The Kingdom and the Thief
".... And I wished...that it was...you."
Her own admission made Catherine feel as if a small weight had been lifted from her. There. It was said. Not under the happiest of circumstances, but had Elliot’s unfortunate move not triggered this discussion, the truth would have remained unspoken for now.
Vincent cast her a long, mute, undecipherable look that prevented her concern from easing any further. What was he thinking? Did he at least believe her words? If he really felt what she was feeling, he must! His brooding silence was only a momentary threat to her calm and certainty. She sat quietly for a while, returning his gaze, her soul wide open to him if he only cared to take a look inside.
In the end, she stood up and spoke, while she slowly walked the few steps between them. "Tonight I'm not sure I have conveyed the feelings that I meant to. I need you to understand... I have chosen you, Vincent."
She was standing right in front of him now. For once Vincent had to look up at her.
"Catherine...." A pause. ‘I am touched’, he wished to say. ‘And I love you. But what does it solve?’ He let out a deep sigh and opened his hands as if in defeat. "What now?" The words escaped his mouth almost against his better judgment.
‘Now...,’ she thought. ‘Now is the time to make a dream come true.’ She smiled inwardly. Slowly but surely, she moved even closer and twisted her body to one side.... "May I?" she asked, without waiting for his permission, and sat down on his lap, resting one hand on his strong shoulder for support.
Vincent expelled another deep breath but simply let her.
Was he too stunned to stop her? Did he welcome her gesture? Catherine didn't know. She was a little afraid he would set her back on her feet as soon as he recovered from the surprise, but for now, she welcomed this small miracle with growing elation. She gazed at him with love, and he returned her look.
"Hold me," she said in a half-whisper.
He closed his arms around her, a bit more loosely than usual, which Catherine chose to attribute to the wound in his hand. It was her turn to sigh. Her heart was brimming with tenderness.
"Now," she said with a smile in her voice. "Do I have to steal that kiss from you?"
Vincent should have been shocked. In fact, he was. All his fears were close to the surface, their voices whispering to him of impossibilities and dangers. And yet the most incongruous, irreverent thought broke through that fog, bringing immediate lightheartedness. The corners of his mouth twitched, repressing an unexpected grin and before Catherine had time to wonder what was so funny, he said, "Take, not steal."
Her surprised joy exploded in his soul even before it registered on her face and in her brief giggle. At once, wasting no more time, she brought her small, slightly trembling hands to the sides of his face and bent to very tenderly kiss his mouth. Mmm. His lips were warm, and he was alive against her. So alive.... Their first shared breath was a taste of heaven. They shared another soft, almost chaste kiss, and yet another, but for now they craved the sight of each other just as much. Their gazes locked and their hearts spoke. Their hands started a slow, shy dance of their own, on cheeks, shoulders and arms.
"Catherine...," Vincent surrendered in a husky whisper. "I believe you now."
She was momentarily speechless, however the thought, ‘you’ve seen nothing yet,’ came to mind. But it wasn't true. These so-called little kisses contained so much more than any she had ever shared! The joy, tenderness, pleasure, and desire were totally out of ‘the norm’, a small part of Catherine's mind noted.
"I love you so," she blurted.
"And I love you, Catherine," he replied, with a caress to her back.
They leaned in for another very real and thorough kiss, and they were lost in each other's taste, feel and response. More than once they parted with stunned gasps, only to melt into each other again. The little kisses had been intense and yet were nothing compared to these last. This new dance had infinite variations, this new language, infinite nuances to say 'I love you'. Their mutual desire swiftly grew until they collapsed into each other's arms. Their embrace was tighter than any they had ever shared.
A moment later, they had calmed down enough to sit back and look into each other's eyes more soberly. To the other, each looked even more beautiful than before; it was almost as if they were seeing each other for the first time.
"Catherine, what have we done?" Vincent asked, tilting his head in his usual, endearing manner.
The question did not alarm her, because she could now see the joy and contentment in his beloved eyes. Wait! She could... Could she? The fleeting impression was gone. Had she actually felt those feelings from him? Oh! This was promising and required further study.
Getting back to his question, she tenderly smiled at him and replied, "Made a dream come true?"
"Yes," he husked. "And yet...we still are something that has never been."
She shrugged. "Remember what you said? We'll go with care. I'm not worried." She broke into a grin. "So much for impossibilities!"
He let out a small chuckle, which only broadened her grin. "And we'll have to thank Mouse for those expressions of his!"
At that they both burst into laughter. It felt so good!
This tragic night had yielded a treasure after all.