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Beside Her

Summary:
Latest installment in For Her, sequel to Protect Her, Love Her, Hold Her, Keep Her, From Her, and With Her. Whew! In this story, Quil and Claire's first child is born. They face the ordinary travails of parenting, along with some special dilemnas.


Notes:
Largely fluff. no forseeable evil conflicts of doom... but don't worry, there will be plenty in the next tale! this is the series that never ends. 100 reviews, people. or the sequel doesn't go up. or get written. and we don't want that.


12. Chapter 12

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1094   Review this Chapter

Claire was feeding the baby again when I got home. I had a feeling my child was going to be obese someday. “Hey, Quil. Hey, Leah.”

“Hi,” Leah responded, almost shyly. This entire situation was made of flashback moments for me, let me just say. I remember how terrified I’d been talking to Claire’s parents- and angry, too, because I’d been so new a wolf, and always had fury just beneath the surface, barely controlled.

“Hey, sweetheart. Hi, li’l Quil.”

“Do you intend to call my child a name that rhymes his entire life?” Claire teased. I nodded.

“Frankly, yes. It is my duty as a man who grew up named Quil Ateara to torment anyone with an unfortunate name.”

“His name is Quil Ateara too,” Claire pointed out.

“And whose fault is that?” I rejoined. She sighed.

“I think I’m regretting that already. I was trying to be nice to you, name my kid after you, but…”

“I just can’t show the appropriate gratitude, can I, my love?”

She shook her head and looked in Quil’s infant eyes. “You are going to have to live with this forever, my son. I am so, so sorry.”

“No sorry,” I whispered, and she laughed. Leah was looking progressively more and more uncomfortable at our little familial exchange. I included her. “Claire, Leah’s here.”

“Yep, I said hi to her and everything. Soon as Quil is done his snack, he can go play with her, all right?”

Quil gurgled a little- now, his age was measured in days, not even weeks, so he wasn’t exactly communicative, but I gathered that he liked the idea of Leah.

She gathered it too. I could see that. I was perceptive to these things, the very subtle lightening in her eyes, full of relief and outright joy.

Claire sighed and disentangled the child. “Here you go, Leah… and may you have joy of him. He’s not all that interesting, you know.”

Leah’s grin contradicted those words as she scooped him up. Quil’s tiny little mouth opened into a toothless, vast grin. Leah turned to leave, and then realized what she was doing. She froze, as if waiting for permission. “Go on,” Claire said, smiling.

I was surprised. It wasn’t that I didn’t think this was good. I had no suspicion at all. Inherently, deeply, I was certain that Leah wouldn’t do anything alone with him that she wouldn’t do right in front of us.

I was also sure Claire didn’t share my certainty. “I see you’ve had a change in attitude, honey. Leah said she wasn’t sure…”

“Yeah. Well, I did some thinking, Quil, while the only person I had contact with all day was incapable of speech. And that thinking… she isn’t going to hurt him. And I saw, I’m not blind, I know that you thought that… I saw that face, the Claire doesn’t love me one. I know you, and I am no idiot, and… I’m not going to apologize, Quil, but… I don’t want to keep making that mistake. I can’t imagine how my life would be without you… and I don’t want to. I adore you. I love you. I never, never want to be without you, and I think it’s only fair that I give our beautiful son the best gift I can give- someone who will love him like I love you.”

Not like you love me. Like I love you. That’s what she said. Like I love you. “Oh, Claire, thank you.”

“Least I could do.”

I heard a high baby’s laugh in the other room. “Why were you…”

“That? Oh. Well, you know how Leah was, for all those years, just not getting over Sam. I was afraid that if Quil didn’t want to be with her, she’d do the same thing to him that she did to Sam.”

I sighed. “You couldn’t understand this… because you haven’t seen into their minds. But I know. When Sam imprinted, the natural thing, the thing Leah would have done, is take it out, viciously, on Emily. But she didn’t- she turned on us, as much as she could. Because Sam gave her a direct order. It was the cruelest thing he’s ever done, was say- in these exact words- ‘You are never to harm my Emily in any way, emotionally or physically-‘ exact words. ‘My Emily,’ too. He had to do that to her… we were angry with him for a good long time over it. It was… downright mean. So she turned on him. And us. It isn’t her nature to hurt someone she loved, only what she perceives as threats. Sam simply caused her so much pain, rubbing it in like that, that she simply had no choice.”

Claire had… tears. In her eyes, I could see the moisture there, and it surprised me. “If I’d had any idea…”

“But you didn’t. It’s not your fault, love. Or Sam’s. He couldn’t bear to see Emily in pain, and somebody had to get hurt. So he hurt himself and Leah. No one’s to blame.”

“I’m so glad. I knew you wanted to have Leah… near Quil, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know it was so altruistic. She really needs this, doesn’t she?”

“And she’s absolutely terrified she’ll lose him, both because of her own experiences and what happened to me when I wasn’t with you. No, she’ll be so careful. Walking on eggshells careful.”

Claire grinned. “I remember that kind of careful. When I was a kid, just living with you for the first time, scared of my own name, and you watched every word, every action.”

I still was careful. It had matured me so much, having to be that cautious with her, knowing how easily she could be terrified. “I love you.”

“By now, Quil, I’d have to be an idiot not to have figured that out.” I glared at her, and she laughed. I heard the sound echoing in the other room, the woman’s and baby’s mirth filling the kitchen. “Oh, and I love you too.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear.”

She kissed my cheek. “Shameless, this man. Shameless.”

“But you love me.”

“Of course I do.”

She smiled so beautifully, and I stood beside her- sheltering her, comforting her, loving her.

It was all I ever wanted to do.