The Wolf and the Bird
From the moment Quil had laid eyes on two year old Claire he loved her. Not in a romantic kind of way; she was still in diapers and could barely pronounce her own name. He loved Claire in a brotherly type of way. He wanted to do all the things that brothers did with their little sisters. He wanted to take her to the beach and teach her how to swim. He wanted to build sand castles with her and do silly little things to make her laugh. He just wanted to make her happy.
Years passed, Claire grew and he stayed the same. One minute she was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and playing with Barbie and Ken, and the next she was painting her nails and reading Seventeen while chatting on the phone about how cute Brody Tatum was.
She was growing up before his very eyes and he did take notice. It made him feel weird to be attracted to a sixteen year old, but he couldn't help it. He'd never act on it. Not just because of Sam's orders but because he'd never do anything that made Claire feel uncomfortable; he would wait. He would wait until she was an adult and he didn't have to constantly squirm uncomfortably as her dad watched him like a freaking hawk from across the room.
"Dude," Jake groaned, slamming the front door shut. "What are you doing?"
Quil grunted and flipped the channel searching for something to entertain him, something to take his mind off of Claire.
"This is unhealthy."
"I'm breathing just fine and I feel just fine."
Jake rolled his eyes and scrunched up his nose. "Aw man. Is that smell coming from you?"
Quil narrowed his eyes at his best friend. "I do not smell."
"Yes you do. And I think that's your plan; stink the house up with some deadly atomic bomb to the point where I can't take it and call Claire, and tell her that going to college in California is a very, very, very bad idea. That the only thing to save me from being poisoned to death is to get her butt over here, jump your bones and have a bunch of little Quil's and Claire's."
"I'd strangle you with the phone cord first."
Jake sighed and turned the TV off before shooting Quil another glare for the deathly odor lingering in the air.
"Why don't you just tell her you're in love with her?"
"Do you know what you're risking by letting her run off to an out of state college?"
"I know, Jake. You don't need to remind me."
Jake ignored him and continued. "She's going to go to parties and get drunk and meet some guy who's a real smooth talker and he's going to get rid of his roomie and then what? Somebody's going to get screwed, that's what."
"You don't have to paint me a goddamn picture you asshole," Quil growled, throwing the remote across the room. "I just want her to experience life before I put it out there that- that I'm-"
"You're what? Her soulmate? Her destined buddy? Her imprint? Her one? I don't see what the big deal is. She already knows you're a werewolf- that we're all werewolves and she knows about the legends of imprinting. She knows that's what Sam and Emily, Jared and Kim, Paul and Angela, and Colin and Sharon are. Just tell her."
"I don't want to pressure her, okay? I just want her to love me without all the pushing and all the destiny stuff."
"Well I don't want to pressure you either, but you need to get off your ass and take a shower. No one is going to love a guy who smells like a freaking toilet bowl." Jake said before storming off to his room.
Quil sighed and turned over, looping his arm around a pillow and burying his face in it. He'd had plenty of opportunity to tell Claire that she was his 'one', as Jake so cornily put it. He also had plenty of times to tell Claire that he was in love with her. There were ten times that stuck out firmly in his tired mind. All ten of those memorable times he'd had the perfect window to say those three little words, but in the end kept them to himself.
10. Claire was seventeen and her father had finally accepted that she was growing up and that grown ups needed to have their driver's license. She had passed her permit test without a problem. Quil had known she would. Claire was an extremely intelligent girl who had so much going for her. A little common sense test was no match for his Claire Bear.
Claire had decided that Quil was going to be the one to teach her how to drive and he hadn't seen why not. He was patient and he knew Claire like the back of his hand. If she needed to stop, they'd stop and if she just needed a little brake, he'd give her a break.
They had been trying to master the art of pulling out of the driveway without killing anyone. Everything had been going so smooth until Claire had forgotten to put the car out of reverse and hit the gas pedal. Her mother's poor little Hyundai found itself smashed up against a tree.
"Well," Quil said with a lopsided grin. "On the brightside nobody died."
"No!" Claire had groaned. "But I'm gonna be dead as soon as my mom gets home!"
They had climbed out of the car and headed to the trunk to survey the damage. Claire's little horrified sobs and tears almost broke his heart. Quil reached out and looped his arm around her shoulders, drawing her flush up against his chest.
"It's okay, Claire Bear," he whispered into her silky, light brown hair. He loved her hair. It was a tinge of blonde and brown combined giving off that sandy blonde look in the sun, but then brown in the dark. "I'll take the car to the shop and Jake and Embry will fix it up real nice. Your mom doesn't even have to know. We'll just say we went out for a longer drive."
"I don't have money!" She cried.
"Those dogs will do it for free. I'll make sure of it."
Claire sniffled and reached up to swipe the tears away. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Don't mention it." Because I love you.
Of course he had kept that last part to himself or rather his throat trapped them down before they could surface.
9. It was Christmas Eve and Claire was seventeen. He had spent all week trying to decide on the perfect gift. It was so much harder buying things for her now that she was a teenager. She liked clothes, but he didn't want to buy her the wrong size and God knows he wouldn't know what she would or wouldn't like. He and fashion never exactly clicked. Quil still didn't see what was wrong with a white t-shirt and some jeans. They suited him just fine.
Quil decided to go with jewelry. She liked bracelets and rings more than anything so he tried to stay in that direction. He wanted it to be nice though. Not just teeny bopperish, but when he found himself steering towards the engagement ring section he decided that the teeny bopperish jewelry was the only safe way to go.
It was just a simple silver sterling charm bracelet. He had picked out the five charms himself: a lily, a camera, a flip-flop, a little license plate that had her name engraved on it, and a tiny little guitar to stand for her role as the queen of Guitar Hero 13.
The way her face lit up when she saw it, the way she giggled as she inspected each and every charm, the way she reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck, the way her silky hair felt pressed up against his cheek and the way her hot breath beat down against his neck erupted an explosion in his veins and set his skin on fire.
I love you, Claire, he wanted to say.
"Merry Christmas, kid," he said instead.
8. Claire was sixteen and it was her Spring Break. Quil had taken over time at his construction job all week long. Just so that he could afford to take Claire and her little brother Ben to the fair in Seattle. He wanted to be able to buy anything she or Ben wanted. It was surprising how much Ben and Claire's older sister, Caitlin had become like family to him. They were like little siblings that he luckily didn't have to live with.
The moment he walked through the door and saw Ben sulking on the couch he knew something was off. Usually this kid was like a damn pistol! Quil could have sworn he had ADD or something.
"What's up, kiddo?" Quil asked jovially.
"Claire's sick," the ten-year-old muttered. "So I guess we're not going to the fair, huh?"
"Hold that thought, Ben," Quil said over his shoulder on his way up the stairs. He knocked lightly on the door and heard a faint 'come in'.
"Hey, Claire Bear," he whispered.
"Hi," she croaked. She sounded horrible.
"How do you feel?"
"Sick. Really, really, really sick. I haven't been able to keep anything down all day."
"Where's your mom at?" Quil asked. Sarah was a freaking nut job when it came to her kids. When they were sick she didn't eat, sleep or leave their side unless completely necessary. She kind of reminded him of a chicken with its head cut off.
"She went to the store for some Gatorade."
"You don't like Gatorade," he reminded her gently.
Claire cracked a smile.
"It got her out of the house didn't it?"
Quil grinned and pulled up a chair next to her bed. "What are you doing?" She asked, burrowing into her pillow.
"I'm gonna hang out here," he told her, picking up a Seventeen magazine. "Emma Roberts dishes on hair, make-up and how to deal with a broken heart? Yes! I've always wanted to know what sort of cover-up would go well with my complexion."
Claire smiled and pushed at his knee.
"You're not going to sit here all day. You're going to take Ben to the fair. It's all he's been talking about all week long. You should have seen his face when he found out I was sick. He totally thinks you're not going to take him because you'll be to busy fawning over me. I told him he was wrong and that you wouldn't dare break a promise."
Quil set the magazine down and grasped her hand.
"Seattle's far away, Claire. What if you need me?"
Claire rolled her eyes. "Oh my god. It's not like it's California, Quil. Besides my mom's been camping out in here anyways. I can't even tell you how many soap operas I've had to endure today." Quil shifted in his chair. "Go." She said firmly. "Please?" That was his Claire. She was always for others rather than herself.
"Okay," he relented. "I will."
"Good," she said grinning like the cat that ate the canary.
As he reached the doorframe he gripped it and turned around on his heel, looking back at her.
I love you.
"Don't puke all your guts out while I'm gone, okay?"
Claire laughed. "I'll try not to."
7. Claire was sixteen and heart broken over some douche bag named Ryan. They had been dating for a little over three months and every second had killed Quil, but that little douche had made Claire happy. She was always smiling and skipping down the hallway. It didn't matter that it tore his heart out as long as Claire was content.
And now? Now she was anything but content. Apparently Ryan thought they were out growing each other. What kind of bullshit was that? A huge bowl of bullshit, that's what that was.
"I don't care!" Claire sobbed onto his lap while Quil gently ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't need him! He's such a- a-"
"Yeah!" Claire yelled, but only cried harder. "He's a monkey's ass."
Each tear tore at him and only planted images of Quil tearing Ryan open, but he knew that wouldn't make Claire happy no matter how mad she was right now.
"Do you know what the funny thing is?" Claire asked, sitting up.
"I'm not even that sad about him breaking up with me. It's the rejection, the huge slap in the face, the whole 'I'm done with you' crap that's totally killing me." She wiped her pink long sleeved shirt against her red, runny nose and blinked away the tears. Her bangs stuck to her sweaty forehead and her hair was a tangled mess. Yet, Quil was positive he hadn't seen anything more beautiful. "Why aren't I good enough?"
Quil trapped her face in between his huge hands and gave her a shake. "You're more than good enough, Claire. I don't ever want to hear anything along the lines of that from you ever again. Ryan is an idiot and probably thinks there's something more spectacular than you out there. He'll be pretty goddamn disappointed when he finds out there isn't."
Claire rolled her eyes, but still leaned her head against his chest.
"You're totally better than a girlfriend, Quil. You always know the right things to say."
It was the best opportunity. It was practically handed to him, but his throat closed at the mere thought of those three little words being spoken aloud. Instead, he ran his hand down her hair and made soothing little circles on her back with his other hand.
Eventually, she stopped crying.
6. Quil hated his birthday. It was just one big, stupid day to remind him just how much older he was than Claire.
She was seventeen.
He was thirty-one.
Sometimes, if he gave it too much thought, it made his stomach churn. It made him feel like some sort of pedophile.
Glaring at his stupid apartment door, which was ironically apartment number 14. The exact number of years older he was than Claire. God must hate me, he thought. He pushed open the front door only to have just about everyone from La Push jump out and scream 'SURPRISE!' Paul and Angela's little boy ran up to him and thrust a gift up towards him.
"Happy Birthday, Uncle 'ill!" He said.
Quil smiled and ruffled up the little boy's hair. "Aw, thanks Trevor!"
He smiled even wider as his favorite girl in the whole wide world sauntered up to him looking way older than her small years of seventeen.
"Happy Birthday, Uncle Ill," she teased.
"Did you do this?" He asked, gesturing to the chatty crowd of people.
Jesus, I love you.
"Aww, shucks kid," he said instead, wrapping his arm around her neck and pulling her into a brotherly hug. "You're the best!"
5. He remembered hearing the legends of imprinting and how one's imprint was made exactly for them.
Quil found he couldn't agree more as Claire hollered and threw pop-corn and screamed at all the right moments during the Super Bowl. So maybe she didn't like cars. He could live with that. He didn't know how he would cope if she didn't like football. He'd probably cry.
Quil thought he must have done something right to imprint on a woman who looked forward to Super Bowl Weekend just as much as he did.
"What?" Claire asked, feeling his eyes on her.
"You're staring at me! Why?"
Because I love you, you silly girl.
"Because I want my pop-corn back. Gimme!"
Oh, what an accomplished liar he had become.
4. He was pretty sure that if Claire hadn't volunteered to paint Colin and Sharon's soon to be bundle of joy's nursery he probably wouldn't have been either. The last thing he had wanted to do was look at pink for the next five hours.
"Don't be such a baby," Claire said, stroking the brush up and down the wall.
"I could be doing much more productive things right now."
Claire snorted and pushed back a few loose strands of hair. "Like what? Sleep?"
"Hey! I have a life, kiddo."
"Which is why you spend all of your free time with a seventeen year old girl?"
Quil stopped mid brush and just knew that his eyes were big and wide from shock. He knew that one day she would wonder why the hell a thirty-one year old man was hanging out with a kid that he wasn't even related too. He just didn't count on it stopping his heart like it did.
"It's called a charity case, Claire."
It's called love or something stronger than love.
3. Quil barely remembered his grandmother. She had died when he was three or four, but his grandfather talked of her often and when he did his eyes smiled and his cheeks held color. He talked of how funny she was and how she liked cars more than any other woman he had ever met. He once told Quil that she thought the whole werewolf thing was 'righto'.
Claire's grandmother had been very active in her upbringing. She always came over for Wednesday night dinners, always bringing presents and always telling wild adventures of her times in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Italy, France, England, Spain, Peru, Belgium and all the other wild places she had been.
If there was anything he knew about Claire it was that she loved her grandmother. The same grandmother that they had just discovered had a brain tumor. Glioblastoma to be more accurate. The doctors told Claire's family to expect only to have a year or two left with her if they were lucky.
Sarah had broken it to Claire as gently as she could, but it didn't matter how gently you put it; she still cried her eyes out and held onto the one armed monkey, Rabozzo, Quil had bought her for her 5th birthday, as tightly as she could.
All he had wanted to do was go into her room and hold her and tell her how much he loved her.
Instead, he muttered his condolences to Sarah, who nodded tearfully and gave his arm a tight squeeze, and then got in his beat up old truck and headed on home.
2. It was officially Claire's eighteenth birthday.
It was the day he had been waiting for ever since he had laid eyes on the pig tailed little girl. He was finally allowed to tell her about him imprinting on her.
Quil remembered making his way through Sam and Emily's backyard and spotting Claire in a matter of seconds. She had donned a blue baby-doll dress that brought out her eyes, even across the yard. Her hair was half up and half down with the wispy bangs flying slowly in the light breeze.
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He was certain of it.
"Quil!" She screamed, flinging her arms around him. He effortlessly plucked her off the ground and gave her a squeeze. "I almost thought you weren't coming!"
"Now how in the world could I miss my favorite girl's birthday? How?"
Claire laughed and it was music to his undeserving ears. "Flattery gets you everywhere, Mr. Ateara," she said with a wink.
Was she . . . flirting with him?
Yes! Yes, she was!
"Everywhere, huh?" He might as well see how far this flirting was going to go. "Anywhere specifically?"
Claire smiled and placed her hands on his shoulders. For a small, hopeful second he thought she was going to kiss him. The ramming thud in his chest almost scared him and crap- were his hands getting sweaty? Never before had he been nervous around Claire.
He guessed there was a first for everything.
"Specifically?" She asked. "To the kid's table. The grown up's table is full. Maybe next time you should get here faster."
Disappointment was a bitch.
"Gabby!" Claire yelled over his shoulder. She took off like a rocket over to her best friend, leaving Quil standing there like an idiot.
Well, a voice said in the back of his mind. You are an idiot.
1. This was the most recent one. It was the one that left Quil apparently stinking up the small apartment he shared with Jake. It was the one that Quil had nightmares about.
It was the acceptance letter from UCSD, also known as the University of California San Diego.
San Diego, California.
It was far. Too far. And worst of all it was college. It was four long years away from La Push- the place he couldn't exactly leave. He had responsibilities here.
Everyone in the gang was all over him, pushing him to tell her, but he couldn't. She wanted to go to UCSD. She had screamed with joy and jumped all around the house, calling everyone she knew with the news- her grandmother, of course, being the first.
He was happy for her, no doubt about it. But the miles between them were the only thing that stuck out in his mind.
Exactly one week ago he had gotten somewhat drunk and decided to head on over to Claire's and tell her exactly how he felt about her leaving. He was done. He was going to tell her that he loved her. That he was crazy about her. That he had dreams that only ever consisted of her and that the first thing he thought of in the morning was her.
She opened the door in a tiny tank top and boxers and Quil felt his mouth go dry.
"What's up, Quil?" She asked.
The pull of imprinting was screaming in his face and grabbed a hold of his heart, squeezing.
"Claire," he said.
"I- you- It's to far away!" He shouted.
Claire crossed her arms over her chest and Quil tried to keep his eyes on her face. He tried so, very hard. "What's to far away?" She asked uncertainly.
"Your school! California! San Diego!"
Quil groaned into his pillow as he remembered what a madman he must have sounded to her. He remembered Claire only giggled and waved her hand in the air, brushing him off.
"It's not that far away, silly. Besides, I'll come back for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, Summer- I won't even give you a chance to miss me!"
"November is too long," he told her, leaning his face up against the doorjamb. "It's too far way. I'll miss you to much."
"I'll miss you too, Quil, but this bird has got to spread her wings and fly," she said with a light, teasing tone.
"You don't understand, Claire," he pleaded. "I lo-" his throat had been slow in trapping the words, but they caught them just in time. He looked down at her painted toes, ashamed to have almost laid his heart out there like that. Claire deserved more."I like you," he said, dragging his gaze up to her face. "I like you."
"I like you too, Quil," she replied, smiling. "You're the best friend I've ever had."
Her innocent, trusting face was seared into his brain forever. He wanted her. He needed her with everything in his very being, but he couldn't have her.
For that bird had to spread her wings and fly.
A/N: 11 pages on MicrosoftWord and 3,841 words later and I finish! Victory is so sweet. ( : And I do hope it wasn't too long for anyone. I thought about breaking it up into chapters, but then I decided to just keep it as a one-shot.
Just a quick little note for all you Of Peanut Butter & Jelly lovers, this is not the fic that I had promised with an older Claire. However, it is a sequel of sorts to Of Peanut Butter & Jelly and it is the set up for the older Claire fic I promised.
Anyways, I worked really, really, really hard on this so any feedback will be cherished and extremely appreciated!