Not With A Bang, But A Bullet

by Julie A. (Davis) Richards

(A prequel to and inspired by Beth Adams' Lionhearted)


Catherine's hiking boots slipped on the lose stone and she started to slide sideways before catching herself, just as Vincent grabbed one of her out thrown hands she had instinctively raised for balance. Getting her feet back under her and regaining her balance, she looked up and flashed a smile at him.

Vincent smiled back. "Just a little farther, Catherine, and we will be there."

"It'll be nice to camp at one spot for a couple of days, as I admit, I've not done much involved with nature for years. But I've really enjoyed this trip so far, Vincent."

He felt the truth of her words, the honest emotion echoing down the Bond, and squeezed her hand, taking a moment to wrap one arm around her and gave her a gentle hug.

An hour and a half later found them at the spot Vincent had chosen to bring his beloved to for their vacation. Catherine had two straight weeks off and had opted to spend almost all of it Below. Vincent had taken the opportunity to plan an eleven day camping excursion to a place he'd found a few years earlier.

The cavern was enormous, the largest Vincent, as well as Catherine, had ever seen. It was filled with several cascading falls, ending in a lake. Off to the right, steam could be seen curling up from some natural hot springs, which ran down into another pond that mixed with the lake, and then cascaded into a couple of others. Most interesting of all was the amount of light in the chamber.

Catherine was absolutely stunned. She looked over at Vincent, who had one of his rare true smiles on his face.

"I thought you would appreciate it."

"That's hardly the word I would have chosen, Vincent." She replied breathlessly.

Vincent took the packs, some real hiking and camping gear Catherine had purchased, and began to set up camp not too far from the hot springs pools.

After four days of setting up and breaking down camps, they were pretty good at the teamwork effort and each parted for their duties. Although this time, they set up the tent, something that had them laughing and giggling over for two hours before they finally figured out how to get it up correctly.

With camp all set up, they were content to lean up against some rocks near their tent and gaze out at the falls. Vincent began explaining why there was so much light, pointing to actual holes in the ceiling where sunshine from the world Above was penetrating into the cavern.

"I've explored them, but they are far too small and deep for much of anything to come through other than the light, dirt, water, and a few bugs." He smiled over at Catherine.

"Well... just as long as it's safe for you is all that matters to me."

As the hours passed, they talked of their lives, dreams, hopes and desires, friends and family, the latest news from Devin, and many other topics. Vincent and Catherine never got to chat about the little ordinary things in each of their lives and they both realized while talking and listening to the other, how much was still hidden from each other after two years together. Stopping only to fix lunch, they continued.

"You have to admit, Vincent, that even if it wasn't Shakespeare who truly wrote all those poems and sonnets, that whoever did... he still knew a lot about the human... factor. Love, sorrow, loneliness, desire..."

"Yes. Yes, I do. And... it really does not pain me to know if Shakespeare did them or not. All that really matters it that they were written and have lived through the ages."

"And think about how, even the uneducated, the people who haven't studied them at all, can quote them. Those poems and sonnets are a universal language of the truths of all of humanity's emotions."

"It is so surprising to so many that when they think of love or expressing such deep emotions... one always has a tendency to think of Shakespeare. No matter how many times the poems have been... 'revitalized' in other people's works, it always seems to be remembered as it was first written..."

As the light faded and day turned to night, Catherine gave Vincent a surprise.

"I've been saving these especially for our three days here." And from the bottom of her pack, she pulled out three compressed, long burning Presto logs.

Vincent was astonished and then started laughing. "Is that why your pack was so heavy? I had wondered why it never seemed to get any lighter."

Vincent and Catherine gathered stones to place around a pit they had dug and when it was sufficiently dark enough, they lit the first log and blew out the candles they had used for lighting their previous camp evenings.

They snuggled in close together enjoying not only the warmth and light of the fire, but the warmth and light of their love. Vincent took out the book of poetry they had been taking turns reading to each other over the coarse of their camping trip and began.

** We are the hollow men / we are the stuffed men Leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when / We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless / As wind in dry grass

Or rat's feet on broken glass / In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without color, / Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed / With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us - if at all - not as lost / Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men / The stuffed men.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams / In death's dream Kingdom These do not appear / There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column / There, is a tree swinging

And voices are / In the wind's singing

More distant and more solemn / Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer / In death's dream Kingdom

Let me also wear / Such deliberate disguises

Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves / In a field

Behaving as the wind behaves / No nearer -

Not that final meeting / In the twilight Kingdom

This is the dead land / This is cactus land Here the stone images / Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man's hand / Under the twinkle of a fading star

Is it like this / In death's other Kingdom

Waking alone / At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness / Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone.

The eyes are not here / There are no eyes here In the valley of dying stars / In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost Kingdoms / In this last of meeting places

We grope together / and avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river / Sightless, unless The eyes reappear / As the perpetual star

Multifoliate rose / Of death's twilight Kingdom

The hope only / Of empty men

Here we go round the prickly pear / Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear / At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea / And the reality

Between the motion / And the act

Falls the Shadow / For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception / And the creation

Between the emotion / And the response

Falls the Shadow / Life is very long

Between the desire / And the spasm

Between the potency / And the existence

Between the essence / And the descent

Falls the Shadow / For Thine is the Kingdom

For thine is / Life is

For Thine is the / This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

"I never understood a lot of that poem before college. And then, one of the humanities professors had our class extrapolate it and... I think it really drove home to me about symbolism and such hidden language in between words."

"Yes, I too had trouble understanding this work as well. But the ending... I think Elliot knew a bit about the human factor as well."

He set the book aside and they sat in silence, enjoying the others company, eating dinner, listening to the cascading water and the crackle of the fire, for several minutes.

Somewhere into the fourth hour of the burning log, Catherine turned towards Vincent. Her eyes caught the enchantment of the firelight glistening off his long mane, dancing in his eyes, and seemed to soften his face even further than the light fuzz around his features.

Noticing her stare, Vincent turned to her. The firelight seemed to make her even more stunning. The honey hair seemed to have a halo around it, her eyes flickering with the flames. Light and shadow played over her features.

Catherine moved closer to him, her hand reaching up to caress the side of his throat, following the jugular down into the hollow and onto his exposed chest above the clothing he wore.

Vincent closed his eyes, reveling in her touch, making him shiver. He was aware of her movement, but by the time he opened his eyes, he'd already felt the pressure of her lips taking the place of her fingers. Instinctively, his arms came up and around her, pulling her closer.

Catherine took this as a good sign and continued to kiss his throat. She moved upwards slowly, bringing her hands up and began to run them through his thick mane. She kissed his cheeks, his nose, his closed eyelids, and then his forehead.

Vincent moaned slightly with the sensations she was causing in him. The feeling of her so close to him, the passion and love he felt from her for him through the Bond as well as in the physical sense, everything was stunning him into a stupor.

One of Catherine's hands found its way through the layers of clothing he wore and began caressing his chest. She could feel his heartbeat and breathing quickening and looked up into his face, his mouth slightly open and his eyes half closed.

Seeing her look at him, Vincent brought his head over to hers. Her breath was warm and humid against his face in the cool chamber. Tentatively and very shyly, Vincent's mouth closed over Catherine's and each lost the breath in their bodies as the sensations within each overcame them. Neither wanting the kiss to end, they had to stop in order to gain the breath they had lost.

"Catherine..." Vincent gasped in utter astonishment. "I... I can't... believe what I am feeling."

For her answer, Catherine just looked at him, smiling. Then she looked back at his mouth, one hand coming up to caress his cheek and down his throat and around his neck to run through his hair, while the other continued to caress his chest.

Vincent brought one trembling hand up to her cheek and repeated the gesture she had done to him, ending with bringing his hand back to her neck and pulling her towards him. Vincent's mouth once again captured Catherine's.

She opened her mouth to allow him to drink deeply of her. When he hesitated, seeming to not understand, Catherine prodded his lips with her tongue. After a moment, he parted them and she probed him slowly and near his fangs. Vincent opened his mouth even wider after the astonished shiver she felt run through him and she allowed herself to go in deeper. Soon, Vincent was repeating the experience on her.

Catherine untied the strings of the top shirt he wore, parting the fabric to allow her more access to his chest, running her hands over the hair, her fingers sending shiver after shiver of emotion through Vincent.

He opened his eyes, wrapped his arms loosely around Catherine and turned her sideways and laid her down on the cloak they had been sitting on next to the fire. She never stopped the caresses and when her back was firmly on the ground, she pulled him closer, her mouth claiming his once more.

Catherine wanted to touch more of him, one hand trying to find access to his stomach, wanting to curl her arm around his back and pull him ever closer.

Vincent felt all of Catherine's longing and desire. Still kissing her, he broke contact only long enough to take the layers of shirts off, before coming back down to her. Catherine's hands immediately wrapped around him, pulling him close, caressing, kneading, rubbing, and fondling his back, chest, and shoulders.

By this time, Vincent was experiencing emotions he had never even dreamed of. He was fighting himself to remain in control, yet it was a losing battle, one he wanted desperately to lose. Knowing he wouldn't be able to contain himself much longer, he picked Catherine up in mid kiss and carried her into the tent, placing her on the bed of sleeping bags.

Still kissing her, he felt her grasp his hands and move them from her waist and neck to her breasts. He stopped the kiss and looked at her, eyes questioning. Catherine grasped his hands and moved them over and around her breasts, encouraging him, letting him know what she liked, what she wanted, how she liked it.

Very shyly, he continued and was again stunned at the emotions coming from her. Then she moved and took her shirt off. Vincent's eyes widened at the vision she showed to him. Then she grasped his hands again, laying down, pulling him with her, and placed his hands on her breasts and encouraged him to continue.

Vincent began again to caress her, this time seeing the fair, soft skin underneath his hands. After a few moments, greatly daring, looking into her eyes, asking all the while, he slid her bra straps down her arms and kissed the skin that was reveled. Catherine brought her hands up to her front, unfastening the bra and set it aside.

Again, stunned, Vincent's trembling hands were taken in hers and encouraged to caress the nipples and soft skin around them. After a few moments, daring again and looking into his beloved's eyes, he bent his head down and kissed her breasts. A moan escaped Catherine's lips and full of encouragement, he took heart and began to use his tongue.

After a few minutes, Catherine was wanting to scream at Vincent. She wanted him, she needed him. But she knew she had to go slow. This would be his, their, first time and Catherine knew that this time wasn't going to be perfect for him but knew that it was going to be wonderful and would open a doorway into the future for them. But she had to go slow or she might scare him and they would never get to this point again.

Several moments later, she pulled away a little and when he backed off a bit, she motioned for him to lay down. After a brief hesitation he did so, and she maneuvered to a more comfortable position in the small tent.

Vincent shyly watched as she took the rest of her clothing off and then laid next to him, turned sideways, her right breast crushed against his side, her left laying on his chest. Her bare left leg was thrown over his left, her left hand caressing his chest.

A bit tense and still very uncertain, Vincent wrapped his arms around her, one hand caressing her shoulder, arm, breast, neck, and face while the other was resting on her lower back.

After several minutes of getting Vincent to relax again and to have him become even more comfortable with caressing her, ever so slowly, the hand that had been caressing his chest made its way down past his stomach and began caressing his hardened manhood through the pants he was wearing.

Vincent's breath was coming faster, his heartbeat quickening. Wherever Catherine's hands were, he felt like he had been burned. Very slowly, he loosened his pants around his waist and guided her hand inside.

Catherine was ecstatic, but kept calm. Her hand gently caressed his groin area, getting him use to her touch and he relaxed further.

When Catherine finally touched him, Vincent's breath went out of him in a gasp. Never had he ever known that such a sensation would exist for him.

After a few minutes of Catherine caressing and fondling his hardness, he moved her hand away and took off the remainder of his clothes.

Catherine pushed herself up on her elbow as he laid back down, looking at him with the last of the dying fire. Then she began, slowly, to caress and kiss him all over, feeling his trembling body underneath her hands and lips.

Vincent's breathing was coming in gasps, his heart pounding. After several minutes, he was again caressing and kissing Catherine. Taking her encouragement, he began roaming around her body instead of staying at her breasts and head and began kissing her stomach, making his shy way down to caressing the hair in between her legs and kissing her inner thighs.

Finally, Catherine could stand it no longer. She gently pushed him down onto the sleeping bags and carefully straddled him. Slowly, she brought herself down onto him, moving his throbbing maleness around the outside of her vaginal opening, letting him get used to the sensations she was causing.

Vincent was totally lost in what she was doing with his hardened and throbbing flesh. And then something exploded inside of him as she pushed herself down onto him all the way.

As soon as Vincent was inside of her, she felt him lose control, felt his warm hot liquid fire pour into her as he called her name, part cry, part roar. Then she began rocking back and forth, knowing he had already climaxed, she still wanted to show him what it felt like.

Vincent forced his eyes open, watching Catherine. He brought his hands up and began caressing her breasts, rubbing his thumbs over her nipples and then using his hands to caress her buttocks. Instinctively, he began to move his hips in time with her thrusts and pulled her into him while at the same time trying to force himself deeper into her.

The rhythm she was setting had them gasping for air within a few short moments. Catherine had been hard pressed to control her own orgasm after all the foreplay and Vincent's climax, but she wanted Vincent to know what it felt like, what everything felt like.

Vincent felt something in his beloved beginning to spasm and felt liquid fire exploding all around himself, deep inside her.

Catherine was moaning, calling out his name over and over. Finally, spent, she collapsed down beside him and Vincent wrapped his arms around her.

"Catherine..." He was speechless. "I... I don't... know what to say. I never... I always thought that feeling such emotions would always be a mystery to me. That I would never experience them..." Vincent couldn't begin to put his emotions or his feelings or anything that was spinning around inside of him into words.

"Vincent... I knew that this time would come. I knew it with all of my heart and soul. I love you and you love me... it's natural for us to have reached this point. And now you can set aside your fears. You didn't hurt me and... you can't hurt me, Vincent. It's what I have been trying to tell you all along, my dearest Love." Catherine was looking into his eyes, deeply, trying to see if any shadows of any doubts lingered in him regarding them. Regarding being intimate.

Vincent let her look and through her, he looked at himself and into himself, and realized that he didn't have any. Those doubts and fears had evaporated, perhaps not in the first stages of the evening, but definitely by the time his body had exploded into hers with his climax. It was like he was looking through a doorway, one that he had never even realized was there until he passed through it.

They talked for a little while longer and then Catherine cuddled into Vincent, reveling in the whole feeling of him, without clothes, without barriers, and Vincent reveled with her. Soon, they found their energy returned to them and began again to explore the many possibilities that were finally open to them.

Needless to say, the rest of the camping trip was spent in ways that neither of them had ever dreamed of.

About two weeks later,

10AM, Sunday

Sara sank down onto the down comforter of her parents bed with her boyfriend's arms firmly around her waist and back. His breath was hot on her lips and then his mouth was on hers. Kyle's legs were straddling her and she had one hand wrapped around his neck while the other was finding it's way down into his running shorts.

"Oh, come on!"

The two figures remained embraced in each other's arms, unresponsive to the young woman laying on the couch in her living room.

In disgust, Aimee changed the channel and came across a cooking show and then a home decorating program followed by a church service.

"I hate Sunday's. Actually, there isn't anything worth watching on TV any day of the week. You'd think with seventy plus TV stations that there would be something worth my time to watch." Aimee stroked the fur of Abigail's terrier, KC, while she was speaking.

"Well, you could always go back to that first program, you know. It was at least going to get interesting." Piped in Randy, her "adopted" brother.

"You wish." Aimee said with force. "You can go back over to your house to watch it, but I'm really not into that, especially today."

Randy laughed. "Only because Matt is out of town and you are flat on your back for a couple of more days. I'm telling you, Aimee, you really should know better what you are capable of doing by now. And besides, if I left, who would you have to be your servant?"

Aimee threw one of her pillows at him, which he grabbed while still in the air and promptly threw it back at her, hitting her in the head, as she wasn't as fast or capable of catching it at the moment.

Randy looked at his friend with affection. "Would you like me to go and rent some movies, bring your laptop over, or get you some books or something?"

"Actually..." Aimee thought for a moment. "Movies do sound good. How about handing me the laptop and then getting me something to drink. Then you can go see what's available to rent."

Randy got up from his place on the floor where he'd been using the sofa as a backrest while working on a model airplane, making sure the newly glued piece was over the paper on the coffee table. Shaking his legs a little as he walked into the kitchen he asked her what she wanted.

"How about a 7UP? Do we still have some?"

After looking in the fridge and not finding any, he went over to one of the pantries.

"Yeah, but it's not cold. I'll put some ice in it and put the rest of them in the fridge for you."

"Thanks, Randy. What would I do without you?"

"No comment." He replied as he came back to the living room and handed her the tall glass, smiling.

Randy went into the bedroom and came back shortly with her laptop. Giving it to her, he plugged the electrical cord into the outlet behind the couch. Then he went over and grabbed his coat from the rack by the main entrance and stooped over to put his tennis shoes on.

"What do you feel like watching? And do you want me to do anything else while I'm out?"

"Wait a moment. There should have been a briefcase under the laptop, would you bring that here also, please?"

When he came back to her, she had the laptop running and was opening various programs. She smiled up at him.

"Think about what you want?" Randy leaned over to see what she was doing.

"Yeah. How about some real adventure types. Something Indiana Jonesy type... and whatever else you can think of or would like."

"How about groceries or anything? Mom and Dad will be over at various times tomorrow. Stephanie said she was going to stop by also. Martha and Terry will be over to fix lunch and maybe dinner and keep you company for a little while. Then I'll be back from taking the kids to practice and having dinner with them and Kristy.

"Oh, and someone called for you when you were soaking in the tub." Randy went over to the counter under the phone in the kitchen. Coming back, he handed her the note.

"She said it was important and when I said you weren't going to be going anywhere for a couple of days, she told me to let you know that she'd call you later."

"Catherine Chandler?" The name didn't ring any bells with Aimee.

"She said she's an assistant District Attorney and she needed to talk to you about a guy named..." Randy was trying to remember the name, the lady had only said it once and he didn't ask her to repeat it.

"... I think his name was Falla."

Randy had turned around and didn't see her face go pale. By the time he'd checked his airplane model and turned it over to allow more air to circulate around the drying wing, she had recovered enough that he didn't notice.

"Uh... unless you need anything in particular, Randy, I think I don't need anything." She responded, her mind still on the name of Falla.

"Ok." He replied on his way to the door. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't try and do anything or you'll be sorry." Randy pointed his finger at her and gave her another smile. "You remember what happened last time."

"Yeah... I do." And she gave her friend a smile as he left her apartment.

Aimee looked down at the note in her hand, Catherine Chandler. And then she noticed she was trembling. How did you find me? And what do you want to talk to me about? And then Aimee started shaking even more. If you found me, so can he. Then Aimee started crying.

 

9:30AM, Tuesday

Catherine dialed the number and again got the answering machine.

For someone who isn't supposed to be going anywhere for a couple of days... She thought.

Catherine gathered up the files regarding this particular case, grabbed her coat and purse, and preceded towards the elevator. Joe caught her going out the door.

"Hey Radcliffe. Where you going at this time of day, it's not time for lunch and it's definitely not time for you to go home?" He had that stern look on his face, but it was marred by the twinkle in his eye and the slight smile.

"I found a possible source of information regarding the Falla case you gave me. Her name's Aimee Polkman. I called her place on Sunday and her friend said she wouldn't be going anywhere because she'd thrown out her back. But every time I've called her since then I've gotten the answering machine. I'm going to see if she'll talk to me in person."

Joe nodded his head. "Sounds good."

10:15AM

Catherine arrived via taxi at the address listed for Aimee. It was in a fairly nice section of the city with trees lining both sides and there was a small park attached to a daycare center just down the block. Catherine gathered her files under her arm, readjusted her purse on her shoulder and went up the steps to the entrance. She opened the door and started up the stairs to C3. Knocking on the door, it opened a few seconds later to a lady dressed in office clothing.

"Hello, my name is Catherine Chandler, assistant District Attorney, I'm looking for Aimee Polkman." She smiled at the older lady, extending her right hand for a handshake.

"Hello. I'm Abigail Williams." The older lady looked a little uncertain. "Please, come in. Aimee's in the living room on the couch."

Catherine made her way into the well decorated apartment and saw another woman on the couch. Her head was turned to see who the visitor was and she had undoubtedly heard Catherine introduce herself.

"Hello Ms. Polkman. I've tried several times to get hold of you, but have only been able to get your answering machine." Catherine saw the phone next to the couch. Aimee saw her look.

"I haven't been returning anyone's calls, nor have I felt like talking much." Aimee looked over to Abigail.

"Thanks for stopping by and doing lunch, you know how much I hate this."

"Yes, Aimee, I know, but thank goodness you have friends and family to help you when it happens." The older lady gave her a warm embrace and kiss on the forehead. "I must get back to the office. Stephanie said she would be over to fix you dinner, but not to worry if it's after six before she gets here, as she's going to stop by the party." And with that, she picked up her things and started for the door, KC following behind with his leash dragging on the floor. She looked back at them, looking fixedly at Catherine. "Nice meeting you Ms. Chandler. I hope everything is alright." Then she turned back to Aimee. "I'll make sure Stephanie brings you back something from the party also. All of us will be thinking of you, sweetheart." And then she was gone.

The silence that followed was broken only by the stereo Aimee had playing and the slight hum of her laptop computer sitting on the side table where she could easily reach it.

Aimee sighed and looked at Catherine. "Why are you trying so hard to talk with me?"

"I'm trying to get some information regarding the business dealings of Trent Falla and, according to my research, you use to be fairly close to him. I was wondering if you could give me anything that may be of use to the case we're building against him." Catherine noticed how Aimee paled when Falla's name was mentioned.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Chandler, but I don't know anything of importance. I went out with him a few times after working in his company for several months. But then I was offered a better position and left. I haven't talked with him or seen him since I gave my notice."

"Aimee... Since I've mentioned his name you have gotten pale and started trembling. Obviously there's more to it than that. Whatever is causing such a reaction is bound to be of some use to us. If the information is vital enough or you are considered to be in any type of danger because of that information, we can put you in the Witness Protection Program. This man-" Catherine was cut off.

"I don't know anything. My reaction is not from the mention of my previous employer's name but due to the medication I am taking. He never discussed business matters with me, nor anything of his personal business or life. We went out to the movies, had some dinners, went dancing, and had some drinks together. There was nothing else." Aimee's voice started out a little stressed but by the end of the sentence she was calm.

Catherine didn't believe that Aimee didn't know anything. But she would have to go about this another way or continue to have walls thrown up in front of her.

"Well, thank you for your time, Ms. Polkman. If you should happen to think of anything that will be of help to our investigation or you just want to talk, here's my card." Catherine handed the cream colored oblong card over to her.

She stood up. "Can I do anything for you before I leave?"

"No... no. Thank you." Aimee smiled slightly. "I'm sorry I can't help you further, Ms. Chandler."

11:30AM

"She knows something, Joe. The moment I mentioned his name she started trembling and went three shades of pale. We need to know what that something is."

"I agree Chandler, but you know the rules as well as I. The only thing I can do at the moment is put her under surveillance, which we've already agreed on. Until something else happens or she decides to tell you what she knows or asks for protection, there isn't anything else we can do." Joe had that expression on his face, the one that said I-hate-this-as-much-as-you-but-rules-are-rules.

"Ok, ok. I'll just have to come up with some other sources until she decides to talk." She looked over at Joe. "Or something happens." And they both stared at the other for a moment in the silence that followed. Both knowing that in their business something always happened. Sometimes it was good... sometimes it was bad... and sometimes it was a combination.

5:30PM

Aimee had just been visited by some employees of Falla. They told her in no uncertain terms that, given how hard she had tried to disappear and that an assistant District Attorney had found her with little effort, Aimee hadn't tried hard enough to vanish. Aimee had thought she had escaped from their notice, but after that conversation, she knew that they had known all along where she was and how to find her. And more importantly, about everyone in her adopted family and her friends.

She took the card, now bent and rumpled, stained with her sweat of fear, from between the cushion and the side of the couch where she had hastily stashed it when the men had broken into her apartment. Aimee didn't consider herself a coward or someone of little courage, but she didn't consider herself someone of extra ordinary strength either.

It took Aimee a few minutes to talk herself into calling Catherine Chandler, but she finally picked up the phone, her hand shaking so much that she had to dial the number twice.

"Catherine Chandler."

Aimee took a breath. "Ms. Chandler... this is Aimee. You're right. I do know some things that could help your case. But..."

Catherine listened to Aimee talk, telling of the visitors she had today, what they had told her and promised would happen to her loved ones and herself, and a little bit of what she knew.

"Aimee, just on the basis of what you have told me, you can qualify for police protection and the Witness Protection Program. I'm going to send an officer over to your apartment, get a bag ready and we'll get your other things packed for you. Expect the officer to be there in about twenty minutes. I'm going to send a couple of policeman over to the Williams' place to make sure everything there is ok as well."

"Thanks Ms. Chandler." Aimee sounded just as tense now as she had at the beginning of the call.

"Try not to worry. The officer will be there soon."

5:45PM

The police car pulled up in front of the Williams' residence and one of the officers was just calling in their report while the other was heading around to the back of the house where the party could be heard, when there was an explosion. The front of the house became encased in fire and the force of the blast sent its windows spraying outward, the police officer to be throw to the ground, and various car alarms on the block to go off.

The officer using the radio changed his report in mid word calling for emergency vehicles and police backup.

5:50PM

The officer arrived and walked up to Aimee's apartment. She had been wobbling around, getting the bag packed, and had just sat down, sweating and in pain from the exertion, when the officer came in. He took her bag and helped her off of the couch, escorting her down to the waiting vehicle.

There was a car just across the street with two men sitting in the front seat. They saw Aimee and the bag and then started the engine. Following the police car to it's destination would be easy, they did it all the time.

As they were riding, Aimee staring out the window, the scanner gave additional information regarding the explosion. Aimee heard the address, the blood draining from her face.

"What happened? I need to get over there right now!" Aimee told the officer.

"I'm sorry ma'am, but my instructions are to take you to a safe house, no detours."

"But, you don't understand, that my friend's address, there was a party there tonight. I need to know what happened and if... if they're ok." Aimee was beside herself with what had happened and the implications of it.

The officer talked into the radio and got more details regarding the explosion. He looked over at Aimee and then asked to be patched over to headquarters.

"I have Aimee Polkman with me, transporting her to a safe house in regards to assistant District Attorney Chandler's instructions. The explosion that just occurred..." The officer continued.

Aimee listened to the conversation and went totally silent when the answer the officer got back was a negative to take her to the Williams.

"Continue on to the safe house, we'll make sure Ms. Polkman gets all the information she needs after she's there."

The officer gave her a sympathetic look and told her he knew this would be hard, but she needed to think about keeping herself safe.

For a moment, Aimee debated on getting out of the car at the next stop light. Who am I kidding? With this back I wouldn't get one foot out the door before he pulled me back in.

As they continued on, slow tears slid down her face.

"Please..." Aimee whispered, "please, let them be ok."

6:10PM

Catherine had left the office moments after making the arrangements for Aimee to be sent to a safe house and sending the police car over to the Williams' residence. Vincent had invited her to a concert Below and she was already late, although she knew he would understand.

She took a cab straight to her apartment but went immediately Below.

Seeing a bunch of construction tools and materials, Catherine reminded herself again that she was going to have to start using a different entrance to Below for a couple of weeks.

Coming down the ladder, she sensed his presence, like the sun appearing from up behind the clouds after a long period of rainy days.

Catherine walked into his embrace, snuggling into her usual place below his chin and feeling the warmth and peace he offered.

"Sorry I'm late, we just got a major break in a case that's going to put a very ugly man out of business."

"Yes, I know. I felt your determination all day, and then towards the end it was like a window opened to let fresh air into a stale room." Vincent stroked her hair and kissed her forehead, then ever so shyly kissed her lips. She sank into his embrace even further, drinking deeply of him.

After a sigh, Vincent broke away from her. "Come, let us see the concert and put away the day together. Tomorrow will come and you need to rest for it."

She smiled up at him and let him lead her through the tunnels to her own adopted family.

They took a short tour through the various common areas, greeting friends and chatting a bit, much like the talk that is done by friends and others attending a concert Above. However, when William found out that Catherine hadn't eaten anything since lunch, he fixed her a sandwich and a cup of tea and wouldn't allow her to leave the dining hall until he'd watched her eat the whole thing, much to Vincent's amusement.

They ended up in Father's Library only moments before the concert began, seated on a loveseat reserved for them, with children gathered around their feet. There was a quartet tonight and the selections they picked were very soothing to Catherine. She couldn't believe she was so tired, it being such a short time after that wonderful vacation, as well as only being Tuesday.

Vincent had felt that Catherine was tired and had immediately known when she had fallen asleep. He moved his arm and shifted his body just a little to give her a more comfortable position to relax in, not wanting her to get a crick in her neck.

The concert went on for about an hour and a half and no one noticed Catherine. He debated on letting her sleep after the concert ended, knowing he could carry her to one of the guest chambers without disturbing her, but he would have to wait until everyone was cleared from the room or make a spectacle of it.

The buzz of conversation began filling the room, interspersed with yawns of children and adults alike. Mary turned to look at one of the children and her eyes caught the site of Vincent and Catherine. She smiled and got Father's attention, motioning for him to look at them.

Father made his way over to Vincent.

"I see the concert did it's magic a bit too powerfully on one particular person." His voice was just above a whisper.

Vincent smiled, his voice not needing to be altered because of it's pitch to begin with.

"She has had a long week already."

"Perhaps you would consider having her stay in one of the guest chambers this evening, Vincent? Seems a shame to send her home in such a state." And Father left them.

Vincent smiled again. Yes, I would welcome Catherine to stay the night.

The chamber emptied very quickly and Vincent had his suspicions about that. Within just a couple of moments after the last person left, Vincent picked Catherine up in his arms, not disturbing her whatsoever, and carried her through the tunnels to the chamber she always used when she was Below.

He found candles already lit and the blankets folded down, a nightgown spread out on the bed. Vincent's suspicions were now confirmed. Mary. Or Father.

Vincent laid Catherine down on the bed, took her shoes off, and then sat down beside her. He still felt hesitant about doing anything without Catherine initiating it and felt very shy about unclothing her without her consent.

My dearest, Catherine. How I love thee.

He sat in silence, just starring down at her for several minutes, watching her breathing, her face full of peace that only came in sleep. Vincent came to the conclusion that he couldn't leave her tonight. They had agreed to keep their newfound status as lovers a secret for themselves for a little while longer, to get used to the idea of being so intimate, so that when it became "common" knowledge, they wouldn't feel so... shy about it. He never wanted to leave her; but tonight, something was calling him to stay.

Taking off his cloak, he set it on one of the chairs near the table. He gently raised Catherine's legs and moved the covers she was laying on, putting her legs inside and covering her with them. He moved the nightgown from it's place on the bed to lay on top of his cloak. Vincent took off his shoes, blew out all the candles but the one at the bedside, and went around to the other side and crawled in beside Catherine.

He reveled at the feeling of their closeness and turned sideways, his head resting on the pillow raised by his right arm. Vincent continued to watch Catherine breathing, the play of the flickering candle light creating light and shadow around her features.

A moment more he watched and then Catherine turned towards him and, sensing warmth, she instinctively drew close to him and wrapped her arms around him, her head snuggling into his chest, a slight smile on her lips. Caught off guard, Vincent held his breath, not wanting to wake her. When she didn't stir again, he wrapped his arms around her and enjoyed the warmth their bodies were making.

Slowly, Vincent dropped off to sleep, a smile on his lips and in his heart.

Catherine awoke totally disoriented. She was snuggled against a warm body and still fully clothed. The candle at the bedside was still lit and gave her an anchor.

I'm Below. I must have fallen asleep during the concert.

She felt the warmth of the body close to her and realized it was Vincent. Smiling, she sighed deeply and contentedly.

At that moment, Vincent turned from being on his back and faced towards her.

"Catherine?" He whispered very quietly, not sure if she was awake.

In answer, Catherine turned to him and pushed herself as close to him as she could and then tilted her head up a little and kissed the base of his throat.

Vincent's arms went around her and pulled her even closer, a sigh escaping his lips and brushing softly against her hair.

"You have not been asleep long, you should try and get some more rest before you need to return home." Vincent said softly, yet his body was giving hers ideas of its own.

"I'm sorry, Vincent, but I can't do that. At least not with how I'm feeling at the moment." Catherine responded and again kissed him on the throat, following that with several more.

Vincent pulled her in closer to him and began caressing her hair, face, neck, and throat. He had a habit of breathing when he was aroused that soundly strangely like a kitten purring in utter contentment.

Catherine brought one hand up and wrapped it around the back of his neck and pulled his face to hers, capturing his mouth, probing his lips with her tongue until he opened his mouth and let her in. The other hand was caressing his chest through his clothing. Vincent's hands were at her waist and back, pulling her into him and sighing deeply into her hair and then coming back to her mouth.

She was beginning to slip out of her blazer when Vincent froze. Thinking that he was going to tell her that they shouldn't be doing this, Catherine started to say that it was alright, that it was about time they stopped being so secretive. Before she could voice them however, Vincent was out of the bed and facing the wall, just before Jamie came pounding into the guest chamber.

"Catherine... Oh, you're awake." Then she noticed Vincent's back. "Vincent. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt anything."

"It's alright, Jamie. What did you need?" Catherine had composed herself quickly and focused Jamie's attention on her, giving Vincent time to pull himself together.

"A message from Jenny. She says it's urgent that you contact Joe Maxwell regarding the Polkman case, there's been an explosion and they need you." Jamie repeated the message word for word from Jenny.

"Oh, God." Catherine jumped out of the bed and grabbed her shoes from under the chair and put them on.

By this time, Vincent had been able to compose himself and came around the bed, Jamie having left knowing that he would help Catherine exit the tunnels.

"Catherine... you must be careful." Vincent stopped Catherine's motions of hurry by simply wrapping his arms around her. Catherine nestled into his embrace, her forehead resting just under his throat.

"I will Vincent." And then she looked up a him, a smile tugging at her lips. "After all, I have a lot to live for, especially now. And I intend on finishing what we started tonight."

Vincent smiled at her. Holding her close, he bent his head down and gave her a passionate kiss, letting the leash loose on some of his earlier desire that he had not been able to show due to Jamie's untimely entrance.

"A promise. For later." He whispered to her.

Catherine was absolutely delighted. Looking deeply into Vincent's face, she realized that, indeed, it was a promise for later, that he was ready to share their secret with his family now.

Vincent's heart engulfed him with the emotion that Catherine exploded with, echoing down through the Bond, as well as the smile she gave him.

"Until later then, my Love."

12:15AM, Wednesday

Catherine arrived back at her apartment to several messages on her machine. Changing into jeans, a warm shirt, and tennis shoes, she headed out and over to the police station.

"Finally, Radcliff. Where the Hell ya been?" Joe Maxwell's temper found a target.

"Contrary to popular belief, boss, I do have a life outside of work. What's happened?" Catherine walked into the captain's office.

"A life outside? Will wonders never cease?" Joe took one more jibe before he began explaining all the happenings.

"No one was seriously injured in the explosion, however, I'm sure it was used as a warning for Aimee Polkman. She was on her way to the safe house when it came over the scanner and since then, all she wants to do is go home. I think she's caught the ŒI don't know anything' bug. If we don't get a lid on this fast, Cath, we're going to lose her." Joe finished.

Catherine sighed. "Great." She stretched.

"Ok. Let's just assume that Falla knows about everything. Let's assume he knows about Aimee going to a safe house and assume he knows where that safe house is. Captain, can we transfer her to another safe house along with assuming that Falla already has men at the current house?"

"It'll take a few hours to arrange, but it shouldn't be a problem. I'll need to find a couple of female officers or staff to make the ruse work." The captain replied, grabbing for his phone to make the first of several calls.

"Joe, can we get any people to start tailing the tailers? And to watch Aimee's family so we don't get something worse than a warning next time?" She looked over at her boss.

Joe looked over at the captain, talking on the phone, who nodded. "We'll work on it, Cath. Now, what about Polkman? You want to go over and talk with her before she loses it completely?" He continued.

"Now?"

Joe smiled and nodded.

"Might as well, I suppose. It needs to be done, of course." Catherine had hoped the rest could wait until later in the morning, after she'd gotten some more rest, but duty called.

The captain hung up the phone. "We should be able to have everything set by around 8AM. I'll give you a call and let you know the details when everything's ready."

1:45AM

Catherine arrived at the safe house to find two officers involved in a conversation revolving around football and Aimee laying on the couch, wide awake.

"Hello, Aimee."

"Ms. Chandler!" Aimee was clearly surprised to see her, but smiled at her good fortune. "Please... can I go home? Nothing I can tell you is of worth enough for people to be... hurt over."

"Aimee, I know this is hard, but what you know will put Falla and many of his goons away for a long time. And it's not going to stop simply because you go home. This business, you being involved with Falla, is kind of like being pregnant... once committed, you're in for the long haul.

"This is going to take a lot of patience and strength from you, for you to get through this. We, the District Attorney's office and the rest of the justice system, will support you as much as we are able to. But... it all boils down to you." Catherine earnestly told the young woman.

Aimee knew she was right, but Aimee was scared. She wanted to go home, she wanted everything to go back to how it was before she'd ever met Falla. But she knew that that wasn't possible.

"I've been living... a lie, for a long time now. I thought I was safe, thought I had gotten free of their reach... but I haven't and I'm never going to until the whole organization is gone." This last, a statement.

"It's never going to stop is it?" Then going on, "What happens if... Who's to say that it will ever be over? What happens if someone takes over Falla's organization? I can't hide forever."

Catherine had listened to Aimee and understood the fears, as many of her clients had those same questions.

"You think that after we cut off the snake's head, it will grow back?

"Aimee, we are going to do our best to destroy his organization, but we can't do as much damage to it without you, or someone else, or several someone else's, to help us."

Catherine sat in silence while Aimee absorbed this.

"I... need to think, Catherine."

She stood up and then bent a little towards Aimee.

"I understand. Goodnight, Aimee. Call if you need to talk."

2:30AM

Catherine arrived back at her apartment and found one of the French doors open. Going out onto the balcony, she found Vincent seated in one of the patio set chairs.

"Catherine." He stood up and wrapped his arms around her after she came in close.

"You've had a very long day. You need to get some sleep before it truly starts."

"Yes, I know. Thanks for being here, Vincent. Things are pretty hectic... I hope there aren't any more developments, although I'm sure there's going to be."

She was exhausted and would only have a few hours of rest before another full day of office work and more investigations took more of her strength from her.

Catherine had a moment of utter depression and despair, of knowing that, like Aimee, she was as much a victim of the Œit's never going to stop' thinking because society wasn't changing in it's ways of violence and other crimes.

"This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper." She quoted softly.

But then she wrapped her strength around her like a cloak.

Vincent felt her desperation and depression, knew what the quote meant, and also felt her pull herself around herself, the strength flowing from her inner being and engulfing her in its protection.

Smiling slightly, he drew her in closer and caressed her hair. Tilting her head up to his, he kissed her, again letting the leash loose on some of the emotions he had been holding in him since earlier.

Catherine's eyes filled with love and warmth and she kissed him back, yet with more exhaustion then passion.

"And after you are rested and relaxed, we still have some unfinished business." Vincent whispered.

Catherine laughed, a smile precluding her emotions and filling him with happiness, the earlier despair and depression forgotten.

6:45PM, Wednesday

Catherine was sitting on her couch with a hot cup of tea when there was a light tap on one of the French doors. Smiling, she set her cup down and crossed the room. Opening the door, she then slipped into Vincent's embrace.

"I was expecting you sooner."

"I'm sorry, I was delayed by some errands." Vincent smiled at her, holding her close and then pushing her backwards into her apartment. Catherine turned in his arms and they come into the living room and sat down on the couch, snuggling close.

"I had forgotten a prior engagement and had to make some last minute arrangements. One of which is you."

Catherine looked over at him, a little puzzled.

Vincent smiled and gave a shy chuckle. "I have been... so preoccupied of late that I have forgotten what time of the year it is."

Catherine didn't lose the puzzled expression on her face.

"It's time for the older children to go camping." Vincent responded.

"Again? Already? Well... I guess we have been... a bit busy." She laughed at Vincent's blush. "When are you supposed to be leaving?"

"Tomorrow morning." Seeing her expression, he held up one hand. "I know, I know... But duty calls, my dearest Catherine. I will be back by Sunday at the latest and I will come back as quickly as possible if the need arises. I promise."

"I'm not worried about that, Vincent. Things are going well, Aimee is at another safe house and as far as we can tell, no one tailed her there, and her adopted family is safe. And I have more than enough police officers to help out on this particular case if something should happen. Don't worry about me, things are going... ok. I'm just going to miss you. This new relationship we have is addicting." She responded to him while caressing one of his legs.

Vincent returned the caresses on her hair and cheek. "I know. But it will only be for a couple of days."

"Vincent, at this stage, Œonly a couple of days' will seem like a lifetime." Catherine giggled and kissed him.

Before Catherine could work any more of her magic on him, although he suspected that it was too late to stop his body's reactions to her, he stood up.

"Catherine. I must go. I have a camping trip to get together and two chaperons to prepare."

"Who's going with you this time?" Catherine understood Vincent's reaction and was disappointed yet glad of it, as she had a long day in court to rest for and she needed to focus on that, and not... well, she wouldn't dwell on that.

"Mouse and Jaimie." Vincent smiled at Catherine's knowing and amused look. He shrugged.

"I must go, Catherine. I will be back as soon as I can, but each of us have lives to attend to. Nothing has changed to them... just to us." And he bent down, taking her in his arms and gave her the most wonderful Œuntil later' kiss. Full of passion and promises it was.

4:45PM, Friday

Answering the phone, Catherine grabbed another pencil, making sure the point on it wasn't broken.

She began taking notes and after several minutes, a few brief words, and reiterating what the person had told her, Catherine hung up the phone and hurried over to Joe's office.

His door was open and she knocked on the door jam to get his attention.

"Aimee's just been given the go ahead for the Witness Protection Program, they're going to send the paperwork over by special messenger and then we can start getting her into the program. As soon as it's here, I'll head over to the safe house and have her fill out those forms and get her ready to move.

"I'm glad it came through, Aimee's really been skittish." Catherine smiled at Joe. "I'll be glad when this case is wrapped up and she's safe, with Falla and all his goons in jail."

"You and me both, Radcliffe. Do whatever needs doing. Give me a call and let me know how it went or if you need any last minute details taken care of." Joe told her as he grabbed his coat and umbrella.

"Hot date, Joe?" Catherine asked with a chuckle.

"Only if you think that includes a meeting with the captain at the station. We need to do some more paper work and get some other details together regarding the Chapman file. Talk to ya later, Radcliffe."

"Night boss."

8:15PM

Catherine and Aimee had gone over all the requisite paperwork and filled out everything while the officers on duty had filled out their reports and put them in order. By the time the other officers being used to transfer Aimee to the Witness Protection Program facilities arrived, everything was complete, and Catherine was sitting with her, keeping Aimee calm and explaining what to expect.

The police officers left and then Catherine walked with Aimee out to the car that was going to transport her. The other officers were loading her belongings in the trunk and filling out their last minute paperwork, to be taken back to the District Attorney's office, when another car came rolling down the street. No one paid it any mind, until the passenger window rolled down, and several silenced bullets rained down on them, bursting the car windows and taking one of the officers down.

Aimee screamed while Catherine grabbed her and forced her down to the pavement.

The car Falla's men were using stopped and two men got out. The other officer was taken out when he placed himself between the women and one of the men who opened fire on them. Before the officer had fallen to the ground, Catherine was urging Aimee to run as fast as she could down the block.

The group of campers were enjoying the evening as they sat roasting marshmallows and singing one of those nonsense campfire songs, when Vincent's head jerked up. Everyone's laughter and singing died as they watched him.

Suddenly he was on his feet, grabbing a water skin.

"Catherine's in trouble. Mouse, Jaime, stay with the children. I will be back as soon as I can or send someone else to take over for me." And then he was gone.

With Aimee's bad back, they couldn't run very fast and Catherine knew they were going to be in trouble.

Running ahead of Aimee, Catherine looked for some place to duck into that might offer some sort of safety.

Grabbing Aimee as she started to run past her, Catherine looked behind her, one man on foot following them. Catherine ducked into the building, trying the elevator and the doors on the other side of the hall. Finding them locked, she saw the door to the stairwell. She motioned Aimee inside. Telling her to go downstairs into the parking garage, Catherine looked around for something to block the door with or to use as a weapon. Seizing the fire extinguisher, Catherine followed Aimee down the stairs.

Once in the parking garage, she and Aimee started running down the walkway between the building and the cars, picking a car at random, they each ducked in between cars and crouched down on the floor. Catherine had ducked in one row too early and she was just about to crouch-walk around to the next row to be with Aimee, when the stairwell door banged open.

Freezing in place, Catherine hoped Aimee would be calm enough to sit where she was and not make any noise.

Vincent's strides were eating up the distance the campers had taken a day to traverse, but sensing the fear in his beloved growing even more, he tried to coax more speed into his limbs.

"You aren't going to get out of here alive, Aimee. You were warned what would happen if you tried to tell what you knew. You were warned when we came to your apartment and again with that explosion. You aren't going to be given another chance to stay silent, Aimee. You've already proven that you can't." The man was coming closer, making no effort at stealth.

Catherine could hear Aimee's ragged breathing and prayed that Falla's goon would be so preoccupied with finding Aimee that he would forget about her.

Catherine heard his footsteps coming over to her car, getting in front of the front bumper she watched him pass. Then she quietly got up out of the crouch and made her way to follow him.

"Hello." And then Aimee screamed, but before the man had a chance to fire his gun, Catherine came up behind him and swung the fire extinguisher into his head. He crumpled to the floor and Catherine was just about to grab his gun, motioning for Aimee to come with her, when she heard a noise.

Taking the younger woman's sweaty palm in her's, Catherine quickly made their way into a darkened section of the parking garage, wishing she'd had time to grab the weapon.

"Wait. You hit him, we can leave now." Aimee's voice was too loud.

Catherine put her finger up to her mouth. "Ssshhh."

As if in answer to Aimee's naiveté, a car pulled slowly into the garage, and Catherine pulled Aimee into the dark between a Jeep Cherokee and a BMW.

The headlights flashed on the crumpled form and the car rolled on.

Vincent was gasping slightly for air, his legs still eating up the ground, but he had a long way to go with the knowledge that Catherine's fear was growing and that he might arrive too late this time.

Angrily throwing that thought out of his mind, he again pulled up more energy and sped on.

Aimee was sitting next to her, tears in her eyes, and her hands were massaging her lower back. Catherine looked at her in sympathy but had no time to spare caring for her.

"Aimee, I want you to get under that car and lay very quietly. I need to scout our location, see if there's any way we can get out of here without them seeing us." Catherine was already choosing her route.

"You want me to get under the car?"

"Just do it, Aimee."

After making sure Aimee was laying quietly, Catherine, keeping to the shadows, darted in and out and between cars, looking for another exit or even an emergency phone.

She looked back just in time to see another car pulling into the garage. Thinking it could be a diversion they could use, she watched.

The first car had stopped just passed the crumpled form and the driver got out of it to check on his partner. The second car pulled up behind it and three other men got out and greeted the first.

"No help there." Catherine uttered sarcastically.

Praying that Aimee would sit quietly and not panic, Catherine searched the garage with her eyes.

Nothing. She thought. Then she noticed an emergency exit door on the other side of the garage. Smiling, she began making her way back towards Aimee.

And came up short as Catherine saw that Aimee had gotten out from under the car and was looking around for her. Before Catherine could do more than see Aimee, one of the men shouted and the other three spread out and closed in on the girl.

One of the men happened to glance in Catherine's direction and she had to waste precious seconds sliding between cars, slowly making her way around the edge to see if he'd seen her.

Then she heard Falla himself speaking with Aimee, then he raised his own gun, not paying any attention to Aimee's screaming, and fired three shots into the woman.

As Aimee fell to the ground, another shout went up, jerking Catherine's eyes over to the man who happened to have glanced in her direction.

Catherine turned around and ran for the exit she had just seen, slamming through the door hard enough to send it crashing into the wall behind, a fire alarm beginning to blare. A moment later, she heard the door crash again into the wall and knew at least one of Falla's goons was in hot pursuit.

On her own, Catherine was able to run unfettered and she quickly distanced her pursuer and took a chance to run down a dark alley which ended in a well lit street. Glancing behind her, she saw out of the corner of her eye, her purser round the corner. Before it registered, the rear window was blown out of the car she was nearing. Forcing a burst of energy into her legs, she started zig-zagging along the sidewalk, looking for another building or alley to duck into.

She could hear sirens now, perhaps responding to the alarm at the parking garage, and Catherine hoped that there would be a police car with them.

Just then, a car pulled out in front of her from the alley she was beginning to cross and she couldn't stop, running into it, she flipped herself over the top of it. Catherine hit the ground and was getting back up when hands closed on her shoulders.

Thinking that it was the partners of her pursuer, she crushed her shoe into the man's foot closest to her and was just about to follow it up with an elbow to the chest when it became clear she was hurting a police officer.

His partner had had the forbearance to look up the street to see who she might be running from and saw the man with the gun. Turning on the police siren and lights, he took off after the pursuer, his partner's door slamming shut with the turn.

"Sorry officer. I thought you might be his backup." Catherine supported the officer, who was hobbling just a little, while she was trying to catch her breath.

"That's ok, ma'am. I can understand the situation. Besides, my wife said that if I kept walking on her feet while we were dancing, someone was going to walk on mine someday."

Catherine laughed. Who says there isn't ever a policeman around when you need one.

 

Vincent felt Catherine's fear diminish and then disappear, a sense of safety now taking it's place. He slowed, only because he was winded and took a long drink of the water skin he had grabbed. Vincent was not quite halfway to the Park entrance... He realized that if something had not given Catherine that safety he felt in her now... he would probably have been too late.

Vincent lifted his head and stared up at the roof of the tunnel and offered a silent prayer.

3:15AM, Saturday

Catherine walked, exhausted, into her apartment.

"Catherine." And then Vincent was there, his arms wrapping around her and she almost shrieked at his unexpected, yet expected, presence.

I can't let him know what happened. I can't tell him that I witnessed Aimee being murdered and that it was Falla who did it. I can't let him know anything about tonight. Catherine thought as she rested her head on his chest.

"I felt your fear. It kept growing, and then it was gone. I'm so glad that you are alright, I had begun to despair that I wouldn't reach you in time." Vincent had his arms wrapped possessively and tightly around his beloved.

"I'm sorry, Vincent. One of the cases I'm on got a little hairy. But now he's in police custody and everything is kind of back to normal."

Catherine knew that her exhaustion would cover her apprehension of not telling Vincent everything. Then she started calming her mind and told herself that she hadn't ever lied to Vincent and she wouldn't start now, but she needed to protect him and herself, needed to protect them, and she would do it by not telling him the whole truth until after she was no longer in danger.

Because now she was the witness to a wrong doing of Falla's and Catherine couldn't let herself be put under surveillance or police protection, or there would be no them.


(Continued in Beth Adams' Lionhearted.)