Beauty and the Beast Forever - Phone Tag
                                                                                                                         Phone Tag

                                                                                                                  by: Catherine Maya

Catherine rushed to light the last few candles on her balcony. She could smell the stew bubbling in the kitchen all the way out past her french doors. She smiled; she imagined Vincent, as if in a cartoon, following a visual stream of scent, so intoxicated by it that he could follow it with his eyes closed. This was the desired effect. She shook out the little flame and skipped back inside her apartment. Her heart stopped for a second when a mental picture of him flashed before her eyes.

She missed him. She missed him terribly. Vincent had been gone for nearly a month. He had been putting off the construction in the lower tunnels for weeks before Father finally made a disapproving face and asked him to get to it as soon as possible. It had taken much longer than any of them expected and it had taken it's toll on both of them.

It had been three months, and... four days since Vincent and Catherine had consummated their relationship. Three amazing, indescribable, earth-shattering months. Since that first night, they were inseparable. Her weekends were spent Below, and his nights were devoted her apartment. She began to leave work earlier just to see if she could beat Vincent in their race to the balcony.

There was no keeping this a secret. It didn't take long at all for everyone to notice that Vincent was smiling... a lot. The majority of Catherine's friends bombarded her still to know who the lucky guy was who made her bounce into the dingy office every morning. Poor Vincent was forced to endure a lecture from Father when the patriarch was finally told. Father had gone through a whole other round of anatomy lessons before Vincent stopped him and apologetically informed him that his relationship with Catherine had progressed weeks ago, and what he didn't know, she had already well instructed him in. Catherine was cornered a day later, when Father felt the need to inform her one last time what would happen if she ever broke Vincent's heart. They had caused a great stir in just a few weeks.

She stirred the stew and put the yeast rolls in the bread basket she had begged Jenny for. With a deep sigh she pushed the excitement and endorphins down and out of her mind. Going back to celibacy, even just for a month, had made her incredibly on-edge. The faintest memory of him made her pulse quicken and her mind reel. She pulled two bowls out of the cupboard and ladled the stew into each. A warm feeling grew in her abdomen and she closed her eyes and breathed with it; he was close. Anticipation made her hands shake and she rolled her eyes at herself; questioning her self-control to make it through dinner. She had to make it through dinner; there should at least be some pleasant conversation before she gave in to a month of pent up sexual frustration.

Her stomach rolled; Vincent was on the roof. She wiped her hands off with the dish towel, smoothed down her little black dress, and moved to the doorway as quickly as her heels would allow her. Her smile grew as she realized she had beaten him. He had just landed on the balcony as she came out of the kitchen. She saw him turn to creep up on the french doors, and then stop and smile back at her.

For a moment, they just stared at each other, drinking in the tiniest of changes that may have attached itself to the other in their month apart. Vincent had a new scar just under his bottom lip. Catherine had cut her hair a few inches higher so that it brushed her shoulders again. They breathed in sync and lost themselves in each other's eyes immediately.

"You know," his deep timbered voice echoed in the small space, "you're really getting too good at that. I was attempting to surprise you."

Catherine's smile was radiating now and she sauntered toward him as coyly as she could manage. "It was my turn." He was following her lead now, casually strolling into her apartment. "You look well." She desperately wanted to say a thousand other things, but went with 'well' to be safe. "How did the work go?"

"Slow." He admitted; they had met at the base of her bed and he stepped up close to her. "Much slower than I'd hoped." A strange moment passed where he hesitated. "You're well?"

"Of course." She smiled and nodded, pleasantly. That overwhelming desire to simply jump into his arms was slowly working it's way out of her control. But she was determined to let him make the first move.

"Father tells me that you had a case two weeks ago..."

"Oh, Vincent, I feel ridiculous! Would you please just kiss me!" She finally burst out, unaware that it was coming out even as she said it.

With surprising speed, and no second thoughts, Vincent wrapped her up in his arms and kissed her as deeply as he had dreamt in their time apart. Her legs were threatening to fall out from underneath her. She knew that if that happened, the meal, the conversation, all of it would be long forgotten. Somehow rational thought made it's way into her mind and she slowly, reluctantly pulled out of the kiss.

"I made stew." Catherine informed him in an unusually high pitch which she quickly cleared out. "And... rolls."

"I smelled that." He answered huskily, his arms still wrapped tight around her, holding her securely against him. "We should eat before it gets cold."

She nodded, involuntarily touching her lips where his had just been. "It's in the kitchen." Neither of them moved. "I'll get it."

"Alright." He nodded, purely out of connection to the word. It took him a moment or two to actually release her.

She turned away slowly and headed for the kitchen with all the control she could possibly muster. But, half-way to the doorway and she stopped and spun back around. She nearly tripped over Vincent, who had followed very close to her. "I'm not hungry. Are you?"

"Not in the least." He affirmed.

"Good!" And with that, she threw herself back into his arms.

Some distant ring came through their passionate haze. They ignored it. But again it rang, persisting through their bubble. Again they ignored it. It demanded now... cutting through to their consciousness with depth and strength. Slowly Vincent released her from the kiss. He rolled his eyes as it rang again.

"Damn phone!" Catherine cursed it. "Just give me a second, I'll disconnect the line."

"No... Catherine, you may as well answer it." He let her fall from his arms, and breathed out again.

"Honestly... I'll just disconnect it." She insisted.

"Catherine... it could be important. Go ahead and answer it." Vincent strolled over to the vanity desk by the windows and began examining it as if he didn't know every detail of her apartment.

Catherine sighed and relented, picking up the receiver of the screaming telephone. "Hello?" She longingly watched Vincent stare out the balcony doors. "Oh, hello Rose." She had to fight the urge to scream at her colleague for interrupting her. "Well, um... just a little. What's going on?" With a sigh, Vincent perched himself on the opposite side of the bed and stared out at the city. "Oh. Well, that's nice. That's very nice of you." Vincent turned to see her sit on the bed and twist toward him. "Well, as lovely as that sounds, I think I'm going to have to pass." Vincent tilted his head curiously. Catherine made a face at him to show her annoyance. "Yes, I've met him and he is very nice, but..." The voice on the other end cut her off.

Vincent twisted toward her and tried to capture her attention. "What is it?" He mouthed soundlessly to her. She waved him off, casually. He got up and paced again.

"Rose... it's just that... Yes, that is one of my favorites, but I'm just not..." Catherine took a deep breath when Rose cut her off again. She looked up at Vincent; he had made it out to the balcony. The candlelight danced and flickered off of him and the breeze swept his hair. A surge of desire ran through her before she could suppress it. "I know. I realize that..."

Vincent, thoroughly curious, and mischievously deciding to play on Catherine's emotions, crept back into the bedroom. He came around the bed and sat beside her, taking her hand in his.

"I'm just not up for it." Catherine insisted to Rose.

Vincent lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. She instinctively leaned into him, her face falling close to his. He kissed her cheek... and then her throat... and then her neck...

"No, and believe me... I do appreciate it." Her breathing shallowed out as he breathed and kissed at her neck and shoulder. "Stop it!" She covered the speaker and whispered at him. But, he persisted even more aggressively. "Vincent!" She growled at him.

He growled back at her, deep in his chest. Suddenly his lips were pressed against her free ear and he was breathing in it. "I can smell you." He purred ravenously at her. He saw her eyes flutter closed; she was trying to gain composure. He went back to her neck, sucking at her as if he could extract that scent from her pores.

She made a weak attempt at pushing him away, but she was, quite literally, melting in his mouth. "Yeah... Rose? Rose, would you just hold on a second? ... Just a second. Thank you." Catherine crushed the speaker to her chest, and gathered the strength to push Vincent away. She whispered harshly, somehow hoping that Rose would overhear her. "Listen you," she poked his chest playfully, "you wanted me to take this call. Now stop that and let me get rid of her!"

Vincent threw up his hands in surrender. He kicked off his boots and tucked his legs under himself at the end of the bed, watching her as if a cat about to pounce on his prey.

"And like I said, I appreciate that you thought of me." Catherine made another face at Vincent, to which his curiosity peeked again.

"What is it?" He mouthed again.

"Right." She answered Rose and then made an abandoned attempt to answer Vincent. She dug in her drawer for her message pad and scribbled her answer on it.

'She's trying to fix me up on a date.'

Catherine smiled ironically, but Vincent sat back on his heels; somber for the first time since he showed up on the balcony. She saw his face and immediately knew what was coming. He took the pen and paper, drew a note underneath hers, and dropped it on the bed in front of her.

'Maybe we should do this another time.'

"I understand, and I'm sorry, but I just can't." She answered the distorted voice as she ripped off the top sheet and wrote her reply on the next one.

'NO! I MISS YOU!'

He smiled. She thought she saw him even blush a little. Not such a rare thing to see, Catherine had discovered in the last three months. She snatched the paper up again.

'I just can't shake her! HELP!'

She had meant the message to be funny. To make him smile some more, and it worked... but she knew that look in his eyes. He was plotting. He was actually going to try and help her. She didn't protest for the simple fact that she wanted to know how he planned on accomplishing this.

'Do you trust me?'

He held up the message and she nervously nodded. She was intrigued, and she was just irresponsible enough at the moment to wait and see what he'd do.

"No, Rose. That's my final decision. You've caught me at a bad time." She was determined to end this conversation.

Vincent had his own agenda, though. He crawled across the bed on his hands and knees, making his way to her. Slowly, he worked his way up. He kissed the top of her foot, then up her leg, his hands clearing the dress out of his way.

She quickly reached down and grabbed his chin, a warning in her eyes. "Trust me!" He told her silently, and she released him slowly. He pulled her other leg up onto the bed so that he was kneeling between them. He pulled her up into his arms, holding her against him. He kissed her lips briefly, leaving her smiling and breathless.

"Yeah... um, I heard you. Listen Rose... I really have to go."

He worked his way down her throat, down her neck, to her chest where he kissed and nipped at her collarbone. She was trying so hard to catch her breath and sound normal, but it was no use, Rose could hear her. "Relax." Vincent encouraged through the bond.

Rose's shrill voice was suddenly crystal clear through the receiver. "Cathy, are you alright over there?"

"Mmhmm!" Catherine tried to suppress a moan as Vincent sucked at her neck and cupped her breast.

"Cathy? Cathy, what's going on over there?" Rose demanded.

Vincent came up for air at the same time as Catherine. Their foreheads pressed together, he tilted toward the phone and spoke clearly into the speaker. "Catherine will have to call you back, Rose." And with no hesitation, he kissed her deeply, sinking into the pillows.

"Cathy! Cathy, do you have a guy over there?" Rose rambled on as if they still had any idea that she existed.

Vincent broke out of their kiss only long enough to speak: "Catherine... turn it off."

She giggled deep in her throat and dropped the receiver back in it's cradle. "Some people just can't take a hint." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him again with total abandon.
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