My heart is in turmoil and I cannot help the crippling shame I feel. The raging animal I became at the hands of Paracelsus leaves an evil stench that no amount of bathing can remove.
If not for Catherine, I fear I would be lost forever in the darkness of madness. I recall most vividly the terror, the mindless rage and paranoia that overtook the man I try so hard to be. My own sounds of helpless pleading were drowned by the warning roars and growls that rang out loudly in the dark lower tunnels. The harsh sounds still echo in my fractured mind.
There seemed to be nothing left of me in that drug-induced, terrifying place. Just darkness, fear, paranoia and mind-numbing aloneness, a place not suitable even for beast.
In the few days since, I wake nightly in that same sweat-drenched terror. I hear the desperate cries of that inner beast and feel his absolute desolation that he…that I will forever be left alone.
If not for Catherine, I’m not sure I would have been able to resurface. Her fearless strength, her absolute trust in me brought me from the darkness and into her light. Her voice and touch went straight to my heart and her soul connected to mine. Our bond, our love … it stuns me with its power.
How can I doubt her love? It is impossible. She has told me. She has shown me. It is my fears that stand between us. My flaws that I fear I will never be able to overcome. Catherine deserves everything! I fear I can offer only a man less than he could be … should be. It is a wall we have been beating at for some time now and if I cannot get it to crumble, all will be lost. Fear, it seems the only thing I know and the thing I hate the most. V.
(Author’s note: This story takes place in the space around the second and third season but has no episode significance. It is a somewhat AU and is not dated in any special decade, just as in the alternate meeting of V&C in ‘Destinies Collide’ could happen today. Timelines and episodes blur and it’s all about V&C getting to their happy life. Bare with me, it’s worth it, I promise!)
Journey of Visions
“Talk to me Vincent.” Low and fierce, Catherine attempted to breach the emotional space between them.
Vincent sat immobile in his big chair, staring ahead not meeting her eyes.
She put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing slightly and inwardly compelling him to look at her.
A quick, shamed glance upward then back down. His strained voice and words almost broke her heart.
“How can you even look at me, Catherine?”
Squatting down beside him, she infused her voice with sincerity.
“How could I not, Vincent? There is nothing I see when I look at you that isn’t good. I see the man I love in pain …”
Agitated, Vincent shrugged off her hand and stood to pace across the small space of his chamber.
“Then you are blinded by that love!” The words were all but snarled at her and she felt each one as if a physical blow.
Tears ran unchecked down her face as she watched him move like a caged wild thing, wanting to run free … wanting to run away. There was so much pain, so much upheaval in this complicated being. She cried for the man so torn up inside, she cried for the protective untamed beast that he so rejected and finally she cried for herself.
Vincent turned and saw her standing there, silently weeping. Grief and regret clawed at him, but he did not go to her as he wanted to … as she needed him to.
“You should go, Catherine.” His chest heaved with the roiling emotions inside of him. He did not wish to hurt her with his words. Even the beast inside of him had not struck out at this warm-hearted woman who loved him.
“I can’t, Vincent. I won’t leave you.” She whispered the words past the lump in her throat. “Tell me what you’re feeling … what you’re thinking. We can do this together; you don’t have to do it alone!”
His head tipped down briefly as he suppressed the urge to howl at the injustice.
“I should have done as Father said when I told him I felt you falling in love with Elliot Burch.”
This track of conversation was so unexpected, that it took Catherine a moment to catch up. “What?”
Vincent finally met her eyes; his were bleak and filled with pain. “He said, ‘Let her.’ I should have let you go then. You deserve a man who can be everything for you Catherine. I am not sure that I will ever be anything other than the half man-half beast you see before you now.”
Catherine slowly shook her head in absolute rejection of what he was saying.
“Vincent, I never loved Elliot. I tried; it would have made my life so much less complicated. But, it would have been just so much less. How could I fall in love with him, when it is your face I see beside me as we grow old? When are you going to admit that what is between us is real? It’s powerful and unmovable.” Her voice had risen steadily.
Vincent moved closer and finally met her eyes. He had to make her understand.
“Catherine,” his voice was raspy and low. “I am, what I am—a beast that will not turn into a handsome prince. Your love, as precious and miraculous as it is— will never transform me.”
Forcefully, Catherine attempted to suppress the flare of anger she felt. Not so much at his words, but at the insecurity Vincent harbored in her perception of him. Why did he ignore or just plain disregard what she felt for him?
“I am not an idiot, Vincent.” Her teeth clenched and her eyes sparkled with tears and anger. Her voice was now controlled and clear. “I don’t want … would never want, to change one hair on your head—or your body!”
Vincent instinctively drew back an inch as her voice struck him with her conviction. He saw her take a deep breath in an effort to bring her ire under control.
“I do not think you are in any way an idiot, Catherine.” He offered this sincerely.
Her eyes flashed again. “Well, you must! My vision of you is not clouded by love; it’s your vision of yourself that needs clarifying.” The anger left her as suddenly as it had arrived. “Vincent, you have to accept that everyone has parts of themselves that they fear or that they would change if they could. There is nothing inside of you that I fear … nothing that I would change. But that will never be enough … if you can’t see at least some of what I see when I look at you.”
Seeing that her words were not making the deep impression she needed them to, Catherine’s voice softened with her love. “You don’t need to transform into a handsome prince. To me, you are already my beautiful and protective knight in shining armor, my gentle poet, my best friend. I know you see yourself as less than you are…and it tears at your soul and mind. But Vincent—” A tear slid down her cheek and her eyes pleaded for his understanding … “I would mourn anything that changed about you— inside or out.”
She tried to smile but it ended in a small sniff. “I only wish that you could have all the things you miss … to walk safely in the sunshine and to be happy and at peace with yourself.”
Vincent held himself rigidly even as tears tracked down his cheeks. Her words impacted him greatly, but his thoughts tumbled chaotically. He knew he had a lot of thinking to do, decisions to make…decisions that would affect both of them for the rest of their lives.
“Catherine, I—” Words failed him. “I hear your words and they strike at my heart. I feel so much … I need time. Time alone.”
Catherine straightened her shoulders.
“All right, Vincent. I’ll go, but I want you to hear my words clearly. I will never leave you. I will be there for you and you don’t have to be alone ever again.” She stepped forward and cupped his chin to bring his eyes level with hers. “I promise.” She brushed a kiss briefly against his mouth. “I want you … all of you.” She whispered and slowly left.
Narcissa did not hum light-heartedly as she prepared for the visit to come. Even in her world of darkness and shadows, some things were still frightening to her. The last few months had taken their toll on the old black woman. The troubled times above sometimes even reached into her solitary world. The danger to those who lived in the tunnels above her had also touched her dreams.
But these last visions had made her old bones tremble. She was wise enough to know however, that one did not argue with the spirit guides. Things were about to change, she hoped for the best. So, she gathered the things she needed with a heavy but determined heart and prepared with all her skills and concentration. It would not be long now.
* * *
“Welcome, Child.” Narcissa did not turn as Vincent arrived. As always, she seemed to know by whom and when she was being approached. Water steamed on the fire and Vincent saw two cups with tea leaves waiting on the low circular stone she used as a table. She looked at him with whitened eyes and smiled slightly.
“Narcissa.” Vincent came closer and gave the old woman a gentle hug. Ever since his first visit to the deeper caverns as an inquisitive child, Narcissa had filled his heart and imagination. She held a special place in his heart.
“Vincent … it has been awhile since your last visit to this silly old woman.” She motioned him to the waiting tea and allowed him to help her down onto the worn rugs encircling the stone. “You have much going on in your life, yes?” She poured the warm water over the leaves.
Vincent settled himself on the ground across from her, nodded and accepted his cup.
“Forgive me for waiting so long, Narcissa, and then coming in search of your help.” He paused, drinking some of the tea and searching for the words to explain the reason for his journey.
Narcissa’s blank stare always seemed focused just over his shoulder, but he felt she saw into his deepest spaces.
“Ah, Child, do not fret.” Her smile widened. “It is about your Beauty … the one you spoke to me of and she that I have seen standing beside you in my dreams?” Her smile left and her voice dropped.
“Yes … Catherine.” His voice had always held that special note of reverence when he said her name. It told people much when they heard it.
Narcissa dropped her gaze to her clasped hands resting in her lap. Such emotions that touched her as he spoke, their love was a gift that affected even those around them. Here were two special souls that had found one another. She realized now that her part in this was also a gift—one she hoped she was worthy of.
“I know that you have been severely tried, Vincent. The evil one is gone forever. It was his greed of gold that caused his demise, Vincent. He cared not if his evil drug did harm to you or others … and he did do harm to you, Child.” Narcissa waved her hand as if dismissing any protests he might have.
“But, that is not the real reason you visit this old woman. You seek knowledge that your heart already has Vincent.” Her voice was resigned.
He lowered his head, shamed that he could not work this through without her help.
“She is so much more than I deserve, Narcissa.” Pain laced his words. “I feel that my world, my heart …” He looked down at his dangerous hands and clenched them in pained frustration, “… my hands will kill her future; destroy any hope of her having a full and happy life.”
Sadly shaking her head, Narcissa reached for and accepted his empty cup. “You fear giving her what is already hers, Child. Doubts and fear are powerful enemies, Vincent.”
Her voice echoed in his head. He looked around the chamber and noticed how dim the shadows, how bright the flickering lights of the fire and candles.
“I only have three questions to ask you, Child before we take a path that could very well kill you—or drive you mad; a path that could also save you and your Catherine.” She measured different leaves into his cup and poured water over them to steep.
Vincent’s vision blurred a little around the edges. Speech was difficult.
“Ask.” His voice sounded slow to his own ears, and he made himself focus on Narcissa’s eyes. Strange, they appeared to be a bright, golden color now.
“Does this beauty, this Catherine—does she love you?”
“Yes.” He knew Catherine felt love in her heart for him. Even he couldn’t deny the look in her eyes when she looked at him. But, he wasn’t able to understand her easy acceptance of his appearance and nature.
“And you, Vincent—do you love your Catherine?” Narcissa’s voice came from around all sides of him now.
“Yes!” His answer was much stronger this time. He would give his life for her … gladly.
Narcissa nodded and held up his cup, now filled with the lighter tea.
“The Spirits hear your answers, said and unsaid. Now, Child one final question; the vision is coming. It will be terrifying and strong. Real in your heart and mind … But you can stop it before it begins. This tea will stop it now. All you have to do is drink.” Narcissa held the cup closer to him, leaning in toward him.
“Think well, Vincent about this third question—Is she worth everything? For that is what this journey will require. You will have to give and accept everything in return in the end. If that is not acceptable, take this cup and drink.”
Vincent saw his hand reach out as if it did not belong to him to accept the cup. He looked once more at Narcissa and then tilted the cup and poured out the contents.
“Yes, she is worth everything.” His voice faded and he slowly slid sideways to lie on the floor.
Narcissa did not move. “It has begun.”
Soon Vincent’s body began to perspire; then his skin turned cold. He began to shake and he was soon lost in the nightmare of a life full of wrong decisions. The cost of denying what the bond of two hearts decreed was to be fully revealed.
* * *
A sickness in the pit of Catherine’s stomach attacked without warning. She barely made it to the office bathroom before becoming violently ill. She gasped, trying to catch her breath, holding a hand to her chest instead of her stomach. Her skin was pale and she felt a coldness slowly spreading through her body. It was much, much worse than when Vincent and Father were trapped in the cave-in but it was unmistakably linked to Vincent.
Catherine splashed her face with cold water, barely blotted it dry before she was on her way out.
One look at Catherine was all it took for Joe to tell her to take the next couple of days off. He hurriedly told her to call him if she needed him during the weekend. “See a doctor, Radcliff.” He advised as he worriedly watched her all but run from the office.
Catherine couldn’t get Below fast enough. Something was horribly wrong. She shouldn’t have stayed away. Vincent had said he needed time and she had tried to give it to him, but now she regretted it.
As soon as she passed the first sentry and ascertained there was nothing about Vincent on the pipes; she asked him to alert Father she was on her way down to see him.
Jacob looked up from his book as Catherine ran into the chamber. Concerned at the look on her face, he rose quickly and used his cane to move forward.
“What’s wrong Catherine? You look like death warmed over.” Ever the physician, he had a hand at her brow even as he spoke.
Catherine didn’t even notice.
“Where is Vincent? Something’s wrong, I don’t know what—but Father I have a terrible feeling!” Catherine’s voice rose and she desperately caught hold of Father’s forearm.
After the situation in the Maze, Father did not hesitate or doubt and Catherine’s distress became his own.
“I don’t know where Vincent is. He left early this morning for the deeper caverns and said he might be back late or even gone a day or so. There’s been no news—” Agitated he ran a hand through his hair then moved toward the pipes. “An accident maybe— we must get together a search party. Mouse spoke to him before he left— perhaps he knows where to start.”
Catherine paced anxiously, frustrated, helpless and feeling profoundly lost.
In the end, it only took Mouse to get a direction to start. “Vincent said, visit Narcissa.”
“Narcissa!” Father’s voice held exasperation and worry. “Why on earth would Vincent seek out that— ” Already, he regretted the scathing sound of his voice. Narcissa was unique in her ways and Father really bore her no ill will. He just worried about Vincent so.
Coming to a quick decision, Father dismissed the full turnout of concerned tunnel dwellers, asking them to stay on standby if they were needed. He gathered his bag, told Mary he’d report in as soon as possible and then he, Catherine and Mouse set out for the lower tunnels.
* * *
Narcissa sat beside Vincent, saying prayers and guarding his helpless body. His spirit walk was not a comfortable one and her own rheumy eyes leaked tears of heartache and pain. It had been going on for an hour or so, his mind moving from struggle to struggle.
She knew that soon others who loved Vincent would arrive. That was good, he needed their love and strength. It was also bad, because there would be much worry and pain as well.
* * *
The three weary travelers arrived almost two hours later. Mouse knew the tunnels well but he usually steered clear of this area. Father had traveled as quickly as possible but still, it had taken more time than any of them wanted. They walked into Narcissa’s private chambers without announcement, worry and haste making the intrusion necessary.
“Narcissa— ” Jacob’s voice was strangled with fear as he saw his son’s inert form. “Oh, dear God! Vincent!” He quickly went to his son’s side.
Mouse stayed but hung back in the shadows, worried for his friend.
Catherine pushed around Father, immediately going to Vincent’s other side and kneeling to put her head down on his chest. “Vincent.” Her own voice was directed into the deep recesses of Vincent’s soul. “Vincent, don’t leave me.” Her voice cracked and a tear traced its way down her face.
“He doesn’t want to leave you, Child … He loves you.” Narcissa spoke to the pain that blistered forth from Catherine’s heart.
Catherine turned her eyes reluctantly away from Vincent’s rapidly moving eyelids to look at Vincent’s friend. “What’s wrong with him, Narcissa? I feel like he’s lost from me.” Her voice broke.
Father bent forward, crowding Catherine a little as he placed a stethoscope over Vincent’s heart. He listened intently at the racing heart, then felt Vincent’s skin and raised his eyelid to check his pupils.
“What have you done, Narcissa?” Jacob couldn’t believe that the old woman would do harm to Vincent, but facts were facts—Vincent had been given something potentially fatal.
Narcissa’s raised her chin defiantly as she looked past Father, then just as quickly she dropped it and clasped her fingers together tightly.
“It is, as it must be, Father. Vincent’s choice. Vincent’s life.”
The resignation in her voice turned Father’s anger into horrified dread. He tried again. “Narcissa, please.”
Narcissa slowly shook her head. “He chose this path. All we can do is surround him, hold him to us with our love.” She looked straight at Father this time, exuding strength and assurance. “Do you think that only you love him, Father? Not so, I say. He is special, this one. We will all be here for him … even the quiet mouse.”
Catherine had never thought to hear Father plead and she looked from one to the other as Vincent lay between them. Vincent was starting to thrash his head back and forth and low growls began issuing from his throat. She eased her hand beneath his vest and stroked his chest gently.
Father, too distraught to speak, dropped his head. Tears trembled and fell. He barely noticed when Mouse moved quietly closer until he sat next to him and put his arm over his shoulder.
“Oh, Vincent.” Catherine spoke quietly in his ear, but the others could hear. “I don’t know why you did this Vincent, but I trust you—” Her voice broke, she swallowed and went on. “I trust your heart. I trust your strength—
Take me with you into the dark.”
Narcissa took a deep breath. This woman was strong—worthy of the being fighting for his humanity.
“You mean that—don’t you, Child?”
Catherine looked back up to Narcissa. “He’s in such pain.” Catherine cried quietly. “His soul is so torn and tormented.” She wiped her cheeks and took a breath for courage. “I promised him he’d never be alone … that I would never leave him.” She focused pleading eyes on Narcissa. “Do you understand? I need to keep that promise.”
Narcissa nodded and smiled gently. She seemed to meet Father’s gaze once again before looking over his shoulder.
“She has the heart of a lion, this one.” It was a great compliment.
Father nodded, so overwhelmed with love and gratitude that this special woman loved his son … loved him so very much.
“Father, you have not always trusted that this was a good thing between them. You have changed your mind?” Narcissa couldn’t resist the little poke at Father’s know-it-all arrogance.
Feeling the need to make his change of heart very clear, even if it meant Narcissa’s gloating, he answered. “You’re right. I felt nothing but dread at the dangers to Vincent’s existence and heart. Then as I came to know and respect Catherine—I also feared for her.” He smiled a little shakily and reached out to clasp Catherine’s hand.
“They have taught me much and I love them both. I have long accepted that one cannot live fully without the other.” There was a silence broken only by Vincent’s agitated breathing, then Mouse’s voice came from beside Father.
“Vincent said, love meant an end to his aloneness.” Carefully, Mouse had repeated Vincent’s words. “Vincent’s my friend. Catherine’s my friend. Father— ” He tilted a wry smile toward Father “Father loves everyone.” He threw a troubled look at Vincent and then spoke solemnly. “Vincent is much loved. Won’t be alone.”
Narcissa was pleased—there were such strong human spirits here. She would trust in them, something unusual for her, hence the solitary life she lived. Slowly, she removed a leather string from around her neck. At the end of it dangled a huge rainbow moonstone. She placed it briefly to her lips, closed her eyes for a moment then held it out to Catherine.
Catherine took the stone automatically, casting a questioning glance at Narcissa.
“I tell you as I told Vincent … the journey you seek will be terrifying and real. It could kill, or it could drive you mad. Is joining Vincent in his own dark nightmares worth the risk, Child?”
Catherine glanced briefly at her beloved’s face then turned a gentle smile to Narcissa.
“He’s worth everything.” Narcissa nodded, satisfied. She poured a cup of tea, noticeably weaker than the one Vincent had ingested.
“The same words spoken by Vincent about you, dear Child. Place the moonstone around your neck; the crystal he gave you will make your link even stronger. The stone connects you with my spirit guide. Instead of your own journey, you will share Vincent’s.”
She watched as Catherine lifted the cup to take a drink but Father held out a hand to stop her.
“Catherine, please. Vincent would not want you to take this risk. The danger is too great.”
Gently, Catherine clasped his hand with one of hers while bringing the cup to her lips with the other and drinking it all. She then placed the talisman over her head and glanced at Father with wide eyes.
“I can’t leave him alone in this … I promised. Never alone again.” She placed her hand over Vincent’s heart once again and looked up briefly as Father’s face shifted slowly to the right as her vision began to change. She then smiled so sweetly.
“We will both be back to torment you, Father.” She lay down and placed her head on Vincent’s shoulder. “Then we’ll let your grandchildren have their chance.”
Her voice was fading, but still managed to bring a hopeful smile to Father’s lips. He watched her settle, before turning as Narcissa’s voice reached him.
“Jacob—” She was leaning weakly against the large stone that held her trinkets.
“Narcissa— ” He started to rise at her obvious distress, but she waved him back.
“No, no. I travel in shadow beside them. It will be several hours …” Her voice grew weaker. “Vincent may have jumbled thoughts when wakens … slow memories.”
Jacob stood helpless with Mouse unable to do anything but listen.
“It will be as it will be, Jacob. If he dies, I die. Not your responsibility.” Her eyes closed and she sighed deeply.
“Great! Just … great.” Jacob sighed and looked around him at the people unconscious on the ground.
Mouse shuffled over to offer a comforting pat to Father’s shoulder.
“They sleep. We watch.” He nodded sagely and moved to bend near Vincent then glanced back at Father. “We watch ‘til they wake up.”
Father rubbed a weary hand over his eyes and nodded. “Yes. We’ll watch over them until they awaken, Mouse. There is little else we can do.”
* * *
Catherine found herself in an eerie place. A place of fog and shifting shadows, where voices rose and fell in volume but the words were indistinguishable. She pushed aside her own fears and began to search for her link to Vincent. Just when she was beginning to feel anxious, she remembered Narcissa’s stone and reached up to clasp it tightly.
Suddenly, the fog swirled away and she found herself observing a very adorable baby Vincent being held in the arms of a much younger-looking Father. Father spoke quiet words and gently brushed a hand over the wild copper tufts springing from the baby’s head.
“Oh my, yes little Vincent.” He crooned in hushed tones. “You will be strong and you will survive. I don’t know by what miracle you were birthed, but you are not a quitter.” He carried the baby over to sit down in a big, boxy chair. The rest of the scene was in shadow. Catherine realized that this was a faint echo of Vincent’s earliest memory. She moved closer, unnoticed by the man gently jiggling the mewling infant.
A dark-headed little boy ran up to lean against Father’s knee. He stared at the baby with an intent little face.
“He’s awful small, Father … and a little fuzzy.” Childish delight spread across the five-year-old’s face as the baby opened bright blue eyes and stared right back. “Hey, he sees me!”
Father smiled and reached out to smooth a hand over the dark head. “Yes, he does seem to be taking you in.” Father allowed the little boy to reach in and clasp the baby’s small hand.
“Look, Father— He has kitten hands.” He looked up with sudden worry. Father hadn’t let him keep the kitten he’d found Above. “We are gonna keep him, aren’t we?”
“Devin!” Slight chagrin filled Father’s voice. “He isn’t a pet. He’s a little boy. But, yes we are going to keep him. He has nowhere else safe to go. He has no one else but us to love him, to keep him safe.”
Relieved, Devin nodded vigorously then moved in eyeball to eyeball with the baby. He touched his nose to Vincent’s and they shared breath.
Suddenly, Devin swung back around to look at Father. “If I help take care of him … you know, keep him safe, teach him stuff … love him … Can I be his big brother?”
Fighting tears, Jacob nodded and pulled Devin into an awkward embrace.
“I suppose he’ll need a big brother, badly. And I think you would be perfect.”
“Great!” Devin whooped then pulled away. “I’m going to go tell Pascal. I’m a new big brother!” And off he ran.
Father shook his head and stared off after his son with a smile then turned back to baby Vincent. “And I will raise you as my son …”
Catherine found tears on her face and fell in love with the child that was Devin. She understood why Vincent loved his brother so much. Devin had accepted and loved him first.
* * *
The next memory crept silently, stalking; she wasn’t prepared for the emotional onslaught. She wasn’t just an observer—she realized she was also sharing each emotion with Vincent at each memory. It started out innocently enough, a cutie-pie little boy Vincent of maybe 4 years of age, watching across the nursery chamber while all others were playing. Catherine moved beside him, unable to resist being near this quiet little boy. She followed his line of vision to where a lovely young mother sat nursing her baby at her breast. It was a beautiful moment. The baby nursed vigorously, making little hungry sounds. The mother’s face was quietly happy as she looked down at her newborn, stroking his cheek and humming a quiet lullaby. Finally, she broke the baby’s suction and pulled her erect rosy nipple from his mouth and moved the baby to the other breast.
Catherine looked back at the toddler beside her and saw fascination and recognition of the tenderness of what he was watching. She smiled in joy with him then felt his dread as a taunting voice came from behind them.
“Hey, Vinnie … whatcha doin’? Staring at her boobs?” The older boy snickered and smirked at Vincent before reaching out to smartly smack the back of Vincent’s head. “You ain’t supposed to look at girls like that. You sure know a mommy wouldn’t let you at her boob!”
Catherine’s anger mixed with the shame that Vincent felt. She saw his head drop as he looked at his feet. With effort, she detached herself from Vincent’s emotions and allowed her own anger free rein. The little monster had to be none other than …
“Mitch!” Devin gave the boy a none-too-gentle shove and walked around to put his arm around Vincent’s slender shoulders. He never took his eyes off Mitch. “You gotta problem, slug slime?” Although a year younger and a bit smaller than Mitch, Devin looked ready to rumble.
Catherine felt a fond admiration for the young tough standing up to a bully bigger and meaner than himself. The look in young Vincent’s blue eyes could only be described as hero worship as he looked up at his big brother.
“Nothin’ I seem to be able to fix at the moment, Dev.” Mitch stared at Devin like he’d like nothing better than to tear into the both of them, but he just crossed his arms and glared.
“Stay away from Vincent. Don’t talk to him, and don’t ever smack him again or you’ll wake up bald and toothless—you got that?” There was no doubt in any of their minds that Devin meant every word.
“Whatever, Dev.” Mitch’s words were flippant, but he turned and walked away.
Devin stared at the boy’s retreating back for a moment then turned and bent down to look at Vincent.
“You okay, little brother?” Devin saw the hidden tears in Vincent’s eyes even as the young Vincent nodded and sniffled. Devin pulled down his own patched, too-short jacket sleeve and held it out for Vincent to wipe his eyes and nose.
“I’s okay, Dev’n.” A sweet voice even then with a noticeable lisp around his teeth. Catherine hugged her arms around herself and let Vincent’s pain ease away.
“Listen Vincent … whatever he said, means less than nothing’… cause he’s the one that said it.”
Catherine saw Vincent nod at his brother but knew the words had done their harm. She’d felt the nasty words infest like parasites. The spiteful words infected the little boy that understood much, but was too innocent to sort through it all. Despair and loneliness had taken root.
She bent and
whispered in Vincent’s ear. “I promise you Vincent … someday I will love
you and gladly take you and your child to my breast.”
* * *
The next few memories were innocent enough. Devin calling Vincent names and laughing as his little brother responded with his own rather imaginative ones.
Vincent’s emotions and memories flowed by and through her. His sense of importance and responsibility as he was entrusted with delivering Winterfest candles. His merriment with Devin and Pascal on some adventure. His sense of awe and wonderment at life’s blessings.
Then came the harder parts. The fight with Devin, his despair at injuring the person he looked up to most. The overwhelming feelings of loss upon realizing Devin was gone forever.
Loneliness felt and buried deep. As he grew older, the differences he recognized in himself became more important and the fear of his darker side crept closer.
Then there came the memories of Lisa. Catherine felt the bubbly joy of his infatuation. She felt his anticipation, his confusion at the rising hormones and changes in his body. Again, he experienced utter delight then helpless despair and shame as the slight injury grew in significance. With Lisa’s departure, his self-disgust tore through him and Catherine cried with him.
She battled the sickness that descended upon him next. He retreated into himself. He roared and struggled with all that he was. She felt his final acceptance of all he would not have then she cried more as she felt his hopes and dreams die. Catherine could feel the determination in him as he ruthlessly squashed his normal feelings of sexuality and his need for human touch. His despair and loneliness restricted her breathing … she couldn’t breathe!
“Vincent!” She struggled to push the words into him. “You won’t be alone forever … I’m waiting.” Her vision blurred at the lack of oxygen …
* * *
Catherine blinked and once again she stood alone in a swirling mist. She could breathe again, but where was Vincent?
“Vincent!” Her voice echoed around her and she turned slowly. She heard murmuring voices that seemed close but still at a distance.
She suddenly remembered and once again clasped the talisman.
She was in
A red haze seemed to coat her vision as a fury and protectiveness sent her senses into overload. There were roars and a surge of power and adrenaline; there was a feeling of savage satisfaction as the men who had hurt her lay dying. These were shared feelings.
She ran around as she saw Vincent bend beside the still form on the ground, coming to a halt beside him just as her own voice whimpered, “Please, no.”
‘Well, this is weird!’ The thought flitted through Catherine’s consciousness before Vincent’s emotions once again flooded her, stronger and clearer this time.
Her face was bruised, her lip and cheek swollen and blood trailing from the slash that opened her left cheek. Yet, all she felt from Vincent was concern and awe at the beauty before him. His thoughts jumbled as her searching eyes found him in the darkness. ‘Oh please, don’t let her be afraid.’
Catherine could almost feel the words ricocheting through his heart and mind.
“Shhh, it’s all right … you’re safe now. I won’t let anyone else harm you.”… then … “may I know your name?”
Her voice came quietly, as if from a distance. “Catherine, my name is Catherine.” She felt his reaction when she finally repeated his name. “Vincent.” A rush of emotions assailed Catherine driving her to her knees beside the figures of his memory. Her emotions flooding into Vincent, flowing back into her all mixed with Vincent’s own awed wonderment at the gift of herself.
* * *
Father and Mouse watched as the couple went through quiet, restful spells followed by agitated breathing and tremors. At times it seemed as if they barely breathed then there were restless movements and tears, whimpers of distress; then all quiet again. Just watching and not knowing what dreams plagued them was tiring … and the worst was yet to come.
* * *
The brief, quiet respite was much needed and filled with the more pleasant memories of their times together. A longing look, hours spent reading together, concerts in the Park and special moments out of time as they attended Lin and Henry’s wedding. They walked the bustling city at Halloween and danced together in the Great Hall at Winterfest. They fell in love, and their moments together brought peace to their souls.
Of course, then the demons came out to play. There was Catherine’s near drowning. Paracelsus and the drug induced rage of the Beast and his battle to remain sane in a world gone out of his control. Vincent’s fear and Catherine’s love.
“I’ll never leave you, Vincent. Accept yourself.” Her words echoed in a litany as he relived almost losing her over and over … To Elliott, to the stalker, to his own fears. She shared his agony, his desire to lay with her … to keep her safe; safe even from himself.
Shame at his darker nature was being revealed to her over and over again. His fears were always at war with his desires. He was torn by her needs, his needs, and his tormenting thoughts of sending her away from him for her own good … only to find himself alone and unworthy, and in his mind … unlovable.
Catherine’s body and psyche struggled to hold onto Vincent through all the pain and fears. Inside the nightmare, she fought through his emotions and hers. Constantly, she touched him, reassured him, telling him over and over … “You are worth everything … You are my life … You are so beautiful to me Vincent … I love you.”
The next leg of the journey was beyond what anyone should have to endure … in life or in dreams.
Because it was a possible future, Vincent was not spared the cost to Catherine as well as himself and the tunnel community. This was his quest but it was Catherine’s future well-being he sought to secure more than his own. He doubted himself and he feared making a wrong choice. Doubt, it really was his most formidable foe.
He chose to send her away, to find a happy life without the limits that his love would hold for her. He sent her back to her world—away from him and into danger. He lost the empathic bond they both held so dear and his world shattered. An unspeakably evil man stole any chance of righting the great wrong set in motion by his decision that her happy life didn’t include him.
Catherine’s body grew weak from the vision of herself pregnant and alone … waiting for escape, waiting for Vincent and protecting their child. Protecting Vincent. She was afraid for her unborn baby and alone except for the evidence that proved beyond doubt of Vincent’s humanity … alone except for the vast, unlimited amount of love and faith she held in her heart.
Vincent’s angst and despair at being unable to find her was nothing— nothing compared to the strength and love that allowed Catherine to endure what he witnessed.
Vincent’s anguish overwhelmed him as Catherine’s life slipped away and he held her in his arms—at last believing in her words of strength and courage … and love. All of it realized too late. Beside him, Beast appeared, sharing his sorrow, crying quietly; he spoke sadly, quietly before he too disappeared leaving Vincent holding his beloved Catherine. Vincent’s grief erupted from his chest in a loud heartrending roar.
* * *
Father and Mouse had fallen into a tired half sleep. They both jumped at the roar that issued from Vincent’s still unconscious form. Tears left darkened trails across Vincent’s cheeks and his agonized breathing was difficult to watch.
Unable to bear the sight of Vincent’s pain, knowing there was nothing he could do, Father glanced down at Catherine’s still-as-death face. He noticed drying tears on her cheeks and the paleness of her skin, and the increasing blueness of her lips.
“Oh Lord, help us!” Father hurried to Catherine’s side and rolled her off of Vincent’s shoulder.
“She isn’t breathing! Mouse, come over and help me. She’s dying –”
* * *
Dying. Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Catherine stood and watched the scene unfolding before her … Father frantically but efficiently performing CPR on her lifeless form … Mouse breathing air into frozen lungs.
After that last vision with Vincent, seeing him hold her in his arms, breathing her last breath and hearing him roar out his anguish—well, she probably shouldn’t, but somehow she felt more than a little disillusioned.
Was that all there was? Pain, anguish, a little taste of heaven and then he lets her go. Leaves her in spite of her love, in spite of his love? Sometimes—
Her love hadn’t been enough. Even knowing, understanding, even feeling Vincent’s fears, doubts, and conflicts; she had never really doubted that their love would be enough to overcome. How very sad.
“Oh, Child. I know you are weary, but I think you know wherever the heart leads—you must follow.” A likeness of Narcissa stood in spirit form beside her, watching Father and Mouse’s struggle.
“I followed my heart.” Catherine stated with certainty. “It lies right there.” She pointed to Vincent. She couldn’t feel his sorrow and pain now. She watched him with weary sadness.
“He will live?” She looked briefly at the spirit, then her gaze was drawn back to Vincent’s beloved face.
“If you wish it, he will live, Child.” Wise eyes watched the beautiful young woman beside her. Such a gift these two were given, beyond most humans’ comprehension. But still, they were only human.
“Of course, I wish it.” Catherine finally put some strength back into her voice. She straightened her posture and squared her shoulders. “I wish him everything! He will live. He will have children and know love in every possible form.” She looked the spirit guide head-on, hoping that she could exert even a little influence.
“My life is nothing … He is the reason my heart beats. Take me. Make him strong. Strong enough to grieve then move forward …” Her voice was soft again, a pleading in it. “Even if it isn’t with me. If that doesn’t happen, what is the point of my existence?”
* * *
Father took a second to check for a pulse in Catherine’s neck and motioned for Mouse to stop. He and Mouse both dripped sweat and tried to catch their breath. They had been doing CPR for several minutes.
“There!” He thought he felt— “Yes! A pulse.”
* * *
Catherine heard a voice clearly in her head … Narcissa’s voice.
“You understand love, Child. Beyond even the oldest and wisest…To love with everything…through pain, anguish, doubts and fears, and a little bit of heaven. Even through death. Without love, there is no point of existing.” Her voice faded and Catherine’s world flickered.
Catherine blinked, then slowly she opened her eyes and looked up into the exhausted faces of Father and Mouse. So dependable, these two!
“Thank you.” She smiled serenely at their surprised looks, then turned her head to look at Vincent. He had stopped all movement. His chest rose and fell slowly, deeply as if in sleep. His face was relaxed, his hands open and palm up but tears still traced his cheeks.
Catherine lifted a heavy hand to her neck, searching and finding Narcissa’s moonstone. Mouse realized what she was doing and moved to help her.
“You need to place this around Narcissa’s neck. She may need it to find her way.”
Finally, a small smile came from Father then left as he looked toward Vincent. He felt Catherine’s fingers catch at his and looked back at her.
“It’s all right, Father. I think he’s sleeping, that’s all. Fighting demons of a lifetime takes a lot out of you.” She squeezed his hand again and then let go and closed her eyes. “He’s strong like you helped make him … I bet my chest will be sore tomorrow.” She immediately sank into a deep, dreamless sleep.
* * *
For Vincent, waking from the journey of visions was like a computer rebooting. A brief flicker as the power surged, then ceased, then came back on.
A surge of power that held a last flickering picture. A beautiful woman with green eyes, a captivating smile, and a bit of gray showing in her honey colored hair. She was holding their grandchild and smiling up at him …”I’ll never leave you, Vincent.”
Then there was a blank, empty space … His eyes opened but he didn’t know where he was … or even who he was. Weakly, with the greatest of effort he turned his head and saw a young woman lying beside him with his hand held firmly in her own. She slept and he had an overwhelming desire to see her eyes … but he was so tired. Before he sank back into sleep, he pulled her hand up to rest with his over his heart.
He woke briefly a couple of times. He was thirsty but still confused. Data started flowing in slowly, arranging and processing a little faster.
A quiet, shy young man that moved in sudden blasts of scurrying movements brought him water and kept fuel for the fire.
A distinguished older man frequently checked his heart, pulse, and eyes.
He was briskly professional but always with a gentle hand and affectionate smile and manner.
There had been an old woman when he had first awakened but then she was gone and no one seemed to have seen her leave or where she’d gone—
And then, of course, there was her. Her eyes were green with flecks of silver. Her voice was tender. Her soft, yet strong hand was never far from his own. This beauty was the woman he loved, his heart had no doubt. It would be nice to remember her name.
“Vincent.” She spoke quietly and came down on her knees beside where he sat, his back supported by the stone wall behind him.
Vincent. That was his name. He met her eyes with a steady, studious regard. He nodded in quiet acknowledgement, still hesitant to speak after his first attempt a few hours ago. He had asked where he was and who the gentleman taking care of him was. The old man was concerned and a little disconcerted … but his lady just smiled gently, introduced Father and told him they were deep underground in Narcissa’s chambers.
She had reassured Father quietly and he had nodded and moved away to “grab a bit of a nap.”
“Vincent.” Catherine said once more as his mind had wandered. He refocused on her mouth … such a pretty mouth. Her lips spread wider in a smile as she saw where his attention was centered.
“Here, let me help you.” With that, she leaned slowly closer. Her cool hands cupped his chin to hold him steady … then she kissed him.
He held himself still for a moment, enjoying the soft feel, the sweet taste, the utter euphoria of having her with him. Gently, his tongue moved out to touch her, tasting her more solidly—causing her to moan gently and move in closer for more.
“Hmm … Catherine.” He spoke against her mouth. He knew that all would be well, because he knew her. She was Catherine. She loved him and she would never leave him.
* * *
Narcissa returned briefly before they left. She seemed to have regained her strength quickly and had been “attending to things.” She waved away Father’s concern and reassured him that Vincent would quickly regain order to his thoughts.
Mouse and Father started out, leaving Catherine and Vincent to say their own goodbyes.
Quietly, Vincent stood towering over the small form of his friend. He was remembering things at a faster pace and knew it had been he that had come to her in search of help.
“So, Vincent—strong again, I see.” A slight crackle of laughter shook her frame.
“I want to … thank you Narcissa.” His voice was low and his eyes hesitant. “I’m not sure what I came in search of, but I know the toll of helping me was a great one.”
Narcissa smiled and reached out to pat Vincent’s forearm.
“I received my own gift by helping you and your Beauty, Child. My soul feels replenished.” She turned vaguely to the young woman standing nearby. “Even I can be taught a few things in my old age. I must thank you, Catherine.”
Catherine smiled serenely and stepped forward to hug her.
“You are welcome here anytime, both of you.” Narcissa’s voice was a bit broken as she returned one of the few hugs she’d had in a very long time.
Catherine stepped back and didn’t know the words to express her gratitude at the revelations into Vincent’s heart. She didn’t even try. But, she did have a concern.
Catherine looked at Vincent then back at Narcissa once more.
“When Vincent remembers … well, everything from his vision—will it be as real as it was for me?”
Sadly, the old woman nodded. “It must be so for his mind and heart to accept his decisions fully and without regret.” She looked slightly over Vincent’s shoulder. “It won’t be long now Vincent. Your Beauty holds the key and she will help you.”
Vincent nodded, raised his hood and clasped Catherine’s hand firmly in his and they exited the chamber.
* * *
They arrived back at the upper tunnels late that evening, all weary to the bone. William sent trays of food to them before leaving the kitchen for the night.
Catherine accompanied Vincent to his chamber, realizing he wished to talk … to have her near without knowing how to ask.
Quietly, they sat across from each other eating bits and pieces from the tray and drinking the replenishing tea. Catherine lovingly watched each movement Vincent made, falling into a relaxed, peaceful state, remembering him from her dreams. A quiet little boy taking life too seriously, then laughing childish laughter at something Devin said or did. Her heart held each gift closely; they were sharp and clear in her still.
Vincent cleared his throat a bit uneasily and spoke her name for the third time. “Catherine.”
“Yes, Vincent.” Her eyes were slumberous and still fixed with steadfast focus on him.
“I have noticed that since I awakened in Narcissa’s chamber that you seem to …” His voice trailed off, uncomfortable at approaching the subject of her, warm regard so directly.
“Seem to … what, Vincent?”
“Well, your eyes follow me more … intently than before. You have a look that simultaneously warms me and leaves me a bit confused.” Vincent tried to form his observations into coherent sentences but was again distracted by the, at present— heated emotions traveling to him from Catherine. Erotic emotions which she usually attempted to muffle with some success. She definitely wasn’t muffling them now.
“You’re right.” Catherine told him, calmly taking another sip of her tea. She continued to look at him, seeing more than he knew, more than she ever had before … and she loved everything about him.
Disconcerted, Vincent watched her lips purse gently to blow on the hot tea before closing on the lip of the cup. Her green eyes held onto him, scrambling his thoughts briefly.
“I take it that I missed a lot going on around me during my stay with Narcissa.”
Catherine nodded, her eyes growing serious. She set the cup down and sighed deeply. Explanations were hard to verbalize.
“Yes … around you … beside you … inside you.” She held out her hand across the table which he took unhesitatingly. “It will be hard for you to remember.” Her voice shook at her own memory of it.
A horrible realization swept through Vincent.
“Catherine please, tell me you did not join me inside those harsh places!” He dropped his head and closed his eyes in prayer. Even without full recollection, he remembered his warnings from Narcissa of death or madness.
“Yes … I couldn’t let you go alone Vincent. Your life is my life … our journey is one.”
Vincent raised anguished eyes to hers as her words sank in. He saw the devotion she felt for him reflected in her eyes.
“You’ve already seen what I will see?” He stated more than asked.
“I have seen it, Vincent. I wasn’t expecting to receive a gift in following you there. I was just determined that you wouldn’t face it alone. But a gift beyond measure, that’s what I found. I visited old memories and new with you. Watched and felt things as you felt them.” Then the bombshell … “You have very few secrets from me, Vincent.” She caught a glimpse of his dismay before he looked away from her. She squeezed his hands and forced him to meet her gaze through sheer willpower. “And I love every part of you … the past you … the man you are … the man you will be. I love all of you.”
Slowly the apprehension faded and he pulled her hand to his lips.
* * *
Vincent watched Catherine sleeping on his bed. He’d carried her there after she had fallen asleep waiting for him to process this new development. He’d been overwhelmed by her words and the knowledge that his beloved had taken such a tremendous risk.
He remembered everything now except the spirit journey itself. What it had revealed about the crossroads before him. He had been confused and weak upon waking. Only now did he feel strong enough to finish this.
Quietly, he left his chambers. He wandered to the Mirrored Pool. Maybe he could clear his head and find some serenity. He was surprised to see Mouse already there, sitting quietly. Mouse didn’t usually sit still unless he was tinkering.
“Mouse.” Vincent came over to sit beside his friend. “I thought you would probably be sleeping.” It was getting quite late.
A deep sigh from Mouse and he turned to prop his chin on his hand, elbow on knee, looking at Vincent. “Nope, head too busy.”
Vincent nodded and sensed a question coming. Knowing Mouse, he waited patiently.
Finally, Mouse cast a shy glance up at Vincent and spoke quietly. “Never had to breathe for anyone before … thought I might do it wrong … lose your Catherine.” He paused then looked down and admitted, “Then would have lost Vincent.”
Vincent easily sorted through Mouse’s, for him, long litany. He took a deep breath, trying to still his suddenly thundering heart. With effort, his voice sounded calm and controlled.
“You had to breathe for Catherine … in Narcissa’s chambers? … so she wouldn’t die?”
Trying for nonchalance and failing, Mouse lifted his shoulders and nodded. “Uh-huh. Father showed me how, then started pushing on Catherine’s chest … seemed like long time!”
Vincent clasped his own chest and dropped his chin to his chest. Just trying to breathe. So close … again he’d come so close to losing her to Death. This time he had only himself to blame. His stubborn head wouldn’t yield to his heart’s course and his decision to visit Narcissa had almost cost Catherine her life.
His chest was heavy and tears fell yet again. Of course, he hadn’t known she would follow … but this was his very determined Catherine.
Mouse noticed his friend’s distress and moved to put a hand on Vincent’s shoulder.
“Okay now, Vincent. Catherine lives … she smiled so pretty at me and Father.”
As Vincent didn’t comment or move, Mouse began to worry. Not saying it right! Bad time to not find the right words. When he remembered that smile, her determination to stay with Vincent, the look in his friend’s eyes when he looked at his Catherine and she looked at him! No words…but Catherine’s own.
“She was afraid for you … bent down and whispered in your ear … But we could hear.” Mouse made a huge effort to make the words as best he could.” Said, ‘I trust you … I trust your heart … I trust your strength. Take me with you into the dark.’
“Father tried to stop Catherine but she said …” He paused to get the words right. Vincent was listening, Mouse could tell. “Catherine said ‘I promised him he’d never be alone again.’ So, she didn’t … Drank stuff, went with you. Not scared … not like anything Mouse ever saw …” He patted Vincent’s shoulder again and sighed greatly before admitting … “Made my heart feel funny. Father cried, Mouse cried. Catherine smiled and went to sleep.”
Vincent had raised his head half way through Mouse’s tale, seeing the emotions on his friend’s innocent face.
Finally, his mind gave over … Catherine would not leave him … ever. He would never be alone because Catherine loved him … Just the way he was. And if such a woman as his Catherine saw and loved him that much, there must be something special in him. It really was just that simple … if you trusted the person you loved.
There was only one thing left to do now.
He thanked Mouse with a heartfelt hug and bid him goodnight.
Vincent silently entered his chamber and walked over to where Catherine slept. How beautiful she was even pale and exhausted … it never failed to leave him awestruck. Gently, he sat beside her but she was so tired he doubted she’d wake if he jumped up and down on the bed.
Pulling in a deep breath, he reached out and began to unbutton her blouse. Before, he would never have contemplated such an act while she was awake or asleep … now he knew she would not mind and his head accepted it.
Even in the candlelight, the vivid bruise on the center of her breastbone stood out against her pale skin. He hadn’t seen her flinch or felt her discomfort and he wondered if she had blocked it or if he just hadn’t been paying attention. So very softly, he stroked the back of his fingers across the bruise, encountering his crystal that she always wore nestling there. A tingle rushed up his arm as he briefly touched the cool quartz. Strange, that had never happened before.
Automatically, he started to pick up the stone but then caught himself.
Narcissa’s parting words rang in his head. “Catherine holds the key.”
“The key.” Vincent murmured. The crystal held his secrets.
Slowly, he bent and removed his boots then shed his outer layers until he was only in his worn thermal shirt and soft pants. Carefully, he climbed in beside Catherine and gently cuddled her into his side.
His mind had cushioned him from the things he had seen in him dreams. Catherine had gone through his journey without any cushioning. Only bits and pieces had filtered through his thoughts so far; those were enough to make him dread this journey he had gone seeking. Even though he felt he had found his answers already in Catherine’s unwavering love, he would at least be as courageous in this as she.
As comfortable as he could be and with Catherine beside him, he took the crystal in his hand and clasped it tightly. Slowly, his hand lowered to rest on her chest and his eyes drifted shut … the visions came.
It was a very long night.
* * *
A few hours later, Catherine was pulled awake by snuffling noises beside her and Vincent’s desperate arms wrapped tightly around her. She looked down to see her blouse partially unbuttoned and Vincent’s hand gripping her crystal against the center of her chest.
A feeling of distress swept through her and she turned her head to see Vincent’s face beside her. Such overwhelming grief showed on that beautiful face and he was whispering her name over and over.
“It cannot be … you can’t … please don’t take her from me … Catherine … Catherine!”
Catherine desperately wanted to stop his tumble into torment, but knew she couldn’t deny him this. So, she left the crystal in his hand and wrapped her arms around him.
“Oh Vincent. My Beloved.” She whispered and simply held on.
* * *
His mind wrestled with his heart. He saw himself ferociously battling with the worst of all demons … a dark beast that looked a lot like himself. It fought with savage intensity, with claws and fangs and relentless strength. The Beast growled and roared, he snarled and charged.
Vincent was spent, his strength almost gone. How could he hope to win? The Beast would not back down even in the face of his determination. It stalked him when he would seek rest. Its razor sharp claws sliced deeply into his flesh. He feared he would lose and in doing so, risk the Beast tearing at Catherine. But … it would not rest, it would not stop.
At last there was a brief respite. Throughout the vision there would be flashes of old memories, good and bad … relived but slightly different this time. This time each memory held hope. He could sense Catherine’s presence but he couldn’t see her. At times he thought he could hear the sweetness of her voice beside him. “I promise.”
If Vincent had thought the battles were over, he was wrong. He sent her away and his soul began to die … Then he lived through the agony of her being captured by Evil. Evil he could have and should have protected her from if only he had held her close. Her eyes and heart begged him to claim her, accept her, hold her to his heart … but he had let her go. He watched her being tortured, drugged while growing with his child—unable to reach her through the vision. Her path was dark and painful. Her emotions cried out to him, but their bond was gone!
She talked to her unborn child, telling him of his father and her great love for him. She waited and prayed for Vincent to come. She never stopped loving him; she never regretted giving him her heart. Her anguish was for her child and what Vincent would be enduring. And in the end, as he held her in his arms as she breathed her last breaths, he heard her words of love. “There is a child, Vincent. Our son.”
She died, but he had a son. She had kept her promise. He would not be alone, but he would not have Catherine.
As he roared his grief and begged for her not to be taken, he became aware of the Beast standing beside him crying unashamedly and whispering her name over and over. With dead eyes the Beast regarded Vincent and shook his head sadly.
“I have loved and protected our family with everything we are.” Beast told him. “When I roar, it is with your anger and pain. It was I who spoke the vow to protect her and love her until our last breath. Catherine knew me, recognized me, and loved all of me … I’ve lost … We’ve lost … for I am your heart, not the demon you thought. Without her, there is nothing.” He faded, and was gone.
It was then Vincent finally realized.
Catherine’s love was a gift already given, never to be withdrawn. It was etched in the stars and solid as stone. It was not a decision he could make.
All he could do was accept it as the miracle it was or deny it … and he had seen the consequences of his rejection. He hung his head and poured out his grief and despair, wishing for nothing more than to join her in death.
Suddenly, he felt a presence at his side. The spirit guide stood with him, openly weeping.
“She said you were worth everything … but you didn’t see the worth inside of yourself … in your love for her. Always you doubt. Always you fear.”
The vague image of the guide turned to him.
“You fight the demons that are not demons. You seek to choose a path when the path is already taken. You doubt that which has been proven many times over. But, if you can banish these two foes—Ah Vincent … a love like yours and Catherine’s could touch so many!”
Vincent noticed a fog swirling around him, still on his knees but no longer holding his Catherine. He looked up at the spirit. “Without Catherine, there is nothing … no hope.”
He had a brief impression of her smile before there was a bright flash.
Vincent found himself standing in a room filled with his friends and family. But, there was only one person he sought across the crowded room.
Ah, there she was … sitting with their newest grandchild in her arms. ‘Still so beautiful after all these years, his Catherine,’ he thought. At that moment, her lovely green eyes lifted and met his. The love that blazed forth from her never failed to shake him, made him never doubt that he was the most blessed man on Earth. Without fear, he sent his love and promises across the room. Her answering smile held her own brand of teasing mischief as she made a few promises of her own. He moved across to her without thought and reached out to stroke her hair. He bent to whisper in her ear.
“I love you, my Catherine.” It was what could’ve been.
* * *
Finally, the crystal’s energy faded and the tingle left his hand. His chest retained the last of his sobbing and he was able to take a deep breath. Numb with grief, it took him a moment to become aware of arms holding him tightly and Catherine’s sweet breath touching his forehead. His tears had pooled in the slight concave area of her collar bone where she held his head against her chest.
The wave of relief hit him full force and he sobbed again. Quickly, he lifted his head to see her face. Her beloved face. He felt his heart start beating again and he tightened his hold by wrapping his arms across her waist and pulling her frantically to him.
“Catherine.” His voice was hoarse and filled with awe. He couldn’t blink, afraid she would disappear.
“Yes, Vincent. I’m here … I’ll be here as long as you’ll let me.” She spoke to him firmly, knowing his vision of her death would haunt him. His grief and regrets remained vividly in her mind and she spoke to address them directly.
“Forever, Catherine. I choose forever.” With a low growl, Vincent pulled her mouth to his and kissed her with every ounce of himself. Catherine emitted her own little sound of joy and accepted … everything.
Several minutes passed before they pulled apart far enough to speak.
“So…” Catherine started. “We go forward?” She wanted the words, needed the reassurance.
Vincent nodded firmly.
“We go forward, Catherine.” His voice held a new strength, a raw determination filling him. “I will not fail you Catherine … not this time.” His eyes clouded. “I cannot breathe without you and I don‘t want to … when I lost you, my soul died.”
Catherine shuddered along with him and they clasped each other tightly as they briefly but vividly relived the horror of that possible future.
“You won’t fail me, Vincent. I just don’t want you to fail yourself. You are so much more than what you see.”
Vincent brushed a gentle kiss on her sweet-smelling hair. He had learned a lot about himself during his journey. He had a deeper understanding of himself and knew that denying part of himself out of fear had crippled not only his life but Catherine’s.
“No more doubts. The fear—we’ll handle together.” Catherine’s voice held hope.
Vincent hugged her closer and then tipped her face up toward his.
“Up until now, you have made all the promises, Catherine. Now I will make one to you. I am unsure how long it will take, but I promise to work past my fears, to trust in us, to be the mate … the partner that you deserve.”
Catherine smiled happily. “That sounds … like a perfect plan, Vincent. Gladly, I accept that promise!”
(Final Author’s Note: And that’s all I have to say about Season 3!)