A/N:: This, finally, is my response to Ichbin and DannyFan66's Triumph challenge. Please let me know what you think!
Niles' Triumph: Melting the Ice Queen
Niles sighed with relief as he drained the remains of the soapy dishwater from the sink. He had been cooking, cleaning, and waiting hand and foot on the Sheffields all day long, and it was finally time for him to get some rest.
"Niles, I need you to do me a favor," C.C. declared as she stepped into the kitchen.
"Not now, witch. I need my rest."
"But Niles! We're friends, right?" she cooed, leaning against the kitchen counter and batting her lashes at him. "And friends do favors for each other."
Niles raised an eyebrow skeptically.
"Friends? You call us friends? You've been hitting the hard liquor today, haven't you?"
C.C. glared at him and pulled herself to her full height.
"Listen, Butler Boy. All I need you to do is accompany me on a business trip for two days, beginning this evening."
"To where?" he asked, attempting to hide his piqued interest of being alone with her, even if it were only for a short business trip.
"Canada," she replied uncertainly, as if still not fully accustomed to the idea herself.
"Canada? Why should I go to Canada?"
"Because Maxwell wants me to meet there with some potential backers for our new show tomorrow morning. And besides, if you don't agree to come with me, I would hate for Maxwell to find out what really happened to that two thousand dollar Armani suit of his that just mysteriously 'disappeared' one day..."
"Okay, I'll go," Niles groaned.
"Excellent. We need to be leaving soon, because I have to drop these contracts at the theatre in half an hour, so go pack your bags. Mine are already in the car."
"Niles!" called a nasal voice that made C.C. cringe. Fran came into the kitchen in a flustered rush. "Have you seen the wrapping paper? The one with the penguins on it?"
"Not now, Nanny Fine!" C.C. snapped. "We have to leave any minute."
"Good, because it'll only take a second," Fran insisted.
"It's in the upstairs closet, Miss Fine," Niles finally replied.
He was about to ask why she needed that particular wrapping paper but instantly thought better of it when he considered the time it would take Fran to ramble on and on about something that likely involved her sister's husband's cousin's niece's... Niles knew that C.C.'s patience was far too short for that.
By the time Niles made it to the car and loaded his suitcases, C.C. was already waiting impatiently for him in the passenger seat.
"Forty-seventh street," C.C. said flatly to Niles as he got behind the wheel. "If you can get me there in fifteen minutes, there's an extra fifty in it for you."
Niles rolled his eyes.
"This is not what I meant when I said I wanted to go for a drive," he mumbled under his breath.
"Where is my makeup compact?" C.C. fumed, searching through her purse frantically. "It was right here! It didn't get up and walk away by itself!"
"It's on the floor, beside your foot," Niles told her, "But it's going to take a lot more than just powder to cover up that."
She glared fiercely at him before picking up her compact from the floor.
C.C. sat so anxiously through the busy traffic that Niles was quite certain on a few occasions that she was going to grab the steering wheel herself and ultimately kill them both. Thankfully, however, she managed to resist the urge, and Niles got them to the theatre just in time.
"How come there is no cell service in the middle of freakin' Manhattan?" C.C. whined when she returned to the car. "I've been trying to call Maxwell, but the service is out."
When they arrived at the airport, C.C. was finally able to reach Maxwell on her cell phone to let him know that they were to depart soon. This left Niles with the responsibility of carrying all the luggage.
"You know, Miss Babcock, I refuse to do all the work here," Niles told her as soon as she had gotten off of the phone. "This is your business trip. I'm only doing you a favor here. Need I remind you that I'm not your butler?"
"Oh please, Dust Buster," C.C. scoffed. "What good are you at anything else, anyway?"
Niles took a step dangerously close to her, his darkening blue eyes meeting hers with a definite challenge.
"I think you'll find that I'm good at numerous other things than simply being a butler," he replied seriously, his voice low and deep.
C.C. opened her mouth and closed it again, certain of the deeper meaning of his words.
They boarded the plane in thoughtful silence and took their seats before either of them dared to speak again. As the plane began to lift off, C.C. noticeably tensed.
"Niles, will you do me a favor?"
For the sake of routine and the joy he got from annoying C.C., he almost argued that he had done quite enough favors for her for one day, but the look of sheer vulnerability and sincerity in her eyes quickly changed her mind. He simply nodded in response.
"First, promise me you won't laugh."
"I promise," he replied earnestly.
"Will you hold my hand while the plane takes off? That's the only part that bothers me about flying..."
C.C. blushed slightly, and Niles wasted no time before showing his support by taking her hand gently yet securely into his own. He leaned his head back on the seat's headrest and turned to face her. He loved the pink coloring that spread across her cheeks as his eyes slowly perused her lovely face, admiring every detail.
"What are you staring at?" C.C. asked, trying to hide her discomfort.
"Your eyes," he answered softly. "Even when we fight, I can't help but get lost in them."
She smiled as his words stirred the feeling of butterflies in the pit of her stomach.
"Well, we're not fighting now, are we?"
"No," he answered. "But it won't always be this way, will it? Because I would really miss fighting with you."
"Oh no, Niles. I can promise you that that will never change."
"I do believe those ladies are staring at us," Niles mumbled softly, inconspicuously indicating the women sitting across from them.
C.C. glanced at them and smiled, despite being slightly uncomfortable.
"We're sorry for staring, dear," the older lady sitting in the aisle seat told C.C. with a light Southern drawl. "We were just discussing how lovely of a couple you two make."
Niles cleared his throat.
"Oh, w-well, we're not a couple, really," C.C. stammered.
She always hated telling people this; it wasn't exactly the first time people had assumed that she and Niles were together.
"Really? That's too bad," the woman in the window seat replied with a frown.
"Best of luck to you both, anyway," the other woman said.
She winked at them and then turned back to her discussion with her friend, leaving Niles and C.C. in silence as they ruminated upon the women's reactions.
Minutes soon turned to hours. C.C. fell asleep before long, her head finding Niles' shoulder as her pillow. He was mesmerized as he watched her slow, even breathing as she slept, and he relished in the feel of her lying against him.
"I will have you; never doubt it, not for a second," Niles promised in a hush whisper into C.C.'s sweet-smelling hair, knowing that she would not hear him.
The gradual descending of the plane slowly woke C.C. from her deep slumber. Her first lucid sensation upon awakening was the warmth of Niles' strong shoulder against her cheek. She inhaled deeply as her eyes fluttered open, taking a moment to readjust to the bright surroundings.
"Have a good nap?" Niles asked quietly as the plane landed.
C.C. regretfully raised her head from his shoulder and nodded slowly. She rubbed the bottom line of her eyelids, fully expecting a comment from Niles about how much of a mess she undoubtedly looked. The gentle smile on his face was not one of mockery, however; that look was one of pure, undeniable adoration.
"Are you ready to go?" C.C. asked, suddenly realized that the other passengers had already begun exiting the plane.
Niles responded with a simple nod and led the way to the baggage claim area. After retrieving all of their luggage, they loaded the rental car with their belongings and headed out in search of a decent hotel to stay the night.
After about ten minutes of driving, a look of panic crossed Niles' face as every indicator light on the dashboard of the car instantly lit up.
"What's happening?" C.C. asked in a frantic as Niles pulled the car over to the snow-covered side of the road.
"I'm not sure," he replied, turning off the engine. "There are supposed to be some tools in the trunk. I'll see what I can do."
C.C. watched nervously as Niles got out and took a couple of tools from the trunk of the car and went to work under the hood. After a few minutes of tinkering, he called to her over the sound of the howling wintery wind and busy traffic of the highway.
"Try to crank the car."
C.C. complied, turning the key in the ignition and praying it would crank. The engine squealed for a split second and then resumed a strong, steady hum. Niles closed the hood, returned the tools to the trunk, and got back in the driver's seat.
"How did you know how to fix it? Don't tell me that working on cars is in the job description for butlers," C.C. teased, despite being thoroughly impressed.
Niles couldn't help but feel a pang of hurt that she had gone back to making fun of him for being a butler. He knew that that was all she would ever see him as – a domestic.
"Well, truth be told, I haven't always been in this line of work," he answered hesitantly. "I worked for awhile as a mechanic with my uncle back in England in my younger years."
"Thank goodness for that," C.C. declared, giving him an admiring smile. "But why wasn't I aware of this before?"
Niles replied with a sly half-smile.
"There are many untold things you've yet to learn about me."
C.C. fell silent as she pondered his words as Niles continued to drive, intrigued with the possibility of discovering unknown wonders about this man.
"What about that one?" Niles asked, indicating the first nice-looking hotel they encountered in the city.
"Let's give it a try," C.C. answered with an indifferent shrug.
"Why didn't you book the hotel before we left?"
"Well, it's only for one night," she answered defensively. "And Maxwell didn't think it was necessary for me to book the rooms ahead of time..."
Looking back, C.C. wasn't sure that expecting to find a decent hotel room in an unfamiliar location was the best choice, nor was trusting Maxwell's well-meaning but often deeply flawed advice, especially since what had begun as a small snowfall had turned into what looked like the beginning of a blizzard.
As soon as Niles parked the car, they unloaded the luggage and quickly retreated into the hotel lobby, eager to get out of the worsening weather.
"Was that a polar bear?" Niles joked as he brushed the icy snowflakes off of his suit.
"We need two rooms, please," C.C. told the man at the front desk.
"I'm sorry ma'am," he replied sincerely, "But we only have one single suite available. Due to the snowstorm moving in, hotels all over the city are full."
C.C.'s jaw slackened. This could not be happening. They couldn't possibly share a room... Then again, taking the only available vacancy now would be better than searching the entire city for two available rooms and ending up empty handed. Besides, the snow was getting far too bad to travel in. They would have to share a room, C.C. finally conceded; it was their only option.
"We'll take it," C.C. declared at last.
"May I ask your last name?"
The receptionist typed on the computer momentarily and charged C.C.'s credit card.
"Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Babcock, here's your key. Your room number is 407. Please phone the front desk if you need anything at all."
C.C. quickly took the key from him, as if he would somehow change his mind or give the room to someone else before she had the key in her hand.
"Mr. and Mrs. Babcock? Is that the best you could come up with?" Niles hissed at her as they collected their suitcases and headed for the elevator. "Now what are we going to do?"
"He asked for my name, and I gave it to him. Why in the world does it matter, anyway?" she argued back. "We're just going to have to stay in the room together. We're both adults..." She added the last sentence uneasily, as though not completely sure of this fact. "But why are we carrying our own suitcases? Don't they have servants here to do that for us?"
C.C. turned to Niles. When she saw the look of hurt cross his face, she desperately wished she could take back her thoughtless words. She opened her mouth to apologize, but he simply shook his head, not wanting to discuss it any further.
"Niles? Why isn't the elevator working?"
"The elevator! It isn't working!"
"Oh. I don't know. I'll go back and ask at the front desk."
"It's broken," Niles huffed when he returned. "We'll have to take the stairs."
"With all this luggage?! That's just great, considering our room is on the fourth floor."
"Oh, suck it up. Elephants have been used for centuries to carry heavy things for miles at a time; your kind is used to this type of work, so surely you can manage to carry a little luggage up to the fourth floor."
C.C. glared fiercely at him, but as he smirked at her, she was glad to note that at least his insults meant that he wasn't as deeply hurt as before.
C.C. was barely halfway up the second flight of stairs with her suitcases before practically begging for a break. Niles simply rolled his eyes and urged her on.
"You aren't tired?" she asked him, panting as they began making their way up the third flight of stairs.
"I could do this all night and not get tired," he answered sarcastically. "Now, come on. We're almost there."
C.C. released a deep breath of relief when they finally made it to their floor. Her legs felt like jelly beneath her, and her arms felt as though they would fall off at any moment; she couldn't wait to put down the luggage, and she hoped that she would never have to carry so much again.
"Well, hello," a beautiful brunette nearly purred to Niles as she sashayed past them in the hallway.
C.C.'s entire face turned a scarlet red as she sent a death glare towards the woman.
"She was nice," Niles told C.C.
"Nice? Niles, she only spoke two words to you!"
"You're not jealous are you?" he asked with a grin as he unlocked the door to their room.
C.C. inhaled and exhaled deeply.
"Yes, I'm jealous, okay?! Right now, I could kill her with my bare hands! I can't help it. She was beautiful..."
It didn't make a bit of sense, but Niles didn't care.
"You're beautiful too, you know," he answered softly, opening the door for her at last. "Far more beautiful than she is."
"Yeah, right," C.C. replied, dragging her suitcases into the room.
Niles discarded his luggage onto the floor and stepped towards her so that only a few inches of air were between them.
"You really are," he whispered.
She smiled and blushed slightly. Niles took a moment to look down between them.
"You know, I can see your belly button."
"Good job at ruining the moment, Niles," C.C. teased, poking him in the chest with her index finger.
She placed her luggage on the floor and pulled her shirt down over her stomach.
Niles walked over to the window and sighed as he pulled back the curtain.
"I seem to remember that there used to be a house under all that snow," he said disdainfully.
"There's no telling how long we'll be stuck here, then," she replied as she stretched herself out on the only bed in the room. Thoughts of how it would feel to fall asleep that night beside Niles crossed her mind...
"Are you hungry?" Niles asked suddenly.
"I am, actually."
"I'll go down and get some food for us."
"I can go get it, if you want," C.C. replied uneasily, not wanting him to think that she was treating him as a servant but also not certain of how to respond to how nice they were being to each other.
He smiled, intrigued by the fact that perhaps the ice queen did have a heart somewhere deep, deep down.
"No, you wait here. I'll be right back."
C.C. lay in bed for ten minutes as she waited on Niles to return with the food, certain that her growling stomach would cave in from hunger. As soon as she heard the lock click open on the door, she quickly sat up in bed, eager for food.
"I'm sorry it took so long," Niles explained upon entering the room with two covered platefuls of food. "I had to wait on the toast."
"Waiting for toast? Why does one wait for toast?"
"Do you want the food or not?" he asked with mock impatience.
"Yes!" she exclaimed emphatically, accepting the plate from him.
They ate together on the bed in relative silence. When they had finished, C.C. changed into her pajamas in the bathroom as Niles changed in the bedroom. C.C. returned to the room with her cheeks fully flushed, though looking absolutely lovely in her light blue pajamas.
"What's wrong?" Niles asked her.
"I, um, forgot underwear..."
"How do you forget to pack underwear?" he asked, amused.
"I don't know," she replied quietly.
Niles took a moment to admire her figure once more. He wasn't sure how he would make it through the night or tomorrow with the knowledge that she was without underwear, but he found the situation particularly intriguing.
C.C. lay down on the bed again, but this time she cringed as she did so.
"Will you do me a favor?" she asked, looking sideways at him on the bed.
"You didn't hear what I was going to ask you to do," she said, her eyes narrowing at him. "You should really know better than to trust me so much, you know."
"That's probably true. I think my weariness has lowered my inhibitions."
"My shoulders hurt," she explained. "I think I hurt them by carrying my luggage. Will you massage it?"
Niles swallowed hard, the thought of touching her, caressing her, even through her clothes, thrilled him. He nodded in reply, not trusting his voice. She sat up on the bed and turned her back towards him. He moved to sit behind her and gripped her shoulders, applying pressure gradually. She tried her hardest to stifle a moan as he began to massage her shoulders and back.
"That's it," she nearly groaned. "Just a little to the left and you've got it."
Niles complied, moving his hands in the proper direction. C.C. leaned back into his arms as she stretched.
"Thank you, Niles," she said, turning to face him. "That's much better."
"I live to serve," he replied as he leaned into her slightly.
"Well, there's nothing on TV worth watching," C.C. said, "What are we supposed to do now?"
"I think I'll go to bed," Niles replied with a yawn.
He stood and moved over to the edge of the room.
"I can sleep here," he said, pointing to an area of the floor.
"What are you talking about?" C.C. asked, perplexed. "You're sleeping here in the bed with me."
Niles raised his eyebrows as she patted the spot on the bed beside her.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure! Come on, I don't bite... Unless you're into that kind of thing."
C.C. winked at him and gave him an evil laugh. She lay down on the bed, and he joined her, careful not to get too close. She couldn't tell him how many times she imagined lying in bed next to him, but these circumstances were not exactly what she had had in mind. They fell asleep quickly, neither realizing just how tired they really were. Niles woke from a dream in the middle of the night and found that his arm had somehow become wrapped around C.C.'s waist. He regretfully slowly removed his arm from her, certain that she would not at all be pleased if she woke in the morning to find him holding onto her. The sudden absence of the security of Niles's touch, however, woke C.C. from her peaceful sleep.
"Please don't leave," she whispered, still half asleep.
Niles smiled faintly and slipped his arm back around her.
"I swear by all that's good and holy that I'll never leave you."
"God, I love the way you smell," she said, deeply inhaling his warm, masculine scent.
They soon fell back asleep in each other's arms.
The sudden piercing clamor of C.C.'s cell phone ringing jolted them both from their slumber far too early. Niles sighed as she answered the phone and chuckled softly at her as she grumbled upon having to get out of bed. He drifted in and out of sleep as he listened to her talk on the phone.
"Niles?" she said, touching his arm softly to wake him.
"My meeting has been postponed to tomorrow due to the snow. We're going to have to stay another night."
Niles opened his eyes slowly.
"Is that okay with you?" she asked, almost timidly. "I mean, I know it wasn't in the original plan, and I'm sure you're ready to get back home because we've already traveled so far–"
He pressed his index and middle finger lightly onto her silken mouth to silence her.
"I don't care how many miles I have to travel. The distance will never be too far."
C.C. smiled as she ran her fingers through Niles's sandy-colored hair.
"You know, Niles, someday we'll look back on all the shit we've been through here and laugh. Then, we'll have mind-numbing sex."
"Well, your meeting isn't until tomorrow... We have all day and nothing to do," he replied with a deep growl.
C.C. raised an eyebrow at him suggestively.
"Oh, I'm sure we'll think of something to do."
A/N:: Okay, so the ending wasn't meant to be too abrupt, but I just wanted to allow your own imaginations to fill in the blank there. ;)