She wasn’t prepared for the silence.
She still feels queasy, the remnants of her elevated adrenaline levels making her skin feel prickly and her hands unable to stop jittering.
She can't control it. Which makes her increasingly anxious, a snowball effect where her nervousness only multiplies.
Her sister had taken boys about an hour ago. They’d rented a hotel room on the mainland. She regrets not accepting Karen’s offer to stay the night with them. The silence enveloping her is almost painful, thick and heavy like glue.
It’s not even real. There’s a soft chatter of the park refugees and medical personnel who have taken shelter in the lounge of her office building, a hum of far off cicadas chattering to the trees.
And her own heartbeat.
Pounding out of rhythm.
Thump. Tha-thump. Thump thump. Tha-thump.
She hates herself for wishing he was here. She likes thinking of herself as an independant woman who thrives in casting off human affection. The method had served her well over the past decade. Being in a separate country from her family meant that she could work through the holidays, avoiding pesky family get-togethers that always irked her as a kid. Dating was sporadic and unfulling. Eventually, maybe four years ago, she just had to give up.
She had only gone out with Owen that first time because he seemed stupid enough that she could work in a quick fuck and then dump him with the excuse that it would never work out between them. Was she setting herself up for failure? Undoubtedly. Did it make it easier to blame her shitty love life on the fact that men are assholes? A thousand times yes.
She hadn't expected Owen to be so... well... Owen.
Shortly after her sister had left the hangar with the boys, the military was back. They marched in, demanding Owen.
She stood up too, as his name echoed through the hanger. They wanted the last raptor. She’s not sure how they’d discovered so quickly that Blue was out there somewhere. She had seen the conflict in Owen’s eyes, the selfish desire for his beta coupled with the fear of losing her over to military exploits. He had looked back at Claire, as if asking if her stature could get him out of this mess in the end. She had nodded, but with dreaded uncertainty already pooling in her throat.
Or maybe those were tears.
She followed him toward the stocky men in stiff uniforms. He had taken her hand, though, squeezing softly. “Claire..." his voice rough against his lips. “No.”
A second before he had left, he'd shifted back to her. His hand had come up, brushing a smudge of dirt from her chin. He almost looked as if he would kiss her. Her lips had tingled in breathless anticipation.
But he'd backed away, spewing some promise about how he'd come back.
It felt like betrayal. That after all they had been through together, she wasn’t allowed to follow him. It also felt like relief. There was so much left to accomplish. As the park operations manager, she seems to also be the one in charge of reporting clean up. Inventory of the damage. Assessment of the cost. And maybe, if she finds the time, if she "has a best prediction," guess the viability of the park reopening for the media.
Like she can predict how these lawsuits will turn out.
She built this world; she now has to watch it disintegrate.
Presently, the night is still and that makes her anxious. She breathes in and out a few times, the humid air shallow and stagnant in her lungs.
She has to dig her nails into palms to hold back the tears. Not here. She will not be vulnerable in public. Not in front of the board of directors and the media and the entire world.
Not that anyone’s even paying her any attention.
She wants leave this office, but she doesn’t know when Owen's coming back. (She wishes more than anything that he were here because in the past thirty-six hours he's the only thing that's kept her grounded.) Plus, her apartment’s on the mainland, and she probably can’t cross the bay at this time of night.
The thought occurs to her that his bungalow is only a couple miles from here. She could find her company car, assuming it wasn't trampled by assorted prehistoric lizards, and drive up to his not-so-cozy residence. She has a vision of her legs tangled in soft sheets smelling faintly of his cologne.
She quickly pushes away that thought. No, no, she’ll wait here. Where he can come back for her.
Besides, she amends, she doesn’t want to sleep. She doesn’t think she can. Not without reliving this hell.
She sighs. Might as well be productive. Pulls out her phone. Starts writing her official speech for the media press release.
At daybreak, the search party finally turn around for headquarters.
He had seen Blue's tracks, claw marks rather distinct in the mud.
But fuck him if he was giving Blue to those total dicks.
He finds Claire alone in a conference room a couple doors down from Controls. A part of him had been afraid she’d disappear while he was gone. She looks up when she hears his footsteps. The dark circles under her eyes are worse, and her hair is even rattier that when he left her last. “Hey, you look like shit.”
She runs her fingers through her vibrant hair, pushing the loose strands out of her face. “You sure know how to charm a woman, Grady.” She’s smiling a little, which he takes as a good sign that she hasn’t come to her senses as realized he’s the same guy who showed up to their first date in board shorts. However, that might change if he doesn’t shower soon. The smell coming off his shirt’s beginning to disgust even him.
“Did you find the raptor?” she asks.
“Do you want the the official answer or the actual answer?”
“There’s a difference?”
He smirks. “Classified.”
She lets a short laugh out her nose. “Alright,” she says, standing up. “Are you coming?”
He doesn’t ask where they’re going. Figures he’ll let her play this move. He'd invite her over, but she’ll want a shower too, and he’s pretty sure there isn’t enough hot water in the tap at his bungalow for the both of them. Unless, he supposes, they showered together, but that would probably take just as long. She looks up when he smirks at the thought of her pressed against the faded tiles of his shower.
“Nothing.” But he’s still grinning. She looks at him skeptically, but leaves the issue alone.
She had made a few phone calls, and by the time Owen arrived, she had managed to convince Simon’s flight instructor to get them out in the helicopter.
“Damn, girl, you have your own chopper?” Owen asks playfully.
“Shut up and get in.”
In all honesty, she didn’t want to face the media. She’s pretty sure that would end up in tears. They can land on the top of her apartment building and no one will be any the wiser.
She clips her belt into place only to unclip it when it becomes clear Owen has no idea what he’s doing. She carefully untangles the leather strips, letting her fingers graze across the swath of skin above his shirt collar. His breath stirs the hair by her neck. “You got it, Sweetheart?” he asks in a low voice when she pauses. His lips practically graze her ear, and she feels a tingle shoot down her spine.
Why the hell does her body feels the compulsive need to be attracted to this man? Claire snaps the belt shut. “There.” She tries to keep her voice flat, emotionless. Sits back in her seat.
He’s still smirking at her.
“Stop,” she whines a little, uncomfortable with his gaze. It penetrates too far past the surface, and she doesn’t know what he sees.
He looks like he’s about to respond when the pilot turns around. “We good to take off?
“All set,” Claire says.
She balls her hands into fists as they fly up over the island. Incredible how everything she had worked for could be destroyed in a matter of hours. Large gashes mar the tree line, places where the Indominus Rex wreaked devastation across the island.
She flinches when his hand comes over hers. But it’s warm, and it’s human contact, something she’s deprived herself of for so long. And just that, just his simple gesture makes her want to cry. She grits her teeth together for a second, and the feeling passes. She can’t read the expression on his face. Maybe something between exhaustion and regret. She rotates her hand underneath his, slipping her fingers through his and clenching his palm with hers. She keeps her eyes straight ahead, unable to look at him, unable to admit she's vulnerable.
The pad of his thumb strokes over her knuckles.
They disembark the chopper on the top of a high rise apartment building he's positive it would take three months of his salary to pay a month's rent. The wind ripples through her hair as she struts across the roof in those ridiculous shoes. Her ass looks damn good in them, though.
She pulls out her keys from an extraordinarily organized purse, opening the maintenance door with a satisfying click. She holds it open as he walks in, his skin prickling from the rush of the air conditioner. She's still barely said a word to him since he returned from the search party. Not that he blames her; he's fucking beat from the hell of the past couple days. Fuck, has it really been that long since he's slept? He reaches for her elbow as she turns the lock of her apartment.
"Everything alright?" she asks, turning her shoulders to face him as they enter. The far wall is a glass sheet stretching from ceiling to floor.
"That's quite the view you've got," he says, abandoning her question that he should have asked her first.
"On clear mornings," she responds, "you can see the park off to the southeast."
She drops her purse on the counter with a loud thud. "Are you hungry? I, uh, don't have that much food. I was supposed to go shopping after work yesterday, but obviously that didn't happen. I think I have some deli ham. Does a sandwich sound alright? I'm out of mayo, but I might have some mustard..." Her voice trails off as her head disappears into the refrigerator.
"Yeah, sure." He senses she’s probably nervous by the way she prattles on about nothing. He rests his elbows on the counter, immediately regretting the move when two days worth of dinosaur shit smears itself on the pink granite.
"If you're going to get dirt all over my apartment, Owen," she says in a mock chastising tone, "I'm going to make you shower."
The fantasy of the two of them, damp skin and breathless lust, resurfaces. He pulls his eyes away from the pale skin of her collarbone. “You aren’t spotless either, Darling.”
“Don’t remind me,” she huffs.
He lets his face soften a little. "Go shower," he says.
"And leave you here unsupervised? What if you decide to sit on my furniture?" She puts the sandwich in front of him. He has to press his lips together to hold back his laughter at how unbelievably perfect it is. The ham is folded neatly, the mustard oozing out in fucking exact proportions. Even the diagonal cut is flawless.
"I think you forgot the toothpick," he says sarcastically.
"Do you want one?" she asks.
"You really think I'm refined enough for a toothpick?"
"You have to start somewhere."
She lets him shower first. She roots around in her cupboard for masculine scented body wash, and when it's clear everything she has is laced either with flowers or fruit, she runs across the hall to borrow some from her neighbor, Jerome, who answers the door with a rather flamboyant flourish. She neglects to tell Owen about Jerome's homosexual tendencies when she hands him the bottle. Not that she thinks he'd care. Just that the smell might be more pungent than he's used to.
The muffled rumble of the water on the tiles calms her uncertainty a little. She's so exhausted, and it occurs to her that she hasn't really slept in almost three days. She had drifted off a little in the hanger in the hours after her sister had showed up. Her head had lulled against shoulder, his arm wrapping around her back. And impossibly, in that moment, she had felt undoubtedly safe.
She hears the water shut off. She can feel the shit on her skin, the dried blood and dirt and sweat. It makes her itch all over, now that she's thinking about it, and she wants nothing more than to run into the bathroom and scrape it all off. Except he's still in there.
And now she's picturing what would happen if she walked in on him with his towel around his waist, water still dripping down his well defined chest, his face momentarily clean of the ever present grime that clings to his skin.
Yes, she is turned on by the thought that he'll be clean.
It's at that moment he walks back into the kitchen, his chest bare in its full muscled glory. (Incidentally, he's even better than the Brad Pitt/David Beckham crossover her imagination cooked up.)
"I think Jeremy has a bigger waistline than I do," Owen says, tugging the elastic of the shorts tighter around him. They swing a little low, and she can see the v of his hips disappearing into the polyester.
She resists rolling her eyes. "His name is Jerome, the shorts have a drawstring, and you only have to wear them until your clothes are out of the dryer."
She doesn't mention that his other option is to just take them off.
It would be most definitely beneficial for the both of them.
"Behave yourself, while I shower, alright?"
"I won't promise you anything."
She looks at him a second longer before darting toward the bathroom, her eyes lingering in places they probably shouldn’t.
Damn. Just... damn.
She was totally checking him out. She may have tried to hide it under witty sarcasm, but he spends too much time gauging instinctive reactions not to have noticed her pupils dilating.
He decides to take an unofficial house tour. (He suspects if she were with him, there'd be a brochure to go along with it.)
She must have half the building floor to herself, because her apartment is twice the size of a fucking house. He could easily fit his bungalow in here five times over.
There's a sitting room tucked away in the corner. She's lined the walls with book shelves, and he has a hard time imagining her curled up in the plush cushions reading.
He takes one off the shelf, a collector's edition of Catch 22, and pages through the book he'd (mostly) read in high school.
He glances up a when she comes in. Her hair's damp, and she's wearing a close fitting tank top. Unless his sleep deprived brain is playing tricks on him, she's not wearing a bra.
"Sorry," he says. "I was just..." He trails off when she approaches him. He sets the book back on the shelf, and in that brief moment of distraction, her hands press suddenly against his hips. One reaches up, tangling in his hair, pulling him gently toward her lips. There's a brief moment in which her fluid motion stops, where she hesitates for a second, searching his eyes for something. They're close enough that he can smell her shampoo, something sweet and dainty, definitely not whatever sex panther shit Jerome uses. Her lips quiver a little, and he sure as hell wants to taste them, but he relents control to her this time.
She better kiss him fucking quickly, though. He's not sure how long he can linger in this tension.
And when she finally closes the distance, it's all he can do not to exhale his relief. Her lips move across his in a smooth rhythm that he's pretty sure he never could achieve on his own.
It's slow and sensual, and so strikingly different from their last kiss. There, amid the onslaught of pterodactyl wings and screaming tourists, there had been desperation. Like a culmination of all the times he'd ever wanted to kiss her, spiked even higher by the adrenaline zipping through his veins.
It was insane, but she had kissed him back.
Now her lips brush gracefully over his. He's nearly paralyzed by the way her fingers thread through the curls at the nape of his neck, urging him to kiss her back.
It's simple and soft as her tongue lazily strokes his. He'd always thought her idea of control was extreme dominance, but now she's much more subtle than that.
He's tempted to pull apart in order to drag her shirt over her head, his blood boiling at the thought of his bare chest against hers.
But even he knows that it's too soon. That this kiss wasn't meant for primal instinct and rampant lust.
That this kiss is putting her back together.
It might be putting him back together too.
As slowly as it starts, it ceases. Lips softly quivering in one last brush. He holds her there for a moment. The fatigue in his bones suddenly feeling heavier.
She looks up at him. "Great, I put you to sleep."
"Is that what you think?" he challenges.
"Based upon all available evidence-" He shifts his hips so the hardest part of him presses against the softest part of her, effectively interrupting her with a gasp.
"Is that enough evidence for you, Ms. Dearing?" he rumbles in her ear, letting his teeth graze against the shell before pulling back.
"Plenty," she huffs. He can tell it takes all her effort not to squirm. Honestly, it's kind of adorable.
"Relax, Claire," he murmurs, as he pulls his body away from hers. It might be his imagination, but she seems a little disappointed.
She yawns. "Aw shit."
He smirks at her. "Am I on the couch or..."
She hesitates. "If you want. The couch is probably more comfortable." He doubts that; he peeked in her bedroom on his tour. "But you'd have to take the time to put sheets on it, and I'm so exhausted, I wouldn't help you."
The choice is fucking obvious.
She pauses a moment before unfurling the covers.
She stares at him, waiting for some immature comment about them "sleeping together," but it doesn't come.
"I might have nightmares," she says.
"I'd be surprised if you didn't."
Another pause. He stares at her, and she suddenly feels incredibly vulnerable, even dismissing the fact that she isn't wearing a bra.
Unsure of what else to do, she pull the covers back and slips inside their sleek folds.
He copies her movements, letting out a soft laugh.
"What?" she asks. "Is this too weird? Are we moving too fast? Should I-"
"Claire," he interrupts.
She presses her lips together. "Sorry. What were you going to say?"
He narrows his eyes. "You have silk sheets."
She bats her eyes at him. "What did you expect? I don't buy cotton."
She sees his eyes darken, clouding momentarily with lust, clearly picturing other things she might buy that aren't cotton.
Unsuccessfully, she tries to stay the giggle bubbling in her chest. It's a mixture of her complete exhaustion and her shock that this is the same man who tried to take her to dinner at a food truck on their first date.
And he chastised her for making an itinerary...
"Can we just sleep?" she whispers.
"Mmm, best idea you've had today," he mumbles.
"Goodnight, Owen," she whispers, brushing her fingers softly through his hair.
"Night," he replies.
Sleep overtakes him, curling around the wisps of his thoughts. His dreams verge on incomprehensible, his sleep so deep, that their plot line dances from his consciousness.
Blue staring at him with her wide eyes.
A flash of red hair.
A whisper of silk sheets.
He senses her shifting as the hours slide past; blearily, he reaches out to prevent her warmth from leaving him. Drapes his arm across her abdomen.
Wanders back to dreamland.
Ripped back to reality when her trembling rouses him. It scares him that she is capable of crying; she seems too mechanical for a reaction so human.
He knows that’s not true. That she may be more human than anyone he’s ever known.
She’s passionate and insane.
And fucking beautiful.
He yanks his brain from the remnants of sleep, running his hands over her hips in soft circles.
She stills, her body stiffening, her back arching away from his touch. He pauses the movement for a second. His voice still coated with sleep, he mumbles, “Claire.”
“I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
Clearly, it’s not, but he doesn’t figure pointing that out will make things much better.
He pulls her body closer to his, letting his breath flutter into her hair.
"Am I just doing too much?" she asks a after a moment. "It's like the more I do, the farther this fall's into shit. I can't handle all the lawsuits! Hell, I could barely manage the park! I'm losing control Owen," she says turning toward him. She tilts her chin upwards, letting her gaze wash over him.
"Then let go," he says. 'There's nothing to control here." He wipes at the curve of her cheekbone, his thumb dulling the sheen of tears.
Something hardens in her eyes, an uncompromised resolve. And then her lips crash against his, and she pulls up over his body to straddle herself on his his thighs. Hard and fast, a tangle of lips and tongue and teeth. Her fingers slip along the crevices in the planes of his abs, her weight shifting to press at his hips. He groans as she grinds herself further down, the blood coursing through his veins to meet her at her ass.
Her lips burn against his in long, breathless holds. His fingers crawl around her hips, grasping at the stripe of skin where her tank top rides above her navel.
He drops his lips to her throat. Her pulse flutters wildly when he drags his teeth against her neck.
He can't believe how utterly wild she is. His hands slip beneath the polyester of her tank top. He locks with her eyes, asking her permission before stretching it over her head.
Her chest presses against his when he sits up. Her mouth dips to the junction of his throat, and he groans. Fingernails rip down his back, her perfect manicures leaving perfect crescents in the lean muscle.
She pulls back, her breasts swaying slightly with the motion as she reaches for the drawstring of his pants. Her knuckles brush against his hard on, and he thinks he may just explode right there. Grinds his teeth to hold it back with everything he has.
"Claire," he grits out.
"Mmh?" she asks seductively, her hands dipping under his waistband. He tilts his head back, knowing that if he looks at her, he'll lose his resolve.
Her hand doesn't pause its perusal of his hips.
"Damnit, Claire, stop!" he growls.
Her crystalline eyes flash with hurt. "Why?"
"Not like this. I don't want to have sex because you're desperate for some jaded sense of control. I get it, honestly, babe, you want some semblance of the power you lost. But not here. Not like this. Nothing good's coming from that."
She scrambles back, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment, her finger desperately tugging the sheets up to cover her exposed skin. "Claire-" he tries.
"I get it, Owen. I'm not what you want. I'm too punctual and organized, and hell knows my tits aren't big enough-"
"What the fuck are you saying, Woman? Are you insane? You can't tell me you haven't been grinding my fucking hard on for the last ten minutes! You think I don't find you attractive?"
She freezes in her search for her tank top amid the sheets.
"I didn't say I didn't want to have sex with you," he continues more quietly. "But I won't sleep with you if this is about you trying to feel powerful."
He cups her cheek in his palm, drawing her lips back to his. The innocent kiss tumbles into something deeper, more passionate, more wild, until he's breathless and she's nipping at his lip.
"What if..." she pants as his lips trace patterns toward her breasts, "what if you were in control?"
He locks his eyes with hers. "What if we were equals?"
She takes a sharp breath in, and nods her head vigorously.
"Thank Jesus," he groans. "I don't think I can stop."
"If you do, I'll rip your balls off."
"Don't even joke about that," he warns.
And then they strip her remaining clothes, and his fingers press against that spot that makes her scream. Her red hair blurs as she thrashes wildly beneath him. "That's it," he murmurs. "Let go. Just let go. Easy, easy... Let go..."
It takes longer than usual for her pulse to quiet. Of course that may be due to the fact that his fingers haven't stopped caressing her skin.
"Fuck, Owen..." she manages to say.
"Is that a request? To have me fuck you?"
She shivers at the vulgar language. "Hell yes."
She finally manages to snake her fingers into his underwear, and he growls under her touch. "Claire... you've got to stop... oh, shit...”
And then he presses into her, and a dreamy bliss washes over her skin.
Sweet and perfect.
It makes her immensely glad she had the sense to get an IUD seven months ago.
She never thought it would feel right to let herself fall for someone so disorderly.
An insane part of her loves his insanity.
And then she crumbles underneath him again, and she feels so much brighter in this one than the last, like she’s finally let the tension slip from her muscles. She gasps his name over and over, against his shoulder, under his chin, in his mouth.
And then he stills momentarily above her, his eyes unfocusing in delirious pleasure.
She can't quite place what it is, but a hint of something perfect lingers in the air between them.
He wakes to rumpled sheets, pulled away to expose her absence. He pulls himself from the sheets, his mind foggy. Outside her window, the sky grows dark, whispers of a sunset fading behind her blinds.
A reminder of how fucked up his sleep schedule is.
He stumbles across her in the kitchen. (He won’t admit to getting lost in the maze of her apartment.) He stays his urge to stalk up behind her to squeeze her hips since she’s holding an entire carton of eggs, and he knows she’d make him clean it up if he made her drop them.
“Hey,” he says.
“Uh, three, I guess?” She looks at him pointedly. “Fine,” he amends like a challenge. "Four.” He slips behind her. "I guess sex makes me hungry," he growls in her ear.
She smirks at him. "Maybe later we could work up your appetite..."
"Maybe we could do it now."
He can see the protest in her eyes, the conflict between lust and control.
He makes the choice for her, kissing her fiercely before she can say anything contrary.
She giggles very un-Claire like, the breathy laugh pulling her lips back. He growls low in his throat, a possessive sound that makes her gasp as he grips the nape of her neck and pulls her closer.
"Owen," she breathes, "we gotta stop; your eggs are burning!"
"Damnit, woman, why do you have to be so responsible?"
"It's my fatal flaw." She drifts away, reaching for the cupboard for a plate. "I don't actually prepare food that often, so if they taste weird, don't mention it."
“They’re a little rubbery,” he comments after a bite.
“I thought I told you not to-”
“Since when do I let you boss me around?.
She narrows her eyes before changing the subject. "So, have you thought about where you're going?" she asks. "You know, now that the park is unlikely to reopen..."
He stops his fork halfway to his mouth.
"You could be a zookeeper," she continues. "I know lions aren't as exciting as raptors, but I'd write you an excellent recommendation. Really, you could work anywhere you wanted-"
"...What the hell?" he interrupts. "You think I'm leaving?"
"It's the smartest move for your career. You can't stay here and watch this all turn to shit! Not when you can go back to the States and-"
"Shut up, Claire."
"What the hell kind of asshole do you think I am? You think I would leave my beta here for the military? You think I would leave you here?"
"Owen, that's not what I meant!"
"I have as much shit to clean up as you do! I've put in my time, my effort. You think I'm not invested here?"
"Or maybe you want me out. I’m too alpha male for you? I don’t let you take control every fucking second?”
“I don’t need to be in control every second! I said last night that I was fine with-”
“With being equals? You’re ‘fine’ with it? I can’t do fine, Claire; I need fucking confident.”
She looks at him like she might cry, and it’s such a submissive look that he’s worried that he took it a step too far. That he broke her.
She swallows hard and steels her face, preparing for the rebuttal. “No. No, you are just like all the rest of those assholes I’ve dated who say they can handle my personality, but after a few dates or a couple rounds of sex, they bail. They realize that I make them feel ‘unmasculine,’ that I take away their fucking god-given male dominance. I thought you were different, that you understood who I was and what I needed. But you don’t, and now I just look like that fucking naive bitch. You want exactly the same thing they did, it just didn’t take you as long to see it.”
“If I didn’t want you, do you think I would be here?” he shoots back. “Do you think I would have slept with you like that?”
“You don’t want me. You want the idea of me. Of an independent, modern woman. But nobody realizes that I had to fight to get get where I am. And then this whole fucking I-Rex disaster hit, and you see it as your opportunity to finally snag-”
“You think I see you as a prize? Are you so delusional that-”
“You couldn't catch me the first time. This is just your way of winning in the end. You are like those bastards. You have to win, you have to be in control.”
“Why the hell does your need for control trump mine? Why can’t you see that you are just as dominant and manipulative as you think I am. How can I prove to you that I don't want that? Damnit! You're so afraid of falling for anyone that at the first sign of an emotional connection, you bail! You gave me the opportunity to be the one in control last night because you were desperate for human contact. But you're regretting that now, aren't you, even though I didn't take the bait. You keep thinking about what a disaster it would be if I actually took that from you. The fact that you offered makes you wonder if you aren't as strong as you think you are. But you know what Claire, strength, in the end, is about knowing when it's time to let go.”
“You can’t just fix me, Owen! I’m not an animal you can train! Stop looking at me like something that needs to be pitied.”
Silent tears slip down her cheeks. He doesn't say anything. He can't. He's sure he's actually broken her, ripped apart her insecurities, flashed a strobe light on them. He never meant... he never meant to treat her like his raptors. He takes a shaky breath.
“I will leave. If it's truly what will make you happy.”
He doesn’t want to leave. He wants to fix her. To see if fixing her will fix himself too.
She won’t look at him when she talks. "I’m trying to give a way out, to protect you from all of this."
"From the park or from yourself?"
She doesn't answer.
"Claire. I'm not leaving."
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I don’t think I know how to do this. How to be in a... relationship, if that's even what this is. It’s just been so long, and...”
“You’re doing perfectly. Just don’t push me away.”
And she relaxes her shoulders.
Just a bit.