ONCE UPON A BALCONY

Lea

To my gutter sisters (you know who you are!)

She knew he was coming long before she heard the faint rustle of his cloak in the warm summer breeze. Out of the corner of her eye she spied him land noiselessly at the other end of the balcony but didn't move, looking out at the city lights beyond the dark sea of the park beneath. Belying her immobility her heart rushed out to welcome him and she felt his loving answer through their wide open connection. It thrilled her to be able to feel him so clearly now, and she also sensed his amusement about that. Vincent was in a joyous, playful mood tonight, a side of him she had seen very little of before but was fast getting used to. And to her great delight, it seemed to surface more and more often of late.

. Catherine stood there, her hands on the low wall, trying to look as relaxed as possible though her whole body tingled with expectation as he approached her slowly from behind. A mischievous sparkle in their bond told her he was up to something, but she had no way of knowing what and let out a squeal of surprise when his hands suddenly covered her eyes.

"Guess who?" the velvet voice asked.

She giggled. All right, two could play at that silly game! "Santa Claus?"

"Not the right season. Try again?"

"Easter Bunny?"

"Hmm, more like it, but wrong. Last try!"

"Oh, I know! The Cheshire Cat!"

She heard his soft laughter close to her ear. She had told him a few days ago that when he smiled with his hood on ľand he did smile a lot lately- his teeth shone in the shadow, making him look just like the cat in 'Alice in Wonderland'. It still made her marvel to be able to say such things to him and have him laugh in answer. She just loved to hear him laugh, it was a sound she'd so rarely heard before!

The great warm hands slid from her eyes to come and cup her shoulders, caressing her temples and throat on the way, and she felt him nuzzle the top of her head.

"Not quite," he chuckled." I'm a little more... real than that."

"Hmmm, yes!" she heartfully agreed, shivering under his caress. "Though I still have trouble believing it sometimes..."

She felt the heat of his body hover even closer, without touching her yet, and sensed a shift in his mood, not quite so playful anymore. "You had better believe it, Catherine," he husked. He stepped slightly forward to bring them in full contact and his arms moved to cross on her chest, pulling her firmly to him. "This is real, and you're mine!"

The imperious growl in his voice was belied by the touch of wonder in his heart as he uttered those posessive words, and Catherine smiled. She was not the only one who still had trouble believing it. Yet it was true: she was his, and he was hers. They had finally found their way to each other's love, to each other's arms, and it was heaven!

At least when they were together! If in the past they had already found their time together too scarce, now every minute they spent apart was sheer torture. Their long-deprived bodies craved each other's touch, longed to be one always as their souls were in the newfound closeness of their Bond.

Catherine felt a surge of heat through their connection. Vincent's hips thrust softly, the hard bulge of his arousal pressing into the small of her back while his hands found her breasts, cupping and fondling them through the light fabric of her gown. She moaned, arching into his caress, begging for more, and in answer he pushed the silk straps down her arms, baring her to the waist for his touch. She shivered with bliss as the long, deft fingers found and teased her hardened nipples and heard his purring growl in response.

That was the way it was now. The slightest contact never failed to inflame them both, and when they were alone together, the most innocent touch could escalate within minutes into hot, passionate lovemaking. Even when they were not alone, they had to remember to behave, as they had a tendency to lose themselves in each other and forget everything else. Catherine now spent as much time as she could Below, and the tunnel dwellers had soon learned -some to their own burning embarrassment- that Vincent's chamber was no longer a place you could barge into without warning. And if truth be told they had also learned that it was wise to make noise before entering any supposedly empty place, for the lovers didn't always make it to Vincent's bed.

Their 'misbehaviour' generally encountered smiling indulgence from the people Below, who had wished just that for them for a long time now. Yes, even Father was obviously glad that his son had found happiness at last. Except maybe on that occasion when he had entered the library with Kipper and Samantha... Catherine's lips twitched in an impish grin at the memory, and she pushed her body back into Vincent's, eliciting a growl and another, more imperious thrust of his hips.

Once his lifelong restraints shattered Vincent had revealed himself a surprisingly uninhibited, very imaginative -and apparently tireless- lover, and it looked like they would not have enough of a lifetime to explore the endless paths leading to their mutual pleasure. That encounter in the library had been a quick but hot one, well worth the stern sermon it had earned them! Of course they had felt somewhat embarrassed at the idea that the children might have seen them in action had they arrived a few seconds earlier and they had actually tried to show a little more restraint after that but now that the embers that had been glowing between them for so long had finally burst into an open fire, it was one almost impossible to control.

And their time together was still so limited! Catherine had started to work on that problem, fighting to reduce her workload at the DA's office, and if she didn't succeed, she would look for another, less demanding job without too many regrets, for she had her priorities clearly lined up: Vincent was all that mattered now! She had begun to consider moving, too, finding a house with a tunnel entrance, a bridge between their two worlds where they could be safely together, at last. True bliss! Yet that would entail leaving her apartment and giving up this balcony, for so long the only place that had been truly theirs. How many hours they had spent there together, talking, reading and dreaming of things that they feared could never be!

Vincent sensed the change in her mood and his touch lightened to one of comforting familiarity.

"Catherine?"

She leaned gratefully into his warm embrace. "I was just thinking... It's been a long time since we've stood here looking at the night together."

He chuckled. "Indeed! It seems that in the last weeks we often have been... otherwise engaged. Do you regret it?" he chided.

"Now don't be silly!" she retorted, grinning to the city lights. Vincent certainly had no more qualms about entering her apartment, and had given her ample proof of that! He had loved her on her bed, of course, in many delicious ways, but they had found the sofas and the floor in front of the fireplace very interesting possibilities too. The shower and bath, if a little cramped for Vincent's size -and somewhat hazardous with their dangerously protruding spigots- were nevertheless fun! They also had recently discovered that the kitchen counter was just the right height...

Catherine found herself aroused again by the mere evocation of those moments and rubbed herself sensuously against Vincent, needing him to deepen his touch. A strong surge in their bond answered her, both imperiously erotic and carefully controlled, and she surrendered instantly, trusting herself into his lead. Vincent always knew exactly what she needed, and when he didn't give it to her right away, it only meant he had something even better in mind...

She sensed his great, warm body press itself even closer against hers, and felt his hot breath in her ear as he began talking, his voice low and raspy.

"I have been one acquainted with the night... Many times I have felt that poem had been written for me. I'm a creature of the night, Catherine, whether the endless night of the tunnels or the shining, sparkling night of the city that still hides me enough that I can come and go in your world. In the past I would often climb to a rooftop and sit there for hours. There was only the city, and the night, and me. I found it both thrilling and soothing to look at all those lights, at all those lives at my feet, none of them aware of my existence. But it also made my aloneness sometimes unbearable, and I couldn't help hoping, dreaming, that among all those lights there might some day be one that would shine upon my life."

Catherine's heart rushed out to his through their connection. It's all over, love, I'm here now, always! In response he hunched over her, enveloping her with his powerful stature while his hands began roaming possessively over her body.

"And one night, Catherine," he continued, his voice thick with emotion, "my prayers were answered. The night gave you to me. Even though I knew I had to give you back to your world, it was the end of my aloneness. For among those myriads of anonymous lights one was forever connected to my heart. From then on there was the city, and the night, and you!"

As he spoke, one of his hands found her naked breast again, gently playing with the hardened tip, while the other one went to her leg to pull up her gown and seek its way up the naked, quivering flesh of her thigh.

"I was drawn to your light like a moth to a flame. I found my way back to you and, miraculously, you accepted me into your life. Even if we were separated by obstacles that seemed at the time unsurmountable, we could share some time, and we shared a place. This place. Little time and a small place but they were ours, and in that limited realm I could dream you were mine."

He accentuated his caress on her nipple and his other hand pushed her thighs slightly apart to seek her warm, wet center, making her moan with delight.

"How I have dreamed of touching you this way, Catherine! The hours I spent here with you were the happiest ones of my life, yet they were torture, too. Torture, to guess at your lovely body under your light, sometimes transparent gowns, to be intoxicated by the sweet scent of you, to watch your lips without kissing them and hold your body in my arms without claiming it. The worst of all was to feel your need and not allow myself to fulfill it. If sometimes I ran from you, or just remained there, staring out at the night, it was because that was all I could do not to pounce on you and make you mine, right here on this balcony!"

She listened, both helplessly aroused by his words and touch and fascinated by the raspier tone of his voice, the darker hues in their connection as his other side came closer to the surface, a part of him he had learned to unleash without fear in their intimate moments. Vincent always made love to her with everything that he was, simply because he could deny her no part of his being, could give her no less than his whole self. And she wouldn't have had it any other way!

His finger found her most sensitive place and teased her lightly, yet she was so ready that it almost sent her reeling, and she couldn't help a frustrated moan when his hand withdrew.

"Soon, Beloved, " he softly growled to soothe her, as his hands pulled her gown down to her feet and gently urged her to step out of it, leaving her naked and shivering more with expectation than with the caress of the balmy breeze. He was towering over her from behind, still fully dressed and cloaked, himself a part of the night, and Catherine began trembling with impatient need as she heard the faint sound of his belt buckle. Soon his warm hand was on her shoulder, urging her to bend slightly forward, and she sensed the heat of his naked flesh close to her back. When he spoke again, his voice was as dark as the night that surrounded them.

"Now you are mine, Catherine, as I am yours. Now there is the city, and the night, and US!" The last consonant ended in a hissing sigh of rapture as he grasped her hips and claimed her depths in one deep, sure thrust.

Catherine cried out with pure joy. Every time they made love, the first sensation of him filling her was a new miracle, making her body and soul complete. A feeling intense enough to rival the completion of orgasm itself. She knew Vincent felt the same and for a few precious seconds they remained still, absorbing the sheer bliss of their renewed oneness.

Positioning his hands on either side of hers on the balcony wall, Vincent curved his body over hers, surrounding her with his warmth and strength while he moved slowly at first. They were both ready, more than ready, and very soon the gentle rhythm wasn't enough. Catherine moaned, pushing back against Vincent to claim more of him and he complied with an eager growl, unleashing his full power in hard, deep strokes.

They were flying above the city. The night had taken both of them in its welcoming arms, and they soared as one on the wings of their shared, fast escalating sensations. The faraway lights were dancing along with the waves of rapture that carried the lovers to almost impossible heights. Catherine felt Vincent's teeth grasp the curve of her neck as his hand sought her nub to push them both over the edge in an explosive release. The city lights burst out in a myriad of shooting stars as Vincent's essence burst rhythmically into Catherine's convulsing core, his teeth holding her still with gentle firmness.

Finally he withdrew from her body to straighten up his slightly trembling legs and sat back on one of her dainty wrought-iron chairs, pulling her on his lap. They sat there for a while, enjoying the wild aftershocks of pleasure still coursing through their bodies. Catherine laid her head on Vincent's chest and happily listened to the beats of his great heart slowly coming back to their normal rhythm. When the last sparkles of rapture had subsided, and they began to feel drowsy, she reluctantly lifted her head from the warm comfort of his chest. It was the first time since he had arrived that she really looked at him, and she giggled on seeing that his hood was still up, hiding his features to her sight.

"Catherine?" he inquired.

She grinned up at him."You know what, Vincent? I think that even if I find us a house, I'm definitely going to keep this apartment!"

The shadows beneath the hood lit up with a wide Cheshire cat leer. "Wise decision, Catherine," he said, rising from the chair to carry her inside. "I believe there are quite a few places we haven't tried yet!"