“There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.”
Vincent felt Catherine begin to pacify, her quiet tears fading like an echo. He had placed his arm around her and let the sadness move through her, without words. Her need at that moment was to give voice to her grief, not to try to assuage it. It wouldn’t be the last time. The sadness would take her again, he knew that, but the knots around her heart loosed a fraction. It was all he could ask.
Catherine rubbed her eyes, looked up at Vincent and gave him a wan smile. She was quiet, for the moment, just happy to be with him, the smell of him surrounding her, leather and cotton and wool, and what was uniquely him, spicy, welcoming. It was a powerful anodyne. It always had been, since the first moment she remembered waking to the dark with his voice and his scent her only anchors.
The Bond was stronger now than it had ever been. Her calming was easing him too, she could feel it, but with her pain subsiding, his root anxieties became plainer, a rough layer underneath his love. Now more settled, she could sense the underlying unease in him, one they had not broached. Courage and care would be needed to allay his concerns. She felt the deficit of one and the lack of time for the other.
“Vincent,” she asked, sniffing the last of the tears away, “can you feel the baby the way you feel me?”
He breathed out an enigmatic sigh. His eyes squinted as he tested the depths. “Yes,” he placed his hand on his ribs under his heart, “here,…beneath my perception of you, a heartbeat, a flutter…as a moth carefully held in your hands.”
She smiled, nodding. “I can feel it too, his feelings, just like that….” He watched the wistful smile float over her tired face as she, too, went within to feel, to remember. “When I first heard his heart, it reminded me of tiny hoof beats,” she said with wonder. “His heartbeat is so fast….” Her joy at the memory, despite his knowledge of when and where she must have heard their child’s heart, felt like a warm breeze of spring when still expecting winter’s breath. In her spirit’s survival he found a source of reverence and yet another of respect.
He was puzzled though. “It is extraordinary, that you are bound to him as well. But, Catherine, how do you know it’s a boy, your connection with him? I cannot tell this. Is it mother’s intuition?”
She chuckled. “I doubt I have much of that.” Catherine thought back on how she found out about the baby. Until the nurse at the hospital told her, the idea of a baby never even crossed her mind. She should have realized that it was a possibility. For months prior to Paracelsus’ last attack on them it had haunted her, the craving for Vincent, for all of him, and all that it might bring, a life together…a child, and his unspoken denial of all possibility. The unbearable need had brought her to the edge of desperation more than once, no matter how much she tried to stop it, no matter how she attempted to be patient. Her want had grown despite the walls that Vincent and others – Father, Elliot, the world – had tried to place between them. It survived Paracelsus, grew stronger – almost a fever to rival Vincent’s own by the time of his illness. Their mutual need had progressed to where they could not stand still any longer, they could not stay as they were, no matter how much part of him begged to stay safely within the boundaries of a platonic love. The other part of him wanted her, coveted every part of her, body, heart and soul. She felt it, his dangerous, perfect love. It pulled them, despite all protestations, in the face of every obstacle. It obliterated all ideas of past and future to create a ravenous now.
The Cave had been the fulfillment of her most powerful desire, but also her greatest fear. He had died. She could feel his soul’s retreat, as truly as he had felt her own when he called her back from the black water. His death would have been the end of her life. It was her greatest nightmare, to be alone, without him. It was unendurable.
In that cavern everything they were had lain in balance, and she was not going to give him up, despite his wishes. She pulled him back with her desire. It was the only part of herself she had not given him, and only because he silently begged her not to. The joining had been swift, only a taste of what they could have, but he had given her what she wanted: Him, blessedly alive. Her prayers, said within his name, shouted in her mind, released in her kisses, had been answered by the universe.
The closeness of his death and his forgetting of her had thrust that time of heaven and hell, and all its possible consequences, to a land of dreams. Sometimes, in the darkest moments in the tower, after the injections and the sickness and the shouting and the slipping, she wondered if all of Vincent had been a dream, and she had wanted him a dream. She needed to forget, to protect all the people of the Tunnels and Vincent most of all, yet the baby’s growing consciousness and her traitor love denied her even her good intentions.
“The man who held me, he would ask about you, ask me about who the father of His son was.”
He…Isn’t…Yours! Let me go!
“It must have been terrible,” and another reason to hate him.
Catherine would not drown in the feeling, not now. She felt strong, defiant. “It was. I wanted to scream, all the time.”
“Scream if you want to, Ms. Chandler. No one will hear you. No one will care.”
“I wanted to shout about how you would find us, about what type of man you were, how much better you were than all of them, but I didn’t.”
“Where is he, Ms. Chandler? I can end this. Tell me. Where is your lover?”
“Most of the time, I tried not even to think of you. I had to keep you safe.”
I will keep you safe, Vincent. I will keep our dream safe. I won’t cry out. I will stop calling for you, even in my mind. I will forget you…I will forget me…so you will live.…
Injection after injection, question after question, promise after promise, I am nothing, I am no one… I am nothing, I am no one….
That time was over. She was Catherine again – Vincent’s Catherine, as Mouse would say. Vincent would help her remember, give her the power to remember herself.
She laughed at the pain. “I had to keep silent, all the time. Do you know how hard that is for a lawyer?” He laughed too. They could still laugh. She loved everything about this man. She loved who she was with him.
She went on, “I thought his belief, that the baby was a boy, might just be wishful thinking. I’m sure that’s what he wanted, a son to give his empire, but there were tests.” She shook her head as if in protest. “They had so many scans and tests. It felt like every day they had invented a new one, another prod, another poke, the vampires coming to take my blood….They never talked to me about the baby, about anything, really, no matter how much I begged and pleaded. They hardly looked at me….” I wasn’t real to them, and I became unreal to myself. What had He told them about her? Was it disgust, or guilt, or fear of the Man that caused them to utterly disregard her? From their faces and their silence, she could not tell.
I am nothing, I am no one….
She was fading again, but she stopped herself, thinking of their child. She sat up taller, despite her burden. “I could see him sometimes, our baby. I got very good at reading all those ultrasound pictures. I am ninety to ninety-five percent sure we really do have a little boy, or…,” smiling, “…a little girl with a very small third arm.”
He should have smiled at that, but he didn’t, and Catherine was now certain she knew why. He got up, and started pacing away from her. Other than the scrape of his boots on the bare earth, they were silent, listening to sounds of pipes and trains for a moment. Did she have the strength to say it, even if it hurt him, even if it could drive him away back to his aloneness for the safety of his soul? There was so much they needed to talk about….so much they needed to face together, and they didn’t have much time.
“You’re afraid that I’ll die giving birth to this child.” The true words reverberated in the silence. She could feel them pulse through them both, striking a deep place within him, loosing something deep.
He stopped pacing; defeat took his strength; he sagged. He did not look at her. “Yes.” Then he turned back to face her, completely exposed, arms open, “…and if I brought this to you? If I, in my weakness, am the means of your death….”
“I can’t believe that, Vincent. I was there.” She stood from her seat on the cot, thinking of her words carefully as she slowly rose.
“Vincent, you have never given me anything but love and safety and healing. You have given me so many gifts – your love the most amazing of them – but even if it were so, even if I died,” he flinched at her words, “then this is the death I chose.”
She was shaking, and she was strong. She was nature itself, sublime, as beautiful and as terrible as a sea crashing over him.
“I could have stopped this; I could have, easily,” she placed her arms around the child growing in her, “but this was a part of you I couldn’t let go of. It was selfish. I took a part of you without your knowledge, without your consent. I took the risk. I was selfish.” She looked down to her child, and then back up into his eyes. “I am sorry, but I could not part with it.”
There was so much tenderness in her words, for him, for what they had created through loving one another. It almost took his voice. “The child kept you alive in that dark place…I know this; I feel his life within you, and I am grateful…but, if you should die, Catherine,” tears nearly overtaking him, “it will also be the day I die.”
She looked at her heart’s desire, with his feelings so open to her. She would not be as open with him, and that saddened her. He did not understand, not yet, but, “There is a truth beyond knowledge…,” he had told her once, and she kept it close to her. Is this what every mother knows, but keeps secret? Did her own mother? She let her love for Vincent and their child encircle it within her heart. It beat troubled, yet resolute.
No. You will live. If our child lives, you have to.
She answered with the only truth she could to give him. “If you had died in that cave, I would have died with you,” her voice low, strong with conviction.
He took her hands and pulled her in, enveloping her.
“‘The wheel is come full circle.’”* He said it quietly, into her hair, when she was encircled within his arms.
She smiled into his chest at his reference. “I guess Shakespeare really did know everything.”
He loosened his embrace to look at her, his amazing equivalent, his chosen, his own. “And we are on the same boat adrift in a sea of troubles,” he continued as he pulled back to gaze at her, brushing her long hair from her face. She adored his intimate, familiar touch. “You are my life…,” he began, and added, almost in astonishment at her claiming of him in turn, “and I am yours.”
She nodded, afraid her voice would be gone if she tried to speak.
He haltingly drew close to her, lowering his face to her as if drawn by gravity, so slow, but certain, like a drop of water poised to inevitably fall. Then his lips touched hers, she pressed herself into him, and he was lost to the reality of her. She opened herself, opened her mouth, asking for him, and he answered, testing, then dancing with her, her tongue running along his sharp teeth, courting the danger, accepting it, accepting him, inflaming him further.
Starved for Vincent, for everything he was, Catherine drew her hands up and through his hair, pulling him as close as she could, given her current state. He wrapped his arms around her, bringing her against him. He felt her call, and gave back all the love she had given to him; it multiplied in the giving. Like a dam broken, they kissed passionately, lips burning fire everywhere they touched – jaw, throat – almost losing themselves. It was only their location and her present needs which kept them from taking kisses any further. He lowered his head, gasping as she kissed his eyes, his forehead – a blessing – and then she gradually stilled, content to just breathe with him.
They stood that way for a moment longer, so grateful to have it. He gathered himself with an unspoken promise that they would have time, they would be together, but now….
He took her hand and slowly kissed it, ready to lead her out of the hospital chamber.
“Where are we going?” she asked, smiling quizzically, although, in truth, she was happy to be leaving this room, and wherever they ended up would be fine as long as he was with her.
“Well, you need to use the…,” he couldn’t quite get past his reserve to speak the words.
“Yes, I do,” she laughed, astonished. “You could feel that?”
“Oh, Vincent, you are in for some stormy seas stuck in this tub with me. You may truly be the first father to ever really experience childbirth.”
He smiled a rueful smile, leading her to where she needed to go. “You could almost feel sorry for me.”
“Yeah,…almost.” She smiled.
*Shakespeare -King Lear Act 5, scene 3