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 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 2253
Summary: Tom reaches out to Thalia to make amends.
Previous Chapter, Running in Circles
Hours later, still reeling from the day, Thalia Bareo plops on the couch in the lobby. Her tired feet can’t even carry her up the stairs, and she’s a little too tipsy to care. She scrolls her social media accounts, and blissfully her comments to the renowned professor and author aren’t garnering her hate. Many are actually sharing her thoughts. She closes the app when she starts to notice the comments have turned to his movie star good looks, and the way he spreads his legs when he sits. She doesn’t need to be reminded of those things… She sighs and rests her head back, closing her eyes and resting her phone on her tummy.
“Always a pleasure to get in a heated match with you, Miss Bareo.”
Her head snaps forward. “Oh, shit, with the loaded words, Tom, really?”
She sucks in her breath at the sight of him. Relaxed, the tie removed, a few curls of his chest hair peek above his unbuttoned shirt collar. His stark black framed glasses draw attention to his beautiful blue eyes, rather than hindering the view. Fuck him, she thinks weakly, her irritation already wavering.
He holds out a small pink box. “Peace offering?”
Thalia’s nostrils flare. “Sure. Bribe the fat girl with cake.” She slaps her denim-clad thigh, her voice laced with sarcasm and possibly a hint of disdain.
He raises his eyebrow and rests on the arm of the chair closest to her. “Thalia, dear, you’re not fat. I never saw you that way… And I know you love-” His confidence falters and she watches him swallow his words, his Adam’s apple hidden below the layer of ginger scruff on his neck. She still can’t make up her mind if she likes it or not. She mentally shakes her head. It’s not up to her anymore to like it. “You used to love decadent treats. Three years ago, you loved decadent treats…” He sighs, absently rubbing his chin with his other hand. “They’re eclairs from Pierre Marcolini? Your favorite? Chocolat au lait?”
She huffs, clasping her hands together and dropping them in her lap. “That’s just cruel,” she whispers. “You know I can’t say no to those.”
He holds the box forward again. “Why would you want to?” He asks lightly.
“Why are you doing this, Tom?” She asks, taking the box from his hand. She watches in awe as he pulls small plates and plasticware from his leather bag. “Always a boy scout, even still?”
He tilts his head. “I never really understood that American reference,” he shares, holding up the plates for her to serve the treats. When she’s finished, he rests one hand on the table in front of them and signals the night manager with the other. He orders two glasses of wine, ignoring Thalia when she rolls her eyes.
“Liquor and sweets, Tom, not a good mix,” she warns.
He chuckles and licks the chocolate frosting from his thumb. He cocks his eyebrow. “Good thing I found you here and not your room, then.”
Thalia bites down on her lip to keep her expression restrained, but damn if his words didn’t open up the floodgates. She can’t remember the last time a man made her feel wet simply from a few words. It’s gotta be the damn accent, she thinks. My kink. She decides it’s best not to say anything, and cuts off a small bite of the eclair, the cream spilling onto the plate. ‘Cause that’s not sexual or anything, she thinks. A little giggle escapes her lips.
“Thalia?” he smiles, and she can feel the blush creeping over her chest.
She pulls her sweater wrap tighter over her flowered blouse and pretends she doesn’t notice the teasing tone in his voice.
When she still doesn’t speak, he says quietly, “I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a good man; always kind to me, even though I don’t think he liked me.”
She nods, raising her eyebrow at his accurate appraisal of her father. Always so perceptive… Happy for the bite of food in her mouth, she doesn’t have to respond.
“Your stepmother, Stacey, messaged me on Facebook, bloody abomination. Facebook, not your mother-”
“Did she tell you about the fire too?” Thalia can’t believe Stacey had been in contact with Tom, all these years, and never said anything.
“Fire?” He asked, taking another bite of the eclair and settling into the chair in a more comfortable position.
She nods. “I stayed at the school longer than I planned, simply to help my finances after my apartment burned down. Luckily, most of my favorite pieces of memorabilia are always kept on a shelf in my office, but I lost a lot of things… It’s hard starting over.” She watches a group of the conference attendees stumble through the front entry, drunk and carrying on. He doesn’t ask any other questions, where she lived or how she survived after the devastating event. She wonders if Stacey shared that little detail with him- that she’d found comfort in Chris’s arms. Made a life with him, and his daughter. Imperceptibly, she drops her head, as if hiding the fact. “The picture? In the slide show? I’d never seen it before. If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a copy.”
Tom simply nods, a twinkle in his eye. “Can you believe it’s been six years?” He gazes over her shoulder, letting his mind wander. “I may have other photos, if you’d like them. I have a box somewhere and-”
“No. No. Just that one.” She lifts her head and watches him. He’s older, more refined. There are a few more lines on his face, especially between his brows and around his eyes. And is it the way the lobby is lit or does she spot a few gray hairs in his ginger-ish beard? He’s pulling off this unexpected new look well, though she’d prefer to see his razor-sharp jawline without the scruff, slightly patchy in places. He looks well-groomed despite the beard and longer, wavy hair. Maybe a little too thin and tired looking, but still a handsome man. Always a handsome man. “There’s such a juxtaposition to it. The girly sundress and my boots, dirt smudging my cheek… My hand resting on the shovel. If that’s not me in a nutshell, I guess I don’t know what is.”
He murmurs his agreement. “When I found it on an old roll of film, that’s the same way I felt about it. I don’t even know who took the picture, but I’m so glad they did.”
“Me too,” she whispers.
They continue to eat in silence and the awkwardness lifts, or maybe she just feels that way as the wine interacts with her previous buzz.
“So, what’s it like working at the MAN?” Tom asks, moving the topics to safer ground.
“Oh, God, the Museo Arqueológico Nacional? It’s a dream. Was always on my bucket list, ya know? My work as a linguist and an archaeologist has been an asset to their team. Tom, I got to go to Altamira. Can you believe it?”
“Oh my word, Thalia! That’s fabulous, a dream come true! Tell me all about it,” he urges.
She can hardly get a word in the conversation. His own questions and excitement keep the conversation flowing. With a shared interest in the earliest ‘writings’ of man, the cave at Altamira has been limited to the public since 1982, and officially closed since 2010. He moves to sit next to her and huddled over her phone, she shares some of her crude photos with him. “I love that scientific reports refer to the drawings of bison, boars and horses as ‘works of Neanderthal authors,’ Tom. A written word before writing was even invented; it’s fuckin’ incredible. Just breathtaking to be in the space, occupied by early man. Some of the paintings have dated to be over 35,600 years old. It’s just incredible.”
Tom asks questions about the process of uranium-thorium dating for the old cave drawings and the pair banter back and forth for over an hour. Thalia relaxes and begins to enjoy the discussion, reaching a point when she feels comfortable enough to lower her guard beside him, their arms brushing occasionally and at one point she hits his thigh while laughing and sharing a joke. “God, I didn’t even know I missed this,” she admits, knowing she’s lying, and he probably knows it too.
“That’s nice to hear, Thalia,” he agrees. “It would be even nicer if we could-”
His phone rings and he reaches forward to grab it from an outpocket on his bag. “Hello! Yes, I’m so sorry,” he chirps into the phone. So he’s still apologizing 24/7, she thinks to herself, mad at herself for feeling curious about whom he might be speaking to, knowing she has no right to care. “Yes… No… I’m still in the lobby,” he chuckles. “Yes. Yes. The colleague that gave me trouble today, yes, I believe we’ve patched things up?” He tilts his head towards Thalia. “I deserved it. She had every right to call me out. I was being an insufferable know it all… Ha, ha… you’re so funny. Yes, home in time for dinner tomorrow. Mmhmm… Yes. Alright, g’night… Yes, you too… “ He gives his trademark eh-eh-eh laughter that sounds so familiar and natural to her ears. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”
Thalia fidgets with her phone, sensing this little reunion is over. She leans forward and stacks their plates together, picking up a napkin as it falls to the floor. “Well, Tom, it was nice seeing you-”
“Thalia,” he breathes out, sounding somewhat choked. “That was my fiancée. I’m getting married in September.”
* * *
Tom grimaces at the bitterness of the coffee he got from a restaurant across from the hotel before catching his Uber ride. He’s loaded the styrofoam cup with additional spoons of sugar but forgone the much-needed cream because he needs the wake-up boost.
As the vehicle takes him out of London, he tries to settle his long-limbed body into the seat more comfortably. He’s barely slept a wink the past few nights. Going to conferences does that to him. Always has, always will. He might be a natural at speaking events and he might always be as polite and affable as a royal doing his social rounds when it comes to interacting with peers or guests or even seminar participants – but he’s still a tad too introverted to enjoy doing it. He’d much rather research a project or write another book. And now he wishes he’d never have accepted the invitation to speak.
Because truth be told, the sleepless nights weren’t just because he attended the event. Thinking of Thalia kept him awake, tossing and turning, torn between haunting memories and fresh guilt.
Tom knew she’d be there too, of course. He had dialed the organizer twice to refuse the offer so he could spare himself the confrontation, then called himself a bloody coward and let them know he would accept.
He gave himself a stern talk before the first day, told himself that it had been his decision to break up, that it had been the right decision. That all the yearning and pining over the past three years didn’t count because on the surface, he did move on. As did she, probably.
He had been afraid to ask, but he’d been quick to notice during the presentation, as she clutched the armrest of the couch, she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.
Still, seeing Thalia again, having to discuss topics they both used to obsess about together, privately, now shared so publicly, wrecked him. He’d chosen their tie deliberately, to have the upper hand, maybe also to remember a time when it had seemed he could have her forever. Hell, he didn’t even know the real reason for his choice, but he’d seen her notice it, and all the emotions that crossed her face before she schooled her features.
And then he’d lost his cool deplorably.
“God, you were an arse, Hiddleston,” he mutters to himself and downs another gulp of mediocre coffee. “It’s a miracle she didn’t rip your balls off and feed them to you when you had the fucking nerve to buy her sweets.”
Rubbing a hand over his face, Tom shifts in his seat. He hadn’t meant to let himself go like that at the panel but he should’ve known better. Thalia had always had a stronger effect on him than anybody else. She was the only one who could break him into a million pieces, and the only one who could mend him.
But he shouldn’t be having any of these thoughts. And he shouldn’t have approached her at all, shouldn’t have slipped back into their familiar camaraderie only to hit her over the head with his news. He should’ve sent her a bleeding email to apologize and then taken his sorry arse out of her life again. Why the hell had he felt this need to let her know about his upcoming marriage?
He’ll never forget the look on her face. One he’d seen rather too many times in his life now. One he never meant to put on her beautiful, beautiful face.
But deep down, a masochistic part of him was glad he’d told her. He’d wanted a clean cut, hadn’t he? Well, he sure as hell got that now.
Time to move on, even if he didn’t want to.
Author created gif from images found on Facebook
Click to Chapter 12, Exposed
Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom