by Sigyn

    “Hold me tighter!” Catherine cried. “Tighter!”

    “I felt you go!” Vincent whispered again. He couldn’t believe he had been able to bring her back to him. He squeezed her close, until he could feel every inch of her, letting his body find her out, proof that she was really there.

    “I’m here.” Catherine buried her nose in his chest, as if trying to crawl inside him. “I’m still here.”

    Vincent lifted her from her feet, cradling her, safe and secure in his arms. “That was too close,” he murmured. She nuzzled his throat, and his heart ached with the thought he might never have felt that again. “Too close.” He trembled with spent terror and relief. “What would I do without you?”

    “Hold me,” was all Catherine said, and Vincent lifted her until he cradled her like a new bride, her arms wrapped around him like a cloak. “Don’t let go.”

    Vincent found the wall of the balcony and sank against it, then pulled Catherine into his lap, letting her feel him out. She needed him, she needed him to be there, with her, to feel him strong and secure around her. He knew that. And oh, God, did he need to hold her! “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I couldn’t stop him. I tried, I tried. He ran me right down.”

    Catherine gasped and pulled away, feeling him all over. He gathered her back. “I’m....” He didn’t finish the statement. He wasn’t fine. He was bruised all over, exhausted from spent adrenaline, and his heart was still open and raw, but he had come nowhere near death. “You’re here. Nothing else matters.”

    She sobbed a laugh. “I’d never have forgiven myself if something happened to you.”

    “Of all moments, Catherine, please, only consider yourself.”

    “I can’t. I just... oh, God, I died, Vincent. You were right, I was gone.”

    He kissed the top of her head, unable to keep his lips from her. “Tell me."

    “I saw Mother,” she whispered. “And Daddy. The fear was gone, and the cold. I already missed you, but I wanted to go to them. Then you came up and caught me. You brought me back. Back to the cold, back to you.”

    Vincent shuddered, remembering those moments, all moving in slow motion in his mind, so that her death seemed to go on forever. And then the end of it, as he did what he had never dared to do before, placed his lips on hers in a life-giving breath, drawing her back to him until she coughed and spluttered. Through the cold and the wet, against all probability, the corpse was resurrected. Her heart beat, the breath of life moved through her, her spirit again touched her eyes. He pulled her close, as tightly as he dared, feeling the breath in her body, the heat of her flesh.

    She buried herself in his long throat, and she found she was kissing it, without ever deciding she was going to. He tasted of salt and the oatmeal soap they made Below, and of that wild, tangy, seductive scent that had drawn her from the first moment she had woken, frightened and in pain, in his bed, two years ago. The moment she noticed she almost stopped, but he wasn’t pulling away. She slowed down instead, savoring it, caressing his flesh with her tongue. Her teeth closed gently, trapping the tiniest line of his skin before releasing him to do it again.

    Vincent didn’t notice when she started kissing him, either. It felt so natural. He was just feeling her, making sure every part of him knew she was there, was safe, was still his to hold. When he finally noticed his eyes opened, and he kept himself very, very still. As Catherine’s teeth nibbled him, oh, so gently, his eyes closed again, but his lips parted. Oh, God, but this couldn’t be happening. Not tonight, not now. He couldn’t tell her "no" tonight. He simply did not have the power.

    As he let her seek him out, she grew slightly bolder. Her mouth opened wider, tasted more of him. She expected him to say something, to stop her. And she would stop. She wouldn't press it. She didn’t ever want to push him further than he could go. But he was still holding her, his hands still warm on her shoulder, on her waist. He kept breathing evenly against her, and she knew she couldn’t bring herself to stop unless he asked her.

    Vincent let the sensations envelop him. This wasn’t really happening. This was some elaborate part of what had happened tonight, the fear, the loss, the pain, the violence. He could still feel the death of the Watcher beneath his hands, taste the scent of his vicious blood. Catherine’s death, – her death! – had rent him right through. The Watcher was clearly insane, insane in the first place, and insane again to go to Vincent and gloat. At some level he had known he was speaking to his death. The slight taste Vincent had received of his emotions was poisonous. He focused on women with husbands, women who had strong men to protect them. Vincent had been wrong about that, he hadn’t really wanted Catherine. It wasn’t about the women. It was about strength. That was why he hadn’t tried to rape Catherine, hadn’t even considered it. It was never about her. If he could take the woman from the man, he had the man’s strength. Catherine wasn’t the first, but she was by far the most coveted prize. Because of Vincent.

    But he had raped Vincent, poisoned his soul, torn the violence from his hands, turning Vincent again into the creature he didn’t want to be. He had taken Vincent’s strength, and it killed him, as he must have known it would. Vincent had been the instrument of other men’s suicides before. It never gave him comfort that they sought their deaths.

    Now the events of the night flowed through his veins, leaving him entirely helpless against Catherine’s gentle onslaught. Her mouth slowly eased up the side of his neck, lifting his concealing hair, until she found his fur touched ear beneath it. She kissed the hinge of his jaw, just behind the ear, and he gasped. She pulled away a little. “Vincent,” she breathed into his ear, so quietly it wasn’t even a whisper.

    His head turned toward her of its own accord, and he nuzzled her cheek. She was still warm and fresh from the shower, all trace of that tainted lake of death washed from her. Catherine made a small sound and shifted in his arms. She turned and held him, as if she was standing before him, but she wasn’t standing. In order to find this position her legs straddled him, wrapping around his hips until he could feel her everywhere. Her weight pressed down on his groin, and he was too stunned to protest.

    Catherine began tracing his face, her thumbs caressing his cheeks, her fingertips brushing against his brows. She ran the backs of her fingers down the side of his face, coursing beneath his jaw, her thumb lingering on his broad chin. Then she did what she’d always longed to do, and never before dared. One finger gently touched his upper lip, touching the strange, animal like muzzle, the firmness of his lips. She could feel his breath on her fingers, and she touched the side of his nose. Then, gentle as spring rain, she caressed him with both hands, her thumbs tracing his eyelids. Both thumbs came away slightly wet, and she realized he was holding tears. “Oh,” she whispered, and embraced him, her nose running up and down his temple. Her breath warmed his cheek, and his head moved again of its own accord, finding her jaw, and then her throat.

    He did not kiss her, but his head moved from side to side as if to music, caressing her flesh with his velvety muzzle. There wasn’t even a part of his mind to spare for shame, or common sense, or the words Father would say. When Catherine died tonight it left a vast hole in his senses, and all of those restraints sank into it as if to a whirlpool.

    Catherine couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe he was simply succumbing, letting her do what she wished. His eyes were half closed, and he seemed in a dream state. It wouldn’t be fair to do all she wanted; he would regret it, and it would set their love back again. All of his dual mind had to come to terms with the physical side of their love. She wasn’t sure how aware he was now, or how in control.

    Vincent didn’t know, either. Her death had left him raw and helpless. Even as the police cars came and the men tramped through the park with their flashlights and their shouts, Vincent had stayed to hold her. She’d had to send him away, remind him that he had to go. He’d pressed his face to her cheek for a moment, two moments, three, until long after he should have pulled away. It was only at the last second that he had managed to break contact, disappear into the darkness. Even then he had to stay, despite their flashlights and their dogs. It wasn’t enough that she had been found, he had to watch from the shadows to be sure she was collected tenderly, was safely led to an ambulance. What if there was something wrong with her? Suppose the Watcher had injured her, inside? He had to know she was being tended to before he could bear to let her out of his sight.

    And now he was here, and she was here, and they were both safe on her balcony, and her arms and legs were around him and his heart beat so loudly he thought it might burst from his chest.    

    Catherine moved and began kissing him along his hairline, across his brow, then down his downy cheek, until she came to the corner of his mouth. She kissed him very gently there, and Vincent opened his eyes. He pulled his head away, just slightly, and Catherine knew if she crossed that invisible barrier, if she let herself indulge in those lips, his dream state would be shattered. She pulled away and lightly kissed his nose instead. Then she nuzzled it in an Eskimo kiss, first one side, then the other, drinking in his breath, bathing in his scent.

    He stared at her for a long moment when she was through, his blue eyes a liquid and fathomless sea. His arms snaked around her back, and his hands ran down her sides, into and out of her waist, over her hips, until they finally settled on her bottom.

    That was almost too much for Catherine. She fought to hold herself very, very still at this intimate and extremely erotic touch. Her clitoris twitched in expectation, and she could feel that her pajamas were going to get very wet. She became acutely aware that her legs were splayed over his groin, and she couldn’t be more than a few precious centimeters from his most secret male treasures.

    His head bowed, and Catherine found herself presented with the top of his lustrous mane. And then his lips found her throat, and her head fell back with a sigh that was almost a moan. He lipped her, gently, randomly, and then his tongue found her flesh, and he licked her, again and again, his mouth pressing against her in something that was almost, not quite, a true kiss.

    Catherine grunted and shuddered, unable to contain herself. This was so erotic, so much of what she’d been longing for for so, so long. Vincent pulled away then, his eyes hooded, and he lay his head against the wall of the balcony. His hands, still cradling her buttocks, started to knead her like a cat. Catherine’s groin clenched, demanding she take what was almost being offered her.

    She couldn’t, though. Her heart ached for him, literally a pain in her chest, and she wanted him, and feared him. Any moment he might come to his senses and throw this precious experience away. Her hands found his broad chest. She could barely feel him beneath the layers of padded sweater he wore, but his contours were there, beneath them, broad and muscular, strong enough to pull her back from the jaws of death itself.

    Her hands traveled up to find his shoulders, and she kneaded them, kneaded the tension from them, even as he kneaded her. He made a small sound and tensed beneath her, and she just had to hug him. She leaned forward to put her body against his, and something touched her. Just the barest hint of a touch from beneath his clothes, a twitch from a bulge she’d been unable see was there. It was too much. She knew she should stop this, should talk to him, make sure this was what he wanted, but she couldn’t. It simply wasn’t within her power.

    She was in a bit of a dream state herself. Her terror and her death and her mild case of hypothermia had made everything surreal and intense. She supposed it was possible there was still a bit of the ether, or whatever it was the Watcher had used to put her to sleep, in her system. She thought she could feel Vincent's mind inside her, as he felt her emotions, and he was filled with a drifting, illusive sense of wonder, as if nothing mattered in the world but this moment. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and held him, let her body find his, let that twitching bulge caress the flaming bud of flesh that cried out for him. She held him very tightly, and his hands on her buttocks clenched, almost piercing her flesh, but not quite. Not quite. She couldn’t stop herself from pushing against him, just a little bit, just the tiniest amount, and the bulge jumped against her, and she sighed as her inflamed bud shuddered in release, sending wave after wave of peaceful pleasure through her quivering body. It wasn’t all she thought she wanted – half of her still ached to feel him inside her. But it was enough.

    Vincent grunted softly, and she could feel him moving beneath her, not even moving his hips, just a slowly circulating quiver of motion, a pulse of paradise.

    They simply stayed in that position for a long time after their release. Finally, Catherine’s back cramped, and she had to move. She feared doing it. She feared seeing Vincent’s face, feared what he was thinking. That dream she’d had of feeling what he was feeling was past now, and reality was quickly taking hold again.

    She sat up very slowly, releasing her embrace, letting her hands rest on his upper arms. Vincent watched her movement, and his hands traveled up to her hips. For a long, long time they regarded each other. Neither one of them moved.

    Catherine knew she should speak. She knew they should talk about this, that she should explain her inability to behave rationally. But all of those thoughts would be panic and confusion, and all she felt in this moment was peace. She couldn’t hold them. The silence seemed right.

    Finally, Vincent closed his eyes with a sigh, and his shoulders sagged. He felt as if he’d been through hell tonight. No, came Shakespeare’s words, unbidden into his mind. But to the gate; and there will the devil meet me,  like an old cuckold with horns on his head, and say, ‘Get you to heaven... get you to heaven.’ Shakespeare knew everything.

    Catherine shifted in his lap until she was curled like a child, her legs curled to the side, her arms folded on his chest. Her head leaned against him and she listened to his heart. She couldn’t bear to speak and ruin this precious moment. This was all she wanted in the world, this, right here, curled up in Vincent’s lap with his arms around her, holding her tightly, safely. This was everything.

    Vincent let his head drop until his nose was buried in her hair. She really was here. This night, death had been too close to them. He had to keep holding her... he couldn’t let her go....

    Morning light was what woke him. Still early, but too late for him. “Catherine,” he murmured.

    Catherine awoke with a deep breath and looked up into his face. “You have to go,” she said, realizing it instantly.

    “Yes.”  He considered asking her about what had happened last night. She looked so small and pure and peaceful in his arms, he wasn’t sure it hadn’t all been a dream. No. It had to have been a dream. He had fallen asleep with her in his arms, and he had dreamed it. It had to have been a dream, because he had not felt a single thread of violence in his soul, not had a moment of desire that she hadn’t automatically fulfilled. That couldn’t have been real. He’d known every moment what was happening, and hadn’t felt a single impulse to see her off. That wasn’t like him. No. It had to have been a dream.  He hoped she wasn’t offended that she played such an intimate part of his dreams. It was enough that he had held her through the night. No need to frighten her with what had happened in his mind and body as she slept. “Until tonight, Catherine,” was all he said.

    She kissed him on the corner of his mouth, just as he had dreamed she had last night, gently, sincerely. “I love you,” she said.

    “Until tonight,” he repeated. He kissed the top of her head before he disentangled himself from her and climbed from her balcony.

    That night, as Catherine lit the candles to reclaim her balcony as theirs, she wondered if she should talk to Vincent about what had happened. Finally, she decided not to. It was probably unfair of her, akin to some form of date rape, but she really hadn’t been able to help it. Sometimes Vincent lost control. He might understand that she had... but then he’d feel guilty that he’d taken advantage of her when she was in that state.

    No. It didn’t matter. It was all part of that surreal night, a night of fear, terror, grief, rage, relief, desperation, release and peace. A night that was over, whatever happened.

    Perhaps Vincent didn’t remember. Perhaps he wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. But when he came to her that night he let his fingers brush her lips in a way he never had before. He let himself hold her in ways more close and more intimate than he had ever allowed. He stared at her with his endless blue eyes until she nearly drowned.

    Whatever last night meant to him, it was enough.