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

Acceptance

ch 41 Acceptance July 23 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 41

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: 963

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, hospital, acceptance, jealousy, concern, anguish

Summary:  There’s at least one decision Thalia can make…

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Pale and withdrawn, Thalia pulls on the nasal cannula and adjusts it.  Chris notices her skin looks red and raw where the tubing lays against her lovely but bruised face.  He hides his wince and stares back down at his boots.  The room is a tense silence; Tom pacing at the window.  The constant movement grates on his nerves but he understands the man’s frustration.

Both men look up when the door opens and Big Jim returns to the room, a tray of coffees in his hands and a box of donuts under his arm.  He sets them on the table and hands a steaming cup to each of them.  “Jim,” Chris nods nearly bowing under pressure as the larger man pats him on the back.

“Did she tell you yet?”  Jim asks, a little too happily. Two faces – so different but both haggard with exhaustion and worry for the same woman – turn his way in curiosity, and he ignores them for a moment.  He tears open three packets of sugar and pours them into his cup.  With the little red straw he stirs the beverage before licking it and throwing it on the food tray.  Turning to his ‘adopted’ daughter, he fusses, “You didn’t eat enough.”

Thalia rolls her eyes.  “I’m a big girl, I won’t waste away.”  Her breathing is restricted when she speaks, barely above a whisper.  “I can’t; my ribs… it hurts.”

Patting her hand in a fatherly fashion, Jim finally turns to the men in the room who are still waiting for an explanation.  “My wife, Sarah, and I are taking Thalia to Chicago when she’s released from the hospital.  She needs to go home and get well.  Spring Break is next week so she won’t miss that much school, but she’s been approved three weeks of medical leave from classes.  We feel she needs to be with family to care for-”

Tom interrupts the bartender.  His active hands show a man who is at a loss, grasping at anything. “My home is large enough, she can stay with me, we can hire a nurse and-”

“Tom?  Tom, it’s okay.  I won’t be gone long.” She whispers, sucking in a deep breath.  “Chris?  I need family.  I need time to be alone.”

His heart stops but he understands.  Chris also hears what she doesn’t say, recognizing she’s talking to him and not Tom.  Even in her brief moments of clarity with all the pain killers coursing through her system she’s realized Tom’s thoughts and emotions aren’t stable.

“Tom, we need to let her do this.”  Chris’s voice is calm and even, a grounding force in the room.  “Her family can give her a safe haven.  We’ll be here for her when she gets back-”

Tom turns wildly.  “How can you be so calm?  This is madness!”

Standing up, Chris walks to the foot of the hospital bed and rests his hand on her leg.  “Ranting and raving here isn’t going to do any good.  She’s obviously had a lot on her mind, but she can make one decision.  That’s to go home.  Alone.  We need to respect that.”

“Thalia, but,” Tom starts, moving to her and placing his hand gently on her forearm above the cast.

Taking another painful breath, Thalia stops him. “I can’t.  I can’t handle you both in the room at the same time…” Her voice drifts away as she takes another breath, clutching the tubing to her nose.  A small smile graces her chapped lips.  “You both and your damn sweaters.”

Chris chuckles and Tom rolls his eyes, shaking his head.

Jim ignores that comment and looks to the monitors attached to her, identifying the increased beeping.  “Is that why your heart rate is up?  Which one do you want me to kick out?”

Closing her eyes, Thalia is non-responsive to the question.  Chris can see the avoidance and is relieved when a nurse enters the room.

“Well, what a handsome collection of visitors you have, my dear!  But gentlemen, I’m going to have to ask you all to leave for awhile.  She needs her rest, and she obviously isn’t getting it.  Too good looking.  Y’all have her heart racing!”

The little woman playfully pushes them out the door and Chris watches through the window as she checks over her vitals.  He sees Thalia speaking to the nurse and gesturing to them, being shut out when the nurse walks over to close the blinds.

Fuck.  He slowly walks to the row of seats down the hall from her room.  As he sinks into another uncomfortable hospital chair, he watches Hiddleston punch the door open at the end of the hall.  Chris rests his head back against the wall, wondering when he’ll have to say goodbye; when will they release her from the hospital…

It hurts too much to see Thalia suffering and yet doing her best to show a brave front. He’s never felt so damn helpless in his life – apart from when his marriage fell apart. And in a way, it’s the same situation, though it’s also completely different. Because this time he isn’t afraid of losing his daughter but the woman he loves.

Kicking his boot against the ground, he admits it hurts so fucking much. He doesn’t want to be the calming force in the room. He wants to lose his shit too. He almost envies the tall Brit for his emotional outbursts.  Sighing, he watches the nurses go about their rounds, starting to clean up lunches from the rooms.  But clearly, an outburst and stress isn’t what Thalia needs right now, and if he can do even the smallest thing to make this ordeal easier for her, then he’ll damn well do it even if it kills him.

He can still be the better man.

Click here to read Chapter 42 Apologies

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