Dreams of Thee

Chapter 4

 

He tried to shake off the hand that roughly shook his shoulders, preferring the safety of sleep and the warmth of the blankets. “Pascal, Pascal! Wake up.”  Huge hands shook him awake, all thoughts of gentleness now gone.

“Vincent?”

“Come, Catherine needs blood and Father says you are the right type.”

Stumbling from his bed, Pascal followed, trying to don his robe as he ran toward the hospital chamber.  Before he was truly awake, he was on the table, lying beside Catherine, watching his blood drip slowly into her pale arm.

From years of observing these two men, Pascal knew something was terribly wrong, but he refrained from asking questions.  His understanding of human emotions gave him wisdom beyond his years. If Vincent or Father wished to confide in him, they knew he would keep their confidence; and until such time, Pascal was content to merely wait.

Later, as Vincent placed a bandage over Pascal’s arm, he looked deeply into his friend’s eyes. “There are no words to adequately thank you, Pascal.”

“None are necessary, Vincent. Catherine means a great deal to all of us.”

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

“Mouse,” Father called softly, knowing the elusive shadows beyond the surgery held the young boy. “Help Pascal return to his chamber, and stay with him to make sure he has no ill effects.” Pascal started to protest but a light-headed feeling as he stood made him see the wisdom of Father’s words and he accepted Mouse’s offered arm.

Without a word Vincent left, moving through the tunnels, long legs putting distance between him and that which he could not accept.  His heart and his mind were in turmoil.  His heart drew him to the Abyss.  The howling winds swirled his hair about his head, creating a fiery golden crown in the dim lights; unearthly sounds called to him, mirroring the chaos inside. Cold bit through his thin shirt, an echo of the desolation in his heart.

His thoughts whirled liked the black vortex of the Abyss. Why didn’t I know?  Why wasn’t I aware of what she tried to do?  Even when I sleep, I am aware of Catherine’s every breath.  Why?  Why didn’t I know she was dying as she lay by my side?

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

Father stood beside the table where Catherine lay, leaning heavily on his cane.  His face was hidden but Vincent could hear him talking.  Silently he entered, moving to stand at the end of the table.  He knew neither Father nor Catherine were yet aware of his presence.

“You, above all people, should realize how precious life is.” Father’s voice was tense as he fought to control his mounting anger. “How dare you attempt to destroy yourself!  Yes, blindness is terrible.  But there are things far worse in life.  Your selfishness appalls me; where is this love you have professed so strongly to have for Vincent?  Remember how you swore never to hurt or harm him?  Have you any conception of what it would have done to Vincent if you had succeeded in this foolhardy act?  The devastation you would have caused his soul is unconscionable!  He would never have recovered.”

Her sobs tore at Father’s heart, her tears mirrors of the ones falling from his own eyes, but he swallowed and continued. “We don’t even know if your blindness is permanent, and won’t until the swelling is gone.  You hurt now, but with time your hurt, your ache, will become less.  What of Vincent?  Do you think that anything could ever end the hurt to Vincent if you had bled to death in his arms, in his very bed, as he slept?”

The harshness of Father’s words washed over her, causing a newer, larger rent to enter her aching soul.  She turned away from the determined voice which spoke hard truths, curling into a tight fetal position, fresh sobs shaking her.

“Enough, Father! Enough!”  His voice thundered, echoing against the solid walls.

At the touch of Vincent’s hand, her sobbing increased, growing in intensity as he lifted her into his arms. Blue eyes met moist grey eyes, locked, and held, asvolumes of unspoken words—and love—were silently exchanged.  Lifting Catherine, her arms wrapped around his neck as he carried her to his chamber.

She continued to sob, her face buried against his massive chest, seeking the comfort it had always brought to her.  She could feel nothing from Vincent and this frightened her more than the knowledge of what she had attempted to do this night.

A slight shudder passed through Vincent’s body as he entered the chamber and remembered what had almost happened. He was surprised to find the offensive bloody sheets gone, and fresh linens in their place. Bless you, Mouse, he thought as he lowered Catherine.

Her arms continued to cling tightly to his neck, refusing his attempts to dislodge them.  “Please, Catherine,” his voice murmured like velvet in her ear, “you must allow me to fix the blankets.” Her vise-like grip loosened only long enough for him to pull the blankets up, and then she pulled him toward her.  Sinking to his knees, he pressed his face tightly against hers, his arms enfolding her gently.

“Catherine,” he cried, his breath coming in ragged moans, “I could not have borne it if you had died!  You are my life. I have no reason to live without you!”

Her hands tangled in his hair, pulling his face toward hers until she felt his ragged breath upon her lips.  Pulling him closer, she covered his dear, beautiful face with kisses, tasting his tears as she tried to ease the suffering her actions had caused. “Vincent, forgive me,” she cried as she continued to kiss his face, her mouth seeking to blot his tears.

An electric shock jolted her body as her mouth found his trembling lips.  Lightly she rained kisses upon them; words lost in a tumult of kisses, she sought his mouth again and again.  His arms tightened, crushing her to his chest, his mouth no longer passive.  Her lips parted as his tongue explored her mouth gently, seeking the nectar which was there. Drawing her closer, he continued to seek her mouth, drowning in the taste of her, a taste too long denied.

His heart pounded wildly, his whole body alive with desire. He slowly pulled away from her, trying to control the feelings which overwhelmed him.  Her mouth continued to seek his, her desire burning bright through the bond. Finding his mouth no longer close, she showered kisses on his throat, nibbled at the hollow beneath his ears, moving onward to explore the area where his neck flowed into his massive shoulder.

“Not like this, Catherine; not here, not now!  I want you, but not like this.  When you are well, yes, but please, not like this.  I couldn’t bear our joining to be connected with sorrow. I want to remember it only with joy and happiness.”  His breath came in ragged gasps, his voice lower, softer than normal.  He continued to hold her tightly in his arms, unable to withdraw himself from the feel of her warm body pressing against his.

Slowly the pounding of his heart returned to normal as he forced his breathing to slow.  He tried to rise but found his legs weak.  As he straightened, Catherine fought to maintain contact with his body, tugging at his rising form.  The blanket fell as she reached upward, struggling to touch him. “Don’t leave me, Vincent, don’t leave,” she pleaded.

Her gown gaped along the rip that Father had torn to access her vein, partially exposing her small perfect breast.  He had tended her body, bathed her, so he was aware of how beautiful she was, but that was then and this was now.  Then he had not kissed her, had not gloried in the pleasure found in her mouth, or felt her desire for him as strong and deep as his own.  He turned from her, tearing his eyes away from her body, more beautiful, more desirable now.

“Vincent,” her voice was a caress, “please don’t go, don’t leave like this.” She strained to hear him, to locate his presence in the room, but he moved so silently, so gracefully, she could not detect him.  Had he left her?

Suddenly he was beside her, helping her to sit up, and just as quickly, before his resolve vanished, he slid the gown off and slipped one of his shirts over her body.  He felt her fingers loop themselves into the waist of his jeans, her body swaying. “Hold on, Catherine, I’m almost finished.”  He turned his full attention to rolling up the sleeves, her arms completely lost within its confines.

“Vincent, may I come in?” Father spoke from the threshold.  He felt it wise to announce his presence well in advance of entering his son’s chamber.  After cleaning up surgery and checking on Pascal, Father knew he must return to his son.  His anger with Catherine was still with him, but the physician inside would not allow her to suffer if it was within his power to prevent it.

“Of course. Come in, Father.”  He hoped his voice sounded normal.  His emotions were still high and he knew Father’s keen eyes would not miss his state of arousal.  He moved into the shadows beyond the candle light, hoping Father would not notice his condition.

“I’ve come to check on Catherine before I retire.” His voice sounded strained even to his own ears, and he hoped Vincent had not detected his harshness.  Taking her wrist in his hand, he took her pulse and, though it seemed slightly high, he was satisfied.

He noticed that she was wearing a shirt and this pleased him. He never could reconcile himself to Peter’s philosophy that caring for wounded or injured bodies here in the tunnels was easier with abbreviated short hospital gowns. It just wasn’t proper!  This, along with Vincent’s refusal to have Mary or any of the other women care for Catherine, continued to gall him.  He refused to dwell on what caring for Catherine’s body so intimately was doing to his son.

“You should be asleep,” he said to Catherine. “And you, Vincent, need to rest.  This has been a distressing day for all of us, but particularly for you.”  Turning, he made his way slowly across the chamber.

Forgetting his own embarrassment, Vincent followed him. “Let me walk you to your chamber, Father,” he offered. “It’s late, you’re tired, and I can tell your leg is bothering you.”

Sensing he was needed, Vincent stayed while Father undressed for bed.  Tucking him in, he sat on the edge of the bed as Father had done for him long years ago, until the older man was asleep.  He rose to leave then turned back and slowly bent to place a kiss on the forehead of this sleeping, gentle soul. “Good night, Father. Sleep well,” he breathed into the silence of the room.

Then he smiled into the darkness. “And, Mouse, thank you for all you have done this night.”

Catherine was asleep when he returned to his chamber, as he had known she was through their bond.  He moved toward her slumbering form, lifted her arm gently to place it under the blanket, and saw once again the bandages around her wrist.  He stared, reassuring himself that they were white, and drew the covers over her shoulders.

“Vincent?” Catherine called softly.

“What is it, Catherine?  Are you in pain?  Should I get Father?

“No, I’m not in pain. I just want you near me.  I need to feel your arms around me.”

His bare feet made no sound as he crossed to her.  He perched on the edge of the bed and, bringing her small hand to his lips, he pressed his mouth against her palm. “Try to rest, Catherine. Try to sleep.  You have suffered serious injury.  You need to be quiet.”

“Please, Vincent, hold me. I could sleep if you held me, please.”  Knowing he could deny her nothing, he rose to move to the end of the bed so he could crawl in around her. “No, lie here, under the covers with me.”  She pulled back the blanket and wiggled over to make room for him. Her voice caressed his battered soul and, for once in his life, he allowed desire to rule and slipped under the blanket.

She was in his arms even before the blankets settled over his hips.  His body rolled closer to hers, his arm cradling her head gently.  Her lips placed soft kisses in the hollow under his jaw. One hand rested on his chest near his heart, and her arm snaked under his to stroke his broad back.  She moved closer to him until her hips rested fully against his, but she tried to squirm even closer.

“Please! If you continue, we’ll never get to sleep.”  His voice was difficult to control, he found, rising as it had during puberty.

Vincent moved his head slightly, looking down into her wide green eyes and he slowly kissed her forehead, then brought his head to rest on top of her head and tried to settle himself to sleep.  Several minutes later, he heard her slow, even breathing and knew she had fallen asleep.  He tried to think other things but his mind and body were constantly aware of her hips, and the heat his own body produced from feeling her pressed against him.

Her tears awakened him instantly. “What is it?”

She continued to sob, burying her face against his warm chest. He held her closer, feeling the tumble of her thoughts, the fears which were gripping her. “Tell me what you are feeling. It helps if you talk about what is frightening you,” he spoke in soft whispers as his hand stroked her back.

“I’m frightened, confused, terrified, Vincent! I feel so...scared, foolish, and so very ashamed!  I have taken so much for granted in my life, until you found me; then I knew how precious life truly was.  You taught me to have courage, to be strong.  At the first test of that courage, the strength of your faith in me, I failed. I failed Father, I failed myself; but most of all failed you. I couldn’t face life blind, face a life empty…alone without...ever knowing.” Her voice trailed away into sobs.

Her weeping continued, and still Vincent did not speak. Her words had brought renewed pain, and he knew silence was better; he needed to choose his words wisely.  Their relationship hovered on the threshold of change.  Their relationship had been built on honesty.  No half-truths. Always the whole truth, no matter how painful.

Closing his eyes, he began to speak slowly. ‘There will always be events in our lives which will test our courage, our faith, and our ability to endure. How we handle those challenges is a test of our faith in each other, ourselves, and our belief in God.

“The pain of this night lies not in that you have failed me, but that you have failed yourself.  A failure to believe you can, and will, endure all things.  The spirit with which we deal with life is not a test of how we handle joy, but a test of how we validate our souls in adversity.” He paused to pull her closer.

“Your strength and courage were always a part of you.  I only showed you a path to follow.  Your mind has suffered a great shock. To awaken from a terrible ordeal, discovering your blindness as you did, would cause unbearable pain.”  He closed his eyes against the memory.

“Catherine, if your eyesight is not returned when the swelling against the optic nerve subsides, will you again decide your life is worthless?” His voiced lowered. “Will you decide the gifts of love given you by your friends, the tunnel community, Father and myself are not enough to make your life meaningful?” Tears trembled on his lashes.

Her gasp at the harshness of his words was audible and caused fresh tears.  She felt a great coldness enter her heart.

“I can only try to understand the pain, the anguish which drove you to such desperation.  Forgiveness does not begin with me, or Father, but rather deep within you.   When you are at peace with yourself and God, you will also find peace with Father and with me.

“I wasn’t truly alive, Catherine, until your love entered my soul, causing me to soar, to believe I was a man.”  His words trailed off in a soft, explosive sigh. “Until you, there had been no one. My soul was bereft.  Your love gave real purpose, new meaning to my existence.

“Within me there is a darkness,” he shook his head, “and events which no one, not even Father, has seen. You, Catherine, have seen this darkness, and you did not turn from me.  You viewed me as I am, without judgment, and always showed me your constant support and love.  I can, and I will, show you nothing less.” His arms tightened around her as he nuzzled against her.

Her lungs began to rebel, so long had she held her breath while Vincent spoke.  Her greatest fear had not been realized.  He did not hate her, he still loved her.  From the erratic beat of his heart beneath her fingers, she knew the pain and suffering his words had caused.  And she knew how honest he was.  Even in her moment of utter despair, he had spoken his truest feelings.

“Vincent.” Her voice was a gentle wind bearing him home after a long journey.  Her hands tangled in his silky hair as she pressed his face against her breasts, holding him tightly as the floodgates of his battered soul opened.  She held him long after his sobs had slowed and finally ceased.  She held him until he slept, his breath coming in ragged gusts, and she held him even as sleep closed over her.

 

Chapter 5

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