Someone to Watch Over Me

   Vincent could not get his mind off of what it had felt like to feel Catherine go. . . to feel her
leave him.  There was a sinking in his chest, as if his heart was being ripped in two.  Now his heart was full of her again, and he remembered what it had been like to hold her close. . .to hear her say the words, “I love you.”
   He stayed with her as long as he could--until the police and the ambulance arrived.  He watched over her until he knew for sure that she was safe.  Once assured she was in good hands, he left, heading back to the city and back to her apartment.
   “Meet me below,” he had told her.
   “Meet me on the balcony,” she requested of him, brushing his face with her palm.  “It belongs to us again.”
   Catherine sat in the back of the ambulance, bundled in Vincent’s cloak, drinking hot coffee.  She tried to answer the detective’s questions, but her mind was not on the task at hand. She felt confused and uneasy.  She had seen her mother so clearly, reaching out to her and drawing her near.  Then, with a roar like thunder there was another hand reaching out to her.  It was Vincent’s hand, and she took it.  His hand pulled her back to this world.  How could she explain that to the detective?  How could she explain to him how the trunk lid was torn from the car?

   Catherine replayed Jenny’s words in her mind.  ‘You died, Cathy.’  Shaking and cold, she rose from the back of the ambulance and asked Joe to drive her home.  She wanted to be in her own space.  She wanted to be in Vincent’s arms.
   The drive home was long and quiet.  Joe reached out twice and squeezed her trembling hand.  She tried so hard to contain the fear within her, but her strength let out and she cried.
   Vincent stopped his journey.  He was halfway back to town when he felt Catherine’s surge of emotion.  Catherine!!  She was frightened.  He could feel it.  But he also felt a comfort washing over her.  She was safe.
   Standing in the shadows of the balcony, Vincent listened to the bustling from within.  He did not recognize the red-haired woman, but by the way she was pacing, he could tell she was just another worried friend.  There was the sound of water running, and Vincent felt Catherine’s mood calming.  She was safely home!
   Catherine stepped out of the shower.  He was there waiting for her.  She knew it.  The only place she wanted to be was in his arms.  She quickly toweled off and tied her bathrobe around her.  She combed her wet hair as she tried to think of a way to convince Jenny that she did not need her to stay.
   Vincent waited anxiously on the balcony.  There was hurried conversation, and he watched as the red-haired woman left.  He heard the sound of a chain-lock, and before he knew it Catherine burst through the french doors and flew into his arms.
   He sighed violently.  “I felt you go,” was all he had the strength to say.
   Vincent’s heart nearly stopped as he held his breath.  They both shook almost uncontrollably.  He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him as tight as he could without snapping her in two.  The pressure of his grasp nearly lifted her off the ground.
   “Hold me tighter, Vincent!  Tighter!”
   Catherine buried her face in his mane and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.   And they stayed like that for what seemed an eternity, until Catherine was nearly suffocated.
   She pulled back from him so that she could see his face.  Looking him straight in the eyes she held his face in her hands.  She smiled and leaned forward, kissing him on the cheek.  A short, sweet kiss, but a kiss all the same.
   Vincent stood speechless, afraid to move, as if moving might wake him thus ending a dream.  He just stared down at her.  Her once bright green eyes were glassed over and almost grey.
   Then the tears came--to both of them.  And Vincent knew it had not been a dream.  Once again they were in each others arms.  He held her gently this time, stroking her back, her neck, and her hair.  Caressing her.  Comforting her.  Comforting himself.  Reassuring himself that she was indeed here and that she was alright.
   For a long time, no words were spoken.  None were needed.  Both knew that this night would forever change their relationship, as they themselves had been forever changed.  The nightmare was over now.  And their dream was about to come true.
   Vincent released her reluctantly, and turned to look out over the city.  “Is it safe?” he asked, gesturing toward the lights.
   “I don’t know.”  Catherine knew that someone else could be watching.  “We can’t let fear take this place from us, Vincent.  We have to go on.”
   “Yes.”  Vincent sighed.  He reached out and took Catherine’s hand, and led her through the door into her living room.  “We must not be afraid.”
   Catherine followed him, allowing herself to be led inside.  He had not crossed this line before, preferring to remain outside her more personal spaces.  Now, remembering her offer prior to the watcher’s call, he crossed the threshold willingly.  His movements were bolder, as he led her with a newfound determination.  He would watch over her tonight.  The look on Catherine’s face told him she was surprised by his actions.
   For the first time, Vincent noticed that Catherine was dressed in only a bathrobe.  Her hair hung damp around her shoulders, and he reached out and brushed it out of her face.  It was a cool evening, and she was shivering.
   “I’ll light a fire, Catherine.  You should be wearing something warmer.”
   “Yes, I needed a shower,” she responded.  “I suppose I should go and change.  Will you stay?  You won’t leave?”
   “No.”  Vincent smiled.  “I’ll be here.”
   She nodded, backing out of the room as Vincent placed a log in the fireplace.

   Catherine dressed quickly, momentarily remembering and shuddering with the thought that the watcher had been in her room earlier.  She slipped into a pair of jeans and a sweater, and blow dried her hair.  Silently, she crept back to the living room.  Vincent was seated on the floor staring into the fire and did not turn as she knelt behind him.  She wrapped her arms around his chest and rested her chin on his shoulder.  “You okay?”  She whispered softly into his ear.
   “Yes,” he whispered back to her.  “Just tired.”
   “You should have dry clothes as well, Vincent,” she told him.  “I’m sure I could come up with something.  A shower, perhaps, would make you feel better.”  Catherine’s statement was entirely innocent.  “I have plenty of hot water.  And it did wonders for me.”
   Vincent looked back over his shoulder at her in amazement.  A shower?  Here?  The idea scared him, yet he allowed himself to consider the possibility.  If he was going to spend the evening. . .the night. . . here with Catherine, he would prefer to be more presentable.
   Catherine stood and took his hand, guiding him to his feet.  “Come with me.  I’ll show you.”
   Vincent hesitated, but followed.  ‘It would be refreshing,’ he rationalized to himself, discomforted still by the idea of bathing in her shower, in her apartment, above.    But Catherine smiled, and that smile reassured him.  He allowed himself to be led.  He was handed towels and given a demonstration of how to work the shower itself.  Then he was handed some clothes.  “I was going to bring these below. . .for you, or for whomever could use them.  I think you could use them now.”
   Vincent nodded, unable to meet her gaze.
   “Will you be alright?” she asked.
   “Yes, Catherine, I’ll be fine.  Will you be alright?” he asked her.
   “I’m okay.”  She nodded and smiled again.  And with that he was left alone in the tiny room.

   The warm water ran over him, soothing his aching muscles, releasing the tension from his body.  He had never felt anything like it.  The warmth of the waterfalls below were lovely, but this was heaven.  The water massaged his back and shoulders.  Closing his eyes, Vincent allowed himself to focus on the bond.  The closeness of Catherine soothed him further, yet worried him a bit at the same time.  His heart, his mind, and his body longed to have her closer yet, but he knew such true closeness wasn’t possible.
   Leaving the shower, Vincent toweled off and put on the jeans and sweater that she had left for him.  Walking through Catherine’s bedroom, he caught sight of his reflection in her mirror.
   Vincent was astounded by what he saw as he stared into the mirror.  The eyes staring back at him were the eyes of a man--the eyes of a man who loved Catherine.  Vincent gazed longingly toward the living room, but he was unable to move.  He was frozen in place, for despite the eyes he saw there, the face in the mirror was not the face of a man.  Despite Catherine’s presence there in his eyes, Vincent could not get past the sight of his own face.  ‘The face of a beast,’ he thought.  A tear formed in his eye as he was overcome with the need to leave. . .the need to be safe in his chamber, away from her thus eliminating the thoughts running through his mind.  But no, he had to watch over her tonight.  He had almost lost her, and she needed him now.  He had to be here for Catherine.
   Vincent panned the image of his body in the mirror.  He took note of the clothes and how well they fit.  And he knew full well that the body beneath those clothes was very much a man’s body.  His eyes traced the reflection from his shoulders, down his arms, ending with the fur covered hands at the sweater’s cuffs.  Vincent examined those hands and took a final look at himself in the mirror.  Then putting his own emotions and fears aside, he took a deep breath and headed back into the living room.

   Catherine was seated curled up on the couch, contentedly reading a copy of Jane Eyre that Vincent had given her.  She looked up to see him enter the room, and she sat speechless.  The vision before her was one she had not seen before.  The man who stood before her now was simply dressed in clothes tighter than normal, absent the usual layers beneath which he seemed to hide his form.  Slowly, her eyes moved from his face and eyes, to his strong arms and broad chest, to his hands, and then shyly to his waist, his legs,  and finally down to the floor.  She paused, looking down at her book and then closing it.  Lifting her head ever so slowly, she allowed her gaze to meet his.  Pretending not to be overwhelmed by the sight of him she offered, “I made some tea.  Would you like some?”
   “Tea would be nice,” he answered.
   “Are you hungry?  I could make some soup or sandwiches.”
   Vincent was hungry.  He had bathed in her home, surely he could eat there as well.  “Yes, Catherine.   You should eat something as well.”
   Catherine nodded and got up from the couch, leaving her book with the page marked on the coffee table.  She was suddenly stricken with a child’s wonderment as she pondered the notion that she and Vincent were behaving like a normal couple.  Well, obviously they were both nervous, but she reveled in the possibility that they could do what most couples do.  They could use the same shower.  They could make soup and share a meal.  Surely they could do other things as well.  Now she had only to convince him.  “Come on,” she said grabbing him by both hands and leading him into the kitchen.  “It’s the 80's and men of the 80's help the women cook.”
   Vincent was momentarily frightened, but her smile reassured him again.  “You should rest, Catherine, and let me cook for you.”
   Catherine’s smile quickly became a soft laugh as she gently reminded him, “You don’t know how to use my stove, but I can teach you.  You seem to have mastered the shower.  Now, on to the next lesson.”
   “It seems this is a night for teaching and learning.”  He relaxed a great deal at the thought of leaving the living room for the safety and physical distance that the kitchen had to offer, and allowed himself to be led by her once more.
   Vincent watched as Catherine gathered pots and pans and opened cans of soup to be prepared.  “And I was planning on chopping vegetables,” he murmured.
   “Not tonight, Vincent,” Catherine mused.  “Trust me, Campbell’s has done that for us already,” she said pointing to the label on the can.  “Do you cook?”
   Vincent grinned and admitted, “Not very well.  Enough to keep myself alive, but we leave the cooking primarily to William.”
   “Same here,” she replied with a laugh, “but I don’t have a William.”
   Catherine retrieved some assorted lunch meats from the refrigerator and a loaf of fresh baked bread.  Vincent poured the tea.
   With the soup cooked and the sandwiches made, they moved into the dining room to eat. The soup was hot and as Catherine took a bite, it burned her upper lip.  “Ouch,” she exclaimed, dropping the spoon back in the bowl.
   An alarmed Vincent looked up at her.  “Did you burn yourself?” he asked.
   “It’s okay,” she answered.  But he rose and went to her side, bending down to examine her mouth.  He was overwhelmed by the expression on her face, as she looked up at him with the eyes of an innocent child.  Gently he rubbed his thumb across her lip.  Then, much to his own surprise, his control waned.  They were so close and he could feel her through the bond so fiercely.  He took her chin in his hand and his lips met hers.
   Startled by his uncharacteristic expression of intimacy, Catherine was uncertain how to respond.  She did not want to frighten him, yet she had waited so long for this moment.  Slowly, she allowed herself to respond to the kiss.  She hesitated and then gently caressed his upper lip with her tongue.  She felt him tense up momentarily, before he opened his mouth to her.
   Tasting each other for the first time, Vincent began to play his tongue across her teeth. He pulled Catherine up from her chair to stand in his embrace.  Arms wrapped around each other, the kiss grew more and more passionate.  Their teeth clashed and their tongues intertwined, and Vincent felt his arousal growing.  Catherine grew bolder and carefully slid her tongue across his teeth.  In response to that action, Vincent abruptly ended the kiss, pulling back from her and looking away.  All at once he was both frightened and ashamed of his behavior.
   Catherine stood silently trying to discern what to do next.  Any overt action on her part could cause him to retreat, or worse, it could cause him to leave.  And, she very much needed him with her here tonight.
   Sensing Catherine’s confusion through the bond, Vincent knew he was responsible for how she was feeling.  He wanted desperately to take her in his arms once more, but he was held back by his own uncertainties.  Hesitating slightly, he placed one hand on her shoulder and brushed her hair from her face.  Tears welled up in her eyes, and against her will they began to fall.  “Was is something I did?” she asked him.
   “No, Catherine.  It isn’t you.  This is all so new.  I. . .”  He allowed the back of his hand to brush the tears from her face.  “I don’t want to hurt you.  I never meant to upset you.  I’m sorry.”
   “Oh, Vincent.  Don’t be sorry.”  Catherine laid her head on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him.  Their bodies melted together, and she struggled to use the bond to convey to him the comfort she felt with him now.
   At last he eased his arms around her.  “Hold me tighter, Vincent,” she told him again.  He did.
   Back in the living room, Vincent and Catherine sat on opposite ends of the couch, staring into the fire.  They had been sitting in silence for over an hour, and Catherine could no longer stand it.  He wouldn’t discuss the kiss and made no effort to touch her again.  He rose and began to pace.  Afraid that he would leave, in a last ditch effort to sooth him, Catherine reached for the book she had left lying on the coffee table and handed it to Vincent.  “Read to me,” she asked him.
   Vincent stopped pacing and took the copy of Jane Eyre from her.  He could not deny her request for the simple presence of his company this evening.  She had been through so much the last few days, and he knew she needed him to stay.  He had to be here now for her.  He let out the breath he had held upon hearing her voice and returned to his place on the far end of the couch. He opened the book to the page Catherine had marked and began to read:
   “‘Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it; it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.’  I heard her with wonder; I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance, and still less could I understand or sympathize with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser.”
   He paused.  The words he had read rang true.  Had she planned it that way?  Surely not, since she had been reading the book earlier in the evening.
   “Why did you stop?”  Catherine asked him innocently, although she knew full well how the words touched him.  He shook his head but did not answer her with words.  He only opened his arm allowing her to slide in close to him on his end of the couch.
   He continued reading:  “Still I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes.  I suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply, like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.”
   He paused again.  Closing the book so that his finger marked the place, he looked at Catherine, whose head was now resting on his shoulder.  He placed a kiss on the top of her head and whispered to himself or perhaps to her, “a light invisible to my are right.”  He lifted her head so her eyes met his.  His voice gained strength and he spoke directly to her,  “You have been right all along, my love.  And, I have been wrong. . .so wrong.”
   Catherine couldn’t speak.  She didn’t quite know what to say.  She opened her mouth but the words wouldn’t come.  Finally, she took his head in her hands and pulled him to her.  It was his head resting on her shoulder this time, and she whispered softly into his ear.  “I need you.  I need you here with me tonight, and I need you in my life forever.”
   Vincent pulled back from her, and Catherine feared that once more she had done the wrong thing.  She was but moments from tears when he leaned in to her and kissed her once more.  Not as passionately as before, but this time it was his mouth opening first to drink in the taste of her.  It was a nonverbal expression of his love for her.  When the kiss ended, Catherine sank back into his arms and Vincent opened the book once more.  Neither spoke, as now no words were needed.  He would stay the night and watch over her, keeping her safe.  He would now have a life he never before dreamed possible.  She would now have what she had dreamed of for a long, long time.  Vincent.
   Holding the woman he loved tightly to him he continued reading:  “You say you have faults, Helen.  What are they?  To me you seem very good.”
   “Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances.  I am, as Miss Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things in order, I am careless, I forget rules, I read when I should learn my lessons, I have no method, and sometimes I say like you, I cannot bear to be subjected to systematic arrangements.  This is all very provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular.”
   “‘And cross and cruel,’ I added, but Helen Burns would not admit my addition, she kept silence.”
    Vincent looked down and saw that Catherine had fallen asleep.  He too was tired and closed the book, returning it to the coffee table.  He lifted the sleeping Catherine into his arms, and carried her in to the bed.  ‘I will forget the rules,’ he thought to himself.  ‘At least for tonight.’