April Twelve

Tired, tired, tired, tired. What a stupid, useless, painful day. Catherine needed only one thing: to be in his arms. To forget everything but the strength and warmth of his body against hers. To know that there were good things in this crazy world, and the very best was hers: Vincent. She knew, she felt he was there, on her balcony, waiting for her. If only that stupid cab would hurry… if only that stupid lift could arrive now… if only it could be faster… She rushed out of the elevator, keys already in hand, just an instant to open the door and slam it behind her. She let everything drop on the floor of the living room, including her coat, especially her coat – she needed his warmth – and was out, throwing herself against him, enveloped in his hug.

Good. It felt good. It felt right. It felt heaven. She snuggled against his chest, trying to absorb all that heavenly strength, that heavenly warmth, that heavenly love. The shrieks that all day long had resonated into her soul, those of the poor child that had seen his mom almost killed, those of her own nerves unable to cope with it, those she wanted to hurl against that weak coward who refused to testify, those emerging from too much paperwork full of boring, sad, unfair stuff… all those shrieks began to fade away into a blessed, sweet, soothing peace, and her tenseness began to melt, slowly, quietly...

No words were exchanged between them, no need. He had welcomed her into his arms, enveloped her with his heavy cloak, covered her head with his own, and tenderly, almost imperceptibly lulled her, a cocoon of soothing love and warmth. The chill of the ugly world she had just left, and of the snow around them, were powerless to trespass the bubble of soft serenity he was creating around her.

At last, she drew a long, deep, satisfied breath, letting the last traces of stiffness go, body and soul completely relaxed. "Better?" he asked, his mouth close to her ear.

"Yes, Vincent, thank you," she murmured. Her eyes were still closed, her words slow. After a pause, she added, "It's been a long, hard day."

"I know. I could feel it. Do you want to talk about it?"

She savored the sound of his voice, adding even more magic to the circle of quiet gladness surrounding them. "No, there's no point. It's just… that crazy world. But now, I can't imagine how I could feel better. Really. Thank you. Thank you… thank you," her voice became almost a whisper, against his heart. This miracle in her life, this man with the power to make her new just by being close to her… how, whom should she thank enough for such a gift?

She felt him shifting his weight a little, and a small, protesting moan escaped her… no, not yet, please… stay with me a little more….

"I'm just trying to see if it's really impossible to make you feel better, Catherine," he murmured tenderly, and one of his arms left her to reach inside the folds of his cloak. She did not have time to follow the wicked train of thought that actually, there might be some ways… something appeared near her nose, which she had buried in his vest. She opened her eyes.

"A Winterfest candle!" she exclaimed in delight, lifting her head and taking the precious gift.

"Next Monday, Catherine." Love, expectation, and gratitude vibrated in his voice. She looked into his eyes. She could almost see the feast and the lights, hear the music, real as well as imagined, feel the warmth of friendship and love. That token told her that her blessings were more than the love of the best man ever: she also had a family who loved her, friends that shared the incredible dream of a better world, and she was a part of it.

With a thankful, happy sigh she again laid her head on his chest, snuggling until she again heard the slow beating of his heart. The Winterfest candle was securely wrapped in her hand, against her breast. "You were right, Vincent. Now, I could not feel better."

The pause that followed was suddenly filled with a magical, suspended expectation. She felt his heart, beneath her ear, skip a beat and start racing. His great body grew warmer, and the tender, loving feeling that filled her soul stirred. Her eyes snapped open when she felt his hand traveling along her back, to reach her nape, beneath her hair. Slowly, slowly, while her heart began to race as well, he lifted her face to his own, so close she could not see it, just feel it: the warmth of his skin, his breath on her lips. She closed her eyes, and the first, incredible brush of his mouth on hers filled her soul, her heart, her body with a joy she had never even dreamt of. Just a brush. He lifted his head, touched his forehead to hers, wrapping her more securely in his arms, as her legs had lost all strength.

His voice trembling a little, he whispered against her mouth, "It's… me? It's me who gives you so much joy?" and every single word was a touch of paradise caressing her lips. She could just nod, weakly, eyes closed, trying to survive the whirl of unbelievable emotion that had captured her.

And his mouth covered hers, following securely the beacon of such joy, tenderly seeking the perfect fitting of their slightly open lips. When the tips of their tongues met, the shock made them suddenly lift their heads, just for an instant: he immediately again took possession of her mouth, and his tongue again demanded admittance, crossing that sweet, moist threshold and entering her mouth like a temple, like a humble but brave pilgrim who at last reaches his long sought destination, and in awe kneels in adoration. And her tongue welcomed him, that long awaited, beloved pilgrim, making him feel at home.

Long, long was their kiss, each feeding on the other's joy and pleasure, their passion slowly, tenderly spiraling… until, suddenly, a muffled "snap" could be heard and Catherine started with a gasp.

"Vincent… I've… I've broken the candle! " she managed to say with a weak, uncertain voice, looking down to her hand against her breast, holding the two pieces still joined by the wick inside.

She could hear the tender, sweet smile in his voice while he murmured against her temple, his whisper a little shaky as well, "I'll… I'll bring you another one, Catherine…."

"No!" she exclaimed, holding the broken candle against her heart. "I'll keep this… I could not think of a better memento of… of.…" He smiled and finished her sentence with another moist, passionate kiss.

"You're right…." he breathed then against her lips, his slightly labored breath matching her own.

As soon as the world settled back into place around her and somehow she was able to think again, she smiled as well, and her mouth lovingly caressed its way across his cheek to reach his ear, and whisper, "I was wrong again… but now… there is absolutely nothing that could make me feel happier… thank you, Vincent." She really meant it, she thought, resting her cheek against his, her heart trembling with exultation. You could even take me inside and make love to me, Vincent, and it would be heaven, but the joy would not be greater, I'm sure, only the pleasure would, she dreamily mused.

She felt his smile broadening, and a flicker in his passionate feelings that still filled her. His mouth was moving… she jolted in expectation of the next kiss.

But his mouth did not seek hers. He sought her ear instead, and his voice, his low, tender, velvety voice, vibrating, quivering with a love and a passion she never had felt before, and lightened by a trace of smile, let slowly drop into her soul, "Catherine… I love you."