By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom
AU Fan Fiction
In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.
If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.
If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia
Word Count 3174
Summary: Thinking he has it all together, Tom realizes seeing Thalia again was against his better judgement.
Previous Chapter, Exposed
Tom slams his book shut and shoots out of his chair to pace back and forth in front of his bookshelf. He feels like a prisoner in his own flat, for crying out loud.
Reading used to be his one true salvation, from childhood all the way through adolescence and for all of his adult years. But not even focusing on the written word seems to help him these days. Maybe because SHE shares his love for the same books.
His hot-house orchid who turned from forbidden fruit into guilty pleasure and who deserved to be so much more.
Tom rubs the tension out of his neck, his fingers brushing against the little curls there now that he’s taken to wearing his hair longer.
He still believes he did the right thing three years ago in Paris when he let Thalia go. The look on her face will haunt him forever, just like her expression last week when he told her he’d be getting married soon.
Why does he do that? Why does he keep hurting her, keep pushing her away?
He isn’t a bloody sadomasochist, dammit. And Thalia is the last person on this planet that he wants to hurt. But he’s reached his limit, he truly has. It’s either cutting her out of his heart and his life and living with the ever-bleeding wound or keeping her and dying a slow death because she’d never truly be his.
Is that what real love feels like, such a stark black and white, yes and no, everything or nothing?
“Stupid git,” he curses himself, walking to his bookshelf and staring blindly at all the literature spanning centuries and various genres. “How can it be love? Isn’t love supposed to be about compromises and second chances and all that?”
So his feelings for Thalia are what? An obsession? Has he gone stark raving mad?
There’s a bitter twist to his mouth when he remembers that he was indeed quite mad for some time. After the breakup, he floated aimlessly, sleepwalking through life like a soulless zombie. Run, eat, sleep, repeat. For days. Prohibiting himself to think of her during daytime, only to have her invade his dreams every night.
When he hadn’t been able to take it anymore, he’d made an attempt to win her back. He’d never told anyone, who would he tell- no one knew they’d been together in the first place- but he’d traveled to her first conference panel in Toronto. He’d been so excited to see her name on the list of speakers regarding some of her historical research that he’d instantly booked a flight. Nearly a year without her, a few more weeks eased the pain of his raving madness. He’d finally admitted to himself the dark, lonely nights without her in his arms, his bed, his life, were too much to bear.
Staring blankly at the gilded spines on the leather bound novels, he remembers that day. He’d stayed in the shadows, not wanting to interfere with her moment in the spotlight. He’d met with an old friend, who sang her praise as both a history and lit professor on campus. He’d not thought of it before, but it was her earned title as well. Professor. Professor Bareo…
“She’s also a bit of hero, getting Joanna Kent suspended for using racial slurs against her,” the man shared.
Incredulously, Tom wiped his glasses on his silk pocket square. “What? Kent?” He hadn’t thought of the woman in years. “How did that happen?”
He’d hidden his personal feelings, his heart full of pride, hearing the way his girl stood up for herself, grateful their indiscretions had not come to light during the inquiry process. But Kent had her own skeletons, liaisons with male and female students, so even had she known of their affair, she wouldn’t have used it as a bargaining chip.
He’d sat, enthralled with the lecture, the grace she held herself with as others in their field asked her questions, which she quickly answered, amending her presentation on the spot.
She’d positively charmed the crowd.
Awed by her intellect, his eyes took in their fill as her rich voice washed over him. He’d missed her so much, he just wanted to soak in everything about her. Her hair was shorter and with the formality of the event, she was wearing it straightened. The plum colored dress, he could tell, had been purposefully chosen to accentuate her curves but not draw attention to her womanly shape. If that had been the plan, it hadn’t worked. The wrap around style clung to her voluptuous figure and he doubted he was the only man in the room to be aroused by her. With the lilt of her voice and subtle sway of her hips as she paced the stage, she was a walking billboard for sex. His colleague had leaned over and whispered, “She makes a man think. Did you know? There’s rumors she was fuckin’ somebody on staff when she was a student? Lucky bastard. Cushion for the pushin.’” He’d elbowed Tom in the ribs.
Tom had glared at the man over his glasses. “Remember your place, man. It’s beneath you to speak that way, to diminish the intelligence of a woman, simply for her form. You’re a better man. Get a grip.”
He’d wished someone else had advised him the same years before…
His pal had coughed, nodding with embarrassment. After the panel, the two went their separate ways as Tom ushered forward to speak with Thalia. All the time he’d thought of seeing her again, he still hadn’t known what he wanted to say.
Getting on his knees and groveling for her to take him back had been an acceptable notion…
In the end, it didn’t matter.
Words of greetings froze on his lips as he watched his nemesis, Professor Chris Evans step forward to congratulate her, openly wrapping his arm behind her back and casually resting his hand on her ample hip as they spoke to other historians in attendance.
Quietly he slipped from the room, the wound reopened as the knife twisted in his chest. Cancelling lunch plans with friends for the next day, he’d changed his flight plans and returned to London alone, with his heart bleeding out, in a pain he’d never known. Broken and utterly devastated.
It was his buddy, Luke, who finally called him out, telling him it was time to end his funk. His old school chum hauled Tom’s sorry arse to a theater play of ‘Hamlet’. And Shakespeare, his dear old friend, did the rest to restore a modicum of sanity to him.
It was at the play that Tom ran into Sabrina.
He shoves his hands into his pockets and turns away from the bookshelf, resuming the pacing, shaking away images of the past.
He tries to call up better, happier memories. Sabrina was a childhood friend he barely recognized that night at the theater. Her family had vacationed with his when they were around ten, and the children had bonded like the parents had. Tom still vaguely remembered finding her a nice companion, a girl who enjoyed hikes as much as he did and didn’t find him too nerdy when he talked about books more than soccer or cars. They’d spent a few weeks in each other’s company over four consecutive summers. And yes, he may have experienced his first kiss with her.
With a groan, Tom stalked to the window at the opposite end of his room and braced his hands on the sill, his body slumping forward with the burden of it all.
Sabrina recalled more details of their time together than he did, and she’d wanted to pick right up on the easy camaraderie they’d shared as children and early teens. Weary and depressed as he was, Tom had soaked up her kind smile, her non-judgmental attitude, her cultured voice that had the exact same lilting and crisp London accent that he spoke in. She’d been a friend when he was in dire need of one, so effortless to talk to about common interests, so…comfortable and reassuring.
When the cordial hug at the end of an outing had turned into more because Sabrina turned her face to brush his mouth instead of his cheek with her lips, he’d let her. And on the next date, he’d more than let her.
They progressed slowly. Nothing like the “let me lick you in the college library before I fuck your brains out in a hotel room” whirlwind he’d experienced with Thalia. He’d deliberately taken it in slow, logical steps. Doled out his kisses and his first tentative, then firmer affection in spoonfuls that Sabrina soaked up with a gratitude he found infuriating. Where was the spitfire spirit, the sass, the determination he had admired so in Thalia?
“There you go again, comparing them. Fucking fuck, Hiddleston, get a grip, you bleeding loser!”
Banging his fist on the wooden window sill, he winces at the pain that shot up his arm and welcomes it at the same time.
It wasn’t fair. He kept telling himself it wasn’t fair. Not to Sabrina, who was a lovely lady other men would beg on their knees for and who certainly shouldn’t be stuck with a fool like him who still pined for a woman he couldn’t have.
But he’d never led her on, had he? Sabrina knew he wasn’t exactly head over heels in love with her. She’d told him she loved him enough for two people, knew that he wasn’t a very emotional person and had a problem with attachment. She’d never pressured him, never demanded more attention, more time, more sex. If she seemed genuinely happy with their relationship, why was he feeling such debilitating guilt all the time?
Perhaps because, above all, it wasn’t fair to himself how he behaved?
This marriage wouldn’t be a catastrophe. It would be pleasant and normal and everything a man in his right mind should wish for. Only he didn’t wish for that. He wanted a fiery woman who challenged and completed him. Who knew that deep down, he WAS emotional and needed something extraordinary. Being with Thalia had, in a twisted way, made him a better man. And yet he’d stepped away.
Stepped away because it hurt like a thousand hells that she apparently didn’t feel the same about him. Just days before he’d left, when he’d followed through on their blasted bet over the World Cup, he’d practically proposed. In the heat of the moment, he’d pondered aloud how wonderful it would be to pamper her if they spent the rest of their lives together. She’d dashed his hopes, tore out his heart, when she announced days later that she’d taken a teaching position at her alma mater, the place where they met and fell in love. He was broken to find she still wanted him to share, after all they’d had, all the magic between them.
How much safer and saner it was to choose Sabrina. They’d buy a nice cottage with a garden and leave the hype behind so he could write more books. They’d get an adorable dog, have dinner with their mutual friends and proper English families. Maybe he’d even let her persuade him to have a child later on.
With a hiss of self-loathing, Tom storms out of the room and all the way to the door. Yanking it open, he steps into his grey suede shoes and barely remembers to grab his key and lock the door. Phone forgotten at home, he practically runs along the street, his head bent at the onslaught of cool rain that he didn’t even really register though he was soaked within a minute.
He needed therapy. He damn well did. How could he cut Thalia off so cruelly, then have that…that…whatever that was he did when he battled his will against hers at the conference. He’d wanted to lure her out, to get under her skin. To him, the banter had been foreplay and he had worn the tie she’d given him on purpose, to draw her out. Because any impression was better than no impression. Because by being patronizing and supercilious, he could hide the raw pain in his chest at seeing her again and knowing he had no fucking right to yearn for her.
No fucking right to tell her about the twelve or thirteen letters hidden in a shoebox under his bed, written to her over the years and never posted. They were, essentially, love letters. Some contained quotes and poetry snippets and sentences out of books that reminded him of Thalia or times they’d shared. Others read like a diary because he had nobody to share his moments of triumph and his lowest lows with him, so he poured his heart out to her. Yet others contained confessions; what he’d felt for her, was still feeling for her, what he should have said and done, what he wished she would do. But he hadn’t ever posted a single one of the letters. It wouldn’t have been fair to Thalia. He’d made his choice in Paris, then made his choice again when he proposed to Sabrina.
But apparently he was the weakest and meanest man on the face of the earth because one meeting had made him crumble to dust. It was a wonder Thalia hadn’t slapped him, hadn’t hurled more accusations or refused his peace offering of eclairs.
And what in the name of all that’s holy had driven him to that pathetic attempt at being friends? His jealousy that Evans could have at least that connection? His determination to try though he’d known it would never be enough?
With a sob lodged in his throat, Tom raises his head to let the pouring rain drown out all the unwanted emotions swirling inside him, like molten lava ready to spill over as soon as the volcano finally erupted.
For God’s sake, he was walking down the aisle in a few weeks’ time, and all he could think about, even after six years, was Thalia.
Thalia, Thalia, Thalia.
Whether he read a book, skimmed a newspaper article, ate chocolate mousse, traveled to Scotland for work or had sex with his betrothed.
Yes, even then.
Sure, in a weird way, he loved Sabrina back, at least liked her tremendously. And he found her beautiful, with her petite physique, sunny blonde hair and never stormy, blue eyes. They’d shared a bed a few times. He’d willed himself not to see it as duty, to give her everything, to be in the moment. And it had been perfectly nice, vanilla sex. The way happy couples should have it.
But he didn’t want that. He craved desperately, like a vampire thirsting for blood, the magic he’d had with Thalia.
And at night in his flat—because he hadn’t moved in with Sabrina– it was Thalia’s taste, her scent, the memory of her luscious curves and her uninhibited moans that helped him find release.
Not feeling even a little bit better after the evening walk, Tom finds his way back home. Soaked from the rain, he ignores the buzzing phone as he unlaces his wet shoes and walks on socked feet to the kitchen. He knows Sabrina just got off work and is calling to check on him. He’s not in the mood; tonight her neediness will just irritate him, he’s afraid. When his thoughts are more organized, then he’ll call back, he thinks to himself.
He reaches into the small laundry closet and grabs for a towel, rubbing it over his wet hair. Yanking of his wet shirt, he throws it in the bin, and pulls on a dry shirt and a sweatshirt for warmth. Tom’s eyes dart to the computer on the edge of the counter, next to the stack of wedding cards indicating meal choices for attendants. He growls quietly, moving to the fridge and taking out a bottle of beer. Twisting off the top, he takes a long swig, water still dripping down his back, off the hem of his faded jeans, making a small puddle in the middle of the kitchen. In two short strides, he walks over to the counter, picking up the pale pink envelopes and tossing them over on to the table.
His heart pounds in his ears as he opens the computer and logs in to his old account. He stares at the profile photo of a man with a beaming smile, wondering where he went to, wondering if there’s a way to get him back. Looking to the right of the screen, he scrolls through the names till he finds the one he needs. He sends a brief message, not even sure of the difference of the time zones anymore. He starts to walk away when the familiar ping alerts him to a message.
His finger hovers over the lightning bolt icon, wondering if he should open Pandora’s box. He did once before and look where it got him. He closes his eyes and drops his finger on the computer key.
Tom sighs and opens his eyes, reading the message from a little house in suburban Chicago, from a lovely widow: Thalia’s stepmother.
“She told me about London… I wondered if I’d be hearing from you…”
“Is she happy? Is she safe?” he types back quickly, regretting it the moment after. Or does he really?
He watches the little dots roll around, waiting for a response.
“She’s not seeing him, if that’s what you meant. I think it’s just Christmas and birthday cards now, to the little girl… But it doesn’t matter, Tom. You’re getting married… she’ll eventually let go and find a happiness. I was surprised when she told me the news…” More spinning dots while he waits with bated breath. “I always thought she was waiting for you to realize what you wanted… I honestly believed it was her… Tom, good luck to you and your future bride. I’ve already said too much, but I have to say goodbye. It hurt her deeply to learn I still spoke to you on occasion. I wish you the best. Have a good life… – Stacey.”
With another stifled curse, Tom tunnels his fingers through his damp hair. Now he’s feeling even more conflicted. What the everloving hell is he supposed to do?
Breathing in and out to keep insanity at bay, he chews his lip and makes a decision. For now, to cope better, he’ll compose a last letter to Thalia. To once and for all close this chapter. Of course he won’t send this one either but perhaps it will help him.
My dearest Warrior Princess, he begins, Do you remember our magical moments in Paris? Do they matter to you at all? Do you recall how perfectly we were made for each other? His eyes gaze over, lost in thought as he formulates the words he needs to put on paper to help heal his wounded soul.
Click here for the next chapter, Haunted
Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom