Chapter 62: The Silver Link, the Silken Tie 
Joe closed the door of his apartment and placed the lone bag of groceries on the counter. It wasn’t until he realized he’d put the milk in the pantry that he realized just how distracted he was. He remembered the feel of the cloak---the rough wool and patched leather, sewn with blanket edging along the hood and carrying (to his admittedly non-poetic imagination) a subtle scent of something…or someone…far other.
He put the rest of the groceries away and sat down on the couch. Well, now you know, at least as much as Cathy will ever tell you. What are you going to do? There had been no mistaking the signs: Cathy had been nervous as soon as he'd touched the cloak. And in his long friendship with her, she didn't rattle easily. So what had scared her so? He was startled from his musings by a knock at the door. Looking through the peephole, Joe saw it was Greg. “Hey, Greg. What’s up?”
Greg smiled, though there was something a little off about it. “I hear the Met is a good place to see on the weekends.”
“The Met is a good place to see on the weekends”---their code for “We need to talk now.” Aloud, Joe said, “Sounds great. I’m a little behind on my modern art anyway.”
Greg nodded and Joe shut the door behind them.
Vincent stretched, enjoying the warmth of the spring sunlight as it seeped into his bones. He heard the faint clink of plates and the gurgle of the coffee pot: Catherine, making breakfast. She had quite firmly banned him from the small kitchen. “Let me handle this; you're supposed to be resting.”
Since there was no point in arguing with Catherine when she had her mind made up, Vincent left her to her cooking and gazed out the balcony windows, which were open slightly to let in the breezes. He could hear the sounds of traffic, smell the awakening earth from the park and he shook his head against a sudden wave of dizziness (the sun burning hot against his closed eyes, grass cold with dew under his hands, the sound of a distant lawnmower and the sharp bitter taste of his own terror. Central Park at dawn! How had he come to be here in the unforgiving daylight?)
Catherine forced something ceramic into his hand---the acrid odor of the coffee hit him before he knew what he held. “You look like you've seen a ghost,” she said quietly. “Want to talk about it?”
Vincent took a sip of the coffee, felt his world right itself a bit and the dizziness recede. “Yes. It was...I had a flashback.”
“It's been a long time since you've had one of those,” she murmured. “Well over a year, now.”
He searched her face, their bond for pain or fear---the weeks of his illness and the months of his recovery had been dark ones for her too---but found nothing, only concern. “I don't know why...now....”
Catherine led him to the couch and wrapped her grandmother's afghan around him---he was cold, he realized, and marveled again that she had known. “Don't you?” she asked. “Joe's visit this morning.”
Vincent placed his coffee mug on the table and wrapped the loose folds of the afghan around them both. “Joe is no threat to us, Catherine.”
“I wish...I'm not so sure, Vincent. I could have made up something---”
“What choice did you have? Joe is a perceptive man. Would you have lied and left him more curious?” He took her hands. “You told him only what you had to so his curiosity would be satisfied.”
She nodded slowly. “All right. Then what triggered your flashback, if you're not worried about Joe?”
“It was...the scent of growing things in Central Park. It was the first thing I noticed when...”
“When you awoke in the park?”
Vincent nodded. “The breeze must have blown just right and the smells were...very strong this morning.” He touched her face. “Forgive me. I shouldn't be worrying you.”
Catherine shot him an arch look. “We’re not back to that, are we? The ‘I shouldn’t burden you with my troubles’ thing?” Her hand clasped his where it rested against her face. “Those days were so difficult…Seeing you so lost, in so much pain…and knowing you'd tried to battle it all alone. Are you surprised the scars are still there?”
“No,” he admitted. “What we've endured...”
“It's over,” she breathed against his palm. She wrinkled her nose and only then did he notice the burnt odor coming from her kitchen. “And so is our breakfast---I think I burned the bacon.”
Vincent chuckled, feeling the sudden return of light, chasing away the last of his shadows. “I'll make some toast.”
Joe followed Greg into the Egyptian wing of the museum. As the usual din of tourists and visitors rose and fell around them, Greg spoke. “Remember Geoff Marsh?”
The name sounded familiar but he couldn’t immediately place it. “No…wait,” he said as the memory came back to him, “the SOB who---”
“I see you know him well,” Greg replied dryly. “Yeah. Him. He’s been fired by Internal Affairs.”
Joe snorted. “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” After Moreno’s arrest, Joe had been interrogated, first alone, then with Cathy, by Marsh and couple of FBI agents. Marsh had taken an instant and immediate dislike to Cathy and Joe remembered her pale, wan face as Marsh had all but accused her of being a co-conspirator. “So what happened? He finally piss off the wrong person?”
“Sort of,” Greg said. “Rumor has it the FBI uncovered some…irregularities in his bank account.”
Joe raised his eyebrows. “Those kind of irregularities?”
“Yup. My source told me he was being paid for information, or for…favorable resolutions to his investigations. He might have been on the Rotolos' payroll all along.”
Joe whistled low. “All the time that bastard accused Cathy and me of being in cahoots with Moreno…How'd you find out about it? Internal Affairs isn't exactly your beat.”
Greg shrugged. “Better you don't know. You know how it goes.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do,” Joe agreed. “What else is going on?”
“What? Why?” Joe demanded.
Greg smiled, but there was no humor in it. “A promotion, I’m told. They’ve asked me to take over Marsh’s job.”
“Oh,” Joe replied. “You don’t sound happy about it.”
“It's a desk job investigating other cops. Or ADAs. And it’s a great way to make sure nobody talks to me. Not much to be happy about.” Greg stuffed his hands in his pockets, obviously searching for an invisible pack of cigarettes. He smiled ruefully. “I have to go up to Albany for six weeks for training. After that, who knows where they’ll send me.”
“I’m sorry,” Joe said. “I shouldn’t have---”
“It was my choice,” Greg reminded him. “You came to me, yeah, but I could have said no. And I stand by what I said. Cathy’s a good person. So is Rita. And how long have I known you? Fifteen years now? I couldn't just...walk away.” He stood. “Look, I gotta get back and start packing my desk. I’ll send you a postcard from Siberia, okay?”
Catherine walked into the bedroom and stood for a moment, transfixed. Vincent sat on the floor, cross-legged and bare-chested. His eyes were closed and his face was tilted slightly, absorbing the warmth of the sun. The light brought his features into a sharper focus not blunted by the softening shades of candlelight: the sparse golden bristled fur on his face, the red highlights in his unruly mane, the bronzed rose color of his skin. You are so beautiful, she thought.
His eyes opened, and they too were made a brighter blue by the afternoon sun. “Come,” he murmured as he opened his legs so she could sit between them. His bare arms enfolded her, the heat of his body so warm through the t-shirt and thin pants she wore. There was a light, almost imperceptible rumble to his breathing---if not quite a purr, it was nonetheless a content, happy sound. “Will we have this much light at our house?”
“I promise,” Catherine assured him.
She couldn’t see his face but she knew Vincent smiled from the sudden eldritch glow which flooded their bond. “I dreamed of you last night.”
“Mmmm-hmmm,” he replied. “Do you remember…the wooded grove?”
Her nails stroked his thighs; the rumble grew louder. “Oh, yes.” There was no need to ask which wooded grove---for them, there would always be only one, the grove in Connecticut where they’d made love in the sunshine. 
His hands rested on her hips, the fur on his sun-warmed hands hot against her bare back, her breasts... “I can smell the sun on you,” Vincent murmured against her throat. “Your taste...”
Catherine rested against the lean hardness of his body, felt the arousal, the need, burning its way through their bond. “We'll have carpet burn if...”
There was a swish of fabric, and Vincent's hands returned to their tender caress of her breasts. “That was the comforter from the bed,” he said, his tongue tracing her pulse. “You were saying....?”
His body was haloed by copper fire; the sunlight drenched his hair. Catherine felt for the long supple lines of lightly-furred muscles, the curve of his backside, the more bristled fur on his thighs. Her touch caused a low moaning growl---something Vincent would once have been embarrassed by, but no longer. He met her eyes and at the sight of the dark, glittering blue, her mouth went dry. “You are so beautiful,” she murmured against a broad shoulder, seeking and finding that one place on his neck...there.
Vincent ducked his head slightly; the long strands of his hair brushed her breasts as his teeth gently scraped her shoulder. “What you do to me...”
His skin flushed hot in the sunlight; very faintly, she thought she smelled, as she had in their grove, the scents of earth and cedar and him. Above all, surrounding all...him. A part of her, as no one else could ever be. Her beloved. “Come to me,” she said softly. “I need you.”
I am/you are/we are—the perceptions from their bond began to intertwine. Catherine knew to expect it, welcomed it, but was still in awe that she could, for this brief moment in time, feel what her husband felt----the warm heat of sunlight against his back, the light scent of fabric softener she used in her clothing and the heavier scent of her arousal. “You do,” he said, the raspy rumble in his words.
“Yes,” she managed. Words were quickly becoming unneeded, like so much jetsam--what need had they for words anyway? Mere syllables couldn't describe this...awareness.
His large hands were under her, lifting, supporting. Vincent crossed his legs under her and lowered her gently down. Catherine gasped, feeling him, and the low moan didn't only come from him this time. “Come,” he murmured against her mouth. “Come.”
Later, when she'd recovered her breath, Catherine opened her eyes to find her husband looking at her with a very self-satisfied look (the cat who ate the canary, she would have said.) His hair was damp and tangled, as was hers, but his eyes were light, sparkling with humor and joy. “So...how are you doing?” he asked, running a hand down her bare arm.
She pushed her hair out of her face and grinned at him. “I think you know that very well, love.” She tilted her head. “You know, I think that was the first time you've ever done....”
“Used your strength when we've made love,” Catherine replied as the memory of his hands supporting her returned, unbidden. “I liked it, mind.”
Vincent gathered her close. “I'm glad,” he murmured against her hair. “I wasn't sure what came over me then, but...” He kissed the top of her head, one of his oldest caresses. “Trying something new...it was fun.”
His heartbeat was beginning to slow to its usual rhythm; Catherine smiled against his chest. “It should be, love.” She looked up at him. “What would you like to do with what's left of our day?”
He yawned hugely. “Stay in this bed with you. If you don't mind?”
“Well, I don't know...” Catherine began, mock-serious, but was somehow not surprised to find herself suddenly on top of a large furry body.
His touch was fire along her nerves...beckoning. “I don't suppose I could convince you...?”
Catherine gazed down at him. “What do you think?”
I need a life, Joe thought, and not for the first time. After leaving the museum, he'd ambled for a while---there was no other word for it---until he hailed a cab and found himself again outside Cathy's apartment building. The doorman would open the door for him, he knew, and he could go upstairs and tell Cathy of Geoff Marsh's firing and Greg's transfer. He could. And two days ago, he would have.
Except...he couldn't. He'd promised...to call first. And other things, too. Almost as if the garment was in his hands again, he felt the heft of the woolen cloak---obviously handmade with care and skill, yet a mystery still. I got answers to my questions, now I have more questions. And yet...Joe had been a prosecutor for too many years not to realize Cathy had let him in as far as she could. If he pushed her for more answers, it might satisfy his curiosity, but ruin their friendship. No amount of curiosity was worth the risk.
Joe smiled, unseen by the inhabitants of the apartment far above the city streets, and hailed a cab. Time to get on with his day, and let sleeping secrets lie.
Click here for Chapter 63....
 “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” by Sir Walter Scott
 “When Fall Comes to New England,” Chapter 16.
2 months ago