A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago. Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Word count: 3263
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, angst, difficult real life discussions
Summary: Tom and Thalia sit down for a serious talk.
A special thanks to @deathbyukmen and @itsliterallythis for their advice and input on this chapter
Click here for intro to Educating Thalia
Enjoying light chatter over their coffee and chocolate cake, Tom feels Thalia holding back. This late at night, the shop is nearly deserted. Being far from campus, he reaches his hand across the table to her, moving his chair closer. “Thalia, darling, you’re awfully quiet. What’s on your mind?”
Turning his hand over in hers, she runs her fingertips over the ridges mapped across his palm. “Ever wish sometimes you could see the future? Know what was going to happen, Tom?”
He trembles at her touch, delighting in the sweet sensuality of it, but sits quietly, sensing she needs to gather her thoughts as she builds to whatever it is she wants to say. She sighs and lays her palm against his, looking to him with her wide innocent eyes. “Do you see a future in us together here, Tom? I mean, what are we doing?”
His heart plummets to his stomach because he knows he doesn’t really have an answer for her. Not a good one. Not one that won’t hurt them both.
Reading her expression, he knows when she figures it out.
“It’s so complicated, Thalia. I just-” he huffs, pulling his hand back from hers and grasping it tightly, moving his leg to brush against hers; to connect. “I just don’t know, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.”
Giving his hand a squeeze, she removes hers from his grasp and leans back against the chair. Defensively, she crosses her arms over her chest, her glorious tits resting across the line she creates. “Does it change anything since I’m just auditing your class this semester? It’s not graded? Can we be seen together now?”
Removing his glasses and resting them on the table, Tom roughly pushes across his forehead, having to face all the questions he’s asked himself over and over again late at night. “Darling, I want nothing more than to hold your hand and walk across the Commons together, or grab lunch with you at one of the pubs right off campus. You deserve that much, but you know we can’t. You still work for me.”
He watches as she runs her tongue across her teeth in thought. Nodding, she offers,“So what if I quit?”
He chuckles. “Then you really would need someone to take care of you and your finances, and you’ve made it painfully clear that’s not what you want.”
She makes a low growl in the back of her throat. “You don’t get it, do you?” She rubs under her chin in frustration. “It’s not that. I mean, yes, I want my independence, but caring for someone is a give and take. Tom, you give a lot, but you don’t let me care for you. That bothers me. This?” She gestures her hand back and forth between them. “This is the most we’ve communicated in weeks about us, and not about work or exhibits or whatever fucking piece of knowledge we’re trying to show off for each other.” Her smile softens her words, but Tom still feels the punch.
She’s right. Their time together is often a show, a game; part of her ‘education.’ Tom loves the dominance of it all, the ceremony, of enlightening her and watching her bend to his will as it becomes hers as well. Like tonight in the theater. ‘Fucking menace’ rings in his ears and he loves the throaty sound of her voice when it replays in his mind. He made her want what he wanted, but not with malice. He’d never force her to do anything he didn’t think she’d like. If she doesn’t want it, she knows the safe word…
“Are you listening, or are you in your own thoughts now?” she asks sharply.
Moving his leg against hers, he brings himself back to the conversation. “Thalia, I’m just trying to think of the right response, to be honest. The one that will make you stay; the one that won’t make you want to walk out of my life. And I don’t know if there is one. What’s this all about, darling? Does this have anything to do with talking to your friend today?”
Thalia’s eyes dart away and she bites her lip. He can see her pulse rising as the blood rushes through the veins in her neck. He worries about her response, sensing her physical discomfort. He leans forward and rests his hand on her knee. “Thalia, what’s wrong? Tell me.”
“Shit,” she hisses out under her breath. “Tom, it was… someone I knew, a friend, but… it was kind of a date. It… It just kind of happened, and… and it wasn’t anything I planned and-” she stammers over her words. “I feel bad you didn’t know ahead of time. I wasn’t-”
Fuck. He wasn’t expecting that. He can’t deny the kick to his gut. But her pained expression hurts him even more. “Thalia, Thalia, stop. Stop.” His fingers brush lightly over her thigh. “It’s fine; it’s fine. We said- ok, I said- we should see people to take suspicion off us. I don’t need to know the details, as much as it pains me. We’re both adults, things happen.” His stomach turns and he wants nothing more than to beat against his chest and claim ‘mine’ at the top of his lungs. Possibly even throw her over his shoulder and run away with her, but that’s his foolish heart. He has to think clearly from his head right now.
“I just didn’t want you to think it was planned out; or I was keeping anything from you. It’s not something I would normally do, Tom.” Low and quiet, her voice is full of sorrow and remorse. “It just… happened.”
“Hell, Thalia, it’s not like I planned on seducing you in the library months ago either,” he chuckles, trying to soothe her. “It just happened.” He smiles, repeating her words. “There is no easy way to render our situation. Neither of us are at a point in our lives to make long term decisions, other than you following your career path. It’s important to me that your reach your goals; I’m not here to sidetrack you.” He gives her knee a gentle squeeze. “I’m content where I am now with my work and happiest with you.” He leans back and thoughtfully runs his hand over his scruff, trying to mask his turned down frown. “But if you want to leave; if I’m not what you need, now is the time to do it… before any other investments are made, and either of us wind up broken.”
The tears shimmering in her eyes shatter him as he holds back his own.
She hits her leg against his, sliding it along his thigh. “Tom, that’s not what I want; I’m not looking to get out, but it’s all just so consuming. You can be really intense.”
Wiping away her tears, her voice is raw with emotion. “I sometimes feel like I forget how to be me. I mean, I am ‘me’ when I’m with you, but it’s like a different version. The ‘learning me’ that wants to know everything you know, that wants you to show me. Let’s be real- the “me” that wants you to make my sassy ass submit to you.” She giggles, and the heave in her breasts as she pauses for a moment, possibly as her own thoughts of their times together pass through her mind, causes a tightening in his pants. Sighing deeply, she taps her fingers on the table top. “But sometimes I just need to sit on my ass at home on my couch in my baggy sweatpants, you know what I mean? I’ve been on the go too much lately, many times at your beck and call.”
Pulling down on his pants leg, he shifts in his seat. “I’ll give you whatever you want, darling. I’ll try not to be so possessive of you, you are your own person, free to make your own choices. I want to control you, yes, but not like that. You understand that, don’t you?”
Actually with their arguments lately about her work and money, he doubted she did, although she gently nods her head. He’d pushed her away when he only wanted to hold her close, possibly driving her right into the arms of another man. Damn his foolishness, but he knows he doesn’t really have the right to claim her.
“Thalia, if you’re asking me for a commitment, that’s something we don’t have the luxury of attaining right now.” Her deep brown eyes look back to his, searching his face. “You work for me; for my department. You are a student. I can’t ask you to take risks like that with your academic career. I care about you too much to let this be something to destroy your future, all you’ve worked for.” Looking at his watch, he doesn’t want the night to end, but knows she needs to get home. “Do we have to make any rash decisions tonight, darling?”
Thalia giggles as she stands up from her chair. She sweetly pushes back the curl falling across his forehead and gives his hair a little tug. “Do I have to make any decisions?”
Rising next to her, he places his arms around her waist and holds her close. “So far it seems to work well when you let me make them?”
She playfully hits his chest. “Isn’t that what this whole discussion was about? My need for some independence?”
“I thought it was about making some sort of commitment?” He raises a questioning brow at her.
“Dammit. It was that too. You’re right. It’s all just too complicated- but, sir, that doesn’t mean you get to make all the decisions.” She defiantly shakes her head once, making her curls bounce.
“Duly noted, Miss Bareo.” His laughter echoes into the night, as he walks her back to her car in the newly fallen snow.
“You’re not mad?” She clasps his face in her hands as she did earlier, tracing his prominent cheekbones and then his jawline lightly with her fingertips – and as soft as her touch is, it has a possessive feel to it and he allows the gesture to burn itself into his mind.
Placing his hands over hers, he wants to pause the moment in time. The innocent expression on her face; the flakes of snow momentarily sticking in her hair. She’s going to break his heart. It has to be that way, because he knows he couldn’t live with himself if he broke hers.
“No, Thalia, dear, how can I be mad when you did what I said to do- I said ‘date’ and you did?” He releases her hands, nodding as she pulls a pair of bright blue gloves from her pockets and slides them on. “You’ve been upfront with me, and that’s honestly more than I could have asked for. Just please tell me it’s not that prat from our class?
“Oh, God, no.” Tom leans in to start her car and turn on the heat while the two share a laugh about the frat boy and his ridiculous comments on the works of Shakespeare, stomping their feet in the cold to stay warm.
“Darling, are you sure you won’t go with me tonight? I don’t want to push you…”
She places her gloved hand tenderly against his chest. “Sometimes I like it when you push me,” she teases, cocking her eyebrow. “But I really do need to finish some studies up, and my application for Paris is due at the end of the week.”
“Say no more. I understand that there are more important matters tonight. Will I see you tomorrow?” Tom can’t keep the hope out of his voice, and the look in her eyes is full of understanding, which only makes him feel worse.
“Of course, and our date is Tuesday?” She pulls the collar of his coat up, tighter around his neck.
“I already have reservations made. Think of it as preparation for France!” He winks, waiting to see her response.
“French food? Please don’t make me eat snails,” Thalia says, eyeing him warily. “And don’t be so cocky. If I don’t get that internship, I’ll want to drown myself in buckets of ice cream.”
“I promise. No snails.” Tom crosses his fingers over his heart. “And if that happens, we can eat all the ice cream you want, darling.” Mirroring her earlier gesture, he cups her chubby-cheeked face and leans in for a kiss that is gentle yet firm at the same time. He makes it last as long as he can, wishing he didn’t have to let go. “Good night, Thalia.”
“Good night, Tom.” The smile she gives him seems to come straight from her heart, but there’s a wistful, almost sad edge to it that makes his heart clench. He hates feeling like he can’t be all she needs, but she’s young and still needs to spread her wings.
Closing the door for her, he waves a little goodbye and strides away quickly, willing himself not to look back as her car drives away.
Chris has an extra bounce in his step as he heads to his office. With the displays needing to be readied for the local historian group, the head of the history department agreed a part-time assistant seemed like a logical plan for completing the work on time. His meeting in the office of student affairs also went well, and they approved his request for an assistant if the student was interested in the work.
Passing by the workroom, he hears her laughter and it fills him with joy. He slows down, stopping at the doorway. She’s with him and they are chatting over cooling mugs. Probably hot tea. Who drinks that shit anyway? Time to rescue the damsel from the boring Brit.
“Ah, Miss Bareo! Just the student I was looking for,” he announces as he steps into the room, throwing his leather satchel on the nearest table.
She jumps on her feet and Hiddleston returns his usual scowl.
Timidly, a blush rising on her freckled cheeks, she responds. “Professor Evans? You were looking for me?”
Reaching into the staff fridge, he procures a carton of yogurt and tosses money in the cup on the counter. “I’ve just been down to the office of student affairs, needing short term assistance on the project for the local historical chapter and they recommended you, if you have the time available?”
Her eyes grow huge and Hiddleston turns to look at her, obviously flustered.
Chris winks at her behind the other man’s back and smiles, adopting a more casual demeanor as he sits at the table, propping his feet up on the chair across from him. “Oh, hey, I forgot a spoon. Can you hand me one?”
“Evans, for heaven’s sake, an assistant isn’t a slave. And you look like a barbarian in a public place with your feet propped up like that. I’m certain Ms. Bareo already has her hands full with-”
His British demeanor gets on Chris’s nerves, but it’s equally fun because he knows he crawls under the lanky man’s skin as well. So he’ll drag this out just for fun. Class doesn’t start for another ninety minutes. He’s got nothing better to do.
Clearing her throat, both men look at her as she steps forward and hands Professor Evans a spoon. Chris notices she’s closer to the door for an exit. She needn’t worry. He has no plans to spill their little secret, for fear of getting her expelled or himself fired.
With a bit more confidence in her voice, she addresses the gentleman standing at the counter. “Professor Hiddleston, I appreciate your concern, but if a student is recommended by the office, the pay is more per hour. That extra pay helps my expenditures that aren’t covered by the university when I go on expeditions. You know, sir, I’m fully capable of taking directions to complete a task in a timely fashion.” She pauses thoughtfully, gathering some papers from the table. “It would also allow me to cut back some hours at the bar.” She says quietly, turning and smiling warily to Professor Evans. ”How many hours a week do you need help?”
“Six, maybe eight. I really don’t think it will be more than that. There’s not a lot of work, really, but I’m busy editing my next book. I just need help until the exhibit is ready, after the Alumni Gala in late-March.” He licks the spoon wickedly, hoping to see a rise from her as Hiddleston turns back to the counter to rinse out his mug. Chris bites back his laughter when she runs her middle finger across her perfectly arched eyebrow. “And on days there isn’t much to do, I can always find other work. Word has it you are great at grading freshman essays, Miss Bareo.”
Hiddleston and Thalia both groan and Chris joins in their laughter. “The state of the American education system is appalling,” Hiddleston laments.
“Well, gentlemen, as a product of the American education system, I must get to my next class. Wouldn’t want my brain to turn to mush so my professors can talk about me behind my back. I’d really hate that,” she says somewhat sharply, her eyes on Chris. “What are your office hours, Professor Evans? I won’t be available to start till the day after next?”
Running his hand around his bicep in the sweater he was wearing the other night, he stretches back in his chair. “Thursday? I have a commitment that morning at my daughter’s daycare, but I can be in the office by 10:00? Will that work for you?”
“I’ll check my schedule and if it doesn’t, I’ll be in touch. And Professor Hiddleston, please don’t forget we have the meeting with the drama department today at four to discuss the accuracy of props. And then you said something about a study of French culture this evening, is that right?”
“Yes, Ms. Bareo. Thank you, and thank you again for the lovely cup of tea. You’re getting quite good at fixing it.”
She blushes and dips her head, exiting the room quickly. Chris watches her walk away, that sweet little sway to her ass.
Snapping his fingers to break his stare, Hiddleston barks at him. “Evans? What are you on about? That girl does not have time for your busy work. She’s working towards attaining some of the most prestigious honors our University offers and interviewing for internships.” Hiddleston wipes down the counter and hangs the towel to dry, “as well as putting the final touches on our research for publication. If I find out you have her grading freshman essays, I’ll lodge a complaint to the Dean.”
“Cool it.” Rising from his seat, he cleans his trash. “I know she’s an intelligent woman. She’s been in my class and I’m familiar with her work. The exhibit is important for us to receive more funding for an archeological dig in Honduras that might interest her. I’m trying to aid a student who deserves it.”
“She doesn’t need your kind of aid,” Tom comments vehemently. “I may be fairly new around here, but I’ve heard the stories about you and the help you give your female students.”
Placing his bag over his shoulder and across his chest, Chris replies, “Man, you’re a real prick. I’m not even gonna defend that with a response.” Placing his spoon in the sink, he exits the room without another word.
Click to Chapter 21 Bliss
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