In the entire time that I'd been at Jurassic World, I'd only been to the raptor containment unit once. It had been during my very first week on the island and even then, seeing them had scared the shit out of me. So the idea of getting up close and personal with the carnivores wasn't something I was really looking forward to. It was a complicated combination of fear and thrill.
This time, Denny let me borrow one of the staff jeeps to get there. Being behind the wheel of an actual car for the first time since I'd gotten to the island was a weird feeling. I'd had a bizarre fear at first that I wouldn't remember how to do it. Somehow, though, I'd managed to make it to the containment unit without any incidents. Even the bag of styrofoam to-go boxes perched onto the passenger seat made it there okay. Not only had I been talked into meeting Owen's 'girls' (which I'd told him calling them that would never stop being weird), but he'd also somehow convinced me to bring him lunch.
"You're a god-send." Barry said gratefully, taking the bag from me. "I haven't eaten since six o'clock this morning."
"I know." I grinned. I clicked the lock button on the keychain before sliding the keys into my bag. "Where is he?"
Before Barry could answer, Owen poked his head from around the cage door. "Hey, come here!" He called, waving me over.
I shook my head. "No, I'm fine. I'll just stand here."
One side of Owen's mouth quirked upwards into an amused smile. "They can't hurt you right now. Just come here."
Barry chuckled. "You know how relentless he can be. He's right, though. This is the only time it's even remotely safe to be around them." He gave me an encouraging smile before prodding me in the direction of the massive concrete and steel walled cage.
I hesitated before taking a tentative step towards the open door. All four raptors were in their own individual stalls, just their heads showing. A huge metal contraption, that looked like a hardcore, heavy-duty muzzle, kept their jaws snapped shut. I almost felt sorry for them, but quickly reminded myself of what they were capable of without the confinements that were obviously there for a reason.
"It's the only way we can safely get blood samples from them. Better than tranquilizing them all just so we can run tests." Owen explained, glancing over his shoulder towards me.
I finally made it inside the square caged room, an automatic barred door the only thing separating us from the actual containment unit. On the wall opposite me was a control panel that most like controlled everything from the doors to the muzzles on the raptor's jaws. Owen was standing next to one of the raptors, running his hands along the animal's long snout. It let out a huff of air, and it almost seemed like his touch was soothing to it. My heart started to speed up, in a way much different than it usually did when Owen was around. My palms felt sweaty at my sides as my eyes swept over each of the four raptors.
"You can touch her...she can't hurt you, remember?" Owen reminded me, giving me a reassuring smile before gesturing for me to come closer. Still feeling incredibly unsure about the situation, but not wanting seem like a total wuss, I sucked in a deep breath and shrugged off my purse before taking slow, deliberate steps in Owen's direction. The raptor's yellow eyes followed me, eyeing me in a way that almost seemed suspicious. "Okay, good. See not so scary, right?" Owen teased when I finally within arms length of the huge reptile.
I glared at him halfheartedly. "Which one is this?" I asked, turning my eyes back towards the raptor. It's skin was a deep turquoise color, with flecks of green in the scales around her eyes and jaw.
"This is Delta." He said, giving the animal an affectionate pat. "She'll let you touch her. Just move slowly. Be gentle. She doesn't know you yet. It's like petting any animal for the first time."
"She isn't exactly any animal, Owen." I mumbled quietly, fingers flexing at my side as I gathered my courage.
Owen grinned. "Yeah, but I thought if I said that it'd make you feel better."
I snorted with nervous laughter before deciding to be brave and reaching up, sliding my fingers along Delta's snout and the top of her head. Her scales weren't as dry as I thought they'd feel, and were instead smooth beneath my fingertips. It was exactly the way any other lizard's skin would feel, but on a much grander scale. Delta let out a low snarl and I jerked my hand away quickly, my gaze snapping towards Owen.
"Shh...it's okay. She's a friend." He was assuring the animal. Like it could understand his words. For all I knew maybe it could. Owen glanced from Delta towards me and motioned with a nod of his for me to give it another shot. I reached out again, this time stroking her underneath her jaw like I'd seen Owen doing before. "Good...she's just gotta get used to you."
"Hey Owen, you got a second?" Barry's voice came from behind me.
"You gonna be okay?" Owen asked, and I could feel his eyes assessing me, trying to sense whether or not I was comfortable alone for a minute. I nodded, keeping my eyes on Delta. Her eyelids flicked shut as she blinked, her vertical pupil still staring at me, studying me. Owen gently squeezed my shoulder before stepping away, disappearing out of my view.
Without his reassuring presence, I felt much more unease but tried to fight it by taking in slow, even breaths and keeping my movements steady. The raptor next to Delta let out a snort, catching my attention. I recognized this one by the significant streak of color that started at the base of her head and swept down the rest of it's body, which was currently hidden from view. I debated whether or not it was a good idea for a second before stepping around Delta and moving towards the raptor I remembered was called Blue.
"Hey, girl." I breathed quietly. I reached out to stroke her snout, the same way I had with Delta. She was calm at first, almost unmoving. The one eyes that could see me never wavered. The intelligence I saw in it's gaze was unnerving. I could sense why Owen had such a high respect for these animals. You had to.
I slid my hand underneath Blue's jaw and several things suddenly happened all at once. Blue let out a loud, piercing shriek that made my blood run cold and my heart leap into my throat. She began thrashing her head, although the muzzle made it hard for her to move much at all. She bared her teeth, the sharp, razor like weapons stealing the breath from my lungs.
She let out another threatening snort and I was stumbling backwards. I turned, preparing to force my body to sprint for my life when Owen was suddenly there. I smashed right into his chest and his arms came around my waist trying to steady me, but he was staggering backwards thanks to my momentum. Before I could really comprehend what the hell was happening, we were both on the ground.
"Holy crap." Owen grunted, his voice somewhere near my ear. "That's one hell of a tackle. You okay?"
I was very aware of my face turning red as I realized I was sprawled on top of him, one of his hands on the small of my back. Oh Jesus...I struggled to push myself upwards, while simultaneously trying to catch my breath and not seem embarrassingly flustered.
"She growled at me." I said, and realized the second it left my mouth how stupid it sounded.
I could feel Owen's chest vibrating underneath me as he laughed. "It was Blue, wasn't it? I should've warned you she can be a little sassy."
I racked my brain for something witty to say, something clever and funny, but I was too preoccupied by the way he felt underneath me. It was making it very, very hard to think straight about anything at all. I cleared my throat. "Sorry. I'm squishing you." I mumbled.
I realized both my hands were braced against his chest, which caused a whole new issue of wondering if there was a safer place for them to be at the moment. I averted my eyes, trying to avoid looking at him because I wasn't sure if I could handle whatever kind of expression he was wearing. I started to push myself up when his arm tightened around my waist. My pulse faltered.
"You're doing that blushing thing again." He murmured. "It's pretty damn cute, actually."
"Try embarrassing." I said weakly.
His fingers were suddenly brushing against my temple, pushing my bangs out of my eyes. Before I could stop myself, I lifted my gaze to look at him. His eyes, that impossibly blue color that reminded me of the bottom of the ocean, flickered to my mouth and my stomach lurched in that same nervous way it had when I'd been kissed for the very first time on my fourteenth birthday. I forgot about where we were or why we'd ended up there in the first place as his fingers cupped the back of my neck and drew me closer to him. I could feel his breath on my lips and I couldn't ever remember wanting to kiss someone so badly in my entire life. I let my eyes close.
We both jolted at the sound of his name, my eyes flying open. The moment fled and I was once again aware of the fact that I was lying on top of him in the dirt with four huge raptors caged behind us. I scrambled off him, staggering to my feet. Owen pushed himself off the ground as soon as he was free from my weight, brushing his hands on the back of his khakis. Our eyes met for a split second and I swore I saw disappointment there.
Barry suddenly appeared in the doorway, out of breath. "Hoskins." He said, and Owen's expression hardened. The word meant nothing to me, but apparently it wasn't good.
"I'll be right there." He said and Barry nodded before taking a few steps back and rushing off. I was gathering my purse off the ground and adjusting the strap across my shoulder when Owen turned to face me. "I have to deal with this asshole." He sighed.
I nodded. "It's okay...I'll just...see you later. Yeah." I finished lamely, and wanted to kick myself for the inability to form full coherent sentences at the moment. I was too busy feeling immensely distracted, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened between Owen and I, if it had actually been happening at all, and what it had meant.
His eyes swept over me, looking like he had more to say before settling on staying silent. He finally settled on a single nod. "Okay, make it home safe."
I forced an unsteady smile in his direction before brushing past him and heading towards the car. I could feel his eyes on me. I wanted to look back, to catch his expression, but made myself stare straight ahead until I was sitting in the driver's seat. By that time, he was already gone, dealing with what or whoever Hoskins was. I leaned my forehead against the steering wheel, letting out a groan. I was an idiot. I'd wanted to kiss him. I almost had. And he'd been the one that had started it by pulling me towards him. My heart trembled and I willed myself to make it stop. How had I fought it for so long, I had no idea because now I suddenly felt impossibly weak against it.
I wasn't falling for Owen Grady. It was too late for that. I already had.