Growing Up

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Growing Up

Being Thalia

Chapter 26

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: 2779

Summary: Thanks to the influence of a young friend, Thalia comes to the realization she’s grown up.

Previous Chapter, Another Step Forward

October 2021

Thalia stares at the open journal in front of her. She absently flips back to the beginning and reads through the book, skimming quickly. She smiles as a weight lifts from her shoulders, realizing she’s made more progress than she thought. She shakes her hair back and whispers, “Doc was fuckin’ right. Who’d have guessed?”

A dark haired girl with braces and a wiry preteen frame plops down on the couch next to her. “You’re talking to yourself again. You do that a lot. Sure you’re not going crazy, living all alone in Madrid?”

Thalia rolls over onto her hip, pushing against Avery’s shoulder, and reaches her hand into the bag of potato chips. Pulling out a few, she rights her body into a more comfortable position. “Whatdya mean I talk to myself?”

“The last three nights, while you were fixin’ dinner, I could hear you in the kitchen, talking to yourself.” The girl claims, munching down on a handful of chips. “It’s very distracting to my homework process.”

Thalia scoffs. “From what I’ve seen, your homework process is hanging over the end of the bed, typing in numbers on your calculator while you Snapchat with Charlotte.”

“It works. I have straight As this term,” Avery brags, picking at a chip stuck in the purple bracket on her teeth. “Are you-” she sighs. “Are you talking to that guy?”

Thalia slowly chews the chip in her mouth. Due to the time differences, she and Tom have been on the phone in the evenings while she prepares their dinners. She didn’t think Avery would be able to hear over the TV and the music the pre-teen constantly plays. Placing her hand over her mouth, she talks while still eating. “What guy?”

Avery peers down in the bag, shaking the chips. “I heard Mom talking about how you got back together with some guy from your past. I guess Dad told her.” She shrugs. “I’m not a baby anymore, Lia. Hell, Dad just got remarried to the baby mama. I know you’re not getting back together. If you’re dating someone, you can tell me.”

Thalia straightens up a little more, and sends a stern look to the young lady. “Avery, don’t curse. It’s really crass when kids your age do it. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make you more grown up or tough.” Avery blushes and shakes her hair from behind her ears, whispering her apology and hiding from her role model. Thalia pats her leg. “It’s okay, I don’t think less of you, I just. I just hate to think of you doing that.” She reaches up and scratches under her hairline. “I have had a few dates with someone I once knew, that I actually met here at the University.” Seeing the young girl’s eyes grow wide, Thalia adds, “Someone I met before I knew your dad.”

Avery nods. “Cool. Where he and Dad friends, like he and Hems are now?”

Thalia chuckles. “No. No, your father and this man were not friends.” She pulls her smile over her teeth, remembering how the two men definitely were not friends. Yet when she needed them most, coming out the hospital years before, they both pretended to tolerate the other. “But they reluctantly agreed on some things.” She smiles big. “One of them being that I’m pretty incredible, and irreplaceable.”

Avery laughs. “It’s true. No one can replace you.” She huffs. “I can’t believe he married the baby mama.” She screws up her face, looking angry. “I blame you. If you hadn’t left, he wouldn’t have been at the grocery store alone, and bumped into her.”

Thalia squeezes Avery’s knee. “Come on, ‘Ry. You gotta quit calling Karen ‘the baby mama.’ It’s not right, and it’s not fair.”

“I’m almost twelve. I’m supposed to be hateful and dramatic. I’m not stupid. They got married because they had a baby. I mean, I love Liam. I’m making a scrapbook for him for Christmas. I’m working on it at school, so Dad doesn’t know. But I don’t have to like her.” She sticks out her tongue, gagging at the thought. “She’s not you.”

Thalia chews the inside of her lip, not knowing what to say. Her young charge continues her rambles.

“Did you leave because of me?”

“What?!” Thalia jumps forward, grabbing the young girl’s shoulder, tears springing to her eyes. “Oh, Avery, honey. I’m so sorry. If that’s what you’ve thought all this time, I am so, so sorry.”

Avery’s lip quivers as she falls into Thalia’s embrace. “I just really miss you.” Her chest rattles as she takes in a deep breath, letting out a sob. She sniffles, and coughs to clear her throat. “I thought you didn’t want me, or that I was too much work. You left twice.”

Through tears, Thalia holds her closer, wrapping her hand in the young girl’s hair. She breathes out slowly, then inhales the sweet, innocent smell of baby powder. “Oh, shit. I messed up, didn’t I? Oh, Avery. Me leaving was because I wasn’t grown up enough to know what I wanted or needed.” Her throat clicks and she pulls back, tilting the girl’s head up to look into her eyes. “Leaving you was so hard. Why do you think I still call and write you? I love you, honey. So much.”

Avery licks a tear from her lip. “Lia, you shouldn’t curse.” She laughs and her eyes glisten with tears. She sucks in her lips, smacking them when she releases the pressure. “You promise?”

“Avery, I didn’t realize till this very moment you thought that.” She clears her throat and looks up at the ceiling, trying to mask her fear of the pain she’s brought to this child. “My own mom left me when I was little. I’m sorry, I’m sorry I did that to you, made you feel like you weren’t important or special to me. I should have realized it sooner.”

With her own tears still falling, Avery climbs into Thalia’s lap, wrapping her arms around her plump confidant. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. Don’t worry. I’m not messed up. You’re not the reason Mom thinks I need therapy.” Her laugh comes out like a snort and the breath tickles Thalia’s cheek. “All the girls in my class go. She wants to keep up with the Jones’.” She pokes Thalia’s shoulder. “Thalia, you are the best thing. Like, don’t get mad I say this, but you’re like a kick ass role model I have to look up to, and that’s pretty amazing.” She settles in Thalia’s lap as the older woman rocks her back and forth. Like she did when she was younger, she weaves her fingers in Thalia’s curls. “I don’t know if Dad loves Karen, but I know he was happy with you. I remember crawling in bed on Sunday mornings and we would all read, and then Dad would make amazing pancakes.”

“Don’t forget the vanilla,” they chime at the same time. Thalia kisses the top of Avery’s head.

“I remember studying for spelling tests together, and how terrified I was when I had to rush you to the emergency room when your appendix burst.”

“You were scared?” For affect, she scratches the scar on her belly. “Thalia, you’re never scared of anything. That’s why you’re gonna be a great mom. You’re always so calm and collected.”

Her tears beginning to dry, she laughs. “Glad you think so, I was a jumbled mess. Always afraid I was doing it wrong, that your mom would yell at me, say horrible things about me.”

“Oh she did. Still does. Hates your natural curls and the fact you can eat half a cheesecake and still look amazing,” Avery admits, smiling up at her dearest friend. “But never anything really mean.”

“Your mom, she always made me so nervous. And I was always envious of how professional she dressed. I kinda copied her look a bit, adapted it for me, with things I could find at the market in Madrid. When she brings you for Spring Break, I’ll take you there.”

“See. She likes you. My friends still can’t believe I get to go to Europe for break, and stay with my dad’s ex-girlfriend.” Avery giggles. She leans back and screws up her face in thought. “So you like shopping now? Can we skip school tomorrow, and you take me shopping for a dress? The first school dance is in a few weeks.”

“We can’t skip school for a shopping day-”

“Please? You’re only in town a few more days, and I have to go back to Mom’s. I’m really glad she and Dad both agreed I could stay with you a few days, so you didn’t have to be alone in this rental.”

Thalia looks around the clear open space. The modern furniture lacks warmth and comfort, but having Avery here with her made the time fly. Avery’s stepfather picks her up in the mornings and gets her to school on time, so Thalia can head to campus to cover Chris’s classes and lead a few seminars. She’s enjoyed getting in the carpool lane at the Middle School to pick up Avery after volleyball practice. “I’m glad you’ve been here too. I’ll tell you what- let’s call your mom and have permission for me to pick you up early. I don’t wanna step on her toes if she already has plans to get you a dress.”

“She wants to get me something pink and girly, and won’t let me wear my cowboy boots.”

“I don’t know why you think that’s a fashion statement.” Thalia grins, kicking up her legs, revealing her yoga pants tucked into her boots. She leans forward for her phone, unceremoniously dumping the young girl on the floor. They both laugh and scramble for the phone. She opens her contacts to dial Maura when it rings, Tom’s face flashing on the screen.

“Ooow, it’s your new boyfriend.” Avery giggles, jumping up from the floor, rubbing her bruised bottom.

Thalia rolls her eyes and answers the phone. “Hey, hang on just a second-” “Go get started on your work. We’re going out for Chinese in a bit with Hems and Jane, but I wanna see your Spanish homework first.”

Sí, Señorita Bonita,” Avery calls over her shoulder as she leaves the room.

“Hello, darling,” Tom purrs. “Is that your new nickname? Miss Pretty? I totally agree, it suits you.”

Thalia laughs. “That kid I swear, she’s-”

“What’s wrong? You sound like you’ve been crying?”

She scoffs. “How the hell can you hear that on a transatlantic call? You have like the ears of a bat. Bats hear everything, right?”

“Something like that, love. I actually don’t know much about bats.”

“Oh, well! Something you don’t know? I’m shocked, Professor Hiddleston-”

“Thalia.” His voice scolds. “I asked you a question. Quit deflecting. You’ve been crying. Is everything okay?”

She sighs, snuggling back into the couch, pulling a pillow into her lap. “‘Ry and I just had an emotional heart to heart, that’s all.” She looks at her discarded journal resting beside her on the couch. “She came in as I was looking over my therapy journal. I’ve really come a long way in a short time, Tom. I was just realizing I really like who I am now, how everyone I’ve met along the way has helped me become the person I am. Even the bad people,” she says, running her fingers over the slight scar on her cheek. She inhales deeply. “It’s like I’m finally becoming Thalia, who I’m supposed to be.” She pauses, hit with sharp pang of emptiness, missing him. “When can I see you again? Can you be in Madrid when I get back?”

She hears him shuffling some papers. “I think I can arrange that for you, darling. I’ll have to juggle a few things. In a hurry to see me, are you?”

“Yes, you know I am. But it’s not because I need you. I mean, you know that right?” She runs her hand over her head, pushing away the wrinkled brow from her deep thoughts. “The person I am now doesn’t need you. But I want you. And it’s my choice. I think that’s really important… Growth.” She tilts her head, hearing and believing her own words. “I choose you.”

“Thalia, that’s so wonderful to hear you say that.” His pleasure practically crackles over the phone line. “When you left me alone in London ten days ago, I never would have thought this trip would be so therapeutic for you. I’m glad-”

“It’s closure, Tom. I’m not going to deny the things I’ve done in the past. I was awful to you, and other people who are important to me. I’m also not going to deny how I’ve felt the last several days. You, and Chris… Walking around campus, you’re both around every corner. And it was nice getting to see him, have dinner with him a few days before the wedding. We won’t get chances like that very often.” She sighs. “You’ll have to understand, to trust me, he and I have a special bond. And nothing’s gonna change that, and you can’t try to take those things from me-”

“I promise, I won’t,” he barely whispers.

She swallows. “Being with Avery has been great. She’s such a neat kid. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Did I tell you? Her mom and I sat together at her volleyball game last night. She has a conference in Madrid in the Spring, wants to bring Avery with her so we can spend time together.”

Tom’s throat makes a clicking noise. “That sounds, interesting.”

Thalia verbally swallows again. Her voice drops. “She thinks I’d make a good mom. Tom, I don’t know how to be a mother. My own left me, and when I was younger, I didn’t let Stacey do ‘mom’ things I should have let her do.” She worries her free hand inside the pocket of her college hoodie, playing with a paper straw wrapper she shoved there earlier. She heavily breathes, almost panting. “Tom, I’ve had the same vision. Only it’s a little boy, with dark curly hair, and his father’s clipped British chirp.” She audibly exhales. “Maybe I’m less selfish now. Maybe Madrid is good for me, because I can still travel to so many places easily by train, still get to archaeology sites just hours from the city.” She shrugs. She can feel his anticipation palpitating over the phone. “If I had the right man, if he understood me, understood I don’t need a child to feel complete. And it was a choice, not just an ‘oops, forgot my pill’ kind of thing… Maybe I could be a mom.”

He coughs. She can almost picture him nervously running his hands through his unkempt hair. “Well then, I’m not sorry at all you went to the States, maybe that’s something-”

La tarea está terminada.” Avery announces with a flourish, waving the papers in Thalia’s face.

Thalia grabs them and shows Avery her irritation. Tom’s lulling voice grabs her attention again. “I guess I better let you go eat. What’s a ‘Hems?’”

Thalia laughs, looking over the school work. “Hems is the nickname for a friend of mine, we were both teaching here. His name’s Hemsworth, but-”

“Chris? Norse Mythology? Blonde and bigger than a house? I know him! We worked together in Sydney for a few weeks, on a project. Great fellow. He’s like my brother from another mother.”

“Oh, God. Tom. Please, please don’t ever say that again.” She cringes. “That actually hurts my ears.” She shakes her head with exasperation at the young lady in front of her, wearing leggings under a long skirt, with cowboy boots and her father’s old leather jacket. She gives the free-spirited girl a thumbs up. “I’m being summoned for dinner.” She moves her mouth away from the phone, asking Avery, “Do I need to change?”

Avery looks her over. “Everyone falls in love with you, but Hems has Jane, and Dad’s married now, and I guess your new man doesn’t want someone sweeping you away so, I suppose you can go looking like an overgrown sorority girl. Your messy bun is lopsided.” The girl grabs the truck keys from the ledge and runs out the door.

Tom laughs. “Full of spunk, not your influence at all, I suppose? Go. Tell Hemsworth I said hello and I’d love to see him again some time.”

“I love you, Tom.”

It’s getting easier and easier for her to say.

“I love you too, darling.”

Click to Chapter 27, Not Yet

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

Everything She Wanted

ch 46 Everything She Wanted August 9 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 46

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1104

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, moving forward

Summary:  Thalia returns home after a dinner out with an old friend.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

The house is quiet when she tosses her purse and coat over the chair.  Setting the keys on the side table, she smiles at the glasses resting on top of the unfinished Times crossword puzzle from last week.  She pulls off her heels and leaves them by the railing.  Climbing the stairs, she can’t wait to get out of the tight fitting dress and into her comfortable jammies.  She still has some research to do for the upcoming presentation for the university, but the bed is calling her name.

The light from the room across the hall is still on, and she pauses just outside the door, listening to the solid deep voice reading about the fairy tale princess who got everything she wanted.  A soft giggle fills the air, and a sweet voice reaches her ears, “Oh, Poppa, don’t be silly.  Fairy tales don’t come true.”

Thalia steps into the light and Chris’s beaming smile warms her heart.  “Oh, honey, I think sometimes they do.”  He winks at her as Thalia sits on the edge of the bed, pulling the blankets up under Avery’s chin.

“What do you think, Thalia?  Do they?” the little girl asks, grasping the woman’s fingers in hers.

“Oh, sweetie, I think they do too, but I think sometimes you have to be the hero in your own story.”  Her warm chocolate brown eyes sweep across the postcards above the bed, ones she’s sent the child of far-off places around the world, the pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum in Rome, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.   Her eyes settle on the photo of the three of them in front of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  “The handsome prince doesn’t have to be the one to save the day.”  Her eyes glisten with tears as she kisses the little girl on the forehead.  “Goodnight, Bug.  We’ll fix pancakes in the morning before I get you to swim lessons, sound good?”

The little girl tugs on her curls and sleepily nods her head.  “Yum, will you add cinnamon and vanilla, like Poppa does?”  Her thumbs up in response to Thalia’s silent nod is good enough.  Avery whispers. “I’m glad you’re here, T.”

Chris chuckles and hands her Mr. Bear.  “Goodnight, Bug, sweet dreams.”

Rising from the bed, the little girl is already half asleep when her father kisses her cheek and follows Thalia to the hallway.

Closing the door, he places his hand on her hip and leads them toward his room.   “The handsome prince doesn’t always get his way?  What kind of mixed up tale are you feeding the kid?” He chuckles quietly.

Thalia bumps his hip as they walk.  “Hey, sometimes the princess has to learn to stand on her own.”  She stops in front of the door and gently caresses the side of his face.  “You need a shave and haircut.”

He turns his head to kiss her palm.  “Fine, Princesa.”  His hand roams around her hip and rests across the small of her back.  “Alright then, I’m glad you can be her Fairy Godmother when you come for visits, if you won’t be the Queen of this castle.  You know, she loves it when you take her to swim class and help with her Spanish.”

“That’s good; that’s good.”  Thalia taps the door frame, reading his intent.  “I can’t stay with you; you know that.”  She points to the other door.  “The guest room, Chris, that’s where I stay when I’m here on university business.”

He playfully bangs his head against the wall, “Aw, come on.  Can’t blame a man for trying.  Comin’ in my house, looking like that.  How many ties hold the dress closed?”  He winks at her and pushes back her mane of curls. “Ah, fuck, Thalia.  I hate it when you decide to act like an adult.”

She giggles, and her voice drops low so she doesn’t wake the child.  “My will still isn’t that strong.”  She leans into him, claiming his mouth.  She can taste the lingering flavor of his after dinner coffee and her mouth smiles against his.  Chris slides his hand up her back and tugs her hair at the base of her neck.  He twists his fingers in the curls there as their tongues tangle, each French kiss chasing the other.  The hand on her hip holds tight and her fingers roam across his chest.  She can feel him, hard against her thigh as he tries to wiggle his leg between hers.  Her brain is jumbled and she holds on when he moans quietly in frustration.

A quiet voice in the back of her mind tells her she needs to stop this, but all thoughts run away when he pulls her hair back and attaches his wet, plump lips to her neck.  A small gasp escapes the back of her throat as his other hand begins to grope under her breast.  His thumb caresses over her taut nipple, pinching and squeezing, teasing the lacy fabric across her skin.  Pushing him back, she whines, “Ah, fuck, Chris, no.  We can’t.”  Creating a space between them, she keeps her hand on the waist of his loose sweatpants.  “Damn you; you’re evil.”

Chris reaches for the doorknob behind him, opening his room.  “There’s room for two, Thalia.  You don’t have to keep running away.  I’ve been down on my knee once before to ask-”

She sighs and kisses him softly on the cheek, stepping back and breaking the spell between them.  The reminder of his proposal still stings her heart.  “I’m not ready for what you need; maybe I should stop coming back, so you can move on?”

Leaning against the door jam, Chris crosses his arms.

chris at door

He nods his understanding.  “When you’re gone everything is gray.  I’d rather have moments of color, like these, than to have a lifetime of dark.  You taught me to walk in the sunshine again, Thalia.  You’ll always be mine,” he scoffs quietly.  “Even when you’re not… Good night, Niña. Te amo.”  With a wink and a crook of his eyebrow, he enters his room, alone.

“Te amo,” she whispers, as his door closes.  The dark-haired beauty returns to the space he offered her some time ago, when she was too afraid to stay in her own apartment.  Before entering her room, she looks down the empty quiet hall and envisions a life someday in a house of her own.  And she knows with more passing time, neither of her men will be the one who calls her “wife.”  Someday soon, one of them will grow up and leave her, but until then, she holds on just a little bit longer, not ready to make a decision.  For now, she’s happy being a princess, with two princes, each rescuing the other when they need it…  Still receiving her education from them both…

***

“Why are old lovers able to become friends? Two reasons: They never truly loved each other; or they love each other still.”

-Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

***

This concludes the story of Professor Evans, Thalia and Professor Hiddleston.

Click here for a “thank you” from one of the authors

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

Mended

ch 45 Mended August 2 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 45

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1177

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, moving forward

Summary: Eighteen months after her Paris internship ends, Thalia meets a friend for a quiet dinner for two.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Eighteen Months Later…

Watching the man across from her, her eyes crinkle at the memories they created together.  Late nights on campus, his office, visits to sites in Italy and Greece.  Her hand reaches for his, rested on the table.  “Thank you.  Thank you for loving me; for teaching me to be free and open. I know…”  she sighs and pulls her hand back.  “I know I didn’t handle things well;  I know we’ve talked about it before; but I’m sorry.  I really am.”

His fingers drum against his thigh, his legs spread in his comfortable position, a look of amusement on his face.  Dropping his gaze, he looks back at her through veiled lashes, his blue eyes just as sharp, taking in her movements, memorizing them till next time.  “I know you are; but I want you to know I don’t regret one single moment.  We both had a lot to learn, needed to grow up.  I guess I have a sappy side that hopes the next time our paths cross, we’ll be in a different place, ready to settle down, bend to one another.  Until then, I’m glad we can enjoy evenings out like these.  My only sorrow is I can’t convince you to come upstairs to my room with me.”

She looks across the fancy dining room, to the doorway leading to the extravagant lobby.  Her body yearns to say yes, to fall to his knees in worship, to allow him to take care of her body, in a way he only knows.  Tilting her head in thought, her mind wins.  With a slight shake of her head, she says,  “No, no; I can’t tonight.”  She smiles warmly.  “In fact, I really need to get going.”

Looking at his watch, he sighs in disapproval.  “It will be months before I see you again, before we are in the same part of the world.”

Rising to aid her from the chair, he places her coat over his arm and they walk to the concierge desk to call for her car.  He admires the view as the Latina beauty speaks quietly in Spanish to the attendant and she coolly offers him a tip.  Turning back to him, she winks playfully, shrugging her shoulders.  “What can I say?  Everything I learned, I learned from you.”

He chuckles and the warmth fills the air between them.  He helps her into her coat; the puffy one is long gone, replaced by traditional wool, but she still wears the signature pink scarf.  Leaving the coat unfastened, he helps wrap the hand-knit scarf around her neck, caressing his hand gently across her cheek, his thumb pressing against her scar there.  “No.  You got it wrong, I learned from you.  You taught me so much; things I needed to know after all these years.  You did the educating, Thalia….”

A little silver car pulls into view and she nods, “This is me.  Improved, huh?  Lot nicer than that junker I used to drive…”  Her voice chokes and tears form under her lashes.  Through a tight whisper, she says, “You know I can never say goodbye; not to you.  You always have a piece of my heart.”

She rises on her tiptoes and places a tender kiss to his cheek, resting a finger over his lips to silence whatever words he had lurking there.  His eyes are shiny with the same unshed tears as hers. Feeling like tearing a part of her heart out, Thalia turns to leave.

She’s barely made two steps before strong fingers wrap themselves around her arm. They pull her back with such force that she stumbles against the hard body, its contours so familiar yet now so rarely molded against her own. A second arm snakes under her coat, around her waist and tugs her even closer, breasts pressed against his chest, one thigh wedging between her legs and making her shudder in forbidden delight. The hand on her arms moves up to wrap long fingers around her neck and tilt her head.

Lips parted, pulse racing, needing this desperately, Thalia stares into his face.  The gut-wrenching mix of pain and desire make his handsome features even more striking and she burns them into her memory.

“Oh no you don’t,” he half-growls, his voice rough around the edges, not caring that people on the sidewalk pass around them. “You don’t get to walk away like this.  Be mine, if just for this moment…  If I really own a piece of your heart, then prove it to me.”

She blinks at him, their faces so close that she can feel his breath ghost over her face, smell dinner and beneath that the unique scent of him that used to linger on her hands and clothes for days.  The sounds of the city melt away and the only noise between them are their beating hearts and ragged breaths.

“Prove it,” he repeats, and the commanding tone snaps her into action, her body reacting on a subconscious level. She bridges the minimal distance and seals her mouth over his, pouring all her longing into the kiss.

As soon their mouths connect, control is taken from her. His lips press harder, then his teeth nip her lower lip and make her swallow down a needy whimper. The tip of his tongue sneaks out to soothe the sting, only to bite down again, this time a little harder. Thalia’s hands fist in the coat at his back, as if she wants to be even closer. Their bodies rub against each other as restlessly and greedily as their mouths.  His tongue dives deep, slicks against hers and draws back before she can really taste him.

The kiss goes on and on like that, until it feels as if his tongue has explored and re-learned every tiny crevice of her mouth, drawn her essence into him to store it away as a tantalizing memory. Their breaths mingle until she doesn’t know where he ends and she begins, until she can barely remember her name.

Her pulse is hammering against his palm, as intense as the throb lower down where his thigh nudges possessively. When he finally pulls back, his tongue caressing her swollen lips in a last lick, Thalia knows she would have sunk to the floor in a puddle if his powerful arms weren’t still holding her close.

This time, he’s the one who presses a tender kiss to her cheek, so chaste and yet marking her, burning through her skin right into her core.

Before she can really surface from her trance, he steps back and lets her go, his pupils dilated as his stormy blue gaze rakes her from head to toe one last time, lingering on her thoroughly kissed mouth.

“Go. For now,” he says, so quietly she can barely hear it.

Knowing that she’s fighting a losing battle, she wheels around and walks away on shaky legs. Hastily she climbs in the car and drives away, the long talk and heated kiss actually leaving their hearts just a bit more mended than before.

Click here to read Chapter 46 Everything She Wanted

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

Paris

ch 44 Paris August 2 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 44

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1966

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, relationship issues

Summary:  Tom meets Thalia in Paris for a holiday, bringing news from the States.

Click here to read the intro for Educating Thalia

From the table on the veranda, Tom looks through the house and watches Thalia at the front door of the little cottage, speaking broken French to the delivery boy.  He smiles at the way she shifts her weight,  her hands pushing her hair back from her face.  He’s memorizing every moment, burning the images into his brain, knowing he’ll need them for the cold, lonely nights to come.

Pivoting on her heels as she closes the entry, she sees him through the doorway and her eyes light up.  Resting the bag of food in one hand, she asks, “More tea?”

“No, darling, I’m fine.  Come out here; it’s beautiful.”  The sweep of his arm indicates the view over the valley below, but his eyes remain on her full figure.  Just a few weeks apart, and she’s changed, even more womanly than before, but something is different.  He hasn’t been able to put his finger on it…  “Stop where you are,” he commands.  She quirks her eyebrow and freezes mid step, one foot balanced in front of the other.  “Set the bag down, darling; I’m not hungry yet anyway.  Take off your robe.”

“A different hunger, then?” She teases, placing the bag on the coffee table, and she seductively unties the silk cover, letting it drop from her shoulders.  She closes her eyes and sucks in her breath, as his eyes wash over her, taking in the faint bruises still on her ribcage.

Tom turns his head, squinting, finally seeing the difference.  “Thalia, have you lost weight?”  He motions her forward and pats his thigh, inviting her to sit there.

Resting on his offered leg, she swings her legs over his lap and he cradles his arms around her.  “Well, not on purpose,” she pouts.  “I’m not fond of the French food,” she explains.  “Seriously, all I eat is salad, bread and cheese.  I love the carbs, but I guess with all the walking around the city…  I hate it.  Send me to Rome!  Fatten me up,” the dark haired beauty jokes.

Tom inhales the scent of her hair, a lump catching in his throat.  “Italy it is, then, my love; let’s put it on the calendar.”

She tugs at the button on his shirt, her fingers creeping between the fabric and caressing the curls on his chest.  She sighs deeply.  “That sounds wonderful, Tom.”  Her tone is sad as she pulls away, sliding off his lap and into her own chair next to him.  He wonders if he’ll ever see Rome through her eyes…  Looking down at the papers and books in front of him, she asks, “What’s all this?”

Tom purses his lips and nods.  He pauses, looking down at the vineyards, taking in the view and judging his words wisely.  “It’s a syllabus for next fall; working out some new things.”

Perched on the edge of her seat, in her silk bra and panties, she looks over the books carefully, lifting one thick volume and admiring it.  “Tom?  These aren’t for classes you teach… are you… Are you offering a new elective?”

fingers on mouth TH.gif

He runs his hand thoughtfully over his mouth, back and forth, pushing against his lips.  The scruff on his chin is raw against his fingertips.  “They are.  They’re for classes I’ll be teaching at another university, Thalia…”

Hugging the book to her chest, her jaw drops.  “What?”  she whispers.  “You’re leaving?  You can’t leave…  Did they…”  Thalia shakes her head.  “Did someone find out about us?  Did you get fired because of me?  Because if you did–”

Tom scoots his chair closer to hers, trapping her anxiously wiggling legs between his.  Pulling the book from her, his fingers graze her skin and the heat is felt in his touch.  “No, no darling.  Nothing like that.  If anyone knows, nothing has been said to me.”  Taking her hands in his, he holds them tight and runs his thumbs over the back of her hand.   Tears fill his eyes and he chokes on his words.  “I can’t… I can’t go back to a place you’re not.”  He sucks in a deep breath, his tears falling.  He looks up to her tear streaked face and tentatively smiles when she bites her lip to hold back a sob.  He raises her hands to his lips and kisses them tenderly, dropping one of her hands to free his.

Tom rests his large palm against her face, his thumb caressing over the scar on her cheek.  He smiles through the tears.  “I couldn’t… I couldn’t be happy there anymore without you, my Warrior Princess.”  He sighs.  “Oh, how you lived up to that name.”  Her free hand runs over his thigh, squeezing it tightly as her chocolate brown eyes rapidly read his face.  “You fought so hard, darling; you’ve worked so hard, and I’m so proud of you.  I loved you.”  He inhales shakily, his voice rough when he repeats his words. “I love you and I never said it.  I should have, a thousand times over, loud enough so you could hear it… But instead I pushed you away.  I thought I was too old for you; too set in my ways–”

“Oh, Tom,” she sighs, coughing back the tears.  “I–”

“No, no; don’t.”  His fingertip presses her lips closed.  “I know.  I always knew…  I knew you loved me too, yet I did nothing to change my behaviors, and I’ll live with that regret the rest of my life, Thalia.”  Her gasping cries fill the space between them.  He wants nothing more than to hold her close but he knows for the sanity of them both he needs to keep his resolve.  He came to Paris to tell her he loves her, and he did.  But now it’s time to let her go…  “I had the wild orchid I always searched for and didn’t know what to do with it when I found it.”  He chuckles, pulling back and wiping his nose on the back of his wrist.

The spell broken, she shoves her wild hair back and ties it loosely before reaching for a napkin on the table.  Wiping her tear stained cheeks, she holds the wadded tissue to her mouth.  “Tom… Tom, you’re too important to me to just let go; I don’t know if I can go on alone.  I don’t know if I want to…”

“But you should, darling, and you can.  And maybe…  Maybe you’ll choose someone else.”  He stands from his chair and walks to the railing.  If she chooses him, his competition, he doesn’t want to know.  He’d run to the ends of the Earth to hide from that pain.  Turning back to her, his eyes glimpse into the other open doorway, the jumbled sheets and silk tie hanging from the edge of the bed, her favorite boots haphazard on the floor…  He sucks in a sharp breath, clenching his fists at his sides.  He pulls himself together and he smiles bravely.  “And maybe I’m deluding myself, thinking we were friends before, and we can be friends again.  I feel like in our line of work, we’ll cross paths soon enough.  I already saw your name listed for the return trip to Stratford Upon Avon next Spring.  My new school is taking students as well; that’s one of the reasons why they hired me when I approached them. They know my work in the field…  Work I couldn’t have accomplished without you, Thalia.  I feel like you’ve made me the man I am today.”

Shaking off her sadness, obviously still stunned, Thalia stands from her chair, rising tall. Following his lead, as she always has, he thinks to himself…  Her words are quiet and filled with sorrow.  “Well, I know for damn sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without your influence during the last year.”  Sucking in a deep breath, she walks back into the cottage and bends to pick up her robe.  Sliding the delicate fabric back over her skin, she looks to him.  “Okay, then… As they say, ‘We’ll always have Paris…’”  Her voice is shaky, but she continues.  “And, well, your new school will be lucky to have you, and as your friend, I’d be happy to give guest lectures on various topics.”  She knots the belt and walks back onto the veranda, leaning against the rail next to Tom.

For quite some time, they stand in silent next to one another.  The breeze catches the sleeve of her robe and the fine silk brushes against his arm.  The smell of her is so close to him, it wraps around him and becomes part of his memory.  From the corner of his eye, he can see her tears still silently fall and her chest heaves.  Tenderly, he places his arm around her and holds her close.  The Latina beauty melts into him and is so right in his arms.  He prays for a different outcome some day, but knows in his heart this isn’t what either of them need right now.  They both still have some growing up to do.

When her cries subside, her body warms again and she chuckles quietly.

“What’s so funny?” he asks, kissing the top of her head and stepping back to look down at her.

“Well, Sir, could you define ‘friend’ for me?”  Her eyes dance and he knows her teasing tone.  Sassy.  Thalia.  “Do you mean the ‘let’s get a coffee and catch up’ kind, or the ‘Hey, I just happen to be in your city and wondered if your bed was available’ kind?”

Tom’s ‘eh, eh, eh’ laughter bounces off the walls of the patio and birds startle and fly from the trees.  His amusement echoes hers.  “Oh, my darling, you are a wild child!”  With a slight push, he turns her around and points her towards the bedroom.  “Go get dressed, and let’s finish our sightseeing list for today.  We’ll just take it one day at a time, and learn a new way to be with one another.”

Thalia nods.  “Yes, Sir, what would you like me to wear?”

She laughs and runs away when he swats her rounded ass.  Out of his reach, she turns and sticks out her tongue.  “I’ll be a bit.  Gotta wash my hair; make a few calls for work.  You get some more planning done,” she orders.

All thoughts of getting any work accomplished have escaped him.  He knows she has reports to write for her office as well, so they’ll have to settle down again later in the evening.  Sighing, he cleans up his papers and shoves things back in his leather satchel.  His eyes rest on his glasses, folded on top of the copy of ‘Hamlet’ she’d lovingly held.

He whispers aloud, “Oh my dearest Thalia… ‘Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.’”

His eyes fill with tears again and he chuckles quietly.  The words of the Bard always provide him comfort somehow…  Sucking in a deep breath, he pushes forward.  He only has two more days in Paris before meeting with his sister in London for a short visit before going back to the States to restart his life yet again.

Tom feels like he’s always running from something, but maybe now Thalia has shown him a greater purpose, something to run towards; to not be scared of the next time he sees it.  Picking up the spectacles, memories of their love and lovemaking dance through his thoughts.  He wonders for the hundredth time if he did indeed take advantage of a student, purely for his own whim and fantasy.  Walking into the little cottage he rented outside the city, he turns on the kettle and prepares to make a fresh cup of tea.  He decides it doesn’t really matter how it happened – he’s simply glad it did.

Click here to read Chapter 45 Mended

Author’s Note:  There are only two remaining chapters of Educating Thalia

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

Homecoming

ch 43 Homecoming July 30 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 43

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 2831

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, real life discussions

Summary: Thalia returns from Chicago and encounters both Tom and Chris.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

“Well, aren’t you two a sight for sore eyes… That nurse was right.”  Thalia looks over her shoulder, checking no one is behind her.  “Too good looking.”

She limps into the room, her knee in a brace, and leans against the refrigerator.  Surprised to see her, Chris beams up at her over the morning paper, his feet propped up in the staff lounge chair, as usual.  He moves to stand up and she motions him to stay.  Equally shocked, Tom hands her the tea he just made for himself, his smile just as happy.  Catching the quick questioning look that passes between the two men, she accepts the tea and teases, “Let me guess.  You’ve bonded in the time of my absence and become the best of friends!”

Chris chuckles, “Not likely I’m ever gonna be friends with this British arse.”

“Nor I with the American asshole,” Tom smiles, winking at her.

Thalia’s stomach twists in knots and she tries to act as if nothing is out of the ordinary between this little group in the staff room.  She feels like she’s failing miserably, in more ways than one…

“Wait, excuse me.  I have to change those to your new usernames in my phone.  I love that!”  She pulls it out of her pocket and slides across the screen, playfully pretending to type.   The tension in the air could be cut with a knife and she’s actually surprised they can stomach to be in the same space together.  She was not expecting to find them at the same time, and decides to play it off as cool as they seem to be.  It’s not the first time in the last few months they’ve all been in the little lounge at the same moment.  The only difference is, this time they all know. “British Arse,” she says slowly, brushing her free arm against Tom’s.  Stepping forward, she pulls out the chair Chris has his feet on, giggling awkwardly when they plop to the floor.  She sits down and he crosses his feet at the ankles under the chair, wiggling them back and forth so the tip of his shoe hits her leg each time.  “And American Asshole…  There. Saved.  So, what’s new?”  She raises her eyebrow at Chris, watching as he happily folds his hands over his stomach.

Tom walks around the table, patting her shoulder as he passes by, murmuring, “I guess I’m in no rush.  Since you’re here, I think I’ll stay.”  The tall, lanky gentleman sits down on the couch where he can see her lovely face. She chuckles silently to herself at how his legs automatically fall a mile wide open. The chuckle gets stuck in her throat when she sees him cringe at the greenish and purple bruises on her face.

Her countenance softens when his turns serious.  “Hey, I look a hell of a lot better than I did a few days ago….”  she says quietly to them both.

Chris shakes his head slowly.  “What are you doing here?  You still can take another week off.”

Bobbing her head, she says, “I can.  And I will.  I’m not pushing myself.  But I guess someone contacted a few of the offices on campus on my behalf?  It seems that I can count some of my undergrad work towards the course hours I had scheduled for the fall, and my internship this summer will count for so many hours towards my curator certificate.  I can graduate in August, but walk the stage in May, two semesters early.  Would either of you know anything about that?”

When neither man answers, she fidgets with a napkin on the table and continues.  “So I won’t officially graduate and have my diploma till August, but I can participate in ceremonial events this Spring, right before I leave for Paris.”

Tom speaks first.  “So you’ve decided on that placement?”

Chris’s head drops to his chest and he waits.

“I did.  It will lead to bigger and better things.”  She nervously runs her free hand through her hair pulling on a few tangles over her breast.  “But interestingly enough, I’ve also been offered the chance to teach some freshman level entry history classes here in the fall, should I wish to return.”

She smiles at the blush on Chris’s cheeks and the little thumbs up he gives that only she can see.  He takes off his glasses and lays them on the table.

“So lots of things to do in less than a month before you leave…” he states quietly rubbing his hands over his face.

Nodding, Thalia stretches out her leg and massages her thigh, above the brace.  “Thank you both for the flowers.  All the calls and messages really helped.”  Bending her knee slowly, she wonders if the pain will ever go away.  Tilting her head to the side, thinking of the beautiful arrangements and sweet letters that arrived daily, she adds, “Of course, my stepmom got suspicious.  That led to some interesting chats…”

“I still can’t believe you told your stepmother about- “  Tom begins before being interrupted.  A silent shake of her head answers his unspoken question when another faculty member enters the room for a coffee refill. They all take great pretense in doing separate work, Thalia checking her phone, Chris reading the paper and Tom skimming a magazine, fidgeting with his glasses in a way that lets her know he can’t hide his tension well.

“God, I hate that woman,” Tom says when she leaves.

“Was it Professor Kent?”  Thalia bounces in her seat with glee, turning to glance over her shoulder, still trying to keep things light.  “Oh, really?  Damn, I missed it.  I would have loved to chat with her.”

Tom laughs and the familiar “eh, eh, eh” warms her inside.  Hearing it in person is so much better than separated by miles and heartache.  Her eyes shift back to Chris, who watches her quizzically.  She can see he is trying to bring the conversation back around to more serious matters.  She rubs her eyebrow in frustration.  “I need to see each of you privately in the next few days.  I actually have some paperwork I need you to sign in order for me to graduate early.”

“I knew it,” Chris jokes.  “The whole reason you hit on me in the bar.  Your semester long ruse actually worked, Miss Bareo.”

They all chuckle and Tom stands, tugging down the leg of his pants and adjusting his tie.  “I didn’t miss that, Professor Hiddleston.  I saw it, sir,” Thalia says with raised brows. “Don’t you need to be getting to class?”

Tom grins at his tie and turns his wrist to check the time.  “In fact, I do.  I have office hours this afternoon if you’d like to come by.  We can spread things out on the desk to work, as we have in the past.”

His meaning isn’t lost on anyone and Chris pinches his lips closed.  Thalia sighs.  That wasn’t fair of him and she feels kicked in the gut, twisting inside at the hurt she’s caused them both.

“Actually, about that.  My medicines make me really sleepy.  On days I’m working on campus, can I hide in your office for a cat nap on your couch if I need it?”

He walks around behind her and swings her hair over her shoulder.  She sees him look to the door to make sure no one is passing by.  He bends, pressing his lips tenderly to her forehead and she feels Chris next to her tense.  “Of course, darling.  Anything you need and want.”

“Thank you,” she breathes out slowly, locking her eyes with his stormy blue ones briefly.  She whispers, “We talked about this on the phone; that wasn’t very nice.”

With a grimace, Tom quietly replies, “I’m being as nice as I bloody can.”

She tugs on the end of his tie.  “Try harder, please.”

Tom’s sigh is audible and he leaves the room in a huff.

Her eyes follow him out to the hallway before she turns to the other man.  “Chris, I have a favor to ask of you, too,” Thalia begins.  “I…  I don’t feel safe in my apartment; not yet anyway.”  She hates saying it outloud, fearing it as a weakness, but she doesn’t want to be alone.  “Will you stay with me some; on nights you don’t have Avery?”

Chris opens the paper and refolds it properly, tossing it back onto the table.  She watches him fight back a smile.  “Of course, I will.  You don’t even have to ask; you could even come stay at my place.”

She shakes her head ‘no’ in response. “I can’t, Chris.  I have to get over it; I can’t live my life in fear.  But I could use some help getting back on my feet.”  Harsh images flash across her mind and she shuts them down quickly.  Trying to change the subject, she adjusts the sling and grumbles in Spanish.  “Do you have any idea how awkward it is to have big tits and wear a sling?  I might as well be groping my boob all the time.”

Throwing his head back in laughter, it rumbles through her and she joins him.  “It is great to squeeze.  Your physical therapist doesn’t have you grabbing it to regain use of your hand?”

Three of her fingers had been broken in the melee as well and she would be starting physical therapy soon, but not yet.  Her lopsided grin takes him in.  “I guess I have you to thank for the newly remodeled stairwell and fresh paint that greeted me when I got home two nights ago?”

“Guilty.  It was my idea, but Tom, Jim, Tina and some of the other patrons helped out.”  Twirling his glasses between his fingers, Chris shifts in his seat uncomfortably.  “Two nights?  You’ve been home that long and didn’t tell either of us?”

Looking at the ground, she shyly replies.  “I just needed time, and I didn’t know how you’d both really feel now.”  Her heart pounds in her chest.  She doesn’t want to do this now; she can’t. She’s tired and worn out and needs to keep her energy up for another meeting scheduled for the afternoon with the Dean, about her early graduation.  She’s still fearful, even after all the phone calls the last few days from department secretaries sharing with her this new development, that this could all crash down; that news of their affairs will leak.

Chris anxiously bounces in his seat, but his words wrap around her.  “It doesn’t change how I feel about you.  Even battered and bruised, you are the most beautiful woman I know, Thalia Bareo, inside and out.  And you got half these battle scars,” he wipes his hand across the stitches on her cheek, “because you kicked back.  You’re strong and amazing, the type of woman I want by my side as long as you’ll have me.”

Leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees, he can see under her lowered eyes.  She lifts her face to his and he takes her free hand in his.  “Can I ask you one question?”

His serious tone immediately sends up a warning flag.  She jumps quickly to humor to deflect his mood.  “Of course, Chris, you can sign my cast…  I’m sure you’ve been planning secret messages for it.  I’m hoping it’s a dirty limerick!”  Her radiant smile lights up her face but her raspy voice doesn’t meet the same level of enthusiasm, as she tries to ease some of the tension.  She reaches to adjust the collar of his shirt, and pulls the chain of his Saint Christopher’s medallion free, resting it against his chest and pressing it into him.  She sighs.  “What do you need to know, babe?”  She whispers quietly.

Frustrated, he sighs.  “Did you ever tell him you love him?”

Her smile softens.  Thoughtfully, she replies, “I may have said it to boys, when I was younger… But I’ve never said it to any man…”  She thinks about adding something else, but leaves it at that.

Pressing his forehead to hers, Chris slowly slides his nose down her cheek before softly and delicately landing his lips to hers.  Twisting her fingers in the chain, she gently taps his chest and they separate with a sweet ‘pop.’ Without a word, Chris makes his exit to get to his next class. Thalia watches him leave, and for a moment the pain in her heart is bigger than that of all her slowly healing injuries.

From the hallway she hears Chris’ booming voice, breaking her from her dark thoughts.  “Hey, Hiddleston.  Hear anything ya like?  Aren’t you late to class, man?  Shouldn’t be standing around like that…”

“American asshole.”  She hears Tom complain under his breath, a touch of endearment adding charm to his clipped words, and a slow half-smile creeps onto her face though her heart is still aching.

Her men.

Raising the mug Tom offered her, the tea is now lukewarm on her lips.  She feels like she just watched them both walk out of her life, but in the end, she’s really the one who’s leaving, in a larger, more profound sense.  Graduation.  Paris.  Time to grow up and enter the real world…  Her time in Chicago was the beginning of a goodbye, a step forward in a different direction. And part of her wants to freeze time, and relive all that’s happened before, to do it all again in a less hurtful way… but another part of her knows things have to change so each of them can grow and learn, heal and move ahead…

She gets up to warm the tepid beverage and the weight on Thalia’s shoulders is heavy as she walks to the microwave.  Watching as it spins on the turnstyle, silent tears run down her cheeks and she hides behind her mass of curls.  Angrily pushing the tears across her face, she chuckles, thinking how irritated Tom would be if he knew she was reheating it like that.

With the passing time, the classes change and other faculty come in as their breaks begin and they offer Thalia their condolences and their well wishes for a speedy recovery.  Many have heard the news she will graduate early and rejoice in that.  She can’t handle the noise, the joviality of it all, when she feels like a part of her is dying.  Thalia quickly washes out her mug and leaves.

As she moves slowly across the campus she loves, her heart breaks and the tears flow freely.  With her graduation looming and the internship in Paris, she knows it’s time to say goodbye.  Stopping at a bench under a tree blooming with spring flowers, Thalia tries to pull herself together.  With a sigh, Thalia shifts and wiggles but can’t really get comfortable.  She hasn’t been comfortable in weeks, feeling the most herself when she’s by their side.  Shaking her head, she knows she has to learn to stand on her own again

With her elbow rested on the arm of the bench, she presses her lips against her raised fist in thought.  In a total fantasy world, she could keep them both!  She giggles at the thought.  “Two alpha males,” she mutters out loud, shaking her head.  They’d murder each other in a week.  At this point, it’s not her decision to make; each man will have to decide for himself what he wants.  She’s juggled them both this long; she might as well keep doing it as long as they will let her.  She loves them both, and right now she feels it would kill her if she had to make a choice…

To her left, she watches a couple lying on a blanket in the warm sun, surrounded by books and laughing.  The tears begin to fall again, because that’s what she wants, someone to be by her side in the sun, not hiding anymore.  The difficult part is, she can envision that future with both men.  She’s had dreams of her and Tom, with a curly haired little boy walking between them, his clipped British accent, much like his father’s…  or the Evans’ cabin, the breakfast table crowded around, several children with their noses hidden in books, the youngest in glasses, like her father.

She chokes on her sobs, letting it all bubble out, ignoring the stares of passing students.  Someone offers her a tissue and she takes it, her thoughts still swarming as quickly as her stomach turns.  Chris and Tom are both special to her in so many ways, and the dark haired beauty knows she’ll never forget them.  Behind her closed eyes, a million memories of treasured moments flood her mind, and she’ll rely on that comfort in the months to come. Her two men have shown her sides to her character that she never had any idea about, and she’s thankful for the lessons she’s learned.

Click here to read Chapter 44 Paris

Author Note:  There are three remaining chapters.  (Lucky readers!  After brainstorming the authors decided an additional chapter was needed for Wednesday, August 2.)

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

Apologies

ch 42 apologies July 26 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 42

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count:  3559

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

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

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

holding hands Chicago Chris.gif

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re evil.”

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

“Aren’t we a twisted pair?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scoffing, Chris snaps his eyes away from the letter.

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Chapter 43 Homecoming

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