I Prefer This One

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Unlike many of NYC's inhabitants -- above or below -- Vincent considered winter to be his favorite time of year.

For one thing, there were the holidays. Thanksgiving, which heralded the coming of the season. Christmas, when blessings were exchanged generously and everyone seemed to find the good in others. And of course Winterfest, when the tunnel community celebrated the triumph of its own existence. This year, with Catherine as his wife, he'd had even more to be thankful for, many more blessings to share, and perhaps the most wonderful Winterfest of his life.

And as for Valentine's Day ... ... suffice it to say he was perhaps its newest, greatest fan.

But for him, there was still another, unique twist to winter. The temperatures that convinced others to stay indoors didn't seem to bother him as much. He used to pretend that it was simply an advantage of living in a naturally temperate, subterranean environment. In his more honest moments however, he knew it went beyond that. His unique skin ... his fur ... was quite an effective insulation, even against the bitter winds that blew across the city's landscape.

And when the big snowfalls would come, certain areas of the park became his own private wonderland ... especially at night.

So it was now, here in the first week of March. The month that traditionally saw one last major snowstorm had failed to disappoint. In temperatures just below freezing, a good foot and a half of snow blanketed the city.

Vincent couldn't resist going out into the park that evening, relatively certain that the next day's sun would seriously deplete all this fluffy whiteness. Come midnight, he and Catherine were the only two people wandering the area around their familiar park culvert.

"Look, Vincent!" Catherine exclaimed, bending down near the base of a tree. The snow had drifted away, revealing a rare spot of pale yellow. "I think it's a crocus!"

"It's late in the season," Vincent reminded her. "All winters must end. Even this one."

Catherine looked up, having detected a wistfulness in his voice. Yes, this had been a wonderful season for her as well. Every season was improved, actually, now that she'd moved below.

Carefully, she brushed the snow away from the delicately closed petals, then rose and strolled back to her mate. "You're right. This snow won't last long. ... It might be the last snowy night for the year."

He nodded, taking her gloved hand warmly into his own. "Is there anywhere you'd prefer to explore? Perhaps the bridge? I know you love when the mist rises from the water."

A grin broke onto her face and she shook her head playfully. "Let's make snow angels."

His eyebrows rose. "Snow angels?"

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It required a bit of looking, but she soon found a plane of flatter Earth where the snow had drifted down to a much more comfortable eight inches or so.

"Here, I think," she decided, then took her coat off and handed it to him.

"Catherine," he warned, "I don't want you to become sick."

"It's not *that* cold," she countered, adjusting her thick sweater. "And besides," ... her smile grew coy and a gleam rose in her eyes ... "you can warm me up later."

The same spark mirrored in Vincent's eyes. Indeed, yet another wonderful advantage of winter -- -- the luxury of wrapping her into his warmth as they'd adjourn back to their chamber, then crawling into bed, nurturing and sharing that warmth while the snow fell or the winds raced far overhead. Even on the most bitterly cold evenings, she would delay burrowing beneath the blankets until her mate was ready to join her. Then he'd kiss the remaining chill from her skin ... sometimes lulling her into a peaceful slumber ... sometimes raising a much more heated flush to her surface as her body responded and called for his. On those nights, it was not the cold that made her shiver one last time before sleep's arrival

So, yes, he would be most pleased to 'warm her up later'.

"I used to do this all the time as a child," she mused. "When I was eight, I spent an entire New Year's day at my grandmother's home in Connecticut, filling her front lawn with an army of these things."

Vincent smiled, secretly charmed. Such determination at such a young age.

With one large step, she moved onto a patch of untouched snow. "This time, I think I'll just settle for one," she decided as she gingerly sat down in as small a spot as possible. Her mate watched silently as she stretched out flat on her back, then very stiffly began fanning her arms and legs.

"You can laugh," she offered. "I know how silly this looks."

The shake of his head was slight, yet filled with sincerity. "No, love. You don't look silly. Nor do I believe you've ever done so."

Well if *he* wouldn't laugh at her, she'd laugh at herself instead, adding an extra kick of energy to her swinging limbs. Snow piled up as the symmetrical figure formed.

Eventually, when the cold began to seep through her clothing, she carefully lifted her arms and sat up. Her feet, too, were gracefully drawn back so that her knees arched in front of her chest. And then she stretched her hands toward her mate, silently requesting that he help her stand.

He very willingly obliged, tossing her coat over his shoulder, then taking her hands and hoisting her to her feet.

"Not bad," she decided, mulling over her masterpiece. "I kind of wish my arms were longer though. Those wings won't carry her very far."

Vincent stood behind her, brushing the snow from the back of her sweater. "On the contrary, they'll carry her farther than she thinks," he countered. "She's made in your likeness, Catherine. She'll have strength and courage unrivalled."

Catherine paused, peering over her shoulder to catch his eyes. "Maybe. If she has one in your likeness as a companion." Motioning briefly toward the neighboring expanse of pristine snow, she clarified, "If you want her to fly, then give her one of you."

Her mate hesitated, both surprised and flattered by her request. "You want me to make an angel too?"

She nodded with an impish smile, then collected her coat from the hook of his arm. "But your cloak will have to go. It'll blur the wings."

Apparently, the decision had already been made for him, and he was not one to argue with the mate he'd waited so many solitary winters for. "As you wish," he grinned, removing the big, black garment. In less than a minute it joined her coat, draped across her arm and held protectively against her front.

He would have preferred she wear at least one of them, as long as the breeze still picked up flakes and tossed them at her dampened sweater. But again, he wouldn't argue. In truth, the more selfish part of his brain rather hoped this was her way of ensuring that her eventual 'warming' remained his task and his task alone.

Gingerly, he imitated his mate's movements ... taking a large step into a clean area of snow ... lying down just as she had done ... then fanning his arms and legs in great, far-reaching arcs. And yes, he did indeed feel silly, just as she had claimed to. But at the same time ... ... this angel he was making would be powerful, wouldn't it? With his height and girth. Powerful enough to protect the more delicate angel that spread its wings in the snow beside him.

When he was finished, he sat up, bent his knees just as she had done, and stretched his hands toward hers.

She giggled ... couldn't help it ... at the idea that now *she* was supposed to haul *him* up. -- -- A light, fluffy laughter that floated and danced with the snowflakes. -- -- So magical that he half expected it to breathe life into these angels and send them fluttering.

His fingers wiggled to motion her closer, still encouraging her to take his hands. At first, it had been simply a moment of humor. Now, however, it was becoming an anxious plea for her touch.

The determination on his face -- as if it were he that was now making all the decisions -- drew her forward. Cloak and coat were both tossed into the snow before she took her mate's hands. She had no illusions of actually pulling him upright, but she was still surprised when he instigated the opposite ... giving her a yank and toppling her forward onto himself.

Her fall atop his chest was punctuated with an 'oomph', followed by yet more laughter. Split seconds while his arms wrapped around her and he pulled her into an eager, powerful kiss. ... ... How very 'warm' of him.

Somehow, she managed to wrestle away with a surprisingly audible pop of suction ... another sound to float off into the night. "Isn't this better left for indoors?" she teased, her pointer finger tapping his lower lip playfully. The delay worked for a moment, her mate settling for a kiss of her fingertip rather than another pounce for her mouth.

"You're beautiful in the snow," he declared as if it were his only defense.

"At the moment, I'm not the one in the snow," she countered obviously. "Now you're the one who'll be getting cold."

His head shook in the negative. "You know my resistance to the cold is high. The wish for my warmth was yours." His hands relaxed where they curled around her head, his claws combing down through her hair as her face hovered above his. If she chose to end the embrace, she would be given the opportunity. He would never force her to share anything, even his own body heat. ... ... "Have I begun to fulfill that wish yet?"

Silently, slowly, she drifted closer ... threatening a kiss from the merest of inches away. "You fulfill a lot of wishes, Vincent."

That unique feline smile spread across his face as he closed the slight distance. A much gentler kiss was offered, his arms snaking across her back to continue fighting off the chill. In those moments, he had collected himself -- -- and decided with surprising surety that he suddenly detested the snow. It was the biggest blockade at the moment. The one thing that truly stopped him from rolling her over and putting into action all the desires that swirled in his head. It was quiet; it was peaceful; and they were alone. He could put warmth into her bones and delight on her face, if only the snow weren't there.

She apparently had similar ideas. Or more probably, had picked up on his. This time it was she who deepened their kiss, simultaneously squirming around atop him. Chills more affecting than any winter he'd ever experienced raced down his spine, hastening the very reaction that he suspected she secretly sought. And her hand knew exactly where to go to chase those chills, her fingers insinuating between their pelvises in blatant search of his arousal.

"I was under the impression," he murmured against her lips, "that you felt such things 'best reserved for indoors'." It was a struggle to accurately remember her words. It was a struggle to accurately remember anything at all.

She laughed, shedding the pretense of stealth, and purposefully molded her fingers along the hard ridge that protruded through the front of his trousers. "You might have a pretty uncomfortable trip, my love, if you want to walk all the way back to our chamber like this."

For that, he had no answer. Partly because he would not blatantly ask her to engage in such intimacies in this cold, and partly because -- quite frankly -- her assessment was correct. The gleam in his eyes though, was certainly not dissuasive.

She'd mastered his belt with such talent over the last months, that she had it open within seconds. Then she rose up, straddled his hips and deftly opened his trousers.

His arms collapsed back into his angel's wings, his gaze fixing on the moon overhead. It peeked out through the last clouds of the day's storm, once again watching over its Earth. Vincent took a cue from its patience, waiting with anticipation as his beloved's fingers slipped in to encircle him.

The resultant gasp he loosed was unusually harsh. She'd yanked her gloves off without him noticing, and her hands had a coldness to them. Nothing painful of course, but quite eye-opening nonetheless. "That is *far* from warm, Catherine," he chastised humorously.

She giggled. "And it might even get worse for a minute." Carefully, she worked him out through his clothing ... not an easy task given how excited he was. Then, much to his loss, she abruptly removed her touch all together.

"Catherine?" he murmured, rising up onto his elbows to find her pushing her jeans down from her hips. One impulse demanded that he protectively pull the garment back up around her, then carry her off into the warmth of the tunnels. Another wanted to take over the procedure and remove her clothing himself. He was stuck in the middle, anxiously and eagerly doing nothing.

At last she laid back down atop him, squirming in a way that nearly stole his breath. She had worked his swollen member in between her own clothing. Not very efficiently, mind you, but well enough to engulf him in heat.

"Oh, love," he groaned, capturing her face in his hands. Indecision was instantly a thing of the past as he bucked upward ... ... popping himself right out of her in the process.

"This isn't working," she lamented, leveraging herself back up while two very wide feline eyes stared on. His hands grabbed for her waist, instinctively trying to prevent her escape. Which was more painful? ... The cold breeze that chose that second to taunt his now damp member, or simply the mere absence of his mate?

This time she stood up, beginning a much more frantic battle with her jeans.

"Catherine," he stammered, trying to slow himself. "If we would return to the culvert ..." It was the best he could do verbally, while his fingers began the process of gingerly putting himself away.

"Don't you dare," she warned, her boots flying off along with her jeans. "If this is the last snowfall, then we're going to *enjoy* it." Of course, now her socks would be absorbing the melting snow too, especially as she danced around to remove her panties. At the moment though, getting to him was far more important.

Her landing this time prompted a grunt from them both. He had managed to sit up, and caught her as she plopped down on his lap. Exactly which of them was the first to demand the next kiss was entirely debatable, but it was Vincent who set to work on the rest ... ... ... purposefully lifting her bare legs to twine around his waist, trying to coax her feet up and away from the icy white powder ... shoving his own confinements down further from his hips ... lifting her closer into the circle of his natural warmth ... all while engaging her in a heedlessly hungry kiss.

Once more he coaxed her upward, pleased beyond words when his gently offered support transformed into his mate trying to climb closer. His fingers pressed purposefully into her bottom, silently stilling her as he lowered her smoothly onto his erection.

Her lips abandoned his in favor of a hushed exclamation -- their position, magnified by gravity, had seated him far better than usual. It required a moment ... an additional pause ... before tentatively, with her breath held and her heels digging into the small of his back, she risked the relaxation of a muscle or two.

Vincent's forehead propped to her cheek, bowed as if in meditation. Such an ironic torment. As unbelievable as this felt from his perspective, he knew it stung her -- -- he could feel that too. So he held himself in check, focusing on her most infinitesimal movements as she rested onto him inch by inch. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

It pulled her out of her reverie and her head shook in disagreement. "Don't be. Oh God, don't be." Then, once her fingers found the hooks of his jaw, she lifted his face and tilted it to her own. It was pointless to hide discomfort from him, she knew that. So she'd let him feel the rest too. The grip of her legs eased, allowing her to settle the rest of the way into his lap.

Of course her body accommodated him, even in such an intimate position. They'd been fated in a way she still didn't fully understand. ... ... Fate would never make such a mistake.

"I love you," she whispered, the words wafting across the cleft of his upper lip. Soothing reassurance, followed by his puff of relief.

Finger by finger, his grip on her bottom re-strengthened. And at her sides, his arms stretched down to cover the outsides of her thighs ... defense against the cold breeze that was now searching out her bare skin ... warming her just as he'd promised.

Movement wasn't the easiest, but then it didn't have to be, given how deeply he was buried within her. And furthermore, that movement was now entirely in his hands -- quite literally. Was that supposed to daunt him or thrill him? He wasn't entirely sure.

Soon her arms looped around his neck ... not to impede him, nor to lift her weight away ... merely to rest as he raised and lowered her against the flexing of his torso. And when his face passed through the curtain of her hair, his breath arriving on her neck with a tickle, she couldn't resist a smile amidst her otherwise shallow gasps and whimpers. Now she could listen to him. Close her eyes and listen to him with her entire body.

Eventually, up bubbled his expected growl ... but for some reason, this time, it didn't sound as aggressive as usual. Maybe it was somehow stifled by the cold. Or maybe his instincts had realized there was no point in trying to get closer -- he was already literally as close as was physically possible. Maybe that had been the growl's goal all along. Regardless, this time it hummed as little more than a physical vibration, emanating from deep in his chest to course right through her own.

"Catherine?" he murmured against the skin of her throat. Its meaning was twofold ... both a request, and a show of concern after he'd risked those first movements. She nodded in silent agreement. -- -- Yes, she was all right. And oh yes, he may most certainly continue as such.

The growl heightened temporarily into a snarl -- prompted by her acceptance and timed to an especially impulsive flex of his hands. The sensations were beyond belief. ... ... The cling of her arms around his neck -- softened by the thick sweater she wore, but still taut with a strength he suspected was not even conscious. The cool breeze that nipped his one ear, while the other was engulfed in the warm cloud of her breath. The dampness of her socks where her feet dug into his back. The pliant, form-fitting strength of her legs, warmed by his arms while they, in turned, warmed his torso.

... ... And if she flinched her entire body around him again, in the way she had just now done, he suspected he'd melt away the last of the snow beneath him. ... ... A snow-less snow angel to be left in their wake.

Fortunately for their handiwork, she didn't. The urge to move against him was diminishing -- she could leave the work to her mate. Instead, she would merely provide the impetus.

"I love you, Vincent," she whispered at his ear. "I love you." Words traditionally used with sloppy commonality in this world ... ... except with him, and especially with his name so clearly appended. In her voice -- and engaged as they were -- she knew how highly he valued them.

He groaned in reply, his nails digging into her skin as he thrust harder against her -- sheer instinct, tempered only tenuously by his determination not to hurt her. She gasped ... and he repeated the movement. Three times, in fact, until he finally growled his blissful release.

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"Ick," Catherine grimaced, a few minutes later as the pair hastily redressed. Vincent cast her a glance, partially in concern, and partially to be certain it wasn't in reference to anything he'd ... ahem ... done. As it turned out, it was in response to her footwear. "Wet socks in tight boots," she clarified. "It doesn't get much worse than that."

"We will go straight back," he assured her, watching as she hopped on one leg to pull the leather over her heel. He at least knew better than to laugh, so he compressed it down to a simple smile.

Yes, she was wet, and standing here in the chill of late winter. And yes, he was already silently chastising himself that they should return indoors as quickly as possible. But the culvert was nearby, and they would soon be back in the dry warmth of their own bed. In the meantime, he could at least indulge in a smile over the show she presented while dressing. Another wonderful, amazing memory to file away with others of the season.

"You're finally laughing at me, aren't you," she teased, reaching for her coat as he offered it forward. She knew she had no room to scold him ... she'd given him permission for exactly such laughter just a short time earlier.

"No, not in the least," he fibbed, although the look in his eyes completely gave him away. He was laughing at the childish playfulness of the wife he so desperately loved ... it was clear the minute she caught his gaze.

Gifting her hand to his, she stepped closer. At last she was put back together. A little uncomfortable, granted ... but put back together. "All right," she spoke mischievously. "Then tell me what you find so much more entertaining than me?"

Now he actually did laugh. How did she do that? Catch him in a fib, then turn that around too?

Silently, he pointed back down at their impromptu bed of snow. That poor angel of his -- its clean lines now nearly obliterated. Only the wings had survived intact, probably because his arms were just so long.

"I hope he can still fly," Vincent mused thoughtfully.

She gave her mate a meaningful look, hoping he detected it despite his current fascination with their patch of snow. "Of course he can. He's a strong one. ... ... ... And besides, you can always do another one." Squeezing his hand, she motioned toward the opposite side of her own angel.

"No." he decided softly, pulling her closer. "I prefer this one."

They really should head back inside; he could feel the cold seeping through her damp clothing. But even so ... even if she were dry and bundled ... he still would not take the time to redo his likeness in the snow. He liked this one, and he knew why. -- -- "Those scattered edges. The imperfections. You see a strong angel, Catherine, and that may very well be. But I see evidence of a happy man. A *very* happy man."