Dreams of Thee

Chapter 23

 

Sitting at the study table, Catherine asked, “I hope you don’t object to our going off together today.  I know you have been without Vincent’s company for a long time.”

“I had him to myself for many years, Catherine, and I must learn to share him.  There will be time after you have completely recovered and return to your job.”

Catherine talked for several more minutes with Father then bid him a fond farewell and went back to Vincent’s chamber. She expected to find him there but the chamber was empty. She settled into a chair, curling her legs beneath her.  Taking the book from the table, she began to read.

Vincent stood for several seconds, absorbing the vision of Catherine reading in his chamber; another memory to store away with all the others of his time with Catherine. He stood beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder, then he kneeled beside her.  “Are you sure you still feel up to our journey?”

“Of course, I do.  I’m ready if you are.”

Vincent gathered up the small backpack and his cloak and helped Catherine into the down ski vest she would wear over her wool sweater.  They stopped in the kitchen to retrieve the bundle of food from William and started on their walk.

Vincent slowed his long stride to accommodate Catherine’s shorter one, but they still made good time as they moved lower and lower. They had been walking about an hour when Vincent decided to halt to allow Catherine the opportunity to rest.

Making a pillow for Catherine from the backpack, Vincent knelt beside her.  Removing her boots and taking one small foot in his hand, he began to massage her foot.  “Your feet are so tiny and delicate; my hand is larger than your foot.” He gently continued to knead the ball of her foot then he gently massaged her calf muscles.

“You are spoiling me.”

“I never had anyone to spoil before you. It is my pleasure to do things for you.”  He was inexplicably overcome with shyness and he dropped his head, unable to meet Catherine’s steady gaze.

Vincent was quiet, seemingly lost within a world of his own. They walked in a comfortable silence, born of understanding and love.

Soon they came to a branching in the tunnel. Taking one of the two torches that remained in the barrel and lighting it, Vincent led the way into the darkened passage.  The air was musty, smelling of mold. “We will not be traveling long in this passage, but it saves you from a difficult climb.”

They had walked for half an hour when, up ahead, Catherine could vaguely see a dim light.  It grew brighter as they approached, and seeing it, Catherine was reminded of strong sunlight; when they were within 50 feet of the exit, Vincent turned to her, handing her the torch. “I would like to walk on ahead.  Perhaps it will seem foolish, but I should like to be standing beyond the tunnel when you exit.  I want to witness your reaction as you see it for the first time.”

“If this is your wish, your dream, Vincent, then you must do it.  I’ll wait a few moments then continue walking.”

Catherine stood watching Vincent’s rapidly disappearing back, his cloak swirling about his ankles as he walked. When he was out of sight, she started to walk toward the light.

Stepping into the light, Catherine slowly looked around, her face awash with the beauty she witnessed.  A rocky wall of ebony pillars soared up to her right; an outcropping of large stones, streaked with shadings of charcoal to the palest ivory, rose and fell in random patterns below the towering pillars. In front of her was a path of stones which looked like the finest marble, polished as if they had been worn smooth by thousands of feet.

Vincent stood silently, a shy sweet smile on his face as he watched Catherine’s awe in discovering his special place.  He had come here often as a young man, discovering it on the second anniversary of Devin’s departure from the tunnels. He had been overcome with grief when he had discovered this world because he was unable to share its magic with Devin and it had, instead of being a place of joy, become a place of lonely solace.

Catherine continued to whirl, trying to assimilate the beauty which surrounded her.  She was laughing, smiling and crying all at the same time, her senses reeling from the wonder she was witnessing.  Turning again, she was at last able to focus on Vincent’s tall figure standing some yards away.

“Vincent, it’s so beautiful!  I have never seen anything as spectacular.  How?  Who?  The light, where does it come from?  What are the stones?  The pillars look like they are carved.  Tell me all about it, please!”

“I know very little of this part of my world, Catherine.  It is as I discovered it and very few, if any, know of its existence.  I questioned Narcissa about it once, but even she didn’t know its origin.

“You still have not seen what makes this such a rare place,” Vincent said as he took her hand and guided her to the edge of the rocks. Bending down to lie on his stomach, he offered his hand to Catherine as she followed him down.  Holding Catherine firmly against his body, he pointed down.  Catherine followed his hand and saw, several hundred feet below, between two outcroppings of rocks, there was a small, white, sandy beach. “Vincent!  It’s beautiful!”

He held her tightly as they continued their visual journey around this magical place; seeing it through Catherine’s eyes, Vincent was reminded of his own awe.  “I have climbed almost to the very top but I have never been able to discover the source of the light.  I know not why it is as we see it, just that it is.” His voice had a tremor to it as he continued, “The lake is fresh water, fed by some underground stream.  The large black pillars are a stone much like onyx and, by careful study, you can see the chisel markings of a stonecutter.  The larger grey stones on the far side are limestone, much like that which was used on some of the finer, old buildings of your world.”

“Could we go down for a swim in the lake?”  Catherine rolled to bring her face closer to his, stopping to trail kisses along his jaw before burying her face against his chest.

“We can do anything you like.  The journey down is not too difficult; there is only one stretch which will be difficult for you, and that is because of your shorter legs.”  Rising to his feet, Vincent offered Catherine his hand and held her close for several moments.

He retrieved the backpack then, taking her hand, they began their journey.  As they worked their way down, Vincent explained all he knew of the stones they passed.  Coming to part of the path which was blocked by several large stones, Vincent edged between them, balancing on a ledge, then jumped a distance of 12 feet to the next level.

Catherine watched as he disappeared over the edge, her stomach doing flip-flops in time with her rapidly beating heart. “Vincent, are you all right?”

“Yes, Catherine, it is but a small jump for me.  Move out onto the ledge with your back to the stones.  The ledge is quite wide enough for you.  When you are ready, you can jump and I will catch you.”

Catherine slipped between the stones, finding a ledge which was about 14 inches wide.  Her back pressed against the stone, she carefully edged outward until she saw Vincent standing below.  He stood, hands on his narrow hips, smiling up at her. “Should I jump from a standing position or what?”

“Simply crouch down and leap out.  Do not be frightened, Catherine, I will catch you.”

Taking a brief look around, Catherine crouched down and leaped off into Vincent’s waiting embrace.  He caught her as though she were merely a feather, whirling her around before gently setting her feet on the rocky path.

Looking up, she smiled at him, took his hand, and they continued on down the pathway.  The remaining distance to the lake was a pleasant climb and soon they were walking on the beach.

Dropping to the sand, Catherine quickly began to pull off her boots and socks then dashed toward the water, dancing along the edge.  Her laughter and smile warmed the deepest part of Vincent’s heart, filling him with a happiness he had never known in this magical place.

Leaving her playing at the water’s edge, Vincent moved toward the back of the beach, removing several blankets, quilts and towels he had stored there.  He gathered some of the wood he had carefully brought to the area for those times when he stayed for several days.  The idea of spending the night here with Catherine formed, but he wasn’t sure how she would feel about spending so much time in such a primitive, remote place.

“Oh, Vincent, it’s so lovely here, and so peaceful.  I wonder about the people who created this.  Tell me how you found this place.”

Catherine walked to where Vincent was standing beside the glowing embers of the fire.  She hugged him tightly, her delight and happiness warming him, replacing the lonely feelings he had of this place.  She settled against him, a warming smile upon her upturned face, as she waited for him to explain.

“It was two years after Devin left to live Above that I found this place.  The time after Devin left was the loneliest time of my life, a time when I tried to understand my feelings about Devin, which filled my every waking moment.  At times I literally hated him for abandoning me, yet I understood his need to go Above, to be free to do all the things we had only dreamed. 

“Each year when the anniversary of his leaving came, I was filled with a sense of loss which overwhelmed me.  No matter how much I understood the reasons intellectually for his leaving, my heart and soul could not accept his loss.

“During the time between the first and second year, I thought I had found acceptance and peace over his leaving. Father and I had slowly healed; we were able to talk of Devin, but as the second anniversary approached, I knew I could not face it with Father and the community around me. My chamber was filled with memories which were nothing but sweet pain.  I told Father I was going below and in his wisdom he understood my need to be alone.  I think it was easier for both of us, being apart during that time.”

Catherine hugged him tighter, feeling the pain welling through him, the loneliness which had been such a part of this place of beauty.  Reaching up, Catherine drew Vincent’s head to her shoulder, holding him as she again felt all the memories of Devin’s leaving.

“This was a place of wonder for me and one I longed with all my heart to share with Devin.  He would have loved it as much as I do.  But he was Above, and I could never bring myself to share it with anyone—simply because it was a place I could come to dream all the dreams that Devin and I had shared.  Dreams of adventures that took us around the world, dreams of two brothers who never realized how different they were and that only one could be accepted by the world Above.

“Catherine, I wanted to share this part of my world with you because it is so beautiful.  It is a place I have shared with no one since my discovery of it.  I would like this to be a place of happy memories for me, not a place which always reminds me of a dark time in my life.”

“I understand, and it will be a place of happy memories for you, and for me, from this moment.  I do understand; it would have been a place where you could’ve had such grand adventures, dreamed such dreams, and then to have found it after he had gone, it was just an empty echo.”

Vincent felt his heart fill with Catherine’s love and acceptance of him; as he brought his lips to meet hers, it was gentle kiss, one of sweetness and hope, one which renewed the spirit, giving strength to their souls.  They instinctively moved to stand closer, to hold each other in a tender embrace which would erase the previous pain of this airy cathedral.

“Feel the walls, Catherine.”

Putting her hands up, Catherine was surprised at how warm they felt. 

“Again, I do not know the source of the heat but each time I have come here, they have been warm.  The temperature outside these walls is about 20 degrees cooler at night.”

 “Shall we eat or swim?”

“Let’s swim first.  The lake looks too inviting to ignore any longer.”

He glanced over as Catherine laid back, unzipped her jeans, and began to wiggle them down over her hips.  Throwing them into a semi-neat fold on top of her boots, the down vest followed and the sweater soon floated down.

The sight of her standing there was more than Vincent could bear as his heart thudded against his chest and, taking her hand, he drew Catherine down beside him in the sand.  His eyes traveled the length of her body, delighting in what he saw as well as what was hidden by the wispy garments which still covered her.  Catherine brought her arms up to encircle his neck as Vincent’s mouth covered hers.

“Catherine,” his voice filled with gravel, “you are so beautiful.  The sight of you makes my heart pound.” His hands trailed across her hips, drawing her closer. Reluctantly, Vincent drew away, a half smile on his face. “If I don’t let you go now, we will never get our swim.”

Catherine rose, letting the remainder of her clothing float to the ground as she took off running toward the lake.  Diving in, she quickly disappeared beneath the water’s surface.  By the time she broke water yards from where she entered, Vincent had disappeared beneath the surface.

Silently, he appeared behind her, grabbing her in a playful hug, dunking her beneath the water and swimming quickly away.  They played tag, splashed each other, and frolicked like children for more than an hour.

Catherine floated on her back as Vincent held her by her ankles and slowly turned in the water, allowing her to glide in a lazy circle.  The water glimmered off Catherine’s body as they moved.  Unable to resist the pull of her naked body any longer, Vincent pulled her toward him.  His eyes spoke of the passion, the love, the longing he felt as he drew Catherine closer.  Gently, his hand cupped one breast as he lowered his mouth to pay homage to one tawny peak.

Catherine seemed to sink in the water, curling her legs around his hips, her arms encircling his head as his tongue swirled across her taut nipple.  Catherine felt a growing fire spreading through her stomach as Vincent’s mouth continued.  Nibbling his ear, she felt the press of his manhood against her.

“We had better move to shore,” Vincent breathed against her mouth.  Slipping beneath and coming up under Catherine’s body, allowing her to simply lie against his chest, with several powerful back strokes Vincent brought them closer to shore.  He slipped his arms beneath Catherine, rose from the water, and strode toward the quilts spread beside the fire.

Laying Catherine on the quilt, he reached for a towel from the stack which was just beyond the outer edge of the fire.  He stood over Catherine for a moment, then in one fluid motion dropped to his knees; she took the towel from his outstretched arm and put the towel down, reaching up to draw him down. “Drying can wait until later; all I want now is you.”

 

Later, Vincent felt Catherine stir beneath him, then suddenly he felt the towel being spread across his shoulders. “I wouldn’t want you to become chilled,” she murmured as she gently blotted the wet hair which spread across his shoulders.

“What about you?”

 “I’m very warm here beneath you,” she laughed. “Not as warm as a few minutes ago, but still wonderfully warm.”  She stretched beneath him, delighting in his reaction as she contracted the powerful muscles which held him. “I gather you liked that,” she asked as she repeated the motion against him.

“Catherine, whatever you are doing, you are making it impossible for me to think of anything else but making love to you all over again.”

Pulling him toward her waiting lips she murmured, “I can think of nothing nicer.”

* * * *

“I’m hungry,” Catherine said as she walked from the lake, arm and arm with Vincent, after their bath.

“We could have eaten hours ago but you obviously had other things on your mind.”  His blue eyes laughed as he smiled down at her; she could feel a fledgling sense of pride in his sexual prowess within him, and feeling it, Catherine’s heart soared.

Running her hand across the powerful muscle of his buttock as she raced past him, Catherine called over her shoulder, “Now I’m hungry for food, not your cute tush.”

She grabbed a towel and quickly began drying as Vincent stood beside her.  Handing him the towel, she turned her back and he slowly started to dry her.  “What did you mean back there?”

“I meant simply that I find your bum very appealing.  I used to love watching you walk up the stairs in Father’s study, the way those muscles rolled as you walked.”  Turning against him, Catherine slid her hands around him, firmly gripping the muscles under discussion, as she whispered to him, “These muscles…this cute tush has always fascinated me.”

“You used to watch me walk because you thought my walk was sexy?”  His voice was filled with shy delight in discovering this secret.

“Sure I did!  Don’t you know women like looking at men just as much as men do women?  Jenny and I use to laugh about what great legs we had just seen, and speaking of legs...”

“Catherine, you are embarrassing me!  Surely you jest.”

“Forgive me; I would never embarrass you, especially about your body.  No, honestly, I did look at you when you mounted the stairs and I did notice your long, powerful legs. I have found your body beautiful for a long time, dreamed about it above me.”

“Do young women in your world usually discuss their admiration of men’s bodies so openly?”

“Yes and no; we don’t hang out on corners or yell at men like lots of construction workers do at girls from high atop skyscrapers. We do, however, talk about men in general over lunch and what we find appealing about them, their bodies.  Does that shock you?”

“No. I never gave the subject much thought until now.  You must admit, until moments ago, I was not aware I possessed ‘a cute tush’.”

Catherine’s face warmed slightly, and she reached up to ruffle Vincent’s long golden hair as he leaned to place a laughing kiss against her cheek.

They finished dressing then sat beside the fire to dine upon the mysterious package William had silently handed to Vincent earlier.  “When I inquired of William what he had prepared for our picnic, he said it was a picnic for his friend Catherine.  He then turned bright red and went off! I do believe, Catherine,” Vincent commented in mock seriousness, “that should you ever desire to be rid of me, William would be a willing replacement.”

“Perhaps in another 80 or so years, when I am tired of you, I shall certainly consider William a worthy candidate.” She smiled up into his face, feeling the warmth of his efforts to hide his laughter.

“I wonder what he prepared—he refused to tell me.”

“Let’s unwrap it and eat—I’m hungry.  If you are good, I shall share these treats with you, kind sir.”

Vincent quickly unpacked the mystery picnic lunch, and his face revealed his delight. They found thick slices of freshly baked, rough textured, whole grain bread; inside of several layers of protective waxed paper were stored chunks of cheese.  Tucked inside, cradled by the bread, was a tightly sealed jar of cold soup, and seeing the soup, Vincent’s eyes grew large.  “It has been months since William made this particular soup!  He only makes it for our special celebrations.”

Peering into the deepest area of the container, Vincent found two crisp apples, two old mismatched plastic cups with handles, a small knife, and another package which bore Catherine’s name in William’s distinctive script.

Catherine spread their bounty on the quilt and they settled to eat.  Vincent poured the cold soup into the cups, handing one to Catherine.  He sat with a look of delighted anticipation as he waited for Catherine to taste the soup.

Her reaction moments later was worth the wait. “I’ve never tasted a cold soup, anyplace, as good as this, Vincent.  It’s excellent.  Do you know how William makes it?”

“No, it’s one of his secrets, which he never shares; though I suspect, were you to ask, he would gladly explain.”

They finished the rest of their meal in companionable silence.  Between bites of food, fingers caressed, touched, and slid across the quilt to ease imaginary bites of food from their faces.  But each of them realized it was the need to simply touch—the pleasure of silk against texture, smooth against rough, and softness against hardened muscle.

“Aren’t you going to unwrap your gift from William?”

Catherine took the small package from Vincent’s hand and carefully unwrapped it to withdraw a small bag of cookies and a note.

Catherine,

Your secret is safe with me, and I shall ever be in your debt. 

With kindest regards,

William

Tears gathered to stand on the edge of her eyes as she smiled at the note in her hand. “How sweet,”was all she managed before the happy tears slid from the pools of her green eyes.

Vincent brushed the tears away, basking in the smile on Catherine’s face, knowing there was more behind William’s simple words, and aware that Catherine would share this secret when she was ready.  He held her hand until the tears ceased to fall, then leaned to kiss her tenderly.

“Is it a long journey from here, Vincent, to the Great Hall?  If it isn’t far, I would like to go there. I have a gift for you which I wish to give you in the Great Hall.”

“If that is your wish, Catherine, then we will go to the Great Hall.”

They gathered up the quilts and towels, returning them to the storage area inside the cavern.  Vincent quickly put out their fire, returning the unused logs to the cavewhile Catherine repacked the remainder of the food.  Gathering their things, they started across the sandy beach toward the towering pillars. Reaching the ledge from which Vincent had jumped, Catherine looked searchingly at him.  He took the backpack and tossed it up, where it landed with a soft thud on the ledge.

Moving to stand on top of a flat boulder, Vincent helped Catherine to climb up beside him. “Put your arms around my neck and hold on, Catherine, and we will be on the ledge very quickly.”  Catherine did as he instructed and Vincent put the toe of his boot into a small crevice.  Holding onto the outcropping, he swiftly scaled the rough surface, his powerful arms soon pulling them up and onto the edge of the ledge.

“This will never be a place of sadness again. Your spirit and love have chased away all the unhappy memories from this wondrous place and replaced them with joy.  I will be able to come here now surrounded with memories of you, which will always warm my heart when we must be apart.”

As they entered the tunnel, Vincent felt Catherine shiver in the darkness.  Her arm encircled his waist as she moved to walk close beside him, her hip riding easily against his strong thigh. 

Vincent began to recite a long story-poem as they walked through the tunnel, one of complicated verse and cadence. His voice resonated through the tunnel, pushing back the darkness.

They reached the main tunnel again, and Catherine threw herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.  “Thank you for easing my fears.  The fear comes so suddenly and I am at a loss as to how to fight it.  It is not like the fear of darkness I felt as a little girl; it is different.”

“In time the fears will fade, Catherine, as you become more secure in the knowledge of what actually happened. As you begin to feel safe again, the darkness will hold no sense of danger; it will become what it rightfully is, a moment of time without light.”

As they moved toward the Great Hall, Vincent picked up the threads of the story-poem, filling the air with magic.  It was something Catherine had never heard before, so she was as enthralled as Vincent had been when Father had first told him the story.

Smiling, Vincent removed the beam which guarded the entrance to the Great Hall.  Pulling the door only slightly open, he allowed Catherine to slip inside and followed her quickly.  His instincts directed him to the companion beam and he lowered it into place, barring the door from the grasping fingers of the wind.

 

Chapter 24

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