Classic Round Robin ~ Chapter 9

by Crowmama


“Close your eyes, Vincent.”  Catherine breathed out the command, her voice deepening into a register that could both thrill and almost torment.

She had just placed his gloves on the arm rest of her couch, while he had asked her how the concert with her father had gone.  As if she had been waiting for him to ask this all night, she drew up next to him, placed her hand over his eyes, as touching a fragile thing, and pressed them closed.

By rights he shouldn’t feel so comfortable here, sitting with her, in her space; but the last few nights had brought changes, so wondrous and unexpected, almost anything seemed reasonable, destined.

Even without sight, the rest of his senses strove to find her.  He could feel her anchoring weight, the touch of her knees nestled beside him, perched so close he could anticipate her scent following him all night and into tomorrow.

“I want you to imagine, Vincent.”

He could have told her that was all he ever did, thinking of her; but he kept silent, waiting for her to continue.

“Imagine a black stage with red velvet curtains.  On it, an orchestra awaits, ready to play for us.  A regal woman, Helena Slavik, walks on stage dressed in a beautiful white gown.  The program said her name means ‘nightingale’ in Czech.”  He felt her smile at this charming coincidence, without even seeing it.  Her warmth and excitement suffused their intimate world.

She led him in her retelling. “It’s a large stage; the orchestra is a full one.  The stage lights shine on Helena, creating a red and yellow glow, almost as if her dress is lit from within.  She is smiling at first, to the audience; but then, somehow, she sheds her age to become her character, Zerlina, from Don Giovanni.  She is flustered that her wedding to Masetto has been postponed . . . and that Don Giovanni has cast his eye towards her.  Vincent, I want you to see what I saw,” Catherine entreated . . . her hope, her need to give this to him, another ribbon tying them together.

“I see, Catherine,” he assured her, his eyes still shut, his mind completely engulfed in the picture she painted for him.

She took his hand a moment, her small one barely covering half his own, and squeezed, before he felt her slight weight rise from the couch.

He kept his eyes closed, and she spoke, but this time, her voice came from across the room.

“Don Giovanni, dressed in red velvet entered stage right, and that’s the first time I saw your gloves.  Helena had Gerard Butler wear them.  She thought they were lovely, perfect for this performance.”

Vincent heard her press a button, and in an instant the room filled with Mozart.  Don Giovanni’s deep voice proclaimed that he would take Zeralina to his home and make her his bride.  As the tenor sang of leading Zeralina away from a peasant’s life, Catherine returned to the couch. Zeralina sang like an angel that only Mozart could give voice:

I want to, but I don’t.  My heart trembles.

“Do you understand the Italian?”  Catherine asked.

“Of course,” Vincent replied.

“Of course,” she teased under her breath.  He sensed her amused disbelief before he opened his eyes to her joyous face and arching brow.

The two lovers’ voices surrounded them, moving through them.

I shall change your fate.

I’m not strong enough to resist.

“I wanted you there so much,” she whispered, but no sadness weighted her words.  It was a wish, not a defeat.

“I was, Catherine.  Your words, your feelings, have delivered me there,” he replied.

She nodded.  “Today I went to the music store and got this CD.  The man there assured me this was the best performance of La ci darem la mano, ever recorded, although I think Helena’s was better.  I may be a bit biased.  She was singing to a man who had a piece of you on stage.”

We’ll go, my dearest, and ease the pains of innocent love.

The duet ended.  Catherine rose and shut off the stereo.  For a moment, it was nearly silent as she looked into the fire.  And then she spoke, and like a stairway that leads down, he knew she was leading him to answers, to the destination that lay in the deep heart of her.

“Everything is so different.  After I was attacked, then after you were beaten . . . each time, the pain has . . . .”

“Transformed us?” he offered, picking up his gloves from the arm rest, “Into an infamous lover and his prey?”

She chortled lightly, but she threw off his second-nature attempt at distraction.  It seemed she wouldn’t allow this opportunity to pass them.

“Vincent, I believe there were reasons . . . .  I wish we didn’t have to endure the pain, but we were . . . opened . . . to each other, to the world . . . at least I was.”

She removed the gloves to her coffee table and settled next to him.  “When Father was treating your wounds, I saw it, Vincent . . . the connections, all of them, felt them, the strongest with you, but with Father too.  He loves you so much.  He’s afraid for you.”  She took both of Vincent’s hands in hers.   “He doesn’t want you to be alone.”

“Yes,” Vincent agreed simply.

She lowered her gaze. “I understand him better now.”  She started stroking the fur of Vincent’s hands with her thumbs.  It was unconscious, and it was heavenly.

She looked away, remembering, and he saw the infinite ties suffusing her memory, a strong spider’s web, touching all, holding all.

“My dad has been so anxious for me,” she continued, still stroking along Vincent’s knuckles.  “I never truly got just how much; but yesterday, when he asked me point blank if it was me in the park, I could almost feel the worry, just as I had with Father . . . that I would be in danger, that I would be alone.  Funny how they both fear the same things.”

Vincent nodded in agreement.

“Father reminded me,” she continued in earnest, “my own dad reminded me, we have just a short time.  Our connection may live on after us, but we are given only a little while on this earth to treasure it.”

She looked deep into him.  “We won’t live forever.  My Dad won’t.  I think Kay is going to do everything in her power to keep him here, but . . . .” She couldn’t go on about it.  The thought of his death choked her words before they could be said.

“But Vincent . . . what you have given me . . . this bond, this understanding . . . .  I could feel my dad’s love in a way I never could before, because I had experienced Father’s love for you, through you. I knew my own dad’s doubts, his hopes . . . .” She looked down to their hands again, hesitant, “and I imagined.” 

She wanted to say something.  He could perceive her readiness to cross into new territory, but she doubted his reaction.

He gazed at their hands, as well – still different, and yet now he saw the similarities, the harmony.

“You imagined?” he asked in a way that begged her to take the leap.

“I imagined . . . .”  She sighed, closing her eyes.  He waited for her.  A heartbeat later her eyes opened; and she looked into his with anxiousness, but also with courage and belief. 

“I imagined if you and I had a child, what would we want to know?  What could we be told that would help us find some peace?”

For a moment, the words couldn’t penetrate his dismay.

A child of their own . . . she believed in them that far. How could she mean . . . that . . . .

His heart roared inside him, beating faster than he imagined possible – love and fear, excitement, and reverence spurring it to an almost deafening gallop.

She smiled as she seemed to gather in all his bewilderment and encase it in her heart. 

Yes . . . .

He could hear her word his mind.  Her belief in their dream – for her, more grandiose and more grounded than he could have imagined possible – suffused his being with her certainty, bringing with it the peace she spoke of.

“He needed to know, so I told him.”

Utter stillness, his breath held.

“I told him I was in the park . . . with you.” She nodded, eyes locked with his.

“And I told him I was in love.”

Catherine reached up, and stroked his hair. “I said you saved me after my attack, and that without you I never would have had the courage to walk the paths again, to see our trees.  I told him the night he saw me you had helped a homeless man get away from a gang of thugs, and had been beaten for it.”

“I explained that, as much as we loved each other, we weren’t able to be a couple out in the open.  I promised him you weren’t married, or a convict or anything, but I didn’t tell him anything else.” There would have to be a greater explanation, Vincent knew.  Would a prominent lawyer, take this information, and lack of information, at face value?  Vincent highly doubted it.

She smirked.  “He may, or may not have gotten the idea that you are an undercover cop, or possibly in high level security.”

Vincent sighed, smiling.  Her deception wouldn’t put Charles Chandler off for long, if his own father’s example was the model of paternal concern.  It was a dangerous puzzle; yet, strangely, Vincent wasn’t as worried as he thought he could be, or perhaps, should be.  They would have to go with care, but a prevailing optimism, perhaps emanating from Catherine, accentuated the possibilities rather than the terrors of the future.  He could ask Peter for his opinion about what should be done . . . maybe before talking to Father.

“I wanted him to understand, and I want you to understand,” Catherine said as she gathered Vincent’s collar in her small, but tenacious grip, and pulled herself into his embrace.  Her legs wrapped around his waist, holding him. He almost growled in wonderment at the daring of her movement, the boldness of her claim. “I don’t need a big fancy wedding, or a house in Connecticut, or dinners at expensive restaurants . . . those seem so small in the face of what we’ve shared, what we do share.  I don’t want them.”

She eased in closer, resting her head against his forehead, and whispered as if in prayer.  “I just want you.”

Without realizing who began, Vincent found himself kissing her. Her mouth opened to him, and he drew her in.  His arms wreathed around her, mimicking her legs, fitting her tighter to him.  He feared their shared passion, his multiplied with hers, would burst his heart, and any restraint left would break under the divine and tempting pressure of her lips.  He gently tried to disengage, but she was there with no hesitations, and for more minutes he was lost in her, molding her to him and arching up to her body.  Before he realized what was happening he was seeking her scent, grazing her cheek with open kisses, descending her neck, searching for more of her while pushing open her blouse across her collar bones.  If he didn’t stop now . . . .

There were things they needed to discuss, subjects painful; but with their transformed selves, ones that would be broached, conquered.

He lifted his head from the hollow at her throat, gasping for air he prayed would bring some sort of composure.

“Catherine,” he breathed, trying to stop, his head bowed, resting close to the curve her neck.  He spoke into her body, quietly, worried she would continue.  If she did he would forget all else.  

“This is becoming . . . dangerous . . . if we wish to move forward with care.”

“Yes,” she panted, agreeing, “we shouldn’t jump into anything. I know this is new to you, and, despite what you may think, it’s new for me too.  I’ve never felt . . . this desire . . . for anyone before.”

Her voice trembled as she let go and ran her hands through her hair, collecting herself.  “You know what I feel for you, Vincent, where I see our future.  I think I’ve made that abundantly clear.” She said smiling, yet continued, barely above a whisper. “But I never want you to regret any step forward we make.”

“I know.  It is my only wish for you as well, but . . . .”  A lifetime of alienation stole his trust, not in her, but in himself and the benevolence of Fate.

“Vincent,” the deep, soft timbre of her voice returning, “I am yours, forever.  No matter what happens, you won’t be alone.”

Her words were a spell, weaving him out of different cloth, changing him. 

“I think,” he said as he placed his hands around her waist and lifted her up to stand, “we have much to talk of together, perhaps in a less intimate place, so we can . . . focus,” he said, sweeping her hair behind her ear with a clawed finger.  

I am yours as well, Catherine.

He gazed into her eyes. Searching for any misgivings but finding none, he led her onto the balcony.  Even here wasn’t completely safe.  He could feel the smoldering darkness rising in him.  She thought she knew, but . . . it would be something they would have to face, as well.

He looked out into the night, instead of at her when he spoke again. 

“I know the park has been a source of pain and promise for us.  It is a beautiful night, warmer than it should be, and clear; the stars will be out.  I would show you a place, a small valley with an old stone arch. I went there often before you came into my life. We could go there and . . . talk . . . .”

“All right, but you have to promise me something.”

“Anything within my power, Catherine,” he said as he draped his cloak over his shoulders, readying to climb down to meet her Below.

“You’ll bring some of those smoke bombs Mouse made?  No more fighting packs of criminals, ok?”  She caressed down the muscles of his arm until she took his hand and brought it to her lips.  “I need you whole.”

He sighed, reached into a hidden pocket of his cloak, and pulled out five small green balls.

She threw her head back and laughed, wrapping her arms around him. 

They weren’t running from love, but towards it; and in that moment, he couldn’t doubt the magic from Ovid’s tales.  His Metamorphoses were very real.

With her love embracing his body and spirit, he could believe in magic and fate and renewal.

With her standing by him he could unfold new wings and soar. 



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