Classic Round Robin
she slipped into bed, Catherine purposely tried to keep thoughts from
both the Brewster case and the mysterious blue-eyed woman from
crowding her mind. Vincent was right, she was
tired and badly needed a good night’s sleep. For the same reason,
she resisted the urge to look further into the book. She just
switched off the light and snuggled under the covers, willfully
filling her mind with happy thoughts to lull herself into sleep.
What happier thought could there be?
the last months, they had been steadily growing closer to a
commitment they both longed for, but that she felt him still
reluctant to make, for he knew, as she did, that there would, could
be no turning back. Yet, however slowly and hesitantly, he was
moving toward love. Small steps, little changes, but, all put
together, they clearly showed a progression in their relationship.
one, he had several times accepted to enter her apartment, when the
weather was too cold, instead of taking her first shiver as a pretext
to leave. They had shared tea in her living-room and quietly talked
or listened to music together, cozily ensconced near the fire. Though
Vincent had seemed uneasy about it at first, he had relaxed after a
while, and enjoyed their comfortable intimacy as much as she did.
embraces, too, had become more intimate, more sensual, as Vincent
gradually let his guard down and allowed some of the desire he felt
for her to show in the way he held her body against his. She had
responded in kind, careful not to crowd him or push him further than
he was willing to go, but they now shared more physical closeness
than they ever had.
Transition. Yes, that had to be what her dream meant. No!
I’m not thinking of that dream. I have to think of something else.
Yes, that was another happy thought. In the dim light of the
never-dark New York night, Catherine could make out the shape of the
Winterfest candle she had carefully put on her nightstand before
going to bed.
a few days now, she would put on the lovely dress she had bought
especially for the occasion, take her candle and go Below. Vincent
would be there to welcome her, golden and magnificent in his best
finery, hopefully including that utterly romantic ruffled shirt…
and those utterly sexy thigh-high boots.
they would share in the heart-warming ceremony and watch dozens of
candles push away the darkness until the whole Great Hall, gaily
decorated for the feast, was inundated with their light.
they would mingle with friends from both their worlds, talk, laugh
and sample William’s tasty buffet.
they would dance. Catherine was determined. This year, hopefully,
nothing would prevent them from dancing their waltz to real music, in
full light, under the eyes of all their friends.
later, after silence and darkness had reclaimed the Great Hall,
Vincent would walk her home. And then, on their threshold, with
adequate enticement from her (and she was ready to provide all the
hints needed!) maybe he would kiss her, at last. Well, she hoped he
would, because if he didn’t, she
thought of kissing an unwary (but hopefully not unwilling) Vincent
made her smile. Yes, she definitely would. She could already imagine
the softness of his lips, the warmth of his arms closing around her.
was still smiling when sleep claimed her.
She was late for Winterfest. She had to hurry! Catherine was running
through the deserted tunnels, clutching her candle. Darn, why had she
bought those stupid mile-high shoes to wear with her dress? If she
made it to the Great Hall without breaking an ankle, she’d be
she stopped and looked around her. Those tunnels weren’t familiar.
She must have taken a wrong turn. Oh, perfect! Late for Winterfest,
and now lost in the tunnels! It was dark, very dark, but she saw
lights ahead and started running again in their direction. On
approaching, she saw that they were candles, Winterfest candles in
silver candlesticks held by silver… arms, just arms that seemed to
jut from the stone walls. Those arms moved as she passed them,
pointing her ahead. Yes! The door to the Great Hall was there, at the
end of the tunnel, and as she headed toward it, she had a strange
impression of lightness, as if she were floating in slow motion.
she found herself near the door. But it was closed, the huge wooden
bar firmly in place. How was she going to enter? Before she had time
to think, the bar removed itself, as if lifted by invisible hands,
and the huge doors flew open.
Great Hall was full of light and music, of people and happy chatter,
but all she could see was Vincent, alone in the middle of the huge
chamber, waiting for her. He was wearing his ruffled shirt and
thigh-high boots, along with a vest she had never seen, made of deep
blue velvet that matched his eyes and made his mane shine like spun
was smiling at her, arms extended in welcome. She had arrived just in
time for their waltz.
wanted to run, to throw herself into Vincent’s open, waiting arms,
but found that she couldn’t. Her movements were slow, sluggish, as
if she was swimming in glue.
She tried to call him but her voice did not carry. And suddenly,
another silhouette appeared beside Vincent. It was the dark-haired,
blue-eyed woman. She was wearing a beautiful dress of blue velvet
that matched Vincent’s vest.
Catherine watched as the woman grabbed Vincent’s arms and took him
into a waltz that led them further and further away from her, until
they disappeared from her view, while the candles flickered off, and
the doors to the now deserted Great Hall started to close.
No, Vincent, come back! Vincent! VINCENT!
sat up in her bed, eyes wide open, screaming. “Vincent!”
anguished response sounded in her mind: “Catherine?”
happened? Catherine, are you well?”
looked around her, took a deep breath. “Yes,
I’m fine, don’t worry. It was… just another dream.”
you don’t need to, I’m fine, really!”
was no answer. Their capricious telepathic connection had probably
stopped functioning once again. It would be really handy if it wasn’t
so darn unreliable! “Give me a good old phone anytime!” grumbled
Catherine, getting out of bed. If Vincent was going to come, she
could just as well make tea and add a couple of logs on the dying
fire. Talking that one out was likely to take time. Besides, she
needed something to do, to occupy her mind and hands while the
lingering despair and terror from the dream seeped out of her.
was just pouring water on the tea leaves when she heard the familiar
tapping, but before she could get to the French doors, Vincent was
already inside and she threw herself in his arms for a much needed
Vincent!” she whimpered, shaking as the dream came back vividly to
Catherine, shh,” he said softly in her hair. “I’m here, now.
I’m here, with you. I heard you call my name, several times, and
you sounded so desperate! I just had to come”
sorry, Vincent, for dragging you here once more,” she managed after
a while. “You have so much to do already, with Winterfest so close,
without me adding to your burden.”
pushed her slightly back to look into her eyes. “You are never a
burden, Catherine, never. And there’s nowhere I’d rather be than
snuggled back against him with a grateful smile. “Same for me,”
she whispered, “but we both have responsibilities, and I’m
keeping you from yours. “Thank you for coming, Vincent. May I offer
you a cup of tea?” she added in a lighter tone, gesturing toward
the sofa. Sit down, I’ll get it.
let her go, sensing she needed a little time and space to calm
herself before broaching the reason of his visit.
they were both settled in front of the now blazing fire, cup in hand,
he gently prompted: “Tell me.”
a calm, almost businesslike way, Catherine recounted her dream, with
all the weird details she could remember. Vincent listened in
silence, frowning a few times. When she arrived at the end of her
dream, Catherine’s voice faltered and he took her cup from her hand
to pull her closer to him.
all right, Catherine, It was only a dream, and it’s over, now. At
least, this time, the mysterious woman didn’t murder you!”
she did even worse!”
took you away from me!” Catherine said forcefully.
looked at her sharply and she held his gaze. No telepathy was
necessary to convey the silent message their eyes exchanged. For each
of them, losing the other would be worse than death, and they both
Vincent, I’ve never felt so desperate, so powerless. She was taking
you away, forever, and there was nothing I could do!”
silently nodded. He knew exactly how it felt.
fact,” Catherine finally said to lighten the atmosphere, “it was
not really a bad dream until that woman appeared. Strange, of course,
but fascinating and beautiful, as well.
arms holding the candlesticks, they seemed familiar…I know I saw
them before… oh yes! It was in an old black-and-white movie, French
I think. A fairytale. It was…” she stopped short, realizing what
she was about to say.
‘Beauty and the Beast’,” Vincent quietly finished for her.
she whispered with an apologetic smile. “Did you…”
I never watched it, but I saw quite a few pictures in a book about
cinema classics. They were beautiful. Movies are a rare treat, Below,
and I doubt Father would have allowed that particular one to be
showed with that old projector Mouse keeps taking apart. Thinking on
it, I never heard that particular fairytale told to the children,
either, though I did read it. I suppose,” he added with a wry smile
“that Father didn’t want to give me false hopes of ever changing
into a handsome prince…”
a handsome prince,” Catherine protested. “My
handsome prince! You know,” she went on, seeing the incredulous
gleam in his eyes. “I was, what, twelve or so when I saw that
movie, and I distinctly remember how mad I was at the end, when the
beautiful Beast changed into that silly, supposedly ‘handsome’,
got her a smile. “Were you, really?”
furious. I wanted the Beast to stay. I loved him.” Catherine said
with a little laugh that soon died under the intensity of the look
Vincent gave her. They gazed at each other for a long time, and she
found herself wondering if the moment had come, if he was going to
kiss her, but he finally pulled her against him, crushing her in a
Catherine!” he husked, nuzzling in her hair. She snuggled against
him, not trusting herself to say anything but ‘I love you.’, and
the time was not right, yet.
a long moment of silence, Catherine felt Vincent’s breathing slow,
his embrace loosen, and realized he had fallen asleep. It filled her
with an overwhelming tenderness, tainted with remorse. Poor darling,
he must be so tired! She had to wake him, send him back Below to his
bed, but it felt so good to be in his arms that she decided to
indulge herself a few more minutes… Next thing she knew, she was
being carried in Vincent’s arms.
go back to sleep, Catherine. It will soon be dawn; I have to go.”
careful, tender gestures, he laid her down on her bed and pulled up
the covers. She was asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.
well, my Beauty,” he said softly, and was gone.
You finally decided to come to the office?”
on, Joe. I’m not late. Just on time, for once.”
joking, Kiddo. You obviously needed some sleep. You look a lot
better, this morning.”
Boss.” Catherine retorted with a crooked smile. She did feel
rested, despite having spent more than half her night on a couch.
Must be the effect of sleeping in Vincent’s arms!”
someone waiting for you in my office. NYPD police officer. She says
they’re re-opening some old, unsolved cases, after receiving some
anonymous information…cases that seem to be related to you in some
way,” Joe added with a strange, guarded look. “I tried to tell
her that those cold cases will keep a little longer, while the
Brewster case is hot and I need you on the job; but she insisted. Try
to move her along as fast as possible, Radcliffe. We’ve got work,
felt a shiver run up her spine. Unsolved cases? Related to her? Oh,
she is,” Joe said, opening the door of his office. “Cathy, this
is Lieutenant Hunter.”
mouth opened wide in shock as she met the woman’s blue eyes, and a
second later she heard Vincent’s voice in her mind.
she’s here! She’s here, right in front of me!”