A/N: Set about eight and a half years after A NEW MORNING, this is a quick one-shot about Quil and Claire. You don't have to be familiar with ANM to appreciate the story, but some of the references might be obscure if you haven't read the other story.
Just a one-shot! :) ~LJ
This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.
"Hell, yes, it upsets me," Jacob muttered to Quil over a root beer at Claire's graduation party. "Not as bad as it was with Sam," he continued, his voice still respectful when speaking of the former Alpha Male of the wolf pack. "But bad enough." He saluted Quil with a wry smile. "At least you've never done anything to Claire."
"Not one thing, nope. One of her best stories is about the time I saved her from a kidnapper and ran off into the woods with her." He shook his head fondly, lounging back against the driftwood he and Jake had commandeered this evening. "Of course, it's also good that I'm not ten feet tall with a wingspan of eight. Ha!" He grinned at his own muscled frame, clothed in just a pair of faded denims just now. At six foot three, he lacked a few inches maybe, from Jacob, and but the muscles, he had. "I think maybe I scared her, that night, you know?"
Jake almost laughed that off, but instead he took another sip of his soda and thought about it. "Impatient, maybe?" he mused aloud. No one else – excepting himself – had ever imprinted on a tiny child before. And he had been lucky. Hell, he'd been totally fortunate. Nessie had matured in a matter of a few years, not a decade and a half or something. She had triggered the furtherance of the imprinting on her own before he'd really been ready – had freaked him out, but it turned out great – so he hadn't had to wait and wonder like Quil probably was. "Wonder what's up, there?"
Quil punched his ribs. "Don't even. You know it's all cool. I mean, sure, it'd be nice... Yeah. Won't deny it. Even Embry finally got married. Ha!" Another pack scandal, but it'd been a healing thing, too. "I'd never want her to think I was sitting here, wondering what was up. I mean, why'd I Imprint if not for the genetic thing, right? Does that make sense to you?" Felt like he had a puzzle piece missing the last few days, though. Like something was not quite right. He kept looking around, thinking he'd lost something.
"Nope," Jake sighed. "But Imprinting on a newborn hadn't made sense to me, either. A newborn half-vampire at that," he murmured much more quietly. "At least the babies didn't mess her up like I did," he added. Nessie's left arm was permanently shorter than her right, thanks to him. But the natural hormones of her body – Dr. Carlisle Cullen surmised, anyway – had enabled her skin to grow with her pregnancies. And there had been three of those. Three tremendously healthy pregnancies which had lead to three tremendously healthy kids.
Quil watched Claire affectionately as she and Nessie waded in the ocean, their legs wet and their shorts salt-spattered with the windblown spray. "It's not like Claire's biological clock is ticking anyway," he decided with a stretch.
"I'm going to ask Ness what she thinks."
"No! No you're not. No. I'm not going to have my girl worrying I'm sitting here stewing about it. I'm not, you know. Most of the time, anyway. I guess it just sort of hit me 'cause she's graduated."
Jacob heard the edge of longing in his friend's voice, though, and understood it. Maybe what happened when he was taken by surprise by Nessie was because it was Nessie – and she had not been expected to "be a grown-up" for another year, in his head and heart. He had figured - all those years ago - that he had time. But maybe, if she hadn't slipped with her sharing with him of how she kinda felt... Maybe if she'd kept it under wraps for another year and hadn't been injured and all that... Maybe when she was officially "a grown-up" he might have started to get all edgy, too.
"Serious, now. 'Cause it happened to me, right..."
Quil shifted a little and drew up one knee in a halfway defensive posture. "What?" He leaned in a little, his eye on Claire.
"Are you feeling, like, edgy and stuff? Like you've got something itching all under your skin in your head and everywhere?"
Quil froze. "Man. Yeah. Thought maybe I was getting sick or there was something else happening with all this stuff."
"Nope," Jake confided. "It happened to me. Anything else?"
The shorter man shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, man. Like... Yeah." He angled a brow at Jake and shifted his hips just a little. Enough for the Alpha to understand, though he promised himself to banish the memory immediately.
Jacob Black nodded with a little grimace. "Just started? Took about twenty-four hours for me."
"Then I've got about another five."
"Great..." Jake drew the word out before puffing a breath into the darkening night.
Quil laughed with soft self-deprecation. "Gotta tell ya, I'm relieved, though. Because I was thinking it was something weirder."
"We're werewolves, Quil. How much weirder can we get?"
"Stay here a sec, bro. I'll be right back," Jacob suggested, leaping easily to his feet. His bare feet left deep prints in the wet sand as he paced the distance to Nessie and Claire. Quil watched, not as averse to having him do this as he was, earlier. He didn't want to make Claire uncomfortable – last thing in the world he ever wanted – but he was uncomfortable, dammit, and that apparently meant something. Jake was just being a good Alpha, right?
Jake put an arm around Nessie while she touched his face with her hand. Quil thought that was kind of cool. Nessie had shown him stuff like that and he decided it was good – if it was your best friend's wife's thing. Not so cool to be married to, he didn't think. Too immediate, to his way of thinking. No time to put thought between idea and communication. No time to take a step back and think of what you were saying. For Nessie, when she did that, it was all about what she was sharing and you had no choice but to see it all.
Jacob, though, thought it was great. And yeah, Quil might have been the tiniest bit jealous of that quality of companionship.
His focus shifted to Claire, who was looking awkward. That, Quil could not allow. He bounced to his feet with grace and crossed the sand to her. "Hey, Claire! Did you bring me any of my favorites?"
She grinned up at him, her dark eyes dancing in what he thought was relief. "Yes! The Doritos I had to hide, though. I was afraid Seth would take 'em."
"You know he is a bottomless pit," Quil commented, draping his arm over her shoulder as they strolled back to her cycle. She liked it because it was economical. Also, he suspected, because it let her drive with the wind on her face and wear sexy leather jackets...
What? Sexy leather jackets? Where did that thought come from?
A memory ran across his mind of his Claire racing one of the boys from school on her motorcycle. Her hair was flying behind her, over the black leather jacket and black leather pants...
His body suddenly tensed and he took a deep breath to calm himself. That was a mistake; it only brought to his newly sensitive nose the warm and so-feminine scent of the girl under his arm.
"Quil? You okay?" She sounded concerned.
The reassurance was instinctive. "Sure, yeah. Just had a weird thought is all."
The rest of the bonfire party went on without incident. Quil was bewildered but also a little relieved. So this is what the rest of the guys have been dealing with, he reflected after a final can of soda. He remembered the eye-rolling about Jared and Kim, years ago. That sudden drive...
He never really understood it 'til just now.
At the end of the night, Claire went around, hugging everyone. Her friends who had graduated, her family, everyone. Quil was prepared to race her home...
And then, Jake and Nessie caught his eye. Nessie jogged over to him, her face still impossibly young and college-student-ish, even after years of marriage and having borne three children.
"May I?" she asked while Claire was still saying goodbye to people. She half-lifted one hand and Quil nodded. Nessie smiled lopsidedly and touched her hand to his face while Jake rounded up their kids.
It wasn't much of a sharing, he guessed. Not long. But...wow. He had his eyes open and saw both the vision she sent to him and her expression as she did so and...wow.
It was a memory, as most of her sharing things were. A memory of the first time she had ridden on Jacob's werewolf-back after she had grown up. After the accident that had brought about a sudden growth spurt and piled four years' worth of growing into two days. Since it was a memory, the emotions in it were hers... The heat, the awareness, the subsequent arousal...
And it was kind of wild. Sensual overload. He found himself jerking his head away. "Nessie?" What on earth...?
"He said I could show you. So you'd know...maybe...what you could do?"
Quil felt his eyes widening as he sought Jake across the beach. What the hell? "Nessie..." he began hesitantly. "You're... different. I mean, that never scared you, right? All the wolf stuff."
"Never did, no. Jacob and I have always been together like that."
"I figured. But see, Claire's not like that, as much. She's..." How to say it without getting her all mad?
"Human?" Nessie chuckled softly. "Yeah, I know. But.." she went on, an impish smile practically exploding in eyes of melting chocolate, "she is a woman..."
"Ha," he said, practically on reflex as Nessie lowered her hand. Good thing, too. "You know, you could have just told me," he muttered, stepping back from her.
Nessie bit her lips together, as if to keep back a laugh. "Tell me the truth, Quil Ateara. If I had come up and told you to ask her to ride you wolf-fashion, because it can be a real turn-on, would you have believed me or thought Jacob was messing with you?"
"Now, I'm blushing," he told her.
"I know. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. But I can tell you that she will need something that, um, drastic. Something definitive."
"What do you mean?"
"Talk to her, Quil. I don't want to give her secrets away like this. Talk to her, okay? Ask her if she wants to take a ride."
He was on the verge of saying Forget it, when he heard Claire's voice. "Where's Quil?" she called to Jake.
"Yeah. Maybe. Go home, Nessie." Then, he shook his head, a laugh sifting out through the discomfort. "Just wait 'til the kids are asleep to take your own advice, hey?"
Her laugh was throaty as she stepped away. "You think we need another daughter?"
Quil just blinked. He considered, briefly, taking Jake's back leg off just for throwing all this at him in one evening. But then, Claire approached, a curious expression on her face. "Jacob said you wanted to see me?"
Jerk, was Quil's first thought to his brother, but he shook it off. He knew Jake was just trying to help. "Always," was what he said to her.
Her expression expectant, she rolled up on the balls of her feet. "What?"
He cleared his throat, unsure how this would go over. "Um, you wanna ride home?"
"I brought my bike, Quil." She chuckled and gestured back to her motorcycle.
He grinned and nodded. "Granted. How about just going for a ride?"
Her body stilled for a moment before she dropped her eyes. "Just a ride? Like, just around?"
Crash and burn, he was thinking, but he persevered. What the hell, right? "Yeah?"
He felt his smile turn wicked. "On me. Wolf-fashion, you know?"
Her eyes flashed to his. "Serious?" she whispered, sounding suddenly excited and secretive. Breathless, even.
Surprised at his success so far, he bent his face closer to hers, to keep up with the whole "secret" angle. "Totally serious. You up for it?"
"Ha!" Without another thought, he scooped her up in his arms, her laughter a delight to him as he ran with her to the woods. Fine, if Jacob and Nessie could do it, so could he and Claire, right? Nessie was not hurt on a run, after all. So long as Claire wasn't touching him while he phased, there should be no problem.
He knew where he was taking her, so his mind was free to just dwell in the moment as he ran with her body nestled next to his. She had her arms wrapped around his shoulders, so that she was slightly curled into his chest. Nessie had said something about Claire needing something drastic? For what? He never wanted to upset her, not ever! He just...wanted her.
But how did she feel, now that she was all grown up?
They reached the shelter of the trees, hiding the half-moon of light in the sky. Stars helped, but it was still kind of dim to human eyes.
"Where are we?" Claire whispered, her voice catching his ear just right.
"Almost there. You doing okay? Sure you're up to this?"
She laughed softly. "Is this another present, Quil? I'm trying to figure you out."
"Yeah, you know me. The Mystery Man."
"Sometimes... I really do think you are, you know," she returned, not laughing at all.
He came to a stop, his feet bare on the cool, damp earth. Keeping her in his arms, he studied her face, her eyes – usually happy, now pensive and speculative. "Me? Claire, you know that you've known me longer'n just about anyone. I don't have any secrets from you."
She cocked her head, still apparently comfortable enough being held in his arms, her body soft and pliant against him. "Really?"
"Claire-girl, you know I phase into a wolf at the drop of a hat; there are no bigger secrets." He laughed, even thinking it. "Ready to run?"
"So, if I ask you a question," she said, not answering his, "you'll answer? About anything?"
The imprinting guy has no barriers to total honesty with the girl he imprints on; that was a rule and a fact. "I can answer anything," he assured her.
She bit her lips together for a brief heartbeat. "Are you, um. Do you like girls?"
"Huh?" Baffled, he set her down and angled a confused frown at her.
Her skin was hot; she was blushing. "I meant, um, I've never seen you with a girlfriend, you know? You and Embry had a place for a while, 'til he got married, but, you've never... you know..."
Now, he was blushing. The Imprint. He'd never told her about it. Didn't have to, for sure, but should he? "I have had a girlfriend," he said, deciding to run half and half with truth and fantasy.
She stiffened in his hands. "Who?"
"You! So, do you want a ride or not?"
"Yes!" She laughed, sounding confused but happy. That made two of them, Quil decided.
He waited, wondering what to say. Turn around, I have to go from half-naked to wolf-in-the-buff or Keep your eyes on the ground or... He settled for watching her face while he started unbuttoning the Levi 501s.
She gasped and spun on her heel. He didn't bother disguising his chuckle. "Sorry, sweetheart. The jeans have to go somewhere."
"Yeah, of course," she said, sounding strangled as he rolled up the Levis and tied them to his ankle. "Just never really thought..."
"Now. Be very careful. I don't want you hurt," he said seriously. Calling upon the heat was normal, now. Part of his life for more than fifteen years. The whisper trail of it down his spine, the hot prickles on his skin, the feeling of power gathered from the air around him...
And then, just before he felt himself explode, she turned, eyes wide. He couldn't stop, but he jumped back as he phased, making sure that she was not in the reach of his arms. He froze, though, on all fours, studying her, whining a little. He could phase right back if she needed him to, but –
"Quil..." she murmured, sounding amazed but also as if she had heard an answer to a tricky question. "I can recognize your eyes."
He chuffed, nodding his canine head before stepping slowly closer to her. She didn't back away. He knelt in front of her so as not to tower over her, knelt so that his head was about at her shoulder. She smiled a little and touched his fur tentatively. "You can't talk to me like this, can you?"
He shook his head but nudged her with his nose. Pulled his lips back in an approximation of a smile with his tongue hanging out, as he'd seen Jake do times without number. Never before had it occurred to him that there would be a reason he'd wish to appear less threatening in his wolf skin. The whole point of being a protector of his people was to protect and defend and fight the bad guys – in his case, vampires. But now, for Claire, he wanted her not to be afraid. So he kept a more submissive posture in front of her. Until he heard her heartbeat settle into something closer to normal.
She continued to gaze at him with increasing wonder in her eyes, her lips parted as if she'd say something. She didn't. She just caressed his face – which he totally appreciated – before asking, "Can I... Feel your fur? Is that okay? Like, on your shoulders and... "
He chuffed his agreement and approval and barked a laugh to himself. Should I roll over? Nah...
Her touch grew more sure, more lingering as she trailed her fingers through his chocolate-brown fur, over his shoulders, along his ribs, across his hips... He had no idea how good that would feel. No wonder Jake takes Nessie for rides, he reflected with humor as he settled even lower to the ground. He rumbled contentedly.
She halted. "Is that a good sound?" she asked, heartbeat spiking, her voice coming from behind his right shoulder.
He chuffed an affirmative. She understood and he heard, finally, her heartbeat calm within her breast. When she reached his face again, she placed one hand on each side of his muzzle. "So... You still want me to, um, ride you?"
Angling his head back to her, he chuffed again and held very still. Just get on, he wanted to say. Like a horse. Like your motorcycle.
After a few moments, she moved. Tentatively. Standing next to his right side, her left leg went over his midsection and she slid awkwardly to his back, just behind his shoulders. Now, he was the nervous one! He tried to be careful as he rose to all fours, tried not to jostle her.
"Whoops!" she squeaked, grabbing his fur in two fists. It wasn't like her hands hurt, but he could feel it. He took a few steps, remembering how Nessie had shown him that she had had to tighten her legs to hang on. After a few steps, Claire did the same thing, her thighs clamping along his flanks.
Whoa, he thought. Whoa. Now he got it. Wondered if there was something wrong with him, that this whole wolf-human thing was... Was so all-encompassing. So...intriguing. Arousing, even. Yes, even to him. As a wolf. What were the implications of that? While thinking that, though, he continued to move cautiously, increasing his speed as he felt Claire's growing comfort on him. Her hands clutched less convulsively, her hips rolled with the movements of his body...
Though he was a wolf, Quil swallowed. Whoa. He picked up the pace a little, monitoring her balance through his skin, his muscles, his sheer awareness of her. Her continued quiet was mysterious, but he felt her growing confidence in her posture and in the tensing and loosening of her muscles wherever she touched him.
Soon, though, he heard, "Quil? Are we going to, like, run?" He thought he heard a smile in her voice.
Yes! He thought, suddenly eager to do that which had unnerved him only a short time ago. With a look over his shoulder, he saw his girl, her dark hair framing the big, dimpled smile and lively, flashing eyes. Yes! he chuffed at her before focusing on the trees and piling on the speed.
"Wow!" she gasped almost immediately. He slowed, but she patted him. "No, no, this is great! Wow! Quil!" He heard her laughter, the amazement in it, the delight and that was enough for him, too. But then, he felt a strange settling in her body. As if she were sinking into him, in a good way. Molding her movements, her muscles, to his own.
He ran faster, the trees flying by. "Wait!" Claire called. He dug in immediately, turning and kicking up a wave of earth and pine needles. Half-expecting her to leap off his back and run back to the beach, he was surprised when she was laughing to herself. "Um, sorry. I was just.. a little overwhelmed," she told him.
He nodded and knelt to the ground again, so she could dismount, if that was what she wanted. It was so frustrating to be unable to speak to her!
But she didn't dismount. She hummed a little, under her breath. "I think I just need to, um, sort of lie down, if I can, Quil," she told him, moving her body so that her stomach was on his spine. "I don't want to fall..."
Oh, that was good. He waited while she made her adjustments and rose to his paws again. He tried to ask Is that better? with some kind of bark-whine combo and heard her light laugh.
"Can we go again? Are you tired?"
He barked, delighted as always to make her happy. He remembered when she was a toddler and wanted to play peekaboo for an hour at a time. He had enjoyed making her happy then, too. He took off at a run, with the general idea of heading back to her motorcycle. He piled on the speed, feeling her hold him more tightly, her fingers gripping his fur and even her toes finding some sort of purchase on his rear flanks.
This really was something else. Had the other guys all done this or was it just Jake and Nessie? If so, they'd kept their memories of it out of the way. Come to think of it, so had Jake! Freaky. There were no secrets in the wolf pack; it was one of the established facts of their lives. But maybe... Maybe there were ways to discipline the mind so that certain secrets could be kept? Maybe? Jake had figured it out, for sure, because none of them had ever seen this before.
Before they reached the beach, he slowed down, feeling Claire's heart pounding into him. He didn't want to go to the bike if anyone were out there.
"Wait," she murmured, as if understanding his wish for secrecy and privacy. She knew that the wolf thing was a secret, even on the rez. "I can just walk to my bike, Quil. I'll be all right." She started sliding slowly from him, and he whined a little, under his breath. He didn't like her leaving him. He didn't want her to walk by herself to her bike, either. When she seemed not to listen, he barked softly.
She paused and turned, just as she cleared the trees. "I'll be fine," she said again.
With the ease of a decade and a half of practice, Quil knelt and called upon his human form, bringing himself speedily back to normal. Naked, but really, he was more interested in her safety than anything. "Claire," he hissed, jogging up behind her, the Levi 501's negligently over an arm. "Wait a sec."
She was halfway to her motorcycle when she stopped. Noticed his jeans. Closed her eyes. "Um, Quil?"
"Pants?" she said, sounding like she was choking.
He rolled his eyes. "You were just on my naked back," he reminded her, relaxed now that he was walking her to her bike himself.
"Yeah, but, um, you were covered...?"
He chuckled and came to a decision, there under the half-moon, with the sounds of the surf to one side and the memories of his ride with her just behind him. He slid his jeans back on to free his hands and then took her by the shoulders.
Something definitive, Nessie had suggested.
"All right, I'm covered. Better?"
"Yes," she whispered, studying his face. "So... Um..."
He felt her tremble, heard her heart push faster. Stepping closer to her, he slowly moved his hands from her shoulders down her back. Slowly. Didn't want to scare her. This was... different... Definitive... "Um what?"
"Do you like girls?"
She had asked him that before and he had no idea how she could doubt his answer after just seeing him stark naked. "How do you mean?" he finally asked.
Her face bloomed with heat; he could feel it. "I mean, I - hm. I've only ever seen you around my family and the other guys in the pack, you know? You've always... Always been with me... I didn't know... Um..."
The confusion was frustrating and he hated to see her so uncomfortable. "Sweetheart," he finally whispered, "just ask me."
"I don't want you to get mad or anything."
"Mad? At you? When have I ever been mad at you?" He tilted her head back so that what there was of the moonlight would shine on her features. "Ask me."
She inhaled quickly, shallowly, as if afraid. "Are you gay?"
Stunned, he froze, his hand still under her chin. "Gay?"
"I mean, it's okay and all that. Not a problem, I just wondered, you know, since I'd never seen you with a girl and I didn't want to, like, bother you or anything –"
Insight hit him between the eyes like a rock. He smiled gently, shook his head at her and – while she was still getting her breath back – claimed her lips with his.
And the world sort of exploded around him. Yes, there really could be fireworks, like he'd heard about. The need for her punched into him solidly, below the belt and under his heart, like a physical force. It was almost wild, almost frightening – but not quite. Just enough to make him more aware of her than of himself.
She hesitated only an instant. Only a moment before making some sort of cry in her throat and slipping her arms up and around him. He melded his mouth to hers, parting her lips, tasting her, until he couldn't breathe anymore. Then, he slid his attention to her throat and heard her gasp his name.
"Is this a no?"
He chuckled against her skin before moving to meet her eyes with his. "This is a hell no, sweetheart."
"I was only waiting for you," he confessed, his hands combing through her wind roughened hair. "You are the only girl in my life."
"Like Nessie and Jake?"
"Like Nessie and Jake. Except you smell better."
She laughed. Then, pressing her cheek to his shoulder, she sighed. "I kind of wished I'd asked you that question years ago."
"That could have been complicated."
"I also kind of wish –"
"What?" he wondered, holding her closer and feeling incredible. As if all the pieces of a puzzle inside of him were there, now, and the world made better sense than it had yesterday.
"I also wish I hadn't brought my bike, so that you could give me a ride home."
He grinned at the implications of that and made a mental note to thank Jake and Nessie. Tomorrow. "You could give me a ride home instead," he suggested.
He felt her smile against his skin. "Your home or mine?"
"Driver's choice," he said, a surge of desire sweeping powerfully through him. It was unnerving, but he wasn't about to complain. He was kind of thankful, just now. Thankful that he hadn't imprinted on a "grown-up" all those years ago.
He just shook his head as he climbed carefully behind Claire on her cycle. "I love you," he murmured over her ear before she started the engine. It just slipped out. The wonder of the evening, the joy he had in being with her, and the relief, really, that he had had all her life to come to know her and really love her for who she was before all of this hit him.
Her body stilled for a moment and he winced to himself. Real smooth, just blurting it out like that. Real nice. Yeah. She didn't turn the key to start the motor. Instead, she half-turned in front of him, her body pressing into his in all kinds of interesting ways as they both straddled the seat of the motorcycle. At least she didn't look scared, or disbelieving or anything. He saw her eyes dancing in the cloud-diffused moonlight, her dimples deep wells in her cheeks. "Oh good. I'm not in this alone, then."
He closed his eyes and kissed her, his innate balance keeping the cycle upright even when she curled thoroughly against him, as if forgetting where they were and everything. "Never alone, sweetheart. Not ever."
"I love you, too," she whispered. "I think I always have."
"So, has the driver made her choice, then?" he wondered, inhaling the unique scent of her skin.
Her response was breathless. "Mm-hmm... Come on, Quil. Let's take a ride."