Auntie Em

auntie em april 15 2018

Auntie Em

*an Emery & Chris drabble*

By avenger-nerd-mom

Emery pitches in to help her sister-in-law, Carly, when the kids are sick and Carly has plans. Her tutoring with his nephew goes slightly awry.

Warnings: None, Fluff

Word Count: 2141

To find out more about Emery and her life with Chris, begin with their novella, Georgia on My Mind, and follow up with their stories!

His voice is quiet, and she strains to hear him. “When are you coming home, baby? I miss you.”

Emery smiles. “I’ve only been gone two days; I’ll be home Monday.”

“I know, but it feels like it’s been fooor-eveeer.” He whines and stretches the word out.

She wraps her arm around the sleeping little one in her lap. “Good grief, listen to you, moaning like I’ve been gone for months.” She smiles at the other two boys, stretched out on the floor, coloring and playing with race cars.

Chris drops his voice and it vibrates through the phone. “I need you here to make me moan.”

“Oh stop,” she giggles. “Stella’s asleep in my lap.”

“Is she feeling any better?” Her heart flutters at the tender sound of his voice, so full of concern for his niece.

She nods, even though he can’t see her. She gently strokes the little girl’s hair back, checking for signs of a fever. “I think the fever broke a few hours ago. She was running around here with the boys just a bit a go, before she had another coughing fit. They felt so bad for her, they let her watch Frozen without whining.”

“It’s nice to have family close, when you have an emergency,” he hints. “Have you heard from Carly?”

“She’s been checking in every few hours. She can’t be enjoying their romantic get away if she’s worried about a sick kid.” Emery shifts on the love seat, her arm starting to fall asleep under the weight of the sleeping child. “I’ve got it under control. We went to Ethan’s piano lesson this morning, and Miles and I have been studying for his math test. We’ve had a good visit.”

“You sound tired,” he sighs. “Three will do that, but-”

“Which is why, Evans, we’re only having two-”

“I’m not stopping till we have a little girl, with fiery red hair like her mother,” he states.

“You really want two of us in the house?” She smiles. She sighs happily. More of their discussions have turned to family lately, with the Marvel end in sight. She’ll be sad when it’s time to see him hang up the shield, but with his success on Broadway, she looks forward to different opportunities.

“No, I want three of you. Two little girls, just like their mama, and a little boy?” He adds with a question.

At that moment, Miles lifts his head and turns to her and smiles. His boyish grin is so much like his uncle’s, she can’t help but giggle. “Okay, maybe you can twist my arm for three, but no more than that,” she acquiesces.

“It’s not about twisting your arm, kitten, you like it when I twist your-”

“Chris! Shh!” She blushes, quietting him as Miles crawls into her lap.

He holds out his little hand. “Auntie Em, can I talk to Uncle Chris?”

She hands him the phone, holding him close to her side and listening to him chatter with his uncle. Maybe three isn’t a bad number…

***

Standing at the sink, the two women pass the plates off to one another as they wash and dry, leaving things on the counter for the men to put away later.

“Really, Em, you didn’t have to have dinner waiting for us,” Carly repeats, running the cloth around the glass rim to dry it.

Emery feels around in the soapy water. Finding the sink empty, she looks to the counter behind her. “It was no trouble. I miss getting to cook for people. We’ve mostly been eating take out,” she explains. “I think that’s it. Anything else to wash?”

Carly looks around as well, and shakes her head. “Except for the plate with the cheesecake Scott took to the living room, and he can wash that himself.”

Emery nods and releases the plug from the sink, shaking the soap suds from her hands before rinsing them clean. She grabs a dry towel and wipes her hands before beginning to put the plates away in the cabinet.

Carly finishes with the last coffee cup and throws her towel on the counter. “Stop. The boys said they’d do it; leave it.”  She takes a step or two away and clicks the coffee pot on. “Another cup?”

Nodding, Emery continues to put away the plates, ignoring Carly’s glare. “I’m the oldest sister too. That look has no effect on me,” she announces.

With the Evans grin, Carly chuckles and reaches into the fridge for the creamer, setting out her coffee items on the counter. “Thanks again for coming down to watch the kids. I hope it didn’t change your plans.”

Emery waves it off. “Nothing more important than family. With Mom and Shanna both busy, I’m glad I could help out.”

“Not a lot of family close by if you’re in LA,” Carly suggests, taking the pot from it’s stand and pouring two cups.

“Gee, you’re not subtle or anything,” Emery giggles, reaching for her cup and adding a splash of the vanilla creamer.  She grabs two sugar packets and walks to the table. Knowing how the family grapevine works, she decides not to mention Tara is on the search for the perfect family home for them nearby.  After several long discussions, she’d made it clear she wanted them to have their own home in Boston, not one he’d previously shared with girlfriends. Chris had been open to her idea of finding something a little rough around the edges, so they could add their own touches to the home, and truly make it theirs.

Carrying over the plate of cookies, Carly sits in the chair across from her sister-in-law. “We’d love to have you both close. I know you like staying in Savannah, but home for him is here.”

“Carly,” Emery says sternly, “Home for us is wherever the other one is… It’s not a city or a dwelling. It’s here.” She rests her left hand over her heart, the kitchen lighting making her wedding ring gleam. “I know you want us here, but my family feels the same, Carly. Chris and I have to make decisions right for us.”

Carly passes her spoon to Emery, to stir the sugar into her cup. “I know, I didn’t mean… I was just making conversation,” she sheepishly says. “It’s fun you’ve been so close the last few months. It was nice to see you guys at Easter, and for us to have a good excuse to go to New York.”

Emery tilts her head. “It has been nice, and I look forward to coming back in a few weeks to do the training for your school district.”

“What’s his plan after the play ends? It’s been really strange to watch the promo tour stuff, and he’s not a part of it.”

Emery rests back in her seat. “Yea, I hate that too. It doesn’t seem right.” She shrugs. “After the play? I don’t think we have a lot of plans. I’ve only got three workshops scheduled for the summer. I’d like to spend time at the lake house with my family some, get to know Parker’s fiancee a bit better…”

The women chat well into the night, keeping clear of touchy subjects such as children and moving. Whenever Carly tries to push a topic Emery wants to avoid, she tactfully finds a way to shut her down. Eventually she realizes the time, and dismisses herself to bed, with the excuse of an early morning flight.

Carly wanders into the living room as Emery takes the stairs to the second level of the home. She drags her hands slowly over the photos that line the hall. At the top of the steps, she turns and looks down, smiling at the pile of shoes and backpacks by the front door. Scott steps into her line of sight, and waves goodbye, blowing her a kiss before quietly leaving the house. She turns and walks down the hallway, stopping to check in on the boys, fast asleep in their beds.

under the dome GIF-downsized_large.gif

In Stella’s room, the little girl clutches a bear to her chest, her thumb in her mouth.  Emery walks in quietly, the light from the closet adding a glow to the room. She pulls the little girls thumb out, tucking the little hand under the girl’s chin instead, pulling the blankets up higher to tuck her in. The tiny cherub sighs peacefully and Emery bends to kiss the top of her head.

Reaching the guest room, she yawns and pulls back the blankets before sitting down to take off her shoes. Pulling her phone from her pocket, she sends a quick message. “I miss you. I’m ready to come home. See you tomorrow.”

The red-head waits a few moments to see if a response will come. With no answer, she rises from the bed, and enters the bath to get ready for a fitful night’s sleep.

***

Wednesday afternoon, she waits on the small couch, still giggling from the text from Carly. She listens to the applause and waits for Chris to come back stage. An image of ‘Bill,’ his character in the play enters her mind.  The crisp blue uniform… The silly moustache… She gets the giggles again and can’t wait to show him the picture. He was crabby before the show, but she knows this will put him in better spirits. That and the box of pizza from John’s, sitting on the coffee table.

“Hey, Emery,” Brian calls out as he walks past the room, not stopping to talk.

“I got pizza!” She yells back.

She smiles when his head pops back in the door. “You’re a saint, a goddess among mere mortals.” He looks down the hall, and nods his head before looking back to her. “You have to be for putting up with this guy.” Brian Tyree Henry claps his large hand on Chris’s shoulder. “You found a good one, man.”

Chris smiles, dropping the officer hat from his costume into the chair and running his hands through his hair. “I’m just lucky she puts up with me,” Chris agrees.

“And I bring pizza,” she smiles, opening the box to the two men.

zooey deschanel hunt GIF-downsized_large.gif

“And she brings pizza,” Chris chuckles, leaning over the food to kiss his beautiful wife. He reaches down for a slice and takes a bite, chewing slowly. He sighs. “Pure heaven. If I could just have a beer, it would be damn near perfect.” He collapses on the couch next to her.

“No beer!” Someone calls out as they walk down the hall.

“Damn that promise I made,” he grumbles, taking another bite.

Bryan reaches for a slice and tilts it to Emery. “Thanks, Em, babe. But I really can’t stay. I’m meeting some friends for an actual dinner before we gotta be back for the night show.”

She nods, scratching her hands over Chris’s back absently as he scarfs down a second slice.  “Brunch Friday?”

He nods and mumbles his agreement behind his hand, chewing his food before excusing himself.

“Kitten, I gotta get changed. People are out on the sidewalk and-”

“Chris, I know. I know the routine by now. It’s good. I just knew you’d be hungry,” She shrugs. “Before you go, I want you to see the picture Carly sent me. It’s from Miles’ geometry test he took yesterday.”

Chris cocks his eyebrow, his expression curious as Emery opens her phone and turns the image to him.

“It’s his test paper? I don’t get it?”

“Chris! Look at what he drew!” Emery laughs, pushing the phone closer to him.

Chris begins to laugh. “What the hell?” His laughter is infectious and Emery loses it again. The more he looks at the test page, the more he laughs, to the point of wheezing and clapping his hand over his left pec.

carly text fake.PNG

“Oh, shit! That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. Text her back and tell her I have never been more proud of my nephew than I am right now! Please tell me he passed?” He laughs again and slaps his knee, rocking back to then wipe an actual tear from his eye.

She pushes on his back, shoving him off the couch. “Go, get changed. They’ll be here to take you out to sign any minute,” she giggles, glad she was able to cheer him up.

He rises, bending to kiss the top of her head. “You just made my day. That was better than the pizza, maybe even better than the sex this morning.”

“Watch it, Mister. Those are fighting words,” Emery laughs, slapping his ass as he walks away. She looks at her phone again and shakes her head in another fit of laughter.  She’ll have to make sure to include drawing lessons in her geometry tutorials next time, to ensure her younger students can draw a proper cylinder.

**Thanks to my IRL for sharing this actual test paper with me this week! As soon as I saw it, I knew it was an ‘Emery story!’

Images found on Pinterest

Text created using ifakemessage.com

Click here for the next Emery&Chris story, Late Night

Copyright © 2018  avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

Apologies

ch 42 apologies July 26 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 42

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:  3559

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, recovery, forgiveness, concern, anguish, family relationships

Summary:  Thalia has a special visitor in Chicago while she takes time away to heal…

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Author’s Note:  There are three remaining chapters in this series.

His knees practically knock together from sheer nervousness.  He truthfully can’t remember the last time he stood on a girl’s front porch, facing the fear of meeting her family.  He clutches the fragrant bouquet in his hands, smiling that he will soon smell the scent on her skin in person.  Pushing the buzzer, he chuckles to himself at the sound of a little dog barking fiercely on the other side of the door.

A quiet voice calls out, “Buster, hush!  I hear it; I’m coming.”

The intricately carved wooden door opens and a pretty blonde smiles out at him.  “More flowers?”  She chuckles.  “I hope they’re paying you extra this week for all these deliveries.”

She reaches for them, with cash in her hand.  A tip.  She thinks he’s a delivery person.  He clears his throat and says, “No, um, actually, I’m here to see Thalia?  I’d like to deliver these in person.”

The smile on her face grows and her head bobs up and down.  “Mmm… I see. Are you Chris or Tom?  Come on inside.”  She ushers him in, closing the door behind him.  Before he can speak, she continues, narrowing her eyes at him.  “I remember you.  You were at the club?”

Nodding, Chris replies and introductions and pleasantries are exchanged.  A yip pulls his attention down to the little dog sitting at his feet.  “Buster, you go.” She waves the dog away.  “I’m safe, ya silly mutt…  Follow me.  She’s holed up in her room and doesn’t come out much.  She didn’t mention you were planning to visit?”

“She, uh, doesn’t know I’m here. In Chicago.  She has no idea I was coming to visit.”  He admits nervously, following her down a hallway, catching glimpses of a dining room and family room.  They veer to the right and this hallway is lined with family photos.  He wishes he had time to stop and look, to see pictures of Thalia as a little girl, to know her life.

“Relax, sweetie.  If you’re half the man she thinks you are, she’ll be glad to see you.”

Her words stop him in his tracks.  Not paying attention, he runs right into her when she stops at a door.  “Sorry.  What?  She told you about me?”  Another piece clicks in his brain.  “You asked if I was ‘Chris or Tom.’  So you know?”

“The dining room banquet table looks like a showroom for a floral shop.  Honestly, all the conflicting smells are giving me a headache,” she smiles.  “When the flowers kept coming, I started to figure it out.  Two boyfriends?  Good for her!”

Stacey pats Chris’s arm gently and he likes her instantly.  She knocks on the door.  “Thalia, honey, you-”

A muffled response comes through the door.  “Stacey, I’m tired.  Whatever it is, let it wait.  I’ll be down for dinner.  We can even braid my hair tonight, but just let me be, please.”

The broken sound of her raspy voice is heartbreaking, but just hearing it springs alive his hopes.  His pulse races knowing she’s on the other side of that door and the thought he could be the one to lift her spirits. If she’ll accept his apologies…

“But Thalia,” she pushes open the door, ignoring her stepdaughter’s request.  “You have a guest.”  With a flourish of her arm, she ushers Chris into the room.

Her eyes widen in shock and her mouth pops into the sweet little “oh” she sometimes makes.  “I’ll leave you two alone,” Stacey says warmly, closing the door on her exit.

“What are- How?  I mean… What the hell?  I can’t make words.” She giggles.  “We kept playing phone tag and… and you didn’t answer my messages.  I thought-”

Not knowing really what to say, needing to rein in his emotions at her presence, he stalls for time.  “You’re watching TV?”  Chris looks around the little room, an obvious shrine to her high school days.  It doesn’t look like a thing has changed since she left for college.  He can feel her eyes watching him, but he needs to look.  Stepping to her desk, his eyes brush over photos of friends and family, the same funeral announcement she keeps in her apartment and a high school plaque for her top score on a college readiness assessment.  Turning back to her, he smiles.  “You hate television.”

Her battered body sits propped up between pillows on each side, her right arm in a sling and her other hand resting near the remote.  The bruising is still harsh, and the stitches mark her cheek.  “Look like hell, don’t I?  Can’t fuckin’ sleep.  Meds keep me up at night and I sleep all day.  I’m hungry, but then I throw up, and please, please, as much as I love to share a laugh with you, please don’t make me laugh.  My ribs ache so much….”  She turns off the program.  “Hate that shit.  If that’s a ‘real housewife,’ I don’t wanna be one….  My brain is turning to mush already.  I can feel it.”  Tucking her hair back, she sighs.  “Please, come around here. Sit on my good side.”  She motions him to the left of the bed.  “I’m glad you’re here, Chris.  It’s a nice surprise.”

Holding out her good hand, Chris realizes he’s still standing there awkwardly with the bouquet of orchids and pink calla lilies in his hand.  Stepping forward, he kisses her forehead, the one spot on her face not bruised.  Whispering he says, “Hey, Niña.  I missed you.”  He hands her the flowers and she inhales their aroma, murmuring how beautiful they are.  He eyes the row of vases lined up on a bookshelf under the window.  “I promised you a Spring Break together.  I always make good on my promises; you know that.”

“You do; that you do.”  She hands the bouquet back to him and he lays it on the bedside table before sitting gently on the bed next to her.  “That’s why three is my favorite number now, you know.  You and your promises.  Scootch closer and turn so I can see you better.  I missed your face.”

His heart melts.  Whatever anger he had, distrust he felt… he feels it all rush from his body the minute her hand rests on his thigh.  First giving a squeeze of his tight muscle, she turns her palm up, inviting him to hold her hand.  Just as he has so many times before, he winds his fingers between hers and holds her hand tenderly.

holding hands Chicago Chris.gif

“I was an ass, Thalia.  The things I said?  I-”

“Stop.  I don’t wanna do that.  You’re here now.  Don’t you think that says everything?”

Her eyes brim with tears and she wiggles uncomfortably on the bed.  He simply nods.  “Yea, I guess it does, but I still want to say I’m sorry.  Seeing you in that hospital bed?  That was the scariest moment of my life, listening to you tell-”

“I don’t wanna do that either.  You haven’t answered my messages; did you know they got him?  Tina had a frying pan in her bag,” she chuckles.  Wincing, she pulls her hand free, placing it on her ribs and dropping her head back in pain.  “Shit, I keep forgetting not to laugh,” she states painfully.  “She had a frying pan and hit him over the head, several times.  That’s why they found a bloody handprint on the door.  He was clutching his head when he ran off.  She covered me with a blanket and called 911.”  Placing her hand back in his, she traces over his fingers and up the veins on his arms, looking to them and avoiding his watchful gaze.  Her touch calms him and he feels at peace for the first time in days.

“They tell me she stayed with me till she heard the sirens but then she left because she was afraid they’d make her leave or she’d be in trouble for hitting him.  Can you believe that?”   Shaking her head in disbelief she raises her dark chocolate eyes to his.  Under her long lashes, he sees how tired she is, and a little hazed from the pain medications.  “She’s a hero, and she thought she’d be in trouble…”

“That’s amazing; and I already knew. I’ve talked to Jim. But thank you for telling me.”  His hand slides up her arm, tickling the soft spot at her elbow, to her hand, where she’s tracing over an old faded tattoo.  He lifts it to his lips and kisses gently, the velvety softness of her skin warm against his plump lips.

“So too mad to talk to me, but asking my friend about me?  Man, that is such a punk ass little boy move, Evans,” she teases, hitting his leg.  “No boys for me… You have to be my man.  The one to take care of me.”

“Then I failed horribly, because I wasn’t there when you needed me most.”  He doesn’t want to remind her she has another man for that task as well.  “Thalia, honey, I wasn’t avoiding your calls.  I was busy working extra hours, late ones, on a last minute…”  He pauses, searching for the right word, but not finding it, so he continues,  “… thing… that came up and several faculty members were called in to help. I was afraid if I called, I’d wake you.  And then I just lay awake for hours, thinking all the horrible thoughts, and-”  his words drift off…

Like she can read his sad thoughts, she pulls her hand free and caresses his cheek, scratching her fingers in his scruffy stubble. “Hey, stop.  I handled myself.  I can be a tough bitch when I need to be…”  Sighing she closes her eyes and strengthens herself.  “You were both there when I really needed you most.  And you untucked my feet from that damn blanket.  I am forever indebted to you.”

Carefully resting a fist on the bed at her right hip, he leans over her, mindful not to bump her injuries and he delicately hovers his lips over her lush full mouth.  She sighs contentedly and her tongue flicks out, wetting her lips in anticipation of their connection to come.  Lightly, he brushes against her, the kiss growing from soft and sweet to heated and powerful.  She relaxes into him and a quiet moan sounds in the back of her throat.

Her hand runs up his chest, reaching slowly over every muscular ridge.  She pats his chest and Chris pulls back with a little pop.  “Don’t make me breathe so hard,” she admonishes him, her eyes brimming with tears.  “My lungs won’t expand that much,” she jokes.

“Ah, honey, did I hurt you?”  He moves back gingerly looking over her to ensure he caused no harm.  “Why are you crying?”

She just lets the tears begin to fall.  “Please.  Please just hold me.  I’m so damn tired.  Physically and mentally, and I can’t pretend to be strong for now. I see the hurt in Dad’s eyes when he looks at me.  I hear him talking to Stacey at night and I just-”

“You just need to shut down, and let someone else carry the load…  I totally understand.  What do you want me to do, baby?”  Chris bites back his own tears, taking the lead over her.  Fuck.  The skinny British ass was right…

She leans forward and points to the recliner next to the bed.  “I can’t sleep flat; I instinctively try to roll to my belly and that doesn’t work with a broken arm.  I’ve be sleeping in that.  Can we sit in it together, and you rock me to sleep?”

“Anything for you, Niña, as long as you’ll take me,” he says.

“You were an ass, but I deserved it.  I should have been more honest.  With both of you.  I’m sorry.”  Her sobs grow louder as he gently lifts her in a basket carry and pivots to sit down in the chair.  “I was selfish and frivolous with our emotions and-”

“There, there.  None of that now,” he whispers, brushing his lips over her forehead.  “You settle yourself.  Move around till you’re comfortable and then I’ll wrap my arms around you and hold you till you sleep and all your cries are out, babe.”

After she squirms around a few minutes, he can’t take anymore of it and gently taps her hip.  “You little minx!  You did that on purpose, rubbing your peachy ass all over my lap…”

Nestled into his neck, she pulls out the chain to his Saint Christopher’s medal and whispers in Spanish.  Her breath is heated and moist against his skin and he longs for more contact with her.  She’s just too fragile, in body and spirit to even think of more.  Logically he knows that.  Try telling that to his dick rested against her hot little pussy.  He groans and bites the tip of her nose, another non-bruised spot.

“You’re evil.”

“You love it.”  She sniffles, her tears beginning anew.

“Aren’t we a twisted pair?”

Resting his arms around her gently, he can feel the bandages and wrappings around her chest through her ratty old high school t-shirt for the quiz bowl team.  Her cries increase but her battered form melts into his arms.  “No.  Tighter.  Hold me tighter,” she breathes out through sobs.  “Pair?  It’s a fuckin’ triangle and I didn’t even see the mess I was making.”

Leaning back on the chair, the recliner foot rest kicks up and Chris pulls her back against his chest.  “Thalia, shhh.  Not now.  You need to sleep.”  His fingertips tease and tug at her wild hair.  “Cry all you want, but no, no more talking.  How can I be mad at you?  I’m crazy about you.  I still know what I know- I’m not your only man.  It just made me angry finding out who it was…  I think… I,” he sighs.  “I think I liked it better when I thought you were seeing a married man.”

Sleepily, she gasps.  “Fuck, Chris!  How could you think that of me?  That’s awful.”

Looking down into her eyes, he raises one hand and swipes his palm over her face, forcing her to close her eyes.  “Shh…  What else was I supposed to think?  There were no signs of anyone else in your house, you were always free in the evenings, we spent Sundays together all the time.  I never imagined in a million years you were fu-…”  Sighing bitterly he stops himself.  “Get some sleep,” he says somewhat forcibly.

She trembles in his arms, and he senses the change in her.  She responds to the verbal force.  Damn.  Fucker was right again…  

“Sleep,” he says again, caressing her back until she falls limp in his arms and her breathing rate changes, turning to quiet little snores and puffs of air against his neck.

Chris watches her for a few minutes, his heart lurching again at the bruises that have changed color and still make his gut burn with anger. If that bastard hadn’t be arrested, he’d would have hunted him down and beaten the shit out of him.

His body tenses in anger, and Thalia shifts ever so slightly, making a soft protesting sound without waking up. Willing himself to calm down again, Chris scans the room instead. His gaze falls on the coffee table next to the recliner, where a glass vase is overflowing with unfamiliar yet beautiful flowers in various shades of pink and white. A letter lies next to it, unlined white pages with messy yet straight handwriting.

It begins with “My dearest Warrior Princess”, and he knows who’s written to her even before his eyes skip to the bottom with the words “Yours forever, Tom”.

Shit, this is none of his business. He shouldn’t snoop around.. But he can’t help himself, his curiosity wins out over all the other feelings.

“Only a couple of sentences,” he silently promises himself and squints at the lines, wishing he was wearing his glasses.

I sincerely hope you’re feeling better now, darling. You’ve been gone only for a few days, but it’s like you took all the colours away with you. I go about my daily routine, and everything reminds me of you. I can’t even sit at my desk without thinking of all the good – and bad – things that happened in my office. Foolish, I know…but doesn’t love make fools out of all of us?

To paraphrase – and hopefully not mangle – a quote from ‘Jane Eyre’: “I feel as if a link, a thread, exists between your heart and mine. And should that link be broken by distance or by time, my heart would cease to beat and I would die, and you would soon forget me.”

Scoffing, Chris snaps his eyes away from the letter.

Sappy British idiot. Then again, Thalia probably loved this with the same intensity with which she’d love a totally different message he might’ve sent her.

He wiggles a little, cradling his girl closer while trying not to jostle her. Closing his eyes, he listens to her soft snores. And deep down inside him, a voice wonders whether Thalia will indeed move on and forget about them both…and whether it will feel like a form of dying to him too.

Shutting himself off to all of those unwelcome thoughts and emotions, Chris matches his breathing to the soothing rhythm of hers, lulling him to sleep as well.

#

What seems like just minutes later is actually hours, but his eyes slowly open when he feels another presence in the room.  Rolling his neck side to side, doing his best not to disturb his sleeping angel he focuses on Stacey standing near the desk.  Her smile is wide and her eyes are soft.

“You two are fuckin’ adorable,” she whispers.  “She’s peaceful, I can see it in her face.”  She moves to sit on the bed near the chair and confides in Chris.  “Her father is so worried; we all are.  But I can see it now.  She didn’t need to come home to heal.  I knew something was up when I was there last month… whether you like it or not, both of you changed her.  She needed you… She needs him.”

She scrunches up her face in thought, and Chris recognizes it as the same expression Thalia has when she’s lost in the depths of her mind while studying.  Fleetingly the academic thought of heredity versus familiarity floats through his mind.  Her weight shifts on the bed and it squeaks, pulling his thoughts back to the stepmother.

“Thalia’s tough as nails.  Always has been, but,” she shakes her head, “I can see that love has changed her.  As mad as you are, she’s still in some ways just a child.  You can’t blame her for wanting all the toys, collecting the good looking boys on campus.”  Her laughter is light and airy.  She gazes affectionately at the snoozing woman in his arms and he knows the love she has for her stepdaughter; he feels it as strongly as anyone would recognize the love of a daughter.

Chris nods and sighs.  “We’re men.  And you have to know, at least for me anyway, it had nothing to do with being older or a professor.  She’s not even in any of my courses.  She was just an amazing woman I met at a bar one night, and I was the lucky one.  She picked me.  She’s beautiful and charming and so damn smart; so smart it’s scary.  I’m just lucky she let me in her life when I needed someone, and I guess she needed something too.”

Stacey pats his arm, “You understand that’s how we can love two things at one time?  Because they’re different from the other… I don’t think she ever meant to hurt either of you… But I hear her cry at night; and mumble your names.  Hurting either of you damaged her more than whatever that asshole did to her.  That’s physical; she can heal from that…  But her heart, her mind and how she feels about you both?”  She shrugs her shoulders.  “You love what you love, and sometimes it sucks.  But I think if you leave her now, that will be a different pain and will last you both much longer.”

Chris can feel Thalia change  in his arms, rising from a deeper sleep.  Her breathing moderates and he’s aware she can most likely sense their communication, even if she’s not aware of their words just yet.  His hands circle over her back to pull her from sleep as he simply tells Stacey, “I’m not leaving.”

Stacey rises from the bed, gently tucking back one of Thalia’s wayward curls.  “Good, because her father will be home from work in about an hour, and Jim and his wife are coming over from their hotel for dinner.  She hasn’t had a real bath in days.  I’ll get everyone to go out for ice cream and you can take care of my girl.  I can’t imagine she will want you to go back to your hotel tonight?  That’s the best she’s rested since she got home.” She nods to Thalia in his strong, muscular arms.  “Don’t worry about her dad, either.  I’ll take care of that with my husband.”

Click here for Chapter 43 Homecoming

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom