This is a story about Quil and Claire as she grows up and learns about life. Starts on her fourth birthday and will touch on moments that are somehow important in her life. It's a pretty basic Quil and Claire story - just my take on how their relationship plays out.
I wrote this as a companion piece to my other story "Life on the Rez," but it is made to stand alone and the non-canon things in that story will be minimized as much as possible for this.
I really hope you all like it! Please Read and Review!
Also, Disclaimer: I do not own anything or anyone that you recognize.
"Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to meeeee, Happy Birthday to me!" Four year old Claire Ozette she skipped down the stairs half singing, half yelling the classic birthday song. She wore a purple sweater, red leggings, a red tutu with purple polka-dots, and brown cowboy boots with purple stitching. Her long hair was pulled into a comically lopsided ponytail by a flamboyant red feathered scrunchie.
Her mother laughed. Elizabeth Young, now Elizabeth Ozette was as happy and beautiful as her sister, Emily. Her bronze skin and raven hair glimmered in the light of the rising sun coming through the living room window. "Happy Birthday, my love," she said quietly. "Shh, you'll wake your father." She scooped the girl into her arms and placed a loving kiss on her cheek.
"Mommy, where's Quil?"
"Claire, sweetheart," Elizabeth said, lowering Claire back to the floor, "the sun's barely up. I know you're excited for your birthday, but you do know that people need to sleep, don't you? I told Quil he could come over at 7:30 so you two could spend the whole day together."
"What time is it now?" Claire asked, looking up expectantly at her mother. Elizabeth glanced at the clock.
Claire scrunched up her face, thinking hard. "How long until Quil gets here?" she asked when she couldn't figure it out on her own.
"An hour and a half. That's like the time it takes to drive to Port Angeles and back."
Claire's eyes widened in horror. "Mommy, that's like foreeeeeeever!" she cried.
"Shh," Elizabeth reprimanded gently. "Daddy's still sleeping." A beautiful smile graced her face.
"Don't worry; It'll go by like that." She snapped her fingers. "First of all, let me fix your hair." She reached down to pull out the scrunchie, but Claire quickly maneuvered out of her grasp.
"No, Mommy! I want to show Quil! I did it all by myself 'cuz I'm big now. I'm four years old!"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes with a chuckle. "Alright Birthday Girl. Come on, then. You can help me cook the chicken to bring down to La Push, and then we can make some birthday pancakes."
Claire's face lit up. "Blueberry pancakes?" she asked excitedly, following Elizabeth into the kitchen.
"Of course." Elizabeth tied a blue and white cotton apron around her waist and did the same for Claire. "But chicken first."
Claire climbed up onto a step-stool so she could reach the counter, and then followed her mother's lead, working a garlicky rub onto half a dozen whole chickens. Her little hand scooped up the wet flavoring and massaged it clumsily onto the skin of the chickens. Then she stood back while Elizabeth put the first two into the oven.
They heard a knock on the door. Elizabeth frowned and checked the clock. It was 6:45.
"Quil!" Claire shrieked, sprinting to the door and flinging herself into Quil's waiting arms.
"Happy Birthday, Claire Bear," he said, sporting a grin a mile wide. He walked over to kiss Elizabeth on the cheek. "Hey Liz," he said. "Sorry I'm early…I just had a feeling she'd be up, and I promised I'd be around all day."
Elizabeth laughed. "It's fine. She's been champing at the bit since she came downstairs. It's all I can do to distract her until you get here." She shook her head, not understanding her daughter's affection for this man. Sure, he was sweet, and he offered the girl a lot of attention, but still, she was sure she had never seen a four year old with such a strong attachment to anyone other than their mother before. In fact, though she generally tried to push the thoughts out of her head, she sometimes wondered whether his connection with Claire was stronger than her own. But she would not allow herself to feel any resentment or jealousy toward this man who Claire loved and who was willing to help her out so much when she really could not afford decent childcare.
As if in response to her thoughts, Quil shrugged with a charming smile before turning his attention back to Claire. "Are you excited for your birthday surprise?"
"Oooh! What is it, Quil? What's the surprise? What is it? What is it? What's my surprise? What is it? What's the surprise? What is it?"
"You'll just have to wait and find out," Quil said, interrupting her impressively persistent badgering.
"I caaaaaaaaaaaaan't waaaaait!" Claire cried. It was as if she were in agony.
"You'll see it soooooon," Quil sang. He was thrilled with himself. Claire had been anticipating her birthday for a long time now, and there was one thing that she had been asking for consistently. He couldn't afford to buy her something expensive, but he was quite proud of the gift that he had been working on building for her for weeks. He was almost as excited for her to see it as she was. Fortunately, being expertly practiced in delayed satisfaction, he was great at find ways to distract both himself and his little protégé.
"Now turn around, let me look at you." He said, putting her down so she could do as he instructed. Claire delicately held the edges of her tutu and twirled in place. "Oh my goodness!" Quil exclaimed. "You're so big! How old are you now?" he asked, though he was well aware of the answer.
"I'm four years old," she said, holding up a hand, four fingers stretched to their limits.
"What?" He feigned incredulity. "No way. I thought you were at least 17. You look so grown up. I bet you got dressed all by yourself this morning."
Claire beamed with pride. "Mhm," she nodded. "And I'm helping Mommy make breakfast." She led him into the kitchen, where the ingredients for the batter were already carefully measured and arranged on the counter next to a large mixing bowl. Claire hopped back up to her stool and waited for her mother's instructions on what to do.
"Oooh, yummy." He rubbed his hands together. "What's on the menu?"
"Blueberry pancakes," Claire whispered with glee.
Elizabeth handed her the dry ingredients one at a time, and helped her dump them into the bowl without spilling.
Quil gasped. "My favorite! Good thing you don't like blueberry pancakes because I'm going to eat them all!"
"No Quil!" she squealed. "Don't eat them all! I do like them!"
Elizabeth added the eggs while Claire was distracted and began to mix the batter.
"Are you sure?" Quil teased. "I thought you only liked to eat slug sandwiches!"
Claire scrunched up her nose in disgust and stuck out her tongue at him. "Eeeeeewwww. Quiiiiiiil! Yuck."
"No? What about cricket cupcakes with mud frosting?"
"Groooooooosssssssssss" Claire cried once more, louder this time.
"Uh oh. Then you'd better fill up on pancakes, because all we're having at the party are slug sandwiches and cricket cupcakes with mud frosting." He popped a blueberry into his mouth before emptying the rest of the container into the batter that Elizabeth was stirring.
"No, Quil. You're teasing me." Claire shook her head confidently. Seeing that her part was finished, Claire got down from her stool and Quil helped her into her booster seat at the table.
Within minutes, Elizabeth brought two plates of blueberry pancakes to the table. One plate contained a single pancake cut into small pieces. This she placed in front of Quil. The other, piled high with six pancakes, she put down in front of Claire. "Is that right?" she asked.
Claire looked at Quil, and then looked up at her mother. She gave a sly grin and nodded her head. "Yep."
Quill narrowed his eyes. "You little weasel," he said, switching their plates.
Claire giggled and happily accepted her proper plate.
By the time Claire and Quil were finished eating, Dan Ozette was making his way down the stairs. He wore jeans and a white t-shirt, and was combing his long, wet hair into a ponytail.
"Happy Birthday, baby girl," he said, placing a kiss on the crown of Claire's head. "Morning Sweetheart," he said to Elizabeth, kissing her briefly on the lips.
"Daddy's here! Can we go now?" Claire asked, hopping down from her seat.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Soon, Sweetie," she said. "But Daddy hasn't even eaten yet."
"Hurry up and eat, Daddy!" Claire cried, pulling him over to the table. "I've been waiting all day for my surprise!"
"Claire, it's only 7:30," Elizabeth reminded her.
"Your life's going to be so much easier when she learns to tell time on her own," Quil laughed.
Claire did not stop pestering her father to hurry until he had finished eating and the four of them were piling into the car to head to La Push.
When they arrived at the community center, Emily and Sam were already there setting up. Sam was standing amidst a pile of balloons, hanging red and purple streamers and Emily was starting to lay out the food. There was a huge paper banner that read "Happy Birthday, Claire!" hanging above a table that housed several markers that people could use to sign it. Sam and Emily had already made their contributions with sweet little notes about how much they loved her. On the table, next to the markers was a small pile of neatly wrapped gifts.
"Hey Emmy." Elizabeth greeted her sister with a kiss on the cheek. Her hands were full with one of the trays of chicken she and Claire had made.
"Liz!" Emily cried, throwing her arms around Elizabeth as best she could. Then she took the tray and added it to the lineup.
"Emily," Dan greeted her with a kiss, carrying the other tray of food. "You look like you're about to pop."
Emily ran a hand over her hugely swollen belly. Indeed it had been a long pregnancy and she was ready for it to be over. "Yep," she said with a smile. "Just a few weeks to go." Her eyes scanned the room. "Now where's the birthday girl?"
Elizabeth inclined her head toward the other side of the room where Claire was twirling for Sam, showing off the outfit she had put together all by herself. "Wow Claire Bear, look at you," Emily exclaimed, rushing over to Claire and sweeping her into a hug. "Happy birthday."
"Thank you, Aunt Emily!" Claire smiled giddily.
"Now that you're here, should we put on some music?" Emily asked.
"Yaaaaay!" Claire shouted. She pulled Quil into an empty spot on the floor and began jumping around when Emily turned on the music. Quil hopped around with her, held her hands, and spun her in circles while the other adults continued to set up the room. One of the many reasons Claire loved having Quil around was that, when the other grownups were being boring, he always stayed and played with her.
Around noon, more people started to arrive, and it wasn't long before the large room was filled with all the people that Claire loved the most. They spent the day dancing, eating, and playing party games.
"Quil," Claire asked after winning a game of Red Light, Green Light (It was the one game they always let her win). "When do I get to open my presents?"
"Well, first we have to cut the cake."
"Mmm, cake!" Embry echoed. "Let's do it!" He raised his voice so he could be heard over the crowd. "Cake time, people!"
They crowded around the cake and Quil lifted Claire up so she could see over the table. It was a huge rectangular spice cake with cream cheese icing – Claire's favorite. It said "Happy Birthday Claire Bear," in loopy purple letters and was edged with roses made of frosting. Claire gasped. "It's beautiful!" she said, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
Elizabeth stuck five candles into the large white cake – one for each year of the little girl's life, and one for good luck – and lit them as everyone burst into song. When they were done singing Happy Birthday, Claire blew out all five candles in one breath, a feat which she and Quil had been practicing in the preceding week. They all clapped and Claire was ushered over to the pile of presents that had grown significantly since the morning, while Emily cut the cake.
Nestled in Quil's lap, Claire had the presents handed to her one by one. She tore open the paper on a series of dolls, clothes, books, little trinkets, and toys. Most were handmade, and Claire could only begin to understand the effort and love that had gone into each little gift. But still, after just one 'what do you say?' from Quil, she happily cried a satisfying "Oooh, thank you!" as she uncovered each of her new things.
When she got to the bottom of the pile, she looked around, confused. "But Quil, where's your present?" she asked.
"It's not my birthday," he said with a smirk. "I don't get presents."
"No, Quil! For me! What did you get me for my birthday? Where's my surprise?"
"Aha!" Quil said, sweeping her up onto his shoulders. "It's outside."
Claire's whole body shook with excited anticipation as she rode outside. Out in the cool misty air, Quil lowered Claire to the ground and she found herself face to face with a shiny red and purple bicycle. The way it gleamed even in the dim porch light distracted Claire from the fact that it was built from old parts that Quil had recycled from his, Embry's and Jake's first bikes. He had, however, picked up a brand new set of training wheels, which, along with a fresh coat of paint, a hand-woven white basket, and red and purple handlebar tassels, made the bike look almost new.
Claire's eyes practically bulged out of her head. "My bike!" she exclaimed as if it had been hers all along. "It's perfect!" She squeezed Quil's legs in a tight hug before climbing on the bike and taking off. She rode around in circles and back and forth a few times, leaning heavily on her right training wheel, before returning to where Quil, and now much of the rest of her family were standing watching her.
She climbed off her new bike. "Can I have cake now, Mommy?" she asked.
Elizabeth looked over her shoulder with a guilty grimace. "You didn't get any? I think it's gone, Sweetie. Your uncles ate it all."
"Next year," Quil said conspiratorially, "you should ask for chocolate."