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: 963
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, hospital, acceptance, jealousy, concern, anguish
Summary: There’s at least one decision Thalia can make…
Click here for intro to Educating Thalia
Pale and withdrawn, Thalia pulls on the nasal cannula and adjusts it. Chris notices her skin looks red and raw where the tubing lays against her lovely but bruised face. He hides his wince and stares back down at his boots. The room is a tense silence; Tom pacing at the window. The constant movement grates on his nerves but he understands the man’s frustration.
Both men look up when the door opens and Big Jim returns to the room, a tray of coffees in his hands and a box of donuts under his arm. He sets them on the table and hands a steaming cup to each of them. “Jim,” Chris nods nearly bowing under pressure as the larger man pats him on the back.
“Did she tell you yet?” Jim asks, a little too happily. Two faces – so different but both haggard with exhaustion and worry for the same woman – turn his way in curiosity, and he ignores them for a moment. He tears open three packets of sugar and pours them into his cup. With the little red straw he stirs the beverage before licking it and throwing it on the food tray. Turning to his ‘adopted’ daughter, he fusses, “You didn’t eat enough.”
Thalia rolls her eyes. “I’m a big girl, I won’t waste away.” Her breathing is restricted when she speaks, barely above a whisper. “I can’t; my ribs… it hurts.”
Patting her hand in a fatherly fashion, Jim finally turns to the men in the room who are still waiting for an explanation. “My wife, Sarah, and I are taking Thalia to Chicago when she’s released from the hospital. She needs to go home and get well. Spring Break is next week so she won’t miss that much school, but she’s been approved three weeks of medical leave from classes. We feel she needs to be with family to care for-”
Tom interrupts the bartender. His active hands show a man who is at a loss, grasping at anything. “My home is large enough, she can stay with me, we can hire a nurse and-”
“Tom? Tom, it’s okay. I won’t be gone long.” She whispers, sucking in a deep breath. “Chris? I need family. I need time to be alone.”
His heart stops but he understands. Chris also hears what she doesn’t say, recognizing she’s talking to him and not Tom. Even in her brief moments of clarity with all the pain killers coursing through her system she’s realized Tom’s thoughts and emotions aren’t stable.
“Tom, we need to let her do this.” Chris’s voice is calm and even, a grounding force in the room. “Her family can give her a safe haven. We’ll be here for her when she gets back-”
Tom turns wildly. “How can you be so calm? This is madness!”
Standing up, Chris walks to the foot of the hospital bed and rests his hand on her leg. “Ranting and raving here isn’t going to do any good. She’s obviously had a lot on her mind, but she can make one decision. That’s to go home. Alone. We need to respect that.”
“Thalia, but,” Tom starts, moving to her and placing his hand gently on her forearm above the cast.
Taking another painful breath, Thalia stops him. “I can’t. I can’t handle you both in the room at the same time…” Her voice drifts away as she takes another breath, clutching the tubing to her nose. A small smile graces her chapped lips. “You both and your damn sweaters.”
Chris chuckles and Tom rolls his eyes, shaking his head.
Jim ignores that comment and looks to the monitors attached to her, identifying the increased beeping. “Is that why your heart rate is up? Which one do you want me to kick out?”
Closing her eyes, Thalia is non-responsive to the question. Chris can see the avoidance and is relieved when a nurse enters the room.
“Well, what a handsome collection of visitors you have, my dear! But gentlemen, I’m going to have to ask you all to leave for awhile. She needs her rest, and she obviously isn’t getting it. Too good looking. Y’all have her heart racing!”
The little woman playfully pushes them out the door and Chris watches through the window as she checks over her vitals. He sees Thalia speaking to the nurse and gesturing to them, being shut out when the nurse walks over to close the blinds.
Fuck. He slowly walks to the row of seats down the hall from her room. As he sinks into another uncomfortable hospital chair, he watches Hiddleston punch the door open at the end of the hall. Chris rests his head back against the wall, wondering when he’ll have to say goodbye; when will they release her from the hospital…
It hurts too much to see Thalia suffering and yet doing her best to show a brave front. He’s never felt so damn helpless in his life – apart from when his marriage fell apart. And in a way, it’s the same situation, though it’s also completely different. Because this time he isn’t afraid of losing his daughter but the woman he loves.
Kicking his boot against the ground, he admits it hurts so fucking much. He doesn’t want to be the calming force in the room. He wants to lose his shit too. He almost envies the tall Brit for his emotional outbursts. Sighing, he watches the nurses go about their rounds, starting to clean up lunches from the rooms. But clearly, an outburst and stress isn’t what Thalia needs right now, and if he can do even the smallest thing to make this ordeal easier for her, then he’ll damn well do it even if it kills him.
He can still be the better man.
Click here to read Chapter 42 Apologies
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