Digging into the Past

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Digging into the Past

Being Thalia

Chapter 21

By devikavernando & avenger-nerd-mom

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Gif created from images found on Pinterest

Word Count: 2252

Summary: After a long day together at the museum, Tom and Thalia each spend time digging up old memories.

Previous Chapter, Museum Musings

September 2021

Unable to convince her to join him for dinner, Tom left Thalia at her office, under the guise that she had daily reports to finish. The late summer air is warm and inviting, so Tom decides to meander the city, lost in his thoughts. Taking off his jacket, he casually drapes it over his arm, clutching it to his side. He takes a deep breath, letting his muscles relax from the long day. Being so near her, but not being able to have her had put a harsh strain on his body, and he’s almost relieved she turned down his offer.

He watches a young family cross the street in front of him, and he feels a pang of… something. He can’t put a name to the feeling. Loss? Guilt? Hope?

Could that be him one day? A father, pushing a stroller while a little one toddles ahead, the mother rushing to keep up. Thalia. Would she even want that? He brushes his hand roughly across his forehead. She’s older now, her early thirties. Does she want to have children? It was something they never discussed, actually.

“You fucker, Hiddleston,” he murmurs aloud, crossing to the other side of the street, watching for traffic. She’d said it the other day, at the park, that she’d only been his sexual partner. On the phone, she’d said she felt he’d taken advantage of her. That was her truth, her view. He’d been such a hard, British arse, keeping his emotions in check, she’d never known he truly loved her, would have given anything for her.

No wonder she sought out Evans, and his affections. Bloody hell, the American had been right all along. Evans allowed her to be a partner, whereas he’d always had an air of instructor about him, guiding her and leading her to new experiences. But she enjoyed it, he has no doubt about that. She’s changed though, and so has he. Their needs are different–but they would still counterbalance each other, he believes.

He remembers seeing Thalia and his former colleague together in Toronto. It had been the last stab to his already broken heart. Evans had stayed in the shadows, only moving forward after her presentation. His hands balling into fists, Tom lets his mind travel back to the day when he realized he’d truly lost his beautiful orchid.

**

After her presentation, he’d finally collected his courage and given himself the push to go and congratulate Thalia, share his unabashed admiration, when the other man appeared seemingly out of nowhere. As if they had both waited for this moment, Thalia stepped to greet him and went willingly into his arms. They hugged for what seemed like eternity, and it made Tom recall the way she would always snuggle into his hold and feel as if she belonged there for all eternity. Well, no more.

Tom remembers actually having made a sound of anguish at the pain that sliced through him, as if someone had taken a blunt knife to his intestines, hacking and sawing away until he could almost feel himself bleed. Rubbing his chest, he’d made himself stare until the two of them were seated next to each other, heads bent close together with a devastating sense of familiarity. This could have been him–should have been him, dammit. But he’d fucked it up. It hurt like hell that she’d moved on, and the worst part was that he knew he’d driven her to this.

Vowing he would let her go, Tom had left before the evening was over, finding his way to the nearest bar to drown his sorrows. It had been ages since he’d last sought out alcohol to make his inner wounds more bearable–in fact, after he’d pushed Thalia away. This one time, he’d allow himself to wallow in guilt and regret. It was just too much to handle, as if a vital organ had stopped functioning at the sight.

A few hours later, after nursing his third whiskey, Tom had tried miserably to pull himself together. Paying and leaving a high tip because he’d been such a foul-tempered guest, he wound his way to the exit on not-so-steady feet. He wasn’t piss drunk but the liquor had indeed dulled some of his hurt. He was still wearing the nice dark blue suit he’d chosen for the occasion, as if she would even care what he looked like. Hah, what a fool he’d been, even wondering what she’d have to say about his beard. During his hours at the bar, he’d removed the suffocating tie and opened a few of the buttons on his white shirt, feeling as if he couldn’t breathe properly.

Running a shaky hand through his now longer, wavy hair, Tom took a few deep breaths of the cool night air and turned into the alley that would–hopefully–take him back to the hotel he’d booked in Toronto. Staring at his feet, the shiny shoes incongruous with how damaged he felt, he walked on.

His head snapped up at the sound of laughter, the one he sometimes still heard in his dreams. What he saw stopped him cold as if he’d slammed against an invisible brick wall. There she was, his Thalia–so very much not his anymore. With him, of course. Professor Evans had his arm slung around her shoulders and they were walking side by side, dressed like a couple out for a drink. Thalia was wrapped in a party dress, even wore heels, making her legs look spectacular. She laughed again at something her companion said, then shook out her riotous curls that Tom had loved to feel between his fingers and on his skin.

It felt like a betrayal somehow, although he knew even in his haze that he had no bloody right to such bitterness, no more claim to stake on her. He swallowed thickly, rooted to the spot. The air grew too dense to breathe when the American leaned even closer and kissed Thalia, backing her against the wall, unaware of passersby and watching eyes. Not waiting to see whether she would kiss him back, and half-afraid they would spot him, Tom turned on his heel and mechanically strode the other way. He could feel tears pricking his eyes, and the metallic tang of blood in his mouth as he’d bitten down too hard on his tongue. The numbing effect of the alcohol had been chased away by a cocktail of crippling emotions.

Fuck. She truly was lost to him. And he had nobody to blame but himself.

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**

Shaking off his melancholy thoughts, he vows to do better. On the sidewalk ahead, he spies the perfect little shop, and enters. As the bell rings overhead, a cheerful voice calls out to him in Spanish. He smiles, and points to the display he wishes to order. He’s well aware that a simple gift won’t make it all better. But he also knows that small gestures can amount to something grander, can in this case be a sign that he’s not giving up on Thalia.

Crossing the room with a few strides of his long legs, he meets the shop clerk at the counter. He asks for paper to include a note with the delivery, and he quickly scribbles his ‘thanks’ to Thalia for a lovely day at the museum, and for teaching him so many things. Tom includes mention that he’d like to see her again before he leaves town at the end of the week. He arranges with the shop clerk for the present to be delivered to her office the next morning.

“Lucky girl,” the older woman murmurs in Spanish, smiling at him as he steadies up the bill.

Is she, though? Or is he the lucky bastard because Thalia hasn’t smacked him upside his idiotic head and told him to leave her the hell alone?

***

Returning to her office, Thalia stiffens when she sees the slim, wrapped gift on her desk.

Taking her glasses off and dropping them on top of her planner, she falls into her chair, praying, “Dear Lord, don’t let it be jewelry.” She kicks off her shoes and reaches with pointed toe for the foam roller she keeps under her desk. Rolling her feet over the top, the strain from the heeled shoes begins to ease. Just like him to think everything can be fixed with a fancy dinner or a gift. Not that tapas are fancy…

“Quit being a bitch, Chica,” she says to no one but herself. “You caused the problem by not communicating well, just as much as he did.”

Her printer whirs to life on the side table, indicating the requisition forms she needs to sign from the morning budget meeting are ready. Work should be her focus, but instead she can only laugh, thinking of the silly stories Tom created from the hieroglyphs they’d read together yesterday.

He makes me laugh… I haven’t laughed with a man since Chris.

I deserve laughter.

Picking up the gift, she reads the store label. Shocked he’d discovered one of her favorite stores, she quickly tears off the paper and lifts the lid from the gift box. Thalia gasps, pulling out a beautiful silk scarf, the colors warm and vibrant.

The way he makes me feel- bright and full of life.

A folded piece of paper falls into her lap, and she lifts it up to read it. A blur, she leans forward to retrieve her glasses. She quickly skims the note, faltering when it says he’ll be leaving soon. She sighs. “Probably better that way. At least we can say we’re friends again,” Thalia mutters to herself.

Standing from her chair, she stretches, looping the scarf around her neck. In the mirror above the credenza, she sees the colors pop against the stark black business shirt she’d chosen that morning. She fiddles with the fabric, placing it just so, adding a haughty flair to her style. Picking up the forms, she returns to her desk and settles in to work.

An hour later, her phone buzzes, causing her to jump. Shit, I forgot to text and thank him.

Sliding her fingertip across the screen, unlocking the keypad, Thalia opens her messages. “Is that all I am now to you? Someone you text when you’re drunk?”

The text is punctuated with a smiley face.

“Shit,” she hisses. “Who did I text?”

She squints at the screen. Chris. “Thank God,” she chuckles, opening the actual message thread, enlarging the fonts.

“Sorry I didn’t answer last night. Avery had soccer, two games on Tuesdays. Ridiculous. BTW,  the team sucks since their best coach moved to Madrid. We miss you.”

“Aw,” she whispers, continuing to read. “Miss you guys too.”

“Honey, I can’t tell you what to do. Be happy. And I’ll deny I ever said this, but he makes you happy. I would know you’re safe and loved-”

“Jesus, what did I say to him?” Thalia scrolls up, but the messages are gone, only some old ones that had been locked for safe keeping. Drunk Thalia deleted the messages. “Just great.”

“-and I wouldn’t worry so much about you. Not that you need my permission or acceptance. For a British asshole, I guess he’s not a bad guy.

Running her fingers over her lips, she nods. Man, that had to be hard for him to say.

She types out a quick reply, thanking him- “You didn’t have to say that but it’s appreciated”– and telling him to give her love to Avery, and that she’d be in touch soon. She doesn’t let him know she didn’t remember texting him last night. After finishing at the office, she’d stopped to see Lucía at work and had a few too many drinks at the bar before Henrí walked them both to their respective apartments. She hoped she didn’t drunk text Tom too.

Lifting her head to a knock on the door, the office assistant reminds her it’s almost time for her two o’clock tour with the group from the US. She waves, saying she’ll be ready in a few minutes.

Her fingers open a memo to Tom, tapping out a thank you. “The scarf is lovely; I’ll get one of the staff to take a photo so I can send it to you. I’d like to see you again before you return to London, but not yet. I need time to think. Apparently three years wasn’t long enough.” She inserts a smiley face emoji, even though she hates them, and is nearly a hundred percent sure he does too. She wanted to soften the words so they wouldn’t read as harsh as they seem. She gulps. “Not that I didn’t think nearly every day what I’d do if you showed back up in my life. I just never expected it to happen. A week ago, if someone had asked me what I wanted, I solidly knew the answer. Now I’m not sure. I’ve grown and changed from the young girl I used to be. I’m not accustomed to feeling unsure. Please continue to give me space. You’ve been very kind and patient, and I respect that.” The secretary knocks again. “I have to give a tour to an American group, but I’ll talk to you again soon. Enjoy the sights in the city!”

Leaving the phone on her desk, not waiting for a reply, she slides into a pair of more sensible shoes, ready to go meet the high school students from Philadelphia.

Click here to read Chapter 22, Beg For It

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

Open Wounds

ch 18 Open Wounds

Open Wounds

Being Thalia

Chapter 18

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: 4518

Summary: A chance encounter with Tom opens up old wounds and leads to new ones.

Previous Chapter, Girls’ Night

September 2021

Two days later, she’s made no effort to contact Tom, and he’s been wise enough to give her space. Smart man, Thalia thinks, looking down at her phone to adjust the volume. A quick tempo song fills her ears and the sounds of the park fade away as she matches her walking pace to the beat of the music.

She loves it here at El Retiro. It may be one of the largest parks in Madrid, but it has this strange sense of familiarity and cosy corners to it. Sure, there’s a grandeur hinting at the fact that it belonged to the Spanish royalty until the late 19th century, but nothing here wants to overwhelm or look overly neat. Thalia likes its proximity to the Prado and that there is so much art and history mixed in with nature. The Fountain of the Fallen Angel is one of her favorite spots in the park. Her nerdy side also appreciates the galleries, monuments and sculptures. And then there’s the Retiro Pond, a peaceful lake. She’s never rented one of the rowboats before, but she’s spent many a happy hour watching puppet shows, looking at handmade trinkets and listening to open-air concerts.

She gazes at the Cristal Palace with its domed roof and shiny surfaces with a fond smile. As she rounds the corner in the sidewalk, just beyond the bushes blocking the path, she spies a familiar sight. Shit. In a park as huge as 350 acres, their paths would cross. Now there’s no way to avoid him.

Rolling her eyes, Thalia pulls the earbuds out of her ears. Offering no greeting, she calls out, “How on earth can you have the same fitness clothes after all these years?”

Tom turns and brightens when he sees her face. Screwing the cap back on his water bottle, he bounces on his feet. “You know I usually buy two of an item if it’s something I like. These have no holes!” He proudly announces as he drops his hands down, displaying his clothing like a fashion show.

She nods and keeps walking. He falls into step next to her and she closes her eyes briefly to block out the image of the large bulge in his pants. How can that man run and not wear more protective gear? Jesus fuckin’ Christ.

“I didn’t expect to find you here,” Tom says, stabilizing his breathing after his run. He’s using the slower walk to stretch a bit and she tries–and fails–not to stare at the muscles straining beneath his sweat-soaked clothes. “I remember now, I saw you in the gym in London. Have you taken up exercising, Thalia?”

Reaching up and pulling her ponytail tight, she scoffs. “I’d hardly call it that, but I suppose. I try to walk a few miles every couple of days, and I lift weights at the gym some. I’m by no means a fitness buff, not like you, or Chris.” She says his name, not missing a beat, but she doesn’t fail to notice the step back Tom makes, as though beaten just by a name. She continues, “This is my shape, I’ve learned to live with it.” She avoids his inquisitive stare, feeling his eyes roaming over her curves, despite his hurt ego at the mention of another. “It’s not a great one, but I can try to keep it fit.”

“It works for you, Thalia. You wouldn’t be the same person if you looked like…” He points to a group ahead, wearing tight yoga pants and sports bras, girls who looked like they needed to eat. “Like them… There’s something appealing to a man, knowing a woman enjoys the riches of life, knowing he can have his way and she can take every toss and tumble.”

Thalia freezes in her path and it’s a few steps before Tom realizes she’s not next to him.

“What?” he asks, turning back to look at her.

As if he doesn’t know. “For fuck’s sake, man, is everything ‘sex’ with you?” She raises her hands, and slaps them back down against her plump thighs. “Was that all I was, a rowdy fuck, cause I could handle your kinky shit?” She blushes as the mother pushing a stroller with toddler twins rushes past. Tom stares at her dumbfounded. “Cause you couldn’t ‘break’ me? Cuz, listen asshole, you broke me, alright? You broke me.”

Spinning on her heels, she turns to walk away, pushing through a group of runners on the path. Just get away before the tears start, please. It’s all she can hear pounding in her head when his hand grasps around her wrist.

Twirling her back to him, his hands tangle in the sweaty hair at the base of her neck, gripping her tightly. “Thalia, darling, if I ever made you feel like an easy fuck, like it was nothing but sex to me, in all the time I have known you, then I am a poor excuse for a man.” He tugs on her neck. “Look at me, dammit. Look me in the eye. Hear my words. I love you with the power of a thousand men. I would fight for you till my dying breath. You are the goddess I worship.” His grasp loosens as his hand slides over her shoulder and down her arms, taking her hand as he drops to his knee. “I kneel before you, my princess.”

Through tears, she shakes her head, laughing at the image of him kneeling at her battered tennis shoes. Part of her wants to cling to her righteous anger, to the distance she’s created between them to protect herself. It wants to lash out at him that being theatrical and spouting declarations worthy of Shakespeare won’t heal a sometimes still bleeding wound. But she can hear and see the sincerity behind his words, and it would feel cruel to dismiss him completely.

“You old fool.” She tugs on his hand, pulling him up to her side. “Get up before someone thinks you’re proposing to me.”

“Maybe I should… Maybe I should have long ago,” he admits, kissing the top of her head.

She slaps his chest, pushing him back a step. Angrily, she wipes away a tear, dirt streaking her face. “Your damn words. You can’t come back here and think you can sweep me off my feet, Tom. I’m not the same person.”

He laughs, a rich sound echoing among the trees, falling forward slightly and placing his hands on his hips. “Oh, I can see that, Thalia. You’ve become a cold-hearted bitch, ruined by love rather than lifted up by it, and it’s time to thaw you out a bit.”

“You can’t say that! You don’t know what I’ve been through-” She charges towards him, closing her fist and dropping it at her side, though really she wants to slap him.

“Yes, I can darling, because you remind me of me. Me before I met you… Before you showed me what it meant to be truly loved and cared for…” He pauses, running the back of his hand over his sweaty forehead, pushing back his long, damp curls. “Ah, yes, I remember a quote, I believe from a poem, “mi corazón fue destrozado hasta quedar irreconocible.” He tugs down on his shirt, the smirk evident he’s proud of his Spanish and his elephant-like memory. “Even then, years ago, back at university, I never let you truly in because I was scared of it all. I didn’t know my own heart, as the poem says, it was unrecognizable. And you’re right, I was an old fool. And now I literally am… Older than I was when we first met… I almost let you get away. I won’t let it happen again, Thalia. It would kill me. That much I know.”

She looks around, realizing their shouts and display have caused a small crowd to gather nearby. Her shoulders drop. She admits her defeat. “I don’t know if I can do it again, Tom. I know it will break me. I’ve seen it happen… I know what I’m capable of… I can’t, Tom, I can’t let you hurt me again. I’d rather be alone, and try to preserve our memories, than to fail with you again.” She steps towards him and rests her hand on his chest. “You have to, you have to let me go.”

She pushes off and walks away, reaching over her shoulder and flipping him off when he calls out, “I’ll pick you up at eight, for dinner. Be ready.”

***

His shoes click down the walkway, and he smiles down at his familiar gray suede shoes. He chuckles, remembering her comment from earlier. He pushes his sweater sleeves up, looking at his watch. Hell, he probably does look like a time warp, wearing some of his standards from years gone by. Eight pm. On the dot. He knocks on the door.

Tom listens to the chain slide across and his heart pounds in his ears, waiting to see her again. Although all they’ve done is fight, and she’s ignored him, it’s still been a pleasant to trip to Madrid. Just being in the same city with her fills him with hope-

The door flies open. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I thought I made that clear.”

Looking her up and down, Tom chuckles. “At least you’re dressed.” He steps inside, uninvited, and she retreats. “I half expected you to be in a state of undress, ratty old pajamas or your ‘shark week, don’t touch me’ uniform.”

Thalia rolls her eyes, but he can see the vein in her neck, pulsing, her eyes with a slight glaze to them. “I’m not playing games, Tom. This is not me playing hard to get.”

He turns quickly, stepping behind her. “Oh, I know you’re not. You’re behaving like a petulant child. I have half a mind to put you over my knee.”

Tom pushes her gently from behind, out the door, bending to grab a pair of her shoes by the entrance.

In the hall, she stomps her bare feet, reaching for the door as he slams it shut. “My keys!”

With his back to her, he hides his grimace. He turns the knob. Locked. He looks at her sheepishly, over his shoulder. “I didn’t mean for that to happen.” He pivots to face her. “I am truly sorry about that, but I guess you’ll have to go to dinner with me now while we wait for a locksmith.”

She silently seethes. “Dammit, Tom, why can’t you just take ‘no’ for an answer?”

He hands over her shoes, hiding a smile when she bends to slide them on, her fight slightly abating. “You won’t like my answer to that, darling.” He brushes dirt from the shoes off his hands. “Have a spare?”

“Yeah. In my purse, which is in the house, too, you idiot.” She ignores his comment about not liking his answer. “You’re not going to leave me alone until we go out, so let’s go. Get it over with. Where are we going?”

Tom steps back, eyeing her appearance under the pale porch light. An old pair of university sweatpants and a t-shirt with a slogan written in a language he doesn’t recognize. She’s making things more difficult than they need to be, but she’s forgotten a relaxed, Sunday morning style was always one of his favorites, next to dressed to the nines, or absolutely nothing at all. “Well, darling, given your appearance, I suggest someplace dark. Don’t want to scare the kiddies,” he laughs.

“Fuck you,” she laughs back, running her hands through her hair and pulling it into a low knot, twisting an elastic band around it to hold it in place. An errant curl, one that never seems to do what she wants, pops free and hangs in her face. Fighting the urge to tuck it back, he shoves his hands into the pockets of his well worn jeans. “There’s some food trucks out this time of night, just around the corner.”

He shrugs. “Whatever you want, Thalia… Or we could get a ride back to my hotel? The restaurant there is wonderful. We could order room service?”

Her cheeks turn red and she scoffs. “I’m not going to your hotel room, Tom.”

Seeing a neighbor peeping from behind her curtains, Thalia leads him back onto the street. He watches her hard, controlled moves. “Afraid you can’t control yourself alone in a room with me?”

She ignores him again and turns left. On the crowded sidewalk, Tom keeps a few steps behind, watching the locals move about their lives. At the traffic light, he realizes she’s on the phone. He can’t make out the words, but he hears the time. “A las diez.” Tom steps up beside her and listens inquisitively to the conversation, wondering how good his conversational Spanish really could be. Llave. Key. She must be making arrangements to meet the landlord, to get back into her apartment. He really is sorry about that. It was purely an accident. The light changes and they cross the street, away from a residential area into an neighborhood of shops and restaurants. He watches as she waves to a few people who call out to her, and stops to pet a dog as she chats quickly with someone in passing. He realizes he’s never seen her fit in so well in an environment before. It’s like she’s home. If he wasn’t so damn jealous, he’d be proud she found it on her own.

Surprised when she takes his hand, she pulls him down the sidewalk. “Hurry up, slowpoke, I wasn’t hungry before, but smell that? Hope you got some money with you, since you locked me out!”

They walk up to a small food truck with a brown canopy overhang. A short line waits their turn as Tom does his best to make sense of the Spanish. “Bocadillos? Those are sandwiches, right?” She nods. “And calamares? That’s not shrimp, is it? No, that’s not right? What is it?”

She giggles. “Fried squid! I know, weird, right? It’s really good.” In answer to his silent question, she continues “This guy I used to know insisted I always had to try new foods.” She shrugs, bumping his shoulder before wrapping her arms around her waist. He wishes he had a coat with him to keep her warm from the cooler evening air. “This was a no brainer. Fried. That smell! Doesn’t matter if you’re from Chicago or Madrid, anything tastes better fried!”

Tom laughs and nods his agreement. “Okay, so we know what we’re ordering. What shall we get to drink?”

“Do you have cash?” Thalia asks. “I can order these, and you can go over there, and order two horchatas to drink. The seasoning on the squid is a little spicy, and the horchata soothes the sting a bit.”

He nods, pulling out his wallet and handing her some Euros. “Dos horchatas. Fine, I’ll order those, as long as you tell me what it is when I get back?”

Accepting the money, she nods and waves behind her. “First one to get their order goes to find a table back that way.”

He walks away and easily orders the drinks, which appear to be like a creamy milkshake. Tom wanders back in the direction Thalia pointed out and searches for an empty table. Instead he finds Thalia already seated at one, with a tall handsome man leaning on the back of her chair, talking to her in a very friendly manner. His stomach twists and he takes a deep breath. In all his ‘sweep her off her feet’ thoughts, he never once considered she might be seeing someone else. Stupid git. No wonder she’s been spurning his advances. Maybe she’s just trying to be nice and let him down easy. Her stepmother hadn’t said she was seeing anyone, but with an ocean between them, maybe they weren’t as close as they once were…

Thalia looks up and sees him maneuvering around the other tables. She waves to him, and her male companion leaves. Tom tips his head to the gentleman and he feels a fire in his gut. He sits across from Thalia, but she doesn’t acknowledge the fact she was just talking to someone else. She pushes the cardboard box across the table to him, and reaches for one of his drinks. “Mmm… perfect,” she say after a long draw on the straw. “Try it; I think you’ll like it.”

Tom follows her lead and slurps on the straw; it’s a bit thick and he chokes for a minute on the taste. “Mmm.. That is good. It has a hazelnut flavoring. What is it?” He sets his cup on the table, and opens his food box to find the sandwich and more patatas bravas.

Thalia dips one of her potatoes in the aioli before answering his question. “It does, a little. It reminds me of almond milk, but it’s like a milkshake from tiger nuts, which are only found here in Spain. Because it’s always served cold, but has the sugary taste, it will cut the spice of the calamares.”

Tom watches as she picks her sandwich apart, sitting the bread on the side and eating the fried squid with her fingers, dipping each piece into the aioli. He’s not sure why it bothers him a bit she’s become more health conscious… Maybe because if she lost weight, other men would realize how damn sexy she is, when he feels he should win her because he saw it from the beginning? “Who was that man?” he blurts out, unable to take it back as the jealousy hangs between them.

“Him?” she points in the direction of the man who walked away. “That was my friend, Henrí. He had to rush home with the bag of groceries for the family dinner.”

“You seem to have made many new friends. What of the lovely young woman from the tapas bar the other night?”

Thalia begins to talk about her life and work in a Madrid, and the topic stays light, nothing serious. Tom loves listening to her talk, her Puerto Rican accent thicker now that she uses her Spanish on a daily basis. As the sun sets, he asks polite questions, careful not to dig into any topic too deeply. Before he knows it, they’ve both finished their food, and she’s asking the time. “I have to get back to meet my landlord,” she reminds him.

He nods, and rises from the table, collecting their trash. She quickly grabs the pieces of bread before he can put them away. She stands up and dodges with him between the tables on the courtyard, following him to the trash can. When he turns, he sees she’s torn off a piece and is nibbling on it. He smiles.

“What? You didn’t think I’d waste good bread, did you? It’ll be perfect, toasted tomorrow with my morning coffee.”

He chuckles, “Oh, Thalia, darling, maybe you haven’t changed as much as you think!”

She blushes and accepts his arm when he offers it to her, linking hers in his. The streets are less crowded, less noisy as they make their way back to her apartment, having eaten before the dinner crowds are actually out in Madrid.

At the street corner, Tom holds her back from stepping in front of a cab zooming past. “The city reminds me of New York, never truly sleeping, since the nightlife doesn’t begin until much later,” Tom comments.

Thalia shakes her head, tearing off another piece of bread and slowly chewing it. “I still haven’t adjusted to it. At work, they finally gave me a master key so I could come in early before everyone else. Half the time, I’m ready for a nap on the couch in my office just as everyone else is starting to show up for work around 9:30, 10 am.”

“Not so much for the nightlife anymore?” He asks, resting his other hand on top of her hers, laced over his arm.

“My barmaid days and hours are over. I still might have late nights where I’m studying something for a presentation or a project, but honestly,” she yawns to prove her point. “This is after my bedtime. Guess I’m the old fool now.”

“Oh, Thalia, I’d never call you old. You’re still just a young thing. Probably too young for me, but that never stopped me before so-”

“Tom. Tonight has been pleasant. Please don’t.” She warns.

Crossing the street to her apartment building, Tom can feel her tense in his arms at the dark shadow in the hallway. “Relax. It’s probably just your landlord.” Memories of that fateful night long ago when she was nearly raped in a closed off stairwell flood back through his mind. His own body tenses. “Thalia? Is that why you have an exposed apartment?”

She breathes out slowly. “I guess- yes, I suppose so. I can escape in either direction, and I have a plan. I don’t go anywhere anymore without knowing what my escape plan would be… Wow,” she looks up at Tom. “I’ve never said that to anyone before, but it’s true.” Her voice drops. “I still have nightmares sometimes.”

He pulls her close to him and kisses the top of her head. At the archway, they realize the landlord is speaking to the other tennant, so they hold back, and Tom asks about the history of the space. Thalia shares what she knows, explaining it was once part of a large family manor that has been split into smaller flats. “These here have walk-ups.” She indicates the other buildings close to hers. “I have two rooms upstairs, an office and a bedroom, with a private balcony, overlooking a courtyard. It’s still small, but it’s the first time in nearly three years I’ve had something that was my own.” Her shoulders lift and she drops them. “I like getting to make my own rules, leaving dishes in the sink, the bed unmade, only doing laundry once a week.”

He nods, remembering the feeling well of being young and on his own. He nods to the man, jiggling his keys to get their attention. Thalia speaks to the man in Spanish, letting go of Tom’s hand to pick up something she sees shining on the side of the walk. She yelps in surprise and stands back up, blood rushing from her fingertips. “Son of a bitch!” She yells in English.

Tom grabs her wrist, looking to the ground to see a piece of broken glass. He yells at the man to hurry, remembering the Spanish phrase and he ushers Thalia inside as the door pops open. The man follows them into the house, pointing ahead to the kitchen, whispering words of comfort. Tom thanks him for his help, his Spanish butchered as he leads Thalia to the sink to clean the wound. He commands with force his thanks to the gentleman for opening the door, but issues him to leave and to clean the grounds on his way out.

“Tom, Tom. Relax. I’m fine. It’s only a flesh wound.” When he doesn’t laugh at her attempt at British humor, she looks to see the blood is still flowing as she wiggles the three cut fingers.

“Dammit, Thalia, now is not a time for jokes. Where’s your emergency kit?”

She pulls her hand free from his, running it under the water herself, and with her other hand, reaching for a clean washcloth. “In the bathroom, under the stairs.”

When he returns to the kitchen, he finds her sitting at the table, her hand wrapped and holding her hand upright, over her heart. “Good girl, I read that once too.”

“Probably just bullshit,” she says, pulling the cloth away. The bleeding seems to have stopped and the cuts aren’t as deep as he’d thought. He sits in the chair across from her, pushing as close as he can, his knee between her thighs. He’s aware of her close proximity and he strains to keep his breathing controlled, though he knows every cell in his body beats like the tell-tale heart. “Let me clean it.” He holds her hand tight and she tries to pull away.

“Tom, it’s okay.”

Under his grasp, he can feel her pulse racing. He lifts his face to look at her. Really to look at her closely for the first time. He’s struck by her beauty, the little freckles on her cheeks. He lifts his hand, reaching out to touch a tiny scar on her lip, and pulling his hand back. The air is thick between them, and the desire to kiss her overtakes his body, but he knows if he tries it now, she’ll simply throw back up the wall she’d had between them, the one she slowly let him chip at tonight. He’s barely made a dent.

He shakes his head. “I don’t remember that scar,” he says, looking back down to her hand as he runs an alcohol cleaning wipe over her injuries.

Her voice is shaky. “I coached t-ball one summer for a group of seven year old girls. A bat in the mouth equaled about ten stitches.” She runs her finger on the spot. “One of the dads on the team was a plastic surgeon. He insisted on doing the stitches right. Can hardly see it, can you?”

He takes the opportunity to touch her, tenderly placing his knuckle under her chin and turning her head in the light. “I can barely see it at all.” He nods, his eyes landing on the photos on the fridge. His heart freezes and he pulls his hand back, reaching for a band-aid and unwrapping it. “The little girl’s team, I suppose?”

The fridge is covered with photos of Thalia’s life without him. Postcards and family photos. A wedding announcement of a friend, a newspaper clipping about her father. Without having to look too closely, he spies a photo of her with the young girl and the man he lost Thalia to years before. In another photo, the little girl is sitting at a table in front of a birthday cake, with a giant balloon behind her, announcing she’s eleven. Wrapping her fingers quickly, he continues his work in silence, pushing his chair back and standing up when he’s finished.

Her eyes close and she hangs her head as he walks to the sink to wash the medicinal smell from his hands. While he dries his hands, she speaks quietly. “That’s why we’ll never work, Tom. That’s why we can’t start something new.”

“Why, Thalia?” he says, throwing the towel on the counter.

“You’ll never forgive me, Tom. You’ll never forgive me for the time I spent with Chris.” He swallows hard at the mention of the other man’s name. “You can’t even stand his name on my lips. How could you ever forgive me for his hands on my body? The things we did together; the things I learned from him?”

She lifts her face to his. “You can’t, can you?”

Click here to read Chapter 19, Opportunity Calls

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

Girls’ Night

1551238309294.jpg

Girls’ Night

Being Thalia

Chapter 17

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: 856

Summary: Another friend shows up at Thalia’s doorstep.

Previous Chapter, Facing Demons

September 2021

Sleepily, she rubs her eyes, trying to figure out the sound. Someone’s at the door. “Fucking Hiddleston,” Thalia grumbles as she stumbles to the door. Pushing her hair away from her face, she doesn’t remember falling asleep on the couch after storming away from Tom at the restaurant.

“Thalia, it’s me, Lucía,” announces the person at the door. “Open up.”

Thalia throws open the lock, and ushers her petite friend inside. “Hey gorgeous,” she kisses her on the cheek. “How was work?”

“Really hot guy gave me an amazing tip.” Lucía smiles, stating the amount as she walks on through to the living room. She sets a large bag of food down on the table, and pulls a bottle of wine from her book bag.

“A prospect, hmm?” Thalia teases, sitting back down on the couch and reaching for the corkscrew Lucía passes to her.

“Nah, I think he’s taken? Is that the American expression?”  

Thalia smiles. “Yea, that’s right. What makes you say that?” She twists the cork, laughing as her friend runs away.

“Wait,” she calls out. “I need to find clean classes. Oh, wow! You cleaned your kitchen?”

“Don’t say that like you’re surprised,” Thalia chuckles. “Yes, I clean occasionally.”

Lucía holds out the delicate wine glasses while Thalia pours the chilled drinks. The dark haired girl reaches in her coat pocket before sitting down, and trades Thalia a folded note for a glass. “He asked me to deliver this to you.”

Thalia grimaces, taking a sip of her drink before opening the half sheet, torn from the notebook her friend uses as an attendant at the restaurant. Fuck him, she thinks, looking down to read the familiar script.

 

Dear Thalia,

I’m staying at the Palacio del Retiro. I’m here for two weeks. I need                    to see you. I’d like to talk things out.

-Tom

 

“The Palacio. Of course he is,” she murmurs, rolling her eyes. “Probably rented the Presidential suite. Pretentious arse.” She takes another, longer sip, letting the cool liquid wash down the back of her throat.

Arse?” Lucía questions, emptying the paper sack and passing Thalia a warmed packet of food.

Peeling back the foil cover, Thalia nods. “It’s a play on his British slang, and did you hear him? His Spanish! Ugh!”

Lucía giggles. “I thought you liked this guy. Tom? He’s the guy right? The one you told me about? What’s he doing here? I thought he was getting married.”

“I thought so too! But he just shows up at the museum, then here tonight, telling me he’s left her. That he could never love her the way he loves me.” Thalia stabs at her food. “Thanks for coming over. You didn’t have to.”

Lucía slurps down the noodles in her sopa, and wipes her chin. “You stormed away in such a hurry, and he was so forlorn when you left. Like really broken.” She grins shyly. “My curiosity got the better of me… Come on, he said that? It’s really sweet.”

“Yea, like a damn Hallmark movie, but this is real life,” Thalia says, savoring the bite of shrimp she’s just placed in her mouth. She explains what a Hallmark movie is to her foreign friend. “Mmm… so good. Was this really a botched order, or did Henrí fix it just for me?”

“He’s sweet on you too. So many men, Thalia! Whatever will you do?” Lucía laughs again, propping her feet up on the table and snuggling into her spot on the couch.

“Fortunately for me, I don’t want any of them. Besides, Henrí has a husband and two kids, I think he has his hands full.” She stares off into the distance, chewing slowly. “And the other one left a woman practically at the altar. What does that say about me if I take him back?”

“That you never stopped being in love with him, and you feel the same way. That’s what it says.” Lucía licks the top of her wine glass. “Listen, Thalia, not everyone gets a third chance at love. For whatever reason, you two keep coming back together. I think you at least owe it to yourself to listen. Besides, when I spoke to him, he quoted Shakespeare. Made me weak in the knees…” Lucía’s eyes glaze over, momentarily lost in a daydream, before screwing up her face to remember something. “You love that…  that shit? Is that the right word?”

Thalia giggles, “You’re learning quickly! Now that you’re mastering curse words, your English is almost ready for your study abroad.”

“You’ve been an excellent teacher!” Lucía laughs. “I can’t thank you enough for helping me get that placement at your old university.” She bows her head. “I’m really going to miss you. You’re kind of unforgettable, chica.” She slurps another spoonful from her cup. “Really, Thalia. You need to talk to him.”

“I know, you’re right. You’re right.” She puts the tray of food on the table in front of her. “Wanna stay? We can watch a few more episodes of Outlander?”

“Yeah, ‘cause you’re not a romantic at all.”

Lucía ducks when Thalia throws a pillow at her head.

Click here for Chapter 18, Open Wounds

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

Facing Demons

ch 16 Facing Demons Feb 24 2019

Being Thalia

Chapter 16

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count: 2496

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

Previous Chapter, Reaching Out

September 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thalia?”

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

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

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

***

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

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

Tom, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read Chapter 17, Girls’ Night

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

 

Reaching Out

ch 15 Reaching Out Feb 20 2019

Reaching Out

Being Thalia

Chapter 15

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 2741

Summary: Thalia reaches out for help as she tries to get her life together and move forward.

Previous Chapter, Haunted

August 2021

Thalia twists the tissue in her hands, relieved by her falling tears and surprised it felt good to have it out.

“If you loved Tom, had pined for him, why did you bring Chris home that night at the bar?”

She sucks in her breath, turning over the therapist’s question in her head. She goes with her gut instinct. “How could I not? If you could have seen the way he looked at me?” She waves her hand down her body with a flourish. “Most men aren’t looking to get with this, but his look said it all. He was down to fuck, and I wasn’t the only girl in the bar that night. He coulda picked someone else.” She leans forward and wipes at a smudge of dirt on the toe of her caramel colored heels. “Tom had given me a confidence I didn’t have before…” Thalia avoids the gaze of the older woman. “And it was just supposed to be a one night stand. It wasn’t supposed to last.  Handsome devil tricked me,” she chuckled.

The rest of the session had been about Chris, and now she can’t get him out of her mind.

On the walk home, her heels bang against her thighs, holding them in her hands as her tennis shoes beat across the pavement. ‘It wasn’t supposed to last’ repeats in her head. She knew from the start she shouldn’t have taken Chris home that night. But over five years later, it was still as vivid in her mind as the night it happened. The way he’d looked at her challenged her, made her curious. He’d let her have some power and she’d thrived on that, as much as she melted under Tom’s domination.

They were such opposite men, but both fulfilled what she needed, formed who she is now…

Chris was such a contrast to Tom, so vibrant and full of life.

Stopping at the traffic light, she shakes her head. No, that isn’t right. Not to make Tom seem dull, she scoffs to herself, but Chris just had a different energy than Tom. Chris was more of a family man, domestic. She chuckles out loud, drawing the looks of strangers. Who would have thought she’d ever crave that type of domesticity? But Chris gave her a look at a life she never thought she wanted, to have kids, to settle down in one place.

Turning the corner to head up the street to her little flat, her mind tries to control her racing thoughts. Stupid therapy, she thinks. Why dig up the past? It isn’t gonna change anything. Both men are gone, and she can’t have them back. Tom should be getting married soon, and Chris’s engagement announcement is in the pile of papers in her home office, along with a note from Avery. Fishing the keys from her bag, she resolves to check in with the young girl.

Stepping into the tiny place, she’s reminded of her college apartment. After all these years, this still isn’t a step up, but at least the radiator works. In this mid-summer heat, she’s thankful the air conditioning unit works. Dropping her bag by the table, she twists her hair up, clipping it away from her neck. Having lived such a nomadic life, moving to teach at various universities or to work for internationally renowned museums, no one place has ever been home. Her eyes land on the photo on the fridge. That’s not true either. She taps the picture of the snowman in front of Chris’s house, the house they shared, with the friendly wrap around porch. She just knows now with age and wisdom, home isn’t a place. It’s the people one collects along the way.

She sighs, opening the fridge and pulling out leftovers from the night before. She sniffs the container and drops it into the trash. Tapas later, she thinks, walking over to sit at the little dinette. She pulls the laptop close and powers it on. While the old thing slowly whirs to life, she sifts through a stack of mail, tossing junk into the trash and separating out the bills and personal items. Thalia smiles at a postcard from Egypt from a former student… Egypt. Still a destination she hasn’t tackled. Paris, Melbourne, London, various places in the US… They’d all been fun, but… maybe it was time for another move. She liked Madrid, has met some nice people, but she was starting to itch to travel again.

The computer opens, with a message flashing. She rolls her eyes. Work can wait till Monday.

She tucks her wild hair over her shoulder, and turns the chair slightly to avoid the pile of dirty dishes on the counter behind her, and logs into Skype, pounding out the keys she knows in her sleep.

His image pops on the screen, rugged and handsome. “You need a trim,” she tells him. “You’re starting to look like a hermit in the woods.” She leans closer. “And it’s awfully damn red and gray.”

Chris scratches his chin. “It’s not that bad, is it?”

“You look like hell.”

“Well, thanks. A crying baby all night will do that to you.”

She leans forward on her elbow, resting her chin in her palm. With the wind nearly sucked from her lungs at the reminder of his new life, and one she lost, she nearly whispers her response. “Reason 253 on the list of reasons I don’t want kids. I need my sleep. He’s adorable though. Looks just like his dad.”

Chris smiles, his energy vibrating through the connection. “Thanks. We hear that a lot.  He sleeps all day, but then is up at night. I can hardly get any work done at home. Karen took him to visit her mom today, just so I can get in one solid day of work.”

“How’s that going?” she asks, her stomach tight at the mention of the other woman’s name. She slowly breathes through her nose to control her ill-feelings.

“Oh, I think they planned to go for another dress fitting and-”

“No. No, I didn’t mean her. I meant the work,” she sighs. “But since you brought it up, how’s the wedding planning going?”

He rolls his shoulders, tilting his head from side to side. “I don’t think we should talk about this… You made your point last time. I know I don’t have to marry her, just because we have a kid together, but, it still seems like the right thing to do.”

“Chris, it’s your life. We agreed we were done for good. I just want you to be happy. And right now, you look like shit…” She rubs her hand over her forehead, frustrated and, yes, slightly jealous. “Ya know, actually, I called to talk to Avery. She’s still on break, right? Is she home?”

Chris shuffles some papers on the desk in front of him. He shakes his head no. “She and some friends went to the movies and the mall. I’m trying to get this chapter done before I have to pick her up in a few hours.”

She tilts her head. “Well, I don’t want to keep you from your work, so-”
His brow knits together, and he squints. “Thalia, you’re never a bother. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Everything.” She shrugs her shoulders. “I just left therapy. I’m a bundle of open emotions. I hate it.” Thalia pulls her notebook from her bag and lays it on the table in front of her.

He laughs quietly, but his blue eyes show his concern. “I’m glad you took my advice. Making any headway?”

“I was happier when I kept it all locked inside. Who wants to dig deep at their flaws, Chris? It’s fuckin’ stupid.”

“You keep going though, right?” She can tell he’s truly concerned.

Doodling on the blank page, she inhales deeply. “Babe, I’m okay. That was one night, during the holidays. I think everyone is entitled to that one drunken night of total self-loathing when they call a friend up, and spill it all out.”

“Yea, but usually that friend isn’t halfway across the world, sitting on a rooftop and talking about losing it all. Thal, I was worried for you. I really thought you were going to do something stupid.” He wipes his hands over his beard, obviously frustrated.

She purses her lips, her head beginning to pound. Her voice is barely a whisper. “What was I supposed to do? I didn’t have any friends here yet. It was a really low point. I’d just found out my stepmom was dating again, you’d told me a few weeks before your girlfriend was pregnant and… and the only other people who ever loved me are either dead, or not talking to me. So yeah, I was having a bad holiday. I wasn’t suicidal, like you make it sound,” she scoffs. “I’m sorry I called and fucked up your holiday.”

“You didn’t fuck up anything. I always want you to have my phone number, I wanna be your backup plan.” He adjusts the camera on the screen. “You just left therapy. You wanna do this now? Cuz I can do this now. No one’s home and I’ve always got time for you, Niña.”

“Yeah, sure.” She sighs. “You know the old saying, ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere?’ Well it is almost five here, let me get a drink. You want one?”  She rises and walks to the fridge, grabbing a beer and pointing it to the computer screen.

He lifts his coffee mug. “Way too early here, I’ll stick with this.”

“Fine, Chris.” She twists the top off, sitting back down and tossing the cap onto the table. “Say it, all the things we should have said when I left the States, or every phone call we’ve had since then.”

Sitting back in his chair, tapping the edge of his desk with his thick, calloused finger, he scoffs. “Dammit, Thalia, even if I’d said it all, you’d have grown to resent it. I wanted to marry you and have kids, and be a real family. But we already were. You just didn’t see it, kept up some invisible wall. I hope you can figure out in therapy what that is, or why, but you don’t know how to let people truly love you… You’re too damn stubborn and independent, and that’s one thing I love about you, but it makes it damn hard to be in love with you. Do you understand the difference?”

She chuckles, taking a sip of beer, and wiping a stray drop from her lip. “I’m not a child, Chris. I know the difference. You don’t have to study Shakespeare to know love, or be old and wise, like you.” She teases, taking another drink. “I just didn’t expect you to move on so fast. That hurt… a lot.”

Chris slowly bounces his head up and down. “I didn’t mean for it to happen either. I think I was pissed and hurt too, angry. Here I was, offering my heart to you for the hundredth time, and you wanted to move on, travel, take the next work challenge. And I get that, but Thalia, all those books and artifacts aren’t gonna keep you warm at night.”

“How did it happen?” Her voice is so low, so pained, she’s surprised to hear her own question, like it jumped out of her mouth before she could think. She ignores his barb at her lifestyle.

He sighs, and rests his elbows on the desk, leaning forward, into her confidence, even through the computer screen. She can see the lines of worry around his eyes. “You’d been gone a few weeks, and Karen and I kept bumping into one another. About a month later, she finally admitted she would take me back, as long as you were gone for good. One thing lead to another… We were… seeing each other a few times a week and then, one night, she came over to tell me she was late. Wanted to know what we should do…” He rubs his hands across the lower part of his face, and pushes back through his hair, resting his hands behind his head and leaving his elbows splayed out behind his head. “Getting remarried, having more kids, was always my plan Thalia, so I took the opportunity. Maybe it’s a sign. I don’t know. She’s a good mom, and we’re putting together a nice life. Avery is still adjusting to her, but we’ll get on.” He leans forward. “It’s not the one I envisioned for myself, Thalia. You know I always pictured you by my side, but I couldn’t love you enough to keep you. I let us- you and I- drag on too long, out of convenience and love for you, for everything we’d been through together.”

Tears well at her eyes. “I hate you’ve moved on to another relationship of convenience…”

“Well, that’s for me and my therapist to work out, not you. Try not to see it that way. I don’t… I have a son now; he’s my focus.” He shifts his eyes, and she wonders if he’s staring at a photo of the little one. She tries to remember; she thinks he was born right before she left for London. Another reason for her poor behavior at the lecture, but she pushes that out of her mind. She focuses back on the conversation as Chris talks about his own therapy sessions. “He says I have a thing for ‘damsels in distress.’ I told him you are no weak thing needing rescuing… You fixed something in me. I think for that time, we fixed each other. But I was never enough for you, or you wouldn’t have needed Hiddl-” He clears his throat. “You wouldn’t have needed anyone else. But I needed you. I was willing to let you have both of us, just so I could keep you. Even after you went to Paris, and then came crawling back to me… I needed you, in a way you didn’t need me.” He scoffs. “‘Good guy syndrome’ is what they call it. But I think, Thalia, we were good for each other. We were perfect together in the time we had, but I knew I could never ask you to stay. It’s the most fuckin’ warped thing ever, but that’s it. I don’t really know that there’s an explanation.”

“But you have a son now, and you and Karen need to make a life together,” Thalia says, nearly choking on the other woman’s name, wiping away her tears.

“What about you? What does your therapist say?”

Thalia sniffles, wiping her nose on a napkin and holding it in her lap tightly. “She doesn’t say much. She wants me to think it through on my own.”

“What conclusions have you come to?” He asks, in a scholarly way.

“That I’m a greedy bitch,” she chuckles, wiping away her tears, smearing her makeup. “I wanted it all and too much. And I found the two people on the planet that would try their damnedest to give it to me, no matter the cost to their own personal lives.”

Chris licks his lip. He speaks quietly. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but you turned my life upside down in the best way possible. I’m a better man because of you, Thalia. I see things different, with added color, thanks to you. And my daughter has the most amazing role model to look up to as she begins to think about her future. You should hear her! Every now and then, I look at her and think, ‘she got that from Thalia.’” He scratches his nose absently. “I don’t know where you’re going to go, or what you’re going to do. But if you ever do find the right man, to settle down with, or that’s willing to travel the world with you, he’s gonna be so damn lucky, and you’ll make him the happiest man in the Universe. And just so you know, you’ve got what it takes to be an amazing mom- no, don’t laugh- you do.”

“I love you, Chris.” She tilts her head up. “Thanks for alway making me feel better.” She smiles weakly. “I don’t always believe it, but it’s nice to hear you say it.”

“Keep going to therapy, Thal. Keep talking things out. Maybe you’ll find answers in places you don’t expect to find them.”

Click here to read Chapter 16, Facing Demons

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

Haunted

ch 14 Haunted Feb 17 2019

Haunted

Being Thalia

Chapter 14

By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job 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 2077

Summary: Tom falls down a rabbit hole of forbidden memories.

This chapter contains sexual activities and reference to a near-rape experience.

Previous Chapter, Forbidden Fruit

July 2021

As his hands fly across the paper, Tom madly scribbles his forbidden thoughts of lost love and his mind wanders to happier days.

***

His head resting on Thalia’s plush thigh, Tom stretches on the huge king-size hotel bed in Paris, grateful for another stolen day with his girl.

They’ve slaked the fiercest of their thirst with a round of almost fierce love making already, Tom indulging in one of his favorite positions and urging Thalia to ride him, her glorious tits bouncing as he dug his fingers hard enough into her ample hips to leave faint bruises.

That was an hour ago, when he’d first arrived from the airport, finding her only wrapped in a sheet. He’d missed his girl, Thalia here in Paris, getting settled for her internship. Although only apart a few weeks, he wanted to make up for lost time. After their frenzied fuck, they’d followed up with the lazy cuddling he loves just as much. It strikes him how rarely they really get the chance to draw out the time with each other, to cuddle and talk or even take a nap nude before going for round two or three.

“Tom?”

The fingers combing through his short, slightly sweaty hair stop as Thalia speaks and jolts him from his indulgent haze.

“Yes, darling?”

He opens his eyes and shifts slightly so he can see her face better.

“Tell me more about kinks.”

Blinking, he shifts again so that he can roll onto his stomach and prop his chin on his hands. He reminds himself to keep his gaze on her face and not let it wander over her delectable body; she’s still naked, and has reached that stage when she forgets about any insecurities and is herself—and his.

“Where’s that question coming from now?”

There it is, that lovely blush that makes her freckles stand out more and that he always causes all over her curves when he licks and sucks and nips.

She bites her full lip but holds his gaze. “I may have read a romance novel last week that mentioned a foot fetish. A fetish is the same as a kink, right?”

He tries to look as innocent as possible. “And why do you ask ME that?”

Thalia prods his rib with a toe and he uses the opportunity to catch her foot and tickle her sole mercilessly until she’s a giggling, wheezing, writhing mess.

Scrambling up on the bed, Tom rearranges them so he can sit with his back against the high headboard and his naughty girl in his embrace, her back to his chest as she rests in the circle of his widespread legs.

Still a bit out of breath, she elaborates, “I know you’re much more experienced with all that…kinky stuff.”

He snorts softly and nips her earlobe, which makes her squirm and brush against him in all sorts of torturous ways.

“Up for some more educating, are you? Well, what sort of professor would I be if I got in the way of that? So, what do you want to know?”

“Anything. Everything.”

And so he tells her about stuff he’s read on the internet and even experienced first-hand or been told about by more daring friends.

He talks about weird fetishes like getting it on with teddy bears, being aroused by stuttering or even being attracted to dangerous criminals. When he mentions that some people get hot and bothered for statues, Thalia giggles. She gives him the once over and raises a brow, “I mean, you can hold a candle to Adonis. So if it’s that kind of statue, I can’t really fault people for having such a fetish.” Her other brow quirks too and he seems a mischievous gleam enter her eyes. “Although I do have to say that none of those classical statues come anywhere near to what you’re packing in real life.” She nudges her chin towards his crotch area.

Blushing but grinning, Tom lightly slaps her thigh, which makes her squirm. “I guess I should be flattered. Or worried that you’ve paid enough attention to that particular part of statue anatomy?”

They snicker before he continues. “Speaking of paying attention to bodies… Some people have a kink that isn’t all that weird. They get turned on by sex in front of a mirror.”

Thalia perks up at that. “And do you happen to know the name for that kink, Professor?”

Feeling a shiver dance across his spine at the thought of this particular kink that has sometimes called out to him too, Tom nods. “I do happen to know it, yes. It’s called Katoptronophilia as the Greek word for mirror is katoptron.”

Resting his chin on her shoulder and letting his hands wander idly over Thalia’s body to stroke until she’s very still and breathing carefully, he also mentions more normal or harmless things that can be kinks for some. Glasses, stockings, high heels, collars, food fetishes, exhibitionism…the list is long, and he loves her reactions and curiosity.

This is when he’s happiest, he thinks in a sudden moment of insight: when he’s got Thalia in his arms and they can talk and touch and be unashamedly themselves.

“Would you say you have a kink you aren’t even really aware of?” Thalia asks, her voice musing but also a tiny bit husky because she’s definitely noticed his caresses. “Or that you’re maybe hiding one from me?”

“I’m not hiding anything from you, love.” The words are out before he can think about them—and they’re true, even if he’s always been rather secretive in his life, lovers included.

Tom doesn’t have time to think about it because Thalia turns her head and kisses him. He pours his shock into the press of his lips against hers, slides his tongue deep until she whimpers softly and all but melts in his arms.

When they disentangle to breathe, she insists. “No, really. No kink that I should know of?”

“Well, we both know about your glasses kink,” he teases her, which makes her laugh and blush some more, squirming so her lush bottom grinds over his now very interested cock.

“Me? I can’t really think of anything subtle or hidden. A tea kink? Because I love watching a certain young woman prepare a proper English tea for me in the nude?”

There’s humor in his voice which has gone automatically to that lower, deeper register that she brings out in him, and it makes her giggle and swat his leg none too gentle.

“Be serious, Tom.”

“Oh, you want me serious? Is that what would make my girl happy?”

He grabs the wrist of the hand with which she just hit him and twists her arm back, gently enough not to hurt her but firm enough to make a point. He pulls it behind her back, then does the same with the other arm. Then he pulls her more firmly against his body so her crossed wrists are trapped between her spine and his chest.

A shiver courses through her, and when he drags his teeth over her shoulder, he hears a low moan.

Her position makes her unable to touch him or balance herself properly, and she’s at his mercy. It also thrusts her voluptuous breasts out more, and he’s tall enough to lean forward and take advantage of that.

One of his hands molds a heavy globe, kneading and pulling and rubbing his palm over her stiff nipple until she’s gasping. His other hand hooks one of her legs over his so that her thighs are spread even wider. He lets it glide over the inside of her thigh, dragging his blunt nails lightly over her skin and causing her to shudder again. Her body grows taut with anticipation when his fingers stray higher and he brushes his fingertips lightly over her swollen, slick lips.

“You’re wet,” he growls. “Is it all the talk about kink or is it me?”

“You.” It sounds breathy, hardening him further. “You know you always make me wet…Sir.”

“And that’s the way it should be.” Feeling an odd wave of possessiveness, Tom sinks his teeth into her neck and sucks to mark her, drawing another gasped moan from Thalia.

Something about the gasp makes Tom try to rein in his rampant desire and remember to take extra care of her. He’s seen her scars, knows that the memory of the near-rape is probably still on her mind sometimes. Drawing in a steadying breath, he loosens his hold on her a fraction. Sure, he’s just touched the evidence of her arousal, but what if her body is overtaking her mind and she’ll regret this later?

“Thalia, is this okay?” he asks earnestly. “I want your full consent. Are you fine with me restricting and dominating you like this or do you want me to tone it down a notch because of…well, you know.”

He doesn’t want to say the word, ruin the mood. It still makes him incandescent with rage and pain to think about what nearly happened. If life was a movie, he would be out getting his revenge and killing the sick bastard who hurt this beautiful creature.

Tom feels her curves move when she also hauls in a deep breath.

“This is fine. Please. I need it, need you.”

Thank heavens. He nuzzles her hair, then tightens his grip on her again.

“Think you can come for me, just from my hand on your beautiful, needy pussy?”

He can feel her hands flex useless against his abdomen and her thigh muscles twitch.

“Yes. Please. Make me.”

And so he does just that, touching her in earnest. He knows how she needs to be caressed, how to slide his fingertips over the sensitive area right next to her clit, how to draw tight circles and then let her hang for a bit by delving a finger in and pumping.

It doesn’t take long for her to quiver and clench around him, her body bucking so hard that he has to fling an arm around her middle and anchor her to himself.

With a keening whimper, Thalia comes, gushing over his hand while her back arches despite his firm hold.

Tom gentles his strokes, massaging some of her wetness in, bringing her down from the peak while peppering her neck with kisses.

“So precious. Mine.”

He releases her from his firm embrace and she moves languidly to turn around, but he sees determination in her wide, dark eyes.

When he fists her hair in his hand, she licks her lips and needs no further command. Kneeling between his legs, she closes one hand over his rigid length and bends forward for a first suck that has him grit his teeth.

When they lie in each other’s arms later, idly tracing circles on damp skin and synching their breathing, Thalia murmurs, “I think I’ve figured out one of your kinks.”

Tom somehow finds enough energy to lift his head an inch and glance at her. “Is that so? Care to enlighten me?”

She seeks his gaze, her teeth digging into her lower lip for a moment. “Being in control. Teaching me naughty things. Not just simply being a mild dom of sorts. It’s the educating aspect too, and being older than me and sort of getting to deprave me.”

Her choice of words makes Tom guffaw. “You were no Regency-era virginal maid to deprave, darling,” he protests among snickers.

“Gee, Tom. I didn’t get around THAT much,” she slaps his thigh playfully. “But you have to admit, you’ve taught me things, and you get off on that, knowing you were first.”

Her comment with its kernel of truth gives him pause. All said and done, that’s quite astute. Tom blinks at her, feeling a bit caught out. He wonders whether there’s a word for that too. And as the two of them drift into contented sleep, still entangled, he realizes something that makes him open his eyes wide again: He might still be doing all the educating, but in the end, he’s learning too. Learning how right she is for him, and he for her.

***

Folding the paper neatly, Tom vows to put it away, out of sight so Sabrina won’t find it. He wonders what to do with the box of old letters and keepsakes when they finally join households. He closes his eyes, whispering a prayer for strength and forgiveness, before reaching for his phone to return the call to his dear intended wife.

Click here for Chapter 15: Reaching Out

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

Forbidden Fruit

ch 13 forbidden fruit

Forbidden Fruit

Being Thalia

Chapter 12

By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job 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 3174

Summary: Thinking he has it all together, Tom realizes seeing Thalia again was against his better judgement.

Previous Chapter, Exposed

July 2021

“Fucking hell.”

Tom slams his book shut and shoots out of his chair to pace back and forth in front of his bookshelf. He feels like a prisoner in his own flat, for crying out loud.

Reading used to be his one true salvation, from childhood all the way through adolescence and for all of his adult years. But not even focusing on the written word seems to help him these days. Maybe because SHE shares his love for the same books.

Thalia.

His hot-house orchid who turned from forbidden fruit into guilty pleasure and who deserved to be so much more.

Tom rubs the tension out of his neck, his fingers brushing against the little curls there now that he’s taken to wearing his hair longer.

He still believes he did the right thing three years ago in Paris when he let Thalia go. The look on her face will haunt him forever, just like her expression last week when he told her he’d be getting married soon.

Why does he do that? Why does he keep hurting her, keep pushing her away?

He isn’t a bloody sadomasochist, dammit. And Thalia is the last person on this planet that he wants to hurt. But he’s reached his limit, he truly has. It’s either cutting her out of his heart and his life and living with the ever-bleeding wound or keeping her and dying a slow death because she’d never truly be his.

Is that what real love feels like, such a stark black and white, yes and no, everything or nothing?

“Stupid git,” he curses himself, walking to his bookshelf and staring blindly at all the literature spanning centuries and various genres. “How can it be love? Isn’t love supposed to be about compromises and second chances and all that?”

So his feelings for Thalia are what? An obsession? Has he gone stark raving mad?

There’s a bitter twist to his mouth when he remembers that he was indeed quite mad for some time. After the breakup, he floated aimlessly, sleepwalking through life like a soulless zombie. Run, eat, sleep, repeat. For days. Prohibiting himself to think of her during daytime, only to have her invade his dreams every night.

When he hadn’t been able to take it anymore, he’d made an attempt to win her back. He’d never told anyone, who would he tell- no one knew they’d been together in the first place- but he’d traveled to her first conference panel in Toronto. He’d been so excited to see her name on the list of speakers regarding some of her historical research that he’d instantly booked a flight. Nearly a year without her, a few more weeks eased the pain of his raving madness. He’d finally admitted to himself the dark, lonely nights without her in his arms, his bed, his life, were too much to bear.

Staring blankly at the gilded spines on the leather bound novels, he remembers that day. He’d stayed in the shadows, not wanting to interfere with her moment in the spotlight. He’d met with an old friend, who sang her praise as both a history and lit professor on campus. He’d not thought of it before, but it was her earned title as well. Professor. Professor Bareo…

“She’s also a bit of hero, getting Joanna Kent suspended for using racial slurs against her,” the man shared.

Incredulously, Tom wiped his glasses on his silk pocket square. “What? Kent?” He hadn’t thought of the woman in years. “How did that happen?”

He’d hidden his personal feelings, his heart full of pride, hearing the way his girl stood up for herself, grateful their indiscretions had not come to light during the inquiry process. But Kent had her own skeletons, liaisons with male and female students, so even had she known of their affair, she wouldn’t have used it as a bargaining chip.

He’d sat, enthralled with the lecture, the grace she held herself with as others in their field asked her questions, which she quickly answered, amending her presentation on the spot.

She’d positively charmed the crowd.

Awed by her intellect, his eyes took in their fill as her rich voice washed over him. He’d missed her so much, he just wanted to soak in everything about her. Her hair was shorter and with the formality of the event, she was wearing it straightened. The plum colored dress, he could tell, had been purposefully chosen to accentuate her curves but not draw attention to her womanly shape. If that had been the plan, it hadn’t worked. The wrap around style clung to her voluptuous figure and he doubted he was the only man in the room to be aroused by her. With the lilt of her voice and subtle sway of her hips as she paced the stage, she was a walking billboard for sex. His colleague had leaned over and whispered, “She makes a man think. Did you know? There’s rumors she was fuckin’ somebody on staff when she was a student? Lucky bastard. Cushion for the pushin.’” He’d elbowed Tom in the ribs.

Tom had glared at the man over his glasses. “Remember your place, man. It’s beneath you to speak that way, to diminish the intelligence of a woman, simply for her form. You’re a better man. Get a grip.”

He’d wished someone else had advised him the same years before…

His pal had coughed, nodding with embarrassment. After the panel, the two went their separate ways as Tom ushered forward to speak with Thalia. All the time he’d thought of seeing her again, he still hadn’t known what he wanted to say.

Getting on his knees and groveling for her to take him back had been an acceptable notion…

In the end, it didn’t matter.

Words of greetings froze on his lips as he watched his nemesis, Professor Chris Evans step forward to congratulate her, openly wrapping his arm behind her back and casually resting his hand on her ample hip as they spoke to other historians in attendance.

Quietly he slipped from the room, the wound reopened as the knife twisted in his chest. Cancelling lunch plans with friends for the next day, he’d changed his flight plans and returned to London alone, with his heart bleeding out, in a pain he’d never known. Broken and utterly devastated.

It was his buddy, Luke, who finally called him out, telling him it was time to end his funk. His old school chum hauled Tom’s sorry arse to a theater play of ‘Hamlet’. And Shakespeare, his dear old friend, did the rest to restore a modicum of sanity to him.

It was at the play that Tom ran into Sabrina.

He shoves his hands into his pockets and turns away from the bookshelf, resuming the pacing, shaking away images of the past.

He tries to call up better, happier memories. Sabrina was a childhood friend he barely recognized that night at the theater. Her family had vacationed with his when they were around ten, and the children had bonded like the parents had. Tom still vaguely remembered finding her a nice companion, a girl who enjoyed hikes as much as he did and didn’t find him too nerdy when he talked about books more than soccer or cars. They’d spent a few weeks in each other’s company over four consecutive summers. And yes, he may have experienced his first kiss with her.

With a groan, Tom stalked to the window at the opposite end of his room and braced his hands on the sill, his body slumping forward with the burden of it all.

Sabrina recalled more details of their time together than he did, and she’d wanted to pick right up on the easy camaraderie they’d shared as children and early teens. Weary and depressed as he was, Tom had soaked up her kind smile, her non-judgmental attitude, her cultured voice that had the exact same lilting and crisp London accent that he spoke in. She’d been a friend when he was in dire need of one, so effortless to talk to about common interests, so…comfortable and reassuring.

When the cordial hug at the end of an outing had turned into more because Sabrina turned her face to brush his mouth instead of his cheek with her lips, he’d let her. And on the next date, he’d more than let her.

They progressed slowly. Nothing like the “let me lick you in the college library before I fuck your brains out in a hotel room” whirlwind he’d experienced with Thalia. He’d deliberately taken it in slow, logical steps. Doled out his kisses and his first tentative, then firmer affection in spoonfuls that Sabrina soaked up with a gratitude he found infuriating. Where was the spitfire spirit, the sass, the determination he had admired so in Thalia?

“There you go again, comparing them. Fucking fuck, Hiddleston, get a grip, you bleeding loser!”

Banging his fist on the wooden window sill, he winces at the pain that shot up his arm and welcomes it at the same time.

It wasn’t fair. He kept telling himself it wasn’t fair. Not to Sabrina, who was a lovely lady other men would beg on their knees for and who certainly shouldn’t be stuck with a fool like him who still pined for a woman he couldn’t have.

But he’d never led her on, had he? Sabrina knew he wasn’t exactly head over heels in love with her. She’d told him she loved him enough for two people, knew that he wasn’t a very emotional person and had a problem with attachment. She’d never pressured him, never demanded more attention, more time, more sex. If she seemed genuinely happy with their relationship, why was he feeling such debilitating guilt all the time?

Perhaps because, above all, it wasn’t fair to himself how he behaved?

This marriage wouldn’t be a catastrophe. It would be pleasant and normal and everything a man in his right mind should wish for. Only he didn’t wish for that. He wanted a fiery woman who challenged and completed him. Who knew that deep down, he WAS emotional and needed something extraordinary. Being with Thalia had, in a twisted way, made him a better man. And yet he’d stepped away.

Stepped away because it hurt like a thousand hells that she apparently didn’t feel the same about him. Just days before he’d left, when he’d followed through on their blasted bet over the World Cup, he’d practically proposed. In the heat of the moment, he’d pondered aloud how wonderful it would be to pamper her if they spent the rest of their lives together. She’d dashed his hopes, tore out his heart, when she announced days later that she’d taken a teaching position at her alma mater, the place where they met and fell in love. He was broken to find she still wanted him to share, after all they’d had, all the magic between them.

How much safer and saner it was to choose Sabrina. They’d buy a nice cottage with a garden and leave the hype behind so he could write more books. They’d get an adorable dog, have dinner with their mutual friends and proper English families. Maybe he’d even let her persuade him to have a child later on.

With a hiss of self-loathing, Tom storms out of the room and all the way to the door. Yanking it open, he steps into his grey suede shoes and barely remembers to grab his key and lock the door. Phone forgotten at home, he practically runs along the street, his head bent at the onslaught of cool rain that he didn’t even really register though he was soaked within a minute.

He needed therapy. He damn well did. How could he cut Thalia off so cruelly, then have that…that…whatever that was he did when he battled his will against hers at the conference. He’d wanted to lure her out, to get under her skin. To him, the banter had been foreplay and he had worn the tie she’d given him on purpose, to draw her out. Because any impression was better than no impression. Because by being patronizing and supercilious, he could hide the raw pain in his chest at seeing her again and knowing he had no fucking right to yearn for her.

No fucking right to tell her about the twelve or thirteen letters hidden in a shoebox under his bed, written to her over the years and never posted. They were, essentially, love letters. Some contained quotes and poetry snippets and sentences out of books that reminded him of Thalia or times they’d shared. Others read like a diary because he had nobody to share his moments of triumph and his lowest lows with him, so he poured his heart out to her. Yet others contained confessions; what he’d felt for her, was still feeling for her, what he should have said and done, what he wished she would do. But he hadn’t ever posted a single one of the letters. It wouldn’t have been fair to Thalia. He’d made his choice in Paris, then made his choice again when he proposed to Sabrina.

But apparently he was the weakest and meanest man on the face of the earth because one meeting had made him crumble to dust. It was a wonder Thalia hadn’t slapped him, hadn’t hurled more accusations or refused his peace offering of eclairs.

And what in the name of all that’s holy had driven him to that pathetic attempt at being friends? His jealousy that Evans could have at least that connection? His determination to try though he’d known it would never be enough?

With a sob lodged in his throat, Tom raises his head to let the pouring rain drown out all the unwanted emotions swirling inside him, like molten lava ready to spill over as soon as the volcano finally erupted.

For God’s sake, he was walking down the aisle in a few weeks’ time, and all he could think about, even after six years, was Thalia.

Thalia, Thalia, Thalia.

Whether he read a book, skimmed a newspaper article, ate chocolate mousse, traveled to Scotland for work or had sex with his betrothed.

Yes, even then.

Sure, in a weird way, he loved Sabrina back, at least liked her tremendously. And he found her beautiful, with her petite physique, sunny blonde hair and never stormy, blue eyes. They’d shared a bed a few times. He’d willed himself not to see it as duty, to give her everything, to be in the moment. And it had been perfectly nice, vanilla sex. The way happy couples should have it.

But he didn’t want that. He craved desperately, like a vampire thirsting for blood, the magic he’d had with Thalia.

And at night in his flat—because he hadn’t moved in with Sabrina– it was Thalia’s taste, her scent, the memory of her luscious curves and her uninhibited moans that helped him find release.

Not feeling even a little bit better after the evening walk, Tom finds his way back home. Soaked from the rain, he ignores the buzzing phone as he unlaces his wet shoes and walks on socked feet to the kitchen. He knows Sabrina just got off work and is calling to check on him. He’s not in the mood; tonight her neediness will just irritate him, he’s afraid. When his thoughts are more organized, then he’ll call back, he thinks to himself.

He reaches into the small laundry closet and grabs for a towel, rubbing it over his wet hair. Yanking of his wet shirt, he throws it in the bin, and pulls on a dry shirt and a sweatshirt for warmth. Tom’s eyes dart to the computer on the edge of the counter, next to the stack of wedding cards indicating meal choices for attendants. He growls quietly, moving to the fridge and taking out a bottle of beer. Twisting off the top, he takes a long swig, water still dripping down his back, off the hem of his faded jeans, making a small puddle in the middle of the kitchen. In two short strides, he walks over to the counter, picking up the pale pink envelopes and tossing them over on to the table.

His heart pounds in his ears as he opens the computer and logs in to his old account. He stares at the profile photo of a man with a beaming smile, wondering where he went to, wondering if there’s a way to get him back. Looking to the right of the screen, he scrolls through the names till he finds the one he needs. He sends a brief message, not even sure of the difference of the time zones anymore. He starts to walk away when the familiar ping alerts him to a message.

His finger hovers over the lightning bolt icon, wondering if he should open Pandora’s box. He did once before and look where it got him. He closes his eyes and drops his finger on the computer key.

Tom sighs and opens his eyes, reading the message from a little house in suburban Chicago, from a lovely widow: Thalia’s stepmother.

“She told me about London… I wondered if I’d be hearing from you…”

“Is she happy? Is she safe?” he types back quickly, regretting it the moment after. Or does he really?

He watches the little dots roll around, waiting for a response.

“She’s not seeing him, if that’s what you meant. I think it’s just Christmas and birthday cards now, to the little girl… But it doesn’t matter, Tom. You’re getting married… she’ll eventually let go and find a happiness. I was surprised when she told me the news…” More spinning dots while he waits with bated breath. “I always thought she was waiting for you to realize what you wanted… I honestly believed it was her… Tom, good luck to you and your future bride. I’ve already said too much, but I have to say goodbye. It hurt her deeply to learn I still spoke to you on occasion. I wish you the best. Have a good life… – Stacey.”

With another stifled curse, Tom tunnels his fingers through his damp hair. Now he’s feeling even more conflicted. What the everloving hell is he supposed to do?

Breathing in and out to keep insanity at bay, he chews his lip and makes a decision. For now, to cope better, he’ll compose a last letter to Thalia. To once and for all close this chapter. Of course he won’t send this one either but perhaps it will help him.

My dearest Warrior Princess, he begins, Do you remember our magical moments in Paris? Do they matter to you at all? Do you recall how perfectly we were made for each other? His eyes gaze over, lost in thought as he formulates the words he needs to put on paper to help heal his wounded soul.

Click here for the next chapter, Haunted

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

Exposed

ch 12 exposed

Exposed

Being Thalia

Chapter 12

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count 1774

Summary: Feeling stripped down, Thalia finally reaches out for help.

Previous Chapter, Peace Offering

July 2021

“I’m pretty sure at that point, I blacked out. Seriously, I don’t even remember going back to my room.” Thalia presses her palm against the window, looking out over the city.  “The mini-bar was empty the next morning, booze and chocolate, and I didn’t attend any of the other sessions I was supposed to proctor for the museum. Thank God my flight was for Monday morning.”

“Did you see him again?” the calming voice asks.

Thalia turns on her heels. She shrugs, looking down at her boots. Her blasted boots she’s never been able to get rid of because of all the memories attached to them. She’s had them resoled twice to make them last. Declining to share that with the therapist, she says, “I was across the street at the pharmacy when I watched him pull away in an Uber. I bought another bottle of wine and a box of donuts.” She pats her thighs. “There was still some wine left the next morning… And if you ever try to turn one of these sessions around, to discuss my eating habits, I’m out the door.”

“Fair enough,” the older woman says. “You seem healthy, despite being a big girl.” She tilts her head to the side, doodling in the margins on her paper. “Do you exercise?”

Thalia walks to the bookshelves. She always believed one could tell a lot about a person by the books on their shelves. Tom’s book is rested on a side table and she runs her hand over the shiny cover. She doesn’t indicate the man in question is him.

To distract herself, she pulls an old leather bound volume from the shelf. “Lovely copy,” she states, tenderly caressing the crepey thin pages. “I try to get in about fifteen thousand steps a day. I lift weights, and eat healthy.” She slowly bounces her head up and down. “The man I was living with before I moved here to Madrid, he was a bit of a fitness buff. I may not look like it, but I take care of myself. I’m actually down in weight a bit, my clothes fit better since moving here. I can’t decide if it’s depression or just becoming a true Madrileña… Six smaller meals a day seems to work for me.” She places the book back on the shelf. “My apartment is close to the MAN and I’m able to walk most of the places I need to go.”

The therapist watches as Thalia continues to saunter around the room. “Where do you like to go? Have you made friends here?”

“All the museums of course, that’s my thing,” she laughs. “I like to walk in ‘El Retiro.’ I saw a great puppet show the other day, and I like to try to find bargains at ‘El Rastro.’ A few of the girls from work, we like to meet up on Saturday mornings and search all the vendor stalls.” She looks down and runs her hands over the chic brocade silk jacket with embroidered embellishments that hugs her curvy frame. “Found this there a few weeks ago.”

“Cute,” the woman murmurs. “Tell me about your friends.”

Thalia laughs, nervously resting on the little leather loveseat under the window. “Not much to tell, really, we’re more work friends than actual friends.” She runs her hand down her calf and evens out the bunched up denim at her ankle. “Does that make sense? I’ve never been good with other women. It’s like they think they’ll catch ‘fat’ from me, like it’s a disease or something. I keep to myself, it’s easier that way. I like the quiet.”

“What about men, Thalia? Other than this man in London who upset you, and the man you mentioned who you once lived with, do you have any men in your life?”

Thalia looks at the small clock, hidden on the therapist’s desk. She hates feeling so exposed, opening herself up to a stranger. “A one-night stand from work doesn’t count, and gee, looks like my session’s almost up, so no time to talk about that now.”

The older woman chuckles. “Fine, yes, saved by the clock, I suppose. I sense you’re aware you aren’t finished; we’ve barely scratched the surface, Thalia. When can I see you again?”

Before leaving the office, Thalia arranges another appointment for later in the week.

“Anything else I should know before you leave?” the woman asks, resting her hand on the doorknob as she shows Thalia out of the office.

Thalia shakes her head and shrugs. “I truly loved them both.” She plays with the chain holding two charms, each symbolic of the men she loved, around her neck. “And now they’re both marrying other people, and they’re gone.”

Kindly patting her arm, the woman advises Thalia to journal her thoughts.

***

A few days later, sitting at her office desk, Thalia looks up when the secretary brings in the daily mail.  She drops her pen across the empty journal page and reaches for the stack of letters, with a small padded envelope on the bottom. Her heart thumps in her chest, turning the envelope over and immediately recognizing the elegant penmanship. Her fingers tenderly slide over the script, itching to… open the package? Throw it against the wall? Idly, the dark haired beauty makes small talk with the older woman as she waters the plants in the window before leaving the room.

When the door closes, she reaches for the scissors, and slices open the top of the package. A lovely black photo frame lands in her hands with the photo she’d requested from Tom. A tiny piece of paper is stuck in the corner with the simple note, ‘I never meant to hurt you. Always my warrior princess… Tom.’

She peers in the envelope, hoping for more, another message, something. She remembers he said he had a box of items… She wonders what mementos of their affair he had kept. Reaching in her bottom desk drawer, Thalia pulls out a small fireproof lock box. Scrolling the combination lock, it pops open and a hint of orchids fills her nose. Looking back up, she realizes most of the office has gone for the afternoon siesta. Leaning back in her chair, she pulls the box into her lap and props her feet up on the desk.

She rifles through, searching under movie ticket stubs of superhero movies she and Chris would watch together, under drawings Avery made for her and silly travel photos of the three of them together. She finds a photo of her graduation day, in her cap and gown with her father by her side. Theater playbills, hotel notepads and coasters and matchboxes from swanky restaurants. There on the bottom, a post-it with the same elegant scrawl, announcing, “Congratulations, Miss Bareo! You’ve been chosen for the summer study at Stratford-Upon-Avon!”

She’d had such a crush on the devilishly handsome professor. Everyone with two good eyes did! The dark-haired beauty remembered how other girls seemed to throw themselves at him, attending his lectures and extra discussions even if they weren’t in his class. While they blathered away with Hollywood inspired theories of Shakespeare, she regularly stumped him with her questions and opinion of things. She’d often caught him watching her, straight-faced and tight-lipped, almost angry and controlled. As a student, she feared he didn’t like her, or worse, worried he was repulsed by her weight. Thalia laughed at all the late night chats she and her best friend from back home in Chicago had on the phone about him. She’d never admitted to her friend her crush was her professor, and not some random frat guy on campus. She’d never had the chance to reveal the truth to Amy before she’d passed away as a result of an accident. In her mind, she often thought about telling it all, and how Amy would have loved hearing about her summer.

That summer during her undergraduate studies had been amazing. She’d always dreamed of traveling, and it was her first taste, besides visiting family in Puerto Rico. She can still remember the excitement of getting her passport in the mail, how she’d planned to fill every page with stamps from other countries. The students on the archaeology trip were promised a fifteen day tour of Europe after their studies in England were completed, which for her had been a big draw.

Staring at the picture, she remembers now how she never made that part of the journey. Her personal findings on site garnered the attention of many in the field of history and literature, but most importantly, the attention of Professor Tom Hiddleston. She’d been too busy with other tasks to go sightseeing, and Tom had felt awful about her sacrifice and had offered to take her to dinner.

Thalia pushes back on the chair and rests her head back, thinking about that night, so long ago. She’d wore the same sundress from the photo, it being the only clothing she’d packed that was appropriate for anything besides travel and digging in dirt. She laughed out loud, remembering her idea that her boots weren’t right for a fancy dinner so she’d worn her little white canvas tennis shoes. She was so green, so naive, she’d had no idea what half the things on the menu were. Thalia had been a bundle of nerves, afraid she’d use the wrong fork or spill her drink. No, she scoffs. That had been Tom. With his enthusiasm and vigor, he’d spoken so animatedly as he told her various stories, his hands moved as fast as his mouth did, flailing out and spilling his wine all over the table.

Closing her eyes, she can still picture it now, just watching him talk. The way he would fidget with his glasses, or tug at his shirt collar. The way the muscles in his arms bunched and stretched because he’d rolled his shirtsleeves up to his elbows. She can see his lips move in her memory, and it’s almost like she can hear his distinctive voice. Thalia licks her lips, suddenly dry, and realizes her hands have grazed up her thighs, on instinct, resting between her heated center. She bolts up right in the chair, dropping her feet to the floor.

“Fuck him,” she mumbles, placing the items back in the box, including the framed photo and note he’d sent. Pushing the chair away from the desk, she rises, reaching over to turn off her computer and deciding to call it a day. Checking her watch, she realizes she has plenty of time to make it to yoga class if she hurries.

Click here for the next chapter, Forbidden Fruit

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

Peace Offering

ch 11 peace offering feb 6 2017

Peace Offering

Being Thalia

Chapter 11

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count 2253

Summary: Tom reaches out to Thalia to make amends.

Previous Chapter, Running in Circles

July 2021

Hours later, still reeling from the day, Thalia Bareo plops on the couch in the lobby. Her tired feet can’t even carry her up the stairs, and she’s a little too tipsy to care. She scrolls her social media accounts, and blissfully her comments to the renowned professor and author aren’t garnering her hate. Many are actually sharing her thoughts. She closes the app when she starts to notice the comments have turned to his movie star good looks, and the way he spreads his legs when he sits. She doesn’t need to be reminded of those things… She sighs and rests her head back, closing her eyes and resting her phone on her tummy.

“Always a pleasure to get in a heated match with you, Miss Bareo.”

Her head snaps forward. “Oh, shit, with the loaded words, Tom, really?”

chap 11 gif

She sucks in her breath at the sight of him. Relaxed, the tie removed, a few curls of his chest hair peek above his unbuttoned shirt collar. His stark black framed glasses draw attention to his beautiful blue eyes, rather than hindering the view. Fuck him, she thinks weakly, her irritation already wavering.

He holds out a small pink box. “Peace offering?”

Thalia’s nostrils flare. “Sure. Bribe the fat girl with cake.” She slaps her denim-clad thigh, her voice laced with sarcasm and possibly a hint of disdain.

He raises his eyebrow and rests on the arm of the chair closest to her. “Thalia, dear, you’re not fat. I never saw you that way…  And I know you love-” His confidence falters and she watches him swallow his words, his Adam’s apple hidden below the layer of ginger scruff on his neck. She still can’t make up her mind if she likes it or not. She mentally shakes her head. It’s not up to her anymore to like it. “You used to love decadent treats. Three years ago, you loved decadent treats…” He sighs, absently rubbing his chin with his other hand. “They’re eclairs from Pierre Marcolini? Your favorite? Chocolat au lait?”

She huffs, clasping her hands together and dropping them in her lap. “That’s just cruel,” she whispers. “You know I can’t say no to those.”

He holds the box forward again. “Why would you want to?” He asks lightly.

“Why are you doing this, Tom?” She asks, taking the box from his hand. She watches in awe as he pulls small plates and plasticware from his leather bag. “Always a boy scout, even still?”

He tilts his head. “I never really understood that American reference,” he shares, holding up the plates for her to serve the treats. When she’s finished, he rests one hand on the table in front of them and signals the night manager with the other. He orders two glasses of wine, ignoring Thalia when she rolls her eyes.

“Liquor and sweets, Tom, not a good mix,” she warns.

He chuckles and licks the chocolate frosting from his thumb. He cocks his eyebrow. “Good thing I found you here and not your room, then.”

Thalia bites down on her lip to keep her expression restrained, but damn if his words didn’t open up the floodgates. She can’t remember the last time a man made her feel wet simply from a few words. It’s gotta be the damn accent, she thinks. My kink. She decides it’s best not to say anything, and cuts off a small bite of the eclair, the cream spilling onto the plate. ‘Cause that’s not sexual or anything, she thinks. A little giggle escapes her lips.

“Thalia?” he smiles, and she can feel the blush creeping over her chest.

She pulls her sweater wrap tighter over her flowered blouse and pretends she doesn’t notice the teasing tone in his voice.

When she still doesn’t speak, he says quietly, “I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a good man; always kind to me, even though I don’t think he liked me.”

She nods, raising her eyebrow at his accurate appraisal of her father. Always so perceptive… Happy for the bite of food in her mouth, she doesn’t have to respond.

“Your stepmother, Stacey, messaged me on Facebook, bloody abomination. Facebook, not your mother-”

“Did she tell you about the fire too?” Thalia can’t believe Stacey had been in contact with Tom, all these years, and never said anything.

“Fire?” He asked, taking another bite of the eclair and settling into the chair in a more comfortable position.

She nods. “I stayed at the school longer than I planned, simply to help my finances after my apartment burned down. Luckily, most of my favorite pieces of memorabilia are always kept on a shelf in my office, but I lost a lot of things… It’s hard starting over.” She watches a group of the conference attendees stumble through the front entry, drunk and carrying on. He doesn’t ask any other questions, where she lived or how she survived after the devastating event. She wonders if Stacey shared that little detail with him- that she’d found comfort in Chris’s arms. Made a life with him, and his daughter. Imperceptibly, she drops her head, as if hiding the fact. “The picture? In the slide show? I’d never seen it before. If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a copy.”

Tom simply nods, a twinkle in his eye. “Can you believe it’s been six years?” He gazes over her shoulder, letting his mind wander. “I may have other photos, if you’d like them. I have a box somewhere and-”

“No. No. Just that one.” She lifts her head and watches him. He’s older, more refined. There are a few more lines on his face, especially between his brows and around his eyes. And is it the way the lobby is lit or does she spot a few gray hairs in his ginger-ish beard? He’s pulling off this unexpected new look well, though she’d prefer to see his razor-sharp jawline without the scruff, slightly patchy in places. He looks well-groomed despite the beard and longer, wavy hair. Maybe a little too thin and tired looking, but still a handsome man. Always a handsome man. “There’s such a juxtaposition to it. The girly sundress and my boots, dirt smudging my cheek… My hand resting on the shovel. If that’s not me in a nutshell, I guess I don’t know what is.”

He murmurs his agreement. “When I found it on an old roll of film, that’s the same way I felt about it. I don’t even know who took the picture, but I’m so glad they did.”

“Me too,” she whispers.

They continue to eat in silence and the awkwardness lifts, or maybe she just feels that way as the wine interacts with her previous buzz.

“So, what’s it like working at the MAN?” Tom asks, moving the topics to safer ground.

“Oh, God, the Museo Arqueológico Nacional? It’s a dream. Was always on my bucket list, ya know? My work as a linguist and an archaeologist has been an asset to their team. Tom, I got to go to Altamira. Can you believe it?”

“Oh my word, Thalia! That’s fabulous, a dream come true! Tell me all about it,” he urges.

She can hardly get a word in the conversation. His own questions and excitement keep the conversation flowing. With a shared interest in the earliest ‘writings’ of man, the cave at Altamira has been limited to the public since 1982, and officially closed since 2010. He moves to sit next to her and huddled over her phone, she shares some of her crude photos with him. “I love that scientific reports refer to the drawings of bison, boars and horses as ‘works of Neanderthal authors,’ Tom. A written word before writing was even invented; it’s fuckin’ incredible. Just breathtaking to be in the space, occupied by early man. Some of the paintings have dated to be over 35,600 years old. It’s just incredible.”

Tom asks questions about the process of uranium-thorium dating for the old cave drawings and the pair banter back and forth for over an hour. Thalia relaxes and begins to enjoy the discussion, reaching a point when she feels comfortable enough to lower her guard beside him, their arms brushing occasionally and at one point she hits his thigh while laughing and sharing a joke. “God, I didn’t even know I missed this,” she admits, knowing she’s lying, and he probably knows it too.

“That’s nice to hear, Thalia,” he agrees.  “It would be even nicer if we could-”

His phone rings and he reaches forward to grab it from an outpocket on his bag. “Hello! Yes, I’m so sorry,” he chirps into the phone. So he’s still apologizing 24/7, she thinks to herself, mad at herself for feeling curious about whom he might be speaking to, knowing she has no right to care. “Yes… No… I’m still in the lobby,” he chuckles. “Yes. Yes. The colleague that gave me trouble today, yes, I believe we’ve patched things up?” He tilts his head towards Thalia. “I deserved it. She had every right to call me out. I was being an insufferable know it all… Ha, ha… you’re so funny. Yes, home in time for dinner tomorrow. Mmhmm… Yes. Alright, g’night… Yes, you too… “ He gives his trademark eh-eh-eh laughter that sounds so familiar and natural to her ears. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”

Thalia fidgets with her phone, sensing this little reunion is over. She leans forward and stacks their plates together, picking up a napkin as it falls to the floor. “Well, Tom, it was nice seeing you-”

“Thalia,” he breathes out, sounding somewhat choked. “That was my fiancée. I’m getting married in September.”

* * *

Tom grimaces at the bitterness of the coffee he got from a restaurant across from the hotel before catching his Uber ride. He’s loaded the styrofoam cup with additional spoons of sugar but forgone the much-needed cream because he needs the wake-up boost.

As the vehicle takes him out of London, he tries to settle his long-limbed body into the seat more comfortably. He’s barely slept a wink the past few nights. Going to conferences does that to him. Always has, always will. He might be a natural at speaking events and he might always be as polite and affable as a royal doing his social rounds when it comes to interacting with peers or guests or even seminar participants – but he’s still a tad too introverted to enjoy doing it. He’d much rather research a project or write another book. And now he wishes he’d never have accepted the invitation to speak.

Because truth be told, the sleepless nights weren’t just because he attended the event. Thinking of Thalia kept him awake, tossing and turning, torn between haunting memories and fresh guilt.

Tom knew she’d be there too, of course. He had dialed the organizer twice to refuse the offer so he could spare himself the confrontation, then called himself a bloody coward and let them know he would accept.

He gave himself a stern talk before the first day, told himself that it had been his decision to break up, that it had been the right decision. That all the yearning and pining over the past three years didn’t count because on the surface, he did move on. As did she, probably.

He had been afraid to ask, but he’d been quick to notice during the presentation, as she clutched the armrest of the couch, she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

Still, seeing Thalia again, having to discuss topics they both used to obsess about together, privately, now shared so publicly, wrecked him. He’d chosen their tie deliberately, to have the upper hand, maybe also to remember a time when it had seemed he could have her forever. Hell, he didn’t even know the real reason for his choice, but he’d seen her notice it, and all the emotions that crossed her face before she schooled her features.

And then he’d lost his cool deplorably.

“God, you were an arse, Hiddleston,” he mutters to himself and downs another gulp of mediocre coffee. “It’s a miracle she didn’t rip your balls off and feed them to you when you had the fucking nerve to buy her sweets.”

Rubbing a hand over his face, Tom shifts in his seat. He hadn’t meant to let himself go like that at the panel but he should’ve known better. Thalia had always had a stronger effect on him than anybody else. She was the only one who could break him into a million pieces, and the only one who could mend him.

But he shouldn’t be having any of these thoughts. And he shouldn’t have approached her at all, shouldn’t have slipped back into their familiar camaraderie only to hit her over the head with his news. He should’ve sent her a bleeding email to apologize and then taken his sorry arse out of her life again. Why the hell had he felt this need to let her know about his upcoming marriage?

He’ll never forget the look on her face. One he’d seen rather too many times in his life now. One he never meant to put on her beautiful, beautiful face.

But deep down, a masochistic part of him was glad he’d told her. He’d wanted a clean cut, hadn’t he? Well, he sure as hell got that now.

Time to move on, even if he didn’t want to.

*****

Author created gif from images found on Facebook

Click to  Chapter 12, Exposed

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

Running in Circles

ch 10 Running in Circles.jpg

Running in Circles

Being Thalia

Chapter 10

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count: 1254

Summary: Thalia’s career trajectory takes her down a new path, leading to a door she wish she’d left closed.

Previous Chapter, Going Places

July 2021

Two months later. Another city, another hotel. Thalia shoves the earbuds in, hoping to drown out any noise. But no matter where she goes, the voices in her head won’t shut up. They’re so clamorous these days, she has an appointment to see a therapist when she returns to Madrid next week after this conference. She has a feeling she’ll need it. Angrily, she punches the numbers on the treadmill, raising the incline and increasing her pace.

“Fuck him,” she mutters, as she often does whenever Professor Hiddleston crosses her mind. Tom presented this morning on the same panel in which she’d been invited to participate. Accepting the speaking engagement seemed like a good idea, nearly six months ago, being an elite member among the prestigious curators for one of the top European museums. Now, the curvy historian isn’t so sure what had prompted her to say yes. She should have known it would be a disaster. As soon as she found out  he was the discussion leader, she should have withdrawn from the event. At this point, she doesn’t even know what the panel topic was supposed to have been about, but it descended into a free for all of academic wills and pent up anger.

Nervously, Thalia watched from backstage as the conference volunteers rearranged the furniture for the panel, moving out three small leather couches and placing them in a semicircle. She smooths down the front of her long skirt and anxiously fidgets with the lapels of her leather jacket. A table had been seated in the open space with water bottles and stacks of books. His book. He’d finished his damn book, with the help of her research notes. She knew small royalty deposits were made into a banking account regularly, growing larger each month as more universities caught on to their ideas, using their theories to teach their classes about the power of Shakespeare in the modern world.

It was an account she never touched. She didn’t want his money.

She’d calmly walked on stage, waving to the crowds and pausing for the requisite photos, taking her spot to the far right of the stage, practically clutching the armrest of the couch for… for what? Protection? To hold her back from throwing herself into his arms?

What did she want? What did she expect?

As he was being introduced, a large digital presentation ran on the screen behind the other panelists. Thankfully Thalia wasn’t the only person being subjected to this torture, she’d chuckled to herself. The resulting smile on her face froze when a familiar image appeared on the screen, a blast from the past of her younger self, in a breezy floral sundress and her sturdy boots. It had been many years ago, when Tom hadn’t even know she’d existed. She’d just been another student on his team, working at the excavation site believed to have been the kitchen of William Shakespeare himself.

Static had crackled over the sound system, and the image had frozen. She’d twisted in her seat for a better look at the photo, one she’d never seen. Squinting, she’d analyzed the image.

Her heart stopped. In the captured photo, it was evident he’d known she’d existed. Thalia knew that look on his face. He was focused on her, not whatever she had been showing him that long ago day.

“Sorry! I’m rebooting the file,” someone had shouted from the sound booth at the back of the room.

The screen went black before she could examine it further.

And then he walked on stage. From the moment he appeared, his presence commanded the attention of the audience, as if spellbound by a god.

Leaning against the podium when he welcomed the panel, his eyes barely glanced over her, cold and icy. In that moment, he may as well have ripped her heart out and stomped on it.

TH podium

Again.

Huffing, she realizes the wet on her cheeks isn’t sweat from her fast-paced walk, but from tears. Angry, spiteful tears.

“Fuck him,” Thalia mumbles again, wiping away the tears. The music can’t block out the memory, the words. She punches the numbers on the treadmill, and slows her walk. “Chica, get it together. Relive it and move on. Can’t change it now.” She glares at the mirrored wall across from her momentarily before closing her eyes and sinking back into those thoughts.

She realizes her anger has probably blocked out most of the panel, as she can’t seem to remember much. She recalls observing the events, adding in her commentary when necessary. But something about his arrogance, his words and tone, set her off. It had become a verbal sparring match on stage, one they were both well-educated and prepared for, as it had often been a lively topic of debate between them, purely in the name of fun.

This hadn’t been fun.

This had been brutal.

With an audience.

At one point, she’d clenched her fists, irritated with the way he was sitting across from her, his legs spread wide, as always. She’d blinked to lock out the image of the fit physique she knew he was hiding underneath his tailored suit. She’d glared at him, her eyes barely open in her fury, when it dawned on her. Her tie. The tie she had given him once as a gift. The fucker was wearing her tie. Whatever her train of thought had been stopped there, interrupting him. “Excuse me, Sir,” and Thalia knew she was full on red-blooded Latina and her accent was thick with rage, be damned her education. “I am not a, a… a groupie… in your class anymore. I don’t have to hang on every word, and sit here and listen to you ‘mansplain’ that to me. That’s my research! Those are my thoughts! Don’t you dare repeat them back to me as if they’re your own ideas, for fuck’s sake.”

The academic minds in the room had gasped and the moderator stepped in, closing down the remaining minutes of the discussion early.

The sneer on his face as he cleaned his glasses indicated he thought he’d won whatever battle they seemed to be waging.

th cleaning glasses

“Fuck him,” she mumbles again, turning off the damn machine. Four miles. Sweaty and tired, Thalia rolls her head side to side, wiping the towel around her neck. She clasps her hands together, stretching out in front of her and her knuckles pop and crack. With a huff, she walks to the opposite wall and readies herself to lift the free weights. Movement out the window draws her attention, and her breath catches.

Tom.

Bloody hell. In his work out gear, his ratty running shorts and tight black t-shirt, he looks like he stepped out of a time machine. Slowing his run, he jogs up to the side door of the hotel. Glancing at his phone, he punches across the screen, the cord for his earbuds wrapped around his neck. Immediately, she wants to strangle him with it. She’s hoping she can sneak out before he enters-

“Thalia.” His voice is different from when he spoke at the panel. More like in her memories. Silk wrapped in something deep and intense, serious and way more meaningful than one word should be. Well, she’s immune to this kind of seduction now, isn’t she?

“Fuck you,” she mutters and leaves, relishing in the slam of the door as she exits the room.

Click here for the next chapter, Peace Offering

Images of Tom found on Pinterest from IW press

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