by Diane Kenny
Lying in his arms she barely breathed her last words “Though they sink to the sea, they will rise again; though lovers be lost, love shall not, and death shall have no dominion.” “And death shall have no dominion” he whispered. It was over, she was gone, and he felt as it his soul was being torn to shreds. Clutching her to his breast he roared his pain, a primal scream that seemed to shake the world beneath him.
Suddenly everything went black and Vincent felt as if he had fallen into the abyss. He reached out into the vortex engulfing him, helpless to stop his descent. A whisper? - He thought he heard the voice of an angel.
He felt a breath on his cheek and the voice again “I’m here, my love, wake up, I’m here, oh my darling please wake up!" He tried to open his eyes but they felt so heavy and he was so weak. Slowly the lids rose and he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“You're alive!” His voice barely a whisper. She smiled at him and stroked his cheek while the tears swelled in his eyes. “Yes, my love, and I intend to stay that way for a very long time” she smiled again and tenderly kissed his cheek.
Father appeared at the entrance of the chamber out of breath with fear clearly etched across his face. Mary followed close behind. “Catherine! What’s happened? I heard Vincent scream. Is he in pain?“
“No, Father,” Catherine replied. “Vincent cried out in grief, not pain. He’s all right now; it was only a dream. I believe his fever has broken, would you check please?”
“Of course, my dear.” As she rose to trade places with Father Vincent grabbed her hand.
“Please!” he begged, in a voice he hardly recognized as his own.
“Don’t worry Vincent. I won’t leave you.“ And she laid his hand down and took her place at his head, laying her hand on his shoulder to comfort him.
“You're right, Catherine. He’s without fever at long last!” Casting a loving eye at Vincent Father continued with the exam. “Well, my son. You gave us quite a scare, but it would appear the worst is over. The first order of business is to get some nourishment in you. Mary, ask William to bring Vincent a tray immediately just some broth and bread to start with.” Turning to Vincent he added, “We must take it slowly now, but soon you’ll be on your feet again.”
Father stood up, looking to Catherine. “Make sure he eats as much as you can feed him and don’t let him attempt to move from this bed.”
“Yes Father I will” she replied.
Vincent laid there in shock. Never had Father left his care to anyone, not even Mary. He didn’t understand this pleasant turn of events, but was in no condition to question them. He smiled at his Father and thanked him.
“Vincent, it’s so good to see you smile!” Father said, nearly choking on the lump in his throat. “You just rest and do whatever Catherine tells you. I’m sure that won’t be a problem.” Kissing Catherine on the cheek he turned and left.
“Catherine!” She rose to take the tray from William but again Vincent grabbed her hand. “Would you please put the tray on the table? Thank you, William.”
William just beamed at Vincent “I brought a pot of your favorite tea, Vincent. It will put you to rights in no time.” Vincent just nodded sleepily.
Catherine lifted the spoon to his lips and he swallowed. The soup warmed him and he gazed at her. She was alive in his chamber and caring for him! He couldn’t make any sense of it but he was starting to feel safe and content. “It’s good soup.” he sighed. Those words warmed her heart, the same words she had spoken to him nearly three years ago although now their roles were reversed. She smiled remembering. He obediently ate all of the soup and bread and drank some of the tea. Fatigue was washing over him but he was fighting it, afraid he would awake and she’d be gone.
“Please Vincent, you must sleep if you’re to get well.” Catherine said, trying to sound stern.
“I know. But I’m afraid if I fall asleep I’ll find this was the dream and the nightmare my reality.”
“If I lie here next to you do you think you can sleep?”
Vincent gazed at her with an odd look on his face.
“Don’t worry. I promise not to take advantage of your weakened state.” She was laughing but her smile faded and she stroked his cheek. “Father had a cot brought in,” she pointed to it and continued “but I rarely used it. I told myself I slept beside you to calm you and keep your nightmares at bay, but the truth is, Vincent, I wanted to hold you in my arms and keep you safe. I hope you don’t mind; you were in no condition for me to ask your approval.”
“Oh Catherine” he cried and tried to hold his arms out for her, but found all he could do was hold out his hands.
She nestled close to him, wrapping her arms around his arm and laying her head lightly on his shoulder. He laid stiff and still beneath her touch. “Relax, Vincent! Please! If I’m making you uncomfortable I’ll use the cot. Perhaps you’d like me to read to you.”
“No, Catherine, please. I do feel better holding you near; it’s just so strange to me, but I don’t want it to end. How long have I been ill?” He asked, still looking at the ceiling.
“About a week now” she replied. “The fever started shortly after we left the cavern below the catacombs.” The cavern! Oh God, the cavern! He mind was swirling now he didn’t know which memories were a delusion and which were real, but she was here with him. There was no doubt about that now. He didn’t have the strength to ask her about the events in the cavern.
As if she knew his thoughts she gently stroked his arm.
“When Father came in he seemed alarmed why?” He asked quietly.
“Because he heard you scream and it frightened him.” She answered him.
“But how did you know?” He turned now and looked in her eyes.
“How did I know what, Vincent?”
“How did you know I cried out in grief and that I was dreaming? When you woke me it’s almost as if you knew what I had dreamed.” Although his eyes were pinned to hers he was looking inside himself now, searching for the bond. It was weak but still there! Not gone as it was in his dream. He searched her face for the answers now, unable to find them within himself.
She looked at him for what seemed like a long time. She couldn’t find the words to answer his question. She didn’t want to burden him with too much too soon but she could never lie to him, not even by omission.
She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and gave him the only words that would make him understand. “I feel the things you do when you’re feeling them, Vincent.” And then to make sure he understood she added, “Your pain is my pain; almost as if we were one.” The exact words he had spoken to her on her balcony the night he first come to her, intending to say good bye.
“When did this happen Catherine? Oh Catherine, the pain I must have caused you!” His eyes filled with tears and he could speak no more.
“Don’t, Vincent! Don’t feel that way, please. It’s a wonderful gift, like a miracle to me, and in your illness it allowed me to reach you and to keep you safe, as you have done for me so many times. You know I’ve sensed you in the bond before, when you were trapped in the cave-in and when Hughes had kidnapped you, but never like this. I would endure anything before I let it go! Nothing compares to the feel of your heart beating next to mine, nothing! I don’t know how it happened; it just is, that’s all.”
He knew there was more, something she was holding back. He waited for her to finish and when she looked away from him he gently touched her cheek and turned her to face to him again. “When, Catherine. When did this happen?” Somehow he knew this was the heart of the matter and he had to know the whole truth now.
“Vincent please, Father is depending on me to see to it that you rest.”
“I am resting. Please go on. I need to know everything; my memories are a mass of reality and dreams mixed together. I need to sort them out and I can’t do that without your help.”
Her voice was so quiet that if it were not for his acute hearing the words would have been lost to him. “In the cavern; it started there.”
“I know you're confused now and disoriented, but know this Vincent. Nothing bad happened, I promise you. Please sleep now and we’ll talk in the morning.”
He wanted to continue but found he was no longer able to. Sleep was fast approaching and he was powerless to stop it. His eyes closed at last but before the dark returned once more he heard her whisper. “I love you, Vincent.”
Peace, such a feeling of complete contentment. He could never remember such a feeling as this. He felt loved, so totally loved that it was if his soul itself was held in a warm embrace. Sleep was slipping away from him, the warmth he felt inside was lying across his chest now, embracing him as if to protect him from harm. This tiny slip of woman protecting him; the thought made him smile, yet it was true. He put his arms about her gently so as to not wake her. Oh how he loved her, his tiny warrior. Not much bigger than a minute but with the heart of a giant; ready to battle anything that threatened him, even himself.
He was pulled from his reverie by the sound of approaching footsteps. “Catherine, Vincent, may I come in?”
Before he had time to answer Catherine spoke. “Yes Father of course come in.”
What could she be thinking? What would Father say? He was too weak to bolt from the bed. So he lay there stunned and embarrassed. “Good morning sleepyheads!” Father smiled at them both paying absolutely no attention to their sleeping arrangement.
Catherine sat up and stretched. “What time is it?”
“Well after 10:00. I wouldn’t have awakened you but I thought you both should eat something soon.”
“Your right. I’ll freshen up and bring us a tray from the kitchen. Is that agreeable to you, Vincent?”
“Yes, of course, Catherine.” he answered meekly, hardly sparing a glance toward Father.
“Good, that’s settled. I'll be back in a few minutes. Father you’ll stay and visit with Vincent, won’t you.”
“There’s nothing I'd rather do. Take your time,Catherine. I’m looking forward to visiting my favorite patient.”
Catherine turned to Vincent, kissed him on the cheek and went to the dresser for a change of clothes. her actions were so prosaic he could hardly believe he was awake.
“Well my son, alone at last. Vincent, for goodness sakes look at me! You look like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar!” Father was laughing and teasing him. What in the world was going on around here?
“Oh my beloved son, I haven’t lost my mind; I found it. Catherine has earned her place at your side, or anywhere she chooses to be for that matter. I regret that it took such a traumatic event for me to see her for what she really is, Vincent, a kind and noble creature just like you. Your soulmate. The one God himself created for you to love. I am so sorry that I am responsible for causing you both so much pain. Can you ever forgive me Vincent?”
“I love you, Father, and I know you only acted with concern and love.”
“She saved us all, Vincent. As long as I live I never forget that night. I’ve never been more afraid for you.”
“Father, please tell me. I remember only a mixture of dreams and reality.”
“When you retreated to the bowels of the earth to protect those you loved we followed you but at a distance. We could hear you screaming and roaring in the darkness. I sent for Catherine, hoping she could reach you through your bond, that hearing her voice would help you find yourself, and bring you home safely. I was not prepared for Catherine’s response to the situation.”
“What was her reaction Father? She must have been terrified. You shouldn’t have let her come.”
“On the contrary, Vincent, she showed no signs of fear whatsoever. When she heard you she started down the dark tunnel alone. I tried to stop her, I grabbed her arm. I warned her that you were not yourself, that you could harm her without knowing it. She turned on me as though she would fight if I tried to stop her again. Her words; I’ll never forget them, “He is my life!” she said, “without him, there is nothing.” She turned and left me.
She followed your screams into that dark place alone, armed only with her love and courage. After a very long time and silence, a deathly silence I started to make the journey myself. It seemed to take an eternity and when I reached the cavern I didn’t know what to expect. I was certainly not prepared for what the sight before me. You in Catherine’s arms being rocked gently while she told you of her love for you. It was like a vision. A memory I will treasure till my dying day.
“He’s alive.” Was all she said. She’s been at your side ever since, nursing you, reading to you and yes, Vincent, sleeping with you. I would have it no other way and neither should you. If there is a beast inside you, Vincent, Catherine has tamed it. Never again need you fear yourself for her sake. No matter what I said to you in the past, believe in this. She is what you need, what you’ve always needed. Even an old man blinded with distrust for the world above can see it and you must see it too, Vincent.”
Catherine entered the chamber laughing. ”I hope you're hungry, Vincent. William’s really outdone himself this time. There’s enough food on this tray to feed a small army. I wasn’t sure I’d get here without falling over and...”
She stopped mid-sentence and hurried to put down the tray. “Vincent, my darling, what’s wrong?” Tears were pouring down his face he and she rushed to his side.
Father exited quietly, leaving the lovers alone to talk.
She held him tight, wanting to take whatever burden he carried onto herself. “Please, my love, your feelings are such a jumble I can’t make sense of them. I’m new at this, please, you must tell me what’s wrong.”
“Father told me what you did how you came to me in the cavern without any regard for your safety. Oh Catherine, my Catherine how could you have done such a thing? I could have hurt you...or worse.”
“My love, my dear sweet love.” She wiped the tears from his face “You could never hurt me, never! You must know that now, you must. I knew it then; I had no reason to fear you. I was only afraid for you and what would happen to you if I didn’t come to you. The fear that you could do me harm is only in your mind, Vincent. Look inside your heart and see the truth. Our truth, the truth beyond knowledge, beyond anything we could ever hope to know. There you’ll find the answer to all your doubts and fears; for there only love dwells.”
“Catherine, I love you so. I want to believe you, but these images I see. I don’t know if they’re memories or dreams and I’m at a loss to understand them.”
“Tell me everything and I will help you understand. Don’t be afraid, please, don’t be afraid.” The same words he’d used so long ago to ease her fears she hoped they would help him now.
“I was fighting for my life with some unseen adversary and than everything went black. I remember thinking I had lost the battle that I had died. Next I heard your voice saying “No I won’t let you!" and than I was kissing you and touching you intimately.” With those words he turned from her, ashamed. “Catherine, I must know the truth. Did I force myself on you?”
“Look at me, Vincent.” Slowly he turned his head but still avoided her eyes. “Please look at me. No. you didn’t force yourself on me. Look at me and see the truth. Look into my heart; would any women feel such love for a man who had raped her? I think not.
“When I entered the cavern you were in the corner, back to the wall, crouched down as if preparing for an assault. You sprang into action when you heard me enter, but stopped the minute you heard me call your name. You fell to the floor. I could hear no heart beat, feel no pulse. Vincent, you willed yourself to die rather than hurt me, and I knew I had to bring you back.
I pounded on your chest and said “No I won’t let you! Not without me!.” Tears ran down her face unchecked but when he reached to touch them she stopped him. “I kissed you, trying to will you back to me with the force of our love. But then you exhaled, and when I tasted your breath in my month it unleashed a passion in me that could not be contained. When you started to respond to the kiss it opened a door I’d keep closed for three years and all the passion and longing I’d ever felt for you poured out from me.”
Blushing now but never taking her eyes from his she continued. “You reached out to hold me. I took your hand and held to my breast. I made love to you, Vincent. I know you were weak and so terribly vulnerable but I wanted you so, I needed you and I couldn’t stop myself. Once it was let out I couldn’t contain my love for you there was no turning back for me. I’m sorry I caused you more pain and doubt. What we shared was so beautiful to me I never thought you would remember it any differently.”
He sat up and pulled her to his chest. “Catherine, my Catherine, I love you so, I wanted you so. Please don’t cry. It’s my own doubts and fears that distorted this beautiful act for me.”
“I’ve waited so long to hear you say those words. Don’t ever stop.”
Placing his finger under her chin so that her face was just a breath away from his he started to kiss her tears away slowly and so very gently that it tugged at her heart. At last he reached her lips and planted short sweet kisses there but soon she felt his hand in her hair pulling her closer and deepening the kiss. The bond sang between them; each feeling not only their own emotions but also each other’s as well.
“The feel of you, the taste of you, Catherine, There are no words that can express what I’m feeling.”
“Try one, Vincent” “
“Blessed” he whispered before he fell backwards among the pillows pulling her along with him.
“I’m sorry, my love, but I’m suddenly weak as a kitten.” Was this her Vincent making jokes about his possible heritage?
“Oh, you must be starved! You've had little to eat this past week. I’ll make a fresh pot of tea and we’ll see what we can salvage from William’s bounty.” As she busied herself making the tea she heard an unfamiliar sound - Vincent chuckling. “I see my kisses make you giddy. Well, not quite the effect I had hoped for.”
“They do have a devastating effect on me, but giddy isn’t how I’d describe it.”
“It’s just that, after all our trials and all the waiting...”
“Go on, Vincent.”
“Well how shall I put this…. the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Catching the double meaning in his words and the glint in his eyes set Catherine laughing, and him too.
“May I come and share in that wondrous sound?” Asked a voice from the doorway.
“Come in, Pascal, and welcome.” Vincent called out, thinking to himself how odd it was that his family and friends were no longer just barging in on him, as had been their custom.
“I’ve been tapping the news of your recovery all morning and had to come and see for myself. I won’t stay long. I can see you’re about to eat and I need to return to the pipes. Vincent, to see you well and smiling - I can’t tell you what a joy this is.” He went to the bedside and gave Vincent a rather uncharacteristic bear hug.
“Thank you my friend, it’s good to see you too.” Choking back his tears Pascal made a hasty retreat.
The rest of day Vincent slept between visits from his family, noting that only Mouse had entered without seeking permission first. It was an event unlikely to be repeated given the looks he received from Jamie.
By evening Vincent was exhausted. “Would you like a snack before we sleep? I believe there’s a fresh batch of brownies cooling in the kitchen.”
“Catherine if you attempt to feed me one more time I’m calling for Father. Another bite of food and I’m sure I’ll burst.”
“I’m just following the doctors orders.” She said smiling. “May I share your bed again tonight?”
“Need you ask? Come to me; my arms ache to hold you.” She quickly complied. “To hold you like this in my bed, in my arms; nothing can compare to this.”
Snuggling close to him wrapped in his arms she gazed into his eyes “This is only the beginning, my love. So much joy awaits us still.” She kissed him sweetly and snuggled even closer. Than she felt a great sadness pass over her through their bond.
“What is it Vincent? What’s hurting you so?”
“I can’t hide anything from you now, can I?
“No. Please tell me what’s on your mind?”
“I was wishing it could be like this forever, but I know that you have a life above waiting. I know you must return to your work soon.”
“No, Vincent. You are the my life! Surely you understand that now?”
“But your job...”
“I told Joe I was leaving to take care of a loved one and didn’t know if or when I’d return to work. He wouldn’t except my resignation but I’m on an indefinite leave of absence. I told him he could contact me through Peter if he needed me or was worried about me. I didn’t want him sending an investigator tracking my whereabouts or kicking down my apartment door again.”
“How long will you stay?” he asked almost shyly.
“Until you ask me to leave and than you can expect a good fight, Vincent. When you tire of me,” she said smiling “a week maybe, a month or maybe…”
He finished her sentence for her “...Or for as long as we both shall live?”
“Oh yes, Vincent, yes! For as long as we both shall live!”
And they lived happily ever after.