the side road to happiness

BY : Prentice
Category: G through L > Jurassic Park
Dragon prints: 878
Disclaimer: I do not own the Jurassic Park franchise, nor its characters. I do not make money from the writing of this story.

Title: the side road to happiness
Author: Prentice
Fandom: Jurrasic World
Rating: ADULT+
Warning: Age Difference (No Underage)
Pairing: Pre-slash Owen Grady/Zach Mitchell
Author's Note: I have some vague ideas about writing a sequel to this exploring Owen "taking care" of Zach but feel free to let me know what you think!

Summary: Owen just wanted to take care of the kid.

For all that the kid might’ve bitched about it, Owen knew that Zach rarely took time off. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to – the kid might’ve complained, but Owen would’ve had to been completely deaf and dumb not to hear the very real exhaustion and longing that sometimes colored the kid’s voice when he talked about time off – it was more that the kid took his cues from his aunt. How Claire missed it, Owen didn’t know, and made sure to keep an eye on the kid because – well, someone had to, and his aunt was pretty shitty about it.

Okay, so maybe ‘shitty’ was being a little harsh. Claire meant well, Owen knew that, and tried his best not to give her too much shit about it. Especially since, she was a lot better than she used to be about things like that.

It was just that, for all her good qualities, Claire had trouble understanding – or even realizing – that not everybody was like her when it came to work. When it came to focusing. When it came to just about anything, really.

She’d brought an itinerary to their first date, for god’s sake.

So, yeah, Owen tried to keep an eye on her nephew for her. It was the least he could do, he figured, and it wasn’t that big of a hardship. The kid – well, not really a kid anymore; even if nineteen seemed like a lifetime ago to Owen – was actually pretty good company.

Pretty great company, really. Especially since he was one of the few who knew – who understood – what it meant to be coming back to the island. Not many people did.

Sure, they claimed they did. A few of them might have even come close; their harrowing tales of survival playing on the news cycle for weeks and months – for over a year – before fading into the background. Another disaster, another tragedy, taking their place.  

Whatever they might’ve claimed, though, no one really knew what it was like. Not like they did. Not like he did. Not like Claire, Zach, and Gray did.

They’d all been in the belly of the beast. In the heart of the terror. Had watched – and fought – in terrified wonder as Owen’s Raptors had made him proud and as two goliaths had faced off in a battle so violent it shook the very foundation of everything around them.  

Moreover, the totally crazy thing was, they’d survived. Somehow, they’d survived. By the grace of God, Owen’s Raptors, and a pissed off fucking T-Rex, they’d survived.

Not completely unscathed – they’d all had some form of cuts and bruises; exhaustion and dehydration making both boys collapse not long after their parents had arrived – but they were alive. Whole. Together.

It was…

Owen didn’t have words for it – still didn’t have words for it – even after all this time.

It just was what it was, and he’d been strangely pleased when a few years later Zach had come to work with them at the newly reopened park, determined to make sure what happened before didn’t happen again.

It was a motivation – a resolve – that Owen could understand. Probably better than anyone else, excluding Claire, who had returned as Operations Director of Jurassic World, and had made sure to not only beef up security but also stress, in very severe terms, exactly how close an eye she and the new owners, Masrani’s two sons, would be keeping on the monkeys in the lab. That she had made Owen Head of Security proved that.

It wouldn’t be enough, though.

InGen had already made their interest known, offering the Masranis’ an exorbitant amount of money for use of not only their old lab space but also the area on the island they’d occupied previously. Owen wasn’t naïve enough to think that the Masranis’ would pass that up. They were businessmen, after all, and seemed to want nothing more than to keep their father’s legacy alive however they had to; family honor fueling them to take the same risks their father had, even if it meant allowing InGen back into their lives.

It was a foolish move, one that he and Claire had tried to warn them about, but Simon Masrani’s sons had been just as stubborn as he was and there wasn’t really anything they could do to stop them. Not really, but at least he, Claire, and Zach would be there to help minimize and control the damage when it happened. And it would, Owen was sure of it.

As it was, an InGen outlier had already tried tentatively to approach Owen about reestablishing the Raptor Program. It was something he wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about, or respond to, just yet. Not with so many memories of Delta, Echo, and Charlie – of Blue – still humming just beneath the surface of his thoughts.

His Raptors, they’d been a good pack. A strong one, and he’d felt a vicious sort of pride when, in the end, they’d rallied around him. Hunting and fighting the Indominus with their Alpha, the way any good pack would. That Blue was still out there somewhere…

 It made him want to consider the offer. Just consider it. Mostly inside his own head, where Claire couldn’t hear or see it, because as much as her attitude might have changed towards the various animals on the island, it hadn’t changed that much. Especially towards the Raptor Program.

Still, though, it was something to think about and he hadn’t been overly surprised when one day, seemingly out of nowhere, Zach had approached him about it. Unaware of the offer that had been made, the kid had asked him if he was thinking about it. If he’d be willing to do it again, if the opportunity arrived.

“Do you think I should?” Owen had asked him as he’d flipped over the burgers on the small hibachi he’d set up outside his new bungalow. It wasn’t the same as the old one, that one had been in ruins by the time they’d returned, but one he’d built not far from where the old one had stood.

Claire had tried to offer him one of the nicer apartments in the main complex when they’d moved back to the island, but he’d been uninterested; more comfortable with something a little more rustic and laidback. Any discussion about possibly moving in together had been firmly off the table, their relationship, if one could call it that, having ground to a sputtering and inevitable halt long before they’d even thought about coming back. Owen hadn’t minded.

He and Claire, there’d probably always be an attraction there, but nothing would ever come of it. The few months after the Jurassic Incident, as the media had dubbed it, had proven that. They’d spent more time arguing than they had actually going on dates and had figured out pretty quickly that just being friends was better on both of their blood pressures than ever trying to make a relationship work.  

Head tipping back against the cushioned lawn chair Claire had insisted on giving Owen as a house warming gift, Zach had squinted up at him, the shadows beneath his eyes so dark Owen would have been concerned had he not already planned on stuffing the kid into a veritable food coma before the evening was over. Burgers, fries, and all the fixings. Maybe some pie for dessert. The kid would be out for the count in no time, which would probably be a good thing.

Zach had looked like a fucking zombie lately, what with as little sleep as he seemed to be getting. Fucking kid needed a keeper. Not that Owen had been volunteering, exactly, but – oh, fuck it, he’d totally been volunteering.

“Maybe,” Zach had replied, hand lifting to shield his eyes against the setting sun. “I mean, they – you were good with them. And they, you know, they helped. With the Indominus.”

Nodding, Owen had picked up his beer, setting the spatula to the side as he let the burgers brown a bit more. “Yeah, they did, kid. Thing is,” he’d paused, taking a long pull from his drink before continuing, “there’s no guarantee that any new ones will do the same. Hell, Blue and the girls, they might’ve picked me in the end but they turned on us first. I don’t think– ”

“Bullshit,” Zach had cut in, tone sharp enough that Owen had blinked, head tilting to look at him. The kid’s expression had been – intense, was the only way Owen could think to describe it. Intense and maybe a little vulnerable. “The Raptors respected you Owen. They – you were their Alpha and they knew it. They knew it, man. That isn’t – you have no idea – none – what it was like to see that. Gray and I, we were fucking terrified – I was fucking terrified – but you and the Raptors, you kept us safe.”

“Your Aunt Claire–”

“Claire took a chance,” Zach interrupted, fingers flexing around the soda can he’d been nursing since he’d arrived. “I’m not saying she didn’t save us – she did; hell, even Gray did in his own way because he’s the one who told her we needed more teeth to take down the Indominus – but it was you and the Raptors who gave her time to do that, Owen. We could have died if it wasn’t for you.”

Eyes closing, Zach had blown out a breath, shoulders slumping with a tension Owen hadn’t even realized had been there until it was gone. His eyes had opened, gaze meeting Owen’s own unerringly. His eyes – they had been startlingly pretty, the orangey-pink glow from the sunset making them look almost golden in the fading light.

Owen had swallowed hard then, his breath hitching in his lungs when Zach had offered a softly sheepish and lopsided smile.

“Sorry,” he’d offered, expression turning rueful. “Didn’t mean to make things weird. I guess I’m just trying to say: if the opportunity arrives – and you feel like it’s the right thing to do – I’ll support you, whatever decision you make.”

Silence had reigned after that. The sizzle of the burgers and the gentle lap from the water hitting the shore the only noise between them until Zach had suddenly shifted in his seat, nose wrinkling. “The burgers are burning.”

Cursing loudly, Owen had hastily set his beer down, emotion still tight in his chest as he’d quickly pulled their dinner from the grill, grumbling when the kid had laughed at the burnt edges some of them were sporting.  Not that Owen had minded. Not that he had minded at all.

The kid – he had a good laugh. A really good one. Soft and maybe a little incredulous, he always sounded like he wasn’t sure if he should be laughing. Like whatever it was that was amusing was so ridiculous, so silly, he wasn’t sure how to react.

It never failed to make Owen smile. Smile and feel guilty. Okay, feel a lot guilty.

Because, yeah, he might’ve started to look out for the kid because he was Claire’s nephew and maybe also because the kid had looked completely lost the moment he’d stepped off the boat, but somewhere along the way, that had changed.

He had changed – or, at least, his feelings had – and that was – he was…

A dirty old man, apparently. A really, really dirty old man. Because he liked the kid.  Zach.  He liked Zach.

As more than just Claire’s nephew. As more than just a friend. He liked him. He liked him the way he’d like Claire, only completely different because he wasn’t quite as creepy – or as perverted – as that, and he was not interested in getting some sort of Claire-like replacement.

Zach deserved better than that. A lot better than that. They both did.

Only, Owen wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. Sure, he was pretty sure the kid liked him. As a good friend, if nothing else, and they’d been spending a lot more time together lately, if only because Owen really had been serious about the whole ‘needing a keeper’ thing – the kid worked way too hard for someone his age – but it wasn’t like he even knew if the kid was into men.

Or, you know, into Owen. Specifically. Because there was a distinction there.

At least, there was for Owen, because as fucked up as it was, he’d never really been into men before. Not in any real way, anyway. Yeah, he might’ve fooled around a bit when he was in college, had even enjoyed a few quick trysts while in the Navy, but it had never really been anything serious.

Zach, though – that was serious. It had to be serious. Not only was the kid over a decade younger than he was – fuck, that made him feel old; he was also Claire’s nephew. Her nephew, for fuck’s sake.

That alone put the kid in a very special category, one that meant that Owen had to be very, very certain about how he felt before he even thoughtabout approaching him. Because, yeah, as much as Claire might be shitty at the whole maternal thing, she really wouldn’t have a problem cutting his balls off and feeding them to Rexy the T-Rex if she thought he was going to hurt the kid in some way. Which he wouldn’t. Ever, if he could help it.

In fact, no matter how screwed up it might’ve sounded to someone else, Owen felt oddly protective of the kid. Of Zach – he really needed to start calling the kid, Zach, especially if he ever hoped to have a relationship with him. Anyway, though, he felt protective – and maybe a little possessive.

Not, like, fucked up or abusive levels of possessive or anything. Just – he wanted the kid – Zach; fuck, he really needed to work on that – he wanted Zach to be his. His to look out for, his to take care of, his to provide for, his to – to – love.

Because that was where this was headed, wasn’t it?

He was falling in love with the kid.

With Zach.

Jesus fucking Christ, he was falling in love with Claire’s nephew.

He was so fucked.

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