Let There Be Lions
By Terry Pepe

     The colors were amazing.  A vivid, intense blue, the sky was
the perfect backdrop for the dazzling disc of gleaming gold.  The
sun, it's only ornament this day, seemed a perfect jewel resting
in luxurient display against it's satin bed, heat and light
radiating off it in palpable waves over the savannah.  That
golden sea flowed across the landscape in majestic splendor
rising effortlessly at the horizon to kiss the blue field
suspended above it.  Along one edge of this panaramic view the
gilded waves were interrupted by a mass of tall green extending
back in seemingly depthless leagues.  Blues and yellows were
apparent here too, in the intricate shading of the leaves, vines
and undergrowth which defined that area.  But whereas the azure
sky and dun-toned plains seemed to distill the very essence of
still, arid heat, the dappled tones of the deep strand appeared
to beckon to shaded, cool comfort.  There the cerulean blues and
green-tipped yellows bespoke of sparkling, dancing waters and
flitting birds and insects.
     Vincent stood in the open of the savannah, about 300 yards
off from the trees gaping in stunned astonishment at his
surroundings.  He had to be dreaming, didn't he?!  He'd seen
pictures of east Africa of course, but he couldn't ever recall
anything this vivid.  It was as if he was there.  He was out in
the open, completely exposed, the closest concealment far off,
yet he felt no panic, no fear.  It was very still about him, but
not lifeless; he knew he was surrounded by a multitude of
creatures, comfortably secluded in their native habitat.
     He stood motionless for a moment, his senses scanning in all
directions, drawing in the images and scents of this vibrant
scene.  He looked over to his left suddenly, something wafting to
him on the seemingly non-existant breeze.  He padded silently in
that direction, his swaying stride smooth and graceful, an ideal
specimen for the setting, though that thought never entered his
mind.  There ahead, a slight rustle of the grasses.  He slowed
his pace and peered cautiously toward that spot.  Suddenly he was
there, and so were they.  He froze in protective stillness,
trying desperately not to draw attention to himself though that
seemed a hopeless wish.
     Two lionesses and several cubs rested together in the
noonday heat, conserving their energy.  One female licked a young
cub while the other nursed two more.  Amazing!  They took no note
of him whatsoever.  How could this be?!  Another scent drew his
sharp attention away from the group only to discover the male of
the pride coming towards them.  The females had sensed the male
also and were looking that way, though Vincent didn't notice - he
was absorbed with the majestic view in front of him.  The male
didn't see him, that much was apparent.
     So, this was a dream and he could see, smell, sense
everything about him, but he was an observer only, not really a
part of the surroundings.  Unbelievable.  He'd never had a dream
like this before.  But what an opportunity!  A tinge of sadness
washed over him suddenly.  How he wished Catherine was here,
experiencing this with him.
     Vincent was distracted again as the male joined the group. 
He settled gracefully into their midst and one female turned to
groom him while the cub scampered over to roll against his side
and bat playfully at the other's significantly larger paw.  The
male accepted this attention with a magnanimous air, the master
of his surroundings.  It was a peaceful, domestic scene and
Vincent was drawn irresistably closer to the group.  No, they
were completely oblivious to him - it seemed he had nothing to
worry about.
     His physical sense of them was astonishing.  They were
there, really there!  He reached out to the nearest female and
his hand came to rest on her tawny, warm flank.  He could
actually feel the silky fur and sleek, strong muscles, the
movement of her breath vibrating down her svelt length.
     He stood in awe at the touch of her underneath his hand. 
What a gift this dream was.  He was in this exotic, far-off land,
out in the open, in the midst of these magnificent creatures in
this most benign of settings.  Catherine!  His mind called out to
her.  Oh if only she were here with him.  His emotional level was
a strange mix of excitement diffused with a softer layer of
melancholy.  He shouldn't be experiencing something this intense
without Catherine.  'She should be here, with me!'  A rueful
expression passed across his face.  He was acting like a petulant
child.  This was a dream, only a dream, and dreaming Catherine
here wasn't what he really wanted at all.  It could only be a
pale imitation of his desires, mocking them and him.  No, that
wasn't what he wanted, and what he wanted couldn't be.
     He turned resignedly back to the pride before him,
determined to experience this dream to the fullest despite
Catherine's absence when suddenly she was there.  His sense of
her was so strong - he'd only felt her like this during times of
desperate danger.  Only there was no fear, no danger associated
with this sense of her now, just the strong bond wave indicative
of her presence.  He turned toward the sensation, in the
direction of the trees, and there she was.
     Her eyes met his across the distance and Vincent instantly
knew that this was not a dream image of Catherine.  At least it
wasn't his.  This had to be Catherine's dream image of herself. 
She was in his dream!  How?!  She raised her hand and called out
to him; "Vincent!"  Her expression was both confused and excited,
a question in her eyes mixed with happy expectation.
     "Catherine?"  The question came out almost a whisper, but
she seemed to hear him and her grin widened in pleasure as she
strode towards him, confidence and trust radiating from her
despite the curious setting.  He began to move to meet her when
suddenly the images surrounding him grew hazy.  Catherine's smile
faded and she tried to run to him, but it was too late.  Even now
she was growing dim along with the savannah and everything within
it.  "Catherine!"  Vincent called to her, but the sound came out
muted to his own ears, more an echo from some dim, past memory,
then it was gone.

Tuesday, early morning

     Vincent sat up suddenly, gasping for breath, Catherine's
name on his lips.  He was in his own bed, back in the familiar
surroundings of his chamber.  It took a few minutes for the
disorienting feelings to slip away, but finally he was fully
     It was only a dream after all.  But what a dream! It had all
seemed so real - especially Catherine.  Catherine...
     He turned his senses toward her, focusing on the bond
furiously.  Yes, she was awake and feeling much like he was now. 
Could she really have been in the dream with him?  Was it
possisble?  He couldn't sit still, the urge to run to her, to
discuss this strange event was so strong in him.  But he
couldn't, wouldn't talk about shared dreams with Catherine.  It
was too much, too close, the implications too frightening.
     He suddenly realized he was pacing about his chamber
feverishly, something he did almost unconsciously when under
emotional and mental stress.  He forced himself to stand still
and took several deep, calming breaths, willing the tension away
from him.
     Indecision washed over him.  He couldn't go to Catherine,
though it was what he longed to do.  Perhaps he should take a
walk - the chamber of the winds would suit his tumultuous mood
right now.  But no, despite his anxiety he found himself too
tired for that trip.  He reluctantly crawled back into bed,
wondering whether the dream would repeat itself, both dreading
and craving it.  He fell asleep almost immediately and if he
dreamt again, it was not of that golden veldt with Catherine and
the tawny, lounging lions.

Tuesday, early evening

     "Vincent.  Vincent?"  Father's voice and the touch of his
hand upon his shoulder finally penetrated his reverie.  "You've
been quite distracted today.  Would you like to talk about it?"
     He was indeed distracted.  Normally Father could never have
caught him so unawares.  He was sitting at the table in his
chamber, a book lying open but unseen before him.  He couldn't
shake the dream images from his mind, they'd intruded constantly
throughout the day - he was thankful he'd had only classes today
and no physical labor.  It was bad enough that he hadn't given
his full attention to the middle children's literature class, but
he might actually have posed a danger to himself and others if
he'd been on excavation duty in the lower levels.
     Vincent was silent a moment longer, considering.  Neither
was bothered by that silence.  Father waited beside him
patiently, his hand a calming presence at his son's shoulder.
     "I'm sorry Father, I have been distracted.  Please, sit
down."  Vincent's voice was low, the slight lisp that had been so
prevalent in his childhood a little more noticable than usual
     Jacob felt conflicting emotions at that sound.  It brought
back vividly evocative images of Vincent as a boy, precious
memories to him, and yet it was almost always a sign of stress
now for the adult.  He pulled a chair up close to Vincent and
lowered himself gingerly into it - his hip had been bothering him
a little in the last few days.  His hand brushed lovingly along
his son's silken brow, ostensibly pushing the hair away from his
eyes, though both recognized it for what it really was, a
father's comforting touch.
     "What it is Vincent?  You can tell me anything, you know
     Vincent shot him a piercing, sidelong glance through the
thick fall of his hair, the brief expression perfectly clear. 
Though Vincent would never have consciously allowed it, Father
saw doubt and even a hint of accusation there.  Catherine.  This
was about Catherine and their relationship.  He squirmed
uncomfortably, the memory of a recent conversation washing
through him.  He paused for a moment, considering his next words,
then a look of resolution crossed his face and he continued. 
"But I haven't always matched my words with deeds in this regard. 
I haven't been fair to you and Catherine, I know that now."  A
rueful look settled into his eyes at that, but he pushed ahead. 
"I've been obstinate, one might almost say...pigheaded."  He
winced at that, Mary's words coming back to him clearly.  "I've
always thought I was doing what was best for you, but it may be
that I've been overly cautious, too protective.  It's a parent's
perogative I know, but... I'm afraid now that my behaviour may
have done more harm than good." 
     He paused, gathering his thoughts, as Vincent watched him in
stunned speechlessness.  This was so unexpected.  Father usually
avoided direct discussion on this topic like the plague.  What
did all this portend, and why was it happening now?  He knew it
was illogical, but he couldn't help but wonder at the seeming
coincidence of last night's strange dream and Father's mood
     Finally Jacob continued.  "I was so hurt by the events of my
last few years above Vincent.  I see now how it colored by
perspective, how it affected my behaviour towards you.  I trusted
no one above, indeed I was inclined to view their very nature as
more inherantly evil than good.  It wasn't just my medical
career.  Margaret loved me, and she left me."  His voice broke at
that admission.  "I couldn't help but think that ultimately it
would be the same with you and Catherine."
     Vincent froze in dismay, his heart thudding erratically in
his chest at these words.  Father was right.  Hadn't he know it
all along?  Catherine was not meant to tie her life to his, he
needed to set her free once and for all.  Perhaps that was what
the dream had been about.  But how?  How could he do it?  It had
been his intent from the beginning, but so far he'd fallen short
on his resolution.  And it was all selfishness on his part.  He
couldn't live without her, but he had to let her go, he had to! 
His hand was unconsciously clutching the pouch containing
Catherine's rose, panic rising through him in waves.
     "No Vincent!  No!  I was wrong.  Margaret did love me, she
always loved me, even when we were apart.  And she regretted her
decision all her life.  We were able to make amends at the end,
but it can never replace the time we missed together.  Catherine
is stronger, her love is stronger.  I can see now that she'll
never leave you of her own volition."  He gripped Vincent's
shoulders, shaking him sharply.  "I was wrong Vincent.  Most
people never find the opportunity for the all-encompassing love
that exists between you and Catherine.  If anybody deserves such
happiness it's the two of you.  You can't throw it away Vincent,
you can't.  It's not fair to you and it's not fair to Catherine."
     Vincent stared incredulously, hardly believing he had heard
correctly.  Tears sprang to his eyes and fell unheeded as a surge
of tumultuous emotion washed across and through him with violent
force.  The content, the direction this had sprung from, it was
so out of the blue.  Out of the blue... the random thought caught
at him, pulling him back again to the dream of last night.  Could
there be a connection between these strange events?
     Jacob was unable to resist the sight of his son in such
turmoil, and soon both were weeping together and holding each
other tightly.
     "I know it will be difficult Vincent, but you must try to
put my bad advice behind you, you must."
     "It wasn't bad advice, Father.  There were many times when
you spared me hurt, both physical and emotional.  I know I
wouldn't have survived my illness without you."
     "I question even that Vincent."  Jacob pulled back and wiped
at his eyes.  "Looking back on it now I have to wonder whether I
might perhaps have been an unwitting cause of that episode.  I
took a normal adolescent incident and blew it out of proportion. 
Your illness seemed directly related to that event.  You've
always been so sensitive emotionally to those you care for.  I
should have taken that into account."
     "You musn't blame yourself Father.  How could you have known
then, or even now, what was right for me?  You did what you
needed to do, and I will always be grateful for that.  No parent
could have been more loving or more patient confronted with such
an unknown entity."
     But this fervent expression was far from comforting to
Jacob.  Instead it hit close to home, to his deepest feelings of
guilt.  "I never meant to make you doubt yourself or question
your humanity, believe me, that's never been an issue to me or
anyone who knows you.  What your appearance is is irrelevant. 
You are the most humane, the most human person I've ever in my
life encountered.  It's what's inside that counts Vincent, what's
in here."  He lightly laid his finger tips against Vincent's
chest, holding his gaze tightly, willing him to accept what he
said now, despite all that he had said before.
     As with his father's reaction a moment ago, this also was
far less comforting than had been the intent.  "It's this 'shell'
that concerns me most Father."  It is the deadly vehicle of my
rages.  Without it I might be no different than countless others
who 'curse their fate' and 'rage against the night'."  He turned
away sadly in resignation, brought full circle back to the
futility of he and Catherine and their lives together.
     "You've always been empathic towards others, but the bond
you share with Catherine is infinitely beyond your past
experiences - isn't that true?"  Father watched him shrewdly,
knowing Vincent could never lie successfully to him.  He didn't
even try.
     "Yes.  What I share with Catherine is beyond everything."
     He might question much of what their destinies held for
them, but Vincent could not question this, it was the one
certainty in his life now.
     "Then you must find the answers between you.  I know it
won't be easy for you, but there is no other way.  Think
carefully on this Vincent.  Don't throw away your happiness
because of your fears... or mine."  Jacob paused for a moment,
deep in his own thoughts of opportunities lost, never to be
     He stirred then, his hand stroking his bearded chin
thoughtfully.  "I don't know how we got to this point today. 
It's not what I came to talk about though it has been on my mind
recently and I've been meaning to find the right moment to
discuss it with you.  Is something wrong between you and
Catherine?  Has this been the cause of your distraction?"
     Vincent could hardly assimilate all that was passing between
them.  Was Father giving him his blessing, actually encouraging
his relationship with Catherine?  What could it all mean?  He
came back to reality as he realized that Father stood patiently,
waiting for an answer.
     "No.  Well, perhaps.  I honestly don't know Father.  I had a
strange dream last night.  It wasn't sad or upsetting, at least
not initially, it was actually quite wonderful."  Vincent stared
off into space, seeing again the scenes of last night.
     "I found myself on the east African plain.  I was there
Father!  It was that real.  The colors, the scents, the textures,
everything was there for me.  I found a pride of lions and
watched them, even touched one of them, but they were completely
oblivious to me.  I could sense everything around me, but I was
only an observer.  I was wishing Catherine could be there,
sharing it with me, then suddenly she was."
     He stopped then and peered at the older man intently.  "I
didn't dream her.  I think... I think she came into my dream." 
The glance he threw at Father then was full of trepidation, as
though sure of his disapproval despite all that had been said so
     "The dream faded and I woke just after she appeared.  It was
so different than anything I've ever experienced before, and
Catherine's presence changed everything.  It's effected me
strongly, much more than I would have thought it could.  I don't
know what to think of it, but somehow I feel that there's more to
it than just a dream, that it requires something of me, I'm just
not sure what."
     Vincent had risen from his chair during this description and
was pacing about the chamber, quite unconsciously.  As with his
lisp, Jacob viewed this with conflicting thoughts.  He knew
Vincent was quite agitated - he often paced to work off that
excess energy - but the real magnificence of his bearing was
never more apparent than when he was lost in this powerful motion
that was so typical of him.
     "Vincent, are you sure Catherine actually shared your dream? 
Have you spoken to her about this?"  Father watched him closely. 
He was quite certain Vincent hadn't gone above in the last couple
of days and suspected he was reaching the crux of Vincent's
'distraction' by the expression suddenly evident on his face.
     "No, I haven't talked to her about it, but I'm sure none the
less.  When I woke up last night I could sense her emotions
plainly through the bond.  She was experiencing the same
confusion and wonder that I was.  Her thoughts were so clear to
me.  I'm sure Father."
     "You must discuss this with Catherine, Vincent.  The
relationship you share, your bond, is unique.  Perhaps it is
changing.  You've always been very intuitive, trust that now. 
It's true the dream seems simplistic in content, but your
response to it has been quite the contrary.  You mustn't ignore
that.  Talk with Catherine, she may be able to help clarify it
for you.  Indeed her input may be absolutely critical to your
understanding of this dream since it seems to be as much hers as
yours."  Father rose then, his hand again on his son's shoulder,
both for support and comfort.  "And Vincent, promise me you'll
think about what I've said today."
     Vincent laid his hand over his parent's and their eyes met;
his own full of confusion and a tentative hope, his father's sure
and calm.  "I promise Father.  I think... I think we'll need to
talk again about this."
     "Whenever you're ready my son, I'll be here for you."  Jacob
leaned down to kiss his brow, then turned and left him alone with
his thoughts. 

Tuesday, late evening

     She could still see it all so clearly; the blue of the sky
only served to enhance the intense color of his eyes and the
yellow grasses paled in significance to the golden mane of his
hair.  She'd never been to Africa, still she was quite sure that
was the setting they'd experienced.  It was really irrelevant to
her; the true magic had been the image of Vincent in the
sunlight, his eyes blazing across the distance at her, his hair
in wild, glorious disarray about him.  What a wonderful dream. 
Why did it have to end just as she'd entered it?
     The spell broke as frustration washed over her and she
opened her eyes to the lamp-lit darkness of her balcony.  Where
was Vincent?  He had to come to her, they must discuss this!  She
sighed heavily, resigned to being patient yet again, to give him
time to work through what must have been a very disturbing event
for him.  Suddenly she paused, an electric tingle flowing through
the bond.  She didn't often sense him the way he regularly did
her.  The dream last night had been a rare exception, now was
another.  He was on his way to her, she felt it with an
unquestioning certainty.  He would be here any moment.  She
turned to watch the corner where he would appear, and a minute
later he slipped over the edge to stand before her.
     His husky tones caressed her name and through it her.  She
could never fully define what it was or how he did it, she was
only aware of the effect, and once again she felt it, a langorous
shiver running down and through her, settling somewhere in the
very center of her.
     She'd never before realized that he reacted in exactly the
same way to his name on her lips, but she felt it now through her
heightened sense of the bond.  For the first time too she was
able to put a name to the fleeting expression in his eyes which
he so successfully hid from her - it was desire.  Her heart
swelled at that sudden knowledge and her frozen stance ended as
she ran to him to hold him tight.
     His cloaked arms rose hesitantly then enfolded her in their
depths.  He sighed in relief, feeling complete for the first time
in days.
     "I've missed you Catherine."
     He buried his face in the hair at the curve of her shoulder,
breathing in her scent, absorbing it into his very essence.  The
silken fabric under his hands was tantalizing and seductive, at
once covering and revealing the flesh beneath it.  He knew he
should move away from her, but he couldn't, not just yet.
     "And I've missed you.  Always.  Lately it seems that my time
away from you is simply a test of my patience.  I'm not complete
when you're not with me, Vincent.  Do you ever feel that way?"
     He gasped as her words so closely paralleled his own
thoughts, holding her even tighter.  He swallowed hard, trying to
decide if this was something he should admit to her, then
remembered his talk with Father and steeled himself to move
forward, just a little.       "Yes.  More and more often now." 
It was an amazing concession for him.
     Joy coursed through her heart at his words but Catherine
contained her emotions with a massive effort and drew away from
him slightly, rewarding his courage with some much needed
distance.  Whatever change had occured, she knew it wouldn't be
wise to push too fast, no matter how much she wanted it.
     "We have to talk about last night.  Was it really you?  I
could swear it was, but it all happened so quickly.  Were we
really there?  Everything was so real.  And was it my dream or
yours?  Oh, Vincent, this is so exciting!  We were actually
together, in the sunlight!  We were, weren't we?  Tell me."
     Catherine was almost babbling in her excitement to talk
about this with him.  For once she had been an equal partner in
the bond, even though it had occured in a dream.  She took him by
the hand and drew him over to a low chaise near one end of the
balcony, her eyes never leaving his.  They sank down on it
together and she watched him expectantly, patiently.
     "I think we were."  He paused then, a hesitant look in his
eyes.  "And I think it was my dream, because you appeared
somewhere in the middle of it."  His tentative mood changed then.
     "Catherine, I don't think you could see them from where you
stood, but I was watching a pride of lions.  They didn't seem
aware of me at all.  I was as close to them as we are now, I even
touched one!"  His excitement at the retelling of that part
momentarily overrode his anxiety about the significance of the
sharing of the dream.  He was like a little boy who had just had
an adventure and needed to share it, to relive it.
     "Lions?  Really?  Oh Vincent, I didn't see them, though I
knew there was something there you were watching.  Could you
really feel them?  Was your sense of touch as clear as mine
seemed?  I could see and smell everything, it was unbelievable." 
Catherine was caught up in his tale, the vivid scene clear before
her in her mind's eye.
     "There were two lionesses, three cubs and the male.  I
touched one and I swear I could feel her silky fur, her muscled
strength, even the breath running through her.  She was so soft
and warm.  Oh. Catherine, it was so wonderful; I could feel the
restrained power, their utter peace together - they were
     He noticed then the sudden glint in her eyes at those last
words.  She couldn't hide her empathy for his fascination with
those aspects of the beast.  She understood quite well.  A flush
spread over his face as he caught the train of her thoughts
through the bond and he went on quickly.  "It was so real; I've
never had a dream like it before."  He squeezed her hands tightly
at the memory.  "And the sunlight!  Catherine, it was so amazing. 
I really felt like I was out on that vast plain, the sun beating
down on me.  I can see the light, feel the heat, even now."
     "Were you frightened, Vincent?
     "No.  But I should have been.  That's when I was really
certain that it was a dream."
     He met her gaze so openly, admitting his fears.  Her heart
twisted and she suddenly leaned forward to hug him tightly,
needing to comfort him even if after the fact.  She felt
resistance for a moment, then his tension eased and he snuggled
against her, letting her hold him, giving in to her need and his
     "Oh, Vincent, why did it have to end so soon?  I really
didn't get a chance to experience it.  And that strand of trees
behind me, it looked so strangely inviting..."  She was silent
then, staring out into the night.  "What do you think it was? 
Why did we have this particular dream?  And why together? 
Something's changing Vincent."
     The tension appeared again in his shoulders, she felt it
under her hands.  He pulled back then to hold her gaze, the
openess still there, but now tinged with anxiety.
     "I don't know what it is, but I think you're right
Catherine, something is changing."
     She considered for a moment before answering.
"Whatever it is, it doesn't feel bad.  I felt good during the
dream, at least until I realized it was ending, and that was only
because I didn't want it to.  And though I was only there for a
moment, I felt positive emotions from you."
     "That's unusual, too, Catherine.  You normally don't feel me
through the bond, not the way I sense you.  But that's changing
now, too, isn't it?"
     He watched her closely, almost holding his breath in
anticipation of her response.
     "Yes."  She met his gaze calmly, unwilling to mislead him
about this new development - it meant too much to her.  Their
eyes locked and they remained motionless for a few moments.
     Finally Vincent nodded slightly and a look of resolution
crossed his face.  "Catherine, Father and I talked today, about
you and me...  About us."  Vincent watched her closely, both
visually and through the bond, for her reaction to this
statement.  He sensed a sudden stillness in her, a waiting
tension that he couldn't quite define.
     "What about us, Vincent?"  Her voice was low and even, to
the point of being flat.  He couldn't read her at all suddenly.
     "Father told me... he said..."  Vincent trailed off,
uncertain of how to continue. "Tell me Vincent."  Her eyes took
on a warily neutral expression.
     "He apologized for being so hostile towards our
relationship.  He sees now how his life above has effected his
perception of me...of us.  He said...  He said he was wrong about
     Vincent stopped, overwhelmed at the step he seemed to have
taken, his mind racing with worried expectation for Catherine's
response.  He tried to focus his attention on her alone, away
from his own nervous thoughts.
     The stillness evident in Catherine a moment before slowly
began to dissolve.  It started with a minute trembling he could
at first sense only through their clasped hands but it spread
rapidly to encompass her everywhere until she was shaking
     He pulled her close then, holding her tight, trying to take
the tumultuous feelings from her by absorbing them into himself. 
"Catherine?"  He didn't know what to do, how to respond.  Her
emotions through the bond were strong now, but so chaotic he
couldn't decipher them.
     "Oh, Vincent, Vincent!"  She was sobbing, her ragged breaths
jarring against his chest as she clutched him, her previous
resolution not to push too fast shattered by his disclosure.  "We
can be together?  You won't leave me?"
     Tears sprang to his eyes as her words spilled out, riding
the palpable wave of her relief.  He hugged her tight, rocking
her slight body against his in a comforting motion while he let
the tension drain off him, leaving him weak.  He realized
suddenly that it felt as if he'd just taken his first deep breath
since his meeting with Father that afternoon.
     "No."  His voice was hoarse with emotion.  "I won't leave
you.  I thought once it was the right thing to do, for your sake,
but I couldn't then, for my own.  Now I don't know what to think,
except that I love you, Catherine."
     Oh God!  The words... she had waited so long to hear those
words from him.
     He was amazed at her strength, her grip had tightened almost
painfully about him.  She was no longer crying and her emotions
rang through the bond clear and pure.  Vincent allowed himself a
luxury he had strictly avoided in the past; he moved into the
stream of the bond deeply, letting her love and happiness wash
over him in cleansing waves, validating all he was, all they were
together.  Ohhh!  A pleasure undreamed of.  He wanted to stay in
that place with her forever.  He felt more than heard Catherine's
low moan and tightened his hold about her as they were drawn
deeper and deeper into a sensual well of emotion.
     An eternity later he felt her draw back from him slightly,
still holding him fiercely in the eddying pools of their bond. 
Her luminous gray eyes met the deepening blue of his own and the
silence seemed to stretch out to infinity, this additional
connection strengthening the golden web holding them fast. 
Finally she spoke.
     "I love you Vincent."
     His throat tightened and tears welled up again, threatening
to overwhelm him as her words lapped gently against him, borne on
the waves of their burgeoning bond.
     She paused as if to gather her thoughts and add something
more.  But she didn't.  For what else was there of real import
besides this?  They loved each other.  There was nothing else. 
She leaned back into him, resting her head against his chest,
holding him loosely now, her strength sapped.
     They rested that way for hours, floating within the pulsing
waves of the bond, drawing strength and peace from it and from
each other.  And though they didn't realize it their combined,
extended presence within caused that connection to strengthen
even more.  It drew about them like a silken cord, weaving them
into it's intricate, patterned structure, taking this opportunity
to further its purpose, to bind them permanently and irrevocably

Wednesday, early morning

     A pale, eerie haze just off to the edge of his vision,
growing closer... closer...
     Vincent came awake with a start.  Catherine.  She was
cuddled against him, fast asleep.  Anyone else might have
mistaken it for the dead of night, but Vincent could detect the
diffused fog over the predawn sky.  It would be light soon - he
had to leave.  He glanced down at her and was caught fast by
images of the evening past.
     Oh, Catherine...  What they had shared last night was almost
incomprehensible to him; the bond was so strong in her now, in
them both.  He felt her deeply, even as she slept.  How had they
moved to this point so quickly?  And to think these events seemed
to have been set into motion by a harmless, innocent dream.
     He sighed and gently eased her back against his arm so that
he could see her face clearly in the moonlight.  He tenderly
brushed her bangs back, loving the silken texture of her hair and
skin.  So beautiful...
     A sound distracted him, it came from the streets below.  The
city was beginning to stir, he couldn't wait any longer.  He
cupped her smooth cheek in his palm and rubbed his thumb along
the soft contours there.
     "Catherine...  Catherine..."
     She woke slowly, easily, blinking up at him sleepily.
     "Vincent, you're here.  It really happened didn't it?  Tell
me it wasn't a dream."
     "It really happened.  It wasn't a dream."
     They both smiled then, the painful memories of that long ago
night turned effortlessly into the pleasures just past, tied
together by those fateful words.
     "It will be light soon, Catherine.  I must go."
     The regret in his voice and through the bond was evident
though he tried to hide it from her.  He didn't want anything sad
associated with these last few hours, but there was no way to
avoid it.  Their parting now would be more difficult than ever
before.  He hurried on, trying to put a happy twist on the
inevitable leaving.
     "Can you come below this evening?"  He hesitated shyly, not
certain what would happen now, where they would go from here. 
"There's so much we need to talk about."
     A shadow passed over her eyes at his words.
     "I want to, more than anything, but I can't.  I didn't have
a chance to tell you last night; I have to go to Rochester to
interview a witness.  I'm leaving this morning.  I'll be gone
until Friday.  Oh, Vincent..."
     "Shhh...  It's alright, Catherine.  This is your work, and
it's important.  A few days won't change anything between us."
     He paused then, as if considering something that hadn't
occured to him before.  "Is this assignment dangerous?  If
anything were to happen to you..."  He trailed off, unable to
continue, his eyes suddenly haunted.
     "No, not at all, believe me, Vincent."  She hurried to
reassure him.  "This case is one of property, not violence.  And
this woman is a friendly witness.  I won't be in any danger, I
promise you."
     Vincent's expression cleared somewhat, though he couldn't
help but recall her supposedly 'safe' trip to L.A. and how that
had almost turned out.
     Catherine's hands gripped his shoulders and shook him and he
refocused his gaze upon her face.  I won't let anything stop me
from returning to you safely.  You're not getting out of this one
so easily!"  Her teasing words lightened the mood and he felt
himself relax again beside her. 
     "Friday night then.  There's a concert in the park.  They'll
be playing one of my favorites, Mendelssohn's violin concerto in
E minor.  Can you come?"
     "Wild horses couldn't keep me away.  I should be back in the
afternoon, six-thirty at the latest.  I'll meet you at the
threshhold at seven-thirty."
     "I'll be waiting."
     They gazed deep into each other's eyes for a few minutes
more, loathe to end this precious night.  Finally they could
delay no longer.  Vincent stood up, drawing her with him, keeping
her close.
     "Until Friday, Catherine.  Be well."
     He turned to leave her then, striding toward the far corner
of the balcony.
     "Vincent, wait!"
     He paused to look back at her and she threw herself into his
arms, burying her face in the folds of his cloak at the center of
his chest.
     "I love you, Vincent, I love you."  To say the words so
freely, so openly, it was such an intense pleasure.
     He gasped and enclosed her in his arms pulling the edges of
his cloak about her, holding her to himself tightly, feeling her
soft body mold to his hard strength.  It was an unmistakable, if
unconscious, act of possession.
     "Tell me, Vincent, tell me!"  She held him fiercely, urging
him on, drawing him out, to her and only her.
     "I love you, Catherine, my love... my love..."
     His voice was achingly poignant as he whispered the words in
her ear and she shuddered as they vibrated through her like
ripples in a pond.  She felt the fleeting touch of his lips
against her temple and then her arms were empty and he was gone.
     Catherine hugged herself tightly, trying to hold the feeling
of Vincent's body against hers for as long as possible.  But he
was truly gone, and for the first time that night she felt the
fall chill of the evening air seeping through her.  She had
almost given in to her sorrow when she felt him again.  He wasn't
gone, he never would be again.  He was with her now, as she had
always been with him.  The bond held them safe, secure, together. 
She smiled out into the night sending him her love and faith. 
Until Friday my love.

     Vincent was on the roof by the time Catherine's message was
sent.  He'd felt her deep melancholy and had almost decided,
quite irrationally, to go back.  Suddenly her sorrow was replaced
by a soaring sweep of love and contentment.  It was overwhelming
and he staggered back, clutching the leather pouch against his
chest, feeling her close.  The words poured into him like crystal
clear water filling an empty vessel.  He heard them as clearly as
if she were standing beside him.  A deep peace settled over him
then, and somehow he knew, though much was yet to be worked out,
that everything would be fine.  Someday they would be together. 
     He stood lost in thought for a moment more, then shook off
his reverie and glanced out over the skyline.  The pale pink
light was spreading rapidly now, he'd have to hurry.  He moved
quickly towards the maintenance access panel for the elevator
shaft and disappeared from sight.

     "Hey Radcliffe!  What are you doing here?  I thought you
were leaving for Rochester."
     It was six-thiry and Joe was the only one in the office when
she arrived.  He was sitting at his desk with a cup of coffee and
the morning paper, one hand unconsciously twisting and untwisting
a rubber band
     "I am Joe.  I just stopped in to pick up a few files.  Why
are you here so early?"
     "Hey, just getting a jump on today's business.  You know me;
work, work, work."
     "I see that, Joe.  Will we be picking up Dennis for breaking
Mr. Wilson's window again?"  Catherine stared pointedly at the
cartoon section spread open before him and Joe had the grace to
blush though his boyish grin couldn't be contained.
     "You bet, Radcliffe.  Gotta keep the peace here in Gotham
City.  This isn't Mayberry you know."  He twirled an invisible
six-shooter, slipping it skillfully into an equally invisible
     "Well the citizens can rest easy knowing you're watching
over them, Barney" she quipped wickedly.
     "Hey, my name's Joe, Joe Friday, and I know all the secrets
in this naked city."  He zinged right back.
     "You're incorrigible, Joe.  I should know better than to
play TV trivia with the King.  Gotta run, see ya."  She headed
for the door at a fast clip.
     "Cathy, wait!"
     "What is it?"
     "There's an interesting case in the works, it involves the
Delano investigation.  We don't have time to go into the details
now, but there may be some fireworks this weekend.  You want in? 
Jackson's got some hot surveillance set up for Friday night."  It
was Joe's turn to smirk wickedly now.
     "Hmmm, let's see.  Surveillance, Friday night, Tim Jackson's
case...."  She drew out a pregnant pause to impressive lengths,
as if actually considering his proposal.  "It sounds lovely Joe,
but I think I'll pass on this one.  Thanks for thinking of me
though."  She smiled sweetly and moved towards the door before he
could make a serious request - she knew he was quite capable of
     His guffawing chuckles followed at her back.  "Ok Radcliffe,
you win this one but I'll get you next time!"
     She didn't risk a reply, but instead beat a hasty retreat. 
If she'd learned anything about working for Joe it was when to
cut and run.

     Vincent had tarried in the park for as long as he safely
could, watching the pale pink light brighten into the glorious
ambers, reds and golds of a fall morning.  The dew tipped grass
was a silent carpet under his feet as he wandered about, his
thoughts centered elsewhere in the city, on Catherine.
     An early morning jogger suddenly appeared over the rise of a
dirt path ahead and Vincent stepped into the shrubbery, waiting
in absolute stillness, suddenly one with the foliage, until he
had passed.  He moved quickly then, entering the tunnels after
double checking to ensure that no one was watching.  Once safely
inside his gait became uncharacteristically slow as he fell back
into daydreams and memories of the night past.
     "Vincent!  Up early.  Like Mouse."  The young man nodded
knowingly.  "Can't sleep, always going, doing."  His hands
gestured about him in a wide, vague sweep, somehow implying an
endless list of exciting tasks just waiting their turn for his
     First Father, now Mouse, Vincent thought ruefully.  Next
thing you know Samantha, chattering magpie that she was, would be
sneaking up on him.  Then again perhaps he was being too hard on
himself.  Mouse wasn't called 'Mouse' for nothing afterall.  That
thought brought an inevitable grin, his good humor close to the
surface this morning.
     "Hello, Mouse."  He clasped the younger man on the shoulder
affectionately.  "Where are you going?"
     His young friend glanced about him furtively, as if he might
encounter a spy lurking about, listening in for secret
information.  He leaned in towards Vincent to speak in an
exaggerated stage whisper, secrecy plainly on his mind.  "Big
experiment, Great Hall.  Too many people last Winterfest."
     He looked thoughtful for a moment, giving this problem his
full attention.  Vincent however was suddenly worried, visions of
blown out walls and sawed down tables flashing through his head. 
Then again perhaps Mouse's plan had more to do with the tunnel
inhabitants than the hall.  No, even Mouse had his limits.  He
     "Mouse, you don't intend to do something to the Great Hall,
do you?  You know that any major project must first be approved
by the Council."
     "Just measuring" Mouse assured him.  "No explosives, yet."
     That last statement didn't have quite the effect Mouse had
intended it to.  In fact Vincent was now furiously wracking his
brain for a diversion.  Luckily there was one method that almost
always worked with Mouse.  He feigned a nonchalant air and baited
the hook.
     "It's too bad you have to do that just now.  I was thinking
of making an early breakfast and was hoping you'd join me.  Mmmm,
let's see, what shall I have.  Pancakes I think.  And I believe
William had intended to make blueberry muffins last night.  I
normally wouldn't do a thing like this, but I don't think I can
resist raiding his pantry this morning."  He glanced off to the
side with a studied air of indifference, reeling off a list of
Mouse's favorite foods.  "Bacon of course, and I think Mr. Ngu
sent down some fresh oranges yesterday."
     By now Mouse was fidgeting mightly, visions of these tasty
morsels dancing through his head, vying with the equally fine
image of the Great Hall in glorious ruin, awaiting his magic
renovations.  Hunger  finally edged out chaos, but just barely.
     "Cinnamon pancakes?" he asked breathlessly.
     "What a good idea Mouse, I believe I will" Vincent replied,
locking up the victory.
     "I'll find, you stir.  Great Hall can wait."
     Vincent heaved a huge sigh of relief, threw an arm about
Mouse's shoulder and steered him towards the inner chambers and
away from destruction, at least for now.

Wednesday, late evening

     What a day it had been.  The commuter flight had been
delayed for an hour sitting on the tarmac checking out a
questionable gauge.  When she'd finally gotten to the Rochester
District Offices she'd been informed that their witness had
decided that perhaps she woudn't testify after all.  It had taken
several additional hours to find and convince her again and by
then it had been too late to start the deposition precedings. 
She'd tried to at least start the interview, but the witness
needed to be home, cooking dinner for her family.  Catherine
found herself staring at her hotel walls with nothing to do.
     Well perhaps that wasn't exactly right.  She found it all
too easy to lose herself in the memories of last night and this
morning.  This was the first time that they'd really discussed
their relationship, and though nothing had been decided, she felt
hope coursing through her.  It would be all right, it would.  She
would help him through this and they would have their happy life
together - nothing would stop her in this quest.  

*   *   *

     He was back again, the golden grasses spreading out about
him in all directions but one, the trees...  Catherine had wanted
to go there.  Catherine.  He called out to her purposely now,
though he wasn't certain whether he actually said the words aloud
or only thought them through the bond.  It was irrelevant really
- he was sure she would hear.  And she did.  There she was now,
running towards him, her eyes sparkling, laughter bubbling up
through her.  His long strides brought them together that much
quicker and then he swept her up quite impulsively, swinging her
in circles under the glorious afternoon sun.  He stopped before
she could get too dizzy and lowered her to her feet, her body
sliding along his length.  He blushed at the intimate,
unintentional touch, moving away from her slightly.  Catherine
pretended not to notice.
     "Oh Vincent!  We're here again.  I can't believe it, just
look at you."  She smiled up at him, suddenly quite still, taking
in his magnificence.  Copper and gold shades were everywhere
about him - he positively glowed.  She had not thought it
possible for his eyes to appear bluer than before, but amazingly
they were."
     "And you Catherine.  I didn't think you could ever look more
beautiful to me than on your balcony by moonlight, now I may have
to reconsider."
     He teased her lightly, yet he was completely serious as he
watched the golden highlights of her hair gleaming in the sun. 
The tawny peach of her complexion amazed him, she always appeared
a more ivory hue by candlelight.  He honestly didn't know which
appealed to him more.  Her beauty was endless to him and truth to
tell, he would see her that way no matter what her physical
     She could see he was falling into the deep introspection
that was characteristic of him and moved to gently steer him in
another direction.  Now was not the time for that.  They were
together, in the sunlight, and who knew when the dream would end
     "Do you think the lions are still here?"  She was jumping up
and down, her cheeks rosy with excitement.  "Oh show me, Vincent,
show me!"
     Her excitement was contagious and Vincent quickly scanned
the surrounding area, looking for clues to their presence.  He
caught their scent almost immediately.
     "Over there, Catherine.  Come."
     He took her hand and they moved towards the trees until they
were about a hundred yards off from them.  They almost stumbled
upon the pride, so well concealed were they in the deep grasses,
their coloring a perfect camouflage.
     "Oh, Vincent."  Catherine gasped at the sight.  She dropped
his hand and moved towards them cautiously, though they never
took the slightest note of her.  She sank slowly to her knees
beside the male and tentatively reached out to touch him.  So
warm, so sleek and strong...  She slid her hands deep into his
mane, feeling the coarse silk slipping through her fingers, the
massive muscles at the juncture of his shoulders and neck.  She
was lost in the sensuous feel of the beast beneath her hands.
     Vincent stood motionless, watching Catherine lean heavily
against the animal as she stroked and smoothed him almost
hypnotically.  He felt a momentary jolt of fear for her so close
to the wild cat, but quickly discarded it as it became obvious
she would come to no harm.
     Her hands moved against him, feeling the muscled strength,
the tawny sleekness, her fingers delving through his fur as she
slid them along his supple length.  Vincent shivered suddenly and
realized he had been imaging those tender touches along his own
flesh.  He shook the sensations from him with great difficulty,
then moved forward to kneel beside her.
     "Oh, Vincent, he's magnificent."  She gazed around her at
the recumbant, powerful animals as they lazed in the sun, soaking
up the heat, conserving their energy.  She could imagine their
nightstalks, the scenes suddenly vivid before her and strangely
compelling.  The silky, muscled warmth was irresistable to her
and she leaned forward to rest against his powerful back, her
arms extending over her head to trace along the beast's
shoulders, slipping around his neck and under the thick mane as
far as she could reach.
     Vincent gasped, the eroticism of her actions flooding
through him in pulsing waves.  He felt himself drawn to her and
couldn't resist; he spooned his hips behind hers and laid his
torso down against her back, his arms curving over hers until his
hands could clasp hers and hold them tight.  He felt her sleek
warmth against his length, the rise and fall of her breathing
combined with that of the cat beneath her.  The silky fur of the
animal was twined between their clasped fingers, both teasing and
soothing in it's effect.  A strange mixture of excitement and
peace filled him as they laid together.  His nerve endings were
so heightened, he felt every nuance of breath and motion beneath
him.  He was operating on pure sensation now, bypassing his
oh-so-logical mind to experience this directly through the bond.
     She lay utterly still beneath him, basking in the sensation
of the benign power enclosing her.  She felt a purring vibration
rumbling through her and couldn't tell if its origin was Vincent
or the beast beneath her.  Then again, perhaps she was the
source.  She couldn't have felt safer or more sublimely content.
     They lay that way for long, countless minutes until,
inevitably, their arousal began to override their control. 
Vincent pulled away from her then, trying to still the panting of
his breath and the erratic beating of his heart.
     Catherine lay still a moment longer, pulling her control
tightly about her.  He wasn't ready for this yet, be patient, be
patient...  But they had come so far already.  She couldn't
believe the strides they'd made in the last few days.  She smiled
to herself and decided that perhaps one more small step was in
order this day.  A kiss.  She wanted just one kiss.  A small,
innocent one to grow on.
     She sat up then and turned to face him, her expression one
of calm, loving acceptance.  His features on the other hand were
full of doubt, fear and tension.
     "Shhh...  It's alright my love."  Her hands rose to gently
caress his face, easing away the tension there.  "You see, we can
stop whenever we like.  It's up to us Vincent.  Always."
     The panic had begun to ease from his eyes, soothed by her
stroking hands and low tones.  He spoke haltingly.  "Are you sure
Catherine?  I don't know...  These feelings are so new, so
overwhelming to me."
     He paused, then went forward resolutely.  "That part of me
that... protects..."  He stumbled over this last word, trying not
to frighten her.  But he couldn't hide anything from her in this
place and she clearly heard the word 'kills' through the bond. 
"I don't know if I can control it."  His eyes pleaded with her to
understand his fears, unable to articulate them.
     "I'm know...I know."  She spoke quickly to reassure him,
then hesitated before going on.
     "You've never hurt me Vincent.  Even in your deepest rages,
even when overcome by Paracelsus' drug.  That side of you is
always there to protect me when I need you.  I know you don't
trust that part of you, but I do.  I love all of you, and I know
that all of you loves me.  Trust the bond in this, it will always
hold us safe."
     She held him in the depths of her clear eyes and the warm
security of the bond, their only physical connection now the
touch of her fingers against his face.  He was beginning to
relax, the bond sending out soothing waves of healing comfort to
them both, encompassing and enclosing them within it's golden
circle.  For a time they were completely oblivious to their
surroundings, their only awareness that of each other.  Finally
he shook off the calming lassitude and spoke somewhat shyly,
needing to distance himself from this sensitive topic for the
time being.
     "Catherine, would you like to go investigate that wooded
area now?"  He glanced away from her toward that region and his
expression became thoughtful and somewhat perplexed.
     She looked that way but saw nothing in particular and turned
her gaze back to him.
     "What is it Vincent?  Tell me."
     "I'm not sure.  It's just something about those trees.  They
don't seem right.  I mean..."  He paused bemusedly as if not sure
exactly what he meant.  "They don't look as if they belong here,
in the midst of this savannah."
     His eyes stared out towards the deep corpse, furiously
scanning it for some signal or clue that could shake the eerie
feeling filling him over it's presence there.
     Catherine looked again closely, but she felt nothing besides
the slight tingling that seemed hard to separate from the overall
dream experience.  There was something about it, but she couldn't
put her finger on it and she finally quit trying.
     "Don't worry Vincent.  Though sometimes it's hard to
remember, this is only a dream.  If the lions can't hurt us, I
don't think anything in there will either."
     He stared out for a moment longer, then finally turned back
to her.
     "You're right.  Let's go."
     He took her hands and drew her to her feet and started to
head off in that direction.
     "Waitt."  He felt her tugging at him, pulling him back.  She
didn't look alarmed in any way, so he watched her curiously,
waiting, a silent question in his eyes.
     "I'd like one thing before we go."  Her tone was light and
     "What, Catherine?"
     She didn't respond right away, instead gazing at him
speculatively, openly.
     "Tell me."
     She never could resist the low tones in his voice when he
urged her on with those two simple words.
     "A kiss, Vincent.  Just one small kiss.  Please?"
     He stood utterly still before her, but she had heard the
slight, indrawn breath.  She waited patiently for a few moments,
letting him become accustomed to the idea.  Finally she leaned
forward and gently touched her lips to his.
     She didn't move then, or pull away.  Neither did he.  After
a moment she tenderly brushed her mouth against his, feeling the
heat and textures of him there.  His lower lip was smooth, the
upper one silky.  The overall combination was devastating.  She
moved a little more aggresively now, nipping at the curves and
dimples of his mouth with her own, softly, gently.
     Vincent was frozen in place.  He couldn't believe the
sensation of her lips against his.  It stirred him to the depths
of his soul.  She stopped suddenly and he gasped in dismay,
wanting her back.  He opened his eyes slowly to see her watching
him, her eyes clear and calm and filled with love for him.  He
drew a ragged sigh then leaned in to kiss her back.  He just
couldn't resist her.  He moved his mouth over hers, copying her
movements, careful not to do anything she hadn't, determined not
to startle or frighten her in any way.  Tingling urges were
running through him, centering in his belly, but he ignored them
with a massive effort, focusing completely on this their first
real kiss.
     Her lips were so full, so luscious.  He'd always been
fascinated by them, struggling with himself not to stare when
they were together.  But now his concentration was centered there
entirely.  The satin lushness of them drew him to caress those
curves, tasting a slight moisture there that caught and held him. 
He stopped then and drew away, afraid he would be unable to if he
waited a moment longer.
     Vincent's eyes met hers with stunned astonishment.  She was
the sweetest thing he had ever tasted.  He was trying to make his
mind work rationally again when Catherine's face began to fade. 
Her expression turned to one of dismay and he saw her lips move
to frame his name, though he heard no sound.  "Catherine!"  He
called out to her, but they were being pulled apart now, her
image growing more distant and vague until she was gone and he
sank into black nothingness.

Thursday, early morning

     "Catherine!"  Vincent jerked abruptly out of sleep, sitting
up in bed and calling out her name.
     But of course she wasn't there.  So real... it had been so
real!  And they had shared the dream despite the fact that
Catherine was several hundred miles away in Rochester.  He could
feel her now; she was awake too, calming her heart after the
dizzying end to the dream.
     The dream...  Catherine had kissed him, and he had kissed
her!  He couldn't help himself, he laid back down and replayed
that scene over in his mind, feeling her lips once again upon
his.  The sensation had been exquisite, the pleasure intense,
unlike anything he'd ever experienced before.  Oh, Catherine, I
never knew...
     Then the barest whisper of thought floated through him
sending shivers of fear and anticipation along his spine.  Until
Friday, Vincent...my love...

Thursday, late evening

     Another lousy day.  Of course she knew it would be after the
poor start yesterday.  The interview had taken up most of the
day, and she'd begun to furiously chase down and confirm the
information as soon as it had ended.  She'd only stopped because
all the key places of business on her list had closed for the
night.  She should have been almost done by now but instead was
behind by at least half a day.  Still, there was no way she
wasn't getting out of here and back home by tomorrow's concert,
especially after last night.
     She dragged herself upstairs (the elevator was broken,
wouldn't you know), found her room, kicked off her shoes and
flung herself across the bed.  Ten o'clock.  She was hungry, she
should eat, they did have room service.  But what if...  No, now
she was being silly.  Vincent wouldn't normally be sleeping at
this hour.  Still, there was no way she was missing the dream if
it came along again tonight, not after last night.
     The dream had been beyond her wildest imaginings.  The lions
had been just as Vincent described - magnificent.  She had kept
tightly hidden her deepest response to them, how they had spoken
to her of him, of his power and grace.  And when she had touched
the big cat,, and Vincent her... and then the kisses...  Oh
God...  A shivering wave passed down her length as the memory
played itself out again.

*   *   *

     Vincent, Father and Mary were sitting in Father's study
enjoying a late-night cup of herbal tea and some quiet
conversation.  The children's story hour had ended about half an
hour since and this quiet time between the three of them was an
opportunity they rarely missed if able.
     "Vincent, William told me you averted near disaster
yesterday with Mouse.  Apparently he 'overheard' your
conversation in the kitchen.  He's especially grateful as he
considers the Great Hall one of his prime responsibilities."
     Mary paused for a moment, biting off a thread on the shirt
she was mending.  "Still, I wonder if it was absolutely necessary
for you to use so many of his muffins as a bribe, though I'm sure
you only ate one or two yourself."  
     Her eyes twinkled at him at these last words and she was
rewarded by Vincent's seldom-heard full laugh.  Jacob looked
confused and somewhat irritated.  He normally knew everything
that occured below but he'd apparently missed out on something
involving his own son!
     "I'm not surprised to hear the words 'Mouse' and 'disaster'
in the same sentence, still I would appreciate it if you two
would kindly tell me in exactly what way Mouse had planned his
disaster this time."
     Father's words came out somewhat stiffly and Vincent and
Mary hurried to placate him, filling him in on the details of
Vincent's early morning adventure.
     "It was extremely lucky that you were there, Vincent" Mary
added at the end of the telling.  "I'm not saying Mouse would
have done anything besides take those measurements, but you know
how things can get out of hand once he gets an idea into his
head.  Though to be fair (and Mary was nothing if not fair), most
of his ideas have turned out to be quite useful to us.  What were
you doing wandering around so early?  Are you having trouble
     Vincent squirmed in his chair suddenly, and the image of him
as a child popped into her mind as clearly as if it were
yesterday.  He had never been able to fool her then either.
     "And how is Catherine, Vincent?  Is everything all right
between you two?"  She flashed Father an uncharacteristically
stern look then, as if to remind him of their previous
conversation and his agreement.
     "Yes, yes.  I remember quite well.  I'm not yet in my dotage
you know."  Now there was no denying the irritation in his voice. 
"You'll be happy to know that Vincent and I have discussed it and
he knows that I've had a change of heart regarding Catherine."
     "Good.  It's about time."  Mary's timidity vanished when
defending her children.
     Vincent watched this exchange with open-mouthed amazement,
not sure whether he should be offended or not.  It seemed his and
Catherine's relationship had been an on-going topic of discussion
amongst his closest family recently.  How had he missed all this? 
     "Well I'll leave you two now.  I'm going to make one more
check on the children.  If Aaron's cough doesn't clear up I think
we should put him in the hospital chamber Father.  It's that time
of year when little colds turn into contagious flues."  Mary was
bustling about the room, the previous conversation about
Catherine and Vincent seemingly forgotten.
     "You're right, Mary."  Father's irritation had vanished,
soothed by Mary's maternal concerns for the children.  "Would you
take his temperature please?  If it's all right let's not disturb
him and the others by moving him tonight.  We can reevaluate his
case in the morning."
     "Of course.  Goodnight Father, Vincent."  She stopped near
Vincent's side momentarily, her hand stroking his hair back
absentmindedly and he had a vivid, fleeting image of Father's
similar action of a few days back.  It reminded him forcefully of
his place in these halls, the affection of Father and Mary and
all the other's he'd grown up with and it filled him with warm
contentment.  He stood then and hugged Mary tight, sudden
gratitude welling up in him for her intercession on his behalf in
this matter.  Not many people could have taken on Father as she
had apparently done - and won.
     "Goodnight Mary.  And thank you."  These last words were
whispered in her ear.  She patted his cheek in understanding and
left before they could see the tears in her eyes.
     Father watched this with a knowing eye, feeling a little
teary himself suddenly at the palpable love that was present in
the chamber.  And he also found himself, much to his chagrin,
intensely curious about Vincent's recent visit with Catherine.
     "Would you care for a game of chess, Vincent?"
     Vincent turned his attention away from the door.  "I'd like
that Father."
     He moved to the chess table and took his place behind the
black pieces, leaving the opening move to Father.
     Father took an inordinate amount of time, scowling over the
board fiercely, before making the typical pawn to F4 move. 
Vincent responded immediately with knight to C6.
     "Father, I spoke with Catherine about our conversation."  He
caught the older man's gaze and held it.  "She's... We're both
very grateful for your support."  He ducked his head shly then,
still amazed he could talk about this with him.
     Father's hand reached across the table to cover Vincent's,
squeezing tightly.
     "Good.  I know how difficult that must have been for you."
     Vincent took a deep breath then forged ahead.  "Father,
there's something else.  I... We... had the dream again last
night.  Catherine's in Rochester on business, she's been there
since yesterday, yet we were together in this dream as clearly as
you and I are together now."
     Now this was really interesting.  Jacob had always been
fascinated by dream theory in his psychology and psychiatry
courses in school.
     "Was it like before Vincent?  Just as vivid to the senses?"
     "Yes.  Even more so than I remembered the first time.  Or
perhaps it was only because Catherine was there the whole time
that it felt so much more intense."
     Vincent's gaze appeared unfocused then, his thoughts
replaying yet again their kisses in the sunlight.  Father could
see that there was something in particular that Vincent wanted to
discuss about this event, but he stayed silent, waiting for him
to bring it up when he was comfortable enough.
     "The lions were there again.  Catherine touched one."  His
voice was unusually flat, the warm tones normally present
strangely missing.  "She sat right in their midst and she wasn't
afraid at all."
     Ahhh.  So that was it.
     "And how did you feel about that Vincent?"  Jacob watched
Vincent closely for his response.
     "I was terrified for a moment, but it wasn't until sometime
after the dream that it really hit me.  She didn't pause, not
even to consider the possible risks.  Why was she so comfortable
with them?  She hadn't seen them the first time, she should have
been more cautious."
     Vincent was looking down at the board now, but it was
obvious he wasn't seeing the pieces.  His shoulders were tensed,
distress evident in the stiff lines.
     "But you said that you'd touched them yourself, that nothing
happened, they didn't even seem aware of you.  You told Catherine
that, didn't you, before the second dream occured?"
     "Yes.  Still, how could she have known that it wouldn't be
different this time?  She should have been more cautious," he
repeated stubbornly, a hard set to his mouth.
     Father decided that it was time to take the bull by the
     "Vincent, are you worried about Catherine's endangering
herself above, on her job, or are you thinking about her
relationship with you?"
     The breath expelled from his lungs loudly and his shoulders
slumped forward.  Vincent gazed up at Father with haunted eyes.
     "I've spent most of my life knowing that love was not for
me."  His eyes were filled with tears now, his breathing ragged. 
"How can I know that I won't hurt her?  How can I take that
chance?"  He couldn't help himself then, rising to pace about the
     "Father, I can't live without her.  I know that now, and
Catherine does too.  Yet I don't know how to go forward, not
without risking injury to Catherine.  I can't do that, I can't."
     How to help him with this?  Were there really any answers? 
Jacob thought furiously.
     "Vincent, what else happened in the dream?"  He kept his
voice calm and even, trying to reassure Vincent that somehow
everything would be all right.  It had always worked when he was
a child, perhaps it would work now.
     Vincent was silent for a moment, standing still and staring
off into space.  The dream had been clearly divided into three
parts; it began with the lions, had proceeded with their
discussion of the wooded area and at the end...at the end had
been the kisses that had stolen his breath away.  Could he talk
to Father about that?  It was so new, so precious to him.  But it
was obviously at the heart of  his concerns now.
     "We...kissed."  Vincent spoke in barely a whisper then began
pacing again furiously, uncertain whether or not to go on, or
how.  "Catherine asked, and after our talk on Tuesday I couldn't
refuse.  It seemed like such a small thing."  He seemed caught
somewhere between defensiveness and embarassment.
     Jacob was torn himself.  He wanted to tell his son there was
nothing wrong with that.  That it was normal for two people with
the attraction, the love that was between them, kissing.  But
hadn't he spent the last few years, indeed much longer than that,
driving home the point that it wasn't acceptable, at least not
for him?  Vincent's concerns were obvious; what next?  And Father
well understood his fears.  How should he advise him on this
     "What is it Father?"  Vincent was still again, his voice
suddenly harsh.  "Have you rethought your position.  Decided
again that it is not wise for Catherine and I to pursue this?"
     Father saw it clearly.  Saw that Vincent wanted him to agree
to this, to give him a reason for not moving forward in his
relationship with Catherine.  He was looking for a way out.
     "No."  He spoke quietly and calmly, sure now of what he must
do.  "I was wrong Vincent.  I don't think that's an option for
either of you anymore.  Sit down, please."
     Vincent was breathing heavily, his whole body trembling. 
For a moment he stood frozen in place, indecision etched across
his face.  Finally he moved forward and sank down into his chair.
     "I don't know what to do Father.  Tell me, is this safe for
us? ...for Catherine?"
     Father thought carefully before answering.
     "I've always been your physician, so believe me when I tell
you that physically it is possible."
     Vincent's eye's were lit with a sudden hope and Father
paused before going on, needing to reassure him, but not wanting
to give false hope.
     "But I cannot know what the...effect...of your emotional
response will be."
     The hope in his son's face was rapidly draining away,
replaced with a resigned comprehension.
     "And neither can I, Father, without actually being with her. 
It's hopeless.  I cannot take the risk."
     He was sinking into a well of despair, and Jacob spoke
quickly, pulling him up short.
     "Vincent, how did it feel to you when you and Catherine
kissed in your dream?"
     Vincent was silent, the far away look of a moment ago back
in his eyes, though now it was tinged with sadness, as if
mourning for something just discovered and now lost forever.  "It
was exquisite.  I've never felt anything like it before, nothing
that compares."
     Father chose his next words carefully.  "And was Catherine
     Vincent looked a little confused at that.  "No."
     "'No' because it was just a kiss or 'no' because it was just
a dream?"
     Vincent appeared speechless at that question, and at the
implication behind it.
     "It seems to me, Vincent, that you may have been given a
chance to, er, 'test the waters' so to speak.  My advice to you
is to take advantage of it."
     Vincent was stunned.  He sat in a daze, hearing Father's
last words over and over again, wondering if it was indeed
possible.  He finally shook off the fog surrounding him and
looked about the chamber.  Father was gone and he hadn't heard
him leave.

*   *   *

     The sun was beating down, the glare almost painful.  She
found herself wishing that this dream came equipped with
sunglasses.  She grinned then at the inconguity of that thought
amidst all of this.  Suddenly it struck her - she was here alone. 
She had begun the dream this time.  She was inordinately,
inexplicably pleased by that thought.  Could she call to him
through the bond as he had her?  Would he hear her?  She closed
her eyes and focused on him, seeing him clearly in her mind.
     'Vincent... Vincent...'
     Suddenly he was there, standing beside her, almost no
distance at all between them.
     "Oh, Vincent!"  She threw her arms around him hugging him
tight.  "It worked, it worked!  I started the dream this time.  I
called to you and you came.  You did hear me, didn't you?"
     She pulled back to look up at him, her eyes shining with
excitement and pleasure.  The anxiety that had plagued him after
his conversation with Father was dissipating in the face of
Catherine's joy at her accomplishment.  And truth to tell, it
pleased him immensely.  To feel Catherine reaching out to him
through the bond was a pleasure he'd never imagined. 
     "Yes, I heard you as plainly as if you'd been standing next
to me."
     They stared at one another for a few minutes, lost in each
other's eyes.  Catherine finally sighed and turned to look toward
the trees.  For some reason the thought of them had intruded on
her thoughts throughout the day.  They were drawing her even now.
     "Vincent, there is something about that area.  I don't know
what it is; it doesn't feel threatening to me, but it
     She turned back to him, her eyes meeting his.
     "Let's go there today.  Please?  Somehow I think that we're
meant to."
     Vincent bent an intense gaze towards the trees, scanning
them for any sign of danger.  He couldn't sense anything but a
strong urge to go to them.  Finally he nodded.
     "All right, we'll go.  But Catherine, promise to stay near
me until we're sure there's nothing to fear there."
     "I have every intention of staying near you."
     Her voice was lightly teasing and Vincent blushed as he
realized he'd walked right into that one.  He held her hand
tightly and they set off.  Withing minutes they were at the
border between the savannah and the woods.  They stepped into the
shaded region and instantly felt transported.  It was cooler
here, and a gentle breeze whispered through the leaves.  Birds,
butterflies and other insects flitted about, and they could
plainly hear the sound of falling water somewhere nearby.  It was
also apparent that the foliage here wasn't the norm for this part
of the African continent, though Vincent couldn't quite place
where it was native to.
     "This place doesn't belong here, alongside that."  He
gestured back to the arid veldt, where even now they could see
the heat rays shimmering along the ground.
     "You're right, I'm not sure where it belongs, but these two
places don't go together."  She paused for a moment, looking
about her then continued.  "Do they have to?"
     Vincent's look was one of confusion at her question.
     "This is a dream after all.  Why should they be from the
same place?"
     "Mmmm.  I suppose that's true.  This all feels so real to
us, we've been imposing some boundaries on it that are, after
all, based only on speculation."
     "Sometimes that's all too easy to do."
     He caught her obvious meaning and was trying to decide
whether to address it or ignore it when she took pity on him and
went on as if she'd said nothing of significance.
     "It's beautiful here.  I feel very...comfortable.  Almost at
home.  It's strange.  Come on, let's walk."
     He scanned all about him again with his senses, but could
find nothing, and they began to move deeper into the foliage. 
They were unconsiously following the sound of the water when
suddenly they stumbled upon it's source.  They turned a bend,
walked over a slight rise, and there ahead was a twenty foot fall
of water spilling gently into a large, placid pool.
     "Oh, Vincent!  It's beautiful."
     She looked more closely about while a strange sense of deja
vu swept over her.  Dawning recognition finally broke across her
     "Vincent, this looks like part of the Chamber of the Falls,
you know, the small area in that far corner across from the
promontory.  At least it looks like I imagine it might if it were
outdoors and not underground."
     Vincent was stunned.  He hadn't seen it before, but at her
words the resemblance became plain.
     "Yes, this is familiar."
     He scanned the area furiously, certain now that the meaning
of the dream was somehow centered here.  He was about to tell
Catherine of his thoughts when she spoke.
     "This is why we're here."
     She didn't notice his look of surprise, or if she did she
misread it's real meaning.
     "I mean.."  She shook her head to clear her thoughts,
needing to articulate herself clearly about this sudden certainty
filling her.  "the savannah belonged to the lions, it was their
place, their domain.  This place...it belongs to us."
     She turned to find Vincent standing frozen, an inward look
on his face.  She couldn't know how his thoughts had paralled her
words, combining with last night's conversation and jumping
forward to his own conclusions.  She sensed a strong sweep of
chaotic emotions through the bond, but couldn't separate or make
sense of them.
     "What is it, Vincent?"
     He seemed to draw out of his reverie at her question and
finally focused on her.  How could he tell her what Father had
implied last night, had suggested...?
     "I'm not sure Catherine.  Something Father said last night."
     "Can you tell me?"
     His hesitancy was plain.
     "I... don't know."  His eyes searched hers beseechingly.  "I
want to Catherine, but this is difficult for me."
     "Come, sit down with me by the pool.  There's no hurry,
let's relax."
     She led him to a grassy spot that dropped directly into the
pool by a flat edge about six inches above the water.  She sat
down, though he remained standing for a moment looking about him. 
She dipped her hand in the water, it was both cool and warm,
invigorating and soothing.  She sighed.  If she hadn't been
wearing jeans she would have sat on the edge cooling her feet. 
It looked so appealing.
     No sooner had the thought slipped through her than she found
herself dressed in a comfortable tee-shirt and kahki shorts that
ended just above her knees.  Her shoes and socks were gone.  She
heard a gasp and turned to see Vincent staring down at her, his
eyes wide with shock.
     "I don't know, Vincent.  I was just wishing I was dressed
more comfortably, so I could soak my feet, and suddenly...this. 
I guess it's another example of us forgetting that this is a
dream and we're really in it, not just watching it from afar. 
It's strange though...  When the dream first began, out there -
she gestured vaguely in the direction of the grassland - I was
wishing I had sunglasses on, for the glare.  Nothing happened
     She didn't waste much effort in trying to determine the
'how' or 'why' of it though, instead taking advantage of the
situation by slipping her feet into the soothing pool, sighing
     "You should try this, it feels wonderful."
     He looked frightened at that suggestion.  He wasn't ready
for this.
     "I...don't think so Catherine."
     "Well at least take your cloak off.  I don't think you'll
need it here, and you must be hot."  She tried to keep her voice
even and light.  She knew that the sudden turn the dream had
taken was very disturbing to him.  She wished he'd tell her
Father's theory on it.  But it was best to let him take his time,
to wait until he was comfortable, though that could take a while.
     Vincent hesitated for a moment.  It was hot in all these
layers.  Finally he slipped his cloak off and laid it across a
large rock.  He almost unconsciously began pacing about trying to
think things through.  Well, he did feel a little better, though
he was still warm.  He was used to dressing for the habitual
coolness of the tunnels; those layers suited both the climate and
his modesty.  He suddenly realized he hadn't heard anything from
Catherine for a few moments and glanced down at her.
     She was leaning back on her hands, her feet kicking lazily
in the water, her eyes closed and face turned up towards the
dappled sunlight.  She looked very cool and comfortable, relaxed. 
He sighed heavily.  Why were the simplest things so hard for him? 
Here they were in this lush, green setting and he was standing
about in boots and three layers of clothing.  He wished he could
at least feel the grass under his feet.
     He gasped in dismay as the tingly crispness was suddenly
there.  'Be careful what you wish for...' the fleeting thought
flashed through his mind.  He looked down and found his clothing
had changed.  He was covered decently enough, but in only one
layer - absolutely unheard of for him except when he was
sleeping.  He wore soft jeans and a cambric work shirt.  He
couldn't remember the last time he'd been without a thermal
shirt.  And he was barefoot.  He stared down at his feet,
suddenly anxious about Catherine's reaction to them.
     "You look much more comfortable now.  Come sit down with
     He glanced up sharply to see her perusing him idly, no
particular expression on her face beside the lazy contentment
that had been there moments before.  He let the breath he'd been
holding go, and finally sat down, drawing his knees up and
clasping his arms around them tightly.  His logical mind knew it
was silly, but he felt himself in an almost decadent state of
undress.  He sat stiffly, wondering what might happen next, but
nothing did, and after several long moments he felt himself
relaxing.  The lighter clothes let him feel both the breeze and
the heat almost directly - it felt wonderful.
     They sat in companiable silence for a while then,
Catherine's lightly splashing feet an accompaniament to the
rushing sound of the falls.  Vincent found himself watching them,
thinking how inviting the water looked.  He suddenly remembered
his and Devin's adventures as Huck and Jim on the river.  Foot
dangling had been an absolute must during those games he
recalled.  The memory was a good one and he relaxed even further. 
After a few minutes more he hitched his jeans up as far as they
would go - only about mid-calf - and slipped his feet into the
water next to Catherine's.
     "Doesn't it feel marvelous?"
     She smiled at him innocently and he sighed; no further
answer was necessary.
     "Vincent, I've been thinking about it, this dream.  Maybe
this is the bond's way of giving us some privacy.  We never truly
get that Below or Above.  Our time together often seems full of
one crisis or another.  What do you think?"  She spoke lightly,
trying not to frighten him with her theory, though of course she
knew it would.
     Vincent was very still, the tension suddenly evident along
his length.  She laid her hand along his back and he jumped,
taken unawares.
     "What is it?  Please tell me."  The eyes turned upon him
were suddenly sad, begging him to share his worries with her.
     He took a ragged breath and spoke.
     "Father said something like that last night.  He said that
perhaps this was an opportunity to...to move our relationship
forward, to test it's limits...without risk to you."
     He couldn't meet her eyes and his last words came out in a
whisper, barely audible to Catherine, but she heard and
understood what he was telling her.  She tried to control her
response, but she couldn't contain the shiver that coursed
through her, the excitement that suddenly filled her.  And it was
obvious that Vincent felt her reaction by the incredulous look he
gave her. 
     "And you're uncomfortable with that."  It wasn't really a
     It was obvious he was, but she couldn't think of any other
way to ease into this topic.
     He jumped up then and began pacing furiously, unable to sit
     "I don't know what to think of it, Catherine."
     He was trembling now, amazed that they were talking about
this at all.  The emotional turmoil of the last few days was
beginning to take it's toll on him.
     Catherine stood up and approached him slowly.  He looked
like he was poised to flee at any moment.  She reached up and put
her hands on his arms, anchoring him with her calming touch, her
eyes locked upon his.  She felt his trembling ease somewhat, and
in the background her mind was very aware of the muscled strength
outlined under her fingers, usually hidden by his many layers of
cotton, wool and leather.  She damped down on that sudden, sweet
sensation, knowing now was definitely not the time to indulge in
     "Vincent, we don't have to do anything we're not comfortable
with.  There are no deadlines or timetables here any more than in
our waking world.  If this dream has been generated by the bond
for our use then I'm sure we'll have the leisure to use it as we
wish.  Nothing threatening has happened so far, has it?"
     She took a chance with her next statement.
     "If we were being pushed in any way, why was I suddenly
dressed like this instead of something much more suggestive, or
perhaps nothing at all?"
     He gasped at that and she went on quickly, not giving him
time to become overwhelmed by the thought.  "Because it was
comfortable for our surroundings and it was in line with what I
was thinking of.  So far we've been in control of everything.  I
don't think that's going to change."
     They stood silent for quite some time before Vincent was
able to speak.
     "I just don't know, Catherine."  He looked like he was going
to add more, but didn't.
     She smiled at him soothingly then, and her hands slid down
his arms to take ahold of his.  She led him back to the grassy
bank and sank down, pulling him after her.
     "I know Vincent.  And I won't let anything happen to us, I
     For some reason he was irrationally reassured by her words
and allowed himself to be pulled forward into her arms, resting
his head against her shoulder, his face hidden in the curve of
her neck.  The intimacy of the last few days, both emotional and
physical, was frightening to him, yet he couldn't help but take
refuge in it's source.  He slumped against her, allowing her to
support and comfort him.
     She sighed with happiness, pleasure radiating through her
and to him, soothing them both.  It was so rare when he allowed
her to take care of him.  She hummed softly and stroked his brow
with one hand while the other rubbed gently against his back. 
Though she knew that this was all occuring in their dream she
nonetheless felt his welcome weight resting against her,
anchoring and holding her secure while she held him tight.  She
turned her head to press a kiss upon his forehead and felt his
sighing breath against the curve of her throat.  It sent shivers
running through her.  She didn't try to hide that from him now
and she felt the shudder along his length as he responded to  her
touch, heard the low moan he couldn't contain, felt his lips
against her neck in a fleeting kiss that was devastating in it's
innocence and intensity.
     "Oh, Vincent...  It will be all right, I promise you my
love, I promise."
     He pulled away from her slightly, but not enough to break
the hold of her arms about him.  His eyes were heavy lidded and a
deep, sultry blue, darkening even more as she watched.  His
magnetism was irresistable to her and she leaned forward
hypnotically to ease into a kiss.
     It began as it had last night, at first just the softest
touch of her mouth upon his.  She moved her lips tenderly against
his, experiencing his textural delights to the fullest.  His sigh
breathed against her, titillating and erotic.  She drew in a
sharp breath, then leaned into him, pressing against him firmly.
     Suddenly his hands were squeezing her upper arms, drawing
her closer.  His mouth slanted against her's, seeking the most
complete contact with her.  There it was again, that sweet taste. 
It called to him and he answered, lapping at the corners of her
lips to draw in the moisture there.
     Catherine groaned deep in her throat and her tongue flicked
out to meet his, touching him boldly, passionately.  Vincent
froze for a moment, shocked by the lusty assault.  He had never
felt anything like this - never!  He couldn't control his
response any more than Catherine could.  His arms tightened
around her and their tongues sought out each other, twining
together, driving them on to passionate heights.
     Heat and light were building within her.  She felt that she
would float away if he didn't hold her tighter.  She pulled her
mouth from his and buried her face against his neck, gasping for
breath and licking at the sensitive, inner curve of his ear.  She
was rewarded with a deep groan that escalated into a full growl
setting up a shimmering vibration deep within her.
     "Oh, yes!  Yes, Vincent!  Kiss me again, please kiss me
     She whimpered and moaned, biting down on the soft lobe then
sucking that tender flesh gently.  Her world suddenly spun around
and she found herself on her back, the lush grass tickling her
where her shirt had ridden up, his heavy weight pushing her into
that velvet carpet.
     He was delving deeply into her mouth now, urging her to open
to him, to yield to him all.  His hard, hot body moved strongly
upon her, rubbing against her insistantly.  She clearly felt his
arousal building and hers followed, a willing slave to his
slightest wish.  She writhed beneath him, seeking an ever closer
contact, but he held her still, torturing her with his touch.  He
left her sweet lips and a groaning gasp was pulled from her at
that absence.  His breath came in deep, eratic pants as he moved
to trace the curve of her throat with his hot, molten mouth, his
sharp, cool teeth pressed against her skin, the dual sensations
driving her mad.  When he reached the tender base near her
collarbones he sucked upon that spot and she felt the blood
rushing in a wild flood through her skull.  His kisses slid along
the side of her neck then, nipping and lapping along that
quivering flesh until he finally reached her ear where he
tormented her mercilessly while endless waves of rapture crashed
through her.  They grew stronger and stronger until suddenly,
amazingly, they burst free and she screamed his name, her body
arching strongly against his in a convulsion of ecstatic release.
     The sensation swept through him with undreamt-of intensity,
drawing him along with her and a roar was torn from his throat in
stunned disbelief.  They found themselves suspended for some
endless space of time, batted about by the cresting waves of
their passion, then finally collapsed together into oblivion.

Friday, early morning

     She was floating, drifting, a langorous wave washed through
her, then another and yet another.  Slowly the waves diminished
and finally she sank into a gentle pool of satiated fulfillment. 
She had never felt anything like it, never.  And they had only
kissed!  Oh, god...  She stretched lazily in happy contentment. 
Vincent...  Vincent?!
     "No!"  She sat up, suddenly panic stricken.  She was alone
in her hotel room.  Why?!  Why were they given that, only to
waken apart?  Why couldn't the dream have held them close for
just a little longer?  Sorrow washed through her then, replacing
the fear.  She wanted him with her so badly, her arms ached to
hold him close.  Her disappointment and frustration were
unbearable.  She couldn't stop the sobs that wracked her then and
turned on her side holding a pillow tightly to her stomach, her
knees drawn up high.

     "Catherine!  No!!"
     He sat up suddenly in bed, staring blindly at the wall, all
his senses focused Above, on her.  One moment he'd been enclosed
with her in the sweetest sea of pleasure and contentment, the
next a wave of violent emotion rushed through him;
fear...anger...sorrow.  They came from Catherine.  The ecstasy
and joy were swept away in their path, turned to bitter ashes
within him.  He was in an agony of anguish.  What had he done?! 
It was over, all over.  He had to get away from here, from these
feelings, he had to.  He closed down on the bond desperately,
fumbling gracelessly for his clothes with frantic urgency.  He
didn't know where he was going, he only knew he had to move, now! 
The anxiety was closing in on him, his breaths ragged and
jarring.  He tucked his nightshirt into the first pair of
trousers within reach and pulled boots on over his bare feet. 
Finally he grabbed his cloak and ran out of his chamber heading
blindly outward and down, away, far away from the home tunnels.

Friday, late afternoon

     Home, home, she was almost home!  The words repeated
themselves over and over in her mind, almost like a child's
nursery rhyme.  She stared out the window of the commuter plane,
but didn't see a thing there.  Her vision was turned inward, to
memories of last night's dream.  Dream schmeam, she didn't care
what it was or what they called it as long as it gave them the
opportunity to be together as it had last night.  She couldn't
hold back a very audible sigh of ecstatic joy, not noticing the
speculative glance bent her way by her grinning seatmate.

     Vincent paced furiously in the large, cavernous chamber.  He
was in a state of nervous exhaustion, but he couldn't stop. 
Every time he did, a paralysis of pain and anxiety enfolded him,
threatening to crush his pounding heart in it's tightening grasp.
     What could he do?  What?  He'd been here all day, but there
were no answers, only questions.  He wouldn't stop long enough to
hear those, he couldn't.  He felt dry, empty, drained - bereft of
all hope.
     Was she back yet?  What was she thinking, feeling?  He had
kept the bond closed tighter than he'd ever dared try before.  He
felt only the thinnest thread of her presence now, nothing else. 
He needed to know what she was feeling, but he was afraid, afraid
he would once again encounter that accusing stream of hate and
fear which had condemned him back to his solitary existance.
     He had to check on her, the drive was overwhelming.  He
forced himself to be still - for just a moment he told himself,
just a moment - then let go the slightest bit on the desparate
grip he held over the bond.  It wasn't a matter of opening the
bond.  No, the dream had brought them far beyond that.  It was
now a question of holding it closed, and it had taken all his
strength to do so this day.
     Oh, god.  She was on her way Below.  No!  He squeezed the
threads of their connection tight, closing it off again.  He
couldn't face her, he couldn't.  He stood frozen, his mind again
replaying those agonizing emotions along his nerve endings.  He'd
frightened her, disgusted her!  As quickly as those terrifying
emotions appeared, other ones followed; a futile sense of regret
and loss, pain and despair.  He had to see her, at least once
more, to tell her how sorry he was, that it would never happen
again, never!  He struggled mightly with his conflicting needs,
then suddenly swept out of the chamber, his long stride turning
into a dead run as he headed upwards, towards his fate.

     Catherine was confused.  It was almost eight o'clock and
Vincent wasn't here yet.  She finally decided two things: One,
Vincent was unavoidably detained with somethiing urgent, and two,
he would be there, though perhaps late.  She knew this with
absolute certainty because nothing else save an urgent matter
could have kept him from her - especially today she said to
herself with a grin - and if he couldn't be there at all he would
have sent someone with a message.  The logic thus worked out, she
headed towards their private music chamber.  Vincent would know
where she was and meet her there.

     Vincent had finally reached the home tunnels, though he'd
skirted the busy areas, desperate to avoid contact with any of
it's inhabitants.  The music chamber was just ahead, and suddenly
his steps slowed, dreading this meeting,  He didn't know if he
could survive the look of fear or reproach she might wear.  Or
perhaps, worse yet, she would keep a blank, neutral expression on
her face, trying to protect him even now.  No, please not that,
not her pity.  He was almost paralyzed with fear.  Finally he was
at the chamber extrance.  Catherine stood at it's center, just
under the grate.  Her eyes were closed, face tilted upwards
towards the music, the moonlight and Mendelssohn washing down
over her, surrounding her with glowing warmth.  She wore a silky
sheath of midnight blue, a light breeze blowing the hem gently
about her knees.  The neckline fell away from her in soft folds
to show the crystal at her breast, plunging low behind her to
expose the small of her back.  Her arms and legs were bare and
her exposed skin gleamed a rich ivory hue in the relected light.
     He was overwhelmed by her beauty, despair filling him at the
thought of what was to come.  How could he live without her? 
How?  He drew in a deep, ragged breath and spoke.  "I'm sorry
Catherine."  His voice was husky with pain.
     Catherine spun to look at him, startled and shocked by his
sudden presence and the unexpected words.
     She began to move towards him, but his abrupt motion away
from her in response froze her in her place and sent fear
trembling through her.
     "Vincent, what is it?  What's wrong?"
     She was pretending nothing had happened.  So it was to be
pity after all.  His heart was breaking with sorrow and loss, the
emotions spilling out over his face as his struggle to hold the
bond closed grew immense under the added weight.
     "Don't try to protect me, Catherine, please.  I know.  I
felt everything."
     He couldn't continue for a moment, unable to hold back the
tears, they flowed down his cheeks unchecked.
     "No!  Don't do this to us, Vincent.  Don't."  She was crying
now too, her distress growing along with his.  "After all we
shared in the last few days...  Why Vincent, why?"
     "You know why, Catherine."  His voice was hoarse, but he
forced the words out past the pain.  "I felt your sorrow this
morning, your anger and... your fear."
     Catherine gasped as understanding flooded through her.  She
tried again to move towards him, but he held his hand up, holding
her off.  She knew with sudden certainty that he would leave if
she tried to touch him now.  She stood absolutely still in
response to this realization, trying desperately to probe the
bond.  Nothing.  She'd been so caught up in her reveries and
daydreams today that she hadn't noticed he'd closed off their
connection.  It's presence was so new to her, it's absence today
hadn't penetrated the fog which had surrounded her.  She had to
make him understand and she needed to be calm to do it.  She drew
in a deep breath and attempted to center her thoughts and
     "Vincent, I have something to say.  Will you promise to stay
until I'm through?  To listen to me?  I promise I'll stay right
here, I won't come any closer and I won't try to touch you. 
     Trembling vibrations coursed through him but he couldn't
control them, he absolutely couldn't.  Never to feel her touch
again!  He was in agony.  This was it, the end of everything.  It
would be the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
     "I'll stay until you're through."
     She released the breath she'd been holding, shaking with
relief.  Then she drew her thoughts together, thinking deeply
before she spoke.
     "Vincent, what happened in our dream last night was
unbelievable.  We only kissed, and yet I've never before
experienced such intense pleasure...such ecstasy.  Never!"
     Her eyes had taken on a far-away look now, feeling again his
body against hers.  She shook off that memory sharply.
     "When I woke up I thought it was a continuation of the
dream.  Then I realized that I was alone, that the dream was
over."  The sorrow she had felt that morning washed over her
again full force, the recollection fresh and clear.
     "I was angry because the dream had ended when I wanted it to
go on forever.  I was afraid that perhaps I'd imagined it all and
it had never really happened, that it was truly just a dream, not
a part of our bond.  I was sad because it shouldn't have ended
that way.  We deserved to be together after that.  I wanted you
with me so badly then, I ached to hold you, to share the
aftermath of our pleasure together"
     She paused then, and watched him closely.  He was trembling,
doubt and fear warring now with the small spark of hope in his
     "Vincent, I'm telling you the truth.  Open the bond,
     She was begging, her voice and eyes pleading with him and he
couldn't refuse.  He slowly released the tight hold he had over
their connection.
     It started as a thin trickle then built rapidly until her
emotions were a flood breaking through his defenses.  He gasped
as the full extent of her love and trust washed through him.
     She had made him a promise, but she couldn't keep it, she
couldn't.  She moved towards him slowly then finally drew him
into her embrace.  His whole body shook, standing stiffly against
her.  Suddenly his arms came up to grasp her and his knees gave
way.  He sank to the ground, drawing her with him.  He drew in
shuddering gulps of air, his weight resting against her heavily
as shimmering waves of relieved distress rolled off him, through
her and were gone.
     "Oh, Catherine, Catherine...  I thought I had lost you!" 
His voice shook as the words poured out of him.
     "Never Vincent!  I'll never leave you.  I couldn't live
without you, you must know that by now.  The only real pain that
touches me now is your absence.  You are the source of all my
pleasure and all my happiness.  Please Vincent, let me be that
for you."
     A pulsing shudder ran through him at her words.  His mind
was struggling to resist the teachings of a lifetime, to accept
what she told him, to take the commitment she offered not only
for her sake, but for his own.  In the final analysis he realized
that there really was no other choice; not for him or her. 
Resistance fled.  He pulled back slightly so that his eyes could
meet hers, the throb of the bond palpable between them.
     "Yes.  I want that Catherine, more than anything.  I need
that.  I need it from you, my love, only from you."
     She gasped in stunned relief and they fell together, holding
each other tight.  Long moments passed as the realization of all
that had transpired here sank in, the magnitude of it.  The
decision had been made; they didn't know how or when, but they
would join their lives together.  A hazy lassitude stole over
them then, the exhausting emotions draining them.  Finally
Catherine, overcome with curiosity, felt safe in asking a
question which had nagged at her since the start of their
     "Vincent, the bond has been so strong in us the last few
days.  How is it that you didn't feel my... response last night." 
She blushed suddenly, unable to be more specific.
     "I did, Catherine.  I've never felt anything like it in my
life.  It was beyond ecstasy, beyond belief."
     His voice was hushed with awe as the memory of those
sensations played through him again.
     "But when I felt your waking emotions, I doubted that
experience.  I thought perhaps I was reading my own feelings
only, that the strength of them was overpowering the sensing of
     He pulled back once more to look at her, the look in his
eyes a strange combination of shy speculation and hesitant
uneasiness.  His hand cupped her jaw and tilted her head back and
to the side.  He closely searched the creamy skin of her throat
and neck, checking for any scratches or marks.  There was nothing
and he breathed a sigh of relief and released her.
     "No bruises, Vincent, nothing.  I checked myself this
     He looked startled at that, and concerned.
     "It's not what you think."  The blush reappeared again.  "I
was...  I don't know, I guess I was hoping that there would be
something, some slight sign, to prove it had really happened."
     Her eyes had a dreamy far off look in them while her index
finger lightly stroked the tender flesh at the base of her
throat, sensations of his mouth against her there sweeping
through her.  Her eyes closed as a particularly strong wave
shuddered through her and Vincent trembled as her arousal
transmitted to him.
     When she opened her eyes to look at him they had shifted
from a clear, pale gray to a deep stormy green.  She held his
gaze until he felt himself falling into it, then she leaned
forward, her intent plain.
     Her hands came up to frame his face, then their lips met, a
soft, fragile contact.  He held still beneath her hands, needing
to compare this live experience with that of last night's dream.
     She moved her lips gently over his, then slid down to
capture his lower lip between her own, sucking and nibbling at
the tender flesh.  His mouth dropped open to draw in a deep
breath, trying to calm the sudden pounding of his heart.
     She shifted to trace his silky upper lip with her tongue
dipping lightly into the sensitive cleft there.  He pulled back
reflexively, gasping in stunned astonishment at the sensation. 
He was panting now, his gaze unfocused.
     Her hands slid forward from his temples until the thumbs
could stroke along his upper lip.  Finally they met at the apex
of his cleft and she slowly drew them apart, spreading open that
secret fold.  The flesh exposed was pink and tender, completely
different from any other texture in this area.  She blew a stream
of hot area into it and a groan was pulled from deep within him. 
She couldn't believe the state of arousal this simple sound
instilled in her.  Her tongue flicked out to lick the delicate
interior tissue and Vincent shuddered as fire teased along his
nerve endings.  A growl began building and he couldn't contain
it.  He suddenly became aware of the bare flesh of her back
beneath his hands, and they moved irresistably over her, stroking
and caressing.  He felt her soft breasts and taut nipples through
her thin silk dress and the fine linen of his nightshirt, the
sensation overwhelming in its intensity.
     "Oh yes, touch me, Vincent, touch me."  She whimpered
against his mouth still nibbling at that delectable spot.
     "Catherine, Catherine.  Help me control this, please.  I
don't know if I can."
     His breath was ragged and he could barely get the words out,
they were a hoarse, husky growl of sound, erotic and intense,
sending shivers coursing through her in langorous waves.
     Catherine pulled back from him, then gently pushed his
trembling arms away from her body to rest down along his sides. 
Her hands slid up from his until they were at his shoulders. 
They gazed deeply at one another, confused desire plain on his
face, restrained passion on hers.  She pushed him back firmly and
after a momentary resistance he sank backwards to rest against
the cushions lining the outer perimeter of the chamber.  She lay
against his side one hand gently stroking his chest through the
thin fabric of his nightshirt.  He turned his face to hers and
their lips met in a blazing kiss, nothing held back now.  His
hands came up to hold her again, one at her back the other
cupping her face to keep her close for this deepest of kisses. 
Catherine moaned at the sensuousness of his touch and squirmed
along his length, one knee sliding over to rest upon him
intimately.  His gasping cry pulled their mouths apart, and his
eyes suddenly filled with apprehension.
     "Shhh.  It's all right, Vincent.  Please, let me return the
pleasure you gave to me last night."  She stayed perfectly still,
her hands gently petting and soothing his face as their eyes met
in deep communication.  His features remained tense, but he
didn't attempt to pull away from her again.
     She lowered her mouth to kiss him deeply, then moved to
trace her way along the curved length of his throat.  She reached
the spot at the base which he had loved so thoroughly on her and
gave it her complete attention, nipping and sucking at the tender
skin, tasting the silky hair exposed by the nightshirt gaping
open at his throat.  Vincent groaned loudly, his hands falling
away to clutch convulsively at the cushions beneath him.
     Once Catherine was convinced he was deep into the eroticism
of the moment, she eased her body over his, resting her full
weight upon him, his aroused body tensed and shaking.  She
continued to mouth the flesh at the curve of his throat and
shoulders while her body moved insidiously against his, building
their excitement to a lustful peak.  She knew he couldn't hold
out much longer and finally let her teeth bite gently into the
flesh of his neck, moving against him strongly, insistantly.
     The swirling flames of passion burning through him
coalesced, erupting in a fireball of blazing heat.  He cried out
her name, the sound rising to a full roar, his torso pulled from
the ground, lifting her along.  His hands were suddenly around
her, holding her to him tightly as the firestorm swept through
him.  His burning passion ignited her own and she was taken up in
it with him, crying out in rapture as endless streams of ecstasy
drove over and through her until the flames receded and left them
floating in a blissful state of sweet nirvana.
     Vincent held her tightly, whispering of his love for her
over and over again in a tremulous, shaking voice.  Catherine
wanted to stay awake, to experience the last spark of awareness
with him, but their emotions had been too raw, their passion too
intense.  They were sinking even now into a deep, dreamless sleep
which would last until morning.  Catherine had one fleeting
thought of last night's dream and the lonely waking, but she
dismissed it langorously.  She had no doubts, not any longer. 
They would wake here, in their private chamber, together, and
nothing would ever be the same.  Her last thought before sleep
overtook her was to wonder what the next bond dream held in store
for them.  Mmmm...

About the Author

This story is a Classic, Vincent and Catherine romance (as all
mine are) with adult themes.  It's the second story I ever wrote,
and now, after some years, I'm toying with the idea of expanding
it into a full length zine story.  Here is what will eventually
become Part I, no doubt.  If you'd like to comment on this or any
other of my stories, my email is: tap@pclink.com.

For more Classic Beauty and the Beast stuff, visit the CABB
website (Classic Alliance of Beauty and the Beast) at: