Facing Demons

ch 16 Facing Demons Feb 24 2019

Being Thalia

Chapter 16

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

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 in Madrid 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: 2496

Summary: An old friend appears on Thalia’s doorstep bearing news.

Previous Chapter, Reaching Out

September 2021

The afternoon sun feels like summer. The museum will be closing soon, but Thalia’s shift actually ended hours ago. She rests on the marbled steps at the main entrance, reading the book her therapist suggested shortly after her sessions started over a month ago. She looks up when Antonio sits down beside her. “¿Qué estás leyendo?” He asks.

She shows him the cover of the book, knowing his reading of the English language isn’t that great. He simply nods like he understands. “Looks interesting.” He rests his elbows back on the stair behind him and stretches out his long legs. He doesn’t say anything else, so she goes back to her reading, making notes in the margins. She’d almost forgotten he was there when he asks again a few minutes later, “Thalia? Can we go out again? I feel like I didn’t make a very good impression… I mean,” his foot wiggles nervously as he talks, belying his confidence. “It’s not like it’s affected our working together, but really, I’d just like to know you better.”

Thalia closes her book, resting it on her lap and leaning forward on her elbows. She rests her chin in her hands and turns her face to look at him. “Antonio, honestly, it was nothing you did.” She releases one of her hands and runs it over her eyebrow. “It’s so cliche, but it’s me. I woke up in a man’s place, with his dog, surrounded by domestic things, and I just… I can’t. No puedo… I can’t go down that path again.”

He reaches over and runs his hand over her thigh and she pulls away. “Don’t. Please don’t touch me like that. Don’t touch me without my… my consent.” She sucks in her breath and tries to soften her voice. “I had a… thing happen years ago, and I don’t like to be touched.”

Mi dama, I had no idea, I meant nothing by it,” he begins.

“I know, I know you didn’t, but I don’t respond well to touches. Unless you want your glasses broken,” she scrunches up her nose, “I suggest you don’t do that unless I say it’s okay.”

He nods. “I understand, Thalia.” His English is broken and his accent truly is foreign to her. The language of Spain sounds different than the lilt of Puerto Rican Spanish. Most of their conversations are in their native language for work, but speaking in English allows her the upper hand now. “I was just suggesting… Well, what I’m trying to say is, I’m not looking for a relationship… But you were fun. I liked having you in my bed, under me, riding me, and I’d like that again.”

She slowly breathes out. “No Antonio. I don’t think I’m your dama. That’s not for me.” She stands up, smoothing out her skirt. Bending to reach her bag, she can feel his eyes peeping down her top, and a chill washes over her.

“I won’t force myself on you, Thalia, but I’d really like to take you to dinner, to take you home with me.”

“Listen, arsehole, I believe I already heard her say ‘no’ once. How many more times does she need to say it?”

Thalia fists her hand at her side, spinning quickly to see Tom standing a few steps away, holding a bouquet of pale pink and white flowers.

“Oleanders,” she whispers, tears springing to her eyes, clouding her vision.

Tom steps forward, ignoring the man still sitting at her feet. “You once told me it was grossly improper to not bring flowers for a date, that a proper British gentleman would know that…”

She chokes on her words, barely able to swallow. Her sound is little more than a whisper.  “And you told me oleander flowers were a symbol of seduction and attraction. And for leaving the past behind you, and enjoying what’s in front of you…”

“I’m in front of you now,” Tom says quietly. “I’m here.”

Antonio stands up and wipes his hands on his pants. He huffs, “Well, I can’t compete with that level of courtship, so I’m just gonna leave.”

“Good idea,” Tom curtly replies as the other man walks away.

Thalia is frozen on the spot. She can’t breathe, can’t think. She feels like she’s going to pass out.

“Thalia?”

“Tom, what are you doing here?” She whispers. “You’re getting married in two weeks.”

Tom’s face pales and he nervously sticks his tongue out, licking his lip. “No. No, I’m not. I don’t know if I’m a coward, or the bravest man in the world. But I broke it off. I could never marry anyone else, never truly love anyone else. Thalia. It’s always been you; you have always been mine. My Warrior Princess…”

“Fuck you,” she chuckles as tears fall from her eyes. She pushes past him, moving down the steps.  She hears him call her name, but she doesn’t even look back as she dashes around the corner.

***

Hours later, when there’s a knock on her door, she’s ready. Any space that can be seen from the front door is tidy, and the dishes have been washed, dried and put away. Facing demons can be a great motivator for housework. Changed from her work clothes, she feels more comfortable in an old blouse and jeans. Walking to the door, she nervously fluffs her hair, arranging it over her shoulder. She slides the chain across and opens the door.

“Not even going to ask who it was first?” He smiles.

Tom, of course.

“I knew you’d already tracked me down. Finding me at work was just a formality, so you could sweep in with a grand gesture.” Her voice is hard and cold, desperately trying to cover her nerves.
Forlornly, he looks down to the wilted flowers in his hands. “Grand gesture, eh?”

“You were always good at those, and bold announcements. Still are, I see,” she mocks, referring to the news of his broken engagement. She holds out her hand for the withered bouquet. “You plan to hold those all night?”

He bows his head sheepishly and hands them to her. She drops them carelessly onto a side table by the door. Reaching for her wallet, she steps forward and he steps back, confused. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“You can’t come in here. It’s my safe haven.” She sighs. “I battle enough memories in there. I don’t need to actually have you in the flesh, in my apartment.”

At the word ‘flesh,’ his eyes darken, and he struggles to hold back a smile. She bites her tongue, not willing to give in, to acknowledge she saw it. “I haven’t eaten. You can take me for tapas.”

Her heels click across the pavement stones as he follows her down the covered walkway, back onto the busy sidewalk. The city is alive at night, people everywhere, rushing for nightly errands, meeting with friends, and vying for tables at crowded restaurants. She’s aware he keeps a few steps behind her. She tamps down the desire to add a little extra wiggle to her hips as she walks, not wanting to encourage him in any way. Reaching her destination, she pulls the door open and is met with a cool rush of air. The shop clerk greets her with a kiss on the cheek. “Buenas noches, Thalia, bienvenidos.” Thalia nods and returns the kiss to the young woman’s cheek. “¿Quién es el hombre guapo y enfadado?”

Thalia rolls her eyes. “Lucía,” pronouncing her name with a muted ‘th’ sound in place of the ‘c,’ “That’s Tom, and he speaks Spanish.”

“Oh,” Lucia blushes, then stammers in broken English, “Let me find you a quiet table in the back.”

Thalia nods, ignoring the man behind her. She can feel his anger rising. “No, center of the floor, lots of noise is fine. This is not a date,” she says loudly for the benefit of the seething man.

Lucía’s blush deepens. Picking up two menus, she leads them to a small table, off to the side of the room, near a bank of windows looking out to the busy street. She whispers, “Don’t kick him out of bed before you even get him there, mujer!”

Thalia hisses, “That’s exactly where I don’t want him!” She sits down quickly, so Tom doesn’t have time to properly seat her. He scowls as he sits down. “Tell Pablo I’m ready to order as soon as-”

“Lucía,” Tom interjects, tenderly placing his hand on the woman’s arm. He repeats the proper pronunciation of the girl’s name, following Castilian Spanish, and changes the sound of the letter ‘C’ in her name. “Lo siento que mi amiga está grosera…” He glares at Thalia. “Quiero ver la carta de vinos, y traenos un plato de los aperitivos mejores que la restaurante tiene. Por favor.”

Lucía looks to Thalia, worried, but Thalia waves her away. “You can’t just come here, show up at my house, think everything will be better and then boss my friends around. It doesn’t work that way, Tom.”

“Boss her around? I was being polite. You’re the one acting like a shrew, with a chip on your shoulder. She’s a lovely girl.” Tom watches as the young girl relays his order to a server. “She’s just doing her job, and you’re acting like a spoiled child because you’re mad at me. No sense to be rude.”

Thalia narrows her eyes. “Don’t call me a ‘spoiled child.’”

“Why not? You always want your way.” She can see Tom is holding back laughter.

“Me?” Her voice raises and her cheeks glow with a fiery anger. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. You never even talked to me, gave me time to explain myself. You got pissed when I wasn’t always at your beck and call, wouldn’t play the role as your submissive servant, you son of a bitch.”

The waiter clears his throat, handing Thalia a drink. “Your usual, and for you, señor, the wine list.” He sets a loaded plate of tasty treats on the table. He nods to the item on the menu Tom points to, but looking to Thalia, he inquires, “Is everything ok? Will that be all?”

She smiles to him, wondering exactly what he overheard. “Thank you, Pablo. That should be it.”

Thalia jerks her leg out from under the table. “Keep your damn long legs to yourself. There’s enough space here so you don’t have to be touching me.”

Her nerves are alive, frazzled, messages jumping from synapse to synapse, but she’ll be damned if she’ll give him cause to make a move on her. Just because she’s dreamt about him for weeks now doesn’t mean it’s a possible reality. She tucks her feet up under her chair, keeping a safe distance.

Tom grins, popping an olive from the tray into his mouth. He licks his thumb and cocks his eyebrow. “I get under your skin… After all this time, and you still don’t know how to control it, darling, do you?” He runs his hand down his chest before reaching for the napkin on the table and lazily draping it across his lap. When she doesn’t reply to his rhetorical question, he leans forward, eyeing the plate of food. “It all looks so delicious. So mi madreleña, tell me what this is?” He points to the oddly cut potatoes on the dish.

Thalia defeatedly sighs. She’s reminded of Tom’s holiday trip to Chicago years ago when she educated him on delicacies the locals enjoyed. They always found a way to bond over food. Maybe dragging him to a restaurant wasn’t the best idea, but she’d been so hungry, she couldn’t think of a better plan. “Those are patatas bravas, they’re kind of like hash-brown potatoes, I guess? And there are two dipping sauces, this tomato-based one” she points, “and this aioli, which is mayonnaise seasoned with garlic. I’d basically equivocate aioli in Spain to the American obsession with Ranch dressing on everything.”

Tom shudders. “Dreadful. Why ruin perfectly good food with Ranch?” he reaches for a potato wedge and dips it in the sauce. He slowly chews, a smile breaking across his face. He points to her, wanting her to eat. She puts a few on her plate and spoons out some of the aioli for herself. “Wonderful! What else?”

She points to a pile of fried pillows. “These are croquetas, and have beef, fish, or fried vegetables inside. I eat here a lot, so they’re probably mostly beef if Pablo was thinking when he placed the actual order. Those are the ones I like best.”

Tom takes a bite. “Fish? Cod, maybe?” She nods. Looking around the restaurant, he watches the locals, mostly business men and women, who’ve stopped to get a bite to eat before moving on for the evening. “Nice little place, close to your home; I can see why you like it.” He smiles at Lucía as she walks by, seating a couple at a table nearby.  He notices a treat on other tables, not placed on theirs. “No gazpacho?”

Now it’s her turn to shudder. “Cold tomato soup? No thank you. That’s worse than Ranch on everything.”

Tom continues to eat heartily while Thalia nibbles at her food. “Thalia? You’re not eating? You’re not on a diet or anything, are you?”

She sets her glass on the table, fisting her hand next to the stem of the glass. “Why would you ask that? Do you think I need to diet?”

He quickly swallows the piece of potato he was chewing. “God, no.” His eyes dart up and down,taking in her voluptuous figure, turning dark again. “You still have the most amazing body, the most delicious curves…” He leans forward. “Images of your form haunt my dreams at night, in the best of ways, love.”

She flushes and her freckles show under her warm dark skin. “I’m not your ‘love,’ Tom.”

Tom takes a long sip of his wine, before placing the glass down. “You could be, dear. It’s obvious you have some animosity towards me, probably rightly so. I’ve just shown up on your doorstep, quite literally, and told you I left my fiancée. Let me make that totally clear to you. I realized after seeing you in London, I couldn’t continue without you. I could never love another the way that I love you. As obstinate as you are, and as much as we butt heads, you are the one who makes me whole, who drives me to move forward and better myself. Thalia Bareo, I’ve cleared everything in my life for you.”

“Tom,” she says, mustering as much strength as she can. She pushes back from the table, placing her napkin on her plate as she stands. “I never asked you to do that for me.”

With the strength of an army, she commands her feet to move forward, to carry her home, so she can collapse on her couch in tears.

Click here to read Chapter 17, Girls’ Night

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

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