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: 1847
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, angst, drinking, argument, harassment
Summary: Thalia has a bad day, which prompts Chris into action.
Click here for intro to Educating Thalia
The minute she catches his eye across the smoky bar, he can sense something is wrong. He nods to a few of the regulars, surprised he’s become a regular there himself. The game is showing on two of the screens and the place is more packed than usual. And it’s one of those nights- she’s working and got her book open on the bar top. He nods to Jim and the older man expresses his displeasure, but turns to get a glass for his favorite Scotch anyway as he pulls himself onto the barstool he’s claimed as his own. Reaching down the bar, he grabs the bowl of mixed nuts, but she shakes her head no, and hands him a fresh one. And that’s the only acknowledgement he gets that he’s even in the room.
When the game ends, the place clears out fairly quickly and the quieter sound is almost deafening to him. “Niña, you doing all right there?” he asks as she passes by with a tray of empty glasses.
She drops it into the clearing bin and he hears one of the glasses shatter. Jim starts to shout at her, but her look is lethal. The grown man actually puts his hands up and backs away. Thalia turns on Chris, hands on her hips. “No. I’ve had a shit day. Maines announced a last minute quiz, and it was shit I haven’t reviewed, thinking I didn’t need it till closer to the end of the semester. The power steering is acting up in my car again. The apartment is fuckin’ freezing, and you…” She throws her hands up and mutters in Spanish, walking away from him. She returns with a bottle of Fireball and pours a shot. He’s surprised when she downs it herself, slamming in back to the bar.
Eyebrows raised, he knows it’s best in these situations to play dumb and stay calm. Playing dumb won’t be difficult, because he has no idea why she’s angry. Nodding gently, he moves the glass between his hands, sliding it across the dark wood. “What did I do, babe?”
“I’m not your ‘babe’ or your’ sweetie’ or even your Niña. You haven’t called me in two days, since I last saw you at the club. I’ve decided I’m tired of this shit. You can’t just come in here and expect to go home with me. I’m tired of being your fuck buddy.”
Some of the patrons catch her last phrase and lean in closer. The look on Jim’s face shows confirmation of what he’d feared all along, and Chris wonders if the burly man would punch him or kick him out. “Thalia… You’re more than that, we’re more than-”
“No.” She slams her book shut, pulling off her apron. “I’m going home alone.” Removing her coat from the hook, she tells Jim, “Keep him here.” Looking back at Chris, she finishes, “Being secretive doesn’t have to make me feel like… like a whore. If you want this, date me, romance me, treat me the way a man should treat a woman.” She shrugs her shoulders, “Or I’m done.”
She’s out the door before Chris can even say anything, and Jim has advanced on him, standing behind him to make sure he can’t leave after her. “You seem like a nice guy. Don’t do anything stupid,” Jim tells him quietly. “She’s a good girl, but if you hurt her, you’ll regret it.”
“Fine, I hear ya… Twenty minutes? I won’t go to her place, I promise,” Chris claims.
Jim steps aside and Chris sits back down to finish his luke-warm drink. When the bar gets busy again, Chris sneaks out. Going to his car, he pulls the box with the bow on it out of the trunk and carries it across the street. He sees Tina in the window and taps the glass. Recognizing him, she lets him in and he slowly walks up the stairs with a heavy heart. Setting the box on her welcome mat, he knocks on the door a few times before walking away.
He would have loved to have seen the expression on her face to find the new electric heater, but today just wasn’t his day.
Chris waits quietly around the corner, knowing her routine. When she walks up to the coffee counter, he slides up behind her, giving his order as well and telling the clerk to put it on his bill. “Miss Bareo, so glad I ran into you! I had a few questions about the documents for the performance hall exhibit.” When the server hands over the coffees, he reaches for them both, handing hers to her kindly, ignoring her shocked expression. “Can you spare a few moments to sit with me?”
Giving her no choice, he guides her to an empty table in the center of the Commons. “What the fuck are you doing, Chris?” she hisses nervously, spying around the room.
“I’m talking to the most beautiful, intelligent woman I know.” He pulls out a stack of documents and lays them out on the table, pretending to pour over them. “I’m trying to set things straight… I never meant to make you feel any less than a woman, than someone I care about. I-”
“We’re not doing this here. Someone could hear you!” She hides her irritation behind the cardboard coffee cup.
“It’s too noisy. Can you hear those people right there?” He tilts his head to the closest table. “Nope. Me neither.” He shrugs, continuing. “I went to see you last night because I knew you were having a hard week. You’d cancelled work twice and I saw that creep, the frat boy, giving you a hard time in the hall yesterday. Like always, you handled yourself before I could step in. You aren’t a dainty flower needing rescuing. You need someone strong enough to take it when you push back. I didn’t think you wanted the dating thing, a commitment. I honestly thought you were too tied to your schoolwork and to the other…” Pushing his glasses up, he pinches the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes and leaning back momentarily before randomly pointing at something on the papers in front of them.
She looks to his hand, and shakes her head. Pointing to something else on the documents, her hand brushes against his. “You’re important too, I just-”
“You just weren’t getting what you needed… I see that now, Thalia. You’re so fiercely independent and strong and you know exactly what you want and..”
Placing her elbow on the table, she rests her forehead in her palm. “I’m none of those things. I’ve just developed a tough skin to protect myself over the years. You don’t think I know what people say, or think of my weight? My step-mother always tried to help. No junk food in the house, exercise classes. That just made it worse. She didn’t understand the genetics and I would just eat behind her back. I’m puertoriquena- I’m supposed to have a fat ass,” she laughs. “But I am none of those things you say I am.”
“You’re more, Thalia, and I’m crazy about you. ”
Her eyes pop open wide and she sits stunned almost too afraid to see if anyone around them heard him.
“And I kinda like your ass, it’s perfect,” he winks. Turning serious, he lowers his voice, “I’m dying to hold your hand in mine as I ask you out on a real date. We can’t stay in town, but I know a great little place about an hour away. I wanna pick you up at your door and watch you awkwardly decide what to do with the flowers I bring you, and then help you slide on your coat over a pretty dress that hugs your figure and hold the car door open for you and pretend not to look at your amazing legs while you get in the car. I wanna hold your hand as we drive down the highway, and compare suggestions as we stare over the menu. I want to-”
Giggling, she covers her mouth, hiding her sweet smile. “Ok, ok, enough. I get it. Shh…” she says, looking around cautiously. “Save your other plans for later. Surprise me. When is this great… event?” She questions surveying the Commons again.
Chris follows her gaze and sees the frat boy that was behaving so rudely with her yesterday. He plans to have words with that young man later. Bringing his mind back to the present as she rises to leave, he suggests quietly, “Tomorrow? A quarter till six?”
Closing her eyes as if she is thinking, she lifts her coffee cup and readjusts her book bag on her shoulder. “Make it six-thirty and it sounds like a perfect plan, Professor Evans. I have a study group I can’t miss. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to class.”
He nods, a bit dazed she acquiesced so easily and he watches her walk away, seeing the dick head student giving another female a hassle. Leaving his papers on the table, he walks to the young man who is leaning aggressively over the woman and he grabs his arm. “You. This is the second female student I’ve seen you harass in two days. What’s your name, kid?”
God, he so wanted to call the kid a dick, but his job is already on the line if anyone finds out about his relationship with Thalia. He motions for a nearby campus security guard to come over, as the girl moves out the way. The school employee assesses the situation as Chris explains it to him and the student is whisked away for more questions. Chris sees to it the young woman was not harmed in anyway, and advises her to always remember to be safe on campus, especially at night and not to be out after hours alone.
Back at the table, he gathers up his papers when a brisk movement causes many to fall to the floor. “So, so sorry,” says the polite but clipped British voice.
Chris sighs as the gentleman bends to retrieve the papers. “Hey, you. What do you know about that asshole that’s been harassing Miss Bareo?
Taken aback, Tom falters. “What? She’s never said anything to me about that before? Are you sure?”
Nodding, Chris shoves the papers in his bag. “I know she works with you a lot and likes you, why I have no fuckin’ clue, but it happened in the hall near your office and I just turned him in for forcefully bothering another young woman. I thought you might want to be aware if something was going on in your classes. Thalia is such a smart, sensitive woman. She doesn’t deserve crap like that.”
“Thank you, mate.” Tom stretches his hand out and offers him a firm handshake. “When she comes into work this afternoon, I’ll check with her on that.”
Chris waves him away, distracted by the message on his phone, “What color dress would you like me to wear?”
Click here to read Chapter 26 Yes, Sir
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