NIGHTSWEATS

Jo Fredericks

    Catherine awoke deep in the night with an unsettling, urgent need to see Vincent.  The pull was strong, almost palpable.  She didn’t feel that he was in physical danger, but she felt him calling to her nonetheless.  She knew she would get no more sleep this night, so she threw off the covers, looked at the clock -- 2:00 am! -- and began hastily to dress.  Impulsively, she pulled on what was at hand -- sweat pants, sweatshirt, socks and shoes.  At this early hour, no one was likely to be up to see her when she traveled the tunnels Below, and her only thought right now was to get to Vincent, to find out what this strange urgency was about.

* * *

    Catherine approached Vincent’s chamber and she called to him softly.  She thought she heard him respond, so she entered quickly, then stood stunned by the sight before her.  Vincent was thrashing on his bed in a tumble of bedclothes, tossing in the throes of a terrible nightmare.  He was repeatedly calling her name -- and more.
     "Catherine...Catherine...NO! Catherine...don’t leave me!  Please, Catherine...don’t leave me...."
 heart constricted at the pain in his voice.  So this was what had drawn her from Above -- this despairing entreaty from the depths of his tormented soul, locked in some horrifying vision of loss.  Compassion filled her, and the need to console him, to bring peace to his ravaged spirit, propelled her to his side.  She eased onto the bed and bent to the struggling figure there, stroking his hair and face to calm him as she whispered, over and over, in gentle assurance, "I won’t leave you, Vincent.  I could never leave you.  I love you."
    As his restlessness began to subside, Catherine rained trembling kisses across the soft down of his cheeks and on his inviting, tantalizing lips.  She realized he would not remember this when he awoke, but she was desperate to impart her love to him in some tangible way.  With her head bent low upon him, she was surprised when Vincent, still in his sleeping state, reached out for her, convulsively clasping her to his chest.  She didn’t resist the pressure of his embrace, though - she settled into it, again whispering assurances to him and depositing moist kisses on his neck and chest.
    Slowly, his arms relaxed against her back, although he did not free her from his hold.  Groaning, he began to awaken, and was startled to find Catherine in such an intimate posture against him.  "Catherine?!"  He pulled his arms from about her and struggled to sit up, wild-eyed and panting.
    Catherine, now released, rose to a sitting position and laid a hand on his chest as she said, "It’s all right, Vincent.  Everything’s all right. You were having a nightmare but you’re awake now."
    "Catherine, how...?" Confusion and no small measure of fear were evident in the taut lines of tension creasing his forehead.
    She tried to reassure him, stroking his chest soothingly as she replied, "I couldn’t sleep.  I felt your agitation -- it was like...a pull on my heart.  I knew I had to come to you.  When I got here you were in such torment, I tried to calm you.  You reached for me in your sleep and I held you for a moment before you awakened fully.  That’s all.  Are you all right now?"
     The strain of his midnight struggles had drained him, and Vincent collapsed into Catherine’s arms, surprising her yet again.  "Then it was...just a dream?"
    She shook her head, disagreeing.  What she had seen him endure was far worse than a mere dream. "It was a nightmare.  You were frantic, calling out to me, begging me not to leave you.  What was it about, can you remember?  Can you tell me?"
    He pulled back slightly, though not enough to completely escape the warmth and shelter of her embrace.  He looked hard into her eyes, as if deciding whether to reveal the source of his anguish.  The depth of love and concern he found within those green orbs banished all doubts.
    "You were begging me, Catherine...for a future together, for all the things we’d dreamed of.  But I was certain that our dream was keeping you from fulfilling your true destiny, that I was selfish to hold onto our dream and you along with it.  So...I made a sacrifice of our love, and told you to go.  And this time, when I said the words, I felt you finally accept them.  I...I saw our dream...die in your eyes.  And as you turned from me, I knew you were gone forever."
    He shuddered hard, with such force that Catherine’s own body quivered in response.  She pulled him tighter against her, willing him to take what solace he could from knowing that she was close, that she was his.  He came willingly back into her embrace, nestling against her, burying his nose against her soft hair, immersing himself in her scent - so dear, so desired.
    "I shut myself off from our Bond then, so I couldn’t feel you reclaim a full and happy life Above - a life you deserved, a life you could never have with me. Time passed, and one day a Helper came Below with the news that Elliot Burch had announced marriage plans - and you were to be his bride.  I opened up to our Bond again, to experience for a mere moment the spark of happiness that my sacrifice had gained for you, although I knew the pain of that knowledge might kill me."
    As she listened in growing horror, Catherine unconsciously began to murmur, "No...no...."  She clutched him tighter.  The thought of leaving him, of turning to anyone else, was so abhorrent, so impossible to contemplate, and yet in his subconscious mind he must still believe this was the right course of action for her.  Hot tears began to fill her eyes as she listened.
    Vincent’s voice began to grow harsh, as if the words, the thoughts were choking him. "But I felt no delight, no joy in you -- only the shattering intensity of your cold resignation.  I knew then that I had doomed you to a life without dreams, without happiness.  I had believed I was the one who would live only half a life, bereft and alone.  But whatever shadow of a life remained to you was my doing.  I had meant to free you, but only succeeded in chaining us both to an unfulfilled destiny."
    Catherine nearly sobbed in relief as she heard his words.  He finally understands, she thought. She turned her head to press a fervent kiss to the fevered brow of her beloved.  But he seemed not to notice this rare intimacy.  He was still caught up in the horrifying vision of his nightmare, and not even the soft press of her warm lips upon his face could break the hold of that terrible phantasm.
    His voice was a hoarse whisper now as he forced the words out through a throat tightening with tears. "I searched for you then, desperate for a way to salvage our dream.  But you were lost to me.  Your apartment was empty, you had left your job -- I could find no trace of you."  He broke off for a moment, burrowing closer, deeper into her embrace, as if anxious to remind himself that she was not lost, but as close as breath, as near as his next heartbeat. "I kept calling out to you through our Bond, begging you to hear me, come to me, hold me, forgive me."   His fingers clutched convulsively against her back, as if he were fighting the urge to press her so close he would take her bodily into himself.  Frantic now to impart the hard-won knowledge of his nightmare, he rasped, "I realized then that all you’ve said to me is true -- that our dream is worth everything, that you love me...me!...truly and completely, that what we have is all that matters."  The last few words were nearly incoherent, forced through a deep sob that wracked his large, sturdy frame as if he were the merest wisp of flesh. He had to force another breath into his lungs before he could go on.  "If I could only have found you, I’d have told you, but you were gone...lost....and so at last all I could do was scream your name into the void that was left of my life, and hope that somehow you would hear me and come back to me."
    Vincent took a deep, shuddering breath and fell silent.  He finally, with great effort, loosened his desperate hold on her so that he could behold her beloved face once more. Only his eyes spoke in silent blue beseeching.
    Catherine took Vincent’s chin in her hand and said slowly, to penetrate the almost palpable aura of grief surrounding him,   "I heard you, Vincent, and I came to you.  You called to me and I was not lost.  Your love brought me home to you.  In your nightmare I may have given up on our dream, but I promise you here and now, I would never, never give up on us.  You are my life -- all that is most precious to me in the world.  How could I ever give you up?"
    Vincent listened to her as if hearing what she said for the first time.
    "Before tonight, I was so sure I was right, that your destiny should not be bound to mine.  But when I thought I’d lost you...my heart perished, Catherine.  I know now that I couldn’t bear to lose you.  I...need you...need to give my love to you...to love you...the way you’ve always wanted.  Please, teach me how?"
    The urgent, naked pleading in his voice astonished her.  And the words....  She was jolted by his last words.  Surely he didn’t mean...?  He already showed his love to her in every way... except one - in ways she’d never imagined, in complete and selfless devotion.  But physical love - that he had never allowed between them.  He’d silently demanded that she relegate her sexual desire for him into some deep, dark corner of her psyche, and he had ruthlessly,  relentlessly subdued his own yearnings - refused to heed his own or hers even when it had threatened to tear them apart.  And now...to capitulate so totally after years of denial, of forcing her to struggle with him against those desires?  It seemed impossible. Yet he had said it...clearly, distinctly.  And she couldn’t question his decision,  not now that he’d bared his soul to her.
    She decided to go forward as he had suggested long ago -- with courage and with care. With a tenderness meant to cradle his innocence, she replied,  "There’s nothing to teach, Beloved.  It’s not hard.  Just do what you always tell me -- follow your heart."  She smiled a crooked half-smile, which melted into a surprised "O" of amazement as Vincent slowly lowered his face to hers and pressed an awkward but earnest kiss upon her astonished mouth.
    For a long time he held his unusual lips to hers, nuzzling and cherishing them.  Catherine thought she might collapse with the sheer joy of this long-hoped-for moment.  His mouth was so sweet upon hers, so enticing.  She would have let him continue, would have given him the time to explore her as she longed to explore him, but he hesitantly disengaged from the kiss, and in embarrassment he admitted, "Following my heart only gets me so far, Catherine.  You know I have...no experience in loving you...this way."
    When she would have protested, he gently forestalled her.  "I would please you if I could.  But you must guide me, show me how to make you happy...please.  If I were to disappoint you after all the time you’ve wasted waiting for me...."
    He kissed her shyly again. "Please?" was a breathless whisper against her pliant lips. "Please?"  And another kiss was tenderly and reverently placed upon her mouth.
    Vincent carefully gathered her hands and pressed them to his heart, tears welling in his eyes as they pleaded for understanding.  His mind was racing.  She had never discussed such things with him, but he assumed that Catherine’s previous lovers had been sophisticated, world-wise men, sure of themselves -- skilled at all the things he was not.  He imagined that his best efforts would pale in comparison to the quality of lovemaking she was used to.  For he had no idea, really, how to please a woman.  The mechanics were, of course, obvious, but the sensual delights were a complete mystery.  And he needed so much to give her pleasure in this way.  There were so many things he could never share with her, could never give her.  He had only himself to offer --  little recompense for all she must give up to turn from the world Above to him.  If she would teach him, he would do his best to make her glad she’d chosen to be with him.   Catherine knew she had to tread carefully.  She hadn’t made a secret of her life before - of living with Stephen, of her once-close relationship with Tom.  But neither had she dwelled on her past.  Vincent didn’t really know much about the intimate details of her private life before they’d met, and she had never found a way to tell him about it.  Stephen had been young - he’d been a competent lover, if uninspired.  Tom could have been a good lover, but he’d been a bit cold-blooded about lovemaking, as about so much else in his life, and he was less interested in her pleasure than in performing as if for his own inner camera.  Neither man had truly pleased her - something had always seemed to be missing somehow.
    Meeting Vincent had shown her what that missing something was; he’d taught her what real love felt like, what true passion - even if denied - could be.  If only he realized he was truly without equal.  Even without having touched her in an intimate way, he was already the best lover she’d ever had.  And that wouldn’t change, no matter what happened between them in bed.  Yet she couldn’t convince him of any of this, because coming between them was the fact that she had experienced physical love and he had not.  She wished, almost, that she came to him as innocent as he came to her -- there would have been less fear for Vincent if they learned together, less self-imposed pressure on him, at least.  Because, beyond inexperience, he had the added burden of her experience to deal with.
    He must be petrified by what he presumes my expectations are, she thought.  If only she could make him understand that she had no "expectations," only an unendurable ache which only his love could assuage.  Besides, it had been nearly three years since she’d even been with a man in any intimate way.  She hadn’t slept with Tom since her attack, and she hadn’t gotten close to that point with Elliot.  If it was possible to "become" a virgin again, she supposed that she had done it!
    When she reflected on it, she knew she hadn’t really wanted anyone else since Vincent had found her.  He had given her hope, given her a new dream.  But he had also raised the bar impossibly high for any other man, just by being himself.  Frankly, he hadn’t had any serious competition since the first time she’d gazed into the liquid sapphire depths of his beautiful, exotically slanted eyes.
    The idea of "teaching" him held some appeal -- after all, everything else Vincent put his hand to he became an expert at.  He was quite gifted in that way.  With his combination of sensuality, dexterity, natural grace and desire to please, he’d likely make a very exceptional student.  Yet Catherine realized it would be a mistake to assume the role of teacher in this first step toward their dream.  They must go forward together -- hand in hand -- not one leading the other.  It was the only way.  Yes.  She was resolved that they would set their own standards - together - within the comforting embrace of their Bond.
    She determined to take things slowly and easily, to let him move forward at his own pace, to accept a little awkwardness as a small price to pay for building his confidence and his sureness with her.  She would respect his innocence, treasure it and deal gently with it.  They had all their lives to deepen this connection.  Pleasures were to be had in even hesitant steps.  What an adventure this will be! she thought.
    She felt almost giddy when she answered Vincent’s plea.  Gently, tenderly she trailed her fingers across his fascinating lips.  "I want you to love me in your own way, Beloved.  I have never loved anyone as I love you.   I have never been loved as I am by you.  How could there be anything relevant in what went before?  I have no preconceptions, no expectations...just a joyous desire to love, and be loved by you."
    Vincent’s heart gladdened in relief.  He would not need to worry about meeting a standard he could only guess at.  Dear Catherine!  He lost himself in the shimmering green loveliness of her eyes as they spoke of her heart’s secrets, its desires.  He sensed that even her soul lay open to him; everything about her was so warm and inviting.  He longed to wrap that warmth around himself.  He wished he could sink within her, occupy the same space she did, somehow merge their essences - become truly one.  Without another thought, he sought those things, parting his lips slightly as he bent to her mouth.  Almost unconsciously, his fingers traced across her shoulders, finally burying themselves in the lush thickness of her hair.
    Catherine smiled secretly, knowing she had given him this small confidence to begin and not doubt himself.  Then she freed her mind of all thoughts and concentrated on the sensual bliss his tentative touches were inducing.  Her eyelashes fluttered against her heated cheeks as a surge of tremulous desire swept over her.  Her nostrils flared as she tried to take in enough oxygen - there didn’t seem to be enough in the chamber, despite its size.  Her arousal clearly showed in the flush of her skin, the hungry mouth which couldn’t taste him deeply enough, the tightening of her fingers as she held him as close as she’d ever dared.
    Vincent pulled back once, intent on ensuring his caresses were welcome, pleasing. The visual clues he saw confirmed all he felt through their Bond - Catherine was far from merely accepting, she was truly impassioned.  Reassured, he relaxed a bit, allowing himself to savor the responses his kisses were evoking.  The more he indulged, exploring her mouth with his lips, his tongue, the more he felt her excitement, her eagerness grow.  It was all so new...so thrilling...so electrifying.  Astounded that he was finally living his deepest dream, he gave in to the wild urgings of their Bond and began to kiss Catherine recklessly, rapaciously.
    When his mouth covered hers again, she was startled at just how pleasurable she found it, and how her body was reacting -- quite disproportionately to the activity being performed.  A small part of her mind was shocked at the frantic quivering in her abdomen, at the heart-dropping intensity she felt, at the mad racing of her pulse.  This is just a kiss -- how could I be in such a state?!  But Catherine had not reckoned on the subconscious release of long-pent desire which Vincent’s passionately naive kisses had unleashed.  She had denied herself, yearned for him so long, that when his tongue entered her mouth and began its ardent exploration -- so warm, so sweet! -- her mind raced ahead to how his manhood would feel plunging deep inside of her...and she could not restrain the orgasmic tremors which saturated their Bond as her climax broke over her.
Vincent’s eyelids, shut softly to savor the fascination of textures and tastes which Catherine’s mouth offered, flew open, and his eyes grew wide as he realized through their Bond what had just occurred.   He felt Catherine’s hot blush rush over her face, and knew his stunned expression was mirrored in her own.  She clung to him and rode the crest of that wild surging as he held her tightly in his astonished arms. Finally, when he felt the sparks of her orgasm begin to die, Vincent pulled back slowly from her, a question in his eyes.
    Determined to let him fully appreciate the gift he had given her, Catherine gave him a slightly embarrassed grin and admitted, "That’s a first for me, Vincent. I have never been so...deeply moved by a kiss...ever.  It...usually takes me a little while to...relax enough to...let go like that.  But you somehow broke through all my barriers...with just your kiss."
    His answering smile was a mixture of confusion, pride and disconcertion.  He wanted her to enjoy this physical bonding, and obviously she had -- but was this...it?  Was it over almost before it had begun?  He didn’t know how to ask.  He disengaged from Catherine slightly, assuming she would do the same.
    She sensed his withdrawal, read the look on his face and, before he withdrew too far, she grasped his shoulders to hold him still.  Looking deeply into his eyes, she avowed, "You obviously have a gift for making me happy.  But please don’t stop.  I want to share so much with you.  I want to give you all of me, not just a kiss."
    Vincent rewarded her with a smile of such tender joy that she melted all over again.  She gathered him close and hugged him fervently.  With a low groan, he sagged into the embrace, relieved and reassured...and tremendously excited.
    As he held her, he stroked Catherine’s back and thought of how fearful he had been only a few moments ago.  How had she turned things around for him?  He felt relaxed, almost confident!  All he could think was: What a remarkable person my Catherine is!  And how much I love her...and desire her.  Not his most profound dreams, not his wildest fantasies, nothing had prepared him for the complexity of feeling, for the riot of emotion coursing through him now.  He needed her urgently, but he also wanted to take things slowly.  He desired her with a driving force he was almost unable to contain, yet he longed to explore her tenderly.  He craved to learn the secrets of bringing her to that pinnacle so that he could satisfy her again and again, but his body demanded release from its own insistent desires.
    While his thoughts were in such tumult, he began caressing Catherine’s back with more authority, his subconscious mind causing his hands to crush her against him.  Suddenly he felt guilty for gripping her too tightly...but she seemed unaware that his hold was too fierce.  She was actually increasing the strength of her own possessive hold upon him, and he liked it...a lot.  Catherine had always loved to hug him, and he admitted he was happy that she craved the contact. But this was turning into something more than a hug.  It was becoming a full-body embrace which harbored passion, longing and desire.
    As they fell back on the bed, still locked in each other’s arms, Vincent once again claimed Catherine’s mouth, urging her lips apart.  The depth and mastery of this kiss astounded her.  If he learns this fast...!
    Vincent’s nature was innately sensual.  That was one reason he’d always had to fight so hard to master it.  But now, freed of inhibitions and bolstered by the faith Catherine had engendered in him just moments ago, he gave rein to his imagination and allowed himself the luxury of a thorough exploration of the mysteries of Catherine’s smile.  His mind reeled: She tastes so...good!
    Catherine felt lightheaded.  Where was her control?  It was fading, evaporating before the sensual onslaught of another of Vincent’s kisses.  Delirious with unexpected delight, she found one of his hands and guided it lower, until it was at her waist, resting just at the point where her sweatshirt parted company with her pants.
    Easily taking her not-so-subtle hint, Vincent slipped his hand beneath the edge of the shirt and traced his claw-like nails up her bare back to her satin-soft shoulders.  He was always amazed at how warm and silky her skin felt, on those rare occasions when he had permitted his hand to brush against her.  Now that he had more than a stolen moment to touch her, he luxuriated in the sensation, caressing her with lingering strokes.  Then, surprising himself, he left the confines of her sweatshirt to slide his hand beneath the waistband of her pants.  He noted in astonishment that she did not seem to be wearing any underwear, then realized that he had encountered no bra when he had explored her back.  He thought most women usually wore them.
    His mind raced back to her reason for being with him.  She must have been in quite a hurry to come Below tonight -- I truly must have frightened her with my nightmare.  But that thought quickly dissipated as he was once more overcome by the simple fact that his hand - his large, powerful, clawed hand - was so intimately caressing his beloved.  Everything he’d always thought was forever denied to him was suddenly within his...literal...grasp.  The concept simultaneously staggered him...and inflamed him to a fever pitch.
    Catherine was not sure she could retain any control whatsoever.  His hand...omigod...what is he doing with his hand?!  His fingertips had trailed streaks of fire across her back, but this nether exploration was making her feel as if she would jump right out of her skin. And he’s barely gotten to second base!  Face it, Chandler, he’s fondling you in places you figured it would take him weeks to work up the courage to touch!  Oh, and I don’t want him to stop....
    Vincent stroked and massaged the curves of her hips and her softly rounded bottom, then ran one finger down from the base of her spine, caressing the valley between, until he arrived at the backs of Catherine’s thighs.  He was stunned when he felt her separate her legs to allow him closer.  Here was another dilemma -- he wasn’t really sure what to do now.  He wanted to touch her...everywhere...and it seemed that she welcomed his exploration, but what exactly should he do?
    Abruptly, he ceased his caresses and pulled his mouth from Catherine’s as she murmured her protest.  He was at an impasse.  He was...mostly...beneath the covers of his bed; Catherine was wholly above them.  He wanted desperately to pull her closer, but he was hampered by the constraints of the bedclothes.  How could he let her know what he wanted without breaking the almost surreal mood of tenderness and closeness that had held them?  He’d already been so bold - touching her, kissing her.  How did he entice the woman he adored into his bed?
    Catherine understood that Vincent’s hesitance was not related to the physical intimacy they were sharing -- if she’d had any doubts, they were dispelled by the lusty enjoyment she felt from him through their Bond.  No, it was concern over their relative positions on the bed, she was sure.  She was so sure of this because she, too, had been wondering how best to overcome this hurdle without further breaking the mood.  She decided she had to do something that would nudge Vincent into inviting her beneath the covers.
    Catherine rose to her knees.  Bracing herself on Vincent’s shoulders, she murmured, "I’m too warm."  Then she began to remove her sweatshirt.
    Vincent, startled, caught the edge of the fleecy fabric as if to prevent her from removing it.  Then he seemed to catch himself (Old habits die hard, they both thought at the same instant - he ruefully, she compassionately) and he shyly smiled his apology.  Catherine nodded once and smiled in return. Taking that for both tacit acceptance of his unspoken apology...and permission...he then gathered the material and helped Catherine slide the garment over her arms and head, slowly revealing her glorious nakedness.  Her chest was still heaving slightly from their activities of a moment ago, her breasts quivering in reaction; her nipples were taut and tempting.  He was tantalized by the sight before him.
In awe he whispered, "Catherine, you are so beautiful."
    She smiled at him and dipped her head slightly, suddenly shy in the face of the overwhelming sincerity of his declaration.  But she didn’t move, didn’t try to cover herself.  The offer was obvious: All of me, Vincent, her eyes seemed to say.
    Thinking of all that was about to transpire, he made a sudden decision.  She was being so open, so honest - offering him everything, letting him choose.  Could he do any less?
    His eyes never left her face as he reached down for the covers and drew them back, tossing all but the sheet back against the foot of the bed.  Before she could move, he too rose to his knees, determined that she should know what she was getting now, before it was too late to stop.  He held her eyes and his breath.
    Catherine was still, waiting for his next move.  Slowly, he raised his nightshirt, but she did not break the electric contact they had established, blue eyes to green.
    He continued to lift his nightshirt -- to his thighs, to his waist.
    She wanted desperately to glance down, just once, but she knew this was too important a moment to let her curiosity -- and lust -- overtake her.
    Vincent continued to disrobe; the nightshirt was now at chest level.  Finally, he broke eye contact for the briefest moment as he tossed the shirt over his head.  It lay, immediately forgotten, among the tangle of comforters at the foot of his bed.  When he turned back to her, he noted that Catherine’s eyes were still upon his face.  He knelt completely exposed to her, yet her eyes caressed his face exclusively.  He was stunned by the love and desire he saw reflected there, and with gratitude accepted that it was all for him.
    Now she began to move again, sliding her sweatpants over her hips, lifting her knees one at a time to push them down her legs, removing her shoes and socks along with them, and finally dropping everything off the side of the bed, uncaring where or how they landed.  When she was finished, her eyes still locked to his, she knelt before him again, but closer now.  She reached for him as she spoke the words he knew he could never hear often enough, "Vincent, I love you.  I love you so much."
    As he moved to intercept her embrace, he murmured against her ear, "Oh, Catherine!  I love you more than I can say.  Let me show you how much."
    They clung to each other with fierce tenderness.  She could feel Vincent’s arousal - hot, hard, throbbing - against her thigh and abdomen.  He felt very...substantial.  She shivered in anticipation, and Vincent felt the shudder and pulled away, anxious again.
    Her smile was reassuring, though, and she proved she had no fear of him, taking one of his massive, furred hands in hers and kissing it, lapping at his fingers and drawing them, one at a time, into her mouth.  Now Vincent was shuddering with the rapture of it, and he understood that Catherine’s shiver had not been one of revulsion, but of ecstasy.  When she was sure she had restored his shaken self-confidence, she gently brought his hand to one breast, pressing it against her with a squeezing motion.  She dropped her hand then, and started to stroke his side, not intending to arouse him, just giving him time to settle into his exploration of her body once again.
    He began a tentative stroking motion, inflamed by the intimacy yet so unsure of himself.  He loved the feel of the soft womanly swell of her body, the unexpected heaviness in his hand as he held her so closely.  But how should he touch her?  What caress would please her?  He was at a loss.  Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the trembling sensations of delight which heralded Catherine’s presence within their Bond.  Letting those guide him, his caresses became surer, more confident.
The pleasure he was giving her was echoed in his own heart, for her silken skin was intoxicating beneath his palm - and the turgid, puckered flesh of her nipple aroused him viscerally.  He couldn’t help himself - he needed to touch her in this way, needed to know her body approved of his touch, was excited by it.
     From the start - from Vincent’s initial fumbling caresses, delightful in their own way,  to the more assured, self-possessed stroking - Catherine didn’t try to mute her intense reaction to his touch.  She allowed him to see how much he excited her.      Her lips parted softly, her eyes were half-lidded with aroused passion; a low moan escaped her throat.
    He tenderly stroked her with both hands then, as she knelt, gently swaying, before him.  Finally, instinct and hunger overcame him, and his hands gave way to his lips, then his mouth, and he tongued and suckled against her as she melted inside, the muscles of her womb clenching in anticipation.  Vincent devoured her aching flesh - her rosy nipples were drawn deeply into the hot, moist cavern of his mouth.
    Each tug upon her breast sent shuddering quivers through her and one thought skittered crazily through what was left of her rational mind:
 Moremoremoremoremore!

    Vincent was fascinated, aroused, inflamed by the aroma and taste of Catherine’s delicate flesh.  He couldn’t imagine ever getting enough of it.  Nipping and suckling at her breast satisfied something deep within him - it was a validation he hadn’t known he’d needed.  For so many years he’d dreamed of being allowed this kind of intimacy, yet he’d always despaired of ever being accepted to such a degree, being trusted so far.  But Catherine gave him all of herself so willingly, so generously - it was more than acceptance, more than trust; it was complete and total love.  He closed his eyes and abandoned himself to the bliss of her sweet flesh, the pleasure her pleasure was giving him.
    He could have knelt before her for hours, worshiping at the altar of her beauty, but for the insistent demands of his own flesh, the torture of denial so close to ending.  And so, finally, after long minutes of nearly unendurable ecstasy, one hand left a breast unclaimed as it strayed blissfully down Catherine’s bare, taut stomach to nestle in the curls at the juncture of her thighs.  He was breathless to discover what she would do when he requested this permission to continue his fervid exploration.
    She responded immediately to his touch, parting her legs to grant him access.  He knew she wanted him to continue, so, despite some trepidation, he carefully drew his fingers along the contours of her hidden flesh, then descended further to stroke hesitantly against the moist folds there.
    Vincent was dazed, his mind on fire.  How can this be? How can I touch her this way? Does she realize how intimate the contact is?  Will she come back to herself in a moment and fear the nearness of these hands against her flesh?  As he searched their Bond, he was satisfied that Catherine’s pleasure was intense and profound, surprising as he found that to be.
    Catherine sighed gustily as Vincent made contact with her nether lips.  He’s incredible!  Does he realize he’s driving me wild?  Why was he so worried?  If his touch were any more erotic, I’d be a quivering mass of Jell-O right now!  Suddenly, Vincent ceased to move upon her. Her whole body jerked in startled response.  She needed him back -- now!  Opening her eyes, she discovered the cause of the withdrawal of that sublime delight.
    She could hardly believe her eyes then.  Vincent was slowly raising his fingers to his lips.  As she watched, his eyelids fluttered closed and he inhaled deeply, taking in her woman’s scent from the creamy wetness coating his fingers.  Then he flicked his tongue out to taste of that moist essence.  She thought she just might faint from the sensuality of that image -- how could he be so unconscious of his splendor, of his affect on her?
    Heaven -- she tastes like heaven! God, how long have I denied myself this...and for what?   His eyes opened and Catherine saw that the blue was nearly lost to the wide black irises - evidence of his intense arousal.  As she gazed raptly into his beloved face, she noted also his flared nostrils, heard the deep, nearly gasping respirations which caused his massive chest to heave with the effort to draw breath.
    As lost in an erotic maelstrom as he was, she was startled to hear him speak.  She wasn’t capable of speech herself at that moment, so she could only nod wordlessly in response as he rasped, "I promise, Catherine, to make up for lost time.  I will be here for you, to pleasure you, to receive pleasure from you, whenever you want me."  Then he dropped his hand to hers, pulled it to his lips and tenderly kissed it.  Consciously he mirrored her previous actions, taking her fingers one at a time into his mouth to caress them with his tongue, then drawing her hand down to rest upon his turgid manhood.
    Finally -- finally! -- Catherine allowed her eyes to stray down past his devastatingly enticing lips, his deeply muscled, heavily furred chest, his flat, tight stomach, his lean, narrow hips...to where, nestled between thighs like the trunks of trees, rose the largest, most glorious erection she had ever seen.  He looked so delicious, her mouth watered in anticipation.  My God...he’s beautiful!  He’s like a Greek sculpture, so perfect, so well-proportioned. How could he have ever imagined I would be repulsed by such magnificence?  She had to admit that his...maleness...was slightly intimidating.  Still, nothing that the proper incentive couldn’t handle, and you have plenty of that, Chandler!  Catherine sighed with intense pleasure.  How did I get this lucky!?
    She found that she could no longer keep her hands off him.  She began a slow, deliberate stroking, caressing the long, thick, silken-steel shaft of his manhood with a kind of awe.  He was huge - her fingers could not encompass him.  And the broad head of his phallus – the flesh there was incredibly smooth and hot to the touch.  God how she wanted to taste him, but she was afraid the touch of her mouth on his highly sensitized flesh would be too much for him right now.  Later, she silently promised herself...and him.  He was so excited now, she couldn’t believe he could stay still and endure these intimate caresses as it was.  But she couldn’t help drawing out the moment -- she’d waited so long to touch him this way, and it felt so good.
    As she accepted the sight of him, Vincent let the last of the tension leave him.  He had harbored the fear that, even now, Catherine might not be able to cope with the reality of his body, and might back away from him in disgust or fear.  To know that she wouldn’t reject him was the greatest relief.  But to realize that her immediate reaction was one of lusty desire, almost rapaciousness, nearly undid him. The last barrier to his own pleasure was gone, and Vincent’s control was slipping rapidly as Catherine continued her gentle assault upon him. He was moaning now - low, guttural sounds he couldn’t suppress.  He wished she would take control of the situation -- quickly.  He wanted nothing more than to bury himself inside her, but he must allow her some exploration; he had done so much of his own.
     Catherine’s eyes rose to meet his, and he saw her decision as she made it.  "Vincent, come to me.  Let me love you a little now, then we can continue to explore each other.  Please?  We have the rest of the night, I know, but I’m so anxious to feel you inside me, I don’t think I can wait any longer."
    Vincent needed no urging.  He was so deeply immersed in his longing, his need for her, he knew only one direction: forward.  The exhilarating euphoria they both felt through their Bond drew them together again, to press naked flesh to naked flesh.  The contact was incredible.  As they fell to the bed together, breasts against chest, sex against sex, the feeling was indescribable.  Catherine, lying beneath Vincent’s comforting weight, reveled in the delicious sensation of Vincent’s furred expanse upon her.  She raised her legs up and around his waist, then with one hand guided him to the center of her wet heat.     The creamy warmth which greeted him there was ample evidence, if he still needed any, that she truly did desire him.  His elation threatened to overwhelm his dwindling composure. Yet he hesitated, despite his excitement, needing one final confirmation.
     "Are you sure, Catherine?"
    She removed all doubts from his mind.  "Vincent, I have been waiting for you, for this, for a lifetime.  Let your love guide you home -- come to me, please."
    With a deep sigh, Vincent pressed gently against her, utterly confounded at the ease with which the broad head of his phallus slipped within her and how the rest of his thick, unyielding flesh followed, until he was immersed to the hilt inside his precious Catherine. She was so tight and hot; the muscular contractions which tugged at him, pulling him deeper, were a sensation he hadn’t expected.  It was as if her body were welcoming him...home. He was still for a moment, tears filling his eyes, as he savored the ecstasy of their joining.
    Catherine, her voice cracking, her own eyes brimming with joyful tears, whispered, "Thank you."
    He was speechless.  Of all the gifts she’d given him tonight, that simple "thank you" was the most unexpected.  Why need she thank him?  For fulfilling his deepest fantasies?  For loving the most perfect, most beautiful woman in the world?  She, who had sacrificed everything to love him, was a benediction, a rare and treasured blessing.  And she expressed thanks...to him?
    Somehow, Vincent found his voice, and his throaty rasp was little more than a breath against her ear as he returned his thanks.  "Catherine, you are the sum of my dreams.  I will cherish you all my days."
    In response, her lips sought his, and she captured his mouth in a penetrating, devastatingly sensual kiss as she began to move against him, her hips urging his to begin the exquisite friction which would propel them to completion.  He had no will to refuse, no strength to delay, and he rocked within her, his excitement building even further than his shocked brain could imagine.
    Instinctively he began to thrust - long, powerful surges in which he sought and found her hidden depths.  Catherine cried out again and again as he buried himself within her, filling her completely, overcome by the fierce ardor of his lovemaking.  Her cries of exquisite, nearly unbearable pleasure quickened his own spiraling, escalating excitement.  It was a pinnacle he could not achieve for long - the drive to complete himself within her became too strong to resist.  Closer...closer to that ultimate ecstasy he drew her - closer...closer to his own desperately desired release he drew...until their bodies exploded in a unison of rapture.  Catherine’s depths clenched him as Vincent experienced a shattering climax that robbed him of sight, thought and breath.  He felt he might never recover from the glorious consummation of their love, but slowly he regained his senses, and suddenly he became anxious to ensure that Catherine was in no distress.
    He marveled at the reaction their loving had drawn from her -- she was shuddering with aftershocks from her own devastating climax, her eyes tightly shut, and she whimpered against his shoulder, unwilling to relinquish him yet as she held him close inside of her.  Her breath was coming in harsh, short gasps, making it difficult for her to speak, more difficult yet for him to understand her.  "Vincent.... Oh, God...do you...know what you...do to me?  I have...never...never.... Your every touch.... I’m on fire.... Oh, God...don’t leave me...."
    Stunned by the effect their lovemaking had on her, Vincent cradled her head in his hands,  crooning to her as he willed her to calm. "Hush, Catherine.  It’s all right.  I won’t leave you.  I’m yours, always."
    Slowly she quieted, and finally opened her eyes - and he saw that she was still shaken, almost overcome by the intensity of their first coupling.  Her eyes smoky with desire, she regarded him, then begged him in a small voice, "Please, Vincent, love me again.  I need you so much.  I can’t...I can’t let you go."
    Tears filled his eyes.  The intensity of her desire clearly communicated itself to him through their Bond.  He’d thought before that he was the needy one, so Catherine’s obvious and desperate need for him was as astonishing as it was unexpected.  Even as he realized this, he felt himself grow hard again.  Hot, pulsing blood engorged his sex, filling him in pounding waves with each beat of his heart.  He craved her, if possible, even more than he had before his completion - for Catherine’s desire stoked his own to a higher, more astonishing, indescribable intensity.  Hoarsely he murmured his reply. "If you let me go now, Catherine, I would die."
    Still intertwined, they began again to adore each other, Catherine almost frantic with longing and Vincent a willing slave to her need.  Perfectly in tune now, their bodies merged and mated as their souls converged in a transcendent rhapsody of sensual and spiritual consummation.
    The rest of the night was spent locked in a lovers’ embrace.  What began in a nightmare finally ended in a blissful dream of fulfillment as the two lovers lay entwined in a tangle of arms, legs, hearts and souls.