“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you love, remember…” -Ophelia, Hamlet, Act IV scene 7, Shakespeare
Catherine stopped halfway through the service tunnel.
They were still far from the core chambers and had not yet encountered any of the sentries. They were alone; in a city of eight million people, they were utterly alone. Their Bond drew cold round Vincent’s heart.
“Catherine?” His hand still held hers. He looked back, her fear feeding his. “You’re frightened?”
She had kept pace with him until now, remarkably, given her state outward and inward. Her need to leave the building where she had been held seemed enough to carry her down countless flights of stairs, enough to get her here, but no farther.
They had escaped with relative ease. The guards, who came too late to save their master, had run at the sight of the blood-soaked woman and a monster standing over the body of a dead man. It had surprised Vincent then, not to have to fight them, but isn’t that the way of tyrants? In life, they rule with fear. In death, their spell is broken; their followers scatter like ash on the wind.
The couple had descended carefully down the stairs. The building seemed deserted, but they were still vigilant, emerging into the alley where Vincent had gained entry to the tower. Catherine scarcely glanced at the body near the doorway. Her eyes remained locked forward, her bare feet stepped over the broken-necked guard. That had frightened Vincent, almost more than her killing. This was not her. What had they done to her?
For a moment they had hesitated in the alley, on the edge of morning. The dawn was here. The city, especially this close to midtown, was coming to busy life, but Vincent realized, maybe for the first time, he had no fear of the sunlight. He simply did not care. If he had to walk with her down the middle of Broadway at noon he would do it. Catherine was with him and she was safe, and the tiny consciousness that he felt just beneath hers was safe as well. Damn anyone who would dare get in their way!
He had led her down into a maintenance tunnel that was somewhat sheltered from the morning traffic. They descended into the earth and made their way over pipes and into the subway access tunnels. It would take miles to get home. Down the curving and bending byways they roamed, having to take a longer route than he would have liked. There weren’t easy paths around Sixth Avenue with its many Metro lines. It wasn’t safe to put her on the subway with her so fragile, not to mention covered in blood, so they walked.
Vincent probed their Bond as they traveled further from her prison, but she held close to herself. He didn’t wish to question her. Not yet. He wanted her home before she had to confront any memories. So they simply made their quiet way back to the main Tunnels, until her fear rose, a sudden storm, catching him off guard.
She was a tiny creature caught in a net, her breathing labored; her eyes darted, waiting for the hunter to come. “I’m frightened, Vincent….”
“Of what, Catherine? You’re safe….” He choked on the words. “You are safe,” for now.
“No, I just….” She looked into his eyes, “I can’t….” She shook her head. “I’ve forgotten…I…It’s my fault….” Catherine let go of his hands and walked a little away. She looked back where they had come, and then walked past him. She was searching, but for what?
She turned again and opened her hands to him, her stained hands, beseeching him for an answer. “…I got lost, and now I don’t know how….” Vincent realized this was why she could walk over a dead body and feel nothing. Her soul was lost.
She looked around the tunnel, panic clipping her movements to a tremble. She grasped her head. “How can I see them, Vincent?” She asked, her voice rising to a panic. “I am nothing anymore…It’s been so long….”
She looked to him, her eyes wide, begging him. “Please tell me who I am…” she whispered.
I wish to, Catherine…, but how far she was from the woman he had known. A lifetime ago… and only a few yesterdays, a knife attack had brought her into his life. She had healed, strengthened herself, and after, she was everything, beautiful, stately, and infinitely caring. She was suits and sweaters, silk dresses, perfection, and at her core she was strong, loving. She was Catherine. Now he beheld the woman he loved. She had no makeup, her hair longer and more unkempt than he had ever known it, her body curved and heavy with his child. She stood in the half light of the access tunnel clad in a bloodied gown that spoke of lonely days, hatred, and helplessness. No, she was not who she had been, and he was to blame.
…in thy orisons, all my sins remember’d. *
She truly was lost in the months they were separated. She had once saved him from a cage where he had lain imprisoned. He had been confined a few days only, and it had nearly killed him. She had been captive over half a year, and she had kept herself and the child within her alive, but at what cost? His weighted heart sank watching her suffering, but his sadness and shame were not what she needed.
He would fight for her, fight anyone, even his own guilt.
He took her red hands into his own. How many times had she done this for him? She had accepted the monstrous in him, the Beast, always; loved him, always. “I promise, Catherine, you will remember. You are strong. We will be together, and I will help you. Everyone will help you. Our love will be your guide from the dark places.”
He looked down at his lethal hands holding her blood-stained ones, choosing words that had anchored him time and again when he felt himself drifting into the dark. “These are my hands, Catherine….”
He could feel a small but calming peace take root as she remembered her words echoed from his lips. She was his, all she was, even now, especially now, and he took possession. Vincent understood, and he remembered. It was enough for her to keep going, for the time being.
After a moment, he took off his cloak and wrapped it around her. It would conceal the blood until they were safely home.
*Shakespeare – Hamlet, Act III, scene 1