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LimeyBlimey

Ethan and Claire

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LimeyBlimey

So I'm diving into a new story (or two!) with a focus on our adorable yet stubbornly sweet boi Ethan. I've already been on a roll, too, so parts are coming along fast and I've got some surprises in store 😄. If you haven't read my first fictions, I provided a link for Breaking the Barrier, because Kaylee and Matt will be making appearances in Ethan's stories! https://www.sneezefetishforum.com/topic/75626-breaking-the-barrier/

Last but not least, for all commenters and pm-contributors, thanks again for the requests and ideas!!

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The flight was delayed by three hours. Of course, Ethan thought, and sighed. He put his phone in his pocket and stretched himself out as best as he could in the uncomfortable bench-like chair. Having always been a little awkwardly tall, he was grateful there was no one sitting directly next to him at the moment. He fit his air-pods snugly into his ears and closed his eyes. Even without the music on, he could already feel himself mentally separating from the bustling sounds of the busy airport terminal. The air-pods chimed in Ethan’s ear as they connected to his phone’s Bluetooth, and he found a playlist he liked. The music instantly drowned out most of the sounds of automated speakers and talkative travelers.

Ethan tried to relax, feeling glad to be going back home after a week’s visit with his family. He liked his family well enough, but he enjoyed having his independence now. Ethan’s two older sisters, who lived closer to their parents, had arranged to make his visit home a surprise. His mother had screamed with both joy and shock when she saw him waiting to greet her in the church foyer before the Mother’s Day service, a bouquet of flowers in hand and wearing a suit she had bought for him during his last visit. His father had laughed, clapped him on the back in a great bear hug, and within a few minutes started leading him around to their church friends who had known Ethan since he was young. Ethan was rather proud of the patience he had exercised during this time. Church wasn’t really his ‘thing’ anymore and he normally tried to avoid it whenever he came back to visit, so his surprise definitely seemed to have some extra sentiment in it for his parents. He liked seeing his sisters again, too. His oldest sister and her husband had two young twins, Ethan’s niece and nephew. Ethan had only met them a couple of times, but the toddlers were not very shy of him. Ethan thought they were pretty cute, and they found him just as fascinating. Whenever they managed to escape their parents’ grasp, they followed Ethan everywhere. His sister told him with a half-joking apology that they only liked his hair. Ethan played with them and was happy to keep them occupied, despite his lack of experience with children other than volunteering in the youth Sunday School program when he was a teenager. Just a couple of days ago at their house with the rest of the family, Ethan had leaned down to tie the shoelace his nephew had pulled loose when several of his frizzy brown curls fell over his face as they so often did. The boy, peering up at Ethan with a face wet with grimy yellow toddler snot, had grabbed a couple of the curls and pulled hard. Ethan had made a noise of surprise, which the boy found equally entertaining. The toddler laughed with delight at watching the curls spring back into place. Ethan had managed a laugh too, but then scooped his nephew up into his arms and carried him to his mom. Both the twins as well as Ethan’s mother had cried hard when he departed for the airport this morning to go back home.

Perhaps he was just fatigued from the visit, but Ethan managed to fall asleep after only three or four songs. After some time, he awoke to a shuffling motion next to him. He lifted his head from where it had been resting on his hand and the armrest. He wearily rubbed his neck, which felt slightly stiff from his poor position.

“Oh, sorry!” said a sweet voice near him. “I didn’t mean to wake you up. But if it’s all right, I’d like to sit here.”

“S’okay,” Ethan said quietly. He pushed his hair out of his face, his mouth feeling rather dry and his throat slightly sore as well. He looked over at a pretty, blond-haired, young woman as she placed a black carry-on suitcase in front of her smooth legs and made a graceful attempt to sit down. She wore the traditional blazer, skirt, and hat of a flight attendant. Ethan glanced around to see that travelers now filled the gate terminal, and that the chair next to him was the only available one left. He pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time and stop the music. He noticed that the girl kept giving him sidelong glances, as if wondering if he was going to talk to her. Feeling a little awkward, he reached into his backpack for a large bottled water he had bought at a kiosk on his walk to the gate. He chugged half of it in one sitting, noticing his throat hurt a little with each swallow.

He glanced again at the young woman next to him, and this time she saw him do so. She smiled warmly in response and looked down at her phone. She casually touched her neat hair bun and shifted her elbows in an appeared effort to take up less space.

“Have you been here long?” the girl suddenly asked Ethan.

“Um, yeah, a couple of hours,” Ethan said, and cleared his throat a bit. “Guess I just crashed.”

“I’ve never been able to sleep so easily like that,” the girl said with a smile. “I’m jealous.”

Ethan smiled back in her direction, slightly intrigued by her. “I’m Ethan.”

The young woman straightened her position towards him in a slightly matter-of-fact way and gave him an amused gaze. “Claire. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Claire,” Ethan said, chuckling. He liked the way her name sounded in his head. Old-fashioned but cute. “Where are you from? Local, on layover, going home?”

“Home,” the woman said, breathing a sigh of relief and slightly breaking her air of professionalism. “Finally. This is the last flight of an almost fourteen-hour shift and I’ve been traveling for a week. I’m tired!”

Ethan and Claire chatted for the next several minutes, and Ethan was finding himself more and more interested in the woman and her stewardess lifestyle. A Californian like Ethan’s friend Kaylee, Claire spoke with passion, humor, and a sense of care. She seemed interested in him as well, asking questions about his family, his job with the advertising agency, and his hobbies. She had joined an airline company three years ago and was currently living in Denver, near the airport. She was in her mid-twenties, also single, and seemed to want to attribute her current relationship status to her busy career. Ethan wondered if he missed something at her words there, but he pushed it away, wondering if he would have the nerve to ask for her phone number. He hesitated and pushed bits of his hair away from his face.

Claire’s phone dinged, and she looked down quickly. She then smiled once more at Ethan. “The plane’s close to the gate now. I’m stewarding on this flight…”

“Can I have your number?” Ethan asked before she could stop him.

Claire hesitated before standing up from her chair and gathering her bag and carry-on case. She gave him a slightly flirtatious smile. “I’ll see you on the plane.”

Ethan cringed to himself and then watched her walk toward the gate’s mini desk to chat with another steward who had just walked up. While talking, Claire glanced back at him now and then, meeting his eyes and barely managing to hide a smile. Ethan grinned to himself. Maybe she wasn't totally turned off by him. He leaned down to rearrange his backpack in front of his legs. After a few long minutes, an announcement overhead gave the message that the plane had arrived at the gate and to keep the area clear.

After all the previous passengers had left the airplane, Ethan's boarding group was called. It would be a full flight back to Denver, for sure. As he got in line, Ethan’s nose suddenly tickled something fierce. He rubbed his nose quickly on one shoulder, shifting his backpack to the other shoulder. He suddenly sneezed twice in succession, managing to hide his face in his jacket collar.

“Bless you,” two or three voices politely said. Ethan wondered if a possible third sneeze was hiding in there somewhere, but after another few seconds the feeling went away. The line began to move forward to the gate, and Ethan opened the boarding ticket screen on his phone’s app.

“Thank you, have a good flight,” a stewardess near the gate scanned his phone, and Ethan walked through the tunnel towards the plane. Ethan had to stifle another sneeze in the gate tunnel, his throat and his nose feeling dry from the odd air pressure.

“Bless you, dear,” said an elderly passenger behind him.

“Thanks,” Ethan said in quiet embarrassment.

Once on the plane Ethan found his assigned seat, next to the aisle but thankfully only a few rows from the front. He noticed with pleasure that the flight attendant Claire happened to be stationed near the front of the plane as well. She smiled briefly when she saw him, but was distracted by her preparations for takeoff. He pulled his air-pods out of his ears and stowed them away in their case. His nose and throat felt more irritated by the hour and Ethan sighed with frustration. Hopefully this was just allergies, he thought, and sniffled a couple times.

The plane’s seats were divided by the main aisle in two rows of three, and eventually two passengers, a middle-aged couple traveling together, came up to take their seats on Ethan’s left. Ethan pressed himself into the back of his seat and shifted his long legs into the aisle, hating his height in cramped places like this. The gentlemen bumped hard against Ethan’s legs anyway as he crossed wordlessly over to the window seat. He didn’t bother to apologize, but his wife gave Ethan a slightly contrite look as she also shifted across his legs to take her seat.

Before takeoff, Ethan watched with amusement as Claire helped with the demonstration of the plane’s emergency procedures. She maintained her lovely air of professionalism, but Ethan couldn’t help noticing that she snuck glances and half-smiles in his direction whenever she changed to the next instruction. After takeoff, Claire began her rounds to take drink requests. When she reached Ethan, she smiled a little more warmly for him, meeting his eyes with a slightly brief but flirtatious glance. Damn, she was pretty. He ordered a cup of coffee.

After Claire took drink orders for the middle-aged couple next to Ethan, she turned her body away from them and up into to the next aisle. As she moved, she seemed to purposely graze Ethan’s shoulder with her jacketed elbow. Ethan’s skin prickled underneath his own clothes and he felt reassured about the possibility that she was still interested in him.

Sometime during the hour and a half flight, Ethan’s nose started to run again, but he realized he had no tissues. The weak napkin he had left over from his coffee had sufficed, but he knew it wasn’t going to be enough for the rest of the flight. Maybe there were some in the bathroom facility. He looked toward the front of the plane to wait for the toilet occupancy light to change, and when it did, Ethan took his chance. However, just as he was approaching the front of the aisles, a male passenger in the second row quickly left his seat and claimed the bathroom before Ethan could. Ethan sighed with frustration and looked behind him toward the back of the plane to see if that restroom was occupied. It was, of course. Ethan looked around the plane’s serving area to see if there might be a box or something with some tissues or napkins, but only saw Claire, who was rummaging inside one of the storage compartments.

“Hi,” she said distractedly. “Is everything all right?”

Ethan nodded, quickly swiping his knuckles under his nose. “Yeah. Just gotta use the bathroom.”

Claire smiled and turned back to her task. Ethan felt awkward again, and wondered if he should just wait in his seat, but Claire didn’t seem bothered at all by his presence. They even talked casually for a little bit and she found the trash bags she had been looking for. Finally, the bathroom door opened and the occupant walked out, leaving Ethan to grab the door handle. He cringed from a rather potent stench that had been left behind, and really regretted his need for tissues. Right before he closed the door, he managed a quick glance at Claire and gave her an obvious grimace as to share his opinion on the smell. Claire laughed, but she managed to fake it as a cough.

Inside the confines of the toilet facility, Ethan quickly grabbed two tissues and blew his nose as quietly and productively as he could. However, it somehow made things worse in the moment and he sneezed three times in a row. He washed his hands and grabbed several more tissues from a dispenser above the sink, stuffing them into his jacket pockets. He left the bathroom to see that Claire was near his seat in the aisles, collecting trash. Just as Ethan sat down he sneezed twice into his inner elbow.

“Bless you,” said Claire’s sweet voice right behind him.

“Thanks,” Ethan said with a quiet sniffle and smiled back at her. How was it that she was so polite? In the next half-hour, Ethan used three of the tissues in his pocket stash to wipe his running nose. Thankfully, the couple next to him didn’t seem to notice. The woman had gone to sleep and her husband was absorbed in an electronic book reader. Ethan turned to his face into the aisle and stifled another two sneezes into his elbow. A person across the aisle quietly blessed him, and Ethan sighed again, hoping that he wasn’t getting sick. He even half-wondered if it was having an effect on his ability to talk so easily with Claire. He distracted himself with his air-pods again, turning the music down low this time, and tried to get some rest. After some time, he heard the airplane’s overhead chime. It was the pilot announcing their flight was starting its descent into Denver. Ethan stifled another sneeze while he stowed away his air-pods. He subtly looked towards the front of the airplane for Claire, but didn’t see her. A soft hand suddenly touched his shoulder, however, and he turned. It was Claire. She had a new but slightly opened package of tissues in her hand, which she held out to him with a smile.

“I’m just going to go ahead and give this to you before we start our landing,” she said. “Figured it might help. I always travel with a few extra packs in my bag.”

Ethan accepted the pack of tissues and returned her smile. “Thanks. Yeah, my allergies sometimes kick in when I travel. Apparently my body hates air.”

 “Well, don’t try to use all of them,” Claire hinted with a chuckle. “And, um...hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.”

After the plane made its touchdown, Ethan reopened the pack of tissues. He saw with pleasure that Claire had written down her phone number on the first tissue inside of the pack. Her handwriting was a little scrawled-looking, but was easy enough to read. Ethan grinned to himself and put the tissue pack into his inner jacket pocket. He pulled out his phone and turned off the airplane mode. Matt was picking him up, so he wanted to send him a text that his flight had just landed.

Motivated by his achievement of Claire’s phone number, Ethan decided to wait until the passengers departed the plane so he might be able to walk out with Claire. Once she was given clearance to leave the plane, Ethan shifted into the lineup with his backpack slung over a shoulder, and managed to be near her as they exited the plane.

“You’re still here?” she noticed with mild surprise, and Ethan nodded casually.

“Yeah, I don't really like crowds, and I’m not in a rush like...well, everyone else.”

Claire giggled. She seemed to smile a lot, and Ethan found it really nice. They walked in a comfortable silence through the stuffy-aired tunnel, and Ethan suddenly felt the inside of his nose start to tickle again. He wrinkled it and attempted to sniff the feeling back, but it was no use.

Hehtch-schtchuuu!” Ethan sneezed away from himself and Claire. “S’cuse me.”

“Bless you,” Claire said with amusement.

“Thanks.”

They traveled together through the airport and through the underground subway system. The train was full of passengers as typical for weekend travel, forcing Ethan and Claire to share a pole to hold. As the train arrived at the baggage claim exit, it came to a rather quick stop, and Ethan saw Claire lose her balance. She stumbled and he reached out a hand to swiftly grab her arm at the elbow to keep her from falling.

“Oh, geez!” Claire exclaimed, letting go of her suitcase with her other hand and using it to grab Ethan’s arm. She held out one of her slim legs. "Oh, no, look at this. My pump just broke.”

“That sucks,” Ethan said. “Do you need help walking?”

Claire shook her head. “I always pack my keds; I’ll just use those. These pumps were so old, I’m surprised they lasted this long.”

Ethan helped Claire hobble off the subway train, and they moved aside from the crowd so she could change into a petite pair of small white sneakers. She tossed her broken heels into a nearby trash can and they ascended the escalator. Halfway up, Ethan sneezed again, rather loudly this time, and it caused a couple of people on the opposite escalator to looked up at him in mild surprise or mixed annoyance.

“Bless you,” Claire said, once again sounding somewhat amused. “You’re kind of a sneezy guy, huh?”

Ethan shook his head in embarrassment. “Not really. Just allergies.”

When they reached baggage claim so Ethan could wait for his suitcase, Claire awkwardly looked at her phone and then back up at Ethan. He stood about a head taller than her.

“Well, this is where I leave you,” Claire said. “My Uber's pulling up. Thanks for walking with me. It was really nice.”

“Sure,” Ethan said, and sniffed back his nose’s attempt to start running again. “Thanks again for the number. I’ll give you a call or a text later, if that’s okay.”

Claire gave him one last lovely smile, her blue eyes beaming with the rest of her face. “Sounds good. I look forward to it. Have a safe drive home.”

He watched her walk away toward the exits, appreciating that her dark blue skirt gave a good shape to her tight rear end. He shook his head with incredulity at his luck. He would definitely call her later to ask her on a date before she left on another set of flight shifts.

Ethan’s phone dinged with a text alert. It was Matt letting him know he was on his way to the airport now and would be there in about fifteen minutes. Ethan rubbed his face, feeling more fatigued after his flight. He had the beginnings of a headache, too, and squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment to try to ward it off. He waited by the baggage claim carousel and pulled out a tissue from his pocket to wipe his nose again. He sneezed again, sniffing wetly, and now wondered if he was coming down with something. He then thought of his nephew’s yellow and wet nose and cringed, remembering the words of Matt’s fiancée, Kaylee. Kid germs. He sighed at his body’s failing immunity and looked around for an airport shop kiosk. Maybe they had some vitamins or something. There happened to be a small one in the near distance. Ethan looked at the baggage claim screen and saw his flight number had just appeared. He still had time. He raced over to the kiosk and purchased a couple of expensive packages of Emergen-C chewable tablets. He walked back to the baggage claim just in time to see suitcases begin to emerge onto the oval carousel. He popped one of the vitamins into his mouth just as he felt a need to sneeze yet again. It was a false start, however, and he managed to chew the tablet and swallow it before the tickling feeling started up again. Whatever might be brewing in his head was fighting him.

After Ethan picked up his dark green rolling suitcase from the luggage carousel, he headed toward the airport exit to await Matt’s arrival. It was a somewhat chilly day for mid-May and some snow flurries were even in the forecast. Ethan was used to the unpredictable weather, but found it could be a little annoying. Before long, Ethan saw Kaylee’s small blue car, driven by Matt, pull up to a curb in the pickup zone. Ethan threw his luggage into the trunk and climbed into the front seat.

“Hey,” he greeted Matt a little breathlessly.

“Hey, man,” Matt said. “How was your flight?”

“Good,” Ethan said. “Pretty smooth. Though some dude on the plane blew up the toilet right before I went in. That was fun.”

Matt chuckled. “Yep. How are the parents and your sisters?”

Ethan cleared his throat. “They’re good. They loved the surprise. Jessica’s twins are pretty cute, they were kind of obsessed with me and my hair. And Erin’s doing good too. She and Zack are due with their son right before the 4th of July, so I guess I’ll try to request off a few days from work for around that time, if I can get away so soon after this trip. But you know my mom. She’ll give me a hard time if I don’t at least make an attempt to come see my new nephew.”

“Yeah, she will,” Matt laughed.

“How’re things at the house?” Ethan asked. “Isn’t Kaylee back from her mom’s in Breckenridge?”

“Tomorrow,” Matt said. “She decided to stay a few extra days. Bridal stuff, you know, since that’s where we’ve planned the wedding. I left on Wednesday to take my car into the shop nearby, so I’ve actually just been crashing at the apartment. I’m going back in the morning to pick up Kay.”

“What are you planning to do with your bed next month?” Ethan asked with a slightly wet sniffle. “Since it’s still at the apartment.”

“When the lease is up in June, I’ll have it moved to the house for our guest room,” Matt said. “It’s definitely still a work-in-progress. But hey, Dave told me you guys haven’t even found a new roommate yet.”

Ethan quickly shook his head and sneezed, spraying the area in front of him with a clear, wet mist. He pulled out a tissue from his pocket and wiped his nose and mouth. “Dave texted me on Wednesday that he put up an online ad, since his name will be the new primary on the lease and all. He thought he’d almost convinced Steve to take the spot, but the loser’s still pretty happy at his parents’ rent-free house.”

Matt chuckled, shaking his head. Ethan’s nose started running again, and he wiped it quickly with the tissue he still held in his hand. He closed his eyes, his head still aching a bit, and hoped that the vitamins would work.

“You okay, man?” Matt asked, affording himself a quick glance at Ethan’s face. “You seem kinda out of it.”

Ethan nodded, still keeping his eyes closed. “Yeah. Just a headache. Think my family tired me out, at least my niece and nephew did. Jess and Brandon were always happy to leave the twins to my attention whenever they came over during the week.”

“They probably appreciated the break,” Matt said with a grin.

Ethan nodded again with a brief smile. “Yeah, Grayson’s a handful, for sure. He’s a real messy baby. Adalyn’s a little calmer. For some reason she liked to kiss my hair. But Grayson liked to pull on it.”

“It’s because you’ve got too much of it, man,” Matt joked. Ethan nodded with a brief half-smile, and promptly muffled another sneeze into his tissue.

“Bless you, man,” Matt said. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Ethan said, distracted. He put the used tissue in his pocket and pulled out the small pack that Claire had given him on the plane. “I met a girl today at the airport, a flight attendant. Thinking of giving her a call later.”

“Yeah?” Matt asked, with a quick and interested glance in Ethan’s direction. “What’s she like?”

Ethan entered the number from the tissue into his phone and saved it to his contacts while he discreetly told Matt about Claire. He mentioned her gorgeous curves, where she was from, and a little about her warm personality, but he avoided sharing about the equally warm feeling she had given his insides. He definitely wanted to pursue that feeling.

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❤️

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Stelena

this is amazing!! i love ethan, he’s so sweet. i’m excited for the next part. nice job! 

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glitter_

Omg, I love it! Can't wait to read more 🤩

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FadedRose

I really like your writing style as well as the unique choice of a setting :) I’m looking forward to more!

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LimeyBlimey

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On their way home, they stopped at a drive-through restaurant so Ethan could get a meal, since he hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast with his parents. Then Matt dropped Ethan off at the apartment and took off back to his own house so he could clean it up before Kaylee returned. After a short greeting with Dave, Ethan retreated to his bedroom. He dumped his suitcase haphazardly onto the floor and threw himself onto his bed. His cool, mostly-clean sheets and comforter felt nice and familiar. His parents had changed his old room at their house a few weeks after he’d moved, keeping only his queen bed for the frame and turning the rest into a simple guest room. It was still pleasant enough, but somehow no longer felt as comfortable as his room here. He pulled out his phone and the tissue with the phone number from Claire in it. He entered the digits into his contacts.

Ethan lay on his back, staring up at the number on his phone and sniffing occasionally. He wondered whether he should call her or text her. How was it that talking to an interesting girl could still be so nerve-wracking? He was twenty-nine. It shouldn’t be this difficult. Ethan sighed and started typing, changing the message several times before settling with one.

Hi Claire, how are you? This is Ethan from the plane. Is this a good time?

After hitting the send button Ethan tossed his phone next to him on the bed and closed his eyes against a clogging feeling building up in head and face. After only a few minutes, the phone dinged with a response. Ethan grabbed it and held it up.

Hi Ethan! I’m fine, thanks! Glad to be home with my doggo, she really missed me. How are you?

Ethan grinned, glad that she had answered and was even talking casually in the same manner she had when they met. And apparently, she was a dog-person. That was pretty cute, although he also hoped it wouldn’t be a problem if they started dating, him being allergic to most breeds of dogs. He texted Claire a response.

That’s really cute. What kind of dog is she?

After a couple of minutes Claire answered, and her text even contained a picture of herself and a chocolate-colored medium-haired dog.

She’s a Lab/Newfoundland mix, I adopted her four years ago. She’s really sweet but also kinda dumb, lol! Her name is Penny :)

Ethan responded. She’s adorable. Would you maybe be interested in telling me about her over dinner this week?

He hit the arrow button on the screen to send the message and cringed, knowing that the invitation probably sounded really corny. But, would she go for it?

Ethan’s phone dinged.

Aw, I’d love to! Claire’s text read, and immediately followed with another. I’m actually free tomorrow if that’s not too crazy soon, lol! If not, then I can do Friday or Saturday?

Tomorrow? As awesome as the prospect sounded of seeing Claire again so soon, Ethan sniffed heavily against the congestion building around his head and nasal passages. He wondered if he would be able to even function. However, he decided to try. It was just a cold, after all. Maybe now that he was home and in his own bed, he would feel better in the morning if he got some good rest.

Tomorrow’s great, he texted back. How about 7 and where can I pick you up?

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As if his body was protesting that he had made plans, Ethan unfortunately slept terribly that night. His head grew foggier and his nasal passages became congested and clogged. His body felt as if it were on the verge of fever, but each time he felt his own forehead, it felt not hot but just clammy from his overall discomfort. He sneezed multiple times throughout the night, doing his best to muffle the sounds into his pillow or comforter. His nose took turns either running or clogging up, but the apartment was out of tissue, so Ethan had to make due with a roll of toilet paper. In the early hours of the morning, Ethan rolled over for the hundredth time and muffled two harsh sneezes into his blanket. He looked at his phone. It was just after six in the morning. Ethan sighed, and closed his eyes, trying to get back to sleep. Sometime later, a burning tickle in his nose abruptly woke him up. He sat up, grabbing a wad of toilet paper from where it lay next to his pillow.

Hehh’xtchschh, hii’ITtschuuu…h…huuh’txtschooo! he sneezed, the force of it shredding the little bit of toilet paper he had left.

Ethan sat up on the edge of his bed, sniffling heavily, and put his head in his hands. He felt exhausted, and he was pretty sure he had never sneezed this much in his life. How was he going to manage his date with Claire later? He looked at his phone again to see that it was just after nine o’clock in the morning. Ethan sniffed heavily, and finally gave up on the possibility of getting any more sleep. He headed out of his room toward the bathroom. He noticed Dave had already woken up and was in the kitchen making coffee.

“Morning,” Dave said cheerfully. Ethan grumbled a low response and shut the bathroom door behind him. Unless he was hung over, Dave was always a morning person. Ethan did his best to ignore it, always wondering what was with those types of people.

Hhetsh’schooo...hehhhtsch’uuu!” Ethan sneezed twice in the bathroom. He vigorously rubbed his face and blew his nose with a gurgling wetness. Whatever had been brewing in his body yesterday was officially in full swing today. He took some more cold medicine and also used the toilet. He washed his hands, looking at his reflection in the mirror and noticing right away how tired his eyes appeared. His hair was also at maximum frizz today, his curls uneven and sticking out in all directions, probably from all the tossing and turning he had done. He decided to take a shower, which he found helped to wake him up and and allowed for the steam to clear his nasal passages. The hot running water also felt particularly good on his bare skin, which was feeling both sticky and clammy from his uncomfortable night.

In the kitchen, Ethan helped himself to some coffee and then opened the fridge, hoping to see some orange juice or at least a Gatorade or a bottled water. Nothing. Not only was there nothing to drink, but there was barely any food but some ends of bread, a pathetic-looking apple, and a couple slices of lunch meat.

“Dude, why is the fridge so empty?” Ethan asked, noticing his voice had dropped an octave or two lower than usual. “Didn’t you go shopping at all while I was gone?”

“Nope,” Dave said casually from the couch in the living room. “Work was pretty rough this week. But we can go today if you want.”

We…” Ethan grumpily rolled his eyes. “I’ll just go now. I’m starved.”

“I’ll come too,” Dave said. “I need to pick up a few things for my cube at work.”

Ethan coughed lightly, noticing that at least the soreness in his throat had slightly improved. After he finished his coffee, he brushed his teeth and got dressed in a t-shirt, a hoodie, and some jogger pants. He found his slip-on shoes, figuring there was little sense in wearing anything else just for the grocery store. The weather outside was sunny and warm today, despite the snow flurries yesterday afternoon.

“You can drive,” Ethan said, pushing hair out of his face again.

“Okie-doke,” Dave said. On their way out to Dave’s car, Ethan’s nose started to run again. He wiped it on his jacket sleeve, but Dave didn’t notice. However, he felt an oncoming and burning tickle that often followed when his nose ran, and he tried to sniff it back.

“God damnit…” Ethan said breathlessly. “Hhhiieehh’tschuuuu! Hehhhschuuu…. fuuhhcktschooo… hiii’tsch’uuUUU!”

“Holy shit, bless you,” Dave said with a laugh and staring at him in amazement. “What the hell was that?”

“I sneezed, that’s what,” Ethan said.

“Well, yeah,” Dave chuckled. “You just kinda sound like you’re comin’ down with something.”

“I’m all right,” Ethan said, although he knew he didn’t really feel all that well. He was definitely aware that he had indeed come down with a cold, and by the feel of it, it was becoming a hell of one, too. No wonder he’d been so tired at the airport yesterday morning.

Since Matt had moved out in March, Ethan and Dave were used to doing the shopping, picking up enough groceries that would last them a couple of weeks. Dave disappeared down the convenience aisle for his work snacks, leaving Ethan with the shopping cart. Ethan took advantage of his temporary solitude in the aisle to quietly blow his nose with a wad of toilet paper he had managed to sneak into his pockets before they left. While Dave was still across the store, he also went to the cleaning aisle and picked up a multi-pack of tissue boxes. Since they were currently out at the apartment, he didn’t expect Dave to notice anything unusual about this. When Dave came back with his items, which he messily dumped into the shopping cart, they headed toward the refrigerated section. Ethan picked up a container of orange juice and some fruit juice as well, in order to remain inconspicuous. After all, Matt liked juice and came over often enough. And sure enough, Dave said nothing, having just put two gallons of milk in the cart as well.

At the checkout counter, Ethan and Dave had just finished dividing the groceries on the conveyor belt to pay when Ethan felt his nose burn and tickle. He quickly ducked out of the checkout lane and covered his lower face with the inside of his jacket pocket.

Httx’schh…hhmmpff’tsch…!” Ethan managed to stifle two sneezes. He quickly blew his nose again and returned to the checkout lane where Dave was pulling out his wallet and flirting horribly with the cute female cashier. Ethan was grateful for Dave’s occasionally oblivious nature. However, Ethan’s nose still tickled fiercely, and for a minute or two he tried to sniff the feeling back.

HHiiiEHH’TSCH’uuuu!” Ethan finally sneezed a third time, turning his head away from the conveyor belt.

“Bless you,” said the cashier, causing Dave to look over as well.

“Thanks,” Ethan said, managing to give the cashier a half-smile that other girls usually liked as well. She blushed fiercely, looked down at her register, and started scanning the groceries a little more quickly than she had before. Ethan was used to the shy or flirtatious way girls acted toward him, although he still didn’t know why they found him attractive. He personally felt he just came across as awkward or aloof, maybe a little bit cute at times, and most certainly too tall.

On the way home in the car, Ethan did his best to avoid sniffling, though it was getting difficult. He managed to get away with it by letting Dave do the talking, which actually wasn’t hard because Dave loved to talk. Occasionally, Ethan had to wipe his nose on his jacket collar, knowing that it would be worth not having to use a tissue and admit that he was unwell. However, back at the apartment, just as they started unloading the groceries into the trunk, Ethan turned his head towards his shoulder and attempted to muffle a rather strong sneeze. Dave heard him and glanced casually at him.

“Bless your soul, my dude,” he joked. “You keep sneezing. You sure you’re okay?”

Ethan shook his head, his face still blank and weak as the tickling burn in his nasal passages gave him no relief.

Hihhx’tschhoo!…” he sneezed again. “I’m fine…oh god-hhhIHH’tschuuuu! Hiiih’ETXCHtshooo!”

“Aaaand bless you again,” Dave said, now laughing. “Holy shit.”

“What can I say?” Ethan tried to joke, knowing that even his voice was starting to sound congested. “Allergy season.”

“I guess…” Dave said slowly, brows drawn together in suspicion. Ethan ignored him, turning his body away and picking up several heavy grocery bags that quickly made his arms feel numb from loss of blood circulation. He felt tired again, but it wasn’t as bad as this morning thanks to the cold medicine. However, maybe a quick rest would help before he went out with Claire later. Outside the apartment door, arms still full of groceries, Ethan sneezed yet again, trying to aim it away from himself and Dave.

“Gross, man, at least keep it off the food,” Dave said, shifting groceries to his other hand so he could unlock the front door.

Once the groceries were put away and Ethan had eaten a quick bowl of cereal, he took a couple of bottled waters from the new packs they’d bought and retreated to his bedroom. He drank one down and then fell asleep almost immediately. A couple of hours later he woke while trying to inhale through his nose, only to find both passages were completely blocked. He sniffed, coughed against the congested feeling it caused, sneezed once, and then sat up. He pulled his phone out of his pocket where he’d been laying on it and saw that it was shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon. He wasn’t picking up Claire until seven. He heard voices talking out in the living room and decided to go see what all the commotion was. Ethan ran a hand through his tousled hair as he walked out of his room, yawning. It turned out to be Kaylee and Matt. Matt was holding a box of some things from his room that he hadn’t taken yet when he moved. Dave and Ethan often made jokes about how Matt had somehow taken three months just to move in with Kaylee and he still wasn’t even done.

“Hi Ethan,” Kaylee said. “How was your trip to see your family?”

“Hey. It was good,” Ethan said indifferently. “How was your trip?”

“Soooo good,” Kaylee answered with enthusiasm. “I love being in the mountains with my mom. We had such a fun Mother’s Day shopping at all her favorite stores in Breck. And her boyfriend’s pretty cool. Although I think he was trying to buy my love, because he kept trying to spoil me.”

“Did it work?” Dave asked, and Kaylee held out one of her legs to show off a pair of black leather high-top shoes.

“I accepted the terms,” she said with a laugh. “Check out my new digs that Jay- that’s my mom’s boyfriend- ordered for me. Way expensive for my own standard, but I really love them. I’m going to wear them on my last day of school with my pre-k students. I also got a new dress for our engagement party.”

“Yeah, Jay got me a pair of shoes too, but for work,” Matt chuckled, shifting the box in his arms. “And a nice custom-fit suit to go with. He called them engagement presents for us.”

“Fashionable guy,” Dave said, mouth turning up in a slightly mocking style.

As everyone was talking, Ethan turned his head and sneezed twice into the inner crook of his elbow. “Hiih’tchschuu, hhxtt’tschhh!”

“Bless you,” Kaylee said, always polite. “Matt’s been sneezing a few times today, too. Allergies?”

“Don’t let him fool you,” Dave said, giving Ethan a sidelong glance. “He’s fuckin' sick but he won’t admit it.”

“I’m fine, man, cut it out,” Ethan said irritably, and tried to hold back a wet sniffle. However, he suddenly sneezed a third time, which didn’t help his case. Dave raised his eyebrows towards Kaylee and Matt and held up a hand as if to say, “see what I mean?”

“Bless you again,” Kaylee said, eyebrows furrowing in concern. She reached up to feel his forehead with the back of her hand.

“No fever, that’s good,” she said with empathy, always the caretaker.

“As I said, I’m fine,” Ethan said with frustration, pulling himself away from Kaylee’s reach. “It’s just allergies.”

Ethan retreated to the bathroom in frustration. He decided there was little sense in telling any of his friends that he was still planning to go out with Claire tonight. If he did, he was certain that at least one of them would try to stop him.

.

.

❤️

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aggedy_ann

I am loving this.  So excited to see more of Ethan.  ❤️

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FadedRose
Posted (edited)

Awesome! I’m excited to see how Ethan and Claire’s date goes. Keep up the great work

Edited by FadedRose

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Puzzle

Ahah!! This was so cute! I can’t wait for the next part!

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Coffee Mug

Oh. I like it so much 😍

I specifically appreciate the fact that there are other people witnessing Ethan sneezing, I love how different people react, what kind of comments they make, the bless you’s, and how Claire is so sweet and polite to him when he sneezes, and Kaylee is sweet and concerned and also Dave’s reactions are just perfect 🤩 

Thank you! Can’t wait to read more!!! 

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Puzzle
3 hours ago, Coffee Mug said:

Oh. I like it so much 😍

I specifically appreciate the fact that there are other people witnessing Ethan sneezing, I love how different people react, what kind of comments they make, the bless you’s, and how Claire is so sweet and polite to him when he sneezes, and Kaylee is sweet and concerned and also Dave’s reactions are just perfect 🤩 

Thank you! Can’t wait to read more!!! 

I agree! I love that! I bet Ethan is probably annoyed and embarrassed about it 😆 

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LimeyBlimey
Posted (edited)

Here's the next part, finally! It's so hard for me to write during weekdays, but keep staying tuned for more! Would love to hear thoughts/ideas on what should happen next!

❤️

.

By the time Ethan was ready to meet Claire for their date, Matt and Kaylee had gone home and Dave had even left to go have dinner with his uncle and aunt. Ethan felt the effects of his last dose of cold medicine wearing off, so he took some more from the now-dwindling pack. He looked at himself in the mirror for one last check. He wore a light collared shirt and a beige sweater with the sleeves pushed up, some dark pants, and a pair of brown loafers. Ethan took a breath and realized he actually felt a little nervous. He hadn’t been interested in any new girls in the past four months since things hadn’t ended well with his last girlfriend, Alyssa. Alyssa had not only cheated on him several times while they were together, but had then tried to ignore him before leaving him altogether to be with the man she had cheated with. To Ethan, however, Claire seemed different. He was already finding himself drawn to her presence as well as doing things that were usually out of his norm, such as having longer conversational text messages.

Ethan sniffed and put a few tissues into his pockets, just in case, before heading out to his car. He drove to the restaurant to meet Claire, feeling the effects of the cold medicine start to work. Sometimes he knew it made him feel fuzzy, but he ignored the mild feeling and focused on his trip. Once at the restaurant, he waited in the main lobby where they had agreed over text to meet. When Claire walked in, just a few minutes later, Ethan’s heart seemed to skip a beat. She was even more gorgeous tonight with her blonde hair loose and styled now instead of pulled into a bun. She wore a white blouse and a short beige skirt that allowed Ethan to view her smooth legs and petite manicured feet. Even in her brown heels, she still looked to be about a head shorter than he was, but Ethan wasn’t at all bothered by their height difference. She carried herself with a slightly awkward grace, and instantly smiled when she saw his face, too.

“Hi, Claire,” Ethan said as she approached, attempting to look her over without trying to be obvious about it. “It’s great to see you again. You…well- you look great.”

“Thanks!” Claire said, eyeing him with a slightly flirtatious glance as well. “So do you.”

They were seated for their dinner at a large rectangular table with a flat grill in the middle. The hostess allowed them to sit at the corner of their table, which allowed for them to be able to face each other better. Ethan smiled awkwardly at Claire, and she smiled back a bit nervously in response. However, after their waiter took their drink orders and the Hibachi chef started to entertain the table with the food preparations, Ethan and Claire eased into conversation. Ethan actually found himself becoming more comfortable with her as their dinner progressed, despite that he was also still feeling the effects of his body trying to fight off the cold. The busy atmosphere seemed to help him keep things discreet for the most part. However, during one of the chef’s presentations involving a volcano made from stacked onions, Ethan felt his nose start to run. Just as Claire started clapping along with everyone else at a tube of fiery smoke and fire issuing from the center of the onions, Ethan suddenly sneezed, and not just one time, much to his dismay.

Hiiischtch-uuu!” Once. “HiiiETCH’Uuuuu!” Twice. “Hii’IITSCHoooo!”. Why did it have to be three times? Claire, however, quietly and sweetly blessed him each time, causing him to be momentarily taken aback by how attentive she was even while watching the entertainment.

“Are you okay?” she suddenly asked him, leaning closer to their corner of the table as the clamor of conversations picked up around them again.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Ethan said quietly, feeling his face tweak slightly with embarrassment. Claire met his eyes with a mildly curious expression, but said nothing. For the rest of their meal, Ethan managed to push away the stubborn tickling in his nasal passages. Occasionally he would look away, sniffing softly, and sometimes he found he could mentally force away another need to sneeze.

After they had finished dessert, the coolness of ice cream easing Ethan’s sore throat, they decided to move to the restaurant bar for drinks. Ethan was definitely starting to feel tired, either from the effects of the medicine already wearing off or the cold starting to work its full way into his system, but he didn’t want to end the date yet. During dinner, Claire mentioned that she was already booked for a few flights in another week and a half, and Ethan already knew he wanted to ask her out again before she left. He pushed his tiredness aside, choosing to focus on Claire. While he was talking, he often found himself half-smiling in mild embarrassment if he met her eyes for too long, simply because she listened so attentively and asked interesting questions. He also knew his voice was becoming more congested, but she didn’t even seem to notice or mind. She had sat herself very close to him and now had one hand placed casually under her cheek and the other resting on her wine glass. Ethan looked down at his own glass between his fingers, and subtly shifted them until his fingers lightly touched against hers. Claire smiled through her words and kept talking, at least until Ethan suddenly held up his free hand to stop her. She gave him a questioning look as his face weakened slightly.

“Sorry, I h…hhHii’ISCHHoooo…!! -had to sneeze,” Ethan finished, and sniffed. He ran a hand through his hair and gave an awkward cringe.

“Aww, bless you,” Claire said sweetly, and suddenly blushed. Ethan sniffed again, this time pulling one of his emergency tissues from a pocket to wipe his nose. He coughed quietly a couple of times and Claire watched him again, her face both concerned and slightly intrigued again.

Hhuh…hhii’IISCHHUUuu!” he sneezed yet again, this time attempting to twist his head down and away from Claire. A patron a few seats over from them at the bar glanced over at them in mild annoyance.

“Bless you again,” Claire said, her straight golden eyebrows furrowing in concern. “Hey, are you sure you’re okay? I can’t help but notice that you’ve been a little sniffly on our date."

“I’m okay,” Ethan said quietly, but he knew his words were a half-truth. He was, on the contrary, starting to feel very tired and foggy-headed like he had this morning. As if she could read his body language, Claire looked at Ethan as if she didn’t believe him. However, she only raised her eyebrows and pulled her wine glass up to take a sip. Ethan sighed, coming to terms with the reality that it might be time to admit defeat on his body’s lack of immunity against a cold virus. He felt even more tired when he realized it also might not have been a good idea to begin a relationship with a girl by lying about something so ridiculous.

“Well, I might just be fighting off a bit of a cold,” Ethan admitted, looking down at his glass where Claire’s fingers had just been. “I’m sorry. I’ve been trying all night to be careful with any germ-spreading. I just really wanted to see you, and I honestly kinda thought I was going to beat it…at least up until a couple of minutes ago…”

“Ahh,” Claire said. She looked down at Ethan’s hand and started tracing the back of his knuckles with one of her fingers. She smiled, her cheekbones lighting up briefly with a pinkish blush and then settling back into a warm porcelain tone. Ethan looked at her apologetically.

“It’s fine,” Claire said with a small chuckle. Ethan met her eyes, which were beautifully blue and held an expression of mixed empathy and interest. “I actually wondered when I heard you talk tonight that your voice sounded kind of sick, because you just didn’t sound this way on the plane yesterday. Makes sense now. How are you really feeling then? Not so great anymore?”

“Yeah, not really. I’m sorry,” Ethan said sheepishly, running a hand through his hair again and allowing a normal sniffle for once. He winced at how congested it was sounding. “I guess I should head home and try to get some rest.”

Claire blushed again and stood up with her purse and her sweater. “It’s okay. I actually don’t mind if you feel a little sick, to be honest. I’ve got a pretty strong immunity, being a flight attendant. ‘Where there are passengers, there are germs, and planes are full of them.’ But, was this date too sudden then? Especially if you haven’t been feeling well today?”

“No, no!” Ethan said quickly, standing up as well. “As I said, I really did just want to see you. I didn’t want to wait til next week. I had a great time tonight.”

Claire smiled, meeting his eyes again. “I feel the same. And yeah, tonight has been really great.”

“Can I see you again soon, then? If you don’t mind me being a little sick and all?” Ethan asked as he was walking Claire out to her car a few minutes later. They stopped at her door, which she opened and turned back to face Ethan. Her gorgeous blue eyes were radiant in the lamp light of the parking lot.

“Give me a text tomorrow,” she said. Ethan leaned in towards her body and she leaned in just as eagerly, almost inviting him, to pull her against his chest and kiss her softly on the lips. They parted after a couple of moments, both smiling awkwardly, but pleased. Ethan’s nose suddenly ran again, however, and he quickly turned to swipe his knuckles under his nose.

Hhh’URSSHuuu!” he then sneezed, reeling back from her car door and aiming his face towards the parking lot. “Ugh, sorry!”

Claire only smiled at him. “Bless you. I hope you feel better soon, okay?”

Ethan gave her another swift kiss as he helped her into her car and walked back to his own. A warm feeling spread through the inside of his now-aching body, but he knew the feeling wasn’t just from illness. He got into the car and sighed. Being infatuated with an amazing girl he had met only yesterday was a great feeling. Feeling a miserable cold settle in, however, was not. Ethan started his car, sniffling and grabbing another couple of tissues from his pocket to blow his nose. The sound of it was wet and congested at the same time, and made him cough from the stuffiness that immediately followed. Ethan leaned his head back on his headrest. The drink and a half hadn’t exactly helped, either. Ethan suddenly felt a burning tickle in his nasal passages as he started his car. He pinched the bridge of his nose to attempt to stop them, but it didn’t help. He sneezed five times in succession, holding the back of his wrist across his mouth each time to avoid spraying his entire steering wheel. These particular sneezes left him feeling slightly wheezy. Ethan closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly as best as he could do through his mouth. His thoughts were racing about Claire already and he wanted to get home, but he also wanted to force his lungs to stay calm and avoid triggering an asthma flareup from overexertion. Thankfully, he didn’t live too far from the restaurant. Suddenly, there was a light tap on his driver’s side window. He opened his eyes.

It was Claire. She had pulled up beside his parking spot in her white Mazda and had gotten out of her car. It was still running, but she looked at him through the window with concern.

“Ethan?” she said. “You okay?”

Ethan opened the window and sniffled. “Yeah. Just tired. Is everything okay?”

Claire nodded impatiently. “Yeah, I’m fine. I was just driving past your spot towards the exit and I saw you just sitting in your car. Your eyes were closed, so I was worried.”

“Yeah, my asthma sometimes kicks in when I get sick,” Ethan explained. “I was just doing some breathing exercises before I drove home.”

“Oh, okay!” Claire said, and he saw her blush again even in the dim light of the parking lot. She bit her lower lip in a nervous way as if there was more that she wanted to say.

“I know it might be weird for a first date and all, but do you want me to follow you home?” she quickly offered. “You know, just to make sure you’re safe and you don’t pass out or anything.”

Damn, she was so sweet. Ethan couldn’t help but give her an appreciative smile in return. He pulled out his phone. “Sure. Here’s my address.”

.

.

.

Edited by LimeyBlimey
Some minor mistakes

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Stelena

i love this so much! i’m so invested in the characters and i absolutely adore ethan and claire. they’re so cute!! i love how attentive and caring she is. thank you for the update! i’m excitedly hoping for some caretaking later 😊

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glitter_

one word: LOVE 💕

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Puzzle

Claire is so sweet! Poor Ethan, having to admit to her about his cold! They’re so cute together! 

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FadedRose

I like the update! I was so looking forward to it and I was definitely not disappointed :)  can’t wait to see what else is in store for this fic

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LimeyBlimey
Posted (edited)

Here's the next part!!

.

.

As Ethan drove home, he noticed his sneezes and sniffling were getting worse and increasing. He realized it wasn’t even midnight yet, but that a sluggish feeling that had been creeping into his body over the past hour convinced him it was late. He was starting to feel rather uncomfortable, and the inside of his car felt either too hot or too warm. In between changing the temperature options, he wiped his nose almost constantly with one of the few tissues he had left. Claire followed him in her own car until he reached his apartment complex. She pulled up into an open spot next to him but stayed in her car, giving him a polite glance through the window that seemed to say that anything beyond this would be up to him. Ethan thought about inviting her inside with him. In fact, he knew he really wanted to, but something kept him hesitating. He did not want to rush things with her, but he was also aware of how sick he was beginning to feel. However, he gave her a brief half-smile as he got out of his car. He gave two harsh sneezes into his sleeve and a sudden wave of hot dizziness swept through his head. He leaned back into his car and closed his eyes. Claire immediately opened her door and stepped out.

“Hey, are you all right?” she asked worriedly. Ethan shook his head silently, eyes still closed.

“I’m just a bit dizzy,” he said quietly. “Give me minute.”

Claire hesitated for only a second before reaching up to put the back of her hand across his forehead. Ethan didn’t even object. Her hand was soft, gentle, and comfortably cool against his warm skin.

“No wonder,” Claire said empathetically. “You’re running a fever, boy.”

“Damn. I guess I must have pushed it.” Ethan suddenly sneezed again rather wetly, trying to face away from her and towards his open car door.

Claire gave him a sympathetic smile. “Bless you. Let’s just get you inside.”

Ethan let Claire take ahold of his arm and help him stand straight. He pushed his car door shut behind him and opened his eyes slowly as the dizzy feeling passed. He and Claire walked towards the stairwell and he allowed her to support him a bit. She was fairly strong for her petite frame.

“Wow,” he said halfway up the staircase, chuckling through closed eyes and feeling awkward again. “It’s kind of as if you’re my personal flight attendant, because I’m kind of flying right now up these stupid stairs.”

Ethan cringed to himself, immediately regretting his words. Was his fever affecting his brain cells? Clearly, he must have been hanging around Dave too much. .

“I guess that’s true,” Claire said with a laugh. “Well, then just take it easy, pilot.”

When they almost reached the apartment, Ethan wondered if Dave would be home by now. It was probable. He had only gone to his aunt and uncle’s house for dinner, after all. Ethan wondered how to handle this weird situation he was in with Claire if Dave happened to be there. Dave occasionally went on dates, too, but Ethan usually tried not to be present if he planned to have her over, and Dave didn't even know Ethan was on a date. As he unlocked the front door with a shaking hand slightly chilled from fever, he didn’t hear the television or anything else. He opened the door quietly to see only a small light on in the living room, which meant at least that Dave was home and knew Ethan wasn’t back yet from wherever he had gone. Leaving one light on had become an unspoken gesture of courtesy between them. Dave’s friendship, though sometimes filled with teasing and sarcasm, was one of the reasons why Ethan had agreed to renew their lease on the apartment after Matt moved out, despite that Matt had been their common ground.

Hiiitchuuu…ehhx’tschuuu, hiiurRCHhuuu!” Ethan sneezed and gave a heavy and frustrated sniff. At least these sneezes hadn’t made him dizzy again.

“Goodness, bless you,” Claire said, giving Ethan’s arm a comforting squeeze. “You okay?”

Ethan shook his head and ran a hand through his hair again in embarrassment. “Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“You’re totally fine,” Claire said passively and looked around the room. “I like your place, by the way. It’s got a very ‘guy feel’ to it, if that’s not too weird to say to a guy.”

“Thanks,” Ethan chuckled breathily, fighting off another sneeze. “Yeah, I’ve got a…hii’tschuu!…a roommate. He’s here, I think.”

Claire looked tentatively around the apartment and then quickly back and Ethan. She smiled slightly, fiddling with her purse she had been holding in one arm. She briefly looked back at the front door and Ethan suspected that she was feeling a little nervous.

“I should probably go," Claire said. "I just wanted to make sure you’re all right. You should take some medicine and go to bed, okay?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly sniffling and not wanting to put any pressure on her. “Thanks. I think I’ll be okay.”

Claire gave Ethan another awkward smile, but instead of moving toward the door she shifted closer to Ethan again. She waited almost a little expectantly, and Ethan suddenly found he couldn’t help himself. He leaned into her and kissed her again, wrapping his arm around her lower back and holding her chin up towards his lips. She kissed him back eagerly, her soft lips pressing into his with a warm desire. Her body felt cool against his flushed skin. They stayed this way for several moments until Ethan felt his nose start to run slightly again. As much as he didn’t want to, he had to pull away when a fierce burning tickle invaded his nasal passages.

Hii’ittschooo! Hhehahhchuuu!....h…hh’etchuuu!”

“Bless you,” Claire said softly when he was done.

“Thangks,” Ethan said, wincing from the congested tone in his voice. “This is ridiculous. I swear I’ve never sneezed this much in my life. I need to go to bed.”

“Yeah, that would probably be a good idea,” Claire said with an amused chuckle. “But, um, if it’s okay…can you let me know how you’re feeling tomorrow?”

Ethan gave her a half-smile, then coughed slightly. With the stubborn strength that this cold seemed to have, Ethan knew he did not anticipate feeling any better in the morning, but the notion that she seemed so concerned about his health was rather comforting to him.

“Sure.”

They exchanged another swift kiss goodbye and Claire finally left. Ethan shut the door after her and immediately stifled a sneeze into the inner crook of his elbow. Feeling thirsty, he grabbed a couple of water bottles from the kitchen. Still sniffling and sneezing, he went to the bathroom to use the toilet and blow his nose as thickly as he could, which cleared some mucus out but not much. Immediately his nasal passages filled up with more, and made him sneeze again. This could be a rough night. Ethan shuffled through the cabinet above the sink to see if there was some nighttime cold medicine, but there was none. There was a thermometer, however, and some store brand anti-histamine. Ethan sighed. It would have to do. He took both of the items as well as an entire box of tissues with him, and headed to his room, where he slowly undressed down to his t-shirt and boxers and fell into bed. He swallowed a pill and took his own temperature. 101.3. Not terrible, but not pleasant, either. He had suffered worse fevers, especially with a bout of the flu a month after he had moved in with Matt where his temperature had spiked to 103.7 and triggered an asthma attack. However, Ethan knew he had definitely pushed it a little by going out tonight. He shuffled down into his blankets, shivered a few times, and sneezed twice into his comforter. He closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.

.

The next morning, Ethan woke when his muscles ached and he comforter was too warm. He had slept hard, thanks to the sleepy side effects of the anti-histamine, but he had a headache from dehydration and reached for a bottle of water on his bedside table. He chugged it down. He felt his own forehead, which definitely felt too warm for a healthy person, but not hot enough that he was worried he might have the flu. He attempted to sniff against a heavy and wet fullness in his nose, but it only made him sneeze due to a constant burning tickle behind his sinuses. He slowly sat up on the edge of his bed and rested his head in his hands. After only two days of trying to fight this off, he knew without a doubt this was the worst cold he had ever experienced. Kid germs, he thought with a cringe, and briefly hated Kaylee in the moment for no reason. The burning tickle grew worse and made his eyes water. He finally succumbed to his misery and sneezed rather strongly.

Heh’tchuuuhhuh’tchoo…iii’ITCHtchuuu…atchuuuu!...Fuck!” Ethan exclaimed. His breath, however, began to hitch as another attack immediately followed his first. “H-h…hh…heh…HUH’HRSCHUUU! Snff… heh’iiIITCHOOO! Ahh’tchuuu!

When he was finally done, Ethan grabbed a tissue and blew his nose, the sound of it wet and full but productive. Ethan sniffed freely for barely a second before his nasal passages immediately filled with more mucus. He blew it again two more times until a knock sounded on his bedroom door.

“What?” Ethan croaked out through his tissue, knowing full well it was Dave and not even caring how sick his voice happened to sound. He fell back onto the bed and closed his eyes against his clogged nose and head.

“You okay, bro?” Dave asked from the other side of the door.

“Dnoh. Go away.”

“You know I’m not going to do that, man,” Dave called back, his voice amused. “Even from out here, you sound like total shit. Do you want anything?”

“Yes. For you to go away.”

Dave chuckled and Ethan irritably thought that it sounded a little too happy. “Well, before I go to work. I meant like medicine, maybe some juice…maybe the hot girl you brought home last night…” Dave trailed off.

Ethan sighed and opened his eyes. “Cob-mid.”

The door opened slowly. Dave stood in the doorway and put his hands into the pockets of his sweat pants.

“Got the sniffles, huh?”

“Yep,” Ethan said from under his hair, peeking in Dave’s direction with one eye open. “So you saw her?”

“You and your date?” Dave confirmed. “More like heard. But, I did get a peek out my window as she was leaving. She was pretty cute. Hope she doesn’t catch your germs, though.”

Ethan sighed. “What else do you watt?”

“As I said, just checkin’ in on you before I get ready for work,” Dave said lightly. “How bad are you? Do you have a fever?”

“Yes.”

Dave clicked his tongue. “Did you take your temperature? How high?”

“What’s with all the fuckig’ questions?” Ethan said crossly. He turned his head toward the foot of the bed. “It’s a cold. L-low e’dnuff…h…hhehii’tchuuu! Fuck!”

“Bless you,” Dave said casually, but his brows were furrowed in concern. “I might have already said this, but you sound like shit. And now I see you kinda look like shit, too.”

“Thag’ks,” Ethan said in a voice thick with mucus and sarcasm. Dave looked up at the ceiling and made a face while he scratched part of his neck.

“Well,” he added. “That, and…Matt wanted me to check on you. I might have texted him earlier.”

Ethan felt a sudden, strong dislike for Matt in the moment and reminded himself to punch him in the arm next time he happened to see him. He sighed again and only made himself cough in the process.

“Do you need your inhaler?” Dave asked. “How’re your lungs?”

“They’re okay,” Ethan said, and pushed out another cough to check for any wheezing. The force of the effort only made his nose tickle again. “Snff. As I said, it’s…shiE’ITCHUUU!just a stupid cold.”

“And a pretty crappy one at that,” Dave said with a grimace.

Huhh’iiTCHooo!” Ethan sneezed again and gave Dave an annoyed look. “Yeah, it sucks.

“Bless you again. Geez,” Dave said, taking a small step back. “Keep this up and you’ll give me sympathy mucus. Just try to keep the rest of your germs to your own space today, it’s bad enough I was already exposed yesterday.”

“Whatever. Okay,” Ethan grumbled, rolling himself up to a sitting position again and covering yet another sneeze with the back of his wrist.

Dave half-smiled at Ethan. “I’m just jokin’, man. Do what you need to do. Anyways, I gotta get ready for work. Text me if you need me to bring you anything.”

Dave left, closing the door behind him. Ethan looked at his phone. Was it really Monday? Today was the last day of his vacation, then. Great way to spend it, too, he thought in frustration. However, as he reached for his phone, he remembered his date with Claire last night and managed a smile. She had asked him to text her today. How early was too early, though?

Good morning, beautiful. Had a great time last night, Ethan typed out on his phone, but then looked at the words in the message bubble and cringed. He erased them and started over.

Hey Claire, good morning. That was better. He pressed the ‘send’ button and laid with his eyes closed for a few minutes. Just as he was beginning wonder if she was still asleep, his phone dinged with a response.

Hey, good morning. How are you feeling today? Her response read. Ethan sniffed, exhaled, and held back another faint need to sneeze while he texted.

Not great, tbh. This cold has officially kicked me in the ass. I’m so sorry about last night. But I had a great time. I hope you did too.

Her response came more quickly this time. Oh, no! : (  I’m so sorry you’re not feeling any better. But I had a lovely time last night, even with the funny way it ended, lol. Is it the same stuff as last night?

Pretty much, Ethan texted. Fever still, and I can’t seem to stop sneezing. My nose/head are all messed up.

Claire soon responded. Aww, that’s definitely not fun. R u just going to stay home today?

Pretty much, Ethan texted back. It’s my last day of vacay-time from work, but I might call out sick tomorrow.

Yea u need to take it easy. R u still dizzy like last night?

No, Ethan texted. My rm said I look and sound like shit, tho. He leaves for work soon. You know how you thought I sounded different at the restaurant? Yea it’s worse now.

Oh no, you poor thing. So you’re on your own today even tho ur sick?

Yea, Ethan responded. It’s no big deal. I’ll probably try to go to the pharmacy in a couple hours.

Claire’s next response surprised Ethan that he looked at it twice.

What if I brought you some supplies?

Ethan stared at the message, his heart thumping a little inside his chest. She wanted to come over? This was very interesting. Did she intend to just drop something off and then leave, or did she plan to stay? She didn’t even seem at all bothered by his cold. He knew that Alyssa had been somewhat of a germaphobe when they had first started dating, but she had a reason for it. However, Ethan and Claire had only met three days ago and already Claire was proving herself to be unlike any girl he’d ever met before.

Ethan suddenly sneezed rather strongly, the force of it making his nose run. He quickly grabbed a tissue and held it to his nose, coughing again from the congestion.

“God, this sucks,” he said aloud to himself.

As Ethan wiped his nose, he had a fleeting thought that it would actually be rather nice to see Claire again so soon, even if he was sick. He normally preferred for people to just leave him alone when he was ill. His mother and older sisters had always been overly attentive whenever Ethan got sick as a child and he discovered as he grew up that he became a little insecure about it. He just didn't like to be babied and he didn’t want people to worry about him. Yet, somehow with Claire, Ethan felt that he didn’t mind so much.

Are you sure? Ethan finally texted back. Because I would actually love that. Just the thought of going to the pharmacy for medicine makes me tired.

Absolutely, the first text read. I’ll be there in an hour with the good stuff. Also, what’s your favorite breakfast?

.

.

.

More to come soon!! ❤️

Edited by LimeyBlimey

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Puzzle

Awww!! I love the character interactions!! Can’t wait for the caretaking! Loved this part! I look forward for more!

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aggedy_ann

Awwwwww.    Poor Ethan....but I think his day is looking up.   

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Privatedancer

Love this

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LimeyBlimey

Happy Easter everyone. I almost have a new part ready, but not quite!! I've been working on improving my writing styles and I'm using Ethan and Claire as a little guinea pig. I just want it to be right! Hopefully soon :heart:

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Feo

I like diving into this universe again! Thanks for making this sequel!

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LimeyBlimey

The next part is finally here! Stay tuned for more later :)

 

.

.

Today might not be so bad, after all, Ethan thought a few minutes later. His thoughts lingered on Claire and he dozed while he waited for Dave to leave for work. Once he heard the front door close and lock, he pulled himself out of bed. He picked up his comforter and took it out to the living room where he dropped it onto the couch. He sniffled continuously as he picked out some comfortable clothes to wear, feeling an irritating prickle in the back of his sinuses that seemed to constantly hover on the edge of a sneeze. In the bathroom he brushed his teeth, dully watching his reflection in the mirror. He had shadows under his eyes, his straight nose was pink and irritated around the nostrils, and even his face appeared a little pale. Unphased, however, he spit, rinsed, and trudged on. He took a hot shower, avoiding washing his hair as he often did, and found that the steam briefly helped to clear some of the congestion in his nose and head.

A little over an hour later, Ethan heard the doorbell ring and got up to open the front door, still feeling a slight ache in his muscles as he moved and the continuing annoyance of his headache. However, once he opened the door and saw Claire standing there with her arms laden with bags and looking as beautiful as she had at the restaurant and the airport, he instantly put his discomfort aside. Her expression was one of both nervousness and the same joy she always seemed to carry with her.

“Hi,” Ethan said, giving her a half-smile and reaching out a hand to take her many bags.

“Hi,” Claire said a little shyly, and then shifted her arms. “Here, take these. The others are all together.”

“Sure,” Ethan said. Claire walked in and together they put the bags on the kitchen counter. She turned to face him, and he noticed that her blue eyes somehow sparkled even brighter in the morning light. Her hair was still slightly curled from last night, but her makeup was lighter. She wore a more casual outfit today, consisting of a pink skirt that once again showed off her smooth legs and a jean jacket over a loose-fitting shirt that allowed Ethan to silently appreciate her modest but perky chest.

“Anyways, how are you?” Claire asked. Ethan was about to answer, but instead he sneezed once. Claire giggled from the irony of this response. Ethan sniffled, then grinned briefly and shrugged his shoulders.

“Like this,” he said. “I did warn you. But I’m really glad you’re here.”

Claire’s cheeks turned slightly pink and the corners of her mouth turned up. Ethan found it rather cute that she seemed to blush so easily, and he slowly touched a piece of hair that had fallen across her neck. She stood up on her tiptoes and allowed him to kiss her lightly on the lips. They both smiled at their touch, and abruptly Ethan sneezed again, trying to turn his head away in time. Claire stepped back from the motion and giggled again.

“Bless you,” she said in an oddly flirtatious tone, smoothing down her skirt with one of her hands. “You do sound a little worse than last night.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Ethan apologized.

“It’s okay,” Claire said with another smile. “You should probably go lay down, though. Is it okay if I use a little of the kitchen to make breakfast? I have everything else. I just need the stove and I’ll tidy up when we’re done.”

Ethan thought he would have really preferred to continue the kiss and take things to the couch, but he resigned himself to his fate and sighed. Maybe it was too soon, anyway. He didn’t want to rush things and had a feeling that she didn’t either.

“Sure,” he said quietly, and moved back to the couch. They conversed as Claire set up a small work station for herself at the counter and started her preparations. Ethan shared about some of his trip and Claire shared about her flights that had brought her through Montana.

“What’s the furthest you’ve ever traveled?” Ethan asked, sniffling lightly. “For work…Hii’EHTCHUuuu!”

“Bless you,” Claire said from the kitchen. “Um…Melbourne, I think.”

“That’s cool,” Ethan said, sniffing again against a spot of moisture working its way down to his nostrils. He turned and pulled one of the tissues from the box on the coffee table. He discreetly tried to blow his nose without being gross about the motion. It was difficult to do, but Claire didn’t seem to notice through her preparations in the kitchen. At least it helped his congestion somewhat.

“Yeah, it was all right,” Claire said casually, occasionally glancing up in Ethan’s direction as he still sniffed. “Too short of a layover, though. I’m not ‘senior’ enough in my experience to get the nice long ones.”

Claire was making some kind of hot food, but Ethan couldn’t smell well enough through his nose to be able to tell what it was. While something sizzled on the stove, she brought him some daytime cold medicine and a mug of hot tea. Ethan almost wrinkled his nose at the tea, but accepted it anyway with a quiet ‘thanks’, and managed to keep a stoic expression. He took a slow, small sip and was surprised to find that the tea was actually rather pleasant, especially considering what his dulled senses could pick up. It was sweet but also slightly spicy, and the water had been heated to the perfect temperature to help soothe what remained of his sore throat.

“I forgot to ask if you drink tea,” Claire said apologetically, watching Ethan’s face with anticipation. “But this is my great-great aunt’s recipe, or something like that. It’s really good, although it can have a weird aftertaste sometimes, but I put some raw honey in there just in case.”

“Thanks, it’s great,” Ethan said, and took another sip. “Like, really great. Wow.”

Ethan’s nose suddenly gave a fiery tickle and he quickly handed Claire his cup. She raised her eyebrows, obviously a bit confused, at least until Ethan held his free hand up and ducked his face under his elbow. “Hang on…I…hehHhhTCHuuu!...sorry, I just didn’t want to spill.”

“Bless you,” Claire said sweetly, handing him back his mug. “I thought something was wrong with the tea. How’s your head, by the way?”

“Feels better already,” Ethan said, giving one of his moist nostrils a quick swipe. “Is that from the tea?”

“Yep,” Claire said. “I make it for myself too. I usually just sleep the day after I get back from a long shift and then I end up with a headache when I wake up. The tea helps.”

As they talked some more, Claire finished in the kitchen and walked over to the couch, bringing two small plates of food with her.

“Okay, here we go,” she said. “My ‘world-famous’-but not really- bacon and cheddar omelet.”

Claire handed Ethan one of the plates and a napkin and went to the opposite end of the couch with the other. She sat down, crossing her legs and ankles and arranging herself to face Ethan. He didn’t recognize the fancier type of disposable plates as any that he and Dave had at the apartment, so he assumed Claire must have bought them with everything else. Somehow the notion that she was meticulously thorough about such things was kind of impressive.

Ethan wasn’t feeling very hungry due to his cold, but seeing the steam rise up from the omelet that had been cooked and flipped to such golden perfection was somewhat enticing. There were even small crispy bacon pieces mixed into some cheese on top. He took a slow bite and swallowed. His palate was currently a bit dulled thanks to the congestion around his sinuses, but from what he could taste, the omelet was delicious.

“It’s really good,” Ethan said, though he felt his nose start to run. He quickly used his napkin to wipe both his nose and his upper lip.

Claire beamed. “I’m glad you like it.”

Hheh’xngtchoo!” Ethan sneezed abruptly again into his shoulder.

“Bless you,” Claire said kindly, eyebrows drawn together in concern. “I hope I didn’t put too much pepper on it.”

Ethan shook his head and felt his cheeks turn a little warm in embarrassment. “No, it’s fine. It’s just my nose. I just…hhhii’IDSChuuu…damnit…can’t stop sneezing every few minutes.”

“Bless you again,” Claire said, watching him with her brilliant blue eyes. Ethan, still feeling a tingling burn of an itch inside his nasal passages, reached for the box of tissues on the coffee table and found there were only two left. Had he really used a whole pack since yesterday? He grabbed both just in time.

“-Hhh’xgtchuuu! Hhuh’tschooo…heh’RSCHHUUuuu!” he sneezed again rather messily into both tissues. He blew his nose away from Claire’s direction, hearing how full and wet the motion sounded. “Geez…Sorry.”

“Bless you,” Claire said once again. “You don’t have to apologize.”

After only finishing half of his omelet, Ethan just couldn’t eat any more. He sniffed thickly and slowly set his plate on the coffee table in front of him. He pulled part of his comforter over his lap, his legs feeling cold even through his warm jogger pants.

“Was the food okay?” Claire asked, glancing at Ethan’s half-full plate. He nodded.

“It was great,” Ethan assured her. “I’m sorry…I’m just not all that hungry. I get this way sometimes if I get sick. My mom would be on my case right now if I was at home. She always made me eat even if I was sick.”

“You can’t force someone to eat if they don’t feel well,” Claire said.

“She tried,” Ethan said with a quick grin. “Especially if I had a fever, because obviously then I didn’t want to eat and I would get nauseous. But she was a little bit of a ‘helicopter mom’, even if I wasn’t sick.”

“She just sounds like she cares a lot about you,” Claire said.

“Yeah, she does,” Ethan agreed with a half-smile, running a hand through his hair and throwing his blanket off of his legs again, which felt too warm now. “So, who taught you how to cook?”

“My dad,” Claire answered with a small smile. “He did all the cooking in our house so he taught me a few tricks.”

“That’s cool,” Ethan said, sniffling again. “My dad can’t cook worth anything. Maybe toast, although he burns that, too... Hehh’tschooo!

“Bless you,” Claire said. Her eyebrows drew together in concern. She pressed her lips together and shifted closer to him on the couch so she could put the back of her hand on Ethan’s forehead. He almost closed his eyes at the feel of her touch upon his warm skin, but let his gaze drop down to his lap instead.

“You’ve still got a fever,” Claire said quietly. “I kinda thought the medicine would have been working by now.”

“Sometimes it makes me feel foggy, or just doesn’t work all that well. Uh-oh,” Ethan said. He turned his head away from Claire as he felt another heavy prickle start to build in his nose. “Hhheh….damn, lost that one. -Hhehh’IISCHTCHUuu!

“There it is,” Claire said with a small giggle as Ethan recovered and pushed his hair helplessly away from his face. The tickle had yet to stop and he knew that the only thing that might give him some relief was to blow his nose again. For some reason, though, the thought of doing this in front of Claire made him feel a little self-conscious.

“I…might need another box of tissues,” he said slowly, glancing awkwardly towards the bathroom.

“I can get it for you,” Claire offered, but Ethan shook his head.

“It’s okay, I…got-it,” Ethan said breathily, faltering in the delivery as the sneeze pushed its way out.

“-Hehh’AACHuuuhuuh’RSCHuuuu!”

“Bless you,” Claire said gently, but Ethan rapidly shook his head.

“I don’t think it’s…d-done…h…huhhHii’ITSSCCHHuuuu, hhahhh’tschuuu!...-hhxgstschuuu!”

Claire quickly rose from the couch and went to the bathroom, returning only moments later with a box of tissues. She silently handed it Ethan, which he accepted gratefully. He shifted his body away from her so he could blow his nose yet again. By the third tissue, his nasal passages felt a little clearer, at least for the time being.

“Urgh,” Ethan groaned quietly when he was done, leaning his head back on the couch and dropping the used tissues onto the floor next to him. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a cold like this. It’s so gross.”

“How did you get so sick?” Claire asked curiously, sitting back down on the couch and folding her legs together under her skirt. She put her hands in her lap, playing with one of her fingernails and watching Ethan with a rather acute attentiveness.

“My nephew,” Ethan said through closed eyes. “He had a runny nose the last couple of days I was visiting. My sister said it was ‘just allergies’. Now I’m kinda thinking that was bull shit.”

“Well, airplanes tend to be full of germs, too,” Claire mused. “Maybe it combined with something you picked up from the cabin. Goodness knows I had my fair share of colds and other garbage in my first year or so as a steward.”

Ethan merely nodded and rubbed his nose with an impatient haste, starting to become irritated by the near-constant tickle that refused to give him relief, as well as the sense of fatigue that was growing stronger by the minute. “That’s probably it. I just hate how it just kinda h…hitsshschuu!

“Bless you,” Claire said in her ever-sweet tone. “Here, do you want to watch some tv or something and just rest? You look exhausted.”

“Sure,” Ethan said. He cleared his throat and sat up, looking and feeling around the couch for the main tv remote. It was usually buried in the couch somewhere, especially if Dave had been using it. As he predicted, he found it tucked between the arm and the seat cushions. Claire went to clean up the kitchen while Ethan turned the television onto Netflix. He fully intended to just let Claire pick out whatever she wanted, as they hadn’t even talked yet about what types of tv and movies they both liked. He also found he would much rather turn his attention to getting a little bit of rest and spending some much-desired time with Claire. He scrolled past one show in particular and stopped for moment.

“‘Space…the final frontier’,” Ethan quoted in a forcibly low but dulcet tone.

“‘These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise’,” Claire added from the kitchen, and Ethan looked up at her in surprise.

“You know TNG?” he asked.

Claire chuckled. “Yeah, some. My dad watched Star Trek a lot when I was a kid. Especially ‘Next Generation’. He always said he preferred Picard’s leadership over the others.”

“I kinda do, too,” Ethan said. “Do you maybe want to watch it?”

“Sure,” Claire said with another hint of a smile peeking through her eyes. “It’s been a while.”

They started from the beginning of the series and Ethan did his best to try to rest, although it was rather difficult due to Claire and her alluring presence. She sat very close to him now on the couch, flirtingly brushing the back of her fingers across his hand or his lap or tracing a small spot on his forearm. Ethan found himself making subtle attempts at romantic gestures just to see how she would respond. Eventually, he had to sneeze and as he did so, he casually took advantage of his surprise to lift his arm up over the couch and put it across Claire’s shoulder. He had seen the gesture in an old movie once and thought the trick could be effective. It was, although he wondered if Claire recognized it. If she had, she said nothing, instead merely nestling herself into the crook of his arm while the corners of her mouth turned up in slight amusement. Ethan also noticed that she watched him through her peripheral vision, occasionally blushing if he sneezed or gave a loud sniffle, or even giving his arm a reassuring squeeze.

The day was becoming rather strange to Ethan at the same time as exciting. It felt more like one of the mornings after he spent the night with a girl, only instead, this girl had gone home and they hadn’t slept together, and the girl usually hadn’t stayed this long. Ethan sighed inwardly, thinking about all those morning-afters. He knew he would have much preferred to take Claire out for brunch today, go see a movie, or maybe even go to the botanical gardens if she was into that sort of thing. He had never experienced something like this. She seemed oddly interested and attentive toward him and his illness. Despite this peculiar circumstance, however, Ethan already found himself beginning to feel a new sense of comfort in Claire’s presence as well as a physical attraction. It was still hard to believe he had only met her a couple of days ago.

Around lunch time, Ethan stirred from another short nap when his nostrils tickled with sudden moisture. He sat up quickly, his loose brown curls flying, and he grabbed two tissues from the box just in time.

“Hehhtschuuu! Heh’sschuuu!” He wiped his nose with an impatient haste, and then tossed the tissue onto the floor with the others where a small pile was starting to form. He gave a sniff, and it seemed that his sinuses had opened up a little, perhaps thanks to the medicine.

“Bless you,” Claire said gently. She still sat very close to him now, playfully running one of her manicured fingernails along his forearm. Ethan merely had to turn his head lightly to the side to be face to face with her. Even though he was still slightly congested, he found he could now pick up a faintly sweet and musky scent on her skin that might have been lotion or some other kind of other product.

“Thank you,” Ethan said. He looked at Claire’s beautifully bright sapphire eyes, feeling his heart fluttering and his skin growing warm with not just fever but a hunger of arousal as well. The corners of her mouth turned up a little, and she averted her eyes for a moment in modest shyness.

“Is it awkward that I just want to kiss you now?” Ethan quietly asked.

Claire gazed back up at him through her long eyelashes. “Not awkward at all.”

That was all Ethan needed to hear. Pushing aside his feelings of malaise again, he leaned in without hesitation, easing his lips onto hers with gentility and care. Claire pulled him in eagerly, her mouth soft and her tongue sweet like honey. As she exhaled, her sweet pheromones playfully teased his senses. Ethan took her hands in one of his own, feeling softness in the way her fingers intertwined with his. His free hand slid down onto the curvature of her hips and back, and all remaining shyness between them became replaced in the moment with passion. It felt to Ethan as if they were getting to know each other through a new sense of intimacy. He wanted more, and he had a feeling she did too. He pulled his face away for a brief moment so he could take a deep breath through his mouth, and then returned his lips to hers with a ferocity that she accepted. He moved down, brushing his lips along her neckline, her collarbone, and her neck again. As he softly kissed the spot where her jawline met her ears, she gave a small moaning sigh, finding the back of his neck with her hands and pulling him closer to her until her upper body was pressed against the back cushions of the couch.

“You’re so beautiful,” Ethan whispered into Claire’s ear and kissed her earlobe, a move that made her body tremble. His lips found their way back onto Claire’s and it was in that moment, however, that his nose decided to betray the rest of his body. His nasal passages suddenly tickled and burned in a terrible, forceful wave. Ethan squeezed his eyes shut, silently cursing this treachery, and touched his nose to Claire’s cheek. He tried inhaling slowly through his nose to push the irritation back, but he felt his breath start to hitch.

“Is everything okay?” Claire asked breathily, too close to Ethan’s face to be able to see his internal struggle. Ethan turned his face toward the couch and rapidly shook his head, feeling his eyes beginning to water from the pressure building in his sinuses. He sniffed slowly again and exhaled through his mouth.

“No…I…” he said, his voice breathy and trembling. “Hhhh…I gotta sneeze…and I’m trying not to. Hheh…

Claire’s eyes widened briefly and her cheeks turned so pink in the moment that Ethan suddenly wondered if she was having a panic attack or something. He would have asked her if she was all right, but the tickle suddenly grew to a crescendo he could no longer fight off.

“Don’t fight it then,” she said softly in the moment. “Just let it happen.”

“I don’t -hehh- think I have a…hhhiietschhuuu!-” Ethan’s sentence was cut off mid-attempt by a forceful first sneeze into the back cushion of the couch, doing his best to avoid accidently spraying Claire with the wet expulsion. He sniffed heavily, still feeling the burning pressure in his nose, which felt like it was inside his entire face.

“-Choice?” Claire finished for Ethan with a very amused smile. Ethan grinned briefly at her before his body stiffened up and he finally succumbed to the attack.

“-Heiightchuuu! -Hhhhhiihschuuu-…HhiieEHengtschuuuu! Hehhhschtschuuu-…”

“-Hehhnggxtchoo--hhuhRSCHuuu!” The last one doubled up in its final attack, but seemed to finally provide a little relief. Ethan pulled a hand from under Claire’s lower back to irritably rub his eyes and nose. He leaned his head into her shoulder, giving a small and congested groan of annoyance.

“Bless you,” Claire said, her words coming out in almost one quick breath. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.” Ethan reluctantly pulled himself off of Claire and sat up on the couch. He sighed with frustration at what was now the second interruption to their moment of intimacy and a desperate need to empty his nose of its very full buildup. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” Claire said quietly, her eyebrows drawing together in concern as she watched Ethan’s face. She shifted her body back up onto the couch and Ethan rubbed his face with his hands. He sniffed wearily, his congestion quickly creeping back in and making him cough whenever he tried to inhale through his nose. A mildly hot and painful pressure was beginning to build up in the back of his sinuses and he frowned inwardly. When he was young, this pressure often meant the onset of a sinus infection. Of course, he thought, closing his eyes and massaging his temples

“You don’t look so good,” Claire said. “Maybe we should slow things down.”

 “Yeah,” Ethan said defeatedly. “I think I need to lay down.”

“I’ll work on some lunch in a bit if you’re up for it,” Claire said, gently brushing the back of her hand along his upper arm.

Ethan merely nodded, leaning his head back on the couch and giving another heavy sniffle. As much as he wanted to continue his moment with Claire, he knew it would have to wait for a bit. He relaxed his shoulders, his eyes still closed. As he usually did when he was tired, he fell asleep quickly.

.

.

.

❤️

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starpollen

Very cute ☺️ 

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Wow Really?

What a sweet chapter. Loving this story :)

 

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Puzzle

This was an extremely cute chapter! I LOVED the last part where him and Claire were getting closer to one another. Poor Ethan just wants to be a gentleman, but can’t. I loved this part! I can’t for more to come! ❤️

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