Chapter 1: So Lately…
The streams of Daybreak through the hospital window shades awoke Cat for the first time since falling unconscious in her car…on the road…in the middle of nowhere. The memory jerked Cat more fully awake; pushing herself up, she looked around the bland room – understanding why she was here on one level and not understanding it on another.
He was all that made sense. He was the only explanation she had. He was the only explanation she wanted.
After staring at the window for some time, waiting, wishing he would appear, Cat soon turned towards the door and imagined him in the doorway. He was in his long green jacket, his blue hat in his pocket, leaning against the doorframe simply staring back at her. He was here with her.
And yet, he wasn't.
Cat didn't know how long her eyes were fixed to that one spot, but it felt like longer than anytime she had waited for him before. Soon, the sunrays rose above the window and highlighted the door's empty glass frame. Cat was sure now the sun took delight in mocking her; waking her up for the first time just to prove that he wasn't there.
Darkness came over her. With her eyes closed, Cat could see his face more clearly than when she imagined him leaning against the doorframe. His stunning blue eyes, his bangs across his face, his long scar…
Only then did she remember why she was in a car in the first place. Their night was not supposed to end like it did. She knew that. She had to find him before the night ended to make it right; to say it didn't matter, to say he was worth the risk.
Regret forced her eyes to pop open. Not allowing herself to look at the door or the window again, Cat turned to the bedside table on her left. It was filled with flowers bouquets. Somehow, she knew which ones were from him.
Instead of the over-the-top, showy bouquets that stood tall against the back edge of the table, his bouquet was the shortest and smallest, the one nearest to her pillow. For the first time since she woke, Cat smiled. When she felt a blush creep into her cheeks, she pulled her covers up to her nose until her focused eyes were her only facial feature showing. The square vase held the red roses tightly together, some of their green leaves perfectly curving around the side. Cat only disengaged from her staring when she noticed the note sticking out of it.
Quickly, excitingly, Cat sat straighter in her hospital bed. She took the note from its holder and tore it open as fast as she could.
Get well soon. Your other family
misses you. The loft is not the
same without your constant intrusions.
V & JT
Cat's smile grew as she read the note, her blush deepening with it. Though it felt like they had been a family for a long time, their note was the first time any of them acknowledged the fact. She was surprised at how much a simple statement could make her feel so complete.
Her engrossment in their note, or perhaps her confinement to a hospital bed, faltered Cat's senses to his presence.
For when he finally did appear in her doorway, just as she imagined, Cat took no notice of him at all.
Tess' lack of her partner, her best friend's presence, made her mood worse each day of her absence. She moved her head unconsciously, finding the time in the corner of her computer screen. It was only eight fifteen and she was already longing to leave work without arresting anyone today.
Hearing approaching footsteps, Tess' annoyed thoughts rolled out of her mouth. "Why can't you let this go?" Still staring at her computer clock, Tess addressed her desk visitor without looking up at him.
"What?" Evan asked with a smile. "You don't even know what I was going to say."
"I know it wasn't about Cat." Tess finally looked up at him. "And I don't have a case right now. So, yes, I do know what it was about."
Evan sighed. "I just thought you might be interested in tracking him down. You are the one who told me about him after all."
"I said I was interested in your grant money, not in your investigation." Her gaze went back to her computer just in time to see the numbers turn. She thought she would smile when they did, or at least feel relieved, but all she felt was the added weight she was caring around ever since Cat's accident. "And I'm really not interested in being your replacement for Cat and your special 'off-the-grid investigations.'"
"Tess…" Evan added empathy to his voice.
Shaking her head in disapproval, Tess took her long coat from the back of her chair and began putting it on. "It's been days. If you don't have a strong lead now, you know you're not going to find it."
"How can you say that, Tess? Being a cop who chases down leads all the time."
Tess shrugged, clearly displaying her lack of interest in her job without her partner. "I see what holding on to things like this does to people. Trust me." Feeling her jacket's pressure on her hair, she reached backward to free it. Once she flipped her hair forward, Tess grabbed her keys and stepped away from her desk. "This doesn't end well," she warned, turning back to him.
"Where – where are you going?" Evan called after her as she turned her back to him a second time.
Without changing her pace or stopping to look back at him, Tess replied. "Where do you think I'm going?"
Instead of alerting Cat to his presence, Vincent took the opportunity to stare at her. Like he had so many times before, watching her simply breathing could sooth him. For days, he was waiting to see her awake, waiting to talk to her, to apologize, to tell her she was worth the risk. Now that he was here, however, staring at her conscious figure, he was at a loss as to what to say.
Before long, Cat's senses, her pull towards him, told her he was physically here. Finally. Her breath caught when she raised her eyes to his.
"Hey." She greeted him simply.
Vincent smiled, relieved to hear her voice. He took a step towards her and repeated her words softly. "Hey."
"What are you doing here?" Cat asked the routine question she asked him every time he came to see her.
"You know," Vincent walked further into her hospital room, taking a seat near her bedside. "Asking me that is pointless. I'm always here to see you."
Though flattered, Cat couldn't help letting out a small laugh. Even though she knew that much about his behavior, she hoped he knew her constant question had more to do with his safety than his motives in coming to her. Her laugh, small as it was, sent pain through her torso, making her gasp in discomfort.
Vincent's eyes widen as he watched her instinctively place her hand on her rib cage. "Catherine…"
The concern in his voice touched Cat more than she wanted it to. Automatically, their eyes met again, and she could feel his attempt to reach out, to caress her in his loving expression. Most of all, she saw his pain at her suffering.
"Hey," Cat reached out, took hold of his hand, and squeezed it. "I'm okay. It's okay."
Her hand was warm and soft. Vincent could never get used to her touch. "No. It's not." He leaned closer to her, returning her hand squeeze. "It's not okay. This is my fault. I should have answered when you called. I should been there before any of it happened."
Watching his irrational guilt, Cat placed her palm on his cheek. "Vincent, you saved my life. Again. This isn't your fault. You can't follow me all the time."
"Yes, I can. Obviously I should."
"No you shouldn't." Cat whispered. "I need to have my own life sometimes and, you know, so do you."
So many responses came to Vincent that he ended up speechless again. Responses like she was his life, that he would gladly go wherever she went, that she didn't understand how much her accident was his fault.
"What happened to me wasn't your fault." Cat echoed his thoughts.
"Yes it was." Vincent stated strongly. "I gave you that case. I brought the two of you together. I didn't answer when you called telling me you were in trouble."
Cat's blush crept into her cheeks again. "Actually, that's not why I was calling you."
Knots formed instantly in Vincent's stomach when his gaze snapped to hers. Emotions and images from her father's wedding stirred in both of them.
"Catherine…" he begged.
"Cat?" Tess' voice interrupted their moment. Quickly Cat let go of Vincent and he sat up straight, automatically looking for the nearest exit.
Tess smiled, barely from seeing her friend awake, but more due to catching Cat trying to hide closeness with a nameless stranger.
"Your doctor said you were awake." Tess observed, her arm out to allude to Vincent. "And look, you have a special visitor already."
A/N: Just FYI, Alex (The woman we're all dreading or hoping to see), will not play a part in this story. I have other storyline lines to play out. Chapter 2 is already written, so as soon as I'm told to update, I will!