Author's Note: I do not own any of the characters. I wrote this probably two years ago, shortly after discovering 'Roar' in reruns on the Sci-Fi channel and becoming a lifelong fan of Heath Ledger (RIP, Heath). While some 'Roar' fans think Conor and Molly should have hooked up, I have always believed that Catlin was his true soulmate. As always, if you view, please REview!
Conor smiled as he approached Catlin's chamber. He knew she would love the gift he had brought her, a basket of ripe strawberries that he'd picked himself just after sunrise. He'd been surprised and delighted to find the small patch of wild berry plants growing along the path leading out of the sanctuary the evening before. He'd never noticed the berries before, despite having traveled that path hundreds of times since coming to live in Galen's secret stronghold.
He set the basket near Catlin's bed and was starting to sneak back out of the chamber before she returned from her bath at the waterfall when a familiar voice stopped him cold.
"What are you doing here?" Catlin demanded, with more than a little thunder in her voice.
Conor spun on his heel to see Catlin, her long, light brown hair still dripping onto her bare shoulders, staring at him with huge blue eyes filled with indignation as she quickly pulled her robe up to cover herself.
"I'm sorry. I was leaving you a surprise…I didn't mean to…I thought you were still…" he stammered, suddenly at a loss for breath. Standing in the chamber entrance, the light of the new day gleaming off her dewy skin, Catlin looked like a goddess wrapped in the folds of a bright blue cloud.
Conor was speechless, unable to form even the simplest coherent thought, let alone get his mouth and tongue to cooperate. The look of utter unabashed awe on his face earned him a reprieve with the goddess and she rewarded him with a smile dazzling enough to help his breath and voice find their way home.
The heavenly vision spoke first. "What are you staring at?"
"You. When did you get so beautiful?" Conor asked, having regained his voice but apparently not his wits. Fortunately, Catlin took his guileless outburst for what it was and laughed out loud.
Still, Conor blushed, as confused as he was unsettled. He was always so comfortable around Catlin. Why now could he not seem to stop embarrassing himself in her presence? Maybe because you've never seen her look this much like a woman before – a gorgeous, desirable woman, came the answer. And it wasn't just his eyes that noticed. His whole body was suddenly filled with an almost unbearable longing to touch her, hold her, drown in her lavender scented caresses.
Catlin was enjoying Conor's struggle. She was usually the one who got all quivery inside when he looked at her with those deep, brown eyes of his. Catlin had long ago realized that she would always love Conor and that he would probably never feel the same way about her. She would have to be content to be his friend, his confidant and his most ferocious ally in battle. No one, with the possible exception of Conor himself, had more reasons to hate the Romans and their local lackeys than Catlin did. It was one of the things that bound them together, but not the only thing.
He stepped toward her, one hand reaching out to brush her cheek with his fingertips. She closed her eyes and leaned ever so slightly into his touch, nearly destroying his resolve to move as slowly as passion would allow, no matter how much it pained him. He didn't want to rush this.
He had tried for months to deny the power of his feelings for Catlin. He had even secretly hoped that the ruse of a relationship with Molly might somehow prove that he didn't love Catlin after all. Only last spring, he had been ready to marry Molly to fulfill the wishes of the Father. He cared for Molly, but being with her didn't make his heart pound the way it did with Catlin, the way it was pounding right now…
"Catlin, you are beautiful," Conor said, gently stroking the wet tendrils of her hair and tucking some behind her left ear. She smiled that sunburst smile again, but this time, instead of weakening his knees, it stoked his confidence and he continued, "I love you, Cat. I love you with all my heart."
"Oh, Conor, " was all she could manage in the form a reply before she was up on tiptoe, her arms around his neck, her lips brushing his throat.
He tilted his head down and their lips met in a long, slow, deep kiss. He couldn't hold back any longer, nor did he want to. He wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to him with such force that she let out a little sob.
He broke the kiss and looked down into her azure eyes. Expecting to see desire there, he was surprised to see fear instead shining through her tears.
"You're crying. Have I hurt you?" he asked, worried that in his passion he was being too rough.
"No, but you will if you don't kiss me again," Catlin said. Conor was only too happy to oblige, even if it meant ignoring the little voice in his head that kept whispering, Slow down.
This time as he kissed her, he slid his arms inside the robe, peeling it away from her naked body as he ran his hands up her back and then down again, resting his hands on her creamy smooth hips. Caitlin shifted slightly to let the robe fall to the ground and looked up at Conor again.
"Conor, I think you know that I love you, too. I think I've loved you since the day you rescued me from Diana's slave master, but there's something else you should know." She looked down, trying to hide the rising terror in her gut. She wanted to be everything Conor needed in a woman, to let his love for her wipe out the memory of what the slave broker had done to her after her sister, Amalia, was led away by the leper. But standing here naked, the icy grip of her long–ago humiliation threatened to crush her new-found happiness like so many spring blossoms succumbing to winter's last frost.
"Catlin, look at me, please," Conor said, his voice full of compassion and caring. He put his hand under her chin and gently tilted her face up toward his own. Looking into his eyes, Catlin saw so much love and understanding. She wanted to believe that what happened to her wouldn't matter, that he would still want her. There was only one way to find out. She knew she had to tell him the truth, but she couldn't force herself to say the words; she could only cry.
"If I haven't hurt you, then was it someone else?" In answer to his question, she buried her face in his chest and sobbed.
Conor had always suspected that Catlin's raging hatred of the Romans had been rooted in more than just her slavery. Now he was sure that it was much more personal than he had first thought. For a moment, the idea of any man forcing himself on Catlin was enough to make Conor's blood boil, but he quickly realized that this was not the time for vengeance. What Catlin needed now was reassurance.
Before he spoke, he reached down, picked up the robe and wrapped it around her. Then he added his arms as a second layer of comfort and protection.
"You don't have to tell me what happened if you don't want to. But whether you tell me or not, I want you to know that nothing you could say will change how I feel about you. Nothing, Catlin, do you understand?" he said, looking her straight in the eyes, hoping she could find a way to believe him.
She searched his eyes and found only the truest of true loves. She was glad he understood, glad the two of them had been friends for so long before their feelings grew into something deeper. That history allowed her to trust him now.
"Perhaps someday I'll tell you everything, but for now, I'm suddenly very tired. All cried out, I guess. I'm sorry we didn't…I mean, that I couldn't…," Catlin said softly.
"You don't have to apologize to me, Cat. If anyone should apologize, it's me. The last thing I wanted was to frighten you, or bring back painful memories."
They held each other quietly for a few moments and then Caitlin remembered something Conor said when she first caught him here in her chamber.
"Did you say you had a surprise for me?" she asked, unsure if she had heard him correctly.
"Oh, gods, I forgot all about the strawberries!" Conor exclaimed, looking over to the bed where he had left his basket of treats. He retrieved the basket and handed it to her. "They're still your favorite, aren't they?"
"Yes, but how did you know that?" she asked, unable to recall ever telling him of her affinity for the tiny red treasures that she and Amalia used to pick when they were little.
Catlin sat on the bed, holding the strawberries in one hand and keeping the robe closed with the other. She patted the space on the bed next to her with the basket and Conor sat down. Catlin put the basket of berries in Conor's lap, plucked a plump specimen from the top and devoured all but the stem in one voracious bite. Her smile lit up the chamber as she savored every morsel.
" I heard you tell Molly once. She was telling you that she hated peaches and loved pears and you said you loved strawberries but couldn't stand blueberries."
"That was weeks ago, before she went back to Cathbad. How did you remember that?"
"Catlin, there's very little about you that I have ever forgotten. And rest assured, lady, I will never forget how you looked this morning, fresh from your bath," he said, leaning over to kiss her cheek, which was swollen with another huge bite of strawberry.
The next berry she offered to Conor, holding it by the stem so he could take a bite. He chewed and swallowed, nodding his approval.
With a smile, Conor chose a large berry from the basket, plucked the stem out with his fingers, placed one end of the berry between his teeth, and waited. Caitlin saw the playful look in Conor's eyes and took the hint immediately. She didn't know which tasted sweeter, the strawberry, or the kiss that sharing it inspired.