A/N -- These first few reposted chapters are not much different from the original posts. The subtle changes will have an impact later on.
Thank you all again for reading and reviewing, and remember that by deleting the old chapters I also deleted all the reviews that were written. It makes me sad to have lost all that input, but I'm sure that in the long run it will have been worthwhile.
Don't Stand has been nominated for an Indie Twi Fic Award in the category of Best Undiscovered Erotica, and nominated for a Razzle Dazzle Award as well. I am thrilled just to have been nominated, but go vote because winning would make me positively giddy.
I left Edward's office and climbed the stairs to Banner's lecture hall to arrive in the class room early. I tramped up to the last row of seats and sat at a cramped little desk. Out of habit, I pulled out my pen and notebook and opened to a blank sheet of paper. Then I sat still, staring blankly. No one else was in the hall, yet there I sat, outwardly ready for class to begin.
Inwardly, I wasn't ready for anything. What had just happened? I couldn't wrap my mind around the twin revelations, that we'd been found out by Edward's creepy office mate and that we'd been thwarted in our attempt at a legitimate relationship. I briefly considered changing to James' class, despite Edward's concern, but the thought of James made me feel unclean. He made every better instinct in me cower, but could I do it for Edward?
No, even Edward didn't want me in James' class, and I couldn't imagine what game James might devise for me if I were in his power. If Edward couldn't come up with a solution, I was left with only one choice. As much as I didn't want to consider it, this really had to be the end. I decided to have faith in Edward to come up with a solution.
I didn't notice that students were starting to arrive until Mike sat down beside me.
"Hey, Bella. Bella? Earth to Bella…" I blinked and turned to look at him. I was sure my eyes must betray my tangled emotions. "Are you okay? You look like someone ran over your cat."
"I don't have a cat," I said flatly.
"I just meant… What's the matter? Is everything okay?"
Okay? Nothing was okay. I just wanted Mike to shut up and go away.
"Fine, everything is fine, Mike." I could tell he didn't believe me, but he let it go.
Banner came in and lectured, but it could have been on alien abductions for all I could really retain. I wrote down words here and there as they penetrated my consciousness.
I thought about Edward's beautiful large hands, his green eyes looking deeply into mine as he called me beautiful. I thought about sitting across the table from him, his concern and friendship as I told him about Jake.
I thought about the curl of Edward's velvety soft lips. I thought about him standing at my front door, a shy and crooked smile on his face when he opened his jacket to reveal a single butter-yellow daffodil. He was so sweet and silly. How did he know I'd rather have a single daffodil than a dozen roses?
And I thought about how I would be stuck, seeing him every week, wanting more of him. I considered dropping the lab altogether, but I needed the lab credits. If I dropped I'd just have to take it in the fall, and my fall schedule would already be a full course load if I wanted to graduate next semester. I would have to suck it up and get through this. Only two more months, and then…
Then, what? From what Jessica had said, Edward had never given any girl more than a week or two of his attention, and then he moved on. Would Edward still be interested in me in two months? A new wave of sadness washed over me. I didn't want this to be over so soon. I wanted him, wanted him more each time I saw him.
Before I realized, Banner was gathering up his notes and people were filing out. I flung my notebook with my pathetic notes into my bag and hurried out beside Mike. Again, as we went down the stairs, he asked if I was alright.
"I just had some bad news this morning," I told him, keeping my head down.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked gently.
"Another time," I muttered. Thankfully he let it lie and we walked to lab in silence.
Edward wasn't there yet, for which I was grateful. It gave me a moment to compose myself, to put on a disinterested face. It didn't matter. When he came in I felt my heart lurch. I watched him, trying to inure myself to the sight of him. It wasn't helping. He explained the lab, gesturing with his graceful hands, his voice calm and his face smooth. Was it only a little over an hour ago that he'd been tensely quivering before me? Now it was if I didn't exist.
Obviously, Edward had reached the same conclusion I had.
He didn't even glance my way as he explained about organics and reagents used in determining type. I took in marginally more than I had of Banner's lecture. Hopefully Mike was paying attention. He owed me for walking him through most of the labs up to now. I certainly couldn't ask Edward for help, not without giving myself away in front of the whole class. I sent Mike up to get our kit and worksheets.
I let Mike explain to me what we were supposed to do and I set about putting the samples into the test tubes. As I carefully dropped Benedict's solution onto the first sample, I overheard Lauren talking to her lab partner, Grace.
"He's so hot."
"Have you noticed his butt in those khakis?" Grace whispered.
"And his… package. Mmm. I just want to lick him all over like a lollipop," Lauren giggled. I looked up and realized Grace and Lauren were watching Edward. I mentally snorted at their comments.
"I heard he's got a big dick," Grace leered. Mike looked up, finally catching the gist of the whispered conversation in front of us. He looked to Edward, then back to Grace and Lauren.
"Don't waste your time on Mr. Cullen," he said. "I heard he's gay." Concentrate on the color the sample is turning, I told myself. Focus. Lauren smiled cattily at Mike.
"Not likely. My roomie is friends with a girl in the library he dated last year. He's definitely straight."
"I'm not biting. Guys that pretty are always gay," Mike grumbled.
"I can get in his pants," Lauren whispered.
"Fifty bucks says he turns you down," Mike whispered back.
"You're on." Lauren turned back to her lab just as I sensed Edward moving up the aisle behind us. I half hoped that he would say something to me. I had moved on to sample B, which was apparently a protein sample, as it was responding to the Biuret reagent. Instead of stopping Edward swept past my table like he was making a break for his desk.
Before Edward could get more than two steps past her, Lauren was calling him back in her sweetest dumb-blonde girlie voice. I didn't want to watch, but I looked up to see Lauren leaning into Edward, obviously trying to show off her cleavage. Edward's brow was furrowed as she asked her question, as if she was asking him for the secrets of life rather than a simple thing like which bottles held which mysterious liquids. His eyes were focused on her, and I knew the power of that intense green gaze. I was surprised Lauren didn't just stuff her panties in his pocket, with Edward's eyes on her like that.
I leaned my close to Mike to whisper, "Watch Lauren crash and burn. Mr. Cullen doesn't notice a thing." Mike kept his head low but I could see his smile. Even if we had different reasons, we both wanted to see Lauren fail with Edward. When I looked back, Edward had his back to me and Lauren. He was trying to explain the obvious.
"This one is Benedict's solution, see the label? Iodine, Biuret, and the petri dishes contain Sudan." While he talked in his low patient teacher voice, Lauren was paying more attention to the fit of his tan teacher pants than his words.
"Does that answer your question?" Edward asked, turning just enough to see her. I could see her touch her throat and tilt her head to show more neck.
"Oh, yes, thank you so much, Mr. Cullen." Her voice dripped with honey and innuendo. I managed not to vomit, or snatch her bald, which was a close second in urges. I wanted to scream at her, back off, bitch, that meat is mine!
Edward didn't seem to notice her flirtation and returned to his desk. Mike chuckled again.
"Gay," he muttered. Lauren glared over her shoulder at Mike, and then returned to work on the lab assignment.
The only other time Edward got up from his desk the whole class period was to pass back last weeks assignment. I turned mine over after he had left it, expecting some kind of a message. See me after class, or I have an idea, or even the Canadians are invading and class is cancelled, anything. Nothing except a small A in red pen. Not even the usual "good work." Nothing. It looked like I would have to make the effort to talk to him.
I worked on my lab, putting organics into test tubes and dropping reagents on them and reporting what I thought the organics were based on what color they turned with which reagents. Though I tried to keep my eyes and mind on the lab, I kept finding myself watching Edward, his tousled reddish hair and beautiful face. A few times he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, and I wanted to touch him, comfort him. Then he looked up and caught me looking at him. His eyes were nearly angry, and I looked away quickly.
I dawdled, taking longer to complete a lab than ever before. Mike could have been in on my plan he was doing such a good job distracting me by trying to make small talk. As noon approached and he was still lingering I realized he wasn't planning to leave until I did. Lauren too was taking forever, fiddling with her bag even though she had already finished cleaning up. I completed my lab and began cleaning up, making sure to knock over the reagents after carefully loosening the dropper on the iodine. Iodine spilled across the table and dripped onto the floor like old blood.
Lauren shrieked and leaped out of the way, Mike jumped back, and I was making excuses and swiping iodine every which way. It was ridiculously easy to convince Mike and Lauren to leave.
I bent down to smear iodine on the floor. I hadn't realized there could be so much mess in such a little dropper bottle. Edward was there, and I could hear the smile in his voice without looking up.
"You're making it worse," he said.
"I know," I said, standing and looking up at him. I couldn't help but smile and I felt like a load was lifted from my shoulders. Edward would surely have a solution, he could figure out how to make this work for us. "How else was I going to get you alone, Mr. Cullen?" Edward dropped to his knees and began cleaning the iodine off the floor. He didn't look up as he tried to clean up my mess. I didn't say anything. He wasn't acting pleased by my plan.
"So you have me alone, Miss Swan," he said, his head still bent down. The calm, detached instructor voice had returned. There was no sign of my lover.
"Do you have any other ideas, Mr. Cullen? I can't drop the class; I'm too close to graduation." My abrupt confidence in his plan was disappearing with his coolness and my doubt was returning.
"I don't have any ideas, Miss Swan." He stood up and went to the sink, still not making eye contact. My heart felt like lead. I knew what he was saying, and part of me was screaming that it couldn't be. I followed him to the sink, where he was washing the iodine from his hands.
"Then, that's it?" I said.
He put his hands on the rim of the sink and his head dropped down. He still hadn't looked at me.
What could I say? I knew we couldn't play this game, I knew with every bit of logic I possessed we were playing with fire, but I didn't want to care. What I wanted was to slide my hands around him and press myself against his back. I should walk away now, but I couldn't make myself move. I was rooted to the spot.
"I'm sorry, Miss Swan, I didn't want it to be this way."
"Me either, but it is the right thing to do," I heard my own voice say. I dropped my head to hide the tears I felt pushing up from behind my eyes.
"I know," he sighed. His hand was touching mine, but only to take the crumpled paper towels from me. I am not going to cry, I told myself.
"Still friends, right?" he said, hopefully. The worst thing a girl can hear from a guy.
"Right." My voice was quivering, and I knew he could hear the tears I was trying to hold back.
"Hey, none of that, Miss Swan. It's okay. It will all be okay." I nodded numbly, aware he was trying to comfort me. "I'll call you tonight," he whispered, so softly I nearly missed it. I nodded again, I couldn't trust my voice. I wanted him to call, wanted it so badly, but at the same time I wondered why he would even bother. With our last phone call, we had been rather friendlier than friends. I spun away, grabbed my bag and left.
I fled the Life Sciences building as fast as I could without actually running, my breath coming in gasps. I couldn't face Alice and Rosalie like this. They would know something was wrong. I ducked into a little garden between buildings before I reached the Union, where they would be waiting for me. I let myself shake for a few minutes, dry tearless sobs.
What is wrong with me, I thought, as the spasms passed and I began to calm. I didn't cry this hard for Jake, I had never gotten this wound up over anyone. I pulled out my phone and texted Rosalie,
- Don't wait for me, I'm running behind. Be there soon
A moment later I got a text back,
- Ok, CU.
I looked around, looking to see if anyone noticed my little breakdown, but I was out of sight of anyone on the nearby sidewalk. I rubbed my face and headed to the Union. Alice and Rosalie had already gotten something to eat and were sitting with Jasper when I arrived. All I bought was a bottle of juice. My stomach wasn't feeling up to anything more substantial.
Alice greeted me cheerily, and Rosalie looked exasperated, but smiled and said hello. Jasper looked me over, muttered something to Alice about studying and grabbed his backpack. As he passed me he gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. It was as if he sensed I needed my girlfriends and was making himself scarce. Alice watched him leave with an odd expression and then looked back to me.
"Aren't you hungry?" Alice asked, eyeing my juice.
"You have a rough class with Mr. Hottie today?" She smirked. Rosalie scowled.
"Yeah," I muttered.
"I thought you were transferring out of his class," Rosalie said.
"So did I," I said.
"Why would you want to transfer out of Mr. Hottie's class, Bella?" Alice asked.
"Too distracting," I said. I was trying to keep my answers short, hoping not to go into painful detail. "I thought I'd be better off in another class, and he was helping me transfer, but then that teacher left and he'd be teaching that class too, so it's moot, isn't it? I'll just have to concentrate…" I drifted off. Alice was looking at me like I had a big L stamped on my forehead, and Rosalie looked even more annoyed. "What?"
"You want to transfer out of a class with Mr. Eye Candy? Are you feeling well?"
"If it keeps her from failing, Alice, she should take Quasimodo's class," Rosalie said tartly, but shot me a warning look. I opened my juice and took a gulp.
"It's just that Bella has been mooning over her Biology teacher since the first day of class, and now she's going to drop?" Without waiting for a response, Alice continued on. "You know what should take your mind off the pretty Biology teacher? I think you need to spend more time with your new beau, the one from the club. Edward, right? When I met him last week, I felt it in my bones; he's the man for you, Bella. You're going to marry him. I know it." She looked back and forth between Rosalie's and my frozen faces. "Well, I didn't expect a hallelujah chorus, but you could show some enthusiasm. I thought you liked Edward."
"She does," Rosalie said through clenched teeth.
"Did you run him off with the Jake-ass story?" Alice asked me.
"I told him all about it, and he didn't run off."
"That's good. What's the problem? Secretly married? Secretly gay? Secretly an 'animal lover?'" Alice was beginning to look frantic.
Rosalie snorted. "The problem is he's secretly a very hot Biology Lab instructor." Alice, usually a perpetual motion human, froze with her mouth and eyes perfectly round.
"Oh!" Alice squeaked. She looked at me and whispered, "Oh, Bella, you seduced Mr. Hottie-Biology-Instructor!" She giggled and began dancing in her seat. "You are such a nasty girl! Was he as hot in bed as book-bitch Jessica said he was?"
I looked down at the bottle of juice between my hands and blushed hotly all the way to the roots of my hair. Alice squealed.
"Alice!" Rosalie reprimanded. "Stop acting like this is all rainbows and unicorns! This could get both of them in serious trouble."
"Oh, of course. I didn't think of that." Alice deflated, but she perked up again in an instant. "What, are you two still doing the bunny bop? I thought it was a one night thing…"
"That's why I was trying to change classes," I explained.
"Well," Alice chirped, "you only have two more months until the end of the semester, right? You can keep your panties on that long, can't you, Bells?"
"Apparently not," Rosalie said acidly. Then she sighed. "Bella, I owe you for saving my ass more than a few times, and you know I love you. You know what I think, but no matter what, I'm behind you." Alice nodded in agreement, her eyes locked on mine. I didn't deserve such good friends.
"So what is your plan now?" Rosalie asked. I didn't know what to tell her. Considering her question, I let my eyes drift across the cafeteria. Like iron to a magnet my gaze zeroed in on a mop of messy auburn hair. Edward was sitting near a window across the huge room, a sandwich in front of him, but his eyes were fixed on me. I didn't look away and neither did he.
"You're in love with him, aren't you?" Alice said softly. She might as well have yelled. I jumped and looked at her in surprise. She and Rosalie were staring at me with strange looks on their faces.
"No! I'm not in love with him…" I drifted off, letting my gaze go back to Edward. He was looking down at his food, but not eating. Just staring.
I hadn't thought about love, hadn't let myself put a name to my feelings, because love was a trap, the velvet cage that Jake had held me in. I didn't want to be in love. I was finally free and I feared being caged again. That was why I had sabotaged my few dates the past six months, why I had played up Jake's jealous side, to keep those guys at a safe emotional distance. Edward had been a safe crush, off limits as he was. But we weren't safe any more, we had gotten too close, and I couldn't undo the past ten days. I didn't want to undo them, even with the drama and the distance, all of it was heaven. Still, I thought, I didn't want Edward's love.
If I didn't want his love, what did I want? I wanted Edward's body, certainly; I wanted his smile, his touch, his friendship. I thought about the feelings twisting my gut when Lauren had been flirting with my Edward, about how my heart felt light as a feather when he looked at me a moment ago.
"Crap," I muttered. Rosalie and Alice just glanced at each other, as if they had heard everything running though my head. As poorly as I lie, they probably could read it all in my face. Almost as if he could hear me thinking of him, Edward looked up at me and I felt myself blushing hotly. He no longer looked calm and cold; he looked agonized, expectant, and hopeful. I grabbed my bag and left the table without another word to my friends. Alice called after me but I ignored her. I needed to be alone.
Why did I have to be so stupid? Why couldn't I just leave him alone? I didn't want to be in love with Edward, for fucks sake, I just wanted… I just wanted …
I had no answers.
My phone rang and I answered without hesitation.
"Yes, Bella," he breathed into the phone. He sounded husky.
"You shouldn't call me, Edward."
Silence dragged out. I could hear his breathing.
"Edward? Did you hear me? We shouldn't talk again outside of class."
"Is that what you really want, Bella?"
I bit my lip and sighed. I had to be honest.
"I know we shouldn't meet, but I can't …" he blew out a breath. "I can't. I want to pretend I am there, touching you. Can you just … talk to me?"
"Bella, I don't care about anything else right now. I've done what I can for self-preservation, but I just want to hear your voice. Please, Bella, just talk to me."
So like Scheherazade, I spun out the story of my life to entertain my lover.
Scheherezade is the name of the woman to whom the 1001 Arabian Nights is attributed. Wiki it.