Disclaimer: I own no one you recognize.
Thanks to everyone who's reading. Hope you like the new chapter! Sorry it took so long!
I always love to hear what people think, so RxR please :)
When Collin jumped down the entire flight of stairs in one leap, the foundation of the house shook. Claire looked up at him in awe, her mouth hanging open. The expression on Quil's face, however, was quite different. In fact, if looks could have killed, Collin would have dropped dead on the spot.
"You trying to bring my grandfather's house down?" he snarled.
Collin ignored him and headed toward the kitchen. "Yo, do you have anything to eat?" When he returned with a bag of potato chips, Claire was five steps up preparing to jump.
"I can do that!" she exclaimed.
"Whoa there Claire Bear," Quil said, snatching her down. "You can't jump from up there. You'll hurt yourself."
"But Quil, I'm big now. I can do it." She squirmed in his arms, trying to get back to the staircase.
"Sorry Munchkin. It's too dangerous."
"But Collin did it. Quil, I can do it, too! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease! Please Quil! I really can do it. I promise I can. I can do it. Please? Pleeeease Quil!" She was working herself up and would soon be in full on tantrum mode.
Quil cringed. He hated saying no to Claire. If she started crying, he wasn't sure he could maintain his resolve. He glared at Collin. "You see what you did?" he muttered. Restraining Claire in one powerful arm, his other darted out to slug Collin in the shoulder as hard as he could.
"Oww!" Collin complained, rubbing his shoulder. "What, dude? Just let her jump. She'll be fine." He shrugged, planting himself in the armchair in front of the TV. "And if she hurts herself, she'll learn."
"See Quil? Collin said I can do it." She looked up at him, her eyes big, her bottom lip quivering. She could see the consideration in his eyes. He was softening. In her most sugary sweet voice she asked, "Don't you believe in me?"
Guilt hit Quil like a wave. How did he get turned into the bad guy here? He was supposed to be her best friend. The one she could always count on. How did this suddenly get turned around on him? And how could a five year old be so smart to know exactly where to hit him to make him break? "Of course I believe in you, Claire Bear. I just don't want you to get hurt," he said, lowering her to the floor.
"I won't," she assured him. "I promise."
After another moment of hesitation, he let out a sigh. "Okay, you can jump from the third step."
Claire was already back on the fifth. "This one?" He cocked his head and raised one eyebrow. She descended to the fourth. "This one?" she asked again, hopefully.
"Fine. That one. I'll catch you, okay?"
Claire grinned. "Yay!"
"Okay, bend your knees and push off hard." She prepared. "Ready? One, two… three!" She launched herself into his waiting arms, squealing with joy.
"Again!" Claire cried, scrambling up the stairs as soon as Quil placed her back on her feet. Seeing her so happy and excited, Quil couldn't help but relax. He held his arms out again and she leapt again with as much glee as the first time. After repeating this process several times, the dolls that they had been playing with before seemed to catch Claire's eye and she ran back to the living room. Quil followed her, somewhat relieved.
Just as Quil was picking up his Barbie, Embry burst through the door holding a bucket of fried chicken. "What up, CQ? What up, Collin?"
"That's what I'm talking about!" Collin said. He hopped up from the chair and grabbed a chicken wing. "How you doin', Embry?"
Embry plopped down on the couch. "Not too bad. You guys hungry?" he asked Quil and Claire.
Quil watched as a smile crept across Claire's face. She licked her lips, her eyes trained on the food. "Thanks," he said to Embry. "Let me just grab a plate for the munchkin."
As soon as he got to the kitchen, Quil heard the words "Uncle Embry, look what I can do!" Before he could even react, there was a loud thud and the next thing he knew Claire's cries pierced the air.
"Shit!" he breathed. He was sitting by her side in an instant, scooping her into his lap and cradling her in his arms. Her hands clutched her forehead where it had smashed against the banister. Blood seeped through her fingers. "Shh, Claire, shhhh," he cooed, rocking her back and forth. "Shh. You're okay. Let me see," he said, tenderly taking her hand, exposing a small gash at her hairline above her right eyebrow.
Embry was there with a damp cloth, gauze and some masking tape. "You don't have band-aids," he said apologetically. Quil used the cloth to dab gently at the blood. Claire continued to cry as Quil cleaned her wound.
"Ooooowwwwwww," she wailed between teary breaths. "It huuuuuuuuuuuuurts."
Pain was swelling deep within Quil's chest. With every sob it tore into him. "Shh, Claire. You're going to be okay. Just let me clean it up. It'll stop hurting soon."
"On the bright side," Collin said, "next time I'll bet she listens to you when you tell her not to do something."
"You're an idiot, you know that?" Quil spat furiously. "What am I supposed to tell her parents? They're never going to let her come over here again. This is the exact thing that I'm not supposed to let happen. I'm supposed to keep her safe; that's the only reason they leave her with me." Claire's cries grew louder at Quil's frantic speech. He noticed and took a deep breath to calm himself. "Shhh. You're okay Claire Bear. You're okay."
"Umm, maybe I should go," Collin said.
Embry laughed. "Yeah, that might be best. And you might want to avoid him when Claire's not around for a while, too. You know he doesn't like getting violent in front of her, but if she's not there to protect you…I'd fear for your life."
Quil ignored their conversation and finished cleaning the cut. Then he carefully positioned the gauze on her forehead and used the masking tape to hold it in place. Once he had fixed her up, he held her tight against his chest whispering words of comfort and stroking her hair.
Shortly, her tears stopped and she looked up at him. "Quil?"
"Yeah Claire Bear?"
"I'm sorry," she sniffed.
"Sorry?" he asked, carrying her to the couch.
"I promised I wouldn't get hurt. And now Mommy won't let me play with you anymore and it's all my fault 'cuz I didn't listen." Her eyes welled up again, but they were not tears of pain or shock. They were tears of remorse.
"Hey," Quil said reassuringly. "Don't apologize. It was an accident. Alright? It's okay. You're okay. And don't worry; Mommy will still let us play. I'll always be here to play with you."
"Yeah," Embry said with a smirk, "Quil was just being a drama queen."
Claire's face scrunched up in thought. "What's a drama queen?" she asked, enthralled by the very mention of the word queen.
"Well," Embry started, sitting next to them on the couch, the smirk still plastered on his face, "it's a very fancy-looking queen who dresses in long gowns and lots of jewelry but always eats too much sugar and gets over-excited so she exaggerates. Do you know what it means to exaggerate?" Claire shook her head. "It means to make something seem bigger or better, or in this case worse, than it really is. To make it seem more dramatic."
"Oh," she said. She considered this. "Quil is a queen?"
Embry nodded. "A very fancy drama queen. He doesn't look it though, does he?" Claire looked Quil up and down, then shook her head. "Do you think maybe we should help him look like the glamorous queen he is?" Over Claire's head, he waggled his eyebrows devilishly at Quil.
Quil shot Embry a dirty look. He couldn't be too mad, though, because Embry had successfully distracted Claire from any lingering pain and she was once again giggling happily. She dragged Quil up to his room where they fashioned a dress out of a sheet and draped it around his body. Then they painstakingly searched his bedroom and the rest of the house for anything that could be attached to string and fashioned into jewelry. Claire applied some old tempera paint to his face for makeup As a finishing touch they made a crown out of cardboard and painted the words 'drama queen' across the front.
Claire stood back to admire her work. "Quil," she said almost in awe. "You look beautiful."
Embry was doubled up trying to restrain his laughter. "Dude, you need to look in the mirror."
They heard the door open downstairs. "Hello?" Old Quil called out. "Anybody home?"
"Up here, Grandpa," Quil called back, hurrying back down the stairs holding Claire's hand.
"Well well well, don't you look lovely," Old Quil said with a grin.
"It's all thanks to my amazing stylist," Quil said, twirling to show off his outfit.
"He's a drama queen," Claire declared.
Old Quil burst out laughing. "You can say that again." He took something out of his pocket. "I have something for you." It was a bar of solid milk chocolate.
"Oooh, thank you!" Claire said, taking it from him.
"Grandpa," Quil said, "we're trying to teach her to share."
"You boys eat enough food around here. She deserves a little something to herself," Old Quil said good-naturedly.
"But Quil," Claire said, "you can have some."
"I can't, Claire Bear."
"Why not? Don't you like chocolate?"
"Of course I like it," he said.
"Everybody likes chocolate," Embry said almost longingly. "We just can't eat it."
"It makes us sick," Quil explained. "Me, Embry, Uncle Jay, Uncle Sam, all the guys."
"What a cruel joke," Embry reflected. "I haven't had chocolate in almost four years."
"Well then it makes me sick, too," Claire decided.
"No Claire," Quil said. "It's okay. You can eat it. You'll be fine. It's a … well a guy thing I guess."
"If you can't eat it, then I can't eat it either," Claire said determinedly.
"Okay," Quil shrugged, taking the candy bar and handing it back to Old Quil. "Thanks Grandpa, but I guess it's all yours."
"Suit yourself," Old Quil said, unwrapping the bar and taking a bite. "Will you three be here for dinner?"
"Thanks Mr. Ateara," Embry said, "but I'm gonna eat with my mom."
"And I've got to take Claire home," Quil said. "Her parents usually feed me."
"That's never stopped you before," Old Quil chuckled. "I'll have food for you when you get back. Pick up some bread on your way home, will you?"
Quil felt a hand on his shoulder as he followed Claire out the door. "What happened to her head?" his grandfather asked.
Quil rolled his eyes and shook his head. The frustration of the situation came back to him quickly. "She saw Collin jump down the stairs and decided she wanted to try it herself. I let her try a couple of times and I caught her, but then when my back was turned, she was showing off to Embry. Didn't make it all the way down, hit her head on the banister." He took deep breaths to suppress the stress. Old Quil laughed. "What's so funny?"
"Acting rashly? Doing dangerous things just for the sake of doing them? Showing off to Embry? She's turning into a miniature you."