The Lodge

After a six hour luxury flight on a private jet, they arrived in a small frigid town in Alaska. From there, it was an hour in a large and surprisingly comfortable helicopter piloted by Simon and Casper until they crossed into the valley in the middle of nowhere where the lodge stood tucked among the wilderness of towering pines.

They touched down in a designated clearing and the chopper powered down, its blades slowing to a stop.

"Welcome to the Lodge, everyone!" came Casper's voice over the radio.

There were a few cheers, and everybody unbuckled and climbed out onto the snow covered ground. Thankfully, it wasn't deep up to the door, like somebody had been there to shovel the path a day or so previously.

The lodge itself was impressive, only a decade old and built with care from the same ancient trees that had been in its place. Between the gorgeous natural logs, there were grand glass windows, the largest spanning almost an entire side and both stories. In the gleaming afternoon light, it was truly something to behold. For the holiday, there were even enormous wreaths on every blank wall and visible Christmas lighting sitting dormant in the daylight.

Casper lead the group inside, not unlike Willy Wonka with his grand chocolate factory, opening the large set of double doors without touching them. The entryway was roomy, with slate flooring and more natural wood for the walls. The ceiling on the first floor was higher much higher than what was standard. There were plenty of racks and coat hooks along with shoe shelves. Unlike outside, the interior was comfortably warm, like it had been waiting to welcome them.

Once everybody had their boots and shoes off and those who wanted to had hung coats, they all made their way down a short hall. Lining the walls in the hall were nine group portraits. Each with a large Christmas tree backdrop and a small plate with the year on the frame. The people in the pictures varied, but in every one there were always at least the same five people: Dillon, Casper, Zoe, Quinn, and Simon.

The next room was the largest. It was where the portraits had been taken, though there was no tree yet, only a few large boxes of interior decorations that had yet to be put up. This was where the biggest window was set. The ceiling was the inside of the lodge roof angled high above. On the side they'd come in on there was a set of stairs leading up to a balcony.

There was a big fireplace set in one wall, a giant flat screen TV on the adjacent, and a huge sectional couch and a few armchairs between them. Behind the couch, closer to the middle of the room, there was an elegant grand piano. On the other side was an open kitchen and an open archway leading to a dining room.

The second floor was mostly open to the room, railings lining the upper floor where a dozen doors were spaced, most with a small whiteboard.

Casper gestured upward at the balcony. "Bedrooms are on the second floor. Dillon, you and yours get the biggest room, Simon, Elizabeth, there's a room set up for you. Everybody else, take your pick! Write your name on the door. Go ahead and get situated, then we'll start on dinner.” There had been a light lunch on the jet.

~

Dillon had been happy and excited until this point. He'd only half been paying attention as he'd been avoiding even looking toward one of the doors on the second floor. He felt his heart sink. He couldn't believe Casper would do this. That was the largest bedroom. His room was the largest.

As everybody started to move, Casper approached him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I wasn't sure your old room would be big enough for three of you, so I moved you into my office."

Dillon looked up at Casper, his heart instantly mended. He let out an obvious sigh of relief.

As soon as the group walked inside the lodge, Theo visibly shrunk. Literally. She became about two inches shorter, and slouched a bit, bringing her shoulders up as she looked around. She felt out of place, considering the nicest and coziest place she'd ever been was Elias’ house, and the lodge reminded her of worse days. Despite this, she did her best to straighten up and smile-- she'd get to be staying in a warm, beautiful place, after all.
Cain and Elias both just grinned, and one could imagine them jumping up and down from excitement. For Cain, it was just the fact that he was in a completely new place, and though he was sensitive to the cold, he still loved snow and wintery places. Elias, on the other hand, couldn't get over how pretty everything was. Either way, they tried to stay calm.

After Casper finished, Cain left to go upstairs, not noticing anything was wrong with Dillon since he wasn't in his line of sight.
Elias and Theo noticed, though, since they stood behind their boyfriend, and saw the way his emotions slowly changed. They smiled when Dillon was okay again.
“Are you sure it's ok to stay in your office, Mr. Davis?” Theo asked. “Isn't that, you know, kind of an important place?” She paused for a few moments. “If we need to split up, I'm sure we can. Especially if you need to get work done.” Theo hoped she didn't sound ungrateful, she just didn't want to inconvenience Casper.

Casper raised his hands up, grinning. “No, no. It's absolutely fine! This is a vacation after all. My assistant should have everything under control while I'm gone. If something comes up, it shouldn't be anything I couldn't handle from my laptop. If anything really important happens, I can just zip right over.”

Dillon had gone up a few steps, bag slung over his shoulder, but stopped, leaning on the railing and looking around at the second floor while he waited. Casper's office was thankfully as far from his old room as it could be. The whiteboards were a new touch… but it made sense. Half of these people had never been here before. Every room but his old room and the bathrooms had a board.

It was now that Lisa, who had been once again huddled in his shirt against the cold outside, chose to come out and look around. Seeing so much open space, she looked at him, asking for permission. He nudged her gently with his nose and off she went, taking to the air to go land across the room on the railing.

Theo relaxed a bit, giving Casper a small, soft smile. “Alright, if you're sure. Thank you very much…” She took Elias’ hand, and he smiled at her, giving Casper a soft thanks before climbing the stairs to meet up with Dillon.
“Hey… this place is really pretty.” He laughed, giving Dillon a soft kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for letting us come along.”
Theo nodded in agreement, though she still looked uncomfortable.

Dillon had his little shy smile on. “Hey, wouldn't be Christmas without the people I love.”

He led them up to what had previously been Casper's office. He opened the door and put his bag down just inside. It was a spacious room with hardwood flooring and large ornate rugs under furniture so it wouldn't scratch it. The bed was huge. Not quite as huge as the room in Elias's house, but it was a tad bigger than a king with a dozen neatly placed pillows. There was a nice big dresser and with a decently sized TV mounted over it along with a small couch and a table against the wall like a desk.

Dillon couldn't help but smile a bit more at the big window. He always thought this room had the best view, second only to the gargantuan window in the other room.

Elias and Theo sat their bags down inside the room. They looked around, Elias still grinning before looking to Dillon. “It was really nice of Casper to let us use his office. It's really pretty in here.”
Theo quietly shut the door, frowning. After a few moments, Elias looked back at his girlfriend with an eyebrow raised. “What do you think, moonbug?”
Theo blushed at the nickname, but she still tried to offer the men a happy smile. It was more nervous than anything. “I think the lodge is very pretty. So is the office.” A long, awkward silence followed her words, so she reached into her bag and pulled out a stick of gum, unwrapping and chewing it.

Dillon tilted his head, the smile fading. “You... okay?” he asked carefully. He sat down on the bed and patted the cover beside him. “C'mere. I need a hug.”

“No, yeah, I'm fine!” Her voice went up a few octaves, and she waved a hand at Dillon as if to swat away the question, giving him a big smile. She slowly began to frown again, and her shoulder slumped as she let out a sigh. She went and sat with Dillon, giving him a tight hug.
Elias giggled and sat with them, putting an arm around Dillon as well.
After a few moments, Theo spoke up. “I just… The last time I was in a living space this big and pretty, I wasn't… doing the best of things to get money. And it's weird being in a place like this as a guest. I feel… very, very out of place…” Theo huffed. “Which is very stupid, but please keep in mind, I was born in the sewers, and I don't know Casper very well so it's different than going to Elias’ house, if that makes sense.”
She sat up again, a slightly determined look on her face now. “I'll get used to it though! And nothing is wrong to begin with, anyways. I'm not just saying that so that you won't worry, I'm seriously fine. I'm just not used to fancy places, I guess.” She shrugged.

Dillon gave her a peck on the cheek. “Hey, we're here to have fun, alright?” He glanced out the window. The snow couldn't be older than a day or two… There was some daylight left. “I don't suppose you've had much snow in Texas….”

He was up and poking his head out the door. “Quinn! You wanna come play out in the snow??” he called.

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