“Remind me again why I shouldn’t sleep the whole plane ride,” Chloé grumbled, voice muffled by the sleeve of his sweatshirt. It seemed her double shot of espresso had lasted just long enough to drive the rental car back to the airport. Now that they were seated and waiting for the plane to take off, the less than four hours of sleep she had gotten were rapidly catching up with her.
“Because if you do, you’ll be wide awake when we get home.”
“What time is it going to be again?”
“Damn it.” He chuckled and tried to move his arm under her head. She tightened her vice grip in response, whining, “What are you doing? This is my pillow.”
“Of course it is, your highness,” he laughed, “I just want to adjust it so that it doesn’t go numb.” She groaned dramatically, but nevertheless loosened her grip just enough for him to set his arm comfortably on the armrest between them. “Thank you, my liege.”
She nuzzled her face back into his shoulder, hugging her pillow close with one hand and using the other to idly trace along the backs of his knuckles. “Why are you awake enough to sass me? It’s not fair.”
“Because I didn’t sleep.”
“That makes no sense.”
“It does when you’re a professional night owl.” She muttered something into his sleeve. He couldn’t quite parse it out, but it sounded mean. “What was that?”
She rolled her head to the side to speak more clearly. “I said you’re a fucking weirdo.” A flight attendant squeezed her lips together in an effort to stifle a laugh as she walked by, but Nathaniel made no such effort. “Stop laughing,” Chloé complained. “You’re making my pillow shake.” That only made him laugh more. “Damn it, Nathaniel.”
“Sorry, sorry,” he lied as he settled down. “I’ll try to keep still.”
“Don’t fall asleep though.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“You’ll regret it later,” he teased in a sing-song voice.
She groaned and turned her face back into his arm. “That is my bad decision to make and yours to deal with later.”
“What? How is it mine to deal with?”
“I can’t hear you; I’m sleeping now.”
Shaking his head with a tiny smile, Nathaniel gave up and sat back in his seat, braced for a long flight ahead. He hoped she didn’t actually expect him to stay up with her later, because he knew quite well that if she wanted him to, he would and that would be a terrible addition to his lack of a sleep schedule.
He imagined she was probably kidding. After spending the entire holiday season with him, she must want a break, right? He was pretty sure they had never gone this many days in a row of even seeing each other, let alone spending all of their time together and sharing the close proximity of a couple. He had no complaints, but knowing Chloé, she would probably want a few days of space to let things settle back to normal.
…Back to normal.
What even was their normal now? Were they going to go back to the way things were before the trip? Back to most of their conversations being long text rants sent from work? Back to the majority of their physical contact being solely from him patching her up after battles?
Back to really truly being just friends?
It wasn’t like Nathaniel didn’t want that. Okay, he didn’t obviously, but it wasn’t like he had a problem with them being just friends if that was what Chloé wanted.
It was all of the habits he’d fallen into that he worried about. It was the touching her cheek when she was grinding her teeth, the putting a hand on her back every time he approached, the cuddling up with her whenever they were even sitting together. Being Chloé’s “boyfriend” had felt so natural, all those little things had easily become their normal over the last week and a half. To suddenly put all that away, go back to the way things were before… Could he even do that? Did she want to do that?
As if on cue, Chloé shifted at his side, rubbing her head against his shoulder.
Nathaniel slowly turned to look at her, hesitant to give into the revelation creeping over him. Chloé still hugged his arm close and though her eyes were closed, he knew she was still awake because her free hand continued to trace aimless lines into his skin. She had held his hand or his arm almost the entire time they had been in the airport and last night, as the New Year fireworks went off, she had kissed him.
All well out of sight of her family.
“…Am I your boyfriend?”
The question slipped from his tongue with ease and perhaps the only thing that surprised him was how not nervous he was to ask it. How stable his heartbeat, how steady his voice.
He wasn’t even surprised when she didn’t have to think about her answer.
“Mm-hmm,” she hummed, gently nodding her head. That was it. No picking up her head to look at him, no further explanation, not even any sass.
Somehow, even that didn’t surprise him.
Nathaniel turned his hand so it was palm up and her fingers immediately locked with his. The warmest of smiles rising to his lips, he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head and together, they went home.