Dreams of Thee

Chapter 8

 

Mouse, Cullen, Winslow, and Vincent had worked long past their normal quitting time.  Vincent knew it was well into the dinner hour, but they all agreed to work longer.  Hopefully, by staying later they would not have to return to this area again tomorrow.  They were all cold and damp, and each had gotten thoroughly wet.

Mouse had finally come up with yet another of his brilliant plans to carry off the spring rain water.  Cullen had thought it foolish at first but Vincent had seen the idea behind Mouse’s short, choppy statement.  They had been working steadily for hours and the end was in sight.

Vincent and Cullen struggled under the weight of the large pipe as Mouse and Winslow worked at securing the fitting braces to hold the pipe in place. “Okay good, okay fine,” Mouse’s excited voice sanctioned the placement.  First Cullen, then Vincent slipped gratefully from beneath the pipe.

They gathered up their tools and started back up the tunnel. Vincent looked at his friends and started to laugh.  They looked at him, then at each other, and the laughter followed their trail.  They were covered with mud and grease. Between them there was not an exposed piece of clean flesh to be seen. “I hope we don’t meet anyone on our way back,” Winslow laughed.

“They would smell us long before they saw us and hide if they had our scents,” chimed Cullen’s voice from the rear. Vincent roared at Cullen’s pun on their aromatic state, followed by the shouts of laughter from Winslow and Mouse. Laughter echoed through the chamber as they climbed steadily higher.

When they reached the upper levels, Mouse, Cullen and Winslow headed for the bathing pools.  They waved as Vincent headed toward his own bathing facilities.  From experience, they knew it was useless to ask him to join them.

He reached his chamber as quietly as possible.  Hoping he didn’t smell as bad as he suspected he did, he slipped inside and grabbed his robe, then headed for the pool.

Quickly, he shed his offensive clothing and stepped into the running stream, the pounding easing his work-sore muscles.  The days he had spent in caring for Catherine had made his first day of rigorous work in weeks far more difficult than normal.  He lathered his body then began the slow process of rinsing away all the soap.  From experience, he knew better than to hurry.  Any traces of soap which remained caused his sensitive skin to itch.  Many times when he was a teen, Father had to apply antiseptics to the welts he had raised from scratching.

After drying himself, he finger-combed the tangles from his hair, then brushed his teeth.  He pulled on his oft-mended jeans, and then felt about for his shirt.

He knew the hour was late and the likelihood of his meeting anyone in the tunnel to the laundry chamber was slim.  He bundled up his offensive clothes, headed for the laundry chamber and quickly set about the chore of washing them.  He could imagine how horrible they would smell after days of lying in his clothes basket.  The chore was completed with speed, and he hung his things to dry in the high heat of the drying chamber.

In his chamber he pulled off his shirt, then eased out of his jeans and slipped his legs into his soft knit sleeping pants.  Just as he reached for his shirt, he watched as Catherine rose from the bed, stood for a moment and slowly began to make her way across the chamber toward the bathroom.  She had taken only a few steps when she stopped, and turned her head toward him. “Vincent, is that you?”

“Yes, Catherine, I didn’t mean to frighten you.  How did you know I was here?”

“I could smell your soap-it leaves a wonderful, distinctive fragrance on your skin.”

He burst out laughing and continued to laugh for several minutes. It was a full-bodied, happy laugh, and hearing it made Catherine happy, too.

Smiling, she moved toward the sound of his laughter. She knew she was near him, and she reached out to touch him. Her fingers found warm soft flesh, stopped, pausing for only a second, then lightly raced upward, enjoying the unexpected thrill of actually touching bare skin.

“Catherine, I must finish dressing.”  His voice was a harsh mixture of conflicting emotions.

“No. Please, Vincent, I want to touch you.”  Her arms wrapped around his waist and she buried her head against his massive chest.  His hands reached out to pull her away then dropped to his side, fists clenched.  Then slowly he opened his hands.

He stood still, waiting for the words he knew would come.  His body hair was longer than most men’s, and he knew this would be repulsive to her.  He waited, head thrown back, as his lungs dragged in gulps of air.

Catherine slowly began to caress his back, searching his flesh.  She found a scar on his shoulder, her fingers returning to it time and time again, caressing it, seeking to erase any hurt which lingered.

Her fingers continued their long slow search of his back. They then traveled the length of his arms, gently twisting the hair, which was longer here than on his back, against her fingers, exploring the silken texture of it before moving onward.

Unable to stand this exquisite torture a moment longer, Vincent pulled away and turned from her, moving away from the fingers which sought his flesh.  She could hear his ragged breath so she knew he was still close.

“Vincent…”

“No, Catherine, I could not bear to hear pity in your voice, to know you find my body repulsive.  No one, no woman, could love what I am; no one.”  His voice rose in anguish, and his shoulders shook as the intensive emotions he had long buried rolled to the surface.

“I am not like others.  I accepted what I am long ago long, before you.  Dreams are not for me, Catherine; they are for others.  I have no right to dream, to desire you, to be a part, if only in some small way, of your life, your world.”  The torture in his voice broke Catherine’s heart.

“If you could see, you would know how ugly my body is. If you could see, you would know I am not like other men.”

She moved beside him, and when she spoke her breath stirred the hairs on his arms.  “Vincent, who has done this do you?  Why will you not accept, totally and completely, my love for you?  I love all that is you—your mind, spirit, even the roaring beast inside you, I love; and I would love your body—if you would only let me.”

She slipped under his arms to stand in the narrow space between his body and the table.  “I am afraid, too, Vincent.” His breath came in short ragged gasps now, and he inhaled sharply at her words “It is not you, Vincent, that frightens me.  Everyone has fears concerning sexual love.  I am no different. What if I don’t please you?  What if I am unable to satisfy you, to arouse you, or give you pleasure?  I am not afraid of you, Vincent, nor do I harbor anyfears of you hurting me.

“I love you.  You have cared for me, Vincent. You have seen my body, and you know what I look like. I desire only to touch you. I’m not about to force myself on you, to make you do anything that is uncomfortable for you.  Before there is love, Vincent, there is respect.”

She stood very still, careful not to allow her body to touch his. “I love you, Vincent, and I will wait for as long as it takes for you to be comfortable with my touching you.”  The simplicity of her words, the love in her voice, washed over him.

He turned abruptly, grabbed his cloak, and fled the voice which called after him.

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

Vincent’s mind tried to tell him to believe, to accept.  The other side of him, the beast who roared, maimed, and killed, struggled for control.  The man who had witnessed fear and rejection when his face was seen struggled with this knowledge.  His struggle was endless. Over and over in his mind, he heard her whisper, “I love you, Vincent.”

“Vincent, I love you. Believe only in my love for you.”

Her voice called to him through their bond.  Repeatedly she told him of her love, letting her mind fill with her love.  She could feel the panic trying to rise in her heart.  But each time it tried to grow, she fought it down and filled her mind with Vincent.

She could feel his torment, his anguish, the shame he felt, and the pain which burned so brightly around him.  All of the feelings he had buried so deeply within himself rose to the surface, and she willed herself to surround and encompass those feelings and supplant them with her all-consuming love for him.

“Vincent, I love you.  Believe only in my love for you.”

She forced herself to remain calm as she lay in the darkness waiting.  The night sounds of the tunnels grew distant.

The soft voice at the entrance was low. “Vincent, may I come in?”

“Father, come in. Vincent isn’t here at the moment.”  She hoped there were no traces of tears on her face.  She did not wish to explain them, or Vincent’s absence, to Father.

“Oh, Catherine, I hope I’m not disturbing you at this late hour.”

“No. I was restless and couldn’t sleep.”

“Do you know where Vincent is?  I went to the guest chamber he is using but he wasn’t there either. I wanted to finish the work schedule for tomorrow before retiring, and I needed to know if there were still repairs to be made in the deeper chamber where he and the others worked today.”

Hating to lie but not wishing Father to seek out Vincent, she simply said, “No, I don’t know where he is. He said something about wishing to be alone for a while.”

“Yes, he does that often, Catherine, and you mustn’t be upset by it. Vincent needs privacy more than most.” He hesitated. “Is there anything I can get you?  You should really be asleep.”

“No, thank you. I’m fine.” She smiled. “Goodnight, Father.”

“Come to me, Vincent. Believe only that I love you. Come back to me.  I love you. I love you.”

Catherine’s voice kept filling his mind.  Every time the countless rejections—real and imagined—filled his mind, when the voices surfaced to tease and ridicule him, Catherine’s love replaced them.

 “Trust me.  Believe in my love and come back to me; I love you.”

Catherine lay in her world of darkness and waited.  She opened herself completely, as she had never before, to the bond she shared with Vincent.  She knew from the quieting sounds of the pipes that the tunnels were settling into sleep.

She drifted momentarily into sleep, fighting against it with all her strength and energy.  Suddenly she was awake.  She sat up quickly, slipping her feet to the floor.  She waited.  She lifted her head, sniffed the air, then stood and walked forward.  Her feet were sure of their path.

She stopped in front of the chair; she sniffed again.  “Vincent, I love you.” She stood very still, making no effort to reach out to touch him, for she knew he was within inches of her hand.  Whether she stood for minutes or hours, she did not know.  She simply stood and waited.

His breathing was erratic, coming in ragged spurts; then it seemed to stop altogether, only to begin again in a different erratic pattern.  Softly his anguished voice came. “Catherine, hold me.”

She wrapped her arms about his head, drawing him to her breast, holding him as his large body trembled and shuddered over and over.  His body grew quiet and with great care, she loosened her hold on him.  His head stayed pressed against her breast and she slowly eased his arms from her body, searching behind herself, and found his hand. “Come.”

He sank slowly to the edge of bed.  His face was hidden by the long golden hair which surrounded him. Sitting down and feeling with her hands, Catherine worked at removing his boots.  His hand reached down to stop her, and slowly he struggled out of the boots.

Tenderly she stroked his face, filling his mind with her love, her complete acceptance of who and what he was, until she felt him relaxing under her fingertips.  Slowly, she bent forward, kissing him on the forehead.  “Sleep. You’re safe. You’re safe.”

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

The sudden jerking of Vincent’s body startled Catherine awake.  His arms flailed in the air and instinct caused her to duck as she felt the rush of air pass over the top of her head. “Vincent, wake up; you are having a nightmare!”

Slowly he awakened, confused and groggy.  He reached out to touch Catherine’s arm and, finding it cold, he was suddenly alarmed.  He drew her down beside himself, momentarily forgetting his own embarrassment, and pulled the blanket over them. 

She allowed him to encircle her with his arms, but she made no attempt to touch him.  She could hear the loud erratic beating of his heart close to her ear.  “Please let me hold you; you always enjoyed it before.”

Hearing no protest from him, she slowly, tentatively reached up to slide her arm under his, settling around the broad expanse of his back; as her hand lightly rested there, she could feel him trembling.  “Please kiss me, Vincent. I want to feel your lips against mine.”

His huge hand tenderly touched her face, tracing it with his fingertips.  Looking down at her, he saw the love she felt for him reflected in her beautiful face, a look of complete and total acceptance.  His lips touched hers briefly, then moved on, following the path previously taken by his fingertips.  He moved to her lips and gently lowered his mouth to hers.  She moaned softly against the gentle onslaught of his kiss, wanting only to become lost within the taste of his beautiful mouth.

She was aware of the change in him, the way he kissed her. In the few short weeks since they had first shared a kiss, she had never before felt this urgency in him.  His kisses had been gentle, sweetly innocent, but now there was a difference.

Slowly he lifted his mouth from hers, but seeing the pouting look of her warm, moist lower lip, he was drawn again to taste the sweetness she freely offered him. “Please.” His voice was like velvet brushing against her ear. “Please touch me.”

Like the wings of a hummingbird, her fingertips touched his back, gliding over the silken hair.  Leisurely she touched, allowing her fingers to roam at will over the muscles of his broad shoulders.  He trembled beneath the touch of her fingers as she lifted his shirt up and removed it.

Her fingers danced lightly across his chest, lingering at will, then stopping to savor the textures she found.  She moved her hands over his massive shoulders, then down to feel the ribbons of muscles in his arms.  His whole body trembled beneath her touch as her tiny hands told him of her acceptance, her love.

Drawing away, she continued to explore his chest.  Her fingers stopped on a scar, the flesh sleek and new.  Holding lightly to the spot, she lowered her mouth.  Vincent moaned beneath her lips.  His skin felt as if it were on fire.

Her fingers continued caressing his chest. She found his nipples, and bent to kiss them.  Her lips paid homage, tasting again and again the feel of his nipple in her mouth. “Please . . .” his voice was a gentle moan.

“Please what?” She raised her head only slightly.  “Please stop, please continue, please do this more, please do this less?  Whatever pleases you, I will do.”  The smile in her voice was like a child’s laughter as it washed over Vincent.

“Catherine. I… want . . .”

“Yes, my love?”  Her mouth rested against his, playing light kisses across his full lower lip.

Slowly his hand moved to touch her, caressing her hand, then moved up her arm across her shoulders. “Yes,” her voice came softly to him.  His hand continued to caress her neck as her mouth sought to capture his lightly moving fingers.  The look of joy on her face washed over Vincent.

His hand continued to trace a downward pattern on her body; his finger lightly caressed her breast through the fabric.   She inhaled sharply ashe continued to touch her breast.  Moving only slightly away, her fingers found the buttons of her shirt and began to unbutton them.  Her fingers worked free three buttons before she could feel his hand caressing her breasts.  Then his whole body froze, his hand stopped, and she knew he had heard something.

There was a soft sound of footsteps; a low voice in the tunnel called, “Vincent, Vincent?”

Mouse! Of all the worst possible timing! Catherine thought.  She pushed a very surprised Vincent backward on the bed, whispering to him stay put, not to move, no matter what.  She scrambled off the bed, searching for the buttons on the shirt and counting as she walked to the entrance.

“Mouse, what is wrong?  It’s very, very late—you should be asleep now.”

“Mouse has great idea, tell Vincent. It’s not late, Catherine, it’s only…” his eyes fell to the large wristwatch Catherine had given him months before. “Oh, sorry, Catherine, it is late. Mouse go. Not mean to wake you, wake Vincent.  Save. Tell Vincent at breakfast. Sleep good, Catherine.”  He swirled and retreated back down the tunnel, talking softly to himself.

She found the bed once again, crawling in beside Vincent. His arms immediately surrounded her, and she could feel the laughter welling up inside his chest.  She buried her face against his neck and joined in the laughter.

“Do you think he . . .”  A fit of giggles overtook her again, and she hid her face in her hands.

“You are so beautiful.”

“Vincent, what time is it really?”  Vincent never needed a clock; his own internal sense of time always amazed Catherine,

“Close to 3:15 a.m. Why?”

“We are going on a journey.  If you think for one minute I am going to stop making love to you just because we were interrupted, you are wrong . . .  very wrong.  But I will not risk being interrupted again, not by Mouse, by Father, or anyone.

“Catherine, you can’t travel—you have been too ill.”

“Blindness is not anillness.  We aren’t going far, but we are going. I have waited too long, wanted you for so long, and now, now just when . . . just when . . ..”  Her voice grew softer; her breathing came unevenly as tears started.

He gathered her in his arms, totally aware of the top button she had missed and the view he had of the steady rise and fall of her breasts.  He felt his own desire, the long restrained need to be joined with Catherine, and the sudden warmth of his own body. “How?  Where will we go?”

“We’ll go to my apartment.  No one will bother us there. Everyone thinks I am in some hospital in Switzerland or wherever it was that Peter told them.  It’s perfect; we can be alone, and there is no one to interrupt.”

As he held Catherine while she got her sense of balance, Vincent felt a momentary spark of gratitude for Catherine’s inability to see at this moment.  Holding her on his lap, the taste of her last kiss still on his lips, his body was doing strange things, things he could no longer control...nor wanted to.

Vincent moved quickly about the room, gathering their things and putting them inside a small satchel.  He slipped on his own sweater and then carefully pulled a sweater over Catherine’s head and, finding her shoes, he helped slip them on her tiny feet.  Gathering his large black cloak, he took her hand and started for the entrance.

“Wait, Catherine, I must leave a note for Father.  He would worry when he finds you gone with no explanation.”

“Let me do it.  You steady my hand, but let me write it.”

They returned to the desk, withdrew paper and pen, and with Vincent steadying her hand, Catherine began to write.

Dearest Father,
            We have endured more than most; surely even you will concede this.  Our love has survived and we must begin our life together.  The years of being apart, our loneliness, have come to an end.  We are going away to begin our lives together.  We ask for your blessing.

            With love, Vincent and Catherine

She signed her name quickly, then Vincent added his own distinctive signature beside hers.  Taking her by the elbow, they quietly left the chamber, moving into the quiet tunnels. Leaving Catherine, he slipped in and out of Father’s chamber, leaving the note behind; then they started their journey.

Words were not necessary now.  As they walked, their footsteps created soft echoes in the tunnels. They had not gone far when Vincent realized Catherine was taking smaller and smaller steps.  Wordlessly he lifted her into his arms, carrying her with ease toward their long-dreamed world of a life together.

The journey took only a short time. “Catherine, we are here.” They were at the bottom of the ladder leading into her building and, with his help, the climb was easy.  As he reached up to open the door into the storage locker, images flashed through his mind of Catherine’s body as it lay on the floor.  She felt his pain and reached up to touch his face.

They moved onward, and quite suddenly, to Catherine’s way of thinking, they were on her balcony.  The first light of the false dawn was beginning to break.  Opening the door, Vincent and Catherine stepped through together.  He dropped the satchel on the floor, then shed his great cloak, and together they walked toward the bed.

She stood still as he patiently removed her traveling garment, leaving only the shirt she had been wearing in his chamber.  She swiftly removed his sweater and ran her hand lightly over his chest. “Vincent, please, make sure the chain is on the door. I don’t think I could stand any more interruptions!”

He chuckled softly, saying, “Neither could I,” then headed for the living room.  He secured the chain and then the extra bolt on the door, closed the living room drapes and returned to the bedroom.  He drew the bedroom drapes as well, and walked toward the already sleeping form of Catherine.  He smiled at her as she slept, dropped to the floor and began pulling off his boots and his socks.  He gathered up the sweaters, folded them neatly, placed Catherine’s shoes in her closet, and placed his own out of the way.

He settled into bed, drawing Catherine into his arms, and she snuggled closer to him, her fingers entwining tiny strands of his chest hair between her fingers; then she sighed and slipped into a deeper sleep.  His thoughts were of Catherine as he, too, drifted into a peaceful slumber.

 

Chapter 9

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