Fridays are good

Thursday is Better

Season Three - Love's Awakening Steam Tunnel / Explicit Scenes Described

A special Tunnel Hug to Allison, my "Reader" and Sounding Board

Originally published in the Chamber Music and Memories 2012 Conzine

That fateful October day they buried Vincent's forever love, Catherine Chandler, in the cold ground of St Cleo's because she was a woman of the light, a woman from Above. Hadn't he wanted to bring her Below, wrap her in linen and carve her grave marker? At the time, a greater part of Vincent had wanted that. And although Catherine had professed "you live life, skinned elbows and broken heart or you begin to die", Vincent recognized the futility of his desire….and then he began to die.

October 10, 1989 further manipulated his life, sending him a few more degrees off kilter. The explosion on the Compass Rose was devastating; that Elliot Burch died to save his life left a peculiar hollow place in his heart. Between his lucidity and his mind's wanderings Vincent pondered that Elliot's death meant one less person Catherine had known. If everyone who knew Catherine was dead, would it mean that perchance she had never existed?

How could his woman never have existed? Catherine's soul had called to him from that fateful April night in the park and they had been through trials of biblical proportions. No less troublesome was Vincent's coming to grips with all he was. In the months Catherine was missing he reread his journals, fought both sides of their arguments until he was dizzy from exhaustion. Alone Vincent stumbled through piecing memories together to reconstruct the hallowed details of their loving. Holding his son, feeling little Jacob respond to him Vincent knew that he indeed was as Catherine had proclaimed, more than a man.

From the moment Diana Bennett stilled Vincent from slicing Gabriel into ribbons the last sliver of the puzzle fell in place. Diana had orchestrated their rescue in concert with Father and their Helpers, stepping right in to connect their worlds. Vincent watched this red-headed dervish of a woman sweep through the minefield of his situations and settle in as a friend and "Helper".

Hiding his curious heart from this new friend, Vincent embroiled himself in the son he named Jacob Vincent Chandler because he believed Catherine would do just that. Within days he was becoming a master of "Onesies" and diaper pins. Balancing a baby in one strong arm he'd recite the classics with a hollow voice as words of love had lost their luster. The days of his life churned into weeks and months as Vincent's frozen heart thawed. His reveries at Catherine's grave had finally revealed what Father had told him, "She is not there" as each visit revealed no strumming of her being through any bond.

By the beginning of summer 1990, Father watched over his glasses at his pacing, "Any thoughts you'd like to share, son?"

"I . . . have no words" Vincent's halting speech gave Father a reason to smile gently. His eloquent son had frequently been at a loss for words for a while. Jacob Wells had fought Vincent's relationship with Catherine and now he counted this among his life's poorer choices. In the quiet nights after Catherine's death Jacob Wells would lie awake wondering if or when one of the Tunnel women would step into the role of nanny and then perhaps as a partner for Vincent.

Father mused that it would just be too simple to expect Vincent to open up his heart or his eyes to the line that was forming for his attentions. Women Below had seen his love for Catherine and many of them would have settled as a second just to be his. Even a few of the Helpers who had grown up alongside Vincent had shown their interest, sending little extras down with their contributions for "dear Vincent". All for naught Father estimated.

"Then, might I loan you a few?" Jacob pursed his lips as if to weigh the words he was about to let loose.

Vincent shared an acquiescent expression he had used throughout his adolescence and sat down opposite his father, accepting the offered brownies as he prepared himself for the words.

"I've watched you mature into a wonderful father" his father's words were a balm on his soul, a high compliment from the Tunnel patriarch.

"Thank-you, Father, perhaps you may wish to reserve some of that compliment until we hear Jacob's first words" From the glow of little Jacob's intense eyes and set jaw Vincent was preparing for endless debates.

They shared understanding smiles and Father watched Vincent demolish the stack of brownies, while his mouth was full, Father spoke, "I see you alone, perhaps even more so than before - - - Have you thought of moving Jacob into the nursery so that you can—"

"Be more alone?" Vincent's blunt, dry words flew hoarsely back at Father. He settled in the chair, slightly discomforted. His usual layers had taken on a stockier build as he had been feeding his grief to William's amazement. Tonight most of the fudge iced brownies had evaporated within minutes of Vincent finding them on Father's desk.

After thirty some years of sleekly loping down the tunnel halls Vincent's pace had slowed to accommodate his child in his arms. His endless hours of stone cutting on work duty had been traded for the softer lifestyle of teaching. The sedentary Vincent was a different man. Father hadn't mentioned a word about his son's "spread", but all the other tunnel dads had exchanged discrete gags about Vincent's "New Father 15".

"No, so that you have your evenings for music or socializing – you work diligently every day, and as your Father and a physician I'm concerned for your body and soul", Just as Father drew more breath for more discussion Diana wheeled around the doorway and eyed the two of them. She paused, regaining her breath from a jog. At Father's nod she bolted in and plopped into the open chair next to Vincent.

"Hi, Father, I got here as soon as I could. Hey, Vincent, how's Jacob?" She looked at her watch and shook her head, "He's down for the count already isn't he?" Then she leaned forward, her palms on her knees as she stretched and calmed her rapid breathing. She was a bundle of curiously vibrant life, a Botticelli angel walking in the 20th century.

Vincent noticed the streak of sweat down the middle of her cotton tee partially obscured by the thick auburn braid. Vincent gazed at the sprouting runaway hairs escaping the tight braid, evidently from swaying behind her as she jogged from her loft. To Vincent she was sunshine on two legs, two very lithe, strong legs. He caught himself nodding, no words available as the aroma of lavender and sweet summer sweat wended toward him with her movement.

Silently Vincent poured her a tall tumbler of peach tea and as she accepted it their fingers brushed emitting an electric charge. She covered the "shock" with a smiling nod as she watched Father shuffle through papers to pull out a legal pad. She sat back to enjoy the beverage and casually drew one knee up near her chin as she awaited Father's request, "Yes, Diana, I was hoping to talk with you about a self-defense class for the women and children, they spend more time above and it would be an excellent way to bring the community together at least one night a week."

Within the past 9 months the men Below had banded together behind Vincent, shouldering more of the security work after Mouse devised more diversions and stumbling blocks to intruders. Vincent was no longer their "watch dog". There had been some discussion about self-defense classes for the women and teens, and Diana Bennett's name had come up as their instructor.

"You know my schedule can be iffy, I couldn't commit to weekly classes although I could work with Vincent, would you be my backup?"

Did his surprise at the suggestion register mostly in his eyes or perhaps his open mouth posed to bite another brownie? Rather than to agree or disagree he took the entire square into his mouth and blankly nodded until he swallowed, "I'm sure the women and children will be fast learners, how much instruction were you planning?"

"We'll play it by ear, see how many show up, how many progress through the exercises" Diana's enthusiasm was unleashed, she dropped both feet to the stone floor and leaned her palms on Father's desk, "You think 4 or 6 women at a time? Could we start next week? I'll get some old mats from the PAL"

Vincent watched, mesmerized as her body swayed with her words, the dance of her hips, the tightening of her calf muscles as her excitement coursed through her. "Father, you are going to be thrilled with the outcome, haven't the kids ever had any martial arts – jeesh, I was -"

Vincent shifted in his chair to watch her, strangled by his clothes. Resignedly he rose and walked the tight creases out of his trousers' waistband. His usual habit of pacing nicely camouflaged his unease. Father grinned at her exuberant response to the Tunnel's request for self-defense classes. "Diana, I can see you're the one to help us. I'll feel much better when the community assumes more responsibility for themselves. Now that Vincent is a single parent the council would like to move the balance of defense to each of us" This earned Father a deep inhalation from Vincent with a soundful settling of his body as he returned the chair. "Is there a particular night you'd like to hold your first meeting?"

Diana left Father's chamber that night a bit perplexed by the "disconnect" between this usually symbiotic father and son. Did Vincent feel his significance would be diluted by the community taking care of themselves? Hogwash, she thought as she trotted back to the threshold closest to her loft flummoxed by Vincent's distraction.

The classes had the women ribbing their partners at the dinner hour and the children sparing just as soon as the benches were pushed under the long rows of dining tables. Even Mary had gone with an open mind that she could be "empowered" as the photocopied class sheets boasted. Jamie jumped into the role of Coach's aide and enjoyed adding the brass whistle to her daily ornaments.

"Vincent?" Father caught him as Vincent loped past the doorway, late for Diana's class. Father stood in the doorway rotating the Fountain pen in the light and once his son skidded to a halt Father shook the pen at him, "Look at this – it's a vanishing point fountain pen! Whatever possessed Diana to find this for me? Would you mention I'd like her to drop back after her class?" Father was swept up in the technology and the idea that Diana had bought one for him.

"Certainly, now I have fly - if I beat Cullen he gets to play the victim" Grinning, Vincent loped off hoping his night wouldn't find him buried under women energetically exercising self-defense methods.

Vincent hung back, he had arrived last and indeed he'd be the one Diana would pummel and strike in her demonstrations. Cullen winked from across the room as he spread out the mats while the women warmed up along the perimeter. There was the giggling as the ladies caught up on the day's gossip then as they realized Vincent had removed his regular vest for the protective gear Diana provided. Tonight Vincent would be their model "Attacker" and that silenced their voices.

"Hey, we can't bring somebody Vincent's size down" Rebecca alleged as she tied her hair up tighter and pushed her sleeves up her arms as if readying for a real fight.

"How many months have you been doing this? You've brought William to his knees, you've learned all sorts of skills" Diana defended her choice while she measured how much of her fight she had to measure out to bring Vincent's sizable frame to the mat. She had been successively unsuccessful in talking her way into solitary walks with the big guy; if he was all that empathic she was sure he'd get a double shot of her intentions while she had him face down on the floor with both hands behind his back.

"Remember, ladies, in these tunnels, here you have the upper hand, you know where you are!" Diana clapped her hands and the group gathered in a circle as Vincent approached Diana in a menacing manner. "If you're above all bets are off. You are fighting for your life!"

As her Attacker Vincent grabbed Diana from the front, so she threw her hands on his shoulders and moved her right foot behind Vincent's right leg so her leg was behind his. Diana felt Vincent measuring out the force he exerted; she felt his anxiety at possibly hurting her. He was paying attention to his other voice and not the woman in his hands. She knew his perceptions about his clawed hands, his sheer size and the brute strength within him. Diana had heard his arguments, all the rumors of the reasons for his self-imposed celibacy.

Diana leaned forward, pushing Vincent back causing him to fall over her foot and onto the padded ground. She didn't even need the leverage, of pushing her right hand against his throat as she leaned forward. His massive physique went down entangled with Diana's to the sound of surprised gasps and cheers for Diana.

All those sounds were in another realm from where Diana fell. While the women circled they chattered at Diana taking on Vincent. Vincent had twisted to land on his belly, arms and legs splayed out in an "X" with Diana flattened over the length of his back, her face caught in the tangle of golden hair at his neck. No one moved closer, waiting for her "capture" move. Diana caught her breath drawing in the scent of his mesh of thick hair and it was more than she had been prepared for. She was overcome by candle smoke and fragrant midsummer sweat that wrapped itself around leather and Castile shampoo.

Instead of whipping his wrists together to further subdue him, she sought to spread her body to lay exactly over his and rain kisses down the back of his neck. Feeling self-conscious she suddenly sat up, only to find that she was straddling his slim hips and her rapid pivot had ground herself over his hips and tight behind. He blanched at the feeling of being caught within her thighs and Diana felt his flanks' muscular response to carrying her weight. For a split second those coiled muscles tensed as though he was going to spring and buck her off. Then he froze as he caught her expression in his peripheral vision and they locked eyes for an eternity within actual seconds.

Blanched by their "moment" Diana pressed her palms on the broad expanse of his back to rise of him and delivered her recap of the take-down. Her mouth parched as she committed the feeling of straddling Vincent to her memory and the thought of her most sinful intentions. Diana found herself clasping her hands nervously as she searched for words to continue the class. From that night on, Vincent put down the brownies and tied on the athletic trainers Peter had brought down in the brown grocery bag. He'd run to get back in shape, he'd run to forget the feeling of a woman's desire.

Within months it became a woman's club as much as a self-defense class that culminated in a communal steamy soak with mugs of tea. The ladies of the Tunnels began tying their Tunnel wear a bit more sveltely and so did Vincent. His insistence to return to the work crews piqued a heated conversation with Father.

"Vincent, being Jacob's sole parent….is it wise to resume those dangerous forays below?" Father's expression answered his own question, yet he sat back, cleaning his glasses, waiting for Vincent's carefully weighed reply.

"Does Mouse's life mean less than mine because he has no wife or child? What about Kanin? Doesn't Livvy or his family count?" Vincent understood his father's fear; they hadn't spent a moment of conversation before Father found Vincent on the work roster. "Father, this is something I need to return to" Vincent stood beside his father's desk and mindlessly trailed a finger over a stack of books. In truth he missed the physicality of the work; he needed the sweat and the fatigue to move forward. With a silent look traded between them Vincent was back to manning the heavy tools of stonework. The fatigue almost had him sleeping better.

Yet any personal growth or perceived joy in Vincent's life was obliterated in October, as it delivered the bittersweet day Jacob was born and Catherine died. The night before the fateful day Father found Vincent mired in his grief, rocking a resistant Jacob at bedtime. "Vincent, Jacob seems especially fretful-"

"He's always been-"

Father knew Vincent would mention the Bond. Everything it had orchestrated had been a bit of a mystery to Jacob Wells. He knew it had driven Vincent nearly mad to emerge from the catacombs disconnected from Catherine. It also intrigued him that as Catherine gave birth the empathic avenue burst open. Now as his son and grandson "communed" they seemed to move silently together, communicating on a transcendental level.

"You aren't thinking of going above are you?" Father's eyes narrowed at his words. He bit them back thinking if he hadn't mentioned it would Vincent have stayed home?

"I know it disturbs you yet it is something I'm drawn to do" Young Jacob fretfully tongued the bottle's nipple out and arched his back to buck out of Vincent's arms. Father watched as Vincent put down the bottle and turned the child over his thighs to rub his back. The robust year old boy splayed out over his father's muscular thighs "When I am at peace, my son will rest too" Vincent stroked softly in a light circular motion over the child's back and Jacob settled.

"You've managed to stay below for months, Vincent. Do you think you're ready to face things Above?" Father stood behind Vincent, a gentling hand on his son's shoulder and closed his eyes concentrating peace to his son and grandson.

"I simply want to clear the air….with Catherine" Vincent's voice took on a brighter lilt, "There are things I need to release into the universe and I need to feel her response."

These words and Vincent's tone perplexed Father so he held that steadying hand and pressed his fingers into Vincent's broad shoulder. "Whatever you tell her, you could tell her here." Father's voice hope to infer Vincent could stay right here.

Vincent's hand caught his concerned father's hand and held it. "Please, understand that this time it's for Catherine, this is the last time I'll ask".

And with that understanding, Vincent rose to lay his son into the crib and pulled on his cloak. Under Father's silent eyes Vincent followed a winding back path off the way to the bathing chamber he shared with Father. To a chamber he had especially carved. The chamber he had hoped to share one day with Catherine was now frozen in time. Gentian's portrait had been moved there the night she died; the protective posture displayed in the portrait mocked him. He hadn't protected her when it was vital. How many times had he raised a clawed hand to obliterate his image?

Now it was the centerpiece to the room that had been stocked with a sizable bed, two chairs, and a desk enormous enough for them to share. At once Vincent turned the portrait to face the wall then he drew shut the large wooden door he had installed for their privacy and swept up into the night.

The October air had a dampness that had winnowed foot traffic to just a few of the usual homeless. He passed unnoticed, deftly slipping into the cemetery without losing one leaf on the two roses he carried. Kneeling at the foot of her grave he regarded the silence around him. As he sat back on his boot heels the city sounds echoed in the distance as he measured the words he'd use. From the night she died his heart had compiled poetry in scraps in his heart and he came to tell her this.

"Catherine, you know I was remiss in expressing my love, in sharing a kiss or a caress." He took a breath as the clouds cleared the moon, cautiously he drew the hood further over his face before he began to whisper again, "The night I carried you home, after we spoke I felt quite like nothing then would ever come to any good. I did not expect to overcome your death. I truly felt what this poem expressed"

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

"It was bad enough that I couldn't even join your friends to mourn you, when Father returned from Above I felt even more inadequate. Jacob is the best of each of us, he tests me every day. Peter secured his birth certificate and he is officially Jacob Vincent Chandler. I regret not accepting the gift you mentioned that day you came Below" Vincent's heart burned within his chest, his breath tightened.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message She is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

"Helpers brought down newspapers, thinking news of the public's outcry over your death and Gabriel's eventual demise was some balm to our souls" He listened for an inkling of a celestial reply and felt only the night's dampness.

She was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

"And I felt the next stanza for such a long time, it worried Father and Mary especially, I had to share this with you tonight" his shoulders shrugged at his admitting the scope of his grief, as if he had finally realized the distance of his heart's journey.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.1

With the end of the poem he felt it was just that he give her this admission, "Your love, Catherine, opened my world, banished the aloneness I felt so deeply. I suffered in my grief until the lessons you taught me blossomed with some care"

His words fell on the dew kissed grass, freshly mown earlier that afternoon. Vincent laid the red and white roses before the simple head stone and then moved back to the foot of her grave.

"How long had I fought the feeling that I was not worthy of your love? Realizing that you gave it freely I was late to honor you by accepting it." Vincent's palms pressed to the ground, his hooded head bowed for just a few moments. "Then as I read and spoke with Helpers, widows and widowers who had spent decades together I have come tonight to honor our love with a decision"

He drew a deep breath and hesitated as if it could hurt her feelings, "There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and you were someone I couldn't live without but had to let go" His chest heaved to draw in a full breath, girding himself for these coming words, "I fully experienced the sacredness in tears, those shared and those shed alone. I accepted they weren't the mark of weakness, but of the power of our love. While I hovered in that pain they spoke more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. Forgive me, Catherine, even Shakespeare couldn't express my loss of you. My tears were the messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love"

Now Vincent choked on what he was going to say and he rose to one knee to proclaim it, "After my desolation, this grief cemented all you said about my humanity" His one hand laid on his knee as he rested his furred cheek on that clawed hand. Then as he brushed his fingertips over the grass as if he were stroking her back he confessed, "With all that you bequeathed me I am strong enough to be a friend and a father and perhaps one of these days, someone's loving partner". As if Vincent expected her voice to respond he pressed that hand flat to the earth and inhaled the verdant night air expectantly.

No voice answered Vincent. When he felt he had spoken his peace he moved to the headstone to place both hands on the top and bent to bless a light kiss on the crest of the cold, public evidence of her death.

Clear headed, Vincent returned late. He had not ascended to the top of The Langham, he had not returned to Charles Chandler's home that he had been to only once. He found no need to go to the Helicopter Pad to listen for phantom sound of chopper blades. Under his cloak his shoulders stood more squarely, the weight of his anguish washed clean in the moonlight.

Had Diana lately come to visit more frequently? Vincent wondered as he dressed Jacob for bed. Generally Mary or Rebecca would offer to bath and dress the child if Vincent was on Sentry duty yet tonight he had not rearranged the list to accommodate the class. This night he had chosen to step back from being physically close to Diana. By the time Jacob was soundless in his cradle Vincent heard the gaggle of women heading to the Bathing Chambers.

He overheard the various conversation threads from the hall and realized how lively the women had become, "One night we'll have to do pedicures after all the work we put into this" then another voice piped up, "Diana, do you have toenail polish?" then he heard giggles and the shuffling feet ground to a halt.

At the sound of her voice his blood sang. "Whoa, ladies Toenail polish? Nobody sees these feet – with the shoes I wear all day I don't want anyone to see these dogs" It was Diana's emphatic voice, "But, I could bring a bottle or two down next week – you all work hard enough to earn some colorful tootsies"

Vincent understood the self-conscious humor Diana had for her work worn feet as well as the regard she had for the Tunnel women. Then a softer tone of conversation began and the crowd passed him by as Diana announced herself out of his view, "Vincent, did you have a moment?"

"Of course, Diana" he met her at the door, his right arm leaning against the newly installed wood door casing, "would you have time to come in?" He fell under the spell of her cachet, intensified by her vigorous exercise and saw her clean clothes bundled for after her bath.

"Sure," she ducked around him and followed him to the small round table between two wing chairs added in the last month. I just wanted to see how you were doing." Her voice broke gently with her concern.

"I could say that I'm fine, you would be one who would know better" his head dipped as he caressed the leather pouch nestled at his chest. "The scars of one man's evil have healed. I see Jacob and I'm reminded of our love" His sober words registered with Diana as she nodded to her sad friend, "I'm opening myself to whatever comes, Father wants me to socialize more of course" Vincent's head tilted as his brows moved with a bit of amusement.

At Diana's silence he continued, "There are so many scars of our love, at times it leaves me breathless. Then I see Jacob's smile or I catch a familiar scent and I can't help feeling If I had listened to Catherine we could have had it all, here" his hand gestured across the room that had been re-organized many times since Jacob arrived.

She knew the bare bones of his situation; they had spent endless nights embroiled in the depths of his despair. Before she rose to leave she told him "Babe, I have no story to tell" when it came to losing an epic love. She had lost interest in a series of inconsequential affairs that she had dabbled in, Mark being the last. "Nobody gets it all, Vincent, nobody" they sighed conspiratorially as if they had accomplished whatever the conversation had meant to be. "Maybe I might be better company another night. I'm going to soak for a while before I head up" She stepped toward him and he reflexively caught her in one of his silent soul encompassing hugs.

So he reinforced all she had feared. He was working through a hell of his own making, wearing out the "IF" factor. There had been a time when Diana's heart had been held inside another's hand, torn by circumstances where she had bartered with the Devil to never fall in love again. Now she stood on one side of a crevasse with Vincent on the other side. Only there was a fire starting in her heart burning away any memory of past pains and she had to cross a broad chasm to get to Vincent.

It was Sunday afternoon when there was a verbal "Knock, Knock" from Diana outside Vincent's chamber as he nestled on the bed next to a napping Jacob.

"Come in, Diana" he simply laid his open book down on his lap believing this unexpected visit would be brief.

"Hey, I brought down some nail polish for the ladies. I just wanted to stop in and see how my invisible co-instructor is." Diana wasn't in her work clothes and her fiery hair was ornately French braided on both sides as she stood with a drug store bag in her hand. Vincent stood, frozen by the uncommon sight of her feminine side. The cotton sundress' full skirt slipped smoothly over her hips to dance below her knees. Her rope sandals matched the tote on her shoulder and the straw hat in her hand.

"Diana, I've never seen you wear a hat" he shook his head as if her girlish presence was an illusion and she smiled widely at his comment, a bit stunned at his noticing, before she took a step closer to him.

"Yeah, Mass on Sunday does that to me, I feel the impulse to wear a hat" Now she seemed flustered by his softening demeanor as he stood before her in simply worn jeans and a thermal Henley shirt, she had never seen Vincent this casual. She blushed at his raw masculinity and knew if he had walked Above woman would swoon at his booted feet.

"I should ask if you'd like a cool drink" Vincent took quick steps to the spigoted crock on the table. "Could you visit for a while?" he made a move toward turning a chair for her to have a seat, "We'll have our Sunday supper in an hour or so." Between the two of them the air fairly crackled.

"I'd love to stay but I have . . . ." Diana realized she was pulling an "auto-pilot" refusal and she altered her answer, "You know, it's my day off and I think it would be wonderful. Do you think William will have any of those buttermilk biscuits?" Her dress puffed and then settled like waves around her knees as she sat on the bed next to the sleeping child. Vincent perceived this surprisingly softer side of her and he was mesmerized as he poured her a cool tea. Without words between them she accepted the stout tumbler and held it to her neck to refresh her.

Vincent was enthralled at her specific movement, Diana cooling her flushed neck while he realized her earthy sensuality was always there, she simply dressed to cover it at work. Later that night when Vincent walked Diana to her threshold most of the Tunnel community was chattering about this "new Diana".

The parts of "New Diana" were hung back in her closet within the hour she left. For Vincent, the niggling feeling of gratitude for so much more than her "rescue" sparked that Sunday afternoon. Every few days he counted on the familiar "sturdy" Diana to arrive to "visit" Jacob. Invariably she'd spend time with Father, bringing him a fresh newspaper or every few weeks a fountain pen for his collection. No, her gifts weren't opulent; they were from Pawn Shops along her investigative path.

Her visits would end with long, seemingly pointless conversations in the chamber Vincent had just re-furnished. Diana hadn't known it had been intended to be his "conjugal" bedroom. The pair of wing chairs now faced a chimenea flanked by walls of bookcases. He had packed up the bed and the Gentian Portrait eventually for Jacob.

Then one evening, five months after his trip to Catherine's grave he felt the embrace of ivory angel wings and Catherine's voice whispered, "Love cannot die, yet you'll perish without love in your life, without expressing all the love in your heart." shivering at Catherine's words, all her own, she didn't rely on the poetry so familiar between them. Catherine admonished "Vincent, your heart is too big to not share all you have to give." You could say it was a match ordained by Heaven.

The March night called him Above and Vincent was impelled to the roof of her building. Immediately he was caught by the sight of Diana's ivory complexion flushed and pink. His eyes focused on the drenched ringlets around her face so evoking a Renaissance Angel as she moved gracefully around her loft from his skylight perch. He had leapt from roof top to rooftop as her long strides covered the sidewalks below. The fealty he had for Diana the friend was smoking toward a full-on crush.

Her name had become a song in his heart within the last week as he fought how to share this sentiment with her. Vincent had carried a braided bookmark to give to her, something from his world that she could use in hers. Then as he regarded her movement in her loft he felt puerile, adolescent. As he watched her drink water from a glass jug from the refrigerator he jammed the bookmark down into a trouser pocket then he tapped on the glass.

"VINCENT" in her out of breath voice his name was lyrical. Did she stand in the doorway so that their shoulders brushed as he entered her loft?

"I would have left the door unlocked if I had known you were coming" Had she blushed? It occurred to remove his cloak in the warm spring night, something he might not have done years ago.

Diana's hand pressed the fabric to his chest, "Is that a new vest, Vincent?" he noticed the arch of her back as she leaned against the back of the sofa. Tunnel clothes don't necessarily fit the form of the women he saw daily; even in her tee shirt he caught the curve of her hip and felt her allure strumming through him.

Vincent almost missed answering her, "I thought I wore it at Winterfest". The air seemed electric, a frisson that he hadn't felt in ages. In fact, when he had last felt that stirring he had buried his response deep within layers of shame so that admitting it now rang a wake up bell.

Diana folded her arms over her sweat dampened tee shirt, elevating her breasts, catching them in tight cotton knit, "How about a Peppermint tea while I get a shower?" and before he could respond she set the kettle on the stove and pulled out the tea and sugar canisters. Over her shoulder she waved, "you know what to do; I'll be out before the tea steeps". Vincent found himself opening and closing the drawers, memorizing what was in each drawer to calmly occupy his mind.

The entire "Bond" situation that he had shared with Catherine was obsolete. He had stepped into this new world of Diana's without the benefit of "help", as Diana's nature had been so much more sealed. Her job pulled her into ungodly situations and the simple act of coming home and being within her personal fortress was what kept her intact – or so she thought. Whatever "energies" flowed back and forth between them was emblematic male to female static, easy to misinterpret.

It kept Vincent guessing at every turn, so he practiced in his mind, "Diana, would I be welcome to call on you socially?" Well, that was stilted, awkward. Asking to call on her was absurd, how many evenings had he simply visited her? The police business between them had ended well over a year ago. How could he tell if she was as interested as he was? This wasn't 1865 and he shook his head to scatter the building anxieties.

Should he thank her now for continuing to entertain Jacob with books before his bedtime? That's when it struck him! Diana's visits were strategically at Jacob's bedtime when Vincent's time opened up. If he had grown up with Devin's mentality he could have been able to decipher Woman 101. The whistling tea pot broke Vincent's thoughts. Pouring the water into both cups he swallowed hard, preparing to bare his figurative jugular to a woman.

"Is it tea yet?" There she stood in the doorway of her bathroom, drying that hair with a yellow towel. Vincent couldn't judge whether the crisp color of her titian hair made the yellow terry cloth bright or it was vice versa. She wore sweatpants rolled at the waist, cut off mid-thigh and PAL tee shirt. She smiled as she stood on one foot, her other bare foot on her knee balancing like a brilliant flamingo. Words stuck in his throat as the scent of body wash and shampoo carried out of the bathroom on clouds of steam.

"Bring it over to the sofa, OK?" Diana turned and bent to grab a wide tooth comb and Vincent caught the curve of her buttocks and thighs, awestruck as he carried the mugs over to the sofa he nearly smacked his shin on the end table as she rifled through a lower drawer. He shockedly realized his usual grace was gone as he caught himself before spilling tea and then sat down making every effort to look casual.

She enthralled him, her long damp hair swaying opposite the rhythm of her hips. Nervously he drew damp palms back up his thighs, reining in his exhilaration. Then she plopped on the sofa at the other end and he flinched "Vincent, thanks for being Mother tonight" as they raised mugs to each other. Vincent smiled at her use of the tea expression and settled back into the end of the sofa to face her.

Scrubbed clean, with bare feet, she was unmistakably a radiant soul so comfortable within her ivory skin. Diana leaned back, bending her knee into the back of the sofa, stretching her long lithe leg out ahead of her. One graceful hand held her mug while delicate fingers combed back damp, stray hairs from her flushed face.

They sat and sipped. "Music?" she chirped, jumping up toward her stereo system to start,

"We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail where are we going,

So far away and somebody told me that this is the place where everything's better,

Everything's safe"

Vincent's head dropped on the back of the sofa, his inner conflictions roiling deep within his skin as he declared, "I feel amazingly comfortable here with you, Diana" the words were pushed by a gust of exhalation hiding as much of his smile as possible. That was suddenly absurd he realized Diana knew he held 4 very threatening fangs in his mouth. With his next breath he smiled wider, earning a reciprocal smile from Diana.

"I want you to" she grinned over her mug, bright eyes beaming as the music continued,

"Walk on the ocean, step on the stones,

Flesh becomes water, wood becomes bone"

"Want me to … I'm sorry the music caught me, the thought of walking on water seems easier than what I want to say" he let the mug sit between his legs, cradling it with his thighs. Her eyes bored through his with a quirky smile as the song continued,

"Half an hour later we packed up our things,

We said we'd send letters and all those little things and

They knew we were lying but they smiled just the same it

Seemed they'd already forgotten we'd came"

"I want you to feel comfortable here, Vincent. Like a home away from home, someplace you can enjoy movies and music and a baked potato" Two pair of piercing eyes met as they chuckled at the subject of baked potatoes.

"Well you have a point; in a world of communal cooking I hadn't eaten a baked potato until you offered me one" he fondly recalled the smell of the bacon and cheese she had heaped on the steaming potato a few weeks ago. The earthy taste and crunchy texture of the potato's skin she had rinsed with water and coated with salt was a new experience. Now more than one hunger was coming into play.

"Vincent, do you do anything on Friday evenings?" Diana bowed her eyes as she sipped more tea.

"Only during the Park concert season, you should come below for one of those" Were they inching toward carving out time for each other? "What did you have in mind?" Vincent was caught up in the lyrics,

"Walk on the ocean step on the stones.

Flesh becomes water, wood becomes bone.

Now back at the homestead where the air makes you choke and people don't know you

And trust is a joke we don't even have pictures just memories to hold that grow sweeter each season as we slowly grow old."2

Was he going to choke, spending every day of his life Below or would he open up to Diana's offer, "What do you have in mind?" Again he asked her as he caught up his mug and continued to warm himself.

"I'd like to have dinner together on Fridays, would you be interested? I grill out when the weather permits" She seemed to blush at the offer, as the flush of exercising had paled. Now the rose in her cheeks developed between them navigating the rocky waters of beginning a social connection.

"Diana, I. . . I would be happy to be your guest on Friday" Subconsciously he stretched his right arm out the back of the sofa; she was watching more intently as he nodded. He guessed that he had fallen back into the habit of tilting his head as she mirrored his posture, something of a positive cue. This amped up the heat in his chest, and it had nowhere to go but down his back into his muscled thighs. When his toes began to tingle he realized he had to snap back to the conversation.

"Vincent, I think what I'm trying to say is that I'd like for us to get together each Friday." her left hand stretched out to meet his and his heart soared at her touch.

"Diana, that would bring me great pleasure" he slid furred fingers closer to her to mesh hands, driven by a pounding heart, hungry for the feeling of a kindred soul. They weren't covering ground with any speed record; they were engaged in their own personal struggles for just the precise expressions of their feelings.

Diana's eyes danced at having him here on her sofa, "Since I've met you, I've been doing more reading, listening to more classical music and I believed what I was feeling was the sway of the words or the lilt of the tune." Leaving her left hand where it meshed with his, her right hand covered her heart, "It's not all that, Vincent it's what you've awoken in me"

He hung on what she'd divulge next and savored her words, wondering if he could move closer then she made her move. Diana slid forward so that their knees touched and he melted. He weighed the steps, to wait her out and to hear what she had to say or reach for her to see what else they would awaken in each other. Gambling he slid toward her, sliding his hand out of hers to capture her in the hollow of his arm. Tucked close, close enough for their breath to mingle he felt a quiver, was it her or him?

Diana's lashes fluttered over her smiling eyes and he felt lost for breath. She whispered, "I came across a line when I was reading, it was I think…. We are such stuff…"

Vincent picked up the quote along with her, "As dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

"Vincent, what does that mean to you?" She seemed near tears, her eyes glistening, and her breath short.

"Diana, the suggestion is people live their lives and then are gone, leaving no appreciable mark and eventually not even a memory of their existence" his voice trembled with sentiment.

"I want you to know, Vincent, that you are one unforgettable man... and... l'd like to get to know better" she rested her head on his chest and his entire body melted toward her.

As their breath mingled between them they felt each others hearts race. Vincent thought his heart would burst when she spun to drop her thighs over his. Their silent posture weighed their desire and wonder at finding each other like this and after a few moments of his gentle nuzzling at her forehead there was an anxious movement to draw her fully up onto his lap where their arms encircled each other.

Breathing deeply, purposefully slowing his reaction he confessed, "At best, I am awkward with all this"

"I'd disagree" Diana rebutted, drawing a light index finger up to his hidden ear lobe, brushing a light thumb on that hidden part of his body she realized she wanted more of him.

"It's not something I've engaged in to feel accomplished" He barely had the words to graciously admit it all.

"That makes this all the more exciting" Now Diana flattened her palm on his neck and slowly trailed it down his throat to lie on his chest.

The night hadn't ended on sweat stained sheets, no, they each had a few more stepping stones to cross. She had fallen asleep in his arms and he hadn't the heart to wake her when he felt the morning approach. His internal clock had stirred him to find his furred nose nuzzled deeply into Diana's thick mass of scarlet hair. In their sleep the unfettered length of it had swept back between them and it seemed to have intertwined itself with his belt buckle and vest ties. Just drawing away from her he felt drawn back to her loving warmth. Carefully yet reluctantly Vincent extricated himself from her tresses. She slept as he carried her into her bedroom and lowered her onto the bed she had replaced since she watched over him on October 10th, 1989.

He dug into his pocket for the book mark and draped it within the open book face down on her nightstand it read:

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore -
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

Like a vapor, Vincent was gone. Walking home in the damp spring air he could almost feel the crocus uncurling through the damp grass. The night birds had quieted and their chatter was replaced by his rapidly beating heart. He could never remember feeling this free.

By May on a late Wednesday afternoon Jacob sat smacking at the Cheerios on his play table in the corner of their parlor. "Snack" he loudly proclaimed as he pulverized the last three cereal bits. Vincent was flipping through Science textbooks gleaning new questions for quizzes although he was only halfhearted at the task.

Perturbed he spoke, "No, Jacob, no more if you're going to play with them – how about an apple?" Vincent plucked the red fruit from the bowl beside him as Jacob vehemently shook his curly blonde head "no".

"We'll have dinner soon, what about juice?" Vincent simply wanted to placate the boy who had grown by bounds ahead of the other eighteen month old boys. Mary couldn't bear to trim the strawberry blond ringlets and Vincent seemed to agree. With the boy's strength and rambunctiousness there wasn't any way he'd be confused with any of the little girls even when they were above in the park.

They were having a mundane midweek moment when Vincent felt a sweet pang for Diana, was it the thought of apple juice? How she'd mix it with sherbet to make a smoothie for a him a while back?

"Mo juice?" Jacob held up his Sippy cup for Vincent to repeat, "More juice, please?" before he refilled the cup, his mind wandering above to a loft and a particular red head bent over the stove as he arrived for their last weekly meal together.

So easily she'd moved into his embrace and got sucker punched by his insistent bulge below his ornate belt. The sensual power of his body lurked within those simple hugs, she'd surge to press against those trees trunks of his sturdy legs and in the meantime she'd dream of them pressed more intimately.

Trying to retain some semblance of propriety Diana caught his striking face in her hands, "How's everyone Below?" Yet she barely got the words out before he caught her lips with his. Vincent drew in the scents of the stove's steam as his lips left hers to mark kisses up her jaw to her ear, hot breath washed Diana into oblivion as he answered.

"Jake asked to come with me" his voice was conspiratorial, "I explained this was Daddy's time with Dina" and that weakened her knees. They had grown into an eloquent dance, moving around each other within love's force field.

"Father sends his best and Mary wondered if you were bringing … Amaretto to the next ladies' get together" Vincent's dubious expression at Mary's asking for Amaretto caused Diana to smirk.

"Not everyone has a big old hunky guy to cuddle, some need a bit of fortification for their night caps" If she wasn't hypnotized by his regal profile, a glistening stray hair, or a lopsided grin she'd burn to feel his hand at the small of her back.

"Ah, am I simply a stuffed animal?" Vincent's sense of humor has broadened since their love had bloomed.

"No, no, no….." Diana caught both his hands to drag him toward the kitchen, into the light where she could relish the sight of his worn jeans. His body had molded his shape into the weave and weft of the durable dark blue denim, leaving lighter areas at the knees, the pockets and to the left of the fly where he tucked his manhood. The simple denim fabric contoured to his muscles, leaving her speechless.

Removing his cloak she realized he had eschewed his quilted vest for a denim shirt that he was already folding back the cuffs to help in the kitchen, "You're the poetry reciting, furniture moving man of my dreams" and she flipped the dishtowel at his hip, "You're my everything".

"Diana, you make it difficult to think of cooking" there was that head tilt and fang baring crooked grin.

"We could order in?" she bit at her lip, thinking how hard it was lately moving around the kitchen when all she wanted was the reality of his reaching for her breast or better yet, the warm delta at her thighs.

"You have something started here" he waved at the steaming pot and fresh vegetables for a salad.

"Yeah…..ok, you set up the music and pour the ice tea and I'll finish the salads. Not a lot of thinking there, right?" she twisted her hair until it fit within the tortoise clasp and washed her hands. Hypnotized by his fluid movement around her furniture, "Damn it" she thought when he bent to the stereo his shirt stayed tucked in…. no chance at catching the sight of some of his tawny skin. She'd see him across the room and want to be in his lap, panting at his kiss.

In their Friday nights the sofa bed was their safety zone. The double sleeper was large enough to hold the two of them while they cuddled and listened to music without the "bedroom" implications. It had taken weeks for Diana to lay the fine cotton pajamas out for him; "They're lounge wear" she smiled shyly as she held her more tailored Pj's up.

Diana had seen the closet full of peignoir sets in Catherine Chandler's bedroom and knew she couldn't metaphorically fill those nighties. If she were comfortable in soft cotton pajamas perhaps Vincent could relax too.

"Lounge wear?" Vincent initially froze at the thought of lounging in a single layer and then accepted her gift; he knew he hadn't retreated from "the act" as Father had called it while they discussed Jacob's conception. He recognized "lounge wear" was part of their moving forward, he relished the comfort she gave him.

"If we're going to lounge, you should be comfortable" Diana shrugged transparently, she had simply enjoyed the lazy kissing that usually caused the book to drop from his hands as she maneuvered into his arms.

"Comfortable? I don't believe I've ever been this…..comfortable in my life" And Vincent's control hadn't slipped once.

They had met on some metaphorical Equinox, met half way between the full physicality Diana desired and the propriety Vincent fought to maintain. As she laid the pajamas in his lap her heart offered to let her give her love to this miraculous man.

In the Friday nights to come Diana's hands never pressed below the drawstring waist that rode low on his slim hips. Taking his cues from Diana his hands wandered through her long hair or hovered across her back and shoulders. Diana felt there would be weeks of their arms and legs slipping and sliding in delightful permutations before she would be brazen enough to reach for the evidence of his arousal.

She was abundantly grateful that he would spoon to her back and wrap his arms around her, her head pillowed on his biceps. Synapses of her dreams were strung together by the sensations of his chest at her back, his heady breath washing over her with a slight snore. Vincent didn't fight the groundswell of emotion when he held her, the electricity between them held something of love's unspoken promise. If they crept deliberately they would find their reward in each other.

So their Friday Night routine had fallen onto a delicate plateau where their time was spent eating, listening to music and then around midnight she'd excuse herself to slip into a pair of pajamas, while Vincent would steel his reserve to change into his "lounge wear" hung on the back of the bathroom door. Leaving the bathroom he'd find the living room lights off and candles lit, their time spent reading as they lay in the opened sofa bed.

Diana went weak just thinking of him in the sleep pants. Lustfully she eyed the outline of his flaccid manhood bobbling back and forth as he walked to the kitchen to grab them a midnight snack, well it left her breathless.

By September her inner monologue turned to fantasy, desiring more, wanting to reach through the "peek-a-boo" in his sleep pants and grab his length, and stroking that suede smooth shaft until his body fell submissive to her touch. If she did that would his brilliant eyes fall half shut and a sliver of that talented tongue sliding between his lips? Oh, how she wondered...

Once Vincent fell into Diana's arms on her sofa bed she became aware of that last line drawn between them. Her sexually reveries happened all the time now.

The Tunnel community had learned from Vincent's relationship with Catherine. Now they watched Vincent and his son walking everywhere with Diana they developed a quiet fondness for her. The community mutely watched as Diana carried Jacob and Vincent would hoist a basket of food and books for a long afternoon. Yet it was as if they waited for a bubble to burst in the silent fear that as before everything, everything ends.

Vincent had been "reading" more of the romantic mechanics and less of the science of love. He had returned many Saturday mornings hours before dawn to spend the still hours perusing The Joy of Sex. The sketched photos* delicately bridged the gap between his scientific / technical knowledge and a lifetime of romance literature. The pencil drawn images of the couple drew him comfortably to a previously frightening subject of lying beside the woman he loved, being her "man", the one to intertwine his furred body with her ivory white limbs.

That evening on his best behavior Vincent visited Father. His parent's mute long looks at meal time had shown the old man to be stymied by Vincent's smiling silence although his absent Friday nights had spoken volumes. While Father ached to comment out loud that Vincent had never routinely stayed out until nearly daybreak, he thought of what pain his comment would dredge. Father had recognized Vincent and Diana had left no stone unturned to spend time together.

"Would I expect these Friday nights to stretch into Sunday mornings?" Father reared back in his chair, attempting to look casual at his implications.

"I think I understand the nature of your question, and no, Father, it's not my intention to leave my son and my family" Vincent paced the carpet, head down, hands behind his back, juggling his wishes with reality.

Father pushed books around his desktop as if it movement would distract Vincent from Father's words, "It's only that my concern, our concern for your safety grows every hour you stay above. Diana's building is more exposed"

Vincent's downturned head tilted to meet Father's eyes, "More exposed than Catherine's apartment?" he shook his head of full golden red hair and wryly replied, "Diana's building is in an industrial area, and her roof is somewhat sequestered"

"A rooftop? My god, have you lost your mind?" Father's clenched fists dropped to his lap as Vincent's smile preceded his words. There was a beat a silence between them, as his smitten son knew he needed to allay Father's fears.

"I've lost my fear and our dinners inside are sublime" Vincent's admission didn't stun the older man. Jacob pursed his lips to answer then Vincent leapt in with, "In such an isolated world as mine I recognize every person I meet has had a purpose in my life. Some have tested me, some of used me, some have taught me."

Those people's names hovered between them in the cool tunnel air unspoken: Paracelsus, Lisa Campbell and Catherine.

"The ones most valuable to my heart, the friends I seek now are the ones with whom we bring out the best in each other." The arch of Vincent's brow told Father that Diana had carried on the loving labors Catherine had begun.

Father shuffled books about his desk as if his words were hidden on a script, then he spoke up, "Yet you admitted to me you would never enter Catherine's apartment…. And now you feel comfortable spending hours in Diana's loft?" this was truly a confounding revelation to Father, his emotions exposed by his stroking his beard as he leaned forward.

Vincent's only response was to perch a lean hip on the edge of the large desk and silently fold his muscular arms over his chest…as if to say "enough said" Vincent shrugged and threw up his hands, "Father, Diana's a mystery to unwrap, and we have no bond-"

"So you are flying blind as any man would navigate in a relationship" Father's face reflected the serendipitous memories of those confusing days as he imagined the landmines his son had ahead of him.

Vincent's expression reflected his own muddled mind, "I find myself second guessing every word, every gesture!" Vincent began to pace, "There are none of her emotions to gauge, I watch her eyes and they intoxicate me without any insight into her feelings. I find myself in love's mine field"

Father's eyes narrowed, as if to hold back what he surmised, drawing a fortifying mouthful of tea he swallowed and spoke his mind, "You love Diana, and Catherine's love made it possible"

The silence between them forged Vincent's consent.

Vincent felt haloed; knowing a window had opened on the tomb in his heart the second Diana's sunlight had shown.

Thursday evening Diana labored over her music collection. She self-consciously lacked the deep musical relationship she understood Vincent shared with Catherine. Her heart plummeted as she thought of the invitation hidden in the picture frame. "Bennett, you can't usurp a saint" she whispered as she shuffled around her quiet loft. All the perception she used for crime solving was worthless with Vincent and she knew he was stumbling without his empathic abilities.

Diana's love of music grew from Celtic music fiddled in the narrow backyards behind the row houses of her youth. She'd dance and run amidst the drunken throng to fall asleep with cousins and siblings on the skimpy back porch. As she grew the younger generation converted the entertainment to barroom Celtic rock that brought a flush to her cheeks. She could no more see Vincent lost in a céilí dance with her than have him walk down 5th Avenue at noon.

Flummoxed, she left her music collection to pay attention to Friday night's menu Sauerbraten, a solid cut from of bottom round that had been marinating for three or four days. All these weeks she had lived for her Friday evenings with Vincent. Each evening they snuggled closer or longer, his resolute spine softened, he'd use the sides and backs of his fingers on her arms or cheek to elicit furtive sighs. Vincent was silently changing.

She had come home from the gym and showered to throw on a pair of panties and one of her father's dress shirts, it had worn soft with washing in the years since his death. Measuring the red wine vinegar and the wine, she recounted how their intimacies were escalating. Just this past Friday he had left the top button on his pajama shirt open and she had awoken with her nose buried deep into his downy golden chest, inhaling all the spice and smoke of a life Below.

Handling the recipe's earthy aromatic spices, Vincent's scent returned to her heart, stirring primal warmth deep within her hip pockets, if she had been wearing shorts. Diana began to perspire at the thought of him and before she could wield the cleaver into the onions, celery, and carrots there was his unexpected tap at the roof window.

Her head jolted up as she dropped the knife to trot to Vincent. His substantial breadth and height filled the doorframe, long hair a golden aura around his pensive face. His breath came in short, shallow thrusts as he dropped his cloak inside the doorway. The power of his voice was only exceeded by the choice of his words.

"Diana, I need you" those three words only hastened her to fling her arms around his waist and press snugly to him. Within those few moments, they each imagined what tonight could hold. "I'm always here for you, Vincent" their eyes sought deeper into each other as they stood silently relishing their collective warmth. His heart beat pounded at her ear as she felt the corresponding thrum of his growing arousal at her belly. Vincent voraciously caught her face in his hands then shifted gears to gently lift her face for his anxious lips to graze hers.

First as a butterfly might hover they shared a breath then as a sliver of his unique tongue came to rest on her lip and she opened her lips and widened her stance. Slipping her right foot to the outside of his left foot he immediately felt her heat on his thigh and of course this gesture hadn't gone unnoticed on Vincent's part. The more he had decided to take the higher road of civility, the more frustrating his life had become. Choosing to recognize it wasn't a baser impulse to physically love the woman in his life. The kiss deepened.

Entwined in each other's arms Vincent buried his nose into the twist of crimson hair pulled back from her face. He caught the kitchen's bouquet on her and weighed which hunger was greater as he caught her up in his arms and made long strides into her living room.

His behavior surprised her, "It's not often you come to me on Thursdays, is everyone O.K.?" her eyes registered her concern as he stood silently in his decision process.

"Everyone's well, it's simply that I need you" his voice registered husky and dry with a desire that Diana did not recognize, he had never appeared at her door with this longing urgency.

Then he let her feet drop to the floor so he could unclip her barrette to let loose her two foot of lustrous flame colored locks. In silence Vincent's fingers caught thick hanks of it and held it out to the sides sift through his fingertips to let it fall; over and over he repeated this as he joyously gleaned the clean scent of her. His brilliant blue eyes widened as he cloaked her in hair, ravished by the sight of her so purely luscious.

Her whiskey colored eyes never left his, "Touch me, Vincent" she whispered as her fingers blindly unbuttoned her oxford shirt. The motion of his hands in her hair froze as the blue blouse slithered down her arms and he considered the scope of her entreaty.

Gracefully his work worn palms skimmed the tops of her shoulders. Their eyes followed his unhurried progress, sensing her flesh as her fine hairs rose to attention under his caress. "More, Vincent", she husked as her head fell back at the thrill of it. His hand fell to the obvious place on her lean swell of her hips and ascended up the graceful incline of toned flesh. His palms thrilled Diana and his ministrations caused a gasp that Vincent echoed.

"If I'm gauche, please excuse …it's my need to express my hunger …..for …you" Vincent whispered as his hands caught the globes of her breasts and they stepped closer together. His hands weighed her precious flesh with a curiosity that urged him to softly roll her blushing nipples between his thumbs and index fingers. This was her undoing.

"Vincent, I'm going to give you a week to stop that" Diana grinned at the sensation of his hands on her naked flesh and he abruptly froze, "that was sarcasm, Vincent" her eyes twinkled mischievously as he cautiously nodded and drew her back within his arms and closed his eyes at the wonder of what she bared to him.

"Babe, whatever possessed you to come to me like this tonight I am so grateful" Diana's fingers wove into Vincent's hair to draw him closer, "Could we move this dance of ours into the bedroom?" When their foreheads touched and they were nose to furred nose Vincent stole a kiss and nodded, only letting go of her to let her lead him into the dark bedroom. As her hand sought the light switch his great hand stayed her from flipping on the bedside lamp.

"Candles, please?" He huskily intoned a gentle request, not a command.

"I've seen your body, Vincent, it's magnificent I want to see more of it" Diana stood with her hands cupped over her bare breasts, until he shrugged. Diana turned to the sconces she had hung flanking her bed. She said a prayer earlier this year when she hung them, anticipating his need for candle light.

Diana's love for Vincent sparkled with each of the 4 candles she lit and when she realized he hadn't moved from within inches of the door frame she returned to his side, "Would you prefer to change in the bathroom . . . . . or may I undress you?"

She waited while he drew in a deep breath, "You humble me that you would desire to undress me". At their mutual smiles she pulled him to the bed and pressed his shoulders down until he sat. Lovingly she knelt to remove his boots and socks. She couldn't help but read the anxiety in his posture.

"Vincent, oh, my Vincent" she rose to her knees and pressed light palms on his clean yet work worn jeans, there she gazed into his dazzling eyes as they grew dark with his arousal. Diana wanted to express more ardor yet she feared being too brazen. Once she began unbuttoning his shirt she found his ruddy chest shining with a glaze of nervous perspiration. Vincent's hands began to unbuckle the ornate belt strapping his slim waist and Diana's hands halted his, her voice heavy with need, "If you only knew night after night in my bed I've dreamed of you, my soul adores you; I've craved you so long."

Vincent's hands fell away allowing her sure fingers to release one more impediment between them. When he fell back on the bed their communal sigh was the only music in the room. The boots were off, revealing the hand knitted socks and his feet. Diana held each one of them as she rolled down the socks, he bathed and the scent of ginger soap and aloe clung to the glistening hairs there.

She fought her innate need to trade places with him, to let him lead their dance. Graciously, he felt none of her confusion, simply her desire to undress him. She knew deep within her core that their winter was past; the pain of denial was over, gone.

His trousers drawn across his groin, strained over his tumescent flesh as Diana slowly drew down the zipper to find his abdomen smooth like granite. They shared a pensive smile and Vincent lifted his hips as she drew his pants off him by the hems. His toned flesh was everything she had daydreamed about. Unseen by sun its subtle golden glow was only marked with scars in a myriad of locations, his knees scuffed by play and work, his chest a runway of scars, the legends she couldn't bear to hear.

Vincent watched Diana lovingly, her soft pale hands casting out his ideas of foreplay and intercourse as a brutal taking. She possessed a touch like dove wings fluttering over his hungry flesh. Vincent barely felt her crawl alongside him until he felt his vest undone. Where had he gone in those scant seconds? He had laid his mind to rest that any ill could come of their sensual exchange and he'd relinquished all control to Diana.

Diana just wanted to visually devour Vincent, to beg him to relax clothed in only smile. She wanted to see every ripple of sinew as he moved. Standing over Vincent she bit her lip at the sight of his hand sewn linen boxers, "I knew there was something singular down there"

Vincent rose to his elbows – humorously perplexed, he was catching on to Diana's equal parts of affection, sensuality and humor. He saw his developing erection and wryly replied, "I can assure you there is only one" his eyebrows rose at his statement and he waited for a plucky response.

"You have only one pair of underwear?" She jibed at him, standing with her hands on her hips, her breasts buoyant with her laughter.

"Oh, for heaven's sakes, Diana, I have several pair, exactly like this" Now that humor had cut a chord of tension Vincent backed further up the bed to lie in the center, his arms welcomed her to his side. So she relieved him of his shirt and proceeded to worship his body with tender light strokes of her fingertips, they seemed to burn a trail.

Vincent's cool skin tempered the wet heat of her anxious perspiration; he energized her while Diana combed her fingertips across his golden furred pecs, curling nails into him hard enough to leave a print on him. There on that bed, in their safe place Vincent stretched beneath her, sighing hard in his approval. She drew to him, longing to feel the flex of his obliques against the insides of her thighs, as he lay under her.

They each had their reasons to extend their pleasures, she wanted to make him remember each instant of their rise and fall into bliss while Vincent wanted to hear her cry out his name. Diana wanted to make Vincent hang on the edge of his crescendo until his consciousness went hair-thin. Her sensual confidence spoke, "You won't make me beg will you, Vincent?" and his answer was simply a rumbled chuckle emitted deep within his heaving chest with a shake of his head.

The tide of their love crushed them, rolling them into each other's arms, lips meeting and parting, tongues flitting to tease and with an uncanny inspiration Diana discovered his upper lip's delicate cleft and reduced Vincent to a sweet surrender. Vincent caught her pale shoulders and shook his head – bringing them back to reality, "All the way here tonight my one burning question was would your arms open wide and welcome me into you?"

Diana's arms spread wide, "With everything I am, Vincent, this is the love I want too, I need to share it with you" As they kissed in a heated embrace they moved closer to claiming their love.

She drew one of his hands onto her breast, covering that hand with hers for just a moment before she lifted his index finger in her mouth, he nestled the heel of his other palm over the panties covering a thatch of russet hair at the junction of her thighs. He stroked lightly as she shook her head, "NO, not me, not yet, Vincent this is for you" When he grinned at not stopping Diana demurred with a sly grin, "just stop that! For once, you're really mine"

Teetering on following her request Vincent took his wet finger out of her pursed lips to draw a lazy circle around her navel then trail his nail lightly up the center of her belly. She had sidetracked him with all of these new sensations that rode over and over him like the ebb and flow of the tide. Spontaneously Vincent caught her hand and leisurely licked at each finger, holding firm as he suckled each tip until she was panting, her hair splayed loose over her shoulders like a cloak. Vincent had never experienced the sensation of Diana's hair titillating his skin and now the sumptuous length of her freshly dried hair slid over him exciting a mass of novel sensations.

Diana bent forward, hips grinding into his as her lips met his. Wet slow kisses become deeply soulful and lingering as his hands drew to her hips and she noticed his clawed fingertips had been blunted so he could safely dance over her delicate flesh. The slippery slide of her panties over the soft linen of his underwear reminded them…..they were still clothed. Diana's cheeks pressed over his flat belly and he urged Diana to slide back, back, back further until she sat on his thighs.

"One last thing" Diana left her perch and spun to turn around, her fan of long locks shielded the rear view Vincent desired, he slid over to the bed side, knowing these garments were the last stop. As Diana slid her panties down, Vincent's fingers threaded into her hair, pulling it aside to see the dimples above her buttocks, she looked at him over her shoulder, "Caught you looking" and she dropped to her knees at his feet, her splayed fingers landing on the linen of his undershorts.

"One last step, Vincent, with your word, these" she patted the linen, "are gone" There was Diana's honesty, alive in her doe eyes as she kneeled naked before him. She left their romance in his hands. Before he could speak he rose and thumbed the waistband of his undershorts down inch by inch. His eyes called to hers, then as if he was asking her to see him, his eyes dropped to all he was revealing.

Before her eyes, even in the candlelight her breath caught at the sight of him. The play of candlelight danced over golden tan flesh. From a nest of thick curls sprung his proud phallus throbbing to life. His expression perplexed Diana; he seemed shyly needing reassurance that all he presented to her was acceptable.

Acceptable? He was Adonis, he was David! Vincent was the embodiment of mythical masculinity. Fine golden hair covered his chest dwindling to his navel then widening to his thick bush of pubic hair. She really tried not to stare at what hung at her eye level, yet it called to her. It seemed to ask her to grasp his muscled legs and press a single kiss to the broad head of his erection. As she leaned toward doing that Vincent caught her under her arms and lifted her to stand with him.

Together, wordlessly they fell back onto the bed upon her, slipping low between her legs he lowered his face against her belly with a long moan. The broad breadth of Vincent's tapered torso found his home as her thighs fell wide. Diana's breath heaved at having Vincent this close, being under him together! In mesmerized silence they quivered at being on the verge of this step in their lives. With this yielding to each other they secured the permanence of their love

"Please, Vincent, don't wait, I can't wait . . . . . Believe and let go" Her hands sought his face to pull him up, to kiss his lips at the moment he entered her. Their sexual tension developed to a point of blurred perceptual reality. As their world became hazy Diana pictured her world "slipping away."

To yield totally was to believe in their love and their possibilities, and let go of what was...their adventure to explore. Mesmerized by the scents and sensations of their bodies together Vincent trailed kisses and dragged a fang or two across her jaw. He reveled in the giggles and kisses he earned from his loving attention. Within Vincent's heart he accepted this was divine; this was electrifying and oddly he processed this was pleasure he had never experienced with this confidence.

Their sweat mingled as his steely length sought home within her welcoming, petalled flesh. Diana urged him deeper, calling his name with a whispered breath her knees rose to invite him. The salvation of her warm flesh surrounding him cleansed away any reticence he brought this night. This was true and this was theirs alone.

Diana's perception fading she sighed, as if to herself "Let go," if there was any insecurity or lack of trust in their relationship, she may have subconsciously pulled back and not "let go" as she had with past lovers however this was Vincent, the fantasy man that had vivified her reality.

Vincent's empathy grasped for some semblance of how deep or how hard to move and finding nothing he relied on reading the joy in Diana's face. He cherished the flush over her breasts and the tight and her wet warmth grasping his turgid flesh as he tried to retreat from her. Her hands grasped at his clenched buttocks as she breathed "yes, yes, yes", eyes wide open. This was all the evidence he needed to find the cadence in their dance. As Vincent moved them towards completion, he leveled his escalating breath and rolled over, still buried deep within her. He was afraid of the speed of his desire and pulled Diana over him to take the lead. It would be too easy, too quick for him to finish this too soon.

A deep sigh registered between them as she giggled with a wink and set her wet lips to dance over his furred chest. Riding Vincent's hardness Diana arched her back in ecstasy, dusting his legs with waves of her hair adding to his myriad of new sensations. Diana mused, how much longer would he last with her tight and wet, clutching, and stroking the juice right out of him?

"D….i…a…n…a", His entreaty ran out of him as winter's honey would drip from a spoon. She knew it, she had prayed for it, and she had all his desires pegged as if by number. Diana played him like a cello, holding him between her legs, caressing his torso, hands strumming his body while he responded to her with strong upward thrusts. Only in his abandon could he throw his head side to side, mouth wide open in anticipation while his hands held her surely to him.

Thrown toward the heavens together they savored the crescendo of their beautiful music. Sated and flushed as she leaned forward to kiss him and stroke back his golden hair Diana quivered as her body floated to earth. Vincent did everything possible to stay deep within her, never wanting to leave her heat.

"Don't….not yet" he begged almost silently as he twisted and gently brought her beside him. Their kiss stung lips met in a crush and they listened to the music of their world settle around them.

The predawn light set a glow to her skin; it was the first image burned into Vincent's waking eyes. They were entangled with each other as he stirred, self-conscious at his morning "salute" pressing into her creamy thigh.

"Good morning" Diana whispered huskily as her hand left the warmth of his side to comb back the hair from his face. She savored the sunlight on the planes of his sculptured face, the slant of his brows and the glistening hairs on his nose and cheeks. Then set perfectly within his handsome sculptured face were those blue, blue eyes of his. They had such softness this morning. Vincent and Diana had never been this close, literally and figuratively. Feeling him hard against her she happily sheltered his hard length with tender strokes of her hand.

"Thursday nights will, never ever be the same, Diana" his warm breath bathed her with his words as he wrapped his arms tighter around her. They had found their Eden.

"True, true are you ready for our date tonight?" she twisted within his arms to spoon her backside to his warm groin, her back to his waiting downy chest.

Vincent shifted to take advantage of bonding as much of her to him as possible. He sounded almost philosophical as he weighed his comment, "It is Friday isn't it?"

"Ahah, Babe, why?" Diana was ready to fall back into that place between awake and sleep with her head pillowed on his biceps.

"Friday is…Dies Veneris – day of Venus – the Goddess of the Love and Life" Vincent's husky voice shuddered in his chest as he began drawing her hair with his fingers to cover them like a fan. He savored playing with her hair as he felt a giggle burgeoning from deep inside her before she expressed the reason for her laughter, "My dear are you well?" his concern rose from that disconcerting lack of a "bond". In his mind the past 12 hours had been Heaven, what was she feeling?

"Day of Venus, huh?" Diana licked at her morning dry lips before she sought his eyes over her shoulder. Then she calculated she might want to see his full expression, body language and all before she spoke. She wiggled to turn within his arms, inserting her knee between his muscled thighs. Carefully settling again she inhaled the spicy sent of last night's ardor, "I was hoping we could make Fridays….a day of something else"

"Something else?" In his inimitable seriousness he grew silent, his head tilted inquisitively.

"Well it rhymes with Venus." Diana shrugged closer into his embrace and her hand attempted to grasp the object of her desire.

"You are incorrigible." He proclaimed falling back in laughter.

"And I am yours….all yours, Vincent."

"For which I am eternally grateful, Diana."

1) Funeral Blues by W H Auden

2) Toad the Wet Sprocket / Walk on the Water

*The early editions of The Joy of Sex were sketches.