down to Henry’s team. Claire marched on down, to the labs and past all the morning tours. Claire walked into Henry’s office, who was preparing himself a tea as another sat on the other side of the desk, just steaming in wait of Claire.

“Henry, the new dinosaur, how is it coming?” she asked, sliding into the chair opposite Henry’s desk.

“It’s good to see you too, Claire,” he commented. “Investors again?”

“I don’t know what they want,” she said, throwing her head back a little. She looked back at Henry and smiled at him, knowing he understood her. Crossing her legs and holding onto her phone tightly, Claire drummed against the metal. “Well, scratch that, I know what they want, I just hate that I know what they’re like,” she corrected.

“Changed their minds again?” he answered his own question and knew it.

“They want a friendly dinosaur, not something big and scary. All dinosaurs are scary! You wanna be chased by a triceratops? Because I don’t!” she said in frustration. Henry nodded, putting aside the Indominus research he had laying on his desk, putting it inside the drawer.

“We’ll put indominus on the back burner, get something smaller,” he said with a reassuring voice.

“I would kiss you if it wouldn’t be so weird,” she giggled, standing from her chair and shaking hands with Henry.

“See you tomorrow, Claire,” he nodded.

Claire’s day went from one asset to the next, everyone seemingly coming to her at once and one drama to the next. She’d been busy before, and this was building to her busiest, but with her brain all over the place, she didn’t know if she could handle so much on her plate. When there was a complaint from Masrani about the raptors, Claire had to drive out to meet with the team - which meant Owen.

Half way through her drive there, she got a call from one of the most irritating men she’d ever come across in her life; Vic Hoskins. Even before answering the call, she felt like she needed to take at least three shots of vodka before she even considered it. The next half of her journey resulted in a shouting match between the two, Claire’s hatred of the man was gathering to new heights. Pushing past it, Claire started to negotiate the issue.  

Stepping out of the car, Claire was met with Owen, cleaning his hands on a cloth. He started to walk towards her when Vic began yelling at her again. She rolled her eyes. “Vic,” she groaned, rubbing at the ridge of her eyes. Owen smiled as he greeted her. “Yes, Vic, no -, hey! Let me speak!” she yelled.

“Hey, Clai-” Owen started before Claire raised a finger and continued raging back at Vic, who apparently loved the sound of his own voice.

“No, if InGen wants to do Indominus than its gotta go through me and I will make damn well sure you don’t get your hands on the research! Do you think I’m playing around here? Good, now go back to whatever the hell you actually do with your life.” She hung up before he had a chance to question her again.

“That seemed like a fun conversation,” Owen smirked and Claire shook her head.

“I’d rather cut off my ears than listen to that man’s voice again,” she exaggerated and Owen laughed.

“You don’t have to see him every other day,” he reminded.

“Lucky me,” she grinned.

“What can I do for you?”

“Checking up on the ‘raptors. Are they ready for showing?” she asked and Owen guided her to the paddock. They went up the metal stairs and walked along the walkway until Owen gave the all clear for the raptors to be set loose. The raptors started to screech and race around the paddock, the sound of it enough to set anyone on edge. Claire stuck closer to Owen, just for safety.

“Honestly, I don’t know. They can deal with me right now, but they may get distracted with a bunch of people around taking pictures,” he was pained to say.

“So more training?” she asked, listing new things in her head.

“Maybe,” he shrugged. As Claire’s fingers pulled at her lip, Owen tilted his head. “Is that a problem?”

“For me. Nothing more,” she waved it off.

“When are we expected to show them?”

“Preferably in two weeks,” she confessed.

“That’s not gonna happen.”

“I figured. I’ll talk to Masrani, push back expectation dates,” she reassured.

“I can try and work harder,” Owen offered but Claire shook her head.

“Just make sure they aren’t going to kill anyone,” she joked.

“Got it,” Owen scoffed. “Okay, you’re still stressed out, aren’t you?” he huffed.

“Am I that obvious?” Claire scoffed, running her hand through her hair.

“You should go on vacation or something.”

“What?” That idea was ridiculous. Where did she have the time? She worked in Costa Rica but it didn’t feel like a vacation spot anymore, it was where she worked.

“Take time, relax. Do something for you,” he suggested but it still made her laugh.

“I’ll find time in my very busy schedule,” she exaggerated.

“Just fall asleep first tonight,” he said.

“Hm?” Her brow furrowed.

“You never took Dream Theory in college did you?” he asked, leading her back down the walkway and down towards her car.

“Not at all,” Claire shook her head. Owen opened up her car door, letting her slide inside as he held open the door.

“Whoever falls asleep first usually picks the locations. Just go to bed early enough and dream first, you’ll be fine,” he told her, a reassuring smile on his lips. He shut her door and walked back from the car. He gave a loose wave before turning back towards the paddock. There was something inside of Claire that begged him to turn back and smile again. Pushing it down, Claire drove back to the main building.

Not managing to get out until past nine, Claire knew she wasn’t going to get to sleep before her soulmate tonight. She wondered if she fell asleep before him every night they dreamed together. Hurrying back to the hotel, Claire went up the elevator, her whole body aching with just moving around to a dozen of locations. Finally making it to her room, Claire collapsed down on her bed. Hand laid on her forehead, it dawned on her that she did need to relax - to take time for herself. She’d been living in her own head for far too long; she needed something. Changing and fitting into her king sized bed so wonderfully, Claire fell into sleep easily.

She stood in the middle of a street, paved with blue rock and builds that were a pale pink. As always, the sky resembled that of as a green meadow switching between that and a pale blue - her dreams were a scattered mess of colour that had her more at ease than unsettled. She stood in the bare road for a little while until her soulmate, with his still present blurred face, walking down the street to meet her.  

“Where are we?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. Let’s keep going,” Claire shrugged. He took hold of her hand, warming to his side quickly as they walked silently down the street. When they rounded the block, they were met with the most elegant and stereotypical beach Claire could imagine. It was her dream after all. With perfect golden sands and sharp blue waves crashing onto the shore with white foam. “A beach!” Claire beamed. Her soulmate raced to the sand, taking off his shoes and unbuttoning his shirt.

“Good,” he chuckled. “We can relax, take some time off from worrying,” he said, stripping out of his shirt and pants, walking backwards into the surf as Claire began to undress herself. He only wore his boxer briefs, so there was no reason Claire wouldn’t brave it in her underwear. She stepped out of her dress, tied up her hair and raced into the surf behind him.

He laughed as she got slashed and squeaked loudly at the force of it. He caught onto her to keep her from falling into the rough swells of the water. “How did I get so lucky?” she batted her lashes and bit her lip.

“Must be fate,” he shrugged. She couldn’t see his face but she knew he was smirking.

“Funny,” she smiled, even though she rolled her eyes.

“I thought so,” he chuckled himself before dragging her into the water, dunking them both down and forcing them back to the surface. Claire gasped, not sure if she was mad or exhilarated. It wasn’t as though she wanted to get dunked into the water, but it felt fun and childish; what else were dreams made for?

After splashing around and watching as her soulmate acting like a fool with his diving and pretending to be sealife, they made it back towards the sands. Laying on the untouched ground were two towels, one in which Claire collapsed down onto and her soulmate taking the other. As Claire looked on him, seeing him fully shirtless for the first time, she noticed the striking and brutal scar on his left shoulder and part of his chest.

“Where did you get that?” Claire said, reaching over and tracing her finger over the raised skin.

“Navy. Was with the SEALs for a bit. Getting shot leaves a nasty scar when it’s a shotgun,” he explained, letting her finger run over the scar before he kissed at her fingertips.

“Shotgun?”

“Civilian recruit. Knocked me down in my last deployment. Hence why I’m back with people again,” he huffed, trying not to sound upset, but Claire could feel that he missed what he did. Moving up, Claire rested fully at his side and leaned directly onto his chest.

“I’m glad,” she reassured.

“I wish I could kiss again,” he gave a longing sigh.

“You can kiss me however many times you want.” When she giggled, she noticed the way he shifted and went silent. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Never,” he replied quickly. “I just….want you to know who I am,”

“Someday,” Claire pursed her lips, looking down at his chest once more.

“Yeah,” he muttered, kissing at her crown. They would remain in the dream, relax and not let any more worries take them. This was the peace they needed.

Chapter Text

Claire felt blissful in the days following. How could she not? Her soulmate made sure there were no pressure, no obligations between them, other than being loving and faithful. All through the week, Claire was on air, feeling pampered and cherished beyond belief. There were no questions and no expectations, just time spent together where Claire could feel at peace with it all. Sleeping was welcome and there something in Claire’s heart that told her she was going to see his face soon - that the scratched out, unrecognisable face was soon going to be the only face she could ever want to look upon her own.

As the heat rose at the end of the week, Claire wore a summer dress, a dark navy colour with white flowers decorating its design. It gave her room to breathe and escape the heat a little easier; most of the dress codes for staffers changed when the heat rose unexpectedly, so a summer dress still fell nicely into work attire.

In her office, the shining white of every wall and the pristine glass of the large windows looking upon the park. Yet, the heat was sticking to her, the sweat feeling it was endless. With papers, Claire fanned herself, pacing back and forth trying to concentrate on anything other than the overwhelming feeling that she was being scorched alive. With hair tied up in the messiest bun on the top of her head, she still felt the strands tickling at the back of her neck. She just wanted the next meeting to be over and done with so she could intimidate someone to fix her fan and the air-conditioning in her office.

The knock came to her door and Owen entered, Claire smiled politely but the hot waves of air that the fanning provided gave nothing to soothing aching skin. Claire rounded her desk, readying to sit in her chair when she saw Owen standing with his hand clenched on the door handle. Claire stopped, tilting her head as Owen seemed unable to stop himself from staring.

“Something wrong?” she asked, finally sitting down and fanning herself once more. God, why was it so goddamn hot.

“None...at all…” Owen stuttered. He shook his head and shut the door behind him. “Sorry, is there something I can help you with today?”

“You came to me, remember?” Claire chuckled, letting the paper finally rest on her desk.

“Yeah, sorry,” Owen gave a bashful smile before taking a seat in front of Claire. “Vic has been coming around asking for the raptors for a program that I’ve heard nothing about. So as senior asset manager, I’m assuming you know something about it,” he explained.

“That isn’t on Jurassic World’s agenda. You want to wait whilst I sort this out?” Claire started, taking out her phone and looking for Vic’s number

“All good. I’ll just wait -” Owen questioned, rising from his chair before Claire waved him down.

“Take a seat, it’s fine,” she said, rising from her chair as the phone started to ring out.

The phone went unanswered the first time but soon rang with Vic returning the call. When he greeted her, he seemed far more relaxed than Claire wanted - only realising he was using a flirty tone with her when he said her name.

“Vic, hi,” she said with a soft voice, the anger building in her fist. “Guess why I’m calling,” she said slowly and he groaned. The argument ensued again, never seeming to maintain a civil conversation for more than a few minutes. “Are you seriously going to keep acting like this? I can pull Masrani out of this completely if I wanted to. Trust me, that man loves me,” she told him, watching as Owen stood and made himself busy by her fan. Claire said how he didn’t wear his vest that day, most of his knives and other utilities he held in the leather hanging from his belt in someway. His shirt clung to him, sweat lining out the muscles in his back and the sweat dripping down the back of his neck. Claire returned her attention back to the call when she noticed she was looking at Owen for far too long. “No, it doesn’t affect us with InGen, because I can make your life a living hell. I’m like a goddamn militia, Vic. Do you really wanna have this conversation with me again? Good, now I’m going to hang up and never hear about this topic again, we clear?” she yelled before hanging up.

A soft breeze hit her back, cool and tempered just to have her head falling back. Sighing in delight, Claire turned to see the fan operating as it should and Owen standing beside it, a gentle smile echoing upon his lips. “I uh...I fixed your fan,” he shrugged and Claire laughed, the unmistakable laugh of utter joy after the torture of heat.

“Thank you! God, I’ve been dying in here,” Claire exclaimed. A single drop of sweat ran down Owen’s forehead, slipping onto his nose until it hung from the tip. There was something so tempting about the way it curves and trailed his skin until it fell. Owen wiped his face as Claire cleared her throat. “Do you want to go grab lunch? I’m starving and I haven’t been able to stop since six this morning,” she suggested, needing to get out of her office for a little while; it was getting far too hot in there.

“I’m going on break soon anyway, so I can make it earlier.” Owen nodded, moving to the door. He opened it up before letting Claire go through first. They walked to the main quad, full of tourists trying to stick to the shade and hiding from the sun. Some rides and tours were shut down for the day - which was another thing Claire had to deal with. When an asset is unable to appear for the tourists in the park, it cost Jurassic World, but it also made things a lot harder to keep these people around when it was hot and there’s nothing to do. Most of the water exhibitions were sold out and every air-conditioned tour was nearly at full capacity.

Claire was busy, but she needed just half an hour to herself. Well, almost to herself.

They went to a semi-empty restaurant - it was past rush hour, so most people went back to their rooms or their next destination - and they sat down at a table and orders food. They sat talking about their week, about how he was still getting used to the Raptor training when and the long days of just listening to Vic Hoskins love the sound of his own voice.

Sipping at her water, Claire looked at the way Owen was acting, somewhat distant and lingering on other things. His gaze flicking to people all around them. When he huffed, Claire glanced over her shoulder to see a couple acting fondly, sneaking a soft kiss amongst themselves, giggling all the while. Claire turned around to Owen, who shifted uncomfortable when he glanced over again.

“Is your soulmate coming to visit soon? It must get lonely out here without her,” Claire mentioned, which seemed to bother Owen the most.

“I’ve uh….never actually met her,” he cleared his throat.

“Really?”

“It’s complicated,” he said, simple and unmoving. The subject was dropped.

Claire asked about his time on the island, if he found working too difficult or if there was anything he needed from Claire’s standpoint. His shoulders relaxed and began to tell Claire about the times he was hand raising the raptors. As he reenacted the endeavor and showed the small little cuts on his fingers that remained as white lined scars, he didn’t seem to realise how wide he was smiling. He was beaming, one of the biggest smiles ever, and that look of pure joy and excitement had Claire feeling something odd; at peace with it. At peace just seeing it, wondering if he could look at her that way. It wasn’t as if he was saying anything special, it was just the way he said it. Would he ever look like that talking about Claire? Probably not.

When lunch ended, Claire and Owen, both cooled but s sweat still sticking to their skin, walked back towards Claire’s office area. They were about to walk up the steps when Owen got a call on his walkie, asking him back to the paddock. Claire knew he’d been away from work for a little longer than anticipated, but there was parts of her that didn’t want him to go just yet. Knowing better she smiled as he said he headed off. When he stopped and turned back to Claire, curiosity hiked, her hands clenching.

“Did you…” he started, but the realisation of what he was asking suddenly dawned on him and he stepped back. “forget it,” he corrected before going to turn away. Claire caught his arm, and by that, Owen suddenly seemed frozen in place. The island was hot, but the touch was cooling, a chill running over her and it appeared to be mutual with Owen.

“What?” she asked softly.

“I was gonna ask you something stupid,” he waved it off.

Claire shook her head with a smile. “Oh come on, it can’t be that -”

“Did you want to have dinner with me?” he blurted out. Claire took a moment to reply, the information processing through her slowly and unsure.

“Like a…”

“Yes,” he said back quickly.  

“But you have a soulmate,” she reminded - as if he needed to be told that fact.

“It’s complicated,” he repeated.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” she questioned lightly.

“No,” his jaw set tight, he moved back from Claire once more, finally out their frozen state. “I said it was stupid. Forget I asked,” he cleared his throat before walking down the steps and going back to the transport bay. Claire stood on the steps for a moment, the sounds of the park filling her ears after a short while, reality hitting hard as the heat became ever present and the sensation that the world may actually be turning came back to her.

An hour passed, Claire sat in a fresh and cool office that Owen had kindly provided, but all her mind could do was flip over itself, crave more information and try to process this all. Why would he want to? She knew he had reacted to those questions on his soulmate a little oddly, but maybe she wasn’t seeing something. No matter how in love he seemed, there was a tension that was held underneath the surface, one that tore into him more some days and less on the rest.

Why was she even thinking on it so much? She shouldn’t. No. It was stupid to even consider it. Remember her soulmate, the way he held her and wanted her, how his hands were always tender and treating her like she was the most precious thing to him. It felt wrong to think of anyone else that way. How could he be so wanting and never pressuring her, and for her to think of someone -

No. No more doubt of her soulmate’s part. This meant nothing. This would just be dinner with nothing more. Claire drove out to the paddock as the afternoon rolled in and Claire had less on her plate. When she stepped out of her car, the entire raptor paddock staff seemed to stand still, watching her before a sharp whistle from higher up shocked them back into work. Claire looked up to see Owen cleaning the sweat from the back of his neck with a cloth.

“Owen,” Claire breathed, walking towards the paddock steps.

“Hi,” he replied, making his way down the metal staircase and meeting Claire on the uneven stones. The raptor paddock had to be so far away and on uneven ground, didn’t it? Claire felt like she was going to trip at any moment. They didn’t say anything for a few moments, until Owen looked down at his feet and kicked the stones around. “I’m sorry about earlier, I don’t know -”

“I’d love to have dinner with you,” Claire interrupted, knowing if she didn’t say it soon, she’d regret it.

Owen’s posture straightened, his shoulders pushing back. Was he always this tall? “Really?” When Claire nodded, Owen’s smile grew.

“I mean, it’s just dinner, it’s not like anything can really come of it,” she shrugged, her foot tucking behind her other ankle; she was nervous.

“Yeah. Good. So, tomorrow night?” he suggested and Claire nodded, a chill running down her spine. She couldn’t tell if it was sweat or something else.

“Sounds fun. Good,” she replied quickly, heading back to her car.

Dreaming came easily that night, her soulmate still wearing that blurred face, a face beneath she may never see - an ever present thought in her mind. They were in a field of sunflowers that looks more like blue tulips, but a field of them nonetheless. Claire raced through them with her soulmate following behind, trying to catch her as she slipped into another row of sunflowers.

He finally caught her and they went crashing down into the ground, he rolled on top of her as they both couldn’t help but laugh. They were childish and uncaring about responsibilities in their dream, they were just happy. “You seem to be in a good mood. Work good?” he said, brushing hair from her face.

“Yeah, I suppose. I’m just having dinner tomorrow night,” she shrugged, smiling up at him and her arms around his neck.

“Should I be jealous?” he asked in a joking voice but there was still an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

“Of course not! It’s just dinner,” she shook her head, looking up at him, the reality that she couldn’t stare into his eyes or make out his face hurt her. She just wanted to look at him. For once, she just wanted to see his damn face!

“Can you see me?” he asked suddenly, as though he were directly in her head.

“All night, every night,” she said, sitting up, and trying not to look directly at him.

“My face, stupid,” he laughed, sitting next to her with his knees up and arms wrapped around them.

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

“You can’t. It’s okay,” he said, nudging her.

“Can you see me?” she asked biting at her lip.

“Clear as day,” he gave back, a beautiful sigh that made it so hard for Claire not to cry. She woke up out of her sleep, a grateful distance between her and her soulmate, and room for her to cry a little while. She couldn’t keep doing this. But there was no way to escape it.

Saturday was a semi-peaceful day. Claire only worked until midday before taking the rest of the day for herself. When Claire got to her apartment, she went to her wardrobe, rummaging through to see if there was anything good inside to wear. She thought she was going to have to suffer with a dress she wore too often, until she found the dress she’d been keeping hiding right at the back.

The navy sateen with the low cut neckline had never touched her skin, but later that night when she slipped into it, she couldn’t help but wonder why. It fit like a glove, taking to her curves as the split parted perfectly onto her thigh and the soft fabric flowed when the hot night breeze took it. With her hair up in a loose pony with strands framing her face. Claire’s phone buzzed with a message from Owen.

Owen: Did you want to meet outside the restaurant?

Claire: I’m walking there now

Owen: Okay, cool, waiting outside

As Claire looked up, she saw Owen’s tall figure standing by the restaurant’s entrance, dark jeans, grey dress shirt and leather jacket over the top. All in all, he was dressed nicely, a clean that he couldn’t acquire on the job for very long. He looked gorgeous. He smiled when he saw her, a spark in his eyes that was shining so brightly, Claire could memorise it - because he had never looked at her that way before.

“Hey,” she greeted.

“Look at you all fancy!” he beamed. Claire took the edge of the dress, looking down at it. She felt nervous again. So damn nervous.

“Is it really that fancy?”

“No. I mean you look very beautiful, Claire,” Owen said, stepping into her and kissing her briefly on the cheek. He opened the door to the restaurant, letting her walk in first.

“Well, thank you,” Claire said, feeling the heat running over her chest as her heart was hammering out an unfamiliar beat.

They were seated quickly, a table reserved and both ordering, knowing the restaurant’s menu well enough from their time on the island. It was dark in the space, only lighting was dim or the candles on the table. Everything around them was romantic, which made the situation a little awkward before they both looked at each other and laughed. They both felt it and there was nothing else to do than to laugh.

“I never knew you could dress up,” Claire joked and Owen let out a scoff.

“Thought it best,” he shrugged. “I was considering something a little less formal,” he said, pulling at his jacket slightly.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s Central America, it’s hot!” he said, his cheeks going a rosy colour, visible even in the mild lighting around them.

“Don’t tell me you were going to wear board shorts or something,” Claire scoffed before Owen’s tight lips indicated as much. “Oh, you were!”

“I can’t help it!” he argued back and they both chuckled.

“Glad you dressed up,” she nodded, grateful that he put in effort.

“So am I.”

Their dinner dinner and drinks came. In between small bites and sips, they talked about average things; the heat, their days, small jokes and little observations they noticed around the island. Even as everything seemed normal, there were things that kept changing and surprising the staff, which turned into small bits of gossip around the island. Claire covered her mouth as she contained a laugh looking at Owen’s shocked face.

“So, wait, you actually got Lowery the toy dinosaurs on his desk?” he asked, utter surprise and joy written in his expression.

“I thought he wanted them for his nephew or something!” Claire reasoned, finally breaking and turning into a full on snorty laugh, one that she didn’t like using but she couldn’t help it. She looked at Owen, who held in a laugh, but still remained to have a twinkle in his eye as he looked at her. “What?” she asked.

“You just have a funny way of laughing,” Owen smiled. Claire calmed her laugh, straightening her shoulders.

“Hey, come on. My soulmate loves my snorting,” she defended.

“Does he really?”

“He says it’s very endearing,” Claire smirked.

“Very fitting,” Owen tilted his head and Claire couldn’t help but burst into laughter again.

Claire then asked about his personal life. No matter how much Claire knew about his work or small parts of his personality, she was still left in the dark about Owen’s personal life. Staying away from the soulmate issue, Claire picked family, asking about his mom and dad, how they were doing and what they were up to. Owen talked his dad being in the army, which inspired him to join and how his mother and he had a somewhat complex relationship because of the whole army thing.

“And then my mom didn’t talk to me until I came home,” he shrugged, sipping at his beer again.

“That must have been tough,” Claire said, leaning back in her chair.

“Dad wrote on behalf of her. When I got hit in my last tour, she finally decided to talk to me again,” he scoffed.

“What happened?” she asked, a little concerned this time. Owen shook his head, waving off the subject.

“Nothing serious. I’m fine now, so mom checks up on me constantly,” he exaggerated with a chuckle.

“Lucky you,” Claire replied.

“I don’t know, my mom likes to send way too many letters and calls far more than a grown man needs to be called by his mother,” Owen gave a cheeky smile and Claire laughed again, the mood always remaining light and fun, no expectations of pity, just listening and empathising.

Claire talked about how distant she is with her family, how her mom made it hard to talk about her personal life because it always ended with soulmate talks, or how her dad just didn’t defend her. Karen was still close with Claire, but it was odd talking about her personal life because Karen didn’t have her soulmate - hers passed a few months after she turned twenty-one. And because Claire dove into work constantly, she didn’t exactly know her nephews.

Yet, even after venting about her family, Owen joked and made everything feel like it was nothing to worry about further. And it didn’t. He made the weight lift and it was all back to the odd haircut that Zara’s fiance decided to get before his bachelor party - one, Zara was still fighting again.

When the bill was paid, they both walked out, the heat of the last few days still remaining in the air, but cooled by the shores that crashed onto the island. Claire clutched at herself for a moment before the heat started to build around her again. Owen smiled at her, rubbing at the back of his neck, the awkwardness returning for a moment.

“I had a good time tonight,” he said.

“So did I,” Claire sighed, an echo of surprise in her words.

“You didn’t expect to, did you?” He raised his brow, daring her to lie to him.

“Honestly, no,” she confessed and Owen nodded. “Felt good to go out though, take some time with a friend and just relax.”

“Yeah,” he looked away. He rummaged through his pocket, finding his keys and twirling them on his finger. “I’m tired as all hell, and riding back out to the bungalow is gonna take ages,” he paused. “I know it’s not exactly gentlemen of me, but can we call it a night here?” he asked, worrying setting in how brow. Claire nodded with a smile.

“Yeah, I don’t want you walking me back to my room. It might be a little weird,” she laughed, stepping in towards him and embracing him. They held onto each other for a quite a while, a familiar hold that wasn’t too tight, but rather, the perfect and caring pressure that made her want to stay in his arms for a little longer.

“Goodnight, Claire,” he said over her shoulder before leaving her hold and walking to the transport bay, his bike the only one there.

“Night, Owen,” she called out as he started his bike. He waved before riding off down the dirt track and going into the bush.

Claire walked back to her apartment, the echoes of a song playing in her head in joy. She hadn’t heard the song earlier in the day, but it drummed the beat and she hummed the lyrics as she felt like there was a skip in her step. Maybe it was the alcohol; making her a little giddy. It didn’t matter, she was happy. She walked into her room, changing into her pajamas and dancing to the song. What was it?

Ah!

You Can Call Me Al!

An 80s song that she had listened to growing up. She played it, dancing along to the beat that was old in the current days, but her whole body felt in need of a release, something to stop containing all the fun that radiated through her bones. When Claire finally collapsed down onto her bed, she realised how ridiculously young she was acting. It was an odd feeling, but one she welcomed in the moment. Claire curled up in her bed, sleep taking her with welcome arms.

Claire expected the pink fields of grass, strange surroundings that blended in with colours that didn’t correspond with actual nature. Instead, she was still in bed. Well, not her bed. A bed. It was larger than her own and it seemed to stretch out for yards and yards. When Claire looked down at herself, she found that she was only in her underwear, the dark silk underwear she wore to match and hide underneath her dress.

Then, the bed shifted. Turning, she saw Owen beside her, doing the same as her - staring off the side of the bed, then to himself until his gaze fell on Claire. They both looked at each other, neither of them saying a word. Claire was dreaming. But she was dreaming about Owen. And Owen in his underwear? She didn’t get it. She wanted to say something, to think of something but everything was blank.

Before Claire could even understand it, Owen was leaning over, kissing her with an eagerness that Claire had never experienced. Her reaction is that of complete instinct, her hands running up and through his hair, tugging on the soft curls as he rolled on top of her. His hips rock into her, her own bucking into him with need. She’d never thought she’d feel this real in a dream that wasn’t with her soulmate, but everything felt electric and nerve wracking. It felt right. And as her mind thought on the guilt of her soulmate, Owen’s hand slide down between her legs and Claire’s back arch in pleasure.

Fingers tentative to touch her, but then it was a need that Claire couldn’t help but give into her. She ground against his hand, her fingers to help guide his rough fingers to where she wanted them to go. The stubble on his face scraped at her cheek as he kissed down her neck. Claire felt herself breath a little harsher before she finally whimpered out a pathetic noise of need and want. His other hand has moved up her chest, slipping under her bra and his fingers started to pinch at her nipple.

She doesn’t mean to, but she moans his name, his kisses coming a little harder against her neck and his fingers working faster, thumb rubbing directly against her clit. Claire pants out, trying to gain leverage, see if she can urge him to finally give himself over to her, but she was so damn weak against his efforts. Her hand lay on his chest, as the other curled around his back. Her nails dug into his skin, noticing an odd pattern on his chest but it all slipped from her mind when her toes curled and she bucked harder against his hand.

When Claire came, Owen’s hand slipped from her breast, skimming up her cheek and his forehead rested against hers. He gave soft sounds to calm her down, her hand still clawing at him as each ripple of her orgasm came over her. Her body gave out and she collapsed down, Owen pressed kisses across her neck before tenderly kissing her in such a familiar way but she didn’t care because they both knew what was going to happen next. Claire took off her bra and underwear as Owen threw his boxers aside, leaning her back down and moving in between her legs.

Chapter Text

Claire woke with a start, springing up in her bed, sweat dripping all over her. Her skin felt like fire - but there was no heat in her room. There was a throbbing between her legs that she couldn’t deny or shy from - it felt like Owen was still between her thighs, fucking her until she couldn’t help but yell out his name over and over again.

Oh, god.

Owen.

How the hell was she going to look at him the same way?

She just had a sex dream about one of the closest friends she had. She had dreamt that he was inside her, letting their bodies roll and find their own paces, how he made her come until she was shaking underneath him, how his lips trailed over her sweltering skin and the mutterings of pleasure as they lay bare against each other.

Claire needed to cool down, she needed space from her bed and the heat of her skin. Taking her towel to her bathroom, she went into the cold spray of the shower, the water gradually being turned up as the fever that raged within her was taken away. Until, she felt the lingering sensation running up her waist, the ghosting touch of his calloused fingers as they rounded the curves he seemed to crave to touch. The welcomed way his body pressed against hers and the soft, barely present kiss that he trailed up her neck.

Gasping, Claire kept her eyes open, not allowing herself to chase after the fantasy and the touch she was severely lacking. She rushed the shower, making it as short as she possibly could. When she was out and dry, Claire dressed in anything that wouldn’t feel confining. Hating that her mind and body were betraying the beating of her guilty heart. It took Claire no time to get down to the office with a coffee in hand; she just needed to keep her mind focusing on one task after the next.

Putting her work forward, the dreams from the night were fading to the day. Work pushed the thoughts of Owen out of her mind, and the only thoughts she had of him over the day associated him with reptiles. To her, the dream was a cocktail of longing for her soulmate and the night she’d experienced with Owen - nothing more, nothing less. It’s what it had to be.

Meeting after meeting and paperwork that just kept mounting, Claire was busy with everything all at once. Her once burning skin and thighs that felt bound to each other for friction now sat sedated by the pressures of work. When fifteen minutes past two in the afternoon rolled around, Claire was left alone and abandoned with no work. Looking through her schedule, she realised why it was so bare; she had a meeting with someone that hadn’t shown up. A meeting with Owen. Taking a tight breath, Claire walked outside her office to peer around to Zara, who had a nice and tidy binder of her wedding plans laid on her desk.

“Zara, has Owen Grady called?” Claire asked. Zara closed the binder, going through her notes and checking the time of everything.

“No,” she said longly, shaking her head. “Is something wrong?”

“I have a regular meeting with him. He hasn’t shown up,” Claire huffed, her foot rubbing up the length of her opposite ankle.

“Do you want me to call down?” Zara asked. Claire shook her head.

“No. I’ll go,” she said, going back to her desk for her keys.

The drive was uneventful, she listed things in her head that she needed to talk to Owen about, including that of the raptor training and time it was expected, as well as the new facility that could be closer to the other attractions. When Claire stopped at the paddock, noticing the lack of movement and scattered staffers, she knew something was up. Climbing out, she immediately found Barry, his hands idly fixing up one of the handling stations for the raptors.

Walking over to him, Barry’s reaction to her was unusual; it was as though he dreaded seeing her. Stopping what he was doing, Barry walked over to her. “This isn’t a good time, Claire,” he said, looking over his shoulder. As they both looked, they saw a grumpy looking Owen, his face a scowling mess and his shoulder hunched as he tossed meat into the paddock.

“What?” Claire scoffed.

“He’s uh...he’s not entirely good today,” he explained.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see,” Barry sighed, letting Claire walk up the steps and across the walkway.

“Hey! Owen!” she called out, waving him down and shading her eyes to view him better. His reaction was foreign to her; he saw her, saying something under his breath before walking in the opposite direction to her.

“What is it, Ms Dearing?” he rumbled. Claire’s shoulder deflated, his tone hurting her. He spat back his remark without even lifting his gaze to her.

“Dearing? What’s with the mood?” she scoffed. When Owen stopped and turned in front of her, she was caught with the shocking sight of an angry Owen - something she’d never been privy to before.

“We’re at work.”

“You openly joke at work all the time. It’s practically impossible to get you to stop,” she reminded, her hands binding and loosening as she tried not to seem as hurt as she was. How could things be so perfect the night before and now, things was sour and cold.

“Claire, I’m working, what do you need?” he snapped. As Claire’s hands bound, she was officially done with this day.

“You know what? You’re an ass!” she said loudly enough that all staffers in the paddock were now looking at them, staring in wonder at the spark of anger that ran through the air. Hell, the velociraptors could probably feel Claire’s anger. Walking back along the platform, Claire was trying to reason with herself, to walk back to him and tell him to stop the attitude so she could do her work; but when her mind flashed to the image of his hand bound in her hair, she refused to turn back towards him.

“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know!” he yelled back. And that’s when Claire snapped.

“You’re making up that meeting tomorrow and you’re bringing Barry. That’s something you didn’t fucking know!” she shouted from the other side of the platform before storming off to her car. She didn’t wait around or try to calm herself down when she got inside, she just drove. When there was nothing but clear roads, she felt the overwhelming urge to just stop, to give herself a minute. Pulling over to the side of the road, she allowed herself the time to breathe, the way her stomach was doing turns and her head was screaming at her.

“It was one meeting. One stupid meeting,” she said to herself, hunching over the wheel. Why did it feel so heartbreaking to walk away, to argue with a man she detested many months ago? He snapped and something inside her broke - a tether of strength. It was rebuilt in a moment, but she couldn’t bear the moment of weakness; especially in front of him. She was better than being upset in her car - she was better than what that made her feel like. Calling down to Zara, Claire took the rest of her Sunday off and went back to her apartment. There, she relaxed with a bath, reading as the warmth of the water embraced her. She hated that in the morning, she forced herself to forget the way Owen’s face fell apart in pure joy, because all she could remember was how it contorted to an unpleasant scowl.

At the side of the bath, her phone buzzed repeatedly. Placing down her book, she looked at it, and seeing the goofy contact photo for Owen, she sighed. Was she even going to answer it? She took the rest of the day off - at this point, was he even worth her time. She sunk down further into her bath, watching as the water rippled when her legs moved and toes played at the edge of the surface. All she wanted was to go to sleep that night, to dream of her soulmate and have him hold her as tightly as his arms would allow him.

 

*~*~*

 

Going to bed that night, Claire fell beautifully into sleep. She didn’t go peacefully, but the sleep itself took her in like an embrace and she was walking on what felt like clouds. She walked the streets, unable to find her soulmate, but she just kept walking; it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. It wasn’t until she found a brick paved road with trees tall and intertwining their branches, that she gathered there was something special about the path. It being lined with candles also gave things away for her.

Walking until the end, she found him, face still a scratched out blur, but put together in a tidy suit and candles surrounding him. Even though she couldn’t see his face, she could tell he was smiling. Looking down at herself, her casual dress turned into a formal green gown that graced down to her feet.

“What is all this?” she giggled, picking up the dress and twirling it around as her soulmate shrugged.

“I just wanted to do something special,” he laughed.

“You’re a ridiculous fool,” Claire laughed again, playing with her hair, just trying to prim herself up a little. She knew she didn’t have to, but there was something in her that wanted to impress him, to just be happily beautiful around him.

“I think so,” he agreed and it made Claire laugh a little more. “But do you like it? I didn’t know if it was your thing, but I decided to give it a go.” He was nervous, playing with his hands, running fingers between knuckles.

“It’s amazing,” she smiled.

“Well, come here and show me how to dance,” he gestured towards himself.

“And you think I know how?” she replied, stepping back. He huffed, reaching out to her.

“I know you do. Now come here,” he replied, taking her hand and pulling her in towards him. Ten years, and never once had they danced together. It was strange, but so perfect. They danced in awful fashion to start, as he struggled to keep in time without music. But, eventually, he got the hang of it. He stepped in time, guiding Claire and dipping her playfully. Perfect. But when they slowed down, and just swayed, Claire couldn’t help but have her day on her mind. The only place she couldn’t escape her own mind.

“Hey,” he said, suddenly, picking up her chin. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m just having a hard day. I didn’t expect to.” Claire sighed, putting her head on his shoulder.

“You wanna talk about it?”

“Not really.”

There was silence as they stood unmoving in each other’s arms. “Can I ask you…” he started. “Can you see my face?”

“Well, I -” Claire started, looking anywhere but at him. She didn’t want him seeing her.

“You can’t,” he said, his tone a little hard. “I just wanted to know if things….had changed,” he explained. Maybe he knew - knew that she dreamed of someone else, or maybe he dreamed of someone else too. Either way, knowing or not knowing, there was no change in their dreams.

“I’m sorry,” Claire said quietly.

“It’s okay,” he soothed, but Claire pushed on his chest. He didn’t sound pleased, he sounded upset and she couldn’t take him sounding like that.

“Why do you have to keep asking?” she asked, picking up her dress and walking off; she felt like she couldn’t breath when his blurred face just stared at her, watching her with disappoint written into him. “You know the moment I see your face, I’ll be over the moon about it!” she yelled. His hand caught her arm, pulling her into him until he tucked her head underneath his chin.

“Hey! Hey! Shh,” he said, his remorse engulfing her in a moment. His hand smoothed over her hair, fingers at the nape of her neck as he kept her still in his embrace. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I just thought something had changed. It’s okay. It’ll always be okay,” he whispered and Claire couldn’t help but cry into his chest.

 

*~*~*

 

Claire sat in her office, signing and reading over papers. It was tedious work, but programs always tried to sneak things past Claire. It wasn’t rate either, most facilities always tried to work something impractical into their budget or try and get more things that they don’t need. As Operations Director, she had to have the final say, and she always had to live by a goddamn budget.

A knock came to her door and Claire called out for them to come in. Looking up to see Owen and Barry, Claire relaxed into her chair. They walked to a chair each, sitting across from her. She smiled across to both of them, and Barry smiled back; Owen, on the other hand, didn’t budge. Claire rolled her eyes and directed her attention to Barry.

The meeting was fine enough, Barry explained some of the issues with the paddock but the improvements that had occured over the last month since Owen had been there. Barry handed over unfiled paperwork, a short glare at Owen who had been putting it off from both Barry and Claire. Handing over an in-depth document about the assets, Claire took a quick read over it, noticing the five names that had become familiar over the last few years. Blue, Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Fox, the five velociraptors that had been hand raised by Owen and Barry since they hatched. Fox, the youngest, was the one that had the most issues, as she couldn’t keep up with her sisters and was a constant issue in any reports. As Claire took a quick look over the unfiled paperwork, she took note of how many of them were about Fox. Now she was beginning to understand why he didn’t want to file them.

“Fox is still suffering from the asthmatic problems from months ago. Henry has been suggesting that we separate her from the others,” Barry explained. Biting at her lip, Claire noted the separation.

“Wouldn’t this result in the others forming a closer attachment and could possibly -”

Owen cleared his throat, answering before Barry. It was the first time he talked the whole meeting. “Attack Fox when she returns? Yes.”

“So, what is the solution?” Claire asked both of them.

“Henry is going to prescribe some exams, and possibly even a procedures to see if there is something we’re missing,” Barry explained. Claire nodded and wrote down the change. She wanted Fox ahead of the pack in terms of health before the start of their show in the main part of the park.

There were a few other notes from the other raptors that Barry informed her on, but he was beginning to notice the obvious irritation that Owen and Claire had for each other. He began wrapping things up faster so the tension died down, and Claire could tell; she really didn’t mind him doing so. As he finished, Claire reached out, shaking both the men’s hands.

“Thank you for your time today,” she said.

“Thanks,” Owen muttered as they both stood. Claire gritted her teeth.

“Stop, Mister Grady. I need to speak to you,” she said and he groaned.

“I’ve got a bunch of work to finish, so can it wait?”

“If you want to keep your job, you’re going to stop and stay right here,” she said sternly, gripping her pen. As she waited, Owen and Barry stared at each other. Owen’s head hung before he gestured Barry off.

“I’ll be there in a minute, Barry,” he replied. Barry sighed and headed out the door. Owen came back, sitting across from Claire. She sighed.

“I’m not going to fire you.”

“I guessed as much,” he said, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“I don’t care that you’re pissed at me -”

“I’m not pissed at you,” he tried, a small chuckle in his voice.

“I don’t care. Just stop disrespecting me at work,” she said sternly, and the realisation seemed to dawn on both of them. Owen nodded, an apology he couldn’t find himself to stay aloud. “You have a meeting, keep it. You can go,” she said and Owen nodded, standing and walking out. He didn’t turn around at all, and Claire was thankful for that. She wouldn’t know how to look at him after what she’d said.

Her day was average, just a few other meetings and a talk with Masrani. Simon always liked hearing about the park, but was disappointed to hear about Fox and the raptor program. He just tutted over the phone, just a tone of irritation and trying to bargain with Claire. She refused to budge. She liked the raptor team, they were hard workers, and if they needed time, she was going to give it to them.

As the almost never ending conversation ended with Simon, Claire came around to ask Zara to get her a coffee. Instead, on her desk, she found a large cup of coffee with her name written on the side. “Zara, you know how much I love a mid afternoon coffee,” Claire almost cheered, reaching for the cup and smelling its content.

“I didn’t get it for you,” Zara said, and Claire bunched up her brow at her. “Owen dropped it off,” Zara smirked. And for some unknown reason, Claire chuckled, taking a sip and tasting the perfect coffee lift her. “Maybe he wanted to apologise for being an ass.”

“Does the whole park know about that?” Claire groaned, sipping at her coffee and leaned against the doorframe.

“Barry told me. Apparently you scared the hell out of paddock. Owen was acting like a hurt puppy all afternoon,” Zara laughed.

“Serves him right for acting like an idiot,” Claire muttered.

“Well, he had been really angry all morning. Even shouting and swearing at other workers,” Zara said, leaning across her desk. Claire blinked fast, knowing that Owen rarely ever got mad at other workers - he was always the joker.

“Seriously? Why didn’t anyone bring it up?”

“Because he apologised after you left.” Claire sipped at her coffee and went back to her office, finishing up all her work for the day. She honestly couldn’t wait to sleep that night. She wanted to share a good night with her soulmate without some issue arising.

 

*~*~*

 

Claire’s body was electric, a spark of unmeasurable lust running through her as something ran over her. Lips, tentative and delicate, started up her stomach, tongue trailing over her skin as though she tasted like honey to the mouth that lingered. Glancing down, her body was all bare this time, nothing to hide behind, just her and Owen as he kissed his way up her body. He took his time, tasting and nipping at her just to hear her squirm.

There wasn’t much hesitation from Claire’s mind as she pulled him up, fingers on his neck, slightly grazing across his stubble. Slinging her arm around the back of his neck, she kissed him fiercely, begging this version of him to stop being so delicate with her and make her whimper at his mercy.

Against her stomach she felt the heat of his cock pressing into her, twitching as he body rolled to his. To her chest, she felt a pattern she was familiar with, the same one from her last dream about him. And she realised, her mind filled in what she was missing from Owen with a chest she recognised - her soulmate’s.

When she felt him start to stroke himself, there was a fire in Claire that burned for something she hadn’t tried in years and that she wanted to feel so badly. Touching against his lips, pausing their moment, Claire turned over onto her stomach, feeling him following after her perfectly. He pressed in deep within her, her moan coming out of her throat much like a howl. Owen let out a hearty moan, his mouth pressing into her shoulder and biting down as he began to get a pace.

It was slow to start with, Claire’s gradual bucks back into Owen as his cock moved in further and out until his tip was barely inside. She gasped everytime, the emptiness of him was shock when he filled her so perfectly. Claire’s hands bound into her sheets, her shoulders twists and she tried desperately to stay on her hands and knees but her elbows were failing her. Owen started to move faster over her, his chest the only thing pressing to body for long periods as everything else was moving. His mouth trailed from her shoulder to her neck, whimpers of pleasure as his cock rocked her body and his tongue tracing devious things into her neck.

When his tongue trailed down her spine, Claire reached back for his hand, a shock that had her reaching for him. Touching at his hand, he let it go freely, being guided by her own touch. The lust of it, the thought alone spurred her on. She traced his hands up her chest until she made his finger find themselves around her neck, gripping loosely, but tightening when he gave just the right thrust.

Claire gave over moan after moan as he drove himself home and it got her first orgasm to its climax. She cried out just as Owen pulled back on Claire’s throat. She moved with him, forced into his lap as he thrust with hips that didn’t stop for anything. Claire panted out her orgasm as Owen pulled back on her hair with his free hand. Their lips found each other, kissing as Owen kept her moaning as he hit just the right spot, sparking her to grind and move down harder against him.

“Say my name,” she whimpered. Owen’s lips trailed over her cheek, moving down to her neck. His hand unwound from her hair, trailing down until he was letting his fingers run along the slick mess they had created. He licked at his fingers before returning them to a source of pleasure that made Claire sound pathetic under his control. “Owen, say my name,” she whined as his fingers played with her clit. He was making her unable to sit still, twisting and grinding as hard as she could against him, just needing to feel him inside her until they’re both spent and his cock and fingers were the cause of it all.

“Claire,” he muttered, tongue tracing on her neck. He grunted as he fucked her just a little harder than before and Claire cried out, wanting to bite down on him. “Fuck, keep going,” he moaned, biting into her shoulder again. When she felt her second orgasm coming on, there was nothing. She was left alone, and the brink of her orgasm faded to just the dull ache of a wasted opportunity. And then there was a loud tune playing.



*~*~*

 

Claire jumped out of bed, falling onto her floor. Her phone was blazing out her ringtone and she didn’t expect it in her dead sleep and temperature raising dream. Scrambling for the phone, she picked it up, seeing Barry’s number. “What is it?” Claire slurred, her eyes springing open but not quite to full alert behaviour.

“I’m sorry I woke you,” he said, a little frantic on the other end. It was slowly waking her up. “I’ve been told to call you for emergencies,” he explained.

“What’s happened?” she asked, already rushing around her pitch black room trying to find anything to wear. She pulled on sweatpants and grabbed the thinnest cardigan she had.

“We need you down at the raptor paddock. Something’s happening,” he told her, and Claire was already grabbing for her keys as she toed on some sneakers.

“I’ll be right there,” she answered, hanging up and going down to the garage as fast as she could. It was two in the morning, and there was definitely something up because the entire group of InGen people rushing to the main building. This wasn’t good. This was going to be a terrible night.

The moment Claire got the raptor paddock, it was silent. There was no rushing, there was barely any movement. It was so quiet. Claire walked, trying to find any sign of what happened. Her heart was racing, blood rushing in her ears, and all she could think was that someone had died. She’d never had to deal with a death yet. A few missing limbs, but no deaths. When Barry caught her arm, Claire sighed out a breath.

“It’s Fox, Claire,” he said.

“What’s happened?”

He shook his head, palming a hand over his mouth. “She’s gone.” Claire felt uneasy. When she thought about a death, it was always a person, a human employee that she had to think about. A dinosaur was out of her league, out of her depth. But there was something she knew for sure; these men, every person surrounding this paddock knew these dinosaurs like they were kin. And to Barry and Owen, they were. When she looked at Barry, his eyes were red and the splotches in his cheeks told her enough about the tears he had wished he hadn’t shed.

“What?” she exclaimed softly.

“Henry thinks she never fully formed one of her lungs, and with the strain of keeping up with the other girls…” he cleared his throat, looking down at the ground before looking back at her. “She couldn’t make it much longer,” he inhaled, and just by that, Claire knew this was the hardest day of his career. Her hand running over his shoulder, trying her best to comfort a man who obviously didn’t want to break.

“Where’s Owen?” Barry pointed to the cage, and Claire’s heart shattered at the sight. Inside the pen, the four other velociraptors were bucking out cries, and Owen sat on the ground, the limp raptor, cradled in his arms.

Walking slowly, Claire made sure when she knelt down, she blocked a view of Owen from anyone nearby. She edged closer to him, her hand resting on his knee for a moment to gain his attention.

“Hey,” she said softly.

“What?” he sniffed, trying to hide whatever he was feeling, but there was such anguish behind the cold look that wasn’t going to let him lie.

“No one can see you,” she whispered, her hand resting on his shoulder. Not even an hour before she was crying out his name, but this, this felt more intimate than anything she could imagine she’d do with him. “It’s okay,” she said just as Owen bent and he started to sob against the poor animals neck. She knelt closer to him, resting her head against his shoulder and rubbing his back. It was all she could think to do, all she knew how to comfort someone. She hoped, that for a short while, she helped him.

Chapter Text

The days following were silent. There was room for it, no more disturbances, nothing to say to someone who had lost so much. What was there to say when someone lost the most precious of things; a pet, a piece of yourself, a piece of your family. Claire stalled Masrani, she kept his mind away from the raptors and away from Owen. The paddock was empty, every day it was blank of people, save for Barry who fed them and tried to smile in greeting to Claire. Both of them failed to conjure something so fake.

When family day came around, the amount of love that flooded the staff was sicken to Claire. Couples paraded their love like they should, enjoying the company of their soulmate rather than the longing of dreams. Yet, from the outside, alone and unaccompanied, it was a torture that she was forced into by her own mind. She cursed herself to look upon love and ultimately loathe the prospect of it, as she could never experience it first hand.

Instead, on this family day, she was being visited by Karen; a visit she was craving for a few months now. Her sister raced to her, embracing her with the tightest of holds that confined Claire to breathing harshly.

“It’s good to see you too, Karen,” Claire laughed as her sister let her loose. Karen chuckled, taking Claire by the cheeks to examine her.

“I’ve missed you!” Karen said, eyes going thin as her cheeks rounded in a smile.

“I’ve missed you too!” Claire sighed, taking her sister’s hand. Claire knew she only had a little time with Karen, as her and the family were having a vacation on the mainland. Lunch was the only time for themselves. Finding a restaurant with little people, Claire and Karen ordered and talked amongst themselves, catching up on home life and work. It was nice to hear what was going on with her sister, but Claire was beginning to get distracted by the couples pouring into the restaurant. The atmosphere around the two Dearing girls was harsh, bitter and unforgiving of the love and pride that people had around them.

“So, soulmates everywhere,” Karen chuckled, and Claire shifted. She’d never been around so many people that were obviously in love.

“Yeah. Kind of gross,” Claire scoffed, playing with the ends of her hair.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Karen hummed, resting her arms on the table.

“Well you have someone,” Claire shrugged.

“Not my soulmate,” she retorted and Claire inhaled sharply.

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Karen waved it off. “Where’s yours?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Why?”

“He’s been distant. Just got a lot of things on his mind, I guess.” Claire had noticed him not fully acknowledging her when they dreamed together, and she didn’t want to press the issue - she said she was there if he needed to talk. That was the last word on the topic. It hurt to not know, to be on the end with no answers.

Karen suddenly reached across the table, catching Claire’s hand and holding it tightly. “Don’t let him go, Claire,” she pleaded and Claire nodded in return.

“I’m not planning to,” she smiled, tucking hair behind her ear. As Claire and Karen both cupped their mugs of coffee, Claire wanted to ask something she hadn’t done in a long time. “I know...you don’t talk about it. But, how did it feel?” she asked with caution.

“What feel?”

“It. When it happened,” Claire emphasised.

“Oh,” Karen looked down, her one word response wavered in surprise.

“You don’t have to answer,” Claire reassured, but Karen shook her head and looked back at Claire, sighing as she took in what she was going to say.

“I remember the pain like it happened only a few seconds ago,” Karen explained and Claire felt like she stopped breathing. The roll of her shoulder made her shift, but tried to hide the way her body felt foreign to her. “the utter loneliness of him not being there anymore. There were times where I wished I never knew him at all,” Karen said, taking a deep sigh and sipping at her coffee.

“Are you…are things not good with Scott?” Claire swallowed hard, her hands binding together and crushing the other. The tension in her body that built was rolling through her with question after question. She didn’t want it; her hands were her only escape.

“Claire, we’re both longing for something more. I just wish I knew what it’s like to feel like you do everyday,” Karen huffed in frustration.

“It’s not hard, Karen,” Claire scoffed, trying to brush off the subject, the devastating thought still lingering in her lind like a missile waiting for the moment to shatter her.

“But I want someone to look at me like they’d die if I looked away and collapse at my feet when I looked back,” Karen remarked and Claire held in the pain, a ripple of it flowing through her, washing over the wounds that were slicing open all over. Everything about her stung.

“I feel the same,” Claire said in a small voice, so weak that it could barely break past her lips; but Karen could hear. She always listened to Claire.

“What does that mean?”

“Just tough stuff. I’ll be okay,” she stopped herself from feeling it. She needed the distraction. “Tell me about the boys,” she smiled, faking the feeling of love and pride to try and feel it through memories and facts. She needed something stable to stand on, if not for a few more moments.

The lunch went on fine after that, all their conversations were diverted from mentioning soulmates again, spite the couples that surrounded them. Their conversations stayed civil, but the questions still rolled through Claire, tidalwaves crushed her and binding her into a feel of discomfort as each moment fell to the next. Claire waved off her sister and immediately went back to her apartment. She tossed her shoes to the side and paced her room. She felt the urge to move, to just keep moving but her lungs weren’t supporting her anymore. Collapsing down to the side of her bed, Claire clutched onto the sheets, trying to regain her breath, as her body shut down, stilling from the urgent need of pacing just a few seconds before.

She broke into whimpers, her knees lifting up to her chest as the notion ran through her but never quite made sense to her scared limbs. She was shaking, trembling just trying to get her body to relax, but no matter how hard she tried to breathe, she was stuck in the same position on the floor. Frozen limbs and hands that wouldn’t let get, she was terrified of herself and what she couldn’t face. Her breathing was ragged, the air filtering into her through closed off airways and everything was getting harder and harder to maintain.

When the knock came to her front door, she jumped, holding tight to her bedsheets. And for the first time, she breathed, her body beginning to shake as the stillness was gone and she felt as though she was an unstoppable force. Clearing her face as her foot tapped on the door, Claire inhaled and sniffed away the pain that once ran over.

“Who is it?” she called out with a wavering voice.

“It’s Owen,” he said, but his voice was weaker than it usually was, less confident and more in need. “Is everything okay?” he asked. Claire sniffed, remaining in her spot, the thought of getting up on her feet is a torture in itself.

“Can you please go away?” she asked, the crack in her voice noticeable, more so than she needed it to.

“What’s wrong?” he responded, concern in his voice.

“I don’t wanna talk about it. Please leave,” she practically begged.

“Claire, I -”

“Please,” she said, her final plea as she buried her face in her hands. There was silence, a long silence but she could tell he hadn’t gone. It hurt more that he was hearing her soft sobs, the pathetic nature of her pain.

“Call if you need anything,” he said in a softer voice, and finally, he was gone.

Feeling small was foreign to Claire, and no one had confined her to it except for herself. She felt so distant from herself that she couldn’t recognise the strong woman she was and the scared woman that couldn’t stop crying in that moment. If she were to fall asleep with the silence of no soulmate and no one to think of but herself. But the emptiness would tear her apart.

It took her a few more moments to regain any sense of self, to move from the ground and get herself water. Cleaning her face and changing from her clothes into the loosest things she could find and crept into her bed. She didn’t sleep and she did feel guilty about abandoning her job, but everything was burned from her - energy, drive, the will to just move. Instead, she sat up in her bed and watched anything she could, reading when her viewing became tiresome.

When night came, she slept with disrupted moments. She could never get into her dreams, the only sleep she got was dreamless and uneventful. She curled herself tighter, hauling her blankets over her to create the illusion of arms that could embrace her. The last time she slept so awfully, it was the day after she told him - told him that he was faceless to her and she couldn’t bear to see him.

Waking up exhausted forced her into her office with two cups of coffee, begging for them to speed her tired limbs into overdrive. As Claire sat in her office, she read through her schedule, seeing Owen was put in the middle of her day. There was something that kept her energised, the thought of seeing him, to know he’s right there and maybe even happy after the week of distance she’d given him. Maybe. Claire just needed something to focus on. When the meeting came up and he walked through the door, Claire couldn’t help but smile just a little.

“Mister Grady,” she greeted as he sat down opposite to her.

“Ms Dearing,” he said in return, trying to smile, but there was a nervousness to him, as though he was anticipating something.

“So, I think we need to talk about the program,” she said and there was a tight inhale. As she saw him, she knew why he was acting the way he was.

“Yes.”

Claire went through the papers on her desk, collecting all the relevant ones together and trying to collect herself. “I’ve kept Masrani away and he won’t try and re-establish the program until you’re ready, but we would prefer that all issues are resolved in five weeks. If we are sure that the program can be successful at the end of five weeks, we’ll work together to try and slowly progress them into the parks attractions,” she explained, looking back at Owen, who had never seemed more surprised.

“Claire, that’s a lot. You didn’t have to,” he said, his words coming out stunted and unsure.

“I would do it for any division,” she shrugged, “but you needed time. So I stalled.” When he smiled, she couldn’t help but enjoy the moment with him.

“Thank you,” he breathed, “you really didn’t have to go out of your way.”

“I didn’t do -”

“I heard that Masrani was threatening your job when you were negotiating,” he smirked, as though he was admiring the risk. And he was right about it; Masrani had made some threats against Claire’s job, even the velociraptor teams jobs - but she knew better. Claire knew the pressure he was under to upgrade and provide a welcoming experience at the park, which meant pushing for new attractions. He would push until they had something new.

“He likes me too much to fire me,” Claire laughed.

“Thank you though. You risked a lot to help us all out,” he said with a shrug.

“It was nothing,” she said, tucking hair behind her ear.

Claire handed over all the notes, pointing out important dates and making sure to emphasise when Owen should send in reports as a little advance notice for him and his team. He thanked her repeatedly, making sure to smile at her as often as he could. She wondered if he knew how her heart rattled against her ribs, the way it pummeled and tried to seek him out - to make itself known to him. They discussed the other raptors, how they were coping with the change in dynamic and did the loss affect them; Owen said there would be an adjustment period, but it will get easier for them.

As Claire felt the meeting was over, they both stood and she walked around the desk, shaking at his hand in a kind regard. It felt good to finally be civil with him again. She sighed, pushing back her hair over her shoulder. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” she apologised, “it was just a hard day,” she tried to laugh off how uncomfortable she was.

“I’m sure,” he started, “family day right?”

“You didn’t have anyone in?” she asked.

“Parents are off to see my sister, and travelling here costs them a lot,” he explained with a shrug.

“Yeah, my sister went on holiday just so she could visit for lunch,” Claire laughed. But Owen’s eyes remained on Claire, finding the moment she faltered, even when she wished he hadn’t.

“What happened?” he asked.

“It’s just soulmate stuff.” She waved the subject off.

“Again?” he asked, the concern written in his brow.

“I don’t know. I feel…” she stopped herself. How was she meant to finish that sentence, supposed to articulate the push and pull within herself? She deserved to feel at ease and at peace with everything, but she couldn’t help but know she was struggling just existing with what she was going through.

“Feel what?” Owen questioned and Claire sighed. Somehow, he made things about her soulmate so easy to confess.

“I’m stuck. Between what I want and what I know is right for me,” she breathed out her confession. And for a moment, Claire realised how close Owen was, the distance between them was only but a step.

“Why can’t they be both?”

She didn’t know how to answer. The silence felt deafening. Eyes flicking to his and darting back to his lips, Claire knew the answer; she was tempted by him - by someone who was not her soulmate, but she craved him more than anything else. But it was something she could never say, never admit. So she lied.

“Sometimes the things we want aren’t the things we need,” she said, stepping back and clearing her throat. “How have you been doing? With everything that’s been happening, how are you?”

“Not great,” he hummed.

“Well, is it something you could talk to your soulmate about? I’m sure she’d want to help,” Claire tried but Owen looked down at his feet, closing himself off.

“It’s complicated,” he said under his breath.

Claire reached out, her hand missing his just by a few inches. She did it on purpose, the moment his hand was near hers, she retreated and let herself slip. “Whenever you talk about your soulmate, you always say it’s complicated. Why?”

“We’re different. She can be really distant and close me off a lot. Though I doubt I’ve been helpful lately. It’s just hard to tell her things when she isn’t all there,” he explained, the essence of him shrinking away to the barest; a man, unable to show what he truly wanted because of his pride.

“She’s your soulmate. You’re going to make it work,” Claire tried to say, but she knew her words would do nothing for him.

“Yeah. I guess,” he sighed. He didn’t take much more time there, giving her a vague nod and leaving without another word. There was something in the silence, in the way he didn’t talk and left the air filled with words that went unspoken. She wondered if he felt the same about her own silences.

In the midst of her complicated life, she found comfort in the things she dreaded when she woke; her dreams. When she dreamed that night, she found herself on lush grass that stretched one hundred yards until the white spokes peaked at either end. When her soulmate came running out, she grinned wide, marvelling at him like she’d done countless times before.

“A football field?” she asked with an exaggerated gesture.

“I think this is all you,” he laughed with a warm and welcome voice.

“Good,” she laughed, “come on!” she yelled, racing off to the side of the field. Finding out a ball with the lines not too worn or new, she tossed it up, feeling the perfect weight in her hands before palming it and throwing it across to him. When he caught onto it, he grunted, the ball falling into his stomach as he tried not to fumble it.

“I didn’t know you could throw like that,” he chuckled, feeling the ball’s weight in his own hands.

As he threw it back, she caught it perfectly, not stumbling and noticing the small cheer he gave when she tossed it back up in the air in success. “My dad was a football coach for college teams. I was a little helper when I was young. Even trained with the boys when I was older,” she shouted to him.

“The boys must have loved you,” he laughed.

“All the ones under twenty-one sure did,” Claire said, shaking her hips in a playful move. When he laughed a little more heartily, Claire threw the football with all the strength she had in her arm.

“God, you’ve got one hell of a throwing arm,” he grunted when he caught it, shaking away the pain of it.

“I was trained by the best,” she declared, her voice going low and flexing her very small biceps, especially in comparison to his. Then, he suddenly started to laugh, more than they had been before. He doubled over, clutching at his stomach as he laughed harder and harder. “Why are you laughing?” she called out. He waved it off with a weak arm.

“I wouldn’t be able to tell you even if I tried,” he declaimed midway through a laugh. She rolled her eyes and called for him to throw the football again. And for the rest of the night, they talked and threw around a football. And when it all got tiring, he chased her around the field, tackling her and combing hair out of her face as they laid beside each other.

Claire got into the rhythm and habit of checking in with Owen; he requested it in fact. When the next week came around, he asked her specifically to make sure that the program stays on its feet, just so that he was pushed to do his job. Claire objected many times to it, including the fact that he didn’t need her to because he was already doing such a great job of it - but he’d call every morning, asking for a meeting about the previous day’s progress. It was insistant and incensent, so she relented.

Knocking on the bungalow door, she heard him collapse to the ground inside. Finding the key underneath one of his old sneakers, she came inside, setting down his coffee on his kitchen counter.

“You know you can’t keep waking up this late,” Claire called out as Owen rushed around behind the scenes between his bathroom and bedroom.

“Sorry! Sorry!” he shouted back. Looking around, Claire noticed the slight disarray of whole abod, the mess that he hadn’t cleared away yet and the fine dust that filtered in the air whenever she disturbed anything within her grasp.

“Tomorrow, you and I are having breakfast together because you not getting up is ridiculous. If forcing you to go somewhere will get you up, I’m going to do it,” Claire said, slowly cleaning his kitchen. She couldn’t help herself - the need to organise the dysfunctional was too overwhelming.

“If you say so,” Owen muttered, coming into the room and finalised the last button on his shirt. It remained amiss, with one half still loose and his belt hanging but not buckled. Claire wiped down the counter quickly with a dish towel and offered the coffee to Owen. He rolled his eyes before accepting it.

“You also need to clean your place. If you ever get your soulmate back here, she’s going to kill you for the mess,” she smiled, walking ahead of him.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” he snorted, pushing her out of the door and tucking in his shirt on the way out.

In the car ride to the paddock, Owen told her about previous days work, making sure to leave the first weeks reports on her dashboard. As he and Claire ran out of work related things to discuss, Owen brought up a topic Claire hadn’t thought of in a while.

“When is the staff picnic happening?”

Claire’s brow crinkled and shrugged. “Has no one gotten on top of it this year?”

“I think we all assumed you were doing it,” Owen chuckled, leaning back into his chair, regarding her as she drove. She couldn’t help but feel cornered in her chair, the eyes that she longed to look at her kept her feeling more alive than she thought she’d be privy to. She focused on the road.

“I am now,” she suggested in a scoff and Owen just nodded. At the paddock, Owen jumped out of the car, rounding it to go over to Claire’s window. “So, breakfast tomorrow?” she reminded. He nodded, backing away.

“Yeah. Looking forward to it!” he said with a wave. When he looked back, there was a smile on his face that made her ache, the foreign feeling of want returning to her in full force; he was temptation walking, winning his way into her graces without the intention to. She fell for his smile and the way he spoke, marvelling at him in every aspect the way she’d once done with her soulmate. She felt torn, knowing that the two men meant something to her but she couldn’t tell how they differed.

When she dreamed that night, she was left in a room that was endlessly black. The floor reflected everything but was still as dark and black as the rest of the room. Yet, in all of it, the room was still bright, colours stood out amongst the black and there were no shadows, just a bright, black room. In the centre, there was a chair that held one recipient; Owen. Claire breathed out his name, her voice echoing around the expanse.

Owen glanced down at himself, noticing the way they were both dressed. Claire’s hair was down around her shoulders, and she was wearing a green wrap dress with flimsy straps that were desperate to fall down her arms. Owen, on the other hand, wore a suit that was half undone, the buttons on his shirt already undone about half of his chest. They looked like they were ready to go somewhere formal and had come undone at the sight of each other.

Claire walked to him, and Owen stood, his pace a little more hungry than her own. When he finally reached her, his arm curled around her back and held her in place, their kiss was sharp and longing. Her hand on his cheek, she sunk into the kiss, stumbling into him until they were getting to the chair. When his hands started to slowly pull up the length of her dress, there was a feeling that Claire couldn’t help but indulge in for a moment. She removed his jacket, tossing it aside as his hands tried desperately to remove her dress.

“Let me -” she started in a whisper. Then, his hands went stiff, no longer eager, but rather cautious on her body.

“What do you need?” he asked, voice an echo of something familiar, other than just the voice she recognised - of something more, something deeper. His words made her shiver, uncertain and certain - all rolled into the one feeling.

“I just want to you to watch,” she let the words barely pass through her lips, but they echoed around them; the seduction filtering in the air like a perfume that paraded around them. Owen nodded, sitting back into the chair, his legs wide and his knuckles pressed to his lips, leaning his elbow on the arm of the chair.

When he seemed comfortable, she disturbed it by untying the knot of the wrap, letting the fabric loosen around her body. As the material came apart, revealing the underwear she had on, she walked to him slowly, letting her knees go either side of his. She saw it in his eyes, the way he wanted to take control, to lean up and tackle her with as much lust as he had brewing inside of him. Instead, Claire pushed him back, making him look up at her as she shrugged completely out of the dress.

Hands firm on her hips, Claire moved on top of him. Grinding her hips down, tempting and teasing at his hardening cock. When he hissed and his jaw went slack, Claire rested onto his thighs, her thumb tracing over his bottom lip and watching as his eyes fluttered as he tried to remain composed. Undoing his belt, Claire ran her fingers over his shaft, the hard moan from Owen as he leaned forward into her made her tremble. He kissed her urgently as Claire took him out of his underwear.

Settling down onto him, they both moaned against each other’s lips. Owen would thrust up into her with softer hips than he had in any of her other dreams, and Claire would respond with circling her hips to meet him. Her hands were either side of his neck when Owen leaned forward, taking Claire’s knees and moving them so instead of kneeling, she was straddled around him.

There was a steadiness to it all, her hips meeting down with his thrusts, grinding back and forth to gain the right kind of friction; it felt like it was last eons in just a few seconds. Owen’s hands allowed her to move her hips at the right angle for both of them, gripping in harder when he wanted to make noises that always failed to stay within his throat.

When Owen thrust in a little deeper than he had before, Claire whimpered and forced her hips to move a little faster, the urge to reach her orgasm was insatiable. Bucking against him, Claire moved her hands to his hair - ruffling the perfect way it was once crafted. But she adored the way it looked when it was messy, especially when her fingers were the ones responsible. Owen tilted her chin down when all she wanted to do was throw her head back, forcing her forehead against his. And through it all, he made sure their eyes left each other.

Claire moaned out with every breath, the most needy she’d ever sounded. Her eyes were focused on his, never leaving his as she desperately wanted to clench them shut; but his gaze told her to stay where she was. Moving a little harder and faster against him, Claire felt the pressure of her orgasm building in her belly and she knew she couldn’t hold on much longer. When she saw Owen’s jaw stiffen, opening and snapping back shut, she could tell that he was feeling her around him.

And without warning, her orgasm broke, blindsiding her and having her giving off a sharp moan that lasted longer than she thought - the way he was making her feel was beyond what would could conjure; a pleasure that had her begging for every ounce it could offer. Her legs tightened, her whole body tensing and holding him close, trembling with aftershocks. Panting, she felt Owen breathing into her chest, his hand roaming from her hip to her bra. Moving it down, his teeth biting at her breast and grazing against her nipple. The thrill of it made her buck into him again.

Letting her hands move down, she took his cheeks again, making him kiss her. She moved into him, arching just right as Owen’s hands took her hips, bringing her down into the rougher thrusts he was now dealing. Claire breathed out a moan as his pace quickened, the rumble in his chest a warning of how desperate he was. “Don’t stop,” she moaned, leaning her head into his shoulder as she couldn’t help but moan again, hopeless against the pleasure he was inducing.

Owen’s jaw snapped shut again as he swore under his breath, kissing at her collarbone, tongue tracing it just to make her whimper again. Rolling hips and thrusts that ranged from soft and comforting to rough and moan prompting, they were falling deeper and deeper into the pits of pleasure that they would sink into and cry out for over and over again. When Owen thrust in deep and fast, there was a noise that they both made; there , it was right there that they would feel it, they just had to keep going.

They felt exhausted and exhilarated all in one, but they weren’t about to stop. Claire tried to keep a moderate pace, not working herself too hard but enough to keep them both at their brink, but when Owen was breathing hard against her chest again, clinging to her tighter and forcing her onto his cock; she knew he wasn’t going to last. Before she knew it, her climate was washing over her in relaxing waves, the pleasure so easy to slip into and feel at peace with, she knew it was only a moment before Owen broke.

And he did, a hearty moan that rumbled from his chest out of his throat in a surprised and choked breath. Claire felt him slip into her, the sensation almost as though it were happening to her in reality. As she rocked into him, trying to ride out their orgasms, she heard the soft whimpers of an exhausted man. Tugging on the back of his neck, Claire rested her forehead to his, her eyes shutting tight as another roll of aftershock came over so blissfully, she felt like she was shaking.

The moment her eyes met his, there was a hopeless and wanting man, eager for what he craved. Tilting his chin upwards, Claire met him halfway. And for the first time, they had a tentative kiss in her dreams; a spark of familiarity of it was shocked from his lips to hers. As Owen reclined back into the chair, Claire followed, resting herself onto him just to keep kissing his lips with the softest and most delicate of ways.

They stopped for a briefest time, staring at each other as though they expected to say something; instead, they just smiled. The warmth of his lips as they were swollen and slightly bruised was sparking another whimper to come from her. Even as he went limp, there was part of Claire that didn’t want him to leave her, to stay with him. Instead, they separated to have her just sitting in his lap, teasing kisses and finding comfort in each other’s hold.

She wasn’t startled awake this time. It felt gradual, the way his hands lingered on hers and neither of them saying a word. He kept her close, nipping at her until she giggled and kissed him all over again. When once the chair was their place, they were laid on the floor; naked, in each other’s embrace, the moment almost fleeting, but it felt...right. Touching at her lips, remembering the way his stubble scratched at her and left marks all over her. Sitting up, her body a wonderfilled joy to be in, she felt ready to get on with her day.

In a green blouse and white skirt, Claire went down to the same coffee place that Owen and she frequented. At the edge of the store, she saw Owen, who smiled from ear to ear and was dressed in henley and jeans.

“Hey!” she called out, waving to him and he waved back.

“Good to see you!” he said, the bags under his eyes saying otherwise. And yet, even with his tiredness and slightly disheveled appearance, he still looked gorgeous. “You look amazing this morning,” he commented before he embraced her. Claire felt herself get a little giddy but refrained from showing it.

“I had a really great dream last night,” she said with a blush running over her cheeks. They let go of each other and Owen smiled down to her.

“Well your soulmate must be in good spirits if you’re like this,” he said, opening up the door to the coffee house and letting her walk in ahead of him.

“I hope so,” she said under her breath, the guilt finally hitting her like a fist to her chest.

They sat at a table, the light of the morning shining in and making Owen seem like he as illuminated just for her eyes. The conflict of her chest didn’t make this morning easier. But every time his eyes met hers, she could ignore the feeling, letting herself enjoy the moment in his gaze. He made her feel special without doubt or pressure.

As they were midway through their breakfast, Claire noticed the smile on Owen’s face only seeming to grow, as though he was thinking on something good that had happened and it glowed right through him. He was a wonder when he looked like that. But out of curiosity, Claire wondered why. Why and how could something make Owen look like that? And a childish, or girlish, part of her wanted to know so she could make him shine like that. Make him forget the world and just be happy beyond what a person should be capable of.

“Why are you so happy this morning?” she asked, sipping at her coffee. Owen set his knife and fork down, cleaning away the egg at the side of his lip.

“I have news,” he said, swallowing the remains of his food.

“Well, spit it out,” Claire said, putting a little more toast into her mouth and watching as Owen’s smile grew even wider. He was a star, gleaming bright and a wonder to behold.

“I’m going to meet my soulmate soon,” he said, biting at his lips for a moment. Claire froze, trying to remain unmoved. Forcing a smile on her face, she went for her coffee.

“What? Have you organised to meet on the island?” she said over the edge of her cup. He shook his head but still made the moment seem like a triumph for himself.

“Not yet, but I can tell things have changed. I feel like we’re meant to find each other really soon,” he confirmed, the dimples in his cheeks making a display for the first time. Claire tried to beam in reply, but something instead her made her feel like she drowning with an anchor tied to her chest.

“T-that’s great!” she shuttered, watching as Owen went back to his food, still as happy as ever. But not Claire.

Claire hadn’t felt that kind of emotion before, the sting that pervaded her chest like a wound freshly made. It filtered through her in waves, sweeping with hatred and longing, the light of his eyes and tug of happiness on his lips; and she was not the cause. And it hurt. Claire was better than this, than wanting a man she could never have, but she did. She wanted him like she needed to breathe. Yet, he would never be in her arms. The thought alone hurt her more than the idea of someone else embracing him and causing him to smile like they created the world just for him.

Jealousy was the colour of green, and Claire was drenched in it.

Chapter Text

The dream felt heavy, as though the weight on her chest was physically in the air. The room was the same as her dream with Owen; black and bare, but she wasn’t with her guilty pleasure. Claire saw her soulmate a distance away, arguing with someone shorter than he was. He seemed frustrated, his low voice cracking in unexpected places - his whole body was a tense mess. His face was scratched out, flickering from just his face to a chaos of scratches and blurs; a wave of torment hit her.

Claire raced, her feet barely moving. All she wanted to do was scream - to yell and cry, just to try and get his attention, but nothing would form in her throat. She kicked at the ground, stomping her feet until she felt like she was moving. Running to him, almost tripping over herself, she felt the tension lift and Claire almost reached to him. Until she saw who stood in front of him. Claire wanted to distance them, but as soon as she reached out to him, to touch him, her hand was stopped by something.

Patting at the surface, glass that did not reflect, it could have been air for all she knew. What she did know, was that she wasn’t able to touch him, to reach him. To stop the fantasy that played out. Claire finally shouted, the echo radiating around her but he didn’t turn - he remained focused on the woman. Claire hammered at the air, shouting and screaming for her soulmate to just look at her.

His shoulders crumbled. “No. Stop it,” he mumbled, his hands reaching out and the slender hands. He seemed broken by her, but still craved the touch of her torment.

“But the real question is...” Claire - the Claire that stood in front of him - was different than what who she was. She was seductive, a dress that hugged her and showed her off, with straps that were ready to fall at any moment. Her eyes coloured with green shadows and lips painted in a sharp red; she was pinned together like a siren, ready to reel him in and slaughter him with just her smile.  “Why would I want to see you?” she smirked, her hands laying on his stomach and batting her lashes as though she tempted him with words rather than slice him with daggers.

“Hey, that isn’t true!” Claire shouted, banging her fist, kicking at the air. She felt the acceleration of her heart, the way it rattled and caused her to feel like she was ready to be sick.

“I haven’t been dreaming with you ,” Other Claire purred, tilting his chin to keep his attention. The strap on her shoulder slipped, his attention focusing on it.

“Stop it,” Claire cursed at the fiction of herself. “Honey, she isn’t me. I’m not like that,” she pleaded, the starting of her tears were swelling at her eyes. Yet, he still didn’t turn.

“I love what we have. There’s no need to change. Just let us be happy, baby,” Other Claire replied, tugging on his lapel and urging him towards her.

“She needs to know,” he said with a shaky breath to Other Claire.

Then, Other Claire panicked. “You don’t have to tell me anything. I’m perfectly happy,” she said urgently.

“Tell me what?” Claire whispered, clawing at the air, watching as her soulmate shook his head and leaned down. There were soft sobs, pain-filled and desperate for relief.

“You need to stay with me. I’m right here,” Other Claire smiled, biting at her lip and pressing herself up against him. He leaned into her, and Claire felt like she was being physically attacked.

“Don’t. Don’t listen to her. I’m your soulmate. I lov -,” Claire choked, her heart pounding in her chest. Her voice echoed around her, but did nothing for the two people beyond the barrier.

“I love you, just as you are,” Other Claire whispered. Claire sucked in a tight breath, watching at . “I know exactly who you are,” she reminded, touching the side of his face and rising on her toes, curling her arms around him. And as she held on, Claire locked eyes with her counterpart, the wickedness that possessed her and teased the real her. Claire threw herself against the barrier, begging for it to relent. Other Claire could see her, knew she was there and watching; killing her slowly. When Other Claire rested back on her toes, her eyes dark with a lustful power, she remained staring up at Claire’s soulmate. “I do.”

“Babe, don’t do this. It’s in your head. I’m not -” Claire cried with whimpers, the tears slipping down her face.

You know me,” he sounded wretched, like it was being ripped from his throat, “god I want you so much.” Without hesitation, his need broke through and he took her cheeks into his hands, leaning down to take her lips. Nothing he had ever done with Claire had ever been so desperate, so in want of who she was, like he was for the siren in her place. It was like a blow to the sternum, making her breathless. She couldn’t breathe. She grabbed at her throat, feeling the way her lungs were desperate to suck in the air...

Claire jerked awake, gasping for air, her hands clutching onto her sheets until she felt her nails pressing hard into her palms. Reluctantly, she let the sheet go, curling herself up and the tears that were only in her dreams were now reality, spilling onto the mattress with only droplets to say they were ever there. She found that she cried more these days, that she couldn’t quite find her own bearings anymore. She was pulled in every direction. And now, it seemed as though her soulmate was as well.

No matter the make-up she put on, there was something in her eyes that morning - that she wasn’t quite herself, that she’d been crying. There was no use trying to hide it; it wasn’t like she could. Claire was just tired of pretending to be okay. To be fine with how her life felt all the more complicated because of dreams she couldn’t control.

Walking into her office, Claire pulled her hair up, tying it in a loose band and seeing the reflection of it in her blank computer screen. It was thrown in waves and kinks, but there wasn’t room for her to care today. She pressed on and started to organise the company picnic. If she put herself in it, she’d be able to move on with her day, relax and try not to get so goddamn worked up over her dreams anymore.

Claire was pacing back and forth along the length of her desk, as one of the previous ideas that Jurassic World had organised fell through. She listened patiently, taking her time to hear them out, but she felt the anger brewing. It wasn’t her day. It really wasn’t her day. Claire stopped pacing, her spare hand on her hip. “What do you mean the island isn’t available? We work here!” she said sternly. She listened, but still, the anger couldn’t be put out but just a calm voice on the other end of the phone. Claire rubbed at her brow, before wiping her face. “I understand. I’ll...I...yes, I’ll find something else. Thank you,” she said, hanging up the phone and huffing as she collapsed back into her chair.

The knock on her office door made her straighten, but not completely, just to rest on the arm of her chair. Zara rounded the door, a cautious look on her face. “What’s up?” she asked softly.

“Picnic isn’t going to be on the island this year,” Claire groaned, fixing her shoulders back.

“What?” Zara said, moving closer to Claire’s desk, handling the edge of the seat across from Claire. She rubbed at her brow again as she looked at the stunned Zara.

“Well, it’s complicated. Last year, we didn’t have as many customers around this time and it was easier to hold it here. Now, we’re at our busiest and we can’t exactly close down areas or parts of the beach for a staff day off,” Claire explained, shrugging as she knew that an island option was going to be hard to sell.

“And the day crew are still coming in for that day?” Zara asked. Claire nodded.

“Yep. So, it’s gotta be that day. I just have to find somewhere else on the mainland to have it,” she sighed, knowing it was more work that needed to be done. And she’d need to physically do it. She could send Zara, but Claire knew herself better than that - it had to be perfect.

“I believe in you,” Zara smiled, genuine and kind. Claire leaned forward, smirking to her assistant.

“If I can’t do it, no one on this island could,” Claire said confidently. Zara started out her Claire’s office,

“Truer words have never been spoken,” Zara replied, chuckling softly. As Claire reached for her phone, she paused.

“Hey, Zara, can you -”

“Going on a coffee run now!” Zara called back over her shoulder, closing the door behind her.

“Thank you!” Claire yelled, seeing Zara wave past the glass.

The rest of Claire’s day consisted of talks with hotels and availabilities on the mainland for a large staff gathering. She found the hotel that could host the staff, she started to look for local spots. She made an entire list filled with places to visit for the day, and possible spots for dinner if people wanted to go. As she marked down all the locations for after the picnic, Claire noticed the day had gone by without her realising. She was so wrapped up in her work that she barely noticed the time.

Claire didn’t want to dream that night. She was afraid who she’d meet on the other side. There wasn’t need to be, as Claire didn’t fall asleep far enough to dream. All she had was light sleep, barely resting into anything that made her sleep soundly. As she prepared for her day, she could tell how different she appeared compared to the day before; how she no longer had saddened eyes that stained cheeks. Now, she just looked, fragile - the shell that protected her, chipped at the edges.

Pulling her hair up, tying it loose but neat, she walked into the conference room with a few stares from those already present. As she fixed her blouse, she spotted Owen and Barry at other end of the table, greeting her with soft waves and smiles that were kind. She couldn’t help but linger on Owen’s, the curve so delicate, it could sooth a child just by seeing it. The fret Claire had felt in her chest was gone in a moment.

Taking a seat just opposite them, Claire smiled back. “Morning,” she greeted, suppressing a yawn.

“Sleep okay?” Owen asked, and she only replied with a shrug. “No dreams?”

“I couldn’t care less about dreaming right now,” she admitted under her breath, glancing up to meet a surprised gaze from Owen, “sorry. Just, far too tired right now for more dramas.” A sigh left her as she sank into her seat.

“Hopefully you can get some peace soon,” Owen replied softly, as though no one else could hear. And she could feel it, the care that he took with his words. Claire couldn’t help but smile, another weight lifting from her with an ease that she’d only felt in her dreams. He carried a weightlessness around with him, exchanging it in tone and smiles. “So,” Owen said, breathing out a sigh, “is this meeting going to be long? I hate when these things drag,” he groaned, relaxing back into his chair.

“You get away from losing a hand or two. I think an hour away could do you some good,” Claire commented with a smirk.

“It’s a finger at most,” he replied quickly.

“I’m sure you’d be very talented with nine fingers.”

“I’m a wonder with two.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” she scoffed, looking at the confident and flirting smile on his lips.

The conference room soon had people piling in. Claire gathered her phone out, typing up notes, hearing each division’s progress and making notes on their remarks, as to update her own papers. Masrani sat beside Claire, whispering in her ear to note down important things before he was to speak. Claire noticed a shift opposite her, the uncomfortable squirm that stirred in Owen as Simon leaned into her to whisper. Her brow creased as she caught sight of him, the glances he threw and the tight roll in his shoulder. Claire ignored it; there were a hundred reasons why he’d be doing that.

Simon had always liked to be included within the fine workings of the company - liked knowing the ins and outs, the small details that kept his company as pure as what John Hammond first envisioned. Claire was happy to have his ear when she needed. He stood, smiling and making a joke that Claire was too busy to notice. She was putting together a list she’d need to update when she got back to her office, as well as ignore the linger feeling that she was being watched; the feeling alone made something in her weak, pressing her thighs together to forget the sensation.

“Claire,” Simon said, bringing her attention back up from her notes. “I’ve heard that you’re taking up the responsibility of the staff picnic,” he said and the room burst out with a hush of voices, discussing the day they would get away from the park for a few hours.

“Yes, I’m going to have to scout locations on the mainland. I can discuss the details of that later,” Claire said over the voice, smiling politely.

“All right,” Simon nodded, and Claire returned to her notes. “Can you please take Owen with you when you go,” he mentioned, just as he went onto his next point. Claire looked up, looking between Masrani and Owen - who also seemed as shocked as she was.

“Sorry, that seems a little odd, Sir,” Claire mentioned, bringing him back to her for a moment.

“We can discuss this later, but I would like for Mister Grady to go with you,” he mentioned, fixing the watch around his wrist. Claire interrupted before he had the chance to move on.

“But, that isn’t Owen’s area. He’s not exactly fit for this type of work,” Claire chuckled, trying to play off her uneasiness. She looked back to Owen quickly. “No offense.”

“None taken, I’m confused too.”

“Again, we can discuss this later,” Masrani replied, moving on and Claire looking back to Owen.

Claire relaxed back in her chair, blinking as she considered the idea, nearly a full day of solitude with Owen, as she developed a lustful attraction to him. The idea was horrible, the bubbling feelings in her chest making her feel hot and flustered, the tight squeeze in her thighs returning. Just as she was regaining herself, her phone buzzed.

O: I don’t have to go. I can talk to Simon.

Claire glanced up at Owen who was giving her secret glances, hidden but warm.

C: No. It’s fine. Nothing’s wrong with coming. I’m just confused as to why he wants you to go when you’ve got the raptors to worry about.

She replied quickly, watching as Owen received the text, nodding a little as he texted back.

O: That is true. I could still pull out if you need me to

Claire almost snorted.

C: Please don’t phrase it like that

She shook her head.

O: Oh come on! Everyone loves a good pull out

Claire burst out laughing, covering her mouth as the squeak of laughter that erupted out of her. People turned and stared, watching as her shoulder shook and her hand covering her mouth, breathing in sharp breaths that made her like a squeak toy that was being played with. Looking back at Simon, she swallowed her laughter and breathed in.

“I’m so sorry sir,” she apologised, nodding for him to continue, which he did without delay.

Claire looked over to Owen, the red in her face must have been visible because she could feel the heat over her cheeks. She mouthed ‘are you serious’, seeing Owen stifling a laugh behind Barry’s back. She bit at her lip, trying to hide the smile that was coming to her lips. Shaking her head, she went back to her note taking, but the smile on her lips wasn’t leaving her any time soon.

The meeting ended only a few minutes after Claire’s outburst. Claire and Owen stayed in their spot, glancing between each other. As everyone else had left the room, Claire and Owen walked to Simon who was gathering up his belongings, most likely not wanting to talk about this for too long a time.

“So, why exactly are you sending Owen?” Claire asked straight away, not trying to edge around the topic.

“Mister Grady,” Masrani started, stopping what he was doing and putting his hands on his hips. “I want you to go on holiday.”

“Ex-excuse me?” Owen stuttered, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Since the unfortunate death of your raptor, we haven’t let you think of anything but your animals,” Masrani said, small gestures of apology with his hands, but they soon returned to his hips.

“Sir, I had about two weeks off,” Owen explained, glancing back to Claire.

“To grieve. It isn’t right that you thought of the dinosaur’s death, then to be around its siblings just the next week,” he reminded back to Owen, who shook his head, obviously trying to get out of the arrangement.

“Sir, it really isn’t necessary,” he scoffed.

“Do you want two days off to go search the beaches and parks of Costa Rica or be around dinosaurs that remind you of one you’ve lost?” Masrani asked, eyeing Owen more intently this time, and Owen crumbled under the the gaze.

“Beaches and parks,” he cleared his throat.

“Good,” Masrani smiled. “You’ll be heading out tomorrow. I expect you back the next day. Knowing you, Claire, I will presume it will be handled,” he said, looking back at Claire.

“Of course, Sir.” She simply nodded. Simon picked up his things, checking over all his things before smiling and leaving the two of them alone in the room. No matter how many times Claire and Owen had seen each other, the moment they were alone, Claire felt so much smaller than he was - the heels gaining nothing in height compared to the broad and tall nature of him.

“Meet you at the morning ferry?” he said, clearing his throat.

“Yeah, sure,” Claire said with a soft shrug and smile. Then, there was a smile that was pinching at the edge of his lips and Claire knew he was thinking of something.

“I mean, I could still pull out,” he said, no laugh, but the intention of it holding in his chest.

“The joke is dead.” Claire rolled her eyes.

“I don’t know, you laughed pretty hard there,” he remarked, his smile turning to a devilish smirk in just a matter of words.

“Shut up,” she scoffed, walking past him and heading back to her office. She turned back to him, seeing him lingering his gaze. “Make sure you pack something nice in case we need to go somewhere.” She waved him off as she rounded a corner and went to go collate her notes from the meeting. The day dragged on and night came in with a little fuss, as Claire couldn’t help but wonder about her impending day. When she finally got to sleep, it was closer to midnight than she wanted; but she didn’t dream.

The two met at the edge of the ferry the next morning, not dressed for anything they’d wear to work, with overnight bags draped over their shoulders. They both greeted each other with a smile that was warm, but neither of them pretended they wanted to talk; it was far too early, as the earliest ferry went back to the mainland at five in the morning. They both may have early starts, but getting up at 4am isn’t either of their cups of tea.

Getting to the mainland, there was a breath that beheld Claire - an anxiousness that she held on the island was suddenly adrift to the mainland’s air. She could focus on anything other than work; an event that was fun, that kept her preoccupied without it feeling like a responsibility, or that it was a distraction from something else. Owen and Claire had a hired car and driver that drove them around the coast’s parks and beaches for the day. Owen had suggested it in the late hours of the night before, a brief discussion over text that ended up being a rather large weight off her mind to think about once they were there.

They started on their first location that was a nice open park. There were a few families scattered around, and it was surrounded by some beautiful trees, but was relatively close to apartments and shopping centres. Looking back at Owen, the shake in his head was enough to get Claire to cross the park off the list. It became a habit of jumping in their car and their driver taking them to a new location that didn’t spark any delight in them.

Venturing to obscure beaches and further out parks, Claire was finding it harder to stay upbeat. Everywhere she went, it felt like it wasn’t big enough, or that she couldn’t see the staffers enjoying themselves. She felt like she was wasting the entire day, with Owen trying his best to convince her on some locations, never really arguing about spots. He tried her on one of the beaches, but it reminded her of something that made her stomach twist.

Traffic had built just after three, Claire and Owen sitting in the back of the car, waiting for it to die down. She drifted between awareness and utter distraction, only hearing Owen and the driver talking about something from time to time. When once she thought this day would be a breeze - visiting parks and beaches all day with the Costa Rican air floating around her - yet, she was driven to work mode easily.

“You know,” their driver said, clearing his throat and drawing Claire’s attention back. Claire had been drifting in and out since she got in the car, so when he spoke, he spooked her a bit. “The beach fifteen minutes from the hotel is good.”

“I didn’t put it down because of traffic,” Claire explained in a yawn.

“If you get there in the morning, there’s no traffic at all,” he explained, turning the car away from the traffic that was keeping them pinned in the same spot for twenty minutes.

“Can you take us there?” Claire asked.

“Already here,” he said, the car turning off and the driver turning around and smiling. “guy said you’d wanna see it.” Claire looked back at Owen, who just shrugged at her. He opened the door, walking out as Claire looked beyond the windscreen to see the the expanse of water that seemed endless, save for the isle in which she worked.

Exiting the car, she found herself met with the air of winds off an ocean that breathed new life. Taking it in, Claire hopped out of her shoes, walking across the sands before racing herself down to the water. She may have been scouting a location, but she wasn’t at work, so she let herself be a little rebellious. When her feet touched wet sand, Claire closed her eyes. And as water swept onto her feet, sinking them beneath the covering sand.

“I always preferred the beach,” Owen whispered beside her. Claire’s eyes sprung open to see him, dangerously close to her, his arm barely an inch from hers, feet toeing at the sand close to her.

“I’m the same,” she replied back softly, as though it were a secret that only they held. “I think this is the one,” she said in a sigh, hearing the crashes of the water hit the beach, the tumbles so quiet, they were barely a murmur. Looking back at him, Owen stared off to the distance, watching the water with a bliss in his body that radiated off of him, transferring to her with such delight, she almost forgot that the day was soon to end.

The two headed back to the car, sitting in the backseat as their driver took them back to the main roads. “Traffic is bad,” he cleared his throat just as they turned into the chaos. Claire peered over the driver’s seat and rubbed at her brow.

“How long?” she asked, suppressing a yawn.

“Maybe an hour or so,” he shrugged and Claire contained the groaned that rumbled in her chest.

“Really?” Owen asked.

“There was an accident. Sorry,” he apologised.

“It’s okay,” Claire said, leaning against the window, finding comfort in the backseat. “As long as we’re getting back to the hotel,” she yawned, shifting into her seat a little more.

Something felt strange as she leaned against the window, as though it had suddenly become lighter and darker in a single moment, the two brightnesses mixing together and decorating outside into an artwork. As her eyes opened, Claire took it in - the dream that mixed with her reality. The sky, now a pink and blue mix, swirling together like clouds that could never form into cotton balls and laid across the sky in pulled apart strands. Looking into the front, the driver was gone, and outside, there were no roads and no buildings; it was just the bright fairy floss pink and bubblegum blue sky and the car that remained unchanged.

Yet, she still sat in the backseat of the car, and across from her sat Owen, his eyes falling to her as she looked at him. And, in a single moment, Claire couldn’t care about the conflict anymore; she let herself feel for once.

Sliding herself across the car, she kneeled up to kiss him before he could lay his hands on her this time. She took charge, deepening the kiss until he was pressed between the window and his chair; the shocked one of the pair for once. Hooking her legs over his, she rested in his lap as he leaned forward, surging into the role she loved on him; controlling but never demanding on her. Back pressed against the front seat, Claire started to tear at his shirt, unbuttoning it with force and moving it past his shoulders just as he took her shirt over her head.

It became a battle against their own clothes, kicking off pants and trousers until they had finally stripped out of their underwear. Claire sat back onto Owen’s lap, kissing him as she ground her hips down onto him lap, his cock twitching to just be inside her.

“Ah!” he hissed, his hand on the small of her back, guiding her along the length of his cock, teasing it against her slick folds. “Stop….teasing,” he breathed, chuckling as he shut his eyes.

“I like teasing,” Claire giggled, taking his cock and running her hand along the shaft. Owen’s head fell forward into her chest.

“Claire,” he breathed, dragging her hips closer to him. Claire lifted her free hand to his cheek, tracing her finger over his parted lips, nail dragging across his bottom lip.

“Shh,” she whispered as her finger slipped into his mouth, his teeth catching onto her lightly, “be patient,” she panted, letting her hand grace over his cock gently just to hear him hiss out a breath again.

Claire rose on her knees, guiding herself down onto him and letting her hands rest on either shoulder. Owen panted against her chest, letting his tongue dance over her collar bone before turning into kisses that laced her heated skin. Claire moved against him, rising and falling, making tight whimpers when she fully sank down onto him. Her hands on the back of his neck, grinding against him. He gave over tender thrusts, taking hot breaths into her skin before his head fell back and their eyes met.

Their bodies fell into a rhythm, working against each other just to get to their peaks. Their eyes never left each other, fluttering closed for a moment but always returning just to see what the other would do. It was a tension that never broke, building to this moment that only they could share. Claire’s mouth hung open, snapping shut when her eyes closed, trying to force herself to stay together for longer. She wanted this to last forever, to feel him pressed in so deep that it made her want to squeak out in pleasure.

The crease in his brow told Claire enough - they were setting each other off like matches; the moment she broke, he would too. She circled her hips, rotating and bucking against him just to gain friction and meet him with his thrusts. Claire’s hand reached at the top of the car’s roof, pushing against it to meet Owen with, leveraging herself to break him before he broke her. It was a fight that they would both lose.

Owen’s fingers went to his mouth, tongue licking and lathering his fingers, reaching between them and touching at her clit. Her hips jerked, the unexpected touch at the sensitive nub had her reacting wildly to him. She tried to regain her rhythm, but she was at the mercy of his fingers. She bucked and ground her hips against him, panting as her forehead rested against his, her jaw slack as she could feel herself on the edge of her release.

“I’ve wanted you so badly,” she panted, her arm shaking against the roof before she put it back on his neck.

“Fuck, you feel amazing,” Owen grunted as he thrust into her again. Claire clawed at his neck, arching into him just to feel him inside her like she wanted.

“Please,” she begged. When she said it, she wasn’t quite sure what she was begging for until her hands on either side of his face told her what she wanted; she wanted to look at him, see his eyes fill with lust just when ecstasy hit both of them. He didn’t let his gaze fall, no matter how much they wanted to close their eyes, to just revel in the moment, he remained locked with her.

“Come for me, baby,” he groaned. She watched, letting her jaw go, finally moaning like a banshee; no restraint, just lust and wanting and desire overtaking every impulse, just pure enjoyment of his cock inside her and how he made her feel.

“Oh, god, yes,” she moaned before she finally let her orgasm go, shattering her into a quivering mess, locking her legs tight at his sides and falling into him, clutching to him like she depended on him for air.

Owen followed after, grunting over and over again as his orgasm rolled and he filled with. They both breathed harshly, rocking against each other. They couldn’t break apart, they were firmly in place and it was as though they were bound - tied together in each other’s arms. Claire comb her hands over his face, wiping sweat from his forehead and leaning into him. He met her halfway, kissing her with tender lips that had words in each kiss.

Want.

Desire.

Care.

Forgiveness.

Longing.

Love.

And she felt it all.

Then, the car jolted and Claire hit her forehead against the window. She groaned, touching her head just as her mind caught up - let her remember the dream that made her still feel weak. Turning to Owen, he was already getting out of the car and out of sight. Sighing, Claire gathered herself, ignoring the pressing feeling that was present at the pit of her stomach and in between her legs.

As she looked at the time, it was thirty minutes after four and they managed to get to the hotel within an hour of setting back. Claire thanked the driver, who grinned and wished her well on the rest of the trip. Walking into the hotel’s foyer, she caught up with Owen, walking beside him and - were his cheeks just as flushed as hers felt? Claire had stoked her filthy desires, she knew she wanted to indulge in the other side of her wantings. Yet, as she stood beside him, she couldn’t help but crave him more than just her dreams; everything about him called to her like a beacon that blared against the confusing blackness of her life.

At the elevators of their hotel, Claire and Owen stood waiting for the doors to open, she clenched fists, feelings the tough burying of her nails in her palm. Taking a hard swallow, she turned to Owen, who noticed the hesitation written on her.

“Did you want you to go to dinner?” she asked in rushed words. Biting at her lip, she tried to stop herself from feeling flustered or blurting out her words; but she did exactly that. “You know, see which restaurant is good to suggest for the workers.” When she closed her eyes, she realised how ridiculous she sounded. She was ready to backtrack when Owen’s hand touched at her elbow, his fingers barely wanting to grip, but were tender against her - cautious of how she’d react to his touch.

She craved it.

But could never admit it.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” he said, his lips barely quirking up into a smile, but it still remained warm.

“Good,” Claire said, tucking hair behind her ear. The elevator came and they stood on either side of the box. As floor by floor rolled by, Claire hated her mind, the lingering thought of Owen’s mouth on her neck, breathing into her as he was struggling to keep himself contained. And all the while, his cock pressing in deep within her and his calloused fingers playing with her just to see her crumble.

Owen stared at the floor numbers, but Claire was lingering her gaze on the muscles in his arms, the way the sweat ran down his neck and clothes cling to him like she wanted to. Claire put her hands behind her back, pressing her thighs together and digging her nails into her palms just to feel something other than the pressure that would need to be satisfied later. The elevator sounded, they both walked out, Claire’s room coming through first. “I’ll come by your room and we can go to whichever restaurant you think is the best,” Owen said, walking backwards with a dimpled grin on his face.

Claire had to restrain the blissful sigh that fluttered around her chest.

The rest of the afternoon, Claire relaxed in her hotel room, taking out her dress and hanging it up on the back of a door and taking a bath. She had considered imagining her soulmate doing the things Owen had done to her in the past - touch herself with the man she loved in mind - but every time she thought of it, she couldn’t get the image of Owen’s creased brow with his jaw hanging slack as he came, holding onto her fiercely just to make sure he was touching her. No matter how pulled her heart was, she favoured the one she had the chance to touch in reality. And it hurt the more.

Pushing her hair up into a tie, the waves of her hair tumbled down to her back and loose hair framed her face as she applied her makeup. Her toes danced to the music on the radio, touching up her lipstick and giving herself one last check in the mirror in her dress. It was just a black dress that hugged her curves and a off the shoulder neckline. It was only a few more minutes before a knock came to her door. Claire raced to it, opening the door wide as Owen stood fixing up his suit jacket. Smiling she invited him in as she went for her shoes and purse. “Sorry, I’m ready, just gotta -” Claire started, hopping as she put on her heels, noticing the stare in Owen as she wriggled the shoe on.

“You look beautiful,” he said, no hesitation and - if she could trust the feeling - a look of wonder. Claire straightened and fixed her dress at her hip.

“Thank you,” she said, looking down at herself to hide the blush that was creeping onto her cheeks, “you always manage to surprise me.” She chuckled, regarding his suit. He wore a suit with rolled up sleeves and no tie, letting the first few buttons stay open to help him breathe.

“I was considering the shorts again,” he smirked, the obvious joke almost making him laugh.

“Well, aren’t I lucky,” Claire giggled, taking her room key and putting into her purse.

“Very.”

They walked to the restaurant that Claire had been eager to visit. It was down the street from the hotel, so it was reasonable for any staffers to walk to, and for the pair to walk to for dinner. Getting their, Claire was happy to find that the place wasn’t booked out, and still had a table for the pair to sit at. Owen grinned and they were seated quickly. Ordering off the menu and getting a bottle of wine for the table, Claire and Owen joked over their meal; Claire watching as Owen’s smile perked and left dimples in his cheeks that made her feel a little light headed.

Claire rested the wine glass against her temple, “You said something the other day,” she started, “about meeting your soulmate. How’s that going?”

“Oh,” Owen suddenly became bashful, moving back into his chair; as though he wasn’t expecting such a serious question to be raised. “It hasn’t. I was wrong. I thought...I thought I was ready, but I fucked up,” he said, clearing his throat.

“I somehow doubt that,”

“I don’t know,” he scoffed, picking up his wine glass and sipping at it. It was quite obvious that he didn’t care for wine; the soft cringe at the corner of his mouth and the crinkle at the ridge of his nose as he swallowed. Claire chewed at the inside of her lip, stopping herself from smiling and giggling at the sight.

She thought of his lips, the way they curved and held a firm smile and how they once felt pressed to her core like they were made to latch onto her sensitive skin. Claire was a sucker for that mouth, watching it move and wondering if her mind made him better or worse in reality; she wanted to test drive her imagination every chance she had around him.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked, and Claire straightened.

“Hm?”

“You’re just...looking at me differently,” he shrugged and Claire felt hot all of a sudden; as though she was caught in the traps of her own lust.

“Sorry, daydreaming,” she apologised, looking away to drink her wine. She hoped that it was the alcohol that made her cheeks burn and not just Owen.

The dinner remained as perfectly joyous as always; Owen lifting tension that remained on her shoulders and anguish of her heart. She knew it was wrong to fantasise about happiness with him, but he made things seem so easy, that he could just erase the hard part of her wantings - that it was okay to crave him and be with him no matter who her soulmate was.

They walked lazily back to the hotel, letting themselves sober up, even though they didn’t drink very much. It was just a way for Claire to stay in his company as the night came in and the Costa Rican moon pushed him to look even more gorgeous than he did in daylight. They walked back into the hotel, going up the elevator in silence before their floor came. As Claire was at her door, she stopped, looking back at him and wondering why she wasn’t going inside.

“I like our dinners,” she confessed, pursing her lips together nervously.

“So do I,” Owen chuckled, his hands in his pockets.

“Thank you for coming with me. I probably would have gone mad if I hadn’t had you trying to persuade me,” she said with a breath following her words.

“I had fun on this trip. Gave me some time to just...stop, y’know?” he shrugged and Claire nodded. And there she was again, falling for the thoughts in her head. Her eyes dared to look at his lips - the fullness of them and the glisten of them as light touched them. She was staring but she didn’t care. She wanted to do it - to kiss him like she’d never kissed anyone. Pushing herself back against the door of her room, she locked eyes with him, breathing a little heavy and smiled through her embarrassed heat rising.  

“Goodnight, Owen,” she muttered, unlocking her door.

“Night,” he grinned, walking down the hall to his room. She pressed herself against her door when she closed it, leaning against it as she let her mind think of it; letting him kiss her and she kissing back just to feel the thrill of it.

She dreamed of him that night - kissing him in the way she wanted, him holding her and tight fingers binding into her hips as he came. She dreamed of Owen’s fingers trailing over her ribs until they moved to her face, making her whimper at how soft a touch he held her with after the dangerous grip he placed on her hips. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think she’d have his fingers bruised into her when she woke up.

And when she woke, Claire felt...weightless. She wasn’t torn, she wasn’t confused. She had everything she needed and wanted. But over time, her mind reminded her of what she had, her breakfast with Owen short and silent after joking with him for a little while. The ride on the ferry didn’t consist of anything fun, and Owen had gone off, watching the waters on the other side of the boat. They didn’t see each other off when they arrived back on the island; instead, Claire went to her office, put everything into the schedule and sent out the staff wide email on all the details. In two weeks, they’d have their picnic, everything was taken care of.

How did that stupid island get to her all the time? The mainland had been fine, but as soon as she arrived back to the place she had called a home, she felt trapped by everything, including her own thoughts. She went back to her room, finding herself going to bed early and drifting into sleep.

Upon waking in her dream, she walked aimlessly until she found her soulmate on the shore of a beach. He waved to her, embracing Claire as she came over to him and the two sat at the water’s edge, the cooling sensation of what water could feel like. And she knew...she had to say something; she couldn’t avoid it. Every dream lately wasn’t him. Claire needed to tell him.

“I need to tell you something,” she blurted and he turned to her.

“What is it?” he asked, voice low and comforting. God, why didn’t that help?

“My dreams lately. I’ve been having them with someone else,” she explained.

“Oh?”

She shut her eyes, just as she started to ramble and make sense of it. “Well. Not with someone else. About someone else.”

“What kind of dreams?” he asked, playing with sand.

“Yeah...well,” Claire stuttered, trying to find the words, but the implication was already there, hidden away in her shyness.

“Oh,” he whispered.

“Yeah,” she whispered back, a little ashamed.

“Are they good dreams?” he took a breath, as though of intrigue and not hurt.

“Yes,” she said quickly, not meaning to. “I just wanted to tell you. To make sure you know that I’m not...nothing’s changed. I think it’s just -”

He stopped her by taking hold of her hand and kissing at her knuckles. Claire lost her words in a moment. “You never have to explain things to me. You’re my soulmate. Nothing else matters.”

“Why do I always want to kiss you when you say things like that?” she sighed as he laughed.

“I’m a special guy,” he said, and just for a second, she thought she could see the shadows on his face disappearing, but it was only a thought.

I love you . She wanted to say it, she wanted him to know that she’d always want him, always want to kiss him. But she somehow couldn’t say it with the fullest of her heart - she wanted it to be true. But she knew she felt something deeper than just lust for Owen; she wanted him just as much as she wanted her soulmate. And that meant she could never say those three words to him, no matter how much she wanted to.

For a moment, she imagined they were two different people; that she could see him, and that I love you could be said without doubt or second thought. And knowing that his response would always be the same.

I love you too.

Chapter Text

When Owen had brought her to ecstasy, his moans of pleasure in her ear, she clung to him, hair scattered around her and across her face. Owen looked up, laughing at her as he combed hair out of her face. She couldn’t help but chuckle as she panted, trying to breathe between her soft giggles, feeling the sweat pooling on her skin. He was gentle with her, hands roaming her as to soothe her into the aftermath of it all.

In daylight hours, Claire had craved a touch like that; where his hands would be on her, staying on her for longer than just a moment. Her dreams gave her the opportunity to just thrive in his hold. She could be anything in his eyes, in his arms, when he was inside her. They were perfect together in her dreams, tangled like wires but electrifying nevertheless.

It took her breath away whenever he looked at her the way he did; a smile so blissful it radiated through her. If she didn’t know he was just her imagination, she’d think he wanted her - he loved her, even - and she fell for the way his eyes lit up and soothed her heated skin and fired it up all in one. He made her feel like she was the weather, changing and wild, yet beautiful regardless of what she could do to him.

He was tender, reveliving pressure from her body, shifting downwards to her disappointment. “What are you doing?” she whined, trying to hold onto the back of his neck. He scoffed, kissing in between her breasts, pecking at each just as his eyes flicked to hers. She sucked in a tight breath, watching the intensity behind them and felt a wave rocket through her body.

“Looking for a treat,” he grumbled, kissing down her stomach.

“Hey, you’r-” she tried to stop him, unsure of how tender she may have been, but he hooked a knee over his shoulder, his mouth soft against her folds, kissing it and taking long strides with his tongue. He was teasing her and doing a hell of a job at it. “Oh god,” Claire moaned, throwing her head back into her pillow, arching her back sharply as he moved his tongue across her centre.

“We taste good together,” he grumbled against her, the vibrations making her leg shake. He caught onto her knee, maneuvering himself closer to her. He sucked on her slit, his tongue teasing and playing with her sensitive little bundle of nerves. His tongue worked wonders, something she’d never experienced in real life; and at her rate, probably wouldn’t until she was barely able to keep up. Now, she was left defenseless against his mouth and the tricks he was performing.

Hand clawing at the linen underneath her hand, burying her face into her pillow as her brow knitted. Owen had curled her knees over his shoulders, his arms wrapped around her thighs and hands flat on her belly, feeling the desperate breathing she had to do to contain her moans. “You have an amazing tongue,” she panted.

Owen’s mouth stopped, his hand taking its place, rubbing at her clit in soft motions that made her shiver at the change. “You saying my cock isn’t good enough?” he said, kissing up her thigh, letting his thumb still and it made her whine.

“Never said that,” she chuckled, combing her hair out of her face. Claire felt herself unbinding, losing what she craved until his mouth latched onto her again, his arm slipping from her thigh to underneath her, a finger dipped inside her as to just stimulate her. Claire whimpered, bucking against his hand just as he added another finger. “Don’t stop.” Claire reached out her hand running through his hair, the soft waves so gentle and slipping through her fingers - like wisps of smoke.

“Wanna hear you scream my name,” he muffled out his reply. Claire hummed, trying her hardest not to latch onto him; not feel like she couldn’t when she woke. Instead, she did the opposite, her fingers curling until his hair was firmly in her grasp and keeping him centred. He had her exactly where he wanted; and she had him in the best possible position she could imagine.

“O..O,” she tried to form the word, tried to make herself form the word without it coming out as a desperate plea as it had always done. Instead, she didn’t say anything, she moaned and whimpered, trying her hardest not to say his name, because it was exactly what he wanted. And it spurred him on, making him work wonders just to hear her call out his name to a void that no one else could hear. But she knew his game, what Owen would have wanted; if he were dreaming in a nothingless void with her, he’d want to make her call out his name so loudly that other people dreaming could hear her too.

As Claire thought it couldn’t get anymore interesting, Owen added a third finger, the added pressure had her moving harder against his mouth and hand, trying to gain the traction he was withholding. He had pulled back, trying to slow things down to have her begging, but she didn’t want to lose this one. Teeth scraping against her, she bucked and tightened her thighs around his head, leaning forward only to fall back.

Hopelessly, her back bowing, arching to fall a few moments later, she was close to her edge. It was building to its peak, and breaking suddenly that Claire lurched forward, clasping her legs around his head, hand pulling at his hair desperately and her legs shaking so much that her heel hammered in his back. “ Owen !” she cried, falling down slowly as her orgasm washed over her in waves, small kicks to his back, only soothed by his hand running up from her ankle. It caused her to shiver at the same moment of another wave. The feeling so blissful, she moaned into her spot.

Owen ran kisses up her body, making them linger and stain her skin like no one else could. “I love it when you say my name,” he mumbled, kissing at her sternum. She found it more comfortable to laugh in his bed, to giggle and linger in the joy of it all. She rested just as he kissed her briefly, combining hair from her face again, cupping his hand at her cheek.

“Get used to it,” she breathed, smiling wide. He looked at her with those weather-wondered eyes, and she lost the breath she was trying to breathe.

“Claire, I -”

It wasn’t long before Claire was scrambling from breath, waking in a heat that had her feeling as though she still has Owen pressed deep within her. “God, just one night, I’d love to just kiss him until I woke up,” she groaned, tossing over in bed. They had fallen into their climaxes from a great height, a safe home for them to cherish as they broke down. In that moment, she had never felt more alive. There were times where Claire woke regretting the moments she spent defenseless against what her dreams had her pursuing; and there were times where she just wanted to fall back asleep to see if she could catch the last remnants of the dream that had her smiling.  

It was still hard for Claire, knowing what her heart wanted and what was destined for her; it felt like for the first time she wanted to stray from her safety and let herself run wild. She may be safe in her soulmate’s arms, but she found greater joy when Owen smiled at her. Claire had found that, now - more than ever, she was listening to her heart. Years of her life, Claire had known she was ruled by reason, that impulse was never her strong suit - but she wanted more than that. She wanted to feel everything she’d rejected from herself.

Putting on a mustard yellow summer dress, wrapping on the tie at her waist, she fixed up her bathing suit top, tightening the knot behind her neck. If she was going to the beach with the rest of her staff, she might as well enjoy it the way that she wanted. Plus, was there really any harm in showing off a little?

Hitching up her bag on her shoulder, Claire looked to her favourite coffee house, begging that the regulars were in and knew her order. Just as she was looking around the corner, a broad shouldered man that had taken her breath away the night before walked with ease. Claire couldn’t help it, she smiled as her heart electrictrified, the skipping and hammering of it like a crowd in an arena. He waved to her, rushing over in his flip flops and boardshorts, his t-shirt loose but he fixed it back onto his shoulders. His smile was wide, like a child, but she’d fallen for it a thousand times over.  

“You’re up early,” he remarked as they stood a few feet apart. Claire’s hand gripped into the strap of her bag, burying her nails into her hand. It wasn’t as though she was nervous around him, it just became harder not to sigh in wonderment at him; Owen made her feel girlish and weightless, and it made it harder to be herself.

“So are you,” she nodded, raising her brow. Owen chuckled lightly, rubbing the back of his head.

“Wanted to talk to you,” he said, a hunch in his shoulders, curling forward as though he had regrets that needed to be lifted, yet weighed him down in the meantime.

“Oh?” she muttered, chewing on the inside of her lip.

“Is there anyway I could get out of today?” he said, voice soft and low. Claire’s jaw shut tight. This was the moment she didn’t want; the fear that he was pulling away, that he didn’t want to be around her. And the thought that haunted her most; he was going to finally meet his soulmate.

“Why?”

Her breath caught in her throat, begging to remain just sensible for a few more moments. She just had to wait. “It’s just…” he stopped himself for a moment, “I don’t feel right leaving the girls here with people that don’t know them,” he said, a breath out in worry. Claire let herself breathe, shrugging at his request.

“I mean, if you don’t feel comfortable, I’m not going to force you,” she started, a small giggle in her voice, watching as he smiled lightly, “but Owen, you deserve just a nice day out without wondering about them, or doing some other odd job. You’re going to a beautiful beach, you’re going to spend the day in the sun and enjoy it for once without suffering. It’s up to you but I’d want you to go,” she tried to persuade him, fluttering her eyes at him. And he knew what she was doing. He laughed, rosy cheeks as his head fell forward. Claire felt her chest go tight at the sight of him.

“Okay. I’m going to worry though,” he smirked and Claire bit her lip, suppressing the urge to laugh with him. She found that he made her far giddier than she’d ever been as a girl.

“I never doubted that,” she replied. “Did you want to grab a coffee?” she asked, pointing over his shoulder. He turned, seeing the coffee house they’d been to together multiple times.

“Yeah. Plus, I want to get an actual seat on the ferry this morning,” he remarked, letting her by so they walked toe in toe. Owen had a fairly casual pace, and on this morning, Claire fell into it.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot standing the whole time can be a pain,” she responded with a groan.

“Also, I’m sticking with you the whole time, you always manage to get the better seats,” he replied and Claire scoffed. Owen opened up the door to the coffee house, letting Claire walk through first.

“I can’t promise anything,” she chuckled, Owen walking up behind her, his hand on the small of her back for a few moments.

“Don’t think you’re losing me today,” he whispered, winking at her. Claire smiled, feeling herself become weak, utterly under his spell. He flirted and teased and all of it worked in a matter of seconds. She didn’t know how she could handle much more resistance on her part.

They got their coffee, sitting by the pier, joking and laughing at whatever came to mind. They found themselves in spirals of laughter. There were times where Claire couldn’t breathe, clutching at his arm to try and stop him laughing just because she could feel the stitch in her side. Owen leaning against the back of the chair, tears at the edge of his eyes as he clutched his stomach. The hysterical laughter was most likely the result of the mountain of caffeine and no breakfast, but it all around passed the time, waiting for people to pile onto the pier.

As everyone came onto the ferry, Claire and Owen had already found seats, saving some for their closest friends on the island. Barry sat beside Owen, where Claire had Zara at her side and Vivian and Lowery sat just behind them. The entire main staff boarded the ferry, excited cheers and clapping as the ferry began its slow journey to the mainland. Claire rolled her eyes at the clapping, just as she did, Owen started clapping next to her, making her scoff at him. He smiled and watched them undock from the pier.

They started chatting amongst themselves, the girls talking about Zara’s upcoming wedding, wondering what kind of dress that she was going to wear. It was strange to meet someone who was having a soulmate wedding; knowing it would last. Claire had been to a few, but never of someone she’d known and had called a close friend. Claire and Barry talked briefly across Owen about how he’d been missing home, but was excited about everything at the park; even that he was inviting his family out because they couldn’t make it to the park’s family day. Lowery and Owen whispered to each other, most likely about the bet, as she heard Owen say something to the matter of ‘two hundred is mine’. She smiled softly to herself before she talked with the girls again.

All the while, she felt scattered, her attention drawn this way and that, never attached to a single source for longer than a few moments. She would toss her hair or touch at her neck, just to see if it would gain his attention. She felt like he was the only thing worth her attention, unable to tear her eyes away for more than a few minutes. It was an itch, scratching up her back, crawling across her skin like sweat that rolled across the soft skin of her back. With each look, she couldn’t help but notice his smile, or her ears would prickle to the sound of his laugh. It made her think.

Claire wondered about why she disliked him; that he could read her and know her closely without even knowing her. She had detested the notion once, that it was odd that he could see beneath her hardened shell whenever everyone else barely chipped at her surface; not even her family could see past it. Yet, as weeks and months passed, her walls broken and heart open, she liked that he fell so easily into her life. Owen was a piece that fit into her morning routine, that he was the person she wanted to talk to when her nights were drawing in only to dream of him the whole night long. Owen was the thing she was missing, and she had been so adamant on pushing him away.

Asking herself, how, she found that she didn’t care. He knew when she was hurting without asking, knowing to just be there, to talk or send her ridiculous pictures of animals; he was the person she needed. Claire thought that her soulmate was the only person who saw her; never having to ask her what was the matter, just being around her was the thing she needed. Yet, in all her wildest imaginings, she could have never have predicted that Owen could win her over, that her soulmate would no longer be the only contender of her affection or love.

In her little escape into her mind, she wondered if there had ever been a mistake, that soulmates were just an estimate but sometimes not accurate. He may have been someone that got on her nerves, but he cared, he took his time, and his teasing wasn’t all bad. She wanted both of these men, even if one openly loved her, and the other she just wanted to love her as much as she was beginning to.

“What’s wrong?” Owen asked, and Claire straightened her shoulders. And it was then that she realised that she had been staring; vagued out, but staring nonetheless.

“Hm?” she recovered poorly and she knew it, wrinkling her brow.

“You keep looking at me like that,” he replied, tilting is head at her. Claire combed hair behind her ear, avoiding looking directly at him as she blushed.

“Just tired, I guess,” she bit at her lip, clearing her throat.

“I take offense to that,” Owen scoffed and Claire looked back up, realising her mistake.

“No. Just,” she tried to correct herself but knew she couldn’t come up with an excuse to her words or actions. “I don’t know.”

There was a beat left in the space of them, only feeling like it was the two of them in their space. For a moment, it seemed like Owen wanted to reach out - to touch her, but he let his fist softly hit his knee, licking at the edge of his lips. “You look…” he started, “you look really nice today,” he said with a delicate sigh. Claire held her breath.

“Thank you,” she let out her breath, trying not to giggle under her breath.

“Just the way your...hair falls in front of your face and your eyes and -” he stopped for a second, his cheeks flushing red.

“If I didn’t know any better...” she let him go free, not letting him stay with the thought he might be saying something untoward.

“I’d be flirting with you,” he said, no hesitation in his voice before he turned to her with a devilish grin, “don’t worry, won’t be stepping on any toes,” he smirked, scoffed as he turned to Barry, talking about the trip and conversations that she could quite follow.

“Wish you would,” Claire said under her breath, turning to him and watching as he looked over his shoulder to her, the smile that always had her on the edge of her seat, watching to launch herself forward just to kiss him. she held herself back, turning to her own friends. When conversations ran out, Claire didn’t feel like sitting; plus, leaving the side of Owen would let herself unwind. She may be getting soaked in him, her mind clouded by the way she found herself falling for.

At the edge of the ferry, she leaned on the railing, watching as the ferry glided over the surface. The horizon a reflection of the morning sun and the crystal blues that blended to create a living canvas. There were very limited moments where Claire could indulge in such views, that she can watch the ocean crash and ripple around her without it touching her. She was captivated by he colours and water, the island that she worked; such overlooked beauties for her job. Claire wasn’t self absorbed as some might think, she just had other priorities, and they always led her back to work.  The wind blew past her, sweeping her hair into the breeze and she hunched over the railing.

To her surprise, a hand met at the small of her back, touch so light, it barely took her, but she straightened nonetheless. Owen rounded her, his hands on the railing as he stood beside her.

“Hi,” she smiled, wanting the hand that touched her to have a little more pressure than he applied. Casual and warm, she wanted to feel him be affectionate without effort; but they were on their way there. Hopefully.

“Hey,” he replied back with a smile, looking out onto the horizon, “never really noticed how beautiful this place is,” he hummed. Claire scoffed, looking over to him.

“Costa Rica, Owen. It tends to be beautiful,” she said, looking back to the water. The waves crashed and creatures bobbed at its surface, causing wonderfilled gasps from everyone who could see. Claire still watched the water, marvelling at something that could be so small yet so beautiful, yet wide and dangerous. Owen shifted closer to her, but she didn’t care to mind, liking his presence, the way he could calm waters that raged.

“Guess I wasn’t paying attention.” His voice was lower than she expected, and it made her pause. The moment felt tense, charged with words neither of them had been able to say - would be able to say. She looked at him, staring at her with a fond smile that rivalled all the others she’d ever seen; a smile that welcomed her with warm arms and embraced her thoroughly enough to keep her feeling so close to him regardless of the distance.

She wasn’t used to intimacy - feeling so bound and vulnerable to someone. Yet, he did it; the ability to make her feel soft and treasured when she was so used to being rough and cold. It was easier than taking someone on. She was very much like Owen, even if she denied it; they both distanced themselves from people, liking their own company compared to anything more. To have him around her made her feel so welcomed, so tender and warm; there were times where Claire forgot she couldn’t have him. She shouldn’t want him. But she does. Every time she sees him, she wants him just that little bit more.

As they began to see the mainland, Claire knew she wouldn’t have another private moment with Owen. There were so many things swirling in her head, but she knew she couldn’t hold herself together like she was. She needed to air out whatever she was feeling, to let it out in the open without driving herself crazy. Catching onto Owen’s arm, he stopped and stared at her, a crease in his brow.

“Hey, is it okay if I talk to you tonight?” she asked. Claire was nervous, the words and the notion behind the words scared her. She wanted to tell him. She was going to. But how the hell was he going to react? She wondered if she could take heartbreak, take rejection like she could when she was young and naive? Maybe it would be easier to be rejected, to have him say no to the thoughts and feelings and for her to recalibrate to her ordinary self. At least this way he opened her up, had her wanting to be better for all of life; maybe she would meet her soulmate this way. Finally, an open mind and heart for him to run to her at last.

“Is everything okay?” he said, hand running up the length of her arm. She shivered. It wasn’t fair that he could elicit such a physical reaction from her; why couldn’t she do the same to him? Why did she still want to?

Claire waved off the question. “Of course! I’ve just...I’m going through stuff and I need to talk to you,” she tried to smile away her nerves.

“Dinner? The same place?” Was his only reply. And she sighed, nodding.

“Yeah! I’d like that.” He nodded in return before the pair went back to their little group, being escorted off the ferry and only the buses that took them to the beach. The staff were put into multiple buses, taking them there gradually. Claire, along with other event organisers took the lead and made sure everything was in order. The beach itself was wide, with a picnic area, a catering tent for when workers get hungry and the water a nice contrast to the direct sunlight they had to bathe in.

Owen came to Claire’s side, his face beaming as he saw the sports equipment and the volleyball section that was on a shaded part of the beach. He rubbed his hands together. “You look excited,” Claire rolled her eyes.

“Well, what can I say. I really wanna win two hundred bucks,” he replied and Claire laughed.

“Like I said, that money is yours,” she said with a wink.

Claire found a nice section of semi-shaded beach underneath trees. She relaxed back onto her towel, and was soon met by Zara and Vivian who sat beside her, covering themselves in sunscreen. Barry, Owen, and Lowery did the same, setting their things down before racing off down to the side of the beach where they could enjoy their sporting equipment.

The girls were relaxing, Claire letting down the halter of her dress, tucking it at waist to let herself bask in the sun a little. When a football came crashing down near them, the girls were startled up, seeing the boys gesture for the ball. Claire pursed her lips, standing and picking up the ball.

“Dearing! Pass it here!” Owen called, a smile showing on his lips. Claire fumbled the ball between her hands before she straightened her shoulders, her fingers finding the way to centre themselves in the grip of the ball before she pelted it with everything she could muster in her shoulder. When it collided with Lowery’s chest, catching it in his shocked arms, he stared in awe. Claire thought her dad would be proud in that moment. Owen beamed back to Claire.

“Pay up!” she called back, a proud smirk on her lips.

“Oh come on! You trained her,” Lowery scoffed as Owen went over to the two men, hand extended.

“Natural talent, Lowery!” Claire shouted, readying herself to go back to the girls when Lowery threw the ball in frustration, landing just a little ways further from Claire. She laughed, going over to it, prepared to throw it back once again when she saw Owen jogging over. Tossing him the ball, he chuckled, throwing it up and catching it again.

“You’re a gift, Dearing,” he smiled, catching a breath as he lifted his hand. Claire responded, high fiving him quickly and biting at her lip as they both laughed.

“It was no trouble,” she shrugged. Suddenly, Owen was invading her space, far closer than he had ever been before. His lips touched against her cheek, pressing to her skin and making her take a sharp breathe. He broke apart from her, but barely an inch, both looking at each other as they came to terms with what just happened. Claire felt her face burning; the sun had no effect compared to this. Owen’s own face had red running across his cheeks, awkward and bashful as he stepped back.

“Thanks,” he replied, rubbing the back of his neck and racing off down the beach, watching her over his shoulder a few times. Claire went back to the girls, who both giggled at her, teasing her as her cheeks couldn’t calm down. She put on her sunglasses, sipping on her water as the girls simmered down.

They had been talking for a little while, remarking on work at the park being busy, but the retreat just a great day off. They talked about Zara’s wedding and what she had planned afterwards. Claire even mentioned the new dinosaurs and programs they had starting at the park, but kept the troubles to herself, as the girls managed to get excited about new dinosaur things; Claire felt their joy, it was good to like the animals they worked with instead of growing tired of them.

“This day is the loveliest treat,” Zara sighed, laying back and taking in the sun.

“Thanks, Claire,” Vivian agreed.

“No problem,” Claire replied just as Zara sat up, adjusting her glasses down on her nose and looking over the brim.

“I know I have a soulmate,” she started, “but I don’t think I’ve ever been more attracted to a man,” she gawked with a laugh falling her words. They all turned to see Owen and a few other men playing volleyball, falling down in the sand or sweat beading on their skin as the heat and exertion was getting to them.

“Zara,” Claire scoffed, swatting at her assistant's leg.

“She’s right,” Vivian agreed, all three of them now watching as Owen wiped sweat from his brow before serving another ball over the net. “Owen is very attractive.”

“Well, he’s got a soulmate,” Claire said, clearing her throat and trying to ignore the way his shirt clung to his chest.

“That he’s never met,” Zara reminded them all. “God, whoever his soulmate is, they’re bloody lucky!” she remarked, jestering a little more that time.

“Tell me about it,” Claire whispered under her breath. The girls all watched as the men stripped out of their shirts, diving into the surf and getting themselves drenched in water.

“Oh my god,” Zara said a little too loudly, covering her mouth for a moment, “look at him,” she whispered to the girls. They saw Owen flick his head up from the surf getting back onto the sand and shaking his hair. In Claire’s defense of her staring, he was a wonder; fit and striking, it was clear that he trained more than the average man.

He was in the army, wasn’t he? He needed a body like that to be in the army.

In the middle of the thought, Claire caught sight of something; something that she’d only ever thought she’d see in dreams. Reality was so far away in dreams, rarely able to grasp. In Claire’s case anyway. Yet, that day, in that moment, she saw something that couldn’t be explained in just a second of seeing it. She had to get closer. She had to be sure.

Standing, Claire smoothed out her dress and took her glasses up, pinning them up on her head as she walked carefully across the sand, trying to see him again. She needed to have him look her way again, she needed to be goddamn sure before everything came crashing down.

“Everything okay?” Vivian asked. Claire felt like she could be frozen, but knew she was still walking.

“J-just wanted to walk for a second,” she stuttered, continuing to walk, watching as Owen kicked up water at the other men that cooled down. But it was unmistakable, that perfect, line by line design on him.

She almost missed it. It was even clear from a distance. One his left side, a distortion of colour that created a scar with a horrific story and clear it was one event. Holes with a blast zone had his left side laced with that scar, white and still pink in some areas. She’d know it anywhere. It was only supposed to be his. Claire had memorised it in her dreams, the way it looked, the way it felt. She’s caught her nails on the upper most part of his scar as she was nearing her end, almost tearing at it before her hands went to his back, tempered by a kiss that only he could give. It was her soulmate’s scar.

And it was on Owen. Not just a dream, not just a dreamlike state she thought she imagined. The times where she traced her fingers over it, wondering if she would ever catch her breath, or the times where he leaned into her just so she could have the upper hand - have the control - and her palm rested upon it.  

It was his. It had always belonged to him.

Her soulmate’s scar was Owen’s.

She felt herself shaking. Breathing a little ragged as she tried to remain upright, but she felt her knees buckle, almost ready to give way at the slightest breeze. When it hit her, she froze but didn’t fall. She couldn’t fall. Not because of this. Not because of him.

Claire stopped breathing for a moment, a breath she held left her the moment Owen looked at her.

He was combing back his wet hair, shaking the water off his arms and off his shoulders. And it was as though he realised the moment his hand hit his chest. He gave himself away by mistake.

He knew what he had done to her as her lips quivered and her eyes welled.  

They both knew.

Chapter Text

It was the night of her twenty-first birthday, and to say she was nervous was an understatement. Ever since the mess with Karen, Claire had anticipated this day, yet tried not to dread it. What if she wasn’t what he wanted, or that he could live without her? What was the point of knowing someone so thoroughly for them to just abandon her whenever they chose? She didn’t want to be part a statistic, not like...

Claire was walking, but not a moment before she thought she was going to sleep. She walked a street, as though in a city, but there was no one else around. It didn’t feel frightening, it felt like she needed to find something, lost in the midst of the winding streets. She felt like calling out, but it didn’t seem like it would do much use; there were so many streets, anyone around would barely be able to hear her, let alone find her.

Taking herself around another corner after what felt like her twelfth-thousandth, she saw a man sitting on a gutter, picking at flowers that petals took to the wind. They wiped past her, hitting her that she had to brush them off. He didn’t even noticed. Yet, as she looked at him, there was something strange that she’d never heard of; his face was scratched out, like a photograph that had been keyed. She tried to focus her eyes, but nothing shifted. Claire cleared her throat, taking a look at herself and found that she was wearing a jeans and plain t-shirt combination. The man jumped, standing up, and his face didn’t change. She was hoping that it would when he saw her.

Instead of reacting, she put on a nervous smile, and waved to him.

“Hi,” she said, her voice small.

“Hi,” he replied, his voice low, like it was made of gravel, but it was beautiful to listen to. He walked to her slowly.

“How does this work?” she asked, giggling out of...well, she didn’t know, she just let it go without realising it was there.

“I have no idea,” he replied back with a similar chuckle. He was wearing something like she was, just jeans and shirt; but it was a seahawks jersey, so Claire knew that would make her dad happy. “I’ve been waiting for two years to see your face,” he said, her hand nervously running up her arm.

“Two years?” she asked, stepping forward as though she was pulled into his gravity, “wasn’t that hard?” She looked up to the mess that was the scratches, wondering if she’d ever see him smile and wondering if his eyes sparkled the way she thought they did.

“I can be patient,” he muttered, his hand on her cheek, barely present, but so warm to fall into.

Claire took back to her things, ignoring the worried voices of Zara and Vivian, both of them just sounded like white noise. God, why were her ears ringing? Why did she feel like she needed to be sick? And that she needed to shout and scream and hurl things at him ? She picked up her bag only to be met with Owen tugging on her arm.

“Don’t you dare touch me,” Claire spat out harshly, turning to Owen. She knew she looked like a raging bull, and he sure feared her like one. She pushed him off, pulling out her phone and calling for anyone or anything to come and get her.

“Hey! You don’t get to do that,” Owen called, just as the staff were beginning to crowd, gossip about what the hell was going on. But they couldn’t have known.

“Yes, I sure as hell do,” Claire scoffed. Owen finally got to her side, holding her in place.

“Claire would you just listen to me!” he shouted, making her shiver. They both stared each other down, angrier than the other.

“You lied to me for two years -” Claire returned her shout, and Owen let go.

“- And I had to wait ten!” he shouted back, the resolve of ten years shattered as defenses came loose. Claire felt her knees go weak, almost buckle at the words. Her eyes started to well and she felt like she was swallowing her own tongue the way her throat felt tight. There was no longer anger brewing, she was on the verge of breaking. Owen flinched, a knee jerk reaction as her anger and his composure collided to create his breaking point; like glass shattering in the wake of a hurricane. He saw his mistake, and the hurt that they had both inflicted in the words he spoke; because he wasn’t wrong. “Claire, I…” he said softly, but Claire backed away, moving off from the beach.

“Don’t. Just don’t.” Claire cleared her throat, pushing herself up the walkway and to the main street, fixing up her dress as her hands shook and her breathing felt shallow and useless. When her cab finally arrived, Claire couldn’t keep her hands from shaking as she gripped into her bag. She felt like her body couldn’t reset, on the verge of shutting down and completely breaking.

When her mind was racing over a thousand thoughts, she couldn’t help but isolate the one; he knew. He had tried to explain, had even told her in the past that he saw her face clearly. And those dreams...they were all him. He had been inside her, kissed her until she saw stars and come inside her. Claire had wanted it but….this wasn’t what was supposed to happen; she was supposed to get things right. So, why was her life suddenly a disaster zone?

Back at the hotel, she went to her room, suitcase already inside and on her bed, Claire reclined against the door. Her legs held no purchase and knees were too weak to handle to crushing weight in her chest. She felt the tremor in her hands again, the shake that rattled her and her bones, tearing her up from the inside out.

She felt like she couldn’t trust her hands; they touched him and didn’t know. Her mind focused on him, the way he smiled or how his jaw went slack when he couldn’t himself together, and she pulled herself away, shutting her eyes tightly to think of anything else. Her chest, the offensive part of her, still pounded at the thought of him; it still craved him after everything.

In every moment, she felt trapped, confined to a space that wouldn’t let her breathe no matter how large of a space it was. Claire needed to do something - anything - just to not feel so helpless inside her own skin. Before she could stop herself, to think about what she was doing, she was tossing her things across the room, tearing at the clothes she had on just to get rid of the feeling on her body. When she was left with a room of scattered items, tossed bed and lamps on their side, she felt hollow. The rage and the pain that burned inside was but an ember, and she felt numb.

She needed to get clean. She went into her bathroom, took herself into the bathtub and cradled herself there. The last time she had pressed herself so close, shielded herself from the pain of everything...she had seen her sister. The thought of what Karen said lingered in her mind, and Claire pressed her mouth to her knees.

“There were times where I wished I never knew him at all.”

Claire felt her lip quiver, but she didn’t break. Even if everything in her wanted to. She wasn’t going to break. And no matter how long she remained in the bath, she would always remember what every touch he gave her felt like - every glance, every smile, every kiss - she’d always remember it. And they wouldn’t leave her be. Sinking into the depths of the water, the only place she felt safe, she screamed; for as long as her lungs could take it, she screamed. The pain, the loneliness of ten years, the betrayal; everything was yelled into the water that wouldn’t tell the world a thing of what she was going through.

When she was gasping for air, she leaned over the edge of the tub, the inside of her chest finally feeling what her whole body was; like it had been so physically hurt, it was a miracle she was still standing. Combing back her wet hair, her hands still unable to find any form of normalcy, she knew she had to get up and get dressed. Dressing in the pajamas she brought along, hearing the buses roll up outside. Moving out of her bathroom and into her room, she peered out the window, seeing that the rest of the staff was coming in to the hotel, the afternoon looming outside and Claire’s day had shortened to her surprise. Hoisting herself up, she stayed on her bed, thinking for hours about everything, about nothing and anything, that had to do with him.

“Eh, toss it up to my soulmate.”

Owen had once said, boasting about his soulmate. It felt like a dam, washing over in realisation after realisation; waves crashing into her and making her over analyse everything lately. Even their past.

“It’s complicated.”

He said it constantly, never said her name, never even described her. He was talking about Claire . He was always referring to her. She was the complication. She was the reason that he never had concrete information about his soulmate; because she was as distant as the description. Claire tossed in her bed as she thought on.

“Can you see my face?” He had asked her the night after that first dream of them in bed. “I just wanted to know if things….had changed.”

He…

He expected that things had changed - that they were finally different. If they were close in those dreams, why couldn’t they be in these ones. Why were they still so far apart.

“What’s wrong?” He was there that day after Karen left. He was there ready to talk to her; but why?

“I don’t wanna talk about it. Please leave.”

“Claire, I -”

“Please.”

He listened but even in that moment she didn’t want him gone. She pulled herself away, tucked herself into safety like she always did. Hours were spent as Claire thought on everything, the way he talked, the way he stood, the way he smiled or touched her. He acted the same, perfectly the same in every version of himself. Even as she thought on it, she couldn’t realise how stupid she was - he was in the army, same as her soulmate; he always knew when things were wrong; he read her like he knew her, because he did.

“I’m going to meet my soulmate soon.”

He anticipated it. The change in them. In what was happening to themselves.

You know me.”

He said that in that dream. It...it wasn’t her nightmare. It was Owen’s. He wanted her - the other Claire - because she saw him.

Claire saw him. She saw him everyday.

But did she? Before everything started to change, did she even pay attention to him?

Claire had been waiting on the pier all morning, the sign with his name on displayed and waiting for whoever he was to arrive. Owen Grady. That’s what the tablet said. New animal trainer.

When the 10am ferry arrived with new guests, there was one that stood out to her. He was wearing a button up shirt but the sleeves were rolled and his jeans hugged him but still seemed roomy. A bag was held over his shoulder, making his arm flex and shirt seem far tighter than necessary. He scanned the crowd as he walked down the ramp.

He saw her and he stopped. She remembered that. He stopped just at the bottom of the ramp. Somehow, just by seeing him...he seemed soft, gentle. He was patient. She remembered thinking he was patient. She shifted her shoulders, waiting with a tap in her foot as he finally went over to her.

“Hi,” he beamed, a smile wide and beautiful. He was gorgeous just to look at. There was something primal hidden underneath her skin, pulling her towards the gravity that he held. She had to fight the urge to want to be near him. Taking in a deep breath, she held herself tall.

“Are you Owen?” she asked, holding her tablet to her chest.

“Y-yeah,” he stammered. There was something to him, the way he leaned or even spoke. He was familiar. She pushed it aside, extending her hand and taking hold of his, shaking it firmly.

“Claire Dearing, operations director. I oversee your role here on the island,” “Okay, so let’s go to my office so you know your job. You report to me every other week, but I do expect written reports sent to my office every week,”

“Yes, Claire,” he said, voice so light that even the sound of it made her chest flutter, shivers running over her skin. Claire rolled her shoulders, turning back to him. He was closer than she expected - but would come to find as their norm - and she held herself up, squaring her shoulders to match his.

“Ms Dearing will do,” she said, tilting her chin. He smirked, tucking his hands into his pockets. Why was he so goddamn attractive? This wasn’t a fair exchange, especially in the world they live in. “No need to get familiar,” she said, setting her jaw. Owen became straighter, the smirk lost and his eyes fading. There was something deep inside her, that twisted at the sight of his dwindling smile. She ignored it, pushing herself forward and guiding them into the main building.

Even before everything, before she did get to know him, she threw him aside as though he were nothing. He had seen her in person for the first time and she acted like she couldn’t stand being around him. As she cradled herself on her bed, knees brought up to her chest, it was the only time she allowed herself to cry, to bawl until her eyes stung and her chest couldn’t take the pain. She could sense a hovering of feeling, distant from herself, but so close, almost ready to touch - until it pulled away, chased from her cries and whimpers that only the brokenhearted could recognise.

“There were times where I wished I never knew him at all.”

Claire could see the sun coming up, and she felt the breaking point inside her chest. The sun made the room so light, it felt so foreign to be in her room. How could everything be so bright? Why was it that she felt so hollowed out that not even the breaking of another day before sleep could even come. It wasn’t like she planned on sleeping anyway, the thought of seeing him there when...everything was a mess. She couldn’t handle that much hurt.

When her floor came to life and she was still curled up in her room, there was a knock that came to her door. A shake raced through her body; she didn’t want to see him, not now. The door rattled with another, lighter knock this time. A voice called from the other side, cautious and soft. “Claire? It’s Zara. You in there?” Claire sighed, getting up and going to the door. Opening it, she saw a weary smile on Zara’s face. “You weren’t at dinner and I haven’t seen you this morning. I got worried.”

Inviting Zara inside, Claire tossed herself back onto her bed. “I didn’t feel like eating. Not with everyone watching,” she sighed, curling up on top of the covers. She found that Zara crawled beside her, curling up and looking at the lowly woman that Claire would seem to be. As Zara’s gaze held her, Claire knew in this moment of utter confusion and devastation, she still has someone to hold her hand if she needed. She always had Zara.

“Then, we’ll get room service. Just us,” Zara replied and Claire scoffed, nodding in reply. They ordered up some food, knowing that everyone else was in the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and getting Claire to look presentable. They knew it wasn’t meant for spite him - to say she was doing fine no matter how he betrayed her - but just to feel okay; to feel like the world hadn’t just caved in on her. Claire sipped at the remainder of her coffee as they had Claire sitting in front of the mirror, Zara braiding Claire’s hair.

“Did yesterday go alright?” Claire asked carefully. Claire looked in the mirror, watching as Zara smiled, and continued on with Claire’s hair.

“Everyone loved the beach and the restaurants you suggested, everything was amazing,” she explained, but there was something that hung onto the end of her sentence; biting at her lip, there was something that Zara was keeping to herself.

“But…”

“Everyone was talking,” she whispered and Claire groaned, covering her face. She should have expected this; they were yelling at each other on the edge of a beach, it wasn’t exactly subtle. “Owen left straight after so we don’t actually know anything, but I can assume,” Zara continued, and Claire straightened.

“W-what?” Claire stuttered.

“He’s your guy?” she questioned back and Claire ran a hand over her face.

“It didn’t make sense,” she said, her chest feeling tight, “then I saw the scar. I knew it. I’d seen it so many times,” Claire swallowed the lump in her throat, but everything felt so confronting. Zara rubbed Claire’s shoulder.

“And that’s when you found out?”

“I couldn’t…” Claire stopped. Zara knew Claire’s issue - why they never talked about Claire’s personal life - yet, it was still hard to say these things to someone that wasn’t….wasn’t her soulmate. She’d only just realised that she only ever felt comfortable talking to Owen about it all.

“I know. But nothing else?” Zara interrupted the thought.

“It’s c-” she almost said what he did. But there were no other words. “It’s complicated.”

“Come on. We don’t want to miss the bus,” Zara let it drop, and Claire was thankful for it.

After finishing up with their breakfast and collecting their bags, they rode down in the elevator. Being around Zara felt easier than it had before - there was no pressure or expectations; just a woman who needed someone. And Zara took the role on like she was made for it. She was the perfect support if her job had anything to say about her skills. Claire should have known, but Zara knew what to do, and that meant everything to Claire.

In the lobby, Zara took their bags, readying towards the buses that were waiting for the last minute members of staff. “Can you make sure we have everything ready on the buses?” Claire asked, and Zara nodded kindly.

“Sure,” she smiled before heading off. Claire walked slowly in the foyer. She went through her bag, searching for her phone - she needed to get things in order, to press forward in her life instead of dreading on things she couldn’t change - mostly, she wanted to talk to Karen. It was hard to talk about this with her, but Claire felt like she needed Karen more than ever now.

“Dammit, where the hell is it?” she cursed, stalling in the foyer as she kept going through her bag. Finally finding the phone, she was pulling up Karen’s contact when there was a shiver up her back that she couldn’t ignore. She arched her shoulders, trying to find comfort before she realised she wouldn’t - she couldn’t - because of the person standing behind her. Turning, she saw him, comfortable clothes, shorts and a t-shirt that fit him perfectly; it was her Owen. She took in a deep breath as she turned back around.

“Claire I need to talk to you,” Owen said, his voice making her fragile. It always did - no matter what she told herself.

“Not right now, Owen,” she said, trying to walk away, but he caught her arm, abandoning his bag. He took hold of her wrists, touch barely there, but it kept her still. They faced each other, daylight gracing them like a spotlight; they were the only people there, and she was defenseless against him when he held her so tenderly. She wanted that feeling under different circumstances; she wanted all of this under different circumstances.

His voice was low, leaning in delicately. Claire felt herself catch a breath. “Claire -”

“Ten years. And you blame me for it,” she retorted, trying to remain strong, but he pulled her in, leaning down further and making her feel so small. It wasn’t the kind of small where one could be defenseless, that they were so tiny in comparison to the other. It was the kind of small that made her feel tender and precious, that he would take care of her regardless of what was happening to him.

“No, Claire, I don’t,” he said, voice low and steady, looking for something in her, eyes invading her own to see what he could do. There wasn’t anything he could say.

“Then -”

He fired back quickly, kicking her off balance in a few words. “Then nothing! Do you know how hard it was to not tell you -”

“Why didn’t you?” she said, finally pulling herself away. Claire couldn’t allow herself to be sucked into the warmth of him, who he was to her. She had a right to be mad; she was wronged, and everything hurt.

“Because I didn’t know what that was going to happen. I didn’t know if you’d hate me or if you’d just realise,” he said, trying to step closer but it hurt her. Everything he was doing, every time he was near her, it hurt. She didn’t fully understand why. but having him near her after the pain, and the hurt, and everything she’d done - it all hurt.

“I’ve gotta go. This can wait,” Claire said quickly, pulling away and moving towards the door.

“Can it?” Owen called out. Claire stopped, clenching her fist, her skirt hitting the top of her knees from the halt and making her feel like she was about to fall. The right amount of wind could knock her over. Taking a breath, she turned. Even from a distance, she could see he was barely holding himself together.

“This once, just let it.”

“I’m...I’m tired of waiting, Claire,” he said with a pause. And something crumbled inside her, the tears welling in her eyes.

“Then you shouldn’t have lied,” she said, feeling the tremble in her lip and biting into it to stop the shake.

“I didn’t lie,” he tried to say, moving forward but was stilled when Claire stumbled back with her hand raised.

“You didn’t even bother to tell me. So, is there really any difference?” she shrugged, moving through the doors as her eyes let slip tears. She wiped them away as though they were never there; no one would ever be the wiser. Reaching the buses, she tucked herself into her seat, shielded by Zara and noticing that Owen and Barry were boarding the next bus, regardless of how many free seats this one had.

They all sat in awkward silence on the bus, avoiding the question everyone had; ‘what happened?’ There wasn’t a way she could explain it without it seeming ridiculous, and she didn’t owe an explanation. She still hadn’t called Karen. Maybe she could when she got back to the island. It was a distant thought; it had to be.

Everything felt like it was moving past her like a daze, unable to grasp onto any one moment unless it felt like it was ready to blow the wind straight out of her. She was taken from her seat and onto the ferry, sitting patiently against the window and away from anyone with prying questions - she had Zara looking over her shoulder. When Claire’s eyes could barely remain open, her yawns becoming harder to ignore, Zara eyed Claire.

“Hey, why don’t you go get some sleep? It’s going to be a while before we get to the island,” she questioned and Claire felt fear strike into her, the worry and doubt of it all.

“What if -”

Zara smiled, winking at her with confidence to boot. “I’ll make sure you won’t be bothered. Here, rest on this,” she said, handing over her travel pillow and sweater, pilling them together as she stood and went over to the main distraction that was keeping her awake. She watched as Zara and Owen talked, Zara guiding him away, but there was still that heart wrenching part of her that watched him as he left.

Putting the pillow up against the window, and resting her head upon it, she found that she drifted to sleep in moments. In her dream, there is nothing. it’s just her, sitting alone in a dark room. It was peaceful - silent and unimportant. How tranquil nothing had become to her. Claire deserved it - she craved it. There was a moment where she thought she could cry, but in the end, there wasn’t much point in it. To dwell on the sadness when it mounted to more pain was useless and would end up disappointing her, for it would never have a resolution that way.

She woke up when Zara nudged her, helping her get her bags and took her by without anyone asking or even staring at her; she didn’t like the eyes. Claire had a suspicion that Zara had threatened everyone with just a glare, but she couldn’t be sure. They walked for a while, just to make sure that they weren’t bombarded by people around the staff quarters. Everything they did seemed to have a direct and perfect plan to it; if Claire wasn’t careful, Zara could have her job in the blink of an eye if she really wanted it.  

Back at Claire’s place, they got everything in order, unpacked and talked about Zara’s wedding and the problems that were coming up. It kept Claire’s mind occupied and she promised Zara that everything would be fine, even when she left. Yet, in the aftermath of her assistant leaving, Claire was left with the only question that had haunted her for two days; he knew. So, she did everything she thought of; she cleaned, she dusted, she organised, she rearranged furniture before turning it back around because it fit everything she liked the first time.

In her little kitchen, she looked to her groceries and knew that the only thing she could do now was go down to the staff market and buy herself supplies for the coming week. If she got out of her apartment, maybe she wouldn’t have to face the questions she had for herself. Getting herself in jeans and a singlet shirt, out of clothes that felt too light compared to how she was feeling, she headed down. Walking in aisles and scanning products, everything became tedious and tiring. Her life seemed more together when things were a shitshow. Now, everything she knew was a heaping lump of crap, doing anything seemed pointless.

Rounding another corner, she saw Owen, collecting his own groceries. They both stared at each other, waiting for something. Claire didn’t want to start this again. So, she turned around, heading into the next aisle and getting everything she needed.

“You can’t keep avoiding me,” she heard Owen whisper as he came up beside her. She recoiled sharply, pulling away and trying to stop herself from looking at him. She had to stop tempting herself the way she had been for months.

“I can sure as hell try,” she muttered underneath her breath.

“Please, Claire,” he pleaded and Claire scoffed.

“Oh, don’t ‘please Claire’ me,” she whispered back angrily, finally facing him and not shying this time. She couldn’t feel so bombarded, so threatened with weakness that she wanted to get out of there. She was going to be spiteful; because she deserved to be. “Was I really so dumb to think that my own soulmate would tell me who he was,” she asked, raising her brow to lure him to answer back.

“Claire. We never once asked each other our names. It was never important. I’ve known who you were for two years, sure,” he stopped, realising that this conversation wasn’t going to go his way, and it sure as hell wasn’t happening in a grocery store, “but things got complicated,” he sighed.

“Yeah, I’m sure your next sex position was a real hard one to figure out,” Claire spat back. “I’ve gotta go,” she muttered, turning towards the self-checkouts and buying everything she could as quickly as possible. She didn’t see Owen leave and didn’t check to see if he had or if he wanted to talk. She was done talking for now. She knew when the real conversation was going to start; when they couldn’t run away from each other, the only place that either of them felt safe was going to become a warzone.

There was no avoiding anything this time; Claire had to face him. Even if she wished it otherwise, she had to go to sleep and make sure everything she knew was wrong - that she was a fool for never seeing. And when sleep came, she was the only one there, streets that replicated that of her first dream with him. The location, with fond memories, felt like it could crumble if they were to see each other now.

There was a street corner with brickwork buildings raising up high. It was where she’d first seen him; sitting on the gutter and it had been their spot when they first started to get the hang of things. It was easiest to find the corner because they were always drawn there. She remembered it so well, but had never wondered what it felt like. Her hand grazed over the bricks, catching on the rough edges. How perfect this place was. Solitude was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. She turned, seeing his face in their dreams, and knowing...Owen was her soulmate.

“Hey,” he greeted with a smile. It was as if he had expected this to go well. Rolling her eyes, Claire moved on, only for her wrist to be caught before she could leave. “Are you seriously not talking? Claire, that’s a little beneath you,” he remarked. Claire turned back, yanking her wrist from his grasp, eyeing him down to make him feel so small, she could shatter him in a second.

“I just found out my soulmate has been lying to me for two years just so he could sleep with me,” she replied, spite in every word. She began walking down the street, containing the rage that built in her chest like a coil ready to snap.

“That wasn’t what happened,” he tried, following after her.

“Oh yeah? ‘Cause you certainly didn’t say anything after it started. Seemed like you wanted it to happen,” she scoffed, trying to pick up her pace. She was walking away from someone she couldn’t escape. It was better than just standing still.

“Didn’t you ever consider that maybe it made things harder?” he said, keeping in step with her.

“Oh yeah, real hard. Was it some sick way of getting me at last?” she rolled her eyes again before Owen stood in front of her. He was in her space, a space that was protective, now feeling suffocating yet she didn’t mind it if he took the last breath she had in her.

“Dammit, Claire, there wasn’t any instructions on how to handle this!” he yelled and Claire’s jaw shut tight.

“And you handled it badly,” she replied, swallowing hard as she tried to get herself to have the upper hand.

“You don’t need to tell me twice,” he said, edging towards her.

“Back away from me.” Her voice was unsteady, much like how she felt, but at least her body hasn’t sunk to the floor like it wanted to. She was achieving one good thing in this dream.  

“Oh like it’d really be a bad thing. Not like we haven’t done worse,” he scoffed and Claire had suffered enough. Her palm came round, slapping him across the face as hard as possible. The sound alone echoed around them, taking through the countless streets and replying back over and over with the same sound. Claire gasped, cupping her mouth. She hadn’t realised she was going to to it. It had happened so fast; a moment filled with anger and hurt, she wanted it to be a double sided event.

“I’m sorry,” she replied weakly as Owen rubbed at his cheek. “I just -”

“I shouldn’t have said it. You were right,” he apologised quickly, not looking at her. It wasn’t as though he didn’t mean it; he was hurt that he had even thought of saying it, bringing her to that level of frustration. He didn’t want it to happen like this, and neither did she. “I’m sorry I didn’t back off,” he said, looking up at her, eyes pleading for a second chance.

“Can we just...start over?” she asked carefully. With just a question, they both stepped back from each other, an unwelcome distance that felt more harmful than good. No matter how she was feeling, they were soulmates, and they were bound.

“Okay,” he replied, both walking cautiously in time with each other before meeting at the edge of a cafe, two steaming coffee mugs waiting. They both regarded each other; it was fitting. It’s what they had done in person, so what was stopping them here.

“You knew, this whole time?” she asked, sitting down before Owen. He was shocked by the question, but took a seat, sighing as he sat across from her.

“Yes,” he said simply. He grabbed for the mug in front of him, holding it for the warmth alone. He didn’t sip at it, or even look up from it. There was a tension in his shoulders that had him avoiding her. She didn’t blame him. “When we met two years ago, it was this incredible moment where I thought you were finally in reach,” he looked up, smiling as he spoke fond words to her, “but you didn’t even recognise me. Anything about me,” he said, his lips going tight and his jaw setting tight.

“In dreams…” Claire replied softly, and Owen leaned in, “before,” she explained further, “you sounded different. I didn’t recognise the way you talked. But you always felt...familiar.” Shrugging, she didn’t know how else to explain it, how he was always kept at bay by his voice or face.

Owen chewed on his lip, his elbows on the table as he gripped onto his coffee cup. “When you looked at me like a stranger, I knew I couldn’t say anything then. How was I meant to explain to you that I knew you hated the way your hair looked when it was short and I thought it was cute? I wasn’t going to outright admit it. You didn’t seem to want to get to know me or even interact with me. I tried but you just saw it as...well I don’t know,” he explained, finally going for a sip. Claire ran her finger over the rim of the mug; she was the on now avoiding looking directly at him.

“I just thought…” she sighed, trying to phrase this without seeming horrible. “I thought you were trying to sleep with me. Something happened with your soulmate and you wanted something to spite them,” she replied, trying to laugh away the idea.

Owen tilted his head as his brow rose in surprise. “That is...a lovely image I have of how you saw me,” he chuckled.

“That was when I met you,” she said quickly, saving herself from her hurtful words, “that isn’t how I see you now. I promise,” she said, reaching across the table for his hand. He took it, his thumb running over the soft skin and across her index knuckle.

“I know.”

Looking at him, it was easy to see why the universe put them together; a mess but one that wanted each other nonetheless. She wanted him when he looked sad and blue because she wanted to comfort him. She wanted him when he smiled because she wanted to be responsible. Claire just wanted Owen. And yet...she couldn’t in this moment. She pulled her hand away. “What happened when the dreams started?”

“The -”

“The sex dreams, Owen,” she clarified before he could ask.

“It just happened,” he started with a sigh, “you were right there, barely wearing a thing, and you were right there,” he said, reminiscing on the moment. Claire did too. She couldn’t say he was guilty in part for wanting one another; she saw him there and wanted him. And when he kissed first, she was thankful he did. “But I didn’t realise you thought it was…” he stopped himself before shrugging. “I don’t even know what you were thinking. It wasn’t until the end where you were just calling out my name, I knew something was different. I over thought it and got mad at myself,” he said, looking at her with saddened eyes and Claire knew what went wrong; they both knew why it all went that way.

“That’s why you were rude the next few days,” she clarified.

“I thought I fucked up,” he said, sipping at his coffee again. Claire took another sip of her own, wondering how either of them created such a coffee that it tasted the exact same in dreams that it did at the coffee house they frequented. “I knew something you didn’t,” he explained, “and yeah it felt like I was doing everything against your consent. It felt wrong every time. I just...I wanted you and you seemed to want me,” he said, rubbing at the back of his neck. It sounded like the worst thing it could be; but that wasn’t it at all, it was just complicated .

“I thought it was an ordinary dream. That you weren’t real. I had built up this idea of you and I thought that’s what it was,” Claire said softly.

“It was me.”

“I know that now.”

They both looked at each other and chuckled softly for a moment. They needed to ease the pressure that they weighed on each other. And hearing him laugh in that moment, she felt such ease. She could continue without feeling like she needed to cry every minute of this conversation. He made it easier when they both made it all the more difficult.

“I didn’t know how to bring it up. If you thought I would be expecting us to start where those dreams ended,” he explained. “I didn’t. And I don’t,” he justified. Claire nodded because she knew him, she knew what he was like even with that arrogant smile and an attitude to match, he would never expect that. “I put myself in this mess because I didn’t tell you after we met. After I knew you didn’t know me,” he said.

“It was complicated for me to tell you after it all happened. Even that night I told you. Soulmate dream version. It tore me up. I felt...like I was hurting you,” she said with a sigh, running her fingers through her hair before settling into her chair further and taking another sip of coffee.

“You felt guilty because you wanted me more than your soulmate,” Owen muttered, looking down at his coffee. Claire rolled her eyes, kicking at his shin underneath the table. He hissed before looking up at her with a smile.

“I felt conflicted because I didn’t know how to tell him I wanted both of you,” she explained, and the smile he had faded. He hadn’t expected her to say it; that she could want who they both were. Who he appeared to her, in every version. “I still want you, Owen. And that guy that was in my dreams for all those years. It’s just hard to remember that you’re the same person. That you want me in every version,”

“I’m sorry I fucked this up,” he said, the tension in his shoulders finally easing. Claire smiled, a bittersweet smile but it was wonderful to feel like she could.

“All I ever wanted to do was see your face. To know who you were,” she said, swallowing a lump in her throat and sniffing away the choked up feeling she had running over her. “You should have told me. You shouldn’t have lied,” she explained, knowing that Owen already knew it. But they needed to air everything out. Owen nodded before shrugging.

“It’s done Claire. I regret not telling you,” he said, soft and tender words that held no malice. “But how was I was supposed to bring up the fact that I was your soulmate, since the moment we met, you have shown an outward disgust of me. It didn’t exactly give me a vote of confidence,” he scoffed at the idea. Claire couldn’t fault him on that idea, but he sighed regardless, letting a hand run over his face as he took in his own words. “I’m not trying to excuse what I did. But you have to understand how I got to this point,” he asked her.

“I do, Owen. And I don’t blame you for this. It was hard for both of us,” Claire said, getting up from the table and walking across the empty street. She walked slowly, her hands on the back of her neck and trying to stretch out the uncomfortable itching in her feet. Run. Move. Get away. All her body wanted was to avoid these feelings. But she couldn’t avoid feeling anymore.

“How are we supposed to fix this?” Owen said, moving quickly up from the table and standing in front of her. He caught hold of her shoulder, running his hands across her skin where her shirt ended. His eyes were desperate for resolution. And she realised what brought him to this point more than anything; the fear of losing her. The fear of losing something you wanted more than anything but could never grasp properly. She was slipping from him. He felt like she slipping away. Claire’s heart broke for it. Her feet didn’t want to move anymore. “I don’t want the answer to be ‘there’s nothing left to fix’. I can’t handle that,” he said with a crack in his voice that he tried to disguise.

“We have to...take it slow,” she said, phrasing it to sound like a question; could they, just now, after everything, take it slow so I can catch up? It’s all she asked.

“Are we okay?” he asked, clearing his throat. Claire had no idea how to answer that, how to answer the desperate eyes he begged her with.

“Can we just walk for a while?”

“Yeah. I’d like that,” he said, a beaming smile on his face as he took the lead. His smile was so kind, so bright and warm that it filled her with such a grace, such a europhic melody that she felt herself ready to hum or sing.  

And all Claire could think about was how much she wanted to kiss him and say things would be okay. Eventually. She didn’t want him to wait; and she wasn’t going to. Just a little more time. She’d be his. But nothing was fixed, nothing was set in stone, and no one could tell when their patch of happiness would arrive. For now, they walked, trying to remain civil, because what else did they have?