The Argument

Rated PG 13
Summary: A 'what if' story which takes place beyond the series and ignores the third season's turn of events completely.

Vincent stared hard at the closed doors. He had never just walked in her apartment before. He had always waited, patiently, for her to wander out onto the balcony. He took a deep breath. His patience was at an end, however. He reached for the knobs, pushed down, and the doors opened before him. He peered inside. He knew she was there. He could feel her. Catherine let the spray of water hit her face and sighed. What a week. It was so good to be home. The steam from the shower and the heat of the water helped ease her tension. Tonight, all she wanted to do was curl up in Vincent's lap and listen to him read from Moby Dick, the book they had started before she had left. It was when she stepped back to reach for the shampoo that she thought she heard something. She listened closely, but then heard nothing. Slowly, she pulled back the shower curtain and stuck her head out. There! She heard it! Her heart quickened and she turned off the water. She stepped out of the shower and was just about to reach for the towel on the back of the door when it suddenly flew open. She screamed, terrified, and jumped back.
Vincent filled the doorway. Catherine stared back at him aghast.. Her pulse was pounding so hard she felt like she might faint. "You're back," he stated sharply, accusingly. Catherine could only nod. She edged toward the door and felt for the towel, never taking her eyes from his. "It was good of you to let me know," he continued. He exhaled forcibly through his teeth. "And it was so considerate of you to let me know you were leaving in the first place." His blue eyes flashed a mixture of emotions.

Catherine was suddenly angry. She bit her lip and pushed her wet hair from her eyes. She was so furious in fact she couldn't even look at him.

"How dare you?! Coming in here like this!" she seethed. "You scared me! You must have known I was frightened, yet you burst in here without warning."

Her voice broke through his haze of anger and he suddenly realized for the first time that she was standing before him completely naked. She hadn't even had the chance to dry off and heavy drops of water were running slowly down the length of her body. He allowed himself to be distracted by her loveliness and let his eyes tarry over her before turning away. He knew he couldn't argue with her if she remained naked much longer. He swallowed hard, regretting everything. He realized he didn't want to argue with her anyway. He wanted to take her in his arms, whisper his undying love for her in her ear then carry her to the bedroom and let her know how happy he was that she was back. He chided himself for not thinking and confronting her as angry as he was. But she had hurt him deeply and it had fueled his ire. She suddenly brushed past him roughly, exiting the bath, donning a robe. Now he could feel the wall of anger in her heart and it stood like a sentry between them.

"Answer me!" Catherine yelled. "What is the matter with you?"

Vincent lowered his eyes. "You left."

"Yes. I had to. I--"

He looked up. "In the middle of the night? With fear and sadness in your heart? Not a word of where you were going or why you left."

Catherine took a deep steadying breath, still trying to recover from her shock. "I didn't have time to reach you. I just had to go."

Vincent could contain himself no longer. He began pacing a short, tight circle in front of her.

"You were gone so long. Days passed without a word still." He gestured at himself, his own anger resurfacing. "I was beside myself. I thought at one time perhaps you had been taken. I was tortured by the questions left unanswered, the horrible possiblities. I knew something was very wrong and I could not reach you."

Catherine shook her head. "If you would have given me the chance, I would have gladly explained. I was coming to see you tonight," she began, frustrated. She pointed at the open balcony doors. "Instead you storm in here and let me think I'm about to be murdered."

Vincent stopped pacing and faced her. "Don't my feelings matter anymore to you? Don't I deserve a little of your consideration?" His teeth flashed angrily between his words.

Cathy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "A friend called me that night. She had just received bad news. I had to leave right away."

Vincent resumed pacing. "You didn't even care to send me a message. You knew I was expecting you on Thursday. Didn't you even think of me at all?"

Catherine lowered her eyes. Thursday had been their fourth year anniversary. She shook her head slowly. "No," she admitted reluctantly. "I didn't."

Vincent closed his eyes and fought hard not to scream his outrage. "At're honest." He turned slowly and headed for the doors. "I suppose I counted myself a little more worthy of your attention than I was. A little more worthy of simple consideration."

Cathy stepped forward. "Vincent, you don't understand the gravity of the situation I was facing. I had to go to her. She needed me."

"And I don't?!" Vincent snapped. "I spent these last four days and nights living in hell for fear for you. Then only to find out upon your safe and happy return that you simply did not think to let me know you were off visiting a friend." He leaned closer to her, looming ominously over her small form. "Where are you in the night when I call for you? Do you come? Do you even think to?" He straightened slowly and licked his lips. His shoulders sagged in capitulation. "I need you, Catherine. Think about that sometime."

Catherine couldn't believe her ears. "How can you say such a thing? Are you telling me I don't satisfy you anymore?"

Vincent rubbed his eyes. "I didn't mean to imply that," he told her. "It's just that I feel you don't think I'm anybody special anymore. Not like you used to. I'm just always there. Whenever you want me, but not any other time. I'm not allowed to encroach on your life here." He gestured around him at the apartment.

Catherine had to turn away from him to keep from bursting into tears. "You are purposefully trying to hurt me and make me feel guilty about a decision we made together. I would have never expected that from you." She suddenly faced him. "And I have never, ever taken you for granted!"

Vincent's lip curled angrily over his teeth. "I know you can't feel what's in my heart the way I can with you. I'm trying to tell you then, what you did to me, leaving me the way you did, was as cruel and deliberate as what you think I'm doing to you now." He stepped closer to her. "Your admitted inconsideration of me, hurt and confused me. I came here tonight to understand why."

"You came here tonight to accuse me and punish me!" Catherine cursed under her breath. "Vincent, you are not hearing me. You are so consumed with self pity and anger, you haven't heard a word I've said. You won't even let me explain." She walked passed him and reached for the balcony doors and swung them open wider. "When you are ready to listen and be rational, then we'll talk. I have nothing more I want to say to you tonight." She fought back tears as she stood shivering beside the open doors.

Vincent felt the very last of his anger dissipate. He had no more fight left in him. He looked over at her longingly.

"You...haven't heard a word I've spoken either," he whispered. Slowly, he stepped over to the door and stopped before her. "I only feel so strongly about this because I love much." He reached for her but her eyes flashed and she jerked away.

She couldn't let him touch her. She had to resist him. She felt he deserved her anger for a little while at least and she knew if he touched her she would forgive him in an instant. He seemed to know this as well and persisted in his attempts.

"No!" she snapped. "Just go. Now."

A deep penetrating shadow crossed her heart, blocking all feelings of love and compassion. Hurt, despair, and anger was all Vincent could feel in her. He wanted so badly to hold her and wipe away the shadow brought on by this night. He wanted this night to be erased forever from their memories. His heart began aching with an overwhelming pain and he found he could not leave her, knowing she was so upset with him.

"Catherine. You have never wanted to hurt me before. Why do you revel in that prospect now?"

Catherine closed her eyes. She could feel her defenses weakening. "Because I am hurt too. Hurt purposefully by you." She faced him suddenly and sighed heavily. "Please Vincent. Just go before things get any worse between us." She nodded towards the door.

Vincent was torn. He stood unmoving, watching her. She shivered again and he reached for her once more. She jumped back.

"Leave me alone!" she shouted. "Don't come here again accusing me of mistreating you when you can mistreat me without a second thought! I want you to stay away, do you understand?"

By the time she was finished yelling, Vincent was gone. She took several deep breaths and tried to calm herself, but only burst into tears. She slammed the balcony doors shut and locked them. She leaned against them for support and found them hard and cold. She staggered over to her bed and sat down.

"Vincent," she whispered, her bottom lip trembling. "What have we done?"

Vincent had never felt so empty before. He felt nothing. No anger. No hurt. Not even sorrow. His heart was heavy but not with any feeling he could put his finger on. He simply felt nothing and realized the bond he shared with Catherine seemed lost for the time being due to the hardening of her heart against him. And he realized his own grief over what had just happened between them was so consuming he couldn't allow himself to feel it.

On his way back to the tunnels, he stopped every once in awhile and looked longingly back in the direction from which he had come. He wanted so desparately to return to her and throw himself at her feet and plead for her forgiveness. He didn't care if she hurt him anymore. As long as she loved him and let him love her. He felt he could endure whatever pains were attached. But not this. Not this banishment from her. Not that look in her eyes as she forced him to go.

He reached the tunnel entrance and found little solace in it's shadows. He leaned against the wall and sunk slowly to the ground. The pain was suddenly too much to hold inside anymore and he screamed emphatically, clutching his heart as though it might beat its last in that moment. He buried his face in his hands and cried.

Chapter 2

Catherine opened the office door and smiled wearily. The two men inside stood up courteously and faced her.

"Cathy," Joe Maxwell began. "I want you to meet Jack Dannings. He'll be working with you on the Kurinski case."

"How do you do, Miss Chandler," Jack Dannings said, his British accent affecting each word. Catherine smiled, delighted.

"I can tell you are not a native New Yorker," she greeted, taking his outstretched hand.

"No. London, actually. God, I thought I'd lost this accent by now," he smiled. "People must think I'm merely a tourist."

Cathy laughed. She sat next to him and opened her files. When he wasn't looking, she peered over at him appraisingly. Seeing this, Joe cleared his throat.

"Well, if you two are through making goo goo eyes at each other, I'd like to discuss this file."

Cathy suddenly found it hard to concentrate on what Joe was saying and wondered if Jack was experiencing the same difficulty.

"So how long have you lived in Manhattan, Jack?" Cathy was saying over lunch and file folders.

"Six years. I used to work over at Mead, Smith, and Varnes, but I got tired handling estates. I wanted something with more of a challenge."

"I know how you feel. I was in corporate law awhile back. Like you, I wanted to feel like I was making a difference for the better. And it is challenging." She finished off her sandwich and wiped her fingers with a napkin. She looked over at Jack and smiled. He was so easy to talk to. So comfortable. He seemed like an old friend. She admitted to herself, it was rather disappointing to have their association on this case coming to an end. For the last two days, they had worked around the clock it seemed, to ready this file for the courts. But despite the hard work, she found herself enjoying the long hours spent in his company. Besides, it helped take her mind off Vincent.

Jack sat back with a sigh. He put his pen down and looked over at Catherine.

"How about dinner?" He offered her his most charming smile. "Anywhere you want to go."

Cathy looked surprised and pleased. "We just finished lunch," she teased. She studied his face, his large expressive gray eyes, his thick curly hair, and his straight, angular features. He had a bit of a beard shadowing his face giving him a sexy and casual air.

"I meant tonight, silly," he smiled. He leaned forward and rubbed his eyes. "God, Cath, I need a night away from this mess. Let's go out and have some fun for a change."

"Sure. I'm not doing anything else tonight," Catherine informed him, feeling strangely liberated suddenly. It would do her good to get away from her apartment for a night out.

Jack gave her a curious look. "Well, since you put it that way..."

Cathy laughed. "I'm sorry. I sure didn't mean that, the way it sounded. I really meant to say, yes, I'd love to have dinner. Maybe even a little dancing if you are up to it."

"Maybe a stroll in the park?"

Cathy frowned suddenly. "No, not the park."

Jack reached over and took her hand. "Of course. How stupid of me to bring up those memories. How awful that must have been for you."

Cathy realized he was referring to her attack there, three years ago. She offered him a reassuring smile. "Forget it," she said a little too cheerfully.

Jack looked deeply into her eyes. "You're beautiful, you know that? So full of vitality and warmth and courage. Not a bitter bone in you. Gentle and sweet..." he suddenly blushed and smiled crookedly, "--and yet you sit there and let me make a complete twit out of myself."

Cathy laughed. "Thank you Jack. That was nice of you to say such things when you really hardly know me."

"I'd like to get to know you. If you would let me." He squeezed her hand and Cathy felt her heart quicken.

Father watched Vincent from across the room. He seemed totally absorbed in the novel he was reading and either didn't notice or pretended not to notice Father's inquisitive gaze.

Something was terribly wrong. Vincent hadn't gone above in almost a week. Even though Catherine had come back from wherever it was she had disappeared to, Vincent, as far as Father was aware, had not been to see her. He didn't even mention her lately. It was as if she had ceased to exist.

Father frowned. "Why don't you give your eyes a rest and go out for awhile. Get some fresh air and exercise."

Vincent didn't bother looking up. "Why?" he said suspiciously.

"Why? You know very well why!" Father complained, walking over to him. He pointed at the book Vincent was holding. "That's the eighth novel you have read in less than three days. You've done nothing but sit around and read." He suddenly realized this was Vincent's version of getting drunk to forget his problems. He sighed softly. "Do you want to talk about something?"

Vincent looked up at last. "No," he said simply and tried to resume reading.

Father sighed heavily. "Listen, Jennifer is coming by in a few minutes. I told her I would show her around the tunnels to help her get better acquainted with them. She still gets lost. I'm very tired tonight however and my leg is bothering me. Would you do it?"

Vincent sighed impatiently and faced Father once more. "Who's Jennifer?" He snapped his book closed and stuffed it between the cushions of the chair.

"She's a newcomer. You haven't met her and it's about time."

"Can't Mouse do it?" Vincent protested. "I'll only make her uncomfortable, I'm sure."

Father persisted. "She's been asking about you. I know she wants to meet you. And it will do you some good to get out and about for awhile."

"Very well, if you are so determined to be rid of me, I'll honor your wishes. Spend the night alone if that's what you want."

There was a rustle at the entrance of the chamber. Father and Vincent looked up.

"Ah Jennifer," Father said relieved and hurried over to take her hand. "Let me introduce you to--"

"Vincent," she said and smiled, her eyes wide. "I've heard so much about you. I've been in such a hurry to meet you."

Vincent rose slowly. His eyes swept over the young woman in front of him. She was breathtakingly lovely with a natural elegance about her. A sophistication and warmth that reached out to him in a manner he had never experienced before. He opened his mouth to speak but then didn't remember what he was going to say.

Father cleared his throat. "Vincent will be taking you around tonight. I knew you wouldn't mind. It will give you a chance to get to know one another."

"That'll be splendid!" Jennifer chimed.

Vincent walked over to her and offered her his arm silently. She smiled and slipped her hand over the crook of his elbow with a sigh. They started off, their eyes never leaving one another.

Father watched them go in stunned silence. He had never witnessed Vincent reacting to a woman in such a way. He hadn't missed his son's quiet appraisal of Jennifer and her reveling in the intensity of his gaze. This was going to prove interesting to say the least.

"So I hear you're in love," Jennifer asked watching Vincent closely. His expression remained unchanged however.

"I know love," he answered simply.

"To a wealthy socialite, I understand. Is she beautiful?" When he did not answer,she lowered her eyes and sighed. "Forgive me, I'm being intrusive." She suddenly changed the subject. "I've also heard you have a great passion for classical music."

"Yes," he told her readily, grateful not to be talking of Catherine anymore. "I love all music, but classical is my favorite."

"I play the voilin. Ever since I was a child. My violin is the only thing I brought with me from above. I used to be in the symphony a few years back."

Vincent faced her. "I'm sure I must have heard you play then. I am a season ticket holder for all the symphony's performances. Ever since I was a child."

Jennifer laughed, delighted. "I've been told there are ways to enjoy those performances from down here. You'll have to show me sometime."

Vincent thought for a moment. "There might be a performance tonight." He clasped her hand in his. "Come. This way," he smiled.


Catherine finished putting the final touches on her outfit for the evening then stepped back and looked critically in the mirror. She hadn't been this dressed up in a long time. It felt good to be going out for a night on the town.

There was a small noise behind her and she turned and faced the balcony. She hurried over and threw the doors open expectantly only to find there was nobody there. She sighed heavily, surprised by the depth of her disappointment. She retreated inside, closing the doors behind her and then locking them with a smirk.

Well, she thought, even if it had been him, she would have had to tell him that she was on her way out anyway and not another night on the damn balcony, shivering in the dark. This was not going to be one of those sleepless nights spent discussing philosphy and literature. And music and moonlight. Catherine swallowed uncomfortably. For an instant, she let herself miss him. Then there was a knock on the door. She rushed to open it.

Jack smiled at her from behind a dozen red roses. Cathy was thrilled. She accepted them and closed her eyes to smell them and sighed happily.

"Oh, they're beautiful! You shouldn't have." She glanced at him and tried to look reproachful.

"Didn't I mention that you'd be buying dinner?" Jack grinned and kissed her cheek in greeting. He walked in and closed the door.

Catherine laughed. "I'm glad your not the type who thinks he can impress me with his money."

Jack gestured towards her and frowned. "I thought those roses were beautiful when they were in the shop. But now that they are right beside you, they can't begin to compare." He took her hand and turned her around slowly. "You're breathtaking. Simply breathtaking."

"You don't look so bad yourself," she replied, putting the roses in a vase in the bedroom. "I like you in blue." The image of Vincent in that light blue sweater he wore on really cold nights suddenly encroached her thoughts. She loved him in blue. It brought out the blue of his eyes. Cathy sighed and frowned. She looked over at Jack and thought sympathetically that he could not compare. Not to Vincent in blue.

"That was wonderful, Vincent," Jennifer sighed as the last of the applause died down and the audience was beginning to leave. "I can't remember a more enjoyable evening."

"We can come here as often as you like," he told her, staring deeply into her eyes. "This time of year, there are performances every week."

Jennifer stood and smoothed out her dress. "It's a date, then." She smiled.

"I'm already looking forward to it," Vincent replied quietly.

Jennifer was looking up through the grate. "Looks like it might rain. I guess we lucked out and missed it." She faced him. "What happens if it rains?"

"You get wet," he said simply and sighed. He remembered the time it rained on him and Catherine, soaking them in a sudden deluge. Her dress was ruined, her hair a mess, but she had laughed and hugged him and told him it was the best time she had ever had.

"Vincent? You look a million miles away," Jennifer noted. He faced her.

"Only a few miles away," he answered softly. He suddenly felt uncomfortable in this place. He stood and took Jennifer's hand. "Promise me," he began as they started back up the tunnels, "that you'll play the violin for me some evening."

"What's wrong with tomorrow?" She squeezed his hand. "You can come to my chamber around eight."

Vincent nodded. "I'll be there." He looked down at her and smiled. He genuinely liked her. She was warm and friendly and so lovely to look at. He wanted to spend more time with her and get to know her better.

They stopped at the tunnel crossroads and faced one another. Jennifer's chamber was in one direction, Vincent's the other.

They both were reluctant to go their separate ways.

"Well, good night, Vincent," Jennifer said at last but still did not move.

"Sleep well," Vincent replied. He bent towards her and stopped, realizing what he was about to do.

"It's all right," Jennifer smiled. "I want you to kiss me." She stood, waiting, watching him, her full lips parted ever so slightly. He leaned closer and she closed her eyes in anticipation.

"You...are very beautiful," Vincent told her. He fought with his conscience on this one. After what seemed like a long time, he finally could resist her pretty upturned mouth no more. He kissed her and she kissed him back.

She stepped back then and smiled. Slowly, she turned and walked away in the direction of her chamber.

Vincent sighed and studied the ground, thoughtfully. She was attracted to him and he was attracted to her and suddenly his mind was whirling in confusion and excitement. He had never encountered a possibility such as this before. This could be something he had only dreamed of. Someone here, living among him, in one world, not two. Someone he could see whenever he wanted, be with whenever he wanted. Beautiful and willing and....a snarl of self rebuke escaped his throat and a deep shame marred his countenance. How could he even think of such a thing? Would he cast his love for Catherine aside so readily if it weren't for Jennifer's attraction towards him? Disgusted with himself and his unruly mind, he started walking quickly down the passage that led to his chamber.

Another unwelcome thought began to make itself known as he tore off his cloak and threw it uncerimoniously on his bed. What if Catherine didn't want him back? What if the damage done that fateful night was beyond repair?

Chapter 4

"Would you like to come in?" Catherine was saying, as she unlocked her door. "I'll fix us something to drink."

Jack smiled. "I'll settle for coffee. Instant even."

Cathy started for the kitchen. "I thought English people drank tea."

Jack busied himself wandering about the apartment, studying the decor. "I haven't been in jolly ol England for over ten years. Besides that," he spied her bookcase and went to survey its contents, "I can't abide the stuff. Never have liked it. Tastes like tainted water if you ask me." He heard Cathy laugh in the kitchen.

"All right if I look around a bit?" he called to her. "I've never been in a pretty woman's apartment before. Are they all the same?" He found her eclectic collection of novels intriguing. He picked one out to look at more closely. It looked like a first edition.

Catherine came into the parlor and saw Jack holding her book of sonnets. She sighed and shook her finger at him. "You can look, but don't touch." She took the book from him and replaced it on the shelf. "Why is everyone so fascinated by this bookcase?"

"Who's Vincent?" Jack asked suddenly. "An old beau from the past?"

Cathy licked her lips. "He's from the past all right." She lowered her head and took a deep breath.

Jack looked back at her and frowned. "I can tell from the look in your eyes that he must have broken your heart." He stepped closer to her and put a reassuring arm around her shoulders. "We've all been there, Luv." She lay her head on his shoulder and he smiled, stroking her hair. He tilted her face with his hand up to his. "We all have to dust ourselves off and move on to new things. It's hard, at first, but it gets easier in time." He stared into her eyes and then kissed her softly. "I think I'm falling in love with you, Cath."

Tears began filling her eyes and she gently pushed him away. "I can't, Jack," she began to explain, seeing his distraught expression. "Vincent is not from the past. He lives in the present. My present. This isn't fair to you, or him." She choked back a sob and turned away from him. He sighed heavily. "I'm not ready to forget him," she cried.

Jack turned her around and let her cry on his shoulder. He pat her back to comfort her. "It's all right. I thought I'd at least give it a shot, but I understand." He sat her down and offered her the hankerchief from his suit pocket. "Knowing you I can imagine that when you give your love to someone, you mean it to be forever." He squeezed her hand. "I still had a terrific night off."

"Thank you," Cathy whispered. "Thank you for being a friend."

Jack stood up. "I'll settle for being your friend, Cathy. For now anyway." He smiled warmly. "I think I'll pass on the coffee. Hope you don't mind?"

Catherine shook her head and tried to smile. He was being such a noble gentleman. He really was very sweet and she really liked him. She wish she could think of something to say to him besides 'goodbye.' The sound of the door closing gave her heart permission to tear in two. She ran into the bedroom and threw herself on her bed, crying miserably, staining her pillowcases with mascara.

"Vincent," she sobbed. "Come back." What had she done? she thought. She had lost the only thing in her life worthwhile. The only reality of love she had ever known. She knew now she had hurt him deeply. So deeply he may never come back to her again. He was gone. Wisely choosing to be rid of her, the madness and turmoil of her life and her world. The pain of loving her. He was away from it all now, away from her forever.

"I'm so sorry," she cried, fixing her burning eyes on the closed balcony doors. "I didn't understand what you were trying to say. Can you hear me Vincent? Can you feel how sorry I am?"

Vincent woke with a start. He had had a horrible dream and it left him feeling as though someone had just reached inside him and tore off a piece of his heart.

He sat up and sighed. Funny how he knew he had had a disturbing dream but now was unable to recall any of it. His heart was pounding. He struggled to calm himself and took a steadying breath. He touched his brow and marveled at the perspiration matting his hair and soaking the front of his shirt.

He flung back his blankets and stood up carefully. He noticed he wasn't the least bit rested and he had a nagging headache behind his eyes.

Distractedly, he sorted out fresh clothing, grabbed his cloak and headed for the waterfalls to bathe.

For a long time, Vincent stood in front of the falls, watching and listening. The sound of the water was soothing. He felt incredibly tense like he had tossed and turned all night in discomfort. His head continue its assault on his eyes and his mood was growing darker with each passing minute. He stripped quickly and stepped into the water.

He inhaled sharply as its icy cascades hit his hot skin, painfully quenching the fires in his limbs. But even more disturbing than his physical pain was a sorrow, a loss, a misery unlike any he had felt before. Its source was unknown; he had simply woken up with it. He closed his eyes and let the cold numb him, his mind loss to an unbidden image. He saw her next to him, her body pressed warm against his, the water pouring over them as they touched and loved. He remembered her standing there, beautiful, naked, enticing. Water running slowly over her skin.

His eyes flew open and he shook the image from his mind.

"Oh...Catherine," he lamented.

"Vincent?" came a voice from behind him through the pounding sound of the water. He recognized it and turned slowly.

Jennifer stood a few feet from him, watching him audaciously. She moved a little closer when he did not tell her to leave. "Your physique is sublime," she said, her eyes travelling over him with relish. "A spector of virility."

Vincent found her voyeurism only mildly disconcerting much to his surprise. He stared back at her somewhat perplexed. He didn't understand why she was there or what she wanted. She neither spoke or moved but continued to watch him appreciatively. Resigned and apathetic, Vincent turned slowly back into the water and closed his eyes. It was numbing and invigorating at the same time.

But it failed to wash away this sadness he felt. Or ease its oppressive emptiness. He decided it must be coming from deep within himself. The grief he would not allow himself to feel before. His heart had to be its source for he knew he missed Catherine with an ache that stemmed from his very core. His longing for her bled his heart dry. It left him feeling lifeless and hollow.

He placed his hands on the rocks in front of him and leaned his head into them.Tears stung his eyes and his throat tightened. It hurt so much, he didn't think he could withstand it any longer. This was the pain of two people, he suddenly realized. He opened his eyes with new awareness. He was feeling her pain too. Her grief. She was in agony over losing him. The sensation was clear and comprehensible now. She forgave him. She still loved him.

He suddenly felt a warm hand on his back and inhaled sharply as though he'd been stabbed.

Jennifer's arms encircled his waist and she leaned her body against him, laying her cheek between his shoulder blades.

"Make love to me, Vincent," she said softly and began rubbing her hands over his chest.

Vincent pulled away from her and turned to face her. She looked back at him confused.

"I don't love you," he stated matter of factly.

Her eyes darkened and she stepped back out of the water. She scooped up her dress and held it against her.

"Who said anything about love?" she intoned angrily. But Vincent could tell she was falling in love with him. He knew he had stung her with his blatant rejection and his heart was moved with compassion for her.

"I can't love you, Jennifer. I belong to someone else. You are so beautiful and I am attracted by that beauty, but I could never use you physically. That act is the purest expression of love. I could never defile it in the way you want me to." He sighed, his gaze unblinking.

Jennifer pushed her wet hair from her face. She stood glaring back at him, a mixture of emotions conveyed in her eyes. Finally, she sighed, lowered her eyes and walked dejectedly away.

Vincent turned and plunged his head under the water.

Chapter 5

Catherine sat in her bedroom staring blankly at the open balcony doors. A stiff breeze chilled the room and the air held a heavy rain smell to it. Lightening flashed faintly off in the distance. Catherine wanted the doors open, no matter what the damnable weather threatened, she wanted them open.

After waiting awhile, she pulled back the comforter on her bed and slid between the sheets. She was so tired she didn't seem to notice how cold the sheets were. She wrapped herself up with them and continued watching the doors.

The day had dragged on and on. It was the quietest and loneliest day she'd ever spent. She didn't feel like really doing anything or going anywhere. She moved restlessly from room to room not knowing what to do with herself. She had sat thinking for the longest time about sentimental things, making herself cry over and over. She sat and thought about her loss, trying to convince herself that he wasn't coming back, but then clinging to a shred of hope she kept hidden behind her heart.

It had been more than a week since their argument. She thought surely he would have forgiven her by now. Surely, he would have tried to reach her somehow. If he still loved her. Catherine had even ventured into the basement a few times, waiting and wondering if he knew she was there.

The last thing she remembered was looking at her bedside table, at the alarm clock sitting besides her crystal on a chain. It was twelve thirty five when she finally surrendered to sleep.

Vincent pulled himself over the balcony wall and landed lightly on his feet. He took the rose from the folds of his cloak and examined it for any damage it might have suffered during his climb up. Satisfied, he turned, surprised to see the doors leading to Catherine's bedroom wide open in the chill of the night. He thought of just walking in, but didn't want to risk frightening her the way he did last time. He peered inside at the dark room.

His heart melted when he saw her. He yearned to go to her and take her in his arms and kiss her a thousand kisses. He sighed, standing at the threshold and called to her softly.

"Catherine?" She did not stir. "Catherine!" he called a little louder. He frowned at the lack of results he was getting. "Catherine!" She slept on. He decided not to disturb her from such a deep slumber. He'd return tomorrow night. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes, touching the rose to his lips.

"I love you," he whispered and tossed the rose on the bed beside her pillow. "Sleep well." He turned, closed the doors behind him and disappeared back into the night.

Father was still awake. He hadn't seen Vincent at all today and he couldn't wait any longer to find out what was going on or not going on between him and Catherine and him and Jennifer. He looked up as soon as he heard footsteps.

Vincent was surprised to see him there.

"Father," he greeted. "Can't you sleep?"

Father took a deep breath. "It's not that. I was waiting up for you. I'd like to talk to you." He gestured at a chair.

Vincent slid into it and leaned back, resting his head on the top of the chair. He closed his eyes.

"First of all, I want to ask you a few things. I don't mean to pry, but I need to understand what's going on, to better advise."

Vincent opened his eyes and looked over at his father with intrigue.

"How would you describe your feelings for Jennifer?"

"I feel friendship towards her."

"Have you told her about Catherine?"


"What did you tell her?"

Vincent hesitated momentarily. "I told her I could not be her lover because my heart belonged to someone else."

Father was slightly taken aback by Vincent's candor. He frowned. "When was this?"

"This morning. At the waterfalls."

Father struggled for the right words. "I was concerned because Jennifer came to me earlier, very upset. She said she had made a fool of herself and was falling in love with you." He watched Vincent closely to see his reaction to this bit of information. Vincent closed his eyes and sighed exasperated. "So I'm to understand you are still in love with Catherine?"

Now Vincent appeared struck. "Of course!"

Father looked confused. "I know you wouldn't have encouraged Jennifer's attraction if you were still in love with Catherine. What happened then? Why haven't you been to see Catherine?"

"I went tonight."

Father stared hard at him, frustrated. "Then things are all right between you and her."

Vincent leaned his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands. "I'm hoping." He sighed. "I didn't actually get the chance to speak to her tonight. She was sleeping when I arrived."

"You're hoping?" Father strolled slowly behind Vincent. "Please tell me this has nothing to do with Jennifer."

Vincent frowned. He was tired and he didn't want to talk anymore. He knew he needed to rectify many wrongs but they could all wait until morning.


"No. Jennifer came after the fact. I was taken by her beauty and flattered by her obvious attraction she had for me. I was distracted by her momentarily. She is quite alluring. A truly warm and wonderful person." He suddenly felt very ashamed. "I believed I might have misled her at first. I'll talk to her tomorrow. I'll apologize. I do want to be her friend." He sat back and rubbed his eyes.

Father could sense his son's restlessness. "I was concerned. For you and Catherine. I thought you might be making a regrettable mistake. I knew something was wrong." He tried to smile. "You seem to have everything under control now. Or will have. I'll leave you to it and try not to worry so much." He leaned on his cane and walked stiffly towards his chamber. "Goodnight then, Vincent."

Vincent rose quickly and went to Father. He hugged him and layed his head on his shoulder.

"Thank you for caring, so much. I'm sorry I gave you cause to worry. I do make mistakes now and then and I've made more than my usual share lately." He sighed and faced Father. "I'm working to correct those mistakes now and if you wish to advise, I'll accept all the help I can get." He kissed his cheek affectionately. "Good night, Father."

Catherine stretched and rolled over. She could smell perfume faintly. Sweet and floral. Like a rose. She opened her eyes and was surprised to see a white rose lying beside her pillow.

At first, she thought it might have somehow fallen from the vase of roses Jack had given her, but not only would that have been quantumly impossible in the natural world, this rose was white and not red like the others.

She sat up quickly and looked around. The doors were shut. She didn't remember closing them. Her heart skipped a beat. She lifted the rose and sniffed it. He had been here. She settled back into bed with her rose and stroked the petals.

Vincent could hear the violin well before he reached her chamber. Its sweet voice guided him through the passageways, directly to its source.

Jennifer's back was to him. A music stand in front of her, she was concentrating on her sheet music, oblivious to the world around her. Strains of Pachabel filled the room. It was one of Vincent's favorite pieces and he allowed himself the luxury of listening awhile before interrupting her.

"May I talk with you?"

Jennifer jumped, startled, the music ending on a sour note. She faced him, her mouth gaping in surprise.

"That was beautiful," Vincent told her.

She lowered her eyes and set the violin down in its case. "Thank you," she answered shortly. Instead of looking at him, she busily rearranged the music on the stand. "You didn't come last night. But then, I guess I really didn't expect you to."

Vincent walked slowly over to her.

"I'm here to apologize to you," he said quietly.

Finished with the music, Jennifer now began applying rosin to her bow with unnecessary gusto.

"For what?" she asked sarcastically. "For leading me on? For insulting me? Or for standing me up?"

Vincent took ahold of her shoulders and turned her around to face him. She capitulated and stood before him pouting.

"I know what I've done was wrong. I should have told you about Catherine when you first asked about her." He sighed heavily. "I toyed with a possibility that should have never entered my mind. I was angry at myself. And ashamed. I hurt you, I know; but I needed you to know the truth."

Jennifer licked her lips nervously. "I am the one who is ashamed," she confessed. "I knew all about Catherine and this special love you two share. And despite that, I still pursued you. It's just that I had heard so much about you. And when I met you, you were so much more than was described. I was infatuated. I thought perhaps, I could seduce you away from her. I was only fooling myself. And confusing you." She reached up and layed her hand over his. "Forgive me Vincent. I promise to behave myself from now on. If you promise me one thing..."

He smiled down at her. "What is it?"

"Take me to hear the symphony when you can." Her eyes were bright with hope.

"I will," Vincent promised. He released her and turned to go. Vivaldi now accompanied his walk back.

Chapter 6

Catherine waited impatiently for dusk. She stood on the balcony watching the lights of the city gradually replace the daylight with a knowing smile.

She set about decorating the balcony with everything he loved. She had gathered every candle from the apartment and lit them around the french doors so their reflection was caught in the glass. She had four dozen white roses in crystal vases delivered and placed each of them at the four corners of the wall. Soft music filled the air helping to further the atmosphere of romance she tried to create.

She stood in the center of it all surveying her efforts with approval when she felt the first drop. Thunder rumbled distantly and then there was another drop and then another.

"Oh no!" Catherine protested and scurried to get her treasures inside before they were ruined.

The rain pelted her as she brought in the last of the candles and closed the doors behind her, miffed. Now the roses and the candles filled the confines of the bedroom in such a way there was hardly room to walk. She shook her head and worked quickly to rearrange things and light the candles that had been extinguished by the sudden storm.

There was another loud clap of thunder and the lights flickered briefly over her vanity mirror. She glared at them, daring them to go out and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

"Oh this looks great!" she said sarcastically and hurried to the bathroom to change out of her dress and repair her soggy hair. She grabbed a towel and wriggled out of her wet dress, cursing mildly under her breath. It seemed she was always greeting him in her bathrobe. Tonight she really wanted to dress up for him for a change.

Her slip was damp only at the hem. She left that on and pulled her robe over it, rubbing the towel briskly on her head. She tossed it on the floor and dashed to the closet to find a different dress.

All of a sudden, she knew he was there. She could feel his presence. She sighed, her heart suddenly pounding. When she heard him tapping his nails against the glass, she smiled and turned to face him.

She hurried to the doors and threw them open, pulling him in from the rain and closing them behind him.He opened his mouth to speak but before he could say anything, she threw her arms around his neck and covered his face with kisses.

He stood momentarily stunned, then slowly began to respond to her. His arms folded around her waist and he crushed her against him, lifting her off the floor as he kissed her back.

She hugged him tightly, never wanting to be away from him again. Her joy and relief to have him once more in her arms made her giddy. She laughed happily, reveling in the way he felt, as her hands stroked the side of his face. Tears streamed from her eyes but it wasn't because she was sad. She couldn't seem to stop smiling at him. She felt if she spent the rest of the night kissing and hugging him, it wouldn't be enough to show him how happy she was to see him.

Vincent felt like he was dissolving under her touch. He nuzzled her neck, inhaling her scent deeply. He kissed her, letting his lips slide tendarly across her cheek to her eyes and then kissed them softly. Cathy gave a tiny whimper of pleasure and twisted her fingers in his hair, demanding another kiss. Vincent's hands slipped inside her robe and around her small waist, urging her closer to him. He kissed her deeply, passionately, catching her lower lip gently between his teeth and rubbing his tongue slowly over it. He could feel her weight in his arms , trusting and at ease. He groaned softly, pleased.

They stood back slowly, gazing at each other with unspoken vows.

Out of the corner of his eye, Vincent began to notice the room, the flickering candles, the bouquets of roses. He noticed the music was playing his favorite concerto. He sighed and smiled at her warmly, then continued looking around.

"For me?" he inquired, knowing the answer, but wanting to hear her tell him anyway.

Catherine grinned and wiped at her watering eyes. "I wanted to welcome you with all the things you loved." She looked up at him adoringly. "I'm so glad you came tonight," she whispered. "I finally realized...I missed you."

"I felt it," Vincent told her. "I came because I knew your heart was calling to me." He looked down at her with rueful eyes. "I've been repenting all day," he continued. "Seeking forgiveness from those whose feelings I've marred by my thoughtlessness." He paused and his voice became imploring. "I need to ask you to search your heart for the compassion I am so unworthy of and forgive me." He closed his eyes tightly to relieve his inner pain. "And love me. I do so love you."

Catherine hugged him and kissed him softly.

"I forgive you. And I understand now, where I didn't before, why you were so petulant that night. You had been hurt, scared. And my indifference to that, hurt you even more." She took his hands in hers. "I need your forgiveness as well. I need you to look into my eyes and feel the depth of my regret. I'm sorry,Vincent. Lovers don't shut one another out and drive one another away."

Vincent sighed heavily and nodded. "I love you," he breathed, feeling a great weight lifted from his shoulders.

"And I love you," Catherine replied. "Let's remember that now, shall we? Especially the next time we get the urge to flay one another selfishly. Let's remember what love is really all about."

She held tightly to his hands and pulled him over to the fireplace.

"Here, sit down." She tried to smooth back his wet bangs and smiled. "I got caught in the rain as well. The fire will warm you up."

Vincent pulled off his cloak and began untying his vest. "Oh I'm very warm," he admitted, "and just a little damp."

Catherine retreated into the bathroom to get him a towel. Vincent accepted it gratefully. She smiled, watching him work to dry his long hair. She gestured at her robe.

"I was dressed earlier. I looked pretty good too. I hadn't planned on it suddenly raining like this." She frowned, then smiled slowly as Vincent pulled off his shirt, revealing a tight, dark blue tank top of sorts, that had been patched and sewn with leather stitching and was barely able to conceal the muscular torso underneath it. "Blue," she sighed. "Was I complaining about the rain? I think I'll stop now."

Vincent flashed a toothy smile knowing why she had that sudden change of outlook. He reached for her and pulled her down beside him, staring lovingly into her eyes.

"You are so beautiful," he told her. "So completely beautiful. Everything about you. You walk in it. You breathe it. Being loved by you makes me feel...beautiful too."

Catherine shook her head. "No," she whispered. "You're beyond beautiful, Vincent." She layed her palm against his face. "You're luminous." She leaned over and kissed him ardently.

He could feel himself succumbing to her. His body responding willingly. He pushed her robe from her shoulders and kissed her there. She exhaled slowly and closed her eyes in pleasure. Cradling her in his arms, he lay her down beneath him. He leaned on his elbows, freeing his hands to explore every dimension of her face. He traced her jaw delicately with the back of his nail and then the curve of her upper lip. He opened her mouth and ran his finger over the tops of her straight white teeth.

She smiled at the sensation it created and he watched her reactions with fascination.

She caught his hand finally and interlaced her fingers with his. His hands were powerful; his fingers, long and slender and the warmth of his palm penetrated hers. Vincent took her other hand and stretched her arms over her head. He slid his hands slowly back down to her shoulders, relishing the satin feel of her skin.

Catherine sighed softly. She touched his chest and slid her fingers through the thick blonde curls which began at the base of his throat.

"Vincent," she said, her voice full of longing. "I can't believe you are really mine."

"I am yours," he told her without hesitation. "For all eternity. My heart, my mind,my body. I'll give only to you." He sat back, the firelight reflected in his eyes seductively. He took her hands and pulled her up to him, wrapping his arms around her and kissed her urgently, his need to feel her lips on his demanding immediate gratification.

Catherine could feel the intense desire in his kiss. She tentatively touched his tongue with hers, slipping hers passed the points of his teeth and delved sensuously inside his warm, moist mouth.

Vincent leaned back, taking in a lungful of air as though he had forgotten to breathe in the past few minutes. His expression was smoldering.

"Catherine," he growled her name passionately. "Do you want to make love?"

She nodded, gazing hungrily at him, her eyes piercing his.

Vincent sighed and whispered softly in her ear, "I missed you so very much. I missed just looking at you. Touching you and feeling your heartbeat close to mine."

Catherine's entire body flushed with heat and her skin tingled where he was touching her. Her heart pounded her love for him and she wanted him now like she had never wanted anything in her entire life. Watching him move, feeling him, listening to his voice...everything he did aroused her.

In one fluid motion, Vincent stood and effortlessly swept her into his arms. He layed her carefully on the bed and stretched out beside her, his eyes never leaving hers.

Catherine gazed at him dreamily, feeling she was due to wake up any minute now to her alarm clock. More often than not, this was just a dream. But she wasn't dreaming now. He was real tonight. His body radiated heat as he undressed her and she worked to undress him. Her eyes swept over him devouringly. His body was ethereal; a sculpted wall of muscles, powerful and stalwart, and yet he was well aware of his strength,and moved with a deliberate, graceful tenderness that ignited her with delectable pleasure.

Chapter 7

Vincent gazed at his lover, enraptured. She was so completely feminine and so very womanly soft in places, like the finest satin or folds of velvet. He knew he had never found anything to compare to the feeling of her flawless, radiant skin and the welcoming warmth of her body.

Sculpted like a work of art, she was ambrosia to look upon and he let his eyes drift slowly over her sleeping form in quiet appreciation.

In love they had given themselves to each other with a fiery exuberance that left them both depleted and exhausted, but satiated. In serenity, they slept in each other's arms.

Vincent sighed. Last night was the first time he had ever stayed through the night with her. It was exquisite waking up in the morning sun with her lying beside him.

Catherine stirred and stretched beside him with a soft little cooing sound. Vincent leaned over and pressed a kiss just beneath her ear. Her eyes fluttered and she smiled brightly over at him.

"Good morning," Vincent rumbled amiably. He propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at Catherine affectionately.

She sighed blissfully, reaching up to touch his hair, and pushed his unruly bangs from his eyes.

"I feel like I've waited a lifetime to hear you say that to me," she told him, rolling over on her side to face him fully.

His eyes were bright sky blue and his long hair spilled over his shoulders in shimmering cascades of gold. His skin was tinted with an inner warmth and he gazed back at her with a seductive smile. Catherine couldn't take her eyes off him.

"You are glorious to behold in the sunshine," she told him. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide with awareness. "Oh my god! Vincent it's morning!"

He shrugged. "I know."

"But you..." now Catherine smiled, realizing that there was a benefit to their circumstances. "You'll have to stay here now. At least until it's dark again."

"Oh at least," Vincent emphasized, with a wink. "I don't mind. I'm rather comfortable."

He looked around, admiring the way the light filled the bedroom and chased away the shadows from every corner. The crystal vases glittered like diamonds, casting tiny flecks of colors over the walls and the bed.

He lay back down with a sigh of sincere contentment and Catherine snuggled against him and placed her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arm possessively around her and kissed her forehead.

"My sweet Catherine," he began gently. "Your welcome last night did not go as planned, I know. But I think that storm last night played as much a part in the ambiance as the candles and the music did."

"It sure got us out of our clothes faster," Catherine teased. Vincent smiled and tightened his arm around her. He felt her mood shift and faced her expectantly. She spoke to him in a soft and serious tone.

"I thought I was missing you before you even got here," she began. "I didn't know how much, until you were standing in front of me. This past week, it seems as though someone else took over my life and started calling the shots. I look back now, and I can't believe it was really me. Actually trying to go on normally without you. Thinking it would be so much easier if you and I just went our separate ways. I don't know how I could have ever thought such a thing. Easier maybe, but so empty and pointless. Oh Vincent," she sighed troubled. "If only I had understood about last week. If I would have opened my heart to your pain, instead of walling it up with anger."

Vincent looked at her sympathetically. "Ssssh, Catherine. You mustn't reproach yourself. I am ashamed to admit I had such thoughts as well. I hardly listened to you when you tried to explain." He sighed. "I know now why you had to leave so suddenly. I saw the article in the paper telling how you saved that woman from committing suicide after the death of her husband." He shook his head slowly in awe of her. "That is what I love most about you and I was so filled with self pity, I punished you for the compassion you showed to that poor soul." He lowered his eyes. "Even after I discovered the truth, I didn't go to you and apologize. I didn't have the courage until the other night, when I felt you forgive me." He looked up into her eyes again and traced her brow with his finger. He sighed heavily.

Catherine took ahold of his hand and kissed his fingertips. "Promise me, you will never be afraid to come to me. I want you to always be honest with me about what it is you are feeling. Regardless of what it may be. I want to know. And I promise, I'll listen to you."

"Catherine," Vincent began, quietly. "I've never felt more in love with you than I do at this instant. And I have never felt more loved. I know, we have both learned a hard lesson from our mistakes and I know, we will go forward now. Better than we were."

Catherine took a deep breath. "I wouldn't have thought our love for each other could possibly grow into more than what it already was. I didn't think it could get any better than that."

Vincent began stroking her hair. "I've heard when you reach the top, there is no where left to go but down." He could feel the regrets lingering in her heart and yearned to comfort her. He chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully, then said, "When we went down, we went down together and we realized from our new vantage point, that we hadn't been at the top at all. We had only reached a plateau of complacency and safety. Last night, we saw that we could climb back up to a point that would bring us even higher than we had imagined before."

Catherine smiled, shaking her head dubiously. "You make it sound like our argument was a blessing in disguise."

"Perhaps it was," he explained. "But I prefer to think it was, what it was. A miserable and grievious thing to experience. We have never argued like that before but I believe, we both took the opportunity to learn from it and rise above it."

He reached over, touching her shoulder, letting his fingertips slide languidly down her arm. His eyes followed their path to her small fine hand. He lifted it to his lips and kissed it, then paused to study its delicate intricacies, twisting her rings to make them glitter in the sunlight and delighting in the cause and effect he created.

Catherine thought how much he reminded her of a small boy, full of wonder and awe, experiencing so many things for the first time. She bent towards him and kissed him softly, her heart full of the love she felt for him.

"I feel," she began slowly, concentrating. "So full of your very being, at this moment. So close to you, I feel as though I can read your heart as you are able to read mine." She looked at him intensely. "There's a courage, beyond anything I ever imagined existed. And an innocence and purity, like a child's. A fiery passion and a deep abiding love."

Vincent smiled. "It's you, Catherine."

She tilted her head quizzically.

Vincent sat up and stared lovingly into her eyes. "You reside in my heart," he said tenderly. "You see your reflection there."

Catherine blushed prettily. She smiled brightly. "Oh Vincent," she sighed. "I love you. I'm so in love with you."

He leaned over and kissed her. "I love you, my Catherine. My wife."

They kissed again and settled back on the bed to hold each other close.

The rays of the morning sun blazed through the balcony doors, wrapping them in a radiant blanket of brightness and warmth and love.