Author's Note- I highly suggest going back through this story and rereading the previous chapters up until this point as I have taken quite the break from updating it. I even had to do so myself as I had no idea where to pick up from where I last left off. I went through and edited chapters 1-24 to the best of my ability just so I could gather my plot and start this up again.
Anyways, I really, really want to finish this fic. So I decided to put all other projects and One-Shots aside until I do. And it would be really helpful having you readers as support. :)
Enjoy this chapter.
Ignorance- Part I- February
February and March passed quickly. Too quickly, actually, and too blissfully as they were the best few weeks I could have asked for. But that was because I was being too stubborn, too purposefully preoccupied to see the signs.
No. I saw them. I just refused to acknowledge them.
If I wasn't trying so desperately to play ignorant, I would have started backtracking and questioning at the first sign; Derek suddenly having me all but move into his apartment.
It was subtle, but I noticed it and I just played it off as him thinking about me a few months down the line, preparing to attend Juilliard. How better to prepare than to find a place to live that was a ten minute walk from campus? If I wasn't being so foolish, I would have realized that he was keeping me close for a reason.
It started within the week following our date and Miranda's declared disappearance. Derek started saying things about feeling more comfortable moving our after school study sessions to his apartment. I didn't have a problem with it, obviously, as it just gave us more of an excuse to spend uninterrupted time together.
After both my homework- honors calc and physics- and his papers that needed graded were finished of course.
A couple nights that week we had spent so much time talking and- well, doing other things, that before we knew it, we were waking up the following morning, scrambling around like chickens with our heads cut off to keep from being late to our respective responsibilities. So Derek had passively suggested an overnight bag, just in case.
And of course I was thrilled. A young woman in her first serious relationship basically being told she can stay over whenever she wanted by the man she was crazy about; it was great!
But something about it wasn't quite right. Forced, even. And I ignored that feeling.
The next few signs were on Derek's birthday.
Me, Simon and even Tori had gotten together and planned out a surprise for Derek. Tori didn't seem all that into the whole thing, but having gotten a chance to talk to her and get to know her more, I found it amusing that Derek's reluctantly admitted affections towards his sister was mutually returned. So she played along with me and Simon's childish antics as we plotted the party.
On the twenty-second, I treated Derek to a decoy birthday dinner at Michael's, playing it off as if I had forgotten his birthday and was desperately trying to make up for it. Let's just say that it was all good practice for my Juilliard audition that was quickly approaching. Derek didn't seem to care, of course. He was just happy to spend the evening with me. At least that's what he kept saying every time I started going into hysterics about being an awful girlfriend and how sorry I was.
"Chloe, I've had twenty-four birthdays already." He murmured into my hair as he tucked me into his side, walking us down the hall to his appointment after we had returned from my half-assed dinner. "But this is the first birthday that I've gotten to spend with you and I couldn't ask for anything else."
I kept blubbering as he unlocked his door, having to hide my face in his jacket to keep him from seeing the smile on my face. He tossed his keys into the bowl sitting on top of the table in the entryway and we made our way to the dining room. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw him reach to flip on the light switch, but he froze.
"What's-" I started to ask, but the hand that was resting against my shoulder, holding me to him, instantly covered my mouth.
I glanced up at him, but only saw the silhouette of his face, head turning as if he was scanning the room. His body was suddenly so tense and rigid against mine and I could feel his heart thundering against his ribcage, my right ear against his chest.
He knew somebody was here, however, he instinctually reacted against danger. Not as if he suspected that his siblings were actually hiding in his living room, waiting to jump out and surprise him.
I just brushed off his actions as hyper paranoia and pulled his hand away from my face before reaching for the light switch. Derek reacted instantly, grabbing my elbow and trying to swiftly but smoothly move me behind him. I opened my mouth to retort but it wasn't my voice that resonated through the apartment.
"Just turn the light on already," I heard Tori's voice snap from the living room. Derek released a heavy breath at the recognition of her voice and finally flipped the switch.
Simon, Tori, Liz and a man I didn't recognize jumped from hiding spots in the living room and yelled, "Surprise!" Derek passed me a pointed look and I could see the whole dinner act and crocodile tears clicking in his brain.
"You set me up," He rumbled, a smirk playing at his lips. However, that smirk didn't quite meet his eyes. His eyes were hard, anxious, and almost hostile. A look I recognized from those few moments that I had brought up Professor Banks.
Had Derek really felt as if someone had invaded his apartment? A stranger? Or was he not suspecting a stranger at all?
Again, I ignored those questions and I threw Derek a smirk of my own as his siblings approached him.
"Oh, she definitely set you up, bro." Simon laughed, clapping his brother on the back before looking my way.
"If that had been your audition, Chloe, the judges would have been sold."
I felt my cheeks heat a bit, but I gave a mockingly bravado-like bow and said "Thank you. Thank you."
"You two are such nerds." Tori said with a role of her eyes. Simon's grin swung her way next.
"That's right. You better step back, Tori, or else our uncool will rub off on you."
They started bickering as Liz approached. Her and Simon had started dating the week before and Derek was well aware of the fact that she knew all too well about our relationship. She had even spent a couple days with Derek and I at the diner, just hanging out with us and once hung out with Derek when he had visited Simon at his apartment.
"Happy birthday, Derek," She said with a warm smile.
"Alright, move over guys," A new voice called over the noise and I could now see the man I hadn't recognized squeezing between Simon and Tori.
Only, I did recognize him. Not on a personal level as if I had met this man before, but with his appearance I saw familiarities to features I'd seen before. He was a head shorter than Derek, with graying dark hair a shade similar to that of Tori's short curls. He also had a mischievous grin that met his almond shaped eyes in which I saw in Simon. In fact, he looked just like Simon with twenty additional years.
"Happy birthday, Bud," He said, pulling Derek into a tight hug. Finally, the cautious edge in Derek's eyes melted away into a fondness I rarely saw. He smiled and replied, "Thanks, Dad."
For a moment, I just stood there, on the sidelines looking on. I felt this light, uncomfortable pang in my chest that I often felt whenever I witnessed Nate with his parents. However, now it seemed to grow into a dull aching that was contradicted by the genuine smile on my face.
I observed as Tori and Simon argued over something petty and ridiculous, as most siblings did. Liz stood there, laughing at the two and their antics while Simon had his arm slung over her shoulder, as if she's fit into that very spot for years. And beside them Derek's father was berating him with stories of 'Can't believe it's been twenty years. Feels like just yesterday I was teaching you how to subtract...' as the bridge of Derek's nose turned a rare shade of pink and he rubbed the back of his neck bashfully.
This was a family. My chest didn't ache because I was envious or felt left out. It was because this reminded me of something that I used to have. Something that reminded me of my mother and a less distant father. And it reminded me of how much I missed this.
I touched my necklace at the thought of her just as Derek's gaze met mine. My returning smile was only half forced, as I was still happy to see him at ease in the presence of his family. He took a step in my direction then, wrapping his arm around my waist.
"Dad, I want you to meet Chloe Saunders. Chloe, this is my father, Christopher Bae."
For the first time that evening, Mr. Bae's eyes met mine and he gave me a blazing grin. It was just like Simon's, where you had no choice but to smile back. Not because it made you feel like you had to, but because you couldn't help yourself it was that contagious.
"Chloe," He said, holding out his hand for me to shake. I did. "It's so great to finally meet you. I've heard so much."
"It's good to meet you too, Mr. Bae." I said politely, wincing at the real life scene playing in front of me that replicated every first meeting of your significant other's parents in every movie ever.
"Please, call me Kit."
And so I met Derek's father. I hadn't expected to meet him quite so soon and I don't think that Derek had planned for it to happen that soon either. But it seemed that Simon had asked their dad to make the trip from Syracuse for Derek's surprise party. And it was a nice party. It was mostly me conversing with Kit after he had shooed Derek away, wanting to get to know the girl his son was so interested in.
He asked me about school, and what I aspired to be, where I saw myself in five years... basic parental interrogation stuff. I don't think he was trying to see if I was good enough for Derek. I was pretty sure he approved, but he seemed to be like the parent of a teen who was just starting to go out with their first crush and was intrigued by the idea that their child was interested in someone and that someone liked them back. It seemed as if Derek had never brought anyone home to meet him before. Hell, it seemed as if none of his kids had brought anyone home to meet him before.
That made sense. From what Derek's told me, Simon and Tori don't ever seem to have long term relationships. As for Derek, though I've never really asked him, I wasn't sure how many serious girlfriends he's had in the past.
As if Kit could read my mind, he said, "I apologize if I'm coming across as nosy and whatnot. With these three, I have to play the mother and the father. Simon's never been interested in a girl long enough for me to meet one, Tori attracts a certain type and she refuses to bring the guy home if they don't follow her rules and Derek- well, I'm sure you know that Derek isn't the most social."
I nodded and glanced across the room towards Simon- ignoring Derek's wary gaze that was glued in our direction- and cocked my head to the side as he whispered something into Liz's ear, earning a giggle from her in response.
"But Simon introduced you to Liz, didn't he?" I asked.
"Yes. She seems sweet. But I can only keep my hopes up. If Simon decides to let this one last, I'm sure I'll be hounding her for her life story next."
I laughed at that and we continued to talk for a little while longer. However, as our topics died down, I noticed something that had been bugging me since I had first made eye contact with Kit. Though his smile was warm and friendly, it still seemed a little hesitant. The light in his eyes had just a hint of weariness, his true pleasure of meeting me somewhat withdrawn. It was as if he wanted to like me, but something was holding him back.
After a few more minutes he told me that there was something that he wanted to talk to Derek about and I made my way over to converse with Tori, Simon and Liz. Or at least I made it look that way as I tried my damnedest to eavesdrop on what Kit was going to tell Derek. Had I misinterpreted his friendliness, thinking that he accepted me as suitable for his son? Was I just so desperate for his approval that I had imagined his welcoming aura altogether?
I could hardly hear their whispered conversation, only catching a few words here and there that didn't make too much sense.
"I... know what... doing, Derek. You... her involved... keep... eye... her. I don't... away... her, but... understand... consequences. You... he's watching... now... her too."
No combination of those words that I could make up in my brain sounded like he disapproved of Derek being with me. And if they were something along those lines, then I liked to think that Derek would argue with him. But Derek didn't argue. He just nodded his head and I found solace in that and discarded Kit's words.
I should have tried harder to figure out the context of them, but I didn't.
Later that evening, after Derek's family had left- Tori opting for her father to stay at her apartment for the night- he was lounging on his couch, grading a few papers when I approached him with his birthday present.
"See, I'm not actually a horrible girlfriend and I did remember your birthday." I said, hiding his gift behind my back. He gave me his signature smirk and replied, "I gathered that much."
I handed over his meticulously wrapped gift and sat at the other end of the couch to watch him open it.
"You didn't have to do all this, Chloe." He said, a small smile taking place of his smirk. "Like I already told you several time's tonight, I've-"
"You've already had twenty-four birthdays but this is your first with me, yeah yeah. I heard all that cheese the first time. Now open!"
He chuckled and did as he was told. As he unwrapped the gift, his smile broadened.
I'd gotten him a new messenger bag for work.
"I know it's such an impersonal and practical gift, but I noticed that yours is getting pretty tattered."
I scooted closer, taking the bag from his hands and opening it to show him the inside.
"See? It has a built in xylophone filer so you can separate your papers by class. And then there's this pocket here for your cell phone and a slot here so you can fit your charger or headphones through it." I went on about the additional assets of the bag, showing him why I had picked it out for him in the first place. Derek was a very organized guy and this bag was just perfect-
His fingers brushed under my chin and I glanced up at him in time to meet his lips. I laughed against his mouth and asked him if that meant that he liked it.
He continued to kiss me, but when a hunger started to seep into it, I pulled away.
"I should be leaving soon. I have an early shift tomorrow."
His smirk was back and he said, "You're not leaving."
I raised a challenging brow and replied, "Is that so?"
He leaned in to kiss me again, but I jumped up from the couch.
"Chloe," He said lowly with a warning tone, eyes dancing with that same storm I had seen the first night he had brought me to his apartment. I ignored that tone.
"Well, it's been a pleasant evening, Professor Souza and I wish you a happy birthday. However I must call our meeting to an end for it is far past and appropriate hour and I seemed to have overstayed my welcome."
I said all this as I gathered my things. My jacket and book bag from beside his couch and keys from his coffee table, feigning the full intent of actually leaving.
"Chloe," Derek warned again, daring me to meet his gaze.
When I did I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling.
"Again, my dear professor, I bid you ado."
Derek lunged for me and I jumped back, a curse escaping my lips. I dropped my things in the middle of the living room and booked it to the dining room with Derek on my tail. I laughed as I rounded his small dining table and Derek made to follow, but could tell that he was going to just chase me in a circle around the damn thing. So he pivoted and tried catching me by going the other direction. I saw this and did the same, so that he was chasing me in a circle again.
Finally he stopped and glared at me over the top of the table.
"You're not going down without a fight are you?" He asked.
"Alright. You asked for it," He replied with a shrug. He leaned back against the wall, while my back faced the living room and for a second, I thought he wasn't going to chase me anymore. A small sense of disappointment washed over me before I noticed his sudden movement.
He leapt over the table. He's a big guy, it's a small table, it wasn't that big a deal. But it still took me by surprise. I dropped to the floor and tried to crawl underneath- because there was no way in hell I was vaulting over that table. I was too slow, though, and Derek grabbed my left ankle and heaved me out from under the table, me squealing and laughing the whole way.
He gave me a second to stand up and gather myself before asking, "Give up yet?"
Another shrug and another lunge. And again, damn it, I was too slow. He bent himself low enough that when his body hit mine, his shoulder was right in line with my pelvis. He hooked his arm around my waist and hoisted me over his shoulder, like a firefighter carrying an unconscious victim. And with a whoosh, he stood to his full height and I was no longer on the ground.
"Derek," I laughed, banging my fists lightly on his back. He ignored me, though I could feel his body vibrating with his own laughter, and turned towards the living room. I kicked my feet, but was careful not to hit him in the face. When we roughhoused like this, we were both exceptionally careful not to harm the other. So I struggled against him with no real effort to escape and he carried me off to his bedroom.
He was such a cheater.
As the excitement of our cat and mouse game died down, Derek lowered me carefully onto his bed, following suit as he hovered over me, stormy green eyes alight and vibrant, almost glowing in the dark.
"Stay tonight, okay?"
I nodded my agreement, unsure of my ability to talk under the intense look he was giving me. And I did stay. I could have argued, if I was really trying to be responsible. And I know exactly what his argument would have been, because we've had that discussion before.
"I'd just feel better knowing you're not out there, at this hour, by yourself." He'd say. And I knew that as he said this, he was thinking of how there were two missing girls in the last two months and me driving myself back to the dorms by myself at night made him anxious.
I also knew that his words were about more than that. But, again, I was playing ignorant.
So I'm trying to speed things up without getting rid of some important things. I feel that at this point, I should just get on with the ending already, so these two parts are going to take place instead of a standard 'time jump.'
I'm also trying to convey Chloe's actions in a relatable way. Most people our age- boy or girl- go through the initial phase of a newly blossoming relationship where they start to notice things about their significant other that throws up red flags, but they're so infatuated with that person that they'd feel more comfortable and happy just ignoring those things. So if anyone thinks that Chloe's a bit naïve and, dare I say, a little dumb, well, it's pretty much because she is.
I can at least promise that I won't take four months to update this time. :) Let me know what you guys think.