I received an anonymous Tumblr message last night that requested a "No Maisie" AU where a man who'd been flirting with Claire at a formal event openly questions how a woman like Claire could be with a guy like Owen, and Owen's reaction to such a situation.
This ended up being a little heavily influenced by the backstory presented in The Evolution of Claire novel, but this does NOT contain any spoilers for that story, nor anything that would be terribly confusing for someone who hasn't read the book, so I wanted to mention that so you knew where this came from, but please don't let that stop you from reading.
Thanks for checking out the story! Reviews are appreciated :)
He hated these things.
Owen Grady had spent over half his life avoiding work functions. From the time he was fifteen and working at a local fast food joint, every invitation was met with a no. The fancier the event, the stronger the declination. But Claire and her Dinosaur Protection Group had scored a major legislative win, securing the government funding to help relocate the dinosaurs left behind on Isla Nublar, and as the face and founder of the cause, she'd had no choice but to attend the gala thrown in DC by one of the larger, wealthier organizations that had become a partner in her fight. Some of these groups, Owen had found, would take any excuse to celebrate (while stealthily raising funds and securing donors for their next endeavors, of course.)
He hated the way the tux felt on his skin and the bow tie around his neck. He hated the gentle music playing incessantly in the background, the artistic food, the lack of beer at the open bar. He did not hate the way Claire looked in the black dress that hugged her body in all the right places, her whole back nearly on display, and he didn't hate the way she always showed her appreciation when these things were over, but most of all, he really hated the men who always seemed to find their way to her at these events when he wasn't around.
Some, he's sure, sought her out because they recognized her, the effects of being on every magazine cover and newspaper front page still lingering, even three years later. Some just saw a beautiful woman and tried to lay claim on her before someone else could. Owen never worried about Claire. She still knew how to work people like no other, and he knew anything that could be interpreted as reciprocated flirting on her part was to charm these men out of their money and nothing more. She always shut it down if it started to go too far, a point her current situation seemed to rapidly be reaching as he approached her with a drink in each hand.
"There you are!" Claire said sweetly with a big smile sent his way. She took the drink she knew was for her and slid her other arm around Owen's back.
"Here I am," he replied, matching her grin. He got the message and slid his arm around her, too, hopefully sending a shiver down her spine as he brushed his fingertips down the length of her bare skin before letting his hand settle on her hip.
The man she'd been talking to let out a scoff as he took in Owen's appearance. He knew, despite the fact that he cleaned up alright, nobody would ever mistake him as a man who belonged on Capitol Hill with his scruffy beard, rented tux, calloused hands, and slightly unruly hair. Owen heard the sigh of, "you've got to be kidding me," escape the man's lips as Claire pulled Owen in for a kiss that lingered a little longer than she normally allowed in public. She pulled away and wiped some lipstick from his lip with her thumb, utterly ignoring the man who had held her attention just a few moments ago.
"How did a woman like you end up with…with…?" the man stuttered.
"Just lucky, I guess," Claire said with a smile, finally turning to look at him again as she refused to let him rattle her. With another scoff of disbelief, the man understood and walked away. Claire took a sip of her drink as he left and leaned into Owen. "You have fantastic timing sometimes," she said genuinely.
"I take it he's not going to be the DPG's next big donor?" Owen asked.
"No, it became pretty clear that wasn't what he wanted shortly after he walked over here," Claire said. When he didn't say anything else, she glanced up at him and noticed the poorly-concealed troubled look on his face. "Hey. You're not letting him get to you, are you? Ignore him."
Owen shrugged, slightly embarrassed, because yes, he was letting that guy get to him. There was a part of Claire Dearing that belonged in this world. There was a part of her that belonged in blue jeans and a flannel shirt out at their house in the mountains, too, but she'd always been able to not only hold her own but command a Jurassic World boardroom, and now, she didn't come off as someone who had no business being in an opulent room full of politicians, statesmen, and high-powered donors. She could talk to them, charm them, persuade them…she fit right in. He nodded towards the man who'd just left, the one with slicked-back hair and a perfectly tailored suit, and said, "That's probably the kind of guy you always thought you'd be with, right?"
"When I was nineteen, maybe, and barely cared about things like that," Claire said dismissively. "But who ends up being the person they thought they were going to be at nineteen?"
"You still want all this?" Owen asked quietly. He knew about her old political ambitions; he half-expected her to come home and announce a campaign every time her wins got a little bit bigger. Being the boyfriend of an increasingly successful lobbyist was hard enough, at times. The start of the DPG had been rough, but they'd made it. He didn't know if he could handle being the boyfriend of a Congresswoman.
"I don't think that's really feasible anymore. Not after…" she said softly, realism and maybe a hint of regret in her voice as she trailed off.
"You could have it," he told her.
She moved so she was standing directly in front of him and put her hand on his shoulder, sliding it up the curve of his neck to gently squeeze his skin in reassurance. "Teenage Claire wanted that. Now Claire loves you and the life we've made together." She paused for a minute, the blank look Owen had become all too familiar with during the fallout of the incident briefly flashing across her eyes. She looked at him again and added, "I just need to do some good for these animals after so many years of…not."
Owen tightened his hold on her and pressed his palm against her lower back. "God, I love you," he mumbled as he pulled her in.
She met his lips for a quick but tender kiss and, when she pulled away with a sly grin on her face, whispered, "Good."