A Better Man

1557030418768.jpg

A Better Man

Being Thalia

Chapter 34

By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

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 in Madrid 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: 3003

Summary: A lazy Sunday morning, reading in bed, turns into something more-

Previous Chapter, Chapter 33: Over Her Head

December 2021

This is bliss. And she’s missed it, Thalia realizes. More than she cares to admit.

Not reading, of course; she always manages to squeeze that into her schedule because books have been her first love and will always be part of her life.

It’s sharing the experience of reading that feels so wonderful. A lazy Sunday morning together. They’re lounging on her bed, snuggling while the rain is pelting the window with a lulling pitter-patter. The colorful Christmas lights on the tree Tom insisted they get for the bedroom add a soft glow to the room. She’s stolen one of Tom’s ultra-comfy sweaters, big and worn enough to accommodate her curves. Off and on, she inhales deeply, bathing in the oddly familiar and soothing scent of Tom with its hint of citrus and male.

Tom is wearing the blue twin to her red sweater, the sleeves rolled up to reveal his freckled forearms, long fingers cradling an iPad. He’s totally engrossed in whatever he’s reading on it, the tip of his tongue poking out in concentration occasionally.

Thalia drinks in his profile, which has softened a tiny bit over the years although the scruff highlights his still admirable jawline. With the slightest, contented sigh, she turns her attention back to her paperback and wiggles to get more comfortable.

They started out an hour ago with her head in his lap and his fingers sifting gently through her curls, massaging her scalp almost absentmindedly while both of them were reading. Then Tom got up to make them two hot chocolates, and when they settled back down, it was him with his head in her cushiony lap. He turned it occasionally, to softly rub his scruff over her thigh or press a kiss to it.

“I love a lazy day like this,” Tom murmurs absently, almost as though he’s thinking out loud.

Thalia drags her fingertip down his nose. “Can you read my mind? I was thinking the same thing earlier.”

His chest rises and falls when he chuckles softly. “I think, love, the ability to read your mind could be a very dangerous thing.”

“It’s full of nothing but food and sinful thoughts,” she giggles, flipping the page in her book.

“The best kind,” he replies, tracing his hand down her raised calf, clad in Christmas leggings. She hums, nodding. “Lazy vacations like this are wonderful. All the days are running into the next. Remind me when we’re going to the airport to get your mother?”

“Move, you’re making my leg fall asleep.” He huffs when she slides out from under him. Standing next to the bed, she shakes out her achy muscles. “Wednesday, around two? But we’ll have to leave earlier that morning. Remember? I rented a car for a few days.”

She steps out into the hall and jogs towards the bathroom.

“And Christmas is next Sunday?”

Thalia ignores him, hating when he yells at her through closed doors. Just to be petty, she takes a few extra moments to apply lotion to her hands after washing them.

On her walk to the kitchen, she tilts her head to the side, stretching out the kinks in her neck. “Yeah, but we’ll go to Mass the night before and open a few presents at dinner. That’s our tradition.” With a plate of cookies in her hand, she returns to the bedroom, crawling up next to him. “Dad never wanted to wait. Stacey says if she’d have let him, he’d have never even wrapped the presents, just given them to me when he bought them. And he was always sick after opening presents and dinner. He would skip church and Stacey and her family would take me to Mass.” Breaking a cookie in half, she hands a piece to him. Licking the crumbs from her thumb, she continues, “I didn’t figure it out till I was older that he stayed home to put out the Santa gifts that always magically appeared while we were gone.”

Tom good-naturedly laughs, thoroughly enthralled in the story of her childhood. “That sounds like a good plan.”

Tucking the pillow to her chest, she flops face first on the bed, hugging it under her, and pulling her book in front of her. She agrees. “They’d let me stay up and play with my new toys until I wore out under the tree, and they could sleep in the next morning until it was time to meet family for brunch.”

Rolling over onto his belly, he snuggles next to her, copying her pose, propping himself up on his elbows. “It’s nice to hear you tell stories, share your memories with me.”

Thalia blushes, hiding behind her curls. “It’s therapeutic. I can’t put all my feelings in a box and lock them away anymore. Or so Doc keeps telling me.” She rolls her eyes.

“It’s nice,” Tom reiterates. “Lets me learn more about you.”

She lifts her eyebrow. “Well, I’m done for now. That’s all you get to know today. I’m sure Stacey can tell you all kinds of stories when she’s here.”

“She is a talker.”

Clearing her throat, she explains, “She was trying to cover up for Dad’s sullen behavior.”

She sucks in her breath, hoping he’ll let that comment slide for now.

Patting the back of her hand, he quietly says, “Your father would want you to be happy. Are you happy?”

Thalia grins. “If we can stop talking about my feelings now, that would make me happy.”

Shaking his head, Tom wraps his arm over her shoulder, pulling her close to kiss the top of her head. “Fine. Go back to studying, Professor Bareo.”

Morning turned to afternoon. Naturally, they shifted and drifted again after some time, and now she’s half draped across his lean, impossibly long body, one of Tom’s arms around her waist while he holds his iPad in the other hand.

“Here, listen to this.” Thalia sits up a little straighter, loving how her curves slide against the hard, muscled angles of his body, willing the instant twinge of arousal down because she enjoys this time of cuddling and reading.

“This is the chapter about Sapiens and language,” she clarifies briefly. She’s reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari because Tom mentioned it years ago and lately she’s found herself doing astonishingly many things he’s recommended. “So, he says it’s all about gossip: The new linguistic skills that modern Sapiens acquired about seventy millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end.” She clears her throat. “Harari goes on to say that the majority of day to day communication, whether it’s social media or articles in newspapers, is gossip. Here, this is where it pertains to our world.” Thalia adjusts her glasses, reading from the thick book again. “Do you think that history professors chat about the reasons for World War One when they meet for lunch, or that nuclear physicists spend their coffee breaks at scientific conferences talking about quarks? Sometimes. But more often, they gossip about the professor who caught her husband cheating, or the quarrel between the head of the department and the dean, or the rumors that a colleague used his research funds to buy a Lexus.

She giggles, hearing Tom chuckle too as he adjusts his position and stuffs a pillow behind his back. “Well, as a professor, I can certainly certify that affairs and cars are mentioned more often than historic finds or quantum theory,” he says with a raised brow.

“This is one of the author’s more controversial statements but it makes a whole lot of sense,” he adds. After a thoughtful frown, he elaborates in his teaching voice, “Doesn’t Harari go on to say that Sapiens had the language advantage over others because they were able to transmit information about things that did not exist? Things they haven’t yet touched or seen or tasted or smelled? Which of course paved the way for religion in all its forms.”

Thalia sits up straighter, a finger between the pages marking her place in the book. “I swear, Tom, your ability to remember things is just freakish. It’s almost as if you have a photographic brain.”

He gives her a sheepish grin, the hint of a blush rising on his cheeks. “Can’t say I do, darling, but I sure wish I did. I’m sure I would be taking lots of brain photographs of you, then.”

“Idiot.” She scoffs and playfully punches his stomach.

Catching her wrist, Tom lifts her hand to his face and kisses each knuckle.

“Your idiot.”

Something about his words sink all the way into her, slides into all corners, sidles into the little cracks and holes and mends her. Completes her-

Not so keen to analyze it, to break the mood of a lazy Sunday, she pulls her hand away after a quick smile and focuses on her paperback again. She mimics Tom, sitting up and leaning against the headboard, offering him another smile when he stuffs a pillow behind her back as well so she can get comfortable.

After minutes of blissful silence, Tom speaks up.

“Listen, this is absolutely share-worthy too.” He clears his throat and fidgets with his glasses.

To begin with I love you with a depth and passion that I have felt for no one else in this life and if it astonishes you it astonishes me as well. I never thought that — even if one was in love — one could get so completely besotted with another person, so that a minute away from them felt like a thousand years.”

Glancing up from her book, Thalia shoots him a glance. She’s caught only some of it as she wasn’t prepared for such a long read-out excerpt. That sounds like a love letter? Surely Tom hasn’t suddenly developed a taste for romance novels?

“What on earth are you reading? Is that some romance novel? Since when do you read those?” Still thinking on her own reading, she doesn’t pay him much attention.

He clears his throat once more. “It’s from the Letters Live publication. Titled ‘All this I did without you’. A letter from British conservationist, Gerald Durell, to his future wife.”

His voice cracks a bit, and she wonders whether Tom might be catching a cold. He did run through the rain earlier this morning to fetch them breakfast from the little corner store he likes, getting thoroughly wet because of course he didn’t take an umbrella with him.

“Beautiful,” she mumbles, diving back into her reading matter when Tom doesn’t say anything else.

She’s read maybe half a page when he clears his throat, speaking up again. “There’s more, it’s quite lovely. Listen: Darling I want you to be you in your own right…always, especially with me.

Thalia’s head snaps up. “Okay, that IS a nice one. Sounds like something you’d tell me… Got any more gems like that? He sounds like he’s an amazing letter writer.” She sighs. “It’s a lost art, letter writing, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. Sadly, some never find a way to express themselves.”

“I have old letters Dad wrote me when I went off to school. Postcards you sent me. I even have old text messages saved. But that’s not the same as a love letter, not really. It’s not tangible.”

Tom readjusts his glasses and takes a deep breath that makes his arm brush against hers. Why does he seem so agitated all of a sudden? Then again, it shouldn’t surprise her. If he’s in, he’s all in. It’s one of the things she loves so much about him. Someone else’s declaration of love probably has him all emotional, and he wants to discuss his thoughts on the passage and she’s babbling about text messages.

“I’m sorry.” She runs her hand down his arm, tracing her fingers over his veins. “I interrupted your reading. Please continue.”

With a small smile, she waits for more snippets as his eyes skim down and up again, his tongue darting out to moisten his lips.

“This one is my favorite passage.” Swallowing with an audible click, Tom sits up straighter and she wonders briefly whether he’ll turn it into a theatrical performance of sorts like when he reads Shakespeare to her.

In you I have found everything I want: you are beautiful, gay, giving, gentle, idiotically and deliciously feminine, sexy, wonderfully intelligent and wonderfully silly as well. I want nothing else in this life than to be with you, to listen and watch you (your beautiful voice, your beauty), to argue with you, to laugh with you, to show you things and share things with you, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your wonderful body, to help you, protect you, serve you, and bash you on the head when I think you are wrong.

Thalia guffaws at the last one, clapping a hand over her mouth. Oddly, it feels almost sacrilegious to laugh now. There is something so solemn and heart-touching about the words, something so emotional and sincere in Tom’s hoarse voice. It’s almost as if he’s written these words just for her, not simply reading someone else’s love letter.

The crazy thought has barely entered her mind when Tom lifts his gaze from the iPad and looks straight at her, the blue of his irises dark and gleaming. Thalia freezes in place, reacting instinctively to the almost palpable shift in the atmosphere.

Whipping his glasses off his face, Tom shifts his body so he’s kneeling up on the bed and facing her. He reaches out to take her hand, and it registers that his is clammy and trembling slightly.

“Did you catch cold in the rain this morning?” She reaches up with her other hand to brush a floppy curl from his forehead. “Are you running a fever?” There sure is a feverish intensity to his gaze now, and his jaw is all tense.

Why can’t she shake the feeling that she’s missing an important point here? Why does her heart tell her something her mind hasn’t fully processed yet?

Thalia feels a shiver run down her spine for no apparent reason as Tom’s fingers tighten their grip on hers and he pulls in another deep breath.

“Thalia María Bareo.”

Oh god. Oh god, oh god, oh god.  Her brain starts to catch up. He’s not sick. He’s –

“I meant every word I just read to you. From the moment you came into my life, you’ve turned me upside down and inside out. You’ve made me a different man, hopefully even a better man.”

This…this can’t be happening. This isn’t what she thinks it is. Or is it?!

Tom’s grip grows so firm it’s almost painful, and his eyes are alarmingly shiny.

“In you, I have indeed found everything I’ve ever yearned for, everything a man could ever want. I was a fool, more than once. I let life come between us, other people come between us. But perhaps that was for the better because now I couldn’t be more certain…or more in love.”

There’s a dull rushing sound in her ears and her heart is beating so fast she puts her free hand against her chest as if to prevent it from falling out.

“Darling Thalia, my fragile, yet strong, orchid… my one and only, I love you more than words can express. Will you share your wonderful body and magnificent mind and above all, your generous heart with me, for the rest of our lives? Will you make me the most incandescently happy man that has ever walked this earth? Will you…” His voice breaks again as she holds her breath. “Will you marry me?”

* * *

Tom has never felt so anxious in his life. It’s all he can do to breathe, and in a corner of his mind he’s amazed that he’s got all the right words out. There was more he had been planning to say. A proposal that was somewhat more eloquent and elaborate, more his own phrases than those wonderfully meaningful quotes. But his heart overwhelmed him in the middle of it all—and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Because it’s all coming from his heart and he means every single word with all of his being.

He’s planned this…sort of. No stereotypes for them, like a ring hidden in dessert at a restaurant or a moon-lit walk where he’ll drop on his knee in front of her. They’re not a normal couple, theirs is not a normal love. And so this feels right. Books and feelings. And his life offered up on a platter, for her to accept or to kill him.

Thalia is staring, her mouth opening and closing silently, her fingers shaking. Or maybe he’s trembling so hard that he makes her shudder as well. When the silence stretches and the only reaction he gets is a single tear rolling down a chubby cheek, his heart plummets from his throat all the way to the floor and further down.

He feels hot and cold at the same time.

“Darling, say something,” he begs at last, feeling his whole world teeter on the brink.

“I…Tom…oh my god, Tom.”

Suddenly she’s blinking to life. Another tear rolls down—and then she launches herself at him and knocks him flat on his back, luckily not falling off the bouncing mattress.

As a garbled mumble against his chest, drowned in sniffling sobs, he hears her answer.

“Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you. Sir, Professor, Tom.” She giggles through her tears, lifting her eyes to his, the fevered pitch a match. “I’m yours, whatever you want me to call you!”

His smile is so wide, his face could nearly break in half. “Anything that makes you happy, my love, as long as I can call you Mrs. Hiddleston in return?”

Her lips land on his, soft and salty with tears. The corner of her mouth turns up to a smile and in her true fashion, she sasses back, “How does Bareo- Hiddleston sound?”

***

Proposal inspired from Tom Hiddleston reading Love Letters Live. For reference: This link has the full transcript as well as the video: https://sinosicat.com/2015/12/11/all-this-i-did-without-you/

Click here to read Chapter 35,  Final Countdown. There are two chapters remaining in this fan fic novella.

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Over Her Head

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Over Her Head

Being Thalia

Chapter 33

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 in Madrid 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: 1656

Summary: A conversation with her stepmother makes Thalia realize her true growth.

Previous Chapter, Ready?

December 2021

Cradling the phone to her shoulder, Thalia digs through the box of wrapped ornaments. “I know it’s in here somewhere,” she mutters.

“Did you even hear what I asked? I asked what I should pack, weather-wise. Are you even paying attention to me? What are you doing that’s more important than talking to your mother?”

Thalia drops her hand down into her lap. “I’m sorry, Mum, you’re right. Just lookin’ for something I can’t find.” She sighs and tugs her cozy sweater over her belly. “No, I didn’t hear what you asked. Can you repeat it please?”

Stacey’s laughter stutters over the phone line. “Do you hear yourself? You just called me ‘Mum,’ with a British accent. Are you and Tom spending that much time together?”

Thalia screws up her face and scratches her brow. “Was that your original question? Or are you changing topics to try to get info from me?” She laughs. “Um, yeah. I guess we’re spending a fair amount of time together. I was in Greece for a week, after we got back from London, so-”

“London? What were you two doing there?”

Thalia blushes, grateful this isn’t a video chat. She swallows and runs her tongue over her teeth. “He took me to meet his parents. We had afternoon tea and cake with his mother and sister, before going to see a production in the West End, and meeting some of his school pals for drinks.”

“You met his old friends too?”

Thalia fidgets, wanting to get back to decorating the tree, and not wanting to give away too much information to Stacey. She takes every little detail and makes it bigger than it needs to be. She had shared with her mother they had patched things up and had been spending some time together, but she hadn’t gone into much depth, wanting to avoid the psychoanalyzing of every moment, every word spoken, that Stacey was known to put her through.

Besides, she likes keeping her new life with Tom private. Something they share between themselves because they want it that way. Not secret because it has to be, like before.

“We met his friend, Luke, and some other schoolmates happened to be at the pub where we were.” She clicks her teeth at the memory. “We didn’t stay long actually. One of the fellows was piss drunk and made an ugly comment about my weight.” She pushes down the flood of anger in her gut. “It was all I could do to drag Tom out before he started a fight. But he’d also had a pint or two, and was feeling no pain. Luckily, Luke and I got him out of there before fists started flying.”

“Oh, Thalia, honey, I’m so sorry. I hope that didn’t put a damper on your weekend getaway.”

She hides her smile behind her hand. No. The damper on the weekend was when the proper asshole insisted she sleep alone in the guest room, since his mother had it fixed it ready for her stay. He’d told her she was too noisy! Of all things!

She’d gotten even by sending him filthy texts and photos the rest of the night before finally falling asleep in his old rugby jersey. And when she trounced downstairs in her usual ‘morning before coffee’ grumpy mood, his mother was astonishingly nice. Kind and open with exactly the same charismatic smile as her son, and with a backbone of steel hidden beneath the affable charm. Mrs. Hiddleston–correction, Diana–hadn’t once treated Thalia oddly, even though she had reason enough to do so. They’d amiably shared coffee and fresh scones, teasing Tom about is wild, floppy curls when he came in from his morning run.

“No.” She answers her stepmother after blinking away the memories. “We had a really nice visit. His childhood home, his mother and sister, everything was great. It’s all so funny when you really get to know people and find out they are definitely a product of where they were raised. Books and music everywhere. Everything with a story or fact to go with it. His mother once worked in the stage and theater industry, so Diana really fostered his love for the dramatic arts. She had photos of his school plays, and albums with his school papers. He was always so smart!” She shakes her head in disbelief of his achievements. “You could tell he was a charismatic young boy.” Stacey giggles, but Thalia ignores her. “It was nice to get to know him on a more personal level, you know what I mean?”

Stacey hums quietly. “Thalia, neither of you are getting younger. He practically left a woman at the altar to have you back. Is this what you really want?”

Want, Mom? We’re just together, having fun. Getting to know one another, differently now. Better now. We’re both adults, have our own jobs and interests-”

“-Thalia, don’t be foolish. That man will want to settle down with you. There’s only one reason a man his age calls off a wedding and mere weeks later takes a former love home to meet his parents. If you aren’t looking for long term, if you’re going to break his heart-”

“Stacey, stop. Just stop it. We’re not putting a label on anything.” Is ‘mine’ a label? She smiles slyly, again thankful this is not a video chat. “He comes to the city to research and write. I fly off wherever the museum sends me. In the next five months, I have to be in Greece again, Australia and Egypt. I might have to speak at a conference in London. We’re together when we can be, but we’re not making a big deal of it.” She tries to squelch down the gnawing feeling that meeting his mother was a big deal. Maybe if she keeps shoving that aside, the thought will go away. “I’m just enjoying life, right now. I’m happy. You’ll see when you get here for Christmas.”

Moving the conversation away from her relationship with Tom, she tries to refocus her mother. “I can’t wait to take you to all my favorite places, and introduce you to my friends, Henrí and his family, and Lucía. You’re gonna love it so much, you’ll wanna move here!” She digs her hand back in the box, looking for the Christmas ornament Tom bought her in Munich years ago. “So if you wanna keep talking nonsense, I’m going to hang up. Or you can tell me more of the things you wanna see when you’re here or the neighborhood gossip from back home? Oh! Did I tell you I’m wearing the Christmas sweater you sent? It’s so soft, I love it!”

Twenty minutes later, the phone call is over. Thalia rolls over onto her knees, placing her hands on the couch and pushes herself up. The couch cushions separate and a piece of paper draws her eye. She pulls it from its wedged spot, laughing at the childish scrawl. “I think you’re beautiful. You’re my warrior princess. Always, Tom.”

Dropping it in the glass dish on the table, it lands with the pile of other secret notes she’s been finding around the house. Some feature words of encouragement and wishes for a good day, others spout Shakespeare quotes or random facts he knows and wants to share.

Lifting the box from the floor to the coffee table, she leans over to better dig through it. The wrapped ornament she was looking for is nestled in the corner, next to some popsicle stick tree ornaments she and Avery made together. Carefully unwrapping the ornament from Tom, she decides both have an equal place on the Christmas tree this year. Both have made her the woman she is today…

She admires the individuality of the hand blown glass ornament he’d bought at the Christkindlmarkt the year they’d spent the holiday together in Germany. It had been too painful to look at after he left her in Paris, so it had been hidden in the bottom of the box. The Christmas box that went from Paris, to the US and survived the fire, and followed her to Madrid. Holding it up to the light of the setting sun coming through the window, the colors dance and swirl, making her feel warm and happy.

Turning up the volume on the Christmas music playing from her tablet, she places the conversation with Stacey out of her mind. Stacey, who always worried about her, always pushed her to find a man to take care of her. “That’s her life. Not mine. I can take care of myself.”

Realizing she’d spoken aloud, she shakes her head. With her free hand, she loops the ribbon from the handmade child’s ornament over one finger and an angel ornament her father had given her over another. Thalia carries them to the tree, adding the last additions to the tiny little tree on the table top window. Tapping the bottom of a Disney ornament Chris had gifted her on a trip, she watches it spin, laughing when it bumps the hotdog one she and Tom bought their first Christmas together, when he’d surprised her in Chicago, to commemorate their feast at Portillo’s. Always a battle between those two. She laughs out loud, stepping back to admire the tree. Tilting her head to the little display of colorful ornaments collected over the years from her travels, something feels like it’s missing.

With a sigh, she reaches for her phone and snaps a quick picture. Attaching it to a message, she sends Tom a little note: Something’s missing from my tree! Bring your tartan wool scarf this weekend. It would make the perfect wrap around the base. Found another little note… Thank you!

When she re-reads the message, it gives her pause. These notes he’s left for her. The messages they send each other. How things automatically remind her of Tom or how he will sometimes give her impulsive calls just to share a tidbit of new knowledge–this isn’t what two people in a casual affair would do.

Deep down she knows that there’s nothing ‘casual’ about her feelings for him. Never was, never will be. The thought is scary…and yet it doesn’t terrify her as much as it would have some years ago.

Click ahead to Chapter 34: A Better Man

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

Labor of Love

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Labor of Love

*an Emery&Chris fan fiction*

By avenger-nerd-mom

Word Count:  2363

Summary: Chris and Emery finally welcome their new little one into the world.

April 2019

Walking back to his trailer, Chris fumbles for his phone, nearly dropping it in the bright sun. He squints at the screen, wishing he had his sunglasses with him. The sunlight is deceiving- it’s not as warm as it appears. But since the weekend is supposed to be warmer, he promised his nephews a day at the park Saturday. Watching them play soccer. He chuckles, remembering all the “hot soccer Dad” comments Emery told him about after the weekend press conference.

“Call Emery,” he speaks softly into the phone, waving at a group of fans standing across the street. His handler opens the trailer and he steps inside, flopping in the seat closest to the door. He waits to see her face, surprised when she simply answers as a call, rather than a video chat.

“Hey, Jellybean!” Emery weakly exclaims. “You about done on set today?”

Chris reaches for the call sheet on the other end of the couch. Glancing over it, he replies, “Yeah, about another hour or two. They wanna reshoot one scene, but it shouldn’t take long-”
“Was that an actual ice cream shop, or a set? You know I want ice cream.”

“Fuckin’ internet… You’ve already seen fan photos, haven’t you?” Chris chuckles. “Yes, it was a real store.” Ice cream has been one of her pregnancy cravings, along with steak and Capn’ Crunch Peanut Butter cereal.  He can’t keep track of her favorites from week to week. Hell, it’s probably changed in the few days while I was gone to LA for Endgame promo. “What do you want me to bring home?”

“Something with toffee, and pecans.” She says the word in her funny little Southern drawl, ‘pea-CANS.’ “Buttery, vanilla, not chocolate. But, babe, don’t bring it home.” She clears her throat. Stronger, she tells him, “I need you to bring it to the hospital.”

Chris sits up tall, dropping both feet to the floor, ready to jump up in action. “Hospital! Emery, are you in labor? Why didn’t you call me!”

“You’re a nervous Nelly. And I knew you were looking forward to today’s shoot. Labor’s gonna take forever. The only thing you’ve missed so far is me throwing up, more than once, and sleeping.” She yawns, making a little puffing sound. “Real exciting stuff.”

Dammit, she would keep it to herself, not to worry me… Throwing open the trailer door, he waves the closest staffer over. Holding the phone between his ear and shoulder, he grabs the man’s clipboard and scribbles, ‘Labor. Leaving. Top Secret.’ Pushing the board back to the shocked man, he lunges for his keys on the counter, exiting the trailer in two large steps and slamming the door behind him. “Tell me everything,” he growls into the phone.

There’s a pause, and he can’t hear her over the sound of the crowd yelling at him. “Chris, relax. If you rush outta there like a mad man, it’ll be all over the Internet before you can even get here. I don’t want fans or press showing up here. We talked about that. Call me back when you get to the car. I promise, you’re not gonna miss the birth of our baby.”

She sounds tired, worn out. “Em? Is everything okay?”

“Just get here.”

The phone line goes silent. Staring at the phone, he can’t believe she hung up on him. Or called him a ‘nervous Nelly.’ What even is that Southernism? He shakes his head, and makes a beeline to another staffer, trying to remember his plan of attack if this situation came about this way. Quickly explaining his predicament, he asks the man to get the ice cream, telling him to come find the unmarked sedan on the back of the lot. Chris smiles wryly at the man’s confused expression as he turns towards the car that’s been provided to get him to and from set with little recognition.

As the man jogs away, one of the executive producers walks up to Chris, pointing him in the opposite direction. “I heard. Congratulations,” he offers, clapping his hand on Chris’s shoulder. “Tabby’s gonna drive you. That’ll help you pull yourself together. I’ll send John over with the ice cream.” He speaks into his walkie talkie, relaying a new delivery point for the pint. “You can get outta here in just a few minutes. She doin’ okay?”

Chris shrugs his shoulders, his face expressing his unease. “No clue. She hung up. I’m guessing Ma is with her, but no one told me anything. That’s pretty fucked up,” he mumbles.

“Man, relax, women been havin’ babies for centuries. At least it’s early, and you’re not on another continent…” Chris bows his head, realizing how lucky he is for this small favor. “Call me with the news, and we can shift some schedules around. Take the family time you need.” He pats Chris on the back, passing him off to Tabby, the set intern.

“Family,” Chris sighs, his heart swelling with pride.

***

Settled in the back of the car, ice cream rested next to his thigh, Chris calls Emery again.

His mother in law answers the call. “She’s sleeping, Chris. The medicines make her fall asleep at the drop of a hat, mid-sentence. Want me to wake her?”

“Anita, just tell me. What’s wrong? I’m trying to get there as fast as I can.” He calculates quickly. “Traffic, this time of day, I can make it over there in about thirty minutes.”

“Believe me, son. You’ve got time. This little one is gonna be just as stubborn as it’s Daddy. Baby E doesn’t wanna say hello just yet.”

He nervously wipes his beard, watching out the front window as the driver maneuvers around traffic.

“Chris, she’s okay. Her amniotic fluid started to leak while we were on our morning walk. She wasn’t really having contractions or anything, but we decided to call Dr. Puckett. She was already at the hospital and told us to come in.” She breathes out slowly. “Emery’s having contractions, small but not enough to move the delivery along. Because of all the troubles she’s had, the medical team decided to give her Pitocin to speed things up, not put any more stress on her body.” His mother in law sighs. “She’s strong, honey. She’s gonna be okay. The medicines made her sick, but she’s walked around some-

“Why didn’t anyone call?” He swallows hard, trying to hold back his irritation.

“You know her, she wouldn’t let us. Said you were working, and Dr. Puckett said things were going to be slow. She begged your mom and I not to call you-

“Let me talk to Ma,” he barks, hitting his head back against the seat.

His mom’s soothing voice immediately calms him. “Chris, sweetheart. Everyone’s fine. She wanted you to work. The doc agreed it was gonna be several hours. You’re gonna be here. Baby E will be a week or two early, but healthy, and it’ll give you something to talk about on the the press tour besides spilling Marvel secrets.” There’s noise and a low moaning, almost a whimper. He taps the back of the driver’s seat and motions to drive faster. When his mother speaks again, she tells him. “The doc just came in here now, and it looks like they’re gonna attach a monitor around her belly. She’s waking up and you’ll be able to see her when you get here.”

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With only the sack of ice cream in his hand, he jogs down the long hallway. He tips his hat low to avoid recognition. Other new fathers carry flowers or stuffed animals, and somewhere down the hallway, a small baby cries. Normally the activity in the maternity wing would make him smile, but today he can only focus on one thing. His wife.

His love. His life. His whole world.

Nearing the room, he spies Dr. Puckett ahead, looking over a patient chart with another nurse. He stands back, leaning against the wall, clearing his throat and waiting for her attention. She lifts her head at the sound, smiling. With a small, delicate motion of her hand, she waves him over. “Chris, good to see you.” She shakes his hand, and nods to the nurse at her side. “This is Amber, she’s the best. She’s been with Emery all day, and plans to stay through, all right?” He nods. “Have you seen her yet?”

Crumpling the bag tighter in his hand, he shakes his head no.

“She looks a little pale, but she’s tough. Her body isn’t responding to the Pitocin, and she’s only dilated about four centimeters. With the amniotic fluid leaking, she does run a risk of infection-”

“Doc, is she going to be okay? I don’t wanna be an ass, but we can make another baby or adopt, but God help me, if anything happens to her-”

Placing her hand on Chris’s arm, Dr. Jamie Puckett’s exhaustion shows on her face. “Emery is fine, I promise, but the baby’s heart rate is dropping. The nurses are going to come in soon, and prep her for a C-section. I know that wasn’t really the plan, but in order to keep baby and Mom safe, I think it’s best.”

“Does she know yet?” Chris asks, trying to keep his voice steady.

The doctor shakes her head. “No, I was waiting till you arrived. Why don’t you go see her for a few minutes, and then I’ll be in and we’ll go get Baby E. You’ll be holding your baby within the next few hours.”

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Chris stirs from his chair as the nurse comes in, the morning rounds just beginning.

“Sorry to wake you,” she whispers.

Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he stands, his old bones creaking. Shit, maybe I’m too old for this Dad stuff, he thinks. “Didn’t get much rest.” The gravel in his voice is proof. He’d spent the night watching his wife and their tiny little one sleeping.

He needs coffee, in an IV, stat.

Memories of the night before flash through his mind, like a movie montage, nothing settled in place to seem real yet. The quiet afternoon, watching her sleep. Her strength and string of expletives when the epidural was administered. The rush to the operating room as both Emery’s and baby’s heart rates dropped. Suiting up in his new favorite uniform. Standing helpless, not wanting to see on the other side of the curtain. Holding their baby for the first time. Calling the mothers in for their first peek. The first attempt at breastfeeding.

The nurse checks some readings on the monitors, making notes in her charts. She quietly addresses Chris. “The pediatrician will be in soon, to check over the baby, and the lactation specialist. When your wife wakes-”

“I’m up,” says a sleepy voice. “Bring me my baby. And coffee. Can I have coffee? Like in an IV. Just inject it into my veins.”

Chris’s laughter draws her attention. He can see her struggle to turn to him. The drugs are still in her system, making all her movements sluggish.

“Hey, sexy Daddy. You thought the same thing, didn’t you?”

With tears in his eyes, he leans over and caresses his lips over her forehead. “You are mine, you know that, right?” The strong actor chuckles, weak in the knees. “You were made for me.”

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Grabbing the collar of his t-shirt, she pulls him close, tenderly kissing his plump, inviting mouth. “Yeah, and together we made something special, a baby. Ours-” She kisses him again. “I want it, and I want coffee.”

The nurse giggles, “Now, Miss Emery,” she says calmly, like talking to a petulant child. “We talked about that yesterday. No coffee yet, not if you’re going to breastfeed.” She smirks at Emery’s huffing. “But you can take a sip or two of his.” She tilts her head to Chris, as he gently climbs into the hospital bed next to his wife.

“Fine. Bring him one. A big one. Thank you,” she says as a second thought, remembering her manners. The nurse drops the chart in the holder by the door. “Oh, can you get me a cheeseburger?” Emery calls out as the nurse leaves the room.

“Babe, it’s barely eight am.” Chris teases, cautiously lifting her upper body from the bed to tuck her to his side, his arm resting gently around her shoulders.

“Don’t care.” She scratches her cheek absently. The skin is swollen and red from an allergic reaction to the mask placed over her face during her surgery. “I had a baby last night. I want what I want.”

Sitting on the bed next to her, his exhausted, amazing wife settles against his chest. He breathes deeply, inhaling her scent, and he feels his world fall into place.

“I’m gonna be hearing about that for months, years, aren’t I?”

She pokes him in the ribs. “Big enough they had to cut it out. You made a tiny monster.” She giggles, loopy from medications. She rubs low across her belly, wincing as her hands near the bandages covering the incision. “Almost seven pounds. How was that even inside me? How is that even possible? No wonder complete strangers stopped to ask if I was having twins!”

“You know,” he says, twisting her fingers into his hand and raising them to kiss the back of her fingertips, careful not to bump her IV, “it’s not an ‘it’ now.”

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“‘It’ has Daddy’s eyelashes.”

He chuckles, kissing the top of her head. “‘It’ has Mommy’s red hair.”

Before they can finish their verbal tease, she falls back to sleep peacefully. He continues to sooth his fingers through her hair, enjoying their last few minutes alone.

“Love you, forever, Em.” Squeezing her tightly, he lays back against the pillow, hoping to get some more rest of his own.

after baby cuddle

With the little bundle snuggled in his arms, wrapped tightly in a Captain America blanket, Chris steps into the lounge, full of family and friends. “Hey, everyone,” he says with enough authority to garner everyone’s attention, but not to wake the baby. “Thought you’d wanna meet Kaileigh Grace Evans.”

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Author’s Note: Remember in Surprises Ahead? Emery tells Chris, “Read it with a Southern accent. The first syllable? Rhymes with ‘thai.”

**Images found on Pinterest**

Story will update when Muse strikes. I actually wrote a baby story 3+ years ago, but in the vision I wrote from, I didn’t know the baby’s name or gender. In February 2019, the name just popped in my head one morning while I was in the shower! Until that moment, I had no idea if it was going to be a little boy or girl for the Evans’!

If you want to know more about Emery and Chris, read the novella Georgia on My Mind, and their additional stories

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

Facing Demons

ch 16 Facing Demons Feb 24 2019

Being Thalia

Chapter 16

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 in Madrid 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: 2496

Summary: An old friend appears on Thalia’s doorstep bearing news.

Previous Chapter, Reaching Out

September 2021

The afternoon sun feels like summer. The museum will be closing soon, but Thalia’s shift actually ended hours ago. She rests on the marbled steps at the main entrance, reading the book her therapist suggested shortly after her sessions started over a month ago. She looks up when Antonio sits down beside her. “¿Qué estás leyendo?” He asks.

She shows him the cover of the book, knowing his reading of the English language isn’t that great. He simply nods like he understands. “Looks interesting.” He rests his elbows back on the stair behind him and stretches out his long legs. He doesn’t say anything else, so she goes back to her reading, making notes in the margins. She’d almost forgotten he was there when he asks again a few minutes later, “Thalia? Can we go out again? I feel like I didn’t make a very good impression… I mean,” his foot wiggles nervously as he talks, belying his confidence. “It’s not like it’s affected our working together, but really, I’d just like to know you better.”

Thalia closes her book, resting it on her lap and leaning forward on her elbows. She rests her chin in her hands and turns her face to look at him. “Antonio, honestly, it was nothing you did.” She releases one of her hands and runs it over her eyebrow. “It’s so cliche, but it’s me. I woke up in a man’s place, with his dog, surrounded by domestic things, and I just… I can’t. No puedo… I can’t go down that path again.”

He reaches over and runs his hand over her thigh and she pulls away. “Don’t. Please don’t touch me like that. Don’t touch me without my… my consent.” She sucks in her breath and tries to soften her voice. “I had a… thing happen years ago, and I don’t like to be touched.”

Mi dama, I had no idea, I meant nothing by it,” he begins.

“I know, I know you didn’t, but I don’t respond well to touches. Unless you want your glasses broken,” she scrunches up her nose, “I suggest you don’t do that unless I say it’s okay.”

He nods. “I understand, Thalia.” His English is broken and his accent truly is foreign to her. The language of Spain sounds different than the lilt of Puerto Rican Spanish. Most of their conversations are in their native language for work, but speaking in English allows her the upper hand now. “I was just suggesting… Well, what I’m trying to say is, I’m not looking for a relationship… But you were fun. I liked having you in my bed, under me, riding me, and I’d like that again.”

She slowly breathes out. “No Antonio. I don’t think I’m your dama. That’s not for me.” She stands up, smoothing out her skirt. Bending to reach her bag, she can feel his eyes peeping down her top, and a chill washes over her.

“I won’t force myself on you, Thalia, but I’d really like to take you to dinner, to take you home with me.”

“Listen, arsehole, I believe I already heard her say ‘no’ once. How many more times does she need to say it?”

Thalia fists her hand at her side, spinning quickly to see Tom standing a few steps away, holding a bouquet of pale pink and white flowers.

“Oleanders,” she whispers, tears springing to her eyes, clouding her vision.

Tom steps forward, ignoring the man still sitting at her feet. “You once told me it was grossly improper to not bring flowers for a date, that a proper British gentleman would know that…”

She chokes on her words, barely able to swallow. Her sound is little more than a whisper.  “And you told me oleander flowers were a symbol of seduction and attraction. And for leaving the past behind you, and enjoying what’s in front of you…”

“I’m in front of you now,” Tom says quietly. “I’m here.”

Antonio stands up and wipes his hands on his pants. He huffs, “Well, I can’t compete with that level of courtship, so I’m just gonna leave.”

“Good idea,” Tom curtly replies as the other man walks away.

Thalia is frozen on the spot. She can’t breathe, can’t think. She feels like she’s going to pass out.

“Thalia?”

“Tom, what are you doing here?” She whispers. “You’re getting married in two weeks.”

Tom’s face pales and he nervously sticks his tongue out, licking his lip. “No. No, I’m not. I don’t know if I’m a coward, or the bravest man in the world. But I broke it off. I could never marry anyone else, never truly love anyone else. Thalia. It’s always been you; you have always been mine. My Warrior Princess…”

“Fuck you,” she chuckles as tears fall from her eyes. She pushes past him, moving down the steps.  She hears him call her name, but she doesn’t even look back as she dashes around the corner.

***

Hours later, when there’s a knock on her door, she’s ready. Any space that can be seen from the front door is tidy, and the dishes have been washed, dried and put away. Facing demons can be a great motivator for housework. Changed from her work clothes, she feels more comfortable in an old blouse and jeans. Walking to the door, she nervously fluffs her hair, arranging it over her shoulder. She slides the chain across and opens the door.

“Not even going to ask who it was first?” He smiles.

Tom, of course.

“I knew you’d already tracked me down. Finding me at work was just a formality, so you could sweep in with a grand gesture.” Her voice is hard and cold, desperately trying to cover her nerves.
Forlornly, he looks down to the wilted flowers in his hands. “Grand gesture, eh?”

“You were always good at those, and bold announcements. Still are, I see,” she mocks, referring to the news of his broken engagement. She holds out her hand for the withered bouquet. “You plan to hold those all night?”

He bows his head sheepishly and hands them to her. She drops them carelessly onto a side table by the door. Reaching for her wallet, she steps forward and he steps back, confused. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“You can’t come in here. It’s my safe haven.” She sighs. “I battle enough memories in there. I don’t need to actually have you in the flesh, in my apartment.”

At the word ‘flesh,’ his eyes darken, and he struggles to hold back a smile. She bites her tongue, not willing to give in, to acknowledge she saw it. “I haven’t eaten. You can take me for tapas.”

Her heels click across the pavement stones as he follows her down the covered walkway, back onto the busy sidewalk. The city is alive at night, people everywhere, rushing for nightly errands, meeting with friends, and vying for tables at crowded restaurants. She’s aware he keeps a few steps behind her. She tamps down the desire to add a little extra wiggle to her hips as she walks, not wanting to encourage him in any way. Reaching her destination, she pulls the door open and is met with a cool rush of air. The shop clerk greets her with a kiss on the cheek. “Buenas noches, Thalia, bienvenidos.” Thalia nods and returns the kiss to the young woman’s cheek. “¿Quién es el hombre guapo y enfadado?”

Thalia rolls her eyes. “Lucía,” pronouncing her name with a muted ‘th’ sound in place of the ‘c,’ “That’s Tom, and he speaks Spanish.”

“Oh,” Lucia blushes, then stammers in broken English, “Let me find you a quiet table in the back.”

Thalia nods, ignoring the man behind her. She can feel his anger rising. “No, center of the floor, lots of noise is fine. This is not a date,” she says loudly for the benefit of the seething man.

Lucía’s blush deepens. Picking up two menus, she leads them to a small table, off to the side of the room, near a bank of windows looking out to the busy street. She whispers, “Don’t kick him out of bed before you even get him there, mujer!”

Thalia hisses, “That’s exactly where I don’t want him!” She sits down quickly, so Tom doesn’t have time to properly seat her. He scowls as he sits down. “Tell Pablo I’m ready to order as soon as-”

“Lucía,” Tom interjects, tenderly placing his hand on the woman’s arm. He repeats the proper pronunciation of the girl’s name, following Castilian Spanish, and changes the sound of the letter ‘C’ in her name. “Lo siento que mi amiga está grosera…” He glares at Thalia. “Quiero ver la carta de vinos, y traenos un plato de los aperitivos mejores que la restaurante tiene. Por favor.”

Lucía looks to Thalia, worried, but Thalia waves her away. “You can’t just come here, show up at my house, think everything will be better and then boss my friends around. It doesn’t work that way, Tom.”

“Boss her around? I was being polite. You’re the one acting like a shrew, with a chip on your shoulder. She’s a lovely girl.” Tom watches as the young girl relays his order to a server. “She’s just doing her job, and you’re acting like a spoiled child because you’re mad at me. No sense to be rude.”

Thalia narrows her eyes. “Don’t call me a ‘spoiled child.’”

“Why not? You always want your way.” She can see Tom is holding back laughter.

“Me?” Her voice raises and her cheeks glow with a fiery anger. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. You never even talked to me, gave me time to explain myself. You got pissed when I wasn’t always at your beck and call, wouldn’t play the role as your submissive servant, you son of a bitch.”

The waiter clears his throat, handing Thalia a drink. “Your usual, and for you, señor, the wine list.” He sets a loaded plate of tasty treats on the table. He nods to the item on the menu Tom points to, but looking to Thalia, he inquires, “Is everything ok? Will that be all?”

She smiles to him, wondering exactly what he overheard. “Thank you, Pablo. That should be it.”

Thalia jerks her leg out from under the table. “Keep your damn long legs to yourself. There’s enough space here so you don’t have to be touching me.”

Her nerves are alive, frazzled, messages jumping from synapse to synapse, but she’ll be damned if she’ll give him cause to make a move on her. Just because she’s dreamt about him for weeks now doesn’t mean it’s a possible reality. She tucks her feet up under her chair, keeping a safe distance.

Tom grins, popping an olive from the tray into his mouth. He licks his thumb and cocks his eyebrow. “I get under your skin… After all this time, and you still don’t know how to control it, darling, do you?” He runs his hand down his chest before reaching for the napkin on the table and lazily draping it across his lap. When she doesn’t reply to his rhetorical question, he leans forward, eyeing the plate of food. “It all looks so delicious. So mi madreleña, tell me what this is?” He points to the oddly cut potatoes on the dish.

Thalia defeatedly sighs. She’s reminded of Tom’s holiday trip to Chicago years ago when she educated him on delicacies the locals enjoyed. They always found a way to bond over food. Maybe dragging him to a restaurant wasn’t the best idea, but she’d been so hungry, she couldn’t think of a better plan. “Those are patatas bravas, they’re kind of like hash-brown potatoes, I guess? And there are two dipping sauces, this tomato-based one” she points, “and this aioli, which is mayonnaise seasoned with garlic. I’d basically equivocate aioli in Spain to the American obsession with Ranch dressing on everything.”

Tom shudders. “Dreadful. Why ruin perfectly good food with Ranch?” he reaches for a potato wedge and dips it in the sauce. He slowly chews, a smile breaking across his face. He points to her, wanting her to eat. She puts a few on her plate and spoons out some of the aioli for herself. “Wonderful! What else?”

She points to a pile of fried pillows. “These are croquetas, and have beef, fish, or fried vegetables inside. I eat here a lot, so they’re probably mostly beef if Pablo was thinking when he placed the actual order. Those are the ones I like best.”

Tom takes a bite. “Fish? Cod, maybe?” She nods. Looking around the restaurant, he watches the locals, mostly business men and women, who’ve stopped to get a bite to eat before moving on for the evening. “Nice little place, close to your home; I can see why you like it.” He smiles at Lucía as she walks by, seating a couple at a table nearby.  He notices a treat on other tables, not placed on theirs. “No gazpacho?”

Now it’s her turn to shudder. “Cold tomato soup? No thank you. That’s worse than Ranch on everything.”

Tom continues to eat heartily while Thalia nibbles at her food. “Thalia? You’re not eating? You’re not on a diet or anything, are you?”

She sets her glass on the table, fisting her hand next to the stem of the glass. “Why would you ask that? Do you think I need to diet?”

He quickly swallows the piece of potato he was chewing. “God, no.” His eyes dart up and down,taking in her voluptuous figure, turning dark again. “You still have the most amazing body, the most delicious curves…” He leans forward. “Images of your form haunt my dreams at night, in the best of ways, love.”

She flushes and her freckles show under her warm dark skin. “I’m not your ‘love,’ Tom.”

Tom takes a long sip of his wine, before placing the glass down. “You could be, dear. It’s obvious you have some animosity towards me, probably rightly so. I’ve just shown up on your doorstep, quite literally, and told you I left my fiancée. Let me make that totally clear to you. I realized after seeing you in London, I couldn’t continue without you. I could never love another the way that I love you. As obstinate as you are, and as much as we butt heads, you are the one who makes me whole, who drives me to move forward and better myself. Thalia Bareo, I’ve cleared everything in my life for you.”

“Tom,” she says, mustering as much strength as she can. She pushes back from the table, placing her napkin on her plate as she stands. “I never asked you to do that for me.”

With the strength of an army, she commands her feet to move forward, to carry her home, so she can collapse on her couch in tears.

Click here to read Chapter 17, Girls’ Night

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

Surprises Ahead

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Surprises Ahead

An Emery&Chris story

By avenger-nerd-mom

Word Count: 3137

Warnings: Language, Domestic Fluff, so cute it’s sickening

Summary: Emery is fed up with snowy Boston winters and misses her hard working husband.

Previous Chapter, Christmas Presents

February 2019

Tired from a long morning on set, and travel, actor Chris Evans really just wants to crawl in bed and sleep for a few hours. But there’s more work to be done before he can rest. Turning into a familiar spot, he places the car in park, just as his phone begins to ring. Pulling the phone from his pocket, he doesn’t even bother with hellos. “Hey, Kitten, I was just getting ready to call you. I-”

“Christopher Robert!” Emery’s voice shrills through the connection. “You called Dr. Puckett’s office?”

Removing his sunglasses, he rubs his hands over his face. “Shit, they told?” He rests his head against the plush headrest, not really surprised.

“Of course they did. They had strict orders not to give out any information, in case I was being followed to appointments by paparazzi, or whatever.” She huffs and the sound of metal clangs.

“What are you doing?” He asks, sitting up and shifting in the seat. He looks around his surroundings and frowns. “You’re not supposed to be moving around too much.”

“For your information, I had to pee. Baby E is pressing on my bladder. I went to the bathroom, is that okay with you?” Even her Southern drawl is unable to hide the irritation in her voice.

He bites back his chuckle, stretching his legs and pulling the key from the ignition. “I suppose, if you must.” He laughs when she calls him an ‘asshole’ under her breath, his favorite term of endearment. “What’s the other noise I hear?”

Emery sighs. “I’m doing laundry. I was sick, again, this morning, so the sheets needed to be washed. And I’m supposed to get some movement in during the day. I was going to finish this up, eat some lunch, and then take a nap. Hopefully dream about my favorite actor,” she giggles. “He’s kinda cute.”

“You are talkin’ about me, right? I’m still your favorite?” Chris reaches for the bag in the front seat next to him. Getting the conversation back on the original track, he says, “Okay, so I get the doctor’s office isn’t supposed to give out information, but I’m your husband. They even asked for the password, in case I was scamming them. That was good thinking, by the way.” He climbs down out of the rented SUV, and stretches his legs. “You seriously told them not to tell me anything without a written note and video approval?”

He shakes his head, remembering the phone call with the office staff yesterday. He’d made the secretary repeat herself. ‘Yes, Mr. Evans. Sorry, it says here in the chart you are, and I quote, ‘a sneaky liar and can charm anyone’ and we aren’t supposed to give you that information without a written note and video. And if you question it, we are supposed to tell you the video is required in case you might try to forge your wife’s signature.’

Downey had a good laugh over that one, knowing his young bride had his number pegged. ‘Man, she’s got you by the balls. I knew I liked her!’

He reaches for his bag from the back seat, and slings it over his shoulder.

The washer door clangs. “I knew you’d get itchy and want to know. I can’t believe you tried to go behind my back and ask MY doctor the sex of our baby.” He hears the plastic basket drop to the ground. “It’s the first time I’m ever gonna get a surprise and know I’m gonna love it, no matter what it is.”

“I was a surprise,” he says, balancing the paper sack in his arms and reaching for another key in his pocket. “You weren’t expecting me to answer your dating profile.”

“Evans, I’m still not sure I like you,” she sneers. “You know I hate surprises. Oh shit. Hang on. I’m gonna have to call you back. Someone’s ringing the doorbell.”

“It’s probably Joanna’s kid. Wasn’t he supposed to come by and shovel the driveway today?”

“Yeah, but he had three other jobs lined up too. How can I hang up if you’re still talking to me?” He can hear her patter towards the door and he can’t wipe the smile from his face.

The door flies open and a blast of cold Boston air pushes her hair back, loose tendrils swirling around her. “Chris!”

Wrapping his free hand around her waist, Chris gently picks her up off the ground and carries her back a step or two. He kicks the door closed with his solid boot and sets the food down on the stairs before wrapping his other hand under her tousled hair. “God, I’ve missed you. I hope you don’t mind this surprise.”

Placing her on the ground, he bends to kiss her lips tenderly, sucking in her breath. He laughs at the salty tears streaming down her face and kisses the tip of her nose. “I missed you too much, Kitten,” he whispers.

She grabs his sweater and buries her face in his chest, inhaling deeply. “Oh honey, this is the best surprise yet. I really wasn’t expecting you. I was getting too worried about flying to LA alone.” She steps closer and wraps her arms around him, digging her hands in his back pockets. “You smell so good. I need this. Need you.”

He sways on his feet, rocking her gently side to side, to a silent rhythm only he hears. His hands caress over her tangled hair, and he kisses the top of her head. Several moments pass, before a quiet ‘meow’ is heard on the stairs and a little paw scratching at the bag.

“I know you hate surprises. But are you up for another one?” He turns her slightly to see the bag in question. The cat turns and runs away.

“Tasty Burger?” She smiles, her nose sniffing the air. “What’s in the sack?”

Chris grabs her hand in his, and the bag with the other, leading her to the kitchen. “I didn’t know what you’d want, so I got a selection. Fries and onion rings, the chicken parm sandwich and some burgers. And a chocolate milkshake.” He reaches into the large bag, pulling out the peace offering and handing it to her.

She takes a sip, the thick, chocolatey nirvana slowly reaching her lips. She looks down into the large bag, pulling out a sack of fries. “All of it. I want all of it,” she says, grabbing an onion ring looped over some fries. Emery tucks her hand under her growing belly and pulls herself onto the bar stool at the counter bar. “I’m not kidding. I want some of the chicken parm and a burger.”

Chris taps her ass, turning around and taking a knife from the block by the stove. “Fine. We’ll share.” He hands her the utensil. “You cut and decide which part you want, I’ll eat the other half.”

“Which burger?” she asks, nibbling on a fry and unwrapping the chicken sandwich.

Walking to the fridge, Chris opens the matte silver doors and gets two water bottles. “The one with bacon? I think it has gorgonzola cheese on it.”

“What kinda weird Italian crap is that? We don’t have that down South. Kraft and Velveeta. That’s what goes on a burger.” She smiles, teasing him, licking the tomato sauce from the chicken sandwich from her thumb. Biting into the crispy chicken, a glob of the sauce dribbles from her lip. Chris reaches over and tenderly scoops it off, licking his own thumb.

“You’re adorable when you pretend to hate it up here. But Scott sent me pictures of you playing in the snow the other day with Carly and the kids. Admit it, you love it?” Chris asks, hopeful she does indeed love his hometown as much as he does.

“I just wasn’t expecting you to be gone so much this winter, while I’m pregnant. That’s all. I hate feeling like everyone has to take care of me.” Emery chows down another bite of the chicken sandwich, breaking off the stringy cheese with her finger. “I don’t know my way around yet, and Shanna and your mom watch me like a hawk. No one will let me drive in the snow… I don’t feel very independent.”

Chris nods, understanding. “I have a job down South, in a few weeks. Would you like to go home, stay in Savannah, see your family?” He takes a handful of fries, under her watchful eye, and shoves them in his mouth.

Her eyes light up as she bites into an onion ring, pulling the onion from the fried casing. “I’d love that, but we have to see what Dr. Puckett says.” She drops the onion on her plate, but eats the crispy coating. “She was already a little nervous about me flying in a few days.”

“So am I,” he admits. “That’s why I’m home early. I don’t want you flying alone. All of your flight details have been changed, Lucy took care of it.” He looks away from her glare. “I know you hate the idea of your own personal assistant, but it’s been a big help, as long as you keep her in the loop. She’s gotta know your speaking engagements at schools so you aren’t double booked like you were with that magazine interview.”

“I got along just fine handling everything, I still don’t see it’s necessary.” Her new PA annoys her, but she’ll admit, she hasn’t really given the younger woman a chance yet.

“You have pregnancy brain, and keep forgetting things, Em,” he says softly, caressing her arm. “After the baby comes, and the press tour and baby stuff is all over, we can let her go if you really don’t feel you need her. But it makes me feel better knowing you have someone else looking out for you.”

Emery purses her lips. “Okay. Fine.” Her voice is not fine. “She’s temporary. So what changes did you two make without telling me?”

Chris swallows hard, pulling his hand back. “Point heard. Ok? We’ll talk things out. I just wanted to come home, and surprise you. I thought it would be a nice surprise?” He looks at her with puppy dog eyes and smiles when she nods her head. “We can fly out Tuesday, after we see Dr. Puckett, or we can wait and go Wednesday like you originally planned, but we’ll go out to LA together. You still have fittings for your dress Thursday, but the rest of the week is just us, relaxing.” He picks bacon from his sandwich, savoring the smokey flavor. He keeps quiet, holding out another secret from her. He doesn’t want to ruin the surprise that the Downeys and Ruffalos are planning a baby shower for her Friday night when they’re all in LA together. He nibbles another piece of the bacon. “I don’t know when my rehearsals are scheduled yet. Fuck, I hate presenting.”

“Oh, but you look so damn good in a tux. So confident. The Oscars are kinda boring, but watching you makes it fun. It always has for me.”

“Well, at least one of us enjoys it.” Chris stands on the rung of the bar stool and reaches across the counter top. “What’s this?”

“More names, just scribbles really.” Taking a big bite of the burger, Emery moans appreciatively. “That’s good shit,” she whispers. “Gorgonzola. Who would have guessed?” Going in for another bite, she quickly drops it onto the wrapper, clapping her hands together excitedly. “Oh my, God. I know. I have her name! It came to me the other day.”

“I thought we already decided,” Chris says, dragging a fry through the tomato sauce on the chicken parmesan sandwich. Deciding on baby names has been a constant give and take between the pair, trying to come up with something ‘just right.’

“No, you liked it, and I said no combination with anything remotely similar to any ex’s name. That really rules out a lot of names, Babe.”

He playfully swats her shoulder. “So you’re thinking that bump is a girl now?” Chris rubs his hands over her belly, grinning when he feels a little kick.

“I think it’s a soccer team. Whatever it is, it kicks too damn much, makes me pee all the time,” she happily caresses the bump, “and I’m still not over morning sickness yet.”

“This will be a fun flight to LA.” He bemoans quietly, withering from her glaring look.

Emery rolls her eyes and pulls a pen from her hair, her coppery red curls cascading around her shoulders. “Here.” She scribbles something on the page, tearing off the corner and handing it to Chris. “We’re agreed on a middle name, right?” He nods. “Read that. Tell me what you think?”

Looking at the paper he says the name she’s written.

She shakes her head. “No, that’s not right. Read it with a Southern accent. The first syllable? Rhymes with ‘thai.’”

Chris hides his smirk. “If we give her a ‘southern accent name’ no one is ever going to say it right.” He tries again, following her advice.

She grins. “Say it again. With the middle name. The whole thing.” He does, adding the middle name they’ve agreed on and their surname Evans, and she beams with pride. “Don’t you love it?”

He holds back his thoughts, seeing her happiness. “Ok, I wanna hear you say it.” Coming from her lips, the name sounds so much better, with a distinct Southern charm. “Emery, I don’t know… It is, it is very pretty. But this spelling?” He holds up the scrap of paper. “I thought you wanted to make sure to have a ‘normal’ name, seeing how students with difficult names often struggle with it in school.”

“Anyone with language studies could figure out the phonetics, besides, her father is Captain America. Her name will have been heard in interviews, written in magazines, many times before she even starts school.” She takes another french fry. Midchew, she stops and yawns. “Will you at least think about it? I really love it.”

He nods, wrapping up the leftover food. Stealing the milkshake, he takes a long drag from the straw. He’s pretty sure they’ve just decided the name, if Baby E is a little girl. Lord help him, they’d both have him wrapped around his fingers!

He doesn’t really care, as long as the baby is healthy, but deciding a name is so daunting. So many factors involved, and ultimately the name becomes part of the child’s personality. He’s grown used to the name Emery’s presented for a son, based on her family’s traditions, since before they even talked about having children, but their discussion of girl names keeps going back and forth. The list of scribbled names on the pad in front of him is an indication of their indecisiveness.

Until this new name, this name that rhymes with ‘thai’ as the first syllable.

The name that easily rolled off his beautiful wife’s tongue, sounding so right to his ears.

“Have you screamed it yet?”

Emery smiles. “Echoes through the house perfectly. She’ll know when her little behind is in trouble.”

Chris laughs, remembering her mother’s advice. ‘Just make sure it’s a name that rolls easily when you scream it, when you’ve gotta let that kid know he’s in trouble and better come running.’

“Did you check the monogram?”

She swats his arm again, sticking out her tongue. She’d already turned down three names, knowing the monogram would be awful. She’s a Southern momma. Baby E is gonna be swaddled in monograms! She blushes. “It’s not great, but it was like this little voice was saying it to me, like she’s telling me her name.” She rubs her hands lovingly over her belly.

“You heard it, huh?” He asks, doodling the monogram on the pad of paper. He can’t control his gut busting laugh, slapping his hand to his chest for her benefit. “Oh, that’s rich, honey!” He laughs louder as she joins in. “Our brothers are gonna have a field day with that.” When his laughter dies down, he wipes his eyes. “And you swear you didn’t ask Puckett if it’s a boy or girl?”

She crosses her heart. “I swear. And based on old wives tales, I have no idea. It comes out 50/50 every time we swing my ring over my belly, or do the pencil thing.” She shrugs. “The pencil test shows the miscarriage, a boy and a girl.”

Chris rolls his eyes at the legends of the old ways. “Emery, please tell me you don’t believe all that.”

Her voice drops. “Your aunties sure make it seem real.”

“If it was real, Shanna would have five sons by now,” he reminds her, unable to hide his skepticism.

“Whatever.” She yawns, tugging her hands through her wild mane of hair, trying to settle it. “I like the name. It means you can’t tell your mom.” Emery looks at him pointedly. “I like this one. Don’t ruin this name. You know that’s why your number one choice is no longer on the table, right?”

He bows his head. “I know. I got too excited,” he confesses. “But when she starts asking me questions, sometimes I can’t help myself.”

Sneaking the last fry from his wrapper, she smiles. “Just do what I do. I’ve been telling my mom we’re naming the baby ‘Brady,’ regardless of the gender.” She wads up her napkin. “That went over well with her church group.” She giggles. “I think they’re praying for us now. One of the ladies, my old Sunday School teacher, sent a quilt she made, Patriots colors, and wished us luck on our Yankee baby.” She laughs, pointing to the pile of gifts on the table. “Some things from your family are there, too. Names I didn’t recognize, so we need to open them together.” Emery yawns again.

“Maybe later, after you nap.” Chris helps her down off the stool. “The couch, or upstairs?”

Emery pats his arm, reaching for the sack of remaining food, and puts it in the fridge. “I try not to go up and down the stairs any more than I have to.” She turns back around and drinks down the last of the milkshake. “The couch in the office,” she nods down the hallway, “is wide. I’ve been taking naps there. It’s big enough we can snuggle down together?”

Aiming his napkin for the trash can, he shoots. It bounces off the side and lands on the floor. Blushing, he rushes up to it, retrieving his trash and dropping it in. “A nap sounds like the perfect way to spend a winter afternoon.” Turning off the kitchen light, he places his hand on the small of her back. “Lead the way, little Momma.”

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE INFO AND LINK TO NEXT STORY!

In case I never get around to writing the baby shower the Downeys and Ruffalos had, this is Chris and Emery, getting ready for a date night. She had no idea he was taking her to a surprise party!

baby shower.jpg

And in case you wondered, this was how Chris announced to the world they were pregnant:

announcement.jpg

Click here to read A Fine Gentleman, part two of Oscars 2019

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Peace Offering

ch 11 peace offering feb 6 2017

Peace Offering

Being Thalia

Chapter 11

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

July 2021

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?”

chap 11 gif

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

Christmas in Munich

munich dec 19 2018

Christmas in Munich

Being Thalia

Collaboration by devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

It’s TRUE! @devikafernando and @avenger-nerd-mom are working on a SEQUEL for Educating Thalia, involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans! The two rivals are still vying for their right to claim the lovely Thalia Bareo. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago is all grown up now, holding down a job in Paris, continuing her studies and freelancing as a consultant for museums around the world.

To kick off the premiere of the sequel, Being Thalia, we’ll take a look at Christmas vacations Thalia’s shared with her men in the last two years since her graduation.

A Christmas one-shot, featuring Thalia and Tom in Munich, is posted below and the story with Chris in NYC will post December 23. The series premiere is slated for January 2, 2019!

Warning: This work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content.

Thalia and Tom decide Christmas apart seems lonely and share their love of exploring new places and things, half a world away from where they first met.

Word Count: 4583

The curvy Latina stomps her feet against the cold and readjusts her scarf. Thalia Bareo glances out across the pedestrian precinct of Munich, covered in a thin layer of snow that makes the rather harsh angles and grandeur of the South-German architecture look softer, straight out of a fairy tale.

Any moment now, he’d be there. Tom.

Watching her breath dance in front of her, Thalia peers down the steps and tries to curb her anticipation. She came to Germany for an archaeological conference three days ago and spontaneously decided to stay a bit longer and do some sight-seeing as she’d never been here before. When she mentioned it to Tom during their last phone call, he immediately latched on to the opportunity.

“Darling, why don’t I pop over there and we’ll spend Christmas together, surrounded by gingerbread and snow and people speaking in words with 30 letters?”

She laughed it off at first, thinking he was joking. The idea of being alone at Christmas, in a foreign place, had her feeling down, but she didn’t want to pull him from his family obligations, so she tried to brush it off, saying she’d explore the market and the museums alone. Thalia found out soon enough that he was serious. He cajoled and pleaded, and finally let his voice go all low and deep.

“Just imagine all the ways in which I could keep you warm. All the naughty things I could do to you until you hear the bells chime and Santa knows that you’ve been a very, very good girl for your man.”

The ‘good girl’ echoing through the phone had sent shivers down her spine, so of course she’d said yes, and now here she is, waiting for Tom to arrive. His flight must have landed about an hour ago, and he would take first an S-Bahn and then an U-Bahn to reach the Marienplatz square in the heart of Munich with its old buildings and shopping opportunities.

Shivering from a gust of wind, Thalia studies the church tower across the square, then glances back at the stairs leading up from the subway station. A familiar head emerges, lowered so she can only glimpse half of the man’s face. He’s dressed in well-worn black pants and a tight-fitting, soft-looking sweater in burgundy red, gloved hands fumbling to button up a black pea coat. The shoulder strap of a black knapsack is visible as his only baggage.

“Tom.”

At her words, the newcomer lifts his head and sees her standing there, his handsome face breaking into a glorious smile so she thinks for one moment she can hear angels sing. Butterflies dance in her belly as she steps closer. Tom’s long legs take the remaining steps two at a time and then he’s in front of her and whispers her name.

She feels herself enveloped in a bear hug, hears Tom inhale deeply before he nuzzles her hair. Though she’s opted for her favorite pink scarf and woolen gloves in a matching color, she’s not wearing a hat, and so he buries his face in her curls. His big hands stroke over her back. One slides higher and beneath the scarf to grasp her neck, and the somehow gentle yet possessive pressure of his long fingers around her throat makes her shiver.

Tom uses the grip to tilt her head back, and then his lips are on hers. Claiming, not just kissing. He tastes minty, and she wonders dimly if he’s been using gum before or during the short flight from Heathrow to Munich. Their tongues tangle, and Thalia sighs into his mouth as she lets him have his way.

When he finally breaks the kiss, she buries her face against his soft coat, clinging to him for a moment longer. Noise filters in slowly, and she realizes that more people must have exited the subway because now there’s a crowd passing them by, and the guttural sounds of German interrupt the wintry calm.

“I missed you,” she wants to say, but Tom beats her to it, his lips brushing over the shell of her ear as he gives her one last squeeze.

He takes her hand, and Thalia lowers her gaze to see he’s wearing those wild-leather gloves that some men prefer over wool. They’re as black as his pants, and something about his elegant fingers in leather as he rakes his free hand through his hair and then down the buttons of his coat makes her tingle deep inside. God, that’s surprisingly hot. It gives her the unexpected urge to see him in driving gloves and a super-fast sports car, racing off with her into the night as she has to press her thighs together while she practically melts into the luxurious seats.

Whoa, down girl. They’re barely together for a minute and she’s hot for him. Dammit, he still does this to her. Always will?

His gloved thumb is absently stroking a sliver of exposed wrist and Thalia shivers. Tom mistakes it for cold, apparently, because he sets them walking.

“Now, let’s get going. I’ve been dying to really see Munich.”

Thalia walks along, knowing she’s smiling as brightly and enthusiastically as he is. She recalls that he mentioned on the phone that he’s once been to Bavaria’s capital before.

“When did you last visit Munich?” she inquires as they join the crowd.

There are people of all ages around them, half of them with their phones glued to their ears or in their hands, the other carrying a variety of shopping bags or jostling kids. It’s the day before Christmas, and apparently some Germans still haven’t gotten all their gift shopping done. Through the biting cold with a hint of snow, enticing seasonal smells reach her nostrils: baking spices, scented candles, resin and wood.

Tom lets their joined hands swing, and it’s such an innocently happy and ‘couple’ thing to do that it makes her heart ache. Resolutely, Thalia tells herself to focus on the here and now and listen to his answer.

“Hm, it feels like ages ago. I was in my mid-twenties when I visited the Oktoberfest with my parents. God, what an experience that was.”

He chuckles to himself, a far-away look in his eyes, and Thalia indulges in a bit of fantasy. What did he look like those days? More boyish, maybe with less pronounced cheekbones and even shorter or else slightly longer hair? She pictures him dressed in the traditional leather pants outfit, grinning in delight at the beer and sausages and huge pretzels, a mischievous gleam in his eyes and a flirting lilt to his accented voice when he made all the waitresses in the festival tents swoon. Or had he been as nerdy as in his later professor days, quietly observing, gathering information, helping his mom out in a gentlemanly way? Probably a mix of both, irresistible to all girls near and far…

Thalia makes herself snap back to the present when Tom squeezes her hand and nods to the right.

“This way, if my poor, runny nose doesn’t deceive me. I think I smell food!”

With a snicker, she follows his direction and sniffs the frosty air. Oh yes, that must be the smells from the famous Munich Christmas Market, called “Christkindlmarkt” in German.

They quicken their steps, Tom adjusting the strap of his bag while they feast their eyes on all the decoration. Strings of lights hang everywhere, but it’s only afternoon and they aren’t lighted yet. There are fir branches, wreaths, decor shaped like shooting stars, angels or Christmas stockings as far as the eye can see, mixed with snow-capped signboards and (not yet) illuminated letters.

“Wow.” Thalia looks her fill at everything, counting the many different stalls and tents, half-obscured by the milling crowd. Intermingled with the strolling, conversing locals are tourists, clearly identifiable by their exotic features and their wide eyes as well as gaping mouths.

She lets Tom pull her along as they make their way from stand to stand, lingering the longest over all the food. Gloves removed so they can taste what’s on offer, the two of them get swept away by the magic of the Christmas market. Tom—of course—tries to get people to talk and tell him more, though not all of them can speak enough English to make themselves understood. Thalia just drinks in the sights, smells and sounds, her gaze often riveted on the enthusiastic man by her side. They discover gingerbread in all imaginable and unimaginable shapes and flavors. Roasted and honey-glazed almonds. Steaming chestnuts. Fragrant fruit candy. Cookies cut into lovely shapes and sold in enormous quantities, called “Plätzchen”.

Tom falls in love with something called “Vanillekipferl,” crescent-shaped soft cookies with vanilla flavor, dusted liberally with icing sugar. He buys four packs of them and stuffs them in his bag before feeding one to Thalia.

“I’m going to need a plane of my own once we’re done here,” he jokes with a wink. “When I fly back home, I’ll weigh a ton in Christmas food that I’ve gobbled up and another ton in other food that I’ve bought to take home.”

Thalia pokes his flat belly, feeling the ridges of his abs even through coat and sweater. “Very likely,” she teases. “Your belly could jiggle like a bowl full of jelly, like Santa’s!”

He gives her a mock glare and devours another of the Vanillekipferl. Catching her by surprise, he rubs his icing-sugar-dusted index finger over her lips, then leans in and licks the white powder off in thorough little kitten licks that shouldn’t be so arousing. A last sweep with his tongue, then a kiss laced with sweetness.

“Mmm, they’re even tastier like this.”

She feels herself blush and strain towards him, longing for more intimacy while at the same time a bit shocked at his PDA. She still can’t believe they can be publicly open with their feelings for each other, though she technically graduated seven months before. And she revels in the feeling, leaning in to tease him. “Maybe I can sit on your lap later?”

Tom draws back, with his usual “eheheh” laugh and a gleeful gleam still in his eyes. “Oh, Warrior Princess, you just wait to see what I have in store for you. Lots of fun things for good little girls. But first, on to more culinary discoveries!”

With an indulgent shake of her head, she follows him, hiding her growing need for him, as he pounces on an assortment of cakes including something labeled “Stollen” and coated in yet more icing sugar. They wind their way through the stalls, washing down all the sampled Christmas delicacies with a mug of mulled wine that brings color to their faces and warmth to their frozen limbs. There’s a vendor focusing on baked apples with a dozen toppings, another one on handmade key tags.

To take a break from all the food, they check out the other offerings. There are all sorts of handicrafts on display, alongside artwork and souvenirs like stuffed toys, dolls in Bavarian get-ups, and winter clothes with sometimes funny motives. Candles in all sizes, shapes, colors and scents are available, as are postcards, booklets and brochures, knick knack for low prices like snow globes, and books in German. Figurines for Christmas cribs, ornaments for the Christmas tree, as well as spirits like herbal liquor in Christmassy bottles and gift boxes give way to yet more food.

“Oh, look at these!” Tom loops an arm around Thalia’s plump waist to draw her over to a stand dedicated solely to “Lebkuchenherzen”. They’re gingerbread hearts in various designs, ranging from barely coin-sized miniatures to enormous creations with elaborate writing that even a group of ten would have difficulty eating.

“We can…make them personal,” a buxom lady minding the stalls tells them in halting English after she’s listened to Tom whoop and coo over all the hearts.

“A personalized gingerbread heart?” Tom glances at Thalia. “Shall we get one for us?” Leaning closer and lowering his voice, he adds, “We could eat it as a nightly snack. You’re going to need all the energy you can get because I plan to have my way with you as many times as you’ll let me.”

Thalia swallows, her throat suddenly dry and her face flushed from more than the alcohol.

“Okay,” she croaks out.

And so they spend a few laughing minutes deciding on what symbols and colors they want as icing on the brown base of the plate-sized gingerbread heart. Tom insists on pink orchids, which pleases the woman. Thalia requests a book, which seems to be a bit more difficult. They end up also adding glasses in white and a little heart symbol in red.

“And you vill vant text also?” the vendor asks with a smile that clearly says she approves of these two young people in love, oblivious to how complicated things are between Thalia and Tom.

That, of course, leads to several more minutes of the two of them discussing a message. All of the Shakespeare quotes Tom would love are too long, and anything Thalia can think of would be too common. They at last settle for T & T, their initials—and begin to blush and splutter and choke when the woman asks whether they want two yellow wedding rings, as a good luck charm for their future.

“Just the letters, danke,” Tom insists and then pays for the personalized sweet treat that is wrapped lovingly.

The woman’s comment seems to have put both of them in an odd mood. They finish their stroll through the market in silence, Thalia’s hands stuffed in her pockets while Tom puts his gloves back on and carries their shopping as well as the gingerbread heart.

Evening approaches so fast that it’s as if someone has thrown a switch. The lights blink on all around them, and the magic catches them in its wake, dispersing the tension. They admire the giant, lavishly decorated Christmas tree in front of the old town hall, each of them snapping a quick pic before Tom sneaks in a selfie of them together with all the splendor in the background.

“Ready to wreck a hotel bed?” he asks close to her ear, and just like that, her need for him returns.

“Ready.”

* * *

Thalia awakes to a softly stroking hand at her belly and something hot and hard wedging itself between her ass cheeks. The hand moves higher to knead her breast, and she moans herself completely awake to memories of their love-making last night when they’d returned from the Marienplatz square to their cozy if overpriced hotel. It wasn’t just sex, after the first round of frantic, bitey, I’ll-rip-your-clothes-off, desperate-need-for-you tumble in the sheets that left them dizzy, covered in sweat and light bruises.

Their second round after nibbles on the delicious goodies from the Christmas market and a glass of wine was the way she remembers it between them, thorough and at times painfully tender – and hot as hell when Tom took her from behind, letting part of his weight settle on her in an oddly possessive way.

Smiling to herself and allowing herself a shiver when Tom’s busy fingers tug at her rapidly hardening nipples, Thalia murmurs a ‘good morning’. A bit of weak winter sunshine filters into the hotel room, which is still toasty warm and carries an undertone of Christmas sweets scent in the air.

“Merry Christmas morning, darling,” Tom purrs back, nuzzling the nape of her neck.

He’s spooning her from behind, as he did when they fell asleep in each other’s arms last night. A slight thrust of his hips rubs their naked bodies together, and she bites down on her lower lip to keep the needy moan in.

“How about we let traditions go to hell and open our gifts now?” Tom interrupts her decadent thoughts. “I have a mighty need to see you enjoying yours.”

Blindly, she reaches behind them to grab for his cock and give it a stroke.

“I see my gift is already unwrapped,” she jokes, feeling smug at the stuttered moan from the man pressing her so tightly against him. It’s followed by a somewhat choked chuckle as he wraps the fingers of his free hand around her wrist and pries her hand away.

“Not this particular gift, although I do think you should show it the same thorough attention you bestowed on that candy cane yesterday.”

She blushes, the thought of licking and sucking him arousing her further. But apparently, Tom has other plans. The bed dips and the sheets rustle as he shifts his weight and extracts herself from the warm depths. Thalia rolls onto her back and watches bemusedly as he strides buck naked to his bag on the baggage rack. Her throat goes dry as she stares at his muscles bunch and flex when he bends down and retrieves two small parcels covered in shiny silver wrapping paper. He brings them to bed, hopping on with the same boyish enthusiasm that gleams in his eyes.

“Frohe Weihnachten,” he wishes her haltingly, and she’s been in Munich long enough to understand that it means ‘Merry Christmas’ in German.

“Danke,” she thanks him with one of the few words she’s picked up during the conference, wondering what on earth he might’ve got her. Two gifts? Really?

Caught up in the same excitement, she hitches the sheet higher for a bit of modesty and opens the slightly heavier parcel first. Inside the box is a leather-bound notebook with an expensive-looking black pen tucked into it. When she opens the pages, she discovers that dried flowers have been worked into the parchment-like paper.

“Oh, it’s so pretty.” She lovingly runs her fingertips over the creamy texture, then realizes that even a faint floral perfume rises from the pages. “In fact, it’s too pretty to write in,” she adds.

Tom smiles, his own fingers tracing the paper. “Save it for some special words then.”

Does he want her to use it as a diary? Maybe to write down her thoughts and feelings regarding him?

Before she can give it more thought, he nudges the second gift closer to her. “I bet you’ll find this one just as pretty,” he says, and something in his tone catches her attention. There’s a different gleam in his eyes now, and she eyes the parcel a bit wearily. It looks to be from a different shop, despite the almost matching silver wrapping paper. There’s a big, red ribbon tied around it, a tiny silver Cupid angel pasted into the middle of the knot.

She fidgets with it, suddenly nervous and acutely aware of Tom’s bare body hovering close, his breath fanning her hair.

Inside the parcel lies Christmas-red fabric, looking buttery soft to the touch. She takes it out on a gasp, her eyes widening.

“Is that…?” Blinking, she studies the beautifully naughty lingerie.

There are three pieces, one looking like an almost sheer teddy in black with a bustier of red lace and a few wires that give it the style of a corset without actually squishing a woman’s torso to death. The fabric is indeed soft and almost weightless apart from the intricately patterned lacy bra cups. The thong matches the bra. Hardly more than a wisp of red lace, but cut wide enough to be comfortable, it looks as if a decisive tug of a man’s hand will rip it right in two. Black net stockings with a garter belt make the sexy outfit complete.

“That’s…that’s…” Thalia falters, knowing her face is almost as red as the garments.

“Pretty?” Tom’s voice has taken on that low, deep timbre it always slips into during sexytimes but when she finally dares to meet his gaze, there’s trepidation in his eyes. Does he hope she likes his gift, that she doesn’t think he’s overstepped his boundaries?

She swallows. “Yes. More than that. I don’t have words.”

The hesitation in his eyes clears and he smirks widely at her. “You won’t need words. Wear them for me, my Christmas vixen?”

It’s a plea and a command all rolled into one, and Thalia finds herself nodding. She should probably feel self-conscious in the face of such lingerie, but she doesn’t. Not when Tom clearly bought this with her curves in mind and when she knows with hundred percent certainty that he doesn’t want her body to be in any other shape. And so, still blushing but buoyed by his ravenous gaze, she grabs the garments and slides off the bed. Walking into the en suite bathroom, she allows herself a quick morning wash, then dries off and slides the lingerie on. The thong comes first. It’s almost too snug but doesn’t cut into her ample waist. Bless Tom for guessing her size correctly, though it does make her wonder how often he’s bought underwear for women before.

Not permitting herself the thought, Thalia rolls up the stockings and then wiggles into the teddy. It takes some contortions and sucking in her breath but it’s the right size as well. The bustier lifts up her barely covered breasts like an offering. She eyes herself in the mirror, blushing again. With her sleep-tousled hair a mane of wild curls, her face flushed and the lingerie on shameless display, she feels like a temptress. No, like a goddess who’s going to make all the men kneel. Powerful yet utterly feminine. With a soft sigh of anticipation, she affixes the garters and smooths her palms over the fabric that accentuates her curves rather than hiding them.

When she steps back into the room, Tom is sitting on the edge of the bed, his fingers fidgeting. His mouth gapes open as he catches his first glimpse of her, and she hears him swear softly.

“Fucking hell, Thalia, you’re utterly gorgeous. You look like…an erotic dream. A fantasy come alive.”

His voice is hoarse and his pupils have dilated. Feeling a glow spread inside her, Thalia walks over, taking care to put a sway to her hips.

“Thank you for the gift, Tom. It’s such an ego boost.”

He holds her gaze and nods once, before she can feel his demeanor change. Snapping his fingers, he beckons her even closer.

“Now come here and let me worship you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trembling with anticipation and renewed arousal, Thalia approaches to stand between his spread legs, seeing his cock twitch and harden again. Tom’s large hands rest around her upper thighs as he pulls her flush against him and presses his face to her stomach. He nuzzles her over the fabric of the teddy, then sneaks his nose and tongue beneath the sheer fabric. He nips and kisses her belly, making her forget about all the stretch marks. When his mouth covers the lacy panties, she gives in and lets her first moan out.

His tongue travels over her covered folds, the fabric soft and thin enough to let her feel the wet heat and pressure of it. Tom continues to kiss, lick and suck at her through the thong, his fingers moving back to knead her ass cheeks and stroke between them. The tip of his nose nudges her hidden clit and Thalia whimpers.

Suddenly she feels herself being moved, Tom’s strong grip hauling her onto the bed. He kneels between her spread thighs, his fingers stroking over the tops of the stockings while his gaze eats her up. She’s burning, needs more, yet she can’t bring herself to plead with him to be faster. Not when he looks at her like this.

Finally, his gaze seeks hers. “Close your eyes. This gift is for me to treasure. It’s my turn to have my fill, and yours to let me do to you whatever I desire.”

She nods frantically, then remembers past orders and forces out a ‘yes.’ Tom reaches to the side and picks up the broad ribbon that tied her parcel together. He leans over to wrap it around her face like an impromptu blindfold, and Thalia shivers. It reminds her of his tie in Chicago and of how amazing it was to have her other senses heightened. This time, it turns her on even more because she’s providing visual stimulation to him while she’s totally in the dark.

Tom’s mouth claims hers and she gives herself over to him. Their tongues dance as she feels his body on top of hers. It’s tantalizing to know that he’s completely naked but makes no move to get her out of the probably sinfully expensive lingerie. His hands caress her body over the fabric, and when she arches in search of more, he presses her back down with his weight.

Then his mouth is everywhere, his teeth, his tongue. It explores every inch of her half-covered breast that is exposed, then wanders lower to torture her through lace and silk until he’s driving her out of her mind and she’s cursing under her breath.

At last, she feels Tom shift, taking some of his weight off her. His hands stroke up her thighs and his fingers dive beneath the thong to draw it to one side. And then nothing, just a waft of cool air on her swollen flesh.

“Please, please, please,” she hears herself beg, her hips bucking in a quest for contact, for much-needed friction.

“You are so fucking beautiful right now, like this,” comes Tom’s husky voice in a growl, startling her. “I’ll never forget this moment and how you offered yourself to me.”

Without warning, his mouth latches onto her dripping folds and feasts on her without mercy. Blind and seemingly existing only for Tom’s pleasure, she feels her climax hovering just out of reach, so intense she’s half-afraid of it. He brings her closer to the brink with the relentless expertise of a lover who knows exactly what she craves, and when two fingers slide deep inside to rub over that magical spot, Thalia comes with a wail that ends in a keening whimper.

She’s barely regained her senses when fumbling fingers tear the blindfold away and Tom’s searing gaze pierces hers.

“My wanton Christmas vixen,” he whispers.

At the same time as his mouth latches onto the side of her neck, he enters her with one single thrust, sinking deep despite his size because she’s so slick and ready.

Their moans mingle as he rolls his hips. His hands find hers and lift them above her head. Their fingers interlace and he presses them into the pillow as he speeds up his thrusts.

“Come again,” he chokes out. “Again, for me.”

When he angles his body and reaches even deeper inside her, Thalia bites her lip to stifle a scream. The fabric of the barely pushed-aside panties rubs over her clit, and combined with Tom’s thrusts, it’s enough to send her spiraling out of control again. At her first clenches around him, he loses his rhythm and groans as if dying. They come together and she’s sure it’s never been this intense before.

What feels like an eternity later, when she still can’t feel some of her limbs, Tom kisses her forehead and cuddles her close.

“Definitely the best Christmas gift I’ve ever given…and received,” he mutters.

Thalia smiles exhaustedly and thinks of the little parcel in her bag, containing a mug that says ‘I’m a professor – what’s your superpower?’ There’ll be time for that. For now, she wants to treasure this moment.

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

Two Lines

two lines sept 14

Two Lines

*an Emery&Chris story*

by avenger-nerd-mom

Thanks to sisterly advice, Emery discovers a secret while Chris is gone for reshoots!

Warnings: Language, fluff, discussion of miscarriage

Word Count 1660

Get to know Emery and Chris in their novella Georgia on My Mind and their follow up collection of short stories

September 2018

Emery signals a left turn into the drive thru diner, asking her sister if she wants a snack. “I don’t know if it’s the heat, or what,” she says, making the turn, “but I’ve felt awful for two weeks and the only thing that sounds any good to me right now are root beer floats. I’ve probably gained five pounds while Chris has been away.”

Her sister Mackinzie looks up from her phone. “Did you say root beer floats?”

Emery nods, reaching into the side door pocket for some cash. “Yeah, why?”

Mackinzie waits while Emery places her order at the staticy old box, also ordering fried mozzarella sticks and a sweet iced tea. “Emery?” She asks with a restrained calm, “Are you pregnant?”

“What? No… I can’t-”

The redhead’s jaw snaps shut and she starts counting off on her fingers. Her eyes pop, her hands shaking. “Oh my God,” she whispers. A smile grows on her face, reaching her bright blue eyes. “I might be. We got stressed, keeping track of my cycles, so we stopped paying attention. I can’t remember my last period.”

Her sister nods, bouncing in her seat as Emery pulls the truck forward through the line. “You were sick and missed church a time or two and you said you’ve felt bloated from summer foods. You haven’t been exercising because you didn’t wanna put strain on your foot. I know you had at least one root beer float at the family reunion, and you’ve mentioned them a few times. You didn’t know that’s a common pregnancy craving?”

The women quiet as they pull forward to the window. Emery makes her payment, taking the food, too distracted to talk to one of her former students. Mackinzie says, “Sis, I’m pretty sure you’re pregnant.” She points across the street. “Pull over there. Go to the Piggly Wiggly and let’s get a pregnancy test.”

In a daze, Emery follows her sister’s command, crossing over carefully in the traffic, pulling a mozzarella stick from the bag. “Mackinzie, I can’t go in there, to buy that. It’s tourist season. If anyone saw me, it would be all over the internet before we’d even get home.”

“Yeah, that’s true. Didn’t think about that… What if I go in and get it for you? I’ll even pay for it if you let me stay with you while you wait for the results?” She taps her sister’s leg while she nibbles the cheese stick and pulls the truck into park. “I mean, I’m sure you’d rather Chris was here, but-”

“I can’t do it alone,” Emery says, squeezing her sister’s fingers tightly. “I mean, you can’t come in the bathroom, and I better drink all this tea fast, but no, I want you there-”

“-I’m your sis, I’m always there-”

“And no matter what, positive or not, you can’t tell anyone, not even Dan, and definitely not Mom or Chris.” Mackinzie is visibly shocked by the determination on Emery’s face. “I won’t hurt him like that again. I know everyone thought I took it hard, but you have no idea how the miscarriage killed him. He’s working and I don’t want to get his hopes up. If I’m not pregnant, he doesn’t even have to know. And if I am, I’ll wait till the right time to tell him.”

“Ok, Em. Whatever you need. You’re stronger than any superhero I know.” She reaches for her purse in the back seat. She chuckles, “Drink your tea. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Emery watches her sister climb down out of the truck. Finishing the fried cheese, she rests her head against the seat, inhaling deeply, gently placing her hand over her belly. She begins poking and pushing against her flesh, searching for any signs of change. Calculating in her mind, she quickly reaches for her phone, estimating she’s about six weeks along. “Siri, how big is a six week old fetus?”

“Here’s what I find when I search the question ‘how big is a six week old fetus?’” Siri replies in her computerized voice.

Emery clicks on the first link provided, smiling to think the baby, if she’s pregnant, is the size of a sweet pea. She continues reading, whispering aloud, “‘Your baby’s nose, mouth, and ears are beginning to take shape at 6 weeks pregnant. You may be having morning sickness and spotting.’ Spotting. That’s why I hadn’t figured it out.” She closes her eyes and says a silent prayer the spotting she’s experienced isn’t sign of a miscarriage. She continues reading, mumbling, “Sore boobs, exhaustion, mood swings. Fuck. How did we not figure out I was pregnant?!” She chuckles. “This is like textbook, and I’ve been such a bitch lately.”

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t see Mackinzie approach the car. “What did you say, Sis?” Her older sister asks, climbing up into the truck.

Emery swallows her sip of tea, before holding up the cup to look at it. “Shit. That’s a lot of sugar and caffeine. Can I even drink sweet tea now, if I’m pregnant?”

Mackinzie chuckles, resting the bag at her feet. “Depends on which doctor you see. If you can get in with Puckett, like I did, she’ll let you, in moderation. But you get a Yankee doctor, if you decide to buy that house in Boston, and they’ll tell you to cut back.” She fastens her seatbelt and turns to her sister. “What were you saying as I got in the truck?”

Emery rests her cup back in the console. “I was thinking out loud. It’s a wonder we hadn’t figured it out ourselves. I was a real bitch right before Chris left. It was like everything was happening at once. Grandad had his stroke, they sent me for another scan on my foot, the Leno viewing party, then the dash to Boston for the state primary. Plus all the tech troubles I was having with the new computer systems I’ve gotta be working with this year. I was just awful to Chris.” She shakes her head thinking about it now. She backs the car out of the parking space. “Really, I think our last words to one another was a fight about laundry, and he couldn’t find things he needed to take into the city, like his razor and beard kit. I’m pretty sure ‘I’m not your damn maid’ was screeched at the top of my lungs.” She hangs her head, sighing deeply.

Mackinzie sucks in her breath. “Why does Captain America need his razor? Is he not gonna be shaggy and bearded in the next one?”

Tapping her horn at the car in front of them, Emery quickly pulls to the left, deciding not to follow that driver out of the lot. Exiting from another side of the shopping center, Emery says, “You haven’t seen the leaked photos? Holy fuck, I need to bang my husband. Like now. Is that a side effect of pregnancy this early?”

Quickly scrolling her phone, Mackinzie holds up the image of one of the leaked photos. Chris, walking across a parking lot in a faded blue shirt, hand fisted at his side. “Hell no, not this early. That’s just a side effect of being married to this sexy bastard. Come on, Em, you’re married to Captain fuckin’ America. And he’s in Steve mode now? I don’t even care he’s my brother in law, I wanna lick my phone screen.”

Emery hits her older sister in the shoulder, maneuvering the big truck into another lane. “So when is the horny phase? God, he better be around for that. But he’s working non stop till-” At the red light, Emery slams on the brakes. “Fuck. Fuckin’ hell. Shit, shit, shit. I can’t be pregnant now. If I’m pregnant now, that means I’m due in the middle of the A4 press tour.” The panic is clearly written on her face.

Mackinzie reaches over to pat her sister’s arm. “Relax. Even if he goes on the tour, and you said he still hasn’t decided about that, Downey could have him on a plane and home in five hours.”

“He’s working round the clock for the next several months.” Emery breaths hard, beads of sweat forming on her forehead as she turns into the proper lane, heading out of town towards her house. Their house. “What if the baby arrives and he’s not there?”

“Get a grip, Sis. A first pregnancy won’t deliver in less than five hours. Do you remember how long I was in labor with Dawson? Hella long. That’s how long. Like we could have a whole Marvel marathon in the birthing room before your baby arrives… But let’s not panic till you pee on that strip, and see what it says, okay?”

***

An hour later, the sisters stare at the four pregnancy tests lined up on the edge of the bathtub. Emery sucks in her breath. “I still don’t believe it. I need to hear it from a doctor.”

“Fine. Make the call. I’ll be right there with you.”

***

Near closing time, the nurse taps on the door of the office. Emery drops the paperclip she’d been fidgeting with onto he desktop as Dr. Jamie Puckett enters the room. “Em, it’s official. You’re gonna be a momma. You get to tell Chris the good news. He’s gonna be a daddy.”

The doctor walks to her desk, patting her patient’s shoulder as she passes by, before resting against the ledge of the dark stained wood. “Your math was off, Emery.” She reopens the file. “You’re actually about eight weeks along. If you want, we can do an ultrasound? A few of the nurses that know you, and know what you’ve both been through, said they’d be happy to stay late to assist with the procedure… How about it, Momma. Wanna meet Baby Evans?”

With tears in her eyes, tightly gripping her sister’s hand, the beautifully pregnant red-head nods. “Yes.”

click here for the next Emery &Chris story, Killing Time

Read more about Emery and Chris in their novella, Georgia on My Mind, and their story collections

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

 

Grease Monkey

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Grease Monkey

*an Emery&Chris story*

by avenger-nerd-mom

It’s a hot Georgia summer, so Chris and Emery share an afternoon at home, enjoying the air conditioning and a fresh shower

Warnings: NSFW, fluffy smut, oral sex

Word Count: 2581

Get to know Emery and Chris in their novella Georgia on My Mind

August 2018

Walking towards the garage, Emery can hear her brother’s music pounding through the speaker system. It’s a wonder the neighbors haven’t complained. Moving closer to the open bay doors, Emery can’t take her eyes off her handsome man, laying under the car. Chris is tinkering around under the front chassis, tapping his foot to the 90s beat. The shirt sleeves are pushed up, exposing the tat of the Aries ram on his bicep, and the hem is twisted around his waist, exposing his side flank, a little beefy, slightly out of shape from a summer at rest. She’s not sure where she wants to nibble and lick first. She clears her throat.

“You look like something from a photo shoot,” she comments, walking in to set down a tray of drinks and sandwiches. The room is already getting too hot to stay outside long. “Do you even know what your doing?”

Grabbing the bumper, he pushes the creeper out from under the car and sits up with a smile. “Parker taught me how to tighten the thing.”

Her laughter echoes in the room. “The thing? Real technical term there… “ Her eyes rake over his muscular body again before letting out a whelp. “In a Cap shirt?” She fusses, handing him a glass of sweet iced tea.

Taking a long gulp, he hides his displeasure for the chilled Southern refreshment. Reaching for the little white fan laying next to him, he pulls the shirt away from his body, and aims it up. “It’s the one you got at the the Goodwill shop. Not one of the ‘good’ ones,” he chuckles, running his other hand over his beard, wiping away sweat from his upper lip. In the process, he gets grease on his cheek.

“Hmph,” she grumbles, walking over to offer her brother a glass, carrying the jug with her. Parker nods his thanks, gulping it down quickly and holding out for more. “It’s too hot out here. Y’all gonna be done soon?”

“God, I hope so,” Chris chuckles, wiping his greasy fingers on the tattered shirt.

Parker good naturedly flips him off. “Well, since you don’t know what you’re doing under there anyway, I guess we can call it a day. Besides I have to pick up Jonna Lee at six.” Smacking his lips from the last gulp of the second glass, he hands the empty mason jar back to his sister. “I better go get cleaned up.”

“Shave, little brother, you’re too skitchy.”

“Since when do you complain about ‘skitchy?” Chris asks, sneaking up behind and sweeping her off the ground, spinning her in a circle to face him. He gently sits his wife back down on her booted foot. He kisses the tip of her nose.

He smirks, hearing Parker mumble under his breath, “God, y’all are the most ‘married’ people I know…”

Chris raises his eyebrow. “You should be so lucky some day, kid.” He smiles back down on his wife. “Not everyone gets as lucky as me.” Leaning back, he looks at her boot. “What did the physical therapist say?”

“Good news,” she taps his chest, pushing herself away from his sweaty grasp. “God, you stink!” She wrinkles her nose. “Starting tomorrow, I can wear shoes a few hours a day, and try to walk as normal as possible.”

“I don’t have to carry you up the stairs each night, now?” He chuckles, reaching for her again as she steps away from his grasp.

“Oh no, I think that’s added to the marriage contract now. Every night. No matter what.” Her stomach blanches from the smell of grease and motor oil. “Really. It’s so hot in here, every smell is making me sick.” She looks at her phone. “If you’re gonna be out at her place by six, you better get flyin’,” she addresses Parker. “I’m goin’ back inside.”

She leaves the two men, fighting over the plate of sandwiches.

***

Standing at the sink in two shoes, she balances on her tender foot, as instructed by the therapist. The door clangs open and she can smell him the minute he enters the house. The August summer heat is getting to her, and his manly pheromones are driving her crazy, but the odor of grease and oil has got to go. “Don’t bring those smelly clothes in here,” she yells out. “Strip on the back porch, let ‘em air out. We’ll wash ‘em later.”

“Woman, you’re crazy,” he mumbles, but she hears the door close again. She shakes her head, wiping her hands on the hand embroidered dish towels her aunt gave her as a wedding gift. Emery turns down the heat on the crock pot. The roast smells amazing, rosemary and garlic filling the air. She laughs when Chris streaks through the kitchen, naked as a jaybird, yelling back over his shoulder, “Meet me upstairs in five minutes.”

She laughs, listening to his steady footsteps landing on each tread, the dogs chasing and nipping at his heels.

“Fuck, bring up some towels,” he yells down from above. “Didn’t know they weren’t put up!”

“Got it!” Emery finishes her glass of tea, popping a mint in her mouth. She sets the timer on the oven and walks over to grab a few towels from the laundry room. She loves their little house in Savannah, glad he decided they could keep it. They’d worked hard, building it into their dream, making long overdue renovations. The second garage hadn’t been necessary but Chris had enjoyed spending time with Parker and his friends, working on car projects over the summer. On her way through the living room, she reaches for the basket of laundry she’d folded earlier in the day. She likes that the house is peaceful and quiet, not constantly full of people, like visiting Boston. Savannah was theirs, their quiet place to relax and unwind.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, she looks up, willing to face the challenge. Shifting the basket to her hip, she pulls on the railing, willing herself to walk slow and steady up the stairs in two shoes. Her ankle feels weak, unaccustomed to freedom from the boot. After ages, she finally reaches the top, dropping the basket by the door to the guest bath. She pulls out the towels for him, and enters their newly remodeled room, having moved her office downstairs earlier in the summer, before the boot was needed.

The upstairs is stuffy and she turns down the thermostat, hoping the house will cool off as the sun sets. She giggles, hearing his voice echo off the shower walls as he sings and raps the chorus of a song from the afternoon playlist. “Like raisin’ a teenager,” she chuckles, seeing the pile of clothes from his morning workout littered across the floor and finding a damp towel from his morning shower. She scratches her hairline, shaking her head. When she opens the bathroom door, a billow of hot steamy air assualts her, the car odors still hanging there. “More soap, I can still smell the car, ya grease monkey.” She flings the towel over the shower bar and yanks back the curtain. “Kiss?”

“A kiss? All you did was bring me a towel.” He grins. “I’m not sure that’s worthy of a kiss.”

She leans forward and licks her lip. “It is if you want me to kiss something else when you get out.”

“Yes, ma’am. Gimme some sugar,” he laughs, planting a wet kiss on her readied lips, water dripping from his nose onto her cheek. It had become their joke after he’d secretly teased all her aunts for using the decidedly Southern expression repeatedly during their annual reunion together.

“Some good sugar,” she chuckles, pulling away and closing the curtain. “Hurry up.” She steps over to the sink and removes her earrings, reaching for lotion on the open shelf.

Leaving the door open, she angles it so she can see him in the mirror from her vantage point as she readies herself. Gently, she removes her shoes and clothes. Standing in front of her dresser, she spritzes a bit of cologne on her wrists, reaching around and spraying her lower back. Feeling sticky from the Georgia heat, she towels off. Opening the drawer, Emery grabs underwear and quickly pulls them on before reaching for her newest tshirt, sliding the cool, fresh fabric over her skin. Tugging at the neck, it feels a little tight, but online shops aren’t always the best quality, she shrugs.

The water turns off and the metal rings of the shower curtain jingle as they slide back. Emery drops to her knees at the foot of the bed, waiting for him. Hands in her lap, she tries to twist her wedding band, but her fingers feel swollen. She tries to remember what she’d eaten earlier in the day that was so salty. In the mirror, she watches Chris dry off, running the towel around his thick thigh, resting his foot on the edge of the tub. He passes the towel roughly down his legs, drying his feet before switching positions and drying the other leg. “Privacy please,” he jokes, stepping over and closing the door.

She shakes her head. “Whatever,” she says, rolling her eyes. She laughs a moment later, when he exits the room, towel wrapped around his waist, reminding her of one of his movie roles.

“Oh, hello. Didn’t know you were gonna be all ready.” He waves at her waiting position. “I thought it was just a quick hand job before dinner.”

Laughter bursts forth and she rocks back. “I’m a little hungry for something else.” She taps the edge of the bed. “Have a seat, I won’t be long.”

He cocks his eyebrow and walks over to sit, his knee brushing her shoulder. “Quick and bossy. NOT my favorite combination.”

They both share a laugh as her hands run up his legs, caressing along his inner thighs and under the towel. Emery digs her fingers into his skin, kneading and pulling at the warm flesh. His head drops forward and he places his hands on her shoulders, massaging her tight muscles. She moans, leaning forward and kissing the soft spot on the side of his knee. He drags one hand around the side of her neck to the front, giving a tender squeeze, while the other ghosts up the back of her neck, reaching up and pinching the hair clip, leaving her bright red hair to fall down around her shoulders. A scent of apples wafts across her nose, still using her drug store shampoo after all this time.

Her hands push higher, her thumbs reaching under his balls, fingers scraping over the tops of his thighs. Sliding her hands up, she pushes away the towel, running her hands over his adonis belt, not so defined with age, but still visible and sexy as hell. She scoots closer, crawling between his legs. Leaning forward, she sucks his head between her lips.

“Fuck, you’re not playing,” he whispers.

“Mmm-mm,” she hums, sinking her nails into his flesh, swallowing more of him. Pulling back she murmurs. “I need you to come quickly, baby.”

She dives back onto his cock, sucking and pulling with her mouth, sliding off and on, feeling his tension. Breathing deeply, ready to open her throat, the smell of gasoline and sweat fills her nose. “You still smell like a car.”

“You’re crazy, woman. I cleaned the undercarriage,” he chuckles, yelping when she pulls his leg hairs as she sucks him back into her mouth, nostrils flared and trying not to breath. “Honey, we can stop if it’s bothering you.”

She shakes her head, dragging him in deeper, feeling him in the back of her throat. His powerful scent is stronger than the nauseating car smell, and her desire grows. Wrapping her tiny hand around his shaft, she can control his thrusts, loving the sound of his raspy breaths.

She’s surprised when he pulls out, pushing her back to the floor. Predatorily he climbs over her, nipping at her hip, nuzzling his nose along the hem of her shirt. He pulls back and reads the shirt, before laughter wracks his body, pushing against her.

pats teacher perfect

“You are perfect. That shirt wins. You don’t need to buy anymore.” He tugs at it, lifting it away from her soft body. “But unless you want me to paint it, you need to take it off.”

Emery arches up as he pulls it over her head, freeing her ample breasts. He latches his mouth widely over one nipple, lowering her back to the ground, sucking and pulling at the round globe. She gasps, kicking up her leg and hitting him in the ass. Not paying attention, he moves his mouth, repeating the same on the other side. Hurting like hell, she tugs on his hair, lifting his head. “That hurts, honey, stop.”

Shocked, he flicks out his tongue and gently lathes over the swollen peak. “Sorry, babe, but you’ve got some wicked PMS this month. Smells, achy boobs, mood swings from hell…” Caressing down her body, he licks around her belly button and places a chaste kiss over her covered mound. “Let’s go to the drive in and get ice cream tonight, maybe sit on the beach?”

Taking her hands, he helps her back up into a sitting position, sitting back on the edge of the bed. “We don’t have to- Ok, well then,” he guffaws when her mouth wraps over the head of his cock pulling him in. “Ok. Finish me. I’m just a pawn in your game.” Chris drags in his breath. “Shit, it’s like your sucking chrome off a muffler, damn, Kitten.”

Emery doesn’t have any clue what that means, but she feels in her zone. His hands are in her hair, and she has a rhythm going. She just wants him to come, and quickly, satisfying him. She wants him to splash over her and collapse on top, feeling his weight cover her. A few more strokes is all it will take. The muscles in his legs tighten and his breaths become strained. His hands stop moving as he holds her head in place, lifting off the bed to fuck her mouth. Raising her hand up to cup his balls, he pulls out and shoots over her chest as she falls back to the floor. He follows her and continues to spurt over her, landing on her cheek and near her ear. Finished, he falls next to her, mewling like a kitten, pulling her close as she wraps her arms and legs around him.

They lay silent, for long minutes until the peace is broken by a paw scratching the door. Chris lifts his head and smiles. “You are first class, babe.” He raises his eyebrow. “I don’t think you’ve ever sucked me like that before, that much vigor. It was like… like you would die without it. That. That goes in the record books.”

She laughs, pushing his dead weight off her. “You say that every time… Clean me up. I gotta go check the roast.”

“No. I just wanna lay here and die now. Sleep till tomorrow.”

“Then we can’t get ice cream. I’m really craving a root beer float.”

“Dammit, you drive a hard bargain,” he says, reaching over for the towel to clean her up. “Wanna wrap up the roast and eat later? Head out to the beach and get ice cream first?”

Click here for the next Emery&Chris story, Two Lines

Read more about Emery and Chris in their novella, Georgia on My Mind, and their story collections

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

Sunday with Grandad

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Sunday with Grandad

By avenger-nerd-mom

Chris and Emery visit her ailing grandfather. The old man gives them marital advice.

Warnings: language, fluff

Word Count: 2292

Get to know Emery and Chris in their novella Georgia on My Mind

July 2018

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Chris smiles down into the car, helping her get settled and handing her the tray of cupcakes to hold. She reaches up and pulls down on his tie. “This will make him happy.”

“I sure as hell hope so, cuz if Ilaria saw me now, she’d totally give up, thinking I’m a lost cause,” he says, smoothing down the striped tie from the mid-eighties.

Emery rolls her eyes, moving her feet into position on the floorboard. “She’s seen you in the track suits you still wear. Fratboy wanna-be. She gave up hope a long time ago. Why do you think Seb gets all the modeling gigs?”

“Because he’s a pretty boy,” he chuckles, slamming the door closed and tapping the hood as he walks around the front. Loosening the tie, he crawls into the driver’s seat, already sweating in the hot Georgia, early morning sun. “I’m sweatin’ like a sinner in church.”

“Oh honey, bless your heart! You’re pickin’ up some of these Southern phrases!” She praises, stretching out her own drawl.

Turning the car out of the the little drive, he angles onto the empty road. “Dear God, our children will have the most fucked up accents one day,” he laughs, clapping his hand to his chest.

She swats his arm. “Shut up. They’ll be adorable.” Watching in the rearview mirror, she shifts in her seat. “Did I ever tell you about the student I had that spoke with a British accent the first five weeks of school? When I met his parents, I was so shocked to find out they were American!”

Chris chuckles, turning left at the stop sign. “So what? He was just fakin’ it?”

“Yea, he thought it would be cool.” She explains, pointing out a pothole in the road. “He’d been to a study thing at the Harry Potter theme park for a week, and came back with a British accent.” Emery shrugs. “Girls at school fell for it.”

“Smart kid,” he mutters, “why didn’t I think of that?”

“You were a little shit in class, weren’t you?” She asks, peering at him over the top of her sunglasses.

He smirks. “You know those old pictures, with my long floppy hair? It hid my eyes. I slept in class. A lot. Tara would lend me her notes, and Carly helped me figure out stuff I didn’t get. I wasn’t what you’d call an ‘exemplary student.’” He wiggles his eyebrows at her, leaving just one up, in a high arch. “None of my teachers looked as hot as you.” He pats her thigh, squeezing above the knee, exposed in her summer sundress.

She purses her lip and raises her brow in return. “Turn left up here,” she says, with a tilt of her chin. She squints. “You’d have been a kid I would convince to stay after school. You’d avoid it for weeks, and then once you came, and saw the atmosphere, you’d stay. You’d come whenever you didn’t have play practice.” Emery rests her head back against the seat.

He squeezes her leg again, before returning both hands to the wheel to make the turn. “You miss it, don’t you?”

“They had teacher stuff in the dollar bins at Target yesterday,” she pouts. “I bought a few things, but lecturing at conferences and helping to set up after school programs isn’t the same as having my own class, my own kids.”

He cocks his head. “Kitten, if you really want back in the classroom, just say so. You don’t have to go to Toronto with me this fall. I’ll be back for Christmas. I don’t know how much Marvel needs me for the press tour next Spring.” He sighs, pulling into a parking space in front of the old Southern brick home. “I feel like for the first time, we can breathe. Make our own plans. Have a little freedom.”

She bites her lip, removing her seat belt. “I know. I feel it too. No, I love what I do, advocating for good teachers and consulting with districts to make things better.” She sits still when he motions her to stay. He dashes quickly around the front of the car, straightening his tie, and she picks up the conversation where it left off when he opens the door. “I’m always gonna miss the classroom.” She winks, handing him the tray of cupcakes. “Maybe I’ll go back someday, but for now, this is the right thing.”

He balances the treats in one hand, reaching for her purse as she swivels around in the seat, putting one sandaled foot and one braced foot down on the ground. Grabbing the door frame above the window, she pulls herself up. “Stupid boot,” she mutters, balancing and pushing away, stepping awkwardly around the door. She glares at the front steps.

“I can go inside and get a wheelchair?” Chris offers, jumping out of her reach when she swings out to hit him.

“Fuckin’ hate you,” she giggles. “This is your fault, you know? I wouldn’t be in this boot, have tendonitis if it wasn’t for you.”

He laughs, smiling at a nurse who comes out to to greet them. Emery makes small talk with the young woman, passing off the sugary treats to her. Chris takes his wife’s arm and gently guides her up the steps. “Tap dance lessons to impress me didn’t have to turn into some imaginary, wild audition for ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” He reminds her.

“But I was having so much fun,” she stops on the step, pouting. “That would be something, to be on that show.” She shrugs. “I was just having fun dancing for you, and the family talent show. Besides,” she runs her hands down over her waist, smoothing out her sundress. “I lost all that weight that had been bugging me. It was addicting!”

“It was an expensive emergency room visit.”

She hits his chest. “Cheapskate,” she teases.

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Pausing in front of the big, heavy wooden doors, she sighs. “I used to hate this place. When I was little, I had a great aunt here, and it always seemed so scary.” She scratches under her nose as Chris pulls up the door and a blast of air conditioning greets them. “It makes me sad he’s here.”

Chris squeezes her arm, “It’s better here for him, Em. He started a fire; someone could have been hurt.”

“I know, I know,” she whispers as he crosses to reception and announces they are there to visit Grant Thomas, her paternal grandfather. Chris and the nurse chat briefly, before he turns to her, pointing the way down the hall.

“They said he’s had his nap today, and should be awake, reading,” he explains quietly as they pass through the hallways. Some residents sit in their doorways, calling out as they pass by, or sit and play games in little alcoves. Before reaching the room, a nurse stops them, handing them a small plate with three of the cupcakes Emery made. She nods her thanks as Chris reaches his hand up to knock on the door.

“What? What’s that? Who’s there?” an old, tired voice calls out.

Emery caresses the side of Chris’s bearded cheek and pushes the door open. Loudly she announces, “It’s me, Emery, Grandad. I brought Chris today; we wanted to visit awhile.”

The couple step into the crowded space, smelling of tobacco, menthol and vanilla. Chris smiles at the plug-in in the outlet and fights the urge to loosen his tie in the heated room. The old man, weathered and tanned, his skin aged from the sun, is wrapped in a crocheted quilt with a sweatshirt resting around his shoulders.

“Who? Who is it? Turn up the light,” the man commands.

Emery steps forward, resting the cupcakes on the table beside the chair, turning on the lamp. “Grandad, it’s me, Emery. You’ve got it too dark in here.” She leans down and kisses the man on his cheek, feeling the slight stubble. “Can I open the shades? I wanna see you better.”

“The big bad wolf come to visit, eh?” He chuckles, crooking his finger and pointing at Chris. “You’re too damn tall.” He motions his hand for Chris to lower himself.

Chris squats by his chair, reaching out his hand for a shake. “Good to see you again, sir. Emery’s talked all week about coming out to see you!”

Mr. Thomas drops his hand, looking back at Emery, patting the arm of his chair. “Sit, sit.” He looks up at her, caressing back her long hair, running his aged and weak fingers through the ends. “Just like your grandmother’s,” he chokes. “Who’s the fella? It’s not that bloke from the bank is it?”

Emery blushes. “No, Grandaddy, it’s Chris. My husband. The actor? Captain America?”

“Captain, you say?” He points at the photos on the shelf, and Chris stands to retrieve one. “I was in World War II, son. You don’t look old enough to have been a Captain. What’s your unit?”

Chris sighs, having had this conversation with the old man before. He and Emery decided it was easiest for him to answer as Cap might, and the two trade war stories, real and fake, for a good part of the afternoon. After sharing the cupcakes, the man dozes off for a few minutes, jumping awake when he snores too loudly, scaring himself. Emery and Chris have a good laugh, and he joins in with them. “Son, what’s your last name again?”

“Evans, sir,” Chris offers.

“Grant Evans, has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” He kicks out his foot, tapping the side of Emery’s boot. “So when’s that gonna be? I wanna be alive to hold my great- grandson. And you aren’t getting any younger, peanut!” He guffaws.

“Granddad!” Emery scoffs, blushing again and smoothing down her dress.

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He turns his attention to Chris. “What’s wrong, soldier? Shooting blanks?” He glowers over his glasses. “Quit wasting your testosterone growing that damn beard and tell your swimmers to do their job, dammit.”

Chris bites back a laugh as Emery hides behind the photo album she was looking through. He salutes the older man. “Yes, sir. I’ll take her right home, and we’ll get right on that after we study scriptures tonight.”

“Good. Good Christian man. Nothing funny about that, no sir.” Mr. Thomas sits up proud. “All my babies been baptized. Raised by good Christian parents. You’ll be no different.” He points at both of them. “None of this nonsense about spoiling a child. You lead by example. Live the Golden Rule. Save your money. Visit Vegas once a year. Nothing too fancy,” he advises. “Simple. Like that tie. Good lookin’ tie, son.”

Emery smiles as Chris runs his hand proudly over the tie her grandfather had given him for his Broadway premiere.

“Sounds like a good life, Granddad,” Emery says wistfully, nodding at the nurse when she quietly enters the room. “It looks like it’s time for you to get down to dinner, so it’s time for us to go.”

He scowls at the nurse. “Trying to escape, are ya? Next time you come back, bring me something fried in lard. None of this food has flavor.” He pulls his walker around in front, rocking a few times in his seat, before pulling himself up to an upright position. He chuckles as Emery does the same, tottering in her boot and grabbing the front of the walker. “Looks like you need this thing more than me.” He smirks at Chris. “She get hurt chasin’ you around the bedroom?”

“All redheads. They’re all alike,” Chris laughs. “Can’t keep their hands to themselves.”

“Yep, boy, that’s right,” the old man chuckles, leading them down to the dining room before saying their goodbyes.

Emery kisses the old man on his cheek, whispering, “I’ll visit again soon.”

He pats her back, playing with the ends of her hair again. “Captain America, huh? You picked a good one, peanut. Don’t let him get away. You have pretty grandbabies to play at my feet, ya hear?”

“Yes, sir,” she smiles, holding the tears at bay.

Chris turns to salute the old man, wrapping his arm around his wife’s waist as the nurse leads Mr. Thomas to dinner.

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“Come on, Mrs. Evans. Sounds like we’re trying to make a baby again tonight. Can’t disappoint the old man,” he laughs as Emery leans on his side, walking down the stairs and out to the car. “Don’t want him thinking I’ve got faulty swimmers.”

Emery lifts her long hair off her neck allowing a cool breeze to caress her skin. “Mr. Evans, I’m feeling adventurous. Instead of driving home, let’s just drive out to the campground!”

He stops in his tracks. “We don’t have any of our stuff with us.”

“So?” She taunts. “If we go now, we can have the place to ourselves for two whole days, before the reunion. We can get some stuff at Target, necessities, and you can come back later and get the rest of our stuff while I help Mom get things unpacked before everyone else arrives.”

Chris lifts her foot and boot, swinging them around and placing them in the car before closing the door. Walking around quickly, he climbs in the hot car, and starts the air and the ignition. “Emery Thomas Evans! I can’t figure out if this is a ploy for two days of uninterrupted baby making, or another trip to Target for teacher supplies?”

“Both,” she giggles as she rolls down her window, feeling the breeze in her hair as Chris heads for the highway leading out of town.

Watching the traffic in the rearview mirror, Chris asks point blank. “Emery, who’s the ‘bloke’ from the bank?”

click here to read the next Emery&Chris story, Grease Monkey

Read more about Emery and Chris in their novella, Georgia on My Mind, and their story collections

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