Dreams of Thee

Chapter 3

 

Vincent knew the hour was late by the sounds on the pipes, but he remained in his bed.  He did not want to leave the warmth of Catherine pressed against him.  He simply did not wish to stop holding her, watching as she slept, his face close enough to feel the gentle stir of Catherine’s sweet breath across the golden fur along the bridge of his nose.

His dreams had once again been of Catherine and a life with her, a life where they were never apart.  He knew now that once Catherine was well, he would tell her of his dreams, his longing to be physically joined to her, to surrender his virginity and to love her fully and completely. The spiritual bond they shared was extraordinary, but it was no longer enough.  He wanted to possess and be possessed, body and soul, by Catherine.

Finally, his own bodily needs forced Vincent from the bed. He gathered clean clothing, towels and soap, and made his way quickly to the facilities located close to his chamber. Normally he liked to spend time standing under the water of his shower, but this morning he hurried through his abbreviated bath and returned to his chamber, hair still dripping water down the back of his vest.  He immediately checked Catherine, found her still sleeping, and set about the task of grooming his hair.

He turned at the sound of her voice and knelt down beside her, understanding her need; he reached beneath the bed, withdrew the bed pan and carefully slipped it under her hips. He felt no shame at caring for Catherine’s basic bodily functions.

He heard Father and Peter approaching even though they were talking in hushed tones.  Father entered first and, seeing his son standing beside Catherine’s bed, he called Peter to enter. Father asked Vincent to describe to Peter Catherine’s condition since he had last seen her.  Vincent described the changes he had witnessed and, as was Peter’s habit, he asked Vincent to leave the room as he examined Catherine.

“Vincent,” Father called to his son’s retreating back, “go along to my chamber. There is a hot meal waiting there for you.”

Pascal stopped Vincent, wishing news of Catherine before he returned to the pipe chamber. “Was the soup good?” Vincent teased his life-long friend.

“How did you know we had soup for lunch?” At Vincent’s pointed gaze, Pascal looked down at his shirt, seeing the spot which had given away the luncheon menu.

Vincent smiled, slipped his arm about the shoulder of the shorter man, and together they walked toward Father’s chamber.  Pascal talked while Vincent wolfed down the food, as he suddenly found he was ravenous.  He realized it had been four days since he had eaten.

Pascal told Vincent how Mouse, Jamie and Cullen had returned to Catherine’s building, and had cleansed the garage floor of the blood they found. Cullen, having seen the blood in the storage locker, knew that if Catherine had dragged herself across the garage, people would see the stain and investigate.  They had also repaired the door in the storage area. Vincent grew silent as he listened. Mouse had found Catherine’s crystal necklace on the floor leading to an outside stairway.  How he had found it in the vast dark garage, Pascal did not know.

Vincent rose abruptly from the chair, which tipped precariously then fell with a crash.  His anger immediately filled the chamber, leaving room for no other feeling.  He began to pace, the sound of his boots striking the stone floor echoing across the room.

“Why would anyone wish to harm Catherine?  Why, Pascal, would anyone beat her so violently?” Seeing the violence which had been done to Catherine, Pascal could only mutely shake his head.

“I don’t like this, not at all,” Peter told Jacob. I’m going Above to get a couple of pieces of equipment.  I’ll return as soon as possible.” Preoccupied, Peter passed Vincent with a nod.  Something was definitely wrong.  He caught up with Peter, saw the anguish written on the handsome face, and demanded he tell him what was wrong.

Peter looked at Vincent for a long moment, knowing his words would break his heart. “I’m sorry, Vincent, but I believe the blows Cathy suffered have done damage to the optic nerve.  Cathy is likely to be blind.”

The anguished howl of grief and rage was heard by most of the tunnel dwellers, sending shivers of fear racing up their spines. Peter could only stand there, a mute witness to despair, as the news consumed Vincent. Vincent’s fists slashed against stone walls, and his rage-filled screams could now be heard on several levels of the tunnels.    Vincent continued to beat his fists against the walls, shaking off Peter’s efforts to stop him.

Father hurried from the chamber when the sound of Vincent’s screams reached him.  He knew Vincent must have found Peter, and Peter had told him their findings.  He moved toward the tunnel that would take him toward his son.

“Vincent!” Father spoke sternly, reaching in front of his son, pulling at his arms with all his strength.

“Father.”

The beautiful voice was rough with anguish as Vincent collapsed in his arms, hands scraped raw and bleeding. Father staggered under the weight of his son, struggling to hold him. “Father.” The low hopelessness of his voice brought back memories of the dark days when Vincent had been restrained in his chamber and he had begged Father to release him from his pain.

Father held Vincent as he sobbed.  He looked over at Peter, nodding for him to go. “Please, Vincent, we must return to Catherine and see to your hands.” Father continued to stroke his son’s hair, rocking him as he had when he was a young boy.  Together, they struggled to their feet, Father encircling Vincent’s waist with one arm, and together they helped each other toward the chamber where Catherine lay sleeping.

After helping Vincent to a chair, Father went to gather his medical bag.  He returned moments later to find Vincent kneeling beside Catherine, shoulders shaking as tears once again overcame him.  Touching his shoulder, Father guided Vincent back to the chair and began tending his hands. Vincent sat mutely as Father took several stitches to close the worst of the cuts, and then quickly bandaged his hands.

Vincent had just returned to Catherine’s side when Peter entered, but relinquished his place beside Catherine to make room for Peter.  Peter knew it was hopeless to ask Vincent to leave; carefully he removed the bandages and completed his examination and then he returned the instruments to their case and motioned Father and Vincent to join him in the passageway.

“There is extensive swelling behind the optic nerve.  At this point she is blind; once the pressure is gone, she maybe able to see. I have seen cases where vision has returned, others where it never returned.” Peter knew better than to sugarcoat his diagnosis. “Right now we need to keep her comfortable, restrict her movement, and hopefully, sleep and rest will lessen the swelling to allow a more thorough examination.” Knowing no words would comfort Vincent, Peter gathered his equipment and quietly left.

Father moved to a chair, sinking wearily into it, hands absently running through his hair, shoulders hunched over.

Vincent stood looking down at Catherine. Her body seemed smaller to him. How could those tiny shoulders possibly support the weight of this disaster?  Why not me?  How will she find the strength to survive this?  Me, God, me, do this to me, not to Catherine, who has never harmed anyone.

“Vincent….”

“Please, Father, don’t say anything, not now!  I know you mean well, but please, say nothing.” His voice was filled with pain. “Father, please go.  Leave me.  I must think. I need to be alone with Catherine; how will I tell her?”  His voice began to tremble with the last words.  His words inflicted pain on a man who deserved only kindness, yet he was helpless to take back or soften his words.

Coming to his feet, Father moved toward the chamber entrance.  Finding no words of comfort to offer his son, he simply placed his hand upon his broad shoulders. “I’ll be back in twenty minutes to bandage her eyes.” He stepped through the doorway, pausing as he heard his son crying, knowing he was powerless to help him. Please, dear God, give Vincent the strength he so desperately needs to help Catherine through this ordeal.

His face contorted in anguish, Vincent sank slowly to his knees as sobs racked his body.  His breath came in ragged gasps; his body shook as pain washed over him, sending him deeper into despair.  The sobs continued until his voice was only a hoarse whisper.
He felt rather than saw movement as Catherine struggled to rise from the bed. “Vincent! Vincent, where are you?” she was swaying on her feet, ready to pitch forward, as he caught her in his arms.  He lowered her slowly to the bed, desperate to untangle the IV, fearful he would pull it from her arm.  She grasped his neck, attempting to pull him closer, instinctively seeking to comfort him, to heal whatever was causing him such anguish.  He freed his arm from the IV, trying to gently press her body back into the bed.  The more he tried, the more she clung to him, pressing her body tightly against him.

“Please, Catherine, lie back. You must rest,” he pleaded, his silken voice reduced to a ragged whisper.

“I heard you sobbing. Please, Vincent, tell me what’s wrong; what is causing you this pain?”  Her hand moved upward, capturing his which had been lightly holding her bandaged head.  She brought it towards her lips and then she felt the bandages covering his hand.  “You’re hurt!” she cried as she curled her own small hand inside his, pulling it toward her face, caressing the back of his bandaged hand.

She turned her face toward his hand, bringing it toward her line of vision. “Vincent, it’s so dark. Please, light a candle so I can see your hand. These bandages are blocking the light.” Vincent inhaled sharply at her words. 

A deeper instinct took control; she dropped his hand and her own flew to her face.  She gasped as she groped for the bandages.  “My eyes? My eyes, Vincent, I can’t see. I can’t see!” Her words started in a whisper and then rose to echo across the chamber.  Her head rolled from side to side as if to deny what her instincts were screaming was the truth.  She was blind!

Seeking to prevent further injury, Vincent raised his hand, trying to stop the movement of her head.  She clung to him, tears streaming from her sightless eyes, her face a maelstrom of emotions. “No! NO!” she screamed.  Her hands clawed the air.  Her nails glanced off his neck, his face, his chest, leaving a trail of tiny bloody scratches in their wake.

Vincent brought her body closer to his, trying to take her pain within himself.  She fought against him, trying to escape from the pain that devoured her.  “Please, you must let me help you.” An inhuman scream assailed his ears, rising to break against the chamber walls, an ever-repeating echo destroying all semblance of humanity.

Her body jerked, twisting with a violence which astounded Vincent. Her hands continued to pound against his chest, her rage fueled by despair. Vincent saw the IV stand swinging wildly, dipping, swaying, dancing to the whirling vortex of Catherine’s hysteria.  His foot shot out, trying to right the IV as it plummeted to the stone floor.  A higher scream escaped as the IV needle punctured her veins and then was violently ripped from her wrist.

Father moved quickly through the tunnel corridor as Catherine’s eerie screams rose higher, causing him to move even faster.  Somehow she must have discovered the truth.  He should have re-bandaged her eyes immediately until they had all gotten over the shock of Peter’s discovery.

Her body rested against Vincent’s chest, her head cradled against his arm, her eyes staring as she whimpered helplessly in her anguish.  Soundless sobs shook her body. She stiffened suddenly, then shot upward as convulsions rocked her body.  Terror ripped through Vincent as he fought to lower her shaking, jerking body to the bed. A second massive spasm shot through her as her head lolled and her eyes rolled back into her head.  A scream of pain was torn from Vincent’s throat as he clung to her body, his face buried against her neck.

Father reached the chamber just as the last spasm started. He set down his medical bag and snapped it open.  Moving quickly, Father pulled Vincent away and began working on her limp, ashen form.

Vincent stood beside the bed, face hidden by his hair, massive shoulders shaking, eyes fixed on Catherine’s still form.  Father worked with precise skill, fearing she would go into cardiac arrest before he could stabilize her wildly racing heart.  Efficiently, he filled the hypodermic syringe, turning to call Vincent, who moved to his side. “Hold her still,” he ordered.  Pulling back the blanket, he wiped the area, and then swiftly sent the needle deep into her heart.  “Roll Catherine onto her side,” he instructed. Vincent gently pulled the covers back further, exposing Catherine’s hip as Father sank a second needle.

Gradually, her heart rate began to slow and her blood pressure slowly climbed.  Time stood still as Father continued to work, fear that Catherine might die at any moment still gripping his heart.  “Vincent, she’s beginning to come around.”

Vincent kneeled beside her, left arm encircling her pillowed head.  Her whimpers wrenched at his heart. “Catherine,” his voice soothed, “Catherine, I’m here.” He murmured soft, soothing sounds in her ear, his voice a balm to her ravished soul.  He stayed there, whispering to her, as Father continued to feverishly work.  Silently, he sutured the gash after cleansing the wound left when the IV needle had been ripped out. Quietly filling another syringe, Father quickly applied alcohol to her the inside of her elbow and administered a sedative.

Father’s hand on his shoulder drew Vincent away from the bed and into the chair.  Wordlessly, Father began to swab the welts along the side of Vincent’s face and neck.  Vincent bore his father’s ministration in silence.  Mentally, Father affixed blame to himself, knowing that medically he should never have acquiesced to Vincent’s request to be left alone with Catherine.

Leaving Vincent, Father returned to Catherine, checking her pulse and blood pressure again.  Having come close to losing her, Father wanted reassurance that her vital signs were stabilized.  He stayed beside her, listening to her heart far longer than necessary, needing to hear the steady rhythm of its pulsing beat.

Catherine’s whimpering brought Vincent instantly to her side.  His body seemed to grow small as he knelt, curving his body to fit the space available to him beside Father, who continued to monitor her condition.  His eyes roamed her face, seeking even the faintest change in her color, anything to bolster his faltering courage as harsh reality rained down upon him.

************

A low sigh escaped Vincent as Father announced Catherine’s heart rate and blood pressure had returned to normal and she was stabilized.  Vincent knew Father would not leave as long as there was a doubt as to her safety; in his wisdom, Father also knew Vincent needed to be alone with Catherine, and slowly he closed his bag.  Giving Vincent instructions on what to watch for, Father made his way slowly across the chamber.  His steps faltered and he steadied himself against the wall before moving down the corridor to his own chamber.  Sleep would be long in coming, as he hated the idea of leaving his son, this child of his heart, suffering this pain alone.

Further along the tunnel, a shadow moved silently as Father passed.  A hand reached out, taking the bag from his weary arm, and Mouse slipped an arm around Father, supporting his weight as they continued to walk.  Mouse knew Father must be tired; he had not been rebuked for slipping from the shadows as he had done countless times before.  “You heard?” Father’s voice was weary.  Nodding, Mouse acknowledged he had been listening. “Say nothing to anyone about this. Do you understand?” Sad eyes greeted his question.

*************

The sedative helped to stop the seizures, but Catherine’s mind actively fought against the knowledge that tried to penetrate her drug-induced sleep.  Even as she slept, her mind cried out through their bond, begging Vincent to help her.  Vincent settled on the edge of the bed and gathered her in his arms.  His touch, the nearness of his body as he rocked her, cuddling her close, had a calming effect. Holding her helped the trembling, and the involuntary shudders grew less frequent.

He suddenly became aware that Catherine’s flesh was cold where his hands touched her bare back. He eased her body back against the bed, rose and moved toward the chair.  He sat to pull off his boots. His belt was followed by the vest and thick sweater he wore, and he stood, wearing only his often-patched jeans and a light shirt.  He knew he would only reach some semblance of calm by holding Catherine.

Crossing to the bed, Vincent lay as he had since Catherine was injured  He gathered her body close to his, making certain the blankets were pulled up over her shoulder and back.  The tunnel pipes grew silent as he continued holding her, soothing her when she cried out.  He drew his cloak over his own body as the chill of the chamber penetrated his thin shirt.

********

Instantly alert, he leaned closer and heard Catherine’s teeth chattering.  He drew his cloak over her body.  She began to moan softly, one hand creeping out from under the blankets, seeking his face. “Vincent, I’m so cold, so sorry.” Her words were fuzzy.

“Don’t be frightened, Catherine. I must get Father. I’ll only be gone a moment.” He leaped from the bed, pulled the cloak closely around her shaking body and sprinted across the chamber.

“Father! Father!  Please come, something is wrong.” After making certain that Father was awake, he raced from the room.  When Father reached them, Vincent was holding Catherine’s shaking body. Vincent answered his questions as completely and succinctly as possible.  Working quickly, Father made an assessment of the situation.

Fear of the unknown gripped Vincent as Father continued to work. “Vincent, can you explain this?” Father held Catherine’s wrist.  The bandage was loosened and soaked with blood.

Pulling Catherine’s hand from under the blankets, Vincent found her nails broken and bloody, with tiny bits of flesh still clinging to them.  Exploring further, he found the sheets a few inches from where he had lain blood-soaked.

They looked at each other, shock and horror clearly visible, as the truth of what they were seeing registered.  Catherine had tried to kill herself by opening the wound and digging out the stitches in her wrist. “We must get her to surgery.” Father’s voice was grim.

Vincent immediately gathered Catherine, along with the blankets, into his arms and left the chamber.  Mouse stood silently in the shadows as he passed, then entered the chamber, grabbed the bag and helped Father move as swiftly as his weary body would allow.

 

Chapter 4

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