The chapter rated R for sexual situations
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
“Sonnet XVII” – Pablo Neruda
Vincent’s vision regressed. He saw Catherine again negotiating the last uneven steps into his self-made cage, his terrible cries reverberating off the cave walls. This time, with Caroline’s words dogging him, he followed her. He desperately wanted to stop her, but was certain his cries were powerless as breeze.
Why would Father allow this? Why would Catherine take such a risk, just because he had not hurt her in the past? Fever and insanity had never taken such a hold of him before either. He watched as she moved slowly into the dank cavern, and then a demon’s shadow hurtled towards her small form.
“No!” the dreaming Vincent screamed as Catherine simultaneously screamed his name. The monster almost struck her down, barely curbing his blow at the last instant. They never told him he had done this! Never revealed how close annihilation had come…if he had struck her….
Father and Catherine had kept this from him. The dreaming Vincent sank to his knees in fear for her. How did she survive this Terror?
In the next moment, as he saw her try to control the uncontrollable with her love, he understood. It was her, her adamant, foolish, and obstinate belief in his humanness. He had almost killed her, but somehow she stopped the Beast with the man’s name.
She was that strong.
His love was scarcely strong enough to stand next to her, but hers…resolute, unwise, unrelenting.
Vincent watched himself collapse to the floor of the chamber as Catherine tried to catch him, as she tried to revive him, a bird trying to flap her wings and make a lion live. He heard the desperation rise in her voice as she called his name, as she found no sign of life in him. This tiny woman was all there was between him and Death. How could she hope to keep it away?
“You can’t! Not without me!” Catherine screamed at him. She would follow him down to the very pit. He truly was her doom.
And then something he wished for…and dreaded.
She was kissing him.
It was more like kissing a corpse it seemed to the dreaming Vincent. He wanted to look away, to stop her; it was almost intolerable, watching her sacrifice to his dying body, but if this was what he must know to be connected to her again, he would endure even this.
What seemed like too long she pressed her lips against his, held his soiled cheek in her hand without any answer from his unmoving body, but slowly, by inches, he began to stir, and then respond. She had revived him like some twisted retelling of Sleeping Beauty, where the princess aroused the Curse.
His past self’s arms encircled her, engulfed her, as he began to return her kisses, at first ardent, then frantic, their movements, more like crashes, rushing to each other’s mouths, harsh, passionate, but, he also noted, nearly silent. They were constantly hiding themselves away, from their friends, their enemies, all the world, but they could no longer hide from one other.
Secrets give strength, she had told him, but some secrets can kill the soul.
The couple on the floor started to move past kisses. He began with removing her coat while his mouth still attacked her. She answered by removing his vest, and pressing flat hands beneath his sweater, rushing her fingers up his chest. What were they doing? Father, Mouse, and the others were right outside! This was such folly, such a foolish risk, but clearly Catherine and he were not aware of anything but one another, caught in the moment that had been too long forbidden by fears and circumstance.
They kissed, held, grasped, caressed any skin they could easily get to. He lifted her sweater above her head while simultaneously pulling her down next to him to lie in the dust. His hands, his claws, were all over her. The anger Vincent felt at his past, bestial self was only matched by his gratitude that even in this barbaric state he did not seem capable of hurting her. His hand ran down the curve of her hip while his other cradled her head, pulling her close, almost trying to consume her. Despite his mortification, the dreaming Vincent could not stop the stir of desire at her half-dressed form, her sweater now just a pillow beneath her head. Clad in only a light camisole, she had no protection against the earth’s chill but him. Catherine’s hands, at first happy just with his stomach and chest, now moved to undo his belt, she every bit his equal in passion. Vincent could not help but be envious of his former self, and angered, deeply, at his failure to remember her, to remember this.
As the dreaming man watched, he reluctantly began to grasp where this would finally, inevitably, lead. They had to claim each other, both needing assurance that they were alive. Clothes were pushed out of the way, shed only if absolutely required, giving way to lips and touches. His former self rolled over her, the Beast with its prey, triumphant. His hands pressed up the slip of silk so his lips could find her breast. She was locked beneath him with need and in silent cries passion.
When just enough clothes were cast off so that in haste and quiet he joined their bodies, she was almost unready for him. Not this! He had forced her! Both his present and former self could feel her shock, the guilt and shame almost unbearable to the dreaming man. The Beast on the floor of the cave stilled inside of her, waiting for her, watching her. She closed her eyes. Of course, the dreaming man despaired, why would she want to look at the monster that forced himself inside her, defiled her? Stricken moments passed. She finally opened her tearing eyes to look into his own, and to the dreaming Vincent’s astonishment, it was not contempt or horror he saw in them, but love and acceptance. Her love lay so naked there.
She held his face in her small hands and she kissed him. She kissed him with such love, all assent, all life, were in her lips. She wanted this. She wanted him, alive, with her. She would defy death and draw him into life with her body and soul.
Catherine arched, showing him that she was now more than ready for him. Her hips pressed upward, asking, releasing him to love her, and they slowly began to move again together. He thrust a second time, a third, then faster, within her, with her. He took her as his own.
Vincent watched his former self and his beloved, and began to feel her body beneath him. The warmth of her, surrounding him, drawing him in again and again. He felt the heat of her, the soft and amazing life beneath him, her body, her love all around him. He felt her desire, her aching to be filled by him and only him, hot smooth skin under his hands, lips pressed into his own, into his neck, her teeth biting his shoulder so she wouldn’t cry out with the perfection of this. Instinct was all he had, but it was all they seemed to need.
His memories returned to him while watching his own experience; it was truly surreal.
Vincent held his love so close, there was not even a breath dividing them; they moved as one, breathed as one. He wanted all of her, her spirit. He hardened, lengthened, sought her with each thrust, reaching almost to the entrance of her womb, the beginning of life. Amidst all the death, she brought him life.
They were all, they were together. He had claimed her as part of his own body, as half of his own soul.
This love was so basic, so primal to their being. She crashed around him, drawing him in even tighter to herself, and he released all himself into her accepting body.
Her loving hands rested on each side of his head, stroking his hair. She pulled it to one side, exposing his ear to her lips.
“Yours…,”she whispered, and he knew it was the truth of all things.
Vincent awoke already running towards her.