Red Velvet Ribbon. 1

Title: Red Velvet Ribbon    RVR ficpic
Author: Lysa
Posted: Dec 2004
Rating: N-17
Category: Holiday Fluff & Stuff
Content: C/A with hints of implied F/G
Summary: The gang goes to the mountains for Christmas
Spoilers: AtS. Season 3. Let’s just pretend that Christmas arrives before Darla does, shall we?
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. The song, It Must Have Been the Mistletoe, was written by Jason Wilde and Doug Konecky. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere…please let me know.
Notes: This is a romantic, sometimes silly, feel-good fic that I’ve had a lot of fun writing. Hope you enjoy the fluff. Merry Christmas to all! While the song, It Must Have Been the Mistletoe, has been sung by several artists including Barbara Streisand, my favorite is Barbara Mandrell’s version.
Thanks/Dedication: My gorgeous ficpic was designed by the very talented Lissette. (Thanks again, L!)
Feedback: Absolutely! Any way, shape or form.

It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that feeling everywhere.

It must have been the pretty lights
that glistened in the silent night;
Or maybe just the stars so bright
that shined above you.

Our first Christmas…
more than we’ve been dreaming of;
Old St. Nicholas had his fingers crossed
that we would fall in love.

It could have been the holiday,
the midnight ride upon a sleigh,
the countryside all dressed in white,
that crazy snowball fight.

It could have been the steeple bell
that wrapped us up within its spell.
It only took one kiss to know
it must have been the mistletoe.

Our first Christmas…
more than we’ve been dreaming of;
Old St. Nicholas must have known that kiss
would lead to all of this.

It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow
the magic in the frosty air,
that made me love you.

On Christmas Eve,
a wish came true,
the night I fell in love with you;
It only took one kiss to know

It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that feeling everywhere.

It must have been the mistletoe
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that made me love you.

It must have been the mistletoe,
The lazy fire, the fallen snow,
The magic in the frosty air,
That feeling everywhere.


“Gah! I can’t believe we’re leaving it all behind, Rodeo Drive decked out in lights, just to spend Christmas at some rustic mountain hovel,” Cordelia blurted when the cheerful little sing-along Lorne and Fred had going started to drive her stir-crazy.

The silhouette of the cityscape had long since disappeared beyond the faint horizon. Sloping hills became mountainous and with the higher elevations the roadsides were scattered with traces of a recent snowfall. At the wheel, Angel’s enthusiasm for the winter scenery suddenly vanished at the unexpected outburst. Hadn’t they resolved this before leaving L.A.?

He’d expected Cordelia to be the most excited about this getaway, thinking it would be nice for the gang to spend some time away together. She was always after him to relax and have a little fun. Besides, their hodgepodge group was a family of friends.

And families, at least the ones he imagined to exist out there somewhere, spent time together during the holidays. When he pointed that out back at the hotel, Cordy had flashed a blindingly brilliant smile and gone right along with the idea.

Despite her protests to the contrary, it was Cordy who put the idea for this trip in his head, though her wistful memories of skiing at a resort in Aspen were a little more than he could manage to reproduce on short notice.

He’d been contemplating a number of reasonably cheap options when a routine case had Angel crossing paths with billionaire entrepreneur David Nabitt.

Even now, Angel wasn’t quite certain how the subject came up, but within minutes of the conversation, he’d been given permission to use Nabitt’s Rocky Mountain lodge for the holidays. “I doubt it’s a hovel, Cordy.”

“Hovel, schmovel,” Cordy harrumphed and gestured toward the forested landscape visible through the front windshield. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, the frozen tundra of the backwoods, home to serial killers and creatures with sharp teeth.”

“In that case,” Wesley commented drolly from the back seat, “we should feel quite at home.”

“You’re putting a cloud over my holiday vibe, Princess,” Lorne stretched his mouth into a smile trying to pry her out of her gloom. “Get into the spirit. Spread a little merriment instead of that pretty pout. It’s not every day you get a vacation.”

Cordelia loved the idea of a vacation and there wasn’t anywhere she’d rather be than with these guys over the holidays, but they might as well have gone to Siberia. They just seemed clueless when it came to the important stuff in life. “Do you know how many pre-Christmas sales we’re missing?”

“I think you’ll survive missing a few sales,” Angel assured her. It wasn’t as if Cordy could afford to shop in those fancy stores, anyway. Besides, he liked looking at her no matter what she was wearing.

“Give it up, sugarplum,” Lorne caught his gaze to tell him he wasn’t going to win that argument.

Gunn tapped Cordy on the head, “Cheer up, girl. This could be fun. All that white stuff out there on the ground just waiting for us. Think about it. I’m guessing you can throw a mean snowball.”

“You bet your shiny bald head I can,” Cordelia answered smugly as her mind easily made the jump to aiming a few snowballs in Angel’s direction. When Gunn kept on about the snow and wanting to check out this whole nature thing, she realized that this was the first time he had even been out of the city, not counting Pylea.

She supposed that it would be a new experience for Lorne, too. While he wasn’t too keen on the idea of being so far from civilization as he knew it, he’d packed enough vodka and cranberry & grapefruit juices to float back to L.A. on a Seabreeze high.

Even though Fred had the option of going home to her family in Texas, she chose to stick with them. As far as Cordy was concerned, Texas wasn’t much different than some Rocky Mountain log cabin minus the snow. Pfft, whatever. Either way, it didn’t seem like much of an option to her.

Glancing over at Angel, she saw the telltale signs of early brood mode. His profile was a stone mask, mouth drawn into a straight line, his brows crimped together. He gripped the steering wheel almost stubbornly, like he expected the car to spin around and head back to L.A. of its own free will.

Causing Angel’s holiday spirit to shrivel up like a dried up fruit cake suddenly made Cordy rethink her outlook on this whole wilderness experience.

“Score one for Cordelia Scrooge,” her mumbles sounded too low for the others to hear, but she saw Angel’s mouth quirk upward before his face became passive again.

Standing in an arc along the snow-covered drive, with the Plymouth idling behind them, they stared awestruck at the rambling structure that was David Nabitt’s little hideaway.

A thick layer of snow lined the rooftop as icicles hung in jagged lines along the eaves that were decorated with strings of colorful blinking lights. The mountain lodge was clearly not a hovel or even the rustic log cabin that Cordelia imagined it to be.

Nor could it in any way be described as small.

Gunn pointed out the large mechanical dish perched on the rooftop, “Man, I think we even got satellite T.V. So much for roughing it,” he sounded almost disappointed by the notion.

Lorne touched him on the sleeve, “Honey, we’re three hundred miles away from my masseuse. This is still roughing it, but at least I won’t miss Oprah.”

“This is as close to the house as we’re getting,” Angel walked back to the car to shut off the engine. “The snow drifts are covering the rest of the drive. We’ll have to go on foot from here.”

“As in walk up that hill?” Wide-eyed, Cordelia looked at Angel like he was suggesting a mountain climbing event. Pointing down at her feet, she explained, “I can’t. I’ll ruin my shoes.”

Rubbing away the knot of tension at the back of his neck, Angel fought off the urge to tell her it was her own fault if she wore designer pumps rather than the boots he’d insisted she buy for the trip. Wondering if she’d left them back at her apartment on purpose, he asked her where they were.

“They’re clunky,” Cordelia reminded him as she pulled her jacket a little closer. “We were already gonna be squished in the Plymouth, so I packed them.”

The others gave Angel sympathetic smiles, but knew better than to comment on the state of Cordelia’s footwear. He released the tie holding the overstuffed trunk closed, which was packed to overflowing with suitcases and duffel bags. “Which one of these is it? You brought two bags.”

“Lorne brought three,” she pointed out that she wasn’t the only one who packed on the heavy side, adding a smile that melted away Angel’s irritation. “Umm, I think I put them in the big one.”

Gunn moved Cordelia out of the way, tired of waiting for the two of them to stop staring at each other long enough to find her boots. Grabbing his duffel bag and his girlfriend’s small suitcase from the top, he said, “Fred and I will meet y’all up at the house.”

“Technically, it’s a hunting lodge,” Wesley corrected him, snagging his own bag from the boot of the car before trudging after the pair.

Angel barely noticed their departure, still focused on Cordelia and the way she could make even the most irritating circumstance somehow endearing to him. Reminding her, “We’re only here for a week.”

“Pfft! And you wanna try and tell me you didn’t pack half your closet?”

Before Angel could respond to that one, Lorne cut in, staring at his own overstuffed bags in dismay, to ask, “Do you think they have valet?”

“Doubt it, but I’ll bet there’s a Jacuzzi.” Cordelia grinned as she realized this lodge was probably decked out with all the luxuries. “Mmm, just think of all that bubbly, steaming water.”

Momentarily mesmerized, Angel’s vision clouded over, envisioning Cordy emerging like Venus rising from the sea, the water glistening across her golden skin, flushed and rosy. The wafting puffs of thick steam diffused around her as she moved closer.

Then, with a reflexive blink that brought him out of his daydream, he realized that Cordelia was still talking, her breath visible in the frosty air. “Too bad I didn’t bring my bikini.”

It startled Angel to realize he hadn’t bothered with an imaginary bikini in that brief little fantasy. Stabbing guilt accompanied the tightness in his loins as his body made its desires perfectly clear. During the few seconds that his thoughts warred with his wishes, his fantasy expanded to let the steamy water encircle them both, his hands reaching out to slide over her slick feminine curves.

“Don’t just stand there like a lump on a log,” Cordelia gruffed as she tugged on the handle of her suitcase, which was buried at the bottom of the pile of luggage, “help me out with that vamp strength of yours. Make yourself useful.”

As Cordelia straightened up and moved back a step to let him get closer to the trunk of the car, Angel simply scooped her up in his arms and headed in the direction of the lodge. Unintelligible protests sounded for a few seconds before Cordelia settled her arm around his shoulder. “Not exactly what I had in mind,” she told him, “but I suppose it will do.”

Her slight weight required no effort, but the sensation of having her in his arms left a heavy impact. It felt right, familiar, and Angel couldn’t stop stealing glances at her all the way up the hill.

Totally unaware of Angel’s inner struggle, Cordelia chattered on about her sudden change of heart in spending the week of Christmas here in the mountains. “Maybe it won’t be so bad. I can deal with a little isolation in a place like this. Wonder what other properties David owns. Heh. Maybe I should rethink that marriage proposal.”

Angel’s sharp grunt disapproval of that idea went ignored as Cordy giggled at the idea of being Mrs. Cordelia Nabitt. “You’d have to give me away,” she suggested, taking her little imaginary wedding ceremony further than Angel found amusing.

Like hell I will. The idea stirred up all kinds of possessive instincts, causing him to pull her more snuggly against his body as he walked the last few feet toward the steps of the lodge.

“David’s a good guy. At the very least, he deserves to be on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list for the holidays. I’d get him a present, except— hello, middle of the wilderness, here. Guess he’ll just have to settle for a thank you smooch when we get back home.”

“It was my idea,” the statement came out of his mouth before he realized just how it sounded. Gruffly, Angel added, “Nabitt doesn’t need any presents from you.”

Fortunately, Cordelia appeared distracted enough to miss the fact that he’d all but admitted that he didn’t want her kissing anyone, but him. “I suppose you think you deserve all the reward. Greedy, much? Keep it up and you’ll make Santa’s eternal ‘Naughty List’,” twinkling merriment accompanied her warning as she poked fun at him.

Focused on the plush curve of her lips, Angel figured his thoughts alone qualified for someone’s ‘Naughty List’.

They’d just reached the top step as the front door opened to reveal a uniformed man with a taut, wire-thin frame and thick grey moustache, not a hair out of place, nor a wrinkle on his starched collar. Providing them a formal greeting, “Welcome to Nabitt Lodge,” he spoke with a hint of an east coast accent.

“Hi, I’m Fred,” she grinned big as she introduced herself. “Winifred. Winifred Burkle. Merry Christmas! Nice place you got here.”

The man’s expression did not change even after he saw the wet trail of snow Fred tracked in with her boots. “This is one of Mr. Nabitt’s getaways, Miss Burkle. I am simply the butler, Albert.”

With a chuckle, Gunn grabbed his hand, shaking it. “That’s cool, Albert the butler. You got a bat cave hidden under the lodge, Al?” he joked.

“Certainly not,” he appeared taken aback, “Mister…”

“Gunn, Charles Gunn,” he said with a 007 suaveness that the butler seemed to find even less amusing than his Batman’s butler joke. Maybe it was just the fact that he tracked more snow across the polished wooden floor. “Wes says this is a hunting lodge. What exactly does Nabitt hunt?”

There were no moose heads or deer racks hanging anywhere in sight. Finally, the starchy butler cracked a bit of a smile. Albert explained that their absent host preferred to do his hunting in the game room rather than the outdoors.

Lorne had literally followed in Angel’s footsteps since nobody appeared overly concerned about the delicate state of his own expensive footwear. Anxious to get in out of the cold, he maneuvered around them and cut in front of Wesley who watched the pair with growing interest.

Lost in their own little world, Cordelia and Angel were too busy with each other to notice they had reached the deck and that her shoes were no longer in danger of ruination.

“Your presents are packed in my suitcase,” Cordy told Angel, caught up in watching his changing expressions as his dark brown eyes morphed like a mood ring as he stared back. Then wondering at the meaning of what she saw, guessed that he might have made a major holiday faux pax.

Voice low, scrutinizing the guilty expression for some sign of what he was suddenly trying to hide from her, Cordy tensed at the thought that he might have forgotten. “Tell me you brought our presents.”

Angel gulped and then opened his mouth to speak, but the clearing of a man’s throat caught their attention. “Bride and groom?” the stranger guessed, taking in the sight of Cordelia in his arms.

“Seer and vampire,” corrected Cordy after a startled second, wide-eyed at the man’s assumption, as if it should be obvious. She wriggled in Angel’s arms until he let her slide down to the deck. She put arm’s length between them only to feel the sudden cold chill of the winter wind at her back.

“Ah. We do get all sorts here,” he nodded without more than a shred of surprise. “I believe our last guests claimed to be elves, hobbits and dwarves on a quest to save Middle Earth. Mr. Nabitt’s interests in fantasy role-playing games are spectacle in these parts.”

Lorne removed his hat and trench coat, pausing for dramatic effect, “Then you won’t mind if I make myself comfortable.”

A bushy grey eyebrow twitched upward, but a calm response came as he stepped back, waving the last stragglers inside. “Do come in out of the cold. Mr. Nabitt expressed his wish that you all be made welcome and comfortable for the holidays. We apologize for the skeleton staff as it is just my wife, Mrs. Claymore, who is the housekeeper, and me at the moment.”

The rosy-cheeked housekeeper appeared on cue, a plump woman in her mid-fifties whose expression was full of holiday cheer, humming happily as she moved toward them. She even smelled of cinnamon having come out of the kitchen where the scent of freshly baked cookies wafted on the air.

“Come in, come in and warm yourselves by the fire. We’ve had a merry time decorating the lodge for Christmas this year as that dear boy…er, Mr. Nabitt,” she corrected at her husband’s subtle harrumph, “wants you to enjoy every moment of your stay.”

It seemed Mrs. C was as easy-going as her counterpart was stiff and formal, but they made an amusing pair bantering back and forth as they showed them around the lodge. Cordelia had to admit that the place had a lot of rustic charm. The stone fireplace was the focus of the living room, yellow and orange flames flickering in the huge hearth spreading warmth along with its cheerful glow.

A Christmas tree held a position of honor in one corner of the room, decked out in lights, colorful ornaments and shiny tinsel, its skirt lining the wooden floor around it.

Six identical packages lay in random fashion, each tied up with a red velvet ribbon. It appeared that their host arranged a little something for each of them. “He is just the nicest man,” Fred smiled at the generosity. After all, she’d never even met Nabitt.

“I saw him first,” quipped Cordelia with a grin. “You’ve got Gunn.”

“Damn straight,” muttered Gunn, snaking his arm around Fred’s shoulders to pull her against his side. Grinning, Fred wrapped her arms around his waist, cheeks dimpling at his feigned jealousy.

Asking with polite subtlety about their room accommodations, the housekeeper led them toward the south wing of the lodge and showed Gunn and Fred to their shared room. She turned toward Angel, who happened to be standing beside Cordelia again, to ask, “You’ll be sharing too, of course.”

“No,” Angel answered succinctly.

Cordy, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why the woman would jump to that conclusion. “Why ‘of course’? There’s nothing ‘of course’ about it. Maybe I’m sharing with Wes or Lorne.”

Chuckling in amusement, Lorne commented, “No offence, Cordelicious, but I prefer to get my beauty sleep. All that snoring would keep me up at night.”

“I do not snore,” Cordy gaped at the suggestion. She looked over at Wes to confirm her rebuttal, but he seemed to find staring at the ceiling a fascinating endeavor. She turned to Angel next, “Do I?”

His hand curled around her shoulder, the buttery-soft texture of her jacket smooth as his thumb moved in a soothing circle to calm her down. Having lived in Cordelia’s apartment, he knew exactly what sorts of sounds she made at night, all of them etched into his memory. “Just a few soft snuffles now and then.”

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as if she wasn’t sure if that was the truth. “Right, I do not snore,” she emphasized loudly just to ensure the Claymores understood that fact, “and I get my own room. Angel’s my friend. We’re just friends. We work together. Maybe we used to live together, but that was only because his apartment blew up and I let him borrow the couch.”

Shrugging, the housekeeper looked as if Cordelia was protesting a little too much. “I guess I’ll put you over here, then.” The room was next door to the one assigned to Angel.

Confused by Cordelia’s efforts to throw their friendship in his face, Angel wondered if she had sensed that she was arousing far more than just friendly feelings lately. This protest of hers might be intended to tell him to back off.

He dropped his hand to his side, feeling crushed and rejected despite the fact that he truly valued his friendship with Cordy and at one time might’ve found Mrs. Claymore’s assumptions amusing.

“Now that the room situation is settled,” he announced crisply, “Gunn, Wes and I will gather the rest of the luggage.”

Angel turned on his heel, moving down the corridor, his dark leather coat billowing out behind him. Gunn and Wes followed without a word. “My, my,” tittered the rosy-cheeked housekeeper. “They do know how to make an exit.”

Cordelia caught Alfred rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. Changing the subject, she asked him whether the lodge had a Jacuzzi. While the butler was busy informing her of the many amenities of Mr. Nabitt’s getaway, Lorne found himself the target of Mrs. Claymore’s curious gaze.

Her musical entry earlier told the anagogic demon everything he needed to know about the woman and so he was prepared when she finally decided to speak to him directly.

“Y’know, I used to have kitchen curtains just that shade,” she tittered while gazing at the fabric of his colorful suit.


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