Collaboration by @devikafernando & @avenger-nerd-mom
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: 3314
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, physical violence, harsh language, jealousy
Summary: Tom receives news he wasn’t expecting.
Special thanks to @jennphoenix for use of her photo edit of Tom Hiddleston in the cover
Click here for intro to Educating Thalia
Stifling a yawn, Tom enters the library. He pats his full belly, a reminder of the quaint breakfast he and Thalia shared in the early morning hours after leaving the ball, before returning her alone to her little flat. With his book in his hand, he realizes there’s a small queue in front of the desk, as if everyone had suddenly remembered it was time for books, especially with Spring Break right around the corner.
With a grimace, he notices that Professor Evans is also awaiting his turn. He joins the line behind him, murmuring a reluctantly courteous “good morning”.
His colleague turns and looks him up and down, as if searching for something. “Morning.” Evans continues to stare, which quite frankly is getting a bit unnerving.
Tom pointedly averts his gaze, pretending to study the magazines on a nearby rack.
“It was an amazing alumni gala, wasn’t it?” Evans asks.
Wondering why the normally sullen man is so talkative today, Tom makes a noncommittal sound and nods. He runs his hands over his jaw, lost in thoughts.
“Lots of beautiful women just begging to be ogled and spoiled.”
Half-turning, he gives the man the look he’d perfected over the years, raising a brow and looking down at him over his nose in that slightly snobbish way he knew infuriated – and intimidated – people.
“I’m sure you noticed those, Evans, but I can’t say they were my main focus.”
The answer to that is a snort and a raised brow in return, though on Professor Evans it looks cocky and passive-aggressive rather than haughty.
“Yeah, I bet. You were too busy drooling over just one woman.”
Mild irritation turns into something stronger, but Tom decides to dismiss the remark. If he took offense at every jab his insufferable colleague sent his way, he’d be in a bad mood all the time or getting into regular fist fights like hot headed teenage blokes.
The line moves forward a little. Just when Tom’s thoughts have drifted off—thinking about the secret tryst he has planned with his lovely Thalia during the break—Evans interrupts him once more.
“She was gorgeous last night, wasn’t she?”
Deciding to play ignorant, he mumbles a “who?” and adjusts his glasses.
“Don’t play dumb, Professor, that’s kinda not your style. Our shared assistant, of course. Who else?”
Narrowing his eyes, Tom shoots his colleague a glare. Is his mood off or is Evans even more of a pain in the ass than usual?
“Not very nice to objectify a student, Evans.” He gives his head a disapproving shake. “Then again, you’re not exactly known for your high opinion of women.”
The annoying Yank crosses his arms, reminding Tom uncomfortably how much bulkier Chris is, with his muscles straining under a casual shirt and jacket. He remembers once overhearing students refer to them as ‘Professor Muscles’ and ‘Professor Brit.’
“What’s that saying about glass houses and throwing stones?” comes Evans’ snide reply, and something about his tone rubs Tom the wrong way. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t your ‘high opinion’ of Miss Bareo that had you fawning all over her stunning body at the gala.”
Gritting his teeth, Tom hisses at him, “That’s outright disrespectful, Evans. Cut the crap and mind your own business. It’s not done to discuss a student’s appearance.”
Deep down in a corner of his mind, though, he worries. Was it really that obvious how smitten he is by Thalia? Did anybody notice anything suspicious? He rubs the back of his neck, sudden tension creeping in.
His colleague scoffs, his brows rising higher. “Seriously, Hiddleston? Pretentious much?” He leans a little closer and lowers his voice to a tone that is even more offensive. “C’mon, man, no need to pretend with me. We’re sharing her after all.”
“What the fuck is your problem?” Tom snaps back, the angry growl loud enough for the professor in the queue before them to glance their way. “Stop talking about Ms. Bareo like that. She’s not a possession, not something to be shared or discussed like this.” He gets in the man’s face, taking care to keep his voice low enough not to be overheard. “Get yourself laid if you can’t keep your vile thoughts to yourself.”
Evans throws his head back and barks out a laugh, completely catching Tom by surprise. But when he locks gazes with him again, there’s an almost palpable air of anger radiating from him.
“You really have no fucking clue, do you?”
Exasperated, Tom takes a few steps back, his fingers drumming against his thigh. “Just piss off,” he says none too kindly, hoping against hope that it’ll stop whatever nonsense the man is on about.
But apparently, Evans is on a confrontation course today. He bridges the distance and looms closer, his expression an odd mix of fury and…and what? Glee? Smugness?
“You know, all this time I thought you’re just really good at acting and shit, but I’m beginning to think you really are clueless,” he says, almost more to himself than to Tom. “Poor unsuspecting idiot. I guess you Brits seriously are all about ignoring the obvious and living in a high and mighty dream world.”
Before Tom can hurl an insult at him, he feels a strong grip on his arm. Too surprised to protest, he allows Evans to drag him a little to the side before he yanks his arm away and glares at him, drawing himself up to his full height.
“Hate to burst your bubble,” his colleague says with a sneer that makes it obvious he doesn’t hate it at all. “But you and I really are sharing Thalia.”
More than his words, which make no sense at all, it’s his use of Thalia’s first name that finally gets through to Tom. He reacts on instinct, giving the man a little shove to get him out of his face. “For heaven’s sake, Evans, if you weren’t breathing down my neck right now, I’d say you’re drunk. What the fuck is the matter with you today?”
Switching from that weird smugness to anger again in a heartbeat, his opponent leans closer again, as if preparing himself for a final punch. “How ironic that you’re using the word ‘fuck.’’ The insipid American tilts his head and sneers. “That’s exactly the word I’ve been looking for, Professor.” He spits the last word out with such venom that Tom can only blink at him, feeling deep down in his gut that something is awfully wrong.
“Because I know that you’ve been fucking Thalia. And here’s a newsflash…so have I. Now what does your sorry British ass think about that, huh?”
Tom stumbles back a step as if he’s been slapped in the face. What the hell?!
But…No, it can’t be. His first thought is panic at having been caught and how harmful that will be for him and Thalia, so it takes a moment for the other words to sink in.
“You…” His vision goes red for a moment, and he’s so shocked and furious he can’t breathe. “What the fuck did you just say?!” Grappling desperately for a bit of sanity, he adds with a sneer of his own that wavers at the edges, “Are you on drugs on something? You’ll take that back or else…”
“Or else what, huh?” The other man’s tone matches his, with a taunting edge. “You’ll tell on me? Well get that, Hiddleston, I’m the one who could tell on you. Jesus fucking Christ, what were you even thinking, man? Too pathetic to find yourself a date, so you need to take your frustration out on a goddamn student?”
Tom is still spluttering, jumping from one emotion to the other.
“Shut your bloody mouth,” he hisses at last, eyes shooting daggers. “You…you know nothing. Nothing!”
The last word is a half-shout, but he doesn’t give a damn whether they’re attracting attention or not. Everything inside him wants to strangle Evans, to turn back the time, to…to get back a semblance of control at least.
His opponent scoffs again. “You know what, Hiddleston? Maybe I shouldn’t even be angry with you, although you’re downright pathetic. I guess I should be thanking you instead, because it’s you who awakened her sexual appetite and I get to enjoy all that.”
Tom reacts so fast he doesn’t even know he’s moving. His fist connects with Evan’s solid jaw, and the satisfying thunk of the punch is worth the pain he can feel shooting through his hand.
“You sick fuck!” Tom grabs a hold of the man’s collar and slams him against the library wall, lifting his free hand for another hit. “What are you doing with her?”
Evans doesn’t even fight back. He laughs right in his face. “So…fucking…clueless,” he wheezes.
When Tom strikes out again, his opponent ducks, and they end up wrestling each other, Tom snarling out the meanest insults he can think of in this blurry state of seething rage and disgust.
“Whoa there, gentlemen, take it easy.”
From somewhere, a voice intrudes, and then several more join in. Before he realizes what’s happening, some staff members and students have separated them.
Breathing hard and clenching his jaw and fists, Tom glares at Professor Evans, who’s shrugging helpful hands off his broad shoulders. He brushes a trickle of blood off his lip with the back of his hand and shakes his head. “Fucking pathetic,” Evans repeats.
Knowing that he’s going to snap again, Tom turns on his heel and storms off, his mind a chaos of screaming thoughts.
He navigates the corridor in a blur and barricades himself in his office, ignoring the voices calling after him. Leaning against the door, he tries to get a grip on himself.
With a roar of anguish and anger, his fist hits the wood, and the searing pain is a welcome distraction.
For the next minutes – which felt like hours to him – he paces back and forth, muttering a mix of expletives and incoherent half-sentences. More than once, he has to stop himself from picking something up and throwing it against the wall so that it would smash into a thousand pieces…like his shattered hopes.
Images shoot through his brain of situations that take on a whole different meaning in hindsight.
Thalia sometimes seemed distant or even slightly different, and he didn’t notice a damn thing. The evening at the movies when she didn’t want to spend the night with him. Had she been with that…that witless and mannerless oaf even then? How about all those times when she brushed him off because of a study group meeting or her job at the bar? Or just the other night when she showed up at his house, like a woman possessed?
With a groan, Tom sinks onto a chair and buries his head in his hands.
“Serves you right, you idiot,” he mutters under his breath. How could he have let himself be pulled in so deep? How had forbidden attraction morphed into something much more powerful and important? He should never have allowed himself to fall in love with Thalia in the first place.
“Love.” He balls his hand into a fist and relishes the stabs of pain where he’s split the skin on his knuckles.
It sure as hell doesn’t seem as though love is in the equation for her, or else she wouldn’t have fallen for someone else…someone so utterly not like him, at that.
Banishing all thoughts about the two of them together, Tom tries to take deep breaths. It’s been years since he lost control like this. This isn’t him, for God’s sake, all the violence and emotions spinning out of control. Or maybe it is, but he’s learned to keep this side of himself hidden because ultimately it’s self-destructive.
And a tiny voice in the back of his mind keeps repeating it’s his own damn fault because he never truly made space for her in his life…
Just when he can breathe a tiny bit easier, there’s a knock on his door.
He shoots bolt upright, panic momentarily replacing the other feelings. Surely that’s someone who has witnessed their fight. Dear God, how much did they overhear? He searches his mind for a recollection. Did they hiss or shout? Is Thalia’s reputation as an upstanding student at risk?
Christ, he needs to get his shit together. He isn’t in his mid-twenties anymore, he’s come so far and taught himself so much.
He removes his glasses and rubs his temples, the beginning of a headache throbbing dully in his skull.
“Not now, please,” he croaks out, hating how he doesn’t even have control over his voice.
“Tom? It’s me.”
Thalia. She’s the last person he wants to see now. Has word traveled so fast?
Before he can ward her off with a lame excuse, the door opens a fraction and she pokes her curly head in.
“Hi…I’m… I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you, but I really, really need to talk to you.”
The expression on her face brings him up short. It’s not anger or shock or shame, it’s joy mixed with something he’s in no state to interpret. She’s half-way in his office before he can react.
Sending a silent prayer upwards that he can handle this, Tom motions for her to enter. He nods curtly, not looking at her, and walks to the window. With his back to her, he waits for her to tell him about whatever is making her smile so happily and goddamn beautifully.
He can hear her close the door and approach, but he resolutely refuses to turn around.
“You know I applied for several internships overseas?”
Tom nods again, gritting his teeth and struggling valiantly not to lose it.
“Well…I can’t believe this but…God, Tom, imagine, I got accepted at the Louvre. The Louvre! Paris! Oh, my God!”
Silence. He can picture her quivering in delight, can hear her need for approval and her wish to celebrate the news with him. If he’s half as good a man as he claims, he should embrace her, congratulate her.
But instead, he hears himself say coldly, “Marvelous. Perhaps you should ask Professor Evans whether he’d like to take you out for celebratory cocktails. Or better yet, to accompany you to France.”
The silence this time is different. Total.
“What…what do you mean?” She sounds a bit confused, but not guilty, and that’s the last straw for him.
Whirling, he faces her and allows his anger and disappointment to take over.
“You know perfectly well what I mean. Don’t deny it. That’s simply below you.”
They stare at each other for a few moments. Something in her expression changes.
“So, you know?” she asks softly, and now he can hear regret in her voice.
“Yes,” he grinds out, “and it looks like I’m the last person on earth to know.” He forces out an entirely mirthless laugh. “Stupid, blind, besotted Englishman. Didn’t see what was right under my nose. God, and here I was upset that you were doing assistant work for him when you were in fact fucking his dismal brains out.”
He pulls in a breath, realizing that he’s close to shouting.
Thalia is glaring at him. “It’s not like that. It’s…”
“Bullshit. It’s exactly like that.” Tom crosses the room to her, towering over her and feeling an odd twitch of satisfaction when she shrinks a little from his anger.
“Were you ever planning on telling me?”
She swallows, refusing to look away.
“Well, were you?”
“I don’t know.” Her tone is more belligerent now. She folds her arms over her chest. “I tried not to think about it.”
Tom clenches his jaw and keeps his voice carefully low. “For how long has this been going on? You and Evans?”
She raises her chin defiantly. “Since shortly after Christmas break. It…it was supposed to be a one-night stand, but…” She draws herself up and adds in a firmer but still soft voice, “But it became more. Exactly like what happened between us.”
“Don’t,” he snaps, making her flinch. “Don’t compare what we have with whatever you share with him. Just don’t.”
His agitated breathing is the only sound in the room for a few moments. When she reaches a tentative hand out to him, he deliberately steps back. Fighting hard for composure, he strides to his desk and sits down. He needs to keep his mouth shut or he’ll say something he’ll really regret later.
“How did you find out?” Thalia asks, and he grimaces.
“Your boyfriend told me.” He spits out the word ‘boyfriend’, as if the taste makes him sick to his gut – and it does.
Her muttered curse brings the simmering rage to a boil again.
“I suppose he knew all along and I was the only fool completely in the dark?” He snaps.
“No.” She walks closer,a bit shaky on her feet, her expression such a mix of emotions now that he can’t read it. “Chris figured it out at the gala, though he knew that I was seeing someone else.”
“Seeing?” He sneers. “You were doing quite a lot more than ‘seeing’ me.”
Dammit, where is all that icy hate coming from? Why is he so shaken, and why the hell is he taking it out on her when he encouraged her date someone else?
As if she can read his thoughts, she brings the matter up in self-defense. “You’re the one who told me we need to make sure we don’t get caught, that we should see other people. When I asked you again about it, the night after the movies, you brushed it off, so nonchalantly…Why are you making such a scene?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he says vehemently, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I wanted us to pretend or maybe have a one-night stand or two.” He glares at her again. “And I certainly didn’t mean you should throw yourself at the next-best single professor.”
Now she looks wounded and furious at the same time. Advancing, she stabs a finger in his direction. “It’s nothing like that. Would you be happier if I did have a series of one night stands? Shit, that’s fucked up too.” She stops and throws her hands up to her face, rubbing her jaw in frustration. “Dammit, I didn’t ‘throw’ myself at him, and I don’t see him that way at all. Chris is…he makes me feel special, like you. He…”
Tom holds up both hands. “Stop. Stop right there. I don’t want to hear about him.”
Thalia makes a frustrated sound. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Tom, can’t you at least let me explain things? If I had told you, would you have approved? No, you damn as hell wouldn’t. The whole thing would have blown up in my face, and I would have lost you then and there.”
Her words finally get through to him. He stares at her, hurt replacing anger and making him feel even more helpless.
As if she can sense a change in him, Thalia takes another step closer to the desk. “And I didn’t want to lose you. I want both of you in my life, can’t you understand that? I wish you would listen to me… It’s just… well, whenever I tried to get closer, you pushed me away. And with Chris, it was just-”
“No, Thalia. Stop.” Closing his eyes, Tom sighs in defeat. It’s too much; he can’t handle this right now or he’ll break. And she’s right. He pushed her away, when really all he wanted to do was hold her close.
“Perhaps you should go,” he says softly, looking down at his trembling,bruised hands.
After a moment, he hears her sigh as well, and then her footsteps move away from him. The door clicks shut, and he buries his head in his hands again.
Click to read Chapter 38 Rage
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