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The Accidental Kiss

©Kimber - 2002

Catherine knew as soon as she had shoved the cardboard box off that two ribs were at least bruised if not broken. She collapsed back into the garbage bags stacked against the dumpster and tried to decide which was worse, the pain or the stench. Two of the patrolmen were loading Flynn into their car ('Thank God' she thought) and the others had just noticed the trash pile moving. As she saw one of them starting to approach, she heard a soft voice she would recognize on a train platform in Grand Central.

"Catherine" The urgency in Vincent's voice pulled at her but she knew the other officer was on his way to check on her. Knowing he could hear her she kept her voice low, "I'm fine...someone's coming"

"Can I help you ma'am?" The officer slowed and started when he recognized the woman in the rubbish. "Sorry Ms. Chandler, are you alright?" he reached out to help her up.

"I'm fine, officer. Just in need of a bath, I'm afraid." Aiming her best sheepish grin at him she took his hand and pulled herself up. Hiding her grimace of pain behind a smile she pulled a card out of her pocket. "Could you call ADA Maxwell and let him know Flynn is in custody and I will be bringing the tapes in tomorrow?"

"Of course, Ms. Chandler. Do you need an ambulance? You don't look well."

"Trust me, officer, I look much worse than I feel. It's just been a really long day and I want to get home and into a hot tub as soon as possible."

Taking her at her word he stepped back and pulled out his notebook. "I will need to take your statement first, though."

It was a monumental effort to keep the panic and pain out of her voice as she put a hand on his forearm. "I will type it all up and send it over to the precinct first thing in the morning. Leave your name and badge number with the secretary at the DAs office and I promise it will be on your desk before noon."

Her smile must have finally taken it's toll because the officer tucked his notebook back in his pocket and held out his arm. "At least let me walk you back to your car." Knowing she had played her hand as far as it would go, she took it and accompanied him with careful non-chalance back to the street where she had parked her car.

Trying to send reassurance through the bond to Vincent, she opened her car door and thanked the officer for all his help. She brought her purse up to the roof of the car, supressing a wince, and began to dig through it. Catherine smiled and returned the officer's wave as he drove off, then released the breath she had been holding when he turned the corner at the end of the block. As soon as she was certain he was gone, she backed out of the car door and closed it, looked around to make sure the street was clear and walked as fast as she could back to the alley. When she got to the head of it she saw the dark, cloaked figure moving quickly and silently along the wall toward her. Relief washed over her like smooth flowing water and she melted into the warm smokey leather of his cloak.

Vincent feared to touch her. He knew she was in pain, he could feel it, but he needed to know she wasn't seriously hurt. The anxiety was fighting to overwhelm him and until he was sure, he wouldn't be able to function. He looked down at her hair as it brushed against his chin. Bringing his hand up, he gently stroked it, telling himself he was merely gaining her attention so he could speak to her. "Catherine, where are you hurt?"

"Where am I not hurt?" she tried not to laugh but the adrenaline was starting to leave her system and she was feeling a little giddy. "I think it's only a couple of bruised ribs. Nothing else feels serious."

He gently put his arm around her back and led her to a loading platform so she could sit. "I should really check, Catherine. You will need to go to the emergency room if they are broken." Helping her to sit and clamping down hard on his beating heart, he put a hand on her rib cage and asked her to breathe as deeply as she could. Staring at his hand in amazement wondering that it didn't shake he pronounced that they were, in fact, only bruised. "They should be taped and iced but you will live." Vincent smiled and looked deeply into her eyes 'and so, then, shall I' he so much wanted to say.

Catherine smiled back and reached out for his hand, still holding his eyes. "Thank you, Vincent."

Cocking his head slightly he asked, "For what? I wasn't able to get here in time to prevent...this."

She pulled him down to sit next to her, still holding his hand. "For wanting to be. For trying to be."

He ducked his head, allowing his long hair to cover his face. "How can I not?" He felt the need to tell her all the words he had kept hidden deep inside himself rising up inside again and moved to rise. But still she held his hand. Such strength in such a small hand, he thought. 'Not even the rain has such small hands...' he heard cummings whisper in his ear.

Catherine brushed back the hair from Vincent's face, trying to make him look at her, to say what was in his heart. What they both knew he wanted to say. "Vincent..."

He was fighting a raging battle within. He could trust no words to come to his lips. All he could think of was escape. He had to get away.

She stroked his hair back again. He smelled her, felt her, heard her pulse rushing along with his own in her ears.

"Vincent..." Catherine leaned forward slightly, hoping to turn his head, catch his eye...

Vincent turned his head toward her, hoping to make her see his fear, his need to ...

Suddenly, his mind was quiet. A small part of his mind was amazed at the feeling. He didn't remember who started the kiss but neither of them seemed in any hurry to stop it. Catherine's hand was resting on his shoulder and she was almost afraid to breathe lest it spoil the moment. Tentatively, he raised his hand to her cheek and deepened the kiss. She almost cried as she welcomed his lips with hers and curled her fingers into his hair. She shifted slightly and felt a small twinge in her ribcage. Vincent made a slight movement to break the kiss but she pulled him closer, still holding his lips.

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