Niles should have known better.
Flying thousands of miles to Los Angeles following the visions of a beauty parlor psychic was downright ludicrous. But something about Mrs. Sheffield's rhetoric persuaded him to tag along on the mission to spy on their significant others. In the back of his mind he knew they were up for trouble. That wasn't enough to stop either of them, though.
Considering all the possible catastrophic outcomes of this evening, they certainly dodged a bullet or two. Sure, ending up on Mr. Sheffield's bed was not what he expected. And as awkward as the whole scene was, Niles was more than relieved to find his boss sleeping alone.
Even better than that was knowing his Ice Queen was just down the hall in her own room, by herself.
He quite enjoyed the sound of that.
Despite a rather rocky start, things between them had progressed naturally. Especially over the course of the past six weeks since he had returned from London. Not only was their secret out, but the distance also had impacted their dynamics. His absence made her heart grow fonder– and yes, turns out C.C. did have a heart after all.
Niles took pride on the fact that they were in a relationship ever since.
And so far he had only dealt with the perks of being a couple. From simple things such as walking hand in hand into a Walmart to the exciting evenings they spent christening every corner of her penthouse.
Tonight, however, Niles was well aware he would have to tackle the other side of their relationship. Mrs. Sheffield must had brought his girlfriend up to date on their antics, which meant of course the blonde was infuriated. No doubt he would be in for a treat. He had witnessed C.C. Babcock reduce grown men to tears enough times in the past to know he should be scared.
The butler marched down the hall mentally preparing himself to face the beast. From afar he could already tell her door was wide open.
She was waiting for him.
"How mad are you?"
Niles found his girlfriend sat on the bed. Arms crossed and back resting against the headboard, she stared at him. Something about the look in her eyes made it impossible to decipher what was on her mind.
"Oh, I'm not mad."
Nevermind. She was going to rip him to shreds.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she replied in the same emotionless tone from before. "Just a little confused. But if you don't mind, lover, do me a favor and sit down here to clear things up."
The butler swallowed hard and shut the door behind him. C.C. was frighteningly calm as she tapped a spot on the mattress next to her. He moved to sit where she indicated, feeling a tad too anxious about the situation.
She frowned before going straight to the point. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Oh, you know," he shrugged in an attempt to sound casual. "Missing you and stuff."
C.C.'s scoff signaled the obvious, of course she did not buy that.
"So this has nothing to do with Nanny Fine's moronic psychic adventures?"
"Well, I couldn't let a pregnant woman travel across the country alone," he made sure that sounded righteous enough.
Okay, maybe not.
"It was mostly her idea," the butler reasoned.
"And since when are you so gullible?" C.C. questioned in a mocking tone.
"That's rich coming from Maxwell Sheffield's official pushover," his attempt to sound sassy got lost in the harsh truth behind his words.
Though a little bantering never truly hurt any of them, his remark wasn't as well received as this time. C.C. didn't snap back at him with another insult. Nor did she roll her eyes as usual, in a desperate attempt to make herself believe she actually hated him.
No. This time her expression shifted back to the enigmatic look he had witnessed when arriving in the room.
She saw right through him.
"I'm not trying to pick a fight, Niles."
"I'm not either."
Silence fell upon them. A weird, uncomfortable silence they were never used to, not even before they became a thing.
It was torture. Until she finally spoke again.
"It hurt," the hint of vulnerability in her voice was something he hadn't heard since their first night together. "Your lack of trust on me."
Niles could feel a knot on his throat. "It's not that..."
"But I would be lying if I said I don't understand why you'd be insecure," she watched as he flashed her a confused look. "Given my history with Maxwell..."
"You mean, how you spent half of your adult life chasing the man in the most humiliating and ridiculous w–"
"Yes, yes. We all know the story," the blonde interrupted annoyed.
He couldn't help but to grin a little. That felt more like them.
"And although I am embarrassed about some of that stuff, I don't really regret any of it," she took his hand on hers. "Because eventually it all lead me to you."
Niles brought their joined hands to his lips. He pressed a couple of little kisses on her knuckles.
C.C. let out one of her trademark low chuckles before continuing. "I really like this, us. Our relationship. I wouldn't jeopardize it. Now when I'm the happiest I've ever been."
"Oh baby, more," he teased, now kissing her wrist.
"I'm not good at this and I've said plenty," she yanked her hand away from him. "Your turn now."
Niles just gazed at her.
Dealing with feelings wasn't exactly C.C.'s forte. Even less so speaking about them in such an open and honest way. It was undeniable that something had changed. It was undeniable he had a lot to do with that.
"God, I love you so much."
Next thing he knew he was caught up in a deep kiss.
Things escalated, as they usually tended to. Soon enough he was nibbling behind her ear, basking on the feeling of her fingernails scratching his scalp. Perhaps he should reconsider that nickname, nothing icy about her at all. Not when it really mattered.
His thoughts were cut short when she called– no, moaned his name. Niles felt every little hair on his arms standing up at that. She had always known damn well how to drive him insane.
"I love you too."
Now, that was a first.
The butler could hardly believe his ears. He pulled back, staring at her in a mix of amusement and absolute shock.
"Mhmm," C.C. smirked.
Niles's face lit up in utter joy. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning, C.C. thought. She had to admit she loved the big foolish grin on his face right then. And the way the little lines around his mouth grew more evident every time he smiled at her. She loved how his blue eyes sparkled hopefully whenever they were left alone.
Damn it, she loved him. Plain and simple.
She grabbed him by the sweater, pulling him closer to her once more
"Now come here, Bell Boy."
The sound of a well known, relentless and annoying nasal voice forced Niles to wake up with a jump.
"We have six days to plan this anniversary party could you please focus?"
"I'm sorry Mrs. Sheffield, I didn't get much sleep last night."
The blond man looked around, only then making sense of his surroundings and remembering they were boarding a plane back to New York.
"Ooh..." Fran flashed him a knowing smile.
"Not that," he chuckled slightly. "I was awaken at 4 to the sound of Ms. Babcock throwing up the contents of her seafood dinner."
"Bad shrimp," the brunette stated with a nod. "Been there."
"Of course you have."
The woman slapped his arm, causing him to groan.
"Is she alright?"
"Yes, she was feeling much better this morning," he let out a dramatic sigh before speaking again. "But I've been awake ever since, thinking about us."
"Troubles in paradise?" Fran flashed him a sympathetic look.
"On the contrary, things are terrific," Niles's smile grew wide at the memory. "In fact last night it was the first time she said she loves me."
The brunette mirrored his grin. "Then why on Earth are you concerned?"
"It's not concern, it's just that I... I can't shake the feeling we're ready to take the next step."
"Oh my God!"
"I'm not sure yet. I-" Niles breathed out heavily. Just thinking about it made his stomach flip in anticipation. "I reckon it may be a little too soon. But we've wasted so much time already. I don't want to waste another minute."
"Well, you should tell her that," Fran tapped on his shoulder demonstrating her support.
"It's a big risk to take," he flashed her a nervous smile while fidgeting with his hands on his lap.
Sensing his trepidation, the former nanny decided to encourage her best friend. "You two are great together."
"We are, aren't we?" Niles expression relaxed slightly.
"Sixth time's the charm," Fran joked, finally prompting to rip a brief laughter from him.
"Guess I'm really doing this then..."
The brunette pulled him close for a big hug even before he was able to finally say it out loud.
"I'm going to ask her to marry me."