Just a Kiss Contest
Story Title: Little Kisses
Summary: Quil and Claire share many kisses, some smaller than others.
Word Count: 3910
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Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No Copyright infringement is intended. Thanks to Sarita Dreaming and Sparkly Red Pen for their beta services.
Jacob led the way, holding the door to Emily's house open for Embry and Quil. They all thought of it as Emily's house even though Sam had paid for it. She kept it, she painted the doors and shutters, Sam just roughed it up. It was her house. The smell of her baking hit the boys first, stomachs rumbling in answer. She laughed at the noise, her scarred cheek crinkling further in her smile.
"Come in. The cookies are cooling. You can't have these," she ordered, pointing to one pan. "Those are for my nieces. The rest... well, I'm sure they won't last long."
She was right. Even steaming from the oven, the boys just juggled them once or twice before scarfing two each, burning the roofs of their mouths and their tongues. The hurts healed almost immediately, not stopping them from grabbing another half-dozen between them.
Emily shook her head and turned back to the oven, popping another pair of pans covered in dough into the hot chamber. The boys barely noticed the wave of heat.
"Nieces?" Jacob asked. "I didn't know you had nieces." He spoke around the cookie in his mouth.
Emily wrinkled her nose at the complete lack of table manners the boys demonstrated. "Yes. Little Diana and Claire. They're five and three." She lifted the contraband cookies onto a plate and covered them with a tea towel. She was hoping if they were out of sight they might go unnoticed. She couldn't stop their aroma from wafting out, though.
Quil leaned on the counter beside Emily as the Clearwater siblings came in. Jacob and Embry moved into the living room where Sam, Jared and Paul sat watching a game. Quil waved to Seth and was ignored by Leah. A coolness seemed to fill the previously stifling kitchen as Leah regarded Emily, her cousin. Then she sniffed and passed through to the living room.
"Hey, Emily. How's it going?" Seth asked, snagging one of the cookies from under the towel.
Emily smacked his hand hard with a spatula, but Seth only just noticed. "Those are for the girls."
"Girls?" he asked, suddenly alarmed. "What girls? I didn't know there'd be girls." He looked down at his bare chest. None of the boys wore shirts. Quil and Jacob didn't even have shoes. It was easier that way.
Emily chuckled. "Diana and Claire." Seth relaxed visibly. They were his cousins, too, second cousins.
There was a knock at the door, guaranteeing one of the pack wasn't on the other side. None of them knocked.
Emily patted Quil's shoulder as she moved past him to open the door. She hugged her sister in greeting, and two black-haired girls, neither more than three feet, burst in around the pair. The older of the two stopped briefly, then ran to Seth, recognizing him. The younger stared up at Quil, then curled her fingers in and out of a chubby fist, beckoning him.
Quil had frozen upon meeting the child's eyes, the world seeming to rebuild itself around him, fitting a new pattern, one centered on this girl. He crouched down, and she put her tiny hands to his cheeks, kissing him on the mouth, her lips wet and smacking.
"I like you," Claire declared. "Let's play." She tugged him toward the dolls and other toys Emily had set out for them. She gave Quil a stuffed bear and held the doll with the dark braid, explaining that they should all have tea.
Quil couldn't take his eyes off the child, filled with the desire to keep her happy, to keep her safe. He sipped pretend tea until Sam grabbed him and dragged him out the door.
"Hey, what the-" Quil was cut off as Sam slammed him against the wall of the house, breaking siding.
"Did you just imprint on Claire?" It had been several minutes, probably a quarter of an hour, since Claire had met his eye and kissed him, but only now did Quil realize what had happened. He knew from Jared and Sam what imprinting was, what happened to the wolf, but both of them had imprinted on grown women, their physical attraction as strong as any of the other feelings.
Quil wasn't physically attracted to Claire at all. That was gross, disgusting, and yet, he could see exactly that thought in Sam's eyes.
"No! Well, yes, I imprinted on her, but no! I'm not... in love with her," he finished shrugging out of Sam's hold. "I want to protect her, keep her safe. Playing with her is fun, and that's the imprinting, too, but no, not that." He didn't have to explain further. Sam relaxed.
"Mind phasing so I can see for myself?" He used the alpha tone, commanding rather than asking. It said he didn't care if Quil minded or not.
"If it'll get you off my back..." he growled, pulling off his shorts.
Within a minute he was back with Claire, pouring her doll another cup of tea. Sam, shaking his head, joined the pack, speaking to Emily. "He's fine. He just... wants to be her friend." They all stared at the pair playing, Diana taking another cup and joining in after a second cookie of her own. None of them knew quite what to make of it.
Claire sat on her pink bedspread, looking up at her large friend. Quil had been her friend forever, as long as she could remember. She trusted him with everything. That didn't make her any less nervous about this. She ran fingers through her black hair, reaching her waist now, as he regarded her from the doorway.
"What's up, Claire?" he asked softly. He always spoke softly to her, never angry, never raising his voice. He didn't treat her like a child, not really, but like a china doll, easily broken but precious. He stepped forward slowly, sitting carefully beside her on her bed. It sunk under his weight, and she started to topple into him. Her hand landed on his knee, and her twelve year-old heart started to race. She looked up through her lashes at him, afraid how he might respond.
He didn't really, just steadying her by the shoulders and helping her straighten. His hands were so warm, always warmer than her. She knew about his phasing now, the reason his body temperature was so high. This had been a terrible idea. She didn't have anyone else she could ask, though.
"Quil... will you..." She kept fading out, unable to say the next words. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and said clearly, "Kiss me?"
Quil blinked, stunned. His hands, still on her shoulders, let go. "You want what?" he asked, bewildered. Then, realizing she might take that badly, he said, "Are you sure that's what you want?" He didn't feel any differently toward her. He wouldn't want a physical relationship with this twelve year-old any more than he had with the three year-old he had imprinted on. He loved her with all his heart, wanted to do anything to make her happy, keep her safe, but he never thought of kissing her – not now, like this. Sometimes he pictured her older, but he didn't do that often either.
"I'm sure," she said, thrusting her chin out. "They played spin the bottle at Melissa's party, and I wouldn't play because I've never been kissed and don't know how, but I want to play next time. I want to know what kissing is like." She barely paused for breath as she rushed ahead. "I know you're just my friend and that you don't like me that way, but I trust you and..."
Quil put a finger to her still moving lips. "I will, Claire. Just so you know. You weren't scared to ask me, were you?" he asked, cocking his head to one side. "I don't want you to be afraid to ask me anything."
She sighed and shook her head, relaxing. "No, not really. Even if you said no, I knew you wouldn't make fun of me." She played with her hair a little more, until the silence became a little strained. "So you will?" she asked, looking up at him again.
Quil shook himself, thinking about the dreams of his that featured an older Claire, one that he could have a physical relationship with. The pack had said that seemed natural, and Jake, with his now fully developed Nessie, was certainly entertaining similar thoughts. They'd agreed that one day, it would just happen. It hadn't for Jake yet, but Nessie was still young inside – only nine! It would for Quil, too. For now, she needed him to be her friend, the one that kissed her, or let her kiss him.
"How about you kiss me?" he suggested.
"Uh, okay," she stammered, rising to her knees to match his height. Her hand was on his shoulder, and Quil put his hand to her ribs, steadying her. She held his face as she had that first day, only with one hand this time, and met his lips. It was still moist, but not smacking. It was still a little girl's kiss. It was impossibly sweet. He smiled.
She smiled and sighed as she sat back. "Well, that's not too bad. I guess I was worried for nothing," she chuckled a little. "Will you kiss me now?"
Quil's smile fell a bit. He put it back quickly. "If you like." He held her cheek as she had his. He set his lips opposite hers, both of his closing on her bottom lip. She gasped slightly, opening her mouth, and more of the lip was pulled into Quil's warm mouth. Claire felt that difference of degrees keenly now, closing her mouth again, around his top lip. She understood how their lips fit this way. She pulled from the kiss only to kiss Quil again, tasting his bottom lip.
He chuckled, breaking her kiss. "I think you've got the idea."
She blushed but nodded. "Yes. Thank you for showing me. Do you think any boys will want to kiss me?"
This was hard for Quil. He couldn't be jealous of the boys in her class, not when he didn't want a physical relationship, but in a way he was. He hated knowing that they would hurt her. All Quil could do was remind himself how quickly the seemingly terrible pain at this age faded. She would cry and think the world was ending, only to forget that she'd ever been in pain a month or two later. Remembering his own adolescence, he was thankful that at least she wouldn't have shape-shifting added to the changes she had to deal with.
"I think some will. I hope you are careful who you kiss," he teased, tickling her.
She laughed freely now. "Oh, I will be. Except for the games. Those kisses are just for fun." She smiled and blushed again, looking forward to kissing now. Quil's urge to protect her, from even small pains, rose.
"Be careful," he told her, resting his forehead on hers.
She smiled. "I will. You're always here for me, aren't you, Quil?"
"I am," he promised.
Quil watched Claire through the window. His head was level with it, dark skin fading into the shadows around him. She was beautiful in her prom gown, yellow and red. She danced with one of her classmates, tossing back her head to laugh at something he said. This wasn't her boyfriend. At this moment, she didn't have a boyfriend, breaking up with the last a month ago. She was this boy's escort, however – his date. They'd been friends for several years, and Quil knew Luke wasn't going to give up his pursuit of Claire. His attraction had been obvious, but Claire remained oblivious, happy to have two dear friends – one in Quil and another in Luke. She'd accepted when he asked her to the prom, thinking it the perfect solution to her recent break up.
Luke was slightly pale now, as the song ended, then he pulled Claire closer, putting his lips to hers. Quil fought a growl in his throat. He blinked at himself in surprise. He'd been jealous of her boyfriends, only in their taking of her time, filling hours he would have spent with her himself – studying, shopping, whatever she wanted. He longed to be there for her at all hours, but this was the first time witnessing her kissing someone else had caused a reaction beyond a need to protect.
Claire broke the kiss, shaking her head and pulling away from Luke. Quil backed away from the window, worried. Claire ran for a door, emerging around the corner from where Quil waited.
"Claire?" he asked quietly. "Are you all right?"
She turned without looking and threw herself into his chest. "Oh, Quil." She'd known he would be there. He was always there. Whenever she needed him, he wasn't far; she never waited long. "I don't want to hurt Luke."
Quil stroked her hair, careful not to mess it up. It was so pretty in the combs and pins that held pieces of it. "If you're honest, you won't hurt him."
She backed up, shaking her head. "I will. I know how much that hurts. I've... I've felt that..." Her make-up started to run as tears escaped. "I know what it's like to love my friend." She looked up through her lashes, then down his bare chest, biting a stained lip. "I know how it feels to want that friend to see me as more, to..." She didn't finish her sentence, but showed him instead, raising on her toes to kiss him. The same little girl kiss she'd given him so often. Her lips were trembling.
As she kissed him, Quil watched the world rebuild itself for a second time. He no longer wanted merely to protect this woman ‒ and woman she was now. He didn't want merely to be there when she needed him. He wanted to be there for her always, be there when she woke, when she slept, eat with her, work with her. He wanted to be her partner, her lover, her husband. He wanted to grow old with her. He hadn't aged since he had phased the first time.
Wrapping arms around her, Quil returned her kiss with one of his own, the one he'd used years ago as an example, pulling her lower lip between his own.
She started, but then seemed to become liquid in his arms, melting into him. His tongue touched her lip between his before breaking the kiss for a breath.
She panted twice before kissing him again, her mouth open and eager, her fingers finding the hair at the nape of his neck. Her tongue was suddenly between his lips, touching his teeth, the inside of his lip. Her teeth scraped and nipped his lip, pulling it into her mouth and lavishing it with her tongue again. He growled with desire, slipping his tongue past hers, turning and dipping her slightly to drape over his arm.
"Is this a dream?" she asked when they stopped again to breathe.
"I don't think so," Quil answered. "It might be." He had dreamed of this before.
"Well, if it is, I don't want to wake up." She smiled broadly. Then a look of horror came to her face and she fought free of his grip. "Luke!" she called and ran after her friend. Quil let her go, following slowly through the trees. She'd need a shoulder to cry on in a little while, but she needed privacy now. He would always be here for her.
Claire slipped into the house quietly, although she knew Quil was out with the pack – those few who still phased. She still felt she needed to do this in secrecy. After all, it wouldn't be much of a surprise otherwise. It was hard to believe her graduation had only been a month ago. So much had changed since then. Quil was so much more now, with her always.
She longed to live here with him, instead of constantly sneaking away from her parents. They disapproved of Quil, so much older than her. He was okay as a friend, but not a boyfriend. If only the elders would let them explain. Then again, her dad probably wouldn't believe it, even coming from the elders.
Tonight, they thought she was staying at Diana's. Diana knew and would cover for her. She thought Quil was a bit old for her, too, but figured if Claire trusted and loved him, that was enough for her. Tonight, Claire wasn't going home. She started pulling the ingredients from the bags she'd carried and searched out bowls and spoons from among Quil's cupboards.
It was easy to tell he was a bachelor. She'd do something about that when she moved in. When she moved in. She held that thought as her stomach tossed in anticipation, in excitement, in no small amount of fear. Taking deep breaths, she resumed whisking the ingredients together and then washed the fruit. The chocolate mousse waited in the fridge for him to come home.
Taking the last item from the bags, her hands shook. It was lacy, short and would hardly hide anything. Of course, Quil had seen her naked before, but not recently, not since she'd... grown. Not since they'd given in to their attraction.
The lace fell to the floor as she thought about that. She hadn't really; not in the last month. She knew about imprinting, but she hadn't thought about how that affected his new... ardor. He hadn't chosen her. He'd imprinted on her. He hadn't been attracted to her as a scrawny kid, even though he'd indulged her endlessly, always striving to give her what she wanted. That lack of physical attraction had been so obvious then that she'd been anxious about trying for more. Then... he had changed. It wasn't because he'd suddenly found her attractive – it was a stupid Quileute spell! She put her head in her hands, hating the tears that welled up. He only wanted to make her happy, only wanted her because she wanted him.
Well, she wouldn't want him then.
Picking up the neglige and stuffing it back in the empty bag, she strode purposefully for the door.
There was a loud growl, and the door swung in, missing her narrowly. A gigantic chocolate wolf pounced on her, pinning her shoulders. He licked her with a tongue half as wide as her face.
"Ewww, Quil!" she complained.
Quil had heard her inside and came bounding through the door to surprise her, but now he tasted salt on her face, tears, and he leaned back on his haunches, distancing himself enough to phase. "Claire?" He crouched beside her, a hand going to her cheek. "What's wrong?" He looked around for other clues. There was a scrap of fabric in the bag she carried. It smelled like food, fruit. He scanned her face, seeing the red rims to her eyes. "What's the matter?"
She started to rise, brushing herself off. "I'm fine. Nothing's wrong." She sniffed, not wanting him to see her distress. Nothing was wrong, she just couldn't want him anymore.
"Claire, you've always been able to tell me anything." His brown eyes never broke from hers. "You still can. Anything." He leaned toward her, rubbing his nose along hers.
"You... you only love me... because of a stupid imprint." She sobbed and pushed him hard, trying to get away. His arms closed around her like steel bars, locking her in his grasp. She turned, and he allowed that, not forcing her to meet his gaze, but that put his lips at her ear where he started whispering.
"Claire, if I hadn't imprinted on you, I would have aged like the others. I would have missed out on everything. I wouldn't have seen you grow into the beautiful woman you are. Maybe I would have found someone else, but they wouldn't be you. I do love you, Claire. If you'd been this, back then." It was hard to explain. "Claire, I would have asked you out if you'd been in my class. I would have fallen in love with you. Not because of the imprint, but because you are a wonderful person – a wonderful woman – and more than I deserve."
She shivered, his words and his breath in her ear both having an effect. She seemed to collapse, all fight from before was gone. "I love you, Quil. I always have."
"I've always loved you. Even before I fell in love with you. Let's not waste the time we have."
She giggled, turning to put her nose in line with his again. "You're right." She kissed him, then, her tongue brushing his lower lip. She broke that one quickly, sniffing away the last of her tears and kissing him again. She bit lightly on his lip, the way she'd learned he liked, pulling her teeth over it.
It abruptly became obvious that Quil was still naked. He started to pull back from her, but Claire leaned toward him, her hand going to his lap. Perhaps this night wouldn't be a bust after all. She stroked him slowly as her tongue laved his lip, gaining entrance and tangling with his.
"Quil," she said, her voice husky with lust, and her breath lost in their hot kisses.
"Uh, yes, Claire?" His voice was even more rough, resisting the sensations that threatened to cloud his mind completely.
"I'm not going home tonight."
His sigh turned into a growl as his mouth attacked hers, knocking her to the floor again. He moved greedily over her face and throat, opening her shirt and working down her chest and body. "You're sure?" he asked between the kisses on the inside slopes of her breasts and the ones crossing her midriff.
"Even more sure, now." Her fear had been completely quelled. All she wanted was here, in this room, hovering over her, and taking far too long to get into her pants.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Quil smiled at Claire, lifting her veil and pushing it back. He held her cheeks in both hands and kissed her with a loud smack. There was laughter from those gathered, and even from his new wife.
"You kiss like a little kid," she complained, wrapping both arms around his neck to kiss him again, the familiar kiss they shared nightly now. A kiss filled with love, comfort, permanence. It was the right kiss for today, the day they announced that permanence.
"I remember a little kid. I loved her, and I love you, Mrs. Ateara."
She blushed and turned him to face their friends and family, ready to start their life together. He was past ready.