by Nancy Lynn Knauff
("Beauty and the Beast" and its original characters are the creation of Ron Koslow and is owned by Republic Pictures and its owners. This story is written strictly for the enjoyment of fans, and no infringement is meant in any way.)
In his arms, all was right with the world.
The song ended, and so did their waltz. Catherine almost didnt notice. She was so wrapped up in the feeling of dancing with Vincent. He had such a grace about him that thrilled her to no end, and his footing was always sure. Not to mention his strength, just below the surface when they were close to each other. She was captured by his very presence.
The Winterfest celebration was always an experience unlike any she had ever witnessed or participated in before or since. But this year was special. This year she was indeed celebrating. She- actually, everyone, not just her- were celebrating the continuance of life. To be specific, the life of the man she loved above all else.
Vincents satiny voice broke through her revelry. "Catherine? The music has stopped."
She shook her head, lightly chuckled. She looked up into pools of breathtaking blue eyes. "Oh. I almost forgot. My mind was elsewhere."
He turned his head to one side, characteristically for him. She never tired of that look he gave her. It was a look that shone in many different ways, with many different emotions. Right now it spoke of bemusement with a hint of the love he always held for her. He slightly smiled, one that only she could truly see. "Elsewhere, Catherine?" he spoke, just short of a teasing tone to his voice. One arm let go of their dancing embrace. She couldnt help but notice his reluctance to move anywhere away from her. The other arm moved to encompass her back, as he steered her through the mass of friends. "Come."
The couple headed toward the sidelines as the musicians prepared to take a break. There were many other couples dancing this special evening, but it seemed they were receiving more of their share of attention. Catherine knew Vincent was a bit uncomfortable with this, but had gradually relaxed enough to ask her to dance.
They found several people flocked around Father and another friend playing a spirited game of chess. Vincent studied the board from afar a moment, then shook his head as he chuckled. "Is Father winning?" Catherine asked him. "Or is Peter beating him once again?"
"Being trounced would be more appropriate." She laughed at his remark as they moved on.
Sebastian was still doing his magic tricks, much to the delight of the children surrounding him. Others were clustered in areas of the Great Hall, chatting amiably, tunnel dwellers and Helpers alike. All around them was a wave of good will and happiness that penetrated Catherines bones. It was a great feeling, one that Vincent seemed to share in as well through their bond.
She has so much joy in her, Vincent thought to herself as his beloved started chatting with one of their many friends. He knew that Catherine had looked forward to this years Winterfest- her second- ever since the summer had ended. It was a time of cheer, she had told him when he had brought her candle invitation to her. He knew what she had meant. It was a time to rejoice- rejoice in their triumph over death. He hardly suffered from the nightmares now, and when he did he would always wake to feel his precious Catherines presence close to him, even if she was Above. Indeed, their bond grew stronger everyday. He marveled at the miracle it was.
He continued musing as they made their rounds through the hall. Everyone it seemed wanted to chat with them. Many of the Helpers Vincent hadnt seen since his breakdown that summer, and they all wanted to spend some time with him. It had taken forever before he had the opportunity to ask Catherine to dance. They hadnt been given the chance last year to do so during the celebration, and Vincent was not about to give up the occasion this year. Once they had made it to the dance floor though, everyone seemed content to observe in awe and tranquillity.
Catherine and Vincent had made it to a table and had finished sampling Williams wonderful cooking when the musicians picked up their instruments again. "Would you care to return, Catherine?" Vincent murmured low in her ear.
"With you, always," was her reply. She didnt need to say it, her beautiful grey-green eyes told him everything, let alone what he felt through the bond. He took the glass of wine from her hand and escorted her back towards the dance area. At the edge, just out of plain sight, something caught his eye, and he carefully stopped her.
Vincent whispered her name so softly she could barely hear it. She looked up once more into his expressive eyes. "Umm? Yes, Vincent?"
He gestured with a nod of his head. "Look."
She glanced in the direction he had indicated. Above them on the hanging candelabra was a sprig of mistletoe. She stared at it as her mind stalled for a moment. Did Vincent even know what its significance was? Would he attempt it? He was so reserved with expressing his affection toward her, especially in public.
Suddenly, Catherine understood. They werent directly under it, just off to the side. A sudden wave of disappointment washed through her. Of course; Vincent had probably noticed it before and stopped her before she walked under the sprig. Mentally she cursed. It had been a perfect evening until now.
Vincent felt Catherines disappointment, then her attempt to mask it. His own heart ached. Of all she had given him, she asked for so little in return. She deserved nothing but happiness, especially on this joyful occasion. He glanced lovingly at her; the simple yet elegant soft pink dress, the bodice just low enough to accent her breasts, and the way her crystal necklace nestled there just between them, moving slightly with each breath she took. She was a vision, completing this magical night. The fact that she loved him- him!- so completely, so utterly, gave him the courage to move forward once more.
An arm still around her waist, Vincent ushered her two steps forward directly under the mistletoe. Everyone else in the room vanished in his mind as he looked into Catherines surprised eyes.
His soft voice, low and huskier than normal, penetrated her mental fog and confusion. "Do you know the tradition?" he asked her.
Do I know?! Catherine was tongue-tied. What was he doing? She finally managed to stammer, "Vincent, you dont have to-"
The clawed finger on her supple lips silenced her. As she watched in awe, Vincent took her head in his hands, gentle fingertips holding her chin in place. He turned her head ever so slightly and slowly leaned in toward Catherine. Her heart was fluttering, anticipating his every move. They both closed their eyes at the same time as he leaned his head in the opposite direction, then there was nothing else as Vincent pressed his unique lips to her own.
Their kiss was nothing short of electricity. Catherine had assumed this would be a short chaste kiss. Was she ever wrong. Vincents mouth closed in on hers passionately, full of his absolute love for her. The bond between them exploded in a whirl of emotion from both of them. She wrapped her own arms around his neck, into his beautiful mane. Vincents response was to bend her slightly backwards, pressing his lean body into her willing own. His breath was warm and inviting, everything she remembered and cherished from their past kisses. But this one surpassed them all. She felt herself drowning in the love and passion that was him, and it delighted her to no end.
All too soon, Vincent pulled back to look down at her again. She opened her eyes and saw a mischievous look in his unique face, shining along with the affection that never left him. Both of them were out of breath. There was silence, yet the bond spoke volumes. Then Catherine realized that they werent alone. Quickly, she glanced around the hall.
Everyone in the Great Hall was in shock, all eyes on the two. Father had stopped playing chess, stood from his seat and was staring, mouth slightly ajar. Peters eyes lit up like the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Mary looked close to tears of joy, and all the kids around her were giggling. Jamie and several others were smiling at both of them. Poor Mouse looked so confused it was almost comical. Catherine saw in each one of them a serene happiness for both of them. There were no recriminations, no looks of disgust. Even Father after a moment, sat back down, and finally smiled. The moment was perfect.
Vincent was still watching her. She glanced back at him. "Vincent," she whispered, "everyones looking at us."
She saw the devilish glint in his sapphire eyes before he softly replied, "My mind was elsewhere." She giggled herself as they headed back to the dance floor. The musicians returned to their playing and Winterfest went on.
But, in Vincents arms, with the memory of that devastating kiss fresh in her mind, Catherines mind was spinning. Vincent had kissed her for the first time in public. It was a step for them a long time in coming. And it had been wonderful. She knew that he had accepted it, and felt no shame. That alone made her heart soar with pride and love. As her emotions flowed through her, Vincent responded by holding her tighter as they danced. She locked eyes with him, their love almost palpable. Yes, all was indeed right with their world.