Fic, Moments - General B&B
To Change My State with Kings - Winterose
A Gift for You - Sharon
Second Time Round - Pixie
Pester - Patsy
Break - Jayna
In Need of a Hug - Midnight Rose
3S, SND: And I will Always Love You - Joan Stephens
Sweet Dreams - J'Ecris
Have We not Heard the Chocolate at Midnight - Mycroft Holmes

 

To Change My State with Kings
Vincent/Catherine

PG

 

This story takes place shortly after "Ceremonies of Innocence" but before the events of "The Rest is Silence" occur, Vincent's life takes a different turn.

 

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost desiring,

Haply I think of thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings,

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

Sonnet 29--William Shakespeare

Catherine and Vincent walked through the tunnels toward the basement entrance to her apartment building. Vincent seemed preoccupied and this gave Catherine a chance to observe him without making him uncomfortable -- what she saw concerned her. He'd been pensive ever since his last, devastating encounter with Paracelsus. She'd had dinner with him every evening for a week now and she realized that although he diligently rearranged the food on his plate, he really was not eating much of it. She'd questioned some of the men she knew had served night sentry duty that week and all had reported seeing him walking the tunnels into the dark hours of the morning, so she knew he was sleeping even less than he was eating. His friends were worried -- even Mouse had noticed that his friend was going through the motions of day-to-day activities with out seeming to really notice what was going on around him.

 

Catherine reached out to gently tug his sleeve as he began to walk past the junction where her basement threshold was. He looked around as if surprised to find himself there and sighed. "I am sorry, Catherine. I have been poor company as of late."

 

"Oh Vincent, don't be sorry." she pulled him close in a reassuring hug. "I understand." He pulled a little away so he could look at her. His eyes clearly communicated what he didn't say -- how can you possibly understand.

 

Catherine continued determinedly, "I understand that you're upset, that you don't want to talk about what happened, but I really think you need to, Vincent." He lowered his eyes and shook his head. Now it was Catherine's turn to sigh in frustration. She reached up to gently stroke his cheek. "Vincent, I don't know everything that Paracelsus said or did to you, but I do know that anything you tell me won't change my feelings for you. I was wrong to go when you told me to before. I left because I thought that was really what you wanted, that you needed some space. Did you think I wasn't coming back?" Vincent's brow creased as if with pain, the corners of his mouth tugged down and a single tear slipped down his cheek.

 

"Oh Vincent." she whispered pulling on his collar until his forehead was resting on hers, "I'll never leave you." She stretched the last inch toward him and gently pressed her lips to his.

 

And tonight Vincent kissed her back.

 

Some small, reasonable part of her mind told Catherine not to take advantage of his vulnerable state, but her body seemed to act on its own. Her arms wrapped around his neck, hands tangling in the thick silk of his hair. Her full lips moved hungrily against his. Then he swept her against his strong, hard body, crushing her to him with an exquisite strength and his kiss took her mouth with a passion she had only dreamed of. His unique, velvety mouth gently demanding an equal passion from her. The world seemed to stop for a very long time until they finally parted gasping, their hearts pounding wildly.

 

He stepped away from her, reaching for the solid support of the tunnel wall. "That was wonderful!" Catherine said breathlessly. Vincent only nodded, still panting, and leaned more heavily, his back against the wall. She frowned in concern. "Are you all right?"

 

He nodded again, but slid down until he was sitting on the ground, his head propped on his folded knees. Catherine knelt beside him. "I'm all right," he said, "I just felt… a bit light-headed for a moment."

 

"I can't recall ever having that kind of effect on a man before, especially not because of a mere kiss!" Catherine teased. She was rewarded with a small quirk at the corner of his mouth.

 

"I would not call it a 'mere' kiss, rather…"

 

"…amazing, fabulous, earth-moving?" enthused Catherine.

 

"Yes, all of those things, but, I was afraid… I wasn't sure you…" he trailed off uncertainly.

 

"Vincent, it was wonderful. You always say you know what I'm feeling. Surely you believe me now that your passion only brings me pleasure."

 

He gazed at her for several long minutes then rose smoothly from the tunnel floor.

 

"Come, it's late" he said holding out his hand to help her up. Catherine sighed once more and decided to call the evening a small victory, a beginning at least. 

 

 

A Gift for You
Vincent/Catherine

G

 

It was late evening on January 9th, and Catherine wearily sighed as she closed her briefcase. She had just finished writing her closing arguments for the case she was assigned to. However it was not the court case that left her feeling dissatisfied. It was the fact that she had yet to come up with a suitable gift for Vincent's Birthday.

 

Still sitting at her desk, she gently picked up the book that Vincent had given to her as a Christmas gift, "The Love Poems of John Keats". Opening the cover, she ran her fingers over the inscription that Vincent had written inside. Aloud she read, "Catherine, may the love of literature, poetry and writing, cause you to become the writer you were meant to be, Your friend Vincent."

 

She thought back over the last few months, and recalled how Vincent had been encouraging her to do some writing. It all began after she had showed Vincent a collection of poems and short stories that she had written for a Journalism class when she attended college. He was quite impressed with her work, and told her that she had a talent for writing that should not be ignored. This thought inspired her this night, and it was then she decided that for Vincent's Birthday, she would write something for him.

 

She picked up a pen and found some paper to write on, and did not stop until her letter was finished. Reading over her words many times, changing this, and adding that, she finally felt satisfied that she had given her heart a voice by exchanging words for her feelings. Vincent motivated her to express herself this way, and she was surprised how freeing it was, for there was no woman on this earth, who had more cause to be inspired by a man, than she.

 

Vincent's Birthday finally arrived, and like the day he was found outside of St. Vincent's Hospital, all those years ago on January 12th, it was bitter cold! And it came with icy frigid winds, that blew over Catherine's balcony, bringing tiny tag-along crystallized snow flakes from the neighboring rooftops. However, this wintry night did not keep Catherine inside where it was cozy and warm... for she wanted to be outside, to greet Vincent when he came to her on his Birthday.

 

As she looked over the city, she anxiously awaited his arrival, when... like beautiful music resonating from a finely tuned instrument, she heard Vincent speak her name. Turning toward him, they looked at one another for a moment before she smiled, and softly told him, "Happy Birthday". She then took his hand in hers, and said, "Come inside Vincent... I have some tea steeping to warm you."

 

Silently he followed her, in his hesitant, unassuming manner which he owned whenever he entered her home. Stepping over the threshold into Catherine's apartment was something he had never quite felt commodious doing, however for Catherine's sake and comfort, he did so. Catherine always conscious of his trepidation on this matter, made an effort to soften the ambiance for him. She had only candles burning for light, and had Vincent's favorite music softly playing for him. This seemed to put him at ease in the past, and on this night, his birthday, she especially wanted him to be relaxed.

 

Taking his cloak, she invited him to sit down. As she poured the tea for them, this gave Vincent the chance to unabashedly look at his Catherine. She was so lovely, and he was pleased to see that she was wearing the necklace that he had given to her.

 

Smiling over at him, Catherine asked, "What are you thinking? I see a smile in your eyes. I hope this means that you are happy to be here with me on your most special day."

 

Softly he replied, "It does... Catherine, there is no place else I would rather be."

 

Attempting to stifle the eagerness she had in giving her gift to him, she calmly picked it up from the table. However, the excitement in her voice gave her away as she presented his beautifully tissue wrapped present to him. Shakily she said, "Vincent I have a gift for you... I hope that you will like it."

 

In wonderment he looked down at how delicately his present was wrapped, and felt warmed by Catherine's generosity. Lifting only his eyes, he captured her radiant gaze with his own, before he opened his gift.

 

Inside, was a red soft suede, Italian wrapped journal. Vincent untied the bow, and opened up to the ribbon marked page. As he began to silently read what Catherine had written, he stopped, and sweetly he looked at her, and asked if she would read what she had written aloud to him. Shyly smiling, Catherine consented and began:

 

Dearest Vincent,

Remember that day, I told you how much I loved you, and of how badly I needed you in my life? You tipped your head as you pondered my words, and you then asked me why this was so.

I answered you playfully, and said, "Because I just do."

But as I looked into your eyes, I realized that you really wanted to know. You had asked your question with such earnestness, that I thought you deserved a better answer than the one I gave you on that day. So I will do my best to answer you now, in this Birthday letter to you.

I need you because you nourish my heart every day, by who you are, and the way that you love me. Your appeal happens to expand all areas, and scope to me.

The words you choose to convey your feelings for me... make me feel loved and so worthy. I am astounded daily by your talent to do this. You find the words within your heart to share your deepest feelings and the most fleeting of your profound thoughts. How lucky I am to be included in your life, and be privy to such brilliance. You have a hunger and thirst for so many diverse areas. And when you zero in on a subject to conquer, you devour all the perspective information you can learn about it. Your ability to then utilize what you have absorbed is astounding, and your enthusiasm to share what you know is exciting and so cute. You have the heart of a teacher... you love to incite the desire in others to learn, and to know too.

Your giving nature knows no bounds. You please all those around you with the way you help them do what is needed to be done. Whether you do it yourself, work along side them, or lend them the assistance it is that they are in need of. Yet... you never make them feel needy or incompetent in the process, but rather you manage to make them feel special, because you seem to enjoy helping them so much.

The way you look, takes my breath away. Your hair, your physique... your hands. Your hands, have so lovingly rubbed my feet when they have been callused, and have fed me when I needed nourishment.

Your strong arms, have held me tightly to you, when I needed your comfort, and have provided the allotted oasis, for the permitted union of our souls.

I love too your sense of humor. Your subtleties make me smile and laugh with your wit and your introspective perspectives.

And your voice... ahh, your rich yet tender voice, resounding so pleasing in my ears. Always managing to stir that within me, that causes passion to reign over my entire self. It is true, it takes only the sound of your voice to invoke my want of you. Leaving me weak and ready to love you... I dream of the day that we are able to dissolve away the barriers that keep us so intimately apart.

The gentleness in your eyes... your beautiful blue eyes that are a reflection of your heart, the good kind heart that craves a sweet Godly righteousness for all that you love. And yet... this same heart beats a passionate cadence, that transcends and imagines the most romantic of fantasies. Yes you are a romantic man who needs dreams and who wishes for a life, where only love exists, where no one is abandoned, or left behind. You are like me... and I am like you. Never in my life have I loved, or been loved this completely... or so very sweetly.

On what ever level we are allowed to love, please know and remember this... I will never leave you. You will always have me in your life. I love you with all my heart, and because of this, our souls will be forever connected, here on earth, and tomorrow in the Heavens. I will love and need you always... until the end of time.

All my love, Catherine"

 

Closing the journal, she realized that she was crying tears of love for her Vincent. As she looked up at him, she thought he seemed to have a look of questioning wonderment on his face. Hadn't the Birthday letter that she had written to him explained why she loved and needed him so?

 

Touching his cheek, she softly said, "Vincent... tell me what is wrong."

 

Taking Catherine gently into his arms, he recited Shakespeare's Sonnet 29

 

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

I all alone beweep

my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself,

and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

Catherine still nestled within his embrace, listened as Vincent shared, "The first time I read this sonnet, I was certain that Shakespeare had reached through the centuries to communicate with me. However, it was not until I met you, that his words gave me any comfort, or gained full understanding."

 

He softly added, "I have read varying views of love from Shakespeare, Keats, Frost, Lord Byron and Kipling. However, none of their verses have warmed my heart as yours have Catherine. As each birthday comes and goes, it causes me to question my existence, evaluate my worth. I ask God why I am here... for what purpose? Today he has finally answered me... I now know that you are my purpose... my destiny. For you on this years marking of my birth, have provided me with such sweet answers. Today instead of cursing my fate, I count my many Blessings. What a gift you have given me. The gift of value and self worth."

 

Smiling up at him, she whispered, "You have given me those things too Vincent." She then passionately beseeched, "Stay with me... stay with me Vincent, until the dawn breaks on the horizon..."

 

Contemplating her request, he held her tightly and sighed, "As you wish Catherine.... as you wish."

 

Second Time Round
Vincent/Catherine

G

 

The people assembled around the dining table hushed when Catherine entered the room unexpectingly. Vincent had assured everyone, Catherine would be otherwise occupied for the evening, but low and behold there she stood. Guilt was upon each person's face.

 

Father started to explain, but was interrupted by Vincent entering the room from the opposite side of the room.

 

"Allow me Father," Vincent quietly announced.

 

"What are?" She said.

 

"Come with me Catherine, I can explain." Vincent replied.

 

She nodded her head in acquiesce, took the hand he held out to her and followed him out of the room. Ten feet away from the dining hall Catherine halted, stopping Vincent in his tracks. "Explain here. Now," she prodded.

 

"I think it would be better if I showed you. Would you come with me Catherine? I'm running out of time. If I don't leave now, I'll be unable to complete all my deliveries."

 

"Alright, I'll go with you, but I'm hurt Vincent. What was everyone doing with my gifts?"

 

"You'll see, come."

 

Catherine's excitement had vanished the moment she entered the dining hall chamber. Gifts that she had given were unwrapped and being stashed into satchels. It looked as if no one wanted the special items she had specifically picked out for him or her. Now she was off to some unknown adventure with Vincent, and he was carrying the same satchel full of gifts she had chosen just for him. They had been walking for sometime and Catherine was so deep in thought, she bumped into Vincent when he stopped in front of a wooden door. The place was a hovel from the outside and Graffiti covered the outside walls of the building. Vincent's firm knock was met with a belligerent voice from the inside.

 

"Take a hike Saturn rat or else I'll break your face."

 

"Johner, it's me Vincent, he gently replied."

 

The door almost swung off the hinges from the force of the man opening it.

 

"Vince good buddy, what brings you here?" Johner asked. "Ah, I see my Christmas present," he exclaimed while licking his lips and perusing Catherine from head to toe. "Good buddy I can't thank you enough. You've brought me the most delicious gift and I can't wait to unwrap her and here I was thinking you might be an alien at the door, he laughingly teased.

 

Catherine observed the man with nonchalance and humor. He had to be a little less than seven feet tall. He toppled Vincent no more than five inches, was all muscle and apparently thought himself bad to the bone.

 

"Man Vince, she looks like pure sugar. Tell me, does she taste like sweet candy? Surely, you have sampled the goods before sharing them with me?"

 

Catherine's body shook from the laughter she could no longer contain. The man was so full of himself.

 

"What's so funny honey? I can assure you if Vincent wasn't here, you'd be purring instead of laughing," Johner replied slyly.

 

"She belongs to me Johner," Vincent replied possessively.

 

"My apologies Ma'am," Johner replied chagrin. "So what brings you here good buddy?"

 

Vincent reached into the satchel and pulled out a pair of brand new, black leather gloves and handed them to Johner. "Happy Holidays Johner, these are from Catherine and me. I remember the last time I was here, you were complaining about losing your gloves on the spaceship, so we thought we'd give you these to replace them," Vincent replied in a serious tone.

 

Catherine looked at Vincent as though he had lost his mind. Did she hear correctly? Surely he didn't mean a real spaceship? she thought.

 

She looked at Johner's hand, and then at the gloves. The man's fingers were longer than Vincent's and she had to have them custom made for Vincent because his fingers were longer than the average man, but this guys fingers. There's no way would they ever fit him.

 

Johner reached for the gloves, pulled out dangerous looking knife and whacked off the end tip of each finger on the gloves. He pulled them on and proudly remarked, "Perfect fit Vince, thanks. Now what's for dessert?" he replied while leering at Catherine. He couldn't resist the last little tease and Vincent knew him well enough to expect it.

 

Catherine reached into her coat pocket and tossed him a candy cane.

 

Vincent smiled and replied. "It appears you've got your just desserts after all Johner. We hate to rush, but Catherine and I have other deliveries to make tonight. May peace always greet you at your door." Vincent lovingly grasped Catherine's hand and into the night they went, both noticing Johner's smiling face behind them as they closed the door.

 

Outside the small building they could hear Johner's loud bellow inside, thanking them for the gloves and for bringing him a little holiday cheer.

 

Catherine smiled and thought, "It was so much better to give, than receive. Are we almost finished? She asked."

 

"No," Vincent answered. "You tired?"

 

"Lead the way," she replied.

 

The next stop was a ramshackle wooden hut adorned with cracks and crevices filled with a white putty substance. Catherine could smell the cigar from the inside. This time she took the initiative and knocked on the rattletrap of a tin door.

 

"What ever it is your selling, I'm not buying a voice hollered from the inside."

 

"Brodie, it's Vincent. Are you decent?"

 

"The door's open Vincent," the voice replied chuckling.

 

Vincent and Catherine stepped over the threshold into a room full of empty beer bottles and cigar stubs. Empty TV dinner trays littered the dirt floor. A huge man lounged in an old reclining chair in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt with a loose towel around his waist.

 

"Scuse me if I don't get up folks, I'm two sheets to the wind, I think."

 

"Please remain seated Brodie. Catherine and I just wanted to bring you a book of poetry. I remember the last time I was here, you mentioned that you needed some good reading material instead of the mercenary magazines you hoarded."

 

"Keats? This is perfect Vincent; it's just what I needed to take my mind off the little lady. I forced her to go away. Who wants to hang around a man who looks like I do, and can barely walk? It's a wonder I haven't scared off your tiny petite woman."

 

Catherine smiled. "What do you think your little lady would make of Vincent's face?" Catherine asked.

 

"On second thought, maybe my face isn't so bad after all. No offense Vincent," Brodie replied sheepishly.

 

"None taken," Vincent replied.

 

"Take my advice," Catherine replied. "Clean this place up, clean yourself up and go after your little lady. It's not what you have on the outside that counts; it's what you have on the inside. Your face… well let me just say, I love Vincent's face, but it's not what I love most about him. Life is what you make of it. If you sit around and wait for things to come, it will never happen, but things will come to you if you seek them for yourself. Now seems a good time as any. Vincent and I have other stops to make, so go for your little lady and don't waste one more precious moment. Time to go Vincent, Brodie has an agenda."

 

"She's a keeper Vincent, now get her out of here before she convinces me to recite prayers," Brodie laughingly replied.

 

"Goodnight Brodie, Happy Holidays," Vincent replied easing the door closed.

 

"Do you think he'll go for her?" Catherine asked.

 

"If it was you, I would," Vincent answered.

 

Their last stop was at a small church chapel. Vincent held the door open for Catherine to enter. Candles were lit and the smell of pine enveloped the tiny room.

 

"Josiah, where are you?" Vincent whispered reverently.

 

Catherine saw the tall, grungy tan hat first, then the man's face followed as he rose from the kneeling position he held on the floor.

 

"Well partner, it's about time you brought your woman with you. Howdy ma'am, Josiah here at your service," he replied while tipping his hat at the same time.

 

"Merry Christmas Josiah, Catherine and I have brought you a gift," Vincent held out a black knit cap to Josiah and waited for his reaction.

 

Josiah took the hat and turned it over in his hand. Removing his tan hat, he placed the black knit cap on his head. "Most appreciative Vincent, this old hat I've been wearing stinks to high heaven. But don't ya'll worry none, like my maw always says, It will wash. Now tell me, are you staying for the evening services?" Josiah asked hopefully.

 

Before Catherine and Vincent could answer a man wearing a red clown wig burst into the chapel.

 

"Father Josiah I need your help."

 

"Now Cliff, how many times have I told you, I'm not that kind of father," Josiah replied.

 

"Sorry preacher, but I really need you to pray for me. I've got a chance to star in a TV series, but this dude RON PERLMAN is competing for the roll. You've must help me preacher. I need prayer. I need the part. The evil is coming out of me. My last movie seemed so real. I played a serial killer. Now I have the chance for a fantastic part. It's… "

 

"Cliff, CLIFF. Come let's pray."

 

Vincent had moved into the shadows and covered his head with his cloak when the intruder burst through the door. Catherine stood in front on him, to shield him the best she could with her petite frame. Josiah motioned them to leave the chapel and whispered, "Until next time. Come back soon though, possibly for your nuptials," he prodded wickedly. He then turned and guided Cliff to the front of the chapel praying silently for the patience of a saint. Cliff was going to be a hand full.

 

Catherine and Vincent quickly exited the chapel. They passed a tall, striking blue-eyed man entering the chapel, muttering to himself, "There's no way I'm allowing a red headed serial killer play my part in Beauty and the Beast. I was born for this beast roll." His voice faded as he entered the chapel.

 

"Oh boy, I think we better make haste Vincent. I sense trouble stirring for Josiah."

 

"You mean you sense trouble stirring for you Catherine, I can smell the stench of Josiah's hat. You may have taken on more than you can handle. Josiah will come for his hat. It's been handed down from Father to son and I know Josiah intends to hand it down one day himself, Vincent replied.

 

Catherine sighed. "I guess I'll just have to wash it then."

 

"Do you mind so much Catherine? My giving your gifts to others?"

 

"No, I thinks it's wonderful to give them a second time around, she replied happily."

 

"So tell me, did I hear you say something about a spaceship? And what about the nuptials Josiah was talking about?" She asked.

 

Pester
Vincent/Catherine

PG-13

 

Vincent was just going back to his chamber when he heard someone mention his name, but he wasn’t quite sure who it was.

 

“I wonder who wants me now? Though I wish people would stop pestering me sometimes.”

 

Meanwhile, in his chamber Catherine heard him, and thinking out loud she said, “I wish a certain someone would pester me,” and at that very moment Vincent entered his chamber.

 

“How exactly would you like me to 'pester' you Catherine? The possibilities are endless.” And he gave her one of his rare smiles.

 

She didn’t know what to say, and just as she was trying to think of an answer, there was a message for Vincent on the pipes from Father, asking Vincent to go and see him.

 

So stalling for time she said to him, “Perhaps you had best go and see what Father wants you for first Vincent, I’ll still be here when you get back.”

 

“Yes you’re right,” he told her and he left his chamber after giving her a very knowing smile.

 

And she was left feeling very mischievous in his absence.

 

“Right,” she thought, “how would I like Vincent to pester me, and how can I suggest those things without scaring him off?”

 

Then she remembered that knowing smile as he left her, and wondered what he was thinking of.

 

Vincent was gone quite a long time, so she decided to lie on his bed ‘til he came back. When he finally did, he saw that she had fallen asleep, and a mischievous smile crossed his face.

 

Very quietly, so as not to wake her, he crossed to the bed after picking up a long feather from the table. He got on to the bed beside her, and put his plan into action.

 

First he drew the feather across her cheek, and she stirred slightly. Next he trailed across her chin, with the same result. Then very daringly, unable to believe his boldness, he put the feather into the v-neck of her blouse, and then withdrew it very slowly.

 

This time it had the desired effect, and she came fully awake. At first she couldn’t believe that he was actually on the bed beside her, so she closed her eyes again, and then re-opened them. He was beside her.

 

“Vincent,” she murmured.

 

“Yes Catherine.”

 

“Umm…”

 

“What’s wrong my love, are you lost for words?”

 

Catherine’s jaw dropped, and she was truly speechless, because she couldn’t believe that he’d called her “my love.”

 

Very gently he closed her mouth.

 

“Now Catherine, what were you saying about me pestering you?”

 

She tried to bluster her way out of it, but Vincent wasn’t having any.

 

“Shall I pester you like this?” and he dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead.

 

“Or like this?” and he kissed her nose.

 

“Or like this and this?” and he kissed each cheek.

 

By now Catherine was breathless, because she couldn’t believe what he was doing.

 

“Or like this?” and he finally kissed her mouth.

 

“Oh Vincent, you don’t know how long I’ve been wanting you to do that.”

 

“I believe I do, because for some time I have sensed your need.”

 

And then he lowered his head and took her mouth again. Gently at first, but then he angled his head, and deepened the kiss.

 

When they finally came up for air, they were both stunned.

 

“Vincent,” she managed to whisper, “do you think you could…?”

 

“What my love?”

 

“Pester me some more.”

 

“I think I could manage that.”

 

And he lowered his head to her mouth once more.

 

Then all was quiet for some time, as he continued to “pester” her.

 

Break
Vincent/Catherine

G

 

She was feeling yucky. Blah. Not quite blue, but maybe gray. Why did January days do this to her? There was a drizzly rain in the air. Mouse had called it “spitting.” That was a very good description. The sky was spitting on her.

 

Why was she so down? As she walked to the subway stop, Catherine Chandler admitted to herself that she was just tired – bone weary tired. She hugged her coat tighter to herself and trudged onward, joylessly attempting to avoid puddles. There would be no one to greet her tonight as she arrived home at the condo.

 

‘It’s as well that Vincent is away this evening. Maybe it’s time for me to do some thinking.’ Catherine said to herself. Catherine’s joy in her husband and her extended family led her to spend each moment in their presence – when she was not working.

 

Work. Her work in the DA’s office was taking a toll on her spirit. Her “big bro” Joe had been promoted and she had transferred to the trial division. The work she did was less dangerous but felt more emotionally draining. She did not always feel that way. She remembered the exhilaration of her wins and the satisfaction of helping others. Those moments of satisfaction seemed fewer and far between.

 

Catherine finally reached her cozy yet silent home, unlocked the door, and entered the Wells haven. Upon entry, she shrugged out of her coat and boots. She finger-combed her honey-blond hair and set off to the bathroom. Her trek was abruptly stopped by the phone’s ring.

 

“What time should I come over, Cathy?” It was Jenny! Did she forget a date with her best friend? “I know we don’t have plans tonight but I have a feeling you need some girlfriend time.”

 

“Yes I do, Jenny. Can you pick up some sushi and get here whenever you can?”

 

“See you in an hour. Time me” responded Jenny’s perky voice.

 

“Better than Domino’s. See you, friend!” Catherine felt a little better. As she hung up the phone, she took a deep breath and reached out with her soul to feel the sweet link from her heart to Vincent’s. She felt that he too, was well but tired. She sent a message of love between their heartstrings. She felt better already.

 

Cathy washed her hair then ran a warm bath. Instead of her usual choice of classical music, she put on Lucinda Williams’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.”  Good music to feel “gray” too. By the time “Still I Long For Your Kiss” played, she was singing along lustily and the hot water had been refreshed many times.

 

Not long afterward, her friend Jenny arrived to the old condo. Jenny barged in, put down her parcels, and gave Cathy a great big hug. “I had a feeling you needed to talk.”

 

“Yes I do, Jenny, but I don’t know what about. I guess I just need to ramble -- and eat” Cathy said with a slight grin. “Let me make some green tea to go with our feast. Oh goody – salmon skin rolls!”

 

The friends first gossiped a bit about their friends and family and Cathy gradually relaxed so that her heart took over the conversation. “Jenny – I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m just so tired. Life with Vincent is wonderful, but when I find myself bustling about, I just want to cry. I feel ridiculous because I have been so blessed.”

 

“Have you been to see Peter?”

 

“No, do you think I should?”

 

“To quote my bubby, ‘what could it hurt’?” Jenny replied. ‘But Cathy, I think you have a right to be tired. You have been going non-stop for years. Whenever you take vacation time, you are work below. When’s the last time you just took a week off and read a book that was not in old English? You have been so busy trying to help everyone and show how substantial you are, I think you have been neglecting yourself. Hasn’t Vincent encouraged you to take a break?”

 

“Yes, but I feel so guilty. But that does sound nice.”

 

Jenny broke in. “I mean a real break. Time not to live by a clock or calendar. How about spending a day at the library, or the mall? Oh, heavens, to get a massage and facial! Let me ask you another question, Cath. Do you still enjoy your work? What else do you want to do when you grow up? No need to be in a hurry, anyway, about figuring out that last one.”

 

“I admit work has been making me tired. I think the building is sapping my strength.”

 

“Then take a real break – a sabbatical. You really don’t have to work for a living, so enjoy it! What use is a blessing if you don’t take time to appreciate it now and then? Here – I’ll write you a permission slip. But take a real break – no going below to help out the whole time you are off.”

 

“Jenny – you are serious. Let me see that note.” She looked at Jenny’s scribbled note. ‘I, Jenny Aaronson, best friend and honorary Jewish mother, give Catherine Chandler permission to take a break.’ Cathy felt tears in her eyes – at both her friend’s thoughtfulness and the promise of relief from doing just that. Maybe she would learn to cook – or refinish furniture. There were so many things in New York alone for her to see and share with Vincent.

 

“What would Vincent say, or Father? What would the folks below think?”

 

“It does not matter what Father thinks. I believe it’s a grand idea,” rumbled a deep, stirring voice as delicious as chocolate. “Would it help if your husband also wrote a note, too?”

 

“Hey, big guy!” Jenny said cheerfully. She ran to give Vincent a quick hug while Catherine stared at him, open-mouthed. How did he arrive without her feeling his presence?

 

“Hello, my dearest honorary Jewish mother” Vincent replied with a grin. Then he turned to his wife. “My Catherine, you are weary.” Vincent strode to his wife and sat on the couch beside her. He had barely opened his arms when she collapsed into them. “I did not want you getting up to greet me in the tunnels, as I knew you would have if you had felt my return. It is most fortunate I snuck into my own home, so to speak. I think Jenny’s words have reached you where mine have not. You do deserve a rest, my darling. During this sabbatical you are welcome below, as my dearest and as a beloved helper – but not a working resident.“

 

“But Vincent…”

 

“No ‘buts,’ my Catherine. Jenny – how much notice should Catherine give her work?”

 

“Two weeks is customary. Vincent, do you think we can take turns sitting on her to make her do this?” Jenny said laughingly.

 

“That won’t be necessary. Thanks Jenny.” Catherine felt herself on the verge of tears, not quite believing this audacious, liberating plan.

 

Jenny, ever the intuitive friend, hugged her friend and let herself out. As soon as the door closed, the threatening tears trickled down Catherine’s wan yet lovely face.

 

“God – why am I crying now? I am such a wuss!” Catherine sniffled.

 

Vincent was not sure what a ‘wuss’ was but was sure that Catherine was not one. He kissed her tears away then said “No, my dear Catherine. You are valiant and caring. But you are tired. Our years together have not exactly been uneventful” he said with a wry chuckle. “Maybe your weariness comes from your desire to enjoy our happy life warring with your sense of duty. ‘There is a time for everything under heaven.’ Enjoy this time now.”

 

“Carpe Diem” Catherine replied softly. Her eye looked less tired. Her body, now relaxed, molded to Vincent’s perfectly.

 

“Yes” Vincent said with a smile, and then he bent his head to gently kiss his dearest treasure. There was a hint of passion in their kiss, and also a sense of relief. Catherine was still so tired. Tonight he would tuck her into their bed and hold her as she slept. Tomorrow they would celebrate. Maybe he would take a little break himself.

 

And they lived happily ever after.

 

In Need of a Hug
Vincent/Catherine

PG

Untouched by the oppressive heat of August, deep in the cool earth, a tiny hidden community flourishes. Tonight, they pass the evening listening to a narration of a classic tale of lovers. The candlelit chamber of the Library was filled with almost every underground resident. They sat on chairs, stools and crates, on the floor and spiral staircase, leaned against furniture and tables, hung off the balcony, and settled on any other surface that made a suitable place to sit or lean.

The Tunnel’s patriarch, affectionately called Father by everyone, sat in their midst, his reading-glasses balanced on the end of his nose. His deep, Shakespearean voice was well suited for the reading of Romeo and Juliet.

Returning late from an excavation site and then waiting for an empty bathing chamber, Vincent stood in the lower doorway of the vaulted room to listen to «The scene on the balcony.» The expression of love’s joy, love’s sorrow, and love’s hope; so beautiful and bittersweet, always moved him. The impact of emotion never diminished no matter how many times he heard the tale or read it himself. Vincent’s blue eyes scanned the people crammed into the book-cluttered room, his shadowed gaze beneath a deep topaz brow lingered fondly upon the numerous pairs of sweethearts. They sat content in each other’s presence and touch; an arm laid across the shoulder; a lazy caress of a back; the entwined knot of fingers; an encircling embrace. As for the children, some were sitting in the lap of a parent or adult while others were on the floor leaning against a friendly set of legs.

For a moment, Vincent envied the physical loving contact between families and lovers. He yearned for the days of childhood when he had been small enough to climb into a lap or prompt a hug by a simple request. He missed the casual affection---longed for it. He dipped his head, hiding the brief pain that crossed his leonine features behind the curtain of his golden mane.

He should not think such thoughts. What was there really to long for or envy? He was loved. The children, friends… Catherine… often hugged him; his peers gave him an occasional pat on the back. Father would often pull him close, hold his head between his gloved hands, and kiss his brow. These physical expressions of affections should be enough. Yet, there was something else that he longed for but dare not acknowledge. Casual affection was not the answer... or sufficient to fill the void in his soul.

As these thoughts spiraled through him the reading of the passage concluded and Vincent moved on, leaving the family gathering behind. He was restless, discontent. He had reached a point in his introspection, a very personal point, which left him unsettled in his resolve. Should his relationship with Catherine move forward—could it? She had become bolder in her touches during the long weeks of his recovery. He looked forward to their frequent visits and savored each brief loving contact she offered. He found himself almost dying from anticipation for an absent-minded touch, a comforting caress, a lingering hug, or a comfortable embrace. Then there was her sweet kiss against his velvet cheek that Catherine would give him before their time together would end. A kiss so sweet and innocent, but with a strong undercurrent of passion. How he lived for these moments. How he dreaded these moments. How he longed for the next moment.

Father’s lifelong warnings was beginning to ring hollow in his ears, yet he still heeded those whispering voices. Catherine’s more romantic thoughts and actions left him uneasy, yet hungry for what they promised; promises of a closeness that could never be between them. There were too many dangers to risk ruining what they could share. Vincent had not told Catherine how much her desires really affected him or of the unhappiness they caused. He was ashamed of having the same wants and desires as Catherine; they plagued his dreams. He tried to distance his mind, detach himself, as was his lifelong habit, but the whispers of her passion were become too hard to resist.

«Vincent.» It was Mary’s voice that broke him from his troubled thoughts. He turned as she met up with him in the narrow tunnel.

Mary was the self-proclaimed surrogate mother to every tunnel child, young and old. Vincent was twelve when the saintly lady came to the tunnels and immediately took charge of the orphans and abandoned ones. Her auburn hair was turning gray and her weathered face was beginning to show her age but Mary was no less radiant and beautiful. She had a generous, warm heart and her sweet smile was timeless.

The maternal woman opened her arms wide beckoning a hug as she stepped up to the leonine man standing head and shoulders over her. Mary stood on tiptoe as the golden man stooped to allow her to wrap her thin arms around his lofty neck. Her hug was fierce.

After a moment, Vincent pulled her back to arm’s length, his sapphire eyes silently inquiring about the reason for the impulsive action.

«You looked like someone in desperate need of a hug,» Mary smiled sweetly. «I’ve seen that look of longing on many a child’s face.»

Vincent cocked his elegant golden head. A shy smile touched the corner of his unique mouth. «I am hardly a child,» he said in his soft, gravel voice.

«Oh, we never outgrow affection,» Mary returned. She sighed and her expression became reflective, as if remembering years past. «Though it seems to come less and less frequently the older we get… I wonder why it is so?»

«Yes.» Vincent agreed, his sculptured features warming at Mary’s spoken truth.

The tunnel elder went on. «It feels so good when a child comes to me for a hug. It is like a reward… making me feel warm and wonderful inside.»

«Ah... the days of childhood,» Vincent sighed. «Curling up in a lap… The passing tousle of one’s hair… Hugging a pair of legs…» He chuckled, the rumble deep in his barrel chest.

Mary laughed as she made herself comfortable on Vincent’s elbow as his walk resumed.

«Sometimes, even the affection of a child or friend is not enough,» Mary remarked quietly.

Vincent was silent, listening.

«There is an affection that can only be given by someone truly special; an intimate closeness that only they can give and satisfy you.» Mary spoke as if remembering another place and time; memories of a long, lost love. «I miss that love… that physical closeness most of all.»

«What do you do when you cannot… have it?» Vincent asked. Father had reminded him over and over that there was no place in his life for intimacy. A physical union was not his to embrace because of what he was and the danger his differences and primal passions could unleash. He was told to never want physical closeness, never seek it out, and somehow that yearning would go away or cease to exist at all. A teenage tragedy proved Father’s belief was right, but his relationship and bond with Catherine challenged Vincent’s resolve every day.

Mary was quiet for a moment. «I think we find and embrace our own substitute to fill the void. The children do this for me… I do not know what I would do without them.»

Vincent had to agree. He often gave the children a hug if they initiated one, but he never offered it himself. He returned their hugs as a teacher and friend. The hugs from Catherine were stolen moments of bliss, but marred by his continuing inward battle for discipline and control. Even when he was so bold as to pull her close, his passions would threaten his offered comfort.

The gentle, burly man halted and turned the tunnel matriarch to face him. He looked deep into her soft brown eyes. «Is it ever… truly… enough?»

Mary looked down and away for a moment. Thoughtfully, she nodded her head. «Most of the time.»

Her eyes raised and narrowed at the tall, golden young man. Her motherly instincts did not miss the angle of his question. «It is never enough to totally satisfy my heart---if that is what you want to know.»

It was Vincent’s turn to look away like a child whose indiscretions had been discovered, hiding his features behind the curtain of his long red-gold flax. Unsatisfied… that described him too well.

Mary touched his arm lightly. «Vincent, doesn’t your relationship with Catherine give you what you seek? Doesn’t she satisfy your heart?»

The furrow of his bristled brow deepened as he raised his head, his blue eyes shifting to look over her shoulder, away and beyond the tunnels, focusing somewhere unseeing. «Catherine is my greatest joy… yet she brings me my greatest pain.» He moved away from Mary, paced to the tunnel wall and put his back against it. The light of a nearby torch and the shadows accentuated the exotic panes of his animal-like features. «I can only safely offer her my friendship, a platonic relationship. I welcome her hugs… but… any other physical closeness is impossible for us because of who and what I am. She wants so much to give and I cannot… I do not dare accept it or give it in return. The dangers…» His voice trailed off as he shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of hopelessness.

Mary’s heart went out to this extraordinary leonine son of Jacob. The boy, now a man, so sensitive in nature and affectionate toward those who asked him to express his love, could not accept that same affection from someone waiting to give him the personal closeness he craved. He needed a lover’s tender, healing touch. How tragic that in the parental name of love Vincent had been taught that this basic human need was not for him to receive or even want. This selfish craving was a source of shame in him. Father’s hard-lined way of thinking had been so deeply ingrained into his son that it had survived the darkness that had consumed and changed this fragile soul.

«I hear Father talking.» Mary said sadly.

Vincent bowed his head low and sighed. He let his distress show. «What am I to do?»

Mary stepped in front of him. Her fingers brushed back his heavy fall of golden mane, so that she could see his face. «Vincent,» She said softly, «You must follow your own heart. You must not be afraid to ask for what you need so badly and be willing to receive it with open arms. Every person needs to be loved; everyone needs to be held… especially you. Don’t be ashamed to want it.»

The deep-set eyes glittered in their shadow. He shook his head sadly. «I cannot.»

Mary lightly gripped his arms. «What are you afraid of?» She asked him.

Vincent looked away and was silent so long Mary was sure he had reverted into his old habit of withdrawing from subjects he did not wish to discuss.

«I am afraid of myself.» His voice faltered and became a hoarse whisper. «I am afraid of… losing myself… losing control… hurting her… losing her.» There was such pain and turmoil in his eyes.

Mary smiled. «Oh, Vincent…You are not going to lose Catherine, especially after everything you have been through… Even I know that you could never hurt her.»

«How can I be sure?» Vincent lamented.

«Because,» Mary said, putting her hand on Vincent’s chin and lifting his eyes to meet hers. She looked straight into those baby blues she loved so much and declared, «Catherine came out of that dark cave without a scratch on her.»

Vincent was silent, pondering this. When he was beyond control of himself, in the aftermath he would find Catherine there. She had faced the beast within him several times and each time she came away unharmed.

«Vincent, you need her,» the tunnel mother continued gently. «You need what only Catherine can give you… her love… her touch… There is nothing to be afraid of. Go to her. Tell her what you have told me… Tell her you need her.»

Mary watched hopefulness fade as the old fears reared their stubborn heads in the troubled blue orbs that met her sparkling smile. How Vincent wanted to believe her, how he tried.

He sadly shook his head. «It is… too risky,» Vincent insisted. «It is impossible.»

Mary nodded with love and understanding. Nothing she could say would be able to persuade him. Vincent had to discover the truth on his own. She knew nothing was impossible where Vincent and Catherine were concerned. Some things would just take more time. Mary could only hope that she had planted the seed of possibility within him.

Vincent looked like he needed another hug and Mary gave him one and whispered that she loved him.

«Catherine’s love alone is enough then… to satisfy your heart?» Mary asked as she released him and stepped back.

Vincent looked into Mary’s calm gaze, and sadly sighed, «It has to be… for me.» Even as he said it, Vincent was no longer sure of his own declaration and without him being fully aware of it, within his heart, a small seed of hope took root.

 

3S, SND: And I will Always Love You

SND & 3S

G

 

Vincent’s soft tap on her skylight startled her out of her reverie. Diana hadn’t expected to see him this night. Slowly rising to her feet, she trudged up the stairs to her roof top. He was there, leaning against the half-wall that surrounded the roof, gazing in fascination at the bright city lights. Tonight they seemed to glow extra brightly in the unusually clear air that had been washed clean by a heavy afternoon shower.

 

A fragment of memory flashed into her thoughts. On a night similar to this, she had met him on the rooftop. But that night he had barely glanced at the lights, half-sitting listlessly on the parapet. In an attempt to raise his spirits, she had noted; «The lights of the city are beautiful after the rain, so shiny and bright.» Facing him, she noticed the look on his face that meant that he was thinking of her: Catherine.

 

He had turned to look at them for the first time since coming to her roof, then had quickly turned his back to them as if their radiance burned him. «No,» he had said tonelessly. «There is no light in them for me.»

 

Gently trying to reassure him, she had said, «There will be. They will shine again for you someday.»

 

«Never. She is gone.» He had leaned even more heavily on the parapet.

 

«Oh Vincent,» she had whispered sadly, feeling at a loss and had turned away from his deep melancholy, unable to soothe his wounded heart.

 

But tonight he turned a glowing countenance to her, looking younger and more relaxed than she had ever seen him. With a smile, he encompassed the city with a sweeping gesture and repeated her words of that other unhappy time, «The lights of the city are beautiful tonight after the rain. They shine with an intensity that has been missing for many months.»

 

«Everything looks brighter when the dark clouds have been lifted,» she said.

 

«Yes,» he exulted, elation coloring the word.

 

Drawing her sweater close about her, she shivered with a feeling of impending doom. She knew what he was going to tell her and had expected this meeting, only not this soon. Her bright and happy world had suddenly turned cold and grey. When she had received word that Catherine was returning, literally from the dead, she had dropped bonelessly into a nearby kitchen chair, the phone slipping from her nerveless fingers, as she stared into a bleak future.

 


Over the months, after Catherine Chandler’s supposed death, Diana and Vincent had grown close, becoming good friends, depending on each other when they needed comfort, advice, or consolation. She had even begun to dream of a future: a future that included Vincent, Jacob, and her. Now that future was gone in the space of one short telephone call.

 

Fearing that the whole affair could be nothing more than a cruel hoax designed to give the perpetrator access to Catherine’s money, she had sent a cautionary note to Vincent, warning him to be extra careful and to be certain that it truly was Catherine.

 

He had sent a note back to her stating, «Do not be concerned. I will know if it is Catherine.»

 

Uneasy, knowing there was nothing she could do, Diana had waited, for what seemed a lifetime, for the assurance that it wasn’t the other woman. On the night that she had convinced herself that she should go Below to find out the truth for herself, Vincent sent her a message: ‘Rejoice for me, my friend.’ She had gasped in pain and tears had threatened to blur the words she was reading. Dashing them away with the back of her hand, she had continued to read. ‘My Beloved is returned to me alive, and while not completely well, I look forward to restoring her to full health. It is Catherine. Of that there is no doubt. All agree, even little Jacob. He will not be separated from her, not even for a second. I cannot tell you, my dear friend, how I feel, how I rejoice in her slightest touch, in her loving glances, in her tender care for our (lovely word) son. I will come to you some evening to personally express my thanks. Your tender consideration of Catherine’s and my feelings at this joyful but, at the same time, stressful time is greatly appreciated. Come Below when you can.’ He had signed his full name as always.

 

Laying the note aside, she had leaned disconsolately back into the corner of her couch. How I have deluded myself. I am his friend, nothing more. And selfishly she had carried her thoughts forward. Why did she have to come back? I love him. I would have been good for him. I know it. But a line from a Dolly Parton song summed it all up: ‘I’m not what you need.’ She may need him but he needed Catherine. End of story.

 

So, now she stood in the cool of the night waiting tensely to hear what he had to say. But suddenly she couldn’t bear the thought of hearing him apologize or explain, and as he opened his mouth, she held up her hand. «No, don’t say anything.» She would breakdown and cry if he did. «I know that I was only a substitute.»

 

«No, Diana,» he took her cold hands in his, «Not a substitute. A dear and much loved friend.»

 

«Yes,» she agreed, his unintentional words of hurt shattering her heart. «You better go. I’m sure Catherine is waiting for you.»

 

Vincent glowed with joy at the thought of Catherine waiting Below for him, and sensing what Diana was feeling, he pulled her into a comforting embrace. «Come to the tunnels soon, Diana.»

 

Drinking in his warmth and solidness, she shook her head against his chest. «Not just yet, I would only be in the way. Soon, I promise.»

 

Understanding her, he placed a soft kiss on the crown of her auburn-haired head and then stepped back.

 

«I love you,» she whispered as her arms reluctantly released him.

 

Tilting his head, his compassionate and knowing eyes said, «I know.»

 

«Be well, Diana.» And he was gone.

 

Words from the sad love song that had haunted her for the last several days floated up through the open skylights, and she repeated the words that he would never hear her say, «And I will always love you.»

 

Hugging the pain to her tightly, she stumbled blindly to the open door that led to her loft. Moving zombie-like down the stairs, she stopped on the bottom step, wondering what she was going to do. «Survive, of course!» a part of her cried. «I have always survived and I will survive this.»

 

Somewhat fortified, she climbed into bed, thinking that she would never fall asleep, but to her surprise she slept deeply and dreamlessly, awakening in the morning ready to face her new life. She had learned that she could love deeply and truly. But she had loved a man who had never been available. And he had taught her, with his own life, that no matter how different you are, there is someone out there waiting to love you. Vincent had found his Catherine. And even though she knew that she would love him forever, she, Diana, would find the one waiting to love her.

 

 

Sweet Dreams
Vincent/Catherine

PG

 

She couldn’t sleep. She’d been tossing and turning for more than an hour. She’d had one of those delightfully intimate dreams about Vincent, and had subsequently awakened to a very large and lonely bed. She’d been turning over in her mind the idea of going to spend the rest of the night with Vincent. She’d fantasized about quietly entering his chamber and slipping into bed with him. She suddenly decided she was going to do it. She got up and put on shoes and an overcoat, grabbed her keys and was off.

 

She had grown accustomed to spending many weekends Below, but ever since her relationship with Vincent had begun to take physical turns, almost a month ago now, he’d come up with reasons why she shouldn’t stay over. She understood why; he wasn’t ready to cross into the sexual realm yet, and her presence either offered too great a temptation or put too much pressure on him. Poor Vincent. He’d spent his whole life telling himself a physical relationship with a woman was out of the question. It was remarkable he’d come as far as he had in so short a time.

 

"Catherine!" a voice called out. She stopped. A sentry called to her from his hiding place. "You’re here late. Is anything wrong?"

 

"No," she replied, looking around for the peephole. "I just couldn’t sleep, and I thought I’d see if I could sleep any better here Below." Well, it was mostly true.

 

"Should I send Vincent a message that you’re here?" the sentry asked. "Of course, he might not hear it."

 

"No, don’t wake him. I can find my way. Good night." She continued on her way, trying to be careful to keep her anticipatory feelings quiet. She arrived at Vincent’s chamber and entered on tiptoe, listening carefully.

 

She could hear his breathing, the slow, relaxed breath of sleep. She started to feel sleepy already herself. She approached the bed and had to stifle a sigh. He looked... so gorgeous, so innocent, like some magnificent, leonine angel. She quietly took her coat off and hung it over a chair, then removed her shoes. She was just about to lift the blanket to slip into bed, when she stopped. What was she doing?! This was way outside the boundaries of their relationship, not as far as it once was, but still. Had she lost her mind?

 

She picked up her coat and her shoes and moved to leave as quietly as possible, but...

 

"Catherine?" Vincent asked doubtfully, half-awake, as if not expecting an answer.

 

For half an instant, she contemplated not answering, but with his acute senses, he’d realize she was here in the next moment anyway. She walked back to the bed and timidly said, "Hi."

 

"Catherine, is... is something wrong?" He could feel nothing amiss through the bond.

 

"No," she answered quietly.

 

"Why are you here?" he asked.

 

Television characters, in such situations, invariably made up some ridiculous, involved lie to explain their behavior. They always paid for it too. She sighed. There was only one real option: the truth.

 

"I’m sorry, Vincent. I shouldn’t be here. I had a dream about you, and I woke up feeling very lonely. Well, I couldn’t go back to sleep, and finally, on an impulse I decided to come here and sleep with you in your bed. I was just climbing in and I stopped myself. I don’t know what got into me, Vincent. I was just escorting myself to the door, when you caught me. I’m really, truly, very sorry, Vincent. Please forgive me." She stood, coat and shoes still in hand, staring at the floor.

 

Vincent, stunned as he was by this confession, could not help but also be amused by her predicament. He said, in a very serious tone, "On one condition."

 

She looked up meekly, her head still bent, awaiting the condition with trepidation.

 

Vincent drew the covers aside and said gently, "Come to bed, Catherine." She looked at him in amazement, accidentally dropping her shoes. Vincent chuckled as she bent to pick them up. She was obviously flustered, but she got a grip on herself in short order.

 

"Vincent, are you teasing me?" she asked, sitting down on the bed to face him.

 

"Yes. I thought you had it coming." He paused as she looked down in obvious disappointment. "But if you’re here to sleep, then stay." Her head popped back up.

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes. You did come here to sleep, didn’t you, Catherine?"

 

She dropped her chin in the beginning of a nod, but honesty prevented her from completing it. She looked away.

 

"Catherine?"

 

She looked up at him timidly, unable to completely hide her mischief. "Well, you can’t blame a girl for hoping one action would lead to another, can you?!"

 

Vincent tried to suppress his smile. "I suppose not." He paused, Catherine watching him intently. "Come to bed, Catherine."

 

Catherine scrambled under the covers and was nestled close to Vincent in an instant. "Catherine, I reserve the right to send you away later if need be."

 

"Fair enough," she said with gusto, hugging Vincent tightly. After a moment, and more quietly, she said, "Thank you, Vincent." She yawned. "I’ve wanted to do this for a long time."

 

"Likewise," he said softly.

 

Her drowsy eyes opened again, after a delayed reaction, and she smiled at him.

 

"I’ve had the same experience, Catherine, of waking to find myself alone. Sometimes I come to your balcony and watch you sleep for a time."

 

It was Catherine’s turn to be surprised by his actions. "I hope next time you come in," she said seductively.

 

"Perhaps. Let’s see how tonight goes."

 

She smiled again and yawned greatly, snuggling closer. "Good night, Vincent."

 

"Good night, Catherine." He kissed her forehead, and tried to focus on the sleepy feeling that was settling over her. In truth, he didn’t expect to sleep any more this night, with Temptation herself asleep in his arms. But he thought he should make an attempt, and he realized with some surprise that he was starting to get that fuzzy feeling. He closed his eyes, and his last thought before drifting off was that there must be something extremely comforting and familiar about their shared embrace, that it could lull them both off to sleep so easily.

 

Have We not Heard the Chocolate at Midnight

Vincent/Catherine

PG-13

 

On the First Night, Jenny came over so that they could light Catherine's menorah together.

 

Catherine put on her favorite CD of Christmas bells. Jenny sang Jewish filks to it.

 

They laughed until they cried.

 

Traditions were good things. Friends were better ones.

 

Jenny's first gift was a few mesh bags of chocolate coins wrapped in foil.

 

"Now those are familiar... but I can never remember what they're called." Catherine sighed.

 

"Gelt. You can remember it 'cause you feel guilty after eating them." Jenny snickered.

 

"Ooh, yes. Now that, I remember."

 

More laughter. More thinking.

 

"Hmm... actually, I know just what I can do with these. No, what Vincent and I can do with them."

 

"Um... eat them?" But Jenny's eyes danced wickedly.

 

"Oh, it's not that we're going to eat them... it's how!" Catherine's eyes danced back.

 

The women's laughter rang like the bells and shone like the candles.