No Shadow of Another

A/N: This story first appeared in the 2010 San Diego conzine, Happ'ly I Think on Thee: Invitation to a Dream. If you've read "Sensation," this is the scene referred briefly in the "Taste" section. If you haven't, don't worry about it :)


“When he kissed me...I wished that it was you.”

Vincent looked down at Catherine's earnest green eyes and could hardly believe it. Oh, she told the truth; he could feel it in their bond. But some distant simmering part of him could not trust, could not believe.  Elliot could offer her so much more, could offer himself freely. Why would she want to be tied to someone who must always walk in shadows, who could give her nothing?

The touch of her hand under his chin startled him. “You're doing it again,” Catherine said.

“Doing what?” Vincent responded, wondering uneasily if the bond between them had given her a glimpse of his thoughts.
“You're doing what you tend to do when Elliot's name comes up. You're comparing that dazzling life you think I could have with him above and contrasting it with your own down here.”  With him seated, the height difference between them wasn't as telling and she stood to look him square in the eye. “I've seen you do this before, Vincent, and it's got to stop. I made my choice. You're the one that I want.”

Vincent couldn't look away from those eyes and he thought, not for the first time, that she must be formidable in court. “But Elliot could---”

She made a sound of frustration low in her throat. “The next time you say you're not a man, I'm going to remind you of this conversation. Every man I've ever known has tried to tell me what was best for me, and I'm not going to let you do this too. Elliot may be a king in my world, but he's not you.” Her tone softened. “If you believe nothing else, listen to our bond and believe what it tells you.”

The toxic brew of old pain and doubt continued to boil, along with the darker tinges of loss, the loss he would feel if one day she did choose someone else. Make up your mind, he thought. You could have lost her tonight. She could have died on those docks---would have, if you'd been even a  few seconds later. Do you want her with you or with Elliot? Aloud, he said, “Will you come with me?”

Catherine tilted her head. It was his own gesture, and the sight of it caused him to smile, just a bit. “There is no privacy here, Catherine,” Vincent replied. “There are a few places I go when I need to be alone for a time.” He stood and held out his uninjured hand to her. “We're going to a chamber where there are no pipes; we won't be disturbed.”

“How often do you have to go there?” she asked as they walked.

“More often than I would like,” Vincent confessed. “I should put up a door or a curtain at the entrance to my chamber, but there's always something else that needs to be done first.”  She stumbled a bit and he drew her close, feeling her utter exhaustion. They were both bone-tired; his hand throbbed in dull counterpoint to her sore and aching muscles. “It's not far,” he murmured by way of reassurance. “Just a little more...isolated than most of the chambers nearer the hub. I'm not up to walking to the more distant areas tonight.”

He led them down a narrow turn, through a short corridor, then a longer one. Finally, he made another right and came to a small chamber with a door. “Here it is,” Vincent said. “It used to be a storage chamber, but I've found it to be useful.” Vincent opened the door and they walked inside.

“Vincent, this is where you took Brian when he came down here,” Catherine said, looking around the place.

“Yes,” Vincent replied. “This is one of the few chambers that has an actual door, so it seemed logical. It's private enough and no one will hear us or interrupt.”

Catherine nodded. The chamber was a rough place, but not without a few comforts---a low bed in the corner, a chair, a few books, a washbowl and basin on top of an old washstand and some of the ubiquitous tunnel candles. She sat down on the overstuffed chair and smiled at him as he closed the door and lit a few of the candles. “You brought me here for a reason, Vincent. Talk. Tell me what this is all about.”

He sat down on the bed. “I don't doubt that you love me, Catherine, or that you very much wanted me to be in Elliot's place when he kissed you. But that's just it. I can't be. I'll never be the kind of man who can kiss you wherever, whenever, above, in the sunshine. I'm not trying to send you to Elliot, but I'm asking you to consider what you're losing by choosing to stay with me. I can give you nothing, Catherine. Nothing at all.”

Catherine bolted up out of the chair, blood in her eye and fire in their bond. “'Nothing'? You saved my life, showed me my strength and believed in me when no one else did? That's 'nothing' to you? These last couple of years? That's 'nothing'?” She stood in front of him and placed her hands on his shoulders. The bond flared wide with her fury. “And I suppose this is 'nothing' too?”

She kissed him then, and the kiss was beyond the gentle kiss she'd given him when she'd left the tunnels after her father's death and far different than the kiss they'd exchanged after her return from Connecticut. Her kiss now was feral, almost primal in its force, bruising his lips. Mine, it said. I choose. Mine. Unprepared as he was for her sudden motion, her kiss overbalanced him and he fell backwards onto the bed, taking her with him.

The distant simmer of his emotions----emotions he'd tried not to reveal so as to allow Catherine to choose someone else----returned, stronger for his long denial. Vincent growled low in his throat and pressed her against him tightly. Mine. This is for no one else, he thought. Catherine's hands were at the lacing of his shirt with a powerful grasping passion that he wouldn't have thought possible from her.

“Catherine, wait---” he tried to say, but his own hands had pushed off her vest. He ignored the throb from his hand as he undid the small buttons of her shirt.

What was happening to them, this craving fury, the need they both had to possess each other utterly? “You question too much,” Catherine murmured against his mouth. “I am yours. You are mine. What more do you need to know?”

What more, indeed. Her shirt was off and his hands touched her bare flesh as her own hands edged his shirt off his shoulders. “More,” she said simply as her tongue touched his fangs and all thoughts began shorting out. He reached back and pulled his shirt fully off, ignoring the throb in his hand.

Catherine's hands touched his chest and he heard a low growl come from her throat. “You're beautiful,” she said. “And I'm alive. I want you.”

Vincent's own blood rose in response to that ancient claiming. Pushing aside her hair, he nuzzled her neck and noticed, belatedly, that she wore no bra under her shirt. Her breasts were warm against his chest and her small hands tugged at his jeans. “Take them off,” she muttered.

He didn't want to let go of her, not even for the instant it took to stand up and pull his faded and patched jeans off, but the few seconds apart were like cold water on his brain. What was he doing? She doesn't know what she's taking to her bed...she'll be disgusted...she'll run...The jeans pooled around his ankles and he kicked them off. And the look on Catherine's face and through their bond was not disgust or surprise or shock.

It was appreciation, mixed with no small amount of lust and love and need.

She loved what she saw. And she loved him. That much was clear through the bond. ”I have been a fool,” he muttered.

Catherine leaned against the patchwork quilts, naked and wanting...wanting him. She laughed, a low throaty chuckle he'd never heard from her. “Glad you figured that out. Saves me the trouble of saying it. Now come here.”

He could no more have disobeyed than he could have stopped breathing. Each breath Vincent took inhaled her scent as well, sharp with the few remaining thin shards of her anger, dark with her passion and love and need. I could have lost her...lost her...lost her....the thought echoed in his mind. He had controlled and denied his own desires rather than risk binding her to him, but in doing so, he had also ignored her wishes, her desires. And in the face of all they had endured tonight--and just weeks earlier, with the Watcher---it seemed utter folly.

Her eyes were dark and green as she drew him down next to her. “That wasn't so tough, was it?” Catherine asked. The low, husky note was in her voice and Vincent felt something primeval in himself rise to that long-denied calling. Her lips touched his with renewed fervor and the braided coil of love and need and love and passion drew them closer together. “Catherine, I don't...I haven't...” he managed

“Ssssh,” she said, smiling against his neck. “We'll learn from each other, as lovers must. We'll be fine.” Catherine looked up at him and Vincent knew, somehow, that she'd sensed his greatest worry: that he might fail in this, that he might disappoint her or worse---much worse---that he'd hurt her once his own passions were freed. Already he could feel the heavy, cloying darkness of the Other beating against his mental barricades.

Catherine's green eyes stared into his. “Let go, Vincent,” she murmured. “Just...let go. You can't hurt me. You won't.”

Vincent bent his lips to hers then and the fire between them, only temporarily banked, flared into life yet again. She tasted of summer's light and the sunshine he had never seen...but most of all, she was life. Alive, present, and here in his arms. And there was no discounting that this was her choice, her desire as well. He nuzzled the soft, sweet spot on her neck, felt her breasts brush his chest as she rose against him. The scent...the scent of her....drawing him in.

She was all textures to him, all sense of touch---the soft swell of her breasts under his lips, the gentle curve of her hip, the cool silk of her skin under his hand. Vincent saw the contrast of his darker fur against her smoothness and for the first time, enjoyed their differences. They were...balanced. Together, as they always had been. His own arousal rose hot and fierce between them and he gasped when she touched him. No one else...not another, ever.

“I see you like that,” Catherine murmured, smiling up at him.

Her light touch provoked another gasp and Vincent just managed to force out a few words. “I need you,” he said.

“I know,” Catherine said. “I need you too.” She pulled him against her, drawing him into a place he had not ever thought to go, and the scent of her, the touch of her hands along his hips, was fire and light on his skin. The bond between them expanded into a river of feeling, of emotion, and he would have been lost but for Catherine's body against his, her hands brushing the straining muscles of his thighs,  anchoring him, reassuring. “You won't lose me. You won't lose yourself,” she said against his shoulder as he entered her and her body drew him in, welcoming. It was a spell, her words, balm to his fears and all that had ever stood between them.

With those words, something inside Vincent tore free and he loved her, with everything he was, with everything he might yet be. The bond swelled again between them, but he was not afraid as they fell into the light together.


Several months later...

Vincent looked down into the cradle where his daughter slept. One tiny, clawed hand was near her mouth---I must remember to trim her nails, he thought---and the other was clutching her stuffed tiger. The delicate line of fur along her nose was copper in the candlelight.

“She should sleep the rest of the night,” Catherine said, “now that she's full and dry.” She relaced her sleepshirt in a failed attempt to keep the shirt---one of his that she'd appropriated shortly after Hannah's birth---from falling off her shoulders.

Vincent saw the gleam of golden hair and ivory shoulders against the quilts and blankets and thought there was nothing more beautiful than the sight of her.

“Come back to bed,” she said. As he nestled against her, she murmured, “Still think you can give me nothing?”

Vincent smiled and pulled her close against his chest, together as they were always meant to be. “No.”