Lowery Cruthers has worked at Masrani Global and Jurassic World long enough to see Claire Dearing’s transition from intern all the way up to Senior Assets Manager, witnessing her transformation from quiet, hardworking college student to cold, controlling management material. Where he prides himself on never changing, on never abandoning his post as Control Room Technician, most days he looks at her and can’t find the girl he met at the initial intern meeting.
Upon his introduction to Zara Young, Claire’s assistant after her most recent promotion, Lowery is struck by how perfect of a match she is for Claire. Where Claire sometimes struggles with putting her thoughts into sentences that other people can follow, Zara is capable of charming her way into the good graces of anybody she comes into contact with. Where Claire overlooks emotions, Zara can convey to her with a quick look just what she’s missing.
They complement each other in their similarities, too. They’re both prickly and naturally reserved around others, something which isolates them from the rest of the office. They’re both sharp, intelligent to a point where Lowery would feel self-conscious if it weren’t for his (rarely used) degree. They share the same quick, dry sense of humour, smirking in unison at comments that make everyone else feel like they’re either the butt of the joke or missing out on it completely. Most of all, though, they operate as a cohesive unit. Before Claire can reach for something, Zara is already handing it to her; before Claire can ask a question, Zara has the answer.
However, for all of his mental notes on the manager and her assistant, Lowery can’t help but feel like he’s overlooking something. There’s a piece of the puzzle missing, and he hasn’t tracked it down just yet.
Eventually, everything falls into place on what is supposed to be a regular Tuesday morning.
Lowery looks up from in his desk just in time to see Zara crossing the control room towards him. When he doesn’t hear the signature sound of the Senior Assets Manager’s heels clicking across tile behind her, he relaxes in his chair.
“Nice shirt,” she forgoes a greeting, smirking as she eyes the shirt in question.
“I know you’re making fun of me, but it actually is a really nice shirt.” He places a hand protectively over the original Jurassic Park logo splayed across his chest.
“I’m sure,” Zara perches on the edge of his desk, throwing a wave over Lowery’s shoulder to Vivian at the neighbouring work station. “Just don’t let Claire see it.”
“Speaking of the boss, has she seen the lipstick all over your dress?”
As Zara jumps back up and checks herself over, slapping a hand over the incriminating spot suspiciously close to her neck, it’s Lowery’s turn to smirk.
“I must have spilled some when I was touching up earlier,” Zara explains, frantically rubbing at the stain now. Lowery doesn’t think he’s ever seen the unflappable assistant look so flustered before.
“I’m sure,” he mimics, pulling a stain removal stick out of the top drawer. She glowers.
(When Claire enters the control room later that day, the same color painting her lips as what was on Zara’s dress, he doesn’t even raise an eyebrow).
Vivian Krill is an early-riser. She’s a firm believer that the early bird gets the worm, even on weekends, which is why it’s no surprise that, on a Sunday morning before 7:00am, she’s standing in line at the Starbucks on Main Street. What is surprising, however, is that Zara Young is in line in front of her.
If it was any other time, in any other spot in the park, Vivian would greet her and make small talk. But the sun has just finished peeking over the buildings, and she knows that Zara isn’t a morning person. She’s not habitually late like her boss is, but that doesn’t mean she likes being up early. They’re usually in this line during weekdays, but Vivian learned after the first few attempts not to bother trying to interact with the assistant until she’s in the office.
The line moves ahead and it’s Zara’s turn to order.
“Can I get a vanilla latte – non-fat milk, sugar-free syrup – and an earl grey tea? Both grandes,” Zara prattles off the order easily.
At first, Vivian doesn’t react. She’s heard Zara order the exact same thing every weekday for the past two years. But then it dawns on her: it’s Sunday. She’s not heading into the office to meet Claire, so why is she ordering Claire’s drink?
Vivian considers the idea that they’re working overtime. Claire is married to her job, after all. But then she takes in Zara’s outfit: a worn gift shop t-shirt, leggings, and a messy bun on the top of her head is decidedly not office attire, even if it is the weekend.
After placing her own order and watching Zara leave with two drinks in hand, Vivian can practically hear the pieces click together in her mind. In the same breath, she realizes that she now owes Lowery twenty bucks.
When Owen Grady commits to something, he commits completely. All or nothing. He blames it on his time in the Navy; a by-product of the rigid military lifestyle he once had. So, when he decides he’s going to ask Claire Dearing on a date, he focuses on forming a plan of action and seeing it through.
Surprisingly, figuring out what to say isn’t the hard part. It’s deciding where to say it that poses the biggest problem. He can’t stop by her office, as he’s pretty sure Claire isn’t the type of person who would appreciate being approached romantically in the professional domain she’s worked hard to be taken seriously in. On the other hand, he can’t very well show up at her apartment, even if the park employees all live in the same set of buildings. Eventually, he settles for spending his lunch breaks in various areas of the park and hoping serendipity works in his favor.
It takes weeks, but one afternoon, it finally does.
“Hey, Claire,” he cuts into the path of her quick stride, stopping her halfway across the Innovation Center. On the other side of a holographic Dilophosaurus, her assistant is standing with an iPad, jotting down notes while she presumably waits for Claire.
“Mr. Grady, how can I help you?” Claire is all-business, her posture ram-rod straight as she waits for his answer, clearly ready to deal with whatever professional matter he brings to her attention.
She blinks slowly, her only movement being to brush a loose strand of red hair back into its designated place in her perfectly-straightened bob, and Owen feels like she’s staring right through him, her mind clearly elsewhere. He almost backs out, but powers through with the plan regardless.
“I was wondering if you’d want to grab dinner sometime after work.”
“Dinner?” Claire frowns and Owen is now positive that this isn’t going to be as simple as he thought.
“Yeah, dinner,” he explains, trying not to let his sudden nerves show. “As in a date.”
The awkward pause that follows feels like it stretches on for several minutes, even if the clock hanging above the door says otherwise. Owen finds himself wishing the T-Rex would come through that very door and end his suffering.
“I can’t,” Claire finally answers. Like everything she does, it’s direct and to the point.
She doesn’t even seem to realize that she’s looking in Zara’s direction instead of Owen’s, which is when it dawns on him that, for all his planning, he didn’t account for this.
“Oh, your assistant,” Owen rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably. “I didn’t put much stock into those rumours, but I guess I should have.”
Claire stiffens. “What rumours?”
“That you two are more than just colleagues,” Owen tilts his head towards Zara.
“I’m not – we’re not –” Claire stammers, her face heating up. Across the room, Zara is starting to look concerned.
“Claire,” the girl in question calls out. “You have that meeting in ten, we better get going.”
“Right. I have to go.” Claire turns sharply on her heel and walks briskly away, decidedly finished with this conversation.
“You do that.” Owen is smirking, already bouncing back from the rejection. He gives Zara a quick, mock salute, and only smiles wider at the confused look she shoots over her shoulder, her hand pressing subtly against Claire’s lower back to guide her towards the stairs.
Seeing them together now, really seeing them, makes him wonder how he ever overlooked this.
Karen Mitchell knows her sister. Even from an ocean away, you don’t spend half of your life growing up with somebody, sharing a bedroom, a bathroom, and the same developmental milestones, without figuring out exactly who they are, which is how she knows that Claire has something with her assistant. She figures it out the first time Claire breathes out the other girl’s name over a phone call, using a tone Karen has never heard her use in her twenty-eight years on this planet. Not over high school crushes, or college flings, or anybody after.
Her sister is in love for the first time that Karen is aware of, and she’ll be damned if she lets the rigid, workaholic character traits she developed – the ones that Karen didn’t – ruin this. So she pushes. She drops heavy-handed hints about marriage, and kids, and Claire’s future, in an attempt to plant some ideas in her head.
She knows she’s being annoying, reminding Claire far too much of their mother than the sister she grew up with, but that’s a part of her job. She has two children now, but she’s still Claire’s big sister. She has to look out for her best interests, no matter what.
Alec meets Zara on their first day of university. She catches his attention immediately from across the dining hall, but it’s not her impossibly green eyes, or her dark hair contrasting against her pale skin, or even the way her legs seem to go on for miles. Rather, it’s her laugh. It’s not tinkling and light like somebody trying to make a good impression. It’s loud, and sharp, and it stands out. It’s the type of laugh that would be unattractive from anybody else, if she didn’t carry it with such confidence. He almost trips in his haste to introduce himself, something that she tells him later she found cute.
Both in the business program, they bond over a shared hatred of statistics. He focuses on economics, planning to make his mark in London after graduation. She focuses on management, with a certificate in paleontology, setting out her entire plan to eventually work at the soon-to-be-open Jurassic World.
Regardless of the differences in their dreams for the future, they stay together throughout university. After graduation, Alec settles into a position at a financial powerhouse downtown, while Zara does an internship, and eventually moves into an entry level position, at Masrani Global’s London branch, her sights still firmly set on Jurassic World.
Three years after graduation, she gets the phone call she’s been waiting for, and he gets down on one knee. She says yes, she puts his ring on her finger, and then she gets on a plane for Isla Nublar and doesn’t look back.
He tells friends and coworkers that she’s just gaining some work experience before joining him back home. At first, they think it’s impressive that his fiancée is working with real live dinosaurs. It’s an ice breaker at work luncheons and events. But as the months, and eventually years, pass, the intrigued looks on their faces turn to pity. They go from asking about Zara, to avoiding Alec’s gaze whenever he mentions her. He stops bringing her up.
He almost books himself a ticket to the island, with two return tickets, a hundred times over, but his gut feeling that he wouldn’t like what he’d find there stops him.
What’s the saying? It’s easier to live in ignorance than to walk in on your fiancée fucking her boss? Something like that.
But everyone has their breaking point. Alec’s comes in the form of an invitation to his sister’s wedding to a man that she started dating after Zara had already left. He RSVPs yes and picks up the phone in the same breath.
“Hello?” Zara answers on the final ring. If Alec wasn’t currently filled with three years’ worth of rage, he’d focus on how surprising it is that she actually picked up the phone without him needing to call a second time or leave a voicemail.
“How long has it been going on?”
“Your boss, Zara. How long.”
He knows she’s aware that her excuses for not coming home to visit, for not even considering applying to jobs off of the island with three years of experience under her belt, for not even bothering to call him back most days, have gotten increasingly flimsy over the past few years. She got sloppy. But he also knows that she never expected him to call her on it.
He lets a heavy silence settle over the call, lets Zara squirm on the other end of the line. A petty side of him hopes that Claire is sitting right there, watching things blow up in her face.
“Alec, I –”
“Answer the question.”
For a long moment, she doesn’t respond, and the call settles back into silence. Alec can hear her breathing on the other line, so he knows she hasn’t hung up. He isn’t sure if she’s trying to think of the best way to break it to him, or if she’s trying to come up with a lie.
He’s forced himself to accept so many lies from her since she started the position at Jurassic World, he’s not sure that he could handle another.
“Three years,” she finally gasps out. “I’m sorry – Alec, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s been going on this entire time?” Somehow that realization hurts the most.
“I drew a line in the sand at some point. I didn’t realize – at first I thought I could carry out two lives and have it be okay, at least until I made a decision,” Zara struggles to explain herself. “And then I was in too deep, and I couldn’t end things without hurting you, and I couldn’t be with her without there being all of this negative fallout, and –”
“Oh, I’m so sorry that you didn’t realize that fucking your boss could have negative consequences.”
“I was fucking naïve, I admit that. I was selfish, I was a coward, I was every negative thing you could say about somebody in my position.”
“You still are, Zara! If I hadn’t called you on it, you would still be lying to me.”
“I know.” On the other end of the line, the confident girl he met in that dining hall suddenly sounds so very small.
“Before you took this job, I never would’ve thought you were capable of something like this.” Alec tries to hang onto his anger, but he’s only partially successful. He falters mid-sentence, his voice cracking by the end of it.
Regardless, the blow lands. On the other line, Zara draws in a shaky breath. “There’s no excuse for doing this to you.”
Alec breathes in, evenly, trying to maintain his composure.
“You may be the idiot who thought she could carry on two different lives, but I’m the idiot who thought you’d eventually come back and pick me. But you’d spend your whole damn life on that island with her if she’d let you,” Alec swallows roughly, squeezing his phone so hard he swears he can hear the plastic case creak. “But someday, Zara, she’s going to put that park above you, and you’re going to wish you’d never left me for somebody with more ambition than common sense.”
He hangs up the phone on that note, hoping that it stings, and waits for the sense of vindication to come.
It never does.
When Owen had mentioned it back during that second year, on his failed attempt at asking her on a date, Claire had been sickeningly terrified at the idea of the handlers, the control room – hell, the whole damn park – gossiping about her relationship with Zara.
Four years in, however, she’s finding she doesn’t care very much anymore.
Maintaining her professionalism is still one of her main concerns, of course, but a majority of her colleagues think she’s a frigid, uptight bitch, while the rest of them think she’s a loner, pitying her for being married to her job. If the remaining few people outside of those two main camps think she’s sleeping with her assistant, so be it.
It’s this thought process that leads to her suggesting to Zara one night, just as her breathing is about to even out before she falls asleep, “Maybe you could start keeping more of your things in my suite.”
There’s a heavy beat of silence.
“Claire? What?” Zara sounds genuinely confused. Claire powers ahead.
“You’ve had a toothbrush here practically this entire time. We already commute together to work –“
“You mean the office three blocks over on the island we’re trapped on?” Zara interrupts her, fully alert and awake now.
“Yes.” Claire doesn’t stray from the speech she’s thrown together. “Why not save time by –“
“Moving in together?” Zara cuts in, raising an eyebrow.
“Can you stop interrupting me?”
Zara can’t stop the laugh that comes out at that. Claire huffs.
“If it’s that ridiculous, we can just pretend I never suggested it.”
Zara reaches out and intertwines their hands. “No, no, no, Claire, I wasn’t laughing at your idea. It’s one of your best, really,” Zara continues, sliding her leg over the other girl’s waist so she’s straddling her. “Truly fantastic. Your mind never fails to amaze me.”
Claire rolls her eyes, and Zara brings her free hand up to her face, her thumb stroking the line of freckles she can’t see in the dark but knows by memory are there. She presses her mouth firmly to Claire’s and waits until she’s straining up towards her before she pulls away, enjoying the dazed look on Claire’s face before she finally answers the question. “I would love to move in with you.”
(When nobody reacts to the sudden openness of their once-closely-guarded secret, Claire tries to hide her surprise, while Zara tries to hide her amusement)