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in the heat of the summer,

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you know that you should be my boy

 

Summer is Embry's favorite season.

Sure, weather no longer matters to him because his body temperature runs so high that he can't feel the bite of wind or the cold wet of rain, but there's something about the golden light of the sun and the way it illuminates the ocean, the way the blue brightens and the water shimmers brilliantly, invitingly.

There's something about the golden light of the sun and the way it illuminates the forest, the way the green comes alive and the trees and undergrowth sing with the sounds of animals and insects.

And there's something about the golden light of the sun and the way it illuminates Quil's skin.

He shouldn't notice.

He knows this, has tried ingraining it in his mind that he's not supposed to memorize the details of his best friend's body, but he can't stop his eyes from fixating on the beads of sweat running down Quil's torso or the ripple of his back muscles as he spikes a volleyball over the net. It's only when the volleyball is spiked again and smacks him right in the face – courtesy of a smirking Jacob – that he realizes he's been staring. And Quil – beautiful, oblivious Quil – merely laughs, walking towards him and placing a hand on his bare shoulder.

"You alright, Em?"

Embry is hyper-aware of the calloused fingers against his skin, the gentle squeeze they give, and he swallows hard. "I'm fine."

Quil smiles again, a soft, salty breeze ruffling his curly hair, and it takes almost all of Embry's self-control to will his heart to a steady tempo.

"Good. Now let's win this game against Jake and Leah. They'll brag about it for days if we lose."

He winks and jogs back to his spot in front of the net, and as Embry slowly lifts the ball from the sand (he's still recovering from being winked at), he catches sight of Quil's slightly crouched position, a stance that gives him a great view of his –

"Serve the ball, Call," Leah says, the smirk on her face identical to the one Jacob was still wearing.

His face flushes an unsightly shade of red, responding to her remark with a middle finger while thank god Quil's back is turned echoes in his mind. He exhales an unsteady breath, and as he tosses the ball high in the air and hits it with more force than necessary, three thoughts swivel around in his head.

One, Leah and Jacob are shitheads, and it was no wonder they were a perfect match.

Two, he's gotta stop staring at his best friend's ass.

And three, he's hopelessly in love with said best friend.

 


 

They're sitting on a curb, eating ice cream – butter pecan for Embry (which Jake always argues is an "old lady flavor") and mint chocolate chip for Quil – and watching Claire try to feed sprinkles to ants when Quil asks, "You into anyone lately?"

Embry almost chokes on a small piece of pecan, coughing so intensely that Quil has to slap him roughly on the back several times. Once he can breathe again, he manages to reply, "Me? No. Not...not lately."

From the corner of his eye, he tries to gauge his friend's expression, tries to see if he can detect the lie behind his words, but his face never changes. And for a moment, Embry is relieved. He'd spent the last two years burying his feelings in the deepest parts of himself, exerting a considerable amount of mental strength – which, most days, left him feeling exhausted – to hide certain thoughts from the others.

He'd put in too much effort to have it ruined suddenly, too much effort to have to reveal what he couldn't deny.

But fuck, he wishes he could tell him the truth.

He wishes he could tell Quil that he realized he loved him when they were sixteen – those first few months after they first phased when Quil let him crash on his couch because he couldn't tell his mom what was happening; when they took late night walks to Third Beach and Quil listened quietly and intently as he shared the hurtful words his mom spewed at him; when Quil comforted him with corny jokes and lingering hugs and assured him everything was going to work out in the end – but that his love was there long before he knew it.

He can't, though, because he's afraid – afraid of the pack finding out (minus Leah and Jacob, who continue to hide his secret), afraid of ruining their friendship, and most of all, afraid of his rejection. So, he holds it in, even though it always brims close to the surface, even though it hurts.

"And you?" he says, his voice faint. "Got your eye on anyone?"

Quil shrugs, the vagueness of his response making Embry's stomach clench. He wants to ask him to explain, partially out of curiosity and partially out of the need to torture himself, but he remains silent, his lips pulling into a forced half-smile when Claire places a sticky, sprinkle-covered hand on his face.

"Be happy!" she shouts.

If only it were that simple.

Still, he can't deny the adorable gap-toothed grin that follows her demand and chuckles, patting the top of her head.

"I'll be happy just for you, Claire-bear."

She claps excitedly, letting out a high-pitched giggle before resuming her examination of the ants now crowded around the globs of melted ice cream littered beneath her feet. Embry joins her, and he doesn't realize he's being watched until he looks up and meets Quil's eyes.

"What?"

Before he can register the movement, Quil leans forward, using the thumb he licked to wipe something from Embry's cheek.

"You had ice cream on you," he tells him, the corner of his mouth quirking.

Embry gapes at him, face tingling as an electrifying heat rushes through his entire body. After stammering out a shaky thanks, he stands and excuses himself, pushing open the doors of the ice cream parlor and rushing into the bathroom.

He's too flustered to notice Quil staring after him.

 


 

"And we're going to this party because…?"

"Because," Jacob replies matter-of-factly, "some rich paleface in Forks is throwing it which means there'll be a bunch of free booze and snacks and free booze."

Embry rolls his eyes. "You don't even like drinking."

"Yeah, but my lady does." And for added effect, he smiles sweetly at Leah, placing a hand on her knee.

"Hands off, Black," she sneers, staring into the vanity mirror and swiping a deep shade of red lipstick across her lips. "And keep your goddamn eyes on the road."

"See?" Jacob says, quickly turning around to glance at Embry. "She loves me."

Embry snorts a laugh, but he knows his friend's words are true. Although Leah chastises him for being "super obnoxious and severely annoying," the warmth in her gaze is hard to miss. She stares at him softly, fondly, and while it's an expression that is seldom seen (by most of the pack, anyway), it's reserved for Jacob and Jacob alone. He watches as she laces their fingers together, the action prompting a small smile and a less desirable feeling that he tries, but can't ignore; a feeling that coils and tightens into a knot, sitting heavy in the pit of his stomach.

Envy.

Because as long as he wants who he wants, he'll never have what they have.

"You okay back there?"

He looks up, meeting Leah's concerned gaze as she stares at him through the rearview mirror.

"Yeah," he murmurs after a brief pause, eyes drifting to the window beside him.

He's lying, of course, and he's fully aware that she knows it (she's been inside his mind enough times to know what the somber, faraway look in his eyes means). But like the perceptive person – and good friend – she is, she doesn't push him for an explanation. Instead, she focuses her attention on the vanity mirror again, twisting open a tube of mascara and applying a second coat to her lashes.

"Let's have some fun tonight," she tells him, her words less of a suggestion and more of a request. "Understood?"

He nods, unable to fight off the grin that pulls at his lips when Jacob whoops with excitement and exclaims he's ready to "throw his ass in a circle" – all while accidentally swerving the Rabbit into the opposite lane.

"Fucking hell, Jake. Can you at least try to focus on getting us there without murdering us?" Leah gripes.

"No murder. Got it," he says cheekily. "Sorry, honey bun."

She grumbles another round of expletives at the nickname, swatting at him and a chuckling Embry as they speed up the 101.

 


 

Embry is five red-solo-cups deep in Everclear when she approaches him.

He doesn't notice her at first, too busy looking for his friends who, after dominating the dance floor, disappeared without a trace (and unbeknownst to him, headed upstairs to one of the many bedrooms). It's only when she taps on his forearm that his dulled senses register the touch, and after looking left then right, he looks down.

"Cassie," she says, holding out a hand for him to shake. "That's my name. And yours?"

He grasps her hand, face pulled into a determined frown as he searches his hazy mind. "Em – Embry," he slurs once he finally remembers, unaware of the fact that he's still shaking her hand.

She grins up at him, pulling out of his loose grip and standing on the tips of her toes to sniff his drink. "Whew – that's strong. How can you drink that?"

He shrugs belatedly. "'S the only thing that gives me a buzz."

"Just a buzz? I'd probably be passed out in the grass if I had half a cup."

"It's 'cause" – he's cut off by a hiccup – "you don't have the same superpower as me."

"Oh, yeah?" she takes a step closer to him, and even though the music is blaring from the speakers, the bass deep and reverberant, he can hear the flirtatious edge in her voice. "And what superpower is that?"

It takes Embry several seconds to process her words, but once he does, his eyes widen. He realizes that not only has he said too much, but that she's hooked a finger around one of his belt loops. She takes another step then, almost pressing into him as her lips curve into an inviting smile, and his mouth goes dry – not at nervousness from her proximity, but because when he glances up for the briefest of moments, Quil is staring at them from across the room.

Except – and Embry is pretty sure he's imagining it thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol he downed – his stare looks more like a glare. He quickly realizes, however, that the glare is very real as Quil moves towards them, holding his gaze while maneuvering his way through the throng of sweaty, dancing bodies. He reaches them in less than a minute, and up close, Embry can see something in his eyes that he can't place, something that makes his heart beat ten times faster.

"Hey, Em," Quil greets coolly. "Who's this?"

He can't seem to find his voice, so Cassie responds for him, oblivious to the change in Quil's expression when she leans against Embry.

"Nice to meet you, Cassie. Mind if I borrow Embry for a sec?"

"Sure," she grins. "But don't keep him too long."

Embry barely has enough time to register the wink she throws at him, Quil's grip tight around his bicep as he pulls him out of the living room, through the front door, and into the immaculately-decorated backyard. They stop just beyond the warm, twinkling lights, Quil's hand never moving.

"I thought you weren't gonna make it," Embry eventually says, staring into the dark expanse of trees instead of the dark eyes studying him.

"I finished running errands for my mom early."

Embry nods, unsure of what to say next.

Quil doesn't have the same problem, though.

"She was cute."

"Cassie?" Embry questions, both of his eyebrows raising.

"Yeah," Quil responds. "You two looked nice together."

Embry isn't sure why his words make him so angry – maybe it's the small amount of Everclear left in him that his body hasn't burned off yet, or maybe it's because the statement sounds like an accusation, like jealousy, and it confuses him and scares him at the same time – but he finds himself clenching his jaw and wrenching his arm from Quil's grip.

"Where are you going?" Quil asks, and Embry doesn't miss the bitterness or subtle desperation in his voice.

"Back inside."

"Why?"

"Because."

Because the words he can't take back are on the tip of his tongue, and if he opens his mouth again, they'll all spill out. But it's not enough of an answer for Quil, who knows – who knows – he has more to say.

"You have something to tell me, so just come out with it."

"I can't do that," Embry mutters, his stomach flipping when Quil takes one step closer to him. And another, and another.

"Why not?"

"Because if I do, I'll ruin everything."

Quil is standing in front of him now, chests nearly touching, brown eyes burning into his, and Embry can see it again – the look he couldn't place earlier, that made his heart beat ten times faster, that now, with the stars glimmering above them and Quil staring longingly at his mouth, takes his breath away.

"No," Quil says determinedly, placing a hand on either side of Embry's face. "You won't." Then, he pulls him forward and presses his lips against his.

And for a moment, Embry thinks he's dreaming (or worse, that he's passed out drunk in the grass like Cassie said), but everything about Quil – his mouth moving fervently against his own, his body, strong and warm as he wraps his arms around him, and his ass, his firm and magnificent ass – feels real.

When they finally pull away from each other, Embry gives a soft smile.

"I love you."

Quil kisses him again, gentle and quick, before resting his forehead against Embry's. "I love you, too."