A Romantic Evening
by Ginger

Vincent led Catherine shyly into this naturally formed chamber he'd been meaning to share with her for some time. This cavern he'd found in his youth was far outside the hub of familiar chambers where the inhabitants of Below spent their days. Only a few knew of its existence; an optical illusion made the entryway of this room blend into the surrounding wall so that very few people had discerned its location. Vincent had spent many an afternoon or evening here, as his need for true privacy arose.

Vincent had wanted his love to see this chamber of his for some time, and had spent considerable time making it homey. A huge array of candles sat on every conceivable surface available, from the natural indentations of the wall, to the ledges that Vincent had spent considerable time carving from the solid rock as time permitted. All of them were lit, the lights dancing and flickering like so many brilliant sparkling jewels as unseen air currents lazily wafted through them.

Quite a large crate had been set not too far from the rather low archway of this chamber; it sat beneath a plain white sheet, to resemble a table. Two smaller crates sat near the impromptu table, apparently for seating, also draped with cloth and neatly tucked away. Vincent had procured two placesettings from William's kitchen, mismatched objects that somehow seemed just right when placed near and on each other, as appropriate. Simple cutlery and eating utensils sat ready for the user to use them as needed. A salad of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and daintily grated cheese lay ready in an antique clear crystal bowl, a more utilitarian dish housed the still-piping hot stew that Vincent had persuaded William to cook on his behalf, and for dessert, a decadent chocolate mousse, topped with homemade whipped cream, promised to finish a delectable meal. An omnipresent kettle of tea also sat at the ready

Upon entering the chamber, Catherine could only stop in her tracks and stare, at the meal, at the ambiant lighting flickering throughout the room, and at the rear of the chamber--somehow, Vincent had managed to find an old wind-up Victrola, which was busily playing some smarmy love song of the 1930s. A stack of records promised an evening of eclectically-chosen songs. And piled in the corner, was a great mountain of pillows of all shapes, sizes, colors and textures, an odd assortment that Vincent had spent years finding for use in this chamber. A heavy throw, assuredly musty with the smell of burnt candlewick and loam, lay folded nearby.

As Catherine viewed the tableau, Vincent stood by her side, looking at her reaction and visibly relaxing as she gasped in surprise at what lay before them. She made positive noises about the scrumptious meal which beaconed their palates with mouthwatering aroma, and moved to the old phonograph to view the records awaiting their turn. She spied the comfortable-looking bedding at the far end of the room, and images of what lay ahead sprang unbidden to her mind, and she smiled even wider. Vincent ignored that particular surge of emotion thrumming through the bond, and merely nodded solemnly as Catherine turned to look at him for explanation for this most unexpected of dates.

Vincent held out his hand, and Catherine took it in hers after three strides, and together they stood before the meal. Vincent guided her to her seat, before setting his cloak on a natural outcrop that doubled as a coat hanger. Fluid as a dancer, he moved to his own setting, and sat himself down, wincing as the crate beneath him creaked in protest. Catherine demurely giggled at that, but Vincent paid no mind to her amusement.

Catherine moved as if to attack the salad prongs, but Vincent covered it with one furred hand, preventing her advance. Her eyes lifted to his, and each steadily gazed at the other. Vincent quietly moved his hand towards the floor, and brought it back up again, holding a single live red rose within his fingertips.

Its recipient gasped once more, accepting the simple gift with oddly shaking fingers, and she held the perfectly formed bud of petals to her nose, inhaling delicately and smiling appreciably as its pleasant odor provided a sweet counterpoint to the cooling stew before her. Catherine gestured for Vincent's hand to rest in her outstretched one, and she held it gently, lovingly. "Thank you," was all she could say.

He nodded once more, and now gestured towards the salad, breaking contact with her for the moment. "Are you hungry, Catherine?"

She was powerless to do anything but nod slowly, and Vincent made quite a show of depositing a fair amount of salad upon her plate, before serving himself. As one, they delve into their first course, seemingly more intent upon watching each other eat, rather than enjoying the food on their own plates. Quite soon, the salad plates were empty, and Vincent hovered over the table to take away the plates, the bowls beneath ready to receive their share of beef stock and vegetable stew.

Vincent steeled himself as he watched Catherine sip at her main course, wishing for one fleeting moment he could be that spoon she held so wonderfully in her slender fingers, touched so delicately with her mouth.. Nearly too late, he turned his attention to his own plate and supped.

Much too soon, the chocolate mousse was delved into, and each sat back as much as he and she were able, sitting on crates as they were. Vincent caught himself before he patted his stomach. Catherine's appetite was sated as well. The Victrola hissed as the needle rode in the inside groove, and belatedly Vincent arose to turn the record over, filling the chamber with scratchy music once more. Catherine took this opportunity to rise, and stretch as well.

Moving pointedly towards the mountain of pillows, Vincent held out his hand once more, and Catherine gamely wandered over, silently thanking herself on choosing comfortable slacks, rather than a foofy dress for this date. She knelt down, still holding his hands, and settled herself in the nest. Vincent walked over to retrieve the couple's tea mugs, refreshed them, and brought them over to the pillows, and reclined himself as well. The two curled up together, nearly touching heads as they each closed their eyes and listened to the warbling of the rather jazzy instruments as the phonograph's needle rode along the old track.

Later, neither could say whose hand reached for the other's first. Nor who had moved first so that they lay, gazing into each others' half-lidded eyes. Nor even who leaned forward first, lips slightly pursed...

--

This was inspired by a question posed on CABB Connections, in which Kayla prompts: What would be THE most perfect and romantic date for our favorite couple? The only rule is that it take place in NYC and that it involve the following three items: a single rose, chocolate, the poem or song of your choice.

This piece of fan fiction was written by me for the discussion list [bbtv] in 1998, and archived at Tunnel Tales.