Growing Up

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Growing Up

Being Thalia

Chapter 26

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

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

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

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

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

Word Count: 2779

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

Previous Chapter, Another Step Forward

October 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you leave because of me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you, Tom.”

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

“I love you too, darling.”

Click to Chapter 27, Not Yet

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

Second Chances

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Second Chances

Being Thalia

Chapter 24

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: 2343

Summary: Thalia comes to some deep realizations.

Previous Chapter, Whatever You Need

Sitting at the table, Thalia looks up from her tablet. Tom is sprawled across the bed, an impish grin on his sleepy face. “I know you’re awake,” she says quietly. “You made that sound you make.”

His arm raises and flops against his chest. “I do not make sounds in my sleep.” His tone is warm and playful.

“You do too. You snorted, like you couldn’t get enough air.”

He rolls over on his side, the white sheet twisted around his hip. “My grandfather makes that noise. Only old men do that.”

“Well, if the big shoes fit, honey-” she ducks when he chucks a pillow at her head. She laughs, tossing back her wild mane of hair. “Your grandfather? He’s still alive? Why did I not know that?” There’s so much about him she hardly knows. She rises from the table, pulling his shirt around her middle, barely getting the buttons to meet.

“He is, living out in the old English countryside.” Tom taps the bed, inviting her to join him. “Maybe you could meet him someday.” Thalia smiles warmly, still struggling with the buttons on his shirt. “What about your grandparents?”

She shrugs, giving up on the shirt. She pushes the sleeves up and tucks up her leg under her before sitting on the bed next to him. “I really lost track of my mom’s family, but mi abuelita, my dad’s mom, still lives in Puerto Rico. Do you remember, I went to visit, did some rebuilding after the hurricane, back in ‘17?” Tom nods, lazily dragging his fingers over her plump thigh. “She’s still there, in the little cabin we renovated. Dad’s sister left her husband and they live together, still running the food truck for tourists.”

Tom lifts his head. “When was the last time you went for a visit?”

Thalia shakes her head, reaching over and pushing back his wayward curls. “It’s been too long.” She puckers her lips. “I should do that in the next year, attach it to one of my trips for work.”

“I’d like to go with you. See the little island that produced such a dynamo as you.”

Thalia swallows hard. “Is that what we’re doing now, Tom? Moving forward? Erasing all the hurt and pain? Making plans for a future together?”

Tom sits up, reaching for the hand worrying the hem of his shirt. Clutching it in his, he holds hers tightly. Looking into her eyes, his soul wide open, he says, “I’m ready to start living again, Thalia. I’ve been given a second chance, if you’ll allow me in. I don’t want to waste a minute of it.” He grins widely. “You keep reminding me I’m not getting any younger.”

Thalia stares intently for a moment, her eyes searching every line of his face. The worry line between his eyebrows has lightened in the last few days. She shifts her body, stretching her leg out in front of her. “Tom, I’m not a girl any more. I’m not the people pleaser I once was, I pretty much do and say whatever the fuck I want.” She scoffs, looking around the room. “I don’t know if I’m really cut out for a relationship. For what you want.”

“Thalia, all I’ve ever wanted was you, and I was a bloody sod who didn’t see it till I left. I fear I’ve left you broken.” He pushes her hair back over her shoulder to better see her face. “If… If I didn’t know you had loved another man for a time being, I would be worried I’d scorned you for good.”

Thalia swallows again, turning to face him. Running her hand up his arm, she rests it against the side of his face, her fingers digging into his gingery beard. “Just because I loved him, doesn’t mean I ever stopped loving you. It was just a different love, that’s all.”

Turning his head, he tries to hide, but she can still see his features darken. His beard tickles the inside of her palm before he kisses it tenderly. “Darling, I don’t know that I ever truly told you I loved you. I love you. You are the very thing that makes me feel capable of caring and showing emotion. Brits aren’t always the best at showing their emotions, saying how they feel. We’re often seen as cold bastards.”

Grinning, Thalia leans forward, running her hand through his tangled hair and pulling his forehead to hers, pressing their heads together. “I never thought you were a cold bastard. But it’s nice to hear ‘I love you.’ I just… I don’t know if I’m ready to say it back.” She lifts her lips and kisses his expansive forehead. She pulls away and throws her arm out to the side, indicating the messy bed. “What if this was just a revenge fuck? I needed to get off and now I’m out the door?”

She moves suddenly to rise, but his arm clamps around her waist. “Don’t go. Where are you going? We have so much more to talk about.”

Thalia swings her leg over the edge of the bed. When she wiggles, the sheet shifts, exposing Tom. She licks her lip. Dropping her voice, she asks, “What do you wanna talk about?”

Blushing, Tom pulls the sheet up, covering himself. “Anything. Everything. Losing your dad… How’s your stepmother doing? Are you still teaching classes? What are you new favorite movies? Children. Do you want children?”

Her eyebrow raises. “All that? What kind of power nap was that? All the energy, such an array of topics… Children, Tom? Really?”

“You said last night we needed to talk about everything and get it out before we leave this room.”

“We also said we were going to use all those condoms, but I think there’s one or two left.” She looks to the side table, trying to change the topic.

“Thalia, I picture a little girl in my life some day, and she always has your wild hair, your beautiful, dark eyes.” His hand closes around her wrist. “Do you want the same?”

Gulping, Thalia rises from the bed. “I don’t know, Tom. I really don’t know.”

“Why are you running from me now?”

Thalia bends down, reaching for her discarded dress. “While you were sleeping, I had a reminder call of an appointment I can’t miss.” She tugs on the shirt tail. “Can I borrow the shirt? I promise I’ll be back in a few hours, and we can talk more then.”

Not waiting for his response, she dashes into the bathroom.

 

***

Two hours later, she paces nervously in her therapist’s office, nearly busting out of his shirt. Paired with the jeans from the bottom of her bag, she looks cute and rather well-fucked.

“So Thalia, dear,” the therapist says in her soothing tone, “if what you’re telling me is all truth, that you do love him, why the hell are you so scared?”

Thalia presses her hand to the window, the rain falling again, blanketing the city in gray.

“If he left me again, I’d have to drown myself in an ocean as blue as his eyes,” she whispers, her eyes filling with tears again.

“Ok. Now we’re getting somewhere,” the tiny woman says, sitting up straight in her chair.

Thalia turns to face her, wiping the tear falling down her cheek. “What’d ya mean?”

“You’ve been coming in here for three months, telling me all kinds of crap.” She chuckles. “Now this is the real meat of it, what we need to work on.” She tosses her notepad onto the coffee table and leans forward. “Thalia, from what I can see, you are an amazing young woman, with a good head on her shoulders. You make the history buffs of this city look like trolls, with your knowledge of everything- thank you for the tour you gave my granddaughter, by the way, she loved it immensely- And, in case you haven’t looked in the mirror lately, you’re a total knockout. So why would he leave you?”

Thalia nervously fingers the buttons on his shirt. “He left before.”

“But he’s back now, apparently ready to lay down his life for you. Why would he leave you?”

“My mother left. Everyone leaves.”

“Thalia, you can’t keep punishing yourself for something that happened to you when you were a child. She didn’t leave you because of you. From what you tell me, it sounds like your mother had her own demons.” Thalia chokes on a sob as the tears fall from her cloudy eyes. The woman rises and steps in front of her, clutching her forearms. “Thalia, your life is probably as grand as it’s been because she wasn’t there to pull you down with her. That was her gift to you, leaving you. You have to believe you deserve good things. Just because you think others failed at loving you, or you left too soon to allow yourself to be loved- don’t give me that look. You would have been happy in the States, but you wouldn’t allow yourself to be happy-” She gives Thalia a mothering shake. “He came back for you. This man came back for you. Not everyone gets so many chances, dear.” She lets go, patting Thalia’s arm before stepping back and resuming her professionalism. “Your assignment for the week is to keep journaling, but this week, look for three good things, happy things in each day, and think about the reason you deserve them.”

Thalia nods, reaching for a tissue. Wiping her nose, she lifts her purse onto her shoulder. “Ya know, Doc, I hate talking this all out. I always leave with such a big headache. But I like you. I keep coming back, cuz you remind me of my stepmother. Thank you. Thank you for providing me with clarity and insight, and a little bit of tough love.”

Walking out of the office, she bounces down the stairs. Hailing a cab, she drives across town to her apartment for a change of clothes and a few necessities. On the return trip to Tom’s hotel, she calls an order into Lucía, making special arrangements for dinner to be delivered later. The younger woman squeals with excitement, hearing the delivery is to be made to the Palacio.

Ay, chica, are you back together?” Lucía screams into the phone.

Thalia laughs, pulling payment for the ride from her bag. “I don’t know, but it was a much needed fuck. I think I hurt my back.” She leans forward, massaging the sore spot.

She tips the driver kindly at the curb, looking up at the grand building. The history alone makes her excited to enter the building, not just knowing she’ll be in Tom’s arms again soon.

Oh my goodness, you’ll have to tell me everything. Was it the Presidential suite, like you guessed?”

Thalia smiles to the porter as he holds the door for her. She stops to admire the Joan Miró painting in the lobby. One of her favorite Spanish artists, the bright colors and shapes always brighten her mood. With a light heart, she walks proudly through the lobby. She decides to forgo the elevators to take the grand staircase up, trailing her fingers over the ornate railing. “Of course it was. It’s the only room with a private library. It’s exactly how I pictured him. Books, clothes everywhere. His glasses on the bedside table. A little messy, which isn’t like him, but people change. He’s a little more flexible now, it seems-”

“Flexible is always good, especially in bed.”

Thalia laughs, walking down the hallway on the first floor to take the elevator up to his floor. Flattening herself against the wall, she waits for a group of businessmen to pass. “That’s not the kind of flexible I meant.”

“But it was still good? Like you remembered?”

Thalia feels her heat rising, already waiting for him. “Better than I remembered. But perfectly matched, like no time had passed. He remembered everything.” She licks her lips, reliving how he’d peppered her back and shoulders with tiny kisses. “He remembered just what buttons to push.”

“Oh, Lord, just hearing you talk makes me want to call Carlos.”

Pushing the elevator, she leans against the wall and waits. “Don’t call Carlos. You know he’s bad news. The new assistant Henrí hired? Flirt with him tonight. Invite him for a drink after your shift.”

“Javíer?”

“Definitely. I’ve seen him watching you. He likes you.” The elevator dings. “Listen, I gotta go. Delivery at eight?”

The women quickly say their goodbyes, and Thalia takes a moment to look at herself in the shiny gold reflective panels of the small oak box. She fluffs out her hair, and tugs down on Tom’s shirt. Her breasts threaten to pop out over the top of her bra, the buttons barely holding the crisp fabric closed over her chest and belly. She turns sideways, catching a glimpse at how her jeans hug her firm, round ass. “Still got it, I guess.”

The door opens and she can’t hold in a little giggle. Tom. Together again after all these years. What was he saying to her before she left, about kids?

She knocks on the door, shifting her weight from side to side, her overnight bag heavy on her shoulder. “Come on, Tom.” She knocks again, louder.

The door opens, and something about his expression, freezes her. Her mood instantly drops. With the phone cradled to his ear, he ushers her inside, but motions for her to be quiet. The room is different, clean. He stands in front of her, wearing only his jeans, hung low on his narrow hips. Tom watches her closely as he listens intently to whomever is talking at him. She puckers her lips, something welling inside her and she pushes him aside, hitting his shoulder as she steps forward.

His suitcase is packed, sitting at the foot of the bed. A few items still lay scattered around the room, but it’s obvious he’s getting ready to leave.

Click here for Chapter 25, Another Step Forward

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

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