Author's Note: So, I've been absent long enough... I figured it was time to give you an update - but if you're curious as to what all I've been writing between now and my last update, check out the latest update section on my profile page - I put up a list of everything that I'm in the process of writing at this moment in time. (And it's more than I want to count... One of these days, you might just get, like... five updates in one day when they all finally finish!)

Ah well - you've waited long enough! Here's a Quil/Claire short story!



"You mean vampires?"

Embry shrugged as he leaned up against a rotting log in front of the low flames of the campfire. He stretched out his legs in front of him, burying his toes into the sand. "We refer to them as leeches," he replied in a casual tone. "Or bloodsuckers."

Quil must have seen me flinch at this terminology, because he shot a murderous glare in Embry's direction at my sudden movement and quickly wrapped his arms around my shoulders to pull me towards his chest.

"Not all of them," Seth quickly interjected, suddenly defensive. He swung his arm out, slugging Embry's shoulder with a great deal of force. Embry winced in pain and lifted a hand to rub his injured arm as Seth ignored him. "The Cullen's were good," Seth hissed, reminding his fellow pack member of this one exception.

"The Cullen's?" I repeated in a faint voice, trying to absorb all of this information at once – and failing miserably. "Who are the Cullen's?"

"It's a long story, Claire," Quil whispered into my ear as he held me even tighter than before. "I'll tell you later, I promise."

I shuddered, suddenly aware of a delightful burning sensation spreading across every inch of my skin that Quil's breath had touched.

He pulled back, looking down at me. "Claire?" he murmured, frowning. His eyebrows pulled together in that adorable, concerned expression that I had grown to fall in love with over the years. "Are you cold?"

I knew he was referring to my shudder. He had believed that it was a shiver due to the sharp, cold breeze, but there was no way to even feel remotely chilly when I was so close to Quil.

But I refused to correct him on this occasion.

"Um – yes," I quickly lied, using this as an excuse to throw myself back into Quil's strong embrace.

For one fleeting moment, I was worried that Quil might try to move us closer to the fire instead of using his own body heat to warm me up, but I was relieved when he wrapped his arms securely around me without complaint. He even pressed his cheek onto the top of my head, making my heart flutter in excitement.

I realized, with a jolt of embarrassment, that Seth and Embry had been continuing their argument without my realization. I had been so captivated by Quil's presence and our brief exchange of words that I had completely ignored the others.

"What would Jake think?" Seth muttered, shaking his head sadly. Then a thought seemed to occur to him and his eyes darted back to Embry's with a greater intensity. "What would Renesmee think?" he hissed. "It's a good thing they're not here tonight to hear you talking about the Cullen's like that…"

"Seth," Embry groaned, letting his head fall back so that his face was parallel with the starry sky. "I told you – I wasn't referring to the Cullen's, alright? 'Leech' is just a broad classification," he defended himself. "I wasn't trying to include the Cullen's in the bloodsucker category – just the bad ones."

I felt suddenly alert by Embry's words. "The bad ones?" I repeated, my eyes widening in horror. I pressed my face further into Quil's chest as I tried to keep from picturing horror filled thoughts that I knew were only seconds away. "You mean – bad vampires?"

The boy beside Embry – I thought it was Brady, but it was hard to tell who was who now that the sun had disappeared and all that was left of the previously burning fire were the glowing embers – snorted and started to grin, as if he found my comment funny. Then his eyes drifted to a spot just above my head and the smirk on his face was immediately wiped away.

I was unable to repress my own little smile once I realized that it must have been Quil's expression that silenced Brady's laughter.

"Yes, Claire," Embry firmly replied with a heavy sigh, making it sound as if this was supposed to be common knowledge. "There are 'bad vampires'," he told me, holding his hands up and making quotation signs in the air.

I looked away from Embry's gaze and stared fixedly at the white fabric stretched across Quil's chest. I realized I was clutching desperately onto his shirt, as if I would be separated from him if I let go, but he didn't appear to mind the hold I had on him.

Quil and the rest of the pack could transform into wolves – of course I knew that. I had actually seen it happen a few times before, too. And as soon as I had been old enough to know what a secret was and how to keep it, Quil had been sure to let me know of La Push's greatest secret. But this vampire thing – this was all news to me!

I took in a deep breath and slowly let it out as I started to piece two and two together.

"Your patrol," I suddenly gasped, jerking away from my best friend's chest in order to look up into his eyes. "That's because of the vampires," I realized, feeling stupid for having missed it before. "The vampires are what you're trying to keep away from La Push – that's why you're patrolling!"

Quil nodded without uttering a single word. He silently took my hand in his, gently rubbing his thumb in soothing circles over my skin. All I could do was stare up at him as this realization sunk in and the others continued to speak.

"Duh," Collin muttered under his breath. I doubt he realized I could hear him, but I let his snarky comment slip past for tonight. He, along with the rest of the pack, it seemed, was lucky I was trying to focus on much bigger things than their condescending attitudes. "Yes, Claire," he eventually continued, leaning forward on the wooden log he was seated on and resting his elbows on his knees. "We're genetically designed to attack and destroy vampires."

My mouth opened and closed several times, trying to process this new piece of information. "I had no idea," I whispered, but I knew the entire pack seated around the campfire could clearly hear my words. "I mean – I knew that you could phase into wolves – and I knew you had to patrol – but I had no idea it was for vampires."

"Well, what else would it be?" Embry asked, chuckling softly.

"I don't know!" I shouted back, exasperated by the pack's teasing. They acted as if I should have known that vampires existed without anyone telling me! Should I just assume that mermaids and zombies were also real? "I thought you were just keeping an eye on the town – you know, keeping everyone safe at night."

"We are," Seth interjected. "We're protectors – that's our job."

"But I thought you were just scaring off criminals – humans – not vampires!" All at once, an image of a tall, intimidating man with pointed fangs dripping with blood popped into my head. I felt my entire body go numb, horrified at the thought of something so dangerous going anywhere near Quil. "That's just insane."

Quil finally reacted to my comments, frowning as he heard me speak. He fixed his gaze on our interlocked hands as he softly asked, "You don't believe us?"

My chest contracted at his words, unable to breathe properly. He had sounded so hurt – so disappointed! But of course I believed him – it was just insane! "No, I do," I quickly corrected Quil, feeling terrible for causing him any ounce of pain, whether it was intentional or not. "But it's just so dangerous!"

"What's dangerous?" Embry asked. He lifted his elbows to rest on top of the log in order to help support his weight as he relaxed against it, using it as a backrest. "Vampires?" he clarified, sounding surprised. Then he scoffed, clearly amused by my fear. "Claire, we've been fighting them off for sixteen years and there hasn't been a serious accident yet – do you really think it's dangerous for us?"

"Serious?" I repeated, finding it difficult to even make the word come out of my dry throat. "You mean there have been accidents?"

"Well, of course," Seth continued for him. "I mean – Jake was nearly crushed that one time – you weren't even three, yet, Claire. That was the worst one." Seth must have heard my breathing pick up as I nearly started to hyperventilate at the mention of Jake being crushed, because he quickly amended his choice of words. "But he was better in no time," he hurriedly assured me. Then holding his fingers up into the air, he continued ticking off each accident that he could remember. "There was that one time when I was hurt, too, but they weren't even trying to attack me. Bella just got a little upset with Jake and I stepped in to help control the situation…" Seth trailed off, mumbling to himself as a memory seemed to replay in his mind. Then he looked across the fire at Quil and me, remembering that he still had company around him. "And a couple years ago – remember, Quil?" He now addressed Quil directly. "That big one nearly took off your arm! Thankfully, he just broke it, right?"

I could feel Quil tense up beside me. Every muscle in his arms and chest that were wrapped around me seemed to seize up the instant Seth revealed his past injury. It was almost as if Quil was preparing himself for some sort of an attack.

And I didn't blame him.

"You broke your arm?" I shrieked, spinning around on Quil. I was breathing very quickly, unable to finish an entire sentence without taking in massive amounts of air. "You broke your arm – because you were attacked by a vampire – and you didn't even tell me?" I clenched my hands into two, tiny fists as I attempted to control my anger. I inhaled a lungful of air, ready to continue yelling at him, but could think of nothing coherent to say. Instead, I forcefully expelled the air from my lungs by making some sort of strangled noise between a sigh and a scream.

"Claire," Quil responded softly, placing his hands firmly on both of my shoulders, "it's alright. It was one time – you were just twelve," he reassured me. He leaned forward, trying to catch my eyes. "Besides, you were at school when it happened," he said, hoping this one fact might make it all better.

"You still could have told me!" I countered, jerking my torso to the side in order to shake Quil's hands off of my shoulders. My thoughts began spiraling out of control. I thought back to the seventh grade, trying to think of some sort of sign or any type of behavior exhibited from Quil that might have been out of the ordinary. Had he ever had his arm in a sling? Was he ever missing for several weeks at a time? When I could think of nothing, I let out another grunt of frustration. "How could I have missed it?"

"Claire, it really wasn't that bad," Quil insisted. He leaned forward, trying to catch my gaze, but I refused to look at him. It was one thing to withhold information about vampires – but not when it also meant that he would lie about his health!

"Yeah, it healed after a couple of days," Seth inserted, sounding casual. "So you probably wouldn't have even realized he was hurt, anyway." His calm demeanor made me realize that he didn't seem bothered whatsoever by the fact that I was nearly going out of my mind after realizing that Quil had been injured by a vampire without my knowledge!

"Seth," Quil muttered, shooting a pleading glance in his friend's direction. "Please – just stay out of this for a minute, would you?" I caught Seth's shrug out of the corner of my eye, but quickly averted my gaze when Quil turned to me once again. "Claire, please listen to me – it was just a broken arm," he told me, placing his hands back on my shoulders. "There's nothing to worry about. I just – "

"Right," Embry tagged on to the end of Quil's unfinished sentence. "It was just a bone, right? If it's a clean break, it only takes about two or three days to heal! And lucky for Quil," Embry continued, "that leech just broke clean through the bone instead of completely tearing his arm – "

"Embry," Quil growled, spinning to face his friend with a murderous glint in his eyes. Earlier, I had been so consumed with my anger towards Quil that I had been stubbornly avoiding his gaze. But now, it would have taken every ounce of strength and willpower I had to not look up into his commanding features.

Quil looked furious. His jaw was set and he looked determined to put an immediate end to this conversation.

"That's enough," he stated, getting to his feet. He put a hand on my elbow and helped me up with a great deal of force, but not quite enough to injure me. "Claire, we're leaving."

I didn't dare argue back with Quil when he was in this state of anger. I didn't think I had ever seen him this angry before. And even if I wasn't already scared to death of these vampires that the pack had just informed me of, there was no way I would try to stay and hear more about them if it made Quil this upset.

"Wait, why are you leaving?" Brady asked, watching as Quil literally lifted me onto my feet when I didn't stand up quickly enough.

"Yeah," Seth seconded. "You two just got here!"

"Right," Quil barked in affirmation at his fellow pack member. "And now we're leaving." I half expected Quil to be bearing his teeth or quaking with anger after I heard his protective tone of voice, but he seemed to be in control of his actions.

"But – what if Claire doesn't want to go?" Embry whined, looking up at me with great, big puppy dog eyes. "Tell him, Claire – you don't have to listen to Quil. He's just being a big baby – "

"Um, actually," I cut Embry off before he could anger Quil any more than he already had, "it's fine. I'm ready to go, anyway," I told him. "It's late, and it's starting to get a little chilly…" And there was always the fact that I was completely terrified that a vampire might just come charging out of the forest at any minute and attack me.

"Oh, please," Embry scoffed, rolling his eyes. "You're just saying that because Quil – "

"She said she's done, Embry!" Quil fiercely interjected. He looked as if he was about to charge forward and strangle his friend, but I gently placed my hand on his arm and he stopped mid step. He turned his gaze back down towards me, realizing that he was getting slightly out of control, and made a strained attempt at a smile. With a soft murmur, he said to me, "Let's go, Claire."

I nodded and walked through the sand to Quil's jeep without another word.

The entire ride back to my house was quiet and, surprisingly, rather uncomfortable. Normally, all of the silences between Quil and me had always been so relaxing and put me at ease – but now it just felt like we were surrounded by a cloud of tension.

Finally, when we were just a couple of blocks away from my house, I cleared my throat, hoping this might break the strained silence. I felt tears welling up behind my eyes as Quil said nothing in response. It was an embarrassing response – getting tears in my eyes – but the silence was nothing but pure torture! Had I done something to make him mad? Was he angry with me?

And then, with a jolt of surprise, I realized that Quil hadn't ignored my not-so-subtle throat clearing, because, the next second, I felt his warm hand cover mine. My face flushed, realizing that my hand was resting on my thigh, just below the cloth of my shorts. Of course, Quil's hand was much larger than mine, causing the tips of his fingers to brush gently across the bare skin of my leg when his hand came into contact with mine.

I forgot to breathe for a minute.

"I'm sorry, Claire," Quil whispered, squeezing my hand.

I swallowed multiple times before I was sure it was safe to talk without the evidence of tears in my voice. "It's fine," I mumbled, unable to think of anything but the hand resting on my thigh.

"No, it isn't," Quil corrected me, shaking his head. He turned towards me, taking his eyes off of the road far longer than any normal human being would have. "I completely overreacted back there," he said. "I thought the guys were just taking it too far."

I shrugged, unable to disagree with his statement. Though the rest of the pack might believe that what they were discussing was as normal as a walk in the park for them, it had terrified me!

My silence must have made Quil question his actions because he pulled his hand away and started to slow the car, as if he were about to pull off on the side of the road. "We can go back, if you want," he said, beginning to appear worried. "You're not even supposed to be home this early – I could still take you back to hang out with the rest of the pack, if that's what you want…"

"Oh – no, that's fine," I immediately assured him. "I really wouldn't mind taking a break from some of their – vampire stories…"

Quil's knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel with a great amount of force. Once it started to make a cracking noise, his hands let up, but a slight dent remained embedded in the plastic.

All too soon, we reached my house. Quil slowly turned into the driveway and parked the vehicle without climbing out.

He glanced over at me with a solemn expression and fierce eyes.

"They did scare you, didn't they?" he asked in a low whisper. "I knew I should have told you about vampires when the guys weren't there – I never should have said anything with the others – "

"Quil, don't worry about it," I said with a hint of a sigh in my words. "I mean – the only thing that really freaked me out was that you broke your arm and you never even told me."

Quil swallowed and nodded, staring down at his lap. "It would have worried you," he mumbled, unable to meet my eyes.

I let out a short laugh. "And it's not supposed to worry me now?" I playfully slugged Quil's shoulder, knowing full well that he wouldn't even flinch once my fist came into contact with his skin. "Quil, I will always be terrified that you're out there patrolling for vampires." I rolled my eyes at myself as the next words spilled out of my mouth. "I was already worried when I thought you were just trying to keep La Push safe from common criminals."

Quil chuckled softly, but I could hear his voice echo in the small space.

"I'm not joking!" I told him. I tried to keep my face straight, but I couldn't help it as a small smile flitted across my lips at the thought of how ridiculous my previous assumption had been.

"I know, Claire," he said with a smirk. Then he opened the car door and ran around to my side. Before I had a chance to finish unbuckling my seatbelt, the door was already open and Quil was standing there with his hand extended towards me.

I quickly took his hand and held onto it, eager to simply have this physical contact, even if I was only able to hold his hand as I jumped out of the vehicle.

The moment my feet touched the pavement, I expected Quil to pull his hand away from mine as he had every other time I climbed out of the car, but he didn't. In fact, we walked all the way up to the front porch of my house, and not once did Quil even attempt to slip his hand out of mine.

So, naturally, the moment we reached my door, it was hard to keep the goofy grin off of my face.

"What is it?" Quil asked, noting my wide smile. His lips turned upward, amused by my expression. "Did I miss something?" he asked, searching my expression for some sort of a hint.

I pursed my lips together and shook my head, unable to respond. I simply squeezed his warm hand, swinging it back and forth as we stood still on the front step.

"Oh, Claire," he murmured as his smile began to disappear. "You have no idea how much you fascinate me."

My eyebrows shot into my hairline, stunned by his comment. I fascinate him? Surely he must be wrong, because he was the one that fascinated me.

"Really?" I managed to squeak. I cleared my throat, glancing straight ahead at Quil's chest instead of up into his eyes. "How?"

His smile returned. "Well," he started, "for one, I have no idea what makes you put up with me," he said. "Knowing that I phase into a wolf and I attack vampires for a living – well, normally that would be kind-of hard for most people to accept." He put his hand on my cheek, urging me to look up into his caring expression. I was sure the heat on my face was not due entirely to Quil's unnaturally high temperature. "But not you, Claire."

I swallowed, unable to believe his words. I couldn't even begin to process them because I was too concentrated on the fact that his hand was touching my face – something he didn't normally do.

By the time I had actually started to think about his words, I realized that his face was getting closer and closer to mine as the seconds ticked. And then, as I let out an inaudible gasp, his lips brushed against my cheek as he gave me a brief kiss.

That was definitely something he didn't normally do.

He pulled away with a slight smile playing at his lips. And then, slowly, he dropped his fingers from my cheek and released my hand that he had been holding up until this point.

"I won't be far if you need me," he whispered, as he did every night before he left. And, with one last smile, he practically sprinted to his car and sped away down the street.

I don't even know how I made it up to my room, to be honest. I vaguely remember my mom asking why I was back so early and my dad wondering if I had a good time tonight at the campfire, but I couldn't even begin to repeat any of the answers that I might have given to my parents' questions. To tell you the truth, I don't even know if I did answer their questions. I must have, though, or else they would have followed me up to my room in an attempt to get any sort of response from me.

But I could tell you exactly what I was thinking about, and it had nothing to do with my night at the bonfire. All that went through my mind was the moment that Quil had kissed my cheek on the front porch, replayed over and over until I was convinced I could picture him standing directly in front of me, about to kiss my cheek once again.

Fantasies began to play through my head as I changed into a pair of pajamas, turned off the lights, and climbed into bed. I tried to picture what would have happened if I had happened to turn my head just a fraction of an inch to the right and his lips had missed my cheek and came into contact with my own lips instead. How would he have reacted? Would he have been freaked out? Or would he have the same bottled up passion hidden deep inside that I had for him?

A pleasant shudder rippled down my spine as I curled up on my side, clutching a pillow to my chest. It was hard not to be absolutely thrilled when my first – and only – crush had just given me a kiss on the cheek! I mean – Quil had always been around! It was hard to not have a crush on the guy! But once he told me that he had stopped aging at sixteen, my feelings had intensified far more than they ever had as a child.

My thoughts seemed to lull me into a deep sleep. With images of Quil in my head, it was hard not to slip right into an easy sleep.

But, all too soon, my comfortable sleep took a turn for the worse.

Quil's face started to change. Fur was sprouting out of his body, ripping from his skin as he phased into a wolf. I had seen this happen multiple times before and wasn't afraid of him in the slightest. What did scare me, however, was the fact that there was now another creature standing directly behind him.

The man was absolutely motionless, seeming to be a part of the shadows. A black cape was wrapped around his shoulders and a pair of dangerous, pointed white fangs protruded from his mouth. His dark hair was slicked straight back and his eyes were fixed on Quil.

He was a vampire.

I wanted to scream out to Quil, to warn him that there was a vampire behind him, but he suddenly couldn't hear me. I knew I was opening my mouth and I could feel my throat growing raw, as if I was screaming, but Quil couldn't hear a word.

I watched in horror as the vampire easily stepped forward and reached out for one of Quil's legs. With a bored expression, the vampire easily snapped his back leg in half with his bare hands.

Quil howled out in pain, dropping to his knees since he could no longer stand on his broken leg. I tried to run to his side, but my feet seemed to be attached to the ground. I started to panic, terrified of leaving Quil weak and powerless when this horrible creature was hovering over him. And then, all at once, the vampire turned his eyes on me, seeming to notice my presence for the first time. His lips curled upward into a smirk, baring his razor sharp teeth at me.

I jerked awake.

Never before had I actually woken up from a nightmare like I had witnessed so many times in the movies. But, in fact, I was sitting straight up in bed, gasping for breath. My heart was pounding rapidly in my chest, unable to settle on a steady rhythm, and I found myself clutching at my shirt, trying to calm my fears and reassure myself that it was just a dream – nothing but a horrible dream. A nightmare.

I closed my eyes for a moment, directing all of my anger towards Seth and Embry for putting these horrible thoughts in my head in the first place. If they hadn't have been so blunt about the damage that a vampire could cause, I wouldn't be having this nightmare!

I was about to check the time on my alarm clock beside my bed when a movement in the corner of the room caught my eye.

At first, I assumed it was the vampire in my dream. In less than a second, my pulse doubled and my heart thudded uncomfortably loud in my chest. My palms began to sweat and my breaths came out in short, strangled gasps as I started to convince myself that it hadn't been a dream, after all – the vampire was back to kill me.

I nearly screamed, pulling the blankets up to my chin, when the figure suddenly stepped in front of the window. I could clearly make out his large, muscular outline and nearly sobbed in relief once I realized who it was.

"Quil," I whispered, allowing my grip on my bed sheets to relax. The blood began to flow freely through my fingers once more as I took deep breaths in an attempt to maintain a healthy heart rate. And then – it finally dawned on me.

Quil was in my room.

"What are you doing here?" I asked in a slightly sharper tone than I had intended. But I was curious! I mean – did he normally sit in my room when I was asleep, or did he just happen to sneak into my house? Because I was sure my parents wouldn't have let him into my room at night, even if they did tend to worship the ground he and the rest of the pack walk on.

"Er – hi, Claire," Quil whispered. He remained frozen in front of my window. All I could see was his silhouette due to the glowing moonlight pouring in through the glass pane, but I desperately wished to see his face at that moment.

I was staring silently at Quil, hoping he would explain his presence in my bedroom, but he didn't seem inclined to divulge any piece of information without me expressly asking him for it.

The darkness was killing me. I slowly sat straight up in my bed, and reached over to my nightstand and turned on my lamp, allowing a small amount of light to spill across the room and onto Quil's embarrassed expression.

He was staring determinedly at the foot of my bed. I didn't even notice him flinch when I flicked on the lamp. It was as if he was rooted to his spot.

"How did you get in here?" I asked in a soft voice.

Quil's lips parted. "Um…" He finally started to move, glancing over his shoulder at the window behind him. He then gestured at it with his thumb and turned back to continue staring at the foot of my bed. "The window."

"The window," I repeated, looking at the, now, closed window pane. "You snuck in?"

Quil's eyes dropped to his feet. "Um," he repeated himself from earlier. I watched his hands as they began to twitch nervously. He was continuously balling them up into fists and then releasing them. "Yes."

I should have been freaked out. I should have been alarmed that this man that I had known and trusted my entire life was sneaking into my bedroom while I was sleeping at night. But I wasn't. In fact, I wasn't thinking anything relatively close to those thoughts. All that I felt was…

Well, flattered.

"Oh," I said in a light voice. I swallowed, trying to figure out what else I could say. I mean – how, exactly, are you supposed to respond when you catch your best friend sneaking into your bedroom in the middle of the night? What was I supposed to say now? That I hoped he hadn't injured himself while climbing through a second story window? Or maybe that I hoped he was entertained watching me sleep?

I lifted a hand to my head and pressed the heel of my palm into my eye, as if I was trying to wake myself up. But, seeing as how I had already been startled by my horrendous nightmare and had now come to realize that I wasn't exactly alone in the room, I felt far more awake than I had been in weeks.

Quil hesitantly took one step forward, towards my bed. I glanced up quickly, surprised to see him moving, but my sudden movement must have frightened him because he immediately stopped.

We stared at each other for several minutes before I finally had the guts to ask him another question.

"So…" I licked my lips, trying to think of an appropriate way to word my next question. "Why did you feel like sneaking through my bedroom window?"

Quil cringed at my question. "I didn't just feel like it…" he mumbled, turning pink around the ears. "It's not like I do this all of the time."

To my astonishment, I felt my stomach drop. It was almost as if I was… disappointed that he didn't normally watch me sleep on a continuous basis. "You don't?" I asked in a weak voice.

Quil sighed, avoiding my eyes again. "It's not what you're thinking," he hurriedly assured me, shaking his head as his eyes finally locked with mine.

I could do nothing but stare back at him, still awed and amazed by the attraction I felt for the man that I had caught sneaking into my bedroom.

"Look – Claire – I'm sorry," he hastily apologized. He took a single step forward, but didn't seem to be able to move any closer than that. "It's just – I heard you having a nightmare and I just came up to check on you." He looked desperate for me to understand. "That's all I was doing – honest."

I frowned as I processed his statement. He had heard me having a nightmare? What exactly had he heard? And I knew his hearing was good, but it wasn't so good that he heard it all the way from his house – right?

"Um…" I cleared my throat, trying not to appear too embarrassed as I asked my next question. "What – exactly – did you hear?"

If Quil had noticed that my entire face was beat red, he didn't let on that he knew. He simply shrugged. "You were restless," he said. "I heard you moving around quite a bit."

I nearly let out a sigh, relieved that he hadn't heard me talking in my sleep about him or anything equally as horrifying, but he went on.

"And I heard you crying," he whispered, watching me with hesitation.

I blinked, staring back at Quil in shock before I lifted a hand to my cheeks. I gently brushed my finger across my skin, but stopped when I came across a dried tear track.

I had been crying.

"Oh my god," I muttered to myself, wiping furiously at my cheeks to remove any evidence of tears. "I can't believe I was crying…" And not only was it bizarre to be crying in my sleep, but it would be just my luck for Quil to hear me, of all people! I could almost feel tears rising to the surface once again, threatening to spill over due to my sheer embarrassment at the situation. "I'm sorry," I finally said to Quil. "I didn't mean to – to make you worry, or anything…"

Quil shook his head. "No, Claire, you didn't do anything wrong." He blinked, studying me for a moment before his chin dropped to his chest in defeat. "I'm the one that should be apologizing."

I froze in my place, waiting for Quil to continue. He shifted his weight back and forth from one leg to the other before speaking. "Look – Claire, I was sleeping outside of your window," he said in a fast whisper. "Every night that I don't have to patrol, I usually spend it sleeping beneath your window as a wolf."

Every night? I could hardly breathe. Quil – Quil Ateara – was sleeping mere feet away from me at night, and I had no idea!

Millions of thoughts and questions went through my head as I tried to find a response that might logically fit his revelation. Instead, I just asked the first thing that came to mind.

"Is that even comfortable?"

Quil's stiff posture crumbled as his shoulders relaxed and he let out a soft chuckle. He seemed to be returning to his normal self and I, for one, was relieved. Knowing that Quil was feeling better made me feel just as good. I even cracked a smile as he crossed the room and perched on the edge of my bed closest to my feet.

The moment he sat beside me on my bed, I was suddenly flustered. I tried to remember the last time Quil had been in my room, and I realized that it hadn't been years. Of course we had always gone into my room when I was younger and I wanted to play with my dolls, but eventually we had migrated from my room to playing downstairs, outside, or at Quil's place. By the time I was ten, I doubt he had even gone upstairs anymore.

Quil looked up at me and I shook myself from my thoughts. "As a wolf, virtually every spot is comfortable," he answered, giving me a half-smile. "I could be sleeping on a bed of rocks in the pouring rain, and it would feel the same as my bed back home."

"Oh, alright," I said. I attempted to sound nonchalant, but my words came out in an awkward, high falsetto. "That's – well – I'm glad you're comfortable…"

Quil's smile slowly disappeared. He stared down at the comforter on my bed. "I really am sorry, Claire," he murmured. "I mean – normally you don't even hear me come in."

My eyes widened. "Normally?" I repeated, stunned by this news. "How often do you normally sneak into my room?"

Quil blushed, seeming to realize that he had just given away a new piece of information that could have remained a secret. "Whenever you're having a nightmare," he admitted. "Ever since you were a little girl, I would always climb in through your window whenever you had a nightmare, just to calm you down." He shrugged, scratching the back of his head. "I mean – usually you don't wake up so suddenly from your nightmares like you did tonight…"

I bit my lower lip, trying not to grin, but it was difficult. I mean – how many people can honestly say that they know someone – one who I happen to be madly in love with – who is always there to prevent anything bad from happening to you, including something as simple as a nightmare?

I had wrapped my hands around my knees, still covered by my bed sheets, when Quil spoke up.

"When you were just a baby," he began, "I would always help put you to sleep." His eyes seemed to glaze over as he got a faraway look in his eyes. "If you woke up during your nap after having some sort of scary dream, I would always rock you back to sleep and – " Quil blinked, breaking away from his temporary daydream. "Well, I guess I never broke the habit."

I smiled, imagining Quil holding me as a baby and rocking me back and forth in his arms. "But you can't do that anymore," I stated, now curious as to how he eliminated the nightmares now that I was much larger than a baby.

Quil shook his head, smirking. "No, that's not quite what I do anymore."

The room fell silent, but I was no longer intimidated by it. There was a new side of me that was beginning to emerge. I was feeling incredibly brave and empowered, now that Quil was no longer in control of the situation. He wasn't my protector or guardian or even a shape-shifter, now – he was just like any other normal boy; one who got embarrassed and had flaws. I found his one weakness – occasionally sneaking into my bedroom when I was asleep – and now, all of a sudden, I felt like I was practically fearless in front of him.

I swallowed once, clearing my air passage, and then leaned back so that I was lying down on my pillows once again. I stretched out my legs so that my toes reached the bottom of the bed, and pulled my bed sheets up past my waist.

"So, what do you do?" I asked in a soft voice.

Quil was unmoving, staring wordlessly back at me.

"Come on," I encouraged him, feeling my cheeks flush with the adrenaline of my sudden onslaught of bravery. "What do you do to calm me down after I have a nightmare?" I pressed, hoping for a response. My smile disappeared from my face. "Show me."

Quil's eyes locked with mine, probably trying to decide whether I was serious or not. He must have realized just how serious I was, because, next thing I knew, Quil stood up from his spot on the edge of the bed beside my toes and moved towards the small lamp on my bedside table. He turned it off with a soft click and sat down directly beside my head. I stared straight up at him through the darkness, my heart pounding nervously as I waited for him to make the first move.

After a long pause, Quil slowly reached out his hand and picked up mine in his warm palm, squeezing it within his grasp.

"Usually I hold your hand," he told me, massaging the knuckles of each of my fingers. Then – to my utter astonishment – he lifted his other hand and gently cupped the side of my face. He glanced into my wide-eyed expression before whispering, "Or your cheek."

His thumb swept absentmindedly across my cheek, as if he had been doing this his entire life. But the moment his thumb accidentally brushed over my lips, he jerked his hand away, as if he had been burnt, and immediately shoved both of them back into his lap, suddenly embarrassed.

I held my breath, watching Quil with wide eyes, anxious to see what his next move would be. He didn't appear to be leaving, but he was clearly feeling rather uncomfortable, now.

My stomach twisted into knots as his eyes turned towards my bedroom window, as if he were thinking about leaving my room.

No, I silently pleaded with him. Don't leave!

And then, in a fit of selfishness for wanting Quil to stay with me as long as possible, I grabbed his hand and pressed it back onto my cheek, hoping to distract him from his urge to leave.

He stared at me with an incredulous expression, but I refused to back down and let his hand go – not now that I had finally realized that I had a small amount of bravery in my veins.

Then he smiled.

"I'm not quite sure why it helps you sleep better," he murmured, as if nothing had interrupted our previous conversation. "I think the heat must have something to do with it," he mused. "It just seems to calm you."

I blushed beneath his hand, knowing full well why his touch seemed to eliminate nightmares. I was sure it wasn't necessarily the heat radiating off of his body, so much as the fact that I always seemed to associate heat with Quil.

"And if that doesn't work, well…"

Quil trailed off, glancing down at the mattress. He cleared his throat and licked his lips as he seemed to compose himself.

I shifted slightly, trying to get a better look at Quil in the darkness. But before I could move very far, I started to hear a very soft humming.

The humming continued as Quil's eyes flicked back up to mine, locking with my gaze.

I let the familiar melody go on for several minutes before I cut him off.

"Quil, that's beautiful," I whispered, smiling at him with tears in my eyes. Quil shrugged my comment off, as if to say that it was no big deal. "Really!" I told him, awestruck by this beautiful voice that he had never used around me – at least, not while I was conscious to hear it. "I love that song, Quil," I told him, touching the hand that was still covering my cheek. "My mom used to sing it to me all the time when I was younger."

Quil chuckled, shaking his head as he laughed.

"My grandfather used to sing that song to me before he died," he confessed with a small smile. "It's an old Quileute lullaby." I frowned slightly, trying to figure out how my mother had known of the song when our family was not part of the Quileute tribe. "And I sang it to you when you were a baby," Quil finally answered my unspoken question. "Your mother learned it from me."

"That was you?" I asked in disbelief. I started to sit up, but Quil gently pushed my shoulders back down into the mattress. "You taught that song to her?" I asked, momentarily unfazed by Quil's hands resting on my shoulders.

Quil smiled. "Is that so hard to believe?" he countered in a teasing tone.

I shook my head very quickly against my pillow, allowing several strands of hair to spill onto my face, hiding my eyes. Quil didn't even hesitate as he reached forward to brush my hair behind my ears. I immediately started to blush when his hand settled comfortably just behind my neck, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

I swallowed.

This night was very quickly becoming my favorite memory.

"You – you did all this for me?" I stammered. "Whenever I had a nightmare – you went to all this trouble? For me?"

Quil nodded, smiling. And then – causing my heartbeat to double instantaneously – he kicked his legs up onto the bed and supported his upper torso with his elbow, hovering directly above me.

"Of course," he finally answered, as if it were obvious. His face was mere inches from mine. "You're my world, Claire." His thumb began to move, brushing over my cheek as I furiously batted my eyes, trying to hide the tears. "My life."

I forced myself to look away, horrified that I was getting so emotional in front of Quil. But it was hard not to feel this ecstatic when your lifelong crush just told you that you were his life!

Hoping to hide my tears, I rolled over, off of the pillow, and pressed my face into Quil's chest, hugging him as tight as I could. He silently responded soon after, rubbing my back in small, soothing circles. I shivered from the warmth spreading down my spine, simply because of Quil's touch.

"I can't believe it," I whispered into his shirt. "I can't believe you would do that for me, Quil."

The hand on my back slowed its motion, coming to a standstill. I heard Quil take in a deep breath and let it out in a controlled exhale. Then, without moving, Quil murmured, "I would do anything for you, Claire."

My fingers clenched onto the front of Quil's shirt, desperate to keep him close. I inhaled, taking in his familiar scent without returning my head to my pillow.

And then something changed.

It must have been the fact that he was so close to me and I was simply intoxicated by his mere presence. Or maybe it was the knowledge that we were alone – in the dark – and in my bedroom.

Before I could talk myself out of what I was about to do, that same, unexpected burst of bravery seemed to make a brief reappearance as I moved closer to the skin at the base of Quil's throat and kissed his collarbone, just above the neckline of his t-shirt.

My lips hovered above his skin for a fraction of a second as I waited for Quil's reaction. He seemed frozen – immobile.

I immediately pulled away, worried that I had just done something very wrong – so very wrong – that could jeopardize our friendship.

"I'm sorry," I hurriedly apologized, disentangling my hands from Quil's shirt and pulling them back to my chest. I stared down at my white knuckles, refusing to look into Quil's expression. "I shouldn't have done that," I muttered, shaking my head as I tried to get a grip on reality. There was no way he had any sort of feelings, other than strictly platonic ones, for me. This whole nightmare situation – it changed nothing between us just because he cared enough to sing me to sleep in the middle of the night. I was stupid to even consider the notion. "That was crossing the line."

I swallowed, feeling tears spring to my eyes once again, but for an entirely different reason. I suddenly felt a surge of hatred towards myself. Why had I gone and screwed things up with Quil? We were just fine where we were! But now I had to go and make everything so – awkward between us! I almost wished that he would go away as soon as possible, now. I didn't want him to see me cry over this stupid little crush I had on him when I knew he would only ever consider me to be "just a friend".

Just as I was about to turn onto my other side, facing away from Quil so that I could pretend I was tired, Quil began to react.

I felt his hand at the base of my neck slowly begin to rise up towards my face. His fingers, which had previously been playing absentmindedly with my hair just moments earlier, now covered my cheek. But then – just like before – his thumb brushed across my lips, causing my gaze to dart towards his.

Only this time – he didn't pull away.

"I don't think you were crossing the line," he whispered to me, shaking his head.

My mouth went dry as I tried to interpret this response. I knew exactly how I wanted to interpret it – but I couldn't have been right. "I wasn't?" I finally asked, unable to say anything much more complex than that.

Quil seemed to be moving closer as I stared up at him with wide eyes. "No," he murmured, tilting his head to the side a fraction of an inch as he seemed to peer down at me with curiosity. "You weren't."

I was stunned. No, not stunned – I was more than stunned. I was astonished – surprised – confused – hopeful.

He didn't mind that I was being forward. So it was alright that I had kissed him? Or did he see it as a friendly gesture? He must not have interpreted the kiss in the same way that I had, or else he surely wouldn't have said that it was fine…

And then, before my mind could shoot off into another theory, Quil began to smile and all coherent thoughts stopped.

I watched, swallowing as he leaned towards me and placed a delicate kiss on my forehead.

My eyes closed, relishing in the feeling of his warm lips against my skin. It was a simple kiss, lingering for only a moment before he slowly pulled away. But I knew, from that one kiss, that it wasn't platonic in any way, shape, or form. Quil had kissed my forehead several times before – but it suddenly took on a new meaning, now.

I opened my eyes when the warmth of his lips left my skin. The first thing that caught my attention was Quil's gaze. He seemed to be watching me with a nervous expression on his face, as if he were unsure of his actions. He might have been waiting for some sort of a response from me, but I could do nothing but watch soundlessly as he eventually leaned back in, only to kiss my cheek.

His lips remained against my blushing skin longer than they had the first time, causing my heart to race. I was finding it harder and harder not to allow my head to collapse backwards onto my pillow in fatigue as Quil unintentionally caused my pulse to skyrocket. He had never done this to me before – and yet, it felt as if he knew exactly what to do to drive me crazy.

This time when he pulled back the slightest fraction of an inch, his nose remained in contact with my cheek, skimming slowly along the side of my face until he finally rested at the place where my jaw ended and my neck began.

When he kissed me at my pulse point, I actually gasped. I couldn't control myself. My hands were pressed between Quil's chest and mine – the distance between us seemed to be quickly growing smaller and smaller – but I knew they would have been limp at my sides if it hadn't have been for Quil's close presence. My head, on the other hand, had neither pillow nor hand to support it, so it rolled back, allowing Quil full access to my neck.

"Quil," I murmured, biting my lower lip as Quil's mouth slowly moved upwards towards my jaw. He didn't respond to his name. Instead, he placed one last kiss directly on the corner of my mouth.

And then he pulled away.

I forced myself to regain control of my body. I awoke from my stupor, lifting my lolling head back on top of my shoulders. I flexed my fingers, realizing that they were lying limp across Quil's chest. And then – with a painstaking effort – I forced my eyes to open, afraid of what sort of expression might be painted across Quil's face this time.

But of all the emotions I had been expecting, I hadn't been anticipating this one. I couldn't have been more relieved to look into his eyes.

Quil was looking down at me with pure adoration. A tiny smile played at his lips as his eyes danced with joy. His entire face seemed to be glowing, as if he had just set eyes upon the world's greatest treasure.

It made my stomach twist with pleasure to know that I was the one he was looking at.

Quil glanced down at my lips, seeming to be enticed by them, and then returned his gaze to my eyes. He leaned in, unblinking. One hand continued to cradle my cheek while the other traveled tentatively down my side, firmly gripping my waist when I didn't object to his movement. He was so close that, not only could I feel his warm breath washing over my senses, but I could hear his slightly staggered breathing.

I swallowed. I was sure it must be audible to Quil as well, but he didn't acknowledge the noise.

He seemed far too preoccupied.

And as it seemed nearly impossible for him to get much closer, Quil's lips lightly brushed against mine, as if it were an accidental meeting. I wondered if he was trying to tease me by trying to be as physically close to me without actually kissing me.

To my slight disappointment, he remained in that spot for what felt like several minutes, though it might have only been a couple of seconds. He was either nervous – possibly feeling exactly what I was feeling right about now – or he thoroughly enjoyed torturing me.

I tried to take in a deep breath, but all I could inhale was a small gasp. With what little oxygen I had mustered, I managed to speak.

"You can kiss me," I finally whispered against Quil's lips in a shaky voice.

This seemed to be all the encouragement that he needed, because, at that moment, Quil's lips came crashing down onto mine, moving with such a longing and passion that I could have never imagined. There was no way I could be dreaming this sort of thing up. This moment was too perfect to believe that it had come from my imagination; Quil had snuck into my bedroom in the dead of night to protect me from my own nightmares, and he had ended up on my bed, kissing me without any sort of restraint – and I mean really kissing me, like one would do with a lover. It was as if he had been harboring this passion, hidden inside of him for years, and now it was all surfacing with this one kiss.

I felt myself sighing into his open mouth as Quil gently rolled me back onto my pillow, pressing me into the mattress of my bed. He continued leaning forward so much so that he was now lying directly on top of me, putting a pleasant amount of pressure on my chest. I could feel nothing but pure bliss as one of his hands reached back behind my head, running his fingers through my hair, while his other one, previously stationary at my waist, nervously ventured outward, brushing against the exposed skin between my night shirt and my shorts. My own hands seemed to work their way up to the back of Quil's neck, urging him closer to me than was physically possible to signal that I wasn't opposed to his exploration.

With a feeling of remorse, Quil's sudden surge of passion slowly diminished as he managed to find the strength in himself to pull away. He softly kissed me once, then twice as he attempted to put a bit of distance between us. Finally, after a third, short kiss, I started to smile at his antics. Quil rolled back onto his side to maintain an appropriate distance between us, smiling down at me in return.

"Well," I murmured, giggling softly as I spoke. I wasn't quite sure how to express the strong emotions radiating through me. They seemed to be coming out through unstoppable smiles and endless laughter. I cleared my throat, trying to remind myself that, even though my biggest crush had just made my dreams come true, I was still at risk of embarrassing myself in front of him. "Um…"

Quil chuckled as I stumbled over my words. However, I noticed that he, too, seemed to be grinning like a madman.

I wasn't the only one that seemed to be on a high right now.

"I, uh…" I blinked, glancing away from Quil's mesmerizing face for a moment to compose myself. "I wasn't exactly expecting that – and certainly not tonight…"

I caught Quil nodding out of the corner of my eye. "Neither was I," he responded softly.

I chewed on my bottom lip once again, staring determinedly at Quil's shirt as I spoke. It was certainly making things much easier when I wasn't locked into his intense gaze. "I mean – I didn't mind…" I immediately added, hoping I hadn't given Quil the impression that I didn't want him to kiss me.

I glanced back up to look into Quil's expression, just in time to see him smirk. "Neither did I."

An irrepressible laugh bubbled up from my chest, filling the silence.

I sighed in content, looking straight up at the ceiling as I tried to gather my thoughts and catch my breath. I was immediately distracted when Quil's hand began to stroke my hair away from my face and behind my ears. He came into view as he hovered above me and leaned down to place a kiss on my forehead.

"So," he started, resting his chin on the top of my head. "Are the nightmares gone, now?"

I grinned, unable to hide my merriment. I buried my face into Quil's chest instead of wiping the smile off of my face. "I think so," I finally answered him.

Quil stopped brushing my hair behind my ear. He pulled away slightly and peered down at me before kissing me once again, sending my heart into a fast, uneven rhythm. But before I even had a chance to disentangle my arms from Quil's chest so I could wrap them around his neck, he started to pull away.

I groaned in frustration.

"Quil," I whined softly, reaching out to latch my hand onto Quil's forearm. He paused in the process of climbing off of the bed to glance over his shoulder to look back at me. "Where are you going?" I asked, trying to hide the disappointment in my voice.

Quil seemed to look down at me as if the answer was obvious. "You're not having a nightmare anymore," he told me. "I was going to let you go back to sleep, now." He must have caught my horrified expression, because he quickly added onto his statement. "I'll see you first thing in the morning, Claire. I promise."

I shook my head, searching desperately for an excuse – any reason – for Quil to stay with me. "Well – not now, I'm not," I eventually sputtered, crossing my arms stubbornly over my chest. "You think I'm going to go to sleep very easily after this?" I asked, widening my eyes meaningfully.

Quil glanced down at the ground, smiling slightly.

"I mean – what if I fall asleep eventually," I stammered, "long after you're gone. I could still have nightmares, right?" I tried to interpret Quil's expression, but it was unreadable. "Maybe…" I swallowed, lowering my voice. "Maybe you better stay with me, just in case."

Quil squinted at me, eyeing me with curiosity. He cocked his head to the side, smirking at my lame excuse. He was clearly enjoying this far too much.

I sighed, dropping my shoulders in defeat.

"Please don't leave," I finally admitted in a whisper. My arms fell away from my chest and I started to wring my hands together. "I don't want you to go."

The somewhat cocky expression on Quil's face disappeared, but his smile remained intact. He glanced down at the bed sheets on the bed, then back up into my face. Finally, with a soft sigh, he murmured, "This is a one-time thing, Claire."

I could hardly contain my squeal of excitement as Quil pulled back the sheets on the bed and slid beneath them. I immediately felt the warmth spread beneath the covers and grinned.

I felt somewhat guilty for convincing Quil to stay with me, purely for selfish reasons, so I quickly rolled onto my side, facing away from Quil so that I could actually attempt to fall back to sleep instead of keeping Quil awake all night like I would have really wanted.

I practically died when Quil's warm, strong hands firmly gripped my waist, just like he had before. He started to pull me backwards until I was pressed firmly against his chest. His legs slid forward, one of them resting naturally over the top of mine. His hands then proceeded to snake around me, hugging me tight. I grinned at the prospect of falling to sleep while using Quil's arm as a pillow.

I couldn't have felt more at ease than I did at this very moment. In fact, it almost felt as if I truly could fall asleep. Being with Quil felt like it was the most natural thing in the world, as if I had slept with him by my side nearly every night.

I shivered in delight when Quil's face bent low and he began to nuzzle the back of my neck. He seemed to push enough of my hair away from my skin to press a soft kiss at the base of my throat. But then, instead of pulling away, his head remained buried in that crevice between my throat and my shoulder. I could feel his warm breath skimming across my cheek and into my ear as he leaned forward to softly whisper, "Goodnight, Claire."

I closed my eyes, unable to keep the permanent smile off of my lips as I slowly drifted to sleep. But I knew at least one thing was for certain.

I wouldn't be having any more nightmares tonight.

Author's Note: There you have it! I'm not completely in love with this story, but I have parts of it that I like more than others. For some reason, I kept re-writing certain sections over and over... so I hope it was all worth it in the end!

I'm thinking the next story you'll see from me will probably be a Renesmee/Jake one-shot... So keep an eye out for it!

Yours truly,
Amelia Bedelia