I am SO sorry it took me so long to update. Life has caught up like crazy with me in the last couple weeks. Stupid midterms.
Anyway, thanks for all the reviews and favorites. I hope you like this too.
When she trips in the sand, your entire body is screaming at you to pick her up and apologize, to never let go again. But somehow, you stay still, letting only your eyes follow as she stumbles down the beach. For Claire, for Claire, for Claire…
It's impossible to fight against the pull of gravity. But for her, you'll do anything.
Imagine that all the time, no matter where you go, there's an ache. It's settled on your shoulders, in your chest, making everything heavy, every movement painful. And it does not go away. Ever.
Stay with me.
You remember her broken voice when she spoke those words and the look in her eyes. It's what you see and hear every time you close your eyes. And it's too much. Too hard.
It would be so easy to end the pain. All you have to do is run—and you could do it with your eyes closed because there's only ever been one place to run to. Steel cable is connecting you to Claire, and it pulls at you all the time, until you have to grit your teeth and dig your feet into the ground to keep from running to her.
You imagine what it would be like, can almost feel the weight being lifted off your shoulders, as you're finally able to breathe deeply again. But you resist. Claire will always be more important than your pain. She will always mean more.
It's almost a relief when the bloodsuckers come. You throw yourself into the hunt, ready to kill as many of them as you can for Claire, since it's all you can do for her. And as you rip and tear at them, you promise yourself that you'll never let them anywhere near her. You'll never let them get that close.
One breaks away from the fight, knowing its only chance for survival is to run away. But it's running towards Claire.
With a growl, you bound after it, sprinting as fast as you can. And without your brothers there to help it's the fight of your life, but you won't let the leech win. No matter how many times or how hard it pummels you, no matter how far it throws you, no matter how many of your bones it breaks or how much blood it draws, you will never let it win.
So too, is it a relief to let the darkness slide over your eyes when the bloodsucker lies around you in pieces. You let the pain eclipse that never-ending ache, and it feels like a release, like finally letting go of a long held sigh.
You can hear them whispering, smell the icy burning stench of bloodsucker and feel the doctor's cold hands examining you. Through blurred disoriented eyes, you see him shake his head, hear their gasps. You know what has them so scared; you hear the finality in their voices. But you're not afraid, you're not even upset. Death seems easier than facing a world without her in your arms. A world where someone else holds her, where someone else loves her. Emily yells at you, she tells you you're an idiot—that you should think of Claire.
I am, you tell her, and let yourself hide in the blackness again.
You dream of her there. You see her face and she's smiling at you. Her fingers are hesitant against your skin, her lips feather soft.
Only… it's not a dream this time. Those hands are real, that voice—so scared and lonely—is calling out to you. The strongest pull of your life. The one thing you can't fight against.
And she's telling you that she loves you, and she's holding you, and she forgives you... And it's too much. Too agonizing, even worse than leaving her before. More real, more absolute.
Death is calling for you, its voice soft and seductive as it promises numbness from the incessant ache. But it's bitter now because Claire is calling too, and her voice is even sweeter, softer and scared as she begs you not to leave her.
And you can't resist her pull this time. Whatever it is that that connects you is too strong to break, too much to leave. There is no choice.
There never has been.
Despite the pain of your broken body, you feel whole with her. Well. For the first time since you left there is nothing pulling at you, no indescribable hurt, just want. You want to live for her and by her and with her, so you'll take whatever comes. You push away death and go back. Back to a fifteen-year-old Claire who is unbelievably dangerous. Back to a different kind of ache—a good kind of ache—but even more powerful.
You thought you would never feel it again, the wanting. And she's still so young, but you feel it stirring inside you. You can't deny that she hasn't changed. Can't pretend it away, just like you can't pretend away the look she gets in her eyes sometimes when she watches you.
You always knew this would be the most dangerous time. The hardest. When she's just testing out adulthood, looking more and more like a woman, when other guys are starting to notice her. You know you have to step back and let her live, let her make her mistakes. All you can do is be there for her.
Things are changing. Your feelings are evolving, becoming deeper. You push down at them. Not yet, you tell yourself. Not yet.
But you're not going anywhere. You have all the time in the world to wait for her.
Imagine that you're 30 years old. Almost half your life has been spent with Claire… and she still doesn't know the reason why. She doesn't know that it only took one look at her to change your life, or that she's at the center of your entire world. She doesn't know why you're at her house almost every day, and she especially doesn't know that sometimes you lie awake at night just thinking about her.
She doesn't know, but should she?
It's so hard defining the boundaries of your new relationship. Deciding how much distance is enough. What's too much or not enough; what Claire can handle. But if you could just hold her, you know the world would right itself and the cord would stop tugging. Because holding Claire's hand, and putting an arm around her is not enough. You want to hold her tightly so that you can feel her heartbeat against yours, so you can fold her little body inside your arms, and bury your face in her hair.
If only you could just hold her.
Does she feel it too? The pull. The need. You are bitterly aware that Claire has not imprinted, that at any moment she could say enough's enough, and walk away. She could simply outgrow you. Could you live with that? Will you ever have to?
Claire's in love with you Quil… Colleen says. Didn't you know?
The words hit you like an electric shock. They seem impossible, but of all people, Claire's sister would know. Wouldn't she?
If it's true, maybe it's why Claire doesn't seem interested in any of the boys her age, why she wants to be closer to you—see all of you. Wants to see your wolf form. She's curious about you she says.
And you can't deny her because it's such a small thing to ask, such a dangerously small thing. And not dangerous because you're afraid of hurting her like Sam hurt Emily, but because you know you won't be able to hide after you phase.
Hiding. It's all you seem to do with Claire. You hide by not looking at her too close or too much even though you could spend all day just looking and it still wouldn't be enough. By trying to keep a careful distance between you and not touching her unless she initiates it. By not noticing when she stares, even though it gives you a peculiar little thrill every time she does.
But you know it will all be different in your wolf form.
And when she gently runs her fingers through your fur, and presses herself against you, feeling you—seeing straight through you, there is no hiding what you feel for her. It's impossible. And if you had arms they'd be locked around her, but it's almost bearable you don't, because she's holding you tightly. She's so close that you can feel her heart beating, you can smell her, you can even taste her when you lean forward to give her a big, wolfy kiss.
You're just an overgrown dog, and it makes it easier to be with her, it makes you let both your guards down. She leans back against you, both hands twisted in your fur. And you can't take your eyes off her, you never want to phase back and resume that carefully kept distance. It will be torture not touching her after this.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
You repeat the words over and over again in your head, almost wishing she could hear you. And you know with the same certainty that you know the truth of those words, that this will never be enough.
Almost seventeen. She's almost seventeen. And she knows that there's more to the story than you've been telling her, but she has no idea—could not possibly expect in her wildest dreams the truth of what you have to tell her.
And in that plan you thought up before you knew how hard it would be, you thought she would be older when you told her about imprinting. You thought it would be easy—just an oh, by the way conversation when she was done with college and had decided you were the one for her.
You were an idiot for thinking it would be so easy.
Because it's not easy. It's the hardest thing you will ever do. But you know there's no more use pretending that nothing has changed that day on the cliffs. It's a beautiful sunny afternoon and Claire wants to cliff dive like she used to see you and the pack do sometimes, and you can't say no to her even though it scares the hell out of you. So you jump first and tread water as she stands on the jutting outcrop of rock above you. She's so beautiful you can't even breathe right. And you know as soon as she jumps, down and down and down, that there is no going back.
Because you love her.
Because she loves you?
You've seen the truth of Colleen's words on Claire's face, you've heard it in the way she says your name. It's in her hesitancy, in her intensity. And you want her to love you. Want it more than anything you've ever wanted before. More than you want to run, more than you want to hunt. More.
And that day on the cliffs when she falls through the water and doesn't surface, your heart stops. And it doesn't start again until you've pulled her up onto the beach and you can hear her breathing, see her eyes flutter.
She feels it too. You've never been more certain of that. And in that second—that awful second when she doesn't emerge from the water, you see what it would be like without her. So as you lie on the beach, you can't stop your hands from moving over her skin, and you can't hide anymore.
Because you don't want to.
Because you want Claire to see that it's her. That it's always been her, and never more so than in this moment when your arms around her in the sand, and her skin is soft and burning underneath your fingertips.
There's never been anyone else—there never will be anyone else. Just her. Just Claire. And she needs to know that.
Her face is flushed, and there's sand in her black hair, and her grey eyes are bright and open, locked on you as you let yourself feel for the first time, what this could be like, what tearing down the walls and loving her and living with her will be like after letting her in on the last secret.
You want to melt into her skin. You want to lose yourself in the softness of her, in the sweet salty smell of her. You want to open your mouth and tell her how much you love her.
You want to kiss her.
Just one kiss. One endless kiss. Because you know that once you start this you'll want to kiss her every single day afterwards. You'll want to pull her into your arms and keep her there.
But that stupid plan! For sixteen years it's all you've had, and it's so hard to go against it now….And Claire should know what one simple kiss is the start of. The beginning of. Because it's not just a kiss. It's so, so much more.
So you pull yourself away, feeling every part of you twist and snap, every atom protesting the distance. And you know as you sit hunched in sand that it's time.
Oh God is it time.
Imagine how hard it would be to say the words. You almost wish you didn't have to. But Emily says that Claire is afraid of what she feels for you. That she's afraid that it's not allowed, or even that it's wrong. So you push down the misgivings and you try to get the words out in a way that won't scare her. You try to make imprinting sound as harmless as possible, even though you know harmless is the last thing it is. And you've never been good with words, but you try anyway.
I need you.
That's what you want to say.
I love you.
That's what you try to make her understand.
But the look in Claire's eyes scares you. There's no happiness in them, no acceptance. Just sadness. Maybe Colleen and Emily are wrong. Maybe you've been misinterpreting all those little looks and touches. Or maybe she just doesn't want to be your imprint. You could see how it might scare her, the strength of your need.
So you back off and tell her that it's up to her what she does with the truth. You tell her you have no expectations, will never ask for anything more than she can give you. You mean it. And she's so quiet and still, it kills you that you put that look in her eyes.
You manage to walk ten normal steps after you take Claire back to her aunt's house before you start running. You want to yell at something—at yourself for messing it all up so badly. You hate yourself for not getting the words out right. For saying them at all.
It took you four years to control your phasing. Four years until you could push down at whatever emotion that was too much for your human body to handle.
But as you run, all that hard-earned control is gone. You can feel the anger racing through your veins, making your muscles tense and strain as you try to keep the rage from taking over. With a guttural cry that seems to echo through the forest around you your body shatters. And it's nothing like the smooth transformations you've gotten so good at. It's primal, unstoppable, and the heat of it burns through your body.
You run and run—in wide circles though because you don't want to go too far away. And you hope that it was all a dream, you hope that when you finally calm down enough to phase back that Claire will be waiting for you with her arms open.
But she's not. And for weeks and weeks there is nothing but awkwardness between you. You try to show her that it can still be normal, that you can still be friends, but she's so hesitant and guarded. You never know for sure what she's thinking. She seems sad. And you can't be sure, but you think she feels guilty—but for what? For hurting you? For not being able to give you what you need? For not loving you back?
You want to ask her, but you're afraid of the answer. You're afraid she'll say that she'll never see you as more than a friend. And you try to tell yourself that you'd be content with that, but you can't forget the soft feel of her that day on the beach, and that fierce look in her eyes. It seemed so clear then that she wanted you.
And you wish that you'd ignored Sam and Emily and the rest and just kept your mouth shut, because this building tension and unhappiness is ruining everything. And it's not until the bonfire that things start to change. For the first time since the beach you see that look in her eyes again, free of the guilt that mars every glance Claire's given you since you told her about imprinting.
And you promise yourself that you'll stop being so afraid of the truth. That you'll get to the bottom of whatever it is that's been eating away at her, even if kills you. She doesn't want to tell you, but at last she does. And you want to laugh—or maybe you want to shake her, because she thinks you're stuck. Stuck! As if you could ever want anything else—any one else. As if the last sixteen years—at least when you weren't being stupid—haven't been the best of your life.
But because you can almost see Claire's point, you know have to make her understand. And it's not the time to be vague. It's not the time to be cautious or afraid or polite.
You need her.
You want her.
You love her.
And for the first time you make sure that she knows it. And as soon as you say the words the heaviness and awkwardness seems to dissipate instantly. It's been months since you've seen Clairereally smile, and that alone is enough to make you ecstatic. But then she takes a deep breath and says the words you were afraid you'd never hear. I love you Quil.
And there's nothing to stop you from kissing her now. No secrets, no misunderstandings. And it's the first real kiss you've had in sixteen years—in your whole life maybe, and it feels better than anything you've ever felt before. Even better than you thought it would be. It's not possible to describe the feeling, but it's like that cord that has always pulled you towards her is gone, there's no need for it anymore. Infinitely complete.
Imagine that you have waited years and years for her, and no matter the pain, the fear, the aches… it is all worth it. Whatever the future may bring, good or bad, you have this. You have Claire. And you'll never need anything more than that.
Don't forget to vote for my story Against the Pull of Gravity at the Twilight Awards. Voting ends on October 31st. I'll be forever grateful. I put the link in my profile.
And please review! I'd love to know what you think of this.