A/N: Sorry for the two week lapse between the last chapter and this one. School has been crazy hectic and it's only going to get worse with finals approaching. That being said, don't be surprised if there is another big lapse until the next chapter.
Once again, this is for my wonderfully amazing muse who I cannot get through the day without.
Chapter 14: Answers
"Bella, when's the last time you checked your class roster?"
I stood up from Edward's arms and stared at Edward.
What did that have anything to do with seeing the Dean?
"Um, what?" I asked, trying to figure out what he was getting at.
"Your roster. With all the names. When's the last time you checked it?" Edward said pointedly.
I riffled through my memory, searching for the moment Edward was asking for.
"Well, I got one before classes started. And then I had you all write your names down on the first day of class," I finally said and bit my lip.
He sighed and ran his hand through his hair, mussing it up into oblivion.
"Shit," he groaned.
"What? Edward, what's going on?" I asked and put my hand on my hip.
"This is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be."
My eyes narrowed on him. He was being evasive. Not answering my real question, but instead answering his own. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know what all his sly, vague questions and answers were leading to.
It was something big. Something that would change everything.
And I was damned if I was going to let him walk away this time.
I wanted answers.
Direct and straightforward answers.
Here we were in this whatever we were in and he couldn't give me a straight answer to a simple question. How could he honestly expect me to trust him if he kept doing this?
I took a step back from him and crossed my arms over my chest.
Remember, hold firm. You want answers.
"What the hell is going on, Edward?" I asked with a firm edge to my voice.
"Bella," he sighed.
"No, Edward. Don't try to 'Bella' your way out of this one. Don't tease me. Don't distract me. I want answers this time. All you've ever done is trick me into forgetting important stuff. To get your way. To get me to accept your paper. To get me to go home with you. To make me let this go. But not now. This is too big. You're going to tell me or you're going to leave."
The green of Edward's eyes shifted into something different. He went from being frustrated to being … almost sad. Like I'd said something wrong.
My heart clenched at the idea of him being sad, but my mind screamed at me that he was just doing it again. Trying to get me to let this issue be. Back off the topic.
And I couldn't do that.
Not when it seemed he held a secret that could very well be key to whatever the Dean wanted to talk to me about. I had a sneaking suspicion that Edward was indeed holding something vitally important back that I needed.
His voice was soft, pained.
"I can't do this. I didn't want you to find out like this," he breathed.
"Do what? Find out what like what?" I echoed his pain.
He sighed deeply and ran his hand through his hair again. My eyes darted to the untidy locks for a split second, my resolve wavering if but for a moment.
No, strong. Bella, be strong. Fight him.
You need this.
"There's just some things you need to figure out on your own," he said and took one step towards the door.
"Edward," I squeaked and reached out for him.
His face was betraying his thoughts. He was torn, that I could see. Torn between staying and giving me what I want and doing things his way. Whatever this 'thing' was.
"Don't, Bella," he said quietly and turned his back on me.
Tears flooded my eyes and I wanted nothing more than to pull him back towards me.
How had our day turned into this? I had started out wrapped so tightly, anxious to see him. He'd wound me even tighter in class, toying and playing with my control. We'd had hot, passionate sex in my office. I'd been so close to finally saying what I'd been refusing to let out for so long, what I'd refused to even acknowledge myself.
That I loved him.
That I needed him.
That I wanted to be with him forever.
That I would fight for him.
How had we ended up here?
Separated by only a few long strides, pained and apart, in my living room. What curse had befallen me in such a short amount of time?
I had finally realized I would throw everything away for him, only to be confronted with the possibility that I very well would have to. That tomorrow would bring monumental changes bigger than any I'd ever faced.
Walking in my classroom the first day had been nothing compared to what stood before me tomorrow.
Walking into the Dean's office knowing I was sleeping with one of my students was much worse.
And the repercussions would be severe if this was indeed what the Dean wanted to talk to me about.
"Please," I whispered.
"I think I should go," Edward said after a moment.
My voice wavered, painfully unsteady, reflecting my emotional state.
This wasn't what I needed. I didn't need him gone. I needed him here.
Wrapping his strong arms around me and telling me everything was going to be alright. That things would work out no matter what.
Letting me love him back.
Edward moved toward the door and my body was frozen in its spot, unable to make any move to stop him.
This was what he wanted. He wanted to leave.
Or was it that I was forcing him to leave. I had asked him to either tell me or get out.
And he had made his decision.
His hand gripped the doorknob and he paused. Maybe he was reconsidering. Maybe he wouldn't leave after all.
"Bella, promise me you'll check your class roster before your meeting tomorrow," he said quietly, almost to quiet for me to hear.
"Edward," I whimpered.
"Promise me, Bella."
I sucked in a deep breath and did the only thing I could.
His shoulders slumped forward and he turned the knob the rest of the way. The door swung open and with barely a flicker of an eyelid, he was gone. Into the quickly descending night.
My heavy front door swung shut behind him and silence gripped my house.
Not Edward's voice.
We should have been moaning each other's names into the black of night, but here I was instead. Left alone in my house after probably the most painful fight, I guess it was, of my life.
I wanted to run after him. To pull him back into my house and apologize for everything. To make that pained look he'd had on his face go away. To make him happy.
To forgive him for whatever he was holding back.
How easily I had forgiven him.
I had the willpower of an ant. One look from him and I was a goner.
He'd always had this power over me, even from the beginning.
From that disastrous night in the bar that had set a course of events for my life I'd never intended to travel down. That night had changed everything for me.
Would things have been different if I'd never agreed to go out drinking? If Rose and I hadn't done those tequila shots? If I hadn't dropped my panties for the first hot thing to come along and sweep me off my feet that night?
But more than likely, no.
I still would have felt that undeniable attraction to Edward. Whether it started in the bar or in my classroom that first day. It wouldn't have mattered.
We still would have ended up here.
Me. Alone. Waiting for perhaps the most important meeting of my entire life.
I couldn't sleep that night. I tossed and turned, my mind filling with all kinds of different scenarios of what Edward could possibly mean, each more horrible than the last.
I had become accustomed to sleeping next to his warm body. And he wasn't there.
We had been apart at night the past several nights.
And this was the most painful of all of them.
All I wanted to do was cry at his absence. It was tonight of all nights that I felt it the worst. It was tonight that I wanted him next to me more than all others.
Because without him I felt weak. That I couldn't do this alone.
I didn't like that feeling.
I had been independent for so long, so able to care for myself without anyone's help that this newfound dependence on him scared me.
Maybe this was what being in love felt like.
Maybe it was feeling like you belonged to someone and that without them you were incomplete. That you needed them to fix everything, even if you could do it yourself.
And Edward had said he would fix everything. But instead he had only made everything more broken.
When the door had swung shut behind him, he had walked out with a little piece of my soul.
With him not there I was incomplete.
Morning dawned slowly, creeping in my curtains like an unwelcome visitor. I probably looked like shit, considering I'd only really slept maybe a total of 30 minutes that night.
I showered and dressed with careful patience. I made myself look as professional as I could, trying to convey the serious professor aura I was trying to project. If I couldn't be a serious professor, at least I could look like one.
My hands kept shaking terribly, betraying my nerves to anyone who would look at me. I paced back and forth in my living room before finally giving up and stalking to the English building at noon.
Of course it was my luck that the Dean picked a day I didn't have office hours.
My office was left in a tizzy after our impromptu desk sex yesterday. I straightened it up as best I could with shaking hands, pausing over a stack of papers.
My old roster.
I'd made my promise.
Now where would I find my answer?
I thought about my options for a minute. There was no way to get what I needed without alerting suspicion to myself.
Or was there?
Didn't a few students drop my class?
And I'd never received a new one. Well, at least I didn't think I had. I would have received it in my staff mailbox. The English department was horribly behind in technology and still was using paper mailboxes to send messages between professors and to other departments.
I laughed at the idea.
Maybe my mailbox held the key all along.
I slipped from my office and down the hall to the staff room. There was nobody else in there when I entered and I quickly shimmied over to my mail slot. As a new professor, I was the lowest of the low on the department totem pole. My slot was in the lowest row, all way in the corner. It was barely big enough to slip more than a dozen sheets of paper in at a time.
I squatted down and pressed my face flat against the floor, trying to get a better look inside.
There was a random university magazine that got sent to all staff members. No help there. And a notice the water was going to be off in the building next Friday. Also no help.
But there at the back of my mailbox was a sheet of paper that had been pushed backwards against the wall. It was so far back I hadn't seen it or been able to reach it with just a casual check.
I reached in deep, my arm almost elbow deep into the tight space, and withdrew the wrinkled sheet of paper.
I smoothed it out on the floor, squatting back on my heels.
Roster for English 201with Isabella Swan
There it was.
The missing document that changed everything.
My fingers scanned down the list of names, seeing mostly the same people.
But in the spot I expected to see Edward's name, smashed between the previous and the next student, his name was missing.
I fell back from my heels onto my butt, my legs splaying out in front of me.
I searched for the date of the roster, convinced that there was some kind of mistake.
It was dated three days after my first class.
Edward was no longer in my class as of the second class meeting.
He had dropped it.
And then it all hit me with a force to rival a runaway semi. All air left my lungs and I frantically gasped into the quiet of the workroom.
Edward wasn't my student.
I wasn't his professor.
I wasn't sleeping with my student.
He wasn't fucking his professor.
I started to hyperventilate at the revelation.
This was what he was withholding from me the entire time. This was what changed everything.
We were doing nothing wrong.
For the second time in so many months, my entire world tilted on its side and everything changed in an instant.
I was free to be with him however I wanted. There was nothing wrong with dating someone who wasn't your student. There was nothing wrong with being in a relationship with someone who wasn't your student.
And there was certainly nothing wrong with loving someone who wasn't your student.
We could do this.
I could do this.
The grin that broke across my face was wider than any I had ever given. My lips stretched almost painfully across my teeth and I felt like the biggest weight ever had lifted off my shoulders.
I could survive this. The Dean could find nothing wrong with our relationship now, if that's indeed what he wanted to talk to me about.
My heart leapt into my throat and I jumped off the floor in a fit of joy. I did a victory dance around the small room, my heels clicking and tapping on the vinyl. Anybody who would have seen me would have sworn I had lost whatever last bit of my sanity remained, but I didn't care.
Nothing mattered now except that Edward and I were free to be together.
My world could be right again.
I flew from the room in a fit of excitement and towards the Dean's office. I didn't care that I still had almost an hour before my meeting. I wanted to have it now. I wanted to get all of this out of the way and in the clear.
Because as soon as it was over I would run to Edward and we could be together.
And this time I wouldn't take no for an answer when I asked him about dropping my class. I had found what he had asked me to find. Now it was his turn to give me answers.
I wanted to know why he still came to my class even after he was no longer enrolled. Why he persisted in doing all the now pointless assignments. Writing the journals, the papers if the grades I gave him wouldn't count.
The dean's secretary was shocked to see me so early when I ran in.
"Bella, dear! Good to see you! You do know your meeting isn't for another hour, right?" she said with wide eyes.
"I know, I just thought I'd come by early and see if I could meet with Dean Johnson now," I almost yelled in excitement.
Her eyes shifted to the piece of paper in my hand and I didn't miss her confusion.
Edward wasn't my student.
"Well, he is free at the moment. Let me see if he's willing to meet with you now," she smiled at me.
I was practically jumping up and down in the small waiting area while she walked around the corner into his office.
It felt like an eternity before she came back, her bifocal frames riding low on her nose and a smile playing on her lips.
"He'll be happy to see you now, Bella. Please go right in," she said.
I raced past her and when I was just out of her sight but not yet in Dean Johnson's office, I stopped. I smoothed my shirt out and tried to take a few calming breaths.
If Edward wasn't what he was talking to me about, no need to give away that I had been sleeping with what I thought was a student, but in reality was little more than a glorified stalker who was gorgeously beautiful and incredibly smart.
I lightly knocked on the closed door and waited for a reply.
My hummingbird heart beat off practically several hundred beats before I heard his soft "come in" from behind the wood.
I swung the door open with perhaps more enthusiasm than I should have expressed and walked into the office as calmly as I could manage.
"Please sit, Bella," Dean Johnson said smoothly.
He was a much older man as many of the other Deans were, balding and somewhat overweight. He reminded me more of a jolly version of my father than a serious academic type.
The look on his face was serious, his eyes draw tight and squarely on me.
I gulped loudly and slid into a chair in front of his massive mahogany desk.
If I wasn't scared before, I was certainly scared now.
"Bella, first thing's first. I'm not here to accuse you of anything. Is that clear?" he said after a moment.
I gulped again and weakly said, "Okay."
"We've received a tip of sorts that perhaps something out of the ordinary was going on in your class and we of course had to investigate. Are you with me so far?" he said and leaned forward, letting his fingertips touch on top of the dark wood of his desk.
My fingers tightened on the paper, the last shred of my sanity.
"And it seems the accusations are unfounded."
"What?" I asked, my eyebrows pulling together in confusion.
"The accusation was that you were having an inappropriate relationship with one of your students. We looked into this student's status and have learned that he is not your student at all," Dean Johnson said and leaned back I his high-backed leather chair.
"Yes, one Edward Cullen."
"But he … Edward … I … I'm sorry," I finally squeaked out.
"Bella, as much as I'm sure your conscience is telling you to confess whatever is weighing you down, I am choosing to sweep this away. Our records indicate that he was indeed at one time your student, but that he dropped your class and instead picked up 201 with a different professor on the first day of the semester. I can't imagine what is running through your head at the moment, but let me just say that I want to warn you that next time something like this is brought to our attention, I will not be so lenient. I have taken a liking to you and am very hopeful that you will continue on your tenure track here," Dean Johnson replied.
"Um, thank you?" I said politely.
"You're welcome. But remember. Next time."
I smiled weakly at him.
Each passing second brought more confidence and the realization that everything was going to be okay.
My smile got wider.
"There won't be a next time," I grinned.
"Good. Now get out of my office and go teach these insolent brats some literature," Dean Johnson chuckled.
"Thank you so much, Dean. I won't forget your warning. I promise," I said quickly and retreated from his office before he could change his mind.
His secretary smiled at me on my way out and I couldn't stop the laughter when she raised her thumb at me.
"He likes you. You're lucky," she laughed breathily.
I grinned at her before bolting out of the doors of the office.
After I collected a few things from my office, I knew what I had to do.
It was time to go get my man.
The sun seemed to shine all that brighter as I ran through the streets toward my house.
Everything would be okay.
I knew it.
There was no stopping us now.
I know some of you will be confused by Edward's sadness. Fret not. I will resolve this. I promise.
Side note: I'm well aware something like this wouldn't get swept under the rug so easily at a normal university. But let's just pretend for fiction's sake that it would in this story.