TOOTSIE

By Wendy De-Veryard

Lying awake in his chamber Vincent found it impossible to sleep. One either moves toward or away from love that he knew and he also knew that now was the time to move toward love. The thing was how? How on earth could he explain to Catherine that he had reached his decision, that he now believed and trusted in her instincts that he could never hurt her, and that he now wanted desperately utterly to love her the way a man loves a woman?

In his mind's eye he went over and over the conversation that they might have, but each time when it came to the crunch, when it came to the part where he was to say, `Catherine, please would you let me make love to you?' Words failed him. He just could not foresee being able to utter those words, much as he wished he could. They seemed somehow to lodge in his throat or at the back of his mind and he couldn't get his tongue or head around them.

They were so alien to him. Never had he believed in all his wildest dreams, and there had been some, that he would ever find himself in a position to have such a thing as sex put before him. He'd read enough on it true, but he had glossed over any feelings he may have succumbed to believing there would be no use even in fantasising about them for such things were not for him.

Yet now they were. They were within his grasp but since Catherine had been made to believe that it was something that he would never even consider they had never discussed it and he couldn't for the life of him see how they could.

While he lay awake pondering his dilemma a few chambers down from his Catherine lay wide awake equally unable to sleep this night. Though the Bond had never acted in the same manner with her as it did with Vincent, Catherine was certain that something troubled Vincent at heart. She could almost feel his emotions, unless that was just wishful thinking. Vincent had been different these past few days in ways that made her sit up and take note. It seemed that many times he had been on the brink of asking her something, but had withdrawn at the last moment. All the same, his eyes had held the question and Catherine ached for him to speak the words. Surely, they were moving toward love and especially since they had started kissing? And surely whatever was on Vincent's mind now had something to do with their future together?

As she contemplated Catherine heard a sound by the entranceway, and struggling to sit up she scrutinised the interior through the shadows present there. "Who is it?" She asked, feeling that it wouldn't be Vincent, though hoping that it might.

"Catherine?" A timid voice asked, "Can I come in?"

Instantly Catherine recognised the voice as belonging to Sophie a young girl that had recently come to live in the tunnels, and one that had bonded instantly to Vincent and herself.

"Yes, of course sweetheart, what's the problem?" Alighting from the bed Catherine crossed the floor toward the child, extending her hand in welcome. "Sophie you're frozen!" she exclaimed as she encountered the child's bare arm, "Come into my bed and get warm."

Sophie needed no second prompting, climbing into the bed and snuggling into Catherine's warm spot before gliding close to Catherine as she got back into the bed. Her arm snaked around the child, hugging her close. "What's the matter Sophie? Did you have a bad dream?"

"No, I just couldn't sleep, and I was cold."

"Well, how about if you stay with me? I was cold too, we could keep each other warm."

"Thank you Catherine." The sweet voice told her, and Catherine cuddled the child close, grateful to be able to put her thoughts of Vincent aside for the moment. They weren't getting her anywhere except keeping her awake anyway.

Woman and child snuggled together, drifting off into sleep when suddenly Sophie murmured, "Catherine, can't you sleep either?"

"Yes Sophie, I was almost asleep then. Why do you ask?"

"You're feet are moving."

Catherine chuckled, "I'm playing tootsie. Its something I do to help me relax and drift off into sleep." At the child's silence Catherine went on, "My mother taught me. Here let me show you." Bending her knees and bringing her feet up, Catherine encountered the child's feet alongside hers, "See you rub one foot against the other in a soft caressing motion, or you rub your feet alongside someone else's. See how soothing it is sweetheart?"

"It tickles." Sophie giggled.

"It can do, perhaps I'm doing it too hard. You try rubbing your feet against mine."

Sophie did so, rubbing her small feet against Catherine's large ones, and very soon seeing exactly what Catherine meant. It was making her sleepy. Very soon her firm even breathing signalled to Catherine that the child was fast asleep even though her feet still rubbed against hers occasionally however, that was the last thought in Catherine's mind as she too drifted off into a calm and peaceful sleep.

Hours later both were awoken by the sound of tea cups rattling and Catherine blinked open one eye to find Vincent hovering over her somewhat amused by her sleepy visitor and pouring out two cups of sweet tea. She assumed one had been for him, but he offered it to Sophie who was now beginning to sit up.

"Good morning Vincent." She greeted him cheerfully, "I slept with Catherine."

"I can see you did."

Was that longing, envy in his eyes? Catherine wasn't sure, but she wondered about the expression as she drank her tea. It seemed to her that Vincent was wishing that he had been able to take the place of the child and share Catherine's bed. No, Catherine shook the thoughts from her mind, that's just wishful thinking, get a grip girl you're imagining too much.

"Can I sleep with you again tonight, Catherine?" Sophie asked as she set down her empty cup on the dresser.

"Ah sorry sweetheart, I won't be staying here tonight. Perhaps Vincent will let you sleep with him."

Sophie's face lit up, "Can I Vincent?"

"As long as you don't fidget." He grinned at her, adding, "Yes of course you can Sophie."

The child stretched and alighted from the bed, "See you tonight then." And she was gone, only to return seconds later before disappearing again with the words, "Thank you Catherine. Have a nice day."

Grinning at one another from the child's parting words, Catherine finally thanked Vincent for the tea and announced that she ought to be up and getting dressed for home.

"You'll stay for breakfast?" Vincent asked eagerly, saddened when Catherine shook her head, "I'm sorry Vincent, I have to be in court this morning. I ought to go over a few details before I'm due to arrive. Breakfast will have to wait but I'll take some cereal bars with me and take an early lunch. Don't worry I'll be fine."

He left her then, the words on the tip of his tongue held back for another day. Now was not the time. Now was not the right occasion to spill his heart to her, to speak of his desires and things that kept him awake at night.

He'd be seeing her again in two days so he would wait till then. He would have to wait till then though in-between two more sleepless nights beckoned and Vincent wasn't looking forward to them one bit.

*** *** ***

"Can't you sleep Vincent?" Sophie asked as Vincent rolled over for the umpteenth time exhaling a deep worried sigh.

"No. I'm sorry if I'm keeping you awake Sophie. Perhaps you should sleep with Mary?"

"No. I like being with you. Besides if you can't sleep we can play tootsie."

"Tootsie? What's that?" Intrigued Vincent forgot about his problems for the moment.

Sophie explained the game of the previous night that Catherine had taught her and she showed Vincent how it was done. "See, it makes you feel sleepy doesn't it?" She asked him after rubbing her feet against his for a few minutes. Vincent had to agree that it was indeed very soothing. However, it far from helped him to sleep.

Listening to the child's even breathing as she slept, Vincent pondered upon thoughts of a young Catherine playing tootsie with her mother then of an older Catherine playing tootsie with Sophie the previous night, and of the possibility of a desirous beautiful Catherine playing tootsie with him!

Vincent groaned, and no matter how often he rubbed his feet together, it just did not have the desired effect while his mind was filled with such raging thoughts and his body burned with passion for the cravings he desired to be fulfilled with the woman that he loved.

*** *** ***

They seemed to be the worst two days of his life and the nights were no better, as alone and wanting Vincent despaired of ever ridding himself of the torrent of desire pummelling his soul night after treacherous night. But at last, he was there, outside the balcony doors his heart hammering as he tapped softly anticipating Catherine letting him in to her apartment and the sweet kisses to follow.

Suddenly she was there! Pulling open the doors she flew into his arms, "Oh I've missed you. I've missed you so much." She breathed into his ear.

"As I have missed you dear sweet Catherine." He held her tightly wishing never to let her go. Her scent tantalised him, brought all the recently smothered desires blazing forth again.

"Catherine I_" He wanted to tell her. No ask her. So much, he wanted to speak.

"What is it Vincent, you know you can ask me anything?" Her eyes when they looked into his were full of concern and love. He held on to that look of love and ventured again.

"I love you Catherine." He told her bending to kiss her lips.

A smile lit her eyes, "And I love you too, Vincent. So much, so very much." She breathed the words into his mouth.

She knew that he'd heard her, but it seemed as though he was too taken up with some other question to let the words sink in. Pulling back from their kiss his eyes were troubled, anxious, and Catherine waited breathlessly for him to say something more.

When he seemed incapable of speaking, she prompted, "What is it Vincent? Tell me, please?"

The words were there on the tip of his tongue. His hunger was running wild and deep, he wanted her, yet how to say it, how to instigate the very subject? How to bring it up?

"You look tired. Have you been sleeping?" Catherine asked concerned. Maybe he was feeling unwell. All manner of horrors leapt to mind for when Vincent was unwell it was time to worry for he was seldom ill.

"Yes and no." He replied grinning happily for the things she had asked had suddenly shown him the way!

"I am tired Catherine, but its nothing to worry about, and you guessed right I've not been sleeping. I couldn't sleep, too much on my mind_" He hesitated, unsure of himself, unsure of how to continue to broach the crux of the matter.

"I think I understand." Catherine told him with a grin to match his own. "I too have found sleep hard to come by these past few weeks and I think we might both be suffering from the same problem."

"You do! I mean we are! I mean_oh Catherine_" Words eluded him once more only coming to his rescue when Catherine hugged him tight with the words, "Oh yes my love, believe me I think we both have the same problem, and I think you have the answer to ease it for the both of us?" She gazed longingly up into his eyes, waiting, hoping and praying that she wasn't wrong while anxiously awaiting the words that she had waited an eternity for.

Yet when they came she did nothing but laugh; laugh until her sides ached pulling equal humour from the man she adored when he answered her with the words, "Catherine, would you play tootsie with me?"

Eyes brimming with happiness as her laughter subsided Catherine hugged Vincent tight as she replied with the words he so longed to hear, "Oh yes my love. I most certainly would love to play tootsie with you."

And they did. They played tootsie for ever after...and more besides!