A/N - Hi! I'm back with the start of my new story - another episode arc of my very own Season Two series - the one that never ends or goes on hiatus, lol! Hope you enjoy, and please leave me a comment. I love interacting with my readers. xx
Stay With Me
Vincent's eyes turned amber and he started to wrench himself away.
"No!" Catherine cried and clutched at him.
He gasped, and for a moment he thought he was going to lose control. His eyes went wide and unfocused. He started to shake. Then he pushed away from her so forcefully, it moved them both to opposite sides of the bed. It took him a few minutes to calm down. When he did, he couldn't keep the anger from his voice. "What were you thinking?!"
Catherine struggled for calm herself. Her breath came in and out in ragged gulps. "I-I-I'm sorry. I just can't stand this. It's wrong."
She'd turned away from him, but Vincent heard the tears in her voice. "Sweetheart, don't cry . . . please." He tried coaxing her back toward him, but she wouldn't have it. He gently caressed her hair instead. "Catherine, we already talked about this," he grunted, still reeling from the tremendous physical and emotional effect she had on him. If it were easy, it wouldn't be nearly so amazing, he reminded himself, and willed his body to relax. Every day, in every way, their bond grew stronger, and that meant some things became necessarily more difficult. "We can't take any chances. With you off of oral contraceptives, we have to protect—"
"I'll go back on them!"
"No. Your doctor said you've been on them too long, and I agree." He rubbed a hand across his face. "I thought you had reached—"
She swung around. "I did! I did. I was thinking of you. It just isn't the same this way."
He blew out a heavy breath. That was the understatement of the century. He licked his lips. "It's a safe and effective method used throughout history. But if it upsets you this much, I'll just have the surgery. It's not a problem."
He sighed, helpless. "It's a simple procedure. And I don't mind."
"Vincent." She raked a hand through her hair, pulling the sweaty strands away from her face, and looked at him. "I don't want either of us to do anything that would cut off our options for the future."
He grinned. He couldn't help it. And laughter was better than this frustrated anguish. " 'Cut off'?"
She grudgingly smiled back. "Sorry. You know what I mean."
"Yes, I do." He sobered and rubbed a tear away from her cheek with his thumb. He placed a kiss there instead. "Listen. We're both in our thirties. Time is already against us." He softened that statement by pulling her back into his arms and smoothing a hand down her still radiantly beautiful body. "You know I would do anything for you—for us. Until we come up with a better solution—"
"—or the world changes course and spins in a different direction—"
"Even less likely-I'm no Superman. Just . . . please let me protect you this way." He pressed his forehead against hers and they rubbed noses. He breathed in her scent loving the closeness they had now, even when things were difficult.
She sighed and closed her eyes. "It's just . . . hard. After what we had before—the way things have been."
"I guess I'm having a difficult time adjusting." She looked at the clock and sighed harshly again. "And I have to go to work."
He glanced at the nightstand. How on earth did time speed by so quickly when they were together? They never had enough time anymore. After the accident, they'd both gotten used to her lighter hours. But now that her body was completely healed, it was as if she felt guilty and was trying to make up for all the lost work time. And that made him feel more useless than ever. Work. The thought was like a dash of cold water to his face.
"I thought I'd wander down to the employment office later, check the boards," he murmured
She turned, half-way to the bathroom. "Really?"
"It's spring. If nothing else, I could hire myself out to one of those yard service companies. They always need help, and lots of them pay under the table."
She frowned. "You have so much more to offer than that!"
He shrugged. "A job's a job. I'm able-bodied. There are a lot of things I can do. I just can't live off of you and JT forever. It bites. Besides, you got me a fake ID before; you can get me one again, yeah? Catherine, it doesn't matter what I do. I just need to do something. There aren't a lot of job listings for 'beast trackers.'"
She slipped on her robe, the silky wrap molding itself to her curves. He couldn't stop his eyes from make a quick perusal.
"I thought we made a good team," she said, running her hands up his arms. "Tess and I will always need your help."
He tilted his head at her. Still charity.
His unspoken message was received. "Okay. Well, whatever you find is fine with me. In the meantime, we can make do on my salary. Just . . . don't sell yourself short."
"I won't." He stepped into his pants. "By the way, we're going out to dinner tonight, so let me know if you're going to be late."
She turned on her way into the bathroom. "What's the occasion?"
"Just a little get-together . . . with Tori and Blaise."
"They want to show us their new place."
"I don't supposed I could claim—"
"No excuses. She's been bugging me for weeks. Come on, aren't you curious?"
"It's like the Princess and the Pauper. Yes, okay. I'm a tiny bit curious, I admit. I'll go. But watch for my cues if I need to make it an early night."
"I'm extremely attuned to all of your cues, believe me."
The brownstone was a modern version of the classic rowhouse, but neat and tidy and in a more moderately priced section of the city. That was Catherine's first surprise. Tori still had access to her parent's fortune, ill-gotten though some of it was through her father's reputation, but so far she'd declined the lavish lifestyle she'd been accustomed to growing up.
"We're still picking out furniture, so it looks a little sparse—" Tori began.
"I'm a fan of sparse, actually," Blaise put in, greeting them at the door with a hand shake and his trademark smile. "Welcome to our humble abode."
"Beats an unheated warehouse, eh?" Vincent ribbed him.
"Especially one that was so shoddily built," Blaise answered, referring to the abandoned building he'd occupied before terrorists collapsed it nearly on top of him. Despite being blind and homeless, the experience hadn't squashed his good humor, at least. And it had put him in the path of Tori, who'd saved his life that night. Now, the two were inseparable. Vincent had a lot of misgivings about the two of them together. She'd shunned his attempts to reason with her. But as with Catherine, Blaise had come to understand Tori's dual nature and accept it, despite the risks. He had to admire the guy. It didn't hurt that he was the extreme opposite, personality-wise, of Tori, who oozed anything but charm most of the time.
Catherine managed to remain calm and pleasant all the way through dinner, but he knew the effort that took. He made excuses for them before the evening got too long.
"Okay, that was kind of fun, kind of not, and strangely awkward," Catherine mused as she stepped down to the curb still shaking her head as they headed toward her car.
"Thank you for being a good sport about it."
"I'm glad to see Tori and Blaise are happy—truly I am, but—"
"—you felt like an intruder?"
"More like the second left foot."
"Catherine, Tori's trying—"
"Tell me about it."
"I meant, she . . . she really wants you to like her, to be her friend, you know? She doesn't have many women friends."
"And I'm her first choice?"
He shrugged. "She has to start somewhere. And you know her—the important parts, anyway. You're the logical choice."
Catherine rolled her eyes to that and sighed.
"Blaise is a good influence on her, I think," Vincent added.
"On that I completely agree. And . . . I am also trying."
"Thank you. But?"
Catherine fidgeted. "She's growing on me. Okay, before, I felt like she was my rival—for you—and I hated that feeling."
"You never had anything to be jealous about."
"I realize that. But now it's like she's . . . living the life I want to have with you. I'm . . . envious. Why should they have it so easy?"
"What do you mean? What do they have that we can't?"
She stared at him. "Vincent, we've been through this before—"
"—in a different life." He stopped walking. "Catherine, we've never talked about it since my kidnapping—since my change. Our situation is completely different now. Not perfect, but better, yeah?"
She put a hand to the side of his face, the now scar-less side. "Definitely better, yeah," she mimicked the unique way he said it, and reached up to touch his lips with hers.
He captured her lips for a few seconds before replying. "Who's to say we can't start to move forward now, ourselves? Baby steps—"
"It's the 'baby' part that has me terrified, actually. For both of them. Vincent, I know she wants to have a family, but frankly, it gives me nightmares."
"For her or for you?"
She simply looked at him.
"Okay, you are not Tori. Thank God. That's why we're being careful. And what happens with her—with them—won't be the same for us. Let's just wait and watch. We don't even know if it's possible for her to conceive. Until then, let's not worry."
Catherine frowned, but let it go. There was no sense arguing about it. After Vincent told her Tori and Blaise were going to try to have a family, they'd argued long and hard about whether or not they had a right to intervene. She'd obviously lost. A part of her was curious; the other part terrified. She closed off the thought. Vincent was right. That was a bridge they'd all cross when—and if— they came to it, and not before. "Well, I did enjoy hearing the news that Blaise has a job. Teaching other blind people life management skills is the perfect fit for him."
Instead of smiling, Vincent shrugged uncomfortably.
"I don't know—seems like everyone is gainfully employed, now, except for me. With things having calmed down and you back to work, I need something to do to keep me occupied, to be useful. It's been a long time since I held down a real job."
"You didn't find anything that sounded promising at the employment office today? What about something in the medical field?"
"I don't know. There are a lot of hurdles, not the least of which is getting all my certifications back. I'd almost rather do something completely different. I don't know if I can explain it but, as much as I loved being a doctor, there's a part of me that wants to get as far away from medicine and medical tests as possible. I've had my fill."
"From the wrong end of things. I understand that."
"I mean, I'll always be a doctor at heart, but practicing medicine again . . . I guess I'm afraid. Is that stupid?"
"No. Not at all. You'll find something, don't worry. We just have to keep looking." She tugged his collar up around his ears. It was still quite nippy at night. "In the meantime, I'm happy to have you help me with my cases. If I could get you a paycheck for it, you know I would."
He wrapped a long arm around her.
After seeing Catherine off for the precinct the next morning, Vincent decided to go for a walk. Maybe the fresh air would clear his head and some ideas would come his way. God knew he had trouble thinking whenever she was near! The weak spring sun was making a hazy appearance, thank goodness. The city was finally coming out of the fog of winter. The air was still cool, but the trees had started budding with the last week of milder temps. It didn't take long, apparently, for nature to feel the hope of warmer weather ahead. If only he felt the same.
Vincent almost didn't see the kid before he ran into him.
"Mister, can you help me?"
A boy of about ten years old blocked his path, a paper with a picture on it held out tightly in his hand. The boy's straight blond hair reminded him of Milo, the boy from Alex's clinic, and he smiled as he bent toward him. "What can I help you with?"
The boy shoved the page into his hand. "My grandpa. Have you seen him? He's missing."
Vincent glanced at the boy, then at the paper. It had a scanned image of an elderly man, probably well into his eighties. Must be a great-grandpa to the boy. Below the picture was a name: James Marshall Ridkin. "What happened to him?"
The boy's eyes started to tear up but he fought it. "He went for a walk yesterday afternoon and never came back. He's supposed to always go with someone, but he gets impatient sometimes. I usually meet him after school, but I had baseball practice and couldn't make it. He left without me. I've been passing these out all morning, but nobody's seen him. And it's all my fault!"
"Hey." Vincent crouched down to the boy's level. "I'm sure he's fine. Just probably lost and waiting it out some place safe."
"He always gets lost. That's why I have to go with him!"
Alzheimer's, Vincent guessed—a common dilemma for families with elderly relatives. He studied the photograph, committing it to memory. "Does he live around here?"
The boy nodded. "About a block and a half that way—The Langendorf Apartments. I live three blocks that way," he pointed in the opposite direction.
There were busy streets, tall buildings and several common areas in between. Vincent knew the area well. "Can I keep this?" The boy appeared to have several copies.
Vincent ruffled the child's head and stood. "I'll keep my eye out for him, okay? Is this your number?" He pointed to the phone number at the bottom of the page.
"That's my Mom's cell. She won't let me have my own phone yet," the boy said, somewhat disgruntled. "My name is James, too, by the way."
"Well, James, I'll see what I can do, okay?" Vincent turned to leave when a thought occurred to him. "Shouldn't you be in school right now?"
The boy looked up at him helplessly. "Not until I find him!"
That did it. Poor little mite. Vincent waited until James was distracted with another pedestrian, then headed around the corner to the HUD low-rent apartment building for seniors. If he could pick up the man's trail there . . . .
"Cat. You gotta see this."
Catherine looked up wearily from a stack of papers. All cold cases. Perhaps she's been a little too enthusiastic about jumping right back into things. The pile was daunting. A distraction was welcome.
Tess drew her partner into the main hall where a TV screen was set to a local news station. Vincent's face filled up the screen.
Catherine's first instinct was fear; then she remembered Muirfield and Bob Reynolds' threats no longer existed. That didn't mean it was good.
An elderly gentleman and a young boy were on the screen being interviewed with Vincent.
"He found a missing person, apparently," Tess explained, "—the little boy's grandfather. He has dementia or something and had wandered away from his apartment complex yesterday. Vincent tracked him to a subway station ten blocks away, then to a mini-mart. The man had somehow wedged himself behind a stack of used cardboard boxes in the alley last night—probably trying to stay warm—and had fallen asleep. By the time they found him the poor man was frozen, dehydrated, and hungry, but alive. Had it not been for Vincent, they say, he likely would have succumbed to the freezing temperatures. Instead, grandpa and grandson have been happily reunited."
Cat heard Tess's words but her eyes were filled with Vincent's face and the beautiful smile he was wearing. Oh, God. How easily that man could turn her heart inside out! What a lovely thing for him to do, too, and so like him.
"He's a hero. Again." Tess grinned at her. "Maybe he found his new calling."
"What? Tracking lost elderly people?"
Tess shrugged. "Missing persons. Cat, think about it. It's perfect. You said Vincent wanted to find meaningful work. Well . . . ."
Yes, he did. And perfect it was. More than that—it was all over the news. James' grandfather, a veteran, just so happened to be one of the last survivors of Pearl Harbor and quite a celebrity in his own right.
By the time she got off work, she was anxious to hear all the details from the man himself. Vincent greeted her at her door with a huge smile.
"Look at you – all heroic and all."
He shrugged, ever uncomfortable with the mantle of hero. He helped her off with her coat. "It felt good."
Catherine turned in his arms. "I'm glad you got recognition for doing something like that, even if you declined to give your name. It's about time. The citizens of New York City need to know there is a hero in their midst. You do good deeds for people every day."
He kissed her. "I don't know about that, but . . . it got me thinking."
"Ah. Now you have me worried."
He grinned and his dimples deepened. "What if I were to start some sort of investigations agency? You know, 'You Lack 'em, I Track 'em' . . . ?"
"Is that your motto? Um, corny, but oddly to the point."
"Better than 'They Lose Their Route, I Sniff 'em Out'?"
She laughed. "Hmmm. You might want to keep working on that."
"But what do you think?" He snuggled her close, cajoling her.
Her lips automatically went to his. "Well, that would certainly put your tracking abilities to good use—"
"—as long as it doesn't call too much attention to your 'supernatural' skills. You may have to be creative in how you explain your methods."
"A good detective never divulges his secrets."
"This is true." She let him lead her into the kitchen. "Speaking of sniffing, something smells delicious."
Vincent sat her at the dining table and poured her a glass of wine before setting the dish before her. "It smells better than it looks. I think it's me who needs to take the cooking classes," he said, taking his own seat. "But I believe it's edible."
"You make up for it in effort, believe me. Have I told you lately that you're the best boyfriend ever?"
"Mmm." He kissed her again. "You might re-think that after you've eaten."
"Never. And it's nice that you haven't let celebrity go to your head."
Like that would ever happen. His cell phone buzzed.
"No." Vincent frowned at the unfamiliar number—for the New York Times.
Not surprisingly, the heart-warming story of James Ridkin's rescue had been picked up by several news agencies. Catherine found out just how many later that evening when Heather called.