Chicago: Chapter 11
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.
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, sightseeing, FOOD PORN, cuteness overload, PLAID PORN, innocent making out
*****SUSPEND REALITY- we know it’s not possible to see ALL these attractions in one day. This is what happens when a German girl living in Sri Lanka has never BEEN to Chicago!******
Word Count 2652
SPECIAL NOTE: Due to Good Friday in the States and the New Year celebration in Sri Lanka, there will be THREE story postings this coming week. Look for chapters to be posted on Wednesday, April 12; FRIDAY, April 14 and Sunday, April 16. If you want to make sure you are always up to date with Tom, Thalia and Chris, just follow avenger-nerd-mom on WordPress and stories are sent directly to you!
Click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia
Tom feels as if he’s entered into a parallel universe or discovered an alter ego of his. It isn’t just the clothes, though he does feel different in his red-and-blue plaid shirt and black jeans. He’s picked the shirt because it looked awfully comfortable and because he couldn’t get the image of Thalia with her cowboy boots out of his head. To brace himself against the biting cold, he’s wearing a navy T-shirt beneath the shirt and a quilted navy coat with a zip. He had half a mind to go for cowboy boots himself, but part of him was scared he’d just look like an idiotic wanna-be Yankee mixed with a stiff Englishman. So he opted for his go-to solution, the well-worn grey suede shoes that he loves to combine with basically any casual or even semi-formal outfit.
Thalia has already glanced at the plaid shirt more than once, and the approval in her eyes – turning to quite a lot more than interest when he opens a few buttons in the toasty warm museum – feels like a soothing caress. It makes him feel more at ease, ready to let her play tour guide and boss him around a little.
Since they have embarked on this journey through the city, she’s been pointing out landmarks and sharing little snippets that he stores away in a corner of his knowledge-hungry brain for future reference.
The museum is amazing. The building itself caught his attention when he Googled things to see in the city, with its imposing reddish brown façade and half-round side wing full of windows. He listens happily to Thalia sharing some backstory while they make their way inside. Tom chuckles at the way she occasionally bumps him as they move through the holiday crowds. They’re walking close enough for their hands to brush, and on an impulse, he laces his fingers with hers.
She shoots him a glance and lowers her lashes, smiling.
He doesn’t want to let go of Thalia’s hand, and she seems just as happy to let him hold it. Off and on, they look at each other instead of the exhibits, and it feels like a real date, with all the cares in the world a million miles away. She’s wearing warm black tights with a denim skirt. To match his outfit–which he’d revealed with a spur-of-the-moment selfie to prove to himself as much as her that he really was in Chicago–she’s also opted for a plaid shirt, hers in different shades of blue that match her skirt and coat. And of course, her trusty cowboy boots make today’s outfit complete.
Once they’ve had their history fill in general, Thalia enthusiastically pulls him aside to show him one of the world’s largest costume collections. Tom entertains her by imagining little tales for the astonishing historical clothes on display, and they get quite a bit of side eye from other visitors for all their whispering and laughing.
They round off the experience with a hearty brunch at the café on the ground floor.
Pushing his chair back from the table, Tom asks, “What now?” glowing with an overdose of happiness that is partly museum-induced, partly food-induced and most definitely Thalia-induced.
He can’t find words for how wonderful it is to share these magical moments with her, away from the whole professor-and-student sword that’s usually dangling over their heads.
Thalia drinks the last of her coffee. “Well, I’m pretty sure you did all your touristy homework and have figured out a whole list of things you are planning to tick off. Am I right or am I right?”
Tom throws his head back and guffaws. “You know me entirely too well, darling.”
With a flourish, he pulls an actual list out of his pocket, grinning at her exaggerated eye roll. He smoothes the crinkled paper out on the table.
When Thalia leans closer to get a good look, he acts on instinct again and kisses her. It’s hardly more than a gentle peck, though he deepens it a little when her lips part, delighting in her sweet sigh. He lets the tip of his tongue brush over her full lips before pulling back.
The look of surprise and joy on her face momentarily lets his mood nose-dive. This, this right there is what she should have. A man who can date her, take her out and spoil her properly. A man who devotes all of his time to her and who will march right into that house and face her family bravely because he intends to stick with her through thick and thin.
Determined not to let the real world burst his giddy bubble, Tom slides a finger down the list.
“Which item can you recommend?”
She concentrates, her forehead puckering in a slight frown. As usual, she’s willing to dedicate 100% of herself into whatever needs doing, whether it’s studies or showing a secret lover around town.
“The Adler Planetarium is amazing,” she says thoughtfully, tugging on a strand of hair until he pulls it out of her grip and curls it around his fingers. “Their Sky Theater offers you virtual-reality trips through space and time which are seriously mind boggling. And if you’re really lucky, you can meet one of the top-notch researchers who are responsible for the museum.”
“Oh, tempting.” Tom can feel himself getting all bouncy in his seat again, which reminds him of his sister Emma always telling him he’s somehow managed to trap a five year old in an adult’s body.
“The Museum of Science and Industry is another of my favorites,” she adds. “It’s got a restored U-505 German submarine, a simulated coal mine and a vintage diesel-electric train. Lots of action instead of only dusty exhibits.”
“Can’t we do both? I promise to keep my enthusiasm mostly bottled up and move quickly through all the halls.” Tom gives her his best puppy dog look, which makes her laugh and swat his arm none too gently.
“You’re a pain in the ass, Tom.”
She hasn’t called him Professor Hiddleston once today, and although it’s a turn-on to hear her do so, he’s rather glad because he wants to be plain Tom here.
Unable to resist temptation, he slides a hand to her knee and toys with the hem of her skirt while leaning close enough to speak into her ear. “As far as I recall, I haven’t been allowed close enough to your ass yet to cause any pain, other than the occasional light spanking. But if you feel inclined to change that…”
She makes a squeaky sound and knocks his hand off her leg, wagging a finger at his fit of giggles. “I swear, if you keep that up, I’ll happily let my family torture me again and leave you to your own devices in big, mean Chicago.”
But her eyes dance merrily, and she holds her hand out to him when she gets up from the chair.
“Now stop acting like a teenager, we’ve got two items to cross off your list.”
“Darling, I have a mental list you should consider sometime as well then.”
Her eyes grow wide as his words sink in and he throws his head back in laughter, quickly clearing their table before wrapping his arm around her shoulder to make their exit.
They visit both the Museum of Science and Industry at Hyde Park and the Adler Planetarium with its domed roof that reminds Tom a little of a study trip to Berlin in Germany, several years ago. By the time they are done, Thalia grumbles good-naturedly about wearing holes into the soles of her boots, and Tom is bouncing with another energy boost because the thought of trying out local food is so tempting.
“Don’t laugh, love, but I’m hungry again. What do you recommend?” he asks. “I’m starving and I want to try absolutely everything Chicago is famous for.”
Thalia gives him another of her eye rolls, hooking her arm through his to pull him to a bus stop.
“Oh my god, that metabolism of yours! I’m jealous!” She shakes her head in disbelief. “Well, Chicago IS famous for food, so brace yourself for the experience of a lifetime.”
She holds up her free hand, counting off on her fingers, “We have deep-dish pizza, which is pure heaven and I haven’t found any like it out East. There’s the Chicago-style hot dog with all the fixings… And all sorts of high-end cuisine stuff if you think it’s below your gentleman status to eat what everyone does.”
Tom snickers and gives her butt a light slap. “I’ve heard about the hot dogs, actually. Weren’t they a result of the Great Depression?” She nods and he continues. “What’s on them?”
“My favorite is just the standard version, with an all-beef hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun. It’s topped with yellow mustard, relish, tomato wedges, chopped onions, pickle, hot peppers and celery salt.”
With a groan, he pulls her closer. “Okay, I need one of these like I need air to breathe. Lead the way, oh heroic, merciful tour guide, and prevent my death of starvation.”
They take the bus and end up at Portillo’s, googling its impressive history and success story while waiting for the food.
Stuffed with hot dogs, but still drooling over their dessert of strawberry shortcake and chocolate éclair cake, they manage small talk between bites.
“So, haven’t seen much of the US since you arrived here?” Thalia inquires after he’s fed her with a forkful of chocolatey delight.
“No, haven’t had the time yet.” Tom lets her feed him in return, staring into her eyes while suggestively licking his lips, pleased to see her hand wobble a little. “I’ve been around the world a bit, though.”
“Oh, tell me more.”
He shrugs modestly. “Mostly Europe during my youth. Spain, France, Italy, Russia. A couple of years ago, I accompanied some colleagues to Germany.”
“What about the rest of Britain? Or do the English make it a point to snobbishly ignore their neighbors?”
He wagged his fork at her and relishes his last bite before answering. “I visited Scotland with my father once. And my mother took my sisters and me to Ireland when we were still young.”
His face clouds over momentarily at memories of a childhood that had been anything but easy but was mixed with enough happy incidents to not bother him too much now. At least he hadn’t carried any serious scars of his parents’ divorce over into adulthood…though he should probably rethink his rules on relationships.
“Oh, and I flew to India for my sister’s wedding,” he adds with a smile, deliberately pulling himself back to the presence. “That was just…surreal and truly beautiful.”
Thalia smiles back at him and entwines her fingers with his when he reaches for her hand.
“And you?” he wants to know. “You’ve got the whole world waiting for you. Where do you want to go?”
She screws up her face in thought, as if there’s too much to consider.
“Everywhere,” she answers with a laugh. “I’ve got to finish my degree, but fortunately it could take me all the places I could never afford to go on my own. I’ve applied to internships in Paris, Cairo, Athens and Rome for museum work and archeological digs. I’m just waiting each day for the right phone call. There’s a box of dusty clothes ready to go in the back of the closet, aching for more dig dirt,” she jokes.
Tom leans forward and caresses her cheek with his other hand, scooting his chair closer to hers and resting his leg against hers. “I hate the idea of you being so far away.”
Her head drops, her hair falling around her, but her blush is unmistakeable. She seems at a loss for words and it endears her even more to him. Dammit, Thomas. This trip was the best worst idea ever…
She grabs the ticket from the table and the two tussle over who will pay the bill. Tom insists that she’s already playing tour guide so he absolutely must pacify his inner gentleman by paying for lunch.
“Fine… But I’d like you to let me take care of you sometimes too, I’m not totally broke you know.” His scowl changes her thought and she forges on. “What’s next on your list, Mister?” Thalia wants to know, still pouting at her defeat.
“You know what, why don’t you suggest something?” He smiles at her. “As I said before, today’s in your hands, bills excluded.”
She smiles back. “Millennium Park is kind of a no-brainer, despite the weather. Want to give it a go?”
“Sure, that’s where the Bean is, right?!”
She laughs at his enthusiasm, bundling up to brave the cold Chicago air. They make it there in no time, discovering that a lot of people are bracing the cold to get photos in front of the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture with its metallic bean form and cloud-reflecting surface. Tom takes a few selfies with Thalia, debating with himself whether to share these lovely memories with his family or not, and deciding against it with a heavy heart.
As happy as he is today, he keeps realizing one thing that obscures his inner sunshine momentarily: In a world with less prejudice, Thalia and he would make a great couple. But as things are, a normal relationship is out of the question and not something either of them is ready for anyway. He knows he should wish for her to have someone else to share such joyous moments with—but he doesn’t. He wants her to himself for a bit longer at least. They take their own sweet time, walking the city streets, giggling and window shopping, dragging out their stolen moment together.
Close to evening, Thalia takes him up on the 360 Chicago, formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory where the 94th floor – 1,000 feet up – offers a view for miles and miles, across four states. They dine up there at the restaurant, and again Tom can’t resist doing all the little things proper couples should. He feeds her and teases her, touches her as much as he can, asks her personal questions and stores away each morsel of information as if his life might one day depend on the right answer.
“Tom, I’ve had a wonderful day. I hate to see it end, but I really should be getting back home. There’s a train switch and I don’t want to miss it.” Her eyes glisten in the low light of the restaurant. Her tone is wistful and tells him what he wishes to know.
Taking her hand in his across the table he runs his thumb over the back of her hand. “Thalia, darling, if you’re willing to risk it with your family, I’d love for you to stay with me tonight.”
Her eyes search his, search his face, looking for what, he doesn’t know. She brushes a floppy curl from his forehead and runs her thumb across his scarf, and he leans into her touch, craving more. Slowly her grin turns up. “Let me make a call to my stepmother. She’ll know how to soothe things over with Dad.”
Nestled in the warmth of the back seat of the cab, Tom is pleasantly surprised when Thalia takes the initiative to kiss him, at first unsure and timid. He tugs on her scarf, pulling her closer and acknowledging his need. Her hand grips his thigh as the kisses grow more heated. He bites back a chuckle at the cab driver watching in the rearview mirror while they make out like two lusty teenagers. The ride is entirely too short and by the time they make it to the hotel, he wants nothing more than to lose himself inside her and forget the rest of the world.
Click here for Chapter 12 Tutoring
Copyright © 2017 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando